St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse makes it official: he wants to lead Alberta Liberals

Posted on March 02, 2017, 1:07 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse, second from left in Liberal red tie, announces his bid to lead the Alberta Liberals, a party that currently has only one member in the Legislature, on the University of Alberta campus near the North Saskatchewan River Valley yesterday. (Photo grabbed from Global TV reporter Tom Vernon’s Twitter account. Thanks Tom!) Below: Interim and likely-to-retire-soon Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann and Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley.

Departing St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse’s principal problem as a candidate to lead the Alberta Liberal Party – and as the party’s leader, in the event he gets the job – will be to find a way to differentiate between the policy proposals of the governing NDP and those of his own party.

This won’t be that easy. Dyed-in-the-wool political partisans are one thing, but what Liberal voters, NDP voters and the left-of-centre portion of mushy and moveable electoral middle all want right now is pretty much within the same general policy range.

Why would voters who essentially support the NDP policy approach – even if they don’t particularly love the NDP – risk voting for a party like the Liberals, who are unlikely to offer anything except a cast-iron guarantee they can’t form the next government?

Mr. Crouse needs to answer this question to succeed.

At the same time, Alberta’s already pretty far-right conservative parties – whether or not they manage to merge before the next general election – are moving even further to the right, which is not likely to be comfortable territory for Alberta Liberals to occupy.

So Mr. Crouse, who announced he is running to lead the Liberals yesterday morning on the edge of the North Saskatchewan River Valley overlooking downtown Edmonton and Alberta’s lovely Legislative Building, has his work cut out. It won’t be easy to persuade voters that the Liberals are viable as anything except a spoiler that can split the centre-left vote and guarantee a destructive market fundamentalist government led by Jason Kenney, Brian Jean or some other conservative contender.

To succeed, therefore, Mr. Crouse is going to have to find and articulate several polices different enough from Premier Rachel Notley’s New Democrats to woo voters who might otherwise vote NDP, and yet not so different that he doesn’t appear to be just another conservative, as does Alberta Party Leader and sole MLA Greg Clark nowadays.

This, of course, is exactly the role Conservatives hope the Liberals will play – but the question is, notwithstanding Mr. Crouse’s undeniable political talents, will it play in Ponoka, let alone in any of the province’s big cities?

At the moment, the Liberals only have one MLA – former leader, current interim leader and likely soon-to-be-retired leader David Swann. It seems highly improbable Dr. Swann, popular in his own Calgary-Mountain View riding, will run again.

Mr. Crouse’s announcement, by the way, wasn’t exactly a surprise. He’s been dropping hints about this for weeks, even months, possibly even years. In mid-January, he published a statement on his personal website saying, “the opportunity to serve Albertans in a volunteer capacity such as the Liberal Party Leader is one opportunity that I am seriously considering.” He added: “I will update Albertans in the near future.” Well, now he has.

When he unexpectedly revealed two months ago he wouldn’t be seeking a fourth term as mayor of the upscale bedroom suburb northwest of Edmonton, he said he would not be running for the Liberal leadership. But that was then and this is now, and a politician’s allowed to change his mind. It’s telling that at the time he was queried about this ambition by reporters.

As mayor of the city of 65,000, Mr. Crouse has been an enthusiastic retail politician, attending literally hundreds of community events over the past decade. Before being mayor, he served one term as city councillor. A former timber and energy industry executive, company owner and successful junior hockey coach with an MBA, Mr. Crouse has been chair of the Capital Regional Board since 2012.

St. Albert has grown and mostly prospered through his tenure as mayor, and continues to attract newcomers. The principal knock against Mr. Crouse by his often-bitter opponents has been the city’s higher-than-average property taxes, a situation that does not rest solely in his hands, obviously. But he has also been criticized over the years for a range of local controversies that included being accused of voting on a matter from which he should have recused himself and suggestions he improperly submitted mileage claims to the Capital Region Board.

In the last municipal election campaign Mr. Crouse was subjected to a vicious campaign of anonymous trolling by persons unknown, which he overcame with relative ease.

Mr. Crouse says he will complete his term as mayor and, if he wins, volunteer full-time for the Liberals after the next municipal election in October.

So far, Mr. Crouse is the only candidate to announce his intention to seek the Liberal leadership. The party, obviously, needs a contest to generate some interest and bring in new members. Nominations close on March 31.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

13 Comments to: St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse makes it official: he wants to lead Alberta Liberals

  1. Sam

    March 2nd, 2017

    Yawn, at this point they are just slightly more relevant to Alberta politics than Social Credit. If David Swann retires before the next general election, it seems unlikely this party can hold his former seat in a Mountain View by-election, and so they may well be completely shut out from the Legislature. Serves them right for being the party of second-choice for PC cast offs for so long. I defy anyone to articulate what this party has ever clearly stood for. Being the branch office for the eastern elites party doesn’t play well here in Alberta.

    Reply
  2. Bob Raynard

    March 2nd, 2017

    For years my vote choice (Liberal or NDP) was based almost entirely on which candidate had a better chance of winning in my riding. I am sure I am not alone in that regard. Now that we have a progressive government that choice is much easier.

    Reply
  3. jerrymacgp

    March 2nd, 2017

    The Liberals’ only hope for relevance is if the PCs & Wildrosers do actually merge into a hard-right-wing fundamentalist neo-con party with a strong so-con streak, unfriendly to so-called “Red Tories”. There may be some PCs who could not stomach sticking with a new full-on Conservative party of Alberta led by either Jason Kenney or Brian Jean, and yet are not willing to join Sandra Jansen in the NDP, but might be willing to shift to the Liberals. A Liberal Party that shifts to the right on fiscal & economic policy, but stays moderately progressive on social & cultural issues, might offer an alternative for those traditional PC voters that don’t like that feeling of knuckles dragging along the pavement that Wildrose voters don’t seem to mind.

    Of course, the Alberta Party under Mr Clark is also trying to till that same ground, so vote-splitting there is still likely to be a
    problem unless one or the other folds up its tent and leaves the field.

    Reply
  4. Bernie

    March 2nd, 2017

    A likely candidate for St. Albert mayor is MP Michael Cooper. We need more true conservatives like him and not these phony “conservative” red tories.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      March 2nd, 2017

      This is a good opportunity for me to offer a more general comment about “Bernie,” for the benefit of readers, and communicate directly with “Bernie,” which I seldom I have a chance to do because he always uses a phony email address that usually contains a sly dig at a politician, in this case “[email protected]” As readers know, I am committed to free speech and open discussion, so I generally allow comments that are critical of my views. “Bernie” and all the other names he uses, however, normally gets deleted because his comments are usually irrelevant and most often almost exactly the the same. I hate to discourage him entirely, however, because sometimes, as in this case, he makes me laugh. Yes, I think it would be an excellent idea for our young Conservative MP to resign his seat in Parliament – which in my view would immediately improve the quality of representation St. Albert gets in the House of Commons – and to run for mayor, where he would be easier to defeat. He could then get on with his law career. Alas, unlike “Bernie,” I don’t hold out much hope of this happening. DJC

      Reply
      • Tom in Ontario

        March 2nd, 2017

        “…because his comments are usually irrelevant and most often almost exactly the same.”
        This reader wants to know. Does DJC believe from the bottom of his heart that “Bernie” was home schooled?

        Reply
    • anon

      March 2nd, 2017

      Not gonna happen! There are no lifetime pensions for municipal mayors and councillors like there are for MPs. When “freedom 35 calls” what’s a poor boy to do?

      Reply
    • CovKid

      March 3rd, 2017

      “MP Michael Cooper”.

      Didn’t he come top of the class at the Preston Manning Impersonator School?

      Reply
  5. David

    March 2nd, 2017

    I suppose one advantage Mr. Crouse has over some of the others considering running for Alberta Liberal leader is he is an elected municipal leader, but so was the Hinton mayor who became the Alberta Party leader and years ago the Mayor of Calgary who became the leader of Social Credit just before it blew up. Being a good local politician does not necessarily translate across the province or even win you a seat in your own town or city.

    The Alberta Liberal party is in a great struggle for relevance now. I suspect its fate will be determined more by how the other parties perform than who it chooses to be its next leader. If one of the other parties stumbles or provides an opening they may find a big enough space to continue to be represented in the legislature, perhaps by Mr. Crouse.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      March 3rd, 2017

      I agree the Alberta Liberals face a tough fight for relevance. But don’t sell Mr. Crouse short. As a resident of St. Albert, I have seen the man in action. Like Jason Kenney, he is a campaigning machine. DJC

      Reply
  6. Brett

    March 2nd, 2017

    So what? A ho hum moment in Alberta politics. Who is kidding whom?

    Rachael Notley’s team have taken that real estate already.

    The Alberta Liberals are a day late and a dollar short.

    Reply
  7. ronmac

    March 2nd, 2017

    well we know he’s going to get at least four votes in the next election

    Reply
  8. March 11th, 2017

    I like the guy in the photo with the checked sport jacket and bowtie. Not such a fan of red tie on a red shirt. However, red ties look great on a light blue or light grey shirt.

    Reply

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