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.