Jason Kenney delivers his victory speech at the Alberta PC Party leadership convention in Calgary, Saturday. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Jason Kenney charts unity path forward after winning PC leadership race

Invoking the leaders of Alberta Progressive Conservative past, newly elected leader Jason Kenney mapped out a lengthy unity process just a day after he was put in charge of the PCs

And the way forward, Kenney looked to how the federal PCs and the Canadian Alliance merged into the Conservative Party of Canada, in 2003, as a blueprint.

Speaking Sunday, Kenney met with the PC party board and party president Katherine O’Neill. He said he was humbled by the expression of support he received form PC party members for his unity campaign. He said he doesn’t want to take the party further to the right.

“This is not a project to unite the right, that’s too narrow,” said Kenney, instead wanting a broader coalition of voters mirroring Peter Lougheed and Ralph Klein.

Saturday evening, the former MP for Calgary Southeast and Calgary Midnapore won 75 per cent, 1,113 votes, of the delegate vote on the first ballot. Richard Starke, Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA was the closest adversary with 323 votes. Byron Nelson, a party member, finished in third with 40 votes.

“I’ve put on 16,000 kilometress on my Dodge Ram pickup going to every constituency in the province,” he said. “I’m humbled with the huge demonstration of support for the unity message.

“Conservatives old and new want us to pursue the path of reuniting the conservative movement.”

Calling it bringing together two halves of a family, Kenney and Wildrose party leader Brian Jean have a scheduled meeting Monday where Kenney plans to begin merger discussions.

He laid out a potential road-map leading right up to the 2019 provincial election. Once negotiating teams are selected, Kenney hopes their decisions will be presented to members this summer and a referendum will happen in constituency associations throughout the province.

If both parties approve the merger proposal, then a founding convention would happen where party constitution, among other steps would be drafted. Kenney hoped it could take place by November with a leadership convention for the new party in early 2018.

Kenney did not put a number on what percentage of votes it would take to claim a mandate for unity during the coming referendum. He did cite the federal merger votes where Canadian Alliance members voted 96 per cent in favour and PC members voted 90 per cent in favour.

“I think we could get a substantial majority, but I’m not going to put a number on it,” said Kenney.

Kenney said he has no intention of seeking a seat in the Alberta Legislature in the near future. He said will instead work towards his mandate of unity.

There is a really good PC Caucus and I don’t want to displace our members, I have a lot of work to do outside of the legislature unifying,” Kenney said. “If an MLA were to resign I would have to give serious consideration to seeking a seat.”

Interim PC leader Ric McIver will remain the party’s leader in the legislature.

mcrawford@bprda.wpengine.com

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