EDMONTON -- Alberta Wildrose leader Danielle Smith says it was the right decision to stand by two candidates in the last election campaign despite their racist and anti-gay remarks.

But Smith says that even though she believes in standing up for her candidates, the values of Allan Hunsperger and Ron Leech are not Wildrose values, and she says the party must do a better job at vetting candidates.

"I believe people of strong religious conviction of any religion should feel welcome into the public arena," Smith told reporters at the Wildrose party convention Saturday.

"But every single person who runs for office has to be able to state their views in a way that is respectful to all Albertans (and) in a way that if they are to be elected, their constituents believe they will be able to represent every person who comes into their constituency office.

"There are a couple of candidates who fell short of that for us."

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  • Wildrose Party AGM

    Danielle Smith addresses Wildrose Party members with the keynote speech at the party's AGM Saturday. (@TeamWildrose)

  • Wildrose Party AGM

    Danielle Smith and Kerry Towle take questions from the floor during the Wildrose Party's AGM on Saturday. (@TeamWildrose)

Polls suggested Smith's Wildrose party had a chance to end the four-decade dynasty of Premier Alison Redford's Progressive Conservatives in the April 23 election.

But in the end the Tories won 61 seats to 17 for the Wildrose, in part to late-campaign controversy over the remarks by Hunsperger and Leech.

Hunsperger, an Edmonton candidate, said in a blog that gays need to renounce their sexual orientation or face an afterlife burning in hell's "lake of fire."

Leech, a Calgary candidate, told a radio interviewer that as a white man he was best suited to talking with and mediating disputes among people of all races.

Smith said the Tories ran with the controversy by successfully painting the Wildrose as pro-bigot.

"I thought that people would understand that having a couple of candidates who make controversial comments does not cast a pall on all 87. I was mistaken," she said.

"Next time, we're going to be far more careful with our candidate selection.

"I think our local candidate selection committee is going to do their work, and I'm going to be confident going into the next election that we've got 87 people who can win."

Smith admitted she took an earful from some candidates for Hunsperger and Leech staying on board, though neither was elected. Some candidates felt bruised, she said, that the actions of others impeded their ability to succeed.

She said in the future, candidates themselves have to shoulder some responsibility and take it upon themselves to quit if necessary.

"If a candidate has created such a controversy that it's going to bring down the entire party, that is going to affect other candidates, that it's going to affect our ability to form government I would hope that they would have the respect for their colleagues that they would choose to step out of the race," she said.

The weekend meeting in Edmonton is the party's first convention since losing the spring election.

Earlier Saturday, Smith delivered a blistering denunciation of Redford's Conservatives.

Smith said Redford's legacy will be broken promises and corrupt behaviour, starting with the party's plan to balance the operating budget but run a deficit for capital projects. She accused the government of "economic flim-flam" and said it kept "two sets of books," adding it's the way crooks do business.

She said the Tories have grown so accustomed to power the only way they know how to govern is to deliver grants and gifts to those who do their bidding and punish those who do not.

"Three and a half years from now we'll see Albertans heave this wreck of a PC government onto the ash-heap of history," Smith told 700 cheering supporters, echoing former U.S. president Ronald Reagan's 1982 comments on the fate of Marxism-Leninism.

"This is the party that in the past election campaign grossly mischaracterized the Wildrose program and party. Let's never let them do it again."

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  • All Smiles

    Alberta PC party leader Alison Redford celebrates her win in the provincial election in Calgary, Alta., Monday, April 23, 2012. Redford led the PC Alberta party to another majority win beating out the new comer Wildrose party.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

  • Alberta PC party leader Alison Redford celebrates her win in the provincial election in Calgary, Alta., Monday, April 23, 2012. Redford led the PC Alberta party to another majority win beating out the new comer Wildrose party.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

  • Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith waves to the crowd in High River, Alberta, Monday, April, 23, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

  • Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith receives a hug following her speech as her party placed second in the Alberta election in High River, Alberta, Monday, April, 23, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

  • Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith greets supporters in High River, Alberta, Monday, April, 23, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

  • Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason celebrates his showing in the provincial election in Edmonton Alta. Monday April 23, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.

  • Party supporters cheer election returns at the Alberta PC party venue in Calgary, Alta., Monday, April 23, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

  • Party supporters cheer election returns at the Alberta PC party venue in Calgary, Alta., Monday, April 23, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

  • Protester Brigette DePape holds up a sign as Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith leaves a polling station in High River, Alberta to cast her ballot for the Alberta election Monday, April, 23, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

  • Protester Brigette DePape holds up a sign as Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith leaves a polling station in High River, Alberta to cast her ballot for the Alberta election Monday, April, 23, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

  • Protester Brigette DePape holds up a sign as Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith leaves a polling station in High River, Alberta to cast her ballot for the Alberta election Monday, April, 23, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

  • Protester Brigette DePape holds up a sign as Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith leaves a polling station in High River, Alberta to cast her ballot for the Alberta election Monday, April, 23, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

  • Returning officers look on as Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith puts her ballot into the voters box at a polling station in High River, Alberta to cast her ballot for the Alberta election Monday, April, 23, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

  • Returning officers look on as Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith puts her ballot into the voters box at a polling station in High River, Alberta to cast her ballot for the Alberta election Monday, April, 23, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)