December 14, 2015 5:51 pm
Updated: December 14, 2015 10:19 pm

Wildrose seeks to swallow up Alberta PCs

An NDP Government and the prospect of vote splitting in the next election has the conservatives talking merger again. Tom Vernon reports.

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EDMONTON – Alberta’s Wildrose opposition believes it is time the province’s two conservative parties join forces.

In a year-end interview with Global News, Brian Jean said: “The message is resonating with Albertans.

“They want to see one party on the right; a ‘small c’ conservative, fiscally-oriented party, which we are.”

This unite-the-right talk comes almost one year to the day after the last such effort.

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READ MORE: Uniting the right in Alberta is more important than ever: Danielle Smith 

On Dec. 17, 2014, nine members of the Wildrose opposition including leader, Danielle Smith joined the governing PC party.

Only five Wildrose MLAs remained.

One year later, conservative fortunes have turned.

READ MORE: Orange crush: NDP stomps out 44-year PC dynasty, Jim Prentice resigns 

The Wildrose now has 22 MLAs. The PCs have only eight. (Ten were elected, but leader Jim Prentice resigned after losing the election and Manmeet Bhullar died last month in a car crash.)

“We believe the Wildrose is in the driver’s seat,” Jean said. “But we’re not going to take that to our advantage except to make sure that it’s done transparently and openly in the best interest of all Albertans.”

Jean wants any merger to be handled differently than last December’s mass defection.

Instead of MLAs choosing to cross the floor, he wants each party’s membership to decide.

READ MORE: Wildrose MLA introduces bill allowing voters to recall MLAs 

The Progressive Conservatives’ president said her members have no intention of leaving the party or starting a new one.

Terri Beaupre acknowledged a lot has changed since the PCs were relegated to third party status.

However, she said members want to keep fighting. Beaupre said merger talk came up in meetings last weekend but there was little discussion because there was little interest in the idea.

“The encouragement that we get from our members is what keeps us going forward.”

The PCs may have lost MLAs but Beaupre said the party still has a large group of volunteers and organizers. She expects the Wildrose wants to use them.

“We have a strong network of people and obviously that’s something they want to look at.”

Fundraising statistics released in October by Elections Alberta show the Wildrose network is raising money. The party brought in $263, 675.84 in the third quarter of 2015. The Progressive Conservatives raised just $15,575.50.

Beaupre said the party raised significantly more in the fourth quarter and she expects the party will pay off its debt by March.

Come next election, Beaupre expects the PCs will still be around and ready to fight both the Wildrose and the NDP.

“Absolutely. Yes. I’m very confident about that.”

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