The new United Conservative Party could present a serious challenge in the 2019 provincial election to the left-leaning NDP, which ended 40 years of Conservative rule in a shock win two years ago. The NDP was partly helped by a divided right at the time.
In separate ballots over the weekend, the Progressive Conservative (PC) and Wildrose parties each voted by an overwhelming 95 percent margin to support the merger of the two political groups.
At a joint meeting on Monday, members will vote for an interim leader to head the United Conservative movement until Oct. 28, when a permanent party chief will be elected, Wildrose spokeswoman Samantha Johnston said.
Alberta is home to Canada’s vast oil sands and is the largest exporter of crude to the United States. But it has been struggling with a three-year slump in global oil prices and a C$10.3 billion ($7.57 billion) deficit.
The energy industry is likely to welcome unification of the right, with the new party eager to develop policies aimed at cutting costs for the oil and gas sector.
Jason Kenney and Brian Jean, leaders of the PC and Wildrose parties, are chief contenders for the alliance’s permanent leadership position. Both have pledged to scrap unpopular environmental regulations, including carbon taxes and the phase-out of coal-fired power plants.
Johnston said the United Conservative Party would file paperwork with Canada’s elections regulator to gain formal recognition, and the interim leader, once chosen, will apply to the speaker of the legislature for official status.
(Reporting by Ethan Lou; Editing by Tom Brown)