Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Response to the 2008 General Election

The following was written after the 2008 election loss. I offer this because I will be making political comment and this will give a background.

Donn Lovett – “One Person’s Opinion”

First, let me explain who Donn Lovett is and why he feels he should enter the discussion on the recent results of the 2008 Alberta general election.

• I have lived in Alberta since 1982, having worked in the Province since 1975 out of a regional office in Winnipeg.
• I have been working with the Alberta Liberal Party since 1982 and have managed Alberta Liberal election campaigns on 7 different occasions winning 6 times and while the “Dr. Harold Swanson campaign of 1997” did not produce a Liberal MLA, I still consider that a victory.
• I am a public and media relations consultant with a strong background in politics in this province.
• I am well known in the Calgary business community, including but not limited to the oil & gas sector.
• I am well known by the Calgary media and believe I have a good relationship with them.

I am sorry I was not here to participate in the recent general election but since January 8th, 2008 until a few days ago I was in Oman and dealing with the aged old man’s problem, the prostate. I believe that is now under control and I expect a clean bill of health by the end of April of this year.

I want to break down my comments into the following categories;
1. What happened, why did we lose the election?
2. What can be done by the Liberal Party immediately?
3. Leadership of the Party
4. Money
5. The Future

1. What Happened, why did we lose the election?

The answer to this question is not what we display on our website. We cannot blame the voter which we appear to be doing in the language on the site. We say the voter did not give us the money we needed. The voter did not understand our policy. The voter did not come out to vote. This is not the fault of the voter in Alberta. What we did not have was money. Our election war chest was, literally, empty. That meant no polling or public opinion research, a very small campaign team, and almost no advertising to get our message out. It is no wonder many Albertans don’t see an alternative to this government, even though they want a change. And it is no wonder there was a record low voter turnout. It is my belief that the answer to this question lies within the Party itself and can be found in our behaviour, or lack thereof dating back to October 2007. Of course this involves the royalty issue, our handling of that was the single most transitional issue that can be found in discussion with the voter in Calgary and I am sure in other parts of Alberta. Up to that point we had a broad base of support from the voters and a sense of
change was evident in casual and business conversation. We can even pin point to circumstances related to discussions on October 22nd and 23rd in Calgary. After that there was a tremendous loss of emotional connection between the Leader and the voter. We messed with the minds of the voter. They were disappointed with the Stelmach Government performance and were desperate for change. They felt we were the vehicle for change. They wanted so badly for our Party to be the direction they were seeking and we stopped communicating with them on an emotional level they could understand. In Calgary today I find anger in the business community, in the political community and in my social community, anger with the Party organization and anger with the Leader. Comments are made such as “you people don’t even like us”. We did not get the money to run the campaign because the voter refused to give it to us after October. Low voter turnout was a result of no where to go for a large number of voters who had previously been looking at the Liberal Party. We could not get our message out because the voter stopped listening!

2. What can be done by the Liberal Party immediately?

First, change the critic positions recently announced (see the attached suggested list). The current critic’s list furthers the notion with the voter that we are not connected, we are not listening and “we don’t like them”. For God’s sake, one of the most important issues to this day facing this province is health care. We have a distinguished medical doctor in our ranks and we do not have him leading this debate. The Sheldon Chumir Centre opened in Calgary understaffed and under-funded and there was little or no comment from our Party. Sheldon is a Calgary icon and a significant part of the recent history of our Party and nothing was said. Also, who did more to work with rural communities to develop discussion and relationships? Dr. David Swann is a well known activist on matters of international importance and we do not have him leading the discussion on International Relations. Harry Chase is a teacher. This is the person to lead the discussion on education and advanced education. We have this valuable resource and the other hot button issue that voters tell us is important to them. Let Harry lead this debate. One of the most important issues in the coming months will be labour. Labour and how we handle foreign persons coming to Alberta to work in our labour force. Once again, we have the resources available to us in the guise of Hugh MacDonald and Darshan Kang. Hugh with his labour background and Darshan with his strong connection to his community and the idea of Calgary and Edmonton cooperation is mind boggling. Kevin Taft will take on the finance critics’ position in order to go after the government from his Leader’s position with respect to the budget. This will be the major focus of the current session. Give Energy and Environment to Dave Taylor and they are not mutually exclusive in Alberta. You cannot develop a discussion on one without immediately involving the other and therefore they need to be with one critic and further to this they need to be directed from Calgary. I can bring a group of respected Doctors, Engineers and Scientists to the Party to give us direction on Carbon Credits, CO2 Sequestration, GHG emissions strategies, etc.... We are currently working with these persons in the Gulf Region of the Middle East on a comprehensive GHG reduction plan. Finally, Energy needs to be removed from the Leader because he is seen to have separated himself from the voter on this matter in the first instance. We will have a zero response from the Calgary business community if Kevin is the Energy critic. I would venture that this decision alone could elevate us in Calgary. To what extent remains to be seen but the current position will only damage us, Kent Hehr is a lawyer and only he can apologize for that. I best explain that this was a joke given the serious nature of people’s sensibilities these days. It remains that Kent should keep the legal critics positions. I know Calgary so I have my opinions on the critic positions from that perspective. I do not know Bridget, Laurie and Hugh as well as I would like but I make the suggestions from what I do know.

3. Leadership of the Party

Kevin Taft must make his decision by the latest, end of this session. We have no luxury of time past this date. We cannot go into the summer with the status quo and we certainly do not want the media and public relations debacle of a leadership review with all the lights in September. We cannot go outside the Party at this time for a new Leader. Nine very intelligent, respected and dedicated persons sought and won the right to be MLAs in Alberta. They certainly do not need someone from outside coming in and telling them how to handle themselves. Further, we do not need the image of the Party being lead from the Gallery in the Legislature. The next Leader of the Party needs to have the ability to respond to the media with a sharp wit and a “clip” answer. This person will give us the ability to fend off the discussion about what happened and allow us to debate what the future can bring. We need to get on with life as a Party. Review the list of 9 MLAs and tell yourself who best can do this for the Party at this time!

4. Money

I will put a team in place to look at retiring the debt. After the 2004 general election I met with Kevin Taft’s representative and offered a team to do exactly that. The team was present the plan was offered and no follow up took place to engage these people. However, believe it or not, they are still willing to sit down and look at a plan to retire the debt. This tells me there is a pulse left in the Party. There are people willing to step up a do this at this time given the recent results. They will not do this if we do not make changes some of which have been described above.

5. The Future

There is a debate ensuing around the issue of the name “Alberta Liberal Party”. This is healthy. We should explore the brand. However, we cannot do this under existing circumstance. We need to change and change quickly before we are perceived to have any credibility at all to engage in other debates.

Respectfully Submitted,
Donn Lovett
One Person’s Opinion


  1. Donn,

    You think fast. Allow your thoughts to settle overnight and reread before posting. This sentence is easy to understand because we know you, but to the uninitiated, you may wish to revisit this sentence: "We need to change and change quickly before we are perceived to have any credibility at all to engage in other debates". I believe you mean to say, "before we are perceived to have NO credibility at all to engage in other debates". Would that be right?

    With deep respect ...

  2. I don't know, what am I thinking?