Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My History with the Alberta Liberal Party - Part I

September 1982 to November 1982

I was born in Halifax to liberal-thinking parents and raised by a mother who taught us equality of race, gender and sexuality and therefore I felt most comfortable with the Liberal Party when I began my participation in politics.

My father was in the Canadian military and we were transferred to Winnipeg in 1959, where I lived until my move to Calgary. My participation in politics began in 1968 after listening to Trudeau speak in South Winnipeg and getting hooked by the man and the message.

I worked on several campaigns in Winnipeg prior to coming to Calgary and it was quite natural for me to get engaged as soon as I could after arriving in Calgary. In Winnipeg politics was fun and you could change Governments because people were engaged in the process.

I arrived in Calgary September 27th, 1982, unloaded my belongings into the house we rented at 2106 Hope Street in Mount Royal and after a few days getting settled I discovered there was a provincial election in progress with E-day November 2, 1982. I went next door, blithely introduced myself as a Liberal and asked the person at the door who the Liberal candidate was. To my ultimate surprise I discovered that he was the candidate, John Webb, a Calgary lawyer. I offered my assistance but advised I could not vote since I was not in Alberta in the proper time frame prior to the November 2nd writ.

Then the shock of Alberta Liberal politics unfolded. John was poorly supported with no Party infrastructure and infinitely less voter support producing a dismal outcome.

Less than four years had passed since the Progressive Conservatives won their landslide victory in 1979. Premier Peter Lougheed decided to call a snap election to catch fledgling new parties off guard, most notably the separatist Western Canada Concept which was capitalizing on anger over Lougheed's perceived weakness in dealings with the federal government, in particular his acceptance of the hugely unpopular National Energy Program. The WCC had won a by-election earlier in the year, and Lougheed decided that it would be wise to stage a showdown with the WCC sooner rather than later.

Lougheed then proceeded to mount a campaign based largely on scare tactics, warning Albertans angry with Ottawa but yet uneasy with the WCC that they could end up with a separatist government by voting for a separatist party. The strategy worked for the Tories, who won their fourth consecutive term in government, and returned to the 62% popular vote level it had attained in the 1975 election. The PC party won 75 of the 79 seats in the legislature.

The New Democratic Party, led by Grant Notley, doubled its legislative caucus from one member to two and became the official opposition after a debate over whether the NDP or the 2 Independents should be appointed official Opposition.

The Alberta Liberal Party was punished in the wake of the NEP and was barely able to field candidates in a third of the riding's, and went down to one of its worst showings in party history.

Welcome to Alberta...

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