By Dave Mabell
Southern Alberta Newspapers – Lethbridge
After years of bickering, can Alberta’s right-wing parties merge?
Thursday’s announcement by the two competing leaders, suggests political scientist Faron Ellis, indicates it’s a possibility. But there’s still plenty of debate and compromise to come.
“It’s a pretty good start,” said Ellis, a political science instructor at Lethbridge College.
Both Wildrose leader Brian Jean and newly elected Progressive Conservative leader Jason Kenney signed an agreement to form a United Conservative Party, subject to approval by paid-up members of each party. “Nothing, including the leadership selection process, can begin until ratification by the two legacy parties,” Ellis pointed out.
While the Wildrose constitution calls for 75 per cent approval from its members, the PC rules require a simple majority. Each of the existing party’s constitutions will dictate the timing, the processes and the avenues for appeal or protest, Ellis said.
Thursday’s announcement included “a moderately conservative set of founding principles,” Ellis said, including statements supporting “high quality, publicly funded health care,” fiscal as well as “environmental responsibility”, “compassion for the less fortunate” and a belief in “economic freedom in a market economy which encourages the creation of wealth through free enterprise”.
Ellis said it’s “a pretty centrist, free-enterprise Canadian political party set of founding principles”.
While there’s “a nod to the progressives”, the direction is clearly to the right of party members who would have supported premiers Peter Lougheed and Don Getty.
“But it’s much more progressive than the Wildrose.”
With a higher level of support required from Wildrose members, Ellis noted, dissidents among those ranks could have greater impact.
Just the same, Ellis added, many Wildrose members have been hearing grassroots support for a unite-the-right movement.
“So Brian Jean caved to the pressure,” agreeing to terms that could appeal to members of both parties.
With the next provincial election due in two years, Ellis said the merger plan has several deadlines it must meet.
“I think it’s do-able within the timeline.”