Let The Leadership Races Begin


This weekend marks the unofficial start of leadership season in Alberta. The nascent Alberta Party holds its first leadership convention at the Shaw Convention Centre. Meanwhile, the Alberta Liberals are holding their annual convention in Calgary, kicking off their leadership derby, which ends Sept. 10th. And of course, the Progressive Conservatives and their candidate hopefuls are frantically selling memberships to decide who will be the next premier of the province.


With the established parties hogging the headlines, the Alberta Party gathering has gone almost unnoticed, which is not a good sign for the new party.


The Alberta Party is a solidly centrist organization, an earnest collection of political newbies and refugees from the old-line parties. The party is intent on doing politics differently, beginning with its Big Listen events held across the province. The Big Listen provided the base for the party’s policies, which it believes reflects the solid centre of the political spectrum that is occupied by most Albertans. 


It’s commitment to policy is both its strength, and its weakness. The PCs and Alberta Liberals are leader-dominated parties, where the party’s identity is closely associated with the leader. The Alberta Party won’t be going that route, either by design or by default. The candidates for the leadership are unknowns; no sitting or former MLAs, no high profile business person or well-known activist. You could pass Tammy Maloney, Glenn Taylor, Lee Easton or Ryan Royer (the four leadership candidates) on the street and not give them a second glance. This is not to say that they are not accomplished Albertans, and worthy of consideration. But the brutal fact is that voters look to leaders. Danielle Smith, for all intents and purposes, is the Wildrose Alliance, and the public’s perception of the PC and Liberal parties will be shaped in large part by their new leaders.


The Alberta Party, with its well meaning but very low profile leadership hopefuls, is counting on its policy to attract candidates, and voters. Good luck with that.     


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