James Wood: Wildrose, PCs respond warily to Jason Kenney's possible provincial play

Jason Kenney’s possible plunge into Alberta politics left the province’s conservative parties scrambling to respond Wednesday, even as the former federal cabinet minister is attracting support for a potential run. 

The Calgary Midnapore MP is considering running for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party on a platform of uniting the province’s divided conservatives, currently split between the Tories and Wildrose.

The PCs will select a leader early next year using a delegated convention system, with dates and rules to be finalized next week.

In a statement, newly elected PC party president Katherine O’Neill appeared to be cool to Kennedy’s possible candidacy, noting that Tories gathered for last month’s annual general meeting had voted to rebuild the party under the Progressive Conservative brand and rejected the idea of unifying with another party.

“The days of top-down decision-making are over,” she said in the party release.

“As we are demonstrating, we are guided by the will of our members. It will be up to them to determine which leader they want and what path forward they envisage for our party.”

But O’Neill, who is officially neutral in the upcoming leadership campaign, said in an interview that her comments should not be seen as negative toward a Kenney candidacy and are instead meant to stress the importance of party members in the race. 

Some Tories, however, are clearly sounding the alarm at a potential Kenney campaign, with Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen saying that if he does run, “he’ll be running for the leadership of a party he wants to destroy.”

Kenney, who served in a number of major cabinet positions in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, was first elected as a Reform MP in 1997 and is viewed as a staunch social and fiscal conservative. Kenney, who is also considering a potential run for the leadership of the federal Conservatives, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.