Alberta Politics

kevin taft leaving big shoes to fill in riverview.

The Alberta Legislature will lose one of its brightest MLAs when the next election is held. Three-term Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft has announced that he will not seek re-election.

In an election that saw the most high-profile Liberal MLAs go down in defeat, first-time candidate Dr. Taft defeated a Tory star candidate and increased his party’s margin from the previous election. He was the only rookie MLA to be elected in the 2001 election.

As Official Opposition leader and health critic, Dr. Taft has easily been one of the most focused and effective opposition MLAs in the Assembly.

I first met Dr. Taft in 2000 and he played a big role in why I was involved in the Liberal Party for eight years. During my time as Communications Coordinator with the Liberals I worked closely with Dr. Taft and got to better understand his passion for our province’s future. On March 3, 2008, I spent election day in the Riverview campaign office helping get out the vote for Dr. Taft. Both at the doors and on the phone I was constantly surprised at the level of support and respect that he received from his constituents.

With (maybe) two years until the next election, I suspect that the Tories will be counting the days until they no longer have such a focused and relentless health critic in the Official Opposition benches.

What is next for Riverview?

The departure of Dr. Taft in the next election could open up Riverview into a competitive campaign in 2011/2012. Under normal circumstances I would predict that Riverview will remain the strong Liberal-held constituency that it has been since it was created in 1997, but the political environment is shifting and polls are showing that these are not normal political circumstances.

The Liberals will need to nominate a good candidate and run another strong campaign in Riverview in order to fend off a predictably well-financed Progressive Conservative challenge or an insurgent New Democrat candidate. Welcome to battleground Riverview?

21 replies on “kevin taft leaving big shoes to fill in riverview.”

The Wildrose Alliance will easily win this seat, especially with Danielle Smith’s popular opposition to the closure of the airport in Edmonton. The Liberals will be lucky to get 1 or 2 seats, tops, against the Wildrose in Edmonton.

Absolutely a battleground in the next election. With Taft gone and a not-as-stable Riverview Liberal Association (with the constit President stepping down and all), its a real toss up.

One thought that keeps coming across my mind is Linda Duncan running for the NDP here if she loses in the next federal election. Not sure how plausible it is, but she could make a good run here – Liberal votes east of the river could easily swing to her.

Kevin’s departure is certainly a loss to the Alberta Legislature, and it’ll be hard to find a candidate of Kevin’s calibre for Riverview. He’s an incredibly smart guy who got into politics for all the right reasons – to serve the public and try to build a better province.

I’m not as pessimistic (or perhaps optimistic, from his point of view) as Ernie. Despite Kevin’s departure from provincial politics, all the polls I’ve seen seem to indicate that the Liberals have a very good shot of doing well in Edmonton. Of course, in the end it all depends on the effectiveness of the election campaign…

This is sad news, though not surprising. Kevin has been a stalwart democrat, and has always maintained unparalleled integrity. Hopefully he will remain involved in the fight to renew democracy in Alberta.

“Danielle Smith’s popular opposition to the closure of the airport in Edmonton”

WTF? Wildrose may indeed do well in Edmonton, but everyone I know thinks Smith’s airport comments made her look like a clueless buffoon. Particularly, her assertion that a full democratic debate is in order — after decades of endless democratic debate.

As with Dave, Kevin was the main reason I got involved with the Libs. Pity his personality never really came across with voters. People always seemed amazed when I described him as warm and funny.

“As Official Opposition leader and health critic, Dr. Taft has easily been one of the most focused and effective opposition MLAs in the Assembly.”

You forgot to mention how well he translated that into “winning seats”.

I can only assume that ernie is a rural voter. It’s laughable that wildrose will win in Riverview.

It is really too bad that Albertan’s are complacent and don’t vote. They missed the opportunity to have the Province run by Dr. Taft. He was are best option in a very long time. Someone with brains and compassion. He will be sadly missed in the political arena in Alberta.

Riverview is probably one of the constituencies least likely to go Wildrose and they may likely play the role of spoiler. The latest Edmonton-Centre federal Conservative newsletter highlighted two volunteers who were also board members on the Riverview Wildrose Association, so it is not as if they don’t have support among conservatives in that constituency.

I am sure that the Liberals will pull out all their guns to hold Riverview in the next election and seek to nominate a high profile candidate to succeed Kevin Taft. The Liberals have a very strong base in Riverview and like Rutherford and Mill Woods, this would be one of the seats that the Liberals may benefit from vote-spiting between the PCs and Wildrose.

All that said, with no incumbent, past results may be less of a predictor of future results at this point.

At this point I wouldn’t bet that there are any safe Liberal seats in Alberta at the moment.

Blake: Linda Duncan would be an interesting choice as an provincial NDP candidate. I know that Ryan Hastman is running a strong campaign in federal Strathcona, so it won’t be a shock if Duncan were defeated in the next federal election. The east side of Riverview includes some of her strongest neighbourhoods of support (the strongest NDP polls are in Rachel Notley’s Edmonton-Strathcona constituency). I could see Riverview becoming a seat to target, but without a high-profile candidate I have a difficult time imagining the NDP expanding their voter-based under their current leadership.

It was with great interest and approval that I read Taft’s book, Shredding the Public Interest, in the late ’90s, but I was highly disappointed when he decided to enter electoral politics as a Liberal. The book made several points about Alberta politics that led the reader to believe he was more aligned with the NDP.

The D in Brian D’s name is for delusional. Riverview will still elect a liberal but perhaps with a smaller margin.

Whatever the opinion of “Brian D”, Brian Dell’s opinion is that the odds of Wildrose winning any particular seat in Edmonton right now is probably less than 50%.

That said, the NDP won two with 18% of the Edmonton vote in 2008 and four with 22% in 2004, and if an election was tomorrow could probably win four with as little as 16% of the vote because the PCs are unlikely to hang on to Calder and Beverly-Clareview this time around with Wildrose in the mix.

Recent polling has Wildrose tied or ahead of the NDP in Edmonton but the dynamic may be more challenging for Wildrose, or at least more unknown. A lot of voters of the same type that vote NDP on Rachel Notley’s side of Strathcona vote Liberal on Kevin Taft’s side. Voters of the Wildrose “type” don’t appear to be as well sorted out.

Brian Dell: Thanks for the comment. I think any Wildrose success in Edmonton may depend on their ability to focus resources in a certain number of targeted constituencies. The NDP have mastered this ability (albeit only in 4-5 constituencies) which I think may be similar to the Wildrose campaign in the Calgary-Glenmore by-election.

Interestingly, I would suggest that some of the ridings that the Wildrose may have the most potential in Edmonton might also be the constituencies that the NDP do well in. Highlands-Norwood, Beverly-Clareview, and Calder might be the kind of blue-collar working class constituencies that might be responsive to the anti-establishment Wildrose policies.

Edmonton, not just Riverview, is going to be very interesting to watch with things like the DRP and the vote-splitting on the right.

The way I look at it, let Calgary and Fort McMurray vote Alliance, Edmonton votes Liberal with 3 or 4 NDs on the side, and the rest of Alberta still votes PC (tough to kick a habit)! You end up with a humbled government (that would be a welcome change) and a strong opposition (another welcome change) and see where you go from there.

“Riverview is probably one of the constituencies least likely to go Wildrose and they may likely play the role of spoiler.”

Dunno Dave – I think that, N/W/S the historic voting patterns, the riding is probably about evenly split between left and right – leaning voters. The fact it’s gone Liberal recently is probably attributable more to Taft’s appeal to moderate conservatives than the left dominating. Put another way, I think if the Liberals would have had a weaker candidate than Taft and the Conservatives would have had a stronger candidate than (IIRC) Wendy Andrews, the results would have been much closer.

So what’s the likely scenario next election? Well, the Libs will be very hard pressed to come up with a candidate remotely as strong as Taft and the NDP, sensing an opportunity, will try to come up with someone along the lines of a Linda Duncan to try to take advantage. If the Tories stick with the same “underwhelming” candidate from the last election (Wendy Andrews, IIRC), it seems to me this is riding where the Wildrose actually stand a very good chance, depending entirely, of course, on who they decide to nominate.

Dave, as long as the WAP leader Danielle Smith keeps throwing her political capital at issues like keeping the rich folks city centre airport open then I can not see her party contesting well in any of the blue collar ridings that typically go NDP.

I think the WAP has been showing us for some time that while many of us thought they were anti-establishment, they’re ready acceptance of former PC MLAs and the pushing of policies that benefit only big business and the rich shows them to just be a little league version of the PCs, and a less well rounded one at that.

Look for the WAP to do best in Edmonton in those suburban ridings where questionable PC MLAs reside. Places like Mill Woods, Ellerslie and McClung. If the WAP places strong candidates into those ridings then right of centre voters may migrate away from their seemingly useless PC backbenchers.

I’m more inclined to think Gil McGowan might seek Riverview… Not sure if young Hastman will connect this time in wake of Jafferness…

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