Former Wildrose members who felt betrayed by their party’s decision to merge with the Progressive Conservatives have already held a meeting to begin the process of creating a new conservative party in Alberta.
As of Wednesday afternoon, they even have a name reserved for when or if their party comes to be: the Alberta Advantage Party.
According to Marilyn Burns, an organizer with the group “working to start up a Wildrose replacement party,” Elections Alberta sent her a letter advising the name has been approved for use by the group.
“I was one of the original founders of the Wildrose Society so this is go around No. 2 for me and in comparing what is happening now as to then, we are at least a year ahead.”
Burns told Global News that about 50 people turned up at an “organizational meeting” held in Nisku over the weekend to lay the groundwork for forming a new right-wing party in Alberta.
“We’re basically picking up the ball that Brian Jean dropped and running with it,” she said, adding she believed Jean had plans to “end the Wildrose party” as early as 2015.
In January 2017, Jean sent political shockwaves across the province when he released a video indicating he was prepared to step down and run for a new Alberta conservative party made up of the PC Party and the Wildrose Party.
Watch below: On Jan. 26, 2017, Brian Jean released a video message saying Albertans have told him to “pursue unity” and announcing he’ll be travelling across the province to ask for feedback on the creation of a single, unified conservative party. Fletcher Kent filed this report.
Burns said Jean “sprung it on the members through the media” and that she thinks the announcement amounted to a betrayal based on “deceit and deception.
“He had misled members consistently by indicating that if there was ever going to be a merger it would be by using the Wildrose constitution,” she said.
“You can feel the palpable hostility towards Brian Jean.”
In a statement sent to Global News on Thursday, Jean said Wildrose members made their feelings clear when 95 per cent of the party voted for unity.
“I always told Wildrose members they would be in the driver’s seat on this issue and they were,” Jean wrote. “Nothing is more grassroots than letting the members choose and they chose unity.”
Late last month, PC and Wildrose members voted overwhelmingly in favour of bringing the two parties together to form the United Conservative Party (UCP), which has now become the official opposition in the Alberta legislature.
Watch below: On July 23, 2017, Carolyn Kury de Castillo filed this report about who will lead the new United Conservatives after Wildrose and PC members voted in favour of forming the party.
Burns called the UCP’s organizational structure “dictatorial” and going against the principles and object of the Wildrose Party which sought to keep government’s accountable by nominating candidates “who advance the principles and policies adopted by the party members.”
“We’re making some tweaks to the Wildrose constitution that existed, but not the principles and not the objects,” she said of her plans to form the Alberta Advantage Party. “With the Wildrose being so badly betrayed by Brian (Jean) and Danielle (Smith), we want to prevent this from happening again and we want to make some tweaks also that will make our process go more quickly so that we can be ready for the next election as early as the UCP is.”
“I hope that people will respect the mandate provided by the membership, get involved and help shape the new United Conservative Party,” Jean’s statement read.
Burns said the next meeting to propel the formation of a new party will be held on Aug. 19. To form a party, her group must first form a society which includes bylaws. Then, a party can be formed either by submitting a petition with 7,868 signatures from eligible voters or by having three MLAs cross the floor to join your group or by running candidates in half of all ridings in a general election.
“We’re going to be working at all three,” Burns said.
Global News has reached out to UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean for comment on this story.