The internal battle over who leads the Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta continues, with former Wildrose Party MLA Paul Hinman insisting he’s still leader and the party’s board saying he’s been replaced on an interim basis by Calgary engineer Jeevan Singh Mangat.
The two WIP leaders even appear to have their own presidential pages on the Alberta separatist party’s website – although Mr. Hinman’s won’t likely be around much longer since the opponents in the party he calls “the Gang of 10” have the keys to the web account.
Mr. Hinman told me yesterday from his home in Raymond in Alberta’s deep south that he expects the dispute will be resolved at the party’s July 23 annual general meeting in Red Deer.
He’ll happily accept the judgment of party members whatever it turns out to be, he said. “I’ll be very much at peace, whatever way it goes.”
As for whether the board will even allow the leadership question on the agenda, party Communications Vice-President Kathy Flett responded to my emailed query yesterday by directing me to Board President Rick Northey. I haven’t heard back from Mr. Northey, though.
This is of interest because in June 2021, with Mr. Hinman still clearly at the helm of the WIP, support surged for the party, created in the 2020 merger of Wexit Alberta and the Freedom Conservative Party. According to an Angus Reid Institute public opinion poll at the time, it hit 20 per cent.
This happened while Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s personal popularity was in freefall, dragging his United Conservative Party down behind him.
Since then, of course, Mr. Kenney has announced his departure, the UCP is engaged in a leadership contest to replace him that will carry on until the fall, and the governing party’s polling shows signs of recovery.
If WIP support turns out to have been a flash in the pan, that could make the Alberta NDP’s path to victory more difficult.
Mr. Hinman, by contrast, is a well-known veteran of the right-wing fringe of Alberta politics.
Once upon a time, he was a director of the now defunct Alberta First Party. He led the Alberta Alliance from 2005 to 2008, and the Wildrose Alliance in 2008 and 2009, when Danielle Smith took over as leader. He served a single term as MLA in the Cardston-Taber-Warner Riding between 2004 and 2008. In 2009, he unexpectedly won a by-election in Calgary-Glenmore for the Wildrose Alliance, but was defeated in the 2012 general election.
In 2017 he ran up a flag up the pole about running for the leadership of the United Conservative Party. No one saluted.
Mr. Hinman became interim leader of the WIP in 2020 and when no one else seemed to be all that interested, and became permanent leader in 2021 under similar circumstances.
He ran under the WIP banner in last spring’s Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election, which was won handily by Brian Jean, campaigning for the United Conservative Party on a platform of dumping Mr. Kenney.
CTV Edmonton reported on June 29 that Mr. Hinman and members of the party board were on the outs over who was in charge.
The board issued a statement saying Mr. Hinman was no longer leader, CTV said. Dark hints that he’d used party money he wasn’t supposed to circulated, and were reported, vaguely and unsourced.
Mr. Hinman denied them then and denies them now – saying yesterday that he has had disagreements with the board over whether he should be paid full time, and how much. “I don’t care what’s out there in the news about it,” he said. “I sleep well at night.”
Some board members are angry that the party hasn’t been getting the financial contributions they’d expected, he added.
According to Mr. Hinman, “we hope to put the fire out on July 23rd.”