Alberta Politics

a look at the alberta liberal leadership candidates.

You might be forgiven if you have not paid much attention to the Alberta Liberal Party leadership contest, which is currently under way. The Liberal contest is not as exciting as the Progressive Conservative’s leadership contest, as flashy as the Wildrose (now minus the Alliance), or intriguing as the new Alberta Party, but it is important enough not to ignore. The Liberal Party is still the Official Opposition and while it has taken a beating in the polls and public image over the past few years, its next leader will play a role in the next provincial election.

Here is a look at the candidates for their leadership:

Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman
Laurie Blakeman

Laurie Blakeman
Slogan: Laurie4Leader
Elected Experience: MLA for Edmonton-Centre from 1997 to the present.
Background: Laurie Blakeman is known as a vocal and unrelenting critic of the governing Tories. As Deputy Leader under party leaders Kevin Taft and David Swann, she also served as critic for Finance, the Environment, and Culture.

Her strong views as an unapologetic feminist representing Edmonton’s densest urban constituency have made her an enemy to many conservatives, but her skills as Opposition House Leader have gained her respect from some Tory MLAs across the floor. She is also one half of Edmonton’s political power couple, her husband is Ward 8 City Councillor Ben Henderson.

In 1998, Ms. Blakeman supported then-MLA Linda Sloan‘s leadership bid. She declined to run for her party’s leadership in 2004, telling the Globe & Mail that “she doesn’t have the fire in her belly to run” and again in 2008 admitting that fundraising was not her strength. Earlier this year she publicly mused about joining the Alberta Party, but instead decided to seek the Liberal Party leadership.

(Disclaimer: I like Laurie Blakeman have volunteered for her election campaigns in 2004 and 2008).

Liberal candidate Bill Harvey
Bill Harvey

Bill Harvey
Slogan: Returning to responsible government
Elected Experience: Liberal candidate in Calgary-East in 2004 and 2008.
Background: Calgary financial advisor Bill Harvey entered the leadership contest this week with a message that Liberals need to return to their past roots to succeed in the future. The main message on his website reminds Liberals of their 1990’s glory days under former leader Laurence Decore and is peppered with fiscal conservative language.

In 2008, he ran a “law and order” and “tough on crime” focused campaign, which earned him an endorsement by Craig Chandler‘s hyper-conservative Progressive Group for Independent Business. His website says that he will be releasing a detailed platform later this month.

Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald
Hugh MacDonald

Hugh MacDonald
Slogan: None
Elected experience: MLA for Edmonton-Gold Bar from 1997 to present
Background: Since stepping into his role as the opposition labour critic during his first-term and making headlines over the government’s shaky handling of rotting pine shakes roofing and lack of whistle-blower protection, Hugh MacDonald earned a reputation as a dogged critic of the Tories. As Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, his focus on uncovering Tory scandals sometimes makes him appear on the verge of paranoia, but he is relentless and hardworking. It is not uncommon to see Mr. MacDonald buried in books, doing his own research in the Legislature Library.

Mr. MacDonald is a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal partisan. Even if the Liberal Party is wiped off the political map in the next election, Hugh MacDonald will fight to the end (clasping a battle-axe in one hand while caped in blood-soaked battle armour under a Liberal Party flag). Inside the Liberal Party, Mr. MacDonald appeals to the stalwart crowd who believe that it is not the Liberal brand that has damaged their party, but that party members who have not adhered enough loyalty to the Liberal brand are responsible for the party’s 80 years of electoral defeat.

Mr. MacDonald has the endorsements of former party leaders Nick Taylor and Ken Nicol and former MLAs Bill Bonner and Yolande Gagnon.

Bruce Payne Liberal candidate
Bruce Payne

Bruce Payne
Slogan: 87 Strong
Elected experience: Nominated as the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Varsity
Background: An unknown outside some Calgary political circles, it is difficult to know whether Bruce Payne is actually a serious candidate in this contest.

A long-time union leader, in 2007 he led the 6,000 southern Alberta carpenters union as it and seven other construction unions threatened Alberta’s first multi-trade strike in almost 30 years. He was later the Spokesperson for the Alberta and Northwest Territories Regional Council of Carpenters and Allied Workers and President of the Building Trades of Alberta Southern Council.

His 87 Strong slogan is in reference to the 87 constituencies that will be created when the next election is called. His campaign also takes a shot at the current Liberal MLAs and their tendency to attack the Tories for every “scandals, faux-pas, screw-ups, miscues and arrogant decisions” without a long-term strategy.

His campaign manager is the former Liberal Caucus communications director Neil Mackie, who departed from his job at the Assembly earlier this year.

Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman Independent Liberal
Raj Sherman

Raj Sherman
Slogan: None
Elected experience: MLA Edmonton-Meadowlark from 2008 to present
Background: Former Tory MLA Raj Sherman could be both the wildcard and the front-runner in this contest. Six months ago he wanted nothing to do with the Liberal Party as he sat in the PC caucus as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health & Wellness. Since writing the bluntly-worded email that led to hm being kicked out of the PC caucus, Dr. Sherman has attained a folk hero status among many Albertans.

After opening up their leadership vote to any Albertan without having to purchase a membership, I have a difficult time seeing Dr. Sherman as anything but the front-runner in this contest.

Although his opponents will criticize him for switching parties, it is hard to believe that Dr. Sherman has ever actually “belonged” to any political party. On February 13, 2008 PC candidate Dr. Sherman told the Edmonton Journal, “Ideas belong to society, they don’t belong to a party. For me, it wasn’t so much about parties as about getting the idea to the people who make decisions.”

Dr. Sherman has the support of former MLA Bharat Agnihotri, and I have been told that Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr and Calgary-McCall MLA Darshan Kang are lending their support to his campaign.

Not yet entered the contest:

There may be a sixth candidate to enter this contest. Word on the street is that the executive of a medium-sized Calgary-based energy company may announce his candidacy next week.

24 replies on “a look at the alberta liberal leadership candidates.”

God, you’re the worst. You didn’t feel like it was worth mentioning the thousands of new people who have registered to vote in the contest in the past few weeks?

Flintstone…I agree. Everything about the preamble is a bit ridiculous in this article.

Paraphrase: The PCs, Wildrose, Alberta Party leaderships have been awesome…but remember those Alberta liberal people are having a leadership. And though it may suck, and they may suck you should maybe watch it.

No mention of the thousands of new supporters in the last month, and the 25% rise in membership on top of that.

For god sake we signed up more members in three weeks of a leadership contest than the Alberta party did in the whole of their campaign.

Great post Dave. Don’t worry about the naysayers. Compared to the Tory race it is quiet and overshadowed. A snoozer.

Raj Sherman is the only option in this race. Hugh and Laurie have been key players in a losing team for 15 years. It’s time for new blood in the Liberal Party.

How can we trust Raj Sherman to be loyal to any party after what he did to the PC’s who elected him?

Thanks for all the comments.

Nancy: The PC leadership contest aside, I did not suggest that the leadership contests of all those other parties were exciting (in fact, readers of this blog will know that I wrote that I thought the Alberta Party leadership contest was underwhelming).

Signing up new members is par for the course in a leadership contest and it is silly to compare the Liberals to the Alberta Party. One has existed for 106 years, the other barely existed a year ago. The PCs will sign up +150,000 paying members, the Wildrose Alliance has 25,000 payed members. That is what they need to compare themselves with.

Yes Dave, but you claim that the race is not as “intriguing” as the Alberta Party race. I’m not really sure who outside of the Alberta Party would find that race any more “intriguing” than the Liberal race.

Doesn’t matter who wins. The Wildrose will be wiped off the map in all 87 constituencies – especially if they keep Smith as their leader.

Dave, I will directly quote what you wrote in the first paragraph of this post, “The Liberal contest is not as exciting as the Progressive Conservative’s leadership contest, as flashy as the Wildrose (now minus the Alliance), or intriguing as the new Alberta Party, but it is important enough not to ignore.”

So you may not have claimed that the Alberta Party race was intriguing – but that’s not what I said. In this post you claimed that the Liberal race is less intriguing than the Alberta Party race was, which is what I disagreed with.

Hi Denny- thanks for the comment. Now I understand what you mean. To clarify, when I referred to the Wildrose and the Alberta Party in the first paragraph, I was not referring to their leadership contests. I was referring to the buzz and amount of attention they have been recieving and generating. I can see now how you might read it otherwise.

I think it’s funny that people come to your blog and then complain about it having your bias, Dave. I like it, even if I don’t share your view on certain matters (the AB Party in particular). Keep up the good work.

As someone unaffiliated with the lot of them right now, I see a close race shaping up to be the Official Opposition. I think Wild Rose will compete in many seats in southern AB and Calgary, but probably only win between 10-20 in this next election. That puts them neck and neck with the Liberals usual #’s, so it will be a very close race for that coveted second place. Wildrose is just too extreme to compete for government right now, and they’re about to face the same hardship all the others have; that being a PC party adept at jetisoning a bad leader and winning big under a fresh new face at just the right time. They always manage it.

The worst possible leader for the PC’s would be Gary Mar. I doubt he makes it to the second ballot. He may as well run for Liberal leader as that party is closest to his beliefs.

Dave’s right – the Wildrose number of eligible voters must be, and is, the new target for this summer (though the final target for this September has a different and obvious party in mind). The ALP leader needs a mandate that reflects the fact that they lead the centrist and accountable alternative to this Tory government. Our eligible voters are already comfortably in the thousands; it’s time to get into a 5-digit (or 6-digit) mentality, and organize and plan accordingly.

Great overview of the Liberal candidates Dave. I agree with your take on Raj Sherman. He may take it on the Friends of the Liberals vote, however I wonder whether he has the broad strategic vision that the Liberals need right now to make the most of this opportunity.

Will you be doing an overview of the PC candidates as well? I’d love to see your comments on the bookend candidates (Ted Morton at one end and Alison Redford/Doug Griffiths at the other).

I agree with Brian Runge. The Wildrose is in a lot of trouble.

Smith is a closet Progressive and has begun purging the Conservative base examples of that have been purging the Alliance name Adopting Pink as the color.

We’ve seen that with internal rigging of nominations in favor of Smith’s chosen ones.

Smith stupidly hiring Stephen Carter twice and allowing him to take off with membership lists, Vitor Marciano no longer being the executive director in favor of Shane Saskiw.

Bringing NDP people in the party like Bob McInnis and former NDP candidate Tim Guilbault

Candidates like Happy Man who was involved with a company solely based on real estate fraud and the same old Calgary-Montrose P.C. gang being allowed to do the same old dirty politics into the alliance

Smith hasn’t treated the old base that founded the party very well and she hasn’t treated the Conservative base that helped get her elected very well.

A real internal battle is brewing and will be coming soon as Rob Anderson and his people are slowly taking over the executive, we saw that with the openly endorsed Rob Anderson slate at the 2011 AGM

I think any fair reading of what you wrote has you calling the AP leadership race interesting. I realize you have been mildly critical in other blog posts but you kind of had to to maintain any credability at all.
I also like the fact that you implied my candidate was not serious when he was the first person who expressed interest in running and announced his run by calling 10K IDed Alberta liberals to have a telephone town hall with them, the first candidate to make any attempt at mass outreach of any type.
Something your other “serious” candidates have yet to do. Not even any mass emails from any of the others.
Bruce is also the only one with any plan at all to revive and rebuild the party. I like how you reduce this to “taking a shot” at the MLA’s. The campaign theme is 87 Strong because our campaign is about the party. I encourage everyone to go and read the plan, it is not amazing but it is good solid ideas to make the party more democratic and more relevent. Remember Bruce was the candidate who really pushed for the constitutional changes and for a long race. Bruce was the guy who put his Parties interests ahead of trying to game the system to win. If you look at the other candidates “Laurie 4 Leader, Vote Hugh, Team Raj” it is all about them and a cult of personality. The 87 Strong theme is a deliberate attempt to show that this campaign is about memebers and supporters not about the ego of an individual.

I know you are supporting Laurie cause you are part of the “super secret cabel” planning on merging what you think is worth saving from the ALP with the “interesting” (LOL) AP. Laurie is the whole stealth merger candidate. I also don’t think that you get to knife 2 different leaders and then run the party, how can you ever expect loyalty when you have that history.

I agree with Matt, we need to look at selling real numbers. Bruce is the only candidatge out there trying to broaden the tent. The goal of the 87 Strong campaign is to sign up 11,671 members and supporters. One more then the WAP had in their whole race. I guess that goal will tell you how serious he is.
Dave, cut out the cheap shots, your better then that…as I told you in that email, we are going to turn the ALP back into the kind of party you want to be part of. At that point you will be back and we will be waiting with smiles and open arms.

At least there weren’t an obscene number of typos. You should have a communications professional edit your stuff before you post. Maybe you need to spend some time working in politics first.

Dave, I try to “pop in” to read you posts as often as I can – there are a lot of “scoops” that you now seem to be missing, perhaps the other Alberta Party insiders are missing them too.

From the South I can tell you that the PC Candidates who have been down (I believe 4 of the 6) have been getting dismal responses. The Mayor told me that the majority of local Municipal Alderman and City Staff who normally carry their PC Cards on their lapels but who have been becoming more vocal against Ed, have NOT even bothered to show up to meet with the PC Candidates when they arrive at City Hall.

Allison Redford also had a very spotty turn-out at a much publicized Seniors’ event, and those that came made her PROMISE NOT to Privatize more Seniors’ Care and to protect Publicly Funded and Delivered Health Care -OOOPS – guess they hadn’t read her “policy” backgrounders which push for more deregulation so that for-profit Seniors’ accommodation and care can be more easily “invested” in by the private sector!

She talks a very moderate game, but seems just as enamored as Danielle with the Fraser Institute’s take on Health Care Economics.

We’ll see who gets booed at our local Stampede Parade this year – I expect some cheers as well (for Raj Sherman) and perhaps the other ALP Leadership contenders. David Swann has also been welcomed – and received great local Print and TV Media whenever he is in the Hat.

Eddie saved himself the jeering last year when he decided at the last minute not to be in the Parade (he had been down visiting and repeating promises to our Flood Victims in Cypress County).

As for Morton – he did win both Constituencies in the SE during the last Leadership (using the Reform lists I suspect) – but his Land Use faux pas may have mortally wounded him in Rural areas. Renner is supporting Mar – as he supported Dinning before. Don’t believe Renner’s endorsement is huge either way.

You should start a thread showing how the BBQ/Stampede/Festival circuit is treating these Leadership contenders and the Leaders of the AP and WAP. Politicians can’t help attending these things! Would love to hear the news on the ground from other communities.
Fran Irwin, Medicine Hat

As an ALP member, I was a little astonished to get a message from Bruce Payne’s campaign today, which included the following:

“I am proud to be the first candidate in Alberta to take a stand against this kind of stuff. I think Albertans want to hear ideas and plans, not gossip and lies,” Payne says. He has sent copies of his clean campaign pledge to all leadership camps in both races, urging them to sign it and elevate the discourse in the races.

“I think Albertans will look very long and hard at any candidate not willing to sign a clean campaign pledge,” Payne says. “I will continue to defend myself strongly against these attacks but I will not be making them. I have too much respect for all the other candidates in both races and for Albertans.”

What’s amazing is that in the set of comments on this post, Mr. Payne’s campaign chair has seen fit to knock all other candidates. In particular, he has floated some uncomplimentary remarks about Laurie Blakeman.

Dave, I see why you do not take Bruce Payne’s campaign seriously.

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