Former Liberal operative says Alberta party is dying

CALGARY — Alberta Tories aren’t the only ones feeling the blues — the Opposition Liberals are in the doldrums and their prospects are bleak, says a high-level operative who recently quit the party.

CALGARY — Alberta Tories aren’t the only ones feeling the blues — the Opposition Liberals are in the doldrums and their prospects are bleak, says a high-level operative who recently quit the party.

Despite one recent public opinion poll that suggested the Liberals had the same support were tied with the ruling Tories and leading them in both major cities, Donn Lovett said the party remains moribund.

“I’d say there’s lots of people frustrated by the lack of movement,” said Lovett, who said he quit last month following a dispute over organization policy and building frustration.

“It makes them culpable for the acts of the Conservatives — they don’t give any balance to that because they’re not effective.”

Lovett, who managed numerous Grit constituency campaigns and won a half dozen of them, also said David Swann’s leadership is proving a bust.

During doorknocking for last September’s byelection in Calgary Glenmore, Lovett said Swann was an unknown quantity, while the party’s still beset by perceived connections to the federal Liberals.

“Nobody knew who he or the party was,” he said of Swann, chosen Liberal leader in December 2008.

Lethbridge East Liberal member Bridget Pastoor, who quelled rumours she’d be joining the Wildrose Alliance after being grilled a month ago by party colleagues, counselled patience among the party’s members.

“Dr. Swann is just getting the ground under his feet — it’s a pretty awesome thing to have to step into,” she said.

Earlier this week, two of Premier Ed Stelmach’s Tory caucus members — former cabinet minister Heather Forsyth and rookie member Rob Anderson — bolted to join the rival Wildrose Alliance.

Forsyth and Anderson said Stelmach has done a poor job of running the province and largely ignores input from his own caucus members.

They also complained that during Stelmach’s leadership review last November, caucus members were told to screen voting delegates and if they did not support the premier, they were “to find a way to make sure that they didn’t get in.”

Pastoor said the defections to the Wildrose Alliance are exciting and boost political openness.

“It’s a good step to opening up democracy,” she said.