Tag Archives: Chris Labossiere

Byron-Nelson-Cristina-Stasia-Chris-Labossiere-Marie-Renaud-Alberta-Election

Some controversy with your candidate nomination update

As the Progressive Conservative Party rushes towards an early election call, party officials are investigating nomination irregularities and allegations of bribery, reports Metro Edmonton. According to Metro, the PC Party is investigating the process that led to the acclamation of MLA Naresh Bhardwaj as the PC candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie. Allegations of nomination irregularities have been raised by PC members in Edmonton-Decore and Bonnyville-Cold Lake.

But, as controversy surrounds some nomination contests, all parties continue to rush through the nomination process. The following list are the latest updates to the growing list of Alberta Election 2015 candidates:

Map of nominated and acclaimed PC candidates (as of March 11, 2015).

Map of nominated and acclaimed PC candidates (as of March 11, 2015).

Airdrie: Chris Noble is seeking the NDP nomination.

Athabasca-Redwater-Sturgeon: Colin Piquette, son of former New Democratic Party MLA Leo Piquette, is acclaimed as the NDP candidate. Mr. Piquette was the 2001 NDP candidate in the former Athabasca-Wabasca constituency, where he placed third with 9.5% of the vote.

Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock: Tristin Turner is seeking the NDP nomination. In 2014, Mr. Turner was a recipient of a Top 30 Under 30 award through the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation.

Calgary-Bow: Lawyer Byron Nelson defeated past city council candidate Chris Harper in a 214 to 136 vote for the Progressive Conservative nomination. Recently graduated Law student Alyx Nanji was Mr. Nelson’s campaign manager.

Map of nominated and acclaimed NDP candidates (as of March 11, 2015).

Map of nominated and acclaimed NDP candidates (as of March 11, 2015).

Calgary-Cross: Some north east Calgary PCs are worried that former Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson will be appointed as their party’s candidate in Calgary-Cross, despite six other candidates being in the race. As I wrote on February 25, 2015, it is widely speculated that Premier Jim Prentice could appoint Mr. Hanson as the PC candidate in this constituency.

Calgary-Currie: Shelley Wark-Martyn resigned as President of the Liberal Party today and is rumoured  to be preparing to run for her party in this constituency. I am told that an odd rule in the Liberal Party bylaws does not permit party office holders from also being candidates. Ms. Wark-Martyn served as an Ontario New Democratic MPP from 1990 to 1995, during which time she also served as a cabinet minister in Premier Bob Rae‘s government.

Map of nominated and acclaimed Wildrose candidates (as of March 11, 2015).

Map of nominated and acclaimed Wildrose candidates (as of March 11, 2015).

Calgary Elbow: Educator and storyteller Catherine Wellburn is seeking the NDP nomination, which is scheduled for March 19, 2015.

Calgary-FortVic Goosen has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.

Calgary-Glenmore: Terry Lo is the Alberta Party candidate and Anam Kazim is seeking the NDP nomination, scheduled for March 19, 2015.

Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill: Incumbent MLA Neil Brown defeated two challengers to secure the PC nomination. Community Shuttle Operator and University of Calgary Political Science Graduate Student Ezra Voth is the nominated Alberta Party candidate.

Map of nominated and acclaimed Alberta Party candidates (as of March 11, 2015).

Map of nominated and acclaimed Alberta Party candidates (as of March 11, 2015).

Calgary-Shaw: Evert Smith has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.

Calgary-Varsity: Jeremy Mroch is the nominated Alberta Party candidate. According to his website, he has “most recently been involved at the executive level in the development and commercialization of lower environmental impact energy and oilfield greening technologies.”

Cypress-Medicine Hat: Former Cypress County Reeve Bob Olson has announced he’s seeking the PC nomination for this southeast rural constituency. Also in the race is Danny Fieldberg. Former PC MLA Len Mitzel announced he will not seek the nomination.

Map of nominated and acclaimed Liberal Party candidates (as of March 11, 2015).

Map of nominated and acclaimed Liberal Party candidates (as of March 11, 2015).

Drayton Valley-Devon: Katherine Swampy is seeking the NDP nomination.

Edmonton-Gold Bar: University of Alberta lecturer Cristina Stasia is the nominated Alberta Party candidate. Dr. Stasia has won numerous teaching awards and is a founding board members of WAVE: Women’s Advocacy Voice of Edmonton.

Edmonton-Manning: Gurcharan Garcha is said to be running against MLA Peter Sandhu for the PC nomination in this northeast Edmonton constituency. Mr. Garcha runs the G Driving School. Adam Mounzar is seeking the Liberal Party nomination.

Edmonton Meadowlark: Registered Social Worker Jeanette de Vries will challenge Jon Carson for the NDP nomination.

Edmonton-Rutherford: Local businessman Chris Labossiere defeated Grant Mann in for the PC nomination. The constituency is currently represented by former Health Minister Fred Horne, who is not seeking re-election.

Edmonton-South West: Former Catholic School Trustee Rudy Arcilla is seeking the Liberal nomination. In 2012, Mr. Arcilla earned 15% of the vote as the Liberal candidate.

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo: First-term MLA Mike Allen defeated Catholic School Trustee Tracy McKinnon for the PC nomination. Some PC Party members in Fort McMurray have expressed their unhappiness after they discovered local organizers scheduled candidate speeches after the voting had closed at the nomination meeting.

Medicine Hat: Teacher and past city council candidate Jim Black is the Alberta Party candidate. Mr. Black is also the Political Engagement Officer for Alberta Teachers’ Association Local 2 in the Prairie Rose School District.

Red Deer-North: Krystal Kromm is the Alberta Party candidate. Ms. Kromm is the Vice-President of Red Deer’s Downtown Business Association.

St. Albert: Trevor Love is the Alberta Party candidate and Marie Renaud has been acclaimed as the NDP candidate. Ms. Renaud is the executive director of the LoSeCa Foundation.

Strathcona-Sherwood Park: Educational Assistant and Taekwondo Coach Estefania Cortes-Vargas is the NDP candidate.

Strathmore-BrooksEinar Davison is the nominated Alberta Party candidate. Mr. Davison ran for the Liberal Party in the 1997 election in the Drumheller-Chinook constituency, where he earned 15% of the vote.

Whitecourt-Ste Anne: Gunn-area cattle farmer John Bos is the nominated Wildrose Party candidate.


I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.

Monday morning candidate nomination updates in Alberta

Super-Saturday-PC-Nomination-Election-AlbertaThe Progressive Conservatives held their first “Super Saturday” on Feb. 21, 2015, during which contested nominations were held in seven constituencies. The handful of contested PC nominations have been overshadowed by the nearly forty acclamations by incumbent PC MLAs across the province.

The Liberal Party, still without a permanent leader after Raj Sherman‘s abrupt resignation in Jan. 2015, has opened candidate nominations in all 87 constituencies and have made notice on their website that all Liberal nominations must be complete by March 1, 2015. If the Liberals are actually able to nominate candidates in all 87 constituencies in the next seven days, it will be a busy week on this blog.

Here are the latest updates to the growing list of nomination candidates preparing to run in the expected Spring 2015 Alberta Election:

Craig Copeland Bonnyville Cold Lake MLA PC

Craig Copeland

Bonnyville-Cold Lake: Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland defeated former Wildrose nomination candidate Dixie Dahlstedt in the PC nomination. Some local party members complained about the lack of multiple voting locations in the rural constituency and the police were called to the voting station after an allegedly intoxicated man caused a disturbance. A Municipal District of Bonnyville councillor told the Cold Lake Sun that alleged he was the man removed by the RCMP and he was not intoxicated. Current PC MLA Genia Leskiw is not seeking re-election.

Calgary-Buffalo: Lawyer David Khan will seek the Liberal nomination in this downtown Calgary constituency. Buffalo is currently represented by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, who is running for the federal Liberals in Calgary-Centre, and has elected Liberals in six of the eight elections held since 1986. Mr. Khan was his party’s candidate in the 2014 Calgary-West by-election where he earned 8.5% of the vote.

David Khan Liberal Calgary Buffalo Candidate

David Khan

Calgary-Bow: David Gamble is seeking the Liberal nomination. According to his Facebook Page, Mr. Gamble is the President and CEO of Dandly Writing and Communications.

Calgary-Cross: Seven candidates are seeking the PC nomination in this northeast Calgary constituency – Dan Singh SidhuMohamed El-Rafih, Jesse Minhas, Manjit Jaswal, Hardeep Rai, Hirde Paul, and Bill Kahlon. The constituency has been represented by PC MLA Yvonne Fritz since 1993. She is not seeking re-election.

Calgary-Currie: Pat Murray is seeking the Liberal nomination. Mr. Murray was the Liberal Party candidate in Calary-Currie in the 2001 election and Calgary-North Hill in 2004 and 2008 elections. He also ran as a federal PC candidate in Calgary-Nose Hill in the 1997 federal election.

Richard Gotfried Calgary Fish Creek PC MLA

Richard Gotfried

Calgary-Fish CreekRichard Gotfried defeated Myles McDougall to become the PC candidate. The constituency is currently represented by Wildrose MLA Heather Forsyth, who is not seeking re-election.

Calgary-Foothills: Electrical engineer Ali Bin Zahid is seeking the Liberal nomination to run against Premier Jim Prentice in the next election.

Calgary-Glenmore: David Waddington is the nominated Liberal Party candidate.

Calgary-Hawkwood: Beth Barberee has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.

Calgary-McCall: Realtor Avinash Khangura is seeking the Liberal nomination. The constituency is currently represented by Liberal MLA Darshan Kang, who is now the federal Liberal candidate in the Calgary-Skyview constituency.

Stephanie McLean NDP Calgary Varsity

Stephanie McLean

Calgary-Mountain View: Former MLA Mark Hlady defeated Mr. Prentice’s former Chief of Staff Jean-Sebastien Rioux and Lynn Moen in the PC nomination. Mr. Hlady was the MLA from 1993 until 2004, when he was unseated by the current Liberal MLA, David Swann.

Calgary-North West: First-term PC MLA and former cabinet minister Sandra Jansen defeated past city council candidate Blair Houston in the PC nomination.

Calgary-Varsity: Stephanie McLean was nominated as the NDP candidate in this northwest Calgary constituency. Ms. McLean was the NDP candidate in the recent Calgary-Elbow by-election and is also her party’s federally nominated candidate in Calgary-Confederation. Paramedic Pete Helfrich is the nominated Liberal Party candidate. Mr. Helfrich ran for the Liberals in Banff-Cochrane in the 2012 election.

Jamie Lall PC Chestermere Rocky View

Jamie Lall

Chestermere-Rockyview: Jamie Lall is challenging Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Bruce McAllister for the PC nomination. Mr. Lall was his party’s 2012 candidate in the Calgary-Buffalo constituency.

Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview: First-term NDP MLA Deron Bilous has been acclaimed as his party’s candidate in the next election.

Edmonton-Calder: Ministerial Chief of Staff Tom Bradley has been acclaimed as the PC candidate in this northeast Edmonton constituency current represented by NDP MLA David Eggen. Mr. Bradley is currently the Chief of Staff to Infrastructure Minister Manmeet Bhullar and also served as Base Commander for CFB Edmonton from 2009 to 2011 and Chief of Operations for Task Force Kandahar in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2008.

Chris Labossiere Edmonton Rutherford PC MLA

Chris Labossiere

Edmonton-MeadowlarkSteve Benson is challenging former Globe & Mail reporter Katherine O’Neill for the PC nomination. Former Catholic School District Trustee Debbie Cavaliere is said to been collecting signatures to contest the Liberal nomination. In 2008, Ms. Cavaliere challenged Raj Sherman in the Meadowlark PC nomination contest before withdrawing, switching parties and unsuccessfully running against him in that year’s election as the Liberal candidate. Dr. Sherman, who joined the Liberals in 2011 after becoming leader, is not seeking re-election.

Edmonton-Rutherford: Businessman and Edmonton enthusiast Chris Labossiere will face management consultant Grant Mann for the PC nomination. Mr. Labossiere has earned the endorsements of City Councillor Michael Walters, public school trustee Michael Janz, former Premier Dave Hancock, Edmonton Economic Development Corp. CEO Brad Ferguson and Poppy Barley CEO Kendall Barber, among others.

Rachel Notley Edmonton MLA Strathcona NDP

Rachel Notley

Edmonton-Strathcona: NDP leader Rachel Notley has been acclaimed as her party’s candidate in the next election. Former NDP MP Olivia Chow is scheduled to speak at Ms. Notley’s nomination meeting on March 1, 2015.

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo: Tracy McKinnon, chairperson of the Fort McMurray Catholic School District, is challenging first-term PC MLA Mike Allen for that party’s nomination. Mr. Allen achieved national notoriety in 2013 when he was charged in a prostitution sting while on government-funded trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota. He pleaded guilty to the charge in December 2013 and paid a $500 fine and court costs. Following the incident, he sat as an Independent MLA until July 2014, when PC MLAs voted to allow him to rejoin the Government Caucus.

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith

Highwood: Wildrose leader-turned-PC MLA Danielle Smith will face Okotoks town councillor Carrie Fischer in the PC nomination contest. Joel Windsor is running for the Alberta Party.

Medicine Hat: Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Blake Pedersen defeated former city councillor John Hamill and realtor Jeff Lanigan. Mr. Pedersen faced harsh criticism form his opponents in a recent nomination debate. “I will die on my sword before I cross the floor… people who cross the floor have no honour,” Mr. Hamill said of Mr. Pedersen.

Dustin Nau and local radio personality Val Olson are running for Wildrose nomination in Medicine Hat. Mr. Nau was his party’s 2012 election candidate in Calgary-Foothills.

Peace River: Debbie Jabbour is seeking the NDP nomination.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Tammy Cote defeated former Lacombe County Reeve Terry Engan in the PC nomination contest. Ms. Cote is the grand-niece of former PC MLA and lieutenant-governor Helen Hunley.

Spruce Grove-St. Albert: Rus Matichuk defeated former St. Albert city councillor Neil Kortash and government spokesperson Kathleen Range to become the PC candidate. The constituency was formerly represented by former Finance Minister Doug Horner, who resigned as MLA on Jan. 31, 2015.

Seven more PC MLAs have been acclaimed, bringing the total number of acclaimed PC candidates to 39: Moe Amery in Calgary-East, Dave Rodney in Calgary-Lougheed, David Dorward in Edmonton-Gold Bar, Steve Young in Edmonton-Riverview, Jacquie Fenske in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, Greg Weadick in Lethbridge-West and Richard Starke in Vermilion-Lloydminster.


I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.

Who will stop the Jim Prentice juggernaut?

Jim Prentice

The unstoppable Jim Prentice?

The past few months have been a sobering reminder that it foolish to underestimate the staying power of Alberta’s 43-year long governing Progressive Conservatives. A year ago the scandal ridden PC Government appeared to be on the verge of collapse. And now, without needing to present a clear vision for Alberta’s future, it looks like the PC Party could once again wipe out its opposition in the next election.

You read it here first, folks. The daveberta.ca decision desk has called a PC majority win in Alberta’s 2015 election. Congratulations, Premier Jim Prentice. You win. We are not worthy.

Yup. It has been another strange week in Alberta politics.

Cabinet Shuffle: Rumours are circulating in political circles that Mr. Prentice could soon shuffle his cabinet with appointments for former Wildrose MLAs Danielle Smith and Kerry Towle. Returning to social media after a recent vacation in Mexico, Ms. Smith apologized to her former party’s supporters for not notifying them before she led the majority of the Wildrose caucus to cross the floor to the PCs in December 2014.

Unite what’s Left: The resignation of Raj Sherman as leader of the Liberal Party has spaced another round of discussion about uniting Alberta’s tiny progressive opposition parties. Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman said that she is willing to step in as interim leader and would like to work to unite the various opposition parties. NDP leader Rachel Notley is firmly against this venture, a concept that was overwhelmingly vetoed by her party’s activists at numerous conventions.

More Right: The Alberta Party appears a little less progressive this week as leader Greg Clark announced that former Wildrose candidate Tim Grover is now the party’s Executive Director. Mr. Grover ran for the Wildrose in the September 2014 Edmonton-Whitemud by-election and placed third behind NDP candidate Bob Turner.

Uniting Anyway: One local candidate is taking it upon himself to find an alternative to the current progressive vote split. Past Red Deer-North Liberal candidate Michael Dawe announced via email this week that he will “investigate what might be involved, and what might be possible, in creating cross partisan alliances in the next election, in order to ensure that the people who elect us come first, instead of a group of semi-anonymous backroom players, who are always trying to set the agenda, regardless of what the general public might feel.”

“I will be investigating what might be involved in creating cross partisan alliances, cooperation etc.,” wrote Mr. Dawe.

More Boots: Former PC and Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier resigned from Wood Buffalo Municipal Council this week and rejoined the PC Party, sparking rumours that he might challenge MLA Mike Allen for the nomination in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. MyMcMurray reports Mr. Boutilier’s resignation from council was part of a court settlement related to his residency in Fort McMurray.

Resignations and Re-Elections: Retirement and re-election announcements continue: Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley PC MLA Hector Goudreau announced his plans to retire. Former NDP leader Brian Mason will seek re-election as MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-NorwoodEdmonton-Mill Creek PC MLA Gene Zwozdesky, Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen, Calgary-Hawkwood PC MLA Jason Luan and Edmonton-South West PC MLA Matt Jeneroux announced they will seek re-election. The PCs picked up a big name candidate today as businessman and Edmonton-enthusiast Chris Labossiere announced he is running for that party’s nomination in Edmonton-Rutherford. The list of nomination candidates has also been updated.

#yegvote hangout – post-election “after hours” edition

Last night we hosted the final #yegvote Edmonton election Google Hangout. Not surprisingly, we had a lot of topics to discuss in our post-election “after hours” edition, ranging from school board races, new city councillors, and, of course, the mayoral election.

When we started recording these hangouts in June 2013, I don’t believe many of us would have predicted the 62% landslide victory that Don Iveson earned on October 21. While most media embraced the narrative of a three- or two-candidate horserace, the results would suggest that it was neither. According to unofficial poll-by-poll results, Mr. Iveson won every poll across Edmonton except eight (four where he placed second and four where he was tied).

Our new mayor was a guest on this hangout in August, and we were joined by his opponent Kerry Diotte in early October. We were also happy to have Steven Dollansky, Kathleen Smith, Aliza Dadani, the Local Good, and Chris Labossiere and Patricia Misutka join us as guests on the hangout.

Thanks to my co-hosts Mack Make and Ryan Hastman for helping make the #yegvote hangout a success. And thank you to everyone who has tuned in to watch us live or our archived videos (which will remain online for the time-being). We have enjoyed hosting these hangouts and may continue to record new versions of the hangout on EdmontonPolitics.com in the future. Stay tuned.

#yegvote hangout with Patricia Misutka and Chris Labossiere

With only 4 days left until the conclusion of Edmonton’s 2013 municipal election, Mack Male and I were happy to welcome guests Patricia Misutka and Chris Labossiere to our latest #yegvote Google Hangout. Over the course of the hour-long hangout, we had a great discussion that touched on some of the biggest issues of the election campaign and what happens after the October 21 vote. Thank you to Patricia and Chris for joining us.

Tune in next week for our post-election #yegvote hangout, where we will dissect what happened on October 21 and what’s next.

In related news: The latest polls show Don Iveson in the lead with 53% support among decided voters, but everything will depend on who gets out to vote on October 21. The polls show the other candidates in a distant second and third, but don’t expect Karen Leibovici or Kerry Diotte to take their feet off the gas in the final weekend.

In other interesting news, one candidate is looking for help in distant places. The Edmonton Journal is reporting that two weeks ago Ms. Leibovici’s campaign imported a political organizer from Toronto who worked on mayor Rob Ford‘s 2010 campaign.

2010 in review: alberta politics.

This past year has been a fascinating one in Alberta politics. We have felt the rise of a new political opposition, witnessed more floor crossings than in decades, and a long-serving government that is trying desperately to find a direction. What have the changes in the past year meant for Alberta’s political players and what will it mean for them in 2011?
Progressive Conservatives
The challenges facing the PC Party on the eve of 2011 are similar to the challenges they faced a year ago. During the mid and late 1990s, the PCs were driven by an all-consuming desire to defeat the provincial deficit and debt. Once those goals were accomplished in the mid-2000s, the PCs lost their driving force. As in 2009, they continued to drift through 2010, without a defining purpose.

To say that the government was on auto-pilot in 2010 might be too generous a description because even that assumes that the ship is purposefully being steered in one direction. This is not to say that the PCs have driven Alberta into the ground. Alberta is still one of the most economically vibrant regions in Canada, but even the biggest optimist would admit that with a lack of strong leadership an institutional mediocrity has begun to define the leadership of Premier Ed Stelmach.

Protecting the reputation of the oil sands has become a raison d’aitre for many cabinet ministers, including Premier Stelmach and Environment Minister Rob Renner, but issues like health care have overshadowed these environmental issues on a domestic level. The firing of Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett along with a public shaming by the ER Doctors, and a very public battle with Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Dr. Raj Sherman over Emergency Room wait-times turned the Tories to damage control mode late in 2010.

The PCs had initially hoped to turn health care as one of their positive stories of 2010 and promised one of the most important pieces of health care legislation in decades. The flagship Alberta Health Act was initially created to bring all health care laws under one piece of legislation, but once it made it to the Assembly floor, it was watered down to include a non-binding health charter and empowering the Health Minister to make more decisions in closed door cabinet meetings, rather than through Legislative votes.

In a number of year end interviews, Premier Stelmach has already begun managing expectations for 2011, stating that the provincial budget deficit may not be paid down until 2013, which creates an interesting political environment for an election expected in March 2012. The Premier has also stated that he will shuffle his cabinet in early 2011 in advance of the next election.

The next year will give the PCs an opportunity to mend some fences in their former stronghold of Calgary. The election of Mayor Naheed Nenshi in October 2010 could create a new cooperative tone between the Premier and the Mayor of Alberta’s largest city (a relationship that was not kind to the Premier when Dave Bronconnier was Mayor). If the PCs are unable to regain lost ground in Calgary, they might begin asking what, or who, caused their decline in support, and whether the reason responsible should be replaced.

Liberals
After being elbowed to the sideline by the growing narrative of the Wildrose Alliance as the next government-in-waiting in 2010, the Liberal Party’s biggest challenge in 2011 is to be relevant. Unable to defeat the PCs after 17 years as the Official Opposition, the Liberal Party has started to look and feel like yesterday’s opposition party.

The party has paid down its enormous debt and the caucus has released a series of new policies, but under David Swann‘s leadership the party has been unable to show any momentum as it slipped to third place in nearly every poll in 2010.

The departure of Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor in April 2010 hurt the Liberals and I am told that many of the party’s traditional big donors in Edmonton are not pleased with the current leadership or Dr. Swann’s last minute appeal for cooperation with other opposition parties. With up to three of the party’s eight MLAs planning on retiring at the next election, the party is hoping to draw on a number of former MLAs defeated in the 2008 election to bolster its slate in the next election. Not exactly the sign of renewal that they will need to build momentum.

Wildrose Alliance
The past year has been a spectacular one for the Wildrose Alliance. With four MLAs, that party now has the third largest caucus in the Assembly, the most charismatic leader, Danielle Smith, a slew of staffers and organizers who have fled the PCs, a growing membership, and a group of 26 already nominated candidates knocking on doors across the province. The annual fundraising reports expected to be released by Elections Alberta in March 2011 will reveal another part of this party’s story in 2010 and will show if they will be able to compete with the PC Party’s multi-million dollar war chest.

The Wildrose Alliance is becoming more adept at using political wedge issues to draw out the weakness of the governing PCs. For example, where the PCs will never admit that they have ever attempted to increase privatization of our public health care system, the Wildrose Alliance is much more open with their desire to introduce private insurance and private providers (of course, their arguments around private health care delivery hit a bump in the road when they decided to defend the bankrupt Health Resource Centre in Calgary).

On the municipal front, Ms. Smith briefly entered the City Centre Airport redevelopment debate and received a stunning rebuke from Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel. While Ms. Smith’s entry into the debate does not appear to have helped that cause, it did give her party the opportunity to organize in their weakest region of the province (a maneuver that appears to have paid off).

A party cannot grow this fast without bumps along the road and the Wildrose has had a few. A few months ago, the entire Board of Directors of that party’s Little Bow Constituency Association resigned over allegations of central party interference in the nomination contest that selected Ian Donovan over Kevin Kinahan in November 2010. This week, the Board of Directors of the Medicine Hat Wildrose Constituency Association resigned over the acclamation of candidate Milvia Bauman.

New Democratic Party
The NDP are well… the NDP. The party’s two MLAs, Brian Mason and Rachel Notley, were vocal opponents in the Assembly this year and the party hosted a reasonably well-attended policy conference. The NDP Caucus released some positive policy this year, but rather than offering a constructive alternative to the current government the two MLAs fell back into the comfortable opposition attack-dog position.

The party shows very little signs of serious growth in the polls outside its traditional areas of support, but they are in a position to benefit from a weakened Liberal Party inside Edmonton’s city limits. Barring a change in leadership, which could see Ms. Notley or former MLA David Eggen step up, the NDP may have missed their window of opportunity to broaden their support beyond a handful of Edmonton constituencies a number of years ago.

Alberta Party
After the merger of the old Alberta Party with the Renew Alberta group in late 2009, the new Alberta Party has experienced huge growth.

Through the Big Listen process, the party attracted many disenchanted Tories, Liberals, New Democrats, former Greens, and independents to its ranks and has grown to nearly 1000 member in just one year. The party has been bolstered through the presidency of Chris Labossiere and in a smart move the party hired community organizer Michael Walters as their provincial organizer in Spring 2010. This still-growing party is expected to have over 40 constituency associations organized by the end of January 2011.

Acting Leader Sue Huff replaced leader Edwin Erickson in November 2010 and a full leadership contest will be launched in January 2011. A few potential candidates have already stepped up, including Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor and Calgarian Chris Tesarski. The Alberta Party received a boost in public and media interest in October 2010, when many of its key organizers helped vault Naheed Nenshi to the Mayoralty in Calgary.

As an active member of this party, I see the Alberta Party’s big challenge of 2011 to move past the Big Listen to the next step of initiating some Big Action.

alberta politics notes 11/19/2010

After a week-long break, MLAs returned to the Assembly for a week that started with three-sided tailing ponds and ended with an emergency debate on health care.

Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman at 2010 Premier's Pancake Breakfast.

Emergency Debate on Health Care
Edmonton-Meadowlark PC MLA and parliamentary assistant for Health & Wellness Raj Sherman got the attention he was looking for when he wrote a blunt email to the Premier, and several MLAs, cabinet ministers, and medical colleagues. The letter continued a month long media firestorm on the state of emergency room wait times in Alberta.

As Question Period ended yesterday, Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman succeeded in her bid to hold an emergency debate, which lasted for just over an hour and showcased some of the most passionate debate I have seen in the Assembly this year. This was the second attempt by the opposition during this session to initiate an emergency debate on this topic. A motion to extend the debate during the afternoon was defeated when a number of PC MLAs who did not want to extend their four day week on the Assembly floor (Ron Liepert, Jeff Johnson, and Barry McFarland as tweeted by Liberal caucus Chief of Staff Rick Miller). UPDATE: Mr. Miller has commented below that his tweet was naming the three PC MLAs for not standing in support of the initial vote to have an emergency debate, not to vote against extending the debate past 4:30pm.

MLA Laurie Blakeman initiated the emergency debate.

For Dr. Sherman, the big question is what does his political future hold? After embarrassing the Premier and his caucus on this sensitive file, it is questionable how much longer his colleagues will tolerate an independence streak. With three former PC MLAs having crossed to the Wildrose Alliance in the past year, the Tories need to balance maintaining caucus unity without being too disciplinary with their more independent-minded MLAs. This is a balancing act that has proved difficult in the 68 MLA PC caucus.

New Rural Municipalities Leader
The AAMDC Annual Conference was held this weekend and Bob Barss was elected as their new President. Mr. Barss is the Reeve for the Municipal District of Wainwright No. 61. He was first elected in to Council in 1995 and became Reeve in 1997. Mr. Barss replaces Municipal District of Taber Reeve Don Johnson, who has served in the position since 2004. The conference included speeches from provincial cabinet ministers Hector Goudreau, Rob Renner, Ray Danyluk, Heather Klimchuk, Jack Hayden, Luke Ouellette, and Premier Ed Stelmach.

Liberal Party AGM
The Liberal Party is holding its annual general meeting on November 27 and will elect three of its executive committee members, President, Vice-President (Policy), and Secretary. Edmonton Regional Director Erick Ambtman has declared his intentions to run for President. Current President, Debbie Cavaliere, was appointed on an interim basis after former President Tony Sansotta resigned in July. Ms. Cavaliere will be seeking election as VP (Policy) and current Secretary Nancy Cavanaugh will be seeking re-election for her position.

New NDP Communications Guy
Richard Liebrecht started his new job as the Communications Director for the NDP Caucus this week. Mr. Liebrecht is a former reporter for the Edmonton Sun and editor at the Hinton Parklander. Mr. Liebrecht replaces another former Sun reporter Brookes Merritt, who recently left the NDP Caucus for a job at the Public Affairs Bureau.

The former Libertarian leader wants to carry the Wildrose flag in Calgary-Hays.

Libertarian leader goes Wildrose
Dennis Young is seeking the Wildrose Alliance nomination in Calgary-Hays. The former leader of the Libertarian Party of Canada, Mr. Young earned  265 votes in his 2008 campaign in Calgary-Southwest, which was won by Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Note: Mr. Young is still listed as leader on the Libertarian Party website, but lists himself as the former leader on his campaign website). View the updated list of declared and nominated provincial election candidates.

Distracted drivers
Alberta has a new distracted driving law that will prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones while driving.

Alberta Party (new) media coverage
If you missed the coverage of last weekend’s Alberta Party policy conference, there is no shortage of online news stories and blog posts. Here is a run-down from media and participants of the policy convention and recent Big Listens.

Todd Babiak: Alberta Party hopes to gain foothold with “post-partisan politics”
Dave Berry: Political Crowdsourcing
Samantha Power: Party of the Young
The Unknown Studio Podcast: The Brierley Patch
Mack Male: The Alberta Party’s Big Listen
Edwin Erickson: Moving right along then…
Gerard McLellan: Sunday morning at the Alberta Party policy convention
The Roundhouse: Alberta Party Policy Convention – Part 1
Alberta Party policy convention – Aftermath
Chris Labossiere: Tired and yet inspired
David King: Carpe Diem
Ken Chapman: The Alberta Party is on the Move and Making Waves
Max Fawcett: Mission Impossible?
Duncan Kinney: Feed-in Tariffs, Geothermal and Carbon Disclosure – My experience at the Alberta Party Policy Convention
Jeremy Barretto: Why the Alberta Party is a game changer, not late to the game

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

my closing remarks to the alberta party conference.

A few weeks ago, Alberta Party President Chris Labossiere asked if I would be interested in sharing some closing remarks to this past weekend’s policy conference. I accepted Chris’ invite and shared some closing remarks this afternoon in Red Deer. After the remarks a few people have asked if I could post my remarks on this blog, so here are the rough notes from my closing remarks.

Alberta Party Convention Closing Remarks
November 14, 2010

I want to thank Chris Labossiere for inviting me to give the closing remarks to this weekend’s conference. We have all had a long weekend and some of us have a long ride home this afternoon, so I am going to keep my closing remarks short.

When I met with Chris over breakfast to chat about the Alberta Party a few weeks ago, we spoke a lot about why we were looking for a new kind of politics. We both came from different political experiences, but we both see the need for change.

I want to share with you why I participated this weekend and why I have joined the Alberta Party.

For many years, I was involved in a different political party. I had great experiences in my previous political life and met great people, many who I consider to be close friends, but as a member I came to feel disenfranchised by both the political system and the party of which I was a member. After I let my membership in that party lapse two years ago, I was very hesitant to join any political movement.

As a politically active citizen, there were a number of things that pushed me away from the institutional parties.

To quote Bing Crosby: “You’ve got to accentuate the positive Eliminate the negative Latch on to the affirmative Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.” I found the negativity in opposition politics to be too much to stomach.

The current government is many things, but not everything they do is bad. One of the biggest problems we face is not bad leadership from our government. It’s extremely mediocre leadership from our government, which in many ways feels almost worse, because we can see the potential that is not being realized.

Alberta is a great place to live, but it could be much better. If we want to create that better Alberta, we cannot focus on the negative, on what is wrong. Let’s talk about what is right, what’s almost there, and what we can do to push it forward.

We also need to respect Albertans. We have all heard opposition candidates or leaders in the heat an election defeat call Albertans “stupid” or say “they got what they deserved” because we have elected the same governing party for the past forty years. Albertans are not stupid. When presented with a positive alternative, Albertans will consider and embrace it.

But it is not just about replacing Party A with Party B, what we need is a change in how governments operate in Alberta, we need to change the way we do politics.

This week, it was revealed that the Energy Minister has been consulting a secret council of oil sands experts. Our elected officials should always be consulting the best and the brightest in their fields, but when it comes to our most valuable natural resource, we deserve to know who is influencing our elected officials. I do not believe that the decision to hide the identities of these secret advisors to be malicious or nefarious. It is a sign of a governing party that has lost its way. A governing party who holds stakeholder meetings instead of talking with Albertans. They have forgotten how to talk with Albertans.

There is an appetite for a new kind of politics. A new kind of participatory governance. We saw it in the recent municipal elections in villages, counties, towns, and cities across Alberta. People stepped up and took the risk to challenge not only institutional candidates, but an institutional culture. A top-down institutional culture that has driven many Albertans away participating in their politics and governance. In many ways, we are all taking a similar risk.

We can see political change all around us. Our province is a different place than it was even ten years ago. Our politics has not reflected that, but it is starting to. This weekend we provided Albertans with proof that politics can change. Let’s challenge them let’s challenge the other parties to do better.

In closing, last weekend some friends and I scrambled up one of the peaks of Mount Lougheed in Kananaskis Country. It was tough and it was hard work. On our way up the mountain, we switchbacked left and right, left and right, but we kept on leaning forward up the mountain. When we reached the summit, it made me think of what a great metaphor that day was for what anyone trying to change politics in this province. It made me think of what a challenge it must have been the last time someone changed the way we do politics in this province.

As David King described in his opening remarks yesterday morning, forty years ago, it was a group of young forward thinking Albertans, led by Peter Lougheed, who changed the way we do politics in this province. When I look at the group of people here this weekend. When I think of the positive and respectful debate that I participated in this weekend, I know that it is possible that if we keep leaning forward, we can reach the top of our mountain and change politics in this province forever.

photo post: alberta party policy conference.

I attended this weekend’s Alberta Party conference in Red Deer and took some photos along the way. You can find more photos on Flickr.

The participant package for the 2010 Alberta Party policy conference.

Alberta Party Chief Financial Officer Paul Ney was a rock star on Saturday night of the conference.

About 150 people participated at the Alberta Party conference.

Alberta Party Board Member Chima Nkemdirim shared stories from his role as Campaign Director for Naheed Nenshi's successful Mayoral campaign in Calgary.

Almost all of the weekend's conference was taken up by debate and discussion about policy proposals.

Grande Prairie Mayor Bill Given spoke to conference participants about his recent election.

Alberta Party President Chris Labossiere votes during one of the many policy discussions.

Alberta Party Board Members Josh Kjenner and Christel Hyshka were two of the key players in organizing the policy conference.

Participants discuss policy on the final day of the conference.

two political gatherings happened last weekend.

Around 100 progressive activists from across Alberta gathered in Edmonton this weekend for the Reboot Alberta 3.0 conference. This is the third Reboot Alberta conference that has been held since fall 2009. I attended the first Reboot Alberta conference in Red Deer, but missed this weekend’s gathering in favour of enjoying a weekend in the mountains. Along with networking and idea sharing opportunities, I am told that representatives of the Liberal Party, the new Alberta Party, and the Democratic Renewal Project were given an opportunity to present their vision for a more progressive Alberta.

Liberal leader David Swann.

Liberal leader David Swann asked for the support of Reboot participants and provided his party’s letter to other parties as evidence of his desire for cross-partisan cooperation. Although I believe that Dr. Swann’s plea was sincere, his party is not completely in step with their leader.

After the letter ad was published in the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald, Liberal Party President Tony Sansotta resigned. On cooperation with Reboot, only a short eight months ago, Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald criticized the group as being “elitist” and dismissed the group by quipping that “It’s renew, Reboot and then recycle.

Alberta Party President Chris Labossiere emceed ChangeCamp Edmonton in 2009. Photo credit: Alex Abboud. Liscence: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Then there is the new Alberta Party which was represented by Chris Labossiere, who has written a summary of his talk on his blog.

There are some interesting growth prospects for the new Alberta Party. As a coalition of former Progressive Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats, Greens, and Independents from rural, urban, and suburban Alberta, it has a diverse core of politically engaged supporters to grow from. This party is also lucky to be starting with a blank slate, which will start to be filled at their policy convention this weekend in Red Deer. The Alberta Party will also choose an interim leader this weekend and begin a leadership contest process soon after that.

Critics have been quick to jump all over the Alberta Party for its focus on policy construction and organization building through the Big Listens, but unlike the already established parties, the tone and process are critically important in the early stages of political organizing. Its growth over the next six to twelve months will likely determine whether this party has the potential to reach to survive into the next election.

Blogger’s Update: I have been informed that the very talented Troy Wason also attended Reboot 3.0 and spoke to the participants as an active rank and file member of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta. I was glad to learn that he was there representing his party. I could not think of a better ambassador to this kind of event than Mr. Wason.

I know a lot of people who get frustrated at the idea of vote splitting and the idea that there needs to be less political parties competing in this province. The challenge for opposition parties is not the number of them, but their effectiveness. As Peter Lougheed proved in the 1967 and 1971 elections, a crowded field of opposition parties can clear out pretty quickly when you work hard to provide Albertans with a competent choice on their ballots.

Where are the NDP?

New Democrat leader Brian Mason.

In Red Deer this weekend, members of Alberta’s New Democratic Party gathered for their annual convention, branded as “Seize the Day.” The convention delegates heard from leader Brian Mason about his hope to take advantage of vote-splitting between the PCs and the Wildrose Alliance in the next election. A conservative vote split could help the NDP in a handful of constituencies in central Edmonton, but without a significant voter-base elsewhere, significant gains will be harder to achieve.

I have to admit it, while they constantly provide some of the most vocal opposition to the PCs on the Assembly floor, I have never fully understood the Alberta NDP as a party.

The “seize the day” theme reminded me of when I covered the 2009 NDP convention for SEE Magazine. While there I asked a number of delegates why they were in Edmonton and not in Calgary helping their candidate in the final weekend of the by-election in Calgary-Glenmore. The response I heard most went along the lines of “I’m sure that there are some people helping out. Maybe we’ll get a win this time.

The by-election was won by Wildrose candidate Paul Hinman in a close race with Liberal candidate Avalon Roberts. At the end of the night, Mr. Hinman was elected by 278 votes over Dr. Roberts. NDP candidate Eric Carpendale barely registered on the electoral radar with 1.3% of the vote. The results of this by-election (and the selection of Danielle Smith as their leader soon afterward) helped rocket the Wildrose Alliance from the conservative fringe to Official Opposition-in-waiting.

No one expected the NDP to win or even be a contender in that by-election, but to this day I still cannot understand what  a party that has not elected an MLA outside of Edmonton since 1989 felt it had to lose by taking an opportunity to try and grow its support in Calgary. Instead of being passive observers, those three hundred conference delegates in Edmonton could have made a big difference for their candidate in that last weekend. Given how close the results were, if they had put in an effort maybe the NDP could have helped shape a different result for that by-election.

Just think how different Alberta politics could be today.

alberta party annual general meeting & road to policy 2010.


I have travelled across a lot of Canada and while I have experienced some amazing scenery, in my mind little compares with a Fall drive down the Queen Elizabeth II Highway through central Alberta. The colours of the leaves are changing, the farmers are harvesting their crops, and a new season is just around the corner. This was the drive I took this weekend on my way to Red Deer to observe the Annual General Meeting of the Alberta Party.

Around fifty members of the Alberta Party crowded a meeting room at the Holiday Inn to participate in their party’s Annual General Meeting. It was a typical hotel conference room, but the crowd was different. Where most traditional partisans could easily be characterized by their greying hair or balding heads, this crowd was much more generationally diverse than I have seen at other political meetings.

I arrived at noon and was told that I had missed a series of small fireworks set off by some of the old guard of the Alberta Party. The Alberta Party was formed in the 1980s and existed as a Reform Party-esq fringe party until earlier this year when a new group of mainly rural Party members joined forces with the largely urban Renew Alberta group. I was told that some of these older party members felt that the influx of new members and new constitutional changes were changing the party too quickly. After a thorough debate, all the constitutional changes and motions were approved.

Not being able to piggyback on the resources of federal political cousins or traditional party establishments, members of the new Alberta Party have focused on building their party and policy infrastructure through hundreds of “Big Listen” meetings held across the province. The ideas and feedback generated through these living-room and coffee meetings were used in Saturday afternoon’s Road to Policy session to determine the general areas of discussion that will be proposed at the Alberta Party’s Policy Convention in November.

It was my observation that ideas generated from the Big Listens that were discussed this weekend were not extreme or ideological driven. The ideas were moderate and likely reflective of the views of most Albertans. It felt that one of the biggest differences between this party and the traditional establishment parties is not necessarily policy, but the tone of discussions that are shaping that party.

While some political leaders talk about doing politics differently, the Alberta Party is actually doing politics differently. What I witnessed this weekend did not feel like a political party event, it felt like a real collaborative process.

Some criticism levelled at the Alberta Party since they launched their Big Listen campaign has been that they do nothing but listen. A few months ago, I might have been more sympathetic to these criticisms, but I now understand the process that the party is following. Laying a strong foundation of organization and ideas is not something that can be created overnight and it is critical for the survival of a new political party.

One of the big news items of the day was the announcement by Leader Edwin Erickson that he will resign from his position at the November Policy Convention. At that convention an interim leader will be appointed and an open leadership contest will begin.

The thing that impresses me the most about the new Alberta Party is the group of credible and politically savvy people who have joined its ranks over the past ten months.

New Party President Chris Labossiere was previously involved with the Edmonton-Whitemud Progressive Conservatives and played a key role in Dave Hancock‘s re-election campaign in 2008. Vice-President Chima Nkemderim is the campaign director for Naheed Nenshi‘s Calgary Mayoral campaign and managed MLA Kent Hehr‘s 2008 campaign in Calgary-Buffalo. Their Board of Directors includes former Education Minister David King and Edmonton Public School Board Trustee Sue Huff. At the end of the day, the newly elected Alberta Party Board of Directors consisted of 11 women and 14 men from across the province.

Some people have asked me “why I bother writing about the Alberta Party” and why I do not focus on helping get the established opposition parties elected. The truth is I have a difficult time not getting frustrated when writing about the sorry state of Alberta’s traditional establishment opposition parties.

To me, the characteristics that differentiate what I experienced this weekend from what I have experienced at other political meetings is the optimism of the people in the room. The people I spoke with at the AGM are not driven with a singular desire to destroy the PCs or gain power, but are driven with an optimism to change the culture of politics in this province.

The Alberta Party has proven to me that they can attract competent people and actually understand the meaning of practicing politics differently. Their big challenge will be to translate this into support outside their already politically active communities and into the next provincial election.

alberta politics notes 8/14/2010

– A sad so-long to the authors of the Edmonton Journal’s Capital Notebook blog. Legislature Press Gallery reporters Archie McLean and Trish Audette are moving on to bigger and better things. They will be missed. Good luck!
– After three-terms in the Legislative Assembly, former Liberal leader Kevin Taft has announced that he will not seek re-election in Edmonton-Riverview when the next election is held.
– The Pembina Institute says Imperial Oil is being allowed to break rules about tailings for its new Kearl oilsands plant.
– Landowner groups gathered in Red Deer on August 10 for the first ever conference on landowner rights. The United Power Transmission Area Groups hosted the conference which was attended by more than a dozen groups from across Alberta. The main topic of the conference were the legislative frameworks that have reduced or eliminated landowners’ rights in regards to transmission lines.
– The new Alberta Party will be holding its annual general meeting in October in Red Deer.
– The lobbyists behind the Envision Edmonton group are offering cash for signatures for a petition to stop the phased closure of the City Centre Airport. Chris Labossiere broke this news on his blog yesterday.
– Alberta Health Servcies CEO Dr. Stephen Duckett has published a bizarre post on his blog this week taking the Edmonton Journal to task for something they published over a year ago.
– Federal voting intentions in Alberta from the latest Angus-Reid poll: Conservative (61%), Liberal (13%), NDP (13%), Green (13%). Dan Arnold has a good overview of August poll results.
Michael Cormican has been nominated as the federal Liberal candidate in Lethbridge.
Naheed Nenshi has released a new video outlining his plan if elected as the next Mayor of Calgary. Mr. Nenshi has also provided some solid responses to Barb Higgins and Alderman Ric McIver‘s “policy framework” and “visions.”

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

breakfast with the new alberta party.

I had a very interesting meeting over breakfast at the SugarBowl on Saturday morning with some of the members involved in the new Alberta Party. Most Albertans probably did not even know that an Alberta Party even existed. Most Albertans would probably be surprised at what a busy couple of months it has been for the tiny political party that has so far occupied a historical footnote worth of activity.

At a meeting in Sylvan Lake in early January 2010, members of Renew Alberta and the board members of the Alberta Party met to flesh out ideas on how they could work together. While the little-known Alberta Party has found itself in the “right-wing” category for most of its existence, I am told that by January 2010, most of the more socially conservative members had left that party to join the Wildrose Alliance. This left a tight-knit group of people from central Alberta, old Reformers with a centrist bent, on that party’s board. After meeting to discuss the ‘merger’ with Renew Alberta, the members of the Alberta Party board voted first to unanimously to suspend their party policies (many of which were developed in the 1980s) and second to welcome members of Renew Alberta to join their board, starting a fresh.

Former Green Party Deputy Leader Edwin Erickson was collecting signatures to create a new ‘Progress Party,’ when he was approached to join the Alberta Party and run its leadership late last year. He was soon after acclaimed as Leader. Erickson is well-known in central Alberta for his opposition to the new transmission line laws (Bill 46, Bill 50, and Bill 19) and he placed a distant, but strong, second when running in the Drayton Valley-Calmar in the 2008 election.

Erickson was joined at our Saturday morning breakfast meeting by two new Alberta Party board members. Chris Labossiere is a successful businessman and is the former VP Communications for the Edmonton-Whitemud Progressive Conservative Association. He left the PC Party in 2009 after the Bill 44 controversy. David King is one of the few Albertans still involved in politics who was around the last time a change in government happened. As the MLA for Edmonton-Highlands from 1971 to 1986 and Minister of Education from 1979 to 1986, King was closely involved with building the PC Party under its first Premier Peter Lougheed. King was also one of the founding forces behind the similarly named, yet differently focused, Reboot Alberta.

The co-chair of Renew Alberta, who will be heavily involved as a spokesperson for the new Alberta Party, is Chima Nkemdirim, a lawyer from Calgary who until the last election was involved with the Liberal Party as campaign manager for Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr. Taking a look at the list of the new Alberta Party board members revealed a healthy mix of very urban and very rural, and young and old with diverse political and community backgrounds. I know many of these people and have a lot of respect for what they are doing (I am told that the full list of board members for the new Alberta Party will be released when the new website is fully launched in March).

With the old party policies suspended, the new Alberta Party plans to focus their energies not on selling party memberships or building constituency organizations (at least now), but on ‘The Big Listen’ – a conversation with Albertans. Critical to their success is the need for ‘The Big Listen’ to be more than an exercise in faux-populism. We have seen a brand of faux-populism from the traditional political parties where they travel the province to “listen to Albertans” or hear “what Albertans want,” only to return with a pre-determined partisan or ideological policy stance. In many ways, “listening to Albertans” has turned into an exercise in market research and brand development, rather than sincere governance. If the new Alberta Party is to be successful, “The Big Listen” needs to be a real exercise in collaborative policy development and ideas generation.

I was told that the new Alberta Party is planning to go beyond the traditional dreary town hall meeting to help supporters to host smaller and more intimate meetings in living rooms and seniors centres across Alberta. One of the ideas proposed at the breakfast meeting was the use of technology to create a collaborative atmosphere online where citizens can contribute beyond the on-going ‘Big Listen’ meetings.

As explained to me, the immediate goal for the people involved with the new Alberta Party is not to form government or to create another top-down leader dominated party, but to help change the culture of governance in Alberta. To “turn fear into hope and isolation into collaboration” by re-engaging Albertans in the way they are governed. If you think this sounds a bit like the language of ChangeCamp, you are correct. Some of the people involved in the new Alberta Party have also been involved or attended ChangeCamp in Edmonton, CivicCamp in Calgary, and Reboot Alberta.

Over breakfast, the example of Nokia was brought up. Responding to changing markets, the Finnish mobile phone company adopted an overlying strategy geared towards collaboration with their customers, rather than purely focusing on competition with other mobile phone companies. When this idea is applied politically, it is a large step away from the traditional confrontational mentality of annihilating your opponents at any cost. It should not be, but it is a novel idea, and not one that any of the traditional political are offering in any sincere way.

Throughout our discussion, the underlying theme I sensed from Erickson, Labossiere, and King was a desire for more accountable, transparent, and honest governance and a greater role for citizen engagement in how Albertans are governed. Essentially, an engaged, reformed, and accountable government reflective of the citizens of this province.

I have already heard harsh criticisms from friends in the PC, Liberal, and New Democratic parties that a new Alberta Party will only serve to split the centrist vote in the next election even further, helping the Wildrose Alliance to win more seats. There is a chance of this, but I have a difficult time seriously discussing vote splitting when 60% of Albertans did not vote in the last election. The traditional political parties have proven that they are uninterested or incapable of renewing themselves beyond what is politically most convenient in the short-term – and that is not good enough. As I wrote in response to comments in my previous post, maybe the new Alberta Party will flop, but maybe they will make politics more interesting (and more positive) for the average Albertan. I’m open minded and willing to give them a chance.

(You can find the Alberta Party online on Facebook and on Twitter)