United Alternative showdown set to begin

Preston Manning's big gamble is about to begin. The Reform party leader has staked his political future on the creation and success of the United Alternative -- an attempt to unite Canada's political right. The first ever UA convention begins Thursday in Ottawa.

The convention will focus on how to build a new party and will consider new policies ranging from official bilingualism to marijuana possession.

It will be followed by a Reform party convention that will debate not only the future of the party but also whether to keep their party leader.

Manning has said he will resign as head of the party if Reform members don't support his new political movement in a referendum in March.

He's convinced the United Alternative is the only way to defeat the federal Liberals. "Canadians have to unite in new ways to get things done that the Liberals won't do."

But Manning's vision has been attacked by people within his party and by federal Conservative leader Joe Clark who says his party will never be part of the United Alternative.

"We can defeat the Liberals in the next election. But it would be a lot easier, a lot easier if people who were drawn off to UA or Reform would come with us," said Clark.

Reform MP Dick Morris is one of three MPs who wants to run for the leadership of the Reform party if Manning resigns. He also wants to kill the United Alternative.

"We want to kill it and bury it as fast as possible so we can get our team together as quickly as possible," he said.

But Manning has attracted a few high profile provincial conservatives to his movement such as Ontario Municipal Affairs Minister Tony Clement.

"Speaking as an Ontario Conservative I think it's evident that the Reform party tried but has not succeeded to represent all provinces equally".

But many Reform delegates aren't prepared to sacrifice their party for a new one and they say the best way to defeat the United Alternative may be to vote against their leader during a leadership review at this weekend's convention.