"Help us, oh wise one!" they plea... "Tell us, what do we do now?"
No need to ask twice, fellas.
The Liberals are in an interesting position. They did, in fact, make gains in Calgary. And truth be told, they got nearly half of the support the Tories did, even if our current seat distribution system stuck them with a measly 9 seats. But what comes next for the Grits?
First, "It's Time..." to put Kevin Taft out to pasture. This election was put on a tee for him, and he struck out anyway. Kevin needs to retire to a sunny beach somewhere, and start work on his next book: "Not My Fault: How Idiotic Albertans Denied Me The Right To Rule Over Them, Even Though I'm A Much Smarter And Better Person Than Most Of Them".
Second, let's look into a merger. Seriously. I know that the Grits and Dippers exchanged a lot of fire over donations, but at the end of the day, they are no further apart than the extremes within the PC's - who came together in the interest of winning government (and it worked). You've got to stop vote-splitting on the left, especially if you want to have any chance of winning Edmonton back.
Third, name change. If you CAN get a merger with the NDP, go with the "Democratic Party of Alberta". Skip that if the merger doesn't go through - the Democratic Party and the New Democratic Party can't really run in the same election... Otherwise, find something else... "Progressive" would be good, but you run into the same problem with the "Progressive Conservatives". Try the Alberta Party - worked in the next province to the East.
Fourth, leadership. For now, Dave Taylor will do. Your base is in Calgary now anyway (seems weird to even type that). You, I, and everybody else in this province know who's leading you into the next election. Get him, and you've got a shot at taking Calgary, and perhaps more.
Fifth, attitude. As in, change it. The perception of your party is of a group of arrogant, holier-than-thou types. I even heard a CBC staffer expressing those sentiments - and when the CBC thinks a Liberal is arrogant, that tells you something... Both Taylor and the presumptive new Liberal leader come across as earnest and competent, rather than as oozing a sense of entitlement. Follow their lead. Hell, for that matter, follow the lead of the NDP.
Sixth, drop the democratic reform issue, for now. YES, it's important, but this soon after an election loss it sounds less like a proposal to fix something that's wrong, and more like whining and sour grapes. Let the other parties deal with it for now - don't come across as whiny or bitter. We don't like that.
Lastly, start working on your platform NOW. Look into the future, predict what the Tories are going to do, come up with something notably better, and write it down. HERE'S THE IMPORTANT PART: In the Legislature between now and 2012(ish), when those issues come up, you've got to advocate for policies somewhere in between the Tory proposals and the ones you're going to be running on. Make sure to save those best proposals for the election - that way, no one can steal them and leave you with nothing. At worst, they'll go for your middle-of-the-road proposals, which brings the mainstream closer to your idealized policy proposal. "The Tories want this, we think this is a better idea, and (after the writ is dropped) if elected we'll go as far as this... Being seen as a party of vision and ideas is how you're going to win in 2012, IF you're going to win in 2012. Being seen as the whiny opposition is how you're going to stay right where you're at.
The New Democrats have 2 seats in the Legislature, which means they have in fact lost their official party status in the house. It's no secret they were headed for a new leader even before the votes were counted - Mason basically said he didn't want the job, halfway through the campaign. They've got a steep climb back to relevance ahead - let's hope Rachel Notley is up to the task.
First, don't rush the leadership issue. We all know it's coming, so ease Notley into it. Make sure she's groomed properly, and knows the job BEFORE being thrown to the wolves. You only get one chance at a first impression - if she's seen as in over her head, that impression will stick with the voters when the next election rolls around.
Second, merger. See the Liberals for more on this.
Third, enough with the unions already. I know they're important, but - reality of donations be damned - you're seen as their puppet. When I read your policies pre-election and saw a commitment to make it "easier to join a union", I just about laughed... I can't imagine it being any easier to join a union. I've been FORCED by my employer to join 3 unions in the past 10 years, just to take a job. I think they serve a vital function, but distance yourself from them in public. Even your candidates listed their union credentials ahead of their education or experience. Less than 15% of us care about your union background, and that will NEVER CHANGE.
Fourth, keep standing up for the little guy. The renters, the hospital room horror stories - these are stories that need to be told, in the house and on the record. People expect you to hold the government to account on these social ills - make sure you do it.
Fifth, steal. From the Greens, to be specific. Nobody knows that the Greens are fiscally conservative as a party, they just assume they're all tree-huggers. Use your 2 seats to advocate for SENSIBLE environmental policy that won't bankrupt us, and you'll cut the Green Party's legs out from under them. Ethical? No. Politically savvy? You betchya.
The Wildrose Alliance
The unfortunate reality for the WAP is that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time when the election was called. They weren't caught unaware - we ALL knew the election was coming. But they were in an awkward place in their "merger" when the writ was dropped, and they never picked up any steam. What they do from this point forward makes all the difference.
First, FINISH COMING TOGETHER. From what discussion I've read on the boards, this party is still very much a study of 2 solitudes: The Wildrose ex-pats are angry that the Alliance stuck firm to its campaign plans despite the experienced campaigners on the WR side who knew it was doomed to fail, and the Alliance guys are angry that the Wildrose gang is breaking ranks, their WR-descended President quit right after the writ was dropped, and Hinman is seeing more attacks from the ex-Wildrose members. Learn from the PC's - solidarity breeds success, and failure to come together will result in nothing but misery.
Second, hammer the PC's on their most tender spots within your platform. Those would be, at this point, democratic reform and spending. Don't go through think-tanks, or press releases from economics professors, let your party leaders and future candidates make these criticisms - use YouTube and call press conferences. You've got to overcome the handicap of not having a soapbox within the Legislature, but it's not an insurmountable problem - think outside the box.
Third, resist the urge to panic. Bringing in the PGIB gang at this point to benefit from their organizational skills would be devastating to your public perception - like losing the battle, and hiring Blackwater to shore up the ranks. Get your own house in order, first. Anyone new you bring in will be seen as representing the new soul of your party - make sure they're electable. If they're not - you're not.
Fourth, get someone in the Legislature the old-fashioned way: get them to cross the floor to sit as a WAP member. It's how the Alberta Alliance got their first ever MLA. You know, and I know, who your number 1 target is. If he finds himself without a cabinet seat, he's your man, and he can be had. He's very smart politically, and not too extreme to be given SERIOUS consideration by the masses, with the right platform. He WILL be your leader in 2012, if you get your own act together first - he's too smart to jump to a losing cause.
Fifth, mentoring. You've got to brand yourselves, and the best way to do that is with popular current and former Albertan politicians of a similar philosophy to your own. Preston Manning, Deb Gray, Stephen Harper, Myron Thompson... these are your new best friends. You want them to talk about how in touch with everyday Albertans you are, and how they plan on voting for you.
The Greens have to be disappointed with their showing... their popular vote went up by 1.83% over 2004, although when considering the fact that the environment has never been a hotter issue - literally, and figuratively - you'd think that they would be higher. This is explainable in part by their absence from the Leaders Debate... but the Greens undeniably have some problems that need to be dealt with.
First, leadership. George Read is a nice man, but isn't seen as someone who can be an effective leader for this party. He's not exceptionally gifted as an environmentalist or as a politician - he's good, but not great. You have some great organizers and politicians in your party, and there are some brilliant environmentalists who recently lost their bid to become MLA's. Put out feelers.
Second, get out the message. NOBODY knows you're a fiscally conservative party. Everyone thinks that you're going to bankrupt us as a province and shut down the oilsands overnight. YouTube, Blogs, Facebook - get out the message, independently of the National Party if you have to. We're about SUSTAINABILITY. Shout it from the rooftops - you're not getting a chance to do it in the televised debates.
Third, set up a virtual legislative assembly. No, seriously. Every bill that comes forward on the floor of the Legislature, you will have a response to - even if it has nothing to do with the environment - this will help to establish you as more than a single-issue party, and will also get the message out about your fiscal conservatism. If people go to AlbertaGreens.ca, click on "Virtual Legislature" and see a same-day response to everything that happens in our capital, they'll believe you're serious about becoming a force. Updating the website once-a-week reeks of amatuerism.
Fourth, start looking outside your comfort zone for candidates, and start tomorrow. You want politically astute, respectable and ELECTABLE candidates who are passionate about the environment and can handle themselves in a discussion on a multitude of issues, not just one. Your candidates are your face - if that face is underqualified, students, and outcasts from the NDP, you're in trouble.
The Wise and Magnificent E.S. Has Spoken.