See more photos of the “Team Trudeau” rally on Flickr.
Twenty-one years ago, in a federal election that reshaped the Canadian political landscape, the Liberals swept Edmonton, electing Members of Parliament in four of the city’s six federal ridings. That year was a high-water mark for the federal party, which last elected an MP in Edmonton in 2004 and has not come close to electing a candidate since.
For the next week, the federal Liberals will be holding their annual “Summer Caucus” in Edmonton and the party’s 37 Members of Parliament be criss-crossing the Canadian West, hosting events, promoting local candidates and knocking on doors.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the federal Liberals nominated a handful of candidates in Edmonton ridings over the past week who will be on the receiving end of this help - Daniol Coles in Edmonton-Griesbach, Eleanor Olszewski in Edmonton-Strathcona, Sukhdev Aujla in Edmonton-Manning and Randy Boissonnault in Edmonton-Centre.
In case you want to catch up with any Liberal MPs while they are in our province, here are a listing of public events that some of them will be attending with candidates in Edmonton and Calgary:
Monday, August 18
Westmount-Ville Marie MP Marc Garneau will host a Pints & Politics event at Chop Steakhouse & Bar (17635 Stony Plain Rd NW) in west Edmonton at 8:00 p.m.
Tuesday, August 19
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau will speak to a rally of supporters in Louise McKinney Riverfront Park overlooking the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton. The rally begins at 6:00 p.m.
Wednesday, August 20
Halifax-West MP Geoff Regan will be canvassing the Highlands neighbourhood with candidate Daniol Coles in the new Edmonton-Griesbach riding. Afterward, at 8:00 p.m., the Liberals will host a Pints & Politics night at Creole Envie (6509-112 Avenue).
The Edmonton-Strathcona Liberals will host Toronto-Centre Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland, who will speak at an event at University of Alberta Faculty Club starting at 7:30 p.m.
In Calgary, Kings-Hants MP Scott Brison will spend an evening door knocking with Calgary-Confederation candidate Matt Grant. Mr. Garneau and Kingston and the Islands MP Ted Hsu will host a free evening event at the Falconridge/Castleridge Community Association (95 Falshire Drive NE) in northeast Calgary starting at 6:00 p.m.
Later that evening in Calgary, Mr. Grant, Mr. Brison and St. Leonard – St. Michel MP Massimo Pacetti will host a pub night at Sam’s Bar & Grill (1167 Kensington Road NW) starting at 8:00 p.m.
Bourassa MP Emmanuel Dubourg and Edmonton-Centre candidate Randy Boissonnault will co-host a roundtable discussion with Edmonton’s Francophone community. Mr. Dubourg will speak at a fundraiser for the Edmonton-Centre Liberals at Normand’s Bistro (10177-99 Street) starting at 7:00 p.m.
August 21, 2014
Ms. Freeland, Mr. Dubourg, Mr. Regan will join Mr. Boissonnault and his campaign volunteers for an evening of door-to-door canvassing in Edmonton-Centre’s Queen Mary Park.
The federal New Democratic Party caucus will also be holding their Summer Caucus in Edmonton in September 2014.
In 1971, The Jackson 5 were topping the billboard charts and Peter Lougheed‘s Progressive Conservatives were just starting what has become an uninterrupted 43-year reign as Alberta’s governing party. Recent messaging from the PC Party have certainly drawn inspiration from the band’s famous song – I Want You Back – as the PC Party tries to convince its former members, and former supporters, that all they need is one more chance.
Under the subject line “We want you back!,” an email sent to PC Party supporters over the weekend from party executive director Kelley Charlebois begged former members to renew their memberships to vote in the September 6 leadership vote.
“We’ve seen some upsetting revelations over the past weeks, and we are just as disappointed as you are,” Mr. Charlebois wrote. The email smelled desperate and gave a peek into how much the recent scandals and fiascos have rocked the long-governing party.
With frontrunner Jim Prentice giving away free memberships (after first denying it), the PC Party is rumoured to be scrambling to increase low membership sales. According to David Climenhaga‘s AlbertaDiary.ca, the party is rumoured to have only sold 23,700 memberships (though close to 5,000 were rumoured to be submitted to the party office by MLAs last week). Still, those would represent historically low numbers in a leadership race for this party and is a far cry from the 144,289 members who voted in the 2006 leadership race.
Asking for a second chance, former PC candidate Brian Henninger does not believe that voters should take out their frustration on the new premier in an upcoming by-election. “I don’t care what message you want to send to the premier, don’t do it with your vote,” Mr. Henninger told the Calgary Herald. Mr. Henninger was the PC candidate in the 2007 Calgary-Elbow by-election. With former Premier Alison Redford‘s resignation two weeks ago, there will be another by-election held in the same constituency. Voters may not be so kind to the next PC candidate in the upcoming by-election.
Hoping that they will forget what happened and let his political career live again, Finance Minister Doug Horner wrote a long-winded and typo-ridden letter to his PC caucus colleagues, claiming that he is not responsible for the gross misuse of government planes.
While the fleet of government planes is managed by the Finance Department, Mr. Horner claims he was blind to Ms. Redford’s extensive and allegedly personal use of the planes.
A large group of disgruntled backbench PC MLAs are said to be furious with Mr. Horner and on the verge of forcing him to resign from the Finance Ministry.
Mr. Horner’s letter reminded me of the hastily written letter sent by then-junior health minister Raj Sherman to his PC caucus colleagues in 2009 (he was kicked out of the PC caucus shortly afterward). Meanwhile Dr. Sherman, now leading the opposition Liberals, has launched a petition calling on Mr. Horner to resign from cabinet.
The Tories gave themselves a second chance after secret plans were revealed in March 2014 to build a private penthouse residence for Ms. Redford were revealed days after she resigned as premier in March 2014. But Auditor General Merwan Saher says plans for the Premier’s Skypalace in the Federal Building are still in place.
When the “Skypalace” scandal was uncovered through a CBC investigation, Infrastructure Minister Wayne Drysdale told the media he cancelled the project in late 2012. Former Infrastructure Minister Ric McIver said he stopped the Skypalace in January 2014. And Deputy Minister Marcia Nelson confirmed to the Public Accounts Committee in May 2014 that Mr. McIver issued the cancellation of the residential suite. It is unclear who in the PC Government ordered the secret construction on the penthouse to continue.
It is yet to be seen how many second chances Albertans will give the PCs, but the opposition parties may be starting to feel optimistic about their chances in the next election.
And for those of you with the lyrics stuck in your head, you’re very welcome…
With today’s release of Auditor General Merwan Saher‘s report on Alison Redford‘s travel habits, and as Premier Dave Hancock, leadership frontrunner Jim Prentice and Progressive Conservative MLAs desperately try to distance themselves from their former leader, it is important that we look back to a more optimistic time. During the 2011 PC leadership race, and the provincial election that followed, the former premier (and now former MLA for Calgary-Elbow) seemed to be full of potential and represented a hopeful future for her party and the province.
But, as we are now all aware, promises were broken and “mistakes were made” by Ms. Redford and her government.
Here is a look back to a happier time, in 2011, when then-leadership candidate Ms. Redford was asked why she wanted to become Premier of Alberta:
Editor’s Note: I will be taking a short break from the world of political blogging for the next week to enjoy the limited summer weather that our great country has to offer. To fill your need for daily Alberta politics news in my absence, keep an eye on AlbertaDiary.ca and the always prolific #ableg and #pcldr hashtags on Twitter.
Through an opinion-editorial published in the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald, the former premier defended her record as premier and refused to apologize for the misdeeds and scandals that occurred during her time as Premier of Alberta.
“I recognize that mistakes were made along the way. In hindsight, there were many things I would have done differently. That said, I accept responsibility for all the decisions I have made.”
Ms. Redford had been facing intense pressure to resign as MLA after months of controversy, including a leaked draft of a damning Auditor General report criticizing her expensive travel habits on the government dime.
The full report from Auditor General Merwan Saher is scheduled to be released on tomorrow. Ms. Redford resigned today.
This week, her former deputy premier called on Progressive Conservative MLAs to hold an emergency meeting to remove her from the governing caucus. PC leadership candidate Thomas Lukaszuk, the front man for Ms. Redford’s brutal funding cuts to Alberta’s colleges and universities, continues to take advantage of any opportunity to attack the former premier.
And he was not alone. All PC Party leadership candidates have taken aim at Ms. Redford, trying to place the blame for every mistake the government has made for the past two years solely on her.
Mr. Lukaszuk’s main opponent, bank executive Jim Prentice, has tried his best to avoid connecting himself in anyway to his party’s former leader. The front-runner refuses to even mention Ms. Redford by name when speaking to the media.
But while Mr. Prentice is aiming for a complete public divorce from his predecessor, he cannot escape the fact that the majority of his supporters in the PC caucus also supported Ms. Redford.
Ms. Redford’s resignation means that a by-election will need to be called in the Calgary-Elbow constituency within the next six months (by February 5, 2015). This will be the second by-election in Calgary-Elbow since 2007, when former Premier Ralph Klein retired from politics. The Liberals won that by-election.
Kennedy-Glans requests a return
In a strange move that will now be buried under the news of Ms. Redford’s most recent resignation, Independent MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans chose the middle of the summer to distribute a media release declaring that she wants to rejoin the PC caucus. Ms. Kennedy-Glans infamously left the PC caucus days before Ms. Redford’s resignation, saying that she was “increasingly convinced that elements of this 43-year old government are simply unable to make the changes needed to achieve that dream of a better Alberta.” It is unclear what has changed in the past five months to make her change her mind.
As Stephen Carter penned on his Calgary Herald blog, Ms. Kennedy-Glans, a) wants a spot in Mr. Prentice’s cabinet, and b) does not want to chance being challenged by a ‘star’ PC candidate in the next election. All the respect that Ms. Kennedy-Glans earned when she left the government on principle on appears to have been lost with this seemingly politically opportunistic move.
Today is the deadline to enter the Alberta New Democratic Party leadership race. With 3 candidates having already entered the race, Edmonton-Calder MLA David Eggen, Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley and labour activist Rod Loyola, the Alberta NDP are having their first contested leadership race since 1996.
Electoral support for the social democratic party in Alberta is largely exists within the Edmonton and Lethbridge city limits, has very limited support in rural Alberta and is almost non-existent in Calgary, the province’s largest city. In 2012, NDP candidates earned more than 10% of the vote in less than 20 constituencies and less than 5% of the vote in 27 constituencies across Alberta.
While far away from being a premier-in-waiting, the next NDP leader is in a position to lead a distinct opposition to the two conservative parties that dominate the political landscape in Alberta.
Alberta’s cities are fast growing and, in many cases, decisions made by city councils and school boards are tied to approval by provincial politicians who do not understand the reality of the growth pressures faced by municipalities.
Our province is the one jurisdiction in Canada that can afford to have the best quality roads, transit systems and public schools, but much of the authority remains in the hands of our provincial politicians.
A provincial party with a platform focused on urban issues - smart growth and public transit - and how these growth pressures impact our public school, health care, social service and transportation systems could provide a much needed voice in the Alberta Legislature.
Note: I am not the first person to offer this advice.
It has been a long time since things have looked good for the Alberta Liberals. The provincial party has been teetering on the verge of the political abyss for years but lately the future looks especially bleak.
Recent announcements that popular Calgary Liberal MLAs Kent Hehr and Darshan Kang are moving to greener pastures in federal politics with Justin Trudeau’s Liberals will shrink the provincial Liberal caucus to just three MLAs, leaving the party with its smallest caucus in nearly thirty years. The two departures also mean the party may be forced to play defence in two by-elections before the next general election, a feat not aided by continuously low fundraising returns.
In the 2012 provincial election, Liberal support dropped to its lowest level since the 1980s, with only five candidates incumbent MLAs re-elected and the party losing its hold on formerly reliably Liberal-voting ridings like Edmonton-Gold Bar, Edmonton-Riverview, Calgary-Currie and Calgary-Varsity.
But the biggest blow to the Liberals in that year’s election was losing Official Opposition status to the Wildrose Party, a title the Liberals had held in Alberta since 1993. Since losing its place as the default opposition to the Tories, the party has struggled to define its identity in a new political environment dominated by two conservative parties.
With the departure of Mr. Hehr and Mr. Kang, the party will soon have less MLAs than the New Democratic Party, which, in the midst of its own leadership race, is showing signs of positive growth in Edmonton. The NDP, the Liberal Party’s long-time rivals, seem to be paying less attention to that party, focusing instead on the new Progressive Conservative-Wildrose dominance of Alberta’s political environment. And the recent defection of a senior Liberal Party official to the tiny Alberta Party also raised eyebrows.
It would be unfair to assign the blame on one person, especially considering the Liberal Party has been a slow state of decline since 1993 (with the exception of the 2004 election, where the party, led by Kevin Taft, increased its MLAs).
The party’s current leader, Raj Sherman, is the definition of a wildcard. The former PC MLA and junior cabinet minister has been an odd fit in the Liberal benches. Those who work close to him describe him as kind and well-meaning, but his scattered and erratic behaviour make him difficult to anticipate. The Liberals took a risk in choosing an outsider as their leader and, at least today, there does not appear to be a reward in sight.
MLAs like Edmonton-Centre‘s Laurie Blakeman and Calgary-Mountain View‘s David Swann are hard-working representatives, but as a caucus, the Liberals tend to act more like Independent MLAs who share office space.
Despite the bleak view on the horizon, I would never count the Liberals out. They have been constant underdogs and they have a highly committed base of activists who are extremely loyal to their party’s traditional brand.
It is too soon to tell whether the provincial Liberals will benefit from a new wave of Trudeaumania in federal politics. A big question is whether the Liberals will follow the trend of their provincial prairie cousins in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, who have become become non-existent or irrelevant in recent decades.
Sources say that controversial Member of Parliament Rob Anders is preparing to run for the Conservative Party of Canada nomination in new rural Bow River riding east of Calgary. The six-term MP has represented Calgary-West since 1997 but lost a heated Conservative nomination contest in the new Calgary-Signal Hill riding to former Progressive Conservative MLA Ron Liepert in April 2014.
It had been speculated that Mr. Anders could run in the neighbouring riding of Calgary-Rocky Ridge. It is unclear whether Mr. Anders, who has the endorsement of senior cabinet minister Jason Kenney, will be approved by the Ottawa Tories as their candidate in this new riding.
Maybe the most hard-edged social conservative in Ottawa, Mr. Anders is well-known for being the sole parliamentarian to vote against granting former South African president Nelson Mandela an honorary Canadian citizenship. He also embarrassingly attacked two Canadian Forces veterans, who he described as “NDP hacks.” He used his podium at an official Government of Canada press conference to endorse right-wing conservative Ted Morton. And he most recently suggested that former NDP leader Jack Layton‘s death was hastened by now-leader Thomas Mulcair.
Mr. Anders would face some local challengers in this new riding. Rockyview County councillor Rolly Ashdown is expected to enter the Bow River Conservative contest this week and City of Brooks mayor Martin Shields announced his candidacy last month. Popular country music artist George Canyon briefly sought the Conservative nomination, but has since withdrawn from the contest.
Here’s a question that isn’t often asked in Alberta: Which of the three Progressive Conservative leadership candidates would make the best Leader of the Opposition?
An insane trail of scandal continues to leak out of the 43-year-long governing PC Party as it lurches towards a leadership vote on September 6.
A CBC exclusive story alleged today that Auditor General has uncovered “false passengers” were booked to ensure that Premier Alison Redford and her political staff would be the only passengers on government planes during certain flights.
The leak was a draft copy of a report Auditor General Merwan Saher is expected to release in August 2014 and will also include a review of the former premier’s flights to South Africa and Palm Springs.
Along with Ms. Redford’s secret plans for a private penthouse residence, this week’s secret cancellation of a three-year pay-freeze for senior government executives (which was only implemented 17 months ago), and the Auditor General’s discovery last month that the province has failed implement its much vaunted Climate Change plan, the PC government does not look like the well-polished machine it once was.
Two years ago, PC candidates led by Ms. Redford promised a new era of open and transparent government. It appears that the fake passengers were not the only fabrication.
Is it possible that the three men vying to lead the PC Party did not know about the false flyers?
Both insiders, Thomas Lukaszuk served as Ms. Redford’s Deputy Premier and Ric McIver was Transportation Minister from May 2012 to December 2013. While they have denied knowledge of the flights, it is strange that at the very least these two senior cabinet minister had not even heard rumours about the Premier’s alleged fictional bookings and questionable travel habits.
But what of Finance Minister Doug Horner, whose department is responsible for the Alberta government’s fleet of airplanes? Surely someone within the Finance Department would have been aware of these alleged ghost travellers? Mr. Horner, along with 50 other PC MLAs and nearly every PC Party insider, is supporting Mr. Prentice’s bid for the PC Party leadership.
Mr. Prentice, who appears to only speak in generalizations and avoids details in all his public announcements, issued a statement on his Facebook Page in response to the allegations. “Albertans do not need excuses from those who were at the table when these decisions were made,” Mr. Prentice’s Facebook statement said.
Nearly everyone who would have been sitting around the cabinet table when these phantom flyers were on the books are now endorsing Mr. Prentice.
His opponent, Mr. Lukaszuk, was much more harsh on Ms. Redford, who remains the PC MLA for Calgary-Elbow. The former Deputy Premier said he would have his former boss thrown out of the PC Caucus and would ask a retired judge to investigate the allegations (Justice Minister Jonathan Denis, also supporting Mr. Prentice, today asked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to decide whether there should be an investigation).
This leads me back to my initial question: Which of the three leadership candidates would make the best Leader of the Opposition?
For the past four decades, this would have been a nonsensical question. But in 2014, the Tories face a relentlessly aggressive Wildrose opposition flush with cash and preparing for an election. There is an increasingly real possibility that the PC Party could be in opposition after the next election.
Mr. Prentice served in the Conservative Official Opposition benches in Ottawa for two years during the dying days of Paul Martin’s Liberal government, a time which may oddly familiar similar to the current politics in Alberta. An ambitious politician, Mr. Prentice does not strike me as someone who would be interested in remaining in the opposition benches if the PC Party were to lose the next election.
Mr. Lukaszuk is well-known for his partisan attack dog-style in Question Period, and might thrive in the opposition benches. Mr. McIver served as the unofficial opposition to Mayor Dave Bronconnier on Calgary City Council, but, like Mr. Lukaszuk, he has no support from his PC MLA colleagues.
In light of recent revelations, perhaps some time spent in the opposition benches could inject a much needed dose of humility into Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives, who have become very comfortable with the trappings of political power. Despite coming within a hair of losing the last election, the Tories act as if they are an invincible force. This recent string of scandals may help prove that the PCs are not invincible.
Aside from recent updates about Kent Hehr running in Calgary-Centre and Darshan Kang running in Calgary-Skyview, it has been a while since I have published an update to accompany the list of candidate nominations for the next federal election, expected to be held in 2015. So, without further ado, let me present you the latest update:
The Lethbridge -> Medicine Hat Shuffle
Almost as soon as Medicine Hat MP LaVar Payne announced that he will retire at the next election, neighbouring MP Jim Hillyer jumped into the nomination race to replace him. The controversial Mr. Hillyer, who has represented the Lethbridge riding since 2011, had initially announced he would run against Mr. Payne for the Conservative nomination in the redrawn Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner, but was then sternly directed by his Ottawa bosses not to challenge a fellow MP. But once Mr. Payne announced his retirement, Mr. Hillyer jumped back into the Medicine Hat race.
As a nomination challenger, he faces Dan Hein, the former president of the local Conservative association and former the campaign manager for Mr. Payne in 2011.
Meanwhile, the NDP have nominated Cheryl Meheden in Lethbridge. That party did particularly well in the last election as the NDP candidate in 2011 earned 13,097 votes (27% of the total votes cast). Ms. Meheden is a former University of Lethbridge management instructor and former board chair for Economic Development Lethbridge.
Fort McMurray-Cold Lake
Fresh off the by-election campaign trail in Fort McMurray-Athabasca, the Liberals are expected to nominate Kyle Harrietha as their candidate in their candidate in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake on July 26 (the current riding boundaries will change when the next federal election is called). Conservative Member of Parliament David Yurdiga is expected to be automatically acclaimed as his party’s candidate because of the recent by-election.
The Liberals will hold a nomination meeting on August 7, 2014 where party members will have their choice of three candidates – entrepreneur Randy Boissonnault and lawyers Don Padget and Harold Robinson.
On July 15, Conservatives gathered for what was described as a “soft launch” event for James Cumming, President and CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, in support of his potential campaign for the Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Centre. Current MP Laurie Hawn has announced his plans to retire at the next election.
Liberal activist Wendy Butler, artist Heather Workman (aka Lady Dolphin), and lawyer Eleanor Olszewski are running for the Liberal nomination in this south central Edmonton riding. Lawyer and Edmonton-Gold Bar Progressive Conservative association president Len Thom is seeking the Conservative nomination. The riding has been represented by NDP MP Linda Duncan since 2008.
On May 5, Valerie Kennedy was acclaimed as the Green Party candidate in Edmonton-Riverbend. Ms. Kennedy was the Green Party candidate in Edmonton-Leduc in 2011. where she earned 2,896 votes (4.87% of the votes cast).
Local hotel manager Kelly McCauley has jumped into the Conservative contest in this new west Edmonton riding. Before moving to Edmonton, Mr. McCauley was the president of the Victoria Conservative association. He now faces Edmonton-McClung PC MLA David Xiao and Edmonton Police Constable Brad Rutherford for the nomination.
MP Mike Lake defeated Leduc County mayor John Whaley for the Conservative nomination in this new mostly-south of Edmonton riding. A third candidate, Mohinder Banga was disqualified shortly before the nomination vote was held.
Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan
Four candidates are contesting the Conservative nomination in this new east-of-Edmonton riding. Past Wildrose candidate Garnett Genuis, Bee Clean Building Maintenance vice president Randy Moore, Telus employee and retired Canadian Forces Major Joe Theberge, and 2013 Strathcona County municipal candidate Nicole van Kuppeveld.
And a whole swath of Alberta Conservative MPs have been acclaimed as candidates in the next election: Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Calgary-Heritage, Devinder Shory in Calgary-Skyview, Chris Warkentin in Grande Prairie, Kevin Sorenson in Battle River-Crowfoot, Earl Dreeshen in Red Deer-Mountain View, Blaine Calkins in Red Deer-Wolf Creek, Rona Ambrose in Sturgeon River, and Jason Kenney in Calgary-Midnapore.