Alberta Party’s crisis of its own making

Alberta’s namesake party is facing an existential crisis.

Alberta’s namesake party is facing an existential crisis.

Just two years after its formation, the nascent Alberta Party is losing its leader after an electoral shutout in April. And now party operatives are pondering whether, at its annual general membership meeting on Sept. 22, it should soldier on, disband or turn itself into a think tank focused on progressive ideas.

With a stillborn performance like this, it must feel like the Social Credit of the centre-left: irrelevant, largely ignored and not an organization anyone would construe as a future contender.

The contrast couldn’t be more vivid between the Alberta Party and another recent rookie movement — the Wildrose Alliance, a fiscally conservative/socially libertarian party which, under the leadership of Danielle Smith, came within a hair’s breadth of winning that same provincial election.

It wasn’t that the Alberta Party lacked leadership. Former Hinton mayor Glenn Taylor had an amiable image and a grassroots political presence.

It also had “brand” on its side. Naming your party after the province appears to have populist potential — after all, it worked in Saskatchewan, where the right-wing Saskatchewan Party overcame the baggage associated with the previous corruption-tainted Progressive Conservative Party, and rode to electoral success.

Actually, the Alberta Party has the literal name but the Wildrose name might actually come closer to capturing the essence of the province.

But it was something else that failed to impress voters. Perhaps it was the contrived sense of entitlement — that this party somehow had a vision of a better way, without clearly enunciating what the better way would look like. Better governance? Greater accountability? I think we’ve all heard these lines before. Note to policy wonks: Show us the money.

I think it may have had something to do with haste. It’s no secret that some of the forces behind the Alberta Party also had their hands in the election of the progressive and popular Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. There was a sense that the surprising come-from-nowhere success in that campaign could be simply escalated to the provincial level.

Instead, party politics at the provincial and federal levels are both more complex and more deeply entrenched. Histories are longer, policies more completely evolved and traditions more deeply bound. The Wildrose succeeded as well as it did (and, to be clear, that party’s greatest hour may yet come) because it had simple and clear policy positions and even claimed to be the rightful heirs to Alberta’s conservative tradition.

Compare that advanced state to the other new kids on the block. What traditions are the Alberta Party rooted in?

A few years ago, I was part of a group in Alberta that considered founding a new political party based on fiscal conservatism and environmental stewardship. We invited Preston Manning, the closest thing in Canada to a political wise man, to one of our meetings, seeking insights from his early days of the Reform movement. The advice he delivered then could easily apply to the Alberta Party establishment today.

Preston’s advice was to take time and get your ideas in place as a social movement before even considering an entrance into the political arena. Your ideas are what will be how the public measure your group’s value as a movement; launching such a movement before those ideas are fully formed will ultimately doom the cause to failure. In simpler terms, there’s no point in having sizzle if there’s no steak.

Our little group never got beyond the idea stage, but the concept of environmentally-friendly conservatism has found its way into the public discourse. That is in part a credit to Manning, who has emerged as a leader in the fiscally conservative/environmentally responsible ethic.

Manning’s advice on getting the values right first is what the Alberta Party should have received, but apparently did not.

Perhaps the best thing for the Alberta Party to do at this moment is to take a step back, and get the horse back in front of the cart. No matter how catchy the name, no one will vote for a party that doesn’t have its elevator pitch polished to a high shine. If you can’t say in a few words what you stand for, you’ll never connect with the people whose support you need.

There’s no shortcut to spending a few years in church basements and community halls getting up close and personal with the province whose name you aspire to wear.

Doug Firby is editor in chief and national affairs columnist for Troy Media.

Troy Media

Just Posted

Wolf Creek Schools raises Treaty 6 flag for first time

Chiefs, school officials took part in a ceremony that is aimed at acknowledging Treaty 6 land

Federal and provincial governments partner in investing in Valley View Manor

Government officials take part in grand opening of Valley View Manor

Valley View Manor hosts grand opening

Rimbey’s beautiful new facility celebrated

The characters between the lines

Remembering newspaper greats!

UPDATE: 18-year-old Rimbey teen dies in collision

A portion of Highway 53 west of Rimbey is down to one lane while crews investigate

U.S. congressman issues dire warning to Canada’s NAFTA team: time is running out

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is expected to resume talks with the U.S.

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

Tilray Inc sees $10-billion in market cap go up in smoke

Tilray’s share price closed at $123 US on Friday, a decline from its intraday peak of nearly $300 US earlier in the week

Canada to boost support for riskier forms of renewable energy: minister

A $30-million contribution to a $117-million tidal project hopes to harness the immense power of the Bay of Fundy

WATCH: Grey Cup was in Red Deer to support military families

Money raised will go towards the Military Family Resource Centre

Browns beat streak, win first NFL game in 635 days

Baker Mayfield erased any doubts about why the Browns selected him with the No. 1 overall pick

New silver collector coin features Indigenous dancer

New silver collectors coin captures fast-paced energy of an Indigenous powwow

Off Nova Scotia, a bid to ‘unravel the mystery’ of great white sharks

The question: Is Nova Scotia the second mating site for Atlantic white sharks, something scientists say could be key to protecting the endangered species.

Most Read