Brian Jean will seek the leadership of the United Conservative Party of Alberta (UCP).
Jean, former leader of the Wildrose Party, told supporters at a news conference at Apple Creek Golf Course July 24 he wanted to be the one to lead the newly created party and asked for their vote. Wildrose and Progressive Conservative (PC) party members voted 95 per cent in favour of a merger of the two politically conservative parties July 22.
“Members of our new United Conservative Party now face an important choice on Oct. 28 – a choice of who can be the best placed to save Alberta from the NDP,” he said. “A choice of who can truly unite all corners of our great province and a choice of who is best placed to bring our province back to a place of unparalleled greatness.”
Jean has support from some heavy hitters in the oil and gas industry, including former president of TransCanada Pipelines and Talisman Energy, Hal Kvisle.
“I would like to endorse Brian Jean as the leader of the UCP and as our next premier,” Kvisle said. “I think he’s the right person, the right choice at this time to take our party and our province forward.”
In making the announcement, Jean didn’t hold back in his attack on the ruling NDP party and current premier Rachel Notley, calling them “secretive and dishonest.”
“I will say that we have very important things in front of us – huge challenges. Today is the first day, I believe, to take back control of our province,” Jean said. “(The NDP) treats everyone who does not agree with them with increasing distain and arrogance.”
Jean said his first action, if he is successful in gaining the leadership of the UCP and elected premier during the next provincial election in 2019, would be to “rip up the carbon tax.”
He also said he would introduce a referendum within a year of taking power to ask Albertans how they would like the provincial government to proceed in dealing with the federal government on the issue of equalization payments.
Jean was asked how he would differentiate himself from Jason Kenny, who is expected to announce his own bid for leadership of the UCP July 29.
“First, I’m not going to compare myself to anybody,” he said. “I really believe my real strength is empowering people to make things better.”
Jean became leader of the Wildrose Party on March 28, 2015. The ruling PC party was soundly defeated in the 2015 provincial election with the Wildrose gaining 16 seats and the PCs losing 60 of the 70 seats they had prior to the election. The NDP formed a majority government with 54 seats.
Talk of a merger between the PCs and the Wildrose began in early 2017 after Kenny was elected leader of the PCs. Jean and Kenny began meeting in March and announced May 18 a merger agreement had been drafted and party members would vote July 22 whether or not to agree to merge.
Jean urged those who voted against the merger not to leave the party.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to actually define who we are and decide what we stand for – what principles we ultimately want to flesh out under the 14 founding principles which have, I think, very, very good basis for both legacy parties,” Jean said. “I would say, participate and get involved.”