Conventional wisdom would inform us that the Alberta Liberals should always do everything in their power to distance themselves from their federal cousins, who remain tainted in the province after a long-string of historical grievances and well-curated myths.
But has distancing the two parties helped either party?
Since the 1970s, the two parties have been officially independent with varying degrees of unofficial cooperation and confrontation. Both parties have achieved limited success in pockets of the province at certain points over past twenty years, but support for both parties has dwindled over the past decade. The Liberal presence shrunk to five MLAs in last year’s provincial election and the federal Liberals last successfully elected a candidate to Parliament from Alberta in the 2004 election .
Provincial Liberal support in Alberta:
2001 election: 276,854 votes, 2012 election: 127,645 votes.
Federal Liberal support in Alberta:
2000 election: 263,008 votes, 2011 election: 129,310 votes.
If a merger with the NDP, Alberta Party, and Greens, as has been suggested by Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, is unpalatable to Dr. Sherman, perhaps he could be convinced a merger with his party’s federal namesake would not be a bad idea.
Sharing their limited resources, as the provincial and federal New Democratic Party do officially and the Wildrose Party and Conservative Party have done unofficially, could provide stability in membership, fundraising, and organization for the two Liberal Parties in Alberta. A merger could also cut costs on duplication of resources (the two parties currently operate separate offices located opposite each other on Edmonton’s 124th Street).
The two parties already share many members and candidates are frequently seen listed on the ballot under both party banners.
There are also no shortage of former Liberal MLAs who have tried to kickstart a career in Ottawa, though all of them unsuccessful. Liberal MLAs Ken Nicol and Debby Carlson ran as federal Liberals in the 2004 election and Sue Olsen and Frank Bruseker stood in the 2000 federal election. Former party leaders Grant Mitchell and Nick Taylor were appointed to the Senate on the advice of federal Liberal Prime Ministers.
Calgary-Centre a spark of hope for the Liberals.
Perhaps the results were a fluke, but they give the federal Liberals a sign that many voters in Alberta’s urban centres are becoming more receptive to a moderate non-Conservative alternative in Ottawa.