Fight for the Centre

In the past week some Alberta Liberal Party members were able to vote for their choice of Liberal Party leader.  I say “some” because there were a number of disqualified voters. In the end, 77% of registered party members (Almost 1700) voted.  It was probably a tough choice.  David Khan and Kerry Cundal are probably the most likable and genuine individuals to face off in Alberta politics in a very long time.

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David wanted to rebuild the Liberal brand in Alberta.  He wanted to put in the work to remind people why the Alberta Liberal Party was the oldest party in the province.  He wanted to make the Alberta Liberals great again.  Kerry wanted a mandate to build a stronger centre.  She thought it was time to stop fighting for the same voter base in the middle of the political spectrum.  She said now was the time to work together with the other centrist party, the Alberta Party, and the politically homeless Progressive Conservatives who did not want to be part of a Jason Kenney – Wildrose “frankenparty”.  The result was David Khan with 54% of the vote and Kerry Cundal with 46%; David won by 133 votes from a total of 1697 votes cast.

No doubt Kerry was disappointed.  As she boarded her flight overseas, I imagined she was feeling down.  It was a whirlwind of a campaign; six months worth of campaigning crammed into two.  She and David traveled the province meeting people for coffees, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, drinks and attending events; some of them together (they’re also friends outside of the political arena).   Which is harder on a candidate?  Losing by a little or a lot?  When it’s close you think there must have been something more you could have done; one more day of phone calls, one more trip to the other end of the province or sold a hundred and fifty more memberships to people who wouldn’t be disqualified… who knows.

That was June 4th and the campaign hangover had to be pretty bad on the 5th, but time heals all wounds.  On June 6, David sent out an email reiterating his pledge to rebuild and re-energize the party and asked those who supported both him and Kerry to join together and work towards 2019.  If Kerry had some of the fight knocked out of her on Sunday it was back with a vengeance by Tuesday.

The email was titled “Let’s continue this discussion”.  She thanked the volunteers, supporters and the ALP members for being involved in the process.  She thanked those who were willing to think outside the box.  Then she reached out to half of the registered Liberal voters.  “46% of you were interested in hearing about what it would mean to see cooperation with other centrists and progressives in Alberta.  That discussion is ongoing and I want to personally invite you… to be a part of it.”

The next meeting to discuss Alberta Together is happening in Red Deer on June 24th, 2017 from 11:00 am until 3:00 pm.  Tickets can be purchased here and it is open to anyone who wishes to be a part of this movement.  Kerry even invited David to take part; after all, almost half of the voting members chose to support a different view.  David knows he will have a lot of work ahead of him and the fight for the centre is just beginning.

The NDP and UCP would like people to think they are the only choices in 2019.   This works for both of them but does it work for Albertans?  The majority of Albertans voted PC for 44 years.  The NDP is trying to move to the centre.  The UCP could try to move into the centre as well but with Kenney’s voting history and the Wildrose’s … well, Wildrose-iness, it won’t be easy for them.  So who does that leave as an option?  It could be the Liberals but somehow having a majority in the federal government hasn’t helped their brand here in Alberta.

Rachel Notley addressed a crowd in Calgary on June 1st asking “people who believe just as much in being progressive as they do in being conservative” to consider the NDP as a “pragmatic, progressive home.” Greg Clark joined Ryan Jespersen on 630 CHED on June 7 and he referred to the influx of new members the Alberta Party has seen over the past couple of months. “There’s definitely momentum in the centre and it’s heading our way” he said.  Be that as it may, the only parties not aiming for the centrist voters are the highly contentious conservatives.

Call it arrogance, call it disdain; the conservatives don’t want anyone who can’t call themselves an absolute conservative.  The NDP, Alberta Party and Liberals are opening their doors to progressive conservatives.  That will leave three choices on the left of the right and one party, if the Kenney-Wildrose supporters surrender to the call for power, on the right.  And what will happen then?  Will there be enough of a split between the left and centre parties to allow Kenney-Wildrose to form government?  Anything’s possible.

REMINDER: Members of the Wildrose Party must have been registered two weeks prior to the July 22 AGM to vote for what they think will be best for Alberta’s future. The PC Party needs 51% to vote for unity and the Wildrose needs 75%.  Wildrose memberships can be purchased for $10.