Plenty of com­pro­mise to come, says po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist

Lethbridge Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Dave Ma­bell dma­bell@leth­bridge­herald.com

Af­ter years of bick­er­ing, can Al­berta’s right-wing par­ties merge?

Thurs­day’s an­nounce­ment by the two com­pet­ing lead­ers, sug­gests po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Faron El­lis, in­di­cates it’s a pos­si­bil­ity. But there’s still plenty of de­bate and com­pro­mise to come.

“It’s a pretty good start,” said El­lis, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence in­struc­tor at Leth­bridge Col­lege.

Both Wil­drose leader Brian Jean and newly elected Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive leader Jason Ken­ney signed an agree­ment to form a United Con­ser­va­tive Party, sub­ject to ap­proval by paid-up mem­bers of each party.

“Noth­ing, in­clud­ing the lead­er­ship se­lec­tion process, can be­gin un­til rat­i­fi­ca­tion by the two legacy par­ties,” El­lis pointed out.

While the Wil­drose con­sti­tu­tion calls for 75 per cent ap­proval from its mem­bers, the PC rules re­quire just a sim­ple ma­jor­ity. Each of the ex­ist­ing party’s con­sti­tu­tions will dic­tate the tim­ing, the pro­cesses and the av­enues for ap­peal or protest, El­lis said.

Thurs­day’s an­nounce­ment in­cluded “a mod­er­ately con­ser­va­tive set of found­ing prin­ci­ples,” El­lis said, in­clud­ing state­ments sup­port­ing “high qual­ity, pub­licly funded health care,” fis­cal as well as “en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity,” “com­pas­sion for the less for­tu­nate” and a be­lief in “eco­nomic free­dom in a mar­ket econ­omy which en­cour­ages the cre­ation of wealth through free en­ter­prise.”

El­lis said it’s “a pretty cen­trist, free-en­ter­prise Cana­dian po­lit­i­cal party set of found­ing prin­ci­ples.”

While there’s “a nod to the pro­gres­sives,” the di­rec­tion is clearly to the right of party mem­bers who would have sup­ported pre­miers Peter Lougheed and Don Getty.

“But it’s much more pro­gres­sive than the Wil­drose.”

With a higher level of sup­port re­quired from Wil­drose mem­bers, El­lis noted, dis­si­dents among those ranks could have greater im­pact.

Just the same, El­lis added, many Wil­drose mem­bers have been hear­ing grass­roots sup­port for a unite-the-right move­ment.

“So Brian Jean caved to the pres­sure,” agree­ing to terms that could ap­peal to mem­bers of both par­ties.

With the next pro­vin­cial elec­tion due in two years, El­lis said the merger plan has sev­eral dead­lines it must meet.

“I think it’s do-able within the time­line.”

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