Category Archives: Alberta Politics

Strengthening Canada Reform of Canadas Senate

Once upon a time Alberta MLAs had meaningful ideas about Senate Reform

The introduction of Bill 13, the Alberta Senate Election Act, this week inspired me to pull out an old copy of the Special Select Committee on Senate Reform report, Strengthening Canada, from March 1985. The committee, chaired by Calgary-Currie MLA Dennis Anderson, published a report that led to the creation of the original Senatorial Selection Act in 1989 and subsequent Senate nominee elections in 1989, 1998, 2004 and 2012.

Dennis Andeson

The 1980s were heady times for constitutional debaters and Senate reform advocates in Canada. Dozens of reports from various governments, organizations, and think-tanks studied the idea of reforming Canada’s appointed Upper Chamber.

Unlike today, when the majority of Senators sit as Independents, decades of federal Liberal Party governments had led to the 1980s Senate being overflowing with Liberal partisan appointees.

A motion from Minister of Federal and Intergovernmental Affairs Jim Horsman on November 23, 1983 led to the creation of the committee, which included 7 MLAs from the Progressive Conservative caucus, including Anderson, Calgary-North West MLA Sheila Embury, Highwood MLA Harry Alger, Calgary-Egmont MLA David Carter, Lacombe MLA Ron Moore, Edmonton-Kingsway MLA Carl Paproski, and Innisfail MLA Nigel Pengelly, and Independent former Social Credit MLA Raymond Speaker. The group spent more than a year consulting and studying the issue in Alberta, Canada and abroad.

The motion to create the committee and the 1985 and 1987 motions to hold Senate elections had cross-partisan support – including from the PC, New Democratic Party and Liberals. This is a marked difference from today, where the NDP are advocates of Senate abolition, the Liberals have their banished Senators from their federal caucus, and Conservatives (at least when they are in government) have largely fallen back into supporting the current appointed Senate model.

An advertisement asking for feedback for the committee.

The committee report tabled in the Legislative Assembly in 1985 included a number of recommendations for reforming the Senate that are much more ambitious than anything being presented by Senate election advocates today.

Unlike the unimaginative Senate Election Act, which is a largely farcical exercise, the Special Select Committee on Senate Reform called for wide-ranging constitutional reforms that would reorganize and increase the democratic accountability of the Upper Chamber.

The 1985 report recommended Senators should be elected using a first-past-the-post system and that they should represent constituencies identical to provincial boundaries. Senators would be elected for the life of two provincial legislatures with staggered elections allowing for three to be elected during each provincial election, with each voter being able to vote for three candidates.

The number of Senators would have been dropped to 64 had the committee had its way, with six representing each province and two representing each territory. This would presumably fulfill the “equal” part of the call for a Triple-E Senate (the other Es being effective and elected).

The report also recommended that “the Senate should be organized on a different basis than any other Upper House in the Commonwealth,” including being organized without the recognition of political parties.

The report argued that “if the role of the Senate is to represent the regions (provinces) of the country, it must be structured to represent those regions’ interests rather than the interest of national political parties.” This is somewhat reflective of the current Senate, where the majority of members sit as Independents rather than members of political parties.

The report recommended that traditional opposition and government roles in the Senate be abolished, including the positions of Government Leader and Opposition Leader, and that Senators should physically be seated in provincial delegations regardless of any party allegiances. Each provincial delegation would select a chairman who would should sit at the pleasure of the provincial delegation and participate in a Senate Executive Council, which would, along with the Speaker, determine the order of business of the Senate.

The report also called for the qualifications for candidates to the Senate to be made the same as those for Members of Parliament, removing minimum 30 years old age requirement of and $4,000 property ownership requirement.

It also noted that “the Senate should not be a forum for inter-governmental negotiations.”

Now a quick look at Bill 13, the Senate Election Act

Doug Schweitzer Calgary Alberta Conservative

Doug Schweitzer

The Senate Election Act introduced by Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer this week would allow the Senate nominee candidates to be chosen through an election but then, if the Prime Minister decides to appoint the winners, which he is not bound to do, they will be able to serve their time in the Senate until the age of 75 without ever having to face re-election.

The biggest flaw with this bill and Alberta’s previous Senate election laws is that there is no real accountability if these elected Senators never have to face re-election.

Bill 13 is being introduced to replace the Senatorial Selection Act, which expired on December 31, 2016. But the bill is largely an extension of United Conservative Party Premier Jason Kenney‘s campaign against Liberal Party Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of the October 2019 federal election.

The Act introduced this week would have Senate candidates nominated by provincial political parties or as Independent candidate, but list their federal political party affiliation next to their name on the ballot. This is a significant change from the previous Senate nominee elections when candidates were listed under provincial party banners. It is unclear whether the federal political parties will have any say about the candidates who align with them in a provincially-administered Senate election.

Kenney and Schweitzer announced that the next Senate election will take place during the October 17, 2021 municipal elections, which will also be the date of the promised “equalization referendum.” It has been speculated that these events are scheduled on this date in order to boost conservative voter turnout in the municipal elections and fulfill the Conservative Party’s long-time dream of defeating Naheed Nenshi and electing a capital-C conservative into the mayor’s office in Calgary.

Episode 38: Students get a pay cut and big corporations get a tax cut

The cut to minimum wage for Alberta students under the age of 18 and cuts to corporate income taxes are the big topics discussed by Dave Cournoyer and guest co-host Brad Lafortune on this episode of the Daveberta Podcast.

We also discuss Attorney General Doug Schweitzer’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor to advise police investigating allegations of voter fraud in the 2017 United Conservative Party leadership race. And we answer some great questions shared by our listeners.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. The APN is asking podcast listeners to participate in their annual listener survey, so please do so if you are so inclined.

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

You can also comment on the blogFacebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

Thanks again to our talented producer, Adam Rozenhart, for making us sound so great.

Thanks for listening!

Note: The Daveberta Podcast will be taking a break for the next few weeks as Dave and Adam go on vacation with their families. We will be back on July 15!

Recommended Reading/Listening

Federal candidate nominations slow to start in Alberta ahead of October 2019 election

With the October 2019 federal election fast approaching, it is time to turn my attention to federal candidate nominations in Alberta. I have started a list of candidates who are nominated or running for federal party nominations in Alberta, so please feel free to send me any additions to the list.

Here is a quick look at the state of federal nominations in Alberta:

Julia Bareman Edmonton Strathcona Conservative

Julia Bareman

The dominant Conservative Party, which elected Members of Parliament in 29 of Alberta’s 34 seats in the House of Commons, has nominated candidates in all but two electoral districts in the province.

All of the incumbent Conservative MPs in Alberta were acclaimed for their nominations and there are only two open nominations remaining in the province. The nomination contest between in Battle River-Crowfoot was the topic of my previous post and the other outstanding contest is in Edmonton-Strathcona, where Julia Bareman and Sam Lilly are seeking the Conservative nomination.

Edmonton-Strathcona is the only electoral district where the federal New Democratic Party has nominated candidate in Alberta, with Heather McPherson narrowly defeating Paige Gorsak in November 2018. The district has been represented by NDP MP Linda Duncan since 2008 and the party is expected to face a very tough challenge to hold the seat again in 2019.

The NDP have scheduled a nomination contest in Lethbridge, with Shandi Bleiken expected to be acclaimed.

Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona

Heather McPherson

Two former federal NDP candidates from the 2015 election were elected as MLAs in the recent provincial election. Newly elected Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin and Edmonton-Meadows MLA Jasvir Deol were both candidates for the federal NDP in the 2015 election.

It is believed that the federal NDP, as well as the federal Liberals, held off holding nomination contests in Alberta until after the election due to the divided loyalties of their supporters and activists on the provincial level. Many supporters of the federal Liberals in Alberta openly supported Rachel Notley‘s NDP, with others divided between the Alberta Party and the provincial Liberal Party.

At least one former provincial NDP candidate wants to be a federal Liberal candidate in October. Jordan Stein ran for the Alberta NDP in Calgary-Glenmore and is now seeking the federal Liberal nomination in Calgary-Confederation. Stein defeated incumbent MLA Anam Kazim to secure the NDP nomination in the district and earned 32 percent of the vote in the April 2019 election.

Jordan Stein Liberal Calgary Confederation

Jordan Stein

In a note on her Facebook page, Stein lists a number of reasons for her decision to seek the federal Liberal nomination, including climate change. “The climate is indifferent to our partisanship, it’s indifferent to our opinions but it’s effects can be mitigated by the action we take today,” Stein wrote.

The Liberals did not win Calgary-Confederation in the 2015 election, but their candidate in that year’s vote, Matt Grant, earned the most total votes of any Liberal candidate in Alberta. Stein will face Todd Kathol and Larry Ottewell for the nomination in this district.

The Liberals have nominated MP Kent Hehr in Calgary-Centre, MP Randy Boissonnault in Edmonton-Centre, MP Amarjeet Sohi in Edmonton-Mill Woods, and candidates Eleanor Olszewski in Edmonton-Strathcona, Kerrie Johnston in Edmonton-West, and Amy Bronson in Lethbridge.

The Green Party has nominated Austin Mullins in Banff-Airdrie, Grad Murray in Edmonton-Centre, Valerie Kennedy in Edmonton-Riverbend, Thana Boonlert in Calgary-Centre, Natalie Odd in Calgary-Confederation, and Catriona Wright in Calgary-Rocky Ridge.

Jeff Watson MP Battle River Crowfoot

Former Ontario MP Jeff Watson running for Conservative nomination in Battle River-Crowfoot

After failing to win the United Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Peigan last summer, former Ontario Member of Parliament Jeff Watson has now launched his campaign to seek the federal Conservative nomination in the sprawling east central rural Alberta district of Battle River-Crowfoot.

Battle River-Crowfoot

Battle River-Crowfoot

Watson served as the Conservative Party MP for southern Ontario district of Essex from 2004 until 2015 when he was unseated by New Democrat Tracey Ramsey. Previous to that he had run in Windsor-West as a Reform Party candidate in 1997 and a Canadian Alliance candidate in 2000.

Also running for the Conservative nomination in Battle River-Wainwright is Consort-native Damien Kurek, who works as a constituency assistant to retiring MP Kevin Sorenson and previously worked as a researcher for the Saskatchewan Party Caucus in Regina.

Watson spoke about the need to address rural crime in a video on his Facebook page, but it is not clear what connection Watson has to the communities or local politics in the large rural Alberta district. Watson also continues to update his “Jeff Watson YYC” Facebook page used during his UCP nomination campaign in Calgary.

The Windsor Star reported in November 2016 that Watson was relocating with his family to Calgary in order to pursue new opportunities.

Soon after his arrival in Alberta he worked as Director of Outreach and Coalitions during Jason Kenney’s leadership campaigns in 2017 and he currently works as a constituency assistant in the office of Calgary-Hays UCP MLA Ric McIver in southeast Calgary.

Damien Kurek

Damien Kurek

His Facebook page lists him as the owner of Issachar Strategies with clients including independent schools and parent groups “who fought the former-NDP government for school choice and to preserve parental authority.” The page also claims he has provided strategic advice to Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer.

He launched his campaign for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Peigan in June 2018 and was defeated by Tanya Fir at a candidate selection meeting in August 2018. Fir was elected as MLA in April 2019 and now serves as Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism.

That UCP nomination campaign became memorable for the bizarre entry of Quebec MP Maxime Bernier (still a Conservative MP at the time), when Fir’s campaign committee chairman Craig Chandler sent an email to her supporters that appeared to suggest Bernier had endorsed his candidate.

Bernier then responded with an email disputing the endorsement claim and instead appeared to endorse his “good friend” Watson.

Working under the Dome: A look at some political staffers hired to work for Alberta’s new UCP government

One of the results of a change in government is a mass turnover in the political staffers who occupy the offices of the premier, cabinet ministers and caucuses. As a new government enters office in Alberta, there are many dozens of political jobs that need to be filled. Here is a quick glance at some of the political staffers who have been hired to fill key roles since the United Conservative Party formed government in Alberta:

  • As has already been widely reported, former UCP Caucus Chief of Staff Jamie Huckabay is now Chief of Staff in Premier Jason Kenney’s office. Joining him in Kenney’s office are Howard Anglin as Principal Secretary, Katy Merrifield as executive director of communications and planning, and Christine Myatt as press secretary and deputy director of communications. Anglin previously served as executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, deputy chief of staff in the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Chief of Staff to Kenney while he was the federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Merrifield was communications director to former B.C. premier Christy Clark and senior advisor to the BC Liberal Party.
  • Paul Bunner has been hired as a Speechwriter in the Premier’s Office. Bunner served as a speechwriter and communications advisor in the office of Prime Minster Harper and as editor of the right-wing C2C Journal website, which is part of the Manning Foundation for Democratic Education.
  • Former UCP Caucus communications advisor Harrison Fleming is a special communications advisor in Executive Council.
  • Former Daveberta Podcast co-host Ryan Hastman is Chief of Staff to Minister of Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney. Natasha Kornak is Sawhney’s press secretary. She is the co-founder of the Story of a Tory blog with Brooks-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Michaela Glasgo. 
  • Recent Daveberta Podcast guest co-host Lianne Bell is now Chief of Staff to Speaker Nathan Cooper. Bell previously worked for the Wildrose and UCP Caucus as director of stakeholder relations.
  • Jamie Mozeson is Chief of Staff to Minister for Service Alberta Nate Glubish. Mozeson was the director of operations at the UCP Caucus and ran for the federal Conservative nomination in the Sturgeon River-Parkland district in 2016. Glubish’s press secretary is Tricia Velthuizen, a former Wildrose and UCP Caucus staffer and candidate for Edmonton City Council in 2017.
  • Jonah Mozeson, who is married to Jamie Mozeson, is the press secretary in the Office of the Minister Justice and Attorney General Doug Schweitzer. His mother, Laurie Mozeson, was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-McClung in the 2019 election.
  • Craig Bellfontaine is Schweitzer’s Chief of Staff. Until recently he was a Toronto-based lawyer at the firm Farken and is a former federal Conservative ministerial staffer. Schweitzer’s Ministerial Assistant Kalyna Kardash is a former Outreach Coordinator for the UCP Caucus and Party during the election campaign.
  • Andrea Smotra is Chief of Staff to Minister of Energy Sonya Savage. Smotra was the director of election readiness for the UCP and previously worked as Regional Affairs Advisor in the office of Prime Minister Harper and deputy director of issues management for Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.
  • Nicole Williams is Chief of Staff to Education Minster Adriana LaGrange. Williams is a former lobbyist and ministerial assistant who was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-West Henday in the recent election. Colin Aitchison is LaGrange’s press secretary. Until recently he was the Issues Manager for Ontario Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa McLeod.
  • Warren Singh is Chief of Staff to Health Minister Tyler Shandro. Singh previously served as director of government relations with NAIT and vice-president policy and outreach with the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. Before that he served in various chief of staff roles in the old PC government. Steve Buick is Shandro’s press secretary. Buick served as press secretary to former health minister Stephen Mandel and as a policy advisor to health minsters Gene Zwozdesky and Fred Horne. Previous to that he served as Director of Media Relations and Issues Management for Capital Health.
  • Kris Barker recently resigned from the UCP board of directors to start his new job as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism Tanya Fir. Barker was elected at the party’s annual general meeting as the Edmonton Regional Director. He is married to Kara Barker, who ran as the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Riverview. Fir’s press secretary Justin Brattinga is a former BC Liberal Caucus staffer.
  • Mark Jacka is Chief of Staff to Transportation Minister Ric McIver. Jacka previously served as UCP Constituency Development Coordinator, as an assistant to Edmonton-West MP Kelly McCauley and as Director of Political Operations for the Wildrose Party. Brooklyn Elhard is McIver’s press secretary. She previously served as Scheduling and Tour Coordinator for the UCP leader. 
  • Tim Schultz is Chief of Staff to Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen. Schultz previously served as chief of staff to the Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education and the Minister of Finance in Progressive Conservative governments from 2008 to 2012. 
  • Mandi Johnson is Chief of Staff to Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women Leela Aheer. She previously worked for the PC, Wildrose and UCP Caucus. She is married to James Johnson, the Director of Research at the UCP Caucus. Payman Parseyan is Aheer’s press secretary. He ran for Edmonton City Council in 2017 and was a candidate for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Whitemud. 
  • TJ Keil is chief of staff to Minster of Red Tape Reduction Grant Hunter. Keil previously worked as a Senior Stakeholder Relations Consultant with Alberta Real Estate Association and ran for the PC Party in Edmonton-Strathcona against first-time NDP candidate Rachel Notley in 2008. 
  • Steven Puhallo is chief of staff to Minister of Children’s Services Rebecca Schulz. He previously as chief of staff to various BC cabinet ministers from 2001 to 2008 and more recently was President and CEO of Cowboy Gaming (Canada), a country and western themed free online bingo and casino. Lauren Armstrong is Schulz’s press secretary. Armstrong worked as Kenney’s press secretary while he served as Minister of National Defence in Ottawa and until recently was chief of staff to Calgary city councillor Jeromy Farkas.
  • Former Wildrose Caucus staffer and Alberta Counsel communications lead Tim Gerwing is the press secretary for Minister of Municipal Affairs Kaycee Madu.
  • Former Hill & Knowlton senior consultant Jessica Goodwin is press secretary to Minister of Finance Travis Toews.
  • Ted Bauer is press secretary to Minister of Indigenous Relations Richard Wilson. Bauer is the former Communications and Media Coordinator for Homeward Trust Edmonton and editor for Global News and CityTV.

And looking at the legislative branch:

  • Robyn Henwood is executive director of the UCP Caucus. Henwood will be known by political watchers as the chair of the party’s leadership election committee and as campaign manager for Len Rhodes’ election campaign in Edmonton-Meadows.
  • Brianna Morris is deputy director of the UCP caucus. She previously served as Senior Advisor to the UCP House Leader and as a Legislative and Outreach Assistant in the Wildrose Caucus.
  • Author and one-time Daveberta Podcast guest Jamil Jivani is a Stakeholders Relations Manager for the UCP Caucus. 
  • Tim Uppal is also a Stakeholders Relations Manager for the UCP Caucus. Uppal served as the Member of Parliament for Edmonton-Sherwood Park from 2008 to 2015 and is currently the nominated federal Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods.

As has already been noted in a previous post, former UCP campaign director Nick Koolsbergen is now the CEO of the Wellington Advocacy lobbyist company. Matt Wolf, who served as Kenney’s Deputy Chief of Staff and director of the UCP campaign war room, is now a vice-president with public affairs giant Hill & Knowlton. Also with new jobs outside of government are UCP President Erika Barootes and former UCP Caucus director of issues management Peter Csillag have been hired by the Toronto-based public affairs company Enterprise. 

Nathan Cooper

Nathan Cooper claims the throne in Alberta’s latest Speaker election

When MLAs gathered for the first sitting of the new Legislature today, the first piece of business they were required to conduct was the election of a Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, who will preside over debates and ensure that the established rules of behaviour and procedure are followed.

The Speaker is elected by MLAs through a secret ballot held at the beginning of each legislative session. Candidates are nominated by their colleagues on the floor of the Assembly and voting takes place immediately afterward. 

It has been fairly well known in most political circles that Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper has had his eye on the Speaker’s Chair. Cooper made his intentions known shortly after the election and as former interim leader of the United Conservative Party and opposition house leader, he was well positioned to take on the role. His lack of appointment to the UCP cabinet earlier this month was a pretty definite signal that he would have the support of Premier Jason Kenney and most or all of the UCP caucus in this election.

Heather Sweet NDP Edmonton-Manning

Heather Sweet

As has become the norm in recent years, the opposition also nominated a candidate for the Speaker’s Chair. Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Christina Gray nominated her New Democratic Caucus colleague, Edmonton-Manning MLA Heather Sweet in the election. Sweet had served as Deputy Chair of Committees during the previous Assembly. 

Not surprisingly, the UCP majority elected Cooper as Speaker.

The election of a Speaker through a secret ballot is a relatively new invention in Alberta politics. Before 1993, when the first secret ballot vote took place, the Premier’s choice for Speaker was typically acclaimed by the Assembly.

An exception that I discovered was in 1922, when a United Farmers of Alberta MLA surprised the Assembly when he nominated a Conservative opposition MLAs to challenge Premier Herbert Greenfield’s chosen candidate for Speaker. The Conservative MLA declined the nomination and Greenfield’s choice was acclaimed.

Here is a look at a few of the contested Speaker elections held since 1993:

2015: When MLAs gathered for the first sitting of the legislature following the 2015 election, Medicine Hat NDP MLA Bob Wanner was elected as Speaker. Wanner faced Calgary-Lougheed Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Rodney. The Wildrose opposition attempted to nominate others challengers in a strange attempt to disrupt the process. Wildrose MLAs Angela Pitt and Leela Aheer nominated NDP MLAs Stephanie McLean and Marie Renaud and PC MLA Sandra Jansen, all who declined their nominations.

Laurie Blakeman MLA Edmonton-Centre Liberal

Laurie Blakeman

2008 and 2012: Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman was nominated by her Liberal caucus colleagues in the 2008 and 2012 Speaker elections and was defeated by incumbent Speaker Ken Kowalski in the first election and Edmonton-Mill Creek Progressive Conservative MLA Gene Zwozdesky in the second election.

1997: Barrhead-Westlock PC MLA and former deputy premier Ken Kowalski was elected as Speaker on the second round of voting over Dunvegan MLA Glen Clegg after Highwood MLA Don Tannas was eliminated on the first ballot. Liberal leader Grant Mitchell nominated then-Liberal MLA Gene Zwozdesky as a candidate for Speaker, but he declined to stand.

It is believed that the 18 Liberal MLA votes in that Speaker election helped secure Kowalski’s over Clegg, who was seen as Premier Ralph Klein’s preferred choice. Kowalski’s comeback happened a short three years after he had been unceremoniously booted from Klein’s cabinet.

1993: Liberal leader Laurence Decore nominated Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Bettie Hewes as speaker in 1993, the first time the Speaker was elected by secret ballot. Hewes was defeated by PC MLA Stan Schumacher.


Speaker punches newspaper publisher over wife-swapping allegations, 1935

Oran McPherson

Oran McPherson

A glance through the history of Speakers of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly reveals some fascinating stories. One story really stuck out.

In 1935, Speaker Oran McPherson is reported to have engaged in a heated argument at the top of the rotunda’s grand staircase with Edmonton Bulletin publisher Charles Campbell, who McPherson accused of spreading lies about his divorce. McPherson punched Campbell and he hit a railing and banged his head on a pillar.

It had been reported that McPherson was arranging a “wife-swap” with the aide-de-camp to the serving Lieutenant Governor.

Postmedia gives Albertans one more reason to drink on this May Long

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon announced through press release and a video on YouTube that the “war on fun” being waged by the “nanny state” was coming to an end as the government relaxes alcohol restrictions at festivals and in parks, including lifting the annual ban on liquor in provincial campgrounds over the May long weekend.

Kenney referenced prohibition-era laws in the video, but the May long weekend ban at some provincial campgrounds was only first imposed in 2004, when Ralph Klein was premier of Alberta. Klein had supposedly sworn-off alcohol by that point in his political career but he could hardly be described as a prohibitionist.

We are confident that this proactive approach will aid in making some of Alberta’s most popular provincial parks safer and more enjoyable places for families to camp on long weekends,” said then-Minister of Community Development Gene Zwozdesky in the press release announcing the temporary liquor ban.

The 2004 government press release reinforced the reason for the ban: “During the 2003 May long weekend, there were a total of 239 recorded liquor-related enforcement action occurrences in Alberta’s 68 provincial parks, including written warnings, charges, arrests and evictions.”

Campers in parks across Alberta will find out quickly whether this or future May long weekends result in a return to the alcohol-fuel chaos that led to the ban in the first place. 

Giving Albertans another reason to drink this weekend is Postmedia Network Inc.

The company that owns the Calgary Sun, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Sun and Edmonton Journal and dozens of other daily and local newspapers in Alberta and across Canada has hired a lobbyist to “to discuss ways Postmedia could be involved in the government’s energy war room.”

The registered lobbyist hired by Postmedia is Wellington Advocacy CEO Nick Koolsbergen, who served as United Conservative caucus chief of staff and the party’s campaign director in the April 2019 election. Koolsbergen announced on Twitter days after the election that was leaving the UCP to “to spend some time in the private sector.” He soon after announced he was starting a new lobbyist company with former federal Conservative staffer Rachel Curran.

During the election campaign, Kenney pledged to fund a $30-million “war room” to respond to critics of the oil and gas industry, including environmental groups and Bill Nye (the Science Guy). The energy war room is essentially a $30-million public relations subsidy for some of the wealthiest corporations operating in Canada’s oil and gas sector.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage is reported to have said more information about the war room will be released soon. Criticism of the new UCP government is expected to increase as Nixon moves to repeal the entire Climate Leadership Plan implemented by the previous New Democratic Party government led by Rachel Notley.

It would appear that Postmedia is fishing for a cut of the war room advertising money, likely for its “Content Works” division, which creates advertisements in the style of an editorial or news article. Literal fake news funded by taxpayers. The whole thing stinks.

Postmedia’s conservative editorial bias is well-known. Despite attempts by some local editors-in-chief to maintain local autonomy, the Toronto-based company has in required its newspapers to publish prescribed election endorsements of Conservative parties across the country.

This is not the first time Canada’s largest media company has become involved with oil and gas industry advocacy. In 2014, it was revealed that the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers made a pitch to Postmedia Network’s board of directors to create an “Energy Channel Sponsorship” for Postmedia newspapers to “amplify” CAPP’s “energy mandate.”

Some of the largest energy companies have been accused of spending $1 billion to undermine efforts to combat climate change over the past decade.

And as Postmedia is positioning itself for a role in the war room, its CEO Paul Godfrey is one of the key players agitating for funding from a new $595 million federal government media fund.

So this weekend as you relax in your lawn chair in one of Alberta’s beautiful provincial parks, forget about toasting a monarch who has been dead for 118-years, as Kenney and Nixon did in their video. Instead, raise a responsible drink or two for efforts to combat climate change, the freedom of the press, and for those poor reporters working for Postmedia who are just trying to do good journalism despite the best attempts of their bosses in Toronto.

Jason Kenney Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta Finances

Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances, NDP critics, and auf Wiedersehen, Derek

It has been a busy week in Alberta politics and here are a few of my thoughts on some recent developments:

Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances

Premier Jason Kenney and Finance Minister Travis Toews appointed a “Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances” with a mandate to recommend changes limited to Alberta government spending. As others have already pointed out, the narrow mandate is a missed opportunity to actually address the fiscal challenges facing Alberta, which includes issues with revenue ranging from low taxation and over-dependence on oil and gas royalty revenues.

That Kenney, who started his political career as spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, would want to focus purely on spending is not a shock. But it is only part of the challenge facing Alberta.

Appointing an arms-length panel to make these recommendations is politically smart and will give cover to a United Conservative Party government that is already inclined to make significant cuts to funding of public services. The NDP made similar political moves when they appointed arms-length panels to recommend changes to the natural resource royalty structure and to recommend action on climate change, which included the creation of the carbon tax, which Kenney has pledged to repeal.

Kenney’s appointment of history professor and former Saskatchewan New Democratic Party cabinet minister Janice MacKinnon and former Alberta Liberal MLA Mike Percy was a clever move that on the surface mildly disarms its critics. But despite their past political affiliations, both MacKinnon and Percy have in the decades since they left elected office been welcomed in conservative circles because of their fiscally conservative views. MacKinnon was even prominently quoted in the UCP election platform.

Albertans need leaders who will look at the big picture, not just a slice of the problem. Judging by its narrow mandate, it is hard to imagine the blue ribboned panelists recommending anything but cuts, cuts, and more cuts.

NDP critics to be named next week 

The 24 Alberta NDP MLAs who will make up the Official Opposition will be sworn-in on May 13 at the Legislative Assembly. Unlike their UCP colleagues, who will be sworn-in before the Speech from the Throne on May 21, the two dozen NDP MLAs will have an 8-day jump start with access to their Legislative offices and time to prepare for their first week of Question Period. And with a caucus mostly hailing from Edmonton, NDP MLAs will have a hometown advantage of not having to regularly travel long-distances to work in the capital city.

The NDP critic line-up is expected to be announced shortly after NDP MLAs are sworn-in. With 9 cabinet minister in its ranks, the NDP opposition will be well-equipped to question the cabinet of mostly rookie UCP MLAs. There could be a natural temptation to appoint the former cabinet ministers as critics for the ministerial offices they previously held, but it could also compromise the credibility of those critics who in some cases would be watching much of their 4-years of work be dismantled by the UCP.

Look for Official Opposition leader Rachel Notley to place Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman, Lethbridge-East MLA Shannon Phillips, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous, Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen, and Calgary-Buffalo MLA Joe Ceci in key critic roles.

The NDP will be tempted to continue their relentless campaign against the UCP on social issues, but treating the post-election period as just an extension of the 2019 election could be a strategic mistake. The NDP need to prepare themselves for how to respond effectively to the aggressive legislative agenda Kenney is expected to implement in the “Summer of Repeal” and to a fall provincial budget that could include deep and short-sighted budget cuts.

auf Wiedersehen, Derek.

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt faced a bizarre 72 hour suspension from the Official Opposition caucus this week.Former Wildrose Party and UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt resigned as leader of the Freedom Conservative Party last week after his party’s electoral poor showing and his failure to win re-election in Chestermere-Strathmore in the April 2019 election. Fildebrandt, also a former spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, is succeeded by interim leader David White, a former paramedic who ran for the party in Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin.

Say what you want about his political views and personal behavior, but Fildebrandt has been one of the most consistently colourful characters in Alberta politics since he burst on to the provincial scene in 2012.

The Freedom Conservative Party is the latest name of a tiny right-wing populist and sometimes separatist party that has existed since 1999. It took its latest form in June 2018 when the Western Freedom Party was renamed the Freedom Conservative Party. The party was originally formed as the Alberta First Party in 1999, renamed the Separation Party of Alberta in 2004 and again renamed the Alberta First Party in 2013 before it became the Western Freedom Party in April 2018.

Dave Cournoyer, Adam Rozenhart, and Ryan Hastman of the Daveberta Podcast.

Episode 36: Jason Kenney’s first week and what’s next for Rachel Notley

In this episode of the Daveberta Podcast we discuss the election results, Jason Kenney’s first week as Premier of Alberta and who he appointed to the United Conservative government cabinet, and Rachel Notley and what’s next for the Alberta NDP.

We also dive into the mailbag to answer the great questions sent in by listeners ranging from what to make of Adriana LaGrange’s appointment as Education Minister to whether a sitting MLA has ever been convicted of a crime (which gives Dave a chance to talk about the Bankers’ Toadies scandal of 1937).

It is also with mixed emotions that we bid co-host Ryan Hastman farewell from the Daveberta Podcast as he starts his new job as Chief of Staff to Minister of Community & Social Services Rajan Sawhney. Dave and Adam thank Ryan for his thoughtful and insightful contributions to the podcast over the past 18 months and wish him luck in his new role. Godspeed, Ryan!

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. You can listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online.

We always love to feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download. You can also comment on the blogFacebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

And thanks again to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, for making us sound so good.

Thanks for listening!

Photo: Dave Cournoyer, Adam Rozenhart, and Ryan Hastman of the Daveberta Podcast.

Alberta Election 2019: By The Numbers

Date of Alberta’s 2019 election: April 16, 2019
Date of Alberta’s next election: Between March 1 and May 31, 2023
Total number of votes cast in the 2019 election: 1,894,985
Total number of votes cast in the 2015 election: 1,488,248
District with highest voter turnout: 80.2 per cent in Grande Prairie-Wapiti
District with lowest voter turnout: 45.8 per cent in Calgary-East
Total number of re-elected MLAs: 41
Total number of new MLAs: 46
MLAs in the Government Caucus: 63
MLAs in the Opposition: 24
Number of women in the Government Caucus: 15 out of 63
Number of women in the Opposition Caucus: 11 out of 24
Most votes for a candidate: 20,579 for UCP candidate Jason Nixon in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre
Highest percentage of votes for a candidate: 81.6 per cent for UCP candidate Jason Nixon in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre
Longest serving re-elected MLA: Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona has served 4061 days since she was first elected in the 2008 provincial election.
Closest race: Calgary-Falconridge. UCP candidate Devinder Toor defeated NDP candidate Parmeet Singh Boparai by 96 votes.
Youngest elected MLA: Miranda Rosin, 23-years old, in Banff-Kananaskis.
Total vote for the United Conservative Party in 2019: 1,040,004
Total vote for the Wildrose Party and PC Party in 2015: 774,121
Total vote for the NDP in 2019: 619,147
Total vote for the NDP in 2015: 604,518
Total vote for the Alberta Party in 2019: 171,996
Total vote for the Alberta Party in 2015: 33,221
Total vote for the Liberal Party in 2019: 18,546
Total vote for the Liberal Party in 2015: 62,153

I’m back, so about that Alberta Election…

Eleven days have passed since Alberta’s provincial election in which Albertans voted in droves and gave our province its first ever one-term government. That alone provides a lot of reflect on, but there is so much more.

Having taken a much-needed vacation after the election (I was on an early flight out of the country on the morning following election night), I now have some thoughts on the results and what they could mean for Alberta and the political parties. 

First, the voter turnout was high. The official results of the election were released this week, showing that 64 per cent of eligible voters in Alberta participated in the election. This is down from the previous voter turnout numbers released by Elections Alberta before the count was official that showed a 71 per cent turnout. While the numbers are not as fantastic as 71 per cent, this election marks the highest turnout since the 1982 election, which was 66 per cent.

The high turnout in advance voting, in particular the “vote anywhere” ballots that allowed Albertans to vote at any advance polling station in the province, was remarkable. More than 700,000 votes were cast at the advance polls, with more than 260,000 of them being “vote anywhere” advance ballots. This was the first time this option was allowed in an Alberta election, and it appears that many Albertans liked the option of voting anywhere during the 5-days of advance voting.

The United Conservative Party elected 63 MLAs and earned a remarkable 1,040,004 votes, the highest of any political party in Alberta’s history. That party’s 54.9 per cent is the highest earned by a political party since the Progressive Conservatives in the 2001 election. It appears as though much of the UCP’s popular vote was boosted by significant landslide victories in rural districts across the province, making rural MLAs a powerful force in the UCP caucus.

While the internal politics of this relatively new party are still evolving, incoming-premier Jason Kenney has a strong mandate to implement his incoming government’s agenda. Kenney has said he will appoint a cabinet by the end of April and hold a session of the Legislative Assembly in May, kicking off what he previously described as a “Summer of Repeal.” Kenney has pledged to dismantle many of the NDP’s flagship programs, including the Climate Leadership Plan and Energy Efficiency Alberta. 

The large UCP caucus only includes one MLA with previous provincial cabinet experience, Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver, so the learning curve will be steep for those appointed by Kenney next week. But like the NDP when it formed government in 2015, the UCP in 2019 will be bolstered by legions of career political staffers migrating to Alberta over the next few months.

Kenney is expected to continue to focus on his three key talking points from the election campaign – jobs, economy and pipelines – which is also expected to include a heavy does of political rhetoric aimed at Ottawa, Justin Trudeau, and anyone from outside Alberta who dares criticize the oil and gas sector (which will certainly keep Kenney busy).

The social conservative issues that dogged Kenney and many now elected UCP MLAs will not be his focus, but the social conservative groups who make up critical elements of his electoral coalition will expect to be rewarded for their loyalty. This could potentially create a difficult balancing act over the next four years.

The New Democratic Party was unable to get re-elected into government, but earned 619,147 votes, the party’s highest ever vote total. The larger voter turnout and consolidation of conservative votes around UCP candidates meant the NDP only earned 32.7 per cent of the vote and elected 24 MLAs, which is still one of the largest elected opposition caucuses in Alberta’s history. The NDP vote was heavily concentrated within Edmonton city limits, delivering the party all but one of the capital city’s electoral districts.

Outgoing-Premier Rachel Notley has pledged to stay on as party leader, which is a positive outcome for the NDP after its election defeat. Notley is the party’s strongest asset and is probably key to why the party formed government in 2015 and was not decimated in this election.

While the NDP sometimes tends to act like it is more inclined for life on the opposition benches, the new official opposition caucus will only have 3 MLAs who previously served in opposition (Notley, Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen and Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous). This is the first time the NDP will form official opposition since its previous tenure in the role from 1982 to 1993. 

A struggle for the new NDP caucus and for the NDP internally will be to decide whether it wants to remain the centre-leftish liberal-like party it was in government or whether it should return to something closer to its social democratic roots.

While I have a hard time expecting the NDP’s advocacy for oil pipelines to waver, the party has the opportunity to present a strong alternative to the UCP on issues ranging from climate change to support for strong public services like health care and education. Support for pipelines might be the biggest challenge the NDP will have to reconcile with if it wants to be seen as a serious advocate for action against climate change.

The Alberta Party lost all 3 of its seats in the Assembly despite having high-profile former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel at its helm. The Alberta Party increased its popular vote to 9.1 per cent but none of its candidates came close to being elected. Even in Calgary-Elbow, popular opposition MLA and former party leader Greg Clark fell more than 3,000 votes short of being re-elected.

This result should prompt some serious internal discussions about what role the moderate conservative party plays in Alberta politics, especially as it now has no presence in the Assembly.

For the first time in 33 years the Liberal Party has no presence in the Assembly. Leader David Khan performed well in the televised leaders’ debate and was expected to have a shot at being elected in Calgary-Mountain View, the seat being vacated by retiring four-term Liberal MLA David Swann. But when the votes were counted Khan finished in fourth place with 5.6 per cent. The party only fielded 51 candidates and earned 18,546 votes, which translated into 1 per cent of the vote.

The Liberals will continue to exist on paper but for all intents and purposes the party that formed the official opposition from 1993 to 2012 has ceased to exist as a political force in Alberta.

Disgruntled former Wildrose and UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt’s Freedom Conservative Party barely registered on the electoral radar. Running candidates only 24 districts, the populist-UCP spinoff finished with 9,945 votes province-wide. Fildebrandt finished a distant third in Chestermere-Strathmore, 61 per cent behind UCP MLA Leela Aheer.

Despite the crushing loss, Fildebrandt carries no shortage of political ambition. My bet is that he will show on a ballot as a People’s Party of Canada candidate in the October 2019 federal election.

I am planning on taking a closer look at the district and regional level results over the next few weeks, so stay tuned for more analysis and commentary about the results of Alberta’s election.

Alberta goes Blue: Jason Kenney’s UCP wins an unsurprising majority victory

It was largely expected and anti-climactic, but Jason Kenney has led his United Conservative Party to form a majority government in Alberta, defeating the one-term New Democratic Party government of Rachel Notley.

More than 260,000 “vote anywhere” advance ballots still need to be counted, but as of tonight the UCP appears to hold 64 seats with the NDP forming an opposition of 24 seats. There could be some change as those additional votes are counted in the next few days, but it is not expected the seat count will change dramatically.

The UCP dominated rural Alberta and appear to have captured most of the seats in Calgary, climbing into majority territory about half-an-hour after the polls closed.

The NDP won nearly every seat in Edmonton, plus the suburban city of St. Albert, a handful of districts in central and northeast Calgary, and Shannon Phillips’ seat in Lethbridge-West. As far as opposition caucuses go, this is fairly respectable for Alberta.

Despite losing her party’s majority tonight, Notley promised in an energetic and upbeat election night speech that she intends to continue leading her party as Leader of the Official Opposition. New Democrats were certainly disappointed in the election loss, but there was plenty of love for Rachel Notley at the Edmonton Convention Centre tonight.

This is the first time since the 1993-1997 Legislative Assembly that only two parties will be represented in the Assembly. Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark was unsuccessful in his bid for re-election in Calgary-Elbow, and party leader Stephen Mandel fell short in Edmonton-McClung. Both Liberal Party leader David Khan and Freedom Conservative Party leader Derek Fildebrandt were defeated.

I will have a lot more to comment on when all the advance ballots have been counted, the seat totals are settled, and the dust settles. Now, I need some rest.

There will be a lot to unpack after the votes are counted in Alberta’s election.

There’s nothing like the taste of an election in the morning, or maybe it’s just the tiredness after the restless night before the final day of the campaign. Election Eve is restless for me in elections like the one being held in Alberta today. And I’m not even actively involved in a campaign.

The past 28 days has been a continuation of what really has been a two year election-style marathon between Rachel Notley‘s governing New Democratic Party and Jason Kenney‘s opposition United Conservative Party.

With nearly 700,000 votes having been cast at the advance polls, there appears to be a lot of interest in this election. And voters from the two main parties appear to be highly motivated, even if they just want this election to be over with.

But even after all the votes are counted, Albertans shouldn’t expect the divisive politics of the past two years to just disappear. Competitive elections are something new to Alberta, and the electorate and political parties are still adjusting to what could be a new normal.

There will be a lot to unpack from this election after the votes are counted. Questions of leadership and character, of identity and expression, of discrimination and intolerance, of humility and empathy, of the rural-urban divide, of who is the best to ease the fear many Albertans have about the economy and the future of the oil and gas industry.

Does the oil and gas industry in Alberta even have a long-term future? Will a pipeline actually solve any of our problems? How do we adapt to a rapidly changing climate and shifting attitudes towards fossil fuels?

Are we a province captured by fear of the future and obsessed with culture wars and fights with our neighbours? Do we yearn for past prosperity or are we focused on what is possible to build in the future?

Some of these issues are clear cut, some of them aren’t. It is up to Albertans to try to figure it out.

Voting stations are open until 8:00 p.m. tonight. So get out and vote.

(And I’m finally looking forward to getting some decent sleep after tonight is over.)


Watch the Alberta Election results on the big screen!

Dave is excited to be hosting an election night panel with past Daveberta Podcast guest co-hosts Natalie Pon and David Climenhaga on April 16 at the Metro Cinema (Garneau Theatre) in Edmonton (8712 109 Street). Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and the panel will start around 7:20 p.m. and go until the polls close at 8:00 p.m., then you can watch the election results stream in on the big movie screen. There is a bar. Admission is free. Hope to see you there!

8 races I am watching on Election Night in Alberta

At this point in Alberta’s election campaign, I am frequently being asked “what races are you watching on election night?” The short answer is, I am watching all of them, but there are a few specific races that I will be keeping my eye on when the polls close at 8:00 p.m. on April 16:

Banff-Kananaskis: This has been a long-time conservative voting district, but New Democratic Party MLA Cam Westhead was elected in 2015 with 43 per cent of the vote, nabbing it away from PC MLA Ron Casey. This time Westhead is facing United Conservative Party candidate Miranda Rosin, who claims her party does not support the locally controversial Springbank Dam, despite her party saying the opposite. Westhead has the support of numerous local municipal politicians who describe him as a strong advocate for the area. And the redistribution of the electoral boundaries has removed conservative-voting Cochrane from the district, making this one to watch in my books.

Calgary-Bow: NDP candidate Deborah Drever’s win in the 2015 election was a surprise and even after a rough start to her first term, she appeared to have redeemed herself. She faces her main challenge from UCP candidate Demetrios Nicolaides in this election. This is one of the Calgary districts the NDP will need to hold on to if they have any hope of forming government on April 16.

Calgary-Elbow: Greg Clark was leader of the Alberta Party when he was elected as the party’s only MLA in 2015. He is no longer the leader and he is running for re-election in 2019 against for conservative lawyer Doug Schweitzer. Clark has been an effective opposition voice in the Legislature and deserves a second-term, but it’s yet to be seen whether he can survive the challenge from the UCP and NDP candidate Janet Eremenko.

Calgary-Mountain View: A dog’s breakfast. Four-term Liberal MLA David Swann is retiring and all the parties are now scrambling to contest this district. Liberal Party leader David Khan, NDP Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, last minute UCP nominee Jeremy Wong, Alberta Party candidate and former radio broadcaster Angela Kokott, and Green Party candidate Thana Boonlert are in the mix. My money is on Ganley winning, but it really could be anybody’s game.

Edmonton-McClung: NDP MLA Lorne Dach is facing two strong challengers in Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel and UCP candidate Laurie Mozeson. It is hard to tell who the front-runner is in this contest, but all three are contenders.

Edmonton-West Henday: NDP MLA Jon Carson is facing a strong challenge from lobbyist and former PC ministerial aide Nicole Williams in this newly redrawn northwest Edmonton district. Carson was elected in 2015 as the MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark, which has at various times switched hands from the NDP, Liberals and PCs going back to the 1980s.

Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville: East of Edmonton this district could produce some interesting results. NDP MLA Jessica Littlewood is running for re-election and her main challenger is UCP candidate Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk. Littlewood is locally renowned for her travel through the constituency, and despite hotly contested nomination races in other districts, Armstrong-Homeniuk was acclaimed for the UCP nod in this district.

Lethbridge-West: As Environment & Parks Minister, Shannon Phillips has been one of the Notley government’s most prominent voices. Phillips has a strong ground game and is as smart as a whip, but the UCP has poured a lot of resources into the campaign of her main challenger, real estate agent Karri Flatla. My money is on Phillips winning re-election, but it could be close.

And here are a few other things I am watching:

Are there any races you are watching that I have missed? Let me know!

Episode 34: When you play the Game of Thrones… Alberta election edition.

In this episode Dave and Ryan discuss the huge turnout at the advance polls, some of the key races to watch on election night, and recap of the final days of the campaign. We also dive into the mailbag to answer some great questions from our listeners. And because we couldn’t help ourselves, we talk about the return of Game of Thrones (no spoilers).

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. You can listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online.

We always love to feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download. You can also comment on the blogFacebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

And thanks again to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, for making us sound so good.

Thank you for listening and to everyone who sent in questions this week!


Watch the Alberta Election results on the big screen!

Dave is excited to be hosting an election night panel with past Daveberta Podcast guest co-hosts Natalie Pon and David Climenhaga on April 16 at the Metro Cinema (Garneau Theatre) in Edmonton (8712 109 Street). Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and the panel will start around 7:20 p.m. and go until the polls close at 8:00 p.m., then you can watch the election results stream in on the big movie screen. There is a bar. Admission is free. Hope to see you there!