Jason Kenney is about to announce his candidacy for leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, running on a platform of a merger with the Wildrose Party. The purpose is to avoid splitting the right-wing vote in the next provincial election and thereby maximize chances of defeating the governing NDP.
In one sense, it’s a logical step. In the three other Western provinces, conservative-minded voters have settled on a single alternative to confront the NDP – the BC Liberals, the Saskatchewan Party and the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives. History teaches that while unity doesn’t guarantee success, it offers the best prospects for victory against the social democrats.
But it’s also an audacious step. I can’t think of a historical precedent for someone winning the leadership of a party on a platform of merging with another party. In the 2002 Canadian Alliance leadership race, those who advocated merger with the federal PCs lost. Stephen Harper won by promising to save the Canadian Alliance; he didn’t begin to advocate a merger until a year later, after an electoral disappointment in an Ontario by-election.
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