Tag Archives: 2017 Alberta Liberal Leadership Race

Does anyone want to lead Alberta’s Liberal Party?

The deadline is fast approaching. On March 31 at 5:00 p.m. we will know for sure who, if anyone, wants to lead Alberta’s Liberal Party. The race to choose a replacement for the party’s last permanent leader – Raj Sherman, who resigned in January 2015 – has been less than exciting.

Nolan Crouse

Nolan Crouse

Until he dropped out of the race yesterday, the candidacy of three-term St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse had given the leadership contest some much needed media attention. It also gave the party some hope for its political future. Crouse is a well-known name in the Edmonton-region, which is also where Rachel Notley’s NDP has its strongest support.

David Swann was the only Liberal to be re-elected in 2015, and that was largely due to his own personal popularity in Calgary-Mountain View. He was the party’s leader from 2008 to 2011 and interim leader since 2015.

Crouse’s departure only days before the deadline left the party in a lurch. Party executives scrambled to ensure that they would have at least one candidate, or maybe even two, submit their papers before 5:00 p.m. on March 31. It would be incredibly embarrassing if no one signed up to run.

In the wake of Crouse leaving the race, rumours circulated that former Tory MLA Thomas Lukaszuk could become a candidate, but those rumours appear to have dried up.

Kerry Cundal Liberal Calgary

Kerry Cundal

CBC reports that two last-minute candidates are planning to throw their names in the race: Kerry Cundal and David Khan.

Cundal ran as a federal Liberal candidate in the 2015 election, placing second to Conservative Ron Liepert in Calgary-Signal Hill. She was involved with the Progressive Conservative Party in support of Sandra Jansen’s brief leadership campaign and the “Renew” faction of the party that opposed Jason Kenney’s campaign.

Khan is a Calgary-based lawyer who ran as a provincial Liberal candidate in Calgary-West in 2014 and in Calgary-Buffalo in 2015. He was the executive vice-president of the party until recently (his name has been removed from the party website). He has also become a frequent political commentator on CBC’s national politics program, Power & Politics.

Jacob Huffman Alberta Liberal Leadership

Jacob Huffman

Neither Cundal or Khan have formally announced their plans to run.

A third potential candidate, University of Calgary student Jacob Huffman, launched a Facebook page announcing his candidacy shortly after Crouse dropped out. The way this race has progressed it might be hard to tell whether or not his candidacy is serious, but at the rate it is going Huffman might be acclaimed (he’s already planning his victory party).

Who will actually run for the leadership of the Alberta Liberal Party? Wait to find out at 5:00 p.m. on March 31, 2017.

Photo above: Liberal Party executive director Gwyneth Midgley and David Khan at the reception following the 2017 Speech from the Throne.

Jason Kenney’s appeal to social conservatives targets Gay-Straight Alliances

Perhaps not completely understanding how much acrimony the Gay-Straight Alliance issue caused his party back in 2014, recently selected Progressive Conservative leader Jason Kenney brought the issue back to the forefront this week.

According to reports from Postmedia, when asked about Gay-Straight Alliances, Kenney told the editorial board of the Calgary Herald and Sun that he would allow schools to inform parents if their students join a Gay-Straight Alliance.

Gay-Straight Alliances are student-initiated clubs meant empower students to create safe environments in their own schools. A study from the University of British Columbia found that Canadian schools with GSAs may reduce the odds of suicidal thoughts and attempts among both sexual minority and straight students – which is why having schools track their involvement in these clubs and informing their parents is not just creepy but could be dangerous.

As Postmedia columnist Paula Simons wrote today, ”…why should publicly-funded schools treat GSAs differently than they’d treat any other student-led club? Why, that is, unless deep deep down, we still do believe that it is, in fact, a shameful, dangerous thing to be gay — or to associate with gay friends.”

Now that Kenney has secured the leadership of the PC Party, he is now effectively running for the leadership of the Wildrose Party – which he wants to merge his party into.

Kenney is known for his social conservative views and he shied away from publicly commenting on social issues during the PC leadership race. But now that he is running against Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean for the leadership of a new conservative party, we are beginning to see his open appeal to the party’s social conservative base.

While Kenney’s comments are directed toward social conservative voters he will need to win the leadership of a new conservative party, they are reckless. Allowing schools to “out” students to their parents would undermine the ability of Alberta students to create clubs that are proven to help make school environments more safe and welcoming for some of their classmates.

Crouse drops out of Liberal leadership race, Lukaszuk in?

Thomas Lukaszuk

Thomas Lukaszuk

The only candidate running for the leadership of the Alberta Liberal Party has dropped out two days before the nomination deadline.

St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse announced on his website that he was withdrawing from the race for personal reasons. Crouse’s candidacy would have been a big catch for the Liberal Party, which currently only has one MLA in the Alberta Legislature.

Rumours are swirling that Crouse’s departure could make way for former Tory MLA Thomas Lukaszuk to potentially enter the Liberal Party leadership race before the March 31 deadline. The former deputy premier and 2014 PC leadership candidate publicly trashed his PC Party membership card after Kenney won the party leadership on March 18.

The race is being held to choose a replacement for past leader Raj Sherman, another former Tory MLA who crossed the floor to the Liberals in 2011. He resigned as leader in January 2015.

Who wants to be leader of Alberta’s Liberal Party? Nolan Crouse does.

Nolan Crouse

Nolan Crouse

St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse announced this week that he will run for the leadership of Alberta’s Liberal Party, becoming the first and so far the only candidate to announce plans to run for the job. The party is holding a leadership vote in June 2017 to fill the position being vacated by Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann, a former leader who has been the party’s interim leader since 2015.

Crouse has served three-terms as mayor of the suburban city of St. Albert, located northwest of Edmonton, and is currently the chair of the Capital Region Board.

With the exception of Swann’s re-election, the Liberal Party was wiped off the electoral map during the NDP’s Orange wave of 2015.

Whoever is chosen to lead the Liberals later this year will have a big challenge ahead of them. How does a tiny party differentiate itself from a New Democratic Party government that has swallowed much of what used to be a fairly reliably Liberal vote in Edmonton? And faced with the prospect of a united/merged/rebranded Jason Kenney/Brian Jean/Derek Fildebrandt-led conservative party, why would moderates and progressives choose to vote for a tiny Liberal Party instead of the NDP?

Greg Clark Alberta Party MLA

Greg Clark

Whoever wins the Liberal Party leadership will face some of the same challenges faced by Alberta Party leader Greg Clark, who is also the party’s lone MLA. Clark has been fairly effective at generating media attention since he was elected in 2015 and generated some controversy this week when he launched a new discussion on Alberta’s fiscal future, including a Provincial Sales Tax.

Without the built in podiums that come with being government or official opposition, both Clark and, potentially, Crouse will have to step outside of the regularly comfortable political narrative to generate attention for themselves and their parties.

A huge irony is that the political split after the 2008 election that led to the the current incarnation of the Alberta Party was part of a plan to replace the Liberals as the progressive and centrist alternative to the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose parties. In the end, the split may have actually benefited the other opposition party which was noticeably and purposely absent from those discussions – the NDP.

Former Liberal Leader on St. Albert City Council

Crouse serves on St. Albert City Council with another politician who once led the provincial Liberals in the wilderness. Councillor Bob Russell led the Liberals from 1969 until 1974. He was a candidate in the 1971 election in St. Albert and in a 1973 by-election in Calgary-Foothills but was unsuccessful in his bids for election.

Russell resigned as leader in 1974 and was succeeded by Calgary oilman and geologist Nick Taylor. Taylor would lead the party out of obscurity and serve as an MLA for Westlock-Sturgeon from 1986 to 1993 and Redwater from 1993 to 1996.

David Swann has served as the MLA for Calgary-Mountain View since 2004. He was Liberal Party leader from 2008 to 2011, and now serves as interim leader of that party. He will be replaced as leader in June 2017.

New Liberal leader to be chosen on June 4, 2017

The Alberta Liberals announced this week that they will choose their next leader on June 4, 2017. Current leader David Swann stepped in to the role on an interim basis before the 2015 provincial election when former leader Raj Sherman stepped down and did not run for re-election. Dr. Swann has served as the MLA for Calgary-Mountain View since 2004 and was the only Liberal candidate elected in the 2015 election.

Nirmala Naidoo Liberal Calgary Rocky Ridge

Nirmala Naidoo

The Liberals also announced that Nirmala Naidoo, the party’s Calgary co-chair of the leadership process, was stepping down as would be replaced with Calgary party official Bryndis Whitson.

The timing of Ms. Naidoo’s departure is curious because of recent news from another party’s leadership race. As the federal Liberal candidate in the Calgary-Rocky Ridge riding in the 2015 federal election, Ms. Naidoo was endorsed by her friend Sandra Jansen, the Progressive Conservative for Calgary-North West MLA and, as of last week, an expected candidate for her party’s leadership (Ms. Naidoo was also endorsed by former PC MLA Teresa Woo-Paw). It is yet to be seen whether Ms. Naidoo has left the Liberals to support Ms. Jansen’s campaign.

The Liberals will use a point system, explained here, to select their next leader. Calgarian Russell Scantlebury appears to be the only candidate openly campaigning for the leadership.

A Wildrose Party rally in Calgary on May 1, 2015 drew hundreds of supporters.

Party Business: Leadership Races and Palace Coups

– The Wildrose Party constituency association in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills passed a motion calling for Brian Jean to face a leadership review at the party’s annual meeting in Red Deer on October 28 and 29, 2016. That constituency is represented by MLA Dave Hanson, who was one of the 9 Wildrose MLAs who signed an article comparing carbon pricing to genocide. Postmedia reports that Mr. Hanson was present at the constituency meeting where the motion was debated but did not speak in Mr. Jean’s defence or vote on the resolution. Similar motions are expected to be proposed by a number of other Wildrose constituency associations.

Late last month, pressure from party activists and MLAs inside his caucus forced Mr. Jean to back down from his attempt to suspend Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt from the Wildrose Caucus.

Mr. Jean received 78 percent support in a leadership review following last year’s provincial election, which appears to mean little now as elements within his party are openly challenging his leadership.

– The Progressive Conservatives will be choosing a new leader before April 30, 2017. Party President Katherine O’Neill will chair the leadership race and former premier Dave Hancock will act as a senior advisor to the Leadership Election Committee. Cynthia Williams and Krista Balsom will co-chair the Delegate Convention & Debates Subcommittee. A motion introduced by Ms. Williams at the PC Party’s recent convention led to the adoption of a delegate system to choose the new leader.

– The Alberta Liberal Party executive board appointed Calgarian Nirmala Naidoo and Edmontonian Kevin Feehan as the co-chairs to oversee their leadership campaign scheduled for 2017 (Mr. Feehan is the brother of Edmonton-Rutherford NDP MLA and Minister of Indigenous Relations Richard Feehan). The next Liberal Party leader will be selected by a system that counts votes through a constituency-based point system. Calgarian Russell Scantlebury appears to be the only candidate openly campaigning for the position.

– The Alberta Party is holding its annual general meeting on June 11 to elect a new board of directors and debate constitutional amendments. One proposed amendment would limit future leadership candidates to those who have been a “member in good standing of the Party for at least one (1) year prior” to the candidate nomination deadline. The amendment would allow the board of directors to waive this requirement by a super-majority vote.

– It is not a leadership change or challenge but this motion might set off some fireworks at this weekend’s New Democratic Party convention in Calgary. Members of the Edmonton-Calder NDP association in the constituency represented by Education Minister David Eggen‘s are expected to introduce the following motion for debate: Be it resolved that the Alberta NDP urges the Provincial Government to discontinue advocacy or promotion of specific pipeline projects while stakeholders such as First Nations communities,Metis settlements, farm owners, and municipalities have expressed objections to a pipeline project being built through or terminating on their land.

Since entering office last year, Premier Rachel Notley has become a strong advocate for oil pipelines and has taken a more diplomatic approach to pipeline advocacy than her predecessors.

Alberta Liberal Party Leadership Raj Sherman

Delaying Alberta Liberal leadership vote until 2017 might break the party’s bylaws


The Alberta Liberals have decided to postpone the selection of their next party leader until spring 2017. The party had originally scheduled to hold a leadership vote in April 2016.

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

The only current Liberal MLA, Calgary’s David Swann, has declined to seek the permanent job. Dr. Swann was first elected as MLA in 2004 and served as leader from 2008 to 2010 before taking over as interim leader after Raj Sherman’s resignation in January 2015.

There is question whether delaying the leadership violates the Alberta Liberal Party’s bylaws, which state:

5.4 In the event the Leadership becomes vacant for any cause the Board of Directors shall either, in its absolute discretion:

a) convene to call a Leadership Convention, or

b) convene to appoint an interim leader of the Party for a period of time not to exceed one (1) year during which period of interim leadership the Board of Directors shall call a Leadership Convention to be held prior to the conclusion of the term of interim leadership.

Liberal Party did amend their bylaws at a meeting held in late 2015 but the list of proposed amendments on their website are unclear whether this section was changed. If the section was not changed, the party would have already broken its bylaws if Dr. Swann’s interim leadership exceeded the one year period (which will take place on January 27, 2016).

It is also unclear if there are any consequences for violating the party’s bylaws.

Regardless of the bylaws, the party’s executive board is reported to have endorsed Dr. Swann’s continued role as interim leader until spring 2017.

Delaying the vote is probably a good idea for the Liberals, as it appears unlikely the party could attract many serious candidates to contest an April 2016 leadership race.

The Liberals formed the official opposition from 1993 until 2012, when a significant percentage of their supporters migrated to Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservatives and later to Rachel Notley’s New Democrats.

Despite recent Alberta breakthroughs in the October 19, 2015 federal election, the provincial party does not appear to have benefited from Justin Trudeau‘s popularity.

New voting system

The Liberals abandoned the ‘open membership system’ that was used to select Dr. Sherman in the 2011 leadership vote. Under the open system, any Albertan who provided the party with their name and contact information could vote for a leadership candidate without having to actually purchase a membership.

Although more than 27,000 members were eligible to vote in the 2011 leadership contest, only 8,640 actually participated in the vote.

Under the new system proposed at the party’s meeting in late 2015:

a. Each electoral district in the province of Alberta is allocated one point for each eligible vote cast, to a maximum as determined by the Board of Directors.

b. Should the number of eligible persons who cast ballots in the leadership vote in an electoral division exceed the number of points allocated, the points allocated to the electoral division are allocated to each leadership candidate on the basis of the 17 ratio the number of the votes received by that leadership candidate to the total number of votes counted.

c. Should the number of eligible persons who cast ballots in the leadership election not exceed the number of points allocated to the electoral division each vote for a leadership candidate shall be one point awarded to the leadership candidate.

d. The total number of points allocated to each leadership candidate from all electoral divisions in Alberta are added to produce a total for the “provincial count”

But changing the voting system and the date of the leadership race still does not solve the Liberal Party’s problem of attracting credible candidates.

I expect the Liberal Party executives are hoping that disillusion with the NDP government in one year could lead to a resurgence in party support, which, given the unexpected twists in Alberta politics over the past year, might be their best strategy.

One prominent former Liberal MLA who ran in the party’s 2011 leadership race appears unlikely to take up her party’s banner again. Laurie Blakeman, who represented Edmonton-Centre as a Liberal MLA from 1997 to 2015 posted her feelings about the Liberal Party officials on Twitter today.