Having a well-known name in Calgary has served Dave Taylor well since making the jump into politics in 2004. A standby of Calgary’s radio circuit since 1985, Taylor hosted a popular radio show on CHQR77 until he made the jump to politics in 2004. Hoisting the Liberal banner in Calgary-Currie, Taylor unseated MLA Jon Lord in 2004 and held off a strong challenge from PC star candidate Arthur Kent in 2008.
Taylor served in a number of high profile opposition roles since 2004, including Advanced Education and Municipal Affairs & Housing critic, but since becoming Liberal Deputy Leader in 2004, it became fairly clear to political watchers that he was setting his sights on something more than deputy. And shortly after Kevin Taft announced that he would be departing the leader’s chair, Taylor was the first to step up.
As leader, Taylor would bring a different element to the Alberta Liberals: leading via sound bite. If Taylor wins, Albertans can expect better media performance than in the past as he would be quite a contrast to Ed Stelmach, and could be expected to regularly kick Stelmach’s ass in Question Period and in the media. And if his leadership campaign material is any indication, the Alberta Liberal Party can expect to have an aesthetic face-lift if he wins.
Troubling is the number of MLAs (past and present) who have spoken to me about the difficulties they have had trying to get Taylor to work as part of a team. There may be no doubt that he rubs some people the wrong way, but though he may have had challenges with colleagues, one of his largest challenges as opposition leader would be to raise his profile outside of Calgary, where, much like fellow candidate David Swann, he is largely an unknown quantity.
If it’s a plan that Alberta Liberal members are looking for, Taylor’s team has unveiled the most detailed programme of any candidate, including a wide-range of policy positions and an ambitious plan to pull the Liberals out of the dregs. Appealing to the party base, Taylor has branded himself as the “unapologetic Liberal” of the race, choosing to embrace the toxicity of the Liberal brand. But as good as his intentions may be, the question needs to be asked whether the Alberta Liberal Party is past the point of saving, and it’s not hard to argue that it may be.
Though I haven’t shied away from criticizing Taylor’s campaign, I have had positive experience working with him in the past. During my term as Chair of the Council of Alberta University Students in 2006, Taylor joined former NDP MLA Raj Pannu in the media to help us challenge short-lived Advanced Education Minister Denis Herard’s first and only piece of legislation Bill 40, which de-legislated Alberta’s tuition policy. Bill 40 passed, but it wasn’t for lack of opposition by either Taylor or Pannu.
Dave Taylor’s right combination of media personality and great radio voice have worked to his advantage as an opposition MLA, but can it jump-start the Liberals high enough towards the road of dethrone the long-governing PCs? I remain skeptical, but Taylor would definitely make politics in the Alberta Legislature more interesting.