Author Archives: Dave Cournoyer

Labour Minister Christina Gray. Photo from premierofalberta on Flickr.

NDP finally introduce their Labour Law modernization bill

Labour Minister Christina Gray introduced Bill 17, the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, into the Legislative Assembly today. This bill includes long-awaited reforms to modernize Alberta’s Labour Code and Employment Standards Code. Some parts of Alberta’s labour laws have remained untouched since the 1970s.

The 249-page bill includes a wide-range of amendments from improving maternity leave and compassionate care leave to extending parental leave from 37 weeks to 52 weeks to guaranteeing job protection for new unpaid leaves to simplifying union certification and decertification processes.

Well-respected labour lawyer Andrew Sims, who was hired by the government to work on the reforms, described the changes in Bill 17 as moderate and middle of the road. “This is not a cutting-edge, lead-the-country reform,” Sims told reporters. “It is in most respects a bring-the-best-experiences-from-elsewhere to Alberta.” This would appear to fit with the New Democratic Party‘s shift in adopting more centrist policies ahead of the next provincial election.

While the bill does not include changes some trade unions were advocating for, including banning “double breasting” and replacement workers during strikes, it does include some meaningful changes.

During her time as an opposition MLA, Premier Rachel Notley was a vocal advocate for first contract arbitration, which is included in the bill. First contract arbitration allows employers and unions to access dispute resolution methods under the Labour Relations Code that could avoid lengthy lock-outs or job action if negotiations for a first contract at newly unionized worksites are unsuccessful.

On the issue of card-check, which I briefly discussed yesterday, changes in Bill 17 require a secret ballot vote to take place at a job site where between 40 and 65 percent of workers have signed up to join a union. If more than 65 percent of workers have signed up, then a vote is not required.

You would think that a bill allowing workplace leave for parents looking after kids with long-term illness, leave for women suffering from domestic violence, and striking a provision that allowed persons with disabilities to be paid less than minimum wage would garner support from all sides of the Legislative Assembly. You would think.

But before debate on Bill 17 could even begin, Wildrose and Progressive Conservative MLAs, now essentially operating as the United Conservative Party caucus, voted against first reading of the bill. It is very unusual for MLAs to vote against a bill in first reading, as a vote in favour of first reading is needed to allow for debate on a bill to begin. In fact, a vote in favour of first reading is needed before MLAs and the public even get a chance to read the bill.

It is hard to describe their behaviour as anything but foolish partisanship. Wildrose and PC MLAs have made it clear they are unwilling to work with the NDP on many issues, but at a bare minimum they should be able to offer alternatives and meaningfully contribute to a debate.

But perhaps this is not surprising when you consider some of the last significant pieces of labour legislation passed by a Conservative government in Alberta. In 2015Jim Prentice‘s government repealed a law passed in 2013 that would have levelled fines of $500 and a prosecution within one year for any “person” who suggested that public sector employees strike or threaten to strike. The 2013 law was undemocratic and very likely unconstitutional.

At first glance, the NDP bill appears to bring some semblance of balance into labour law in Alberta while modernizing some workplace protections that are fairly standard in most other Canadian provinces.

The bulk of the changes included in the bill also reflect the NDP’s main narrative in 2017 of “making lives better for Albertans.” By voting against Bill 17 before it was even up for debate, Wildrose and PC MLAs continued to fulfill the NDP’s secondary narrative, “making life difficult for conservative MLAs.”

Oil Change at Rath’s Garage by Shari Narine tops Audreys List of Bestselling Books

Here is the list of the top 10 fiction and non-fiction titles sold in Edmonton for the week ended May 21, 2017, compiled by Audreys Books and provided by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta.

Edmonton Fiction Bestsellers

1. Oil Change at Rath’s Garage – Shari Narine *
2. Paper Teeth – Lauralyn Chow * +
3. Gatekeeper (Young Adult) – Natasha Deen *
4. Liberation Days (Drama) – David van Belle *
5. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
6. Art Lessons – Katherine Koller *
7. The Break – Katherena Vermette
8. The Pemmican Eaters – Marilyn Dumont *
9. Into the Water – Paula Hawkins
10. The Traitors of Camp 133 – Wayne Arthurson *

Edmonton Non-Fiction Bestsellers

1. A Knock on the Door: The Essential History of Residential Schools – Phil Fontaine, Aimée Craft, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
2. Matters of Life and Death: Public Health Issues in Canada – André Picard
3. Life on the Ground Floor – James Maskalyk
4. Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash – Timothy Caulfield *
5. The Canadaland Guide to Canada  – Jesse Brown, Vicky Mochama, Nick Zarzycki
6. All the Sweet Things: Baked Goods and Stories from the Kitchen of Sweetsugarbean – Renée Kohlman
7. Voice in the Wild: A memoir – Laurie Sarkadi
8. Just Jen: Thriving through Multiple Sclerosis – Jen Powley
9. Welcome to Radio! – Bob Layton *
10. Into the Fire: The Fight to Save Ft. McMurray – Jerron Hawley *, Graham Hurley *, Steve Sackett *

* Alberta Author

+ Alberta Publisher

A screenshot of a Keep Alberta Working campaign video.

No, reforming Alberta’s Labour Laws will not kill democracy.

It won’t come as a surprise to many political watchers in Alberta that the most vocal critics of the NDP government’s yet to be announced reforms to Alberta’s outdated labour laws have strong ties to the province’s Conservative establishment.

Keep Alberta Working” is a campaign of the “Alberta Growth Initiative,” which is a coalition of the  Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association, the Canadian Meat Council, Restaurants Canada and the Alberta Enterprise Group. Unsurprisingly, the campaign has ties to Conservative lobbyists connected with United Conservative Party leadership candidate Jason Kenney.

According to publicly available information on the province’s Lobbyist Registry, New West Public Affairs, a company run by former Conservative Member of Parliament Monte Solberg, is the registered lobbyist for the Alberta Growth Initiative group. Solberg served alongside Kenney as a Reform and Canadian Alliance MP, and later in Prime Minster Stephen Harper‘s cabinet.

The media contact person listed on the press release announcing the “Keep Alberta Working” campaign is New West employee Sonia Kont, who is also president of the Progressive Conservative youth-wing and an ardent Kenney supporter. Also thrown into the mix is prolific tweeter Blaise Boehmer, who worked for Solberg’s company as a senior associate until leaving in 2016 to become Communications Director on Kenney’s leadership campaign.

The Keep Alberta Working campaign has been harshly critical of the NDP government’s plans to reform Alberta’s labour laws, some of which have remained untouched since the 1970s. The group was fair to criticize the relatively short consultation period the NDP government allowed for when preparing the reforms, but its claims that the NDP could destroy democracy by introducing a card-check system for union organizing are totally preposterous.

We won’t know what is included in the reforms until Bill 17, the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, is introduced into the Legislative Assembly by Labour Minister Christina Gray tomorrow. Depending on how it could be structured, a card-check system could make it harder for anti-union employers to block their employees from joining a union.

Looking to the debate ahead, the card-check issue could cause more political trouble for the NDP than they expect. As the NDP know from past experience as a tiny scrappy opposition party, it is much easier for the opposition to cast a government as heavy-handed and undemocratic than it is for a government to explain detailed public policy in a 15 second soundbite.

But there is little evidence that any reforms to Alberta’s labour laws will lead employees of the companies represented by these groups to stampede into the closest union recruitment office.

It’s not really surprising that key Conservative politicos are at, or close to, the centre of a campaign to oppose reforms to Alberta’s outdated labour laws, but the connections to Kenney and his leadership bid are worth noting.

So, when you hear this group’s criticism of the NDP’s labour law reforms tomorrow, consider the source. Also remember that while the changes might be described as catastrophic or disastrous by corporate-funded lobby groups, the changes included in Bill 17 might not be dramatic enough for some traditional NDP supporters on the political left.

The U-C-P: Jean and Kenney launch the United Conservative Party

Today’s announcement from Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean and Progressive Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney that they plan to create a new conservative political party has been expected for weeks. The press conference was filled with fairly nauseating partisan rhetoric about how awful and catastrophic the NDP are, but most importantly, we found out what is included in the agreement that was negotiated by a committee of party insiders and signed by the two party leaders.

– It is not really a merger. Under the Jean-Kenney agreement released today, a new legal entity will be created under the Societies Act. It is not clear what will happen to the two currently existing parties and whether they will eventually be dissolved or will continue to exist in name only.

– The new party will be called the United Conservative Party, or U-C-P, for short (the acronym was widely mocked on social media today). This name might not have been the first choice of the two leaders. A failed plot was supposedly hatched by the Kenney-support group Alberta Can’t Wait, to take control of the Alberta Party board of directors at their 2016 annual general meeting. The Alberta Partiers thwarted the takeover and preserved their control over their party’s coveted name.

– The two parties will hold a vote of their memberships on July 22, asking whether the membership would like to create a new party. Approval would require the support of 50 percent plus one of the PC Party membership and 75 percent of the Wildrose Party membership. It is fairly well known that many of Kenney’s supporters in the PC Party leadership race also hold memberships in the Wildrose Party, so it is unclear whether those individuals will be able to cast their ballots twice.

– If members of the two parties vote in favour of creating a new party, the two leaders will step down from their current position and a newly merged caucus of Wildrose and PC MLAs will elect an interim leader. The UCP, Wildrose and PC parties will then be governed by the same leader and executive officers.

– A leadership vote would be held on October 28, 2017. Jean and Kenney have said they will run for the leadership. Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt is said to be preparing a leadership bid. Interim federal Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose, who announced her retirement from federal politics this week, was rumoured to be considering a run, has instead taken a position with the Washington DC-based Wilson Centre.

– There are still outstanding questions about what will happen to the finances of the two parties, in particular the PC Party’s outstanding debt from the 2015 election. According to financial documents published by Elections Alberta, as of December 31, 2016, the PC Party had drawn $754,475 from their $850,000 line of credit. The line of credit is guaranteed by a former director of the party.

The next five months could be fascinating to watch.

Berlin-Warszawa Express by Eamon McGrath 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 May 14, 2017, compiled by Audreys Books and provided by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta.

EDMONTON FICTION BESTSELLERS

1. Berlin-Warszawa Express – Eamon McGrath*
2. Fifteen Days – André Alexis
3. Only Leave a Trace: Meditations (Poetry) – Roger Epp*+
4. Encountering Riel – David D. Orr*+
5. The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware
6. Beartown – Fredrik Backman
7. Liberation Days (Drama) – David Van Belle*
8. The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah
9. Paper Teeth – Lauralyn Chow*+
10. Gatekeeper (Young Adult) – Natasha Deen*

EDMONTON NON-FICTION BESTSELLERS

1. Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Hardest Hitting Man in Show Business – Kenny Aronoff
2. Into the Fire The Fight to Save Ft. McMurray – Jerron Hawley,* Graham Hurley,* Steve Sackett*
3. Confederation Drive – Janice MacDonald*+
4. Inside the Inferno: A Firefighter’s Story of the Brotherhood that Saved Fort McMurray – Damian Asher,* Omar Mouallem*
5. Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations – Richard Wagamese
6. Welcome to Radio! My Life in Broadcasting, So Far – Bob Layton*
7. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari
8. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy – Sheryl Sandberg, Adam Grant
9. Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One – Rob Soria*
10. Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing, and Pregnancy after Loss – Alexis Marie Chute*

*Alberta Authors
+Alberta Publishers

Edmonton Election Update: School Board Trustees Now Included.

We are now five months away from the October 2017 municipal elections in Edmonton. Here are some of the latest updates to the list of candidates running in Edmonton’s municipal election, now including candidates running for trustee positions on the Edmonton Public School Board and Edmonton Catholic School District.

Edmonton Public School Board

  • Former CBC reporter Trisha Estabrooks announced tonight at The Bellevue that she will run for Edmonton Public School Board in Ward D. A long-time local CBC reporter, Estabrooks is now a freelance journalist and co-host of The Broadcast, a podcast about women and politics. She is being endorsed by Ray Martin, who has served as trustee for the area since 2013 and is not seeking re-election. Local advocate and Alberta Avenue resident Adam Millie is also running in Ward D.
  • The current chairperson of the Edmonton Public School Board, Michelle Draper, is running for re-election in Ward B.
  • Former chairman Michael Janz is seeking re-election in Ward F. Janz was first elected to the public school board in 2010 and has become well-known for his public advocacy on issues such as fair and equitable funding for public schools and improving financial literacy in schools.
  • Bridget Stirling is running for re-election in Ward G. Stirlng was first elected in a 2015 by-election to replace former trustee Sarah Hoffman, who had been elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Glenora and now serves as Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.
  • Local photography business owner Mary-ann Fleming is running for election in Ward I.

Edmonton Catholic School District

  • Outspoken trustee Patricia Grell is running for re-election in Ward 71.
  • The current chairperson of the Edmonton Catholic School District, Laura Thibert, is running for re-election in Ward 77.
  • Trustee Debbie Engel is running for re-election in Ward 74. Engel was first elected to the Catholic board in 1998.
  • Trustee Larry Kowalczyk is not seeking re-election in Ward 72.

Edmonton City Council

If you know any other candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for Mayor, Council, or School Board and are not on this list, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them. Thank you!

Pipelines, pipelines, pipelines – An Alberta view of the BC election

British Columbia voters reduced Christy Clark’s BC Liberals to minority status in the provincial election this week. The BC Liberals, who have formed government since 2001, elected candidates in 43 of the province’s 87 legislative constituencies (pending recounts). The official opposition New Democratic Party led by John Horgan boosted their numbers by electing 41 MLAs. And the Green Party, led by climate scientist Andrew Weaver, could hold the balance of power in the minority legislature after three Green MLAs were elected on Vancouver Island.

John Horgan

John Horgan

Results of the British Columbia provincial election by political watchers and pundits in Alberta are being viewed through the same lens they have viewed the entire BC election campaign: by wondering how it will impact future construction of oil pipelines from Alberta to the West Coast.

The NDP and Greens have stated their opposition to the pipeline expansion, and the Liberals gave their support to the federally approved Trans Canada Kinder-Morgan Pipeline expansion. But given the results of yesterday’s election, it is hard to say if there is any governing scenario in BC that is ideal for Alberta’s pipeline dreams.

But just because pipelines are top of mind for many Albertans, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing our priorities were the same priorities in the minds of BC voters who cast their ballots on Tuesday. Sure, pipelines, climate change, energy, and environmental issues were likely important issues for many BC voters, but so were health care, education, housing affordability, government corruption, political financing and many other issues.

While pipeline approvals fall under federal jurisdiction, opposition by a provincial government can create significant political problems for any project and a federal government that supports it. The unanswered question now on the minds of many Albertans is how the election results will impact the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline from Alberta to a shipping terminal in Burnaby.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

A minority government formed by Clark’s Liberals could continue to support for pipelines, but if they become dependent on the votes of the three Green MLAs to maintain their government, political necessity could change their enthusiasm for the project. An NDP government supported by the Greens could result in further opposition to pipeline expansion.

Opposition to the pipeline by the BC NDP led pro-pipeline Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley to announce in Dec. 2016 that NDP political staffers in Edmonton would be barred from working on BC NDP campaigns in this election. The divide between the two parties, and two provinces, on the pipeline issue is stark. Public support for pipelines among Albertans appears to be near unanimous, while opposition to pipelines in BC is a broad and mainstream opinion.

While the BC Liberals are considered to be a conservative party, a Clark government will not necessarily have the best interests of Albertans in mind. In reaction to American President Donald Trump imposing a tariff on Canadian softwood lumber exports, Clark threatened to impose a $70 per tonne levy on thermal coal exports through BC ports. Alberta’s coal exports could be collateral damage in this move, even though Notley has questioned whether Clark actually has the constitutional authority to impose the levy.

Andrew Weaver

Andrew Weaver

Clark has attacked the Alberta NDP in speeches before and during the campaign, and it would not be uncharacteristic of the BC Liberals to attack Alberta in order to further expose the rifts between the Notley government and Horgan NDP.

While Albertans focus on prospects for oil pipelines to the West Coast, it is important to remember that what Albertans perceive as their best interests are not necessarily the top priorities for voters and politicians in BC, and nor should they be.

Former Alberta MLA defeated on Vancouver Island

Former Alberta MLA Alana DeLong was unsuccessful in her bid for election as a Liberal candidate in the Nanaimo-North Cowachin constituency on Vancouver Island. DeLong, who represented Calgary-Bow as a Progressive Conservative in the Alberta Legislature from 2001 to 2015, was defeated by incumbent New Democrat Doug Routley 10,986 votes to 6,696 votes.

Alberta authors Linda Phillips, Denyse Hayward and Janice MacDonald top Audreys Books fiction and non-fiction bestsellers list

Here is the list of the top 10 fiction and non-fiction titles sold in Edmonton for the week ended May 5, 2017, compiled on May 8, 2017 by Audreys Books and provided by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta.

EDMONTON FICTION BESTSELLERS

CBC National News Anchor Peter Mansbridge reacts to the results of Alberta's 2015 provincial election.

Two years later – Notley’s NDP victory and a reminder why Elections matter

Two years ago today Albertans voted to sweep out the old Progressive Conservative government by electing Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party into government.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

It was a surreal election that topped off a tumultuous decade in Alberta politics. It used to be said that politics in our province was boring, and that may have been true at one point. But when PC Party members delivered a stunning blow to Ralph Klein in a March 2006 leadership review, politics never seemed to get dull again in Alberta. And while no one in 2006 could, or would, have predicted an NDP win in 2015, the years of PC Party infighting and corruption marked the steep decline of a once proud PC Party establishment.

The 2015 election shows more than anything else how much campaigns matter. Even though Albertans were visibly growing tired of the old establishment conservatives, the PCs were widely expected to win a 13th re-election victory. It was almost hard to imagine any other outcome.

The Wildrose Party, which was a grasp away from forming government in 2012, was decimated by floor crossings in 2014.

On May 5, 2015, the NDP did what only one week early felt unimaginable – they formed a majority government in Alberta. It was a strange and wild election campaign.

Sarah Hoffman NDP MLA Edmonton-Glenora

Sarah Hoffman

While it looked as if the NDP might form the official opposition in that election, over the course of the election Notley chipped away at Jim Prentice’s campaign, gaining momentum through a positive and hopeful campaign that contrasted to the uninspiring institutional campaign presented by the PCs.

From Notley’s masterful performance in the televised leader’s debate to a train-wreck press conference held by four prominent CEOs, there were many key moments and events that provided a clear indication that the campaign was going well for the NDP and very, very poorly for the PCs.

I had never voted for the NDP in a provincial election until 2015. I had been a supporter of the Liberal Party led by Kevin Taft in the 2000s and was part of the group that tried to build the Alberta Party before the 2012 election. During that time, I frequently scoffed at the NDP as being merely an Edmonton-based vote-splitter and an annoying minor competitor (albeit an incredibly effective annoying competitor).

But in Notley I saw a political leader who had sparked momentum and energy in Albertans. She was progressive, urban, smart and tough – a natural replacement for a tired conservative government that had spent decades squandering and mismanaging Alberta’s energy wealth.

Shannon Phillips

Shannon Phillips

As a government, the NDP faced a steep learning curve and have had their highs and lows.

Notley started off with an inexperienced small circle of cabinet minsters. She slowly expanded the cabinet with talent identified from the MLA backbenches of the new government caucus and since then many cabinet ministers have grown into their roles quite comfortably. Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips, Children’s Services Minister Danielle Larivee, Energy Minister Marg McCuaig Boyd, Service Alberta Minister Stephanie McLean, Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous, and Education Minister David Eggen, to name a few, have become some of the strongest and most passionate progressive voices of Alberta’s government.

But most of all, Notley has grown into her role as Premier. She was then during the election campaign and remains now the NDP’s strongest asset in Alberta.

While they have made some embarrassing political mistakes, enflaming conservative critics along the way (while also inheriting some of the old PC government’s bad habits), Notley’s NDP government has started to catch its stride.

Danielle Larivee

Danielle Larivee

As I wrote earlier this month, the NDP subtly shifted their messaging over the past few months, focusing on launching new programs and projects that they argue will “make lives better for Albertans,” rather than trying to out-flank the conservatives on economic issues. And it is working well for the NDP.

Notley’s NDP have reshaped Alberta’s political landscape and provided a much needed breath of fresh air into the once stale conservative halls of government. While I would not place a bet on the outcome of the next election, Conservative politicians who brag about dancing a cakewalk back into government in 2019 should be reminded that it might not be that easy.

The mould was broken in the 2015 election. No party should take the votes of Albertans for granted again.

Into the Fire by Jerron Hawley, Graham Hurley, and Steve Sackett tops Edmonton non-fiction bestseller list

Here is the list of the top 10 fiction and non-fiction titles sold in Edmonton for the week ended April 30, 2017, compiled by Audreys Books and provided by the Book Publishers Associations of Alberta.

EDMONTON FICTION BESTSELLERS

1. Wenjack – Joseph Boyden
2. A Wake for the Dreamland – Laurel Deedrick-Mayne *
3. Encountering Riel – David D. Orr*+
4. Mitzi Bytes – Kerry Clare
5. Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
6. Men Walking on Water – Emily Schultz
7. The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware
8. It Girl & Me: A Novel of Clara Bow – Liani Giles*
9. Something Remembered – Della Dennis*
10. Paper Teeth – Lauralyn Chow*+

EDMONTON NON-FICTION BESTSELLERS

1. Into the Fire: The Fight to Save Fort McMurray – Jerron Hawlwy*, Graham Hurley*, Steve Sackett*
2. Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One – Rob Soria*
3. Passage Across the Mersey – Robert Bhatia*
4. No Guff Vegetable Gardening – Donna Balzer*
5. Happiness Equation – Neil Pasricha
6. Beauty of Discomfort: How What We Avoid is What We Need – Amanda Lang
7. Inside the Inferno: A Firefighter’s Story of the Brotherhood that Saved Fort McMurray – Damian Asher*, Omar Mouallem*
8. Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well – Meik Wiking
9. Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story – Diane Akerman
10. Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations – Richard Wagamese

*Alberta Author
+Alberta Publisher

Jason Kenney emerges from hiding at Conservative fundraising dinner in Vancouver

As Premier Rachel Notley returns from leading a ten-day economic trade mission to China and Japan, political watchers have been wondering where the recently elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party has been? Jason Kenney appeared to go into hiding around a month ago after he sparked controversy with his comments about Gay-Straight Alliances and outing gay kids in Alberta schools during an interview with the Postmedia editorial board in Calgary.

Vancouver-based website TheBreaker reported this week that Kenney was recently spotted in British Columbia speaking at a $500-a-plate federal Conservative Party fundraising event at Hy’s Steakhouse in downtown Vancouver. Kenney tweeted that he was in Vancouver for a conference, but did not mention any other political activities the PC Party leader has been engaged in on the west coast.

The website author, journalist Bob Mackin, alleged that Kenney urged guests at the fundraising dinner to support the BC Liberal Party of Christy Clark in the province’s May 9 general election and that a new conservative  party could be formed in Alberta as soon as this weekend.

Readers will remember that a question first asked on this blog on December 5, 2016 about whether the Alberta New Democratic Party would lend a hand to their BC cousins led to a decree by Notley banning any west coast election-related travel by her government’s political staffers. The BC NDP under the leadership of John Horgan oppose the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline, a project that the Notley NDP are firmly in favour of.

According to the latest opinion poll, conducted on April 22, 2017, Horgan’s NDP leads Clark’s Liberals 44 percent to 34 percent, with an insurgent Green Party led by Andrew Weaver polling at 22 percent support.

Meanwhile, as the unite-the-right discussions continue, a new poll released by Mainstreet Research asking Albertans who they would prefer as leader of a merged Wildrose-PC party showed Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean leading Kenney with 29 percent to 24 percent support. Twenty-four percent of respondents chose “Someone Else” and 23 percent were unsure, suggesting that there could be appetite for a third or fourth candidate to enter the contest (some Conservative activists have suggested outgoing interim federal Conservative leader Rona Ambrose could fill this void).

Jean has been criss-crossing the province holding town hall meetings ostensibly to collect feedback on the party merger, but in reality he is campaigning for the leadership of the yet-to-be-named and yet-to-be-merged Wildrose-PC party.

I am told that one of the significant issues of debate between the leadership of the two conservative parties is the timeline for a leadership vote. Jean has firmly said the leader of a new party should be chosen before October 15, 2017 while Kenney has been saying since last year that he wants a founding convention to be held in late 2017 before a leadership vote takes place in early 2018.

Jean’s preferred timeline appears to be more sensible, as it would allow a leader to hold court over a founding convention that could be unruly and filled with bozo-erruptions if a leader is not in place to keep the rowdy membership base in line. Kenney’s preference would buy him more time to compete with Jean in a leadership vote, which he might need now that he has decided to lend himself out to conservative fundraising efforts in British Columbia.

Edmonton City Councillor Ed Gibbons in September 2013.

Ed Gibbons and Ray Martin not seeking re-election

Two long-time Edmonton politicians announced this week that their names will not be on any ballot when the municipal elections are held on October 16, 2017.

Ed Gibbons announced he will not be a candidate in this fall’s municipal elections. Gibbons has served on Edmonton City Council since 2001, first representing northeast Edmonton’s Ward 3 from 2001 to 2010 and for Ward 4 from 2010 until now. He served as the Liberal MLA for Edmonton-Manning from 1997 to 2001, during which he was the official opposition critic for Municipal Affairs. He was also President of Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues from 1995 to 1997.

Ray Martin NDP MLA School Trustee Edmonton Alberta

Ray Martin

Ray Martin announced that he will not seek re-election as the public school board trustee in Ward D. He was first elected to the board in 2013 and is currently serving as vice-chair.

Martin has been a fixture in Alberta politics for four decades, having stood as a candidate in nine provincial and four federal elections since 1975. He served as the MLA for Edmonton-Norwood from 1982 to 1993 and Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview from 2004 to 2008. He was leader of the Alberta New Democratic Party from 1984 until 1994 and leader of the official opposition from 1986 to 1993.

He was recently appointed as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

The Secret Path by Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire topped Edmonton best-sellers last week

Here is the list of the top 10 fiction and non-fiction titles sold in Edmonton for the week ended April 23, 2017, compiled on April 24, 2017, by Audreys Books and provided by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta.

Edmonton Fiction Bestsellers

1. Secret Path – Gord Downie, Jeff Lemire
2. Homes – Winnie Canuel *
3. Little Wildheart (Poetry) – Micheline Maylor * †
4. Believing Is Not the Same (Poetry) – Lisa Martin-Demoor *†
5. Rising Abruptly: Stories – Gisele Villeneuve *†
6. Wake for the Dreamland – Laurel Deedrick-Mayne *
7. Nuala: A Fable – Kimmy Beach *+
8. Listen If? (Poetry) – Douglas Barbour *†
9. Change Room – Karen Connelly
10. Fifteen Dogs – Andre Alexis

Edmonton Non-Fiction Bestsellers

1. When All You Have is Hope – Frank O’Dea
2. Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief – Alexis Marie Chute *
3. Unbroken Machine: Canada’s Democracy in Action – Dale Smith
4. Big Fit Girl – Louise Green
5. Celebrating Canada’s 150th Event Planner – Cathy Harvey *
6. Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story – Diane Akerman
7. Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One – Rob Soria *
8. Medicine Unbundled: A Journey Throught the Minefields of Indigenous Health Care – Gary Geddes
9. Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations – Richard Wagamese.
10. Passage Across the Mersey – Robert Bhatia *

*  Alberta Author
† Alberta Publisher

Edmonton municipal election candidates Aaron Paquette, Brandy Burdeniuk, Tim Cartmell and Keren Tang.

Edmonton City Council Elections Updates

There are 179 days left until Edmontonians cast their votes to choose their next city council. With the spring approaching and prime campaigning weather just around the corner, candidates are beginning to launch their campaigns.

Here are some of the most recent updates from my list of candidates running in Edmonton’s 2017 municipal elections:

Ward 1: First-term councillor Andrew Knack held a re-election fundraiser on March 26, 2017 at a at the Delux Burger Bar. Knack is expected to formally launch his campaign in the coming months.

Ward 4: Local artist and advocate Aaron Paquette is running in Ward 4. Paquette was the federal New Democratic Party candidate in Edmonton-Manning during the October 2015 election, where he placed third with 11,582 votes  (23.6 percent of the total votes cast). He is also known as the founder of the clever #Ottawapiskat meme that satirized criticisms of the Idle No More protests.

Ward 5: Sarah Hamilton is running in Ward 5. Hamilton is the owner of a local communications and public relations company. She previously served as the director of communications and media relations for the Coal Association of Canada from 2015 to 2017, and previous to that served as deputy press secretary for health minister Stephen Mandel from 2014 to 2015.

Ward 6: First-term councillor Scott McKeen will launch his bid for re-election on May 13, 2017 at the Westmount Community League. McKeen’s event will feature music from El Niven and The Alibi, singer-songwriter Lucette, and indie folk group Post Script.

Rental property manager and developer Tish Prouse is also running in Ward 6. He ran for city council in 2013 as a candidate in Ward 7 where he placed fourth with 1,053 votes (7.3 percent of the total votes cast).

Ward 7: Matt Kleywegt launched his campaign at the Bellevue Community Hall on March 31, 2017. According to his website, Kleywegt is a Graduation Coach with Edmonton Public Schools, where he assists Indigenous teens graduate High School. Here is the video of his campaign launch:

Ward 9: Physician Rob Agostinis will launch his campaign for election on April 21, 2017 at the Whitemud Creek Community Centre. Agostinis is a former president of the Terwillegar Riverbend Advisory Council and former president of the U of A medical alumni association. HE was briefly nominated a candidate for the Liberal Party in Edmonton-Whitemud before the 2001 election.

Also in Ward 9, engineer Tim Cartmell launched his campaign on April 9 and realtor Payman Parseyan launched his campaign on April 16.

Ward 10: First-term councillor Michael Walters will launch his re-election campaign on May 13, 2017 event at the Yellowbird Community Hall.

Ward 11Keren Tang and Brandy Burdeniuk have launched their bids for city council in this south east Edmonton ward. Tang is President of the board of the Edmonton Multicultural Coalition and is a health promotion researcher. Burdeniuk is a co-founder of a building certification and sustainability company.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for Mayor, Council, or School Board, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

First quarter political party fundraising puts NDP in the lead

Elections Alberta released the financial disclosures showing the results of political party fundraising in the first quarter of 2017.

Combined party and constituency fundraising results show the governing New Democratic Party in the lead in early 2017, having fundraised $373,060.23 between January 1 and March 31, 2017. The Wildrose Party raised $345,125.06 and the Progressive Conservatives raised $226,572.21 in the same period. The Liberal Party raised $47,959.83 and the Alberta Party raised only $14,070.49.

These totals are considerably less than what was raised by the governing and official opposition parties in the fourth quarter of 2016, when the NDP raised $1,985,272.00 and the Wildrose raised $2,063,737.63. Similar to previous years, political fundraising in the first quarter of the year is typically lower than the previous year’s final quarter.

Both the NDP and Wildrose Party fundraised less in this quarter than in the first quarter of 2016, when the NDP raised $398,843.71 and Wildrose raised $448,912.71. The PCs raised more than twice in this quarter than the $105,436.47 the party raised in the first quarter of 2016.

This is the first fundraising quarter to fall under new political finance laws introduced by Democratic Renewal Minister Christina Gray in 2016, which lowered the maximum annual donation limits from $15,000 to $4,000. This followed reforms introduced by the NDP in 2015 that banned corporate and union donations to political parties and candidates.

Here is a quick look at the top donors for each of the five main political parties in Alberta in the first quarter of 2017:

Alberta NDP
Jamie Kleinsteuber – $2,612.50
Amanda Nielsen – $2,287.50
David Mayhood – $2,015
Thomas Dang – $1,976
Brian Malkinson – $1,702.50
Roari Richardson – $1,570

Wildrose
Harvey Aarbo – $4,000
Gordon Elliott – $4,000
Gudrun Schulze Ebbinghoff – $4,000
Robert Such – $4,000
Larry Thompson – $4,000

Progressive Conservative
Maria Binnion – $4,000
John Neudorf – $4,000
Constance Nolin – $4,000
Dennis Nolin – $4,000
Prem Singhmar – $4,000

Liberal Party
Ebrahim Karbani – $4,000
Zulqurnain Abbas – $3,500
Tariq Hussain – $3,300
Israr Ullah – $3,300
Fazal Rehman – $3,000
Saifuddin Syed – $3,000

Alberta Party
James Tererenko – $820.94
Patrick Baillie – $500
Aaron Blair – $500
Greg Clark – $500
Brad Grundy – $500
Brian Mahoney – $500