Tag Archives: Christina Gray

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

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

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

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

Janis Irwin NDP Edmonton Highlands Norwood

Janis Irwin (source: Facebook)

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

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

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

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

Former Kenney staffer nominated in Peace River

Daniel Williams UCP Peace River

Daniel Williams

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

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

Eleventh MLA announces retirement in 2019

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

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

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

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

Bozo-Eruptions continue to haunt UCP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

Calgary-Lougheed by-election report reveals $885,206.29 in NDP donations not reported in regular quarterly reports

Elections Alberta has released the initial campaign finance reports from political parties during the Calgary-Lougheed by-election held on December 14, 2017.

Jason Kenney

Jason Kenney

Due to a strange quirk in Alberta’s election finance laws, all or most donations collected by political parties during the official by-election period between November 16, 2017 and February 14, 2018 were not reported in the regular quarterly financial reports. Those donations are instead included in this by-election report.

The report showed the Alberta NDP raising $885,206.29 in donations during this three month period, which would include the party’s aggressive year-end fundraising appeal.

When combined with the quarterly reports, this means the NDP fundraised more than $1.5 million in the period covering the final quarter of 2017 and first quarter of 2018.

The Alberta Liberal Party reported raising $79,083.09, the Reform Party reported raising $8,500, and the Green Party reported raising $8,580.00 during the by-election period.

The United Conservative Party did not file a report before the Election Alberta deadline.

The Alberta Party did not file a report because they did not participate in the Calgary-Lougheed by-election.

Phillip van der Merwe

UCP leader Jason Kenney won the by-election with a landslide 71 percent, ahead of New Democrat Phillip van der Merwe with 16 percent and Liberal leader David Khan with 9 percent.

Recent legislation passed by the Legislative Assembly reduces the length of the confusing by-election financial reporting period which these donations fell under.

Introduced by Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal Christina Gray, Bill 16: Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Statutes Amendment Act shortened the by-election financial reporting period from the day the writ is issued to begin the by-election until it ends on voting day.

It is my understanding that the three-month long by-election financial reporting period is a hold-over from when the old Progressive Conservative regime increased maximum donation limits from $15,000 to $30,000 for individuals, corporations or unions during the writ period. The NDP banned corporate and union donations in 2015 and have since lowered the maximum annual donation limit to $4,000.

The top donors to political parties during the Calgary-Lougheed by-election period (November 16, 2017 to February 14, 2018):

New Democratic Party
Renee Katz – $4,000
K Shugarman – $4,000
Brune Sinneave – $4,000
Cody Sater – $4,000
Don Smith – $4,000
Allan Wood – $4,000

Liberal
Dan Hays – $2,500
Bart MacLean – $1,500
Aletha Crowe – $1,500

Reform Party of Alberta
Kathleen Thorsteinson – $4,000
Randy Thorsteinson – $4,000

Green Party
Jill Browne – $2,300
Alan Ernst – $1,000
Richard Willott – $790


Fringe separatist party renames itself, again… 

The Western Freedom Party has been renamed the Freedom Conservative Party, according to Elections Alberta. The party was originally formed as the Alberta First Party in 1999, renamed the Separation Party in 2004 and again renamed the Alberta First Party in 2013. It was renamed the Western Freedom Party in April 2018 and again renamed the Freedom Conservative Party in June 2018.

The party’s Facebook page does not yet reflect the name change, but it wants to make sure that Albertans “Don’t find yourself waking up one day to find that the World Bank or George Soros and Aga Khan own your financial institutions. You will then understand what you should have done to stop the UN, the Songbird initiative, the Boreal Initiative, Y to Y and the Leap Manifesto and take your country back from the elites!

It is not yet known what this fringe party will be named in 2019, but stay tuned.

Alberta MLAs Maria Fitzpatrick, Wes Taylor, Shannon Phillips, Tany Yao, and Brian Malkinson

Alberta Candidate Nomination Updates: 3 NDP MLAs nominated and another UCP MLA announces retirement.

New Democratic Party MLAs nominated: Three New Democratic Party MLAs were chosen as their party’s candidates for the next election at meetings held on May 6 and May 12, 2018. MLA Maria Fitzpatrick was nominated in Lethbridge-East and MLA Christina Gray was nominated in Edmonton-Mill Woods on May 6 and MLA Brian Malkinson was nominated in Calgary-Currie at a meeting on May 12, 2018. Gray currently serves as Minister of Labour and Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal.

The NDP have scheduled nomination meetings in Calgary-McCall on June 9, 2018 and June 11, 2018 in Lethbridge-West, where NDP MLA Shannon Phillips has already announced her plans to run for re-election.

Another UCP MLA retiring from politics: United Conservative Party MLA Wes Taylor announced in a note on his Facebook page that he would not seek re-election in 2019. Taylor is recovering from having recently undergone open heart surgery. The Battle River-Wainwright district he has represented since 2015 will be significantly redistributed in the next election into the redrawn CamroseDrumheller-Stettler, and Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright districts.

It’s truly been and honor and a privilege to serve the constituents of Battle River-Wainwright over the past 3 years as…

Posted by Wes Taylor on Monday, May 14, 2018

Taylor is the fifth UCP MLA to announce he will not seek re-election in 2019 (and the sixth if you include former Wildrose leader Brian Jean, who resigned as MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin in March 2018).

Meanwhile, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao is running for the UCP nomination in the district he has represented since 2015.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake by-election: Devin Dreeshen defeated five other candidates to win the as the United Conservative Party nomination to run in the upcoming Innisfail-Sylvan Lake by-election. He is son of Red Deer-Mountain View Member of Parliament Earl Dreeshen.

The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting in that district on May 25, 2018 and are expected to select Nicole Mooney as their candidate. Mooney is an English teacher at St. Joseph’s High School in Red Deer and the Communications and Political Engagement Officer with Alberta Teachers’ Association Local 80.

It appears that Reform Party of Alberta leader Randy Thorsteinson has withdrawn his name from the by-election ballot. He declared his candidacy in February 2018.

A by-election will be called in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake by August 5, 2018 following the resignation of UCP MLA Don MacIntyre in February 2018 after he was charged with sexual assault and sexual interference.

Here are some other updates to the list of candidates running for party nominations across Alberta:

Airdrie-Cochrane Ian Chitwood and Laura Talsma are seeking the UCP nomination. Chitwood is director of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission. Talsma is a Registered Nurse at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre and Bethany Cochrane Long Term Care facility in Calgary.

Brooks-Medicine Hat – Jim Black is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Black ran for the Alberta Party in the Medicine Hat district in the 2015 election, earning 5.7 percent of the vote.

Calgary-McCall – Jasraj Singh Hallan is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-North – Jun Lin is seeking the UCP nomination. He ran in the 2017 Calgary municipal election in Ward 3, placing third with 25 percent of the vote.

Calgary-Varsity – Michael Kim is seeking the UCP nomination. Kim is the president of MKMK Education and MKMK Insurance.

Camrose – Dawn Anderson is seeking the UCP nomination. Anderson is the general manager of the Camrose Resort Casino.

Drumheller-Stettler – Mark Nikota is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Nikota was Mayor of Hanna from 2010 to 2013 and currently works as the Chief Administrative Officer of the Village of Delia. 

Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview – David Egan (not to be confused with David Eggen) is seeking the UCP nomination. He is listed as the Chief Financial Officer of the UCP association in the neighbouring Edmonton-Manning district.

Edmonton-Castle Downs – Gordon Reekie and Ed Ammar are seeking the UCP nomination. Both candidates are Real Estate agents. Ammar served as chair of the UCP interim board until the recent founding convention and was Liberal Party candidate in the neighbouring Edmonton-Decore district in the 2012 election.

Edmonton-Glenora – Immigration consultant Marjorie Newman is seeking the UCP nomination. Carla Stolte is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Edmonton-Manning – Jitender Sahni is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Edmonton-MeadowsJoel Mullan is seeking the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-North West – Ali Eltayeb is seeking the UCP nomination. He is the owner and manager of Liberty Tax franchises in Edmonton.

Edmonton-Rutherford – Aisha Rauf is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. She is an instructor and according to her website biography is waiting for her PhD Linguistics thesis defence. She was interviewed in a September 2017 episode of the Broadcast.

Edmonton-SouthDan Johnstone, known to some by his nickname “Can Man Dan,” is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Johnston was a candidate for Edmonton City Council in Ward 10 in the 2013 election, placing fourth with 4.9 percent of the vote. He more recently ran in the 2016 by-election for Edmonton City Council’s Ward 12 where he finished with 3.2 percent of the vote.

Edmonton-West HendayWinston Leung is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Lesser Slave Lake Garrett Tomlinson is seeking the UCP nomination. Tomlinson served as a councillor in Northern Sunrise County from 2013 to 2017 and country reeve from 2014 to 2017. He is listed online as a communications coordinator for the Lubicon Lake First Nation.

Livingstone-Macleod – Justin Murphy is seeking the UCP nomination. He was a candidate for High River town council in the 2017 municipal election.

Morinville-St. Albert: Joe Gosselin is seeking the UCP nomination. Gosselin is a former Morinville town councillor and was the Wildrose Party candidate in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville in the 2015 election. He originally sought the Wildrose nomination in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock ahead of the last election but was defeated by Glenn van Dijken.

Red Deer-South – Ryan Mcdougal is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

West Yellowhead – Martin Long is seeking the UCP nomination.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list.


Listen to the latest episode of the Daveberta Podcast to hear Dave and Ryan talk about some of the latest nomination news, including tips and advice for candidates fundraising for the next election.

Shelly Shannon Kathleen Ganley Christina Gray Beth Barberree Alberta Election Nomination candiates

Sunday Night Candidate Nomination Update

Photo: Shelly Shannon, Kathleen Ganley, Christina Gray, and Beth Barberree

The New Democratic Party has scheduled its nomination meeting in Fort McMurray-Conklin for May 10, 2018. A by-election is needed in this district following the resignation of United Conservative Party MLA Brian Jean. Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Jane Stroud is expected to seek the NDP nomination.

Willie Hoflin is the fourth candidate to join the UCP nomination contest in Fort McMurray-Conklin. Hoflin’s website describes him as a 40-year Syncrude employee and past campaign manager for former Fort McMurray MLAs Guy Boutilier and Adam Germain. Hoflin left the PC Party in June 2010 to join the Wildrose Party.

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

Calgary-AcadiaAmina Beecroft is seeking the UCP nomination. Beecroft is an accounting and finance instructor at Mount Royal University. She is the former president of the Calgary-Acadia Progressive Conservative Association and the current president of the UCP in that district.

Calgary-BowHarry Fleming is seeking the UCP nomination in Calgary-Bow. Fleming is an assistant with Harper & Associates, the company founded by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper after the Conservative Party of Canada’s defeat in the 2015 election. He also served as Calgary vice-president of the Progressive Conservative Youth of Alberta from 2016 to 2017 and president of the University of Ottawa Conservative Club from 2014 to 2015.

Calgary-CurrieNicholas Milliken is seeking the UCP nomination. Milliken is a lawyer and CEO of  Brolly Legal Recruitment. He is the great grandson of Alberta MLA William Howson, who represented Edmonton in the Alberta Legislature from 1930 to 1936 and led the Alberta Liberal Party from 1932 to 1936.

Calgary-EdgemontBeth Barberree is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Barberree is a practicing massage therapist and the owner of Massage at the Club. She was the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Hawkwood in the 2015 election, earning 4.5 percent of the vote.

Calgary-Mountain View – On April 14, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley became the first NDP candidate officially nominated to run in the next election. Ganley was first elected as the MLA for Calgary-Buffalo in 2015, but recently announced she would seek re-election in the neighbouring Calgary-Mountain View district. The district is currently represented by four-term Liberal MLA David Swann, who has announced he plans to retire from politics when the next election is called.

Camrose – Rob Johnson is seeking the UCP nomination. Johnson ran for the Wildrose Party nomination in Battle River-Wainwright in 2011 and was the Wildrose candidate in Strathcona-Sherwood Park in the 2015 election, earning 23 percent of the vote.

Edmonton-City Centre – Robert Philp is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Philip is a former judge and in June 2014 was appointed Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Edmonton-Mill Woods – The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting to take place on May 6, 2018. Incumbent MLA and Minister of Labour Christina Gray is expected to be nominated. Gray was first elected in 2015, earning 64 percent of the vote.

Lacombe-Ponoka – MLA Ron Orr is seeking the UCP nomination. Orr was first elected as a Wildrose Party MLA in 2015, earning 35 percent of the vote. In November 2017, the former Baptist pastor suggested that the legalization of marijuana in Canada could lead to a communist revolution.

Lethbridge-East – The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting for May 6, 2018. Incumbent MLA Maria Fitzpatrick is expected to be nominated. Fitzpatrick was first elected in 2015, earning 47 percent of the vote. Unlike most southern Alberta districts, Lethbridge-East has a long history of bucking the province-wide conservative trend. From 1993 to 2011, this district was represented by Liberal MLAs Ken Nicol and Bridget Pastoor. Pastoor crossed the floor to the PCs in 2011 and was re-elected in 2012.

Peace RiverShelly Shannon is the fifth candidate to enter the UCP nomination contest in this district. Shannon is the advertising manager of the Postmedia owned Peace River Record Gazette and is the past president of the Peace River and District Chamber of Commerce. She previously served as a regional director for the now-defunct PC Party.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list.

Who is running in Alberta’s 2019 Election?

A handful of aspiring elected officials have already put their names forward to run in Alberta’s next provincial general election, which, due to our odd-ball fixed-election period, is expected to be called between March 1, 2019 and May 31, 2019.

Omar Masood ALberta Party Calgary Buffalo

Omar Masood

One candidate has already been nominated. Omar Masood was acclaimed as the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Buffalo in December 2016.

Six incumbent MLAs were acclaimed to run as Wildrose Party candidates in February and March 2017, before the formation of the United Conservative Party and the redistribution of electoral boundaries for the next election. Those six MLAs were Angela Pitt in Airdrie, Glenn van Dijken in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock, Leela Aheer in Chestermere-Rockyview, Todd Loewen in Grande Prairie-Smoky, Dave Hanson in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills and Ron Orr in Lacombe-Ponoka. It is expected that, due to the creation of a new party and a new electoral map, those MLAs will have to run for their new party’s nominations.

Here is a list of candidates who have announced their intentions to seek party nominations:

Aidrie-Cochrane: Peter Guthrie is seeking the UCP nomination in this new district. Guthrie is a former owner of a Mr. Lube franchise in north east Calgary and a former co-owner of a ranch near Castor. He has a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alberta.

Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul: Glenn Spiess is seeking the UCP nomination in this newly redistributed district. Spiess was the Assistant Director of Development for the Living Water College of the Arts in Derwent and is a homeschooling facilitator with WISDOM, the home schooling administration of Trinity Christian School in Cold Lake.

Philip Schuman United Conservative Party Calgary Glenmore

Philip Schuman

Calgary-Beddington: Videographer and editor Daniel Kostek is seeking the UCP nomination in this new northwest Calgary district. The new district will be created from areas of the current Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill, Calgary-Northern Hills and Calgary-Foothills districts.

Calgary-Glenmore: Philip Schuman is seeking the UCP nomination in this southwest Calgary district. Schuman is an MBA student, insurance company account executive and the Vice President of the Braeside Community Association. Until July 2017, Schuman was listed as the Media Coordinator for United Liberty, the political action committee created by now-former UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt.

Calgary-Mountain View: Thana Boonlert is seeking the Green Party  nomination, which is scheduled to take place on  February 28, 2018. Boonlert previously ran in the 2016 Calgary-Greenway by-election and 2015 federal election in Calgary-Centre. The district is currently represented by fourth-term Liberal MLA David Swann.

Calgary-South East: Matthew Jones is seeking the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-Gold Bar: New Democratic Party MLA Marlin Schmidt is seeking re-election. Schmidt is currently serving as Minister of Advanced Education and Acting Minister of Justice and Solicitor General. Schmidt was elected in 2015 with 68.9 percent of the vote and his crushing 11,205 vote margin of victory, the largest in any district in that election, earned him the nickname “Hurricane Marlin.”

Christina Gray Edmonton Mill Woods MLA

Christina Gray

Edmonton-Mill Woods: Christina Gray will seek re-election as the NDP candidate. She was elected in 2015 with 64.8 percent of the vote and currently serves as Minister of Labour and Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal.

Edmonton-Whitemud: Tunde Obasan is seeking the UCP nomination. He is an accounting and finance professional and was an organizer for Andrew Scheer‘s federal Conservative leadership campaign and Jason Kenney‘s UCP leadership campaign in 2017.

Leduc-Beaumont: Former Edmonton police officer Brad Rutherford is seeking the UCP nomination. Rutherford previously ran for the federal Conservative Party nomination in Edmonton-West ahead of the 2015 election. He is the president of the Leduc-Beaumont UCP and the federal Edmonton-Wetaskiwin Conservative association.

Red Deer-North: Cole Kander is seeking the UCP nomination. He is a former political assistant who publicly attacked former Wildrose leader Brian Jean after he lost his job at the UCP caucus due to budget cutbacks in September 2017.

St. Albert: Marie Renaud plans to seek re-election as the NDP candidate. Renaud was first elected in 2015 with 53.9 percent of the vote.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list.

Labour Minister Christina Gray. Photo from premierofalberta on Flickr.

NDP expands Third Party Advertiser law to cover ‘Political Action Committee’ activities

Photo: Labour Minister Christina Gray. (Photo from premierofalberta on Flickr)

Labour Minister Christina Gray , who is responsible for the Alberta NDP government’s democratic renewal initiatives, introduced Bill 32: An Act to Strengthen and Protect Democracy in Alberta into the Legislative Assembly on December 4, 2017.

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

The bill pulls ‘Political Action Committees’ under the Election Finances and Contribution Disclosure Act by expanding the activities covered in the Third Party Advertisers section beyond just advertising. If passed, the law would now cover typical PAC activities, such as selling memberships, fundraising, collecting or compiling information about voters, and other administrative activity for a party, candidate, leadership contestant or nomination contestant.

The bill would limit individual PAC spending to $150,000 on political activities in the three months ahead of Alberta’s fixed election period and  to $150,000 during the election period. Only $3,000 of the $150,000 would be able to be used to promote or oppose the election of one or more candidates in any one electoral district.

The bill would also prevent collusion between PACs, preventing groups of PACs from pooling their funds and resources. The bill would create an independent Election Commissioner who would be responsible for “investigating complaints and recommending prosecutions.”

The bill falls short of limiting annual donations to PACs and banning corporate, union and out-of-province donations, which a private members’ bill introduced by Liberal MLA David Swann and championed by leader David Khan proposed to do.

Rick Strankman Alberta United Conservative Drumheller Stettler MLA

Rick Strankman

“Simply put, our bill is a better bill and will do a better job of getting dark money out of politics,” Khan said in a press release responding to Bill 32.

As an expanded list of PAC-type activities now fall under the province’s election finance laws governing third party advertisersit is my understanding that all donations to registered PACs will be disclosed to Elections Alberta, eliminating the ‘dark money‘ element of PACs in Alberta.

Bill 32 also makes a number of amendments to the Election Act, including the ability of Elections Alberta to collect information of 16 and 17-year-olds in order to automatically register them to vote when they turn 18, extend advance voting by one day, and improve mobile voting stations.

Gray’s Bill 32 also incorporates some changes around government advertising during election periods that were included in a private members’ bill introduced by Drumheller-Stettler UCP MLA Rick Strankman in 2015.

Then a Wildrose MLA, Strankman’s Bill 203: Election (Restrictions on Government Advertising) Amendment Act was referred to the Select Special Ethics and Accountability Committee in November 2015, but was never formally dealt with before the dysfunctional committee disbanded in September 2016.

With only three days remaining in the Legislative session, it is expected this bill will pass third-reading before MLA’s break for the holiday season on Thursday, December 7, 2017.


Alberta Party leadership race extended

Greg Clark Alberta Party MLA

Greg Clark

We have heard a lot of talk but have not seen much activity in the Alberta Party leadership race since current leader Greg Clark announced he would step down 25 days ago. The party released the rules of its leadership race on December 4 and, perhaps realizing the clock is ticking, moved the date of the leadership vote from February 7 to February 27.

Ron Dunseith will serve as Chief Returning Officer for the Alberta Party’s 2018 leadership race. Dunseith served as President of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta from 1999 to 2002 and the Chief Returning Officer for the party’s 2017 leadership campaign. He also served as campaign co-chairman of Dave Hancock‘s campaign during the PC Party’s 2006 leadership election.

Liberal Party leader David Khan and Liberal MLA David Swann (photo from Facebook)

Alberta Liberals deserve credit for pushing PAC issue onto the agenda

Photo: Liberal Party leader David Khan and Liberal MLA David Swann (photo from Facebook)

Political Action Committees will be back up for debate before MLAs depart Edmonton for the Christmas break at the end of next week.

Christina Gray Edmonton Mill Woods MLA

Christina Gray

Last week, Calgary-Mountain View Liberal MLA David Swann tabled Bill 214: An Act to Regulate Political Action Committees in the Alberta’s Legislative Assembly. The private members’ bill would amend the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act to create a legal definition for PACs, require PACs to be registered with Elections Alberta and subject them to the same financial disclosure and contribution rules as other political entities. The bill would also ban corporate, union and out-of-province donations, and prohibit political entities from donating to PACs.

“We need to shine a light on the unregulated dark money that is corrupting our democracy,” Liberal Party leader David Khan said in a Liberal Caucus news release. “Albertans deserve to know who has donated and who is donating to PACs, how much they are donating, and where this money is going afterwards. It’s the only way they can be confident that big money is not buying and selling our democracy.”

Khan made PACs one of his top issues after winning the party leadership in June 2017. He is currently running as a candidate in the December 4, 2017 by-election in Calgary-Lougheed.

PACs have become a big issue in Alberta politics since 2015, when the New Democratic Party government banned corporate and union donations to political parties as their first piece of legislation. While that action was needed and widely praised, it unintentionally opened the floodgates for now banned political party donations to be poured into PACs.

Like flowing water, political money will find the path of least resistance.

It did not take long before wealthy donors, now unable to fund political parties, began pouring funds into unregulated PACs, which with the exception of advertising activities, fall outside of Alberta’s political finance laws. The most notable PAC created since the NDP banned corporate political party donations was Jason Kenney‘s Unite Alberta PAC, which supported his campaign for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party and the United Conservative Party.

Swann’s bill defines PACs as “a corporation or group established or maintained for the primary purpose of accepting political action contributions and incurring political action expenses to engage in political promotion but does not include (i) a registered party, or (ii) a registered constituency association.”

And under the bill, a PAC must apply for registration with Elections Alberta when it has incurred expenses of $1000 or plans to incur political action expenses of at least $1000, or when it has accepted contributions of $1000 or plans to accept contributions of at least $1000.

The Order Paper for Monday, December 4, 2017 shows that Labour Minister Christina Gray, who is also responsible for democratic reform, is scheduled to introduce Bill 32: An Act to Strengthen and Protect Democracy in Alberta for first reading. Gray has said the government would introduce legislation regulating PACs, and if this bill does that, it will likely remove Swann’s bill off the Order Paper because of its similar focus.

We will have to wait until Gray’s Bill 32 is tabled before we know what action the NDP government plans to take, but even if their bill is removed from the order papers, Swann and Khan deserve the credit for making unregulated and unaccountable Political Action Committees an issue in Alberta politics.

NDP tops political fundraising in Alberta for second quarter in a row

Elections Alberta released the financial disclosures showing the results of political party fundraising in the second quarter of 2017.

Combined party and constituency fundraising results show the governing New Democratic Party in the lead in for the second consecutive quarter of 2017, having fundraised $553,733 between April 1, 2017 and June 30, 2017, a jump from $373,060 raised by the NDP in the first quarter of 2017.

The Wildrose Party raised $511,704, up from $345,125 in the first quarter, and the Progressive Conservatives raised $86,818, a steep drop from the $226,572 raised in the first four months of 2017. The the Alberta Party raised only $38,124.51 and the Liberal Party raised $33,845.93 in the same period.

The NDP have raised a combined total of $926,793 in the first two quarter of 2017, while the Wildrose raised $852,689 and the PCs raised $313,791.

This is the second fundraising quarter to fall under new political finance laws introduced by Democratic Renewal Minister Christina Gray in 2016, which lowered the maximum annual donation limits from $15,000 to $4,000. This followed reforms introduced by the NDP in 2015 that banned corporate and union donations to political parties and candidates.

Here is a quick look at the top donors for each of the five main political parties in Alberta in the second quarter of 2017:

Alberta NDP
Kathleen Feehan – $4,000
Allan Kettles – $4,000
Don Smith – $4,000
Tom Boyce – $2,718
Ericka Simonelli – $2,650
Anne McGrath – $2,407

Wildrose Party
Cheryl Wilei – $4,500
Paul Doucette – $4,000
Arlene Goodchild – $4,000
Sterling Goodchild – $4,000
Tasker Goodchild – $4,000
George Janzen – $4,000
Len McCullah – $4,000
Jennifer Swertz – $4,000

PC Party
John Peter – $4,000
Stanley Milner – $4,000
Heather Shaw – $4,000
Deborah Wall – $4,000
Jeff Boyce – $1,500
Wayne Foo – $1,500

Alberta Party
Rhondda Siebens – $4,000
Sharon Gutrath-Siebens – $3,000
Troy Wason – $1,700
Dale Huntingford – $1,500
Patricia Cochrane – $1,050

Liberal Party
Dan McLennan – $2,100
Grant Dunlop – $1,800
Bill Sevcik – $1,000
Raj Sherman – $1,000
Clifford Faden – $650
David Swann – $600
Nick Taylor – $600

Labour Minister Christina Gray. Photo from premierofalberta on Flickr.

NDP finally introduce their Labour Law modernization bill

Labour Minister Christina Gray introduced Bill 17, the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, into the Legislative Assembly today. This bill includes long-awaited reforms to modernize Alberta’s Labour Code and Employment Standards Code. Some parts of Alberta’s labour laws have remained untouched since the 1970s.

The 249-page bill includes a wide-range of amendments from improving maternity leave and compassionate care leave to extending parental leave from 37 weeks to 52 weeks to guaranteeing job protection for new unpaid leaves to simplifying union certification and decertification processes.

Well-respected labour lawyer Andrew Sims, who was hired by the government to work on the reforms, described the changes in Bill 17 as moderate and middle of the road. “This is not a cutting-edge, lead-the-country reform,” Sims told reporters. “It is in most respects a bring-the-best-experiences-from-elsewhere to Alberta.” This would appear to fit with the New Democratic Party‘s shift in adopting more centrist policies ahead of the next provincial election.

While the bill does not include changes some trade unions were advocating for, including banning “double breasting” and replacement workers during strikes, it does include some meaningful changes.

During her time as an opposition MLA, Premier Rachel Notley was a vocal advocate for first contract arbitration, which is included in the bill. First contract arbitration allows employers and unions to access dispute resolution methods under the Labour Relations Code that could avoid lengthy lock-outs or job action if negotiations for a first contract at newly unionized worksites are unsuccessful.

On the issue of card-check, which I briefly discussed yesterday, changes in Bill 17 require a secret ballot vote to take place at a job site where between 40 and 65 percent of workers have signed up to join a union. If more than 65 percent of workers have signed up, then a vote is not required.

You would think that a bill allowing workplace leave for parents looking after kids with long-term illness, leave for women suffering from domestic violence, and striking a provision that allowed persons with disabilities to be paid less than minimum wage would garner support from all sides of the Legislative Assembly. You would think.

But before debate on Bill 17 could even begin, Wildrose and Progressive Conservative MLAs, now essentially operating as the United Conservative Party caucus, voted against first reading of the bill. It is very unusual for MLAs to vote against a bill in first reading, as a vote in favour of first reading is needed to allow for debate on a bill to begin. In fact, a vote in favour of first reading is needed before MLAs and the public even get a chance to read the bill.

It is hard to describe their behaviour as anything but foolish partisanship. Wildrose and PC MLAs have made it clear they are unwilling to work with the NDP on many issues, but at a bare minimum they should be able to offer alternatives and meaningfully contribute to a debate.

But perhaps this is not surprising when you consider some of the last significant pieces of labour legislation passed by a Conservative government in Alberta. In 2015Jim Prentice‘s government repealed a law passed in 2013 that would have levelled fines of $500 and a prosecution within one year for any “person” who suggested that public sector employees strike or threaten to strike. The 2013 law was undemocratic and very likely unconstitutional.

At first glance, the NDP bill appears to bring some semblance of balance into labour law in Alberta while modernizing some workplace protections that are fairly standard in most other Canadian provinces.

The bulk of the changes included in the bill also reflect the NDP’s main narrative in 2017 of “making lives better for Albertans.” By voting against Bill 17 before it was even up for debate, Wildrose and PC MLAs continued to fulfill the NDP’s secondary narrative, “making life difficult for conservative MLAs.”

A screenshot of a Keep Alberta Working campaign video.

No, reforming Alberta’s Labour Laws will not kill democracy.

It won’t come as a surprise to many political watchers in Alberta that the most vocal critics of the NDP government’s yet to be announced reforms to Alberta’s outdated labour laws have strong ties to the province’s Conservative establishment.

Keep Alberta Working” is a campaign of the “Alberta Growth Initiative,” which is a coalition of the  Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association, the Canadian Meat Council, Restaurants Canada and the Alberta Enterprise Group. Unsurprisingly, the campaign has ties to Conservative lobbyists connected with United Conservative Party leadership candidate Jason Kenney.

According to publicly available information on the province’s Lobbyist Registry, New West Public Affairs, a company run by former Conservative Member of Parliament Monte Solberg, is the registered lobbyist for the Alberta Growth Initiative group. Solberg served alongside Kenney as a Reform and Canadian Alliance MP, and later in Prime Minster Stephen Harper‘s cabinet.

The media contact person listed on the press release announcing the “Keep Alberta Working” campaign is New West employee Sonia Kont, who is also president of the Progressive Conservative youth-wing and an ardent Kenney supporter. Also thrown into the mix is prolific tweeter Blaise Boehmer, who worked for Solberg’s company as a senior associate until leaving in 2016 to become Communications Director on Kenney’s leadership campaign.

The Keep Alberta Working campaign has been harshly critical of the NDP government’s plans to reform Alberta’s labour laws, some of which have remained untouched since the 1970s. The group was fair to criticize the relatively short consultation period the NDP government allowed for when preparing the reforms, but its claims that the NDP could destroy democracy by introducing a card-check system for union organizing are totally preposterous.

We won’t know what is included in the reforms until Bill 17, the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, is introduced into the Legislative Assembly by Labour Minister Christina Gray tomorrow. Depending on how it could be structured, a card-check system could make it harder for anti-union employers to block their employees from joining a union.

Looking to the debate ahead, the card-check issue could cause more political trouble for the NDP than they expect. As the NDP know from past experience as a tiny scrappy opposition party, it is much easier for the opposition to cast a government as heavy-handed and undemocratic than it is for a government to explain detailed public policy in a 15 second soundbite.

But there is little evidence that any reforms to Alberta’s labour laws will lead employees of the companies represented by these groups to stampede into the closest union recruitment office.

It’s not really surprising that key Conservative politicos are at, or close to, the centre of a campaign to oppose reforms to Alberta’s outdated labour laws, but the connections to Kenney and his leadership bid are worth noting.

So, when you hear this group’s criticism of the NDP’s labour law reforms tomorrow, consider the source. Also remember that while the changes might be described as catastrophic or disastrous by corporate-funded lobby groups, the changes included in Bill 17 might not be dramatic enough for some traditional NDP supporters on the political left.

First quarter political party fundraising puts NDP in the lead

Elections Alberta released the financial disclosures showing the results of political party fundraising in the first quarter of 2017.

Combined party and constituency fundraising results show the governing New Democratic Party in the lead in early 2017, having fundraised $373,060.23 between January 1 and March 31, 2017. The Wildrose Party raised $345,125.06 and the Progressive Conservatives raised $226,572.21 in the same period. The Liberal Party raised $47,959.83 and the Alberta Party raised only $14,070.49.

These totals are considerably less than what was raised by the governing and official opposition parties in the fourth quarter of 2016, when the NDP raised $1,985,272.00 and the Wildrose raised $2,063,737.63. Similar to previous years, political fundraising in the first quarter of the year is typically lower than the previous year’s final quarter.

Both the NDP and Wildrose Party fundraised less in this quarter than in the first quarter of 2016, when the NDP raised $398,843.71 and Wildrose raised $448,912.71. The PCs raised more than twice in this quarter than the $105,436.47 the party raised in the first quarter of 2016.

This is the first fundraising quarter to fall under new political finance laws introduced by Democratic Renewal Minister Christina Gray in 2016, which lowered the maximum annual donation limits from $15,000 to $4,000. This followed reforms introduced by the NDP in 2015 that banned corporate and union donations to political parties and candidates.

Here is a quick look at the top donors for each of the five main political parties in Alberta in the first quarter of 2017:

Alberta NDP
Jamie Kleinsteuber – $2,612.50
Amanda Nielsen – $2,287.50
David Mayhood – $2,015
Thomas Dang – $1,976
Brian Malkinson – $1,702.50
Roari Richardson – $1,570

Wildrose
Harvey Aarbo – $4,000
Gordon Elliott – $4,000
Gudrun Schulze Ebbinghoff – $4,000
Robert Such – $4,000
Larry Thompson – $4,000

Progressive Conservative
Maria Binnion – $4,000
John Neudorf – $4,000
Constance Nolin – $4,000
Dennis Nolin – $4,000
Prem Singhmar – $4,000

Liberal Party
Ebrahim Karbani – $4,000
Zulqurnain Abbas – $3,500
Tariq Hussain – $3,300
Israr Ullah – $3,300
Fazal Rehman – $3,000
Saifuddin Syed – $3,000

Alberta Party
James Tererenko – $820.94
Patrick Baillie – $500
Aaron Blair – $500
Greg Clark – $500
Brad Grundy – $500
Brian Mahoney – $500

Alberta MLAs to watch in 2017: Shannon Phillips, Sarah Hoffman, Sandra Jansen, Derek Fildebrandt, Brian Jean, RIchard Starke, Thomas Dang, Christina Gray, Jessica Littlewood, and David Swann.

Ten Alberta MLAs to watch in 2017

Despite its past reputation, Alberta politics has become extraordinarily unpredictable over the past decade. This makes forecasting the future a very tricky business for political pundits. As is tradition on this blog, each December I sit down by the open fire and pen a list of Alberta MLAs that I will be watching closely in the new year. Beyond the obvious choices, like Premier Rachel Notley or Finance Minister Joe Ceci, I try to look into the government and opposition benches to see who could make the news next year.

Here is my list of MLAs to watch in 2017:

Shannon Phillips (Lethbridge-West): The implementation of Alberta’s much lauded and much derided Climate Leadership Plan will be central to the government’s agenda in 2017. Navigating attacks against the incoming carbon tax, which led to the approval of two oil pipelines, will be critical to the success of the plan. Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips will also have to navigate the politics of replacing Alberta’s dirty coal fired power plants with renewable electricity generation, which could include potentially controversial hydro electric dam projects in northern Alberta.

Sarah Hoffman (Edmonton-Glenora): Now as Alberta’s Deputy Premier, Sarah Hoffman continues to prove that she is one of the toughest MLAs in the government benches. She has managed to navigate her role as Health Minister, a large and challenging department, and continue to serve as Ms. Notley’s chief political lieutenant. As I noted in last year’s list, she is a contender for strongest member of cabinet, and I place her in the “future Premier material” category.

Sandra Jansen (Calgary-North West): The former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister who crossed the floor to join the NDP in November 2016 could find herself with a cabinet post in 2017. Speculation is rampant that Ms. Notley could shuffle the cabinet early next year. Appointing Ms. Jansen as Minister of Energy could help shore up NDP support in Calgary, especially with the recent approval of two oil pipelines. Or perhaps she could replace embattled Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir?

Derek Fildebrandt (Strathmore-Brooks): The outspoken attack dog of the Official Opposition is unleashed, as was demonstrated by his rant against “political correctness” at a recent event organized by Ezra Levant’s fringe advocacy group. After being muzzled by Wildrose leader Brian Jean in early 2016, Mr. Fildebrandt is already feeling empowered in 2017 by the rise of Jason Kenney in Alberta’s Conservative movement. Like Mr. Kenney, he is a former Alberta Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and a rigid conservative ideologue. Expect Mr. Fildebrandt to be one of Mr. Kenney’s chief lieutenants in his bid to merge the PC Party with the Wildrose Party in 2017.

Brian Jean (Fort McMurray-Conklin): What lies ahead for the leader of the Wildrose Party? After Mr. Kenney succeeds in his hostile takeover of the PC Party leadership in May 2017, Mr. Jean might be the only obstacle standing in the way of the two parties merging. He saved his party from the electoral abyss in 2015, but the well-meaning Fort McMurray politician will face significant pressure from his party and the federal Conservatives to step aside to let Mr. Kenney take over. It seems unlikely that his leadership will survive 2017.

Richard Starke (Vermilion-Lloydminster): If PC Party members want to preserve their party, rallying behind the MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster might be their only, and last, chance. Standing in opposition to Mr. Kenney’s hostile takeover, Mr. Starke appears to understand that his party’s success over the past four decades was not based in rigid ideology but in the ability to build a big tent that invited conservatives, moderates and liberals to the table. If he cannot win, then 2017 will be the final year for the PC Party in Alberta.

Thomas Dang (Edmonton-South West): Alberta’s youngest MLA could become known as the Daylight Saving Time Slayer in 2017. He announced this week that he plans to introduce a private members’ bill in the spring session of Assembly that would abolish the unpopular annual time-shift.

Christina Gray (Edmonton-Mill Woods): Labour Minister Christina Gray is not the most high profile cabinet minister but she is charged with steering some of the NDP government’s important policy changes. This fall she introduced reforms to Alberta’s electoral finance laws, and next year she will face the government’s much-needed review of the Workers’ Compensation Board, expected changes to the Labour Relations Code and implementation of Occupational Health & Safety rules under the controversial Bill 6 farm safety law.

Jessica Littlewood (Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville): She had a rough time while serving as chair of the Special Select Committee on Ethics and Accountability, but the trial by fire was more than most of her rookie MLA colleagues have experienced. Despite the committee fumble, Ms. Littlewood stands out as a well-spoken and articulate member of the NDP caucus. A junior cabinet position could be in her future.

David Swann (Calgary-Mountain View): The ernest and hardworking interim leader of the Liberal Party will step down from that role in June 2017. It is not clear who will succeed Dr. Swann, who is currently Alberta’s only Liberal MLA (he is serving his fourth-term as MLA for Calgary-Mountain View), which makes it difficult to predict what his role will be in a Liberal Party led by someone from outside the Legislature.

Compare this list of Alberta MLAs to watch to previous lists from 20162015 and 2014.

PC Alberta Tammany Hall

NDP Bill aims to take Big Money out of Alberta politics

The Alberta NDP are pushing forward with their plans to reform Alberta’s outdated election finance laws.

Christina Gray Edmonton Mill Woods MLA

Christina Gray

Labour Minister Christina Gray, who also serves as Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal, introduced the NDP’s latest election finance reforms in the Legislature today in Bill 35: Fair Elections Finances Act. This follows in the footsteps of the first bill championed by Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP after the party formed government in 2015, banning corporate and union donations to political parties.

The bill introduced today includes a handful of the reform ideas that were debated by the now-defunct Special Select Committee for Ethics and Accountability, which was created during the euphoria that followed the election of the NDP. The political mood soured quickly after the election and the committee quickly succumbed to a year of partisan wrangling and procedural brinksmanship until the Legislature allowed the committee to disband in September 2016.

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

The new bill has already received the support of committee member and Liberal Party leader David Swann. Dr. Swann, who is believed to be quite sympathetic to the NDP on many issues, was quoted in a government press released praising the changes.

The bill picks up where the committee left off, but does not include some of the more controversial ideas, such as per-vote financial subsidies for political parties.

Bill 35 would lower the limit that individuals can contribute annually to political parties to $4,000, which is a positive move, and is a reform that NDP and Wildrose MLAs on the all-party committee found room to agree on. The current annual contribution limits are $15,000 outside election periods and $30,000 during election periods.

Eric Rosendahl

Eric Rosendahl

The bill imposes a spending limit of $50,000 for each individual candidate’s campaigns and a $2 million limit for political parties (the Progressive Conservatives were the only party to spend more than $2 million in the last election). I am in favour of spending limits but I do believe that a $50,000 limit for constituency campaigns could be too low. I expect this could lead to some candidate campaigns spending additional funds in advance of the election being called in order to circumvent the low limit.

There are currently no spending limits in Alberta and our province is currently the only province in Canada without spending limits. The lack of spending limits has led to some significant disparities in what is spent in elections campaigns. For example, Edmonton-Whitemud PC candidate Stephen Mandel‘s campaign spent $132,991 in 2015, while candidates like West Yellowhead New Democrat Eric Rosendahl spent $748. Generally, the rule is that the candidate who spends the most money is likely to win, but 2015 was an exception to that rule (Mr. Mandel was defeated and Mr. Rosendahl was elected).

Rob Anderson MLA Airdrie PC WIldrose

Rob Anderson

The NDP have allowed a handful of costs to be exempted from the limit, including travel costs, parking and gas, childcare expenses, expenses related to a candidate living with a disability, and financial audits required by law. I suspect the exemption of travel and gas costs are meant to address some concerns that MLAs on the committee raised about additional expenses incurred when campaigning in geographically large rural constituencies. This issue was raised by Wildrose MLAs on the committee who represent some of these large rural areas.

The bill also proposes limiting spending by candidates running in party nomination contests, which currently does not exist in Alberta. Nomination candidates would now have to register their candidacy with Elections Alberta, which is similar to a system that already exists for federal political parties.

Rick Strankman

Rick Strankman

Perhaps most controversially, Bill 35 seeks to limit the total amount of money that third-party advertisers can spend during elections campaigns. The proposed limit of $150,000, of which no more than $3,000 could used in an individual constituency, is severely limiting. The high costs associated with advertising campaigns would mean that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for any third-party group to run an effective province-wide campaign during an election period in Alberta.

The province’s original third party advertising laws were introduced in 2009 by first term Progressive Conservative MLA Rob Anderson, who later crossed the floor to the Wildrose Party in 2010 before crossing back to the PCs in 2014. Mr. Anderson is now supporting Jason Kenney‘s campaign to merge the two parties and penned an apology to Wildrose supporters on his blog.

Perhaps somewhat ironically, considering the vastly different political environment in 2016, the third-party advertising laws passed by the PCs in 2009 were seen as a reaction to the Albertans for Change advertising campaign targeted then-premier Ed Stelmach. The ads, which became infamous for the spooky “Noooo Plaaan” tagline, were sponsored by a handful of Alberta labour unions.

It was during the 2009 debate in the Legislative Assembly over Mr. Anderson’s bill that the rookie MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona, Rachel Notley, foreshadowed what seven years later would become her government’s reforms to Alberta’s elections finance system:

…in Alberta we should have a much more comprehensive set of rules around our own election financing as candidates, as members of political parties, we should have much more substantial limits on how much we can spend as political parties, and we should have much more substantial rules on the maximum donation that we can receive, all of that designed to ensure it is the individual voter whose activity and whose engagement ultimately makes the day one way or the other at the end of the process and that it’s not one person or a group of 20 people with $15,000 each who can decide a particular campaign in a particular riding.


Where is Strankman’s bill?

Post media columnist Graham Thomson raises an important point in his latest column. Earlier this year Wlidrose MLA Rick Strankman introduced a Private Members’ Bill calling for a blackout of government announcements during election period in order to prevent a governing party from using public funds to influence the election.

The bill was introduced in the Assembly but then referred to the Special Select Committee for Ethics and Accountability, which never had the opportunity to debate it before it was disbanded. It is unclear whether Mr. Strankman’s bill will ever resurface in a future sitting.

Thousands of Albertans packed the Legislature Grounds to watch Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP cabinet be sworn-in.

A look at some of the new laws passed in Alberta in Spring 2016

The Spring session of the Alberta Legislature ended yesterday after forty-days of debate.

The evacuation of more than 88,000 Albertans sparked by the wildfires in Fort McMurray dominated the attention of our political leaders during this session. In response to the wildfire crisis, Premier Rachel Notley and Wildrose leader Brian Jean briefly put aside politics and demonstrated their strengths as political leaders. It was a refreshing break from the negative rhetoric and hyperbole that has come to dominate Alberta politics.

The legislative session produced ejections, MLA suspensions and other intrigue but amidst the budget debates and political drama the New Democratic Party government pursued a fairly ambitious legislative agenda.

Twenty-one government bill and one two private members’ bills were passed during this session.

Bill 205: Pharmacy and Drug (Pharmaceutical Equipment Control) Amendment Act, a private members’ bill introduced by Calgary-West Progressive Conservative MLA Mike Ellis received unanimous support from MLAs when it was passed in the Legislature. The bill restricts ownership of pill presses in response to the Fentanyl crisis.

Bill 1: Promoting Job Creation and Diversification Act introduced by Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous gave the minister new powers to create programs focused on broadening the province’s industries and businesses. “Jobs” and “diversification” were key buzzwords used by NDP cabinet ministers this spring as they face an increase in unemployment and decrease in industry investment caused by the decline of the international price of oil.

Bill 4: An Act to Implement a Supreme Court Ruling Governing Essential Services introduced by Labour Minister Christina Gray lifted the ban on strikes by all public sector employees in response to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2015.

Bill 7: Electoral Boundaries Commission Amendment Act introduced by Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley pushed forward the timelines to redraw the electoral boundaries before the provincial election in 2019, which could have an impact on the results of that election. The timelines as they were previously legislated were askew after the Progressive Conservatives called an election one year earlier than Alberta’s fixed-election date law in 2015.

The NDP missed an opportunity to improve the composition of the commissions, which will include five appointees (two appointed by the Government Caucus, two by the Official Opposition and one “neutral” chairperson chosen by the government). The NDP should have amended the legislation to create a non-partisan judicial commission similar to the ones appointed to redraw federal electoral boundaries.

Introduced by Finance Minister Joe Ceci, Bill 10: Fiscal Statutes Amendment Act removed the 15 per cent debt-to-nominal-GDP cap implemented by the NDP in the fall session of 2015. This was a classic example of a government walking back on a law which they probably should not have passed in the first place. The Alberta government’s net-debt levels remain low enough that Albertans should not immediately be worried. But as our provincial credit ratings have been downgraded, it will be important for the current and future governments to implement policies that will actually address the government’s significant revenue shortfall and growing budget deficit.

Bill 11: Alberta Research and Innovation Amendment Act reorganized Alberta’s four “Innovates” branded research and development agencies into one agency governed by a single board and CEO. Bill 18: An Act to Ensure Independent Environmental Monitoring dissolved the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency and brought its responsibilities into the Department of Environment and Parks. Bill 11 also established the position of Chief Scientist.

Bill 15: An Act to End Predatory Lending introduced by Service Alberta Minister Stephanie McLean targeted the payday loan industry, bringing down the amounts paid on payday loans from $23 per $100 borrowed down to $15 per $100. Ms. McLean announced that the government is working with credit unions to offer short-term loans as an alternative to predatory loans.

Bill 19: Reform of Agencies, Boards and Commissions Compensation Act injected transparency into Alberta’s byzantine system of appointed agencies, boards and commissions that had become a safe-haven for PC Party loyalists, patrons and retired MLAs during the previous government’s 44 years in power.

A long-time coming, Bill 21: Modernized Municipal Government Act, was in the works for years, but even so it was surprising that the NDP has been able to introduce it so early in their mandate. Bill 21 overhauls and updates sections of the province’s second largest piece of legislation. Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee, a rising-star in the NDP, will travel across the province this summer to consult with municipal leaders about the changes proposed in this bill, which only passed first reading during this session.

Bill 21 sets the ground for the creation of Big City Charters in the Act’s regulations, as advocated for by Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. The Charters are expected to be drafted by Spring 2017 and enacted by Summer 2017.

The NDP government’s flag ship piece of legislation of spring 2016 was Bill 20: Climate Leadership Implementation ActPart of the much-lauded Climate Leadership Plan, Bill 20 implements the Carbon levy and rebate program. In what is becoming a signature move of the NDP government, Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips assembled an impressive coalition of municipal, industry and environmental leaders in support of the new law.

While there are legitimate criticism of the bill, including whether the carbon levy is actually “revenue neutral,” the Wildrose Opposition failed to offer any alternative plan. The Official Opposition was knee-capped by a serious self-inflicted wound when an article signed by nine Wildrose MLAs compared carbon pricing to Holodomor, the genocide that killed an estimated 2.5–7.5 million Ukrainians in the Soviet Union from 1932 to 1933. Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills MLA Dave Hanson apologized for the comment but the nine MLAs avoided answering questions about the genocide comparison when asked by the media.

Alberta’s Legislative Assembly is expected to reconvene on October 31, 2016 and sit until December 1, 2016.

[Note: This was just a brief description of some of the bills debated and passed during the spring session. A full list of bills debated in this session can be found here]

Thousands of Albertans packed the Legislature Grounds to watch Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP cabinet be sworn-in.

10 ways to Renew Democracy in Alberta

The first law created by Alberta’s New Democratic Party government’s after its election win in 2015 was Bill 1: An Act to Renew Democracy in Alberta, which banned corporate and union donations to provincial political parties.

Following the passage of this law, the Select Special Ethics and Accountability Committee was tasked with reviewing the Election Act, the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, the Conflicts of Interest Act, and the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act.

Christina Gray Edmonton Mill Woods MLA

Christina Gray

The MLA committee is chaired by Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Christina Gray, who was recently appointed as Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal, and includes NDP, Wildrose, Progressive Conservative, Liberal and Alberta Party MLAs.

There has not been a comprehensive review of the Election Act in 35 years. Changes to the Act should recognize the current realities and advances in technology while ensuring the election process in Alberta is fair, transparent, accountable and efficient.

Ian Urquhart shared some of his recommendations to the committee in a recent newspaper opinion-editorial. I have already written about how the Alberta government can reform how electoral boundaries are drawn, and without diving into the complex topic of electoral reform (which is currently being dealt with at the federal level), here are ten ideas that I believe could help improve the democratic process in Alberta:

  1. Introduce Mandatory Voting as part of an intensive civics education campaign for Albertans. Voter turnout in provincial elections is abysmally low and has only surged higher than 60 percent twice in the past forty years (in the 1982 and 1993 elections). Like filing your taxes or graduating high school, voting is a civic responsibility in which all citizens should be encouraged, and required, to participate.
  2. Include a None of the Above option on the ballot in provincial elections. This would allow voters to express valid feelings of displeasure with the candidates listed on the ballot through a None of the Above option. If None of the Above receives the most votes, then a by-election will be held with a new group of candidates.
  3. Lower the maximum annual amount that individuals can donate to provincial political parties. The current maximum annual donation limits in Alberta is $30,000 during election periods and $15,000 outside of election periods. The current maximum annual donation for federal political parties in Canada is $1,525.
  4. Implement maximum limits to how much candidates, political parties and third-party groups can spend during the election period, as already exist for candidates in federal elections.
  5. If we are going to have fixed elections for general elections in Alberta, then let’s actually have a fixed election day. It is time to eliminate the open-ended March 1 to May 31 fixed election period, which was passed by the Progressive Conservative government in 2011 and is strangely unique to Alberta. All other provinces with the exception of Nova Scotia have an actual fixed election day.
  6. If we are going to have fixed election days for general elections, we should have fixed election days for by-elections in order to determine when a by-election will be called to fill vacancies in the Legislative Assembly. Current rules only say that a by-election will be called within six months of a vacancy.
  7. Hold Election Day on a weekend and extend voting hours over Saturday and Sunday to allow for more access to the voting stations. Advance voting is currently held over a four day period, so there is no reason why the Election Day cannot be extended over two days. Moving the Election Day to the weekend will make voting easier for citizens who are unable to cast their ballots on a single weekday.
  8. Introduce automated voting tabulators like those used in the 2014 by-elections and by municipalities like the City of Edmonton since the mid-1990s. This would allow for the ballots to be counted in a more efficient and timely manner.
  9. Ban corporate and union donations in municipal elections by amending the Local Authorities Elections Act. Motions supporting this idea have been endorsed by Edmonton City Council, Edmonton Public School Board and Fort Saskatchewan City Council.
  10. Give Elections Alberta the authority and resources to investigate violations of the Local Authorities Elections Act. Some municipalities are currently unwilling or do not have the resources to investigate violations of this law.

The committee is accepting written recommendations until February 26, 2016, which can be emailed to EthicsandAccountability.Committee@assembly.ab.ca.