So.. I’m not a Liberal now?
Every single time someone takes a potshot at Raj Sherman for his political past it’s an affront to me. He was a federal Liberal first in his political career… as was I. When I was in high school I was an engaged youth helping out in Calgary Centre-North, fought the Liberal cause, and soon started this blog. I was engaged first federally as a Liberal and then came over to the provincial Liberals two years later.
Let me make this clear: if there’s no room for Liberals like Raj Sherman then there’s no room for guys like me.
Every time someone says there’s been a coup or that someone can’t join this party I am personally undermined. I am hurt by this. I feel unwanted by those chattering folks and I feel that I am not valued as a contributor or as a person involved in the party. It’s poisonous and hurts the party.
Never mind its cooling effect on people looking to join a party. It’s hard enough finding people who want to join a party but these folks must, simply must, erect more barriers for good, earnest people from joining the movement.
This makes me angry to no end.
I want an open party that includes as many people as possible from all across Alberta. I am a Liberal and so are many Albertans in this province. We just need to be open enough to ask them to come to us and join us in replacing the Progressive Conservative government in Edmonton.
Like Raj I want to get into government, change Alberta for the better, and show Albertans that there is a better way. Just like Raj I am Liberal, and I am loving it.
Zack Siezmagraff, past federal candidate and long time Albertan Liberal, has written the below letter to Ralph Goodale, member of parliament for Wascana, on the issue of building a western fortress of support for Liberals. You can follow Zack on twitter here at @ZackSiezmagraff.
I really like the post below because it hits on three core issues: (1) it speaks the truth: there are Liberals here, (2) we can turn that into a wellspring of strength for the representation of liberalism in Canada with appropriate resources and attention, and (3) it outlines a plan to take on the challenge.
Interestingly enough the Calgary Region (all the presidents and candidates in the Calgary + Wildrose ridings who come together for a monthly meeting and have monthly events) proposed a plan of action like there where we would buy into a system where we would, each of the associations, pitch in for a 20 hours / week job for a student or a Political Science graduate to help us organize in Calgary. This fell through because of coordination issues across the different associations. If there was direction from national on this subject I think it would really help with building the Liberal brand in Alberta again.
Hon. Ralph Goodale,
Re: Fundraising Initiatives
It was a pleasure, and an honour, to meet you at the Liberal caucus in Ottawa a few weeks ago. I was our party’s candidate in the rural Alberta riding of Yellowhead.
I am very active in the Alberta Liberal Party, and have come to be a friend of Senator Grant Mitchell’s. When he was filling the slate for the 41st General Election, he asked me to be the candidate for the riding of Yellowhead, a large rural riding that runs just west of Edmonton (where I live) all the way to the BC border.
I was told I did not have to campaign. There is no riding association in Yellowhead, and no money. I did decide to spend some time campaigning, and I attended one of the all-candidates debates. (I wanted to attend more, but I could not take time from my job, and I simply could not drive out to the locations by the time of the debate’s commencement). I am proud to say in the Barrhead debate, Rob Merrifield began smug, but ended the night sweating and rambling about “the coalition”, thanks largely to my persistent and sustained debating.
Although I literally did almost nothing – no website, no pamphlets, only 10 signs (paid by the LPC) in a humungous riding – I still got $1,100 in donations. One woman wrote me a $100 cheque at the Barrhead debate when I said “If throwing people in jail had a positive effect on the crime rate, then the United States would be the safest country on the planet”.
Alberta is Conservative country. But it wasn’t always so. Two generations ago, it was Mackenzie King country. Diefenbaker’s prairie populism caught fire, and within a generation it was Progressive Conservative country.
Preston Manning worked very hard (in fact, he ran unsuccessfully in Yellowhead in 1988), in church basements, in legion halls, to make Alberta Reform country. That did not happen overnight, but that is essentially where we are now.
By running a parachute like me in a rural Alberta riding, we are sending the message to Harper, “Ok, you can have this one”. So if we don’t take it seriously – neither does Harper. He didn’t set foot in Yellowhead (probably never has). He didn’t have to. And since we ceded him huge swaths of the country, he could engage us in Liberal bastions – which he did.
The LPC hires two full time field workers, dedicated to rural Alberta. Their job description will be to travel in rural Alberta, host meetings in church basements, in legion halls, meet with local politicians, reeves, and community leaders. Engage rural Albertans in the rebuilding of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Along the way, they will find the volunteers to form riding associations. They will also find quality, local candidates.
I’m sure we can find 2 recent political science graduates who will work for $45,000 – $50,000 per year.
Salary (2) $100,000
But we’re cutting positions, not creating them, right?
We need a rethinking of our office resources. We need to engage in the same practices that Preston Manning and the Reform Party did in order to win votes.
My personal experience running in Yellowhead – I got $1,100 in donations and 1,190 votes (and I sure didn’t meet that many people) tells me there are Liberals in rural Alberta.
If the Liberal Party of Canada demonstrates their commitment to rebuilding, I am convinced this tactic will pay dividends. We will sign up new members, and find those Liberal donors.
Run a pilot project in Alberta for a year. Furthermore, imagine the press release – Liberal Party to rebuild starting in Harper’s backyard. I attended several Ignatieff events in 2009 and 2010 in Edmonton, including a sold-out $100-a-plate dinner. I have no doubt that the faithful Liberals in Edmonton and Calgary would gladly fund the initial $170,000 investment into rural Alberta field workers. I’m sure in your experience you have found it’s much easier to raise funds when there is a concrete goal, rather than an abstract.
I would recommend a full commitment for one year, and set concrete targets – the program must self-finance (ie take in at least $170,000 annually) over a certain period (I am not sure 1 year is realistic initially); membership targets; setting up riding associations; etc.
In addition to finding more Liberal members and donors, there are several long-term benefits. By engaging with rural Albertans, it will make our next platform that much more in tune with Canadians. Furthermore, qualified, local candidates will emerge. The NDP also runs mainly parachutes in rural Alberta. Currently, turnout is low, and the Conservative candidates spend nowhere near the limits because they don’t need to.
If the Liberal Party of Canada ran a full slate of qualified, local candidates in rural Alberta, it would put the Conservatives on defense. Furthermore, it would provide a qualified candidate for the “anti-Harper” vote to coalesce around.
Finally, it would be a long term strategy. We must be prepared to not win a single rural Alberta seat in the next election. But in two elections, perhaps we can make a few inroads. Within a generation, rural Alberta just might be Liberal once again.
I lived in Toronto-Centre from 2006-2009, and I helped out with Bob Rae’s 2008 by-election. In Toronto-Centre, one of the most Liberal ridings in the country, the Conservatives ran a very credible candidate in Rev. Don Meredith. He came in fourth, with 12% of the vote, but he was credible, worked hard, and ran a good campaign. (As you know, he is now Senator Meredith).
If Harper runs credible candidates in downtown Toronto – we must run credible candidates in rural Alberta.
Replacing Ottawa staff with field workers in “True Blue” Alberta is a bold, risky move. If it succeeds, it will pay long-term dividends, and this model can be adapted very easily to other areas where we are weak – first to rural Saskatchewan, and so on. If there was ever a time that the Liberal Party needed bold new ideas, it’s now.
I am very passionate about this idea. It combines fundraising, renewal, and re-growth. I love Alberta so much, and I know that there are Liberals here – we just need to connect with them. I am sure you feel the same way about Saskatchewan. The MPs that get elected do not reflect the true political DNA of our provinces.
I would love to talk with you in more detail, if you wish.
Thank you for all you do.
 This is very “back of the envelope” for illustration purposes
Last Saturday Raj Sherman was elected as Alberta Liberal Leader. On Monday he was brought in, officially, to the Alberta Liberal caucus.
A quick media scan:
- CalgaryGrit blogs the results and an examination of the supporter-system
- Raj Takes the Reins, Edmonton Sun
- “the doc is in. former tory mla raj sherman is the new alberta liberal leader,” Daveberta
- ‘I believe in pragmatism’, Edmonton Journal (Another great article by Karen Kleiss. As I mentioned before, I really like her ‘report like it is’ style)
- Liberals show Grit, choose Raj as phoenix, Calgary Sun
- Firebrand leader could shock Tories, again, Calgary Herald
- Liberal chief’s advice to successor: play down consensus and push forward, Globe and Mail
- Sherman may put doctor job on hold to rebuild Alberta Liberals, Globe and Mail
- Dr. Sherman has some healing to do, Calgary Herald
Curiously, on the Saturday night the reporters surrounding the second and third place contenders pressed for an answer to the question of whether or not they’ll stay on as Liberals after losing. I find this odd on two fronts: firstly, they assumed that the party would blow up if Raj won, and secondly, there seemed to be an expectation for Hugh MacDonald to give them a juicy quote. The party, of course, didn’t blow up, and Hugh MacDonald has stated he has accepted the results (and wants to get down to work).
I think, over the last three weeks, the media has made a strong effort to portray the Liberal leadership race in a way that they find interesting: Particularly as a “Swann” song and a frustrated self-destroying group of misfits. They’re expecting us to fail. Which is odd, because that perspective is so fundamentally separated from reality. While there are challenges, and plenty of them, I don’t think it’s as terrible as Don Braid and others have written about in the media. I think the party would have been fine with MacDonald as leader, if at little scattered in approach at times, and the other candidates would have done amicably. I’m not worried about the party. I’m excited. (What I am worried about is the media and their willingness to belittle the Liberals so. I’ve written about this before.)
The particular struggles I think Raj needs to lead the party through are many. I’m confident though his leadership can get the Liberals back into shape. The party is an extraordinarily diverse group, willing to try new ideas, and then able to push for those ideas with unparalleled vigor. We have partisans that have been active int he party for 70 years and new people walking off the street and onto associations/campaigns every day. This last leadership race brought 28,000 people into the fold to judge who’d be best to lead Alberta, building a strong plank to leap from in the coming months as the Liberals ramp their preparations into high gear for an election either this fall or this spring.
Why I Voted For Raj
Actually, I didn’t quite vote for Raj. He was my second choice, right after Bruce Payne. But he was my choice, if Payne didn’t win the race. If we went to the second ballot my vote would gone straight to him, like many Payne supporters, likely landing him the leader’s job. And I’m proud of this choice.
He was high up on my list because I am sick of losing. I am sick of losing. I want my agenda, I want the Liberal agenda, in government. I don’t want the Liberals to be only in the cities (and Lethbridge). I don’t want to lose in Calgary North-Hill by 5%. I don’t want to be the party of just the Edmonton-Calgary corridor. Raj is the choice to blow the doors of the party wide open and bring in people into the party and into this growing movement. Raj will bring the party to more people thananything else in the last ten years.
I want to win, I want to lead, and I want to make the province change. I’m angry with the establishment–which is why I fought for the change in leadership rules on the May convention floor to create a force in Albetan politics that challenged the status quo. I am angry with a government that is too incompetent to even listen to the oil patch during their royalty reviews–which is why I’ll never, ever vote or support an unlistening, uncaring, and ancient governing party like the Tories. I am angry with PC MLAs who still use typewriters and still don’t have an email account–who are so disconnected, so behind, and so ‘out of it’, that there needs to be a giant hose plugged into the legislature and have the place cleaned out after 40 years. I am enraged by the Progressive Conservatives; I am enraged by their hubris, their idiocy, and their backwardness.
Raj is part of the solution to getting the Liberals into government. He has those skills in compromise, in inclusion. He took me seriously as a blogger and an activist, even though I’m just a 20 year-old student and just a blogger. At every juncture of his leadership campaign he refused to attack personally the character of others, or to defame them: that takes character.
He also caught onto the system that he was in. He knew that the way to win the leadership wasn’t through a narrow appeal to a subsection of Albertans but to include many into the process. While there were hiccups with organizational capacity, he either intuitively or thought through the leadership process to such an extent that he made the mass appeals that were required of a leader of the province and a leader of the Liberals. And a mass appeal-er is just what we need.
I’m confident with him and his leadership. I’m ready to Raj and roll.
One struggle Raj will find is caucus solidarity is an issue that has plagued the party for years. Of particular note isLaurie Blakemen openly playing with the idea of running for the Alberta Party leadership, Dave Taylor storming out, and, more recently, the very vicious attacks done by leadership campaigns against Raj Sherman. At the leadership announcement outgoing leader David Swann noted that whomever won shouldn’t be too consumed with consensus leadership: which I heartily approve. Decisions have to be made and I am, along with a lot of Liberals, quite tired of the caucus nipping and biting each other over petty issues.
MacDonald will have to be reigned in and made to focus for his scandal hunting. He’s perfect for it, and we need his watch dog tenacity, but sometimes he needs to be put back on track. I think with stronger caucus control and a willingness to fight, Raj will be able to turn MacDonald into a more potent and stronger force for fighting for Albertans.
Bill Harvey should be encouraged to run for the party again, but persuaded to not indulge in the heavy handed attack politics that he exhibited in the last days of the leadership campaign. He should be encouraged to keep on his fiscal discipline and debt hawkish ways yet remove portions of his odd and quixotic platform (like a provincial police force or getting involved in federal jurisdictions like child predators). I think the party has plenty of room for fiscal hawks who want value for Albertan pocketbooks–not only because there’s a need for it in Edmonton but it’s a foundation of accountability and liberalism for society to have open, accountable, and forthright governments, which are key for fiscally sound governments. There’s a place for Bill Harvey but there is going to need to be some accommodation.
Bruce Payne is already onside and, as a fresh face with little baggage, is the best man to take a strong leadership role in the party once elected in Calgary-Varsity. He is the breath of fresh air that’ll help push the party and its caucus in newer, bolder directions–and I think Raj is more than able to encourage and empower Bruce to do so.
Blakeman should be encouraged to buckle down in Edmonton and start organizing the entire city to go red next election. Out of all the candidates in the leadership race Blakeman had the most die hard (yet fewest) supporters and, if she could inspire other leaders to take on leadership roles, Edmonton would quickly be turned into Redmonton again. Turn her sights on Edmonton and winning there she’ll make a Liberal government a reality.
Another challenge for the party is that, as with all leadership campaigns, people are unhappy with a leader that was not on their list of preferred list. This is to be expected. Bitter feelings and anguish are to be expected. There is a challenge for Raj, and a great opportunity, in this period just after the race. With the media focusing on the PC leadership race he can, along with the party, reach out to members that helped the other leadership candidates and tie them together into a new, stronger, and more effective electoral machine.
It was obvious to me that Hugh MacDonald’s team out organized the Raj Sherman team: the former had more volunteers, more ardent supporters that’d phone late into the night, and people who would, as one partisan phrased it, “give their life for him.” The latter made a mass appeal and brought in many new, many old, and many disfranchisement people into the party, but lacked the strong volunteer core that Hugh had. These two have amazing strengths and have a part to play with one another in reorganizing the Alberta Liberal Party. There needs to be the fresh invigoration of the party with new members but there has to be that balance with the members of yesteryear, who again and again, are relied on to be the backbone of the party.
It’s not only unity in the perspective of the party, however, that needs to be addressed. The Alberta Party, or the many people I’ve poached from their ranks to join the party in the last week (I have some of their execs on my slate to run Calgary-Klein) had qualms with how the Liberals had turned themselves into an Edmonton-only club where inclusion was based more on how long you’ve been there than on the quality of their ideas. While completely off base and untrue, it has never been directly confronted as it has been in this race. Raj Sherman showed himself to be the candidate open and willing to take in new blood and be more than just Liberal. With the Alberta Party partisans being peeved by their current leadership in many respects, and how their leadership race was run, I feel many will be finding a new home quite quickly with the Alberta Liberals.
A third challenge is that the supporters aren’t quite ‘coherent’ yet in terms of being included in the party proper or being prepared for an election. There are candidates, who haven’t been encouraged to run or been told that, in fact, they should run, on those lists of new supporters and new members. There are constituencies with hundreds of new people but no person to make their voices coherent into a campaign and constituency association.
I’ve done a little bit of this “coherency building.” Last year I helped as interim president for the Calgary East Federal Liberal association, which has been called the “one of the most active of Calgary ridings” by many now. I’ve blogged on party organizing, repeatedly, and even received nationally attention in the Toronto Star for one of my pieces. I’d like to think I know a fair bit about party building, and I think what we need now is more of party building.
This is going to be a challenge, as it is for all opposition parties. We do not have the graft from the Tories or the angry castoffs of the Conservatives in the Wildrose to buffer us. What we do have, though, is the power of being the Official Opposition, a leader with a vision and good political instincts, and a call by many in the party to get’er done, especially by outgoing leader Dr. Swann and elder figures in the party. Also, there are the people who just voted in the recent leadership race: those people will make the teams, the associations, and the backbone of the next election. The organizers of the different campaigns can work together as a bigger team, bringing together the different things they did into a stronger, more effective whole. I’m optimistic that the Liberals can pull off an organizing feat in the next month and a half, getting new and old Liberals to get back into the party.
The ‘Other’ Leadership Campaign
An inescapable reality is the dynamics of the Progressive Conservative leadership race. What happens there will change the dynamics of Albetan politics. Just as one example, If Mar gets in, Sherman will get the Liberal more support by virtue of the issue of Healthcare coming in the Liberal’s favor. Mar has come out in favor of private delivery and that position is a great foil to that of the Liberals. I’m not sure about the other leadership candidates in the PC race however.
At the end of the day, though, the Liberals have a race to run and win to form government in Alberta. Lets Raj & roll.