Grumpy Grit; Taylor quits Alberta Liberals saying the party is leaderless

Alberta’s political landscape is continuing to fracture, but this time the party losing a member is on the left.

EDMONTON — The upheaval on Alberta’s political landscape continued Monday with a disgruntled member of the Liberal Opposition leaving to sit as an Independent.

Dave Taylor, a former radio host, lost his 2008 bid to become party leader and colleagues say he’s been resentful of victor David Swann ever since.

Taylor issued a statement, held a news conference, then went on a radio talk show to say he’d had enough of Swann’s leadership at a time when a new conservative party — the Wildrose Alliance — has shot past the Liberals in recent polls.

The defection leaves the party with eight seats in the 83-seat legislature.

“I’m a lead, follow, or get out of the way kind of guy,” said Taylor, who was first elected in Calgary-Currie in 2004.

“The trouble with the Alberta Liberals is that nobody’s leading, nobody’s following, and nobody will get out of the way.”

Taylor’s move is the latest in a series of party defections at the Alberta legislature in recent months. Two government members, Heather Forsyth and Rob Anderson, bolted to the Wildrose Alliance in January.

Former cabinet minister Guy Boutilier was ousted from the Progressive Conservative caucus by Premier Ed Stelmach last summer after he criticized a decision to delay a new long-term care facility in his riding. Boutilier, who holds the Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo seat, now sits an Independent.

Liberal deputy leader Laurie Blakeman said Taylor’s discontent can be clearly traced back to the 2008 party leadership race when he lost to Swann.

“There’s no question that Dave was unhappy with the result of the leadership and has remained unhappy ever since,” Blakeman told reporters. “I think our meetings will be short and probably less noisy.”

Blakeman seemed surprised at Taylor’s abrupt announcement . She said the party recently passed a major change to its energy policy which had been drafted by Taylor as energy critic.

Swann gathered his remaining caucus members behind him Monday morning as he faced the media to respond to Taylor’s departure.

“Dave Taylor has not hidden the fact that … my particular style of leadership didn’t fit for him,” he said.

“My leadership is strong.

“I have my team behind me here and they have consistently supported my leadership, as the party has.”

Swann also pointed out that the Liberals have finally managed to nearly pay off a $1-million debt they were saddled with after the 2001 election.

Stelmach’s Tories still dominate the 83-seat legislature with 69 seats.

The Wildrose Alliance has three and the New Democrats have two.

Taylor said he plans to remain an Independent, adding he won’t run for the federal Liberals or to be mayor of Calgary.

“There’s always the risk that you can just slide into obscurity (as an Independent),” he said. “You might all decide I’m yesterday’s news.

“However, is the risk of that any more than the risk of staying in David Swann’s Alberta Liberal caucus?”

Stelmach has repeatedly said he plans to call an election in two years. But Taylor says he couldn’t see the Liberals making any serious gains over that period, so he felt it was time to make a move.

“The Alberta Liberal Party is in critical condition right now,” he said. “I don’t know whether it can be made into a fully functioning political organization.”