Alta.’s conservative parties to try a merger

Alberta’s Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties have inked plans to form one party, at this point called the United Conservative Party with the goal of defeating the NDP government in the next provincial election.

At a news conference yesterday, Wildrose leader Brian Jean and Progressive Conservative leader Jason Kenney signed an agreement in principal to merge the two parties pending ratification by the two parties’ memberships this summer.

If ratified, a leadership race will be held in which both Jean and Kenney said they will run, along with any other candidates who throw their hats in the ring.

“This agreement ensures the defeat of this disastrous NDP government and the election of a free enterprise government that will renew the Alberta advantage,” said Kenney.

“Today we are declaring our belief that we are stronger united and that we will restore hope and opportunity for Albertans.”

The PC leader said he and Jean are prepared to “park their egos” as they work to change the political landscape and counteract vote splitting on the political right in an election against the NDP.

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“I truly believe that if we vote split our way to a second NDP term, they will change the political culture of this province. They will inflict lasting damage on its economy in ways that are difficult if not impossible to reverse. This is a risk that we cannot take with the province,” Kenney said.

Jean said the agreement holds true to Wildrose principles and grassroots, a topic that has been contentious as merger talks progressed.

Ratification, a leadership race and getting candidates in place before the next election, likely in 2019 but possibly before that, will be a tall order.

“There’s much work left to be done, but the most important thing we can do is remember throughout all of this: it’s about unifying conservatives and it cannot be based on a principle of gaining power for power’s sake,” said Jean.

“It must be about more than that. It must be about bringing together common sense conservatives in overwhelming numbers behind a principle of good government that will implement good policies for the benefit of all Albertans.”

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Both Jean and Kenney encouraged their respective party members to ratify the agreement.

They also said there is a “plan B” if the agreement is not ratified, which is likely to involve a non-compete arrangement to avoid vote splitting and then a coalition after the election.

If elected premier, both Jean and Kenney said eliminating the carbon tax would be their first order of business.

Contact barb.glen@producer.com

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