Former Wildrose Party leader and United Conservative Party leadership candidate Brian Jean is denying he’s returning to provincial politics.
His statement, made on Twitter, came after Calgary city councillor Joe Magliocca came forward saying Jean called and asked him to run as an MLA for the Freedom Conservative Party in the upcoming election, Magliocca said.
“He goes, ‘The reason why I’m calling you is because I’m going to be leader of the (FCP)’ and I said, ‘What?'” Magliocca told Global News on Thursday.
“He goes, ‘No no I think we can make it,’ I go, ‘Brian, you’re kidding yourself,’ he goes, ‘No Joe, listen, I want you to run as a candidate. You’ll be a champion for us.’
“I go, ‘Brian, that ain’t gonna happen, trust me.'”
According to Magliocca, Jean said he would be the leader of the FCP in the upcoming spring election after burying the hatchet with current FCP Leader and former Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt.
Magliocca said an announcement from Jean was expected to take place by the end of this week, just a few short days ahead of the throne speech scheduled for Monday. There’s no word on if an announcement of any kind is still set to come from Jean.
Jean refuted the claims from Magliocca on Twitter Thursday.
“Wow. I too have heard crazy rumours about something coming Friday but NONE of it involves me,” he tweeted on Thursday morning.
Magliocca’s comments caused swift reaction from political pundits and leaders across the country.
“Dear Albertans, prior to the formation of the SaskParty 20 years ago, our province was the example of what dividing the free enterprise movement will do: electing NDP governments, over and over again,” tweeted Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. “United we win, divided we lose.”
Former prime minister Stephen Harper also weighed in, calling for unity in Alberta under his former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney.
“Conservatives win when we are united,” Harper said in a statement. “That was true when we united our federal party and it is true in Alberta today. Personal ambition and fighting old battles must take a backseat to the best interests of our province.”
Jean stepped away from political life in March 2018, and in February celebrated the birth of his daughter Annabella Frances Jean.
Prior to his resignation, the former Fort McMurray-Athabasca MLA ran for the leadership of the United Conservative Party.
Jean captured 31.5 per cent of the vote, but was defeated by Kenney, who garnered 61.2 per cent of the vote from the UCP membership.
At a campaign announcement on Thursday, Kenney took aim at the rumours Jean was returning to politics.
“It appears that Mr. Jean does not accept the 95 per cent vote of grassroots Alberta conservatives to unite into one big party and that’s unfortunate,” Kenney said. “But it won’t distract us from the responsibility we have to replace the NDP and get our province back to work.”
NDP Health Minister Sarah Hoffman defended Jean Thursday, saying he was disrespected by his former party.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people who feel like he was done pretty poorly by the entire process,” Hoffman said. “Somebody who came back from Ottawa to stick up for a party who was in disarray after the major floor crossings.”
A divided right would benefit the NDP by splitting the vote in the upcoming election, according to Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt.
But is it safe to say that is what’s happening right now in Alberta politics? Bratt believes the rumblings do signal a rift in Alberta’s political right.
“They had a leadership race, but almost since that moment, there has been a slight series of small stories that if you look at them together, suggest they may not be as unified,” Bratt said.
Global News reached out to the Freedom Conservative Party for comment but did not receive a response.
Members of the legislature return to Edmonton on Monday for the throne speech.
There’s no word on when the spring election will be called.
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