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Why Leave When You Are Winning?

Greg Clark stated that he would step down as leader of the Alberta Party yesterday. The timing of Clark’s resignation is interesting.

The Alberta Party is in the midst of its most successful month since Clark won Ralph Klein and Alison Redford’s former seat, Calgary-Elbow, in the 2015 election.

The size of the Alberta party caucus doubled in the legislature less than two weeks ago when former NDP MLA Karen McPherson joined the party. As a result of McPherson’s floor-crossing, Clark asked Speaker Robert Wanner for additional privileges in the legislature.

Wanner obliged by providing the Alberta Party with an additional two questions every two weeks in Question Period and an additional $136,000 in the annual leader’s allowance provided to Clark.

In response to these victories Clark decided … to resign?

Why go now?

It does seem odd that Clark would resign in the wake of such positive news. The board of directors held a meeting this week in which they proposed changing the rules of the party to take the power to remove the leader out of the hands of the caucus and give that power to themselves.

That move should have signaled to Clark that his continuing leadership of the party under the existing board was untenable.

The Calgary Herald’s Don Braid hypothesized that disaffected former Progressive Conservatives, such as Stephen Mandel and Katherine O’Neill, see the Alberta Party as the vessel for a socially liberal and fiscally responsible challenger to Rachel Notley’s government. These former Red Tories are theorized to be unhappy with Jason Kenney as leader of the UCP.

This same group find moving to the provincial Liberals distasteful and are seeking a different outlet through which to oppose the disastrous premiership of Rachel Notley.

It is unsure who exactly pushed for Clark’s resignation. It is intuitively appealing that Clark was forced out of the leadership of the Alberta party rather than resigning of his own accord. Clark left open the possibility of running again. This statement may signify he isn’t willing to go without a fight.

Whether or not Clark chooses to run, there may well be a number of other candidates for the job.

Who will run for the job?

There a number of potential replacements for Clark. From Alberta, the municipal scene Mandel and O’Neill both might run for the job. Naheed Nenshi and Don Iveson would both be an ideological fit for the new party. However, the mayors of Alberta’s two largest cities would face questions about seeking to leave their municipal jobs so quickly after winning re-election. Former Edmonton Mayor, Stephen Mandel, may be looking for a chance to re-enter politics.

The media also present some interesting options to replace Clark. Braid refers to 630 CHED’s popular daytime talk show host Ryan Jesperson as an “often mentioned” potential candidate.

An unorthodox possibility is blogger Kathleen Smith, aka Kikki Planet. Smith has purportedly been urged to seek elected office previously.

The sudden manner in which Clark resigned leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Clark’s announcement will provide a needed distraction from the Notley government’s attacks on Jason Kenney while refusing to call the Calgary-Lougheed byelection so he can sit in the Alberta Legislature. If the Alberta Party choose their next leader wisely Notley’s accidental NDP government may deservedly return to third-party status in the legislature after the 2019 election. 

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