Alberta Liberal race holds friendly debate

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Camaraderie runs deep in the Alberta Liberal Party's caucus. Unlike most brothers, there is a certain political trio that doesn't fight.

The Alberta Liberals held a forum in the John Dutton Theatre in downtown Calgary's library last Friday to answer questions about the leadership race and how the Liberals would change Alberta's government if they were elected into power. The three candidates looking to replace current Liberal leader Kevin Taft are former Member of Legislative Assembly Mo Elsalhy and current MLAs Dave Taylor and David Swann.

Those that attended looking for arguments to break out however, were disappointed because of the intense camaraderie present amongst the individuals. The Liberal leadership candidates had other priorities to discuss, like the reconstruction of the provincial Liberal party.

Among the questions asked by people attending the forum, the one which received the most response from the Liberals concerned the oilsands. They promised to clean up the oilsands and reinvest money in corporations developing the oil into something that won't deplete Alberta's surplus. None of the three Liberal leadership candidates expanded how they would accomplish this and their views reflected one another.

"If I win, and I can speak for my colleagues if they win, we all win," said Taylor. "This will be a team effort going forward. I don't think any of us . . . did this just for personal gain or glory. We do it because we fundamentally want to leave this place in a better state than we found it."

Elsalhy agreed, saying there would be no difference in terms of policy between candidates.

In a Conservative-dominated province, the Liberals achieved a quarter the popular vote and garnered 11 of Alberta's 82 seats, making them the official opposition.

"We have a job to do to create credibility as politicians and as a party," said Swann in response to how the Liberals were going to reintroduce and remarket themselves as a legitimate party for the future. "We are a party of the centre and we stand for the public interest for the longer term and it's some- thing we need to communicate."

Declining popularity has helped lock the Liberals out of provincial government for 37 years and the three candidates weren't slow to remind the audience of this fact.

"I have identified four growth markets, areas or openings that we have that we should investigate; that we should expand on," said Elsalhy.

He described youth, immigrants, migrants and First Nations peoples as being these four growth markets. The Liberal party will need a variety of Albertans to join their cause, or their "tent," especially if they want to enter provincial government. According to all three candidates, a plan is paramount to instigating change.

"It's clear when you don't have a plan, you're going to fail," Swann said. "I have a plan, a plan for renewing the Liberal party and of new politics that's not left or right. It's not Edmonton versus Calgary, it's not rural versus urban. It's going forward in the public interest for the long term."

Ballots are due Dec. 12 for count.