The leaders of the Wildrose party and Progressive Conservative party started work to unify the province’s right-wing parties Thurdsay, by signing an agreement-in-principle (AIP) to unify under the United Conservative Party banner.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean and PC leader Jason Kenney signed the agreement Thursday at a news conference in Edmonton.

The AIP sets an outline for how the two parties will stop operations, once the membership of each party has voted in support of unifying.

“The foundations of this agreement stay true to the promise I made to the Wildrose grassroots members – to pursue unity in a way that maintains our principles, and our grassroots way of doing things,” Jean said in a statement. “It’s been the mission of our party to inspire Albertans and restore common sense conservative ideas to government.

“This agreement brings that mission closer to reality.”

Kenney called Thursday’s announcement and signing the agreement “a historic day for Alberta”.

“We are putting our province ahead of our parties in order to get Alberta back on track,” Kenney said in a statement. “With this agreement, we end a decade of division by uniting common sense Albertans.

“This ensures the defeat of this disastrous NDP government, and the election of a free-enterprise government that will renew the Alberta Advantage.”

Members of both parties are expected to vote in the coming weeks – if ratified, the new party is expected to start the process of choosing a new leader immediately.

The two sides have been discussing the idea of unifying for some time, a ten member panel – with five members from each party – has been meeting to create a framework for bringing the two parties together.

Unifying the two right-wing parties was at the centre of PC Leader Jason Kenney’s campaign when he sought leadership of the party. At the time, Jean called the plan “a distraction”, but never rejected it.

Before Thursday’s announcement, Premier Rachel Notley answered questions about the news Thursday.

“Whether it’s the Wildrose or the Tories, they clearly agree on things like making massive cuts on services in order to finance tax breaks for people at the top one percent,” Notley said. “They agree collectively that they’re not particularly sympathetic or supportive of LGBTQ rights.”

“They are a group that is moving increasingly to a more and more extreme position, to the point where they may fall right off the map, and I guess if they do they’ll have company.”

With files from Dan Grummett