Tag Archives: Brian Jean

Panel discussion on CBC’s The Current: Alberta’s election and the Kenney-Callaway scandal

I was thrilled to join pollster Janet Brown, columnist Catherine Ford and host Anna Maria Tremonti on The Current on CBC Radio this morning to discuss Alberta politics, Rachel Notley’s chances of re-election this spring, and recent developments in the Jason Kenney-Jeff Callaway collusion scandal.

In case you missed it on the radio this morning, you can listen to the panel discussion online or download The Current podcast wherever you listen to podcasts.


The Jeff Callaway story took another twist this morning when Jen Gerson published this new report in Maclean’s Magazine:

“[Cameron] Davies said he received a transfer from a corporate entity of $60,000 into his personal bank account that, he alleges, was then re-distributed to Callaway’s campaign account to pay the candidate’s entry fee to the leadership contest. He said the origin of the money was then obfuscated, in part through fake donors whom he helped to obtain. Personal bank documents obtained by Maclean’s confirm the $60,000 payment to Davies.”

The Kenney-Callaway collusion scandal erupts days before an expected election call in Alberta

What did Jason Kenney know and when did he know it?

A treasure trove of emails and documents released by CBC investigative reporters Charles Rusnell and Jennie Russell yesterday show that Jason Kenney‘s campaign for the United Conservative Party leadership provided Jeff Callaway’s campaign with resources ranging from “strategic political direction, media and debate talking points, speeches, videos, and attack advertisements, all aimed at undermining Kenney’s main political rival, Brian Jean.”

This comes a day after CBC broke the story that Alberta’s Election Commissioner has turned over to the RCMP its investigation into allegations of irregular political contributions involving Callaway’s so-called “kamikaze” campaign.

CBC reports that current UCP Caucus deputy chief of staff Matt Wolf, then director of issues management for Kenney’s campaign, communicated regularly with Callaway’s communications manager Cameron Davies, and at times Randy Kerr, who was working as Callaway’s campaign manager.

As director of issues management, Wolf was responsible for advising Kenney on the day-to-day campaign tactics and strategy of the leadership campaign.

Callaway’s withdrawal was something that wasn’t necessarily negotiable,” Davies told CBC. “It was something that had been decided in a meeting in mid-July between Callaway and the Jason Kenney leadership team.”

The Star Edmonton reporters Kieran Leavitt and Emma McIntosh reported that Davies said that ‘Kenney had first hand knowledge of the Callaway kamikaze campaign, and attended a meeting at Callaway’s house where it was discussed in July 2017.’

Kenney has repeatedly denied allegations that Callaway was a stalking horse candidate and he most recently denied knowledge of collusion. He told reporters at a press conference on Friday that that he asked his staff in late 2018 whether they had any knowledge of the the Callaway campaign allegations. “The result of those inquiries was that no one was aware of, had heard anything about or had in any way participated in such activity,” Kenney said.

And Clare Clancy has reported that Postmedia has obtained an email from Wolf to the UCP Caucus sent today in which he writes that “I’ve made no secret about that for those who have asked.”  The same Postmedia report says that Wolf has “gone home” and is not available for comment.

It is not clear whether “gone home” means Wolf was just not in the office at that minute or whether he has “gone home” to somewhere without wifi or cell phone signals for the duration of the election campaign.

Having one of Kenney’s senior advisors apparently leave on the eve of a provincial election call is not exactly the statement of confidence that UCP candidates and supporters will have been looking for today.

Collusion between the two leadership campaigns at this level is not illegal, but it is definitely not normal, certainly unethical and potentially a violation of the UCP’s Code of Conduct.

And as David Climenhaga noted on AlbertaPolitics.ca, U.S. Senator Howard Baker once said of a more famous political scandal, “it is almost always the cover-up rather than the event that causes trouble.”

The questions of legality surround the sharing of campaign resources and donations made by individuals to Callaway’s campaign, and where that money could have originated, which is why the RCMP have been asked to investigate. It has been alleged that some donors were not donating their own money, which is a violation of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. One donor to Callaway’s campaign has already been fined $3,500 by the Commissioner for violating the Act.

The whole Kenney-Callaway collusion scandal is bizarre mostly because, as anyone who was paying attention to Alberta politics in 2017 can attest, Kenney was the clear frontrunner in the UCP leadership race.

With 20-years of experience as an Ottawa politician and the strong backing of Canada’s Conservative establishment, Kenney had the networks, support, and money to win a race against Jean on his own, without Callaway.

But it appears that it may of not been enough for Kenney to just defeat Jean in the UCP leadership contest. Maybe Kenney’s campaign felt they needed Callaway in the race in order so that he could win so decisively that his position as leader of the UCP would be unquestionable in the face of a frequently unruly and fractious conservative movement in Alberta?

We do not have an answer to that question – and Kenney’s silence on the topic over the past two days is deafening.

One Big Happy Conservative Movement: Kamikaze campaigns, Jason Kenney, Brian Jean, Derek Fildebrandt, Scott Moe, and the RCMP

Alberta politics can be a wild ride.

With an election expected to be called in a matter of days or weeks, Alberta’s Election Commissioner has turned over to the RCMP its investigation into allegations of irregular political contributions involving the so-called “kamikaze” campaign of United Conservative Party leadership contender Jeff Callaway, according to a report by CBC investigative journalists Charles Rusnell and Jennie Russell.

Brian Jean and Jason Kenney

Brian Jean and Jason Kenney

It has been alleged that that the UCP leadership campaign of Jason Kenney supported a “kamikaze mission“ by Jeff Callaway to target former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean during the UCP leadership contest in 2017.

Elections Commissioner Lorne Gibson has already issued fines of $15,000 against Callaway’s campaign manager and former UCP nomination candidate, Cameron Davies, and $3,500 against donor Karen Brown. And last week, UCP executive director Janice Harrington announced that Calgary-Beddington candidate Randy Kerr had been removed because he “was not forthright in responding to the Party’s inquiries regarding his financial contribution to the Jeff Callaway Leadership campaign.

Scott Moe and Jason Kenney

Scott Moe and Jason Kenney

The story comes the day after heavy-hitters from western Canada’s Conservative establishment, most notably Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and former prime minister Stephen Harper, rallied around Kenney following rumours that Jean was preparing to jump back into politics – with the Alberta Party or Freedom Conservative Party.

It turns out that Jean was either actually working with the Freedom Conservatives, as party leader Derek Fildebrandt claims, or was clumsily trying to position himself as a UCP leader-in-waiting in case Kenney’s leadership collapsed following the news of a potential RCMP investigation. 

Jean has provided copies of emails and text messages showing that he contacted the UCP board of directors, Kenney and Harper months ago to raise concerns about Callaway situation, only to receive no response from Kenney.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean campaigned with Derek Fildebrandt in Strathmore-Brooks on the first day of the 2015 election. (Photo from Brian Jean's Facebook Page).

Wildrose leader Brian Jean campaigned with Derek Fildebrandt in Strathmore-Brooks on the first day of the 2015 election. (Photo from Brian Jean’s Facebook Page).

As Premier Rachel Notley noted to the media today, if the leader of another major political party was tied up in such an investigation, the UCP would be calling for their resignation. Notley is right, but do not expect Kenney to step aside anytime soon.

With the conservative political establishment rallying to Kenney’s defence, barring criminal charges being laid or Kenney-connected UCP organizers being perp walked in handcuffs, it is unlikely he would step aside because of or even during the course of this potential RCMP investigation. And even if Kenney did step aside, Jean now seems like a very unlikely choice to replace him. The role of interim leader would be a better fit for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper, who ably filled the role as interim leader during the UCP leadership contest.

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt joined Jason Kenney on the eve of his victory in the PC Party leadership race. (Photo credit: @pcyouthalberta on Twitter)

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt joined Jason Kenney on the eve of his victory in the PC Party leadership race. (Photo credit: @pcyouthalberta on Twitter)

An RCMP investigation is serious business and would take time before coming to a resolution, meaning that it would likely not be until after the election that Albertans learn the results of an investigation. I have heard some calls for Notley to delay the election call until after this potential investigation is concluded, pushing beyond Alberta’s unique three-month fixed election window, which seems unlikely but not impossible.

Even with a significant lead in most public opinion polls, the timing of this announcement is bad news for the UCP. It is without a doubt that we will hear leaders and candidates from the other parties use the words “UCP” and “RCMP” in the same sentence very frequently over the next few weeks.

NDP put health care on their pre-election legislative agenda

Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell is scheduled to read the Speech from the Throne on Monday, March 18, and the New Democratic Party government is expected to introduce health care legislation as a flagship bill in what is expected to be a short spring session of the Legislature.

Sarah Hoffman NDP MLA Edmonton-Glenora

Sarah Hoffman

The Throne Speech and Bill 1: Protecting Public Health Care Act, could be the last big pre-election opportunity for the NDP to push forward an election narrative on an issue that plays to their strengths.

Public health care is traditionally a strong issue for the NDP and stability in the health care system has been a hallmark issue for the NDP government. Health Minister Sarah Hoffman has steered the public health care system clear of the perpetual lurch from crisis to crisis that happened under the old Progressive Conservative governments.

It is unknown how many days or weeks the NDP plan to take for this spring session, but I am told that many NDP staffers and organizers are already “on vacation” from their day jobs working hard on campaigns across the province. 


UPDATE!

CBC has released a report report with new information related to the collusion between the Kenney and Callaway campaigns during the 2017 UCP leadership contest: The leaked cache of documents show Kenney’s campaign provided Callaway with resources including strategic political direction, media and debate talking points, speeches, videos, and attack advertisements, all aimed at undermining Kenney’s main political rival, Brian Jean.”

Brian Jean United Conservative Party Leadership Wildrose

Brian Jean running for the Alberta Party? Not strangest thing to happen in Alberta politics, but it would be up there.

It might not be the strangest thing to happen in Alberta politics, but it’s up there.

Stephen Mandel Edmonton

Stephen Mandel

Just over a year since he resigned as the MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin, former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean is said to be making a big announcement later this week – and the rumour mill is churning hard with news that Jean could jump back into Alberta politics as the Alberta Party candidate in the new Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district in the upcoming election.

A former MLA and MP for northeast Alberta, Jean has remained a vocal critic of United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney since his departure from the Legislature following his defeat in the 2017 UCP leadership contest. In a recent op-ed in Alberta’s Postmedia newspapers, Jean described Kenney’s economic campaign promises as “fiscal fairy tales.”

And there are all the allegations that Kenney supported a kamikaze mission by Jeff Callaway targeting Jean during the UCP leadership contest in 2017.

His recent proclamations that “Canada is broken” and “Albertans are furious” at the state of Confederation makes Jean sound like he might be more at home at Yellow Vest protest or in Derek Fildebrandt‘s Freedom Conservative Party than in the caucus of the centre-rightish Alberta Party, but the third-place party led by former Edmonton mayor and briefly Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Stephen Mandel has already recruited a few strange bedfellows.

While rumours of Jean joining the Alberta Party are not new, Mandel’s recent change in tone with the new slogan “fiercely Albertan” feels tailor-made to recruit the former Wildrose Party leader.

Laila Goodridge United Conservative Party

Laila Goodridge

The Freedom Conservatives would seems like more natural home for Jean, if it were not for his stormy relationship with Fildebrandt, another former UCP MLA. But as I have already alluded, political can make strange bedfellows.

Running in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche would mean Jean would be challenging his successor in the legislature, UCP MLA Laila Goodridge, a former political staffer who worked  as an organizer during his 2017 UCP leadership campaign.

While Goodridge’s party is riding high in the polls as she faces a rematch with New Democratic Party candidate Jane Stroud, a Wood Buffalo Municipal Councillor, it is not hard to imagine Jean turning what should have been a locked down district for the UCP into a competitive race. Jean represented the region in the House of Commons from 2006 to 2014 and in the Alberta Legislature from 2015 to 2018.

If Jean actually does make the jump, it would not be the first time a defeated conservative leadership candidate jumped to a new party in hopes of rebooting a political career. Many Albertans will remember when defeated 1992 PC Party leadership candidate Nancy Betkowski returned to the political stage to win the Liberal Party leadership in 1998 as Nancy MacBeth. (Spoiler: it didn’t turn out great).

All this said, let’s remember the last time Brian Jean hyped up political watchers into tuning in to his special announcement. Maybe Jean’s special announcement this week will actually be to tell us all that his newborn baby has slept through the night for the first time? (and if so, congratulations!).

Jason Kenney Randy Kerr Calgary Beddington UCP

Big Day in Beddington: UCP drop Randy Kerr over Callaway donation, Alberta Party MLA Karen McPherson decides not to run for re-election

United Conservative Party executive director Janice Harrington released a statement this evening announcing that Randy Kerr has been removed as the party’s candidate in the new Calgary-Beddington district. Here is an excerpt from Harrington’s statement:

Calgary-Beddington Alberta Map

Calgary-Beddington (Click to enlarge)

“Effective immediately, Mr. Randy Kerr has been removed as the UCP’s candidate in the constituency of Calgary-Beddington.

“In the last 48-hours, new information has come to our attention indicating Mr. Kerr was not forthright in responding to the Party’s inquiries regarding his financial contribution to the Jeff Callaway Leadership campaign.”

“To be clear, the Party is not making any allegations against Mr. Kerr regarding the legitimacy of his contribution to the Callaway Leadership, not against Mr. Callaway or his Campaign. This is not the Party’s rule to judge, and the Party does not in any way oversee financial contributions to leadership campaigns.

“However, it is our conclusion that Mr. Kerr was not sufficiently forthcoming with the Party’s earlier inquiries, and for that, he has been removed as a candidate.

“The Party has also proactively provided this new information to the appropriate office – that of the Elections Commissioner. Given that the matter is now with the Commissioner, it is inappropriate for us to comment further.

Josephine Pon United Conservative Party Calgary Beddington

Josephine Pon

According to Elections Alberta financial disclosures, Kerr donated $4,000 to Callaway’s leadership campaign in 2017. The disclosure was released months ago, so it is unclear what Harrington meant when she wrote that “Mr. Kerr was not forthright in responding to the Party’s inquiries regarding his financial contribution to the Jeff Callaway Leadership campaign.”

Kerr’s removal as a candidate comes on the same day it was revealed a lawyer representing the UCP sent a cease and desist letter to Independent MLA Prab Gill, who has been at the forefront of accusations of misconduct and alleged illegal activities that took place during the UCP leadership contest in 2017.

Earlier this week, UCP staffer posted a creepy video online of Gill meeting with an NDP staffer in an apparent attempt to discredit him. Kenney later accused the NDP of “working in secret” and “conspiring” with Gill to attack the UCP.

The Elections Commissioner is said to be investigating allegations that UCP leadership candidate Jeff Callaway was running a “kamikaze mission” backed by Kenney’s campaign in order to damage the chances of former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean winning the vote.

Harrington also announced that the UCP has appointed Josephine Pon as their candidate in this district. Pon had been defeated by Kerr in the August 2018 nomination contest.

Alberta Party MLAs Greg Clark, Karen McPherson and Rick Fraser.

Alberta Party MLAs Greg Clark, Karen McPherson and Rick Fraser.

Meanwhile, Karen McPherson, one of three Alberta Party MLAs in the Legislative Assembly, announced on social media today that she has decided against running for re-election when the provincial election is called.

McPherson had already been nominated to run as the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Beddington, which replaces much of her the Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill district she currently represents. She was first elected as an New Democratic Party MLA in 2015 in, unseating Progressive Conservative MLA Neil Brown, and left the NDP in 2017 to sit as an Independent and later joined the Alberta Party caucus.

The NDP have nominated Amanda Chapman as its candidate in Calgary-Beddington.

Non-Beddington related news

The Alberta Party has announced two new nominated candidates: Wayne Rufiange in Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock and Jason Beekman in Taber-Warner. Rufiange recently sought the Alberta Party nomination in Morinville-St. Albert, but was defeated by Neil Korotash. Rufiange is principal of R.F. Staples Secondary School in Westlock.

The Liberals have nominated a handful of new candidates: Robin Macintosh in Calgary-Elbow, Michael Macdonald in Calgary-Klein, and Wilson McCutchan in Calgary-Lougheed. McCutchan was the Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-West in the 2012 election, where he earned 7.4 per cent of the vote. And Shirley Ksienski has replaced previously nominated candidate Rork Hilford in Calgary-Glenmore.

The Green Party has announced Brian Deheer will be that party’s candidate in the new Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district. Deheer was a candidate for the leadership of the party in 2017 and 2018, and in the 2015 election had the party’s strongest showing in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, where he earned 2.8 percent of the vote. He was the federal Green candidate in the 2014 Fort McMurray-Athabasca by-election and in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake during the 2015 federal general election. He most recently ran in the Fort McMurray-Conklin by-election, where he earned 0.72 percent of the vote.

Four more candidates affiliated with the Alberta Independence Party have filed their papers to run as Independent candidates: John Morton in Edmonton-City Centre, Kenneth Morrice in Calgary-Hays, Todd Wayne in Edmonton-Castle Downs and Ben Maddison in Lethbridge-West.

Currently operating as an unregistered political party, Alberta Independence Party will need 44 candidates approved by Elections Alberta in order to gain official party status in the upcoming election.

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

UCP staff post creepy video of NDP staffer and Independent MLA leaving a room. Kenney defends it by alleging a secret conspiracy against him.

The 51-second video is grainy, black and white, and recorded in slow motion to look like security camera footage. It is March 4, 2019. A man walks out of room into a lobby and waits for an elevator. Text appears at the bottom of the screen to tell us that he is “Jeremy Nolais, Senior Notley Advisor.” He has a pen in his mouth and looks at the person recording the video as he waits for the elevator. The video fades to black and new text appears to tell us that 10 minutes has passed as we watch Prab Gill, the Independent MLA for Calgary-Greenway, leave the same room and walk to the same elevator, giving the thumbs up to whoever is sitting behind the camera.

The creepy video appears to have been recorded inside the Federal Building, the recently renovated art deco fortress located on the north side of the Legislature Grounds where most Alberta MLAs have their Edmonton offices. The video was presumably recorded and edited on a mobile phone by someone with access to the building, like a United Conservative Party Caucus staffer.

The video was posted online by the “@UniteAlberta” Twitter account on on March 4 at 8:10 p.m. @UniteAlbeta is the Twitter account managed by United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney’s staff, but it is widely believed that UCP Caucus Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Wolf is its principal tweeter.

Viewers of the video are not told what Nolais and Gill were doing in that room, but the purpose of the video is to suggest they were plotting something nefarious and sinister. The video is clearly meant to discredit Gill, a former UCP MLA who has been at the forefront of accusations of misconduct and alleged illegal activities that took place during the UCP leadership contest in 2017.

Gill has sent letters to the Elections Commissioner and RCMP asking for them to investigate his allegations.

The Elections Commissioner is said to be investigating allegations that UCP leadership candidate Jeff Callaway was running a “kamikaze mission” backed by Kenney’s campaign in order to damage the chances of former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean winning the vote.

The Elections Commissioner recently levelled $15,000 in administrative penalties against Cameron Davies, campaign manager for Jeff Callaway’s alleged “kamikaze mission.” Davies’ offence was listed as a violation of Section 45 of the Election Finances and Contribution Disclosure Act, “Obstruction of an investigation.” 

Callaway campaign donor Karen Brown was fined $3,500 for violating Section 34(1) of the Act by contributing “$3,500 to Jeff Callaway, registered UCP leadership contestant, with funds given or furnished by another person.

The video released by the UCP was juvenile and contradicts Kenney’s oft-repeated pledge to mount a “respectful, policy-based debate during the upcoming election campaign. Kenney frequently dismisses the NDP as an “anger machine,” but stalking your opponents and video recording them inside government offices is not an example of Kenney practicing what he preaches. Whether it was intended or not, the video definitely sends a chilling message to opponents, or “enemies,” of the UCP.

In an interview with Global Edmonton’s Jen Crosby, Kenney claimed he had not seen the video that was posted online by his staff but he accused the NDP of “working in secret” and “conspiring” with Gill to attack the UCP. Without providing any evidence to back up his claims, Kenney doubled down when he later told Postmedia that “I think it’s now pretty obvious he’s channeling attacks from the NDP, it’s dirty politics at its worst…

Gill told the media that he was speaking with Nolais about an issue with a school in his district.

This is the latest example of the remarkable hubris demonstrated by the leader of a party that most polls show to be sitting somewhere between 15 per cent and 24 per cent ahead of the New Democratic Party only a few weeks before an expected election call. 

While videos on social media are probably not enough to win an election, online gaffes can definitely hurt a party’s electoral prospects.

It can be difficult to see even a narrow path to victory for the NDP in Alberta’s current political climate without Kenney making a series of major gaffes, or his staff continuing to post creepy videos of their political opponents on the internet. But it would not be the first time a political party blew a 20 point lead. Just ask Adrian Dix.

NDP MLA Brian Mason launches the NDP campaign TheTruthAboutJasonKenney.ca

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel Notley Alberta Premier NDP

Rachel Notley

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Kenney

Jason Kenney

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

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

Leela Aheer Wildrose MLA Chestermere Rockyview

Leela Aheer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A PC Party advertisement from the 1971 Alberta election.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judy Kim-Meneen, Searle Turton, Kevin Smook and Devin Dreeshen

Searle Turton nominated in Spruce Grove – Stony Plain, Judy Kim-Meneen leaves Lesser Slave Lake to run in Edmonton-North West

Photo: Judy Kim-Meneen, Searle Turton, Kevin Smook and Devin Dreeshen

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

Calgary-Falconridge – Devinder Toor defeated Pete de Jong and Jesse Minhas to secure the United Conservative Party nomination in this district. Toor was the Wildrose Party candidate in the 2016 by-election and 2015 general election in Calgary-Greenway. He was defeated by then-Progressive Conservative candidate Prab Gill in the 2016 by-election to choose a successor to Manmeet Bhullar, who Toor was defeated by in 2015.

Happy Mann’s candidacy in this contest was rejected by the UCP after he was alleged to have been involved in a incident where a local reporter was assaulted. Mann was the Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-McCall in the 2015 election and Calgary-Cross in the 2012 election.

Camrose – Kevin Smook defeated Steven Hansen to secure the Alberta Party nomination in this district. Smook is councillor for Division 1 on Beaver County council, where he was first elected in 2013. He served as Reeve of Beaver County from 2014 to 2017.

Edmonton-Manning – Harjinder Grewal defeated Dakota Drouillard, Gurcharan Garcha, and Kulshan Gill to secure the UCP nomination in this northeast Edmonton district. Grewal is a former Edmonton Police Service officer and was the recipient of the Kiwanis 2013 ‘Top Cop’ award.

Edmonton-West HendayLeah McRorie is seeking the Liberal Party nomination in this Edmonton district. McRorie is a certified facilitator with the Alberta Caregivers Association  and prolific tweeter. According to her LinkedIn profile, she provided social media support for Jeanne Lehman in her campaign for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Manning ahead of the 2015 federal election. 

Innisfail-Sylvan LakeDevin Dreeshen has been acclaimed as the UCP candidate in this district. There had been speculation that Dreeshen would be appointed by the UCP board and there does not appear to be any evidence that an open nomination contest was held before he was acclaimed.

Leduc-BeaumontRobb Connelly is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. His application to run for the Alberta Party nomination in the neighbouring Strathcona-Sherwood Park district was denied by the Party.

Lesser Slave Lake – Judy Kim-Meneen is no longer the nominated Alberta Party candidate in this sprawling northern Alberta district. Kim-Meneen instead now appears to have been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Edmonton-North West. It also appears that former PC Party candidate Emerson Mayers withdrew from the contest in Edmonton-North West and that former Liberal Party candidate Todd Ross is now seeking the Alberta Party nomination in Edmonton-Ellerslie.

Spruce Grove-Stony Plain – Spruce Grove City Councillor Searle Turton defeated Mathew Clarke and Jerry W. Semen to secure the UCP nomination in this urban district west of Edmonton. Turton was first elected to Spruce Grove City Council in 2010.

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


Here is a preview of the nomination contests being held in the coming days:

December 6, 2018Becca Polak, Caylan Ford and Jeremy Wong are seeking the UCP nomination in Calgary-Mountain View.

Polak is the former Vice-President of Communications for the Wildrose Party and served as a member of the UCP interim board from 2017 to 2018. Ford is an international affairs specialist with a background in China and human rights. She has worked as a senior policy advisor with Global Affairs Canada. Wong is a pastor with the Calgary Chinese Alliance Church and recently completed a Master of Public Administration at the University of Calgary.

Polak has been endorsed by former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean. Ford has been endorsed by Edmonton-area MP Garnett Genuis, former PC MLA Kyle Fawcett, UCP candidates Doug Schweitzer and Tyler Shandro, and past mayoral candidate Bill Smith. Wong has been endorsed by UCP candidate Jeremy Nixon, former PC MLAs Wayne Cao and Gordon Dirks, and University of Calgary economist Jack Mintz.

Former Progressive Conservative MLA Mark Hlady was seeking the nomination but was disqualified last month.

December 6, 2018Kevin Greco, Kaycee Madu and Sohail Quadri are seeking the UCP nomination in Edmonton-South West.

Greco is a certified home inspector, Madu is a lawyer with Tisel Law Office, and Quadri previously served as the PC MLA for Edmonton-Mill Woods from 2008 to 2015. Quadri served as Legislative Secretary to premier Jim Prentice from 2014 to 2015.

Greco is endorsed by former MP and MLA Ian McClelland.

December 8, 2018Nathan Neudorf, Roger Reid, and Thomas Schneider are seeking the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod.

Reid is the owner of Tim Hortons franchises in Nanton and Clareshold and is chair of the Claresholm and District Health Foundation. Schnieder previously worked as an Area Sales Representative with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Reid is endorsed by Foothills MP John Barlow.

December 8, 2018Maureen Gough, Sean Kenny, Len Thom and Jordan Walker are seeking the UCP nomination in Sherwood Park.

Gough was a researcher with the Wildrose and UCP caucuses. Thom is the former president of the PC Party and was the federal Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona in the 2015 election. And Walker is an Assessment Consultant in the Department of Labour.

Gough is endorsed by UCP MLAs Leela Aheer, Scott Cyr, Grant Hunter, Mark Smith, Rick Strankman, and Wes Taylor. Thom has been endorsed by Brian Jean. Walker has been endorsed by MP Garnett Genuis, former MP Ken Epp, and former UCP constituency president Stephen Burry (who is now Acting Chief of Staff with the Freedom Conservative Party Caucus).

December 9, 2018Parmeet Singh Boparai and Paramjit Singh Mann are seeking the New Democratic Party nomination in Calgary-FalconridgeBoparai is the former president of the Dashmesh Culture Centre. Update: Paramjit Singh Mann’s candidacy has not been accepted by the NDP.

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

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

Garth Rowswell Vermilion Lloydminster Wainwright United Conservative Party Election Alberta

Garth Rowswell

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

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

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

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

Searle Turton Spruce Grove Stony Plain United Conservative Party Alberta Election

Searle Turton

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rick Strankman Jason Kenney UCP Drumheller Stettler MLA

Rick Strankman ousted by Nate Horner in Drumheller-Stettler, UCP dumps Dale Johnson in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

Photo: Rick Strankman and Jason Kenney (source: Facebook)

Rick Strankman is the first incumbent MLA to lose his party’s nomination in this election cycle as he went down to defeat at the hands of Pollockville rancher and political family scion Nate Horner in last weekend’s United Conservative Party nomination contest in Drumheller-Stettler, located deep in Dinosaur Country.

Nate Horner UCP Drumheller Stettler

Nate Horner

Despite endorsements from fellow UCP MLAs Leela AheerScott CyrGrant HunterMark Smith, Pat Stier, and Wes Taylor, Strankman was unable to fend off this nomination challenge. Horner defeated Strankman by a margin of 969 votes to 740.

Strankman was first elected in 2012 and in 2016 was twice forced to apologize after penning an article comparing Alberta’s carbon tax to the Holodomor, the Ukrainian genocide of the 1930s.

His loss makes former Wildrose Party MLAs of his era an almost extinct species in Alberta politics. The only remaining former Wildrose MLA from the party’s 2012 breakthrough who is nominated to run as a UCP candidate in 2019 is Drew Barnes, who will be running for re-election in Cypress-Medicine Hat.

There is now speculation that Strankman could seek the nomination to run as a candidate with Derek Fildebrandt’s upstart Freedom Conservative Party in 2019.

As noted in a previous article, Horner is a rancher and the latest member of the Horner political family to recently jump into the provincial arena. The Nate Horner is a relative of former deputy premiers Hugh Horner and Doug Horner, and the grandson of Jack Horner, who served as Member of Parliament for central Alberta from 1958 to 1979. Jack Horner served as a Progressive Conservative until 1977, when he crossed the floor to the Liberals and served as Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce in Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau‘s government before he was soundly defeated in the 1979 election.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

A third candidate in the UCP nomination race, Todd Pawsey, was disqualified by the party at the eleventh hour following the discovery of unsavoury Facebook posts. The social media posts included “jokes about transgender people, making extremely sexual/sexist comments and calling Premier Rachel Notely a queen beyotch,” according to a report by the Ponoka News.

While it is not common for incumbent MLAs to lose their party nominations, it is not unheard of. Ahead of the 2015 election, incumbent MLAs Joe Anglin, Gary Bikman, Rod Fox, Peter Sandhu and Danielle Smith lost their nominations. MLAs Carl Benito, Broyce Jacobs and Art Johnston were defeated in their bids to secure their party’s nominations ahead of the 2012 election.

Johnson removed. Wood to be appointed?

Dale Johnson UCP Lac Ste Anne Parkland Candidate Nomination

Dale Johnson

Dale Johnson has been removed as the nominated UCP candidate in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland after the party discovered he paid $5,584.60 to an employee he fired with whom he was in a romantic relationship, according to a report by CBC

Johnson replied to the decision on his Facebook page: “…while I disagree with this decision, our Party has the right to make it and I will not be challenging it.

He previously served on Onoway town council, as president of Whitecourt-Ste. Anne PC association and as an appointed board member of the Aspen Regional Health Authority and Credit Counselling Services of Alberta.

Johnson defeated three other candidates to secure the nomination in August 2018. There is speculation in some political circles that the UCP could choose to appoint Leah Wood as the candidate in this district. Wood was a member of the UCP interim board and was widely considered to be the favourite of the party establishment in the August nomination contest.

Upcoming Nomination Meetings

Craig Coolahan NDP MLA Calgary Klein

Craig Coolahan

Edmonton-Mill Woods – Walter Espinoza and Anju Sharma will compete for the Alberta Party nomination at a meeting on October 2, 2018.

Calgary-Klein – MLA Craig Coolahan is expected to be chosen as the New Democratic Party candidate at a meeting on October 3, 2018. Coolahan was first elected in 2015 with 44.3 percent of the vote in the 2015 election. Before his election, he worked as a business representative with the United Utility Workers’ Association.

Edmonton-West Henday – MLA Jon Carson is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in this new west Edmonton district on October 3, 2018. Carson was first elected as MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark in the 2015 election while earning 57 percent of the vote. Carson was an apprentice electrician when he was elected to the Legislature.

Calgary-Currie – Tony Norman is expected to be nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Currie on October 4, 2018. Norman was the Alberta Party candidate in this district in the 2015 election.


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

Calgary-EdgemontJulia Hayter is seeking the NDP nomination. Hayter is a constituency assistant to current Calgary-Varsity MLA Stephanie McLean and was seeking the NDP nomination in that district until Anne McGrath entered the contest last week.

After some deep consideration and conversations, I have decided to remove my name from the Varsity nomination race. As…

Posted by Julia Hayter on Monday, October 1, 2018

Calgary-North East – Rocky View County Councillor Jerry Gautreau is seeking the UCP nomination in this northeast Calgary district. Gautreau earned 178 votes when he ran as a Social Credit Party candidate in the 2004 election in the now defunct Airdrie-Chestermere district.

Edmonton-City Centre – Stephen Hammerschimidt has withdrawn from UCP contest in this downtown Edmonton district.

Fort McMurray-Lac La BicheLaila Goodridge was only elected as MLA on July 12, 2018 but she already faces two high-profile challengers for the UCP nomination in the new Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district. Former Lac La Biche County Councillor Gail Broadbent-Ludwig announced her candidacy last month and this week former Wood Buffalo mayoral candidate Allan Grandison entered the contest. The largest donor to Grandison’s October 2017 mayoral campaign came from City Centre Group, the company operated by the family of former MLA and Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean.

Sherwood Park – Jason Lafond has withdrawn from UCP contest.

Spruce Grove-Stony Plain – Brendan Greene has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest in this district west of Edmonton. Greene was the Green Party candidate in Sturgeon River-Parkland in the 2015 federal election.

Vermilion-Lloydminster-WainwrightBenjamin Acquaye is seeking the UCP nomination. Acquaye is an instructor with the Department of Business at Lakeland College in Lloydminster.

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

Sarah Hoffman Edmonton Glenora MLA Alberta Election 2019

Sarah Hoffman secures NDP nomination in Edmonton-Glenora, MLA Dave Hanson fends off two challengers in Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul

Minster of Health and Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman has been nominated as the New Democratic Party candidate in Edmonton-Glenora for the next election. Hoffman was first elected as MLA for this district in 2015 with 68 percent of the vote, unseating two-term Progressive Conservative MLA Heather Klimchuk. She previously served two terms on Edmonton’s Public School Board including as chair from 2012 to 2015.

Hoffman has managed to navigate her role as Health Minister, a large and challenging department, and continue to serve as Premier Rachel Notley’s chief political lieutenant. As I have written before, she is a contender for strongest member of cabinet, and is on my list of cabinet ministers who I believe are future Premier material.

Dave Hanson MLA UCP Bonnyville Cold Lake St Paul

Dave Hanson

MLA Dave Hanson fended off two challengers to secure the United Conservative Party nomination in the new Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul district today. City of Cold Lake mayor Craig Copeland, who also ran for the PC Party in Bonnyville-Cold Lake in the 2015 election, and private school administrator Glenn Spiess, were unable to unseat Hanson in this contest.

Hanson was endorsed by former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, who served as the MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin until resigning earlier this year. Copeland had the endorsement of Fort McMurray-Cold Lake Conservative Member of Parliament David Yurdiga.

At a candidate forum held before the vote, all three candidates, including Hanson, expressed their support for the further privatization of health care in Alberta.

The nomination contest in this district initially looked as if it would be a contest between Hanson and Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA Scott Cyr, but Cyr dropped out of the contest in April 2018.

Hanson was first elected in 2015 as the Wildrose MLA for Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills. He currently serves as UCP Indigenous Relations critic.

Upcoming Nomination Meetings

On September 13, 2018, UCP members in Calgary-Elbow will choose either past city council candidate Chris Davis or former party leadership candidate Doug Schweitzer as their candidate in the next election. Schweitzer is a lawyer who briefly considered running for the PC Party leadership in 2017 before dropping out and later running for the UCP leadership, where he placed third with 7.3 percent of the vote. He served as CEO of the Manitoba PC Party from 2008 to 2009 and was manager of Jim Prentice’s campaign for the leadership of the PC Party in 2014.

Doug Schweitzer Calgary Alberta Conservative

Doug Schweitzer

Schweitzer is endorsed by Chestermere-Rockyview UCP MLA Leela Aheer, former PC MLA and cabinet minister Jim Dinning, and former Calgary mayoral candidate Bill Smith. And Davis is endorsed by retired oil company executive Allan Markin and Kudatah leader George Clark.

Whoever wins this nomination will face Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark, who was first elected as MLA for Calgary-Elbow in 2015.

UCP members in Grande Prairie-Wapiti will choose their next candidate on September 14, 2018. With incumbent UCP MLA Wayne Drysdale not seeking re-election in 2019, party members will choose between Sexsmith town councillor, family literacy coordinator and former bible school registrar Kate Potter and former president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association Travis Toews.

Toews is being endorsed by Walter Paszkowski (MLA for Smoky River from 1989 to 1993, and MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky from 1993 to 2001),Everett McDonald (MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky from 2012 to 2015), and County of Grande Prairie councillor Peter Harris.

Former Liberal Party MLA Mo Elsalhy is expected to be nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Edmonton-South West on September 15, 2018. Elsalhy was the MLA for Edmonton-McClung from 2004 and 2008 and ran for the party leadership in 2008. He attempted a comeback in 2012 but was unable unseat PC MLA David Xiao. During his time as MLA he served in various critic roles, including as Official Opposition critic for Justice and Public Safety, and Innovation and Science.

Danielle Larivee

Danielle Larivee

UCP members in Edmonton-Rutherford will select their next candidate on September 15, 2018.  Four candidates are seeking the nomination: MacEwan University assistant professor Rafat Alam, Shaun Collicott, Laine Larson, and Hannah Presakarchuk.

CBC reported in May 2018 that Larson has questioned vaccination science and has suggested parents may be harming their children by vaccinating them against disease. Larson is an independent contractor and the step-son of former Reform Party Member of Parliament Deborah Grey.

NDP MLA Danielle Larivee is expected to be nominated as her party’s candidate in Lesser Slave Lake on September 16, 2018. Larivee was first elected in 2015, unseating seven-term PC MLA Pearl Calahasen. Larivee currently serves as Minister of Children’s Services and Minister for the Status of Women.

Marvin Olsen expected to be chosen as the Alberta Party candidate in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville on September 16, 2018. Olsen is the owner of Grim’s Contracting Ltd. Previously declared nomination candidate Campbell Pomeroy withdrew his name from the contest.

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

Calgary-Klein – Julie Huston has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest.

Calgary-LougheedRachel Timmermans has been selected as the Alberta Party candidate in this southwest Calgary district. Timmermans, a Mount Royal University policy studies student, will face UCP leader Jason Kenney in the next election.

Calgary-NorthTommy Low is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-North EastGurbachan Brar is seeking the NDP nomination in this new north east Calgary district. Brar is a former President of the Punjabi Likhari Sabha and a former broadcaster at RED FM 106.7.

CamroseKevin Smook is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Smook is councillor for Division 1 on Beaver County council, where he was first elected in 2013. He served as Reeve of Beaver County from 2014 to 2017.

Edmonton-Rutherford – Aisha Rauf defeated Arnold D’Souza to secure the Alberta Party nomination. She is an instructor and according to her website biography is waiting for her PhD Linguistics thesis defence. She was interviewed in a September 2017 episode of the Broadcast.

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


Former NDP leader, school trustee Ray Martin releasing new book

Ray Martin NDP MLA School Trustee Edmonton Alberta

Ray Martin

Former MLA Ray Martin is releasing his memoir, “Made in Alberta: The Ray Martin Story” on September 27, 2018.

Martin is the former leader of the Alberta NDP and served as leader of the Official Opposition in the Legislative Assembly from 1984 to 1993. He was elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Norwood from 1982 to 1993 and Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview from 2004 to 2008, and ran for the provincial NDP in 9 separate elections between 1975 and 2012. He most recently served as a trustee on the Edmonton Public School Board representing Ward D from 2013 to 2017.

Martin’s decades worth of experiences in Alberta politics will certainly mean he has many interesting stories to tell. I am definitely adding this new book to my Fall 2018 reading list.

Who might and might not be invited to the Leaders’ Debate in Alberta’s 2019 election?

Photo: Alberta political party leaders – Rachel Notley, Jason Kenney, Stephen Mandel, David Khan, and Derek Fildebrandt.

We are now somewhere between seven and ten months away from the next provincial general election in Alberta. For the past seven provincial elections, leaders of the main political parties have participated in televised leaders debates, and while a lot of media and political attention is focused on these events, their impact on the outcome of the election varies.

Most readers of this website will remember Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice‘s infamous “math is difficult” rebuttal to New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley during the 2015 debate. The comment was viewed by many as sexist and the embodiment of a 44-year old political dynasty way past it’s best before date.

Which party leaders are invited to participate in the debates, which are typically organized by private news media companies, can sometimes be contentious. Generally, only leaders whose parties have elected MLAs in the previous general election have been invited, but this has not always been the case. Unlike our neighbours to the south, there are no official rules or commission governing who is invited, which has led to inconsistencies since the televised leaders debates began in Alberta in 1993.

Assuming one is held, let’s take a look at who might and might not be invited to participate in a televised leaders debate held in Alberta’s next provincial election, which is expected to be called between March 1 and May 31, 2019.

Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney: Notley and United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney are shoe-ins to participate in the leaders debate. Notley is the current Premier of Alberta and Kenney leads the Official Opposition UCP. Although the UCP did not exist in the last election, the party has won three by-elections since it was formed in 2017.

Stephen Mandel: Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel will almost certainly be invited to join the debate even though he is not currently an MLA. Mandel served as a PC MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud from October 2014 to May 2015 and was defeated by NDP MLA Bob Turner in 2015. The Alberta Party elected one MLA in 2015 – Calgary-Elbow MLA Greg Clark – and now has three MLAs due to floor-crossings by former NDP MLA Karen McPherson and UCP MLA Rick Fraser.

David Khan: Liberal Party leader David Khan is not a sitting MLA and his party’s sole MLA, former leader David Swann, is not seeking re-election. This is the first election since 1986 that the Liberals will not have an incumbent MLA running for re-election. Khan is running for election in Swann’s Calgary-Mountain View district. While the party has had one elected MLA since 2015, the party’s lack of incumbent MLAs and declining relevance in Alberta politics could lead to the Liberals not being invited to join next year’s debate.

The Derek Fildebrandt Question: Derek Fildebrandt is a sitting MLA and most likely will be leader of the Freedom Conservative Party when the next election is called. He was first elected as the Wildrose Party MLA for Strathmore-Brooks in 2015 and joined the FCP in 2018. His party did not elect any MLAs in 2015, but neither did the UCP, which was formed in 2017 by MLAs who were previously members of the PC and Wildrose parties.

Fildebrandt has said his party will not run candidates in all districts, only focusing on districts where the NDP is not considered to be competitive. This means that most viewers tuning in to the televised debate will not have the option of voting for a Freedom Conservative Party candidate on Election Day, but a lack of a full-slate has not stopped leaders from being invited to the debates in the past.

Fildebrandt is a fiery quote-machine and his participation in the debates would undoubtably create some entertainment value for viewers. While I suspect Notley and Mandel would be supportive of Fildebrandt’s involvement in the debate, I expect that Kenney would not be eager to share a stage with Fildebrandt. As I predicted on a recent episode of the Daveberta Podcast, I suspect Kenney could threaten to withhold his participation in the debate if Fildebrandt is invited to join.

As for the format of a leaders debate, as I have written before, my preference would be to hold in front of a live audience, rather than a sterile and controlled television studio. This would allow the party leaders to demonstrate their debating skills and a live audience would add an atmosphere of unpredictability and would force the leaders to speak to both the voters in the room and those watching their television screens.


A History of Leaders Debates in Alberta Elections

Here is a quick history of leaders debates during general elections in Alberta:

1967 election – Four party leaders participated in this debate: Social Credit leader Ernest Manning, PC Party leader Peter Lougheed, NDP leader Neil Reimer and Liberal leader Michael Maccagno. Lougheed had initially challenged Manning to a televised debate, but a public debate was held instead. The meeting was sponsored by the City Centre Church Council and held in downtown Edmonton. The leaders fielded questions from the audience of the packed church.

The Calgary Herald reported that “…Manning was booed by a small contingent of hecklers while the new leader of the Conservatives reportedly “appeared to score heavily and draw the most applause.”

At the time of the debate, only Manning and Maccagno were MLAs. Reimer was not an MLA but there was one incumbent NDP MLA, Garth Turcott, who had been elected in a 1965 by-election in Pincher Creek-Crowsnest. Lougheed was not an MLA and his party had not elected an MLA since the 1959 election.

1971-1989 elections – No leaders debates were held during the 1971, 1975, 1979, 1982, 1986 and 1989 elections. Lougheed was challenged by opposition leaders, including NDP leader Grant Notley and Western Canada Concept leader Gordon Kesler, to participate in a televised debate but were turned down. Don Getty also refused to debate his opponents on television.

1993 election – Three party leaders participated in two televised debates: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, NDP leader Ray Martin, and Liberal Party leader Laurence Decore. The first debate was held in-front of a live studio audience and was broadcast on CFCN in Calgary and CFRN in Edmonton. The second debate was held without a live studio audience and broadcast on Channel 2&7 in Calgary and ITV in Edmonton.

An alternative debate that included leaders of smaller parties was also televised. That debate included the leaders of the Communist Party, Confederation of Regions, Alliance Party and Green Party. Social Credit Party leader Randy Thorsteinson refused to participate, arguing that the Social Credit party should have been included in the main leaders debate.

1997 election – Four party leaders participated in this televised debate organized by the Alberta Chamber of Commerce and broadcast by CBC: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal Party leader Grant Mitchell, NDP leader Pam Barrett, and Social Credit Party leader Randy Thorsteinson.

Barrett and Thorsteinson were invited to participate despite not being MLAs at the time and neither of their parties having elected any MLAs in the previous election. The NDP and Social Credit Party did not nominate a full slate, with only 77 and 70 candidates running in 83 districts. 

2001 election – Three leaders participated in this televised debate organized by Calgary Herald and Global News: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal leader Nancy MacBeth and NDP leader Raj Pannu. The three major parties nominated candidates in all 83 districts.

2004 election – Three leaders participated in this televised debate broadcast by Global Television: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal leader Kevin Taft and NDP leader Brian Mason.

Despite having been invited to join the televised debate in 1997, Alberta Alliance leader Randy Thorsteinson was not allowed to join in 2004 because he was not an MLA and his new party did not elect any members in the previous election. The party had one MLA, former Edmonton-Norwood PC MLA Gary Masyk, who crossed the floor in the months before the election was called.

The PCs, NDP and the Alberta Alliance nominated candidates in all 83 districts in this election. The Liberals nominated candidates in 82 of 83 districts.

2008 election – Four leaders participated in this debate broadcast on Global, CTV and CBC: PC Party leader Ed Stelmach, Liberal Party leader Kevin Taft, NDP leader Brian Mason and Wildrose Alliance leader Paul Hinman. Hinman was the Alberta Alliance Party’s sole elected MLA in the 2004 election before the party changed its name to the Wildrose Alliance (he would be defeated in his bid for re-election in Cardston-Taber-Warner in 2008).

The Wildrose Alliance nominated 61 candidates in 83 districts. Green Party leader George Read was not invited to participate in the debate, despite his party nominating candidates in 79 of 83 districts (the Greens would earn 4.5 percent of the total province-wide vote, only slightly behind the 6.7 percent earned by the Wildrose Alliance in this election). 

2012 election – Four leaders participated in this debate broadcast by Global and streamed on the internet: PC Party leader Alison Redford, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman and NDP leader Brian Mason.

Smith was invited to join the debate despite her party not having elected any MLAs in the previous election. The Wildrose Party was represented in the Assembly by four MLAs when the election was called. Former leader Paul Hinman returned to the Assembly in a 2009 by-election in Calgary-Glenmore and Heather Forsyth, Rob Anderson, and Guy Boutilier were elected as PC candidates in 2008 before crossing the floor to join the Wildrose Party in 2010.

Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor was not invited to join the leaders debate, despite his party having one MLA in the Legislature. Former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor became the Alberta Party’s first MLA in 2011. The Alberta Party nominated 38 candidates in 87 districts.

2015 election – Four leaders participated in this debate broadcast by Global: PC leader Jim Prentice, NDP leader Rachel Notley, Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, and Liberal leader David Swann. Despite only narrowly losing a 2014 by-election in Calgary-Elbow, Alberta Party leader Greg Clark was not invited to join the debate. Clark would go on to be elected in Calgary-Elbow in this election.

The NDP and PCs nominated candidates in all 87 districts, while the Wildrose Party nominated 86 candidate and the Liberals nominated 56. The Alberta Party nominated 36 candidates in 87 districts.

Jason Kenney Prab Gill

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

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

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

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

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

Carruthers Report not made public

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

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

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

Nasty internal power struggles were common in old PC Party

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Leela Aheer and Brian Jean

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

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

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

David Campbell UCP Chestermere-Strathmore

David Campbell (source: Facebook)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amid political gong-show, Postmedia shuts down local newspaper 

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

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