07/10/2011 02:48 EDT | Updated 09/09/2011 05:12 EDT

Alberta Wildrose Leader Rubs Elbows With Stephen Harper At Calgary Stampede


THE CANADIAN PRESS -- CALGARY - Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the leader of Alberta's right-of-centre opposition party stood shoulder-to-shoulder Sunday serving up pancakes and shoring up support.

Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith, who wants to be premier, thinks Harper and herself have more in common than the flapjacks they heaped onto the cardboard plates of voters at a Stampede breakfast nestled in the heart of the prime minister's Calgary Southwest riding.

"I think that the values the prime minister talks about is something very much the members of the Wildrose talk about as well and are interested in seeing in the provincial government," Smith told reporters.

"I think part of the reason why we have a division at the provincial level between Conservatives is we have a current provincial government that is severely off track."

The Wildrose Alliance, the right-of-centre political rival to the ruling provincial Progressive Conservatives, was founded in 2008. It has four sitting members in the 83-seat legislature, but is expected to improve on that number in the next election. It is made up largely of disenchanted Conservatives and is committed to fiscal conservativism, balanced budgets and private landowner rights.

Harper and Smith chatted frequently during the half-hour pancake and photo fest, posing for pictures and shaking hands.

Smith added that the prime minister's wife helped on her campaign in 1998 when she was running for a school board seat in Calgary.

She said her party members are thrilled that there is a federal Conservative majority in Ottawa and she's already looking past the next election.

"I think what we've seen over the last number of years is the relationship between the PC's and the federal government has deteriorated. I think that's what people are responding to," she said.

"They actually want to see an Alberta government that is to work collaboratively with their federal counterpart and we know now that we have finally a partner in Ottawa that will allow us to achieve what we want to achieve."

The Alliance is trying to wrest power away from the Alberta Progressive Conservatives, who've been in office for 40 years.

The Alberta Tories are currently embroiled in a leadership campaign. All were in attendance at a Saturday night barbecue hosted by the prime minister.

Meanwhile, federal Tory politicians have been told to keep their feelings to themselves when it comes to allegiances to either provincial party.

Only Calgary MP Rob Anders has spoken publicly about his support for the Alliance and one of Harper's campaign advisers, Ken Boessenkool, had been working to unite the Wildrose Alliance and Progressive Conservatives.

In the last federal campaign the Wildrose Alliance's executive director, Vitor Marciano, encouraged members to volunteer with federal Conservative candidates across the province because of "valuable practical political opportunities.''

Smith said she isn't expecting a wave of public support from the Alberta Conservative MP's in the next Alberta election campaign, but she's positive about the future.

"We respect the fact that the MP's have to stay neutral. They've got relationships with the current government but we know that after the next election there will be a large contingent of Wildrosers," she said.

"We've already started the process of building those relationships so I'm pretty sure it will go pretty smoothly after the next election."