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Wildrose members support merge; Alberta PC vote results still to come

Alberta Wildrose leader Brian Jean and Alberta PC leader Jason Kenney shake hands after announcing a unity deal between the two in Edmonton on May 18, 2017.
Alberta Wildrose leader Brian Jean and Alberta PC leader Jason Kenney shake hands after announcing a unity deal between the two in Edmonton on May 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Wildrose party members voted overwhelmingly to unite with the Progressive Conservatives on Saturday, with 95 per cent supporting the merger.

Albertans will find out later Saturday evening whether the PCs will also support the proposal to become one United Conservative Party.

The Progressive Conservatives are led by Jason Kenney and the Wildrose party is led by Brian Jean.

Kenney, who was a cabinet minister under former prime minister Stephen Harper, says the vote is the culmination of a year of hard work.

He says the choice to unite into one party is a clear one, saying the alternative is pointless division that would lead to the NDP’s re-election.

Jean agrees a merger is in the best interests of Albertans.

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

More than 50,000 Tories and about 40,000 in the Wildrose have signed up to vote.

Wildrose members voted online, by phone, or in person at an event in Red Deer Saturday while PC members have been casting ballots electronically since Thursday.

Results for both are to be announced on Saturday in the late afternoon or early evening.

The Tories require a simple majority to approve unification, while the Wildrose needs at least 75 per cent.

READ MORE: Wildrose leader Brian Jean ‘extremely positive’ before Unite the Right vote 

Kenney and Jean, both former Conservative MPs, have been criss-crossing the province in recent weeks to explain details of the tentative unity agreement and to drum up support for a merger.

There have been pockets of resistance on both sides amid concerns the new party would move far to the right on social issues and open a spot for other parties to grab centrist voters.

Former PC president Katherine O’Neill left the party after Kenney’s leadership win in March and now runs Alberta Together, a political action committee looking to attract progressive conservative voters, perhaps through the Alberta Party.

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READ MORE: Katherine O’Neill on stepping down as PCAA president: ‘I’m very proud of the work that I’ve done’ 

If both sides approve the deal, it will spell the end of the Progressive Conservative brand that governed Alberta for almost 44 years. That run ended when Rachel Notley’s NDP won a majority in the 2015 election.

A “yes” vote would launch a leadership race that already has three participants. Jean and Kenney have said they’ll run, and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer is already campaigning. Wildrose finance critic Derek Fildebrandt has said he is also considering it.

— With files from Global News

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