United Conservative Party – the art of welding

Welding safety tips: wear a face shield, gloves, shoes, long-sleeved shirt and ear protection

In a July 22 vote the Alberta PC and Wildrose parties (by a 95% majority) agreed to unite and form the United Conservative Party. . Bringing the two parties together is more a welding process than a marriage. There will be some heat and smoke. (Both parties had voter turnouts in the mid 50% levels).

The vote ratified an Agreement In Principle t(AIP) that sets out broad policies and the process for unification.

The new party will have classic conservative principles:

  • The rule of law, a free enterprise economy, personal freedoms, grassroots democracy and limited government.

  • Social policies aimed at self-reliance, publicly-funded education and health care.

  • Maintaining public safety, environmental responsibility and a fair competitive regulatory regime.

  • Fiscal responsibility, balanced budgets and debt reduction.

  • Loyalty to Canada and and its democratic institutions.

The welding machinery for the job is complex.

  • The 30 MLA in this new fledging party (8 PC and 22 Wildrose) will meet as a new caucus

  • They will elect an interim leader (odds on favorite is Nathan Cooper).

  • An interim board will be established. That board’s role is amalgamate the two parties and to set up the UCP organization. They will carry out fundraising and plan a convention.

  • A leadership election committee will manage the leadership election process. The leader will be elected on October 28th 

  • A policy committee will be tasked to prepare policies for discussion at the founding convention.

  • The constituency associations for the two parties will meet together and amalgamate. 

  • A nominating committee will set the rules for the thorny task of nominating candidates to run for election.

Members and Money

  • Membership is open to any Albertan over the age of 14. Members of each party will automatically be members on the new party.

  • Because the rules governing political fundraising preclude transfering money; each party will maintain separate bank accounts and UPC will register as a political party.

Going Forward

Defeating the NDP was the common cause that brought unity. But beneath that single ambition the UPC will face some tough challenges: 

  • Leadership matters – much of the UPC’s identity will be formed by the new leader. The personality of the two parties are different and bringing them together and then appealing to Albertans is a challenge. If the upcoming leadership race turns mean-spirited the image of the new leader might be damaged. As Brian Jean and Jason Kenney go to the starting line neither has a significant advantage.
  • The Alberta budget is deeply in the red and a tepid economic recovery will not generate the kind of tax money needed to pay the bills. The UPC believes in a balanced budget and debt reduction but there are not many indications yet about how they would balance the books and retire debt.
  • Unwinding NDP policies, The parties are both opposed to NDP policy on carbon and coal power generation. Reversing these policies may prove to be difficult, expensive and even unpopular.
  • Conservatism in Alberta – The shape of Alberta’s electorate is changing. On average Albertans are younger. Recent migrants and immigrants change Alberta’s political landscape. The political divisions among Alberta’s two main two cities and rural Alberta remain. Constituency boundaries will soon be re-drawn that reflect the growth in urban areas.
  • Alberta’s energy sector is under attack from many in the rest of Canada. The political climate in the country is much more left leaning than the philosophy of the UPC. The UPC brand may not play well with the interest groups that are currently forming public opinion in Canada.

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