EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jim Prentice’s caucus is discussing a bid by as many as seven official Opposition members to cross the floor – and at least one cabinet minister says he’s keeping an “open mind.”
“I’m prepared to put my best foot forward. I’m prepared to leave past grievances in the past,” Justice Minister Jonathan Denis said on his way into Government House for a meeting about the possible Wildrose defections.
Denis said he told Wildrose house leader Rob Anderson, who is also justice critic, the same thing when he spoke to him Wednesday morning. The two have often traded barbs in the legislature.
“I think the PC party has always been a common sense, conservative, centre-right party, and I think that’s where most Albertans are,” Denis said.
He wouldn’t talk about whether he’s concerned he might lose his cabinet post.
“These decisions are up to the premier and the caucus.”
Sources have told The Canadian Press that seven elected members of the Wildrose – including leader Danielle Smith herself – want to join Prentice’s Tory government.
The sources also said Anderson is one of those expected to join in the crossover attempt.
Prentice has said caucus will have the final say on the matter.
If carried out, the move would gut the Wildrose party and give the PCs an overwhelming 70 seats in the 87-seat legislature.
If seven Wildrose members did cross, the party would still be the official Opposition, as the Liberals have five members and the NDP four. Former Wildroser Joe Anglin is sitting as an Independent.
Jeff Callaway, a member of the Wildrose party executive, says regardless of what happens, the party will live on.
He says the party’s fundraising is strong and there’s a good constituency association roster, meaning the party will run a slate of candidates in the next election.
Callaway says the party still has more than 21,000 members.
A document leaked to the media outlining the conditions of any merger states that since Prentice has adopted many Wildrose fiscal accountability measures, it would make sense for the two right-of-centre parties to join.
The document also promises that floor-crossing Wildrosers would be allowed to keep their seats and would get the premier’s endorsement for a PC nomination to run in the next election, slated for the spring of 2016.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the document suggests the Wildrosers are less concerned with ideology and more concerned with keeping their seats.
“On both sides, it is primarily about a bunch of folks that want to keep their jobs, whether you’re talking about Tories or Wildrosers,” said Notley. “That document does not read like a guide to grassroots democracy. That reads like a guide to clinging to power.”