Tag Archives: Dave Bronconnier

Keystone XL, Alberta Oil Sands and International Travel in 2014

Alberta MLA Redford Prentice Travel

A Google Map tracking international travel by Alberta cabinet ministers and PC MLAs since November 2011. Scroll down to find the interactive map.

As the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline dominates political debate in Washington D.C., Alberta Premier Jim Prentice announced that he will soon travel to the American capital to lobby in favour of the pipeline.

Although most politicians in the capital appear to support the pipeline’s construction, United States President Barack Obama has not made public whether he supports or opposes the project, and his final approval will be needed to allow the pipeline to cross the American border.

Demonized by Republicans to the south of the border and Conservatives to the north for not sharing their enthusiasm for the pipeline, Mr. Obama made clear that he would wait until a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling before making a final decision.

The future of the TransCanada corporation’s new pipeline has become enveloped in the larger debate around climate change, the environment and the economic expansion in Canada’s oil sands. While most politicians in Western Canada support the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline, the recent decline in the price of oil has raised some questions about its viability.

Jim Prentice Rob Merrifield Washington DC

Premier Jim Prentice and former Conservative MP Rob Merrifield, now Alberta’s voice in Washington D.C.

Pipelines and oil sands are a big reason Alberta MLAs and cabinet ministers have made at least 16 official trips to Washington D.C. since November 2011. Housed in the Canadian Embassy, Alberta has a paid representative whose main focus appears to be lobbying for the oil sands and pipelines. in the U.S. capital Former Conservative MP Rob Merrifield now holds the position, which was previously filled by retired Tory cabinet ministers Gary MarMurray Smith and former Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier.

According to publicly available travel itineraries, Progressive Conservative cabinet ministers and MLAs logged a hefty amount of air mileage in 2014, travelling to 13 countries (down from 18 countries visited in 2013).

Alison Redford Golden Temple India

Premier Alison Redford visits the Golden Temple in India.

In 2014, Alberta politicians made a flurry of official trips to the United States, China, Japan, India, Switzerland, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Peru.

Four cabinet ministers visited Singapore last year, where the Government of Alberta opened a new trade office. China remained a popular destination for international trade missions by Alberta’s politicians.

The discovery that Premier Alison Redford hired an international travel scout caused considerable controversy in Alberta, as did her $131,000 around-the-world adventure to India and Switzerland (minus a secretly planned trip to Afghanistan, which was cancelled due to security concerns). But it was a trip to former South African President Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December 2013 that triggered a career-ending controversy for Ms. Redford when the $45,000 cost was made public in early 2014.

The whirlwind of international travel slowed to a trickle when Mr. Prentice entered the Premier’s Office in September 2014, with only a handful of MLA trips to the United States and a trip to Peru by Environment Minister Kyle Fawcett, being released on the public itinerary.

Here is a Google Map tracking international travel by Alberta cabinet ministers and PC MLAs since November 2011:

False Passengers and Fake Promises: Could the PC Party be choosing the next opposition leader?

Alison Redford Jim Prentice Thomas Lukaszuk Ric McIver Alberta Premier PC Leadership Race

Alison Redford, Thomas Lukaszuk, Ric McIver and Jim Prentice

Here’s a question that isn’t often asked in Alberta: Which of the three Progressive Conservative leadership candidates would make the best Leader of the Opposition?

An insane trail of scandal continues to leak out of the 43-year-long governing PC Party as it lurches towards a leadership vote on September 6.

A CBC exclusive story alleged today that Auditor General has uncovered “false passengers” were booked to ensure that Premier Alison Redford and her political staff would be the only passengers on government planes during certain flights.

The leak was a draft copy of a report Auditor General Merwan Saher is expected to release in August 2014 and will also include a review of the former premier’s flights to South Africa and Palm Springs.

Along with Ms. Redford’s secret plans for a private penthouse residence, this week’s secret cancellation of a three-year pay-freeze for senior government executives (which was only implemented 17 months ago), and the Auditor General’s discovery last month that the province has failed implement its much vaunted Climate Change plan, the PC government does not look like the well-polished machine it once was.

Two years ago, PC candidates led by Ms. Redford promised a new era of open and transparent government. It appears that the fake passengers were not the only fabrication.

Is it possible that the three men vying to lead the PC Party did not know about the false flyers?

Both insiders, Thomas Lukaszuk served as Ms. Redford’s Deputy Premier and Ric McIver was Transportation Minister from May 2012 to December 2013. While they have denied knowledge of the flights, it is strange that at the very least these two senior cabinet minister had not even heard rumours about the Premier’s alleged fictional bookings and questionable travel habits.

And Jim Prentice? He is not an MLA and was busy working for a big Bay Street bank during Ms. Redford’s reign.

But what of Finance Minister Doug Horner, whose department is responsible for the Alberta government’s fleet of airplanes? Surely someone within the Finance Department would have been aware of these alleged ghost travellers? Mr. Horner, along with 50 other PC MLAs and nearly every PC Party insider, is supporting Mr. Prentice’s bid for the PC Party leadership.

Mr. Prentice, who appears to only speak in generalizations and avoids details in all his public announcements, issued a statement on his Facebook Page in response to the allegations. “Albertans do not need excuses from those who were at the table when these decisions were made,” Mr. Prentice’s Facebook statement said.

Nearly everyone who would have been sitting around the cabinet table when these phantom flyers were on the books are now endorsing Mr. Prentice.

His opponent, Mr. Lukaszuk, was much more harsh on Ms. Redford, who remains the PC MLA for Calgary-Elbow. The former Deputy Premier said he would have his former boss thrown out of the PC Caucus and would ask a retired judge to investigate the allegations (Justice Minister Jonathan Denis, also supporting Mr. Prentice, today asked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to decide whether there should be an investigation).

This leads me back to my initial question: Which of the three leadership candidates would make the best Leader of the Opposition?

For the past four decades, this would have been a nonsensical question. But in 2014, the Tories face a relentlessly aggressive Wildrose opposition flush with cash and preparing for an election. There is an increasingly real possibility that the PC Party could be in opposition after the next election.

Mr. Prentice served in the Conservative Official Opposition benches in Ottawa for two years during the dying days of Paul Martin’s Liberal government, a time which may oddly familiar similar to the current politics in Alberta. An ambitious politician, Mr. Prentice does not strike me as someone who would be interested in remaining in the opposition benches if the PC Party were to lose the next election.

Mr. Lukaszuk is well-known for his partisan attack dog-style in Question Period, and might thrive in the opposition benches. Mr. McIver served as the unofficial opposition to Mayor Dave Bronconnier on Calgary City Council, but, like Mr. Lukaszuk, he has no support from his PC MLA colleagues.

In light of recent revelations, perhaps some time spent in the opposition benches could inject a much needed dose of humility into Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives, who have become very comfortable with the trappings of political power. Despite coming within a hair of losing the last election, the Tories act as if they are an invincible force. This recent string of scandals may help prove that the PCs are not invincible.

Good riddance, Rob Anders

Rob Anders Ron Liepert Calgary Signal Hill Conservatives

Former MLA Ron Liepert defeated 17-year MP Rob Anders in a nasty and divisive contest for the Conservative nomination in the new Calgary-Signal Hill riding.

It finally happened. The man who called Nelson Mandela a terroristinsulted Canada’s veterans, and called for war against Russia, has suffered his first major defeat since he was first elected in 1997.

Rob Anders Calgary Signal Hill Conservative

Rob Anders

After a campaign filled with accusations of dirty tricks and political mischief, arch conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders lost the Conservative Party nomination in the new Calgary-Signal Hill riding. After 17-years and many attempts, Calgary’s political establishment finally managed to achieve their goal of denying Mr. Anders the party nomination he needs to win in the next election.

It highlights how divisive a figure Mr. Anders is that Calgarians rallied around and many outsiders (including myself) quietly cheered for his opponent, Ron Liepert. The former provincial cabinet minister’s record suggests that he is not a Red Tory, as some would expect, and perhaps not even a moderate conservative.

Alberta Finance Minister Ron Liepert Calgary-Signal Hill Conservative

Ron Liepert

During his time in provincial politics, Mr. Liepert was known as a hard-nosed conservative bulldog who the media cast as the bully of the Alberta Legislature. He will fit in well in Stephen Harper‘s Ottawa.

To his credit, Mr. Liepert accomplished something that many other challengers failed to do. Mr. Anders had until yesterday succeeded in the past in besting high-profile challenges from former MLA Jocelyn Burgener, future premier Alison Redford and future MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans in nomination votes and defeated future Calgary mayor Dave Bronconnier and former Liberal MLA Frank Bruseker in general elections.

Unless he decides to seek a nomination in the neighouring Calgary-Rocky Ridge riding or elsewhere, Mr. Anders is now partially unleashed from his partisan obligations in the next campaign and could cause serious trouble for Mr. Liepert and his party before the 2015 election.

While Mr. Liepert may not prove to be a huge improvement  from Mr. Anders, he and his team have certainly done Canadians a service by delivering Mr. Anders the political defeat he deserved.

I am sure I speak for many Canadians when I say: good riddance, Mr. Anders.

Ron Liepert versus Rob Anders: the next PC-Wildrose proxy war?

Rob Anders

Rob Anders

Will former provincial cabinet minister Ron Liepert make the jump into federal politics?

With the launch of the TimeToDoBetter.ca website today, rumours began to spread that the former two-term Calgary-West Progressive Conservative MLA turned consultant could challenge ultra-conservative Rob Anders for the Conservative Party nomination in the new Calgary Signal Hill riding.

Alberta Finance Minister Ron Liepert

Ron Liepert

Mr. Liepert’s candidacy would surely spark another proxy-war between the supporters of the provincial PC and Wildrose parties first seen in last year’s Calgary-Centre by-election.

This would not be the first time these two men have publicly sparred. In 2009, Mr. Liepert accused Mr. Anders of campaigning against him in the 2008 provincial election. Many of Mr. Anders associates have joined Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party, including his close confident Andrew Constantinidis, who ran to replace Mr. Liepert in the 2012 provincial election.

While many of his supporters flocked to the new provincial party, some in the Wildrose establishment see Mr. Anders as a political liability whose ideology could challenge their attempt to rebrand as a moderate conservative alternative to the governing PCs.

In the conservative bloodbath that is sure to ensue if the rumours are true, I would expect nothing less than for Mr. Anders and conservative entertainer Ezra Levant to slice directly at Mr. Liepert’s jugular. They will be sure to remind their conservative base about Mr. Leipert’s record as the Health minister who created the centralized Alberta Health Services and the Finance minister who introduced deficit budgets and talked about increasing taxes.

Mr. Liepert’s ties to the provincial PC establishment date back to the Peter Lougheed era, when he worked at the Legislative Assembly and was appointed as a staff member at Alberta’s trade office in Los Angeles. He first ran for the PC Party in 1993, first in an unsuccessfully bid for the party nomination in Edmonton-Glenora and then as the PC candidate in  Edmonton-Highlands-Beverly (in the election he was defeated by his Liberal opponent, Alice Hanson). He was first elected to the Assembly in 2004 as the PC MLA for Calgary-West.

Alison Redford Alberta Election 2012 Conservative leader

Alison Redford

Mr. Leipert is no slouch. In provincial politics, he thrived off the cut and thrust of partisan conflict.  Whether he could win the Conservative Party nomination against Mr. Anders is yet to be seen.

There is no shortage of criticism of Mr. Anders. Perhaps the most hard-edged social conservative in Ottawa, he is well-known for being the sole parliamentarian to vote against granting former South African president Nelson Mandela an honorary Canadian citizenship. He also embarrassingly attacked two Canadian Forces veterans, who he described as “NDP hacks.” He used his podium at an official Government of Canada press conference to endorse right-wing conservative Ted Morton. And he recently suggested that former NDP leader Jack Layton‘s death was hastened by now-leader Thomas Mulcair.

Since he was first elected in 1997, Mr. Anders has been challenged by many high profile conservatives and easily defeated all of them in nomination battles.

At the age of 24, Mr. Anders, then a young Republican Party provocateur, returned to Canada to defeat nine other candidates to win his first Reform Party nomination in Calgary-West. His election coincided with the election of a group of young conservative Reformers, including Jason Kenney and Rahim Jaffer.

If he is challenged by Mr. Liepert in the upcoming nomination, it would not be the first time a high-profile politico who has attempted to end Mr. Anders career in Ottawa.

In 2004, future Progressive Conservative premier Alison Redford made her first jump into electoral politics with an unsuccessful nomination bid against Mr. Anders. Mr. Liepert was her campaign manager.

In 2000, he was unsuccessfully challenged by Calgary-Currie PC MLA Jocelyn Burgener (now a poet) and in 2009 he faced future Calgary-Varsity PC MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans. With the help of Mr. Levant, he nastily branded Ms. Kennedy-Glans as a “Liberal saboteur” and a “bizarre cross between a radical feminist and an apologist for a women-hating Arab dictatorship.”

Internal nomination contests are not the only area Mr. Anders has faced challengers. In the 1997 election, alderman and future mayor Dave Bronconnier led an unsuccessful campaign against him as the Liberal Party candidate. In the 2000 election, Mr. Anders defeated both former Calgary-North West Liberal MLA Frank Bruseker and PC candidate Jim Silye (a Reform Party MP for Calgary-Centre from 1993 to 1997). Wind energy entrepreneur Justin Thompson earned 29% as the Liberal candidate in the 2004 election, the highest of any of Mr. Anders challengers. And the 2006 and 2008 elections, former Calgary Board of Education trustee Jennifer Pollock carried the Liberal banner against Mr. Anders.

Despite these high-profile challengers from inside and outside his party, Mr. Anders has yet to face electoral defeat in the political arena.

2010 in review: alberta politics.

This past year has been a fascinating one in Alberta politics. We have felt the rise of a new political opposition, witnessed more floor crossings than in decades, and a long-serving government that is trying desperately to find a direction. What have the changes in the past year meant for Alberta’s political players and what will it mean for them in 2011?
Progressive Conservatives
The challenges facing the PC Party on the eve of 2011 are similar to the challenges they faced a year ago. During the mid and late 1990s, the PCs were driven by an all-consuming desire to defeat the provincial deficit and debt. Once those goals were accomplished in the mid-2000s, the PCs lost their driving force. As in 2009, they continued to drift through 2010, without a defining purpose.

To say that the government was on auto-pilot in 2010 might be too generous a description because even that assumes that the ship is purposefully being steered in one direction. This is not to say that the PCs have driven Alberta into the ground. Alberta is still one of the most economically vibrant regions in Canada, but even the biggest optimist would admit that with a lack of strong leadership an institutional mediocrity has begun to define the leadership of Premier Ed Stelmach.

Protecting the reputation of the oil sands has become a raison d’aitre for many cabinet ministers, including Premier Stelmach and Environment Minister Rob Renner, but issues like health care have overshadowed these environmental issues on a domestic level. The firing of Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett along with a public shaming by the ER Doctors, and a very public battle with Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Dr. Raj Sherman over Emergency Room wait-times turned the Tories to damage control mode late in 2010.

The PCs had initially hoped to turn health care as one of their positive stories of 2010 and promised one of the most important pieces of health care legislation in decades. The flagship Alberta Health Act was initially created to bring all health care laws under one piece of legislation, but once it made it to the Assembly floor, it was watered down to include a non-binding health charter and empowering the Health Minister to make more decisions in closed door cabinet meetings, rather than through Legislative votes.

In a number of year end interviews, Premier Stelmach has already begun managing expectations for 2011, stating that the provincial budget deficit may not be paid down until 2013, which creates an interesting political environment for an election expected in March 2012. The Premier has also stated that he will shuffle his cabinet in early 2011 in advance of the next election.

The next year will give the PCs an opportunity to mend some fences in their former stronghold of Calgary. The election of Mayor Naheed Nenshi in October 2010 could create a new cooperative tone between the Premier and the Mayor of Alberta’s largest city (a relationship that was not kind to the Premier when Dave Bronconnier was Mayor). If the PCs are unable to regain lost ground in Calgary, they might begin asking what, or who, caused their decline in support, and whether the reason responsible should be replaced.

Liberals
After being elbowed to the sideline by the growing narrative of the Wildrose Alliance as the next government-in-waiting in 2010, the Liberal Party’s biggest challenge in 2011 is to be relevant. Unable to defeat the PCs after 17 years as the Official Opposition, the Liberal Party has started to look and feel like yesterday’s opposition party.

The party has paid down its enormous debt and the caucus has released a series of new policies, but under David Swann‘s leadership the party has been unable to show any momentum as it slipped to third place in nearly every poll in 2010.

The departure of Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor in April 2010 hurt the Liberals and I am told that many of the party’s traditional big donors in Edmonton are not pleased with the current leadership or Dr. Swann’s last minute appeal for cooperation with other opposition parties. With up to three of the party’s eight MLAs planning on retiring at the next election, the party is hoping to draw on a number of former MLAs defeated in the 2008 election to bolster its slate in the next election. Not exactly the sign of renewal that they will need to build momentum.

Wildrose Alliance
The past year has been a spectacular one for the Wildrose Alliance. With four MLAs, that party now has the third largest caucus in the Assembly, the most charismatic leader, Danielle Smith, a slew of staffers and organizers who have fled the PCs, a growing membership, and a group of 26 already nominated candidates knocking on doors across the province. The annual fundraising reports expected to be released by Elections Alberta in March 2011 will reveal another part of this party’s story in 2010 and will show if they will be able to compete with the PC Party’s multi-million dollar war chest.

The Wildrose Alliance is becoming more adept at using political wedge issues to draw out the weakness of the governing PCs. For example, where the PCs will never admit that they have ever attempted to increase privatization of our public health care system, the Wildrose Alliance is much more open with their desire to introduce private insurance and private providers (of course, their arguments around private health care delivery hit a bump in the road when they decided to defend the bankrupt Health Resource Centre in Calgary).

On the municipal front, Ms. Smith briefly entered the City Centre Airport redevelopment debate and received a stunning rebuke from Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel. While Ms. Smith’s entry into the debate does not appear to have helped that cause, it did give her party the opportunity to organize in their weakest region of the province (a maneuver that appears to have paid off).

A party cannot grow this fast without bumps along the road and the Wildrose has had a few. A few months ago, the entire Board of Directors of that party’s Little Bow Constituency Association resigned over allegations of central party interference in the nomination contest that selected Ian Donovan over Kevin Kinahan in November 2010. This week, the Board of Directors of the Medicine Hat Wildrose Constituency Association resigned over the acclamation of candidate Milvia Bauman.

New Democratic Party
The NDP are well… the NDP. The party’s two MLAs, Brian Mason and Rachel Notley, were vocal opponents in the Assembly this year and the party hosted a reasonably well-attended policy conference. The NDP Caucus released some positive policy this year, but rather than offering a constructive alternative to the current government the two MLAs fell back into the comfortable opposition attack-dog position.

The party shows very little signs of serious growth in the polls outside its traditional areas of support, but they are in a position to benefit from a weakened Liberal Party inside Edmonton’s city limits. Barring a change in leadership, which could see Ms. Notley or former MLA David Eggen step up, the NDP may have missed their window of opportunity to broaden their support beyond a handful of Edmonton constituencies a number of years ago.

Alberta Party
After the merger of the old Alberta Party with the Renew Alberta group in late 2009, the new Alberta Party has experienced huge growth.

Through the Big Listen process, the party attracted many disenchanted Tories, Liberals, New Democrats, former Greens, and independents to its ranks and has grown to nearly 1000 member in just one year. The party has been bolstered through the presidency of Chris Labossiere and in a smart move the party hired community organizer Michael Walters as their provincial organizer in Spring 2010. This still-growing party is expected to have over 40 constituency associations organized by the end of January 2011.

Acting Leader Sue Huff replaced leader Edwin Erickson in November 2010 and a full leadership contest will be launched in January 2011. A few potential candidates have already stepped up, including Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor and Calgarian Chris Tesarski. The Alberta Party received a boost in public and media interest in October 2010, when many of its key organizers helped vault Naheed Nenshi to the Mayoralty in Calgary.

As an active member of this party, I see the Alberta Party’s big challenge of 2011 to move past the Big Listen to the next step of initiating some Big Action.

goodbye for now, jim prentice.

Jim Prentice (photo credit: k-ideas Photo license: Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike)

I do not regularly pay too much attention to federal politics, so I was surprised to learn yesterday that Environment Minster and Calgary Member of Parliament Jim Prentice was suddenly resigning to become Vice-Chairman of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (apparently most Ottawa-watchers were surprised by the move).

What surprised me most about Mr. Prentice was his ability to handle the environment portfolio, the Conservative’s most toxic ministerial portfolio (no pun intended) without destroying his own political credibility among moderates. I am one of many Canadians who was less than impressed with our federal government’s lackluster participation and irresponsible handling of the COP15 Summit in Copenhagen, but I was impressed from a political standpoint with how well Mr. Prentice managed his role.

There is already mounds of speculation about what Mr. Prentice’s political future holds and there have been some consistent rumors about his political future that I have heard over the past few years (if we assume that his departure is only a sojourn until the next political opportunity presents itself).

1) Going Provincial: I know more than just a few Red Tories who see Mr. Prentice as the heir to Jim Dinning‘s dauphin throne. As a popular MP and long-time PC Party supporter, Mr. Prentice would be well positioned to be the moderate “Calgary candidate” in the next Progressive Conservative leadership contest.

I have no doubt that he would almost immediately receive the support of top level Tory organizers in Calgary, especially those weary of Finance Minister Ted Morton or another candidate from northern Alberta. His entry into provincial politics would also be interesting if he did run in the Calgary-Mountain View constituency, which is currently represented by Liberal leader David Swann (Mr. Prentice was the PC candidate in Mountain View in the 1986 provincial election).

2) Going Federal: As Environment Minister, Jim Prentice took on the most difficult political file for the Conservatives without looking like a buffoon or seriously damaging his own political reputation. Being from Calgary might actually hurt him in the next Conservative Party leadership contest (both Stephen Harper and Preston Manning represented Calgary ridings), but a few years working in the private sector could help to distance him from Prime Minister Harper’s government.

Calgary-Centre North

Not surprisingly, attention has already turned to some of the rumors circulating about what will happen if a by-election is held in Calgary-Centre North before the next federal general election. Former Mayor Dave Bronconnier and former Ontario MP Robert Nault (who now lives in Calgary) are two names that I almost immediately heard rumoured for the Liberal Party nomination after yesterday afternoon’s resignation. Four names that are already being circulated for possible Conservative candidates are former Alderman Ric McIver, former Mayoral candidate Barb Higgins, current Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber, and recent Aldermanic candidate Sean Chu. Rumours aside, under the current circumstances it is difficult to believe that a by-election in this riding would produce anything but another Conservative MP.

edmonton election 2010: election night experience and hope for the future.

As far as municipal elections in Alberta usually go, Monday night was a pretty exciting time to be a political person in this province.

After a day of traveling across the City visiting campaign offices and gauging the energy of the difference campaigns, I made my first election night stop at Ward F Public School Board Trustee Michael Janz‘s election night party at the Boston Pizza on Whyte Avenue. I have known Michael for many years and was thrilled to watch the results consistently placing him ahead of his challengers Bev Sawyer and Joanna Rozmus.

Michael and his team have worked hard and effectively ran a City Council-like campaign for the Public School Board seat, so it was a rewarding experience to watch their hard work pay off when he was declared elected with 53% of the vote. It was also great to see so many people celebrate Michael’s victory last night, including Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft and Ward D Public School Trustee Dave Colburn, who both stopped by to offer their congratulations.

At this point in the evening, word had begun to trickle in from our southern neighbours that Naheed Nenshi had taken the lead in Calgary’s Mayoral contest. Later that night, he would solidify his lead over Ric McIver and Barb Higgins and be elected Mayor of Calgary. Maybe it was the power of effectively using social media and word of mouth, but I did not talk with one person that night in Edmonton who had not heard about the Nenshi campaign over the previous 30 days.

We had also heard that Bill Given had unseated Dwight Logan to become the youngest-ever Mayor of Grande Prairie and that Linda Osinchuk was on her way to unseating the popular Cathy Olesen as Mayor of Strathcona County.

Following some hearty celebratory drinks, we grabbed a cab over to the Ward 10 Don Iveson election night party at the Parkallen Restaurant where celebrations were in full swing. Not only had Don just been re-elected to his second term on City Council, he also earned the highest percentage (76.3%) and highest vote total (12,945 votes) of any Councillor candidate running in this election.

Don has done an excellent job on City Council over the past three years as a voice for both new ideas and prudent planning. Along with fellow Councillors like Ben Henderson, Don has been a strong advocate for smart transit planning and family-oriented infill in his three years on Council.

After catching up with the crew at Team Iveson, we headed downtown to Mayor Stephen Mandel‘s election night party at the Sutton Place Hotel Ball Room. Mayor Mandel had been leading in the polls all night and by that point had settled into a 25% lead over second place challenger David Dorward.

In the end, Mayor Mandel was re-elected with 55% of the vote, a stunning rebuke to the Envision Edmonton lobby group that had essentially labeled the Mayor everything but a terrorist for not supporting their invalid plebiscite petition a month earlier.

The party at the Sutton Place was dying down by the time we arrived, but I still got the chance to chat with a few of the evenings successful candidates, including Councillor-elect Dave Loken who won a close race in the new Ward 3 and Councillor Henderson who was re-elected in the new Ward 8.

It was a late night and overall it was a fun evening for party hopping.

Overall thoughts on the election results…

I am thrilled that Naheed Nenshi was elected Mayor of Calgary. His election victory has proved that you can win a Mayoral campaign by using full-sentences and presenting well-thought ideas. He will have a lot of challenges, including inheriting a dysfunctional City Council who do not owe him any allegiance, but not being an incumbent Councillor probably helped propel him into his election victory. I am sure that Premier Ed Stelmach is glad to be rid of his old rival, outgoing Mayor Dave Bronconnier, but Nenshi is no political slouch.

In Edmonton, the clear mandate that Mayor Mandel has received in this re-election should mean the end of the Envision Edmonton lobby group’s crusade to keep the City Centre Airport open, but it will not. Not satisfied with the electoral defeat of their endorsed Mayoral candidate, the lobby group will be taking the City of Edmonton to court on February 10, 2011.

I am generally pleased with how Edmonton’s City Council contests resulted. The potential for ideological contrarians like Kerry Diotte and Tony Caterina to cause havoc exists, but I believe that we may even have a stronger Council than the previous one, which could bode well in terms of cooperation and consensus building to move projects forward.

I am also excited about the new faces on Edmonton’s Public School Board. As I wrote last week, our Public Board was in desperate need for new blood and new ideas to help make the institution more relevant to the broader community. Now is time to make it happen.

Monday was a good day for democracy in our province. I look forward t more good days to come.

green trip taking baby steps.

Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette is scheduled to announce details and funding for the provincial Green Trip Fund at 10am this morning at Government House in Edmonton. Minister Ouellette is expected to be joined by Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier and Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel.

This announcement will come days after Airdrie Mayor Linda Bruce told the Calgary Herald that “[n]obody has heard anything” about when or if the funds would be distributed. The fund was originally announced two years ago and was meant to support local, regional and intermunicipal public transit, but the criteria for municipalities to apply for funding was never announced. It is expect that Minister Ouellette may announce the criteria today.

Update: Here is a link to the media release. The fund will provide a one-time capital expenditure of $800 million in funding will be available to the Capital region; $800 million to Calgary and surrounding area; and $400 million to other municipalities throughout Alberta.

The program is available to owner/operators of public transit services, which may include municipalities, regional entities, non-profit organizations, Metis settlements and the private sector. Submissions for GreenTRIP funding must include a business case that describes the sustainability of the project. GreenTRIP will provide only capital funding assistance for public transit infrastructure and technology, not operating funding for transit service.

207 days until mayoral vote 2010.

Following Mayor Stephen Mandel‘s recent announcement that he will be running for a third-term in office, I have a couple of quick thoughts on the October Municipal election:

1) A cake-walk through the park? It is really too early to tell whether Mayor Mandel will face an easy re-election in October. In the non-race for Mayor of 2007, second place challenger Don Koziak earned 25% while only running a semblance of a city-wide campaign. I would not underestimate the electoral potential of an even moderately organized & well-funded outsider/anti-Council candidate, especially if it looks like Mayor Mandel is going to cruise to another victory.

2) Opposition is split. Mayor Mandel enjoys wide-spread support and the opposition he does face appears to be fragmented around varying issues. The people who are furious about the closure of the Edmonton City Centre Airport or annoyed about the funding of the Art Gallery of Alberta are unlikely to vote for the same candidate as the people angry over the Capital Power-Epcor decision. At this point, no champion challenger apparent has emerged with the potential of galvanizing this dissent (watching Season 3 of The Wire has taught me that even two or three reasonable challengers could bleed a Mayor’s support and create some interesting results).

3) What issues? There are no shortage of issues that I hope will be the focus of debate in this election (urban sprawl, inner city schools, regional amalgamation, and others that I plan to write about over the next six months), but the one issue that may have the potential to create a major wave is the Katz Group‘s desire to have the City of Edmonton to fund $400,000,000 for a new downtown arena. The Katz Group has hired long-time PC-insider Peter Elzinga as a lobbyist and launched a political campaign to “Revitalize Downtown” in advance of the election. Mayor Mandel was an early supporter of the downtown arena, but remains publicly coy about his position on the actual Katz Group proposal.

Meanwhile in Calgary, the race to replace retiring Mayor Dave Bronconnier remains eerily quiet. Former PC MLA Jon Lord and food activist Paul Hughes are in the race. Former Ontario NDP MPP George Dadamo entered the race last Summer and has since dropped off the political map. Game show contestant and Alderman Ric McIver is widely expected to join the race and an online campaign to draft Mount Royal University professor Naheed Nenshi is growing.

alberta politics notes 2/24/2010

– As Bill 1, the Alberta Competitiveness Act is this sessions flagship piece of government legislation. With all the focus on “competitiveness,” has anyone wondered what happened to the Premier’s Economic Strategy Committee that was announced last summer? (their website has not been updated since July 2009) The committee included former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, former MP David Emerson, and former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge.
– Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier announced that he will not be seeking re-election in October. Bronconnier was first elected as Mayor in 2001. Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel has yet to make his electoral intentions public.
– Alberta could hold its fourth Senate election since 1989 along-side the municipal elections this October.
– Edmonton City Council approved the Municipal Development Plan this week. Councillor Don Iveson has posted some remarks on his blog.
– Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget Pastoor scored a win for the Liberal Opposition this week when the Assembly approved her motion to “…urge the Government to establish an independent Commission to review the current salaries and benefits for Members of the Legislative Assembly…” It is important to note that as this was a Private Member’s Motion, it is non-binding.
– Facing charges of cocaine-possession and drunk-driving, former Edmonton-Strathcona Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer is expected to plea-bargain when his case reconvenes in March.
– In my previous post, I mentioned the low-voter turnout in the 2008 provincial election. Here is a map showing voter turnout in ridings across the province (only 4 out of 83 ridings had a turnout larger than 50%).