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?