So long Liberalberta! Raj Sherman calls it quits.

March 2011, Independent MLA Raj Sherman stood with NDP leader Brian Mason, Alberta Party leader Sue Huff, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Liberal leader David Swann.

Calling for a public health care inquiry in March 2011, folk-hero Independent MLA Raj Sherman stood united with NDP leader Brian Mason, Alberta Party leader Sue Huff, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Liberal leader David Swann.

All four main political parties will have new leaders going into the next election after today’s announcement by Liberal leader Raj Sherman that he is resigning as leader and will not seek re-election as the MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.

Jim Prentice Premier Alberta

Jim Prentice

Like the Wildrose Party, who lost leader Danielle Smith and 10 other MLAs when they crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives in the final months of 2014, the Liberals will now need to find someone to lead them into the next election. Despite being less than three years from the last election, Premier Jim Prentice expected to trigger an election within weeks.

The Liberals will choose an interim party leader next weekend but the state of the party remains dire. Disorganization, low fundraising returns and a poor showing in four recent by-elections suggest the Liberals might have a difficult time surviving the next election. This is a scenario that likely pushed Dr Sherman to resign.

Hugh MacDonald MLA

Hugh MacDonald MLA

Rumour is that Dr. Sherman was facing considerable pressure from party constituency presidents and fellow MLAs to leave. Though it is not clear if the Liberal Party is in any better position without him as leader.

Elected as a PC MLA in 2008 and ejected in 2010, Dr. Sherman immediately enjoyed folk hero status as an Independent MLA for criticizing the PC Government’s record on health care. As an Independent, the former Tory toyed with joining all of the four opposition parties, but eventually used his status to help propel him to win the Liberal Party leadership in 2011, defeating party stalwarts Hugh MacDonald and Laurie Blakeman.

Laurie Blakeman MLA Edmonton Centre Liberal

Laurie Blakeman

His political capital as Alberta’s political folk hero was quickly diminished as the PCs used a narrowly focused health care inquiry to publicly discredit his claims. Internally, a very bizarre rebranding attempt confused and alienated many long-time party supporters (see Liberalberta Green).

As a health care advocate, he was a natural fit in the opposition benches. As a former Tory MLA, he was not the right fit to lead Alberta’s Liberal Party.

With such short notice before a potential spring election, who will replace Dr. Sherman as leader?

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

The soft-spoken and altruistic MLA from Calgary-Mountain View, David Swann, already served as leader from 2008 to 2011 and might be unlikely to step back into that role.

Party President Shelley Wark-Martyn is a former New Democratic Party MPP with cabinet experience in Ontario. Her profile in Alberta politics is extremely limited, but one Liberal organizer has suggested to me that she could be tapped as interim leader.

As the only remaining Liberal MLA who is running for re-election and has not already been leader, Ms. Blakeman is the obvious choice, if she wants it.

Rachel Notley Edmonton MLA Strathcona NDP

Rachel Notley

Alberta’s longest serving opposition MLA, Ms. Blakeman took centre stage in the 2014 fall session with Bill 202 and Bill 10, which sparked the debate about Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools. Over the course of the debate, she proved herself  to be the only opposition MLA who has been able to throw Mr. Prentice off balance and exposed a huge rift between moderates and social conservatives in the PC caucus. It was a strategy that could be hard to repeat.

In the not too distant past, the popular Edmonton-Centre MLA mused about joining the Alberta Party and many political observers suspect the NDP would welcome her with open arms if she choose to run under their banner.

The vacuum in the Liberal leadership is good news for the PC Party, Rachel Notley‘s New Democrats and the Alberta Party, who will try to offer Liberal voters a new home to park their votes. A weakened Liberal presence in Edmonton is a positive for the NDP, who will now no longer have the luxury of a conservative vote split between the PCs and Wildrose.

As I am sure Dr. Sherman and Dr. Swann would attest, being leader of the Liberal Party in Alberta is probably one of the least rewarding positions in provincial politics. And with an election quickly approaching, I do not envy the challenges faced by anyone willing to step into the role.


Three more PC MLAs announced on today that they will not be seeking re-election.

Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths
Red Deer-North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski
Calgary-Varsity MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans

6 thoughts on “So long Liberalberta! Raj Sherman calls it quits.

  1. John M.

    Raj Sherman was trying to become the official opposition a few weeks ago. And now he quits? He always has been, and always will be, a joke.

    Reply
  2. Iceman

    We have a liberal party in Alberta? I thought it was just the conservative and the more conservative parties in Alberta. Must be lonely being a liberal in this province.

    Reply
  3. Julie Ali

    Dr. Sherman was a very decent man and I appreciate that he tried to do a thankless job in Alberta which is to present other opinions than the dominant Conservative voice.
    It’s too bad that he has decided to leave politics.
    He is not a joke as John M. indicates to us.
    The Tories are a joke.
    Maybe John M. should look at the record of the Tories at all levels before calling a man who tried to represent Albertans –a joke.

    I’m a Tory voter and I am unimpressed with the performance of the Tory MLAs and MPs who do nothing for citizens. All the money spent on them is wasted.

    It would be productive at this point for the NDP and Liberal Party to merge and become one party rather than splitting the non-Tory vote. This is the only way that there will be an effective opposition now that the Wildrosies are toast.

    The Conservative Party of Alberta is now trying to renew itself as it sheds MLAs like a dog sheds fleas. Too bad that the entire party isn’t “renewed” in this way; the cronyism and lack of respect these politicians have for their employees is appalling. This party needs a good kick in the rump by Tory voters to be really renewed.

    In contrast to the failures in representation of the Tories, I believe that Dr. Sherman tried his best for his constiuents; too bad his party has been made into a traitor party in Alberta with the myth making machinery of the Tories at high gear. Why don’t we all talk about these myths?
    Such as responsible development of the oil and gas resources for example–where the AER has no duty of care to citizens and yet we are to believe that the Tories really care about us.
    What about the fiasco of long term care in Alberta where we get to hear the daily abuse a senior story on the news?
    Who actually represents Albertans?
    The Tories?
    If so then why are we billions of dollars in the red while oil and gas companies are making out like bandits?
    Who do the Tories serve?

    Reply
  4. Brian Janz

    Apparently not you Julie, from your monologue you are anything but a Tory voter and are instead a left wing socialist.

    Reply
  5. Velvet Martin

    “My last words as Liberal Leader for all Albertans, young and old, living in every corner of this great Province, from every economic, ethnic, social and religious background are these: We truly live in the best Province and the best Country in the world, but not all of us share equitably in the vast wealth of this Province. It was once said that the moral test of a Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life – the children – those who are in the twilight of life – the elderly – and those who walk in the shadow of life – the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.” – Raj Sherman

    There is much wisdom stated here, both outwardly as well as with that which can be inferred. Sincere thanks, Dr. Raj Sherman, for attempting to give voice to those most vulnerable.

    Reply
  6. Jerrymacgp

    The only way the Liberals & NDP will ever merge is if Liberal members give up on their increasingly moribund political brand and sign NDP memberships. This question has been rejected by NDP membership at numerous Party conventions; why would Party leadership even consider going against that rank & file judgement?

    Reply

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