Alberta Liberal Party

ALP Leadership Candidate Profiles: Hugh Can Do It

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 third part of a series profiling the candidates. (Previously: Bruce Payne, Raj Sherman)

HUGH MACDONALD

Background: First elected in 1997, Hugh has been the Alberta Liberal Party’s Ted Kennedy in recent years – unabashedly Liberal and unafraid to speak out. As Hugh’s bio points out, he has a perfect legislature attendance record during this time period, something Jack Layton would no doubt be proud of.

Prior to entering politics, MacDonald worked in the oil and gas industry.

Video: My interview with Hugh from May.

Online: MacDonald’s online presence is relatively modest, with around 140 Twitter followers, 60 Facebook likes (and 580 friends), and a bare bones website.

Can he win? Early on I discounted MacDonald as a 4th or 5th place finisher in this contest, feeling he didn’t have the organization in place to sign up many new members. But people I’ve talked to have been impressed with his campaign, and I’d guess his supporters, the staunchest of Liberals, will be the most likely to vote.

He has establishment support from the likes of Nick Taylor, Ken Nicol, and Debby Carlson, and his fiercely Liberal reputation may appeal to members who are worried about an outsider coming in. I doubt he’ll win, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him as high as second.

My Take: I’ve never really visualized MacDonald as a future ALP leader. I’ve always found him a bit too “scandal-obsessed” and he has a tendency to go off on weird tangents – at May’s leadership forum, he made putting the constituency name on party membership forms his flagship leadership plank. Maybe it’s a good idea, but it’s not exactly “Yes We Can” stuff.

That said, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of MacDonald as the leader. He is, hands down, the best speaker in this field, and a bushy haired Maritimer from the oil industry would help break the party’s “university professor” imagine. MacDonald would fire up party loyalists, and his soundbyte attack dog style could help the ALP earn back some of the headlines they’ve lost to the Wildrose.

ALP Leadership Candidate Profiles: The Doctor is in

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. To vote, simply register here as an ALP supporter by August 19th.

Today, the second part of a series profiling the candidates (previously – Bruce Payne).

RAJ SHERMAN

Background: Sherman moved to Canada from India at a young age, and has lived in Edmonton since the 1980s, attending the U of A and then staying to practice as an emergency room doctor. According to his rateMDs reviews, he was a pretty good one (one review states “McDreamy is an understatement“). Sherman took the plunge into elected politics in 2008, riding the Stelmach wave across Edmonton and taking back Edmonton-Meadowlark for the PCs.

So how did the good doctor go from PC backbencher to ALP leadership frontrunner in under a year? Well, it all comes down to his very own Kai Nagata moment last November, when he fired off a late night e-mail to his entire address book slamming the Stelmach government’s Health Care record. Suffice to say, that was it for Raj in the PCs, and his move to the Liberals was a natural fit.

Video: I didn’t have a chance to video interview Raj during May’s ALP convention, but I include a mash-up of Sherman clips from the all-candidates debate conducted that weekend:

Online: Sherman has a fairly standard website, 570 Facebook supporters, and 2000 followers to what is a mostly mundane Twitter feed.

Can he win? I’d peg Raj as the front runner. Despite being a newcomer to the ALP, he has federal Liberal connections and has signed up a slew of new supporters. The big question for Sherman is how successful he’ll be outside of Edmonton and how he’ll place on the preferential ballot – after all, with 5 strong candidates, it’s unlikely this one will be decided on the first ballot.

My Take: I worked with Raj on the Gerard Kennedy campaign in 2006, and he’s certainly a likable chap. However, as his departure from PC caucus and subsequent claims of corruption, bribery, and cover-ups in the Health Care system show, Sherman is a loose cannon, prone to firing off in any direction if he gets worked up about an issue.

That, coupled with his lack of political experience, makes him a huge risk. At the same time, there’s something to do said for the ALP taking a risk and going with the wild card. Sherman would bring a jolt of energy to a moribund party, and has credibility on the province’s number one issue. Although some feel his Health Care focus makes him too one-dimensional, I honestly think Sherman should try to make it a single issue campaign about Health Care if he wins.

The Liberals have been out of power and largely irrelevant for close to a century, so there’s something to be said for taking a chance and going all in on the doctor.

ALP Leadership Candidate Profiles: All Aboard the Payne Train!

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 ALP leadership race, Alberta Politics, 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. To vote, simply register here as an ALP supporter by August 19th.

Today, the first of a five part series profiling the candidates.

I’m not supporting anyone in this race but, in the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that Bruce Payne is advertising on this blog.

BRUCE PAYNE

Background: Even if you follow Alberta politics, you’ve probably never heard of Bruce Payne. He’s never held elected office, though he is the nominated Liberal candidate in Calgary Varsity, a riding currently held by retiring MLA Harry Chase.

Born in Alberta and a carpenter by trade, Payne has been a labour leader for many years prior to entering politics.

Video:

Online: Payne’s website is at 87strong.ca. No, he’s not a Sidney Crosby fan – the “87” in this instance refers to his focus on building 87 strong Liberal riding associations across Alberta.

Putting the focus on an idea rather than the candidate is a risky move in any leadership contest. But I like it as a strategy here. Payne will likely draw most of his support from ridings where the party is weaker, so this gives him an opportunity to use the idea (87 strong ridings) to help define him to ALP members who have never met him.

Can he win? Payne is a complete unknown, but I think he stands as good a chance as any of winning. Payne’s involvement in the labour movement will translate to votes, and unless Bill Harvey mounts a strong campaign, Calgary and rural Alberta is Payne’s for the taking, while the other three candidates fight over a finite number of Edmonton Liberals.

My Take: Using a sports analogy, choosing between Payne and more established names like Blakeman and MacDonald is akin to choosing between the hot prospect or the more established veterans. Sure, the raw potential is there, but it might take time for him to fully develop, and he could flame out. From what I saw at May’s leadership forum in Calgary, Payne’s still needs to work on his public speaking – both in terms of substance and delivery.

But the potential is certainly there. Payne looks like a leader and has a very welcoming smile and “aww shucks” sort of attitude, that makes him quite likable. If I were casting a Liberal Premier of Alberta in some kind of alternate-reality sci-fi movie, I’d get an actor who looked just like Bruce Payne (James Brolin?).

As a former carpenter and pastor from small-town Alberta, Payne is certainly the best candidate to shatter the party’s “downtown elitist” imagine and expand its base. And hey, given it will take a miracle of biblical proportions to get the Liberals into power, going with a pastor carpenter might not be a bad move.

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