Alberta Party supporters tired of politics as usual

Political veterans and newbies attracted to shiny new party

The emerging Alberta Party is finding interest and support from across the political spectrum as well as people who have never been involved in politics before.

Judy Wilson once worked as chief of staff for the Opposition Alberta Liberals. She now plans on seeking the nomination for the Alberta Party for the Edmonton Mill Creek constituency.

The 2008 election — which saw the Tories returned to power with an overwhelming mandate backed by the lowest voter turnout in Alberta history — was a “disaster” says Wilson and not just because she supported the Liberals.

“We should be all engaged in this province and charging ahead but something just died” she says. “I couldn’t see the Liberals ever making a difference and certainly not the NDP.”

Wilson began to attend small meetings of like-minded Albertans who were dismayed at the results and wanted to do something about it.

“When you look at the room of an Alberta Party meeting there are Conservatives Liberals and New Democrats. We have found a way to get rid of the ideology that is forever slapping you up the side of the head and saying we can easily work together because we are not that far apart.”

One of the big selling points of the Alberta Party is its willingness to embrace “best practices” regardless of where they come from. During the party’s recent policy convention Wilson listened to a presentation on health care that contained ideas that were clearly socialist and some that were clearly right wing. But in both cases they were the best choice she says.

“You can implement those if you have the will.”

Sherry McKibben has been a stalwart New Democrat supporter for years even running for the NDs in Edmonton Gold Bar in 2008. But the former Edmonton city councillor has redirected her energies towards the Alberta Party.

“I feel very strongly that the current Conservative government is not listening or serving Albertans” says McKibben “and that some change needed to occur. But it wasn’t going to occur within the current party structures.

“It was as if we had learned a dance and we weren’t prepared to do a new one.”

Although she has left the NDs she isn’t overly critical of her old party.

“The New Democrats are what they are. This is in a way not about them. Something different has to happen but I didn’t see it as a possibility within the New Democrats.”

Her involvement with the Alberta Party began with a Reboot conference last year. She attended the event at the encouragement of New Democrat friends who were sharing the same concerns she had about the province. She hosted a number of Big Listen events which she calls “a really delightful process.”

Leaving the NDs was “a long difficult thoughtful process.” She says there is a lot of “quiet conversation” amongst New Democrats about leaving the party for the Alberta Party.

McKibben is working behind the scenes to organize constituency organizations but won’t say if she plans on running for the party in the next election.

She won’t make a prediction about the party’s chances in the next election but she says “change is in the air and it’s catchy.”

Unlike Wilson McKibben or party president Chris LaBossier John Chow has never been politically active.

“Most Albertans are apathetic to the whole process because they feel the government isn’t listening” says Chow a project manager with the firm Worley Parsons

Previously the affairs of government “really didn’t bother me — but now it does.”

He became involved with the Renew Alberta movement which eventually merged with the Alberta Party. He’s now involved with organizing constituencies and policy.

“I feel government should be run like a project. You have objectives you have stakeholders you have a budget and you have a schedule. Then you have performance feedback from your customers. That’s what should be done in politics these days. There has to be accountability and I just don’t see that.”

He is also tired of the ideology of politics.

“I know some people have ideological statements to make. But to me from a projects perspective I just want to create a system that works. Who cares if it’s right wing or left wing? We just want something that works and that’s what I’m aiming for.”