The new leader of the Alberta Liberals and a former Edmonton Member of Legislative Assembly have teamed up to revamp the Liberal party and attract voters.
After nearly four decades of a Progressive Conservative majority, Dr. David Swann set up a Renewal Committee to write the terms of reference for a thorough renewal process.
Swann was elected as leader on Dec. 13, 2008.
"We plan to make politics in Alberta competitive again first and foremost by listening to people," said former Edmonton-McClung MLA Mo Elsalhy, who ran against Swann for the leadership. "We are listening to our own party members and to Albertans. We feel that if you talk to people and give them the opportunity to speak they will give advice that you won't get anywhere else."
There can be no question that provincial politics in Alberta have lacked competition since the beginning of the PC legacy in 1971, especially following the much resented Trudeau National Energy Program of the 1980s.
"Part of it is real and part of it is perception," said Elsalhy. "Everyone else is weak, fragmented or not disciplined enough."
This is the very perception that the Liberals are trying to break. Elsalhy agreed to lead the Renewal Committee. He said he sees it as the Liberals' job to become the credible alternative, adding that competition is as healthy in politics as in business.
"Voters will not expect anything unless we tell them what we are up to and keep them informed," said Elsalhy.
Swann admitted that the Liberals have both an opportunity and a challenge ahead.
"There is nothing we get without a price," said Swann in his leadership acceptance speech. "It costs time, energy, and money to talk about the things we care about."
Elsalhy shares particular concern for students. He said it was important for students to be politically active and question the current government.
"There are signs that education may be in trouble under the current government and as a parent that worries me," said Elsalhy.