March 18, 2017 7:01 pm
Updated: March 18, 2017 9:38 pm

Alberta Progressive Conservatives pick Jason Kenney as new leader

WATCH ABOVE: The Alberta Progressive Conservative party has a new leader. Jason Kenney will take the helm for the PCs, after the party held a convention in Calgary this weekend. Provincial affairs reporter Tom Vernon reports.

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Jason Kenney is the new leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives.

The 48-year-old former Calgary MP and federal Conservative cabinet minister beat two rivals, Richard Starke and Byron Nelson, on the first ballot in delegate voting Saturday.

Kenney will now begin the next phase of his unite-the-right campaign by seeking a deal with the Wildrose party to join forces under a new conservative banner.

In a speech to delegates earlier Saturday, he stressed he is merely a conduit and that PC party members will vote on any merger.

He said thousands of supporters in the PC and the Wildrose parties want to have a say on joining forces and it would be folly to not give them that chance.

“To say that it’s more important to protect our party’s past than to secure our people’s future would be arrogance and not humility,” said Kenney to cheers from supporters.

“So I say let us take the path of humility!”

Under Alberta rules, political parties cannot merge. Rather, they must fold up shop and surrender their assets before seeking to create a new party.

Wildrose party Leader Brian Jean has said he’s open to meeting Monday with the new leader, but has stressed that any new conservative party will be created under a Wildrose legal framework, with the approval of Wildrose members.

Kenney has stressed unity is necessary to avoid the vote splitting he says led to the majority win by Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP in 2015.

 

Starke and Nelson ran on promises to follow the wishes of party members who voted just a year ago to not merge with the Wildrose, but instead rebuild the PCs.

Kenney’s critics fear he will abandon the party’s centrist approach on social issues to embrace the social conservatism of the Wildrose.

Delegates booed Starke during his speech earlier Saturday when he warned that a merger with the Wildrose could tar the PCs with the label of intolerance toward women and minorities.

For Kenney, unity is a road map with no road. There is no provision in the PC constitution to dissolve itself and the leader is just one vote on the party’s board of directors.

The PCs and Wildrose, should they join forces, would have just two years to create constituency associations and field candidates in time for the next election, set for the spring of 2019.

Nelson, in his speech, said it would be time better spend selling the PCs and developing policies to win over voters.

Kenney said Canada’s conservative parties united federally in far less time, bringing about the Conservative governments of former prime minister Stephen Harper.

© 2017 The Canada Press

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