Two prominent MLAs who formed part of the negotiating team merging the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties into the United Conservative Party have endorsed UCP leadership candidate Jason Kenney.
At a news conference in Calgary Wednesday, Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon both said Kenney is the best person for the job, and the candidate most committed to the UCP.
Kenney praised for unity efforts
McIver said it was Kenney who put unifying Alberta's two conservative parties on the minds of Albertans, risking his political career in the process.
Other candidates "paid lip service to unity" or "couldn't get their dancing shoes on the right foot, or took a passive-aggressive stance towards unity," McIver said.
McIver's remarks were aimed primarily at former Wildrose leader Brian Jean, who is also seeking the UCP leadership. In the past, Jean has spoken about having his "dancing shoes" on to partner with other right-of-centre political parties.
Nixon, who in 2015 endorsed Jean's bid for the Wildrose leadership, said he saw a clear difference between Kenney and Jean this spring, during negotiations to merge the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties.
"One leader was more concerned with trying to make the process easier for his leadership race, and that leader was Brian Jean," said Nixon, who was involved with the negotiations.
"And that shows a tremendous difference between Jason and Brian and their dedication to our party."
Jean has been endorsed in his UCP leadership bid by several former Wildrose caucus members.
On Wednesday, Jean announced he has been endorsed by three central Alberta mayors — Myron Thompson of Sundre, Rick Pankiw of Rimbey, and Fred Nash of Rocky Mountain House.
Thompson, a former MP, said in a news release from Jean's campaign that Jean will be the next Alberta premier "and I can hardly wait. It's time to get some good things done here."
Leadership candidate Doug Schweitzer received an endorsement Wednesday from Wayne Drysdale, UCP MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti who until the party merger was part of the PC caucus.
Drysdale said in a news release Schweitzer shares his values as a "social moderate."
There are four candidates in the race to become the first leader of the UCP — Kenney, Jean, Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer and former Wildrose party president Jeff Callaway.
Party members will vote for the leader for three days at the end of October. The winner will be announced Oct. 28 in Calgary.