Category Archives: Brian Mason

turnover at the alberta ndp office.

Word on the street is that Alberta NDP Executive Director Sandra Houston is resigning to pursue an job in Islamabad, Pakistan involving women and democracy. Ms. Houston has held the position for a couple of years and is considered a close ally of leader Brian Mason, something that has frustrated many reform-minded New Democrats that I have spoken with.

The Wildrose Alliance and Progressive Conservative Party have also had recent turnover in their offices leading to the hirings of new Executive Directors Vitor Marciano and Patricia Godkin. In September 2009, Corey Hogan became Executive Director of the Liberal Party after filling a vacancy left after the resignation of long-time Executive Director Kieran Leblanc in 2008.

perfesser dave’s five paths to obscurity.

In his most recent blog post and column in the Saint City News, David Climenhaga (aka Perfesser Dave) pointed out five main challenges that the new Alberta Party faces in becoming relevant in the 2012 election. It is a good list and these challenges do not face the new Alberta Party alone. Mr. Climenhaga is also accurate in describing the challenges facing the other opposition parties in Alberta.

While the Wildrose Alliance, now led by Danielle Smith, has been successful in raising piles of cash through their oil and gas sector bankrollers, both the Liberals and New Democrats have had a difficult time raising the kind of funds needed to compete with the near 40-year governing Progressive Conservative Party. In 2007, the Liberals led by Edmonton MLA Kevin Taft raised over $1 million, but it remained a miniscule amount compared to the PC Party’s multi-million dollar war chest.

For all the talk of vote-splitting among the opposition parties, the political field is really not that crowded. In 2008, over 60% of Albertans stayed away from the polls, which signals that Albertans are hardly overflowing the polling stations to split votes. Even the electoral equations provided by the Democratic Renewal Project show that a merger of Liberal and NDP votes in recent elections would only create a moderately-sized opposition. It is true that the new Alberta Party leader, Edwin Erickson, is not high profile and is unlikely to be the next Premier of Alberta, but once you step out of the political echo chamber or away from the Dome, all the parties become irrelevant. For all their hard work, show a picture of David Swann or Brian Mason to a random person on the street, and you will likely get a puzzled look.

Voter Turnout versus Eligible Voters (Alberta 1975-2008)
Total Vote: Party Breakdown (Alberta 1971-2008)

Mr. Climenhaga claimed that the Alberta Party is a group of “self-important yuppified professionals who would like to go straight into power.” I have met with some of the organizers of the new Alberta Party and some of them are even good friends of mine. I can attest that while they are ambitious (and perhaps a bit naive), they are not what Mr. Climenhaga describes.

I have spoken with many Liberals and New Democrats who remain befuddled as to why anyone would attempt to start something new, rather than join the ranks of the already assembled politicos. On many levels, the people behind the new party are looking for a cultural shift in Alberta politics. Although they may agree with some of the policies promoted by the traditional political parties, they see the culture of these traditional parties as part of the problem. The Alberta Party organizers appear to be fully aware of the risks of failure and that they are stepping beyond the political comfort zones of many people already involved in other parties.

I know many jilted Liberals and jolted New Democrats who have resolved to bask in the glory days of Pierre Trudeau or Laurence Decore and Tommy Douglas or Grant Notley. I somewhat admire their political stamina and strength (or madness) in the face of adversity, but I also completely understand why a group of young politically ambitious reformers would want to chart their own course. Joining a group that has become content with spending decades in the relative obscurity of the opposition benches is hardly attractive if you are serious about changing government policy.

Building a new political party from the ground up is hard work. The current leadership of the Liberals and New Democrats inherited a base of support and network that has existed for decades. Considering that the party was formed only eight years ago, the growth of the Wildrose Alliance is impressive (recognizing that it did have roots in the mini-resurgence of the Randy Thorsteinson-led Social Credit Party in 1997). It will be interesting to see whether the people involved with the new Alberta Party can actually build something different.

Contrary to what you may sometimes read on this blog, I do not always enjoying pointing out the flaws of Alberta’s opposition parties. I wish they would do better. I wish for opposition parties that were not uncompetitive in half the constituencies represented in the Assembly. I wish for a competitive election in 2012 that will attract Albertans back to the ballot booths. If the current polling trends continue, it looks like it may be competitive, but it remains to be seen who will actually be the contenders.

closing inner city schools in edmonton.

The threat of proposed school closures in inner city Edmonton has once again riled opposition MLAs into a frenzy on the floor of the Legislative Assembly. Declining student enrollment has led to Edmonton Public School Board to propose the closure of 11 inner city schools in January 2010 (Delton, Eastwood, John A. McDougall, McCauley, Norwood, Parkdale, Spruce Avenue, Capilano, Fulton Place, Gold Bar and Hardisty). It is difficult not to sympathize with the pleas of these MLAs’ constituents, but each time that an opposition MLA rises to demand an answer from the Minister of Education about these closures the issue gets more muddied.

For the purpose of this blog post, I am going to ignore the politically charged and conspiracy driven accusations of opposition MLAs and focus on specific comments from two Edmonton MLAs:

Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Brian Mason:

“many schools in the inner city are in danger of being forced to close as the number of schools in Edmonton’s suburbs expand.”

The proposed school closures have very little to do with the provincial government or the Department of Education and more to do with how our cities have grown over the past forty years. Edmonton’s Public School Trustees are ultimately responsible for the fate of these schools and the reality is that young families are not moving into the inner city in the numbers needed to keep these schools operating. They are moving to the suburbs and to the outlying municipalities in the Capital region, which have experienced unbridled urban sprawl in recent decades. The reality is that there is a market demand for single-dwelling residential properties (contributed to by both cost and the desire to have a detached home with a yard).

Having grown up in one of Edmonton’s outlying communities, I can testify that it was a great environment to be raised. As someone who has lived in the urban core since moving to Edmonton, I know that there are some areas that I would not want to raise my children. This said, continued urban sprawl is not a solution to Edmonton’s growth challenges. The further our city sprawls, the more expensive it will be to provide the kind of services that are idealized. Urban sprawl is unsustainable.

Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald:

“If the city of Edmonton increases population density in the central neighbourhoods as planned, we will need the student spaces now being considered for closure.”

Inner city communities, like Alberta Avenue, have taken exceptional steps to challenge stereotypes and create more family friendly environment in their neighbourhoods. New residential and commercial development in downtown Edmonton as well as the development of the City Centre Airport lands over the next 20 to 30 years could create an inner city renaissance that could breath new life into Edmonton’s inner city schools.

If Edmonton’s urban core does witness a population density increase that attracts more young families, it is very likely that these school buildings, could be available to be reopened. As far as I am aware, it is undetermined what would be done with these proposed closed schools. Kevin Kuchinski has written a blog post on the potential usages for these schools if closed.

Well-funded special interests like the Katz Group have been focusing their energies on convincing Edmontonians that the urban core would be revitalized through the public funding of a new arena. A new arena could have some economic benefits to the downtown core, but it does not address the larges societal issues facing the core or how our cities are growing. If urban sprawl is unsustainable, what are our municipal leaders doing to create an inner city that is friendly and welcoming to young families? Urban sprawl is the root cause of the school closures decision facing our elected School Board Trustees.

When School Trustee and City Council candidates start knocking on doors before the October 18, 2010 elections, Edmontonians who care about the future of our inner city neighbourhoods should remember that the school closures are not the result of a nefarious political agenda, but a result of how we have let our city to grow.

alberta politics notes 3/09/2010

– Jokes about politicians ducking responsibility usually aren’t literal. Premier Ed Stelmach first denied seeing the widely covered photos of the now infamous oil-covered Syncrude ducks. His communications armada then changed the story, claiming that the Premier misunderstood the question and has seen the photos. Next question: How do you feel?
– Edmonton City Councillor Don Iveson shot back at Minister Luke Ouellette over the neutered Green Trip Fund. Premier Stelmach originally promised $2 billion for the fund in 2008, but it was later cut back to $520 million over three years. Since 2007, the City of Edmonton has made major investments into improving and expanding the capital city’s transportation infrastructure.
– The United Nurses of Alberta have opened negotiations with Alberta Health Services. UNA entered negotiations with a reasonable short list of proposals addressing key issues for nursing in Alberta. Alberta Health Services responded with a full proposal document that included an unprecedented number and scale of rollbacks (Transparency Alert! I am employed by UNA).
– AHS CEO Stephen Duckett versus Minister Gene Zwozdesky and Premier Stelmach on “pay for performance” and the Tom Baker Cancer Centre? Is Dr. Duckett trying to get fired? Who is steering the ship? It has certainly put Don Braid in a tizzy.
– With Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier on his way out of the Mayor’s Office, can Calgarians expect a Ric McIverNaheed Nenshi showdown? Will former Calgary-Nose Creek MLA Gary Mar return from Washington DC to take a run for the job?
 – Liberal MLA Kent Hehr running for Mayor might be an inside joke, but how about his counterpart Dave Taylor? Word on the street is that the Calgary-Currie MLA and former radio star is growing tired of playing second fiddle to Liberal leader David Swann. Taylor was thrown a bone when he was tapped to launch the new Liberal energy policy in January, but rumor has it that Taylor’s organization has been constantly challenging Swann and that the situations is tense inside the Liberal caucus. Confrontation may come to a head at the May 2010 Liberal Party convention.
– A battle is shaping up for the federal Conservative Party nomination in Lethbridge. Nomination candidates include Jim Hillyer and Mark Switzer are seeking their party’s nod. Conservative MP Rick Casson has represented the riding since 1997 and was re-elected in 2008 with 67% of the vote.
 – Former Edmonton-Strathcona MP Rahim Jaffer
pleaded guilty to careless driving in an Ontario court, but charges of cocaine possession magically disappeared. Mr. Jaffer was sentenced to a $500 fine.
 – I was interviewed by Edmonton Journal editor
Sheila Pratt for a feature article that was published this part weekend on Reboot Alberta. The article also features comments from Ken Chapman, Shannon Sortland, David Maclean, NDP MLA Brian Mason, and Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald – who accused to the group’s participants of being “elitist.” Andrew McIntyre rebutted Archie McLean‘s suggestions that Reboot Alberta could become a debate society. I ask: would a real debate society be a bad thing?

does question period really matter?

You may be forgiven if you turned off your radio or closed your web browser when you heard or read about the curfuffle raised by two of Alberta’s opposition parties over the amount of questions in Question Period, but if you had taken a second look, you would have seen something edging on the bizarre. This morning, Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman and NDP MLA Brian Mason held a joint media conference (and in an even more bizarre twist, Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman would later join them).

Although the three MLAs raised some legitimate questions about their situation, I believe that there is a larger and much more important question: Does Question Period really matter?

Anyone who has watched Question Period in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly can easily observe that most Government MLAs use their allotted time to read positive pre-written questions to Ministers, who then respond with pre-written softball answers. From another angle, some Government MLAs have been known to act as a faux-opposition, asking questions crafted to dilute the questions asked by actual Opposition MLAs.

Across the aisle, Opposition MLAs use much of their time to launch loaded questions crafted to illicit embarrassing responses from Government Ministers. Question Period is the bread and butter of Opposition MLAs. It is where they get the chance to score political points fit for the 6pm news. Some MLAs, including Mr. Mason and Liberal MLA Dave Taylor, have become particularly effective at crafting made for television moments in Question Period.

During their news conference today, the NDP Opposition released a chart (see above) comparing the amount of time that Opposition MLAs get to ask questions in Assemblies across Canada. I was not aware that most Assemblies allot Opposition MLAs the entirety of Question Period. While this appears to make sense to me, I wonder if this difference makes Question Period any more relevant to the general public in other provinces? Would the debate in our Assembly be more relevant to ordinary Albertans if Opposition MLAs were able to ask 18 questions instead of 7? Is Question Period theatre without an audience?

In a better world, Question Period would matter, but the issue raised by the Opposition MLAs today points to the larger problems facing our traditional governing structures and the increasing disconnect between citizens and their democratic institutions.

danielle smith’s free-ride.

Since stepping into her new role as leader of the Wildrose Alliance, Danielle Smith has taken on more of a celebrity role than that of the leader of a party with 3 seats in a 83 seat Legislative Assembly. Ms. Smith is impressively politically savvy, and judging by the attention she has been receiving from the media, you would have a hard time believing that she is not the elected leader of Alberta’s Official Opposition.

Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle SmithLet's Make it Happen

Little of the incredible media attention received by Ms. Smith has focused on her party’s policy or even her political stances. I do not believe that I have read any reporter or columnist seriously dig into Ms. Smith’s only past-experience as an elected official on the Calgary Board of Education which began in 1998 and ended when the Minister of Learning dissolved the board in 1999 (which I covered in part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4). The by-election victory in Calgary-Glenmore, the floor-crossings of PC MLAs Heather Forsyth and Rob Anderson, and rise in the polls are convincing (and exciting) political coups in the context of an otherwise boring political environment. At least in the short-term, Ms. Smith has definitely changed the game.

Ms. Smith has faced some criticism for her confusing views on climate change and her former Chief of Staff felt the repercussions of an uneasy Twitter finger, but she has easily deflected questions about hard policy questions by telling the media to wait until her party’s upcoming policy conference or hiding behind the label of libertarianism.

Premier Ed Stelmach has labelled Wildrose Alliance policies as “draconian,” but in the context of his falling popularity, the Premier’s reaction smacked of desperation and political spin (however accurate his comments may have been). Even the recent cabinet shuffle was framed as a reaction to the increasing popularity of Ms. Smith’s party. The reaction of the Official Opposition Liberal Party was to launch of a YouTube video comparing Premier Stelmach and Ms. Smith to Ronald Reagan and Brian Mulroney (a strategy that top minds are still attempting to decrypt).

An American conservative blogger recently held Ms. Smith up as “a guiding northern star for the building anti-establishment movement in the GOP” and suggested that her “delivery reminds me of Sarah Palin when she’s at her best.” I recognize that these are the words of one individual with a website, but it is not the first time that I have heard conservatives speak of Ms. Smith in that manner.

The Ontario media appears to have warmly embraced Ms. Smith by lobbing softball questions and accepting vague answers. During a stint as a guest panelist on CTVs Question Period, Smith was asked questions about Social Credit leader Harry Strom and almost accepted as the next leader of Alberta. Her coverage on Peter Mansbridge’s One-on-One and upcoming on Rick Mercer’s Report is also unprecedented for an opposition leader in Alberta.

Amidst this flurry of media attention, nearly no additional attention is paid to the actual opposition leaders elected by Albertans in the 2008 election as David Swann and Brian Mason continue to linger stalled in the polls in the unconvincing ranks of the opposition benches. I tend to believe this is symptomatic of the antipathy felt towards to traditional political parties in Alberta. This antipathy is likely why non-traditional groups like the Wildrose Alliance, Renew Alberta, and Reboot Alberta are attracting a growing number of Albertans into their ranks, while the traditional opposition parties are barricading their gates without taking stock of the decreasing value of their guarded treasures. While some people are holding out for change within the two traditional opposition parties (or simply asking them to get their acts together!), I tend to believe that it is likely too late.

With Premier Stelmach appearing politically weak and a provincial election expected in 2012, will the guardians of establishment conservatism in Alberta sit idly while their movement is fractured between the Wildrose Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party? With this scenario in mind, is it too far fetched to foresee a scenario in the not too distant future where Premier Ted Morton welcomes Danielle Smith as the Finance Minister in a government formed by the newly merged Conservative Party of Alberta?

UPDATE: David Climenhaga has written a response to this blog post listing the top 11 reasons he feels Albertans should not support the Wildrose Alliance . Climenhaga’s list prompted the Alberta Altruist blog to pen a response.

will the wildrose alliance now recieve official party status?

According to Alberta’s Legislative Assembly Act:

Allowance to leader of recognized opposition party
42(1) In this section, “recognized opposition party” means a party that:
(a) is represented in the Assembly by at least 4 Members, and
(b) received at least 5% of the popular vote in the general election immediately preceding the year in which the allowance in subsection (2) is to be paid.

Will Assembly Speaker Ken Kowalski allow an exception for the now three MLA Wildrose Alliance to be a recognized opposition party? While political rather than virtuous, from 1997 to 2004 and 2008 to the present, NDP leader Brian Mason has been recognized as an opposition party leader with a two MLA caucus. The Liberals currently form Official Opposition with nine MLAs and former PC MLA Guy Boutilier now sits as an Independent MLA.

On the March 3, 2008 election, the Wildrose Alliance received 6.77% of the popular vote, but did not elect any MLAs. Even though they now have more MLAs than the officially recognized NDP caucus, there is a possibility that they could be denied official party status because none of the current three MLAs were elected under their current party banner in the previous election.

A precedent for denying the Wildrose Alliance official party status may have been set in 1984, when former Social Credit MLAs Walt Buck and Raymond Speaker formed the Representative Party of Alberta. Both MLAs were elected as Independents in the 1982 election and they were denied official opposition status in the Assembly (their party also did not exist in the previous election). Denying the Wildrose Alliance the status would be a pure political attempt at squashing the insurgent party, but could backfire if it is seen as dirty politics on Premier Ed Stelmach‘s behalf.

If recognized as the Third Party in the Assembly, Wildrose Alliance MLAs will be afforded a daily spot in the Question Period lineup and will receive additional funding for caucus resources and support staff. Holding Third Party status since 1997, the NDP have be impressively effective at using their spot in the QP line-up to generate media coverage in the past.

(ht @shandro for the Act link)

wildrose-in-waiting.

At least according to a recent Angus-Reid poll:

An Angus Reid Public Opinion survey of 1,000 decided Alberta voters finds 39 per cent of the electorate would cast a ballot for party leader Danielle Smith and the right-of-centre Wildrose Alliance if they went to the polls today.

The fledgling party is pulling away from Premier Ed Stelmach‘s Progressive Conservatives, who are tied with David Swann‘s Liberals for second place, with the backing of 25 per cent of decided voters provincewide.

Brian Mason and the NDP are in fourth spot with the support of nine per cent of Alberta voters, while two per cent said they would vote for another party.

The Wildrose Alliance still has a long way to go before it has the policy infrastructure, credible candidates, and functionally competitive constituency association in 87 ridings to realize the advantage of these polls, but at the moment these results should send shockwaves through the three institutional parties.

setting the tone.

It only took two days into the fall session before the offensive hyperbole started to fly and the rotten culture inside Alberta’s Legislative Assembly is now out in full force. Sixth Grade students visiting the Assembly may easily mistake the men in dark suits as grown ups, but that description is harder to believe when you hear some of the words coming out of their mouths.

Health Minister Ron Liepert has mocked Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley, claiming that she doesn’t understand the health care system. Premier Ed Stelmach has referred to the Liberal caucus as “these people” and even ridiculed the attendance at Liberal Party conventions. 

This afternoon, following a question from Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood NDP MLA Brian Mason about H1N1 vaccinations, Stelmach responded:

“I’ll take the word of this nurse [Minister Yvonne Fritz] over the word of a bus driver any day”

On April 30, 2009, Stelmach took issue with comments by Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor and wrote a letter to Liberal leader David Swann, calling for “civil debate in the Assembly.” Stelmach may have apologized for his comments this afternoon, but that doesn’t excuse the negative tone that the the Premier has already helped set on the floor of our elected Assembly.

notes from the alberta ndp convention.

After spending one evening this week at the Wildrose Alliance leadership forum, I’ve spent a good part of this weekend at the other end of the political spectrum as a media observer at the 43rd annual Alberta NDP convention in Edmonton. I will post some more detailed thoughts soon, but until then, here are some notes from the convention:

Nova Scotia NDP campaign manager Matt Hebb spoke on Friday evening about the electoral situation that led to the current NDP majority government led by Premier Darrell Dexter. I took some notes from Hebb’s talk and will include my thoughts in a future post.

– The Democratic Renewal Project has made their presence known at the convention. A policy resolution directing the party leader to initiative public negotiations with the leaders of the Alberta Liberals and Green Party to conclude a tactical electoral alliance has proposed by the Edmonton-Rutherford and Edmonton-Whitemud NDP Associations. It will be debated on Sunday morning and will likely be defeated.

– Leader Brian Mason took a direct shot at the DRP in his Saturday afternoon speech to delegates by challenging the assumption that vote splitting is not the reason the NDP does not have more MLAs in the Legislature. Mason announced intentions for the NDP to run a full slate of candidates and a plan to target resources on 12 ridings between now and the next election.

– Mason also announced the NDPs plans to hold a number of health care forums across Alberta starting on September 29 in Calgary and September 30 in Lethbridge. Other forums are expected to be held in Edmonton, Grande Prairie, and Fort McMurray.

Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan spoke about NGOs, the environment, and partisan politics at the Olga Blogheim luncheon this afternoon. Attendees included Mason, MLA Rachel Notley, former MLA David Eggen, federal candidate Lewis Cardinal, and provincial candidate Deron Bilous.

– According to delegates I’ve spoken to (and blogs I’ve read) there seems to be little movement behind a twitter account and blog supporting Notley to become NDP leader.

kowalski: swann did consult mason on electoral boundaries commission appointments.

Following up on one of last week’s silly summer news stories, Speaker Ken Kowalski responded to Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason in a letter yesterday. In the letter, Kowalski denied Mason’s request to halt the two Official Opposition appointments to the Electoral Boundaries Commission, stating that in his opinion, Liberal leader David Swann did consult with Mason prior to the announcement of the appointments.

Related:

You can listen to the podcast of last Thursday’s The World Tonight on AM770 where Rob Breakenridge and I discussed the Electoral Boundaries Commission issue. Brian Mason calls in around the 10 minute and 58 second point in the podcast.
– Wikipedia: Jumping the Shark

welcome to the irrelevant show.

I was originally going to call this post “Newsflash: Brian Mason is outraged!” but I thought that would just be playing into the oversensationalization of this non-issue of a mid-summer news story.

Related to my recent posts about the appointment of Justice Ernie Walter as Chairperson of Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission and the appointment of four Commission members by Premier Ed Stelmach and Liberal Official Opposition leader David Swann, the leader of the 2 MLA NDP caucus is outraged over Swann’s recommended appointments to the Commission.

In duelling media releases from the NDP and Liberals, NDP leader Brian Mason was outraged that Swann didn’t choose the two people Mason recommended. Mason claims that Swann didn’t consult him enough about the choices, even though the two leaders met to discuss the appointments and Mason signed a letter to Swann with recommendations.

According to the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act:

(b) 2 persons, who are not members of the Legislative Assembly, appointed by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly on the nomination of the Leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition in consultation with the leaders of the other opposition parties represented in the Legislative Assembly,

The Act doesn’t specify what ‘consultation’ needs to entail, but the history of childish tension between the Liberals and NDP would have led me to be encouraged that the two leaders had even met to discuss this issue. Alas, the media release and predictable outrage from Mason has likely undermined any good will in the 11 MLA opposition benches.

Next Post: An issue that actually matters.

UPDATE: Tune in! I will be on air with Calgary AM770s Rob Breakenridge disucssing this issue at 8:35pm tonight.

UPDATE (August 7, 2009): You can now listen to the podcast of last night’s The World Tonight on AM770 where Rob Breakenridge and I discuss the Electoral Boundaries Commission issue. NDP leader Brian Mason calls in around the 10 minute and 58 second point in the podcast.

the majority disapproves.

A new poll released by Leger Marketing shows that none of Alberta’s three main political party leaders have been able to achieve majority approval ratings:

Conservative Premier Ed Stelmach’s performance: – Disapprove: 40 per cent – Approve: 41 per cent – Don’t know: 19 per cent

Opinion of Stelmach since last year – Worsened: 43 per cent – Stayed the same: 40 per cent – Improved: Five per cent

Liberal Leader David Swann’s performance: – Disapprove: 29 per cent – Approve: 22 per cent – Don’t know: 49 per cent

NDP Leader Brian Mason’s performance: – Disapprove: 34 per cent – Approve: 22 per cent – Don’t know: 44 per cent

The poll places Stelmach in a commanding lead of both David Swann and Brian Mason, but his high disapproval ratings shouldn’t give PC supporters any reason to brag. While it appears that the Liberal or NDP leader haven’t been able to gain traction in public support (which isn’t a shock), I was most surprised at Stelmach’s regional ratings. The poll showed approval for the Premier at 34% in Calgary, at 41% in smaller communities (down from 52% in 2008), and remaining lukewarm at 48% in Edmonton.

UPDATE: Here is the PDF with a regional breakdown and fancy charts.

bill 44 debate an all-nighter.

The debate over Bill 44 is going late into the night at the Alberta Legislature. You can follow the debate online through video or by following the Twitter hashtags #ableg and #bill44.

So far, Opposition Liberal and NDP MLAs Laurie Blakeman, Kevin Taft, Brian Mason, Bridget Pastoor, Kent Hehr, David Swann, and Rachel Notley have spoken against Section 9 of Bill 44 (the controversial education opt-out), and Calgary-North Hill PC MLA Kyle Fawcett has spoken in support of the Bill as it is.

I have pledged to buy lunch for and write nice things about the first PC MLA to rise and speak against Bill 44 as it currently stands. Earlier today, Premier Ed Stelmach pledged to allow the PC caucus a free vote on tonight’s/tomorrow morning’s vote.

UPDATE: It’s now 8:01am on Wednesday May 27 and after having been whipped in line for a month, no PC MLA took advantage of the last minute ‘free vote’ they were awarded on Bill 44 amendments. I keep my lunch money.

While they didn’t succeed in getting their amendments to Bill 44 passed, congrats to opposition MLAs Laurie Blakeman, Kent Hehr, Rachel Notley, and Kevin Taft for their particularly well-spoken and colourful contributions to last night’s/this morning’s debates.

On another point, I wonder if any other provincial legislature watchers in Canada have a Twitter hashtag as active as #ableg?

who will run for mayor of edmonton in 2010?

With Edmonton’s next municipal election less than a year and a half away (and new Ward Boundaries up for debate) one of the big questions looming is whether Stephen Mandel will seek a third term as Mayor. Mandel has hinted in the past that he would only serve two terms in the Mayor’s office, but if his two immediate predecessors are any indication, it is likely that he might seek a third term. Although I’m not sure if Mandel would face a serious challenger if he does run for re-election, his absence from the 2010 race could draw some interesting candidates into the contest. While no one has yet to declare their candidacy, here are some of the names that I’ve heard mentioned:

Karen Leibovici: A seasoned political veteran after serving three-terms on as a Councillor for Ward 1 (2001-present) and two-terms as the MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark (1993-2001), Leibovici is well positioned to compete for the Mayor’s chair. While her background in social work and time as a Liberal MLA solidified her centre-left credentials, Leibovici has played the role of Council fiscal hawk on more than one occasion (including joining with former right-wing Councillor Mike Nickel to vote against the Universal Bus Pass in 2007). Her credentials in Edmonton’s established political community also put her in a strong position to gain the support of many of Mandel’s organizers, which means her candidacy many depend on whether the current Mayor decides to seek a third term.

Linda Sloan: Also a Councillor for Ward 1 and former Edmonton-Riverview MLA (1997-2001), Sloan could be a strong candidate for Mayor. Her background as a nurse and former President of the Staff Nurses Association would likely ensure her campaign strong support from the City’s public sector unions. While her passion for seniors and emergency services issues has gained her notoriety, Sloan’s passion can sometimes be the source of tension between herself and fellow Councillors. During last year’s budget debates, Ward 5 Councillor Bryan Anderson infamously muttered the words “Jesus, Linda. Shut up, please” during one of those tense moments. Her seat at the head table with Michael Ignatieff at his recent Edmonton fundraising dinner have fueled rumours of a potential candidacy for the Federal Liberals in Edmonton-Centre.

Kim Krushell: After working as Executive Assistant to Councillor Larry Langley, Krushell was elected to her first term on Council in 2004. Since then she has been closely identified with Edmonton’s Next Gen committee and was Council’s point-person on the Universal Bus Pass (media-savvy Krushell could also be counted as the Councillor most likely to get media exposure on a weekly basis). While it may be easy to dismiss Krushell’s chances, it would be a mistake to confuse her enthusiasm for a lack of political savvy. A long-time PC Party member, Krushell endorsed Jim Dinning for the PC leadership in 2006 and could potentially call on her partisan connections to help her campaign in a potential contest against two former Liberal MLAs.

Wild Cards:

The ‘Airport’ candidate: As I wrote in an earlier blog post, with the City Centre Airport (ECCA) issue coming to a head around the time of the next municipal election, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Alberta Enterprise Group (AEG) use this as a springboard to front a candidate for Mayor. Who would take this mantle? The AEG originated from the organization created to provide financial backing to Mark Norris’ unsuccessful campaign for the PC leadership in 2006, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see this group support an attempted political comeback by the former Edmonton-McClung PC MLA. Another potential ‘Airport’ candidate could be current Ward 3 Councillor and staunch defender of the ECCA, Tony Caterina.

Robert Noce: After trying twice for Mayor in 2001 and 2004, a vacancy in the Mayor’s chair could convince Noce that third time’s a charm. While the former Ward 3 Councillor (1995-2001) has stayed away from official politics, Noce has represented local developers in a number of cases, including the controversial high rise condo development in Glenora in 2008. Noce was rumoured to be interested in the Edmonton-East Liberal candidacy before the 2004 federal election, and more recently I have heard (questionable) chatter that he is interested in seeking the Conservative nomination when five-term Conservative MP Peter Goldring retires.

Don Koziak: After placing a distant second with 25% of the vote in 2007s thoroughly uncompetitive Mayoral race, I would imagine that the Team Koziak will be unlikely to re-start their engines if the contest attracts a stronger field of candidates in 2010. Koziak, the owner of the Chateau Louis Hotel was an unsuccessful Ward 2 candidate in 1995, 1998, and 2004. In 2000, Koziak was the PC candidate in Edmonton-Calder before withdrawing his candidacy for personal reasons.

Mike Nickel: Where in the world is former Councillor Mike Nickel? Gone into self-imposed political exile after being unseated by Don Iveson in 2007, the former Stickman, one-term Councillor, and two-time Mayoral candidate (1998 and 2001) has dropped off the political radar. Three years may be too soon for Nickel to mount a political comeback, but the new proposed Ward boundary changes could make a City Hall comeback much easier for Nickel.

Brian Mason: Ok, I’ll admit that this is an unlikely scenario. Though the leader of Alberta’s NDP probably won’t run for Mayor, with the name recognition earned after two decades as a Councillor (1989-2000) and MLA (2000-present), Mason would make an interesting entry into the race. His victory would be long-shot, but his departure from the Legislature would open a door in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood for some new blood for Alberta’s third-place party (Deron Bilous or Janice Melnychuk could make convincing candidates) and would allow for heir-apparent and well-spoken co-caucus mate Rachel Notely to take the helm of the tiny Alberta NDP caucus.