Doug Schweitzer will run for United Conservative Party leadership

Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer announced Thursday he will run for the leadership of the United Conservative Party should members of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives vote in favour of a merger next month.

Calgary lawyer says he will seek party's top job if Wildrose and PC members vote in favour of merging

Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer says he will run for leader of the United Conservative Party should members of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives vote in favour of joining forces. (Doug Schweitzer campaign)

Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer announced Thursday he will run for the leadership of the United Conservative Party should members of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives vote in favour of a merger next month.

"As a restructuring lawyer, I see firsthand how Alberta companies are struggling. As a father, I can't stop thinking about what kind of province we will hand to our children," he wrote in a Facebook post announcing his leadership intentions.

"While low commodity prices deserve much of the blame, NDP policies are taking a bad situation and making it worse. We are no longer competitive and far too many Albertans are out of work."

Schweitzer says the province needs "new leadership." 

"It's not going to come from the NDP and I worry that our soon to be formed centre-right party will opt for career politicians who are hyper-partisan and focused on the wrong issues," he said.

Jobs and economy

Schweitzer, 38, was involved with Jim Prentice's successful PC Party leadership bid in 2014.

He considered his own run for leadership of the party last year but opted out, saying in a letter to supporters he was "concerned about the party's commitment to a fair leadership process. In particular, the rules that have been established have raised some serious concerns that go to the legitimacy of the process."

Jobs and the economy will be a focus, Schweitzer said in his announcement.

"When I was a kid, my parents' business went bankrupt during the era of the National Energy Program, 20 per cent interest rates and the collapse of investor confidence," he wrote.

"That is why I am committed to doing everything possible to restore investor confidence and get Albertans working again."

Still need a merger vote

Wildrose leader Brian Jean and Progressive Conservative leader Jason Kenney are both widely expected to seek the leadership of a new party should one be formed, however neither have made a formal announcement.

Jean said he spoke to Schweitzer on Thursday.

"I wished him well but let's not lose track of the most important thing here. We have a hurdle, and that hurdle is the largest barricade between us and getting unity — that is the 75 per cent Wildrose vote," he said. 

Wildrose and PC members will vote July 22 on a proposal to create the UCP. Wildrose members must vote 75 per cent in favour for the motion to be accepted, while PCs must vote 50 per cent plus one in favour.

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt says he is focused on getting members to vote yes on the unity deal.

"As long as all the candidates who are campaigning before the referendum on July 22 are not attacking one another, and keeping it above belt, it's fine with me."

As for his own leadership aspirations, he said he's talking to potential organizers and his family, but he has not made up his mind.

"I will make a decision based on who I believe is the best candidate for premier," he said. "If that is somebody else, I will support somebody else. If I believe that's me, I will run."

With files from Michelle Bellefontaine