Alberta unite the right group votes for new party
'Overwhelming resolution here when there was a show of hands … was for a new entity'
A well-attended unite the right meeting in Red Deer Saturday resulted in members overwhelmingly voting for a third party, rejecting the notion of uniting under either of the existing right wing parties in the province.
Former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Rick Orman said the vote was concise.
About 400 participants from around the province were given four options. Stick with the status quo, unite under the Wildrose party, unite under the PCs or form a new entity.
"The vote was clear," Orman said.
"The overwhelming resolution here when there was a show of hands … was for a new entity so that is what we will continue working towards."
He said that new party would be focused on finding middle ground ahead of the 2019 provincial election.
"What we have to identify is the sweet spot between the concern about the reactionary right wing of the Wildrose and the radical right wing, if you will, of the PC party," Orman said.
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"There is a belief, and it was in this room and in the sessions, that there is a sweet spot in between there."
A straw vote by show of hands of the four options, showed a clear majority rejected simply bringing conservatives together under either existing party option.
But not everyone left the meeting with the understanding that a third party was the way to go.
Travis Olson said while the goal of defeating the NDP was something everyone had in common, creating a new party would not be the best path.
"Nobody here is advocating for a third party, that would be about the worst thing imaginable," Olson said.
"It is coming together, finding the things that we have in common between the two parties and getting them back together."
For Pam Hilstad of Canmore, it's about putting aside party loyalty for the good of the province.
"My hope is that the two parties could work together, that would be wonderful but if that is not a possibility, I think we need to move forward on forming another party that would be representative of the majority of conservatives in Alberta."
Hilstad is currently a member of both the PCs and the Wildrose.
Travis Toews said he feels the group assembled in Red Deer is representative of many more Albertans.
"What we are really seeing here is just a sample, just a small sample of just an overwhelming number of Albertans out there who really are concerned with the current state of governance in Alberta," Toews said.
"And we are really looking forward to move in a healthier direction."
Meanwhile, Olson says merging or uniting the fractured right wing in Alberta won't be easy, but there is a common motivation.
"There was a divorce of the two parties, of one party for a reason. It is going to be very difficult and it is going to be very painstaking to heal the wounds that happened but I think that Rachel Notley is the best unifier that you could ever imagine and NDP policy destroying the province will bring people together like nothing you could imagine."
Orman said the message was unambiguous.
"They want us to continue to organize for another event that leads to a discussion about forming a new party."
He said there is a lot of work to do before 2019, from setting up constituency organizations, creating a constitution and then a leadership campaign.
"All those things have about a year of energy that will be consumed around them so that takes us right up to the election," Orman said.
"I believe firmly … that we will continue to organize and get ourselves to another event like this, hopefully bigger but I think we need to elect the next group of people who will continue the organization."
Wildrose and PC party leaders were not present at the meeting.
With files from Kate Adach