Tag Archives: Bruce Payne

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.

murky waters ahead for alberta’s liberal party.

Raj Sherman delivers his leadership victory speech as leadership chair Josipa Petrunic, and candidates Laurie Blakeman, Hugh MacDonald, and Bruce Payne look on (September 2011).

Raj Sherman delivers his leadership victory speech as leadership chair Josipa Petrunic, and candidates Laurie Blakeman, Hugh MacDonald, and Bruce Payne look on (September 2011).

The Alberta Liberals will be holding a vote to affirm or oppose the continued leadership of  Raj Sherman on June 16 at the Whitehorn Community Association in northeast Calgary.

While the 2012 election gave the Liberal Party its worst electoral showing in decades, including the loss of Official Opposition status to the Wildrose Party, many Liberal partisans are lining up to reaffirm Dr. Sherman’s leadership. Dr. Sherman was first elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2008, became Liberal leader in 2011 and was re-elected as MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark in the recent vote.

It is unclear where the Liberal Party fits in the new political environment and despite its dismal showing at the polls last month and it is disputable whether changing leadership at this time will improve that party’s electoral fortunes. Dr. Sherman’s biggest advantage in the June vote may be a lack of anyone else interested in taking up the unenviable position of trying to rebuild Alberta’s Liberal Party.

With only four other MLAs in the Assembly, the Liberals would have a small pool to draw from if Dr. Sherman were to leave. One of those MLA’s, David Swann, already served as leader from 2008 until 2011, and another, Laurie Blakeman, was defeated in the 2011 leadership contest.

Ms. Blakeman spent the past month campaigning to become the Speaker of the Assembly, which if she had won would have, for all intents and purposes, bumped the group of Liberal MLA’s down to 4. Ms. Blakeman was unsuccessful in her bid and was defeated by Edmonton-Mill Creek PC MLA Gene Zwozdesky, who himself crossed the floor from the Liberals to the PCs in 1998.

Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr demonstrated ambition for higher office during his short-lived run for Mayor of Calgary in 2010, but has not publicly displayed interest in his party’s leadership position. I have little insight into whether Calgary-McCall MLA Darshan Kang would be interested in the role.

A few long-time Liberal partisans have shared their frustration with me, suggesting that if long-time Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald had not decided to retire in the recent election, he would be in an ideal position to claim the party leadership. Mr. MacDonald placed second in that party’s 2011 leadership contest and many of his supporters continue to see Dr. Sherman as an outsider to their party.

Other Party Leadership Reviews

It is expected that PC Premier Alison Redford will face a leadership affirmation vote at her party’s annual convention next year. After leading her party to re-election, winning 61 of 87 seats, it is likely that her leadership will be strongly affirmed in the vote.

Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, now Leader of the Official Opposition, is required to face a leadership affirmation vote every three years, which means the next vote would be held in 2013 at the latest. Under section 8.4 of the Wildrose Party constitution, Ms. Smith leadership also faces conditions of term-limits:

8.4 The Leader shall be limited to holding the office of Leader of the Party for the longer of two terms of the Legislative Assembly or eight years, unless endorsed by a two-thirds majority to continue for an additional four years at the Annual General Meeting immediately preceding the expiry of the allowed term.

Both the Alberta NDP and the Alberta Party hold votes to affirm or oppose the current leadership at each annual general meeting, meaning that Brian Mason and Glenn Taylor will face votes in the upcoming year.

15 races to watch in alberta’s 2012 election.

In the lead up to the Alberta’s 2012 election, I have identified fifteen constituencies across the province that could produce interesting contests and results when the election is called.

15 races to watch in Alberta's 2012 election.

15 races to watch in Alberta's 2012 election.

1) Highwood
The Wildrose Party has staked their future in the success of leader Danielle Smith and I expect that party will pull out all the stops to ensure she is elected. The PCs have nominated newspaper editor John Barlow to replace retiring PC MLA George Groeneveld.

2) Edmonton-Meadowlark
This area has deep Liberal roots, having first elected MLA Grant Mitchell in 1986, but since 2001 it has become a swing-riding electing both Liberals and PCs. Currently held by former PC MLA and now Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman, the next vote will be a test of his personal popularity as he runs under his new party’s banner. He will face former PC MLA Bob Maskell, who served from 2001 until 2004.

3) Edmonton-Calder
Voters in this constituency are notorious swing-voters. No incumbent has been re-elected here since 1997. Current PC MLA Doug Elniski made a last minute announcement that he would not seek re-election, leaving former school trustee and newly nominated candidate Bev Esslinger not a lot of time to catch up. Former MLA David Eggen has been campaigning in Calder for the past three years and is expected to launch a well-organized campaign. Wildrose candidate Rich Neumann may play kingmaker if he is able to attract enough past PC voters.

4) Calgary-Glenmore
In 2009, outgoing Wildrose leader Paul Hinman narrowly won a hotly contested by-election that was seen as a referendum on then-Premier Ed Stelmach‘s popularity in Calgary (which was low). With new Premier Alison Redford representing the neighboring constituency, PC candidate Linda Johnson may receive a warmer reception at the doors. Throw into the mix former Mount Royal College instructor Craig Cheffins, who served as the Liberal MLA for Calgary-Elbow from 2007 to 2008, and the outcome of this race could be difficult to predict.

5) Edmonton-Glenora
Represented by both PC and Liberal MLAs over the past twenty years, this constituency could be a key battleground for five opposition parties in the next election. Former Liberal MLA Bruce Miller is challenging PC cabinet minister Heather Klimchuk, who unseated him by 136 votes in 2008. Rev. Miller is not the only challenger in this election. The Alberta Party is pinning their hopes on former school trustee Sue Huff, the NDP have nominated former MLA and leader Ray Martin, and the Wildrose have chosen past Mayoral candidate Don Koziak.

6) Calgary-Varsity
With the retirement of popular two-term Liberal MLA Harry Chase, the Liberals have nominated former carpenters’ union official Bruce Payne, who ran for that party’s leadership in 2011. The PCs have chosen former Nexen vice-president Donna Kennedy-Glans. The results of this race will be a critical indicator of whether the Liberals can hold on to, and build on, important gains made in Calgary during the past two elections.

7) Chestermere-Rockyview
Energy Minister Ted Morton will face off against former Global Calgary news anchor and Wildrose candidate Bruce McAllister. The Wildrose attacked Minister Morton’s credentials as a “fiscal mallard” while he was Finance Minister and by nominating Mr. McAllister they are showing that they will not give him a pass in the next election.

8 ) Airdrie
When first-term PC MLA Rob Anderson joined the Wildrose in 2010, he automatically became a target of his former party, who have nominated Alderman Kelly Hegg as their candidate. The Airdrie area has typically voted for the PCs, but voters in this region have been known to elect opposition candidates in the past (Western Canadian Concept MLA Gordon Kesler was elected in 1982 and Liberal MLA Don MacDonald was elected in 1992).

9) Cardston-Taber-Warner
After being unseated by Wildorse MLA Mr. Hinman in 2004, PC MLA Broyce Jacobs won a narrow victory in 2008. Fast forward to 2012, Mr. Jacobs has lost his party’s nomination to Pat Shimbashi and the Wildrose has nominated Sterling Deputy Mayor Gary Bikman. If the Wildrose are to pick up seats in the election, this will likely be one.

10) Edmonton-Rutherford
In a rematch of the closest race of the 2008 election, PC MLA Fred Horne will face former Liberal MLA Rick Miller. While 2008 a two-way contest, the 2012 contest is more interesting with the presence of community organizer and Alberta Party candidate Michael Walters and Wildrose candidate Kyle McLeod.

11) Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo
After winning four elections as this constituency’s PC candidate, late-blooming Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier will face Wood Buffalo deputy mayor Mike Allen in the upcoming vote. After decades as a municipal and provincial politician, this election may be more a test of Mr. Boutilier’s personal support than that of his new party.

12) Edmonton-Gold Bar
A Liberal Party stronghold since 1986, the retirement of MLA Hugh MacDonald and the redistribution of electoral boundaries south encompassing Tory-voting neighbourhoods may give second-time PC candidate David Dorward a boost. Liberal candidate Josipa Petrunic is a well-spoken and passionate partisan who hopes to hold the constituency for her party. The NDP have nominated Marlin Schmidt and hope to capitalize on local support for NDP MP Linda Duncan.

13) Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview
A close contest in 2008 saw former PC MLA Tony Vandermeer defeat NDP MLA Ray Martin. In 2012, Mr. Vandermeer will face a strong challenge from NDP candidate Deron Bilous.

14) Lethbridge-West
After twenty years of close races, voters in this constituency have proven themselves to be deeply divided between the PCs and Liberals. This election, first-term PC MLA Greg Weadick and second-time Liberal candidate Bal Boora will be joined by NDP candidate Shannon Phillips, who has launched a spirited campaign, and Wildrose candidate Kevin Kinahan. Even if Mr. Weadick is re-elected, the real story may be who places second in this politically moderate southern Alberta constituency.

15) Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock
After more than three decades in the Assembly, the departure of PC MLA Ken Kowalski has created a large void to fill in this constituency north of Edmonton. The PCs have nominated Westlock County Councillor Maureen Kubinec, who will face off against her main opponent Wildrose candidate Link Byfield. Mr. Byfield has been campaigning for more than a year and could make gains if he is able to tap into the base of social conservative voters in this constituency.

alberta candidate nomination update – november 2011.

The Progressive Conservatives have opened their nomination process, leading a number of candidates to declared their interest in opposition held constituencies. This first wave out of the floodgates have allowed me to update the list of declared and nominated candidates for the next provincial election:

Calgary-Buffalo: Dawna Haslam announced on her Facebook profile that she will be seeking the Progressive Conservative nomination in this downtown constituency. Buffalo has been represented by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr since 2008, and has been represented by both opposition and government MLAs over the past twenty years.

Ric McIver Calgary PC Calgary-Hays

Ric McIver is seeking the PC nomination in Calgary-Hays


Calgary-Hays: Long-time Alderman and defeated Mayoral candidate Ric McIver is seeking the PC nomination in this south east Calgary constituency. Mr. McIver will face current MLA Art Johnston and former PC constituency President Alex Girvin. First elected to the Assembly in 2004, Mr. Johnston was defeated by Rick Fraser in the May 2011 nomination contest for the new Calgary-South East constituency.

Calgary-Hawkwood: Former MLA Shiraz Shariff is said to be seeking the PC nomination in this new north west Calgary constituency. Mr. Shariff was first elected as the MLA for Calgary-McCall in a 1995 by-election and served until he was defeated by Liberal Darshan Kang in 2008.

Calgary-Mountain View: Energy company owner and past Alberta Party leadership candidate Chris Tesarski is seeking the PC nomination. Mr. Tesarski was briefly a candidate for the Alberta Party leadership earlier this year before dropping out and endorsing Alison Redford for the PC leadership. Mountain View has been represented by former Liberal leader David Swann since 2004.

Calgary-Varisty: Former Nexen senior executive Donna Kennedy-Glans is seeking the PC nomination. Readers may remember Ms. Kennedy-Glans for her unsuccessful bid to wrestle the Calgary-West federal Conservative nomination from ultra-conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders in 2010. The nasty contest saw conservative pundit Ezra Levant descend on Ms. Kennedy-Glans labelling her a “Liberal saboteur.” Seeking the PC nomination in Calgary-Varsity may be less of a bloodsport.
Varisty has been represented by Liberal MLA Harry Chase since 2004 and with his retirement, the Liberals have nominated Carpenters’ Union leader Bruce Payne to carry their flag. This will be a race to watch.

Edmonton-Centre: The NDP have rescheduled their nomination meeting to November 9, 2011. Past federal candidate Nadine Bailey is expected to be acclaimed.

Edmonton-South West: Matt Jeneroux is seeking the PC nomination in this new constituency which will be created from parts of the Edmonton-McClung and Edmonton-Whitemud constituencies in south west Edmonton.

Grande Prairie-Smoky: Three-term PC MLA Mel Knight has announced that he will not seek re-election. No candidates have officially declared themselves in the contest to replace Mr. Knight as the PC candidate, but some names of potential candidates being suggested include City of Grande Prairie Alderman Kevin O’Toole, Greenview Councillor Tom Burton, and Grande Prairie County Reeve Everett Macdonald.

Duane Stevenson has entered the Wildrose Party nomination contest in Grande Prairie-Smoky, challenging Todd Loewen. Mr. Stevenson is the General Manager of Nitehawk Recreation Area.

St. Albert: Local businessman Steve Khan has joined the PC nomination contest against Jeff Wedman and incumbent MLA Ken Allred.

West Yellowhead: The Wildrose has nominated forester Stuart Taylor as their candidate. Mr. Taylor is not to be confused with the other Mr. Taylor nominated to stand in this constituency Alberta Party leader and Mayor of Hinton Glenn Taylor.

photos: alberta liberals choose raj sherman as their new leader.

Alberta Liberals chose their new leader today in Edmonton. Former Tory MLA Raj Sherman was selected on their first ballot over veteran MLAs Hugh MacDonald and Laurie Blakeman, and Calgarians Bill Harvey and Bruce Payne. Here are some photos of today’s event:

Alberta Liberal leadership event 2011

About 150 people attended the Alberta Liberal leadership event today at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

Raj Sherman's victory speech

Former Tory MLA Raj Sherman delivering his victory speech. Liberal MLAs Laurie Blakeman and Hugh MacDonald, and candidate Bruce Payne standing to the left.

Second place candidate MLA Hugh MacDonald talks to reporters.

Second place candidate MLA Hugh MacDonald talks to reporters.

Outgoing Liberal leader David Swann talks to reporters.

Outgoing Liberal leader David Swann talks to reporters.

New Alberta Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman

New Alberta Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman.

Find more photos of the Alberta Liberal Party leadership event on Flickr.

the doc is in. former tory mla raj sherman is the new alberta liberal leader.

Results of the first ballot voting in today’s Alberta Liberal leadership vote:

Raj Sherman 54% 4684 votes
Hugh MacDonald 26% 2239 votes
Laurie Blakeman 9% 854 votes
Bill Harvey 7% 626 votes
Bruce Payne 2% 197 votes
Total: 8640 votes out of 27,567 eligible voters

Dr. Raj Sherman was first elected as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark in 2008. In 2010, he sent an email to Premier Ed Stelmach, his caucus colleagues, and medical contacts that led to him being kicked out of the PC caucus. He sat as an Independent MLA while joining the Liberal Party leadership race earlier this year.

Dr. Sherman defeated four-term Liberal MLAs Hugh MacDonald and Laurie Blakeman.

raj sherman sweeps alberta liberal leadership poll.

Alberta Liberal Party Leadership Vote Poll 2011 Raj Sherman Hugh MacDonald Laurie Blakeman Bill Harvey Bruce Payne

Readers voted in this poll between September 6 and 9.

When asked who will win the Alberta Liberal Party leadership vote on September 10, readers of this blog overwhelmingly chose former Tory MLA Raj Sherman.

Four-term Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald placed a distant second and Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman and conservative Calgarian Bill Harvey placed a close third and fourth in this online poll. Calgarian Bruce Payne barely registered on the online poll.

Although the contest has drawn the interest of 27,000 supporters, accusations of irregularities in the voters list by Mr. MacDonald have dominated the media coverage of the contest.  Yesterday, Mr. Harvey claimed that the party office had added dozens (and maybe hundreds) of last minute names to the voters list and had not yet provided his campaign with the full list. The names of these supporters were collected by former Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Bharat Agnihotri, who is supporting Dr. Sherman’s candidacy.

For more on the Liberal leadership contest, read Justin Archer‘s guest post, Decision Time for Alberta Liberals.

guest post: decision time for the alberta liberals.

 

Alberta Liberal Party Leadership Candidates

Alberta Liberal Party leadership candidates (left to right) Bill Harvey, Bruce Payne, Raj Sherman, Laurie Blakeman, and Hugh MacDonald

By Justin Archer

On Saturday September 10, the Alberta Liberals will select their next leader following current leader David Swann’s resignation from the post, announced this past January.

An understanding of the dynamics that lead to the initiation of this leadership race is helpful in interpreting the parry and thrust that has played out among the candidates running to be Swann’s successor. It’s probably not quite accurate to say that Swann was forced out—he left of his own volition, but he certainly didn’t have an easy time of it throughout most of his tenure as leader. Job one for the new leader will be to unite the caucus and inspire the membership as Alberta moves ever closer to the next election.

Don Braid’s piece in the Calgary Herald last weekend was a bang-on analysis of the recent and not so recent dynamic within the Party.

I found this section particularly apropos:

“There was another flicker of losing mentality recently when MLAs and leadership candidates suddenly discovered the party has 25,000 members.

The reaction was not joy, or even a touch of pride, but claims of duplicity from candidates who thought Raj Sherman was pushing the rules.”

It has been written elsewhere that this election will be a defining moment in the history of the Party, and I don’t disagree. When Daveberta left the ALP a few years ago he explained to me how his decision was motivated by the Party’s culture that put fealty to the Liberal brand above all else. At the time I didn’t know what he meant. Perhaps I hadn’t spent enough time in the trenches to see it up close. Now, a few years later, I see that Dave was absolutely right: there are elements within the Liberal Party that would take “being a Liberal” over “being in a progressive government that shares my values and does things the way I think it ought to” ten times out of ten. It’s weird, and kind of hard to explain until you’ve seen it. But it’s there.

This leadership election is an opportunity for the Liberal Party to decide what it wants to be: a band of true believers who will always be safe in the knowledge that they remained loyal to the Liberal brand through thick and thin; or a pragmatic, progressive group of people who are willing to stretch their boundaries and open up the organization to new people, new thinking, and ultimately a shot at real relevance again.

The various potential paths for the Liberal Party have been foreshadowed during this leadership campaign. I’ve been to a few of the debates and watched the campaign closely. By my best estimation, the candidates have offered visions as such:

Laurie Blakeman: Solid traditional Liberal credentials as well as an eye towards pragmatism. A Laurie Blakeman Liberal Party would not close itself off to outsiders, and would likely make some attempt to establish consensus with the Alberta Party and the NDP.

Bill Harvey: Move the Party far to the right of its traditional space on the political spectrum, to the point where many members would no longer feel comfortable with policy positions. Harvey has a very small natural constituency within the Party. If he were to win it would be in large part due to his organizational skills.

Hugh MacDonald: A die-hard Liberal if ever there was one. MacDonald has staked out the traditional Liberal territory with a vengeance during this campaign. He is an unapologetic devotee of the brand, and has played up his Party renewal strategy of empowering constituency associations.

Bruce Payne: A kind and decent human being who doesn’t quite have the backstory that explains why he should be the Liberal Leader. If he can hold Calgary-Varsity when incumbent Harry Chase retires at the start of the next election he would make a strong Alberta Liberal MLA.

Raj Sherman: His policy strength is in health care, but he speaks frequently about the social determinants of health and the correlative relationship between government actions and social outcomes across many policy areas. Sherman’s participation is the story of this campaign. He brings strong name recognition and folk hero status to this race. However his history as a Conservative MLA makes him an unknown and perhaps unsettling quantity in some Liberal circles.

I could certainly be wrong, and in fact I usually am (just ask Premier Jim Dinning and LPC Leader Gerard Kennedy), but I think this race is essentially between Hugh MacDonald and Raj Sherman.

MacDonald represents the true believers; the ones with a Liberal tattoo. Those people who look at traditional Liberal policies like the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, multiculturalism, the right to marry who you love, environmentalism, non-violence, fiscal responsibility, and at a host of other Liberal policy positions and say “yes, I am a Liberal.” MacDonald’s supporters come from the noblest of places within the human spirit. They see a set of values that they call “Liberal”, and they won’t be pushed off that brand come hell or high water. However, the dedication to Liberalism exemplified by MacDonald supporters is myopic: though they have the best outcomes in mind, their inflexibility and inability to understand the bigger picture have trapped them in a perpetual state of being “right”, while being marginalized. And what’s the good in that?

On the other hand, Raj Sherman brings a whole new dynamic to the Liberal Party. He’s famous. He’s smart. He’s brash. He stood up to the government and lived to tell the tale. I’ve spent a fair amount of time with Raj this summer and I can attest to the fact that he is an incredibly hard worker and the most pure retail politician I’ve ever seen. He is totally comfortable in his own skin and loves being with people. During the leadership race Sherman has signed up a large number of new Party supporters, giving the ALP a big new list of people to build its constituency and campaign teams with for the next election.

Over the past several years the Liberal Party has been pulling in two different directions. On the one hand there are the traditional loyalists who think the Party must do the same things, but better. On the other hand there are the younger, more pragmatic activists who wish to reshape the Party in a way that will allow it to continue to be relevant in the 21st Century. MacDonald and Sherman are two nearly perfect proxy candidates for this debate.

When the Party selects a new Leader on September 10, a Raj Sherman victory will indicate a willingness to work outside the Party’s traditional comfort zone with the aim of greater electoral success, while maintaining its commitment to Liberal values and philosophy; a Hugh MacDonald victory will represent a decision to redouble efforts to build the traditional Liberal Party along the same lines that have failed for so long.

This is an important conversation for the Party to have, and I’m genuinely interested in seeing which way the Party decides to go. If nothing else, the Liberal Party leadership contest has been passionate, surprising and interesting. The Party feels exciting again, which is a step in the right direction.

—-
Justin Archer is an Edmonton-based public relations consultant and political watcher. www.archerstrategies.com.

alberta liberals register more than 27,000 eligible voters. no surprise that their leadeship contest is a largely urban affair.

2011 Map of Alberta Liberal Leadership Registered Supporters per constituency

Map of eligible voters in the September 10 Liberal leadership contest by constituency.

The Alberta Liberal Party announced yesterday that over 27,567 Albertans are eligible to vote in their party’s September 10 leadership contest. The eligible group of supporters include 3,690 paid members and 23,877 “registered supporters” who could participate by registering their name and contact information without a fee.

Following complaints from leadership candidate and Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald that the list was filled with fake names, including a cat, a dead woman, and former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, the Liberals have culled the list of obvious forgeries (which are to be expected in any leadership contest). Former Edmonton-Meadowlark Tory MLA Raj Sherman claims to have registered over 18,000 of the 27,000 eligible voters. Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman claims that her campaign submitted names for around 1,000. The two other candidates in the contest are Calgarians Bill Harvey and Bruce Payne.

Although the Liberal leadership contest has by far been overshadowed by the more glamorous Progressive Conservative leadership contest set for September 17 (in which over 150,000 Albertans are expected to participate), I am impressed that the Liberals have been able to collect the names of over 27,000 potential supporters. Regardless if these registered supporters actually vote in their leadership contest, their names are now entered into a database that will be useful for the Liberals in the next provincial election.

Not surprisingly, eligible voters in this contest are largely centered in the two main cities of Calgary and Edmonton, highlighting Liberal Party’s almost non-existent levels of support in rural Alberta. Even in a constituency like Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, with a population estimated to be more than 100,000, the Liberals only attracted 134 people to register to vote in their leadership contest.

Unlike traditional one-member-one-vote leadership selection structures, the Liberals have opted to use a weighted-preferential system in constituencies with large numbers of voters. The slightly confusing system is explained on the party’s leadership website:

Each constituency in Alberta is allocated up to 500 points, where each vote up to that number represents one point. Should more than 500 voters cast a ballot in a constituency, each vote in the constituency is applied a weighing formula.

As there are only 15 constituencies with more than 500 eligible voters, it is likely that this system may only be implemented in a handful of them. The only constituency to register more than 1,000 supporters was Edmonton-Whitemud.

Click here to view a breakdown of eligible voters by constituency (pdf)

alberta liberals boast boost in supporters.

Toasting the success of their open membership program, the Alberta Liberals have announced that over the course of the past few months, their party has signed up 15,500 “supporters” to participate in their upcoming leadership contest. These supporters do not have to purchase memberships (of which the Liberals claim to have 3,500 paid members) and can vote in the party’s leadership by providing their name and contact information.

Alberta Liberal Party leadership candidates Bruce Payne, Raj Sherman, Laurie Blakeman, and Hugh MacDonald.

Liberal leadership candidates Bruce Payne, Raj Sherman, Laurie Blakeman, and Hugh MacDonald.

Opening participation in leadership contests to a primary style vote is a positive move, and one that will remove the element of elitism from the party leader selection process.

Candidates in the leadership contest include former Tory MLA Raj Sherman, Liberal MLAs Laurie Blakeman and Hugh MacDonald, and Calgarians Bill Harvey and Bruce Payne.

The challenge that remains is actually engaging these “supporters” to participate in the actual vote and the party process beyond that. The Wildrose Party has around 25,000 paid members and the Progressive Conservatives are expected to grow their membership to over 150,000 paid membership by September.

Focusing on their leadership challenges since the announced departure of their leader David Swann, the Liberals have fallen behind the Wildrose and PCs in nominating candidates for the next provincial election. The Liberals currently have 13 candidates nominated. The Wildrose nominated their 44th candidate this week (Mike Blanchard in Calgary-Buffalo).

Good intentions aside, it feels like the move by the Liberals to open their leadership selection process feels like it may have come an election too late. After being decimated in the 2008 election, the Liberal Party has shown negative momentum in Alberta with their federal cousins drawing only 9% of the province-wide vote in May 2011 and a recent Environics survey showing the Liberals with only 13% province-wide and 19% in their former strong-hold of Edmonton.

what to make of the wildrose drop, the ndp growth, and the tory restoration?

I am not the first political watcher to weigh in with my views on the Calgary HeraldEdmonton Journal poll conducted by Environics that I mentioned on my blog yesterday morning, but I am going to offer my thoughts nonetheless.

The poll of 900 Albertans showed that the Progressive Conservatives have once again risen to a dominant position over the opposition parties, including the ambitious Wildrose Party. This is just one poll, and as we learned from the May 2011 Federal Election, campaigns do matter. Keeping this in mind, here are my interpretations of what the poll could mean for Alberta’s political parties:

Alberta Provincial Party Voting Intentions July 2011 Edmonton Journal-Calgary Herald Environics Poll

The results of a recent Calgary Herald-Edmonton Journal poll conducted by Environics.

Progressive Conservatives: The death of the near-forty-year governing PC Party has been greatly exaggerated. The poll shows PC support is above 50% across the province and above 60% with voters over the age of 65 (who show up to vote).

It is difficult to say if support for the Tories will change when they choose their new leader in September or October, but it is clear that the departure of Premier Ed Stelmach is boosting their electoral fortunes. Unless the next PC Party leader (and Premier-Designate) manages to become more unpopular than Premier Stelmach in the next year, it would be easy to see this party return to its dominant status.

Alberta Liberal leadership candidates July 2011

Liberal leadership candidates Bill Harvey, Bruce Payne, Raj Sherman, Laurie Blakeman, and Hugh MacDonald

Liberals: These numbers should be very concerning for the Liberal Party, which could possibly be polling at its lowest level of support since before the party returned to the Assembly in the 1986 election. The party is in the midst of a leadership contest and despite opening voting to non-members, it has struggled to get media attention.

The one morsel of comfort that the Liberals can take from this poll is that none of the other opposition parties have been able to capture the imagination of Albertans. If they choose the right leader in their September 10 vote, they may be able to survive the coming electoral storm.

Alberta NDP leader and MLA Brian Mason

NDP leader Brian Mason

New Democrats: With help from the bolstered ranks of their brothers and sisters in Ottawa, Alberta’s NDP are showing signs of growth.

The poll shows the NDP are the second choice among voters between the ages of 18 and 24 (30.9%), and of voters outside of Calgary and Edmonton. In Edmonton, the NDP’s traditional seat of strength in Alberta, the party is polling near the same level of support it received in the last provincial election. The question is whether current NDP leader Brian Mason is the right person to capitalize on this bump.

Alberta Wildrose leader Danielle Smith

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith

Wildrose: This poll will put a sour face on the most strident Wildrose supporter. I speculated earlier this month that the Wildrose may have reached the peak of their support in 2010 and this poll certainly suggests that this may be the case.

The departure of Premier Stelmach this fall appears to have removed the lightening rod that turned the Wildrose into a political force in 2010. Forming government looks further away now than it did a year ago, but the Wildrose is still in a better financial and organization position than the other opposition parties. They may have to get used to the sound of the words “Official Opposition Leader Danielle Smith.”

Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor and MLA Dave Taylor

Alberta Party MLA Dave Taylor and leader Glenn Taylor

Alberta Party: This is poll has no good news for the Alberta Party (and almost no news at all). This poll should be a signal to this party that they should focus their electoral efforts on supporting candidates in two or three constituencies across Alberta, the most obvious being their leader Glenn Taylor in West Yellowhead, MLA Dave Taylor in Calgary-Currie, and former acting-leader Sue Huff in Edmonton-Glenora.

liberal leadership candidates woo edmonton supporters.

 

Liberal leadership candidates (L-R) Bruce Payne, Raj Sherman, Laurie Blakeman, and Hugh MacDonald.

Liberal leadership candidates (L-R) Bruce Payne, Raj Sherman, Laurie Blakeman, and Hugh MacDonald.

More than 200 dedicated Liberal Party supporters piled into Edmonton’s Santa Maria Centre yesterday evening to hear candidates for their party’s leadership speak and answer questions. I attended and was surprised to discover a fairly lively evening for a traditional style all-candidates forum.

All the candidates spoke well, but I believe that the real star of the evening was the moderator, Josipa Petrunic. Ms. Petrunic was well-spoken, articulate, and did not seem to take herself too seriously. I had to ask myself a few times through the course of the evening why she was not on stage as a candidate (she did announce that she plans to stand as a candidate in the next provincial election).

The perceived front-runner, former Tory MLA Raj Sherman, was well-received by the crowd of Liberals, many who see him (rightfully or wrongfully) as a an anti-Tory folk hero. Dr. Sherman spoke well, but will need to expand his responses beyond “health care” in order to prove that he is not a one-trick policy pony.

Despite my being distracted by his uncanny resemblance to James Brolin‘s Governor Robert Ritchie, Bruce Payne spoke well. I am not convinced that he should lead the Liberals, but this experience is sure to help him as his party’s next candidate in Calgary-Varsity (replacing the retiring Harry Chase)

Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald showed his experience with a commanding performance, abandoning his usual conspiracy theory-driven Question Period style for a more dignified pose. His knowledge of detail and experience as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee helped him throughout the evening.

Calgarian Bill Harvey took a strong conservative-angle on fiscal and social policy, made contradictory statements about government involvement in business, and never missed an opportunity to mention a certain former political leader. After hearing the policy positions espoused by this candidate, I would not be surprised to see Mr. Harvey’s name on a Wildrose lawn sign in the near future.

In my opinion, Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman was the only candidate who left the impression that she would define the Liberal Party as more than just a softer version of the Progressive Conservatives. I believe this may be the biggest challenge that will face the next Liberal leader. What place does their party have in a field that has become increasingly dominated by the PCs and Wildrose?

Switching gears, this evening I will be hitting the road eastward to attend the PC leadership forum in Vermilion to watch candidates Doug Griffiths, Doug Horner, Gary Mar, Ted Morton, Rick Orman, and Alison Redford square off in the first of many open-forums.

Visit my Flickr page to see more photos of last night’s Liberal Party forum.

liberal mla accused of leading “super secret cabal.”

A photo of Edmonton Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman.

The accused cabeller, MLA Laurie Blakeman.

Former Liberal Communications Director Neil Mackie has accused leadership candidate and Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman of being part of a secret conspiracy to merge the Liberal Party with the Alberta Party.

Commenting on a recent post on this blog, Mr. Mackie, who is also Campaign Director to leadership candidate Bruce Payne, accused Ms. Blakeman of being part of a “super secret [sic] cabel” of Liberals who want to merge their party with the Alberta Party. Mr. Mackie then accused Ms. Blakeman, who has served as an MLA since 1997, of being a “stealth merger candidate.”

Responding to the accusations via email, Ms. Blakeman wrote that, “This cabal is so super secret that I have never heard of it.”

“I have no secret strategy to merge the two parties.  I have said publicly that I believe the two parties will be the same within 10 years.  I think that’s pretty obvious that one or the other will prevail.  I just couldn’t tell you which one, my crystal ball is in for repairs,” wrote Ms. Blakeman.

She continued, “I am being very clear that I am the candidate who believes changing public policy is about building and participating in coalitions.”

“If Neil Mackie thinks being willing to work with others, cooperate on issue strategies, and bring in outsiders to affect change is a big bad thing…well I don’t.  I’m here to change the world and I have some experience in doing that so I’m sticking with what I know!”

Alberta Party responds
When contacted via email, Alberta Party Vice-President Brian Thiessen wrote that, “it would have to be a super secret cabal, as the Alberta Party certainly doesn’t know anything about it.”

Mr. Thiessen then wrote that perhaps Mr. Mackie’s “super secret cabel” was “a sub-committee of the “ALP Committee of Awesome“. Or is it the “Awesomeness Committee”? Or maybe Laurie’s Secret Cabal and the Awesome Liberals have now merged to form the “Secret Cabal of Awesomeness” which will at some future date attempt to discuss further merger with the Alberta Party?”

“ALP members and certain MLA’s like Laurie have made no secret of their wish to join the Alberta Party, and many others may be attracted to some or all of the Alberta Party’s moderate, yet fiscally conservative message, as may many moderate PC’s. But the Alberta Party has no interest in merging with the Alberta Liberal Party,” wrote Mr. Thiessen.

The Liberals are scheduled to choose a new leader on September 10, 2011.

a look at the alberta liberal leadership candidates.

You might be forgiven if you have not paid much attention to the Alberta Liberal Party leadership contest, which is currently under way. The Liberal contest is not as exciting as the Progressive Conservative’s leadership contest, as flashy as the Wildrose (now minus the Alliance), or intriguing as the new Alberta Party, but it is important enough not to ignore. The Liberal Party is still the Official Opposition and while it has taken a beating in the polls and public image over the past few years, its next leader will play a role in the next provincial election.

Here is a look at the candidates for their leadership:

Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman

Laurie Blakeman

Laurie Blakeman
Slogan: Laurie4Leader
Elected Experience: MLA for Edmonton-Centre from 1997 to the present.
Background: Laurie Blakeman is known as a vocal and unrelenting critic of the governing Tories. As Deputy Leader under party leaders Kevin Taft and David Swann, she also served as critic for Finance, the Environment, and Culture.

Her strong views as an unapologetic feminist representing Edmonton’s densest urban constituency have made her an enemy to many conservatives, but her skills as Opposition House Leader have gained her respect from some Tory MLAs across the floor. She is also one half of Edmonton’s political power couple, her husband is Ward 8 City Councillor Ben Henderson.

In 1998, Ms. Blakeman supported then-MLA Linda Sloan‘s leadership bid. She declined to run for her party’s leadership in 2004, telling the Globe & Mail that “she doesn’t have the fire in her belly to run” and again in 2008 admitting that fundraising was not her strength. Earlier this year she publicly mused about joining the Alberta Party, but instead decided to seek the Liberal Party leadership.

(Disclaimer: I like Laurie Blakeman have volunteered for her election campaigns in 2004 and 2008).

Liberal candidate Bill Harvey

Bill Harvey

Bill Harvey
Slogan: Returning to responsible government
Elected Experience: Liberal candidate in Calgary-East in 2004 and 2008.
Background: Calgary financial advisor Bill Harvey entered the leadership contest this week with a message that Liberals need to return to their past roots to succeed in the future. The main message on his website reminds Liberals of their 1990’s glory days under former leader Laurence Decore and is peppered with fiscal conservative language.

In 2008, he ran a “law and order” and “tough on crime” focused campaign, which earned him an endorsement by Craig Chandler‘s hyper-conservative Progressive Group for Independent Business. His website says that he will be releasing a detailed platform later this month.

Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald

Hugh MacDonald

Hugh MacDonald
Slogan: None
Elected experience: MLA for Edmonton-Gold Bar from 1997 to present
Background: Since stepping into his role as the opposition labour critic during his first-term and making headlines over the government’s shaky handling of rotting pine shakes roofing and lack of whistle-blower protection, Hugh MacDonald earned a reputation as a dogged critic of the Tories. As Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, his focus on uncovering Tory scandals sometimes makes him appear on the verge of paranoia, but he is relentless and hardworking. It is not uncommon to see Mr. MacDonald buried in books, doing his own research in the Legislature Library.

Mr. MacDonald is a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal partisan. Even if the Liberal Party is wiped off the political map in the next election, Hugh MacDonald will fight to the end (clasping a battle-axe in one hand while caped in blood-soaked battle armour under a Liberal Party flag). Inside the Liberal Party, Mr. MacDonald appeals to the stalwart crowd who believe that it is not the Liberal brand that has damaged their party, but that party members who have not adhered enough loyalty to the Liberal brand are responsible for the party’s 80 years of electoral defeat.

Mr. MacDonald has the endorsements of former party leaders Nick Taylor and Ken Nicol and former MLAs Bill Bonner and Yolande Gagnon.

Bruce Payne Liberal candidate

Bruce Payne

Bruce Payne
Slogan: 87 Strong
Elected experience: Nominated as the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Varsity
Background: An unknown outside some Calgary political circles, it is difficult to know whether Bruce Payne is actually a serious candidate in this contest.

A long-time union leader, in 2007 he led the 6,000 southern Alberta carpenters union as it and seven other construction unions threatened Alberta’s first multi-trade strike in almost 30 years. He was later the Spokesperson for the Alberta and Northwest Territories Regional Council of Carpenters and Allied Workers and President of the Building Trades of Alberta Southern Council.

His 87 Strong slogan is in reference to the 87 constituencies that will be created when the next election is called. His campaign also takes a shot at the current Liberal MLAs and their tendency to attack the Tories for every “scandals, faux-pas, screw-ups, miscues and arrogant decisions” without a long-term strategy.

His campaign manager is the former Liberal Caucus communications director Neil Mackie, who departed from his job at the Assembly earlier this year.

Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman Independent Liberal

Raj Sherman

Raj Sherman
Slogan: None
Elected experience: MLA Edmonton-Meadowlark from 2008 to present
Background: Former Tory MLA Raj Sherman could be both the wildcard and the front-runner in this contest. Six months ago he wanted nothing to do with the Liberal Party as he sat in the PC caucus as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health & Wellness. Since writing the bluntly-worded email that led to hm being kicked out of the PC caucus, Dr. Sherman has attained a folk hero status among many Albertans.

After opening up their leadership vote to any Albertan without having to purchase a membership, I have a difficult time seeing Dr. Sherman as anything but the front-runner in this contest.

Although his opponents will criticize him for switching parties, it is hard to believe that Dr. Sherman has ever actually “belonged” to any political party. On February 13, 2008 PC candidate Dr. Sherman told the Edmonton Journal, “Ideas belong to society, they don’t belong to a party. For me, it wasn’t so much about parties as about getting the idea to the people who make decisions.”

Dr. Sherman has the support of former MLA Bharat Agnihotri, and I have been told that Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr and Calgary-McCall MLA Darshan Kang are lending their support to his campaign.

Not yet entered the contest:

There may be a sixth candidate to enter this contest. Word on the street is that the executive of a medium-sized Calgary-based energy company may announce his candidacy next week.

bill harvey enters liberal leadership contest.

Bill Harvey Liberal candidate leadership calgary

Calgary financial services executive Bill Harvey is the fifth candidate to join the Alberta Liberal leadership contest. Mr. Harvey was the Liberal candidate in Calgary-East in 2004 and 2008, where he earned 28% of the vote each time. He was also an unsuccessful candidate for the Liberal nomination in Calgary-McCall in 1991.

While running a “tough on crime” focused campaign in 2008, Mr. Harvey became the first Liberal candidate to ever be endorsed by Craig Chandler‘s ultra-conservative Progressive Group for Independent Business.

With liberal use of italics, Mr. Harvey has described his decision to seek his party’s leadership in a letter to members. Taking a curious cue from stalwart candidate Hugh MacDonald, Mr. Harvey invokes the name of former party leader Laurence Decore and argues that the Liberal Party in Alberta needs to return to its past to succeed in future elections.

Mr. Harvey joins four candidates already in the contest, Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman, Mr. MacDonald, Bruce Payne, and former Tory MLA Raj Sherman. Read this blog tomorrow for a more indepth post on the backgrounds of the candidates and their campaigns.