Original Published on Jun 16, 2022 at 13:47
By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
An Amisk resident who’s thrown his hat in the ring for leadership of the United Conservative Party (UCP) says the party is in turmoil and badly needs both better leadership and healing.
Bill Rock, Village of Amisk mayor and a local businessman, has a lengthy history in Alberta provincial politics, including as a party volunteer and recently as a candidate in the 2015 provincial election.
Rock originally got involved in the Wildrose Party in 2011 and became vice-president of communications for the Wainwright constituency. A few years later he got directly involved in provincial politics by running for election in the Wetaskiwin Camrose constituency against the PC incumbent and the NDP. Rock stated in an interview on Main Street Amisk June 9 that many of the same problems haunt the UCP that plagued the PC government in 2015, including an “old boys” club unwilling to heed critics or anyone who tried to give feedback.
“Obviously that’s what was going on in 2015,” said Rock.
Rock stated he feels some qualities people see in him would serve the future leader of the UCP well: honesty is the prime one. Rock noted he keeps two small businesses running in a rural area, which you can’t do if you’re dishonest. Rock pointed out he has some customers he’s been working with for 30 years.
He also stated he’s familiar with how government works, and points to the years he’s spent as an Amisk councillor. Rock noted in last fall’s election the current council was acclaimed, and he took that as a sign of support and approval from the voters. Further, he stated the village’s audited financial statements were presented at a recent meeting and no members of the public attended, which he also took as a sign of approval from his neighbours.
The candidate stated those qualities plus a dedication to openness and transparency are badly needed at the highest level of the UCP right now, a party he said is in dire need of unification. Rock pointed out the unification of the PC and Wildrose parties was supposed to eliminate division but three years later Rock described the feeling within the UCP as “broken.”
As far as a platform goes Rock stated the most important thing he can offer is leadership and a desire to unite all of the UCP MLAs, to get out into the community and talk with people and bring their input back to caucus.
He pointed out being a businessman means working with a lot of people from different disciplines and backgrounds and to listen to their input. At the end of the day, though, the leader has to make a decision added the candidate.
Taking Alberta’s grievances to Ottawa would also be high on Rock’s priority list, as he feels Albertans carry an unfair load from equalization payments, Canada pension plan, federal taxes and other issues.
Looking at his competitors, including Travis Toews, Brian Jean, Danielle Smith, Leela Aheer and Todd Loewen, the candidate stated they are all or have been MLAs and had opportunities to fix what’s wrong in the UCP but it appears they have not come up with any viable solutions.
Rock stated he feels outgoing leader Jason Kenney steered the COVID-19 pandemic response off the rails. While Rock feels Kenney was making sound decisions at the beginning it seemed about halfway through the pandemic he, “…became a do as I say, not as a I do” sort of leader.
The candidate pointed out the provincial government started out by bribing people to take the vaccine and eventually blackmailing them. Rock noted weekly conferences during the pandemic started out productively but eventually it became clear Kenney wasn’t interested in receiving feedback.
When asked if that played a part recently in Kenney’s bad leadership review Rock answered, “Yes.”
If he was selected by the UCP membership as leader Rock noted the kind of government people should expect would be one that’s open and honest, adding there are 87 ridings and all should be heard.
Rock said he was recently buoyed by the recruitment of a social media team in Calgary, or, more accurately, the team may have auditioned him. While being interviewed Rock stated the social media experts almost made him feel he was in a job interview that he passed and the fact they were impressed by his ideas of transparency and honesty confirmed he made the right choice to run.
Another thing he recently noticed was the fact many of his leadership run supporters seem to be from the Calgary area. “They’re all rural roots people,” said Rock.
Assuming all things proceed as planned and Rock wins the nomination for leader of the UCP he said a seat in the legislature would be close to the top of the priorities list.
However, he said that’s a bridge he’ll cross when he comes to it.
This item reprinted with permission from East Central Alberta Review, Coronation, Alberta