Alberta Party front-runner Glenn Taylor

Uh, the Alberta Party leadership race… there are no big names… not even Dave Taylor’s.

Whatever you thought was going to happen, whoever you thought might be about to run, the fledgling Alberta Party has now announced its official list of leadership candidates and there are no big names. Nada.

If there is any news other than the obvious associated with this development, it is only that one of the previously declared candidates has dropped out — energy sector consultant Chris Tesarski announced in a blog post that he was gonzo because of a policy disagreement with the party’s establishment, such as it is. However, he noted, his struggle to lose 50 pounds will continue.

In addition, there’s no sign on the list of official candidates, for which nominations closed at noon on Monday, of the party’s sole MLA in the Legislature, former Liberal and Independent Dave Taylor. Presumably that’s news of a negative sort too.

There’s also no sign of Chima Nkemdirim, the Calgary lawyer who once enjoyed a relatively high profile as Alberta Party president and spokesman. He is now working in the office of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. One wonders if this suggests the party’s previous prime movers are losing interest.

Acting Leader Sue Huff is prevented by the party’s constitution from running.

The four candidates who remain in the race are:

–   Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor, an ambitious former New Democrat who is the closest thing the party has to a high-profile candidate.

–   Tammy Maloney, who has worked for a number of charitable organizations in various parts of the world.

–   Lee Easton, a Mount Royal College English instructor and faculty association activist who identifies himself as a “passionate comic book geek.”

–   Randy Royer, a service industry executive with an interest in ending religious strife.

All of these are fine, sincere people. Only Taylor, however, seems at first glance like the kind of politician who actually might have the chops to make a go of it in the rough and tumble world of the Legislature. None of them, including Taylor, have much profile with Albertans.

Now, if the middle of a hotly contested and news intensive federal election campaign seems to you like an odd moment to make this announcement, well, it does to most observers.

The party’s leadership convention will take place in Edmonton on May 28 — less than a month after the federal election when the media will either still be full of scuttlebutt on new cabinet ministers or, even more exciting, a historic Parliamentary bun-fight over who will form the next government of Canada.

Such timing certainly does the Alberta Party no good in terms of generating publicity — which would seem to be a necessity for a political entity that is flying below the radar as far as most rank-and-file Alberta voters are concerned, although it has a relatively high profile in the blogosphere and among the Twittering classes.

Then again, in its most recent incarnation, the Alberta Party has rarely done things by the political book — as more than a year of trying to define its likely policy direction through a series of kitchen kaffeeklatches termed “the Big Listen” clearly illustrates.

Moreover, in defence of the new party, its timetable is driven to some extent by the timing of the Alberta provincial Progressive Conservative leadership race, which is already well under way with plenty of very high-profile candidates.

At least this is true if they really intend to run a full slate of candidates in the next provincial general election — which is likely to happen swiftly once the governing Conservatives have chosen a leader.

All this said, Albertans are still awaiting some sign that the Alberta Party intends to do something that will show it is prepared to do the nitty-gritty political work that no party can succeed without doing. There’s precious little evidence of it in this announcement.

The party’s ill-timed announcement of its official candidates suggests that the next really important date in its development will be the leadership vote — that is, the one planned by the Alberta Liberals after the Legislative session ends.

If the Liberal Party picks an effective leader, it is said here, that will be the end of the Alberta Party. If it does not, the Alberta Party and its new leader may get an unexpected lease on life as disillusioned Alberta Liberals look for a place to park their votes until they decide what to do next.

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

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...