According to a piece that appeared today in the Calgary Herald some Alberta Grits along with a few interested others are conducting sub rosa meetings with a view to starting a new Alberta political party. See: Some Liberals Weigh Starting Party, http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/todays-paper/Some+Liberals+weigh+starting+party/1150177/story.html
Bruce Miller is an affable, intelligent, and well-meaning former United Church Minister who represented the riding of Edmonton Glenora for the Liberals through one term until the March 2008 election. He has been one of a discreetly silent and shadowy group of real or wannabe politicos who are conducting private meetings to get the ball rolling for the new party. He believes that no existing party has a chance of beating the provincial Tories. According to Miller, "It's obvious that the Liberal brand doesn't work. How many times do you have to lose in a big way? I think enough is enough. It's time to look at other possibilities."
I have two problems with Miller’s statement.
First of all, it fails to take into account the success of Laurence Decore as provincial Liberal leader in the late eighties and early nineties. In 1992 Decore’s Liberals won 32 seats and 39% of the vote. They also won a by-election in Three Hills, the buckle of Alberta’s bible belt. Surely a party that is that strong in a general election and can win seats in highly unlikely ridings has a chance to go all the way and win.
Perhaps the question that Miller and his band of revolutionaries should ask is, why is it that the Liberals have not done nearly as well since Decore was the leader? The answer is obvious. Laurence Decore was a leader. He worked the length and breadth of the province, came up with attractive policies, and sold them well enough to have given the Tories their greatest scare since they took power in 1971. Had his health remained robust, he could have gone all the way. But tragically, it was not to be. As far as leadership skills were concerned, no Grit leader in the province since Decore - and we have now had four of them – was able to touch him. So when Miller asks the question why the Liberal brand doesn’t work in Alberta, he should think of Decore, and if he thinks of Decore he will come to one conclusion. It is all about leadership, stupid!
The second point I would make to Miller and his insurrectionists is that the Alberta Liberal Party has through the years stood for being “business friendly and environmentally and socially progressive.” This is exactly what Miller wants his new party to be. That being the case, does he really believe he can hoodwink Alberta voters into thinking that Miller’s new party, whatever its name, and with its membership comprised of a bunch of Liberals, is a different party than the Alberta Liberal Party. Does he believe that Albertans will conclude that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a horse? That, with respect, is contemptuous of the intelligence of the people of Alberta.
Finally, Miller and his band of plotters should heed the advice of new leader David Swann and political scientist David Taras. A new party will only further split the anti-government vote and make life easier for Premier Stelmach and the provincial Tories. Hopefully, that will give Miller and his pals some pause.