Author Archives: Dave Cournoyer

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

Thin Air of the Knowable by Wendy Donawa tops Audreys Books list of best sellers

Here is the list of the top 10 fiction and non-fiction titles sold in Edmonton for the week ended April 16, 2017, compiled on April 18, 2017, by Audreys Books and provided by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta.

Edmonton Fiction Bestsellers

  1. Thin Air of the Knowable – Wendy Donawa
  2. Maunder – Claire Kelly *
  3. This Accident of Being Lost – Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
  4. Medicine Walk – Richard Wagamese
  5. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane – Lisa See
  6. Believing is Not the Same as Being Saved (Poetry) – Lisa Martin * †
  7. Fifteen Dogs – André Alexis
  8. Fall of Man in Wilmslow – David Lagercrantz
  9. A Wake for the Dreamland – Laurel Deedrick-Mayne * †
  10. The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware

Edmonton Non-Fiction Bestsellers

  1. The Bosun Chair  (Memoir/Poetry) –  Jennifer Bowering Delisle * †
  2. On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century – Timothy Snyder
  3. Medicine Unbundled: A Journey through the Minefields of Indigenous Health Care – Gary Geddes
  4. Edmonton Cooks: Signature Recipes from the City’s Best Chefs – Leanne Brown, Tina Faiz *
  5. Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One – Rob Soria *
  6. Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit issues in Canada –  Chelsea Vowel
  7. Notley Nation: How Alberta’s Political Upheaval Swept the Country – Don Braid and Sydney Sharpe
  8. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race – Margot Lee Shetterly
  9. Elon Musk: Tesla, Spacex, And the Quest for a Fantastic Future – Ashlee Vance
  10. Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss – Anderson Cooper, Gloria Vanderbilt

*   Alberta Author
†  Alberta Publisher

This Accident of Being Lost and two others by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson on Audreys bestseller list of last week

Here is the list of the top 10 fiction and non-fiction titles sold in Edmonton for the week ended April 9, 2017, compiled on April 11, 2017, by Audreys Books and provided by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta.

EDMONTON FICTION BESTSELLERS

1. This Accident of Being Lost – Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
2. Encountering Riel – David D. Orr*†
3. Punk – Lex J Grootelaar*†
4. Islands of Decolonial Love – Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
5. Something Unremembered – Della Dennis*†
6. Believing is Not the Same As Being Saved (Poetry) – Lisa Martin*†
7. Homes – Winnie Canuel*†
8. Orphan’s Tale – Pam Jenoff
9. Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman
10. Milk & Honey – Rupi Kaur

EDMONTON NON-FICTION BESTSELLERS

1. Half-Breed – Maria Campbell
2. Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence, and a New Emergence – Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
3. This I Know: Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence – Terry O’Reilly
4. My Decade at Old Sun, My Lifetime of Hell – Arthur Bear Chief†
5. Edmonton House Journals 1821-1826 – Ted Binnema & Gerhard J. Ens (editors)*†
6. My Love Affair with Bruges – Margaret Olsen*†
7. The Prosperity Factor: How to Achieve Unlimited Wealth in Every Area of Your Life – Joe Vitale*
8. Tar Wars: Oil, Environment and Alberta’s Image – Geo Takach*†
9. When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
10. Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, and What Can Be Done About It – Mark Seidenberg

*Alberta Author
†Alberta Publisher

Alberta’s Conservatives are obsessed with Gay-Straight Alliances

Following Progressive Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney’s comments to the Calgary Postmedia editorial board fifteen days ago when he came out in favour of allowing schools to inform parents when students join a student-initiated Gay-Straight Alliance club, Alberta’s conservative politicians have tied themselves in knots over the issue.

Gay-Straight Alliances are student-initiated clubs meant empower students to create safe environments in their own schools, which studies have found may reduce the odds of suicidal thoughts and attempts among both sexual minority and straight students. As I wrote last week, having schools track their involvement in these clubs and informing their parents is not just creepy but could be dangerous.

It appeared as if Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean was setting himself apart from Kenney on April 3 by coming out against outing students to their parents, saying that “it’s much like a math club or a prayer club, and I don’t think that would be appropriate (for parents to be told when a child joins).” On April 4, he changed his tune, stating that parents should only sometimes be notified. But by April 5, he switched back to his original position that he did not believe parents should be notified if their child joins a GSA.

On April 6, Jean appeared to be contradicted by Mark Smith, the Wildrose MLA for Drayton Valley-Devon, who criticized a letter sent to school officials by Education Minister David Eggen reaffirming the NDP government’s belief that parents should not be informed if students join GSAs.

The NDP have visibly enjoyed the attention that Kenney and Jean’s comments have generated, on a provincial and even international level. These types of social issues generally play to the strength of the NDP, which is why Kenney desperately tried to pivot his message back to the provincial economy before disappearing from public sight last week.

The NDP are trying to frame Kenney as a social conservative – which he is – going back to his days as an anti-abortion activist while enrolled as a student at a Roman Catholic university in San Francisco.

A large portion of the membership base of the Wildrose Party is also social conservative, which both Kenney and Jean are courting for support in their bids to lead a new conservative party.

This week, the president of the Wildrose Party association in Medicine Hat evoked the legacy of residential schools and forced sterilization in a Facebook post supporting Kenney’s position. “How did the native schools turn out? Yup, that was the government telling us they knew best. How about sterilizing handicapped people? Yup, another brilliant government idea,” wrote Maureen Prince on Facebook post published on April 4, 2017. She also claimed in a Facebook post published on March 16, 2017 that the United Nations wants to “redistribute children to be raised by governments.”

Prince appears to be an active member of a conservative education group called Concerned Parents of Medicine Hat School District #76, which is a vocal critic of the NDP and its stance on GSAs.

The Concerned Parents group provided “Include Parents” buttons to several Wildrose MLAs who wore them in the Legislative Assembly this week. The group appears to be associated or allied with a province-wide conservative education advocacy group called “Parents For Choice in Education.

Parents for Choice took issue with Jean’s first and third positions against potentially outing students to their parents, saying that he and Education Minister David Eggen had the “gall to falsely and audaciously accuse parents of being the greater danger to these vulnerable youth.”

With conservative politicians stuck on the GSA issue, Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government has been playing to their strengths, spending the past few weeks announcing lower school fees, school nutrition programs, locations for $25-per day childcare programs, and the construction of new schools, hospitals and affordable housing projects.

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 remarkably well for the NDP.

Meanwhile, despite previous claims by Brian Jean that he has “no interest” in social issues and Jason Kenney’s pledge to create a free-market conservative party, it appears that the only issue galvanizing conservatives over the past two weeks is whether or not to allow the state-sanctioned outing of gay kids.

Edmond Croteau

Edmond Croteau and the Battle of Vimy Ridge

This week we mark 100 years since the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Canadian soldiers played a defining role the famous First World War battle, which took place from April 9 to 12, 1917, by taking the ridge at great cost from the German Imperial Army. More than 3,500 Canadians were killed at the battle, which has become part of our country’s patriotic narrative as a defining moment in our nation’s history.

My great grand uncle, Private Edmond Croteau (photo above), fought in and died from wounds received in the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Born in Saint-Sylvestre in October 1880, he left Quebec as a young man and traveled west to the Yukon during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush. When the gold rush died out, he moved south, settling in Maillardville, which is part of present-day Coquitlam. He enlisted in the Canadian Army in New Westminster in June 1915. He initially served with the 104th Regiment Westminster Fusiliers of Canada and later with the 47th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, who he served with at Vimy Ridge.

Private Edmond Croteau was seriously wounded on April 11, 1917, during the successful attempt by Canadian forces to take Hill 120 (also known as The Pimple), a fortified point at the northernmost point of Vimy Ridge. He died on April 14, 1917 at the No. 6 Casualty Clearing Station. He was 36 years old.

He was buried at the Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France.

Edmond Croteau's headstone at the Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France.

Edmond Croteau’s headstone at the Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France.

‘My Decade at Old Sun, My Lifetime of Hell’ by Arthur Bear Chief tops Audreys Books 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 2, 2017, compiled on April 4, 2017, by Audreys Books and provided by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta.

EDMONTON  FICTION BESTSELLERS

1. Believing is not the same as Being Saved (Poetry) – Lisa Martin*†
2. The It Girl and Me: a Novel of Clara Bow – Laini Giles*
3. Fifteen Dogs – Andrè Alexis
4. Ragged Company – Richard Wagamese
5. Something Unremembered – Della Dennis *†
6. Encountering Riel – David D. Orr*†
7. The Break – Katherena Vermette
8. Milk & Honey – Rupi Kaur
9. Punk – Lex J. Grootelaar*
10. Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

EDMONTON NON-FICTION BESTSELLERS

1. My Decade at Old Sun, My Lifetime of Hell – Arthur Bear Chief†
2. The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World – Peter Wohlleben, Tim Flannery
3. The Right to Be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet – Sheila Watt-Cloutier
4. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood – Trevor Noah
5. When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
6. The Bosun Chair (Memoir/Poetry) – Jennifer Bowering Delisle*†
7. Edmonton Cooks: Signature Recipes from the City’s Best Chefs – Leanne Brown, Tina Fiaz *
8. Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life – Jessica Nutik Zitter
9. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race – Margot Lee Shetterly
10. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, And the Quest for a Fantastic Future – Ashlee Vance

*Alberta Author
†Alberta Publisher

Does anyone want to lead Alberta’s Liberal Party?

The deadline is fast approaching. On March 31 at 5:00 p.m. we will know for sure who, if anyone, wants to lead Alberta’s Liberal Party. The race to choose a replacement for the party’s last permanent leader – Raj Sherman, who resigned in January 2015 – has been less than exciting.

Nolan Crouse

Nolan Crouse

Until he dropped out of the race yesterday, the candidacy of three-term St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse had given the leadership contest some much needed media attention. It also gave the party some hope for its political future. Crouse is a well-known name in the Edmonton-region, which is also where Rachel Notley’s NDP has its strongest support.

David Swann was the only Liberal to be re-elected in 2015, and that was largely due to his own personal popularity in Calgary-Mountain View. He was the party’s leader from 2008 to 2011 and interim leader since 2015.

Crouse’s departure only days before the deadline left the party in a lurch. Party executives scrambled to ensure that they would have at least one candidate, or maybe even two, submit their papers before 5:00 p.m. on March 31. It would be incredibly embarrassing if no one signed up to run.

In the wake of Crouse leaving the race, rumours circulated that former Tory MLA Thomas Lukaszuk could become a candidate, but those rumours appear to have dried up.

Kerry Cundal Liberal Calgary

Kerry Cundal

CBC reports that two last-minute candidates are planning to throw their names in the race: Kerry Cundal and David Khan.

Cundal ran as a federal Liberal candidate in the 2015 election, placing second to Conservative Ron Liepert in Calgary-Signal Hill. She was involved with the Progressive Conservative Party in support of Sandra Jansen’s brief leadership campaign and the “Renew” faction of the party that opposed Jason Kenney’s campaign.

Khan is a Calgary-based lawyer who ran as a provincial Liberal candidate in Calgary-West in 2014 and in Calgary-Buffalo in 2015. He was the executive vice-president of the party until recently (his name has been removed from the party website). He has also become a frequent political commentator on CBC’s national politics program, Power & Politics.

Jacob Huffman Alberta Liberal Leadership

Jacob Huffman

Neither Cundal or Khan have formally announced their plans to run.

A third potential candidate, University of Calgary student Jacob Huffman, launched a Facebook page announcing his candidacy shortly after Crouse dropped out. The way this race has progressed it might be hard to tell whether or not his candidacy is serious, but at the rate it is going Huffman might be acclaimed (he’s already planning his victory party).

Who will actually run for the leadership of the Alberta Liberal Party? Wait to find out at 5:00 p.m. on March 31, 2017.

Photo above: Liberal Party executive director Gwyneth Midgley and David Khan at the reception following the 2017 Speech from the Throne.

Jason Kenney’s appeal to social conservatives targets Gay-Straight Alliances

Perhaps not completely understanding how much acrimony the Gay-Straight Alliance issue caused his party back in 2014, recently selected Progressive Conservative leader Jason Kenney brought the issue back to the forefront this week.

According to reports from Postmedia, when asked about Gay-Straight Alliances, Kenney told the editorial board of the Calgary Herald and Sun that he would allow schools to inform parents if their students join a Gay-Straight Alliance.

Gay-Straight Alliances are student-initiated clubs meant empower students to create safe environments in their own schools. A study from the University of British Columbia found that Canadian schools with GSAs may reduce the odds of suicidal thoughts and attempts among both sexual minority and straight students – which is why having schools track their involvement in these clubs and informing their parents is not just creepy but could be dangerous.

As Postmedia columnist Paula Simons wrote today, ”…why should publicly-funded schools treat GSAs differently than they’d treat any other student-led club? Why, that is, unless deep deep down, we still do believe that it is, in fact, a shameful, dangerous thing to be gay — or to associate with gay friends.”

Now that Kenney has secured the leadership of the PC Party, he is now effectively running for the leadership of the Wildrose Party – which he wants to merge his party into.

Kenney is known for his social conservative views and he shied away from publicly commenting on social issues during the PC leadership race. But now that he is running against Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean for the leadership of a new conservative party, we are beginning to see his open appeal to the party’s social conservative base.

While Kenney’s comments are directed toward social conservative voters he will need to win the leadership of a new conservative party, they are reckless. Allowing schools to “out” students to their parents would undermine the ability of Alberta students to create clubs that are proven to help make school environments more safe and welcoming for some of their classmates.

Crouse drops out of Liberal leadership race, Lukaszuk in?

Thomas Lukaszuk

Thomas Lukaszuk

The only candidate running for the leadership of the Alberta Liberal Party has dropped out two days before the nomination deadline.

St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse announced on his website that he was withdrawing from the race for personal reasons. Crouse’s candidacy would have been a big catch for the Liberal Party, which currently only has one MLA in the Alberta Legislature.

Rumours are swirling that Crouse’s departure could make way for former Tory MLA Thomas Lukaszuk to potentially enter the Liberal Party leadership race before the March 31 deadline. The former deputy premier and 2014 PC leadership candidate publicly trashed his PC Party membership card after Kenney won the party leadership on March 18.

The race is being held to choose a replacement for past leader Raj Sherman, another former Tory MLA who crossed the floor to the Liberals in 2011. He resigned as leader in January 2015.

Assdeep in Wonder – a book of poetry – tops Audreys Edmonton Bestseller list this week

Here is the list of the top 10 fiction and non-fiction titles sold in Edmonton for the week ended March 26, 2017, compiled on March 28, 2017, by Audreys Books and provided by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta.

EDMONTON FICTION BESTSELLERS

  1. Assdeep in Wonder (Poetry) – Christopher Gudgeon
  2. Fifteen Dogs – André Alexis
  3. Encountering Riel – David D. Orr*†
  4. Break – Katherena Vermette
  5. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
  6. The Summer Before the War – Helen Simonson
  7. A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans – Bruce W. Cameron
  8. 4 3 2 1 – Paul Auster
  9. Medicine Walk – Richard Wagamese
  10. Something Unremembered – Della Dennis*†

EDMONTON NON-FICTION BESTSELLERS

  1. The Event Planner – Celebrating Canada’s 150th – Cathy Harvey*
  2. Trees in Canada – John Laird Farrar
  3. The Burgess Shale: The Canadian Writing Landscape of the 1960s – Margaret Atwood†
  4. Earls: The Cookbook – Jim Sutherland
  5. Lion – Saroo Brierley
  6. The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate:  Discoveries from a Secret World – Peter Wohlleben, Tim Flannery
  7. Medicine Unbundled: A Journey Through the Minefields of Indigenous Health Care – Gary Geddes
  8. Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations – Richard Wagamese
  9. The Making of Donald Trump – David Cay Johnston
  10. Calling Our Families Home: Metis Peoples Experience with Child Welfare – Jeannine Carrière, Catherine Richardson

*Alberta Author

†Alberta Publisher

Linda Johnson Dave Quest Don Scott

Former Tory MLAs jumping into municipal politics

As the October 16, 2017 municipal elections approach, we are starting to see a number of candidates from the 2015 provincial and federal elections putting their names forward to run for municipal office. At least three former Progressive Conservative MLAs who were defeated in the 2015 election have put their names forward to run:

A few other recent provincial and federal candidates are running as well:

  • Jim Black is running for city council in Medicine Hat. He was an Alberta Party candidate in the 2015 provincial election.
  • Rod Frank is running for mayor of Strathcona County. He earned 20 percent of the vote as the 2015 federal Liberal candidate in the Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan riding.
Thousands of Albertans packed the Legislature Grounds to watch Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP cabinet be sworn-in.

My submission to the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission

Earlier this year I submitted a series of recommendations to Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission, the appointed body tasked with redrawing Alberta’s provincial electoral districts for the next election. I initially meant to share this after I submitted it, but for no particular reason I never got around to posting them. The commission will scheduled to submit its interim report to the Legislative Assembly on May 31, 2017 and, after another round of public hearings, it will submit its final report on October 31, 2017.

Here are the recommendations I submitted to the commission in February 2017:

Population in each district

The previous Commission did a good job keeping the population of most electoral districts within ten percent of the provincial average population per electoral district. But some districts have become outliers as populations grow or decline, which creates a system of unequal representation in the Legislative Assembly.

According to Statistics Canada 2016 Census data made available on Feb. 8, 2017, there has been tremendous growth in Alberta’s urban areas, including the Edmonton region, Calgary region and the Red Deer corridor which spans the length between the province’s two largest cities. Communities like Airdrie and Cochrane have seen significant growth of more than 40 percent since the last census. Because of this, it would be appropriate to redistribute new districts into these regions of the province.

The census data also shows a decline in population in areas west of the Red Deer corridor and in east central Alberta. It would be appropriate to redistribute the boundaries of these districts to reflect this population decline.

I recommend that the commission attempt to keep districts within ten percent, but ideally within five percent, above or below the provincial average population per electoral district.

Special districts

I would prefer that no district fall below twenty-five percent of the average, as increased funding should be allocated to MLAs in geographically larger rural ridings for additional offices, staff and travel costs. But political necessity will likely lead to the existence of one or two of these special exceptions.

I recommend that if special districts are required, that be created only in extreme circumstances and be kept to a minimum number.

Naming districts

In the past there has been little or no guidelines for the Commission to name electoral districts. Some districts are named after geographical locations and some after prominent figures from Alberta’s political history.

I recommend that the Commission or the Legislative Assembly create a protocol for naming of electoral divisions for the guidance of future commissions and legislatures.

Noncontiguous districts

The Wetaskiwin-Camrose electoral district.

The Wetaskiwin-Camrose electoral district.

There is currently one district that is noncontiguous, meaning that a portion of the district is completely surrounded by another district. A portion of the Samson Indian Reserve #13 located in the Wetaskiwin-Camrose district is currently completely surrounded by the Drayton Valley-Devon and Lacombe-Ponoka districts.

I recommend that all districts be contiguous.

On this topic, it appears that the communities of Maskwacis are divided between two districts – Drayton Valley-Devon and Wetaskiwin-Camrose. This appears to be an anomaly as all other First Nations communities in Alberta which are adjacent to each other are kept in the same district. If the commission is seeking draw district boundaries around communities of interest, it would make sense for Maskwacis to be included in the one district.

Rural/urban perspectives

As the provincial population increases in urban communities and decreases in many rural communities, it seems inevitable that outlying districts may be fewer and larger in the future. As stated by the previous commission which existed in 2009/2010, this raises a question about how large a division can be before it involves so many non-common interests that it is impractical for the disparate issues of the electors to be represented, and for the MLA to represent them.

As was recommended by the previous commission, I agree that the Legislative Assembly needs to seriously consider how the urban/rural perspectives will be addressed in the future.

 

 

Alberta author and publisher top list of Edmonton’s bestselling books

An Alberta author and publisher top this week’s list of bestselling books. Ranking first in the fiction category is Nuala: A Fable, written by award winning Red Deer poet and author Kimmy Beach and published by University of Alberta Press. In the non-fiction category,  Margaret Atwood’s The Burgess Shale: The Canadian Writing Landscape of the 1960s is also published by University of Alberta Press as part of the Canadian Literature Centre’s Kreisel Lecture Series.

Here is the list of the top 10 fiction and non-fiction titles sold in Edmonton for the week ended March 19, 2017, compiled on March 22, 2017, by Audreys Books and provided by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta.

Edmonton Fiction Bestsellers

  1. Nuala: A Fable – Kimmy Beach  *  †
  2. The Lonely Hearts Hotel – Heather O’Neill
  3. Fifteen Dogs – André Alexis
  4. If I Were in a Cage I’d Reach Out for You – Adele Barclay
  5. The Break – Katherena Vermette
  6. Encountering Riel – David D. Orr *  †
  7. Company Town – Madeline Ashby
  8. Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman
  9. Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
  10. Swimming Lessons – Claire Fuller

Edmonton Non-Fiction Bestsellers

  1. The Burgess Shale: The Canadian Writing Landscape of the 1960s – Margaret Atwood  †
  2. Medicine Unbundled: A Journey Through the Minefields of Indigenous Health Care – Gary Geddes
  3. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race – Margot Lee Shetterly
  4. The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love and Loss  –  Anderson Cooper, Gloria Vanderbilt
  5. I’ll Be Damned: How My Young and Restless Life Led Me to America’s #1 Daytime Drama – Eric Braeden
  6. The Right to Be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet – Sheila Watt-Cloutier
  7. Feast: Recipes and Stories from a Canadian Road Trip – Lindsay Anderson, Dana VanVeller
  8. This I Know: Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence – Terry O’Reilly
  9. The Happiness Equation – Neil Pasricha
  10. Lion – Saroo Brierley

*   Alberta Author
†  Alberta Publisher

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt joined Jason Kenney on the eve of his victory in the PC Party leadership race. (Photo credit: @pcyouthalberta on Twitter)

Kenney shifts into Phase Two of Uniting the Right

Shifting into the second phase of his campaign to unite Alberta’s two largest right-wing political parties, newly elected Progressive Conservative leader Jason Kenney met with Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean this week. According to an email from Kenney’s campaign, the two men, who are both expected to run for the leadership of a new conservative party, shared a carton of Tim Horton’s coffee in the official opposition offices located in the Federal Building.

Brian Jean Wildrose Leader

Brian Jean

Kenney emerged from the meeting alone, holding a press conference by himself without Jean outside the building to announce the creation of conservative discussion groups. Jean probably made a good decision not to participate in a joint press conference at this point, as he would have certainly been made to look like he was playing second fiddle to his main leadership rival.

Jean told CBC that he wants a new party to hold a leadership race before October 15, 2017. This is slightly ahead of the timeline proposed by Kenney, which would have the leadership vote held later in 2017 or in early 2018.

An October 2017 vote would coincide with the creation of new electoral boundaries for the next provincial election, when parties are expected to begin nominating candidates in earnest. The final report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission is due to be presented to the Legislative Assembly on October 31, 2017.

Jean also reiterated his position that a new party should exist within the current legal framework of the Wildrose Party, which puts him at odds with Kenney’s previously stated plans to either merge the two or create an entirely new party.

Wason Resigns

Troy Wason

Troy Wason

PC Party executive director and long-time party activist Troy Wason resigned his position over the weekend. “It’s very difficult to put a round peg into a square hole,” Wason was quoted as saying about Kenney’s PC-Wildrose merger plans in response to the Feminism is Cancer email sent out the Wildrose campus club at the University of Calgary last week. His departure was not a complete surprise but a signal that the Kenney’s victory has some moderate Tories looking for an exit.

It is also notable that former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel’s name disappeared from the PC Party website this week. Mandel, who briefly served as the PC MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud and health minister from 2014 to 2015, was the party’s northern Alberta finance committee chairman. As I wrote earlier this week, Mandel is rumoured to be backing an upcoming “unite the centre” meeting to discuss the potential creation of an alternative to the PC-Wildrose coalition.

Merger aims to keep Tory cash
A group of PC and Wildrose associated lawyers calling themselves the Alberta Conservative Consolidation Committee believe that Elections Alberta’s statement that political parties cannot legally merge is wrong. The group is chaired by former Canadian Taxpayers’ Association president Andy Crooks and includes past Wildrose candidate Richard Jones and PC constituency president Tyler Shandro and two other lawyers.

The desire to merge the two parties rather than create a new party is likely partly driven by the estimated $1.5 million believed to be sitting in dozens of PC Party constituency bank accounts and candidate trusts. If a party dissolves, the funds are held in trust by Elections Alberta and later transferred into the Alberta government’s general revenue.

Former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who is spending much his political retirement on Twitter, posted a photo online showing the PC constituency association in Edmonton-Castle Downs, which he represented in the Assembly from 2001 until 2015, had liquidated its financial assets by donating the funds to local charities.

I do not expect a new conservative party would have trouble raising money before the next election but new donation limits have lowered the maximum annual contribution from $15,000 to $4,000. The NDP also banned corporate and union donations, which the PC Party relied heavily on before the last election. The Wildrose Party, like the NDP, have cultivated a large individual donor base, but losing that $1.5 million would be a hit.

Gotfried and the Red Menace

Richard Gotfried Calgary Fish Creek PC MLA

Richard Gotfried

Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried, the lone rookie PC MLA elected in 2015, evoked his father’s flight from Bolshevik Russia and Maoist China during a speech criticizing the NDP government in the Assembly this week. It takes a special amount of partisan and ideological gymnastics to draw connections between brutal and tyrannical dictatorships and a freely elected democratic government in Alberta, but Gotfried did it.

This is not the first time an opposition MLA has drawn these kinds of connections. Last summer, Drumheller-Stettler Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman apologized, twice, for an open-letter signed by nine Wildrose MLAs that compared the NDP government’s carbon tax to the Holodomor, the genocide that killed an estimated 2.5–7.5 million Ukrainians in the Soviet Union in the 1930s.

What does Jason Kenney’s PC Party stand for?

Kenney has played it pretty smooth since entering provincial politics last summer, largely avoiding getting directly caught in any of the controversy generated by his campaign. But that will not stop his political opponents from reminding Albertans of his more controversial, and in some cases totally bizarre, political statements.

Press Progress unleashed a long list of “abnormal” comments that the 48-year old Kenney has made over the course of his 30ish-year political career. They include comments from his time as an anti-abortion activist at the Catholic University of San Francisco to more recent claims that schools brainwash children with anti-conservative beliefs“bohemian” youths are “unconsciously” promoting communism and marxist professors are working to “suppress” Canada’s “Christian patrimony.”

There is no doubt Kenney has his share of political baggage, but his opponents, including the governing New Democrats, would be foolish to underestimate him. Despite his apparent belief in some weird conspiracy theories, Kenney is an extremely capable campaigner.

Main photo: Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt joined Jason Kenney on the eve of his victory in the PC Party leadership race. (Photo credit: @pcyouthalberta on Twitter)

What Edmonton City Hall is expected to look like on Feb. 22, 2016.

210 days until Election Day in Edmonton

Alison Poste Edmonton City Council Ward 4

Alison Poste

With Edmonton’s 2017 municipal elections now 210 days away, we are starting to see more candidates file their intentions to run for city council. I have updated the list of declared candidates, which now includes Alison Poste in Ward 4, Svetlana Pavlenko and Michael Oshry (presumably) in Ward 5, Payman Parseyan and Sandy Pon in Ward 9 and Brandy Burdeniuk in Ward 11.

Oshry, the current councillor for Ward 5, announced earlier this month that he would like to see stricter rules around who can run in Edmonton’s municipal elections.

CBC reported that for the next election in 2021, Oshry would like to see candidates putting their names forward be required to collect 100 signatures and provide a $1,000 deposit. This would be an increase from the current requirement of 25 signatures and $100 deposit.

Michael Oshry Edmonton

Michael Oshry

I am supportive of a change that would require potential candidates to collect 100 signatures, which I think is fair and probably good practice, but I am reluctant to support such a drastic increase to the financial deposit. For many first-time candidates, especially those without support from private sector developers, $1,000 is no small amount of money in a campaign budget.

We should not seek to limit the number of individuals seeking election by creating unnecessary financial hurdles but we can gauge their seriousness and commitment by increasing in the number of signatures required on their nomination forms.

Tracking Calgary election candidates

I have been asked by a number of readers whether I will also be tracking candidates running in Calgary’s municipal elections. The answer is no, but thankfully, Sarah Elder-Chamanara has launched a new website tracking candidates in Calgary. I will definitely write about any interesting races that develop in other municipalities during the campaign but my focus on municipal politics remains in Edmonton.

Jason Kenney’s hostile takeover of Alberta’s PC Party is complete

Former federal politician Jason Kenney won the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta today, as was widely expected. Kenney received the support of 75 percent of the delegates attending the party’s voting meeting today at the Hyatt in downtown Calgary.

Richard Starke

Richard Starke

His only opponents, Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke and Calgary lawyer Byron Nelson, earned 21 percent and two percent support from the voting delegates.

Kenney’s leadership bid was more of a hostile takeover than a traditional leadership campaign. The central point of his platform was his plan to dissolve the 8-MLA PC Party and form a new party with the official opposition Wildrose Party. Kenney has said he plans to meet with Wildrose leader Brian Jean on Monday to further discuss his plans.

Over the course of the campaign, Kenney and his legions of social conservative supporters, many who also happen to be card-carrying members of the Wildrose Party, worked tirelessly to marginalize progressive voices in the party. Two leadership candidates, Sandra Jansen and Stephen Khan, said they and their supporters faced threats and bullying by Kenney’s supporters before they dropped out of the race. Jansen later crossed the floor to join the New Democratic Party and Khan endorsed Starke.

Kenney’s reputation for being a focused campaigner helped him win an overwhelming number of delegates at the local constituency votes. The lethargic and uninspiring campaigns mounted by his opponents were left in the dust.

Sandra Jansen

Sandra Jansen

But even with such a commanding lead, Kenney’s campaign couldn’t stop itself from getting into trouble. His campaign was fined $5,000 for breaking party rules and the party executive was faced with complaints from former MLAs and calls for Kenney to be disqualified from the race. One of his key organizers, Alan Hallman, was expelled from the party and was reportedly charged with assault last night at the convention hotel.

Despite all the big talk by party stalwarts about the strength of the progressive-wing of the party, the political moderates just did not show up to vote in this race. The progressives who showed up in droves to vote for Ed Stelmach in 2006 and Alison Redford in 2011 stayed home this time. Or maybe they, like Sandra Jansen, like what they see from Rachel Notley’s NDP government?

Alberta Party leader Greg Clark said this week that Kenney-ally Preston Manning is eyeing his party’s name, even going so far as to offer Clark a cabinet spot in a future government. It was only one year ago that the Kenney-front group Alberta Can’t Wait attempted a takeover of the Alberta Party.

Brian Jean Wildrose Leader

Brian Jean

Clark claims that a number of former PC MLAs and activists, including former deputy premier and vocal Kenney critic Thomas Lukaszuk, are in discussions with his party. This may be related to an upcoming “unite the centre” event in Red Deer that former PC MLA and Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel is said to be behind. Another former PC MLA, Heather Klimchuk, said in an interview on The Broadcast podcast that she is watching St. Albert mayor Nolan Crouse‘s campaign to lead the Liberal Party.

What we discovered today is that less than two years after Alberta’s natural governing party lost its first election in 44 years, the PC Party is a shell of its former self and was ripe for a takeover by Wildrose Party supporters.

In his victory speech, Kenney confidently told delegates at the PC Party convention that he plans to repeal all the changes made by the NDP when he becomes Premier in 2019. That would mean the repeal of policies unpopular with conservatives, like the carbon tax, the Climate Leadership Plan and new farm safety laws, all introduced by the NDP.

Thomas Lukaszuk

Thomas Lukaszuk

If Kenney is true to his word this would also mean that corporate political donations would be reintroduced, small business taxes would be increased, the minimum wage would be lowered, school fees would be increased, the wealthiest Albertans would get tax cuts, and laws protecting sexual minorities from discrimination would be repealed.

When Kenney pledged today to repeal all of the changes made by the NDP, he was not talking to the now former progressive-wing of the PC Party. He was talking to the social conservative and rural base of the Wildrose Party.

Now that the takeover of the PC Party is complete, Kenney will set his sights on his main challenger for the leadership of a new conservative party, Wildrose leader Brian Jean.