PHOTOS: Fading to black… I’ll bite your legs off! They may be missing many essential parts, but the Alberta Liberals aren’t ready to give up yet. Actual Alberta Liberal candidates may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Interim Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann. St. Albert NDP candidate Marie Renaud.
ST. ALBERT, Alberta
If the Wildrose Party ends up half a dozen or so ridings strategically short of a complete slate when the deadline for candidates to file their nomination papers with Elections Alberta passes at 2 o’clock this afternoon, it’ll still be doing much better than the Alberta Liberals.
Die-hard Wildrosers may have been rattled by the defection to the Progressive Conservatives under Premier Jim Prentice of the majority of their Legislative caucus last December, but the Alberta Liberals, which at the start of the Ralph Klein Era seriously challenged Alberta’s Tory government, are in a much more grievous state of chaos and crumbling morale.
After not quite three and a half years under the disastrous leadership of Dr. Raj Sherman, the mercurial former Tory MLA who won the party’s top job in September 2011 and then pulled the plug on the whole project at the end of January, the once credible Liberals will be at least 40 candidates short of a full slate when election day rolls around on May 5.
But like Monte Python’s armless, legless Black Knight, they just won’t give up: “’Tis but a scratch! I’ve had worse! … Chicken! Chicken!”
Under interim leader Dr. David Swann, the Alberta Liberals expect to run only 47 candidates in the province’s 87 electoral districts, blogger Dave Cournoyer reported last night in his indispensable catalogue of who’s running where in Alberta on the Davberta.ca political blog.
Or maybe that’ll be 46, judging from a report here in St. Albert, a community of 60,000 souls northwest of Edmonton with a history of significant support for both federal and provincial Liberals over the years.
Alberta Liberals have usually run good candidates in St. Albert. One of them, Jack Flaherty, managed to upset Tory MLA Mary O’Neill and narrowly win the riding in 2004 provincial general election. Mr. Flaherty was decisively defeated in 2008 by PC Ken Allred, who retired before the 2012 election and was replaced by Stephen Khan as Tory MLA.
Last night, I’m told heated debate erupted at a constituency association meeting attended by a dozen or so party members when one of them put a motion on the floor calling for the party not to run a candidate in St. Albert and to publish a statement endorsing Marie Renaud, the NDP’s candidate.
It sounds as if Dr. Swann’s emissaries were appalled at the idea and argued fiercely against it until someone put a stop to the animated discussion by declaring the motion out of order.
Still, it’s yet another sign of the parlous state of the Alberta Liberal Party, and it will be interesting to see if the party manages to find a local volunteer or even a college student to parachute in before this afternoon’s deadline.
Well, it probably doesn’t really matter what the constituency association or the party officials decide, because most Liberals in St. Albert – and in much of the rest of the province – are likely to conclude they’ll have to vote with their feet before they vote at the ballot box.
Whether they go left to the NDP, right to the PCs or sideways to a Liberal spinoff like the Alberta Party, which with no seats, few prospects and only 36 candidates can’t persuade Global TV it deserves a place at next Wednesday’s leaders’ debate, the state of the Liberals in all but a couple of ridings will leave them little choice.