Kenney continues push for unity
Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney, right, and Lacombe-Ponoka MLA address a crowd of over 50 people at the Best Western Hotel last week as part of unity town hall in Lacombe. (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)
When touring Alberta with his Unity Truck Tour, Jason Kenney said he’d be back in Lacombe.
Now the Progressive Conservative Party’s new leader, he made good on his word, stopping in the city to speak with a crowd of over 50 people about merging the province’s two free-enterprise parties into a new United Conservative Party.
“The big message is take responsibility for our future,” Kenney said. “Too many Albertans took for granted this province’s prosperity. That’s how we ended up with this NDP government. We’ve got to be involved with change.”
Similar to his message throughout his run for PC leadership, Kenney touched on his belief another NDP term would be disastrous for the province, how vote-splitting affected the election and the need for a united right.
Most importantly he urged those in attendance to not be apathetic and get involved.
““If you’re feeling concerned about our economy, NDP policies, the carbon tax, the recession, don’t just complain about it to your friends and family,” he said. “Get involved, buy a membership. Vote in a referendum on July 22. Help us to build our future.”
Part of the push for unity, however, involves the mending of tensions between the Wildrose and PC Parties, which seemed to escalate with the floor crossing of some Wildrose MLA’s to the PC during the last provincial election.
Kenney, alongside Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr who joined him for the lunchtime town hall at the Best Western Hotel, spoke on floor crossing.
“If someone comes to the conclusion they’re not comfortable in a conservative party for some reason...then I respect their conscientious decision,” Kenney said, but added that anyone choosing to cross the floor should first seek that mandate from voters in a by-election.
“There have times where its been done in crass, but let’s not forget...for matters of integrity, faithfulness to local constituency voters that a member should have the right to stand up.
“It can be wrong, but it can also be right.”
Amid talk of uniting Alberta’s conservative parties, however, was talk of the recently formed ‘Alberta Together’ committee, which met in Red Deer last Saturday.
The party is openly against a United Conservative Party, with former PC President Katherine O’Neill holding the title of executive director.
Kenney said he felt it was just another liberal party.
“I think it’s a liberal party by another name. They’re just embarassed by a liberal label,” he said.
“They’re lined up with the NDP on everything, even more so Greg Clarke, who seems to be leading that thing, and wants to impose a sales tax on Alberta. I don’t hear that from anybody except elite liberals.”
As with NDP supporters Kenney has warned in the past about purchasing conservative memberships to sway voting, he said O’Neill in undermining democracy.
“I do wish those who have been in the PC Party would have enough respect for democracy to let the members of our party decide the way forward. That’s what this campaign has been about since day one,” he said.
“Apparently some people are not for that democracy. They want to tell the members what to think rather than listening to them. That’s their choice and I wish them well.”
The referendum will take place on July 22. Within the PC Party, a majority will be needed to accept a move to the United Conservative Party. On the Wildrose side, a strong majority of 75 per cent will be needed to ratify the agreement.
Should members of both parties choose unity, a new leader will be elected Oct. 28. Both Kenney and Wildrose Leader Brian Jean are expected to run for leadership, as well as Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer.