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Alberta Politics

VP Weissenberger, Agent-General Rodney and the ABCs of patronage

“This Alberta is a meritocracy” – Jason Kenney (April 30, 2019)

It was first reported this week by the CBC that John Weissenberger has been hired as the Alberta Energy Regulator’s new vice president of its science and innovation branch. Weissenberger is a former adjunct professor at the University of Alberta and manager of geological services with Husky, but it is his deep political connections that raised eyes this week. 

Weissenberger is a long-time conservative activist going back to the early days of the Reform Party and was Jason Kenney’s campaign manager during his successful bids for the the Progressive Conservative and United Conservative Party leadership campaigns in 2017. He was also director of the Alberta Victory Fund, the political action committee created to support Kenney’s campaign for the UCP leadership, and has been described as former prime minister Stephen Harper’s best friend.

It has also been reported that Weissenberger is a self-proclaimed ‘climate change skeptic,’ something that is unlikely to help the government’s bid to attract international investment and companies to move to Alberta.

Weissenberger’s wife, Angela Tu Weissenberger, was appointed by the UCP to the board of the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission in November 2019.

“Sherpa Dave” is Kenney’s Man in Texas

Dave Rodney MLA Calgary Lougheed
Dave Rodney

Congenial former Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Rodney has been appointed as Alberta’s Agent General in Houston, Texas. Rodney served as the PC MLA for Calgary-Lougheed from 2004 until 2017 when he resigned to allow Kenney to run in a by-election.

Rodney’s reward for stepping down, it would appear, is a pseudo-diplomatic post with a $250,000 annual salary. The former MLA served as a backbencher for all but two of his thirteen years in the Legislature. He served as Associate Minister of Wellness from 2012 to 2014.

And as anyone who has paid close attention to Alberta politics will know, Rodney is the first Canadian to have reached the summit of Mount Everest, twice.

Rodney’s appointment is reminiscent of former Stettler MLA Brian Downey‘s appointment as chairman of the Alberta Grain Commission when he resigned his seat in 1989 to allow Premier Don Getty to return to the Assembly (Getty had lost his Edmonton-Whitemud seat to Liberal Percy Wickman in the 1989 general election).

Rodney’s appointment marks the return of the Agent General title, a term that was widely used by Alberta’s out-of-country representatives until 1996, when the Agent-General Act was repealed and the Managing Director job title was adopted.

At the time the Agent General title was abolished, it had become associated with partisan patronage following a long string of appointments that included former PC MLA Mary LeMessurier to a post in London, former MLA Fred Peacock as the Asia-Pacific Agent General, a political aide in Getty’s office as Agent General in Hong Kong, and Getty’s wife’s cousin’s husband as Agent General in Tokyo.

Tory Patronage Machine Humming

Like the engine of a blue Dodge Ram, the UCP patronage machine has revved up since the party formed government in April 2019. counting donors, which would expand the list substantially, here is a quick list of individuals with connections to Kenney, the UCP and the conservative movement who have been appointed to various agency, board and commission positions:

  • Len Rhodes was appointed as Chair of the board of directors of the Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Commission. He was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Meadows in 2019.
  • Janice Sarich was appointed to the board of governors of MacEwan University. Sarich was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Decore in 2019 and represented the district as a PC MLA from 2008 to 2015.
  • Lily Le was appointed to board of governors of Norquest College. Le was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-City Centre in 2019.
  • Laurie Mozeson was appointed to the Municipal Government Board. Mozeson was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-McClung in 2019.
  • Karri Flatla was appointed to the Board of Governors of Lethbridge College. She was the UCP candidate in Lethbridge-West in 2019.
  • Tom Olsen was hired as CEO of the Canadian Energy Centre. He was the UCP candidate in Calgary-Buffalo in 2019.
  • Bettina Pierre-Gilles was appointed to board of Bow Valley College. Pierre-Gilles ran for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Currie ahead of the 2019 election.
  • Donna Kennedy-Glans appointed to board of governors of Banff Centre. Kennedy-Glans was the PC MLA for Calgary-Varsity from 2012 to 2015 and briefly ran for the party leadership in 2017. She was also appointed to the Fair Deal Panel.
  • Janice Harrington was appointed as Alberta’s Health Advocate and Mental Health Patient Advocate. Harrington was executive director of the PC Party and UCP from 2017 to 2019 and was previously involved in PC Party campaigns.
  • Shelley Beck was appointed to the board of governors of Medicine Hat College. Beck has worked as a constituency assistant to Cypress-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Drew Barnes.
  • Wayne Drysdale was appointed to the Municipal Government Board. Drysdale served as the PC and UCP MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti from 2008 to 2019. He was Minister of Transportation from 2014 to 2015.
  • Heather Forsyth was appointed to the Alberta Review Board. Forsyth served as the PC and Wildrose MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek from 1993 to 2015. She served as Solicitor General from 2001 to 2004 and Minister of Children’s Services from 2004 to 2006.
  • Lloyd Snelgrove was appointed to the Board of Governors of Lakeland College. Snelgrove served as the PC MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster from 2001 to 2012. He served as Minister of Finance and Enterprise from January 2011 to October 2011.
  • Bill Smith was appointed as member and vice-chair of the Public Health Appeal Board. Smith is the former president of the PC Party and was a candidate for Mayor of Calgary in 2017.
  • Andy Crooks was appointed to Municipal Government Board. Crooks was chairman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation during Jason Kenney‘s time as its spokesperson in the 1990s.
  • Richard Casson was appointed to the Board of Governors of the University of Lethbridge. Casson served as the Member of Parliament for Lethbridge from 1997 to 2011.
  • James Rajotte was appointed to the Board of Governors of the University of Alberta. Rajotte served as the MP for Edmonton-South West and Edmonton-Leduc from 2000 to 2015.
  • Diane Ablonczy was appointed as a member of the Council of the Alberta Order of Excellence. Ablonczy served as the MP for Calgary-North and Calgary-Nose Hill from 1993 to 2015.
  • Ted Menzies was appointed to the Board of Governors of Olds College. Menzies served as MP for Macleod from 2004 to 2015.
  • Janice MacKinnon was appointed to the Board of Governors of The University of Alberta. MacKinnon chaired the UCP government’s Panel on Alberta’s Finances in 2019.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Brent Wittmeier for the inspiration for the title of this post.

12 replies on “VP Weissenberger, Agent-General Rodney and the ABCs of patronage”

Boy, what a shocker here! More corruption, cronyism, and wasting very large sums of money on positions of no value, and boondoggles, from another Conservative government in Alberta. There are people who remember clearly how badly the last bunch of Conservatives were in Alberta, for quite a long time, with all the extremely large sums of money they threw away on the worst boondoggles, since the mid 1980s. Albertans just never seem to learn. They had the abysmal Alberta PCs, from the mid 1980s, onwards, and now they have the UCP. Are Albertans going to smarten up? It’s way overdue that they did so.

What a shocker, Anonymous is an NDP fan. Just to point out though, the UCP are not the PC’s. The last PC government was “NDP light”, supported by the NDP voter. And yes, the Wild Rose faction in the current UCP is fiscally responsible portion. As to “patronage appointments” its rich suggesting the The UCP should hire anti-oil industry activists, from everywhere but Alberta, much like the NDP did.

Bret Larson: In case you missed it, the UCP is a merger of the PC party and the Wildrose Party. The Wildrose in no way were fiscally responsible, as the PCs weren’t, from the mid 1980s and onwards. Neither has the UCP been fiscally responsible.

The wildrose did not form government, so its hard to say. That said, they are politicians so they like spending other peoples money, so I can guess they are not fiscally responsible. In the current system however, fiscal responsibility is likely a relative thing. And compared to the NDP they are as the ideal of fiscal responsibility.

I have not lost hope. The UCP seems to be totally ignoring the fact that it was the PC’s attitude of entitlement that was a large contributor to their 2015 election loss.

Bob Raynard: The Alberta PCs were in power from 1971 – 2015. The Alberta PCs started going foul, in the mid 1980s. They did the most expensive boondoggles, and weren’t removed until 2015. Will stubborn, die hard Conservative supporters in Alberta remove the UCP, who have done nearly $60 billion in boondoggles, in such a short space of time? The pandemic isn’t an excuse.

The ABC sector — Agencies, Boards & Commissions — is fertile ground for this kind of political patronage, since almost all of them are Order in Council appointments over which the Government of the day has virtually unfettered discretion.

I’m hearing the dulcet tones of Brian Mulroney when he once said, “sure I’ll appoint Liberals … but only after there isn’t a single living, breathing Tory left to pick” (or words to that effect). Really rolling back the calendar, not just the clock, these UCPers, eh?

Well, I guess the UCP learned something from their PC predecessors – how to fill up a bunch of agencies, boards and commissions with defeated candidates and various others that served your party well. So much for trying to save money by getting rid of these things, or cutting back some of the exorbitant salaries. Well, I suppose that was so 2018 and an NDP idea too, so of course the UCP must reverse it.

The PC’s seemed to get away with this sort of thing for years, but I always thought that was in large part to those times often being better off. Perhaps people didn’t mind the government taking a bit off the top then for its friends, if hospitals and schools were fairly well funded. It will be interesting to see if voters react the same to hiring a defeated UCP candidate to run the war room and an MLA who stepped down so the premier could run in a by elelction to a trade position in Texas, both arguably not a good use of money, while things like funding for hospitals and schools are so very constrained these days.

In Alberta these days, forget about going into medicine to become a doctor or nurse. I suppose the most financially lucrative career choice right now seems to be a very loyal UCP supporter.

Funny how this blog was silent with the NDP doing the same thing during their disastrous reign from 2015-2019. But what else should we expect from a communist?

Michael Binion: What communists? Where are they? As for a disastrous reign, the PCs, from the mid 1980s, and onwards, followed by the UCP, have taken that title. How many millions and billions of dollars did they blow on fiascos that were unbeatable? Extremely large amounts. In the PC camp, everything from metal processing plants, to pulp mills, paper mills, a botched telecommunications project, a waste treatment plant facility, consolidation of paramedic services in Alberta, the mad cow relief fund, that was misappropriated, the deregulation of utilities, a shopping mall fiasco, which was swept under the rug, during the Christmas holidays, extravagant penthouse manors, a botch job on a bitumen processing facility, a conflict of interest based lawsuit against the tobacco corporations, mismanaged flood relief money, the ginormous cost of orphan well cleanup, and so many other things. The PCs also messed with the royalty rates for oil, changing them from the high 30% range in the 1970s, to very meagre rates, in the mid 1980s. In the UCP camp, they’ve lost billions of dollars on futile tax cuts for corporations, lost money on the Heritage Fund, lost billions of dollars in people’s pension money, threw billions of dollars away on a pipeline to nowhere, paid their friends big payouts for posts that have no value or meaning, stayed in lavish hotels, at a great cost, flew around to different locations, on the taxpayer’s dime, without any progress, the panels that had a rigged outcome, their war room, which never accomplished anything, letting the oil and gas industry get free money, in the form of grants, which just won’t accomplish anything, billions of dollars in relief money, which won’t help the people who truly need it, borrowing billions of dollars, and failing to seek the public’s input for that, among so many other things. If I were other Albertans, I would reevaluate the UCP’s performance, and do what should have been done to the PCs, far sooner than 2015, and get the UCP party out of power.

Michael Binion: The NDP had no disastrous reign. They suffered from low commodity prices, like oil, which spiraled downwards the year before they got into power. The NDP was also handed a very big mess by the previous PC party. Infrastructure, schools, health care, and other things weren’t properly looked after for decades. The NDP didn’t hire twenty something people, or more than that, at a great price, for positions of no merit. It is a staggering number of panels the UCP has come up with, and they don’t accomplish anything of merit or substance.

The NDP had a disastrous tenure. They only got in because they promised to make somebody else pay for the drop in oil prices. It was rich seeing the faces of the NDP supporters at MacEwan University when they brought out the AB royalty review: https://financialpost.com/news/oilpatch-gets-some-relief-from-albertas-royalty-review-panel

AB royalty structure was and is “competitive” with industry standards.

With no additional funds and no plan to get any additional funds the spent spent until the electorate took their cheque book away, pretty much describes it.

Seeing as they couldn’t run on their record, they resorted to smear campaigns for the last election. Abysmal.

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