Saturday, June 12, 2010



On the whole I have always enjoyed the writings of Edmonton Journal columnist Graham Thomson. To me he has always been – dare I say - a fair and balanced observer of Alberta politics. When he graces the pages of the Calgary Herald I read him with great appreciation because for that one fleeting moment in time he gives the editorial page some class. Upon finishing reading his piece the paper then for days on end sinks to its usual low level diatribes from lunatic neocon think tanks and single-issue loud mouths.

So Thomson is different and the people of Edmonton are lucky to have him.

But even Thomson gets it wrong sometimes as he did in his column today entitled, ‘Alberta Liberals split by bid to co-operate.’ Read:

He opens with a line surely to capture the affections of the Herald’s editorial page editor: “One of the truisms of Alberta politics: No matter how bad things get for the Liberal Party, they can always get worse.”

He then goes on to list he party’s recent woes as he sees them - the departure from the caucus of Dave Taylor and the decision of Kent Hehr to run for Mayor. Let me assure Thomson as well as others who may think along the same lines that I have talked to a host of Alberta Liberals about Taylor’s grumbling exit, and I have heard very little in the way of regrets or misgivings of any kind - even from people like me who supported Taylor in the leadership race. The consensus is simply that if Taylor was that unhappy, it is better that he left. For David Swann and the remaining caucus it was one less hassle to deal with.

As far as Hehr’s quest for the mayor’s chair is concerned the Grits that I speak to only wish him the best of luck and if he wins they would regard his victory as a feather in every Alberta Liberal’s hat. I mean, he is one of us and he is running for arguably one of the most exciting political offices in the country. How does that reflect badly on the Alberta Liberal Party?

Thomson then moves to the dust-up in Kevin Taft’s riding of Edmonton-Riverview. Three members of the riding association executive have resigned from their positions because of the passing of a resolution at the recent convention of the Alberta Liberal Party. The resolution in question reads:

“be it resolved that the Alberta Liberal Party supports making every reasonable effort to persuade other progressive parties in Alberta to work together during general elections.”

The resolution was controversial and the final tally on the vote was close. I confess that I had something more than a little to do with its content as I had moved it in the workshop as an amendment and spoke for it on the convention floor just before it was passed.

My take on the resolution is simply this. Alberta Liberals, like any political party that aspires to govern, must create a big tent and fill it up with diverse thinking individuals who can set aside some of their differences to support the greater cause. Otherwise, power will forever elude them.

This approach is not new. It has been followed by most progressive parties that have attained power in the Western democracies. The best example in my memory in Alberta is the Progressive Conservative party under Peter Lougheed. Lougheed brilliantly put together a diverse team that represented all elements of Alberta society - business, labour, progressive thinkers, even right-wingers, and so on - who worked together for good government and it delivered for Albertans the best government in the province’s history.

Thus, the resolution meant to me and most others at that convention that Alberta Liberals were extending an invitation to a diverse group of people, many of whom had not supported us before, to work together with them in order to bring about an era of good government for the people of Alberta.

Oh, the wording of the resolution could have been spiffed up somewhat, but the idea was there, and it was clear: All you NDs, Greens, frustrated Tories, Wild Rose Alliancers and anybody else out there who believe in progressive policies that help ordinary people and who are sick and tired of lousy leadership, marginal support, or narrow ideology, come and talk to us . . . or let us talk to you. We want as many of you as possible who believe in progressive policies to come inside of our big tent so we can throw the rascals out in the next election.

Thomson complains that the resolution didn’t explain what “work together” meant, that it didn’t mention parties by name, and that it couldn’t have been aimed at the Tories or the Wildrose Alliance. If Thomson doesn’t know what “work together” means in a political setting he should choose another profession. Just to be sure Thomson understands, “working together” means “working together” to win elections!

As to the party names, why should they be listed in the resolution? Why wouldn’t the Liberals want to welcome disaffected Tories or Wildrose Alliancers along with NDs and Greens who wish to join them in common cause to promote progressive policies on the environment, health care, education, and so on? Do disgruntled Tories and Wildrose Alliancers have some contagious disease?

Thomson says he and others are puzzled about what the Liberals will do with the resolution. C’mon. The resolution is nothing more than a codification and a reminder of what political parties should be doing at all times – generating support for their cause – particularly from others who have not supported them before. This is not rocket science.

So, from the standpoint of someone - namely me - who had as much to do with the resolution being passed as anyone, there is no mystery to it. There are no hidden agendas; there is no intent on weakening the Liberals resolve to win the next election. The resolution simply means that Alberta Liberals should get out there and work towards inviting voters who share our values and who have never voted for us before to give us their support.

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