Tag Archives: Brock Harrison

Wildrose-PC merger a big deal, but not a silver bullet for 2019

Albertans will find out on July 22 whether members of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties have voted to amend their party constitutions in order to abandon their existing parties and form a new party named the United Conservative Party.

For the vote to pass, it will need the support of 75 percent of Wildrose members and 50 percent plus one of PC Party members.

There seems to be two likely scenarios: if it passes or fails.

A) If members from both parties vote to approve the agreement and amend their party constitutions, then a joint board of directors will be appointed to govern the business of the UCP and the two existing parties. The creation of a new party will need to be approved by Elections Alberta, which I expect will happen shortly after a successful vote.

An interim leader will be appointed by the caucuses of the two parties. There is strong speculation that the interim leader will be the mild-mannered and well-respected Wildrose Opposition House Leader Nathan Cooper, who has served as MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills since 2015. Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried and Calgary-Foothills MLA Prasad Panda could also be contenders for interim leader position.

A leadership race will be scheduled for October 28, 2017 and four candidates have already declared their candidacy or interest in running: Wildrose leader Brian Jean, PC Party leader Jason Kenney, Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer.

B) If the vote fails, it is expected this would be because of opposition by Wildrose Party members. While I would be very surprised if the vote fails, it would not be the most outlandish event to occur in Alberta politics in the past decade. The Wildrose membership are known for being cantankerous and notoriously anti-establishment.

A big loss would be a huge blow to Jean’s leadership of the party and would probably spell the end of his career in provincial politics. It might also lead to Wildrose MLAs crossing the floor to the PCs, as Kenney could continue to move ahead and create a UCP regardless of a rejected vote by Wildrose members.

A Plan B could take the form of a non-compete agreement, where the two parties would not challenge each other in constituencies in the next election. This would be similar to what Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke proposed during the PC leadership race.

If technical issues hamper the vote and cause party members to question or challenge the validity of the results, it could damage the UCP before it is even officially formed.

What does this mean for the conservative movement in Alberta? 

With some prominent PC members jumping to the Alberta Party, a group of disgruntled Wildrose members threatening to start another new party and some conservatives even joining the NDP, Conservatives actually appear less united than they have been in years. While much of the Conservative establishment is backing the Wildrose-PC merger, there is a threat that it would lead to a further split into smaller conservative parties.

The outcome of the Wildrose-PC merger could be determined during the UCP leadership race, which will set the tone and policy direction of the new party. And association with unpopular positions could dog the candidates.

Jean is trying to appeal to rural Wildrose supporters while convincing urban conservatives that he is a centrist. Kenney is associated with social conservative causes and sparked controversy when he told a Postmedia editorial board he would support outing students who join Gay-Straight Alliances. And Fildebrandt’s leadership campaign can be expected to bring a blunt message of ‘weaponized conservatism‘ and painful funding cuts to public services.

What does this mean for the NDP?

While the NDP have mostly stayed out of the Wildrose-PC merger fray, they will be eager to define the new Conservative party as angry and uncompassionate right-wingers who are out-of-touch with modern and increasingly urban Alberta.

Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party has subtly shifted their messaging over the past year, focusing on launching new programs and projects that they argue will “make lives better for Albertans.” This will provide the NDP with a significant contrast to the UCP, who they will argue would attack the public services and hurt Alberta families.

Kenney has stated that if he becomes Premier in 2019, the months that follow would be known as the “Summer of Repeal” as his government would immediately move to repeal legislation passed by the NDP since 2015. The trouble with Kenney’s promise to repeal all of the NDP’s agenda is that, despite anger from conservatives still bitter from losing the 2015 election, some of the changes introduced by Notley’s NDP are popular among Albertans.

Would a UCP government cancel the construction of the Cancer Treatment Centre in Calgary or the new hospital in south Edmonton? Would a UCP government lower the minimum wage, increase school fees and cancel the $25/day childcare program? Expect the NDP to make sure Albertans are asking these questions.

What does this mean for Alberta Together and the Alberta Party?

Moderate and centrist Conservatives who have left the PC Party to support the Alberta Together political action committee and the Alberta Party also have an interest in seeing the UCP branded as Wildrose 2.0 in the minds of Alberta voters.

Since being elected as MLA for Calgary-Elbow in 2015, Greg Clark has punched above his weight in generating media attention while his party has floundered at fundraising and constituency organization. The recent injection of centrist PC activists into his party might be a boon for fundraising and organizing, especially if the UCP is cast as just a new Wildrose Party.

Wildrose-PC merger not a silver bullet

Since the morning after the NDP’s victory in the 2015 election, many Conservatives have talked about merging the Wildrose and PCs parties as if it were a silver bullet to winning the next election. While the NDP have not been the most popular government in Alberta history, Conservatives underestimate Rachel Notley at their own peril. Notley is a smart and savvy political leader and, as 2015 proved, she is an incredibly talented campaigner.

And, as the past two elections have proven, Conservatives in Alberta have a track record of shooting themselves in the foot at the most inopportune times.


I joined Brock Harrison and Shaye Ganam on July 21, 2017 to chat about Alberta politics and the July 22 vote on 630CHED. Here is the audio recording of our discussion.

Justin Trudeau, Jason Kenney, election spending limits and PPAs

I joined Brock Harrison and Dónal O’Beirne to talk politics with Ryan Jespersen this morning on 630CHED.

For your listening pleasure, here is part one and part two of our hour long discussion about shirtless Justin Trudeau, twitter warrior Jason Kenney, spending limits in Alberta elections, and the ongoing saga of the Power Purchasing Agreements.

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.

alberta politics notes 8/05/2011

Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Alison Redford

Alison Redford

1. Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Alison Redford announced that she would raise monthly payments from the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) program from $400 to $1,588 and doubling the allowable income earned for participants. Wildrose communications director Brock Harrison criticized the announcement on Twitter, claiming it would be too costly. The Liberals and NDP have called for increases to AISH funding for years.

During the 2004 provincial election, then-Premier Ralph Klein was criticized for claiming that there was rampant abuse in the program. He then told the media that “severely normal” people do not want to talk about AISH.

2. Gary Mar attempted to grab headlines about Edmonton’s recent streak of murders by criticizing the Safe Communities Initiative, initiated by Premier Ed Stelmach and former Justice Minister Redford. Ms. Redford rebutted Mr. Mar’s criticism of the Safe Communities Initiative by listing statistics showing Youth Crime in Calgary down by 25% and that crime in Canada is at its lowest since 1973.

For more facts debunking Edmonton’s claim to fame as “Canada’s Murder Capital”, see everybodyinthiscityisarmed.com

3. While Ms. Redford and Mr. Mar are two candidates most likely to be branded as Calgarians, southerner Ted Morton is has picked up support from six MLAs in the Edmonton area, including some who have deep connections to their cultural communities (which can produce significant amounts of sold memberships).

4. Former President of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers David Manning has been appointed as Alberta’s Representative in Washington DC, replacing Mr. Mar, who left the position to seek the PC leadership. Mr. Manning’s appointment comes as the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas continues to cause controversy south of the border.

5. Outgoing Liberal leader David Swann raised concerns about Mr. Mar’s Public-Private Partnership (P3) friendly health care policy and one of Mr. Mar’s leadership campaign’s largest donors Dr. Kabir Jivraj. Dr. Jivraj is the former Chief Medical Officer of the Calgary Health Region and is the founder of AgeCare, a for-profit corporation that provides long-term care for senior citizens.

Read more Alberta Politics Notes.

alberta politics notes 9/19/2010

Edmonton Mill Woods Liberals
The Liberal Party will nominate its first candidate for the next election on October 2 in Edmonton-Mill Woods. According to an email from constituency President Paula Stein last week, former MLA Weslyn Mather is the only candidate to have declared their intention to seek the nomination. The Liberals held Mill Woods under MLA Don Massey from 1993 to 2004 and under Mrs. Mather from 2004 until 2008, when she was defeated by PC candidate Carl Benito. Since becoming MLA, Mr. Benito has become the centre of controversy after he reneged on his election promise to donate his entire salary to a scholarship fund. The Liberals have placed Mill Woods in their key target constituencies in the next election and recently flooded the constituency with volunteers to remind voters of Mr. Benito’s promise.

Tory staffers migrate to more conservative pastures
The Wildrose Alliance will claim that they are a lot different than the Progressive Conservatives, but a quick glance at their caucus staff list reveals that a number of former PC caucus staffers are now employed by the tiny insurgent conservative caucus. Brock Harrison worked in the research and communications branch of the PC caucus until he recently joined the Wildrose caucus as their Communications Co-ordinator. Wildrose Legislative Assistant Jeffrey Trynchy was previously employed as a Legislative Assistant in the PC caucus. Shannon Stubbs, Staff Coordinator for the Wildrose Alliance Caucus is the former VP Organization of the PC Party and was a candidate in 2004.

Alberta Health Act
Is it simply legislative housekeeping or an agenda to increase the role of privatized medicare in Alberta? Edmonton-Rutherford PC MLA Fred Horne‘s travelling committee released a report last week that declared the need to ‘putting people first.’ Instead of including the mixed reviews that were voiced at the public consultation meetings, Mr. Horne’s report focuses on motherhood and apple pie. There are some good points in the report, but it is clear that this report is an exercise in the Tories reporting what they wanted to hear.

Trust me. Really.
NDP leader Brian Mason is setting off on a mission to Earn Your Trust in a fall province-wide tour where he will make a series of policy announcements on fiscal responsibility, the economy, and health care.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.