Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft said Wednesday he is open to discussing the future of his party, but dismissed one of his MLA's moves toward starting a new party.
"Trying to build a new party from the ground up is an interesting idea maybe, but it's not realistic," Taft said. "I'd much rather build on the strengths that we've got."
Taft was responding to Calgary MLA David Swann's informal proposal to start a new party in Alberta based on environmental politics, government accountability and democratic reform.
Since the March 3 election, Swann has been meeting with other MLAs and interested people about the idea.
Swann said he is simply interested in reinvigorating Albertans disillusioned with the political process.
"Whatever that takes," Swann said. "It may not be a new party. It may be that what we can do in this Liberal party is re-ignite people through a renewal and a reorganization and some new people in this party.
"Whatever it takes, I'm prepared to help that process move forward and re-ignite a real commitment in the citizens of Alberta in the political process."
At the very least, Swann said he favours a new name for the Liberals, a suggestion Taft said was a possibility, though not enough on its own.
"What we really need to do is reach out, not just to the left, which everybody is talking about, but also on the right," Taft said.
After losing seats in the March 3 election, many opposition party members began to question the status quo. Since then, they have batted around various suggestions -- from name changes to political alliances to new leaders.
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan recently proposed an alliance between the Liberals and NDP that would see them divvy up seats to prevent vote splitting on the left and centre-left. McGowan said he floated the idea to give shape to discussions that were already taking place informally.
But local NDP MLA Rachel Notley was skeptical that her party's members would join a new party.
"I think New Democrats are very committed to the party and the principles of the party. And I just don't believe they would be prepared to change or dilute or altogether abandon certain key principles the NDP hold that are simply not reflected in either the Liberal or the Green agenda."
Notley said some of these ideas sound good in theory, but don't withstand strong scrutiny. She said a diversity of opinions in the legislature is important and that the NDP has been a strong advocate on a number of issues, including energy royalties.
Edmonton Journal, Thurs May 8 2008
Byline: Archie McLean