Tag Archives: Dave Schneider

RJ Sigurdson defeats MLA Wayne Anderson in Highwood UCP nomination, and a preview of this week’s nomination votes

Former local party local president RJ Sigurdson defeated incumbent MLA Wayne Anderson and two other challengers to secure the United Conseravative Party nomination in Highwood on October 16, 2018. Sigurdson previously served as the local constituency president for the UCP and PC Party in the district south of Calgary.

Wayne Anderson MLA Highwood UCP

Wayne Anderson

Anderson faced a nomination challenge from Sigurdson, Carrie Fischer, a former Okotoks town councillor and mayoral candidate who ran for the PC Party against Anderson in 2015, and former Wildrose and PC Party activist Dean Leask.

Sigurdson had been endorsed by from former Highwood PC MLA George Groeneveld, former Okotoks mayor Bill McAlpine, and former PC MP Doug Fee.

Anderson had been endorsed by fellow UCP MLAs Leila Aheer, Nathan Cooper, Ric McIver, Jason Nixon, Dave Schneider, Pat Stier, Glenn van Dijken, and Tany Yao, as well as former PC cabinet minister Jon Havelock and Okotoks mayor Bill Robertson. And Leask had been endorsed by former cabinet minister Ted Morton and former area MP Grant Hill.

Anderson was first elected in 2015 as Wildrose Party candidate and currently serves as the UCP Advanced Education critic. He is the second UCP MLA to lose the party’s nomination to run in the next election. Rancher and political party scion Nate Horner defeated two-term MLA Rick Strankman in Drumheller-Stettler UCP nomination contest earlier this month.

Here are the other nomination meetings taking place this week:

October 17, 2018 – Edmonton-Mill Woods AP

Anju Sharma is expected to be acclaimed as the Alberta Party candidate after two other candidates, James Moore and Walter Espinoza, withdrew from the contest.  Abdi Bakal is also expected to be acclaimed as the Liberal Party candidate in this district on October 17, 2018. The district is currently represented by New Democratic Party MLA Christina Gray.

October 18, 2018 – Calgary-Elbow NDP

Janet Eremenko is expected to be acclaimed as the NDP candidate. Eremenko was a candidate for Calgary City Council in Ward 11 in the October 2017 election where she finished third with 20 percent of the vote. The district is currently represented by Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark.

October 18 & 20, 2018 – Airdrie-Cochrane UCP

Five candidates are seeking the UCP nomination in this district northwest of Calgary: Ian Chitwood, Peter Guthrie, Morgan Nagel, Mauri Stiff, and Laura Talsma.

Chitwood is director of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission. Guthrie is a former owner of a Mr. Lube franchise in north east Calgary and a former co-owner of a ranch near Castor. Nagel is a Cochrane town councillor and previously worked as a organizer for Jason Kenney’s leadership campaign and the Manning Centre. Talsma is a Registered Nurse at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre and Bethany Cochrane Long Term Care facility in Calgary.

Peter Guthrie is endorsed by former sportscaster and recent Airdrie-East UCP nomination candidate Roger Millions and former Rocky View County councillor and Calgary-Centre MP Eric Lowther. Nagel has the endorsements of Cochrane town councillors Alex Reed and Patrick Wilson. Stiff has been endorsed by Airdrie UCP MLA Angela Pitt, who is running for re-election in the neighbouring Airdrie-East district. Talsma is endorsed by UCP MLA Jason Nixon and brief UCP leadership candidate Jeff Callaway.

October 20, 2018 – Calgary-Shaw UCP

Five candidates are seeking the UCP nomination in this southwest Calgary district: past Wildrose Party candidates Brad Leishman and Mark Mantei, party activist and past federal Conservative nomination candidate Jack Redekop, communications professional Rebecca Schulz, and Daniel McLean.

Leisheman and Redekop have endorsed the right-wing Parents for Choice in Education group, and Mantei appears to have the support of the right-wing Progressive Group for Independent Business through the group’s president Sid Helischauer and PGIB-backed Calgary-Peigan candidate Tanya Fir, and UCP MLA Tany Yao. Rebecca Schultz is endorsed by Member of Parliament Stephanie Kusie, UCP MLAs Nathan Cooper and Jason Nixon and former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.

Calgary-Shaw is currently represented by NDP MLA Graham Sucha and was previously represented by Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Jeff Wilson from 2012 to 2015.

October 20, 2018 – Calgary-Varsity NDP

NDP stalwart Anne McGrath is expected to be acclaimed as her party’s candidate in this redrawn district. McGrath returned to Alberta from Ottawa in 2015 to serve as Principal Secretary in the Premier’s Office in Edmonton and then moved to Calgary to serve as Executive Director of the Premier’s Southern Alberta Office at the McDougall Centre.

Two current MLAs, Stephanie McLean and Michael Connolly, and one other candidate, Julia Hayter, have withdrawn from the contest in this district. Hayter is now running for the NDP nomination in Calgary-Edgemont.

UCP MLAs rush to help Angela Pitt in nomination fight against Sportsnet commentator Roger Millions

Photo: Angela Pitt and Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean during the 2015 election.

It looks like Angela Pitt is in trouble.

The first-term MLA from Airdrie is facing a stiff challenge for the United Conservative Party nomination in the newly redrawn Airdrie-East district.

Roger Millions UCP Airdrie-East

Roger Millions

As first reported on this blog on May 31, 2018, Sportsnet Calgary Flames commentator Roger Millions is challenging Pitt for the nomination. Millions could have run for the UCP nomination in the other Airdrie district – Airdrie-Cochrane – where no incumbent MLA is running, but he is instead challenging Pitt in Airdrie-East.

Having a high-profile nomination challenger like Millions unseat an incumbent in a nomination contest, especially as she is one of two women MLAs in the UCP caucus, would be embarrassing for the UCP.

Pitt’s caucus colleagues are rallying with support. Thirteen UCP MLAs (Nathan Cooper, Tany Yao, Jason Nixon, Mike Ellis, Todd Loewen, Rick Strankman, David Hanson, Scott Cyr, Glenn van Dijken, Prab Gill, Dave Schneider, Mark Smith and Wayne Drysdale) and Calgary Conservative MP Stephanie Kusie have publicly endorsed Pitt’s nomination bid through videos on her Facebook page.

It is unusual for an incumbent to garner so many endorsements in a nomination contest from other MLAs unless that incumbent is in danger of being defeated. It is also not clear if the endorsements will have an impact on the outcome of the nomination contest.

I am told that Pitt is fairly popular among her UCP MLA colleagues, but that she might not have laid the ground work needed in Airidrie to fend off a nomination challenge from someone as high-profile as Millions.

Pitt was acclaimed as the Wildrose Party candidate in 2015 and had already been acclaimed to run as a Wildrose Party candidate for the 2019 election before the UCP was formed.

Controversy arose earlier this month when a member of the local UCP board of directors resigned after disagreeing with the local association’s decision to donate the $16,000 remaining in the bank account of the defunct local Wildrose Party association to the Alberta Fund political action committee.

The Alberta Fund PAC was created to support Brian Jean‘s candidacy in the 2017 UCP leadership race and is run by former Wildrose Party president David Yager. Pitt endorsed Jean in the leadership race.

The UCP nomination vote in Airdrie-East will be held on June 20, 2018 from 11:00am to 8:00pm at the Town and Country Centre in Airdrie.

NDP nominate Phillips and Sabir

Shannon Phillips takes a selfie in front of a crowded nomination meeting in Lethbridge-West.

Shannon Phillips takes a selfie in front of a crowded nomination meeting in Lethbridge-West.

Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips has been officially nominated as the New Democratic Party candidate in Lethbridge-West. Phillips was first elected in 2015, earning 59 percent of the vote and unseating Progressive Conservative MLA Greg Weadick. Community and Social Services Minister Irfan Sabir was expected to be nomination as the NDP candidate in Calgary-McCall at a meeting on June 12, 2018.

Former PC MLA runs for Alberta Party nomination

Dave Quest is running for the Alberta Party nomination in Strathcona-Sherwood Park. Quest represented the district from 2008 to 2015 as a PC MLA. He served as Associate Minister for Seniors from 2013 to 2014. He briefly planned to run for municipal office in Strathcona County ahead of the 2017 elections but withdrew before the nomination deadline.

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

Athabasca-Barrhead-WestlockMonty Bauer, a grain farmer from Thorhild, is challenging MLA Glenn van Dijken for the UCP nomination. Bauer has been endorsed by former Westlock-St. Paul Conservative MP Brian Storseth.

Brooks-Medicine Hat – Conservative activist S. Todd Beasley is seeking the UCP nomination. Beasley was an organizer for the anti-NDP Alberta Wide Rallies held in 2016 and is the organizer behind the ‘Stop the Shock‘ group, which opposes the closure of dirty coal-fired power plants in Alberta.

Calgary-Edgemont: Prasad Panda was nominated as the UCP candidate in this district. Panda was first elected as the Wildrose Party candidate in the 2015 by-election in Calgary-Foothills.

Calgary-North EastTariq Khan is seeking the UCP nomination. Khan is a real estate agent and general secretary of the Pakistan Canada Association Calgary.

Calgary-Shaw Brad Leishman is seeking the UCP nomination. Leishman was the Wildrose Party candidate in this district in the 2015 election.

Cypress-Medicine Hat – Drew Barnes has been acclaimed in the UCP nomination in this district covering the southeast corner of Alberta. Barnes was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2012 and was re-elected in 2015.

Edmonton-Meadows – Sant Sharma is seeking the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-GlenoraCarla Stolte has been acclaimed as the Alberta Party candidate. She is the former president of the Westmount Community League.

Edmonton-Manning – Manwar Khan is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Edmonton-South – Pramod Kumar is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Atul Ranade is seeking the UCP nomination. Ranade was a declared candidate for Mayor of Edmonton in 2017 but did not enter the race on nomination day.

Edmonton-WhitemudPayman Parseyan has withdrawn from UCP nomination contest in Edmonton-South and is now seeking the UCP nomination in the neighbouring Edmonton-Whitemud district.

Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland – Dale Johnson is seeking the UCP nomination.

Red Deer-NorthAdriana LaGrange has announced plans to seek the UCP nomination. LaGrange has served as a trustee on Red Deer’s Regional Catholic School Board since 2007 and is a past president of the  Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association and former vice-president of the Canadian Catholic School Trustees’ Association. She resigned from her role with the ACSTA in June 2018.

West Yellowhead – Maryann Chichak announced on her Facebook page that she has withdrawn from the UCP concest. Chichak has served as Mayor of the Town of Whitecourt since 2013 and was the Wildrose Party candidate in Whitecourt-Ste. Anne in the 2012 election.

After much deliberation with my family, I will be stepping down from seeking the nomination for the West Yellowhead…

Posted by Maryann Chichak, Nomination Candidate for UCP West Yellowhead on Monday, June 11, 2018

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

In Photo: Jason Luan, Mauri Stiff, Deron Bilous, Thomas Dang, Mark Smith, Marc Slingerland

Monday Night Candidate Nomination Update

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

Airdrie-Cochrane: Airdrie realtor Mauri Stiff is seeking the United Conservative Party nomination.

Banff-Kananaskis – Miranda Rosin and restaurant owner Scott Winograd are seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-Acadia – NDP MLA Brandy Payne announced last week that she will not be seeking re-election in 2019. Payne was first elected in 2015 when she unseated former Justice Minister Jonathan Denis. She has served as Associate Minister of Health since 2016. David Guenter is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-BeddingtonRandy Kerr is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-Elbow – Lawyer and former UCP leadership candidate Doug Schweitzer is seeking the UCP nomination in Calgary-Elbow. Schweitzer placed third in last year’s UCP leadership contest and if he wins his party’s nomination, he will face off against Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark in the next election.

Calgary-Foothills – Former Progressive Conservative MLA Jason Luan is seeking the UCP nomination. Luan served as MLA for Calgary-Hawkwood from 2012 to 2015, when he was unseated by NDP candidate Michael Connolly. The Foothills district is currently represented by UCP MLA Prasad Panda, who was first elected as a Wildrose candidate in a 2016 by-election to replace former MLA Jim Prentice.

Calgary-Hays – Two-term MLA Ric McIver is seeking re-election as the UCP candidate. McIver was elected in 2012 and 2015 as a Progressive Conservative and sought that party’s leadership in 2014.

Calgary-Klein – Two time Wildrose candidate Jeremy Nixon is seeking the UCP nomination. Nixon ran in this district under the Wildrose banner in 2012 and 2015. He is the brother of Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon.

Calgary-Piegan – Andrew Griffin and Jeevan Mangat are seeking the UCP nomination. Mangat was the Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-Fort in the 2015 election.

Calgary-West – MLA Mike Ellis is seeking re-election under the UCP banner. Ellis was elected in a 2014 by-election and the 2015 general election as a PC candidate.

Cardston-Siksika – Joseph Schow and Marc Slingerland are challenging MLA Dave Schneider for the UCP nomination in this newly redrawn southern rural district that largely covers the areas included in the current Cardston-Taber-Warner and Little Bow districts. Slingerland was a Christian Heritage Party candidate in the 2006, 2008 and 2011 federal elections and the 2015 federal by-election in Foothills.

Drayton Valley-Devon – MLA Mark Smith is seeking the UCP nomination. Smith was first elected in 2015 as a Wildrose Party candidate.

Drumheller-Stettler – Nathan Horner is seeking the UCP nomination in this district, which is currently represented by UCP MLA Rick Strankman.

Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview – NDP MLA Deron Bilous is seeking his party’s nomination to run for re-election. Bilous was first elected in this district in 2012 and was re-elected in 2015. He was one of four NDP incumbents to run in the 2015 election and currently serves as Minister of Economic Development and Trade.

Edmonton-South – MLA Thomas Dang is running for the NDP nomination in this newly redrawn southwest Edmonton district. Dang was first elected as MLA for Edmonton-Southwest in 2015. Edmonton-South includes most of the east half of the district he currently represents. Running for the UCP nomination in this district is Payman Parseyan. Parseyan ran in the 2017 Edmonton municipal election in Ward 9, placing fourth with 15.3 percent of the vote.

Edmonton-WhitemudNawaz Panhwer is seeking the UCP nomination. Panhwer is Infrastructure Manager for the Town of Redwater and the former VP Finance of the PC Association in the district. His nomination is being endorsed by MPs Matt Jeneoroux, Kerry Diotte, and Michael Cooper, and former PC MLAs Naresh Bhardwaj and Sohail Quadri.

Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville – Campbell Pomeroy is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Leduc-Beaumont – Sharon Smith is seeking the UCP nomination. Smith ran for the Wildrose Party in this district in the 2015 election. She placed second with 29 percent of the vote.

Lethbridge-West – George Rigaux and Rick Dempsey are seek the UCP nomination. Rigaux was the chief organizer for the Reform Party in British Columbia ahead of the 1997 federal election. He is reported to have resigned from that position before the election after the media reported him making controversial comments about the role played by the Sikh community in party nominations that year.

Morinville-St. Albert – Gibbons town councillor Amber Harris has announced plans to seek the UCP nomination. Harris made news in November 2017 when she raised concerns on Facebook about the construction of gender-neutral washrooms at the Sturgeon Composite High School.

Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin – Business owner Sandra Kim has announced plans to seek the UCP nomination.

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

Grant Hunter and Jason Kenney (source: Facebook)

Oh, Grant Hunter. Where do I start?

Photo: Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA MLA Grant Hunter and UCP leader Jason Kenney. (source: Facebook)

While announcing his plans to run for re-election in the new Taber-Warner district, United Conservative Party MLA Grant Hunter is reported to have compared the New Democratic Party’s 2015 election win to the 2004 Tsunami that ravaged southeast Asia and is estimated to have killed upwards of 280,000 people.

Hunter offered an apology to anyone was offended by his comments, but this is just the sort of ridiculous anti-NDP hyperbole that we have become accustomed to hearing from some Wildrose/UCP MLAs over the past three years.

But when talking about his decision to run in the new Taber-Warner district, rather than challenging his caucus colleague Dave Schneider for the UCP nomination in the new Cardston-Siksika district, he made another statement that caught my attention.

“…the NDP have put us in a bad position in this southern part here, in that when the boundaries were redrawn, they split Cardston-Taber-Warner into two different ridings.”

The Cardston-Taber-Warner district Hunter currently represents will see significant changes when the next election is called. While he may have legitimate concerns about the redistribution of the electoral boundaries in southern Alberta, it is misleading to blame the NDP for putting him “…in a bad position…”

The new district boundaries for the 2019 election were drawn by a commission composed of an independent chairperson (Justice Myra Bielby), two NDP Caucus appointees (Bruce McLeod of Acme and Jean Munn of Calgary) and two Wildrose Caucus appointees (Laurie Livingstone of Calgary and Gwen Day of Carstairs). The commission was appointed in October 2016 and held public hearings and received hundreds of submissions from Albertans throughout 2017.

Of the Wildrose appointees, Livingstone supported the final report recommending the new electoral map, including the changes to Hunter’s district, and Day submitted a minority report opposing changes to rural district boundaries.

The bi-partisan commission submitted recommendations for a new electoral maps to the Legislative Assembly for debate and it were voted into law by 40 NDP MLAs and Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark last December.

The process used to redraw Alberta’s electoral boundaries certainly has its flaws (I will write more about this soon), but with Hunter’s own party’s handpicked appointees deeply involved in the process it is misleading for him to blame the party in power for changes he might not like.

Note: 25 MLAs voted against the new electoral map, including two NDP MLAs, Colin Piquette and Eric Rosendahl.

Candidate Nomination Update: Airdrie-Cochrane, Banff-Kananaskis, Cardston-Siksika and Central Peace-Notley

Photo: Dave Schneider, Cameron Westhead, Morgan Nagel, and Todd Loewen

With only about 13 months left until a potential provincial election call, the number of candidates stepping forward to run for party nominations is growing (this is the second time this week that I have written an update on candidate nominations).

Here is today’s candidate nomination update:

Airdrie-Cochrane: Cochrane town councillor Morgan Nagel is seeking the United Conservative Party nomination in this newly redrawn district. Nagel has worked as a organizer for Jason Kenney’s leadership campaign and as the youth director for the Manning Centre.

Banff-KananaskisNew Democratic Party MLA Cameron Westhead confirmed with the Cochrane Eagle that he will seek re-election in the new Banff-Kananaskis district. Westhead was first elected in 2015 in the Banff-Cochrane district, defeating Progressive Conservative MLA Ron Casey by 2,894 votes.

Cardston-Siksika: Little Bow UCP MLA Dave Schneider told the Vauxhall Advance that he will seek re-election as the UCP candidate in the new Cardston-Siksika district. Schneider recently apologized for a statement in which he said ‘these people don’t traditionally vote‘ in reference to his Indigenous constituents. The new district includes the Siksika Nation, the Blood Tribe and the Pikani Nation, which have a combined population of more than 20,000.

The redistribution of electoral boundaries in southern Alberta could lead to incumbent UCP MLAs facing off in nomination contests. Current Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter, whose official residence is listed as Cardston, could also seek re-election in this new district.

Central Peace-Notley: UCP MLA Todd Loewen is seeking re-election in this sprawling redrawn northwestern Alberta district. Loewen was first elected in 2015 as the Wildrose MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky. Energy Minister and NDP MLA Marg McCuaig-Boyd currently represents the Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley district and would presumably run in the same district if she seeks re-election.

Edmonton-Whitemud: According to Elections Alberta, Tunde Obasan has withdrawn his intention to seek the UCP nomination.

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


Schweitzer goes for federal nomination instead?

Doug Schweitzer Calgary Alberta Conservative

Doug Schweitzer

According to a report by Postmedia’s James Wood, past UCP leadership candidate and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer could forgo running in the 2019 provincial election in favour of running for the federal Conservatives in Calgary-Centre in the 2019 federal election. Also considering bids for the Conservative nomination in that district are Dustin Franks and Rick Billington.

Franks previously ran for the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie in 2015 and was campaign manager for Greg McLean in that candidate’s unsuccessful bid for the Conservative nomination in Calgary-Centre in 2012. Billington previously ran for Conservative nominations in Calgary-Centre in 2012 and Calgary-Heritage in 2017.

United Conservative Party leadership candidates Brian Jean, Jason Kenney, Doug Schweitzer and Jeff Callaway.

Tracking MLA endorsements in the UCP leadership race

Members of the United Conservative Party will be selecting the party’s first permanent leader on October 28, 2017. After of this week’s fee payment deadline, four candidates will be listed on the ballot: Brian Jean, Jason Kenney, Doug Schweitzer and Jeff Callaway.

Of the 28 UCP MLAs represented in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly, nineteen have endorsed candidates in this leadership race (I am including Jean, the only sitting MLA in the contest, who has obviously endorsed himself). Here is a map showing which UCP MLAs have endorsed which leadership candidate as of September 14, 2017.Brian Jean: Leela Aheer (Chestermere-Rocky View), Wayne Anderson (Highwood), Dave Hanson (Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills), Todd Loewen (Grande Prairie-Smoky), Don MacIntyre (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake), Angela Pitt (Airdrie), Ron Orr (Lacombe-Ponoka), Dave Schneider (Little Bow), Pat Stier (Livingstone-Macleod), Glenn van Dijken (Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock), Tany Yao (Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo)

Jason Kenney: Drew Barnes (Cypress-Medicine Hat), Grant Hunter (Cardston-Taber-Warner), Ric McIver (Calgary-Hays), Jason Nixon (Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre), Mark Smith (Drayton Valley-Devon), Rick Strankman (Drumheller-Stettler)

Doug Schweitzer: Wayne Drysdale (Grande Prairie-Wapiti)

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt faced a bizarre 72 hour suspension from the Official Opposition caucus this week.

Wildrose Shuffles Critics, Fildebrandt no longer Public Accounts Committee Chairman

Outspoken Wildrose Party MLA Derek Fildebrandt, who finds himself frequently at odds with leader Brian Jean, remains in his high-profile role as Official Opposition Finance & Treasury critic after a shuffle of critic portfolios in the Wildrose caucus this week.

Brian Jean

But according to the MLA committee membership list released on Dec. 13, 2016, Fildebrandt is no longer Chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, a role he has filled since June 2015. The chair of the financial oversight committee is traditionally filled by an MLA from the Official Opposition. Fildebrandt has been replaced by Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA Scott Cyr.

While relinquishing the chair role could be seen as a demotion caused by conflict with his party’s leadership, it likely means that Fildebrandt, a former director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and aggressive critic of the NDP, can now play a more active and vocal role on the committee.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

The Wildrose shuffle included new assignments for Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes as Energy critic, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao as Health critic, Chestermere-Rockyview MLA Leela Aheer as Education Critic, Airdrie MLA Angela Pitt as Justice & Solicitor General critic, Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken as Jobs & Labour critic, and Little Bow MLA Dave Schneider as Agriculture critic. The capable and quick on his feet Nathan Cooper remains House Leader. (See a full list here)

The Wildrose caucus also shuffled their MLA committee membership:

  • Prasad Panda replaces Grant Hunter as a member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
  • Glenn van Dijken replaces Dave Schneider as Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future.
  • Leela Aheer replaces Ron Orr as a member of the Standing Committee on Families and Communities
  • Angela Pitt replaces Nathan Cooper as a member of the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices
  • Nathan Cooper replaces Derek Fildebrandt as a member of the Standing Committee on Members’ Services
  • Todd Loewen replaces Leela Aheer as a member of the Standing Committee on Resource Stewardship
  • Angela Pitt and Glenn van Dijken become members of the Select Special Ombudsman and Public Interest Commissioner Search Committee.
Finance Minister Joe Ceci presents the Alberta NDP's first budget.

Sky does not fall as Alberta NDP presents its first budget

When Finance Minister Joe Ceci stood in the Legislature on Oct. 27 to deliver the Alberta NDP’s first budget, it marked the first time since 1972 that the budget was not tabled by a Progressive Conservative finance minister.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

The first budget of Premier Rachel Notley‘s NDP government includes a 15 percent increase in capital spending over the next five years, with a goal to create jobs and tackle the province’s aging and neglected hospitals, schools, roads and other public infrastructure.

The NDP budget includes modest increases and projected stable funding for health care, education, advanced education and human services – core services that Albertans depend on. This was a key component of the election platform that helped propel the NDP into government on May 5. The job creation and economic stimulus elements of the budget followed last week’s creation of an Economic Development and Trade portfolio, led by Edmonton MLA Deron Bilous.

Deron Bilous Edmonton Alberta MLA Minister

Deron Bilous Edmonton Alberta MLA Minister

A projected $6.1 billion deficit in the NDP budget is larger than the $5 billion deficit presented in the Tory spring budget, which was tabled but never passed. But the Alberta government’s eighth consecutive deficit budget is “…hardly sky is falling territory,” wrote University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe in Maclean’s Magazine this week.

While not trivial, obviously, it is completely manageable. Alberta is fully able to handle it and no one need panic. It represents 1.8 per cent of the province’s GDP, which is fairly small, as far as some deficits go,” Dr. Tombe wrote.

The NDP government will borrow to pay for parts of its operations budget starting next year, which will hopefully be a short-term move. Decades of bad financial management and poor long-term planning by the previous conservative government has exacerbated the provincial government’s current fiscal situation. The PCs simply became too comfortable and dependent on unreliable revenue from natural resource royalties to fund the province’s operations budget.

Jim Prentice Alberta Premier

Jim Prentice

Mr. Ceci also announced that the government would legislate a debt ceiling of 15 percent debt-to-GDP in order to hold off a risk of credit downgrades and higher debt service costs.

Former premier Jim Prentice was correct last year when he warned about getting “off the royalty roller coaster.” The Alberta government faces serious revenue problems and moving Alberta away from its over dependence on resource revenue will be a significant test of Ms. Notley’s first term in government.

Any plan to deal with the revenue problem will likely come after the government receives a much anticipated report from the royalty review panel chaired by ATB President and CEO Dave Mowat. The panel is expected to finalize its recommendations by the end of the year. But it will not be enough to simply wait for the international price of oil to rise again. Albertans need to have a serious conversation about revenue and taxation, including the potential introduction of a provincial sales tax.

Derek Fildebrandt Alberta Taxpayers

Derek Fildebrandt

To no ones surprise, Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean and finance critic Derek Fildebrandt responded to the NDP budget with outrage and a message filled with apocalyptic rhetoric.

Mr. Jean’s post-budget press conference was somewhat overshadowed by Mr. Fildebrandt’s bizarre decision to refuse to answer a question from Globe & Mail reporter Carrie Tait (see the ~8:50 mark in this video). Mr. Fildebrandt is sour from a recent interview Ms. Tait published in which she quotes him as claiming the NDP duped Alberta voters by actually implementing promises made during the election (and he later referred to Ms. Tait as a b-list reporter and accused her of auditioning for a job in the Premier’s Office – a comment he later retracted).

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

A joint opinion-editorial written by Wildrose MLAs Rick Strankman (Drumheller-Stettler), Grant Hunter (Cardston-Taber-Warner), and Don MacIntyre (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake) and Dave Schneider (Little Bow) and circulated to rural weekly newspapers in September 2015 provides some sense of how that party would approach provincial budgeting if elected to government:

“When governments borrow and spend, there’s no marketable asset. There’s only debt. It’s like using a credit card to buy pizza. Even when governments borrow to spend on bridges and highways rather than programs, the debt is still not connected to a marketable asset. It’s a liability. Mortgages can be liquidated. Houses can be sold. Who buys used government bridges and worn-out highways?”

This is a crude ideological approach to public governance. Using capital financing to pay for the construction and maintenance of public infrastructure like hospitals, schools, bridges and roads is nothing like using a credit card to buy a pizza.

The Alberta NDP’s first provincial budget is sensible and reflects the thoughtful approach that has defined the first six months of Ms. Notley’s tenure as Alberta’s Premier. Rather than follow a disastrous road taken by some of her predecessors, and slash funding to government services while the price of oil is low, the NDP government is taking an opportunity to invest in much needed public infrastructure when the economy is slow and the price is right. It’s not a brand new approach in Alberta politics, but it is refreshing to see a government focus on building rather than tearing down.