Tag Archives: Danielle Smith

Rejection of Gay-Straight Alliances motion shows some Alberta MLAs need a reality check

Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to introduce legislation, like Manitoba’s and Ontario’s, requiring all school boards to develop policies to support students who want to lead and establish gay-straight alliance activities and organizations, using any name that is consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive, welcoming, and respectful for all students regardless of sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

It was a simple motion introduced on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly on April 7, 2014 that would help create safer environments for students in schools. Nineteen Liberal, New Democrat, and Progressive Conservative MLAs voted in favour of the motion, but it failed after 31 PC and Wildrose MLAs stood up and voted against it.

Kent Hehr MLA Calgary-Buffalo

Kent Hehr

Motion 503, introduced by Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr, was not a piece of binding legislation, it was a symbolic message of that all students, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, can be welcomed and accepted in Alberta’s education system.

Creating safe and supportive environments for all students, including LGBTQ youth who may face discrimination in and outside of school, should be something that is encouraged by MLAs.

Mr. Hehr’s motion undoubtably would have made some social conservatives uncomfortable, but it would have ultimately helped drag some of Alberta’s more stodgy school boards into the 21st century. The motion would not have forced any school board to form student-led gay-straight alliances, but it would have compelled the elected boards to accept the existence of the groups if students in their schools chose to organize them.

Alberta MLA Vote Gay Straight Alliances Vote Motion 503

A map showing the constituencies represented by MLAs who voted in favour (blue) and against (red) Motion 503. White indicates MLAs who were not present for the vote. (Click to enlarge)

Passage of this motion would have sent a strong message that tolerance and acceptance are priorities Alberta’s provincial legislators.

Anti-bullying minister Sandra Jansen voted in favour but Education minister Jeff Johnson voted against it.

Missing from the vote were Premier Dave Hancock and NDP leader Brian Mason, who both later said they would have voted in favour had they been in the Assembly. Wildrose opposition leader Danielle Smith was not present for the vote and it is not clear if she would have voted differently than her party’s MLAs.

The divided PC government caucus also missed an opportunity to send a clear message that they embrace 21st century values by singling out the opposition Wildrose as the only party to unanimously vote against the motion – and remind Albertans of the infamous Lake of Fire.  And for the Wildrose, a vote for the motion, even by one or two of that party’s MLAs, would have done a lot of demonstrate the party is more moderate on social issues than its opponents claim.

In total, 36 MLAs were absent from the vote (minus the Speaker, who abstains from votes of the Assembly).

Voted in Favour: 19
Deron Bilous (NDP)
Laurie Blakeman (LIB)
Neil Brown (PC)
Pearl Calahasen (PC)
Cal Dallas (PC)
Alana DeLong (PC)
David Eggen (NDP)
Kyle Fawcett (PC)
Kent Hehr (LIB)
Ken Hughes (PC)
Sandra Jansen (PC)
Heather Klimchuk (PC)
Jason Luan (PC)
Thomas Luksazuk (PC)
Rachel Notley (NDP)
Don Scott (PC)
Raj Sherman (LIB)
David Swann (LIB)
Teresa Woo-Paw (PC)
Voted against: 31
Moe Amery (PC)
Rob Anderson (WR)
Drew Barnes (WR)
Gary Bikman (WR)
Robin Campbell (PC)
Ron Casey (PC)
Christine Cusanelli (PC)
Ian Donovan (WR)
David Dorward (PC)
Wayne Drysdale (PC)
Jacquie Fenske (PC)
Rick Fraser (PC)
Yvonne Fritz (PC)
Hector Goudreau (PC)
Jeff Johnson (PC)
Linda Johnson (PC)
Maureen Kubinec (PC)
Genia Leskiw (PC)
Bruce McAllister (WR)
Everett McDonald (PC)
Diana McQueen (PC)
Frank Oberle (PC)
Bridget Pastoor (PC)
Dave Rodney (PC)
Bruce Rowe (WR)
Shayne Saskiw (WR)
Richard Starke (PC)
Rick Strankman (WR)
Kerry Towle (WR)
George VanderBurg (PC)
Greg Weadick (PC)

4 ways out of the PC leadership crisis

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The increasingly public struggle between Premier Alison Redford and a group of disgruntled MLAs in the Progressive Conservative Party continues this week.

Following Monday’s announcement by Calgary-Varsity PC MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans that she would sit as an Independent MLA, two more PC MLAs are publicly considering leaving.

Matt Jeneroux MLA Edmonton South West

Matt Jeneroux

Edmonton-South West PC MLA Matt Jeneroux mused that he is “taking time to reflect” about whether he should remain in the government caucus. Edmonton-Riverview MLA Steve Young, already , is also considering leaving the PC caucus.

Government House leader Robin Campbell says that PC MLAs are free to speak their mind. But the lack of discipline in the caucus suggests the real reason is that any attempt to silence the disgruntled MLAs could lead to a mass departure from the government caucus.

At a press conference held yesterday afternoon, party president Jim McCormick gave a luke-warm support for Ms. Redford’s leadership. Mr. McCormick also sent an email to PC Party supporters, explaining that the “work plan” issued to the premier last weekend does not exist on paper. There is no plan.

Meanwhile, Lougheed-era cabinet minister Allan Warrack has added his name to the list of Tories calling on the premier to resign.

With the current situation in flux, here are four possible scenarios that could play out over the next few weeks:

Redford resigns - Pressure from her caucus and party results in Ms. Redford resigning as Premier of Alberta and leader of the PC Party. The disgruntled MLAs remain in the government caucus. An interim premier, possibly Deputy Premier Dave Hancock, is appointed and a leadership contest is scheduled. MLAs hope that a new leader can reinvent and reenergize their aging party before the next election.

Redford stays, more MLAs leave – Ms. Redford and her loyalists resist the pressure from disgruntled MLAs and supporters calling for the premier’s resignation. Some of the ten MLAs, possibly as many as ten, leave the PC caucus to sit as Independent MLAs, causing a severe rift in the party and the caucus.

Kumbaya” – The disgruntled MLAs resolve their issues with Ms. Redford and she pledges to change her leadership style in order to improve her relationship with her caucus and party. The Tory dynasty continues as peace and harmony is returned to the government benches.

Conflict continues – Ms. Redford refuses to resign and the disgruntled MLAs continue to voice their discontent with the premier’s leadership style. The party and caucus are torn apart in the political fight. Wildrose leader Danielle Smith rejoices and leads her party to win the 2016 election.

$45000 trip has serious political costs for Redford

Alison Redford Joe Clark Nelson Mandela Alberta Funeral

Former Prime Minister Joe Clark and Premier Alison Redford at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa (photo from Premier Alison Redford’s Facebook Page)

After spending two months avoiding having to pay the costs of her $45,000 trip to South Africa, Premier Alison Redford called a press conference late yesterday to announce she would reimburse the government for costs of sending herself and her executive assistant Brad Stables to South Africa in December 2013.

Despite attempts to ignore the issue, Ms. Redford has been unable to escape criticism about her travel expenses and questionable use of government airplanes, including trips from Palm Springs and allegedly to attend a political fundraiser in Grande Prairie.

Len Webber MLA

Len Webber

Ms. Redford argued that because she had apologized for the cost of the South Africa trip, Albertans were ready to forgive her, even if she did not repay the cost. Recent polls showing the premier with a 20% approval rating suggested otherwise.

Responding to their leader’s dwindling popularity, Progressive Conservative MLAs have pushed back. Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber announced today that he was leaving the PC caucus to sit as an Independent, citing Ms. Redford’s record as the reason for his departure. There is little love between the premier and this MLA, who is currently campaigning to become the federal Conservative candidate in Calgary-Confederation.

“I hope this will be a catalyst, a domino effect and that others will follow to have the premier gone,” Mr. Webber told the Calgary Herald.

Edmonton PC MLAs Steve Young and David Xiao also openly criticizedMs. Redford for her refusal to pay for her travel costs.

Rumours about disgruntled MLAs have been circulating for months, but today, news reports suggest that up to 18 or 20 PC MLAs were ready to revolt against the premier. Feeding these rumours was the noticeable absence of Labour minister Thomas Lukaszuk from this week’s big LRT funding announcement, at which he was the only Edmonton-area PC MLA not in attendance.

Christine Cusanelli MLA

Christine Cusanelli

Feeding the unrest is the obvious double standard Ms. Redford held between herself and her party’s MLAs. More than a few PC MLAs were insulted by Ms. Redford’s decision during the last election to force them to pay out of pocket for payments received from the infamous no-meet committee. And in February 2013, Ms. Redford fired Calgary MLA Christine Cusanelli from cabinet after another travel expenses scandal, even though she had immediately repaid the cost before the story became public.

Ms. Redford’s own MLAs may be more eager to see her depart than the opposition. While Wildrose leader Danielle Smith is never hesitant to criticize Ms. Redford, her party is hoping the premier’s scandals will cause irreparable damage to the PC Party brand before the next election. A new leader would force the opposition to build a new strategy and the give the PC Party an opportunity to reinvent itself before the 2016 election.

Will paying the costs of the South Africa trip be enough to save Ms. Redford’s political career? It might, but it also might also be too little, too late. Albertans will applaud her decision to pay back the costs of this trip, but they might not easily forget how much pressure it took to convince Ms. Redford to write the cheque.

By-election update: Conservatives choose Barlow for Macleod, Liberal MPs invade Alberta

Macleod by-election map

The sprawling prairie, peaks of mountains, and rolling hills of the Macleod riding run from Spray Lakes in the north to the edge of Waterton National Park in the south.

John Barlow was chosen as the Conservative Party candidate last night in the Macleod riding. With a by-election expected to be called soon, Mr. Barlow defeated three other candidates – Melissa Mathieson, Phil Rowland and Scott Wagner – to win the nomination.

During the campaign, Mr. Barlow faced severe opposition from Canada’s gun lobby for his defence of RCMP actions during last year’s flood in High River. The National Firearms Association waded into the debate and urged Conservatives to support Ms. Mathieson and Mr. Rowland.

Mr. Barlow was the Progressive Conservative candidate in Highwood in the 2012 election, where he faced off against Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith. In that race, he earned 8,159 votes to Ms. Smith’s 10,094 votes.

Dustin Fuller is the first person to declare a candidacy for the Liberal nomination in Macleod. Wascana Liberal MP Ralph Goodale is expected to visit the Macleod next week for a meet and greet in Okotoks. Mr. Goodale will also attend an event in Calgary-Centre.

Fort McMurray-Athabasca
Up north, Chris Flett is the second candidate to enter the Liberal nomination to run in the upcoming Fort McMurray-Athabasca by-election. Mr. Flett, an active member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 955, joins Kyle Harrietha in the race.

A nomination date has not yet been announced, but the cutoff to purchase a Liberal membership to vote in the contest is March 13, 2014.

Hoping to gain support in the by-election, the Liberals have focused resources on the diverse and energy rich northern Alberta riding. Liberal MPs Rodger Cuzner and Marc Garneau will headline a $250 a plate fundraising dinner in Fort McMurray on March 18. Last month, Labrador Liberal MP Yvonne Jones visited Fort McMurray to meet with local members.

Meanwhile, rumours continue to circulate about whether former PC turned Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier will jump into federal politics as the Conservative candidate. Tim Moen announced last week that he plans to run for the Libertarian Party nomination.

Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan
Conservative activist Garnett Genuis is the first candidate to enter the Conservative nomination in the new Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan riding.

Mr. Genuis was the 2012 Wildrose Party candidate in Sherwood Park, and is a vice-president of a polling company and the executive director for Parents for Choice in Education, a pro-Charter school lobby group whose board of directors includes former Wildrose candidates John Carpay and Andrew Constantinidis. Mr. Genuis has been endorsed by former MPs Ken Epp and Stockwell Day.

Canada’s next federal election is scheduled to be held on October 19, 2015. I have been maintaining a list of candidates who have announced their intentions to seek nominations and run in the next federal election in Alberta ridings. Please contact me at david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com for additions or updates related to candidate nominations in Alberta.

Gun-toting conservatives take aim at Macleod by-election candidate

Melissa Mathieson Rob Anders Macleod Conservative Guns

Conservative nomination candidate Melissa Mathieson and Calgary-West MP Rob Anders pose with their guns and targets: bearded men wearing turbans, and zombies. (Photo supplied by a friendly daveberta.ca reader).

Just say no-to-Barlow!” was the message broadcast to the 15,941 followers of the National Firearms Association Facebook page.

The National Rifle Association‘s Canadian cousins hope to drag down John Barlow, a candidate for the Macleod Conservative Party of Canada by-election nomination who they claim supports the RCMP seizure of firearms from abandoned houses during last year’s High River flood. The organization calls the gun seizure the “largest breech (sic) of Canadian civil rights in Canadian history.”

The controversy stems from a comment Mr. Barlow posted on his Facebook page defending the intentions of the local RCMP detachment during the flood. He later deleted the comment after the page was swarmed by critics (you can see the screenshot of Mr. Barlow’s comment here).

A reasonable person might believe that collecting abandoned weapons in an disaster zone is a sensible idea for any police force wanting to avoid potentially dangerous confrontation with emotionally distressed citizens. But the gun lobby is not convinced and has encouraged its supporters to vote for other candidates in the Conservative nomination race. “We need concerned citizens in the Macleod riding to support either Philip Rowland or Melissa Mathieson,” the NFA said in another message posted on its Facebook page.

It may not be a mere coincidence that these attacks have occurred just as Mr. Barlow’s opponent, Ms. Mathieson, received the endorsement of Shawn Bevins, the Vice President of the National Firearms Association and Todd Brown, the co-founder of the Concerned Gun Owners of Alberta group.

John Barlow George Canyon Conservative Macleod By-Election

John Barlow and George Canyon

A local newspaper editor and former provincial election candidate, Mr. Barlow’s chances of winning the hotly contested Conservative nomination received a boost last month when popular country music artist George Canyon endorsed his campaign. The two men have since been making campaign stops across the Macleod riding. Mr. Canyon is seeking the Conservative nomination in the neighbouring Bow River riding.

The other candidates for the Conservative nomination in Macleod have released mixed reactions to the attacks. Scott Wagner issued a statement criticizing Mr. Barlow and calling for a judicial inquiry into the RCMP actions and Rick Wiljamma appears to have not responded to the attacks on his opponent through social media.

This is not the first time this issue has been raised by politcians. Wildrose Party leader and local Highwood MLA Danielle Smith was raked over the coals last year for criticizing the RCMP in a fundraising letter to supporters.

February 10 is the deadline for Macleod residents to purchase Conservative Party memberships in order to vote in the nomination contest. The date of the by-election has not been set.

Fort McMurray-Athabasca By-Election update

Fort McMurray Today published a list of potential candidates who could run in the imminent by-election in the northern Alberta riding. Potentially seeking the Conservative nomination are former Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier, political staffer Laila Goodridge, and municipal councillor Phil Meagher. The Liberals have attracted a surprisingly large crowd of potential nominees, including Chris FlettKyle Harrietha, Joanne Roberts, Colleen Tatum, and Ron Quintal

Redford’s top advisor earns more than Obama’s top advisor, claims Wildrose

Leo McGarry West Wing Alison Redford Farouk Adatia Salary Pay

“Mr. President, I think we need to renegotiate my salary,” said West Wing chief of staff Leo McGarry upon discovering he earns less than Alison Redford’s chief of staff.

Premier Alison Redford‘s chief of staff earns a bigger salary than his counterpart in the West Wing, claimed the official opposition Wildrose in a press release yesterday.

As the salary disclosure “sunshine list” of Alberta’s senior public servants who earn more than $100,000 annually was released late last week, opposition critics honed in on Ms. Redford’s senior staff. The Wildrose opposition targeted the salary of chief of staff Farouk Adatia, whose annual salary was $316,274.69 in 2013, according to the disclosure list.

Wildrose Alberta West Wing

The infographic released by the Wildrose Official Opposition caucus.

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith trotted out  numbers showing that Mr. Adatia is paid nearly double the salary of American President Barack Obama‘s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, who earned $172,200 in 2013. In Mr. McDonough’s defence, this is a pitifully low salary for someone in such a senior government role.

Also on the Wildrose hit list was Ms. Redford’s director of communications, Stefan Baranski, who earned $207,829 in 2013, compared to the $179,311 earned by his predecessor in 2012.

While Mr. Adatia and Mr. Baranski may have fairly negotiated their salaries and benefits, it adds to the growing public perception that Ms. Redford is woefully out of touch with the reality faced by ordinary Albertans.

These salary increases in Ms. Redford’s inner circle occurred at the same time as the government is negotiating forcing pay freezes on many frontline public sector employees. The same frontline workers are facing government-imposed changes to their pension plans, which could drastically impact their retirement security.

A political response to a political problem
The government’s salary disclosure list is a political response to last year’s outcry over the more than $2,000,000 in severance packages that had been paid to former senior staff in Ms. Redford’s office, including  $130,000 in severance paid to former chief of staff, Stephen Carter (Mr. Carter released the amount in a tweet after Ms. Redford refused to answer media question about his severance package).

Sunshine on the CTF
The “sunshine list” has been long advocated for by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, whose Alberta director, Derek Fildebrandt, was somewhat ironically quoted alongside transparency minister Don Scott in the original government press release announcing the salary disclosure. The CTF is an organization that could use a sunshine of its own. While always available for a snappy quote or photo-worthy media stunt, the six-member lobby group  closely guards its own list of financial bankrollers, which continues to remain secret.