During an hour-long open meet and greet with Red Deerians at the Holiday Inn on Gasoline Alley this past weekend, Conservative MP Jason Kenney outlined his plan to unite Alberta’s two free-market conservative parties in time for the next provincial election and to take questions from Red Deerians on his upcoming run for leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party.
“Somebody has got to step up and try to bring back the traditional free-enterprise coalition that existed under Peter Lougheed’s leadership, under Ralph Klein’s leadership. That exists federally in the Conservative Party of Canada,” the former Minister of Defence for the Conservative Party of Canada told a group of people at a small round table discussion.
Kenney, who announced his bid for the leadership in July, said the goal of uniting Alberta’s two conservative parties would be to defeat the current NDP government in the next provincial election.
“Higher taxes, higher regulations, higher labour costs, higher power prices. A fiscal situation that implies higher taxes in the mid to long term. You throw all of this together on top of the lower than usual oil prices,” said Kenney.
He added that a few years ago, oil at $45 a barrel would be considered a historic high.
“We had a stronger economy, stronger labour market, stronger fiscal position in Alberta at $20 oil than we do today at $45 oil. So don’t tell me it’s all about oil prices. I mean, it’s not helpful, but it’s everything else they’re doing.”
Kenney added in his view, the Wildrose party and the PC party are not actually very different policy-wise.
“If you actually look at this, in the legislature those two parties are voting together 87 per cent of the time,” he said.
“I just look at this and say are we prepared to risk the possibility of a second NDP term, the consequences of which would be catastrophic and irreversible, to squabble over 13 per cent of differences in the legislature.”
Kenney outlined his plan to facilitate a merger between the two parties in a five-point plan, which, he said, begins with electing a PC leader with a mandate to attempt to ‘achieve unity’.
“I’m not doing this for glory or power. I’m only doing this because no one else was stepping up to do what I think is necessary,” he said.
He also said he would not let any merger go through without a referendum being held for members of both parties.
“This is the most important point, in part because of the cynicism of the floor-crossings that happened 18 months ago, which ticked off pretty much everybody,” Kenney said.
“They’re the shareholders and they should decide.”
During his talk, Kenney likened a potential merger between the two right wing parties with a similar one which occurred between the Canadian Alliance and the then Progressive Conservative Party of Canada federally in 2003.
“To do that across 10 provinces, three territories, two 0fficial languages, a whole lot more people, differences, resentments and baggage. We managed to overcome all of that and we have not had one single fight in the Conservative party of Canada in a caucus cabinet or convention since we pull together along legacy party lines,” he said.
“We buried the hatchet. We decided to look through the windshield instead of the rear view mirror.”
When asked by one of the attendees if he would reverse any of the NDP’s policies, Kenney noted that although he does hold some strong views on many of them, he doesn’t want to get into too many policy specifics.
“I’m trying to avoid getting into too many policy specifics at this stage because I want this to be a grassroots party. There has been too much top-down nonsense,” he said.
Kenney did address his stance on some of the larger issues that have come up over the past 15 months.
“There are some big issues that I’ve got to be clear about my own stance. One of them is repeal Bill 6. Period. Repeal the carbon tax. Period,” he said.
The stop in Red Deer was one of a number of stops that Kenney has been making across Alberta over the past month. The long-time Calgary-Midnapore MP will resign from the House on Friday in order to pursue the PC leadership.