By Gillian Slade on February 2, 2017.
Each of the PC leadership candidates drew strong applause from the audience at Wednesday evening’s debate, but some of the party faithful are not in favour of merging the Wildrose and PC parties.
Jason Kenney is the only candidate in favour of collapsing both the PC and the Wildrose parties and establishing a new party that he feels would be in a better position to defeat the NDP government in the 2019 provincial election.
“The key message that I got was that the unity message that Mr. Kenney has been proposing has been laid bare for the lie that it is,” said Jim Taylor. “It is simply not possible. It is not feasible and it’s certainly not what the party voted for back in May at our AGM.”
Richard Starke, currently an MLA, said it was risky to create a new party. The process would take too long, and what worked federally, merging the Reform party with the Conservatives, cannot necessarily be applied at the provincial level. Starke also noted it took several elections for the Conservatives to win a majority after that merger.
Jason Kenney’s assertion that a referendum on a merger would allow the people to decide, rather than the party leadership, drew enthusiastic applause from the audience.
Signals from the Wildrose on the matter are more consistent with a “takeover” than a merger, said Byron Nelson. The Wildrose is already seeking nominations in preparation for the next election, which is a very strong indication they are not interested in a merger.
“Clearly the Wildrose isn’t interested and the grassroots of the PC party isn’t interested,” said Taylor. “I think Mr. Kenney’s dream is a pipe dream.”
Taylor says the PC party has been working hard since the last provincial election, about 18 months ago, to turn things around. They have got their financial house in order as a party, have strong constituency associations in all 87 ridings, and now need a strong leader.
“I thought Dr. Starke was exceptional tonight … I think he is certainly the man for the job,” said Taylor.
It was Kenney’s response to a question about property rights that provoked a strong reaction from Jim Horsman, a former cabinet member of the PC party during his career in politics from 1975 to 1993.
“I cannot believe that I heard a man who wants to be premier of Alberta being prepared to abdicate the responsibilities under section 92.13 of the constitution which provides that property and civil rights are the sole responsibility of the province,” Horsman said. “To have somebody advocate adopting Pierre Trudeau’s efforts on property rights in the federal charter 1982, which was defeated by the provinces. It shocks me.”
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