Categories: Commentary

Unite the right – fantasy or fiction?

“There are a few occasions in life when the circumstances are right to sit back and think about stuff. This is one of those times.”

– Alberta Party leader Greg Clark

What has become of the unite the right movement in Alberta? It seems to be shaping up to be a disaster and could end up with four right-wing parties vying for the conservative vote.

The vote is coming down next week from the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative party membership on whether to accept the unification deal but that vote is fraught with difficulties. The PC party only requires a 50 per cent plus one affirmative vote but the Wildrose, based on their constitution requires 75 per cent support.

Both PC leader Jason Kenney and Wildrose leader Brian Jean, are stomping the province urging their rank and file to support the concept of a unified party but there seems to be many dissenting opinions.

Jason Kenney as leader of the PCs, is the prime proponent of the unite the right movement yet it was he who was the biggest thorn in the side of the Stelmach caucus, causing a strong rift between Alberta’s federal and provincial conservatives.

Apparently the unification agreement will adopt the principles of the Wildrose Party so why a new party rather than just abandoning the Progressive Conservative Party and everyone joining the Wildrose? In 2013 then-premier Jim Prentice’s attempt to unite the right by bringing Wildrosers into the PC caucus was a disaster that likely cost him the 2014 election.

But now a further red herring is emerging with the Alberta Together Committee of disgruntled Tories seemingly backing Greg Clark’s Alberta Party. In the words of our own Stephen Khan, “I think there’s a lot of people who are looking for a moderate, centrist, pragmatic option for Alberta. I know that’s why I’m here.”

At a recent Wildrose rally, Brian Jean indicated that even if the unification agreement is supported by both parties, both of the existing parties would continue to exist. Could they then field candidates in opposition to the unification candidates?

If unification fails, both parties vow to cooperate with each other in the 2019 provincial election. We’ll see!

At the moment Brian Jean and Jason Kenney are on the same wavelength, canvassing hard for support of unification. If unification goes through however, the gloves will be off with each vying for the leadership of the new party. Maybe, there will be a breath of fresh air with Doug Schweitzer declaring his candidacy. Then there is Derek Fildebrandt, the outspoken Wildrose critic, setting himself up for a leadership bid. But this all hinges on the unification vote on July 22.

It’s less than two years until the next provincial election. If the unification vote goes through, that leaves a little over 20 months to build a party, choose a name and a constitution and above all to raise the funds necessary to run a credible campaign.

Global politics have been in a turmoil for over two years now – with Brexit, Donald Trump, the recent French vote. Welcome to the club Alberta electorate, it’s going to be an interesting ride!

This is indeed one of those occasions when we all need “to sit back and think about stuff.”

Ken Allred is a former St. Albert alderman and MLA.

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