Those cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

This famous quote from George Santayana is a warning to never forget previous mistakes, lest you make them again.

The United Conservative Party was founded following the unification of the Alberta PC Party with the Wildrose Party in 2018. It happened after the Alberta PCs lost the 2015 election, resulting in the election of a big-taxing, big-spending NDP government.

Many people correctly identified that one of the major causes of the defeat was the splitting of the conservative vote between two conservative parties, allowing the NDP to win a majority government with less than 50% support.

However, the defeat of the PCs was merely the end of a process that began more than a decade earlier - the fracturing of the conservative coalition into two separate parties.

In the early 2000s, most conservatives were united behind the Alberta PC Party - led by the late former Premier Ralph Klein - who had cut taxes, balanced the budget, reduced government waste, and paid Alberta's debt in full.

Albertans were rightly proud of their party's unwavering commitment to fiscal responsibility, especially as other provinces continued to rack up debt.

However, in the mid-2000s, Alberta's solid fiscal reputation began to tarnish. Under Premier Ed Stelmach, spending ballooned and the size of government grew. He also implemented an ill-advised royalty review while Alberta, Canada, and the entire world grappled with a global economic crisis.

This lack of fiscal discipline and apparent hostility towards Alberta's energy sector forced some PC supporters to reject their party and find a new political home - an upstart party that hadn't gained much traction with voters until it won a Calgary by-election and chose a dynamic and telegenic leader: Wildrose and Danielle Smith.

From 2008 until 2018, Alberta's conservatives were a house divided - and both parties had their issues.

Wildrose was seen mainly as a rural party, with some support in Calgary, but with a lingering suspicion that the party was home to extremists and not ready to govern.

The PCs were seen as arrogant and entitled. They had abandoned fiscal responsibility in favour of big government.

The 2015 election made it clear that neither party had earned the trust and support of Albertans needed to win the election, and that to leave conservatives divided would mean re-electing the NDP.

Thousands of Albertans worked incredibly hard in order to unite Alberta conservatives into the new United Conservative Party. For the first time more than a decade, Albertans will have a single conservative choice on the ballot in 2019.

This is a major achievement for which all those involved should be proud - Alberta Can't Wait was proud to help lead those efforts.

However, as Alberta is once again on the cusp of restoring responsible, conservative government for our province, it is vital that we recall what led to the conservative division in the past, and to avoid making those same mistakes.

Our United Conservative Party must be fiscally responsible. It must support smaller government, balanced budgets, lower taxes, and sensible spending. It must not be allowed to abandon the fiscal discipline that originally led to the creation of the Wildrose party.

Our United Conservative Party must be humble and grassroots. While a lack of fiscal responsibility may have been what once first led to divisions in the conservative movement, it was the perceived arrogance and entitlement of the PC Party that really set Wildrose on the rise. Party decisions cannot be made by a party elite behind closed doors - the leadership of the party belongs in the hands of its everyday members.

Our United Conservative Party must be inclusive. It must welcome conservatives from every corner of the province and every walk of life. It must be a home for everyone who believes that Alberta can and must do better than it has under the NDP. It cannot discard parts of the conservative coalition or become insular and inward-looking.

Our United Conservative Party must be principled. It must hold firm to those principles which have made conservatism successful globally. It must not become beholden to special interests, political insiders, or professional lobbyists who are more interested in making money off a new conservative government than they are about helping Albertans.

Conservative division federally resulted in 13 years of Liberal government. Conservative division provincially led to the first ever Alberta NDP government.

When conservatives are united we win, and when they are divided we lose.

However, in order to ensure ongoing conservative unity, we must avoid those things which originally led to conservative division. Learning from our previous mistakes means we won't repeat them in the future.

And it also means conservative victory in the long-term here in Alberta - a goal which we can all support.

Sincerely,

 

Alberta Can't Wait