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Glen Taylor quits as leader -- Alberta Party ponders the Big Goodbye

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Glenn Taylor

Get ready for the Big Re-Think. Or the Long Goodbye. Or something…

Alberta Party Leader Glenn Taylor has resigned, the world learned yesterday. He'll step from the provincial political stage on Sept. 22, when the party holds its annual general meeting.

Not that the former mayor of Hinton had much choice, having failed to gain the toehold of even a single seat in the Legislature for the bold experiment in doing politics differently in Alberta.

Always a party inclined to break the mould -- even if breaking it didn't work particularly well -- the Alberta Party started with a series of kitchen meetings across the province it called the Big Listen. Party adherents saw their party as a bold experiment in centrist policy making, conceived in hope and steeped in coffee, and careful to take its time to listen to everyone.

Unfortunately -- and I mean that, because the party had good ideas and good people supporting it -- it turned out that Albertans weren't really paying attention. On election day, facing the prospect of choosing between a victory by the far-right Wildrose Party or the seemingly moderate Progressive Conservatives of Premier Alison Redford, voters gave the Alberta Party the Big Cold Shoulder. Its tally in the Legislature was a Big Zero.

Now party officials say it's not even a sure thing they'll have a leadership race to replace Taylor at the AGM. First thing, anyway, they'll appoint an interim leader to decide what to do next -- Sue Huff again, maybe?

But even before party members decide whether or not to choose another leader to permanently replace Taylor, who was elected back in May 2011, they say they're going to think about such options as just shutting down, becoming a think tank or merging with the Alberta Liberals.

Joining the Liberals is the option favoured by Michael Walters, who was the party's unsuccessful candidate in Edmonton Rutherford. "I personally think the Alberta Party and the Liberal Party should merge and elect a new leader that has the ability to run a truly authentic centrist party that can provide some competition to the Progressive Conservatives," he told the Edmonton Journal yesterday.

I'd be prepared to bet you, though, that having hung onto his own seat and a presence in the Legislature by the skin of his political teeth, Liberal Leader Raj Sherman wouldn't share that sentiment. You know, the party's name is good – but it’s not that good!

Walters is said to be considering a city council run in Edmonton.

The party did have an MLA in the last session of the Legislature for a spell in the person of former Alberta Liberal leadership candidate Dave Taylor (no relation to Glenn Taylor), who quit the Liberals in a scrap with their leader and sat as an Independent for a while first. But that Mr. Taylor, who always possessed the ability to do the math despite his occasional impetuosity, chose not to run in the last election. Presumably, he read the handwriting on the wall.

From Day 1 of his leadership, Glenn Taylor seemed strangely disengaged. The former New Democratic Party candidate and union official didn't even give up his day job as Hinton Mayor until January 2012. When the election finally came in April, he couldn't carry the huge but sparsely populated riding in which Hinton is the principal town.

Before that, in October 2010, the party also lost its most promising and engaging potential leaders when Naheed Nenshi was elected mayor of Calgary. In addition to Nenshi himself, identified as an early supporter of the party, it cost the party Calgary lawyer Chima Nkemdirim, who instead of running for leader as many had hoped, left to become Nenshi's chief of staff.

Huff, who was the party's previous interim leader before the choice of Taylor, told the Journal yesterday she's kind of OK with the think tank idea.

Perhaps it's not such a bad thought. The Alberta Party always staked its claim on the notion it could do politics differently. Turned out voters expected to do them the same old way. The think-tank option might enable the party to turn the Big Goodbye into the Long Goodbye, and do some good for Alberta yet.

Taylor has a job in Hinton. What do you want to bet he runs for mayor again?

+ + +

NOTE: Since yesterday's post about the lead-up to the Calgary Centre by-election went online, Conservative nomination candidate Jon Lord has responded to a query sent earlier about the role of Craig Chandler in his campaign. "Craig is one of many people working on the campaign, all of whom have many diverse opinions on all sides of the issues," Lord said in part. "I take great pride in my ability to work with people of all backgrounds and opinions towards a common good -- indeed, that is the hallmark of my political career." Read the entire response here. Lord's slyly entertaining suggestion that I am helping out with Joan Crockatt's campaign is, of course, incorrect.

One additional candidate remains in the Conservative nomination race, Richard Billington, a Calgary lawyer and member of the Conservative Party's National Policy Commission. My apologies to Billington for missing him yesterday, although his interest was noted in my original post on the by-election. He is a serious candidate, but his campaign seems low key and directed at party insiders.

Tomorrow, unless news breaks out again, I'll return to the Calgary Centre by-election.

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

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