Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bitter Irony for the Alberta Party and Reality of Alberta Politics

Glenn Taylor, former leader of the Alberta Party
This recent article (below) on the Alberta Party in the Calgary Herald is quite telling. During the 2012 Alberta Election, the Alberta Party received the least corporate media coverage in proportion to the number of candidates fielded. And now that the Alberta Party is virtually dead or near dead, the Calgary Herald does a lengthy article on it albeit making attacks at the Alberta Party's lack of public appeal, glorifying the PC Party's Redford as the solution to all of Alberta's democratic shortcomings, and quoting an Alberta Party member who appears to wave the white flag and bow down to Redford. Quite laughable. This is the same newspaper that 2 days into the 28 day Alberta Election period declared on its front page a two party race based on a survey it had funded.

During the Alberta Election, the FDA undertook a study of the Alberta media. These are some of the main findings:

The Post Media Corporation, which owns the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal has 64.80% control of the Alberta daily newspaper market (2010 circulation numbers). Post Media Corporation and Quebecor/Sun Media have 89.60% control of the Alberta daily newspaper market.

Total exposure in daily print media including online media (for the Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun, and over the last two weeks of the Alberta Election):

Alberta Liberals 17.4%
Alberta NDP 16.6%
Alberta Party 2.7%
Alberta Separation Party 0.3%
Evergreen Party Alberta 0.9%
Communist Party Alberta 0.0%
PC Party 30.1%
Social Credit Party 0.1%
Wildrose Alliance Party 31.9%

Total corporate media coverage in the print, radio, television, and online sectors as per the FDA Media Study:

Alberta Liberals 16.2%
Alberta NDP 14.5%
Alberta Party 2.9%
Alberta Separation Party 0.3%
Evergreen Party Alberta 0.8%
Communist Party Alberta 0.0%
PC Party 33.2%
Social Credit Party 0.1%
Wildrose Alliance Party 32.0%

The Alberta Party ran 38 candidates of a possible 87 candidates. Based on the number candidates fielded by a party, the Alberta Party should have had 10.9% of the media coverage in the Alberta Election.

The Alberta media has no code of conduct during election periods, and there is no provincial legislation enforcing a code of conduct for the media during election periods. The FDA supports broad and balanced election coverage during election periods. In addition, there are no Alberta laws on media ownership concentration. In France for example, print media ownership cannot surpass 30% of the market.

Thomson: Slow, steady didn't win Alberta Party the race
By Graham Thomson, Calgary Herald

If the Alberta Party were an Olympic athlete, it would be Hamadou Djibo Issaka, the remarkably inexperienced rower from Niger who has cheerfully posted record slow times at the London Games.

With only three months of training - and having never set foot in a professional rowboat, or scull, until last week - Djibo Issaka is more participant than competitor. The only thing larger than the gap between him and the next slowest boat is his enthusiasm, making him a heroic underdog and a reminder the Olympics are supposed to be about principles, not podiums.

So, too, with the Alberta Party, which was founded in 2010 with the best of intentions to re-engage Albertans in the political process and build a movement dedicated to democratic renewal.

The biggest difference between the Alberta Party and Djibo Issaka is that the African rower is popular. The Alberta Party never caught the public's imagination and routinely registered so low in opinion polls that its public support was, statistically speaking, zero.

But, if nothing else, it had the coolest name in provincial politics.

Simple, direct, to the point, a stripped-down title that conjured up all kinds of vivid images: the Alberta Party. You could almost picture a cowboy on horseback drilling for oil in the Rockies.

I really shouldn't say "had" because the Alberta Party is not history.

Not yet. The party is still technically alive, but its days would seem to be numbered. The party will hold its annual general meeting on Sept. 22 to let members decide its fate with options that include dissolving the party, turning it into a think-tank or merging it with the Alberta Liberal Party.

Of course, the few members who bother to make the trip to the convention could stubbornly decide to carry on, but they will have to pick a new leader. Glenn Taylor, in the job for just 15 months, has resigned.

The Alberta Party would thus seem to be yet another failed provincial party.

However, unlike so many other of Alberta's fringe parties that were ultraconservative, angry and loud, the Alberta Party was moderate, gentle and respectful.

Ironically, the party took its name from one of those angry, ultraconservative movements that had crept around the fringes of Alberta politics for 25 years.

In 2010, party founders co-opted the name and merged with Renew Alberta, a movement of disappointed Liberals and Red Tories tired of the Liberals' electoral failures and of a Progressive Conservative government they felt had abandoned the notion of "progressive" to compete with the Wildrose Party over who could be the most conservative.

Renew Alberta offered ideas and energy; the Alberta Party, hollowed out by years of failure and defections to the Wildrose Party, offered a commitment to grassroots politics - and that wonderful name.

Members of the Alberta Party genuinely wanted to do politics differently.

In that, they were refreshing and perhaps naive. To the news media, though, they were frustratingly vague, too often presenting platitudes as policy. After spending nine months gathering the concerns and ideas of "more than 1,000 Albertans," in a process called the "Big Listen," organizers held the party's first policy conference with resolutions that declared, for example, "Alberta should be the best place in the world to earn a living - no matter who you are, what you do or where you're from."

The party stood for everything and thus for nothing. In 2011, party members elected Taylor as their leader, a likable but equally forgettable middle-aged guy in a suit, who never seemed to stray far from his hometown of Hinton and who, in his drive to be inclusive, said nothing remotely argumentative or memorable.

This was a protest party that didn't like to protest.

But any hopes the Alberta Party had to make headway were dashed last October when the Progressive Conservatives elected Alison Redford as leader.

She promised to be inclusive, run a more open government and she proudly waved the "progressive" flag.

Alberta Party members such as Michael Walters were smitten.

"I have no doubt that if Alison Redford had run for the leadership of our party, she would have won every single vote," says Walters, the Alberta Party's candidate for EdmontonRutherford in April's provincial election.

"When we started organizing the Alberta Party, the political landscape was way different than it is today.

"Her(Redford) getting elected obviously changed a great deal for us. So far, if I was to make an assessment of her performance, I feel pretty good about it."
Walters is no longer active in the Alberta Party and is trying to avoid getting drawn into a debate about the party's future, but he has expressed support for having the Alberta Party merge with the Liberal Party, an idea that has been floated before.

They each bring something valuable to the table. Liberals have five MLAs.

The Alberta Party has the coolest name in provincial politics.

FDA Media Study on the Alberta Provincial Election


  1. Hi, just some things I want to point out:
    - I probably wouldn't call Michael Walters, the Alberta Party person quoted in the Herald article, an "unknown Alberta Party member". He's quite prominent in the Alberta Party, and was one of the few party candidates that received a relatively good result in the April 2012 election (about 10% of votes in Edmonton-Rutherford).
    - the Herald article you're discussing is written by Postmedia columnist Graham Thomson. Throughout the election I always thought he leaned towards the PCs, so I'm not really surprised to see an article like this.

    I'm really glad someone is pointing out and criticizing the lack of balance in election reporting by our local mainstream media. I wish many more people would speak up about it. It's a problem during elections at all 3 levels of government. Unfortunately, mainstream media has massive influence on the voting public - how are most people supposed to make unbiased decisions if they don't have the time to analyze things for themselves?

    1. Thanks for sharing your perspective. We edited the post to reflect your point about Michael Walters.


Thank you for sharing your perspective.