EDMONTON - MP Jason Kenney says his plan for a united right in Alberta includes a new party that would hold a leadership race before the next provincial election.
Kenney made it clear at a news conference in Edmonton that he isn't interested in the Progressive Conservatives or the Opposition Wildrose taking each other over.
His idea is that each party would hold a referendum on whether to approve the union before a new party was formed.
"Albertans will not accept secret, backroom deals that dictate what kind of democratic choice we have," he said Thursday.
"That is why I am offering this grassroots guarantee to make it absolutely clear that a new, united party will only be created if approved by a clear majority of grassroots party members in a fair, open referendum.
"This grassroots democracy is absolutely non-negotiable."
Kenney said his organization is exploring whether it is legally possible to merge the PCs and Wildrose under Alberta's election laws.
If a merger isn't possible, Kenney said, a united free-enterprise party would be built from the ground up.
"In my view, even if Elections Alberta were to refuse to entertain a legal merger, then we would just create a new party from scratch, obviously suspending the operations of the two existing parties, and it would take off like a rocket."
Kenney said he doesn't want to prejudge what such a party would be called, but then suggested that the Conservative Party of Alberta "has a nice ring to it. That is what has worked for us federally."
Kenney announced in Calgary on Wednesday that he will seek the leadership of the Alberta Tories with the intent of bringing together small-c conservatives to defeat the NDP government.
The former Conservative cabinet minister said he would also let his name stand in any race to pick the leader for a newly formed party. He said he anticipates that leadership run would come in the winter of 2017-18.
He also said he'll give up his federal seat on Oct. 1 — the day the Alberta Tory leadership race officially begins. A new leader is to be picked March 18.
Kenney noted that other MPs have stayed on while seeking leadership roles, but he is going to "depart from that convention to clearly demonstrate how committed I am to this project of uniting Albertans.
"For me there is no going back."
He said he believes people want a clear plan on how to steer Alberta's two right-leaning parties back onto the same road, and that they are waiting for leadership on how that could be achieved.
His five-point strategy outlined Thursday includes a timeline, charts that show the perils of splitting the right-wing vote and graphics that vilify the NDP for "reckless" policies that hurt Alberta's economy, such as the carbon tax.
The plan calls for:
— Electing a new leader for the PCs.
— Negotiating a framework with the Wildrose to form a united party.
— Submitting the framework to the grassroots from both parties for approval.
— Holding a founding and leadership convention.
— Gathering candidates for the 2019 provincial election.
A new united-right party wouldn't lose, Kenney predicted.
"Very recent polling indicates that a united free-enterprise party would clearly win the next provincial election, and would essentially have a lead of 2-1 over the NDP."