08/16/2016 11:25 EDT | Updated 08/16/2016 11:59 EDT

Jason Kenney Expects Disillusioned NDP Supporters Will Join Him

CALGARY — Former Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney says he expects that NDP supporters will join his campaign to unite Alberta's right-wing parties.

The Calgary MP is running for the Progressive Conservative leadership on a platform that would require talks to begin on a merger with the Wildrose party.

Kenney, who opened a campaign office in Calgary Monday, told supporters he wants a big-tent political party, which would include those who have voted for the ruling NDP.

"I've met NDP union members who said they didn't vote for a carbon tax and they didn't vote to shut down the coal industry.'" —Jason Kenney

"Anybody that wants to get rid of this job-destroying NDP government is welcome in this coalition and that includes a lot of traditional NDP voters,'' Kenney said.

"There are a lot of people in the public sector who might have voted NDP last time who are realizing they cannot have a strong public sector unless we have a growing economy — union members who are losing their jobs in the coal mines because of the NDP, nurses and teachers who want a more flexible and responsible public services, hard-pressed taxpayers.''

Afterward, Kenney said the "blue-collar NDP spirit'' is not represented by the current "ideological'' government of Premier Rachel Notley.

"I've met NDP union members who said they didn't vote for a carbon tax and they didn't vote to shut down the coal industry,'' he said.

"They didn't vote for $45 billion in debt. I absolutely believe if we put together one, big, broad new party we're going to get a lot of traditional NDP voters supporting it.''

jason kenney

Jason Kenney is hoping to unite Alberta's right-wing parties. (Photo: Jason Franson/CP)

Roari Richardson, provincial secretary of the Alberta New Democrats, said Kenney is not uniting anyone right now.

He said in fact Kenney is very divisive.

"New Democrats we talk to strongly disagree with Mr. Kenney on a number of things — be it collecting his MP salary while campaigning for a new job, his campaign's climate change-denying positions, or as we learned today, his plans to bring in private health care,'' Richardson said in an email.

Kenney said if he is elected Alberta PC leader in March of next year he would immediately begin talks with the Wildrose.

He said he is willing to take Wildrose Leader Brian Jean at his word that he's open to discussing a merger.

The Alberta PC leadership campaign doesn't officially begin until Oct. 1.

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