Tag Archives: Calgary-Foothills by-election

Premier Rachel Notley (centre), Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir (fourth from left) and NDP candidate Roop Rai (third from left) at a campaign stop in Calgary-Greenway.

Expect the unexpected in the Calgary-Greenway by-election

The second by-election since Alberta’s May 2015 election will be held on March 22, 2016 in the northeast Calgary constituency of Calgary-Greenway. With the re-election of Manmeet Bhullar, this constituency was one of eight in Calgary to elect a Progressive Conservative candidate in that election. His death in November 2015 triggered this by-election.

By-elections can produce unexpected results. While they are important snapshots of the political mood of an electorate at a certain point in time, the results can be poor indicators of outcomes of future general elections.

In October 2014, four by-election wins by the PC Party made Premier Jim Prentice look like a political juggernaut. His party was swept out of office by Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party seven months later. A by-election win by the Wildrose Party in 2009 did not produce a Danielle Smith-led government in 2012 and an important by-election win by the Liberals in Ralph Klein’s Calgary-Elbow constituency in 2007 also ended up being a false start for that party in the next election.

Last year’s by-election in Calgary-Foothills, triggered by Mr. Prentice’s election night resignation, was the first in Alberta’s dramatically new political environment. The NDP poured significant resources in their campaign to elect former MLA  Bob Hawkesworth and his loss to Wildroser Prasad Panda was a blow to the NDP, which is likely why the NDP appear to have done a better job managing expectations for Roop Rai‘s campaign in Greenway.

Alternatively, the Calgary-Greenway by-election is a must-win for the PC Party, which has dropped down to eight MLAs from 70 MLAs before the 2015 election. PC candidate Prab Gill needs to retain this by-election to signal his party will continue to be a viable alternative to the NDP.

A win by the PC Party would also throw a wrench into the plans of the official opposition Wildrose Party, which has been aggressively attacking the new NDP government since it took office less than a year ago. A Wildrose win might be a final nail in the coffin of the PC Party.

A win by the Liberals would be, well, unexpected.

One poll, released by Mainstreet Research on March 12, projected a four-way race between the PC Party, NDP, Wildrose and Liberals.

Unlike most of the 44-years of PC Party government, Albertans no longer live in a political environment where we can expect the governing party to win every seat. And that’s a good thing.


The following candidates will be listed on the ballot on the March 22, 2016 by-election in Calgary-Greenway:

Green PartyThana Boonlert [FacebookTwitter]
Liberal PartyKhalil Karbani [FacebookTwitter]
Independent: Said Abdulbaki
Independent: Larry Heather
Independent: Sukhi Rai
New Democratic PartyRoop Rai [FacebookTwitter]
Progressive Conservative: Prab Gill [FacebookTwitter]
Wildrose PartyDevinder Toor [Facebook]

 

Bob Hawkesworth with Premier Rachel Notley during the by-election in Calgary-Foothills.

What about Bob? Hawkesworth swoops into top political job.

Former Calgary alderman Bob Hawkesworth has been appointed Executive Director of Premier Rachel Notley’s southern Alberta office at the McDougall Centre in Calgary. A press release sent out on Nov. 7 states that Mr. Hawkesworth will be responsible for “the day-to-day operation of McDougall Centre, including stakeholder relations, communications and outreach services.

Richard Gotfried Calgary Fish Creek PC MLA

Richard Gotfried

Mr. Hawkesworth is a familiar name in Calgary politics, having served on city council from 1980 to 1986 and 1993 to 2010, and as the NDP MLA for Calgary-Mountain View from 1986 to 1993.

But his long career in municipal politics ended with a flame out. When faced with dwindling support in his bid for mayor in 2010, the respected alderman known for his ‘nice guy’ image launched a blistering negative attack on Naheed Nenshi before dropping out and endorsing Barb Higgins (his name still appeared on the ballot – he earned 1,513 votes). The negativity and surprised endorsements had many Calgarians scratching their heads in confusion.

He attempted a return to provincial politics in a September 2015 by-election but was defeated by Wildrose candidate Prasad Panda.

Reaction from the opposition parties to his appointment this weekend was surprisingly mixed.

Prasad Panda Calgary Foothills Wildrose

Prasad Panda

Calgary-Fish Creek Progressive Conservative MLA Richard Gotfried tweeted a congratulatory note, describing Mr. Hawkesworth as “A good man and an able representative of the @albertaNDP in #YYC.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre Wildrose MLA Jason Nixon attacked the announcement as “a patronage appointment while Albertans across the province are hurting.” It seemed odd that the Wildrose caucus did not choose their only MLA from Calgary, Mr. Panda, to respond to the appointment. Maybe they are still preparing themselves for the rigours of a 9:00 a.m. start time?

Was this appointment based on political connections? It is hard to argue it is not. We can expect Ms. Notley to hire who she knows and who she trusts to these top positions. Mr. Hawkesworth might be the most well-connected and well-known partisan New Democrat in Calgary (Finance Minister Joe Ceci, another former alderman, might be the only other Calgary New Democrat as well connected). And he did earn endorsements from a number of conservatives during his by-election bid, including Councillor Diane Colley-Urquhart, former PC MLA Gordon Shrake and former mayor Rod Sykes.

Jason Nixon Wildrose Rocky Mountain House Rimbey Sundre

Jason Nixon

This appointment of a long-time party loyaltist also signals that the NDP don’t have a broadly developed network of fresh talent to draw from in Calgary and southern Alberta, which may explain the large number of out-of-province hires. Many Calgary progressives I speak with regularily, some who are affiliated with Mr. Nenshi’s mayoral campaigns, are completely unfamiliar with the NDP’s political networks in their city, mostly because these networks are just now being built.

Despite electing 15 MLAs in Calgary, the NDP only earned 35 percent of the city-wide vote in the May 2015 election. It will largely depend on these 15 MLAs in Calgary and their colleagues in Banff-Cochrane, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat to develop those networks through the work they do on the ground in their constituencies over the next four years.

Rob Merrifield Alberta Washington DC

Rob Merrifield

The appointment of Mr. Hawkesworth does raise the question about Ms. Notley’s pledge to operate differently than the old PC government. In fact, only a few months ago, the NDP government publicly fired and criticized former Alberta representative in Washington D.C. Rob Merrifield for being a political appointee.

Mr. Merrifield was a partisan political appointee, hired by former Premier Jim Prentice, because he knew him and believed he could trust him to do a good job. Just as I am sure Ms. Notley knows and believes she can trust Mr. Hawkesworth to do a good job running the Premier’s office in at the McDougall Centre.

Danielle Larivee Rachel Notley Deron Bilous

Notley creates Economic Development ministry, appoints rural Municipal Affairs minister

Alberta’s provincial cabinet grew from twelve to thirteen today with the appointment of Lesser Slave Lake MLA Danielle Larivee to the posts of Minister of Municipal Affairs and Service Alberta.

Ms. Larivee takes over those roles from Deron Bilous. Mr. Bilous, one of the four NDP MLAs elected before this year’s orange chinook swept across Alberta, is now the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, a new department created from elements of the Ministry of Advanced Education and Innovation and International and Intergovernmental Affairs.

With Finance Minister Joe Ceci scheduled to table the provincial budget in the Legislative Assembly on Oct. 27, the creation of this new ministry is meant to send a message about the importance of job creation and economic diversification. It was announced today that the budget will also include an “economic development plan” that will help provide some direction for this initiative.

The provincial budget is expected to include significant investment in public infrastructure and job creation projects to compensate for the loss of jobs caused by the drop in the international price of oil.

Calgary No Longer the Centre of Alberta’s Political Universe

The appointment of a rural northern Alberta MLA to cabinet has already generated complaints from some Calgary-based pundits. Only four of thirteen cabinet ministers represent constituencies south of Edmonton, including Finance Minister Joe Ceci, Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley and Environment Minister Shannon Phillips.

Over the course of its 44 years in power, the old Progressive Conservative government was led by Calgarians for more than three decades – Premiers Peter Lougheed (1971 to 1985), Ralph Klein (1992 to 2006), Alison Redford (2011-2014) and Jim Prentice (2014-2015).

It is suspected that former Alderman Bob Hawkesworth would have been appointed to cabinet as Minister of Municipal Affairs if he had won a September by-election in the Calgary-Foothills riding. If this is true, Calgarians can rightfully ask why one of the other eleven NDP MLAs in Calgary wasn’t appointed to cabinet. But they would be mistaken to believe they are the only group the provincial government is trying to represent.

As an MLA representing a large rural constituency, Ms. Larivee’s appointment to the Municipal Affairs post is more likely a tip of the hat to the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties. An incredibly well-connected lobby group during the PC Party’s time in power, the AAMDC has found itself sitting on the outside of political power for the first time in decades.

The group was known in political circles as the PC Party’s “farm team,” because many of its officials have used the group as a springboard in attempts to win PC candidate nominations (including current president Al Kemmere and former cabinet minister Jack Hayden).

As a registered nurse who worked in a community health care setting, Ms. Larivee will understand some of the challenges facing the rural and remote communities represented by the AAMDC. It just so happens that Ms. Larivee’s new job starts a month before her first large event as minister – the AAMDC’s annual general meeting on November 17 and 18.


Alberta’s New Cabinet

Rachel Notley (Edmonton-Strathcona) – Premier

Deron Bilous (Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview) – Economic Development and Trade

Oneil Carlier (Whitecourt-Ste. Anne) – Agriculture and Forestry

Joe Ceci (Calgary-Fort) – Finance and Treasury Board President

David Eggen (Edmonton-Calder) — Education and Culture and Tourism

Kathleen Ganley (Calgary-Buffalo) Justice and Aboriginal Affairs

Sarah Hoffman (Edmonton Glenora)— Health and Seniors

Danielle Larivee (Lesser Slave Lake) – Municipal Affairs and Service Alberta

Brian Mason (Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood) –  Infrastructure and Transportation

Margaret Mccuaig-Boyd (Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley) – Energy

Shannon Phillips (Lethbridge-West) – Environment and Parks and Status of Women

Irfan Sabir (Calgary-McCall) – Human Services.

Lori Sigurdson (Edmonton-Riverview) – Advanced Education, and Jobs, Skills, Training & Labour

Wildrose win Calgary-Foothills by-election, NDP hold on to ‘Orange Chinook’ support

Wildrose Party candidate Prasad Panda became his party’s only MLA from Calgary with a fairly decisive win in yesterday’s by-election in Calgary-Foothills, stealing the constituency away from the Progressive Conservatives. PC candidate Blair Houston finished third in the constituency that elected former Premier Jim Prentice in another by-election ten months ago and in a general election only four months ago.

The New Democrats mounted what appeared to be a strong campaign with candidate Bob Hawkesworth, but the governing party was only able to finish with second place in the by-election.

The NDP lost some ground in this by-election, holding 25.7 percent of the vote compared to the 32.3 percent earned by candidate Anne Wilson in the May 5, 2015 general election but still significantly more than the 3.7 percent earned by the NDP candidate in the October 2014 by-election. The results suggest that the NDP “orange chinook” from May 2015 has not completely dissipated as some would have argued and that NDP have developed a base of support in the city that was non-existent only a few months ago.

An NDP loss in this by-election would not have been a notable outcome had that party not intentionally raised the stakes of the results by pouring significant resources into the campaign, including high-profile endorsements of Mr. Hawkesworth and at least three campaign visits by Premier Rachel Notley. The loss does not spell the end of the NDP in Calgary but it does demonstrate that the party faces strong conservative opposition in the city, which should come as a surprise to no one.

Media commentaries will likely frame the Wildrose win as a rebuke of NDP policies in Calgary-Foothills, which it was, but at a more interesting level the results of this by-election are reflective of the divide between the Wildrose and the PC Party.

While the electoral outcomes were different from the last election, the percentages of the combined PC and Wildrose votes were 59.8 percent, up slightly from their combined vote of 58 percent in May 2015. This is a major decline from the October 2014 by-election, when the two conservative parties dominated with a combined 88 percent of the vote.

Conservative voters were split in this by-election, but Mr. Panda’s win will give the Wildrose Party potent ammunition to argue that the old PC Party is not a viable conservative alternative to the NDP in the three and a half years leading up to the next general election. The by-election results do suggest that in Calgary, the mostly rural based Wildrosers could still have some hard work ahead of them, as the PC Party is at the very least “still standing.”

The Wildrose caucus will now grow from 21 to 22 MLAs, making it the largest official opposition since the Liberals had 31 MLAs in the early-1990s. The PCs have 9 MLAs in the Legislature.

Here are the unofficial results from the September 3, 2015 by-election (66/66 polls reporting):

Prasad Panda, Wildrose: 4,877 (38.3%)
Bob Hawkesworth, NDP: 3,270 (25.7%)
Blair Houston, PC: 2,7,46 (21.5%)
Ali Bin Zahid, Liberal:  791 (6.2%)
Mark Taylor, Alberta Party: 610 (4.8%)
Janet Keeping, Green: 377 (2.9%)
Antoni Grochowski, Independent: 46 (0.36%)

Premier Jim Prentice Alberta PC leadership race

It is anyone’s guess what comes next after today’s by-election in Calgary-Foothills

Today’s by-election in Calgary-Foothills is the first major litmus test for Alberta’s political parties in the post-Progressive Conservative political world. After forty-four years of PC Party-government in Alberta end earlier this year, politics in this province could still be in flux.

Bob Hawkesworth NDP Calgary Foothills

Bob Hawkesworth

When Rachel Notley led NDP candidates to victory in fifteen constituencies in the city on May 5, 2015, the “Orange Wave” broke at the boundaries of Calgary-Foothills as conservative voters re-elected Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice as their MLA (Mr. Prentice the triggered the by-election when he resigned as MLA on election night).

Despite considerable conservative strength in Calgary-Foothills, the NDP have willingly turned low expectations into high stakes by pouring significant resources into this by-election. Ms. Notley has personally visited the constituency at least three times to campaign alongside Bob Hawkesworth, a well-known candidate with thirty-years of experience in municipal and provincial office in Calgary.

Prasad Panda Calgary Foothills Wildrose

Prasad Panda

Mr. Hawkesworth’s campaign has released impressive endorsements from some unlikely figures – former Calgary Mayor Rod Sykes, former PC MLA Gordon Shrake, former Liberal candidate Brian Edy, and current city councillors Diane Colley-Urquhart and Druh Farrell – to demonstrate a broad support for his candidacy.

Talk in political circles is that he would be a shoe-in for a cabinet spot if elected, maybe as Minister of Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour or Minister of Infrastructure.

But the decline of the international price of oil and recent energy-sector layoffs may have voters in this constituency sticking with their conservative options. The opposition parties have been quick to blame NDP plans to review resource royalties for making the economic situation worse.

Blair Houston PC Calgary Foothills

Blair Houston

The war of words in the by-election got nasty after it was discovered that a Chinese-language pamphlet circulated by Wildrose Party candidate Prasad Panda’s campaign accused the NDP of being communists. The Wildrose campaign claimed the translation was unintentional but it is difficult to believe this would be a mistake.

There is a reason why the communist message was only included in the Chinese-language material. According to data from the 2011 National Household Survey, 12.4% of homes in Calgary-Foothills identify Chinese as their household language and 24.1% of the population in the constituency is of Chinese ethnic origin.

Instead of repudiating Mr. Panda’s claims, Wildrose leader Brian Jean doubled down on the communist accusations, telling NewsTalk770 yesterday that the NDP “are the most socialist out of any party in Canada.”

Sandra Jansen

Sandra Jansen

The presence of an increasingly depressing PC Party, represented by candidate Blair Houston could spoil an easy Wildrose victory. Mr. Houston’s campaign material claims that “only the moderate can defeat the extremes,” sending a strong message that there is still significant distrust between the two conservative parties.

The split between Wildrose and PC conservatives is evident among conservative activists on the internet.

An army of Wildrose twitterati launched online attacks yesterday against Calgary-North West PC MLA Sandra Jansen for her support of former television news anchor Nirmala Naidoo, who is running as the federal Liberal candidate in Calgary-Rocky Ridge, which overlaps with the Calgary-Foothills constituency.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

Ms. Jansen responded that she is not a member of the federal Conservative Party and is under no obligation to support their candidates (her pragmatic reply is unlikely to appease her Wildrose critics).

As litmus tests, by-elections can be indicators of citizens approval or disapproval of a governing party at a given time, but by-election results are not necessarily indicators of how voters will cast their ballots in the future.

The Progressive Conservatives swept four by-elections in October 2014, including one in Calgary-Foothills, leading many political observers to believe that Mr. Prentice was an unstoppable political juggernaut. Only ten months later, Mr. Prentice is gone, the NDP have a majority government, the Wildrose rebounded into official opposition and Alberta has been thrown into a new political reality.

It is anyone’s guess what comes next after today’s by-election in Calgary-Foothills.

Unofficial results from today’s by-election will appear on the Elections Alberta website after 8:00 p.m.

“This is a sale of a depleting resource that’s owned by the people. Once a barrel of oil goes down the pipeline it’s gone forever. It’s like a farmer selling off his topsoil,” former Premier Peter Lougheed once said.

Let’s Review Oil Royalties and Start Acting Like Owners Again.

Alberta’s new NDP government has taken steps to fulfill one of their key election promises by appointing a panel to ensure Albertans are receiving their fair share from their natural resource wealth through the royalty rates paid by the oil industry to the Alberta government.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

The choice of Alberta Treasury Branches President Dave Mowat, energy economist Peter Tertzakian, former Alberta deputy minister of finance Annette Trimbee, and Mayor of Beaverlodge Leona Hanson to review Albertans royalties should calm any anxiety industry leaders may have had with this process. These are sensible choices for this important review.

Like the panel reviewing Alberta’s climate change strategy, the royalty review panel is stacked with knowledgable appointees who cannot be accused being partisan New Democrats. And while some industry leaders are still uncomfortable with this year’s election results, Mr. Tertzakian has some advice for conservative-connected business leaders.

Peter Tertzakian

Peter Tertzakian

“The industry needs to have more than just an open mind — I think you have to go with forward thinking and that this is an opportunity to get away from business as usual,” Mr. Tertzakian told a business reporting website after Rachel Notley‘s NDP was elected with a majority government on May 2015.

The appointment of Mr. Tertzakian received immediate praise online from two prominent conservative voices –  former Wildrose MLA Heather Forsyth and former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith.

The panel has an important task ahead of it and has a mandate to “optimize” returns to Albertans as owners of the resource, industry investment, diversification opportunities, such as value-added processing, and responsible development of Alberta’s resources.

Bill Hunter, who chaired the 2007 royalty review panel established by former Premier Ed Stelmach, wrote in his final report that “Albertans do not receive their fair share from energy development. Albertans own the resource. The onus is on their government to re-balance the royalty and tax system so that a fair share is collected.”

Marg McCuaig Boyd (photo by Connor Mah)

Marg McCuaig Boyd (photo by Connor Mah)

Nearly a decade after Mr. Hunter penned those words, the responsibility once again falls on Alberta’s government to ensure that Albertans are receiving their fair share from energy development.

It is up to the current panel to consult with Albertans and industry to determine what that proper balance will be.

Part of that balance will be timing, as Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd told reporters today that any changes to royalties will not be implemented until 2017. And like any other panel review, Ms. McCuaig-Boyd and Ms. Notley have the leeway to ignore any recommendations that might appear to be politically unpalatable or carry too much risk. This is why government’s like to employ these types of panels to review potentially controversial policy changes.

Politicians from the opposition benches have been fiercely critical of NDP plans to review royalties. The WildroseAlberta PartyLiberal and the Progressive Conservative opposition have described the review as “job killing.” A September 3 by-election in Calgary-Foothills has escalated the partisan rhetoric from the opposition, who see a by-election win as a way to discredit the new government’s agenda.

Dave Mowatt

Dave Mowat

But others, like Alberta Oil Magazine editor Max Fawcett, argue that now is the perfect time for a royalty review. Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers president Tim McMillan has said he does not want the government to delay the review, and even Mr. Stelmach has said the review should happen.

Comparisons can be made to a rookie PC government led by Peter Lougheed, which reviewed royalties during its first year in office, to the consternation of industry leaders who had grown accustomed to a comfortable relationship with the old Social Credit government.

“The oil companies, not unexpectedly, are howling – while the natural gas industry is quaking in its boots because the government also has made clear it is going to change its taxes in the fall,” the Ottawa Citizen reported on May 8, 1972.

Ed Stelmach

Ed Stelmach

“This is a sale of a depleting resource that’s owned by the people. Once a barrel of oil goes down the pipeline it’s gone forever. It’s like a farmer selling off his topsoil,” Mr. Lougheed once said while encouraging Albertans to think like owners.

As the owners of the resources, Albertans deserve to know whether we are getting our fair share. But the result of a royalty review is made more important if the government does something meaningful with the funds collected through the rent of our natural resources.

Alberta launched the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund in 1976. Under Mr. Lougheed’s leadership, the Heritage Fund initially received 30% of government resource revenues and was worth $12.7 billion in 1986, when the PCs began a 17 year freeze on new deposits into the fund. The Heritage Fund is now worth only $17.4 billion. Despite an embarrassment of riches during most of its 44-years in power, the old conservative government proved to be poor financial managers once Mr. Lougheed retired.

In their 2015 election platform, the NDP campaigned on the promise that “100% of incremental royalty revenue, above the sums earned by Alberta under the current regime, will be invested into Alberta’s Heritage Fund.

The current downturn in the price of oil will certainly change some of the new government’s short-term plans when the budget is tabled in October 2015, but significant investment in the Heritage Fund when oil prices do rise again will pay off for Albertans in the long-term. And ensuring that the owners – Albertans – are receiving their fair share from energy development, as Mr. Hunter wrote in 2007, will be key to this long-term planning.

Calgary-Foothills by-election candidates Blair Houston (PC), Bob Hawkesworth (NDP), Janet Keeping (Green), Prasad Panda (Wildrose), Ali Bin Zahid (Liberal) and Mark Taylor (Alberta Party).

Calgary-Foothills by-election vote on Sept 3. Here’s what the parties are saying.

Taking place in the backdrop of a federal election, the September 3 provincial by-election in the Calgary-Foothills constituency could have a profound impact on the federal election in Alberta.

A win by the NDP would almost certainly boost momentum for the federal NDP in Alberta, a win by the Wildrose would solidify that party’s dominance over the third-place Progressive Conservatives, and a win by the PCs would be that party’s first sign of a pulse since its defeat in the May 2015 election.

This is the third time voters in this constituency have gone to the polls to select a new MLA since October 2014, when PC leader Jim Prentice entered the Legislature. When it became clear the PC Party has lost the election on May 5, Mr. Prentice resigned as MLA before the votes were even finished being counted.

New Democratic Party: Premier Rachel Notley was the guest of honour at NDP candidate Bob Hawkesworth campaign launch this weekend. Mr. Hawkesworth is a well-known figure in Calgary politics, having served on city council from 1980 to 1986 and 1993 to 2010 and as MLA for Calgary-Mountain View from 1986 to 1993. He received a surprise endorsement last week from Alderman Diane Colley-Urquhart, who is a former PC Party candidate.

Agreeing with calls from opposition parties, the NDP government committed to not making any government announcements in Calgary until after the by-election. This follows criticism levelled at the former PC government, which used its office for political gain to boost support for candidates in four 2014 by-elections.

Progressive Conservative: The PCs have chosen past city council candidate and bar owner Blair Houston as their candidate. Before the 2015 provincial election, Mr. Houston ran for the PC nomination in Calgary-North West against incumbent MLA Sandra Jansen.

Wildrose: The Wildrose Party nominated Prasad Panda as their candidate in a three-way contest with more than 700 Wildrose members voting in the nomination selection. Mr. Panda was the 2012 and 2015 Wildrose candidate in the neighbouring Calgary-Northern Hills constituency.

Alberta PartyMark Taylor has been nominated to run as the Alberta Party candidate. Mr. Taylor was President of the Wildrose Party’s Highwood association from 2012 until 2013 (at the time, the constituency was represented by Wildrose leader Danielle Smith). His campaign released an interview with a local business owner criticizing the NDP government’s 3-year phased increases of the minimum wage.

Liberal: Candidate Ali Bin Zahid issued a press release urging the NDP government to delay their promised royalty review, which is being chaired by Alberta Treasury Branches CEO and President Dave Mowatt. “The last thing the people of Foothills want at this moment is another career politician who will contribute to the NDP’s stubborn determination to do this review now,” said Mr. Zahid.

Green: Green Party leader Janet Keeping criticized the NDP for a lack of basic amenities in the Calgary-Foothills constituency and for an end to the political polarization in the debate about oilsands development. “Sustainability is about more than the physical environment. It is also about maintaining a healthy employment climate. The rate of oilsands development should be reduced decisively but gradually,” said Ms. Keeping.

Calgary Foothills Election By Results

What’s at stake for who in the Calgary-Foothills by-election

The Calgary-Foothills by-election to replace former Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice, who resigned on the evening he was re-elected as MLA on May 5, will take place on September 3, 2015.

Jim Prentice Alberta Premier

Jim Prentice

Like most constituencies in Calgary before this year’s election, Foothills has been a traditionally conservative voting area that elected PC MLAs since the party began its 44-year run as government in 1971. But unlike most constituencies in Calgary in the recent election, enough voters in Calgary-Foothills supported Mr. Prentice to avoid Rachel Notley‘s orange wave.

This by-election is the first electoral test for Ms. Notley’s new government since it was voted into office on May 5.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

The NDP have nominated former alderman Bob Hawkesworth, who also served as the NDP MLA for Calgary-Mountain View from 1986 to 1993.

With a comfortable majority of 53 MLAs in the Legislature, the NDP do not need to win this by-election, but a win would demonstrate that the NDP sweep in May can be expanded into new areas of the province. A very poor showing would be seen as a rebuke of Ms. Notley’s policies.

Showing how serious the party is taking the by-election opportunity, one of the Premier’s top communications staffers, former CBC reporter John Archer, tweeted last week that he would be taking a leave of absence from his job at the Legislature to work on Mr. Hawkesworth’s campaign.

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP

Joe Ceci

Expect Calgary NDP MLAs and cabinet ministers Finance Minister Joe Ceci, Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley and Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir to be flooding through this constituency many times over the next month.

Although the by-election will take place in the depths of summer, it also falls in the midst of a federal election campaign, which could create some fascinating political scenarios.

Ric McIver

Ric McIver

Federal Conservatives united behind Stephen Harper‘s federal party may be forced to choose sides between the old Progressive Conservatives now led by former Calgary alderman Ric McIver and the opposition Wildrose Party led by former Fort McMurray Conservative MP Brian Jean.

It is well known that many federal Conservative MPs, including Rob Anders and Jason Kenney, support the Wildrose but recent polls show the PCs remain popular in Calgary while the Wildrose opposition caucus is almost entirely based in rural Alberta. But in 2015, three former PC MLAs are running as federal Conservative candidates – Ron Liepert in Calgary-Signal Hill, Matt Jeneroux in Edmonton-Riverbend and former Calgary-Foothills PC MLA Len Webber in Calgary-Confederation.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

The by-election will be an important indicator showing if the PC still have a political pulse.The party remains in shock after their stunning electoral defeat and has yet to nominate a candidate to run in the by-election.

Update: AlbertaPolitics.ca author David Climenhaga reports that past city council candidate Blair Houston is expected to be nominated as the PC candidate.

Stakes are also high for the Wildrose Party and Mr. Jean. The Wildrose was unable to elect any candidates in Alberta’s two largest urban centres in the recent election, despite having elected two MLAs in Calgary in 2012. A Wildrose win in Foothills could torpedo activities by conservative operatives to merge the two conservative parties.

Greg Clark Calgary-Elbow Alberta Party

Greg Clark

Originally scheduled for August 15, the Wildrose has moved up their nomination vote to August 11, 2015 (John Huang, Kathy Macdonald, and Prasad Panda are contesting the nomination).

The by-election could also be an important test for the Alberta Party, whose leader Greg Clark was elected in Calgary-Elbow and has earned a reputation as a vocal critic of the NDP over the past three months. While still new to the Legislature, Mr. Clark has an opportunity to turn his party into the moderate conservative alternative to the PC Party and Liberal Party. The Alberta Party has yet to nominate a candidate.

The Liberals have nominated electrical engineer and past candidate Ali Bin Zahid, and Green Party leader Janet Keeping, who ran against Mr. Prentice in May, is running again.

Calgary Foothills Electoral Riding Alberta Map

Gearing up for another Calgary-Foothills By-Election

Voters in Calgary-Foothills will face their third election in less than a year when a by-election is called to replace Jim Prentice in the next few months. I’ve created a special page to track candidate nominations and news about the upcoming by-election. Here are the latest candidate updates:

New Democratic Party: Past candidate Anne Wilson and former MLA and city councillor Bob Hawkesworth, are seeking the NDP nomination. Ms. Wilson was the NDP candidate in the recent election and earned 32% of the vote. Mr. Hawkesworth represented Calgary-Mountain View from 1986 to 1993 and was elected as a city councillor for a ward south of the Foothills constituency. This will be the first electoral test faced by the new NDP government since Rachel Notley led them to victory on May 5. The nomination meeting has been scheduled for July 27, 2015.

Wildrose: Retired police officer Kathy Macdonald will seek the Wildrose nomination. Ms. Macdonald placed second with 30% in the 2014 by-election in this constituency.

LiberalAli Bin Zahid announced on Twitter that he would once again seek the Liberal Party nomination. He was that party’s candidate in the recent election and earned 7.2% of the vote.


I have not yet heard any rumours about who might seek the Progressive Conservative nomination. Voters in this constituency have elected PC MLAs since 1971 but following Mr. Prentice’s abrupt resignation in May 2015 they may not be sympathetic to the next PC candidate (who will now represent the third place party).

Update: Green Party leader Janet Keeping has confirmed she will stand as a candidate in the Calgary-Foothills by-election.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP Premier

June 15 marks the end of the NDP’s trek through Alberta’s political wilderness

On June 15, 2015, Alberta’s new government will present its first Speech from the Throne. Read by new Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell, the speech will represent the first official major statement made by Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government since its stunning election win on May 5.

Premier Ralph Klein

Ralph Klein

In an important lesson about how political fortunes can change, June 15 also marks the 22nd anniversary of Alberta’s 1993 provincial election, which marked the beginning of the Alberta NDP’s long march through the political wilderness.

On June 15, 1993, the official opposition NDP led by Ray Martin saw their political fortunes plummet from 15 to zero MLAs in an election dominated by the Liberals led by former Edmonton mayor Laurence Decore and Progressive Conservatives led by former Calgary mayor Ralph Klein.

Ray Martin NDP MLA School Trustee Edmonton Alberta

Ray Martin

The NDP regained a beachhead in the Legislature four years later and their tiny caucus spent the next eighteen years fluctuating between two and four MLAs before electing 54 MLAs in the historic 2015 election.

Twenty-two years after Alberta’s Klein-era began, a populist centre-leftish New Democratic Party was elected with a majority government while promising prescriptions to heal much of the damage caused by the short-sighted slash and burn policies of Mr. Klein’s government.

In contrast, the two parties that dominated Alberta’s political landscape 22 years ago today are decimated. After 44 years in power the PC Party has been relegated to opposition benches with 9 MLAs and the Liberals are searching for meaning with only one MLA left in the Assembly.

With a clean slate and a fresh mandate, the first NDP throne speech will lay out the new government’s plans for its four year term as government, marking Alberta’s first change in government since 1971.

Blast from the Past
Anne Wilson NDP Calgary Foothills

Anne Wilson

The resignation of PC leader Jim Prentice on election night means that a by-election will need to be held in Calgary-Foothills within the next six months.

Lawyer Anne Wilson earned 32% while standing as the NDP candidate against Mr. Prentice in the recent election and has announced she is seeking the NDP nomination.

Facebook page has been created to draft former Calgary City Councillor and NDP MLA Bob Hawkesworth to seek the nomination. Mr. Hawkesworth served as a city councillor from 1980 to 1986 and 1994 to 2010, and as the NDP MLA for Calgary-Mountain View from 1986 to 1993 (in 1986 he defeated young PC candidate Mr. Prentice in his first electoral bid).

Retired Calgary police officer Kathy MacDonald has expressed interest in seeking the Wildrose nomination in this by-election. Ms. MacDonald was the Wildrose candidate in the October 2014 Calgary-Foothills by-election and general election candidate in the Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill constituency. The Wildrose were unable to elect any candidates in Calgary in the May election.

PC Party tossed into the wilderness

Beginning their own trek through the political wilderness, the PC Party has hired Calgary consultant and long-time party loyalist Troy Wason as interim managing director. Amid rumours that the long governing party is deep in debt, the PC Party announced shortly after the election that it was laying off most of its paid staff and could close down its offices in Calgary and Edmonton.

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).

Wildrose needs to be more than the Anti-Redford Party

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

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

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

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

Kathy Macdonald Wildrose Calgary-Foothills by-election

Kathy Macdonald

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

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

Mike Ellis PC Alberta calgary-west MLA

Mike Ellis

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

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

Stephen Mandel Health Minister Alberta Edmonton Whitemud MLA

Stephen Mandel

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

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

Dr Bob Turner NDP Edmonton-Whitemud By-election

Dr. Bob Turner

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

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

Greg Clark Calgary-Elbow Alberta Party

Greg Clark

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

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

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

 October 27, 2014 By-election Results

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

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

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

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

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

Alberta Progressive Party

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

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

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

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

Susan Wright LIberal Calgary-Elbow

Susan Wright

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

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

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

Greg Clark

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

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

Dr Bob Turner NDP Edmonton-Whitemud By-election

Dr. Bob Turner

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

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

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

Kent Hehr Calgary Centre MLA Liberals

Kent Hehr

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prentice a no-show in Calgary-Foothills

Jim Prentice Premier of Alberta Calgary Foothills by-election pumpkin

Jim Prentice (photo from @wmcbeath on Twitter)

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

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

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

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

Health care big issue in Edmonton-Whitemud

Donna Wilson Liberal Edmonton Whitemud By-Election

Donna Wilson

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

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

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

Stephen Mandel Health Minister Alberta Edmonton Whitemud MLA

Stephen Mandel

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

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

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

Moving targets in Calgary-Elbow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheffins_Campaign_067

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

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

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

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

Greg Clark

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

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

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

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

Dr Bob Turner NDP Edmonton-Whitemud By-election

Dr. Bob Turner

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

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

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

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

Tim Grover Wildrose Edmonton Whitemud By-election

Tim Grover

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

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

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

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


Upcoming all-candidates forums

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

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

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