Tag Archives: Alberta PC Party

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.

Leela Aheer and Brian Jean

Death threats and restraining orders – What the heck is happening to the UCP in Chestermere-Strathmore?

Photo: Chestermere-Rockyview MLA Leela Aheer and former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, who she endorsed in the 2017 UCP leadership contest (source: Facebook)

The contest for the United Conservative Party nomination in the new Chestermere-Strathmore district turned nasty this week when it was revealed that MLA and UCP Deputy Leader Leela Aheer attempted to seek a restraining order against one of her opponents.

David Campbell UCP Chestermere-Strathmore

David Campbell (source: Facebook)

The Calgary Herald reported that Aheer discontinued the action against David Campbell the day before the application was to be heard in court. The dispute was apparently the result of a confrontation between Aheer and Campbell at a June 14 meeting of the local UCP association. The application had asked for a court order keeping Campbell 200 metres away from her and her home.

The Calgary Sun later reported that Campbell was in Court of Queen’s Bench seeking legal costs in the case he described as an effort to shut him out of the nomination process.

Aheer was first elected as Wildrose Party MLA for Chesteremere-Rockyview in 2015 and was a strong supporter of former WIldrose leader Brian Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership contest. Earlier this year, she spoke out against a motion at the UCP founding convention that would out students who join gay-straight alliances, a move that Campbell criticized her for.

In a Facebook post published on June 18, 2018, Campbell wrote that “the amalgamation of the legacy parties has failed to get rid of the internal rot, stench and elitism that plagued them both.”

In actual fact, “win at all cost” cronyism may be worse today than in the past, led disappointingly by former Wildrosers who are close to smelling the sweet scent of leadership, influence, and authority,” Campbell wrote.

Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrant, a former UCP MLA who now sits as an Independent Conservative and was barred by Jason Kenney from running in the new district against Aheer, posted on Facebook that “insider-party elites refuse to allow the people of Chestermere-Strathmore an open, free & fair nomination of their UCP candidate.”

Fildebrandt went even further by posting allegations on his Facebook page that Aheer’s husband had “threatened to murder” him a year and a half ago (see screenshot below).

Derek Fildebrandt's Facebook comment on June 26, 2018.

Derek Fildebrandt’s Facebook comment on June 26, 2018.

Fildebrandt’s serious allegation is unproven, but this entire embarrassing political mess demonstrates the level of nastiness the UCP nomination contest has reached in Chestermere-Strathmore.

The current situation overshadows some of the controversy that marred the Progressive Conservative nomination contest in Chestermere-Rockyview ahead of the 2015 election. That race saw one disqualified candidate release a series of embarrassing text messages from party official related to his disqualification.

The UCP has set June 28 as the deadline for candidates to enter the nomination contest in Chestermere-Strathmore. A nomination meeting has been scheduled for July 19, 2018. Declared candidates include Aheer, Campbell, Mark Giesbrecht, and Pamela Hilton.

Amid political gong-show, Postmedia shuts down local newspaper 

And as real political news worth reporting is happening in their community, it was announced today that the Strathmore Standard is one of the latest victims of Postmedia’s budget axe. The Standard was founded in 1909 and its departure will leave a big gap in news coverage in the community of more than 13,000 residents east of Calgary.

Also being shuttered by Postmedia is the Camrose Canadian, which first started publishing in 1908. The High River Times will now publish one edition per week, down from twice weekly.

UCP draws huge crowds, huge controversy to its first policy convention

(Photo credit: @Alberta_UCP on Twitter)

With more than 2,500 party members in attendance, this weekend’s United Conservative Party founding convention was one of the biggest political events in Alberta’s recent memory. It was a big show of force for the official opposition party, which continues to dominate in the polls and fundraising.

Ric McIver

Ric McIver

The convention should have been a victory lap for Jason Kenney after forcing the merger of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties and winning the new party’s leadership. Instead, the big story of the convention is how it was derailed by a membership base weirdly obsessed with Gay-Straight Alliances.

Fifty-seven percent of convention delegates voted in favour of a policy that would out students who join Gay-Straight Alliances. Supporters of the policy claimed it was about parental rights, but that did not stop three MLAs from going to mic to plead with UCP members to end the madness.

“This is about outing gay kids,” said Calgary-Hays UCP MLA Ric McIver as he pleaded with party members not to pass the policy. “Don’t be called the Lake of Fire party, I’m begging you. This will really severely hurt our chances at winning. Don’t do that to yourself.”

“When we’re talking about freedoms, that means all people’s freedoms. That means making sure that children have safe spaces in schools,” urged Chestermere-Rockyview UCP MLA Leela Aheer.

But the pleas from the MLAs were not enough to change the minds of members, including a well organized contingent of social conservatives, at the convention.

The debate over this motion came only days after Edmonton’s Pride Festival Society rejected the UCP’s application to march in this year’s pride parade. A similar application was rejected by Calgary’s Pride festival in August 2017.

Even though it was Kenney’s comments about Gay-Straight Alliances that reignited this issue back in March 2017, he now says he won’t implement the policy if he becomes premier.

It could, and probably will, be argued that Kenney’s denouncement of this policy contradicted his “Grassroots Guarantee” that the party membership will determine the party’s policies. Kenney used the “guarantee” as a way of circumventing any substantive policy debates during the 2017 UCP leadership contest.

It is not clear what other member-endorsed policies Kenney will choose to ignore if and when he becomes Alberta’s next premier.

UCP members also adopted policies to eliminate the carbon tax, reintroduce a flat tax, increase privatization in health care and education, and require parental consent for invasive medical procedures on a minor (this motion was cheered by anti-abortion groups).

All things considered, it is hard to imagine that Rachel Notley‘s New Democrats could have hoped for a better outcome this weekend.

One Big Conservative Family

An underreported story of this weekend’s convention is the very close relationship between the UCP and the Conservative Party of Canada.

The presence of a federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer as a keynote speaker would have been unheard of at any provincial party convention in recent years. Scheer was joined at the convention by a number of Conservative MPs, and former leader Rona Ambrose, who spoke at the convention on a panel about women in politics.

The relationship between the federal and provincial conservative parties has always been complex, but it has been exceptionally complicated over the past three decades. The rise of the Reform Party and collapse of the federal PC Party in the early 1990s meant there was no formal alliance between the dominant federal and provincial conservative parties in Alberta for many years.

Almost as soon as the Conservative Party of Canada was formed in 2003, the Alberta Alliance, and later the Wildrose Alliance and Wildrose Party split the provincial conservative movement, leaving federal Conservative MPs divided in their loyalties for the PC and Wildrose parties.

While most of the focus has been on the Wildrose-PC merger, Kenney’s “unity” extends to the federal party as well.

Will April 2018 mark a breakthrough for Alberta Party fundraising?

As anyone who is on a political party email list will be well aware of, March 31 marked the end of the first quarter of fundraising for Alberta’s political parties.

The years since the 2015 election have shown a tough competition between the governing New Democratic Party and the Wildrose and now United Conservative Party for best fundraising returns. But with former Edmonton mayor and Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Stephen Mandel now at helm of the third-place Alberta Party, the question will be how much money that party has been able to raise in the quarter that included the February 2018 leadership vote.

Former party leader Greg Clark succeeded in generating significant media attention for the Alberta Party after the last election but the party struggled to raise money under Clark’s leadership. The party raised just over $50,400 in 2016 and $171,411 in 2017, compared to $1.7 million raised by the NDP in 2017.

As a well-known politician with strong ties to Edmonton’s business community, fundraising is not likely to be one of Mandel’s weaknesses. In his bid re-election as the PC MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud in 2015, Mandel’s campaign raised $268,965. And, if one upcoming fundraising event suggests, his network of supporters includes some big fundraising names from the old PC Party network.

Former PC Party fundraisers John Chomiak and Brian Heidecker, along with multi-party donor Marc de La Bruyère are the names included in a recent fundraising email soliciting the sale of $200 tickets to a reception with Mandel on April 11 in Edmonton.

Chomiak is an experienced fundraiser with deep ties to the now-defunct PC Party and past leadership candidates Ed Stelmach and Gary Mar. Heidecker served as a PC Party Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer for Doug Griffiths’ 2011 campaign for the PC Party leadership. de La Bruyère has made significant contributions to multiple parties in the past. According to Elections Alberta records, de La Bruyère donated $6,000 to the PC Party in 2015, $1,500 to the Liberal Party in 2016, and $4,000 to the Alberta Party in the final quarter of 2017.

The results of the first quarter of fundraising for 2018 should be released by Elections Alberta before the end of April.

Photo: Ryan Hastman, Dave Cournoyer, and Jason Kenney.

Best of Alberta Politics 2017: Formation of the United Conservative Party

Photo: Ryan Hastman, Dave Cournoyer, and Jason Kenney.

It was the clear winner in the first round of voting in the Best of Alberta Politics 2017 survey. With a solid 59 percent of votes, readers of this blog and listeners of The Daveberta Podcast chose the formation of the United Conservative Party as the biggest political play of 2017.

Dave Cournoyer and Ryan Hastman were pleased to present the Best Political Play of 2017 award to UCP leader Jason Kenney today at his office in the Federal Building near the Alberta Legislature.

Established in July 2017 as a merger between the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta and the Wildrose Party, the UCP currently forms the Official Opposition in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. Its formation dramatically changed the political landscape in Alberta and mended some of the tears in a conservative movement that had been deeply divided for more than a decade.

We would like to thank Mr. Kenney for taking some time out his day to sit down with us for an interview that will be included in the next episode of the Daveberta Podcast.

Listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, or wherever you find podcasts online.