According to Alberta's Legislative Assembly Act:
Allowance to leader of recognized opposition partyWill Assembly Speaker Ken Kowalski allow an exception for the now three MLA Wildrose Alliance to be a recognized opposition party? While political rather than virtuous, from 1997 to 2004 and 2008 to the present, NDP leader Brian Mason has been recognized as an opposition party leader with a two MLA caucus. The Liberals currently form Official Opposition with nine MLAs and former PC MLA Guy Boutilier now sits as an Independent MLA.
42(1) In this section, “recognized opposition party” means a party that:
(a) is represented in the Assembly by at least 4 Members, and
(b) received at least 5% of the popular vote in the general election immediately preceding the year in which the allowance in subsection (2) is to be paid.
On the March 3, 2008 election, the Wildrose Alliance received 6.77% of the popular vote, but did not elect any MLAs. Even though they now have more MLAs than the officially recognized NDP caucus, there is a possibility that they could be denied official party status because none of the current three MLAs were elected under their current party banner in the previous election.
A precedent for denying the Wildrose Alliance official party status may have been set in 1984, when former Social Credit MLAs Walt Buck and Raymond Speaker formed the Representative Party of Alberta. Both MLAs were elected as Independents in the 1982 election and they were denied official opposition status in the Assembly (their party also did not exist in the previous election). Denying the Wildrose Alliance the status would be a pure political attempt at squashing the insurgent party, but could backfire if it is seen as dirty politics on Premier Ed Stelmach's behalf.
If recognized as the Third Party in the Assembly, Wildrose Alliance MLAs will be afforded a daily spot in the Question Period lineup and will receive additional funding for caucus resources and support staff. Holding Third Party status since 1997, the NDP have be impressively effective at using their spot in the QP line-up to generate media coverage in the past.
(ht @shandro for the Act link)