This week Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman was recognized in the Legislative Assembly as being the “longest-serving member to serve exclusively in opposition in Alberta’s history. Ms. Blakeman was elected on March 11, 1997 and, as Speaker Gene Zwozdesky noted, she has served continuously since that time for a total of 5,876 days over the course of five-terms.
Ms. Blakeman surpassed David Duggan, who served in opposition from June 28, 1926, to May 4, 1942, for a total of 5,790 days. A historical irony is that had Speaker Zwozdesky, who was first elected as a Liberal in 1993, not crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives in 1998, he would now own this new record.
According to my estimation, the longest-serving opposition MLA who did not serve exclusively in opposition, is Walt Buck. Mr. Buck represented Clover Bar in the Social Credit government from 1967 to 1971 and in the Social Credit opposition from 1971 until 1982, as an Independent MLA from 1982 until 1984, and as a Representative Party MLA from 1984 until his retirement from politics in 1989. Mr. Buck recently passed away.
Here are some other Alberta Legislature milestones:
- Longest-serving Premier: Ernest Manning, Social Credit (1943-1968, 25 years, 195 days)
- Shortest-serving Premier: Richard Reid, United Farmers of Alberta (1934-1935, 1 year, 55 days)
- Longest-serving Leader of the Official Opposition: Ray Martin, New Democratic Party (1984-1993)
- Longest-serving Assembly Speaker: Peter Dawson, Social Credit (1937-1963)
- Longest-serving MLA: Gordon Taylor, Social Credit (1940-1979)
- Youngest elected MLA: Robert Clark, Social Credit (elected in a 1960 by-election in Didsbury at the age of 23)
- Longest-serving current MLA: Pearl Calahasen, PC (1989-Present) *Ms. Calahasen is also the longest-serving woman MLA in Alberta history.
- Longest-serving current cabinet minister: Dave Hancock, PC (first appointed to cabinet in 1997)