Canada Kicks Ass
Alberta Political History Doesn't Bode Well For Alberta Libe


JaredMilne @ Mon Apr 17, 2017 2:06 pm

St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse’s sudden decision to drop out of the Alberta Liberal leadership race was surprising. However, what may not have been so surprising was that he was the only declared candidate for the leadership until he dropped out. Finally, on the deadline of March 31, two last-minute candidates signed up, sparing the Liberals the indignity of a leadership race where no one showed up.

This doesn’t bode well for the Liberals, particularly in Alberta. One of the quirks of Alberta’s history is that no party that has been removed from office has ever gotten back in again. The United Farmers governed Alberta from 1921 to 1935, but after they were defeated they dissolved their political wing and now exist solely as a farmers’ co-operative. The Social Credit party governed Alberta from 1935 to 1971, but since their defeat by the Progressive Conservatives they have been a fringe party at the best of times. After their 2015 defeat, the PCs recently chose Jason Kenney, who ran on a platform of dissolving the party to merge with the Wildrose into a new conservative party, as their leader.

The Alberta Liberals can claim credit for being Alberta’s first government when the province was founded in 1905. However, they were defeated by the United Farmers of Alberta in 1921 and have not governed the province in nearly a century. They never had more than 15 seats in the Legislature until the 1993 election, and they were shut out entirely from 1971 until 1986. The closest the Liberals have made to a comeback since then was when Laurence Decore led them to 32 seats in 1993, but even then Ralph Klein won comfortably. Now, interim Liberal leader David Swann is the party’s only MLA, and he is almost 68 years old. Many prominent Liberals, such as former MLA Laurie Blakeman, have said that they do not want to run for the leadership, leaving only the two candidates who registered just before the deadline.

The Liberals illustrate this quirk of Alberta politics very well, but they are not the only ones. Jason Kenney’s election as PC leader was bitter and divisive. Former Cabinet minister Thomas Lukaszuk Tweeted a picture of his torn-up party membership card thrown in the trash. Kenney’s rival Richard Starke was booed by party members when he warned against politically harmful ‘lake of fire’ outbursts. Stephen Khan, another Kenney rival, withdrew from the race after saying that his delegates had been intimidated, and that he had been subjected to racist harassment by Kenney supporters. Now, as noted above, Kenney has an explicit mandate to wind down the PCs and merge them with the Wildrose.

Meanwhile, the old Social Credit party has literally not had an MLA elected since I was born, when they were wiped out in the 1982 election.

Political parties can govern for a long time in Alberta. However, when they are defeated, they never come back. Only time will tell if this happens to the Liberals and the PCs.


bootlegga @ Mon Apr 24, 2017 7:43 pm

I don't agree that the Liberals are finished yet. The problem in the recent past is their poor leaders.

While the numbers may not show it, in the 1993 election, Lawrence Decore came within a hair of defeating Klein and the PCs. That campaign was close and hard fought and scared the hell out of the PCs - so much so that they pretty much stole the Liberal platform and ran it as their own. Lawrence Decore was able to do that because he had been a fantastic mayor in Edmonton and was well-known in the province.

If the Liberals were able to land a similar popular leader (say Nenshi for example), they would have an excellent chance at supplanting the NDP again, which is what happened in the '90s and 2000s, when the NDP was a rump party, often with only a candidate or two.

I think if any party is going to disappear as a force after the next election, it'll the NDP - their policies have been so unpopular in so many places, I can't see any realistic path to maintaining power. If the centre gets its act together as Mandel and Clark are trying right now (it's a long shot), I can see the NDP being relegated back to third or fourth party in the Legislature again.