Justin Trudeau, Liberals look to Alberta in 2015
Liberal leader must overcome challenges such as his dad Pierre Trudeau's hated National Energy Program
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is leading his caucus straight into some challenging territory as MPs gather in Edmonton this week to discuss the year ahead.
The federal Liberals say they're optimistic about their chances in Alberta in the October 2015 federal election, despite their bleak history in the province.
The party has had few MPs elected in Alberta, where the memory of Pierre Trudeau's National Energy Program (NEP) still stings. The last Alberta Liberal MP, Anne McLellan, lost her seat in 2006.
But Dominic LeBlanc, who has held a seat in New Brunswick since 2000, says the party's fortunes are improving.
"If somebody had said to you that we would have increased our vote in Brandon, Man., the way we did, if somebody would have said that we would come within X-hundred votes of winning in Calgary Centre last fall in a byelection, people would have laughed two, three years ago," LeBlanc told CBC News as he arrived at the caucus retreat.
"They're no longer laughing, and in fact they're showing their support with their feet and their chequebooks and signing up as members. So I have every reason to think we're going to be competitive in a whole number of ridings on the Prairies that, to be honest, since I was elected in 2000 wasn't the case."
Ghost of the NEP
LeBlanc says the federal Liberals are attracting stronger candidates and even their fundraising is on the upswing.
"We're seeing an increase in fundraising across this country, including in this province. We're seeing people coming forward to run in contested nominations that we might not have seen in a generation. We're seeing membership sales and crowds turn out for the Liberal leader that we probably haven't seen also for a generation."
Chaldeans Mensah, a professor in political science at MacEwan University, says the younger Trudeau needs to overcome his father's hated NEP.
"Justin Trudeau is trying to vanquish that ghost of the NEP that has been haunting the party in this province," he said.
But he also says some voters are tiring of the Conservatives.
"This is really a reaction to longevity of the Tories in power and in some sense, in many of the ridings in the urban centres, the sense that the Tories are taking people for granted," Mensah said.
That's something the Liberals are counting on, along with the hope that voters will tie the scandals plaguing the Alberta Progressive Conservatives to the federal Conservatives.
Mensah cautions nobody is expecting a flood of Liberal MPs, but says one or two in Alberta would be a big deal.