Stan Solberg casts his vote to unify the Progressive Conservative party and Wildrose party at the Radisson Hotel in Red Deer Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Red Deer votes on Tories and Wildrose merger

The clock is ticking down on a major decision for Alberta’s two right-of-centre parties.

On Saturday it will be decided if the Progressive Conservatives, led by Jason Kenney, and the Wildrose party, led by Brian Jean, will merge in an effort to defeat Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government.

Hundreds of Wildrose party members filled the Radisson Hotel in Red Deer to participate in the province-wide vote just hours before the official results are tallied.

Red Deer’s Michelle Stickney was at the Raddison late Saturday morning, casting her vote in favour of party unity. Stickney is a relatively new member of the Wildrose party – she joined because she supports party leader Brian Jean.

The vote “could go either way, but I’m really hoping [it passes]. Brian Jean is such an inspiring person,” she said.

Drumheller’s Stan Solberg, a member of the Wildrose party since its inception, said he is all for unification. He stopped by Red Deer to cast his vote Saturday.

“We want to take back Alberta. We have to reclaim, repeal and rebuild and this is the surest way we have to do that,” he said.

In order for the vote to pass, PC members will need to reach a 51 per cent majority in favour of unifying the parties, while Wildrose members will need a 75 per cent majority vote.

Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman was in Red Deer Saturday to take in the vote with fellow party members. Strankman’s “well confident” the vote will pass and the parties will be unified, he said.

“I think we need to move forward, not singularly to overcome the NDP but to create a conservative province for young people with less hinderances from government,” Strankman said.

Phillip Patrick from Whitecourt has been a Wildrose member for years and doesn’t want the partied to merge, he said.

“I see the point of joining, but I don’t support it,” he said. “After six or seven years of PCs I don’t trust a single one of them.”

The voting booths close at 4 p.m., with results from both the Wildrose and PC votes expected to be released shortly after. Progressive Conservatives have been casting votes since Thursday. Party members can also vote online and over the phone.

More than 50,000 Tories and roughly 40,000 Wildrose members signed up to vote.

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