By Gillian Slade on May 19, 2017.
An historic agreement was signed on Thursday to unite the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties.
The agreement in principle (AIP) spells out the process to wind down both parties, and to form the United Conservative Party, after ratification by party members.
“The Wildrose has 60 days to call a special general meeting and 75 per cent would have to vote in favour for it to happen,” said Drew Barnes, Wildrose MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat.
Barnes thinks support will be “very high.”
PC party members will vote on July 22, said Leader Jason Kenney.
An elated Kenney told the News reaching this milestone felt “absolutely fantastic.”
“The process is going better than I ever had hoped for,” said Kenney. “I’m not going to pretend it was easy. It was challenging to overcome but we have done it.”
The agreement puts an end to a “decade of division by uniting common sense” and “ensures the defeat of this disastrous NDP government and the election of a free enterprise government that will renew the Alberta Advantage”, said Kenney.
“It is absolutely clear that a strong majority of Albertans believe in our province’s traditional free enterprise values, fiscal responsibility, and the importance of economic growth,” said Kenney.
“It’s been the mission of our party to inspire Albertans and restore common-sense conservative ideas to government. This agreement brings that mission one step closer to reality,” said Wildrose Leader Brian Jean.
Concerns about what would happen to funds for each party have also been addressed. In consultation with the chief electoral officer to ensure it fully complies, after the new United Conservative Party is registered, it will have an interim board that will also serve the two legacy parties, said Kenney. Money will be kept in separate accounts and there will be no transfer of assets and liabilities. The Wildrose and PCs will “wrap up their finances in an orderly fashion.” PCs will have to pay off debt, and in a legal manner Wildrose will spend its money.
“The United party will start with a fresh financial slate,” said Kenney. “It will have to raise its first dollar as soon as it is established.”
Providing both parties vote in favour of the merger, the next step will be choosing a leader for the UCP in the fall, said Barnes.
If Barnes is considering throwing his hat into that ring he was not ready to make that announcement on Thursday.
“Many people have asked me but at this point in time I am just going to wait and see what develops. I am not ruling it out totally,” said Barnes.
For the past 18 months Barnes has listened to feedback from constituents about the possible merger.
“They feel that the NDP is changing our culture too much and their spending is too high,” said Barnes. “They see this as an opportunity to put something together that is best for Alberta and the next generation.”
Kenney said the merger sends a clear message “that help is on the way” for Albertans who are struggling.
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