A committee looking to rally centrists unhappy with what they say is an increasingly polarized political landscape is to meet Saturday with an eye to formally getting behind the Alberta Party.
Executive director Katherine O’Neill says the Alberta Together committee is looking for the best vehicle to turn its goals into political reality.
More than 200 supporters are expected are expected at a Red Deer hotel this weekend. O’Neill says it will be up to them to decide if the Alberta Party is the best fit.
“We know the interest is there, and now it’s what’s the best option and how do we move forward as a group,” O’Neill said in an interview Wednesday.
“We need to make sure that people know what to do in the next two years because time is of the essence.”
The next provincial election is set for spring 2019.
Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark will be one of the speakers for the committee, which has supporters such as former Progressive Conservative legislature members Stephen Mandel, Stephen Khan and Jack Hayden, and Liberal Kerry Cundal.
O’Neill said a number of former PC riding presidents also plan to attend.
Alberta’s Liberal party has declined an invitation. New leader David Khan has said the party isn’t looking to merge and plans to field a full slate of 87 candidates in the next election.
The centrist movement comes against the backdrop of PC Leader Jason Kenney’s unite-the-right efforts. He and Brian Jean of the Opposition Wildrose party have signed a merger deal, pending the approval of members from both parties in late July.
After that, a leadership race is to be held and a winner picked Oct. 28 for what would be the United Conservative Party.
Some PC members have left the party in recent weeks and have expressed fear it’s becoming less progressive and is adopting a more socially conservative position.
O’Neill said Clark’s party is seen as a possible fit.
“It looks like most of the interest is in building an expanded Alberta Party, and that means building up the riding associations, finding candidates, stuff like that,” she said.
“I’m very confident that when we leave Red Deer on Saturday people will have a clear direction about what’s next and how they can get to work.”
Clark said he’s optimistic.
“No question I think the Alberta Party is the right vehicle. I hope the people who gather this weekend agree with that,” he said in an interview.
Clark said a window of opportunity is opening in the centre.
He said Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP are abandoning fiscal prudence and championing social issues, while a united conservative party would embrace the opposite.
“We can have both. We can have good fiscal discipline and we can look out for our neighbours. I think that’s where the interest lies with the Alberta Party.”
Clark’s party gained a sliver-sized beachhead in the 2015 election when he won a seat in the legislature. But overall the party nominated 35 candidates out of a possible 87 and captured just two per cent of the vote.
Money is also an issue. The party collected just over $14,000 in consolidated contributions in the first three months of this year.
Clark said the goal is to run 87 candidates in 2019.
“Our goal is to compete to win the next election.”