Raj Sherman delivers his leadership victory speech as leadership chair Josipa Petrunic, and candidates Laurie Blakeman, Hugh MacDonald, and Bruce Payne look on (September 2011).

Raj Sherman delivers his leadership victory speech as leadership chair Josipa Petrunic, and candidates Laurie Blakeman, Hugh MacDonald, and Bruce Payne look on (September 2011).

The Alberta Liberals will be holding a vote to affirm or oppose the continued leadership of  Raj Sherman on June 16 at the Whitehorn Community Association in northeast Calgary.

While the 2012 election gave the Liberal Party its worst electoral showing in decades, including the loss of Official Opposition status to the Wildrose Party, many Liberal partisans are lining up to reaffirm Dr. Sherman’s leadership. Dr. Sherman was first elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2008, became Liberal leader in 2011 and was re-elected as MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark in the recent vote.

It is unclear where the Liberal Party fits in the new political environment and despite its dismal showing at the polls last month and it is disputable whether changing leadership at this time will improve that party’s electoral fortunes. Dr. Sherman’s biggest advantage in the June vote may be a lack of anyone else interested in taking up the unenviable position of trying to rebuild Alberta’s Liberal Party.

With only four other MLAs in the Assembly, the Liberals would have a small pool to draw from if Dr. Sherman were to leave. One of those MLA’s, David Swann, already served as leader from 2008 until 2011, and another, Laurie Blakeman, was defeated in the 2011 leadership contest.

Ms. Blakeman spent the past month campaigning to become the Speaker of the Assembly, which if she had won would have, for all intents and purposes, bumped the group of Liberal MLA’s down to 4. Ms. Blakeman was unsuccessful in her bid and was defeated by Edmonton-Mill Creek PC MLA Gene Zwozdesky, who himself crossed the floor from the Liberals to the PCs in 1998.

Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr demonstrated ambition for higher office during his short-lived run for Mayor of Calgary in 2010, but has not publicly displayed interest in his party’s leadership position. I have little insight into whether Calgary-McCall MLA Darshan Kang would be interested in the role.

A few long-time Liberal partisans have shared their frustration with me, suggesting that if long-time Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald had not decided to retire in the recent election, he would be in an ideal position to claim the party leadership. Mr. MacDonald placed second in that party’s 2011 leadership contest and many of his supporters continue to see Dr. Sherman as an outsider to their party.

Other Party Leadership Reviews

It is expected that PC Premier Alison Redford will face a leadership affirmation vote at her party’s annual convention next year. After leading her party to re-election, winning 61 of 87 seats, it is likely that her leadership will be strongly affirmed in the vote.

Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, now Leader of the Official Opposition, is required to face a leadership affirmation vote every three years, which means the next vote would be held in 2013 at the latest. Under section 8.4 of the Wildrose Party constitution, Ms. Smith leadership also faces conditions of term-limits:

8.4 The Leader shall be limited to holding the office of Leader of the Party for the longer of two terms of the Legislative Assembly or eight years, unless endorsed by a two-thirds majority to continue for an additional four years at the Annual General Meeting immediately preceding the expiry of the allowed term.

Both the Alberta NDP and the Alberta Party hold votes to affirm or oppose the current leadership at each annual general meeting, meaning that Brian Mason and Glenn Taylor will face votes in the upcoming year.