EDMONTON — Former Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney is hitting the road in Alberta to drum up support for uniting Alberta’s divided right-of-centre parties.
Kenney, following his announcement in early July that he plans to leave federal politics and seek the provincial Progressive Conservative leadership, launched a “Unite Alberta Truck Tour” in Edmonton on Sunday morning.
He said he plans to visit all 87 constituencies during the summer and fall, and even hopes to stay in people’s homes.
“In my view, the only way we can eliminate the risk of a second NDP government term is through uniting free-enterprise forces,” Kenney told reporters Sunday as he stood in front of a blue pickup truck.
“I think it’s possible that either the Wildrose or the Progressive Conservatives could win the next election alone. Unfortunately, it they’re fighting each other, it’s possible the NDP could.”
Alberta’s PCs were ousted from office last year by the NDP after more than four decades in power, and will elect a new leader in March of next year.
Kenney has already been endorsed by former prime minister Stephen Harper, as well as interim federal Conservative leader Rona Ambrose.
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.
Kenney, however, said polling of both parties has shown that a majority of members want a “united free-enterprise party,” and that the resistance is from the leaders.
“I want to be elected leader of the Progressive Conservative party with a clear mandate for unity,” he said.
Kenney defended his decision to stay on as an MP for his Calgary-area riding while touring Alberta for a provincial campaign, promising he would resign as an MP on Oct. 1 when he said the PC leadership campaign officially begins.
He said dozens of other MPs have run in provincial races and stayed on as MPs right up until votes were cast, and he said he wants to continue to pressure the federal Liberal government to hold a referendum before implementing electoral reform.
Kenney also brushed off suggestions that a more fuel-efficient vehicle would be a more appropriate choice than a pickup truck for his pan-provincial trip.
“I’m going to be getting all around Alberta all year, including the wintertime, so I figured my Dodge Ram would do the job better than a Prius,” Kenney said.