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Can egos be put aside to Unite the Right?

Posted on March 22, 2017 by Taber Times

The notion has been whispered for months before gathering full wind in the sails of the ship Unity on the weekend with the election of Jason Kenney as leader of the PC Party in Alberta.

On Monday, Wildrose leader Brian Jean and Kenney announced their joint commitment to achieve unity.

Both leaders shared their belief that they cannot and will not negotiate a memorandum of understanding for a potential unity agreement amongst themselves, but will form discussion teams with a mandate to work towards agreement. Details on the discussion teams will be developed and announced by the end of this week.

According to a Wildrose Official Opposition press release, there is also agreement for both Wildrose and PC caucuses to work towards greater co-operation in opposing the NDP government in the legislature.

Back in late January, Jean announced he would be willing to step down as party leader to run for the leadership of a new unified Wildrose-PC party and now Kenney will have to clarify his overall intentions to try and defeat the NDP in the next provincial election.

Politics can be a fickle thing, as talk of unity now can quickly turn into a power struggle later.

One has to look only at the Ghost of Provincial Election past in 2014 when then Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and eight of her Wildrose Party colleagues were accepted into Prentice’s Progressive Conservative caucus as they crossed the floor. A mere month earlier, Smith blasted former opposition members Kerry Towle and Ian Donovan for joining the PCs as backbenchers, condemning them for abandoning their principles to enjoy the perks of power, promising there would be no more defections from Wildrose.

The move proved to be an unmitigated disaster as the lay of the land was totally misread. A disillusioned voter base that felt perhaps they were being taken for granted after a 44-year stranglehold on provincial politics by the PCs, and that Wildrose was the alternative the province was looking for, only to see that unravel in mere months as floor crossers Smith, and local MLAs at the time Ian Donovan and Gary Bikman lose their seats on the way to an eventual NDP majority sweeping across the province.

Can both parties learn from mistakes past in a unified form to achieve that Three Bears Political Party that is capable of unseating the NDP of Not Too Hot (ultra-left), Not Too Cold (ultra right), But Just Right (moderate right of centre).

A weakness of the Wildrose Party according to some political pundits in the province is that while many admire the party’s fiscal conservatism, its social conservatism on some major issues is offsetting by some, especially in large urban centres.

The PCs are trying to re-establish its brand from the ashes where some have felt they lost their will and veered too far left in the overall political spectrum. The most recent polls suggest Jean would be the preferred option to become the ‘unite-the-right’ leader, outpacing Kenney by nearly 10 per cent.

But whatever the numbers say, both individuals will have to meet each other part way on several issues before any unite-the-right movement gets real traction. Then there is of course Elections Alberta, a non-partisan public agency that has rules firmly in place on the dissolution of political parties. That includes the money that was donated to the separate parties which simply cannot be all of a sudden be funneled into the new party without the consent of the original donor.

It all makes for an interesting time in Alberta politics where a party that has been a mainstay in the province for the past five decades may suddenly be no more.

The political stakes are high and it will make for an interesting showdown at the provincial polls come the year 2019.

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