Premier Dave Hancock Wednesday scoffed at media reports that an emissary for potential Conservative leadership contender Jim Prentice proposed discussions about a merger deal to a Wildrose insider.
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“I think it is absolutely amusing that political scientists and the leader of the opposition want to make up stories around things because they don't see their own place in the game,” Hancock told reporters. “Obviously, [Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith] is feeling left out of the process.”
The media reports of the proposed merger offer follow other reports of Prentice supporters urging Tory leadership contender Ric McIver and fencesitter Thomas Lukaszuk to allow Prentice to assume the leadership without a contest.
At a press conference Wednesday, Smith said a prominent member of Prentice’s staff when he was a federal minister asked one of her strategists to reach out to her about a potential merger of the two parties.
“The question that was asked was whether we would be open to having a discussion about a merger before the next election,” Smith told reporters. “And I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ And I said make sure that the person who called you knows, and it gets back to Mr. Prentice, that we are not interested in having a merger.”
Smith declined to provide the name of the Prentice emissary because she said she didn’t want to simply give his camp another chance to issue a denial. She also said she never bothered to listen to what sort of rationale the Prentice messenger might have offered which could possibly convince the Wildrose to merge with the Conservatives.
Alison Redford resigned as premier on March 19 after a poll showed voter support for the Tories had dropped to just 23 per cent compared to 46 per cent for the Wildrose.
Election rules should be followed
Smith called on Prentice to officially enter the leadership race when nominations open on Thursday, rather than continue his unofficial campaign outside the spending, and other rules, of the Tory party and Elections Alberta.
“I think we have seen for the past few weeks that there are many, many people working on the Jim Prentice campaign, yet our election laws say that you cannot raise money, you cannot have paid staff, and you cannot spend money until you are registered with Elections Alberta and the party,” Smith said.
On April 28, reporters were told by a Prentice spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, that the former federal environment minister from Calgary would be entering the provincial leadership race. But so far, Prentice has been coy about his intentions, saying publicly to the media that they should “stay tuned.”
Smith said she hopes Prentice officially enters the race and “demonstrates that he will be in full compliance with the [elections] laws because the PC party has had a habit of practices that have demonstrated that they don’t think they have to follow the rules.”
In 2011, a CBC News investigation revealed many municipalities, post-secondary institutions and other organizations had for years been making illegal political donations to the Conservative party.
A subsequent investigation by Elections Alberta uncovered dozens of breaches of the law. The Tory party insisted it had no idea it was accepting illegal donations even though there was evidence that the party had actively solicited donations from organizations it knew, or ought to have known, were barred from making donations.