Wildrose, PC members urged to support merger while some plot its undoing

Former Wildrose Party president David Yager urged members to support the tentative agreement to unite Alberta’s two conservative parties while Lacombe Ponoka PC member Eileen Banks says she'll buy a Wildrose membership to help sink the deal.

'Hold your nose, buy a Wildrose membership and sink this,' advises one dissenter

While many welcomed news of Thursday's proposed agreement between Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and PC Leader Jason Kenney, there are still many hurdles to success. (CBC)

Former Wildrose Party president David Yager is urging fellow members to support the tentative agreement to unite Alberta's two conservative parties.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney announced the proposed deal Thursday to unite as the United Conservative Party.

"I hope that they look and say, 'Well, what is more important, my little club, the Wildrose Party versus the PC party? Or putting out a sensible broad-based alternative to the current government?' And I'm really hoping they choose the latter," said Yager, who described the development as "an outstanding outcome."

Yager played a key role in securing the party's place as official opposition in the May 2015 election despite a massive defection just five months earlier, which he described Friday as "an abject failure."

But this time both sides have fallen on their swords, he said.
Former Wildrose Party president Dave Yager urged Alberta's conservatives to support the new deal for the greater good of the province. (Yager.ca)

"I think the general feeling was we should lay down our swords for the greater good," said Yager. 

"That is what I think is really unique about what has occurred here this week, is two political parties of varying degrees of strength and history decided that what we do collectively is more important than what went before."

It's far from a done deal. Ratification requires a 'yes' vote from 75 per cent of Wildrose members and 50 per cent of Conservative members.

An executive member of the Lacombe Ponoka PC constituency association, Eileen Banks won't be one of them.

"It was a hostile takeover," said Banks. "There was no respect shown for the long-term members and supporters of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta — zero respect."

And while the proposed agreement lays out principles such as compassion for the less fortunate, that doesn't do enough to alleviate concerns held by Banks, who says Kenney hasn't clearly outlined his position on abortion or gay-straight alliances.

'We need to fight for every single person'

"We need to fight for every single person or group that will be marginalized and disadvantaged by a far-right government, and this will be a far-right government," said Banks.

"I don't care how many tax breaks you give me or how many carbon taxes you take off ... It's not worth it to me as a human being to get those things and have somebody else pay a price on another level."

Banks said she and others plan to purchase a Wildrose membership, and vote 'no' twice. She urged others do the same. "Hold your nose, buy a Wildrose membership and sink this."

Banks said if the merger fails she expects Kenney to resign, which will allow Progressive Conservatives to rebuild their party.

In the meantime, she plans to vote NDP in the next election because of their "proven track record" in meeting her standards, adding they have done an "outstanding job under difficult circumstances."

Yager said the branding of the Wildrose "as a bunch of small-town, right-wing, knuckle-dragging wackos" continues to distress him. "I think it's free-enterprise with a social conscience."

The vote takes place July 22.