By Nikki Jamieson
With Jason Kenney winning the PC leadership race in the province, the Unite the Right movement is a step closer to reality.
Earlier this month, the Wildrose Constituency Association hosted a town hall meeting in Taber to discuss if that is, in fact, what voters want to see happen.
“All throughout Alberta, we have been going around and trying to find out what the people want,” said Grant Hunter, MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner and the night’’s featured speaker. “Do they want to unite the right — the right meaning the Progressive Conservative party and the Wildrose party — or not?”
Previous to the current NDP government taking power in May 2015, Alberta had been governed by the PC party for 44 years. That election, the PCs had lost 60 seats, going down to ten, while the NDP took 54 seats for a majority government.
Later on, the PCs would lose two more seats as former Premier Jim Prentice resigned and his seat was awarded to a Wildrose MLA in a by-election, and MLA Sandra Jansen crossed to floor to the NDP after pulling out from the PC leadership race.
“Part of the most telling quote that she gave was, ‘There’s no room on the right, in the PC Party, for a centralist view’. A centralist view. That was her reason, so she said, ‘We’re starting to become left-leaning or right-leaning’,” said Hunter. “Now there is nothing wrong with that. Because here’s the point; you have left-leaning policies and way of governing, and you have right-leaning policies and way of governing.”
Currently, said Hunter, with the eight seats for the PC Party and the 22 seats belonging to the Wildrose Party, it leads to a total of 30 seats for right-leaning parties. The Liberals, Alberta Party and NDP have the remaining 57 seats.
“There was 16 seats in Calgary that went to the NDP out of the 25. Sixteen seats. And it’s very interesting, because those sixteen seats, about ten of them would have gone to some conservative party, whether it’s Wildrose or the PCs, had we not vote-splitted.”
Not wanting to risk a second term NDP government, the idea came about of combining the two parties, as the Wildrose poll well in rural Alberta while the PC party polls well in Calgary and Edmonton.
A year and a half ago, Wildrose leader Brian Jean asked the members of the Wildrose to “mend fences” with the PCs, however, the PC party was not interested at the time. Then-leadership candidate Kenny would later announce that if elected, he would seek to unite the right, or combine the two right-leaning parties into one. This past weekend, he won the race and is starting talks with Jean to do just that.
When asked why the two parties just not merge or cross the floor, Hunter replied that while individually, they can do that in the legislature, for parties it is different.
“The problem is that the parties have assets, both parties have assets, they have membership lists, they have constitutions that are different, they have policies that are different, and so all of the things have to be worked out.”
Hunter also reminded the audience that even though the Wildrose Party got started in part due to the feeling that the governing PC Party wasn’t really conservative anymore, its members do not fall on just one spot of the political spectrum. While they are all right-leaning, there are varying degrees of conservatism.
“Don’t think that if you’re in the Wildrose, that everyone is a unified, homogeneous group of voters. In our caucus, we have all sorts of different views on things,” said Hunter. “But, do we have enough in common, to be able to bring together and make a bigger tent, so that we can be conservative? If we do, and let me tell you, when we vote in the house, 90 per cent of the votes that happen are exactly the same between Wildrose and PC, 10 per cent are different. Is that enough to make us the same, to make us similar enough to be able to vote together? The people will choose.”
After having attendees fill out a survey, Hunter asked for a show of hands of who was in favour of uniting the right. Out of the 24 people in attendance, nearly everyone voted in favour of it.