Did the Alberta Party, the political party about nothing, just have a Seinfeld coup?

Posted on December 03, 2017, 12:21 am
6 mins

PHOTOS: Former Alberta Party leader – and current Alberta Party House Leader, I guess, maybe even interim Alberta Party leader – Greg Clark. Below: Former NDP MLA Karen McPherson, now the second member of the Alberta Party Caucus, former St. Albert PC MLA Steve Khan, who says he won’t be seeking the Alberta Party leadership, and high-profile political strategist Stephen Carter.

Jerry: Wha-what’s the party about?

George: It’s about nothing.

[Recorded laughs]

Jerry: No leader?

George: Forget the leader.

Jerry: No leader? You gotta have a leader!

Help me out here, folks. The leader of the Alberta Party, who obviously enjoyed being the leader of the Alberta Party, suddenly stepped down from the job hours before Remembrance Day.

Greg Clark, the only person ever to have actually been elected to the Legislature as a candidate for the Alberta Party, promised to stick around as MLA for Calgary-Elbow and work like the dickens, but said that in order for the party to be viable in the expected 2019 general election, it really needed to be leaderless.

Well, in fact what he said was that the party really needed to “blow the doors wide open” and the only way to do that was to have a leadership race. He might run in it, or maybe not.

On the face of it, this was a pretty dubious claim. It was only at the end of October that the party had finally, sorta, maybe, kinda gotten on the provincial political radar thanks to the floor crossing by former NDP Government member Karen McPherson, MLA for Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill.

Plus, there was plenty of talk a couple of former Progressive Conservative MLAs still in the Legislature might sign up too. That would have given the Alberta Party the critical mass it needed to become an official party, with a research budget, an excuse to book a caucus room, and everything.

Informed speculation at the time suggested Mr. Clark was pushed out by former PC insiders disillusioned with United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney’s autocratic and social conservative ways who were flooding into the Alberta Party.

In other words, it was a palace coup – even if a party whose entire caucus could meet in a phone booth doesn’t exactly qualify as a palace. Alberta political history has shown parties with tiny caucuses can form majority governments in a very short span of time.

It was reported Mr. Clark got an ultimatum by the party’s new PC masters: He could step aside before the Alberta Party AGM scheduled for the next weekend in Red Deer, or he could run as an Independent in 2019.

For his part, Mr. Clark has gamely insisted he came to the conclusion the only way to make a go of the party was to generate momentum by having a leadership race.

Most media generously accepted this story. “Clark quits as first Alberta Party leader to generate political buzz,” a Calgary Herald headline writer summarized kindly, if a little ambiguously and rather inaccurately. (Mr. Clark is not the first leader of the party, nor was he the first to generate political buzz, at least for a little while.)

Now more than three weeks have passed there are apparently no candidates to lead the party. None.

So what is this? A Seinfeld coup?

They have a few days yet. The party said on Nov. 22 it had set Feb. 7 as the day for the leadership vote – assuming, I guess, that there are some candidates. The party doesn’t seem to have make public the deadline for nominations.

Three weeks ago, I offered up a rather speculative list of 17 possible candidates. Most of them have been pretty quiet since then. Former St. Albert MLA Stephen Khan told the local paper he won’t be running, so make that 16. Some of the others say they’re still thinking about it.

Maybe there’s a plan. After all, slick political operators now involved with the party like Stephen Carter and Susan Elliot usually have plans. Ms. Elliot is co-chair of the Alberta Party Leadership Election Committee.

But then, the Alberta Party was always sort of a party about nothing. Its slogan seems to be “Centre Together.” It got its start in its current avowedly centrist form at a province-wide series of kaffeeklatsches called “The Big Listen.”

So probably there’s a plan. But maybe not.

George: I think we really got somethin’ here!

Jerry: Whadda we got?

George: An idea!

Jerry: What idea?

George: An idea for the party.

Jerry: I still don’t know what the idea is!

George: It’s about nothing.

Jerry: Right … ?

George: Everybody’s doing something. We’ll do nothing.

Jerry: I think you may have something here!

NOTE: The Seinfeld clip was intentionally transcribed incorrectly. With apologies. DJC

8 Comments to: Did the Alberta Party, the political party about nothing, just have a Seinfeld coup?

  1. Harebell

    December 3rd, 2017

    Party politics is toxic
    Just as toxic as their impact on the country, province and municipalities.
    Independents are the only honest people out there, but as a rule they are one issue lunatics.
    We are screwed.

    Reply
  2. David

    December 3rd, 2017

    I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising that a party that we have trouble defining, that in itself seems a bit Sienfeld like, should be having a Sienfeld like leadership race.

    So much for all the excitement and buzz from all these high profile leadership candidates. Perhaps most have looked more closely and decided it really is too much of a fixer upper. Perhaps that was really Mr. Clark’s strategy in the first place and might explain why he took being pushed out rather well. Perhaps he figured it was unlikely there was going to be a line up of credible candidates for the job.

    Now, once Mr. Clark is confident there are no serious challengers, he can announce his candidacy, with whatever limited buzz that generates and perhaps if he is lucky even win by acclamation – easiest campaign ever.

    The Alberta Party and its former (and possibly future) leader are a bit like an amoeba – you can poke it and it will rearrange itself a bit but it will return to a somewhat similar ambiguous shape as before. Now, there is a new name they should consider – the Amoeba Party. It is not that flattering, but it might generate more buzz than their Seinfeld like leadership race seems to have so far.

    Reply
  3. Sassy

    December 3rd, 2017

    Here I thought the puppet masters had an amazing leader in the wings and would then direct their other branch – UCP – to run duds in Calgary. Guess I was wrong. The Alberta Party is the one that is likely to run duds in Calgary so their UCP partners can take the conservative votes. Oh, those backroom strategists think they are so clever.

    Reply
  4. ronmac

    December 3rd, 2017

    Is this a more viable scenario? Just testing.

    Jerry: So what’s the party about?
    George: It’s about nothing.
    [Recorded laughs]
    Jerry: Well you gotta have something.
    George: You’re right, we gotta have something.
    Jerry: We need something, anything.
    [George claps his hands]
    George: How about this? We’ll do the opposite of what everybody wants.
    Jerry: And what does everybody want?
    George: Lower taxes. Everbody wants lower taxes. We’ll raise taxes. Elect us and we promise to raise your
    taxes. We’ll shove them down your throat!
    Jerry: And you think that’s going to get you elected?
    George: Of course! I know, we’ll call it a sales tax! Every province has one. Why not us? We’re joining the fold.
    Jerry: You know, after a lifetime of fruitless labour and unmitigated failure, you may have something there.

    Reply
  5. Conrad

    December 3rd, 2017

    The fact that the disgraced “strategist” Stephen Carter is allowed to have anything to do with the Alberta Party is what will ensure its demise…

    Reply
  6. Mary Nokleby

    December 4th, 2017

    Perhaps wanting to be ‘about nothing’ in Alberta is more about trying to figure out how to be engaged, look and sound progressive, without ruffling any important feathers…….or risking any disagreeable conflict.

    After 44 years of Conservative rule, many of us may not know what to do…how to act, or have those increasingly political conversations around the water cooler.

    We attended a few Big Listens and heard lots of interesting ideas…but we also pretty quickly learned that our left of centre way of thinking about organization, and public policy, wasn’t particularly welcome.

    There’s a difference between progressive and radical in Alberta….and though that difference may well be about nothing in particular, it is an invisible participant in most discussions. The Alberta Party we sampled wanted to be without ideology….but in the know. Just a lot of well meaning and often smart Albertans trying to find a way to engage in politics without being too political.

    In many ways…it is about nothing….finding a way to stand without taking many positions. It’s tricky, but you have to admire the effort.

    Reply
  7. Brian

    December 5th, 2017

    A party without ideology is like a business without a product or service.

    Reply
  8. Chris

    December 18th, 2017

    The Carter-Elliot-O’Neill small-L lliberals and red tories took over the Progressive Conservative party in 2014. They installed a bright shiny new figure-head (Redford) and managed to fly a dynasty into the ground. Having been kicked out of their adopted PC home, they wandered throught the desert, looking for their homeland. They spotted an oasis called the “Alberta Party” and have set-up camp, taking them over as well. We now wait with baited breath for the next glorious leader they conjure up. I wonder how well it will turn out this time.

    Reply

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