By Nikki Jamieson
It’s official; the conservatives have united.
In a series of votes over the past weekend, the Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives parties of Alberta have voted in favour of joining together into one new conservative party of Alberta.
“The result was overwhelming,” said David Schneider, MLA for Little Bow. “We were confident that Wildrosers would pass the resolution to unify. Brian (Jean, leader of the Wildrose) and Wildrose MLA’s have been all over the province gathering input on unity for a couple of months. It was clear that unity was popular among members, but we were expecting something in the low 80’s perhaps. 95.4 per cent is a clear direction of the party for unity. Ninty-five per cent for the PC’s was also a bit of a surprise, but it is obvious that the PC party was also ready for unity.”
In order for the parties to unite, the Widrose party had needed at least 75 per cent of votes in favour of unity, while the PCs only required a majority, making the results particularly amazing. Although that amazement loses some of its light as, according to news reports, only 57 percent of card-carrying Wildrose members and 55 per cent of PC members voted in the unity vote.
Nathan Cooper, MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, has been elected as the interim leader of the UCP. He, along with with one person from both the former Wildrose and PC partie, will form the interim joint board. The Speaker of the House, Robert Manner, has already recognized the United Conservative Party as the official opposition, and Schneider says they will be registering the UCP with Elections Alberta “very soon.”
Former Wildrose leader Brian Jean has already thrown his hat into the leadership ring for the UCP leadership, with former PC leader Jason Kenney and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer have both indicated that they will run for the leadership as well. On a constituency level, Schneider says that the constituency associations of the former Wildrose and PC parties will need to jointly found and form the constituency association of the UCP for each electoral division.
Each former constituency association board of directors will need to select about 15 members of the UCP to serve as the interim board of directors in the constituency association, and before the end of June 2018, hold an annual general meeting to elect a board of directors.
While the new party will be very busy in the months to come, Schneider says that besides sitting as one entity now, there won’t be big changes come the fall session of the legislature.
“The Wildrose and PC Parties have sat side by side on the Opposition side of the House for the last two years. We have helped each other with motions and Private Members Bills and amendments to poor legislation, et cetera, since the election in 2015,” said Schneider.
“When we get back to the house in the fall, we will all be sitting as one entity, 29 members strong. Our decisions as to how we hold the government to account at that time will be decisions made as a caucus by all of us.”
The UCP could spell an end to vote-splitting on the right that had been going on for the past decade, as the Wildrose and PC battled for the support of conservatives in Alberta.
Schneider says that for the sake of the province, they’ve put their differences aside and united as one, to take on the NDP in the 2019 election.
“The current government’s policies are hurting Albertans. Unity means that the conservative movement in Alberta can now gather the momentum needed to put forth a very strong showing and win the next provincial election. The UCP will stand for smaller government, the rule of law, economic freedom, property rights and free enterprise to name a few. But mostly, the UCP will stand for grassroots democracy. The founding meeting of the UCP will see conservatives at the grassroots level create the new policies that will drive the party going forward.”