Edmonton – Meadowlark MLA Dr. Raj Sherman praises change

By Trevor Robb

EDMONTON — The Alberta Liberal Party has drastically changed the way politics is done in Alberta, and Edmonton – Meadowlark MLA and Liberal leader hopeful, Dr. Raj Sherman, couldn’t be happier.

On Sunday, May 29, at a conference in Calgary, over 100 Liberal members voted almost unanimously, passing with just under 95 per cent approval, to amend their constitution and open up the Sept. 10, 2011, Liberal leadership election to all Albertan voters, not just card- carrying Liberal members.

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Edmonton – Meadowlark MLA Dr. Raj Sherman announces his decision to  join the Alberta Liberal Party and run for premier of Alberta at the west end Senior Activity Centre Tuesday, March 15, 2011. Photograph by Jesse Snyder.

“I think it’s a very positive move,” said Sherman in an interview with the West Edmonton Local. “It’s about opening up the party and being inclusive so that all Albertans can have any say on who the leader should be.”

The latest movement by the Liberals has been dubbed ‘Politics Re-Imagined’. Under the new rules, any voting Albertan will get the opportunity to vote in the upcoming leadership election, as well as in constituency-nomination races during the provincial election campaign.

“We should strive to have the best possible leader in every party. And now every Albertan gets to have a chance to say, without officially signing their name onto a party, and it doesn’t cost you anything,” said Sherman. “It allows every Albertan to participate in the democracy of the Alberta Liberal leadership, which is historic for Alberta.”

The shift in philosophy comes at a time when Albertans have become tired of partisan politics, said Sherman. According to Elections Alberta, only 40.6 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballot in the 2008 provincial election, something Sherman blames on partisan, right-and-left style politics.

“It shouldn’t be about right or left, it should be about what’s best for the community,” said Sherman. “And, generally speaking, those are the folks who say look, we don’t want partisan politics, we don’t want right and left, but we want to participate in a democracy.”

“Party of all Albertans

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Edmonton – Meadowlark MLA Dr. Raj Sherman addresses his constituents at a town hall meeting February 5, 2011, at the Aldergrove Community Hall. Photograph by Isaac Kaplyuk.

Rather than paying a $5 membership fee to have a say, voters can log onto the Liberal website and fill out the personal information required (ex: email and phone number). Party president Erick Ambtman, said that the informational requirement from voters would be no more intruding than if you sign up for ‘Groupon’.

“I think once people join us and become a little more active with us they’re going to realize that it’s not just a gimmick. It’s really about involving people as much as possible,” said Ambtman.

While a $5 membership fee does not break the bank for voters, both Sherman and Ambtman agree that Albertans are skeptical when aligning themselves with political parties.

“If you don’t have to sign up for a membership, it makes it a lot easier for people to get involved. A membership is a real commitment and it’s a commitment so few Canadians are willing to make these days,” said Ambtman.

Ultimately, the Alberta Liberals have a lot of work to do to gain grounds in the next provincial election. Currently sitting with eight seats in the legislature, with Sherman listed as an ‘independent’,  the Alberta Liberals hope that its new approach will go a long way in showing all Albertans that they are, in fact, a different party.

“This is giving it to everybody and opening up the party to everybody, so that we really are a party of all Albertans,” said Ambtman.

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