Brian Jean has his dancing shoes on, waiting for a partner

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean is stepping up his efforts to unite all Alberta conservatives into a single right-of-centre party that could defeat the NDP in the 2019 provincial election.

Wildrose leader wants all Alberta conservatives to unite under one party

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean has faced great success and tragedy in 2015. Jean won the Wildrose leadership in March, a week after his 24-year-old son Michael died after a nine-month illness that wasn't diagnosed as lymphoma until the last minute.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean is stepping up his efforts to unite all Alberta conservatives into a single right-of-centre party that could defeat the NDP in the 2019 provincial election.

In a year-end interview with CBC News, Jean said Wildrose constituency associations are speaking with Progressive Conservative associations about whether they want to join forces.

The Wildrose membership is looking at three options for uniting small 'c' conservatives under a new party banner. 

Jean said the process is being driven by what the grassroots want.

"I have heard from 80 per cent of the membership to look at the other options available to us so we don't have another NDP government," he said.

"Our message didn't go out to the PC executive. Our message went out to all small 'c,' fiscally conservative Albertans that want to move forward in one party. And we've provided those three options as the membership has advised me to."

Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith cited her desire to unite conservatives as  justification for crossing to the Progressive Conservatives along with most of her caucus last year. The move left the Wildrose with five MLAs.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean waded into the crowd to speak to people at a protest against Bill 6 at the Alberta legislature earlier this month. (Michelle Bellefontaine/CBC )

Smith was criticized for not consulting with party members before making her move. Jean says the current unification initiative is being driven by the grassroots.

Jean said he has no deadline for when a united conservative party might come together.  That has to come from party members, he said.

However, Jean's overtures have received a frosty reception from some current and former PC MLAs, who suggest their more socially progressive views may not mesh with those held by Wildrose members.

Jean said he doesn't believe there will be a conflict because a united party will have a fiscal,  not social, conservative focus.

"I've been very clear from the start, that's what our party is about," he said. " We are not about social issues nor do we want to tackle social issues."

In the year-end interview, Jean addressed accusations from other party MLAs that the Wildrose deliberately inflamed the Bill 6 farm safety issue for its own political benefit.

Brian Jean led the Wildrose to its best showing ever in the May provincial election. (Brian Burnett/CBC)

Opposition to the NDP bill prompted several thousand farmers and ranchers to protest on the steps of the Alberta legislature and brought hundreds out to heated town hall meetings across the province.

While the protests were peaceful, opposition to the bill led some people to post death threats against Premier Rachel Notley on social media.

When the bill passed third and final reading Dec. 10, interim Liberal Leader David Swann accused the Wildrose caucus of deliberately whipping farmers and ranchers into a frenzy.

Many farmers were outraged over the bill, which introduces new farm and ranch safety rules and mandatory Workers' Compensation Board coverage. Following a backlash, the government exempted family and neighbours from WCB coverage, claiming that was the intention all along.

Jean called Swann's allegations "ridiculous," arguing MLAs were merely representing constituents already upset by the government's plans.

"Is it a surprise to Dr. Swann that we would actually work and passionately argue in the legislative assembly their (farmers and ranchers) issues as they want us to? We work for those people and that is what our job is," he said.

"Our job is not to incite people or get them upset and we certainly didn't do that."

Some of the violent threats toward Notley were posted on Jean's Facebook page. Jean issued a statement earlier this month that such comments would be removed and reported to police.


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