October 1993 to June 1997
The1997 provincial general election was held on March 11th, 1997.
The Provincial Liberal Leader, Grant Mitchell personally requested that I manage the campaign of Dr. Harold Swanson. Dr. Swanson had run against Klein in the nomination meeting for the Elbow Tories and came close to defeating him. Still very much interested in publicly discussing Klein’s attack on Health Care, Harold was persuaded to run as the Liberal candidate against Klein in Calgary-Elbow.
This was the 3rd time I took on Rod Love and the first time I was up against Al Hallman, Klein’s manager. We ran a very successful campaign on a shoe string budget (spending 10% of Ralph’s budget) and held the biggest political theatre event in years when we debated Klein at the North Glenmore Park Community Centre. We came within reach of defeating Klein and at the very least we scared the hell out of his organization. What we did do was show the Provincial Liberals that a solid campaign organization could produce positive results.
This was Klein's second election as leader of the Conservatives and was considerably more successful than his first. The PCs won over half the popular vote, and 63 of the 83 seats in the legislature.
The Alberta Liberal Party of Grant Mitchell lost about 7% of the popular vote it had won in the 1993 election and was reduced from 32 members to 18. Pam Barrett led the NDP back into the legislature with two seats (both in Edmonton), despite winning an even smaller share of the popular vote than in 1993.
The 1997 provincial election was followed closely by a federal election on June 2nd. In the ’97 federal election I was asked by David Smith, now Senator Smith, to find a candidate for Calgary Centre. I determined that Bev Longstaff would be the best person so I arranged a meeting at her Aldermanic offices and we discussed the matter at length. She agreed to be the candidate and I agreed to manage the campaign. However, the Party had different ideas and after a successful nomination meeting I was advised that my participation was not required. Longstaff lost the ’97 federal campaign by a little more than 3,000 votes, a campaign I never would have lost.
My first-hand experience with the culture of defeat in Alberta Liberal politics…