Friday, February 18, 2011

This Week in Alberta - Liberal Leadership

After a look at the PC leadership contenders last week, I turn to the Liberal field.

The last three Liberal leaders have all come from within caucus, so any conversation about the next leader should start there.

Despite initially musing about running for the Liberal or Alberta Party leadership, Laurie Blakeman is this contest's first declared candidate. Blakeman is a polished and seasoned politician; she is probably the most "job ready" of the candidates, which is an important consideration with the next election around the corner. Blakeman would solidify the party's base, especially in Edmonton, but does have a reputation for being a bit to the left, despite where she places the Liberal fruit in this video:

Former PEIslander and current mustache enthusiast Hugh MacDonald also appears likely to run. MacDonald would bring a lot to the table - he has 14 years of experience in the legislature, and spent 20 years in the petroleum industry prior to that. Although he sometimes gets carried away with his pet issues, MacDonald is likely the Liberal MLA most able to connect to average Albertans. Most importantly, he's got fire in his belly and is fiercely Liberal, at a time when the troops need rallying.

Down in Calgary, Kent Hehr is the other name often mentioned as a possible candidate. I profiled Kent during his aborted run for mayor last summer. As I said then, the man is incredibly likable - he also strikes me as the caucus member most able to expand the Liberals beyond their base and cut down the Alberta Party in its tracks.

All three bring something to the table, but none of them jump out at you as a premier-in-waiting. And remember, for various reasons all three passed on the job three years ago.

So the real question is whether any outsiders will toss their hat into the ring. While you hate to throw a rookie in with the election a year away, a lot of Liberals will certainly be looking to shake up a party in need of a shake up.

To date, there hasn't been a lot of chatter about potential "outsider" candidates. Rick Miller has reportedly said he won't run. Dave Bronconnier, quite obviously, won't. Likely Calgary Varsity candidate Bruce Payne sounds like a long shot. There are rumblings about Karyn Decore, but that's probably just because of her last name.

So, with no obvious outsider candidate, who should jump in? Here's my wish list:

1. Someone with passion and energy: The PCs have healthy riding associations across the province and a donation pipeline flowing steadily from big business. The Liberals do not. Because of this, the Liberal leader's job description includes organizational tasks that will have him or her cris-crossing the province every week. They need someone willing and able to put the time in.

2. Someone who connects with Albertans: They don't need to write a cheesy theme song or look good in a cowboy hat. But the Liberals need someone who's able to relate to the problems facing Albertans.

3. A good communicator: Ed Stelmach could succeed despite being one of the worst communicators in modern political history because he was backed by a powerful political machine. With the Alberta media still suffering from Danielle-mania, the Liberals will need to fight to get their message out next campaign - they'll need someone able to deliver a clear narrative and sound good doing it.

4. Someone with political smarts: Or at the very least, someone willing to take advice from people who know what they're talking about. With the next election a year out, there's not a lot of time to learn on the job and there's very little room for mistakes.

5. Someone who can manage the ALP caucus and bring the party together: It's no secret the ALP caucus is as dysfunctional as the Jersey Shore household. The last thing the party needs is another Dave Taylor situation. Throw in the defection of many long time volunteers to the Alberta Party, and the biggest challenge of the next leader may be motivating and uniting the party.

Does such a person exist? Beats me. Probably.

The more relevant question is if such a person is willing to take on the leadership of a party in turmoil, with an election just around the corner.

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  • You should run!

    What's the deal with Bronconnier? Why will he definitely not run?

    By Blogger Jordan, at 11:42 a.m.  

  • I second the question above.

    By Blogger matt, at 12:50 p.m.  

  • From everyone I've talked to, it just doesn't sound like Broconnier is interested. You'd expect to hear his name mentioned in conjunction with either the PC or ALP leadership races but it just hasn't come up.

    If he does, that would be a game changer. But it just looks like he isn't interested.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 2:39 p.m.  

  • This is as predictable as watching The Cayote & The Roadrunner. Everyone will be excited about a new liberal leader and a new Alberta Party. The vote gets split and the The Tea Party Lite rules the province for at least another decade. But at least the Cayote and Roadrunner is funny show. All this vote splitting is sad because we have 2 parties of intelligent people that are somehow dumb enough to let the vote split and nothing is accomplished.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:57 a.m.  

  • This is a tough one for the Liberals. They can just choose a new leader, but they don't need just any new leader. The Liberals need someone with the credibility to be a candidate for Premier.

    The Wildrose becoming Albertans default second choice to the Tories changed everything for the Liberal Party (and the new Alberta Party does as well to a different extent). As far as I can tell, with a year until the next election, the Liberals are still struggling to figure out where they fit in this new political environment.

    Laurie and Hugh are hardworking MLAs, but I'm not sure many Albertans would be convinced that either of them are the next Premier of Alberta. Kent Hehr has potential.

    They need an outsider.

    By Anonymous daveberta, at 1:20 p.m.  

  • How about Landslide Annie?

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 1:33 p.m.  

  • McLellan has never really been close to the provincial grits, so I'd be surprised.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:52 p.m.  

  • "Breaking News" from Medicine Hat - following a Saturday appearance with the FOM Director David Eggen:

    This will get interesting, and with David Swann not stepping down until after this Legislative Session, there is ample time for Leadership Contenders to step forward.

    My prediction - Laurie plus at least four more!

    The ALP are sitting second in Edmonton and gaining in Calgary - I think Dave's comment above is a bit, how shall I say it, hopeful for the Alberta Party : "The Wildrose becoming Albertans default second choice to the Tories changed everything for the Liberal Party (and the new Alberta Party does as well to a different extent)." That "different extent" is huge, my friend, as the Alberta Party is definitely NOT sitting at 22% in the polls.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:00 a.m.  

  • The party needs a progressive person who is a trade unionist, and pro-business.
    The candidate must believe that collectivity is essential to our survival and our existence as persons of free will in our free enterprise province. Collective solutions exist in the workplace, in our schools, in the home and in our communities.
    To be successful in defeating the Progressive Conservatives and prevent a Reform/ Alliance government or minority we must be open to all ideas, tolerant of all different views, broad minded and open minded to all persons, always moving forward, favouring progressive reform, not looking backwards, protecting personal freedom, being generous and culturally oriented.

    I am pleased that candidates like Bruce Payne have been recruited to the ALP.

    So some names to consider for ALP leadership:
    Dan McLennan, Heather Smith, Elizabeth Ballerman, Gil McGowan, Carol Henderson, Frank Bruseker...

    Candidates who will offer clear choices and not be afraid to draw lines in the sand.

    By Anonymous workeradvocate, at 2:41 p.m.  

  • I listened to the Bruce Payne conference call yesterday and I was baffled. It sounded like Bruce was proposing changing the ALP constitution so that "affiliates" of Liberals, rather than just card carrying members, could vote to elect the next ALP leader.

    His reasoning was that by not requiring people to pay the membership fee, you would get more people out, and hopefully more of them would stay in the party after the leadership race was over.

    My thoughts? It's a terrible idea for several reasons. A) Membership requirements are there to ensure that card carrying members of another party don't stack your meeting and take over your party. There's usually an exclusivity clause that you can't be a member of multiple parties. This is a good thing. It keeps the special interest groups and other parties at bay to some degree.

    Bruce says that he'll be able to bring out the trade unionists and faith based communities if they don't have to have ALP memberships. Just what we need! Our party taken over by interest groups more than it already is. If they want a voice, they should be paid card carrying members.

    B) Membership sales mean actual money for the party. Last time I checked, the ALP wasn't all that well off financially compared to the other parties. If you make it so that people can vote without paying, just wait and see how much money you will collect...

    Bruce's slogan, "87 Strong" is itself just ripe for mockery. If you want the media poking fun at that number being how many Liberals there are in Alberta, then go for it. Otherwise, "87 Ridings Strong" is a better alternative.


    By Anonymous Frank, at 11:32 a.m.  

  • Bruce Payne's decision to court the faith-based communities and trade unionists is also ironic, given that traditionally they align themselves with the social conservative parties, and the new democrats. It isn't that they don't have a place already in the political spectrum. They most certainly do. It just doesn't happen to be with the center of the political spectrum more often than not...

    By Anonymous Frank, at 11:41 a.m.  

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