Original Published on Jun 15, 2022 at 08:50

By Ian Croft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Conservative parties, both federal and provincial, have an interesting dilemma in front of them as they both currently lack a leader. Martin Shields, a member of the federal Conservative party and MP of Bow River, gave his take on the entire situation.

“I think June 2 or June 3 is the cut off date to buy memberships,” Shields said. “That is basically what the leadership candidates have been doing since the race started — was encouraging people to buy memberships. Which have been their main targets, sure, all those who have memberships, they’re trying to include as well, but they’re trying to enlarge the voting base by encouraging the buying of memberships. That comes to an end and then they will be able to have a list of all those new members, as well as those who have been members before to influence in the coming months. There have been the debates, English and French debates, that have happened. People may have seen them with the candidates, all six of them. The Canadian public probably had an opportunity if they didn’t know them — if they want to — they could’ve listened to those leadership debates. From the point of view of our constituents, they’ve been asking questions about the leadership, people have asked me how the leader- ship race is and what’s happening. That’s been ongoing.” 

Voting for the new leader of the Conservative party is restricted to only individuals who  signed up to be members. 

“The leadership race has attracted a lot of interest in the sense of memberships because it’s the type of vote where people have a membership get to vote,” said Shields. “Like in the provincial leadership race that occurred in the past, when that happened for UCP leadership, there were a lot of memberships sold in Alberta for that one and they have another one coming up. Federally, there have been a lot of memberships that have been purchased. We know there is a lot of interest in buying a membership so they can vote. The candidates have been very much out on social media, so members should see a lot of things coming on a regular basis on social media, whether it’s vid- eos, whether it’s letters. There have been a lot of communication from all the candidates on social media. People who have memberships would be receiving a lot of information from the candidates. Now, if they’re phone calling, then that’s anoth- er version of what they can do is calling people who are members to try to get their support.”  

Despite being a Member of Parliament for the federal Conservative party, Shields is only able to see the public polling information for the Conservative leadership. 

“When you see those polls that are up there, you see that Pierre Poilievre is the leader at this particular moment, but it is a long time till that vote is counted in September,” said Shields. “That’s the challenge of a person in the lead is maintaining that momentum, and I’m sure under preferential ballot, that this is a lot of people out there see you were leading the polls and the candidates are looking for those second and third place votes as well.” 

Shields also gave his opinion on if he thinks that a new leader will be what the Conservative party needs to potentially win the next federal election. 

“I think one of the things that gets talked a lot about in the media is: ‘Can the Conservatives become united under a new leader,’ and that is the challenge for any leader who comes in. Once there has been what people might see as a very divisive lead- ership campaign, but I think as parliamentarians, we all know that we have to be united together and have a united voice,” said Shields. “The only way to win the election is with a leader and be united supporting that leader. I believe, from my opinion, and the members of parliament, for example, we understand that being united is critical and we will do that after the leadership campaign — whoever wins it, we have to be united. We also believe that people have become interested in change in this country from the leadership that they have experienced from the last three elections. There is a lot of interest in seeing this Liberal government change and we believe that we are in the right place. That’s why we need to be united and present that united voice and support the leader that wins this race in September. I believe that we can do that.” 

Finally, Shields weighed in on the potential ripple effects that changes in Alberta’s provincial Conservative government could have. 

“Could there be collateral things that might happen from that? I’m not sure,” Shields said. “Obviously, we want a Conservative government, a UCP government in Alberta. As federal Conservatives, that’s the only thing we believe should be in Alberta is a UCP Conservative government. We will support a Conservative government and we want a Conservative government in Alberta.” 

This item reprinted with permission from Taber Times, Taber, Alberta