When Greg Clark announced he would be stepping down in November as leader of the Alberta Party, the news brought with it much needed attention to the province’s official second Official Opposition.
With three seats in the legislature (thanks to a floor crossing by Calgary-South East MLA Rick Fraser), the Alberta Party has a long journey to go before it hopes to form the next government. There’s currently 87 seats in the legislature meaning the Alberta Party would have to get at least 41 more. The NDP proved nothing is impossible in Alberta politics but the biggest problem the Alberta Party faces isn’t running qualified candidates, it’s the very party’s identity itself.
A change of leadership isn’t going to help matters either. Sure leadership races are fun and exciting, just look at the recent United Conservative Party leadership race as an example. What’s even more interesting is the Alberta Party’s leadership race appears to be heating up now that former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel announced he would be looking to lead the party into the 2019 election.
The problem is what does the Alberta Party stand for? It’s OK if you don’t know because rumour has it, they don’t really know either.
According to the party’s website, they stand for “governing with reason and pragmatism.” The party also describes itself as “centrists” meaning it doesn’t lean one way or the other on issues and instead would rather focus on finding “common sense solutions.” That sounds great but what does it really mean? The answer is it really means nothing.
The political centre is a hotly contested zone with no one really occupying straight on the line. The NDP are left of centre while the UCP are right of centre.
The Liberals have traditionally been more centre-left than their NDP counterparts. So that leaves the Alberta Party sitting on the equivalent of a political fence.
To say you plan on governing with reason and pragmatism means nothing because what government would do the oppose? No one goes into office saying they’re going to be unreasonable and unrealistic. The notion of having common sense solutions are misleading too as a centrist party. To the NDP, the carbon tax makes sense and there’s science to back it up while the UCP would argue against it with their own facts and figures. So where’s the common sense approach here? One way or the other you are picking a side because everyone leans one way or the other.
Pretending the Alberta Party doesn’t lean one way or the other only hurts the party’s chances down the road because if it’s not clearly defined for them, how are Albertans suppose to get on board?
Politics is a bloodsport where lines are drawn and sides taken.
To use a hockey analogy, if you don’t know where your goalie is then you better stay off the ice.
Just a side note — I wrote this before speaking with Jonathan Jacobs, the Alberta Party president for the Fort Saskatchewan Vegreville area.
He articulated well the reason why his party wants to stay politically neutral so I encourage everyone to read what he had to say in our news section.