POLITICS

Wildrose party opens convention in Red Deer facing fundamental questions

11/14/2014 04:00 EST | Updated 01/13/2015 05:59 EST
RED DEER, Alta. - Members of Alberta's Opposition Wildrose party begin their annual meeting in Red Deer today facing some fundamental questions.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith says four recent byelection defeats mean there needs to be changes to ensure the party is in fighting trim for the next election, set for 2016.

Smith says they have altered the weekend agenda to allow party strategists to hear directly from grassroots members on what the caucus is doing right, doing wrong, and what it needs to change.

She says the challenge for her team over the next 18 months will be to straddle the line of holding the government to account as official Opposition while continuing to deliver policy alternatives so as to be seen as a credible government in waiting.

Smith plans to outline a five-point plan to members over the weekend to address that.

She says she looks forward to the chance to have a full discussion about what the party needs to do differently.

"It's pretty clear we need to do some tweaking and change course on a few things — and I'm sure our members will give us some guidance."

The Wildrose is looking to regroup after the byelections, which saw the party gain in popular votes but still lose.

There were complaints that the party went too heavy on attack ads as it tried to paint Premier Jim Prentice with the same brush of scandal and entitlement that led to former premier Alison Redford's resignation.

In the wake of defeat, Smith has already shuffled her communications and advisory team and hired a new chief of staff.

Joe Anglin, an outspoken critic of party officials and an MLA viewed as a disruptive force within caucus, quit ahead of a vote to turf him.