Corey Hogan Dave Taylor David Swann Tony Sansotta

dave taylor leaving the liberals.

Liberal leader David Swann addresses the media this morning. Six Liberal MLAs had his back.

According to Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell, Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor will leave the Official Opposition Liberal Caucus to sit as an Independent MLA this morning.

The Alberta Liberals finally make the news.

Their best guy leaves them.

Dave Taylor, the party’s former deputy leader, the Calgary MLA many Liberals wanted as their top gun 16 months ago, will sit as an independent beginning Monday.

He is fed up with the Liberals as the main opposition on paper but nowhere near that in performance.

“We just don’t have a position that’s obvious to anybody on most things. I’m sorry, but we don’t. For two years now, we haven’t really stood for anything, with a few notable exceptions,” says Taylor, who spearheaded the party’s oilpatch-friendly policy on royalties.

“The Liberals are pretty much off the radar. We’re not talking about or standing for things in a way that translates to Albertans. Most Albertans have passed the Liberals by. People aren’t even politely curious.”

“I don’t think I can serve my constituents or other Albertans in the way they deserved to be served within the Liberals. They’re just too unfocused, too lacking in the ability to connect with the people of Alberta.”

“I just don’t see things happening. I feel I’ve tried.”

Mr. Taylor was first elected in 2004, defeating PC MLA Jon Lord in a high profile race. He served as Deputy Leader during Kevin Taft‘s time as Leader of the Official Opposition and ran for the party leadership following Dr. Taft’s resignation in 2008. Only attracting 1,616 votes, Mr. Taylor placed second to Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann. His defection from the Liberal caucus should not come as a surprise to many, as these rumours have been swirling around since the Liberals lost ground to the PCs in the last election. Liberal sources have told me that over the past year, caucus meetings have become especially heated between Mr. Taylor and other MLAs, leading to a dysfunctional team environment in the Official Opposition caucus. In January 2010, Mr. Taylor was given the opportunity to step into the spotlight when he announced the Liberal Party’s new energy policy, which was supposed to signal “a dramatic shift and tone” for the Liberals. In recent months, it has been rumoured that Mr. Taylor was investigating a run for Mayor of Calgary, though these now appear to be unsubstantiated.

As an Independent, Mr. Taylor would be in a good position to accept woos from both the Progressive Conservatives (who are in desperate need for some personality and could undercut the Liberals further by appointing him to cabinet) or the Wildrose Alliance (who could use a prominent opposition voice like Mr. Taylor’s to moderate their public face).

If Mr. Taylor does indeed announce his departure from the Liberal caucus today, these effects could be devastating to the Liberal Party – both Liberal Party President Tony Sansotta and Executive Director Corey Hogan were heavily involved in Mr. Taylor’s leadership campaign. His departure will also bring the Liberal caucus down to 8 MLAs from the 9 elected in 2008. While this initially does not look good for Dr. Swann, it could lead the Liberal caucus to become a more cohesive unit (strength in the face of destruction) – or it could lead to more internal criticism of his low-key style of leadership.

UPDATE: Both David Swann and Dave Taylor have released statements to the media. I attended Dr. Swann’s media conference at the Legislature this morning and will have some photos up later today. In a display of caucus solidarity, Dr. Swann was joined by 6 of the remaining 8 members of the Liberal caucus (Calgary-McCall MLA Darshan Kang is in India on family matters). Dr. Swann told the media that he knew Mr. Taylor had not been happy inside the Liberal caucus since he was defeated in the 2008 leadership campaign.

Alberta Liberals Tony Sansotta

in four months time…

Earlier this week, I drank coffee with Alberta Liberal Party President Tony Sansotta while discussing politics and the state of Alberta’s official opposition party (and my former employer).

Sansotta was cagey enough not to reveal much about direction he’s trying to take the Liberals and he was was insistent (but not necessarily convincing) that big changes are starting to happen within the Liberal Party. When I pried for specific examples, I was continually told that I would have to wait four months to see what the changes are. Coyness aside, Sansotta did provide a couple of bits of information to this blogger:

– The Liberals long-awaited Renewal Committee report, an initiative led by former Edmonton-McClung MLA Mo Elsalhy, was submitted to the Liberal Party executive committee but will not be made public. Sansotta ensured me that elements of it will be included in recommendations to delegates at their March 2010 policy conference (but delegates may not be informed which recommendations were taken from the renewal report). Although I understand why any political party would want to keep this sort of report private, it appears slightly insincere to solicit public/membership input and then to keep the recommendations secret from the same party membership (creating little room for an accountability mechanism).

– On September 26, the Liberal Party Board of Directors will be discussing plans for candidate nominations and if incumbency protections should be allowed for the nine incumbent MLAs.

– So far, eight submissions have been received in the Liberal logo redesign contest. The submissions will be judged by a panel whose membership includes VP Communications Jody MacPherson, the co-VP Fundraising, a member-at-large, and a representative from an anonymous PR firm.

– Calgary-based communications consultant Corey Hogan has been tapped to become the Liberals Executive Director, a position that has been vacant since long-time ED Kieran Leblanc resigned in 2008. Hogan’s served as campaign manager for Dave Taylor‘s 2008 leadership bid and more recently as a candidate for the Liberal nod in Calgary-Glenmore. I wish Hogan good luck, because he has one heck of a job ahead of him.