Todd’s Letter: The NDP Merger



I’m not interested in merging with the NDP. Todd Van Vliet, party president of the Alberta Liberals, isn’t a fan either.

There was one point, almost a year ago, that I was. And I was quite frustrated then. I’m still frustrated, but more on that later.

But I’m tired of hitting a brick wall. Dr. Swann, the previous leader of the Alberta Liberals, spent the most time on mergers and cooperation talks, led a party into a principled process — that, long before an election, was shut down from every corner. The Alberta Party laughed at the Liberals. The NDP laughed, too. The Liberals were mocked. The party tried so hard that memberships fell, monthly donations cratered, and constituencies went dormant. We were talking to ourselves more or less, and that just wasted time. It was tried again, and again, and I’m tired of the merger conversation.

I feel like Charlie Brown at this point. I’m not interested in kicking that football again. And the NDP, unhappy liberals, and others, are holding that football ready to be kicked, signed document and all.

But Kent Hehr wasn’t only talking about mergers. Cooperation in the forms of sharing data, working on issues in the legislature, maybe splitting some heating bills, and doing joint bills in the legislature, are fair game. One person who has been doing this pretty well is Liberal Laurie Blakeman. And this is great. MLAs are elected to work with others in the legislature — be they MLAs from government or opposition. Waving at each other in the halls, too, is great. Breaking bread, too, is fantastic. There are some amazing people in these other parties.

The amount of respect I have for Chris Labossiere? I have tonnes. He is a skilled entrepreneur, hard working man with tonnes of great ideas. And my friend Alex McBrien, who ran for the Alberta Party in Calgary-Varsity? I worked on Harvey Locke’s 2012 byelection campaign with him, worked with him at the University of Calgary Liberal Association, and encouraged him to get his voice out there on the Huffington Post. And don’t get me started on the McMillan brothers. Then Chima Nkemdirim? I like these people. I like them a lot. I consider many of them my friends, and hope to count the rest of them my friends very soon.

Which leads me to my ongoing frustration. I’m frustrated that I don’t have all these amazing people, these moderate, middle-focused, and magnificent people, in one party. I know I can work with and do great things with these people. Without a question this can be done. In fact, I’ve already done so in many respects on different projects. I’m frustrated that I — yes, me — have not been able to provide a space for these folks.

But it’s just not in the cards. With the NDP, there’s their federal connection denying them movement from Ottawa, emboldened supporters from their two new seats ending the conversation, and their many resolutions at their AGMS saying no, they’re not up for it. The Alberta Party is currently leaderless and rudderless. The Greens are sunk, having their worst electoral showing in a decade to some 5,000 votes. The Liberals aren’t in it, either, because we’ve tried and are tired of the merger conversation. The political reality, as Brian Mason said, isn’t there for it.

But coffee and tea? Yes please! Working together in the legislature with amazing people? I wouldn’t trade anything in the world to shut that down.

6 Responses to Todd’s Letter: The NDP Merger

  • This was much better said than Mr. van Vliet’s unfortunate letter, Vincent. I happen to agree, for a number of reasons, that the idea of a ‘progressive merger’ is neither practical nor likely. That said this letter should never have been released.

    “The party disagrees with Mr. Hehr on this issue, but we will continue to work with him to find ways to strengthen the party and reach out to all Albertans regardless of party affiliation” was the statement Mr. van Vliet was looking for. The bizarrely personal tone and vague implications of conspiracy are unprofessional at best, divisive and harmful at worst.

    Politics, or any group activity for that matter, requires a group of people working together. They need to be able to trust each other and grant the respect to allow people to state their mind. Taking internal disagreement on issues and making it both public and personal is highly counterproductive.

    Fortunately for the ALP it is very much ‘inside baseball’, and the party is probably far enough out of the spotlight at least it will only hurt among those engaged and not with the public.

    • Politics, or any group activity for that matter, requires a group of people working together.


      Fortunately for the ALP it is very much ‘inside baseball’, and the party is probably far enough out of the spotlight at least it will only hurt among those engaged and not with the public.


  • I don’t think it can be said that constituencies went dormant because David Swann attempted cooperation. They went dormant because the party wasn’t focused on constituency building until pretty near to the election. I was involved in reactivating dormant constituencies in Calgary in 2010-11. Most of the local contacts hadn’t heard from anyone personally since the election in 2008 (including you, I believe).

    I would argue that the most that can be said is that some donors threatened to stop donating because of talk of cooperation. Emphasis should be placed on “some”.

    • Matt,

      I don’t think it can be said that constituencies went dormant because David Swann attempted cooperation.

      No, the constituencies went dormant because the effort wasn’t put there. The constituencies haven’t been built up in almost ten years. In Calgary-Klein a serious membership renewal attempt hasn’t been done in almost ten years. Seriously. It has been a long time since we have simply put in the hard work to build the constituencies.

      To reduce our purpose, to harm the basic organizing tenant of a party, is to care disharmony, destruction to its organizing ability, and the fundamental drive to create a movement from the grassroots. Matt, it’s more than just some angry donors. It’s the people we haven’t asked for help in almost a decade. It’s the people who we haven’t spoken with in almost a decade. It’s the folks that found themselves angry at the PCs, vacilated to the Wildrose, and then ran back to the PCs that we have demonstrably failed.

      We have work to do. Work that has not been done in a very, very long time. And the harm done to the organizing focus of the movement has been so very, very destructive it drives this lone blogger nuts. Matt, there’s work to be done, and this work hasn’t been done in such a long time.

  • To merge or not to merge… that is not the question.

    Based on the Math that may very well be the question but math in human affairs rarely adds up. In my mind the question is to be a Partisan or not to be a Partisan.

    Partisanship is the cancer of today’s politics.

    Partisanship leads to laziness from political Parties. People who vote for or support one particular party regardless of the candidate, or shifting ideas or ideals of the party leads to most of the problems in our political system.

    Would Harper have run Crockatt in Calgary Centre if he didn’t rely on the blind partisanship of a significant portion of the electorate? Would he have sent his cronies out to ensure the candidate that best reflected his position instead over the general consensus of the centrist Calgary Centre was chosen?

    At the moment neither the NDP, Liberalberta or the Alberta Party have put forward a strong enough position or unifying candidate to earn the vote of the forward thinking in Alberta.

    So long as we put Party before all else, this will never happen.

    It is my argument that those who identify themselves as Liberal, NDP, Conservative etc. are the source of the problem of a disjointed “left”. They stifle discussion and do everything in their power to ensure other the other “teams”, especially those relatively close to themselves on the spectrum gain no purchase. For decades the NDP has run harder against the Liberals than they did against the Conservative. The reverse can also be said to be true.

    It’s time we burn our banners and demand that the Parties earn our vote.

    Naheed’s election was our first taste of this post partisan world. Since Naheed, unlike Higgins and McIvor, did not cling or self-identify with any political brand he challenged us to do the same. He has proven by his 80% + approval rating that there is a large consensus in the centre in a post partisan world.

    It is our flags and not our vision of Calgary, Alberta or Canada that divides us.

    I believe there is a way to work within Partisan Politics to achieve a post partisan unified reality. The Alberta Party is an attempt to do this but to date it has not attracted the central unifying voice nor the right policy balance to be able to accomplish this. It is my hope that if any of the forward the forward thinking Parties are able to do this, we will be forward thinking enough to put down our Flags and look for consensus in the ballot box.

    The Liberal President’s letter that has spurred this current conversation is the manifestation of the afore mentioned cancer. Defending the reinforcement of silo’s and the reinforcement of walls and divisions does nothing but feed this cancer.

    I’m sorry that a 22 year old blogger is fed up with this conversation. Some of us have been fighting for this post partisan conversation for longer than this blogger has been alive and will continue to do so until it comes to fruition.

    There is no other path forward. 100 years of Liberal and to a lesser historical extent NDP electoral failure and bickering are the proof of this unfortunate reality.

    The army of forward thinking engaged volunteers that was assembled under Nenshi and forged under Turner (and I could be convinced under Harvey) is in my view a possible game changer. For the first time in my life, I feel that there is a chance for people I generally agree with, to not only influence but decide elections in this once monolithic Conservative bastion that is Calgary. The upcoming Municipal election is a fantastic time to prove this thesis. If this army is able to identify and coalesce around 2 or 3 strong forward thinking candidates we can completely alter the composition of Council.

    If we vote for or work for the candidates who self-identify under our “chosen banner” we will ensure that the DiCu’s, Demongs, Hodges’ etc. etc. will continue to hold our city back form where it needs to go.

    The choice is ours. Partisanship or a coalition of the forward thinking.

    • Marc, I’ve given a lot of thought to what you’ve written here. You’re wrong, mostly.

      Partisanship leads to laziness from political Parties.

      You say partisan — I say fighting for my values.

      Also, you list Nenshi’s win as a signifier of a great awakening of a post-partisan spirit in politics. No, Marc. That is not true. It’s not true in any way, shape, or form.

      It is municipal politics, with no slate or label, with a great candidate that could pull support from different areas and groups across the city to support him into the mayor’s seat. But that doesn’t work with ridings or party-based elections — where you have to earn support from a plurality of folks in a geographic region. You need to represent communities and people, and you need a way to do that.

      Parties have a purpose in this.

      There are not 45 Nenshis willing to run under a party label without some roots being laid by work done before. This post-partisan wonderland of being able to walk into an election, with other parties, and gather enough funds, support from the community, and deep reach into constituencies, is not fundamentally sane. Parties have a purpose, Marc, and this connection to the community is part of it.

      Marc, you say being in a party is lazy and that generally supporting a party is lazy. No, Marc. I have a coalition building mentality focused on bringing people together. I am fighting for my values and I want good government back into government. That’s the opposite of lazy. I am not a lazy person.

      You create a false dichotomy, that twists logic and damns a basic understanding of bringing people together. It is false, illogical, and it is downright wrong. Parties have a purpose, Marc, and to say that they are the problem is incorrect.

      But you are right that there hasn’t been the work down to create that coalition of forward thinking is true. I know you don’t spell this outright, but I can sense that fundamental frustration that you have is that there has not been the work down to pull in you and pull in the communities that are willing to work toward a common frontward vision — and for that I apologize.

      I am working on a campaign at the municipal level with the chap that is pulling support and people together to unseat Ward 1′s long time Alderman, Mr. Hodges. He is attracting folks from across the spectrum — Wildrose, Liberal, PC, and NDP. I agree with you that a targeted effort on the next municipal election can create a change on council. And I’m already a part of that.

      But a deeper and more tactical view has to be taken provincially and federally as the thing you’ve defined a post-partisan (which isn’t, actually, what a post-partisan is [Wikipedia article on the subject HERE]) isn’t cut out for what the fight we’re up against is. This fundamental community building, long term outreach, and base-building before we even select our candidates doesn’t exist in your conception of politics.

      I’m frustrated. And I can fully sense you’re frustrated. But there’s work to be done and I’m off to go do it.

Mailing List
60 Canadian Weblog Awards winners