new ad: liberal party seeking single, progressive partners.

The Liberal Party ran this ad in today’s Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal.

It is nice to see David Swann and the Liberals taking a public stance on this issue. I was among a group of delegates who raised this idea at the 2008 party convention and were given a cold shoulder by party loyalists for suggesting that the party needed to start something new. Most members of that group of delegates have since left the Liberal Party and some are now members of the Alberta Party.

They might hold Official Opposition status in the Assembly, but it is a little late for the Liberals to try to position themselves as the leadership figures among progressives in this discussion. It really is too bad that the Liberal Party took so long to join the conversation because they could have had a big impact if they would have been more open-minded to the possibilities two years ago.

UPDATE: I have to say that I am disappointed with the NDP and Alberta Party for their unwillingness to be open to discussions with the Liberal Party. Dr. Swann has taken a big political risk by offering to talk and in the low-stakes of opposition politics in Alberta it would cause negligible political harm to kindly accept the offer.

Alberta Party-supporter David King has written some thoughtful commentary on how the letter was framed. I do agree that it was unnecessarily adversarial towards the governing Progressive Conservatives. As a friend of mine pointed out after reading the Liberal Party ad, if you remove the anti-Conservative section of the letter, there is very little that most Albertans would disagree with. Perhaps Dr. Swann should have opened the same invitation to the PCs, and even the Wildrose Alliance.

It was not a shock that NDP leader Brian Mason is not interested in cooperating with the Liberal Party, but his political cheap-shot response was rude and not helpful. While many Albertans would probably agree with Mr. Mason that the Liberal Party is a “train-wreck,” the Alberta NDP, sitting at ~10% in the polls, is hardly an example of a relevant modern political machine.

37 thoughts on “new ad: liberal party seeking single, progressive partners.

  1. Louie

    Too bad they don’t take “conservative” fiscal policies and “liberal” social polices. That puts them dead centre, but would make them libertarian. That’s what we need, libertarians. Sadly, it will never happen.

    Reply
  2. Neal

    So what happened to David “Don’t worry, this resolution doesn’t mean anything” Swann? Seems like he has certainly allowed it to mean something, although that something seems to just be wasted time and resources.

    It’s unclear who they are even courting here. The NDP have rejected cooperation twice in recent years and the Alberta Party is made up from a heavy dose of disenchanted Liberals.

    So much nonsense from a party that is still bleeding seats. Assuming Hehr and Pastoor leave for municipal efforts, Team Swann will barely be clinging to Official Opposition status.

    Reply
  3. Matt Grant

    I personally like this move. It gets David back to what he campaigned (and won) on during the ALP leadership. Sure the NDP card-carrying members will reject this, but the soft NDP-ers, Greens, ReBooters, AB Party members and progressives of all stripes who are looking for cooperation should take this for what it is: a leader of the Official Opposition actually prepared to discuss alternatives to what this Blog and others like it have labelled the old, tired way of doing things.

    Reply
  4. Herbert B. Patrotage

    Let’s face it: most Albertans appear unwilling to consider the Official Opposition as an alternative government under the Liberal brand name. Like it or not, the “Liberal” tag stops most people from considering the possibility that the Official Opposition has the best potential to become something akin to the old Lougheed team. Also, Danielle Smith is right when she says, “You have to position a party where most Albertans think they are. And most Albertans think of themselves as conservatives.” This is especially true amongst folks who live outside Edmonton or Calgary and make up about a third of the population, yet hold most of the seats in the legislature. Hopefully what will become of ALP’s laudable initiative is an Official Opposition rebranded the “Alberta Party”, uniting disaffected progressives and marketing itself as a fiscally responsible, socially moderate, competent alternative to a government corrupted by nearly 40 years of uninterrupted power.

    Reply
  5. Clint

    Yawn. This ad was on the last page of the B section in Edmonton. Liberal Party is desperate to be relevant. Yawn.

    Reply
  6. daveberta Post author

    It’s nice to see Swann and the Liberals taking a public stance on this issue. I raised it in 2008 and was shunned by party loyalists for suggesting that the party needed to start something new. It’s a little late for them to try to position themselves as the leadership figures among progressives. Too bad it took the Liberal Party so long to join the conversation, they could have had a big impact if they would have been more open-minded about it two years ago. (I wrote about it in SEE Magazine in 2008)

    Reply
  7. daveberta Post author

    I found an interesting article in the archives reporting that NDP MLA John McInnis proposed a similar cooperation between the Liberals and NDP in 1991, before the NDP were wiped off the political map in the 1993 election. The Liberals became official opposition in that election. (see below)

    McInnis’s unholy alliance; [FINAL Edition]

    Edmonton Journal. Edmonton, Alta.: Oct 31, 1991. pg. A.14

    New Democrat John McInnis climbed out on a limb this week only to hear the drone of buzz saws behind him.

    He should brace himself for a tumble.

    The MLA for Edmonton-Jasper Place had the temerity to suggest in his November newsletter to constituents that Liberals and New Democrats should work together to defeat the Alberta Conservatives in the next provincial election.

    McInnis contends the Tories could win again, with a minority of the popular vote, if the opposition vote were split. The NDP and Liberals share many positions on policy, he says, and they could topple the Getty government if they co-operated in the campaign. For example, the two parties might agree to run only one opposition candidate in a specific constituency.

    Liberal and New Democrat MLAs are treating this proposals like poison. Both NDP Leader Ray Martin and Liberal Leader Laurence Decore dismiss any suggestion of a coalition.

    In a way, McInnis is only acknowledging the obvious when he suggests that the two opposition parties now occupy the same moderate ideological territory. New Democrats and Liberals these days are neither left nor right, neither rabid socialist nor strident free enterprise, just Nice and Earnest and Safe. Voters from Victoria to Regina to Toronto have endorsed the new formula.

    But this is not to say that McInnis has a good idea.

    In fact, he doesn’t.

    A marriage of convenience between Alberta’s New Democrats and Liberals might assist a certain west Edmonton MLA in his re-election campaign, but it would also insult voters across the province.

    Albertans would resent such a crude manipulation of their choices on the ballot, and they might decide to punish both parties for the aggravation.

    Who is McInnis to say that New Democrats would happily vote Liberal if his party dictated that decision? Or that Liberals would prefer to vote for the NDP rather than the Tories?

    Voters are individual thinkers. They are not robots manufactured to cast ballots on command for a generic, no-name opposition coalition.

    Forgive them, but Albertans were under the honest impression that the NDP and Liberal parties – in this province at least – had different approaches to public issues, and different solutions to offer. Is McInnis contradicting them? Is he saying the NDP has less to contribute than the two opposition parties combined?

    The Edmonton MLA appears to suggest that the exclusive goal of an opposition party is to defeat the government, pure and simple. He should have a word with veteran CCFers who will attend the NDP convention in Calgary this weekend, as always, to remind the party of its roots. The old-timers might remind McInnis of an era when the party stood for principles, as well as ambitions.

    Beyond the murky ethics of McInnis’s suggested alliance, there are practical difficulties.
    Constituency organizations would balk at conceding a local race to an old adversary. Either the New Democrats or the Liberals would have to agree in advance to play second fiddle in any election outcome, and neither would be so inclined. Conservatives would play the Tweedledum and Tweedledee theme to the hilt, distracting voters from the real issue of their own performance.
    As it stands, the Tories can lose the next election all by themselves. They don’t need help from two opposition parties locked in a phoney coalition.
    Not to worry. McInnis’s talk of a campaign alliance is going nowhere.

    For kissing cousins, Alberta’s New Democrats and Liberals have an odd way of displaying their mutual affection. When Laurence Decore rebuffed McInnis’s advances – “Hell, I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked to unseat John McInnis right now” – the spurned New Democrat responded in kind. Turning on Decore, McInnis criticized “the kind of opportunism and arrogance that makes me think any type of alliance may be doomed.”

    Opportunism? Arrogance? Is the pot calling the kettle black?

    Reply
  8. Sheila

    You said it well Dave in 2008: “Albertans who are serious about changing how this province is governed need to start thinking and acting outside the box.” With the slash-and-burn Conservatives trying to position themselves as centrists in the face of the deceptively ultra-right-wing Wildrose Alliance, progressive Albertans are definitely stepping out of that box. With more progressive parties elected, jobs will NOT disappear and and especially not those core services the PC and WAP are determined to erode even further. We don’t need to harp on missed political opportunities. Countries with dictatorships have turned themselves around and brought in democratic governance; surely our task here is far less impossible. It’s time the progressive parties muster up the courage to step out of their partisan boxes, start cooperating, and campaign against the right-wing parties.

    Reply
  9. Broken Winged Swann

    Wow.

    He should have just taken out a Craigslist ad.

    Also forgot to add “no kissing on the mouth”.

    Nice to see they’re still as relevant as they were yesterday, however.

    Reply
  10. Alvin Finkel

    I applaud the decision by David Swann and other leaders within the Liberal party for issuing this challenge to other progressive parties, even if, as Dave C. is suggesting, this is coming a few years after it might have had the most punch. All of the progressive parties in Alberta, from the Liberals to the NDP to Vision 2012 to the Alberta Party are quite small and rather poorly financed. The NDP is in the worst shape with a $500,000 debt and almost no active constituency organizatons. While the Tories and Wildrose probably have fewer activists than they pretend, both parties are swimming in oil company dough and they will dominate the next election narrative unless something intervenes quickly.

    The Alberta Party won’t get much traction on its own, anymore than these other parties. If we had a PR system, of course, the lack of unity of progressives might not matter so much (though in other countries there’s lots of evidence that when the centre-left parties work together, they get more votes even under PR). In FPTP, with no second or third choices allowed for votes beyond the first vote, you really are wasting your vote if you cannot figure out who are the top two contenders.

    As the recent Calgary Herald series on worker deaths highlighted, people are literally dying in this province because of right-wing, ultra-pro-business policies unbalanced by anything resembling concern for the rest of us. United, progressives in this province are a third force in the coming provincial election. Divided, we are a sideshow to the battle between the Far Right and the Extreme Right. We’ll all be complaining after the election about how our little party got no coverage during the election. Guess what? Divided, we won’t deserve any.

    Reply
  11. Phil Elder

    I was happy to see the Liberal Party’s ad this morning. Having publicly called for David Swann to loudly challenge other progressive parties to
    discuss electoral cooperation, now that he’s done it, I’ve decided I have to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve gone online to join the Liberal Party and made a donation.
    I’m not sure what more we could have expected from the Liberals – in fact, it’s a coup for David to have persuaded his reluctant party president to co-sign the ad – so I’m throwing in my support. This decision was hard for me, as a New Democrat of 35 years’ standing and a proud NDP candidate in 1982 with Grant Notley, but I’m that distressed by the NDP’s stubborn and continual refusal to work together with other progressives for a better Alberta.
    So, bloggers and letters-to-the-editor writers unite! Tell the public what you think! Or, tell Brian Mason that his contemptuous dismissal of this opportunity is regrettable and that he should reverse his position.
    Remember, recent public opinion polls show that the combined support for Alberta Liberals and New Democrats equals or slightly exceeds that for
    either the PCs or Wildrose Alliance.
    Cooperation is by far the best way to end the conservative (big or small “c”) grip on Alberta’s government.

    Reply
  12. Hopeful MS

    David Swann’s call for reform-minded parties to work together in the next provincial election is timely. While some Albertans still think that pre-electoral coalitions are strange, they have only to look at other democracies including Norway, France, and India to see that such coalitions are common and often yield great success for progressive groups. I find it frustrating that the progressive parties in Alberta continue to be prisoners of a strange mindset that equates cooperation with ideological defeat or compromise. At a time when the Wild Rose is prepared to put a façade of centrist policy, while arrogantly proclaiming that they can bring about their desired policy changes once they gain power, it is even more important for progressive parties to be pragmatic and work on a cooperative strategy to wrest power out of the hands of these scary right-wingers (Danielle Smith’s photogenic looks notwithstanding).

    Reply
  13. Paula Stein

    The cynics that persist in taking potshots at the Liberals, but continue to bemoan the presence of the Tories and the on-rushing Wildrose, should wake up and look for ways to help the situation. All the naysayers achieve is …. nothing. Whatever happened in the past with regard to the Liberals, the NDs or whomever, is now past. Centrist-left Albertans need a new strategy if there is to be any change in the political landscape in this province. 30 members in the legislature are better than 8, and better than 2. Okay, maybe it would have been more effective had this happened a couple of years ago, but it didn’t. It IS happening now, so let’s do whatever we can collectively to make something work to the benefit of us all.
    Seperate and splitting the vote, Albertans have been subject to successive terrible governments. The individual parties have emphasized their differences to the point that they’ve lost sight of the fact that all of them are dedicated to significantly improving services of all kinds in this province. As a result, it has been easy for the Conservatives to tailor their policies to appeal to those on the right. Liberals are not calling for a merger; they are simply calling for cooperation. David Swann, is a good person to bring together progressive parties and voters. He is not bound by strict partisanship.
    What the Tories have done to Alberta is wrong in so many areas: environment, health care, human services, patronage, and thumbing their noses at the democratic process. If a cooperation initiative can breathe new life into the political process in our province, and provide us with hope for more open and progressive government, then I applaud David Swann’s bravery in daring to break the mold. Now are there others brave enough to give it a try?

    Reply
  14. JodyM

    No party, no matter how compelling its policies, can truly make a difference to the lives of everyday Albertans by sitting in opposition for four decades or longer–particularly when up against a corrupt regime that cares little about democracy and completely lacks compassion. Now is the time to work together to defeat the Tories and stop the Wildrose (aka “Tories: the Sequel”) from getting into a position of power. We need to set aside our partisan prejudices (at least temporarily) to talk about how to form a progressive government that can help restore democracy and show compassion for the many Albertans who are suffering because of Tory mismanagement. Yes, it probably should have been done a long time ago but there wasn’t a WAP or a Stelmach back then. This is the perfect storm of opportunity. What are we afraid of? Success?

    Reply
  15. Get Real

    Give Swann credit; the guy actually DID something interesting… and in my opinion, something important.

    I am so tired of the same old tired and LOSING political strategies of the progressive parties in the province and glad to see something positive, for once. Swann’s call for cooperation is a bold new move that should set the tone for future progressive politics — an idea that should be cheered and encouraged by ALL who vote for the centre-left.

    Those who jump to criticize this appeal to rationality are, to my mind, stuck in the partisan past and have no understanding/nor the desire to understand the old Roman motto: “United we stand -Divided we fall” — including those in the Alberta party who claim on their website to want a party that is open, welcoming, centrist, inclusive, etc., but then have so far shown no desire to work with other like-minded parties. Perhaps they’ll figure out that working with others and then implementing PR is the best way to help put their party on the map, in this province at least. Cooperation brings: compromise, but victories, too.

    Reply
  16. jerrymacgp

    All this praise for the Grits’ ad is nothing more than the sound of one hand clapping. At two successive provincial Conventions, NDP members have soundly rejected this concept. Look at the party’s name: “Democratic”. Party members rule, not the Leader or others in the Edmonton office. It wouldn’t matter what Brian or Rachel thought if the membership felt this were the way to go; and both would find their positions in jeopardy were they to pursue this alliance in defiance of the defeat of the resolutions at Convention.

    Besides, the “splitting” of progressive votes is only really relevant in Edmonton. In most of the rest of the province, the combined Liberal & ND votes still do not add up to anywhere near enough to unseat the incumbent Tories. A merger or alliance between the Libs and the ND’s would accomplish little, other than confusing rural voters and offending generations of former CCFers & long-time NDP partisans. The solution isn’t clear, but it definitely lies elsewhere.

    Reply
  17. A

    1. Drop the name. FOR GOD’S SAKE, DROP THE NAME. I cannot believe it is 2010 and these people STILL haven’t got it through their thick skulls that the Liberal brand in Alberta ranks just slightly above cancer and a few spots below dandelions. Yes, I know all the white collar baby boomers who donate to the party love Trudeau and have a strong emotional attachment to the party. But as long as they’re donating to “Liberals,” they might as well gather around a giant Glenora bonfire and burn some $20 bills.

    2. Moving to the left by uniting or partnering with “progressives” is the stupidest thing the party could do. “Progressive” is a polite way of saying “I sit on my community league executive and everyone there rolls their eyes when I talk about passing a resolution to condemn the tar sands.” There is a giant block of middle-of-the-road voters just waiting to be snapped up. These people aren’t “progressive,” they certainly don’t self-identify as “progressive,” and they don’t give a shit about a “democratic deficit.” They want the trains to run on time without having to pay for them, like most people in most democracies.

    3. ????

    4. PROFIT

    Reply
  18. Sheila

    re jerrymacgp. Dave, you were at both conventions, it was pretty obvious at the NDP convention that the vote was influenced from the top down. Possibly all the way from Jack Layton? Not at all “Democratic.” Both Brian and Rachel spoke passionately against cooperation. Rachel even said that pre-election coalitions don’t exist.
    At the Liberal convention, the leader & caucus did not interfere. The delegates had an opportunity to discuss the resolution in advance of the vote. The party chose a pragmatic approach to defeating the Tories and stopping the Wildrose.
    A few people might consider leaving the Liberals, but I’m actually hearing from a lot of people who are abandoning the NDP and joining the ALP.
    There’s strength in numbers. Let’s do the math. 1 + 1 = 2. 1 more Liberal MLA and 1 more NDP MLA = 2 more progressive MLAs and 2 less Conservatives.

    Reply
  19. Neal

    I attended both the NDP conventions in question and I do agree that the party’s top brass did everything possible to stack the deck against the vote. I don’t personally think that’s a horrile thing, but it should definitely be acknowledged that that is what happened. Brian Mason was allowed to give an impassioned speech asking for defeat of the motion, from the stage and not from the floor as any other delegate would. And AFL President Gil McGowan’s time slot was bumped to the day after, for fear that he would encourage folks to vote for cooperation.

    I personally voted against it, not because I’m opposed to a strong single progressive party, but because the DRP schemes in fact create the opposite. Cooperation agreements prior to elections are not something the voting public will look favourably on, just look at the Federal coalition attempts. Anytime the public feels politicians are somehow scheming to rig the results, they will move their votes to more “democractic” parties. The real solution here is a permanent merger, not a one time hand-holding agreement that would result in an unstable minority government (at best).

    Honestly, if folks here met the braintrust behind the DRP, they would understand what pie-in-the-sky ivory tower types are behind this silly idea. If someone wants to “grow a set” and run for leadership of either party on an open platform of eventual merger, I might get onboard. Until then I’ll keep voting no to hairbrained DRP schemes.

    Reply
  20. Trish

    The ad shows 2 things:

    1. The Liberals now have money to spend, and
    2. They are in fact gearing up for an election expected sooner than the much repeated March 2012 date.

    Swann is doing something different and needs to be encouraged. Also Tony Sansotta left his mark on the letter with the “all decisions will be put to a vote” clause. Good for him too.

    Why is this any different from when the Wildrose and the Alberta Alliance parties got together?

    It’s even more open and forthright than what the Renew Alberta crowd did with the Alberta Party (now that was a backroom deal).

    And going back further in time, why is this any different from Harper’s “Unite the Right” cry that saw the “United Alternative” morph into the Conservative Party of Canada that is now governing, albeit in a minority?

    If anything, it is getting the Liberals some attention and much needed ink and airtime, despite all the detractors, conspiracy theorists, and Public Affairs Bureau hacks out there.

    Reply
  21. Beth

    It’s about time we had some real progressive representation in this province. I’m just sorry Brian Mason hasn’t stepped up to the task yet.

    Reply
  22. Paula Stein

    So what if the open letter read like a singles ad. No one else is doing anything different than has been done in every past election – and we’ve been stuck with the same lackluster…no that’s not even a strong enough word…detrimental…better word… bunch of jesters for the past oh! so many years.
    Sheeples! At least David Swann has tried – that’s more than can be said for anyone else.

    Reply
  23. Paula Stein

    Maybe this is why Paula Simons and other journalists should get off their high horses about David Swann’s gesture and start providing some encouragement for the creation of something new to challenge the Tories:

    Alberta’s top health executives score $5.8M in salary and bonuses

    This is truly shameful when wait times increase and when people like the senior living next door to me (not a wealthy individual) has to pay $1000+ out of pocket for a prescribed salve to address the cancer on her leg.

    Reply
  24. workeradvocate

    We are the problem. Cynical progressive voters who refuse to ‘think outside the norm’ are the problem. Democratic change requires a view and perspective that has never been considered.
    To quote Danielle Smith- ‘agendas cannot be implemented without being elected’.

    Reply
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  26. Sheila

    I think Swann’s Open Letter signals an invitational call-to-arms – not that they’ve “rolled over.”

    It’s the progressive voters of Alberta who are getting desperate, but the doctor just gave politics in Alberta a healthy shot in the arm.

    If Brian won’t “play footsy” with the Liberals, he forces the rest of us to get kicked around by Tory mismanagement, or worse, the Wildrose.

    Brian, you should call David. Go for lunch. You can keep your socks on.

    Reply
  27. Leo Campos Aldunez

    I simply like to offer the following: the people of the DRP are fine, caring, intelligent and thoughtful individuals, genuinely concerned about the malaise running trough Alberta politics and 40 years of Tory rule.

    I have been associated with the DRP since its inception and can proudly say that it has been an honour to be part of this group. Its intentions are most honourable, its goals lucid & transparent, its mission statement sharp and unequivocal – it’s all here: http://www.drproject.ca/

    For anyone attempting to discredit its work, that says more about whom you may be, than what the DRP stand for. The DRP has a large membership base; people from a wide range of present and/or former militancy with the ALP, ANDP, Alberta Greens and many, many independents.

    What brings them together is a profound desire to see a regime change in our province, knowing full well that any of these political entities alone won’t bring about the change we seek.

    They have come up with a series of proposals underlying unity of purpose, interparty collaboration + a sincere commitment to foster talks among these entities as to working together on a set of common grounds. As everyone knows, this is not original to the DRP, for, such alliances, coalitions, etc. are common is many parts of the world …

    Such forward-looking & critical/strategic thinking approach could (potentially) lead within a decade or so, to a political alliance lead by the ALP and forming government, not just talking about gaining a few extra MLA’s, notwithstanding that would be a good thing too.

    What is required here is not upmanship, nor dismissal of good ideas, but, statesmanship, courageous political visionaries from both, the political parties in question, progressive labour organizations and civil society organizations willing to talk. For, if one is sincerely interested in regime change, such posture needs to be demonstrated.

    I hope that before spring of 2012 (broadly speaking) progressive forces converge under some kind of manifesto which could guide us all to renew our efforts at creating the conditions for a powerful show of political wisdom and electoral victory.

    Kind regards, LCA

    Reply
  28. Main stream voter

    Nobody likes the leftist ultra elitist political attitude except for ultra leftist political elitists. The synonym being Progressive.

    Reply
  29. Adam Adamson

    I’m not sure I can agree it was unnecessarily adversarial against the Conservatives. The only thing it says about them is it seems an opportunity to unseat them. It’s not like it called them a bunch of assholes, or even mentioned anything specific.

    I know the end goal is a better government, but isn’t part of that better government inevitably a change in government? It’s not healthy to have one power in for 40 years.

    Reply
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  32. HGDreams

    LCA, AF, and the DRP.
    Sorry, but you claim a “strategic alliance is necessary” but provide no pragmatic strategy. “Let the leaders and backrooms do it!” you proclaim then insist it be done in public. You lack integrity when they assert that the NDP should “do it for Albertans” , sounding more like inheritors urging the old ones to get on an ice flow.
    Frankly, I’m embarrassed by the absolute greed the DRP display in thier pressure tactics to have their way.
    Until the DRP begin to address the realities, they lose credibility daily as they insist that thier vision isn’t a hallucination.

    Reply
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