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 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 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.

Join the Conversation


  1. Is the failure of the Alberta Party to run a candidate against Jason Kenny under the guise of not opposing an opposition party leader actually herald yet another party takeover by Jason Kenny and his minions?

  2. Big mistake. We live in the riding. We do not plan on voting for Jason Kenney/UCP.

    We were hoping that the Alberta Party would offer up a good option for us. This is a cop out. I guess we will not be taking them seriously going forward.

  3. My guess is that the AP doesn’t want a by-election candidate declaring AP policy before the taken-over party can decide what they are. I think this is another sign that the Alberta Party that runs in 2019 will not be the same as the one we saw in 2015.

      1. Oh, I think Mr. Kenney has a “real policy” alright. He just hasn’t told us what it is. We can guess, though.

    1. I don’t think they’re wrong about that. If they ran someone, that person would be the defacto party leader for the length of the campaign. If they win (however unlikely) or even exceed expectations, it creates a really awkward situation if anyone else actually wins the leadersip race. And if they screw up publicly it would define the party going in to the next election.

  4. I was in high school in Toronto on that fateful day in 1963, but came to Alberta a few years later. During the 1979-80 negotiations the UNA negotiating committee got talking about where they were on November 22, 1963. I well remember a certain older nurse from northern Alberta shocking us youngsters by telling us that she heard the Kennedy assassination news on CBC just after coming into the kitchen of her farmhouse with a tub of snow so she could do the washing.

    Re yesterday’s topic, I do have some fond memories of Peter Lougheed the man, and was fortunate enough to have my law degree financed by a scholarship named after him, but the suggestion some have made that he was pro public sector worker is wishful revisionism.

    In 1980 Lougheed was furious over the nurses strike, lawful in those days, and sought unsuccessfully to invoke a back to work order after just 3 days. In 1982 the government’s position was to seek rollbacks in the gains made in 1980. Lougheed never did come to terms with the economic gains made by public sector workers in the early 1980s, and brought in legislation to outlaw all healthcare strikes in 1983.

    1. And I remember you Simon Renouf not simply because as an RN I was aware of your close ties to UNA as “our lawyer”, but more especially because of the fun you had totally destroying the College of Physicians and Surgeons’ case against the marvellous pioneering midwife Noreen Walker, in a courthouse in Red Deer in 1991. Subsequently of course we had legal midwifery which the veterinarian Dr. Steve – “a priori we know the private sector is always at least 20% more efficient than the public sector” – West, refused to fund! His famous Catch-22! Even today midwifery remains underfunded. In Ontario midwives are agitating to be allowed to offer abortion services. Were you able to attend Noreen’s memorial? I didn’t see you but then there were so many there. Anyway, an opportunity to discuss one of my favourite themes. Thank you for your service.

      1. Roger, thank you for the shout-out. I was indeed at Noreen’s memorial. Both a sad and a celebratory event. Simon

  5. At first glance, I was willing to give the Alberta Party some benefit of the doubt. Yes, they are a small party with limited resources and they are trying to conduct a leadership race and they are unlikely to win this byelection … yada, yada, yada. Their have an argument, although not a particularly strong one.

    However, where their argument quickly starts to fall apart, is that it turns out that the Alberta Party is a repeat offender for being missing in action in by-elections. Also, other parties with arguably even fewer resources and not much chance of winning either, are eager to fight this courageous battle based on their convictions. This leads me to believe that the Alberta Party is not courageous, or more likely lacks something in conviction. This is a shame, because I believe Albertans do want a bit more moderation in their parties, however they do not want a party without conviction or principles. This all leads me to wonder whether the Alberta Party is the political equivalent of pablum – designed to be as inoffensive as possible, but generating little or no enthusiasm even among its own members and volunteers.

    They say practice makes perfect, and even if a party does not win the by-election it is a great opportunity for it to get its message out and see what works, what doesn’t. It is sort of like a rehearsal ahead of opening night.

    If the Alberta Party is reluctant or indifferent to face the electorate now, why should Albertans have any enthusiasm about it later? I am afraid, they may have just blown their best opportunity to make a good impression with Albertans. Perhaps they will find some wonderful savior leader to finally bring their party to life, but while there have been some competent and capable people mentioned as possibilities, none seem to really set the world on fire. As the NDP, Liberals, Greens and even the UCP seem to know, getting elected is hard work, there are no easy short cuts. The hard work starts with this by-election and unfortunately the Alberta Party is missing in action once again.

  6. The Alberta Party are the party of charlatans, carpetbaggers and turncoats. The list of potential leadership candidates and former officers of the party includes leadership candidates in other parties, officers in other parties, constituency members in other parties, federal party members of other stripes and on and on and on.

    And remember Jason Kenney and other Wildrosers attempted a coup d’etat of the brand.

  7. It won’t be long now until November 22 will mark the birthstone of a new “religion.”

    The dominant narrative making the rounds these days in liberal progressive circles is that JFK was a great guy who wanted to bring peace to the world but was tharted in his plans by an assassination/coup carried out by the CIA and other assorted evildoers who managed to frame an innocent bystander for the crime and the world has goe to hell in a handbasket ever since.

    Over the years an acquaitance of mine kept mocking my belief in the “official story” that Oswald acted alone. To him this was the supreme act of niavity to believe in a fairy tale. But to my surprise he suddenly anncounced the other day he now agrees with me. After stripping away the rehetoric and getting down to the nitty-gritty, the findings of the Warren Commission made perfectly logical sense.

    1. JFK was a nasty, entitled elite, and he was killed at the behest of some other nasty elites. The entire episode is of interest prinicpally because it demonstrates that the fantasy of a representative democracy in the West requires the complete suspension of disbelief, as does a claim that the findings of the Warren Commission made sense. The very notion that Allen Dulles, an out and out criminal who is a prime suspect, was a key member, says all that need be set about the phenomenon.

      1. To the objective observer any casual perusal of the basic facts should leave no doubt that Lee Harvey Oswald was guilty. Was he in cahoots with somebody ele? Obviously you can’t prove that one way or another with 100% certainity. If you believe this then you’d have to believe these “master elites” hired a guy with a rickety old $10 mail order rifle to do the job. Not bloddy likely. Over the years doubters have put forward motives as to why people wanted JFK dead, arround which massive triple-decker conspiracy theories have been contstructed with no real proof.

        No doubt much of our history has been directed by nasty master elites, but sometimes sh*t happens. A charistamic political figure in his prime could be cut down by a disgruntled warehouse worker.

  8. Whose running this party? Is the new executive director a person on loan from the AER? When our souls are soaked in oil, could it be the fumes have the population confused?

  9. When the going gets tough, Alberta party “leader” Greg Clark runs. Under his “leadership”, the party can’t raise any money and he couldn’t even muster the fight in him to challenge a small leadership issue. Time for the Alberta party to fold!

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