Q & A With Drew Barnes
Drew Barnes is the only Wildrose leadership candidate who holds a seat in Alberta's legislature, but with two other competitors vying for the top job, he has his work cut out for him. Of late, the Wildrose has been marred by by-election losses and betrayals, but that hasn't stopped the party's faithful from keeping up the fight against Alberta's Progressive Conservative dynasty. Before the infamous floor crossing, Drew Barnes was the only candidate on the inside with a complete picture of what really happened. To give us some insight into where the Wildrose stands and what a Drew Barnes leadership might look like, he agreed to answer some of our questions.
On the Wildrose
Poletical: There's been a lot of talk, past and present, about "nutbars" and "crazies" within the Wildrose. Danielle Smith herself has been open about her conflicts with certain segments of the party's base. Have you ever experienced something similar, or do you put more of an importance on compromise and cooperation between the various segments?
Barnes: I have had no conflicts within the Wildrose for my entire five years. A leader's main task is unifying the members with various differences in thinking and strategy so we all work towards a common goal. A more financially responsible Alberta.
Would you say that the Wildrose is a diverse party in terms of political ideologies?
No more diverse ideologically than other political parties.
Do you believe it would be possible to maintain cohesion if the party were to form government?
A leader's job is to facilitate cohesion and the best way to do that is a proper organizational structure that involves all members and gives them a real opportunity to discuss their differences.
Is Drew Barnes a social conservative?
I don't like labels. The Wildrose is an inclusive party that, because of our grassroots focus, will allow all financially responsible Albertans a home.
After the party's defeat in October's by-elections, there were calls for a review of Smith's leadership. This review was overruled unanimously by the Wildrose caucus, which you were a part of. What was behind that decision to bypass the party's entire membership?
The decision was not to bypass the party's membership. Instead, it was to ask the member's representatives, the Executive Committee, to make the decision.
Were you ever approached by Smith to join her infamous floor crossing, or were you blindsided?
Yes, I was approached by a caucus member. I tried to change Smith 's mind to cross. I instantly refused to consider crossing.
Have you spoken to Danielle recently, or since the floor crossing? What was the last thing you said to her?
I have not spoken to her since the Saturday before the floor crossing when I tried to convince her it was the wrong idea. My last words to her were, "I don't care what you're getting and I don't care how many of you are going. I am not going."
If you could have chosen any other tagline or slogan besides "Send The PCs A Message", what would it have been?
Wildrose: Principled Choice.
Can the Wildrose win in Edmonton and Calgary?
It seems most Albertans aren't keen on any tax increases, but they aren't willing to accept cuts to public sector services either. Is there a way to strike a balance?
Yes. Eliminate $500 million annually in corporate welfare. Reduce burdensome bureaucracy and layers and layers of upper management. This will actually improve services with less bureaucrats in the way of our frontline workers. Improve the efficiency in Alberta's infrastructure dramatically. Improve the efficiency in health care by starting with local decision making and adding activity-based mechanisms. This more efficient taxpayer friendly government and business friendly environment will grow the tax base. Similar to how Klein created $17 billion in savings.