Glen Taylor quits as leader – Alberta Party ponders the Big Goodbye

Your blogger in happier times with departing Alberta Party Leader Glenn Taylor. Below: Party luminaries Michael Walters and Sue Huff.

Get ready for the Big Re-Think. Or the Long Goodbye. Or something…

Alberta Party Leader Glenn Taylor has resigned, the world learned yesterday. He’ll step from the provincial political stage on Sept. 22, when the party holds its annual general meeting.

Not that the former mayor of Hinton had much choice, having failed to gain the toehold of even a single seat in the Legislature for the bold experiment in doing politics differently in Alberta.

Always a party inclined to break the mould – even if breaking it didn’t work particularly well – the Alberta Party started with a series of kitchen meetings across the province it called the Big Listen. Party adherents saw their party as a bold experiment in centrist policy making, conceived in hope and steeped in coffee, and careful to take its time to listen to everyone.

Unfortunately – and I mean that, because the party had good ideas and good people supporting it – it turned out that Albertans weren’t really paying attention. On election day, facing the prospect of choosing between a victory by the far-right Wildrose Party or the seemingly moderate Progressive Conservatives of Premier Alison Redford, voters gave the Alberta Party the Big Cold Shoulder. Its tally in the Legislature was a Big Zero.

Now party officials say it’s not even a sure thing they’ll have a leadership race to replace Mr. Taylor at the AGM. First thing, anyway, they’ll appoint an interim leader to decide what to do next – Sue Huff again, maybe?

But even before party members decide whether or not to choose another leader to permanently replace Mr. Taylor, who was elected back in May 2011, they say they’re going to think about such options as just shutting down, becoming a think tank or merging with the Alberta Liberals.

Joining the Liberals is the option favoured by Michael Walters, who was the party’s unsuccessful candidate in Edmonton Rutherford. “I personally think the Alberta Party and the Liberal Party should merge and elect a new leader that has the ability to run a truly authentic centrist party that can provide some competition to the Progressive Conservatives,” he told the Edmonton Journal yesterday.

I’d be prepared to bet you, though, that having hung onto his own seat and a presence in the Legislature by the skin of his political teeth, Liberal Leader Raj Sherman wouldn’t share that sentiment. You know, the party’s name is good – but it’s not that good!

Mr. Walters is said to be considering a city council run in Edmonton.

The party did have an MLA in the last session of the Legislature for a spell in the person of former Alberta Liberal leadership candidate Dave Taylor (no relation to Glenn Taylor), who quit the Liberals in a scrap with their leader and sat as an Independent for a while first. But that Mr. Taylor, who always possessed the ability to do the math despite his occasional impetuosity, chose not to run in the last election. Presumably, he read the handwriting on the wall.

From Day 1 of his leadership, Glenn Taylor seemed strangely disengaged. The former New Democratic Party candidate and union official didn’t even give up his day job as Hinton Mayor until January 2012. When the election finally came in April, he couldn’t carry the huge but sparsely populated riding in which Hinton is the principal town.

Before that, in October 2010, the party also lost its most promising and engaging potential leaders when Naheed Nenshi was elected mayor of Calgary. In addition to Mr. Nenshi himself, identified as an early supporter of the party, it cost the party Calgary lawyer Chima Nkemdirim, who instead of running for leader as many had hoped, left to become Mr. Nenshi’s chief of staff.

Ms. Huff, who was the party’s previous interim leader before the choice of Mr. Taylor, told the Journal yesterday she’s kind of OK with the think tank idea.

Perhaps it’s not such a bad thought. The Alberta Party always staked its claim on the notion it could do politics differently. Turned out voters expected to do them the same old way. The think-tank option might enable the party to turn the Big Goodbye into the Long Goodbye, and do some good for Alberta yet.

Mr. Taylor has a job in Hinton. What do you want to bet he runs for mayor again?

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NOTE: Since yesterday’s post about the lead-up to the Calgary Centre by-election went online, Conservative nomination candidate Jon Lord has responded to a query sent earlier about the role of Craig Chandler in his campaign. “Craig is one of many people working on the campaign, all of whom have many diverse opinions on all sides of the issues,” Mr. Lord said in part. “I take great pride in my ability to work with people of all backgrounds and opinions towards a common good – indeed, that is the hallmark of my political career.” Read the entire response here. Mr. Lord’s slyly entertaining suggestion that I am helping out with Ms. Crockatt’s campaign is, of course, incorrect.

One additional candidate remains in the Conservative nomination race, Richard Billington, a Calgary lawyer and member of the Conservative Party’s National Policy Commission. My apologies to Mr. Billington for missing him yesterday, although his interest was noted in my original post on the by-election. He is a serious candidate, but his campaign seems low key and directed at party insiders.

Tomorrow, unless news breaks out again, I’ll return to the Calgary Centre by-election.

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4 Comments on "Glen Taylor quits as leader – Alberta Party ponders the Big Goodbye"

  1. Tony says:

    From the Calgary Herald: “I personally think the Alberta Party and the Liberal Party should merge and elect a new leader that has the ability to run a truly authentic centrist party that can provide some competition to the Progressive Conservatives.” – Michael Walters, former AB Party candidate.

    Ya hear, Raj Sherman? Members of the quasi-defunct AB Party are gunning for your gig.

  2. Carlos Beca says:

    This was predictable and the fact that the party did not get a seat was the nail in the coffin. Glen Taylor has great talent but not the leader charisma. I believe that one point is very clear – forming a new party is a job many few can accfomplish especially when there are already some in the same domain. Alberta politics has moved a bit to the center since we got rid of some extreme right politicians and so the Alberta Party found itself in paralysis place. They did a great job but in order to shift political thinking anywhere but especially in Alberta the effort is unhuman. Money from individuals is also very little and so the project becomes almost impossible. Furthermore the party did not come up with anything that was new other than the Big Listen that in many ways failed due to the strong pull from those who could manage to move it where they wanted it to go. Democratic Deficit was an area that the Party could have made some big changes but it did not want to and so opted for cosmetis changes which are basically what we have with different colours.
    Alberta needs an Alliance in the lines we see in Europe where two or three parties sit down, form a new body with a name and with a platform that then has to be adhered by everyone and with a council that makes sure the agreement is followed. No party disappears, they just compromise on doing certain changes that they all can live with. In one case I witnessed the new body was called the New Alliance and was composed of three parties of the centre left. With well thought of rules and ways to resolve internal issues these can work very well for a period of time. In Alberta I could see this happening with the Liberal, Alberta Party and the NDP. The problem is that individualism is such a developed trait in politicians here that it makes these agreements almost impossible. Everyone wants to be where Alison is and nothing else. They just want to be kings. The interests of the province and its citizens is almost negligible.

  3. Alvin Finkel says:

    I agree with you, Carlos. That’s how most of the world operates. And one of the main reasons why a coalition/alliance of progressives is needed is a factor that Dave points out (not that it makes him personally a supporter of a coalition): most people in Alberta just tune out provincial politics, indeed all politics. They aren’t reading the party manifestoes, could not give two seconds to trying to figure out what, if anything, new the Alberta Party offered, and are pretty much convinced that the Right will always rule in the province. When left-of-Tory parties had about 40 percent of the vote, it turned into a small number of seats because of divisions among progressives. So the left-of-Tory options looked weaker than they really are, and despite the efforts of ChangeAlberta and others, many not so right-wing people switched their votes this year to the Tories, who have a sophisticated but dishonest leader whose handlers knew how to present her as something she isn’t. The NDP and Liberals possibly helped her by running on quite right-wing platforms that made these parties seem less of an alternative to the PCs than they may be. Anyway, there probably weren’t that many people who followed these parties’ campaigns. In the end, progressives need to work together to show Albertans who are not right-wing that there are alternatives to the PCs and Wildrose. At the moment it’s only those who have handed over their brains to party leaders who believe that the alternative is to preserve a status quo of groupuscules pretending to be parties competing against each other as well as the Tories and WR and wondering why, election after election, almost no one takes them seriously.

    But it’s up to these groupuscules to go beyond the capitalist-minded competition that drives them now. I doubt they will. And so I also find Alberta politics boring and unlikely to yield any change for generations to come.

  4. midge lambert says:

    Thanks, David. I enjoyed this post – cheeky as always, but reasonably accurate.

    I love being involved in a “bold experiment” – and just because an experiment doesn’t always have the results you want the first time, there is always a reason for that, so you go back to the drawing board, dissect and explore and perhaps you start a new experiment, with different criteria.

    Hope, time, good ideas, good people and coffee are an amazing starting place. The 2012 election was like being involved in a Big Divorce, where everyone picked sides and ignored new friends.
    And you’re right. We ARE going to take some time to consider ALL our options. We have never been afraid of the hard questions, and we will take time to decide – grassroots politics is like that, messy and slow, but solid.
    I think “merging’ is a convenient term that sometimes people use to describe collaboration, but you have to remember that the Alberta Party is already a collaborative effort of people from all across the political spectrum (yes, even some from your party) and people who were non-partisan. ALL of these people were not satisfied that their ‘party’ was offering the best solution to becoming what is desperately needed in this province after 40+years – strong Opposition that is ready to offer an alternative that is a better, open, transparent and inclusive government. Why not try to find a way that Albertans can work together towards that goal?

    You are also correct in that we have some amazing people who are building blocks in our ‘bold experiment’ – Glenn, Sue, Michael ,Chima and so many others are already leaders in this province that any party would be proud to count among their supporters and Alberta should be proud to have them too.

    You hit the nail on the head here – “The Alberta Party always staked its claim on the notion it could do politics differently. Turned out voters expected to do them the same old way.” New ideas take time to grow, and right now, so many others are content in doing things the same old way – we are already seeing the same old way in our supposedly new, fresh, “reinvented” government.
    And why not a “think tank”? Why shouldn’t people who don’t worship every word that comes out of the Fraser Institute, Canada West and the Manning Center have a platform to share their ideas and even more bold experiments for inclusive and collaborative government? As my friend David King says, “Uniting the left… how passe. Let’s unite the cooperators, the innovators, the doers, the compassionate, the justice-seeking, the respectful. And let’s invent a new and more fruitful way of practicing democracy”

    So, yes, we will be appointing an Acting Leader according to our constitution, and our members will decide what to do next. It is up to our members , not “party officials” whether we have a Leadership Vote right now, and our members will decide that too at our AGM in September.
    The Alberta Party that you know has been around for just 2 years, and the Big Listen has already changed the political dialogue in this province, without any elected seats in the legislature. Who knows, you might have a Big Surprise!


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