Dave France, a veteran Alberta election campaigner from Stettler, is wild about his exclusion from the Wildrose nomination race in the Drumheller-Stettler constituency.
France, who represented the Wildrose Alliance in the 2008 provincial election, had hoped to be the candidate for the new Wildrose party in the next provincial election.
But when party members cast their ballots in the first week of October, their choices are limited to two other men — Rick Strankman of Altario and Doug Wade of Drumheller.
France had also been in a race that began with five candidates, but he was bumped out of the picture in August when the provincial Wildrose association advised him he didn’t fulfil the entry requirements.
“It was a funny thing the way they told me I wasn’t a nominee,” France said last week. “They didn’t go through the constituency association. They emailed me — a Mr. William McBeath from the provincial office of Wildrose.
“Normally, and I’ve been in politics for a while, the constituency association always selects their candidate. It seemed to me that the constituency association and head office were at loggerheads from Day 1.”
But the constituency association president, Alf Erichsen of Botha, said the local group agreed with the provincial Wildrose directive because France didn’t meet the party guidelines required of each nomination candidate.
“The truth of the matter is he didn’t get the requirement — 75 names to sign his petition,” Erichsen said Monday night.
“It says very clearly in the (nomination rules) that he had to have 75 party members. So what, basically, he had to do was collect the $10 membership fee from the guys that were signing up.”
Party officials confirm France made the necessary $1,500 deposit and he even participated in a Drumheller forum in August as the nomination candidates toured the constituency. But confusion arose from his list of supporters.
“I had 75 names, but they weren’t members,” he said. “And (the Wildrose provincial office) told me they had to be members, but they wouldn’t send me a membership list.”
“I sent in (my application) in January and sent my money and more or less received word that I was a nominee. I worked in the fair booth in Stettler as a Wildrose nominee, and everything seemed to be hunky-dory, until the day before nominations closed to become a nominee.”
France has taken his complaints to the media in the past couple of weeks, writing letters to newspapers across the riding. But the constituency association head said it did what it could to help France become a qualified candidate.
“We gave him an extension,” Erichsen said. “We told him we would deal with Calgary (the provincial association) if he could get the bona fide names. He was going to an event in Stettler — I think the rodeo — to firm up the numbers he needed. But he didn’t put much effort into it, and unfortunately that’s what he did all along.”
“Here you’ve got a guy that really just thinks we should appoint him.”
Running under the Wildrose Alliance label in 2008, France finished third as Progressive Conservative incumbent Jack Hayden retained his Drumheller-Stettler seat.
“I couldn’t really understand why I had to be a nominee again,” France said. “I just thought to myself, if you’re a candidate that long and you haven’t done anything wrong, then normally you would keep on being a candidate, like the Conservatives or whoever.”
“I ran for Wildrose (Alliance) in 2008 and was up on their policies, so that wasn’t that much difference.”
Not so fast, Erichsen countered.
“It doesn’t work that way,” he said. “They’re different parties. “
“There was no free lunches. If you wanted to have this nomination, you were going to have to do the things that are required of this party, not just what you think should be done.”
“For him to run as a candidate, he needed to have 75 members (sign his application). He failed to do that. The other two (candidates) did it. Actually, three others did it.”
Hanna businessman Chris Warwick also met the nomination requirements, but he dropped out of the race for personal reasons, Erichsen said.
France believes he had angered the party brass because he used the Wildrose logo on a glossy four-page brochure that he circulated to the general public in the spring.
“They told me that putting the Wildrose symbol on that brochure (was premature),” he said.
“Yet I thought we were all members of Wildrose.”
“On the back of my brochure was a membership form for people to join the Wildrose, and I believe quite a few of them did. I can’t prove it, because it would go right into head office.”
“In the Drumheller-Stettler constituency, we’ve got one of the higher (Wildrose) membership constituencies in Alberta. So it’s just been hard work that’s done that.”
Since his Wildrose controversy, France has registered as a Progressive Conservative member, he said.
“I haven’t got any place now (where) I’m throwing my support. I did take out a membership in the Conservative party …though I think all six (now three) of their leadership candidates are not being clear, at least they’re being clearer than what I just came out of.”
“Wildrose said, ‘No, you can stay in (our party).’ But if I wasn’t going to be a candidate, I hadn’t done all that work out in the constituency just to throw it away. I got to know a lot of good people and worked all the forums during the previous elections and met a lot of good people. As they tell me, I had a lot of solid thoughts behind what I was doing and what I was going to do.”
Meanwhile, the remaining two Wildrose candidates have a few weeks left to campaign for the nomination. Voting will run for six straight days, beginning Oct. 3 in Stettler and ending Oct. 8 in Hanna. The other polls are in Castor (Oct. 4), Consort (Oct. 5), Oyen (Oct. 6) and Drumheller (Oct. 7).