This Week in Alberta – The Liberals Pick a Leader


It will be a busy fall politically, with provincial elections in Ontario, Saskatchewan, PEI, Newfoundland, and Manitoba. Although we likely won’t see an Alberta vote until 2012, the province will get a new Premier, thanks to Ed Stelmach’s surprise resignation in January. The first round of voting takes place on September 17th, and assuming no one gets the coveted 50% + 1, the three finalists will square off in a steer wrassling contest on October 1st to determine the winner.

Alberta’s official opposition also finds itself in a leadership contest, with the winner being crowned tomorrow from the following list of candidates:

Laurie Blakeman: website, profile
Bill Harvey: website, profile
Hugh MacDonald: website, profile
Bruce Payne: website, profile
Raj Sherman: website, profile

The announcement likely won’t get a ton of media coverage – after all, if media reports are to be believed, former PC MLA Raj Sherman is heading for an easy first ballot victory. And let’s be honest, Alberta Liberal leadership contests usually turn out to be about as important in the scheme of things as Bloc Quebecois nomination meetings in Mount Royal.

But I’ll still be watching the results tomorrow with interest, for a few reasons:

1. Despite the high number of supporters Sherman signed up, it remains to be seen how many will actually vote and how many will actually vote for him. Wednesday’s bizarre tweet from Sherman only confirms this:

2. This is the first trial run of a primary-style “supporter system” in Canada, so politicos will be watching to see how many supporters actually take the time to vote. The Alberta Grits drew 4,500 votes when they picked a leader in 2008 – if they can triple that number, support for the system could pick up outside Alberta.

3. With Craig Chandler’s ultra-Conservative PGIB backing Bill Harvey, the supporter system is getting a real test on just how “takeover proof” it is. If Harvey wins or comes close to the top, federal grits wouldn’t dream of touching the system for at least a decade.

4. The ALP caucus is notorious for internal feuds, so it will be interesting to see whether or not the defeated candidates take their loss in stride. Hugh MacDonald has already raised doubts about the supporter list (without offering any proof) – if the defeated can’t rally behind the winner, they might all find themselves out of work a year from now.

5. Finally, although a Liberal victory in Alberta seems far fetched, fanciful, ridiculous, or any synonym of your choosing, with the divided right the Alberta Liberals will be relevant in the next election. Their level of relevancy remains to be seen, but in an unpredictable election that might very well result in a minority government, it would be foolish not to pay attention to a party almost certain to pick up 20% to 30% of the vote.

I can’t say I have a horse in this race. All five candidates bring their own unique set of skills and liabilities to the table. But I’ll certainly be watching the result with interest tomorrow.

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 ALP leadership race

About CalgaryGrit

A former Calgary Liberal, now living in Toronto. My writings on politics can be found at www.calgarygrit.ca and online at the National Post.

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