Provincial Liberal leader Raj Sherman wants his party to work more closely with the federal Liberal Party.
Conventional wisdom would inform us that the Alberta Liberals should always do everything in their power to distance themselves from their federal cousins, who remain tainted in the province after a long-string of historical grievances and well-curated myths.
But has distancing the two parties helped either party?
With Justin Trudeau expected to become leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in the next few months, could a second-wave of Trudeaumania help boost support for the provincial Liberals in Alberta?
Since the 1970s, the two parties have been officially independent with varying degrees of unofficial cooperation and confrontation. Both parties have achieved limited success in pockets of the province at certain points over past twenty years, but support for both parties has dwindled over the past decade. The Liberal presence shrunk to five MLAs in last year’s provincial election and the federal Liberals last successfully elected a candidate to Parliament from Alberta in the 2004 election .
Provincial Liberal support in Alberta:
2001 election: 276,854 votes, 2012 election: 127,645 votes.
Federal Liberal support in Alberta:
2000 election: 263,008 votes, 2011 election: 129,310 votes.
If a merger with the NDP, Alberta Party, and Greens, as has been suggested by Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, is unpalatable to Dr. Sherman, perhaps he could be convinced a merger with his party’s federal namesake would not be a bad idea.
Sharing their limited resources, as the provincial and federal New Democratic Party do officially and the Wildrose Party and Conservative Party have done unofficially, could provide stability in membership, fundraising, and organization for the two Liberal Parties in Alberta. A merger could also cut costs on duplication of resources (the two parties currently operate separate offices located opposite each other on Edmonton’s 124th Street).
The two parties already share many members and candidates are frequently seen listed on the ballot under both party banners.
There are also no shortage of former Liberal MLAs who have tried to kickstart a career in Ottawa, though all of them unsuccessful. Liberal MLAs Ken Nicol and Debby Carlson ran as federal Liberals in the 2004 election and Sue Olsen and Frank Bruseker stood in the 2000 federal election. Former party leaders Grant Mitchell and Nick Taylor were appointed to the Senate on the advice of federal Liberal Prime Ministers.
Even Dr. Sherman was a member of the federal Liberals before he was elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2008 (he supported Gerard Kennedy in the 2006 federal Liberal leadership contest).
Calgary-Centre a spark of hope for the Liberals.
Liberal Harvey Locke surprised political watchers last year when he placed only 1158 votes behind Conservative Joan Crockatt in the hotly contested Calgary-Centre by-election.
Perhaps the results were a fluke, but they give the federal Liberals a sign that many voters in Alberta’s urban centres are becoming more receptive to a moderate non-Conservative alternative in Ottawa.
16 replies on “Alberta Liberal merger with federal Liberals an idea worth considering.”
No matter the efforts made to distance themselves from the federal party, the Alberta Liberals have often found themselves pilloried for what the Liberal Party of Canada do, anyway. They may as well save themselves the time and wasted breath trying to assert themselves as somehow separate.
So, will Trudeau help the Alberta Liberals, or will Sherman kill any bounce Trudeau’s coronation might give the federal Liberals in Alberta. My money is on the latter.
If the ALP joined with the LPCA, it would go from being its own party to being the wing of a larger organization. So it would go from setting its own rules to dealing with rules set in the centre. And for this lack of control it would gain the solid infrastructure of the LPCA, which has elected exactly zero people since 2004. An organization that under its own steam can still elect 5, is going to become a subsidiary of an organization that can elect none. Still, you can see the logic if either Raj is eyeing a jump to federal politics, or things in the ALP are way worse than they let on. How’s Nancy Betkowski’s debt coming?
Is ‘merger’ the right term in this sort of instance, though? It’s not like there would be fewer parties all of a sudden, just two levels of the same party. It’s how the NDP works already (the provincial parties and the federal party are all under the same umbrella organization).
@Idealistic Pragmatist @Jason – Thanks for the comments. I use the word “merger” in terms of infrastructure and organization. The parties could be independent while sharing organizational capabilities, as the NDP do.
It really comes down to how affiliated they want to be. They could share resources but remain two different parties, they could share a membership but keep separate rules/executives…there are a lot of ways to play this.
@CalgaryGrit – True. There are lots of ways this could play out.
While this could probably work in Alberta, I wonder how it would work on a national scale. There is often little resemblance between the federal Liberals and Liberals at the provincial level. The BC Liberals are more closely affiliated with the Conservative Party of Canada than with the Liberal Party of Canada, for example.
A formal amalgamation of any kind between the provincial and federal liberals pretty much guarantees that the ALP will never get anywhere close to power ever again in Alberta. If you haven’t noticed, the PCs have employed the “us versus them” approach to the federal government, quite frequently and quite successfully. Even now, they’ve been able to use the fact that many Alberta MPs backed the WR as a way to validate that tactic. A formal amalgamation with the federal liberals and an apparently resistance to stand up for Alberta – demonstrating “Alberta First” – when federal liberal policies are not to our benefit will be more than enough justification to say “told you so”. Adam’s latter point is valid. An Alberta Liberal Party should be unique to Alberta, not a formalized extension (perceived or otherwise) of the federal Liberals.
@Jason: Nancy Betkowski’s debt was paid off almost two years ago. The last election had the Alberta Liberals go into debt to the tune of about $50k (in comparison, the NDP mortgaged the farm with loan of more than a million).
There are some serious mixed messages between that baffling green rebrand and a merger with the federal Liberals.
Just to contrast, here are some comparison numbers of NDP votes:
– 2011 Federal election, Alberta: 234,730 (source: Elections Canada)
– 2012 Provincial election: 127,072 (source: Elections Alberta)
As for other “progressive” parties, the federal Greens got 73,058 in 2011, while the Alberta Party got 16,959 in 2012.
Draw your own conclusions…
Provincial NDP support in Alberta
2001 election: 81,339 votes, 2012 election: 126,752 votes
Federal NDP support in Alberta
2000 election: 68 363 votes, 2011 election: 234,730 votes
Provincial Green/Evergreen Party support in Alberta:
2001 election: 2,085, 2012 election: 5,082
Federal Green Party support in Alberta:
2000 election: 6,320 votes, 2011 election: 73,058 votes
Shayne Saskiw should join the liberal party with all of his liberal views.
Hi Dave. Good article.
Liberal Haters are unreachable and unpleasable.
At the Liberal dinner last night, Senator Tommy Banks made a glowing endorsement of all Liberal MLA’s and the Leader and reinforced the strong relationship that the new Prov. AB Libs and New Fed Libs should strive for. It was a packed house and the Good Liberal Senator Tommy Banks reinforced the need for good policy, loyal MLA’s, the need for consensus and collaberation. He also stated that a party is uselessly and stupidly weakened, when party members don’t fully support their leader and don’t collaberate to create a unified front. All MLA’s were there except Kent Hehr. Mr. Van Vliet did an excellent job hosting, great speaches by Raj and Laurie.
The Liberals have a very balanced, moderate, yet bold platform that maintains the right balance for taxes, revenue, gov’t spending, the environment and promoting strong capitalism for healthy economy and jobs. Good things are coming for the Liberals.
Liberalism is the future. Families need an advocate. Its about balanced, socially responsible capitalism, fair taxation and a strong economy, so business and jobs can thrive.
Jean Chretien was the only PM in recent history that paid down debt and endorsed Oilsands Development. Last I read Harper hasn’t don’t squat. Conservatives provincially or federally have not the faintest idea of the word conserve, all they have given is debt.
Yes, provincial and federal gov’ts, all they have given is more debt in a hot economy. Yes they have, will any Liberal Hater, please refute that, also NO savings to show.
That which was once before shall be again. Fed and Prov. Cons got no legs to stand on. They are incapable of thoughful, fiscal management, especially in a hot economy. ND’s are great at distributing the cake created by others. That is why the Liberals ARE the future.
Have a nice Dave.
I agree liberalism is the future. however I don’t see the federal Liberal party being particularly liberal these days. and the ALP needs to distance themselves from them. start supporting classical liberal ideas and avoid whatever form of liberalism the feds practice and the ALP may have a chance in the next decade. focus on small effective and efficient government and don’t add in far left civic policies.(thats why I couldn’t vote Liberal last prov election) and they could gain the support of the majoraty of the Albertins who want a debt free, lower tax system with efficient government. the wildrose is unfourtunatly the only party in Alberta that pretends to support true liberalism. maybe the Liberals should.