New interim leader of United Conservative Party has the needed diplomacy skills, say supporters

Nathan Cooper is described as level-headed, experienced strategist

(Contributed photo).

The newly chosen interim leader of Alberta’s United Conservative Party is getting the thumbs up from Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Don MacIntyre.

“I’m very excited,” said MacIntyre, who feels Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper has the right experience and personality to bring two branches of Conservatives together onto the same path.

Cooper is respected, level-headed, and diplomatic, said MacIntyre.”He’s an excellent strategist who’s been working on a 90-day plan (for the new party) for months.”

Cooper will be overseeing the dissolution of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties, and set the United Conservative Party on a new course, which is to soon include a leadership race.

Robin Bobocel, the new CEO of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, has heard good things about Cooper, and hopes that whatever platform he helps the United Conservatives adopt that it’s aligned with supporting business.

Although the Chamber is a non-partisan body, Bobocel said its members are concerned about Alberta’s growing debt-load. “We look for leadership from any political party that manages the deficit.”

Alberta’s two right-wing parties voted to unite on Saturday — now they must work together, which some supporters fear will be the hard part.

MacIntyre doesn’t believes the two are really that far apart. But Red Deer City Coun. Buck Buchanan feels mutual distrust still exists between liberal Conservatives and hard-right Wildrose supporters, which will be hard to reconcile.

Buchanan also believes image problems dog both parties. “With the Conservative Party there’s cronyism, with the Wildrose, there’s the far-right element … (the sense of) negative craziness.”

Former Red Deer MLA Mary Anne Jablonski isn’t as concerned about inner-party division, since she noted an agreed-upon policy statement was released before the vote. She believes voters should have read it and decided whether they supported it before casting a ‘Yes’ ballot.

Jablonski feels Albertans “are more centrist than anything. Whether they want a centre-right party, or a centre-left party, or just a centre party, they will have to decide.”

The difficulty will be convincing people that tough measures, including program/service cuts, are needed to pay off the huge debt the NDP government is accruing, she said.

Wildrose supporter Cory Litzenberger believes the strong unification vote sends a message both parties will be working hard on a united front. As to whether the merger will take, he noted a blueprint already exists, with Preston Manning’s Reform Party becoming the Canadian Alliance and successfully merging with the federal Conservatives.

“In the end, we have more in common than we have differences,” he said, noting the shared goal of defeating the NDP.

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