Tag Archives: Danielle Smith

What if Paul Hinman had lost the 2009 by-election in Calgary-Glenmore?

Former Wildrose Alliance Party leader Paul Hinman staged an odd and brief reappearance on Alberta’s political stage this week when he announced his plans to run for the leadership of the United Conservative Party. But when the Sept. 12, 2017 deadline for candidates to deposit a $57,500 fee had passed, Hinman did not appear to make the cut.

Hinman’s blip on the political radar this week got me thinking about the bigger role he has played in shaking up Alberta’s political environment. Not as a major player but as a secondary character.

His time as leader and sole MLA representing the social conservative Alberta Alliance and Wildrose Alliance from 2004 to 2009 was fairly unremarkable, but it was the role he played after he resigned as leader that had a much bigger impact in our province’s political history.

After he was defeated in his bid for re-election in Cardston-Taber-Warner in 2008, Hinman was returned to the Legislature by a 278-vote narrow victory in a September 2009 by-election in Calgary-Glenmore. The seat was previously represented by deputy premier Ron Stevens and was believed to be a Progressive Conservative urban stronghold.

Even though he would again be unsuccessful in his bid to get re-elected in the following general election, Hinman’s win undoubtably added to the momentum of Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Alliance going into the 2012 election.

But what would have happened if Hinman had lost that by-election race in Calgary-Glenmore?

Hinman’s by-election win provided early credibility for the Wildrose Alliance by showing that the party could elect candidates in long-held PC Party constituencies. Without this by-election win, the Wildrose Alliance’s momentum could have stalled or slowed going into the 2012 election.

Liberal candidate Avalon Roberts finished only 278 votes behind Hinman. Had she won the by-election, David Swann might have stayed on as party leader instead of resigning in 2011. A win in Glenmore might have led the Liberals to experience a resurgence in support going into the 2012 election, building on the party’s 2008 gains in Calgary. Or maybe the PCs would have simply won back the constituency in the following general election, as they did in 2012.

Popular city councillor Diane Colley-Urquhart placed third as the PC candidate in the by-election, which was not really a reflection of voters feelings towards her but of the unpopularity of then-premier Ed Stelmach in Calgary. If Colley-Urquhart had held on to Glenmore for the PCs, would PC MLAs Heather Forsyth and Rob Anderson have crossed the floor to the Wildrose Party in January 2010?

And an even larger ‘what-if’ question is, if Hinman had not won the by-election and his party’s momentum had sputtered, would Stelmach have resisted pressure from his cabinet and party to resign in 2011? Would he still be premier today?

While Hinman’s narrow win in a 2009 by-election is now an obscure footnote in Alberta’s political history, its impact on our province’s political environment and the split it helped create in the conservative movement in Alberta was huge.

Thinking about these kinds of scenarios can be endless fun for politicos (or at least for me).

Bozo-Eruption Alert: Wildrose campus club email declares “Feminism is Cancer”

Feminism is Cancer” was the subject line of an email sent out by the Wildrose Party campus club at the University of Calgary promoting the showing of the film “Red Pill.” The Wildrose club planned to screen the film, which online reviews describe as exploring Men’s Rights issues, on the U of C campus on International Women’s Day.

Brian Jean Wildrose Leader

Brian Jean

The Oxford Dictionary defines feminism as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes” and I will assume that the Young Wildrosers who wrote the email were not referring to cancer by its purely medical definition.

The email and the event are offensive and after a swift backlash online, the club responded on twitter that it had fired its director of communications and was no longer co-sponsoring the event.

The federal Conservative Party club also announced it would no long co-sponsor the film screening but the event is still being held by another co-sponsor, a group calling itself the “Canadian Advocates for Freedom and Liberty.” It is bizarre that even a campus political club would be so tone-deaf and insensitive, especially with talk of creating a new conservative party before the next election.

Last month the same Wildrose campus club announced it had endorsed Jason Kenney‘s bid to dissolve the Progressive Conservative Party and lead a new conservative party.

It would be easy to chalk up the “Feminism is Cancer” email to student tomfoolery or immaturity if it were not already part of a trend of Wildrose Party bozo-eruptions that go all the way back to the 2012 election.

The blog post predicting an ‘eternity in the lake of fire’ for gays and lesbians and claims of a caucasian advantage by mostly unknown candidates in that election likely cost the Wildrose Party its chance of forming government in 2012.

Wildrose Feminism is Cancer

A screenshot of the email (click to enlarge)

More recently, nine Wildrose MLAs were called out for signing an op-ed sent to rural newspapers that compared the NDP government’s carbon tax to the Holodomor, the genocide that killed an estimated 2.5–7.5 million Ukrainians in the Soviet Union from 1932 to 1933. And there was the incident surrounding Derek Fildebrandt’s “suspension” from the Wildrose caucus, which ended up lasting around 72 hours in total. Weird tirades against the threat of communism and denial of climate change by Wildrose MLAs just add more flames to the [lake of] fire.

Back in 2012, before the Lake of Fire became part of the province’s political lingo, then-party leader Danielle Smith confirmed the existence of a good conduct bonds of $1,000 to be paid by anyone who ran for a Wildrose Party nomination.

Maybe it will be time for Brian Jean and Jason Kenney to increase the good conduct bond to $10,000?

New Alberta Politics Podcast: The Broadcast

Edmonton-based journalists Trisha Estabrooks and Alex Zabjek have launched a new podcast focusing on women and Alberta politics. The Broadcast website describes the inspiration for the podcast:

We started this podcast because we believe that 100 years after some women won the right to vote in Alberta, there are challenges to figure out, successes to celebrate, inequalities that need to be exposed, and stories to discover. We hope to learn as much as you through our work on this show.

The first three episodes of the podcast include interviews with PC-turned-NDP MLA Sandra Jansen, historian Charlotte Gray, and journalist turned politicians Katherine O’Neill and Danielle Smith.

Stephanie McLean wants more women to run in next year’s municipal elections

Stephanie McLean

Stephanie McLean

Alberta’s Minister for the Status of Women Stephanie McLean is heading on a four-city tour to convince more women to run for elected office in next year’s municipal elections. The tour will feature events in Edmonton on October 18Medicine Hat on October 20Calgary on October 24, and Lethbridge on October 27.

Despite a record number of women being elected to the Alberta Legislature in May 2015, including nearly a majority in the governing New Democratic Party caucus, and the majority of provincial cabinet ministers being women, the number of women elected to municipal office remains low.

According to the Alberta government website that promotes the tour and includes an online campaign toolkit, women hold an average of 26% of elected seats in municipal politics and Albertans elected 490 women out of a possible 1,874 municipal positions during the 2013 municipal elections.

At the Edmonton event on October 18, the only woman elected to our City Council, Bev Esslinger, will join Ms. McLean and Métis Nation of Alberta President Audrey Poitras for a discussion about how women can launch campaigns for municipal office. The discussion will be moderated by Edmonton Journal reporter Elise Stolte.

The Lethbridge event will feature Maryanne Sandberg, Councillor from the Municipal District of Willowcreek. The Medicine Hat discussion will include past mayoral candidate Milvia Bauman, Newell County Reeve and past provincial election candidate Molly Douglass and moderator Christy Pick from Shaw TV Channel 10.

The Calgary event discussion will include Piikani Nation Councillor Angela Grier former Calgary City councillor Gael MacLeod and will be moderated by radio host and former Wildrose and PC MLA Danielle Smith.

2016 marks 100 years of women’s suffrage in Alberta. As we can see in the current American presidential race, women candidates face many challenges when it comes to seeking office, least of all still having to campaign hard against an opponent who is grossly under qualified. I have heard it said that women have to be asked five times to run for office before accepting, while it usually only takes men one ask. It is my hope that more women will seek election, and will be elected throughout the province. After all, it is 2016.


On the topic of women running in municipal elections, Miranda Jimmy launched her campaign for Edmonton City Council in the southwest Ward 5. She will be facing incumbent Michael Oshry, should he choose to run again.

Anti-Abortion activists stage an “invalid takeover” of Alberta’s Social Credit Party

Jeremy Fraser Social Credit Party Alberta Leader

Jeremy Fraser

It has been a long time since Alberta’s Social Credit Party played a central role in mainstream politics in our province. This could be why little attention was paid to the Socred’s annual general meeting in January 2016, where it appears that a group of anti-abortion activists staged a takeover the party leadership.

Len Skowronski, who served as leader from 2007 until the leadership change at the AGM, described it as an “invalid takeover” executed by a group of pro-lifers. “We true Socreds hope to rectify the situation at the next AGM,” Mr. Skowronski wrote in an email to this blogger.

According to Elections Alberta documents, Jeremy Fraser is now the party leader. He previously served as the party’s first vice-president and the party’s candidate in Highwood in the 2015 election, where he earned 187 votes.

Mr. Fraser posted the following message on his Facebook page days before the AGM:

Dear Pro-Life Social Credit Party Members and Supporters,

I want to thank you for all your support of the Social Credit Party over the past year! We have made great progress in building the Pro-Life political movement in Alberta. From recruiting many emerging Pro-Life leaders who have gained valuable knowledge and skills in political leadership on our provincial board to activating lifelong Pro-Life supporters at the grassroots level, helping them engage effectively in our last provincial election.

It hasn’t always been easy, but we have made great strides in promoting Pro-Life public policy and working for a Culture of Life! Thank you!

This Saturday is our Party’s Annual General Meeting. This is a very important opportunity to forward the Pro-Life cause politically in Alberta!

We will be voting to elect a strong team of Pro-Life leaders to the Provincial Executive and Board of Directors. Registration will take place from 1:00-1:30 PM at the Capitol Hill Community Hall, 1531 21 Ave NW, Calgary from 1-4. You can register at the door, $10/person 14yrs or older. Families are welcome to bring their younger children as there will be plenty of room.

This year’s AGM will be critical. We will be voting on the current leadership of the party which could result in the election of a new Leader of the Alberta Social Credit Party. It is vital that we ensure that we vote for a Leader who stands strongly for Pro-Life principles and shares our focus on promoting them openly.

A Social Credit advertisement from Alberta's 1944 election.

A Social Credit advertisement from Alberta’s 1944 election.

Speaking to the High River Times in April 2015, Mr. Fraser was quoted as saying “I will emphasize the Pro-Life values of Albertans, making constituents and other candidates aware of the issues surrounding abortion and how they are directly relevant to provincial policy… We should de-fund abortion and fund the life affirming alternatives of crisis pregnancy support, parental support, and adoption.”

It just so happens that “Eliminate the funding of abortions” is now prominently included in the first section of the Social Credit Party 2019 election platform, which has been published on the party website.

Mr. Fraser was a volunteer for the publicity campaign to recall Highwood MLA Danielle Smith after the former Wildrose leader crossed the floor to the PCs in December 2014. Also volunteering for that campaign were conservative activists Amanda Achtman and Caitlyn Madlener, who are now contributors to Ezra Levant‘s Rebel Media website (Ms. Madlener stood behind Jason Kenney as he launched his campaign for the Progressive Conservative leadership).

Ironically for Mr. Fraser, Alberta’s only recall legislation was repealed by the Social Credit government in 1936.

The Social Credit Party formed government in Alberta from 1935 to 1971. The party last elected an MLA to the Legislature in 1979. Former Social Credit Party leader Randy Thorsteinson, who led the party to win 6.8 percent of the vote in the 1997 election and later formed the Alberta Alliance Party (now known as the Wildrose Party) recently became the leader of the newly formed Reform Party of Alberta.

A message sent to Mr. Fraser was not responded to at the time this post was published.

PC candidate Heather Klimchuk and leader Alison Redford made a campaign stop at Edmonton's Duchess Bakery during the first week of the 2012 election campaign.

Alberta’s 2012 election campaign kicked-off four years ago today

Considering the incredible political change that has taken place in Alberta in the past few years, it is almost difficult to believe that it has only been four years since Alberta’s political parties were rolling out their campaigns on the first day of the 2012 provincial election.

With the polls showing the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose Party tied for support, Alison Redford‘s Tories fired the first salvo of the campaign attacking a 10-year old column written by Danielle Smith advocating the legalization of the sex trade. It was a weak attack that mostly served as a distraction from the big issue that dominated the first week of that campaign – the infamous ‘no-meet committee.’

Like most campaigns, the issue that defined the first week of the campaign was old news by the end of the campaign. By day 28 of the campaign, most Albertans had stopped paying attention to Tory corruption and incompetence, and instead were focusing on the bozo-eruptions coming from the Wildrose Party’s social conservative base.

When the votes were counted, Fortress Rural Alberta, a key part of the PC Party’s governing coalition since the 1975 election, was firmly occupied by the Wildrose Party. But Alberta’s urban centres, shocked by the Wildrose Party’s social conservative streak, flocked to the PCs. Ms. Redford’s message of ‘no tax increases and no service cuts‘ resonated among liberals and moderate conservatives but it was a promise the PCs could not deliver.

The PCs would form their final consecutive majority government since 1971 with 61 seats in the Legislature. The Wildrose Party formed Official Opposition for the first time by electing 17 MLAs. The Liberals lost Official Opposition status for the first time since 1993 after only five MLAs were elected. The NDP doubled their opposition caucus with four MLAs. The Alberta Party had hoped to make a breakthrough in that election but would have to wait until 2015 to elect its first MLA.


Four years later, each of Alberta’s major political parties from that election have undergone a leadership change. Where are those former leaders now?

  • Alison Redford is now the Executive Director of the Canadian Transition Energy Initiative at the Conference Board of Canada. She stepped down as premier of Alberta on March 23, 2014 after her party and government were engulfed in controversy and scandal.
  • Danielle Smith is now the host of Afternoons with Danielle Smith on NewsTalk 770 in Calgary. Ms. Smith’s elected career came to an end when she crossed the floor and was unable to secure a PC Party nomination in the Highwood constituency before the 2015 election.
  • Raj Sherman is practicing family medicine at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, according to his listing on the College of Physicians and Surgeons website. Dr. Sherman stepped down as Liberal Party leader in January 2015 and did not run for re-election. He instead served as his party’s campaign manager in the 2015 election.
  • Brian Mason is the only one of the four who is still an MLA. Mr. Mason is Alberta’s Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation and Government House Leader in the Legislative Assembly. The feisty opposition MLA led the New Democratic Party from 2004 until 2014, when he was succeeded by Rachel Notley. Ms. Notley would soon after lead her party to form its first ever majority government in May 2015.
  • Glenn Taylor stepped down as leader of the Alberta Party in late 2012. Mr. Taylor previously served as Mayor of the Town of Hinton from 2004 to 2012.

PC leader Alison Redford kicked-off her party’s 2012 re-election campaign outside of Heather Klimchuk‘s campaign office in the Edmonton-Glenora constituency. Here is video of her speech from that event:


Over the course of the 2012 campaign, Alberta NDP staffer John Alan Ashton produced a series of amusing YouTube video interviews with party notables. Here is his interview with leader Brian Mason on March 31, 2012:

6 reasons why Alberta history will be kind to Ed Stelmach

Five years ago today, Ed Stelmach began the process of quietly stepping out of the political spotlight by announcing his resignation as Premier of Alberta after nearly five years in the office.

The mild-mannered farmer from the Village of Andrew dedicated more than twenty-five years of his life to municipal and provincial politics and led the Progressive Conservative Association to win one of its largest electoral victories in its forty-four years as government. Despite this win, his party’s Calgary establishment never forgave him for defeating their choice for leader in the 2006 leadership race.

On January 25, 2011, facing dangerous ideological divisions in his party and caucus, Mr. Stelmach announced his decision to resign. On October 7, 2011, he was replaced as premier and party leader by Calgary MLA Alison Redford.

While there were certainly controversies and missteps during his time as premier, Mr. Stelmach made a number of significant decisions that have had a positive effect on our province. Considering my history with the man, some readers may be surprised to learn that I believe history will be kind to Alberta’s thirteenth Premier. Here’s why.

Six reasons why Alberta history will be kind to Ed Stelmach

1) Mr. Stelmach reinvested in public services and infrastructure. After years of neglect, his government tackled the province’s growing deferred maintenance budget by investing billions of dollars into public infrastructure.

The Municipal Sustainability Initiative and the $1 billion GreenTrip Fund provided to municipalities allowed for the expansion of public transit in Alberta’s fast-growing cities. A series of 5% increases to the health care budget helped to stabilize the see-saw of unpredictable funding allocated by his predecessor, Ralph Klein.

2) The creation of the Capital Region Board helped de-escalate the tensions and narrow the deep divisions between the dozens of municipalities in the Edmonton region. While tensions still exist in some corners of the capital region, Mr. Stelmach helped usher a détente‎ by forcing the municipal politicians to use a process for resolving grievances and planning the future.

3) The creation of the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness set a bold plan in motion to eliminate homelessness in our province by 2017. While homelessenss will not be eliminated by 2017, the provincial plan along with plans to end homelessness in CalgaryEdmonton and other cities, thousands of Albertans have been successfully housed through programs like Housing First.

4) The introduction of the Lobbyist Registry helped shine a spotlight into the shadowy world of political lobbying and horse-trading. Although not foolproof, the registry gives Albertans a chance to see who is being paid to influence their elected officials on a daily basis.

5) During his first year in office, Mr. Stelmach concluded a deal with the Alberta Teachers’ Association in which the province agreed to contribute $2.1 billion towards the $6.6 billion unfunded pension liability. In exchange, Alberta’s 34,000 teachers  agreed to a five-year contract. This is a stark contrast to his predecessor and successor, who waged war on Alberta’s public sector workers, their pensions and their unions.

6) In the spirit of former Premier Peter Lougheed, Mr. Stelmach moved the Tories back to the centre of the political spectrum. While he did not stay to face them in an election, he recognized that to compete with the right-wing Wildrose Party, then led by Danielle Smith, he needed to move his party to the middle, rather than the political right. While this angered his opponents both inside and outside his party, this decision may have helped save his party from political defeat in the 2012 election. Had he remained leader of the PC Party, he might still be Premier of Alberta today.

While he never enjoyed the same level of personal popularity as Mr. Klein, I suspect the actions Mr. Stelmach took while in office will have a longer lasting positive impact in this province than those of his immediate predecessor.

(This post is an updated version of an article first published in 2013)

Jim Prentice Danielle Smith Alberta Wildrose Merger PC

Breaking: Alberta’s Tories Poised to Sweep Election in Spring 2016

December 17, 2015

By: Dirk Pranter, Provincial Affairs columnist, Calgary Sunherald

Jim Prentice Alberta Premier

Jim Prentice

One year after nearly the entire official opposition crossed the floor to join Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives, the 44 year long governing party is expected to sweep the province for a record thirteenth election victory. Premier Jim Prentice is said to be preparing his party and its candidates for an early spring 2016 election.

According to Alberta’s fixed election date law, a provincial election must be called between March 31 and May 1, 2016.

The Wildrose MLA floor crossings on December 17, 2014 hurt the PCs in the polls in the first half of 2015. But after the Tories began to recover in the polls a fall cabinet shuffle brought two former Wildrose MLAs, Danielle Smith and Rob Anderson, into Prentice’s cabinet as Finance Minister and Justice Minister.

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith

Public opinion polls now suggest most Albertans have embraced the Prentice Tories once again. The PCs now have the support of 77 percent of Albertans, according to the most recent Western Insite poll.

“A few months ago it looked like the Tories had a real fight on their hands but today they are back on top,” said Jake Randall, vice-president of Western Insite Inc. “Prentice really didn’t start resonating with Albertans until after May 2015,” he said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior official in the PC Party admitted they were glad the provincial election wasn’t called in early 2015, as some party insiders had pushed for.

“We simply weren’t prepared to go to the polls in spring 2015,” the source said.

“We would have got smoked, boy, it would have been the end of us,” they said.

David Climenhaga

David Climenhaga

The hopes of New Democratic Party supporters were boosted when David Climenhaga defied expectations with a 67 percent landslide win for the NDP in a May 5, 2015 by-election in the Spruce Grove-St. Albert constituency.

Liberal MLAs Laurie Blakeman and David Swann added to the orange momentum on May 6 when they joined the NDP caucus, creating speculation that Rachel Notley‘s NDP could pose a serious challenge to the Tories in the next election.

But with recent polls showing the NDP back in their traditional range of 10 percent support, Albertans may never know what an NDP government looks like.

The Wildrose Party has wilted, with most of its support relegated to a handful of rural southern Alberta constituencies.

Derek Fildebrandt Alberta Taxpayers

Derek Fildebrandt

Wildrose leader Derek Fildebrandt remains a harsh critic of the PCs and is in talks to create a ‘real conservative alternative’ by merging his party with the right-wing Social Credit and Alberta First parties.

“Most Albertans are moderates and are very suspicious and uncomfortable with the kind of social conservative politics inside the Wildrose Party,” said Darlene Sinclair, professor of political science at Vermilion River University in Lloydminster.

Sinclair predicted that the PCs had successfully built a coalition of moderate and progressive minded urbanites that could keep the Tories in government for many decades to come. But she warned that even with high polling numbers, the Prentice government faces serious challenges.

Tory supporters are quick to defend Prentice from criticisms about the job losses caused by a downturn in the economy, tax increases and his refusal to make deep funding cuts to public programs.

Former Conservative MP Brian Jean, who will be running for the Tories in the Fort McMurray-Conklin constituency, said that Prentice is not to blame for job losses in the oil patch.

“It would be silly to believe that any Premier of Alberta, even Jim Prentice, has the power to control the international price of oil,” Jean said.

“It just doesn’t work like that, ” he said.

(Note: This article is a satirical take on what might have happened if the PC Party had waited until Alberta’s 2016 fixed election date to call the most recent provincial election. In reality, the PCs called the election one year early and Albertans elected Notley’s NDP with a majority government on May 5, 2015).

Wildrose leader Brian Jean

Wildrose demands transparency from NDP and PCs but holds its annual meeting in secret

Alberta’s conservative Wildrose Party is holding its annual general meeting this weekend in Calgary and, according to one media source, the event will be closed to the media with the exception of leader Brian Jean‘s speech ahead of the leadership review vote on the evening of Nov 13, 2015.

It feels like an eternity in Alberta politics since the Wildrose Party’s last annual meeting in Nov. 2014, which saw then-leader Danielle Smith clash with the party’s social conservative base over support for sexual minority rights. Wildrose members at the open door meeting voted down a definitive statement on equal rights for all Albertans, destroying the party’s attempt to appear more mainstream on social issues.

Now, the Wildrose Party led by Mr. Jean will spend its first annual meeting after its spectacular return from the dead debating policy and politics behind closed doors.

Wildrose members will debate motions ranging from equalization paymentspublic sector pensions, ending mandatory membership in students’ unions, increasing access to firearms, abolishing the Canadian Senate, and allowing private enterprise to receive government grants to compete against public essential services.

Members will also debate a series of motions aimed at banning MLAs from crossing the floor to another party, an issue that nearly destroyed the party when 13 of its MLAs crossed the floor to join the Progressive Conservatives in the final months of 2014.

This type of anti-floor crossing policy could prove difficult to enforce, as it is against the spirit of the Westminster parliamentary system and idea of responsible government. Wildrose members should also note that none of the floor-crossers were re-elected in this year’s general election, providing some evidence that elements of our system of democracy worked without unneeded tinkering.

The closed door meeting could help hide controversial comments or embarrassing eruptions that regularily happen when political party members line up to speak at the microphone.

Rumours have circulated for months about a group of party members who still harbour bad feelings from the party’s March 28, 2015 leadership race and could create trouble for Mr. Jean at this annual meeting. The leadership vote, which Mr. Jean won with 54 percent to Drew Barnes’ 40 percent, was held days before the provincial election was called.

An internal investigation was launched amid allegations of illegal robocalls and the party imposed a $15,000 fine against Mr. Barnes’ campaign. The message in the robocalls allegedly attacked Mr. Jean for his $10,000 donation to Jim Prentice‘s PC leadership campaign only months before he entered the Wildrose Party leadership race.

Mr. Jean is now carefully manufacturing his pitch to convince members of the former governing PC Party to join his party’s ranks. Later in November, the Wildrose Party is hosting a “conversation” fundraiser in Calgary where Mr. Jean will make his pitch to conservatives to unite behind his party against the NDP. Any embarrassing or divisive fights at this meeting could derails those attempts.

Wildrose MLAs have eclipsed the tiny PC opposition in media attention while relentlessly hammering almost every decision made by Rachel Notley‘s NDP since they won the May 2015 election. But recently Wildrose MLAs have found themselves tied up in an embarrassing missteps including fighting a new 9:00 a.m. start time for the Legislature and a very public dispute with a Globe & Mail reporter.

Partisan debates about policy can be divisive and messy, but it is hypocritical for Wildrose Party MLAs to lambast the NDP for failing to be transparent and the PCs for being secretive and entitled while holding their own policy meetings behind closed doors.

If Mr. Jean’s Wildrose Party truly wants to prove it is ready to govern and represent mainstream Alberta, they should demonstrate it by giving Albertans a view into how their grassroots members really believe our province should be governed.

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

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

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

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

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

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

Peter Tertzakian

Peter Tertzakian

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

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

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

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

Marg McCuaig Boyd (photo by Connor Mah)

Marg McCuaig Boyd (photo by Connor Mah)

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

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

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

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

Dave Mowatt

Dave Mowat

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

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

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

Ed Stelmach

Ed Stelmach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harry Strom, the last Social Credit Premier of Alberta, rides in the Calgary Stampede Parade alongside Lieutenant Governor Grant MacEwan.

Calgary Stampede an important marker of political change in Alberta

Billed as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, the Calgary Stampede is a must-stop destination for political leaders of all stripes and all levels of government. The event also provides a good historical marker of how quickly the political winds of change can sweep through Alberta.

Premier Rachel Notley Calgary Stampede Alberta

Rachel Notley

One year ago at last year’s Stampede, Dave Hancock was Premier of Alberta, Jim Prentice was an unstoppable candidate in the Progressive Conservative leadership race, the memory of Alison Redford was fresh in the minds of Albertans, Danielle Smith led the Wildrose Official Opposition, the Alberta Party was still on the fringe, and the NDP were in the midst of a leadership race many political watchers saw as a sideshow.

Now to this year’s Stampede, Rachel Notley is Premier of Alberta and there are 53 NDP MLAs in the Alberta Legislative Assembly (including 15 from the Calgary area), a former Member of Parliament named Brian Jean leads the Wildrose Official Opposition, former Calgary alderman Ric McIver leads a 9-MLA PC Caucus, Alberta Party leader Greg Clark is an MLA, and Mr. Prentice has disappeared from the political landscape.

Stephen Harper Calgary Stampede

Stephen Harper

The changes that took place between the two Stampedes are an important reminder about how quickly political change can happen, even in a province that is known for turning political parties into governing dynasties.

With the October 19 federal election less than four months away, it is also an important reminder to Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper that even voters in the Canadian conservative movement’s spiritual homeland cannot be taken for granted. That thought must have crossed Mr. Harper’s mind as he met with Ms. Notley for the first time this week in Calgary.

The provincial election win has boosted the NDP’s credibility and organizational strength, especially in Edmonton, but it is not clear how this will translate in the federal election. Ms. Notley’s win has created opportunity for the federal NDP in Alberta, especially for candidates like Janis Irwin in Edmonton-Griesbach and Linda Duncan in Edmonton-Strathcona. As Tom Mulcair‘s federal NDP focus their resources in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia, it is to their advantage to put the Conservatives on the defensive in Alberta, a situation that has not happened very often.

Kent Hehr Liberal Calgary Centre

Kent Hehr

Meanwhile, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has reason to be optimistic after his party’s candidate’s came close to winning by-elections in Calgary-Centre in 2012 and Fort McMurray-Athabasca in 2014. The Liberals have also nominated a slate of high profile candidates that includes Kent Hehr in Calgary-Centre, Darshan Kang in Calgary-Skyview and Amarjeet Sohi in Edmonton-Mill Woods.

The Conservatives are still expected to hold most of Alberta’s ridings in the upcoming federal election but the NDP and Liberals could make gains in the major urban centres.

The truth is that federal Conservatives have always taken Alberta voters for granted, and they have had reason to. Albertans have not elected more than 2 non-conservative MPs in any federal election since 1993. The Conservatives even held all 28 of the province’s federal ridings between 2006 and 2008.

With a federal election fast approaching and and increasingly stale government approaching ten years in Ottawa, the Conservatives may need to spend more time campaigning in Alberta in the next few months, or else there could be a whole new cast of federal politicians wearing plaid shirts and cowboy boots at next year’s Calgary Stampede.

Alberta’s Tories Navigate through unfamiliar waters

As most Albertans head to work tomorrow morning, the Tory-connected public relations firm Navigator will host an invite-only session for clients in downtown Edmonton titled “Alberta’s New Government: What to Expect.” The session is being hosted by former Ottawa television host Don Newman and will feature main speaker Kathleen Monk (Ottawa NDP insider and former executive director of the Broadbent Institute) and Tory-connected panelists Jason Hatcher (managing principal at Navigator) and Jaime Watt (Toronto-based Navigator executive chairman). In a normal election year, it would not be surprising that this company would organize a session like this for their clients, but this has not been a normal election year.

Ric McIver

Ric McIver

One of Navigator’s managing principals, Randy Dawson, was the campaign manager for the Progressive Conservative Party‘s disastrous losing re-election campaign (despite the company’s slogan “When you can’t afford to lose”). After the firm became part of a controversy that damaged the Tories during the election campaign and one of its high profile employees led the campaign that ended the PC Party’s uninterrupted 44-year reign, it is surprising that Navigator is raising its flag in Alberta so soon after election day.

On Thursday night, interim PC Party leader Ric McIver will take the stage in what is sure to be a sombre event. Before Rachel Notley‘s NDP were swept to office on May 5, Premier Jim Prentice had been scheduled to speak at his party’s Calgary leader’s dinner on May 14. At the time tickets were so sought after that they sold out. Everyone in corporate Calgary wanted to be there to congratulate Mr. Prentice on his big win but voters had different plans. And while the fundraising dinner remains sold out, it is expected that a smaller and less powerful crowd will be in attendance.

Jonathan Denis MLA Calgary Acadia

Jonathan Denis

It has been astonishing to watch the breakneck speed in which some longtime PC supporters have abandoned any belief their party can someday return to power. Former justice minister Jonathan Denis called for a merger of the Wildrose and PC Party only days after his personal defeat in Calgary-Acadia.

Former MLA Greg Stevens, who served in Peter Lougheed’s cabinets, wrote in the Calgary Herald that the PC Party would “will cough and spit and be no more” after its election loss. And former Premier Ed Stelmach said shifting too far to the political right was a mistake made by the PC Party.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean responded to Mr. Denis by saying he was not interested in merging his party with the recently defeated Tories.

Ed Stelmach

Ed Stelmach

In December 2014, the Wildrose Party was moribund after former leader Danielle Smith led most of the party’s MLAs into the PC Caucus. Today, none of the floor crossers are MLAs and Mr. Jean’s Wildrose Party has formed Official Opposition with 21 MLAs (4 more than Ms. Smith led the party to win in 2012).

In response to Ms. Smith’s attempts to restore her public image, former Wildrose Communications Director Brock Harrison wrote an op-ed in the National Post aimed at debunking her “revisionist history.

Notley Senior Staff
Brian Topp Alberta Premier Chief of Staff

Brian Topp

Ms. Notley announced three senior roles in the Premier’s Office. Brian Topp will be Chief of Staff and Adrienne King will be Deputy Chief of Staff. Mr. Topp is the former federal NDP leadership candidate and deputy Chief of Staff to Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow and Ms. King is the former Chief of Staff at the Alberta’s NDP Caucus. Richard Dicerni will continue as Deputy Minister for Executive Council. Mr. Dicerni was appointed to the role by Mr. Prentice in September 2014.

Official Opposition Critics
Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

The Wildrose Official Opposition unveiled its front bench critics for the upcoming Legislative session: Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes as Shadow Minister for Health, Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman as Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier as Shadow Minister for Municipal Affairs, Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt as Shadow Minister for Finance & Treasury Board, Drayton Valley-Devon MLA Mark Smith as Shadow Minister for Education, Chestermere-Rockyview MLA Leela Aheer as Shadow Minister for Energy.

PC leader Jim Prentice in a post-leader's debate media scrum at Global Edmonton studios.

Notley wins the debate. Now it’s time to manage expectations

Last night’s leader’s debate was the biggest opportunity for Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice to knock NDP leader Rachel Notley off-balance. Since the start of the campaign, the PC Party has focused most of its attacks on Wildrose leader Brian Jean, who has proven to be an easier target. But Ms. Notley has been a more difficult target for the PCs.

Rachel Notley NDP Alberta

Rachel Notley

Expectations were high for Ms. Notley, whose party appears to be enjoying a surge in support, and she exceeded those expectations by not falling into Mr. Prentice’s traps. She was calm, concise, and set herself apart from the three other leaders.

Mr. Prentice performed as was expected, despite sounding patronizing at moments, and spent most of the debate on the offensive. His focus on Ms. Notley could signal a shift in focus by the PC campaign against the NDP in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge.

Mr. Jean started the debate slowly, but caught his stride in the second half of the event. He stuck to his notes, sometimes too closely, and overall performed well for someone who only accepted the party leadership less than one month ago. If you missed the debate, the one takeaway from Mr. Jean’s discussion points would be that the Wildrose Party will not raise your taxes. And in case you missed it a first time, he repeated that message numerous times for good measure.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

Earnest Liberal leader David Swann faced low expectations and performed as well as expected. Not a natural politician, Dr. Swann managed to present his party’s platform, but struggled at times to compete with the three other leaders.

With the leader’s debate over, we have now entered the final stretch of Alberta’s 2015 provincial election campaign. With limited polling available, I refuse to jump on the “PCs are going down to defeat” bandwagon. In uncertain times like these, it is important to remember the first unwritten rule of Alberta politics: that the PCs always win, and they always win a big majority [this is me, managing my own expectations].

With the leader’s debate behind them, what do the leaders need to do to manage their own party’s expectations?

Rachel Notley

Rachel Notley is making orange waves in Alberta, but how far will they splash? At the start of the campaign, she said the NDP are aiming to form government in Alberta, but perhaps more realistically Official Opposition is within their grasp. I know many New Democrats who would love for Ms. Notley to lead the party to win at least 17 MLAs, more than the 16 seats the party won in the 1986 and 1989 elections. Any more than the four the party currently holds should be considered a win for the NDP in Alberta.

Jim Prentice

Jim Prentice must lead his party to form a majority government. If the PCs win less than 44 seats in the Assembly, Mr. Prentice will have led his party to its first major electoral humiliation in 44 years. But even within a majority government, there are thresholds for Mr. Prentice’s political survival. What happens to Mr. Prentice if, for example, the PCs elect less MLAs than Alison Redford led them to in 2012 (61)? Or less than Ralph Klein led them to win in 1993 (51)?

Brian Jean

For new Wildrose leader Brian Jean, holding the party’s current number of constituencies – five – while personally winning election in Fort McMurray-Conklin is probably enough to secure his political leadership. Holding on to Official Opposition would be a bonus and electing more than 17 MLAs – the number the party elected under Danielle Smith in 2012 – would be golden.

David Swann

Expectations are low for the Liberals. Re-electing the party’s two incumbent MLAs – David Swann in Calgary-Mountain View and Laurie Blakeman in Edmonton-Centre – would be considered a win for the Liberals in this election.

Greg Clark

Electing leader Greg Clark in Calgary-Elbow, which is the Alberta Party’s best shot in this campaign, would be considered a big win for the party. Mr. Clark placed a strong second to PC candidate Gordon Dirks in the 2014 by-election.

Premier Jim Prentice Alberta Leadership Race Vote

Prentice to honour 2016 fixed election date, plans tough climate change targets

In a surprising reversal, Alberta Premier Jim Prentice announced that the next provincial election will be held in spring 2016, not in 2015 as many Albertans expected.

“Three years ago, Progressive Conservative MLAs passed Alberta’s fixed election date law,” said Prentice. “I intend to honour the spirit of this law by holding the next election in 2016.”

The Election Amendment Act, 2011 created a fixed, three-month period in which provincial elections are held every four years.

“Establishing the fixed election period has benefits for all Albertans,” said Jonathan Denis, Minister of Justice and Attorney General. “Albertans are better able to plan to participate or involve themselves in the election process – as voters, as candidates, and as volunteers.”

Some critics believe the delay is a result of a recent poll showing a negative public reaction to the provincial budget and an NDP surge to above 40 per cent support in Edmonton.

Prentice also announced tough new climate change targets that will reduce Alberta’s carbon emissions by 50 per cent before the 2016 election is called.

“Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation and we will not fail in defeating it,” Prentice said. “That is why I am appointing Danielle Smith to lead this initiative as the first Chief Executive Officer of the new Alberta Global Warming Institute.”

“Albertans have put their trust in us and going forward, we will demonstrate beyond a doubt that our government will be the change that Albertans are looking for,” Prentice said.

[Happy April Fools Day!]