Provincial conservative parties vote to merge


Each party recieves a 95 per cent mandate

Local politicians have differing views about the overwhelming majority that voted to unite the right last weekend.

The Wildrose Party and Progressive Conservative Party have officially voted to merge as the United Conservative Party (UCP).

The conservative parties each received a mandate of 95 per cent from the members who voted.

Malcolm Parker, president of the St. Albert Wildrose Constituency Association and Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken said that they were surprised to see such a large mandate from the voters.

“The people let us know without a doubt that this is the direction that they want to go. It gives us a mandate going forward and we are really looking forward to building a new party on a strong foundation,” said van Dijken.

Van Dijken said that it means that the agreement is recognizing the strengths in both parties and the vote was a strong endorsement of their trust in Brian Jean and the negotiating committee.

Former PC MLA and leadership candidate Stephen Khan said that he believes that the mandate was so large because the progressives did not come out and vote.

“Most, if not all of the progressives from the PC party stayed home. I think that’s reflected in the numbers,” Khan said. “The progressives and the moderates – sort of the Lougheed Tories – look around and see the direction and see what is happening with the United Conservative Party and just don’t feel like that’s reflective of who they are as people and who they are in terms of their principles and values.”

Khan said that he is still a member of the PC party and voted in the referendum, but will not be joining the new party. As of now, Khan has no memberships in any other parties but he has been involved in the political action committee Alberta Together. The committee held a meeting and most of the people in attendance voted to support the Alberta Party.

“Over the next couple of months there will be a great number of Albertans who are going to be looking for a new political home,” Khan said.

The PCs needed 50 per cent plus one to endorse the merger and they had a voter turnout of 55 per cent with more than 27,000 votes cast. The Wildrose needed 75 per cent and they had a voter turnout of 57.7 per cent and almost 25,000 votes cast.

The vote was the beginning of the end for the PC party that ruled Alberta as a political dynasty for 44 years, and the Wildrose Party which was formed in 2008.

Parker said that he is glad to finally finish up with the vote so the parties can focus on the future.

“I think the good thing about it all will be the fact that we know what direction we are going and we don’t have this indecision. Now we know it will be a unified party,” Parker said.

Jeff Wedman, St. Albert PC constituency president, said that although he is excited about the new party, there is a sense of nostalgia and sadness seeing the PC party end.

“A new party with a new fresh beginning is exciting and it brings new life but it’s the end of an era,” Wedman said.

Wedman will work to begin to merge the parties on a local level. Van Dijken met with the two constituency presidents on Tuesday night to begin the path forward together.

Each board can only bring over 15 board members to the new party on a local level.

Since the vote took place the parties have wasted no time. On Monday Wildrose MLA Nathan Cooper was elected as interim leader of the new caucus and will remain in the position until a new leader is chosen on Oct. 28. The interim caucus team will be made up of deputy leader PC MLA Mike Ellis, house leader PC MLA Richard Gotfried and whips Wildrose MLA Jason Nixon and Wildrose MLA Prasad Panda.

Brian Jean has officially stepped down as leader of the Wildrose Party and will run in the new leadership race against Jason Kenney and Doug Schweitzer.

The parties were brought together after the loss in the 2015 election and they hope to be able to defeat the NDP in the next election.

Former PC leadership candidate Richard Starke has announced he will not be joining the new UCP and will continue to sit as a PC MLA for as long as he can.


About Author

Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2016. She writes about municipal, provincial and federal politics; court and crime; general news and features.