As Renew Alberta continues to make moves to shake up Alberta’s long-stodgy politics, it seems to be drawing together several loose threads of Alberta’s politics, seemingly hoping to weave them into something new and dynamic.
The organization’s recent merger with the Alberta Party ferrets out a number of those loose threads. Among them is the meteoric and historic rise of Preston Manning’s Reform Party — a movement that has also leant impetus to the Wildrose Alliance — another is the collapse of the Alberta Green Party, as evidenced by the involvement of Edwin Erickson.
It should come as no surprise that Erickson would join the Alberta Party in merging with Renew Alberta. As recently as September, 2009, Erickson was publicly musing about starting a new party.
Erickson experienced a great deal of frustration as a Green Party candidate, during which time he encountered something he has come to refer to as the “Green barrier” in Albertan politics — something which normally involves having doors slammed in one’s face.
People in his riding of Drayton Valley-Clamar most often refused to listen to anything the Green Party, or any of its candidates, had to say. This left him looking for another option to pursue.
“I’ve taken a lot of money, and a lot of energy from some really good people,” Erickson explained. “I can’t, with any kind of a conscience, go back to those people again and say, ‘Let’s try it again,’ because the Green banner is not going to get us there.”
For a Green candidate, Erickson performed exceedingly well. He managed to attract 20% of the vote in his riding, finishing a distant second to Diana McQueen.
Erickson firmly believed that the Green Party needed to move beyond — or possibly even abandon — its base in urban Alberta in order to find greener pastures in rural Alberta.
“Those who cling very hard to the left will leave us, I’m certain, under this leadership,” Erickson predicted. “But you know what? That’s not where the action is in Alberta. The reality of the situation is that we have a better opportunity in rural Alberta.”
In February, 2009, Erickson finally left the Green Party in order to form the Alberta Progress Party. This followed a failed bid to re-brand the Green Party as such. He had fallen only one vote short.
He would fervently insist that the Green Party monicker had become the source of the “Green barrier” he would later allude to, and had become a millstone around the party’s neck. He was very disappointed in those who had chosen to keep the name.
“In all due respect to the people in those walks of life, I’m sure they’re doing what they think is best, but it doesn’t work here,” he explained. “There is an unhealthy segment of the population who…the minute you mention green [will] turn their back and don’t want to speak to you.”
Erickson also questioned strength and importance of the Alberta Greens’ links to their federal counterpart.
“I don’t feel any affinity with the federal Greens to speak of,” he said. “We share a lot of the same principles but…in my campaign here I had much more help from the federal Liberals than I had from the federal Greens.”
Erickson’s abandonment of his Alberta Progress Party initiative and his ascension to the leadership of the Alberta Party is something that seems to have either transpired unnoticed by many, or has simply been forgotten.
Whatever the case regarding that may be, Erickson’s decision to leave the Green Party may have been particularly well-timed in face of the de-registration of the party in July, 2009 amidst in-fighting between current and former party executives.
The Alberta Green Party continues to function as a non-profit interest group, but the dream of a Green government — or even a Green opposition — in Alberta largely died with its de-registration. Groups such as the Vision 2012 Society have taken up the banner of a new green party in Alberta, but seem to have made little headway.
That leaves Erickson — who described his vision for a new party as something in between the Green Party and the Peter Lougheed Progressive Conservatives — as the last, best hope for green politics in Alberta; at least for now.
If the Alberta Party’s merger with Renew Alberta is a game-changer for Albertan politics, it’s a quiet game-changer at best — one that may, in time, have dynamic consequences for Albertan politics, but will require an unusually nurturing evironment within a political realm that hasn’t been kind to movements of this nature.
Edwin Erickson, with the various shifts in political fortune he’s experienced, can almost certainly attest to that.