(Name) Change That Works...for Alberta Liberals
1. “After 87 years of losing, it’s time to try something new.”
When you’ve lost for as long as the ALP has, you might as well take risks. Kind of like mixing up the batting order in the midst of a losing streak. But trying something “just because” can often lead to cataclysmic results and there are a lot of other, less dramatic (and more dramatic for that matter) options still on the table that should be considered as well.
2. “The Liberal stigma haunts the ALP, even today. During the last campaign, Stelmach repeatedly referenced the NEP and the “tax and spend Liberals”.
True, but the man sounded absolutely pathetic doing that. I guess the root of the issue is whether or not Albertans associate the federal party with the provincial Liberals. I believe they do to a certain extent (“our name is our compass”), but I know a lot of people who would disagree.
3. “It worked for the Sask Party.”
And, to a lesser extent, the BC Liberals. But judging from the experiences of the Sask Party, even with a name change, it takes a few elections before the old brand associations die off. Then again, a 16-year plan to form government isn’t necessarily a slow timeline by Alberta standards. [And yes, I'm aware the Sask Party wasn't just a name change, which is why you'd really need a new party that brought in new people for it to be at all meaningful]
4. “A name change would help broaden the tent, and bring PCs into the fold.”
This is only true if it’s part of a major rebranding and refocusing. Politically active people are probably less influenced by things like a party name than the general population so, by itself, a name change would be unlikely to grow the party membership, increase donations, or attract star candidates.
5. “A name change would create excitement moving forward.”
Having left Alberta, I’m probably not qualified to weigh in on the mood of the rank and file. But I know I’d have a tough time getting energized without a sense that something has changed, and being part of a new party might just be the thing to end the election hangover and motivate people. At the same time, it could alienate a lot of long time Liberals and drive away some of the staunchest supporters of the party.
6. “A name change would be the ultimate symbolic gesture to Albertans than we recognize ‘we got it wrong’”
And this is probably why there is so much hostility to the name change in some circles. Although it’s a largely meaningless thing, changing the party’s name would be an admission that the Liberal brand is just not sellable in Alberta. And that’s a tough thing to admit. But if you truly want to convince Albertans that the party has changed – well, this would be the most direct way to do it. Of course if you don’t actually change, then the spin that Liberals are “ashamed of what they are” and “running away from their name” would be all-too-accurate.
I think I do have a bit of the “martyr complex” the “New Liberal” document talked about and, because of that, there’s a large part of me that would like to keep the Liberal name and keep fighting the good fight under it (or…err…watching the good fight from the comfy Liberal sidelines in Toronto!). But the time has come to change and I don’t view the Alberta Liberal name as sacrosanct – actually winning an election and giving Albertans a better government is the end game.
And to form government, the party needs to change. I think everyone recognizes that. My personal opinion is that a name change (or founding a new party) is a good way to highlight that change and really create the sense, both within the party and the general public, that this is the start of something new. That’s not to say that the Liberal Party could never form government without a name change – Decore almost did, after all. But to me, the words “Liberal government in Alberta” just sound funny and I think a lot of Albertans feel the same way.
Yes, it’s more important to change the party’s policies. It’s more important to explore its core philosophy. It’s more important to build up the organization. It’s more important to make sure the party has the right leader and the right message. But changing the name or even starting from scratch are certainly ideas worth exploring.
Labels: Alberta Liberal Party