PHOTOS: Interim Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann, grabbed from his website. Below: Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman and Alberta Party leader Greg Clark.

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time!

But early Sunday afternoon the Alberta Liberal Party’s board rejected veteran Edmonton MLA Laurie Blakeman’s plan to attempt a merger of her foundering party with the Alberta Party and appointed Calgary MLA David Swann as interim leader instead.

Why not? Dr. Swan, three-term MLA for Calgary-Mountain View and party leader from 2008 to 2011 has already proved he doesn’t have what it takes to lead the Liberals to anything approximating success.

Dr. Swann is a fine person, but his chances of achieving much in the face of the Jim Prentice Progressive Conservative juggernaut are negligible at best.

Ms. Blakeman’s proposal for a merger effort with the Alberta Party, contained in a public letter issued Saturday, offered the party a little hope. Its rejection by the Liberal Party board in favour of doing something about a merger later, it seems from here, offers much less.

Actually, with the five-member Alberta Liberal caucus on the ropes after three years of flighty leadership by former Progressive Conservative junior minister Raj Sherman, who suddenly quit last Monday, and plans by two Calgary MLAs not to run again, the board’s rejection probably means the Alberta Party will inherit the Liberals’ mantle anyway. The only difference is, when that happens, it will be entirely on the Alberta Party’s terms.

The Alberta Party in its current iteration is made up mainly of disgruntled Liberals anyway, fed up with the Alberta Liberals’ disappointing results under Kevin Taft in the 2008 general election. As a result, in theory, Ms. Blakeman’s proposed union of like minds should have been quite achievable and may well have had tacit support in Alberta Party circles.

Ms. Blakeman, the five-term representative for Edmonton-Centre, proposed in her statement Saturday night that she be given the job for one year “on the condition that I am given a comprehensive mandate to negotiate a structured co-operation and eventual amalgamation with the Alberta Party.”

She left the door open a crack to including the New Democrats as well – although NDP Leader Rachel Notley has been clear her party is not interested in tying itself to a party in deep distress.

Ms. Blakeman’s proposal also called for a joint slate of candidates in the next election and conceded that, at the end of the process, the Alberta Liberals might no longer exist under that name.

Since the Alberta Liberals are not much more than a husk of their former selves, this would have given them access to Alberta Party supporters who are clever political operators – not the least of them Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and his inner circle of advisors.

Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark certainly did better than expected in the Oct. 27, 2014, by-election in Calgary-Elbow with a little help from Nenshi-linked political consultant and former Alison Redford chief of staff Stephen Carter. Mr. Clark is a former aide to the late Laurence Decore, Alberta Liberal Opposition leader in the early 1990s.

The Liberal Party board, presumably, is still counting on the idea that there is some magic left in the Liberals’ damaged brand – the seemingly hopeless state of which was one of the motivations for the creation of the restructured Alberta Party in 2009 and 2010.

It is true that Alberta’s Liberals have a history of hanging on to their hard core of supporters at election time. In the past they have been able to count on a cadre of 10 to 12 per cent of the electorate that would vote Liberal no matter what. Even under Dr. Sherman, they hung onto 10 per cent of the provincial vote in the 2012 general election.

Even such results for the Liberals are problematic now, however, in the face of Premier Prentice’s apparent ability to restore the PCs’ once-faded lustre and his successful gambit to co-opt the Wildrose Opposition.

With Ms. Blakeman’s idea of a Hail Mary Pass to the Alberta Party no longer part of the game thanks to the Liberal board, the prospects for the survival of the Alberta Liberal Party seem increasingly dim.

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  1. So let me get this straight… you’ve just had your third oil boom go bust and you currently have the most anti-social, resource tax regime anywhere this side of 14th century Mexico and you’re cryin’ about David Swann vs Laurie Blakeman? Whoa… Liberal? Thy name is tone deaf. Alberta party? Wanna be part of the problem, just get elected and false comprise that can down the road until the last drop of oil and the last stick of wood pulp is loaded.
    NDP? Too gutless to hoist a big question mark over why the province has no bank account to weather this storm. Why? Why, did Ralph “The Drunkard” sell off your utilities and hamstring your healthcare system while co-opting your largest public service union? The problem is us! Will the NDP educate and lead? Let’s not be Andrea Horwath, or Adiran Dix, pretty please? Time for some fire and brimstone, lord knows it’s warranted!

    1. Pogo, you know quite well that the Alberta NDP is actually to the right of both the Ontario and BC NDP. The party has made clear that it wants to be seen as a centre party, and Rachel Notley has emphasized that she is “not a radical.” She isn’t, but no one outside of a relatively small radius of central Edmonton actually believes her. She won’t form a coalition of any kind with the Liberals and others who do appeal to modestly progressive voters who, however unfairly, distrust the NDP as a supposed radical party (to be clear, I wish they were, but since they are not, I see no point in failing to face reality and searching for a centrist coalition that can provide an alternative to the rule of unmediated Big Oil). So, actually David Swann versus Laurie Blakeman is a real issue, and unfortunately, though both of them would not be out of place in an NDP caucus, it’s only Laurie who still has the heart and the guts to push for cooperation among the left-of-Tory parties, none of which are more than palest pink.

      1. Check out the poll on Rabble. It places the NDP miles ahead of any party. The Liberals gave it up with their standard fare left for the Federal Liberals who got a good bunch out of the deal.

        The problem again will be the vote, not the party in particular.

        Complaining on the web is not the same as voting!
        The province is much more aware of the social aspect of Governments in 5 weeks of explaining Norway on every paper and blog I could fine.

  2. I found your comment that Alberta Party is made up of disgruntled Liberals to be amusing but incredibly inaccurate. The provincial board has executive and directors quite literally from every other party, and no party affiliation as well. The membership, which is on a rapidly accelerating rise, is also from all over the map. Stick to, or at least give a nod to, the facts, please, as this was a rather whimsical pie in the sky piece.

    1. Susan: I don’t doubt that there are people from all parties in the membership of the Alberta Party. The same, of course, is true of the Alberta PCs, alas. However, while I accept this, I continue to believe the bulk of its membership comes out of the disgruntled Liberal stream. Perhaps I should have said “was founded mainly by disgruntled Liberals,” which is harder to dispute. I would, of course, be happy to receive statistical evidence that I am wrong, which I will be delighted to publish in this space. As for being whimsical, what I mostly offer in this space is analysis and opinion. It’s my opinion that by not considering union with the Alberta Party, the Alberta Liberals have sealed their fate. I wouldn’t be surprised if you agree with me on that.

    2. The Alberta party was started with finances from the Oil industry for the purpose of running; splitting the left vote but not winning’ They claim now to have changed their spots but I still view them as a wasted vote.

      1. The oil industry felt the need to slyly pony up the dough to finance the Alberta Party and bwahahaha – split the left vote?

        Presumably because they hadn’t noticed that NDP and Liberals and Greens have being doing exactly that for the last, like, forever.

        1. May and the Green party were very right of the Liberals, closer to the conservatives but with cookies.
          The only thing that held them back was a cause they could get their teeth into.

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