Tag Archives: Dave Taylor

United Conservative Party candidates Rajan Sawhney, Mickey Amery, Jasraj Singh Hallan, and Elisabeth Hughes

UCP leads nominations with candidates selected in 58 of 87 districts

Photo: United Conservative Party candidates Rajan Sawhney, Mickey Amery, Jasraj Singh Hallan, and Elisabeth Hughes.

Good evening, here is the latest update of nomination races and candidates preparing to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. As of this evening, the United Conservative Party has nominated candidates in 58 of 87 districts, the Alberta Party has nominated 42 candidates, the New Democratic Party has nominated 24 candidates, the Liberal Party has nominated 5 candidates, and the Green Party has nominated 3 candidates.

The UCP held five candidate selection meetings over the past week.

Mickey Amery defeated Roshan Chumber, Sherrisa Celis and Emile Gabriel to secure the UCP nomination in Calgary-Cross. Amery is the son of former Progressive Conservative MLA Moe Amery, who represented Calgary-East from 1993 to 2015 and ran in east Calgary in every provincial election between 1986 and 2015. 

Peter Singh defeated Matthew Dirk, Issa Mosa, past PC Party candidate Jamie Lall, former city councillor Andre Chabot, and Manjit Jaswal to win the UCP nomination in Calgary-East. Singh is the past president of the Fiji Canada Association of Calgary and he ran for the PC nomination in Calgary-Fort ahead of the 2015 election.

Jasraj Singh Hallan defeated Amarjit Banwait, Usman Mahmood, and Jangbahadur Sidhu to win the UCP nomination in Calgary-McCall.  McCall is currently represented by New Democratic Party MLA and cabinet minister Irfan Sabir and was represented by Liberal MLA Darshan Kang from 2008 to 2015. 

Rajan Sawhney defeated Anand Chetty and Mandeep Shergill to secure the UCP nomination in Calgary-North East. Sawhney is Vice President of Business Development for Fracture Modeling IncPakistan Canada Association Calgary general secretary Tariq Khan’s nomination was not accepted by party. Shergill works as Chief of Staff to Calgary-Greenway Independent MLA Prab Gill, who left the UCP caucus in July 2018 following allegations of ballot-stuffing at a constituency association annual general meeting.

Elisabeth Hughes defeated Ian Crawford, Payman Parseyan, and Nawaz Panhwer to secure the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Whitemud. She currently works as a constituency assistant in the office of Edmonton-Riverbend Member of Parliament Matt Jeneroux.

Nomination Meetings this Week

There are three scheduled nomination meetings being held this week:

November 5, 2018 – 2015 Wildrose Party candidate Terry Devries, Amoriza GunninkNicholas Milliken, past federal Conservative nomination candidate Dan Morrison, and Bettina Pierre-Gilles are seeking the UCP nomination in Calgary-Currie. Anthony Parker’s candidacy was not accepted by the UCP. Gunnink has been endorsed by Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt and Pierre-Gilles has been endorsed by Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon.

November 6 & 7, 2018 – Former Morinville town councillor and 2015 Wildrose Party candidate Joe Gosselin, Legal town councillor Trina Jones, Dale Nally, and former Sturgeon County mayor and 2015 Wildrose nomination candidate Don Rigney are seeking the UCP nomination in Morinville-St. Albert.Gibbons town councillor Amber Harris withdrew her candidacy for the nomination on November 2, 2018. Rigney’s endorsements page on his website appears to have been reused from his 2013 mayoral re-election campaign, including a testimonial from now deceased former Social Credit MLA Keith Everitt.

November 8, 2018 – NDP MLA Barb Miller is expected to be acclaimed for her party’s nomination in Red Deer-South. Miller was elected in 2015 with 35.9 percent of the vote in a three-way race.


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

Angela Kokott Alberta Party Calgary Mountain View

Angela Kokott

Calgary-Falconridge – Raman Gill is seeking the UCP nomination. Happy Mann’s candidacy appears to have been rejected by the UCP. Mann was alleged to have been involved in a incident where a local reporter was assaulted. Mann was the Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-McCall in the 2015 election and Calgary-Cross in the 2012 election.

Calgary-Mountain View – Long-time radio journalist Angela Kokott has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate. Many Calgarians will know Kokott as the host of Calgary Today on NewsTalk 770. She is the third 770 host to jump into provincial politics in recent history, following Dave Taylor, who served as the MLA for Calgary-Currie from 2004 to 2008 (as a Liberal, then an Independent and Alberta Party MLA), and Mike Blanchard, who ran for the Wildrose Party in Calgary-Buffalo in 2012.

Calgary-North – Melanie Wen has withdrawn her candidacy for the Alberta Party in this district. She had been nominated on October 4, 2018.

Edmonton-Manning – Keli Tamaklo is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Edmonton-North West– Emerson Mayers is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Mayers was recently a candidate for City Council in Ward 4. He ran for the Progressive Conservative Party in Edmonton-Strathcona in the 2012 election and previously sought the Liberal Party nomination in Edmonton-Manning in 1997, the PC nomination in Edmonton-Manning in 2008, the PC nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood in 2012, and the PC nomination in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview in 2015.

Richard Feehan NDP Edmonton Rutherford MLA

Richard Feehan

Edmonton-RutherfordRichard Feehan is seeking the NDP nomination for re-election in 2019. Feehan was first elected in 2015, earning 63.9 percent of the vote. He now serves as Minister of Indigenous Relations and Deputy Government House Leader.

Edmonton-Strathcona – It was never in doubt, but Premier Rachel Notley has officially announced her plans to seek re-election in the district she has represented since 2008. Notley was re-elected with 82.4 percent of the vote in 2015. With the exception of one-term from 1993 to 1997, this district has been represented by the NDP since 1986.

Grande PrairieGrant Berg is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Berg is the owner of Grant Berg Gallery and the former general manager of Big Country FM and 2Day Fm.

Lesser Slave LakeJuliette Noskey is seeking the UCP nomination. Noskey is executive director of the Loon River First Nation

Red Deer-SouthHaley Wile has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest after it was revealed she accepted an illegal campaign contribution from the Red Deer Motors car dealership. Corporate donations to political candidates were prohibited in 2015.

Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright – Chris Carnell has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest. Carnell has served as a trustee with the Lloydminster Catholic School Division since 2012. He previously served as a councillor in the Village of Frontier, Saskatchewan, and was nominated as the Green Party candidate in Cypress Hills-Grasslands ahead of the 2011 federal election but did contest the election.

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!

24-hours in the life of a student leader the day tuition was removed from legislation

Photo: ACTISEC President Jon Hoffman, Public Interest Alberta executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Liberal MLA Dave Taylor, NDP MLA Raj Pannu, and CAUS Chairperson Dave Cournoyer in the media room at the Alberta Legislature on May 9, 2006.

This week’s news about the Alberta Government extending the tuition freeze and legislating the formula to increase tuition reminded me of the day I came very close to being kicked out of the Legislature.

Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt introduced Bill 19: An Act to Improve the Affordability and Accessibility of Post-Secondary Education in the Legislative Assembly this week. If passed, Bill 19 will implement a new framework that will regulate tuition and mandatory non-instructional fees and provide a new measure of fairness for students enrolled at Alberta’s colleges and universities.

Bill 19 will cap each post-secondary institutions average tuition and apprenticeship fee increases to the Consumer Price Index and allow the minister to regulate mandatory non-instructional fees and international student tuition. It also gives student leaders a more meaningful voice in the process.

These are significant changes but, closer to the heart of this writer, Schmidt is bringing Alberta’s tuition policy out from behind the closed doors of the government boardrooms and returning it to public light in legislation.

In 2006, I was elected Vice-President External of the University of Alberta Students’ Union and chosen as chairperson of the Council of Alberta University Students, an organization that represented undergraduate students from the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, and the University of Lethbridge. It was a interesting time to be a student leader in Alberta. The price of oil was high and political change was in the air.

After 13 years as premier, Ralph Klein was approaching the end of his time in office, and he was backtracking on a pledge made during a 2005 televised address that Alberta would have the most affordable tuition in Canada.

It happened that May 9, 2006 was an exciting and dramatic day to step in a new role as chairperson of CAUS. Then-Minister of Advanced Education Denis Herard announced he would introduce Bill 40: Post-secondary Learning Amendment Act, which would remove the tuition formula from the Post-Secondary Learning Act and move it into regulations. The formula as it then existed was complicated and needed to be reformed, but removing it from legislation meant that future changes to how much tuition could be raised in Alberta would be made in a closed door cabinet meeting, rather than required to be debated in front of the public on the floor of the Legislative Assembly.

The leaders of Alberta’s student movement were concerned that removing the policy from legislation would lead to further increases, rather than the affordability Klein had promised.

We decided that a quick response was best.

My first full-day as CAUS chairperson started with an early morning press conference in the media room in the basement of the Alberta Legislature Building.It was my first time participating in a press conference of any kind where I would be front and centre.

I was joined by Public Interest Alberta executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon, ACTISEC president Jon Hoffman, and the Advanced Education critics from the Liberal and New Democratic Party critics, Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor and Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Raj Pannu.

It was a big deal at the time that the Liberal and NDP critics joined us at the press conference, and it may have been the first time the two parties had ever participated in a press conference together. I remember there were some moments of heated dispute between staffers from the two opposition caucuses about which critic would speak first, and I recall the issue was settled in favour of Pannu because the NDP Caucus had booked the media room for the press conference.

The media room was packed with reporters as we read our statements arguing for transparency and accountability of the cost of education. It was the first time I had ever done something like this and it was nerve racking. Without the help of Moore-Kilgannon (who is now Minister Schmidt’s Chief of Staff) and the incredibly resourceful Duncan Wojtaszek, then-executive director of CAUS, I am not sure I would have even had my talking points straight.

It was political maneuvering on our part to hold the early morning press conference. We hoped to pre-empt a press conference that the minister of advanced education was scheduled to hold on the same topic later that morning. Little did we know that Herard would never show up to his own press conference.

After our media event ended we did a few more interviews and later joined the representatives from the University of Calgary Students’ Union for a tour of the Legislature. While on the tour, NDP Caucus staffer Tony Clark rushed to tell us that the minister had canceled his press conference and snuck out of the building before the media could track him down.

With that news in hand, we held an impromptu media scrum on the third floor of the Legislature. It wasn’t until I spotted Klein walk past our scrum that I realized that we had planted ourselves right outside the doors of Room 307 – the Premier’s Office – which was apparently considered a major security violation.

To our surprise, after the scum ended and the reporters disbursed to file their stories, U of A SU president Samantha Power and I were escorted by Legislature security to the front doors of the building. The guards gave us a stern talk about why we weren’t allowed to hold a scrum outside the Premier’s Office. After some heated negotiations, we convinced the guards that evicting us and presumably banning us from re-entering the building would result in us holding another press conference on the Legislature steps minutes later.

I didn’t believe that day could get any more exciting but I was proven wrong when CAUS received an urgent call from the Minister Herard’s office. He wanted to meet with us as soon as possible.

We met with the minister a few hours later in a conference room at the Delta Hotel in downtown Edmonton. The meeting was memorable but completely underwhelming. The minister listened to our arguments why keeping the tuition policy in legislation would ensure transparency and accountability for students but he offered nothing more than platitudes and strange metaphors in return.

Herard’s short time in cabinet would be remembered for his desire to “cross the wisdom bridge” and “build an army of mentors.”

Eight days later, Progressive Conservative MLAs voted to remove the tuition policy from legislation by passing Bill 40. The minister was shuffled into the backbenchers later that year when Ed Stelmach entered the Premier’s Office.

At the press conference early that morning, I told the assembled media that students were prepared to wait until the next time the legislature met to have a new policy implemented, so that the policy would be embedded in an act of the legislature. If the tuition policy was not in legislation, it was no good to us, I said.

I never expected the policy to ever be returned to legislation. And while the fight to lower the cost of and eliminate tuition fees needs to continue, 12 years later the tuition policy is finally out from behind closed doors and back where it should be – enshrined in legislature. And it is a big deal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A History of Leaders Debates in Alberta Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All roads lead to Red Deer and the Alberta Party for homeless politicos

Red Deer and the Alberta Party are frequent destinations for disaffected politicos in search of a new political home.

Katherine O'Neill

Katherine O’Neill

Led by former Progressive Conservative Party president Katherine O’Neill and backed for former cabinet minister Stephen Mandel, disaffected Tories are booking their flights to the central Alberta city this weekend to discuss bringing centrists “together,” presumably under the banner of the Alberta Party. The Alberta Together political action committee, led by O’Neill, has been created to search for a new home for centrists unhappy with the rightward direction of the established Conservative parties in the province.

The Alberta Party has been home to some very different stripes of politicos since it was founded in the early 1980s. The party had little success as a fringe right-wing Alberta separatist party during its first two decades of existence and made minor headlines when it was involved in unsuccessful merger negotiations with the Alberta Alliance (the predecessor of the Wildrose Party) in the mid-2000s.

It was only a only a few short years ago that another group of disaffected political activists, mostly Liberals and Greens, with a few PCs and New Democrats tossed in the mix (including myself), also met in Red Deer to discuss the creation of a new political… something. Those meetings back in 2010, following the landslide victory that Premier Ed Stelmach led the PCs to in 2008, led to the creation of what has become the current version of the Alberta Party.

Dave Taylor MLA

Dave Taylor

The party, which was nothing more than a great name at the time, was inherited by former Green Party supporters in 2009 (the Green Party of Alberta was disbanded in 2009) and soon after Hinton mayor and past NDP candidate Glenn Taylor became the party’s leader. Two-term Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor became the party’s first MLA in 2011 after he left the then-Official Opposition Liberals.

The reinvention of the Alberta Party in 2010 dramatically shifted the tiny party into the limelight for a short period in the early 2010s, when it was seen as a potential successor to the failing Liberal Party brand in Alberta. But Stelmach’s decision to retire and Alison Redford’s ascendancyto what at the time looked like a reinvigorated ProgressiveConservative Party stole the wind from the Alberta Party’s sails.

The Alberta Party bandied around merger discussions with the Liberal Party before the 2012and 2015 elections, but nothing came of it. Rather than merging or accepting a floor crossing, the Alberta Party decided to endorse Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman’s re-election bid in Edmonton-Centre in 2015 (the five-term MLA was defeated by New Democrat David Shepherd in the orange tidal wave that swept the capital city).

Laurie Blakeman MLA Edmonton-Centre Liberal

Laurie Blakeman

Alberta Party leader Greg Clark, who worked as a Liberal Caucus staffer in the mid-1990s, was elected as the MLA for Calgary-Elbow in 2015. And since then, Clark has tried to position his party as a new home (and a safe refuge) for PCs who are uncomfortable with Jason Kenney’s social conservative leadership and the planned merger with the Wildrose Party to create the United Conservative Party.

Like those disaffected Liberals, Greens and New Democrats who gathered under the Alberta Party banner in the early 2010s to create a new alternative to the PCs, this group of disaffected PCs are gravitating toward the Alberta Party to create a new alternative. Some of the big names associated with the weekend gathering were involved in the PC Party’s epic defeat to Rachel Notley’s NDP in the 2015 election.

The Alberta Party is a blank slate with a great name, and a home for disaffected politicos without a home. Whether or not this latest group to wander over will make themselves at home in the Alberta Party is yet to be determined.

Thousands of Albertans packed the Legislature Grounds to watch Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP cabinet be sworn-in.

NDP hires political strategist Corey Hogan to run the Public Affairs Bureau

Political strategist Corey Hogan has been hired as the government’s new managing director of the Public Affairs Bureau. He replaces Mark Wells, who announced last week that he was leaving after a year in the job. Mr. Wells previously served as director of communications with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, the province’s largest public sector union.

Corey Hogan

Corey Hogan

The two sentence biography included in today’s government press statement does not do Mr. Hogan justice.

Corey Hogan has more than a decade of experience in communications, advertising and engagement. Most recently he served as the Chief Strategy Officer at Northweather, a digital communications consultancy based in Calgary.

Known to political watchers most recently for his contribution to the popular The Strategists podcast, which released its final episode last week, Mr. Hogan was already a fixture in Alberta politics before the podcast was launched. He made a name for himself as an organizer for Stephane Dion during the 2006 federal Liberal leadership convention and later in provincial politics when he worked as the campaign manager for Calgary MLA Dave Taylor‘s 2009 leadership bid and executive director and campaign strategist for the provincial Liberal Party until after the 2012 election. Two years later he was a strategist for Alberta Party leader Greg Clark’s campaign during the 2014 Calgary-Elbow by-election.

He later worked for the global public relations firm Hill & Knowlton before founding a new company, Northweather.

Not always a backroom strategist, Mr. Hogan aspired for public office in 2009 when he ran, unsuccessfully, for the Liberal Party nomination ahead of the Calgary-Glenmore by-election. That campaign saw former Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman eke out a narrow win over Liberal Avalon Roberts, providing a spark that helped propel the then-fledgeling fringe party to Official Opposition in 2012.

He was spotted earlier this year attending the NDP’s convention in Calgary and was jokingly referred to as “the Orange apologist” by podcast co-contributors Zain Velji and Stephen Carter for his progressive views on The Strategists podcast.

I admit to being initially surprised when I heard that Mr. Hogan was hired for this role. This is not because I do not believe he is capable, I expect he is, but I half expected that the new managing director would be a former NDP staffer from Manitoba, Ontario or British Columbia, where many of this government’s top political talent hails from. Mr. Hogan is a smart political operator, comes from outside the traditional NDP establishment, and has experience in Alberta politics.

As a progressive Calgarian, he will bring a different perspective into the halls of government in Edmonton and a new focus on digital communications that past Public Affairs Bureau directors may not have had. He recently launched the Canada15 online campaign, which asked the question: why can’t the federal government bring in $15 national minimum wage in every province all across Canada?

Clear and strategic communications has been a source of weakness for Premier Rachel Notley‘s NDP since it formed government in 2015. Significant communications failures around issues such as changes to farm safety legislation and a court challenge to power purchase agreements have caused the government embarrassment and cost the NDP support in the polls.

Mr. Hogan is joining a government that must simultaneously climb a steep hill and fight an uphill battle if it wants to successfully convince Albertans to embrace and accept the long list of aggressive policy changes, including the NDP’s flagship Climate Leadership Plan.

The NDP have hired a smart and strategic political operator in Corey Hogan. Now they would do well to listen to his advice.

Coming Soon: Calgary-Elbow and Edmonton-Whitemud by-elections

Calgary Elbow Map By-Election

The Wildrose Party has described the Calgary-Elbow by-election as “ground zero.”

With provincial by-elections in Alberta’s two biggest cities expected to be called soon, opposition parties are gearing up to challenge two unelected cabinet ministers running under the Progressive Conservative banner.

Dates for the by-election votes have not been scheduled and a third by-election for Premier Jim Prentice is also expected to take place. Mr. Prentice is expected to run in the Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill constituency.

By-elections are risky for incumbent governments, as they give voters an opportunity to send a message without changing government. These votes will provide the first indications whether Albertans are satisfied with Mr. Prentice’s ability to rebrand the scandal-plagued 43-year old PC Party Government.

Calgary-Elbow

Calgary-Elbow Alberta MLA Map By-Election

The results of election and by-elections held in Calgary-Elbow since 2004 (four main parties included, with the Alberta Alliance counted as the Wildrose Party in the 2004 and 2007 votes).

Trigged by the resignation of former Premier Alison Redford, this by-election has been described as “ground zero” by the opposition Wildrose Party. Many of the neighbourhoods in this constituency were devastated by last year’s floods and I am told that many locals remain disappointed with the provincial government’s response in repairing the damage. Not surprisingly, many residents also remain very disappointed with the performance of their former PC MLA.

Newly appointed Education Minister Gordon Dirks, 67, has been acclaimed as the Progressive Conservative candidate. Mr. Dirks is a former Calgary school trustee and Saskatchewan PC MLA. His appointment to cabinet was a surprise to most political watchers.

Conservative activist Pat Walsh had announced plans to seek the PC nomination, but stepped aside last week to clear the way for Mr. Dirks’ acclamation. But this week, in a strange move, Mr. Walsh has endorsed Wildrose candidate John Fletcher.

Mr. Fletcher is a retired Canadian Forces Colonel and is a candidate the Wildrose believes can defeat the unelected Education minister.

The Liberals are looking to candidate Susan Wright to regain some of their former support in Calgary-Elbow. The Liberals won the constituency in a 2007 by-election to replace Mr. Klein, but lost it Ms. Redford the following year. While the Liberals have had a strong base of support in the constituency in previous elections, the party’s support plummeted in 2012. This by-election will test whether Dr. Raj Sherman’s Liberals are a viable political force in Calgary.

This will be Alberta Party leader Greg Clark’s second time running as a candidate in Calgary-Elbow, but this time he will have the support of celebrity political strategist Stephen Carter (formerly of the PC Party) and former Liberal Party campaign manager Corey Hogan. The Alberta Party briefly held a seat in the Assembly before the 2012 election, when former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor, who represented the neighbouring Calgary-Currie, joined their ranks. Mr. Clark hopes that he can become his party’s second-ever MLA.

The NDP have nominated lawyer Stephanie McLean as their candidate. Both of the MLAs in the NDP leadership contest – Rachel Notley and David Eggen – have said that expanding their party’s support in Calgary is key to success. Here is their opportunity to start earning votes.

Sure to cause a stir among die-hard New Democrats is Ms. McLean’s endorsement of popular Liberal MLA Kent Hehr’s campaign to become the federal Liberal candidate in Calgary-Centre.

I am told that the Green Party of Alberta has decided not to run a candidate in this by-election. It is unclear why they are sitting it out.

Constituency Association Net Assets, Calgary-Elbow, 2013
Progressive Conservative: $207,972.97
Wildrose: $72,625.47
Liberals: $540.79
NDP – $0
Alberta Party: $2,465.16

Edmonton-Whitemud

Edmonton Whitemud Map By-Election

A map of the Edmonton-Whitemud constituency.

The PC Party’s longest-held constituency in Edmonton, Edmonton-Whitemud was represented by former Premier Dave Hancock from 1997 until his resignation last week.

Newly appointed Health Minister Stephen Mandel, 69, has been acclaimed as the PC candidate. The former three-term Edmonton Mayor remains popular among many Edmontonians and it is unclear whether he will face any serious challengers.

So far, the only candidate to step up to challenge him is Alberta Party President Will Munsey. An amiable character, Mr. Munsey ran under his party’s banner in the Leduc-Beaumont constituency in the last provincial election and as a Green Party candidate in Vegreville-Wainwright in the 2011 federal election.

Edmonton-Whitemud By-Election

The results of election and by-elections held in Edmonton-Whitemud since 2004 (four main parties included, with the Alberta Alliance counted as the Wildrose Party in the 2004 vote).

The Liberals have yet to announce a candidate, but I am told that the party is working hard to recruit a former Edmonton Liberal MLA to run in the by-election. Similar to Elbow, the Whitemud by-election will test whether Dr. Sherman’s Liberals can regain their former strength in Edmonton.

As far as I am aware, no candidates have publicly declared their intentions to seek the Wildrose or NDP nominations at the time this column was published.

UPDATE: In the comment section of this blog, Dr. Bob Turner announced that he will be the NDP candidate in the Edmonton-Whitemud by-election.

Constituency Association Net Assets, Edmonton-Whitemud, 2013
PC = $32,366.72
Wildrose: $4,486.82
Liberal – $1,528.40
NDP – $286.77
Alberta Party: $1,171.76

Alberta politics fact: While located in two different cities, the constituencies of Calgary-Elbow and Edmonton-Whitemud both include some of Alberta’s wealthiest neighbourhoods. Both have also been represented by two Premiers (Elbow by Ralph Klein and Ms. Redford, and Whitemud by Don Getty and Mr. Hancock).

Alberta politics last week

After spending some much needed time relaxing in beautiful British Columbia, I returned to Alberta this week and noticed some of the political stories that occurred during my absence. Here are some of the top political stories from last week that caught my attention:

Political games in High River
Buckling under the pressure of constant opposition criticism, rookie Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths lost his cool this week when responding to Wildrose leader Danielle Smith‘s latest salvo. Ms. Smith, the MLA for the High River area, has taken advantage of allegations that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police overstepped their authority by removing privately-owned firearms from private residences during the High River flood evacuation earlier this year. As masters of wedge-issue politics in Alberta, the Wildrose Party appears to be using every political tool they can to solidify Ms. Smith’s base in that area by wedging voters away from the Tories.

Another Alberta Health Services shake-up
David Climenhaga has an excellent analysis of the political implications of Health Minister Fred Horne‘s recent changes to Alberta Health Services executive structure, Janet Davidson‘s appointment as Deputy Minister of Health and whether this actually constitutes a significant change.

Alberta Party leadership race
Two candidates – Greg Clark and Troy Millington – have stepped forward to contest the Alberta Party leadership selection being held on September 21, 2013 in Red Deer. Although the party experienced a significant amount of growth before the 2012 provincial election, including gaining an MLA in former Calgary-Currie Liberal Dave Taylor, the party was unable to elect any candidates to the Assembly on Election Day. The contest is being held to replace former party leader Glenn Taylor, who stepped down shortly after last year’s election.

Sex and the suburbs…
Two-term Strathcona County Councillor Jason Gariepy made national headlines this week when he publicly announced that someone was trying to blackmail him with explicit photos and emails collected during an illicit online relationship. No stranger to controversy, Councillor Gariepy was the centre of attention in the 2010 election when he claimed an email critical of the provincial government was the reason county administrators removed his Blackberry and computer privileges. In 2011, Councillor Gariepy made an unsuccessful bid for the Wildrose Party nomination in Strathcona-Sherwood Park.

Lordly, lordly…
Former Progressive Conservative MLA Jon Lord announced his plans to challenge mayor Naheed Nenshi in Calgary’s upcoming municipal elections. Mr. Lord, also a former Alderman, most recently challenged Joan Crockatt for the federal Conservative nomination in last year’s Calgary-Centre by-election. Unscientific polls show Mayor Nenshi holds 99.6% support among Calgarians.

Alberta Party decides to remain an Alberta party. Could a Liberal merger be next?

Alberta Party Logo

The Alberta Party

Members of Alberta’s eternally optimistic political party, the Alberta Party, met in Calgary for their annual general meeting this past weekend.

Dave Taylor MLA

Dave Taylor

At the meeting, members debated and decided to remain a political party. After the party’s less than stellar debut in the May 2012 provincial election, the party’s only ever MLA, Dave Taylor, penned a blog post suggesting the party fold or become a think-tank. In the spring election, with 38 candidates province-wide, the party earned 1.3% of the vote.

Having elected no MLAs in the last election and being leaderless since the resignation of Glenn Taylor this summer, the Alberta Party could have easily folded and moved on into the sunset.

On May 25, 2012, in response to Dave Taylor’s comments, I wrote:

The focus on the “Big Listen” process gave that party an opportunity to demonstrate what it was doing differently than the other parties, but it did not successfully articulate to the general public why this made them an alternative to the long-governing Tories. By simply defining itself as a moderate party, the Alberta Party deprived itself of any natural electoral base and positioned itself in an already highly competitive area on the political spectrum. Their message became even more difficult to articulate once the media narrative dominated by the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose Party was solidified.

This year was a bad time for moderate or progressive opposition parties in Alberta. With the Tories selecting a moderate leader in Alison Redford, many traditional Liberal voters and potential Alberta Party voters flocked to or remained with the PC Party.

Raj Sherman Liberal Party leader Election 2012

Raj Sherman

More than a few people have suggested that the Alberta Party merge with the Liberal Party, which dropped from eight to five MLAs in the spring election. With provincial New Democrats celebrating their 50th anniversary at their convention in Edmonton this weekend and reaffirmed its opposition to merging with other opposition parties, most mainstream political pundits did not pay much attention to the Alberta Party meeting, but attendees Tweeted that Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman and Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr popped in to say “hi,” as did Evergreen Party leader Larry Ashmore.

If I were the leader of a political party which has failed to form government for more than 80 years, I would be eyeing the Alberta Party’s biggest asset, its name. In a land where the Liberal brand is dirt, most diehard Liberals would still likely oppose any merger that included a name-change.

The Alberta Party faces an incredible challenge if it seriously wants to build a functional political organization before the next election, and just having a great name will not be enough.

calgary-centre by-election nominations take a strange turn.

The Calgary-Centre Conservative Party nomination contest took a turn for the strange over the past few weeks.

Originally shaping up to be a three-candidate contest, Alderman John Mar and former Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation chairman Andy Crooks dropped out of the race earlier this summer, leaving political commentator Joan Crockatt as the lone survivor of the original three candidates in the nomination contest.

Jon Lord Calgary-Centre Conservative

Jon Lord

Video store owner, former Alderman and Progressive Conservative MLA Jon Lord is one of the new candidates to enter the contest. Mr. Lord placed a distant sixth in his bid to become Mayor of Calgary in 2010 and was unsuccessful in his attempt to win back the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie before the recent provincial election. In the 2004 provincial election, Mr. Lord was unseated as MLA by Liberal Dave Taylor.

Lawyer Rick Billington has also joined the contest. Mr. Billington is a long-time Conservative Party director in the neighbouring riding of Calgary-Southwest. His website biography lists him as having participated in the Leaders Debate preparation team for Premier Alison Redford during the 2012 Alberta election.

Also running are Stefan Spargo, who was former MP Lee Richardson‘s campaign manager and also made an unsuccessful bid for the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie, and past Conservative riding president Greg McLean, who entered the contest last week.

Calgary Joe Soares

“Calgary Joe” Soares

Perhaps the strangest candidate to join the Conservative nomination contest is Quebec political advisor and Ottawa-area resident Joe Soares – who describes himself as “Calgary Joe.” It is not known whether Mr. Soares has spent any significant amount of time in Calgary or has any connection to the city or the province of Alberta.

The messaging on Mr. Soares’ website is a textbook case of negative partisanship, taking aim at New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair, who he accuses of wanting to destroy Alberta’s economy. The political insider also takes aim at the perceived frontrunner Ms. Crockatt, who he accuses of defending former Ontario Conservative MP Belinda Stronach when she crossed the floor to the Liberal Party in 2005 (which I imagine is a top of mind issue for Conservative Party members in Calgary-Centre).

The date of the Conservative nomination vote has not yet been set, though the deadline to enter the contest occurred last week.

Despite rumours that popular Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann might enter the Liberal Party nomination contest (or the NDP contest), only two candidates will be on the ballot at the vote on September 15, 2012. Lawyer and former Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association President Harvey Locke and educator Rahim Sajan.

Past candidate William Hamilton has already declared his interest in running for the Green Party and author Chris Turner told the Calgary Herald that he is considering seeking the nomination.

Anne McGrath NDP

Anne McGrath

Their status as Official Opposition in Ottawa does not seem to have generated wide interest in the NDP nomination. I have heard very little about who the NDP candidate in this by-election could be.

However unlikely, the latest speculation I have heard is that some party members are trying to draft Anne McGrath to carry her party’s banner in the downtown Calgary riding. Ms. McGrath is the former President of the NDP and chief of staff to former NDP leader Jack Layton. She ran for the provincial NDP in the Calgary-McCall by-election in 1995.

The newly created Online Party of Canada has attained registered status with Elections Canada just in time to nominate a candidate to run in the Calgary-Centre by-election.

[updated] did jason kenney deepen the conservative divide in calgary-centre?

In light of yesterday’s embarrassing missive by federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney about Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, the race to become the Conservative Party candidate in the yet to be called Calgary-Centre by-election may get more interesting. Suggestions that the by-election could be defined by the deep schism between federal Conservatives (many of whom support the Wildrose Party) and the long-governing provincial Progressive Conservatives may soon become a reality in the lead up to the Conservative Party nomination.

Three in. The Conservative nomination contest.

John Mar Calgary-Centre Conservative

Alderman John Mar

Conservative political pundit and former Calgary Herald editor Joan Crockatt and former Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation board member Andy Crooks were the first two candidates to announce their intentions to seek the Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Centre. Mr. Crooks has already been endorsed by Calgary-West MP Rob Anders, a supporter of the Wildrose Party who is known for his far-right conservative politics.

Mr. Crooks was a signatory to the now famous “Alberta Firewall Letter” in 2001, which was also signed by Conservative luminaries Stephen Harper, Ted Morton, Tom Flanagan, Rainer Knopff, and Ken Boessenkool.

Two-term Calgary Alderman John Mar, recently in the news for his tough on potato farmers stances, entered the contest last week. With ties to the PCs, Alderman Mar could represent the voice of moderate Conservatives in the nomination contest.

Tory victory inevitable? Almost certainly, but…

Joe Clark Calgary-Centre MP

Joe Clark

Unless something cataclysmic occurs in the next six months, it is highly unlikely that the by-election in this riding will result in anything but the election of another Conservative MP. The type of Conservative candidate could effect how strong that outcome is.

Previous elections suggest that Calgary-Centre has a more moderate conservative streak than some other Calgary ridings. In the 2000 federal election, Progressive Conservative leader and former Prime Minister Joe Clark, a Red Tory, returned to the House of Commons by defeating Canadian Alliance MP Eric Lowther in what was one of the closely watched racesin the country. Another moderate Tory, Lee Richardson, continued this trend until his recent resignation.

The Liberal long-shot.

Beena Ashar Liberal Calgary-Centre

Beena Ashar

While it may not translate to votes on the federal level, voters in this riding have a streak of electing non-Conservative representatives on the provincial level, including Liberal MLA’s Kent Hehr and Dave Taylor (Mr. Taylor later joined the Alberta Party).

Fresh off the provincial election trail, Beena Ashar has announced her intentions to seek the Liberal Party nomination. As the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Elbow, Ms. Ashar placed a distant third behind Premier Alison Redford. She also placed third when challenging Ward 5 Alderman Ray Jones in the 2010 municipal election.

Past Liberal candidate and former school board chair Jennifer Pollock announced on Twitter last week that she would not be running in the by-election.

Update: William Hamilton, the 2011 Green Party candidate, has announced that he will seek the Green Party nomination when the election is called. Mr. Hamilton was also the EverGreen Party candidate in Calgary-Elbow in the recent provincial election.

Update (July 24, 2012): Andy Crooks has dropped out of the Conservative nomination.

is there any life left in the [alberta] party?

Sue Huff Dave Taylor Alberta Party

The Alberta Party's former Acting-Leader Sue Huff and MLA Dave Taylor on January 2011.

The only person to sit as an Alberta Party MLA in the Legislative Assembly, former Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor, published some thoughts on his website about the future of that party. Having decided to retire at the last election after two terms as a Liberal, Independent, and finally an Alberta Party MLA, Mr. Taylor is now suggesting his most recent party may want to rethink its existence as a partisan organization.

Mr. Taylor’s decision to criticize the Alberta Party as he leaves the political arena is not uncharacteristic and perhaps should have been expected. Not long after losing the Liberal Party leadership to MLA David Swann in 2008, Mr. Taylor burned many bridges by offering a brutal public critique of his opponent before leaving to sit as an Independent MLA.

Only two years after its reorganization as a new party, the Alberta Party did not do as well as many of its supporters and candidates had hoped it would in the recent election. This election gave that party its first opportunity to develop an electoral base of support, and though it resulted in a small base in a handful of constituencies, it is a critical long-term strategy for any political organization. Unlike the other parties, the stakes were low for the Alberta Party in 2012 because it had almost nothing to lose.

As a member of the Alberta Party and speaker at its founding policy convention, I feel the need to offer some thoughts on this topic.

I do not disagree with all of Mr. Taylor’s comments. Six months ago I expressed mixed-feelings about the direction that party was taking and reflected on some of its missed opportunities. In hindsight, it may be unlikely that party would have been able to take advantage of the opportunities for political gains that were presented.

The focus on the “Big Listen” process gave that party an opportunity to demonstrate what it was doing differently than the other parties, but it did not successfully articulate to the general public why this made them an alternative to the long-governing Tories. By simply defining itself as a moderate party, the Alberta Party deprived itself of any natural electoral base and positioned itself in an already highly competitive area on the political spectrum. Their message became even more difficult to articulate once the media narrative dominated by the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose Party was solidified.

I question Mr. Taylor’s suggestion that the PCs now embody what the Alberta Party stands for. Premier Alison Redford has certainly brought a new positive tone to her party’s leadership, but it is yet to be seen whether this “change from within” can be sustained for any substantial period of time within Alberta’s 41-year old institutional governing party.

With the PCs once again dominating the political centre, and the now former official opposition Liberals nearly decimated, should the Alberta Party, as Mr. Taylor suggests, take on a new role of a think-tank? Should it merge with another political party, like the Liberals? Or should it spend the next four years trying to position itself as an alternative for pragmatic centrists?

who should be invited to the televised leaders’ debate?

Alberta Election Leaders' Debate 2012

PC leader Premier Alison Redford, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, NDP leader Brian Mason, and Liberal leader Raj Sherman.

The televised Leaders’ debate for Alberta’s 2012 election will be aired on April 12 at 6:30pm to 8:00pm on Global Television.

The debate will include Progressive Conservative leader Premier Alison Redford, Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, and NDP leader Brian Mason. Some members of the Alberta Party have voiced disappointment that their leader Glenn Taylor was not invited to participate in the debate.

Glenn Taylor Alberta Party leader Election 2012

Glenn Taylor

The Alberta Party gained a presence in the Assembly in January 2011 when former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor joined that party. Despite strong campaigns from candidates Michael Walters in Edmonton-Rutherford, Sue Huff in Edmonton-Glenora, Tim Osborne in St. Albert, and Norm Kelly in Calgary-Currie, recent polls have placed the party with 2% support province-wide.

If I were making the decisions, I would invite the leader’s from all the political parties to join the televised debate, but because the decision is being made by a private television company I can understand how they came to this conclusion. With only 30 candidates nominated in 87 constituencies, most viewers tuning in to the televised debate will not have the option of voting for an Alberta Party candidate on Election Day. The four other parties are expected to nominate candidates in all 87 constituencies.

What about past leaders’ debates that included parties with no elected MLA’s?

During the 1997 election, both NDP leader Pam Barrett and Social Credit leader Randy Thorsteinson were allowed to participate in the leaders debate. Neither of those parties had elected an MLA in the previous election. The Social Credit Party had not elected an MLA since the 1979 election. During the 2004 election, as the Alberta Alliance leader, Mr. Thorsteinson was not invited to join the televised Leaders; debate, despite his party having an MLA in the Assembly. Just before the election was called, Edmonton-Norwood PC MLA Gary Masyk crossed the floor to the new party.

There is no denying that the Wildrose Party is a force in this election campaign and should be represented in the televised debates, but it is important to remember that neither Ms. Smith or any of her party’s four incumbent MLA’s were elected as Wildrose candidates in the last election. Former leader Paul Hinman returned to the Assembly in a 2009 by-election and Heather Forsyth, Rob Anderson, and Guy Boutilier were elected as PC candidates in 2008 before crossing the floor to join the Wildrose Party in 2010.

Debate in front of an audience.

Instead of holding the televised debate in a sterile and controlled television studio, I would love to see the party leader’s demonstrate their debating skills in front of a live audience. A live audience would add an atmosphere of unpredictability and would force the leaders to speak to both the voters in the room and those watching their television screens.

rookie photos of alberta mlas retiring in 2012.

With an election expected to be held in the next few months and a new Premier setting a new tone, many long-time and not-so-long-time Members of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly have decided that now is time to retire or look for greener pastures.

The nineteen MLAs not seeking re-election are former Premier Ed Stelmach, Ken Kowalski, Iris Evans, Ron Liepert, Mel Knight, Barry McFarland, Janis Tarchuk, Richard Marz, Lloyd Snelgrove, Rob Renner, Hugh MacDonald, Kevin Taft, George Groeneveld, Dave Taylor, Harry Chase, Broyce Jacobs, Ken Allred, and Art Johnston. Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Johnston were defeated in nomination contests in their constituencies.

Rumours circulating suggest that other long-time MLAs are also considering retirement, including Yvonne Fritz and Dave Hancock.

The departures are not limited to MLAs. Yesterday, Liberal Communications Director Brian Leadbetter announced that he will be leaving after a year in the position.

Some of the retiring politicians have spent a decade or more in office, so before the writ is dropped I thought it would be fun to take a look at what some of them looked like in their younger years in office.

Ed Stelmach, MLA for Vegreville-Vermilion (1993-2004), Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville (2004-2012), Premier (2006-2011)

Ed Stelmach, MLA for Vegreville-Viking (1993-2004), Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville (2004-2012), Premier (2006-2011)

Ken Ken Kowalski, MLA for Barrhead (1979-1993), Barrhead-Westlock (1993-2004), Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock (2004-2012) MLA Barrhead

Ken Kowalski, MLA for Barrhead (1979-1993), Barrhead-Westlock (1993-2004), Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock (2004-2012)

Iris Evans 1997 and 2012

Iris Evans, MLA for Sherwood Park (1997-2012)

Rob Renner, MLA for Medicine Hat (1993-2012)

Rob Renner, MLA for Medicine Hat (1993-2012)

Barry McFarland, MLA for Little Bow (1991-2012)

Barry McFarland, MLA for Little Bow (1992-2012)

Kevin Taft, MLA for Edmonton-Riverview (2001-2012)

Kevin Taft, MLA for Edmonton-Riverview (2001-2012)

Janis Tarchuk, MLA for Banff-Cochrane (1997-2012)

Janis Tarchuk, MLA for Banff-Cochrane (1997-2012)

Hugh MacDonald, MLA for Edmonton-Gold Bar (1997-2012)

Hugh MacDonald, MLA for Edmonton-Gold Bar (1997-2012)

Richard Marz, MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills (1997-2012)

Richard Marz, MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills (1997-2012)

january kick-off: big changes or status-quo in 2012?

Fresh back into the new year, it would be easy to assume that January would be a slow month for most of Alberta’s elected officials as they ease back into their regular 80 hour work week. If the first month of recent years are any indication, January has tendency of becoming one of the most tulmoltuoust political months of the year.

In January 2011, Alberta’s political establishment was rocked when Premier Ed Stelmach announces his plans to resign after his party’s political fortunes sagged in the polls and Finance Minister Ted Morton resigned over a dispute about the provincial budget. A week later, Liberal leader David Swann announced his resignation. The day before Premier Stelmach’s resignation, former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor became the first Alberta Party MLA.

In January 2010, backbench Tory MLAs Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth crossed the floor to join the Wildrose Alliance, and were soon joined by a long-time Tory insider. The changes in political alllegences were followed by a smooth cabinet shuffle that moved the controversial bulldog Health Minister Ron Liepert with the sweet talking Gene Zwozdesky.

(And of course, in January 2008, an expected slow news week turned into a media firestorm for this political blogger.)

January 2010 kicked-off a year of political instability (as much as can be imagined in Alberta politics) and January 2011 kicked-off a year of returning to stability (with the replacement of Premier Stelmach with Premier Alison Redford). Will January 2012 kick-off a year of status-quo or big changes on Alberta’s political scene?

In an attempt to avoid the wrath of whatever from high atop the thing, I will not be as bold as other political watchers to predict the exact outcome of the next election. I will predict that the big political change of 2012 will come in the form of new names on the ballot rather than a new party in office. After forty years in office, the Progressives Conservatives have a tight grip on the biggest political stick in Alberta.

“Change from within” is what my Tory friends said when Premier Stelmach led them into the 2008 election and “change from within” is what they are saying as Premier Redford leads them in this year’s election.

looking back at 2011: alberta mla’s who made a difference.

Each year around this time, I compile a list of a handful of Members of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly who I believe deserve mentioning following their political performance over the past year. This is just my list, so please feel free to agree, disagree, or make your own suggestions in the comment section below. Here is my list of MLAs that made a significant impact on Alberta’s political scene in 2011:

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach and his wife Marie Stelmach at the Premier's resignation announcement on January 25, 2011.

Premier Ed Stelmach and his wife, Marie, as he announces his resignation as Premier.

Ed Stelmach (Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville) – Honest Ed – Triggering Alberta’s most significant political event of 2011, Premier Ed Stelmach surprised many political watchers when he announced his retirement after only  four years in the job. Almost immediately, his party’s political fortunes improved, showing increased support in the polls and attracting six candidates to its leadership contest.

Characterized by his opponents as a back-country rural politician, I believe history will be kinder when his achievements, such as the initiation of the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, the creation of the Capital Region Board, and significant public infrastructure investments across the province, are fully realized.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford

Premier Alison Redford

Alison Redford (Calgary-Elbow) – ‘New Hope‘ – Bringing renewed hope of generational renewal to the PC Party, first-term MLA and now Premier Alison Redford set a positive tone after being elected as leader in October 2011. She is smart, well-spoken, and bring a world of experience with her to the office. She still has to answer for the half-fulfilled promises like the creation of a “fixed election period” rather than the promised fixed-election date and empowering the quasi-judicial Health Quality Council, rather than the promised Judicial inquiry, to investigate the intimidation of health care professionals. Her reasonable responses to international corporations questioning Alberta’s environmental record is both refreshing and reasonable, now let us see some action.

Alberta Deputy Premier Doug Horner

Deputy Premier Doug Horner

Doug Horner (Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert) – Steady Second in Command – Placing third in the crowded PC leadership contest, cabinet minister Doug Horner’s support of Ms. Redford on the second ballot of the PC leadership contest helped make her Premier. Now as Deputy Premier and President of the Treasury Board, Minister Horner sits in the powerful position of being his party’s northern Alberta messenger in the next provincial election. This is similar to a role played by his father, Dr. Hugh Horner, when he served as Deputy Premier to Premier Peter Lougheed in the 1970s. He is smart and tough, and is in an ideal position to place himself as Premier Redford’s successor if the next election does not go smoothly for their party.

Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason

NDP Leader Brian Mason

Brian Mason (Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood) – Veteran leader with a cause – With a talented knack for quippy one-liners, NDP leader Brian Mason continues to outshine the other opposition leaders in the media and on the Assembly floor. With the Liberals moving to the political-right in order to compete with the Tories and Wildrose Party, Mr. Mason has carved out a recogizable piece of the political spectrum for his tiny social democratic party. With only a few months before the next provincial election, the NDP’s chances of making electoral gains in 2012 looks good. Will Mr. Mason get a new title in 2012? Maybe Leader of the Official Opposition?

Alberta Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman

Liberal leader Raj Sherman

Raj Sherman (Edmonton-Meadowlark) – new Liberal – Former Tory backbencher Raj Sherman inherited a divided and drifting party when he was elected Liberal Party leader in September 2011. Dr. Sherman talks about creating a business-friendly and socially-liberal party, which sounds suspiciously like political real estate already happily occupied by the PC Party. It is still unclear what the future of the Liberal Party will look like under his leadership, especially after losing the floor-crossing Lethbridge MLA Bridget Pastoor and retiring veteran MLAs Kevin TaftHarry Chase, and Hugh MacDonald.

Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald

MLA Hugh MacDonald

Hugh MacDonald (Edmonton-Gold Bar) – True Grit & Defender of the FaithEdmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald ran a passionate campaign of partisan preservation in this year’s Liberal Party leadership contest. His campaign did not prevail and following his defeat to Dr. Sherman he announced his plans to retire when the next election is called. Mr. MacDonald’s loss is also a loss for the Assembly, which will lose one of the hardest working and determined opposition MLAs. If the next election does not go well for his party, there may be more than a few Liberal stalwarts asking for Mr. MacDonald to come back.

Rob Anderson (Airdrie-Chestermere) – The Wildrose’s Thorn – First elected as a PC MLA in 2008, Rob Anderson crossed the floor to the Wildrose Party in 2010. Since then, he has relished in his role as an opposition MLA, becoming his party’s unofficial leader on the Assembly floor. While he is sometimes over the top (and negative) in his accusations against the governing Tories, his presence overshadows his three Wildrose caucus colleagues to the point where he might as well be a one man opposition caucus.

Jonathan Denis (Calgary-Egmont) – Rising Star – In his first-term as a PC MLA, Jonathan Denis has gone from backbencher to holding two cabinet portfolios. As Minister of Housing & Urban Affairs (which is now part of the Ministry of Human Services), Minister Denis supported the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness through its second and third years. The plan’s focus on the Housing-First Principle is key to its success. After supporting Ted Morton and Mr. Mar in the PC leadership contest, Minister Denis found himself promoted to Solicitor General in Premier Redford’s first cabinet.

Dave Taylor (Calgary-Currie) – The Alberta’s Party’s first MLA – The former Liberal MLA became the first Alberta Party MLA in January 2011. He may have played a low key role in the two sittings of the Assembly since he joined that party, but his jumping to the new party helped put them on the political map. Mr. Taylor will not be seeking re-election when the next provincial vote is called.

Doug Griffiths (Battle River-Wainwright) – Young Pup – After almost ten years as a PC backbencher, Doug Griffiths entered this year’s PC leadership contest as a dark horse and a long-shot. On the campaign trail he spoke articulately and passionately about issues that make conservative partisans uncomfortable. He placed last in the leadership contest and made what should have been a political career ending decision when he then endorsed another losing candidate. Somehow, he ended up as a cabinet minister after Premier Redford was elected. His energy and open-mindedness as a cabinet minister is refreshing and much needed.

To keep the list short it is limited to current MLAs, which immediately excludes a few people who made a big impact on the province’s political scene this year. While I did not include them in this list, I feel there are a few non-MLAs who deserve an honourable mention for having made a significant impact on Alberta’s political scene in 2011. They are Gary Mar, Naheed Nenshi, Danielle Smith, Sue Huff, and Stephen Carter.