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Update: Wildrose, PCs leaders agree to merge parties

Meet your United Conservative Party, Alberta.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and Alberta PC Leader Jason Kenney.

The Canadian Press

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and Alberta PC Leader Jason Kenney.

Meet your new "United Conservative Party," Alberta.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney announced Thursday they've struck a tentative deal to merge. 

The deal still has to be approved by 75 per cent of Wildrose members and just over 50 per cent of PC members. If it goes ahead, the new party will set up a leadership committee with an eye to electing a new leader by Oct. 28

"The members will always be in the drivers seat," Jean told reporters Thursday. "They are the guiding compass of our party."

The agreement is more than just about "uniting the right," Kenney added.

"It's about re-creating a broad, tolerant, free-enterprise coalition," he said. "This is a great day, a historic day in Alberta."

The unification also sets a path "to gain control of our province now and for future generations," Jean added.  

Kenney also took aim at the Alberta NDP, as unity "ensures defeat for the disastrous" government.  

"Help is on the way and hope is on the horizon," Kenney said. "I'm advocating a yes vote but I welcome serious debate."

In response, Premier Rachel Notley said her party is focused on steering the province through the current downturn rather than making huge cuts to government programs, including health care and education, "to fund tax breaks for the top one per cent.’’

"That is not a path to recovery,’’ she said. "I’m happy to have that debate with one right-wing party or 10 right-wing parties. It doesn’t really matter. I’m confident that our choice to stand with Albertans is the right one.’’

If an agreement is passed, a joint party convention would be required as well as a leadership race. The referendum for member support will be held in late July, and both leaders have said they plan to run as leader for the united party.  

If members vote against a merger, both parties will work out a "non-competition agreement," Kenney said. Details on what that would look like haven't been released.

The name United Conservative Party will also likely change, Jean added, noting the current name was considered practical by the Chief Electoral Officer.

Both leaders said they would scrap the carbon tax and reduce taxes if elected premier.

- With files from the Canadian Press

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