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Monday, February 09, 2009

state of the liberal party 'brand' in alberta.

Two news articles caught my eye this weekend:

- Jeremy Loome had an interesting column in the Edmonton Sun this weekend on the state of the Liberal Party brand in Alberta.

Loome raised an excellent point about former Liberal leader and Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore. As much as many die-hard Liberals continue to believe that Decore is an example of how their party has been successful in Alberta, many of them seem to have a hard time recollecting that even Decore wasn't able to lead the Liberals to victory against the PCs. I understand that many long-time Liberals feel a personal connection to the Liberal Party of 1993, but it's not hard to argue that the electoral gains made that year had more to do with Decore's personal brand and his political connections than any party label.

- Decore-era Liberal Alex MacDonald was quoted in the Calgary Herald this weekend arguing that the Alberta Liberal Party is now in a better position than it was when Decore became its leader in 1988.

Having no personal experience with the Liberal Party of 1988, I can't say that this isn't the truth, but the political environment that exists today makes it difficult for me to believe that the Liberal Party of 2009 could attract the high profile leadership material like Decore.

MacDonald continued to argue that "[w]ith the right leader, and with the right strategy, and with enough support from people around the leader and in the party, it's very possible for a great deal of momentum to be created from a base of not very much."

'If everything were different, things would be different' is a hard argument to counter.

I have a lot of personal respect for current Liberal leader David Swann, but the cultural state of that political party has led me to step away from the Liberal Party and focus my energies elsewhere. With the recent news that the Liberals will be abandoning their 124th Street Edmonton Headquarters because of financial reasons, I am having an even more difficult time being convinced that the Liberal Party of 2012 will be in a position to present itself as the viable alternative that it did in 1993.

Clarification: I received an email from the Alberta Liberal Party this afternoon:

At this time there has been no decision made on the state of the “124th street headquarters,” our lease is coming up and we are in discussions with the landlord and looking at other options as well for less space for less money. We might end up moving as you state or we might not, no decision has been made.


Anonymous said...

McDonald's comments remind me of a favourite saying....

"If my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle."

Better to try and focus on making our Conservative party more Progressive, IMHO.

Anonymous said...


Regardless of where one could shift the PCs on the political spectrum, the most important thing they lack is any shred of accountability -- something they can only truly have when they actually have to work for their seats.

Restoring electoral competitiveness is, I think, the single most important task for anyone interested in improving the state of democracy/politics in the province.

Gauntlet said...

I hadn't heard about the office closure. Where did you hear about that?

Curmudgeon-at-Large said...

The only way to shift the PCs is to become their leader. They have frequently ignored resolutions of their party conventions (such as following up a party resolution to end funding of private schools by increasing funding to private schools - back in the 90s, I believe it was).

And to become their leader, you must have sold your soul. (Evidence - has there ever been a PC leader with soul?)

So what would be the point? Better to work for their replacement.

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree that it's better to have several competitive political parties.

Based on the turnout from the last election, it would seem that the electorate has given up on the political process here in Alberta.

They've certainly given up on making the Conservative party more progressive. Good luck on that one. That party hasn't realized yet that Alberta isn't only comprised of hillbillies, rednecks and bible thumpers anymore.

And when are they going to let go of the National Energy Program line of BS? Any time anyone in Ottawa talks about national policies, there's a kneejerk reaction in Alberta.

Seriously, Stelmach is starting to sound as whiny as Quebec's premiers. That's quite an about face going from "keep your hands off our money" to "what about Alberta" when it comes to stimulus programs. It's pathetic.

The best thing the provincial Liberals could do is change their name and find an exciting leader who doesn't leave me face down in my Cheerios.

Anonymous said...

Albertan's, at least the majority, are Conservative by nature. Trying to get them excited about Liberalism is like pushing a rope, or pissing into the wind.

Working to make the Cons more accountable is indeed a great start. Saying that the whole party lacks "any shred of accountability" is obviously ridiculous.

Why do Liberals in Alberta keep ignoring the basic fact that this is a community that leans right, and maybe your role is to make sure it's not too far right. Anything else, like hoping to actually form a Government, is a complete waste of time.

Oh, and I hate Anonymous comments. What do you have if you can't even stand behind your own personal opinions?

Alberta Centrist said...

I am going to have to stick up for 'Anonymous'

The PC's in this province simply aren't honest. They scapegoat the Feds when it suits their ends. They keep raising that dam NEP B.S. whenever they need to diss any sort of Liberal. The PC's know nothing of truth or honesty. They just manipulate facts at their whim.

BTW... a few years back I caused the Journal to print the most damning photo in Alberta political history. It shows Lougheed and Trudeau toasting (with champagne) the implementation of the NEP....smiles all around....shame I can't find it to post....well, go to the library. Yup, Your PC premier imposed the NEP on you, not Trudeau!

Aug 30, 2001. pg. A.19 (Ed Journal)

Photo: CP, File/ Pierre Trudeau and Peter Lougheed toast in Ottawa on Sept. 2, 1981, to a deal between Alberta and the federal government on oil pricing.

Raymaker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Raymaker said...

" I understand that many long-time Liberals feel a personal connection to the Liberal Party of 1993, but it's not hard to argue that the electoral gains made that year had more to do with Decore's personal brand and his political connections than any party label."

There's also the oft-forgotten facts that the Alberta economy was in the shitcan, Brian Mulroney was the deeply unpopular PM (so the provincial PCs were wearing that a bit), and Ralph Klein was viewed as a drunken yahoo who won the leadership by mobilizing doughy headed rednecks by the media and city folk.

And Decore still lost.

Alberta Centrist said...

Just so you know Darryl, I hold you and Laurence Decore in the highest esteem, and I hope you will accept the following comment in the same spirit.

We do no service to anyone or anything by suggesting the 'Decore era' was successful. To grab hold of government is the only success there is. Anything else is failure. I know it sounds rough, but that is going to have to be our mindset going forward.

We need to start ignoring the PC's. We need to develop our own visionary policies and sell them to the hard working people of this province. We need to stop our infighting and come together with the only common goal possible, to get the PC's out of power. It is going to happen, but we must all learn discipline and cohesiveness in the mean time.

Anonymous said...

There were 27,000 memberships sold in the 1988 Liberal leadership race.

There were 6000 memberships sold in the 2008 Liberal leadership race.

Anonymous said...

MacDonald continued to argue that "[w]ith the right leader, and with the right strategy, and with enough support from people around the leader and in the party, it's very possible for a great deal of momentum to be created from a base of not very much."

This is not enough. Liberals had the elements in 2004 and were working off of some momentum in 2008. Taft was the right leader, the platform was solid and there was good support (For a February election). Albertans do not read platforms and are turned off by the Liberal brand.

Time for a new party, period.

Albertans want an alternative. The Liberal brand does not carry that message. Albertans will not get past the name to read the platform. I joined the ALBERTA Liberals because I wanted to bring down this bunch of "survival of the fittest," ideologues. The problem is the brand. I too am stepping back.

However if the election was called this February instead of last, at least there may still be a shred of hope for the Liberal brand. It is best to see it die, than to carry on with an ineffective life. That job can be left to the NDP who are used to the role.

It is time to hitch up to a fresh horse.

Justin said...

If I understand what you're saying here Dave, you're pretty much done with the ALP. I'm sorry to hear that - you've got a lot to offer.

I know you've got some ideas about some alternate political configurations that may be more useful. The question that I pose to you and any others who feel that the ALP is no longer worth saving is this: is there something better that you can start from scratch? Does the ALP, with its membership list, volunteer base, organizational memory, Official Opposition status and corresponding budget, 9 MLAs, constituency associations, etc. really have a net negative value? Because if it doesn't have a negative net value, than maybe it is wiser to salvage than to scrap.

We've just elected a Leader who is open to really changing the culture of this party. If there are systemic problems, he wants them addressed. Swann has initiated a renewal process already. If its the name that's the problem (and I think it is), lets change the name. Rather than throwing out the baby with the bath water, why not participate in the renewal process of an organization that admittedly has its warts, but in the end has a lot going for it too.

Just some food for thought.

Anonymous said...

Oops, that should have been:

Anonymous said...

Sorry Dave, you'll have to clean this up. It won't post such a long string. Third time's the charm. All one line:

Anonymous said...

I love it when I read comments like:

"doughy headed rednecks" (Darryl)

"The PC's in this province simply aren't honest." (AlbertaCentrist)

So the PC's have won consecutive election victories for nearly 4 decades by pulling one over on stupid rurals.

Please, please, please run with that as a slogan next time. Please?! Whatever name you choose to keep/run away from as a Party, just go with that slogan. Can we say 40 more years?

A problem often ignored is the continuing lack of attention - or outright dismissal - of nearly 50% of the seats by catering to voters in Edmonton and Calgary at the expense of people outside of those two centres. A voter only needs to read the quotes given by Mason or Taft (Swann may be different... it is early) to know that the leaders of the two parties turn their noses down to them.

So, off the mark, you hope to form government by casually disregarding or outright offending a good 35+ seats (I'll give partial credit for Red Deer, Lethbridge and the Hat). And then you have to temerity to bitch about the result. Harping on seat distribution by guys like Daveberta ignores the reality on the ground. The seat count is changing... it only moves in one direction (to the benefit of the cities). Quit fighting election 2060 when you should have been fighting election 2008, and you'lldo better.

Corey Hogan said...


You endorsed Swann for leader, Swann wins, and you've decided to "step away"? I cannot even fathom that. I'm with Justin, and I'm with Alex MacDonald.

Alex MacDonald laid out what he saw as three criteria. I would say:

1. You must believe we have the right leader.

2. We can build the right strategy.

3. And if you and those thinking like you are can commit your energies to this man and this party, we will have enough support from the people around the leader.

We're closer than we are far away. We gain nothing by blowing up the party.

daveberta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
daveberta said...

Justin, Corey: I endorsed Swann because I believe that he was the best candidate in that race (and still believe that).

As I wrote in the post, my issues are with the cultural (organizational and psychological) challenges within the Liberal Party and I've come to the conclusion that my energies could be better spent elsewhere at this time.

I've never had any intention to 'blow up' the Liberal Party, but I'm not going to let partisan barriers limit how and where I can try to influence positive change in Alberta.

Anonymous said...

Liberal Party Renewal Website

Anonymous said...

Spend time campaigning next time to find out just how bad the Liberal brand is and how entrenched in bias it is. The voters want to hold the PC's to account but cannot get past the name.

To Anon. I agree that your party may be there for another 40 years. The planet may look bleaker by then, sustainable jobs will be gone, if not already. Personal bankruptcy will match the moral and fiscal bankruptcy of the PC's but they will still be in power. It is not because people do not want accountability, but rather that they can not be bothered with bringing it about. And yes, because the Alberta Liberals held on with all their might to the traditions of the name Liberal and the NEP and Trudeau destesting that comes with it.

To Corey, I felt that way five years ago. Your idealism is sweet but the real world says no. I swallowed hard on the Liberal name and discovered in the process, some wonderful people. I have confidence in the core but that does not change power. Good luck with the remnant and enjoy your dream.

Anonymous said...


"Albertan's, at least the majority, are Conservative by nature."

That's a pretty bold statement to make, and one that I wouldn't agree with. It makes sense if you define someone's politics strictly in terms of their electoral preferences, but I think that's a very simplistic way of looking at the issue.

"Saying that the whole party lacks 'any shred of accountability' is obviously ridiculous."

Is it? How do you define "accountability?" I'd say it's something along the lines of "able to be held to account," which the PCs clearly are not. You say yourself that it's a "complete waste of time" for Liberals to hope to form government. In what other way can a government be held to account aside from removing it from power?

"Why do Liberals in Alberta keep ignoring the basic fact that this is a community that leans right, and maybe your role is to make sure it's not too far right. Anything else, like hoping to actually form a Government, is a complete waste of time."

So, to summarize, your advice to opposition members is essentially "stop trying." This seems to contradict your Ayn-Rand-influenced views on the merits of competition.

Anonymous said...

I can't find anything about the office space on line, I assume they are just moving somewhere cheaper right?

daveberta said...

I posted a clarification from the ALP this afternoon in regards to the Office space. I had heard from three sources that the decision to not renew the lease had already been made (but perhaps not yet formally voted on).

Corey Hogan said...


Idealism is believing that a new political party will be willed into existence by a sudden uprising of people who have previously been disinterested in politics. That's just not how the world works; Alberta's history is littered with failed political parties that were started by political insiders looking for outsiders.

Is the Liberal brand less popular than the Conservative brand? You bet. But the NDP brand is even less popular, and so is the Alliance brand, the So-Cred brand, and every other political brand in this province.

Any new party that gets started will be:

A) Ignored as irrelevant; or
B) Buried by a Conservative Ad Campaign if it begins to show relevance.

Until we learn to protect and market our identity - whether that be as the Alberta Liberal Party or the Saskatchewan Party of Alberta - we are going to lose. And keep losing. And keep losing.

Yet, instead of protecting our brand, we are going into prolonged existential bouts about it. The ALP's internal party renewal has now dragged into it's second year. It causes me to stop and wonder: does anybody in Alberta care? Are we so busy drawing and labeling competing org charts that we're forgetting what we're organizing for?

Regardless of the outcome of any new political movements, the ALP will go to war with the army we've got. It sure would be nice if soldiers weren't defecting to attack us on our leftward flank. That doesn't help you, that doesn't help me, and it certainly doesn't help Albertans.

Alberta Centrist said...

I'm going to point out one core flaw in the efforts to start a new party, and I'm not putting down your efforts, but here goes.

If the new party accepts into it's ranks any current, or former Liberal MLA, you are going to have to assume some liability for the Liberal debt. The public won't take kindly to politicians again shirking their responsibilities.

Anonymous said...

"Oh, and I hate Anonymous comments."

Come on Chris, I would not have any problem revealing my idenity but in case you have not experienced it yet, folk who work for Gov't get shut out of contracts if you think anything differently than the

Anonymous said...

From having worked for the Alberta Liberals (2001-2004)I would agree that the party's direction is largely up to the leader. Beyond the leader, there is not much of a party, as much as it pains me to say so. But Alberta is a very tough place to do politics for any Opposition leader.

Similar to the politics I see in my new home of Quebec, Alberta has fallen victim to its own myths. NEP, East=bad, rugged self reliance ... etc. The biggest beneficiary of these myths are - you guessed it -- the ruling Tories.

Can't offer much that is encouraging except that yes -- by and large, one should ignore the Tories, not try to emulate them. The Liberals need to articulate a clear vision for Alberta's post-oil future, which I feel must come much sooner that many would like to think. A party that is seen to be practically preparing for the future is going to win some respect, maybe even votes, especially once the future catches up to it.

Anonymous said...


Excellent remarks.

I have to count myself into the ranks of the jaded. I volunteered in 2004 because I just had to do something. The reality of the 2008 election is that it really does not matter. I am not jumping ship. I was not fully committed in the first place. I looked to the best alternative to put pressure on the PC's and their best efforts are not enough.

I realized during the 2008 campaign just how much that will cost in party finances and organization. I am not sure how, the rural landscape can be turned around.

Regarding the littered landscape of political parties, the only time power has transferred in this province is when a new party came into being and swept house. We may just have to look at the Liberal brand as relevant as the Whig brand.

I will vote Alberta Liberal in the next election, should that be my only option, and I will likely put up a lawn sign, and I will likely contribute to the local candidates campaign.

The values may have a chance of resonating, in spite of the tarnish of past associations, with a new name.

I am not a trailblazer but I will join a cause that knows where it is going. I have just gotten to a stage in life where it is very difficult to keep kicking the same dead horse.

Matt Grant said...

Dave, the unspecified “cultural (organizational and psychological) challenges within the Liberal Party” that you identify as your reason for alienation just plain confuse me. You’ve been employed by the party under a Kevin Taft administration where – my understanding has always been – you were valued, listened to and respected. Kevin stepped down, and the candidate you endorsed, largely for the spirit of renewal he sought to represent, won in an overwhelming majority. Dr. Swann subsequently created a renewal committee to address organizational and psychological challenges facing our party.

I can’t help but think, if I was you, that I’d gotten what I’d pushed and believed in. For as long as I’ve been in the party, you’ve been an important part of the young team its encouraged and nurtured, even when you set out on your own to write.

Where have you personally run into “cultural (organizational and psychological) challenges within the Liberal Party”? If you no longer believe in the ALP, that’s fine; I just don’t understand why you threw so much in, got so much out, and then insist on walking away.

Anonymous said...

There were a couple things I saw during the recent convention. Despite the claim that everything was on the table, there appeared to be real resistance in considering policy changes as part of "turning the corner." Instead of changing the message (policy), it seemed to be agreed that the message was just fine, all that needed to change was the volume at which the message was broadcast (communication strategy).

Then there was what seemed to be a behind-the-scenes effort to re-elect the previous slate of executives. There was a rumor circulating (and this was only a rumor and I didn't see any overt evidence of it) that it was an effort to head off an attempt by one of the three candidates to replace the current executive with his supporters. Again, that doesn't sound like an organization that is prepared to undertake fundamental change.
So it wouldn't be unthinkable for someone to go into the convention hoping for real change and "turning the corner" and to leave disappointed that the result was "more of the same, just louder."

Darryl Raymaker said...

Daveberta’s blog calls attention to the liberal party ‘brand’ in Alberta. He refers with favour to a column in the Edmonton Sun about this subject by Jeremy Loome. Loome reminded his readers and Grits who fondly remembered the electoral battle of 1993 that despite Laurence Decore’s strength at the polls in that election, he did not win.

No one has to be reminded of that. He did not win, and we all know it. But any party that wins 32 seats in Alberta can win a general election given the right leadership, the right time and the right circumstances. The same is true of any other party of any other stripe in Alberta or anywhere else. If that party can win 35 to 40 % of the seats or 35 to 40% of the votes cast in any election, with leadership, and hard work, that party has a chance for the brass ring.

Daveberta goes to say that the gains made by Decore in that year “had more to do with Decore’s personal brand and his political connections than any party label.” Well, golly gee, the same can be said for most election results when change comes. Pierre Trudeau won a majority in 1968 for that reason. As did Peter Lougheed in 1971. As did John F. Kennedy in 1960, as did Barack Obama in 2008. Rene Levesque got his foothold with the PQ for the same reasons and went on to win government. Preston Manning was another example with the beginnings of the Reform movement. Yes, indeed, leadership or ‘personal brand’ and political connections are important. In fact, if they are missing – as they all too often have been missing in the Alberta Liberal Party – the party will not win.

Daveberta makes the fatal mistake of concluding that everything that can be done by Liberals to win in Alberta has been done. And we still lose. Therefore it’s the name and the brand that is the cause of our failure.

Everything has not been done by the Liberals to win. We have not provided Albertans with good enough options in leadership and policy for them to change their voting habits – or even to get them to the polls.

And now Daveberta is contemplating throwing in the towel. The culture is not right, he says.

What utter bullshit. What he really means is that the political struggle is too much for him. He wants an easy path to power and he has not found it in the Alberta Liberal Party. Well, too bad. Someone else will, and Daveberta will not be around to savour the victory. Perhaps he will have spent that campaign getting coffee for a defeated Tory candidate or organizing emotional outpourings at mass rallies for Stelmach. Tsk. Tsk.

daveberta said...

"Daveberta makes the fatal mistake of concluding that everything that can be done by Liberals to win in Alberta has been done. And we still lose. Therefore it’s the name and the brand that is the cause of our failure."

That is not my argument at all. The name and brand are only one issue. If the organization and internal politics don't change, the situation would remain the same regardless of party name.

daveberta said...

Also, are you accusing me of defecting to the PCs, Darryl?

Corey Hogan said...

Dave, what specifically is going on internally that concerns you so? The biggest concern I have with internal politics is that you and others are going down this road. This would easily be fixed by... you and others not going down this road.

As far as what Darryl's accusing you of, I think he's accusing you of looking for easier solutions, and illustrating that accusation through a vignette of the easiest solutions, and how unpalatable they should be.

Anonymous said...

Main internal/psychological problems inside the Liberal party:

- In-fighting amongst sore losers (Dave Taylor and Hugh McDonald vs. David Swann); MLAs are unwilling to work as a team

- HUGE issues with human resource management and communications management in Caucus staff; complete unwillingness to evaluate performance of senior staff; as a result resources are not allocated effectively; overall organization and staff lacks necessary strategic capacity

- David Swann is an awesome and inspiring individual, but thus far has demonstrated an inability to take action; probably worsened by above mentioned in-fighting

- Lots of long-time Liberals who talk a big game, but do very little other than try to get their two cents in on overall party strategy, unwilling to do the grunt work during the non-election years or often even during election campaigns (certainly there a lot of effectie and motivated individuals, but they are often outweighed by the former group at both party exec and constituency levels)

Alberta Centrist said...

I have to agree with Dave on this whole issue. What do we know? The ALP machine is not functioning and not delivering results. Now, the fox is in the henhouse and stakeholders are going to do what they feel they have to do. And that folks, is the essense of democracy.

There is a lot of passionate debate on these blogs. That indicates only one thing, that people see a prize worth fighting for. The party that comes out on top with the best plan, policies and the like, will have earned the right to take out the tories.

BTW Dave, do you want me to set up a dinner date with Ted and Bambi Morton? if you're gonna defect, defect with a bang! JK

Corey Hogan said...

If you're going to throw Dave Taylor and Hugh MacDonald out there as sore losers who are engaged in party infighting, I'd like something specific. Why do you believe these two men are unwilling to work with the team? What evidence do you have that they are not working with the team? And how is Hugh a sore loser? He never backed Dave Taylor.

Your other points may have merit, but I fail to see how a flawed organization is worse off than a non-existent one.

I'd also point out that having long-time Liberals who may or may not chip in is better than having no long-time members at all.

Anonymous said...

Blinded by the partisan light, Corey.

I volunteered for local PC candidates in my riding in 1997 and 2001 then in 2004 I decided I had enough with the PCs and tried to help out the local Liberal. The campaign team was filled with longtime LIberals who didn't want to work for their win. I felt as if their strategy was to wait for Calgarians to come to them instead of going to where the voters were. Dead weight.

Hoping for the best I tried to get involved again in 2008 but it was the same people. I ended up voting Green because they were the only party to come to my door. It's a shame because my PC MLA is a dud.

Gauntlet said...

if you fail to see how a flawed organization is worse than none, read my blog post here.

And it is fundamentally contradictory to on the one hand suggest that the ALP has the best opportunity to effect change, so it should not be abandoned, and on the other hand that Dave is looking for an easy way out.

If you think Dave is taking the easy way out, then you AGREE WITH HIM on the viability of the ALP.

Darryl Raymaker said...

OK Daveberta, look at organization and internal politics. If you want to change this stuff in the Alberta Liberal Party or any other party, you have to grab it by the scruff of the neck and change. You and your pals, or supporters, or whatever the hell you want to call them. This stuff just doesn't change by itself, and it seems to me that that is what you are waiting for. Get in there and take something over - a Riding, the party, become a fund raising chair, but get in there and fight for change i.e. and just so as you remember, I'm talking about organization and internal politics. By the way, with effective leadership, organization, internal politics, money and everything else falls into place.

And I'm not accusing you of defecting to the Tories, I'm accusing you of something far more stupid. Defecting to another goddamn political movement - as yet nameless - that will split the moderate vote and allow Stelmach and his yahoos more free rides.

So, stop all of this navel contemplation and get back to the business of politics for a well established party. Work to help the leader and work to change the organization and internal politics of the party (if they latter two items don't meet your satisfaction). But work! Just don't stand there and and take shots at the ALP about culture, internal politics and organization. Just work to make it better. Stop bellyaching about how impossible the job is. Jesus Christ, we have five seats in Calgary of all places!

Corey Hogan said...


Just because you post it in a blog doesn't mean it's true. And I don't believe Dave is taking the easy way out. I believe he THINKS he's taking the easy way out. That's not the same thing at all.

I think he's throwing away the start of a very promising political career to chase something wildly unlikely to succeed and counter-productive to the change he aspires.

Anonymous said...

Dave, if/when anything tangible gets going with regards to a new political vehicle then please make it widely known on your blog.

I know I for one would be interested in participating. My current experience with both of AB's opposition parties is that all the real decisions, direction and strategy are formulated behind closed doors by people immune to the wishes of their party members.

I think this weakness in the ALP and the NDP can be directly related to their electoral results. If party members are disillusioned with their own groups, imagine how the non-partisan voters see things!

Darryl Raymaker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm confused why Darryl and Corey believe that politics shouldn't happen outside the Liberal Party?

Gauntlet said...


Just because you don't deign to substantively address my point doesn't mean I'm wrong.

Be substantive. Give me some reason to believe the ALP can change direction.

Anonymous said...

To address the point of whether a severely broken organization is better than no organization, one aspect has not been raised:

The Liberals cannot attract a large number of quality candidates and well-connected activists because a lot of people will simply not identify themselves as a Liberal now or ever. For decades, people have been turned off of them and if it's even possible to reverse peoples impressions, it would require the talent and effort of ppl. not interested in helping the party. It's a chicken before the egg thing.

If there are human resources issues as have been alleged, perhaps that's because there's isn't exactly a glut of talented, established or successful politicos lining up to work there and when they do snag one or two, they're pushed out in frustration by the organizational-cultural issues.

Corey Hogan said...


At the risk of sounding flippant, I usually only substantively address substantive points, and forced car metaphors don't really count.

You start from a flawed premise, that we're in tatters. That we need to change direction from the course we're currently on now.

Yes, we got half the number of votes the Conservatives did, but that puts us at the 50 yard line. If we can tie our shoes and get moving, I like our odds.

Second, the party is reorganizing and rebuilding. The renewal committee is being launched. I'm personally hopeful because two documents I had a hand in writing are both being given consideration - the document New Liberal, New Focus, and the Dave Taylor Leadership Campaign Organization paper. We're also building tools to modernize the party, and testing out new ways of communicating with people both at the party and caucus level.

Third, not widely reported is the big spike in contributions we got after Swann became leader. Our finances have largely righted themselves and we're in better shape than prior to the 2008 election. If we're actually looking at changing offices, I say good. The 124th Street office is far bigger than we need. We do not need a vanity office. We need smart, targeted expenditures.

I feel - with some distractions notwithstanding (name change debate, splinter factions) - that we're moving in the right direction. We've reversed our finances, we've increased our membership, we're rebuilding operations. Stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

Corey and Daryl:

Why are you so attached to the Liberal party name and identity that you couldn't fathom supporting another group with similar values, or the same party after a massive makeover?

Anonymous said...

Corey, Darryl, what business is it of yours what Dave does outside the Liberal Party?

Is someone leaving the Liberal Party to have political talks elsewhere so threatening? Think about what you know versus what you think you know.

Corey Hogan said...

ch - I see it as a distraction, and I feel it smacks of weakness. My gut feeling is that in 2012, we'll still be Liberals - the only serious opposition game in town - but we'll just look stupid for arguing about it for four years.

Anonymous 4:35 - Your comments seem a little odd given the context. To be honest, what business of it is mine what Dave does INSIDE the Liberal Party either? But this is a medium where we debate what he has posted, and this is where it has taken us.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for responding, although I'm not sure I understand - it's more that you don't think a name change could happen than you wouldn't support one?

Corey Hogan said...

Well, I don't support a name change. I'm a Liberal, and I believe that stands for something. That said, it doesn't mean I couldn't support another name if it did happen.

But that requires 75% of the delegates at an AGM to occur. I think that's exceedingly unlikely to occur. I think it would be very hard to even break the 50% barrier of support for a new name, but it's also a little dangerous even to pursue: what if 70% vote to change the name? We'll have broadcast widely we don't want to be called Liberals and we'll still have to run under the banner. That's a scenario that should give all of us pause.

Alberta Centrist said...

I definately support a name change. Lets face it, if Albertans were to be brought up to speed on the true meaning of classical liberalism, they would stick to it like white on rice. However, we don't have time to do that. We have to start thinking about tactical marketing.

I have dibs 'Centrist party of Alberta' and 'Alberta Centrists' through web names, the election commissioner, etc. I think it's a powerful concept that doesn't detract from Liberal values.

Ever since I brought up the topic with David Swann last June, all he's talked about is centrism. I'm also reasonably sure that he is willing to put the concept to the membership shortly....if but one of several concepts. And if the party wants it they get it free of charge.

Anonymous said...

I seem to be a little late in the game, but I'll chip in my two cents anyway.

Corey: you make some good points throughout the comment stream, but I just can't understand your attachment to the Liberal name/brand. Do you really think that, in this province, it's net effect is positive? I just can't see a rational person answering "yes" to that question.

Everyone in the world knows that that the ALP's problems run much deeper than its brand, but brands do matter (remember New Coke?). The ALP brand is a liability, and jettisoning it would not only benefit the party ipso facto, but also provide an opportunity to very tangibly advertise to the public that the ALP was an organization in transition. Even if the positive effects are small, the negative effects would be essentially zero.

As an afterthought, I'll also mention that I disagree with your opinion that it would be hard to get such an initiative past the party membership. How many people showed up at the last AGM, 150? I could practically tip the balance with my extended family.

Anonymous said...

Raymaker's reminder about the personal qualities, capacities and connections of leaders in "change" elections is a useful one, even if you could quibble a bit with a couple of them or with their lessons for the ALP situation right now.
My understanding of that election - though I stand to be corrected - was that there was some reason to hope for even better results, just shortly before the vote. As Darryl says, those are numbers which, though they didn't ultimately win, demonstrate pretty clearly that the Liberal label doesn't have to be fatal. It may be a problem, but big, big problems would come with a new label, including "centrist" or whatever. The efforts to "brand" a party don't begin or end with the name. More to the empirical point, voting behaviour tends to be driven by a range of factors, from policy and how it's communicated, to local candidate qualities, to party label, to party leader, etc. And of course in any election there's internal capacity to identify and take advantage of opportunities, get the message out, and ultimately get the vote out, etc. The Liberal name is a challenge, particularly in rural areas, but if the party could put the rest of that in place, and given the right circumstances, it could win. For many of these voters, there are plenty of legitimate policy reasons why they wouldn't vote for a party with centrist or centre-left policies anyway, no matter what it was called. But there are many non-Liberal voters who aren't rejecting the Liberal name, they feel they don't know what it stands for or don't know the leader, or don't want to rock the boat because they think things are fine. There's evidence for this. Beating a party, any party, that's awash in cash they didn't have to extract through taxes is tough. Why change. At this point, the Stelmach government is spending more per capita than any other government in canada, by a wide margin. That doesn't leave a lot of room for parties. They can be everything to everyone. It'll be interesting to see how they reposition themselves in the economic downturn.
The question isn't really whether Liberal name is a challenge. Of course it is. The question is whether it's one that can be overcome. Raymaker is right that not everything that can be done has been done. In fact, it appears that much has been missing, and some of the efforts (in elections and in between) haven't been very strong. Ultimately I don't care that much if the ALP survives or some new concoction pops up. But those decisions should be taken on the basis of a better debate than what I'm witnessing. That draft "strategy" paper from this break-away group that tiny perfect blog has posted tells me that not nearly enough information or thought is going into this initiative. But it will be fun to watch. Or not.

Corey Hogan said...

jk -
The question of a name is not as simple as net positive/net negative. The fact is, any name we come up with is likely to rank lower on any scale we find than "Conservative" in this province. We have to chisel away at high levels of "Conservative" identification.

And in that regard, the Liberal name is well positioned - the second largest group of self-identified voters in this province is "Liberal". If we can move 1/4 of the Conservative ID to us, we're tied.

Both groups throw large amounts of negatives on the other - that's partisan politics. But correlation is not causation. Liberals do not necessarily have more negatives than Conservatives because they are Liberals. It is just as likely (I would argue more likely) that this is because we are the opposition - and if that crown is taken, the next group will have the same troubles.

A story to illustrate: I used to work for the Liberal Party of Canada, and we had polling on the question of Income Trusts in the city of Calgary. Prior to the Conservative decision to tax income trusts, Calgarians were enormously opposed to income trust taxation. As soon as the Conservatives decided to tax them, the pendulum swung the other way: we did internal polling in Diane Ablonczy's riding and found that all of a sudden, the taxing of income trusts became a very popular decision. The tail wagged the dog.

Partisans internalize the positions of their political parties. It's the only way you can really explain "Conservatives" supporting Harper's current budget.

If your party loves income trusts, you love income trusts. If your party hates Liberals, you hate Liberals. Tomorrow, if Conservatives are given new talking points on the Alberta Centrist Party, they'll use them. The Alberta Centrist Party will be a blank canvass, and the PCs have more paint.

Two other things I'd point out: New Coke was more than a brand, they changed the formula to be sweeter because they found in taste tests people liked Pepsi more. Problem was, drinking a sip and drinking a can are not the same thing. A New Party may seem like an amusing aperitif, but might rot your teeth in large doses.

And on the question of AGM attendance: there may have only been a couple of hundred people at the last AGM, but to proposed a special resolution (as name change would have to be), you need to give notice weeks in advance. That's telegraphing your punches, and you can expect much more interest on a ballot question like that than the usual election of the officers and setting the membership price rigamarole we usually go through.

Anonymous said...

If you change the name without changing the policies not only will it not make any difference it might have a negative impact as the voter feels like you're trying to "put one over on them" like putting a fresh coat of paint on the same old building. I've said this before, no one trusts the Provincial Liberals to put the interests of Albertans first and stand up to the Federal Liberals. When the Conservatives bring up the NEP or Green Shift it's done to demonstrate that they'll stand up for Alberta against Ottawa by demonizing the Federal Liberals and it works. It's not the ALP's job to look at what's best for all Canadians, it's the job of a provincial party to look out for the best interests of that province. As long as the voter thinks there is an ALP-CLP connection, that perception will remain regardless of the name.

And while this is a bit of a tangent, the switch in attitude on income trust might have more to do with the growing understanding by the public that, with two impenting income trust shifts alone - Telus and Bell - as much as $2 billion was about to be removed from federal tax revenues - revenues that would have had to been made up by someone else. Most people don't like it when "big business" gets a free tax ride and leaves them holding the bill. It was an issue that would have only gotten worse as there were other major companies lining up to switch to an income trust for "tax efficiencies."

Anonymous said...


"The question of a name is not as simple as net positive/net negative."

Actually, it is that simple. Does it help you or hurt you? It hurts you. Get rid of it.

"... the second largest group of self-identified voters in this province is 'Liberal'"

Are they? I don't think so. I think the second largest group of self identified voters in this province is "not the PCs."

Obviously you're right when you say that "partisans internalize the positions of their political parties." However, in basing your argument on this you make an error in assuming that distaste for the Liberal "brand" only exists amongst PC partisans. This is not the case.

That you think people choose cola based on taste and not marketing possibly explains your view on the Liberal name.

Anyway, to reiterate my point: the ALP's problems extend well beyond the name, and they could likely do a lot without changing the name, but the name is a liability, full stop. Why cling to it? It makes no sense.

Allie Wojtaszek said...

Holy Cow. You'd think that with a party so small in a province so big that people might respect a difference of opinion or welcome new ideas - but this must illustrate the real reason behind the slow agonizing death of the Alberta Liberal Party.

I can't believe that these "liberals" can not wait to devour you Dave. Some friends. I've always noted that to be accepted in any liberal circles you have to conform and express the same blind anger and hatred of "conservatives" that the crowd does. No thinking for yourself!

You should know that your political instincts are bang on and you should follow them, regardless of the criticism. They are afraid to lose you, not realizing that you are already gone.

Be the Change you want to see in the political world! You never know how big something can get until you start it and stay with it.

Anonymous said...

Corey, I agree will you 100%. Changing the party name makes absolutely no sense. Success can be achieved with better marketing of the party and its policies (something which hasn't been seen by the Liberals in quite some time, which those of us who have been involved for some time well know). No one will be fooled by a name change. If the Liberals can just get their acts together and deal with things like this: then they can start to really focus on rebuilding the party name and brand. No one will be fooled by a name.

Laurence Miall said...

Must agree with those who are confused by Daveberta's decision to leave. The Liberals have been around for 100 years. At a time when everything is changing, there is no need for a relatively successful "brand" (argh!) to call it quits.

I would agree with Corey that the Liberal brand is quite open to whatever stamp the leaders wants to give it, and hence, to moving soft Conservatives over. In fact, I think this is a very exciting time for any political party that is seeking major renewal. The economic underpinnings upon which places like Alberta built are slowly giving way. In the same fashion that Lougheed ushered in a new era, so too will a future political leader -- an era of environmental responsibility, an end to unplanned growth and urban small, and a focus on niche economic sectors where Canada's (and Alberta's) highly educated population can make a different.

In that light, unless the Tories change (which will be harder for them) their brand will represent tired, worn-out ideas that are long past their sell-by date.

As a side note, though, I do sympathise with the psychologial barriers to doing opposition politics in Alberta. Here in montreal, the second a contentious political issue comes along, everyday residents are postering the streets with political messages. I don't agree with them all, but it sure is a refreshing change.

Public apathy is the first thing to take on in Alberta! Energize the electorate.