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Alberta Liberals launch leadership race as Tory contest takes an acrimonious turn

Nirmala Naidoo

Optimistically billing themselves "the common sense centre," Alberta's provincial Liberal Party launched its contest yesterday to find a permanent replacement for interim Leader David Swann, the party's sole MLA.

The slogan for the Alberta Liberal leadership race -- which will run from today until March 31 -- is definitely better than anything the Alberta Progressive Conservatives have come up for their effort to replace their interim Leader, Ric McIver, which alert readers will recall is also under way.

As an aside, it must be noted that the governing New Democratic Party does not have a leadership race under way at the moment, seeing as its leader, Premier Rachel Notley, cannot be accused of having botched the last Alberta provincial election on May 5, 2015.

Nor does the Opposition Wildrose Party, although a substantial number of Wildrose members seem to be preoccupied with figuring out how to get rid of Leader Brian Jean.

Regardless, getting back to the point, the Liberal slogan is as follows: "Our Alberta. Your Choice."

This makes it the opposite of what, it is said here, the Tories are really thinking, to wit: "Your Alberta. Our Choice." The PC race is scheduled to end with the elevation of candidate Jason Kenney to the leadership on the first ballot on March 18. There are three other candidates in the Tory race, whose names all escape me at the moment.

In the aftermath of the Liberals' disastrous last leader -- Raj Sherman, who was chosen back in 2011 -- the party has only one member in the provincial Legislature, Swann, who often sounds a lot like a New Democrat.

But to give the Liberals credit, party President Karen Sevcik tacitly acknowledged the reality of the party's recent lack of success in the press release, noting that the party's plan is to "choose a leader with the skills and vision necessary to deliver our message to Albertans."

No one says that will be easy. But no one should completely discount this, either. If Alberta voters have proved anything in the past couple of years, it is that they are not all conservatives and their mood is highly volatile.

The Liberal news release did not name any candidates or possible candidates, although it indicated applications will start being processed at once, and candidates will therefore be named soon.

However, at least three high-profile potential candidates are known to be seriously contemplating a run for the Liberal leadership: in alphabetical order, St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse, Calgary lawyer and party VP David Khan, and former Calgary TV journalist Nirmala Naidoo.

The PC leadership race, meanwhile, seems to have taken a nasty turn.

On Sunday, as your blogger travelled to our nation's capital for business unrelated to this blog, party organizer Alan Hallman, a volunteer on Kenney's campaign, was expelled from the party for tweeting that other PC supporters were "assholes."

I apologize to readers for using this rough word, by the way. But as I used to tell my journalism students: "If it's news, you should spell it out. If it isn't, don't use it." Having painted myself into that corner years ago, I had no choice in the event but to spell the word correctly.

Regardless, Hallman has now been tossed out of the party for a year and has deleted his Twitter account.

For his part, Kenney first defended Hallman -- as well he should have, having called former PC deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk exactly the same thing in an email back in 2012 and then hitting the reply-all button -- and a little later fired him from his campaign.

I was only joshing readers, by the way, when I said I couldn't recall the other three PC candidates. They are Vermilion-Lloydminister MLA MLA Richard Starke, former St. Albert MLA Stephen Khan and Calgary lawyer Byron Nelson.

All of them appear to be dedicated to preserving the progressive in Progressive Conservative, and therefore they have the moneybags of the provincial conservative movement ranged against them. This is why I am so confident Kenney, a former cabinet minister and confidant of former prime minister Stephen Harper, will promptly win the PC contest.

The winner of the race to become new Alberta Liberal leader will be announced in Calgary on June 4. Before that, debates are scheduled to be held in Calgary on April 8 and Edmonton on May 6, followed by online voting from May 27 to June 3.

NDP tops 4th quarter and full-year 2016 fundraising results

Elections Alberta has now released Alberta political parties fundraising results for the fourth quarter, Oct. 1, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2016. Fundraising results for the quarter and the full year are as follows:

Q4

NDP – $798,166
WRP – $511,668
PC – $218,793
ALP – $85,931
AP – $32,612

2016

NDP – $2 million
WRP – $1.8 million
PC – $399,814
ALP - $211,927
AP – $82,394

I copied these numbers in a darned hurry sitting on an uncomfortable chair in a hotel room. Any errors of transcription or rounding are, of course, the fault of the hotel. DJC

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

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