Brian Jean touts 'unite the right' message in Calgary
With party support high in rural ridings, Wildrose Party leader hopes to attract Calgary voters
Opposition Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean continued his attempt to unite the provincial right at a Calgary fundraiser that attracted more than 600 Wednesday evening.
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Jean began by acknowledging the rocky past of his party and the Progressive Conservatives.
"Wildrose was a grassroots reaction to the perceived lack of principles and a deviation from core fiscal conservative values on the part of the PCs," Jean told the crowd.
Jean said the division though, is what led to the NDP forming a majority government in the May election.
It's time to put old grievances aside for the greater good, he said.
"I think we've spent far too much time fighting old battles and settling old scores — and not nearly enough time talking about the many things we agree on," Jean said.
Wildrose MLA and finance critic Derek Fildebrandt says the connection between the Wildrose and the PCs may not extend to all levels of each party, but it's time to talk.
"Rick (McIver) is a good guy, I would count him as a friend. He is a straight shooter even if sometimes he misses the mark," Fildebrandt said of the interim PC party leader.
"We are open to the conversation, but that conversation is going to be led by our members."
Former PC cabinet minister Gordon Dirks says he thinks the Progressive Conservatives should be open to discussing common ground.
"The conservatives in this province need to come together to present one strong, viable, healthy conservative option," Dirks said.
"What that would look like, how you would get there, those are different questions."
The idea of merging the two parties, however, is a strange one given the hostility between them historically, notes one political observer.
"It looks as though he doesn't think they have any place in the next election and that anybody who resists it is bitter," Lori Williams, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, said of the Wildrose leader.
"He talks about the PCs having betrayed the principles that he believes in … he then says that he and his party are reaching out, it's just bizarre, it's like the hand he is reaching with is slapping the people he wants to join him."
Jean, meanwhile, hopes to build bridges.
"I will encourage our MLAs to actively engage with the PC associations and talk about the principles and policies which might unite us," Jean said.
"We will reach out because it is good for Alberta."
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