Alberta Politics

Scrappy and strong-willed, Brian Mason punches above his weight

Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason
Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason announced this week that he will be retiring as leader of his party in October 2014.

Back in the mid-2000s, when I worked for the Alberta Liberals, Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason was a constant source of frustration for my colleagues and I. Each week, I was amazed at how the leader of the tiny perfect NDP could consistently earn so much press and scoop away the media attention deserved by of my party’s Official Opposition MLAs (of course, there were a few other contributing factors at play).

At the time, I had a professional respect for Mr. Mason and, since stepping back from the world of partisan politics and having engaged with him in more informal settings, I now have a personal respect for him (he is also my MLA).

Scrappy and strong willed, Mr. Mason has always punched above his weight with ease, putting even the most confident Progressive Conservative cabinet ministers on edge.

This week, after ten years in the job, Mr. Mason announced his plans to step down as leader of the NDP after his party holds a leadership vote in October 2014. As he departs, it is important to reflect on how far the NDP has come overt he past decade.

Ten years ago, the NDP had two MLAs in Alberta, no sign of life outside of central Edmonton and a dozen Members of Parliament in Ottawa (none from Alberta).

Today, the NDP is now the Official Opposition in Ottawa (with one MP from Alberta), are back up to four MLAs in Alberta, their vote has grown in Edmonton and they now have a beachhead of support in Lethbridge.

While the NDP is a long way from being a competitive alternative to the two Conservative parties in this province, the next two years present the new NDP leader with a unique opportunity to speak with voters searching for an alternative (I will write more on this later).

While it would be unfair to solely credit Mr. Mason for the change over the past decade, in many ways, he will leave the Alberta NDP in a better shape than it was the day he started the job.

5 replies on “Scrappy and strong-willed, Brian Mason punches above his weight”

I would love to see the NDP form the government in Alberta. I also think that provincial political history demonstrates that it is not possible without divine intervention from the god of the United Church for this party on its own to form government in this province.

The NDP is in better organizational shape than the Liberal Party or the Alberta Party. That does not change the fact that it is in poor shape. In Calgary it was unable to find two local people to claim to be the president and the treasurer of the constituency association in almost any seat. Instead, it reported to Elections Alberta that the hired staff in the Edmonton office held those positions. That’s also true in most of rural Alberta and even in a number of Edmonton seats. No party does well when every rational person knows that it is going nowhere. It’s not Brian Mason’s fault or that of his predecessors. By now, the NDP faces a structural problem: as a party firmly implanted in people’s minds as a loser party, it does not figure in their calculations of who to vote for outside of a small number of constituencies within 20 km. of downtown Edmonton. Unless it manages to absorb the Liberals–extremely unlikely–or create a working coalition with them in which the whole looks bigger than the sum of its puny parts, it condemns most Albertans once again to choosing between the Ultra Right and the Extreme Right.

Interesting, but what has changed for the NDP in 10 years? They’re still not really competitive outside Edmonton and haven’t come close to matching Ray Martin’s NDP of the 80’s and Mason had nothing to do with the Federal NDP. Under his time as leader the NDP went from 4 seats to 2 seats to 4 seats again, what a stellar performance.

Then the bus driver has the gall to defend Redford’s flight of fancy to Palm Springs and draws the ire of Albertans showing that the NDP might as be part of the PC caucus. Smooth move Mason.

I want to say enjoy retirement Brian. All the best in the future. Dave the part about having a small party and punching above his weight is an interesting point of view. Brian is very good at being a critic. Brian’s fault, if I am to be bold is that he was not good at sharing the podium. Many leaders have this issue not only Brian. If one does not recoginze that a team of credible candidates across the province is priority number 1 of a leader. Then that party obviously will never grow into a government. A leader without a team is just a person on TV who wants to have thier say. This is all said in my humble opinion and is my own personal view of politics. To close I would like to thank Brian for doing his best and putting his best foot forward.

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