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CALGARY, ALBERTA, CANADA
***UPDATED DAILY (IF THE EDITOR IS ON THE WAGON)***

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Yesterday's Alberta Election - The Liberal Party needs a new name

The Eye Opener underestimated how much so many Albertans hate the word "Liberal". That's why we did such a lousy job of forecasting yesterday's election (we predicted a minority government - dead wrong by 21 seats).

To our god, Agnosticus, we pray that we'll survive. The Literary Digest didn't survive in 1936 when it predicted Republican Alf Landon would beat Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But, on election night 1948, the Chicago Tribune printed a huge headline, "Dewey defeats Truman". Next day every other American newspaper except the Tribune printed a picture of President Harry S. Truman, having beaten Republican Thomas Dewey, holding up a copy of the Tribune (for details and the photo, click here - be sure you scroll down to the story). But the Tribune survived.

What last night's election results tell us is that the "Liberal Party of Alberta" has reached the end of its tether. The Liberals have little more than gained back the 8 seats Nancy (Barbie Doll) McBeth lost them in the 2001 election. Only city folks (mainly in the North) elected Liberals. Edmontonians and less than a third of Calgarians and the academic and bureaucratic community in East Lethbridge voted or will ever vote Liberal in large numbers. Tory organizers failed to get their supporters out to the polls - 1/3 fewer Tories voted in 2004 than voted in 2001 (630,000 Albertans voted Tory in 2001, only 420,000 in 2004) - we suspect that Dr. Steve West, the author of 2000's utility deregulation, was the author of the Tories' 2004 vote delivery disaster. But that didn't matter much because most of the rural and Calgary seats that elected Tories voted them in with majorities of over 50%, many over 60%, Dr. Lyle Oberg won 65.5% of the votes in Strathmore-Brooks. The Tories and Alliance took over 85% of the vote in Vermilion-Lloydminster. Cindy Ady won 64% of the vote in Calgary-Shaw. Many Calgarians and most rural Albertans hate the sound of the word "Liberal"; hated Trudeau and Chretien and will never forget the National Energy Program.

"The concise answer," says University of Alberta Social Scientist Dr. Lois Harder, "is that the Liberal Party needs to change its name. Seriously ... The message in all of this is that policies don't matter so much as perception, and the perception of the term 'Liberal' in Alberta is unsalvageable. If the Alberta Liberals really want to provide a credible, vote-gaining alternative, a re-branding is in order."

That done, the re-branded Liberals, in our view, must sweep all the left-leaning policy cobwebs from the mind of leader Kevin Taft, teach him how to lower his voice and tell Albertans about things they can see, hear, touch and smell - to forget ivory towers and statements laced with ifs and buts. And to put democracy versus the arrogance of power on the front burner - call for fixed election dates; checks and balances; a new voting system like the B.C.'s Citizens' Assembly's single transferable vote ( STV ) and reform of lobbying and corporate political donations.



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