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New Alberta Party leader gives speech; old leader sings Over the Rainbow (really!)

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Alberta Party Leader Glenn Taylor

I went to the Alberta Party convention this weekend. I ate the cookie (chocolate chip) and the sandwich (egg salad), but I didn't drink the Kool-Aid. Not yet, anyway.

Mostly, I'm afraid, the two-day leadership convention of the party that defines itself as being in the middle and pretty well everywhere else in the Alberta political spectrum reminded me a lot of going to church -- which, as mentioned in a recent post at this location, is an important role in society that the NDP suddenly seems disinclined to provide.

Pleasant, well-dressed, earnest people gave me a media pass and led me to a comfortable seat at the front of the congregation, which numbered about 250 this morning, which is pretty impressive, all things considered. Much better, at any rate, than the 150 or so who registered for the Alberta Liberal Party Convention in Calgary this weekend, of whom about 125 bothered to show up today. In fairness, the Liberal convention didn't offer the end of a leadership race, which is always good for a little excitement.

Anyway, nobody yelled at me for the skeptical things I've said about the Alberta Party in the past, and several politely noted that while they respectfully disagreed, they understood my caution.

Like church, people talked about such concepts as "servant leadership," leaving your correspondent thinking, uh-oh! Unlike church, no one asked me to stand up and introduce myself or to leave an offering, which was a mercy.

There was what could have been an excruciating moment when the party's outgoing acting leader, Sue Huff, marched up to the podium at Edmonton's Shaw Conference Centre, slung a guitar around her neck and sang Over the Rainbow. Really! But, damn, she was pretty good, which kinda saved the moment!

At any rate, it sure as heck beat hearing our mean-tempered prime minister pounding out unauthorized covers of old Beatles hits on an out-of-tune piano. Indeed, one sort of feels this should become a new tradition for departing political leaders, although it's not clear what song Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach would pick. (Cryin' Time? Ring of Fire?)

And of course there was the traditional political convention moment when one of the four candidates, three-term Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor, won the Internet, phone and in-person leadership vote in a first-ballot slam-dunk with better than 55 per cent of the 1,200 votes cast.

Taylor seems like a fairly normal political type with a reasonably solid grasp of reality. He's a former New Democrat as a matter of fact. We'll just have to see if he manages to turn the Alberta Party into more of a political party, which is what will be required if it's going to win any seats in the Legislature, than the rather ill-defined group promising to do politics in different ways than the art of the possible is practiced in this province today.

Taylor had 665 votes. His nearest competitor, Calgary businessman Randy Royer, received 287, or 24 per cent. Lee Easton, an English professor at Calgary's Mount Royal University, had 144, 12 per cent of the total, and Tammy Maloney, who was described as a social entrepreneur, had 8.6 per cent.

That's the news. The analysis tomorrow.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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