Bell: Danielle Smith-led UCP faithful head to Calgary for one hell of a gabfest

By Rick Bell, Calgary Sun | FULL STORY

They’re coming to Calgary and they’re not going to be sitting on their hands.

They’re coming to the annual gabfest of the UCP where the crowd is expected to total more than 3,000.

By political party standards, this is a biggie.

So what’s up?

Former premier Jason Kenney is mentioned. Current Premier Danielle Smith is mentioned.

“The people who felt they were responsible for getting rid of Jason Kenney, the same people who felt responsible for getting Danielle in, it’s a bit of a victory lap for them.

“Now they’re saying, that’s fine. Job One. Got rid of Jason. Job Two. Got Danielle in. Now they want to make sure the board of directors we elect are also aligned with the things we’re concerned about.”

Rick Orman is speaking. He is running to be UCP president.

Orman has been a big name in Alberta conservative circles for a long time. He was part of the small crew who talked up uniting the Wildrose and the PCs after the NDP election win in 2015.

Orman was working for conservative unity even before Kenney showed up to cast himself as the conservative messiah.

You get a feel of what this weekend is all about from sitting down with Orman, who brings up UNITY, UNITY, UNITY.

Orman says what was happening when the Wildrose and the PCs were battling each other as separate political parties is happening in a slightly different way now.

There is division. No way around it.

“There are two parties under one roof called the UCP,” says Orman.

“Jason Kenney did nothing to knit them together.

“He failed to realize there were significant differences between the Wildrose and the PCers.”

In fact, when the political temperature rose, Kenney branded many United Conservatives lunatics and marginal voices.

Some of those at the top, the party establishment, were thinking, according to Orman, “maybe the alternative is to put bullets in their head.”

What the hell does that mean?

“Let’s fight them. Let’s bury them.”

That was the attitude.

Orman has been all over the province these past weeks.

He has gone to several Take Back Alberta events.

In fact, the day after Orman announced he was running to be UCP president he met with David Parker, founder of TBA, a group seeing itself as a grassroots movement of freedom-loving Albertans.

“What good is it to be the president of the party if we continue saying we’ll bury these guys. We can’t do that. Of course I had to talk to them.”

Orman is convinced TBA “want their views in the tent not outside the tent.”

He says their gatherings are “like any meeting you’d have in Alberta. The people I talked to are committed to conservatism. They also don’t leave the impression they’re going to be led around by anybody.”

Orman says the press has “overdramatized” TBA.

“But I don’t see any of the media at their events so where are they getting their impressions?”

Orman says he’s heard many people still talking about what happened during COVID and wanting to make sure what they consider the massive assault on freedom will not happen again.

They are still upset no one listened to them. They feel “marginalized.”

Therefore, the disunity.

“There’s disunity because of the marginalization,” says Orman.

Orman adds these grassroots members are also “hyper-sensitized to what’s going on in Ottawa.”

They still mention how they feel Kenney didn’t stand up to Ottawa.

“He didn’t have the guts and he didn’t have the heart to take on Ottawa because he was a feature of Ottawa. That’s where he cut his teeth. For him to take on all of his buddies, that system, didn’t work for him.

Orman takes a line out of the sports world.

“He lost the dressing room.”

On the other hand, “the people are wanting to get behind Danielle. There is no anti-Danielle out there at all.”

Orman talks about party members also “sick and tired of woke culture” and not happy with the school system and wanting to fight for parental rights.

“They’re really mad,” he says.

This candidate for UCP party president, this former PC cabinet minister who voted Wildrose in 2012 and 2015, says party members must find common ground.

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And that starts with a focus on beating the NDP again and realizing the UCP has to act as a blended family and look like a big-tent party with a wide range of people.

What don’t party members like about the NDP?

“Everything. There’s not one thing they like about the NDP. Me neither,” says Orman, who believes if the UCP doesn’t become united, the NDP could win.

The veteran political player looks back to the recent ballot battle.

“It was a near-miss, man. It was a near-miss. We were a handful of votes away from losing the election.”

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  • Josiah Martinoski
    published this page in News 2023-11-03 12:38:21 -0700