CALGARY—Sources say Alberta Conservative MP Jason Kenney is making the jump to provincial politics.
Two people with knowledge of the former federal cabinet minister’s plans say he will announce today in Calgary that he is seeking the leadership of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives.
There has been speculation for months that Kenney might return to his home province and attempt to unite the right-leaning Progressive Conservatives and the Opposition Wildrose.
Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith attempted to do that in 2014, when she led a mass floor crossing from the Wildrose to the PCs.
The PCs got clobbered in the May 2015 election and the NDP ended the party’s more than four-decade run in government.
She says she’s not sure Kenney is the right candidate to appeal to urban voters.
“It’s going to be an uphill battle for him … because of some of the positions that he has taken on conservative social issues in the past,” said Smith, who is now a radio host.
The PCs have said they aren’t keen to merge, while the Wildrose has said it would be happy to link up, but only under its banner and with leader Brian Jean calling the shots.
The Tory leadership job has been vacant since Jim Prentice, who was also a former cabinet minister, quit after leading the party to a third-place finish in the last provincial election.
Party members pick a new leader March 18.
Two former MLAs who crossed the floor with Smith _ Rob Anderson and Bruce McAllister _ say they believe Kenney has what it takes to unite Alberta’s right, and bring conservatives back into power.
Anderson, who crossed from the Tories to the Wildrose and back again, said the ground is more fertile for a merger now than it was in 2014.
“When you stare socialism in the face for a year, it kind of wakes you up,” said Anderson.
McAllister, who was narrowly defeated by the Wildrose in the last election, said Kenney will have to overcome the “tribalism and self-preservation” in some factions of Alberta politics.
“Leadership is crucial to putting like-minded Albertans back together and, if you look at Mr. Kenney’s resume and his body of work, he has garnered respect everywhere he has gone and he has not shied away from difficult and complex issues,” said McAllister, who has a communications and consulting business.