Eyes turn to Unified Conservative Party’s first leader post-merger vote
Published Sunday, July 23, 2017 6:27PM MDT Last Updated Sunday, July 23, 2017 6:32PM MDT
Members of the Progressive Conservative Party and Wildrose Party voted overwhelmingly in favour of uniting Alberta’s right on Saturday but, as the initial celebrations wane, questions have emerged as to whom will be at the helm.
The United Conservative Party, which has yet to be officially recognized by the Legislature or registered with Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer, is expected to select its first leader in October. Some political observers speculate it may not be a carryover leader from the former parties who is elected into the role.
“Brian Jean or Jason Kenney, who are the frontrunners of those that have declared so far, it doesn’t look like either one of them is particularly popular,” said Lori Williams, an associate professor of Policy Studies at Mount Royal University. “They’re both sitting in the 20s (percentage of support) in polling.”
“Given that Jason Kenney and Brian Jean have a history, some of which will not be particularly positive for some Alberta voters because of their social conservatism,” “I think we may see a new candidate come in who has a better chance of generating support both for their leadership and for that party.”
Marilyn Burns, a co-founder of the Wildrose Party, says the results of the Wildrose Party members’ unification vote were tied to a movement to oust Brian Jean from party leadership.
“I have never, in my years of politics, seen such palpable emotion in the desire to have someone removed,” said Burns.
Wildrose members who voted against uniting with the PCs are expected to start a party of their own with plans to meet this week.
“Where I see this going forward, the stalwart Wildrosers will simply pick up, select another name, use a similar constitution with small tweaks,” said Burns. “Same policies, same principles, same objects, same values.”
“It’s not going to be difficult and we’re absolutely not starting over.”
Burns says it’s vital that the ruling NDP face more than one opposition party.
With files from CTV’s Stephanie Wiebe