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what’s next for alberta’s opposition parties?

After receiving a substantial beating in last week’s election, I thought it is important to take a look at Alberta’s two opposition parties in the Legislature and make some suggestions on what their next moves should be.

Though there has been talk of leadership change in the opposition parties, I don’t see any need for the Alberta Liberals or New Democrats to rush this decision. The goal of both parties should be stability, and I’m not sure how a leadership change in the short-term will help this (I’m not sure you’d see a mad rush of leadership contenders, either). As both parties will have their opposition budgets slashed, they should look to increase their cooperation in the Legislature and in legislative committees for the sake of a stronger and more united opposition.

Alberta Liberals

The Alberta Liberals lost eight seats in the Edmonton region last week. With three seats in Edmonton, one in Lethbridge, and five in Calgary (where they actually increased their seats from four to five), the Alberta Liberals can take solace in that they are probably in a better position to grow than when they were decimated down to 7 seats in 2001. Though I’m sure the financial situation situation of the party isn’t pretty, a leaner opposition will force the Alberta Liberals to do some soul searching in the meantime.

Having the majority of their seats in Calgary is a changing dynamic that the Alberta Liberals haven’t seen in recent memory, which suggests that the Calgary Alberta Liberal caucus will have more influence on opposition politics than they had before the election.

In terms of Kevin Taft’s leadership, my advice to the party is to not rush any decisions. Internal stability is something that will be very important in the process of preparing for the next election and leadership is something the Alberta Liberals need to be smart about. Holding a leadership race now would be fool hearted and would most likely not draw the types of contenders that the Alberta Liberals would need to lead them into the next election. There’s no rush, so wait a year and let Ed Stelmach’s Tories stumble, then if a leadership race needs to be held, you’ll see more people stepping up to the plate.

Over the next four years, the Alberta Liberals need to take a critical look ‘outside the box’ and decide what kind of party they want to be, including abandoning the traditional party structure and mentality. Everything should be on the table, including more than just a name-change.

Official Opposition MLAs
Kevin Taft, Edmonton-Riverview
Laurie Blakeman, Edmonton-Centre
Harry Chase, Calgary-Varsity
Kent Hehr, Calgary-Buffalo
Darshan Kang, Calgary-McCall
Hugh MacDonald, Edmonton-Gold Bar
Bridget Pastoor, Lethbridge-East
David Swann, Calgary-Mountain View
Dave Taylor, Calgary-Currie

Alberta New Democrats

The loss of David Eggen in Edmonton-Calder and Ray Martin in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview means that the New Democrats have lost their official party status in the Alberta Legislature. Also, much like the Alberta Liberals, I’m sure their financial situation isn’t pretty.

With leader Brian Mason’s only caucus mate being rookie Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley, it’s pretty clear who the favorite to replace Mason will be. This said, even though I’ve never warmed up to Mason, I think that him handing over the reigns to Notley too early after the election could be a bad move for his party.

As a rookie MLA, Notley should be given some time to learn the ropes and decide whether or not she actually likes being an MLA. As much as some New Democrats I’ve spoken with want Mason to hit the road as soon as possible, putting Notley into the leader’s chair this early could be a risky move (but with only two seats in the Legislature, what do the New Democrats really have to lose?).

It is also probably overdue for the New Democrats take a critical look at the advantages and disadvantages of its joint-at-the-hip relationship with some of Alberta’s big labour unions. Does its close ties to the Alberta Federation of Labour do more harm than good? What does this relationship mean for the New Democrats claim to being a voice for progressives in Alberta?

(Also, for a New Democrat point of view, Shannon Phillips has some interesting post-Eday thoughts on the election in Edmonton and Edmonton-Calder.)

New Democrat MLAs
Brian Mason, Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
Rachel Notley, Edmonton-Strathcona

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