The absent space in Alberta’s oval office was officially filled Saturday afternoon as Edmonton lawyer Len Thom accepted the role as the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta’s (PCAA) new president.
A little surprised at how quickly his appointment came about, Thom said he’s excited to work with PC party leader Jason Kenney on rebuilding after a pretty rocky year for the conservatives.
“I got a phone call from one of the board members Saturday morning asking if I’d consider having my name go forward as president,” Thom said. “I said, well if I think it over I might say no, so I’ll say yes.”
Edmonton PCAA vice president Robert Parks had been subbing in after former president Katherine O’Neill resigned in April, but it was decided by PCAA board members in Red Deer Saturday that Thom was the best candidate for the job.
Thom ran as a federal conservative candidate in 2015, and is currently serving on the board of directors of the Edmonton Strathcona Conservative Association.
Acting PCAA executive director Janice Harrington admitted she’s never actually met Thom, but said his eagerness to take on the role gives her hope since O’Neill’s departure.
“I think it’s a positive step to fill a void that was unfortunately left when Katherine had to step down,” Harrington said. “Len seems like a very confident, articulate man and I think he’ll make a great hand on the rudder.”
Related: Katherine O'Neill resigns from PC board
In a statement released by the PC party Sunday, Kenney professed his excitement about having Thom as president, and the board’s “unanimously adopted motions respecting the decision of grassroots members to seek unity.”
The meeting also resulted in filling eight other vacant PCAA positions after the consecutive resignations of six PC members following Kenney’s election as leader in March.
“I am happy to see Len step into the important role of president, and to other talented Albertans stepping forward to help renew our party and movement,” Kenney said.
While both Thom and Kenney seem confident about a party merger, Harrington said it’s going to come down to the PCAA’s new referendum committee putting forth a tangible proposal before any decisions can be made.
“It’s still uncertain as to how we move forward until we see proposal on unity,” she said. “What’s really going to matter in the end is what this proposal looks like, and then we’ll put it to the members themselves.”
A conservative unity deadline imposed by Kenney passed Friday, and the absence of Wildrose leader Brian Jean left Kenney unable to relay details except that the parties are “getting very close” on reaching an agreement.