By Gillian Slade on June 17, 2017.
There has been an allegation of “mischief” regarding the vote, in five weeks time, to determine whether to merge the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties.
PC Party Leader Jason Kenney attended a barbecue in Medicine Hat Friday hosted by local Wildrose MLA Drew Barnes, where he reiterated claims of evidence in the past week of attempts to sway the vote.
He says there is strong PC support for unity under a United Conservative Party banner but the Wildrose has a bigger challenge because it needs 75 per cent support from its own membership.
“Unfortunately … there is room for mischief from people who don’t want the NDP to be defeated,” said Kenney. “We obtained emails being sent out by Alberta Teacher Association president locals encouraging their members to sign up with Wildrose, obviously to vote ‘no’.”
It is a month since the Wildrose and PC parties signed an agreement in principle to unite and form the UCP, pending ratification by party members. That vote takes place July 22. The PCs need 50 per cent plus one in favour and the Wildrose requires 75 per cent.
“The solution is everybody get involved,” said Barnes. “Vote for unity and then stay in touch with people like me … to make sure that we stay focused.”
If that sounds like Barnes is ready to be cheerleader for the whole province and perhaps run for leadership, others are thinking the same thing.
“I’ve had a lot of people call and ask me to run for leader but at this point in time I’m not ready for that,” said Barnes.
Support for UCP is consistent across the province based on surveys, but in rural southern Alberta it is particular strong.
“People here are generally desperate to get rid of the NDP and they see this as the best way to do so,” said Kenney.
Barnes has no hesitation in predicting a positive note on July 22.
“People will vote for unity across the province, both parties,” said Barnes. “People are very concerned about what the NDP government is doing in terms of debt and how they’re affecting our culture and values.”
There has not been any substantive criticism of the AIP itself on the PC side, said Kenney. Wildrose members had questions about how the interim board will be appointed but that has since been resolved.
“That seemed to be the only issue,” said Kenney, noting any opposition appears to be from those opposed to the idea of unity itself.
If both parties vote in favour of uniting under the UCP, there will be a leadership vote on Oct. 28 with a single member vote and a preferential ballot, said Kenney.
At this stage, Kenney, Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer have announced intentions to lead the UCP.
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