Fresh from her big victory in Alberta’s Gay-Straight Alliances debate, Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman announced this morning that she has accepted the nominations to be a candidate for the Liberal Party, Alberta Party AND Green Party in the upcoming provincial election. With these three nominations, she hopes to unite the progressive vote in the downtown Edmonton constituency she has represented since 1997.
It is an unusual and out-of-the-box move, but what does it mean?
The goal is to prevent vote splitting between parties that agree on most issues and by uniting around one candidate there are not three candidates drawing votes away from each other in Edmonton-Centre.
Practically speaking, the triple-nomination will not bring many increased resources to Ms. Blakeman’s re-election campaign, because both the Alberta Party and Green Party have negligible organization and funds in the constituency. And while the three parties have nominated her as their candidate, it is expected that only one party will be allowed to appear beside her name on the voting ballot.
It is an important symbolic move.
When Raj Sherman resigned as Liberal leader in January 2015, Ms. Blakeman stood for interim leader and brought forward a plan to cooperate with the other opposition parties. She was rebuked by the Liberal Party executive, who chose former leader David Swann instead and rejected a cooperation proposal from the Alberta Party.
Ms. Blakeman is breaking from the current Liberal Party executive, who, despite their party being on the brink of complete electoral annihilation, appear to have done everything in their power to prevent cooperation between the smaller parties before the next election.
This is not the first time a Liberal MLA has broken with their party on this issue. In December 2012, Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr published a guest post on this blog arguing for the need for progressive opposition parties to cooperate. And former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor became the first Alberta Party MLA in 2011.
Some political watchers may ask why Ms. Blakeman, a centre-leftish Liberal, would not simply join the New Democratic Party, which appears to have momentum in Edmonton. In terms of uniting the centrist parties, the NDP have consistently made clear they are not interested in cooperation. But not recruiting Ms. Blakeman into their party may have been a big missed opportunity for the NDP in Edmonton.
As as one of only two Liberal MLAs running for re-election, she will now have to wait to see how her own party executive reacts. While there will certainly be those in the party who are irritate with her triple-nomination, there is little doubt that many progressive-minded Albertans would sympathize or agree with her decision.
The triple-nomination proves that, despite the protests of their more orthodox members, it is possible for Alberta’s tiny opposition parties to cooperate.
And as a popular and outspoken MLA, Ms. Blakeman is undoubtably looking past this year’s election with a mind of uniting the tiny parties into a viable centrist opposition.