The Wildrose and PC parties of Alberta could soon be no more after the parties’ leaders agreed to merge into the United Conservative Party or UCP.
The timing of the move surprised many and some experts say there is a lot of work to do before the new party can gain any real traction.
Communications Consultant Gerry Nichols says on paper this could be a formidable political force.
“But I guess we’ll see how it works in reality,” he said. “Can these two sort of different cultures, can they mesh, can they put their differences aside, what kind of a leadership fight is it going to be?”
The agreement has to be approved by 75 per cent of Wildrose members and 50 per cent of PC members.
Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams says that’s where the real work begins.
“This isn’t a forgone conclusion, it could be problematic but for those who want a party that is fiscally conservative, this is likely going to be the party that is going to be their choice,” she explained.
The name UCP is already being mocked online. Williams says they should have seen that coming and may want to reconsider.
But both agree that if the new party can pull it off, the NDP should be worried.
“If you look at the last election, you look at in many ridings the combined vote of the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose voters exceed the votes for the NDP,” said Williams.
However, she says there is a real risk the new party could lose voters from the centre and even on the right as social conservatives may not want to go along with this compromise.
“The leadership question is a huge one still,” explained Williams. “You’ve got people that, according to polls, support Brian Jean more than Jason Kenney at this stage of the game but are really looking for another leader in place of either one of them to lead them into the next election.”
Nichols believes the NDP will likely try and convince PC voters their party has abandoned them.
“This is no longer the moderate, red-Toryish sensible party that you once supported, now it’s under the control of rabid right-wingers like Jason Kenney so come to our party,” he said.
A new leader for the UCP will be picked by Oct. 28.