Alberta Party organizer wants a more aggressive party

By Jesse Snyder

GLENORA – Ken Chapman wants to create a grittier, more aggressive Alberta Party.

The president of the Alberta Party’s Edmonton-Glenora constituency association says progressive parties have historically lacked the assertiveness needed to bring change to Alberta.

The Alberta Party is still a long way from bringing that change and critics wonder if they’re underestimating the task. But Chapman has certainly become one of the party’s most assertive and energetic boosters. His blog is widely read in progressive circles, he Tweets often on party matters and he’s also working on Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor’s bid for party leadership.

Chapman believes the party needs what he calls a solution-based platform – one that allows for massive energy production in Alberta without damaging the environment.

Chapman 1
President of the Alberta Party in Edmonton – Glenora, Ken Chapman, in his office at Cambridge Strategies Inc. Photograph by Jesse Snyder

“(I have) a slightly more aggressive ideology that I call ‘integrated’,” he said. “The economy and the environment are not at odds with each other. They’re part of the same issue.”

Many Albertans support environmental sustainability, he said, but there needs to be a party tenacious enough to fight for it.

But Chapman,  the founder of Cambridge Strategies Inc., said feistiness is only one part of his political strategy. Finding solutions to the province’s most pressing problems is key in the longer term.

“I call myself a resolutionary,” said Chapman. “I’m not interested in a fight, but when I see competing interests and issues, I’m looking how to resolve those issues as opposed to picking a fight.”

Chapman said the party is growing quickly and they are on the lookout for new members across the province, including west Edmonton.

After years behind the scenes in politics, Chapman has taken a more active and public role in Alberta Party politics. What he sees as a growing trend of right-wing support was the deciding factor in the decision.

“It seems to me this province will shift far right – to our detriment – unless the progressives and thought-leaders get back engaged and back involved in the political culture of the province,” he said.

The Alberta Party is slowly growing in Edmonton’s west end, said Chapman. By his last count, Edmonton -Glenora had 26 members, and he estimates it will reach 100 by June. He added that the party is gaining around 200 memberships a week province-wide.

Ken Chapman
Alberta Party president in Edmonton – Glenora Ken Chapman sits in front of the drawing board at the Cambridge Strategies Inc. offices. Photograph by Jesse Snyder

But despite the party’s gains, they remain a long way from forming government.

Kevin Taft, the Liberal MLA for Edmonton-Riverview, says there is still an overwhelming amount of work ahead of the young party.

“I think the Alberta Party has huge challenges (ahead), as somebody who’s actually lead a political party,” said Taft. “I think the process of building a new party with organizations across the province is a huge job, and I myself am wondering if the Alberta Party is underestimating that.”

“Alberta’s got a history of small parties disappearing.”

The former Liberal leader said his new rivals won’t play a major role in the upcoming provincial election.

Although, as a growing centre-left organization, the Alberta Party does have the potential to draw voters away from the Liberals, Taft admitted.

“There’s a risk that there will be votes splitting,” he said. “I’m not sure that’s a very big risk in the next election because I think the Alberta Party has got an awfully long way to go, but it could happen.”

But Chapman is not concerned with slashing the number of Liberal votes in the next general election. His target is the roughly 60 per cent of Albertans who don’t typically vote.

He believes the province is “overwhelmingly progressive,” but the most active politicians tend to be fiscal conservatives. If he can tap into the remaining population, Chapman thinks the Alberta Party might just stand a chance.

It will take some time though. As Taft pointed out, the Liberal Party has more monthly donors than the Alberta Party does members at this point.

That doesn’t worry Chapman. For now, the Edmonton – Glenora president will keep pushing for a more progressive Alberta in his own way: building a membership base and creating a brand.

Listen to the Alberta Party Podcast here.