Toasting the success of their open membership program, the Alberta Liberals have announced that over the course of the past few months, their party has signed up 15,500 “supporters” to participate in their upcoming leadership contest. These supporters do not have to purchase memberships (of which the Liberals claim to have 3,500 paid members) and can vote in the party’s leadership by providing their name and contact information.
Opening participation in leadership contests to a primary style vote is a positive move, and one that will remove the element of elitism from the party leader selection process.
The challenge that remains is actually engaging these “supporters” to participate in the actual vote and the party process beyond that. The Wildrose Party has around 25,000 paid members and the Progressive Conservatives are expected to grow their membership to over 150,000 paid membership by September.
Focusing on their leadership challenges since the announced departure of their leader David Swann, the Liberals have fallen behind the Wildrose and PCs in nominating candidates for the next provincial election. The Liberals currently have 13 candidates nominated. The Wildrose nominated their 44th candidate this week (Mike Blanchard in Calgary-Buffalo).
Good intentions aside, it feels like the move by the Liberals to open their leadership selection process feels like it may have come an election too late. After being decimated in the 2008 election, the Liberal Party has shown negative momentum in Alberta with their federal cousins drawing only 9% of the province-wide vote in May 2011 and a recent Environics survey showing the Liberals with only 13% province-wide and 19% in their former strong-hold of Edmonton.