Alberta Liberal Party

A Beginner’s Guide to Alberta Politics II

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Alberta Politics | 7 Comments

Blogging has been sporadic of late, but with Alberta barrelling towards an election, now is likely a good time for another Alberta Politics FAQ.

When will the next Alberta election be?

Alberta’s fixed-ish election date legislation calls for a vote between March 1st and May 31st, 2016. Prentice, being a true reformer at heart, has said he will respect this.


Ha ha. No, of course not. Most expect an election call to immediately follow the March 26th budget.

Alberta’s fixed election date law has proven to be about as binding as Alberta’s balanced budget law.

So who’s going to win the election?

The PCs.

Well, yeah, that seems likely, but isn’t there a chance…


But surely if there are a few more “blame Alberta” moments, and…

No. Not one of the opposition parties is even pretending they’re fighting for anything but second place.

This election was over the moment Danielle Smith decided the election wasn’t worth fighting.

So why did Danielle Smith cross the floor?

A year ago, Alison Redford was under fire for spending $45,000 of taxpayer funds for a charter flight back from Nelson Mandela’s funeral (plus $3 for headphones). And because she spent thousands to fly her daughter and friend on government planes. And because she wanted to spend government funds on a private penthouse suite for herself in Edmonton. And because she had her staff create “ghost flyers” so that she wouldn’t have to sit next to the proles on her flights.

It just proves the old saying that governments tend to grow out of touch during their 13th consecutive term in power.

Exit Redford. Enter Prentice.

Prentice quickly announced two popular policies:

1. Scrapping an unpopular plan to redesign Alberta license plates.

2. Not being Alison Redford.

While this gave the PCs a jolt of life, there were still storm clouds on the horizon:

1. Prentice was leading a 43-year old government which had barely escaped defeat two years earlier.

2. With oil prices tanking, he would need to raise taxes or cut services in his first budget.

3. In one of his first leadership tests, he completely bungled the issue of Gay-Straight Alliances in schools. His compromise would have forced teenagers to go to court if a school board said no. His cold “rights are never absolute” response left many irate. “Maybe that should be on the license plate” tweeted Rick Mercer.

By showing a deft ear, Prentice had effectively torn up the “Wildrose are bigots” card he no doubt intended to play during the next election.

But hey, Prentice had an insurmountable 6-point lead in the polls. And he managed to hold 4 PC seats in by-elections. I mean, really, what chance did Danielle Smith have?

So, down by 1 goal in the second period, Danielle Smith concluded the situation was hopeless, and she gave up.

What now for the Wildrose Party?

The Wildrosers will select a new leader on March 28th, at which point they’ll have a day or two to print the signs, draft a platform, record commercials, round out their candidate slate, and find a bus that doesn’t cause us all to giggle.

Three candidates are contesting the leadership:

You may know Drew Barnes as one of the “Wildrose 5″ who did not defect.

You may know Brian Jean as the former backbench CPC MP who sent crossword puzzles about himself to his constituents (what’s a 9-letter word for excessive preoccupation with ones self?).

You may know Linda Osinchuk if you are related to Linda Osinchuk.

Still, even though they are now little more than a fringe group of angry right wingers, the Wildrose Party still said “we’re too good for you, Rob Anders“. Which shows they have higher standards than the federal Conservatives, if nothing else.

And the Liberals?

They’re also leaderless, after Raj Sherman abruptly resigned last month. They won’t be selecting a permanent leader until after the election, but it’s not like they’ve had much success with leaders lately, so why not?

So the opposition parties are all leaderless heading into the election?

You’re forgetting about the NDP, which is understandable. But Rachel Notley is an impressive politician.

Still, the NDP are non-factors outside Edmonton – they failed to crack 4% of the vote in any of the three Calgary by-elections last fall. Those were the same by-elections that caused Danielle Smith to thrown in the towel, and she got 9 times as many votes as the NDP.

And with the divided vote on the left, it’s hard to imagine the NDP taking more than 6 or 7 seats in Edmonton.

Still, that will likely be enough to make Notley leader of the opposition.

Yeah, vote splitting…it doesn’t really make sense for Alberta to have 2 parties to the left of the PCs does it?

Oh, you are not going to like what I have to tell you next.

The divided left has been a problem in Alberta for years. So progressives looked at the situation and reached the only logical conclusion as to what was needed: A third progressive party.

Enter the Alberta Party. After a lot of listening and a lot of tweeting, the Alberta Party earned just 17,172 votes province-wide last election.

So, at least those vote splitting concerns proved unfounded.

Well then, what’s this about Laurie Blakeman working to unite the left?

Last week, Blakeman announced she had been nominated by the Liberals, Alberta Party, and Alberta Greens (yeah, there’s a fourth party on the left) as their candidate in Edmonton Centre.

While I applaud Ms. Blakeman for this step towards uniting the left, this is about as small a step as one could possibly take. Step is likely too strong a word. Maybe inching? It’s barely a new development, as neither the Alberta Party nor the Greens ran against Blakeman last election. In 2008, the two parties earned a combined 514 votes in Edmonton Centre. I guess having their logos on her lit makes for nice symbolism, but this isn’t exactly the Wayne Gretzky endorsement.

So basically you’re saying that with a long time, scandal-plagued government battling an economic collapse, the opposition is leaderless, infective, and divided.

Is Jim Prentice the luckiest guy in the world?

Yes. Yes, he is.

2013 A Make It Or Break It Year For The Liberal Party

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, 2013 OLP Leadership Race | 12 Comments

Making predictions in a sport as unpredictable as politics is very much a fool’s errand. I don’t think anyone saw Dalton McGuinty’s retirement or Justin Trudeau’s left hook coming in 2012. Hell, even something as routine as an Alberta PC election victory turned into a whirlwind thriller.

What we do know, however, is that amidst all the political surprises, 2013 is likely to be one of the most important years ever for big “L” Liberalism in Canada.

Most eyes will be on the federal race where, at the risk of brazenly going against my previous disclaimer about the unpredictable nature of politics, a Trudeau victory is basically a fait accomplit. More important than the vote totals announced on April 14th is what that victory looks like. If Trudeau takes the next four months to expand the Liberal base and dispel the “lightweight” label, he’ll be well positioned to fend off the inevitable attacks that come his way. If he limps across the finish line damaged, or runs an uninspiring and safe frontrunner campaign, his poll numbers may prove fleeting. I fully expect we’ll see Conservative (and NDP!) attack ads against the new Liberal leader by the end of 2013, so one year from now we’ll know just how resilient the Trudeau brand actually is, and how prepared the Liberal Party is to fight the 2015 election.

While “most important ever” leadership races seem to spring up every year or two, what makes 2013 a crossroads for the Liberal brand is what will be happening outside of Ottawa. After all, the Liberal Party is in the process of selecting new leaders in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland. To put things in perspective, Robert Ghiz and Stephen McNeil are the only Liberal leaders who have held their titles for at least two years.

The media’s attention will no doubt be on the Central Canadian races, but the situation on the Prairies should not be overlooked. The Manitoba Liberals are down to a single seat, held by outgoing leader Jon Gerrard. In Saskatchewan, the party faces the very real prospect of a leadership race with no candidates, or of dissolving completely, after receiving just 0.6% of the popular vote last election. And in the Liberal hotbed of Alberta, proposals to merge with the provincial NDP are expected to be front and centre at the party’s June convention.

Further west, the BC Liberals have put off talk of a name change until after this May’s election – but most expect Christy Clark to go down in flames, so it’s a debate they may revisit before year’s end. Across Western Canada, the question is therefore not just one of leadership, or even what the party stands for, but one of whether or not the brand is damaged beyond repair.

While the outlook is less bleak in the East, with Ontarians likely heading to the polls this year, there’s a very real possibility that PEI might soon stand alone as the last Liberal bastion in Canada.

On the flip side, the Nova Scotia Liberals lead in the polls and fresh leaders in Quebec and Ontario could very well give these parties a badly needed reboot. So…anywhere from a few dozen potato farmers to the majority of the country will be living under Liberal rule by the end of the next year.

If you close your eyes and try to play the foolish game of political prognostication, it’s not difficult to see a new generation of strong Liberal leaders emerging from coast to coast in 2013. These leaders could very well go on to dominate the political landscape over the next decade, the way McGuinty, Charest, and Campbell dominated the last. However, it’s just as easy to close your eyes and imagine a scenario where 2013 marks the year the Liberal Party began to slowly fade away to nothingness.

Guest Post: The State of the Alberta Liberal Party

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Alberta Politics | 4 Comments

As one might imagine, the Alberta Liberal Party has been doing some soul searching in the wake of a difficult election earlier this year. In the past month, controversy has swirled around MLA Kent Hehr over his efforts to reach out to the NDP and discuss merger. This prompted a bizarre rebuttal from ALP President Todd Van Vliet, and a more diplomatic response from leader Raj Sherman.

At this point, I really don’t know what to think of the entire mess, but I’ll share an open letter which was sent to Raj Sherman by ALP Member Amandeep Hayer. I’ll give full marks to Sherman for promptly calling Amandeep to discuss this issue after receiving this letter, but this is a debate that will surely grip the ALP in 2013.

Dear Dr. Sherman,

I am writing to you to share my deepest concerns regarding the future success of this party. As you know, our federal cousin’s hold no seats this province and our Alberta Liberal Party has virtually little to no support outside of a handful of constituencies in the two major urban centres. Clearly the Liberal Party in Alberta is in desperate need of renewal.

The discussion of party renewal is hardly new. It harks back to the 2006 federal election where our federal cousin’s lost the lone seat they held in our province. This was followed by the disappointing 2008 provincial election results where our party’s seat count was nearly halved. It has only been further cemented by the most recent federal and provincial election results.

Although the party membership has been discussing the need for renewal, as the last two federal and provincial election results show, our party has thus far failed at the renewal process.

As I am sure you would agree, for the renewal process to be successful the members of our party must feel that their views are heard even if the wider party brass rejects those views. To facilitate this the party leadership and membership must encourage open and honest debate, where the viewpoints of all members are not only expressed but that expression is encouraged. Anything less will create an atmosphere of bitterness and hostility amongst the party membership and push members of our party into the arms of other political entities where they feel their opinions are respected and understood or it will push those members into a state of apathy. That is not the kind of conditions we would want if it we desired renewal.

Dr. Sherman it is for this reason that I am utterly disappointed by the press release dated December 11th 2012.

Mr. Kent Hehr, recently expressed his opinion that co-operation between the progressive forces in this province would bring about the conditions necessary for a progressive victory in Alberta and perhaps throughout the country.

Dr. Sherman, while I am not convinced that co-operation between the Liberal Party and the other so-called progressive will create the conditions for victory, I do believe that a discussion of the co-operation issue must be part of the renewal process. A significant segment of the of the membership share Mr. Hehr’s view and they should be allowed to express their views openly without the fear of retribution.

The aforementioned press release works against renewal by attempting to silence those who advocate a position of co-operation. It does so by suggesting those who advocate co-operation do not share the values of the Liberal Party (see paragraphs 7 through 11), makes baseless allegations that a person advocating renewal has ulterior motives or is working against the success of this party (see paragraph 12, 13, 15 and 16), and goes so far as to call for the resignation of Liberals from the party who advocate this position (see paragraph 5).

While I agree that as part of the renewal process the party leadership is within its right to respond and disagree with Mr. Hehr’s remarks. Such a response should be done in fashion that furthers the renewal process by facilitating and encouraging debate. Dr. Sherman this press release does not further the renewal process. It does not encourage open debate amongst the party membership. Rather, it suggests that those who disagree with the opinions of the leadership will face retribution. It prevents the wider membership from participating in the renewal process and leaves Liberals feeling as if they are not truly represented in this party. Accordingly, this press release is not in the interest of our party.

Dr. Sherman my reason for writing this email is not to defend Mr. Hehr. Rather, it is because I have a vested interest in the success of this party. I have been a long time member of this party; I joined this party in 2004, when I was still under the legal voting age. I continued to be a member of this party and eventually worked in the office of two different MLAs (in the interest of full disclosure one of whom was Mr. Hehr) and served as the president of a riding association. I believe this renewal process is our last chance and we cannot afford another failure.

In the interest of party renewal, press releases such as these should not be issued further and the current one should be retracted. Should this not be done, I believe that the renewal process will fail once again.

I thank you for your time and consideration on this matter.

Sincerely yours,

Amandeep Hayer


Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Alberta Politics | 6 Comments

A green flag looks nice, but a white flag might have been more apt

Via Daveberta, comes news that the Alberta Liberals will be rebranding themselves as Liberalberta. The change is expected to include a new website, logo, and party colours. The shift from red to green is no doubt an attempt to capitalize on the overwhelming success of the Alberta Green Party in recent years.

I’ll reserve judgement until I see the new look. As I’ve written before, all options should be on the table for Alberta’s left-wing parties, and it makes sense to rebrand a sagging product. But when you’ve been out of power for 95 years, it’s obvious that the ALP’s LAP’s problems run deeper than cosmetics.

Did the left blow it in Alberta?

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics | Leave a comment

Even though the end result was a Stephen Harper majority government, the NDP took a giant leap forward last May. In one election, the party may very well have taken the first step in killing off Canada’s natural governing party, positioning the Dippers to one day form government.

Although last Monday’s Alberta election was a battle between two conservative parties, it’s not far flung to imagine how a similar scenario could have unfolded there.

Let’s close our eyes and go back in time to the spring of 2008 – Leona Lewis topped the billboard charts, and Ed Stelmach had just stumbled his way to a crushing 70-seat majority. In our scenario, perhaps the Liberals and NDP finally decide that 50 years of fighting each other for second place has been counterproductive. They talk to some disaffected PCs and non-partisans and decide to start a new progressive party from scratch – let’s call it the “Alberta Party” for lack of a more creative name.

Since there’s general displeasure with Stelmach and no viable alternative on the right (remember, this is pre-Danielle), a few polls show this party is popular at the conceptual level. Maybe Dave Bronconnier finally has enough guts to jump to provincial politics. Or maybe the leadership goes to a little known Mount Royal professor by the name of Nenshi.

In either event, this new party is seen as credible by voters, setting up a real three-way election battle. Maybe the Alberta Party follows the federal NDP’s path and winds up as the official opposition to a Wildrose government. Maybe we get Alberta’s first minority government. Hell, maybe the PCs choose Gary Mar or Ted Morton as their leader, and all those “Redford Liberals” find a home in the new Alberta Party, sweeping them into power.

Yes, it’s all fantasy, but fantasyland is the only place the left ever comes close to power in Alberta so there’s no harm in closing our eyes and imagining it.

Now, let’s try another scenario, grounded slightly more in reality – what would have happened had the “strategic voters” been less strategic? Could progressives have made a breakthrough on Monday night?

It’s important to remember that despite being the punchline of Canadian politics, the left in Alberta is not nonexistent. Since the Liberals’ near-victory in 1993, the Liberals and NDP have combined for between 35% and 42% of the vote in each election, falling victim to the unforgiving nature of first past the post.

The Liberals’ did not bled to the Wildrose Party this election, but to Allison Redford. The final Abacus poll showed around 10% of 2008 Liberal and NDP voters jumping to the Wildrose Party, but this is off-set by the 5% of past PC voters who planned to follow Raj Sherman to the grits. Toss in the departure of the Alberta Greens from the ballot, and it’s not unreasonable to assume the Liberals and NDP could have held their 2008 vote, had things broken a little differently.

So what if they had?

To find out, I moved PC voters “back” to the Liberals, until the 2012 regional totals matched the 2008 numbers. As an example, to get the Liberals back to 33% in Calgary, I needed to shift 11% of the total vote from the PCs to the Liberals in each riding. I recognize this is an inexact science but, once again, this is perfectly legitimate math for fantasyland.

Here’s what that legislature would have looked like:

WR 42
PC 26
Lib 14

That may not be an overly appealing outcome, but it does leave the Liberals and NDP as players in a minority government. Moreover, if you shift to 2004 levels of support, suddenly we get 23 Liberal MLAs and 13 for the PCs, with the Wildrose holding a slim majority. That’s a scenario similar to last May, and one that could eventually lead to the Liberals squeezing the PCs out of existence.

Again, we’re playing with hypotheticals in the land of make believe, but it does show that the landscape isn’t so completely barren for progressives that the only option left is assimilation by the PCs. Situations can change – even in Alberta.

Where do we go from here?

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics, Featured Posts | Leave a comment

The end result of Monday’s Alberta election may have been yet another crushing PC majority, but it’s impossible to deny Alberta’s political climate hasn’t been permanently altered. With the Wildrose Party now her majesty’s loyal opposition, each party faces unique challenges in adapting to this new political climate. Voters showed a willingness to change their vote this election, so any party failing to adapt risks extinction.

The PCs

Yes, they nearly blew it. Yes, they lost seats. But Monday was nothing short of complete triumph and total dominance by the PCs. In other words – the usual.

While the PCs have never been shy about knifing successful leaders, most of the discontents have fled to the Wildrose Party, so Redford’s leadership is likely safe…for now.

The challenge facing Redford is that she leads a very different PC Party than the one she inherited less than a year ago. Ted Morton and much of the rural caucus went down in defeat, and the PCs won their mandate from a vastly different coalition of voters than in 2008. If the polls are to be believed (ha ha ha!), half of all 2008 PC voters saddled up with Smith this campaign, while half of all 2008 Liberal voters jumped to Redford. In the process, the PC “base” has shifted considerably – Redford’s mandate was effectively given to her by liberals. If she governs like “your father’s PC Party”, there’s no way those voters will buy in to any kind of “Stop Smith” movement in 2016.

Of course, if she governs like a Liberal, she risks more bleeding to the Wildrose Party, who will now be staring her down in the legislature. In the past, the PCs have faced off against Liberal professors and doctors who cared more about policy than sound bytes. Now, they’ll be up against a well funded and media savvy libertarian. Gone are the days when elections could be won with a few simple chants of “NEP!” and by outspending their opponents by a factor of ten.

The Wildrose represent a new kind of opponent. The PCs have never had to worry about their right flank before, so Redford will have her hands full keeping everyone inside the PC tent happy.

Wildrose Party

Once the tears have dried, my advice to the Wildrose Party is to take a deep breath, take a vacation, and look at the big picture.

This party rose from the ground up, and won over 34% of the electorate in their first election with Danielle Smith. That’s better than Peter Lougheed fared in his rookie campaign as PC leader, and it leaves the Wildrose well positioned to form government in 2016.

To do that, Smith need look no further than the path to power taken by another Albertan, Stephen Harper. After coming close in 2004, Harper regrouped, developed a plan, and came back with a vengeance in 2006, running one of the best campaigns in Canadian political history. He had a moderate and focused platform, took social issues completely off the table, and avoided the “bozo eruptions” that had doomed him two years earlier.

Smith’s challenge in the coming years is therefore to silence the extremists in her party, and present her caucus as a government in waiting. To do that, she will need to tone down the rhetoric in the legislature and moderate her positions – Smith’s musings on reconsidering the party’s climate change, firewall, and conscience rights positions is already a step in the right direction.

What’s Left of the Left

For a party that lost over half of its vote Monday night, the Liberals have actually got to be feeling pretty good about the outcome. They held 5 seats when many were predicting a shut-out, and stayed (barely) ahead of the NDP both in terms of seats and popular vote.

While the NDP would have liked to vault ahead of the Grits, they doubled their caucus to four seats, tying their best showing in 20 years. Brian Mason can stick around as leader if he wants to, but the NDP are usually pretty good about giving all their MLAs a turn as party leader so it wouldn’t surprise me if the torch is passed to Rachel Notley or David Eggen.

Of course, these feel good results mask the reality that the status quo isn’t working. With the PCs shifting under Redford, there simply isn’t enough room for both these parties to be viable on the left of the spectrum.

In an ideal world, the two would simply merge, take the Alberta Party’s name and Twitter handle, and recruit a charismatic leader from outside their current MLA ranks. The thing is, I just can’t see a situation where the membership of either the Liberals, NDP, or Alberta Party would agree to this type of arrangement. Such has always been the story among Alberta progressives, who value pride above power.

That’s not to say it’s a hopeless situation. If Redford falters, the opportunity for someone on the left to squeeze out the PCs could present itself. The 30-40% of Albertans who always voted Liberal or NDP before this last election are still around, even if many parked their vote with Redford. If someone comes along able to capture their imagination, it wouldn’t be unfathomable for them to move ahead of the PCs, the same way Jack Layton vaulted ahead of the Liberals federally last spring.

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen, but when you consider how volatile Alberta’s political climate has been of late, it would be foolish to assume there won’t be a surprise or two in the coming years.

Alberta Votes Live Blog

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics | Leave a comment

6 pm (mountain time!): The much anticipated downtown Toronto Alberta election night party is ready to roll: the Alberta flag has been proudly hung, the Big Rock beers have been opened, and I’m sportin’ a Supportin’ Morton button. Polls are still open for another two hours, but the room is already full with a dozen ex-Albertans – and two Ontarians curious to see who will be signing their next equalization cheque.

7:20 pm: Playing “Ted Morton is the man” and “sing a song for Jim” to get everyone pumped up. One guest – “ahhh, so that’s how Ed Stelmach became Premier“.

8:10 pm: In most Alberta elections, we’d be calling it right about now.

8:14 pm: Watching the Global TV live stream online – they have a CNN-style touch screen! Sadly, due to James Moore’s budget cuts, CBC will be announcing results via abacus tonight.

8:42 pm: Current numbers have the PCs leading in 45, Wildrose leading in 22, NDP in 2, Liberals in 1. maybe this is the Dennis Coderre bounce.

8:50 pm:  PCs now lead 55-21. And that’s the sound of pundits everywhere frantically re-writing their articles before deadline.

9:01 pm:And they call it for the PCs. Absolutely shocking. Tom Flanagan blows it in the bottom of the 9th again. Conversation at our Toronto election party:

“I thought this was supposed to be a close election”
“By Alberta standards, this IS a close election”

9:40 pm: Guess we need to give Alberta Liberals an assist on this one. The ALP vote is down 15-20 points from their usual levels, far and away the margin of victory.

10:37 pm: And the traditional chant goes up at PC headquarters: “40 more years! 40 more years!“. That’s it for tonight all – tomorrow, I’ll try to make some sense of one of the most shocking election nights in a long time.

Primary Debates

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Liberal Bienial, Boring internal Liberal Party matters, Featured Posts | Leave a comment

In his debut, my friend Jeff Jedras takes aim at the proposal Liberals will be voting on in January to move to a US-style primary system to choose the party’s next leader and nominate candidates.

While I’ve already voiced my support for this system, Jeff raises three valid critiques which I want to take the time to rebut – one logistical, one conceptual, and one on the decision-making process.

1) Logistical: “One concern is the potential for shenanigans; supporters of another party signing up as Liberal “supporters” to vote in the primary and negatively influence the process, such as voting for the least-favoured candidate.”

Again, I point to the Alberta Liberal example, where such shenanigans were tried (against a much weaker party) and failed spectacularly.

The reason for this is simple enough – most people don’t give a big enough damn to try something like this, and those who do are too high profile to risk getting caught. Finding 50,000 rabble rousers willing to sign up and make Tony Genco the next Liberal leader simply can’t be done under the radar, and whoever tried to organize a campaign like this would seriously hurt their credibility.

Seventeen US states let Democrats vote in Republican primaries and vice versa. Their rationale is that a candidate who earns primary votes from across the aisle, will also earn general election votes from across the aisle. If Karl Rove can’t find a way to get Denis Kucinich the Democratic nomination, then I don’t think we have much to fear here.

I know some are concerned about special interest groups taking over a nomination meeting, but a $10 membership fee isn’t going to stop them – if anything, a supporter system makes a takeover harder since it takes more votes to win. If an anti-abortion group goes from needing 100 votes to 120 votes to win a nomination meeting, it makes it that much more difficult for them to get their candidate of choice nominated (remembering of course that all candidates still need to be green lit by the party).

2) Conceptual: “One of the key incentives for joining a political party is the opportunity to vote in leadership and nomination races. This proposal devalues membership. Already, during each successive election, it has become harder to get Liberals to volunteer to knock on doors, stuff envelopes, and get out the vote. We need committed members, and more of them, to successfully rebuild this party.”

Here’s the thing. By itself, party membership means nothing. The point of signing someone up to be a member is to get their contact information so that you can get them to knock on doors, stuff envelopes, and get out the vote. I agree we need more of these people, but the way you get them is by making it easier to join the Liberal fold. Consider the supporter system a gateway drug to lure liberal-minded Canadians into the big red tent (and yes, I totally intend to put that line, creepy as it is, on a button at the Ottawa convention). Once they’ve registered, they can be invited to become full fledged members, volunteer, and donate money.

Yes, we need to make membership meaningful to retain and engage members. But if we want to grow the membership, we need to tear down the barriers to becoming involved, and a primary system would do just that. You don’t think a few of the millions who signed up to vote for Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries also gave their money and time to get him elected in the ensuing general election?

I know many are uneasy about “instant Liberals”, but if this change means thousands of new Canadians pouring into our ranks, then that’s fantastic. There are instant Liberals I signed up for leadership votes who are now more involved in the party than I am.

3) The Process: “The party executive wants to amend the constitution so the new leadership selection process can be adopted at the biennial convention in Ottawa January 13-15, 2012, barely two months from now. Meetings to elect delegates to that convention are happening now, and many are being cancelled and the delegates acclaimed due to a lack of people willing to fill all the available spots. It’s not as if this concept has been debated in Liberal circles for months. We’re just getting this now. We’re talking about fundamentally changing the most important thing we do—selecting a leader—and we’re rushing into it.”

I know the Liberal response to every problem is to call a Royal Commission, but this gives delegates to the January convention two months to debate the idea – plenty of time to make up their minds. Liberals have talked about “renewal” for years without anything happening – it’s time to get off the pot or shift the way we do politics.

The reality is we need to lay down the ground rules for the next leadership race before we find ourselves in the next leadership race. We’re now a third party, and a series of rolling primaries would add much needed excitement to the contest, helping us introduce the next leader to Canadians.

I don’t think the end result would be any different under one-member-one-vote or the registered supporter system. But, like Jeff says, process matters, and this new way of electing leaders would send a message to Canadians that the Liberal Party is willing to change and open itself up to Canadians.

UPDATE: Jeff responds to my responds here, to which I respond here and he responds here. At this point, I call him and argue Hitler was against a primary system, to which he calls me a redneck and hangs up. Let’s agree to disagree and call it a draw.

ALP Leadership Candidate Profiles: Everyone Take a Step to the Right

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 ALP leadership race, Alberta Politics, Politician Profiles | Leave a comment

The Alberta Liberals will be selecting a new leader on September 10th, from among 5 candidates: Laurie Blakeman, Hugh MacDonald, Raj Sherman, Bruce Payne, and Bill Harvey.

Today, the final part of a series profiling the candidates. (Previously: Bruce Payne, Raj Sherman, Hugh MacDonald, Laurie Blakeman)


Background: Harvey was a Campaign Coordinator for Laurence Decore’s leadership bid in 1988, and dropped Decore’s name nine times in the open letter declaring his candidacy. So for those of you trying to design an ALP leadership debate drinking game, you’re welcome.

Harvey ran as a Liberal candidate in both the 2004 and 2008 elections, and made history the second time, becoming the first Liberal to be ever endorsed by Craig Chandler’s ultra-conservative PGIB group (for those unfamiliar with Chandler, here’s some delightful background about him).

In the real world, Harvey works in Calgary, in the Financial Services Industry.

Video: Harvey wasn’t a declared candidate at this May’s ALP convention, so I didn’t get a chance to interview him. However, you can view a video of Bill on his website.

Online: Harvey has the basics and a functional website, but has a modest online presence. Follow the links to see his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Can he win? Harvey is the biggest wild card in this contest – and that’s saying a lot about a leadership race that includes Raj Sherman. While Harvey’s PGIB connection may hurt him among some Liberals, it’s impossible to deny Chandler’s organization has the ability to sign up hundreds, if not thousands, of supporters in Calgary if they put their mind to it. I have no way of knowing if they’re heeding Craig’s call to support Harvey – after all, most PGIB members would sooner listen to “Friday” on repeat in the 5th corner of hell before being even remotely associated with the Liberal Party…but it would be presumptuous to rule out Harvey as an also-ran.

My Take: Harvey is the only candidate I haven’t met, so there’s only so much I can say about him. He does, however, appear to be a capable speaker from what I’ve seen online.

As you’ve no doubt figured out by now, Harvey has made no secret about his rightward leanings. Included in his policy platform is “creating a provincial police force, a freeze and review on bureaucracy spending, tossing corporate welfare programs, more charter schools, defending the oil and gas industry, and tough new child pornography laws”. Some of these are certainly valid proposals, but they’re not exactly the kinds of things you’ll hear from Laurie Blakeman’s platform.

So if you think the ALP needs to take a giant step to the right, Harvey is probably your man. Personally, I think the Alberta Liberals need to break the perception they’re a tax and spend party (when they’re clearly not), but Harvey’s PGIB connection and rhetoric worries me. That’s probably unfair to Bill – after all, he’s been an active supporter of the ALP for over 20 years and has been approved as a candidate by the party establishment twice. And perhaps a rightward shift is the only way the Liberals will ever form government.

But without knowing more about him, he’d most likely rank 5th on my phantom ballot.

ALP Leadership Candidate Profiles: Laurie 4 Leader

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 ALP leadership race, Interviews, Politician Profiles | Leave a comment

The Alberta Liberals will be selecting a new leader on September 10th, from among 5 candidates: Laurie Blakeman, Hugh MacDonald, Raj Sherman, Bruce Payne, and Bill Harvey.

Today, the fourth part of a series profiling the candidates. (Previously: Bruce Payne, Raj Sherman, Hugh MacDonald)


Background: Like Hugh MacDonald, Blakeman has sat as a Liberal MLA since 1997, holding an impressive collection of portfolios. She has been a strong critic of the Tories, gaining prominence in 2004 when she asked Ralph Klein to provide travel receipts from recent trips and Ralph went off the rails, asking her over a dozen times if she was calling him a liar.

The former actress is still quite involved with arts and culture groups in Edmonton, and is married to city councillor Ben Henderson. She has been a strong proponent of encouraging women to get involved in politics.

Video: Clips from my interview with Laurie in May.

Online: Blakeman has gone as purple as can be on her website, trying to capitalize on Nenshi-mania. Although she only signed up for Twitter at the start of the contest (like most of the candidates), Blakeman has made an effort to engage Albertans online in the past, with a fairly active Facebook account and over 400 videos on her constituency YouTube channel.

Can she win? Blakeman has been around long enough to have a following inside the party, and she has no doubt been able to sign up a large number supporters from left-leaning organizations. However, I get the sense her support is concentrated in downtown Edmonton – the new rules giving ridings a maximum of 500 points in leadership contests will hurt her more than anyone else.

My Take: I do like Laurie – she’s a great MLA, and she fights passionately for issues that myself, and all Liberals, care deeply about. She is experienced, having served as Deputy Leader under both Kevin Taft and David Swann, and is the most polished candidate in this field.

All that said, I probably wouldn’t rank her above 3rd or 4th on my ballot if I were voting. Blakeman is just seen as too left-wing to appeal to voters outside Edmonton and the biggest opportunity for the Liberals right now is on their right, not their left.

For more on Laurie, you can read her answers to CalgaryLiberal’s candidate questionnaire here.

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