Tag Archives: Alberta NDP

Status of Women Minister Stephanie McLean, Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir and Premier Rachel Notley announced the government's $25/per month affordable childcare plan.

Alberta Politics This Week: Affordable Childcare, Kenney’s Conspiracy Theory and ‘hysterical political correctness’

“Future Ready” with full stomachs and affordable daycare

The Alberta NDP government’s awkwardly branded “Future Ready” campaign includes some pretty good policy initiatives. Premier Rachel Notley unveiled this week that the government plans to fund healthy breakfasts for low-income students in primary and secondary schools. She initially promised to create this type of program when running for the NDP leadership in September 2014.

Ms. Notley, along with Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir and Status of Women Minister Stephanie McLean, also announced the creation of one thousand $25 per day childcare spaces in urban and rural communities across the province. The cost of childcare in Alberta has skyrocketed in recent years, with many parents paying more than $1,000 per month for childcare. This pilot project is a welcome change that will have a positive impact on many Alberta families.

Kenney sees a socialist conspiracy

In the midst of his own hostile takeover of the PC Party, leadership candidate Jason Kenney accused radical New Democrats of purchasing PC Party memberships. A thin-skinned Mr. Kenney lashed out at Mike Morrison, the author of the popular Calgary culture website Mike’s Bloggity Blog, as an example of a socialist conspiracy to take over the PC Party. Mr. Morrison responded sharply, pointing out that he used to be a PC Party member and had voted for PC candidates in most elections. Meanwhile, in a fundraising letter for Mr. Kenney’s campaign, former prime minister Stephen Harper urged Wildrose Party members to join the PC Party to force the merger of the two parties.

Wildrose MLA Don MacIntyre, who represents the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake constituency, told Postmedia that “I would have preferred that Mr. Harper retire and stay out of it, and not try to influence this whole thing one way or the other.”

Mr. Kenney’s supporters swept the first delegate selection meeting held in the Edmonton-Ellerslie constituency, electing 15 delegates for the 2017 PC leadership vote. A scruitineer representing another candidate has filed a formal complaint with the party, accusing Mr. Kenney’s campaign of breaking party rules by hosting a hospitality suite near the polling station.

Jansen & Kennedy-Glans missed in PC race

The only women running for the leadership of the PC Party dropped out of the race last week, citing sexist attacks and a lack of space for centrist ideas in the party. Both Sandra Jansen and Donna Kennedy-Glans appeared to be willing to challenge the status quo thinking in Alberta’s conservative establishment, with Ms. Jansen even questioning the holy grail of Alberta’s past economic prosperity. She wrote on her campaign website that “…a young Albertan born this decade could see oil and gas replaced as our primary industry. Preparing our next generations for every possibility is a priority.” She is the only Conservative politician I can recall ever publicly mentioning the idea of a future where Alberta can no longer depend on oil and gas to drive our economy.

This is an important debate about our economy and education system that Conservatives should not shy away from. But now Ms. Jansen has now left the race and is even pondering whether she even has a future in Alberta’s PC Party.

Alberta Party first out of the gate

Alberta Party members in Calgary-Buffalo constituency will nominate their candidate for the next election on Nov. 27, 2016. Whoever they choose will be the first candidate, from any party, to be nominated to run in Alberta’s next provincial general election. Leader Greg Clark became the first MLA elected under the Alberta Party banner when he unseated PC Education Minister Gordon Dirks in Calgary-Elbow in in May 2015.

Angry Wildrose MLA’s latest social media rant

During a month when online sexist attacks against women politicians in Alberta appear to getting worse, Wildrose finance critic Derek Fildebrandt has posted a 743 word treatise on his Facebook page decrying “hysterical political correctness in politics. Mr. Fildebrandt was briefly (sort-of) disciplined by Wildrose leader Brian Jean earlier this year after launching a verbal attack against Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne during her visit to the Alberta Legislature and being involved in an offensive social media blunder about her sexual orientation soon afterward.

In contrast to Mr. Fildebrandt’s post, Wildrose MLA Nathan Cooper shared a reasonable response on Facebook, stating that “Hateful, violent, sexist comments are not acceptable in any way or in any form.”

“I want to encourage all individuals to consider our words carefully. These are people’s mothers, daughters, fathers and sons. We owe each other our best. Women in politics should not serve in fear,” Mr. Cooper wrote.

The results of the by-election, as of 10:20 p.m. on October 24, 2016.

Is the Sky Blue? Conservatives crush in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner by-election

Glen Motz

Glen Motz

It is 10:20 p.m. and Conservative Party candidate Glen Motz has cruised to a crushing victory in the Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner federal by-election. With 190 of 223 polls reporting, Mr. Motz had earned 69.3 percent of the vote, which is slightly higher to what the Conservative candidate earned in the October 2015 federal election. This is not unexpected, as voters in this sprawling southeast rural Alberta riding have a long history of supporting conservative candidates.

Though in a distant second place, Liberal candidate Stan Sakamoto is set to have achieved a high-water mark for the Liberals in this riding by earning the highest share of the vote for the Liberals since since 1974. An impressive mid-campaign splash by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a first by a sitting prime minister since 1993, also prompted a visit by Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, a first by a Conservative Party leader since before 2006.

Meanwhile, the New Democratic Party candidate, Bev Waege, is sitting at an embarrassingly low 1 percent of the vote, down from the 2015 candidate’s 9 percent. Neither the federal nor provincial parties appear to have put much, if any, effort into this by-election campaign. The lack of an NDP candidate until midway through the campaign also likely pushed NDP supporters towards Mr. Sakamoto’s campaign.

The results are undoubtably a reflection of how voters in this deep southern rural Alberta riding (the heart of Wildrose Party territory) feel about the federal NDP opposition in Ottawa and the provincial NDP government in Edmonton (which is not encouraging news for Medicine Hat NDP MLA Bob Wanner).

I expect Wildrose MLAs will try to blame Premier Rachel Notley for this poor showing, but anyone who has been paying attention to rural politics in this province over the past 17 months will not be completely shocked by this result.

Shorter version: Not much has really changed. Carry on with politics as usual.

The final results of the by-election can be found on the Elections Canada website.

Premier Rachel Notley speaks to a crowd of 700 at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in downtown Calgary earlier this week.

PCs don’t need the Wildrose to win, NDP should watch their Liberal flank

Uneventful weeks have become rare in Alberta politics and this week in particular has been uniquely interesting.

We started with the release of political party fundraising data from Elections Alberta showing the NDP raised more funds in the last quarter than any of the conservative parties combined, a first. This news was followed by a State of the Province address from Premier Rachel Notley and an oddly curious poll showing the Progressive Conservatives with a 13 point lead in support ahead of the NDP and the Wildrose Party.

The telephone poll conducted by the Citizen Society Research Lab at Lethbridge College, which was in the field from from October 1 to 8, 2016, showed the formerly governing PCs with 38.4 percent support. The survey showed the Wildrose Party in second place with 25.7 percent and the NDP in a distant third-place with 19.7 percent. It is important to look at polls with a grain of salt, especially ones which deviate dramatically from other polls, but it is important to recognize that polls can be indicative of trends.

Here are a few thoughts and observations:

1) NDP electoral coalition is fraying
We are still two or three years away from the next election so the NDP are smart to avoid focusing on any horse race polls but they should be concerned.

There are signs that moderate voters, who were a key part of the NDP’s winning coalition in 2015, are migrating to the PCs and Liberal parties. The NDP need to ask themselves why, only 17 months after their election, they appear to have lost nearly half their supporters.

Ms. Notley tried to bolster support for her government’s agenda through the State of the Province Address delivered to a crowd of 700 at downtown Calgary’s Jack Singer Concert Hall. She used the opportunity to reiterated her commitment not to make the sort of funding cuts to health care and education that Albertans could expect her Conservative opponents to make if they were in government.

The NDP need to take a hard look at why key elements of their government agenda, including some of their flagship policies, might not be resonating with the Albertans who voted them into office. This may require a more thoughtful and aggressive communications strategy and putting Ms. Notley front and centre is a good start to remind Albertans why they voted NDP. She is their greatest asset.

2) PCs don’t need to merge with the Wildrose Party to win the next election 

Having the NDP drop into third place in the polls weakens the argument promoted by Jason Kenney and groups like the Manning Centre that the PC and Wildrose parties need to merge in order to defeat the NDP in the next election.

It is probably more true that the Wildrose Party needs to merge with the PC Party in order to break the ceiling it has reached under Brian Jean’s leadership. But this poll would suggest that the PCs do not need to merge with the Wildrose Party in order to win the next election.

Despite both parties being conservative in philosophy, the PCs and Wildrose hold fundamentally different views on issues ranging from climate change to social issues to education and health care. The strength of the PC Party during its 44 years as government was its ability to attract a broad coalition of conservative, moderate and liberal voters. Everything the Wildrose Party has done over the past 17 months indicates the leadership of that party is not interested in building a broad coalition of Albertans.

We should expect support for the PCs and Wildrose Party to fluctuate over the next few months as the PCs choose their next leader. If the PCs anoint a more right-wing social conservative leader on March 18, 2017, they could drive moderate voters back into the NDP coalition.

3) Watch out for the Liberals

An unexpected result of a decline in NDP support could be a resurgence in support for the Alberta Liberal Party, which will be choosing a new leader in early 2017. According to the survey, Liberal support is at 9 percent up from an abysmal 4 percent in the May 2015 election. The popularity of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is likely part of the provincial Liberal Party’s small boost, which saw the party’s candidate place a close third in a by-election earlier this year.

A significant part of the NDP’s winning coalition from the 2015 election was made up of former Liberal voters who abandoned their party in favour of the PCs in the 2012 election (in order to stop a Wildrose victory). It appears that many of those moderate voters may have become disenchanted with the NDP and have migrated back to the Liberals, and the PCs, for the time being.

As AlbertaPolitics.ca blogger David Climenhaga wrote earlier this week, the loss of this vote may signal to the NDP that “[m]aybe it’s time to start talking about uniting the left again.


Speaking of Liberals, it was announced today that Edmonton lawyer Kevin Feehan has been appointed as a Judge on the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta. Mr. Feehan was serving as co-chair of the Alberta Liberal Party’s leadership selection process, a position he will likely have to vacate due to his judicial appointment. Mr. Feehan is the brother of Richard Feehan, the NDP MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford and Minister of Indigenous Relations.

The Liberals replaced Calgary leadership co-chair Nirmala Naidoo last month when she resigned to join the campaign team trying to elect Sandra Jansen to the leadership of the PC Party.

NDP leader Rachel Notley speaks to a crowd of more than 2,000 Albertans at a May 4 election rally in Edmonton.

Alberta NDP raised more money than the Wildrose Party in Q3 of 2016

Elections Alberta has released the results of political party fundraising from the third quarter of 2016 and it shows that the Alberta NDP raised more money than the Wildrose Party for the first time since the second quarter of 2015. This marks the second best fundraising quarter for Rachel Notley‘s NDP since the party was elected to government in May 2015.

2016 Third Quarter Fundraising from July 1, 2016 to September 30, 2016
Alberta Liberals: $39,187.98
Alberta NDP: $425,437.9
Alberta Party: $15,511.5
Green Party: $2,127.5
PC Party: $48,209.16
Wildrose Party: $330,666.45

The results for the Wildrose Party represent a significant drop in fundraising for the official opposition party. This is the first time since the third quarter of 2015 that the Wildrose Party has raised less than $400,000 in a quarter.

With Wildrose supporter Jason Kenney a contender for the Progressive Conservative Party leadership, it will be interesting to see whether traditional Wildrose donors have decided to shift their financial support.

And in the midst of a leadership race, the PC Party increased their fundraising income to $48,209.16, up from $27,376 in the second quarter of 2016. The PCs have struggled to raise funds since the NDP banned corporate donations to political parties in 2015.

Here is a breakdown of political party fundraising in Alberta in the first three quarters of 2016:alberta-political-party-fundraising-2016

 

Thousands of Albertans packed the Legislature Grounds to watch Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP cabinet be sworn-in.

NDP hires political strategist Corey Hogan to run the Public Affairs Bureau

Political strategist Corey Hogan has been hired as the government’s new managing director of the Public Affairs Bureau. He replaces Mark Wells, who announced last week that he was leaving after a year in the job. Mr. Wells previously served as director of communications with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, the province’s largest public sector union.

Corey Hogan

Corey Hogan

The two sentence biography included in today’s government press statement does not do Mr. Hogan justice.

Corey Hogan has more than a decade of experience in communications, advertising and engagement. Most recently he served as the Chief Strategy Officer at Northweather, a digital communications consultancy based in Calgary.

Known to political watchers most recently for his contribution to the popular The Strategists podcast, which released its final episode last week, Mr. Hogan was already a fixture in Alberta politics before the podcast was launched. He made a name for himself as an organizer for Stephane Dion during the 2006 federal Liberal leadership convention and later in provincial politics when he worked as the campaign manager for Calgary MLA Dave Taylor‘s 2009 leadership bid and executive director and campaign strategist for the provincial Liberal Party until after the 2012 election. Two years later he was a strategist for Alberta Party leader Greg Clark’s campaign during the 2014 Calgary-Elbow by-election.

He later worked for the global public relations firm Hill & Knowlton before founding a new company, Northweather.

Not always a backroom strategist, Mr. Hogan aspired for public office in 2009 when he ran, unsuccessfully, for the Liberal Party nomination ahead of the Calgary-Glenmore by-election. That campaign saw former Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman eke out a narrow win over Liberal Avalon Roberts, providing a spark that helped propel the then-fledgeling fringe party to Official Opposition in 2012.

He was spotted earlier this year attending the NDP’s convention in Calgary and was jokingly referred to as “the Orange apologist” by podcast co-contributors Zain Velji and Stephen Carter for his progressive views on The Strategists podcast.

I admit to being initially surprised when I heard that Mr. Hogan was hired for this role. This is not because I do not believe he is capable, I expect he is, but I half expected that the new managing director would be a former NDP staffer from Manitoba, Ontario or British Columbia, where many of this government’s top political talent hails from. Mr. Hogan is a smart political operator, comes from outside the traditional NDP establishment, and has experience in Alberta politics.

As a progressive Calgarian, he will bring a different perspective into the halls of government in Edmonton and a new focus on digital communications that past Public Affairs Bureau directors may not have had. He recently launched the Canada15 online campaign, which asked the question: why can’t the federal government bring in $15 national minimum wage in every province all across Canada?

Clear and strategic communications has been a source of weakness for Premier Rachel Notley‘s NDP since it formed government in 2015. Significant communications failures around issues such as changes to farm safety legislation and a court challenge to power purchase agreements have caused the government embarrassment and cost the NDP support in the polls.

Mr. Hogan is joining a government that must simultaneously climb a steep hill and fight an uphill battle if it wants to successfully convince Albertans to embrace and accept the long list of aggressive policy changes, including the NDP’s flagship Climate Leadership Plan.

The NDP have hired a smart and strategic political operator in Corey Hogan. Now they would do well to listen to his advice.

Pierre Trudeau Peter Lougheed Alberta NEP

Notley searches for her Lougheed moment by demanding pipelines for Trudeau’s carbon tax

Demanding the federal government help “break the landlock” and support the construction of oil pipelines from Alberta, Premier Rachel Notley and Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips drew a line for Alberta’s support of the Justin Trudeau government’s proposed national carbon pricing plan. In a statement released today, Ms. Notley stated that the Alberta government would not support the federal carbon pricing plan without federal support for increased “energy infrastructure” (a.k.a. oil pipelines).

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

There is nothing more Albertan than a good old fashioned political battle between the provincial government and Ottawa over energy issues. Premier Notley may be hoping this standoff could be reminiscent of the heated political disputes that took place between the governments of Premier Peter Lougheed and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in the 1970s and 1980s. In the case of Mr. Lougheed, an iconic figure in Alberta politics, political fights with Ottawa can help boost a politician’s popularity at home.

When Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice began casting the New Democratic Party as “extremists” during the 2015 election, Ms. Notley frequently turned to quotes by Mr. Lougheed to support her party’s positions on issues like raising corporate taxes.

Ms. Notley’s NDP have been vocal supporters of the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline and the TransCanada Energy East Pipeline since she became party leader in 2014. Now, as government, the Alberta NDP’s support for oil pipeline expansion has contributed to an increasingly deep divide between the national and provincial NDP in this province. The national NDP, with strong support in anti-pipeline constituencies in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, has played a much less supportive role in advocating for Alberta’s oil industry.

Brad Wall

Brad Wall

The Alberta government’s criticism of the federal government puts Ms. Notley in the company of conservative Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, a constant critic of Ottawa. But unlike Mr. Wall’s government, which has dragged its feet on tackling climate change, Ms. Notley’s government cannot be accused of doing nothing to address climate change. Alberta’s NDP government has led the charge with its flagship ‘Climate Leadership Plan‘ which includes its own carbon tax and an aggressive phasing out of dirty coal-fired power plants.

The Alberta NDP plan enjoys the support of environmental groups and oil and gas industry heavyweights like Cenovus, Suncor, CNRL and Shell.

Meanwhile, opposition groups like the Wildrose Party are literally hoping to rehash the political battles of the 1980s. The official opposition Wildrose Party circulated a meme online today comparing the national carbon tax announcement to the unpopular National Energy Program of the 1980s. The Wildrose Party continues to be fierce critics of the federal Liberals and NDP but party leader Brian Jean has yet to offer any alternative solutions to reduce carbon emissions.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

Ironically, the Wildrose Party’s 2015 election platform proposes to “Ensure Alberta’s standards for CO2 emissions and pollutants are in line with national and international standards.” This statement was written during a time when Stephen Harper was Prime Minister and a national climate change plan was nowhere on the agenda. It is amazing how quickly politics can change in a short seventeen months.

Breaking the landlock,’ which I predict will become the latest political buzzword, is analogous to the “bitumen bubble” that former premier Alison Redford warned Albertans of in a televised address in 2014. Both buzzwords are part of a public campaign to build pipelines that would presumably allow for easier export of Alberta’s oil, and allow the private companies exporting the oil to sell Western Canadian Select at a lower discount rate than in previous years. This probably would not make a significant difference to Alberta until the international price of oil rebounds.

Over the past year, Ms. Notley has shown her willingness to work with Mr. Trudeau on a wide-range of issues. This may have led the Prime Minister to expect he would find an ally in Ms. Notley in his bid to implement a national carbon pricing plan. But by attaching strings to Alberta’s support for a national carbon pricing plan, Ms. Notley is playing a political game that could pay out political dividends at home. In a fight between the Alberta government and Ottawa, as Mr. Lougheed discovered, you can bet that nine times out of ten, Albertans will side with Edmonton.


Here is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s speech in the House of Commons today announcing the national carbon pricing plan:

Alberta PC leadership Debate 2011

PCs kick off leadership race 5 years after choosing Alison Redford

Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives officially kicked off their leadership race on October 1, 2016 at a party event in Lethbridge. The PC Party formed government in Alberta from 1971 until 2015, when it was reduced to third-place in the Legislative Assembly behind the governing New Democratic Party and Official Opposition Wildrose Party.

As party officials celebrated the start of this leadership race, the event marked the fifth anniversary of the party’s 2011 leadership race, which resulted in first-term MLA and justice minister Alison Redford defeating former cabinet minister and establishment favourite Gary Mar. Ms. Redford defeated Mr. Mar in a third-ballot vote 37,104 to 35,491.

At the time, there was plenty of hope and optimism that the election of Ms. Redford, Alberta’s first woman premier and a lawyer with international experience, would signal the start of a new urban and progressive agenda for Alberta. The ensuing years were instead better defined by arrogance, entitlement and abuses of power. This would end up spelling the end of the PC Party’s 44 years of uninterrupted power in Alberta.

Seventeen months after Alberta’s 2015 election, this PC leadership race represents the first time since 1965 that the winner of a PC leadership race will not also immediately step into the Premier’s office.

While the defining narrative of this race until this point has been whether or not the party should merge with the further-right-wing rural-based Wildrose Party, there appears to be little discussion about why Albertans chose to replace the old PCs with Rachel Notley’s moderate NDP.

PC Leadership Candidates

Candidates have until November 10, 2016 to join the race and party delegates will choose a new leader on March 18, 2017.

As of today, the candidates include former Member of Parliament Jason Kenney, former Calgary-Varsity MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans, past candidate Byron Nelson, Town of Devon Councillor Michael Laveck, and current Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke. Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen is also expected to join the race.

I have launched a new webpage tracking the candidates and their social media links.

Postmedia columnists and Fraser Institute team up to attack the Alberta’s climate change plan

The full court press against the Alberta government’s Climate Leadership Plan continued today as Postmedia business columnists Gary Lamphier and Claudia Cattaneo dutifully and uncritically weighed in on the latest report from the right-wing Fraser Institute. The report claims the emissions cap included in Alberta government’s climate change plan will cost Canada’s oil sands industry $250 billion and is the latest in a concerted effort by conservative opponents of the NDP to undermine its flagship policy.

Gary Lamphier

Gary Lamphier

Both columnists unquestioningly quoted in length the dire warnings of the Fraser Institute report, with Ms. Cattaneo giving the closing word in her column to Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, who surprised no one by describing the emissions cap as “damaging.” Focused on attacking the government’s policy, neither columnist bothered to provide any actual analysis of the report or delve into what a Wildrose government would do, if anything, to reduce carbon emissions.

Some Wildrose MLAs do not appear to believe the science of climate change, and reportedly neither does the person managing Jason Kenney‘s bid to merge the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties. The old PC government acknowledged the existence of climate change but never actually bothered to take meaningful action.

Neither columnist bothered to mention that the oilsands emission cap enjoyed rare support from both energy industry and environmental leaders when Premier Rachel Notley and Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips unveiled the government’s Climate Leadership Plan in November 2015.

Premier Rachel Notley and Environment Minister Shannon Phillips release Alberta's climate change plan.

Premier Rachel Notley and Environment Minister Shannon Phillips release Alberta’s climate change plan in November 2015.

Offering their support for the Climate Leadership Plan at the November 2015 press conference were industry heavy hitters like Canadian Natural Resources Limited chair Murray Edwards, who said: “The framework announced will allow ongoing innovation and technology investment in the oil and natural gas sector. In this way, we will do our part to address climate change while protecting jobs and industry competitiveness in Alberta. (Ms. Catteneo actually interviewed Mr. Edwards a few days after this announcement)

And Brian Ferguson, President & Chief Executive Officer of Cenovus Energy, who said: “We fully support the Government’s new climate policy direction. It enables Alberta to be a leader, not only in climate policy, but also in technology, innovation, collaborative solutions and energy development.”

And Steve Williams, President and Chief Executive Officer of Suncor, who said: “Today we reach a milestone in ensuring Alberta’s valuable resource is accompanied by leading carbon policy. It’s time that Alberta is seen as a climate, energy and innovation leader.”

And  Lorraine Mitchelmore, President and Country Chair of Shell Canada and EVP Heavy Oil for Shell, who said: “Today’s announcement sets Canadian oil on the path to becoming the most environmentally and economically competitive in the world.”

And finally, Tim McMillan, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, who said: “…the province’s climate strategy may allow our sector to invest more aggressively in technologies to further reduce per barrel emissions in our sector and do our part to tackle climate change. That’s what the public expects, and that’s’ what we expect of ourselves.”

Not to mention praise the climate change plan has received from Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and a little known political figure by the name of Barack Obama.

It is not to say that these energy executives will agree with every policy the Alberta government will implement over the next three years, but these two Postmedia business columnists owe it to their readers not to omit these important facts from their columns.


Note: The results of the Fraser Institute report are disputed by the Pembina Institute‘s Simon Dyer, who told the CBC that the report “is based on unreasonable production levels that don’t consider the world making progress on climate change.” University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach, who chaired the Climate Change Review Panel, told the CBC that “given what I can tell, the study does not assume any progress in oilsands emissions per barrel and no ability to reduce emissions other than shutting in production.”

Levelling the playing field in Alberta Elections

For many decades, Alberta’s old Progressive Conservative government benefited greatly from large corporate donors which would help keep the governing party’s campaign war-chest flush with cash. It was well-known in Alberta political circles that the PC Party had the goal of always having enough money in their bank account to run two back-to-back election campaigns at any time. And usually they did.

The first law passed by Alberta’s New Democratic Party government after its election in May 2015 banned of corporate and union donations. Limiting contributions to individual donors was the first move in what is expected to be an overhaul of Alberta’s outdated elections laws. It was a good place to start, but there is much more work to be done.

The all-party MLA Special Select Ethics and Accountability Committee was created last year in order to review the Election Act, the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, the Conflicts of Interest Act, and the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act. The committee will make recommendations to the government for changes to the four laws and any changes introduced by the government will be debated in the Legislative Assembly.

Here are three changes that have been debated by the committee recently:

Rod Loyola Edmonton Ellerslie NDP

Rod Loyola

Reimbursements: A motion introduced by Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Rod Loyola on August 10, 2016 recommended “that the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act be amended to provide for a rebate of 50 per cent of registered parties’ and registered candidates’ campaign expenditures provided that campaigns receive at least 10 per cent of the vote cast and file all required financial returns.” Similar subsidies exist in federal elections and in many other provinces.

I understand the arguments in favour of this policy, but unfortunately the NDP MLAs are not going into great lengths to explain them. I do not believe these types reimbursements actually “level the playing field,” as Mr. Loyola argued when he proposed the motion. These types of reimbursements reward candidates and parties that spend the most money, even if they lose the election. A very generous tax credit system already exists for individuals who donate to candidates and political parties, and in my opinion that should be sufficient.

If the MLAs truly want to level the playing field through a financial reimbursement program, they should study the funding system that existed federally between 2004 and 2015, which tied a financial reimbursement to political parties to the number of votes they earned in an election.

Graham Sucha MLA

Graham Sucha

Spending Limits: Last week, I wrote about the committee’s recommendation to create campaign spending limits and I was pleased to see Calgary-Shaw MLA Graham Sucha have his original motion amended to raise to initial proposed limits (which I believed were too low). The new proposal would increase the limits per campaign to $70,000 for local campaigns and an $80,000 limit for four northern constituencies. Party province-wide campaign would be limited to spending $0.80 per eligible voter, which is similar to the limit that exists in Ontario.

I do believe it is arbitrary to simply name four constituencies as exemptions, as the province’s electoral boundaries will be redrawn before the next election and these four constituency may not exist in their current form when the next election is called. It might make more sense to create a formula based on population and geography to determine whether special exceptions are required for spending limits in northern and remote rural constituencies.

Chris Nielsen MLA

Chris Nielsen

Donation Limits: Currently, any individual can donate a maximum of $15,000 annually to a political party outside of election periods and $30,000 to a political party during election periods. A motion introduced by Edmonton-Decore MLA Chris Nielsen and amended by Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA Scott Cyr would lower financial contribution limits to $4,000 during election periods and $2,300 outside election periods.

The committee continues to meet this week, so I am anticipating there will be more to write about in the days to come.

PC candidate Prabhdeep Gill on election night after winning the Calgary-Greenway by-election on March 22, 2016.

Elections Alberta releases Calgary-Greenway by-election campaign financials

Elections Alberta has released initial campaign finance disclosures from the March 22, 2016 by-election in the Calgary-Greenway constituency. The by-election was held following the death of PC MLA Manmeet Bhullar, who had represented the area in the Legislative Assembly since 2008.

Here is a brief description of what the initial submissions show us:

  • The campaign of Progressive Conservative candidate Prabhdeep Gill spent $78,886.45, including a $23,000 transfer from the PC Party. His campaign ended with a $538.55 surplus.
  • The campaign of Wildrose candidate candidate Devinder Toor spent $53,903.06 and received a $25,000 transfer from the Wildrose Party. His campaign ended with a $500 surplus.
  • The campaign of Liberal candidate Khalil Karbani reported $56,963.34 in expenses while only receiving $11,300 in revenue. His campaign ended with a $45,663.34 deficit.
  • The campaign of New Democratic Party candidate Roop Rai spent $85,613.51, which was entirely a transfer from the provincial party.
  • The campaign of Green Party candidate Thana Boonlert reported expenses of $6,749.52, which was the same as the campaign’s revenue.

Mr. Gill was elected on March 22 with 27 percent of the vote, holding the seat for the PCs in a close four way race. A mere 625 votes separated Mr. Gill from Mr. Toor (23 percent), Mr. Karbani (22 percent) and Ms. Rai (20 percent). Turnout by eligible voters was estimated to be at 29 percent.

When the initial expenses are broken down, each candidate’s campaign spent the following amount of money per vote received:

  • Mr. Gill: $34.40 per vote.
  • Mr. Toor: $27.54 per vote
  • Mr. Karbani: $30.46 per vote
  • Ms. Rai: $51.35 per vote.

What the 2nd quarter fundraising results mean for Alberta’s political parties

Elections Alberta released the results of this year’s second quarter of fundraising for provincial political parties this week. Following the release of the disclosures I took a closer look at last quarter’s results and what they could mean for the parties.

Alberta Political Party fundraising in 2015 and the first two quarters of 2016.

Alberta Political Party fundraising in 2015 and the first two quarters of 2016. (Click for a larger image)

New Democratic Party

The Alberta NDP raised ten percent less than they did in the first quarter of 2016, which marks the third best full quarter fundraising results since the party formed government in May 2015. The NDP have never led party fundraising but they appear to have developed a healthy and significant base of individual donors. Note: The NDP do not register donations to individual constituency associations, so all funds raised are disclosed through the central party.

Wildrose Party

The Wildrose Party maintained its fundraising lead over the NDP by raising the most funds of any party the second quarter. This is a good sign for leader Brian Jean, who’s position as leader of Alberta’s conservatives is being challenged by federal Conservative Member of Parliament Jason Kenney through a hostile take-over bid of the PC Party. Not counted in the chart above is the funds raised by constituency associations in the second quarter, including Highwood which raised $17,545, Strathmore-Brooks which raised $8,350 and Calgary-Foothills which raised $8,100.

Of note:

  • Drumheller-Stettler Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman and his wife Diane Strankman donated $1,500 to the Vermilion-Lloydminster Wildrose Association, that constituency association’s largest donors in the second quarter. The constituency is represented in the Legislative Assembly by PC MLA Richard Starke.
  • Gary Bikman, an MLA who crossed the floor from the Wildrose to the PCs in December 2014, donated $500 to the Wildrose association in Cardston-Taber-Warner. He represented the constituency from 2012 to 2015 and was defeated in his bid to become the PC candidate in 2015.

Progressive Conservative Party

Long gone are the days of secret trust funds and overflowing campaign war-chests. This was a dismal second quarter for the former governing Progressive Conservative Party, which raised only $27,376. This was the party’s second worst quarterly fundraising result in recent memory, which is not a good sign as the PCs are set to begin a leadership race on October 1, 2016. But the poor showing by the central party is somewhat deceiving as some local PC constituency associations raised a significant amount of funds in the second quarter: $11,090 in Calgary-Hays, $10,166 in Vermilion-Lloydminster, $10,100 in Calgary-West, $9,386 in Calgary-Northern Hills and $8,277 in Grande Prairie-Wapiti.

Liberal Party

For the Alberta Liberals, the good news is they increased the quarterly fundraising by 97 percent, the bad news is that they only raised $57,561.04, which is less than their highest quarter last year (they raised more than $110,000 in the first quarter of 2015). Worth noting is a fundraising reception the Liberals are holding on July 21 at the Mayfair Golf Club that will be hosted by Marc de La Bruyere, chairperson of MacLab Enterprises and a well-connected businessman (he also donated $5,000 to the PC Party during the 2015 election).

Alberta Party

After the election of their first elected MLA in 2015, the Alberta Party appears to still be struggling to develop a sustainable base of donors. Unlike the other parties, the newish party is without an already established fundraising network, which takes significant time and resources to develop.


Here is a list of the top donors for each of the five parties, including donations to constituency associations, in the first two quarters of 2016:

New Democratic Party
Harinder Rai: $15,000
Pavan Kumar Elapavuluri: $5,000
Tim Foster: $5,000
Jamie Kleinsteuber: $3,653.75
Jason Rockwell: $3,407.50
Trevor Horne: $3,051.25
Darshan Brar: $3,000
David Eggen: $2,773.75
Mary Williams: $2,730
Alayne Sinclair: $2,643.75

Wildrose Party
Arnell Gordon: $29,000
Tom Goodchild: $15,000
Maurice Swertz: $15,000
Arlene Goodchild: $7,000
Robert Such: $6,050.00
Iris Kirschner: $7,587.50
James Brown: $5,000
Ryan Crawford: $5,000
Alexander Soutzo: $5,000
Frances Jean: $3,962.33

Progressive Conservative Party
Marcel Van Hecke: $15,957.50
Dave Bissett: $15,000
Scott Burns: $15,000
Stanley Milner: $15,000
Bradley Shaw: $15,000
Celine Belanger: $5,000
Ric McIver: $2,940
Chris Warren: $1,020
Elizabeth Henuset: $1,000
Franklin Kernick: $1,000

Liberal Party
Grant Dunlop: $5,600
Karen Sevcik: $5,300
Ian Cartwright: $3,306
Peter Poole: $3,000
Raj Sherman: $2,000
Dan MacLennan: $1,520
Dan Hays: $1,500
Rowland Nichol: $1,500
Catherine Ryan: $1,260
David Swann: $1,000

Outrage over Oil Sands appointment is a Tzeporah in a teapot

What do you get when you put some of the Canadian Oil Sands fiercest critics in the same room with its most vocal supporters? The Alberta Government’s new 18-member Oil Sands Advisory Group.

Dave Collyer

Dave Collyer

The Alberta government announced the formation of the group yesterday along with its three co-chairs: Dave Collyer, the former president and CEO of the the oil industry’s top lobby group the Canadian Association of Petroleum ProducersTzeporah Berman, an environmental advocate and Adjunct Professor of Environmental Studies at York University, and Melody Lepine, a member and Director of Government and Industry relations with the Mikisew Cree First Nation.

The group of 18 includes representatives from municipal governments, First Nations, Metis communities, the energy industry, and environmental groups who will “advise government on the oil sands aspects of the Climate Leadership Plan and ensure that its initiatives are effective and widely supported.”

Steve Williams

Steve Williams

Almost immediately after the advisory group was announced, the Wildrose Party attacked Ms. Berman’s appointment, claiming she was a radical by citing her comments that the Oil Sands reminded her of “Mordor” from the fictional Lord of the Rings books. A vocal critic of the oil industry in the past, Ms. Berman posted a response on her Facebook page yesterday afternoon, saying she regretted the comments.

Ms. Berman wrote: “Though I have been a vocal critic of “business as usual” in the oil sands, I recognize that change doesn’t happen over night. It is a tremendous step forward that the Alberta government has decided to extend our earlier industry-environment work and enlist the help of more industry participants and the wisdom of non-Indigenous and Indigenous community leaders. I am committed to working in good faith with the rest of the advisory group to develop advice that ensures a strong economy and a leadership position for Alberta on environmental issues.”

Melody Lepine

Melody Lepine

She also provided a link to a video of her joint presentation with Suncor CEO Steve Williams at the recent Business and Climate Summit in London, UK, where they spoke articulately about the work being done in Alberta.

The NDP have put forward the most comprehensive plan to fight Climate Change that Alberta has ever seen, something that the Progressive Conservatives were unable to do in the final decade of their 44 years in government and the Wildrose Party has been unable to do in its four years as official opposition.

But with critics and climate change deniers ready to pounce at a moment’s notice, it is clear that the NDP government needs to do a better job clearly communicating why their much-lauded Climate Leadership Plan is important. Anticipating opposition criticisms and preparing to actively counter them is a critically important element for the success of the Climate Change plan.

Premier Rachel Notley Calgary Stampede Alberta

Rachel Notley

If you only listened to Alberta’s loudest and most-outraged conservative voices, from Brian Jean and George Clark to Jason Kenney and Ezra Levant, you would believe that Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party government had launched a holy crusade to destroy Canada’s oil industry. This isn’t true, of course.

The irony of the criticism in response to Ms. Berman’s appointment is that, only a few years ago, opposition NDP MLAs would have roasted the old PC government for appointing a former CEO of CAPP to co-chair an advisory group like this one. In fact, they did.

In 2013, the NDP called on the PCs to reverse their appointment of Gerry Protti as the chair of Alberta’s energy regulator. Mr. Protti is the founding President of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and at that time was a registered lobbyist for the Energy Policy Institute of Canada, an energy industry lobby group.

Shannon Phillips

Shannon Phillips

The then-NDP opposition Environment critic Rachel Notley said in a press release that “the Redford government isn’t doing itself any favours with this embarrassing post—it unravels the entire yarn they’ve been trying to sell the world about their commitment to responsible resource development and environmental protection. If we continue to act like a banana republic, we shouldn’t be surprised when we’re treated like one by the international community.”

Three years later, the NDP has appointed a former CAPP President and CEO to co-chair a group that will advise the implementation of the government’s flagship Climate Change policy. Partnering Mr. Collyer, Ms. Berman and Ms. Lepine as co-chairs was a bold move that reinforces the government’s message that the NDP are able and willing to work with a broad group of Oil Sands stakeholders.

One of the most admirable strengths of Ms. Notley’s government has been its ability to build broad and pragmatic coalitions that include champions from outside of the NDP’s traditional sphere.

Unlike the previous government, the NDP has intentionally sought to bring together a group of people with diverse and differing political views and expertise to advise on the implementation of Alberta’s Climate Change plans. This was very evident when Ms. Notley released the government’s Climate Leadership Plan in December 2015 surrounded by energy and environmental leaders, when Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips tabled the Carbon Levy legislation in May 2016 and yesterday when this Oil Sands Advisory group was announced.

Here is list of the other members of the Alberta Oil Sands Advisory Group:

  • Veronica Bliska – Reeve of the Municipal District of Peace
  • Bill Clapperton is Vice President – Regulatory, Stakeholder and Environmental Affairs of Canadian Natural Resource Ltd
  • Anne Downey is Vice President of Operations for Statoil Canada and responsible for resource development and continuous operations for the Leismer Asset
  • Simon Dyer is Pembina Institute’s associate regional director for Alberta and former director of the Institute’s oilsands program.
  • Tim Gray is Executive Director of Environmental Defence.
  • Chief Isaac Laboucan-Avirom is Chief of the Woodland Cree First Nation, with a population of 1,300 people, 700 of whom live on the Reserve at Cadotte Lake.
  • Bill Loutitt is Vice President, Fort McMurray Métis Local 1935.  He is also President of Nistawoyou Friendship Centre and former President of Metis Nation of Alberta Region One
  • Karen Mahon is the Canadian Director of STAND (formerly ForestEthics Advocacy)
  • Jon Mitchell is Vice-President, Environment & Sustainability at Cenovus Energy
  • Alison Ronson is Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Northern Alberta Chapter
  • Kevin Scoble is the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo
  • Christa Seaman is Emerging Regulatory Policy Issue Advisor at Shell Canada
  • Richard Sendall has been Senior Vice President of Strategy and Government Relations at MEG Energy Corporation
  • Arlene Strom is the Vice President Sustainability & Communications at Suncor Energy Inc.
  • Lloyd Visser is Vice President, Environment and Sustainable Development at ConocoPhillips Canada

The origin and real meaning of the “Alberta Advantage”


August 31, 1993 marked the first time the words “Alberta Advantage” were uttered on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly.

Unlike some others, my government will not try to buy prosperity through higher taxes. Instead, it will build on Alberta’s existing advantage of low taxes and its free enterprise spirit to develop the most competitive economy in North America. The government will strengthen the Alberta Advantage and sell it aggressively around the globe.” – Speech from the Throne, August 31, 1993.

Premier Ralph Klein

Ralph Klein

“Promoting the Alberta Advantage” was the theme of the Speech from the Throne read by Lieutenant Governor Gordon Towers following Ralph Klein’s victory in the 1993 provincial election, dubbed by Tories as the ‘miracle on the Prairies.’ The Progressive Conservatives had narrowly defeated an insurgent Liberal campaign led by former Edmonton mayor Laurence Decore. Both party leaders campaigned on deep funding cuts and deficit reduction.

The one element, probably the most important element, of the Alberta Advantage that was not mentioned in that year’s throne speech was that the reality of the provincial advantage was based almost entirely on the government receiving royalties from high-priced natural resources, mainly natural gas and oil.

Gordon Towers Alberta

Gordon Towers

For two decades, PC governments were able to subsidize their tax cuts with royalty revenues from natural gas, and then oil. This unfortunately led to government then using those undependable royalties to fund the province’s operations budget. What this meant was that large portions of royalty revenues that should have been saved for future generations, or for a rainy day – like now – were spent on day-to-day operations.

The PC government was once so flush with cash that it sent out $1.4 billion worth of Prosperity Bonuses – known as Ralph Bucks – to every Albertan. It was an embarrassment of riches and a hallmark of PC financial mismanagement.

The Alberta Advantage of low taxes and quality public services stopped being so easy when the international price of natural gas, and later of oil, dropped through the floor. When the PCs began running deficit budgets in the mid-2000s due in part to the drop in natural gas prices, they refused to restore the modest levels of personal income and corporate taxation that had existed before the ‘Alberta Advantage’ became their motto.

The most recent economic decline had many Albertans asking themselves “where did all the money go?” In an off the cuff moment, former premier Jim Prentice told Albertans to “look in the mirror.” But Mr. Prentice’s ‘Hail Mary’ budget of early 2015, which raised some taxes, was not enough to persuade Albertans that the Tories had learned a lesson.

Instead, having despaired of changing the Tories, they opted to change the government and elected the New Democratic Party led by Rachel Notley.

Jason Kenney stands in front of a supportive truck trailer in Grande Prairie.

Jason Kenney gets an unlimited fundraising head start in the PC leadership race

After announcing his candidacy for the leadership of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party, Calgary Member of Parliament Jason Kenney laid out his five (or six) step plan to unite Alberta’s conservative partisans under one party banner.

There remain many unanswered questions about his plan, first being whether PC Party members agree with it, second, whether Wildrose Party members are even interested in joining with the PCs, and third, whether they can get organized in time to challenge Rachel Notley‘s New Democratic Party before the 2019 provincial election.

Mr. Kenney has not shied away from embracing views outside of the mainstream, but he is likely one of the most skilled political organizers and networkers in Canada’s conservative movement. He will charm conservatives in every corner of this province, from Cardston to Mill Woods to Fort McMurray, and many of them will purchase PC memberships to support his leadership bid.

While he is expected to face a number of potential challengers, it is unclear whether any of them have the appeal and organization to mount a serious province-wide challenge to Mr. Kenney and his network of Wildrose and federal Conservative supporters. By announcing his candidacy early, he could intimidate some potential rivals and have the advantage of an entire summer of town festivals and rodeos to campaign.

Announcing his candidacy before the PC leadership race has actually begun also gives Mr. Kenney a serious fundraising advantage. Because the leadership race has not officially started and the PC Party has not sent notice to Elections Alberta, which it will on October 1, 2016, there are currently no limits to the size of corporate and individual donations Mr. Kenney’s campaign can accept. There is also no obligation for his organization to disclose the names or amounts of donations received before the campaign period officially begins. There are no rules.

Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning and Jason Kenney.

A look at who is backing Jason Kenney’s bid for the PC Party leadership

Conservative Member of Parliament Jason Kenney is expected to announce his candidacy for the leader of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta tomorrow, July 6, in Calgary, deliver a speech in Grande Prairie that evening and then travel to Edmonton on July 7 for another speech. He was widely expected to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada and only just recently began positioning himself as candidate to unite Alberta’s conservative partisans under one banner.

He would be the first candidate to officially enter the PC leadership contest, which is scheduled to be held on March 18, 2017.

  • As I explained in a column last month, Mr. Kenney could have a rough landing in Alberta politics.
  • A skilled organizer with more than 25 years of experience as a taxpayers federation lobbyist and Ottawa politician, Mr. Kenney should not be underestimated by his opponents.
  • Mr. Kenney follows in the footsteps of his former colleague, Jim Prentice, who led the PC Party from 2014 until its defeat by Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party in May 2015. That election ended forty-four uninterrupted years of PC majority governments in Alberta.
  • Mr. Kenney recently purchased a membership in the PC Party, despite being widely seen as a supporter and ideological ally of the Official Opposition Wildrose Party, currently led by former MP Brian Jean.
  • Perhaps anticipating a threat of takeover, the PC Party recently abandoned its one-member one-vote system of choosing its leader in favour of a closed-delegate system, which forces candidates to campaign and organize in all 87 constituencies across the province.
  • Mr. Kenney is not assured an easy victory in the PC leadership race. I spoke with CTV about some of the potential candidates who also might enter the race, including former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who Mr. Kenney once described as an “asshole,” Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke, and Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen, who said she would consider leaving the PC Party if Mr. Kenney became the leader. Edmonton City Councillor Michael Oshry is also considering entering the contest and former MLA Doug Griffiths is rumoured to be interested.

It is unclear whether Mr. Kenney would resign as the MP for Calgary-Midnapore immediately or if he would keep one foot in federal politics until he secures a leadership position in a provincial party. Under provincial elections law, he does not need to resign his federal seat until he is a registered candidate in a provincial election.

Because of his track-record as a social conservative and Wildrose supporter, Mr. Kenney might not find a great deal of support among existing PC Party members, including the 1,001 who attended the party’s annual general meeting earlier this year. But two unite-the-right groups could provide him with a base with which to organize his PC leadership bid.

Mr. Kenney appears to have the support of two unite-the-right groups. The Alberta Can’t Wait group, backed by former Reform Party stalwarts Preston Manning and Cliff Fryers, lobbyist Hal Danchilla and 1980s Tory cabinet minister Rick Orman, and the Alberta Prosperity Fund, backed by former right-wing talk radio host Dave Rutherford, former MLAs Heather Forsyth and Shiraz Shariff, and former PC Party president Jim McCormick. The Alberta Prosperity Fund issued a formal endorsement of Mr. Kenney on July 5, 2016.

The Alberta Can’t Wait group was reportedly planning to hijack the Alberta Party later this summer and Prosperity Fund founder and director Barry McNamar, formerly of the Fraser Institute and Manning Centre, is reportedly suing the Wildrose Party.

The two groups are part of a burgeoning cottage industry of anti-NDP groups, including the infamous and less polished Kudatah, that have popped up since the May 2015 election. Both the Wildrose and PC Parties have publicly rejected their overtures.

Alberta’s elections laws bar political parties from merging financial assets, meaning any actual merger between conservative parties is highly unlikely. Making things more complicated was the formation of a sixth conservative party last month – the Reform Party of Alberta. It may be a more likely scenario that a PC Party led by Mr. Kenney would apply to Elections Alberta to change its name to the Conservative Party of Alberta and urge Wildrose MLAs to run under its banner in the 2019 general election.

Cast into the opposition for the first time in 44 years, Conservatives in Alberta will need to define what their vision is for the future of our province. After decades of fiscal mismanagement, much of Alberta’s current economic situation is a result of decisions made by PC Party governments. Conservatives cannot simply expect that Albertans will forgive, forget and restore the natural governing party in 2019. Those days are gone.

Aside from his politically charged rhetoric about “free enterprise” and the bogeyman ‘bohemian Marxism‘ it remains completely unclear what Mr. Kenney’s vision for Alberta would be, besides just returning Conservatives to power. I expect we will find out more in the next few days.