As you probably read elsewhere first, David Swann was the first-ballot winner of the Alberta Liberal leadership race.
I will admit to being surprised, here. While Swann is a great many things, "inspiring political organizer" wouldn't have been something I thought to put on that list. And yet, he beat the choice of most pundits, Dave Taylor, almost 2-to-1.
What this means for defeated candidates Taylor and Mo Elsalhy is unclear. What it means for the Liberals is... change.
What sort of change EXACTLY, we can't say for certain. Swann has said, though, that everything is on the table: Coalitions, name changes, reaching out to other parties, whatever it takes to encourage an effective opposition that speaks for more than just a small fragment of our province.
This, I think, is a good thing.
Nation, we all know that competition breeds excellence, and a lack of competition breeds complacency. Nowhere is this more true than in politics - particularly in Alberta, where you've got 2 parties fighting it out for scraps on the left, the Greens borrowing a little from everywhere, and the Wildrose Alliance praying for a coalition government in Ottawa so they can get back into the game.
To bring out the best in our politicians, they need to believe that their jobs actually hang in the balance. That what they say, and do, and how they govern themselves MATTERS, because it helps us determine if they'll be given our consent to govern US. In Alberta, this is often not the case. NDP candidates in Calgary can say whatever they want, because they know they're not getting elected, and won't have to follow through. PC candidates in rural Alberta can say whatever they want, because they know they ARE getting elected.
The opposition in Alberta has been disjointed and fragmented for a long, long time. Swann, even before announcing his intention to run for the Liberal party leadership, was holding open houses, to try and get a feel for how people wanted him, and all opposition MLA's, to proceed. The argument will be made that this shows a lack of vision. I respectfully submit, though, that taking the helm of a sinking ship with most of the crew already overboard and expecting it to blow the S.S. Progressive Conservative out of the water is going to take a collaborative effort on the part of everyone who's still on board.
Swann wants a bigger caucus. He'll have to earn one. He wants a mandate to govern. He'll have to earn one of those, as well. He's not a flash-and-dazzle politician, but neither is Ed. And parties can't hold up their leadership candidates to the "Obama measuring stick" for charisma and inspiration, because nobody's going to measure up.
David Swann is what he is. And what he IS, is the newly-elected Leader of the Alberta Liberals.
Now he needs to get to work presenting a united strategy against the Tory juggernaut in the Legislature. Rather than death by a thousand cuts, he needs to find an issue, one he can RAISE FUNDS ON, and drive it home again and again so Albertans can recite his talking points in their sleep.
Free advice to Dr. Swann: It's not going to be health-care. Not enough of us are mad about it. It's not going to be the environment. Too many of us earn a living in oil & gas or forestry. And it's not going to be anything that Laurie Blakeman ever, EVER asks about in Question Period.
David Swann has been tasked with presenting a viable alternative to the governing Tories. He's been handed the job of competing with the monolithic PC establishment that leftists see everywhere in the day-to-day lives of Albertans.
And I hope he does well.
Because, to co-opt and take liberties with a line from a mortgage commercial I hear ALL THE TIME...
"when political parties compete, we ALL win..."
Here's hoping Swann's Liberals can actually compete.