What if you held a race and nobody showed up?

The bizarre saga of the hapless Alberta Party continues.

It has been eighteen days since Greg Clark was pushed out as leader of the Alberta Party due to a sudden influx of ambitious but unprincipled Progressive Conservative party members from the Redford era. Having gotten their hands on a fresh new party to play with, one would have thought that the tall foreheads behind this putsch would have had the foresight to ensure that their prospective leadership candidates for the upcoming race were solid. Alas, it appears that common sense was lost in their zeal.

Now the odd little party is finishing a legislative session leaderless, can’t even find the means to run a candidate in the Calgary Lougheed by-election and is losing what little credibility it had remaining as the days in what is going to be a very short leadership race tick by with not even a sign of a candidate vying for the position.

Surely the Redford Refugees had a person or persons in mind for the role when they kicked Greg Clark to the curb so ignominiously not so long ago. Party insiders have described the internal workings of the Alberta Party since the takeover as “a train wreck”.

I am guessing that the prospective candidates took a look at the moribund little party with no money in the bank that & now wracked with internal discord due to the weaselry involved in punting Greg Clark and they wisely headed the hell to the hills.

In any real leadership contest, prospective candidates begin voicing their public interest as soon as a vacancy presents itself. One can’t start too early in order to raise funds, build a team and sell memberships in order to win the race. Even tire kickers will at least air some interest into the public to gauge potential support for a run.

The silence regarding the leadership vacancy with the Alberta Party is truly deafening. They haven’t even drawn fringe crackpots to the race yet. This is truly a singular situation in politics.

The Christmas season is looming. That is a campaign dead zone from about December 15 until into the new year. That leaves about seven viable campaign weeks remaining if a candidate should throw their hat into the ring today.

I expect that they will scrape together a candidate or two by the time a deadline is reached. Hardly a position of strength when they have to work so hard to find one or two people who even want the job.

While the Alberta Party is clearly no threat on the electoral scene, this unique situation still makes it an interesting and unfolding story to behold. The machinations of the remnants of the once mighty Redford machine while as unprincipled as ever clearly don’t maintain the strategic wisdom of the past nor any real fiscal backing. The Alberta Party had just doubled its caucus and was actually gaining a bit of momentum. They then let their legs get cut out from under them by some homeless Progressive Conservatives who clearly knew so much better than the stalwarts running the party.

Perhaps the old Alberta Party guard will rally under Greg Clark and he can win back the role that he was pushed from. That looks like the best hope for the party right now. Then maybe they will have a hope of retaining a single seat in the next general election. Otherwise they are looking pretty dead.

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Rejuvenated Alberta Party already dead in the water.

The first strategically questionable move made by the Redford era management who have taken over the Alberta Party was to push out the personable leader Greg Clark and to trigger a sudden leadership race. The next move was the choice to refuse to run a candidate in the Calgary Lougheed by-election.

The flaccid rationale for forcing a leadership race was that they needed it to create buzz and sell memberships. Isn’t that exactly what running a candidate in a high profile by-election would do too? The reality is that those who took over simply want Clark out. While leadership races do indeed create buzz and sell memberships, they are terribly expensive for the party to run and party donations dry up for months while leadership candidates tap traditional party donors for their own campaigns. Somebody like Stephen Carter already knows this of course.

By-elections tend to be good for the party. Running a campaign means regular media opportunities and ongoing activity while galvanizing volunteers and members as they participate on the ground. Profile is raised and memberships are sold as people knock on doors throughout the community. Valuable campaign experience for party members is gained in these events. Even without a win there is a clear net-benefit for a party in running in by-elections.

In an absurd release, the Alberta Party has said that they will not run in the Calgary Lougheed by-election because it is “a foregone conclusion”. 

With the logic demonstrated in this choice to deny voters a chance to vote for them in Calgary Lougheed, it only stands to reason that the Alberta Party will only run a candidate in Calgary Elbow in the general election. The party has difficulty passing the 5% support range in pretty much every other constituency in Alberta.

It is somewhat ironic that while the Alberta Party has been pushing the theme of being “A party for everyone” when that everyone apparently does not include the electors in Calgary Lougheed.

In what universe does a party only run candidates when they know they will have 100% chance of winning? The only parties that could possibly take such a bizarre stance are those that already enjoy some pretty broad popular support throughout the province. The Alberta Party certainly doesn’t enjoy that status at this time (nor will they as long as they are too callow to contest elections).

For political wonks like myself, it will be interesting to watch the strange actions of this party that is now built on a mound of sour grapes. The whole raison d’être of a political party is to run candidates in an election. I guess until the Alberta Party finds it in itself to do so, it will simply be a social club where they will reminisce about the good old days under the Redford Regime before she fell in disgrace.

So far no leadership candidates have burst on to the scene vying for the leadership of the Alberta Party. Not too shocking I guess when they so openly display electoral impotence right out of the gate.  I expect that Team Redford already has somebody they intend to anoint in the role that they forced Greg Clark to vacate last week. One has to wonder if the race will have more than one candidate running.

While the party constantly demands to be taken seriously, they seem to go out of their way to ensure that people can’t take it seriously. Greg Clark just said last weekend that he anticipates the Alberta Party will win the 2019 general election. Rather bold statement to make when they are too weak to even run a single candidate in a by-election.

It is sort of sad to watch. While never managing to set the electoral world on fire, the Alberta Party held a somewhat unique niche in our provincial list of parties. Now they seem to be determined to become little more than a footnote.

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The Alberta Party coup.

If you really believe the spin that Greg Clark willingly stepped aside from the leadership of the Alberta Party in order to help create buzz for the party, I have a bridge to sell you.

Let’s look at the facts in the matter.

With the polarization of provincial politics in Alberta, the Alberta Party may very well have found their opportunity to cut a niche for themselves on the provincial scene. Despite years of hard work, they have languished in the realm of 5% support and have never been able to quite catch the eye of Albertans. With the NDP using all of the fiscal acumen of Venezuela and with the UCP jumping head first into a social issue quagmire in Bill 24, the timing is perfect for the Alberta Party to jump into the scene and round up the people who find themselves frustrated with both the NDP and UCP. In light of this Clark decides now is a good time to resign and leave the Alberta Party leaderless for months? Bullshit.

The Alberta Party is scheduled to hold its annual general meeting in Red Deer on November 18. In something of an irony, the theme of the AGM is “A party for all of us”. I am saying this is ironic because the AGM has apparently sold out and will not accept any new attendees. Word is that the number is 396 and that was after expanding their venue once. With people paying $99 each and with such demand, it is very well possible though admittedly challenging to seek a larger venue even if a deposit is lost. If the true goal is grassroots democracy even a gymnasium will do. While VP policy of the Wildrose Party I organized an AGM at the Bearspaw Community center. It was a nightmare but with a lot of volunteer help we pulled it off. Somehow though, it is impossible to hold an AGM for the Alberta Party with more than a few hundred people.

This AGM will be important as a very important change is being proposed to the constitution of the party. 

There is a proposal to empower the provincial board with a 75% majority of attendees in a meeting to unilaterally force a leadership vote. This is a huge amount of power to bestow on a provincial board where they could bypass caucus and the membership at large in order to toss out a leader. Why the sudden need to bring about this change?

Another interesting part with this AGM is that half of the provincial board positions are up for election. These are 12 spots and there are 35 people vying for them.

With this sudden need to change the constitution coupled with this unprecedented surge of members who registered for an AGM, it simply reeks of an organized takeover.

Less than a year ago, the Alberta Party had less than 400 members in total according to their financials. Now they have more than 400 who want to pay $99 and go to Red Deer to attend an AGM? Astounding indeed.

The tiny membership base made the Alberta Party ripe for a takeover. While it still is no small task to gather a few hundred dedicated folks, it certainly is doable. Hell, Jason Kenney can pull that many to a simple town hall meeting. With the combined effort of politically homeless Redford era PCs working under a PAC such as Alberta Together, such a coup isn’t all that tough to pull off.

The influx of new and experienced faces must have looked great to the original Alberta Party organizers initially. Alas, the Alberta Party has always been the party of nice guys and they really weren’t prepared to handle the way the old PC organizers do things. They don’t pull punches and they don’t play nice. It wasn’t long before the party was dominated.

While bright and personable, Greg Clark was spinning his wheels provincially. The Mr. Rogers approach while appreciated, tends to leave one sitting on the sidelines as pressing issues come and go. The Redford refugees could not abide by that approach any longer. One of the most immediately evident signs of the new blood has been in the attitude of party communications as can be seen below.

While I am not all opposed to rough play in political communications, it sure is a change in tone from the party.

As a side note, I am not sure if the Alberta Party really wants to get into labeling other parties based on the actions of lone candidates. We would be forced to keep bringing up how the Alberta Party had not one but two different fellows who were charged as pedophiles run for them. One of them even ran in their last leadership race. They were Troy Millington and Terry Lo . 

Despite his best efforts, Greg Clark simply did not fit the mold for what the old Redford gang wanted to see. Clark is a nice guy, but he is no fool. Clark resigned rather than being forced out when he could see the writing on the wall. Being nice, he took one for the team and continues to do so.

Anybody in politics knows that when you want to release something bad, you do it on a Friday afternoon in hopes that it gets forgotten and lost from the news cycle over the weekend. If it is something really bad, you do it on the Friday before a long weekend. You can rest assured, if Clark was pumped and happy about his resignation and looked at it as a great rejuvenating move for his party he would not have meekly put it out there on a Facebook post on the Friday afternoon before Remembrance Day.

Clearly the new team taking the reins of the Alberta Party has a person or two in mind for the coming leadership. We likely will see hints at the AGM next week if not open campaigning already. The proposed campaign period is not terribly long by leadership standards. If they really wanted to build the party through a leadership race, they would have a long campaign period where they would solicit a large number of candidates. This is rushed as they don’t want to actually compete something.

Its too bad that the AGM is so full to the rafters. I would have been happy to spend the fee just to attend and watch the fireworks from the floor.

A sad end for a party that tried to do things the nice way.

 

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The new face of the Redford Progressives

Did you really think that the old operators who ran the Redford Progressive Conservative Party into the ground were going to sit on their hands forever? Of course not.

The likes of Thomas Lukaszuk won’t be forever satisfied just beaking from the political sidelines as he has been doing for the last couple years.

Stephen Carter has been homeless as a partisan operator since Sandra Jansen decided that a leadership run for the PCs was simply too tough to manage and subsequently fled to the NDP to finish out her final term in politics. You know he has been chomping on the bit for a new party project.

To their credit, Troy Wason and Katherine O’neill waited until the end of the last PC leadership race before heading for the political hinterland.

The old Redford guard naturally found themselves drawn to the only partisan bridge that they hadn’t burned yet with the Alberta Party. They needed a new home and with its mushy mix of self proclaimed “centrist” principles, the party was ready to be molded into whatever a person in control wanted to make it into.

It really wasn’t hard to dominate the Alberta Party. Despite their having a seat and having made a relatively decent splash for their size, their membership was tiny along with their management team. If the financials are to be believed, the Alberta Party had less than 400 members at the end of 2016. Perhaps more if some had purchased multi-year memberships in prior years but there really was not much of a base. The strength of the party executive is always a reflection of the member base.

A handful of determined, experienced operatives suddenly entered the Alberta Party scene and they brought all of the principles that they used to practice within the Redford Regime with them. The small, well meaning and idealistic group who ran the Alberta Party never had a chance.

The Redford refugees faced one obstacle however. The one shining point of strength within the Alberta Party was its congenial and bright leader, Greg Clark. While Clark made great inroads in his own constituency, he simply couldn’t break out from his niche and the Alberta Party remained in its moribund state of low poll numbers, funds and membership levels.

According to Don Braid with the Calgary Herald, Alberta Party executive meetings were held where the discussion point was on how to change the rules in order to force a leadership race. As pressure mounted, Greg Clark resigned as leader rather than finding himself forced out of his role.

Nice guys do finish last.

Ever the team player, Greg Clark refuses to lob bombs back at the party though he surely must be feeling pretty used. Clark even kindly did his resignation on a Friday afternoon in hopes of keeping it out of the larger news cycle. While Clark and others are trying to claim he is doing this to create buzz for the party, the timing puts lie to this. It would have been a Monday morning release in that case and would be much more than a quick resignation.

Surely Team Redford has a candidate or two in mind to lead the new incarnation of their old PC  party. These kind of backroom operatives won’t open a party void without a plan to fill it. It will be interesting to see who pops out of the woodwork in the pending Alberta Party AGM. It will be even more interesting to see who is backing the aspiring leaders.

Its ironic that Kenney is so often accused of wanting to turn the provincial clock back when we see such an organized movement trying to bring about the return of the disgraced Redford Regime.

A sad end for a party and its leader that tried so hard to do politics the nice way.

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The Alberta Party. New & refreshing? Nope. Same old crap.

Well, on October 4th I predicted that Karen McPherson would be running across the floor to join the Alberta Party in a desperate gambit to save her political skin. 

I am surprised that she crossed so soon though. This makes Greg Clark look like a fool at best, or an outright liar at worst.

Greg Clark has been pitching for years that the Alberta Party is something fresh. He said that they won’t play like the old backroom boys did. Clark implied that they would grow organically rather than through opportunistic floor crossings.

Well it looks like Clark was feeding everybody a line.

Don’t just take my word for it though. Listen to Greg Clark in his own words.

The video is only a minute long and he gets right to the point.

Yes. According to Clark not so long ago, crossings would only be proper if done with open and public consultations with constituents. The was to happen before a crossing happens rather than after. This is pretty clear as Greg Clark said that constituents should be able to say if they support the crossing or not. Rather pointless to ask after the fact isn’t it?

So yes, Greg Clark has determined that a backbencher who was happily sitting with a socialist party less than a month ago is such a perfect fit with his Alberta Party that he did a 100% flip/flop on his own promise and brought her in with no public consultation whatsoever.

I understand that Greg Clark was feeling insecure in going into the next legislative session with the smallest caucus in the house. While this does make Clark’s caucus twice the size of David Khan’s caucus, it is still tiny caucus. Was this caucus growth worth the cost of Clark’s credibility? Time will tell.

We can pretty much toss out all these cute little informational videos that Greg Clark made about the Alberta Party now. We know that he will toss those promises out in a heartbeat if opportunity presents itself.

Rather sad. He seemed like one of the more principled ones in the legislature.

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When will we see the “Deborah Drever” rule in the legislature?

Are they done yet?

Has the legislature kicked enough dirt over the political grave of Derek Fildebrandt over some unseemly but not illegal actions?

People overwhelmingly felt that it was inappropriate for Fildebrandt to rent his government subsidized apartment on AirBnB when he was not occupying it. That is fair enough. The hysteric response since though has been one of the most overblown scandals we have seen in years.

Yes, Derek build himself a reputation as a fiscal watchdog and was relentless in his pursuit of politicians that abused the public purse. This indeed made things look much worse when it appeared that Derek was trying to make a few more bucks on top of his already generous salary and legislative allowance. I understand the anger and calling him out on it. It does have to be kept in mind though that while this was a case of poor optics, no rules were broken and his actions didn’t actually cost the taxpayers a dime.

Coupled with some minuscule expense oversights which other MLAs were guilty of as well (still admittedly doesn’t make it right) and a leadership race full of contenders who didn’t want to be seen with even a whiff of potential scandal we saw a perfect storm of condemnation for Fildebrandt over a scandal that is tiny by political standards.

There is no doubt that Fildebrandt should have known better. There is no doubt that he should pay some form of price for his errors. When though will the price be enough (if ever)?

Fildebrandt is now sitting as an independent member and is essentially in political purgatory for an indefinite time. Quite a price for relatively small transgressions.

A committee today formally made a rule against MLAs renting out their apartments. OK easy enough. Do they need to still try to keep the hysterics running?

After making this rather simple rule, they couldn’t resist firing more shots at the already punished and apologetic MLA. Greg Clark of the Alberta Party said: “I guess this may go down in history as the Fildebrandt rule”.

This was Greg Clark’s way of trying to ensure that the political sentence against Fildebrandt is for life. Let’s enshrine it in a rule.

If that is OK, then I contend that we create a “Deborah Drever rule” and the term will be applied every time a member of the legislature tosses out an anti-gay slur.

Drever made her bed when she used an anti-gay slur against Prentice and McIver years ago.

This is fair isn’t it? I mean, yes Drever is young and impetuous (as is Fildebrandt), yes Drever apologized (as did Fildebrandt) and yes Drever was sentenced to sit as an independent MLA for a period of time (as with Fildebrandt).

Is this enough political sentencing for Drever though? Maybe we need to coin a term so that her name is associated with homophobia for the rest of her career. That seems to be acceptable for minor fiscal transgressions so I don’t see why it is overboard for such displays of anti-gay bigotry.

OK, getting back to reality. No, I don’t think Drever should be labelled for life over an error in judgement. Nor should Fildebrandt.

I am looking forward to the end of Derek’s penance as an independent MLA and his resuming his role as a tenacious and effective fiscal critic in the legislature. Fildebrandt is one of the sharpest and most energetic members in the entire legislature. He was an effective crusader for taxpayers before his time in office and was once he got in. It was Derek’s aggressive and effective fiscal critique of leftist officials that built the loathing that so many on the left display towards him.

With the tempering of time and experience, Derek Fildebrandt may turn out to be one of the most effective legislators of our time. It has to be remembered, he is only 31 years old. Think of how he could be with another decade of experience.

The left will never lay off Fildebrandt but the right needs to embrace his return. We don’t get assets in politics like him often and it would be a terrible waste to see his career ended over relatively minor mistakes.

I contend that there will be no MLA who keeps a more squeaky clean personal fiscal record of their actions than Derek Fildebrandt now. He has learned a lesson in the most harsh of ways.

The left wants Derek gone forever from politics. That is quite telling.

The right has to make sure that this doesn’t happen. I hope and look forward to seeing Derek Fildebrandt sitting as an effective and principled UCP MLA again in the future.

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The Alberta Party still needs to find itself.

hipster

By-elections are a tough thing to deal with in partisan politics.  They are fickle and politically dangerous. Parties are heavily motivated to win political points with a by-election win and often dedicate massive amounts of fiscal and human resources to these snapshot elections. The campaigning essentially turns to white noise as electors are barraged with door knockers, flyers and phone calls from all parties while every street corner becomes covered with a vomit of colorful election signs that few take direct notice of. In the end, a candidate is chosen by what is usually an utterly dismal turnout of the electorate which may or may not represent the political trends of the province or even the city that the constituency is in.

All that being said, it remains crucial that political parties put their best foot forward in these by-elections. A win or even close second can be framed after the by-election as a trend and a party that loses big can and will have their noses rubbed in the loss for months or years to come whether it’s fair or not. While a by-election win does not ensure that the winning party will form the next government, it certainly does look good. A win indicates that voters are willing to accept that party in the right circumstances. A win also demonstrates that the party remains viable and well organized between general elections. These impressions are very important.

Despite the clear importance of making a mark in by-elections, the Alberta Party has chosen not to run a candidate in the upcoming Calgary Greenway by-election.

There are some bright folks within the Alberta Party. The only reason that the Alberta Party is sitting out the by-election is that they are utterly incapable of running in it. They didn’t have a candidate in Greenway in the last general election and they likely have utterly no organization on the ground in that constituency. The party bank account is likely pretty dry as well. Greenway is a suburban constituency as well. The number of hipsters in that part of Calgary is terribly low though it is well served by transit.

Alberta Party leader, Greg Clark is a genuine, smart and likeable fellow. Despite having but one seat in the legislature, Clark has managed to gain a respectable degree of press in that role (I assure you that the Wildrose was not treated so favorably when Paul Hinman was our lone MLA). Clark puts out pragmatic statements and releases on issues and he is generally respected by all who know him.

The problem is, Greg Clark is not just the leader of the Alberta Party. Greg Clark IS the Alberta Party.

In a set of by-elections in late 2014, the Alberta Party focused all of their resources on Greg Clark during the campaign. While this led to Clark to grabbing a respectable second place, Alberta Party candidates running in other constituencies came in with dismal single digit electoral showings. They simply had no volunteers or funds as it all drifted into Clark’s campaign in Elbow.

Less than a year later the Alberta Party used the exact same strategy in the general election. With the solid support base built in the previous by-election and a smartly run campaign, Clark took Calgary Elbow in an upset and became the lone MLA for Calgary Elbow. The Alberta Party has always been heavily populated by hipsters as well. Calgary Elbow contains the bulk of Calgary’s hipster demographic making it an ideal spot to focus their efforts on.

The strategy of putting all of the party eggs into one electoral basket while great for Clark, led to the Alberta Party polling a flaccid 2.28% support across the province. This has to be pretty demoralizing for the candidates and volunteers who did what they could in all of the other constituencies around the province. With 86 constituencies having been left out to dry by the party like that, it is pretty obvious why broad ground level organization has not happened throughout the province. Why work your butt off when the party will only focus on one constituency and one candidate?

The Alberta Party has long tried to be everything to everybody and this sunshine and lollypop strategy is starting to fail. The interminable “big listen” held by the party never really led to coherent policies and while the leadership put out pragmatic statements, the supporters often vocally took stances that were more along the NDP lines. The Alberta Party kept trying to call themselves centrists while their supporters kept pushing to the left. Notley’s win and Clark’s pragmatism has led to many supporters giving up the façade of centrism and simply jumping in with the NDP. Now the party is adrift to the point where they cant even battle a single by-election in their own city.

gregclark

In a bizarre demonstration of how the Alberta Party really doesn’t stand for much in a solid sort of way, Greg Clark joined with Green Party leader Janice Keeping in endorsing Laurie Blakeman as an unofficial candidate for all three parties in the 2015 election. This weird strategy backfired terribly as Blakeman soundly lost the seat that she had held for nearly 18 years.

The Alberta Party needs to define itself as being something more than simply saying “centrist” over and over again while being totally focused on one person in one constituency. If the Alberta Party can’t manage to do this within the next couple years, they very well may end up simply being a footnote in Alberta electoral history.

If and when the party determines clearly who they are and what they stand for, they will then need to reach beyond their power center in Calgary Elbow. They will need to identify voters in every constituency in Alberta (or at least a hell of a lot more of them) who share this new vision. Once identified, these people need to be organized and trained to maintain constituency associations or at least build a strong if informal social organization that can be turned into a fundraising/campaign team when election time comes.

That is a lot of work to pull off in a relatively short period of time but it must be done.

To show how it can be done, one needs only to point to a local Alberta lunatic named George Clark (no relation).

George Clark’s message is simple even if it is utterly impossible and not terribly rational. It appeals to a segment of Albertans and George Clark has capitalized on that. Clark has identified and targeted folks who believe his strategy of bullshit. Clark has then organized these people into petitioners around the province who will be bringing in petitions signed in person by upwards of 100,000 people. George Clark has also raised $27,000 and counting from gullible supporters.

Not bad considering that George Clark’s twitter account is a social media laughing stock with only a couple hundred followers. This leads to my next point for the Alberta Party:

GET OFF SOCIAL MEDIA AND GET ON THE GROUND!

A madman with proposals that have been laughed out of every rational political discussion has managed to galvanized and gather thousands of supporters in just a few months. Clark did this by travelling around the province and building ground organizations. He has not bothered with the slacktivism of twitter political engagement. If elections could be won with social media presence alone, Greg Clark would already be Alberta’s Premier.

I am not for a second suggesting that the Alberta Party needs to adopt a platform of bullshit and sell a fairy tale around the province as George Clark did. I am pointing out that the Alberta Party needs to look at the example of George Clark to see what the power of simple messaging and true ground work is.

It really was quite surprising to see that the Alberta Party is so up against the rocks that they cant run a candidate in the Calgary Greenway by-election. They really had done quite well with quite few resources. It is becoming abundantly clear though that they need to really examine themselves and come up with some new messaging and vision if they want to go beyond being a one seat wonder.

Until people really know what the Alberta Party stands for and until they see the party visible in their own neighborhoods, the Alberta Party will continue to languish in the sub-5% popular support numbers.

That is sad as they had potential

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