Thursday, October 29, 2009

What Would the Enlightened Savage Do? - Part 2 (Liberal)

Dear David:

I want to thank you for contacting me and making me the outstanding offer that you did to "come in and clean up the mess" within the Liberal Party of Alberta. I do love a challenge.

I know you've had a rough go of it in the time you've been leader - there's only so far you can take a group of people when some of them are trying to start a separate party, or merge your party, or second-guess just about every move you make.

With that said, I wanted to list a few of the steps you can take to get you from where you ARE - an opposition party with 9 seats - to where you WANT to be - sitting on the government benches.

1. Build from the bottom-up. I live in a Tory-held riding. I have never - EVER - heard of a Liberal riding association fundraiser in my riding. For that matter, outside of election time, I've never even heard of a Liberal riding association in my riding. You've got to build 87 strong local board to wave the flag BETWEEN elections, when you can strategically build the party. The 28 days of a campaign aren't long enough to build a solid foundation, and half of the circumstances you'll face are of someone else's making. Take charge of your destiny, and build party infrastructure during peacetime. Those are your soldiers in the election - start training them on the ground today.

2. Move past your health advocacy instincts. I know your background - we ALL know your background. Health is an important issue in the province, and we need knowledgeable people holding the government of the day to account on how the system is run. But with the notable exception of the H1N1 debacle, health-care doesn't "stick" to the public consciousness. Closing beds, or shuffling patients between facilities, doesn't lead to the downfall of a government here. Hell, Ralph blew up a hospital (ask Rick Bell about it sometime, when you have a few days) and his support went UP. The Alberta Liberals are seen by alot of Albertans as nothing but the political arm of the Friends of Medicare. The point is to win government, David - focus on issues that will get people out to vote (for YOU) on election day.

3. Embrace the future. Youth has a natural bias towards the Liberal cause. You have a lot of eager young members who want to fight for you - so LET them, and encourage more to sign up. The never-ending stream of recycled 2-and-3 time candidates in their 50's or over isn't going to inspire the youth of Alberta to rise up, Obama-style, and kick the PC's out of office on election day. Use of on-line social media, encouraging young people to vote, having local constituency presences for them to cut their teeth on (see point 1 above), and making sure that they're not just hanging out in a separate "youth wing" but actually sitting at the "Grown-ups Table" will help attract the youth who will take you to the promised land today, and keep you there for the next 50 years of their voting lives. Imagine, David, if those talented liberal Alberta youth who went to work for Obama during and after the US election came up here and worked for YOU.

4. Position yourself properly. Most Albertans, as I've said before, are socially moderate and fiscally conservative. If you want them to elect you, that's where you need to set your political feet. JUST as important, though, is to make sure that the public KNOWS that's where you stand. Not just once the writ is dropped, but at every step. Can you imagine the reaction if you were to come out at a press conference and make a suggestion on how to save money on health administration, freeing it up for front-line services? Now, do it every day. Whether you change your party's name or not, if the public sees you holding the government to account on spending, they'll start to wonder why they haven't looked at you more closely.

5. Business is your FRIEND. Resist the urge to fall back on the tired old "corporations are evil" liberal mentality, and tell the white collars in Alberta that you want them to do well. Craft policies that illustrate that commitment - a business-friendly Alberta is an employed Alberta, which I think we can all agree is the better option. You might even lure a few of those white collars to run for your party: If Albertans see CEO's and successful small business owners coming over to your side, then - once again - they'll start to wonder if maybe THEY should take a look at David Swann's party.

Growth in a party like yours isn't measured in year or elections, David - it's measured in generations. That said, I think you're reasonably well-positioned to drag this party, kicking and screaming, into the mainstream of Alberta politics. You've got a handful of tremendous MLA's, you've got a good organization, and you've got a thoughtful leader (otherwise, you never would have hired The Enlightened Savage as your own, personal Bruno Gianelli).

The trick is going to be in convincing people to give the party a look. That's where your local boards come in, spreading by word-of-mouth the gospel of a socially progressive, fiscally conservative Alberta Liberal party. Cashing in on discontent with the government is easy, in the short term. People get mad, or scared, and they want to complain about "those jerks who run things up in Edmonton". But to keep the interest of the electorate, you've got to convince them that your team can actually do a better job of RUNNING things than the PC's, rather than just opposing them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great thoughts. Swann is not likely to take your advice though he only takes advice from a man who carries Warren Kinsella's book as though it is the Bible.

I encourage all Albertans to Vote WRAP in 2012 and do yourselves a favour and give Alberta a real opposition