05/24/2013 10:28 EDT | Updated 07/24/2013 05:12 EDT

Wildrose Robocalls Show Party Willing To Ignore Rules: Redford


EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Alison Redford says the robocall scandal dogging her party's arch-rival, the Wildrose, shows it's a group prepared to ignore the rules to win.

"We are faced with an extremist opposition," Redford told Progressive Conservative party delegates in a speech Friday night.

"We see every day, and we certainly saw today in the news, political parties that are prepared to get involved in tactics that undermine the political process."

Earlier this week, the Wildrose party announced it paid a $90,000 fine levied by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for so-called robocalls in 2011 and 2012 in the run up to the provincial election.

It’s the biggest fine ever levied against a political party by the CRTC.

Earlier Friday, PC Caucus government liaison Doug Griffiths said he wants the Wildrose party — which is the official Opposition in the Alberta legislature — to ask the chief electoral officer to investigate.

Griffiths said the robocalls may have resulted in election manipulation given that the some ridings were won in close races.

Wildrose president David Yager has said the party relied on the firm it hired to make the automated phone calls to work within the rules. Yager said he believes his party isn't the only guilty party.

The calls were in contravention of CRTC regulations that say the calls must include the name of the party sponsoring the call, an address, and contact telephone number.

Redford's speech opened a weekend party discussion of policies and ideas, some of which may come forward for adoption at the next meeting in November.

The speech was another salvo in a sustained direct rhetorical attack by Redford against the Wildrose in recent months.

Redford reiterated her characterization of the Wildrose as the party of yesterday, restrained by dogmatic chains of fiscal conservatism, out of step with a province facing slumping oil revenues and a booming population.

She reminded the delegates that the Wildrose questioned the science of climate change in the 2012 election, a position believed to have contributed to the party winning just 17 seats to the Tories' 61.

This year, the Wildrose, particularly Leader Danielle Smith, has sharply criticized Reford's plan to run up $17 billion in debt over the next four years to pay for infrastructure.

More blinkered thinking, said Redford.

"All their talk about debt is really talk about the schools, and the hospitals and the roads that our province so clearly needs today," said Redford, her voice occasionally raspy and cracked as she fought through a cold.

Redford warned that as the 2016 election approaches the Wildrose will be burnishing its image, but not to be fooled.

"We know that the Opposition will redouble their efforts to deny who they really are in the months ahead," said Redford.

"And I fully expect them once again to sweep some of their extreme policies under the rug, and to pretend to be something that they're not. But they'll only succeed in exposing their own hypocrisy.

"We have to be ready, and we have to ensure that Albertans understand what's at stake as they choose between the party that builds up or the party that tears down."

The feud between the two parties is nothing short of venomous.

Both are right-centre groups. The Wildrose has grown in popularity, gaining support from former Tories who believe the governing party has abandoned fiscal prudence and no longer listens to the grassroots.

Redford had a message for those grassroots Friday.

Rank-and-file party members will now have a chance to speak to cabinet ministers and MLAs through new policy advisory committees, she said.

The committees are to be up and running by the fall, she said.

"With policy advisory committees, our grassroots will have an unprecedented opportunity to help define where we're going as a province," said Redford, who was given a standing ovation for her remarks.

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