Wednesday, 24 May 2017 13:49

Unite the right will succeed, SACPA told

Written by  Dave Mabell
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Mount Royal University political science professor Duane Bratt speaks during the weekly meeting of the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs. Mount Royal University political science professor Duane Bratt speaks during the weekly meeting of the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs. Southern Alberta Newspapers photo by Ian Martens

Jason Kenney will likely succeed in his efforts to unite Alberta’s rival Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties, but that’s no guarantee they’ll be able to oust the governing New Democrats in 2019, a Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs audience heard May 4.

“Two years is a long time,” pointed out Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Mount Royal University. Improved economic conditions — and more urban ridings as a result of voter redistribution — could see Alberta’s first NDP government win another term.
A construction start on long-delayed pipeline projects, lower levels of unemployment and smaller budgetary deficits could also help their chances, he said.
Western Canada’s conservative parties have a history of splitting and then reuniting, he said.
During the Alberta PCs’ four decades in power, backers switched to the Alliance, the Western Canada Concept and later the Wildrose ranks. B.C.’s governing “Liberals” are actually a split from the former Social Credit government, he added.
The national Conservatives’ split also began in Western Canada, he noted. Right-wing members of a governing party will split over ideological issues, Bratt said, but then “they’ll reunite when they’re out of power.”
As Premier E.C. Manning saw his power fading while Peter Lougheed’s small PC party was gaining attention, Bratt related, young representatives of each party were asked to quietly discuss a merger. But they were unsuccessful, he added, so Preston Manning and Joe Clark were ordered to destroy the agreement they were proposing.
In more recent times, Bratt said, a floor-crossing merger pact between Danielle Smith and Premier Jim Prentice ultimately met a similar fate.
Now former Calgary MP Kenney and Wildrose leader Brian Jean are involved in a different situation, he said. Kenney has taken over the historic PC party, promising to scrap it in favour of merging with Wildrose.
“I am surprised at how easily the progressive wing of the PCs just disappeared,” Bratt admitted.
Using the skills he learned as a cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s federal government, Kenney has managed to attract some of Jean’s supporters along with many from the now weakened PC constituencies.
A life-long politician, Kenney launched his campaign months ahead of the party’s approved start date, he brought in busloads of high school students to a rally (the party allows
16-year-olds to join) and he invited Harper to make a guest appearance.
That hasn’t pleased longtime Alberta Conservatives, however.
“There’s a lot of hatred between some PC and Wildrose supporters,” he reported.
Do they both hate the New Democrats even more?
“Family disputes are much more contentious,” Bratt contended.
To succeed, he said, Kenney must now win a merger referendum involving both parties, get the legal work done, win the combined-party leadership — and gear up for an election campaign that’s due to start in less than two years.
For the federal Conservatives and Alliance members, Bratt said that merger process took more than 10 years.
Kenney will also have to endure infighting, constituency candidate battles and maybe more “lake of fire” eruptions, before completing his “unite the right” mission.
“It will happen, but it ain’t going to be easy,” Bratt said. “And there will be problems down the road.”

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