Boutilier expected to join Wildrose caucus
Independent Fort McMurray MLA and former cabinet minister Guy Boutilier is expected to join the fledgling Wildrose Alliance party caucus Friday.
The announcement comes almost a year after Premier Ed Stelmach dumped Boutilier from the government’s caucus, and is expected to jump-start the Wildrose Alliance’s weekend convention in Red Deer.
Rumours Boutilier would join the Wildrose Alliance’s caucus have circled in the legislature for several months but, on Monday, sources close to the Wildrose and Boutilier confirmed the move.
Party leader Danielle Smith, however, would not discuss Boutilier’s floor-crossing.
“Nothing’s been finalized. I mean, we’ve been talking for some time, but you know how these things go. There’s always discussions and negotiations,” she said. “I just can’t confirm that at the moment. It would be premature to confirm one way or the other.”
Willie Hoflin — a former vicepresident of the PC riding association in Fort McMurray who is now the local Wildrose constituency president — said he has urged Boutilier to make the jump.
“I think there’s a chance, but I honestly haven’t talked to him today. I know he was meeting with the Wildrose last week, but I’m not sure what came of it,” Hoflin said.
Boutilier joined Smith at a public meeting in Lac la Biche earlier this month, after which he described her as impressive and compared her to former Alberta premiers “Peter Lougheed and Ralph Klein all rolled into one.”
Stelmach tossed Boutilier from the government caucus last summer after he publicly protested the province’s failure to build a nursing home in his riding and accused then-health minister Ron Liepert of talking “gibberish.”
Since then, Boutilier has sat alone in the legislature, as an Independent member despite remaining a cardcarrying Progressive Conservative.
He told the Edmonton Journal that going solo over the past year was at once liberating and lonely.
“I’ve met some very good friends, actually, from within the Conservative ranks, and Conservative people,” he said.
“I really feel sorry for those MLAs from Edmonton and Calgary who really would like to speak out but feel too pressured not to.”
Boutilier was first elected to the legislature in 1997 and has held the municipal affairs, environment, and international, intergovernmental and aboriginal relations portfolios.
He would be the second of Klein’s cabinet ministers, after Heather Forsyth, to join the Wildrose Alliance caucus.
Cam Hantiuk, a spokesman for Stelmach, said he wasn’t shocked by the news, since he has heard the same rumours as others around the legislature.
With files from Graham Thomson