Tag Archives: Don Schurman

recap: alberta party leadership convention.

Outgoing Alberta Party interim leader Sue Huff sang a tongue-in-cheek rendition of "Over the rainbow" to participants at the Alberta Party leadership convention at Edmonton's Shaw Conference Centre on May 28, 2011. Over 300 people attended the Alberta Party leadership convention.

Over 300 people attended the Alberta Party leadership convention.

The Alberta Party held their leadership convention on May 27 and 28 at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton and I attended as a member from the Edmonton-Centre constituency. Despite my reservations about the low-key leadership contest, I was impressed with the quality, organization, and positive energy of the event, which drew over 300 attendees from across the province.

Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor was selected as leader of the Alberta Party on the first ballot at the May 28, 2011 leadership convention at Edmonton's Shaw Conference Centre.

Glenn Taylor was elected on the first ballot.

Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor was elected leader by earning 55% support on the first ballot. Candidate Randy Royer placed second with 23%, Lee Easton placed third with 12%, and Tammy Maloney placed fourth with 8%. One thousand  two hundred voting members cast their leadership ballots over the telephone and the internet. Twelve hundred votes may not seem like a lot, but it is a significant number when you take into account that the Alberta Party only had around 40 members at the beginning of 2010.

Outgoing Alberta Party interim leader Sue Huff sang a tongue-in-cheek rendition of "Over the rainbow" to participants at the Alberta Party leadership convention at Edmonton's Shaw Conference Centre on May 28, 2011.

Outgoing Alberta Party interim leader Sue Huff sang a tongue-in-cheek rendition of "Over the Rainbow."

Mayor Taylor takes over the party leadership from acting-leader Sue Huff, who has stepped into the position after former leader Edwin Erickson resigned in November 2010. Ms. Huff is expected to be nominated as her party’s candidate in Edmonton-Glenora, an area she represented as a Public School Board Trustee until October 2010. During the convention, Ms. Huff wowed convention attendees with a tongue-in-cheek rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” a good-humoured response to critics of the Alberta Party’s focus on its new approach to policy development through the Big Listen process.

Campaign swag from the various Alberta Party leadership candidates at that party's leadership convention on May 28, 2011 at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton. Candidates were Glenn Taylor, Randy Royer, Lee Easton, and Tammy Maloney

Campaign swag from the Alberta Party leadership candidates

Aside from the announcement of the leadership vote, the May 28 program included updates on constituency organizing from Michael Walters and the party’s 60 constituency Presidents, and speeches from Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor, Election Readiness Chair Chima Nkemdirim, and the announcement of the Alberta Party’s new Health Care policy brief. The policy was introduced to attendees by University of Alberta Public Health PhD student Elaine Hyshka and former U of A Hospital CEO Don Schurman. The policy brief puts a strong focus on primary care and long-term care elements of Alberta’s health care system.

A campaign fortune cookie from the campaign of Glenn Taylor, who won the Alberta Party leadership on May 28, 2011 at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton.

A campaign fortune cookie from Glenn Taylor's campaign.

On the evening of Friday May 27 the Alberta Party launched its new visual identity and held a Pecha Kucha-style Big Ideas Night, giving participants five minutes on stage to share their “big idea.” Speakers included Dennis Lenarduzzi,  Everett Smith, Danielle Klooster, Connie Jensen, Lisa Marie Fox, Glenn Taylor, Jesse Rowe, and Wade Ferguson. I missed the Big Ideas Night while volunteering at Homefest’s One Room concert that night, so I was glad to read that Mack Male had written about it on his blog.

Alberta Party MLA Dave Taylor and newly elected Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor at the May 28, 2011 Alberta Party leadership convention at Edmonton's Shaw Conference Centre.

Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor and newly elected leader Glenn Taylor.

Having attended countless political events organized by nearly every major political organizations in the province, I have become accustomed to spotting the “usual suspects” in these organizations. One of the measurements I use to judge the success of political organizations are the amount of people I do recognize when attending political events. This weekend, I was pleased to discover that I only recognized around 1/3 of the convention attendees, which I believe is promising news for the Alberta Party.

I have posted more photos from the Alberta Party leadership convention on Flickr.

by design or by default, a low-key alberta party leadership race.

Alberta Party leadership candidates Tammy Maloney, Lee Easton, Randy Royer, and Glenn Taylor at MacEwan University.

Alberta Party leadership candidates Tammy Maloney, Lee Easton, Randy Royer, and Glenn Taylor at MacEwan University.

A small crowd of around 80 interested Edmontonians gathered to hear the candidates seeking the leadership of the Alberta Party this week at MacEwan University in downtown Edmonton. It is a low-key contest that will culminate this weekend at a leadership convention at Edmonton’s Shaw Conference Centre. The forum could be described as tame and respectful, and the absence of major policy differences between the candidates meant that the audience had an opportunity to observe the differing leadership styles of the candidates.

Tammy Maloney stressed her experience as a social entrepreneur, as a past director of the Clinton Foundation in Nigeria, and as connecter. Ms. Maloney has the biggest heart of the four candidates in this contest, and she is driven by it.

Alberta Party leadership candidates Tammy Maloney and Lee Easton

Tammy Maloney and Lee Easton

Lee Easton was the most articulate of the candidates. The Mount Royal University English Professor speaks in an articulate and perfunctory tone about the challenges facing our province and what needs to change. He has some of the same characteristics of what I like about former Liberal leader Kevin Taft, but in the same breath I wonder about his ability to promote the party in non-academic language. I wonder if he can successfully play the game of retail politics.

Alberta Party leadership candidate Randy Royer at MacEwan University.

Randy Royer

Randy Royer needs to work on his elevator pitch. His introduction focused on his experiences as a Liberal Party of Canada member in the 1980s and having dinner with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, where he told the audience he advocated against Ottawa’s policies that hurt Canada’s western provinces. Over the course of the evening, only one thing became clear to me: that he would not be getting my vote.

Alberta Party leadership candidate Glenn Taylor at MacEwan University

Glenn Taylor

Glenn Taylor appears to be the clear front-runner in this contest. Mayor Taylor is a retail politician and is the only candidate in this race with actual governing experience, having been elected three times as Mayor of Hinton. Over the past week Alberta Party activists like Chima Nkemdirim, Michael Brechtel, and Don Schurman have piled their endorsements behind Mayor Taylor. Experience has taught me to be cautious of candidates who receive too much support from party intelligentsia.

Mayor Taylor is also the only candidate in this contest not from Calgary, and if selected as leader would be expected to run as a candidate in the West Yellowhead constituency.

The candidates answered at least twenty questions from a panel and the audience. The most pointed question of the evening came from an audience member who asked about the challenge of articulating how the Alberta Party is developing its policy and the perception that it is just another populist political party.

The candidates struggled to answer this question.

The short answer is that the process is very focused on sharing ideas.

Alberta Party Logo

The Alberta Party's new logo.

The longer answer is that The Big Listen process, which is how the party has been developing its policy positions, starts with a series of small meetings (usually held over coffee or in a living room) where participants are encouraged to share their stories, hopes, and aspirations for Alberta. The information collected from these Big Listens is then discerned into themes by the meeting organizers and passed on to an issue-specific policy team that summarizes the collected feedback, does research, and develops policies. The members of the issue-specific policy committees are people with backgrounds in those fields, be it professional, educational, or voluntary. The policy recommendations are then put to the membership for approval. At a policy convention or by using online tools, members are able to view the policy goals, contribute their input, and provide support for the policy goals. It is very process focused and driven by values and principles that the party was founded upon.

The leadership forum reminded me why I dislike the personality politics of leadership races and the cult of personality that perennially envelops partisans. There are politicians that I like, and have put my support behind. I had the pleasure of working with Kevin Taft when he was leader of the Liberal Party and I have enjoyed volunteering for Councillor Don Iveson‘s campaigns at the municipal level in Edmonton. While all the candidates seem to be nice people, some who would also do a decent job as leader, there is no candidate in this contest that I am excited about.

For many Alberta Party members I have spoken with, the leadership question has been almost an afterthought, with members instead focused on building policy and constituency organizations across the province.

As was wisely pointed out in an editorial in this week’s final edition of SEE Magazine

“the PCs and Alberta Liberals are leader-dominated parties, where the party’s identity is closely associated with the leader. The Alberta Party won’t be going that route, either by design or by default.”

Whether by design or by default, the Alberta Party’s low-profile leadership contest is not as crowded as the PC leadership race or oddly casted as the Liberal leadership.

In a political environment where a party leader almost always overshadows their team as the centre of attention (walk down the street and ask a random person how many MLAs they can name), it will be interesting to see whether the Alberta Party can break the growing trend towards the cult of leadership personality. Perhaps that is why, in spite of my general frustration with political parties, I have remained a member of the Alberta Party.

With only 2000 memberships sold in this leadership contest, the Alberta Party has both proven how far it has gone in the past year and how much work still lies ahead for its members and, after this weekend, new leader.