Five reasons why the new Alberta Party won’t come to much

Earth to Alberta? Come in Alberta…? The political scene is getting darned weird down there on the surface … and not just in Vulcan.

This column appeared in yesterday’s edition of the Saint City News.

Despite a great name and some excellent startup publicity, there’s little reason to hope the new and improved Alberta Party will blossom in our province’s increasingly crowded political garden.

It’s a sign of Alberta’s troubled political times that new parties are popping up like dandelions in springtime. Voters are discontented with the government of Premier Ed Stelmach, who is seen as a bumbler with no plan. But they are even less impressed by the traditional opposition parties.

Out of this ferment sprang the Wildrose Alliance on the right, a party that a year ago was far out on the fringe, but which today looks like a real contender.

Now a group of Red Tories and Blue Liberals have forged a peculiar alliance with some conservative environmentalists to tear a page from the Alliance’s playbook and create a new party in the political centre.

Alas, despite the good intentions of its founders, there are five key reasons why the Alberta Party is unlikely to enjoy the success of the Wildrose Alliance anytime soon.

First, the Alberta Party lacks money. It has no energy industry benefactors like the Wildrose Alliance. Cash is a great fertilizer for political movements. The Alliance was born with a silver spoon in its mouth; the Alberta Party was not.

Second, the Alberta Party occupies a much more crowded spot in Alberta’s political garden than the Alliance. The Alliance may have tried to move toward the centre under Leader Danielle Smith, but it still occupies the right side of the patch where it can count on the votes of its ideological true believers. The Alberta Party, by contrast, is competing for exactly the same voters as the Conservatives, the Liberals and even the NDP.

Third, speaking of Danielle Smith, the Alberta Party has no identifiable or charismatic leader around which potential supporters can rally. In fact, just now, it doesn’t really have a leader at all. There’s no indication it thinks this is a problem.

Fourth, the Alberta Party’s beginnings are too muddy. Its disparate coalition could easily fragment. The party was originally another right-wing fringe group with roots similar to those of the Wildrose Alliance. Later, it seems to have been taken over by conservative environmentalists fed up with the now-defunct Green Party. That group, in turn, merged early this year with participants in Reboot Alberta, a talking shop of middle-of-the-road Conservatives and Liberals frustrated with the glacial pace of political change in Alberta. It’s hard to believe all these groups can coexist under one roof.

Fifth, the people who are now movers and shakers in the Alberta Party love to talk – and talk, and talk, and talk, and talk…. Their current organizing drive is called “the Big Listen.” They say they want to “start the conversation around how to build a better province.” That’s fine, but will the conversation ever end?

Unfortunately, building a political party from the ground up – as the Wildrosers are learning – takes elbow grease and grit. It requires people who are prepared to organize teas, deliver leaflets, sign nomination forms and clean up the mess after everyone else goes home.

The Alberta Party has lots of self-important yuppified professionals who would like to go straight into power without pausing along the way to do the necessary hard work. It’s a great plan that won’t work.

For these five reasons, the Alberta Party is unlikely to be a significant factor in the expected 2012 general election.

If it ever amounts to anything, it will likely be because it is absorbed by another Alberta political party for its one great property – its winning name.

7 Comments on "Five reasons why the new Alberta Party won’t come to much"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Good article David. I'm a wapper myself but you called this one very accurately.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I agree with most of your points, but I think you overestimate the relevance of the Alberta Party's past. They had very few members or support, and I doubt that 95% of Albertans had even heard of them before, or at the very least knew what they stood for.

    I do agree most vigorously though that the lack of willingness to put in hard work is going to be a factor here amongst the leadership. Renew Alberta could have formed their own party, but why didn't they? Because they found that starting a party themselves was too onerous, and they didn't have anyone willing to commit the time and energy. Already, they're falling into the habits of Libs and NDP, which is to sit back and wait for good things to happen to you, rather than go out and make them happen.

  3. Ken Chapman says:

    Dave your perspicacity is exceeded only by your persistent pursuit of the truth. That said do we surrender to the ineptness of the PCs or the Tea Party wannabe of the WAP? Please whatever omnipresnet superiour that may exist, deliver us from thise charades.

    I hope for a new political culture in Alberta but can't diminish the enormity of the challenge that is before thoughtful alternative seeking Albertans.

    None of the existing parties can get past their conventional culture of top down;here is the message you must believe; screw the serious search for an alternative solution mentality.

    Love your blog.

  4. Berry Farmer says:

    David, the challenges you pointed to are valid and will have to be overcome by the "talkers."

    However, I think there are advantages to starting a new party that is neither far right or far left… and that is born of frustration from the current options.

    I'm definitely going to go to one of the "Big Listen" meetings (this Sunday, in fact) to listen for myself and see what this thing is about.

  5. Taskmaster K says:

    Bang on post.

    If Alberta Party activists had the supporters, or the drive to do the work, they would have taken over the Liberal party, like Gordon Campbell did in BC in the early nineties.

    Campbell realized that even with a caucus full of losers who were far from him ideologically, he was better off with the BC Liberals than starting from scratch.

    But even that level of activity proved too onerous for the Alberta Party folks. As much as people might slag the Liberals, the reason this crowd is branching out is that they can't even beat David Swann in a floor fight.

    That says it all.

    These jokers have chosen a much harder route, and they don't even know it.

  6. workeradvocate says:

    What is the answer to the questions of Ken Chapman? Do we surrender to the ineptness of the PCs? or the "Tea Party" wannabe of the WAP?

    How are we to be delivered from those charades? And they are charades. The PC government is inept to the extent that Stelmach admits that electoral boundary review is about protecting the rural constituency. The rural constituency is the foundation of the PC government. The inept are not interested in democratic reform or motivating more citizens to exercise their voting privilege. They are about power and holding power. Just listen to Leipert and royalty renewal.

    Just a side note. Leipert said that royalty renewal would make us better off. Well this was the same inept PC cabinet minister that made the same comment about health care reform.

    The WAP are 'teapartiers' to the extent that they will capitalize on any issue and claim superiority. We should be very afraid when Rob Anders is a WAP activist. Thus the 'teapartier' charade.

    Chapman is correct 'a new political culture in Alberta is the only answer'. Why continue the same process to achieve the same result? Why continue to live outside the 'candy store'?

    The Democratic Renewal project is one approach. But as stated by Chapman- "None of the existing parties can get past their conventional culture of top down".

    Many Albertans that are politically conscious are searching for a "thoughtful alternative". Politicos like 'daveberta' or my 25 year old son and his community need to be politicized. The alternative must speak to their expectations, their needs, their desires and generate activity, interest and votes based upon a party that is 'their' alternative.

  7. Gauntlet says:

    I don't like all your articles, but I liked this one. Because you're right. They don't have any money, they are fighting in the middle, they don't have a leader, they are an unusual coalition that is going to have to find something to hang onto if it wants to hold together, and they have not yet stepped up to the challenge of organizing internally, so far as we can tell. And all of those things make their success less likely.

    I think it's saying something about "grit" that they have announced they want to hold something like 4000 meetings in this Big Listen, complete with tea, and someone cleaning up after. I'm skeptical whether or not they've got what it will take to make that happen. But we'll see.

    As for the rest of your list, it would make a pretty good agenda for a board meeting.

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