Category Archives: Alberta Politics

Big Money in Edmonton Municipal Election

Don Iveson Karen Leibovici Kerry Diotte Edmonton Election 2013

Edmonton’s 2013 mayoral candidates Don Iveson, Karen Leibovici and Kerry Diotte.

$4.35, $19.75, and $5.45 are how much Don Iveson, Karen Leibovici and Kerry Diotte‘s campaigns spent for each vote received in Edmonton’s October 21, 2013  mayoral election.  With the most efficient dollar-to-vote ratio is Mr. Iveson, who won the election with a landslide 132,162 votes (62% of the total votes cast).

With a less efficient dollar-to-vote ratio was Ms. Leibovici, who earned 41,182 votes (19% of the total vote) while outspending Mr. Iveson by more than $237,500 and declaring a steep $142,415.27 campaign deficit.

Released last week, the financial disclosures for Edmonton’s 2013 Mayoral and City Council elections  detail how much each mayoral and councillor candidate raised and expensed during the campaign. Below is the breakdown for the top three mayoral candidates.

Edmonton Mayoral Election 2013, Financial Disclosure
Candidate Total Revenue Total Expenses Surplus/(Deficit)
Iveson $618,501.63 $576,059.79 $42,441.84
Leibovici $671,171.34 $813,586.61 ($142,415.27)
Diotte $179.912.11 $179,852.76 $59.35

Mayoral candidates Josh Semotiuk and Gordon Ward self-financed their campaigns and did not declare any donations. Candidate Kristine Acielo did not file a financial disclosure.

Here are the financial breakdowns submitted from elected city council candidates competing in Edmonton’s 12 wards.

Edmonton City Council Election 2013, Financial Disclosure
Candidate Total Revenue Total Expenses Surplus/(Deficit)
Andrew Knack $43,143.06 $43,143.06 $0
Bev Esslinger $34,044.28 $33,220.88 $823.40
Dave Loken $97,054.50 $96,906.55 $147.95
Ed Gibbons $93,461.44 $93,254.44 $207.00
Michael Oshry $82,587.85 $82,929.85 $295.00
Scott McKeen $105,862.81 $103,585.54 $2,277.27
Tony Caterina $87,950.00 $87,603.00 $347.00
Ben Henderson $59,335.06 $31,640.26 $27,714.80
Bryan Anderson $68,836.47 $43,783.69 $25,052.78
Michael Walters $107,198.85 $106,744.60 $454.25
Mike Nickel $65,199.00 $64,793.81 $405.19
Amarjeet Sohi $130,840.99 $85,105.30 $45,735.69

According to the Local Authorities Elections Act, donations to municipal election candidates are limited to a maximum of $5,000 for individuals, corporations and trade unions during an election year.

Good riddance, Rob Anders

Rob Anders Ron Liepert Calgary Signal Hill Conservatives

Former MLA Ron Liepert defeated 17-year MP Rob Anders in a nasty and divisive contest for the Conservative nomination in the new Calgary-Signal Hill riding.

It finally happened. The man who called Nelson Mandela a terroristinsulted Canada’s veterans, and called for war against Russia, has suffered his first major defeat since he was first elected in 1997.

Rob Anders Calgary Signal Hill Conservative

Rob Anders

After a campaign filled with accusations of dirty tricks and political mischief, arch conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders lost the Conservative Party nomination in the new Calgary-Signal Hill riding. After 17-years and many attempts, Calgary’s political establishment finally managed to achieve their goal of denying Mr. Anders the party nomination he needs to win in the next election.

It highlights how divisive a figure Mr. Anders is that Calgarians rallied around and many outsiders (including myself) quietly cheered for his opponent, Ron Liepert. The former provincial cabinet minister’s record suggests that he is not a Red Tory, as some would expect, and perhaps not even a moderate conservative.

Alberta Finance Minister Ron Liepert Calgary-Signal Hill Conservative

Ron Liepert

During his time in provincial politics, Mr. Liepert was known as a hard-nosed conservative bulldog who the media cast as the bully of the Alberta Legislature. He will fit in well in Stephen Harper‘s Ottawa.

To his credit, Mr. Liepert accomplished something that many other challengers failed to do. Mr. Anders had until yesterday succeeded in the past in besting high-profile challenges from former MLA Jocelyn Burgener, future premier Alison Redford and future MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans in nomination votes and defeated future Calgary mayor Dave Bronconnier and former Liberal MLA Frank Bruseker in general elections.

Unless he decides to seek a nomination in the neighouring Calgary-Rocky Ridge riding or elsewhere, Mr. Anders is now partially unleashed from his partisan obligations in the next campaign and could cause serious trouble for Mr. Liepert and his party before the 2015 election.

While Mr. Liepert may not prove to be a huge improvement  from Mr. Anders, he and his team have certainly done Canadians a service by delivering Mr. Anders the political defeat he deserved.

I am sure I speak for many Canadians when I say: good riddance, Mr. Anders.

Rejection of Gay-Straight Alliances motion shows some Alberta MLAs need a reality check

Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to introduce legislation, like Manitoba’s and Ontario’s, requiring all school boards to develop policies to support students who want to lead and establish gay-straight alliance activities and organizations, using any name that is consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive, welcoming, and respectful for all students regardless of sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

It was a simple motion introduced on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly on April 7, 2014 that would help create safer environments for students in schools. Nineteen Liberal, New Democrat, and Progressive Conservative MLAs voted in favour of the motion, but it failed after 31 PC and Wildrose MLAs stood up and voted against it.

Kent Hehr MLA Calgary-Buffalo

Kent Hehr

Motion 503, introduced by Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr, was not a piece of binding legislation, it was a symbolic message of that all students, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, can be welcomed and accepted in Alberta’s education system.

Creating safe and supportive environments for all students, including LGBTQ youth who may face discrimination in and outside of school, should be something that is encouraged by MLAs.

Mr. Hehr’s motion undoubtably would have made some social conservatives uncomfortable, but it would have ultimately helped drag some of Alberta’s more stodgy school boards into the 21st century. The motion would not have forced any school board to form student-led gay-straight alliances, but it would have compelled the elected boards to accept the existence of the groups if students in their schools chose to organize them.

Alberta MLA Vote Gay Straight Alliances Vote Motion 503

A map showing the constituencies represented by MLAs who voted in favour (blue) and against (red) Motion 503. White indicates MLAs who were not present for the vote. (Click to enlarge)

Passage of this motion would have sent a strong message that tolerance and acceptance are priorities Alberta’s provincial legislators.

Anti-bullying minister Sandra Jansen voted in favour but Education minister Jeff Johnson voted against it.

Missing from the vote were Premier Dave Hancock and NDP leader Brian Mason, who both later said they would have voted in favour had they been in the Assembly. Wildrose opposition leader Danielle Smith was not present for the vote and it is not clear if she would have voted differently than her party’s MLAs.

The divided PC government caucus also missed an opportunity to send a clear message that they embrace 21st century values by singling out the opposition Wildrose as the only party to unanimously vote against the motion – and remind Albertans of the infamous Lake of Fire.  And for the Wildrose, a vote for the motion, even by one or two of that party’s MLAs, would have done a lot of demonstrate the party is more moderate on social issues than its opponents claim.

In total, 36 MLAs were absent from the vote (minus the Speaker, who abstains from votes of the Assembly).

Voted in Favour: 19
Deron Bilous (NDP)
Laurie Blakeman (LIB)
Neil Brown (PC)
Pearl Calahasen (PC)
Cal Dallas (PC)
Alana DeLong (PC)
David Eggen (NDP)
Kyle Fawcett (PC)
Kent Hehr (LIB)
Ken Hughes (PC)
Sandra Jansen (PC)
Heather Klimchuk (PC)
Jason Luan (PC)
Thomas Luksazuk (PC)
Rachel Notley (NDP)
Don Scott (PC)
Raj Sherman (LIB)
David Swann (LIB)
Teresa Woo-Paw (PC)
Voted against: 31
Moe Amery (PC)
Rob Anderson (WR)
Drew Barnes (WR)
Gary Bikman (WR)
Robin Campbell (PC)
Ron Casey (PC)
Christine Cusanelli (PC)
Ian Donovan (WR)
David Dorward (PC)
Wayne Drysdale (PC)
Jacquie Fenske (PC)
Rick Fraser (PC)
Yvonne Fritz (PC)
Hector Goudreau (PC)
Jeff Johnson (PC)
Linda Johnson (PC)
Maureen Kubinec (PC)
Genia Leskiw (PC)
Bruce McAllister (WR)
Everett McDonald (PC)
Diana McQueen (PC)
Frank Oberle (PC)
Bridget Pastoor (PC)
Dave Rodney (PC)
Bruce Rowe (WR)
Shayne Saskiw (WR)
Richard Starke (PC)
Rick Strankman (WR)
Kerry Towle (WR)
George VanderBurg (PC)
Greg Weadick (PC)

PC Party leadership race off to a very slow start

Ken Hughes MLA PC leadership Race Calgary

Ken Hughes has resigned from cabinet, but has yet to announce he is running for leader of the PC Party.

Nineteen days have passed since former Premier Alison Redford announced her resignation and not one candidate has officially announced their intentions to enter the race to become the next leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives.

But there is at least one unofficial candidate, maybe. Municipal Affairs minister Ken Hughes made the strange move of resigning from cabinet yesterday, but would not yet say whether he would enter the race. Mr. Hughes’ recently announced he would launch an “exploratory committee” to gauge support for a leadership bid.

Jonathan Denis MLA Calgary Acadia

Jonathan Denis

A handful of other cabinet ministers are said to be interested in running, including Justice minister Jonathan Denis, Labour minister Thomas Lukaszuk, Energy minister Diana McQueen, Infrastructure minister Ric McIver and Finance minister Doug Horner.

Aside from Mr. Horner, whose political family dynasty stands on its own, most of the potential candidates are tied to the legacy and culture of entitlement that forced Ms. Redford to resign.

And unlike previous PC leadership races, which were billed by the establishment as the “real election,” because the next leader was virtually guaranteed to be the premier after the next election, this race cannot provide that guarantee.

There has been talk of potential outsiders interested in the race.

Former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice would be a strong candidate, but most political watchers suspect has loftier ambitions to become the next resident of 24 Sussex Drive when Prime Minister Stephen Harper retires. His entry into the race would also force him to leave a very lucrative job as a vice-president of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

All about the numbers

Over the course of its 43 years in government, the PC Party has shown a remarkable ability to survive and reinvent itself. But can Alberta’s natural governing party survive a lacklustre or uninspiring leadership race?

Regardless of how many candidates enter, there will be comparisons drawn from previous contests. If the race fails to inspire widespread interest, membership sales could be lower than previous races that drew large sales of memberships.

In 2006, 144,289 PC Party members voted in the second ballot of the leadership vote that was won by Ed Stelmach.

Five years later in 2011, 78,176 PC Party members voted in the second ballot of the contest that selected Ms. Redford as leader.

A closer look at PC constituency-level fundraising

Alberta Progressive Conservative PC Party Fundraising Assets 2013

Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, Fundraising and Assets in 2013 (click to enlarge).

After 43-years in government, Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party now faces serious competition in the fundraising field from the Wildrose Party.

Raising only $2.86 million in 2013, the PC Party ran a $136,000 deficit and owed $1.1 million on a line of credit. This shaky financial situation is unheard of for a natural governing party that is usually flush with cash.

The PC Party is are also facing criticism over a secret trust fund – the TAPCAL fund – which is a holdover from before changes were made to Alberta’s elections laws 36 years ago.

At the local-level, PC constituency associations raised more than $1.4 million in 2013. While most of the 87 PC associations reported  revenue in the thousands of dollars in the post-election year, a sharp gap in fundraising amounts has highlighted wealthy and poorer constituency associations in the PC Party.

More than $650,000 of the $1.4 million were raised by eleven local PC associations. In former premier Alison Redford‘s Calgary-Elbow constituency, the local PC association claimed more than $119,000 in revenue in 2013. In Calgary-Hays, represented by Infrastructure minister Ric McIver, the local PC association raised more than $95,000 last year. Most of the other nine associations are located in constituencies represented by cabinet ministers.

Meanwhile, PC associations in opposition held constituencies mostly reported low or insignificant levels of revenue in 2013. Many of these areas are now represented by Wildrose MLAs and had been represented by PC MLAs since the 1970s.

Last year, formerly powerful PC constituency associations in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, Medicine Hat reported zero revenue in 2013. PC associations in Cypress-Medicine Hat, Little Bow, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, Calgary-McCall, and Edmonton-Mill Woods reported less than $1,000 in revenue in 2013.

These low numbers suggest that some Tories may be having a difficult time adjusting to business without a local MLA to boost their fundraising initiatives.

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It appears as though Randy Thorsteinson is attempting to resurrect the Reform Party of Alberta. Mr. Thorsteinson, the former leader of the Social Credit Party and the Alberta Alliance Party, has launched a Facebook page advocating for the recreation of the party that was dissolved in 2004.

Should the Alberta NDP accept corporate donations?

Alberta NDP MLA Caucus

The Alberta NDP MLAs Brian Mason, David Eggen, Rachel Notley, and Deron Bilous in last year’s Edmonton Folk Music Festival program book.

With vibrant progressive campaigns winning on the municipal-level in Calgary and Edmonton, it is difficult to understand why there is not be a progressive party, or even a non-conservative party, able to compete on the provincial-level in Alberta.

Alberta’s progressive political parties are being left in the dust by the large fundraising machines of the province’s two main conservative parties, according to Elections Alberta reports.

The Alberta NDP declared $775,152 in revenue in 2013, roughly $2.2 million less than the Wildrose Party. Most of the NDP donations came from that party’s impressive individual donor base, and less than 10% from labour unions. The NDP accepted a small amount of donations from small-businesses, but shies away from larger corporate donors.

With the conservative parties eagerly tapping into a wealth of corporation donors in Alberta, is the NDP handicapping itself by refusing to accept larger corporate donations?

Party purists would argue that the NDP should stick to its social democratic principles by not accepting corporate donations, which would corrupt the party’s morals. Many of the same purists would argue that principles alone win elections. The Alberta NDP’s historically small real-estate in the opposition benches would suggest this is not a winning strategy.

If a party is not seeing consistent growth in funds and votes, then it should change tactics.

In other provinces, like British Columbia, the provincial NDP accepted $2.1 million in corporate donations during last year’s election. While that party did not win that election, it has formed government in the past and remains competitive on a provincial level.

A political party cannot be effective in the long-run if it is not  competitive in fundraising. In Alberta, the NDP is falling short of being able to raise the funds  necessary to compete with the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose Party on a province-wide level.

The next provincial election presents a very real opportunity for a progressive political party to make gains by providing an alternative to the two main conservative parties. That progressive party would also need the funds and resources to compete on a province-wide level, which would require more money than the NDP appears able to raise without accepting corporate donations.