Alberta conservatives are no longer divided with the birth of the United Conservative Party.
As CBC News reports, the membership of the once-competing Wildrose and Progressive Conservative (PC) Party voted 95 percent in favor of a merger on Saturday. The political in-fighting that led to both parties fielding candidates in the last pronvicial election was largely responsible for electing the left-of-center, quasi-socialist New Democratic Party party under the leadership of Rachel Notley.
The electoral victory stunned political observers across the country. The oil-rich province had elected ideologically conservative governments since 1935 and is the home of the nationally-known conservative think-tank The Manning Centre.
With the merger approved, the two parties must wind down their operations and dissolve their organizations and decide who will serve on an interim panel that will oversee the administrative and logistical requirments to form a new party. The board will decide when the new party’s first general meeting will take place.
“We will be a bunch of very busy conservatives for a while,” PC party president Len Thom told CBC.
More importantly, caucus members from both parties will select an interim leader on Monday. PC Leader Jason Kenney is planning to ask the speaker of the Alberta legislature to recognize the unified caucus as members of the new Conservative Party.
Kenney, who only recently won the party’s leadership, campaigned to move the PC party to the right and to merge with its political rivals. A former defense and immigration minister in the previous federal government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Kenney is expected to seek the leadership of the new party. His chief opponent will be the last leader of the Wildrose Party, Brian Jean, who has already indicated his intention to run for the top job.
The leadership campaign is not expected to be a long one, nor ideologically-divisive. Along with Kenney and Jean, Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer has already declared his candidacy and Wildrose Member of the Legislature Derek Fidebrandt is poised to enter the race.
There are few ideological differences between the four men though the race will be hotly contested as the winner has a good chance of becoming the next premier of Alberta within the next year.
At least one of the candidates was wasting no time in campaigning. Jean was promoting unity when he offered his analysis of the coming leadership contest.
“I’m about a positive vision and I’m not going to focus on negativity,” he told CBC. “And I’m hoping that other members won’t as well, because I think that we really are in a unique, history-making moment right now.”