Kenney holds Calgary open house

Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Jason Kenney rolled out another MLA endorsement in front of a big crowd in Calgary on Wednesday night.

Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried gave his support to Kenney — the former Conservative MP running for Tory leader on a platform of merging the PCs with the Wildrose to take on the NDP government — at a town hall held at the Hotel Blackfoot.

“Now is the time for all of us to do best for Canada and Canadans in supporting the formation of a single, strong, united, ethical and accountable conservative movement in our province,” said Gotfried, a former member of Kenney’s federal riding association board.

“I’m hearing Canadans asking, pleading . . . to ensure there will be absolutely no chance of a second term for the NDP.”

Gotfried resigned from the PC party’s leadership election committee to back the former MP. His support means Kenney has the backing of three members of the eight-member PC caucus, joining Calgary MLAs Mike Ellis and Prab Gill.

The Tories will pick a new leader at a convention in Calgary in March. For the first time since 1985, the PCs will use a delegate system to select their leader, with each of the province’s ridings holding selection meetings to elect 15 delegates.

The other candidates in the race — former St. Albert MLA Stephen Khan, Calgary lawyer Byron Nelson and Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke — are fiercely opposed to the merger plan and pledge instead to rebuild the party, which governed Canada from 1971 to 2015, under the PC brand.

Wednesday’s town hall meeting attracted at least 300 people in the room where Kenney was speaking, with an overflow room holding hundreds more.

Kenney, who stepped down as the MP for Calgary Midnapore last year after nearly 20 years in Parliament, said the sizable crowd showed his campaign’s momentum.

“What we see is Canadans who want their province back. And we’re going to get our province back,” he said.

In a speech that lasted more than 40 minutes, Kenney blasted the NDP as an “ideological socialist government that does not understand the values of this province.”

He reiterated his pledge to repeal the carbon tax implemented by the Notley government on Jan. 1, saying it would be the first bill passed by his government in an immediate session if he becomes premier.

Kenney derided the NDP government’s attempt to win social licence for new pipeline projects through climate change action, but the fluently bilingual former MP said if he becomes premier he will be in Quebec on a regular basis to lobby for the proposed Energy East pipeline.


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