United Conservative Party

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United Conservative Party
Active provincial party
Leader Jason Kenney
President Erika Barootes
Deputy Leader Leela Aheer[1]
Founded July 22, 2017
Merger of Progressive Conservatives,
Wildrose
Headquarters 4317 23B Street NE
Calgary, Alberta
T2E 7V9
Ideology Conservatism
Social conservatism
Right-wing populism[2]
Political position Centre-right to Right-wing[3]
Seats in Legislature
25 / 87
Website
unitedconservative.ca

The United Conservative Party (UCP) is a right-wing political party in the province of Alberta, Canada. It was established in July 2017 as a merger between the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta and the Wildrose Party. The UCP currently forms the Official Opposition in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.

History

Background

The Wildrose Party largely consisted of former PC supporters dissatisfied with the longstanding PC government for various reasons. Three of the first five Wildrose MLAs were defecters originally elected as Progressive Conservatives.

A notable but unsuccessful attempt to collapse the Wildrose into the PC party occurred in November and December 2014 when two Wildrose MLAs joined the PCs. Weeks later, the then Wildrose Party and Official Opposition leader Danielle Smith led most of the rest of her caucus to cross the floor and join the then governing PC Party lead by Jim Prentice. The remaining Wildrose Party refused to consider the request by Smith to dissolve their party. Then Wildrose President David Yager said at the time "This is not a merger in any way. It is capitulation."[4]

Many columnists blamed the mass 2014 floor crossings for the surprise election of the NDP in May 2015 as they defeated the longest serving provincial government in Canada.[5] Following the election, uniting the Wildrose and PC parties became a major issue. In July 2016 Jason Kenney announced that he would seek the PC leadership on a platform of uniting into a new party with the Wildrose.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean largely rejected calls for a merger with the PCs, and on October 28, 2016, told Wildrose members at the party's AGM "In the months ahead, let's not put the future of our province at risk waiting for the PC party to figure out what they do or don't believe in."[6] On December 15, 2015, Jean continued to reject proposals for a merger and stated that he would present an alternative plan, "It has to be something palatable to both sets of members", said Jean. "And I think that our plan is, quite frankly, much more palatable to both sets of members."[7]

On the same day, Derek Fildebrandt came out as the first Wildrose MLA to openly support a merger with the PC Party after the NDP’s election when he told a radio station, "Frankly, I've heard enough. I think that people are pretty clear. They want a single conservative option to face against the NDP in the next election."[8]

Merger negotiations

Negotiations by PC Party leader Jason Kenney and Wildrose leader Brian Jean began shortly after Kenney was elected PC leader on March 18, 2017 on a platform of uniting the two parties. Negotiations were successful and the text of the merger agreement was released on May 18, 2017. Internal votes on the merger agreement were held by both parties on July 22, 2017.[9][10] The stated plan if the merger was approved was a United Conservative Party leadership election in October 2017 and a founding convention of the party in early 2018.[11]

42,617 Wildrose members were eligible to vote on July 22, 2017. There was a 57 per cent turnout with 23,466 voters (95%) in favour of the agreement and 1,132 (5%) against, clearing the 75% threshold required by the party's constitution. The Progressive Conservative membership also approved the agreement by a margin of 95% to 5%. With a turnout of 55% of eligible members, 25,692 PC members voted yes and 1,344 voted no, with 24 spoiled ballots; the PC party's constitution required a simple majority of its membership to approve the merger.[12][13]

Despite the overwhelming vote for a merger, some Wildrosers declined to join the united party with a group of constituency association presidents meeting later in July to discuss forming a new party. Similarly, at least 10 directors of the PC Party resigned since Jason Kenney became leader, with some former Tories working to build a centrist alternative to both the United Conservatives and the NDP before the next provincial election.[12] The second-place PC leadership candidate and MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster, Richard Starke, announced on July 24 that he would not join the UCP, and will sit in the legislature as an Independent PC MLA.[14]

Aftermath

A joint meeting of the PC and Wildrose caucuses was held on July 24, 2017, to elect Nathan Cooper, Wildrose MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, as interim leader—and hence Leader of the Opposition--[15] over Prasad Panda, Wildrose MLA for Calgary-Foothills, and Richard Gotfried, PC MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek.[16] As well, members of both caucuses approached the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and ask to be recognized as the United Conservative caucus.[13]

Kenney and Jean selected six individuals each to sit on the interim executive board of the new party. Ed Ammar was elected as first chair of the party on July 24, 2017. The interim UCP leader also appointed two MLAs to the board as non-voting members. The new party was registered with Elections Alberta as of July 31, 2017.[16]

Calgary-South East MLA Rick Fraser left the caucus on September 21, 2017, to sit as an Independent due to his dissatisfaction with the party's leadership contest and the emphasis put by candidates on spending cuts and austerity.[17]

The leadership election held on October 28, 2017 resulted in Jason Kenney defeating former Wildrose leader Brian Jean and Doug Schweitzer, a former aide to Jim Prentice, to become UCP leader. Kenney won more than 60% of the vote on the first ballot.[18] Kenney successfully contested a by-election in Calgary-Lougheed on December 14, 2017, after incumbent MLA Dave Rodney resigned in order to give Kenney an opportunity to enter the Alberta legislature.[19]

Policy and identity

The UCP held its founding convention to set its official policies on May 5, 2018.[20][21]

The party drew criticism over Kenney's proposal to allow schools to notify parents when their children joined Gay–Straight Alliance clubs.[22] In response, the Notley government drafted and passed Bill 24, which forbade teachers from outing children who were members of the GSAs. The matter once again caused controversy after the UCP Policy Convention in May 2018, when members of the party voted to adopt the policy of having schools inform parents when their children have joined a GSA.[23] UCP MLAs Ric McIver, Jason Nixon, and Leela Aheer all opposed the policy, and despite urging members to vote against adopting the policy, it was passed with 57% of the vote.

In December 2017, UCP house leader Jason Nixon came under scrutiny after it was revealed the B.C Human Rights tribunal in 2008 found he had wrongly fired a woman who reported sexual harassment.[24] Premier Rachel Notley called on Jason Kenney to remove Nixon from his position as a result of the controversy.[25] Nixon has stated he regrets his decision and he is committed to fighting sexual harassment.

Leadership

List of Leaders
No. Leader Term
Interim Nathan Cooper July 24, 2017 – October 28, 2017
1 Jason Kenney October 28, 2017 – present
List of Deputy Leaders
No. Deputy Leader Term
1 Mike Ellis July 25, 2017 – October 30, 2017
2 Leela Aheer October 30, 2017 – present

Caucus

United Conservative Party Caucus as of July 14, 2018
MLA Constituency Former affiliation Elected Notes
Jason Kenney Calgary-Lougheed Progressive Conservative[note 1] 2017 Leader (2017–present)
Leader of the Opposition (2018–present)
Leela Aheer Chestermere-Rocky View Wildrose 2015 Deputy Leader (2017–present)
Wayne Anderson Highwood Wildrose 2015
Drew Barnes Cypress-Medicine Hat Wildrose 2012
Nathan Cooper Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills Wildrose 2015 Interim Leader (2017)
Acting Leader of the Opposition (2017)
Scott Cyr Bonnyville-Cold Lake Wildrose 2015
Devin Dreeshen Innisfail-Sylvan Lake (none) 2018
Wayne Drysdale Grande Prairie-Wapiti Progressive Conservative 2008 Served in cabinet under Jim Prentice.
Mike Ellis Calgary-West Progressive Conservative 2014 Deputy Leader (2017)
Laila Goodridge Fort McMurray-Conklin Wildrose 2018
Richard Gotfried Calgary-Fish Creek Progressive Conservative 2015 House Leader (2017)
Dave Hanson Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills Wildrose 2015
Grant Hunter Cardston-Taber-Warner Wildrose 2015
Todd Loewen Grande Prairie-Smoky Wildrose 2015
Ric McIver Calgary-Hays Progressive Conservative 2012 Caucus Whip (2017–present)
Interim Progressive Conservative Leader (2015–2016)
Served in cabinet under Alison Redford and Jim Prentice.
Jason Nixon Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre Wildrose 2015 House Leader (2017–present)
Acting Leader of the Opposition (2017–2018)
Caucus Whip (2017)
Ron Orr Lacombe-Ponoka Wildrose 2015
Prasad Panda Calgary-Foothills Wildrose 2015 Caucus Whip (2017)
Angela Pitt Airdrie Wildrose 2015 Deputy House Leader (2017–present)
Dave Schneider Little Bow Wildrose 2015
Mark Smith Drayton Valley-Devon Wildrose 2015
Pat Stier Livingstone-Macleod Wildrose 2012
Rick Strankman Drumheller-Stettler Wildrose 2012
Wes Taylor Battle River-Wainwright Wildrose 2015
Glenn van Dijken Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock Wildrose 2015
Tany Yao Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo Wildrose 2015

Notes

  1. ^ Kenney was the leader of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta at the time of the merger with the Wildrose Party. However, he was only elected to the Legislative Assembly in a by-election after the merger took effect and never sat as a PC MLA.

References

  1. ^ "Jason Kenney announces new leadership team, will not include Brian Jean". Metro News. Retrieved 2017-10-30. 
  2. ^ "Jason Kenney channels populism — but not Donald Trump — in Alberta". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved February 25, 2018. 
  3. ^ https://edmontonjournal.com/news/politics/derek-fildebrandt-says-ucp-too-vanilla-starts-new-freedom-conservative-party
  4. ^ Henton, Darcy. "Mass defection expected as Wildrose MLAs to join PCs". Calgary Herald. 
  5. ^ Gunter, Lorne. "NDP lineup full of radicals". Calgary Sun. 
  6. ^ Bellefontaine, Michelle. "Wildrose leader rejects PC merger in speech to party faithful". CBC. 
  7. ^ Woods, James. "Wildrose rift: Party appears split over merger with PCs". Calgary Herald. 
  8. ^ "Wildrose divided: Fildebrandt breaks with leader, calls for merger with PCs". CBC Calgary. 
  9. ^ "Conservative unity vote: A timeline". Edmonton Journal. July 22, 2017. Retrieved July 22, 2017. 
  10. ^ "Alberta's Wildrose, PCs agree to create new United Conservative Party". CBC News. May 18, 2017. Retrieved May 19, 2017. 
  11. ^ "Wildrose-PC members to vote on new united party July 22". Edmonton Journal. May 18, 2017. Retrieved May 19, 2017. 
  12. ^ a b "Wildrose votes yes to unity with 95% of the vote". Calgary Herald. July 22, 2017. Retrieved July 22, 2017. 
  13. ^ a b Bellefontaine, Michelle (July 22, 2017). "Wildrose and PC members approve unite-the-right deal with 95% voting 'yes'". CBC News. Retrieved July 23, 2017. 
  14. ^ "Richard Starke, former PC leadership candidate, won't join new United Conservative Party". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-07-24. 
  15. ^ "Nathan Cooper chosen as interim leader of United Conservative Party". CBC News. July 24, 2017. 
  16. ^ a b Graney, Emma (July 22, 2017). "United Conservative Party: The next steps". Retrieved July 23, 2017. 
  17. ^ James Wood (2017-09-21). "Rick Fraser, southeast Calgary MLA, leaves United Conservative caucus". Calgary Herald. Retrieved 2018-02-08. 
  18. ^ James Wood (2016-09-08). "Donna Kennedy-Glans joins PC leadership race". Calgary Herald. Retrieved 2018-02-08. 
  19. ^ "Calgary MLA steps down to allow Jason Kenney to run for legislature seat". CBC News. 2017-10-29. Retrieved 2018-02-08. 
  20. ^ James Wood (2017-10-29). "Jason Kenney takes charge of UCP, seeks seat in legislature by Christmas". Calgary Herald. Retrieved 2018-02-08. 
  21. ^ "Alberta's new United Conservative Party is a go. What happens next?". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-07-26. 
  22. ^ "UCP opposes GSA bill banning parental notification". CBC News. November 7, 2017. Retrieved February 26, 2018. 
  23. ^ "UCP members ignore MLA pleas to vote against gay-straight alliance motion". May 6, 2018. 
  24. ^ "Alberta MLA Jason Nixon Fired Employee Who Reported Sexual Harassment". Huffington Post Canada. Retrieved February 25, 2018. 
  25. ^ "UCP house leader Jason Nixon fired woman after sex harassment complaint". CBC News. Retrieved February 25, 2018. 

External links

  • Unity Agreement in Principle -founding document
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