Tag Archives: Darshan Kang

Photo: Kent Hehr with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Calgary Stampede in July 2017. (Photo from Kent Hehr's Facebook Page)

Mid-week Alberta Politics Roundup

Photo: Kent Hehr with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Calgary Stampede in July 2017. (Photo from Kent Hehr’s Facebook Page)

It has been a busy week for me, so without the time to write a full column-type post, here is a quick summary of what I have been watching in Alberta politics over the past few days.

Calgary MP moved in Trudeau cabinet shuffle

Calgary-Centre Member of Parliament Kent Hehr was appointed Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities this week as part of a fairly significant shuffle in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet. Hehr had previously served as Minister of Veterans Affairs, a post he had held since his election in 2015. Though the move is viewed as a demotion at worst or a lateral move at best, there is no indication that the shuffle was a reflection on Hehr’s performance as minister, which appeared to fulfill competently.

As a former amateur athlete and leader in the Canadian Paraplegic Association, Hehr appears to be a good fit for this role.

While the Minister of Sports is traditionally seen as a junior level position in cabinet, the prospect of Calgary bidding for the 2026 Winter Olympics and Canada joining with the United States and Mexico in a bid to co-host the 2026 World Cup could increase its political importance.

Meanwhile, Calgary-Skyview Liberal MP Darshan Kang announced he would take a medical leave of absence due to stress caused by allegations of sexual harassment that have dogged the federal politician over the past few weeks.

Alberta MPs in Ottawa Shadow Cabinet

Following this week’s federal cabinet shuffle, Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer announced a new roster of Official Opposition critics. Alberta Conservative MPs in the shadow cabinet include: International Development critic Ziad Aboultaif, Agriculture and Agri-Food critic John Barlow, Status of Women critic Rachael Harder, Science critic Matt Jeneroux, National Revenue critic Pat Kelly, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship critic Michelle Rempel, and Natural Resources critic Shannon Stubbs.

NDP Minister continues his Coal Tour

Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous continues his town hall tour of Alberta’s coal communities this week. In the Town of Hanna, Bilous and mayor Chris Warwick announced $450,000 in funding create Community Action Teams led by the Cactus Corridor Economic Development Corporation to focus on initiatives identified in a report by the Hanna Climate Change Strategy Task Force.

While Bilous left Hanna with more questions than answers, he deserves some credit for traveling to these communities holding these town halls – something the NDP government should have done two years ago.

UCP candidate calls on Alberta to national Manitoba port

Jeff Callaway was looking to generate headlines for his United Conservative Party leadership campaign, and he succeeded with his proposal for the Alberta government to nationalize and build a pipeline to access Manitoba’s Port of Churchill. Federal NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton, who is the MP for  Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, called on the federal government to nationalize the port of Churchill in Dec. 2016.

Low federal NDP membership numbers in Alberta

Speaking of the federal NDP, the party released the breakdown of membership numbers by province ahead of its September leadership vote. Despite having one of only two NDP governments in the country, the federal NDP only recorded having 10,188 members in Alberta, compared to 52,200 in Ontario and 31,974 in British Columbia.

The low participation rate may have a lot to do with the deep political divide between the Alberta NDP and its federal and provincial counterparts over the expansion and construction of oil pipelines, which is a priority for Rachel Notley’s government. To my knowledge, no Alberta NDP MLAs have released public endorsements for any of the federal NDP leadership candidates.

Garry Keller joins the UCP caucus

Until recently he was rumoured to be eyeing the federal Conservative nomination in the upcoming Sturgeon River-Parkland by-election, but it was announced today that Garry Keller, a former chief of staff to Rona Ambrose, would join the United Conservative caucus as a special advisor.

Alberta Politics Roundup: It rarely slows down, even in the summer

Photo: Grande Prairie-Smoky MLA Todd Loewen, Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier, UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean, and Little Bow MLA David Schneider. (credit: Brian Jean’s Facebook page)

It feels like politics rarely slow down in Alberta, even in the summer. Here is a quick look at some of what has been happening:

New UCP caucus has a spending problems

A day after the United Conservative Party lined up to criticize Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci, it was revealed that the UCP caucus is facing a $337,000-deficit this year. The report triggered criticism of former Wildrose leader Brian Jean (pictured in the photo above) from Bonnyville-Cold Lake UCP MLA Scott Cyr and party leadership candidate Doug Schweitzer.

Cyr said Wildrose MLAs were stonewalled when they requested information about ballooning staff at the former official opposition caucus office.

Schweitzer said the new party will not be a credible voice for fiscal management if it cannot manage its own internal budget. Schweitzer has described Jean’s leadership platform as “big government” and is proposing deep cuts to the provincial budget if he becomes premier in 2019.

Bilous hosts town halls in Coal Communities

Minister of Economic Development and Trade Deron Bilous will be spending much of the next week visiting communities impacted by the phase-out of coal fired power plants. Bilous will be hosting town hall meetings in Hanna on August 27 and 28, Forestburg on August 28 and 29, and Leduc, Warburg and Wabamun on August 31. Bilous admitted earlier this month that the New Democratic Party government needed to improve its communications with these communities (I wrote about this in Nov. 2016).

Kenney too busy to meet with kd lang

When Jason Kenney was asked why he was not attending any Calgary Pride Week events, he initially said it was because he did not get an invitation. When he received an invitation from Alberta-born internationally successful musician kd lang to meet in person to discuss LGBTQ issues, Kenney’s spokesperson said the UCP leadership candidate was too busy. It appears as though Kenney will go to far lengths not to do anything that would alienate the social conservative supporters he hopes will help make him leader of the UCP in October 2017.

Hehr on the move

Calgary-Centre Member of Parliament Kent Hehr is expected to be shuffled from his role as Minister of Veterans Affairs as Newfoundland MP Seamus O’Regan is moved into the role. When Hehr was appointed to cabinet in 2015, he became the first Liberal cabinet minister from Calgary since the early 1970s. It is not yet known what his new role will be.

Kang expected to be booted from Liberal caucus

The Hill Times reports that Calgary MP Darshan Kang is expected to be removed from the Liberal Caucus this week “after an investigation into sexual harassment allegations levelled against him by a young staffer unearthed troubling findings.” Kang was elected as the MP for Calgary-Skyview in 2015 after serving two-terms as the Liberal MLA for Calgary-McCall.

Keller out of Sturgeon River-Parkland race

Gerry Keller, the former chief of staff to Rona Ambrose, has decided not to enter the Conservative Party nomination to run in the upcoming Sturgeon River-Parkland by-election. Current candidates running for the nomination include local party organizer Jamie Mozeson, recently relocated BC-businessman Rick Peterson and political staffer Dane Lloyd.

 

A Wildrose Party flyer attacking PC candidate Prab Gill for being a "Justin Trudeau Liberal." Mr. Gill was elected on March 22, 2016.

Wildrose defeated by “Justin Trudeau Liberal” in Calgary-Greenway by-election

Prab Gill won today’s by-election in Calgary-Greenway with 27 percent of the vote, holding the northeast Calgary electoral district for his Progressive Conservative Party. The by-election was triggered after the death of popular MLA Manmeet Bhullar in November 2015.

Devinder Toor Wildrose

Devinder Toor

Perhaps demonstrating how high the political stakes were for the conservative opposition parties, the right-wing Wildrose Party delivered a last minute flyer to houses across Greenway attacking Mr. Gill for being a “Justin Trudeau Liberal.”

The braintrust at Wildrose Party headquarters, all federal Conservative loyalists, probably didn’t consider that Albertans are smart enough to know the difference between federal and provincial politics. And then there is the possibility that Mr. Trudeau, and local Liberal MP Darshan Kang, might actually be popular among voters in northeast Calgary.

Khalil Karbani, the actual Liberal Party candidate (who ran for a Wildrose Party nomination in 2012), placed third with an impressive 22 percent of the vote. As the provincial Liberals have essentially been non-existant in this constituency for some time (they did not run a candidate in 2015), the longtime community association president likely benefited from his own personal popularity and that of Mr. Kang (and Mr. Trudeau, I am sure).

Khalil Karbani Liberal

Khalil Karbani

Wildrose candidate Devinder Toor placed second with 23 percent, only three points higher than he placed in last year’s general election. Mr. Toor faced allegations of questionable business practices during the campaign which may have hurt his chances. But the loss can also be seen as a rebuke of the Wildrose Party’s no holds barred ideological and negative attacks against anyone who disagrees with its positions.

The Wildrose Party’s attacks on Mr. Gill probably do not bode well for Wildrose leader Brian Jean‘s fumbling attempts to convince the PCs to merge with them before the next election. With one by-election win under their belt, the PCs could feel a renewed sense of optimism for their own future electoral prospects.

Roop Rai NDP Calgary Greenway

Roop Rai

New Democratic Party candidate Roop Rai placed fourth with 20 percent. Premier Rachel Notley played down expectations in this by-election but a fourth place finish by the NDP candidate, even if was only seven points behind the victor, is a poor finish for a governing party.

The by-election will likely contribute to the narrative that the NDP have lost popularity in Alberta, regardless of the party never actually having won an election in Calgary-Greenway. It is also the start of the narrative that, despite their claims, the Wildrose Party is not the only party that can defeat the NDP – the PCs and the Liberals can now claim they can defeat the NDP as well.

As I wrote earlier this week, it is difficult to tell what impact a single by-election will have on future general elections. An abysmally low voter turnout, at 29 percent, suggests that none of the parties have meaningfully connected with voters in this constituency.

We do know two things. First, the PCs blocked the Wildrose Party from grabbing one of their nine remaining constituencies, which is an important victory for a party that was written off as dead less than one year ago. Second, attacking Justin Trudeau in Calgary might have actually hurt Wildrose chances of winning this by-election.


Unofficial results of the Calgary-Greenway by-election from Elections Alberta:

Prab Gill, PC: 2,292 (27.7%)
Devinder Toor, Wildrose: 1,957 (23.6%)
Khalil Karbani, Liberal: 1,870 (22.6)
Roop Rai, NDP: 1,667 (20.1%)
Thana Boonlert, Green: 166 (2%)
Said Abdulbaki, Independent: 146 (1.7%)
Larry Heather, Independent: 106 (1.2%)
Sukhi Rai, Independent: 61 (0.7%)

 
Ottawa MP Anita Vandenbeld (left), Calgary MP Darshan Kang (second from the left) and Liberal candidate Khalil Karbani (third from the left) campaigning in the Calgary-Greenway by-election

Alberta Liberals cash in on Trudeau’s popularity in Calgary-Greenway by-election

There was a time in the not too distant past when the Alberta Liberal Party went out of their way to distance themselves from the Liberal Party of Canada. The provincial party even formally separated from the federal party back in the 1970s in a move to distance itself from their Central Canadian-based federal cousins.

Those days are over. The election of Calgary-Skyview Member of Parliament Darshan Kang and Calgary-Centre MP Kent Hehr in October 2015 marked the first time since 1968 that Calgarians elected federal Liberal representatives in Ottawa. The provincial Liberals are eager to take advantage of any bump in support they can get from the popularity of the federal party and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

There has not been much for provincial Liberals to be excited about recently. The party lost Official Opposition status in 2012 and dropped to one MLA in the Legislative Assembly in 2015. Now without a permanent leader, the party delayed its next leadership vote until 2017. But the recent electoral success of the federal Liberals may have given the party some hope.

The provincial Liberals have adopted a nearly identical logo on their election signs as the federal Liberals and embraced the federal Liberal slogan ‘Vote for Real Change‘ for its campaign in the Calgary-Greenway provincial by-election. Federal Liberal MPs have even been spotted on campaigning for the local candidate.

Ottawa-area Liberal Member of Parliament Anita Vandenbeld, who was born in Calgary and studied at the University of Calgary, joined Mr. Kang this past weekend to canvass with Calgary-Greenway candidate Khalil Karbani (who ran for a Wildrose Party nomination in 2012).

A poll released by Mainstreet Research on March 12 showed the Liberals at 21 percent support in a competitive in a four-way contest in the Greenway by-election. The poll showed the Progressive Conservatives at 31 percent, the New Democrats at 24 percent and the Wildrose Party at 22 percent of leaning and decided voters. (The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.26%, 19 times out of 20.

The results of the March 22 by-election will give some indication as to whether the provincial Liberal strategy to embrace their federal counterparts is a success. A provincial Liberal win, or even a strong showing, in the Calgary-Greenway by-election would be an unexpected surprise and much needed boost for a party that has been on a downward trend for the past eight years.


 

Remember Liberalberta Green?

In a move that was believed to be an attempt to distance the two parties, the provincial Liberals undertook a brief rebranding in 2012, ditching the colour red for green and calling themselves ‘Liberalberta’ but not long after the party moved to improve ties with the federal party. They later ditched Liberalberta green in favour of traditionally Liberal red.

Alberta Party leader Greg Clark with supporters in Calgary-Elbow.

Calgary-Greenway Update: Alberta Party sits it out, Larry Heather and Said Abdulbaki run as Independents.

The Alberta Party has decided to not run a candidate in the March 22, 2016 by-election in the Calgary-Greenway constituency. It was a strange choice by the small political party, which brands itself as a centrist alternative. Its leader, Greg Clark, was elected to the Legislative Assembly in May 2015.

The Alberta Party said the decision to not run a candidate was based on its choice to focus on preparing for the 2019 general election, but the party cannot brand themselves as the “de-facto official opposition,” as it did in a press release yesterday, if they do not participate in by-elections.

By sitting out the by-election, the Alberta Party is ceding ground to the other opposition parties ahead of the 2019 election. What else could this political party be doing that is more important than running a candidate in a by-election?

Here are a list of the other candidates nominated and registered to run in the March 22 by-election:

  • Perennial election candidate and social conservative advocate Larry Heather will run as an Independent candidate. Mr. Heather has run in at least 17 elections since 1984, including as an Independent candidate in Calgary-Heritage in the 2015 federal election and as a Social Credit candidate in the 2014 Calgary-Elbow by-election.
  • Said Abdulbaki will run as an Independent candidate. Mr. Abdulbaki stood as a Liberal candidate in the 2012 and 2015 provincial elections in the neighbouring Calgary-Fort constituency. He also ran as a Wildrose Alliance candidate in the 2008 provincial election in the Calgary-Montrose constituency, which became Calgary-Greenway in 2012.
  • New Democratic Party members nominated Roop Rai at a February 20, 2016 nomination meeting. Ms. Rai is a former radio host and constituency staffer for Calgary-McCall MLA Irfan Sabir.
  • After initially appointing Prabhdeep Gill as a candidate, the Progressive Conservatives changed course and held a nomination vote on February 27, 2016, the day the nomination vote was initially scheduled to happen. The previously appointed candidate, Mr. Gill, defeated three other candidates in the nomination vote.
  • Thana Boonlert, running for the Green Party, was the first candidate to be nominated in February 2016.
  • Past candidate Devinder Toor defeated Robin Martin to win the Wildrose Party nomination on February 26, 2016. Mr. Toor was his party’s candidate in the 2015 election when he placed third with 20 percent of the vote. Mr. Martin is the son-in-law of Calgary-Forest Lawn Member of Parliament Deepak Obhrai.
  • Khalil Karbani defeated Saima Jamal to win the Liberal Party nomination. Mr. Karbani is the president of the Taradale Community Association and was a candidate for the Wildrose Party nomination in the neighbouring Calgary-McCall constituency before the 2012 election. Liberals are hoping to translate some of the federal party’s recent success in Calgary, including former Liberal MLA Darshan Kang’s win in Calgary-Skyview, to this by-election.

https://twitter.com/Dave_Khan/status/702758757969756160

  • The Reform Party of Alberta announced on its Facebook Page that it would not be officially registered as a political party with Elections Alberta in time to contest the by-election. There will not be a Reform Party candidate running in this by-election.

A full list of nomination candidates and their social media links can be found here.

Thana Boonlert Calgary Greenway

Greens choose Thana Boonlert in Calgary-Greenway. Aryan Sadat runs for the PCs. [Updated]

Alberta’s opposition parties are preparing for a spring by-election in Calgary-Greenway. The east Calgary constituency was represented by Progressive Conservative MLA Manmeet Bhullar from 2008 until late 2015, when Mr. Bhullar was killed in a traffic accident on the Queen Elizabeth II Highway. A by-election is expected to be called before the end of May 2016.

The Green Party is the first party to nominate a candidate to run in this by-election. Environmental engineer Thana Boonlert will carry his party’s banner. Mr. Boonlert recently ran as a federal Green Party candidate in the Calgary-Centre riding, where he earned 2.2 percent of the vote.

I am told the New Democratic Party has scheduled its nomination meeting for Feb. 20, 2016, though this is not publicly listed on the party’s website. Past NDP candidate Don Monroe posted on his Facebook Page on Feb. 1, 2016 that he is “wondering what’s going on in Greenway concerning representation” and is still waiting for the party to inform him when a nomination meeting will be held. Mr. Monroe earned 36 percent of the vote in the May 2015 election, placing eight points behind Mr. Bhullar.

The Progressive Conservative Party will hold a candidate selection meeting on Feb. 27, 2016 at Abbeydale Community Centre.

Manmeet Bhullar, Aryan Sadat and Jim Prentice in 2014.

Manmeet Bhullar, Aryan Sadat and Jim Prentice in 2014.

Aryan Sadat has announced his intention to seek for the PC nomination. Mr. Sadat challenged former MLA Teresa Woo-Paw for the Progressive Conservative nomination in the Calgary-Northern Hills constituency in January 2015. In 2014, he hosted a fundraiser with then-PC leadership candidate Jim Prentice and Mr. Bhullar.

Some PC members have expressed hope that Calgary police chief Rick Hanson will seek the nomination. Mr. Hanson stepped down as police chief to run as a star candidate for the PC Party in the May 2015 election, but he was defeated by New Democrat Ricardo Miranda in the Calgary-Cross constituency.

The Wildrose Party has scheduled March 5, 2016 as their nomination date. Robin Martin, son-in-law of Calgary-Forest Lawn Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai, is running for the Wildrose nomination.

Ron Leech Calgary Greenway

Memories of the 2012 election could haunt the Wildrose Party. Four years ago, the party’s candidate in Calgary-Greenway helped destroy Wildrose chances of winning the election when he was quote as saying he had a Caucasian advantage in this multi-cultural constituency.

These comments hit the newspaper headlines about the same time as the Lake of Fire blog post from another Wildrose candidate was made public. Those two comments have saddled the Wildrose Party with a reputation as being the party of social conservatives in Alberta.

The Liberals have scheduled their candidate selection meeting for Feb. 29, 2016. A recent annual meeting of the local Liberal association was attended by the party’s interim leader David Swann, recent federal candidate Matt Grant, and Calgary-Skyview Member of Parliament Darshan Kang. Mr. Kang was the MLA for the neighbouring Calgary-McCall constituency from 2008 to 2015.

It appears that the Alberta Party has yet to schedule a date for a nomination meeting.

A recent poll released by Mainstreet Research showed the Wildrose Party with 32 percent support in Calgary, narrowly ahead of the PCs with 29 percent and the NDP with 24 percent.

CBC National News Anchor Peter Mansbridge reacts to the results of Alberta's 2015 provincial election.

2015 was a great year for Progressive Politics in Alberta

It was an exciting year to be a progressive in Alberta.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

May 5, 2015 marked the first time since the 1930s that a conservative party did not win a provincial election in Alberta. The defeat of the Progressive Conservative government, which had been in power since 1971, by Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party represented a significant shift in Alberta’s political environment.

October 19, 2015 marked the first time Calgarians elected Members of Parliament other than conservatives since 1968. Newly elected Calgary Liberal MPs Kent Hehr and Darshan Kang were joined by fellow Liberals Amarjeet Sohi and Randy Boissonnault from Edmonton to represent Alberta in a federal government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Thomas Dang MLA

Thomas Dang

As someone who has been writing about Alberta politics for ten years and advocating for more progressive politics in our province, this year’s provincial and federal elections produced strange and exciting results.

A year ago, I never would have predicted a real progressive political party would win a provincial election in Alberta in 2015. Actually, on June 1, 2014, I wrote that it was probably impossible. On January 28, 2015, I predicted the PCs would win another majority.

In this case, I am very pleased to have been wrong.

Albertans rejected a conservative political establishment that had become stagnant and entitled after years of controversy, scandals and resignations. But instead of turning to the right-wing Wildrose Party, which was a few embarrassing comments away from winning the 2012 election, Alberta voters embraced a moderate progressive platform put forward by Ms. Notley’s NDP.

Ms. Notley proved to be a smart, likeable and charismatic leader on the campaign trail. I would argue that she was then and remains now her party’s greatest asset.

Jim Prentice Alberta Premier

Jim Prentice

Voters opted for wholesale change by choosing 75 new MLAs, a huge turnover, to serve in Alberta’s 87 seat Legislative Assembly. The NDP started the election with 4 seats and ended it with 54 seats, including every seat in Edmonton, 15 seats in Calgary, seats in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Red Deer, and a handful in rural Alberta.

The PCs lost a total of 60 seats and were relegated to third place with 10 MLAs (9 after leader Jim Prentice resigned on election night) and the official opposition Wildrose won 21 seats, four more than the party won in 2012.

A record number of women were elected to the Legislature, including 26 in the 54 MLA NDP caucus and 7 of 13 cabinet ministers.

Thomas Dang, age 20, became the youngest MLA in Alberta history.

Three openly gay MLAs were elected, believed to be a first in Alberta politics.

Stephanie McLean NDP Calgary Varsity

Stephanie McLean

Stephanie McLean made headlines when she became the first MLA in Alberta history to be pregnant while in office.

Optimism was in the air as thousands of Albertans showed up to the Legislature Grounds to watch the new Premier and cabinet be sworn-in to office.

In their first session as government, the NDP banned corporate and union donations, restored $1 billion in health care, education and human services funding cuts made by the PCs, increased Alberta’s corporate tax rate from 10 percent to 12 percent and announced a phased in $15 per hour minimum wage by 2018.

Ms. Notley demonstrated an ability to reach outside NDP circles for expert advice by appointing Alberta Treasury Branches President & CEO Dave Mowat to lead a Royalty Review Panel, respected economics professor Andrew Leach to lead a Climate Change Panel, and former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge to provide advice on infrastructure investment. Calgary Liberal MLA David Swann was asked to co-chair a review of the province’s mental health services and Joseph Doucet, Dean of the University of Alberta’s School of Business, was tapped to chair the Premier’s Advisory Committee on the Economy.

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

The PC Party patronage machine ground to a halt. University and college boards of governors are still dominated with well-connected conservatives, but some high-profile appointees have been replaced. For example, Alberta’s representative in Washington D.C. Rob Merrifield, a former Conservative MP, was replaced by Gitane De Silva, a former Deputy Minister of International and Intergovernmental Affairs and Canadian Consul General to Chicago.

On the financial front, the NDP government faces serious problems inherited from the old PC government.

After years of poor long-term planning and over-reliance on royalty revenues to fund the province’s operations budget, the sharp decline in the international price of oil had a huge impact on the government’s coffers. The drop in the price of oil has also led to significant job losses in Calgary and northern Alberta, which have impacted tens of thousands of Albertans.

Rob Merrifield Alberta Washington DC

Rob Merrifield

Instead of dealing with the drop in revenue by cutting budget funding and slashing public sector jobs, like the Wildrose and PC parties proposed, the NDP have decided to invest in public infrastructure, such as highway, school and hospital construction.

As well as keeping many Albertans in the construction industry employed during the economic downturn, investing in building public infrastructure now means the government will spend less time playing catch up when the next oil boom arrives. Ironically, this is similar to what Wildrose leader Brian Jean argued in favour of when he resigned as Fort McMurray’s MP in January 2014.

Not unexpected for a new government, especially for the first new government in 44 years, mistakes have been made. The NDP brought in a few too many out-of-province operatives to fill top political jobs, softened their position on carbon capture, and seriously fumbled Bill 6, the agri-industry and farm safety law. And rookie cabinet ministers planted their feet in their mouths on a few occasions, something they will need to learn to do less of in the new year.

Brian Jean Wildrose LeaderDespite a constant barrage of criticism from conservative critics, who claim the NDP election win was simply a fluke, a recent poll showed the NDP with a narrow lead in Calgary and a wide lead in Edmonton. The poll was not fantastic news for the governing party, but it undermines the argument that the NDP were elected by accident. The NDP appear to be developing a solid base of support among moderate and progressive voters in urban Alberta.

This election was a reminder that Alberta has defied its stodgy political stereotype and has rapidly become a young and urban province.

As Calgary political strategist Corey Hogan noted last week, “Alberta is the only province where baby boomers are outnumbered by their children.” The median age in our province is 36 years old, a number that is now more accurately reflected in the age of the government caucus.

The city of Calgary, long known for its conservative political roots, has now elected progressive politicians in the municipal, provincial and federal levels of government, something that would have been unheard of in past years.

According to Statistics Canada, in 1961, 53 percent of Albertans lived in rural areas. As of 2011, 83 percent of Albertans lived in urban centres with only 17 percent of our province’s population living in rural areas. This is a massive population shift that has and will continue to impact our political map for decades to come.

The year’s election was a rejection of establishment politics and a reminder that Albertans are largely politically moderate and more populist than conservative, which is an important distinction that the ruling PCs forgot after 44 years in power. It was also a reminder of how dramatically voters can abandon their traditional patterns of voting and embrace change.

This year was filled with many exciting firsts for progressive politics in Alberta. And while it is impossible to tell what the next year will bring in Alberta politics it is clear that our province changed in a significant way in 2015.


 

I had the pleasure of joining Ryan Jespersen on 630CHED on Dec. 16, 2015 to talk about the past year in Alberta politics. Take a listen and let me know what you think about what happened in 2015.

This Week in Alberta Politics

Here are a few items to watch out for in Alberta politics this week:

  • Which of the four Liberal Members of Parliament will be appointed to the federal cabinet on Nov. 4, 2015? Most speculation points toward newly elected Calgary-Centre MP Kent Hehr being given a cabinet spot. Mr. Hehr, along with Calgary-Skyview MP Darshan Kang, were the first federal Liberals to be elected in Calgary since 1968. But will one of the two Liberal MPs from Edmonton – Amarjeet Sohi and Randy Boissonnault – get a cabinet spot? If not, it would mark the first time since before Jim Edwards was appointed as President of the Treasury Board in 1993 that Edmonton has not had representation in the federal cabinet.
  • Two Conservative MPs from Alberta – Edmonton-Wetaskiwin MP Mike Lake and Sturgeon River-Parkland MP Rona Ambrose – have joined four other Conservative MPs with bids to become the interim leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. That party has only had one permanent leader, Calgary MP Stephen Harper, since the party was formed in 2003 and is expected to choose a new permanent leader next year.
  • Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Finance Minister Joe Ceci will continue their sales pitch for the Alberta NDP’s first provincial budget this week. The NDP budget received some sensible and encouraging reviews when it was released from Calgary Economic Development and the Alberta Chambers of Commerce.
  • Overshadowing debate about the Alberta NDP’s first provincial budget last week was the Wildrose Party Finance critic Derek Fildebrant‘s war with a Globe & Mail reporter and House leader Nathan Cooper‘s war against a 9:00 a.m. start time for the Legislative sitting. Will the Wildrose Official Opposition be able to move on to actual issues of substance in the second week of the fall session?
  • It was always expected that uniting the Wildrose and PC parties will be tough. Richard Starke, the PC MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster, had some choice words for his Wildrose counterparts in the Legislature last week: “…the Official Opposition rather reminds me of the chippy hockey player that hacks and slashes in the corner and then, as soon as something similar happens back to them, goes running to the referee.”

I will be taking a short break from blogging this week. In my absence, check out David Climenhaga‘s informative and entertaining AlbertaPolitics.ca blog.

Incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a rally in Edmonton in the summer of 2014.

What do the federal election results mean for Edmonton and Alberta?

With the excitement of the 2015 federal election one week behind us, now is a good time to take a look at how the results of the election could impact Edmonton and Alberta. The reality of a majority Liberal government in Ottawa will make Conservative Albertans uneasy, but there is little reason to believe this new government will lead to doom and gloom for our province.

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion about the election results with Edmonton Journal editor-in-chief Margo Goodhand and University of Alberta professor Steve Patten at a Institute of Public Administration of Canada event at Government House. With this discussion still fresh in my mind, here is a look at some of the ways last week’s federal election results could impact Edmonton and Alberta.

Liberal growth in Conservative Alberta
Conservative Party candidates earned 59 percent of the vote and elected candidates in 29 of Alberta’s 34 federal ridings. The Liberals broke a nearly five decade long drought in Calgary with the election of Kent Hehr in Calgary-Centre and Darshan Kang in Calgary-Skyview. In Edmonton, two Liberals were elected in bellwether ridings – Randy Boissonnault in Edmonton-Centre and Amarjeet Sohi in Edmonton-Mill Woods. Since 1984, these two Edmonton ridings have elected MPs belonging to the party in government. (Note: the election results in Edmonton-Mill Woods will face a judicial recount).

The “Class of 2015”
There was a significant turnover in Alberta’s representation in Ottawa, with 18 of 34 Members of Parliament from our province being elected for the first time, including seven first-time MPs representing Edmonton ridings. This ‘class of 2015’ includes four Liberals and fourteen Conservatives.

Alberta in Cabinet
It is expected that Alberta will have representation in the federal cabinet but it is not clear how large that representation will be. In my opinion, it would be a grave mistake for incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to not appoint a cabinet minister from both Edmonton and Calgary. The third and fifth largest municipalities in Canada should have representation at the highest levels in Ottawa. These large urban centres also represent an area of future electoral growth for the federal Liberal Party. In Calgary, the Liberals earned a surprising 30 percent of the vote and in Edmonton they earned 23 percent. The new cabinet will be sworn-in on Nov. 4, 2015.

Federal-Provincial Relations
We have already witnessed a change in tone that could signal a significant improvement in the federal government’s relationship with the provinces. In the first week after the election, Mr. Trudeau invited provincial premiers to join Canada’s delegation to the important COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris in November. Mr. Trudeau has also indicated his intention to negotiate a new health accord with the provinces.

Alberta-Ottawa Relations
The relationship between Ottawa and Edmonton would have been sour had Stephen Harper’s Conservatives been re-elected. After attacking Alberta’s NDP government numerous times during the campaign, it is unlikely that Mr. Harper and Premier Rachel Notley would have been able to develop the kind of productive working relationship that would benefit Albertans.

Even though she appeared on stage with NDP leader Tom Mulcair in the final days of the election campaign, Ms. Notley has indicated that she was willing to work with whoever became the next Prime Minister. If she and Mr. Trudeau can develop a good working relationship, Canadians may see progress on issues like pipeline expansion in the next four years. Although Mr. Harper was a vocal supporter of Canada’s oil and gas industry, he failed to secure the construction of new pipeline projects during his decade as Prime Minister.

A Municipal Agenda
The Liberals promised increased investment in public infrastructure and increased funding for municipal public transit projects. During his three-terms on city council, Mr. Sohi has been an vocal advocate for expanded Light-Rail Transit funding in southeast Edmonton. Mayor Don Iveson has been critical of the Conservative government’s lack of commitment to LRT funding in the past.

Commitment to defence funding
The Liberal platform committed to “maintain current National Defence spending levels, including current planned increases” which should at least be positive news for Edmontonians who work at CFB Edmonton.

The last First-Past-the-Post election
Mr. Trudeau promised that this federal election would be Canada’s last using the antiquated ‘first past the post’ electoral system. This would likely mean an end to Conservative overrepresentation of Alberta in Ottawa. Any system, whether it be proportional representation, single transferable vote or mixed member proportional representation, could allow voters choices to be better reflected in their representation in Ottawa. This would likely mean an end the system which allows 59 percent of voters to be represented by 81 percent of the Members of Parliament from Alberta.

Conservative Leadership
With Mr. Harper’s resignation as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, that party will be thrust into a contest to select a new leader. While that party may seek to choose a new leader from another region of Canada, it is expected that Conservative MPs from Alberta will be candidates in that race. Already, there is speculation that Calgary-Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel and Calgary-Midnapore MP Jason Kenney are interested in seeking the leadership.

Liberals and NDP in the West
Western Canada is no longer a monolith of the Conservative Party support. With British Columbia and Manitoba electing more Liberal MPs than Conservative MPs, Alberta and Saskatchewan are now the only provinces where Conservatives outnumber other parties. While the Conservatives remain strong in the rural west, that party has lost ground to the Liberals and NDP in the western urban centres of Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg. Twenty of the NDP’s 44 MPs and 29 of the 184 Liberal MPs were elected in ridings west of Ontario.

Trudeau wave bad news for Notley?
Conservative critics have already predicted that the rise of the federal Liberals in Alberta spells bad news for Ms. Notley’s provincial NDP. I suspect that the results of this federal election will have little impact on the level of NDP support in the next provincial election. It has been clear for some time that Mr. Mulcair is unpopular in Alberta. His noticeable absence from the province during the spring election campaign and low support for the federal NDP in four by-elections since 2011 suggests that Mr. Mulcair’s unpopularity has little impact on Ms. Notley’s political fortunes.

More than 300 people packed into the Metro Cinema at the Garneau Theatre to watch the election night results on a 30 foot screen.

Trudeau Liberals crack Conservative “Fortress Alberta” in nationwide sweep

The dust has yet to finally settle on tonight’s election night results but we know that the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau will form a majority government with more than 180 seats in the next parliament. Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper, who has led his party’s government since 2006, conceded to defeat and resigned as party leader. The New Democratic Party led by Tom Mulcair, who rocketed from fourth place to Official Opposition under Jack Layton‘s leadership in 2011, was cut back to third place.

In Alberta, the Liberals appear to have cracked the Conservative fortress with wins in Edmonton and Calgary.

In Calgary-Skyview, former Liberal MLA Darshan Kang has become the first Liberal Member of Parliament elected in Calgary since 1968. Another former Liberal MLA, Kent Hehr, is currently leading Conservative MP Joan Crockatt in Calgary-Centre with more polls yet to be counted. In Edmonton-Mill Woods, popular city councillor Amarjeet Sohi, running for the Liberals, is in a tight race with Conservative cabinet minister Tim Uppal. In Edmonton-Centre, Liberal Randy Boissonnault is leading Conservative candidate James Cumming and NDP hopeful Gil McGowan.

While Canadians rejected a Conservative government led by a Calgary MP, Alberta will not be left without representation in government. It will be expected that at least one Liberal MP from each of Alberta’s two largest cities will be appointed to Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet.

For the NDP, it appears that only incumbent Linda Duncan was re-elected to a third-term as the MP for Edmonton-Strathcona.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper delivers his concession speech.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper delivers his concession speech.

There will be plenty of times in the coming days to discuss what happened on election night and over the past eleven weeks, and what it means for the future of Canada. But tonight’s results make it clear that Canadians have rejected the politics of negativity, fear and division that Mr. Harper’s Conservative believed would help them secure re-election.

Tomorrow morning, Albertans will wake up in a new Canada  – with an incoming progressive Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a progressive New Democrat Premier Rachel Notley, and progressive mayors Don Iveson in Edmonton and Naheed Nenshi in Calgary.

Justin Trudeau speaks to a large crowd of Liberal supporters at an 8am rally in Edmonton on Oct. 18, 2015.

Justin Trudeau rallies Alberta Liberals just like Notley did five months ago

While Canadians could be on track to elect the country’s first Liberal Party government since 2004, it looks like Albertans could remain firmly in the Conservative Party camp, even after Stephen Harper‘s decade-long reign in Ottawa. But while most of Alberta’s federal ridings are expected to produce large victories for Tory candidates when the votes are counted tomorrow night, a handful of ridings in Alberta’s two major cities could produce some interesting results.

Attracting crowds of 2,000 in Edmonton and 4,000 in Calgary today, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau spent the final day of the 11-week election campaign in western Canada. The excitement in the crowd was undeniable. It has been a long time since Alberta Liberals have had something to be excited about.

I don’t know what Trudeaumania felt like in 1968, but the energy at today’s rally in Edmonton rivalled the energy at Rachel Notley‘s 2,000 person rally in the final week of this year’s provincial election. And I bet if you polled the people at that Trudeau rally, I would expect that most will have enthusiastically voted for Ms. Notley’s New Democratic Party on May 5, 2015. It was that ability to unite moderate and progressive voters under her party’s banner that led to the NDP’s election victory earlier this year.

While many of those moderate voters may help re-elect the Alberta NDP in 2019, they were excited about the federal Liberals today. And with moderate and progressive voters still divided between the federal Liberals and NDP in Alberta, it remains likely that any gains in the province could be marginal.

But while hopes for an NDP government led by Tom Mulcair in Ottawa may have been dashed, for now, the NDP remain well-positioned to elect two Members of Parliament in Edmonton, the epicentre of Ms. Notley’s orange wave. Two-term NDP MP Linda Duncan is expected to be re-elected in Edmonton-Strathcona. The NDP have also poured plenty of energy and resources in the campaign in Edmonton-Griesbach, where a two-way race has pitted NDP candidate Janis Irwin against former one-term city councillor Kerry Diotte.

Back at the rally, where the crowd of Liberals cheered enthusiastically for the Edmonton area Liberal candidates on stage, the largest cheers were for Trudeau and Amarjeet Sohi, the popular city councillor running for election in Edmonton-Mill Woods (where the rally was held). During his speech, Mr. Trudeau focused on some of the issues that Mr. Sohi has fought hard for on city council – like the much needed expansion of the LRT line to south east Edmonton.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson briefly entered the federal election fray earlier in the campaign when he criticized the federal Conservatives for not proposing new funding for Edmonton’s LRT system, while promising similar funding for projects in other cities. While his criticisms ruffled the delicate feathers of some local Conservatives, Mr. Iveson may find a more cooperative partner in a new federal government willing to invest in urban transportation infrastructure. And that kind of change is exciting.


Here is a list of some other Alberta ridings to watch on Election Night:

Calgary-Centre: Former Liberal MLA Kent Hehr is facing Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt, who was narrowly elected in a 2012 by-election.

Calgary-Confederation: Lawyer Matt Grant, running for the Liberals, faces former Progressive Conservative MLA Len Webber. Well-known former journalist Kirk Heuser is running for the NDP.

Calgary-Skyview: Former Liberal MLA Darshan Kang faces Conservative MP Devinder Shory.

Edmonton-Centre: A three-way race between Liberal Randy Boissonnault, New Democrat Gil McGowan and Conservative James Cumming.

Fort McMurray-Cold Lake: Liberal Kyle Harrietha and Conservative David Yurdiga face each other in a rematch from a closely fought 2014 by-election.


If you find yourself without an election night party tomorrow night, feel free to come down to the Metro Cinema (Garneau Theatre) and watch the coverage on a 30 foot theatre screen. While you watch the results, I will be talking politics on stage with Wab Kinew, Samantha Power, Drew Hayden Taylor and Mike Hudema. The event, part of Litfest, begins at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (right) and Education Minister David Eggen (second right) campaign with NDP candidate Janis Irwin (second from the left) in the Edmonton-Griesbach riding.

Mulcair and Trudeau show Alberta some love in the final days of Election 2015. Where’s Harper?

There is no longer any doubt that Alberta is an important battleground in this federal election campaign. While Conservatives will dominate in the provincial seat count, the Liberals and NDP believe they are positioned to win competitive races in Edmonton and Calgary. Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau will make appearances at campaign events in Alberta during the final days of Canada’s eleven week long federal election.

Aaron Paquette Edmonton Manning

Aaron Paquette

New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair and Premier Rachel Notley will share the stage tomorrow evening at a rally at downtown Edmonton’s Shaw Conference Centre.

The NDP are hoping that Ms. Notley’s popularity in the provincial capital can help boost the re-election effort of Linda Duncan in Edmonton-Strathcona and the election bids of Janis Irwin in Edmonton-GriesbachGil McGowan in Edmonton-Centre and Aaron Paquette in Edmonton-Manning. With 64 percent of Edmontonians having marked their ballots for the NDP in the recent provincial election, the NDP are hoping to extend some of that support to the federal level.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau will spend the final Sunday of the election campaign swinging through Alberta to headline rallies for Amarjeet Sohi in Edmonton-Mill Woods and Darshan Kang in Calgary-Skyview.

Amarjeet Sohi Edmonton

Amarjeet Sohi

Both Mr. Sohi and Mr. Kang are candidates the Liberals believe have a real chance at being elected on October 19. A Mainstreet Research poll released last week shows Mr. Sohi, a popular three-term city councillor, in a close two-way race with Conservative Tim UppalThe Liberals are also hoping that strong campaigns can propel Randy Boissonnault in Edmonton-Centre, former Liberal MLA Kent Hehr in Calgary-Centre and Matt Grant in Calgary-Confederation to victory.

It is has not been announced whether Conservative leader Stephen Harper will give Albertans any of his time in the final days before the election. He is running for re-election in the Calgary-Heritage riding.

Notley critics choking on Pretzel Logic
Wildrose leader Brian Jean campaigns for Conservative Joan Crockatt in Calgary-Centre.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean campaigns for Conservative Joan Crockatt in Calgary-Centre.

When they aren’t busy criticizing the NDP for implementing campaign promises, critics of Ms. Notley have tied themselves in knots criticizing her for either not being involved enough or for being too involved in the federal election campaign.

Alberta’s newly elected NDP government was a frequent target of Mr. Harper’s during this campaign. Ms. Notley succeeded in avoiding getting dragged into a war of words with the federal Conservative leader. Instead, Finance Minister Joe Ceci, a former Calgary alderman, was the NDP’s designated hitter to respond to the federal Conservative leader’s barbs.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean, a former Conservative MP, was spotted campaigning for Conservative Joan Crockatt in Calgary this week. Mr. Jean claimed in an email to his party’s supporters that Ms. Notley was “throwing all the powers of the Alberta government behind Mulcair and the federal NDP.” The claim is plainly ridiculous.

By “all the powers,” what Mr. Jean meant was a single YouTube video of Ms. Notley’s speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce circulated with a government press release. The 42-minute long video of Ms. Notley’s speech included her brief remarks expressing support for Mr. Mulcair. Inappropriate? Yes. All the powers of the Alberta government? Not even close.

Dion campaigns in Edmonton
Stephane Dion spoke to Liberal supporters in Edmonton today.

Stephane Dion spoke to Liberal supporters in Edmonton today.

Former federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion was campaigning in Edmonton today. The likeable former cabinet minister and university professor from Montreal delivered an engaging speech to about 100 party supporters at a town hall meeting in the Sutton Place Hotel. Perhaps one of the most capable Prime Ministers Canada never had, Mr. Dion is sure to be appointed to cabinet if the Liberal Party forms government in Ottawa on Oct. 19.

Still not sure who to vote for?

Elections Canada reports that 358,830 Albertans cast their ballots at the advance polls on October 9, 10, 11 and 12, 2015. If you are still not sure which candidate you will be voting for on Oct. 19, take a look through my list of candidates running in Alberta’s 34 ridings.

NDP candidate Brian Fleck (centre) with NDP MLAs Christina Gray, Bob Turner, Richard Feehan, Thomas Dang and Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan at the Edmonton-Riverbend NDP nomination meeting.

NDP catching up in Alberta – Sunday morning federal nomination update

Initially slow to nominate federal candidates, the New Democratic Party is now catching up to the other three main parties with nominated candidates in Alberta. As of this morning, the NDP have chosen candidates in 22 of Alberta’s 34 ridings, just shy of the 26 nominated Liberals and 24 nominated Green candidates. The Conservative Party filled their slate of 34 candidates last week.

Here is a quick review of the latest nomination races in Alberta:

– In Calgary-Centre, Dr. Jillian Ratti was acclaimed as the NDP candidate in a race already dominated by Conservative incumbent Joan Crockatt and former Liberal MLA Kent Hehr.

– Former journalist Kirk Heuser won the NDP nomination in a race against four other candidates in Calgary-Confederation. The Greens have nominated Natalie Odd as their candidate. Ms. Odd is a project manager with the Alberta EcoTrust and was a Green Party candidate in the 2006 election in Calgary-Centre.

– Thousands of NDP members voted at a large nomination meeting in the northeast Calgary-Skyview riding and Sahajvir Randhawa was chosen over challengers Abdulla Rafique and Mohammad Tayyab. Mr. Randhawa will face Conservative incumbent Devinder Shory and former Liberal MLA Darshan Kang in the election.

– Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan defeated community activist Reakash Walters and university professor Mark Crawford to win the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Centre.

– Former Progressive Conservative MLA Matt Jeneroux was chosen as the Conservative candidate in a race against relator Sandy Pon and past Wildrose candidate Ian Crawford. University of Alberta mechanical engineering professor Brian Fleck won the Edmonton-Riverbend NDP nomination in a three-way contest against Meheret Worku and Registered Nurse Ruth Alexander.

– The Liberals acclaimed Tanya MacPherson as their candidate in the Foothills riding. Ms. McPherson recently ran in her party’s nomination contest in Calgary-Midnapore. The NDP are expected to acclaim engineer Alison Thompson at a nomination meeting on August 18, 2015.

Melody Lepine, a government and industry relations manager for the Mikisew Cree First Nation, has been acclaimed as the NDP candidate in the Fort McMurray-Cold Lake riding.

– Former Assembly of First Nations regional chief Cameron Alexis was acclaimed as the NDP candidate in Peace River-Westlock riding. Mr. Alexis is also a retired RCMP officer, and former Chief of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation and Grand Chief of Treaty Six. Some local NDP members expressed concern over Mr. Alexis’ acclamation, as two other candidates had planned to seek the nomination. But when contacted, one of the other potential nominee, former Peace River town councillor Wanda Laurin described Mr. Alexis as “a very stellar candidate” and someone who could “champion the NDP in this region.”

– Red Deer City Councillor Paul Harris will face school trustee Dianne Macauley and former Green candidate Evan Bedford in the NDP nomination contest in Red Deer-Mountain View. UpdateMr. Bedford has withdrawn from the contest and endorsed Mr. Harris.

– Joanne Cave defeated Adam Comartin,  Kevin Fichtner and Bretton Reid to win the NDP nomination in Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan. Two-time candidate James Ford will once again be on the ballot as an Independent. In 2008 and 2011, Mr. Ford earned 32% and 29% of the vote against Conservative MP Tim Uppal in the now defunct Edmonton-Sherwood Park riding (Mr. Uppal is now running in the new Edmonton-Mill Woods riding).

– Transit driver Darlene Malayko defeated First Nations activist Aretha Greatrix in the St. Albert-Edmonton NDP nomination contest. One attendee at the meeting noted the strange sight of seeing conservative city councillor Cam Mackay endorse Ms. Malayko’s candidacy from the floor.

– Ron Rauhut and Ken Kuzminski are seeking the NDP nomination in the Yellowhead riding. Past candidate Eric Rosendahl, who earned 9.5% of the vote in a 2014 by-election, was elected as the NDP MLA for West Yellowhead in May 2015. Mr. Kuzminski previously ran for the NDP in this riding in the 2008 election.


 

Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are any further additions to the list. Thank you.

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.

Will Rick Hanson run for the PCs in Calgary-Cross?

Rick Hanson Calgary PC Cross Candidate

Rick Hanson

Will Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson run for the Progressive Conservatives in the upcoming spring provincial election? His surprise resignation announcement today timed with the PCs abrupt delay of their nomination in the northeast Calgary-Cross constituency until March 14 has led some political watchers to speculate Mr. Hanson could be appointed as a candidate.

With the retirement of six-term PC MLA Yvonne Fritzseven candidates are seeking the PC nomination in Calgary-Cross. Deep political divisions between the various ethnic groups backing those candidates led one political observer described the race as “a gong-show.” Appointing a high-profile outsider like Mr. Hanson might be a more palatable alternative for the PC establishment to holding a highly divisive nomination meeting that would be difficult to control.

Joe Ceci NDP Calgary Fort

Joe Ceci

But Cross is not the only available spot. There are six other constituencies in Calgary that do not yet have PC candidates, including Calgary-McCall and Calgary-Fort, in which nomination meetings have not yet be scheduled.

Calgary-McCall is currently represented by Liberal Darshan Kang, who is jumping into federal politics as the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Skyview. In Calgary-Fort, long-time PC MLA Wayne Cao is retiring and the New Democrats have recruited former five-term city councillor Joe Ceci.

Mr. Hanson is already seen as close to Mr. Prentice, having invited him to ride alongside the Calgary Police Foundation during the 2014 Calgary Stampede Parade. Mr. Prentice was the Chair of the Calgary Police Foundation Fundraising Committee.

Manmeet Bhullar

Manmeet Bhullar

This would not be the first time the PC Party appointed a candidate in north east Calgary. In 2008, two days after the election was called, 27-year old university student Manmeet Bhullar was appointed by Ed Stelmach as the PC candidate in Calgary-Montrose. Mr. Bhullar is now Minister of Infrastructure and is considered one of Mr. Prentice’s chief political lieutenants.

Mr. Hanson would be one of the latest in a string of police chiefs to jump into electoral politics. In Ontario, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives salivated when Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino was able to steal a long-time Liberal riding in a by-election. In British Columbia, Kash Heed, the chief constable of the West Vancouver Police Department, briefly served as Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

While he would be a political unknown to most Albertans outside of Calgary city limits, Mr. Hanson would be one of the PCs first “star candidates” to be nominated for this election. And with most PC MLAs winning their nominations by acclamation and only a handful of low-key nomination contests underway, a high-profile name like Mr. Hanson’s could bring some much needed heft to a PC slate still heavily loaded with Redford-era MLAs.