Potential Alberta PC leadership hopeful says rules should nix Wildrose merger

Alberta PC Party says response to Sandra Jansen's suggestion would be hypothetical, given that no candidate can formally enter the race yet

EDMONTON – A potential candidate for the leadership of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives says rules adopted by the party should end the bid by Calgary MP Jason Kenney to merge the province’s two right-of-centre parties.

Sandra Jansen noted the rules released by the PC board of directors on the weekend forbid any leadership candidate from taking actions that would harm the party.

“If his goal is to collapse the PC party, then it would appear that he doesn’t fit the criteria for running for leader,” Jansen said Monday.

But she added she’ll leave it to the PC party executive to deal with the question when the leadership race formally begins Oct. 1.

“That’s not my call to make. I respect the board’s autonomy in making decisions about who can and cannot run and we’ll leave it to them,” said the Tory member of the legislature for Calgary North West

Kenney has yet to respond to the leadership race rules.

The board voted to include a clause from the 2014 campaign that said candidates must “avoid causing harm or disrepute to the (Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta) and its brand through any detrimental action or conduct.”

MORE: Is Jason Kenney Mr. Right for Alberta?

Party president Katherine O’Neill declined to speculate Sunday on what the harm rule means for Kenney. She called any response hypothetical, given that no candidate can formally enter the race yet.

Kenney is running on a platform to merge the PCs with the Opposition Wildrose to create a new right-of-centre party to challenge Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP in the 2019 election.

He has said vote-splitting on the right is crushing the conservative movement in Alberta and that drastic action is necessary to halt what he calls the economy-killing policies of the New Democrats.

The Wildrose party endorses a merger idea in principle, but is taking a wait-and-see approach on Kenney’s idea.

At last spring’s PC annual general meeting, rank-and-file members overwhelmingly endorsed a plan to rebuild the party rather than merge with anyone else.

Also on the weekend, the PC board spelled out specifics for what will be the first leadership vote in the province to have delegates in 30 years.

Each of the 87 constituency associations will vote to send 15 delegates to the March 18 convention in Calgary. Of those 15, five will be from the local constituency association board and 10 from members at large.

Jansen said she is happy with the rules. She pointed out that 50 directors from across the province, not a select few, hashed it out.

“I’m pleased with what they came up with. That is grassroots democracy in action.”

Interim PC leader Ric McIver, who is also weighing a leadership run, said he voted against the delegate breakdown. He would rather see all 15 delegates come from members at large.

“One of the things that we’ve promised ever since the last election is that we were going to be a party that was open and available to all Albertans,” said McIver.

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