PC Party leadership race off to a very slow start

Ken Hughes MLA PC leadership Race Calgary

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

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

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

Jonathan Denis MLA Calgary Acadia

Jonathan Denis

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

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

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

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

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

All about the numbers

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

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

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

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

A closer look at PC constituency-level fundraising

Alberta Progressive Conservative PC Party Fundraising Assets 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

———

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

Should the Alberta NDP accept corporate donations?

Alberta NDP MLA Caucus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conservatives race to the bottom in Calgary-Signal Hill

Rob Anders

Rob Anders

With the race for the Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Signal Hill in less than 10 days, the Rob Anders campaign has broadcast a new robocall praising the incumbent MP for decreasing the federal Goods and Services Tax.

Alberta Finance Minister Ron Liepert

Ron Liepert

The message also includes an attack on his opponent Ron Liepert for musing about introducing a Provincial Sales Tax while he was Alberta’s Finance minister.

Mr. Liepert, who was known for his abrasive and partisan approach in the Legislature, appears to have found his match in this nomination contest.

The robocall coincides with the launch of a new attack website - ronlieperttruth.com - which accuses Mr. Liepert of being “a tax-and-spend liberal.”

Personal attacks and threats of lawsuits have turned the race to become the Conservative candidate in the next election into a race into a race to the bottom. It appears that no matter who wins the nomination on April 12, the voters of Calgary-Signal Hill will still lose.

Here is the message included in the robocall:

A Premier Penthouse Suite: Where Luxury is Yours

Redford Penthouse Suite Alberta PC

Find your home away from home in Edmonton, Alberta in the newly renovated art-deco Federal Building. Elegant features throughout the Premier’s Penthouse Suite are designed to make a private place in the province’s capital as special as it can be.

This luxurious penthouse suite includes sleeping and grooming quarters with clothing storage for an adult and one teenager, a separate private study, a relaxed, social space for entertaining and watching TV, and a library area. The spacious suite features a seated formal and semi-formal dining room for 8 to 12 people, comfortable seating for meetings and entertaining, and panoramic views of the Alberta Legislature.

Whether your visit is for government business, family sightseeing or lounging in the TV room, your enjoyment is our priority.

For more information, see: Alison Redford ordered penthouse suite in Federal Building.

New poll shows Albertans love their Big City Mayors

Don-Iveson-Doug-Horner-Alison-Redford-LRT-Edmonton

Mayor Don Iveson, surrounded by Edmonton city councillors and PC MLAs, responds to the  provincial government’s new committed funds for the LRT (photo by mastermaq, creative commons licensed)

The same poll that showed former Premier Alison Redford with a 75% disapproval rating also showed urban Albertans have huge confidence in the leadership of their big city mayors.

Previously unpublished questions from the same poll conducted by Marc Henry‘s ThinkHQ and provided to daveberta.ca showed Edmonton mayor Don Iveson and Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi with 70% and 71% approval ratings.

Naheed Nenshi Calgary Mayor Awesome

Naheed Nenshi

With Ms. Redford’s resignation sparking a leadership vacuum at the provincial level, Albertans in Edmonton and Calgary have confidence in the leadership of their mayors and  councils.  The poll also showed 58% percent approved or strongly approved of Edmonton City Council and, in Calgary, 60% approved or strongly approved of their City Council.

Elected on a wave of change and optimism in October 2013, Mr. Iveson recently navigated choppy provincial waters to squeeze a major LRT commitment from a provincial government that seemed to leave its capital city in the lurch.

Leading Calgary through the largest flood in recent memory, Mr. Nenshi has helped redefine what it means to be a big city mayor. And he is no slouch. He has remained focused on creating a balanced approach to dealing with the city’s growth challenges while taking on wealthy suburban developers, who declared war on him before his landslide re-election.

The two mayors have many common interests and their cities are facing many of the same growth challenges, but Calgary, Edmonton and Alberta’s other cities are very different political environments. Urban Alberta is not a monolith.

As the Progressive Conservatives scramble to choose a new leader, Mr. Iveson and Mr. Nenshi are well-positioned to drive an urban agenda for Alberta. Their political strength and high approval ratings will make it difficult for the next PC leader and whoever becomes the premier after the next election to ignore the concerns of urban Albertans.

The survey was conducted from March 10 to 16 though ThinkHQ’s Voice of Alberta and Vision Critical online research panel. The sample size included 534 Calgarians and 405 Edmontonians with a margin of error of +/- 4.2% and 4.9%.

"…Dave Cournoyer isn't some obscure fat frat boy with a sticky-up haircut." – Neil Waugh (Edmonton Sun)