In a surprise announcement, two members of the Wildrose Party announced, alongside Alberta Premier Jim Prentice, that they were leaving the opposition to join the governing Progressive Conservative Party.

Former Wildrose MLAs Kerry Towle and Ian Donovan officially crossed the floor to join the PC Party Monday.

“Two individuals who I have admired from a distance, today have joined the Progressive Conservative Caucus,” Premier Jim Prentice said Monday.

“I’m pleased and humbled by this, humbled by their support – I’ve admired the work ethic and the integrity of both of these individuals.”

Prentice said the two new additions were approved unanimously by the PC caucus.

Towle told reporters that her final decision to switch was made Sunday; she called the choice “incredibly difficult.”

“I consider most of my caucus-mates my friends, but I felt that I had done all that I could in the world I was in,” Towle said. “Over the last 10 days I’ve spent a lot of time chatting with my constituents, and hearing from them that they wanted us to come together, they would like to see us move forward in how we make this a better Alberta, and I heard from them, I’ve listened to them and I made my decision.”

Towle said ‘rifts’ within the party didn’t play much of a role in her choice, but “some of the decisions being made were taking our party in a way that was not in line with what my constituents elected me to do.”

“I didn’t feel that I could do anything to fix that path,” Towle continued.

“I’m impressed with the new leadership. One of the challenges we had, was as a team player – and I respect Danielle Smith in the utmost – it’s hard to follow someone who is saying they’re not sure they’re going to lead the team if they don’t win the next game,” Donovan said.

Opposition Leader responds to changes

A few hours after Prentice, Towle and Donovan made their announcement; Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith read a statement to reporters in response.

Smith started by thanking the two former members of the party “for their past service to their constituents.”

“I have always believed the politics should be about principle,” Smith said, before talking about two MLAs in the Wildrose Party that had crossed the floor from the PCs. “Today I was proud to be in the legislature with [MLAs] Rob Anderson and Heather Forsythe at my side.

“Rob and Heather crossed the floor from government to opposition, because of principle. They gave up the perks of power to serve Albertans, not for personal gain, but because they wanted to put Albertans first.

“Today we saw the opposite, the principles Wildrose stands on remain as important to Albertans as ever before, we believe in balanced budgets and staying out of debt, we believe more money doesn’t solve every problem Alberta has. We believe in empowering MLAs to stand up for their constituents with free votes, we believe in decentralized healthcare and better outcomes for patients and vulnerable Albertans. And we believe in providing a strong, and principled alternative to an old and tired government.

“Until today, these were the principles my former colleagues espoused as well, they were the principles they were elected to stand on. Now, they will have to answer for their actions, both in their constituencies and in the legislature.”

Both Donovan and Towle were elected as MLAs in 2012 - Towle served as the Wildrose Deputy Caucus Whip, and was Critic for Human Services and Seniors.