Last Monday night, I attended the Town Hall on Democratic Renewal at Edmonton's Glenora Community Hall. With almost 200 people in attendance, I was pleasantly surprised (considering it was a political event in the middle of July).
Hosts David Swann and Laurie Blakeman were joined by panelists Sarah Arthurs (who has organized similar meetings in Calgary), Calgary Herald writer Les Brost, political consultant Ken Chapman, and past Green candidate Joe Anglin. Also, in attendance were MLAs Kevin Taft, Harry Chase, and Bridget Pastoor, City Councillor Ben Henderson, a number of past MLAs, and past PC candidate Wendy Andrews (who gets special props being the only past Tory candidate at the event). Also there were Blake Robert (the artist formerly known as Alberta Tory), Troy Wason, and their merry band of Blackberry-toting PC staffers.
Though this wasn't exactly the most Tory friendly crowd, the crowd of Liberals, NDs, Greens, and Independents contributed some good non-partisan discussion over the course of the evening -- ranging from how to revitalize our ailing and antiquated electoral system to how to re-engage Albertans in their democratic process to how to improve change the overly confrontational style of our politics. With potentially less than 40% of Albertans having voted in the 2008 election, there was lots of interest in finding positive solutions to move forward.
Overall, I was most impressed with Joe Anglin. After leading central Alberta landowners in the fight against Bill 46, Anglin earned an impressive 22% while running for the Green Party in Lacombe-Ponoka in March 2008. Though some might not like his "agitate, agitate, agitate" kind of style, I found him to be impressive on his feet and would be a formidable candidate no matter which banner he was running under. With no shortage of talk about the creation of a new political movement in Alberta, I hope that people like Joe Anglin are there to take a lead role. As Les Brost put it that evening, "labels are important when it comes to marketing, but mean nothing when it comes to substance."
Putting "feet on the ground" is how Anglin described his impressive results in Lacombe-Ponoka and how any new political movement needs to be founded -- by cultivating the sincere grassroots support that none of Alberta's current political parties can claim to have.
As Jason Morris at gauntlet.ca wrote in his very thorough rundown of the evening:
"In the end, I left the meeting no longer wondering if it was possible that a new political movement could be formed in Alberta, but wondering instead what form it will take."After Monday night, I tend to agree.