who are they? meet alberta’s wildrose official opposition.

When Alberta’s Legislative Assembly reconvenes in the next few months, for the first time since 1982 the title of Official Opposition will given to a caucus of MLA’s representing a party other than the New Democrats or the Liberals. Following the April 23 general election, seventeen Wildrose Party MLA’s were elected, creating the largest Official Opposition caucus since 1997 (when eighteen Liberal MLA’s were elected).

Heather Forsyth Danielle Smith Rob Anderson Wildrose MLAs

Wildrose MLA's Heather Forsyth, leader Danielle Smith, and Rob Anderson in January 2010.

Aside from high-profile leader Danielle Smith, who was elected in Highwood, most Albertans would probably respond with blank stares if asked to name another Wildrose MLA. Over the past week, I have read biographies and scoured the internet for information about the MLA’s who, for at least the next four years, have been tasked with the responsibility of being Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in Alberta.

Only two of the four incumbent Wildrose Party MLA’s were re-elected last week. Paul Hinman, who was narrowly elected in a 2009 by-election was soundly defeated by PC candidate Linda Johnson in Calgary-Glenmore. In Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, four-term MLA Guy Boutilier, who crossed the floor to the Wildrose in 2010 after sitting for 12 years as a Progressive Conservative MLA, was unseated by municipal councillor Mike Allen. Both Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson and Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Heather Forsyth, who crossed the floor from the PCs to the Wildrose in January 2010, were re-elected.

The Rookies

Here is a look at the fourteen rookie MLA’s who will be joining Ms. Smith, Mr. Anderson, and Ms. Forsyth in the Wildrose Party caucus.

Joe Anglin Drew Barnes Gary Bikman Wildrose MLA

Wildrose MLA's Joe Anglin, Drew Barnes, and Gary Bikman.

Joe Anglin (Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre)
Unseated six-term PC MLA and former cabinet minister Ty Lund. Mr. Anglin is the former leader of the Green Party of Alberta and well-known Landowners’ rights advocate. In 2007, he and the Lavesta landowners’ group were the targets of the now infamous spying scandal carried out by the now defunct Alberta Energy and Utilities Board. Most recently the President and CEO of an oil and gas trading company, Mr. Anglin is an ex-United States Marine, former New Hampshire police officer, and former member of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary. He is married to Deborah Laing, a Minister at Rimbey United Church.

Drew Barnes (Cypress-Medicine Hat)
Defeated two-term PC MLA Len Mitzel. Mr. Barnes is a real estate agent and co-owner of Belcore Homes, a construction company in Medicine Hat. He is the past-campaign chair and president of the Southeastern United Way. He completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Alberta in 1983.

Gary Bikman (Cardston-Taber-Warner)
Mr. Bikman is a business management consultant and co-founder of ChopStix International Franchising Inc, a fast food gourmet Chinese restaurant chain. He is the past-president of Speedy Heavy Hauling Ltd, an oilfield service company. Until recently he was a councillor and deputy mayor of the Village of Sterling. Mr. Bikman attended the first Reform Association of Canada (later the Reform Party of Canada) conference in Vancouver in 1987. His Facebook page lists him as having completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology (1968) and Master of Business Administration (1972) at Brigham Young University.

Ian Donovan Rod Fox Jason Hale Wildrose MLA

Wildrose MLA's Ian Donovan, Rod Fox, and Jason Hale.

Ian Donovan (Little Bow)
Mr. Donovan farms near the hamlet of Mossleigh. He was elected to Vulcan County Council at the age of 19 and he has served for the past 16 years, including two years as Reeve. Perceived mishandling of the nomination process which selected him as the candidate led to the entire executive board of the Little Bow Wildrose Association to resign in January 2010.

Rod Fox (Lacombe-Ponoka)
Mr. Fox is a sales manager for an insurance company. From 2006 to 2007 he served as a director on the Lacombe Economic Development Board and ran unsuccessfully for Lacombe municipal council in 2007. He served as President of the Conservative Party of Canada Wetaskiwin Electoral District Association from 2007 to 2010 and was Communications Director for MP Blaine Calkins during the 2011 federal election.

Jason Hale (Strathmore-Brooks)
Unseated first-term PC MLA Arno Doerksen. Mr. Hale operates a cattle farm with his family. He was a Professional Bullfighter for 10 years and is a member of the a member of the Bassano Rodeo committee and a Director on the Bassano Agricultural Society. He completed a diploma in Chemical Technology at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. He also coaches for hockey and baseball.

Bruce McAllister Blake Pedersen Bruce Rowe Wildrose MLA

Wildrose MLA's Bruce McAllister, Blake Pedersen, and Bruce Rowe.

Bruce McAllister (Chestermere-Rockyview)
Defeated senior cabinet minister and former PC leadership candidate Ted Morton. Originally from New Brunswick, Mr. McAllister is well-known for his time as the host of Global Television’s morning newscast in Calgary since 2004. Before moving to Calgary, Mr. McAllister was an anchor and reporter at CH Television in Victoria, BC. He also worked as a broadcaster in Winnipeg and Halifax.

Blake Pedersen (Medicine Hat)
Mr. Pedersen has been a co-owner in an oilfield, industrial supply company since 1999.

Bruce Rowe (Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills)
An electrical contractor by trade, Mr. Rowe was first elected to Beiseker village council in 2001 and was Mayor. He served on the board of directors of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association representing villages and summer villages. Mr. Rowe was an AUMA representative to the Safety Codes Council.

Shayne Saskiw Pat Steir Rick Strankman Wildorse MLA

Wildorse MLA's Shayne Saskiw, Pat Steir, and Rick Strankman.

Shayne Saskiw (Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills)
Unseated three-term MLA and cabinet minister Ray Danyluk. Mr. Saskiw studied Law at the University of Alberta with MLA Rob Anderson and practiced law in Vegreville. He was named one of “The Next 10” by Alberta Venture magazine in 2010. Mr. Saskiw served as Vice-President (Policy) of the PC Party from 2008 until January 2010, when he joined the Wildrose Party. He later served as executive director of the Wildrose Party.

Pat Stier (Livingstone-Macleod)
Unseated first-term MLA and cabinet minister Evan Berger. Mr. Stier lives on his family’s ranch near DeWinton and is the President of River Canyon Enterprises Inc., which provides planning services for land use and development applications to rural land owners. He served one term on the municipal council of the M.D. of Foothills from 2004 to 2007. He was a member of the PC Party Board of Directors in Highwood from 2006 to 2009 and in 2010 became the President of the Wildrose Alliance association in that constituency. Between 1988 and 1999 he served as President of the Dunbow Road Area Residents Association.

Rick Strankman (Drumheller-Stettler)
Unseated cabinet minister Jack Hayden. Mr. Strankman owns a cattle ranch and grain farm near Altario. He is the past Treasurer of the Western Barley Growers Association and is an anti-Canadian Wheat Board activist. In 1996, he was fined $1000 for taking his own wheat in his grain truck and driving it across the Canadian border into the United States. In 2000, Mr. Strankman was an unsuccessful candidate in the Canadian Wheat Board elections and in 2002 he was fined $7,500 and faced 180 days in jail after taking 756 bushels of wheat across the American border and sold it (he only served a week in jail with four other rebel farmers).

Kerry Towle Jeff Wilson Wildrose MLA

Wildrose MLA's Kerry Towle and Jeff Wilson.

Kerry Towle (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake)
Defeated three-term PC MLA and former cabinet minister Luke Ouellette. Ms. Towle is a real estate broker and was executive assistant with the now-dissolved David Thompson Health Region. She ran a turkey farming operation with her husband for five years. She attended Reeves Business College in 1992 and 1993.

Jeff Wilson (Calgary-Shaw)
Defeated appointed PC candidate Farouk Adatia. Mr. Wilson is an account executive at the audio-visual equipment company AVW-Telas. He studied business and broadcasting at Mount Royal College (now Mount Royal University).

35 thoughts on “who are they? meet alberta’s wildrose official opposition.

  1. bartinsky

    So how many of these people LIVE in their constituencies, how many are Americans, how many live with their mommys etc. This was an anger vote towards RedED that “gifted” Alberta with this bunch. How many people make sound business decisions when angry? This will be interesting, when land use problems pop up, like people building permanent structures on rural road allowances it will be most amusing to watch the response from their “friends” in government.

    Reply
  2. Shannon

    Um. There’s not a whole lot of uh, *diversity* in the Official Opposition eh? 2 women, no visible minorities, and not a heck of a lot outside of farming or small oil. Will be an interesting challenge to represent opposition of all Albertans. Guess we’ll see…

    Reply
  3. Ecogirl

    good article. Error under Jason Hale – is a member of the a member of the Bassano Rodeo committee and a Director on the Bassano Agricultural Society. (You have member twice)

    Reply
  4. Brian Dell

    Uh, isn’t it 3 women? Kerry, Heather, and Danielle.

    What matters is whether the representation is congruent with their constituencies. A white farmer representing an urban riding with mostly non-white residents is questionable. A white farmer representing a whitebread rural riding less so. Now ideally you want some urban, or at least urbane, types representing some of these rural ridings nonetheless because otherwise if you elect few people in the cities, as was the case was Wildrose, you don’t have a representative in caucus in as good a position to speak to those urban issues. In this case Shayne Saskiw is really more of an urban Edmontonian in my view than a rural Albertan. The type of law he specializes in, corporate tax, does not really have a market in rural areas and is to be contrasted with the typical small town lawyer doing wills.

    Reply
  5. Brian Dell

    Shayne Saskiw might have moved to Vegreville because he was born in Two Hills, in other words, but given that he had a very good job in Edmonton at the time I venture to suggest he was thinking of running for office and knew he wouldn’t get elected in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview where he moved from.

    But you see you can’t please everyone because either you are accused of being a carpetbagger like the first commentator or you are accused of being more like the people in your particular riding than the more diverse types found in other ridings like the second commentator.

    Reply
  6. Connie Jensen

    None are Americans, because only Canadian citizens can be elected to the legislature, I think. But I’m struck by the homogenous group. White, mostly male. These Re the people we are tasking with holding our government accountable. I wish them well. I hope they rise to the task magnificently.

    Reply
  7. Keith Wiley

    Good post, informative. I really wonder how Joe Anglin will fit in with this group. I don’t pick him as a libertarian right winger. May be some later caucus shifting.

    Reply
  8. Dan Backs

    Although there a few hard right types in the Wildrose caucus, it is interesting that they actually elected a lot of their more moderate candidates, even if they are almost all from Alberta’s deep south.

    Smith just didn’t have enough quality candidates to last the close scrutiny of the last few days of an election. Although after the election. the pre-election expectations do not help her much, they probably actually gave her a few seats and points in the actual result. Rural voters like their roads and often go with the perceived winner. Watch the desire for pavement trump the ‘rosers in the rural seats in 2016, just as the Socreds were trumped by the Lougheed PC’s in their elections after 1971. Manning is still pained from that one.

    Reply
  9. Brian

    Shayne Saskiw will quickly become the biggest joke in the legislature. Rob Anders comparisons come to mind.

    Reply
  10. Rural gal

    I find it very intolerant to go count “breasts” and ” brown faces” as a measure of competence or inclusion. There are more ethnic backgrounds in these folks than could be perceived by looking at the color of their skin. When are we going to have a grown up discussion.
    There is a wide diversity of backgrounds here- many have cut their teeth in politics at the local level. There are a variety of economic experiences embodied here, just as there are with other parties.
    I am also always so dismayed at how rural folks are portrayed. It is time to respect all Albertans, even if they do not think alike. I actually find a divergence of opinion leads to better solutions and compromises. It is time that we started to seek what we have in common instead of trying to find out why we are different.

    And as I always say ” the rural folks are smart enough to grow your food in a cheap and safe manner- so when you eat tonite, thank a farmer”.

    Reply
  11. Justin Archer

    I don’t think this group is all that different from any other 17 MLAs in Alberta to be honest. I was expecting way more crazy than this when I started reading the post, like some dude who is starting his own country or something.

    A lot of Alberta MLAs past and present come from small business, municipal politics, farming, media and the professions. For the most part these folks fit that bill. The caucus skews white and male, but don’t they all?

    Reply
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  13. Mdentremont

    I can mainly agree with Justin except for one teeny fact: they ran for the Wildrose. Nuff said.

    Reply
  14. small town mayor

    So I need to ask – if the WRA believes in free votes in the leg what will the purpose of their whip be?

    Reply
  15. Liam Connelly

    Now they will not call back the House for a few months, I thought Redford indicated a quick continuation of the spring sitting?

    Reply
  16. Jack

    One correction to an otherwise good post. Strankman was fined and jailed for exporting without an export license and stealing a lawfully impounded vehicle. He broke the Customs Act. Everyone needs an export license if they are taking product outside of Canada. That applies to grain, oil, and eveyrthing else.

    Reply
  17. Brian Dell

    “Everything else”? It’s my understanding that less than everything is on the Export Control List.

    Also, “stealing” implies that there was a transfer of title and impounding does not necessarily imply that.

    I do not dispute that Strankman broke the law but I would dispute the insinuation that it was analogous to general criminality.

    Reply
  18. Rural gal

    Stakman did this as a protest against the Canadian Wheat Board- he wanted to market his grain ( his property) to the highest market place. So he broke the law- the law that was wrong! If he had been a farmer in Ontario, he would have easily moved that truckload of grain to the market of his choice, even in the US. ( it really was the Western Canada Wheat Board). Noe, of course, at last farmers have that choice with the dismantling of the monopoly of the wheat board in western Canada. He remains a hero for pointing out the inequity of the farmer living and marketing his own property into a monopoly. No one else would like to sell their property at the price and time that big brother demanded.
    There is breaking the law and there are protests to show what an ass the law is sometimes. Stankman fits the second category.

    Reply
  19. Tom

    To be fair, they haven’t even been sworn in yet. Judging them now is like evaluating someone on their resume and head shot. Let’s wait until they’re on the job; we’ll quickly see if they’re any good. I’m not holding out much hope for the WR guy where I live. Maybe he’ll actually move into our constituency?

    Reply
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  21. May Day

    Just because Danielle Smith has a High River address, doesn’t mean she lives there. The first weekend of campaigning, she was walking her dogs in Nose Hill Park. Are there no dog walking facilities in High River? The Livingstone-Macleod MLA doesn’t live here and I don’t believe DS lives in Highwood. How can people represent a constituency where they don’t live?

    Reply
  22. Rural gal

    DS lives in high river. Lots of peopleb can show you her house. She walked her dogs in a lot of places while campaigning. Get over this! I am not sure if pat stier lives in livingston Macleod- but he will be close. Some MLA s do not live in their riding. Ted Morton never did either. There were several pc mlas who did not live in their ridings but they were close enough. Many times when electoral lines are redrawn they put an MLA outside.

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  23. May Day

    I don’t have to get over it!! The PC party has a policy that stipulates candidates at least live in the riding they represent. And after the High River forum, Danielle Smith was going “home” to Calgary. That raised a few eyebrows. Pat Stier lives at Dewinton and that town has never been in Livingstone-Macleod riding. Its called “parachuting” and the Wildrose Party did plenty of it in the election. Integrity is something that the WR party is lacking “big time”.

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  24. Rural gal

    Actually the PC party does not have that rule. As I said Ted Morton did not live in his riding . I think if you look at all the Calgary ridings you may find some ” parachute” candidates and MLA. In fact, when Farouk ran in hawk wood, I do not think he was a resident. It was either that one or the next one where he lost. It does not matter! Show me the constitution clause in the PC Party that states they must live in the riding. It is not there. But if you read elections Alberta you will find they do not have to

    Danielle smith and her husband live in high river. She had her dogs on the bus so those dogs were walked everywhere in Alberta.

    I was at the high river forum, and she said she was returning to Calgary for the next event. She did not say she was going home to Calgary.

    Reply
  25. May Day

    Read carefully. I said “policy”. Watching the Global interview Thursday morning, all DS talked about was “holding the PCs accountable” She needs to come up with a new line. That one is getting old. Maybe come up with something constructive to move the province forward. Obviously, people in government are already “accountable” for their actions.

    We’ll see how much representation the Highwood and Livingstone-Macleod constituencies receive over the next four years, Then we’ll hold those MLA’s “accountable”.

    BTW, is Danielle Smith your hero?

    Reply
  26. dale buchanan

    Not that it matters, but the urban riding I live in had a non-caucasian PC candidate and a non-caucasian Wildrose candidate. The PC candidate was elected.

    Maybe a person would get a better idea of a party’s diversity by looking at their entire slate of candidates, or better yet their entire membership, rather than just the ones who got elected. The candidates who got elected may reflect more on voters in their ridings than on the constituents themselves.

    Reply
  27. Michael Dawe

    Maybe it is just me, but I find May Day’s posts to be quite incredible. The P.C. party has never had a policy that their M.L.A.’s live in the riding they represent – remember Don Getty the Premier represented Stettler. Also, the election was often about accountablility and the fact that the P.C.’s went to great lengths to dodge it. The Alberta Health Services report on wait times was delayed until after the election with no real justifiable reason. The Premier refused to say who and how many P.C. M.L.A.’s paid back the money they got for the No-meet Committee.The P.C. Party promised transparency and then refused to say what P.C. constituency associations had accepted illegal campaign contributions. Accountability ?

    Reply
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