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Sunday, September 13, 2009

notes from the alberta ndp convention.

After spending one evening this week at the Wildrose Alliance leadership forum, I've spent a good part of this weekend at the other end of the political spectrum as a media observer at the 43rd annual Alberta NDP convention in Edmonton. I will post some more detailed thoughts soon, but until then, here are some notes from the convention:

- Nova Scotia NDP campaign manager Matt Hebb spoke on Friday evening about the electoral situation that led to the current NDP majority government led by Premier Darrell Dexter. I took some notes from Hebb's talk and will include my thoughts in a future post.

- The Democratic Renewal Project has made their presence known at the convention. A policy resolution directing the party leader to initiative public negotiations with the leaders of the Alberta Liberals and Green Party to conclude a tactical electoral alliance has proposed by the Edmonton-Rutherford and Edmonton-Whitemud NDP Associations. It will be debated on Sunday morning and will likely be defeated.

- Leader Brian Mason took a direct shot at the DRP in his Saturday afternoon speech to delegates by challenging the assumption that vote splitting is not the reason the NDP does not have more MLAs in the Legislature. Mason announced intentions for the NDP to run a full slate of candidates and a plan to target resources on 12 ridings between now and the next election.

- Mason also announced the NDPs plans to hold a number of health care forums across Alberta starting on September 29 in Calgary and September 30 in Lethbridge. Other forums are expected to be held in Edmonton, Grande Prairie, and Fort McMurray.

- Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan spoke about NGOs, the environment, and partisan politics at the Olga Blogheim luncheon this afternoon. Attendees included Mason, MLA Rachel Notley, former MLA David Eggen, federal candidate Lewis Cardinal, and provincial candidate Deron Bilous.

- According to delegates I've spoken to (and blogs I've read) there seems to be little movement behind a twitter account and blog supporting Notley to become NDP leader.


JerryMacGP said...

The main rationale behind why the NDP "establishment" (if there is such a thing) opposes the DRP is arithmetical: they look at recent elections, add up the combined NDP and Liberal votes, and find that in most of the province these numbers do not add up to a plurality. In other words, the so-called vote-splitting is not enough to explain why the Tories get such an overwhelming majority of seats. It is true however that in some close races, especially in parts of Edmonton, this sort of analysis can explain whey there are not at least a few more opposition seats.

What this analysis fails to take into account, however, is the influence on voter turnout of a perception that the election is a foregone conclusion. Every recent election has seen a steady decline in voter turnout. A proposal like that of the DRP might make more ridings seem competitive and increase voter engagement, which can be nothing but a healthy development in this province. In turn, the increase in opposition seats created by such an initiative could make Alberta politics more competitive and make the government more accountable. I do not think this government will be defeated in the next election if this goes forward, but it might become less entrenched, and this process could lead to an eventual change in government one or two elections later.

Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. By that token, the current electoral strategies of both major opposition parties (and I say this as a card-carrying member of one of them) are insane.

Lou Arab said...

The critical point that the DRP seems to forget or ignore is the fact that you cannot assume that all Liberal voters will vote NDP, nor even that all NDP voters will vote Liberal if their first choice is off the ballot. Studies show, and the example in Edmonton Calder, Peace River and other ridings is that given the lack of a Liberal option, many (perhaps even a majority) of Liberal voters choose the Tories as their second choice. This doesn't even account for the effect of a backlash against backroom arrangements similar to what we saw in Alberta when the federal coalition came forward.

But most of all, while the DRP supporters feel there is little difference in policy between the Liberals and NDP, many NDP members feel very differently. We see our principals and priorities as very different from the Liberals. That simple reality means the DRP motion won't fly, and likely won't work even if it passed, as many NDPers would likely strike out on their own, thus continuing the so-called 'vote splitting.'

Anonymous said...

It also ignores the fact that if the Liberals were to cooperate with the NDP, then for most voters there would be a perception that there is no difference between the 2 parties. This would probably marginize the Liberals even more, shifting them completly towards the left and probably costing them seats.

Jerry above also assumes that non-voters dont vote becuase they think the tories will win. There is no evidence of that, they may not be voting because they think the tories are going to win and they are happy with that.

The DRP has a profound misunderstanding of electoral politics.

Anonymous said...

yah for the dippers.
But the Liberals have already had seniors health care forums, 1 in St Albert, 2 in Edmonton, 3 in Calgary, 2 in Lethbridge and I think 1 in Grande Prarie. They already have another one schedualed for Edmonton Rutherford later this month.
Good for the dippers to be 4 months late to the party!

Anonymous said...

Yes, DRPers are definitely confused or ill-informed.

Wasn't there some organization around a new party? Something Swann's staff was involved in? What happened to that? Not that it would ever amount to anything, but I kept hearing they were busy organizing....

Denny said...

@Anonymous @6:08

The NDP months late to the party?
The NDP has been holding healthcare forums, including seniors ones around the province for decades, including many in the last year. While they may not have been to St. Albert recently, in the last year they've been in every other city you've mentioned, and even more small communities addressing healthcare.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how Eric Carpendale felt when all the NDP members in Alberta went to their convention in Edmonton instead of helping his byelection campaign in Calgary Glenmore.

Denny said...

@Anonymous at 11:07

Do you really think all of the NDP members were at convention? Less than 10% were.

Many of Carpendale's volunteers (who are not necessarily members) were likely still in Calgary helping him out. Even the party's 1st Vice-President, who is a fellow IBEW member only made a brief appearance at convention and spent most of his weekend in Glenmore.

Robert Vollman said...

I agree with what many people here wrote.

I'd say the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives have more in common than the Liberals and the NDP do.

These are two fundamentally different parties with significantly different policies. It's nuts to consider their votes are that transferrable.