Rebranding: Not Interested in Scraps
The goal is government.
I’m interested in a party that wants into government. Anything else is a waste of time. It’s a waste of time to just complain and oppose, along with it being fundamentally unnatural and strange. I want a value-based and focused support of ideas. Bottom feeding and walking by the edge of the major debates that involve Alberta, Canada, and the world simply drives this one blogger nuts.
I want to be in government. I want to be changing legislation and providing ideas to make Alberta better. And that requires some changes.
Firstly, there’s a brand issue, as there always is, with political parties. There are always communication from a variety of sources that at different times determine, dilute, and dash the optimal description of any party. This is a fundamentally chaotic area for communicating the values and ideas of a party. The Alberta Liberals have one thing in spades, however. The Alberta Liberal Party is NOT conservative. If you want an alternative not with the conservatives, whatever party they reside in, there is the Liberals just off by the side to earn your trust and vote. It also helps that the Liberals in Alberta do have strong values and ideas — it’s just that the party has just recently gotten its voice back (but not in time for the 2012 provincial election).
When I ask my friends about what they think the Liberals stand for it’s normally a few quick words — a leader’s name, a policy topic (health care). It’s not a straightforward line. It’s at once an indifference to the brand and at another perspective a very casual understanding of what the party stands for. This can only change with proper investment in the party, the party’s efforts in communities across Alberta being redoubled, and with a focused plan of action to build over the next four years.
It is all about defining a better Alberta. It’s all about creating a clear definition of Liberals in the public mind so when you pop a question like “What do Liberals stand for?” at a party or in a chat with a neighbour it’s an instant recognition by all involved about what Liberals stand for.
Mergers Issues — No, It’s Not Going to Happen
Secondly, there’s a people problem. Particularly, a problem with three or four centrist to leftward parties existing, pulling in the same people in four or five separate groups. It is a mess. The individuals in the different parties will never want to close up shop and the elected politicians are disinterested in throwing away their hard earned support (at least most of them). Either there needs to be some parties bled to death so badly that they fold or there needs to be some form of mergers. Anything else doesn’t make sense.
The merger/cooperation option has been tried — to great fanfare and effort by the Alberta Liberals — and has failed quite catastrophically. It hurt membership sales, fundraising, and distracted the fundamental efforts of building a party. The NDP, particularly, has showcased their hand in this regard. Where the Liberals sent young students with no funding or central party support against the likes of Brian Mason and Rachel Notley, the NDP sent hundreds of thousands of dollars and a fierce level of campaigning against the Liberals in every place that the Liberals held incumbents — ending the Liberal’s chances in Edmonton-Goldbar and other ridings. There was an attempt and the NDP simply dashed it. The NDP are not interested.
So that leaves putting in the difficult and long road of battling with the NDP along with the PCs and Wildrose.
But what about the other parties? I don’t know. The Greens barely eking out over 5,000 votes compared to their almost 5% result in 2008 and the Alberta Party losing their only held seat, there is a fundamental issue not in terms of votes from the public but of the hard working people that are behind those two parties that could fit quite readily in a redefined Alberta Liberal Party. These people can fit in the Liberals. Time and time again I walk into a crowd of Greens or Alberta Party volunteers and I think to myself — ‘Gosh, I could work with these people.’ I have yet to find a member of the Alberta Party that I didn’t want to be involved with. The same for the Green Party.
Will the Greens be hit by another bout of factional infighting, however? It’s what de-registered them in the first place with Elections Alberta. And, leaderless and policy-less, will the Alberta Party be able to last the long dry-spell until the next spurt of engagement in 2016?
If the Liberals work hard, do their job right, and do that fundamental outreach that has been so lacking in the last ten years of this party, then the reason for the Greens or the Alberta Party existing may just become non-existent. If the Greens find a party that is open to environmentalism being a large pillar of the party, and that is open to such endeavours, would the people who would join the Greens join another party? And the Alberta Party members: long engaged, many disaffected, and looking to influence rather than just debate, want a party that they can not only be a part in but feel part of as well, there may be a chance to grow the coalition. It’s tough, but it’s possible.
An Open, Inclusive Party
This brings us to the third issue of this blog post.
It’s about the Liberals being more than just liberals, anti-conservatives, and a hodge-podge of people on a mission.
It takes a willingness to take a step back and create a coalition building mindset that is at once inclusive, outreach-focused, and be beyond just Liberals. There are fundamental structures in the party that need to be overtaken and worked on by more than just some small minority of small-l traditional liberals. There’s work to be done and to have it done by a small constituency of people is beyond self-defeating: it’s ludicrous.
There’s a fundamental need to branch out. To do anything else is to repeat failure and undermine the basic goal of getting a group of people into government for a positive influence on the province and the future. This takes a fundamental growth in the grassroots and the people of Alberta to be engaged in the party. It just makes sense.
I’m not interested in the scraps of democracy and huddling off in a corner while decisions affecting the lives of Albertans are made. A modern, open party interested in constant renewal and consistent engagement is needed.