They may by vying for the same job, but on Thursday, Brian Jean and Jason Kenney were partners launching a new era of conservatism in Alberta.
The Wildrose and PCAA leaders signed an agreement in principle to form the United Conservative Party, in an effort to bring conservatives together under one banner and stop the NDP from winning a second term.
It follows two months of work between the two parties and Jason Kenney called it a historic day for the province.
“We have decided to put our province ahead of our parties, to look to the future rather than the past,” Kenney said. “This agreement ensures the defeat of this disastrous NDP government.”
A ratification vote will happen in July, requiring 75 per cent support from Wildrose supporters and 50 per cent from the PCs and if ratified, a leadership vote will happen October 28.
“I don’t believe the NDP deserve a free ride and we need to hold them to account,” Brian Jean said.
Both Jean and Kenney said they welcome others to join the leadership race and Kenney said he’s also open to plenty of debate regarding the new party coming together.
“I truly believe that if we vote-split our way into a second NDP term, they will change the political culture of this province, they will inflict lasting damage on its economy, in ways that are difficult – if not impossible – to reserve,” Kenney said. “This is a risk that we cannot take with the province.”
Jean said his camp has been working with the Chief Electoral Officer to make sure the agreement follows the law and emphasized it also meets his party’s legal framework, which he has previously said would be required for a merger to work.
Premier Rachel Notley was asked about the merger news while at an event in Carstairs announcing the NDP’s plan to speed up the cleanup of orphan oil and gas wells with a $235 million loan to the Orphan Well Association.
“They’re a group that are moving increasingly to more and more extreme positions, to the point where they may fall right off the map and I guess if they do, they’ll have company,” she said.
Both Jean and Kenney said their first acts would be repealing the carbon tax.
If party members decided not to ratify the deal, Kenney said the two sides would enter into a non-competition agreement ahead of the next provincial election, scheduled for 2019.
“I’m very excited to campaign for unity, to campaign for the best interest of Albertans moving forward and I trust that Albertans will make the right decision,” Jean said.