CALGARY – Former federal opposition leader Preston Manning said Thursday he advised Wildrose leader Danielle Smith on a merger with Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives during merger talks between the Wildrose and Premier Jim Prentice.
Manning suggested the timing of the discussions was right.
“I think what’s happened is Wildrose moved the public onto fiscally responsible ground and they now have a premier who wants to be on that ground too. I think that’s a positive accomplishment.”
The former leader of the Reform Party said the repercussions of falling oil prices played a significant role in the decision by Smith and eight other Wildrose MLAs to join the PC party.
“The urgency now of Alberta heading into very deep economic and fiscal trouble, I think gave a whole urgency to ‘status quo is not good enough’,” said Manning. “Not good enough for the government, not good enough for the opposition.”
Manning said he not only advised Smith but also spoke with with all Wildrose caucus members when they met in Edmonton Tuesday to discuss a merger.
He said he would like to see the Wildrose formally vote on a merger deal but that has been rejected by the party’s executive committee.
Manning’s right wing Reform Party formed the federal opposition under his leadership in the 1990’s. In 2000, the party changed its name to the Canadian Alliance before eventually merging with the federal Progressive Conservative party to become the Conservative party.
Manning had left politics before the merger and is now president of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, a conservative think-tank.