Danielle Smith criticized defectors as Wildrose caucus touted merger options
'I had to hear it out,' former Wildrose leader says
Members of the Wildrose caucus had already started talking about unifying small-c conservatives when Danielle Smith criticized two members of the Alberta Legislature for crossing the floor to the Progressive Conservatives at the end of November.
Smith took a calculated risk when she defected to Jim Prentice's Progressive Conservatives, in a stunning move on Wednesday, taking with her eight members of the Wildrose Party.
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In an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Smith said that when Wildrose MLAs Kerry Towle and Ian Donovan crossed the floor on Nov. 24, she felt she had an obligation to see whether some common ground existed between the two parties.
"I felt like I owed it to our membership and to Conservatives and Albertans to at least hear whether or not Mr. Prentice and I had common ground on policy."
"There had been some back-and-forth discussions between some of our caucus members who had already started talking about if we were to come together as a merged entity — a unification of conservatives — what policies, principles and values would we base that on," Smith said in an interview with guest host Rosemary Barton on Friday.
Smith had publicly criticized the two MLAs for being "seduced by the perks of power."
[Jim Prentice] and I didn't start the civil war that we have among conservatives in Alberta.— Danielle Smith, former leader of the Wildrose Party
Barton asked Smith how it was that she could claim on Nov. 26 to lead one of the "strongest" opposition parties when discussions were already underway about a possible merger.
The former Wildrose leader did not deny that discussions had already begun, saying "I had to hear it out, as I say. I was intending all the way through to make sure that they knew that I was prepared to continue being a strong opposition leader."
Smith, who sat down for a face-to-face meeting with Prentice last week, defended her actions, saying it became apparent to her the Wildrose Party and the PCs had more interests in common than they had differences.
"Having sat down with Mr. Prentice … it seemed to me we got two conservative parties fighting with each other over exactly the same plan for implementation."
Smith said there is a history in the conservative movement of butting heads for a while before merging together.