In a recent podcast with Vue Weekly Podcast, Mount Royal University Professor Keith Brownsey laid some pretty harsh criticism on Liberal leader David Swann and his letter inviting other parties to discuss cooperation. In the interview Dr. Brownsey went as far to call Dr. Swann “a baffoon” for signing the letters and that “he is probably going to get eaten alive” for this venture. Overall, Dr. Brownsey’s is pretty dismissive of the state of Alberta’s political parties. This is a departure from three years ago when Dr. Brownsey was a keynote speaker at the 2007 Liberal Party policy convention.
Even in the low-stakes world of opposition politics in Alberta, there are many party insiders who cannot fathom changing the comfortable political environment that they have inherited. Perhaps this is why the Wildrose Alliance has excelled. In 2008, I wrote that:
Party archetypes in both camps really need to put aside their biases and prejudices and take a serious and objective look at why their parties are not connecting with Albertans.
Of course, Dr. Brownsey’s opinion is that of one man, but more than two years later and already into the next election cycle, perhaps he is correct in stating that it is too late to save the traditional political parties.
Alberta doing it different.
Alberta is the anomaly among Western Provinces. In 1921, Albertans abandoned the traditional Liberal-Conservative options for the United Farmers of Alberta. We once again turned away from the traditional by electing the Social Credit Party in 1936. It was only in 1971 that Albertans elected another political party into government that had connections to a traditional federal party in Ottawa.
Albertans have elected parties with large majorities since 1905, but it was only starting with the 1986 election that Alberta’s political environment began to closer resemble that of federal Ottawa by electing a large majority of PC MLAs, with a medium to minor opposition of Liberal and NDP MLAs. Other Western Provinces have abandoned the traditional PC-Liberal-NDP balance for a variety of two party systems. British Columbia has the conservative Liberals and social democratic NDP. Saskatchewan has the conservative Saskatchewan Party and the social democratic NDP. Manitoba has a balance between the PCs and NDP with a marginalized third-place Liberal Party.
After 24-years of traditional parties as the status-quo opposition, maybe Alberta is due for another change.