‘This is do or die’: Jason Kenney rallies supporters as conservative unity vote nears

Alberta PC leader Jason Kenney speaks to supporters at a town hall at Edmonton's Delta Edmonton South on July 5, 2017. Les Knight/ Global News

With less than three weeks to go until Progressive Conservative (PC) and Wildrose party members vote on whether to unite and form a new conservative party in Alberta, PC leader Jason Kenney held a town hall at a south Edmonton hotel where he encouraged his supporters to vote yes to bringing them together.

“We have to make a hard decision on July 22,” Kenney said to reporters after his speech Wednesday night.

“There’s no easy Plan B. There’s no automatic fallback position, there’s no guarantee that we could negotiate a different agreement.

READ MORE: Jason Kenney pushes for thorough vetting of prospective candidates of any new conservative party

PC members will vote between July 20 and July 22, either online or by phone, on the draft unity agreement with the Wildrose.

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Members who want to vote will have to register and receive a personal identification number.

The tentative deal, reached by Kenney and Wildrose leader Brian Jean in May, has to be approved by 75 per cent of Wildrose members and just over 50 per cent of PC members.

If it goes ahead, the new party will set up a leadership committee with an eye to electing a new leader by Oct. 28.

READ MORE: Alberta PCs, Wildrose unveil plans to merge, create United Conservative Party

Watch below: In May 2017, Brian Jean and Jason Kenney announced plans to unite parties into the United Conservative Party.

“Our focus is to get a yes vote in both parties to unite,” Kenney said. “If that doesn’t happen, we’re going to have to take a look at the results. If it’s a large no vote in both parties, then obviously the members don’t want to unite and we would respect their wishes.”

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While Kenney said there was no Plan B, he did suggest a tight “no” vote would need a closer look before determining whether his unity push failed.

“If, on the other hand, we saw a large pro-unity vote – let’s say in the PCs and a large pro-unity vote in the Wildrose but (one) that doesn’t meet the 75 per cent – then we’ll take a look at that and consult with our members to decide the next steps.”

Kenney was asked about his thoughts on people who are members of both the PC party and the Wildrose party being able to vote twice on the unity deal.

“I’m not doing that because I’m the leader of the party,” he said. “I think it would probably be inappropriate but our members are free to do that.

“There’s no rule against it… what I say to people is if they’re comfortable to do so, they’re welcome to.”

Kenney added he was concerned that NDP supporters may be buying up memberships in conservative parties in an effort to scuttle the unity deal.

READ MORE: Jason Kenney accuses NDP supporters of undermining United Conservative Party

Watch below: Now that the Wildrose and PCs have a tentative plan in place to unite, we thought we’d go back to the 2015 election results and see what things would have looked like if you add the two parties’ votes together.

Click to play video: 'What might Alberta look like if the right united before 2015 election?' What might Alberta look like if the right united before 2015 election?
What might Alberta look like if the right united before 2015 election? – May 18, 2017

“We do know that there are NDP supporters who have been buying memberships – particularly in the Wildrose party – to vote no because they want a conservative division in the next election,” he said.

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“And so if they’re out there buying memberships, then I think conservatives should too if they support unity.”

Pro-unity conservative lawmakers in Alberta don’t have much time to establish their proposed United Conservative Party.

An election must be held sometime in the spring of 2019 but NDP Premier Rachel Notley has the option to call a vote earlier if she believes circumstances warrant it.

The Progressive Conservatives were trounced by the NDP in the 2015 election, losing a decades-long grip on power in Alberta.

-With files from Karen Bartko

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