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Monday, May 26, 2008

alberta liberal leadership race 2008.

With Alberta Liberal leader Kevin Taft pondering his future abroad and expected to announce his future political intentions in the coming months, those interested in running for the subversive job of Leader of the Official Opposition are starting to gear up (for a potential November 2008 leadership selection). Sources in Calgary have informed me that Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor is rallying his key supporters to prepare for a run. Taylor was first elected in 2004 after unseating high-profile Tory backbencher Jon Lord and was re-elected in 2008 by defeating Tory star candidate Arthur Kent. Before entering elected politics, Taylor was the host of a popular QR77 Radio call-in show.

Among Taylor's rumoured supporters is longtime Liberal organizer Donn Lovett. Lovett has been involved in Liberal campaigns since the 1980s (including campaigns of Sheldon Chumir, Joe Clark, Dave Taylor, Jennifer Pollock, and Craig Cheffins) but more recently, Lovett caused a bit of a stir after penning a memo to key Liberal organizers on the future of the party, including critiques on post-election MLA critic portfolios and party operations.

As Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann is publicly talking about forming a new political party in Alberta, I've had many Liberal supporters tell me that they would be more than happy to support a Swann leadership campaign (to also prevent a Taylor coronation). Also rumoured to be interested in a run is former Edmonton-McClung MLA Mo Elsalhy. Elsalhy was elected in 2004 by defeating Ralph Klein-era Economic Development Minister Mark Norris, but was unseated by Tory David Xiao in the 2008 election. Though I haven't heard any stirrings on the front, I wouldn't be disappointed if veteran Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman threw her hat into the ring.

With the March 3, 2008 election results fresh in memory, the next leader of the Alberta Liberals will take on the arguably thankless job inheriting a 9-member caucus facing a massive 72-seat 37-year old Tory majority, a party with a massive financial debt, and nearly no support outside the cities of Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge regions. The leadership race will also take place in a new geo-political dynamic in the Liberal caucus now that the majority of the 9-MLA caucus are from southern Alberta (five MLAs from Calgary & one from Lethbridge), rather than the traditional Edmonton base (which now has three MLAs).

Facing these challenges, I think I tend to agree with Swann. With none of Alberta's political parties successfully engaging Albertans, I would argue that it's time start from scratch.


Anonymous said...

"high profile MLA Jon Lord"?

Do you just make this stuff up as you go along Dave? Wow. That one made me laugh.

Perhaps you should run for the leadership, you seem to be pretty talented at making things up as you go along, i'd say that would be the most crucial feature for a Liberal leader.

daveberta said...

Name recognition is what I was talking about. Surely as a former Alderman, he was more a more high profile backbencher than most.

rj said...

That's the best anonymous criticism that this post can draw? Jon Lord? Ha.

It's time to scrap the traditional party structure in this province. David Swann is taking the right direction by talking to non partisan politicos and people like Joe Anglin and Preston Manning. A new movement could sweep the Tories away and they know it.

Anonymous said...

A letter to Graham Thomson from a former Liberal MLA.

greg w. said...

Jon Lord had name profile in Calgary but blended in nicely with other Tory Back Benchers after the 2001 election.

Taylor is a good QP attack dog and has a great voice for politics. The question is whether or not he can engage Albertans - like you said, Dave - no party is successfully engaging Albertans.

Will a new party solve this? Yet to be seen. I think Albertans are open to an alternative just that the Liberal brand is too tainted in this province. I believe that the new political leadership for Alberta is not in the current Legislature or provincial political scene. We don't know who our future political leaders will come from, but they will come out of the wood work of Alberta society, not out of the current political back rooms/benches.

tjk said...

That letter says it all. The attitude in that letter is why that party cannot win seats.

Whole new party would be interesting. I maintain that'd have to be a party that both people like Dave, and people like myself, could at least strongly think about voting for. That's a big challenge though.

Any idea what could accomplish that?

Anonymous said...

Don Iveson for Premier!

justin said...


Since March 3 I've thought quite a bit about the relative merits of both of the two broad courses of action: keeping the ALP and fixing it, or tearing it down and starting over. I'm not steadfastly in favour of either, as both present huge challenges, but I'm a little more inclined to try and work with what we've got, because it seems to be just marginally more likely to be a success.

When working this through, my underlying assumption is that we want to create a party structure most likely to be electorally competitive while advancing a progressive social and environmental agenda for Alberta, and keeping the economy strong.

Currently, several parties compete for support from voters who are inclined to subscribe to these values. Introducing another one would further fracture this support, because I don't believe that the Alberta Liberals will cease to exist. Even if the group currently in command of that Party decided to shut it down and take a mulligan, I think that another group of people would have an Alberta Liberal Party up and running again prior to the next election. There are many people who love the Liberal brand and what it means both federally and provincially (I know, I know, laugh it up), and I don't think that they would be willing to let the ALP go. I've been to many ALP functions, and really, all you need to do is say "this party has been around since 1905" and people start getting all misty eyed.

If another ALP does run candidates in the next election, those candidates will get votes form people who simply vote Liberal. Many people who take only a passing interest in politics wouldn't even be aware of the situation, and would just vote Liberal because that's how they vote. In this case, both the "New ALP" and the "Old ALP" would suffer from the existence of the other.

So from a pragmatic perspective, I think the new party sounds like fun, but will not have the intended effect.

Just my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

The first past the post system does a good job distorting actual election results from the 2008 campaign.

PC: 128,130 votes = 18 seats
LIB: 94,827 votes = 5 seats
WRP: 25,057 votes = 0 seats
GRN: 13,628 votes = 0 seats
NDP: 11,765 votes = 0 seats

PC: 95,854 votes = 13 seats
LIB: 75,052 votes = 3 seats
NDP: 40,399 votes = 2 seats
WRP: 7,076 votes = 0 seats
GRN: 3,377 votes = 0 seats

Do I have sour grapes? a bit yeah, but I also think it's important to point out that the PCs garnering 52% of the votes translated into 86% of the seats in the legislature.

Darren said...

You can change the party name and change the leader but if you don't change the policies then it will be all for naught ("different name, different leader, same old Liberals"). Keep the name, keep the leader and change the policies. That will go a lot further.
The party needs to rethink its policies, to find a balance between what Albertans want and what the Liberals can offer. The trick isn't to combine voters on the left of the spectrum, you'll still wind up with a minority. The trick is to take voters from the center and right. I've said it before, it's not how much you spend it's how you spend what you have.

Glen said...

I won't be around for the building of this party or even for the coming ALP leadership race (moving to Nova Scotia makes that pretty difficult) but there's certainly something to be said for a new party.

If a group of "I'll die a Liberal dammit" folk try to talk over the ALP after the current brass and some members leave to start a new party, so much the better. They can keep the debt.

Anonymous said...

Let's throw some more 'what ifs' around. . .

What if we saw Dr. Swann take his ball and go home, start a new party with no debt, a 'green' leaning and an urban orientation? There is redistribution looming and the cities will cry for more representation. Wouldn't that lead to a fresh start for such a political undertaking?

Or perhaps we could see Harry (B.) Chase take his Friends of Medicare fully into the political arena rather than have them snipe at both Libs and PCs from the sidelines. Why not?

Kevin is done. Lets get on with it. There are ONLY 4 to 5 years to prepare and, regardless, it will take that long to rip things apart and get them re-assembled.

cam said...

The prospect of an urban 'green' leaning party could be a force against the Tories in the next election. With redistribution set to take place before the next election there is plenty of opportunity for a fiscal responsibile-urban-green leaning new party to take advantage of four or five years of grossly large rural tory led majority. The good urban Tory MLAs are unlikely to be let into the circle of power around Stelmach-Danyluk-Snelgrove-Oullette in the next four years so the Tories could be weaker in urban power in the next election. The power base in Alberta is shifting towards urban Alberta as the population grows. Rural political power in Alberta is waining by the pure simple fact that people aren't moving to Lac La Biche or Peace River, they are moving to Edmonton and Calgary.

Anonymous said...

That Don Lovett memo is hilarious. His initial premise is correct, but then he plays “fantasy baseball” with the lineup of opposition critics and concludes that Dave Taylor (his guy) should be the leader, without saying as much.

Raymaker said...

Don Lovett is a pigeon. He flies in, shits all over everything, then flies away again.