Tag Archives: Brian Mason

Paige Gorsak Edmonton Strathcona

Paige Gorsak pushes the NDP establishment out of their comfort zone in Edmonton-Strathcona

For the past ten years, Edmonton-Strathcona has been an orange island in a sea of blue. Now with three-term Member of Parliament Linda Duncan choosing to retire when the next federal election is called, members of the New Democratic Party in Edmonton-Strathcona will be gathering on November 26, 2018 to select a new candidate to carry their party’s banner in the only district held by the federal NDP in Alberta.

Two candidates have stepped forward to seek the party’s nomination.

Heather McPherson has progressive credentials as the executive director of the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation and volunteer team leader with Médecins Sans Frontières. She is the former president of the local NDP association and has the endorsement of big names in the NDP establishment, including Duncan and former MLA and provincial party leader Raj Pannu.

Paige Gorsak, a 26-year old community organizer, University of Alberta graduate student and library assistant with Edmonton’s Public Library, is McPherson’s only challenger. Gorsak is running a unabashedly democratic socialist campaign that focuses on social justice issues that push beyond the centre-leftish territory many NDP politicians have staked out in recent years.

Gorsak’s campaign has the feel of the movement personified by Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the most high-profile member of a wave of Democratic Socialists running in the American mid-term elections earlier this month.

We're Not Alone | Paige Gorsak

We're not alone in believing that a better world is possible. Edmonton Strathcona: On November 26th, vote for Paige Gorsak. Find out more: www.votepaigegorsak.ca

Posted by Paige Gorsak for Edmonton Strathcona on Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Gorsak has been featured in a series of powerful videos on social media and is advocating for change on a wide-range of issues including transition to a 100% renewable energy economy, the elimination of post-secondary tuition and student debt, the creation of free universal childcare and a universal single-payer pharmacare program, and full Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination for First Nations, including a guarantee of treaty rights to education, the full implementation of UNDRIP and the full implementation of Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action. The list goes on.

Despite the federal district overlapping an area represented by five NDP MLAs, including Premier Rachel Notley, Transportation Minister Brian Mason, Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt, and Housing Minister Lori Sigurdson, Duncan’s provincial counterparts have been publicly quiet about the selection of her successor. But their silence should not be taken as an indication they do not have strong feelings about who should win.

The tension between the federal and provincial NDP in Alberta, especially over the issue of oil development and pipeline construction, has been palpable. Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has taken a position against the expansion of the federal government-owned Trans Mountain Pipeline, a project Notley had spent an incredible amount of political capital trying to get done.

Gorsak’s call for a transition away from non-renewable energy economy has also made her a target of United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney on social media. But her campaign has responded to Kenney’s attacks with ease and humour, demonstrating that when it comes to issues like climate change, she is not afraid to stake ground outside the provincial NDP’s comfort zone.

Holding on to Edmonton-Strathcona in 2019 will be a tough battle for the NDP, but if the 2015 federal election is any indication, the federal NDP will not find success by tacking to the political centre and mirroring the path traditionally taken by the Liberal Party. The federal NDP should push the limits and provide an exciting and compelling argument for progressive social change. If there is anywhere in Alberta where that kind of message will resonate, it will be in Edmonton-Strathcona.

And Paige Gorsak looks like she could be up to that challenge.


Other parties yet to nominate in Edmonton-Strathcona

The other parties are also in the process of nominating their candidates in this district. Julia Bareman and Sam Lilly are seeking the Conservative Party nomination and Eleanor Olszewski is seeking the Liberal Party nomination. Olszewski earned 20.7 percent of the vote as the Liberal Party candidate in the 2015 federal election.

Calgary-East MLA Robyn Luff and Premier Rachel Notley at a roundtable on education affordability in 2017 (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

MLA Robyn Luff removed from NDP Caucus after speaking out “about culture of fear and intimidation”

Photo: Calgary-East MLA Robyn Luff and Premier Rachel Notley at a roundtable on education affordability in 2017 (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Calgary-East MLA Robyn Luff has been removed from the New Democratic Party Caucus after releasing a public letter announcing she would not sit in the Legislative Assembly “in protest of a culture of fear and intimidation that leads to MLA’s being unable to properly represent their constituents in the legislature.”

Writing that she “felt bullied by the NDP leadership for over 3 and a half years” and faced “a culture of fear and intimidation,” Luff’s letter details the grievances she feels as a backbencher in the government caucus, which include whipped votes and reading scripted questions and private members statements in the Assembly.

Luff wrote in the letter that she would not return to the Assembly “until a resolution has been presented.” It is now likely that when she does return it will be as an Independent MLA.

Robyn Luff MLA Calgary East NDP Press Release

MLA Robyn Luff’s letter on November 5, 2018

Luff is correct that many of the prepared statements and questions that backbenchers are frequently required to read in the Assembly are scripted, and sometimes comically so. Many provinces do not provide time for government backbench MLAs to ask questions in Question Period, and anyone who has watched an episode of QP will likely see why. Known colloquially as “puffballs,” the scripted questions asked by backbench MLAs are rarely challenging and exist to provide cabinet ministers with an opportunity to read government talking points into Hansard.

“People are permitted to speak their minds, and they have an opportunity to do that,” said Government House leader Brian Mason in response to Luff’s letter. “Everybody in a caucus, especially large caucuses, is frustrated from time to time.”

A statement released by the NDP Caucus late on November 5, 2018, stated that “NDP MLAs have lost confidence in her ability to participate as a productive and trustworthy member of the government caucus.”

Despite her family roots in the Alberta NDP (her grandfather Alan Bush was an Anglican minister who stood in the federal NDP in northern Alberta in the 1965 and 1967 federal elections and ran against Grant Notley for the leadership of the NDP in 1968) a breach of caucus solidarity this large was not going be treated lightly.

There is no doubt Premier Rachel Notley runs a tight ship and because of it the NDP have imposed an impressive level of caucus discipline since forming government in 2015. Since their election victory, the NDP have largely avoided the types of bozo-eruptions and embarrassing scandals that have sometimes become weekly occurrences in the Wildrose-turned-United Conservative Party Caucus.

Caucus discipline is nothing new. It is a characteristic of most functional parliamentary democracies. But the level of control exerted on individual MLAs by party leaders and their staffers is something that could feel incredibly stifling for some backbench MLAs, especially those who might feel more naturally inclined to sit in the opposition benches.

Backbenchers who do not feel they are being valued or given an opportunity to speak up and advocate for the issues they or their constituents feel are important can create resentment towards the political leadership. Providing some sort of relief valve to deal with backbencher frustration is important.

In the mid-1990s, rookie backbench Progressive Conservative MLAs Jon Havelock, Mark Hlady, Lyle Oberg, Murray Smith, Ed Stelmach, and Lorne Taylor formed “the Deep Six” by attempting to drive an agenda of cuts to spending and government services, or at least that is the political narrative that was created.

The short-lived sequel to the Deep Six, the Fiscal Four, was formed by Doug Griffiths, Jonathan Denis, Rob Anderson, and Kyle Fawcett after the 2008 election. The group of PC backbenchers soon expanded to include three or four other MLAs, but it did not last long after Anderson crossed the floor to the Wildrose Party in 2010 (and the “Fiscal Seven” did not have the same ring to it).

Aside from being allowed to play minor theatrical roles as the internal opposition to government, most backbench MLAs were largely compliant during the PC Party’s 43-year reign. The caucus and party revolt that ended Alison Redford’s political career in 2014 was a notable exception, but the most significant actual rebellion by backbench MLAs in Alberta’s history was the Social Credit backbenchers revolt of 1937, which nearly toppled Premier William Aberhart’s nascent government.

It is not uncommon for disgruntled MLAs to leave their caucus to sit as Independent MLAs or join other parties, like Sandra Jansen did in 2016 and Rick Fraser and Karen McPherson did in 2017, but Luff’s decision to refuse to take her seat in the Assembly is not a tenable long-term strategy.

Without knowing more, it is not clear that anything Luff wrote she has experienced is new or unique to the NDP Caucus in Alberta, or if she is alone in feeling this way. It is also unclear what Luff’s political future outside the NDP Caucus will hold over the next five months until the 2019 election is called.

Whether publishing that letter was politically smart or political suicide, it took courage for Luff to speak up. And speaking truth to power is something that we should encourage our elected officials to do more regularly.

Episode 22: Special guest Jamil Jivani, author of Why Young Men

Jamil Jivani joined Dave and Ryan on the podcast this week as we discussed his new book, Why Young Men: Rage, Race and the Crisis of Identity, and delved into how Political Action Committees are shaping politics in our province and how they might impact the next election, this weekend’s New Democratic Party convention, and the latest candidate nomination news.

Daveberta Podcast Alberta PoliticsWe had such a good conversation with Jamil that we didn’t get to our mailbag this week. Thank you to everyone who sent us questions, we will answer them in an extra long mailbag segment in our next episode.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. The networks includes more than 30 Alberta-made podcasts, including We Are Alberta.

You can listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. 

We would love to hear what you think of this episode, so feel free to leave a review where you download, comment on the blogFacebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

And a big thanks to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, who keeps us on track and makes each episode of the Daveberta Podcast sound so great.

Thank you for listening!

Recommended Reading/Watching:

Alberta Election candidates Janis Irwin, Miranda Rosin, Janet Eremenko, and Rebecca Schulz.

A Big Nomination Candidate Update: Airdrie-Cochrane to Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright

Photo: Alberta Election candidates Janis Irwin, Miranda Rosin, Janet Eremenko, and Rebecca Schulz.

It has been a busy few weeks for provincial candidate nominations in Alberta. I fell a bit behind last week with my updates, so here is some of the latest candidate nomination news ahead of Alberta’s provincial election:

Airdrie-CochranePeter Guthrie defeated Morgan Nagel, Mauri Stiff, and Laura Talsma to secure the United Conservative Party nomination on October 20, 2018 in this new district northwest of Calgary. Ian Chitwood‘s candidacy was not accepted by the party before the vote was held.

 Guthrie is a former owner of a Mr. Lube franchise in north east Calgary and a former co-owner of a ranch near Castor. He was endorsed by former sportscaster and recent Airdrie-East UCP nomination candidate Roger Millions and former Rocky View County councillor and Calgary-Centre Member of Parliament Eric Lowther. Stiff had been endorsed by Airdrie UCP MLA Angela Pitt, who is running for re-election in the neighbouring Airdrie-East district.

Banff-Kananaskis: Miranda Rosin defeated Scott Wagner and Michael Zubkow to secure the UCP nomination in this mountain and foothills district west of Calgary on October 27, 2018. Rosin was endorsed by UCP MLAs Leela Aheer, Drew Barnes, Angela Pitt, MP Blake Richards, developer Cal Wenzel, and Canmore town councillor Rob Seeley. 

Calgary-AcadiaFormer city councillor Brian Pincott will be nominated as the New Democratic Party candidate in this district on October 25, 2018. Pincott represented Ward 11 on Calgary City Council from 2007 to 2017.

Lawyer and UCP activist Tyler Shandro defeated Amina Beecroft and David Guenter to secure the UCP nomination on October 28, 2018. 

Shandro had the blessing of Calgary’s conservative political establishment with the endorsements of UPC MLAs Ric McIver, Nathan Cooper, Jason Nixon, Mike Ellis, city councillors Sean Chu, Jeff Davison, Ward Sutherland and Peter Demong, MPs Ron Liepert and Len Webber, and former Progressive Conservative MLAs Harvey Cenaiko, Jim Dinning, Karen Kryczka, Donna Kennedy-Glans, and Rick Orman.

Calgary-Bow: Demetrios Nicolaides defeated Calgary Board of Education trustee Lisa Davis, Cheryl Durkee, and 2015 PC Party candidate Byron Nelson the UCP nomination contest on October 23, 2018.

Nicolaides was endorsed by UCP MLA Richard Gotfried, Nathan Cooper, Calgary MP Stephanie Kusie, Ontario MP Pierre Pollievre, and Calgary-Buffalo UCP candidate Tom Olsen and Calgary-Glenmore candidate Whitney Issik. Davis was endorsed by UCP MLA Mike Ellis.

Calgary-Cross: Farhan Baig’s candidacy in the UCP nomination contest has not been accepted by the UCP.

Calgary-Currie: Lindsay Luhnau was nominated as the Alberta Party nomination in this district. Past candidate Tony Norman withdrew from the contest before the vote.

Calgary-East: Robert O’Leary’s candidacy in the UCP nomination contest has not been accepted by the UCP.

Calgary-Elbow: Janet Eremenko was nominated as the NDP candidate on October 18, 2018. Eremenko was a candidate for Calgary City Council in Ward 11 in the October 2017 election where she finished third with 20 percent of the vote.

Calgary-Falconridge: Gurjinder Dhillon and Jesse Minhas are now seeking the UCP nomination in this district. Minhas previously withdrew from the UCP nomination contest in Calgary-Cross. Minhas ran for the PC Party nomination in Calgary-Cross ahead of the 2015 election and was the Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-East in the 2012 election.

Calgary-Glenmore: Scott Appleby is seeking the Alberta Party nomination

Calgary-North East: Jerry Gautreau and Manjit Jaswal have withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest in this district.

Calgary-ShawRebecca Schulz defeated past Wildrose Party candidate Mark Mantei, party activist and party activist and past federal Conservative nomination candidate Jack Redekop, and Daniel McLean to win the UCP nomination on October 20, 2018.

Schulz is the director of marketing and communications at the University of Calgary and until 2016 was the director of communications for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education. She was endorsed by MP Stephanie Kusie, UCP MLAs Nathan Cooper and Jason Nixon, and former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.

Calgary-VarsityJason Copping defeated Lesley DoellJohn HuangMichael Kim, Grace Lane, and John Volponi to win the UCP nomination in Calgary-Varsity. Copping was endorsed by MP Len Webber, former Calgary-Varsity PC MLA Murray Smith, 2015 PC Party candidate Susan Billington.

NDP stalwart Anne McGrath was acclaimed as her party’s candidate in this district.

Green Party leader Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes has been nominated by her party to run in Calgary-Varsity. Chagnon-Greyeyes was selected as her party’s leader in an October 2018 leadership race.

Edmonton-EllerslieYash Sharma was disqualified as the Alberta Party candidate in this district.

Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood: Educator and community advocate Janis Irwin was acclaimed at a nomination meeting on October 23, 2018. Irwin currently works as a Director of Stakeholder Relations in the Office of the Premier and previously worked on the curriculum changes being implemented by the Department of Education. She ran as the federal NDP candidate in Edmonton-Greisbach in the 2015 federal election, placing a strong second behind Conservative candidate Kerry Diotte.

With exception of a brief period from 1993 to 1997, most of this district has been represented by the NDP since 1986. Irwin is succeeding former NDP leader Brian Mason, who has represented the district since 2000 and is retiring when the next election is called.

Tish Prouse defeated Brian Gratrix to become the Alberta Party candidate in this district on October 9, 2018.

Edmonton-Manning: Harjinder Grewal is seeking the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-Riverview: Katherine O’Neill is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. O’Neill was the PC Party candidate in Edmonton-Meadowlark in the 2015 election. She later served as president of the PC Party and left the party shortly after Jason Kenney won the leadership in 2017. Before entering politics, O’Neill was a reporter for the Globe & Mail.

Edmonton-West Henday: Nicole Williams defeated Leila Houle on October 22, 2018 to secure the United Conservative Party nomination in the newly redrawn Edmonton-West Henday district. A third candidate, Lance Coulter, was disqualified after comments made following a week long fiasco involving the three candidates posing for photos with members of the anti-immigration white nationalist Soldiers of Odin vigilant group.

Williams is a senior associate with Canadian Strategy Group and previously worked as an assistant to various MLAs and cabinet ministers in the old Progressive Conservative government.

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche: Rookie UCP MLA Laila Goodridge defied rumours of an impending defeat by securing the UCP nomination on October 26, 2018. Goodridge defeated former Lac La Biche County councillor Gail Broadbent-Ludwig and former Wood Buffalo mayoral candidate Allan Grandson.

Lesser Slave Lake – John Middelkoop is seeking the UCP nomination.

Lethbridge-East/Livingstone-Macleod: Nathan Neudorf has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest in Lethbridge-East and is now seeking the UCP nominaton in Livingstone-Macleod.

Morinville-St. Albert: Shane St. Arnault has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest. St. Arsenault is the owner of Shane’s Guardian Pharmacy in Redwater.

Red Deer-North: Catholic School Board trustee Adriana LaGrange defeated former Wildrose Caucus staffer Cole Kander and Red Deer City Councillor Lawrence Lee to secure UCP nomination on October 27, 2018. LaGrange has been endorsed by Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan Conservative MP Garnett Genuis and former Red Deer-North PC MLA Mary Anne Jablonski. Kander had been endorsed by Conservative MP Dane Lloyd, and UCP MLAs Drew Barnes, Scott Cyr, Grant Hunter.

On October 3, 2018, LaGrange hosted an event for the right-wing Parents for Choice in Education group, an advocacy group that has been a vocal opponent of student-initiated Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in Alberta schools.

Dr. Paul Hardy has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in this district. Hardy is one of the founding members of the Society for Fair and Transparent Health Funding to Central Alberta,

Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright: Jenelle Saskiw is seeking the UCP nomination. Saskiw served as the mayor of the Village of Marwayne and currently works as a senior advisor to Alberta Counsel, an Edmonton-based lobbyist and legal firm founded by former Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw and lawyer Jon Wescott.

Note: The Alberta Party nominated a whole batch of candidates immediately before their recent annual general meeting. I am trying to get the list of those candidates straight, so I will try to include those candidates in my next nomination update.


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!

 

Alberta NDP Convention 2018

Notley NDP launch “Fighting for You” campaign for re-election, Tribute to Brian Mason, and Vegreville Ford breaks from the MDA-Kenney Pact

Alberta’s New Democratic Party has focused a lot of energy attacking Jason Kenney and honing in on United Conservative Party nomination candidate bozo-eruptions in hopes of building a narrative that casts the UCP as having a big problem with its social conservative elements. But while Kenney and the UCP were frequently mentioned at the NDP convention at the Westin Hotel in downtown Edmonton today, the governing party put a lot more focus on what might become the positive narrative of their campaign for re-election.

With “Fighting for You,” “Fighting for Jobs,” “Fighting for Healthcare,” “Fighting for Public Education,” and “Fighting for Public Services” projected on the large bright screen at the front of the convention hall, NDP officials and cabinet ministers took to the microphones to test talking points and remind delegates about the changes the party has implemented on childcare, climate change, education, health care, and workplace safety since the 2015 election.

The convention feels like it was designed avoid the kind of controversy that was generated at the recent UCP policy convention or the last time there was a big NDP gathering in Edmonton. And unlike previous conventions, there were no contentious debates about halting pipelines, disaffiliating from the federal NDP, or merging with other political parties. Delegates instead reaffirmed their support for Notley’s fight for oil pipelines and a range of progressive policies that included expanding broadband internet in rural Alberta, eliminating racism, expanding affordable childcare, and opposing education vouchers.

Premier Rachel Notley and Finance Minister Joe Ceci took part in a panel discussion moderated by Edmonton-Manning MLA Heather Sweet. The discussion was very friendly, allowing Notley and Ceci to highlight their familiar narrative that investment in public infrastructure and public services was a better choice for Albertans than cutting frontline public services when the price of oil dropped in 2014.

The second day of the NDP convention also featured guest speakers. Chief Billy Joe Laboucan spoke about the historic agreement signed with the Lubicon Lake Band this week. Former Calgary Board of Education chairperson Joy Bowen-Eyre spoke about the need to protect funding for public education. And University of Alberta professor Russell Cobb spoke about how austerity and tax cuts in once-oil rich Oklahoma has led that state down the road to massive public service cuts.

Overall, the second day of the convention was a very well-stage managed event.

But despite a lack of controversy on the convention floor today, the group of more than 1,200 delegates appeared upbeat, energized and ready to hit the doors to campaign in 2019.

“Rachel’s Team” coming to a billboard near you

We can expect a larger focus on Premier Rachel Notley going into Alberta’s next provincial general election. The NDP has already begun to quietly exchange its party logo in many of its public documents in favour of Rachel Notley’s name. It has been clear since 2015 that Notley is her party’s greatest asset, so it is not surprising that she will play the central role in her party’s 2019 re-election campaign.

When next spring arrives, I would not be surprised to see “Rachel’s Team” billboards popping up across the province.

Notley is scheduled to deliver her keynote speech to delegates on the second day of the convention at 11:15 a.m. on Sunday, October 28, 2018.

Ceci criticizes feds for “moving the goal posts” on Olympic funding

Joe Ceci scrums with reporters at the NDP convention.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci accused the federal government of “moving the goal posts in the fourth quarter,” following news that the federal Liberal cabinet had decided to fund up to $1.75 billion towards the potential Calgary 2026 Winter Olympics, but only if the Alberta government and City of Calgary match the total. The Alberta government said it will not budge from its $700 million commitment to Calgary’s Olympic Games.

The news from Ottawa gave Ceci an opportunity to criticize Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, something that is rarely a negative in Alberta politics. Expect NDP cabinet ministers to continue to distance themselves from their former federal allies in the coming months.

Tribute to former leader Brian Mason

NDP MLAs gather on stage during the tribute to former party leader Brian Mason.

The lunch break featured a tribute to Brian Mason, the retiring cabinet minister and MLA from Edmonton-Highlands-Nowood who led the NDP through the muddy trenches of Alberta politics from 2004 to 2014. Mason was introduced by Notley and joined on stage by former party leaders Raj Pannu and Ray Martin, and dozens of his fellow NDP MLAs.

Brian Mason (source: The Gateway, November 1974).

Brian Mason (source: The Gateway, November 1974).

“Work hard, give lots, take nothing for granted, and never, ever, ever give up,” Mason told convention delegates.

Mason has been a fixture in Edmonton and Alberta politics for decades, first as a prominent activist and student leader at the University of Alberta in the 1970s, then as an transit driver turned Edmonton City Councillor in the 1980s and 1990s before jumping into provincial politics in 2000.

Respected community advocate and educator Janis Irwin has been nominated as Mason’s NDP successor in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood.

Big difference from the last NDP convention I attended

Mason was party leader the last time I attended an NDP convention.

It was September 2009, in a dim-lit windowless ballroom in a downtown Edmonton hotel, the most contentious topic of debate was a proposal from a small group of New Democrat founders of the Democratic Renewal Project.

The DRP advocated the creation of an electoral arrangement or cooperation agreement between the NDP and the Liberal Party to prevent vote splitting by progressive voters. Both opposition parties had major loses in the previous year’s election, with the NDP dropping from four to two MLAs.

The ideas put forward by the DRP sounded sensible to me at the time but were soundly rejected by conference delegates.

Nine years later, the NDP are no longer debating vote splitting or electoral coalitions. They are holding their final convention before going to the polls to ask Albertans to grant them a second-term as government.


Vegreville Ford breaks from MDA support for Jason Kenney’s PAC

Vegreville Ford

Vegreville Ford

Brian Baron, the dealer principal of Vegreville Ford, posted a message on his car dealership’s Facebook page this week, distancing himself from the dozens of car dealerships across Alberta that have donated $170,000 to Shaping Alberta’s Future, a pro-Jason Kenney political action committee:

“Although we are a member of the MDA, we have chosen not to contribute to the “Shaping Alberta’s Future” 3rd party marketing campaign. Our position is that we do not feel that this action supports what we feel the MDA’s or our purpose should be. Vegford is nonpartisan and it neither endorses nor supports financially any politician or political party. Our job is to take great care of our customers and our staff. We care about Albertans and we vote, but in a world that is already too divided, we feel no need to engage in controversy.”

Jason Kenney touts NDP record of low-taxes, efficient power prices during trip to India

Jason Kenney touted Alberta’s low taxes, educated work-force and efficient power prices to the Indian media during a trip to meet with government ministers and business leaders on the subcontinent this week, according to a report from the CBC.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

Meanwhile, back in Alberta, political watchers are scratching their heads, wondering  why Kenney, actually only the leader of the Official Opposition United Conservative Party, would contradict some of his main criticisms of the New Democratic Party government while he is overseas?

In the clip referred to the in CBC article, Kenney sounded more like actual Premier Rachel Notley or Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous, than the anti-NDP Kenney that Albertans have got to know over the past year and half.

Kenney has spent the past two years rallying against NDP ‘ideological’ and ‘risky’ high-taxes that he argues have destroyed our province’s mythical “Alberta Advantage.” He has also warned that electricity prices could soon spike because of the NDP’s shift toward renewable energy and away from dirty coal-fired power plants.

The truth is that the Kenney we heard from India is correct. Alberta’s taxes are low, (I have argued they are lower than they should be), our electricity prices are stable, and our excellent public education system has produced a highly-educated workforce. And Alberta’s economy is growing, albeit at a slower rate than the over-heated boom-times we all became accustomed to, according to recent projections.

Prasad Panda Calgary Foothills Wildrose

Prasad Panda

Probably a little confused about what they were hearing from Kenney’s trip, the NDP raised questions about the ethics of the opposition leader’s trip abroad. I am a little skeptical about whether there are actually any ethical breaches, but there still remains unanswered questions about how the trip to the subcontinent actually began and who or what organization is paying for it.

Kenney says he was invited by the High Commission of India, which is probably true, but it seems unusual for a foreign government to extend an invitation like this to the leader of a provincial opposition party.

The trip was publicly announced mid-week last week and Kenney was on a plane by Friday with his United Conservative Party delegation of Calgary-Foothills MLA Prasad Panda and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen. It is not clear whether the UCP will publicly release the itinerary of Kenney’s visit, as would be released with any actual ministerial visit.

Despite his current role as a provincial opposition politician, Kenney very much remains a nationally-minded politician (with frequent trips to Ottawa in his schedule) and has strong connections to conservative politicians in other parts of the world. And he is no dummy. Putting aside the tongue and cheek opening sentence of this article, I doubt Kenney is misrepresenting himself to Indian Government officials by pretending to be a Minister of the Crown. But I think it is entirely possible that he is presenting himself in India as the next Premier of Alberta.

Deron Bilous MLA Edmonton Beverly Clareview NDP

Deron Bilous

The UCP does not have a trade policy, at least not one they have released for Albertans to see, so it is also not clear what kind of promises or commitments he is making to Indian government officials and business people.

Perhaps the UCP leader is so confident that his party will win a solid majority in next year’s election that he already feels comfortable embarking on international trips on Alberta’s behalf. Kenney has room to be confident, but not to be complacent.

According to two polls, his party’s lead ahead of the NDP has shrunk from 24 percent in April 2018 to 14 percent in July 2018. This is obviously still a very healthy lead, but it’s only a stone’s throw away from becoming a competitive election.

Perhaps the reason for this narrowing of the polls is that Notley’s has largely outmaneuvered him on the pipeline issue, leaving him largely sitting on the sidelines. Despite the alternate universes that some media pundits exist in, Notley has become one of Canada’s strongest advocates for the oil industry and pipeline expansion (to the chagrin of some environmentally-minded NDP activists). 

As I have written in the past, there is value in public officials making international trips to promote Alberta. But the value of overseas trips by government officials remain almost impossible to calculate, and a visit like this by a provincial opposition leader, even a former federal cabinet minister like Kenney, will likely have little impact on actual trade relations between India and Alberta.


As noted in some media coverage of Kenney’s overseas adventure, this is not the firs time an opposition leader from Alberta has made an international trip. NDP leader Brian Mason received approval from the Speaker of the Assembly to use public funds to visit Alaska in 2007 to study that State’s royalty structure.

Liberal leader Kevin Taft stayed closer to home when he travelled to Winnipeg in 2007 to promote his idea for turning western Canada into an oil refining super-hub. And in the 1993 election, it was reported that NDP leader Ray Martin brought reporters to a hospital in nearby Montana as a way of focusing attention on medicare.

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.

Episode 17: Partisanship and the future of Alberta politics

This week on the Daveberta Podcast, guest hosts Erika Barootes, Janis Irwin and Natasha Soles chat with our producer Adam Rozenhart about their experiences in provincial politics and where they see Alberta politics moving in the near future. They also answer some questions you submitted to us.

Erika Barootes is the the president of the United Conservative Party of Alberta, an athlete, and in her day job, a senior advisor of corporate communications at EPCOR.

Janis Irwin the Director of Stakeholder Relations in the Office of the Premier, and she’s also declared that she’ll be running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Edmonton’s Highlands-Norwood electoral district, which has been held by Brian Mason since the year 2000.

Natasha Soles is the former Director of Communications and Legislative affairs for the Alberta Party Caucus. She’s also a Senior Executive Associate at an outstanding Edmonton not-for-profit called Homeward Trust.

Listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, and wherever you find podcasts online. We’d love to hear what you think of this episode, so feel free to leave a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

Also, it would be a big help if you could leave a review where you download this podcast and share this episode with a friend.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. The network includes more than 30 podcasts.

And once again, we are deeply thankful to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, for his help in making this podcast a reality.

Thank you for listening!

More than 200 people packed into the Bellevue Community Hall tonight to support Janis Irwin’s bid for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood.

Janis Irwin running for NDP nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, Daniel Williams wins UCP contest in Peace River

Photo: More than 200 people packed into the Bellevue Community Hall tonight to support Janis Irwin’s bid for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood.

Janis Irwin launched her campaign for the New Democratic Party nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood this evening at the Bellevue Community Hall. Irwin is a community advocate and educator, and she was the federal NDP candidate in Edmonton-Griesbach in the 2015 election, where she placed a strong-second behind Conservative candidate Kerry Diotte.

Janis Irwin NDP Edmonton Highlands Norwood

Janis Irwin (source: Facebook)

Her campaign launched was attended by more than 200 supporters, including Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Rod Loyola, and public school trustees Bridget Stirling and Michael Janz.

Irwin currently works as a Director of Stakeholder Relations in the Office of the Premier.

The area has been represented by outgoing NDP MLA Brian Mason since 2000 and and is considered to be one of the strongest NDP-voting districts in Alberta. Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood makes up the Orange Core of the federal Edmonton-Griesbach district. (Note: I live in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, so I have a particularly keen interest in this nomination contest).

A nomination meeting has been scheduled for October 23, 2018 at the Alberta Avenue Community Hall.

Former Kenney staffer nominated in Peace River

Daniel Williams UCP Peace River

Daniel Williams

Daniel Williams defeated Mackenzie County deputy reeve Lisa Wardley to secure the UCP nomination in this sprawling northern Alberta district. Williams worked as a political staffer for Jason Kenney in Ottawa before returning to Alberta to seek the UCP nomination in Peace River.

Three candidates dropped out of what had been a 5-candidate race in June and July, and Wardley raised concerns that the locations and hours of nomination votes in this large rural district would make it difficult for UCP members not living in the main urban centres to participate in the vote.

Eleventh MLA announces retirement in 2019

NDP MLA Jamie Kleinsteuber announced on social media that he will not seeking re-election in 2019. Kleinsteuber was first elected in 2015 in Calgary-Northern Hills and in 2019 the district is being redistribtued between the Calgary-Beddington, Calgary-North and Calgary-North East districts.

Earlier this evening, an Annual General Meeting was held to create the new NDP constituency associations for the new…

Posted by Jamie Kleinsteuber, MLA for Calgary-Northern Hills on Monday, July 23, 2018

Kleinsteuber becomes the eleventh MLA to announce plans not to seek re-election in 2019. The list of retiring MLAs now include five UCP MLAs, four NDP MLAs, one Liberal MLA and one Independent MLA.

Bozo-Eruptions continue to haunt UCP

The UCP has been striken with a series of embarrassing bozo-eruptions over the past few weeks. Most recently are Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin nomination candidate Sandra Kim‘s Facebook comments about same-sex marriage and Calgary-Glenmore nomination candidate Maureen Zelmer’s Facebook comments about Muslims. Kim is endorsed by UCP MLAs Leela Aheer and Rick Strankman.

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-Mountain ViewLiberal Party leader David Khan has been nominated as his party’s candidate in this north central Calgary district. This area has been represented by Liberal MLA David Swann since 2004. Swann is not seeking re-election.

Calgary-North East – Mandeep Shergill is seeking the UCP nomination. Shergill works as a Constituency Assistant to Calgary-Greenway MLA Prab Gill, who was seeking the UCP nomination in this district before he resigned from the UCP caucus following allegations of ballot-stuffing at the local UCP association’s annual general meeting.

Calgary-Peigan – Three candidates are seeking the UCP nomination in a vote scheduled for August 2, 2018: Former Ontario MP Jeff Watson (who moved to Alberta in November 2016 and works as an assistant to Calgary-Hays UCP MLA Ric McIver), Tanya Fir (who is supported by Craig Chandler), and Jeevan Mangat (who ran for the Wildrose Party in Calgary-Fort in the 2012 and 2015 elections).

Edmonton-Castle DownsEd Ammar defeated Arthur Hagen and Gennadi Boitchenko to win the UCP nomination. Ammar is a real estate agent and served as the first chairman of the UCP interim board following the formation of the party in 2017. Ammar was the Liberal Party candidate in Edmonton-Decore in the 2012 election and president of the Wildrose Party association in Edmonton-Castle Downs in 2016.

Edmonton-City CentreLily Le is the third candidate seeking the UCP nomination in this downtown Edmonton district.

Edmonton-Mill Woods – Abdi Bakal is seeking the Liberal Party nomination in this southeast Edmonton district. This area was represented by Liberal MLAs Don Massey from 1993 to 2004 and Weslyn Mather from 2004 to 2008. Tariq Chaudhry is seeking the UCP nomination. Chaudhry is the owner of the Maharaja Banquet Hall.

Edmonton-South – Pramod Kumar defeated Enayat Aminzadah to win the Alberta Party nomination. William Farrell becomes the fifth candidate to join the UCP nomination contest.

Edmonton-South West – Former PC MLA Sohail Quadri is seeking the UCP nomination. Quadri previously represented Edmonton-Mill Woods from 2012 to 2015. From 2014 to 2015, he served as Legislative Secretary to Premier Jim Prentice. He was unseated in 2015 by NDP candidate Christina Gray.

Grande PrairieTracy Allard was acclaimed as the UCP canddiate. School trustee John Lehners withdrew from the contest after serious car accident. According to the Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune, Lehners’s brush with death made politics seem less important. “When I was hanging upside down I wasn’t thinking about running for MLA. I’m thinking about my dog, I’m thinking about my family, I’m thinking about my friends and what I’m going to do next and ‘Thank God I’m alive,’” Lehners told the Daily Herald Tribune.

Lacombe-Ponoka -Lacombe City Councillor Thalia Hibbs is seeking the UCP nomination in this central Alberta district. The district is currently represented by UCP MLA Ron Orr, who was elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2015.

Lesser Slave Lake– Darryl Boisson is seeking the UCP nomination in this sprawling northern Alberta district. This will be Boisson’s third attempt at provincial office in this district. He was the Wildrose Party candidate in Lesser Slave Lake in the 2012 and 2015 elections.

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!

Michelle Rempel, Jason Kenney, Joe Ceci, Rachel Notley, Oneil Carlier and Andrew Scheer (sources: Facebook, Twitter, and Alberta Beef)

Episode 15: Politicians pretending to be Cowboys. It’s Stampede Week in Calgary!

It is Calgary Stampede season, which means politicians from across Canada are flocking to Alberta’s largest city to show off their recently purchased plaid shirts and cowboy hats.

In this episode of the Daveberta Podcast, Dave Cournoyer and Ryan Hastman discuss politicians pretending to be cowboys, the latest federal and provincial nomination news, including the retirement of long-time New Democratic Party MLA Brian Mason, the July 12 by-elections in Fort McMurray-Conklin and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, and the 18-year old groping allegations levelled against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

We also share some personal stories from the campaign trail in our regular ‘So you want to be a candidate’ segment.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. The network includes more than 30 podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, or wherever you find podcasts online. We’d love to hear what you think of this episode, so feel free to leave a comment on the blogFacebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

We are always thankful to our hard working producer, Adam Rozenhart, who helps make each episode of the Daveberta Podcast sound so great.

Thank you for listening!

Recommended reading/watching

Photo: Michelle Rempel, Jason Kenney, Joe Ceci, Rachel Notley, Oneil Carlier and Andrew Scheer (sources: Facebook, Twitter, and Alberta Beef)

NDP MLA Brian Mason announces his retirement from Alberta politics on July 4, 2018. (photo credit: David Climenhaga)

NDP MLA Brian Mason retires after 30 years in politics. A spirited nomination contest expected in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood.

Photo: NDP MLA Brian Mason announces his retirement from Alberta politics on July 4, 2018. (photo credit: David Climenhaga)

After 30 years in elected office, Brian Mason will call it quits when the next provincial election is called. The New Democratic Party MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood announced at a press conference this morning that he will not seek re-election in 2019.

Brian Mason as a city transit driver in the 1980s. (source: Facebook)

Brian Mason as a city transit driver in the 1980s. (source: Facebook)

He started his political career as a student activist, including a term as Vice-President External of the University of Alberta Students’ Union and as director of the Alberta Federation of Students. Mason jumped into municipal politics in 1983, running for city council as past of the left-leaning Edmonton Voters Association slate. His first run was unsuccessful but he ran again six years later.

Then employed by the City of Edmonton as a bus driver, Mason challenged a law prohibiting city employees from running for council and was elected to city council in 1989. He was re-elected in north east Edmonton in 1992, 1995, and 1998. He jumped into provincial politics in 2000, running in a by-election in Edmonton-Highlands to succeed former NDP leader Pam Barrett, who had represented the district from 1986 to 1993 and 1997 until her retirement from politics in 2000.

Mason cruised to victory in the by-election against former Leduc Liberal MLA Terry Kirkland and was re-elected by significant margins in the five elections since. He became leader of the Alberta NDP ahead of the 2004 election, succeeding Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Raj Pannu.

Brian Mason at the opening ceremony marking the completion of the north-east leg of the Anthony Henday ring road in Edmonton. (photograph by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Brian Mason at the opening ceremony marking the completion of the north-east leg of the Anthony Henday ring road in Edmonton. (photograph by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

As leader of the sometimes 2 or 4 MLA caucus, Mason led a feisty opposition that frequently ran circles around the actual Official Opposition Liberals (to the frustration of Liberal Party staffers like me).

He stepped down as leader in 2014, perhaps sensing a change in the times. And the timing of the NDP leadership race that chose Rachel Notley was perfect. While no one could have predicted on that day that Notley would lead the NDP to form government in 2015, Mason handed over a party that was in much better shape than it was on the day he started the job in 2004.

He was re-elected in 2015 in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood with the widest margin of his political career, earning a landslide 78 percent of the vote.

Despite rumours that Notley might pick him for Minister of Finance or back a bid for him to become Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, she appointed Mason as Minister of Transportation, Minister of Infrastructure and Government House Leader when the NDP were sworn-in to office in 2015.

The Dean of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly, Mason will end his political career as the longest-serving current MLA in our province.


NDP nomination battle in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood

Janis Irwin NDP Edmonton Highlands Norwood

Janis Irwin (source: Facebook)

With Mason stepping aside, we could now see a spirited nomination contest in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, a largely blue-collar district that is considered strong territory for the NDP.

Two names frequently mentioned as potential successors to Mason include 2015 federal NDP candidate Janis Irwin and former Public Interest Alberta executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon.

(I live in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, so I have a particularly keen interest in this nomination contest).


A history of Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood

The Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood district was created in 2004 and included areas from the former Edmonton-Highlands and Edmonton-Norwood districts.

Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood 2019 Map

Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood (click to enlarge)

Edmonton-Highlands had been represented by the NDP from 1986 until 1993, when Liberal Alice Hanson was elected, and again by the NDP from 1997 until 2004.

Edmonton-Norwood was represented by NDP leader Ray Martin from 1982 until 1993, when he was unseated by Liberal Andrew Beniuk. Beniuk later crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives and was defeated in 1997 by Liberal Sue Olsen. Olsen did not seek re-election in 2001 and the seat was won by PC candidate Gary Masyk, who would later cross the floor to the Alberta Alliance. Masyk chose not to challenge Mason in the new district in 2004 and was defeated in his bid for re-election in the neighbouring Edmonton-Decore district.

Leela Aheer, Shawna Gawreluck, Janet Eremenko, and Elisabeth Hughes

Aheer acclaimed but not in the clear. UCP investigating alleged ballot-stuffing in North East Calgary.

Photo: Nomination candidates Leela Aheer, Shawna Gawreluck, Janet Eremenko, and Elisabeth Hughes.

Despite the drama of restraining orders and alleged death threats, MLA Leela Aheer was acclaimed as the United Conservative Party candidate in the new Chesteremere-Strathmore district after she was the only candidate to officially submit her nomination papers with the party.

But Aheer is not in the clear. Current Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt, who now sits as an Independent Conservative and was barred from challenging Aheer in the nomination, is expected to challenge Aheer in the general election.

The drama continues in north east Calgary as the UCP says it is now investigating allegations of ballot-stuffing at the founding meeting of the Calgary-North East constituency association. The allegations were made public through a video posted by a UCP member on YouTube following the meeting. Current MLA Prab Gill, who was elected as a Progressive Conservative in the 2016 Calgary-Greenway by-election, is challenging Anand Chetty and Tariq Khan for the UCP nomination in this district.

Nate Pike has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-North East.

Mason to “discuss his political future”

Brian Mason

Brian Mason

NDP MLA Brian Mason held a press conference this morning to announce he will not seek re-election in 2019. Next year will mark thirty-years in elected office for Mason, who currently serves as MLA for Edmonton-Highlands Norwood and the Minister of Transportation.

He was elected to Edmonton City Council in 1989 and as the MLA for Edmonton-Highlands in a 2000 by-election. He is the longest serving MLA currently in the Alberta Legislature.

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

Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul – Former St. Paul mayor Glenn Anderson has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.

Calgary-Edgemont – Joanne Gui has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.

Calgary-ElbowJanet Eremenko is seeking the New Democratic Party nomination. Eremenko was a candidate for Calgary City Council in Ward 11 in the October 2017 election where she finished third with 20 percent of the vote. Past Ward 8 city council candidate Chris Davis is seeking the UCP nomination in this district.

Drayton Valley-Devon – Kieran Quirke has been nominated as the NDP candidate. He is the Chair of the Leduc-Nisku Economic Development Board and co-chair of the Alberta NDP Rural Caucus.

Chris Nielsen MLA

Chris Nielsen

Edmonton-Decore – MLA Chris Nielsen is seeking the NDP nomination in this north Edmonton district. Nelson was first elected as MLA in 2015, earning 67 percent of the vote.

Edmonton-North West – Todd Ross is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Ross was the Liberal Party candidate in Edmonton-Castle Downs in 2015, earning 4.9 percent of the vote.

Edmonton-Whitemud  Elisabeth Hughes is seeking the UCP nomination. Hughes works as a constituency assistant in the office of Edmonton-Riverbend Member of Parliament Matt Jeneroux.

Leduc-Beaumont – MLA Shaye Anderson will seek the NDP nomination, which has been scheduled for July 18, 2018. Anderson was first elected in 2015 with 38 percent of the vote. Corinne Hubert is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Lesser Slave Lake – Judy Kim-Meneen is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin – LGBTQ activist Chevi Rabbitt is seeking the Alberta Party nomination in this newly redrawn central Alberta district.

Morinville-St. AlbertShawna Gawreluck is seeking the NDP nomination in this new district north of Edmonton. Gawreluck is a lab technologist and a resident of Sturgeon County. She was the federal NDP candidate in the 2017 by-election in the Sturgeon River-Parkland district.


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!

Ed Stelmach, Danielle Smith, Kevin Taft, and Alison Redford.

Total Votes in Alberta political party leadership races from 1998 to 2018

Photo: Ed Stelmach (elected leader of the PC Party in 2006), Danielle Smith (elected leader of the Wildrose Alliance in 2009), Kevin Taft (elected leader of the Liberal Party in 2004), and Alison Redford (elected leader of the PC Party leader in 2011).

Following the announcement this week of the results of the Alberta Party leadership race, I thought it would be interesting to look at the voter participation in party leadership races in Alberta over the past twenty years.

The largest participation in a party leadership race in the past two decades, and in Alberta’s history, took place during the Progressive Conservative leadership race in 2006. More than 144,000 members voted in the race and it is believed that more than 200,000 memberships were sold. The party had a very open membership sales policy, which allowed any Albertan to purchase a membership at their local voting station on the day of the vote. This vote chose Ed Stelmach to replace Ralph Klein as PC Party leader and Premier of Alberta.

The 2011 Liberal Party leadership vote, which selected Raj Sherman as party leader, used an open membership system. This allowed any Albertan to participate in the vote without having to actually purchase a party membership.

The 2014 New Democratic Party leadership vote that selected Rachel Notley to replace Brian Mason used a hybrid one-member one-vote system which allocated 25 percent of the total vote to affiliate organizations. The lack of clarity around how many organizations took part in the vote and who they may have supported makes it unclear how many individual votes were actually cast in that leadership election.

The 2017 United Conservative Party leadership vote was conducted by delegates who were elected by party members in each district. The party membership consisted of new UCP members, as well as individuals who had been members of the Wildrose Party and Progressive Conservative Party until that point.

Acclamations occurred in the 2000 and 2004 NDP leadership contests, the 2001 Liberal Party leadership contest, and the 2003 Alberta Alliance leadership contest.

 

Sandra Jansen (left) and Premier Rachel Notley (right) at the press conference announcing the PC MLA had crossed the floor to join the NDP.

Former Tory Sandra Jansen appointed to Notley NDP cabinet

Photo: Sandra Jansen (left) and Premier Rachel Notley (right) at the press conference announcing the PC MLA had crossed the floor to join the NDP in November 2016. (Photo from Premier Rachel Notley’s Facebook Page)

It was widely expected to happen in 2017, and today NDP MLA Sandra Jansen was sworn-in to the provincial cabinet as Minister of Infrastructure. She takes over the portfolio from veteran MLA Brian Mason, who had served as both Minister of Infrastructure and Minister of Transportation since the NDP formed government in 2015.

First elected as a Progressive Conservative in 2008, Jansen was one of ten PCs to survive the NDP orange wave of 2015. After being driven out of the PC leadership race by social conservative supporters of Jason Kenney, she crossed the floor to the NDP.

Bringing Jansen into cabinet bolsters the number of NDP cabinet ministers in Calgary, which is expected to be a critical electoral battleground in the next election. Infrastructure issues, like the construction of a new cancer centre, were key issues for voters in the last election.

The NDP swept Calgary in the last election, but they will face a very steep uphill battle to re-elected many of those MLAs in the next election.

Jansen’s appointment to the provincial cabinet means the majority of Alberta’s cabinet ministers – eleven out of twenty-one – are women.

Other recent changes to the provincial leadership include the appointment of Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville MLA Jessica Littlewood as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade for Small Business and Sherwood Park MLA Annie McKitrick as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Education.

Under the old PC government, appointments of Parliamentary Secretaries, or Parliamentary Assistants, were used in some cases to provide training for backbench MLA’s identified as being future cabinet minister material. In other cases, when the PCs were burdened with large caucuses, some MLAs were given with Parliamentary Secretary appointments as a way of generating busy-work for backbenchers who might otherwise cause trouble for the government leadership.

Littlewood and McKitrick are the first two Parliamentary Secretaries appointed since the NDP formed government in 2015, so it is unclear what their actual role in the government will be.

Other notable appointments include:

  • Calgary-Currie MLA Brian Malkinson was recently appointed to the provincial Treasury Board.
  • Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Estefania Cortes-Vargas was recently sworn in as a member of the Legislative Review Committee.
Wildrose leader Brian Jean and MLA Don MacIntyre speak at the weekend anti-carbon tax rally.

That Totally Weird Anti-Carbon Tax Rally

While I am in the mood to dispense political advice, my next tip goes out to Wildrose leader Brian Jean, who was a featured speaker at Ezra Levant’s totally weird anti-carbon tax rally.

Mr. Jean and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Don MacIntyre shared the podium at the event organized to protest Alberta’s carbon tax (yes, the carbon tax that led to the approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline).

Conservative MP Kerry Diotte and Bernard Hancock.

Conservative MP Kerry Diotte and Bernard Hancock.

The rally featured Neal Bernard “The Roughneck” Hancock removing his shoes and throwing them at the doors of the Legislature, former federal cabinet minister Chris Alexander appearing to nod as protesters chanted “lock her up in reference to Premier Rachel Notley, and climate change denying, anti-gay and anti-immigration messages on signs and pamphlets.

Also present was Edmonton-Griesbach Conservative MP Kerry Diotte, who later posted a message on Facebook attacking the media for alleged biased coverage of the rally.

While the crowd certainly included Albertans who are frustrated and angry at the economy and the government, the bizarre program and assortment of weird fringe groups distracted from any anti-carbon tax message they hoped to send.

Mr. Jean denounced the “lock her up” chanters at the rally two days later after calls by NDP House Leader Brian Mason for the Wildrose leader to reject “Trump-style hate politics.” The chant was also denounced by Conservative Party interim leader Rona Ambrose.

We don’t lock people up in Canada for bad policy, we vote them out,” Ms. Ambrose said. “I don’t know what to say — it’s people acting like idiots.”

Unless the Wildrose Party’s election strategy is to remind Albertans about the Lake of Fire, Mr. Jean and his Wildrose MLAs should probably avoid any public association with this crowd in the future.