Category Archives: Alison Redford

alison redford’s big opportunity.

(Re)Enter Mister Fjeldheim.
There has been a certain amount of attention focused on Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer and his comments regarding his philosophy towards his newly re-inherited position. Brian Fjeldheim, who held the position from 1998 to 2005, was recently reappointed following the dismissal of his more activist successor-turned-predecessor Lorne Gibson. After re-assuming his role last week, Mr. Fjeldheim was a little more reserved when describing his role in advocating the importance of the vote to Albertans (60% of Albertans did not vote in the 2008 election). Dave Breakenridge offered some thoughts on Mr. Fjeldhiem’s comments in today’s Calgary Sun.

Open up the Elections Act.
In the next few weeks, Justice Minister Alison Redford is expected to introduce legislative amendments to Alberta’s aging Elections Act. Minister Redford has said that the amendments will include some of the 182 recommended changes submitted by Mr. Gibson before his departure (but will not include fixed election dates). Of course, the recommendations included in the Bill will have be carefully chosen and measured for political impact by Minister Redford and her PC cabinet colleagues. Minister Redford’s amendments will likely include changes to how Returning Officers are chosen. During the 2008 election, it was revealed that the PC Party had provided lists of candidates for Returning Officers to the Elections Office (over half of the appointed Returning Officers had partisan connections to the PC Party).

Elections procedures can be improved through legislation, but democratic participation can be strengthened through meaningful engagement. In September 2007, the Government of New Zealand tried something completely different. As an innovative way to capture the views of the public on what a new Policing Act should look like, the Ministry of Justice launched an online Wiki. This Wiki allowed citizens from across that country to contribute their ideas and collaborate in the creation of new legislation.

What better way to reinvigorate our Elections Act than by opening up the amendment process to allow Albertans to collaborate by contributing their ideas for changes and improvements? What better opportunity to do things differently in than by allowing Albertans to invest their own ideas into the development of the important piece of legislation that will decide how their elections are structured? Is there a more meaningful piece of legislation that could be opened up to public collaboration than the Elections Act? Would this kind of online collaboration succeed in Alberta? There is only one way to find out.

Prior to entering elected office in 2008, Minister Redford cultivated an international legal career helping build democracies in countries around the globe (including as one of four international election commissioners appointed by the Secretary General of the United Nations to administer Afghanistan’s first parliamentary elections in September 2005). Legislative amendments can improve structure, but opening up the Elections Act to real public collaboration could be Minister Redford’s big opportunity to create more meaningful democratic participation in Alberta.

Making it easier for students to vote.
I am sure that there would be no shortage of Albertans who would contribute their ideas to an open dialogue on improving our Elections Act. The Council of Alberta University Students submitted a handful of recommendations (pdf) to Minister Redford last year when they heard about the upcoming legislative amendments. Each of the five recommendations have been adopted by Elections officials in provinces across Canada (though no jurisdiction has adopted all five). The recommendations would improve access to a voting demographic that due to its geographic transience, are likely to face barriers and challenges to participating in elections.

These are good recommendation, most of which would require minor administrative changes that are not anything that a little Alberta ingenuity could not overcome. Decreasing barriers to voting for younger Albertans will create a positive culture of participating in elections and could help create life-long voters – a group that is increasingly becoming a minority in Alberta elections. I hope to see some of these positive improvements included among Minister Redford’s amendments.

Coming Soon: New Maps.
Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission is due to release its interim report by February 26, 2010.

alberta politics notes 2/16/2010

– As Anarchist Day Camp showed up in Vancouver, opponents of the Winter Olympic Games have claimed victory against Alberta’s tarsands by forcing Premier Ed Stelmach to postpone his opening speech at the Alberta Pavillion.
– Energy Minister Ron Liepert wants your children to learn more about Alberta’s energy beach.
Ken Chapman has some words for Quebec Premier Jean Charest on the oilsands.
Can Alberta redesign its economy?, asks Todd Hirsch, senior economist with the ATB Financial.
– Speaking of redesign, the Left needs to define itself beyond the bottom line, according to Parkland Institute Executive Director Ricardo Acuna.
– Missed by most media outlets, Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith hired a new Executive Assistant. Shannon Stubbs, former Progressive Conservative Party VP Outreach and 2004 candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona, joined Smith’s staff two weeks ago.
– The Liberals took exception to CBCs The House ignoring them in their Alberta-focused show on February 6. They have since posted an interview with David Swann on their website.
Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr wants to know what exactly Justice Minister Alison Redford‘s new role as “political minister for Calgary” means for Albertans.

all aboard the alberta winter olympic train.

As far as international events go, it is hard to beat the size of the Olympic Games. Over 80 countries from across the world will be participating in the Winter sports event that kicked off in Vancouver last night.

With hundreds of millions of dollars likely being spent on wining and dining, it might feel like a drop in the bucket for the Province of Alberta to spend nearly $15 million dollars to promote the province to attendees, including the sponsorship of six Rocky Mountaineer train cars and the Alberta Pavilion.

Unparalleled comfort in the premier business networking venue at the Games.

The Rocky Mountaineer expense is billed by the Government of Alberta website as an opportunity to “provide the premier business networking venue at the Games” for only $499 for a round-trip ticket from Vancouver to Whistler. Who will be networking with the elite business Olympians of the world? Premier Ed Stelmach and eleven cabinet ministers will be there to wine, dine, and “offer guests unparalleled comfort” during their stay on the Alberta train! While experiencing this luxury, most passengers on the Alberta train this week would probably have a hard time believing that Alberta is in the midst of “tough economic times” and that just four short days ago, these 12 elected officials tabled a provincial budget that included the largest deficit in Alberta’s history.

Alberta Train - Vancouver 2010 OlympicsAlberta Train

Sending Premier Stelmach, Tourism Minister Cindy Ady, and Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett makes sense, but what of the other nine cabinet ministers? Are Albertans well served by covering the costs of sending eleven cabinet ministers to the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games? What business could Agriculture Minister Jack Hayden, Justice Minister Alison Redford, Housing Minister Jonathan Denis, or Finance Minster Ted Morton have at the Winter Olympic Games? I am sure the “unparalleled comfort” of the posh train cars will live up to its reputation, but is it really necessary to have half of Premier Stelmach’s cabinet on site?

As Graham Thomson pointed out in his Edmonton Journal column this morning, other PC MLAs will joining them, but “nobody in government seems to know exactly how many backbenchers are going.” I do not oppose Alberta having a presence at these games, but modesty is virtue our elected officials should not forget.

Alberta Train - Vancouver 2010 OlympicsAlberta Train

Time and money well spent?

Would Alberta’s cabinet ministers travel time be better spent flying elsewhere? Perhaps Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Iris Evans first mission to Washington DC in her new role this week would be more effective if she had some backup from her colleagues? Alas, no one wants to fly to DC during a winter blizzard!

Other Provinces?

When compared to our provincial neighbours, Alberta’s elected officials look like the rich kids whose parents picked up the annual tab for their spring break in Mexico. The Province of Saskatchewan is spending $4.1 million on their pavilion and Premier Brad Wall has committed to keep their political presence low at the Winter Games. Premier Wall will be joined by Tourism Minister Dustin Duncan and Enterprise Minister Ken Cheveldayoff. The Province of Manitoba is spending $6.4 million and sending a two-person team of Premier Greg Selinger and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Eric Robinson.

What about the real Alberta train?

Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith raised an interesting point this week while criticizing the expense:

“I would rather have seen any kind of travel budget being spent in Alberta,” Smith said. “They’re communicating to the wrong people.”

When was the last time Alberta had a Premier who spent this kind of money to sincerely communicate with Albertans? I am not talking about fancy videos commercials, visits to the Rutherford Show, or hiring expensive advertising companies to brand new messages. I am talking about actually travelling across this province and holding open town hall meetings outside of a highly managed and artificial election environment.

This feeds the perception that our elected officials are only accessible to those with political power or business interests. When was the last time Alberta had a Premier who allowed himself to be publicly accessible to any Albertan, regardless of political persuasion or income-bracket? When was the last time a Premier of Alberta hopped aboard a train filled with ordinary people of Alberta?

what’s going to happen at the pc leadership review?

Barring a stealth insurgency campaign, I anticipate that around 85% of Progressive Conservative convention delegates will support Premier Ed Stelmach in the leadership review vote this weekend. Why so high, you ask? Because this is a vote by dedicated partisans from Alberta’s PC Party. Premier Stelmach has his detractors, but I expect that the kind of party members who would pay hundreds of dollars to spend two days in Red Deer will predictably rally around the PC Party brand.

Seeking to revive fond memories a past era, the slogan chosen for this convention was also the PCs 1979 election slogan. Now… more than ever, which was chosen thirty years ago over the wrath tempting 79 in ’79, is meant to remind party faithful of the glory days and to put aside their feelings about more recent political baggage. 

With at least two or three years until the next election, Premier Stelmach has at least twelve months to pull his party’s support up again before he faces the kind of internal opposition that forced Don Getty into retirement. Similar to Getty’s time in office, Premier Stelmach is governing during an economic slowdown under the shadow of a popular predecessor. Getty’s administration was marred with scandals and internal dissent and so far, Premier Stelmach has demonstrated an ability to avoid taking personal responsibility for his government’s missteps. Getty retired in 1992 as Laurence Decore‘s Liberals were riding a wave of discontent that mirrored the rise of the Reform Party on the federal stage. While they are currently rising in recent polls, it remains to be seen whether Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Alliance can sustain their support until the next election. It also remains to be seen whether David Swann can re-energize the Liberals to take advantage of a potential split on the political right.

Also uncertain is who would contest a 2010 leadership race if PC delegates voted to sack the Premier. Ted Morton, Brett WilsonJim Prentice, Dave Hancock, Jonathan Denis, Ray DanylukAlison Redford, and Doug Horner are names that I have heard bandied around, but it is too soon to tell who is actually prepared to step up to the plate.

Billed as a policy convention, a quick look at the policy booklet reveals a fairly dry agenda for debate. It is likely that the liveliest excitement of the weekend may come from outside the convention where the AUPEthe Friends of Medicare, and other public sector groups are busing hundreds of supporters from around the province to a huge Stop the Cuts rally only blocks away from the convention.

On Saturday night, PC archetypes will herald the convention as a success of the grassroots, but I expect that little will change after the convention concludes. Regardless of potential icebergs on the political horizon, a strong showing of support in the leadership review will certainly solidify the resolve of Premier Stelmach and his supporters that they are steering their party, and the Government of Albertans, in the right direction. “Rearrange the deck chairs…

Recommended Reading: 
Alex Abboud: State of Alberta: At a Crossroads
Calgary Grit: This week in Alberta – All good things…
Ken Chapman: Is Alberta about to enter an empire illusion stage politically?
Chris Labossiere: Run up the middle… to right of centre
Duncan Wojtaszek: Red Deer
Live Gov: PC AGM

alberta redrawing boundaries.

Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission is now into its third week of its first round of public hearings. My previous post on the Commission has generated some great discussion about the challenges of representing rural electoral districts and I am looking forward to an upcoming post by a guest contributor to this blog that will delve deeper into some of the issues raised in that discussion.

Thanks to the good people at Hansard, transcripts and audio are now available from the last two weeks of hearings in Fort McMurray: (afternoon, evening), St. Paul, Wainwright, Edmonton (September 22nd afternoon, evening). The transcripts and audio from the September 23rd public hearings in Edmonton and September 24th & 25th in Calgary are not available yet, but I would expect that they should be posted at some point this week. 

So far, it has been a relatively small number of Albertans who have presented to the commission, including MLAs Laurie Blakeman and Guy Boutilier, municipal officials including Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland, County of St. Paul Reeve Robert Bouchard, Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, and a number of representatives from Liberal and Progressive Conservatives constituency associations.

Due to legislative amendments introduced into the Legislative Assembly by Justice Minister Alison Redford during the Spring session, the Electoral Boundaries Commission will increase the amount of electoral districts from 83 to 87. While it’s very questionable why Albertans would need more MLAs, the increase may help the case presented by Mandel, who urged the Commissioners to increase Edmonton’s representation by two seats. The outcome of the 2002/2003 Boundaries Commission saw Edmonton’s representation in the Legislative Assembly decrease by one MLA, a move that is widely believed to have contributed to the defeats of seven capital city PC MLAs in the 2004 provincial election (Commission member Bauni Mackay penned a spirited defence of Edmonton in her minority position).

These public hearings haven’t been overflowing with presenters, but I expect that interest will rise after the interim report and interim map are released in the coming months. The submission deadline for the first round of public hearings is on October 13.

Related:
Brian Dell: My Submission to the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission
Trish Audette: Rural vs Urban tug of war

a calgary-glenmore induced cabinet shuffle?

I briefly touched on this point in my previous post, but the potential for a cabinet shuffle before the fall session of the Legislative Assembly begins in October seems imminent after yesterday’s results in the Calgary-Glenmore by-election. I started hearing serious rumours of a cabinet shuffle during the spring session of the Assembly. They mostly began following the announcement of the deficit in the 2009 provincial budget and intensified following the controversy over Bill 44.

A shuffle within Finance & Enterprise is the rumour I’ve heard most frequently. With Minister Iris Evans being in the most unfortunate position to have tabled Alberta’s first deficit budget in 15 years, it wouldn’t be completely shocking if Premier Ed Stelmach wanted this position shuffled. Sources close to a PC cabinet minister have told me that Advanced Education & Technology Minister Doug Horner is seen as the natural fit for this position. Horner is well-respected and has been a competent Minister in his current portfolio.

The resignation of Deputy Premier Ron Stevens left Stelmach without a recognized Calgary Lieutenant in his cabinet. Although she doesn’t have the type of corporate Calgary credentials as Stevens, I could see the Deputy Premier role being filled by Justice Minister Alison Redford.

With Children’s Services Minister Janis Tarchuk reaching the end of her political rope, Evans could easily be shuffled back into the Children’s Services portfolio, an position that she passionately filled from 1999 to 2004.

For Advanced Education & Technology, I have heard a number of names floated including PC backbenchers Len Webber, Janice Sarich, Doug Griffiths, Jonathan Denis, Dave Rodney, and cabinet ministers Heather Klimchuk and Ted Morton. I have a difficult time believing that Morton would be moved from Sustainable Resource Development (a ministry where he is recognized as being competent), the results of the Calgary-Glenmore by-election make it likely that a Calgary MLA will be picked.

I’m told that many inside Stelmach’s inner circle take great joy in comparing themselves to the government of Peter Lougheed. If this is a motivator, I could easily see both Horner and Webber, two second generation PC MLAs whose father’s served in Lougheed’s government, be appointed to elevated positions around the cabinet table.

UPDATE: Len Webber has been appointed Minister of Intergovernmental and International Affairs. This appears to be Premier Stelmach’s only new appointment to the Cabinet.

Further UPDATE: From the GOA:

Premier Stelmach also named Calgary-Egmont MLA Jonathan Denis as the new Parliamentary Assistant for Energy. Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Broyce Jacobs becomes the Parliamentary Assistant for Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD). And Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths moves from his role as the Parliamentary Assistant in ARD to become the Parliamentary Assistant for the Department of Solicitor General and Public Security.

ernie walter appointed chair of alberta’s next electoral boundaries commission.

Through an Order-in-Council, former Provincial Court Justice Ernie Walter has been appointed as Chair of Alberta’s next Electoral Boundaries Review Commission. Justice Walter will be joined by four commission members (two appointed by the Premier Ed Stelmach and two appointed by Official Opposition leader David Swann). The commission will be tasked to redraw the boundaries to account for the population changes since the last boundaries review in 2002/2003. The legislation governing this commission calls for it to be appointed before July 31, 2009.

New changes, introduced by Justice Minister Alison Redford in Bill 45: Electoral Boundaries Commission Amendment Act, mandate that the commission increase the total number of Alberta’s electoral districts from 83 to 87 (in these (sic) tough economic times, one thing that we can apparently afford is more politicians).

It is suspected that the 4 MLA increase has less to do with increasing representation and more to do with preempting any increased urban-rural tension among PC MLAs. Even as many rural Alberta ridings decrease in population, its citizens have continued to benefit from being over-represented in the Legislative Assembly in comparison to citizens in Alberta’s larger urban areas (ie: 23,645 people in Dunvegan-Central Peace and 55,570 people in Edmonton-Whitemud).

Not convinced? Last year, Municipal Affairs Minister and Lac La Biche-St. Paul MLA Ray Danyluk made his position clear when he told the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties that “Representation is not all about equal representation, it’s about equitable representation.” Actually, it is about equal representation.

As a result of the 2002/2003 Electoral Boundary Review Final Report, the quickly growing City of Edmonton lost a seat in the Legislative Assembly when the Edmonton-Norwood riding was dissolved (much of the area was merged with Edmonton-Highlands to become the current Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood).

no debate on public debate amendment [re: bill 18 & tilma].

They stood up to vote against it, but no PC MLA spoke up to explain why they opposed Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget Pastoor‘s March 18 amendment to remove Section 5 of Bill 18: Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement Implementation Statutes Amendment Act, 2009. In its current form, Section 5 will allow Cabinet Ministers to suspend or modify sections of the TILMA Act without seeking the approval of or having to deal with public debate in the elected Legislature.

Six opposition MLAs rose to speak in support of the amendment, while thirty-one PC MLAs, including Cabinet Ministers Iris Evans, Dave Hancock, Jack Hayden, Doug Horner, Heather Klimchuk, Fred Lindsay, Luke Ouellette, Alison Redford, Rob Renner, Lloyd Snelgrove, Ron Stevens, and Gene Zwozdesky didn’t make a peep before defeating the amendment 31 to 6.

UPDATE: MLA Laurie Blakeman raised concerns about this section of Bill 18 earlier in the week:

opposition grills alison redford on lorne gibson dismissal.

Opposition Liberal MLAs Kevin Taft, Kent Hehr, and Hugh MacDonald grill PC Justice Minister Alison Redford on the firing of Chief Returning Officer Lorne Gibson and the continuing Election 2008 fiasco in this video clip of Question Period in the Alberta Legislature.


AGRDT has a solid run down of the commentary on Gibson’s dismissal.

(h/t to MarvinMouse for the Youtube link)

alberta politics this week.

1) With inspiration from Barack Obama and Malcolm Gladwell, Jason Morris at Gauntlet.ca has some thoughtful insights on Alberta’s political environment.

2) Oil Sands Smog. An Environment Canada study obtained under the Access to Information Act predicts that sulfur dioxide will rise by up to 34 per cent by 2017 and nitrous oxides will rise by up to 24 per cent. Are you ready for acid rain in Fort McMurray?

3) While Chief Electoral Officer Lorne Gibson has called for increased transparency and accountability in party leadership races, Kent Hehr is asking Minister Alison Redford why Alberta Justice isn’t investigating 16 violations of election finances rules uncovered between 2006 and 2007 (including at least one violation committed by his party).

4) How are Alberta’s financial and economic prospects, Premier Ed Stelmach? Good, really bad, not as bad as I told you 24 hours ago, and rosy depending on which day of the week it is.

5) Good luck and safe travels to Journal reporter Archie McLean on his trip to Afghanistan. You can follow Archie’s Afghan tour at Assignment Afghanistan.

alison redford: talking about human rights hunting

As the first session of the 27th Alberta Legislature continues, you just need to take a look around the Assembly floor to see some pretty impressive people. One of them happens to be Calgary-Elbow Tory MLA, Minister of Justice, and Attorney General Alison Redford. Though I was disappointed to see her defeat Craig Cheffins in the March election (I was the Communications Coordinator for the Alberta Liberals during the June 2007 Calgary-Elbow by-election), a quick glance at Redford’s resume even impresses this blogging skeptic.

As Graham Thomson put it in a recent column:

Redford has a jaw-droppingly impressive resume that includes work as a human rights lawyer in South Africa, the Balkans and Vietnam. In 2005, she braved the war zone that is Afghanistan to work as a United Nation’s Election Commissioner to promote democracy and free elections, something many Albertans take for granted given the record low 41-per- cent turnout for last month’s provincial election.

Redford has the credentials of a real Progressive Conservative, so, I was a little surprised when she began her term as Justice Minister by refusing to talk about the inclusion sexual orientation under the Alberta Human Rights Act. Ten years ago, in Vriend v. Alberta, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the non-inclusion of sexual orientation, as a prohibited ground of discrimination in Alberta’s Individual’s Rights Protection Act (now the Alberta Human Rights Act), infringed and denied the rights guaranteed by Section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Instead of being the responsibility of the Justice Minister & Attorney General, human rights issues apparently fall under the responsibility of Culture and Community Spirit Minister Lindsay Blackett. Let me get this straight, the government’s top lawyer now defers questions about Supreme Court rulings and human rights to the Minister in charge of arts and culture?

Even though Redford won’t (or isn’t being allowed) to talk about amending Alberta’s Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, it seems that she doesn’t have a problem (or is being allowed) standing up on the Assembly floor to talk about the importance of killing small animals in Bill 201 – The Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Heritage Act.

The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

Ms Redford: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I had not intended to speak in support of this bill, but I would like to thank my Hon. colleague from Cypress- Medicine Hat for introducing this bill.

Listening to the speeches that have been given today with respect to the importance of hunting, fishing, and trapping in our province, I was moved to speak. I have given a lot of thought over the years to these issues and respect the fact that as a government this province and this government have been able to develop a system where we have been able to responsibly manage the environment in such a way that Albertans that respect these traditions are able to participate fully in these traditions.

As I mentioned, it’s not something that I specifically have ever been involved in; I’m more of a hiker. However, what I would say is that when I look at the people in my constituency, in Calgary- Elbow, that talk about these issues, they are engaged in these issues. I think it would be a shame for us to think of this piece of legislation as only representing people that happen to live in rural areas. There are people in my constituency that are proud members of Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited. They are people that are passionate about environmental management. They are people that care about respecting the traditions of this province. I think one of the challenges that we have in the future in Alberta is to make sure that we can respect both the traditions of rural Alberta as well as the lifestyles of people who are living in the cities. I think this bill is a great example of how we can marry those two traditions and those two lifestyles.

So a very short speech. Thank you to my colleague, and thank you for the consideration today.