By Alex MacPherson
Any hope of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives 44-year-long winning streak in the province being snapped seems misplaced as opposition parties refuse to work together.
After the resignation of the scandal-plagued Allison Redford last summer it seemed like change was finally in the air for the Alberta government.
That feeling is long since gone. Danielle Smith and eight of the elected Wildrose crossed the floor to the conservatives in December, a crossing that both strengthened Jim Prentice’s position as Premier of Alberta and demonstrated a pragmatism not seen in the beleaguered opposition.
— Bruce Atchison (@VE6XTC) January 16, 2015
When Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman announced he would not be running again last March, popular Edmonton MLA Laurie Blakeman put her name forward as the new interim leader of the party on the condition she could pursue a merger with the Alberta Party.
That didn’t sit well within the party and Calgary MLA David Swann was selected instead on February 1. Swann had previously served as party leader from 2008 to 2011.
“The party is not prepared to give up our identity and our values to merge,” said Liberal party president Shelley Wark-Martyn. “It doesn’t make sense for us right now and it doesn’t serve Albertans to have our values compromised.”
Blakeman left the February meeting in a hurry and did not stay to take questions from the press. She later apologized on Twitter, congratulating Swann on his win and said she left early because she was concerned about missing a flight.
Blakeman’s merger proposal was posted online and suggests all Albertan’s would benefit by growing the party diplomatically.
“There are young progressive urban Albertans who are politically minded and would welcome an opportunity to become engaged in the electoral process. They want their voice to be heard,” the document said.
The proposal goes on to say that Albertans are unhappy with PC policies and are looking for a strong, unified opposition to vote for.
Blakeman could not be reached for comment but released a statement saying she was disappointed in the decision not to explore a merger but has the utmost faith in Swann’s ability to lead.
The fledgling Alberta Party was founded in 1985 as a conservative alternative but has become centrist since merging with Renew Alberta in 2010. It currently holds no seats in the Legislature and is led by Greg Clark.
If Blakeman and the Liberal Party are concerned about splitting the left-leaning vote then a merger with the Alberta NDP makes more sense than a merger with the Alberta Party. But NDP leader Rachel Notley says a merger is not on the table.
“The NDP have discussed possible mergers in the past within the party and have voted against it. Overwhelmingly voted against it,” Notley said.
“There is always room in the party for new members but we aren’t interested in a complete overhaul of values that a merger would require. When Albertans vote NDP, they vote for an honest party that will stick to its platforms and its promises. They aren’t voting for floor crossers.”
The inability of opposition leaders to compromise is noble, but it also seemingly guarantees another PC government in the next election. If the Alberta’s conservative juggernaut is ever going to be toppled in this province, it will have to come through external teamwork rather than internal scandals.