Former PCers looking to lead Liberals
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Former PCers looking to lead Liberals

The Alberta Liberal Party will have a new leader in three weeks, and both candidates hope it's a bright new beginning for a party cast into the political wilderness. 

The leadership race has largely flown under the radar.

David Khan and Kerry Cundal, both lawyers, are the only two candidates vying to win, and only around 200 Albertans have grabbed a party membership.

Still, interim leader David Swann gives an emphatic "no" when asked if the end of the Liberals is nigh. To him, this is the kind of renewal process that parties must go through from time to time.

Indeed, talk to most folks turning out to various candidate events and you'll hear a unique blend of resignation and stubbornness. 

They seem to be at peace with the Alberta Liberal's current status as the fourth-place party, but are determined to see it rise once again; or, at the very least, not see it choke to death in a province where the NDP is the governing party and the conservatives are still working to hammer out a unity agreement.

Heading right up the middle of that split and claiming the elusive political centre is the Liberal Party's only hope.

The PC ties

Khan and Cundal both bring Progressive Conservative baggage to the race. 

In Khan's case, it's in the form of membership during the 2006 PC leadership convention.

He says it wasn't conservative values that led him to signing up, but Alberta's 40-year, one-party rule.

"The only way politically engaged Albertans could vote for our premier was to get involved in that party because as soon as you were leader of the party, you were premier," he says.

Cundal's involvement was much more recent — she tried to secure delegate position in the recent PC leadership race, though she wasn't selected.

"I was in the anybody but (Jason) Kenney camp," she says.  

Same values, different platforms

Both Khan and Cundal argue that liberal values are something most Albertans will naturally get behind, but that's where they part ways.

Cundal is open to working with other parties and disillusioned PCs, whether it's in the form of a coalition, candidate agreements or even a joint policy convention. 

She's happy to fan the flames of a united centre movement and says with the widening gap between the left and right, there's a political urgency to do so. 

While running for the leadership of a political party might seem the ultimate partisan act, Cundal doesn't like political boxes and is convinced there is a path to an agreement if people peel off labels and assess ideas on their merit.

Khan, on the other hand, is steadfast in his commitment to rebuilding the Liberal brand in Alberta, and says he isn't approaching the leadership race with a view to join with other parties or engineer the Liberal Party's end.

He doesn't think Cundal's plans for the party are transparent and worries that "too much screwing around with mergers" was what shot the Liberals to the bottom of the pile to begin with. 

Party president Karen Sevcik is pleased the race has been without incident but for a couple of minor complaints and says Swann will stay on in the legislature even after the results are known June 4. 

May 15 is the final day to buy a membership in order to cast a vote.





source : Calgary SUN
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