Taft new Alberta Liberal leader

By Joshua Johnson

It was an overnight transition from the political outskirts to front and center government critic when Dr. Kevin Taft’s scathing review of the Klein government, Shredding the Public Interest, was published in 1997. Klein responded to the book in his famous tongue-in-cheek manner, telling Dr. Taft that if he felt so strongly, he should run for public office.

Seven years later, Dr. Taft is now leader of the Alberta Liberal Party, after winning the leadership race by a landslide Sat., Mar. 27. Taking 2,354 of the 2,733 votes, Dr. Taft soundly beat his rivals, Dr. Jon Parsons Friel and John Reil.

With a career of policy research under his belt, three years of experience in the Alberta Legislature and a phd in business, Dr. Taft was the clear favourite throughout the leadership race. The Edmonton Riverview mla ran on a platform pledging to re-regulate electricity, drive down tuition and restore faith in Alberta’s public health care system.

Although he may not have raised many eyebrows with his most recent of victories, Dr. Taft’s next opponent will likely prove to be more of a challenge with only seven Liberal seats in the legislature.

“So the fun begins,” said Dr. Taft, following his victory. “I have never felt more ready for a battle.”

Dr. Taft said he’s inherited a solid foundation of policy alternatives from former Alberta Liberal Party leader Dr. Ken Nicol.

“What I will do now is work very hard to bring these policies to the people,” said Dr. Taft from his home in Edmonton. “I’ll be more aggressive.”

Dr. Taft pointed out that the membership of the Alberta Liberal Party has tripled in the last six weeks and feels a Liberal government in Alberta is not as fanciful as many might think. He admitted it likely won’t happen in the next election, but was confident he could be premier eventually.

“Realistically, we’ll be ready to win the following election, so two elections from now,” said Dr. Taft. “But a week can change a lot in politics.”