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.