Who are Alberta’s top MLAs of 2012?

It has become tradition on this blog that near the end of each year I publish a list of Members of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly who have been the best, worst, or most notable of the past year. Each year’s list has taken a different form and focus (see 2010 and 2011), and the addition of dozens of rookie MLAs after the spring election has left me with little more than seven months to base this list upon. There are sure to be talented and not-so-talented MLAs that have not made list this, so if you feel inspired, please feel free to make additions to the list in the comment section below.

Rookie of the Year - Jeff Wilson, MLA for Calgary-Shaw.
Rookie of the Year – Jeff Wilson, MLA for Calgary-Shaw.

Jeff Wilson (Wildrose – Calgary-Shaw) Rookie of the Year. Perhaps the most unexpected addition to this year’s list is the newly elected Wildrose Party MLA for Calgary-Shaw. Mr. Wilson was a virtual unknown to political watchers when he defeated well-funded Tory star candidate Farouk Adatia (who is now Premier Alison Redford‘s Chief of Staff), but he seems to be fitting into his new role quite comfortably. During the fall sitting, Mr. Wilson stood out from his colleagues when asking tough in question period and launching into spirited and thoughtful debates over legislation. He may have also asked one of the more light-hearted question of this year’s session.

Premier Alison Redford
Premier Alison Redford

Alison Redford (PC – Calgary-Elbow) A better Premier than she is a politician. In her first year, Premier Redford excels at the duties of her job, whether it be advocating for the province at international conferences or in interprovincial relations or debating shifts in government policy. The Premier appears to be less interested or willing to play the political game, which will become increasingly difficult in the face of an aggressive official opposition and a growing list of government scandals and missteps. A recent change in her communications staff may be a sign that the Premier hopes to react more swiftly to the Wildrose attacks in the new year.

Danielle Smith
Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith (Wildrose – Highwood) – A better politician than she probably would be a Premier. She was unable to lead her party into government in the April 2012 election, but with 17 MLAs and 34% of the province-wide vote, the Wildrose Party secured the Official Opposition benches. Borrowing aggressive tactics from the federal Conservatives in Ottawa, who are organizationally tied at the hip with the Wildrose, Ms. Smith’s party is leading the most aggressive and partisan official opposition in recent memory. Whether or not you like her tactics, it is nice to see the Tories sweat for a change.

Kent Hehr
Kent Hehr

Kent Hehr (Liberal – Calgary-Buffalo) The two-term MLA from downtown Calgary is easily one of the most effective and reasonable voices in the tiny Liberal caucus. Mr. Hehr has picked up the mantle left by recently retired Liberal MLA Kevin Taft and challenged the governing Tories about the serious revenue problems facing our province. More recently, his comments about uniting progressive voters drew the ire of Liberal Party archetypes. While his party plays with gimmicky name changes, Mr. Hehr is trying to figure out how to get the Liberal-minded Albertans back in the game after the party fell to third place in the 2012 election.

Doug Horner (PC – Spruce Grove-St. Albert) Trying to change the political culture around debt and budget financing in Alberta is a the tough job faced by Finance Minister Doug Horner. Taking advantage of low inflation and avoiding boom-time construction costs, Mr. Horner is leading the government to using financing to make some much needed investments in public infrastructure. While initially the clear second in command to Premier Redford, he appears to have taken a slight step back from the spotlight. If the next three years do not go well for the current Premier, Mr. Horner could find himself in a position to take his party’s reins.

Thomas Lukaszuk (PC – Edmonton-Castle Downs) The Tory attack dog has been both Minister of Nothing and Everything at the same time. Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk has been the Tory government’s main defender against aggressive attacks launched by the Wildrose Party during Question Period. Whether or not his sometimes aloof style is effective, I expect we have yet to witness just how tough this political minister is.

Kerry Towle (Wildrose – Innisfail-Sylvan Lake) and Ian Donovan (Wildrose – Little Bow) The two first-term Wildrose MLAs were thrown into the media spotlight this summer over issues related to seniors care in Alberta. As Seniors critic, Ms. Towle has been relentless in attacking the government over the quality of food in long-term care centres (an issue raised by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees) and the “one-bath a week” policy. Mr. Donovan was thrown into the media spotlight when the Tory government closed the Little Bow Continuing Care Centre in his Little Bow constituency. As rookies finding their political footing on this issue, it was not an uncommon sight this summer to see the two Wildrose MLAs awkwardly sharing the podium (or megaphone) with NDP MLA David Eggen and leaders of Alberta’s public sector unions.

This year’s honourable mentions go to two candidates who were not elected in April, but contributed a considerable amount to the results on election day. Edmonton-South West Wildrose candidate Allan Hunsperger‘s “Lake of Fire” comments and Calgary-Greenway Wildrose candidate Ron Leech‘s “caucasian advantage” comments were a last minute reminder to Albertans about the extreme conservative elements that exist within the Wildrose Party’s coalition. It indisputable that these two men helped convince many thousands of Albertans to vote for a party led by political moderate Premier Redford, rather than Wildrose leader Ms. Smith.

On this blog, the post that attracted the highest readership and most comments in 2012 was Thorny candidates could be the Wildrose Party’s Biggest Liability. The April 4, 2012 post was shared 603 times on Twitter and Liked by 4,724 Facebook users (Thank you).

25 thoughts on “Who are Alberta’s top MLAs of 2012?”

  1. Hey Dave,

    I’m wondering what you thought of Shayne Saskiw ? He too as a young MLA was thrown under the spotlight quite often, and right after the election.

    Maybe less in question period, but he was omnipresent in press conferences.

  2. Nice writeup Dave, and I must also say that in 2012 your blog solidified itself further as a go-to source for all of Alberta politics. Jeff has been a huge asset to the Wildrose since he arrived in Edmonton and only gets more impressive. Kerry Towle and Ian Donovan have been amazing too and I believe the best is yet to come from them.

    As far as some other MLAs that are worth noting I think Deron Bilous and David Eggen have both been great additions for the NDP. Shayne Saskiw is the youngest MLA in the entire assembly and has done a fantastic job from the Wildrose front bench. From the PCs I think that Manmeet Bhullar has not been challenged much but has shown himself to be a very capable minister.

    Great job on the post and throughout the year. Merry Christmas!

  3. It’s pretty heavy handed to put Kent “repeats the same question 3 times daily” Hehr on your list and not one NDP MLA. Mason’s well received call for Redford to step aside over tobacco-gate merits him a spot here.

    I’d also include Joe “whatever party can get me there” Anglin. He’s voted against the WRP caucus a few times now, since he’s a lefty sheep in republican wolf clothing. He can get away with that since WRP claims to allow MLA freedom.

  4. “…Mr. Horner could find himself in a position to take his party’s reigns…” Sorry, Dave, but the word you wanted was “reins”. “Reign” refers to monarchy.

    That aside, good post.

  5. I’m going to have to disagree with Neal on this one. Kent may repeat a question, but only when the person questioned doesn’t answer the question. Kent doesn’t mince words, he doesn’t preamble, his questions are quick, to the point, and always intend to lead to a constructive solution.
    I can’t say that about Mason. Mason’s tactics tend toward the destructive side. Asking Redford to step aside is one such destructive move (not that Redford’s proximity to tobacco-gate isn’t destructive) in that it doesn’t seek to find a solution without holding Albertans ransom. And when you ask a Captain to abandon their post, the shipmates are held for ransom.

  6. Danielle Smith has two modes- repulsive and invisible. I prefer when she’s invisible. But I guess you had to include her on the list as she’s the opposition leader (until the extreme right of WRP throws her under the Dani-bus).
    Dave, I must echo Brad’s comments- daveberta is current, informative and always entertaining whether I agree or disagree with your viewpoints.

  7. The best MLA’s are Danielle, Raj, Brian, Shane Saskiw and Danielle Smith. Kent gets honorable mention though because he repeatedly asks the same question about public and private education funding over and over again. Kent needs to start FOIPing more and chasing the narrow self entitled interests of the Tories with much more ferocity.

    “By Brian Runge at December 14th, 2012

    I’d vote for Thomas Lukaszuk or Jonathan Denis for top performers in qestion period.”

    …neither of these two gave any rebuttals of substance, just redirection and spin. That is all these two ever give.

    Fav. question to the Tories :”Dear Minister, why are you so awesome??”

  8. @Dave C.

    Sorry, been watching Ke-nt for years. His delivery and questions seem marginally effective at the best of times, that is if you can make out what he is trying to say. He sounds very mumbled. Not ever knowing Ke-nt from anything else, that was my first and lasting impression. If I can’t hear a guy clearly and succintly, he is not in my effective MLA books. He is a nice guy though. Danielle, Raj, Brian, Shane Saskiw and Danielle Smith and Rob Anderson have given the Tories a thorough gutting, goring and political bashing. You really watch Q Period once in a while, Dave.

  9. Always a good read, Dave.

    Naturally, I wholeheartedly endorse your selection for Rookie of the Year, but just a few more observations [to prove I'm not just a blind partisan ;)]

    I was consistently impressed with Deron Bilous for the NDP. He asked tight and tough questions and is a badly needed fresh face for that caucus.

    Surprised by Jeff Johnson in Education. He took over after Thomas Lukaszuk’s disastrous tenure as Education Minister and competently led the passage of the much-improved Education Act.

    Sandra Jansen earned respect for her refusal to toss puffballs at her caucus colleagues and her willingness to put a minister on the spot. Hope to see that continue.

  10. Good Morning: I would just like to remind all politicians that “talk is cheap”. And what goes on in the legislature of Alberta is an absolute disgrace. To think that a hallowed institution would be reduced to the disgraceful level it is now at boggles the mind. It seems to me it exists just to provide fodder for the media moguls. Surely politicians can see that when there is a majority gov’t. it is fruitless to have sittings as the party in power does exactly as it pleases (note the number of amendments that hit file 13 this last sitting). So to me to post a list of the top mla’s in 2012 does not make sense as all I can see is some elected officials wasting a lot of taxpayer time and money to accomplish nothing of any consequence for the people of Alberta. I think for any person of normal intelligence they can see that the alberta legislative assembly is not a hallowed hall for progressive discussion so lets forget about picking champions out of a group who cannot even run a normal debate about problems and solutions.

  11. @Tom, when oil is @ 90-$100/ bbl for years and there are no savings and no lasting value or stability built into the system, that is a sign that there is corruption, mismanagement and overbloated bureaucracy and too many MLA’s in the legislature from the same party.

    The Torys are standing on a boiling lid trying to stop the escaping steam, while the thin ice is slowly melting and cracking below their feet. Until the ice cracks, you will see the steam release in the legislature with with the power of critical mass from opposition mla’s.

    The cynism and bashing you see by opposition is just a small barometer of bureaucratic and political corruption, apathy and lies this regime is hiding from the public to further its own narrow self serving interests, those of party insiders and the greedy corporatocracy.

    Thank God opposition is larger this time. We look forward to intense fire work and questions sledgehammered with ferocity. The public expects transparency, honest, open, ethical governance and value from their tax dollars.

    BC, Ont, Quebec and Fed opposition parties in the Legislature hold ruling parties to the fire constantly. Decorum is the last thing on our list and not a priority in other Legislatures. We demand and expect a fiery political bloodsport in the Legislature, otherwise opposition is not doing their job.

    Albertans need to start voting, read more, become more politically aware of the issues in this province and learn just how weakened the democratic institutions are here.

  12. This list should be called “Top MLA Performers in the 45 minutes of Question Period for a few weeks out of the year, during their 12 hour days, seven days a week”. Harder to judge is their committee work, facilitation skills and most importantly how they work with their constituents at home. On that scale, you have to include George VanderBurg and Len Webber, for example and I have heard nothing but good things about how Ian Donovan goes about his business.

  13. This topic is wrong. The real topic should be how can we improve democracy here. Liberals, NDP and Wildrose have done a great job of holding the crimxnals and lixrs in office somewhat accountable for their transgressions. Every opposition MLA, that is truly working with their party, their leader and representing the collective interest of Albertans and their party and not against it, is a democratic Hero in my books. Kudos to all of them with exception of maybe one.

  14. Totally agree Joe Albertan, if all you can do is wail, your a baby. Shane is a baby and shows it, along with Honey Boo Hoo and Anderson, they do nothing productive for the 40 billion dollar corporation called Alberta. Rutherford has the whole bunch on speed dial as do they him, the constant bashing is fine if it is worthwhile,but 3500 here or there in a huge corporation will always go missing, and it doesn’t matter. If the Conservatives paved the roads in gold,this coagulation of clowns would find fault, after they stole the gold. Idiot E.D. is gone along with some of his fools, let the new management manage, and if there is something big, then get horny for complaining, not for the sake of a sound bite from the ever so compliant media. Shane bleats on and on about Highway 63 not being twinned, well it takes time to get permits Shane.

  15. Am sitting at a hotel, my last night in Mexico.
    Good blog, great comments. I especially agree that one’s performance in qp does not equate to one’s value as an MLA.

    I must however disagree with jerrymacgp.
    “Reign” means to rule or to possess supreme power over something or someone.

    Dave was talking about the leadership of the Alberta PCs.

    What could be a more appropriate word?

  16. If the Conservatives paved the roads in gold,this coagulation of clowns would find fault

    As well they should. Paving roads with gold would be terribly cost-ineffective, and probably make for lousy driving conditions, too!

    (Of course, knowing the Redford PCs, the gold would go only to their friends, and ridings that didn’t vote PC would have their existing gold taken away…)

  17. Good list and analysis. Got to hand it to Redford who can spin a lot of half truths and slip away with a golden tongue speaking a lot saying nothing. Her best comment was the one she mouthed as she was sitting down after one impassioned response. Caught it on the news- so she who reacts most angrily is usually the one who has been caught with her hand in the cookie jar.
    During her previous positions, including the UN, I do not think she was used to being questioned. I think she finds it tough to be challenged.

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