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Alberta Politics

New Year’s Greetings from Premier Harry Strom

Premier Harry Strom delivered this New Year’s message to Albertans in the closing days of 1968.

Just slightly more than two weeks earlier, Strom had been chosen to replace long-time Premier Ernest Manning to lead Alberta’s Social Credit Party. The Socreds had governed Alberta since 1935 and Strom would lead the party to a major electoral defeat a few years later in 1971.

Strom served as the MLA for Cypress from 1955 to 1975 and as Minister of Agriculture from 1962 to 1968 and Leader of the Official
Opposition from 1971 to 1972.

(video from the Provincial Archives of Alberta)

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Alberta Politics

Have a happy, restful and safe holiday

Before I log off of this website for the next few weeks, I want to wish everyone a happy, restful and safe holiday. 2020 was tough for many of us, but there are signs of hope on the horizon in 2021.

Hang in there. We’ll get through this together.

Joyeux Noël.

Dave

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Alberta Politics

What lies ahead for Alberta’s political parties in 2021

With 2020 on its way out here is quick look at what might await Alberta’s political parties in 2021:

United Conservative Party: The UCP will continue pushing through a legislative agenda and ideological project that includes mass privatization of public services and public land, and big job losses for public sector workers.

Jason Kenney (source: Flickr)
Jason Kenney (source: Flickr)

The UCP’s inability to pivot off its agenda has been demonstrated clearly during the COVID-19 pandemic as Health Minister Tyler Shandro continued his fight against Alberta doctors, planned layoffs of thousands of nurses and health care workers, and schemed to privatize large swaths of the public health care system.

Kenney’s inconsistent approach to the pandemic has likely alienated him from both Albertans who would like to see more serious public health measures taken and those who think being required to wear a face-mask in public spaces is too far.

A federal election in 2021 might distract Albertans from the UCP’s mismanaging of the COVID-19 pandemic, so expect the UCP to ramp up attacks on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals. Increasing attacks of the federal government and next year’s promised referendum on equalization and Senate nominee election could also serve as a distraction from poor economic growth and the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline permit by incoming United States President Joe Biden.

Kenney’s approval ratings took a big hit in 2020 and the UCP has dropped considerably in the polls since 2019. If their leader looks like he has become a liability for re-election in 2023 then expect a change at the top. Conservative parties in Alberta are ruthless with leaders who stop looking like winners, just ask Don Getty, Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford.

The good news for Kenney is that he is only two years into his government’s four year term in office which leaves him with some time to turn around his political fortunes. But the clock is ticking and the tire-kickers could soon be kicking.

Alberta NDP: It is not often that political leaders in Canada are given a second chance, but despite losing the 2019 election Rachel Notley remains in firm control of her New Democratic Party.

Rachel Notley (source: Facebook)

Notley’s moderate NDP is leading or tied with the UCP is three of the four recent voter intention polls released during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and has maintained competitive fundraising levels, but the next election is still more than two years away.

The potential for strikes by public sector workers in 2021 could test the NDP’s political coalition. The NDP’s opponents will inevitably try to use any major labour disputes as a wedge between the party’s union activist wing and its more moderate and centrist supporters.

The key to an NDP victory in 2023 will be a breakthrough in Calgary, smaller urban centres like Lethbridge and Red Deer, and a small handful of suburban and rural ridings scattered across Alberta. The NDP swept those regions in 2015 and Notley has already signalled through her constant visits and social media posts that her focus in 2021 will be Calgary, Calgary, and more Calgary.

Alberta Party: Finding a new permanent leader should be the top focus of this tiny moderate conservative party. The Alberta Party has become home to a small group of disenchanted former Progressive Conservatives unhappy the combative tone and social conservative politics of the UCP. The party lost all its seats in 2019 but continues to poll around 10 per cent support in most surveys. In a two-party political environment, the Alberta Party needs to give Albertans a reason to vote for it that is beyond just not being the UCP or NDP.

Alberta Liberal Party: The Liberals not only need to find a new leader, they need to find a reason to exist. After forming Official Opposition for 19 years, the Liberal vote collapsed in 2012, saw almost all of its supporters migrate to Notley’s NDP in 2015 and lost its only seat in the Assembly in 2019. With the NDP now comfortably occupying the space held by the Liberals in the 1990s and 2000s, the Liberals need a raison d’être in Alberta.

Green Party: Yes, Alberta has a Green Party. The Greens have been issuing a steady stream of press statements that plant the party firmly to the left of the moderate NDP on climate change, the environment and pipelines. It seems unlikely that the party will make any electoral breakthroughs in the near future, but they could put pressure on the NDP to remember that it still has a progressive wing.

Wildrose Independence Party: Also looking for a new leader in 2021, the child of a merger between the Freedom Conservative Party and the Wexit group in 2020 is now led by former Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat
Drew Barnes

While separatist sentiment appears to be waining the further time passes from the last federal election, Hinman has clamped on to the anti-mask and anti-COVID restrictions groups as his focus, appearing at demonstrations in the two cities.

A number of UCP MLAs have expressed similar views, leading some political watchers to believe that one UCP MLA in particular – Drew Barnes – could be auditioning for Hinman’s job if his public comments become too much for the UCP.

The other fringe separatist parties: The Alberta Advantage Party and Independence Party of Alberta are also looking for new leaders. Advantage Party leader Marilyn Burns, a former Wildrose supporter, resigned in the fall amid a leadership challenge and has announced plans to run for the position again. Former Wildrose constituency president Lenard Biscope is now interim leader.

Communist Party of Alberta: Carry on, Comrades.

Thoughts? What do you think awaits Alberta’s political parties in 2021?

Categories
Alberta Politics

Did the UCP back down from its plans to delist Alberta provincial parks?

The devil will be in the details but it appears as though the Alberta government may have backed down from its plans to delist or close 175 of Alberta’s provincial parks.

Jason Nixon
Jason Nixon

Albertans from all corners of the province have rightfully feared that delisting parks and re-classifying them as crown land would remove environmental protections from the land and almost certainly lead to it being sold away to the highest bidder.

I will approach this announcement with caution and skepticism and will wait for more information, but it is very clear that growing public pressure forced the United Conservative Party to make this announcement.

Alberta conservation and environmental groups mounted an aggressive public advocacy campaign called Defend Alberta Parks in support of provincial parks after Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon unilaterally announced the changes without any public consultation earlier this year.

The campaign was arrogantly dismissed by Premier Jason Kenney who casually accused it of being run by “foreign special interest groups” and “green left organizations.” But if you take a drive through almost any neighbourhood in Alberta you are bound to spot green and white Defend Alberta Parks lawn signs.

We discussed this issue and the impact of the campaign with Annalise Klingbeil on episode 55 and episode 63 of the Daveberta Podcast.

Here is the press release from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association in response to the announcement:

“The good news Albertans needed”: Provincial government announces 175 Alberta parks sites will no longer be delisted or closed

December 22, 2020

CPAWS Northern and Southern Alberta Chapters are happy to see the Government of Alberta’s announcement that all parks included in the February “Optimizing Alberta Parks” plan, which stated that 175 parks sites would be delisted or closed, will now retain their current designations and associated protections.

“This is the good news Albertans needed as we say goodbye to 2020,” says Katie Morrison, Conservation Director with CPAWS Southern Alberta. “After months and months of fighting to keep these parks from losing their protection, we can celebrate the recent announcement from the Government of Alberta.”

The announcement states that “All sites will maintain their parks designations, regardless of whether they have confirmed an operational partnership. All sites will remain protected in law, and are accessible to Albertans for recreation and enjoyment.”

While the release states that there are now 170 parks partnerships, this list includes all the previous Facility Operating Agreements and partnerships, and thus it is unclear exactly how many new partnerships have been found.

“We look forward to transparent operating agreements between all partners and Alberta Environment and Parks to ensure that high standards of conservation and responsible recreation are upheld within all of these sites,” adds Chris Smith, Parks Coordinator with CPAWS Northern Alberta.

While the plan announced in February will not go forward, there is still risk that these areas could lose protection as legislative changes to Alberta’s parks system are expected under the province’s new Crown Land Vision. Our teams will be working to ensure that all of these areas and the entire provincial parks system maintain equivalent or stronger protections under any proposed changes to park legislation.

We encourage all Albertans who believe in the importance of a strong parks and protected area system to take this opportunity to share their opinion through the Government of Alberta’s public engagement on the Crown Land Vision. We encourage everyone to keep their Defend Alberta Parks lawn signs up and keep the pressure on to ensure that any changes only strengthen and improve the protection of Alberta’s parks.

But today, the more than 21,000 Albertans who wrote a letter to their MLA in opposition to the plan to delist and close parks have a reason to celebrate and should be proud that they stood up for their parks.

CPAWS Northern and Southern Alberta Chapters, along with the Alberta Environment Network, thank the Alberta government for listening to Albertans and providing some much-needed clarity on provincial parks planning that has been called for over the last year. Our teams look forward to hearing further details on parks partnerships and the protections planned for these sites under the Crown Land Vision.

Categories
Alberta Politics

City Council candidates lining up ahead of campaign period start on Jan. 1, 2021

We are days away from January 1, 2021, which marks the start of the official municipal election campaign and nomination period and the lifting of early fundraising limits for candidates.

I spoke with CTV Edmonton about the bizarre development in Edmonton’s mayoral election between former City Councillor Michael Oshry and current Councillor Mike Nickel. Nickel tweeted a screenshot of a private message sent to him by Oshry saying he was “likely in” as a candidate for the mayoral race and asking Nickel if he would support him. Nickel’s tweet was sent to generate attention to his own campaign for mayor, but also serves as a warning to anyone planning to send him an email or private message – it might not stay private for long.

Diana Steele has announced her plans to run for mayor. Steele is the President of the Crestwood Community League and Coordinator, Volunteer Services and Communications for the Pilgrims Hospice Society.

There have also been a number of candidates who have announced their plans to run for Edmonton City Council in the newly redrawn and renamed Wards:

Edmonton City Council’s new Ward boundaries with new Indigenous names.

Dene: Youth, Child and Refugee Advocate Gerard Mutabazi Amani is running in this north east Edmonton ward.

Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi: Haruun J. Ali and Rhiannon Hoyle have launched their campaigns in this south Edmonton ward.

Ali is a political science student at the University of Victoria who, according to his website, volunteered on Edmonton-South NDP MLA Thomas Dang‘s re-election campaign in 2019.

Hoyle is the past president of the Alberta Party and the former president of the Heritage Point Community League, which includes the Rutherford and MacEwan neighbourhoods.

Glynnis Lieb announced her plans to run in this ward last month.

Metis: Steven Townsend and James Kosowan have announced their plans to run in this east Edmonton ward.

Townsend is the President of the Parkdale-Cromdale Community League and owner of The Briefing Room. He was the provincial Liberal Party candidate in Lesser Slave Lake in the 2012 election and in Edmonton-Whitemud in the 2015 election.

Kosowan is a high school Social Studies teacher and placed third in Ward 8 in the 2017 municipal election.

pihêsiwin: First-term councillor Tim Cartmell announced his plans to run for re-election in this newly redrawn ward. Cartmell made the announcement on his constituent email list.

sipiwiyiniwak: Giselle General announced on Facebook that she plans to run in this new south west ward. General is the Volunteer and Communications Coordinator with the Edmonton Community Legal Centre and the author of the FlipinaYEG blog.

Sspomitapi: Rashpal Sehmby is planning to run in this south east Edmonton ward. Sehmby is a postal worker and currently the Health & Safety officer for C.U.P.W. Edmonton Local 730.

I am once again tracking candidates who have announced their plans to run for Mayor, City Council and School Board in Edmonton. If I am missing anyone on the list, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com or post a comment and let me know. Thanks!

Categories
Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 65: The Best of Alberta Politics 2020

With the help of two special guests, Jessica Littlewood and Matt Solberg, we are thrilled to announce and discuss the results of the 2020 Best of Alberta Politics survey.

Dave Cournoyer, Jessica Littlewood and Matt Solberg on the Daveberta Podcast.
Dave Cournoyer, Jessica Littlewood and Matt Solberg on the Daveberta Podcast.

Jessica Littlewood was the Alberta NDP MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville from 2015 to 2019 and during that time served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade for Small Business. Matt Solberg is a Director at New West Public Affairs and previously served as director of Communications for the United Conservative Party

With more than 2,300 votes in total, the winners of the Best of Alberta Politics 2020 survey are:

Best Alberta MLA: Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highands-Norwood

Best Alberta Cabinet Minister: None of the Above

Best Opposition MLA: Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona

Up and Coming MLA to Watch in 2021: Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud

Biggest Political Play of 2020: UCP’s fight with Alberta’s Doctors

Albertan most likely to be a future Premier: Don Iveson and Naheed Nenshi (two frontrunner)

Thank you to everyone who voted!

The Daveberta Podcast is hosted by Dave Cournoyer and produced by Adam Rozenhart.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported. The Alberta Podcast Network includes dozens of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Vote for the Best of Alberta Politics in 2020 – The Top 3

With more than 750 submissions made to the Best of Alberta Politics 2020 survey, your choices have been sorted and you can now vote in each category. Voting is open until Dec. 20, 2020 at 10:00 am and the winners will be announced on the special year-end episode of the Daveberta Podcast on the same day.

Here are the top choices in every category:

1. Who was the best Alberta MLA of 2020? – VOTE

  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • David Shepherd, MLA for Edmonton-City Centre

2. Who was the best Alberta cabinet minister of 2020? – VOTE

  • Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
  • Nate Glubish, Minster of Service Alberta
  • Ric McIver, Minister of Transportation
  • None of the Above

A None of the Above option is added to this question because a near majority of submissions fell into that category.

3. Who was the best opposition MLA of 2020? – VOTE

  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • David Shepherd, MLA for Edmonton-City Centre

An honourable mention to Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes, who received a number of votes in this category despite being a member of the governing United Conservative Party caucus.

4. Who is the up and coming MLA to watch in 2021? – VOTE

  • Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud
  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Thomas Dang, MLA for Edmonton-South

5. What was the biggest political play of 2020 in Alberta? – VOTE

  • UCP privatizing provincial parks
  • The Strategists winning biggest political play of 2020
  • UCP fight with Alberta doctors during COVID-19 pandemic

We have added a bonus category where we ask you to name an Alberta who you believe is most likely to be a future Premier of Alberta. VOTE

What was the biggest political issue of 2020 in Alberta?

This category is usually a dog’s breakfast, but this year your choice was clear. COVID-19 was the clear choice of the overwhelming majority of people who submitted in this category. The global COVID-19 pandemic is not something that is unique to Alberta, but there is no doubt that it has defined 2020 in our province.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Former PC activist Troy Wason takes over as Alberta Party new executive director

The Alberta Party hasn’t been making many headlines lately, but there will soon be a significant staff change in the ranks of the small moderate conservative party. The party announced today that former Progressive Conservative executive director Troy Wason is taking over as interim executive director of the Alberta Party, replacing outgoing interim executive director Mark Taylor.

Troy Wason
Troy Wason

A well-respected long-time PC Party activist, Wason took over as executive director of the PC Party following the long-time governing party’s defeat in the 2015 election and resigned on the day Jason Kenney became that party’s leader in 2017.

Wason’s joining the Alberta Party could provide some internal direction for the party, which lost all of 3 of its seats in the 2019 election. The party continues to struggle to define itself and remains without a bigger key player – a permanent leader.

The Alberta Party has been without a permanent leader since the resignation of former leader Stephen Mandel in June 2019. The role remained vacant until earlier this year when former Fort Sasktachewan-Vegreville PC MLA Jacquie Fenske was named as interim leader, solidifying the party’s image as a refuge for former PC supporters uncomfortable with the social conservative flavour of the United Conservative Party and unable to support the moderate New Democratic Party.

The party was expected to have held a leadership race in 2020 but, like most other things, it was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Vote in the Best of Alberta Politics 2020 Survey

It is that time of year again and the Daveberta Podcast is launching the fourth annual Best of Alberta Politics 2020 survey.

It has been a tough year for many of us and we struggled with whether to even hold these awards this year. But we thought that in these dark times it is perhaps even more important to focus on the positive. So we are continuing the annual tradition of hearing from you about the big political players and issues of 2020. Submit your choices in six categories.

Submissions will close on Dec. 15, 2020 at 6:00 pm and the top three choices in each category will be included in a round of voting starting on Dec. 16, 2020. Voting for the top 3 be open until Dec. 20, 2020 at 10:00 am and the winners will be announced on the special year-end edition of the Daveberta Podcast the same day.

Vote in six categories:

  1. Who was the best Alberta MLA of 2020?
  2. Who was the best Alberta cabinet minister of 2020?
  3. Who was the best opposition MLA of 2020?
  4. Who is the up and coming MLA to watch in 2021?
  5. What was the biggest political issue of 2020 in Alberta?
  6. What was the biggest political play of 2020 in Alberta?

Vote early, vote often.

Good luck.


Who won last time?

Take a trip down memory lane and check out the list of winners from the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Best of Alberta Politics Surveys.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney introduces Alberta’s not-a-lockdown lockdown

Amid a month-long spike in new COVID-19 cases, the Alberta government introduced increased measures and restrictions on businesses that include closing casinos, bar and in-person dining in restaurants, and a province-wide mandatory face-mask requirement. The measures are necessary but come after weeks of feet-dragging by provincial leaders.

Weaker measures introduced two weeks ago proved ineffective but you will not hear Premier Jason Kenney admit it, and you will not hear him call the new measures a lockdown.

Rachel Notley (source: Facebook)

Despite loud warnings from physicians, public health professionals and health care unions over the past month that the government was not taking serious enough action to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19, Kenney’s government attacked and mocked those calling for some of the same measures he introduced today.

At times it has seemed as as though Kenney was more concerned with not doing anything that might alienate elements of his political base than he was in taking measures to actually stop or slow the spread of the virus. This concern about his voter base appears to also include an avoidance of the word “lockdown,” despite it being an appropriate description of what the government has implemented.

The government’s new measures still fall short of the “circuit-breaker” lockdown proposed by health care professionals and the more comprehensive plan proposed by New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley.

As of today, there are 20,388 active cases province-wide and have been 640 deaths caused by COVID-19.

Still no federal app

The measures announced by Kenney still did not include the activation of the federal CovidAlert app in Alberta. The federal app has become one of the latest targets of partisan attacks against Ottawa, with cabinet minister Jason Nixon referring to it as the “Trudeau Tracing App.”

Despite the adoption of the ABTraceTogether App early in the pandemic, it has proven ineffective and is reported to have only been effectively used 19 times since it was launched in the spring.

Unlike Alberta’s app, the federal app allows contact tracers to track the spread of COVID-19 across provincial boundaries.

Schweitzer shows a little humanity, some leadership potential

Doug Schweitzer Calgary Alberta Conservative
Doug Schweitzer

Along with Kenney and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the press conference announcing the increased measures featured Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer.

Engaging in a bit of mischief-making, Lethbridge-West NDP MLA Shannon Phillips mused about Schweitzer’s performance and potential leadership ambitions. While Phillips’ commentary was certainly designed to create mischief, she may have a point.

Compared to Kenney, who remains robotic, unemotional and prone to partisan outbursts, and Shandro, who appears to perpetually carry a giant chip on his shoulder, Schweitzer sounded like a real human being. While he does have a serious ‘dude bro’ vibe and his comments today were weighed down by business jargon, he was a much clearer and sympathetic communicator than his two colleagues.

Shannon Phillips NDP MLA Lethbridge West
Shannon Phillips

Kenney has displayed almost complete command and control over the United Conservative Party and Caucus since taking over as leader in 2017, but he has clearly failed to demonstrate leadership during the biggest crisis in a generation. Recent polls show Kenney’s leadership approval ratings have continued to plummet, the NDP are leading in province-wide support, and only 25 per cent of Albertans approve of how the UCP government has responded the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenney may be in complete control of his party today, but history shows that Conservative parties in Alberta can be ruthless towards leaders who become liabilities at the ballot box. Just ask Don Getty, Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford.

Categories
Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 64: Pandemic, Partisanship, and Post-Secondary Education in Alberta

Melanee Thomas University of Calgary
Melanee Thomas

Melanee Thomas joined Dave Cournoyer for a deep dive into Alberta’s politics during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the relationship between the provincial and federal governments, and how Albertans’ political self-identification could be influencing Premier Jason Kenney’s decision to avoid serious public health measures including a province-wide mandatory mask mandate. Thomas also shared what it has been like to teach at a university during the global pandemic.

Thomas is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary.

The Daveberta Podcast is hosted by Dave Cournoyer and produced by Adam Rozenhart.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported. The Alberta Podcast Network includes dozens of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Find us on TwitterInstagram, Facebook, or you can email us at podcast@daveberta.ca. Thanks for listening.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Alberta politics this week… where do I even start?

It’s 9:30 p.m. I’m sitting down in my living room with the intention of writing a piece about what happened in Alberta politics this week. But where the heck do I even start?

I could write about Premier Jason Kenney‘s growing focus on not alienating anti-vaxxers following his recent announcement about the potential distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations in 2021. Or I could write about how Health Minister Tyler Shandro amplified Kenney’s comments that basically amount to protecting anti-vaxxers from a vaccine that could stop a pandemic that has almost ground many part of our society and economy to a halt this year.

I could also write about Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s announcement today that there were more than 1,800 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 new deaths in Alberta. Overworked doctors and nurses also remain concerned that understaffed hospitals could be overwhelmed by the growing number of new COVID-19 cases in Alberta. And Alberta remains the only province without a province-wide mandatory mask mandate.

I would like to write about the steady stream of information leaks coming from the Alberta government to the media and the NDP opposition, which has led to stories about public health advice presented to cabinet, modelling projections and the government’s plans to set up Red Cross and federal government field hospitals in Alberta.

I could write about how in a radio interview this week, Kenney singled out the South Asian community in northeast Calgary as spreaders of COVID-19. I could also write about City Councillor George Chahal‘s response, tweeting that Kenney “should focus on those knowingly putting our frontline workers and their families at risk by violating public health orders, not the people working the jobs we need to keep our city going during a global pandemic.”

I might also write about the handful of recent public opinion polls that suggest the Kenney government is continuing to flounder. Kenney’s approval rating has dropped to 40 per cent, according to a recent Angus Reid survey, and the United Conservative Party fell behind the New Democratic Party in a voter intention poll conducted by Environics and commissioned by CUPE Alberta.

But I also might pen a piece about how politicians from other provinces are starting to refer to Alberta to downplay the spread of COVID in their own provinces.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, the wife of Kenney’s former colleague the late Jim Flaherty, singled out Alberta during Question Period at Queen’s Park earlier this week.

“You want to speak about who is in crisis? Have you taken a look at Alberta, where they’re doubling up patients in intensive care units? We’re not doing that in Ontario,” Elliott said.

And our neighbours to the north are even asking questions about us. Northwest Territories MLA Kevin O’Reilly is asking whether the territory will stop sending patients to Alberta.

I might delve into why the Alberta government has left at least $300 million on the table that could be used to pay top-up wages to health-care workers, correctional officers, first responders and other essential workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alberta Senator Paula Simons asked about that in Ottawa this week.

Or I could write about how the Alberta government’s own data seems to contradict Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon‘s claims about provincial parks being shuttered and privatized because of low usage.

I could try to figure out what in the world Red Deer-South UCP MLA Jason Stephan means when he raised red flags about “socialist decarbonization” during a private members statement in the Legislative Assembly this week. But that might take a series of think-pieces to even attempt to explain.

Now I’m getting tired, so I’ll leave you with these thoughts and a tweet from William Shatner, aka Captain James T. Kirk, about the Alberta government’s stubborn refusal to adopt the federal CovidAlert Tracing app.

Good night.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Three Conservative MPs acclaimed and past leadership candidate Rick Peterson running in Edmonton-Strathcona

With a minority parliament in Ottawa and the possibility a federal election could be called at anytime, the Conservative Party of Canada has begun nominating candidates for the next federal election in Alberta.

The party announced on Twitter that it has nominated three incumbent MPs in Alberta:

  • Martin Shields in Bow River. Sheilds was first elected in 2015 and previously served as mayor of the City of Brooks.
  • Tom Kmiec in Calgary-Shepard. Kmiec was first elected in 2015 and has served as Chair of the National Conservative Caucus since September 2020.
  • Ron Liepert in Calgary-Signal Hill. Liepert was first elected to the House of Commons in 2015 after defeating six-term MP Rob Anders in the Conservative Party nomination contest. Liepert was the Progressive Conservative MLA for Calgary-West from 2004 to 2012 and served in cabinet as the minister of finance, health, education and energy.
Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona
Heather McPherson

Former leadership candidate Rick Peterson is running for the Conservative Party nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona. New Democrat MP Heather McPherson was elected in 2019 and is the only non-Conservative MP in the province. The riding was previously represented by NDP MP Linda Duncan, who was first elected in 2008.

Raised in Grande Prairie, Peterson studied at the University of Alberta in the 1970s and spent much of his career as a financial advisor and investor in British Columbia.

As a long-time member of the Progressive Conservative Party in British Columbia and member of the PC Canada Fund, Peterson considered a run for the PC Party leadership race in 2002. While he eventually declined to run, he did go so far as to speak alongside other party leadership hopefuls, including Peter MacKay, Scott Brison and Jim Prentice, at a party fundraiser in Toronto in 2002. He instead served as co-chair of Andre Bachand‘s leadership campaign.

Peterson was briefly touted by party insiders in media reporters as a potential replacement for Stephen Harper after the federal Conservative Party’s disappointing results in the 2004 election campaign. He filed nomination papers to run for the federal Conservative nomination in Vancouver-Quadra in 2006 but withdrew in 2007, citing interference from the Prime Minister’s Office in the nomination process.

Peterson later ran for the BC Liberal Party nomination in Vancouver-Fairvew in 2008 and was later considered a potential candidate for Mayor of Vancouver in 2011 but withdrew from the Non-Partisan Association nomination contest before the election.

He then defected to the BC Conservative Party in 2012 and briefly launched a campaign to win his new party’s nomination in Vancouver-Quilchena before withdrawing from that race and announcing his plans to seek the party leadership instead. He was defeated by Dan Brooks in a divisive two-way race in 2014.

He then ran for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada in 2017, placing 12th in a crowded race of 14 candidates.

Peterson moved to Spruce Grove, Alberta after the leadership race in order to run for the Conservative Party nomination in Sturgeon River-Parkland following Rona Ambrose‘s retirement. His nomination bid was unsuccessful but he stayed in Alberta and founded the conservative advocacy group Suits and Boots.

He ran for the federal Conservative Party leadership again in 2019 but he withdrew his candidacy and endorsed Peter MacKay. And in 2020, he announced his plans to run for the Conservative Party nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona.

The date of the nomination contest in Edmonton-Strathcona has not yet been announced.


I am now tracking candidates running for federal party nominations in Alberta ahead of the next election. If you know any candidates that are not on the list, please leave a comment or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Doing the Minimum: Kenney’s Covid Plan

Premier Jason Kenney emerged from ten days in seclusion to announce new measures in response to the record-breaking daily increases in COVID-19 cases in Alberta.

Far below the “circuit-breaker lockdown” that had been called for by public health experts, the new plan announced by Kenney is mostly previously made suggestions that are now loosely enforced rules with a lot of exceptions. And they are just as confusing at the previous restrictions.

Middle schools and high schools will move to online instruction, but restaurants, bars and casinos will remain open. There was no mention of allowing the federal CovidAlert tracing app to be activated in Alberta, even as our province’s contact tracing capacity has collapsed. And because the contract tracing has largely stopped, it is unclear what data Kenney’s government used when creating these new targeted measures.

The new rules are mostly directed at Calgary and Edmonton, with no face-mask requirements or permanent expanded business restrictions in rural areas. Alberta is now the only province without a province-wide mandatory mask mandate.

The exemptions for rural Alberta communities, as well as exemptions for indoor social gatherings in churches, suggest the the United Conservative Party government is prioritizing appeasing it’s main political constituencies – rural Albertans, libertarians, social conservatives, and industry lobby groups like Restaurants Canada and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business – over taking the advice of public health experts.

Kenney frequently frames the government’s options as either “total lockdown” or “the minimum” measures, but as we know from other provinces and countries there are many actions that can be taken that the Alberta government is unwilling to do.

In a harshly worded column in the Globe & Mail, Andre Picard described Kenney’s announcement as “inaction posing as action, a quasi-libertarian Premier bending over backward to do nothing while pretending to do something.”

The half-measures announced today are undoubtably the result of political bargaining within a cabinet and caucus that appear unprepared or unwilling to take drastic action to protect Albertans by stopping the spread of the virus. It is hard to imagine any past Alberta government, whether it be Progressive Conservative or New Democrat, making these types of concessions during a public health crisis.

During the press conference, Kenney repeatedly spoke about the need to protect the economy and “the poor,” but the economy is people and any economic recovery won’t happen until the virus is contained. Government has the ability and responsibility to provide financial supports for all Albertans who are impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

True to form, Kenney also took a moment to chastise public sector workers who collect a “public paycheque.” It is notable that none of the measures announced by Kenney were specifically aimed at relieving the pressure on understaffed hospitals and care centres where over-worked frontline nurses, doctors and health workers risk their lives to face the pandemic everyday. In fact, the fiscal update released earlier in the day by Finance Minister Travis Toews actually described public sector workers as a drain on the economy.

The Kenney government had eight months to plan and prepare for a second wave that was widely predicted but it appears that in their eagerness over the summer to shift the political narrative back to pipelines and the economy, Kenney has been caught flat footed.

The UCP government had eight months where it could have supported health care workers and educators, built up contact tracing capacity, and put in place plans for the second wave. But instead the UCP cabinet pulled an all-nighter and threw together a patch-work plan in eight hours.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Mayor Don Iveson not running for re-election in 2021

Don Iveson will not run for re-election as Edmonton’s Mayor in next year’s election.

Iveson made the big announcement in a statement on his website this morning and is expected to discuss his decision as the first guest on the inaugural episode of Real Talk, a new show launched by Ryan Jespersen, who was until recently hosting a popular morning show on 630CHED.

Don Iveson in 2007 (photo: Dave Cournoyer)
Don Iveson in 2007 (photo: Dave Cournoyer)

While Iveson will remain mayor until next October’s election and has pledged his full commitment to leading the city through the COVID-19 pandemic and economic issues the city is grappling with, this announcement signals the end of a remarkable career in municipal politics in Edmonton.

As a relatively unknown first-time candidate in 2007, Iveson ran an energetic, youthful and intelligent campaign focused on “smart growth” and “politics in full sentences” that not only got him elected to Edmonton City Council but knocked-off high-profile incumbent Mike Nickel in the process. Iveson was easily re-elected to council in 2010.

In 2013, as three-term Mayor Stephen Mandel made his first exit from elected politics, Iveson trounced two well-known councillors, Karen Liebovici and Kerry Diotte, to win the Mayoral election by a big margin. He was re-elected by a landslide in 2017.

Don Iveson
Don Iveson in 2020

Today’s announcement opens the gates to candidates who were waiting for Iveson to announce his plans before entering the race. Already rumoured to be planning their mayoral campaigns are current councillors Andrew Knack and Mike Nickel and former councillor Kim Krushell. Former economic development executive Cheryll Watson has already announced her candidacy.

There will be plenty of time over the next year to discuss Iveson’s time as Mayor and the legacy he will leave, but it is clear that his last two years as Mayor – leading the city through the global pandemic – have likely been the most challenging and will help define Alberta’s capital city for years to come.

Leaving the Mayor’s office at the young age of 42-years old next year will put Iveson in a position where he could potentially do anything he wants as his next endeavour. Perhaps he will write a book about being a big city mayor? Or host a Netflix documentary series – may I suggest “Smart Growth with Don Iveson” or “Little City, Big Dreams” as a few names. Or he could shift-careers and make a cameo appearance as Leonard McCoy on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds?

Or maybe, after a healthy break, he will return to politics.

Premier Don Iveson sounds good to me.


Listen to my recent interview with Don Iveson on the Daveberta Podcast where we discussed being a big city mayor during the COVID-19 global pandemic, municipal relations with the provincial government, Edmonton’s rapid plan to end homelessness, and the excellence of Star Trek: Lower Decks.


Thinking of running?

Interested in running in the 2021 Edmonton Elections as a candidate? Edmonton Elections is hosting a virtual information session that will cover important information about the election processes for candidates, including how to register, upcoming deadlines and changes to rules and regulations. Tune in at 12:00 pm on November 24, 2020 to watch.