Tag Archives: Bob Turner

NDP MLAs stood behind by-election candidate Bob Turner at a campaign event in Sept. 2014. Left to right: David Eggen, Rachel Notley, Bob Turner, and Brian Mason.

Misericordia versus Royal Alex: A legacy of poor long-term planning by the old PC government

Campaigns to rebuild two Edmonton area hospitals now competing for scarce funds to fix crumbling infrastructure are being run by organizations that include former Tory insiders who sat at the budget table when the decisions were made that led to the two facilities’ current dilapidated condition.

Alex the Spokes-puppet

Alex the Spokes-puppet

Political jockeying for funding for the Alberta Health Services-run Royal Alexandra Hospital in north-central Edmonton and Covenant Health‘s Misericordia Hospital in southwest Edmonton is intensifying as provincial budget deliberations heat up.

The Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation recently launched a public campaign to lobby the provincial government to provide additional funding for the hospital. The campaign’s message isn’t wrong. As the campaign’s memorable spokes-puppet points out, the Royal Alex has been on “top of the list for infrastructure redevelopment for more than 20 years.

New Mis Now” was a campaign slogan used by the New Democratic Party opposition during a 2014 by-election in the Edmonton-Whitemud constituency. NDP candidate Bob Turner criticized then-unelected health minister Stephen Mandel for a lack of funding from the Progressive Conservative government to build a new Misericordia Hospital in booming southwest Edmonton. Covenant Health is continuing to put pressure on the now-NDP government to invest in a new Misericordia Hospital.

They are both right. Both aging facilities are in need of major investment.

Iris Evans

Iris Evans

But how did we get to this point?

Poor long-term planning and a legacy of political meddling in the administration of the regional health authorities is likely the real reason why two aging Edmonton hospitals are in their current condition.

The blame lies with the old PC government, which sat in power from 1971 until 2015. During some of the province’s biggest economic booms, when resource royalties from oil and natural gas flooded into government coffers, the PCs could have chosen to invest in our aging public infrastructure. But through many of the boom years that took place during their final two decades in power, the PCs were more focused on giving out tax breaks or vanity cheques than investing in public infrastructure or saving for future generations.

There is some irony that three people who were sitting at the table when the lack of long-term planning occurred over the past twenty to twenty-five years are now personally connected with the organizations lobbying the NDP government for hospital funding.

Shirley McClellan

Shirley McClellan

Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation board member Iris Evans served in the PC government from 1997 to 2012, including as minister of health and finance. Sitting on the Covenant Health Board of Directors are Ed Stelmach, a former premier and cabinet minister from 1997 until 2011, and Shirley McClellan, another former minister of health and minister of finance. McClellan served as Minister of Health from 1992 to 1996, when deep funding cuts were made to Alberta’s health care system, and later as Minister of Finance from 2004 to 2006.

So now, Albertans, and an NDP government faced with limited funds and low international oil prices, have to deal with the previous government’s lack of foresight.

As government, the NDP is now responsible for figuring out how to fix the infrastructure problems created by the old PC government while living up to the promises they made while in opposition. Some real long-term planning would be a good place to start.

Photo: NDP MLAs stood behind by-election candidate Bob Turner at a campaign event outside the Misericordia Hospital in Sept. 2014. Left to right: David Eggen, Rachel Notley, Bob Turner, and Brian Mason.

Jim Prentice is dwarfed by a giant photo of himself on the PC campaign bus at a stop in Edmonton this week.

The election rally that convinced me the Tories were running on fumes

I will be reminiscing on this blog over the next few days about some of the key moments from Alberta’s May 5, 2015 election campaign that stand out in my memory. The one year anniversary of that historic election, which saw the defeat of the 44-year old Progressive Conservative government and the election of Rachel Notley‘s New Democratic Party, is fast approaching.

One key moment was an April 14, 2015 rally held for Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice at a community hall in the Edmonton-Whitemud constituency, where PC MLA Stephen Mandel was running for re-election. The area had been a Tory stronghold since the 1997 election, when Dave Hancock was first elected, and voters in the area had chosen former mayor Mr. Mandel in a by-election only five months earlier.

The mid-afternoon event was well-organized and attracted a respectable crowd of about 250 supporters, candidates and party stalwarts into a hall in an affluent southwest Edmonton neighbourhood. It was a fairly typical political event, but it was an exchange at the tail-end of the rally convince me that the PC Party’s once-mighty campaign machine was running on fumes.

After a fairly unremarkable speech about his party’s commitment to fixing the problems it created in the health care system, Mr. Prentice remained on stage to take questions from the media. There had already been big signs of trouble on the campaign trail but his answer and the crowd’s response to the final media question convinced me that the PC campaign machine was running on fumes.

Over the course of the campaign Mr. Prentice had been harshly critical of the NDP election promise to review Alberta’s natural resource royalty structure and raise corporate taxes from 10 percent to 12 percent.

When asked if he would ever review royalties [note: the question was about either royalty rates or the corporate tax structure, I can’t remember for sure], Mr. Prentice delivered the most politically-mushy and non-commital answer I have ever heard: [paraphrased] ‘perhaps maybe sometime in the future my government might consider reviewing the structure.’

As soon as he delivered his response a forced cheer erupted from the party staffers in the back of the room and spread through the crowd of supporters, drowning out any further media questions and signalling an end to the official event program.

The crowd’s cheer was completely unenthusiastic. It was not the kind of answer that anyone would actually cheer. And it was undoubtably the wrong note on which to end a political rally.

If the PCs were unable to rally enthusiasm into a crowd of supporters in Edmonton-Whitemud, arguably the most loyal conservative area of the capital city, it was clear that Mr. Prentice’s party was in deep trouble in Edmonton.

On May 5, 2015, the NDP swept the Edmonton region, and Bob Turner defeated Mr. Mandel with 12,805 votes to 7,177 votes.

Jim Prentice speaks at the podium of his campaign rally on April 14, 2015.

Jim Prentice speaks at the podium of his campaign rally on April 14, 2015.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley NDP

It’s still hard to believe the NDP won Alberta’s election

Two days later it is still hard to believe. The New Democratic Party won an election in Alberta? The NDP won a majority government in Alberta? Rachel Notley is the next Premier of Alberta? Get used to it, because Albertans have spoken.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

A change in government is a good thing for Alberta. It was desperately needed.

As I wrote on election night, it would be a mistake to believe this election signals Albertans have shifted to the political left.This election was never about ideology and Albertans remain largely politically moderate. This defining narrative of this campaign was trust and accountability, and on this issue Albertans turned away from Jim Prentice‘s  Progressive Conservatives and embraced Ms. Notley’s moderate and progressive Lougheed-esq platform. The “time for a change” narrative was too strong for the PCs to survive.

But it could still be a while before it stops sounding totally strange. I have never seen another party form government in Alberta until this week. The PCs were first elected 12 years before I was born. My parents were in junior high school when Peter Lougheed became Premier. And this week that dynasty, which governed Alberta for forty-four straight years, collapsed in a spectacular fashion.

Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed

Peter Lougheed

Only one week ago, days before their defeat, the Tories revved up their impressive fundraising machine with a $500 per plate dinner in downtown Edmonton that raised around $800,000 in one night. A similar fundraising dinner, which I am told was sold out, is scheduled to be held on May 14 in Calgary.

But now electorally demolished, on their way out of government and without a leader following Mr. Prentice’s election night resignation, will the PC Party go on? Who will show up for the pricy dinner now that there will be no Premier at the podium or cabinet ministers to dine and wine with? What is the future of the PC Party, now that it is no longer in government?

Albertans wanted a change and they sent a message loud and clear.

On Tuesday night, 74 new MLAs were elected. Forty-nine of those new MLAs will sit in the government benches and 20 will be in opposition, including 18 in the resurgent conservative Wildrose Official Opposition led by Brian Jean. The average age of Alberta’s MLAs also tumbled from 52 years old to 36 40 years old after this election and almost half of the NDP caucus will be made up of women MLAs.

Jim Prentice Premier Alberta

Jim Prentice

The government and opposition now hold differing political views, a difference from the past legislature which could help create an atmosphere of real debate in the Legislative Assembly. This marks a seismic change in a Alberta’s political environment that has been dominated by one party for four decades.

Any new government can be expected to make lots of rookie mistakes, but the incoming Premier has spent the days following the election to set a pragmatic and moderate tone for the new government.

Ms. Notley made a point of using her first days after the election to set a positive tone with Alberta’s energy industry leaders, many who are also likely seeing their first change in government in Alberta. Ms. Notley has repeatedly made clear what Albertans already know: that energy industry is key to our economy. And the NDP Government’s proposed royalty review and modest increase to corporate taxes will ensure the role of Energy Minister remains very important in the new cabinet.

Energy Minister could be a role so important that Ms. Notley takes it on the responsibility herself, as Mr. Prentice took on the extra roles of Aboriginal Relations and Intergovernmental Affairs when he became Premier in September 2014.

While some fear-mongering conservatives, still bitter from their first electoral loss in 44 years, are predicting that the entire energy industry will pack up and leave because Albertans voted in a new government, there is an opportunity for corporate leaders to create a respectful working relationship with the new Alberta Government. And for Albertans, it could be refreshing change to have a government that acts like a partner with the energy industry rather than a wholly owned subsidiary of the energy industry. Albertans want to ensure they are getting their fair share of the wealth collected from their natural resources and industry, quite fairly, wants to know they will be treated fairly by the new government.

As Ms. Notley’s NDP Caucus transitions into their new role as government, the first time this has happened in 44 years, there are still a lot of unknowns. When will a new budget be tabled? When will the Legislative Assembly sit next? Will there be any major changes in the senior ranks of the public service? Will Alberta’s position on major national issues drastically change? Who will be appointed to cabinet?

We can expect incumbent NDP MLAs Brian Mason, David Eggen, and Deron Bilous to be at the cabinet table. Other possible cabinet appointments could include Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman (former Edmonton Public School Board chair), Calgary-Fort MLA Joe Ceci (former Calgary Alderman), Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips (policy analyst), Medicine Hat MLA Bob Wanner (former Public Services Commissioner for Medicine Hat), Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Bob Turner (Doctor), St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud (non-profit executive director), and Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley MLA Margaret Mccuaig-Boyd (former Vice-President of Grande Prairie College), Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kathleen Ganley (labour lawyer), Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater MLA Colin Piquette (university instructor) and Calgary-Varsity MLA Stephanie McLean (criminal defence lawyer). And while their critics have focused on the perceived inexperience of new MLAs, we should not be surprised to see some of these unlikely politicians excel in their new roles.

There will be a lot of unknowns in Alberta politics in the coming months and years. This is not a bad thing. In most provinces it is completely normal. We live in a democracy and can expect, from time to time, that voters will decide it is someone else’s turn to govern.

Change is good. And while it still might be a while before it is easy to believe, Albertans sent a clear message on May 5 that they wanted a change in Edmonton, and they got it.


On Wednesday morning I joined Ryan Jespersen and Steven Dollansky on 630 CHED to talk about this week’s historic NDP election win in Alberta, the Wildrose resurgence and the collapse of the 43-year old PC dynasty.

Some candidates to watch on Election Night: Derek Fildebrandt, Sarah Hoffman, Chris Labossiere, Shannon Phillips and Joe Ceci.

12 races I’m watching on Election Night in Alberta

With all the polls showing the 43-year long governing Progressive Conservatives trailing the NDP and Wildrose across the province, there could be a race to watch in every constituency in Alberta when the provincial election polls close at 8:00 p.m. tonight.

Here are 12 races that I will be paying particular attention to on Election night:

Alberta Election Races to Watch 2015

12 races to watch in Alberta’s 2015 election (click to enlarge).

Calgary-Acadia: This south Calgary constituency has reliably voted PC since 1971, but recent controversy surrounding PC candidate Jonathan Denis, who was ordered to resign from his job as Justice Minister and Attorney General in the middle of the election campaign, could help boost support for NDP candidate Brandy Payne and Wildrose candidate Linda Carlson.

Calgary-Buffalo: Voters in this downtown Calgary constituency have elected Liberals in six of the last eight elections. Popular MLA Kent Hehr is running for federal office so the Liberals have nominated lawyer David Khan as his successor. Mr. Khan faces arts advocate Terry Rock running for the PCs and lawyer Kathleen Ganley running for the NDP.

Calgary-Elbow: A rematch between Alberta Party leader Greg Clark and PC candidate Gordon Dirks. Mr. Dirks narrowly defeated Mr. Clark in an October 2014 by-election and with recent cuts to education funds, a nasty debate over Gay-Straight Alliances, and neighbourhoods still recovering from the 2013 floods,  Mr. Dirks could be in trouble.

Calgary-Fort: Popular five-term PC MLA Wayne Cao is retiring from politics, leaving the PCs with rookie candidate Andy Nguyen. The NDP are have put a lot of hope into Alderman Joe Ceci, the party’s most high-profile Calgary candidate in decades. The Wildrose have nominated Jeevan Mangat, who came within 200 votes of defeating Mr. Cao in the 2012 election.

Calgary-Varsity: NDP candidate and lawyer Stephanie McLean faces off against PC stalwart and lawyer Susan Billington. Ms. Billington’s involvement in the Kananaskis Improvement District, which voted to provide millions of dollars to the privately-operated Kananaskis Golf Course, became an issue early in the campaign. This constituency elected Liberal MLA Harry Chase in the 2004 and 2008 elections.

Edmonton-Centre: Popular Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman has represented this constituency since 1997 and is one of the most effective voices in the Assembly. But her choice to split with her party and accept the nominations from the Alberta Party and Greens may confuse voters. The rising NDP tide in Edmonton, represented by the charismatic David Shepherd in Edmonton-Centre, may impact her chances of re-election.

Edmonton-Glenora: Former Edmonton Public School Board chairperson and NDP star candidate Sarah Hoffman is facing two-term PC MLA Heather Klimchuk. Glenora has never elected an NDP MLA, but the party saw its support rise in 2004 and 2012, giving Ms. Hoffman a strong base of support to build on.

Edmonton-Rutherford: Businessman and Edmonton enthusiast Chris Labossiere faces university instructor Richard Feehan in this southwest Edmonton constituency. Voters have swung between the Liberals and PCs in this area since the 1980s and without a strong Liberal campaign in this election, swinging to the NDP might not be a far stretch. Both the PCs and NDP are running strong campaigns in Rutherford, so this will be a constituency to watch.

Edmonton-Whitemud: Voters in Whitemud have elected PC MLAs since 1997 and chose former Mayor Stephen Mandel in an October 2014 by-election. The PCs typically win by large margins in this constituency but the NDP candidate Dr. Bob Turner earned record support in by-election. If Mr. Mandel cannot win in Whitemud, it is likely the PCs will not win anywhere else in Edmonton.

Fort-McMurray-Conklin: Wildrose leader Brian Jean is trying to unseat first-term PC MLA Don Scott. Mr. Jean’s name recognition as party leader and the former Conservative MP for the area could help him overcome Mr. Scott, who only narrowly won the 2012 election. Also a factor in this race is the NDP, which is represented by NDP candidate and local teacher Ariana Mancini.

Lethbridge-West: In 2012, Shannon Phillips surprised many political watchers when she placed 1,115 votes behind PC MLA Greg Weadick in a three-way race with the Wildrose. This time, it is a rematch between the two, with the Wildrose playing the wildcard.

Strathmore-Brooks: He is a familiar face in the media and former Taxpayers’ Federation spokesperson Derek Fildebrandt hopes to return to Edmonton as an MLA. Mr. Fildebrandt faces County of Newell Reeve Molly Douglass who is running for the PC Party in this southern Alberta rural riding. Former MLA Jason Hale, who was elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2012 but crossed the floor to the PCs in 2014, is not seeking re-election.


 

Voting stations are open in provincial constituencies across Alberta until 8:00 p.m. tonight. If you do know where to vote, visit the Elections Alberta website. If you do not know who the candidates in your constituency are, check out my list of candidates.

Sunday evening candidate nomination updates in Alberta

MP Brian Storseth and Sun News talking head Ezra Levant.

MP Brian Storseth and Sun News talking head Ezra Levant.

With a provincial election expected in the next few months, the 43-year long governing Progressive Conservatives are expected to have all their candidates nominated by the end of March 2015 and be in a position to trigger an election soon after. The opposition parties are far behind in the candidate selection process.

The Progressive Conservative nomination in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills took a strange twist last week. The Lac La Biche Post reports that Brian Storseth, who is retiring from an unremarkable three-terms as a Conservative backbencher Member of Parliament in Ottawa, is seeking the PC nomination and his late candidacy came as the local PC nominating committee was thrown out over closing nominations too early.

Shayne Saskiw MLA Wildrose

Shayne Saskiw

According to the Post, in the nomination contest Mr. Storseth is facing his own step-mother Joanne Penner, former Lakeland County councillor Jeff Dechaine, current St. Paul Mayor Glenn Anderson, and St. Paul area school board executive Darrell Younghans. The current MLA for this constituency is Wildroser Shayne Saskiw, who is the husband of Shannon Stubbs, the Conservative candidate replacing Mr. Storseth in the next federal election.

Here are some other updates that I have added to the list of nomination candidates:

Banff-Cochrane: Registered Nurse Cam Westhead is seeking the New Democratic Party nomination. Mr. Westhead is also a district representative with United Nurses of Alberta.

Calgary-Bow: Two candidates are seeking the PC nomination to replace retiring MLA Alana DeLong. Former City Council candidate Chris Harper and lawyer Byron Nelson will contest the nomination scheduled for March 7, 2015. Mr. Nelson was seeking the PC nomination in Calgary-Fish Creek until Ms. DeLong announced her retirement. On Dec. 4, 2014, Mr. Harper announced that he had left the PC Party because of Premier Jim Prentice‘s approach to Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools. It appears he has now rejoined.

Dr Bob Turner NDP Edmonton-Whitemud By-election

Bob Turner

Calgary-CrossJesse Minhas and Dan Sidhu are seeking the PC nomination to replace retiring MLA Yvonne Fritz. Ms. Fritz was first elected in 1993.

Calgary-Mountain View: Former PC MLA Mark Hlady will challenge Jean-Sebastien Rioux for the PC nomination. Mr. Hlady served as MLA for this constituency from 1993 until 2004, when he was unseated by current Liberal MLA and interim party leader David Swann.

Edmonton-Glenora: Philipia Bates Renouf, a judicial clerk in Alberta’s Department of Justice and a former Vice-President of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, will challenge Public School Board Trustee Sarah Hoffman for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Glenora.

Edmonton-McClung: Realtor Lorne Dach will represent the NDP in the next election. This will be Mr. Dach’s fourth time standing as the NDP candidate in this southwest Edmonton constituency.

Donna Wilson Liberal Edmonton Whitemud By-Election

Donna Wilson

Edmonton-Meadowlark: Former Globe & Mail reporter Katherine O’Neill is seeking the PC nomination in this west Edmonton constituency. Ms. O’Neill’s mother-in-law, Mary O’Neill, served as PC MLA for St. Albert from 1997 to 2004. Former Liberal leader Raj Sherman currently represents this constituency and is not seeking re-election.

Edmonton-Riverview: University of Alberta Nursing Professor Dr. Donna Wilson is seeking the Liberal nomination in Edmonton-Riverview. Dr. Wilson placed fourth as the Liberal candidate in last year’s Edmonton-Whitemud by-election. The Liberals represented Riverview from its creation in 1997 until 2012, when former leader Kevin Taft retired from politics.

Edmonton-Whitemud: NDP candidate Bob Turner is seeking a rematch against Health Minister Stephen Mandel in Edmonton-Whitemud. The University of Alberta doctor placed second in the September 2014 by-election with the NDP’s best-ever showing in that constituency.

Lethbridge-East: Former Lethbridge County Reeve Lorne Hickey will challenge Tammy Perlich for the PC nomination. Mr. Hickey was defeated by Liberal-turned-PC MLA Bridget Pastoor in the 2012 PC nomination. Ms. Pastoor is not seeking re-election.

Medicine Hat: Former Alderman John Hamill, 77, and realtor Jeff Lanigan will challenge Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Blake Pedersen for the PC nomination.

Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills: Olds Town Councillor Debbie Bennett and former Mountain View County councillor Ron Richardson joined Olds Councillor Wade Bearchell in the PC nomination race. Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Bruce Rowe is not seeking re-election after one-term in office.

Red Deer: Red Deer County Councillor Christine Moore is seeking the PC nomination in Red Deer-North and Red Deer College Business Dean Darcy Mykytyshyn is seeking the PC nomination in Red Deer-South.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Wildrose-turned-Independent MLA Joe Anglin and ATB employee Tammy Cote will face former Lacombe County reeve Terry Engen for the PC nomination.

Strathmore-Brooks
: Former lobby group spokesperson Derek Fildebrandt has been acclaimed as the Wildrose candidate.

The following PC candidates have been acclaimed: Terry Rock in Calgary-Buffalo, Jason Luan in Calgary-HawkwoodRic McIver in Calgary-Hays, Mike Ellis in Calgary-West, Diana McQueen in Drayton Valley-Devon, Stephen Mandel in Edmonton-WhitemudDon Scott in Fort McMurray-Conklin, Wayne Drysdale in Grande Prairie-Wapiti, Ian Donovan in Little Bow and Frank Oberle in Peace River.


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.

Will Liberal wild card spoil NDP gains in Edmonton?

Rachel Notley NDP MLA Leadership Candidate Alberta

NDP leader Rachel Notley

Two polls released in the final weeks of 2014 could give an indication of the direction Alberta political might take in 2015.

Raj Sherman MLA Edmonton-Meadowlark

Raj Sherman

The polls show Jim Prentice‘s Progressive Conservatives dominating in Calgary and rural Alberta. And with Wildrose Party support in decline across the province, Mr. Prentice could be tempted to call an election sometime in early 2015.

The polls also show a race for support in Edmonton between the PCs (with 30% in both polls) and Rachel Notley‘s NDP (with 32% and 34% in the two polls).

Edmonton has been a traditional region of support for the NDP and Liberals since the 1980s. All four NDP MLAs and two of five Liberal MLAs, including leader Raj Sherman, represent capital city constituencies.

While NDP candidate Bob Turner‘s strong showing in the September 2014 Edmonton-Whitemud by-election has contributed to the narrative of NDP growth in Edmonton, the Liberals remain a wild card in city. Liberal support is inconsistent in the two polls (one showing the party with 13% and the other with 28%) and that party’s traditional base of support in Edmonton should not be ignored.

Laurie Blakeman MLA Edmonton-Centre Liberal

Laurie Blakeman

Many New Democrats hope that the disorganization and apparent marginalization of the provincial Liberals will allow their party to make long sought after gains in Edmonton. But it may not be that easy.

As we have recently seen in other provinces, the NDP have a track record of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

A big challenge for both Ms. Notley and Dr. Sherman is to attract liberal and moderate Edmontonians who voted for Alison Redford‘s PC Party in order to block a Wildrose victory in 2012. Now that most Wildrose MLAs have joined the PC Party, those voters may be looking for a new home.

The potential for vote splitting and a PC Party rout in the next election, with a backdrop of a slowing economy and low oil prices, has reignited the discussion about uniting Alberta’s tiny centrist and progressive opposition parties.

Responding to the calls for unity and cooperation, a clearly frustrated Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman shot back, outlining some of the major challenges to uniting the parties:

I’ve tried for years and there is no budging. Each party has a core of supporters that believe their party is the best, the one and only. They will never leave or merge. Both still have infrastructure that is very hard to build, but neither can attract the volunteers and donators to be THE government. I think sometimes we spend more effort fighting each other than the PCs or WR.

Wildrose needs to be more than the Anti-Redford Party

PCs sweep four by-elections, NDP and Alberta Party make gains
Jim Prentice Gordon Dirks Calgary Elbow By-Election Alberta

Education Minister Gordon Dirks and Premier Jim Prentice during the by-election campaign.

Disgraced former premier Alison Redford gave Albertans a convincing reason to vote Wildrose, but Danielle Smith‘s official opposition needs to find a new strategy to defeat Premier Jim Prentice‘s Progressive Conservative.

This appears to be the case as Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives celebrate their candidates victories in four Alberta by-elections held yesterday.

Kathy Macdonald Wildrose Calgary-Foothills by-election

Kathy Macdonald

The wins in the four strong-PC voting constituencies are a signal that the long-governing party should not be underestimated. And despite two years of spending scandals, embarrassment and misdeeds, the PC Party remains a competitive political force in this province.

It appears that despite the scandals, many Albertans wan to give Mr. Prentice a chance. And the PC’s smooth ‘be boring‘ and ‘de-Redfordization‘ strategy appears to have paid off with voters, at least in the short-term, and helped the party hold onto Calgary-Elbow, Calgary-Foothills, Calgary-West and Edmonton-Whitemud. Chosen as PC Party leader in September 2014, Mr. Prentice was personally elected last night in Calgary-Foothills, with a commanding lead ahead of Wildrose candidate Kathy Macdonald.

Mike Ellis PC Alberta calgary-west MLA

Mike Ellis

In Calgary-West, a constituency the Wildrose had targeted to win, candidate Sheila Taylor was narrowly defeated by Tory Mike Ellis. The Wildrose hoped that Ms. Taylor’s high-profile role as a public school board trustee would take her to victory, but the PCs Mr. Ellis narrowly held on to the constituency first won by former premier Peter Lougheed in 1967.

The by-elections gave Ms. Smith’s Wildrose Party an opportunity to test campaign tactics, strategies and messages in preparation for the next election, and it is obvious they fell flat.

Stephen Mandel Health Minister Alberta Edmonton Whitemud MLA

Stephen Mandel

While PC Party supporters on social media have vocally called on their opponent to step down, the Wildrose would be foolish to part with the leader, who is one of their greatest assets. Ms. Smith is media savvy and has grown into her role as Premier-in-Waiting. Despite missing an opportunity to steal a by-election away from the PCs, the Wildrose is still strong in other areas of Alberta (and in other constituencies in Calgary and Edmonton).

One recent poll  shared with this blogger showed the Wildrose with 51% support in rural Alberta and 47% in the province’s small cities, which represent a significant number of constituencies in Alberta. Despite tonight’s losses, the 2016 election could still be hotly contested between the two conservative parties.

Dr Bob Turner NDP Edmonton-Whitemud By-election

Dr. Bob Turner

But worrying to both the Wildrose and the PCs should be the other opposition parties that made significant electoral gains in these by-elections. In Edmonton-Whitemud, PC Health Minister Stephen Mandel saw his party’s vote drop by nearly 20% from the 2012 election, but still collected enough votes to defeat New Democrat Dr. Bob Turner. Wildrose candidate Tim Grover was relegated to third place.

Dr. Turner’s 21% finish marks the first time the NDP has placed second in this constituency since the 1986 election, an impressive feat for the tiny Edmonton-based party.

Greg Clark Calgary-Elbow Alberta Party

Greg Clark

And in Calgary-Elbow, Alberta Party leader Greg Clark exceeded expectations, placing a close second behind PC Education Minister Gordon Dirks. Mr. Dirks’ was elected with the help of a convenient opposition vote-split between Mr. Clark and talented Liberal Susan Wright. But despite the narrow defeat, this second place finish gives Mr. Clark a solid foundation to run as a candidate in the next election.

Before the next election, can any of those tiny opposition parties garner enough strength on their own to take advantage of a split within Alberta’s conservative movement? And as Wildrose strategists analyze the results of yesterdays vote, can they come up with a plan to defeat the Tories? In spite of yesterday’s wins by the 43-year governing PC Party, will Albertans still be willing to give Mr. Prentice a chance in 2016?

One this is for sure, the political landscape in Alberta looks more interesting than ever.

 October 27, 2014 By-election Results

Calgary-Elbow
Gordon Dirks, PC: 4,207 (33.2%)
Greg Clark, AP: 3,412 (26.9%)
John Fletcher, WR: 3,056 (24.1%)
Susan Wright, LIB: 1,519 (11.9%)
Stephanie Mclean, NDP: 472 (3.7%)

Calgary-Foothills
Jim Prentice, PC: 6,898 (58.2%)
Kathy Macdonald, WR: 3,545 (29.9%)
Robert Prcic, LIB: 458 (3.8%)
Jennifer Burgess, NDP: 444 (3.7%)
Polly Knowlton Cockett, GRN: 261 (2.2%)
Michelle Glavine, AP: 212 (1.7%)
Dave Woody Phillips, IND: 23 (0.1%)

Calgary-West
Mike Ellis, PC: 4,843 (44.4%)
Sheila Taylor, WR: 4,528 (41.5%)
David Khan, LIB: 926 (8.5%)
Brian Malkinson, NDP: 336 (3.0%)
Troy Millington, AP: 265 (2.4%)

Edmonton-Whitemud
Stephen Mandel, PC: 6,003 (42.3%)
Bob Turner, NDP: 3,150 (22.2%)
Tim Grover, WR: 2,679 (18.9%)
Donna Wilson, LIB: 2,043 (14.4%)
William Munsey, AP: 202 (1.4%)
Rene Malenfant, GRN: 95 (0.6%)

Will by-election losses teach Alberta’s progressive parties basic math?

Alberta Progressive Party

Alberta’s non-conservative opposition is represented by the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party and the Alberta Party.

Fast forward to 10:00 p.m. on  October 27, 2014. The ballots have been counted in Alberta’s four provincial by-elections and the two main conservative parties – the governing Progressive Conservatives and official opposition Wildrose Party – have taken the largest share of the votes.

Once again the handful of “progressive” opposition political parties were  left sitting on the sidelines when the ballots were counted.

It is an easy scenario to imagine. As voters head to the polls in the Calgary-Elbow, Calgary-Foothills, Calgary-West and Edmonton-Whitemud by-elections today, it appears that the Alberta Party, New Democratic Party and Liberal Party will largely be relegated to third, fourth or fifth place in most races.

Susan Wright LIberal Calgary-Elbow

Susan Wright

While I recognize the argument against vote splitting is not perfect, it has created a convenient “divide and conquer” situation for the PC Party for decades. But with the conservative vote is now split between the PCs and Wildrose, none of the progressive parties on their own appear strong enough to take advantage of this division.

In Calgary-Elbow, the constituency formerly represented by Alison Redford, a progressive candidate should have a shot of winning. The Liberals won Elbow in a 2007 by-election when they were the main opposition to the PCs and held onto it until 2008.

Greg Clark Alberta Party MLA Calgary ElbowGreg Clark Alberta Party MLA Calgary Elbow

Greg Clark

But seven years later, the progressive opposition is represented by two excellent candidates in Alberta Party leader Greg Clark and Liberal Susan Wright. Both who are likely to draw votes away from each other, allowing Education Minister Gordon Dirks to win.

In Edmonton-Whitemud, a traditionally strong PC voting constituency, the NDP and Liberals have both put forward strong candidates in Dr. Bob Turner and Dr. Donna Wilson. While it is unlikely that either candidate would defeat PC candidate and former mayor Stephen Mandel on their own, the presence of the two progressive candidates on the ballot further divides the opposition.

Dr Bob Turner NDP Edmonton-Whitemud By-election

Dr. Bob Turner

On Saturday evening, the Liberal Party published a press release claiming an Alberta Party supporter tried to broker some sort of deal with the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Elbow. The Liberal claims are flimsy and it is unclear what sort of electoral deal could be arranged in the few days before an election (it would be too late to remove a candidate’s name from a paper ballot).

The four by-elections are being held in urban constituencies where the PC Party has enjoyed strong support for decades. And the argument could be made that there are a handful of constituencies in Alberta where the non-conservative opposition parties would be more competitive in a by-election.

But in the end, it comes down to basic math.

Kent Hehr Calgary Centre MLA Liberals

Kent Hehr

Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Kent Hehr penned a thoughtful guest post for this blog in December 2012, in which he expressed his concerns about vote-splitting:

As a provincial politician committed to many of the same progressive principles as the three above-noted candidates, what did I learn from this? Well, I think I’ve learned basic math. The center/center-left in this province will not form government until we are in one big tent party. At this moment in time, and objectively looking at the provincial platforms of the progressive parties, we are for all intents and purposes also a distinction without a difference.

In the last election the NDP, Liberals, Greens and Alberta Party agreed on policy 95% of the time. We should all be together in one big tent; there is less difference between all of our political parties than there is between the different wings of the PC government.

What keeps us apart is rugged tribalism that leads to infighting between us and keeps our guns pointed squarely at each other instead of focusing our fire on the right-wing in this province. We tend to identify with our brands and not necessarily the values that we share. Let me be the first to say, I’m putting down my gun, and am open to all conversations with no preconditions. We need to figure out how we can come together in a big tent party. Otherwise, we are wasting our time. It’s math.

What’s at stake in the four Oct. 27 by-elections?

With less than two days left in Alberta’s mini-election, voters will head to the polls on the morning of October 27, 2014 to cast their ballots in by-elections being held in Calgary-Elbow, Calgary-Foothills, Calgary-West and Edmonton-Whitemud. As these mid-term elections approach, what is at stake for Alberta’s political parties?

Progressive Conservatives

In a normal general election, the PC Party would easily elect candidates in all four of these constituencies, as they did in the 2012 election. In three of the by-elections, the PC Party benefits from having three high-profile candidates – Premier Jim Prentice in Calgary-Foothills and appointed Health Minister Stephen Mandel in Edmonton-Whitemud and Education Minister Gordon Dirks in Calgary-Elbow.

Not wanting to expose themselves to criticism, the PC candidates have faced criticism for skipping all-candidates forums in their constituencies. But despite shying away from debating their opponents, the PC Party has not shied away from using the leavers of government power to keep their candidates front and centre in the news during the by-election campaigns.

My general impression is that many Albertans want to give Mr. Prentice a chance as Premier, despite their disapproval of his recent predecessor, Alison Redford. PC victories in all four by-elections would not come as a surprise, but a loss in one or more would be a warning sign to the PC Party. A personal loss for Mr. Prentice or one of his cabinet ministers would be a significant blow to the 43-year long governing PC Party.

Wildrose Party

http://youtu.be/0ITMFPlpyZc

From the beginning of the by-election campaign, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith has been managing expectations and downplaying her party’s chances of winning in these strong-PC voting constituencies. But that does not mean the Wildrose should be underestimated, because they are in it to win.

The official opposition party has released a series of television and radios ads during the by-elections praising their leader and attacking Mr. Prentice as being “the same” as Ms. Redford.

http://youtu.be/uu83VvNVUrI?list=PL_KcAuvnNTj-QwAjPWL2Zbokxv6MJOH8A

The Wildrose has focused on areas where the Tories are perceived as being weak – trust and fiscal responsibility – and hope that the memory of Ms. Redford has not faded in the minds of Albertans.

As the official opposition, the Wildrose needs to win at least one of the four by-elections to show it still has the strength to compete with the Tories in the next election.

The Wildrose likely has its best shot in Calgary-West, where public school trustee Sheila Taylor is running against PC candidate Mike Ellis, a Calgary police officer. The Wildrose are running former police officer Kathy Macdonald against Mr. Prentice in Calgary-Foothills and John Fletcher in Calgary-Elbow, where Ms. Redford is the former MLA.

Despite historical PC strength in the four constituencies, four losses by the Wildrose could force Ms. Smith to have to defend her leadership going into the party’s annual meeting later this year.

Also running for the Wildrose is Tim Grover in Edmonton-Whitemud.

New Democratic Party

Alberta NDP Ad Edmonton-Whitemud Dr. Bob Turner by-election

An NDP pamphlet used in the Edmonton-Whitemud by-election.

Not really a contender in the three Calgary by-elections, the Alberta NDP has focused their resources in Edmonton-Whitemud where Dr. Bob Turner has run an aggressive campaign against Health Minister Mandel, attacking him for his lack of knowledge of the health care system. Dr. Turner, or “Dr. Bob” as he is affectionately known as by NDP supporters, has punched above his party’s weight in this by-election by dominating media coverage of the Whitemud by-election.

While the NDP have risen in the polls in Edmonton, Whitemud is not a traditional NDP voting area. The NDP earned 9% in Whitemud in the last election and last placed second in the riding in the 1986 election.

A win in Whitemud would be a spectacular victory for the NDP, but a strong second or third place showing is more likely. If the NDP places ahead of the former official opposition Liberals, it will strengthen the party’s argument that the Rachel Notley-led party is now the official progressive opposition to the PCs and Wildrose in Edmonton.

Also running for the NDP are Stephanie McLean in Calgary-Elbow, Jennifer Burgess in Calgary-Foothills, and Brian Malkinson in Calgary-West.

Alberta Party

Greg Clark Alberta Party Calgary-Elbow

A Greg Clark self with his supporters on the campaign trail in Calgary-Elbow.

With no seats in the Assembly, the stakes are low for the Alberta Party. With leader Greg Clark as their candidate, Calgary-Elbow has been a fertile sandbox for the Alberta Party to focus on and try out new strategies.

Focusing on hot-button locals issues like local school closures and flood mitigation, Mr. Clark’s campaign appears to have spooked the PC Party, who are hoping Mr. Dirks’ candidacy will mitigate any lingering embarrassment voters feel from Ms. Redford’s time as the local MLA.

Mr. Clark has earned the endorsements of popular Mayor Naheed Nenshi‘s chief of staff Chima Nkemdirim, former Green Party candidate Chris Turner, former city councillor Gael Macleod and former mayoral candidate Wayne Stewart.

A win for Mr. Clark would be a huge victory for the Alberta Party and add a twist to the dominant PC-Wildrose narratives that has dominated Alberta politics since before the last election.

Mr. Clark is the son of Gilbert Clark, a Liberal candidate who came within 900 votes of defeating rookie PC candidate Ralph Klein in 1989.

Also running for the Alberta Party are William Munsey in Edmonton-Whitemud, Michelle Glavine in Calgary-Foothills, Troy Millington in Calgary-West.

Liberal Party

Susan Wright Calgary Elbow by-election

Liberal Susan Wright and her campaign supporters.

Despite having solid candidates in Calgary-Elbow (Susan Wright) and Edmonton-Whitemud (Donna Wilson), expectations are not high for the Liberal Party in these four by-elections.

The Liberals have raised questions about Mr. Mandel’s connections to tobacco industry lobbyists and focused on health care issues in the Edmonton-Whitemud by-election. But it is difficult to tell if the party has gained much traction in these by-elections.

Unlike its popular federal cousins, the provincial Liberal Party has become a sort of political sideshow, continuing to suffer a slow decline since losing official opposition status in the last election.

These by-elections will determine whether Dr. Raj Sherman’s Liberals are still a relevant force in Alberta politics.

Also running for he Liberals are David Khan in Calgary-West and Robert Prcic in Calgary-Foothills.

Green Party

The Green Party of Alberta has put forward candidates in two of the four by-elections. Polly Knowlton Cockett in Calgary-Foothills and  Rene Malenfant in Edmonton-Whitemud. The Green Party holds no seats in the Assembly and, while they have good intentions, it is unlikely that they will be competitive in the Oct. 27, 2014 votes.

Where to vote?

Eligible voters living in these four constituencies can vote in the by-election on Oct. 27, 2014 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Visit the Elections Alberta website to find your voting station.

Politics gets NIMBY in the Edmonton-Whitemud by-election

Tim Grover Danielle Smith Edmonton-Whitemud by-election 2014 3

Edmonton-Whitemud Wildrose candidate Tim Grover, with Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, MLAs Kerry Towle, Jeff Wilson, Bruce Rowe and other nominated Wildrose candidates.

The phrase “all politics is local” has been used many times to describe voters who might shy away from trying to restructure health care or environmental policy but are passionate about potholes or saving the park down their street.

Stephen Mandel Edmonton

Stephen Mandel

This phrase appears to be particularily reflective of the Edmonton-Whitemud by-election, where former Edmonton mayor and appointed Health Minister Stephen Mandel is campaigning for election to the Legislative Assembly as a Progressive Conservative candidate.

While his opponents from the New Democrat and Liberal parties – Dr. Bob Turner and Dr. Donna Wilson – have made health care issues the focus of their campaigns – including the aging and overcrowded Misericordia Hospital –  Mr. Mandel’s Wildrose opponent is looking to other local wedge issues to attack the former mayor.

As volunteers canvass door-to-door in the constituency, the campaign of Wildrose candidate Tim Grover is circulating a letter from a local resident who opposed a controversial Terwilligar Housing First development.

[Read the letter here]

Dr Bob Turner NDP Edmonton-Whitemud By-election

Dr. Bob Turner

The letter alleges that at an August 2013 town-hall meeting about the proposed housing development, then-mayor Mr. Mandel loudly shouted at a group of residents about the project. While the tensions were high at the meeting, community members I have spoken with who attended the town hall meeting dispute the allegation that Mr. Mandel actually shouted at anyone at the meeting.

As part of the City of Edmonton’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, the development would have provided permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless Edmontonians. And because of the outcry of a small and vocal group of community members, the development was cancelled.

While the proposal was not perfect, the debate around the Terwilligar Housing First development had all the hallmark characteristics of NIMBYism (“Not In My Backyard”).

Rachel Notley Edmonton MLA Strathcona NDP

Rachel Notley

When he launched his campaign, Mr. Mandel said that he would run on his nine-year record as Mayor of Edmonton. And while he has a lot to be proud of, after three terms in office Mr. Mandel did collect a certain amount of political baggage. Because of this, it is not surprising that his political opponents would try to exploit these wedge issues during an election campaign.

Last week, two articulate members from the Haddow neighbourhood spoke to the CBC about their opposition to the development of a surplus school site that Mr. Mandel supported. I am told that “Save Haddow Park” signs have now been spotted in Mr. Grover’s campaign office.

NDP army campaigns for Dr. Bob

Fresh from her victory in the NDP leadership contest, Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley led an army of volunteers on to the streets of Edmonton-Whitemud. The NDP took a break from their weekend leadership convention to bus as many volunteers as possible from downtown’s Sutton Place Hotel to the southwest to help candidate Dr. Bob Turner.

Voters in Edmonton-Whitemud, Calgary-Elbow, Calgary-Foothills and Calgary-West will vote on October 27, 2014. Advance Polls are: being held on October 22, 23, 24 and, 25, 2014.

By-Election Round-up: 11 days until the mini-election

There are now eleven days left until voters cast their ballots in four provincial by-elections on October 27.

Prentice a no-show in Calgary-Foothills

Jim Prentice Premier of Alberta Calgary Foothills by-election pumpkin

Jim Prentice (photo from @wmcbeath on Twitter)

He is the Premier of Alberta and he does not have a seat in the Legislature, but Jim Prentice skipped last night’s all-candidates forum in the Calgary-Foothills by-election. The event was organized by the Edgemont Community Association.

Noting the high-profile candidate’s absence, forum organizers placed a halloween pumpkin at Mr. Prentice’ empty spot at the table.

He has held almost daily media events since becoming Premier, but they have all taken place at planned and highly-controlled events. An all-candidates forum is an uncontrolled environment where Mr. Prentice would be forced to engage with his opponents, which could cause potential embarrassment to the new Premier.

The other candidates running in Calgary-Foothills are Jennifer Burgess (NDP), Polly Knowlton Cockett (Green Party),  Michelle Glavine (Alberta Party), Kathy Macdonald (Wildrose),  Robert Prcic (Liberal) and Dave Woody Phillips (Independent). Mr. Phillips was also absent from the forum.

Health care big issue in Edmonton-Whitemud

Donna Wilson Liberal Edmonton Whitemud By-Election

Donna Wilson

In an press conference designed to keep Health Minister Stephen Mandel in the news, Mr. Prentice joined his party’s Edmonton-Whitemud by-election candidate to make a vague announcement about the opening of more “continuing care” spaces.

The announcement provided no detail about how the province plans to address the shortage of long-term care beds, which provide a higher level of care to Albertans in need of longer-term medical assistance.

Despite a growing population, the number of long-term care beds across the province has actually decreased over the past decade.

Stephen Mandel Health Minister Alberta Edmonton Whitemud MLA

Stephen Mandel

Mr. Prentice used the press conference as an opportunity to repeatedly explain to reporters that Mr. Mandel is a “hands-on minister” (a description he used at least three times during the press conference).

Although the former mayor is widely expected to win the Whitemud by-election, Mr. Mandel has faced pressure from Liberal Dr. Donna Wilson and New Democrat Dr. Bob Turner to address the province’s lack of long-term care beds and to replace the aging and overcrowded Misericordia Hospital.

The other candidates running the Edmonton-Whitemud are Tim Grover (Wildrose), Rene Malenfant (Green Party), William Munsey (Alberta Party),

Moving targets in Calgary-Elbow

It’s not just about electing Dirks, it’s about beating Carter too,” a PC Party insider told me this week. Fighting to elect appointed Education Minister Gordon Dirks in the Calgary-Elbow by-election, the PCs are also gunning to defeat Alberta Party leader Greg Clark, whose campaign is being run by former Tory strategist Stephen Carter.

A sort of political mercenary, Mr. Carter was a key strategist in Alison Redford‘s 2011 leadership campaign and Naheed Nenshi‘s 2010 mayoral election.

While the Wildrose Party poses a threat to the Tories province-wide, recent moves suggest they recognize Mr. Clark as a threat in this by-election. For example, Mr. Dirks’ campaign trotted out an endorsement last week from former Alberta Party leadership candidate Randy Royer.

Drawing on the experience of Mr. Carter and a band of local political organizers, Mr. Clark’s supporters say his campaign is showing signs of momentum on the ground. Whether they can translate any momentum, real or perceived, into votes is an unanswered question.

Meanwhile, Mr. Dirks’ campaign manager Alan Hallman, apologized for referring to Wildrose Party candidate John Fletcher as the fictional TV Nazi “Colonel Klink” on Twitter. Mr. Fletcher is a retired Colonel of the Canadian Forces Reserves.

The other candidates in the Calgary-Elbow by-election are  Stephanie McLean (NDP) and Susan Wright (Liberal).

Can the opposition win any of the 4 by-elections?

Cheffins_Campaign_067

The Liberals celebrate a victory in the 2007 Calgary-Elbow by-election. Left to Right: MLA David Swann, victorious candidate Craig Cheffins, Liberal leader Kevin Taft, MLA Dave Taylor and MLA Harry Chase.

Can the opposition parties win any of the four provincial by-elections being held on October 27, 2014?

The by-election votes will take place in four urban constituencies that were considered safe for the Progressive Conservatives in the 2012 election. With a change in provincial leadership and a volatile political environment, these by-elections do provide opportunities for the opposition parties to make gains.

Greg Clark Alberta Party MLA Calgary ElbowGreg Clark Alberta Party MLA Calgary Elbow

Greg Clark

In Calgary-Elbow, Wildrose candidate John Fletcher appears to be PC candidate and appointed Education Minister Gordon Dirks‘ main conservative challenger and challenges from two other liberal-leaning candidates could create an interesting result in Calgary-Elbow.

Liberal Susan Wright and Alberta Party leader Greg Clark are running strong campaigns competing for the same liberal and moderate voters that Mr. Dirks will need to win against his more conservative opponent. Mr. Clark has gained the support of 2012 PC Party campaign strategist Stephen Carter and 2012 Liberal Party campaign manager Corey Hogan, who are both heavily involved in his campaign.

Liberal MLA Craig Cheffins was able to win this constituency in a 2007 by-election at a time when the Liberals were Official Opposition and the Tories were led by new PC leader Ed Stelmach, who was unfamiliar to most Calgary voters at the time. In 2014, the field of candidates and parties is much more crowded and unpredictable.

Retired popular Edmonton Mayor and newly appointed Health Minister Stephen Mandel is widely expected to glide to victory in the Edmonton-Whitemud by-election (his predecessor, Dave Hancock was re-elected with 60% of the vote in 2012).

Dr Bob Turner NDP Edmonton-Whitemud By-election

Dr. Bob Turner

Mr. Mandel’s vocal opponents are trying to make health care and the provincial government’s lack of long-term infrastructure planning the big issues of the by-election campaign.

New Democrat Dr. Bob Turner has come out swinging with an aggressive campaign against the new Health Minister and his comments about “bed blockers” in the health care system.

Both Dr. Turner and Liberal candidate Dr. Donna Wilson have made south west Edmonton’s aging and overcrowded Misericordia Hospital a focus of their campaigns. Dr. Wilson held a press conference outside the Misericordia Hospital yesterday and today the NDP will hold a lunch-hour rally outside the facility.

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith chose the campaign office of Whitemud candidate Tim Grover to announce her party’s health care funding plan, including promises of $100 million to front-line care, $50 million to home care and $50 million to reopen long-term care beds. The Wildrose Party also released a series of election campaign-style online videos attacking the PCs.

Tim Grover Wildrose Edmonton Whitemud By-election

Tim Grover

Statistician Eric Grenier predicts Wildrose candidate Sheila Taylor could win the Calgary-West by-election. Ms. Taylor, a now former trustee on the Calgary Board of Education, is a star candidate for the Wildrose in Calgary. She is facing Calgary police officer Mike Ellis, who unsuccessfully ran for the PC nomination before the 2012 election.

Premier Jim Prentice‘s recent announcement to build an additional 55 new schools and renovate another 20 is certainly meant to boost Mr. Dirks’ and weaken Ms. Taylor’s candidacy. Quick to respond, Mr. Clark’s campaign set up a website detailing the schools Mr. Dirks voted to close during his time on the Calgary Board of Education.

Running as a candidate in the Calgary-Foothills by-election, Mr. Prentice faces his main challenge from Wildrose candidate Kathy Macdonald, a 20-year veteran of the Calgary Police Service. Foothills has voted solidly PC since 1967 and while it is easy to assume that Mr. Prentice’s job as Premier makes him a shoe-in, he should not take voters for granted. Mr. Grenier has classified Foothills are a “tossup” between the PCs and Wildrose.

There is nothing more the opposition parties would love than to see a sitting Premier defeated in his own constituency. A loss in Foothills might be unlikely, but a loss of even one of the four by-elections would be a sign that the PCs, even under “new management,” remain politically vulnerable. By-elections can be risky for incumbent governments, especially when voters are eager to use their votes to send a message.


Upcoming all-candidates forums

Calgary-Foothills all-candidates forum: October 15, 8:30pm at the Edgemont Community Association (33 Edgevalley Circle NW).

Edmonton-Whitemud all-candidates forum: October 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Snow Valley Chalet. Hosted by the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta and the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta.

Edmonton-Whitemud all-candidates forum: October 22 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Riverbend United Church (14907 – 45 Avenue NW). This forum is hosted by Whitemud Citizens for Public Health.

Four by-elections are a risky mid-term test for Alberta Tories

Jim Prentice Stephen Mandel Edmonton Alberta PC leadership

Former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel and Jim Prentice on June 10, 2014.

Albertans in four provincial constituencies will go to the polls on October 27, 2014. Half-way through the  PC Government’s current four year term in office, the by-elections will be our own version of the mid-term elections.

Ken Hughes

Ken Hughes

Yesterday morning three anticipated provincial by-elections turned into four when first-term Ken Hughes announced his resignation as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Calgary-West. Earlier in the morning, Independent MLA Len Webber, fresh from securing the federal Conservative nomination in Calgary-Confederation, declared that he would vacate his Calgary-Foothills seat.

Combined with vacancies in Calgary-Elbow and Edmonton-Whitemud, Alberta’s political parties will face off in four constituencies in 28 days.

Premier Jim Prentice wants these by-elections to be a referendum on the past two weeks, during which time he has made daily announcements trying to undo unpopular decisions made by the Alison Redford-led PC Government. The opposition wants to make sure these by-elections are a referendum on the past two years of broken promises and misdeeds by the PC Government.

Alison Redford

Alison Redford

Despite the unpopularity of the PC Party in recent polls, the four by-elections are not taking place in constituencies that were decided by small margins of victory in the last election. These four are some of the stronger PC-voting constituencies in Alberta. In the 2012 election, the PCs earned 60.4% in Edmonton-Whitemud, 58% in Calgary-Elbow, 53.5% in Calgary-Foothills and 49.9% in Calgary-West.

After 43-years in power, will Albertans buy Mr. Prentice’s argument that the PC Party is “under new management” and has entered “a new era?” The PC Party prides itself with the ability to rebrand itself under pressure. Long-time Tories boast of the “Miracle on the Prairies,” the tale of Ralph Klein’s reinvention of the PC Party before its expected defeat in the 1993 election.

Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed

Peter Lougheed

But fresh in the minds of many Albertans is the hope and opportunity that seemed real when Ms. Redford became Premier in 2011. We were promised a new era reminiscent of the days when Peter Lougheed led our province. Instead, we received two years of arrogance, broken promises, budget cuts and endless political spending scandals. And despite attempts to blame it all on Ms. Redford, it is hard to forget the 60 PC MLAs who stood behind her during those two years.

The appointment of two cabinet ministers from outside of the Legislature certainly helps the argument that the PC Government is “under new management.” But however credible the two men are, and despite their records as successful politicians, their age and notable careers in politics certainly undermines the argument that we have entered “a new era” in Alberta politics (Gordon Dirks is 67-years old and Stephen Mandel is 69-years old).

Danielle Smith Highwood

Danielle Smith

The four PC candidates in these by-elections could easily all be elected, but some of them could just as easily be defeated. By-elections are risky for incumbent parties because they give voters an opportunity to voice their disapproval without changing a government.

Running in Calgary-Foothills, Mr. Prentice will soon face voters for the first time since he was selected as PC Party leader on September 6, 2014. Wildrose leader Danielle Smith is expected to announce her party’s challenger in Foothills today.

The lack of interest in the recent PC Party leadership race suggests that many Albertans have put our Natural Governing Party on probation. It will be a test of Mr. Prentice, Mr. Dirks, Mr. Mandel and Calgary-West candidate Mike Ellis, to prove themselves worthy. And it will be a test of the opposition parties to remind Albertans why the PCs do not deserve another chance.

By-Election candidates (as of September 29, 2014)

Calgary-Elbow
AP Greg Clark [FacebookTwitter]
LIB Susan Wright [FacebookTwitter]
NDP Stephanie McLean [Twitter]
PC Gordon Dirks [Twitter]
WR John Fletcher [Twitter]

Calgary-Foothills
AP Michelle Glavine [FacebookTwitter]
GRN Polly Knowlton Cockett
NDP Jennifer Burgess [Facebook, Twitter]
PC Jim Prentice [Facebook, Twitter]

Calgary-West
AP Troy Millington [Twitter]
NDP Brian Malkinson
PC Mike Ellis

Edmonton-Whitemud
AP William Munsey [Twitter]
NDP Bob Turner [Twitter]
PC Stephen Mandel [Twitter]
WR Tim Grover [Twitter]

For an updated list of by-election candidates, visit the Alberta Election 2016 page.

Where will Jim Prentice run in a by-election?

Premier Jim Prentice Alberta PC leadership race

Alberta’s new Premier Jim Prentice, does not have a seat in the Alberta Legislative Assembly.

Three weeks after being selected as leader of the governing Progressive Conservative Party, Premier Jim Prentice still does not have a seat in the Alberta Legislative Assembly.

Premier Alison Redford

Alison Redford

Although his party has already nominated candidates to run in the impending Calgary-Elbow and Edmonton-Whitemud by-elections, Mr. Prentice remains coy about where, and when, a third by-election will be held.

On August 26, Mr. Prentice told the Edmonton Journal he would call a by-election immediately after he became PC Party leader. He was elected PC Party leader on September 6 and sworn-in as premier on September 15.

It appears likely that Mr. Prentice might announce which constituency he will run in on the day the writ of by-election is signed by Lieutenant Governor Donald Ethell. Using all the advantages of an incumbent government, it appears he is trying to give the opposition parties the least time possible to prepare candidates to run against him.

Neil Brown

Neil Brown

The “announcement-a-day keeps the memory of Alison Redford away” strategy has kept Mr. Prentice’s name in the news headlines, and has allowed him to create a two-week long list of talking points with which to campaign.

It is widely believed that Mr. Prentice will run in Calgary-Nose Hill-Mackay, where current PC MLA Neil Brown has publicly offered to resign.

There is also speculation that he could also choose to run in another north Calgary constituency – like Calgary-Foothills – currently represented by Independent MLA Len Webber. Mr. Webber is seeking the federal Conservative nomination in Calgary-Confederation (he left the PC caucus in May 2014, after describing Ms. Redford as a “bully”).

Update: Len Webber has won the Conservative nomination in Calgary-Confedertation. 

The tight-lipped preparations have led many political watchers to believe that the Tories remain worried that Albertans may choose to punish the new Premier for the misdeeds and broken promises of Ms. Redford and the PC caucus over the past two years.

Under normal circumstances, Mr. Prentice would easily be elected, but by-elections are risky for incumbent parties because they give voters an opportunity to voice their disapproval without changing a government.

Jennifer Burgess Calgary-Prentice NDP by-election

Jennifer Burgess, the NDP candidate in the “Calgary-Prentice” by-election.

But whichever constituency he decides to run in, one party is ready  with a candidate in the wings. Calgary writer Jennifer Burgess has said she will run for the New Democratic Party in any by-election Mr. Prentice chooses to run in. Her website cleverly describes herself as the NDP candidate in the Calgary-Prentice constituency.

Edmonton-Whitemud by-election

The NDP and Wildrose Party announced their candidates in the Edmonton-Whitemud by-election. Dr. Bob Turner, a well-spoken doctor from Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute, has decided to run against former Edmonton mayor and newly appointed Health Minister Stephen Mandel.

Flanked by Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and a handful of supporters and Wildrose MLAs, Tim Grover announced his plans to challenge Mr. Mandel. Mr. Grover was already nominated to run for the Wildrose Party in the Edmonton-South West constituency. He was also the ‘Get Out the Vote’ chairman for Karen Leibovici‘s 2013 mayoral campaign.

Alberta Party President William Munsey is running under his party’s banner.

Coming Soon: Calgary-Elbow and Edmonton-Whitemud by-elections

Calgary Elbow Map By-Election

The Wildrose Party has described the Calgary-Elbow by-election as “ground zero.”

With provincial by-elections in Alberta’s two biggest cities expected to be called soon, opposition parties are gearing up to challenge two unelected cabinet ministers running under the Progressive Conservative banner.

Dates for the by-election votes have not been scheduled and a third by-election for Premier Jim Prentice is also expected to take place. Mr. Prentice is expected to run in the Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill constituency.

By-elections are risky for incumbent governments, as they give voters an opportunity to send a message without changing government. These votes will provide the first indications whether Albertans are satisfied with Mr. Prentice’s ability to rebrand the scandal-plagued 43-year old PC Party Government.

Calgary-Elbow

Calgary-Elbow Alberta MLA Map By-Election

The results of election and by-elections held in Calgary-Elbow since 2004 (four main parties included, with the Alberta Alliance counted as the Wildrose Party in the 2004 and 2007 votes).

Trigged by the resignation of former Premier Alison Redford, this by-election has been described as “ground zero” by the opposition Wildrose Party. Many of the neighbourhoods in this constituency were devastated by last year’s floods and I am told that many locals remain disappointed with the provincial government’s response in repairing the damage. Not surprisingly, many residents also remain very disappointed with the performance of their former PC MLA.

Newly appointed Education Minister Gordon Dirks, 67, has been acclaimed as the Progressive Conservative candidate. Mr. Dirks is a former Calgary school trustee and Saskatchewan PC MLA. His appointment to cabinet was a surprise to most political watchers.

Conservative activist Pat Walsh had announced plans to seek the PC nomination, but stepped aside last week to clear the way for Mr. Dirks’ acclamation. But this week, in a strange move, Mr. Walsh has endorsed Wildrose candidate John Fletcher.

Mr. Fletcher is a retired Canadian Forces Colonel and is a candidate the Wildrose believes can defeat the unelected Education minister.

The Liberals are looking to candidate Susan Wright to regain some of their former support in Calgary-Elbow. The Liberals won the constituency in a 2007 by-election to replace Mr. Klein, but lost it Ms. Redford the following year. While the Liberals have had a strong base of support in the constituency in previous elections, the party’s support plummeted in 2012. This by-election will test whether Dr. Raj Sherman’s Liberals are a viable political force in Calgary.

This will be Alberta Party leader Greg Clark’s second time running as a candidate in Calgary-Elbow, but this time he will have the support of celebrity political strategist Stephen Carter (formerly of the PC Party) and former Liberal Party campaign manager Corey Hogan. The Alberta Party briefly held a seat in the Assembly before the 2012 election, when former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor, who represented the neighbouring Calgary-Currie, joined their ranks. Mr. Clark hopes that he can become his party’s second-ever MLA.

The NDP have nominated lawyer Stephanie McLean as their candidate. Both of the MLAs in the NDP leadership contest – Rachel Notley and David Eggen – have said that expanding their party’s support in Calgary is key to success. Here is their opportunity to start earning votes.

Sure to cause a stir among die-hard New Democrats is Ms. McLean’s endorsement of popular Liberal MLA Kent Hehr’s campaign to become the federal Liberal candidate in Calgary-Centre.

I am told that the Green Party of Alberta has decided not to run a candidate in this by-election. It is unclear why they are sitting it out.

Constituency Association Net Assets, Calgary-Elbow, 2013
Progressive Conservative: $207,972.97
Wildrose: $72,625.47
Liberals: $540.79
NDP – $0
Alberta Party: $2,465.16

Edmonton-Whitemud

Edmonton Whitemud Map By-Election

A map of the Edmonton-Whitemud constituency.

The PC Party’s longest-held constituency in Edmonton, Edmonton-Whitemud was represented by former Premier Dave Hancock from 1997 until his resignation last week.

Newly appointed Health Minister Stephen Mandel, 69, has been acclaimed as the PC candidate. The former three-term Edmonton Mayor remains popular among many Edmontonians and it is unclear whether he will face any serious challengers.

So far, the only candidate to step up to challenge him is Alberta Party President Will Munsey. An amiable character, Mr. Munsey ran under his party’s banner in the Leduc-Beaumont constituency in the last provincial election and as a Green Party candidate in Vegreville-Wainwright in the 2011 federal election.

Edmonton-Whitemud By-Election

The results of election and by-elections held in Edmonton-Whitemud since 2004 (four main parties included, with the Alberta Alliance counted as the Wildrose Party in the 2004 vote).

The Liberals have yet to announce a candidate, but I am told that the party is working hard to recruit a former Edmonton Liberal MLA to run in the by-election. Similar to Elbow, the Whitemud by-election will test whether Dr. Sherman’s Liberals can regain their former strength in Edmonton.

As far as I am aware, no candidates have publicly declared their intentions to seek the Wildrose or NDP nominations at the time this column was published.

UPDATE: In the comment section of this blog, Dr. Bob Turner announced that he will be the NDP candidate in the Edmonton-Whitemud by-election.

Constituency Association Net Assets, Edmonton-Whitemud, 2013
PC = $32,366.72
Wildrose: $4,486.82
Liberal – $1,528.40
NDP – $286.77
Alberta Party: $1,171.76

Alberta politics fact: While located in two different cities, the constituencies of Calgary-Elbow and Edmonton-Whitemud both include some of Alberta’s wealthiest neighbourhoods. Both have also been represented by two Premiers (Elbow by Ralph Klein and Ms. Redford, and Whitemud by Don Getty and Mr. Hancock).