Alberta Politics

hugh macdonald enters the race. frustrated liberals debated holding early july leadership vote.

Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald speaks at a December 2010 rally.
Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald delivers a raucous speech at a 2010 rally.

As predicted on this blog months ago, four-term Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald has entered the Liberal Party leadership contest, scheduled to culminate on September 10. A religiously partisan Liberal to the Nth degree, Mr. MacDonald is known as much for being a hard-working MLA as he is for his obsession with discovering scandal in the PC government.

Mr. MacDonald’s entry into the Liberal contest comes only weeks after the party faced some serious divisions at its Board of Directors meeting in Red Deer on May 7. At the meeting, a raucous discussion was held about the timing of the leadership contest.

A number of Liberal members approached this blogger after the May 7 Board meeting, venting their frustration after former leader and Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft (who did not attend the meeting) wrote an email in which he raised concerns about the party being behind on election preparedness. Mr. MacDonald read the letter at the Board meeting in Dr. Taft’s absence.

I am told that Dr. Taft’s letter set the stage for a raucous discussion about moving the leadership vote from September 10, 2011 to early July 2011 in order to allow more time to prepare for the next general election, which is expected as early as November 2011. I am told that the early date was supported by Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman, who is also seeking the party leadership.

According to people at the meeting, PC MLA turned Liberal leadership candidate Raj Sherman supported the September 2011 date, noting the challenges of trying to hold a leadership convention on the same weekend as the Calgary Stampede.

Also supporting the September date was nominated Calgary-Varsity candidate Bruce Payne, who is expected to enter the leadership contest. Mr. Payne is said to have delivered a speech about how summer is the greatest time for the three contenders to “storm the province and create excitement.”

In the end, the political veterans defeated and it was decided that the vote be held on September 10.

When contacted by this blogger, Liberal Party Executive Director Corey Hogan said via email that while he is obviously “not happy using 2008 as a benchmarkh”, his Party is in similar financial and organizational position to where it was a month before the last provincial election.

The Liberal Party is facing some awkward timing. Many frustrated Liberals I have spoken with now admit that it was a strategic error to hold a leadership contest in December 2008, so soon after that Party lost half its MLAs in that year’s election. Had waited longer they may have attracted a more diverse field of candidates than they did that year.

Unlike 2008, when they held the contest too soon when the party had plenty of time, in 2011 that Party is now holding a leadership contest late when it is does not have the luxury of having plenty of time on its side.

13 replies on “hugh macdonald enters the race. frustrated liberals debated holding early july leadership vote.”

Bah. July, September it doesn’t matter. The Liberals are going to get clobbered in the next election. Anyone who thinks different is delusional.

To be fair, one person’s “raucous discussion” is another’s candid and worthwhile debate. And AB Partiers love discussion!

I was at that Board Meeting and it was really well attended, conversation was lively, and I think, for the most part, people walked away confident that everything that needed to be thought about and talked about was.

Finally, and while I understand you weren’t there, your account here, with its focus on what the big personalities (i.e. Caucus and Bruce) had to say, isn’t a reflection of the conversation that happened. Yeah, they all spoke to the issues at hand, but so did 80% of the Board who are volunteers and just regular folks giving up a weekend day.

Anyways, point is, the meeting was great.

And we’ve got four solid leadership candidates, all selling memberships, building constituencies, honing skills, etc, etc. I couldn’t be happier.

Although I don’t know him well, what I do know of Hugh MacDonald makes me think that he is a solid, hard working man of principle. I wish him success in this contest.

This blog post is at best a gross distortion of what happened at the meeting. Some elected MLA’s with a personal agenda tried to push that agenda at the meeting. They were almost completely rejected by the party executive.
You imply that there was dissension and dispute at the meeting or that the vote was close. This is far from the truth. The vote was about 40 to 7 in favour of the September vote in fact the only people voting in favour of the early vote were some MLA’s and their close supporters. The party as a whole was united and of one mind. What you have here is sour grapes by the people who made no effort to convince people prior to the meeting, in fact I imagine the “A number of Liberal members approached this blogger after the May 7 Board meeting, venting their frustration” are the 7 who lost. I further imagine that they are specifically the two Edmonton MLA’s who found themselves on the receiving end of a drubbing after expecting the party to respond with “how high sir” after they said to jump.
I think Dave that you are being used completely here and I really have to wonder at the party loyalty of people using an Alberta Party spokesperson to attempt to fabricate dirty laundry. In fact I don’t see how people can expect to lead a party they are so willing to throw under a bus with the aid of a hostile blogger.
In regards to Kevin’s email I find it ironic that a email which has in it, a plea to be kept confidential and discreet has been read out loud at a basically public meeting, including ironically the section asking for it to be kept confidential and now is showing up discussed on your blog, again I have to wonder at the motives of those leaking this email. An email that is in fact wrong in its assumptions. The party is demonstrably in better shape going into an election than it was in 2008; a time when you were working on election readiness weren’t you Dave? The party has more money, equivalent number of nominated candidates, better organization and ah…shall we say firmer grasp of reality then in 2008.
I would ask all loyal “religiously partisan” Liberals to quit trying to score political points internally by fabricating stories of internal conflict and leaking them to fierily partisan Alberta Party bloggers and rather work hard for a change to convince people of the merit of their positions so that they have a chance of winning in an open vote, that would after all, be democracy.

I am not surprised, but I am happy with Hugh MacDonald’s choice to enter the race. I think people will see a real divide between the very left leaning Laurie Blakeman and the more center of the road candidate Hugh MacDonald. As far as election readiness, it won’t matter when the ALP gets this underway. The party is pretty much still broke and fundraising in the summer with people away is very difficult. I think its really up to the conservatives choice in leader to see if the Liberals can present a progressive alternative. My only fear is that if the fall out from a MacDonald victory would push Blakeman supporters away from the Liberals over to the NDP.

The odds of Laurie Blakeman or Hugh Macdonald winning are about 1% and 5% respectivly. They are so out of touch with the party base it is ridiculous

Hi Matt and Neil – thanks for the comments. I’ve spoken with people on both sides of this debate (some supported the July date and some the September date). They all expressed frustration about the leadership date debate and the way both sides presented their arguments for or against the September date.

I’m sure it was a good debate, but it becomes notable (and blogworthy) when the leadership candidates take such strong positions on this kind of issue.

The question of if the Liberals are in better shape than they were in 2008 is mute. The political environment is a much different place than it was three years ago. The PCs do not have a leader, the Liberals have been eclipsed in the polls by the new second place Wildrose and are also without a leader less than a year before a general election. That makes it much different. Is it better or worse? I guess we’ll see.


PS. Neil: I am not a spokesperson for any political party, are you?

Hey Dave,

I wasn’t suggesting you shouldn’t write about it. Just throwing out my own observations about the meeting. We all have our angles in how we see and report things.

Hope you had a good long weekend.


Dave – well now I AM disappointed, I was hoping to hear all the “news” from the Alberta Party Leadership Convention underway in Edmonton this weekend (May 28 & 29th) – social media seems exceptionally quite on this event AND on the respective Leadership contestants. Can you fill us in? The website for the Alberta Party gives very little information. Are they live streaming anything? Who are the keynote speakers? Just asking.
Fran Irwin, Medicine Hat

Hi Fran – thanks for the comment. I did attend the Alberta Party leadership candidate forum last night. I should have something about it up tonight. Life gets in the way of blogging sometimes. 😉



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