What did Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor expect to gain yesterday when he announced he was resigning from the Alberta Liberal Party and asking the speaker of the Legislature to let him sit as an independent?
Readers need not doubt the mellifluous former radio talk jock from Calgary hoped to gain something.
Taylor’s departure can hardly be called a surprise. He’s not looked like a happy man since he lost the 2008 race for the Official Opposition’s leadership to physician David Swann, his otherworldly colleague from Calgary-Mountain View. And his plan to pull the plug has been rumoured for months, buttressed by stories of unpleasant shouting matches with Swann behind closed doors at meetings of the Liberal caucus.
Indeed, judging from the stories, it seems that while Alberta’s mighty 39-year Conservative dynasty might be showing a few cracks in its facade, its puny Liberal Opposition is imploding.
At any rate, Taylor’s departure is a serious blow to the Liberals. He was, after all, their best speaker, or at least their loudest, and a credible spokesman for the many Alberta Liberal voters who lean to the right. His resignation reduces the caucus to seven members, not all of them necessarily much more enthusiastic about Swann’s low-key, faintly progressive leadership than he was.
Meanwhile, by comparison elsewhere in Alberta’s increasingly interesting Legislature, the two-member NDP caucus might fit in a phone booth, if such things still existed, but looks rock solid by comparison to the shaky Liberals. And the right-wing Wildrose Alliance, of course, is a growing proposition with one elected member and two floor-crossers from the Conservative benches.
So what will Taylor do next? It’s a given he won’t sit quietly in the Legislature for long as a lone independent member deprived of the ability to ask enough questions to keep himself in the spotlight.
One recent rumour had him set to skedaddle to the Wildrose benches, giving a party associated with the ideological far right a more moderate voice that might appeal to traditionally Liberal voters. But Taylor appeared to scotch that idea in his resignation statement.
“David Swann’s Alberta Liberals are not talking about the things that Albertans want to talk about,” he wrote. “Neither are the PCs. The other two parties both come at it from the far ends of the political spectrum. The majority of Albertans don’t want that. They want sensible, moderate, pragmatic solutions that are fiscally responsible, socially progressive, and that put Albertans first.”
OK, but if the Wildrose Alliance is out, as are presumably the NDP, which sensible, moderate, pragmatic alternative did he have in mind?
Was he referring to the fledgling Red Tory-Blue Liberal Alberta Party, the party that combines pie with politics as it talks and talks and talks? That seems unlikely, since it would leave Taylor in a position not unlike that he faces as an independent. What’s more, he would likely have a tough fight for the seatless new party’s leadership.
Or is he, as has also been much whispered of late, plotting a run at the mayor’s office in Calgary City Hall?
If so, he will come up against New Democrat Bob Hawkesworth, who as an alderman nevertheless enjoys surprising popularity among that conservative city’s electors. He may also find himself in competition with Liberal Kent Hehr, MLA for Calgary-Buffalo and until yesterday his caucus colleague.
Perhaps Taylor calculated that a spell far from the Liberal benches would stand him in good stead with his city’s Conservative voters in a quest for the chain of office.
Or perhaps he is scheming a return to the Liberal benches when the seemingly irresolute Swann has been disposed of.
That would take a certain amount of brass, but it is not without precedent. As the late British prime minister Winston S. Churchill observed when he rejoined the Conservatives after crossing the floor of the House of Commons for a spell with the Liberals: “Anyone can rat, but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat.”
This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaDiary.ca.
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