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Updated: 14th March 2019 18:17

Conservative politicians urge Alberta's right to stay united amid talk of Brian Jean's return

Canada's former prime minister and the current premier of Saskatchewan both took to Twitter Thursday to promote the same message — it's vital Alberta's conservatives remain united to defeat the NDP in the upcoming spring election.

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'Personal ambition and fighting old battles must take a backseat,' tweeted Stephen Harper

Conservative politicians took to Twitter to encourage Alberta's right to stay united and avoid splitting the vote in the upcoming spring election. From left to right, former prime minister Stephen Harper, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and UCP candidate Doug Schweitzer. (Canadian Press, CBC)

Canada's former prime minister and the current premier of Saskatchewan both took to Twitter Thursday to push the same message — it's vital Alberta's conservatives remain united to defeat the NDP in the upcoming spring election.

"Prior to the formation of the [Saskatchewan Party] 20 years ago, our province was the example of what dividing the free enterprise movement will do: electing NDP governments, over and over again," Premier Scott Moe wrote, in a tweet retweeted by former premier Brad Wall.

The social media posts followed what former Wildrose Leader Brian Jean called "rumours" — that he would be running as leader for the Freedom Conservative Party, setting himself up as a competitor to UCP Leader Jason Kenney who defeated him in the party's leadership race in 2017.

A social media frenzy followed, with plenty of speculation over whether or not Jean's hypothetical return could split the conservative vote just one year after two parties united in an attempt to prevent that very outcome.

Doug Schweitzer, who ran against Kenney and Jean during the UCP leadership campaign, and is now a candidate for Calgary-Elbow said the speculation is a "slap in the face" to the party.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper said "personal ambition and fighting old battles must take a backseat" for the province's best interests.

"Jason Kenney received an overwhelming mandate from Alberta's conservatives to lead us into the next election. Everything that has occurred since has shown that party members made the right choice."

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Moe said in a scrum following the legislature's question period he wasn't trying to sway Alberta's upcoming election, but simply offering the province some of his own experience.

"We've seen an NDP government in Saskatchewan, I don't think they're the best thing for our province's economy and our province's opportunities," he said.

"The ultimate formation of the Saskatchewan Party just over 20 years ago came about by this very realization that when we unite and set aside our differences … we've become successful."

But Moe said he doesn't expect the comments to hurt his relationship with NDP Premier Rachel Notley, who he said he has had a strong working relationship with despite disagreements over policies like the NDP's carbon tax.

"I am making comments with respect to a shared interest we have with the strength of our economy," he said.

  • Alberta Votes 2019: CBC News brings you all the news, analyses and columns you need for the election.

'Political games'

Jean has stayed largely out of politics since he resigned as an MLA in 2018, but in recent weeks he's spoken up a few times to take shots at Kenney.

The former Wildrose leader tweeted that any big political news coming this week won't involve him. CBC News has reached out to Jean for comment.

Kenney said in a teleconference he's not going to be distracted by the speculation and he won't let it impact the UCP's growth.

"It's not about political games. You don't have any fear of the repeat of the last election where the conservative vote was split," he said.

"That's exactly what the NDP wants."

Brian Jean denies rumours that he is returning to politics to lead the Freedom Conservative Party. Melissa Lantsman, Andrew Thomson, Rob Brown and Dan Moulton discuss. 10:33

  • CBC's legislative reporters Kim Trynacity and Michelle Bellefontaine bring you expert analysis and insiders' insight into the week's top Alberta political stories on The Ledge podcast.

With files from CBC Regina

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