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Alberta public forum strives to unite the right in bid against NDP

Veterans from the glory days of Alberta's Progressive Conservative party are organizing a public forum on how best to unite the right.

The public forum will look at how a new small-c conservative party could be formed

Rick Orman, one of the forum organizers says unity among conservative-leaning voters is necessary to avoid another NDP victory. (CBC)

Veterans from the glory days of Alberta's Progressive Conservative party are organizing a public forum on how best to unite the right to defeat the New Democrats in the next provincial election.

Rick Orman, one of the organizers, said many Albertans fear that vote splitting between the PCs and the Wildrose party in 2019 could result in another NDP victory. 

The forum is meant to give people a chance to speak their mind, as well as to discuss the possibility of forming a new small-c conservative party that would bring PC and Wildrose supporters who share the same values together, he said.

"Do we believe that either one of these two parties is capable of forming the next government?" said Orman, a former cabinet minister and one-time Tory leadership candidate.

"If the answer is 'yes,' I think people will go away and support their respective parties. If the answer is 'no,' then we have to start planning for an event that could possibly lead to a new party."

Orman said members of the legislature from both parties have been invited to the April 30 meeting at Red Deer College.

The forum is a joint effort by groups that formed after the Conservative election defeat last May such as Future of Alberta, Alberta Can't Wait and the February 19 committee.

Organizers and supporters include people who helped the PCs win successive majority governments over a period spanning two decades. They include former PC party president Eric Young, former cabinet ministers Arno Doerksen and Greg Melchin, campaign strategist Hal Danchilla and Thompson MacDonald, former premier Ralph Klein's one-time media strategist.

The Wildrose and the Tories said they are aware of the forum but do not plan to officially take part.

Troy Wason, executive director of the PCs, said the meeting would be nothing but a distraction as the party works to rebuild after its stunning election defeat last May.

Wason said Conservatives share the concern about vote splitting, but have been busy reconnecting with voters.

There doesn't appear to be any appetite for a merger with the Wildrose or for forming a new party, he said.
"We have been asking this for seven months. Is it renewal? Is it rebrand or is it merge? Overwhelmingly from our members it has been to renew."

Jason Nixon, the Wildrose whip in the legislature, said caucus members are free to attend and party officials may go — but only to listen.

Wildrose supporters are wary of political elites getting back into power, Nixon said. And having another right-of-centre party would make vote splitting in the next election even worse, he suggested.

"The biggest concern is that we don't end up with three options, which would end up compounding the problem that these very groups are trying to solve."

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