Three Central Alberta Wildrose MLAs are solidly behind party leader Brian Jean’s move earlier this week to merge with the Progressive Conservatives.
“We started the music. The music is playing,” Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Don MacIntyre said Friday.
Jean announced Thursday that he was willing to step down and run for the leadership of a united Wildrose and Progressive Conservative entity. He also said it would need to be done under Wildrose rules.
Plans are already underway to immediately begin town hall meetings with party members so that a general meeting to vote on a merger could take place in June. Jean has suggested a leadership race could be held this summer.
“This whole plan was not developed in a telephone booth. There has been a ton of work and research that’s gone into this. … I can tell you caucus is 100 per cent behind this whole thing because we were not left out of the development of it,” MacIntyre said.
“Brian’s that kind of a leader. He is not dictatorial, he’s more like the coach of a ball team and so the whole thing has been flushed out with us and this is what you see now as a conversation piece going out there. “
“In fairness to conservatives across the province, it’s time for us to put something out on the table for them to consider.”
The big concern about uniting conservatives has been the clock, MacIntyre said. “In reality that is not even the elephant in the room, it’s the elephant in this province.”
“That was our greatest angst, as this thing was being developed, was the calendar, and what could be effectively and properly done within that time frame.” There are about two years until the next election.
“It is workable. … In the end I believe this is the right course of action.”
Ron Orr, Wildrose MLA for Lacombe-Ponoka said he will be supporting Jean should a leadership race go ahead.
“Brian has said for a year and a half he’s got his dancing shoes on. He’s open to a conversation … Brian is a consensus builder, he’s a systems builder. He has brought our party in the last 18 months from chaos to the point that we’re a very solid unified functioning organization, and Brian has this relaxed ordinary person sort of presence about him that I think a lot of ordinary Albertans appreciate. He’s not a suave, manipulating traditional politician.””
Now the party needs to listen and ask if uniting the two parties is something people want to support. Orr said there are town hall meetings scheduled in Blackfalds, Lacombe and Ponoka on Feb. 7 where Jean.
The Progressive Conservatives are undergoing a leadership race now. Jason Kenney’s goal is to win on March 18, then get a mandate to dissolve the party and merge it with a dissolved Wildrose. That race has seen a number of candidates drop out over controversies, including Stephan Khan on Thursday. Kenney, Richard Starke and Byron Nelson are the only candidates left. Kenney is seen by many as the front-runner in that race.
Jason Nixon, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA, said the “deal breaker” essential to Wildrose members for a merger is the grassroots legal structure of his party.
“The details of how that goes through and the legalities of that we’ll leave up to the lawyers and the smart people when they get in a room to figure it out. The point is the membership of these parties are going to be in charge of the party. That’s the core of what Mr. Jean is saying.”
“Brian Jean is the elected leader of my party. He’s doing an excellent job. … at this point my party is not facing a potential leadership change and I would make that determination at the time based on who’s in, but right now I am fully behind our elected leader and his plan to unite conservatives across this province.”