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FILDEBRANDT: The new Wildrose looks a lot like the old early Wildrose

Fildebrandt writes that the parallels between Hinman’s leadership of the original Wildrose Party and the new one are uncanny.

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Last week the nascent Wildrose Independence Party named Wildrose veteran Paul Hinman as its interim leader. The move gives the new party an instantly credible leader, and someone who has the pertinent experience in building a party from the ground up. In fact, the parallels with the past are uncanny.

Hinman was first elected as the lone Alberta Alliance MLA in 2004, but lost that seat in the big Tory sweep of 2008 under Ed Stelmach. Like yours truly, I lost my own seat as the lone Freedom Conservative party MLA in the Tory sweep of 2019.

Hinman stayed as Alberta Alliance leader though, and led it through a merger with the new, unregistered Wildrose Association that same year, creating the Wildrose Alliance. Not the type to hog the stage if he felt that someone could do better than he could, Hinman stepped aside as leader for the energetic and young Danielle Smith; but not before re-entering the legislature as the first Wildrose MLA in a 2009. Soon after, the party attracted three PC MLAs to join the upstart caucus, and went on to nearly win the 2012 election against Allison Redford.

Like the original Wildrose, the new Wildrose was created out of a merger of one official party (the Freedom Conservatives) and an unregistered party (Wexit Alberta). Like the original Wildrose, Hinman’s job is to build the party into fighting shape while the members elect someone for the permanent position. Many of the same crew involved in the early Wildrose are also involved in restarting its progeny.

The parallels – thus far – stop there. There has yet to be a by-election to test the new party, and it has not yet managed to attract any disenchanted Tory MLAs to join its ranks. It may get the chance in the 2021 Senate election. Any of these events repeating themselves would continue to build their profile and gain mainstream recognition.

While Hinman isn’t known as the loud, charismatic type, he has done it before. He has fused together two small parties, built its membership and fundraising, and placed it in a position to grow into real contention for power. He was a sort of conservative Moses, leading the party through the wilderness, but not entering the Promised Land himself.

WIP hasn’t released any official numbers yet, but a source in the party tells the Western Standard that their official paid membership is between five-to-six thousand, with another five thousand unpaid members from the Wexit side still pending verification. It’s a far cry from the big UCP and NDP memberships, but it likely puts them at third place in the province.

One of Hinman’s biggest challenges will be to coral the disparate independence movement behind Wildrose 2.0. While the FCP and Wexit Alberta were the two biggest players in sovereignties circles, the Independence Party of Alberta (IPA), the Alberta Advantage Party (AAP), and the unregistered People’s Party of Alberta (PPA) remain outside of the recent merger. Most small parties on the Alberta right prefer to remain in the own small, insular sandboxes, so it’s difficult to say if talks would go anywhere. Hinman would be wise to reach out and bring them into the fold; but if rebuffed, he will have to simply outdo them.

Bringing them under the WIP banner one way or another, will require a difficult mix of principle and compromise. Unlike the old Wildrose, the new Wildrose isn’t a traditional conservative prairie populist party. It needs to combine these elements with an appeal for sovereignty that will peal voters away from the traditional big parties. Sovereignty means different things to different people. To moderates, autonomy and self-government within confederation. To more hardliners, total independence. In the UK, the Scottish National Party carefully walks this line, as did the Parti Quebecois until recently.

Getting the disparate flavours of Alberta sovereigntists to walk together in common cause will be like herding cats. In his favour is his own credibility, which – like the re-entry of Jay Hill as the federal Wexit leader – could be a game changer.

The party has a strong potential base to tap into in doing so, if it has the political finesse to do so.

A poll conducted in late May for the Western Standard saw between 45 and 48 per cent of Albertans backing independence. The same poll put the then-unofficial WIP at 10 per cent in third place.

While it’s a strong base to build from, it’s no guarantee of success, and Hinman’s leadership of the WIP will matter as much as Kenney’s leadership of the UCP. Kenney is walking a fine line in trying to keep the federalists and sovereigntists in his party happy. With 52 per cent of his own voter base expressing support for independence (and 48 per cent opposed), this will be a difficult task. The Fair Deal Panel was an exercise in trying to do something about this sentiment, without alienating his federalist support.

If he succeeds, he will govern for as long as he pleases. But if he fails, he now has a credible challenger on his flank licking its lips at the opportunity.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard and President of Wildrose Media Corp. dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

Derek Fildebrandt is the Publisher, President & CEO of Western Standard New Media Corp. He served from 2015-2019 as a Member of the Alberta Legislative Assembly in the Wildrose and Freedom Conservative parties. From 2009-2014 he was the National Research Director and Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

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KRAHNICLE’S CARTOON: November 23, 2021

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Opinion

GIEDE: Remember what this day really means

What makes us human is our ability to remember.

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Remembrance Day is here. From Alert to Windsor, from Victoria to St. John’s, Canadians will gather digitally as well as physically to pay their respects to the fallen. Wreaths and poppies will cover cenotaphs as bugles pierce the frosty air with last call and revelry. In our time of division and disruption, 11 a.m. November 11 offers us the chance for a brief ceasefire.

What sets us apart from the rest of God’s creatures, what marks us as a free people as opposed to a dominated one, is the ability to remember. We have in our capacity to recall events long past — moments that occurred before our birth and after the protagonist’s death — and by that re-imagination, to make choices in the present that actually change the reality of our future.

The unspoken point of Remembrance Day is to help keep the peace by participating in a yearly mass grieving exercise. Anger and sorrow are palpable in the crowd, as survivors remember comrades and family members; pipes drone mournfully in between statements and readings that call for “swords into plowshares;” finally, save for weeping, complete silence then occurs.

After the two minutes, the catharsis is carried into bars, restaurants, and legion halls, with the toasting of veterans as well as the fallen: it is only right and just that after a proper memorial, a wake follows. This event is our last hallowed day on the non-religious calendar. And it is perilously close to becoming a mockery of its sacred purposes for the second year in a row.

Flags have been lowered for months, rendering the gesture meaningless on November 11. And how can we celebrate our country’s battle honors or victories if our nation was just as evil as the enemy? While smaller communities might not demand vaccine passes to participate, larger centers certainly will, forcing veterans and families to stay home as conscientious objectors.

Indeed, Remembrance Day will soon serve as a microcosm. Born of an organic need to mourn the wounded and killed of the Great War, it was eventually made a holiday by our government. Now, in the year 2021, this human exercise in grief, facilitated by the state (with non-profits in a paltry role), has become the epitome of what a few on the Left are now calling “captured.”

Perhaps this was inevitable, with the veterans of both World Wars almost all laid to rest, and the real stories of Korea, peacekeeping, Bosnia, and Afghanistan long suppressed. But due to COVID-19 and our political climate, few public institutions still serve their name and role, let alone their former cultural trappings. We live in a Potemkin village run by idiotic cowards.

Most citizens won’t stand for that, doubly so for anyone who voluntarily signed up to “defend our nation, whatever the cost may be.” With Remembrance Day’s real meaning being so easily discarded by our political class, a new interpretation of its old truths will likely arise. And that phenomenon could become a threat to those who currently hold November 11 hostage.

Again, the most fundamental human trait is memory, particularly when it comes to how we organize our families and communities. Our private and public lives have been radically reorganized for just under two years, to the applause of a significant minority. But the vast majority still remembers a very different way of life, and can dream of reestablishing it.

So I encourage you to dodge the script this Remembrance Day and recall that those who ought to be celebrated on November 11 made the ultimate sacrifice in order to prevent the very tyranny we are currently experiencing. It is the first step in a long line to recapturing not only our personal liberty, but also the rights of our communities to maintain their cultural heritage.

That sounds like a tall order in a time as dismal as our own. But we must remember those who we mourn on November 11 were faced with far more dire circumstances and gained the victory in the end. Indeed we have our rallying cries already, one domestic, the other historic: “Je me souviens,” I remember, and from the last Lion, “We shall never surrender!”

Giede is a Western Standard columnist

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Opinion

DAVIDSON: Elect a Senator that will stand for freedom

Conservative Senate nominee candidate Pam Davidson writes that Albertans should elect a Senator who will fight against Liberal attacks on freedoms.

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Pam Davidson is a Senate nominee candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada

Over the last two years we have seen mounting evidence of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s unfailing commitment to undermining Canada’s freedoms. 

In introducing Bill C-10, the Liberals announced a plan that would allow the government to regulate internet content. When concerns about the effects of the bill on freedom of speech were raised, the government refused to back down. In the weeks leading up to the federal election, the government introduced Bill C-36 to bring back hate speech legislation which could once again curtail our longstanding commitment to free speech. 

And, while announcing his recent string of federal vaccine mandates, the prime minister said, “simply having a personal conviction that vaccines are bad will not be nearly enough to qualify for an exemption”—leaving no room for deeply-held conscience exemptions to the government’s vaccine mandate program. 

As a result of these legislative initiatives, there are worrying signs that our freedoms are being eroded and, as Canadians, we have become an increasingly divided people. But it was never supposed to be this way. 

Since its founding, Canada has allowed men and women of radically different backgrounds to live together despite their differences. To the surprise of the watching world, Protestants and Catholics committed to living together peacefully in this new country – as did the English and the French.   

And as the world watched, they also came. Canada became a haven for refugees and conscience prisoners from around the globe who knew that Canada could offer them something their native countries could not: freedom. 

This success did not come as the result of strong protections against misinformation and unpopular opinions. Instead, Canada succeeded because here, on our shores, every Canadian was offered the promise of political and religious freedom. Men and women could live their lives according to their own consciences without the threat of government interference. 

To this day, Canada is a diverse country consisting of many cultures, social customs, and institutions. Canadians often disagree with each other on many important issues – including faith and politics. But despite our meaningful differences, we have been able to build a country together by ensuring that each person’s basic freedoms are protected and not subject to political coercion. 

Because of this, the Liberal government’s recent attacks on our freedoms and the true diversity that has made Canada strong are fundamentally un-Canadian and we must speak against them. 

We need to restore confidence in our political institutions. Instead of acting as vehicles for top-down ideological advancement, institutions like the Senate should function as a chamber for the people’s representatives to deliberate on how to maintain our hard-fought political liberties. 

We must cultivate a spirit of freedom in our culture by always defending our fellow citizens’ right to speak, even when we disagree with what they have to say. We should also support the independent media outlets that are committed to the truth-seeking task of journalism rather than stirring up division and distrust between Canadians. 

There are many reasons to lament our government’s campaign against freedom. But rather than a pessimistic resignation to permanent Liberal dominance, we ought to courageously offer a truly Canadian vision for the future, in which freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion, are all properly protected. 

Canada is not perfect, and we have not always fulfilled the Canadian promise of freedom for all. But thanks to the men and women who came before us, we have made continual strides toward a fuller fulfillment of that promise. We shouldn’t stop now. Let’s defend our freedoms and keep Canada strong and free. 

Pam Davidson is a Senate nominee candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada

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