Alberta Liberals forming committee to decide party’s future
The Alberta Liberal Party is forming a committee to review future options for the party, following the 2019 provincial election.
The Liberals were shut out of the legislature in the election, losing their only seat.
In an email to party members that was obtained by Global News, Alberta Liberal Party president Graeme Maitland told party faithful that the five- to seven-member committee would be formed this month.
“The committee is going to review, evaluate and provide recommendations to the future of the Liberal Party and present it to the membership in November,” Maitland told Global News on Friday.
According to Maitland, the committee won’t be reviewing day-to-day operations of the party or analyzing the 2019 election in detail.
The committee is being set up in consultation with Alberta Liberal Party Leader David Khan, who won the leadership in 2017 following the retirement of Dr. David Swann.
Swann became the leader of the party in 2008. He resigned from the leadership in 2012 but became the party’s interim leader in 2015.
The Liberals have been losing seats in the legislature since the 2004 provincial election, when the party secured 16 seats under newly-elected leader Kevin Taft.
Their seat count dropped to nine in the 2008 election and then five in 2012. After the 2015 general election, the Liberals were left with a single seat in Calgary.
In the 2019 spring election, the party only garnered one per cent of the provincial vote.
Khan, running in long-time Liberal stronghold Calgary-Mountainview, came in fourth with just over five per cent of the vote.
“It was not the most ideal election for us,” Maitland said.
“But we ran a strong campaign, we handily won the debate and we had a great leader and a great team.”
According to Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, the Liberals’ decline in support can be attributed to the changing political landscape in the province.
“If you’re a more progressive side of the Liberals, you go NDP, [and] if you’re more centrist than the Liberals, you vote Alberta Party — that’s the problem they’ve got now,” Bratt said.
“I don’t know what the Liberals can do besides closing up shop”
But the Liberals aren’t ready to call it quits, even though they admit the future of the former political powerhouse is very much in question.
The party is the oldest in the province, forming the first government of Alberta and holding onto power for 16 years.
“The high watermark, outside of when they formed government prior to World War One, was the 1993 election,” Bratt said.
Under then-leader Laurence Decore, the party surged in popularity, winning 32 seats and becoming the Official Opposition to Ralph Klein’s Progressive Conservative government.
“I think the Liberals have self-destructed themselves and there’s other alternatives in their political space,” Bratt said.
According to Maitland, Khan will remain leader of the party, and will be subject to a leadership review in the fall.
The Alberta Liberals’ annual general meeting is scheduled for Nov. 16.
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