As the Alberta Liberals prepare to launch their leadership race later this month, one of the party’s most high-profile members says he isn’t interested in taking a run at the job.
Dan MacLennan said he wants to focus instead on rebuilding many of the party’s constituency organizations that withered or died to the point where the Liberals were reduced to just one seat in the 2015 provincial election.
The Liberals only won 4.2 per cent of the vote and failed to run candidates in 31 of the province’s 87 ridings.
MacLennan, former president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, said he wants to lay the groundwork for the Liberals to rebound in 2019.
“We really have to attack and get things up and running,” said MacLennan, who was elected as the Liberal party’s vice-president of constituencies in May. “We have to get past Liberals to come home and welcome new ones.”
Some of the new ones the Liberals hope to woo are Progressive Conservative supporters who may not be able to stomach former Conservative MP Jason Kenney should he win the PC leadership this March, he said.
MacLennan had a working relationship with the Progressive Conservative government during his nine years as president of the largest union in the province. He later sat on a committee that advised the PC government on health issues.
There are plenty of progressive-minded PC party members who could seek a new home if Kenney becomes Progressive Conservative leader and continues his push to unite the right with the Opposition Wildrose party, he said.
“It gives us a huge opportunity that we need to take advantage of — to welcome Progressive Conservatives who believe in fiscal sound principles but who are socially progressive and aren’t looking at turning back the clock on human rights.”
The Liberal leadership race to find a successor for David Swann kicks off on Jan. 15 in Edmonton and is to wrap up on June 4 in Calgary.
MacLennan said he expects up to four candidates to seek the job.
The biggest immediate challenges for the party are fundraising and finding people to work in each constituency — a task MacLennan said will be easier in Calgary, Edmonton and other urban areas.
The hope is the buzz from the campaign will raise the Alberta Liberal Party profile.
MacLennan said whomever wins the leadership can look forward to years of tough work.
“It is all about potential,” he said. “We just need a visionary leader who will help us get to that potential and is willing to work their butt off non-stop to get there.”
The Liberals edged the NDP in the 2012 provincial election, winning one more seat and slightly more of the popular vote. In the 2008 election the Liberals won nine seats, compared to two for NDP.
“It is not where you are at, it is where you are going.”