Former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister and leadership candidate Richard Starke has announced he will not join the new United Conservative Party, saying he doesn’t think moderate views will be welcome.
Starke, the MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster, said there were a number of red flags for him since Kenney won the PC leadership March 18. They included ambiguity on gay-straight alliances, PC Leader Jason Kenney’s decision not to take part in the Edmonton Pride Parade and statements on social media by PC party president Len Thom likening changes to the social studies program in Alberta schools to the Hitler Youth.
“As a veterinarian, at some point if there are so many clinical signs, you have to make a diagnosis,” he said.
Starke said he volunteered to be on a committee to advise the PC members on the unity working group. He said that committee was never formed. The deal to unite with Wildrose and created the UCP was announced May 18.
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Starke said he notified the Speaker of the legislative assembly of his intentions not to join the new party. He will continue as a PC MLA. That may change if the PC board deregisters the party.
On Saturday, members of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties ratified an agreement to merge under the UCP banner by a margin of 95 per cent.
Starke, who came a distant second to Jason Kenney in the PC party’s spring leadership race, has been silent on his views ever since the two parties reached the unity agreement on May 18.
Members of the PC and Wildrose caucuses are meeting Monday morning to choose an interim UCP leader who will serve until a permanent leader is elected on Oct. 28.
The new party is expected to register with Elections Alberta on Monday.
Wildrose Leader Brian Jean is making an announcement in Airdrie on Monday afternoon. He is expected to launch his bid to lead the new party.