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historic merger “unites the centre-right” in alberta.

Historic Conservative-Liberal merger “unites the centre-right” in Alberta
Edmonton Morning Star

Page: A1
January 16, 2012

In a move designed to stop a Wildrose Alliance victory in the imminent provincial general election, two long-time political foes have agreed to put aside their differences and form a “coalition of the centre-right.” At a press conference this morning, Progressive Conservative Premier Ed Stelmach and Liberal leader David Swann announced the formation of the electoral coalition.

“As difficult as it might be, we, uh, have decided to, um, work together for Alberta’s future,” said Stelmach. “Uh, the reality is that Alberta’s future will be brighter and stronger when, uh, we work together.”

Recent polling has shown Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Alliance with 35% support across Alberta. The PCs and Liberals have 36% combined support, which they argue will be enough to form government. The Liberals had initially hoped to negotiate electoral cooperation with the NDP and the resurgent Alberta Party, but they began talks with the Tories following the Wildrose Alliance victory in the hotly contested Calgary-Buffalo by-election to replace Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, who was elected Mayor in 2010.

Under the agreement the PC and Liberals will not challenge each others incumbent MLAs. Until the election and if re-elected, Stelmach has appointed Swann as Deputy Premier, former leader Kevin Taft as Minister of Health & Wellness, and Calgary MLA Harry Chase as Minister of Education.

Premier Stelmach told the media that the two parties will run on a five point platform that emphasizes good governance, the economy, the environment, safe communities, and an strong role for Alberta in Canada. Details will be released when the election is called.

“Just as the Liberal Conservative coalition has succeeded in the United Kingdom, Premier Stelmach and I intend to prove that it can work in Alberta,” said Swann. “We intend to protect Albertans from the new and scary Wildrose Alliance.”

Some Liberals were quick to rise up in arms in opposition to the merger, saying it will only drive voters to the NDP and Alberta Party.

Party organizers defended the decision. “Liberals overwhelmingly approved the idea of cooperation with other progressive parties at our last policy convention,” said a Liberal spokesperson. “Cooperation with the Progressive Conservatives will stop the vote splitting the new and scary Wildrose Alliance is depending on.”

Danielle Smith was unavailable for comment, but Wildrose Alliance strategists were quick to attack the announcement as a “merger of convenience.”

“It’s official, Stelmach is the new Trudeau,” boasted the Wildrose Communications Director.

13 replies on “historic merger “unites the centre-right” in alberta.”

When reached for comment, NDP leader Brian Mason announced this would propel his party to new levels of support possibly even reaching double digits and more that 4 seats

Nothing’s impossible in Alberta! But while the media are too lazy to have done any real coverage or analysis of the Liberals’ policy convention beyond the cooperation resolution, I was quite surprised, as someone attending a Liberal convention for the first time, that the vaunted right wing within the Liberal party big tent is now incredibly small. Perhaps Dave Taylor scooped them all away?

Both supporters and opponents of cooperation on the centre-left were part of a debate on whether to condone private delivery of health care in the well-attended health policy session. The party’s president, Tony Sansotta, wanted the Liberals to show what he believed was greater pragmatism by supporting his resolution, not actually backed by his own constituency association that supposedly moved it, for private delivery. A huge line-up of speakers mentioned fact after fact that demonstrated the need, as placards put it, for “public funds, public delivery.” No doubt those who want to portray the Liberals as a hopelessly divided party will point to the existence of such a debate as demonstrating this point. But the truth is that other than the mover of the resolution, everyone at that gathering and the subsequent policy discussion the next day asserted that “Liberal values” meant strengthening public delivery as a cornerstone of medicare. There’s a climate-change denier or three in the NDP, but no one seriously suggests that the tiny presence of such individuals means that there is serious debate in the party on the issue.

The Liberals get very little traction in the media, and as Mo Elsalhy suggested to me, nobody read the detailed policy book that they sent out to all Albertans in the last election and which he played a big role in producing. But I did, and I was surprised and impressed. Those policies were reaffirmed this past weekend along with other small-l liberal resolutions, particularly a cogent commitment to a mental health policy that is long overdue when one in five Albertans, and therefore likely one in two households will deal with a mental health issue during their lifetimes.

Liberals and NDs don’t attend each other’s conventions much, or talk to each other much, though they work together in many civil society groups such as Friends of Medicare, without talking party politics. They actually have more in common than they think, and in turn they share a great deal in the way of values with Greens and probably the Alberta party. How they can capitalize on such agreements to create a government of civil decency in Alberta (in my view talk of right, left, centre, centre-left, etc. largely moves us away from talk about policies and even policy orientations) is the big question. It can’t happen without a conversation that crosses party frontiers but does not pretend that party labels are at once a must and an impediment. The “red Tories” who have been crowded out of their own party, but have spent a lifetime disowning Liberals and NDs need to take part in that conversation and with something more to say than that their long-time opponents, with whom they now appear to have more in common than they might once have admitted, are “spent forces.”

Alvin: I know a place where former Liberals, Red Tories, New Democrats, and Greens are working together and talking about partisan politics. Those are the Albertans involved with the Alberta Party.

Why are you waiting for the other parties establishments to put aside their differences when it is happening right now?

Thanks Dave re your comment about the Alberta Party. So far its activity and its ideas have been very subterranean. Hopefully that will change. I disagree though that it is the only party that has socialists, liberals, greens, and red tories working together. The NDP, the Liberals, and Vision 2012 all have people who could be described in terms of one of these 4 categories. The reasons why people join particular parties, when these parties have similar policies, vary, as I’ve been gradually learning. So do their reasons for jumping parties, including joining or toying with the Alberta Party.

What will be most interesting is to see whether the Alberta Party can find a base in geographical areas where the existing left-of-Tory parties have been unable to do so and focus on winning seats there. As David Swann has suggested, it makes little sense for the Liberals and presumably the NDP and Greens to waste resources on places that have been steadfast in their Tory support. Yet without progressive breakthroughs in more constituencies and more areas, the Tories own Alberta.

Or will the Alberta Party simply gravitate towards the 25 or so seats where the left-of-Tory opposition has managed to win a seat in either 2004 or 2008 or a by-election in-between? If so, it’s another partisan group, masquerading as something else, and joining in the strange effort of progressive Albertans to pretend that one group is going to rise to the top, destroy all the other parties, and defeat both the Tories and Wild Rose. So much illusion in Alberta! No wonder every election result looks the same.

Re. Alvin’s comments: it would be a lot easier to take you seriously, sir, if you did not look like Gene Shalit on a bad meth jag. That is all.

Perhaps some of the juvenile-toned comments on this blog are reflective of the shallow level of discourse and understanding about the dire, nearly catastrophic political situation in Alberta.

How easy to sweep away with a smart quip and clever opinions the valiant and well-researched efforts of frustrated mature and wise citizens trying for collaboration who care about the province more than you will EVER know, or perhaps deserve.

The Liberal resolution reflects a valid political strategy that attempts to bring together diverse factions that represent the decency and honesty of a compassionate, RESPONSIBLE society and elect them as government, and yet the idea is treated as a joke.

What a pity the acceptance of the cooperative idea in Alberta (a universal movement, I should add, that most Canadians are still in the baby stages of understanding) won’t probably happen until another 40 years, by which time your children’s water will no doubt be poisoned in the North, and dried up in the South. One wonders if the citizens of that parched hellhole will still be sticking to their tribal partisan politics then – when there’s nothing left to fight over.

Prairie Voice: Good rant. One problem….while you played the “ignorant”, “indignant” and “Chicken Little” cards fairly well, you forgot to hit the “fascist” angle. I’ll assume it was implied and forgive the oversight. Otherwise, nice utilization of the overinflated sense of self-importance. All in all, I give it a solid 7/10.

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