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Ben Fraser is a centre-right student in Journalism at Concordia University.

Putting differences aside for Alberta’s future

Over the summer, the two major conservative parties in Alberta, the Progressive Conservatives of Alberta (PC) and the Wildrose Party, merged into a single party. This merger, that was approved with over 95 per cent of the vote from each party, was brought together to take on Alberta’s current New Democratic Party (NDP) government.

Cooperation in politics is rare, but with this merger, the Conservative party may return to Alberta in the next election. Those on the Alberta right have put aside their differences, and banded together to increase their chances to win. Both parties celebrated the merger with great excitement, and PC leader Jason Kenney and Wildrose leader Brian Jean both announced they would run for the head of the party. Earlier this week, Kenney was victorious in securing the position, with over 60 per cent of the new party’s members voting for him.

When the PC party was crushed in the 2015 election, losing 60 seats in the process, they lost their status of opposition to the Wildrose Party. It had become an “adapt-or-die” situation in Alberta. With a new United Conservative Party, the NDP now has a new threat to consider.

Before the election in 2015, polls placed the NDP ahead, with 37 per cent of the vote. However, the polls also indicated the Wildrose Party had 26 per cent of the vote and the Conservatives had 24 per cent. Conservative values still existed in the province despite the major defeat, yet their ideals were split between two parties and two different leaders. This divide between those with similar conservative values cost them the election.     

The united party is hoping to recover conservative voters, as well as capitalize on recent summer polls which indicate the NDP’s approval rating has fallen below 30 per cent. The surprise win by the NDP in 2015 was a shock to many analysts, and apparently the surprise was for good reason. Judging from the polls, those in Alberta are not happy with their provincial government, and may want to return to a more right-wing party, like in past elections.

Despite this merger, past conservative endeavours have not always ended in success; at least at first. In 2000, when federal parties, the Canadian Alliance, and Progressive Conservatives merged, they accounted for about 38 per cent of the vote combined–only a few points behind the Liberals. After they merged, support fell eight per cent. Of course, Stephen Harper would eventually lead the Conservatives to Parliament.

With the election environment changing every day in Alberta, the future of conservative politics in government in uncertain. That being said, praise must be given to the right in Alberta for understanding the landscape they are in, and putting the future of their ideology above the small differences of those within the same political pond.