Saturday, January 2, 2010

My History with the Alberta Liberal Party - Part VIII

November 2004 to June 2007

After the Taylor campaign I assisted Dave with the organization of the Currie constituency and wrote a letter to Kevin Taft June ’05 offering to assist with provincial constituency organization and advised him I could and would put a team together to retire the debt and no response until October ’05 when he basically blew me off.

The 2006 federal election was held on January 23, 2006. I managed the campaign for Jennifer Pollock in Calgary West against Rob Anders, welcome to Alberta.

The Conservative Party of Canada won the greatest number of seats: 40.3% of seats, or 124 out of 308, up from 99 seats in 2004, and 36.3% of votes: up from 29.6% in the 2004 election. The election resulted in a minority government led by the Conservative Party with Stephen Harper becoming the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada.

Meanwhile in Alberta provincial politics Ralph Klein resigns from the Premier’s position.

Prior to the 2004 election, Klein had stated his intention to serve only one more term in office. Pressure mounted on Klein to set a firm date and, following such a request from party executive director Peter Elzinga, Klein announced on March 14, 2006, that he will be tendering his resignation on October 31, 2007. He subsequently stated that his resignation would take effect in early 2008 after a successor is chosen at the party's leadership election.

Klein announced his timetable days before party delegates were to vote in a review of his leadership on March 31, 2006. The drawn-out schedule for his retirement, along with his announcement that any cabinet minister who wished to run for leader must resign by June 2006, generated a large degree of controversy, including criticism from cabinet minister Lyle Oberg who was subsequently fired from cabinet and suspended from caucus.

When the leadership review ballot was held, Klein won the support of only 55% of delegates, down from the 90% level of support he had won at previous reviews and far lower than the 75% Klein felt he needed in order to continue. The result was described as a "crushing blow" to Klein's leadership.

In the weeks prior to the vote, Klein had said he would resign immediately if he did not win the leadership review by a "substantial" margin. In the hours following the vote, Klein released a statement thanking delegates for their support and saying he would take several days to consider his future.

"Given the results of this vote, I intend to meet with party officials and my staff to discuss my next step," he said. "I will do this as quickly as possible and announce a decision about my future shortly”.

At a press conference on April 4th, 2006, Klein announced that as a result of the lukewarm vote for his continued leadership he would submit a letter in September to Alberta's Progressive Conservative Party urging them to convene a leadership contest. Klein said he would resign as party leader and Premier after a successor was named, and would assist the new leader in their transition to Premier.

Klein officially handed in his resignation as party leader on September 20, 2006, officially kicking off the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party leadership race. However, Klein remained premier until the new PC Leader, Ed Stelmach, assumed office on December 14, 2006. He resigned his seat in the legislature on January 15, 2007.

Klein’s resignation resulted in a by-election call for June 12th, 2007 in his constituency of Calgary-Elbow.

Craig Cheffins decided to run as the Liberal candidate and asked me to manage his campaign which I readily agreed to having come close to winning Elbow in ’97 I relished the thought of winning the seat.

We had a terrific candidate an excellent campaign team and of course the power of Ruth Huber. What we didn’t have was any bump from the provincial Party, so we ran almost as an Independent.

We did have the support of Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier who took on Premier Stelmach in a Calgary versus the Province battle creating a positive effect for our campaign.

We won and Calgary-Elbow was represented by a Liberal. A pattern was extended, Sheldon was the first Liberal in Calgary-Buffalo, Dave was the first Liberal in Calgary-Currie and now Craig, the first Liberal in Calgary-Elbow.

What you can't do with a great team and a terrific candidate…

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