Tag Archives: Brian Topp

Brian Topp NDP leadership candidate

Off the Topp: Notley shuffles her senior staff

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

John Heaney

John Heaney

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

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

The McDougall Centre in Calgary

The McDougall Centre in Calgary

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

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

Anne McGrath NDP

Anne McGrath

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

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

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

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

Construction of the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline is expected to start in 2017.

Will the Alberta NDP lend their support to the anti-pipeline BC NDP in the next election?

Pipeline politics creates strange bedfellows in Alberta and BC

Fresh from winning the approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is off to British Columbia to pitch the benefits of the pipeline.

Premier Rachel Notley Calgary Stampede Alberta

Rachel Notley

On pipelines and climate change, Alberta’s New Democratic Party appears to be more in sync with the federal Liberals than with their NDP cousins in Ottawa and Victoria.

The federal party’s flirtation with the controversial LEAP Manifesto at last year’s federal convention in Edmonton created serious strains between the two wings of the party. BC NDP leader John Horgan’s opposition to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline has further divided the party and created strange political bedfellows.

Ms. Notley was in Ottawa last week as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline. At the press conference, Mr. Trudeau heaped praise on Alberta’s flagship climate change policy, which includes a price on carbon.

BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark

Christy Clark

Premier Christy Clark, leader of the conservative BC Liberals, is now touting Ms. Notley’s pipeline boosterism.

I would certainly say that Rachel Notley is very different from the leader of the NDP in B.C.,” Ms. Clark told the Vancouver Sun. “They are deeply split on the issue of Kinder Morgan and whether or not it should go ahead.”

The NDP-schism over pipelines could further complicate the inner-politics of the party.

Senior political staffers at the Alberta Legislature, including Brian Topp, the premier’s Chief of Staff, John Heaney, Deputy Minister of the Policy Coordination Office, and ministerial chiefs of staff Jim Rutkowski and Steve Stringfellow have strong ties to the BC NDP. Mr. Topp was the BC NDP campaign manager in 2013 and Mr. Heaney served as Mr. Horgan’s Chief of Staff until he joined Ms. Notley’s office in 2015.

Brian Topp Alberta Premier Chief of Staff

Brian Topp

It is well-known that the NDP operates a national network of political organizers who travel the country to work on election campaigns. This was an asset during Alberta’s 2015 election when experienced NDP campaigners from across Canada descended on our province. Some of those organizers now occupy political jobs in the Alberta government, which is now the only NDP government in Canada.

A few Alberta NDP staffers, including at least one current cabinet minister, traveled to BC to work for the NDP in the last election campaign.

John Horgan

John Horgan

But now that Mr. Horgan opposes the pipeline that Ms. Notley has staked her political future on, will the Alberta NDP lend their political staff to the BC NDP during next year’s election?

They shouldn’t.

The attack ads write themselves.

The NDP promises pipelines in Alberta but campaigns against them in BC. Whose side are they on?” an ad from Jason Kenney‘s Wildrose-PC Party might ask.

There are many New Democrats and progressive Albertans who would like to see Mr. Horgan’s NDP win the next election for reasons that go beyond pipelines (when I met Mr. Horgan in Victoria last year I found him to be quite engaging and likeable). But it would be foolish for the Alberta NDP government to allow its political staffers to campaign to elect a BC NDP government that will oppose Ms. Notley’s pipeline agenda and undermine all the work she is doing in BC this week.

Obviously Ms. Notley cannot stop individuals from campaigning on their own time, but if political staffers from Alberta are going to work against the pipelines in BC, they should not expect to have political jobs waiting for them back in Edmonton.

The main campus of Athabasca University, located 152 kilometres north of Edmonton.

Will the NDP save or shutter Athabasca University?

Residents of one northern Alberta community want to know what Alberta’s new New Democratic Party government has planned for their local university.

Peter McKinnon

Peter MacKinnon

Athabasca University, the province’s largest distance-learning institution employs more than 400 people in Athabasca, making it the largest employer in the town of 3,000.

There is significant fear in the town about the consequences of the university closing or relocating to a larger urban centre, like Edmonton.

In recent years, Athabasca University has been the source of much controversy, ranging from illegal political donations made to the Progressive Conservative Party to claims of financial insolvency.

In 2012, staff called for then-university president Frits Pannekoek to retire, citing questions around illegal donations to the PC Party and the institution’s finances, including the depletion of its reserve fund.

In 2013, four of the institution’s vice-presidents and associate vice-presidents had their positions apparently terminated without explanation to the public shortly after the Public Accounts Committee called the university out for its fiscal mismanagement. And after denying there were financial problems in 2012, the institution cut around 100 positions in 2013, citing financial difficulties.

Colin Piquette NDP

Colin Piquette

During those cuts, sources in government reported that discussions were taking place to merge parts of Athabasca with the University of Alberta, talks that then-PC cabinet minister Thomas Lukaszuk said he was not aware of.

PC MLA Jeff Johnson was unseated by NDP candidate Colin Piquette in this year’s provincial election, with the future of the university being a key issue for voters in the area. The election of an NDP MLA has led locals to believe Mr. Piquette will take action to ensure the university stays open and remains in Athabasca.

In June 2015, Athabasca University interim president Peter MacKinnon released a task force report on the university’s sustainability, which indicated the institution was facing insolvency in the 2015/2016 financial year. The report blamed over-reliance on tuition fees, the state of its information technology infrastructure, as well as staff compensation and the university’s location, for the university’s financial difficulties.

Lori Sigurdson NDP

Lori Sigurdson

While the task force report focused on alarming terms like ”insolvency,” the university had small surpluses in its 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 budgets.

Some observers in the community have suggested that Mr. MacKinnon is playing chicken with the government in an attempt to force new Advanced Education Minister Lori Sigurdson to commit to keeping the university in Athabasca.

Current Wildrose MLA Jason Nixon was a student representative on Mr. MacKinnon’s task force.

In response to the report, the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3911, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees Local 69 and the Athabasca University Faculty Association have launched a petition demanding the government ensure Athabasca University and its jobs remain in Athabasca.

Jeff Johnson Alberta Education Minister MLA

Jeff Johnson

Politically speaking, it may have been an easier decision for the new government to make if an NDP MLA was not currently representing the area. If the constituency had remained PC territory, the NDP would not have to worry about Mr. Piquette’s re-election chances in 2019.

Now the NDP government is stuck in an odd position. Even if the new government wanted to relocate the institution, it would not be difficult to reallocate extra funds in the provincial budget to cover the deficits.

If the NDP’s first budget is focused on job creation and stimulus, then protecting 400 jobs in Athabasca should be on the list of priorities.

The new government also faces the question about what to do with the university’s board of governors after years of controversy. Like several universities and colleges across Alberta, the board is headed by someone with strong political connections to the old governing party.

Jason Nixon Wildrose Rocky Mountain House Rimbey Sundre

Jason Nixon

Acting chair Marg Mrazek is a former president of the PC Party. While the Post-Secondary Learning Act gives the government the ability to replace the board, with Ms. Mrazek’s term is set to expire on July 24, 2016 the NDP may wait until that date before replacing the Tory appointee.

In many ways, Athabasca University is a microcosm for the challenges of regime change after forty-four years of Progressive Conservative government in Alberta.

But Athabasca University may be able to use its NDP connections to apply pressure to the new government. Mr. MacKinnon is the husband of former Saskatchewan NDP MLA and Finance Minister Janice MacKinnon, who served in Roy Romanow‘s cabinet in the 1990s. Premier Rachel Notley‘s Chief of Staff, Brian Topp, was Mr. Romanow’s deputy chief of staff during that period.

While the new government has been able to remain coy about the future of the institution in its first four months in office, residents of Athabasca will demand to know what the NDP has planned for their university. They may find out this week when Ms. Sigurdson is scheduled to meet with Ms. Mrazek and Mr. MacKinnon.

Alberta’s new political insiders mostly come from outside Alberta

Edmonton Journal report Karen Kleiss published a story this week naming the new Chiefs of Staff hired to advise Alberta’s twelve NDP cabinet ministers and manage their offices at the Legislature. The new government has faced criticism for hiring too many staff from outside of the province and Premier Rachel Notley‘s NDP have responded that the new government needs to hire the best people for the job no matter where they come from (even Alberta’s premiere Tory lobbyist companies are hiring British Columbia New Democrats to advise them about Alberta’s new political landscape).

The criticism is valid. A balance of experience and local knowledge is required within the senior ranks of the new government, and as a Alberta’s first new government in 44 years, there might not be many operatives in-province with non-Progressive Conservative governing experience to rely on.

As previous premier’s Alison Redford and Jim Prentice discovered, filling senior political jobs with outsiders who may not be familiar with the provincial political environment can alienate party loyalists and MLAs and lead to embarrassing mistakes.

List of Alberta’s Ministerial Chiefs of Staff

Lisa Blanchette, Education, Culture and Tourism: Former organizer for ACTRA Toronto, previous employee of SEIU, and national political action coordinator for the United Steelworkers.

Jessica Bowering, Justice and Solicitor General and Aboriginal Relations: Lawyer and former director of Legal Services for the British Columbia Nurses Union.

Tony Clark, Human Services: Former research for the Alberta Federation of Labour and staffer for the NDP Opposition Caucus.

Brent Dancey, Environment and Parks and the Status of Women: Former Special Assistant to Premier Greg Selinger‘s Office for Manitoba Hydro.

Scott Harris, Agriculture and Forestry: Former Political Research Coordinator in Office of the Leader of the NDP Official Opposition in Ottawa.

Graham Mitchell, Energy: Former Director of Training and Leadership at the Broadbent Institute and former Executive Assistant to Toronto City Councillors Jack Layton.

Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Health and Seniors: Former Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta, President of the Riverdale Community League.

Nathan Rotman, Finance and Treasury Board: Former National Director of the NDP, former campaign manager for Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow, former national director of  Political Action and Campaigns at the Canadian Labour Congress.

Nathaniel Smith, Municipal Affairs and Service Alberta: Former organizer for the NDP in Halifax, former executive assistant to NDP cabinet ministers in Nova Scotia.

Steve Stringfellow, Innovation and Advanced Education and Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour: Former CUPE National Representative in Alberta and BC NDP campaign manager.

Robin Steudel, Infrastructure and Transportation: Former Principal Secretary to the Alberta NDP Caucus, former Communications Officer at the NDP Official Opposition in British Columbia, former spokesperson for the Yukon NDP, and federal NDP communications officer.

Brian Topp, International and Intergovernmental Relations (Premier): NDP campaign manager, former federal NDP leadership candidate, deputy chief of staff to former Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow.

Journos flee the fourth estate for NDP jobs

Intrepid CBC reporter John Archer announced this week that he has accepted a job in the Premier’s Media Relations Office. Mr. Archer is one of a handful of journalists who have recently accepted jobs with the new NDP government, including Veronica Jubinville and Laura Tupper from CTV, and Jeremy Nolais and Leah Holoiday from Metro.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matt Hannah, British Columbia NDP organizer

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Roy, Digital Director for the federal NDP

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

Brian Stokes, Executive Director of the Alberta NDP

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

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

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

NDP leader Rachel Notley speaks to a crowd of more than 2,000 Albertans at a May 4 election rally in Edmonton.

List: What’s happened since Alberta’s historic election and what lies ahead

It has been an incredible 15 days since Alberta’s historic 2015 election. Here is a quick look back at what has happened in the past two weeks and what will happen in the months ahead.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

May 5: Rachel Notley‘s New Democratic Party won Alberta’s provincial election and formed a majority government with 53 MLAs. The Wildrose Party formed Official Opposition with 21 MLAs and the Progressive Conservative Party, which had formed government since 1971, was reduced to 10 MLAs. Alberta Party leader Greg Clark was elected in Calgary-Elbow and Liberal David Swann is re-elected in Calgary-Mountain View. One race, in Calgary-Glenmore, was tied. Premier Jim Prentice announced his resignation as PC Party leader and as MLA for Calgary-Foothills.

May 6: In her first press conference since the election, Premier-designate Notley reassures business and energy industry leaders of her intentions to work collaboratively with them as Premier of Alberta.

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

Greg Clark

May 7: Ms. Notley meets with Lieutenant Governor Donald Ethell and asks for permission to form a government. The process of transitioning a new party into government in Alberta begins for the first time since 1971.

May 8: Mr. Clark announced he would submit a series of requests under Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to ensure sensitive documents are not destroyed before the transition to a new government. Mr. Jean also calls on the outgoing government to stop all shredding of documents during the transition. The University of Alberta Board of Governors voted to keep Doug Goss as chairman in spite of his participation in a disasterous press conference in the last week of the election where he and three other CEOs urged Edmontonians to vote PC and described the NDP as amateurs.

Ric McIver

Ric McIver

May 9: The NDP Government caucus meets for the first time at Government House in Edmonton. “Albertans voted for change and they asked our team of new MLAs to do important work, the work of restoring honesty and integrity and trust to government,” Ms. Notley told reporters at a morning press conference.

May 11: Wildrose leader Brian Jean announced six senior Official Opposition critic roles and caucus officers. Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver is appointed interim leader of the PC opposition caucus.

May 12: Ms. Notley met with outgoing Premier Prentice and asked that the outgoing Government of Alberta extend the school budget deadline to the end of June. She also announced she had hired Brian Topp as her Chief of Staff and Adrienne King as Deputy Chief of Staff. Richard Dicerni remains Deputy Minister for Executive Council.

Brian Topp Alberta Premier Chief of Staff

Brian Topp

May 13: The Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Public Interest Commissioner opened a joint investigation into the alleged improper destruction of records by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. Ms. Notley ordered all government departments to halt document destruction.

May 14: At the PC Party Calgary leader’s dinner, Mr. Prentice made his first public statement since the party’s electoral defeat and his surprise resignation on election night.

May 15: A recount of a tied election in Calgary-Glenmore resulted in a 6-vote win for NDP candidate Anam Kazim over PC candidate Linda Johnson. Ms. Johnson has until May 25 to request a judicial recount. The PC Party laid off 11 of its staff and announces plans to close its offices in Calgary and Edmonton.

Sarah Hoffman NDP MLA Edmonton-Glenora

Sarah Hoffman

May 16: Speaking to a meeting of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, Edmonton-Glenora NDP MLA-elect Sarah Hoffman reached out to educators by telling them that the new government will be a better partner.

May 20: Ms. Notley held a press conference where she announces the dates of the cabinet swearing-in ceremony, the size of the new cabinet and timelines for a new provincial budget. Prime Minister Stephen Harper announces that Calgary businessperson Lois Mitchell will replace Mr. Ethell as Lieutenant Governor of Alberta.

May 24: Ms. Notley and 11 NDP cabinet ministers will be sworn-in to office at 2:00 p.m. on the north steps of the Alberta Legislature Building.

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

May 27 and 28: The new NDP cabinet will hold its first meetings in Calgary.

May 30: The Alberta Liberal Party annual general meeting will be held at the Chateau Nova Hotel in Edmonton.

June 1: Candidates elected on May 5 will officially be sworn-in as MLAs.

June 11: MLAs will meet to elect a new Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. Current Speaker Gene Zwozdesky continues this role until a new Speaker is chosen.

June 15: A Speech from the Throne will be delivered. The NDP Government will ask the Legislature to approve an Interim Supply Bill to finance the operations of government until the fall.

July 15-17: Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis will host Canada’s Premiers and their delegations for the 2015 Council of the Federation. The meeting will take place in St. John’s.

Fall 2015: A new provincial budget will be tabled in the Legislative Assembly.

October 19: The scheduled date of Canada’s 42nd federal election.

November 5: The latest date according to the PC Party constitution at which a new leader must be selected.

November 13: The Wildrose Party will hold its annual general meeting at the Sheraton Cavalier Calgary Hotel in Calgary.

November 15: The six month deadline for a by-election to be held in Calgary-Foothills (assuming that Mr. Prentice’s resignation as MLA was accepted when the official count was released on May 15, 2015).

Alberta’s Tories Navigate through unfamiliar waters

As most Albertans head to work tomorrow morning, the Tory-connected public relations firm Navigator will host an invite-only session for clients in downtown Edmonton titled “Alberta’s New Government: What to Expect.” The session is being hosted by former Ottawa television host Don Newman and will feature main speaker Kathleen Monk (Ottawa NDP insider and former executive director of the Broadbent Institute) and Tory-connected panelists Jason Hatcher (managing principal at Navigator) and Jaime Watt (Toronto-based Navigator executive chairman). In a normal election year, it would not be surprising that this company would organize a session like this for their clients, but this has not been a normal election year.

Ric McIver

Ric McIver

One of Navigator’s managing principals, Randy Dawson, was the campaign manager for the Progressive Conservative Party‘s disastrous losing re-election campaign (despite the company’s slogan “When you can’t afford to lose”). After the firm became part of a controversy that damaged the Tories during the election campaign and one of its high profile employees led the campaign that ended the PC Party’s uninterrupted 44-year reign, it is surprising that Navigator is raising its flag in Alberta so soon after election day.

On Thursday night, interim PC Party leader Ric McIver will take the stage in what is sure to be a sombre event. Before Rachel Notley‘s NDP were swept to office on May 5, Premier Jim Prentice had been scheduled to speak at his party’s Calgary leader’s dinner on May 14. At the time tickets were so sought after that they sold out. Everyone in corporate Calgary wanted to be there to congratulate Mr. Prentice on his big win but voters had different plans. And while the fundraising dinner remains sold out, it is expected that a smaller and less powerful crowd will be in attendance.

Jonathan Denis MLA Calgary Acadia

Jonathan Denis

It has been astonishing to watch the breakneck speed in which some longtime PC supporters have abandoned any belief their party can someday return to power. Former justice minister Jonathan Denis called for a merger of the Wildrose and PC Party only days after his personal defeat in Calgary-Acadia.

Former MLA Greg Stevens, who served in Peter Lougheed’s cabinets, wrote in the Calgary Herald that the PC Party would “will cough and spit and be no more” after its election loss. And former Premier Ed Stelmach said shifting too far to the political right was a mistake made by the PC Party.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean responded to Mr. Denis by saying he was not interested in merging his party with the recently defeated Tories.

Ed Stelmach

Ed Stelmach

In December 2014, the Wildrose Party was moribund after former leader Danielle Smith led most of the party’s MLAs into the PC Caucus. Today, none of the floor crossers are MLAs and Mr. Jean’s Wildrose Party has formed Official Opposition with 21 MLAs (4 more than Ms. Smith led the party to win in 2012).

In response to Ms. Smith’s attempts to restore her public image, former Wildrose Communications Director Brock Harrison wrote an op-ed in the National Post aimed at debunking her “revisionist history.

Notley Senior Staff
Brian Topp Alberta Premier Chief of Staff

Brian Topp

Ms. Notley announced three senior roles in the Premier’s Office. Brian Topp will be Chief of Staff and Adrienne King will be Deputy Chief of Staff. Mr. Topp is the former federal NDP leadership candidate and deputy Chief of Staff to Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow and Ms. King is the former Chief of Staff at the Alberta’s NDP Caucus. Richard Dicerni will continue as Deputy Minister for Executive Council. Mr. Dicerni was appointed to the role by Mr. Prentice in September 2014.

Official Opposition Critics
Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

The Wildrose Official Opposition unveiled its front bench critics for the upcoming Legislative session: Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes as Shadow Minister for Health, Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman as Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier as Shadow Minister for Municipal Affairs, Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt as Shadow Minister for Finance & Treasury Board, Drayton Valley-Devon MLA Mark Smith as Shadow Minister for Education, Chestermere-Rockyview MLA Leela Aheer as Shadow Minister for Energy.

Fifty years of Alberta NDP.

Alberta NDP Campaign Button 1986 Election

Alberta NDP button from 1986 election (PC Premier Don Getty had been a football Quarterback before entering politics).

New Democrats from across Alberta have gathered in Edmonton this weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their party’s founding. Attendees at this weekend’s annual convention will hear from NDP leader Brian Mason, MLAs Rachel NotleyDeron Bilous, and David Eggen, Member of Parliament Linda Duncan, and federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.

With only 4 elected MLAs in the 87 seat Assembly, the NDP Opposition is a small force in Alberta but their MLAs are known for punching above their weight, taking full advantage of every opportunity to get their message into the media. They are good at it. When I worked for the Liberal official opposition in my previous life, I remember how frustrating it was to see the tiny NDP caucus regularly overshadow the Liberal official opposition. They were a tough scrappy insurgency and could easily outmanoeuvre the more official Liberal establishment at the Legislature.

Looking back at the past 50 years, the conference will include a retrospective panel, which will include former MLA Alex McEachern, former NDP president Reg Basken, and former leaders Raj Pannu and Ray Martin. A ‘Planning our future’ panel, complementing the historical retrospective panel, will include Brian Topp, Ryan Meili, and Manitoba Member of Parliament Niki Ashton.

Here is a look at how the Alberta NDP have performed in provincial elections since 1963:

Alberta NDP MLAs

The number of NDP MLAs elected to serve in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly compared to the total number of MLAs in elections from 1963 to 2012. (Click to enlarge)

 

Alberta NDP Vote 1963-2012

The number of votes received by the Alberta NDP compared to total voter turnout in elections from 1963 to 2012. (Click to enlarge)

i missed the orange wave.

Around 1:30 am on May 2, 2011, I returned to Edmonton after spending a month travelling across the vast continent of Australia. That day also happened to be Election Day in Canada. On a social media detox while I was out of the country and suffering from severe jet lag from the moment I returned, I missed and was near oblivious of the phenomenon that had become known as “the Orange Wave.”

That night, as I watched election results come in from across Canada, I felt like I had returned to a different country. The Conservative Party won a majority government, the official opposition Liberal Party collapsed, the Bloc Quebecois almost vanished off the electoral map, the Green Party elected its first Member of Parliament, and candidates from Jack Layton‘s New Democratic Party were elected in more than one hundred constituencies and for the first time formed the Official Opposition in Ottawa.

To magnify the degree of how out of the loop I was at the time, I fall into a category with an incredibly small fraction of Canadians who voted for the NDP in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but cast their ballot for the Liberal candidate in 2011 (also known as the “Liberal Back Eddy of 2011“). This choice had little to do with Michael Ignatieff and nearly everything to do with the hard-working and very-likeable local Liberal candidate, Mary MacDonald.

Thomas Mulcair Edmonton Alberta January 2011

Thomas Mulcair

Yesterday, Thomas Mulcair was chosen to lead the NDP Official Opposition in Ottawa. Having had the opportunity to meet the three leading candidates – Mr. Mulcair, Brian Topp, and Nathan Cullen – I was impressed with the quality of leadership candidates that members of the NDP had to choose from. In January of this year, I met Mr. Mulcair while he was visiting Edmonton. At the time, I wrote that:

I was not sure what to expect from his talk, but I found myself pleasantly surprised with Mr. Mulcair’s ability to offer intelligent pragmatic social democratic answers to a crowd  consisting of committed leftists was both impressive and sometimes brave.

As a centre-leftish voter, I am looking for a party that will put forward a forward-looking progressive agenda for Canada, which should not be confused with the tired traditional partisan socialist dogma (referred to by some as the Church of the NDP). As an outsider to the NDP, I have found Mr. Mulcair’s ability to challenge those traditional positions encouraging and I recognize that it may be one of his largest challenges from inside his own party’s ranks.

Western Canada is becoming the country’s economic leader. As a Quebec MP, Mr. Mulcair should try to avoid being sucked into the traditional eastern Canadian “father knows best” attitude around economic development. Mr. Mulcair should also try to avoid being caught in the Conservative Party trap that would have any criticism or suggestion of deviation from our current resources extraction methods labelled as “anti-Albertan.” (Stephen Harper‘s Conservative Party has already released talking points to be used against Mr. Mulcair).

Mr. Mulcair and all of the NDP Members of Parliament from central and eastern Canada should consider travelling west and knocking on some doors during Alberta’s upcoming provincial election. Their provincial cousins will undoubtably appreciate the help and it may give those MP’s a better idea of what real Albertans, not just their Conservative politicians, are actually thinking.

thomas mulcair comes to edmonton.

Thomas Mulcair NDP Edmonton

Thomas Mulcair

Last week I had to opportunity to hear Outremont MP and NDP leadership candidate Thomas Mulcair speak in Edmonton.

Aside from being aware of his role as Jack Layton‘s Quebec Lieutenant and that he was once a provincial cabinet minister, my knowledge of Mr. Mulcair was not vast.

I was not sure what to expect from his talk, but I found myself pleasantly surprised with Mr. Mulcair’s ability to offer intelligent pragmatic social democratic answers to a crowd  consisting of committed leftists was both impressive and sometimes brave (Blogger David Climenhaga has written an interesting blog post with his impressions of Mr. Mulcair’s visit to Edmonton).

Much like Brian Topp, who I heard speak in December 2011, I was left with the impression that Mr. Mulcair understands that most Canadians are political moderates and that that his party needs the support of those moderates to form a government.

Closer to home, Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Linda Duncan is expected to endorse Ottawa-Centre MP and leadership candidate Paul Dewar on Thursday.

Check out Pundits’ Guide for more information about the federal NDP leadership contest.

brian topp comes to edmonton.

Brian Topp NDP leadership candidate

NDP leadership candidate Brian Topp

Brian Topp was in Edmonton last night campaigning for the leadership of the New Democratic Party of Canada. At an event hosted by the Edmonton-Strathcona NDP association, more than 130 people packed into the City Arts Centre to listen to Mr. Topp deliver a pitch for their votes in the leadership contest.

A long-time political operative in the federal NDP and Saskatchewan NDP, Mr. Topp has never actually served in elected office. Facing a friendly crowd, he was well-spoken and displayed a healthy level of pragmatism when answering questions about delivering an effective opposition and building the NDP towards forming government. Hitting on issues friendly to the social democrat crowd, Mr. Topp spoke about raising corporate taxes, returning to a progressive tax system, abolishing the Senate, and implementing stricter environmental regulations.

I have not paid much attention to or written much about to the NDP leadership contest until this point, so I have turned to Pundits’ Guide’s excellent resource on the contest to get myself informed.

The local NDP association will be holding a leadership candidate event with Parkdale-High Park Member of Parliament Peggy Nash on Friday, December 16, 2011.

In the 2011 federal election, the NDP received 107,067 votes in Edmonton (25% of the vote). The poll results in the map below show the NDP vote is concentrated in Edmonton-Centre, Edmonton-East, and Edmonton-Strathcona.

Edmonton Election 2011 Federal Poll by Poll

Poll results in Edmonton from the May 2011 federal election.

ndp leadership candidates attending edmonton kitchen table talks.

2012 NDP leadership candidates Nathan Cullen Paul Dewar and Brian Topp

Three federal NDP leadership candidates: Nathan Cullen, Paul Dewar, and Brian Topp

Home of Alberta’s only NDP Member of Parliament, Linda Duncan, the Edmonton-Strathcona NDP Association is hosting a series of “Kitchen Table Talks” with NDP leadership candidates (named in honour of Jack Layton and his penchant for addressing the kinds of problems that people talk about around the kitchen table).

The informal format of the “kitchen table talks” will give Edmontonians a chance to meet the candidates and give the candidates a chance to ask questions and engage with participants.

Talks have been scheduled with three of the leadership candidates, so far:

November 17: Nathan Cullen 18:30-20:30 at the McKernan Community League, 11341 78th Avenue

November 22: Paul Dewar 19:30-21:30 at the City Arts Centre, 10943 84th Avenue

December 12: Brian Topp 19:30-21:30 at the City Arts Centre, 10943 84th Avenue

The other candidates to enter the leadership contest are Niki Ashton, Robert ChisholmThomas Mulcair, Peggy Nash, Romeo Saganash, and Martin Singh. NDP members will be selecting their new leader on March 24, 2012.

Visit PunditGuide.ca for more detailed information about the NDP leadership contest.