2011 ALP leadership race

This Week in Alberta – Looking for a Leader

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All eyes are on the PC and Liberal leadership races this summer in Alberta. Well, all eyes are on the PC leadership race, and a few eyes are glancing over at the Liberal one every now and then.

Still, the five Liberal candidates held a lively debate in Edmonton on Wednesday – you can read recaps of it here and here. Monday’s debate in Calgary appears to have been a bit tamer, but Laurie Blakeman grabbed some headlines by suggesting the party should only run candidates in the seats it can win.

The ALP also earned some (rare) positive media this week, courtesy of the Globe & Mail.

On the PC leadership front, Doug Horner, Gary Mar, and Ted Morton lead the way in terms of caucus support. Mind you, given the increasing number of pot shots the candidates have been taking at their own government, it’s unclear whether or not establishment support is actually a good thing.

Finally, for those of you who missed my Stampede Fashion Round-Up, here are some bonus pictures:

All photos save the Rae one, courtesy of Jenn Turcott.

This Week in Alberta – Liberal Leadership

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After a look at the PC leadership contenders last week, I turn to the Liberal field.

The last three Liberal leaders have all come from within caucus, so any conversation about the next leader should start there.

Despite initially musing about running for the Liberal or Alberta Party leadership, Laurie Blakeman is this contest’s first declared candidate. Blakeman is a polished and seasoned politician; she is probably the most “job ready” of the candidates, which is an important consideration with the next election around the corner. Blakeman would solidify the party’s base, especially in Edmonton, but does have a reputation for being a bit to the left, despite where she places the Liberal fruit in this video:

Former PEIslander and current mustache enthusiast Hugh MacDonald also appears likely to run. MacDonald would bring a lot to the table – he has 14 years of experience in the legislature, and spent 20 years in the petroleum industry prior to that. Although he sometimes gets carried away with his pet issues, MacDonald is likely the Liberal MLA most able to connect to average Albertans. Most importantly, he’s got fire in his belly and is fiercely Liberal, at a time when the troops need rallying.

Down in Calgary, Kent Hehr is the other name often mentioned as a possible candidate. I profiled Kent during his aborted run for mayor last summer. As I said then, the man is incredibly likable – he also strikes me as the caucus member most able to expand the Liberals beyond their base and cut down the Alberta Party in its tracks.

All three bring something to the table, but none of them jump out at you as a premier-in-waiting. And remember, for various reasons all three passed on the job three years ago.

So the real question is whether any outsiders will toss their hat into the ring. While you hate to throw a rookie in with the election a year away, a lot of Liberals will certainly be looking to shake up a party in need of a shake up.

To date, there hasn’t been a lot of chatter about potential “outsider” candidates. Rick Miller has reportedly said he won’t run. Dave Bronconnier, quite obviously, won’t. Likely Calgary Varsity candidate Bruce Payne sounds like a long shot. There are rumblings about Karyn Decore, but that’s probably just because of her last name.

So, with no obvious outsider candidate, who should jump in? Here’s my wish list:

1. Someone with passion and energy: The PCs have healthy riding associations across the province and a donation pipeline flowing steadily from big business. The Liberals do not. Because of this, the Liberal leader’s job description includes organizational tasks that will have him or her cris-crossing the province every week. They need someone willing and able to put the time in.

2. Someone who connects with Albertans: They don’t need to write a cheesy theme song or look good in a cowboy hat. But the Liberals need someone who’s able to relate to the problems facing Albertans.

3. A good communicator: Ed Stelmach could succeed despite being one of the worst communicators in modern political history because he was backed by a powerful political machine. With the Alberta media still suffering from Danielle-mania, the Liberals will need to fight to get their message out next campaign – they’ll need someone able to deliver a clear narrative and sound good doing it.

4. Someone with political smarts: Or at the very least, someone willing to take advice from people who know what they’re talking about. With the next election a year out, there’s not a lot of time to learn on the job and there’s very little room for mistakes.

5. Someone who can manage the ALP caucus and bring the party together: It’s no secret the ALP caucus is as dysfunctional as the Jersey Shore household. The last thing the party needs is another Dave Taylor situation. Throw in the defection of many long time volunteers to the Alberta Party, and the biggest challenge of the next leader may be motivating and uniting the party.

Does such a person exist? Beats me. Probably.

The more relevant question is if such a person is willing to take on the leadership of a party in turmoil, with an election just around the corner.

Profiles in Courage: Dave Taylor

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After taking a gander at Swann and Mo, this week I profile the third candidate in the other Liberal leadership race. But, before I do that, be sure to check out Daveberta for his Mo-file, and a look at the endorsements in the race so far.

Dave Taylor

History: Taylor was the “non-insane Dave” for Calgary talk radio listeners for many years, before defeating proud Mensa member John Lord in the 2004 election. Ever since that time, he’s been the ALP dauphin, thanks in large part for his ability to perform in the legislature and deliver sound bytes upon request.

Federal Equivalent: Think of a Liberal Monte Solberg.

Colour me Confused: Although he has adopted a “proud to be Liberal” philosophy, the Taylor Liberals appear poised to change the party colours to blue and yellow.

Renewal Plan: Taylor has released a very impressive party renewal document.

Website Review: I probably should have done this before membership cut-off, because the criteria for a good website changes at that point. For now, everything you need is there and the donation box is prominent, which is good (although it needs to be easier for a non-paypal donation). I’d prefer a bit more of the web 2.0 stuff, but the visuals and layout look good.

Colbert Moment: Taylor, in an interview with Rick Bell, argues that Albertans employ a “truthiness” voting strategy:

“They don’t get it perfect, necessarily, but the voters know in their hearts, know in their guts, what’s the right way to go, on most things, most of the time.”

Strengths: Taylor is certainly the best communicator of the candidates and, in my books, that counts for a lot.

Strategy: By framing this as a right/left battle between him and Swann, Taylor has played himself up as the most likely to…enjoy electoral success (I just can’t bring myself to say “win”, after the last election).

Can he win? You betcha. The smart money has Taylor taking this one – but it has been a tough few years for leadership frontrunners so you never know. It’s certainly possible that they’ll have to count the second choice votes to decide this one.

My Thoughts: I can’t judge how it has played out in Alberta but, from afar, I’m been very impressed with the campaign Taylor’s young and talented team has put together. Their message has been on the mark and they’ve done a good job communicating it.

I have major doubts about the whole “proud to be Liberal” strategy, but I do think Taylor’s promise to brand the party as a fiscally conservative, pro-business option is the only way you’ll get votes from the places you need to get votes from. And his ambitious party renewal document, if implemented properly, would definitely set the party on the right track to one day be competitive.

These Past 8 Weeks in Alberta

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OK, so my weekly Friday look at Alberta politics and the ALP leadership race got kind of sidetracked, what with the federal election being thrust upon us. So here’s a run down of some of the things you (and I) may have missed:

1. To recap, the membership cut-off November 7th, with the mail-in vote to be announced December 13th. The three candidates are Dave Taylor, David Swann and Mo Elsalhy.

2. Daveberta takes a look at the history of ALP leadership races. My guess is that the winner will wind up with about 2,500 votes this time – on the first ballot, that is. I’m not expecting anyone to win this thing outright.

3. Speaking of Alberta’s pre-eminent blogger, Daveberta has endorsed David Swann.

4. To the best of my knowledge, Kent Hehr (Taylor) and Harry Chase (Swann) are the only two MLAs to have endorsed a candidate in this race.

5. Dave Taylor released his very good party renewal document a few weeks back.

6. Slogans: Mo – “An Alberta for ALL Albertans“, Swann – “The Courage to Lead. The Power to Inspire.”, Taylor – “A New Way Forward”

Tune in every Friday from now until voting day for a look at the race – I’m planning to profile the 3 ALP leadership candidates starting next week.

This Week in Alberta

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Admittedly, it’s only slightly more interesting than the Ontario NDP leadership race to most people. But, for Liberals in Alberta, it’s where the action will be this fall. I’ve decided the best way to cover the race is with weekly updates, so welcome to your very first Friday edition of “This Week in Alberta”.

Swann Dives Into The Race: David Swann has declared his intentions to run for ALP leadership, setting up the biggest David versus David showdown since the American Idol finale. Swann is staking out the anti-establishment terrain, musing about drastic changes to the ALP, and Alberta politics:

“We’ve got to change the way we make decisions — it is a middle-age, white male organization,” said Swann [ed note: aged 58, white, and male], adding the party needs to be more inclusive by reaching out to youth and minorities. He also said ditching the name Liberal from party banners must be on the table.

Swann is kind of the Ted Morton of the left, drawing huge amounts of support from environmentalists, activists, and Green/NDP types. His candidacy will bring a lot of new people into the party and he’s a force to be reckoned with in a one-member-one-vote leadership contest.

The other David responded by sending out a press release yesterday in an attempt to define the clash as a centre/left fight:

I’ve come out and argued that we need to align ourselves firmly in the center. I want to position the Party as business friendly and as a subject of conversation at the local coffee shop. David Swann meanwhile has been attractive to those on the left of the political spectrum. So it should allow people a clear indication of which path each of us would take the Party down. Liberals will have a choice of continuing to fight for the left or making a stand for the center.

Tayl-Air Takes Off: Dave Taylor has taken off for a cross-Alberta tour, and let me say it’s a smart thing to do. In a one member one vote leadership, there’s hardly anything to be gained from spending time in rural Alberta but, in the long run, the Liberals need to be seen as a party that represents all Albertans.

Whoever winds up leading the ALP/party-to-be-named-later should announce that they’re tearing up the party platform and going on a cross-province tour to listen to Albertans. It’s all optics, but optics are important.

The Third Stooge Speaks: Mo’s website has been re-done and now contains priorities and a platform.

Blakeman Bows Out: Laurie Blakeman, citing fundraising difficulties (Laurie gets full marks for honesty), has decided to take a pass at the ALP leadership. Hugh MacDonald and Rick Miller remain possibilities from Edmonton but, barring a wild card entry, this one may very well be a three man race.

In Springfield, Alberta: Mutant Fish!

The Big Mo

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The ALP leadership race has it’s second candidate, former Edmonton McClung MLA Mo Elsalhy. From Mo’s facebook page:

Hi all. Join me as I make it official. On Friday, July 25th, at 12:30 at the front steps of the Legislature, I will confirm my intention to challenge for the leadership of the Alberta Liberal Party.

Media will be there but we are planning the whole event to take no longer than 30-45 minutes at most. If you can come and would like to show your support, it would be great.



The 37 year old Elsalhy, while certainly a long-shot candidate, should bring a lot of energy to the campaign, and will hopefully be able to draw young people into the party.

Being the first Edmonton candidate to declare, I can understand why he’s chosen the legislature for his launch but if I were running his campaign, I’d be playing up the youth angle and would paint him as a candidate who breaks the conventional political mould. With that in mind, I’m thinking something like a YouTube campaign launch would have worked better than the traditional one he’ll deliver later today.

Mo’s leadership webpage, abbreviated as M.E.L.L. for reasons I cannot begin to comprehend, can be found here.

And so it begins…

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I’ll begin ALP leadership profiles as soon as I can think of a catchy title for that post series…

MEDIA ADVISORY (2008/07/22)

MLA Dave Taylor to Announce Plans Regarding Liberal Leadership

On Wednesday MLA for Calgary-Currie and Deputy Leader of the Alberta Liberal Party Dave Taylor will announce plans regarding his future with the Alberta Liberals.
Wednesday, July 23rd – 10:30 AM

Outside the Bridgeland-Riverside
Community Hall
917 Centre Avenue NE, Calgary, Alberta

Dave Taylor will make a brief statement and then open to questions from the media.

Backdrops, view of downtown Calgary

UPDATE: Here’s the news story. His blue and yellow leadership website has launched and I already got got an invite to his “Dave Taylor for leader” facebook group (it looks like he’ll have a strong youth team judging from the names who have joined). For anyone wondering, I don’t intend to get involved with any of the campaigns – none of the rumoured candidates really excite me and I think it will be nice to just observe from the sidelines for a change.

UPDATE DEUX: I got just got the press release from the launch. Among the interesting tid-bits:

1. The campaign slogan appears to be “A New Way Forward”.

2. 26 year old Corey Hogan is the leadership campaign manager.

3. As for Dave’s three pillars of the New ALP? “business friendly, fiscally responsible, and socially progressive.”

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