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Saturday, November 22, 2008

(dave) taylor-made to jump from radio to politics.

Having a well-known name in Calgary has served Dave Taylor well since making the jump into politics in 2004. A standby of Calgary's radio circuit since 1985, Taylor hosted a popular radio show on CHQR77 until he made the jump to politics in 2004. Hoisting the Liberal banner in Calgary-Currie, Taylor unseated MLA Jon Lord in 2004 and held off a strong challenge from PC star candidate Arthur Kent in 2008.

Taylor served in a number of high profile opposition roles since 2004, including Advanced Education and Municipal Affairs & Housing critic, but since becoming Liberal Deputy Leader in 2004, it became fairly clear to political watchers that he was setting his sights on something more than deputy. And shortly after Kevin Taft announced that he would be departing the leader’s chair, Taylor was the first to step up.

As leader, Taylor would bring a different element to the Alberta Liberals: leading via sound bite. If Taylor wins, Albertans can expect better media performance than in the past as he would be quite a contrast to Ed Stelmach, and could be expected to regularly kick Stelmach's ass in Question Period and in the media. And if his leadership campaign material is any indication, the Alberta Liberal Party can expect to have an aesthetic face-lift if he wins.

Troubling is the number of MLAs (past and present) who have spoken to me about the difficulties they have had trying to get Taylor to work as part of a team. There may be no doubt that he rubs some people the wrong way, but though he may have had challenges with colleagues, one of his largest challenges as opposition leader would be to raise his profile outside of Calgary, where, much like fellow candidate David Swann, he is largely an unknown quantity.

If it's a plan that Alberta Liberal members are looking for, Taylor’s team has unveiled the most detailed programme of any candidate, including a wide-range of policy positions and an ambitious plan to pull the Liberals out of the dregs. Appealing to the party base, Taylor has branded himself as the "unapologetic Liberal” of the race, choosing to embrace the toxicity of the Liberal brand. But as good as his intentions may be, the question needs to be asked whether the Alberta Liberal Party is past the point of saving, and it’s not hard to argue that it may be.

Though I haven't shied away from criticizing Taylor’s campaign, I have had positive experience working with him in the past. During my term as Chair of the Council of Alberta University Students in 2006, Taylor joined former NDP MLA Raj Pannu in the media to help us challenge short-lived Advanced Education Minister Denis Herard’s first and only piece of legislation Bill 40, which de-legislated Alberta’s tuition policy. Bill 40 passed, but it wasn’t for lack of opposition by either Taylor or Pannu.

Dave Taylor's right combination of media personality and great radio voice have worked to his advantage as an opposition MLA, but can it jump-start the Liberals high enough towards the road of dethrone the long-governing PCs? I remain skeptical, but Taylor would definitely make politics in the Alberta Legislature more interesting.


divorced from ideology said...

Stelmach and his team of spinmasters, aka Tom Olsen, can use Taylor's style against him and the Liberals. Poor old nice farmer Ed is once again being targeted by the mean, bitchy and hostile Liberals, and this time they're media whores, chosing sound bites over substance.

And I too heard the stories about current and former caucus members and staff not being comfortable around Dave and unable to work with him.

Party of One said...

Sometimes the act of leadership merely involves figuring out where the head of the parade is, and going there.

The Alberta Liberals, however, don't seem to have a sense of direction, so figuring out where the parade is heading is difficult at best.

Maybe what is needed is someone to grab the bull by the horns and take charge by providing a direction. That requires "strong" leadership, not someone who tries to accomodate everyone on the team. A quarterback, not a kicker, to use an apt analogy on a Grey Cup weekend.

If current and former caucus members find Taylor difficult to work with, to what extent is that his responsibility, and to what extent is it the responsibility of those "not comfortable"? Maybe they NEED to be shaken out of their comfort zone to be more effective? I don't know, but I don't think it would hurt.

As to those who are concerned about "leadership by sound-bite", what exactly do you think Klein did for 10 years? We certainly didn't get any deep analysis from him, but you can't argue with his success. Sure, you can argue with his policies, but not the fact that he was able to drum up public support with a couple of well chosen "sound-bites".

Anonymous said...

The only thing I have against Taylor is exactly what you, Dave, have alluded to, the fact that Taylor was eyeing Taft's chair from day one. May be that's why he couldn't cooperate with his colleagues. They were Team Taft, not his own crew.

And despite his apparent skill with sound bites and quotes, what exactly did he do for the Liberal cause over the last 4 years as their deputy leader besides planning his leadership bid? Think of Ignatieff being by Dion's side for example despite losing to him in the leadership. At least Taylor and Taft never competed for the provincial leadership, or did they now?

Anonymous said...

Dave's 42-page strategy offers some new ideas, some old repackaged ones, and a lot of common sense items that didn't warrant inclusion. However, it's proof the same old way of thinking still prevails in the liberal party despite pretending otherwise - we love to produce a lot of text, huge platform documents, press releases with seven attachments each, and a 42-page white paper! Like who's going to read that, seriously...

Nastyboy said...

Taylo's biggest problem as leader will be the fact that he's the leader of the Liberal party.

The first thing he should do is at least pretend he actually likes it here. Unlike every other Liberal leader that's come before him.

Chester J said...

Anonymous: Whos' going to read a 42-page white paper? Apparently you did, at least.

Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

I didn't read it all. I admit I skimmed. Same with the tabloid platform document during the 2008 election, I didn't read it all either.

calgarygrit said...

In his defence, a 42 page renewal document is a lot different than a platform. A renewal document is about making actual changes to help the party - it's not (by design) a political document and it's not trying to sell this plan (well, OK, it kinda is in the context for a leadership race).

Their renewal plan is good - I hope the changes are made. I also hope that whatever platform gets put forward next campaign is short, concise, and to the point.

roblaw said...

..being a PC member, my comments need a little salt to help digest, but I actually didn't have a huge problem last I listened to Dave Taylor speak.. while I am a strong supporter of Ed Stelmach - I will say that Dave identified quite clearly a big part of the Liberal problem - the perception of the party as a party of egg-headed elitists.

If the Liberal party wants to make inroads (not that I wish them too much success) they have to identify with real Albertans - people who are too busy working and paying their bills to worry about those we feel they aren't "getting their share" (teachers, nurses, university professors and students).

I'm not saying this to be confrontational - post-secondary education is a huge priority - but the average Albertan who works hard to pay their bills and asks for little from the government doesn't have a great amount of sympathy for people with "their hand out."

There is a way to express the needs of a social safety net, the need for quality health care, etc., without making it sound like our teachers and nurses are the worst paid in the western world - when exactly the opposite is the case.

Taft was the classical "egg-headed elitist" that small "c" conservative Albertans despise.. Dave just might be something a little different and better.

Party of One said...

Is it the "egg-head" part that people object to "egg-head elitists", or the "elitist" part? Because I notice that some people who "despise" egg-headed elitists have no such compunction about accepting the advice of "celebrities" or sports figures...who are also "elites", by the way.

Elites exist. The best of the best in any field are considered the elite. I have absolutely no problem with accepting their input with respect to the field that they are "elite" in.

Elitism is when people with "elite" status in one field start to think that status extends to other fields, and start beaking off about things they actually know little about. Like Bono with environment issues; he may have studied them a bit, but he's no expert.

Or business people who think government should be run like a business. There's an entirely different set of "products" and outcomes in government than business.

roblaw said...

.."elitists" not in the sense of knowledge or ability - but in the sense of utilizing that knowledge or ability in a way which can make sense to the average Canadian.. opposed to saying in a patronizing way, "you just don't understand because you are too ignorant (or racist, or unconcerned about the environment, or homophobic, or some other description used to demean the importance of your opinion).

That sort of "elitist"..

ie) The "professionals" who created the $8 million study of the North American Opiate Medication Initiative, resulting in the lovely idea that to reduce the undesireable social effects of heroin addication, we should give free heroin to addicts..