Redefining politics tops Sherman’s agenda

Alberta MLAs need to shed the shackles of party politics and take direction from their constituents instead, says the former Tory MLA who now heads the province’s Official Opposition.

Alberta Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman meets with Former Red Deer North Liberal candidate Richard Farrand on the steps of Red Deer City Hall on Wednesday. Sherman was in the city on the first day of his one month Alberta tour.

Alberta Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman meets with Former Red Deer North Liberal candidate Richard Farrand on the steps of Red Deer City Hall on Wednesday. Sherman was in the city on the first day of his one month Alberta tour.

Alberta MLAs need to shed the shackles of party politics and take direction from their constituents instead, says the former Tory MLA who now heads the province’s Official Opposition.

Liberal Leader Raj Sherman, MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark, made Red Deer his first stop on a month-long tour of the province.

Sherman’s visit on Wednesday — his eighth as an MLA and the first since he won the leadership in September — included meetings with local seniors, municipal representatives and reporters. He wrapped the day up at the Golden Circle, meeting with local Liberals to help recruit candidates for the next provincial election.

Democracy is not served when MLAs must take the party line regardless of their constituents’ needs, Sherman said in an interview with The Advocate.

His constituents were one of three factors Sherman considered in moving to the Liberals after being ousted from the Progressive Conservative Caucus last Nov. 22, said Sherman. Edmonton-Meadowlark had been a Liberal riding before he won the seat as a PC in the 2008 provincial election. So, when he consulted with constituents, the majority of support was for a move to the Liberals.

The other two factors were the urging of family, including the urging of his 19-year-old daughter, Sameena ­— a delegate to the national convention in 2006 — and that the Liberal Party ideology meshes with his views on fiscal and social responsibility.

Sherman said he is pleased to see that Alberta’s new premier, Alison Redford, has adopted a number of changes that he has promoted, including re-establishment of $107 million in education funding and a proposed change to fixed election dates. He said it is disappointing, however, that the next session will be held to only eight days and that a provincial election has not been called.

He suggested that perhaps the impetus for those changes came from the number of Liberals he encouraged to buy PC memberships so they could vote for her in the party’s leadership race, which she won on Oct. 2.

“I’m here to make sure the right thing gets done for the people,” said Sherman.

“For me, it’s about redefining politics. Let’s agree on issues where, if they make sense, let’s do them. It shouldn’t matter whose idea it is.”

Raj said he would give his MLAs free votes so they could support policies based on evidence and fact rather than “pork barrel” politics.

Sherman was ousted from the PC caucus after sharply criticizing the government over wait times in emergency rooms.

“Democracy is about freedom of speech,” Sherman said on Wednesday.

“If elected officials can’t have freedom of speech, then that’s not democracy.”

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com