Thursday, December 31, 2009

My History with the Alberta Liberal Party - Part IV

March 1989 to July 1992

I was heavily involved in Party organization during this period but the dramatic news that Sheldon had cancer overrode all else. We were out for supper with our Viet Namese friends late October 1991. This was the family that Sheldon sponsored from Viet Nam to Canada some years earlier.

Sheldon had been in Lethbridge playing hockey and dropped in on his way back home. He complained about feeling exhausted and said he was going to the doctor the next day for a check-up. Unfortunately, the cancer was diagnosed and that began a long arduous battle for Sheldon because he never took on anything lightly.

I saw him twice during the battle, once when Harold Finkleman and I infiltrated the Foothills Hospital against Sheldon’s orders and last on Christmas Eve 1991 when Nora and I and our house guests walked from our house to Sheldon’s and sang Christmas carols outside his door. I remember seeing him struggle to the door with his friend and caregiver, Susan Matheny. He was attached to an intravenous. I will always remember his smile that night.

Sheldon passed January 26th, 1992 and his death created a major void in Alberta politics, both ethics and intelligence suffered dramatically.

Calgary Buffalo was left without its MLA and under the laws of the Legislature they had to call a by-election within 6 months. While Sheldon was almost impossible to replace I met with Gary Dickson and we convinced each other to run, he as the candidate and I as the manager. This was my 3rd Calgary Buffalo campaign and I was determined to win for Gary and of course for Sheldon.

The by-election was called for July 21st, 1992. The Tories threw Rod Love at us as their candidate, hoping to join his master in Edmonton. Although having known Rod I’m not sure who the master was, he or Ralph. The NDP countered with Elaine Husband and very nasty negative campaigning taught to them by Ontario organizers.

The voters knew better, recognizing the talent of Dickson and the memory of Sheldon, they returned a Liberal MLA with more than 50% of the total vote. We used a slogan, “Give Getty a wake-up call”, copied by the Wildrose in the recent Glenmore by-election. Husband was a distance 2nd and Rod Love barely limped into 3rd place. I had beaten Rod Love twice, 1989 and this by-election.

Voters always know best...


  1. My goodness. What is the world of Liberal politics coming to...
    It is time to learn from the past and focus on the future...
    Imagine 2010. Stalwarts like Rachel Notley and Kevin Taft working together to promote a progressive alternative to the Stelmach failure.
    "imagine a world without religion". John Lennon did.

  2. I ma not sure what workeradvocate is getting at but so be it. Comments please.

  3. The NDP countered with Elaine Husband and very nasty negative campaigning taught to them by Ontario organizers.

    I remember that campaign well, as I was the canvass organizer for Elaine Husband. I think it's fair comment to claim we engaged in negative campaiging, but it always seems that whenever the NDP goes negative, 'Ontario organizers' get the blame.

    In fact, there were two organizers from outside the province in that campaign. The Manager was from Manitoba, and I have been living in BC for all of six months, where I had recently moved from Nova Scotia.

    While we ran the day to day logistics of the campaign, the negative message was created by local activists from Calgary and staffers from Edmonton. We did little more than deliver the message handed to us as best we could.

    The message, as best as I could recall, was to use the musings of Liberal MLA Mike Percy in favour of a sales tax to claim the Liberals would put such a tax in place.

    A streatch for sure, and the NDP stopped using that argument shortly after the by-election. On the flip side though, that by-election was the last time before the 93 wipe out that the NDP managed to improve it's share of the vote in an election. Was that due to the message, or our ability to build a modest organization where none had existed before?

    Perhaps some day we can debate that over coffee.

    In any case, we were clearly unable to overcome the Liberal roots you and Sheldon Chumir had built in that riding, and that the Liberals enjoy to this day.

  4. Thank you for that insight and coffee is always in my schedule and as a political junkie I would welcome the opportunity to discuss the past, present and future.

    My email is