St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse has announced his intention to run for the leader of the Alberta Liberal Party while still finishing his term as municipal leader.
“I’m not leaving the mayor’s job and I won’t leave the mayor’s job even if I become the leader,” Crouse said. “My priority is to be the mayor and the mayor’s job will get done first.”
Tuesday morning Crouse released a statement of intent to run for the leadership spot, making him the first candidate to enter the race, which started on Monday.
Crouse said he will not let his leadership bid conflict with his job as mayor and plans to put the municipal job first until his term is done in October. Crouse has no plans to drop any of his current commitments to the city and will stay on as Capital Region Board chair to help transition the organization to a new set of elected officials in the fall.
Once the municipal race begins, Crouse said his commitments to the city will begin to wind down and he will have more free time. Crouse said he won’t be occupied with things like planning the 2018 city budget and any annual meetings will likely happen after the new crop of municipal leaders is elected.
Without actually sitting as a provincial MLA, the mayor said the party leadership position is a volunteer position.
“I’m going in to this for public service,” Crouse said. “It’s a full time volunteer role starting this fall for the greater good of politics and the greater good of Alberta, possibly.”
Crouse said he will find time to balance both roles by primarily using online platforms and making phone calls to campaign for the job. He said he won’t strive to tour every corner of the province himself, but plans to use social media and volunteers to help him connect with Albertans.
He hopes to have 100 volunteers working with him during the campaign in some capacity.
The one-seat Alberta Liberal Party is currently one of the smallest in the province. Crouse expects the race to be less gruelling than the current Progressive Conservative leadership race because there are fewer registered members of the Alberta Liberal party.
Before settling on running for the leadership position, Crouse considered other options for the next leg of his career, like writing a book or working on the board of Travel Alberta.
Crouse said during his time as mayor he realized that he sat near the centre of the political spectrum. It was then he began exploring political options on the provincial level.
In November, Crouse attended his first Alberta Liberal party event and it was then that he became a card-carrying member of the party. He also travelled to Red Deer for the Progressive Conservative convention in the same month, but found the Liberal party better represented his centrist values.
“I have always related more to the liberal philosophy over my lifetime and I think that was solidified while I was mayor,” Crouse said. “It’s really about taking left and right and finding middle ground and creating a triangle of ideology. You have a large gap in the middle, that sensible centre, that the Liberals will have to find a way to capture and capitalize on.”
The prospect of rebuilding the one-seat party is part of the appeal of the provincial position. Crouse said he has a passion for start ups, after having helped start the Brooks Bandits junior hockey team and a pulp mill in Slave Lake.
The one-term councillor and three-term mayor said that his experience as a public servant and working in the private sector will be his strength in the race.
Crouse brings a diverse resume to the table with training and work experience as a hockey coach, auctioneer, chemical technologist, small business owner and general manager of multiple public companies.
“I know how to build a team,” Crouse said. “I know how to chair a caucus.”
Crouse thinks his biggest challenge in the race is that he is not well known across the province.
“I’m not connected in the provincial world so the biggest challenge is going to be finding who to talk to and building a team of enough people who will be able to reach out,” Crouse said.
If elected, his first order of business will be to get a constituency association set up in all 87 ridings across the province to prepare for the 2019 election. Despite the heavy commitment to province-wide travel, Crouse said he plans to stay in St. Albert with his wife, three children and five grandchildren.
As of today, Crouse is only an unofficial candidate in the race. He needs to be approved by Elections Alberta before he is able to raise any funds or begin campaigning. In December he paid $1,000 of the $7,425 required by the party for the run for the position and is filling out the leadership paperwork.
The race officially opened on Monday and will run until a week-long online voting stretch at the end of May. Candidates have until March 31 to enter the race.
A new leader will be announced on June 4, 2017.