Tag Archives: Anne McGrath

Brian Topp NDP leadership candidate

Off the Topp: Notley shuffles her senior staff

As the fall Legislative session ends and MLAs prepare to return home to their constituencies for the holiday season, Premier Rachel Notley announced big changes in the senior ranks of her political office.

John Heaney

John Heaney

Gone is Brian Topp, the veteran political operative who became Ms. Notley’s Chief of Staff after the NDP formed government in 2015. He is reportedly becoming a fellow with the Ottawa-based Public Policy Forum.

Mr. Topp is replaced by John Heaney, a former British Columbia NDP political operative who served as Chief of Staff to John Horgan until moving east to Alberta last year. He was filling the role as Alberta’s policy czar as Deputy Minister of the Policy Coordination Office.

The McDougall Centre in Calgary

The McDougall Centre in Calgary

Former federal NDP campaign manager Anne McGrath, who was hired as Ms. Notley’s Principal Secretary after the 2015 federal election, moves south to run the Premier’s Calgary office at the McDougall Centre.

Ms. McGrath, who lived in the city and studied at the University of Calgary, replaces former alderman and MLA Bob Hawkesworth as Executive Director. It is hard to interpret this move as anything but a demotion. But the addition of Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen to the government caucus, placing a campaign manager in the role could signal that the NDP are beginning to realize the need to shore up support in Alberta’s largest city before the next election.

Anne McGrath NDP

Anne McGrath

Back in Edmonton, Ms. McGrath will be replaced by ministerial chief of staff and former BC NDP advisor Jim Rutkowski, who rounds up the group of recently imported BC NDP operatives now filling the two most powerful political jobs in Alberta.

Alberta’s NDP government has pursued an aggressive policy and legislative agenda since defeating the 44-year old Progressive Conservative regime in May 2015. And while the economic recession caused by the decline in the international price of oil has created significant challenges, it has not slowed down the political agenda.

The recent approval of two oil pipelines suggests the NDP government flagship Climate Leadership Plan is already achieving political results for the province but the political battle over the carbon tax and phase of dirty coal fired power plants will continue into 2017.

It is too soon to tell what today’s staff changes will mean or how they will impact how the NDP government operates. The NDP focused on introducing policy and legislative changes during its first year in office, and now the government will need to shift political gears as it moves to implement its ambitious Alberta-changing policy goals.

Alberta NDP draft outsiders from Manitoba, BC and Ottawa for Transition Team

Despite this current historic period in Alberta politics as a new party transitions into government for the first time in 44 years, almost no public focus has been directed at the team who are managing the Alberta NDP move into government.

We have heard that former Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow was consulted and that other top New Democratic Party officials, including National Director Anne McGrath and party insider Kathleen Monk, have been involved in the transition process. We know that Premier-designate Rachel Notley’s Chief of Staff Brian Topp is chairing the transition team and we can expect that Deputy Chief of Staff Adrienne King is also heavily involved.

The other individuals involved in this important transition of power, by providing advice, support and research to Ms. Notley and her team of MLAs, have barely been mentioned in the mainstream media. It is no surprise that many of these individuals would come from other provinces in Canada where the NDP have experience governing. And it was probably a smart move by Ms. Notley and her team to have included experienced outsiders in the transition process, as this is the first time the Alberta NDP have formed government.

But who is on the “transition team” that is helping Alberta’s new government into office? It seems like something Albertans should know.

Here is a look at some of the individuals who are playing a role as members or support staff for the Alberta NDP ‘Transition Team’ :

Jen Anthony, Former Director of Caucus Services for the Manitoba NDP Caucus

Alissa Brandt, Former Director of the Premier’s Secretariat in Manitoba

Matt Hannah, British Columbia NDP organizer

John Heaney, Chief of Staff at the B.C. NDP Caucus

Brad Lafortune, Director of Political Action at the Alberta Federation of Labour, former Alberta NDP Caucus Communications Officer

John Michael McColl, Issue Coordinator in the Office of the Leader of the NDP Official Opposition in Ottawa

Emily-Anne Paul, Regional Press Secretary for B.C. and Northern Ontario in the Office of the Leader of the NDP Official Opposition in Ottawa

Anna Rothney, Former Secretary to Cabinet for Priorities and Planning in Manitoba

Michael Roy, Digital Director for the federal NDP

Jim Rutkowski, a senior account director for Hill + Knowlton in Victoria, B.C. An advisor to Brian Topp during the 2012 federal NDP leadership campaign.

Brian Stokes, Executive Director of the Alberta NDP

Kate Van Meer-Mass, BC NDP organizer, campaign manager for NDP MLA David Eby, who defeated Premier Christy Clark in Vancouver-Point Grey in 2013.

It will not be surprising if some of these individuals, with their experience working in other NDP governments across Canada, are hired to fill roles in Ministerial Offices or the Government Caucus Offices.

The NDP will officially take the reins of government on Sunday, May 24, when Ms. Notley and her 11-member cabinet are sworn-in at a public event at the Legislature Building. MLAs elected on May 5 will be sworn-in to office on June 1.

The ghosts of senate reform haunt the Harper Conservatives

Stephen Harper Senate Conservatives Reform

Howling “RREEEEFFFOOOORRRRMMMM,” the ghosts of the Reform Party stumble towards the Conservative Party Convention in Calgary (Yes, this is a photo of zombies, but ghosts don’t stumble).

The ghosts of Senate reform will haunt Prime Minister Stephen Harper as his party establishment gathers in Calgary on Halloween to discuss and debate party policy. After more than seven years in office, Mr. Harper’s Conservatives have accomplished little on the issue of reforming the Canadian Senate.

Who would have thought that a Senate scandal involving Conservative appointees could potentially be one of the defining stories of Mr. Harper’s third-term as Prime Minister? Was Mr. Harper not the Prime Minister who vowed to reform Canada’s archaic upper house of Parliament?

While the federal Conservatives had hoped to end this particular Senate scandal with the announcement of a new free trade agreement with the European Union and a consumer-first agenda, the wrath of Conservative Senators scorned has dominated the headlines.

After being ejected from Conservative Party ranks, Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau, all appointed by Mr. Harper, have proven to be incredibly dangerous liabilities. Accused of improper spending and expenses, the three former Conservatives have turned on their former party and are drawing national attention to alleged improper activities of Mr. Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright.

Senate reform was a defining policy for the now defunct Reform Party of Canada and a historical grievance that many western Conservatives hoped would finally be resolved when the Canadian Alliance (the Reform Party’s rebranded name) merged with the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 2003. While the crusade for a Triple-E Senate (equal, elected and effective) helped propel the Reform Party onto the national stage in the early 1990s, there does not appear to be much political appetite for this type of reform among Canada’s political leaders.

Since becoming Prime Minister in 2006, Mr. Harper has appointed at least 52 of the Senate’s 106 members, including many failed Conservative party candidates or close associates of the Prime Minister. Despite his claims that he would approach the Senate differently, Mr. Harper has proven by his actions that he is not much different than Prime Ministers Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, or Paul Martin.

In Alberta, the only province to have held elections for Senate nominees, the votes have attracted low levels of attention and there is no indication that the upper chamber is more effective with the three current elected nominees that have been appointed.

Popular Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, seen by many as a potential successor to Mr. Harper, announced today that his government will revoke its support for Senate nominee election in favour of supporting abolishment of the Senate. This positions Mr. Wall alongside Official Opposition NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, who has embraced NDP’s long-standing position that the Senate should be abolished.

The Reform Party’s first leader, Preston Manning, in his role as the godfather of Canada’s conservatives, will today be hosting an all-day Manning Foundation symposium on the future of the Senate. Speakers will include Member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre, former Alberta MLA Ted Morton,  retired Liberal Senator Dan Hays, Calgary School chieftains Tom Flanagan and Rainer Knopff, and former Senator-nominee turned Wildrose Party candidate Link Byfield. This and other Manning Foundation events will coincide with official Conservative Party events in Calgary this weekend.

Provincial NDP take Lethbridge

Meanwhile, in southern Alberta, provincial New Democrats will gather this weekend for their annual convention  in Lethbridge. Delegates will hear from NDP strategist Anne McGrath and Robyn Benson, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

At the annual meeting, NDP leader Brian Mason will not face a leadership review, but his party activists will debate some changes to party operations. One topic of debate will be whether the party holds annual conventions or moves to biennial conventions. Party members are also expected to debate whether the Labour movement should have two vice-presidents represented on the party’s executive council.

Most of the province outside of Edmonton is bleak for the social democratic party, but Lethbridge has provided a glimmer of hope that the NDP plan to build on. In the 2011 federal election, the NDP saw their support double to 27% and in the 2012 provincial election, Lethbridge-West candidate Shannon Phillips placed a strong second in a three-way race won by PC MLA Greg Weadick.

calgary-centre by-election nominations take a strange turn.

The Calgary-Centre Conservative Party nomination contest took a turn for the strange over the past few weeks.

Originally shaping up to be a three-candidate contest, Alderman John Mar and former Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation chairman Andy Crooks dropped out of the race earlier this summer, leaving political commentator Joan Crockatt as the lone survivor of the original three candidates in the nomination contest.

Jon Lord Calgary-Centre Conservative

Jon Lord

Video store owner, former Alderman and Progressive Conservative MLA Jon Lord is one of the new candidates to enter the contest. Mr. Lord placed a distant sixth in his bid to become Mayor of Calgary in 2010 and was unsuccessful in his attempt to win back the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie before the recent provincial election. In the 2004 provincial election, Mr. Lord was unseated as MLA by Liberal Dave Taylor.

Lawyer Rick Billington has also joined the contest. Mr. Billington is a long-time Conservative Party director in the neighbouring riding of Calgary-Southwest. His website biography lists him as having participated in the Leaders Debate preparation team for Premier Alison Redford during the 2012 Alberta election.

Also running are Stefan Spargo, who was former MP Lee Richardson‘s campaign manager and also made an unsuccessful bid for the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie, and past Conservative riding president Greg McLean, who entered the contest last week.

Calgary Joe Soares

“Calgary Joe” Soares

Perhaps the strangest candidate to join the Conservative nomination contest is Quebec political advisor and Ottawa-area resident Joe Soares – who describes himself as “Calgary Joe.” It is not known whether Mr. Soares has spent any significant amount of time in Calgary or has any connection to the city or the province of Alberta.

The messaging on Mr. Soares’ website is a textbook case of negative partisanship, taking aim at New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair, who he accuses of wanting to destroy Alberta’s economy. The political insider also takes aim at the perceived frontrunner Ms. Crockatt, who he accuses of defending former Ontario Conservative MP Belinda Stronach when she crossed the floor to the Liberal Party in 2005 (which I imagine is a top of mind issue for Conservative Party members in Calgary-Centre).

The date of the Conservative nomination vote has not yet been set, though the deadline to enter the contest occurred last week.

Despite rumours that popular Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann might enter the Liberal Party nomination contest (or the NDP contest), only two candidates will be on the ballot at the vote on September 15, 2012. Lawyer and former Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association President Harvey Locke and educator Rahim Sajan.

Past candidate William Hamilton has already declared his interest in running for the Green Party and author Chris Turner told the Calgary Herald that he is considering seeking the nomination.

Anne McGrath NDP

Anne McGrath

Their status as Official Opposition in Ottawa does not seem to have generated wide interest in the NDP nomination. I have heard very little about who the NDP candidate in this by-election could be.

However unlikely, the latest speculation I have heard is that some party members are trying to draft Anne McGrath to carry her party’s banner in the downtown Calgary riding. Ms. McGrath is the former President of the NDP and chief of staff to former NDP leader Jack Layton. She ran for the provincial NDP in the Calgary-McCall by-election in 1995.

The newly created Online Party of Canada has attained registered status with Elections Canada just in time to nominate a candidate to run in the Calgary-Centre by-election.