It wasn’t just a vote to determine a new leader, it was a decision on the future of the party. In the end, Progressive Conservatives voted to pursue a path toward unity with their Wildrose cousins as Jason Kenney was crowned the winner of the party’s leadership race.
Kenney handily took the party’s top job with 75 per cent of the votes from 1476 delegates who cast ballots on Saturday afternoon.
“We Albertans are going to unite to take our province back,” said Kenney.
Placing second with 22% was sitting MLA Richard Starkey, who painted a grim picture of what he described as a convoluted unity process.
“If we unite, then what? Well, then we hold our breath, hoping none of our candidates say gay people will spend eternity in a lake of fire, hoping our campus club doesn’t send out an e-mail that says feminism is cancer, hoping one of our MLAs doesn’t heckle the visiting premier or that a group of nine MLAs doesn’t compare the Ukrainian famine-genocide to the carbon tax,” said Starkey to a chorus of boos, referring to a number of missteps by the Wildrose Party. “If anything like that happens, and it seems to happen with alarming regularity, you can hand Rachel Notley and the NDP the keys to the legislature for another four years.”
“I understand that the decision taken today is not one that is a vision shared by every member of this party,” said Kenney. “For those of you that have anxieties about the prospects of unity, I want to sit down and hear you, listen to you, offer you a voice in the months to come.”
Kenney now plans to meet with the Opposition Wildrose party to work out a process to combine the two parties if members on both sides approve.
“Today we have chosen the future, today we have chosen hope, today we have chosen unity, today it is springtime in Alberta.”
Under Alberta rules, parties cannot merge, but must instead surrender their assets and form a new party.
Placing third was Byron Nelson, with only 2 per cent of the vote.
Kenney will meet with the PC executive on Sunday to discuss next steps and will talk to reporters after that discussion.
With files from The Canadian Press