Braid: Take Back Alberta had a plan to sabotage NDP leadership race. It flopped

TBA is fading, but many Albertans still agree with David Parker’s focus on grassroots democracy and holding the UCP to account for its own promises

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Take Back Alberta, the group that’s supposed to be subverting the NDP leadership campaign, turns out to be a Trojan horse full of hot air.

Leader David Parker said his loyalists would buy NDP memberships to infiltrate the party and sabotage the campaign.

From the start, it was hard to imagine these right-wingers spending $10 on a membership to vote for Naheed Nenshi, Kathleen Ganley, Sarah Hoffman or Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse.

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Sure enough, TBA support for this loopy campaign was almost invisible.

“About 360 people who bought memberships were flagged for investigation, and fewer than half of those resulted in any issues in terms of a membership being denied,” says Garett Spelliscy, the NDP’s executive director.

Nearly 70,000 new memberships were sold. Some takeover that was.

The NDP was on high alert from the start, largely because of the turmoil TBA inflicted on the UCP by driving former premier Jason Kenney from office, and then helping Danielle Smith get the job.

Spelliscy says the party “conducted verifications based on people new to our database.

“The process was designed to respond to conservative threats. We wanted to avoid what happened to the UCP.

“I mean, they were all conservatives, but it was essentially a hostile takeover of the conservative party.”

The NDP checked names against both their own member lists and publicly posted contribution disclosures. They also searched out “anti-NDP hate posts” on social media.

They phoned people whose memberships seemed dubious. Those with a sniff of TBA about them got their $10 back, and no membership.

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One thing is clear — David Parker is much diminished, an outcast to many conservatives since he expressed sly sympathy for Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s wife because he sometimes works with Jenni Byrne, a former partner.

The attack on a political ally went far beyond the political pale. Parker apologized, but continued with wild political demands, including the promise to take over school boards and fire their leaders.

TBA is fading, but many Albertans still agree with Parker’s focus on grassroots democracy and holding the UCP to account for its own promises.

And now, another outfit is springing up that might well capture former TBA adherents and cause a new round of grief for Smith and her government.

The group is the 1905 Committee, which plans an initial meeting in Calgary on June 22. It’s registered as a third party advertiser and has a website, 1905committee.ca.

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The principals include Nadine Wellwood and Tim Hoven. Both were rejected as candidates for UCP nominations for the 2023 election.

Parker supported Wellwood’s ouster. They are not friends.

Wellwood says the 1905 Committee (alluding to the year of Alberta’s creation as a province) wants to bring a more professional, issue-based approach to advocacy.

“I don’t have an opinion on whether or not TBA fades into the dust,” she says. “But I do really hope we can fill the gap I see, where people want to get involved but don’t know how.

“A lot of people were turned off by David Parker and just chose not to get involved.

“It was too much of a David Parker show. And I think that’s where it lost its relevance.”

Nadine Wellwood
FILE PHOTO: Nadine Wellwood speaks to a crowd in Cochrane on August 30, 2021, for a People’s Party of Canada rally during the 2021 federal election. Riley Cassidy/The Airdrie Echo/Postmedia

As for Smith, Wellwood says, “she made promises to the people who helped put her there and I don’t think that she’s fulfilled those promises.”

Wellwood is especially annoyed with the UCP stalling promised income tax relief for three years. She also feels Smith has abandoned fiscal responsibility.

“I think she’s losing support because she has not done the things she said she was going to do.

“Our grassroots individuals need to be respected. A promise made needs to be a promise kept.”

The 1905 committee is urging people to sign up for the UCP’s November general meeting so they can vote in the leadership review.

Smith’s loyalists insist she’s wildly popular all over Alberta and will get 80 to 90 per cent support from members.

That’s what Jason Kenney’s people said, too, when UCP dissent first began to bubble.

Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald

X: @DonBraid

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