Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Richard Starke has proposed a plan for the Alberta’s PCs and Wildrose parties to work together on a plan to defeat the NDP government in the next election.
Starke said his plan is for the two parties to work together in the 2019 election but continue to function as two parties with two leaders and two caucuses. It would ensure there would be no splitting of conservative votes, he said.
“Working together in cooperation rather than competition is the most effective way to defeat the NDP while avoiding the major upheaval of both parties proposed by Jason Kenney,” Starke said.
Kenney’s proposal is to bring the two right-leaning provincial parties together. If he wins the leadership in March, Kenney has said he’ll seek a mandate from members to merge his party with the Wildrose.
“Things have changed pretty dramatically since the election of the NDP,” Kenney said. “Wildrose and PC parties are actually not separated on any policy issues any longer,” he said. “They’re voting together identically in Alberta’s legislature 90 per cent of the time. The other 10 per cent are not major issues.”
Starke said Kenney “has no skin in the PC party.”
“He is not interested in leading this party. His single purpose is to destroy this party and take the Conservative name,” Starke said.
“His five-point plan is risky, complex and it will take time; time that we don’t have.”
“I frankly don’t understand what Richard is proposing,” Kenney said in a statement. “It appears to be a non-announcement. I don’t understand why a candidate would make such a confusing statement so late in a leadership election.
“We will continue to advocate for our clear unity plan – a plan that would be subject to the decision of grassroots members – in order to defeat the NDP in 2019, and get our province back on track,” Kenney said.
Watch below: Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Richard Starke announces plan to have the PCs and Wildrose parties work together to defeat the NDP government. Julia Wong reports.
The other PC candidates, meanwhile, aren’t looking to unite the parties.
Wildrose Leader Brian Jean says he believes like-minded conservatives should unite, but that he’s taking a wait-and-see approach to any overtures from the PCs. His finance critic, Derek Fildebrant, meanwhile, has been openly pushing for a merger.
Starke said he hasn’t spoken to Jean about his plan, but believes it makes sense for both parties.
“This plan respects their party just as it respects our party.”
Starke is a PC MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster. He was first elected as MLA in 2012 and was re-elected in May 2015.
Party members will convene March 18 in Calgary to select a new leader in a delegated convention.
The PC party was ousted from its 44-year-long rule and fell to third-party status when Rachel Notley’s NDP won the May 2015 provincial election.
The late Jim Prentice stepped down as leader after losing the election, and Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver became interim leader.