Strong support for the newly-formed United Conservative Party was by far the biggest surprise for Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken in 2017.
Aside from pleasant memories of public events through the constituency, the United Conservative Party (UCP) infrastructure critic did not dwell much on last year, preferring to look forward to the party’s first policy meeting in May, which will determine what direction the party and its MLAs take going into the next provincial election scheduled for May 2019.
He said that the overwhelming 95 per cent vote in favour of the Wildrose/Progressive Conservative merger in July was a bit of a shock.
While he was aware there was support for the merger, he wasn’t expecting the decision to be so definitive.
“I was pleasantly surprised by that,” he said. “It tells us the direction that members wanted to go and give us a pretty clear direction.”
One memory from the year that stood out to him was being able to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday alongside the Athabasca River Voyageur Brigade, a 24-person team that traced the historical Athabasca River passes from Jasper to Fort Assiniboine June 28.
“That was an exceptional time where we got to reflect on the past of Canada and look towards the future,” he said. “Rural communities are alive and well with volunteers. Each time I’m able to go out to an event in the community and participate, those are good times.”
Though he held back from criticizing the provincial government too much, he lamented that come Jan. 1 the carbon tax will increase the price of gasoline by 2.24 cents per litre, diesel will increase 2.68 cents per litre and natural gas will jump by 50 cents per gigajoule.
While the next provincial election is not scheduled for May 2019, van Dijken said he expected his party to be ready in the event premier Rachel Notley dropped the writ early.
“I think we’re ready for an election any time,” he said. “We have a lot of the moving parts falling into place, a lot of people are getting ready to take a run at nominations. I think we can have 87 candidates in a heartbeat and the platform could be a very basic conservative platform, built off an amalgamation of existing legacy party policies.”
Looking forward, van Dijken said he had a lot to do to be ready for the next election. He noted that once the party finishes its policy meeting, he will have to go through a potential constituency nomination to be the UCP’s candidate in 2019.
“The challenge is to make sure people maintain hope,” he said. “In Alberta, we live in a part of the world where we have many blessings and opportunities. Sometimes there’s a tendency to look at how bad things are without recognizing how good things are. People need to remember the role they play in the world.”