I’ve heard a few people suggest there’s not enough time to bring free-enterprise Albertans back into one big tent – that it’s just too hard to successfully pull off a merger of the PC Party and the Wildrose parties. It seems that those people have forgotten about the successful merger that created the Conservative Party of Canada.
Back in 2003, Progressive Conservative Leader Peter Mackay and Canadian Alliance Leader Stephen Harper began negotiating the merger of their two parties in June. The merger agreement-in-principle was signed on October 16, 2003. Grassroots party members overwhelmingly ratified the deal in early December, with the new Conservative Party of Canada being formally established on December 7. Stephen Harper was later elected leader of the new Conservative Party on March 20, 2004. The Liberal government called the 2004 election on May 23.
In other words, just over 330 days passed between the beginning of the negotiations, and the election.
In Alberta, the PC Leader will be elected on March 18, 2016: That's over 680 days before the earliest date that the NDP government could legally call the 2019 election. 680 days – more than twice as much time as it took to pull off the Conservative Party of Canada merger.
On top of this, the federal merger was far more complicated than what we need to do in Alberta. Nationally we had to work across ten provinces and three territories in two official languages between two parties with much bigger differences and resentments than exist in Alberta. But we did it, and went on to win three elections, giving Canada the longest-serving Conservative government since John A. Macdonald’s in the 19th century.
I don’t want to make it sound like this process will be easy. Far from it: A lot of hard work is ahead of us. But as someone who was around for the federal unification, I can say there was no shortage of naysayers federally who said that a merger could never be pulled off – people who said it was just too much work. Thankfully, two courageous leaders – Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay – stepped forward to do the hard work, to do what was right for Canadians. Their bold move finally stopped the splitting of free-enterprise votes, built a broad big-tent coalition, and ended the era of perpetual Liberal governments.
Yes, we have a lot of hard work ahead of us. But since when are Albertans afraid of some hard work? That’s not the Alberta that I know and love! Alberta is the can-do province, where we overcome challenges and get the job done. In fact, the most common thing I hear from Albertans as I travel the province in my pickup is simply this: “Get ‘er done!"
This is about doing what’s right for all Albertans – about burying the hatchet and uniting to ensure the disastrous NDP government cannot win a second term. While Albertans are hurting, we have an ideological government that is making a bad situation much, much worse. Albertans simply cannot afford four more years of NDP government.
I should note that some of the same people that opposed the creation of the Conservative Party of Canada are now opposing doing the same thing in Alberta! They seem to have learned nothing. They are willing to risk a second, disastrous NDP term in order to carry on the fight between PCs and Wildrosers.
As I often say, we need to honour what’s best about our past, while learning from the mistakes of the past, without getting trapped in the past. We need to move forward, united, to get our province back on track.
If I have the privilege of winning the PC leadership, my first task will be reaching out to my friend and former colleague Brian Jean to begin unification talks. I’ll be getting to work to build that grassroots winning coalition for the 2019 election. Brian has already said he’s open to merger talks. He just needs a willing partner on the PC side to talk to. This will be my first order of business.
Will you join me? The task before us is not easy. If you haven’t already done so, please, buy a PC Party membership and support our Unite Alberta Campaign here.
Yes, I know that some will point out that we in the Conservative Party of Canada didn’t win the 2004 election. That is true. We held Paul Martin’s Liberal ‘juggernaut’ to a minority and laid the groundwork for a Conservative government just 18 months later – a Conservative government that lasted for nearly a decade.
But I’m confident that free-enterprise voices are far, far stronger here in Alberta than they are in the rest of the country. In fact, it’s one of the things that I love about our province (Note: we don’t need to worry about ridings in downtown Toronto or Montreal in the 2019 Alberta election!). Remember, this is the land that gave us Peter Lougheed, Ralph Klein, and Stephen Harper. This is the land that has overwhelmingly voted for free-enterprise parties. In the last provincial election, the two free-enterprise parties received 170,000 more votes than the NDP. The NDP won government with only 40% of the vote, while the PCs and Wildrose received 52% in what I think we can agree was a terrible election year.
I have no doubt that if we put aside our past egos and differences, if we put in the hard work, and if we unite as free-enterprise Albertans, we will win in 2019. Will you join me?