Declaring it “springtime in Alberta,” Jason Kenney became the new leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative (PC) Party Saturday night. That party might soon drop the “progressive” portion of its name as Kenney seeks a merger with the other conservative party in the province, the Wildrose.
“This party has decided to work with all Albertans to take our province back,” Kenney said to an exultant crowd at Calgary’s Telus Convention Centre.
“Thank you for choosing the path of unity, of the future.”
The former defense and immigration minister in the previous federal Conservative government of Stephen Harper won easily on the first ballot, as the membership met in Calgary, Alberta to vote. He took 1,113 of the 1,476 ballots cast.
Kenney was opposed by the “Red Tory” faction with the Alberta PCs, who are now considering bolting the party and joining the provincial Liberals or taking over the small Alberta Party.
Kenney was an early member of the Reform Party, the Western-based conservative and populist party that eventually merged with the federal Progressive Conservatives to form the Conservative Party of Canada under the leadership of Stephen Harper.
The new Alberta PC leader is a strong fiscal and social conservative who has been adamant in his pro-life views and actively opposed same-sex marriage when the issue came before the Canadian Parliament over a decade ago.
On Monday, Kenney plans to meet with Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, who says he is all for a merger — on his terms.
The Wildrose is the official opposition in the Alberta legislature and has a larger membership base than the PC Party and more money in its treasury.
“As I’ve said for 18 months, Wildrose has its dancing shoes on when it comes to creating a single, principled, consolidated, conservative movement,” said Jean, who also left federal politics for provincial opportunities.
“I hope to meet with Jason … and share with him more about the direction I have heard from our members.”
Kenney leads a party that dominated Alberta politics for most of the last half-century. It lost the last provincial election to the left-wing New Democratic Party, largely because the small “c” conservative electorate was split.
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