Sandra Jansen, the Alberta Conservative MLA for Calgary North-West, has come up with a novel reason for disqualifying Jason Kenney as a candidate for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta: He wants to make the party bigger.
Mr. Kenney, the former federal Conservative cabinet minister, is planning on leaving Parliament and trying to become the provincial PC leader. Then, he wants to unite Alberta’s right, by bringing together the PCs and the Wildrose Party.
Ms. Jansen thinks this would violate the PCAA’s rules, because it would amount to “causing harm or disrepute” to the PC party and its brand “through any detrimental action or conduct.”
Really? Anyone has the right to disagree with Mr. Kenney on the Alberta Conservatives’ future. But surely there is nothing inherently disreputable about trying to bring together two conservative parties – if brought together they can be.
After all, the unimpeachably moderate former PC premier Jim Prentice also tried to do the same thing. As it turned out, Mr. Prentice’s bringing of nine former Wildrose MLAs across the aisle ended up being seen as too devious and clever by half. The attempt to create one party out of two mostly ended up antagonizing a lot of voters, becoming a factor in Mr. Prentice’s loss of the next election.
Yes, Mr. Kenney does aim to unite the right, but he is at least being entirely open and upfront about it. It is much more like the federal unite-the-right movement of a decade ago, by way of the United Alternative, the Canadian Alliance and eventually the two-parties-become-one Conservative Party.
There are arguments in favour of merger. The two parties stand a good chance of permanently splitting the vote, giving the NDP a perennial advantage. And there is some ideological common ground: For example, the PCs and the Wildrose Party vote the same way in the Alberta Legislature more often than not. But there are also real differences in terms of ideas and policies. Wildrose grew out of rebellion against the soft conservatism of the PCs; many PCs reject Wildrose’s hard edges.
Want to argue against Mr. Kenney’s plan? Fair enough. You won’t be alone. But uniting Alberta’s right is an idea that should be embraced, or rejected, on its merits.Report Typo/Error
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