12/12/2012 11:27 EST | Updated 02/10/2013 05:12 EST

Merging Progressives In Alberta: I Feel Like Charlie Brown



As a rather Liberal chap I'm not interested in merging with the NDP. Todd Van Vliet, party president of the Alberta Liberals, isn't a fan either.

There was one point, almost a year ago, that I was. And I was quite frustrated then. I'm still frustrated, but more on that later.

But I'm tired of hitting a brick wall. Dr. Swann, the previous leader of the Alberta Liberals, spent the most time on mergers and cooperation talks, led a party into a principled process -- that, long before an election, was shut down from every corner. The Alberta Party laughed at the Liberals. The NDP laughed, too. The Liberals were mocked. The party tried so hard that memberships fell, monthly donations cratered, and constituencies went dormant. We were talking to ourselves more or less, and that just wasted time. It was tried again, and again, and I'm tired of the merger conversation.

I feel like Charlie Brown at this point. I'm not interested in kicking that football again. And the NDP, unhappy liberals, and others, are holding that football ready to be kicked, signed document and all.

But Kent Hehr wasn't only talking about mergers. Cooperation in the forms of sharing data, working on issues in the legislature, maybe splitting some heating bills, and doing joint bills in the legislature, are fair game. One person who has been doing this pretty well is Liberal Laurie Blakeman. And this is great. MLAs are elected to work with others in the legislature -- be they MLAs from government or opposition. Waving at each other in the halls, too, is great. Breaking bread, too, is fantastic. There are some amazing people in these other parties.

The amount of respect I have for Chris Labossiere? I have tonnes. He is a skilled entrepreneur, hard working man with tonnes of great ideas. And my friend Alex McBrien, who ran for the Alberta Party in Calgary-Varsity? I worked on Harvey Locke's 2012 byelection campaign with him, worked with him at the University of Calgary Liberal Association, and encouraged him to get his voice out there on the Huffington Post. And don't get me started on the McMillan brothers. Then Chima Nkemdirim? I like these people. I like them a lot. I consider many of them my friends, and hope to count the rest of them my friends very soon.

Which leads me to my ongoing frustration. I'm frustrated that I don't have all these amazing people, these moderate, middle-focused, and magnificent people, in one party. I know I can work with and do great things with these people. Without a question this can be done. In fact, I've already done so in many respects on different projects. I'm frustrated that I -- yes, me -- have not been able to provide a space for these folks.

But it's just not in the cards. With the NDP, there's their federal connection denying them movement from Ottawa, emboldened supporters from their two new seats ending the conversation, and their many resolutions at their AGMs saying no, they're not up for it. The Alberta Party is currently leaderless and rudderless. The Greens are sunk, having their worst electoral showing in a decade to some 5,000 votes. The Liberals aren't in it, either, because we've tried and are tired of the merger conversation. The political reality, as Brian Mason said, isn't there for it.

But coffee and tea? Yes please! Working together in the legislature with amazing people? I wouldn't trade anything in the world to shut that down.