News / Edmonton

Next Alberta PC Leader will believe in Tory values: Starke

The race to replace Jim Prentice officially kicks off on Oct. 1.

Jason Kenney's bid to unite Alberta's right-wing parties will be put to the test during the PC leadership race.

The Canadian Press/File

Jason Kenney's bid to unite Alberta's right-wing parties will be put to the test during the PC leadership race.

EDMONTON - Alberta Progressive Conservative MLA Richard Starke won't say if he believes leadership race rules will spike a bid by MP Jason Kenney to dissolve the party as part of a merger with the Wildrose.

But Starke says, regardless, he believes the head of the party will respect and exemplify its core principles.

“Ultimately no matter who's in the race, I'm confident that the next leader of the PC party will be someone who believes in the values of the party,” Starke said in an interview Tuesday.

At its spring annual general meeting, PC rank and file voted overwhelmingly to rebuild the party as a stand-alone entity rather than merge it with another political group.

In July, Kenney announced he would run for the leadership on a platform to dissolve the party and seek a merger with the fellow right-of-centre Wildrose party. The aim would be for the new conservative coalition to defeat Premier Rachel Notley's NDP government in the next election.

Kenney has said that fractured conservative voting is allowing the New Democrats to come up the middle in balloting and implement policies he believes are harmful to an Alberta economy already depressed from a prolonged slump in oil prices.

The race officially begins Oct. 1. A leader is to be picked by delegates to a convention in Calgary on March 18.

PC party directors have approved rules for the race, which include a clause forbidding leadership candidates from doing anything to harm the party or its brand.

Starke said that's a standard backstop clause. But he declined to say if he believes that disqualifies Kenney, or any candidate, seeking to dissolve the party.

“That's not my call to make.”

Kenney and his campaign officials have not yet responded.

Starke, a two term MLA from Vermilion-Lloydminster, reiterated he is still “seriously considering” a run for the leadership.

He said a merger is a hot topic on a tour he's currently on with party members.

“The overwhelming number of party members and the overwhelming number of constituency associations that I spoke with wanted our party to rebuild and re-energize and get itself ready as an alternative for the voters in the 2019 election.”

Calgary PC MLA Sandra Jansen, who is also weighing a leadership bid, had said she interprets the “do no harm” rule as preventing anyone from dissolving the PCs, although she's also leaving the question to the judgment of party brass.

Party president Katherine O'Neill has declined to comment. She says since no one can officially be a candidate until Oct. 1, any discussion prior to that date is hypothetical.

The PC board has also spelled out specifics of the vote.

Each of the 87 constituency associations will elect 15 delegates who will vote for a leader. Of those 15, five will be from the local constituency association board and 10 from members at large.

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