Wildrose and PC members approve unite-the-right deal with 95% voting Yes

Alberta Wildrose and Progressive Conservative Party members have voted 95 per cent in favour of ratifying the agreement to join forces and form the new United Conservative Party.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean to resign post, run for leadership of new conservative party

Wildrose supporters celebrate after officials announced 95 per cent of members voted in favour of uniting with Progressive Conservatives to form the new United Conservative Party. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Alberta Wildrose and Progressive Conservative Party members have voted 95 per cent in favour of ratifying the agreement to join forces and form the new United Conservative Party.

Of the 24,598 Wildrose members who cast a ballot, 23,466 voted Yes and 1,132 said No. The party said 57.7 per cent of eligible voters weighed in. 

On the PC side, 27,060 members voted with 25,692 saying Yes and 1,344 saying No. There were 24 spoiled ballots. 

Jason Kenney, who ran on uniting the two parties in his successful bid to lead the PCs, called it a great day for Alberta. 

"Tens of thousands of PC and Wildrose members today have decided to put our province ahead of any political party," Kenney said.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean used his speech after the results were revealed to announce he was resigning as soon as papers were filed for the new party and running for leadership of the new party. 

"I will be there running to lead our new movement, with already-great qualified candidates, who will put their names forward and I plan on being Alberta's next premier," Jean told the crowded ballroom at the Radisson Hotel in Red Deer, Alta.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean celebrates the yes vote during the unity vote at the Wildrose special general meeting in Red Deer. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press )

The crowd erupted in cheers and started chanting his first name. 

Kenney declined to say when he planned to announce his leadership bid.

"Tonight is a night to celebrate this historic step in democracy," he said. "I hope that we have a number of talented people putting themselves forward for service in the leadership of this new party.

"And if anybody other than myself is elected by the members, they will have my total enthusiastic support, because this unity project will only work if we are prepared to park our egos." 

Former PC Party leader Jason Kenney is one of the four candidates who have announced they are running for UCP leader. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

PC and Wildrose MLAs will meet Monday to pick someone to serve as interim leader until a permanent leader is chosen on Oct. 28. 

Kenney says the two caucuses are expected to approach the Speaker of the legislative assembly and ask to be recognized as members of the UCP. 

Both Jean and Kenney have said a united conservative party is required to defeat Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP in the 2019 provincial election.

Pros and cons 

Earlier in the day, Wildrose party members debated the pros and cons of a proposed unity deal in a lively open mic session that kicked off a special general meeting in Red Deer Saturday.

During the Saturday morning debate, members had 60 seconds to speak for or against the deal.

People on the "no" side said they were against uniting with the PCs who they feel are entitled and arrogant.

Eugene Eklund from the provincial riding of Whitecourt-Ste. Anne said the unity agreement was a PC attempt to take over the Wildrose.

"The PC party does not want us," he told the room. "All they want is our vote so they can win again."

But the majority of speakers urged members to approve the deal.

"If you're not voting in favour of this unity agreement, it's basically a vote for the NDP," said Elton Wood from Stony Plain.

"I don't care if you don't like the PCs or what, but it's simply ludicrous not to vote in favour of this."