Pat Stier was blindsided by the defection of two Wildrose Party MLAs to the governing party.
Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle and Little Bow MLA Ian Donovan crossed the floor last week to join the Progressive Conservative Party.
“We had no pre-warning on this,” Livingstone-Macleod MLA Stier said in a telephone interview. “We were absolutely shocked and appalled.”
When Stier was called from his office on the seventh floor Nov. 24 to an emergency meeting on the fifth floor he knew something was up.
The 14 remaining Wildrose Party MLAs were told that Towle and Donovan had jumped ship.
“I can’t express to you how disappointed I was in these people,” Stier said.
Both Towle and Donovan indicated the leadership of new premier and PC leader Jim Prentice influenced their decision to cross the floor.
Towle also cited concerns with Wildrose Party leadership as influencing her decision.
Donovan said he can better serve his constituents as a member of the governing party.
Stier has been friends with Donovan since they worked together while serving on MD of Foothills and County of Vulcan councils.
“He’s still a good friend and always will be, however I’m still disappointed with him in some respects,” Stier said.
Stier said both Towle and Donovan owed it to the Wildrose Party to have a conversation with the other MLAs before springing their defection on the party.
“I would have thought both of those people would have been better off to go independent first because their constituents had elected them to be representing them with (Wildrose),” Stier added. “If they’re going to go all the way to the opposite side that seems to be quite a stretch for their supporters.”
Stier had a brief talk with Donovan in the member’ lounge following the announcement but has not discussed the decision in detail.
“There has been the common thought by some people that it is perhaps more advantageous to have a representative that is on the government because some people think they get more done for their constituency,” Stier said. “I don’t necessarily believe that.”
Stier cited the effectiveness of the Wildrose Party as a strong Official Opposition, citing its work on property rights, government spending and lavish severance packages to government employees.
“I think we’ve been effective in many, many ways,” Stier said. “We’re going to continue to do that.”
Stier said the defection of the two members will serve to make the Wildrose Party stronger.
“We will continue to build our constituencies and prepare new candidates for all of the ridings and hopefully be the new government in 2016.”