Strengthening the right

By Andrew Barbero

Paul Hinman navigated what few political figures can; the merging of two parties.

For an MLA and leader of the recently fused Wildrose and Alberta Alliance parties–now known as the Wildrose Alliance Party–the move was easily achieved.

“We said ‘united, we’re stronger; divided we’re weak, we’ll fail’,” said Hinman from the campaign trail. “So we worked very hard as an executive in order to merge these parties.”

Both the Wildrose and Alberta Alliance, the latter for which Hinman served as leader, occupy the same territory of populism and a guiding principle of small government. In 2004, Hinman became the first member of the Alberta Alliance to be elected–the first independent elected to the legislature since 1986.

The Wildrose Alliance purports a five-point plan for Alberta focusing on government reform, tax relief, community initiatives, health care and education.

For the Wildrose Alliance, many of the issues boil down to one factor.

“Albertans have been overtaxed,” said Hinman. “Whenever you have a government with surplus dollars that means they’re taking in more than they need. This leads to Albertans slipping in quality of life.”

Beyond taxation, the Wildrose Alliance would hope to confront Ottawa more openly, a quality they feel lacking in the current conservative government.

“We need to stand up for Alberta,” said Hinman. “Constitutionally there are many areas that are provincial jurisdictions and we should be looking after those areas.”

Those concerns include pension plans, immigration and equalization payments. Hinman pointed to Quebec as an ideal example of how Alberta should be treated by the federal government. While threatening a hard-line stance with Ottawa, Alberta separatism is not an official policy of the Wildrose Alliance.

As far as post-secondary education, the three-week-old party has no official plans. However, Hinman stressed the importance of education.

“We have wonderful people here in Alberta, it’s our best resource, but if you don’t develop them or educate them, we don’t get our full value or reach our potential,” he said.

Instead of providing additional funding to universities, Hinman instead suggested more innovative tax structures that would allow alumni and other donors to contribute ‘pre-tax’ dollars to schools. He also suggested a graduated taxation system that would allow students to repay student loans over the course of a lifetime through a slight percentage increase in their individual taxes.

“If we can do things and not have government involved, were more efficient, we’re more effective and more productive,” he said. “When government gets involved, it’s just a black hole where you put in a dollar and hope to get out fifty cents or ten cents. But if the funding is going directly from alumni right to universities, it would be far more effective than the government taxing individuals and then redirecting the money.”

From these humble beginnings of grassroots politics and door-to-door campaigning, the party has set small and achievable goals.

“We are working hard to reach official party status,” he said. “To get four or more members elected would really send a message to Stelmach that he’s got to re-examine the conservative side of things, and not just be a tax-and-spend government where they try to buy the votes with the people’s own money.”

As of press time, the party had candidates in 53 of the 83 ridings, with 20 candidates running in Calgary.