Tag Archives: Liberalberta

Ottawa MP Anita Vandenbeld (left), Calgary MP Darshan Kang (second from the left) and Liberal candidate Khalil Karbani (third from the left) campaigning in the Calgary-Greenway by-election

Alberta Liberals cash in on Trudeau’s popularity in Calgary-Greenway by-election

There was a time in the not too distant past when the Alberta Liberal Party went out of their way to distance themselves from the Liberal Party of Canada. The provincial party even formally separated from the federal party back in the 1970s in a move to distance itself from their Central Canadian-based federal cousins.

Those days are over. The election of Calgary-Skyview Member of Parliament Darshan Kang and Calgary-Centre MP Kent Hehr in October 2015 marked the first time since 1968 that Calgarians elected federal Liberal representatives in Ottawa. The provincial Liberals are eager to take advantage of any bump in support they can get from the popularity of the federal party and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

There has not been much for provincial Liberals to be excited about recently. The party lost Official Opposition status in 2012 and dropped to one MLA in the Legislative Assembly in 2015. Now without a permanent leader, the party delayed its next leadership vote until 2017. But the recent electoral success of the federal Liberals may have given the party some hope.

The provincial Liberals have adopted a nearly identical logo on their election signs as the federal Liberals and embraced the federal Liberal slogan ‘Vote for Real Change‘ for its campaign in the Calgary-Greenway provincial by-election. Federal Liberal MPs have even been spotted on campaigning for the local candidate.

Ottawa-area Liberal Member of Parliament Anita Vandenbeld, who was born in Calgary and studied at the University of Calgary, joined Mr. Kang this past weekend to canvass with Calgary-Greenway candidate Khalil Karbani (who ran for a Wildrose Party nomination in 2012).

A poll released by Mainstreet Research on March 12 showed the Liberals at 21 percent support in a competitive in a four-way contest in the Greenway by-election. The poll showed the Progressive Conservatives at 31 percent, the New Democrats at 24 percent and the Wildrose Party at 22 percent of leaning and decided voters. (The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.26%, 19 times out of 20.

The results of the March 22 by-election will give some indication as to whether the provincial Liberal strategy to embrace their federal counterparts is a success. A provincial Liberal win, or even a strong showing, in the Calgary-Greenway by-election would be an unexpected surprise and much needed boost for a party that has been on a downward trend for the past eight years.


 

Remember Liberalberta Green?

In a move that was believed to be an attempt to distance the two parties, the provincial Liberals undertook a brief rebranding in 2012, ditching the colour red for green and calling themselves ‘Liberalberta’ but not long after the party moved to improve ties with the federal party. They later ditched Liberalberta green in favour of traditionally Liberal red.

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

Limping Alberta Liberals face more financial troubles

Alberta Liberal Party Fundraising

Tracking Alberta Liberal Party fundraising from 2004 to 2014.

Did Liberal leader Raj Sherman break Alberta’s political donations limits when making donations to his own party?
Raj Sherman MLA

Raj Sherman

The Calgary Herald is reporting that Dr. Sherman may have exceeded the $15,000 limit for donations three times in the past four years and donated double the limit this year through corporations he controls.

The questionable donations were first noticed by former New Democratic Party staffer Tony Clark, who brought them to the attention of Glen Resler, Alberta’s Chief Elections Officer.

And it is not just the money given which is a potential issue, because Dr. Sherman and his corporations would have also received tax credits in return for those donations. Dr. Sherman claims he did not deliberately break the rules, but this could still cause lasting damage to his troubled party’s credibility.

Rachel Notley Edmonton MLA Strathcona NDP

Rachel Notley

Fundraising has always been a challenge for the Liberals and starting in 2009, the party struggled to compete with the fundraising dollars captured by Danielle Smith’s rising Wildrose Party. Lately, Dr. Sherman’s party has struggled to compete with the NDP, now led by Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley.

In the first three quarters of 2014, Elections Alberta financial disclosures show the Liberals raised $242,499.16, close to half of the $474,306.85 raised by the NDP in the same period.

Laurie Blakeman MLA Edmonton Centre Liberal

Laurie Blakeman

It is hard to write about the Alberta Liberal Party these days without feeling as if I am kicking a wounded animal. The once confident official opposition party has now dwindled down to a group of MLAs who more closely resemble a coalition of independents than a united front.

Over the past two years, Dr. Sherman’s Liberals have undergone a strange brand transformation, first abandoning the traditional Liberal red for a green Liberalberta brand, and then sixteen months later back to red.

The Liberals will soon lose Calgary MLAs Kent Hehr and Darshan Kang to federal political ambitions, and when that happens, the 3 MLA caucus will face the threat of losing official party status, and funding, in the Legislative Assembly. The Liberal Party’s poor showing in four October 27 by-elections also does not give the party much to build upon.

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

But the party’s bleak prospects do not mean that individual MLAs are not doing good work. Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman, will continue the good work started by soon-departing Mr. Hehr with her private members bill to create safer environments for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth in Alberta schools.

A similar bill introduced by Mr. Hehr in spring 2013 was defeated by a coalition of Progressive Conservative and Wildrose MLAs.

Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann continues to defend the rights of farm workers, who find themselves without access to workers rights and occupational health and safety standards.

A strong argument can be made that the five Liberal MLAs who were re-elected in the 2012 election did so on their own merits as strong local representatives and despite the weakness of their party brand.

If Dr. Sherman’s party continues to limp in obscurity, the Liberal MLAs facing re-election in 2016 may have to determine whether their own hard work, rather than their current party brand, will be enough to win them their jobs back for another four years.