Tag Archives: Danielle Smith

Rick Strankman Jason Kenney UCP Drumheller Stettler MLA

Rick Strankman ousted by Nate Horner in Drumheller-Stettler, UCP dumps Dale Johnson in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

Photo: Rick Strankman and Jason Kenney (source: Facebook)

Rick Strankman is the first incumbent MLA to lose his party’s nomination in this election cycle as he went down to defeat at the hands of Pollockville rancher and political family scion Nate Horner in last weekend’s United Conservative Party nomination contest in Drumheller-Stettler, located deep in Dinosaur Country.

Nate Horner UCP Drumheller Stettler

Nate Horner

Despite endorsements from fellow UCP MLAs Leela AheerScott CyrGrant HunterMark Smith, Pat Stier, and Wes Taylor, Strankman was unable to fend off this nomination challenge. Horner defeated Strankman by a margin of 969 votes to 740.

Strankman was first elected in 2012 and in 2016 was twice forced to apologize after penning an article comparing Alberta’s carbon tax to the Holodomor, the Ukrainian genocide of the 1930s.

His loss makes former Wildrose Party MLAs of his era an almost extinct species in Alberta politics. The only remaining former Wildrose MLA from the party’s 2012 breakthrough who is nominated to run as a UCP candidate in 2019 is Drew Barnes, who will be running for re-election in Cypress-Medicine Hat.

There is now speculation that Strankman could seek the nomination to run as a candidate with Derek Fildebrandt’s upstart Freedom Conservative Party in 2019.

As noted in a previous article, Horner is a rancher and the latest member of the Horner political family to recently jump into the provincial arena. The Nate Horner is a relative of former deputy premiers Hugh Horner and Doug Horner, and the grandson of Jack Horner, who served as Member of Parliament for central Alberta from 1958 to 1979. Jack Horner served as a Progressive Conservative until 1977, when he crossed the floor to the Liberals and served as Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce in Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau‘s government before he was soundly defeated in the 1979 election.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

A third candidate in the UCP nomination race, Todd Pawsey, was disqualified by the party at the eleventh hour following the discovery of unsavoury Facebook posts. The social media posts included “jokes about transgender people, making extremely sexual/sexist comments and calling Premier Rachel Notely a queen beyotch,” according to a report by the Ponoka News.

While it is not common for incumbent MLAs to lose their party nominations, it is not unheard of. Ahead of the 2015 election, incumbent MLAs Joe Anglin, Gary Bikman, Rod Fox, Peter Sandhu and Danielle Smith lost their nominations. MLAs Carl Benito, Broyce Jacobs and Art Johnston were defeated in their bids to secure their party’s nominations ahead of the 2012 election.

Johnson removed. Wood to be appointed?

Dale Johnson UCP Lac Ste Anne Parkland Candidate Nomination

Dale Johnson

Dale Johnson has been removed as the nominated UCP candidate in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland after the party discovered he paid $5,584.60 to an employee he fired with whom he was in a romantic relationship, according to a report by CBC

Johnson replied to the decision on his Facebook page: “…while I disagree with this decision, our Party has the right to make it and I will not be challenging it.

He previously served on Onoway town council, as president of Whitecourt-Ste. Anne PC association and as an appointed board member of the Aspen Regional Health Authority and Credit Counselling Services of Alberta.

Johnson defeated three other candidates to secure the nomination in August 2018. There is speculation in some political circles that the UCP could choose to appoint Leah Wood as the candidate in this district. Wood was a member of the UCP interim board and was widely considered to be the favourite of the party establishment in the August nomination contest.

Upcoming Nomination Meetings

Craig Coolahan NDP MLA Calgary Klein

Craig Coolahan

Edmonton-Mill Woods – Walter Espinoza and Anju Sharma will compete for the Alberta Party nomination at a meeting on October 2, 2018.

Calgary-Klein – MLA Craig Coolahan is expected to be chosen as the New Democratic Party candidate at a meeting on October 3, 2018. Coolahan was first elected in 2015 with 44.3 percent of the vote in the 2015 election. Before his election, he worked as a business representative with the United Utility Workers’ Association.

Edmonton-West Henday – MLA Jon Carson is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in this new west Edmonton district on October 3, 2018. Carson was first elected as MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark in the 2015 election while earning 57 percent of the vote. Carson was an apprentice electrician when he was elected to the Legislature.

Calgary-Currie – Tony Norman is expected to be nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Currie on October 4, 2018. Norman was the Alberta Party candidate in this district in the 2015 election.


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

Calgary-EdgemontJulia Hayter is seeking the NDP nomination. Hayter is a constituency assistant to current Calgary-Varsity MLA Stephanie McLean and was seeking the NDP nomination in that district until Anne McGrath entered the contest last week.

After some deep consideration and conversations, I have decided to remove my name from the Varsity nomination race. As…

Posted by Julia Hayter on Monday, October 1, 2018

Calgary-North East – Rocky View County Councillor Jerry Gautreau is seeking the UCP nomination in this northeast Calgary district. Gautreau earned 178 votes when he ran as a Social Credit Party candidate in the 2004 election in the now defunct Airdrie-Chestermere district.

Edmonton-City Centre – Stephen Hammerschimidt has withdrawn from UCP contest in this downtown Edmonton district.

Fort McMurray-Lac La BicheLaila Goodridge was only elected as MLA on July 12, 2018 but she already faces two high-profile challengers for the UCP nomination in the new Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district. Former Lac La Biche County Councillor Gail Broadbent-Ludwig announced her candidacy last month and this week former Wood Buffalo mayoral candidate Allan Grandison entered the contest. The largest donor to Grandison’s October 2017 mayoral campaign came from City Centre Group, the company operated by the family of former MLA and Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean.

Sherwood Park – Jason Lafond has withdrawn from UCP contest.

Spruce Grove-Stony Plain – Brendan Greene has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest in this district west of Edmonton. Greene was the Green Party candidate in Sturgeon River-Parkland in the 2015 federal election.

Vermilion-Lloydminster-WainwrightBenjamin Acquaye is seeking the UCP nomination. Acquaye is an instructor with the Department of Business at Lakeland College in Lloydminster.

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

Who might and might not be invited to the Leaders’ Debate in Alberta’s 2019 election?

Photo: Alberta political party leaders – Rachel Notley, Jason Kenney, Stephen Mandel, David Khan, and Derek Fildebrandt.

We are now somewhere between seven and ten months away from the next provincial general election in Alberta. For the past seven provincial elections, leaders of the main political parties have participated in televised leaders debates, and while a lot of media and political attention is focused on these events, their impact on the outcome of the election varies.

Most readers of this website will remember Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice‘s infamous “math is difficult” rebuttal to New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley during the 2015 debate. The comment was viewed by many as sexist and the embodiment of a 44-year old political dynasty way past it’s best before date.

Which party leaders are invited to participate in the debates, which are typically organized by private news media companies, can sometimes be contentious. Generally, only leaders whose parties have elected MLAs in the previous general election have been invited, but this has not always been the case. Unlike our neighbours to the south, there are no official rules or commission governing who is invited, which has led to inconsistencies since the televised leaders debates began in Alberta in 1993.

Assuming one is held, let’s take a look at who might and might not be invited to participate in a televised leaders debate held in Alberta’s next provincial election, which is expected to be called between March 1 and May 31, 2019.

Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney: Notley and United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney are shoe-ins to participate in the leaders debate. Notley is the current Premier of Alberta and Kenney leads the Official Opposition UCP. Although the UCP did not exist in the last election, the party has won three by-elections since it was formed in 2017.

Stephen Mandel: Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel will almost certainly be invited to join the debate even though he is not currently an MLA. Mandel served as a PC MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud from October 2014 to May 2015 and was defeated by NDP MLA Bob Turner in 2015. The Alberta Party elected one MLA in 2015 – Calgary-Elbow MLA Greg Clark – and now has three MLAs due to floor-crossings by former NDP MLA Karen McPherson and UCP MLA Rick Fraser.

David Khan: Liberal Party leader David Khan is not a sitting MLA and his party’s sole MLA, former leader David Swann, is not seeking re-election. This is the first election since 1986 that the Liberals will not have an incumbent MLA running for re-election. Khan is running for election in Swann’s Calgary-Mountain View district. While the party has had one elected MLA since 2015, the party’s lack of incumbent MLAs and declining relevance in Alberta politics could lead to the Liberals not being invited to join next year’s debate.

The Derek Fildebrandt Question: Derek Fildebrandt is a sitting MLA and most likely will be leader of the Freedom Conservative Party when the next election is called. He was first elected as the Wildrose Party MLA for Strathmore-Brooks in 2015 and joined the FCP in 2018. His party did not elect any MLAs in 2015, but neither did the UCP, which was formed in 2017 by MLAs who were previously members of the PC and Wildrose parties.

Fildebrandt has said his party will not run candidates in all districts, only focusing on districts where the NDP is not considered to be competitive. This means that most viewers tuning in to the televised debate will not have the option of voting for a Freedom Conservative Party candidate on Election Day, but a lack of a full-slate has not stopped leaders from being invited to the debates in the past.

Fildebrandt is a fiery quote-machine and his participation in the debates would undoubtably create some entertainment value for viewers. While I suspect Notley and Mandel would be supportive of Fildebrandt’s involvement in the debate, I expect that Kenney would not be eager to share a stage with Fildebrandt. As I predicted on a recent episode of the Daveberta Podcast, I suspect Kenney could threaten to withhold his participation in the debate if Fildebrandt is invited to join.

As for the format of a leaders debate, as I have written before, my preference would be to hold in front of a live audience, rather than a sterile and controlled television studio. This would allow the party leaders to demonstrate their debating skills and a live audience would add an atmosphere of unpredictability and would force the leaders to speak to both the voters in the room and those watching their television screens.


A History of Leaders Debates in Alberta Elections

Here is a quick history of leaders debates during general elections in Alberta:

1967 election – Four party leaders participated in this debate: Social Credit leader Ernest Manning, PC Party leader Peter Lougheed, NDP leader Neil Reimer and Liberal leader Michael Maccagno. Lougheed had initially challenged Manning to a televised debate, but a public debate was held instead. The meeting was sponsored by the City Centre Church Council and held in downtown Edmonton. The leaders fielded questions from the audience of the packed church.

The Calgary Herald reported that “…Manning was booed by a small contingent of hecklers while the new leader of the Conservatives reportedly “appeared to score heavily and draw the most applause.”

At the time of the debate, only Manning and Maccagno were MLAs. Reimer was not an MLA but there was one incumbent NDP MLA, Garth Turcott, who had been elected in a 1965 by-election in Pincher Creek-Crowsnest. Lougheed was not an MLA and his party had not elected an MLA since the 1959 election.

1971-1989 elections – No leaders debates were held during the 1971, 1975, 1979, 1982, 1986 and 1989 elections. Lougheed was challenged by opposition leaders, including NDP leader Grant Notley and Western Canada Concept leader Gordon Kesler, to participate in a televised debate but were turned down. Don Getty also refused to debate his opponents on television.

1993 election – Three party leaders participated in two televised debates: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, NDP leader Ray Martin, and Liberal Party leader Laurence Decore. The first debate was held in-front of a live studio audience and was broadcast on CFCN in Calgary and CFRN in Edmonton. The second debate was held without a live studio audience and broadcast on Channel 2&7 in Calgary and ITV in Edmonton.

An alternative debate that included leaders of smaller parties was also televised. That debate included the leaders of the Communist Party, Confederation of Regions, Alliance Party and Green Party. Social Credit Party leader Randy Thorsteinson refused to participate, arguing that the Social Credit party should have been included in the main leaders debate.

1997 election – Four party leaders participated in this televised debate organized by the Alberta Chamber of Commerce and broadcast by CBC: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal Party leader Grant Mitchell, NDP leader Pam Barrett, and Social Credit Party leader Randy Thorsteinson.

Barrett and Thorsteinson were invited to participate despite not being MLAs at the time and neither of their parties having elected any MLAs in the previous election. The NDP and Social Credit Party did not nominate a full slate, with only 77 and 70 candidates running in 83 districts. 

2001 election – Three leaders participated in this televised debate organized by Calgary Herald and Global News: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal leader Nancy MacBeth and NDP leader Raj Pannu. The three major parties nominated candidates in all 83 districts.

2004 election – Three leaders participated in this televised debate broadcast by Global Television: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal leader Kevin Taft and NDP leader Brian Mason.

Despite having been invited to join the televised debate in 1997, Alberta Alliance leader Randy Thorsteinson was not allowed to join in 2004 because he was not an MLA and his new party did not elect any members in the previous election. The party had one MLA, former Edmonton-Norwood PC MLA Gary Masyk, who crossed the floor in the months before the election was called.

The PCs, NDP and the Alberta Alliance nominated candidates in all 83 districts in this election. The Liberals nominated candidates in 82 of 83 districts.

2008 election – Four leaders participated in this debate broadcast on Global, CTV and CBC: PC Party leader Ed Stelmach, Liberal Party leader Kevin Taft, NDP leader Brian Mason and Wildrose Alliance leader Paul Hinman. Hinman was the Alberta Alliance Party’s sole elected MLA in the 2004 election before the party changed its name to the Wildrose Alliance (he would be defeated in his bid for re-election in Cardston-Taber-Warner in 2008).

The Wildrose Alliance nominated 61 candidates in 83 districts. Green Party leader George Read was not invited to participate in the debate, despite his party nominating candidates in 79 of 83 districts (the Greens would earn 4.5 percent of the total province-wide vote, only slightly behind the 6.7 percent earned by the Wildrose Alliance in this election). 

2012 election – Four leaders participated in this debate broadcast by Global and streamed on the internet: PC Party leader Alison Redford, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman and NDP leader Brian Mason.

Smith was invited to join the debate despite her party not having elected any MLAs in the previous election. The Wildrose Party was represented in the Assembly by four MLAs when the election was called. Former leader Paul Hinman returned to the Assembly in a 2009 by-election in Calgary-Glenmore and Heather Forsyth, Rob Anderson, and Guy Boutilier were elected as PC candidates in 2008 before crossing the floor to join the Wildrose Party in 2010.

Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor was not invited to join the leaders debate, despite his party having one MLA in the Legislature. Former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor became the Alberta Party’s first MLA in 2011. The Alberta Party nominated 38 candidates in 87 districts.

2015 election – Four leaders participated in this debate broadcast by Global: PC leader Jim Prentice, NDP leader Rachel Notley, Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, and Liberal leader David Swann. Despite only narrowly losing a 2014 by-election in Calgary-Elbow, Alberta Party leader Greg Clark was not invited to join the debate. Clark would go on to be elected in Calgary-Elbow in this election.

The NDP and PCs nominated candidates in all 87 districts, while the Wildrose Party nominated 86 candidate and the Liberals nominated 56. The Alberta Party nominated 36 candidates in 87 districts.

New Democrats party and Kenney cringes. It’s Pride Week in Edmonton.

Photo: Jen Kish and Premier Rachel Notley

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley was dancing up a storm in front of thousands of Edmontonians at the capital city’s Pride Festival Parade on Saturday. The annual march travels down Whyte Avenue in the heart of Notley’s Edmonton-Strathcona district.

Notley was joined by dozens of Alberta NDP MLAs and Olypmian Jen Kish. Kish was captain of Canada’s Women’s Sevens Team at Rio 2016 where they won bronze in the inaugural Olympic rugby sevens tournament.

The United Conservative Party held its own event a few blocks away. After being declined a spot to march in the parade, UCP leader Jason Kenney announced that instead of attending the parade or other pride events, his party would hold its own event. The event featured speaker Lorne Mayencourt, an openly gay politician who represented downtown Vancouver in the BC Legislature from 2001 and 2009 and was a federal Conservative candidate in 2008.

This was not the first year Kenney has avoided attending Pride. As the newly elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, Kenney declined to attend the Edmonton Pride Festival in 2017. He also declined to attend Calgary’s Pride Festival in 2016, claiming his schedule was too full, and in 2017, claiming he was wasn’t invited, despite being invited by internationally known Alberta artist kd lang).

The now-defunct PC Party participated in Edmonton Pride-related festivities in the past. Premier Alison Redford spoke at the parade in 2012 and Premier Dave Hancock rode in the parade in 2014. Even Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith showed up at Edmonton’s Pride events in 2012.

The obsession some Wildrose-turned-UCP MLAs and UCP party activists have about gay-straight alliances has certainly contributed to the party believing its representatives might feel less than welcome at Edmonton’s Pride celebrations.

As a professional politician Kenney is a master at schmoozing his way into all kinds of events, so it is unlikely he did not show up just because he was not allowed to march in the parade. Kenney is a social conservative who has spent much of his 21-year long career in elected office opposing LGBTQ rights in Canada and he appealed to social conservatives in order to win the leadership of the UCP last year.

Perhaps not surprisingly, even though he did not attend the event, Kenney has strong opinions about the Pride Festival Committee deciding not to include police and military in future parades.

With an election coming up in early 2019, and Kenney’s UCP holding a solid lead in the polls, it might be unlikely we’ll see another Premier dancing in the streets anytime soon.

Alberta Election Candidates 2019 Prasad Panda Abagail Douglass David Eggen Kate Potter Graham Sucha

Alberta Candidate Nomination Update: A Big One.

Photo: Prasad Panda, Abigail Douglass, David Eggen, Kate Potter, and Graham Sucha

We are now about one year away from Alberta’s next provincial general election and the list of candidates running for party nominations is growing.

The Alberta Party has announced that Abigail Douglass will be their candidate in the upcoming Innisfail-Sylvan Lake by-election. A party press release states that Douglass grew up on her family’s farm near Penhold and attended Gateway Christian School in Red Deer. She attended King’s University in Edmonton and served two-terms as president of the students’ association. She earned a Bachelor of Commerce Degree at King’s.

The New Democratic Party is expected to nominate Nicole Mooney as their candidate at a nomination meeting on May 25, 2018. Mooney lives in Sylvan Lake and teaches English at St. Joseph’s High School in Red Deer. She is the Communications and Political Engagement Officer with Alberta Teachers’ Association Local 80.

NDP MLA David Eggen seeking the NDP nomination in Edmonton-North West. Eggen is currently serving his third-term as an MLA for Edmonton-Calder. Once again, the Poland of Alberta’s electoral map, Edmonton-Calder will be renamed Edmonton-North West as large swaths of the former district will become part of Edmonton-City Centre, Edmonton-Glenora and Edmonton-West Henday.

United Conservative Party MLA Prasad Panda is seeking his party’s nomination for re-election in the new Calgary- Edgemont district. Panda was first elected in a 2015 by-election in Calgary-Foothills. He was the 2012 and 2015 Wildrose Party candidate in the neighbouring Calgary-Northern Hills district.

NDP MLA Graham Sucha is seeking his party’s nomination in Calgary-Shaw. Sucha was elected as the MLA for this district in 2015, earning 31.3 percent of the vote ahead of PC MLA Jeff Wilson with 30.7 percent and Widlroser Brad Leishman with 30.4 percent.

UCP MLA Wayne Anderson has announced he is seeking his party’s nomination in the Highwood district. Anderson was first elected as a Wildrose Party MLA in the district in 2015 with 41 percent of the vote. Changes to the electoral boundaries have moved the Town of High River into the neighbouring Livingstone-Macleod district. This district was previously represented by former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith from 2012 to 2015.

Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel has been nominated as his party’s candidate in this southwest Edmonton district. Mandel represented this area of Edmonton as a City Councillor from 2001 to 2004. He served as the Progressive Conservative MLA for the neighbouring Edmonton-Whitemud from 2014 to 2015.

Former Alberta Party leader Greg Clark has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate Calgary-Elbow. Clark became the Alberta Party’s first elected MLA in 2015 when he was elected with 42 percent of the vote.

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

Banff-Kananaskis – According to Elections Alberta, restauranteur Scott Winograd has withdrawn from the UCP nomination in this district.

Calgary-BuffaloOmar Masood has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in the newly redrawn Calgary-Buffalo district. Masood was the first candidate nominated to run in the 2019 election when he was nominated to run under the currently existing boundaries in November 2016.

Calgary-CrossRoshan Chumber is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-Currie – Bettina Pierre-Gilles is seeking the UCP nomination. She is the President and CEO of Luxeum Renewables Group Inc. and is a member of the UCP Policy Committee.

Calgary-East – Robert O’Leary is seeking the UCP nomination

Calgary-Glenmore – Michael LaBerge is the fifth candidate to enter the UCP nomination contest in this southwest Calgary district. LaBerge is president of Channel Energy Inc.

Calgary-Mountain ViewJeremy Wong is seeking the UCP nomination. Wong is a pastor with the Calgary Chinese Alliance Church and recently completed a Master of Public Administration at the University of Calgary.

Calgary-North East – Anand Chetty is seeking the UCP nomination. Chetty is the owner of Calgary Rocky Tours.

Calgary-North West – Cam Khan is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-VarsityLesley Doell has withdrawn her candidacy for the UCP nomination in Calgary-North West and is now running for the UCP nomination in the neighbouring Calgary-Varsity district.

Chestermere-StrathmoreDavid Campbell will challenge Chestermere-Rockyview MLA Leela Aheer for the UCP nomination in this new district.

Drayton Valley-DevonKieran Quirke is seeking the NDP nomination. He is the Chair of the Leduc-Nisku Economic Development Board and co-chair of the Alberta NDP Rural Caucus. The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting to take place on June 23, 2018. Also, Andrew Boitchenko challenging incumbent MLA Mark Smith for the UCP nomination.

Drumheller-StettlerTodd Pawsey is seeking the UCP nomination. Pawsey is a Development Officer with the County of Paintearth. Also seeking the nomination is Nate Horner, a rancher and grandson of former Member of Parliament Jack Horner.

Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview – Roger Fodjo is seeking the UCP nomination

Edmonton-Castle Downs – Mohamad Rahall is seeking the Alberta Party nomination

Edmonton-Ellerslie – Sanjay Patel is seeking the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-Gold Bar – Former PC MLA David Dorward is seeking the UCP nomination. Dorward served as MLA for this district from 2012 until 2015 when he was unseated by New Democrat candidate Marlin Schmidt. Diana Ly is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Edmonton-Highlands-NorwoodTish Prouse is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Prouse was a candidate for Edmonton City Council in Ward 7 in 2013 and Ward 6 in 2017. Michael Kalyn is seeking the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-Mill Woods – Anju Sharma is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Edmonton-RutherfordLaine Larson is seeking the UCP nomination. Larson is an Independent Contractor with Malley’s Gourmet and the step-son of former Reform Party Member of Parliament Deborah Grey.

Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville – Darryl Kropielnicki is seeking the UCP nomination.

Grande Prairie – Tracy Allard is seeking the UCP nomination. Allard is the owner of several Tim Hortons franchaises.

Grande Prairie-WapitiKate Potter is seeking the UCP nomination. She was first elected to the Town of Sexsmith Council in October 2017.

Lac Ste. Anne-ParklandEverett Normandeau and Barbara Costache are seeking the UCP nomination. Normandeau is the owner of Summit Land and Environmental Inc. Costache is a Governor on the Board of Directors of the Lifesaving Society Alberta and Northwest Territories Branch.

Lacombe-Ponoka – Rita Reich is challenging MLA Ron Orr for the UCP nomination in this central Alberta district.

Leduc-Beaumont – Jan Becker is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. He is the executive director of the Leduc #1 Energy Discovery Centre in Leduc County.

Livingstone-MacleodRoger Reid is seeking the UCP nomination. Reid is the owner of Tim Hortons franchises in Nanton and Clareshold and is chair of the Claresholm and District Health Foundation.

Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin – Donna Andres and Richard Wilson are seeking the UCP nomination. Andres served on Wetaskiwin City Council from 2001 to 2007.

Red Deer-South – Haley Wile is seeking the UCP nomination. She is a spokesperson for a supporter of the “non-partisan” pro-pipeline Rally 4 Resources group. Matt Chapin has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest in this district and is instead seeking the UCP nomination in the neighbouring Red Deer-North,

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

Ed Stelmach, Danielle Smith, Kevin Taft, and Alison Redford.

Total Votes in Alberta political party leadership races from 1998 to 2018

Photo: Ed Stelmach (elected leader of the PC Party in 2006), Danielle Smith (elected leader of the Wildrose Alliance in 2009), Kevin Taft (elected leader of the Liberal Party in 2004), and Alison Redford (elected leader of the PC Party leader in 2011).

Following the announcement this week of the results of the Alberta Party leadership race, I thought it would be interesting to look at the voter participation in party leadership races in Alberta over the past twenty years.

The largest participation in a party leadership race in the past two decades, and in Alberta’s history, took place during the Progressive Conservative leadership race in 2006. More than 144,000 members voted in the race and it is believed that more than 200,000 memberships were sold. The party had a very open membership sales policy, which allowed any Albertan to purchase a membership at their local voting station on the day of the vote. This vote chose Ed Stelmach to replace Ralph Klein as PC Party leader and Premier of Alberta.

The 2011 Liberal Party leadership vote, which selected Raj Sherman as party leader, used an open membership system. This allowed any Albertan to participate in the vote without having to actually purchase a party membership.

The 2014 New Democratic Party leadership vote that selected Rachel Notley to replace Brian Mason used a hybrid one-member one-vote system which allocated 25 percent of the total vote to affiliate organizations. The lack of clarity around how many organizations took part in the vote and who they may have supported makes it unclear how many individual votes were actually cast in that leadership election.

The 2017 United Conservative Party leadership vote was conducted by delegates who were elected by party members in each district. The party membership consisted of new UCP members, as well as individuals who had been members of the Wildrose Party and Progressive Conservative Party until that point.

Acclamations occurred in the 2000 and 2004 NDP leadership contests, the 2001 Liberal Party leadership contest, and the 2003 Alberta Alliance leadership contest.

 

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.