Leader’s AGM Update

Alberta deserves both a strong economy AND a strong society. This is the central message of the Alberta Liberal Party, and it was the central theme of our 109th Annual General Meeting, which was held in Calgary on Saturday.

And what an AGM! A big thanks goes out to Pete Helfrich and his team of volunteers who did an outstanding job of organizing what everybody I talked to said was the best AGM in years.

The room was packed with people energized by our vision for Alberta and who believe the time has come for a government that takes a holistic and integrated view of the kind of society we want to live in and how to make it a reality.

Our values stand in stark contrast to the conservatives who are defined by political opportunism and who think that the only bottom line that counts is financial, completely neglecting the social and environmental bottom lines.

We believe all three bottom lines are important, and on the fiscal responsibility front, we heard some exciting news on Saturday. Our Treasurer reported that our party has no debt. All the bills are paid and there is money in the bank.

We are one of only two parties in the legislature that can boast of being debt-free. The ruling PCs certainly can’t say that, which is hardly surprising given that they can’t balance the Province’s books with oil at more than a hundred dollars a barrel!

Another strength we have as Alberta Liberals is our commitment to smart, evidence-based policies. This was on powerful display at the round table policy discussions – each one facilitated by an Alberta Liberal MLA.

Laurie Blakeman, Darshan Kang, Kent Hehr, David Swann, and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with you one-on-one, both as your elected representatives and as fellow party members.

“Young and more mature Liberals enjoyed an active exchange of ideas over the lunch time round table sessions,” said Susan Wright.

I’d like to thank everyone who took part in these sessions for their thought-provoking ideas and suggestions. I’d also like to thank our keynote speaker, Harvey Locke, for the wonderful speech he gave and the great job he did of outlining and explaining the core Liberal values of fiscal, social, and environmental responsibility.

“What we need to be successful is to be who we are – not what focus groups and polls say we should be,” said Harvey Locke.

I couldn’t agree more.

The Alberta Liberal Party does more than simply listening. We are a party of action. We are not a party content with slinging mud at opponents.

Last election, we were the first party to launch our platform, which said YES to the needs of Albertan families to get faster and better government services and more consumer protection. We committed to building schools as community hubs, reducing school fees and tuition, and investing in energy innovation. We also brought forward strong proposals for improving our democracy, including preferential voting, opening up contracts to public scrutiny, and increasing the availability of government information.

And, during the past legislative session, not only did we exposed untendered, sole-sourced government contracts to PC insiders and political interference in the freedom of information and protection of privacy process, but we also stood up to the government when it attacked public sector workers and their pensions, and urged all parties to support gay-straight alliances so that all students can feel safe and welcome wherever they study.

We are the only progressive party to consistently demonstrate that our proposals for creating strong social programs, and our insistence on responsible environmental policies, are necessary elements for future economic growth – a growth shared by all.

I put it this way: “Poverty is expensive, early care is cheaper than emergency care, and the countries which out-educate us today will out compete us tomorrow. Seniors’ care, health care, K-12, and post-secondary education are not costs to be cut. They are investments which help to sustain economic growth today and into the future.”
In closing, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Todd van Vliet for the vision, passion and dedication he gave to us as President over the past 2 and a half years. His efforts have greatly strengthened our party and put us on the path to success.

My thanks also to those elected by the membership to lead us into the next election. Gwenyth Midgley, former constituency president of Calgary Buffalo, will be our incoming Secretary. Keegan Wynychuk was re-elected as our VP Policy. I look forward to another successful policy convention on Sept 27th in Edmonton.

We ended the day with the election of a new President, Shelley Wark-Martyn, former Ontario Cabinet Minister who believes voters in Alberta are ready to elect members of a strong organized Liberal Party. I welcome Shelly to our team and look forward to building on the strong foundation Todd van Vliet leaves us.
Now, I know that there is still much work to be done in order to bring our vision for a strong economy and a strong society to Albertans in the next election, but if the passion and the energy on display last weekend is any indication, not only can we do it, we will do it.

I’m looking forward to seeing all of you in your communities as I travel throughout the province in the coming months.


Raj Sherman
Alberta Liberal Leader