Is the tent big enough?
As Alberta conservatives consider the idea of bringing everyone together under one roof, ultimately it will require grassroots approval.
Jason Kenney, chosen last weekend as the new leader of the Progressive Conservatives, wants to move ahead quickly with his plan to unite the PCs and Wild Rose parties.
Jason Nixon, Wildrose MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre and Official Opposition whip, said Wednesday that party leader Brian Jean has been clear for the past 18 months that they would look at a united right.
The process of how that could happen will be determined over the next several weeks. Ultimately, any change would require the approval of the memberships from both parties, Nixon said. “They’re in the driver’s seat.”
A “consolidated conservative principled movement” to stop the NDP is something most people he talks to are interested in, Nixon said.“The details matter though.”
He said the group involved in the discussions between the two parties has not been selected yet but it is expected to be in the next few days.
Mary Anne Jablonski, former Red Deer North PC MLA and cabinet minister who retired before the last provincial election, attended the PC leadership convention in Calgary.
She voted for Jason Kenney, although she said that Richard Starke, one of the other leadership candidates, is one of the most honourable men she’s ever met. “But I think unity is the way to go,” she said in her ultimate support for Kenney.
Jablonski said she doesn’t support “unite the right” necessarily as much as she supports “unite the centre right.”
Local Wildrose members have been invited to attend the Red Deer North PC Association meetings and she hopes Wildrose will reciprocate so the two groups can get to know each other better and see what they have to offer each other, she said.
Jim Foster, long time Red Deer PC member and cabinet minister during the Peter Lougheed years, said he’s been a strong supporter of Kenney primarily because he was the only once talking about recreating the Peter Lougheed” big tent party”, and bringing Wildrose and maybe Alberta Party supporters under one roof with the PCs.
That’s the only way the Tories are going to regain the confidence of Albertans and carry on, he said.
The big tent party that he was a part of had left and right and extreme people on each side but there was full and frank discussion, and then was a vote, and everyone moved on. “You had your say.”
“It’s all about uniting the middle. You can’t run a political organization from the edges, and if you do you’re bound to failure.”