MP Jason Kenney says his ex-boss Stephen Harper has “the ultimate credibility” when it comes to merging parties and a nod from the former prime minister would help his own efforts to unite-the-right in Alberta. “I think that Albertans would listen if he were to express himself on this, but that will be up to him to do,” Kenney told The Canadian Press in an interview. “I would more than welcome that.”
Over the past few days Kenney has been promoting his plan to morph Alberta’s once mighty Progressive Conservative party with the Wildrose into what he calls a new free-enterprise party.
He pointed to Harper’s own work negotiating the merger of the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservatives into the Conservative Party in 2003.
“He has the ultimate credibility on this issue given the successful merger that he negotiated with Peter MacKay,” said Kenney.
“I do know from private conversations going back quite some time that Stephen very strongly supports the objective of unity.”
On Thursday, Kenney released a five-point plan that lays out a road map on how conservative-minded voters could come together in time to defeat NDP Leader Rachel Notley in the 2019 provincial election.
The strategy calls for the PCs to hold a leadership vote in March. If Kenney wins he would negotiate a “framework agreement” with the Wildrose on a new united party.
If grassroots members of both parties approve, a new party would be founded in the summer, followed by a leadership race that would wrap up in early 2018.
Kenney’s plan primes the pump with gloomy messaging that the “Alberta Advantage,” a Tory slogan during the halcyon days when Alberta’s budgets were balanced and surpluses were socked away, is under attack from NDP policies.
The plan warns that as long as the two conservative parties compete against each other neither will be able to win a majority government.
Kenney has been trying to avoid commenting on what policies a united right party would advocate, saying these should be left up to the grassroots to develop, but he made it clear the NDP’s carbon tax would be cancelled if the new party were to win the 2019 provincial election.
“We would scrap it and on this I am confident taking the position because it is the position of both the Wildrose and PC caucuses,” he said.
Kenney suggested the new party would also take a hard look at other NDP decisions, such as cancelling the flat income tax system and raising the corporate tax rate.
“We would certainly revisit it in developing a platform for 2019, but I am not prepared to make any specific commitments on tax policy for three years from now today,” he said.
“We would want to reduce the overall tax burden and make it clear that Alberta is open for business, re-establish the Alberta Advantage.”
Kenney said he’ll resign his federal seat on Oct. 1 – the day the Alberta Tory leadership race officially begins.