Tag Archives: Derek Fildebrandt

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt joined Jason Kenney on the eve of his victory in the PC Party leadership race. (Photo credit: @pcyouthalberta on Twitter)

Derek Fildebrandt joins separatist Freedom Conservative Party, remains a Giant Thorn in Jason Kenney’s side.

Photo: In happier times. Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt joined Jason Kenney on the eve of his victory in the PC Party leadership race. (Photo credit: @pcyouthalberta on Twitter)

Derek Fildebrandt has found a new way to become a giant thorn in the side of United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney. The MLA for Strathmore-Brooks has joined the Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta, becoming that party’s interim leader and its first MLA.

Leela Aheer Wildrose MLA Chestermere Rockyview

Leela Aheer

The former the boy wonder of Alberta’s conservative movement, Fildebrandt resigned from the UCP caucus in August 2017, was banned from returning , and barred from running for a UCP nomination in Strathmore-Chestermere after a long series of embarrassing scandals, ranging from a hit-and-run incident to renting his government subsidized apartment on AirBNB to being charged with killing a deer on private property without the owner’s permission.

Most Albertans will have never heard of the tiny right-wing separatist party, but as already reported on this blog, the Western Freedom Party was renamed the Freedom Conservative Party in late June 2018. The party was originally formed as the Alberta First Party in 1999, renamed the Separation Party in 2004 and again renamed the Alberta First Party in 2013. It was renamed the Western Freedom Party in April 2018 and again renamed the Freedom Conservative Party in June 2018.

The President of the party is Bob Lefurgey, who had previously reported to be collecting signatures to form another new separatist party that was to be called The Western Independence Party of Alberta.

In August 2017, Lefurgey described his plan to create the Western Independence Party to the Okotoks Western Wheel. “It’s basically to remove Alberta from confederation,” Lefurgey told the Western Wheel. “There’s been an accumulation of things over time and we’re in a perfect storm for separatists right now, with all the things going on – everything from immigration, gun control, equalization.”

Gordon Kesler

Gordon Kesler

Lefurgey was a candidate for the Separation Party of Alberta in the Airdire-Chestermere district in the 2004 election. He earned 394 votes.

Lefurgey is also the current President of the Freedom Conservative Party association in Strathmore-Brooks, the district currently represented by Fildebrandt. It is the party’s only registered constituency association.

The party’s Facebook page still does not yet reflect the June 2018 name change, though someone is continuing to post new content a few times a week, which includes some internet conspiracy theories that are typically seen on the right-wing political fringes of the internet.

In one Facebook post, which sounds like something that might be inspired by the anti-semitic 1935 Social Credit campaign, Fildebrandt’s new party wants to make sure that Albertans “Don’t find yourself waking up one day to find that the World Bank or George Soros and Aga Khan own your financial institutions. You will then understand what you should have done to stop the UN, the Songbird initiative, the Boreal Initiative, Y to Y and the Leap Manifesto and take your country back from the elites!

The last notable leader of a separatist party elected to the Legislature was Gordon Kesler, who was elected as a Western Canadian Concept candidate in the Olds-Didsbury by-election of 1982. Much of Kesler’s activities in the Legislature included opposing official bilingualism and protesting the introduction of the metric system.

As party leader, Fildebrandt could petition to join the mainstream media organized televised leaders debates during the next election. This was a status Kesler was denied when Peter Lougheed refused to debate him on TV. Kesler was defeated in the 1982 general election.

Fildebrandt remains popular in his district and is a formidable political campaigner. We should expect him to face off against UCP MLA Leela Aheer in the new Strathmore-Chestermere district in next year’s election. He might have a shot at winning, and he might not be alone.

Fildebrandt told Postmedia’s Don Braid that his party plans to contest UCP safe seats in the next election. His criticism of the UCP for their last-minute disqualification of perceived front-runner S. Todd Beasley in the neighbouring Brooks-Medicine Hat district could be the first step in a candidate recruitment strategy. It could also be an early sign that the Freedom Conservative Party might be a home for disgruntled and disqualified United Conservatives in the Alberta’s provincial election.

Yep, Derek Fildebrandt is still a giant thorn in Jason Kenney’s side.

Jason Kenney Prab Gill

Sixth MLA leaves the UCP. Prab Gill resigns from caucus following ballot-stuffing investigation.

The polls suggest the United Conservative Party is poised to form government in 2019, but how united the caucus actually is remains questionable.

Calgary-Greenway UCP MLA Prab Gill issued a statement yesterday announcing that he has left the UCP caucus to sit as an Independent MLA following the conclusion of an investigation into allegations of ballot-stuffing and ballot-snatching at a party meeting in the new Calgary-North East district on June 30, 2018.

Gill had already resigned as UCP caucus deputy whip on July 11, 2018, and with his departure from the UCP caucus he leaves his roles as Official Opposition critic for seniors, housing and multiculturalism. He had been planning to challenge Anand Chetty and Tariq Khan for the UCP nomination in Calgary-North East.

The allegations of ballot-stuffing and ballot-snatching originally stemmed from a YouTube video posted by a disgruntled UCP member who attended the June 30 meeting. 

Carruthers Report not made public

Following the circulation of the video, UCP leader Jason Kenney announced he had asked retired judge and former Progressive Conservative Party president Ted Carruthers to investigate the allegations.

Carruthers served as president of the PC Party from 1992 to 1994 and oversaw the party’s 1992 leadership contest, which he at the time described as “the greatest exercise in democracy ever seen in our province.” He was appointed as an Alberta Family and Youth Court Judge in 1996 by then-Justice Minster Brian Evans.

Carruthers’ report and its contents, which prompted Gill’s departure from the UCP caucus, has not been made public.

Nasty internal power struggles were common in old PC Party

A Wildrose Party flyer attacking PC candidate Prab Gill for being a "Justin Trudeau Liberal." Mr. Gill was elected on March 22, 2016.

A Wildrose Party flyer attacking PC candidate Prab Gill for being a “Justin Trudeau Liberal.” Mr. Gill was elected on March 22, 2016.

Gill was first elected as the PC MLA for Calgary-Greenway in a 2016 by-election following the death of PC MLA Manmeet Bhullar. Gill was first appointed as the PC Party candidate but a backlash from party members led to the party allowing a contested nomination, which he then won.

In the by-election, he narrowly defeated his main opponent, Wildroser Devinder Toor, by 335 votes and faced harsh criticism from the Wildrose Party for his support of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the October 2015 federal election.

Gill’s predecessor in Calgary-Greenway, Bhullar, was appointed Premier Ed Stelmach as the PC Party’s candidate in the former Calgary-Montrose district in 2008 following a very public legal battle between the PC Party and its local volunteers in the district. The PC Party won the court battle.

The loss of this MLA, along with a recent nasty nomination contest in Chestermere-Strathmore, suggests that despite the party name change the UCP may have the inherited the culture of nasty internal power struggles similar to the ones that mired the old PC Party before the 2015 election.


Prab Gill is the sixth MLA to leave the United Conservative Party caucus since it was formed on July 24, 2017.

1. Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt left the UCP caucus on August 15, 2017 after he was charged with hunting and shooting a deer on private property without permission. He currently sits as an Independent Conservative MLA in the Assembly.

2. Calgary-South East MLA Rick Fraser left the UCP caucus to sit as an Independent MLA on September 12, 2017. He joined the Alberta Party caucus on January 9, 2018 and ran for that party’s leadership.

3. Dave Rodney resigned as MLA for Calgary-Lougheed on November 1, 2017 in order to trigger a by-election to allow Kenney to enter the Legislative Assembly. Rodney was first elected as a PC MLA in 2004.

4. Don MacIntyre resigned as MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake on Feb. 2, 2018 after being charged with sexual assault and sexual interference. McIntyre was the UCP’s critic for Energy and a member of the UCP Rural Crime Task Force.

5. Brian Jean resigned as MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin on March 5, 2018 in the months following his defeat in the UCP leadership contest. Jean had led the Wildrose Party from 2015 to 2017.

Leela Aheer, Shawna Gawreluck, Janet Eremenko, and Elisabeth Hughes

Aheer acclaimed but not in the clear. UCP investigating alleged ballot-stuffing in North East Calgary.

Photo: Nomination candidates Leela Aheer, Shawna Gawreluck, Janet Eremenko, and Elisabeth Hughes.

Despite the drama of restraining orders and alleged death threats, MLA Leela Aheer was acclaimed as the United Conservative Party candidate in the new Chesteremere-Strathmore district after she was the only candidate to officially submit her nomination papers with the party.

But Aheer is not in the clear. Current Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt, who now sits as an Independent Conservative and was barred from challenging Aheer in the nomination, is expected to challenge Aheer in the general election.

The drama continues in north east Calgary as the UCP says it is now investigating allegations of ballot-stuffing at the founding meeting of the Calgary-North East constituency association. The allegations were made public through a video posted by a UCP member on YouTube following the meeting. Current MLA Prab Gill, who was elected as a Progressive Conservative in the 2016 Calgary-Greenway by-election, is challenging Anand Chetty and Tariq Khan for the UCP nomination in this district.

Nate Pike has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-North East.

Mason to “discuss his political future”

Brian Mason

Brian Mason

NDP MLA Brian Mason held a press conference this morning to announce he will not seek re-election in 2019. Next year will mark thirty-years in elected office for Mason, who currently serves as MLA for Edmonton-Highlands Norwood and the Minister of Transportation.

He was elected to Edmonton City Council in 1989 and as the MLA for Edmonton-Highlands in a 2000 by-election. He is the longest serving MLA currently in the Alberta Legislature.

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

Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul – Former St. Paul mayor Glenn Anderson has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.

Calgary-Edgemont – Joanne Gui has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.

Calgary-ElbowJanet Eremenko is seeking the New Democratic Party nomination. Eremenko was a candidate for Calgary City Council in Ward 11 in the October 2017 election where she finished third with 20 percent of the vote. Past Ward 8 city council candidate Chris Davis is seeking the UCP nomination in this district.

Drayton Valley-Devon – Kieran Quirke has been nominated as the NDP candidate. He is the Chair of the Leduc-Nisku Economic Development Board and co-chair of the Alberta NDP Rural Caucus.

Chris Nielsen MLA

Chris Nielsen

Edmonton-Decore – MLA Chris Nielsen is seeking the NDP nomination in this north Edmonton district. Nelson was first elected as MLA in 2015, earning 67 percent of the vote.

Edmonton-North West – Todd Ross is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Ross was the Liberal Party candidate in Edmonton-Castle Downs in 2015, earning 4.9 percent of the vote.

Edmonton-Whitemud  Elisabeth Hughes is seeking the UCP nomination. Hughes works as a constituency assistant in the office of Edmonton-Riverbend Member of Parliament Matt Jeneroux.

Leduc-Beaumont – MLA Shaye Anderson will seek the NDP nomination, which has been scheduled for July 18, 2018. Anderson was first elected in 2015 with 38 percent of the vote. Corinne Hubert is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Lesser Slave Lake – Judy Kim-Meneen is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin – LGBTQ activist Chevi Rabbitt is seeking the Alberta Party nomination in this newly redrawn central Alberta district.

Morinville-St. AlbertShawna Gawreluck is seeking the NDP nomination in this new district north of Edmonton. Gawreluck is a lab technologist and a resident of Sturgeon County. She was the federal NDP candidate in the 2017 by-election in the Sturgeon River-Parkland district.


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!

Leela Aheer and Brian Jean

Death threats and restraining orders – What the heck is happening to the UCP in Chestermere-Strathmore?

Photo: Chestermere-Rockyview MLA Leela Aheer and former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, who she endorsed in the 2017 UCP leadership contest (source: Facebook)

The contest for the United Conservative Party nomination in the new Chestermere-Strathmore district turned nasty this week when it was revealed that MLA and UCP Deputy Leader Leela Aheer attempted to seek a restraining order against one of her opponents.

David Campbell UCP Chestermere-Strathmore

David Campbell (source: Facebook)

The Calgary Herald reported that Aheer discontinued the action against David Campbell the day before the application was to be heard in court. The dispute was apparently the result of a confrontation between Aheer and Campbell at a June 14 meeting of the local UCP association. The application had asked for a court order keeping Campbell 200 metres away from her and her home.

The Calgary Sun later reported that Campbell was in Court of Queen’s Bench seeking legal costs in the case he described as an effort to shut him out of the nomination process.

Aheer was first elected as Wildrose Party MLA for Chesteremere-Rockyview in 2015 and was a strong supporter of former WIldrose leader Brian Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership contest. Earlier this year, she spoke out against a motion at the UCP founding convention that would out students who join gay-straight alliances, a move that Campbell criticized her for.

In a Facebook post published on June 18, 2018, Campbell wrote that “the amalgamation of the legacy parties has failed to get rid of the internal rot, stench and elitism that plagued them both.”

In actual fact, “win at all cost” cronyism may be worse today than in the past, led disappointingly by former Wildrosers who are close to smelling the sweet scent of leadership, influence, and authority,” Campbell wrote.

Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrant, a former UCP MLA who now sits as an Independent Conservative and was barred by Jason Kenney from running in the new district against Aheer, posted on Facebook that “insider-party elites refuse to allow the people of Chestermere-Strathmore an open, free & fair nomination of their UCP candidate.”

Fildebrandt went even further by posting allegations on his Facebook page that Aheer’s husband had “threatened to murder” him a year and a half ago (see screenshot below).

Derek Fildebrandt's Facebook comment on June 26, 2018.

Derek Fildebrandt’s Facebook comment on June 26, 2018.

Fildebrandt’s serious allegation is unproven, but this entire embarrassing political mess demonstrates the level of nastiness the UCP nomination contest has reached in Chestermere-Strathmore.

The current situation overshadows some of the controversy that marred the Progressive Conservative nomination contest in Chestermere-Rockyview ahead of the 2015 election. That race saw one disqualified candidate release a series of embarrassing text messages from party official related to his disqualification.

The UCP has set June 28 as the deadline for candidates to enter the nomination contest in Chestermere-Strathmore. A nomination meeting has been scheduled for July 19, 2018. Declared candidates include Aheer, Campbell, Mark Giesbrecht, and Pamela Hilton.

Amid political gong-show, Postmedia shuts down local newspaper 

And as real political news worth reporting is happening in their community, it was announced today that the Strathmore Standard is one of the latest victims of Postmedia’s budget axe. The Standard was founded in 1909 and its departure will leave a big gap in news coverage in the community of more than 13,000 residents east of Calgary.

Also being shuttered by Postmedia is the Camrose Canadian, which first started publishing in 1908. The High River Times will now publish one edition per week, down from twice weekly.

David Shepherd MLA Edmonton City Centre

Alberta Candidate Nomination Update: Shepherd running in Edmonton-City Centre, McPherson chosen in Calgary-Beddington, and McIver’s challenger drops out in Calgary-Hays

Photo: Edmonton-Centre MLA David Shepherd with Premier Rachel Notley and other NDP MLAs at Pride festivities.

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

Calgary-BeddingtonKaren McPherson has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate. McPherson was first elected as an New Democratic Party candidate in 2015 in the Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill district. She left the NDP caucus in October 2017 to sit as an Independent and joined the Alberta Party caucus later that month.

Calgary-Edgemont/Calgary-Varsity – Beth Barberree has withdrawn from the Alberta Party nomination contest in this district and is instead seeking her party’s nomination in Calgary-Varsity. Barberee was the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Hawkwood in the 2015 election.

Calgary-Hays – Patrick Meckelborg has withdrawn from the United Conservative Party nomination contest in this district, meaning that incumbent UCP MLA Ric McIver will be acclaimed as his party’s candidate at a nomination meeting tonight.

Calgary-Shaw – Bronson Ha is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Central Peace-NotleyMarg McCuaig Boyd is seeking the NDP nomination. McCuaig Boyd was first elected to represent the Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley district in 2015, earning 38 percent of the vote in a close three way contest. She currently serves as Alberta’s Minister of Energy. A nomination meeting will be held on June 28, 2018 to choose the party’s candidate for the next election.

Chestermere-Strathmore – Pamela Hilton is seeking the UCP nomination in this new district. Hilton’s Chief Financial Officer is Ronda Klemmensen, who was one of the loudest voices to speak out against MLA Derek Fildebrandt’s very brief suspension from the Wildrose caucus in June 2016. Fildebrandt has been barred from seeking the UCP nomination in this district by party leader Jason Kenney.

Edmonton-Castle Downs – Arthur Hagen is seeking the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-City CentreDavid Shepherd is seeking the NDP nomination in this newly redrawn district. Shepherd was first elected in 2015 after unseating five-term Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman. In 2017, readers of this blog and listeners of the Daveberta Podcast voted Shepherd as the “Up and Comer in 2018.”

Edmonton-Riverview – Lori Sigurdson is seeking the NDP nomination. Sigurdson has recently taken leave from her positions as Minister of Housing and Minister of Seniors in order to undergo treatment for leukaemia. Sigurdson was first elected in 2015, earning 62 percent of the vote. She was the NDP candidate in this district in the 2012 election, placing third with 21 percent of the vote.

Edmonton-South – Past city council candidate Payman Parseyan has withdrawn from the UCP nomination. Enayat Aminzadah is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Aminzadah is a manager of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta.

Highwood – Richard Sigurdson is seeking the UCP nomination.

Livingstone-Macleod: Tim Meech is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Red Deer-North – Matt Chapin has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest in this district. He previously withdrew from the UCP nomination contest in the Red Deer-South district.

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!

Alberta Candidate Nomination Update: NDPer Stephanie McLean retiring, Mike Nickel runs for UCP nomination, UCP MLAs face challengers

Photo: Mike Nickel, Stephanie McLean, Angela Pitt, and Marco Reid

The big nomination news since my last update was the announcement by Stephanie McLean that she was withdrawing from the New Democratic Party nomination contest in Calgary-Varsity. McLean is Minister of Status of Women and Minister of Service Alberta and is the second NDP MLA to announced plans not to seek re-election in 2019. In 2016, she became the first first sitting cabinet minister in Alberta’s history to give birth while in office.

Calgary-Varsity was the NDP’s third strongest showing in Calgary in the 2015 election, behind Calgary-Fort, represented by Joe Ceci, and Calgary-Klein, represented by Craig Coolahan.

Edmonton City Councillor seeks UCP nomination

Edmonton City Councillor Mike Nickel is the third candidate to enter the United Conservative Party nomination contest in the new Edmonton-South district. Nickel has represented Ward 11 in southeast Edmonton since 2013 and previously represented southwest Edmonton’s Ward 5 from 2004 until 2007 when he was unseated by rookie candidate Don Iveson. Nickel ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1998 and 2001.

Nickel would not need to resign as a City Councillor unless he is elected as an MLA in the expected spring 2019 provincial election. Amarjeet Sohi took a leave of absence from council when he ran as a federal Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods in 2015 and resigned after he was elected. Councillor Tony Caterina took a leave of absence when he ran as a Progressive Conservative candidate in the Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview district in the 2015 provincial election. He returned to council following his election defeat.

UCP MLAs face nomination challengers

The UCP nominated their first five candidates for the next provincial election. Jason Kenney in Calgary-Lougheed, Mike Ellis in Calgary-West,  Jason Nixon in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, Grant Hunter in Taber-Warner and Nate Glubish in Strathcona-Sherwood Park were acclaimed in their nomination contests.

As noted in a previous update, Sportsnet commentator Roger Millions is challenging MLA Angela Pitt for the UCP nomination in the new Airdrie-East district. Pitt was first elected in 2015, earning 35 percent of the vote in a three-way contest with New Democrat Chris Noble, with 29 percent, and Progressive Conservative Peter Brown, with 28 percent. A nomination contest has been scheduled for June 20, 2018.

There is trouble in Airdrie-East. Board member Rick Northey resigned citing serious concerns with how “sixteen thousand dollars” left over in the former Wildrose Party association in the district was “given away with no discussion at all.” Northey claims in his letter that he faced “outright intimidation from a sitting MLA.”

Patrick Meckelborg is challenging UCP MLA Ric McIver for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Hays at a June 7, 2018 selection meeting. McIver was first elected as MLA for this district in 2012 and served as interim leader of the Progressive Conservative Party following the party’s disastrous defeat in the 2015 election,

Carrie Fischer and Dean Leask are challenging UCP MLA Wayne Anderson for the UCP nomination in Highwood. Fischer is a former councillor in the Town of Okotoks who ran against Anderson as the PC candidate in this district in the 2015 election.

Greens nominate by-election candidates

The Green Party of Alberta has nominated Marco Reid in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake and Brian Deheer in Fort McMurray-Conklin. By-elections are expected to be called in these districts soon. Reid is currently serving as president of the party and was a candidate for the party’s leadership in 2017. The party’s strongest showing in the last election was in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, where Deheer earned 2.8 percent of the vote.

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

Calgary-Bow – Cheryl Durkee is seeking the UCP nomination contest in Calgary-Bow.

Calgary-Cross – Emile Gabriel is seeking the UCP nomination contest.

Calgary-FalconridgeDeepak Sharma is seeking the Liberal Party nomination.

Edmonton-Manning – Kulshan Gill is seeking the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-McClung – Steve Thompson is seeking the UCP nomination. Thompson was the Wildrose Party candidate in this district in the 2015 election.

Edmonton-Mill Woods – David Fletcher is seeking the UCP nomination. Fletcher was a candidate for Edmonton Public School Board in 1998, a Progressive Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Gold Bar in 2001 and an Independent candidate for Senator Nominee in 2012.

Edmonton-Rutherford – Hannah Presakarchuk is seeking the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-Whitemud – Ian Crawford is seeking the UCP nomination. Crawford was the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Whitemud in 2012 and Edmonton-Riverview in 2015 and ran for the federal Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Riverbend in 2015. He also ran for City Council in 1989, 1992, and 2004, for the Capital Health Authority Board in 2001, for the Reform Party nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona in 1993, for the PC nominations in Edmonton-Rutherford and Edmonton-Ellerslie in 1993, for the Canadian Alliance in Edmonton-Southeast nomination in 2000, and for the PC nomination in Edmonton-Meadowlark in 2007.

Spruce Grove-Stony Plain – Jerry Semen is seeking the UCP nomination.

St. Albert – Brian Horak is seeking the UCP nomination.

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

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

It’s all about Derek… Speculation mounts that ousted UCP MLA will run as an Independent in 2019

He’s “wasting his time” if he thinks he can run for a United Conservative Party nomination, says party leader Jason Kenney, but that isn’t stopping Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt from being a thorn in his former party’s side.

Jason Kenney

Once considered a rising star in Alberta’s conservative movement, the spectacular implosion of his political career has largely been self-inflicted.

He was refused re-entry into the UCP caucus in February 2018 following an embarrassing string of controversies, including being caught renting his taxpayer subsidized condo on AirBNB, being charged with a hit-and-run, and being charged with illegally killing a deer while he was hunting on private property without the landowner’s permission.

Now as an Independent-Conservative MLA, he sits in the furthest corner of the opposition side of the Legislature, beside sole remaining Progressive Conservative MLA Richard Starke and behind Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark. He was recently removed from the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, which he used to chair, and his motion to cut MLA pay by 5 percent received zero interest from the governing New Democratic Party or the official opposition UCP.

Leela Aheer Wildrose MLA Chestermere Rockyview

Leela Aheer

As I wrote last week, Fildebrandt is agitating in the newly redrawn Chestermere-Strathmore district, essentially accusing his former party of being afraid of an open nomination contest in the district. The theatrical former official opposition finance critic and Canadian Taxpayers Federation spokesperson accused the UCP of “Trudeau-style affirmative action” for not allowing him to run against popular Chestermere-Rockyview UCP MLA Leela Aheer, who has announced her plans to run in the new district.

Playing the victim of political correctness, Fildebrandt is trying to generate populist support for himself in the UCP membership. The strategy is not without merit. It worked two years ago.

When then-Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean attempted and failed to suspend Fildebrandt from the Official Opposition caucus in 2016, an uprising of party activists demanded he be allowed to rejoin. It was a fairly embarrassing 72-hours for the Wildrose Caucus and a clear evidence that Jean might not have had the full loyalty of his party.

But that was then and this is now. With Kenney’s intentions being pretty clear and Fildebrandt’s chances of rejoining the UCP before 2019 next to none, there is mounting speculation that he is preparing the ground to run as an Independent candidate against Aheer in the 2019 election.

Do Independents get elected in Alberta?

Clarence Copithorne

Independent candidates don’t usually get elected in Alberta, but there are exceptions. The last time an Independent MLA was elected in Alberta was in 1982, when two former Social Credit MLAs, Walt Buck and Raymond Speaker, were re-elected in Clover Bar and Little Bow. Previous to that, Clarence Copithorne was elected as an Independent MLA in the Banff-Cochrane district in 1967.

More recently, other MLAs who had been previously elected under party banners and tried to run for re-election as Independent candidates were former PC MLAs Kurt Gessell in Clover Bar-Fort Saskatchewan in 1993, Carl Benito in Edmonton-Mill Woods in 2012, former Liberal Dan Backs in Edmonton-Manning in 2008, and former Wildrose MLA Joe Anglin in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre in 2015. All were defeated.

Fringe separatist party renames itself… again

Alberta First Party has been renamed the Western Freedom Party of Alberta, according to Elections Alberta. The party was formed as the Alberta First Party in 1999 and renamed the Separation Party of Alberta from 2004 until 2013, when it was once again renamed the Alberta First Party.

The President and Chief Financial Officer of the Western Freedom Party are Bob Lefurgey and Heather McDonald Furcho. They were both previously reported to be collecting signatures to form another new separatist party that was to be called The Western Independence Party of Alberta.

Under its various names and forms, this party saw its best electoral results in the 2001 election in Cardston-Taber-Warner with leader John Reil earning 26 percent of the vote (Reil would later run for the leadership of the Alberta Liberal Party in 2004) and in a 2002 by-election in Wainwright with candidate Jerry Barber earning 25 percent of the vote (Barber is currently listed as the President of the UCP association in the Battle River-Wainwright district).

Update: As of July 3, 2018, the Western Freedom Party has been renamed the Freedom Conservative Party. As of July 18, 2018, Derek Fildebrandt has joined this party, becoming its first MLA.

Oneil Carlier, Shannon Phillips, Sonya Savage, and Tyler Shandro.

Alberta Candidate Nomination Updates: 2 NDP cabinet ministers announce re-election and 3 more UCP MLAs plan to retire.

Photo: Oneil Carlier, Shannon Phillips, Sonya Savage, and Tyler Shandro.

Nominations are picking up speed.

Three more United Conservative Party MLAs have announced their plans to retire when the next election is called. Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Wayne Drysdale, Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier and Little Bow MLA David Schneider will not seek re-election in 2019.

Schneider changed his minds after previously announcing plans to seek re-election in the new Cardston-Siksika district. His entry into that contest forced Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter to seek the UCP nomination in the neighbouring Taber-Warner district, even though he lives in Cardston. It is not yet known whether Hunter will now run for the UCP nomination in what will soon be his home district of Cardston-Siksika.

Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips has filed her intentions with Elections Alberta to run for the New Democratic Party nomination in Lethbridge-West. Phillips was first elected as MLA in 2015 with 59 percent of the vote.

Also running for re-election is Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier, who told XM105FM that he will seek the NDP nomination in the newly redrawn Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland district. Carlier currently represents the Whitecourt-Ste. Anne district, which will no longer exist when the next election is called.

Independent MLA Derek Fildebrandt is agitating in Chestermere-Strathmore. After being banned from rejoining the UCP caucus in February 2, 2018 after a string of embarrassing scandals, Fildebrandt has essentially accused his former party of being afraid of an open nomination contest in the new district. The theatrical former finance critic accused the UCP of “Trudeau-style affirmative action” for not allowing him to run against popular Chestermere-Rockyview UCP MLA Leela Aheer.

As first reported on this blog on April 7, 2018, Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Jane Stroud will seek the NDP nomination in the upcoming Fort McMurray-Conklin by-election. The UCP have set May 1, 2018 as the date for their candidate nomination vote.

In Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, candidate Joel Loh was not allowed to join the UCP nomination contest and has since endorsed Red Deer County councillor Christine Moore.  UCP members in that district will select a candidate in a vote at the end of the month.

Here are some of the other nomination updates from around the province:

Calgary-Acadia – Lawyer Tyler Shandro is seeking the UCP nomination. Astute followers of Alberta politics might recall Shandro’s role in the EdStelmach.ca incident. Good luck and govern yourself accordingly, Tyler.

Calgary-Currie – Amoriza Gunnink is seeking the UCP nomination. Gunnink is the founder of the Kinderhouse Preschool. Tony Norman is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Norman was his party’s candidate in this district in the 2015 election.

Calgary-East – Pradeep Singh is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-FalconridgeHappy Mann is seeking the UCP nomination. Mann was the Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-McCall in the 2015 election and the 2012 Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-Cross.

Calgary-Glenmore – Maureen Zelmer is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-Mountain ViewDean Brawn is seeking the UCP nomination. Brawn was a candidate for Calgary City Council in Ward 7 in the 2017 municipal election.

Calgary-North WestSonya Savage is seeking the UCP nomination. She is the Senior Director of Policy & Regulatory Affairs at Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. In 2011, she served as co-chair of Rick Orman’s campaign for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party.

Drumheller-Stettler – MLA Rick Strankman is seeking the UCP nomination. Strankman was first elected in 2012 as a Wildrose Party candidate.

Edmonton-EllerslieYash Sharma is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Sharma is the Publisher of the Asia Tribune and producer of Harmony TV and in 2016 he was one of 32 candidates to run in the Ward 12 by-election.

Edmonton-South WestKevin Greco is seeking the UCP nomination.

Lethbridge-East – Brian Litchfield is seeking the UCP nomination.

Morinville-St. Albert – Dale Nally and Trina Jones have entered the UCP nomination contest. Jones is currently serving as Deputy Mayor of the Town of Legal

Sherwood ParkJordan Walker is seeking the UCP nomination. Walker and Strathcona-Sherwood Park nomination candidate Nate Glubish are being endorsed by Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan Member of Parliament Garnett Genuis, who is hosting a meet and greet for the two candidates on April 27, 2018. Genius was the 2012 Wildrose Party candidate in Sherwood Park.

Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright – Two-time Wildrose Party candidate Danny Hozack is seeking the UCP nomination. Hozack earned 37 percent of the vote in 2012 and 33 percent of the vote in 2015. He is seeking the nomination against Garth Rowswell, his campaign manager from the 2015 election.

West Yellowhead – MLA Eric Rosendahl is seeking the NDP nomination. He was first elected in 2015 with 39 percent of the vote.

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.

Photo: Culture Minister Ricardo Miranda, Education Minister David Eggen, Premier Rachel Notley, Community and Social Services Minister Irfan Sabir and Finance Minister Joe Ceci walk out of the Legislative chambers following the Speech from the Throne. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Episode 8: The Return of the Leg, Pipelines, and prep for the 2019 election

With Alberta’s Legislature back in session this week, Dave Cournoyer and Ryan Hastman deliver their takes on the hottest issues facing MLAs, including Premier Rachel Notley’s Pipeline motion and how Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous really feels about the British Columbia government.

We also talk about the latest candidate nomination news, including David Swann’s retirement and averting a nomination contest between Finance Minister Joe Ceci and Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley in Calgary-Buffalo, something that UCP MLAs Scott Cyr and David Hanson have not been able to avoid in the new Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul district.

Daveberta Podcast Alberta PoliticsAlso in this episode, we talk about the return of former UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt as the mosquito in Jason Kenney’s tent, and the impact of Doug Ford’s victory in the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership will have in that province’s fast approaching general election.

Ryan leads this week’s ‘So you want to be a candidate‘ segment with useful tips for Albertans wanting to run in next year’s election. And we answer some of the questions you sent us.

And we are pleased to announce that The Daveberta Podcast is now a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. The network includes more than 30 podcasts, including one of our favourites, The Broadcast, a podcast about women and politics.

Listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, and wherever you find podcasts online. It would be a big help if you could leave a review where you download this podcast and share this episode with a friend.

We’d love to hear what you think of this episode, so feel free to leave a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca..

And once again, we are eternally thankful to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, for his help in making this podcast a reality.

Thank you for listening!

Photo: Culture Minister Ricardo Miranda, Education Minister David Eggen, Premier Rachel Notley, Community and Social Services Minister Irfan Sabir and Finance Minister Joe Ceci walk out of the Legislative chambers following the Speech from the Throne. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Episode 6: Alberta-BC Pipeline War, UCP loses 2 MLAs, and Alberta Party leadership race

We’re back! After a brief hiatus because Ryan was down south helping Make America Great Again, we are back with a new episode of The Daveberta Podcast.

Daveberta Podcast Alberta PoliticsIn this episode, Dave and Ryan discuss the ongoing dispute between Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and British Columbia Premier John Horgan over the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline and wine boycott, the upcoming Innisfail-Sylvan Lake by-election, Derek Fildebrandt’s final exile from the United Conservative Party caucus, and the Alberta Party leadership vote on Feb. 27, 2018.

And Ryan leads our new regular segment – So you want to be a candidate – where we share some helpful tips and advice for aspiring politicians looking to run in the 2019 provincial election.

Listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, and wherever you find podcasts online.

We’d love to hear what you think of the podcast, so feel free to leave a review where you download it and share the podcast with a friend. And feel free to leave a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

We’d also like to send a huge thanks to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, for his help in making this podcast a reality.

Thanks for listening!

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt joined Jason Kenney on the eve of his victory in the PC Party leadership race. (Photo credit: @pcyouthalberta on Twitter)

Derek Fildebrandt and Don MacIntyre out of the UCP caucus. Alberta Advantage Party picks a new leader on Feb. 24, 2018.

Photo: Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt in happier days as he joined Jason Kenney on the eve of his victory in the 2017 PC Party leadership race. (Photo credit: @pcyouthalberta on Twitter)

Derek Fildebrandt is out of the United Conservative Party Caucus for good, according to a statement issued by party leader Jason Kenney last week.

Leela Aheer Wildrose MLA Chestermere Rockyview

Leela Aheer

Fildebrandt pleaded guilty in a Didsbury court house last week to illegally shooting a deer on private property and he was fined $3,000.

The former official opposition finance critic was a rising star in Conservative partisan circles until his political career crashed in August 2017 when he was forced to leave the UCP Caucus after a series of embarrassing scandals.

Fildebrandt arrived in Alberta in 2012 to work as a Canadian Taxpayers Federation spokesperson and he was elected to the Legislative Assembly as the Wildrose Party MLA for Strathmore-Brooks in 2015.

As an Independent MLA for Strathmore-Brooks, Fildebrandt now must decide what is next for his political career. A significant redistribution of the electoral boundaries divides his current district into the new Brooks-Medicine Hat, Chestermere-Strathmore and Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills districts.

If he had been allow to rejoin the UCP caucus, he would have faced an uphill battle to win the nomination against popular incumbent Leela Aheer, who currently represents Chestermere-Rockyview and has declared her intentions to seek the UCP nomination in Chesteremere-Strathmore. Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills is currently represented by UCP MLA Nathan Cooper, who is also expected to seek re-election.

Don MacIntyre MLA

Don MacIntyre

Also departing the UCP caucus last Friday afternoon was Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Don MacIntyre, who announced on Twitter that he was “Resigning from politics today to focus on our family.” Mainstream media outlets published a flurry of reports explaining the reason for the MLA’s unexpected departure soon after his announcement, but those stories were quickly removed.

I expect we will learn more about the nature of MacIntyre’s departure soon.

It was also unclear whether MacIntyre, a member of his party’s Rural Crime Task Force and one of his caucus’ fiercest climate change deniers, has just resigned from the UCP Caucus or whether he has also resigned as the MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. If he has resigned as MLA, a by-election would required to be called in this heavily conservative voting rural central Alberta district by August 2018.

Penhold town councillor and local constituency association co-president Mike Walsh has already registered his intentions to seek the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake UCP nomination for the expected 2019 general election.


Alberta Advantage Party leadership vote on Feb. 24, 2018

Marilyn Burns Alberta Advantage Party

Marilyn Burns

They are not even officially registered as a political party, but members of the group calling themselves the Alberta Advantage Party are electing their first permanent leader on Feb. 24, 2018.

Information on the party’s website is vague, but posts on their Facebook page suggest that Marilyn Burns, a co-founder of the Wildrose Party and critic of the UCP, is the only candidate in the race. Burns was a candidate for the leadership of the Alberta Alliance Party in 2005 and was a candidate for that party in Stony Plain in the 2004 election.

Gil Poitras, who served as Chief Financial Officer for the Alberta Party in 2013 and 2014, has been serving as interim leader of the Alberta Advantage Party.

(hat tip to @edwinmundt for bringing this to my attention)

Who is running in Alberta’s 2019 Election?

A handful of aspiring elected officials have already put their names forward to run in Alberta’s next provincial general election, which, due to our odd-ball fixed-election period, is expected to be called between March 1, 2019 and May 31, 2019.

Omar Masood ALberta Party Calgary Buffalo

Omar Masood

One candidate has already been nominated. Omar Masood was acclaimed as the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Buffalo in December 2016.

Six incumbent MLAs were acclaimed to run as Wildrose Party candidates in February and March 2017, before the formation of the United Conservative Party and the redistribution of electoral boundaries for the next election. Those six MLAs were Angela Pitt in Airdrie, Glenn van Dijken in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock, Leela Aheer in Chestermere-Rockyview, Todd Loewen in Grande Prairie-Smoky, Dave Hanson in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills and Ron Orr in Lacombe-Ponoka. It is expected that, due to the creation of a new party and a new electoral map, those MLAs will have to run for their new party’s nominations.

Here is a list of candidates who have announced their intentions to seek party nominations:

Aidrie-Cochrane: Peter Guthrie is seeking the UCP nomination in this new district. Guthrie is a former owner of a Mr. Lube franchise in north east Calgary and a former co-owner of a ranch near Castor. He has a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alberta.

Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul: Glenn Spiess is seeking the UCP nomination in this newly redistributed district. Spiess was the Assistant Director of Development for the Living Water College of the Arts in Derwent and is a homeschooling facilitator with WISDOM, the home schooling administration of Trinity Christian School in Cold Lake.

Philip Schuman United Conservative Party Calgary Glenmore

Philip Schuman

Calgary-Beddington: Videographer and editor Daniel Kostek is seeking the UCP nomination in this new northwest Calgary district. The new district will be created from areas of the current Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill, Calgary-Northern Hills and Calgary-Foothills districts.

Calgary-Glenmore: Philip Schuman is seeking the UCP nomination in this southwest Calgary district. Schuman is an MBA student, insurance company account executive and the Vice President of the Braeside Community Association. Until July 2017, Schuman was listed as the Media Coordinator for United Liberty, the political action committee created by now-former UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt.

Calgary-Mountain View: Thana Boonlert is seeking the Green Party  nomination, which is scheduled to take place on  February 28, 2018. Boonlert previously ran in the 2016 Calgary-Greenway by-election and 2015 federal election in Calgary-Centre. The district is currently represented by fourth-term Liberal MLA David Swann.

Calgary-South East: Matthew Jones is seeking the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-Gold Bar: New Democratic Party MLA Marlin Schmidt is seeking re-election. Schmidt is currently serving as Minister of Advanced Education and Acting Minister of Justice and Solicitor General. Schmidt was elected in 2015 with 68.9 percent of the vote and his crushing 11,205 vote margin of victory, the largest in any district in that election, earned him the nickname “Hurricane Marlin.”

Christina Gray Edmonton Mill Woods MLA

Christina Gray

Edmonton-Mill Woods: Christina Gray will seek re-election as the NDP candidate. She was elected in 2015 with 64.8 percent of the vote and currently serves as Minister of Labour and Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal.

Edmonton-Whitemud: Tunde Obasan is seeking the UCP nomination. He is an accounting and finance professional and was an organizer for Andrew Scheer‘s federal Conservative leadership campaign and Jason Kenney‘s UCP leadership campaign in 2017.

Leduc-Beaumont: Former Edmonton police officer Brad Rutherford is seeking the UCP nomination. Rutherford previously ran for the federal Conservative Party nomination in Edmonton-West ahead of the 2015 election. He is the president of the Leduc-Beaumont UCP and the federal Edmonton-Wetaskiwin Conservative association.

Red Deer-North: Cole Kander is seeking the UCP nomination. He is a former political assistant who publicly attacked former Wildrose leader Brian Jean after he lost his job at the UCP caucus due to budget cutbacks in September 2017.

St. Albert: Marie Renaud plans to seek re-election as the NDP candidate. Renaud was first elected in 2015 with 53.9 percent of the vote.

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.

Alberta's Legislature

Episode 1: Calgary-Lougheed by-election, Alberta Party leadership and more.

Daveberta Podcast Alberta PoliticsThe Calgary-Lougheed by-election, the Alberta Party leadership race, a new ThinkHQ poll, Rachel Notley as Canada’s Pipeline Paladin, and changing electoral boundaries are just some of the topics covered in the latest episode of The Daveberta Podcast with Dave Cournoyer and Ryan Hastman (recorded on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017).

Listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and wherever you find podcasts online.

We’d love to hear what you think of the podcast, so feel free to leave a review where you download it, leave a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

We’d also like to send a special thanks to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, for his help in making this podcast a reality (and making us sound so good!).

Thanks!

United Conservative Party of Alberta leader Jason Kenney.

Jason Kenney as the face of Conservatism in Alberta

When the Legislative Assembly resumes for its fall sitting on Monday, there will be a new seating plan.

Brian Jean Wildrose Leader

Brian Jean

A new Official Opposition United Conservative Caucus made up of twenty-two former Wildrose MLAs and six former Progressive Conservative MLAs will make its debut.

Richard Starke of Vermilion-Lloydminster will continue to sit as a lone PC MLA and former UCP MLA Rick Fraser of Calgary-South East will join exiled former Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt as Independent MLAs. Former New Democratic Party MLA Karen McPherson will join Greg Clark in doubling the Alberta Party Caucus. And sitting alongside Premier Rachel Notley in the government front-benches will be newly appointed Minister of Infrastructure Sandra Jansen, who left the PCs to join the NDP last November.

Leading the new United Conservative Party Caucus will be former Member of Parliament Jason Kenney, who won yesterday’s leadership vote with 61 percent, defeating former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, who finished with 31 percent, and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer, who finished a distant third with 7 percent.

Kenney does not have a seat in the Assembly and indicated today that Calgary-Lougheed MLA Dave Rodney will resign on November 1, 2017 in order to create a by-election for his party’s new leader. Rodney was first elected in 2004.

David Eggen

As the new leader of the Official Opposition, Kenney will face some immediate issues as the Assembly reconvenes. He will need to reorganize his caucus office staff, reassign his party’s MLAs to new critic roles, and set an opposition agenda for the next 16 months. Kenney will do his best to avoid the bozoeruptions that plagued the former Wildrose MLAs in his UCP caucus and pivot to issues that will solidify his party’s conservative base.

As Kenney enters his new role as the new face of Conservatism in Alberta, the NDP will hope that Albertans forgive their more unpopular policies when reminded of the new UCP leader’s more bizarre social conservative views and rhetoric.

Education Minister David Eggen will introduce legislation making it illegal for schools to “out” students who join gay-straight alliances. Bill 24: An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances will reopen an issue that had conservative politicians tying themselves in knots after Kenney told a Postmedia editorial board that he would support teachers outing students who join GSAs.

Eggen has said most schools have been working with the province to establish codes of conduct against discrimination and adopt policies to protect LGBTQ youth, but a small group of mostly publicly-subsidized private schools are resisting. This bill could reignite the debate over the existence of publicly-subsidized private schools, some of which charge tens of thousands of tuition per student in order to attend.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

Despite calls from their political allies, Notley’s NDP government has avoided overhauling the structure of Alberta’s school system. But open resistance by private schools over GSAs, and by publicly-funded Catholic Superintendents wanting to dumb-down the Sexual Education curriculum, could force a debate over accountability of public funds being provided to these religious schools.

Kenney has been a vocal supporter of the Catholic schools, claiming that Notley’s opposition to a dumbed-down Sexual Education curriculum is the “statist ideology of the NDP on steroids.”

Of course, Notley is not telling publicly-funded Catholic schools not to teach Catholicism, she is telling them that they must teach consent and acknowledge the existence of homosexuality (welcome to the 21st century).

Alberta is one of a few remaining provinces that provides full public funding to Catholic schools. Former PC MLA David King, who served as education minister from 1979 to 1986, has collected close to 1,000 signatures in an online petition demanding a referendum on the future of publicly funded Catholic schools in Alberta.

David King

On the flip-side, as Kenney enters his role as UCP leader, he will hope that Albertans forgive his more bizarre social conservative views and rhetoric when reminded of the NDP’s more unpopular policies.

Repealing farm safety laws and the government’s climate leadership plan, including the carbon tax and phase-out of dirty coal-fired power plants, were two of his key promises, along with much chest-thumping about withdrawing from Canada’s equalization program (which is not something any province can do, because the funds are collected through Canadian federal income taxes, not by the provinces).

We can expect Kenney to spend a lot of time criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has developed a relatively friendly working relationship with Notley’s government on issues ranging from oil pipeline construction to climate change. With deep connections to the Conservatives in Ottawa, expect a Kenney-led UCP to march in lockstep with their federal cousins on these issues.

Justin Trudeau

Notley’s NDP subtly shifted their messaging last year, focusing on launching new programs and projects they argue will “make lives better for Albertans.” This will provide the NDP with a significant contrast to the Kenney-led UCP, who they will argue would attack public services and hurt Alberta families.

Kenney has said that if he becomes Premier in 2019, the months that follow would be known as the “Summer of Repeal” as his government would immediately move to repeal legislation passed by the NDP since 2015. The trouble with Kenney’s promise to repeal all of the NDP’s agenda is that, despite anger from conservatives still bitter from losing the 2015 election, some of the changes introduced by Notley’s NDP are popular among Albertans.

Would a UCP government cancel the construction of the Cancer Treatment Centre and the Green Line in Calgary or the new hospital in south Edmonton? Would a UCP government increase school fees and cancel the $25/day childcare program? Would Kenney close schools and hospitals, like his political role model Ralph Klein did in the 1990s? Expect the NDP start asking these questions when MLAs meet in Edmonton tomorrow.

This weekend’s UCP leadership vote and the resumption of the Legislative session tomorrow marks a huge change in Alberta’s political landscape. Alberta politics has changed drastically over the past two years, and even the past decade. The next few weeks, and the next 16 months, in Alberta politics will be fascinating to watch.

Former PC MLAs Richard Starke (left) and Rick Fraser (right) at the 2016 Calgary Pride Parade.

No Thanks and So Long. Former PC MLA Rick Fraser leaves the UCP to sit as an Independent

Photo: Former PC MLAs Richard Starke (left) and Rick Fraser (right) at the 2016 Calgary Pride Parade (Photo from Facebook). 

The recently formed United Conservative Party may be leading in the polls but the party is looking a lot less united. One of the party’s 28 MLAs, Calgary-South East MLA Rick Fraser, announced on social media this morning that he was leaving the UCP caucus to sit as an Independent MLA.

Fraser, who was re-elected for a second term as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2015, is the third politician to leave the ranks of the UCP since it was formed in July 2017. Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke declined to join the UCP and decided to continue sitting as a PC MLA in the Assembly shortly after he party was founded. Then, in August 2017, the party’s co-finance critic Derek Fildebrandt resigned from the caucus after an expenses controversy and a traffic-accident related court battle.

In his resignation letter, Fraser gave a number of reasons for his departure, ranging from social and economic issues to the party’s increasingly polarizing hyper-partisan tone. While the UCP does not yet have any official policies, or even a permanent leader, it is seems clear that Fraser is uncomfortable with the direction that the province’s largest conservative party is heading.

Social issues are the achilles heel for the UCP, just as they were for the party’s previous incarnation, the Wildrose Party.

The two main candidates for the leadership of the party,  Jason Kenney and Brian Jean, are openly appealing to the party’s social conservative and rural base of supporters and have been extremely reluctant to discuss any social issues. And as we saw in this week’s UCP leadership debate, only Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer was willing to come out in support of gay rights, taking Kenney to task for his silence.

Earlier this year, Wildrose MLAs were tying themselves in knots over student-organized Gay-Straight Alliances and whether school administrators should be required to inform parents if their children joined one of the anti-bullying clubs. The debate, which was triggered by comments Kenney made to the Postmedia editorial board in Calgary, was painful and acrimonious to watch.

And while the party’s interim governing board has issued a statement in support of LGBTQ rights, support for that position by some of UCP MLAs and party members is questionable.

The unanimous position among the UCP leadership candidates to repeal the carbon tax without proposing any alternatives to reform or replace it suggests that none of them see climate change as a serious issue.

Comments, tweets and Facebook posts promoting climate change denial and skepticism have been rampant among the former Wildrose MLAs in the UCP caucus. Earlier this year, Cypress-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Drew Barnes helped fund a film promoting climate science skepticism. And last year, Drumheller-Stettler UCP MLA Rick Strankman was  forced to apologize – twice – after penning an article comparing Alberta’s carbon tax to the Holodomor – the Ukrainian genocide of the 1930s.

An MLA’s first responsibility is to their constituents, and if Fraser does not feel he can effectively represent the people of Calgary-South East as a member of the UCP, he has every right to leave that caucus. He was elected under that banner of the Progressive Conservative Party and now that party is now essentially defunct.

Fraser writes in his letter that he will consult his constituents before making any future decisions, which means he might be open to joining another party sometime in the future. I am willing to bet that Greg Clark , leader of the upstart conservative-lite Alberta Party, is making some phone calls today.