I really cannot improve on this media release sent today from Liberalberta Party president Todd Van Vliet, so I have posted it in its entirety.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A response from Alberta Liberal Party President, Todd Van Vliet, regarding merger
(EDMONTON, AB) A merger of the Alberta Liberals and the NDP? Won’t happen.
Why not? Because politics isn’t simply about math. Politics is mostly about what voters will actually do, and combining polling numbers rarely works when it comes to mergers. In politics, adding 10 percent support to another 10 percent support never totals 20 percent. In fact, it could add up to far less (or more!) as voters make their real-life choices. That’s exactly what happened to the ‘left’ in the last election when Liberal voters slipped over to the PCs to stop a potential right-wing Wildrose avalanche.
And what about all the voters who weren’t motivated to get out to the polls in the last election? This is a bit of math that Mr. Hehr has forgotten to count. Who’s going to speak for their uncounted numbers?
So, what’s really going on when a Liberal MLA starts calling for a merger with another party? Not so much.
MLAs have their own opinions and even can choose to cross the floor and join another party if they disagree with their own party’s directions. While Mr. Hehr may be working in good faith to create a stronger alternative to the PCs, working to eliminate one’s own party would not seem to be the best way to do that.
Yes, the quest for power and to create a winning team is the business of all political parties. But politics has always been more than that. Politics, at its best, is about higher principles, about advancing values, which differ greatly from party to party. Yes, policies can be similar, even identical. But the paths are markedly different. And those paths matter. The means and the ends are never truly separate.
The NDP used to be the party of labour, unions and social justice. It was and perhaps still is “solidarity forever.” But over the past few decades the party has worked diligently to move itself into the ‘centre’ with some success.
The Liberals, on the other hand, have had a broader mission from the outset. The introduction to our bylaws states that it is “dedicated to the values that have sustained the party since 1905: public good, individual freedom, responsibility and accountability,” and that it puts “people first.” That is significantly different than putting labour first, or business first, as other parties do.
Today’s Liberals work hard to represent the needs of real Albertans and work for their future. As we said during the last election, it’s not so much about “right” or “left.” It’s more about “right” and “wrong.” And we definitely think this province should be doing a lot better in that regard.
So yes, even though both Liberals and NDs oppose the PCs, there are profound cultural differences between the two. For instance, it’s telling that the Liberal bylaws are open to the public. What do the Alberta NDP bylaws say? We don’t know. They’re not published.
To be even clearer, the Liberal bylaws state that membership in the party is open to those who “subscribe to the principles, aims and objectives of the party.” Mr. Hehr, more than anyone, should understand that eliminating this party through a merger would not be within the objectives of the party. At the very least he must know that such talk would create uncertainty.
So what’s actually going on with Kent Hehr and his advisers? Well, the idea of a merger certainly isn’t news. It has been raised at the last NDP annual general meeting and dismissed, and raised again at the last Alberta Liberal board meeting, and again dismissed. So who does this “merger” actually benefit? One would have to say, the PCs.
The only logical outcome of a merger is a widening canyon between the party on the so-called left (whatever it might be named) and Wildrose on the right—with the majority of dispossessed Liberals moving to the nominal ‘centre’ with the PCs. Without the Liberals to balance the centre, the PCs gain a real possibility of staying in power for decades longer.
As president I have regular discussions with party members, and I can say that nothing leads me to believe a merger option is wanted by our members. Nor would it benefit the Alberta public in the least.
As a final aside, one can’t help noting that the former Alberta Liberal executive director helping Mr. Hehr is a PR professional working with the local branch of one of the world’s larger PR firms. And one of his closest colleagues recently worked as Alison Redford’s leadership campaign manager and former Chief of Staff. Coincidence? Well, maybe.
At the end of the day this merger talk isn’t news. It’s just more back-room political engineering. To date, neither party’s leadership has picked up the phone to talk merger face-to-face, and I won’t be doing that.
The real math is engaging Alberta voters. Our job is to attract existing voters, motivate new voters to exercise their democratic rights and to show Albertans that the Liberals have a lot to offer. The rest is just noise.
Anyone interested in what we stand for should visit us at albertaliberal.com.
Todd Van Vliet
President, Alberta Liberal Party
Read the guest post from MLA Kent Hehr that spawned this debate.
UPDATE: MLA Kent Hehr has provided a comment via email in response to the Liberalberta Party press release: “It is what is and I understand the collective frustration of everyone involved. That said, in my view this is a discussion that progressives in this province need to have. I’m just trying to have that conversation.”