With Alberta Liberal leader Kevin Taft pondering his future abroad and expected to announce his future political intentions in the coming months, those interested in running for the subversive job of Leader of the Official Opposition are starting to gear up (for a potential November 2008 leadership selection). Sources in Calgary have informed me that Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor is rallying his key supporters to prepare for a run. Taylor was first elected in 2004 after unseating high-profile Tory backbencher Jon Lord and was re-elected in 2008 by defeating Tory star candidate Arthur Kent. Before entering elected politics, Taylor was the host of a popular QR77 Radio call-in show.
Among Taylor’s rumoured supporters is longtime Liberal organizer Donn Lovett. Lovett has been involved in Liberal campaigns since the 1980s (including campaigns of Sheldon Chumir, Joe Clark, Dave Taylor, Jennifer Pollock, and Craig Cheffins) but more recently, Lovett caused a bit of a stir after penning a memo to key Liberal organizers on the future of the party, including critiques on post-election MLA critic portfolios and party operations.
As Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann is publicly talking about forming a new political party in Alberta, I’ve had many Liberal supporters tell me that they would be more than happy to support a Swann leadership campaign (to also prevent a Taylor coronation). Also rumoured to be interested in a run is former Edmonton-McClung MLA Mo Elsalhy. Elsalhy was elected in 2004 by defeating Ralph Klein-era Economic Development Minister Mark Norris, but was unseated by Tory David Xiao in the 2008 election. Though I haven’t heard any stirrings on the front, I wouldn’t be disappointed if veteran Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman threw her hat into the ring.
With the March 3, 2008 election results fresh in memory, the next leader of the Alberta Liberals will take on the arguably thankless job inheriting a 9-member caucus facing a massive 72-seat 37-year old Tory majority, a party with a massive financial debt, and nearly no support outside the cities of Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge regions. The leadership race will also take place in a new geo-political dynamic in the Liberal caucus now that the majority of the 9-MLA caucus are from southern Alberta (five MLAs from Calgary & one from Lethbridge), rather than the traditional Edmonton base (which now has three MLAs).
Facing these challenges, I think I tend to agree with Swann. With none of Alberta’s political parties successfully engaging Albertans, I would argue that it’s time start from scratch.