With the federal election over and the fall session of the Alberta legislature in full swing, the Alberta Liberal Party is hoping to generate more interest in its three-way leadership race over the coming weeks.
The Liberals were decimated in the March provincial election — cut from 16 seats to nine — but Calgary Mountain View MLA and leadership contender David Swann says he’s optimistic Albertans will pay attention to the leadership race. “I think more and more people are waking up to the fact that we cannot give up on our democracy in Alberta,” says Swann, who was first elected in 2004. “We need a strong opposition, and I intend to try and widen the tent and bring in more young people, women and ethnic diversity to try to really generate a new opposition that will be more meaningful and effective.”
Calgary Currie MLA Dave Taylor and former Edmonton MLA Mo Elsalhy are also running for the leadership. Taylor, a former radio talk show host, was first elected in 2004 and was re-elected in 2008. Elsalhy, a pharmacist, was also elected in 2004, but lost his seat to the Conservatives in March. “I have the most to prove out of the three (contenders),” says Elsalhy. “I am willing to work my ass off to get this party on its feet again to prove to people that we’re not dead.”
The new leader will inherit a challenging financial situation. The Liberals have a $550,000 debt — down from $1 million after the 2001 election — and the party recently laid off its longtime executive director, Kieran Leblanc, because of budget cuts.
Albertans who want to vote in the leadership race need to buy party memberships by November 7. Because the party can’t afford to staff polls, the vote will be done by mail-in ballot. The results will be announced in Calgary on December 13.
The leadership candidates, meanwhile, are scheduled to face off at a debate at Mount Royal College on Thursday, October 23.