Tag Archives: Craig Chandler

Can Wildrose survive Rob Anders? Can floor crossers survive PC Party?

Melissa Mathieson Rob Anders Macleod Conservative Guns

Calgary-West MP Rob Anders with former Conservative nomination candidate Melissa Mathieson in Feb. 2014.

Initially turned away by Wildrose Party officials, controversial Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders has asked the Wildrose Party for a “waiver” to run for the party’s leadership. Having lost bids for federal Conservative nominations in Calgary-Signal Hill and Bow River last year, the controversial Mr. Anders, 42, is scrambling to salvage his 18 year long political career.

Derek Fildebrandt Alberta Taxpayers

Derek Fildebrandt

Before crossing the floor to the PC Party, former leader Danielle Smith publicly told Mr. Anders that he was not welcome to run for the Wildrose Party. But now with the party weakened and without a leader, Mr. Anders may be in a position to mobilize his legions of social conservatives to win the leadership.

Also said to be considering a run for the Wildrose leadership are former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk (a nominated candidate in Sherwood Park), former lobbyist Derek Fildebrandt (running for a nomination in Strathmore-Brooks) and Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes.

Can the PC-Wildrose MLAs survive?
Kerry Towle

Kerry Towle

It appears that all or most former Wildrose MLAs who crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives in the final months of 2014 will face strong competitions to win their new party’s nominations to run in the next election.

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Rod Fox is facing former Ponoka Mayor Larry Henkleman and businessman Peter DewitInnisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle is facing Red Deer County Mayor Jim WoodCardston-Taber-Warner MLA Gary Bikman is being challenged by Taber Reeve Brian Brewin, and Calgary-Shaw MLA Jeff Wilson is being challenged by arch-conservative activist Craig Chandler.

If Olds-Disbury-Three Hills MLA Bruce Rowe decides to seek re-election, he will face a challenge from Olds Town Councillor Wade Bearchell, who is already campaigning for the PC nomination. Medicine Hat MLA Blake Pedersen is also expected to face a strong challenge and Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson has already announced he will not run for re-election.

Immediately following the floor-crossings, Mr. Pedersen told the Medicine Hat News be believed their PC nominations were guaranteed, but that appears to be a key bargaining position the 9 Wildrose MLAs asked for and were denied before they joined the PCs.

Now the question is how many of the Wildrose-turned-PC MLAs can survive to run in the next election? Could a potential cabinet shuffle save their political careers?

What are PC-Wildrose MLAs are saying about being in government?

Olds-Disbury-Three Hills MLA Bruce Rowe (Olds Albertan):

“You know, it’s a shame to have to say this, but it’s amazing to me the doors that are open since I crossed the floor. I get into ministers’ office(s) and get things done. It’s just – it’s amazing. It’s really not the way it should be, but it is the way it is.”

What are PC MLAs saying about the PC-Wildrose MLAs?

Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Doug Horner (Spruce Grove Examimer):

“This shows that was all politics. That’s unfortunate, and we will have to let that go. But I think everybody should understand that when they make accusations like that and then (cross the floor), it’s obvious there was a lot of political motivation there and not a lot of fact,” Mr. Horner said.

“I’d like to see us stop with the unfounded character assassination — and I think that will stop from them.”

Edmonton-Castle Downs MLA Thomas Lukaszuk (Calgary Herald): 

“It’s sort of like that neighbour that screams at you all the time and calls the cops on you once in a while now moves into your house,” Mr. Lukaszuk said. “You sort of work around it and make it work. At the end of the day you have to focus on the prize — and that’s representing your constituents and making good decisions as a government.”


I will be taking a short break from blogging for the next week. In my absence, take a look at David Climenhaga‘s excellent blog at AlbertaPolitics.ca.

 

Sunday Night candidate nomination updates in Alberta

Sarah Hoffman Edmonton Rachel Notley NDP

Sarah Hoffman endorsed Rachel Notley when she entered the NDP leadership contest on June 16, 2014.

Edmonton Public School Board Trustee Sarah Hoffman is expected to make an announcement on Monday, January 19 that could signal a jump into provincial politics. Speculation is rampant that Ms. Hoffman could be announcing plans to seek the New Democratic Party nomination in the Edmonton-Glenora constituency. The NDP have never elected a MLA in Glenora, but the party saw its support in the constituency increase from 15% in 2008 to 25% in 2012.

Ms. Hoffman was first elected as a trustee on the Edmonton Public School Board in 2010 and currently serves as chairperson. In 2014, she endorsed Rachel Notley for the leadership of the NDP.

With the Progressive Conservatives planning to complete candidate nominations in all 87 constituencies by March 15, 2015, there have been plenty of announcements since my previous update:

Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater: Athabasca 94.1 The River broadcaster Victor Mario Kaisar tweeted that Jeff Johnson has announced intentions to run for re-election. Mr. Johnson was first elected in 2008 and is currently serving as Minister of Seniors.

Bonnyville-Cold Lake: Dixie Dahlstedt posted an announcement on her Facebook page that she has withdrawn from the Wildrose nomination contest.

Calgary-Northern Hills: Mortgage broker Aryan Sadat has launched his campaign for the PC nomination in Calgary-Northern Hills. The constituency is currently represented by PC MLA Teresa Woo-Paw, who has yet to announce whether she will seek the nomination.

Calgary-Nose Hill-MackayNeil Brown announced on Twitter that he plans to seek the PC nomination. Mr. Brown was first elected in 2004.

Calgary-Shaw: Arch-conservative activist Craig Chandler continues his campaign to become the PC candidate in the next election. Mr. Chandler is expected to face Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Jeff Wilson for the PC nomination.

In 2007, Mr. Chandler won the PC nomination in the former Calgary-Egmont but was later removed as a candidate after publicly commenting that Albertans who did not like conservative culture or politics should move back to where they came from.

Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills: Local PC Party Association President Darrell Younghans and Jeff Dechaine have declared intentions to seek the PC nomination in this constituency. The area is currently represented by Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw.

Lacombe-Ponoka: Lacombe area resident Peter Dewit announced in December 2014 that he plans to seek the PC nomination. Mr. Dewit might face off against Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Rod Fox, who has yet to publicly announce whether he plans to seek re-election.

Sherwood Park: PC MLA Cathy Olesen announced on Twitter that she plans to seek her party’s nomination for the next election. Ms. Olesen tweeted that PC Party regional vice president Sue Timanson is challenging her for the nomination.

Spruce Grove-St. Albert:  Incumbent PC Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Doug Horner told the St. Albert Gazette that he would make his intentions about running again known by this week. The former Finance Minister was first elected in 2001.

West Yellowhead: Finance Minister Robin Campbell announced on Twitter that he will seek the PC Party nomination for re-election. Mr. Campbell was first elected in 2008.


 

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.

Could the Wildrose collapse mean an early 2015 election?

Jim Prentice Danielle Smith Alberta Wildrose Merger PC

Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and her new boss, PC Party Premier Jim Prentice.

This week’s defection of nine Wildrose MLAs to the Progressive Conservative Caucus has drastically impacted Alberta’s electoral map. The governing PCs now hold 72 of 87 electoral constituencies with the remaining opposition consisting of 5 Wildrose MLAs, 5 Liberal MLAs, 4 New Democrats and 1 Independent MLA.

Preston Manning

Preston Manning

The mass-floor crossing, encouraged by Conservative Godfather Preston Manning, could increase the likelihood of an early 2015 general election. Now with 72 MLAs, the PCs are in a position to quickly nominate candidates across the province and take advantage of an opposition in disarray by calling a snap election early in the new year.

With Premier Jim Prentice increasingly warning of Alberta’s tough economic times, it is not far fetched to believe the PCs could seek a new mandate earlier than the 2016 fixed-election period. There is suspicion that Mr. Prentice wants to take advantage of the low price of oil in order to impose budget cuts before the price exits the “price trough” and begins to rise.

Rob Anderson MLA Airdrie PC WIldrose

Rob Anderson

NDP MLA Brian Mason and blogger David Climenhaga suggest a snap election could be called in early January 2015, but it could be more likely the Tories would wait until February or March.

In their 43 years in government, it has been common for the PCs to table a provincial budget in February or March and then immediately drop the Writ of election in order to use the budget as their de-facto campaign platform. This timeline would also allow for an early 2015 cabinet shuffle to make room for floor-crossers Danielle Smith and Rob Anderson, and allow the Tories time to build their message around a “tough economic times” budget/campaign platform.

Alison Redford Alberta Election 2012 Conservative leader

Alison Redford

An early election would also allow Mr. Prentice to attract new candidates and force PC MLA’s too closely associated with former premier Alison Redford into early retirement (ie: Doug Horner, Fred Horne, Sandra JansenDoug Griffiths).

Mr. Prentice may also want to hold an election before more information is released by the R.C.M.P. regarding their investigation into Ms. Redford and her staff. The CBC reported on November 4, 2014 that a Justice Department internal review concluded Ms. Redford could face criminal charges if allegations about her use of government airplanes are proven by an RCMP investigation.

Doug Horner

Doug Horner

The possibility of an early election should be a wake-up call for Alberta’s fractious non-conservative opposition parties, who are mostly contained within Alberta’s two largest cities. The lack of conservative vote split that the New Democrats, Liberals and Alberta Party had hoped to capitalize on may have vanished the moment Ms. Smith crossed the floor.

One potential speed bump to an early election could be dissent within the PC Caucus to the Wildrose MLA floor-crossing. I am told that more than a few PC MLAs are not pleased with their new colleagues of convenience, who have spent the past two years attacking and embarrassing them as the opposition. If Mr. Prentice suspects this internal dissent is potentially explosive, he may decide to hold off an election until tensions inside the PC Caucus cool down.

Fred-Horne-Alberta

Fred Horne

It is yet to be seen if the hostility to the PC-Wildrose Caucus merger – including the RecallDanielle campaign – will die down or whether it will manifest itself into a real backlash at the polls. This could have a big impact on whether an early election is held. The defection has certainly left a bad taste in the mouths of many Albertans, but the political maneuver removes the most likely alternative that voters had to send a message to the Tories.

Despite having the luxury of a government-in-waiting for the past two years, it appears that the PC Party are once again are on a trajectory to form another massive majority and extend the their 43-year reign.

Wildrose candidates?
Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

Before the mass floor-crossing, Ms. Smith’s Wildrose Party had nominated candidates in 28 constituencies. Following the leader-led defection, the number of nominated Wildrose candidates has dropped to 18.

Many of the party’s now-former MLAs were already nominated to run under the Wildrose banner in the next election. Of the five remaining Wildrose MLAs, only Drew Barnes, Pat Stier and Rick Strankman have been nominated to run in the next election.

Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Heather Forsyth, a former five-term PC MLA who crossed the floor to the Wildrose in 2010, has announced she will not seek re-election.

Shayne Saskiw MLA Wildrose

Shayne Saskiw

And Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills MLA Shayne Saskiw‘s intentions remain unknown. It is suspected that Mr. Saskiw was waiting until after the Lakeland federal Conservative nomination to make a decision about staying in the Wildrose Caucus. His wife, past Wildrose candidate Shannon Stubbs, won the nomination late last week.

It is also likely that some of the already nominated Wildrose candidates will re-think their decision to run under that party’s banner in the next election. I am told that Edmonton Catholic School District Trustee Laura Thibert dropped out as the Wildrose candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods earlier this month.

Jeff Wilson MLA Calgary-Shaw

Jeff Wilson

In Wetaskiwin-Camrose, nominated Wildrose candidate Gordon Hatch has dropped out of the race and endorsed incumbent PC MLA Verlyn Olson. And in Grande Prairie-Smoky, Wildrose nomination candidate Greg Tymchyna has dropped out in response of the ‘Wildrose-PC merger.’

But in Edmonton-McClung, Steve Thompson announced on his Facebook page that he would remain the Wildrose candidate and will challenge PC MLA David Xiao in the next election.

The NDP have nominated 10 candidates, not including their four MLAs and the Liberals have not yet started their candidate nomination process. Two Liberal MLAs, Kent Hehr and Darshan Kang, are leaving provincial politics to run as federal Liberal candidates in next year’s federal election.

Of the floor-crossers, none have publicly declared their plans to run for re-election as PC candidates, but many will try. And despite Mr. Prentice’s promised pledge of endorsement for their candidacies, the new PC MLAs could still face nomination challenges from their former opponents on the constituency level.

In Calgary-Shaw, arch-conservative activist Craig Chandler has already announced plans to seek the PC nomination, challenging Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Jeff Wilson.

calgary-centre conservatives and liberals choosing their by-election candidates.

On Saturday, August 25, Conservative Party members in the riding of Calgary-Centre will choose a candidate to carry their party’s banner in an upcoming and yet-to-be called by-election. Six candidates are contesting the nomination. The Conservative candidate is widely expected to win the by-election in this moderate conservative voting downtown Calgary riding. Here is a quick look at the Conservative Party nomination candidates:

Rick Billington: Lawyer and Conservative Party insider. Endorsed by Alberta Progressive Conservative Party president Bill Smith, Manitoba Senator Don Plett, Manitoba MP Joy Smith and former PC MP for Calgary-Centre Harvie Andre, former Calgary-Southwest PC MP Bobbie Sparrow.

Joan Crockatt Stephen Harper Calgary Centre

Joan Crockatt and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Joan Crockatt: Political commentator and former managing editor of the Calgary Herald. Ms. Crockatt was spokesperson for candidate Barb Higgins during the 2010 mayoral election. She has been endorsed by Prince Edward Island Senator Mike Duffy.

Jon Lord Calgary Centre Conservative

Jon Lord

Jon Lord: Former PC MLA for Calgary-Currie (2001-2004) and Alderman (1995-2001). Owner of Casablanca Video and active in the Marda Loop community. Mr. Lord ran unsuccessfully to become mayor of Calgary in 2010 and for the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie in 2012. In the past, Mr. Lord has been connected to the socially conservative Progressive Group for Independent Business and its leader Craig Chandler. He has been endorsed by Calgary Alderman Peter Demong. In a message on his Facebook Page, Mr. Lord recently accused his opponents of vandalizing his Wikipedia biography.

Greg McLean: Former president of the Calgary-Centre Conservative District Association. Campaign manager for former MP Lee Richardson, who endorsed Mr. McLean last week. Mr. McLean is also said to have the support of Calgary-Currie PC MLA and Tourism Minister Christine Cusanelli. On twitter, former Wildrose president Jeff Calloway called Mr. McLean “a strong conservative”.

Mr. McLean’s campaign manager is Dustin Franks, who served as Mr. Richardson’s executive assistant until his recent resignation. Mr. Franks was also campaign manager to Aldermanic candidate Sean Chu during the 2010 municipal election and has worked for PC MLAs Doug Griffiths and Manmeet Bhullar.

 

Joe Soares Thomas Mulcair

Joe Soares attacks Thomas Mulcair.

Joe Soares (aka “Calgary Joe”): Quebec political organizer and Conservative Party activist. Has accused NDP leader Thomas Mulcair of wanting to destroy Alberta’s economy and has criticized his opponent Ms. Crockatt for political columns she penned in the Calgary Herald. Endorsed by Ontario’s Senator Doug Finley and Manitoba MP Rod Bruinooge.

Stefan Spargo Stephen Harper Calgary Centre

Stefan Spargo and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Stefan Spargo: Former campaign manager for MP Mr. Richardson and Conservative official in Calgary-Centre. Mr. Spargo made an unsuccessful bid for the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie before the 2012 provincial election.

The Liberal Party is unlikely to place any higher than their traditional second place in this downtown Calgary constituency. In 2011, candidate Jennifer Pollock earned 17% of the vote to Mr. Richardson’s 57%. Privately, one Liberal organizer suggested to this blogger that 35% may be the optimistic ceiling for Liberal candidate in this by-election (note, optimistic). There are two officially approved candidates seeking the Liberal Party nomination on September 15. A third candidate is said to have entered the race, but has yet to be approved by the central party. Here is a look at the Liberal Party candidates:

Harvey Locke: Lawyer, well-known conservationist, and former president of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. Mr. Locke ran as a Liberal candidate in the 1989 provincial election in Calgary-Foothills. Word on the street is that he has the support of popular Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann (who, at one point, was suspected to be eying the NDP nomination).

Rahim Sajan: Educator and organizer of TEDxCalgary. Mr. Sajan’s supporters include Zain Velji, who was 2012 campaign manager for Calgary-Varsity PC MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans.

Steve Turner: A former supporter of Manitoba Conservative MP Mr. Bruinooge. A Liberal insider told this blogger that Mr. Turner is seeking the Liberal nomination because he “decided that the conservatives are not progressive on social issues.” His nomination papers have yet to be approved by the Liberal Party.

Meanwhile, a poll of Calgary-Centre voters conducted by Forum Research for the Huffington Post showed the Conservatives with 44% support, the Liberals with 21%, the New Democrats with 14% and the Green Party with 12%.

tories holding second vote in calgary-west. hints at broader problems in nomination process.

Shiraz Shariff Calgary PC MLA

Shiraz Shariff

After weeks of bad press caused by the disqualification of nominated Calgary-West candidate Shiraz Shariff, the Progressive Conservatives announced yesterday that they would be holding a new nomination meeting in that constituency.

In what amounts to a re-vote, only the four candidates involved in the original vote will be allowed to contest the new nomination on March 3. In the original vote, which was marred with controversy, Mr. Shariff was said to have defeated past Alberta Health Services chairman Ken Hughes by only a handful of votes. The third and fourth place candidates were Calgary Police Officer Mike Ellis and DeVry dean of academic affairs, Allan Ryan.

As I wrote in a previous post, this is not the first time that the PCs have had candidate nomination trouble in Calgary-West. In 1997, candidate Mike Nasser stepped down as the PC candidate after it was revealed he was the subject of a city lawsuit and several complaints regarding his business proceedings. Karen Kryczka was appointed as the candidate soon afterward.

Candidate nominations in other constituencies have also caused problems for the PC Party in the recent past:

Calgary-McCall

In 2000, Bill Bhullar was forced to resign as a candidate after he defeated then-Calgary-McCall MLA Mr. Shariff in the PC nomination contest. At the time, Mr. Shariff told CBC there were irregularities at the meeting and he had asked the PC Party to look into them. It was later revealed that Mr. Bhullar had been charged with wilful damage of property in 1995 and assault in 1998. Both charges were withdrawn, but this revelation led to his resignation as the PC candidate.

A second nomination meeting was held soon after and Mr. Shariff was nominated. At the second nomination meeting, Mr. Shariff told the Calgary Herald that “Democracy has prevailed; we’ve been given a second chance. Today the people got a chance to vote again.”

Calgary-Egmont

In 2007, conservative activist Craig Chandler was disqualified after winning the PC nomination in Calgary-Egmont. Mr. Chandler’s controversial statements about new Albertans and his connection to the extremist Concerned Christian Coalition, led to the PC Party executive rejecting his candidacy. A second nomination contest was held and won by now-Solicitor General Jonathan Denis. Mr. Chandler did not contest that nomination and stood as an Independent candidate in the 2008 election.

Calgary-Montrose

In 2008, after the Calgary-Montrose PC Association failed to follow nomination rules set out by the central party, nominated candidate Ron Leech was disqualified and law student Manmeet Bhullar was appointed as the PC candidate. Mr. Leech stood as an Independent candidate in that year’s election. He is now nominated as the Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-Greenway.

One PC Party insider has suggested to this blogger that it would be simpler to have a pre-qualification process for candidates seeking nominations in order to avoid  the need to hold these types of second nomination contests. I am told that an amendment to implement this requirement was debated and defeated by delegates at the PC Party’s 2010 convention.

craig chandler launches anti-wildrose facebook group.

Fresh from his campaign to get right-winger Bill Harvey elected as leader of the Liberal Party, ultra-conservative activist Craig Chandler and his acolytes have now set their sights on Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party.

Mr. Chandler has pushed his internet campaign machine into high-gear by adding hundreds of his Facebook friends to a new group of supposed former Wildrose Party members. The attacks are centred around the disqualification of federal Libertarian Party leader Dennis Young as a candidate for the Wildrose nomination in Calgary-Hays. The following media release was posted on the wall of the Facebook group:

Dennis Young To File Injunction & Suing For Damages
Removed Calgary Hays Soldier Starts Group
Many Frustrated Members & X-Members Involved

(Calgary) After submitting his signatures, memberships, nomination fee, signing up hundreds of memberships, demon dialing the constituency, dropping two separate pieces of literature to every residence, door knocking 25% of the entire area and with a six month delay, retired soldier and successful business owner, Dennis Young has been terminated as a candidate by the Wildrose Party.

“I am devestated by this and I feel really taken advantage of. On October 3rd, I discovered via a letter by the Executive Director of the party, Shane Saskiw, I was disqualified from the nomination race in Calgary-Hays. In that letter there was no reason for the disqualification mentioned. Also, I was not advised that my candidacy for the nomination was in question, nor was I given an opportunity to defend myself personally against whatever accusations may have been brought against me. Further, I had my interview with the Local Candidate Nominating Committee roughly six months ago, submitted my paperwork and my nomination fee. If I was going to be disqualified, I would have expected to be informed of it at that time.” stated Dennis Young. Read the rest of this extraordinary long media release.

If you are not familiar with Mr. Chandler, please refer to the comments he made in this media interview, which contributed to him being disqualified as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Calgary-Egmont in 2007. Mr. Chandler later managed Mark Dyrholm‘s unsuccessful leadership campaign against Ms. Smith in 2009. Near the end of that campaign, Mr. Chandler accused the media of holding a bias in favour of Ms. Smith.

what’s next for raj sherman and the alberta liberals?

MLA Raj Sherman's victory speech at Alberta Liberal leadership event September 10, 2011.

Newly elected Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman gives his victory speech with his wife Sharon standing to the right. Leadership co-chair Josipa Petrunic and candidates Laurie Blakeman, Hugh MacDonald, and Bruce Payne stand to the left (Bill Harvey did not join the other candidates on stage).

What kind of leader will Raj Sherman be?
This is a tough question to answer. As Edmonton Journal columnist Graham Thomson somewhat dramatically described yesterday:

Sherman – energetic, intelligent, charismatic – could prove to be a political white knight riding to the Liberals’ rescue. Or Sherman – inexperienced, mercurial, impetuous – could yet prove to be one of the horsemen of the apocalypse.

Simply put, Dr. Sherman is a mixed-bag. (Don Braid, David Climenhaga, and Maurice Tougas have all penned opinions on what Dr. Sherman’s acendency to the leadership might mean for Alberta’s Official Opposition party).

The Caucus
Former Tory MLA Dr. Sherman will walk into his new office as the Leader of the Official Opposition this week surrounded by an eight MLA Liberal caucus, which has had a tense relationship with its leaders since the 2008 general election. The caucus includes two of his leadership competitors (Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman and Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald) and two of the party’s former leaders (Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann and Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft). Of the group of eight, two (Dr. Taft and Calgary-Varsity MLA Harry Chase) are planning to retire at the next election.

The Big Four
It is my experience that the Chief of Staff, Caucus Communications Director, Party President, and Party Executive Director are four key positions that a Liberal party leader needs support from in order to successfully command the leadership of the party. Two of these positions are about to be vacated.

As noted in a recently Globe & Mail article, Erick Ambtman has resigned as President. Corey Hogan, executive director since 2009, has announced his plans to move on to future challenges. Chief of Staff Rick Miller, a former MLA and nominated candidate in Edmonton-Rutherford, may want to focus his energies on his election campaign. In his short time in the job, Communications Director Brian Leadbetter has proven to be an effective communication manager in a position that has turned into a rotating door over the past few years.

The Liberals need a ground game
While only around a paltry 8,600 out of almost 27,000 eligible voters actually participated in the leadership vote, the party is still left with a vast list of almost 30,000 potential volunteers, sign locations, and voters to help them in the next provincial election. One of the areas that Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Payne stressed during the leadership campaign was the need for the Liberals to build their strength on the ground.

Currently, the Liberals do not have functional organizations in most constituencies across the province, including in constituencies that they held up until the 2008 election. The lack of local organization and funds will pose a challenge in finding credible candidates to run in an expected fall 2011 or spring 2012 general election.

Mending fences
A significant number of the party’s staunch loyalists supported Mr. MacDonald’s candidacy and his criticisms of the open voting leadership process. Many of these Liberals were furious at former leader Dr. Swann’s attempts to cooperate with other opposition parties in response to his party’s shrinking political fortunes. Dr. Sherman will need to mend fences with this sometimes unreasonable group of stalwarts while cementing his own activists into the party ranks.

It will also be interesting to see if right-wing leadership candidate Bill Harvey remains in the Liberal Party (it is suspected that he may join the Wildrose Party). The two-time candidate, who was supported by right-wing agitator Craig Chandler, earned 7% of the vote in this contest.

Of interesting note, party Vice-President (Policy) Debbie Cavaliere challenged Dr. Sherman for the PC nomination in 2007 and later ran as the Liberal candidate against him in the 2008 general election.

Other Parties
The Progressive Conservatives will be voting for the first ballot in their leadership contest on September 17. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, then a second ballot with the top three candidates will be held on October 1. The victor of that leadership contest will determine the tone and calendar of the next provincial election, which many political watchers are expecting to be held later this fall or early next spring.

Since 2010, the Wildrose Party led by Danielle Smith have moved into second place in the polls, with the NDP led by Brian Mason are competing with the Liberals for third place. The question is whether Dr. Sherman’s star power can write the Liberals back into the political narrative they have been largely absent from over the past two years.

There is also the question of what effect Dr. Sherman’s victory will have on the new Alberta Party, which continues to organize, but has dropped to a lower-profile since Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor was chosen as its leader earlier this year.

a look at the alberta liberal leadership candidates.

You might be forgiven if you have not paid much attention to the Alberta Liberal Party leadership contest, which is currently under way. The Liberal contest is not as exciting as the Progressive Conservative’s leadership contest, as flashy as the Wildrose (now minus the Alliance), or intriguing as the new Alberta Party, but it is important enough not to ignore. The Liberal Party is still the Official Opposition and while it has taken a beating in the polls and public image over the past few years, its next leader will play a role in the next provincial election.

Here is a look at the candidates for their leadership:

Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman

Laurie Blakeman

Laurie Blakeman
Slogan: Laurie4Leader
Elected Experience: MLA for Edmonton-Centre from 1997 to the present.
Background: Laurie Blakeman is known as a vocal and unrelenting critic of the governing Tories. As Deputy Leader under party leaders Kevin Taft and David Swann, she also served as critic for Finance, the Environment, and Culture.

Her strong views as an unapologetic feminist representing Edmonton’s densest urban constituency have made her an enemy to many conservatives, but her skills as Opposition House Leader have gained her respect from some Tory MLAs across the floor. She is also one half of Edmonton’s political power couple, her husband is Ward 8 City Councillor Ben Henderson.

In 1998, Ms. Blakeman supported then-MLA Linda Sloan‘s leadership bid. She declined to run for her party’s leadership in 2004, telling the Globe & Mail that “she doesn’t have the fire in her belly to run” and again in 2008 admitting that fundraising was not her strength. Earlier this year she publicly mused about joining the Alberta Party, but instead decided to seek the Liberal Party leadership.

(Disclaimer: I like Laurie Blakeman have volunteered for her election campaigns in 2004 and 2008).

Liberal candidate Bill Harvey

Bill Harvey

Bill Harvey
Slogan: Returning to responsible government
Elected Experience: Liberal candidate in Calgary-East in 2004 and 2008.
Background: Calgary financial advisor Bill Harvey entered the leadership contest this week with a message that Liberals need to return to their past roots to succeed in the future. The main message on his website reminds Liberals of their 1990’s glory days under former leader Laurence Decore and is peppered with fiscal conservative language.

In 2008, he ran a “law and order” and “tough on crime” focused campaign, which earned him an endorsement by Craig Chandler‘s hyper-conservative Progressive Group for Independent Business. His website says that he will be releasing a detailed platform later this month.

Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald

Hugh MacDonald

Hugh MacDonald
Slogan: None
Elected experience: MLA for Edmonton-Gold Bar from 1997 to present
Background: Since stepping into his role as the opposition labour critic during his first-term and making headlines over the government’s shaky handling of rotting pine shakes roofing and lack of whistle-blower protection, Hugh MacDonald earned a reputation as a dogged critic of the Tories. As Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, his focus on uncovering Tory scandals sometimes makes him appear on the verge of paranoia, but he is relentless and hardworking. It is not uncommon to see Mr. MacDonald buried in books, doing his own research in the Legislature Library.

Mr. MacDonald is a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal partisan. Even if the Liberal Party is wiped off the political map in the next election, Hugh MacDonald will fight to the end (clasping a battle-axe in one hand while caped in blood-soaked battle armour under a Liberal Party flag). Inside the Liberal Party, Mr. MacDonald appeals to the stalwart crowd who believe that it is not the Liberal brand that has damaged their party, but that party members who have not adhered enough loyalty to the Liberal brand are responsible for the party’s 80 years of electoral defeat.

Mr. MacDonald has the endorsements of former party leaders Nick Taylor and Ken Nicol and former MLAs Bill Bonner and Yolande Gagnon.

Bruce Payne Liberal candidate

Bruce Payne

Bruce Payne
Slogan: 87 Strong
Elected experience: Nominated as the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Varsity
Background: An unknown outside some Calgary political circles, it is difficult to know whether Bruce Payne is actually a serious candidate in this contest.

A long-time union leader, in 2007 he led the 6,000 southern Alberta carpenters union as it and seven other construction unions threatened Alberta’s first multi-trade strike in almost 30 years. He was later the Spokesperson for the Alberta and Northwest Territories Regional Council of Carpenters and Allied Workers and President of the Building Trades of Alberta Southern Council.

His 87 Strong slogan is in reference to the 87 constituencies that will be created when the next election is called. His campaign also takes a shot at the current Liberal MLAs and their tendency to attack the Tories for every “scandals, faux-pas, screw-ups, miscues and arrogant decisions” without a long-term strategy.

His campaign manager is the former Liberal Caucus communications director Neil Mackie, who departed from his job at the Assembly earlier this year.

Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman Independent Liberal

Raj Sherman

Raj Sherman
Slogan: None
Elected experience: MLA Edmonton-Meadowlark from 2008 to present
Background: Former Tory MLA Raj Sherman could be both the wildcard and the front-runner in this contest. Six months ago he wanted nothing to do with the Liberal Party as he sat in the PC caucus as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health & Wellness. Since writing the bluntly-worded email that led to hm being kicked out of the PC caucus, Dr. Sherman has attained a folk hero status among many Albertans.

After opening up their leadership vote to any Albertan without having to purchase a membership, I have a difficult time seeing Dr. Sherman as anything but the front-runner in this contest.

Although his opponents will criticize him for switching parties, it is hard to believe that Dr. Sherman has ever actually “belonged” to any political party. On February 13, 2008 PC candidate Dr. Sherman told the Edmonton Journal, “Ideas belong to society, they don’t belong to a party. For me, it wasn’t so much about parties as about getting the idea to the people who make decisions.”

Dr. Sherman has the support of former MLA Bharat Agnihotri, and I have been told that Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr and Calgary-McCall MLA Darshan Kang are lending their support to his campaign.

Not yet entered the contest:

There may be a sixth candidate to enter this contest. Word on the street is that the executive of a medium-sized Calgary-based energy company may announce his candidacy next week.

bill harvey enters liberal leadership contest.

Bill Harvey Liberal candidate leadership calgary

Calgary financial services executive Bill Harvey is the fifth candidate to join the Alberta Liberal leadership contest. Mr. Harvey was the Liberal candidate in Calgary-East in 2004 and 2008, where he earned 28% of the vote each time. He was also an unsuccessful candidate for the Liberal nomination in Calgary-McCall in 1991.

While running a “tough on crime” focused campaign in 2008, Mr. Harvey became the first Liberal candidate to ever be endorsed by Craig Chandler‘s ultra-conservative Progressive Group for Independent Business.

With liberal use of italics, Mr. Harvey has described his decision to seek his party’s leadership in a letter to members. Taking a curious cue from stalwart candidate Hugh MacDonald, Mr. Harvey invokes the name of former party leader Laurence Decore and argues that the Liberal Party in Alberta needs to return to its past to succeed in future elections.

Mr. Harvey joins four candidates already in the contest, Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman, Mr. MacDonald, Bruce Payne, and former Tory MLA Raj Sherman. Read this blog tomorrow for a more indepth post on the backgrounds of the candidates and their campaigns.

pgib attack gary mar with ad channeling michael ignatieff.


The hyper-conservative Progressive Group for Independent Business is targeting Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Gary Mar with a low-quality online campaign ad. The ad compares Mr. Mar’s four years as Alberta’s representative in Washington DC to former Liberal Party of Canada leader Michael Ignatieff‘s decades living outside of Canada. I am nothing close to a supporter of Mr. Mar, but even I recognize that the comparison is silly.

Albertans will remember the PGIB from its Executive Director Craig Chandler, who was dropped as the PC candidate in Calgary-Egmont in 2008 after telling Albertans who did not agree with the governing PCs to leave the province.