Tag Archives: Balraj Manhas

Edmonton City Councillor Michael Oshry

Let’s end the myth of partisan-free city council elections

We need to keep politics out of elections: That sums up recent comments made by Edmonton City Councillor Michael Oshry. The west Edmonton councillor has waded into the 32-candidate by-election race in southeast Edmonton’s Ward 12, questioning the decision of some MLAs to endorse candidates in the municipal contest.

Mr. Oshry’s comments have sparked a resurgence of the popular and misinformed myth that “there is no partisan politics in municipal elections.”

It is natural for politically engaged people to be involved in elections for different levels of government. In fact, the most successful campaigns I have been involved in at a municipal level have attracted organizers and volunteers from a variety of partisan loyalties. It is also not uncommon for municipal politicians to have party connections or the support of politicians from other levels of government. Despite this, no one is proposing to bring political parties back to city council, as existed in Edmonton until the late 1980s.

Like all municipal elections in Edmonton, a number of candidates running in the Ward 12 by-election have party affiliations or are being supported by individuals involved in party politics at the provincial and federal levels.

If partisan affiliations in provincial and federal elections or endorsements from provincial or federal politicians precluded citizens from running for political office, then a number of current city councillors, including Mr. Oshry, would be ineligible to serve.

  • Mr. Oshry was endorsed by St. Albert PC MLA Stephen Khan during the 2013 municipal election.
  • Councillor Tony Caterina ran as a PC candidate in the 2015 election and ran as an Alberta Alliance candidate in the 2004 provincial election.
  • Councillor Bev Esslinger was a PC candidate in 2012 election.
  • Councillor Ed Gibbons was a Liberal MLA from 1997 to 2001. In 2015, he donated $375.00 to the Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville PC Association and in 2007 and 2011 he donated $850 and $1,100 to the PC Party.
  • Mayor Don Iveson donated $250 to Linda Duncan’s election campaign in 2008, while he was city councillor.
  • Councillor Dave Loken campaigned for NDP candidate Janis Irwin in the 2015 federal election and donated more than $2,000 to the Alberta NDP between 2011 and 2014.
  • Councillor Mike Nickel is a former PC Party constituency director. In 2014, he donated $318.25 to the Leduc-Beaumont Wildrose Association and in 2005 he donated $600 to the PC Party.
  • Councillor Michael Walters was an Alberta Party candidate in the 2012 election and endorsed a PC candidate in the 2015 election. He also ran for an NDP nomination in 2000.

Here is a look back at some municipal politicians from the recent past who have had partisan affiliations:

  • Former mayor Stephen Mandel was a PC MLA from 2014 to 2015. He donated $3,000 to the PC Party between 2010 and 2012, while he was Mayor of Edmonton.
  • Former councillor Kim Krushell was a local PC Party constituency association president before being elected as a city councillor. In 2008, she donated $425 to the PC Party. She now serves as a regional director for the PC Party.
  • Former councillor Karen Leibovici was a Liberal MLA from 1993 to 2001 and a federal Liberal candidate in 2015. During her mayoral bid in 2013, she was endorsed by a handful of PC MLAs, including then-deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk and PC MLA David Xiao.
  • Former councillor Linda Sloan was a Liberal MLA from 1997 to 2001. She ran for the Liberal Party leadership in 1998.
  • Former councillor Jane Batty donated $425 to the PC Party in 2010.
  • Former councillor Wendy Kinsella ran as a PC candidate in the 2001 election, while she was still a sitting city councillor.
  • Former councillor Brian Mason was elected as an NDP MLA in a 2000 by-election. He is now Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation.
  • Perhaps the strangest example of partisan involvement in municipal politics was in 2007, when the Wildrose Party donated $250 to Kerry Diotte‘s city council campaign. This is the only example I have found of a political party actually donating money to a municipal election candidate.

These lists demonstrate that after more than four decades of PC governments in Alberta, support for the governing party became engrained in all levels of politics to the point where support for the PCs from municipal politicians was not seen as partisanship, just the way the business of politics was done.

All 32 candidates in the Ward 12 by-election are featured on the front cover of Metro Edmonton on Jan 26, 2016.

How to break from the pack in a 32 candidate by-election race

A map of Edmonton's Ward 12.

A map of Edmonton’s Ward 12.

Thirty-two candidates will be listed on the ballot in the Feb. 22 by-election to fill Edmonton City Council’s Ward 12. With this many candidates on the ballot, it could be challenging for voters to choose who would best represent them on city council. It will also be challenging for those 32 candidates to break from the pack and distinguish themselves with less than a month until election day.

Here are some ways these 32 candidates might break from pack.

Name recognition

Nav Kaur Ward 12 edmonton by election

Nav Kaur

Having voters who already recognize your name will be an advantage for some candidates, as long as that recognition is positive. Because there are no formal political parties at the municipal level, all candidates will be running on their own names.

  • Laura Thibert has been the Catholic School Board Trustee from the area since 2010 and was briefly nominated as a Wildrose Party candidate before the 2015 election.
  • Balraj Manhas has been spokesperson for the United Cabbies during the recent city council debates about allowing Uber to operate in Edmonton. He  was disqualified as a candidate in a Progressive Conservative nomination contest in early 2015.
  • Mohinder Banga was briefly a candidate for the federal Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Mill Woods in 2015 before being disqualified.
  • Don Koziak has run in at least eight municipal and provincial elections since 1995, including the mayoral race in 2007 and briefly in 2010, but he has never run as a candidate in this area of the city. He was the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Glenora in 2012 and 2015.
  • Mike Butler ran as a Liberal and New Democratic Party candidate in this area in various provincial and federal elections since 2008. In 2014, he wrote an open letter explaining why he was leaving the Liberals to join the Alberta Party.
  • Arundeep Singh Sandhu was until a few months ago the Vice-President of Organization of the Progressive Conservative Party.
  • Andrew Gorman ran for city council in Ward 9 in the 2013 election, as did Dan “Can Man” Johnstone in Ward 10.

Door Knocking/Canvassing

Irfan Chaudhry Edmonton Ward 12 byelection

Irfan Chaudhry

There is no better way to identify your supporters and meet voters than showing up on their doorstep and ringing their doorbell. If you are a voter who lives in Ward 12, there is a very real possibility that you might have 32 different candidates knocking on your door before Feb. 22, 2016. Don’t be surprised to see candidates waving to traffic at busy intersections during rush hour, shaking hands at Tim Horton’s or showing up in droves at any community event before Election Day.

All-Candidate Meetings

There are already numerous all-candidate forums being organized by different community groups and organizations in Ward 12. With 32 candidates in the race, there might be little value in holding traditional question and answer forums, which will be time consuming, lengthy and uninteresting. Other candidate meeting formats, like the speed dating-style events held in the 2013 election, might prove to be more valuable for candidates and voters.

The City of Edmonton is not hosting an official all-candidates forum during this by-election. The Women’s Advocacy Voice of Edmonton is hosting a forum on Feb. 5, 2016 at the Mill Woods Seniors and Multicultural Centre and the Mill Woods Presidents’ Council is hosting a forum on Feb. 17, 2016 at J. Percy Page High School.

Getting ahead of the issues

Preet Toor Ward 12 Edmonton byelection

Preet Toor

It is always difficult to determine what the defining issue of any election campaign will be, but that will not stop candidates from trying to get ahead of issues that are on the radar of voters in Ward 12.

  • A number of candidates, including Nav Kaur, Balraj Manhas, Mohinder Banga, Arundeep Sandhu and Danisha Bhaloo, called on council to delay the vote on the new bylaw to govern vehicle-for-hire businesses that would include Uber until after the by-election. Nav Kaur outlined her position on her campaign blog.
  • Sam Jhajj is hosting an open house at his campaign office to discuss and provide input into developing policies that can prevent domestic violence.
  • Three candidates are calling on the city to delay construction of LRT to southeast Edmonton. Don Koziak told CBC that money going toward LRT would be better spent improving the city’s roads and intersections. Dan Johnston told basketofyegs.com that he would delay all future LRT construction. Kelly Kadla told the Edmonton Journal he wants a moratorium on the Valley LRT Line.

Gimmicks

Arundeep Sandhu Edmonton By-election ward 12

Arundeep Sandhu

Gimmicks might not be the best word, but candidates should be expected to use different tactics to get attention for themselves and the issues they are focusing on during this campaign.

  • Nicole Szymanowka earned media attention for using the dating app Tinder as a campaign tool.
  • Irfan Chaudhry and his supporters are sporting flashy yellow toques with his campaign hashtag #irFANclub.
  • Nav Kaur tweeted her bus trip from her Mill Woods home to City Hall to demonstrate the need for improved public transit service to southeast Edmonton.
  • Nick Chamchuk is pledging not to use campaign signs and is encouraging his supporters to use the #‎YEGnoelectionsigns‬ hashtag on Twitter and Facebook. He wrote on Facebook that this is part of this campaign “to give Mother nature a break, make driving safer and more enjoyable, save resources and my daughter’s education fund…”
  • Stephen Wutzke told the Edmonton Journal that if he is elected he will donate $20,000 of his annual salary to the Edmonton Food Bank.
  • Jason Bale announced on his website that he will only spend $100 on his campaign to make a point about money in politics. In lieu of lawn signs, he is asking supporters to write ‘100’ in the snow in front of their homes and businesses.

Endorsements

Endorsements from prominent community members will not win an election but they can lend credibility to candidates and their campaigns.

  • Nav Kaur has received the endorsements of Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Rod Loyola, outspoken Catholic School Trustee Patricia Grell, Public School Board Trustee Michael Janz, former city councillor Michael Phair and recent federal Liberal candidate Beatrice Ghettuba.
  • Danisha Bhaloo has received the endorsement of former Progressive Conservative MLA and former mayor Stephen Mandel, former Edmonton-Glenora PC MLA Heather Klimchuk and former Ward 5 city council candidate Dan St. Pierre, who is serving as her official agent.
  • Laura Thibert has an endorsement from fellow Catholic Trustee Debbie Engel.
  • Don Koziak has the support of former MP and MLA Brent Rathgeber, who is serving as his official agent.

The 32 candidates in Ward 12

Here is the list of candidates who have registered their intentions to run, along with links to their websites and social media accounts. I will be posting any updates to the Ward 12 by-election webpage.

When to vote?
Voting stations will be open in Ward 12 on Feb. 22 from 9:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Advance polls are open at the Meadows Community Recreation Centre on Feb. 8, 9, 10 and 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Alberta Election candidates: Shelley Wark-Martyn (Liberal Calgary-Currie), David Xiao (PC Edmonton-McClung), Glenn van Dijken (Wildrose Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock), and Christina Gray (NDP Edmonton-Mill Woods).

Alberta Pre-Election 2015: Monday candidate nomination updates

With a provincial election expected to be called in the coming weeks, Alberta’s political parties are pushing to nominate their slates of candidates. Not surprisingly, the governing Progressive Conservatives are close to choosing candidates in all 87 constituencies. At fifty-one, the NDP have the second largest number of candidates nominated for the next election.

Here are some of the latest additions to my growing list of nominated candidates:

Map of nominated and acclaimed PC candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Map of nominated and acclaimed PC candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Progressive Conservatives

The PC Party has nominated 77 76 candidates, leaving only 10 remaining constituencies to choose candidates.

Driving school owner Gurcharan Garcha defeated two-term MLA Peter Sandhu to win the PC nomination in Edmonton-Manning. Mr. Sandhu, who was briefly removed from the government caucus after facing allegations of conflict of interest, is the first incumbent PC MLA to lose a nomination in 2015. Another candidate, Manpreet Gill, was originally contesting the nomination but does not appear to have been named in the final vote.

Controversial MLA David Xiao survived a strong challenge from party activist Amanda Nielson to win the PC nomination in Edmonton-McClung.

Other recently nominated PC candidates include Blake Prior in Battle River-Wainwright, Jeff Wilson in Calgary-Shaw, former MLA Jack Hayden in Drumheller-Stettler, Rhonda Clarke-Gauthier in Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley, Harman Kandola in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview, Gene Zwozdesky in Edmonton-Mill Creek, Shelley Wegner in Edmonton-Strathcona, Darrell Younghans in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, Wade Bearchell in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, Christine Moore in Red Deer-North, Darcy Mykytyshyn in Red Deer-South, Cathy Olesen in Sherwood Park, and Ken Lemke in Stony Plain, Molly Douglass in Strathmore-Brooks.

UPDATE: Former cabinet minister Naresh Bhardwaj has withdrawn his candidacy in Edmonton-Ellerslie. The second-term PC MLA  resigned as Associate Minister for Persons with Disabilities this month pending an investigation by the PC Party into allegations of bribery in his constituency’s nomination contest. Metro Edmonton first reported that a party member publicly accused Mr. Bhardwaj of offering him, through another person, a $10,000 bribe in return for recanting his support for candidate Balraj Manhas.

Map of nominated and acclaimed NDP candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Map of nominated and acclaimed NDP candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

New Democratic Party

The NDP have nominated candidates in fifty-two constituencies, the most of any opposition party. Recent nominations and acclamations include Chris Noble in Airdrie, Tristan Turner in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock, Kathleen Ganley in Calgary-Buffalo, Catherine Wellburn in Calgary-Elbow, Anam Kazim in Calgary-Glenmore, Chris McMillan in Calgary-Mountain View, Aaron Haugen in Cardston-Taber-Warner, and Erin Babcock in Stony Plain.

Candidates who have recently announced their intentions to seek nominations are: Gordon Naylor in Battle River Wainwright, Josalyne Head in Bonnyville-Cold Lake, Christina Gray in Edmonton-Mill Woods, Leslie Mahoney in Highwood, and Hannah Schlamp in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre.

The following candidates are seeking the NDP nominations at a five-constituency joint nomination meeting on March 31, 2015: Jill Moreton in Calgary-Fish Creek, Don Monroe in Calgary-Greenway, Danielle Nadeau McMillian in Calgary-Hawkwood, Ryan Wick in Calgary-MacKay-Nose Hill, and Karen Mills in Calgary-North West.

Map of nominated and acclaimed Wildrose candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Map of nominated and acclaimed Wildrose candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Wildrose Party

The Wildrose Party have at least forty candidates nominated and appear to have opened nominations in all remaining 47 constituencies.

Recently nominated candidates include Glenn van Dijken in Barrhead-Moriville-Westlock, Wes Taylor in Battle River-Wainwright, Trevor Grover in Calgary-Bow, Mark Smith in Drayton Valley-Devon, Donald MacIntyre in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, Val Olson in Medicine Hat and Norman Wiebe in Red Deer-North.

Map of nominated and acclaimed Alberta Party candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Map of nominated and acclaimed Alberta Party candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Alberta Party

The Alberta Party has nominated 28 candidates across Alberta (including MLA Laurie Blakeman in Edmonton-Centre).

Some of the more recently no mated candidates include: Alison Wemyss in Calgary-Fish Creek, Owais Siddiqui in Edmonton Beverly-Clareview, Derek Christensen in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, John Stewart in Leduc-Beaumont, Trevor Love in St. Albert, Krystal Kromm in Red Deer North, Serge Gingras in Red Deer South and Rob Fox in Bonnyville-Cold Lake.

Map of nominated and acclaimed Liberal candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Map of nominated and acclaimed Liberal candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Liberal Party

The Liberals have nominated candidates in at least nineteen constituencies.

Former Liberal Party President and Ontario NDP MPP Shelley Wark-Martyn was chosen to represent the Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Currie. Also recently nominated are Ronald Brochu in Edmonton-Gold Bar, Adam Mounzer in Edmonton-Manning, Michael Dawe in Red Deer-North, and Mike Hanlon in Stony Plain. Following the lead of Ms. Blakeman, Mr. Dawe plans to seek the Green Party nomination in Red Deer-North.

Map of nominated and acclaimed Green Party candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Map of nominated and acclaimed Green Party candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Green Party

The Greens have nominated candidates in ten constituencies across Alberta (including MLA Laurie Blakeman in Edmonton-Centre).

Nominated Green candidates are David Reid in Calgary-Bow, Janet Keeping in Calgary-Foothills, Polly Knowlton Cockett in Calgary-Hawkwood, Noel Keough in Calgary-Klein, Sandy Aberdeen in Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill, Carl Svoboda in Calgary-Varsity, David Parker in Edmonton-Gold Bar and Alison Anderson in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville.


I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.

PC Party executive director Kelley Charlebois was recently featured in lobby company Canadian Strategy Group's annual "House of Cards" photo shoot.

“It’s like we’ve become House of Cards,” PC activist says of party nomination interference

“It’s like we’ve become House of Cards,” is how one Progressive Conservative Party member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described their party’s candidate nomination process. With a rush of nomination contests being held in advance of a spring provincial election in Alberta, the member said “the entire process has gone straight to hell.”

A number of frustrated PC Party members have contacted me over the past few weeks to vent their frustration with interference by senior cabinet ministers and party officials in local nomination contests, especially in rural constituencies where long-standing PC Party loyalists are challenging former Wildrose MLAs who crossed the floor to the PC Party in December 2014.

Over the past few months, cabinet ministers have criss-crossed the province to campaign and be seen alongside their favoured candidate nominees. The interference is coming from “the boys on the third floor,” said another disaffected PC activist, referring to the Premier’s Office, which is located on the third floor of the Legislative Assembly Building.

While hurt feelings, drama and even the odd scandal are not uncommon in party nomination contests, the increased number of controversies arising from PC nomination contests this year could be a cause of concern for the 44-year long governing party. In many Alberta constituencies, winning the PC nomination is a more challenging campaign than winning the actual election.

When running for the PC leadership last year, Jim Prentice promised to restore trust in a PC Party badly damaged by former Premier Alison Redford, but the latest nomination controversies undermine his promise and will likely increase cynicism among Alberta voters.

Here is a quick run-down of some of the more contentious nomination races that have been reported in by the media:

– PC MLA Naresh Bhardwaj resigned as Associate Minister for Persons with Disabilities last Friday pending an investigation by the PC Party into allegations of bribery in the recent Edmonton-Ellerslie nomination contest. Metro Edmonton first reported that a party member publicly accused Mr. Bhardwaj of offering him, through another person, a $10,000 bribe in return for recanting his support for candidate Balraj Manhas. Mr. Bhardwaj, who was acclaimed as the PC candidate, has stated that he plans to clear his name.

 As I suspected in February, former Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson was appointed by Mr. Prentice as the PC Party’s candidate in Calgary-Cross. Normally, the appointment of this type of star candidate is celebrated, but in this case, there were at least six other candidates already campaigning for the nomination. Although the party leader has the power to appoint the candidates of his choosing, it is a delicate balance not to offend or alienate local party organizers.

– One day before the Edmonton-Meadowlark PC nomination vote on March 14, 2015, candidate Tom Choucair was disqualified after another candidate, Steve Benson, alleged someone from another candidate’s campaign offered him money to drop out of the race. Mr. Benson announced in an email sent to the local PC Association that he had filed an affidavit with the party. “Personally, the party wants a particular person to be the nominee,” Mr. Choucair told CBC. Former Globe & Mail reporter Katherine O’Neill won the nomination vote this weekend.

CBC reporter John Archer has written about the strange details behind the Meadowlark nomination controversy, including mistaken phone calls from senior staff in the Premier’s Office and a former Edmonton City Councillor.

Don Martin, a 2012 Wildrose candidate and a 2015 nomination candidate in Edmonton-Decore, claims he was forced out of the nomination contest by a PC Party official. Mr. Martin posted his account of the situation on his Facebook page, claiming he was forced out of the race amid wrongful accusations of misconduct and threats of a mystery affidavit. His withdrawal from the nomination led to PC MLA Janice Sarich being acclaimed as the PC candidate.

– Defeated nomination candidate Dixie Dahlstedt submitted an official complaint to the PC Party about the conduct of the party’s nomination vote in the Bonnyville-Cold Lake constituency. Ms. Dahlstedt’s complaint lists a series of objections about the organization of the nomination, alleged conflicts of interest, and calls for the party to conduct an inquiry. The nomination vote was won by Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland.

Only two remaining constituencies – Chestermere-Rockyview and Calgary-McCall – have not yet scheduled nomination contests, leaving some PC Party members to speculate that Mr. Prentice is aiming to appoint candidates in those spots.