Brian Mason knew how to work a room and left the New Democratic Party better than he found it, said a local NDP supporter.
Mason announced his resignation as Alberta party leader on Tuesday. He has been leader for 10 years and brought growth to the party, which has four seats in the legislature.
Stephen Merredew, president of the Red Deer federal riding association, said Mason always knew how to work a room. He’d talk with people while working his way to make a speech.
“They wouldn’t even realize he was the leader if they weren’t plugged in,” said Merredew.
“They’d be laughing along and next thing you know Mason walks up to the microphone and starts talking. He had that common-man’s touch.
“He never backed down on any of the convictions he felt were in the best interest of working Albertans, no matter the political pressure. Ralph Klein calling him all kinds names and Mason still refused to back down on the issue of private health care.”
Recently Mason teamed up with an opposition leader, Wildrose’s Danielle Smith, to go on a provincial political tour. The two would debate in a left versus right ideological showdown.
“They came to Red Deer College and presented ‘Enough of this wishy-washy Tory flip-flopping policy we’ve dealt with for 40 years. Let’s have it out here in black and white,’ ” said Merredew. “What kind of society do we really want here in Alberta?
“Brian held his own with wit and candour. That was possible because he has such a respectful relationship with all members of the legislature, for the most part.”
The leadership vote to replace him will take place in October, along side the party’s usual fall convention.
“Fundraising is way ahead of where it was when he took over and membership is up and all sorts of good things,” said Merredew.
“But when you’re 60 and the next election is a couple of years out and you have a young, small caucus they get lots of exposure, I guess he figured it was time to let them step up.”
Merredew said all of the other three NDP members in the legislature would be worthy leaders.
Mason’s resignation is effective Oct. 19, more than decade after he was first named party leader. He will stay on as MLA for his riding. No candidates to replace him have come forward yet.