The Alberta Liberal Party’s Uncivil War

The last minute decision to parachute an Alberta Liberal candidate into Calgary Elbow makes little sense as an election strategy. It diverts funds and volunteers from other campaigns and highlights the Liberal’s inability to attract a local candidate. Proposed candidate John Roggeveen brings neither money, followers nor profile to the table. The one thing he does have to offer is blind loyalty to the Alberta Liberal Party brand and the camp of leader David Swann.

The ideas being put forward are that the Liberal goal is to play spoiler (click to read Nigel’s excellent article with which I agree) and the belief that the Alberta Liberal Party does not own the Alberta Party any favours is also being voiced (and I also agree). Where I disagree is which campaign is actually being targeted.

I would argue it’s not Greg Clark’s campaign for election under attack but rather Laurie Blakeman’s campaign for cooperation. Running against Clark is the means to an end, not the end in itself.

Recent events have highlighted there are two opposing camps in the ALP – those who promote cooperation with other parties and those who defend the status quo. Blakeman leads the former. Swann obviously leads the latter.

Laurie Blakeman’s commitment to cooperation is obvious. She proposed the idea in front of her own party’s leadership (which was rejected) and subsequently accepted the nominations for the Alberta Liberal Party, the Alberta Party and the Green Party (Some questions I am unable to answer – who decided the Liberal party’s emergency meeting to determine who would lead should be held in Calgary – Dr Swann’s home turf – rather than in the Edmonton area where the party is headquartered and the majority of Liberal party members live? And was it really the PC’s who did a push-poll in her constituency?)

Dr Swann’s recent actions speak far louder than his words. He has spoken of cooperation but deliberately run a candidate against the Alberta Party leader despite the Alberta Party withdrawing theirs. There is no way he could not foresee the damage that would do to any attempt at future cooperation. But what about the famous advertisement for cooperation put forward while Dr Swann was leader in 2010? That it was his idea is an unchallenged myth. The overture to other parties was not Dr Swann’s idea but was demanded at a meeting of the Alberta Liberal party constituency presidents over the objection of then President Tony Sansotta, who subsequently quit.

In securing the nomination of not two but three parties Laurie Blakeman has proven the biggest threat to the ALP’s status quo – not Greg Clark. By running a loyal party soldier in Elbow, the Swann camp have effectively undermined Blakeman’s position within her own party. Whether Greg Clark wins or loses, whether their ship continues to flounder or quickly sinks, by running a candidate in Elbow the defenders of the ALP status quo have ensured they will remain at the Liberal party helm for the foreseeable future.