William Aberhart University of Alberta Honourary Degree

Before David Suzuki there was the William Aberhart honorary degree scandal at the University of Alberta

The decision by the University of Alberta Senate to grant environmentalist, scientist and broadcaster David Suzuki an honorary degree has the university community tied in knots. University President David Turpin responded to criticism with an open letter today, but criticism from Dean of Business Joseph Doucet and Dean of Engineering Fraser Forbes gives the impression of an open revolt (or at least an attempt to appease unhappy donors from the oil and gas sector).

David Suzuki University of Alberta Honorary Degree

David Suzuki

But the Suzuki controversy of 2018 is nothing compared to the slight created when the Senate refused to grant an honorary degree to Alberta Premier William Aberhart in 1941.

What should have been a routine exercise erupted into a full blown controversy in 1941 when members of the University Senate voted against granting Aberhart an honorary degree after he had already been informally notified of the honour by University President William Kerr.

A Senate committee’s recommendation that Aberhart be given an honorary degree was rebuked with one week left until convocation.

Until that point in history, three of Aberhart’s predecessors, Alexander Rutherford, Arthur Sifton, and John Brownlee, had received honorary degrees from the University during their time as elected officials.

The committee’s recommendations were said to be based on Aberhart’s record as an educator and his role in reforming the school system, including certifying teachers into a professional class and introducing a teachers’ pension system.

But it would have been hard for members of the Senate to ignore the rest of Aberhart’s record as Premier.

Alexander Rutherford University of Alberta

Alexander Rutherford

During its first decade in government, Aberhart’s Social Credit Party implemented a radical agenda that followed a fringe economic theory created by Major C.H. Douglas, tried to print its own currency, legislate control over the media, nationalize the banking system and ban alcohol sales. It is also well known that many early Social Credit MLAs harboured deep anti-semitic and racist attitudes rooted in the belief of a global banking conspiracy.

It was a strange time in Alberta’s political history.

Scrambling to deal with the huge political problem the rejection might cause the University, the Senate quickly passed a motion that no honorary degrees would be granted that year.  It was possibly, “the first time in the university’s history that no address will be given at convocation,” an Edmonton Journal report speculated on May 14, 1941.

Presiding over that year’s convocation on May 19, 1941 at McDougall Church was University Chancellor Alexander Rutherford, who had served as Alberta’s first premier from 1905 until he was forced out of office by a railway scandal in 1910. President Kerr resigned the following day.

John Robinson MLA Medicine Hat

John Robinson

An editorial published in the Edmonton Bulletin on May 14, 1941 stated that “…there is an affront to dignity of the University in this sorry affair. There is an affront to Dr. Kerr who was unwittingly made the instrument of what could only have been a calculated insult to Alberta’s self-respect. There is an affront to the the people of Alberta who are made ridiculous throughout Canada.”

Aberhart responded to the slight the next year by introducing Bill 57: An Act to amend and consolidate The University Act, which reorganized university governance and stripped the Senate of much of its powers, with the exception of its responsibility of selecting honorary degree recipients.

“The citizens of Alberta are now looking to the legislature to see to it that never again will it be possible for the senate of the University of Alberta to present a display as petty, so childish, so humiliating,” said Medicine Hat Social Credit MLA John Robinson told the Bulletin on Feb. 3, 1942.

The University Senate’s behaviour was “political prostitution,” Robinson told the Calgary Herald on Feb. 4, 1942.

Reportedly expressing pain at at Aberhart’s failure to obtain an honorary degree from the U of A, Willingdon Social Credit MLA William Tomyn told the Herald on Feb 3, 1942 that “never in the history of any nation was there a greater scandal.”


(Note: Most of the historical material included in this post was found in Walter H. Johns’ excellent book A History of the University of Alberta 1908-1969, and through the Alberta Legislature Library Scrapbook Hansard and the Google Newspaper Archive).

Knickers in a twist over David Suzuki’s University of Alberta honorary degree

Photo: Environmentalist, scientist, author, and broadcaster David Suzuki (credit: David Climenhaga)

The decision by the University of Alberta‘s volunteer Senate to present an honorary degree to high profile environmentalist, scientist, author, broadcaster and Order of Canada recipient Dr. David Suzuki has aroused much outrage from conservative partisans, Postmedia columnists, donors and U of A staff. It even earned an embarassingly entitled response from the Dean of Engineering Fraser Forbes, who said he was “deeply sorry” and “ashamed” of the decision.

Good grief.

Whether or not you agree or disagree with Suzuki’s political positions (most notably his controversial comments about Canada’s oil sands) or have had poor personal experiences with him (which many people seem to have had), it is impossible to deny the huge contributions he has made to the popularization of sciences in Canadian culture.

As host of the Nature of Things and Quirks and Quarks, a generation of Canadians were introduced to the sciences through Suzuki’s broadcasts.

The U of A responded with it own statement in defence of Suzuki’s honourary degree, but it appears one statement may not have been enough to appease angry critics. Suzuki has been demonized by the political right for years, including a recent attack from United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney.

Politically manufactured outrage toward Suzuki, who already has an honorary degree from the University of Calgary and nearly 30 other universities, could also be pointed at previous honourary degree recipients.

Albertans outraged about Suzuki’s honorary degree might be surprised to discover that a U of A honorary degree was given to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1968. The U of A also bestowed an honorary degree to Maurice Strong in 1973, three years before Trudeau appointed him as head of Petro-Canada, the now privatized crown-corporation decried by Conservatives of the day. Unthinkable!

Only five short years after he was in charge of enforcing the much-derided National Energy Program as federal minister of energy, Jean Chretien was given a U of A honourary degree in Spring 1987. Blasphemy!

And Mel Hurtig, who later became the country’s loudest crusader against free trade with the United States in the early 1990s, was given an honorary degree in Fall 1986. Unbelievable!

As a U of A alumnus and former member of the U of A Senate, Suzuki’s honourary degree does not particularly bother me more than some previous choices.

Back in 2012, I was not pleased to learn that the U of A Senate had granted an honorary degree to Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, the Chair of Nestlé, the largest multinational food and water corporation in the world.

As Scott Harris wrote in back in 2012, Nestle had been the “target of international boycotts stretching back decades for its marketing of breast milk substitutes … in violation of international standards, widespread labour violations and links to slave labour in its chocolate production, and its environmental impact and strong-arm tactics with communities opposed to Nestlé’s exploitation of groundwater for its bottled water division.”

That is offensive.

At least the U of A administration cannot be accused of not being consistent in their defence of the Senate’s choices for honorary degree recipients.

It will be interesting to see what kind of reaction Suzuki’s opinions will generate from the audience of U of A Science graduates and their families. Will he insult them by criticizing the oil and gas industry and calling to stop climate change? Will he call for an end to or insult our oil pipelines? Should the U of A give a platform to someone who will likely voice opinions that those sitting in the Jubilee Auditorium might find offensive?

It would not be the first time.

I am told that some parents of graduates refused to applaud former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations Stephen Lewis when he delivered a call to action against climate change as he accepted his U of A honourary degree a few years ago.

Albertans are free to criticize the U of A Senate’s choices of honourary degree recipients, and we should probably even criticize the sometimes silly exercise of granting honorary degrees.

But the U of A should not shy away from controversial choices.

The University should resist pressure from external donors and internal voices like Forbes to withdraw Suzuki’s honorary degree. As my colleague David Climenhaga writes, doing so would “be a black mark on the intellectual reputation of the U of A, a great university, and it will be a great victory for those who would, “without fairness or justification,” turn all Albertans into climate-change pariahs.”


Luckily for U of A grads in 2018, along with Suzuki the honourary degree recipients speaking at their convocation ceremonies will include farmers’ union activist Nettie Wiebe, CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada Louise Bradley, historian, playwright and composer France Levasseur-Ouimet, particle physicist Brian Cox, human rights scholar David Matas, former Alberta MLA Raj Pannu, former premier of the North West Territories Stephen Kakfwi, former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark, and respected foreign correspondent Nahlah Ayed.

Suzuki will receive an honourary doctor of science degree from the university on June 7 at 10 a.m.

Episode 10: Week 300 of the Trans Mountain Pipeline debate, and predictions for Alberta’s 2019 Election.

This episode includes analysis from Dave Cournoyer and Ryan Hastman about week 300 of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline dispute (including updates from Ryan, who was behind enemy lines in Vancouver) and the latest candidate nomination updates ahead of Alberta’s 2019 election.

So you want to be a candidate?

Ryan leads this week’s ‘So you want to be a candidate‘ segment with useful tips for Albertans wanting to run in next year’s election. And we answer a big question from listener Eric Grenier about the Rachel Notley NDP’s chances of re-election.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. The network includes more than 30 podcasts, including one of our favourites, The Expats.

Listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, and wherever you find podcasts online. If you leave a review on Apple Podcasts before May 31, 2018, you will be entered into a contest that will include awesome (and yet to be determined) prizes.

We’d love to hear what you think of this episode, so feel free to leave a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

We are always grateful for our producer, Adam Rozenhart, for his help in making this podcast a reality. This episode was recorded over Google Hangout.

Thank you for listening!

Update: When we recorded this episode, we mentioned that NDP MLA Shannon Phillips had not yet announced her plans to seek re-election. The day after we record this episode, Phillips announced her plans to seek re-election in Lethbridge-West.

Thousands of Albertans packed the Legislature Grounds to watch Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP cabinet be sworn-in.

Thursday Candidate Nomination Update: Scott Cyr drops out of Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul UCP contest

Here are the latest updates to the list of nominees running to become candidates in Alberta’s next provincial election:

Scott Cyr MLA Bonnyville-Cold Lake

Scott Cyr MLA Bonnyville-Cold Lake

Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. PaulUnited Conservative Party MLA Scott Cyr has dropped out of the nomination contest in this district. Cyr was first elected to represent Bonnyville-Cold Lake in the 2015 election, and, due to electoral boundary changes, was forced to face off against his UCP caucus-mate David Hanson in the next election. Hanson has represented Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills since 2015.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Cyr said “I am at one of those cross-roads in life and over the next couple of months will pray for direction, sit and discuss my future with my wife and daughters and continue working hard for our constituency of Bonnyville – Cold Lake as I have always done.”

Calgary-Currie – The New Democratic Party has scheduled a nomination meeting for May 12, 2018. NDP MLA Brian Malkinson is seeking re-election and is expected to be nominated. Malkinson was first elected in 2015, earning 39 percent of the vote.

Calgary-EastMatthew Dirk is seeking the UCP nomination. The district is currently represented by NDP MLA Robyn Luff, who was elected in 2015 with 39 percent of the vote.

Calgary-ElbowChris Davis is the second candidate to join the UCP nomination in this district. Davis is a lawyer and past Calgary municipal election candidate. He placed second in City Council’s Ward 8 in 2017 with 32 percent of the vote behind incumbent Councillor Evan Woolley.

Edmonton-SouthTunde Obasan is seeking the UCP nomination in this new south Edmonton district. Obasan previously announced plans to run in Edmonton-Whitemud but withdrew from that race in January 2018.

Edmonton-Whitemud – Jonathan Dai is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Dai was the Progressive Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood in the 2015 election and the federal Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona in the 2000 federal election.

Lac Ste. Anne-ParklandLead Wood is seeking the UCP nomination.

Sherwood ParkLen Thom is seeking the UCP nomination. Thom is a lawyer and served as president of the PC Party after Jason Kenney was selected as that party’s leader in 2017. He was the Conservative Party of Canada candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona in 2015 federal election, where he placed second with 31 percent of the vote behind NDP MP Linda Duncan.

Strathcona-Sherwood ParkNate Glubish is seeking the UCP nomination. Glubish is an investment manager and president of the local UCP association.

Red Deer-SouthNorman Wiebe is seeking the UCP nomination. Weibe was the Wildrose Party candidate in this district in the 2015 election, earning 24 percent of the vote behind New Democrat Barb Miller and PC candidate Darcy Mykytyshyn.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list.

Edmonton Best Selling Audreys Books

Sweetland by Michael Crummey tops Audreys Books Edmonton bestseller list

Here is the list of the top 10 fiction and non-fiction titles sold in Edmonton for the week ended April 15, 2018, compiled by Audreys Books and provided by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta.

EDMONTON FICTION BEST-SELLERS

1. Sweetland – Michael Crummey
2. Jesus on the Dashboard – Lisa Murphy-Lamb * +
3. The Marrow Thieves – Cherie Dimaline
4. Edge of Wild – DK Stone * +
5. Encountering Riel – David Orr * +
6. Annie Muktuk and Other Stories – Norma Dunning * +
7. Few and Far – Allison Kydd +
8. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
9. Son of a Trickster – Eden Robinson
10. You Haven’t Changed A Bit – Astrid Blodgett * +

EDMONTON NON-FICTION BEST-SELLERS

1. The Dwindling: A Daughter’s Caregiving Journey to the Edge of Life – Janet Dunnett
2. Forgiveness: A Gift from my Grandparents – Mark Sakamoto
3. Heroes in my Head: A Memoir – Judy Rebick
4. Dinosaurs of the Alberta Badlands – Dr. W Scott Persons IV *
5. 12 Rules for Life: Jordan Peterson
6. The Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians – Rick Lauber *
7. Wisdom in Nonsense – Heather O’Neill
8. Streetfight – Janette Sadik-Khan
9. Precious Cargo – Craig Davidson
10. Sapiens – Yuval Harari

* Alberta Author + Alberta Publisher

Threat of Soviet bombers (and the United Nations) a concern of Alberta MLAs during the Trans Mountain Pipeline debate of 1952

The current debate around the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline centres around political posturing, provincial jurisdiction, investment priorities, climate change, coastal protection and consent by First Nations communities, but when the pipeline was originally being built in 1952, civil defence and the threat of war with the Soviet Union was a going concern.

According to reports by the Edmonton Journal and Canadian Press, Liberal Party leader Harper Prowse stood in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly on March 27, 1952 to question whether the Trans Mountain Pipeline terminus east of Edmonton could represent a concentrated target for Soviet bombers in the event of a war.

Prowse questioned the wisdom locating the eastern terminus of the Trans Mountain Pipeline near three refineries, a new chemical plant and two other pipeline terminals, the area many Albertans now know as ‘Refinery Row.’

The minister in charge of civil defence, Clarence Gerhart, was reported to have said that “every consideration” had been given to the situation and that asking companies to relocate their operations elsewhere would be an insult and lead the companies to invest in other provinces.

Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald was reported to have declared “this business of companies being ‘touchy’ about going somewhere else can be over-emphasized. Too many companies come into the province thinking they know everything and telling local authorities what they can do and what they can not do. We shouldn’t be too much impressed by their threats.”

While the debate began on the topic of strategic location in the event of World War Three, the debate shifted as MLAs began debating whether the United Nations as a bulwark against communist world domination or part of a conspiracy to form a world government.

Social Credit MLA for Leduc, Ronald Ansley, a frequent critic of the UN, argued that a third world war would results in “world dictatorship” by either Communism or the UN. Prowse responded to Ansley’s remarks by arguing that the UN represented an attempt to bring to the nations of the world a chance to bring about the rule of law instead of the rule of force.

“Nothing would make the communist world happier than if the Western nations should adopt the idea there is something sinister about the United Nations and that the free countries should go their way alone,” said Prowse, who was first elected in the 1944 Army, Navy and Air Force election.

“Even in peace-time we in Canada are losing some of our national sovereignty through the United Nations. Those who want world dictatorship have two arms working for them,” Ansley is reported to have replied. “Communism on the one hand and the United Nations on the other.”

“Not only our democracy but the whole of Christendom is at stake,” Ansley said.

CCF MLA Aylmer Liesemer argued that the UN was not infallible, “but to me it is the best hope of mankind to voice the horrible holocaust that would result from another war.”

Alberta threatens to turn off the taps to BC as the Trans Mountain pipeline dispute continues

With little appearing to have changed after Sunday’s pipeline summit in Ottawa, the political dispute over Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline continues to escalate.

Marg McCuaig Boyd (photo by Connor Mah)

Marg McCuaig Boyd (photo by Connor Mah)

In Edmonton today, Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd introduced Bill 12: Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act. The bill would give the Minister of Energy sweeping powers to “make an order directing an operator to cease transporting natural gas, crude oil or refined fuels in the operator’s provincial pipeline, or by the operator’s railway or commercial vehicle.”

It makes February’s wine boycott sound cute.

Use of the powers included in Bill 12 could have serious political and economic consequences for Alberta and BC. Ceasing the transport of oil and gas to BC could convince BC Premier John Horgan’s government to back down from its opposition to the pipeline expansion, but it could also backfire by escalating political tensions between the two provincial governments.

There is a little bit of irony in the Alberta government granting itself the powers to slow down the shipment of oil and gas to BC. The BC government’s initial move to limit shipments of diluted bitumen 11 weeks ago, a move Notley then described as unconstitutional, is what escalated the current political dispute between the two provinces.

It is not clear whether Premier Rachel Notley‘s government would actually ever use the powers include in Bill 12. But at the rate this political dispute is escalating, I would not be surprised if McCuaig-Boyd started threatening to turn off the taps by next week. It feels very Lougheedian, but without the $100/barrel oil.

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

Bill 12 will likely get unanimous support from the Jason Kenney-led opposition, leaving Alberta’s lone Liberal MLA as its only critic in the Assembly.

“The NDP Government wants extraordinary powers to interfere with the oil and gas industry but won’t provide specifics or limitations on those new powers,” said Calgary-Mountain View Liberal MLA David Swann, criticizing the the lack of details in Bill 12.

BC Environment Minister George Heyman says his government could take the Alberta government to court over Bill 12. “I’m not counting on Alberta taking extreme or unlawful actions, but if they do, we’re prepared to defend British Columbia’s interests with every legal means available,” Heyman said.

Hogan says his government will continue with its legal case to determine if the province has the jurisdictional right to stop the project. But it is unlikely the court will rule on this case before the May 31, 2018 deadline imposed by Texas-based Kinder Morgan Inc., which succeeded in generating a quick response from the Alberta and federal government.

A political dispute, not a constitutional crisis or a broken country.

As the political rhetoric runs high, it is important to take a deep breath. We are not on the verge of a constitutional crisis, as Notley has suggested. The country is not broken, as Kenney suggested. And we do not need to call in the army to protect the pipeline from eco-terrorists, as former Alberta energy minster Rick Orman suggested on CBC radio this morning.

As David Moscrop wrote in Macleans last week:

“What we’re seeing with the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline debate is democracy, federalism, and the rule of law at work: a divided country working out their opinions on the matter, split jurisdiction actors pursuing their interests, responsive governments keeping their promises, political and legal battles across several sites of licit contestation—and, to boot, a market response of potentially pulling the plug on the project as shareholders vote with their confidence and their dollars.”

BC MPs face civil contempt charges over acts of civil disobedience

Meanwhile, Green Party leader and Sannich-Gulf Islands Member of Parliament Elizabeth May and NDP MP Kennedy Stewart face criminal contempt charges after entering a 5-meter ‘no-protest’ zone surrounding Kinder Morgan’s pipeline construction site on Burnaby Mountain. A conviction will not necessarily lead to the two MPs losing their seats in the House of Commons.

Section 750(1) of the Criminal Code, which applies to members of both the Senate and the House, stipulates the following:

Where a person is convicted of an indictable offence for which the person is sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more and holds, at the time that person is convicted, an office under the Crown or other public employment, the office or employment forthwith becomes vacant.

Shelly Shannon Kathleen Ganley Christina Gray Beth Barberree Alberta Election Nomination candiates

Sunday Night Candidate Nomination Update

Photo: Shelly Shannon, Kathleen Ganley, Christina Gray, and Beth Barberree

The New Democratic Party has scheduled its nomination meeting in Fort McMurray-Conklin for May 10, 2018. A by-election is needed in this district following the resignation of United Conservative Party MLA Brian Jean. Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Jane Stroud is expected to seek the NDP nomination.

Willie Hoflin is the fourth candidate to join the UCP nomination contest in Fort McMurray-Conklin. Hoflin’s website describes him as a 40-year Syncrude employee and past campaign manager for former Fort McMurray MLAs Guy Boutilier and Adam Germain. Hoflin left the PC Party in June 2010 to join the Wildrose Party.

Here are some other recent updates to the list of candidates running for nominations ahead of Alberta’s expected 2019 provincial election:

Calgary-AcadiaAmina Beecroft is seeking the UCP nomination. Beecroft is an accounting and finance instructor at Mount Royal University. She is the former president of the Calgary-Acadia Progressive Conservative Association and the current president of the UCP in that district.

Calgary-BowHarry Fleming is seeking the UCP nomination in Calgary-Bow. Fleming is an assistant with Harper & Associates, the company founded by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper after the Conservative Party of Canada’s defeat in the 2015 election. He also served as Calgary vice-president of the Progressive Conservative Youth of Alberta from 2016 to 2017 and president of the University of Ottawa Conservative Club from 2014 to 2015.

Calgary-CurrieNicholas Milliken is seeking the UCP nomination. Milliken is a lawyer and CEO of  Brolly Legal Recruitment. He is the great grandson of Alberta MLA William Howson, who represented Edmonton in the Alberta Legislature from 1930 to 1936 and led the Alberta Liberal Party from 1932 to 1936.

Calgary-EdgemontBeth Barberree is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Barberree is a practicing massage therapist and the owner of Massage at the Club. She was the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Hawkwood in the 2015 election, earning 4.5 percent of the vote.

Calgary-Mountain View – On April 14, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley became the first NDP candidate officially nominated to run in the next election. Ganley was first elected as the MLA for Calgary-Buffalo in 2015, but recently announced she would seek re-election in the neighbouring Calgary-Mountain View district. The district is currently represented by four-term Liberal MLA David Swann, who has announced he plans to retire from politics when the next election is called.

Camrose – Rob Johnson is seeking the UCP nomination. Johnson ran for the Wildrose Party nomination in Battle River-Wainwright in 2011 and was the Wildrose candidate in Strathcona-Sherwood Park in the 2015 election, earning 23 percent of the vote.

Edmonton-City Centre – Robert Philp is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Philip is a former judge and in June 2014 was appointed Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Edmonton-Mill Woods – The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting to take place on May 6, 2018. Incumbent MLA and Minister of Labour Christina Gray is expected to be nominated. Gray was first elected in 2015, earning 64 percent of the vote.

Lacombe-Ponoka – MLA Ron Orr is seeking the UCP nomination. Orr was first elected as a Wildrose Party MLA in 2015, earning 35 percent of the vote. In November 2017, the former Baptist pastor suggested that the legalization of marijuana in Canada could lead to a communist revolution.

Lethbridge-East – The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting for May 6, 2018. Incumbent MLA Maria Fitzpatrick is expected to be nominated. Fitzpatrick was first elected in 2015, earning 47 percent of the vote. Unlike most southern Alberta districts, Lethbridge-East has a long history of bucking the province-wide conservative trend. From 1993 to 2011, this district was represented by Liberal MLAs Ken Nicol and Bridget Pastoor. Pastoor crossed the floor to the PCs in 2011 and was re-elected in 2012.

Peace RiverShelly Shannon is the fifth candidate to enter the UCP nomination contest in this district. Shannon is the advertising manager of the Postmedia owned Peace River Record Gazette and is the past president of the Peace River and District Chamber of Commerce. She previously served as a regional director for the now-defunct PC Party.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list.

Through the Looking Glass – NDP cabinet ministers awkwardly join pro-pipeline, pro-UCP rally

Today’s rally at the Alberta Legislature in support of the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline was one of the strangest rallies in recent memory.

Maybe it was because the first speaker introduced himself by bragging about having confronted actor Jane Fonda in a parking lot outside a Moxie’s restaurant.

Maybe it was because in the crowd of 600 or so Albertans I was standing between one guy who kept yelling “Free Alberta from Canada!” and another who was yelling “Go back to Ottawa you Commie!”

Or maybe it was because as this was happening, there were a dozen New Democratic Party cabinet ministers and MLAs standing beside the podium, with most of the United Conservative Party caucus standing beside them.

We are through the looking glass.

Organized by the pro-pipeline Rally 4 Resources group, the event was promoted by both the NDP and UCP, and included speakers ranging from NDP cabinet minsters to UCP leader Jason Kenney to Edmonton mayor Don Iveson.

Despite the presence of senior NDP cabinet ministers and backbench MLAs, and two mass emails promoting the event sent by the NDP caucus, one from Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson and one from Calgary-Shaw MLA Graham Sucha, the crowd did not feel like an NDP friendly group. Or at least not any type of NDP-friendly group I would recognize.

Cries of “bullshit” could be heard as Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous spoke at the mic. The crowd booed, jeered and heckled federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, a popular former Edmonton city councillor, as he spoke about the Trudeau government’s commitment to the pipeline expansion.

A small group can be heard on video trying to begin a chant of “NDP, NDP, NDP” as Kenney spoke, but it didn’t catch on.

While the rally was billed as a non-partisan event, it felt like the NDP showed up to a UCP rally, or at the very least an anti-NDP rally.

Premier Rachel Notley is on a roll as Alberta’s top pipeline champion, but this rally should give the NDP pause about whether hitching the final year of their first-term as government to the pipeline issue was a smart move.

As a government in Alberta, being anything but pro-pipeline is an almost impossible option. Support of the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline in Alberta is likely somewhere near 98 percent (with a 2 percent margin of error) and I suspect many Albertans are becoming increasingly frustrated with pipeline opponents in British Columbia (where opposition to the pipeline is a valid mainstream opinion).

Supporting these rallies and escalating the war of words into drastic action against BC may play well with the Chambers of Commerce and certain Postmedia columnists, but it may fall flat among the supporters the NDP will need to activate and energize in the next 12 months.

Notley will meet with BC Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa next Sunday to discuss the pipeline dispute. If the meeting can deescalate or even resolve the pipeline dispute to end official political opposition to the pipeline in BC, then perhaps Notley’s gamble will pay off. But it not, then we may witness more pro-pipeline rallies with NDP cabinet ministers standing awkwardly in front of crowds of UCP supporters.

Episode 9: Rachel Notley, Jason Kenney and 12 months until the next election

This episode includes exclusive interviews with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Official Opposition leader Jason Kenney. Dave Cournoyer and Ryan Hastman asked both leaders a few questions they thought would provide a glimpse into the party building, political issues and political narratives that will define the next 12 months until the 2019 provincial election.

Daveberta Podcast Alberta PoliticsThe interviews also shine a light onto the inconvenient truths of Kenney’s connections to Al Gore, and Notley’s greatest weakness (Miss Vickie’s Jalapeño chips).

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. The network includes more than 30 podcasts, including one of our favourites, The Expats.

Listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, and wherever you find podcasts online. It would be a big help if you could leave a review where you download this podcast and share this episode with a friend.

We’d love to hear what you think of this episode, so feel free to leave a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

We remain eternally grateful to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, for his help in making this podcast a reality.

Thank you for listening!

(photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Kinder Morgan drops a Sunday afternoon bombshell in the never-ending Trans Mountain Pipeline dispute

“Alberta is prepared to do whatever it takes to get this pipeline built” – Rachel Notley

It was a busy Sunday afternoon in Alberta politics.

We appear to have reached another stage in what feels like a never-ending political dispute over the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby. Late on Sunday afternoon, Kinder Morgan released a statement declaring that it was “suspending all non-essential activities and related spending on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.”

The company plans to “consult with various stakeholders in an effort to reach agreements” by May 31, 2018.

It feels like a big win for British Columbia Premier John Horgan and opponents of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. But this announcement by Kinder Morgan could also be part of a strategy to increase the pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to convince Horgan to back down from his opposition to the pipeline.

Kinder Morgan Inc. is the key player in this dispute but has remained largely silent in the public debate. But when the Texas-based company finally spoke this afternoon, all the political players jumped to attention.

Notley responded to Kinder Morgan’s announcement with a message that is pitch perfect for Alberta-ears. Notley called on Trudeau to stand up for Alberta’s interests as he has for economic interests in Ontario and Quebec. And in a move that will remind Albertans of Peter Lougheed, Notley went as far to say that “Alberta is prepared to be an investor in the pipeline” if opposition to the pipeline caused private investors to flee.

Trudeau responded very clearly with a tweet declaring that “The Trans Mountain expansion will be built.” And federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr reinforced support for the pipeline in a written statement.

All that said, it remains unclear what the federal government will do to stop what is mostly verbal threats by the BC government to stop the pipeline.

In a statement released today, Horgan stated that “the federal process failed to consider B.C.’s interests and the risk to our province” – a sentiment that most Albertans might agree with on many other issues. But with the BC NDP government now trying to jump-start the west coast liquid natural gas industry, it seems clear that neither climate change or the transportation of natural resources are the actual reasons for opposing this pipeline.

Creating political obstacles that could convince Kinder Morgan to lose interest in the project is part of Horgan’s strategy, and maybe one of the final tools in the now infamous ‘toolbox’ referred to in the 2017 Confidence and Supply Agreement between the BC Green Caucus and the BC NDP Caucus.

The Notley government is expected to introduce legislation giving the government the authority to limit oil and gas shipments to BC, a move that could have serious political and economic repercussions for Alberta, BC and Canada. I would imagine this drastic move by the Alberta government would provide some incentive for Trudeau to figure out how he might provide an opportunity for Horgan to gracefully save face on this issue.

I expect this might not be the last time this never-ending political dispute makes big news on a Sunday afternoon.

Updates: Innisfail-Sylvan Lake and Fort McMurray-Conklin by-elections. Jane Stroud expected to seek NDP nomination.

Photo: Christine Moore, Gayle Langford, Laila Goodridge and Jane Stroud.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake

The United Conservative Party has announced the nomination period to choose a candidate for the upcoming Innisfail-Sylvan Lake by-election. The deadline for candidates to enter the nomination contest is April 16 and a vote will held on April 28. The by-election must be called by August 5, 2018.

Seven candidates have now entered the race to replace UCP MLA and UCP Rural Crime Task Force member Don MacIntyre in the central Alberta district of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. MacIntyre resigned in February 2018 after he was charged with sexual assault and sexual interference. He was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2015.

Along with already declared candidates Devin Dreeshen, Joan Barnes, Gayle Langford, and Mike Walsh, three additional candidates have entered the race since I last wrote about this nomination contest:

  • Christine Moore – Councillor in Red Deer County representing the area between Sylvan Lake and Red Deer city limits. She ran in the 2015 election as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Red Deer-North where she placed third with 22 percent of the vote behind New Democrat Kim Schreiner and Wildroser Buck Buchanan.
  • Joel Loh is vice-president of Regulatory Affairs & public relations at Simba Industries Transload Ltd. and affiliated with something called the Committee for Proud Alberta Fair Trade Oil (editor comment: I’m not sure they understand the definition of Fair Trade). Loh served as the president of the Canadian Alliance association in Calgary-Southwest in the early 2000s. He was disqualified from running for the Alliance nomination in Calgary-Centre ahead of the 2004 election, according to a 2003 report from the Calgary Herald.
  • Victor Sloboda is a plumbing and gas inspector with the City of Red Deer.

The only other party to nominate a candidate thus far is the Reform Party, which will be represented by its leader, Randy Thorsteinson.

Fort McMurray-Conklin

Another by-election will need to be called in the Fort McMurray-Conklin district following the resignation of UCP MLA and former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean. Jean was first elected as MLA for this district in 2015 and served as Leader of the Official Opposition Wildrose Party from 2015 until 2017, when he stepped down to join the UCP leadership contest.

The district was first created in the 2012 election from the southern and eastern half of the formerly larger Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo district. Jean was first elected in 2015 with 43 percent of the vote ahead of New Democrat Ariana Mancini with 30 percent and PC MLA Don Scott with 22 percent (Scott was elected Mayor of Wood Buffalo in October 2017).

Sources tell this blogger that Wood Buffalo Municipal Councillor Jane Stroud is planning to seek the NDP nomination to run in Fort McMurray-Conklin by-election. Since 2010, Stroud has represented Ward 4, which includes the communities of Gregorie Lakes Estates, Anzac, Janvier and Conklin. She was named a ‘Woman of Inspiration’ by Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta in 2017.

Three candidates have announced their plans to run for the UCP nomination contest in this district:

Goodridge and Meagher were considered potential candidates for the Conservative nomination in the 2014 by-election that was held to replace Jean when he resigned from federal politics in 2015.

Unlike Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, which is largely untouched by the boundary redistribution, this district will be significantly redrawn when the next election is called, with most of the district’s population becoming part of a new Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district.

Here is a look at the vote share by party in Fort McMurray-Conklin in general elections in 2012 and 2015:

Results of the 2012 and 2015 elections in Fort McMurray-Conklin.

Results of the 2012 and 2015 elections in Fort McMurray-Conklin.

Alberta Nomination candidates: Nicole Williams (UCP-Edmonton-West Henday), Sarah Hoffman (NDP- Edmonton Glenora), Maryann Chichak (UCP-West Yellowhead), and Lisa Wardley (UCP-Peace River).

Friday Night Nomination Candidate Update

Photo: Nicole Williams, Sarah Hoffman, Maryann Chichak, and Lisa Wardley.

Here are some of the latest updates to the list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of Alberta’s expected 2019 provincial general election:

Calgary-North EastNate Pike is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Pike is a paramedic who works for Alberta Health Services.

Calgary-North West: Lesley Doell is seeking the United Conservative Party nomination. Doell is a French Immersion facilitator and instructional coach with the Foothills School Division and the former executive director of the French Language Resource Centre in Grande Prairie. She had been considered a potential candidate for the federal Conservative nomination in Calgary-Centre in 2019.

Calgary-ShawMark Mantei is seeking the UCP nomination. He is an executive with a computer software and consulting company and previously served as the President of the Wildrose Party constituency association in this district. This district is currently represented by New Democratic Party MLA Graham Sucha.

Edmonton-GlenoraSarah Hoffman is seeking the NDP nomination in this west-central Edmonton district. Hoffman was first elected as MLA for this district in 2015 with 68 percent of the vote, She previously served two terms on Edmonton’s Public School Board including as chair from 2012 to 2015. She has served as Minster of Health and Deputy Premier since 2015.

Edmonton-West Henday – Two candidates are seeking the UCP nomination in this new west Edmonton district. Nicole Williams is a senior associate with Canadian Strategy Group and previously worked as an assistant to various MLAs and cabinet ministers in the old Progressive Conservative government. Lance Coulter is a former assistant to Edmonton-Griesbach Member of Parliament Kerry Diotte and previously served in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville – Conservative partisan activist Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk is seeking the UCP nomination. Armstrong-Homeniuk currently serves on the local UCP association and previously served as the Regional Director for Central Northeast Alberta on the PC Party board of directors. This district is currently represented by NDP MLA Jessica Littlewood.

Lac Ste. Anne-ParklandJerry Molnar is seeking the UCP nomination in this newly redrawn district northwest of Edmonton.

Peace River – There is a packed race for the UCP nomination in Peace River. The nomination candidates include former Town of Peace River chief administrative officer Kelly Bunn, Peace River music teacher Donald Lee, Mackenzie County deputy reeve Lisa Wardley, and former assistant to Jason Kenney in Ottawa Daniel Williams. This district is currently represented by NDP MLA Debbie Jabbour.

St. AlbertJeff Wedman is seeking the UCP nomination. Wedman is an officer with the Edmonton Police Service and is a retired Canadian Armed Forces pilot. He ran for the PC Party nomination in St. Albert ahead of the 2012 election. This district is currently represented by NDP MLA Marie Renaud, who is running for re-election.

Spruce Grove-Stony PlainDan Corbett is seeking the UCP nomination. He was briefly a candidate for the City of Spruce Grove mayoral election in 2017 but withdrew from the race before the election.

West Yellowhead – Town of Whitecourt mayor Maryann Chichak is seeking the UCP nomination in the newly redrawn West Yellowhead district, which now includes Whitecourt. Chichak was first elected as mayor in 2013 and was re-elected in 2017. She was the Wildrose Party candidate in the Whitecourt-Ste. Anne district in 2012, where she finished only 370 votes short of unseating PC MLA George VanderBurg. The West Yellowhead district is currently represented by NDP MLA Eric Rosendahl.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list.

Jon Dziadyk Edmonton City Council

Small money can sometimes go a long way in Edmonton’s municipal elections

Photo: Jon Dziadyk spent $9,950.00 on his campaign and unseated a two-term city councillor who spent $119,937.69.

Released this week, the financial disclosures from Edmonton’s municipal elections detail how much each mayoral and councillor candidate raised and expensed during the October 2017 campaign.

The most notable race in terms of money spent was north Edmonton’s Ward 3, where a campaign budget of $119,937.69 could not save two-term councillor Dave Loken from defeat. Loken placed second to Jon Dziadyk, whose campaign only expensed $9,950.00, and he finished narrowly ahead of third place candidate Karen Principe, whose campaign expensed $4,941.54.

Aside from Dziadyk, only two other winning candidates did not to spend the most money in their races. In Ward 6, councillor Scott McKeen’s expenses of $68,833.84 were overshadowed by the $85,469.35 expensed by second place challenger Bill Knight. And in Ward 4, Aaron Paquette’s $58,018.93 campaign was narrowly outspent by second place finisher Rocco Caterina, whose campaign expensed $59,998.97.

While money is still necessary to run a political campaign, as the race in Ward 3 demonstrated, it is sometimes not a factor in determining how voters will act when they reach their voting station.

Below is the breakdown of the revenue and expenses of the for the top three mayoral candidates by votes.

Edmonton Mayoral Election 2013, Financial Disclosure
Candidate Total Revenue Total Expenses Surplus/(Deficit)
Don Iveson $369,775.67 $366.477.52 $30,298.15
Don Koziak $2,500.00 $2,500.00 $0
Steven Shewchuk $2,734.58 $2,734.58 $0

Fourth place mayoral candidate Fahad Mughal claimed revenue and expenses of $22,793.00, and a number of other mayor candidates self-financed their campaigns. None came close to raising or spending the amount that Iveson’s campaign did.

Here are the financial breakdowns submitted from elected city council candidates competing in Edmonton’s 12 wards.

Edmonton City Council Election 2013, Financial Disclosure
Candidate Total Revenue Total Expenses Surplus/(Deficit)
Andrew Knack $17,772.95 $17.772.95 $0
Bev Esslinger $63,141.40 $53,807.19 $9,334.21
Jon Dziadyk $17,040.00 $9,950.00 $7,120.00
Aaron Paquette $58,018.93 $56,521.04 $1,497.89
Sarah Hamilton $95,592.00 $84,409.21 $11,182.79
Scott McKeen $77,401.63 $68,833.84 $8,657.79
Tony Caterina $67,873.00 $67,173.30 $698.70
Ben Henderson $61,789.83 $39,930.58 $21,859.25
Tim Cartmell $95,177.54 $94,276.44 $857.50
Michael Walters $96,119.06 $96,018.68 $100.38
Mike Nickel $110,086.17 $108,891.15 $1,195.02
Moe Banga $89,241.00 $85,672.12 $3,568.88

According to the Local Authorities Elections Act, donations to municipal election candidates are limited to a maximum of $5,000 for individuals, corporations and trade unions during an election year.

Ryan Hastman, Rachel Notley and Dave Cournoyer (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Best of Alberta Politics 2017: Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona (and Premier of Alberta)

Photo: Ryan Hastman, Rachel Notley and Dave Cournoyer (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

With more than 1,200 votes cast, Premier Rachel Notley was chosen as the Best Alberta MLA of 2017 in the Best of Alberta Politics 2017 survey.

(photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Daveberta Podcast co-hosts Dave Cournoyer and Ryan Hastman were thrilled to have the opportunity to present Notley with her award in-person in the Premier’s Office at the Legislature Building. We are grateful to Notley for making some time in her busy schedule to sit down with us for a short interview that will be included in the next episode of the Daveberta Podcast (which will be online on April 9, 2018).

Notley became Premier of Alberta in 2015 after her New Democratic Party’s swept the 44-year old Progressive Conservative Party out of office in a remarkable and historic election. First elected to the Legislature in 2008, Notley was re-elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona in 2012 and 2015. She was elected leader of Alberta’s NDP in 2014, one year before leading her party into government.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at the University of Alberta, and a law degree at Osgoode Hall Law School. Immediately before entering politics, Notley worked as a Labour Relations Officer with United Nurses of Alberta.

Notley is the daughter of Grant Notley, who led the NDP from 1968 to 1984 and served as the MLA for the northern Alberta district of Spirit River-Fairview from 1971 until 1984.

We would like to send our sincere thanks to everyone who voted in this survey and to the other award winners – David Shepherd, David Eggen, Greg Clark, and Jason Kenney – for making time to meet with us over the past few months.

The Best of Alberta Politics 2018 Survey will launch in December 2018.

Listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, or wherever you find podcasts online.