Andrew Scheer got his first taste of the Calgary Stampede as leader of the federal Conservatives on Saturday when he made the keynote address at the annual Conservative barbecue at Heritage Park.
The party's new leader got a standing ovation when he took the stage, as hundreds of party faithful gathered at the event in Stephen Harper's old riding.
Scheer is travelling across the country with hopes of winning back Albertans who feel let down by the Liberals and to shore up the party's base.
"Everything from imposing the carbon tax on provinces that don't want it, to talking about phasing out the oilsands, it's a negative message to Calgarians and people all across Alberta," he said.
Provincial merger vote
Scheer spoke on the final day to buy provincial Wildrose party memberships necessary for eligibility to vote on a merger, a move he said he supports.
That was good news to Wildrose leader Brian Jean, who was on hand to listen to the speech.
"Well, I hope Mr. Scheer does what I do, and that is encourage democracy and encourages people to participate in democracy," Jean said before the event.
As for Scheer's thoughts on his MPs' endorsement of a candidate to lead a merged provincial party?
"My only advice to them was whatever they do, work hard in a constructive way that builds both movements federally and provincially," he said.
'It's been a little tense'
PC leader Jason Kenney also attended and said membership sales are going strong leading up to the merger vote. The deadline to buy a membership and cast a ballot on the merger in that party is July 12.
He says the federal Conservatives have been strong supporters of the unification movement.
"It's been a little bit tense, a little bit sensitive to manage our federal coalition with folks with different provincial affiliations," Kenney said.
Wildrose and PC members will vote on whether to merge on July 22. If that goes ahead, a leader of the new party will be elected on October 28.
The next big political gathering during the Stampede takes place Monday morning, with Premier Rachel Notley hosting the annual premier's pancake breakfast at the McDougall Centre.