When the going gets tough, the Alberta Party doesn’t run

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PHOTOS: Departing Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark because, in a story about the party … Why not? Below: Seatless Alberta political party leaders, Calgary-Lougheed candidates and convenient excuses for the Alberta Party to ride the pine: Jason Kenney, UCP; David Khan, Alberta Liberals; and Romy Tittel, Alberta Greens (Photo: Green Party). Bottom: John F. Kennedy (Photo: White House).

So what’s the point of the Alberta Party again?

After talking big at its well-attended annual general meeting in Red Deer last weekend about how it intends to be a serious player in the expected 2019 Alberta general election, the formerly liberalish, now apparently somewhat progressive conservative political entity has decided not to run a candidate in the Calgary-Lougheed by-election on Dec. 15.

The party’s board of directors announced yesterday it will sit out the by-election because, you know, they always do.

No, wait. That’s not what they actually said, although it probably should have been.

What they did say was that they want to devote their energies to the leadership race to replace Greg Clark, who either stepped down or was forced to walk the plank in the lead-up to the AGM, where the takeover by former PCs became obvious enough it was officially recognized as a thing by mainstream media.

“This will be the primary objective we can achieve to be competitive in 2019,” the party said in an email to its no doubt mystified supporters. “With the need to direct our financial and human resources to this leadership race, and with the race in Calgary-Lougheed considered to be a foregone conclusion, it is best that we have a successful and well executed leadership that will have a major impact on our party’s long-term success.”

In case further rationalizations were needed, the email went on to supply them, claiming that “with the amount of time until the by-election is held, we would be unable to conduct adequate screening of a potential candidate.” Say what? No one in the party reliable enough to run in a single by-election? Surely it’s not that hard to vet a single candidate!

Plus, the email went on, “with three opposition party leaders running in this by-election, we wish to respect the parliamentary tradition of not contesting an opposition party leader trying to secure a seat in the Legislature.”

Merciful heavens!

Well, as we frequently say here at AlbertaPolitics.ca: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. That is to say, whatever the Alberta Party’s political philosophy du jour, it sure doesn’t seem to like contesting actual elections.

Alert readers will recall that the last time there was a provincial by-election – on March 22, 2016, in the Calgary-Greenway Riding, to replace Manmeet Bhullar, who was killed in a Nov. 23, 2015, traffic mishap on Highway 2 – the Alberta Party decided to ride the pine for that one too.

The Alberta Party’s excuse on that occasion was quite similar – they were going to focus their efforts on the 2019 general election.

Well, all I can say is that the Alberta Party had better find an exciting leader and run a heck of a campaign in 2019 if they ever want anyone to take them seriously.

Seriously, just because you can’t guarantee a victory is no reason not to run in a by-election. The risk is low, the learning experience is immensely valuable, and the opportunity to test and challenge your creaky campaign team is priceless.

As my colleague Dave Cournoyer, author of the Daveberta.ca blog, asked back in the spring of 2015, “What else could this political party be doing that is more important than running a candidate in a by-election?”

The Big Listen? A kitchen kaffeeklatsch?

As he said then and I say now, by sitting out the by-election, the Alberta Party has ceded ground to other opposition parties who are actually prepared to do their job.

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney is the front-running candidate in the by-election, which came about when MLA Dave Rodney either stepped aside or was forced to walk the plank (an Alberta theme here, d’ya think?) to make way for the social conservative former Harper Government cabinet minister.

The governing NDP will be represented in the contest by Calgary physician Dr. Phillip van der Merwe. The other seatless party leaders joining Mr. Kenney in the race are the Alberta Liberals’ David Khan and the Green Party’s Romy Tittel.

Meanwhile, notwithstanding the Alberta Liberals’ famously “damaged brand” in this province, Mr. Khan is doing a much better job than the Alberta Party’s leaders, whoever they may be, to actually play a constructive role in political discourse.

Leastways, he’s managed to get his signature issue of opposition to so-called political action committees onto the radar of public opinion, perhaps even enough to get the NDP government of Premier Rachel Notley to do something about it.

“All Albertans should be very concerned about big, dark, unregulated money undermining or otherwise corrupting our democracy here,” he told the CBC last week, speaking the truth.

Today’s anniversaries, in Alberta and America

Anniversaries are important in politics, and today we mark a couple of them:

On this day in 2015, to the spitting outrage of its Conservative foes, the Notley Government announced its Climate Leadership Plan, which included putting a tax on carbon, a cap on oilsands emissions, phasing out coal-fired power generation, and emphasizing wind power.

On Nov. 22, 1963, of course, U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Tex., a story that after more than half a century continues to generate a steady stream of news and have a direct, sometimes palpable impact on American politics. And, yes, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the terrible news.

Categories Alberta Politics