Wildrose and Tories vote on merger in Alberta

Albertans will find out today whether the province’s two right-of-centre political parties will merge into one to try and defeat Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government.

The Progressive Conservatives led by Jason Kenney and the Wildrose party led by Brian Jean will wrap up voting on a proposal to become the new United Conservative Party.

Kenney, who was a cabinet minister under former prime minister Stephen Harper, says it’s the culmination of a year of hard work.

He says the choice to unite into one party is a clear one, saying the alternative is pointless division that would lead to the NDP’s re-election.

Jean agrees a merger is in the best interests of Albertans.

More than 50,000 Tories and about 40,000 in the Wildrose have signed up to vote.

Wildrose members will vote online, by phone, or in person at an event in Red Deer today while PC members have been casting ballots electronically since Thursday.

Results for both are to be announced in the late afternoon or early evening .

The Tories require a simple majority to approve unification, while the Wildrose needs at least 75 per cent.

Kenney and Jean, both former Conservative MPs, have been criss-crossing the province in recent weeks to explain details of the tentative unity agreement and to drum up support for a merger.

There have been pockets of resistance on both sides amid concerns the new party would move far to the right on social issues and open a spot for other parties to grab centrist voters.

Former PC president Katherine O’Neill left the party after Kenney’s leadership win in March and now runs Alberta Together, a political action committee looking to attract progressive conservative voters, perhaps through the Alberta Party.

If both sides approve the deal, it will spell the end of the Progressive Conservative brand that governed Alberta for almost 44 years. That run ended when Notley’s NDP won a majority in the 2015 election.

A yes vote would launch a leadership race that already has three participants. Jean and Kenney have said they’ll run, and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer is already campaigning. Wildrose finance critic Derek Fildebrandt has said he is also considering it.

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