Tag Archives: Alberta PC Party

Rachel Notley’s focus on Calgary, Andrew Scheer coming to Alberta, and Stephen Mandel goes to Alaska

With five days remaining in Alberta’s election campaign, here is a quick look at what I have been watching today:

Notley woos Calgary

NDP leader Rachel Notley is expected to spend a lot of time in Calgary during the final five days of the campaign. Today she spoke about her pledge to expand Alberta’s $25/day childcare program at a press event today and spoke at a rally in central Calgary in support of Calgary-Mountain View candidate Kathleen Ganley and Calgary-Varsity candidate Anne McGrath this evening.

The NDP campaign has revolved around Notley, who is the party’s strongest asset, with signs showing her name and smiling face appearing as frequently as local candidate’s in electoral districts across Alberta.

While the 20 to 30 per cent province-wide lead that the United Conservative Party held months ago appears to have evaporated into a 6 to 10 per cent lead, most polls show the NDP are still in second place in Calgary. With the NDP appearing to hold a healthy lead in Edmonton and the UCP dominating in rural Alberta, the narrative in the final week of the campaign has become all about Calgary.

But the regional divide is only one part of the picture. As Jason Markusoff noted in his Maclean’s election newsletter, some polls suggest there is a significant divide in party support among men and women, with one poll showing the UCP leading among men by 16 points and the NDP leading among women by 1 point. The prominence of nasty social conservative comments raised in this campaign, like the ones made by UCP candidate Mark Smith from Drayton Valley-Devon, has likely contributed to this gender divide.

Scheer comes to Alberta

Federal Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer will campaign with UCP leader Jason Kenney at a event in Calgary tomorrow, which is expected to include a big focus on the Notley, Justin Trudeau and the carbon tax.

Scheer’s appearance comes days after Kenney has threatened to enact legislation to shut off the flow of oil and gas to British Columbia if that province’s government opposes the construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Such a move would almost certainly be unconstitutional, which is why the NDP passed but never proclaimed the law, and would likely foster more opposition to Alberta’s efforts than create support.

But back to Scheer… it is somewhat unusual to see a federal Conservative party leader campaigning in a provincial election in Alberta.

For most of the past three decades, there have been deep political divides between the various dominant provincial and federal Conservative parties in Alberta. Many political observers may have forgotten that even Progressive Conservative premier Ralph Klein personally campaigned for the federal PC Party candidate running against Reform Party leader Preston Manning in the 1993 federal election.

It is important to recognize that the merger of the PC and Wildrose parties in 2017 was just as much about uniting those two parties as it was creating a dominant provincial conservative party that would march in step with the Conservative Party in Ottawa. With this in mind, Kenney remains very much a national politician with ambitions beyond the Premier’s Office in Edmonton.

Scheer’s appearance on the campaign trail will come the day after it was revealed that his campaign chair, Hamish Marshall, allegedly threatened to sue the UCP over voting security during the party’s 2017 leadership race. CBC reported that email addresses fraudulently attached to party memberships were used to cast ballots in the party’s leadership race and there were virtually no safeguards against the practice.

Alaska, ho!

Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel has proposed the creation of a rail-pipeline corridor to Alaska. The creation of a northern corridor to transport Alberta’s natural resources is not a new idea in Alberta politics.

In 1972, PC cabinet minister Dave Russell publicly suggested that Alberta should annex parts of the North West and Yukon territories: “It makes sense in view of transportation and pipelines,” Russell told the Calgary Herald on April 19, 1972.

Stephen Harper Senate Conservatives Reform

PC and Wildrose Party candidates running against Rachel Notley in Edmonton-Strathcona

Rising from the political grave, candidates from Alberta’s two former dominant conservative parties are running against NDP leader Rachel Notley in Edmonton-Strathcona.

Rachel Notley Alberta Premier NDP

Rachel Notley

According to the Elections Alberta website, Gary Horan has been nominated to run as a Progressive Conservative candidate and Dale Doan as a Wildrose Party candidate in the long-time NDP-held district in the heart of Edmonton.

While the two parties are organizationally non-existent, they are controlled by the United Conservative Party and Jason Kenney is technically the leader of all three parties.

In order to avoid de-registration by Elections Alberta, the parties are required to field at least one candidate in the election. It is likely they will be paper candidates, meaning no real campaign will be organized to elect them in this district.

It is believed that the shell of the PC Party still owes a significant amount of debt in the range of $175,000 that was accrued during the party’s disastrous 2015 election campaign, which is why the party still exists on paper. Alberta’s election finance laws bar the UCP or any other party from repaying the debts of the PC Party, even though its leadership controls the party.

It is likely that the UCP continues to keep the Wildrose Party registered in order to avoid another group claiming the party name and running candidates under its banner against the UCP.

The PC Party governed Alberta from 1971 until 2015. The Wildrose Party formed the Official Opposition from 2012 until 2017.

Notley was re-elected in 2015 with 82 per cent of the vote. Voters in Edmonton-Strathcona have elected NDP MLAs in eight of the nine elections since 1986.

There are now 11 candidates running in Edmonton-Strathcona:
Advantage Party: Don Meister
Alberta Party: Prem Pal
Alberta Independence: Ian Smythe
Communist: Naomi Rankin
Green: Stuart Andrews
Independent: Gord McLean
Liberal: Samantha Hees
NDP: Rachel Notley [FacebookTwitter]
Progressive Conservative: Gary Horan
UCP: Kulshan Gill
Wildrose: Dale Doan


If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

Women in Alberta Politics: Shannon Phillips, Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes, Rachel Notley, Leela Aheer, and Sarah Hoffman.

Alberta Election Update on International Women’s Day

Photo: Women in Alberta Politics: Shannon Phillips, Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes, Rachel Notley, Leela Aheer, and Sarah Hoffman.

In honour of International Women’s Day, today’s candidate update focuses specifically on the total number of women nominated to run for Alberta’s political parties in the upcoming provincial election. Women make up the majority of our population, but they rarely come even close to being the majority in electoral politics.

The only woman leading a major political party in Alberta is Premier Rachel Notley of the New Democratic Party. Notley is also currently the longest serving woman in the Assembly, having been first elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona in 2008, and re-elected in 2012 and 2015. The second longest serving woman MLA currently in the Legislature is Sandra Jansen, who was elected as MLA for Calgary-North West in 2012.

Green Party leader Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes is the first Indigenous woman to lead a political party in Alberta. She has been nominated as her party’s candidate in Calgary-Varsity.

Marilyn Burns leads the Alberta Advantage Party.

And Naomi Rankin has the distinction of being both the first and longest serving woman leader of a registered political party in Alberta. Rankin has led the Communist Party of Alberta since 1992.

There are currently 29 MLAs who identify as women serving in the Alberta Legislature (33%), up from the previous record of 23 women MLAs (27%) in 1998. Forty-eight per cent of NDP MLAs elected in 2015 were women, and, in 2016, the majority of Alberta cabinet ministers were women.

With the next election expected to be called in the next few weeks, Alberta’s political parties are still in the process of nominating candidates. Here is a look at how many women have been nominated so far:

The NDP has nominated the most women candidates of the political parties contesting the 2019 election with 42 women (53%) out of 79 candidates already nominated to stand in the upcoming election. In 2015, the NDP nominated 45 women (51%) in their slate of 87 candidates.

The United Conservative Party has nominated 27 women (32%) out of the 83 candidates already nominated to run in the next election as of today. The UCP’s predecessor parties, the Progressive Conservative Party nominated 21 women candidates (24%) and the Wildrose Party nominated 16 women candidates (18%) in 2015.

The Alberta Party has nominated 22 women (30%) in their slate of 71 candidates nominated as of today. And the Liberal Party, with 26 candidates currently nominated, has nominated 10 women candidates (38%). Eight of the 17 candidates currently nominated by the Green Party are women (47%).

The Freedom Conservative Party slate of 11 candidates includes no women, and the Alberta Advantage Party has nominated 1 woman candidate out of 9 nominated candidates as of today.

Number of women candidates by party in the previous 3 elections

2019 election (as of March 8, 2019)
NDP: 42 of 79 – 53%
Green Party: 8 of 17 – 47%
Liberal: 10 of 26 – 38%
UCP: 27 of 83 – 32%
Alberta Party: 22 of 71 – 30%
Alberta Advantage Party: 1 of 9 – 11%
Freedom Conservative: 0 of 11 – 0%

2015 election
NDP: 45 of 87 – 51%
Alberta Party: 9 of 36 – 25%
PC: 21 of 87 – 24%
Liberal: 11 of 56 – 19%
Wildrose: 16 of 86 – 18%

2012 election
NDP: 40 of 87 – 45%
Alberta Party: 6 of 21 – 28%
PC: 22 of 87 – 25%
Liberal: 18 of 87 – 20%
Wildrose: 11 of 87 – 12%

2008 election
NDP: 38 of 83 – 45%
Liberal: 22 of 82 – 26%
PC: 17 of 83 – 20%
Wildrose: 6 of 61 – 9%

Appointed UCP candidate Len Rhodes and UCP leader Jason Kenney.

Jason Kenney fumbles Len Rhodes’ appointment, and NDP MLA loses nomination in Edmonton-Meadows

Photo: Appointed UCP candidate Len Rhodes and UCP leader Jason Kenney (source: YouTube).

The fallout from Jason Kenney’s decision to appoint former Edmonton Eskimos President and CEO Len Rhodes as the United Conservative Party candidate in Edmonton-Meadows continues.

As mentioned in the latest episode of the Daveberta Podcast, some members of the local UCP board of directors are up in arms about Kenney’s claim that they were consulted with and asked for Rhodes to be appointed as the candidate. Some of the disgruntled board members are said to be collecting signatures for a letter disputing Kenney’s claims, and that more than a dozen local directors have signed the letter.

Letter from Arundeep Sandhu to UCP supporters Edmonton Meadows

Letter from Arundeep Sandhu to UCP supporters Edmonton Meadows (Click to enlarge)

Rhodes’ surprise appointment last week eliminated three candidates – Arundeep Sandhu, Joel Mullen and Sant Sharma – who had been selling party memberships and door-knocking to compete for the UCP nomination for up to twelve months.

Arundeep Sandhu released a letter on social media today expressing his disappointment in the decision and thanking his supporters. It was a classy letter, but it certainly did not include the “let’s all get behind the appointed candidate” message that Kenney and Rhodes were likely looking for. 

Meanwhile, more than 400 New Democratic Party members voted to choose Jasvir Deol as their candidate in Edmonton-Meadows. Deol defeated Chand Gul and MLA Denise Woollard, who had been elected to represent Edmonton-Mill Creek in 2015. 

Jasvir Deol Alberta NDP Edmonton Meadows

Jasvir Deol

Deol was the NDP candidate in the 2015 federal election in the Edmonton-Mill Woods district, where he earned 12.7 per cent of the vote in the contest against Liberal Amarjeet Sohi and Conservative Tim Uppal. 

Woollard is the third NDP MLA to be challenged and defeated in a nomination contest. MLA Trevor Horne was defeated by MLA Marie Renaud in St. Albert and Jordan Stein defeated MLA Anam Kazim in Calgary-Glenmore

Peace River NDP MLA Debbie Jabbour is facing a nomination challenge from Justin Sharpe at a meeting scheduled to take place on February 28, 2019.

The NDP also nominated three other candidates this past weekend:

  • MD of Ranchlands Reeve Cameron Gardner has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Livingstone-Macleod.
  • Former Taber town councillor and past president of the Alberta Library Trustees Association Laura Ross-Giroux has been nominated as the NDP candidate in the southern Alberta district of Taber-Warner.
  • Crown prosecutor Moira Vane is the NDP candidate in Strathcona-Sherwood Park.

An NDP nomination meeting in West Yellowhead that was originally scheduled for this past weekend appears to have been rescheduled to March 9, 2019.

Dr. Esther Tailfeathers is seeking the NDP nomination in Cardston-Siksika. Dr. Tailfeathers is a Physician at the Blood Tribe Clinic at Standoff and a Clinical Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta.

Melissa Langmaid has announced plans to seek the NDP nomination in Chestermere-Strathmore. Langmaid is an Environmental Advisor with AltaLink and a unit coordinator with the United Utility Workers’ Association

Holly Heffernan is seeking the NDP nomination in Drumheller-Stettler. Heffernan is a retired Registered Nurse and long-time NDP activist, having run numerous times for the NDP in both provincial and federal elections in Calgary.

UCP set Red Deer-South nomination vote for March 16

Adele Poratto Red Deer South United Conservative Party Alberta

Adele Poratto

The elusive mystery star candidate is nowhere to be seen, but the UCP has moved ahead with the party’s nomination vote in Red Deer-South anyway. Party members will choose from the Bruce Buruma, Gary Davidson, Adele Poratto, Jason Stephan, and Norman Wiebe on March 16, 2019.

Buruma is Director of Community Relations for  Red Deer Public School District and Executive Director of the Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools. Davidson is Chief of Emergency Medicine for Alberta Health Services’ Central Zone. Poratto is a decorator and event planner, and ran for the PC Party nomination in the district ahead of the 2008 election. Stephan is a lawyer and president of the Red Deer Taxpayers’ Association. And Wiebe was the Wildrose Party candidate in this district in the 2015 election, earning 24 percent of the vote behind NDP candidate Barb Miller and PC candidate Darcy Mykytyshyn.

Davidson’s wife, Pamela Davidson, sought the UCP Central Alberta Director election at the party’s 2018 annual general meeting and previously ran against Christine Moore in the Red Deer County Division 6 election in 2017. Moore ran unsuccessfully for the UCP nomination in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake ahead of the 2018 by-election and as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Red Deer-North in the 2015 election. 

The UCP has also opened nomination contests in Edmonton-EllerslieEdmonton-Highlands-Norwood, and Edmonton-MIll Woods. 

Rebel Strankman running as Independent

Rick Strankman Alberta United Conservative Drumheller Stettler MLA

Rick Strankman

Former UCP MLA Rick Strankman has announced his plans to run for re-election as an Independent candidate in Drumheller-Stettler. Strankman was elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2012 and 2015 and left the UCP caucus on January 15, 2019 following his loss of the party’s nomination to rancher Nate Horner in October 2018.

After nearly seven years as an MLA shackled with Party-first priorities, it is clear that Alberta’s party system of government has stripped effective representation and across-the-board best interests from Alberta’s citizens,” wrote Strankman in a media release posted on this website. “Running for election and winning office as an Independent will enable me to restore the priorities of all Drumheller Stettler citizens to the front lines of the Legislature and advance their priorities for resurrecting Alberta’s prosperity.” he said.

Former MLA Ian Donovan is running as an Independent in the new Cardston-Siksika district. Donovan was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in Little Bow in 2012 and crossed the floor to the PC Party in 2014. He was narrowly defeated in the 2015 election, finishing 12 votes behind Wildrose candidate David Schneider.

With Schneider declining to seek re-election, Donovan supported past Christian Heritage candidate Marc Slingerland in the UCP nomination contest against eventual winner Joseph Schow. Donovan later announced he was quitting the UCP, citing a dictatorship-like control of the party by Kenney.

Mandel awaits fate as 2 Alberta Party candidates back on the ballot 

The Court of Queen’s Bench has waived the 5-year ban on Alberta Party candidates Moe Rahall in Edmonton-Castle Downs and Diana Ly in Edmonton-Gold Bar, who will now be allowed to run in the 2019 election. Party leader Stephen Mandel and four other Alberta Party candidates still await their fate as the court has yet to remove their bans. 

Swann staffer runs for the Green Party

Janice Fraser is running for the Green Party in Calgary-McCall. Fraser is currently the office manager for Calgary-Mountain View Liberal MLA David Swann, who is retiring after four-terms in the Legislature. Swann’s other constituency office staffer, Joshua Codd, is the nominated Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Currie.

Jane Drummond is running for the Green Party in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre. Drummond is the editor of the Nordegg Squeek and has served as an Alberta Hiking Association member representing Terra Firma Nordegg Hiking.

Meanwhile, Chris Glassford has been nominated as the Alberta Advantage Party candidate in Sherwood Park and Mark Gregor has been nominated in Drayton Valley-Devon.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

NDP MLA Brian Mason launches the NDP campaign TheTruthAboutJasonKenney.ca

NDP launch “The Truth About Jason Kenney” campaign. Kenney reuses Wildrose Party democratic reform promises

Former New Democratic Party leader Brian Mason took centre stage today to launch his party’s new attack campaign directed at United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney’s more controversial views on social issues like LGBTQ rights, Gay-Straight Alliances and abortion, how his plans to balance the budget could impact funding to health care and education, and the substantial political baggage he carries after serving 19 years in Ottawa.

The campaign features a video of Albertans reacting to some of Kenney’s more outlandish statements and views on social issues.

That the NDP is focused on the Kenney is no surprise. The UCP behemoth has a significant lead over the NDP in the polls, in fundraising, and party membership, but Kenney’s popularity is much lower that his party’s and his past as a social conservative activist against issues like women’s reproductive rights and gay rights, are issues that will mobilize the NDP’s base of support.

The anti-abortion group the Wilberforce Project recently bragged on their website about the influence it had exerted on the UCP candidate nomination process. It is unclear how much influence the social conservative group has actually exerted but it brought the divisive issue back to the forefront last week.

Rachel Notley Alberta Premier NDP

Rachel Notley

As party leader, Mason was a warhorse of opposition politics in Alberta, so it is not surprising that the NDP decided to employ the retiring MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood to launch this part of the campaign. This also allows the party to distance the negative side of its campaign from its leader, Rachel Notley, and its incumbent MLA who are running for re-election.

Ask any Alberta voter on the street if the like negative advertising in elections and the response will be unanimously negative. But that political parties of all persuasions consistently use them speaks to their effectiveness. Also, we kind of expect parties to act this way now.

The negative focus on Kenney and his unpopular views on social issues is a central part of the NDP’s campaign, but it is overshadowing the positive message the NDP is trying to promote – that Notley and her party are the best choice for Alberta families.

The party’s strongest asset, Notley has been touring the province making a flurry of pre-election announcements over the past month, including promises to upgrade the Red Deer Regional Hospital , build a new interchange in Leduc, expand the Telus World of Science in Edmonton, and invest in Calgary’s tech sector. But the positive side of Notley’s campaign feels almost like a side-show to her party’s constant attacks against Kenney.

Whether a strong focus on Kenney’s more controversial views will be enough to turn around the NDP’s electoral fortunes – and ‘enough’ could be a relative term at this point – remains unclear.

Kenney pledges MLA recall, MLA free votes and floor-crossing ban

Jason Kenney

Jason Kenney

UCP leader Jason Kenney announced his party would introduce reforms to Alberta’s elections laws, including MLA recall, free votes, a fixed-election day, and banning floor crossing in the Legislature, mirroring many of the promises made in the Wildrose Party‘s 2015 election platform.

MLA recall is a perennial issue that opposition MLAs, most recently Wildrose MLAs, have frequently called for over the past 25 years. At least 7 attempts have been made by opposition MLAs to introduce MLA recall legislation through private members’ bills since 1993, all of which have failed.

Leela Aheer Wildrose MLA Chestermere Rockyview

Leela Aheer

UCP MLA Leela Aheer, then a member of the Wildrose Caucus, introduced a private members’ bill in December 2015 calling for an MLA recall process that would have allowed 20 percent of voters overturn the results of a free and fair democratic election. The bill died on the order paper.

When Alberta briefly had MLA recall laws, from 1936 to 1937, signatures were required from 66.6 percent of voters to trigger a by-election. The law was repealed by the Social Credit government after a group of disgruntled Albertans was thought to have collected enough signatures to recall Premier William Aberhart in his Okotoks-High River district.

Banning floor-crossing by requiring that MLAs resign and seek a by-election before they can change parties was a promise made by the Brian Jean-led Wildrose Party in the 2015 election. This promise plays to the resentment many conservatives felt when Danielle Smith and 11 of the party’s MLAs crosses the floor to Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservatives in 2014, and, more recently, when Sandra Jansen crossed the floor to the NDP.

Kenney also pledged make it illegal for governments to advertise in the run up to an election, similar to a private members’ bill introduced by then-Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman in 2015.

The UCP would also reinstate the Alberta Senatorial Selection Act, with a pledge to hold Senate Nominee elections in 2021, and ban groups affiliated with a political party to register as third party election advertisers, a direct shot at the Alberta Federation of Labour, which is running its Next Alberta campaign.

Calgary-North UCP candidates: Devin Green, Tanis Fiss, Paul Frank, Jun Lin, and Muhammad Yaseen.

United Conservatives selecting candidates in Calgary-North and Lethbridge-East on Feb. 9

Photo: Calgary-North UCP candidates Devin Green, Tanis Fiss, Paul Frank, Jun Lin, and Muhammad Yaseen.

United Conservative Party members will choose their party’s candidates in Calgary-North and Lethbridge-East on February 9, 2019.

In Calgary-North, Devin Green, Tanis FissPaul FrankJun Lin, and Muhammad Yaseen are seeking the UCP nomination. Tommy Low and Manpreet Sidhu have withdrawn from the contest. 

Yaseen is the former president of the Calgary-Northern Hills Progressive ConservativesFiss works in the oil and gas industry and moved to Alberta from BC in 2003 to establish a Calgary-based office for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. And Frank previous ran for the federal Conservative Party nominations in Calgary-Rocky Ridge in 2014 and Calgary-Heritage in 2017 and ran as an Independent candidate in Alberta’s 2012 Senator-in-Waiting election

Fiss is endorsed by former federal Conservative Party interim leader Rona Ambrose and Frank is endorsed by city councillor Joe Magliocca, Conservative MPs Len Webber, Michelle Rempel, Pat Kelly, and former Calgary-Fort PC MLA Wayne Cao

Lethbridge East UCP nomination candidates: Nathan Neudorf, Kimberly Lyall, Bryan Litchfield, Robin James and Angela Zuba

Lethbridge East UCP nomination candidates: Nathan Neudorf, Kimberly Lyall, Bryan Litchfield, Robin James and Angela Zuba

In Lethbridge-EastRobin JamesBryan LitchfieldKimberly LyallNathan Neudorf and Angela Zuba are seeking the UCP nomination.

James is the Chief Administrative Officer of the Lethbridge Housing Authority. Litchfield is a Facility Services project manager with the City of Lethbridge and director of the Alberta Off-Highway Vehicle Association. Lyall is a motivational speaker and consultant and was founding president of the local UCP association and previously served as president of the local Wildrose Party association. Neudorf re-entered the UCP nomination contest in this district in December 2018 after dropping out to run for the UCP nomination in the Livingstone-Macleod district located west of Lethbridge, but was unsuccessful in that contest. Zuba is a Development Manager for Lethbridge College and prior to that was the CEO for the Canadian Home Builders Association

Lyall is endorsed by UCP MLA Nathan Cooper, Leela Aheer, and Pat StierNeudorf is endorsed by Roger Reid, UCP Candidate for Livingstone Macleod and former Lethbridge city councillor Tom Wickersham, and Conservative MP Rachael Harder. 

Following these two nomination contests, the UCP will have six districts remaining where the party has not selected a candidate ahead of the next election. The remaining districts are Edmonton-Ellerslie, Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, Edmonton-Meadows, Edmonton-Mill Woods, Edmonton-Strathcona, and Red Deer-South.


Liberals nominate two candidates in Calgary

The Alberta Liberal Party has nominated Jaroslav Giesbrecht in Calgary-Peigan and Vesna Samardzija in Calgary-Shaw, bringing the party to a slate of 17 candidates in 87 districts.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

Note: The original version of this article did not include Angela Zuba as a nomination candidate in Lethbridge-East. This has been corrected.

Premier Rachel Notley delivered a pre-campaign speech at a rally in downtown Calgary (photo credit: @SKGreer on Twitter)

Notley is the Alberta NDP’s strongest asset. Don’t expect to see ‘Team Kenney’ logos on UCP lawn signs.

Photo: Premier Rachel Notley delivered a pre-campaign speech at a rally in downtown Calgary today (photo credit: @SKGreer on Twitter)

As has been widely reported this week, the Alberta New Democratic Party has purposely shifted the focus of their political material onto their greatest asset, Premier Rachel Notley. The NDP began replacing the NDP logo with a Rachel Notley logo on their social media images back in April 2018, but the party recently highlighted this focus with the launch of their new RachelNotley.ca campaign website.

The move has been attacked by critics of the NDP, who claim the party is nefariously attempting to distance itself from its unpopular federal cousins. The NDP are probably trying to distance itself from the Jagmeet Singh-led federal NDP, but there is nothing nefarious about it. Campaigns always try to play to their strengths and downplay their weaknesses. This is why the NDP campaign will put Rachel Notley front-and-centre and the UCP will not be featuring Jason Kenney logos on their election lawn signs.

Putting the focus on party leaders is nothing new in Alberta politics.

A PC Party advertisement from the 1971 Alberta election.

In 1971, much of the Progressive Conservative Party’s advertising and messaging revolved around Peter Lougheed. The “Lougheed Team” focused on the party’s young and dynamic leader and the impressive slate of candidates that surrounded him.

While Alberta politics have certainly changed since the 1970s, Notley frequently evokes the memory of popular Lougheed in her media statements and campaign speeches.

Ralph’s Team’ was a slogan the PC Party used in the 1990s, putting the focus on their popular party leader, Ralph Klein. And the federal Liberal Party attempted a similar move when they placed ‘Team Martin’ logos on their campaign signs and material during the 2004 election.

As Postmedia columnist Keith Gerein wrote last week, the two main party leaders have divergent popularity among their parties own supporters. While her party is behind in the polls, Notley remains wildly popular among NDP voters.

United Conservative Party has a massive lead in the polls, but party leader Jason Kenney is much less popular than the party he now leads, which which is why Albertans will probably not spot any “Team Kenney” logos when the election is called this spring.

Almost all NDP MLA’s should know they have Notley’s leadership to thank for their electoral fortunes in the 2015 election, the same might not be said of UCP candidates and their leader in 2019. If the UCP’s strong support holds, many of that party’s candidate could be elected despite their leader’s lower approval ratings.

Any leader who’s popularity falls below that of the party they lead inevitably becomes vulnerable to leadership challenges and caucus revolts, as Don Getty, Ed Stelmach, Alison Redford, and in the dying days of his premiership, Ralph Klein, discovered. Conservatives in Alberta have been ruthless with their party leadership and rarely tolerate weaknesses that could jeopardize electoral success.

It is yet to be seen whether Kenney will fall into this category, which will probably depend on what the UCP caucus looks like after Election Day. If the UCP caucus is large, Kenney’s leadership could be secure. But as Stelmach and Klein discovered, large caucuses are impressive but can be unruly and difficult to manage. If he does fall into the traps sprung by previous Conservative premiers, look to UCP MLAs Jason Nixon, Nathan Cooper, Leela Aheer and former Wildrose leader Brian Jean to be eyeing the Premier’s chair.

Rachel Notley on the other hand might not be as vulnerable, even if the NDP is defeated in 2019. If her party does better than expected in 2019, even electing 25 or 30 MLAs, the NDP caucus and members may come to the conclusion that Notley remains their strongest asset and could be their best bet at returning to government in 2023. They could encourage her to remain party leader.

As an opposition leader, Notley would be fierce and lead an actual government-in-waiting, not something Albertans are used to having. It would also signal whether the NDP will remain in its centre-leftish position or embrace a more aggressive progressive agenda advocated by some members.

While Notley remaining in the party leadership beyond a 2019 loss may go against some of the common popular opinion about former premiers, past NDP premiers Allan Blakeney of Saskatchewan and Dave Barrett in British Columbia both led their parties into elections following defeats. Barrett even went on to have a career in federal politics and nearly became leader of the federal NDP in 1989.

I am probably getting ahead of myself, as this year’s election has not even been officially called, but scenarios like these are certainly something that many political watchers are thinking about.

NDP MLA Nicole Goehring nominated in Edmonton-Castle Downs, UCP announces votes in Calgary-North and Lethbridge-East

New Democratic Party MLA Nicole Goehring was nominated as her party’s candidate in Edmonton-Castle Downs, a district she has represented since 2015. Goehring won her first election with 64.5 percent of the vote, unseating four-term Progressive Conservative MLA and former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk. Since her election, Goehring has served as the Government of Alberta’s Liaison to the Canadian Armed Forces and as chairperson of the Standing Committee on Families and Communities.

Goehring will face United Conservative Party candidate Ed Ammar, who previously ran for the Liberal Party in the neighbouring Edmonton-Decore district, and Alberta Party candidate Moe Rahall. 

Here are some of the latest updates to the list of nominated candidates:

Deborah Drever MLA Calgary Bow

Deborah Drever

Calgary-Bow – NDP MLA Deborah Drever is expected to be nominated as her party’s candidate at a selection meeting on January 26, 2019. Drever was first elected in 2015 and faced considerable backlash from her political opponents when it was discovered she had made controversial posts on social media. She redeemed herself as a well-spoken representative and shepherded her first private members’ bill – Bill 204 – to unanimous approval in the Legislature in 2015. She rejoined the NDP caucus shortly after that.

Calgary-CurrieJoshua Codd has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in this southwest Calgary district. Codd is currently a Constituency Assistant for Calgary-Mountain View Liberal MLA David Swann.

Calgary-Shaw – MLA Graham Sucha is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in this district on January 27, 2019. Sucha was elected as the MLA for this district in 2015, earning 31.3 percent of the vote ahead of PC MLA Jeff Wilson with 30.7 percent and Wildroser Brad Leishman with 30.4 percent.

Drayton Valley-Devon – Steve Goodman is seeking the Freedom Conservative Party nomination. Goodman is a Senior Community Peace Officer with Brazeau County.

Edmonton-Ellerslie – Richard Corbin and Todd Ross appear to have withdrawn from the Alberta Party nomination contest days after another candidate, Chuck McKenna, also withdrew. The Alberta Party briefly posted a tweet congratulating Corbin on becoming the party’s candidate in the district but that tweet appears to have been removed.

Highwood – Erik Overland is running for the NDP nomination in this district south of Calgary. Overland lives in Okotoks, is a Policy Studies student at Mount Royal University and a Governor of the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University. A nomination meeting is scheduled to take place on January 26, 2019.

Fort Saskatchewan-VegrevilleRebecca Trotter is the Green Party candidate in this district east of Edmonton. Trotter is the President of RM Trotter Management Incorporated and a Sergeant at Arms for Rotary International

West Yellowhead – Zack Seizmagraff is the Liberal Party candidate in this district. Seizmagraff was the federal Liberal Party candidate in Yellowhead in the 2011 election, earning 2.87 percent of the vote.

UCP stands by Calgary-East candidate

UCP lawyer Steven Dollansky says the party has cleared Calgary-East candidate Peter Singh of allegations of fraud and bribery in his nomination contest, saying that there is no proof to support the accusations. A letter signed by Singh’s challengers, Andre Chabot, Jamie Lall, Issa Moussa and Matthew Dirk, sent to UCP Leader Jason Kenney and deputy leader Leela Aheer in December 2018 asked for the results of the contest to be overturned.

Who is the mystery UCP star candidate in Red Deer-South?

Red Deer-South Alberta Constituency Map

Red Deer-South

To the chagrin of local members, the UCP announced in early December that the party was delaying the selection meeting in Red Deer-South until 2019 in order to give time for a “high profile individual” run join the contest. The local UCP association is organizing an all-candidates forum on January 31, 2019, and only the original four candidates contesting the nomination, the true identity of the unnamed star candidate remains a mystery.

The UCP has now scheduled nomination meetings in Lethbridge-East and Calgary-North to take place on February 9, 2019. I will post a preview of these contests next week.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

Controversy over Jason Kenney’s very unusual living arrangements bogged down by wonkish details

When I first heard about the controversy swelling around United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney‘s former domestic arrangements, I was very reluctant to write about or event comment on the issue. It even took me a few days to be convinced that it might be more than just the political pot-shot of the week.

Kenney’s past domestic arrangements ballooned into a big political issue this week when it was revealed that, for a period of time while serving in Ottawa, the former seven-term MP and senior cabinet minister designated the basement of his parents home in a Calgary retirement community as his primary residence.

Kyle Morrow Alberta Jason Kenney

Kyle Morrow

During his time in Ottawa from 1997 to 2016, Kenney appears to have always designated his primary residence in Calgary, which is to be expected even if he did not spend much time in the city during his time as a senior cabinet minister. This is probably not uncommon for a lot of MPs or cabinet ministers. But it did mean he was eligible for a $900 per month subsidy to pay for the cost of his secondary residence in Ottawa.

There is no hard evidence that Kenney actual broke any House of Commons rules – rules written by MPs for MPs – but his decision to declare his primary residence as the basement of his parents house in a Calgary retirement community is… very unusual, to say the least.

Add to the controversy that a former staff member of the retirement community has told various media outlets that this type of basement lease arrangement is not allowed under the retirement community’s own rules.

Then there is also the related issue of Kenney donating $399.00 to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party while his primary residence was in Alberta, an act he was prohibited from doing unless he was a resident of Ontario.

The controversy and its related spin-off stories are fairly wonkish. David Climenhaga did an excellent job dissecting the details of Kenney’s housing arrangements and how MPs determine where to designate their primary residence.

The only reason Albertans are talking about this controversy, and why I am writing about it, is Ottawa-based lawyer Kyle Morrow, who for the past few months has been sharing a treasure-trove of research and political criticisms of Kenney on social media. Morrow is originally from Alberta and was the Liberal Party candidate in Lacombe-Ponoka in the 2012 provincial election. But from his political perch in Ottawa, Morrow has been researching and tweeting all sorts of tidbits and information about Kenney from his 19 years as an Ottawa politician.

The UCP and the usual cast of characters, including Postmedia columnists Licia Corbella and Rick Bell, quickly leapt to Kenney’s defence, claiming that this was an unfair personal attack by Morrow against Kenney and his elderly mother, and dismissing anyone who attacks the party leader as a victim of Kenney Derangement Syndrome.

The furious response by the UCP leads me to believe that Morrow hit a very sensitive nerve by raising this issue. Despite it already being part of Kenney’s public record from his time in Ottawa, the party clearly did not like it being talked about at all. But the tone and volume of their response has only drawn more attention to the issue.

All this political ruckus does raise the question about what a young Jason Kenney, who burst onto Alberta’s political scene in the early 1990s in the form of an aggressive anti-tax crusader, would have to say about the unusual living arrangements of his senior self. There is more than a little bit of irony that Kenney made a name for himself at the start of his political career as a fierce critic of Progressive Conservative excess, including PC MLAs who were themselves twisted in knots over their own housing expense scandal before the 1993 election.

This is not the first time Kenney has faced controversy over his MP expenses. In 2001, he was criticized for spending $121,000 on taxpayer funded flights for MPs, in part, to allegedly campaign for Stockwell Day‘s bid to retain the leadership of the Canadian Alliance.

But like that controversy, I doubt this will damage Kenney’s electoral prospects to any significant extent.

Kenney’s UCP is sitting with a mighty comfortable lead over the NDP in every public poll that has been released in the past year and the party raised a whopping $3,922,950.21 in the final four months of 2018.

And it is possible that Kenney’s critics have jumped the shark.

The fairly wonkish details that surround Kenney’s unusual housing arrangements make it difficult to explain in easy and short soundbites and will likely be lost on most Alberta voters. Some political watchers have expressed the opinion that it could be seen as a witch-hunt gone too far and an issue that allows Kenney to highlight his relationship with his family, which is not a side we have seen since the career politician jumped back into provincial politics in 2017.

While this story did not originate from the New Democratic Party, it does fit with the hit-a-week the governing party has been launching at Kenney for more than the past year. And while there is hope among the NDP that the growing number of controversies will develop into a narrative around Kenney and the UCP, none of the individual controversies, even ones that are easier to explain, appear to be hitting the intended target.

Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky speaks to Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid in the Legislature Rotunda in 2011. MLA Dave Taylor is seen in the background.

Former Speaker Gene Zwozdesky has died at age 70. The “Wizard of Zwoz” started as a Liberal and became the PC Party’s charm machine.

Gene Zwozdesky, the former Speaker of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly, has died of cancer at the age of 70.

Known for being incredibly approachable and having the ability to lay-on the political charm in a grand way, Zwozdesky became known in the latter part of his time in elected office as the “Wizard of Zwoz” for his seeming ability to reverse unpopular decisions made by his cabinet predecessors. But while Zwozdesky is known to many Alberta political watchers from his time in the Progressive Conservative cabinet and later as Speaker of the Assembly, he started his political career in the opposition benches as a Liberal.

Gene Zwozdesky Alberta MLA

Gene Zwozdesky’s official MLA portrait photo in 1997.

A teacher and champion of Alberta’s Ukrainian musical and cultural heritage, Zwozdesky was first elected to the Legislature in 1993 as Liberal in Edmonton-Avonmore.

Zwozdesky defeated five other candidates to win the Liberal Party nomination that year, taking the nomination on the fifth ballot with 660 votes out of 757 votes castLed by former mayor Laurence Decore, Zwozdesky easily unseated two-term New Democratic Party MLA Marie Laing as the Liberals swept the capital city.

He was easily re-elected in the renamed Edmonton-Mill Creek district in 1997, holding his vote share in an election that saw Liberal vote decline from its high-water mark in the previous election.

Respected by his opposition colleagues for his work as treasury critic, community development critic, caucus whip, and co-chair of the party’s outreach committee, Zwozdesky was seen as a contender for the party leadership to succeed Decore in 1994 and Grant Mitchell in 1998, but chose to decline the leadership on both occasions.

In 1997, Zwozdesky was briefly a candidate in the Speaker election following Stan Schumacher‘s retirement but was convinced by his caucus colleagues to withdraw from the contest. It is believed that the 18 Liberal MLA votes in that Speaker election helped secure Barrhead-Westlock MLA Ken Kowalski’s win over Premier Ralph Klein’s preferred choice, Dunvegan MLA Glen Clegg.

In 1998, he left the Liberal caucus and crossed the floor to the PC caucus less than one month later. The official reason for his departure was said to be a disagreement with new party leader Nancy MacBeth over fiscal policy, but it was widely suspected that Klein had been personally trying to recruit Zwozdesky. He was appointed to cabinet as Associate Minister of Health and Wellness in 1999, a shrewd political move to create a foil to counter opposition criticism of the PC government’s Bill 11: Health Care Protection Act, a bill that opponents argued would have increased the privatization of Alberta’s public health care system.

Gene Zwozdesky (second from the left) with PC candidates Carl Benito, TJ Keil and Naresh Bhardwaj, and Premier Ed Stelmach at a Feb. 2008 campaign event at Jackie Parker Park.

Gene Zwozdesky (second from the left) with PC candidates Carl Benito, TJ Keil and Naresh Bhardwaj, and Premier Ed Stelmach at a Feb. 2008 campaign event at Jackie Parker Park.

Zwozdesky was re-elected as a PC candidate in Edmonton-Mill Creek in 2001, 2004, 2008 and 2012. He served as Minister of Community Development from 2001 to 2004, Minister of Education from 2004 to 2006, Associate Minister of Infrastructure from 2007 to 2008, Minister of Aboriginal Relations from 2008 to 2010, and Minister of Health & Wellness from 2010 to 2011. In his roles as Minister of Education and Minster of Health, he was generally seen as a calming force appointed for the purpose of providing stability in the wake of a disruptive predecessor.

As Health & Wellness Minister, Zwozdesky was given the nickname “the Wizard of Zwoz” by the media after he entered the role with a full-court charm offensive. 

Only three weeks into the job he’s the Wizard of Zwoz, a minister who can reverse unpopular health-care policy with a wave of his BlackBerry,” wrote the Calgary Herald’s Don Braid in February 2010.

In this role, Zwozdesky was responsible for mending the fences smashed by his combative predecessor, Ron Liepert. While he was only in the role for a short period and largely continued to support the PC government’s ideological creep towards privatization in health care, he did oversee important labour negotiations and the swift departure of Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett following the “cookie” controversy.

He was dropped from cabinet when Alison Redford became premier in 2011 and following Kowalski’s retirement in 2012, Zwozdesky was elected Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. His only challenger in that contest was Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, who was a rookie in the Liberal caucus when Zwozdesky mounted his first campaign for the Speakership in 1997.

While generally seen as a fair Speaker of the Assembly, Zwozdesky had some partisan blindspots, most notably when he ruled that Redford did not mislead the Assembly over the tobacco-gate scandal. He was highly criticized for that decision. 

He served as Speaker until his defeat in the 2015 general election to New Democrat Denise Woollard.

Although it had become clear by the final week of the last election that a giant NDP wave was going to splash through Edmonton, it was difficult to believe that Zwozdesky would lose re-election. But when the votes were counted in Edmonton-Mill Creek, the six-term MLA fell 5,174 votes behind Woollard, ending his 22 year career in Alberta politics.

Following the 2015 election, Zwozdesky helped the new class of NDP and Wildrose Party MLAs transition into the Assembly and then gracefully stepped away from the political spotlight following the election of Medicine Hat MLA Bob Wanner as Speaker. And while a political comeback was unlikely for Zwozdesky after 2015, he continued to stay connected to his political past, being elected as President of the Alberta Association of Former MLAs in 2018.

Photo: Gene Zwozdesky speaks to Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid in the Legislature Rotunda in 2011. MLA Dave Taylor is seen in the background. (Photo source: Dave Cournoyer)

Garth Rowswell wins UCP nomination in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright, Spruce Grove-Stony Plain vote set for Friday

Garth Rowswell defeated Ben Acquaye, engineer Darrel Howell, past Battle River-Wainwright Progressive Conservative candidate Blake Prior, former mayor of Marwayne Jenelle Saskiw, and Eileen Taylor (who is married to the current MLA for Battle River-Wainwright) to secure the United Conservative Party candidacy in the new Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright district.

Garth Rowswell Vermilion Lloydminster Wainwright United Conservative Party Election Alberta

Garth Rowswell

Rowswell is a Lloydminster-based financial advisor with Edward Jones. He previously served as the secretary of the local UCP association and as campaign manager for Vermilion-Lloydminster Wildrose Party candidate Danny Hozack in the 2015 election.

Two-time Wildrose candidate Hozack was seeking the UCP nomination in this new district, but was deemed ineligible to run by the UCP. A letter to Hozack from UCP executive director Janice Harrington stated “a background review of your social media accounts and other online statements has been completed and upon review of this research, the Nominations Committee has deemed you ineligible.

“…there was a significant number of posts and statements that you have made or shared that would harm the reputation of the UCP and cause great offence to a large number of Albertans if they were made public by our opponents,” wrote Harrington, who then listed examples of the offending material, which she states included a post that shares a request to “Save Europe, the West, the World from Islam” and the republishing of statements and writings of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Incumbents from both districts, UCP MLA Wes Taylor and lone-Progressive Conservative Richard Starke, have announced their plans to not seek re-election in 2019.

Searle Turton Spruce Grove Stony Plain United Conservative Party Alberta Election

Searle Turton

UCP members in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain will select a candidate on November 30, 2018. CLAC representative Mathew Clark, Jerry Semen, and Spruce Grove City Councillor Searle Turton are seeking the UCP nomination in this district. Semen has been endorsed by UCP MLA Tany Yao, Conservative Member of Parliament Garnett Genuis and former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean.

Members of the New Democratic Party have nominated MLA David Eggen in Edmonton-North West and MLA Richard Feehan in Edmonton-Rutherford.


Here are a few of the latest updates to the list of candidates nominated and seeking nomination to run in Alberta’s next provincial election:

Airdrie-CochraneSteven Durrell is seeking the NDP nomination in this district north of Calgary. Durrell is a Telus dispatcher and trustee for the Telus Corporation pension plan. He has been a shop steward for the United Steel Workers. “My priorities lie in ensuring that our social services, like healthcare, education, or programs for people with disabilities, continue to receive the funding they require to be effective,” Durrell said in a press release from his campaign.

Airdrie-EastAlex Luterbach has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate. Luterbach has worked as a Retail Development Regional Analyst with Nestlé.

Calgary-Glenmore: Scott Appleby has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in this district. He is the owner of Appleby Painting and co-founder of GrayApple Inc.

Calgary-Peigan – Herjinder Seran is no longer seeking the Alberta Party candidate in this district.

Camrose – Former Edmonton-Ellerslie Wildrose candidate Jackie Lovely defeated former Strathcona-Sherwood Park Wildrose candidate Rob Johnson, former Calgary-South East Wildrose candidate Brandon Lunty, and former Wetaskiwin-Camrose Wildrose candidate Trevor Miller will face casino manager Dawn Anderson to secure the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-EllerslieSherry Adams is seeking the UCP nomination. Adams is currently serving her second term representing Ward I on the Edmonton Public School Board.

Edmonton-RiverviewKara Barker was acclaimed as the UCP candidate after her challenger, Shawn McLeod, withdrew from the contest. Barker is a crown prosecutor with Alberta’s Department of Justice.

Lac Ste. Anne-ParklandLeah Wood is once again is seeking the UCP nomination in this district. Wood ran in the UCP nomination contest held in August 2018 before Dale Johnson was removed as a candidateWood was a member of the UCP interim board and was widely considered to be the favourite of the party establishment in the first nomination contest. Shane Getson is also seeking the UCP nomination in this district.

Lesser Slave Lake: Pat Rehn defeated Brenda Derkoch, John Middelkoop, and Juliette Noskey to secure the UCP nomination in this rural northern Alberta district. Jim Sparks candidacy was not accepted by the UCP and Garrett Tomlinson withdrawn and endorsed Rehn. Rehn is the owner of AAA Precision Industries and Precision Crane and Rentals.

Lesser Slave Lake is one of two electoral districts that have been given special status under Section 15(2) of Electoral Boundaries Commission Act, which permits a geographic size that yields a population between 25% and 50% below the average electoral division.

Livingstone-Macleod – Allen Maclennan and Justin Murphy have withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest.

St. Albert – Cameron Jefferies has been nominated as the Green Party candidate. Jefferies is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law and the University of Alberta where he researches environmental law, natural resource law, ocean law and animal law and sustainability law.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

Jason Kenney and RIchard Gotfried

Calgary-Fish Creek bozo-eruption raises questions about “rigorous” UCP candidate screening process

Photo: UCP leader Jason Kenney and Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried (source: Twitter)

MLA Richard Gotfried fended off a nomination challenge on September 7, 2018 against opponent Cindy Ross, becoming the United Conservative Party candidate in Calgary-Fish Creek. It was a contentious nomination race, with accusations of negative campaigning being tossed between the two camps and a third candidate dropping out before the vote was held.

But a series of screenshots of anti-Islamic and conspiracy theory promoting social media posts allegedly made by Ross released the day before the vote raises some serious questions about the vetting process used by the UCP to approve candidates seeking nominations.

Back in June 2017, party leader Jason Kenney promised “a rigorous screening process for prospective candidates to red light those who have advocated truly hateful views or who have serious reputational problems.”

A series of bozo-eruptions, ranging from anti-Islamic comments, opposition to same-sex marriage, denial of climate change, and questioning the science of vaccinations, raises some serious questions about just how “rigorous” the UCP screening process actually is.

Rutherford secures UCP nomination in Leduc-Beaumont

Brad Rutherford defeated former Wildrose Party candidate Sharon Smith and Scott Wickland to secure the UCP nomination in Leduc-Beaumont. Rutherford previously ran for a federal Conservative nomination in Edmonton-West ahead of the 2015 election and was the president of the local UCP association. He previously served with the Edmonton Police Service.

Here are some of the latest updates to the list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of the 2019 Alberta provincial general election:

Banff-Kananaskis – Michael Zubkow is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-Acadia – Lana Bentley is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Calgary-East –Gar Gar is the nominated Alberta Party candidate. Gar is the past president of the SAIT Students’ Association and ran for Calgary City Council in Ward 10 in the 2017 municipal elections.

Jamie Lall is seeking the UCP nomination in this east Calgary district. Lall’s name will be familiar to attentive readers of this website. In 2012, he unsuccessfully sought the Progressive Conservative nomination in Calgary-McCall and was later appointed as the PC candidate in Calgary-Buffalo, where he finished second to Liberal MLA Kent Hehr. He re-emerged in 2015 as a nomination candidate in Chestermere-Rockyview before he was disqualified by text-message in one of the more bizarre PC Party nomination scandals of that election cycle. He instead resigned from his position as president of the Calgary-McCall PC association and ran as an Independent candidate in that Chestermere-Rockyview, earning 5.3 percent of the vote. He then sought the PC Party nomination to run in the 2016 Calgary-Greenway by-election, but was unsuccessful in that bid. Lall was then banned from running for office for a 5-year period after failing to file his 2015 campaign financial statements on time with Elections Alberta, but a judge overturned that ban in 2017.

Calgary-Mountian ViewMark Hlady is seeking the UCP nomination. Hlady was the Progressive Conservative MLA for this district from 1993 to 2004, when he was defeated by Liberal David Swann. Hlady surprised many political watchers when he defeated Jim Prentice’s former Chief of Staff Jean-Sebastien Rioux to secure the PC Party nomination in 2015, setting up a rematch against Swann. But Hlady placed third with 23 percent of the vote behind Swann and New Democrat Marc Chikinda.

Edmonton-Mill Woods – Baljit Singh is seeking the UCP nomination.

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo: UCP MLA Tany Yao has been acclaimed as his party’s candidate in this district. Yao was first elected in 2015 and currently serves as the Official Opposition Health Critic.

Strathcona-Sherwood ParkDave Quest has been acclaimed as the Alberta Party candidate in this district east of Edmonton. Quest served as the Progressive Conservative MLA for this district from 2008 to 2015, when he was unseated by New Democrat Estefania Cortes-Vargas.

Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright – Eileen Taylor and Darrel Howell are the latest candidates to enter the UCP nomination contest in this new rural district in east central Alberta. Eileen Taylor is a former teacher and he wife of retiring Battle River-Wainwright UCP MLA Wes Taylor (Mr. Taylor announced in May 2018 that he would not seek re-election because he is focusing on recovering from having undergone open heart surgery). The Taylor’s ran a real estate company before Mr. Taylor was elected in 2015. Howell is an engineer and was appointed as Chair of the Board of Governors of Lakelake College in 2014. He is a former president and chairman of Tartan Canada Corporation.

West Yellowhead Kirstie Gomuwka is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Gomuwka is a director of the Edson Friendship Centre and was a candidate for trustee with the Grande Yellowhead Public School District in October 2017. She is married to Town of Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara, who also served as press secretary to former West Yellowhead PC MLA Robin Campbell until his defeat to New Democrat Eric Rosendahl in the 2015 election.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!


NDP Convention moved to October

The New Democratic Party will now hold their convention on October 26, 27 and 28 at the Westin Hotel in downtown Edmonton. As noted in a previous article, the NDP had initially scheduled their convention for September 28, 29 and 30, 2018 in Red Deer. The NDP convention will now take place the weekend immediately before the Legislative Assembly is expected to reconvene for the fall sitting, on October 29, 2018.

David Shepherd accepts the NDP nomination in Edmonton-City Centre (source: David Shepherd on Twitter)

David Shepherd secures NDP candidacy in Edmonton-City Centre, Laurie Mozeson beats Steve Thompson in Edmonton-McClung UCP contest

Photo: David Shepherd accepts the NDP nomination in Edmonton-City Centre (source: David Shepherd on Twitter)

Edmonton-Centre MLA David Shepherd secured the New Democratic Party nomination in the newly redrawn and slightly renamed Edmonton-City Centre district at a packed nomination meeting last night in downtown Edmonton. Shepherd was first elected in 2015 after unseating five-term Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, and in 2017 he was voted “MLA to watch in 2018” in the Best of Alberta Politics survey.

Laurie Mozeson UCP Edmonton McClung Alberta Election 2019

Laurie Mozeson

Laurie Mozeson defeated past-Wildrose Party candidate Steve Thompson to win the United Conservative Party nomination in the southwest district of Edmonton-McClung yesterday. Mozeson is a long-time prosecutor with the federal and provincial governments and was appointed as a citizenship judge in 2012 by then federal immigration minister Jason Kenney.

A November 2012 report by the Hill Times noted Mozeson’s daughter, Marlee, had worked in Kenney’s office as an intern and special assistant, and later worked as assistant to Chungsen Leung, Kenney’s parliamentary secretary for multiculturalism. Her son, Jonah, had previously worked as communications director for Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose.

Her daughter-in-law, Jamie Mozeson, is now the director of operations at the UCP caucus and ran for the federal Conservative nomination in the Sturgeon River-Parkland district in 2016.

Mozeson will face Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel in the next election. Mandel is his party’s nominated candidate, lives in the district, and represented it as City Councillor from 2001 to 2004, and then as Mayor of Edmonton from 2004 to 2013. Incumbent NDP MLA Lorne Dach has not yet announced he plans for re-election.

UCP vote in Calgary-Fish Creek today

UCP members living in Calgary-Fish Creek will choose their next candidate today. Incumbent MLA Richard Gotfried is facing a challenge from Cindy Ross. Gotfried was first elected in 2015 as a Progressive Conservative, stealing the seat away from the Wildrose Party. This race has been contentious to say the least.

Richard Gotfried MLA UCP Calgary Fish Creek Alberta Election 2019

Richard Gotfried

Lawyer Cyndy Morin withdrew from the contest in mid-August and endorsed Ross over Gotfried. Morin accused Gotfried of attacking her on social media and stated on her Facebook page that “Mr. Gotfried is not the kind of leader that I would want to continue to represent the party or Albertans.”

The NDP released a screenshot of a Facebook Post showing Ross making derogatory statements against Muslims in regards to the construction of a new Mosque in Fort McMurray. What a better place to have a mosque. Right in the middle of our greatest asset,” the screenshot showed Ross saying in 2015. “This is a bit of like jailing the bank robber in the bank vault.”

Ross has since apologized for the statement.

Meanwhile, Gotfried is the kind of MLA who stands on the floor of the Alberta Legislature and attacks the NDP by comparing people leaving Alberta to refugees fleeing Bolshevik Russia and Moaist China. As I wrote in May 2017, it takes a special amount of partisan and ideological gymnastics to draw connections between brutal and tyrannical dictatorships and a freely elected democratic government in Alberta, but Gotfried did it.

So, good luck with this, Calgary-Fish Creek Conservatives.

Wilson wins UCP nod in Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin

Richard Wilson Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin UCP Alberta Election 2019

Richard Wilson

Richard Wilson defeated business owner Sandra Kim and former Wetaskiwin City Councillor Donna Andres to secure the UCP nomination in the newly redrawn Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin district in central Alberta. Wilson served as a Wetaskiwin County Councillor from 1992 to 2007, a Trustee with the Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools from 1993 to 1998, and as chairman of Crossroads Regional Health Authority from 1996 to 2003.

According to a CBC report, Wilson earned 335 votes, Andres earned 267 votes, and Kim earned 191 votes. Kim found herself in the centre of controversy when it was revealed she had shared Facebook posts denouncing same-sex marriage.

Leduc-Beaumont UCP vote set for September 8

UCP members in Leduc-Beaumont will choose from three candidates at a nomination vote being held on Saturday, September 8, 2018. Sharon Smith, Brad Rutherford and Scott Wickland. Smith ran for the Wildrose Party in this district in the 2015 election, placing second with 29 percent of the vote. Rutherford is a former Edmonton police officer and previously ran for the federal Conservative Party nomination in Edmonton-West ahead of the 2015 election. He was president of the Leduc-Beaumont UCP and the federal Edmonton-Wetaskiwin Conservative association.

Incumbent MLA Shaye Anderson was nominated as the NDP candidate in his district on July 18, 2018. Anderson was first elected in 2015 and currently serves as Minister of Municipal Affairs.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!


Former UCP Chief of Staff now working for the Alberta Party Caucus

Kevin Weidlich Alberta Party UCP Chief of Staff

Kevin Weidlich

It appears that Kevin Weidlich is now serving as Chief of Staff to the Alberta Party Caucus. From 2015 to 2017, Weidlich worked as Chief of Staff at the Progressive Conservative Caucus and then the consolidated UCP Caucus.

Weidlich was replaced by Garry Keller as CoS of the UCP Caucus on an interim basis in August 2017, but then appeared to be replaced permanently by Nick Koolsbergen when Kenney imported a group of political staffers from Ottawa in January 2018.

Weidlich served as campaign manager in Doug Horner‘s bid for the PC Party leadership in 2011Weidlich is also a Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian Armed Forced Reserves and served as commander of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment for three years until 2017.

Sandra Jansen (left) and Premier Rachel Notley (right) at the press conference announcing the PC MLA had crossed the floor to join the NDP.

When it comes to Sandra Jansen, it’s a grudge match for the UCP

It was supposed to be an event highlighting an effort to recruit more conservative women into politics in Alberta, but it was overshadowed by the news that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper plans to personally campaign against New Democratic Party MLA Sandra Jansen in the next provincial election. 

Stephen Harper Calgary Stampede

Stephen Harper

Laureen Harper told a gathering at the launch of the She Leads group that she and her husband plan to campaign in the next election for whoever the United Conservative Party candidate is in their home Calgary-North West district. 

For UCP activists, and Jason Kenney in particular, the fight in Calgary-North West likely feels personal. Jansen was elected as a Progressive Conservative in 2012 and re-elected in 2015 before crossing the floor to the NDP in 2016. But Conservative anger was directed at Jansen before her floor-crossing.

Jansen’s support for her friend Nirmala Naidoo, who ran as a Liberal candidate in the 2015 federal election, drew the ire of the legions of federal Conservatives who were moving to take over the PC Party following its defeat in the 2015 election (Naidoo’s Conservative competitor, now Member of Parliament Pat Kelly, is endorsing UCP nomination candidate and pipeline lobbyist Sonya Savage). 

Sonya Savage UCP Calgary North West

Sonya Savage

Jansen attempted a mount a campaign for the leadership after her party’s disastrous results in the last election but was all but drummed out of the party by social conservatives allied with Kenney.

Her moderate views on social issues like abortion and rights for sexual minorities, as well as her role as a former communications manager and key supporter of former premier Alison Redford contributed to the mounting tension from more hard-line conservatives.

Her comment to her former colleague and now Conservative MP Len Webber that he “should go back to being an electrician” smacked of Tory elitism.

Jansen accused Kenney of wanting to destroy the PC Party in his plans to merge with the Wildrose Party. And when push came to shove at the PC Party’s annual convention in 2016, Jansen was shoved hard by social conservative activists and soon after decided to leave the party.

She joined the NDP and was appointed Minister of Infrastructure in 2017.

For Conservative partisans, this was the biggest betrayal. 

Pat Kelly MP Calgary Rocky View

Pat Kelly

As Minister of Infrastructure, Jansen has a powerful spot at the cabinet table, allowing her to champion the construction of big capital projects like the new Calgary Cancer Centre and the completion of the city’s ring road and the Green Line C-Train route. 

Jansen plays a big role in Premier Rachel Notley’s charm offensive in Calgary, but her tendency to get involved in petty arguments with Conservative partisans on social media distracts from the NDP government’s narrative. As I have written in the past, she could probably spend less time arguing on Twitter and more time trying to boost her government’s fortunes in Calgary.

Uniting the Right meant CPC-UCP unity too

Regardless of whether Jansen wins or loses the next election, she should take it as a complement that a Conservative heavy hitter like Harper would personally campaign against her. She should wear it as a badge of honour.

Harper likely remains popular among Conservatives in particular and Calgarians in general, and his support for Kenney’s UCP is not surprising. Harper endorsed Kenney’s leadership bid last year and was rumoured to be one of the driving forces behind the scenes in the PC-Wildrose unity referendum last year.

Harper is now the chairman of the International Democratic Union, an international club of right-wing political parties from 63 countries. His congratulatory tweet to extreme right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in April 2018 raised eyebrows among political watchers. Orbán was re-elected after campaigning on a platform that included hostile anti-immigrant rhetoric. 

But the federal Conservative connections to the UCP go deeper than Harper. Organizationally, the UCP has become an extension of the Conservative Party of Canada in Alberta, with most Conservative MPs actively involved or endorsing candidates in UCP nomination races. This is a significant change since the 1990s, when the provincial PC Party and the federal Reform Party were at each other throats.

Despite forming the opposition, the UCP are not the underdogs going into the next election. The next election campaign will represent the first time in more than 25-years that the dominant federal and provincial conservative parties in Alberta will be marching in lock-step.

While this may give Conservatives a big boost in an election campaign, it is yet to be seen whether a UCP government would stand up for the interests of Albertans over partisan gain if faced by a Conservative government in Ottawa.

Not first time a Calgary-North West MLA targeted

Frank Bruseker MLA Calgary North West

Frank Bruseker

It is reminiscent of another election in Calgary-North West more than two decades ago. Liberal MLA Frank Bruseker had represented the district since 1989 and had become a major thorn in the side of Premier Ralph Klein going into the 1997 election.

Bruseker was described at the time as being a relentless and ferocious critic of Klein during the Multi-Corp Inc. share affair, in which the premier was accused of promoting a company his wife had shares in. 

It was reported during that campaign that PC Party campaign manager Rod Love had a poster hanging in his office of Bruseker framed by the crosshairs of a rifle scope.

The PCs poured significant resources into Calgary-North West and, when the dust settled in March 1997, Bruseker was unseated by Tory Greg Melchin by a margin of 1,964 votes.

Jason Kenney Prab Gill

Sixth MLA leaves the UCP. Prab Gill resigns from caucus following ballot-stuffing investigation.

The polls suggest the United Conservative Party is poised to form government in 2019, but how united the caucus actually is remains questionable.

Calgary-Greenway UCP MLA Prab Gill issued a statement yesterday announcing that he has left the UCP caucus to sit as an Independent MLA following the conclusion of an investigation into allegations of ballot-stuffing and ballot-snatching at a party meeting in the new Calgary-North East district on June 30, 2018.

Gill had already resigned as UCP caucus deputy whip on July 11, 2018, and with his departure from the UCP caucus he leaves his roles as Official Opposition critic for seniors, housing and multiculturalism. He had been planning to challenge Anand Chetty and Tariq Khan for the UCP nomination in Calgary-North East.

The allegations of ballot-stuffing and ballot-snatching originally stemmed from a YouTube video posted by a disgruntled UCP member who attended the June 30 meeting. 

Carruthers Report not made public

Following the circulation of the video, UCP leader Jason Kenney announced he had asked retired judge and former Progressive Conservative Party president Ted Carruthers to investigate the allegations.

Carruthers served as president of the PC Party from 1992 to 1994 and oversaw the party’s 1992 leadership contest, which he at the time described as “the greatest exercise in democracy ever seen in our province.” He was appointed as an Alberta Family and Youth Court Judge in 1996 by then-Justice Minster Brian Evans.

Carruthers’ report and its contents, which prompted Gill’s departure from the UCP caucus, has not been made public.

Nasty internal power struggles were common in old PC Party

A Wildrose Party flyer attacking PC candidate Prab Gill for being a "Justin Trudeau Liberal." Mr. Gill was elected on March 22, 2016.

A Wildrose Party flyer attacking PC candidate Prab Gill for being a “Justin Trudeau Liberal.” Mr. Gill was elected on March 22, 2016.

Gill was first elected as the PC MLA for Calgary-Greenway in a 2016 by-election following the death of PC MLA Manmeet Bhullar. Gill was first appointed as the PC Party candidate but a backlash from party members led to the party allowing a contested nomination, which he then won.

In the by-election, he narrowly defeated his main opponent, Wildroser Devinder Toor, by 335 votes and faced harsh criticism from the Wildrose Party for his support of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the October 2015 federal election.

Gill’s predecessor in Calgary-Greenway, Bhullar, was appointed Premier Ed Stelmach as the PC Party’s candidate in the former Calgary-Montrose district in 2008 following a very public legal battle between the PC Party and its local volunteers in the district. The PC Party won the court battle.

The loss of this MLA, along with a recent nasty nomination contest in Chestermere-Strathmore, suggests that despite the party name change the UCP may have the inherited the culture of nasty internal power struggles similar to the ones that mired the old PC Party before the 2015 election.


Prab Gill is the sixth MLA to leave the United Conservative Party caucus since it was formed on July 24, 2017.

1. Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt left the UCP caucus on August 15, 2017 after he was charged with hunting and shooting a deer on private property without permission. He currently sits as an Independent Conservative MLA in the Assembly.

2. Calgary-South East MLA Rick Fraser left the UCP caucus to sit as an Independent MLA on September 12, 2017. He joined the Alberta Party caucus on January 9, 2018 and ran for that party’s leadership.

3. Dave Rodney resigned as MLA for Calgary-Lougheed on November 1, 2017 in order to trigger a by-election to allow Kenney to enter the Legislative Assembly. Rodney was first elected as a PC MLA in 2004.

4. Don MacIntyre resigned as MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake on Feb. 2, 2018 after being charged with sexual assault and sexual interference. McIntyre was the UCP’s critic for Energy and a member of the UCP Rural Crime Task Force.

5. Brian Jean resigned as MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin on March 5, 2018 in the months following his defeat in the UCP leadership contest. Jean had led the Wildrose Party from 2015 to 2017.