PC leader Jason Kenney and Wildrose leader Brian Jean

Alberta conservatives about to determine whether unity is in the cards

Vote results expected Saturday; Wildrosers meeting in Red Deer

By the end of the weekend, Alberta conservatives will know if they are moving ahead with a new political entity, the United Conservative Party, intended to defeat the New Democrats in the next election. 

The Progressive Conservatives, under new leader Jason Kenney, and the Wildrose Party under Brian Jean, should know Saturday the results of each party’s unification vote. All voting is being done electronically with PIN numbers. Wildrosers are holding a special meeting in Red Deer on Saturday at the Radisson Hotel (6500 67th Street), but no paper ballots will be cast there.

The Wildrose members are voting Saturday until 4 p.m. Voting for PCs ends at 6 p.m. the same day.

The two parties have different policies with regards to what’s needed to move along with unification. Wildrose requires 75 per cent approval by its members, while the PCs need a simple majority. If unification is confirmed, a leadership race will follow, ending on Oct. 28.

Both Jean and Kenney have indicated they will seek the leadership if the UCP goes ahead. Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer and Strathmore-Brooks Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt are also possible contenders.

Former four-term Red Deer North PC MLA Mary Anne Jablonski said Thursday that if all goes well, the overall results should be known Saturday night.

“I’m hoping that we have a vote for unity. … After serving for 15 years I could probably have walked away from politics and been happy to serve in our community but it’s too important to the future of this province to just not participate.” Jablonski decided not to run again in the last provincial election in 2015.

She said that she is leaning toward supporting Jason Kenney in a leadership race if the parties do unite, however she said she would look at all candidates and decide from there.

“I want to get through the unity thing first.”

She said the results could be close on Saturday but she is hoping unity is approved. “Nobody is taking anything for granted and nobody knows for sure, and so we are going to work hard to help people have their vote, whatever that may be.”

She said she’s been in town hall meetings with Wildrosers. “We want the same thing. … I think everybody is quite aware that in this day and age for good government to happen, you have to lean towards the centre. I would consider myself and others to be centre-right, and I think that’s where you need to be,” Jablonski said.

Don MacIntyre, Wildrose Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA, said he is hoping that unification will be ratified, and based on people he has spoken with, he expects that to happen.

“But you know, it’s like an election. You don’t know until you count the ballots.”

Even if the vote isn’t positive, the unity has been ongoing for two years, he said. “There’s been a slow, methodical coming together over the last couple of years and this is sort of the culmination of that.”

He said he’s squarely behind Jean if there is a leadership race under a new party.

“I think this is going to go down as a defining moment in Alberta’s history. A consolidation of grassroots conservatives.”

MacIntyre said there will be a lot of work to do if unity happens. For one thing, there are 87 constituency associations for each of the two parties that are going to need to begin working together, and then nominations and endorsement of candidates. An election is expected in about two years.

“It’s literally building a political party from scratch all over again.”

barr@reddeeradvocate.com

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