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Saturday, March 20, 2010

perfesser dave's five paths to obscurity.

In his most recent blog post and column in the Saint City News, David Climenhaga (aka Perfesser Dave) pointed out five main challenges that the new Alberta Party faces in becoming relevant in the 2012 election. It is a good list and these challenges do not face the new Alberta Party alone. Mr. Climenhaga is also accurate in describing the challenges facing the other opposition parties in Alberta.

While the Wildrose Alliance, now led by Danielle Smith, has been successful in raising piles of cash through their oil and gas sector bankrollers, both the Liberals and New Democrats have had a difficult time raising the kind of funds needed to compete with the near 40-year governing Progressive Conservative Party. In 2007, the Liberals led by Edmonton MLA Kevin Taft raised over $1 million, but it remained a miniscule amount compared to the PC Party's multi-million dollar war chest.

For all the talk of vote-splitting among the opposition parties, the political field is really not that crowded. In 2008, over 60% of Albertans stayed away from the polls, which signals that Albertans are hardly overflowing the polling stations to split votes. Even the electoral equations provided by the Democratic Renewal Project show that a merger of Liberal and NDP votes in recent elections would only create a moderately-sized opposition. It is true that the new Alberta Party leader, Edwin Erickson, is not high profile and is unlikely to be the next Premier of Alberta, but once you step out of the political echo chamber or away from the Dome, all the parties become irrelevant. For all their hard work, show a picture of David Swann or Brian Mason to a random person on the street, and you will likely get a puzzled look.
Voter Turnout versus Eligible Voters (Alberta 1975-2008)
Total Vote: Party Breakdown (Alberta 1971-2008)

Mr. Climenhaga claimed that the Alberta Party is a group of "self-important yuppified professionals who would like to go straight into power." I have met with some of the organizers of the new Alberta Party and some of them are even good friends of mine. I can attest that while they are ambitious (and perhaps a bit naive), they are not what Mr. Climenhaga describes.

I have spoken with many Liberals and New Democrats who remain befuddled as to why anyone would attempt to start something new, rather than join the ranks of the already assembled politicos. On many levels, the people behind the new party are looking for a cultural shift in Alberta politics. Although they may agree with some of the policies promoted by the traditional political parties, they see the culture of these traditional parties as part of the problem. The Alberta Party organizers appear to be fully aware of the risks of failure and that they are stepping beyond the political comfort zones of many people already involved in other parties.

I know many jilted Liberals and jolted New Democrats who have resolved to bask in the glory days of Pierre Trudeau or Laurence Decore and Tommy Douglas or Grant Notley. I somewhat admire their political stamina and strength (or madness) in the face of adversity, but I also completely understand why a group of young politically ambitious reformers would want to chart their own course. Joining a group that has become content with spending decades in the relative obscurity of the opposition benches is hardly attractive if you are serious about changing government policy.

Building a new political party from the ground up is hard work. The current leadership of the Liberals and New Democrats inherited a base of support and network that has existed for decades. Considering that the party was formed only eight years ago, the growth of the Wildrose Alliance is impressive (recognizing that it did have roots in the mini-resurgence of the Randy Thorsteinson-led Social Credit Party in 1997). It will be interesting to see whether the people involved with the new Alberta Party can actually build something different.

Contrary to what you may sometimes read on this blog, I do not always enjoying pointing out the flaws of Alberta's opposition parties. I wish they would do better. I wish for opposition parties that were not uncompetitive in half the constituencies represented in the Assembly. I wish for a competitive election in 2012 that will attract Albertans back to the ballot booths. If the current polling trends continue, it looks like it may be competitive, but it remains to be seen who will actually be the contenders.


Anonymous said...

I can tell you that I have never heard of Erlin Edmundsen before, needless to mention Cheemo Nikerdom and Randy Thortenugen. Who the heck is gonna support a party that stands for nothing, but potential mob-rule. Give us all a break.

Peral Calahasen's Prairie Oysters said...

The above comment reminds me of that old adage.

No publicity is bad publicity, just spell my name right.

Anonymous said...

Another new party? How many of these fringe parties are out there now? 5 or 6?

Marco Polo's Cartography Arm said...


You used to be a somewhat important person who did somewhat important things. But now you work in "social media", aimlessly backing all these disparate and desperate initiatives. It's making me worry about you and your life goals. What's the end plan here?

This party seems stupid. It's not worth the time you spend defending it. Come back to us, would you?

Anonymous said...

Why do people keep revering Tommy Douglas? The man is an embarrasment to Canada.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave. Have you heard about these lawsuits against the Muni airport closure? Edmonton airports has lost the first round in the courts. Apparently some sort of provincial legislation applies to the case. I'm getting so sick of these ACTIVIST judges and the stupid legal system. Should we be boycotting anyone involved with the lawsuit? Should we be marching on the airport with our hammers and sickles?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 4:44 there is no new parties in Alberta, not really anyways.

The last new party to actually get registered was the Alberta Alliance in 2003.

There is still the same amount of parties as ever since then. Sometimes they just reinvent themselves or take over non-registered groups, or change names.

Anonymous said...

Correction, same amount - less the Green party of course

Unknown said...

could someone tell me how Tommy Douglas was an embarrasment to Canada?

Anonymous said...

Stuart! Who do you think we are? Your personal assistants? Get on the net and do your own research for goodness sakes.

Anonymous said...

How nice it must be for the Alberta Party people to realize that Daveberta has called some of them naive. Doesn't get much worse than that. Dave, despite your vaunted experience in student politics and your brief stint at the famously incompetent ALP, your attempt to describe those sticking with existing opposition parties demonstrates you have almost no understanding of what goes on or why.

And I LOVE this one: the political field isn't all that crowded because voter turnout was low?

It may be too late to join a frat, but take off that cowboy hat and let us see that sticky-up haircut. Best of luck shifting cultures by doing things differently, or whatever it is you're up to.

Phil Elder said...

I think you missed the point of the DRP's calculation of how many seats a "non-compete" agreement among the Greens, Liberals and NDs would have yielded in 2008. The combined opposition THEN would probably have been about 23 seats, which you dismissed as basically irrelevant.
But this figure refers to the situation in 2008 and has little to do with the radically changing political landscape of today or 2012. In current circumstances the cooperative strategy might well produce 35 or more progressive opposition seats. If the Conservatives and Wildrose split the remainder more or less equally, we'd have a brand new ballgame.
The DRP believes that many apathetic or hopeless voters of 2008 would be galvanized to vote in the next election if the Liberals and New Democrats (plus green independents and maybe even the Alberta Party if it emerges as progressive) adopted a non-compete strategy and advocated strategic voting to end conservative (big or small "c" rule in Alberta.
People who oppose the electoral cooperation model are only helping to perpetuate the same old tired bunch in power.