Jason Kenney isn't confirming, or denying, a possible PC leadership run
Tom Flanagan says the possibility of a run was discussed during dinner party
Jason Kenney said he has yet to make a decision on whether he's leaving federal politics and is remaining mum, for now, on whether he'd enter the unite-the-right fray in Alberta if he does.
"When I make a decision and have something to announce I'll announce it," said Kenney in Calgary on Tuesday.
"I've been encouraged by a lot of members of our federal Conservative Party to pursue the national leadership, but also a lot of folks back here at home in Alberta to help bring together free enterprise Albertans so we can get this province back on track. I've said I'll make a decision on this in the near future."
Earlier in the evening, University of Calgary political scientist Tom Flanagan said Kenney discussed a potential run at the provincial Progressive Conservative leadership with the goal of uniting the political right in Alberta.
"As we were seated together at a dinner party and got into this, we talked about how it might be possible for him to leave politics in Ottawa and come back to Alberta and run... on a unity platform," said Tom Flanagan, a U of C political scientist who also served as an advisor to former prime minister Stephen Harper.
"It would have to be a very quick process, if he could win the PC leadership then negotiate a merger [with Wildrose].
"The timeline is short."
'Conservative Party of Canada is the example'
Kenney told CBC News he thinks a coming together of the PCs and Wildrose in order to defeat the NDP in the next election is critical.
"The Conservative Party of Canada is the example, it's the model, it's the success story of bringing together free-enterprise Canadians from different backgrounds," said Kenney.
Flanagan said merging the two parties will be no small feat.
"It would be a campaign like no other," he said.
"I can't remember a successful attempt to run on a platform of, not exactly terminating the party, but merging it into something else."
Memberships are key
The key to success for Kenney, should he decide to run, will be selling lots of memberships, said Flanagan.
"It may also involve bringing back people who used to be members," he said.
"First he has to win the leadership... that will take a very ambitious, vigorous program of sales to new members, he has to swamp any existing opposition, then he has to move directly to an offer of negotiation of a merger with Wildrose."
Should the two parties merge there would likely be a leadership race, said Flanagan, as well as a new name.
"When I talked to him about it he wasn't decided yet," said Flanagan.
On Wednesday, PC Alberta President Katherine O'Neill said the race represents a "unique and important opportunity" to shape the future of the party.
Asked to comment on rumours that Kenney intends to unite the Progressive Conservatives with the Wildrose, she replied: "The days of top-down decision-making are over. As we are demonstrating, we are guided by the will of our members. It will be up to them to determine which leader they want and what path forward they envisage for our party."
A southeast Calgary MP since 1997, Kenney held a number of senior cabinet posts under Harper, including National Defence, Citizenship and Immigration and minister responsible for multiculturalism.
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With files from CBC News Calgary at 6 and Mike Symington