In an announcement made Tues. Jan. 15, Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman announced his departure from the United Conservative Party (UCP) Caucus.
The seasoned politician noted his immediate decision to become an independent to represent his constituents across the recently enlarged riding after grassroots principals were not upheld and communication was inconsistent.
“I don’t have any particular malice to anyone in accuracy but it just seemed to me that there were unaccountable, back-room operatives mostly in the legislative side and in the party side had unaccountable power for direct democracy or to the grassroots [principles],” said Strankman.
“My son was giving me heck that the people use those words grassroots quite flippantly and it’s difficult to assess that meaning and it just seemed to me it was being lost.”
The other problem began with the development of platform policy within the party.
“I understand the need for responsible development of platform policy going forward but I couldn’t even find out if it was based off of party policy or what and #5 of Jason Kenney’s grassroots guarantee – he said that there would be a development of appointed platform committees of MLA’s and party members to develop the platform.”
With the NDP being able to call an election as early as March, an urgency to complete this was assumed.
“We should be as proactive as we could about developing those policies to come forward and I was frustrated that it just appeared that that was all going to be throttled through unaccountable people,” he said.
Kenney acknowledged Strankman’s decision early the next day after the announcement saying “We always knew that having open, democratic nominations would create some tensions within the party.
“That is particularly true when an incumbent MLA is not selected by their local grassroots members but I will continue to respect the decisions made by the members, and call on all of our 150,000 UCP members to do the same.
“I look forward to working with our elected candidate for Drumheller- Stettler, Nate Horner.
“I thank Rick sincerely for his service, and wish him the very best in the future,” concluded Kenney.
Strankman has developed the reputation as the Alberta Agriculture Critique over his time in the legislature, beginning in 2012.
His most well-known act of defiance was during the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly where he was jailed in 2002 for moving 756 bushels of wheat across the U.S. border in protest of this monopoly.
“I’ve seen some emotional times and through all that I’ve tried to keep a steady hand. I’ve tried to be as responsible and representative as I can. Coming from an activist role, it’s been certainly quite a learning experience,” he said.
Now sitting as an independent, the experience has allowed the MLA the opportunity to continue to push for economic development in the region and focus on property rights entrenchment.
The largest of economic development projects are Acadia Valley’s possible Environmental Impact Assessment as they with the provincial government explore a 30,000 to 40,000 acre irrigation system in the area.
Strankman remains faithful to the people he serves.
“I have a direct responsibility to the electorate and I can still serve that as an independent,” he said. “I don’t have to have the encumbrances – someone would say the distractions of the UCP until the end of my term.”
Strankman is assessing the situation as to whether to run as an independent in the upcoming provincial election with no definitive answer at this time.