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Will the Alberta Party be the new center?

The Alberta Party recently added a second member to their caucus when former NDP MLA Karen McPherson joined the party.

Party leader Greg Clark also successfully lobbied for more funding from the legislature and a few more questions for his caucus of two. For his efforts, Clark received a de facto vote of no confidence from the board of the Alberta Party. Clark’s resignation took effect today.

The Alberta Party is getting a lot of coverage in relation to their actual accomplishments.

This is a party that has only ever elected one MLA in more than 30 years of existence. In the 2015 election, the Alberta Party only ran candidates in 36 of Alberta’s 87 ridings and garnered a little less than 2.3% of the popular vote. A Lethbridge College poll released last month showed the Alberta Party enjoyed the support of 5.8% of all decided voters in the province.

The Globe and Mail’s western political columnist, Gary Mason, wrote a piece that was in part overly complimentary of the Alberta Party while also being realistic in his assessment.

Mason wrote of the Alberta Party and compared its chances to the NDP and the United Conservative Party (UCP):

“Not many are giving the party a chance of becoming a credible force by 2019. Admittedly, that is a narrow window. Also, soon the other two main parties will begin tacking toward the middle in an effort to woo voters essential to electoral success.”

Parties Shift to Center

The UCP hasn’t released a party platform yet. It’s difficult for a party to move to the middle before it has ever come out with a comprehensive set of policies. However, that wouldn’t fit Mason’s central thesis that the Alberta Party is the new vessel for centrist voters in Alberta. It does appear that Mason’s source for this upswing of support for the new party comes from disaffected former Progressive Conservatives who are “not happy about” the formation of the UCP.

The level of support for the takeover of the Alberta Party by unhappy former PCs is an open question. In the merger vote that lead to the formation of the UCP in July, 95% of PC members voted for the merger. The 5% of PC members who voted against the merger may all flock to the Alberta Party now. That likely wouldn’t have a significant impact on the election.

Mason states:

“there is a sense among some political eggheads in the province that the time is ripe for a centrist alternative. The idea isn’t as farfetched as it sounds.”

Looking at the vote around the formation of the UCP, and polling that has been released subsequent to the new party being formed, it appears that idea Mason speaks about is indeed far-fetched.

What’s all the smoke around Ryan Jespersen?

Ryan Jespersen is the host of a popular radio talk show in Edmonton. Jespersen has never run for political office before. However, he has been named repeatedly as a potential candidate for the leadership of the UCP. Given the political history of the sources for Mason’s column, it is entirely possible that the piece was a trial balloon for a Jespersen foray into politics.

Jespersen would be an interesting candidate. Jespersen is personable and engaging in real life. Those attributes lend themselves well to the field of politics. Politics, like many other career paths, rewards experience. It remains to be seen if Jespersen could potential make the leap from the broadcast booth to the Premier’s office. It appears that there are some political warhorses in the province who are willing to try and see that it happens.   

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