There may have been eighty three men and women (mostly men) sitting on the floor of the Legislative Assembly, but none made as much impact on the direction of the fall sitting than Dr. Raj Sherman. The medical doctor, first term MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark, and now-former Parliamentary Assistant for Health was ejected from the Progressive Conservative caucus after criticizing Premier Ed Stelmach and former Minister of Health Ron Liepert and became an overnight hero to Albertans frustrated with the healthcare system. Dr. Sherman became a one-man wrecking crew and probably inflicted more damage to the PC Party in a month than any of the opposition MLAs have done in the past five years.
With the fall sitting ended and assuming he will not resign as an MLA, the big question is: where does this now Independent MLA go from here?
Stay Independent: One of Dr. Sherman’s biggest strengths is that he is not interested in being a politician. He has gained an incredible amount of media attention since becoming an Independent and his shedding of partisan ties has helped solidify his credibility as a voice for the public healthcare system in the Assembly. The challenge for any Independent MLA is the lack of financial resources available to non-party MLAs. Dr. Sherman has ridden a wave of support while being publicly backed by all of the opposition parties and his medical colleagues, but how long will this last?
Rejoin the Progressive Conservatives: After being indefinitely suspended form the PC caucus, Energy Minister Liepert said that he would refuse to support Dr. Sherman’s return to the PC caucus unless he completely withdrew the criticisms he expressed in a November interview with the Edmonton Journal. Making it even less likely he will return to the PC caucus was the alleged whisper campaign begun by Edmonton-Rutherford PC MLA Fred Horne, who has taken over Dr. Sherman’s former role as Parliamentary Assistant for Health.
Sit with the Liberals: Previous to his election as a PC MLA, Dr. Sherman had supported former Ontario Education Minister Gerard Kennedy in his bid to lead the Liberal Party of Canada in 2006 and was courted to run for the Liberals before the 2008 election. As a moderate, Dr. Sherman would probably be comfortable sitting in Official Opposition Liberal caucus, and while I am sure that David Swann would be ecstatic to have him join their ranks recent polling showing that party falling to 19% support might make it a less than appealing jump.
Become the first Alberta Party MLA: As the first MLA for the Alberta Party, Dr. Sherman would have the opportunity to help shape and provide a voice for a new and growing political party that has attracted many political activists across the province (including many key organizers from Naheed Nenshi‘s Mayoral campaign in Calgary). Dr. Sherman would likely be blocked by Speaker Ken Kowalski from accessing many additional financial resources, a challenge that the Wildrose Alliance caucus has been forced to deal with.
Join the Wildrose Alliance MLA: If door is closed to rejoining the PC caucus, joining the four MLA Wildrose Alliance caucus might look like the best opportunity that Dr. Sherman has to becoming Minister of Health after the next election. The question would is could support the negative tone that Danielle Smith and her MLAs have taken towards the public healthcare system?
Make the New Democratic Party a trio: Dr. Sherman appeared with NDP MLA Brian Mason at a recent rally for public healthcare at the Legislature, but I would be very surprised if his politics lined up with the two MLA social democratic caucus. Next to rejoining the PCs, this might be the most least likely scenario.