Newly elected Alberta Progressive Conservative leader Jason Kenney said Sunday he hopes to have a new leader and new united conservative party in place by spring of 2018.
Kenney told reporters at a news conference in Calgary he wants to complete negotiations with the official opposition Wildrose Party this spring, with a referendum of party members wrapped up by early summer.
Kenney suggested the new party could hold a founding convention by November.
"At this convention, this united party would adopt a constitution with leadership rules, elect an executive," Kenney said.
"That election would appoint a leadership election committee and then we would move immediately into a leadership election."
If members of the Wildrose or PC parties reject a future unity agreement, Kenney said he would respect that decision. But he also issued a warning.
"Voters in Alberta are going to punish any party that obstructs unity amongst free enterprisers," he said. "So if a unity agreement ends up being vetoed by either party, I think that sends a strong message to voters in which direction to go."
Kenney, who was elected on a "unite the right" platform, met with the PC board of directors Sunday morning to talk about next steps. Kenney won 75 per cent of votes in Saturday's delegated convention.
Kenney will meet with members of the PC caucus on Monday morning and with Wildrose Leader Brian Jean in the afternoon.
While Kenney and PC Party president Katherine O'Neill said the meeting went well, Kenney said party executive director Troy Wason submitted his resignation this morning.
O'Neill said the meeting was positive even though not everyone in the room agreed with Kenney's plan.
"But people are willing to explore the next steps and help try to build this," she said.
Kenney's goal of uniting the right may not be easy.
The leadership race became a divisive battle between Kenney supporters, who tended to skew more toward the views of the federal Conservative Party, and the traditional PCs, who wanted the party to continue in its current form.
The Wildrose Party, Alberta's official opposition, was started by former Progressive Conservatives who felt the party wasn't right-wing enough, particularly on property rights. Kenney spent 17 years as a member of the federal Conservatives, which is more in line with Wildrose values.
People who supported other candidates were bitter over Kenney's victory, which was thought to be due to his successful effort to recruit supporters and get them out to the delegate selection meetings in each of the 87 constituency associations.
Former deputy premier Doug Horner, whose father Dr. Hugh Horner served as a cabinet minister under Peter Lougheed, walked out of the convention hall when Kenney's win was announced Saturday afternoon.
In his victory speech, Kenney said he wanted people who didn't vote for him to tell him what they wanted from a new united conservative party.
"We need all of you," he said.
Kenney pledges to release donors' names
The PC leadership race didn't officially launch until Oct. 1, 2016, but Kenney was campaigning and fundraising as soon as he announced his candidacy in July.
Alberta election financing rules only require candidates to disclose their donors for the official campaign period, though that is soon expected to change. The governing NDP is expected to announce new legislation to close that loophole.
However, Kenney said Sunday he will honour his promise to also release the names of the donors to the first three months of his campaign. That information will come out in the weeks after May 18, the end of the official writ period under Elections Alberta rules.
Kenney's transition team includes former PC MLA and associate cabinet minister Donna Kennedy-Glans, who briefly ran for the leadership before dropping out in November.