The final push is on to sell Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta (PCAA) memberships before midnight Wednesday, the deadline for people to join if they want to vote on merging with the Wildrose Party.
A PC membership will guarantee the cardholder an opportunity to cast an electronic ballot over three days ending on Saturday July 22. Wildrose members will vote on the proposal to join with PCs to create the United Conservative Party that Saturday.
- Alberta's Wildrose, PCs agree to create new United Conservative Party
- READ: Agreement in principle between the Wildrose and PC parties
PCAA president Len Thom said the party has seen a surge of about 42,000 new members. Processing all the new applications is a challenge, but Thom said the party is getting it done.
"That process normally takes about a day, but when you get them thousands at a time, it can take a little bit longer," he said. "We're just chewing through a backlog from the weekend right now."
Thom says some new members are from the Wildrose party, while others are lapsed PC members who are returning to the fold. He admits some people left the PC party for good after Jason Kenney was chosen the new leader.
People leave for a 'variety of reasons'
"With this change in leadership you get people who leave the party for a variety of reasons," said Thom.
"We've had about 10 people leave our board and about 40 people remained," he added.
Kenney has been campaigning for unity, before and since he became PC leader March 18. According to his staff, Kenney is spending the final days selling memberships in Medicine Hat and attending events at the Calgary Stampede.
PCAA executive director Janice Harrington said a week ago the hot summer weather seemed to be preoccupying would-be members. But with the deadline so close, things have changed.
"They're paying attention now," said Harrington.
"This is a historic moment for the PC party, and so they're anxious to participate in that vote."
To pass the unity agreement, the PCs need only a simple majority of 50 per cent plus one.
The tougher test rests with Wildrose where the threshold for approval is much higher at 75 per cent..
Wildrose membership growing
Wildrose Party president Jeff Callaway said his party has also seen a "significant" increase in new members.
For people wishing to participate in the merger vote, the cutoff to buy a Wildrose membership was 11:59 p.m. Saturday. Callaway estimates membership sales of over 40,000 which he says is about double the number the party typically has.
"I think that's a great reflection of people's interest in getting involved in the political process of Alberta," he said.
The Wildrose and PC parties reached a tentative agreement May 18.
The nine-page document contains a number of founding principles, including support for free enterprise, grassroots democracy and "compassion for the less fortunate expressed through progressive social policies that help people become self-reliant, and ensure equality of opportunity."
If ratified, a new leader will be chosen Oct. 28. The new party would have its founding convention in early 2018.