Alberta Politics

not seeing the forest for the trees: swann’s departure will change little.

After a tumultuous two years as leader of Alberta’s Liberal Party, Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann announced that he will not lead his party into the next election, and that he will formally submit his resignation after the Spring Session of the Alberta Legislature.

Dr. Swann is a good person and one of the kindest souls in provincial politics. Realistically, he never stood a chance as his party’s leader despite these qualities. It would be easy to blame the dismal state of the Liberal Party on the outgoing leader, but there is a greater responsibility belonging to members of a party establishment who played a central role in creating a dysfunctional political culture.

Starting with the quick leadership contest after the party’s devastating result in the 2008 election, the party establishment opted for political expediency, rather than taking advantage of an opportunity to reflect on the party’s future and heal internal rifts. This expediency effectively eliminated any opportunity that the party had to attract potential outside candidates for leader, limiting the pool to a handful of current and former MLAs.

Dr. Swann took the leader’s chair with a mandate for change and quickly discovered that this desire for change was not shared by some MLAs and many in his party. The Party establishment’s strong connections to the federal Liberal Party and its unhealthy obsession with their party’s past successes are just two of the many psychological barriers that Dr. Swann would have immediately faced in his job.

You do not have to spend much time inside the Liberal Party to become aware of how iconized their successes in the 1993 election are. As many Albertans will remember, that election saw former Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore lead the Liberals to their best showing in decades. The establishment Liberal motto against large-scale change within their party – especially a name change – has centered around the 1993 vote. “We won 32 seats under Decore and we can do it again,” is something that I have heard countless times.

Dr. Swann faced an establishment of Liberal stalwarts who could not fathom the concept of moving away from their beloved party identity (and it really is their identity). By wrapping themselves in their party identity, the party establishment always knew they were right, even when they lost. Dr. Swann challenged this identity when he tried to change the party’s name and when he offered to cooperate with other parties.

With near religious vigor, the Liberal establishment has sought the perfect leader, and when their chosen one has not succeeded in the monumental task of defeating the strongest Progressive Conservative organization in Canada, they are undermined from within or simply driven out. Nick Taylor, Mr. Decore, Grant Mitchell, Nancy MacBeth, Ken Nicol, Kevin Taft, and now Dr. Swann all faced these internal divisions and saw their leadership undermined by the party establishment and their fellow MLAs because they could not appease it.

A quick change of leader may appear to be an easy fix, but the departure of Dr. Swann will not solve the internal problems that have created this dysfunctional political culture.

After being elbowed to the sideline by the growing narrative of the Wildrose Alliance as the next government-in-waiting, and the growth of the new Alberta Party, the Liberal Party’s biggest challenge in 2011 is to be relevant. The Liberals jumped too quickly to choose a new leader a year after the last election. Now they are stuck in the polls with a resigning leader one year before the next election.

UPDATE: The Edmonton Journal’s Paula Simons is reporting that Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman is weighing her options at running for either the Alberta Party or Liberal Party leadership. Meanwhile, Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald has taken the position that “The Alberta Liberal party was good enough for Laurence Decore, Bettie Hewes and Sheldon Chumir, and it’s good enough for me.”

62 replies on “not seeing the forest for the trees: swann’s departure will change little.”

Dave, your transition to Alberta Party apologist hasn’t been very pleasant.

I like to think the Dave Cournoyer who had not yet joined the Alberta Party would have been critical of accepting Dave Taylor. Would have been better than platitudes about the Alberta Liberal Party not being willing to change.

In fact, the Alberta Liberal Party reached out to other parties (including the Alberta Party) on cooperation and was rejected by THEM. The change offered by David Swann’s cooperation initiative was killed by those in your party, not his.

Name change was never brought forward by the supporters who got him into office, so your point on the party not being willing to change is unfounded, and baffling to me. But it’s also shallow. The Alberta Liberal Party has changed a lot since you left.

It’s younger, more modern. And willing to try new things. Ironically, posts like this remind us all the Alberta Party has just become politics as usual.

Alberta Radical:

Just to be clear. The Alberta Liberals have never reached out to the Alberta Party. The “Let’s Talk” story was nothing more than a full-page newspaper advertisement. At the time, the original intent I am sure was to work with the NDP.

Since (and before) that ad, no one from the Liberal Party has actually ever reached out to our leadership, either caucus or board. No telephone calls, no conversations, nothing.

There are thousands of great Liberal Party supporters, and each of them will have the chance to determine if they are best represented by the Liberals or another party. But it is disingenuous to suggest that our new party had anything to do with the failure of a Liberal initiative to “cooperate”.

Finally, I personally don’t think that cooperation would serve any benefit. It is based on the false pretense that the supporters of the Liberal Party are synonymous with Alberta Party supporters. Many would be aligned on certain values, but of course many are actually joining the Alberta Party because they don’t feel they would fit with the Alberta Liberals.

Hope this helps.

Chris LaBossiere
Alberta Party

Hi Chris,

As a person intimately involved with “Let’s Talk” initiative, I have to take you to task for the inaccuracies of your last statement. Not only was the Alberta Party Board of Directors sent email and physical copies of an appeal from David Swann to cooperate (You yourself tweeted about receiving the letter), I was personally charged with following up with the Alberta Party.

Email Correspondence between myself and then Vice-President Chima Nkemdirim and leader Edwin Erickson included a proposed agenda for a meeting between our organizations which we put together at your organization’s request.

We were told our request to meet would be addressed at the next Alberta Party Board Meeting. Upon querying about the Board’s decision after the date of the meeting by both phone and email, we were told there wasn’t time to bring it up, and it would be addressed at the following board meeting of the Alberta Party, and you’d get back to us.

To date, we’re still waiting.

Corey Hogan
Executive Director, Alberta Liberal Party

Chris LaBossiere

No ones reached out to you because your to busy blathering on about how much your listening.

To quote Chris Labossiere, “but the special influencers of the NDP (Union friendly and anti-business left wingers), and the smarter-than-the-average-Albertan egos of the Liberal Leadership, would never get this done.”

To repeat the comment of an anonymous contributor to his blog- “but such a description is hardly useful, is it?”

Same old same old defeatist Alberta politics. Labeling, generalizations, stereotyping, scapegoating blah blah blah. No wonder the Regressive Conservatives remain the government party. The fact is- ‘we [progressive persons] are the problem’. We allow it to happen, we allow it to continue to happen and if we are not the solution we are the problem. Drop the labels, drop the generalizations, drop the stereotypes and please stop scapegoating.

Corey, the Alberta Party does things differently. Did you and David Swann tweet the Alberta Party board? E-mails and physical letters are archaic communication methods, it only counts if done on Twitter. Or maybe a YouTube video.

In all seriousnesss though, I find it hard to believe that the Liberals would not have contacted the Alberta Party board. I can tell you from personal experience that they went as far as finding addresses and phone numbers of past NDP candidates and sent letters, e-mails and tried to contact by phone.
It doesn’t really make sense that they would have gone that far with the NDP and not contacted the Alberta Party at all.

@workeradvocate: Thanks for the comment. No, a description like that isn’t useful. I have had long conversations with Chris about his political beliefs and found him to be quite open-minded. People should be held accountable for their statements and they should also be able to change their minds. Take the disclaimer on the sidebar of this blog, for example:

“…my thoughts and opinions change from time to time. I consider this a necessary consequence of having an open mind. This blog is intended to provide a semi-permanent point in time snapshot and manifestation of the various ideas running around my brain, and as such any thoughts and opinions expressed within out-of-date posts may not be the same, nor even similar, to those I may hold today.”

One of the things I like the most about the Alberta Party is the ability for people to put aside their part party affiliations to work together to build a new alternative.

Corey and Chris: Thanks for the comments.

However sincere the newspaper advertisement was, it was a political move that was played too late.

Many of the people who have joined the Alberta Party, including many former Liberals like myself, had already moved on and did so because we did not want to wait for the traditional parties to change. We decided to create a new alternative on our own. So far we seem to be heading in the right direction.

Denny: Thanks for the comment.

For all the criticisms leveled against the Alberta Party for their use of social media, NDP leader Brian Mason’s comments are the silliest.

“The Alberta Party is selling snake oil by social media.”

“The Alberta Party thinks they can tweet themselves into government.”

All funny soundbites. But nothing constructive.

My favourite quote about Twitter comes from Harvard Law Professor Jonathan Zittrain, who insightfully reflected in the New York Times that “The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked are what makes it so powerful.” This is a pretty accurate statement. It’s inane and half-baked, but it is powerful.

It is my experience that social media tools like Twitter have been fairly successful ways for the Alberta Party to engage and recruit new members.

You are disgustingly incompetent, Daveberta. Do you even think while you’re typing up these blog posts, or do you just stare slack-jawed at the screen and let the vitriol spew freely from your fingers?

Hi Corey;

Although Chris did perhaps downplay the efforts your party made to reach out to the board, I think you’re inaccurate in saying we didn’t respond:

In any case, I think the most important point is the one that Chris raised in his comment: cooperation wouldn’t have worked and wouldn’t work because the potential pools of support for the Alberta Party and the Alberta Liberal Party aren’t congruent. We’re trying to cast a much wider net than the Liberals have been able to and I don’t think cooperating with your party would help move us toward that end.

Josh Kjenner


I’m one of those people who was a Liberal when Laurence Decore was the leader.

Of course you don’t know me, because as a younger man, I was marginalized at local meetings, and, began to see that the Alberta Liberal Party was the little brother trying to emulate the Federal Liberal Party. Rather than seeking out what Albertans wanted they were too busy accepting the kool-aid being served up by people like Jean Chretien and telling Albertans that THAT was what they SHOULD want.


I ended up being constituency President in the PC Party for several years before finally realizing that the party was devoid of new blood and new ideas and it was time to move on.

The Liberal party appears to be dead and dying – and refuses to find it’s way to the centre with a leader and a policy that answers the needs of the great unwashed – the average guy – so, now I sit with a Wild Rose membership in my pocket.

Of course, knowing the Liberal establishment as I do, I will simply be dismissed as another mentally disturbed neo-con, with narry a thought as to “why did he leave?”

Hence the current state of the Liberal Party of Alberta.

Hi Josh,

That response from the Alberta Party you mention was released the very day of the Alberta Liberal Party’s request. After receiving some pressure on social media for closing the door on us (live by the tweet, die by the tweet), the AP said they would consider meeting if they saw a specific agenda.

We provided, and we’ve been waiting since July 2010 for your response. It is inaccurate to say the Alberta Liberal Party killed the cooperation agenda. A lack of cooperation did.


You have shifted from “the Alberta Liberal Party won’t change” to “they changed, but too late”, and I count that as progress.

The membership and the Executive have been aggressive, and forward thinking. It is disappointing that the Alberta Party feels us being so would be mutually exclusive to them being so, because an honest assessment is that David eliminated many of the problems that you highlight.

Some of the things you point out, however, I don’t think are problems at all. A sense of history, optimism about what’s possible under difficult situations. These are good things.

Is there anyone left to lead the Liberals? Besides Swann and Taft I can’t name anyone who could be the next leader. Will one of these rich Liberal lawyers step up and run? Anyone?

Good posting Dave. I agree with many of your feelings towards the Liberal Party elites. Glad it finally happened. Swann is a good guy but he is not the next Premier of Alberta. The Liberals need to renew or completely fold. 80 years of trying is enough. Let the new kids give it a try.

Dave’s analysis is very apt, but mostly I find it interesting that the very existence of the Alberta Party really gets between the teeth of the Liberals. I wonder why that is?

I came to this province 3 years ago and quickly developed the belief that things needed to change at the provincial level. Initially I got involved with the provincial liberals but despite being a fan of my local MLA, I quickly realized that organizationally, and leadershipwise they were severely hindered. There seems to be a culture of opposition rather than a will and sense of realism about how to get into power (Power is NOT a dirty word). I had a hard time motivating myself to help them as I felt my efforst would be for naught.

Secondly, I am baffled by how many Liberals are attached like glue to the brand. What is more important, keeping a brand or actually getting something accomplished for the progressive voters in this province? At the end of the Day, Liberals, Alberta Party supporters, Greens and even some Red Tories & a few NDP should all be on the same side and I personally don’t care what we call it. This will require compromise however and the maturity to focus on common interests v.s turf wars and mud slinging. I hope that does not sound too naive or glassy-eyed idealistic.

AS for what gets between MY TEETH, it is non-constructive criticism from the people (including) Liberals who should be helping us! (especially those posting here, who are at a leadership level within the party).

I wish Liberals would see that their brand is seriously damaged in this province and have a snowballs chance in hell of forming government in the future. Come and join the moderates in the Alberta Party, there’s enough room in this tent you know… join us, let your party re-invent itself (or perish), and the NDP can pick up the slack on the left.


You are correct, and I should have mentioned the letter. I guess I was considered an extension of the political campaign started by the Newspaper Advertisement as we received it after the ad was released. None of our board, nor our leadership had received any outreach in advance of that advertisement.

I also know that even the green party directors (which was defunct at the time) had received a letter, so we had to assume that it was a blanket campaign, as opposed to a sincere effort that simply a phone call might have sufficed.

But more importantly, was the nature in which the Alberta Liberals were proposing to cooperate. Dr. Swann mentioned to me, and the room at Reboot Alberta 3, that the progressive parties needed to get behind the Liberals for 2012, and then each party could go their own way for 2016. We have always felt that was a political answer to a political problem.

It simply would be a slap in the face of the hundreds of volunteers and committed members, to attempt to shift their support from the Alberta Party to the Alberta Liberal party, when frankly they are completely different styles of organization.

Practically, it wouldn’t work either, as many of our supporters are as disenchanted with the Progressive Conservative party, and would not find it very comfortable suddenly supporting the Alberta Liberal Party, which frankly has not been very complimentary of both the PC Party, and those who support it.

I wish the Liberal brand in Alberta wasn’t suffering for the unfair reasons sometime applied to it, but this is not just about branding. This is about a complete ground-up change in culture and a bottom-up opportunity for Albertans to get engaged and actually drive change into a Party.

That isn’t going to happen within either the Liberal or Progressive Conservative parties, and so many of us feel we have to go all the way back to the beginning to find lasting success.

Bake it in as opposed to bolting it on, if you will.

the NDP are laughable, the liberals are hated, both are bloated bureaucracies, and both move too slow considering their small number of seats.

Based on your above statement and given the fact that you stated unequivocally earlier in the post that, “Just to be clear. The Alberta Liberals have never reached out to the Alberta Party.” it seems you owe us all an apology for being disingenious. I am someone with a lot of past experience in the ALP and think that the AP is the future of progressive politics in the province. Misleading comments from a party spokesperson such as yourself makes me question the ‘new tone’ that the AP is supposed to be about.

So, Chris LaBossiere, would Dave Taylor be considered a baked-in or a bolted-on?

And Reg, so the ALP is beaurocratic, bloated and too slow considering their small number of seats. Which implies that the Alberta Party is nimble. Maybe you should talk to Chris (just above you). He is into “a complete ground-up change in culture and a bottom-up opportunity.” Building a party from scratch. Seriously, do you think you’ll be ready for prime-time by Nov 2011? You can expect Ted Morton to call an election shortly after his coronation. This will likely happen within this year. Do you think you’ll have vetted candidates and functional riding organizations across the province by then?

If I sound cynical, it’s because the unstated dream of many posters here is that the ALP should just close its doors and its members should signup for the AP en mass. I’m not saying that that would be a bad or impossible thing. But beware of what you wish for. I don’t think this province has time for a bake-in. You had better be prepared for lots of bolt-ons. If not, the ALP will remain the only option for the next election.

By the time the AP finishes building itself do you think its policies will differ in any significant direction from David Swann’s ALP? You will no doubt claim that the AP will have some wonderful new democratic structures in it that will set it above and apart from the rest. A few years ago somebody else tried to build a movement with similar grass roots inclinations. His name was Preston Manning, and the successor to his party is the most centrally controlled party in history

Ted Morton as premier terrifies me. He will gut what little environmental controls and labour laws are left on the books. You can bet that private health insurance will be the order of the day by the time his first term is over. We have no time to dither.

I believe the Ab party has already proven it can zig and zag faster, and with less budget. We will see if it is a sustainable model in due course.


We received a form letter, like every other party, AFTER a full page ad was bought in each major daily basically trying to gain political points for being the owner of the “cooperation” meme.

It is disigneuois to think that they were leading the debate on cooperation. They were looking to make themselves more relevant, and look to be innovative. The problem is that is was a pure political play.

We are vastly different parties, with potentially some overlap of members, but certainly not the exact same 100%.

The first line of that advertisement stated that this was a once in a generation opportunity to defeat the Conservative Party of Alberta.

We feel that this Province was is filled with great Albertans who would call themselves Conservative, at least until they were presented with something else that they feel they could get behind.

If I offend some Liberals because they hold onto the false belief that all Conservative supporters are bad, well so be it.

This province needs answers, a bigger, better set of perspectives, and that will include Conservative voters who are moderate.

Excellent post, Dave, and one that has sparked spirited discussion.
Divided, the Wildrose and Alliance parties were barely blips on the political radar screen, but the merged Wildrose Alliance is a conservative alternative with a real shot at toppling the incumbent PCs. If the Official Opposition wants to make the next provincial election a three way race, they should drop the toxic “Liberal” brand and merge with (and under the name of) the Alberta Party to create a united, fiscally responsible, progressive alternative.
When CalgaryGrit said in his January 24 blog post, “a viable Alberta Party is certainly in the PCs’ best interest, as it carves up the ALP’s vote,” he was right — unless the Liberal and Alberta parties merge and hold a leadership contest for the new & improved, official opposition Alberta Party. So quit this bickering, get together, and get in the game!

CrescentHeightsGuy….indeed, the AP may not be ready by November 2011, but neither will the ALP and they have been at this for decades. THAT VERY FACT is one reason many of us are doing this. We are taking some initative to improve things. Of course we’re not going to get it completely right, but comparing us to the Federal Conservatives (your Preston Manning comment) is just ridiculous. Wake up, smell the coffee. Its being brewed by the AP, and unlike the pre-packaged instant stuff being offered by the ALP, ours is fresh! I encourage you come over, grab a mug and chat with us.

I’m scared sh1tl3ss Ted Morton wants to turn Alberta into Oklahoma. Tell me which party best equipped to fight him.

The Alberta Liberals – in spite of all the adversities – are around 20% in the polls. They have coherent and critically acclaimed policies on Education, Health, Balanced Budgets, and the Environment (check their website for details.) They are in the black (finally). They are the Official Opposition. They have riding organizations.

The AP has Dave Taylor. Some of their proponents claim the AP will be something “conservatives can get behind” (See Chris L, above). Others find comparisons with Preston Manning to be “ridiculous” (See Jeremy, above). One of these days they’ll have a platform. It will all come together after they totally re-invent the politics from the ground up. They don’t appear to be polling above 1%. Some claim the AP will grow its support from the legions of the undecided and apathetic. Others AP proponents spend their efforts courting the ALP members, while at the same time trashing the ALP.

Jeremy all but concedes that the AP will not be ready to fight the next election, but insists their coffee is fresh.

CrescentHeightsGuy. What do you think our motivations are? I can tell you that mine are sincere. I’m sorry, and I don;t mean this as a dig at the ALP, but in the last election, one in which there was much anger at the government, the ALP lost nearly half its caucus. The trend is not encouraging, surely you can concede that? We might actually stop the WAPers if people such as you CAME ON SIDE instead of flogging a dead horse….or in this case a Swann. Seriously, why do you hate us so much? Why do you resent us trying to build something new?

This is not a win at all costs election. When we all walk into the polling booth, in 2012 or 2013, we’ll decide who best represents us.

If the Alberta Liberals are the best choice at that time, then wonderful. Same for the Alberta Party or any other party for that matter.

Accept that the Alberta Party is it’s own unique party, different from any other, and compete on those terms.

Arguing that it should go away, or is not attractive to some Albertans, is a fools game. Put a better product on the table for Albertans to choose, and you will do just fine.

The Alberta Party is more than happy to campaign on our values and with our supporters. We will not do anything to trade their passion to another party to make the election “easier”.

What’s unique about the Alberta party is the ineptitude of its executive – thinking we live in some sort of utopian political fantasia.

you’re still avoiding my point. You may not have liked the ALP’s attempts at cooperation but they were attempts none-the-less. The reality is that it was probably deemed by the AP board that it was not in the best interest to play nice with the ALP and that’s okay, that’s politics. From a pure strategic point of view, I would even agree that the AP has more to gain in the long-run from not cozying up to the ALP. I guess all I’m saying is, be honest about it.

Another theme on here is the sense that the ALP should fold it’s tent into the AP and they both should fight the next election together. I would argue that this would be ideal in terms of eliminating vote splitting but, it probably won’t happen. Just reading this makes it clear that there’s too much bad blood on both sides right now. That being said, I think the next election might be the last with a divided right and offers the best hope of bringing about change that is in the public interest.

Here’s my challenge:
Chris, instead of fighting those on the ALP side, propose a method of bringing the two parties together. Their version of cooperation doesn’t sit well with you, so, propose your version. Start a dialogue and see where it leads. The ALP is effectively leadersless right now so there is an opportunity.
To those on the ALP side: be honest with yourselves. 26% popular vote last election garnered 9 seats. That result will be impossible to replicate this time around with more competition. The ‘Liberal’ brand is soured in this province and no amount of goodwill and pr will change that in my lifetime. You speak about your history. Look at the Social Credit party. They ruled the roost for decades and went extinct. It happens sometimes. If some greater good can come from loosing the ‘Liberal’ name, then so be it!

I don’t think the next election is just another election as Chris points out. There is a real opportunity to bring about positive change if we can find a way to work together.

Hi Jeremy.

“Why do you hate us so much?” Come on you big lug. I love you guys. Don’t confuse love with blindness. You wanna see hate, just read the sh1t they write about David Swann on this blog. I confess my love for David Swann, the province of Alberta, the poetry of Weyman Chan, and Ghostkeeper’s guitar playing is blinding.

Here’s a question for you. The province is running a 5 billion dollar debt. Do you keep running it indefinitely? Do you double university tuition? Do you raise royalties on Oil and Gas leases? Raise taxes on large corporations? Do you close psychiatric care beds? Do you revoke Stockwell Day’s flat personal tax, and reintroduce progressive taxation? Do you reintroduce monthly Alberta Health premiums? Do you expand private for-profit clinics to solve the crisis?

I don’t believe most of the AP have thought about boring stuff like this, and those that have thought about it likely disagree to the point that if it were put to a vote, it would tear your movement apart.

The tired, old, boring, farts in the ALP have actually thought about these things. It’s called policy and the AP doesn’t have one. Except they’re committed to discovering a new way of doing politics! And they’ve got Dave Taylor!

You write: We might actually stop the WAPers if people such as you CAME ON SIDE.

That works both ways. A year ago, you and three hundred friends could have joined the ALP, taken over the AGM, renamed it the New Appliance Party, demanded a leadership convention, and brought in the most super perfect leader from the most super perfect leader factory. Guess what? You can still do it this year.

I’m glad your sincere and your motives come from the highest places. Human nature being what it is, you feel the need to reinvent politics. You feel compelled to building your own party. Well, everyone needs a hobby. You’ll be at for ten years at least. And when you’re done, you’ll have created something that looks like the ALP, but with a different name. 10 years to build your own. Or one year to renovate the ALP.

You don’t think renovating the ALP is possible? David Swann went from total political outsider in 2004 to Leader of the Opposition in five years. Had he decided to start his own party he would still be an outsider. Instead he swallowed some pride and joined the ALP. Do you understand that? I love the guy, but admit he is not good at politics. Politically maladroit as he is, he managed a one-man take over of the party. If he had brought three hundred friends with him … well, for starters they would have changed the name of the party you hate so much.

10 years to build your own party. Or simply renovate the ALP.

Ted Morton wont wait for you.

Throw all the stones you care to at the Alberta Party and it’s organisers and supporters. Albertans will decide whether we are relevant or not.

I am a board member and an ex-Green. I received nothing from any Liberal source… nor to my knowledge did any of my board colleagues. I saw the newspaper ad that invitation came in… and thought Edwin Erickson’s response letter was appropriate to the very non-personal invitation from the Liberals.

I have respect for everyone involved in the democratic process in Alberta, regardless of their political stripe… as long as their motives are honest (many probably aren’t but that is not for me to decide for others).

Let’s all put out our respective policies and philosophies out there–vis-a-vis how we create a better Alberta–and then… let Albertans decide who is relevant and who is… less than relevant. I will accept that decision with pleasure.

The jealous sniping does little good. Albertans will do the deciding when the time comes.

Basically, both the ALP and Alberta Party want the same thing for Alberta – the end of the PC dynasty and a fresh, centrist alternative. Both have fairly similar policies. Both are full of well intentioned people.

Politics being politics, and our system being what it is, there’s no way both can survive long term. Hence the anymosity between the parties. To succeed, they both need the other to die.

My guess is it will take 2 or 3 elections to happen, but eventually one of the two will fade away, or there will be some kind of merger. Which is too bad, because with Smith and Morton spliting the right wing vote, there’s a real opening in Alberta right now.

From an outsider’s perspective, it seems to me all you people REALLY need is a mediator.

I suggest this, which could operate as a newspaper column: I will take one key person from each party, along with a progressive member of the PCs, for:

Bowling and one (1) beer each. I will bring paper and a pen, and a video camera.

I believe this ironing out of political differences would take one (1) hour, unless one (1) of the participants is a bowling hustler. So no (0) bowling hustlers will be invited.

I remember Wildrose and Alliance members sniping at each other just before they gave their collective heads a shake and merged three years ago, and now they’re the best bet to end the PC government’s 40 year regime. If it takes bowling and beer for ALP and Alberta Party principals to similarly come to their senses and join forces under the latter party’s moniker, progressive Albertans will owe Todd big time.

I like where this is going. Maybe the rest of us can enjoy a few wobblies and watch the game on a closed circuit television in the next room.

Todd, you are so right. And, in fact, the Alberta Democratic Renewal Project ( has tried for 2 years to be exactly that — a mediator — by asking the progressive parties to simply sit down and talk to each other.

On this particular topic (and if only this one) Rod Love is the voice of experience:

“How Canada’s left can get it right”

My question to any party or leaders who feel that they were never properly approached is, what’s stopping you from picking up the phone?

@Get Real

Because Chris Labossiemouth is to busy yacking away on it telling everyone how much he is listening

I agree with William Munsey but he is a brother so I also must confess that I am an Alberta Party member also. But that is not a bad thing. I honestly feel that we – the Alberta Party are the future of this province and that is a very good thing. Just look at the negativity of those who worship the old way of doing things in these blogs. Think about that. If you truly love Alberta you will join us.

It would be great if Todd Babiak’s idea would work. But it seems that in most constituencies in 2012, there will be several “progressive” candidates. For those who don’t think the differences among the AP, the LP, the NDP, and Vision 2012 are significant enough to let the Tories or WAP get elected in a “winnable” riding for a progressive, check in on, which the Democratic Renewal Project will be operating in the months leading to the election. We aren’t going to assess the progressiveness of candidates; we’re simply going to give objective info about the degree of support for candidates with an eventual “decision desk” naming of the candidate of the four not-so-far-right parties who is going to get the most votes. Then those who would like to vote strategically can do so (that’s lots of people, according to many polls) and those who don’t vote that way obviously can ignore us!

As for progressives in the Tory party, they really don’t matter, do they? The top-down nature of this party which is overall wed to neo-liberal views means that no one who runs for them should be seen as anything but a prospective puppet (unless one knows in advance that they are likely to pull a Raj Sherman or a Guy Boutilier and jump ship).

Thanks for the post, Dave. Dr. Swann should be congratulated for stepping up to the plate as a provincial politician, and doing his best in a job that would have been both difficult and thankless. I feel bad for the guy, and I hope he enjoys retirement.

As for the bickering comments, let me simply say that I don’t get it. I simply don’t. I don’t understand why the NDP, the Liberals and the Alberta Party supporters feel they have to vindicate their point of view and prove to each other that they really are the rightful opposition party of the province. The trick is that the majority of voters who aren’t already ardent supporters of one (or more) of these parties don’t care about the differences cited in the comments here.

And for those belabouring the concept of progressive cooperation, there are simpler and more informal means to counteract the worst waste of progressive competition. None of the three opposition parties can be competitive in 87 ridings, and none of them have the financial and human resources to mount real campaigns in each. If some gentlemanly coordination could prevent the AP, the ALP and the NDP from blowing all their meagre funds and volunteers on the same handful of urban ridings, I’d call that a win.

Hell, they could even try to talk to rural Albertans as well. Wouldn’t that be cool?

Aside from the likely dominant Tweedle-dee, Tweedle-dum contest between the Wildrose or the Tories, I’m very much looking to see how progressive voters in Alberta decide to vote during the next election.

It will be interesting to see, with all the dizzy uproar in Alberta politics these days, if they still cleave to the old, “my party is the best and only party” mantra, or whether they will, as the poster above suggests, spend their vote more pragmatically by choosing the progressive candidate who has the best — or only — chance of defeating the WR and Tory candidates, despite which of the 4 centre-left parties that candidate belongs to.

Aden, I’m not sure you’ve looked into what the original cooperative concept was – it was precisely designed so that the parties DIDN’T wastefully compete in all ridings and thus “blow” all their funds, but rather was suggested that they make strategic arrangements between themselves to run singly in selected ridings where they wouldn’t step on each others’ toes and thus allow the right wing to walk up the middle and take all as winner. Made common sense to me.

However, the parties turned down that option offered by Swann, so now we’re back stuck asking the voters to wade through the muddled mess of the 4 individual (but similar in many respects) parties, figuring out for themselves which candidate is most likely to defeat the Tory/Wildrose….. A real dog’s breakfast.

This may not be perfect but it’s an idea:
Have an election in each contested riding before the actual election. Have Liberal and Alberta Party candidates run in a sort of primary where the victor gets to run in the general election and the loser agrees not to run. This would eliminate the vote splitting and then after the general election the two caucuses could work together. It would be a one election trial.
This presupposes that the two parties are identical and we know that not to be true. But, they are close enough, as folks have pointed out, that cooperation of this sort should at least be on the table.
A primary would also help sell memberships or instead of selling memberships, you could simply ask people to register for the vote and their information could be shared by both parties.
I didn’t mention the ND’s here because they likely will never agree to something like this because of the national party.

Interesting idea, Todd. As the publisher of the blog where the entreaties were made, I would be very interested in joining this game of five-pin. I’m not an official representative of any party, but I do enjoy beer.

As someone who has been a member of both the Liberal Party and Alberta Party, I think there are some important differences to keep in mind. While there are many former Liberal who joined the Alberta Party, it is a more diverse group. A lot of Alberta Party members are Albertans who have left the PCs, NDs, Greens, and Independents because they see a need for a new political alternative. They have no interest in joining the Liberal Party or inheriting the political baggage of any current political party. It’s refreshing.

What time on Wednesday? I play soccer that night, so I hope the time works for me.

– Dave

Dave said: “A lot of Alberta Party members are Albertans who have left the PCs, NDs, Greens, and Independents because they see a need for a new political alternative.”

I am an example of someone who belonged to no political party, but joined the Alberta Party to try and make a difference in our provice. (I didn’t come from Nenshi’s campaign, either.) I was talking with another Alberta Party member who was an Alberta Liberal for a number of years more as a protest against the Tories. From my inexperienced vantage point, the defining difference between the AP and ALP is the culture, bottom-up vs top-down. And it’s the bottom-up organizing, if it works, that got me involved and that makes me think the Alberta Party might (just might) not embarass ourselves in the next election.

Hey Todd;

I sit on the Alberta Party’s provincial executive. If you’re going to be doing some bowling next week, I would be your Alberta Party guy. I will warn you in advance that I am a horrible bowler.

Josh Kjenner

Hi everyone:

I think Todd’ suggestion is excellent. More than ever, we need all of the progressives to sit down and have a discussion. After reading this entire board, I feel a new level of cynicism that progressives will never make an impact in Alberta, except to bicker with each other over who is more progressive.

Last fall, I met with Alvin Finkel to hear about the democratic renewal project and I think this approach is the most logical. One major concern of mine has been that any progressive that considers an alternative to their “chosen” party becomes a disloyal enemy, instantly. To me, it is difficult to distinguish between the NDP, ALP or AP anymore, other than each one thinks they are the best one to represent Albertans. Once people feel safe to consider other options and that their good reputations won’t be destroyed by simply being open to what another party has to offer, progressives can then claim a legitimate shift in the political climate.

It is one of the best times to unite. Politics is politics, and I don’t know how the AP is going to be able to distinguish itself from the NDP or the ALP by claiming to be “different.” Chris and the other AP members have only proved on this comment board that each party is the same when it comes down to it. You’d all prefer to argue with each other over whether a letter was sent or wasn’t sent than form a coalition to fight against what you fundamentally oppose.

Please meet and talk! All three parties are filled with smart, interesting people that have similar visions for the province. One request though: Please include some females in your discussions as you are also perpetuating the typical non-progressive model by having mostly male representatives (at least as far as I can tell by the names on this board).

Good luck!

So let’s keep fragmenting and marginalizing the progressive vote and our next premier will be TED MORTON.

The fact is- ‘we [progressive persons] are the problem’. We allow it to happen, we allow it to continue to happen and if we are not the solution we are the problem. Drop the labels, drop the generalizations, drop the stereotypes and please stop scapegoating.

There is a huge difference between fielding and electing candidates. Cooperation in targeted constituencies is the key to success and ‘non-compete’ will ensure the election of more progressive candidates including, democrats, greens, and the alberta party.

So a suggestion. Democratic reform. The first step must be taken. So….

David Eggen is a creative, credible progressive person who can and will represent the progressive spectrum of political principle.

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