By Herald on July 20, 2021.
Tim Kalinowski – Lethbridge Herald
Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf says he agreed to take on the challenge of sitting as United Conservative Party caucus chair because he wants to do everything he can to heal the cracks within the party which have emerged over the last year.
“Believe me,” he says. “A number of my colleagues have called me crazy for putting my name forward, and accepting this role. It is challenging, but there is a sense of satisfaction when you can take steps forward and progress in terms of teamwork.”
Neudorf was elected to take over the role last month after former chair Todd Loewen was expelled from the party for making harshly critical comments of Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership in a letter which he posted publicly. This followed in the wake of another letter signed by 16 sitting UCP MLAs which also publicly criticized the party’s leadership over its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and ultimately resulted in Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes also being expelled from caucus as he led the back bench effort to challenge cabinet on public health restrictions.
Neudorf acknowledges the difficulties of the task he faces in trying to mend divisions within the caucus, and ultimately with some parts of the party’s base who are angry with the government over everything from coal mines, to public health restrictions, to deficit spending.
“When people feel heard and listened to,” says Neudorf, “and I think this is a lesson of note and a point for us as a party, and as government- when people feel heard and listened to it doesn’t mean they get what they want all the time, but there is a respect shown and a respect earned when you consider with sincerity the feedback you are hearing. I am trying to bring that to leadership and say there is a point here that we reconnect with Albertans and see where they are at. The last 16 months have been trying on all of us, and has pushed us further apart on lots of different fronts from vaccines, to restrictions, to masks, to, you name it. Now is a time to take a pause and reconnect with those people and hear them out for their stories of what’s gone on over that time.”
By taking on the role of chair, Neudorf became the main contact point between members of the caucus rank and file and the party’s leadership in Edmonton.
“It has been a very busy time,” Neudorf acknowledges. “I have been chair for a little over a month, and a lot is going on. We are taking steps forward. There is a strong independence within the UCP party, and I think that is representative of the people of Alberta. It is a blessing and a challenge of a big tent party. There are different views and different aspects. Albertans are fiercely proud of what they have done, where they live, and what they have accomplished.”
Neudorf made it his first task after being elected as chair to meet with every single sitting UCP MLA individually to speak with each for as long as they wanted about their concerns and interests. He also coordinated planning for the recent UCP caucus retreat held in Calgary last week during Stampede. He describes the retreat as being some “pretty strong bonding time” for he and his colleagues.
The way to heal the divisions within the party, says Neudorf, is through building relationships and a lot of hard work; something he has never been afraid of. Neudorf uses a construction work analogy to explain further.
“You don’t get to do the final painting and put the furniture in until you put the foundation, pour the concrete, stuff the insulation, and some of those messier, uglier, sweatier jobs,” he says. “People might not see it, but if you have got a cracked foundation you’ve got to spend a lot of time and money to fix that. Let’s get those foundations right, and build well, and that is what I am trying to focus on (in caucus). We’ve got some cracks we have got to fix, and that is what I am working on. But I can’t do it by myself; the whole team has got to step up and work a little harder, and work together. And that’s where the satisfaction will come from down the road.”
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