Preston Manning is now apologizing for the role he played in last week’s defection of Danielle Smith and eight other Wildrose MLAs to Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservatives.

In a Facebook post, the former leader of the federal Reform Party said he was asked by the caucus to share his experience in uniting his party with the federal PCs 15 years ago.

Reports state that Manning's talk was the turning point in the MLAs' decision to cross the floor. 

But Manning now says that he failed to mention that the unite-the-right decision back then was approved by democratic means -- discussions with the grassroots, a vote by members and ultimately the 2000 federal election. 

Manning now regrets not making that more explicit to the Wildrose caucus. 

“My failure to strongly recommend a similar process to the Wildrose caucus was a mistake on my part,” he wrote.

“It was a disservice to those who sought my counsel and to those who have placed their trust in my commitment to democracy – a mistake for which I now sincerely apologize to all concerned.”

The defections left the Wildrose with five MLAs, the same number of seats held by the provincial Liberals.

The speaker of the Alberta Legislature, Gene Zwozdesky is now deciding who should be the Official Opposition.

The PCs now hold 72 of 87 seats.

On Monday, the Wildrose caucus announced that Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Heather Forsyth will lead the party on an interim basis while the race is underway to select a new leader.

Preston Manning's statement:

As you will know, last week I was asked to meet with members of the Wildrose caucus to share my experience in “uniting the right” at the federal level.

That experience – which led to the creation of the Canadian Alliance – involved a democratic process of discussion with grassroots members, several consultative referendums, large conferences on principles and policy, a vote on acceptance or rejection by party members, and ultimately subjecting the results to electors in the 2000 federal election.

My failure to strongly recommend a similar process to the Wildrose caucus was a mistake on my part. It was a disservice to those who sought my counsel and to those who have placed their trust in my commitment to democracy – a mistake for which I now sincerely apologize to all concerned.

Preston Manning
Calgary
December 22, 2014