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Explainer

Who Is ‘Take Back Alberta’ and What Do They Really Want?

Meet the coalition of Christian Nationalists, Wexit separatists and disgruntled rural Albertans leading an insurgency inside Alberta’s UCP

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The group behind an insurgency taking over the United Conservative Party and working to get Danielle Smith elected is alarming many Albertans with their aggressive tactics, and raising questions about their political agenda – including from conservatives.

Take Back Alberta grew out of last year’s convoy blockade in Coutts when hundreds of vehicles blocked the Canada-US border.

The Coutts blockade later hardened into an organized movement made up of Christian nationalists, separatists, sovereigntists and other disgruntled rural Albertans bent on ousting Jason Kenney and taking control of the United Conservative Party.

Danielle Smith now enjoys the full support of the group which credits itself for bringing down Kenney during his 2022 leadership review and installing Smith as Premier of Alberta. Take Back Alberta has also taken over nine seats on the party’s board and a number of regional boards to get like-minded members in the nomination races.

Take Back Alberta event posters

Take Back Alberta (Facebook)

 

So, who is Take Back Alberta?

Take Back Alberta has organized town halls across the province and sent large numbers of their members to stack board elections and nomination races.

Out of roughly 1,800 party members in attendance, Take Back Alberta claims to have sent 850-900 of its supporters to the UCP Annual General Meeting in October to vote for Smith as party leader.

Despite their success in growing influence within Smith’s UCP, which has been described as a “coup,” their policy agenda is unclear.

Few have permission to post in their Telegram, which has 5,000 members, other than the group founder and leader David Parker and a handful of his lieutenants. Also known as “Regional Captains,” they serve as points of contact for TBA organizing efforts in their areas.

Notably one of the Telegram admins is Marco Van Hugenbois, charged with criminal mischief over $5,000 at Coutts.

This small group of leaders can give you an idea of what Take Back Alberta wants.

Take Back Alberta leadership (Facebook)

Take Back Alberta leadership (Facebook)

 

David Parker: “Now I must act in a way that will show people that that rule cannot be violated”

Parker is a professional political organizer with deep ties to the conservative establishment in Canada. Parker’s work history includes political staffer positions in Stephen Harper’s Prime Minister’s Office, various Conservative MP’s offices and later with Jason Kenney’s UCP leadership team.

A graduate of Trinity Western University, Parker was also involved with the evangelical school’s Laurentian Leadership Centre, which connects ambitious young social conservatives with jobs in government. He later landed a job in the Prime Minister’s Office as Stephen Harper’s regional adviser for the Prairies.

Following a stint with the federal conservatives, Parker helped Kenney “unite the right” in Alberta as Membership Chair for the Wildrose Unity Campaign.

Parker then became Jason Kenney’s regional organizer for Central Alberta during his scandal-ridden leadership campaign, an experience that would eventually leave him disillusioned and angry after Kenney brought in restrictions on religious gatherings during the pandemic:

“The reason I’m going after Jason Kenney is because he arrested Pastors. And I said that I would go after Jason Kenney, and I am a man of my word and that I would not rest until he wasn’t Premier anymore,” Parker tells Davies. “As a man of my word, I must keep my word. The reason I must keep my word is that he violated something that is sacred to me.”

He became increasingly emotional as he went on to explain the personal aspect of his crusade against the former Premier.

“My creed is very simple. I have one rule. Don’t mess with my friends. And underneath that is an even deeper rule. Never mess with my family. And when you arrest pastors you’re messing with both my friends and my family. So then it’s very simple, now I must act in a way that will show people that that rule cannot be violated without consequences.”

 

Vince Byfield: “A sign from God”

Vince Byfield, Take Back Alberta’s regional captain for Edmonton, and now member of the UCP board, says he also got involved with the group because he was alienated by Jason Kenney.

“The first thing I had a problem with with Jason Kenney was on autonomy. He had promised he was going to do a fair deal panel,” Byfield told Parker in a podcast episode titled “Faith and Sovereignty.”

“I’d gotten to know Drew Barnes, and what Drew Barnes was telling me about the fair deal panel was a lot different from what I read.”

The Fair Deal panel, which consisted of town hall meetings across the province, set out to redefine Alberta’s place within Canada. Its final recommendations alienated the Wexit movement.

“So what I started to realize that Separatist and sovereignist sentiment was a lot higher than people were saying.”

Byfield, the son of social conservative Alberta publisher Ted Byfield, published an open letter calling out Kenney in response to the panel and called for a referendum on independence. The final outcome, as he sees it, would be Alberta joining the United States as the 51st State.

“Then I heard about this phenomenon in Red Deer. Some guy was running around the province causing trouble. That would’ve been Parker.”

“To me that was absolutely astonishing,” said Byfield. “Very clearly there was a strong desire from Albertans, primarily rural Albertans, to get this man gone. I thought that was a sign from God. I knew that what was happening must be God-driven, so I wanted to find out more about David.”

 

Roy Beyer: “This is a spiritual battle for our nation”

TBA has a connection to the Ottawa occupation through Calgary regional captain Roy Beyer, who sees the coming election as a religious struggle.

“We’re very fortunate that over the last year we were able to replace a pro mandate or an anti-freedom person with Danielle Smith as our premier. We did that because a lot of people after the truck convoy and the protests said ‘what do we do next?’” Beyer said during a recent appearance on a right wing podcast.

During the UCP leadership race Beyer said Smith is at the “top of his list” of candidates who are “faith, family and freedom” friendly and encouraged the anti-abortion parents to have their kids get memberships to vote for leader.

Alongside his current involvement with TBA, he is a co-founder of Taking Back Our Freedoms, a group that Ottawa convoy leader Tamara Lich distrusted, believing it was “attempting to take over the movement,” according to the Emergency Act Inquiry’s final report.

The report states that after Beyer’s group showed up, she began “fielding requests for funds from individual protesters and organizations like TBOF, some of which were unrelated to paying for fuel, food, and lodgings for truckers” – something Lich “considered inappropriate.”

Lich had concerns over the role TBOF was playing, saying she was fielding requests for funds from the group.

Beyer describes the Alberta election as “ground zero” in nothing less than a righteous stand against globalism.

“I don’t believe it’s an overstatement. I believe that what we’re talking about is nationhood. Us as a nation being free, and its not just about individual freedom it’s much bigger than that.”

“I’ve come to realize that God celebrates that there’s nations in the world. And that’s a beautiful thing. The globalists have an opposite view. They’re going to eliminate nationhood and turn it into this grand scheme of a global government.”

 

Jarrad McCoy: “All of the fun stuff that happened in Coutts”

Jarrad McCoy was an avid Facebook poster of anti-vaccine content and conspiracies about the so-called “Great Reset.” After the blockade at Coutts, he says he was looking for something to keep the spirit of the convoy alive.

“We moved back to Milk River the November before all of the fun stuff that happened in Coutts,” the former youth pastor explained in an episode of Parker’s podcast titled “Faith and Stewardship.”

“That’s when I got connected with David and Take Back Alberta, when we were thinking ‘what’s next?’ Because things weren’t really done on the freedom front.”

McCoy now serves as one of Take Back Alberta’s regional captains.

Parker describes McCoy’s involvement as “instrumental.”

McCoy was a key organizer leading up to the October AGM where Take Back Alberta-supported candidates won 9 seats on the party board. He posted frequent appeals in the Telegram channel urging TBA’s supporters to buy UCP memberships and pay the $375 registration fee.

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Tim Hoven: “I felt a bit of a calling”

Another regional organizer recently stepped down in order to challenge the UCP’s Jason Nixon directly as an independent candidate. The two have a history.

Tim Hoven, Take Back Alberta’s Central Alberta Captain, began an insurgency against Kenney’s UCP in Coutts and later inspired him to challenge incumbent MLA Jason Nixon for the UCP nomination in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, accusing Nixon of being the same as Jason Kenney.

Hoven previously served on municipal council in Clearwater County. Following this stint he said he’d planned to focus on his business until the blockade motivated him into political organizing.

“Then the trucker convoy started, and the Coutts protest started, and I just had that feeling that these men and women are sacrificing so much,” Hoven told Parker in another episode of his podcast. “I felt a bit of a calling.”

Hoven’s challenge appeared to be going well until the party disqualified him for controversial posts on social media. Hoven himself said the disqualification was partly over an inactive account on a website known to harbour white supremacists.

Following his disqualification, Hoven accused the UCP of “creeping cancel culture.”

 

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Stephen Magusiak
Reporter
Stephen Magusiak is PressProgress’ Alberta reporter. His reporting has a focus on public accountability, public services and privatization, and the right-wing war on environmentalists.

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