Any whispers that lingered of doubt that the vision of a United Conservative Party could be realized were silenced this past weekend.
Among card-carrying members of Alberta’s Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties, they voted overwhelmingly on the weekend to unite into the United Conservative Party.
Both parties secured more than 95 per cent of votes from its members in the pro-unity camp.
It certainly sends a message to Rachel Notley’s NDP party that its days may be numbered in the build up to a spring 2019 provincial leadership vote.
But for that message to gain in volume, the United Conservative Party has many steps ahead to come into prominence where they must be wary of any missteps along the way.
First and foremost is who will be leading the ship? On Monday afternoon, the legacy Wildrose and PC caucuses elected the UCP’s interim leader, Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper.
As of the weekend, it was only former Wildrose leader Brian Jean and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer who have publically thrown their hat into the ring.
Then there is of course the issue of funding a political juggernaut to get its message out to bring down the NDP party.
There seems to be conflicting reports of exactly how current funds from the former PC and Wildrose coffers can be delved out to the current United Conservative Party. The Alberta Conservative Consolidation Committee that consists of five self-described “volunteer lawyers” who support the Wildrose or PCs have stated they can theoretically merge without forfeiting assets. It is contrary to what Elections Canada has been saying.
Drew Westwater, deputy chief electoral officer with Elections Alberta, told 630 CHED earlier this year the parties would have to start from scratch, and that means they can’t take previous money they raised with them.
He also said if the two parties decide to dissolve and start a new party, they would have to pay off all debts as well, and any leftover funds would go to Elections Alberta.
“They can’t raise money or spend money, other than the $5,000 startup money, until they are registered as a party and the assets they currently have they can’t use or transfer to them,” said Westwater.
There is also the matter of crafting the exact direction the party wants to take given the former PC party was considered more centrist to Wildrose’s extreme right stances on numerous topics.
Political pundits have guessed the two parties have agreed to meet somewhere in the middle of the right spectrum for the current United Conservative Party that has been formed, but how far right is anyone’s guess.
While Wildrose’s fiscal conservatism has been embraced by many Albertans, the party’s lack of a foothold into larger urban areas has been traced to a perceived lack of progressiveness on many social issues.
Exactly how a unified conservative party unfolds heading into spring 2019 is important to the former card-carrying members of the Wildrose and PC parties as well.
While the vote was overwhelming at 95 per cent for each party, only 57 per cent of card-carrying Wildrose members actually voted for the unity agreement, with 55 per cent for the PCs, according to a Globe and Mail article. Hardly an iron-clad, definitive vote given the overall turnout.
It all makes for some of the most interesting political history the province has ever known.
Gone is a PC dynasty that ruled Alberta for more than four decades straight.
Combining Wildrose and PC ideologies, as the United Conservative Party makes its way to the spring of 2019, a new definition of modern-day conservatism will be defined in the province.
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