By Nathan Dyck
Metro Demchynski claims that the tide is turning against Ralph Klein’s party, and says he is going to help make it happen.
"We’ve got the Conservatives and Liberals running scared," said the 58-year-old retired school teacher. Demchynski is running as an independent in Calgary Fort riding, which temporarily puts on hold his plans for a new Alberta Peoples’ Party, but he stressed there are plans to pick it up again after the election.
"Right now, I’m way ahead of the Conservatives and Liberals in my riding," said Demchynski. Albertans like his ideas, he said, because "all of my issues are from common folk… the needs and suffering are so obvious that I felt I had to run."
He said his populist grounding comes from "…over 1,000 people submitting ideas with the plea to form a new political party. The Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic parties have not responded to the real needs of Albertans." He sides with farmers, small businesses and other ordinary people.
It’s not just common folk, either, that Demchynski claimed are his supporters.
"In the first few weeks of the election, several Liberals approached me with comments on my platform, saying, ‘Metro, go and fight for us.’ When centre Liberals are favouring a left-wing platform, something must be right."
Demchynski said the Progressive Conservatives are on shaky ground.
"Conservatives are admitting Ralph Klein has no long term plan or leadership… I see a much-reduced majority. The television and newspaper polls are wrong."
So far, Demchynski hasn’t been able to face Klein to deliver this message. As an independent, he was not allowed into the Feb. 26 leadership debate.
According to Alberta deputy chief elections officer Bill Sage, there are certain guidelines in place to determine which groups may become official political parties. The most common method is the petition. If a group can gather signatures from three-tenths of one per cent of the eligible voters, they are considered official. This amounts to 5,293 people as of the last election. The People’s Party of Alberta was working on such a petition, but was at about ten per cent of this figure when Demchynski entered the election. Sage said there are two other ways to gain official status; run candidates in over 50 per cent of the ridings, or hold three or more seats in the Legislative assembly. Demchynski doesn’t want to let these rules slow down the progress of the People’s Party.
"I also requested that [we be recognized] if I win Calgary Fort," he said.
The People’s Party, should it be recognized, has a mixed platform. Some features may sound familiar to western ears, such as the plan to recall dishonest Members of the Legislative Assembly.
Other ideas are in direct contrast to what one may expect from a Western party, such as collective bargaining rights, 40 per cent rent rollbacks and 50 per cent tuition rollbacks. This doesn’t bother Demchynski.
"I see that Alberta is moving to the left," he said. "Nobody (in public office) is looking at the long term… The only thing that is booming is costs for us and profits for a few. The middle class barely exists now; so many problems have been put under the carpet and that is not responsible leadership, not responsible government."
Demchynski cites Medicare as one of his major concerns. He has a long list of things he would like to see done, including free medicare, and the elimination of the controversial Bill C-11 (the health care protection act).
Although Medicare and energy concerns rank highest in his list of concerns, Demchynski points out there is a lot that needs mending in Alberta.
"People are facing fear, discomfort and sleepless nights," he said. "For example, 30 per cent of Alberta’s farmers may be facing bankruptcy, but the parties barely even know that farmers exist."
If the Conservative Party doesn’t lose any seats and maintains its "grip
on Alberta," Demchynski blames it on apathy and poor voter turnout, an apathy that he says students are partly responsible for.
"The policy on increasing tuition fees was done right here on campus, with your Students’ Union," he said.
Metro Demchynski and the People’s Party of Alberta can be reached at 403-251-6963.