‘Put Alberta first:’ MP Jason Kenney pitches his leadership to unite the right

CALGARY -- MP Jason Kenney thrust uniting the right to the front burner of Alberta politics Wednesday as he pledged to use a run at the Progressive Conservative leadership to bring together small-c conservative voters to defeat the NDP.

CALGARY — MP Jason Kenney thrust uniting the right to the front burner of Alberta politics Wednesday as he pledged to use a run at the Progressive Conservative leadership to bring together small-c conservative voters to defeat the NDP.

The high-profile former federal cabinet minister said it’s imperative that the Alberta Tories and Opposition Wildrose put past differences aside if they are to take back power from Rachel Notley’s “accidental NDP government.”

“There is only one way to eliminate that risk, only one way to ensure that we defeat the NDP in 2019 and get Alberta back on the right track. And that is to unite Albertans around a common cause,” he told supporters Wednesday.

“The Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose parties must put Alberta first. We must focus on the future, not the past, on what unites us, not what divides us.

“We must come together to form a single, free-enterprise party and we must do so before the next election.”

The Wildrose emerged as a political force in Alberta about a decade ago when disaffected conservatives grew upset with the long-governing Tories and their perceived drift to the political centre.

The two parties split the right-leaning vote in the May 2015 election and the NDP captured a majority for the first time in provincial history. Tory leader and premier Jim Prentice resigned on election night and the party has been without a permanent leader ever since.

It could be a tough fight brokering a reconciliation between the more moderate PCs and the hard-line Wildrose.

The PCs have said they aren’t keen to merge. One Tory member of the legislature, Sandra Jansen, has already said she won’t sit in a Tory caucus led by Kenney.

Party president Katherine O’Neill said Wednesday she expects other candidates will join the race.

“I can’t talk about his candidacy, but what I can say is it will definitely bring a lot of interest back to the party and what the party’s been up to since the election.”

The Wildrose has said it would be happy to unite, but only under its banner and with leader Brian Jean calling the shots.

Jean, himself a former Conservative MP from Alberta, stood by that position Wednesday.

“We will continue to build our party in every corner of Alberta, provide stability, give a forward-looking vision for the province and strongly oppose the NDP government’s risky agenda,” he said in a statement.

Kenney highlighted his efforts as a member of the Reform party and later the Canadian Alliance, saying if that party managed to merge with the federal Tories in 2003, bringing together Alberta conservatives should be a “walk in the park.”

Much of Kenney’s speech appeared aimed at Wildrose supporters and touched on most of that party’s hot-button issues, including parental rights, the NDP’s carbon tax, plans to increase the minimum wage and farm-safety legislation.

“Wildrose supporters are not our enemies or our adversaries. They’re our friends,” he said. “They are family. We are all family together.”

Notley wouldn’t be drawn into a direct comment on Kenney.

“However many conservative leaders and conservative parties may be involved in that (2019) election … is less my concern than having a record that I am proud … to present to Albertans,” she said.

Kenney promised that any talks between the two provincial parties would be done openly, not in backrooms, citing the surprise mass floor-crossing of Wildrose legislature members to the Tories in 2014 that angered the grassroots on both sides.

He did not say if he plans to resign as an MP and didn’t take any questions from reporters.

Holding onto his federal seat would not be unprecedented. Recently, Patrick Brown remained an MP while seeking the Ontario PC leadership.

Interim federal Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose, also an Alberta MP, wished Kenney well.

“I encourage all conservatives to work together to forge a united path to victory,” she said.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel questioned whether uniting the right will be easy in Alberta.

“It’s not going to be a walk in the park all the time,” she said. “There are concerns, there are personalities, but my hope is Albertans put that aside and unite,” she said.

“I think this was a spark today.”

Just Posted

Updated: Police seek driver who struck and killed mother of five

The pedestrian hit and killed on the Sunchild First Nation on Friday… Continue reading

Stettler county issues stop-work order to Paradise Shores

The County of Stettler says its municipal planning commission has issued a… Continue reading

Sylvan Lake improving its monthly water billing

The Town of Sylvan Lake is streamlining water billing for residents with… Continue reading

Red Deer campers make the best out of chilly start to May long weekend

A chilly start to the May long weekend didn’t stop Red Deer… Continue reading

May long weekend off to cold start in Red Deer

Central Albertans are kicking off the May long weekend with a chilly… Continue reading

WATCH: First Red Deer Market of 2019

The event is held every Saturday in the Servus Arena parking lot

Cast your votes for the Best of Red Deer

Nominations for the Best of Red Deer Readers’ Choice Awards are officially… Continue reading

Stone scores hat trick as Canada dumps Germany 8-1 at world hockey championship

Canada 8, Germany 1 KOSICE, Slovakia — Canada extended its winning streak… Continue reading

Quebec credits new gun registry for huge jump in number of voluntary surrenders

MONTREAL — The Quebec government is crediting its new gun registry law… Continue reading

Two N.L. Independent say they look forward to minority government

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador’s recent election resulted in a… Continue reading

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

MONTREAL — A team of Montreal university researchers has developed an audible… Continue reading

Female lawmakers speak about rapes as abortion bills advance

COLUMBUS, Ohio — For more than two decades, Nancy Mace did not… Continue reading

Biden rejects Democrats’ anger in call for national unity

PHILADELPHIA — His party may be enraged by Donald Trump’s presidency, but… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $22 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $22 million jackpot… Continue reading

Most Read