Tag Archives: David Swann

Rejection of Gay-Straight Alliances motion shows some Alberta MLAs need a reality check

Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to introduce legislation, like Manitoba’s and Ontario’s, requiring all school boards to develop policies to support students who want to lead and establish gay-straight alliance activities and organizations, using any name that is consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive, welcoming, and respectful for all students regardless of sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

It was a simple motion introduced on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly on April 7, 2014 that would help create safer environments for students in schools. Nineteen Liberal, New Democrat, and Progressive Conservative MLAs voted in favour of the motion, but it failed after 31 PC and Wildrose MLAs stood up and voted against it.

Kent Hehr MLA Calgary-Buffalo

Kent Hehr

Motion 503, introduced by Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr, was not a piece of binding legislation, it was a symbolic message of that all students, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, can be welcomed and accepted in Alberta’s education system.

Creating safe and supportive environments for all students, including LGBTQ youth who may face discrimination in and outside of school, should be something that is encouraged by MLAs.

Mr. Hehr’s motion undoubtably would have made some social conservatives uncomfortable, but it would have ultimately helped drag some of Alberta’s more stodgy school boards into the 21st century. The motion would not have forced any school board to form student-led gay-straight alliances, but it would have compelled the elected boards to accept the existence of the groups if students in their schools chose to organize them.

Alberta MLA Vote Gay Straight Alliances Vote Motion 503

A map showing the constituencies represented by MLAs who voted in favour (blue) and against (red) Motion 503. White indicates MLAs who were not present for the vote. (Click to enlarge)

Passage of this motion would have sent a strong message that tolerance and acceptance are priorities Alberta’s provincial legislators.

Anti-bullying minister Sandra Jansen voted in favour but Education minister Jeff Johnson voted against it.

Missing from the vote were Premier Dave Hancock and NDP leader Brian Mason, who both later said they would have voted in favour had they been in the Assembly. Wildrose opposition leader Danielle Smith was not present for the vote and it is not clear if she would have voted differently than her party’s MLAs.

The divided PC government caucus also missed an opportunity to send a clear message that they embrace 21st century values by singling out the opposition Wildrose as the only party to unanimously vote against the motion – and remind Albertans of the infamous Lake of Fire.  And for the Wildrose, a vote for the motion, even by one or two of that party’s MLAs, would have done a lot of demonstrate the party is more moderate on social issues than its opponents claim.

In total, 36 MLAs were absent from the vote (minus the Speaker, who abstains from votes of the Assembly).

Voted in Favour: 19
Deron Bilous (NDP)
Laurie Blakeman (LIB)
Neil Brown (PC)
Pearl Calahasen (PC)
Cal Dallas (PC)
Alana DeLong (PC)
David Eggen (NDP)
Kyle Fawcett (PC)
Kent Hehr (LIB)
Ken Hughes (PC)
Sandra Jansen (PC)
Heather Klimchuk (PC)
Jason Luan (PC)
Thomas Luksazuk (PC)
Rachel Notley (NDP)
Don Scott (PC)
Raj Sherman (LIB)
David Swann (LIB)
Teresa Woo-Paw (PC)
Voted against: 31
Moe Amery (PC)
Rob Anderson (WR)
Drew Barnes (WR)
Gary Bikman (WR)
Robin Campbell (PC)
Ron Casey (PC)
Christine Cusanelli (PC)
Ian Donovan (WR)
David Dorward (PC)
Wayne Drysdale (PC)
Jacquie Fenske (PC)
Rick Fraser (PC)
Yvonne Fritz (PC)
Hector Goudreau (PC)
Jeff Johnson (PC)
Linda Johnson (PC)
Maureen Kubinec (PC)
Genia Leskiw (PC)
Bruce McAllister (WR)
Everett McDonald (PC)
Diana McQueen (PC)
Frank Oberle (PC)
Bridget Pastoor (PC)
Dave Rodney (PC)
Bruce Rowe (WR)
Shayne Saskiw (WR)
Richard Starke (PC)
Rick Strankman (WR)
Kerry Towle (WR)
George VanderBurg (PC)
Greg Weadick (PC)

Beyond Question Period: Debating Bill 1.

If you pay attention to political pundits or follow the #ableg hashtag on Twitter, you will have read about how nasty and partisan the fall sitting of the Legislative Assembly has been. But if you logout of Twitter for a bit and ignore the embarrassing theatrics of Question Period, you will find some substantial debate and even more interesting (and sometimes confusing) politics at work on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly.

Rachel Notley MLA Edmonton-Strathcona NDP

Rachel Notley

Take last week’s debate around Bill 1 as an example.

Introduced during the six-day long spring sitting earlier this year, the Workers’ Compensation Amendment Act, 2012 (pdf) was the flagship legislation of the first term of Premier Alison Redford‘s elected government. Each year, a new Bill 1 is introduced and typically tends to be a feel-good piece of legislation tailored to the government’s immediate public relations program.

This year’s Bill 1 meant to extend “presumptive coverage” to first-responders – police, firefighters, peace officers, and emergency medical technicians – to access treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through the Workers’ Compensation Board. As explained in the Edmonton Journal, presumptive coverage means that anyone working as a first responder who is diagnosed with PTSD is presumed to have developed that condition as a result of their job.

No government or opposition Members of the Legislative Assembly publicly voiced any opposition to the bill. The most interesting debate about Bill 1 occurred around two amendments introduced by Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MLA Rachel Notley that proposed to include two other professions to be covered in the Bill – corrections officers and social workers.

The first amendment, to include corrections officers, received strong support from the opposition benches. Ms. Notley and ten other opposition MLAs – New Democrat David Eggen, Liberal David Swann, and Wildrose MLAs Jeff Wilson, Joe Anglin, Rob Anderson, Bruce Rowe, Ian Donovan, Kerry Towle, Blake Pedersen, and Heather Forsyth - rose to speak in favour of the first amendment.

Only Human Service Minister Dave Hancock and backbench Tory Rick Fraser rose to speak against.

Dave Hancock MLA Edmonton-Whitemud

Dave Hancock

The two Tory MLAs speaking against the amendment praised the work done by corrections officers but spoke against including them in the bill, claiming that it would be unfair to pick and choose between professions (which is what the Bill did). At one point in the debate, Mr. Fraser presented the strange argument that they should not be included because police, firefighters, peace officers, and EMTs cannot “lock down” a city like some correctional institutions can be “locked down.” The two Tories made strong arguments why police, firefighters, peace officers, and EMTs should be included in Bill 1, but they struggled to explain why presumptive coverage should be limited to those four professions.

“The associate minister [Frank Oberle] talked about sort of the conflicting arguments that exist when you say, on one hand, that you shouldn’t be picking and choosing certain professions, and then, of course, he anticipated correctly that we are going to move forward with amendments to identify certain professions.” – Rachel Notley

The amendment to include corrections officers received the support of the NDP, Wildrose, and Liberal MLAs in the Assembly, but was defeated by the large Tory majority.

Ms. Notley’s second amendment, to include social workers, received strong support from NDP and Liberal caucuses. In a strange twist, most Wildrose MLAs spoke against the amendment with only Wildrose MLA Mr. Anglin breaking from his caucus and speaking in favour of including social workers in the Bill.

Presenting similar points as Tories had used only minutes before to argue against including corrections officers, Wildrose MLAs praised social workers while arguing against including them Bill, claiming that it would be unfair to pick and choose between professions.

So, it came as little surprise that Ms. Notley’s second amendment was defeated, with only the NDP, Liberals, and Mr. Anglin voting in favour.

Bill 1 passed third reading on November 1, with MLAs from all parties voting in favour.

(Read transcripts of debates in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly using Hansard)

calgary-centre conservatives and liberals choosing their by-election candidates.

On Saturday, August 25, Conservative Party members in the riding of Calgary-Centre will choose a candidate to carry their party’s banner in an upcoming and yet-to-be called by-election. Six candidates are contesting the nomination. The Conservative candidate is widely expected to win the by-election in this moderate conservative voting downtown Calgary riding. Here is a quick look at the Conservative Party nomination candidates:

Rick Billington: Lawyer and Conservative Party insider. Endorsed by Alberta Progressive Conservative Party president Bill Smith, Manitoba Senator Don Plett, Manitoba MP Joy Smith and former PC MP for Calgary-Centre Harvie Andre, former Calgary-Southwest PC MP Bobbie Sparrow.

Joan Crockatt Stephen Harper Calgary Centre

Joan Crockatt and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Joan Crockatt: Political commentator and former managing editor of the Calgary Herald. Ms. Crockatt was spokesperson for candidate Barb Higgins during the 2010 mayoral election. She has been endorsed by Prince Edward Island Senator Mike Duffy.

Jon Lord Calgary Centre Conservative

Jon Lord

Jon Lord: Former PC MLA for Calgary-Currie (2001-2004) and Alderman (1995-2001). Owner of Casablanca Video and active in the Marda Loop community. Mr. Lord ran unsuccessfully to become mayor of Calgary in 2010 and for the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie in 2012. In the past, Mr. Lord has been connected to the socially conservative Progressive Group for Independent Business and its leader Craig Chandler. He has been endorsed by Calgary Alderman Peter Demong. In a message on his Facebook Page, Mr. Lord recently accused his opponents of vandalizing his Wikipedia biography.

Greg McLean: Former president of the Calgary-Centre Conservative District Association. Campaign manager for former MP Lee Richardson, who endorsed Mr. McLean last week. Mr. McLean is also said to have the support of Calgary-Currie PC MLA and Tourism Minister Christine Cusanelli. On twitter, former Wildrose president Jeff Calloway called Mr. McLean “a strong conservative”.

Mr. McLean’s campaign manager is Dustin Franks, who served as Mr. Richardson’s executive assistant until his recent resignation. Mr. Franks was also campaign manager to Aldermanic candidate Sean Chu during the 2010 municipal election and has worked for PC MLAs Doug Griffiths and Manmeet Bhullar.

 

Joe Soares Thomas Mulcair

Joe Soares attacks Thomas Mulcair.

Joe Soares (aka “Calgary Joe”): Quebec political organizer and Conservative Party activist. Has accused NDP leader Thomas Mulcair of wanting to destroy Alberta’s economy and has criticized his opponent Ms. Crockatt for political columns she penned in the Calgary Herald. Endorsed by Ontario’s Senator Doug Finley and Manitoba MP Rod Bruinooge.

Stefan Spargo Stephen Harper Calgary Centre

Stefan Spargo and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Stefan Spargo: Former campaign manager for MP Mr. Richardson and Conservative official in Calgary-Centre. Mr. Spargo made an unsuccessful bid for the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie before the 2012 provincial election.

The Liberal Party is unlikely to place any higher than their traditional second place in this downtown Calgary constituency. In 2011, candidate Jennifer Pollock earned 17% of the vote to Mr. Richardson’s 57%. Privately, one Liberal organizer suggested to this blogger that 35% may be the optimistic ceiling for Liberal candidate in this by-election (note, optimistic). There are two officially approved candidates seeking the Liberal Party nomination on September 15. A third candidate is said to have entered the race, but has yet to be approved by the central party. Here is a look at the Liberal Party candidates:

Harvey Locke: Lawyer, well-known conservationist, and former president of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. Mr. Locke ran as a Liberal candidate in the 1989 provincial election in Calgary-Foothills. Word on the street is that he has the support of popular Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann (who, at one point, was suspected to be eying the NDP nomination).

Rahim Sajan: Educator and organizer of TEDxCalgary. Mr. Sajan’s supporters include Zain Velji, who was 2012 campaign manager for Calgary-Varsity PC MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans.

Steve Turner: A former supporter of Manitoba Conservative MP Mr. Bruinooge. A Liberal insider told this blogger that Mr. Turner is seeking the Liberal nomination because he “decided that the conservatives are not progressive on social issues.” His nomination papers have yet to be approved by the Liberal Party.

Meanwhile, a poll of Calgary-Centre voters conducted by Forum Research for the Huffington Post showed the Conservatives with 44% support, the Liberals with 21%, the New Democrats with 14% and the Green Party with 12%.

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?

murky waters ahead for alberta’s liberal party.

Raj Sherman delivers his leadership victory speech as leadership chair Josipa Petrunic, and candidates Laurie Blakeman, Hugh MacDonald, and Bruce Payne look on (September 2011).

Raj Sherman delivers his leadership victory speech as leadership chair Josipa Petrunic, and candidates Laurie Blakeman, Hugh MacDonald, and Bruce Payne look on (September 2011).

The Alberta Liberals will be holding a vote to affirm or oppose the continued leadership of  Raj Sherman on June 16 at the Whitehorn Community Association in northeast Calgary.

While the 2012 election gave the Liberal Party its worst electoral showing in decades, including the loss of Official Opposition status to the Wildrose Party, many Liberal partisans are lining up to reaffirm Dr. Sherman’s leadership. Dr. Sherman was first elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2008, became Liberal leader in 2011 and was re-elected as MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark in the recent vote.

It is unclear where the Liberal Party fits in the new political environment and despite its dismal showing at the polls last month and it is disputable whether changing leadership at this time will improve that party’s electoral fortunes. Dr. Sherman’s biggest advantage in the June vote may be a lack of anyone else interested in taking up the unenviable position of trying to rebuild Alberta’s Liberal Party.

With only four other MLAs in the Assembly, the Liberals would have a small pool to draw from if Dr. Sherman were to leave. One of those MLA’s, David Swann, already served as leader from 2008 until 2011, and another, Laurie Blakeman, was defeated in the 2011 leadership contest.

Ms. Blakeman spent the past month campaigning to become the Speaker of the Assembly, which if she had won would have, for all intents and purposes, bumped the group of Liberal MLA’s down to 4. Ms. Blakeman was unsuccessful in her bid and was defeated by Edmonton-Mill Creek PC MLA Gene Zwozdesky, who himself crossed the floor from the Liberals to the PCs in 1998.

Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr demonstrated ambition for higher office during his short-lived run for Mayor of Calgary in 2010, but has not publicly displayed interest in his party’s leadership position. I have little insight into whether Calgary-McCall MLA Darshan Kang would be interested in the role.

A few long-time Liberal partisans have shared their frustration with me, suggesting that if long-time Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald had not decided to retire in the recent election, he would be in an ideal position to claim the party leadership. Mr. MacDonald placed second in that party’s 2011 leadership contest and many of his supporters continue to see Dr. Sherman as an outsider to their party.

Other Party Leadership Reviews

It is expected that PC Premier Alison Redford will face a leadership affirmation vote at her party’s annual convention next year. After leading her party to re-election, winning 61 of 87 seats, it is likely that her leadership will be strongly affirmed in the vote.

Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, now Leader of the Official Opposition, is required to face a leadership affirmation vote every three years, which means the next vote would be held in 2013 at the latest. Under section 8.4 of the Wildrose Party constitution, Ms. Smith leadership also faces conditions of term-limits:

8.4 The Leader shall be limited to holding the office of Leader of the Party for the longer of two terms of the Legislative Assembly or eight years, unless endorsed by a two-thirds majority to continue for an additional four years at the Annual General Meeting immediately preceding the expiry of the allowed term.

Both the Alberta NDP and the Alberta Party hold votes to affirm or oppose the current leadership at each annual general meeting, meaning that Brian Mason and Glenn Taylor will face votes in the upcoming year.

alberta election endorsements.

Over the course of the election campaign, I have identified candidates from all the political parties who would be good MLA’s in the next Legislature. Out of the group of more than 400 Albertans seeking office in the 2012 general election, I have chosen six candidates who I personally believe would make excellent additions to Alberta’s public life and I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically endorse.

Shannon Phillips in Lethbridge-West
Shannon Phillips is a dynamo who would bring new energy to the opposition benches as an MLA. With the two main conservative parties poised to sweep most of the province, the smart and politically savvy Ms. Phillips would bring a strong voice for her constituents on the floor of the Assembly.

Michael Walters in Edmonton-Rutherford
Michael Walters understands how to connect with and engage with large groups of people, which is a critical skill for anyone holding public office. As a seasoned community organizer and a quick learner, Mr. Walters’ would be a strong and refreshing voice to Alberta politics.

David Swann in Calgary-Mountain View
If you are troubled by the lack of honesty and integrity in politics, then David Swann is someone that you want in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly. Not a traditional politician, Dr. Swann is a voice of reason and calm in a political culture increasingly filled with blind partisanship.

David Eggen in Edmonton-Calder
From 2004 to 2008, David Eggen was one of the most effective opposition voices on the Assembly floor. Since 2008, he used the skills he honed in the opposition benches to become a strong defender of public medicare. He is a hard worker and Alberta politics will be better if Mr. Eggen returns to the Assembly.

Sue Huff in Edmonton-Glenora
Sue Huff provides a perfect example of how politics can be done differently in Alberta. As a trustee on Edmonton’s public school board, she maintained a positive tone while effectively advocating against the closure of core neighbourhood schools (a heated topic). As acting leader of the Alberta Party in 2011, she brought her positive tone to the provincial level. Hers is an effective voice that would bring a welcome change to the floor of the Assembly.

Ian Urquhart for Senate
Every few years in Alberta, we elect a non-elected position called a Senate Nominee (or Senator-in-Waiting). These elections have been held since the late 1980s in hopes that one day the appointed Upper House of Parliament in Ottawa will become elected. No matter what you believe about the Canadian Senate, this election is an opportunity to send a message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Ottawa Conservative Party that Albertans are not to be taken granted for. This is why I will be casting my ballot for Ian Urquhart.

A professor of political science at the University of Alberta, Dr. Urquhart was one of my favourite instructors during my time as a student. His candidacy gives political moderates and centre-left voters of all stripes an option other than refusing to vote or spoiling their Senate ballots at the polls.