Alberta Liberals on the move, still searching for direction

Raj Sherman Alberta Liberal MLA Leader

Raj Sherman

To the sound of muted fanfare, the Alberta Liberal Party is holding its annual policy convention tomorrow in Calgary. Attempting to revive a faded brand, the Liberals plan to tackle a series of controversial topics that they hope will set them apart from Alberta’s other political parties.

After hosting pre-convention policy meetings in Calgary and Edmonton earlier this summer, the Liberals will debate policies including whether to end the prohibition of marijuana and legalize the substance in small amounts, doubling the fuel excise tax from 9 cents per litre to 18 cents per litre, amending the Alberta Human Rights Act to include gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination, and cutting public subsidies for private schools.

The Calgary-Klein constituency association introduced a number of policies for debate, including support for high-speed rail in the Red Deer corridor and the creation of a style of petition that would compel a constituency’s MLA to read out a petition in the legislature once it reaches 5,000 signatures.

Since moderate conservative Alison Redford won the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives in 2011, the Liberals have struggled under Raj Sherman‘s leadership to define themselves. In the 2012 election, the Liberals lost official opposition status for the first time in 20 years, placing third behind Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party.

In an unexpected move, Dr. Sherman told the Calgary Herald editorial board yesterday that he dreams of passing on the Liberal Party leadership to popular Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. The Herald reports a senior Nenshi, when told of Sherman’s comment, responded: “What? That’s funny, really, really funny. Seriously?”

Amid low fundraising returns in the first two quarters of 2013, the Liberals have struggled to reorganized, announcing they are moving out of their spacious 124 Street office in Edmonton. This week, Liberal caucus director of communications, Amy McBain, announced that she was leaving her position at the Assembly.

A recent survey commissioned by the Calgary Herald and conducted by Leger Marketing showed Dr. Sherman’s Liberals with 15%, tied with Brian Mason‘s New Democrats, but far behind Ms. Smith’s Wildrose with 34% and Ms. Redford’s PCs with 33% support.

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