Tag Archives: David Swann

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

2015 was a great year for Progressive Politics in Alberta

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

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

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

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

Thomas Dang MLA

Thomas Dang

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Prentice Alberta Premier

Jim Prentice

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

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

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

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

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

Stephanie McLean NDP Calgary Varsity

Stephanie McLean

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

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

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

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

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

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

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

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

Rob Merrifield Alberta Washington DC

Rob Merrifield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

Jim Prentice Danielle Smith Alberta Wildrose Merger PC

Breaking: Alberta’s Tories Poised to Sweep Election in Spring 2016

December 17, 2015

By: Dirk Pranter, Provincial Affairs columnist, Calgary Sunherald

Jim Prentice Alberta Premier

Jim Prentice

One year after nearly the entire official opposition crossed the floor to join Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives, the 44 year long governing party is expected to sweep the province for a record thirteenth election victory. Premier Jim Prentice is said to be preparing his party and its candidates for an early spring 2016 election.

According to Alberta’s fixed election date law, a provincial election must be called between March 31 and May 1, 2016.

The Wildrose MLA floor crossings on December 17, 2014 hurt the PCs in the polls in the first half of 2015. But after the Tories began to recover in the polls a fall cabinet shuffle brought two former Wildrose MLAs, Danielle Smith and Rob Anderson, into Prentice’s cabinet as Finance Minister and Justice Minister.

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith

Public opinion polls now suggest most Albertans have embraced the Prentice Tories once again. The PCs now have the support of 77 percent of Albertans, according to the most recent Western Insite poll.

“A few months ago it looked like the Tories had a real fight on their hands but today they are back on top,” said Jake Randall, vice-president of Western Insite Inc. “Prentice really didn’t start resonating with Albertans until after May 2015,” he said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior official in the PC Party admitted they were glad the provincial election wasn’t called in early 2015, as some party insiders had pushed for.

“We simply weren’t prepared to go to the polls in spring 2015,” the source said.

“We would have got smoked, boy, it would have been the end of us,” they said.

David Climenhaga

David Climenhaga

The hopes of New Democratic Party supporters were boosted when David Climenhaga defied expectations with a 67 percent landslide win for the NDP in a May 5, 2015 by-election in the Spruce Grove-St. Albert constituency.

Liberal MLAs Laurie Blakeman and David Swann added to the orange momentum on May 6 when they joined the NDP caucus, creating speculation that Rachel Notley‘s NDP could pose a serious challenge to the Tories in the next election.

But with recent polls showing the NDP back in their traditional range of 10 percent support, Albertans may never know what an NDP government looks like.

The Wildrose Party has wilted, with most of its support relegated to a handful of rural southern Alberta constituencies.

Derek Fildebrandt Alberta Taxpayers

Derek Fildebrandt

Wildrose leader Derek Fildebrandt remains a harsh critic of the PCs and is in talks to create a ‘real conservative alternative’ by merging his party with the right-wing Social Credit and Alberta First parties.

“Most Albertans are moderates and are very suspicious and uncomfortable with the kind of social conservative politics inside the Wildrose Party,” said Darlene Sinclair, professor of political science at Vermilion River University in Lloydminster.

Sinclair predicted that the PCs had successfully built a coalition of moderate and progressive minded urbanites that could keep the Tories in government for many decades to come. But she warned that even with high polling numbers, the Prentice government faces serious challenges.

Tory supporters are quick to defend Prentice from criticisms about the job losses caused by a downturn in the economy, tax increases and his refusal to make deep funding cuts to public programs.

Former Conservative MP Brian Jean, who will be running for the Tories in the Fort McMurray-Conklin constituency, said that Prentice is not to blame for job losses in the oil patch.

“It would be silly to believe that any Premier of Alberta, even Jim Prentice, has the power to control the international price of oil,” Jean said.

“It just doesn’t work like that, ” he said.

(Note: This article is a satirical take on what might have happened if the PC Party had waited until Alberta’s 2016 fixed election date to call the most recent provincial election. In reality, the PCs called the election one year early and Albertans elected Notley’s NDP with a majority government on May 5, 2015).

Around 200 protesters gathered at the Alberta Legislature on Nov. 27, 2015.

Alberta NDP face legitimate concerns and kooky conspiracy theories in debate over Bill 6 farm safety bill

Alberta’s NDP government has been in full damage control mode since Bill 6: Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act exploded in their faces late last month. While attempting to bring our province closer to national standards on farm safety – Alberta is currently the only province without occupation health and safety laws and employment standards coverage for farm and ranch workers – the bill sparked two large protests at the Legislature and continues to bring out thousands of agitated rural Albertans to government-sponsored town-hall style consultation meetings across the province.

Commies

No, it’s not.

Bill 6 has been perceived as a threat to what many rural Albertans see as a traditional way of life and business on the family farm, and inept communications by the government only fuelled claims that this was the intention of the bill.

Taken by surprise, NDP cabinet ministers fanned out to the town hall meetings in an attempt to assure angry rural Albertans that they are listening to their concerns.

While the Wildrose, PC and Alberta Party MLAs have taken positions against Bill 6, the biggest advocate for the bill outside of the mostly silent NDP caucus has been Liberal party interim leader David Swann, a Calgary MLA and former medical officer of health of the now defunct Palliser and Headwaters health authorities in southern Alberta.

Returned from her trip to the Paris Climate Change Conference, Premier Rachel Notley published an open letter to reassure the media and the public that this bill was about farm safety, not about destroying the family farm.

Lori Sigurdson, Minister of Jobs, Employment and Labour, introduced amendments to Bill 6 in the Legislature this week.

The amendments, which “make clear WCB coverage would be required only for paid employees, with an option for farmers to extend coverage to unpaid workers like family members, neighbours and friends” and “make clear that Occupational Health and Safety standards apply when a farm employs one or more paid employees at any time of the year,” appear to address two of the main criticisms of the bill that many opponents and critics (including myself) have raised as concerns.

Aside from legitimate criticisms that rural Albertans were not properly consulted before Bill 6 was introduced into the Legislature, some opponents of the government have tried to spread the kookiest of conspiracy theories about the NDP’s proposed farm safety law.

Over the past week, I have heard claims that Bill 6 would:

  • allow the government to nationalize farm land to build solar or wind farms,
  • force farm workers to unionize as part of some secret communist conspiracy,
  • mark the beginning of a Stalinist farm collectivization program.

None of these outlandish claims are true. But while these claims largely emanate from the anonymity of Twitter and the internet, other oddball claims are actually being made by opposition MLAs.

In the Legislature on Dec. 1, Rick Strankman, the Wildrose MLA for Drumheller-Stettler, suggested that Bill 6 could lead to OHS inspectors confiscating privately owned firearms if they were found to be improperly stored on farms. Mr. Strankman spared fellow MLAs from hearing his best Charlton Heston impersonation.

But perhaps the kookiest of conspiracy theories comes from Progressive Conservative Party interim leader Ric McIver, who is reported to have claimed Bill 6 was part of the NDP plan to turn Alberta into a “Socialist Disneyland.” According to Metro Calgary, Mr. McIver continued in length to praise the conservatism of Saskatchewan, while choosing to omit the fact that our neighbour to the east has a 5 percent provincial sales tax, a 12 percent corporate tax rate, crown corporations for insurance, power and gas, and… farm safety legislation.

Alberta’s NDP government was caught totally off guard by opposition to Bill 6 and has helped fuel the backlash by being slow to react to concerns about changes to farm safety laws. For this, they deserve to be criticized. This is an important lesson for the new government, and one they should recognized as being lucky took place in the first year of their four year term in government, and not six months before the next election.

What’s next?

Bill 6 is currently in second reading in the Legislature.

This will not be the last time the new government will need to challenge the status quo in rural Alberta. The government’s next challenge to rural Alberta will likely be related to province’s longstanding grazing lease program, which the auditor general reports has cost the government an estimated $25 million in annual revenue and is currently under review.

Changes to Alberta’s electoral boundaries, which could be redistributed before the next election to reflect changes in Alberta’s population, would likely result in a reduction of rural constituencies and an increase of urban constituencies in the Alberta Legislature.

First NDP Throne Speech on message. McIver Tories totally tone deaf in opposition.

The NDP throne speech was predictable and on message

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP

Joe Ceci

The first Speech from the Throne of Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley‘s administration included many of the key promises made during the recent provincial election.

The 604,515 Albertans who voted NDP should be pleased that the new government is following through with its promises to end corporate and union donations, increase corporate taxes from 10% to 12%, create a more progressive income tax system, and temporarily restore funding to health care, education and human services that was cut by the previous Progressive Conservative government.

The speech also signalled that the NDP will not rush haphazardly into a review of Alberta’s natural resource royalties, which was a key promise during the election. Despite the increasingly bizarre arguments being published in conservative newspapers, Ms. Notley is smart to take a careful and calm approach to ensuring that Albertans are receiving the best value for their natural resources.

One of the NDP’s largest challenges during this spring sitting of the Legislature falls upon Finance Minister Joe Ceci, who will be responsible for shepherding the Interim Supply Bill that will allow the government to continue operating until a new budget is introduced later in 2015.

Tories tone deaf on corporate donations

Ric McIver

Ric McIver

From their new home in the opposition benches, the message from PC interim leader Ric McIver against banning corporate donations was incredibly tone deaf. Mr. McIver’s opposition to the ban is not ideological (the Wildrose Party supports the ban) but purely practical. The PC Party relies heavily upon corporate donors for the large majority of its donations, unlike the NDP and Wildrose parties which have cultivated a large individual donor base.

A report released by the Parkland Institute last week showed that the PC Party received more than $630,000 from corporate donors during the first three-months of 2015, compared to $151,000 in individual donations of $251 or over.

During the recent election, PC leader Jim Prentice faced harsh criticism for refusing to raise corporate tax in the provincial budget while personal income taxes and many fees were increased. Culminating with a disastrous press conference held by four CEOs supporting the PCs, the corporate taxes issue led many Albertans to believe that the PCs were protecting their major donors rather than the best interests of the province.

Canadian Energy Strategy

Shannon Phillips

Shannon Phillips

Perhaps signalling that Alberta will once again seek an important role on the national stage, the throne speech alluded to plans to  “forge a much stronger partnership with our fellow provinces and with the federal government, in order to build a Canadian Energy Strategy.”

A new approach to energy cooperation on the national stage, which could include increased support for the proposed TransCanada Energy East Pipeline, along with a new climate change strategy promised by Environment Minister Shannon Phillips, could lead to Alberta being a more involved player at the July 15-17, 2015 Council of the Federation meeting in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Reaching out to opposition parties, setting a new tone

Marking a clear break from the previous PC government, Ms. Notley reached out to the opposition parties in the first day of the new legislative session, announcing the formation of two new multi-party committees.

Lesser Slave Lake NDP MLA Danielle Larivee, a Registered Nurse, and Calgary-Mountain View Liberal MLA David Swann, a physician, will co-chair a mental health review committee. And Ms. Notley announced that she and Wildrose leader Brian Jean will cooperate in the creation of a special legislative committee composed of nine government MLAs and eight opposition MLAs that will “review Alberta’s elections, whisteblower and conflict of interest legislation” (they should look at banning corporate and union donations in municipal elections as well).

NDP leader Rachel Notley speaks to a crowd of more than 2,000 Albertans at a May 4 election rally in Edmonton.

List: What’s happened since Alberta’s historic election and what lies ahead

It has been an incredible 15 days since Alberta’s historic 2015 election. Here is a quick look back at what has happened in the past two weeks and what will happen in the months ahead.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

May 5: Rachel Notley‘s New Democratic Party won Alberta’s provincial election and formed a majority government with 53 MLAs. The Wildrose Party formed Official Opposition with 21 MLAs and the Progressive Conservative Party, which had formed government since 1971, was reduced to 10 MLAs. Alberta Party leader Greg Clark was elected in Calgary-Elbow and Liberal David Swann is re-elected in Calgary-Mountain View. One race, in Calgary-Glenmore, was tied. Premier Jim Prentice announced his resignation as PC Party leader and as MLA for Calgary-Foothills.

May 6: In her first press conference since the election, Premier-designate Notley reassures business and energy industry leaders of her intentions to work collaboratively with them as Premier of Alberta.

Greg Clark Alberta Party MLA Calgary ElbowGreg Clark Alberta Party MLA Calgary Elbow

Greg Clark

May 7: Ms. Notley meets with Lieutenant Governor Donald Ethell and asks for permission to form a government. The process of transitioning a new party into government in Alberta begins for the first time since 1971.

May 8: Mr. Clark announced he would submit a series of requests under Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to ensure sensitive documents are not destroyed before the transition to a new government. Mr. Jean also calls on the outgoing government to stop all shredding of documents during the transition. The University of Alberta Board of Governors voted to keep Doug Goss as chairman in spite of his participation in a disasterous press conference in the last week of the election where he and three other CEOs urged Edmontonians to vote PC and described the NDP as amateurs.

Ric McIver

Ric McIver

May 9: The NDP Government caucus meets for the first time at Government House in Edmonton. “Albertans voted for change and they asked our team of new MLAs to do important work, the work of restoring honesty and integrity and trust to government,” Ms. Notley told reporters at a morning press conference.

May 11: Wildrose leader Brian Jean announced six senior Official Opposition critic roles and caucus officers. Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver is appointed interim leader of the PC opposition caucus.

May 12: Ms. Notley met with outgoing Premier Prentice and asked that the outgoing Government of Alberta extend the school budget deadline to the end of June. She also announced she had hired Brian Topp as her Chief of Staff and Adrienne King as Deputy Chief of Staff. Richard Dicerni remains Deputy Minister for Executive Council.

Brian Topp Alberta Premier Chief of Staff

Brian Topp

May 13: The Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Public Interest Commissioner opened a joint investigation into the alleged improper destruction of records by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. Ms. Notley ordered all government departments to halt document destruction.

May 14: At the PC Party Calgary leader’s dinner, Mr. Prentice made his first public statement since the party’s electoral defeat and his surprise resignation on election night.

May 15: A recount of a tied election in Calgary-Glenmore resulted in a 6-vote win for NDP candidate Anam Kazim over PC candidate Linda Johnson. Ms. Johnson has until May 25 to request a judicial recount. The PC Party laid off 11 of its staff and announces plans to close its offices in Calgary and Edmonton.

Sarah Hoffman NDP MLA Edmonton-Glenora

Sarah Hoffman

May 16: Speaking to a meeting of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, Edmonton-Glenora NDP MLA-elect Sarah Hoffman reached out to educators by telling them that the new government will be a better partner.

May 20: Ms. Notley held a press conference where she announces the dates of the cabinet swearing-in ceremony, the size of the new cabinet and timelines for a new provincial budget. Prime Minister Stephen Harper announces that Calgary businessperson Lois Mitchell will replace Mr. Ethell as Lieutenant Governor of Alberta.

May 24: Ms. Notley and 11 NDP cabinet ministers will be sworn-in to office at 2:00 p.m. on the north steps of the Alberta Legislature Building.

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

May 27 and 28: The new NDP cabinet will hold its first meetings in Calgary.

May 30: The Alberta Liberal Party annual general meeting will be held at the Chateau Nova Hotel in Edmonton.

June 1: Candidates elected on May 5 will officially be sworn-in as MLAs.

June 11: MLAs will meet to elect a new Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. Current Speaker Gene Zwozdesky continues this role until a new Speaker is chosen.

June 15: A Speech from the Throne will be delivered. The NDP Government will ask the Legislature to approve an Interim Supply Bill to finance the operations of government until the fall.

July 15-17: Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis will host Canada’s Premiers and their delegations for the 2015 Council of the Federation. The meeting will take place in St. John’s.

Fall 2015: A new provincial budget will be tabled in the Legislative Assembly.

October 19: The scheduled date of Canada’s 42nd federal election.

November 5: The latest date according to the PC Party constitution at which a new leader must be selected.

November 13: The Wildrose Party will hold its annual general meeting at the Sheraton Cavalier Calgary Hotel in Calgary.

November 15: The six month deadline for a by-election to be held in Calgary-Foothills (assuming that Mr. Prentice’s resignation as MLA was accepted when the official count was released on May 15, 2015).

David Swann has served as the MLA for Calgary-Mountain View since 2004. He was Liberal Party leader from 2008 to 2011, and now serves as interim leader of that party.

Notley’s Best Pick for Speaker: David Swann

By: James Lambert

Now that the great orange chinook has finally put an end to 44 years of Progressive Conservative dominance, the hard job of governing Alberta has begun in earnest for Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party. Among the many tasks the new MLAs face, one of their first and most important will be to choose a new speaker of the Alberta legislature. Notley’s caucus is filled mostly with newcomers, but that gives her a unique opportunity to reach beyond party lines for an experienced and steady hand to oversee the chamber: Liberal Leader David Swann.

Pundits have already written extensively about the political inexperience of many of the 49 newly-elected NDP MLAs, though this group nevertheless boasts some very impressive talent, from Joe Ceci (a former 15-year Calgary alderman) to Sarah Hoffman (chair of the Edmonton Public School Board) to Bob Wanner (Public Services Commissioner for Medicine Hat). But it’s still fair to point out that the NDP ranks include only four MLAs with experience in the Legislative Assembly (counting Notley herself), and Notley will need all of them to assume top leadership positions in her cabinet.

At the same time, the speaker of the Assembly must possess an intimate knowledge of the rules of the house, which is why the role is usually held by a veteran MLA and would not be appropriately handed to a freshman lawmaker. That poses a problem for Notley, since she’d rather not have to stretch her already thin senior ranks by nominating any of her most seasoned caucus members to serve as speaker.That’s where Swann comes in. After the NDP’s Brian Mason, Swann, who was first elected in 2004 and is now entering his fourth term, is the second-longest serving member of the legislature (along with PC MLA Dave Rodney). Aside from allowing Notley to hang on to her most experienced allies, there are a number of good reasons for the NDP to tap Swann:

  • Swann’s 10 years of experience makes him well-qualified for the job, and his long record serving Albertans as a physician and human-rights activist suggests he’d offer a measure of humility and compassion that the legislature sorely needs.
  • By going outside her own party, it would signal that Notley is planning a less partisan approach to governance, which would offer a welcome contrast to four decades of polarizing Tory rule.
  • At the same time, it would be seen as an inclusive gesture to the province’s many Liberal voters, some of whom—even those who switched allegiances this time—undoubtedly have placed the NDP on probation. Notley’s crew will face a re-election battle sooner or later, and ensuring these voters become (or remain) part of the NDP’s coalition is a key goal.
  • Not only would it be a magnanimous gesture on behalf of a longtime MLA who is about to represent his party as a caucus of one, it would place Swann in a neutral role where it would be difficult for him to act as an NDP critic. You can bet that the traditional media is eager to write their first stories about the “left in disarray”; this helps forestall that.

Notley’s NDP has already made history in more ways than one: by becoming the first left-of-center party to win an Alberta election in 85 years; by electing the largest-ever number of women to the legislature; and by ending the longest reign of a political party in Canadian history. During those four decades, the Tories never once picked a speaker from outside of the PC ranks. That means Notley can add to her impressive list of firsts by selecting David Swann. It would be good for the NDP, good for the legislature, and above all, good for the province—and Alberta could certainly stand for that.

James Lambert is an Edmonton-based writer and lawyer by training. He is a contributing editor for Daily Kos Elections, a past political campaign staffer, and currently works in the field of alternative dispute resolution as an adjudicator.

Hope and Fear: 2 days until Alberta’s election

With only two full days left before the May 5 provincial election, the 43-year long governing Progressive Conservatives and its supporters are waging a thick fear campaign against its electoral challengers.

On May 1, five corporate CEOs and PC Party donors held a morning press conference in a penthouse boardroom to warn Albertans against out the PCs [see photo above].

Not surprisingly, the CEOs oppose NDP plans to raise corporate taxes from 10% to 12% and review natural resource royalty rates. The press conference started smoothly, but quickly veered off course when one CEO questioned why he must pay more and another appeared to claim that corporate donations to children’s hospitals and charities would halt if the corporate tax rate was increased.

The corporate tax rate in Alberta dropped from 15.5% in 2001 to 10% in 2006. The corporate tax rates in Saskatchewan and Manitoba are 12%. Alberta would still have a significant advantage over our prairie neighbours, as we have vast oil and gas deposits, low personal income tax, and no provincial sales tax.

[Note: the NDP and Wildrose Party support banning corporate and union donations. Nearly 80% of PC Party donations were made by corporations]

The fear campaign did not deter hundreds of Albertans from showing up at large rallies in support of the NDP and Wildrose parties this weekend. The NDP will hold another large rally in Edmonton on May 3.

A rally held in the Calgary-Varisty constituency for NDP leader Rachel Notley attracted hundreds of Calgarians on May 2, 2015.

A rally held in the Calgary-Varisty constituency for NDP leader Rachel Notley attracted hundreds of Calgarians on May 2, 2015. (Photo via @AlbertaNDP on Twitter)

With Election Day fast approaching, the parties are releasing their last major policy statements of the campaign.

NDP leader Rachel Notley announced plans to reinvest in Family and Community Support Services, an important community program that supports after school programs, child development programs, and counselling services. According to the NDP press release, FCSS funding has remained stagnant for the past four years.

A Wildrose Party rally in Calgary on May 1, 2015 drew hundreds of supporters.

A Wildrose Party rally in Calgary on May 1, 2015 drew hundreds of supporters (photo via @epamenzies on Twitter)

Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean announced that if his party forms government on May 5, he would introduce an Accountability Act as the new government’s first bill in the Legislative Assembly. The proposed act would ban corporate and union donations, ban MLAs elected under one party from crossing to another Caucus without a by-election, legislate true fixed dates for provincial elections and implement MLA recall legislation and End sole-sourced contracting.

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

Alberta Party leader Greg Clark with supporters in Calgary-Elbow. (Photo via @GregClark4AB on Twitter)

Alberta Party leader Greg Clark announced his party’s infrastructure plan, which would focus on building a new Calgary Cancer Centre at the Foothills, upgrading Edmonton’s aging Misericordia Hospital, and improve schools and public transit. And Liberal leader David Swann announced a $75.5 million investment in mental health and addictions.

Calgary-Klein Green Party candidate Noel Keough is throwing his support behind NDP candidate Craig Coolahan and he is asking Green voters to do the same. Also throwing her support to Ms. Notley’s NDP is Angie Klein, daughter of former PC Premier Ralph Klein.

The Progressive Conservative Party has not released any new policy statements since Jim Prentice reversed his party’s decision to cut the Charitable Donation Tax Credit on April 21, 2015.

Advance Voting Starts today, so get out and vote! In photo: NDP leader Rachel Notley, PC leader Jim Prentice, Wildrose leader Brian Jean, Liberal leader David Swann and Alberta Party leader Greg Clark.

Attention Albertans: Get out and vote. Here’s how.

Advance polls are now open in provincial constituencies across Alberta. If you are unable to cast a ballot on Alberta’s Election Day on Tuesday, May 5, you can now vote in the Advance Polls from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on April 29, 30 and May 1, 2. If you are not sure where your voting station is located or what constituency you live in, visit the Elections Alberta website and use their search tool to find out.

Be sure to bring proper identification with you to the voting station. Elections Alberta accepts a wide range of identification in order to vote.

On May 5, voting stations will be open from 9:00 am to 8:00 p.m. Unofficial election results will be posted online after the polls close that night and official results will be released on May 15.

Alberta’s Election Act ensures that all eligible voters are allowed time off work to vote on Election Day. Section 132 of the Election Act allows for three consecutive hours for the purpose of voting.

If you do not know who your candidate is or what the different political parties stand for, I have compiled a list of candidates running in this election with links to websites and social media accounts (which are being updated on an ongoing basis).

According to Elections Alberta, 2,543,127 voters are eligible to participate in this provincial election. The largest constituency is Calgary-South East, with 41,559 eligible voters, and the least populated constituency is Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley, with 14,869 eligible voters.

In 2012, a total of 1,290,223 (54.39%) Albertans participated in the provincial election (voter turnout was 53.9% in Calgary, 54.4% in Edmonton, and 53.3% in the rest of the province). In the same election, 179,820 (13.9%) of Albertans voted in the Advance Polls, a record in our province (6.7% of Albertans voted in Advance Polls in the 2008 election).

Historically, the largest voter turnout was 81.8%, which occurred during the 1935 election.

Voter turnout dipped below 50% in the mid-2000s, with a measly 44.7% of Albertans showing up in 2004 and 40.6% in 2008. Let’s not let that happen again. Be sure to cast your ballots in the Advance Polls or on Election Day.

PC leader Jim Prentice in a post-leader's debate media scrum at Global Edmonton studios.

Notley wins the debate. Now it’s time to manage expectations

Last night’s leader’s debate was the biggest opportunity for Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice to knock NDP leader Rachel Notley off-balance. Since the start of the campaign, the PC Party has focused most of its attacks on Wildrose leader Brian Jean, who has proven to be an easier target. But Ms. Notley has been a more difficult target for the PCs.

Rachel Notley NDP Alberta

Rachel Notley

Expectations were high for Ms. Notley, whose party appears to be enjoying a surge in support, and she exceeded those expectations by not falling into Mr. Prentice’s traps. She was calm, concise, and set herself apart from the three other leaders.

Mr. Prentice performed as was expected, despite sounding patronizing at moments, and spent most of the debate on the offensive. His focus on Ms. Notley could signal a shift in focus by the PC campaign against the NDP in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge.

Mr. Jean started the debate slowly, but caught his stride in the second half of the event. He stuck to his notes, sometimes too closely, and overall performed well for someone who only accepted the party leadership less than one month ago. If you missed the debate, the one takeaway from Mr. Jean’s discussion points would be that the Wildrose Party will not raise your taxes. And in case you missed it a first time, he repeated that message numerous times for good measure.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

Earnest Liberal leader David Swann faced low expectations and performed as well as expected. Not a natural politician, Dr. Swann managed to present his party’s platform, but struggled at times to compete with the three other leaders.

With the leader’s debate over, we have now entered the final stretch of Alberta’s 2015 provincial election campaign. With limited polling available, I refuse to jump on the “PCs are going down to defeat” bandwagon. In uncertain times like these, it is important to remember the first unwritten rule of Alberta politics: that the PCs always win, and they always win a big majority [this is me, managing my own expectations].

With the leader’s debate behind them, what do the leaders need to do to manage their own party’s expectations?

Rachel Notley

Rachel Notley is making orange waves in Alberta, but how far will they splash? At the start of the campaign, she said the NDP are aiming to form government in Alberta, but perhaps more realistically Official Opposition is within their grasp. I know many New Democrats who would love for Ms. Notley to lead the party to win at least 17 MLAs, more than the 16 seats the party won in the 1986 and 1989 elections. Any more than the four the party currently holds should be considered a win for the NDP in Alberta.

Jim Prentice

Jim Prentice must lead his party to form a majority government. If the PCs win less than 44 seats in the Assembly, Mr. Prentice will have led his party to its first major electoral humiliation in 44 years. But even within a majority government, there are thresholds for Mr. Prentice’s political survival. What happens to Mr. Prentice if, for example, the PCs elect less MLAs than Alison Redford led them to in 2012 (61)? Or less than Ralph Klein led them to win in 1993 (51)?

Brian Jean

For new Wildrose leader Brian Jean, holding the party’s current number of constituencies – five – while personally winning election in Fort McMurray-Conklin is probably enough to secure his political leadership. Holding on to Official Opposition would be a bonus and electing more than 17 MLAs – the number the party elected under Danielle Smith in 2012 – would be golden.

David Swann

Expectations are low for the Liberals. Re-electing the party’s two incumbent MLAs – David Swann in Calgary-Mountain View and Laurie Blakeman in Edmonton-Centre – would be considered a win for the Liberals in this election.

Greg Clark

Electing leader Greg Clark in Calgary-Elbow, which is the Alberta Party’s best shot in this campaign, would be considered a big win for the party. Mr. Clark placed a strong second to PC candidate Gordon Dirks in the 2014 by-election.

NDP MLA Graham Sucha (left) with MLAs Joe Ceci, Shannon Phillips and Kathleen Ganley.

Alberta Election 2015: Candidate and Fundraising Updates

As of today, only the New Democrats and Progressive Conservatives  are the only parties to have nominated a full slate of candidates in all 87 constituencies across Alberta.

Friday, April 17, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. is the deadline for candidates to submit their official papers with Elections Alberta in order to have their names listed on ballots in their constituencies.

The official opposition Wildrose Party has candidates nominated in 78 of 87 constituencies.

The Wildrose lost one more candidate this week when leader Brian Jean quickly removed Calgary-Varsity candidate Russ Kuykendall after controversial online remarks from 2007 criticizing a Pride event in Edmonton were discovered.

AlbertaPolitics.com reports that the not quite full slate may be part of a Wildrose strategy to help PC candidates defeat NDP candidates in Edmonton. Recent polls have showed the NDP has strong support in Edmonton, which may explain why the Wildrose Party appears to be putting little resources into its Capital City campaigns.

Liberal leader David Swann announced his party plans to run candidates in only 47 constituencies, leaving 40 constituencies without Liberal candidates on the ballot. This sends a strong sign of the party’s province-wide disorganization.

The Alberta Party has nominated 36 candidates and the Green Party has put forward candidates in 29 constituencies.

Fundraising

Elections Alberta released first quarter fundraising reports from 2015, showing the financial strengths and weaknesses of Alberta’s political parties. Here are the results of party fundraising in the first four months of 2015: PC $825,318; NDP $406,883; Wildrose $355,091; Liberal $110,764; Alberta Party $109,272.

Giving an indication of how much Alberta’s political environment has changed in the past 12 months, here is what the same parties raised in the first quarter of 2014: Wildrose $891,418; PC $769,800; NDP $123,397; LIB $79,905; Alberta Party $27,200.

Liberals don’t owe the Alberta Party a free ride in Calgary-Elbow

A squabble between supporters of two opposition parties in Calgary-Elbow has attracted some media attention over the past few days. Supporters of the Alberta Party have taken to social media to voice their annoyance with Liberal Party plans to run a candidate, likely John Roggeveen, in Calgary-Elbow, where Alberta Party leader Greg Clark is also running.

Greg Clark Calgary-Elbow Alberta Party

Greg Clark

In an October 2014 by-election, Mr. Clark placed a strong second and came within 800 votes of defeating appointed Progressive Conservative Education Minister Gordon Dirks. Liberal candidate Susan Wright placed fourth with 1,519 votes, leading many of Mr. Clark’s supporters to lament the vote split among the two centrist opposition parties (Ms. Wright, aka Susan on the Soapbox, is supporting the NDP in the 2015 election).

Some supporters argued that because the Alberta Party is not nominating a candidate to run against interim Liberal leader David Swann in Calgary-Mountain View or candidate David Khan in Calgary-Buffalo, that the Liberals should not run a candidate against Mr. Clark in Calgary-Elbow.

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

It is easy to understand their frustration.This election could be the Alberta Party’s first real shot at electing an MLA and defeating a sitting cabinet minister, and Liberals could play the role of spoiler.

Even if they do have almost identical policies and positions, it is not the responsibility of one party to help another elect candidates in an election. It may boggle the mind to think why the Liberal and Alberta parties refuse to merge, but the two parties are still opponents. Even if the Liberal Party has no chance of electing an MLA in Calgary-Elbow, the party has every right to run a candidate in that constituency.

Laurie Blakeman MLA Edmonton Centre Liberal

Laurie Blakeman

This situation puts Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman in a puzzling position. Seeking a sixth-term as MLA, Ms. Blakeman is running for re-election in Edmonton-Centre and has secured the nominations, or endorsements, of the Alberta Party and Green Party (and in Red Deer-North, Liberal candidate Michael Dawe has also secured the Green Party nomination). The initial response to Ms. Blakeman’s triple-nomination was mixed, but she defended her decision to work with the three centrist opposition parties as an attempt to unite progressive voters.

Ms. Blakeman tweeted her frustration about the Elbow squabble.

A map tracking official campaign stops of Alberta's four main political leaders since the election campaign began on April 8, 2015 (Dark Blue: PC; Orange: NDP; Green: Wildrose; Light Blue: Alberta Party; Red: Liberal)

Where did Alberta’s party leaders spend the first week of the 2015 election?

With the first full week of Alberta’s 2015 election campaign coming to an end, I took a look at where the leaders of Alberta’s political parties have visited in the last seven days [see the map above].

The day the writ was dropped, Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice hopped into his party’s campaign bus and hit the highway into rural Alberta. First driving through the West Yellowhead constituency, Mr. Prentice’s tour included campaign stops with Finance Minister Robin Campbell and a trip down memory lane to Grande Cache, where he spent part of his childhood.

The PC tour continued through central and southern rural Alberta with a quick stop in Calgary. Much of Mr. Prentice’s first week was dedicated to campaigning in constituencies that voted Wildrose in the last election – Airdrie, Drumheller-Stettler, HighwoodLacombe-Ponoka, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, Livingstone-Macleod, and Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills.

NDP leader Rachel Notley started election with campaign stops in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge. During the first weekend of the campaign, Ms. Notley traveled to Fort McMurray, where she campaigned with candidates Stephen Drover and Ariana Mancini, and participated in the local Firefighters charity event. Upon her return to Edmonton, she was greeted by a crowd of more than 500 NDP supporters at a Sunday afternoon rally at the Citadel Theatre.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean, travelling Alberta in his campaign RV, has made stops in Edmonton, Grande Prairie, and Calgary, but has divided most of his time in rural southern and central Alberta and the two Fort McMurray constituencies (he is running for election in Fort McMurray-Conklin). As the campaign continues, I expect that Mr. Jean will continue to focus on key rural areas of rural Alberta and Calgary, including Strathmore-Brooks, where the Wildrose hope former Taxpayers Federation spokesperson Derek Fildebrandt can win.

Alberta Party leader Greg Clark and Liberal leader David Swann appear to be focusing most of their energies on winning their own constituencies in Calgary, but both have made trips to Edmonton to hold press conferences and campaign with local candidates. Mr. Clark, alongside Edmonton-Gold Bar candidate Cristina Stasia, released the Alberta Party platform at the University of Alberta campus.


The latest party policy announcements

Ms. Notley released her party’s health care policy, Mr. Jean spoke about the need to prioritize high need long-term care spaces, Mr. Prentice committed to triple infrastructure and maintenance investment, and Dr. Swann’s Liberals unveiled a full-day kindergarden and universal childcare strategy.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean (right) and Strathmore-Brooks candidate Derek Fildebrandt use a comically large arrow to point out tax increases to alcohol included in the PC Party's recent provincial budget.

Alberta Election Week 1: The Economy and Corporate Tax confusion

Recent polls show a three-way split in support between the Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic and Wildrose Parties have generated some interest in Alberta’s provincial election campaign but with 24 days left until voting day we can expect a lot to change. Here is a quick review of what the politicians were saying and political parties were spinning in the first week of this election campaign.

Progressive Conservatives
PC leader Jim Prentice launched his party's election campaign in Edmonton.

PC leader Jim Prentice launched his party’s election campaign in Edmonton.

Campaigning on issues related to the March 2015 provincial budget, Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice spent most of his week travelling around rural Alberta in his party’s campaign bus.

Mr. Prentice targeted his opponents as extremists while moderating his own tone around Alberta’s economy. Before the election was called, Mr. Prentice’s repeated doom-and-gloom messages led opposition critics to name him “Grim Jim.” The PCs are attempting to present Mr. Prentice as the balanced (a.k.a. safe) candidate, as opposed to the extremist (a.k.a. dangerous) leaders of the opposition.

The PCs promised to double the $17.4 billion Heritage Fund as part of a ‘ten year plan’ and Mr. Prentice repeated his pre-election statement that he would remove the provincial government’s dependence on natural resources revenues.

PC Social Media blitz

PC Social Media blitz

The recent provincial budget included almost sixty tax and fee increases, including increases to personal taxes but no increases to corporate taxes, which appears to have been a political miscalculation on the part of the PCs. The government’s own budget survey results showed 69% of Albertans support a corporate tax increase, a point the NDP has stressed.

PC MLAs and candidates took to social media to post different variations of a message that 8,900 jobs would be lost if corporate taxes were increased by 1%. It is unclear what study the 8,900 jobs number originates from.

Creating more confusion around corporate tax increases, a PC press release from April 9 stated ‘Prentice pointed out that more than 95% in Alberta are small businesses, employing fewer than 50 people, and questioned those who would put those jobs at risk with a corporate tax increase.” This is a good talking point, if not for the issue that small businesses do not pay corporate tax rates.

According to the Department of Finance website, small businesses earning $500,000 of less profit each year pay a separate 3% small business tax, not the 10% corporate tax applied to companies earning more than $500,000 in profit annually. The PCs dropped the corporate tax rate in Alberta from 15% in 2001 to the current 10% in 2006.

Edmonton Police are investigating bribery allegations made during the Edmonton-Ellerslie PC nomination contest and disqualified Edmonton-Decore PC nomination candidate Don Martin is suing the PC Party for $124,000 over bribery allegations. Dismissed nomination candidate Jamie Lall declared that he is running as an Independent candidate against PC MLA Bruce McAllister in Chestermere-Rockyview.

New Democratic Party
NDP leader Rachel Notley with Calgary candidates on April 8, 2015.

NDP leader Rachel Notley with Calgary candidates on April 8, 2015.

NDP leader Rachel Notley launched her party’s election campaign in Edmonton and travelled to Calgary and Lethbridge to campaign with candidates in those cities. It is notable that the NDP are focusing resources on candidates outside of Edmonton, where the party has traditionally been weak. Calgary-Fort candidate Joe CeciCalgary-Varsity candidate Stephanie McLean and Lethbridge-West candidate Shannon Phillips were prominently placed at Ms. Notley’s side during photo-ops at these stops

NDP messaging in the first week of the campaign focused on the economy. Ms. Notley announced the creation of a Job Creation Tax Credit for businesses as the first NDP election promise, providing balance from their calls for corporate tax increases. The credit sounds reasonable, but much like the PC Party’s 8,900 job loss argument, I am skeptical about this credit creating 27,000 new jobs. The NDP also announced that in-province refining and upgrading is also a top priority. Before the election was called, Ms. Notley’s unveiled her party’s plans to create a Resource Owners’ Rights Commission.

The NDP responded to Mr. Prentice’s “extremist” claims with an “extremist of the week” press release quoting former Premier Peter Lougheed’s support of increased corporate taxes and former Deputy Premier (and current PC candidate) Thomas Lukaszuk support for in-province refining and upgrading.

Ms. Notley was also a guest on this week’s #abvote Google Hangout.

Wildrose Party
Wildrose leader Brian Jean

Wildrose leader Brian Jean

Focusing on rural Alberta, Wildrose leader Brian Jean campaigned in southern Alberta and his Fort McMurray constituency this week. While the campaign trail in Strathmore-Brooks, Mr. Jean and candidate Derek Fildebrandt cleverly walked around town with a giant arrow in hand pointing out services and commodities, like alcohol and gas, which became more expensive due to tax increases in the recent provincial budget.

Mr. Jean released his party’s “Five Priorities” that include positions on taxes, health care, education, democracy and rural Alberta. Part of the Wildrose plan to balance the budget by 2017 without raising taxes includes cutting 3,200 management jobs, including 1,600 in Alberta Health Services and 1,600 in the Government public service.

The Wildrose announced they would sell the Kananaskis Golf Course, a publicly owned and privately-operated golf course that the provincial government had paid millions of dollars to repair after it was damaged by floods in 2013.

Mr. Jean backtracked on comments made about Mr. Prentice undermining Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Wildrose Party also nominated new candidates this week including City Councillor Buck Buchanan in Red Deer-North, past mayoral candidate Shelley Biermanski in St. Albert, Don Koziak in Edmonton-Glenora and Ian Crawford in Edmonton-Riverview.

Liberals
Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, interim leader David Swann and Edmonton Liberal candidates unveil the party's pay equity proposal.

Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, interim leader David Swann and Edmonton Liberal candidates unveil the party’s pay equity proposal.

The Liberal Party announced they would introduce pay equity legislation, increase funding to Family and Community Support Services and reinstate the Charitable Donation Tax Credit, which was decreased in the recent budget. Interim leader David Swann , who is running for re-election in Calgary-Mountain View, received an endorsement from Senator and retired Lieuteant General Romeo Dallaire. Receiving the 2015 Calgary Peace Prize this week, Mr. Dallaire called Mr. Swann a “true humanitarian.”

Edmonton Journal columnist Graham Thomson wrote that the Liberal Party might need “a ballot box miracle” in order to save themselves from political oblivion.

Alberta Party 

Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark released his party’s policy platform and Economic Recovery Plan. Most of the party’s focus is on electing Mr. Clark in Calgary-Elbow, where he placed a strong second to PC MLA Gordon Dirks in a 2014 by-election. Mr. Clark’s campaign is using DirksRecord.ca to target Mr. Dirks’ record.

The party also grabbed media attention for scooping up the domain names choosealbertasfuture.ca and .com after the PC campaign slogan was unveiled earlier this week.

Green Party 

The Green Party published a media release criticizing the PC Government’s record on environmental regulation, describing it as a “fake, not authentic, regulation and thus an insult to the intelligence, dignity and trusting nature of Albertans.”  The release takes issue with the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan and calls on the government to create a regulator that understands the impact of proposed activity and puts rules in place to prevent any unacceptable impacts.

Other Groups

The Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) launched a campaign to increase voter turnout among university students in this election. “We are going to sign up thousands of students and make sure they turn out on Election Day,” CAUS chairperson Navneet Khinda said in a press release.

The Parkland Institute released a new report looking at political values of Albertans. Public Interest Alberta released its “Priorities for Change” report as a resource for political candidates in this election And Change Alberta has returned to rank the progressive candidates most likely to win in constituencies across Alberta.

A Giant Squirrel poses with Jim Prentice, Robin Campbell and PC Party supporters in Edson.

Alberta’s 2015 election could be more interesting than expected!

Albertans are heading to the polls on May 5, 2015 to elect the next Legislative Assembly of Alberta. Like the past twelve elections since 1971, the May 5 vote will almost certainly result in the re-election of the Progressive Conservative Party, Alberta’s natural governing party. But despite the mostly pre-determined outcomes, provincial elections in this province can be interesting and sometimes exciting.

Alison Redford Alberta Election 2012 Conservative leader

Alison Redford

After 43 years as government, the PC Party is not running on its record.

Campaigning under the slogan “Choose Alberta’s Future,” Team Jim Prentice will try to ensure that Albertans are not reminded of the past three years of scandals and broken promises while their party was led by Alison Redford.

Mr. Prentice wants the next 27 days to be an election focused on the latest provincial budget and proposed “ten year plan.” The PCs do not want this election to be a referendum on their record as government, at least not beyond the past seven months since Mr. Prentice became their leader.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

Claiming that a vote for his party is not a vote for the status quo, Mr. Prentice took shots at the New Democratic Party and Wildrose Party, and challenged the opposition to unveil their plans for governing the province. As we are entering an election campaign, I am sure the opposition parties will do just that, while also taking every opportunity to remind voters of the PC Party’s record.

NDP leader Rachel Notley says she wants to form a government, while Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean is aiming for a more modest post as Official Opposition leader. Liberal leader David Swann is also aiming for opposition and the Alberta Party is focused on electing Greg Clark in Calgary-Elbow, where he placed a close second in a 2014 by-election.

Brian Jean Wildrose Leader

Brian Jean

Unlike previous elections when the Liberals and NDP would compete in a handful of constituencies in Edmonton to form Official Opposition, there are almost no constituencies in this election where the Wildrose and NDP are both contenders. This could be the first election in a generation where the PCs find themselves facing serious opposition challenges in both rural and urban Alberta.

While it is unlikely that the PCs will lose government in this election, it is possible that both main opposition parties could surprise Albertans by making gains at the expense of the governing party.


Metro Edmonton reports that Edmonton-Mill Woods PC MLA Sohail Quadri filed an expense claim for $5,000 to hold a banquet to celebrate his first year in office. Mr. Quadri replaced controversial former PC MLA Carl Benito in the 2012 election.

 

Maverick MLA Laurie Blakeman accepts Liberal, Green and Alberta Party nominations

Fresh from her big victory in Alberta’s Gay-Straight Alliances debate, Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman announced this morning that she has accepted the nominations to be a candidate for the Liberal PartyAlberta Party AND Green Party in the upcoming provincial election. With these three nominations, she hopes to unite the progressive vote in the downtown Edmonton constituency she has represented since 1997.

It is an unusual and out-of-the-box move, but what does it mean?

The goal is to prevent vote splitting between parties that agree on most issues and by uniting around one candidate there are not three candidates drawing votes away from each other in Edmonton-Centre.

Practically speaking, the triple-nomination will not bring many increased resources to Ms. Blakeman’s re-election campaign, because both the Alberta Party and Green Party have negligible organization and funds in the constituency. And while the three parties have nominated her as their candidate, it is expected that only one party will be allowed to appear beside her name on the voting ballot.

It is an important symbolic move.

When Raj Sherman resigned as Liberal leader in January 2015, Ms. Blakeman stood for interim leader and brought forward a plan to cooperate with the other opposition parties. She was rebuked by the Liberal Party executive, who chose former leader David Swann instead and rejected a cooperation proposal from the Alberta Party.

Ms. Blakeman is breaking from the current Liberal Party executive, who, despite their party being on the brink of complete electoral annihilation, appear to have done everything in their power to prevent cooperation between the smaller parties before the next election.

This is not the first time a Liberal MLA has broken with their party on this issue. In December 2012, Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr published a guest post on this blog arguing for the need for progressive opposition parties to cooperate. And former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor became the first Alberta Party MLA in 2011.

Some political watchers may ask why Ms. Blakeman, a centre-leftish Liberal, would not simply join the New Democratic Party, which appears to have momentum in Edmonton. In terms of uniting the centrist parties, the NDP have consistently made clear they are not interested in cooperation. But not recruiting Ms. Blakeman into their party may have been a big missed opportunity for the NDP in Edmonton.

As as one of only two Liberal MLAs running for re-election, she will now have to wait to see how her own party executive reacts. While there will certainly be those in the party who are irritate with her triple-nomination, there is little doubt that many progressive-minded Albertans would sympathize or agree with her decision.

The triple-nomination proves that, despite the protests of their more orthodox members, it is possible for Alberta’s tiny opposition parties to cooperate.

And as a popular and outspoken MLA, Ms. Blakeman is undoubtably looking past this year’s election with a mind of uniting the tiny parties into a viable centrist opposition.


We are pleased to announce that Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman will be our special guest on the next Alberta Election Google Hangout. Tune in to http://abvote.ca at 7pm on Monday, March 16 to watch the hangout. Tweet your questions and feedback using the #abvote hashtag.