12/22/2014 08:58 EST | Updated 02/21/2015 05:59 EST

Wildrose Party To Announce New Interim Leader

The Wildrose Party will name its interim leader later today in Calgary.

The party is still reeling after nine MLAs crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives last week, including former leader Danielle Smith.

"To me, it's declaring victory and uniting conservatives under the leadership of one person so that we can deal with some very significant challenges ahead," Smith told CBC News on Saturday.

Smith said a merger was proposed to her last May, but she rejected it outright because she thought it was "too soon."

Last week's decision, she said, was precipitated by a series of events beginning with the loss of four byelections, which left her wondering whether the party could be "a spoiler" in urban ridings.

Staff members laid off

Those losses were compounded by the defeat of an anti-discrimination policy at the party's annual general meeting followed by the defection of two MLAs at the end of November.

Smith dismissed calls from current Wildrose MLAs to run in a byelection, but said she would conduct some polling and listen to what her constituents have to say.

Party officials are adamant they will continue building support in the province and electing MLAs.

The party had to lay off about 10 or 11 staff members following the announcement.

A crowdfunding campaign to help Wildrose staffers has nearly reached its $20,000 goal in just two days.

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