Kenney endorsed by Calgary PC MLA Mike Ellis
Jason Kenney has won a significant endorsement from within Tory ranks as Progressive Conservative MLA Mike Ellis said Thursday he’s backing the MP’s bid to win the PC leadership.
Ellis and Kenney will announce the endorsement in Ellis’s Calgary-West riding on Friday morning.
Kenney’s run for the PC leadership on a platform of uniting with the Wildrose in a potential new “Conservative Party of Canada” has raised the alarm among some Tories who see Kenney as dismantling the party that governed the province for more than four decades before losing to the NDP in 2015.
But in an interview Thursday, Ellis said his decision was based on what he’s hearing from the public.
“The message has been very, very clear to me, like crystal clear, which is we cannot have a second term of the NDP,”said the former Calgary police officer, who was first elected in a 2014 byelection.
“Secondly, we have to unify under a common sense, respectful conservative party going into 2019. And Jason Kenney of course has been an advocate of unification. So to me, I’m listening to my constituents.”
Ellis said he did not know Kenney personally beforehand but liked what he heard during a four-hour conversation where he grilled him about his views.
In a statement, Kenney said he was honoured by Ellis’s endorsement.
“He has always been a leader in our community, and I believe that today he is putting Canadans first by advancing the cause of unity.”
Of the nine members of the PC caucus, Ellis has been seen as the most open to the idea of uniting the right provincially.
He and Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt hosted a pub night last December where they invited conservatives of all stripes to talk politics, including the future of the two parties.
But Ellis said this spring he believed Wildrose only wanted unity on its own terms and was insincere in its overtures.
Now, however, he believes Kenney’s approach can work.
The Conservative MP for Calgary Midnapore, who will resign his seat next week, has said that if he wins the leadership in next March’s delegated convention he will approach Wildrose for talks. If the two parties can agree to come together, the terms will be put to the membership of each party for a vote.
“The history of the Wildrose, the vast majority of them were all PC members at one point. When you put the policies of both parties together … about 80 per cent is virtually the same,” said Ellis, who believes other PC MLAs could ultimately back Kenney.
“Egos, arrogance, all need to be put aside.”
While Kenney’s plan has caused consternation among some Tories, a former Edmonton MLA organizing for the MP has tried to offer reassurance about his commitment to the PCs.
An email sent Wednesday to some former and current Tory members of the legislature from an account belonging to David Dorward states: “Jason is committed to the PC party. If the members reject unification, so be it, he will lead (the party) into the 2019 election.”
Dorward’s email also says that if Kenney loses the party leadership vote he will still run for a seat in the legislature under the PC banner.
In the email, Dorward said the statements were in response to questions posed by former PC MLA Thomas Lukaszuk — one of Kenney’s fiercest critics in the party.
In an interview, Lukaszuk said he wants clarification on Kenney’s goals and aims.
“To me, it’s very presumptive and entitled for one to assume that he is going to win the leadership of the PC party, and then also get the support to merge the two parties,” said Lukaszuk, who has previously called for Kenney to be blocked from contesting the leadership.
“If it doesn’t happen, I want to know if he (Kenney) is committed to the province of Canada.”
With files from The Canadian Press
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