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Alberta Jason Kenney advocates rigorous candidate screening for new Alberta conservative party

Jason Kenney delivers his victory speech at the Alberta PC Party leadership convention in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, March 18, 2017.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Alberta Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney says he will push for a rigorous screening of prospective candidates of any new conservative party to spike election-derailing "bozo eruptions."

"Let's be honest about this," Kenney said Monday at a town hall meeting with 350 people at a hotel in St. Albert, north of the Alberta capital.

"I've heard it every day for the past year — every single day — I've heard about the one or two bozo eruptions that have imposed a lasting brand problem on the Wildrose party. And we cannot afford that to happen to this new party."

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Kenney said the federal Conservatives already have a protocol for candidates, with criminal record checks, a review of public and online comments, and one-on-one interviews.

"I will propose a rigorous screening process for prospective candidates to red light those who have advocated truly hateful views or who have serious reputational problems," he said.

While he said he respects free speech, joining a political party carries a broad responsibility to others.

"When you step in (into the political arena), especially as a representative of a political party, you have to demonstrate a degree of discipline," he said.

"Because otherwise one person's crazy remarks can tarnish a party made up of hundreds of thousands of people.

"We will never let that happen again. We can't let that happen again," he concluded, to applause.

The Wildrose saw a strong campaign tumble into the ditch in the 2012 election after then-leader Danielle Smith refused to sanction a candidate for his online comments warning gays and lesbians to repent or face an afterlife in hell's "lake of fire."

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Kenney and Wildrose Leader Brian Jean are currently touring the province to drum up support for a proposed plan to merge the PCs and the Wildrose into the new United Conservative Party.

Both say vote splitting among Conservatives will guarantee another win in 2019 by Premier Rachel Notley's NDP.

They say NDP economic policies and initiatives like a new carbon tax are making Alberta's faltering oil-based economy much worse for working families.

Members of both parties will vote on the proposed merger July 22.

The PCs need a simple majority to ratify the merger while the Wildrose side needs more than 75 per cent.

Should it pass, both sides will then create joint committees to set policy, create constituency associations, and set the terms of a leadership vote in October.

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Both Jean and Kenney have already said they will run to be leader. Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer has also announced a leadership bid.

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