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Did the Alberta Party just have a Seinfeld coup?

Greg Clark. Image: David Climenhaga

Jerry: Wha-what's the party about?
George: It's about nothing.

[Recorded laughs]

Jerry: No leader?
George: Forget the leader.
Jerry: No leader? You gotta have a leader!

Help me out here, folks. The leader of the Alberta Party, who obviously enjoyed being the leader of the Alberta Party, suddenly stepped down from the job hours before Remembrance Day.

Greg Clark, the only person ever to have actually been elected to the Legislature as a candidate for the Alberta Party, promised to stick around as MLA for Calgary-Elbow and work like the dickens, but said that in order for the party to be viable in the expected 2019 general election, it really needed to be leaderless.

Well, in fact what he said was that the party really needed to "blow the doors wide open" and the only way to do that was to have a leadership race. He might run in it, or maybe not.

On the face of it, this was a pretty dubious claim. It was only at the end of October that the party had finally, sorta, maybe, kinda gotten on the provincial political radar thanks to the floor crossing by former NDP Government member Karen McPherson, MLA for Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill.

Plus, there was plenty of talk that a couple of former Progressive Conservative MLAs still in the Legislature might sign up, too. That would have given the Alberta Party the critical mass it needed to become an official party, with a research budget, an excuse to book a caucus room, and everything else.

Informed speculation at the time suggested Clark was pushed out by former PC insiders disillusioned with United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney's autocratic and social conservative ways who were flooding into the Alberta Party.

In other words, it was a palace coup -- even if a party whose entire caucus could meet in a phone booth doesn't exactly qualify as a palace. Alberta's political history has shown parties with tiny caucuses can form majority governments in a very short span of time.

It was reported Clark got an ultimatum by the party's new PC masters: He could step aside before the Alberta Party AGM scheduled for the next weekend in Red Deer, or he could run as an Independent in 2019.

For his part, Clark has gamely insisted he came to the conclusion the only way to make a go of the party was to generate momentum by having a leadership race.

Most media generously accepted this story. "Clark quits as first Alberta Party leader to generate political buzz," a Calgary Herald headline writer summarized kindly, if a little ambiguously and rather inaccurately. (Clark is not the first leader of the party, nor was he the first to generate political buzz, at least for a little while.)

Now more than three weeks have passed there are apparently no candidates to lead the party. None.

So what is this? A Seinfeld coup?

They have a few days yet. The party said on November 22 it had set February 7 as the day for the leadership vote -- assuming, I guess, that there are some candidates. The party doesn't seem to have make public the deadline for nominations.

Three weeks ago, I offered up a rather speculative list of 17 possible candidates. Most of them have been pretty quiet since then. Former St. Albert MLA Stephen Khan told the local paper he won't be running, so make that 16 possible candidates. Some of the others say they're still thinking about it.

Maybe there's a plan. After all, slick political operators now involved with the party like Stephen Carter and Susan Elliot usually have plans. Elliot is co-chair of the Alberta Party Leadership Election Committee.

But then, the Alberta Party was always sort of a party about nothing. Its slogan seems to be "Centre Together." It got its start in its current avowedly centrist form at a province-wide series of kaffeeklatsches called "The Big Listen."

So probably there's a plan. But maybe not.

George: I think we really got somethin' here!
Jerry: Whadda we got?
George: An idea!
Jerry: What idea?
George: An idea for the party.
Jerry: I still don't know what the idea is!
George: It's about nothing.
Jerry: Right … ?
George: Everybody's doing something. We'll do nothing.
Jerry: I think you may have something here!

NOTE: The Seinfeld clip was intentionally transcribed incorrectly. With apologies.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Image: David Climenhaga

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