Tag Archives: Deron Bilous

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

Two years later – Notley’s NDP victory and a reminder why Elections matter

Two years ago today Albertans voted to sweep out the old Progressive Conservative government by electing Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party into government.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

It was a surreal election that topped off a tumultuous decade in Alberta politics. It used to be said that politics in our province was boring, and that may have been true at one point. But when PC Party members delivered a stunning blow to Ralph Klein in a March 2006 leadership review, politics never seemed to get dull again in Alberta. And while no one in 2006 could, or would, have predicted an NDP win in 2015, the years of PC Party infighting and corruption marked the steep decline of a once proud PC Party establishment.

The 2015 election shows more than anything else how much campaigns matter. Even though Albertans were visibly growing tired of the old establishment conservatives, the PCs were widely expected to win a 13th re-election victory. It was almost hard to imagine any other outcome.

The Wildrose Party, which was a grasp away from forming government in 2012, was decimated by floor crossings in 2014.

On May 5, 2015, the NDP did what only one week early felt unimaginable – they formed a majority government in Alberta. It was a strange and wild election campaign.

Sarah Hoffman NDP MLA Edmonton-Glenora

Sarah Hoffman

While it looked as if the NDP might form the official opposition in that election, over the course of the election Notley chipped away at Jim Prentice’s campaign, gaining momentum through a positive and hopeful campaign that contrasted to the uninspiring institutional campaign presented by the PCs.

From Notley’s masterful performance in the televised leader’s debate to a train-wreck press conference held by four prominent CEOs, there were many key moments and events that provided a clear indication that the campaign was going well for the NDP and very, very poorly for the PCs.

I had never voted for the NDP in a provincial election until 2015. I had been a supporter of the Liberal Party led by Kevin Taft in the 2000s and was part of the group that tried to build the Alberta Party before the 2012 election. During that time, I frequently scoffed at the NDP as being merely an Edmonton-based vote-splitter and an annoying minor competitor (albeit an incredibly effective annoying competitor).

But in Notley I saw a political leader who had sparked momentum and energy in Albertans. She was progressive, urban, smart and tough – a natural replacement for a tired conservative government that had spent decades squandering and mismanaging Alberta’s energy wealth.

Shannon Phillips

Shannon Phillips

As a government, the NDP faced a steep learning curve and have had their highs and lows.

Notley started off with an inexperienced small circle of cabinet minsters. She slowly expanded the cabinet with talent identified from the MLA backbenches of the new government caucus and since then many cabinet ministers have grown into their roles quite comfortably. Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips, Children’s Services Minister Danielle Larivee, Energy Minister Marg McCuaig Boyd, Service Alberta Minister Stephanie McLean, Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous, and Education Minister David Eggen, to name a few, have become some of the strongest and most passionate progressive voices of Alberta’s government.

But most of all, Notley has grown into her role as Premier. She was then during the election campaign and remains now the NDP’s strongest asset in Alberta.

While they have made some embarrassing political mistakes, enflaming conservative critics along the way (while also inheriting some of the old PC government’s bad habits), Notley’s NDP government has started to catch its stride.

Danielle Larivee

Danielle Larivee

As I wrote earlier this month, the NDP subtly shifted their messaging over the past few months, focusing on launching new programs and projects that they argue will “make lives better for Albertans,” rather than trying to out-flank the conservatives on economic issues. And it is working well for the NDP.

Notley’s NDP have reshaped Alberta’s political landscape and provided a much needed breath of fresh air into the once stale conservative halls of government. While I would not place a bet on the outcome of the next election, Conservative politicians who brag about dancing a cakewalk back into government in 2019 should be reminded that it might not be that easy.

The mould was broken in the 2015 election. No party should take the votes of Albertans for granted again.

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

A look at some of the new laws passed in Alberta in Spring 2016

The Spring session of the Alberta Legislature ended yesterday after forty-days of debate.

The evacuation of more than 88,000 Albertans sparked by the wildfires in Fort McMurray dominated the attention of our political leaders during this session. In response to the wildfire crisis, Premier Rachel Notley and Wildrose leader Brian Jean briefly put aside politics and demonstrated their strengths as political leaders. It was a refreshing break from the negative rhetoric and hyperbole that has come to dominate Alberta politics.

The legislative session produced ejections, MLA suspensions and other intrigue but amidst the budget debates and political drama the New Democratic Party government pursued a fairly ambitious legislative agenda.

Twenty-one government bill and one two private members’ bills were passed during this session.

Bill 205: Pharmacy and Drug (Pharmaceutical Equipment Control) Amendment Act, a private members’ bill introduced by Calgary-West Progressive Conservative MLA Mike Ellis received unanimous support from MLAs when it was passed in the Legislature. The bill restricts ownership of pill presses in response to the Fentanyl crisis.

Bill 1: Promoting Job Creation and Diversification Act introduced by Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous gave the minister new powers to create programs focused on broadening the province’s industries and businesses. “Jobs” and “diversification” were key buzzwords used by NDP cabinet ministers this spring as they face an increase in unemployment and decrease in industry investment caused by the decline of the international price of oil.

Bill 4: An Act to Implement a Supreme Court Ruling Governing Essential Services introduced by Labour Minister Christina Gray lifted the ban on strikes by all public sector employees in response to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2015.

Bill 7: Electoral Boundaries Commission Amendment Act introduced by Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley pushed forward the timelines to redraw the electoral boundaries before the provincial election in 2019, which could have an impact on the results of that election. The timelines as they were previously legislated were askew after the Progressive Conservatives called an election one year earlier than Alberta’s fixed-election date law in 2015.

The NDP missed an opportunity to improve the composition of the commissions, which will include five appointees (two appointed by the Government Caucus, two by the Official Opposition and one “neutral” chairperson chosen by the government). The NDP should have amended the legislation to create a non-partisan judicial commission similar to the ones appointed to redraw federal electoral boundaries.

Introduced by Finance Minister Joe Ceci, Bill 10: Fiscal Statutes Amendment Act removed the 15 per cent debt-to-nominal-GDP cap implemented by the NDP in the fall session of 2015. This was a classic example of a government walking back on a law which they probably should not have passed in the first place. The Alberta government’s net-debt levels remain low enough that Albertans should not immediately be worried. But as our provincial credit ratings have been downgraded, it will be important for the current and future governments to implement policies that will actually address the government’s significant revenue shortfall and growing budget deficit.

Bill 11: Alberta Research and Innovation Amendment Act reorganized Alberta’s four “Innovates” branded research and development agencies into one agency governed by a single board and CEO. Bill 18: An Act to Ensure Independent Environmental Monitoring dissolved the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency and brought its responsibilities into the Department of Environment and Parks. Bill 11 also established the position of Chief Scientist.

Bill 15: An Act to End Predatory Lending introduced by Service Alberta Minister Stephanie McLean targeted the payday loan industry, bringing down the amounts paid on payday loans from $23 per $100 borrowed down to $15 per $100. Ms. McLean announced that the government is working with credit unions to offer short-term loans as an alternative to predatory loans.

Bill 19: Reform of Agencies, Boards and Commissions Compensation Act injected transparency into Alberta’s byzantine system of appointed agencies, boards and commissions that had become a safe-haven for PC Party loyalists, patrons and retired MLAs during the previous government’s 44 years in power.

A long-time coming, Bill 21: Modernized Municipal Government Act, was in the works for years, but even so it was surprising that the NDP has been able to introduce it so early in their mandate. Bill 21 overhauls and updates sections of the province’s second largest piece of legislation. Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee, a rising-star in the NDP, will travel across the province this summer to consult with municipal leaders about the changes proposed in this bill, which only passed first reading during this session.

Bill 21 sets the ground for the creation of Big City Charters in the Act’s regulations, as advocated for by Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. The Charters are expected to be drafted by Spring 2017 and enacted by Summer 2017.

The NDP government’s flag ship piece of legislation of spring 2016 was Bill 20: Climate Leadership Implementation ActPart of the much-lauded Climate Leadership Plan, Bill 20 implements the Carbon levy and rebate program. In what is becoming a signature move of the NDP government, Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips assembled an impressive coalition of municipal, industry and environmental leaders in support of the new law.

While there are legitimate criticism of the bill, including whether the carbon levy is actually “revenue neutral,” the Wildrose Opposition failed to offer any alternative plan. The Official Opposition was knee-capped by a serious self-inflicted wound when an article signed by nine Wildrose MLAs compared carbon pricing to Holodomor, the genocide that killed an estimated 2.5–7.5 million Ukrainians in the Soviet Union from 1932 to 1933. Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills MLA Dave Hanson apologized for the comment but the nine MLAs avoided answering questions about the genocide comparison when asked by the media.

Alberta’s Legislative Assembly is expected to reconvene on October 31, 2016 and sit until December 1, 2016.

[Note: This was just a brief description of some of the bills debated and passed during the spring session. A full list of bills debated in this session can be found here]

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley NDP

One year ago today the NDP won in Alberta. The next day hell froze over.

The attention of most Albertans this week is rightfully focused on the wildfires that are raging through northern Alberta and the more than 80,000 residents of Fort McMurray who have fled to safer ground in the south. It is a testament to our resilience as Canadians that a mandatory evacuation order could be carried out in a community of 80,000 people without any violence or resistance.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

Overshadowed by the wildfires, and rightfully so, is today’s anniversary of the major political earthquake that reshaped our province over the past year. On May 5, 2015, Albertans turned their backs on the Progressive Conservative regime that had governed since Peter Lougheed won in 1971 and replaced the old guard with a choice that would have been unbelievable in previous elections, the New Democratic Party.

It wasn’t always a forgone conclusion that Albertans would elect an NDP government. At points during last year’s campaign. Two polls released days before the writ was dropped showed the governing PCs and official opposition Wildrose Party in a race for first place with the NDP in a distant third. Disillusionment with an arrogant and entitled PC regime that had squandered the last oil boom and the pitch-perfect campaign led by Rachel Notley’s NDP resulted in a majority government.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

Those election results exposed a demographic shift, including a split between urban and rural Alberta. The NDP elected most of their 54 MLAs in Alberta’s fast-growing urban areas and central and northern rural Alberta. The Wildrose Party, led by former Member of Parliament Brian Jean won back most of the seats lost in the 2014 floor-crossings and made gains in rural Alberta. Jim Prentice‘s Tories earned 27 percent of the vote but fell victim to the first-past-the-post system and only elected 10 MLAs. The Alberta Party elected its first MLA, leader Greg Clark in Calgary-Elbow, and the Liberals were reduced to one MLA, interim leader David Swann in Calgary-Mountain View.

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP

Joe Ceci

May 5, 2015 saw the election of the a record number of women, including nearly half of the MLAs in the newly minted NDP caucus. The soon to be appointed provincial cabinet would have gender parity, a first in Canada. A contingent of under-30 MLAs were elected, bringing a new sense of diversity into the stodgy Legislative Assembly. Openly gay and lesbian MLAs were elected. And soon after, expecting and new mothers would become a common sight on the floor of the Assembly. Our Legislative Assembly felt more reflective of Alberta than it had in previous years.

The tone of government had changed.

The NDP banned corporate donations to political parties, a move that would never have happened under the corporate-donation fuelled PC Party. The new government not only admitted it believed in Climate Change, it also announced plans to do something about it. The NDP introduced a progressive income tax system and raised corporate taxes. They also reinstated funding to education, health care and post-secondary education that was cut by the PCs in their pre-election budget.

Smart, articulate, tough and quick on her feet, Ms. Notley has proven to be the government’s greatest asset. The senior cabinet ministers surrounding her, Sarah Hoffman, Danielle Larivee, Shannon Phillips, Kathleen GanleyDavid Eggen, Deron Bilous, Joe Ceci and Brian Mason, to name a few, have developed into a stronger team over the past year.

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

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

Getting off the royalty rollercoaster’ by fixing a revenue system that was over-reliant on natural resource royalties to fund the government’s operations budget is a central theme of the new government.

Shannon Phillips

Shannon Phillips

A sharp decline in the international price of oil meant the new government faced higher private sector unemployment and decreased activity in the oil industry in our province.

The Alberta Advantage, a myth spun by conservative politicians and pundits over the past twenty years quickly turned into a disadvantage. The low taxes boasted by the previous government turned into a disadvantage when the price of oil dropped and left the province with a $10 billion shortfall in revenue.

Instead of slashing the budget, as the conservative opposition parties would have done, the NDP looked for outside advice from former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge. The budget tabled by Mr. Ceci included investments in infrastructure while keeping operating funding steady to avoid major service cuts and job losses that would increase the province’s unemployment levels.

Sarah Hoffman NDP MLA Edmonton-Glenora

Sarah Hoffman

The NDP plan focuses on stability and job creation but it is yet to be seen whether those large deficits will be embraced by Albertans at the next election. The future of this government, like the PC government before it, may ultimately depend on the international price of oil.

The optimism of the new government masked a certain naivety. Transitioning into the role of government has been challenging.

The transition from a 4-MLA opposition caucus to majority government led the NDP to import senior political staff from across Canada, including those with experience working in Ottawa and for NDP governments in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.

Kathleen Ganley NDP Calgary Buffalo

Kathleen Ganley

The rushed introduction of new farm safety laws made the NDP look as if they were more interested in dragging rural communities into the 21st century rather than leading them in that direction.

Like something out of the 1950s, Wildrose MLAs and conservative newspaper columnists have become prone to red-baiting, accusing Alberta’s NDP government of holding communist or socialist sympathies. While some individual NDP MLAs have self-identified as socialists, the reality is the new government has been quite moderate and even small-c conservative at times. Ms. Notley has become one of Canada’s strongest advocates for oil pipelines and the NDP even decreased the small business tax from 3 percent to 2 percent in the recent budget.

Days before last year’s election I asked the question, ‘how bad would Alberta’s conservatives need to screw up for Albertans to elect an NDP government.’ We found out on May 5, 2015.

The NDP had been elected in Alberta. Hell had frozen over.

On the morning of May 6, 2015, Albertans woke up to a new government and an unwelcome spring snowstorm. Today, as most Albertans focus on wildfires instead of politics, we can only hope for a repeat of that snowstorm to put an end to the fires ravaging Fort McMurray.


The governments of Alberta and Canada will be matching individual donations made to the Canadian Red Cross Alberta Fires Emergency Appeal to help the people impacted by the Fort McMurray wildfire. Click here to donate.

Premier Rachel Notley's expanded 17-member Alberta NDP cabinet.

Notley spreads out the workload in new expanded NDP cabinet

Alberta’s provincial cabinet grew by six today as Premier Rachel Notley announced an early 2016 cabinet shuffle. These appointments bring the size of Alberta’s cabinet up to 19, which is larger than the initial 12 cabinet ministers appointed after the NDP won the 2015 election but is still the smallest Alberta cabinet in more than a decade.

It became clear in the NDP government’s first half year in office that it would be unrealistic to have such a small group be responsible for so many large government ministries. Because of this, it was widely suspected that the new government would wait until 2016 before deciding which backbench NDP MLAs were cabinet material.

Here are some of the changes made as a result of today’s cabinet shuffle.

Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman retains her position as Minster of Health while also taking on the role of Deputy Premier. Ms. Hoffman has proven herself to be one of the strongest members of the provincial cabinet, so this promotion is not a surprise.

Calgary-Acadia MLA Brandy Payne will assist Ms. Hoffman as Associate Minister of Health, a position that has existed in the past.

Edmonton-Riverview MLA Lori Sigurdson took a political beating during the Bill 6 farm safety law debates has been demoted from her role as Minister of Advanced Education and Minister of Jobs, Skills and Labour. She is now Minister of Seniors and Housing.

Replacing Ms. Sigurdson are Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Marlin Schmidt as Minister of Advanced Education and Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Christina Gray as Minister of Labour (no longer the Ministry of Jobs, Skills and Labour).

Ms. Gray is also Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal, a role that coincides with her position as chairperson of the Select Special Ethics and Accountability Committee, which is reviewing the Election Act, the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, the Conflicts of Interest Act, and the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act.

Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan has been appointed Minister of Indigenous Relations, which has been renamed from Aboriginal Relations.

Calgary-Cross MLA Ricardo Miranda, is now Minister of Culture and Tourism. He is also Alberta’s first openly gay cabinet minister.

Two new cabinet ministers, Ms. Payne and Calgary-Varsity MLA Stephanie McLean, who is Minister of Service Alberta and Status of Women, are pregnant and expecting to add new additions to their families in 2016.

Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier is now Deputy Government House Leader, a role he shares with Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous.

It is unclear whether Mr. Schmidt and Ms. McLean will continue in their roles from the previous Legislative session as Government Whip and Deputy Government Whip. It is expected that MLAs will choose a new Deputy Chair of Committees to replace Mr. Feehan as he moves into his new ministerial role when the Legislature returns on March 8, 2016.

A full list of the new cabinet can be found here.

New Climate Change Office

The cabinet shuffle also included the announcement that a new Climate Change Office has been created to help implement the government’s Climate Leadership Plan. The new office will report to Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips.

Alberta MLAs to watch in 2016: Sarah Hoffman, Nathan Cooper, Deborah Drever, Greg Clark, Sandra Jansen, Deron Bilous, Danielle Larivee, Richard Starke, Shannon Phillips, and Prasad Panda.

A Rookie Crew: Eleven Alberta MLAs to watch in 2016

The past few years in Alberta politics have reminded us that politics can be an extraordinarily unpredictable and forecasting the future can be a very tricky business for political pundits. Aside from the obvious choices of Premier Rachel Notley, Finance Minister Joe Ceci and Wildrose leader Brian Jean, here is a list of eleven Alberta MLAs worth watching in 2016.

Deron Bilous (Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview): As Economic Development and Trade Minister, Deron Bilous faces the challenge of proving the government’s job creation plan can work as the provincial economy faces declining international oil prices.

Greg Clark (Calgary-Elbow): As leader of the one MLA Alberta Party opposition, Greg Clark is punching above his weight in getting media attention and working hard to position himself as a moderate conservative alternative to the NDP and Wildrose Parties. He was also the only opposition MLA to propose an alternative budget and climate change plan in 2015.

Nathan Cooper (Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills): With a detailed knowledge of Assembly rules and procedure, Official Opposition House Leader Nathan Cooper will prove to be a valuable asset to the rookie Wildrose Caucus.

Deborah Drever (Calgary-Bow): Elected as a New Democrat and sent into legislative exile as an Independent after embarrassing social media posts were reported, she has been the target of relentless personal attacks by Wildrose MLAs and anonymous internet trolls. She has redeemed herself as a well-spoken representative and shepherded her first private members’ bill – Bill 204 – to unanimous approval in the Legislature. Expect Ms. Drever to be invited to rejoin the NDP caucus in 2016.

Derek Fildebrandt (Strathmore-Brooks): Probably the most high profile Wildrose MLA, Derek Fildebrandt is the loudest critic of the NDP government. But his hyper-partisan outbursts, including an embarassing fight with a Globe & Mail reporter and an angry tweet directed at the Assembly Speaker, are not necessarily the kind of attention his MLA colleagues are pleased to receive. Can he tone down the rhetoric and offer reasonable solutions and alternatives in 2016?

Sarah Hoffman (Edmonton-Glenora): As Health and Seniors Minister, Sarah Hoffman is well-spoken and smart as a fox. She can explain complex issues and spar with the opposition with ease. She is a contender for strongest member of Rachel Notley’s cabinet, and I place her in the “future Premier material” category.

Sandra Jansen (Calgary-North West): Sandra Jansen is the voice of the moderate wing of the Progressive Conservative Party. She has publicly clashed with interim leader Ric McIver over his decision to endorse the federal Conservatives, and with Wildrose supporters over her decision to endorse Liberal candidates in the 2015 federal election. Her record as a vocal opponent of a merger with the Wildrose would make her a candidate to watch in her party’s next leadership race.

Danielle Larivee (Lesser Slave Lake): Appointed to cabinet as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Service Alberta in a fall shuffle, Danielle Larivee has proven herself as a tough and well-spoken advocate. As one of the government’s point-people for the fumbled Bill 6 Farm Safety Bill, she demonstrated her toughness. A Registered Nurse, she is also co-chair of the government’s review of mental health services, which is expected to be released early in 2016.

Prasad Panda (Calgary-Foothills): When he won a Sept. 2015 by-election in Jim Prentice’s former constituency, he became the Wildrose Party’s only MLA from Calgary. He has been quite quiet since his win, but Mr. Panda’s performance as MLA over the coming years could determine how far his rural-based party might expand its presence in Alberta’s largest city.

Shannon Phillips (Lethbridge West): Smart, passionate and a fierce partisan, Shannon Phillips impressed many with her calm and cool delivery of Alberta’s climate change plan ahead of the Paris Climate Change conference in Nov. 2015. As Environment and Parks Minister, she helped bring together oil industry leaders and environmental groups to endorse the province’s plan. Selling the plan and its carbon tax to Albertans over the next year will be a serious test of Ms. Phillips’ political skills.

Richard Starke (Vermilion-Lloydminster): As a critic of Bill 6, Richard Starke took a more reasoned approach to criticizing the farm safety law and avoided the hysterical and negative reactions characteristic of his counterparts in the Official Opposition caucus. One of two remaining rural PC MLAs, he is said to be interested in making a bid for his party’s leadership.

Young Alberta MLA Under 30 Politics 2016

The Under 30s: Jon Carson, Michael Connolly, Estefania Cortes-Vargas, Thomas Dang, Trevor Horne, Anam Kazim, Stephanie McLean, and Graham Sucha.

The Under 30s: Another result of the massive turnover in the legislature last year was a significant drop in the average age of Alberta’s MLAs, from 53 to 40 years old. Among the newly elected younger MLAs are a handful who are under thirty-years old (including Ms. Drever, who is noted above).

While it is not uncommon to have one to two under-30s elected to the Assembly from time to time, I cannot remember a time when so many were elected at once. It is a refreshing change, as younger Albertans bring a very different perspective than the typical older, greyer elected representative.

There could be future cabinet ministers or party leaders in this group, so in 2016, I will be keeping an eye on Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Jon CarsonCalgary-Hawkwood MLA Michael Connolly, Sherwood Park-Strathcona MLA Estefania Cortes-VargasEdmonton-Southwest MLA Thomas Dang, Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Trevor HorneCalgary-Glenmore MLA Anam KazimCalgary-Varsity MLA Stephanie McLean, and Calgary-Shaw MLA Graham Sucha.


Compare this list of Alberta MLAs to watch to previous lists from 2015 and 2014.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci presents the Alberta NDP's first budget.

Sky does not fall as Alberta NDP presents its first budget

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

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

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

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

Deron Bilous Edmonton Alberta MLA Minister

Deron Bilous Edmonton Alberta MLA Minister

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

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

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

Jim Prentice Alberta Premier

Jim Prentice

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

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

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

Derek Fildebrandt Alberta Taxpayers

Derek Fildebrandt

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

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

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

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

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

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

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

Danielle Larivee Rachel Notley Deron Bilous

Notley creates Economic Development ministry, appoints rural Municipal Affairs minister

Alberta’s provincial cabinet grew from twelve to thirteen today with the appointment of Lesser Slave Lake MLA Danielle Larivee to the posts of Minister of Municipal Affairs and Service Alberta.

Ms. Larivee takes over those roles from Deron Bilous. Mr. Bilous, one of the four NDP MLAs elected before this year’s orange chinook swept across Alberta, is now the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, a new department created from elements of the Ministry of Advanced Education and Innovation and International and Intergovernmental Affairs.

With Finance Minister Joe Ceci scheduled to table the provincial budget in the Legislative Assembly on Oct. 27, the creation of this new ministry is meant to send a message about the importance of job creation and economic diversification. It was announced today that the budget will also include an “economic development plan” that will help provide some direction for this initiative.

The provincial budget is expected to include significant investment in public infrastructure and job creation projects to compensate for the loss of jobs caused by the drop in the international price of oil.

Calgary No Longer the Centre of Alberta’s Political Universe

The appointment of a rural northern Alberta MLA to cabinet has already generated complaints from some Calgary-based pundits. Only four of thirteen cabinet ministers represent constituencies south of Edmonton, including Finance Minister Joe Ceci, Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley and Environment Minister Shannon Phillips.

Over the course of its 44 years in power, the old Progressive Conservative government was led by Calgarians for more than three decades – Premiers Peter Lougheed (1971 to 1985), Ralph Klein (1992 to 2006), Alison Redford (2011-2014) and Jim Prentice (2014-2015).

It is suspected that former Alderman Bob Hawkesworth would have been appointed to cabinet as Minister of Municipal Affairs if he had won a September by-election in the Calgary-Foothills riding. If this is true, Calgarians can rightfully ask why one of the other eleven NDP MLAs in Calgary wasn’t appointed to cabinet. But they would be mistaken to believe they are the only group the provincial government is trying to represent.

As an MLA representing a large rural constituency, Ms. Larivee’s appointment to the Municipal Affairs post is more likely a tip of the hat to the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties. An incredibly well-connected lobby group during the PC Party’s time in power, the AAMDC has found itself sitting on the outside of political power for the first time in decades.

The group was known in political circles as the PC Party’s “farm team,” because many of its officials have used the group as a springboard in attempts to win PC candidate nominations (including current president Al Kemmere and former cabinet minister Jack Hayden).

As a registered nurse who worked in a community health care setting, Ms. Larivee will understand some of the challenges facing the rural and remote communities represented by the AAMDC. It just so happens that Ms. Larivee’s new job starts a month before her first large event as minister – the AAMDC’s annual general meeting on November 17 and 18.


Alberta’s New Cabinet

Rachel Notley (Edmonton-Strathcona) – Premier

Deron Bilous (Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview) – Economic Development and Trade

Oneil Carlier (Whitecourt-Ste. Anne) – Agriculture and Forestry

Joe Ceci (Calgary-Fort) – Finance and Treasury Board President

David Eggen (Edmonton-Calder) — Education and Culture and Tourism

Kathleen Ganley (Calgary-Buffalo) Justice and Aboriginal Affairs

Sarah Hoffman (Edmonton Glenora)— Health and Seniors

Danielle Larivee (Lesser Slave Lake) – Municipal Affairs and Service Alberta

Brian Mason (Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood) –  Infrastructure and Transportation

Margaret Mccuaig-Boyd (Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley) – Energy

Shannon Phillips (Lethbridge-West) – Environment and Parks and Status of Women

Irfan Sabir (Calgary-McCall) – Human Services.

Lori Sigurdson (Edmonton-Riverview) – Advanced Education, and Jobs, Skills, Training & Labour

Deron Bilous Payday Loans Alberta

Guest Post: How the Alberta government can reform Payday Loan rules

There are differing opinions on payday loans and the government of Alberta wants to hear yours. One thing is certain though, they are extremely expensive and targeted at Albertans living in poverty.

For many Albertans who need quick cash a payday loan may appear to be the only or best option. Seldom is this the case. On the face of it, it looks like a quick way out. This is exactly how the loans are marketed: quick cash with the loan being done and over with after two weeks. In reality this is not how it works. The average borrower takes out 8 loans before exiting the cycle.

Last week Service Alberta Minister, Deron Bilous, announced a regulatory review of payday lending. The review, expected to last through the fall, has started with an online survey, available until October 28. After Service Alberta analyzes the results they will lead in person consultations with lenders, borrowers, and other stakeholders to determine the path forward for regulation.

Payday loans are loans of less than $1500 with a term of less than 62 days. The average loan is $300 over 14 days. In Alberta, lenders can charge up to $23 for every $100 borrowed over the loan period.

This may look like a 23 percent interest rate, it’s not. It’s 23 percent for that two week term. In Canada, we compare the cost of financial products through the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) or annual interest. The APR on the average payday loan? 600 percent. Compare that to your credit card at 18 percent or car loan at 5 percent. No matter how you slice it payday loans are an incredibly expensive way to borrow money.

The people who go to a payday lender are largely the working poor but many borrowers could be receiving government benefits like Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped or Income Support. Bottom line: The people who can least afford credit are paying the most to access it. Income support dollars could be going to pay for payday loan interest. In Calgary, there are 82 payday loan stores, 69 of them are in high poverty areas of the city. Payday lenders know their target market.

So what can improve the regulations? Lowering the interest rates would be a start. Alberta has the second highest allowable rates in the country ($23 per $100). Manitoba charges only $17 per $100. This reduces the cost to the borrower but interest rates remain in the triple digits.

Another option is to mandate installment payments on payday loans. Currently, the full amount of the loan must be repaid in one payment. For many this means giving up the majority of their paycheque and taking out a new payday loan immediately to tide over the shortfall. Installment payments would allow for people to repay the loan over a longer period of time and so that payments take up less of their paycheque. This reduces the need for immediate re-borrowing.

What Alberta should not do is ban payday lenders outright. In the 14 American states where payday loans are illegal there is an unregulated industry of lenders who charge even higher rates. Not only this but choking off the supply of short-term, small dollar credit does not diminish the demand. Demand must also be addressed through competing products with reasonable rates of interest. This is already being done in Calgary with Momentum and First Calgary Financial offering a competing product to a payday loan, known as the Cash Crunch loan, which offers credit at a 12 percent annual interest rate.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of what the provincial government can do to better protect consumers and regulate this industry. It is not only up to the provincial government to regulate this industry. Municipalities can regulate this industry through land use and licensing tools available to them. Calgary is already pursuing this, other municipalities can and have jumped on board, but not yet Edmonton.

Learn more about the high costs of payday loans, and policy options, here. Take the survey and let the Government of Alberta know what you think of payday loans.

Mike Brown is Public Policy Coordinator at Momentum, a non-profit Community Economic Development organization in Calgary. His work includes research and writing on developing a poverty reduction strategy for Alberta and research into payday loans and predatory lending reform in Alberta.

Rachel Notley Brian Mason David Eggen Deron Bilous NDP MLA Alberta

NDP needs to explain why they changed their mind on Carbon Capture and Storage

“The Tories have bet $2 billion taxpayer dollars and our oil and gas industry’s sustainability on CCS. There’s no scientific consensus that the technology is safe in the long term. Any report of a failed CCS project should have the Tories thinking twice about their lopsided reliance on CCS.” – Rachel Notley, NDP MLA Edmonton-Strathcona (January 11, 2011)

“Ed Stelmach has no trouble handing out billions of real tax dollars for carbon-capture to his friends in the oil and gas sector. But when it comes to a plan that could create jobs and improve our environment, the money’s just not there.” Brian Mason, NDP MLA Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood (June 22, 2010)

I want to remind the House that this government has chosen to spend $1.3 billion on an unproven, unfounded technology, carbon capture and storage, and on other priorities of theirs. There’s money for them. Yet when it comes to supporting Alberta families and Alberta’s hardest workers, this government couldn’t be bothered to support or to find the money. – Deron Bilous, MLA Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview (December 3, 2013)

This whole idea of investing, giving industry so much money for carbon capture and storage – right? – is an absolute waste of money. We know full well that this is just another way for enhanced oil recovery. It’s another way for large energy corporations to receive public funding, and there’s very little evidence that this very expensive public investment will pay any significant returns either to our environment or to the original plant to which it was intended. – David Eggen, MLA Edmonton-Calder (April 17, 2014).

Yesterday’s statement by Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd that Alberta’s new government would honour the contracts signed with Shell for the Quest project and Enhanced Energy for the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line carbon capture and storage projects is a significant about face for the New Democratic Party government. The two projects are expected to begin operating in 2016.

In opposition, NDP MLAs were harshly critical of the governing Progressive Conservatives investments in the private energy projects (see the quotes listed above).

During the recent election, the NDP platform pledged to end the carbon capture contracts during the recent election campaign, proposing to reinvest hundreds of millions of dollars into public transit programs.

We will end the PCs’ costly and ineffective Carbon Capture and Storage experiment and reinvest the 2015/16 component of this project into construction of public transit, which will help reduce families’ transportation costs and reduce greenhouse gases and other air pollutants. – NDP 2015 election platform, page 18.

Originally marketed as part of the provincial government’s 2008 climate change plan, the Auditor General reported in July 2014 that “the total emissions reductions are expected to be less than 10% of what was originally anticipated.” The technology is unproven and unlikely to actually reduce carbon emissions in Alberta.

Ms. McCuaig-Boyd said in a statement that no further funding for carbon capture and storage is planned beyond the existing projects, but regardless of future plans, the NDP needs to better communicate why it is not fulfilling their promise to cancel the contracts.

If the financial penalties are too steep or investments already made are too large to justify cancelling the contracts, then Ms. McCuaig-Boyd should explain to Albertans how large these penalties would be or what the cost of withdrawing from the projects would be.

If the old Progressive Conservative government negotiated contracts for carbon capture and storage projects that were not in the best interest of Albertans, then the new government should say so.

Monday morning federal candidate nomination update in Alberta

Preparation for the 2015 federal election continues as parties nominate their candidates in Alberta’s 34 ridings. The Conservatives and Liberals have most of their candidates in place, with the New Democratic Party now holding a flurry of nomination meetings across the province.

Here are the latest candidate nominations in Alberta:

Calgary-Centre: Dr. Jillian Ratti is seeking the NDP nomination. Dr. Ratti is listed as a physician at the Central Family Medicine Teaching Centre at the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre in downtown Calgary.

Calgary-Confederation: University of Calgary PhD Arti Modgill, consultant Marc Power, and former journalist Kirk Heuser are seeking the NDP nomination. Mr. Power has received the endorsements of Calgary-Currie MLA Brian Malkinson and Calgary-Hawkwood MLA Michael Connolly.

Calgary-Forest LawnMyra D’Souza and Abdou Souraya is seeking the NDP nomination. Mr. Souraya is the Executive Assistant to the Director of Calgary Transit.

Calgary-Rocky Ridge: Policy analyst Stephanie Kot is seeking the NDP nomination.

Calgary-Skyview: Mohammad Tayyab is seeking the NDP nomination.

Calgary-Signal Hill: Lawyer Katherine Kowalchuk has withdrawn as the Liberal candidate in this west Calgary riding to focus on her legal business.

Edmonton-Centre: Athabasca University professor Mark Crawford has entered the NDP nomination contest. He will face community activist Reakash Walters and labour federation president Gil McGowan at a August 23, 2015 nomination meeting.

Edmonton-Griesbach: University of Alberta instructor Brian Gold has replaced Daniol Coles as the Liberal candidate. NDP candidate Janis Irwin launched her campaign this month in the company of many supporters, including local NDP MLAs Sarah Hoffman, David Eggen, Deron Bilous, Chris Nielson and Heather Sweet.

Edmonton-Riverbend: Two-time Wildrose Party candidate Ian Crawford is challenging former Progressive Conservative MLA Matt Jeneroux for the Conservative Party nomination. Mr. Crawford ran in Edmonton-Whitemud in 2012 and Edmonton-Riverbend in 2015.

Edmonton-Wetaskiwin: Nadine Bailey and Fritz Kathryn Bitz are seeking the NDP nomination scheduled for August 17, 2015 in Leduc. Ms. Bailey was the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont in the 2011 federal election and Edmonton-Centre in the 2012 provincial election.

Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner: Fort Macleod nurse Erin Weir is seeking the NDP nomination.

Red Deer-Mountain View: Red Deer public school board trustee Dianne Macaulay is seeking the NDP nomination. Ms. Macaulay was first elected as a trustee in 2004.

St. Albert-Edmonton: Transit Operator Darlene Malayko is seeking the NDP nomination.

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

Notley’s Crew: Alberta’s First NDP Cabinet

Thousands of Albertans packed the Legislature Grounds for the swearing-in ceremony of Premier Rachel Notley and Alberta’s first NDP Cabinet. This marked the first time in 44 years that a party other than the Progressive Conservatives were sworn-in to office and the event felt more like an outdoor festival than a protocol-ruled government ceremony. The hot weather, live music, free ice cream, food trucks and wading pools helped contribute to this atmosphere, but there was an unmistakable feeling of excitement and optimism in the sea of onlookers. It was really unlike anything I have experienced in my ten years writing about politics in this province. This crowd was cheering for Alberta.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

Along with serving as Premier, Ms. Notley is also responsible for the Ministry of International and Intergovernmental Relations, a double role that her predecessors Ralph Klein and Jim Prentice also took responsibility for. The three other incumbent NDP MLAs, Brian Mason, Deron Bilous and David Eggen, were appointed to senior roles and first-term Edmonton MLAs Sarah Hoffman and Lori Sigurdson were also named to cabinet.

The new 12-member cabinet has an equal number of women and men, and while half of its MLAs represent Edmonton constituencies, ministers from rural Alberta, Lethbridge and Calgary have been given important responsibilities.

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP

Joe Ceci

Former Calgary Alderman Joe Ceci is Finance Minister and Treasury Board President, Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kathleen Ganley is Justice Minister, Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips is Environment Minister, Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley MLA Marg McCuaig-Boyd is Energy Minister, Whitecourt-Ste. Anne MLA Oneil Carlier is Agriculture and Forestry Minister, and Calgary-McCall MLA Irfan Sabir is Minister of Human Services.

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

It was reported on social media this weekend that the NDP Caucus will nominate Medicine Hat MLA Bob Wanner as Speaker of the Assembly when MLAs convene to replace Speaker Gene Zwozdesky on June 11. Mr. Wanner is the former commissioner of public services at the City of Medicine Hat and worked as a professional mediator before he was elected. The Speech from the Throne will be read by recently appointed Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell on June 15.

Here is a list of the new cabinet ministers:

Rachel Notley (Edmonton-Strathcona): Premier of Alberta and Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations

Brian Mason (Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood): Minister of Infrastructure, Minister of Transportation, Government House Leader

David Eggen (Edmonton-Calder): Minister of Education, Minister of Culture and Tourism

Deron Bilous (Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview): Minister of Municipal Affairs, Minister of Service Alberta, Deputy Government House Leader

Joe Ceci (Calgary-Fort): President of Treasury Board, Minister of Finance

Marg McCuaig-Boyd (Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley): Minister of Energy

Sarah Hoffman (Edmonton-Glenora): Minister of Health, Minister of Seniors

Kathleen Ganley (Calgary-Buffalo): Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, Minister of Aboriginal Relations

Lori Sigurdson (Edmonton-Riverview): Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education, Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour

Oneil Carlier (Whitecourt-Ste. Anne): Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development

Shannon Phillips (Lethbridge-West): Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, Minister of Parks and Recreation, Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, Deputy Government House Leader

Irfan Sabir (Calgary-McCall): Minister of Human Services

Tory requests Judicial Recount in Glenmore

The last outstanding race of the May 5 provincial election will face a judicial recount. The election in Calgary-Glenmore was tied on election night and the official count showed NDP candidate Anam Kazim six votes ahead of Progressive Conservative candidate Linda Johnson. Ms. Johnson, who served one-term as an MLA after her election in 2012, has requested a judicial recount.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley NDP

It’s still hard to believe the NDP won Alberta’s election

Two days later it is still hard to believe. The New Democratic Party won an election in Alberta? The NDP won a majority government in Alberta? Rachel Notley is the next Premier of Alberta? Get used to it, because Albertans have spoken.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

A change in government is a good thing for Alberta. It was desperately needed.

As I wrote on election night, it would be a mistake to believe this election signals Albertans have shifted to the political left.This election was never about ideology and Albertans remain largely politically moderate. This defining narrative of this campaign was trust and accountability, and on this issue Albertans turned away from Jim Prentice‘s  Progressive Conservatives and embraced Ms. Notley’s moderate and progressive Lougheed-esq platform. The “time for a change” narrative was too strong for the PCs to survive.

But it could still be a while before it stops sounding totally strange. I have never seen another party form government in Alberta until this week. The PCs were first elected 12 years before I was born. My parents were in junior high school when Peter Lougheed became Premier. And this week that dynasty, which governed Alberta for forty-four straight years, collapsed in a spectacular fashion.

Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed

Peter Lougheed

Only one week ago, days before their defeat, the Tories revved up their impressive fundraising machine with a $500 per plate dinner in downtown Edmonton that raised around $800,000 in one night. A similar fundraising dinner, which I am told was sold out, is scheduled to be held on May 14 in Calgary.

But now electorally demolished, on their way out of government and without a leader following Mr. Prentice’s election night resignation, will the PC Party go on? Who will show up for the pricy dinner now that there will be no Premier at the podium or cabinet ministers to dine and wine with? What is the future of the PC Party, now that it is no longer in government?

Albertans wanted a change and they sent a message loud and clear.

On Tuesday night, 74 new MLAs were elected. Forty-nine of those new MLAs will sit in the government benches and 20 will be in opposition, including 18 in the resurgent conservative Wildrose Official Opposition led by Brian Jean. The average age of Alberta’s MLAs also tumbled from 52 years old to 36 40 years old after this election and almost half of the NDP caucus will be made up of women MLAs.

Jim Prentice Premier Alberta

Jim Prentice

The government and opposition now hold differing political views, a difference from the past legislature which could help create an atmosphere of real debate in the Legislative Assembly. This marks a seismic change in a Alberta’s political environment that has been dominated by one party for four decades.

Any new government can be expected to make lots of rookie mistakes, but the incoming Premier has spent the days following the election to set a pragmatic and moderate tone for the new government.

Ms. Notley made a point of using her first days after the election to set a positive tone with Alberta’s energy industry leaders, many who are also likely seeing their first change in government in Alberta. Ms. Notley has repeatedly made clear what Albertans already know: that energy industry is key to our economy. And the NDP Government’s proposed royalty review and modest increase to corporate taxes will ensure the role of Energy Minister remains very important in the new cabinet.

Energy Minister could be a role so important that Ms. Notley takes it on the responsibility herself, as Mr. Prentice took on the extra roles of Aboriginal Relations and Intergovernmental Affairs when he became Premier in September 2014.

While some fear-mongering conservatives, still bitter from their first electoral loss in 44 years, are predicting that the entire energy industry will pack up and leave because Albertans voted in a new government, there is an opportunity for corporate leaders to create a respectful working relationship with the new Alberta Government. And for Albertans, it could be refreshing change to have a government that acts like a partner with the energy industry rather than a wholly owned subsidiary of the energy industry. Albertans want to ensure they are getting their fair share of the wealth collected from their natural resources and industry, quite fairly, wants to know they will be treated fairly by the new government.

As Ms. Notley’s NDP Caucus transitions into their new role as government, the first time this has happened in 44 years, there are still a lot of unknowns. When will a new budget be tabled? When will the Legislative Assembly sit next? Will there be any major changes in the senior ranks of the public service? Will Alberta’s position on major national issues drastically change? Who will be appointed to cabinet?

We can expect incumbent NDP MLAs Brian Mason, David Eggen, and Deron Bilous to be at the cabinet table. Other possible cabinet appointments could include Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman (former Edmonton Public School Board chair), Calgary-Fort MLA Joe Ceci (former Calgary Alderman), Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips (policy analyst), Medicine Hat MLA Bob Wanner (former Public Services Commissioner for Medicine Hat), Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Bob Turner (Doctor), St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud (non-profit executive director), and Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley MLA Margaret Mccuaig-Boyd (former Vice-President of Grande Prairie College), Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kathleen Ganley (labour lawyer), Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater MLA Colin Piquette (university instructor) and Calgary-Varsity MLA Stephanie McLean (criminal defence lawyer). And while their critics have focused on the perceived inexperience of new MLAs, we should not be surprised to see some of these unlikely politicians excel in their new roles.

There will be a lot of unknowns in Alberta politics in the coming months and years. This is not a bad thing. In most provinces it is completely normal. We live in a democracy and can expect, from time to time, that voters will decide it is someone else’s turn to govern.

Change is good. And while it still might be a while before it is easy to believe, Albertans sent a clear message on May 5 that they wanted a change in Edmonton, and they got it.


On Wednesday morning I joined Ryan Jespersen and Steven Dollansky on 630 CHED to talk about this week’s historic NDP election win in Alberta, the Wildrose resurgence and the collapse of the 43-year old PC dynasty.

NDP MLA Deron Bilous and Edmonton Public School Trustee Michelle Draper on the campaign trail.

PCs and NDP seal up full slates, election call expected tomorrow

With Alberta’s provincial election expected to be called tomorrow, both the governing Progressive Conservatives and New Democratic Party are expected to have candidates in place in all 87 constituencies today. If the writ is dropped tomorrow, April 7, then the provincial election will be held 28 days later on Tuesday, May 5, 2015.

Tony Caterina City Councillor PC MLA Candidate

Tony Caterina

The final PC candidate nomination meetings being held today are in Calgary-McCall and Calgary-Fort. There are six candidates seeking the nomination in Calgary-McCall (Rajinder Harika, Issa MosaMuhammad Rasheed, Jagdeep Sahota, Jangbahadur Sidhu and Kuldeep Sidhu) and four in Calgary-Fort (Bev DeSantis, Andy Nguyen, Christopher Primeau and Peter Singh). Ms. DeSantis has received Mr. Prentice’s endorsement in the Fort nomination.

Edmonton City Councillor Tony Caterina is the PC candidate in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview. Mr. Caterina will face hard-working first-term NDP MLA Deron Bilous. Mr. Caterina is well-known in northeast Edmonton, having represented that area since 2007, and his candidacy will keep this swing riding in play.

Since 2004, the constituency has changed hands three times between the PCs and NDP, with Mr. Bilous defeating PC MLA Tony Vandermeer in 2012 by 245 votes.

Harman Kandola Edmonton Ellerslie

Harman Kandola

This is Mr. Caterina’s second attempt at provincial office. He stood as the Alberta Alliance candidate in Edmonton-Centre in the 2004 provincial election.

According to CBC reports,  when the election is called Mr. Caterina will suspend his City Council salary but he will continue to participate in council meetings during the campaign.

Mr. Caterina replaces Harman Kandola, who was nominated as the PC candidate in that constituency in late March. Mr. Kandola is now the appointed PC candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie, a spot that was vacated under controversy by former cabinet minister Naresh Bhardwaj.

The PCs appointed Catherine Keill as their candidate to challenge Liberal/Green/Alberta Party candidate Laurie Blakeman in Edmonton-Centre. Ms. Keill is the Director of Community and Caucus Outreach in the Premier’s Office and previously worked for Mr. Prentice when he was a cabinet minister in Ottawa. She also served as Deputy Chief of Staff to former Mayor Stephen Mandel and was campaign manager for former City Councillor Karen Leibovici‘s mayoral election bid in 2013. The last time a PC candidate was elected in this constituency, Peter Lougheed was premier.

I have updated the list of Alberta Election candidates with these and more changes.


Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley NDP Leader Alberta

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley

Mack, Ryan and I are excited to announce that NDP leader Rachel Notley will be our guest on the AbVote Google Hangout at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 9, 2015. Watch the hangout live at abvote.ca and send us your questions using the #abvote hashtag on Twitter. You can also watch previous hangouts with Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman and the Wildrose leadership candidates.

Monday morning candidate nomination updates in Alberta

Super-Saturday-PC-Nomination-Election-AlbertaThe Progressive Conservatives held their first “Super Saturday” on Feb. 21, 2015, during which contested nominations were held in seven constituencies. The handful of contested PC nominations have been overshadowed by the nearly forty acclamations by incumbent PC MLAs across the province.

The Liberal Party, still without a permanent leader after Raj Sherman‘s abrupt resignation in Jan. 2015, has opened candidate nominations in all 87 constituencies and have made notice on their website that all Liberal nominations must be complete by March 1, 2015. If the Liberals are actually able to nominate candidates in all 87 constituencies in the next seven days, it will be a busy week on this blog.

Here are the latest updates to the growing list of nomination candidates preparing to run in the expected Spring 2015 Alberta Election:

Craig Copeland Bonnyville Cold Lake MLA PC

Craig Copeland

Bonnyville-Cold Lake: Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland defeated former Wildrose nomination candidate Dixie Dahlstedt in the PC nomination. Some local party members complained about the lack of multiple voting locations in the rural constituency and the police were called to the voting station after an allegedly intoxicated man caused a disturbance. A Municipal District of Bonnyville councillor told the Cold Lake Sun that alleged he was the man removed by the RCMP and he was not intoxicated. Current PC MLA Genia Leskiw is not seeking re-election.

Calgary-Buffalo: Lawyer David Khan will seek the Liberal nomination in this downtown Calgary constituency. Buffalo is currently represented by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, who is running for the federal Liberals in Calgary-Centre, and has elected Liberals in six of the eight elections held since 1986. Mr. Khan was his party’s candidate in the 2014 Calgary-West by-election where he earned 8.5% of the vote.

David Khan Liberal Calgary Buffalo Candidate

David Khan

Calgary-Bow: David Gamble is seeking the Liberal nomination. According to his Facebook Page, Mr. Gamble is the President and CEO of Dandly Writing and Communications.

Calgary-Cross: Seven candidates are seeking the PC nomination in this northeast Calgary constituency – Dan Singh SidhuMohamed El-Rafih, Jesse Minhas, Manjit Jaswal, Hardeep Rai, Hirde Paul, and Bill Kahlon. The constituency has been represented by PC MLA Yvonne Fritz since 1993. She is not seeking re-election.

Calgary-Currie: Pat Murray is seeking the Liberal nomination. Mr. Murray was the Liberal Party candidate in Calary-Currie in the 2001 election and Calgary-North Hill in 2004 and 2008 elections. He also ran as a federal PC candidate in Calgary-Nose Hill in the 1997 federal election.

Richard Gotfried Calgary Fish Creek PC MLA

Richard Gotfried

Calgary-Fish CreekRichard Gotfried defeated Myles McDougall to become the PC candidate. The constituency is currently represented by Wildrose MLA Heather Forsyth, who is not seeking re-election.

Calgary-Foothills: Electrical engineer Ali Bin Zahid is seeking the Liberal nomination to run against Premier Jim Prentice in the next election.

Calgary-Glenmore: David Waddington is the nominated Liberal Party candidate.

Calgary-Hawkwood: Beth Barberee has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.

Calgary-McCall: Realtor Avinash Khangura is seeking the Liberal nomination. The constituency is currently represented by Liberal MLA Darshan Kang, who is now the federal Liberal candidate in the Calgary-Skyview constituency.

Stephanie McLean NDP Calgary Varsity

Stephanie McLean

Calgary-Mountain View: Former MLA Mark Hlady defeated Mr. Prentice’s former Chief of Staff Jean-Sebastien Rioux and Lynn Moen in the PC nomination. Mr. Hlady was the MLA from 1993 until 2004, when he was unseated by the current Liberal MLA, David Swann.

Calgary-North West: First-term PC MLA and former cabinet minister Sandra Jansen defeated past city council candidate Blair Houston in the PC nomination.

Calgary-Varsity: Stephanie McLean was nominated as the NDP candidate in this northwest Calgary constituency. Ms. McLean was the NDP candidate in the recent Calgary-Elbow by-election and is also her party’s federally nominated candidate in Calgary-Confederation. Paramedic Pete Helfrich is the nominated Liberal Party candidate. Mr. Helfrich ran for the Liberals in Banff-Cochrane in the 2012 election.

Jamie Lall PC Chestermere Rocky View

Jamie Lall

Chestermere-Rockyview: Jamie Lall is challenging Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Bruce McAllister for the PC nomination. Mr. Lall was his party’s 2012 candidate in the Calgary-Buffalo constituency.

Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview: First-term NDP MLA Deron Bilous has been acclaimed as his party’s candidate in the next election.

Edmonton-Calder: Ministerial Chief of Staff Tom Bradley has been acclaimed as the PC candidate in this northeast Edmonton constituency current represented by NDP MLA David Eggen. Mr. Bradley is currently the Chief of Staff to Infrastructure Minister Manmeet Bhullar and also served as Base Commander for CFB Edmonton from 2009 to 2011 and Chief of Operations for Task Force Kandahar in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2008.

Chris Labossiere Edmonton Rutherford PC MLA

Chris Labossiere

Edmonton-MeadowlarkSteve Benson is challenging former Globe & Mail reporter Katherine O’Neill for the PC nomination. Former Catholic School District Trustee Debbie Cavaliere is said to been collecting signatures to contest the Liberal nomination. In 2008, Ms. Cavaliere challenged Raj Sherman in the Meadowlark PC nomination contest before withdrawing, switching parties and unsuccessfully running against him in that year’s election as the Liberal candidate. Dr. Sherman, who joined the Liberals in 2011 after becoming leader, is not seeking re-election.

Edmonton-Rutherford: Businessman and Edmonton enthusiast Chris Labossiere will face management consultant Grant Mann for the PC nomination. Mr. Labossiere has earned the endorsements of City Councillor Michael Walters, public school trustee Michael Janz, former Premier Dave Hancock, Edmonton Economic Development Corp. CEO Brad Ferguson and Poppy Barley CEO Kendall Barber, among others.

Rachel Notley Edmonton MLA Strathcona NDP

Rachel Notley

Edmonton-Strathcona: NDP leader Rachel Notley has been acclaimed as her party’s candidate in the next election. Former NDP MP Olivia Chow is scheduled to speak at Ms. Notley’s nomination meeting on March 1, 2015.

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo: Tracy McKinnon, chairperson of the Fort McMurray Catholic School District, is challenging first-term PC MLA Mike Allen for that party’s nomination. Mr. Allen achieved national notoriety in 2013 when he was charged in a prostitution sting while on government-funded trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota. He pleaded guilty to the charge in December 2013 and paid a $500 fine and court costs. Following the incident, he sat as an Independent MLA until July 2014, when PC MLAs voted to allow him to rejoin the Government Caucus.

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith

Highwood: Wildrose leader-turned-PC MLA Danielle Smith will face Okotoks town councillor Carrie Fischer in the PC nomination contest. Joel Windsor is running for the Alberta Party.

Medicine Hat: Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Blake Pedersen defeated former city councillor John Hamill and realtor Jeff Lanigan. Mr. Pedersen faced harsh criticism form his opponents in a recent nomination debate. “I will die on my sword before I cross the floor… people who cross the floor have no honour,” Mr. Hamill said of Mr. Pedersen.

Dustin Nau and local radio personality Val Olson are running for Wildrose nomination in Medicine Hat. Mr. Nau was his party’s 2012 election candidate in Calgary-Foothills.

Peace River: Debbie Jabbour is seeking the NDP nomination.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Tammy Cote defeated former Lacombe County Reeve Terry Engan in the PC nomination contest. Ms. Cote is the grand-niece of former PC MLA and lieutenant-governor Helen Hunley.

Spruce Grove-St. Albert: Rus Matichuk defeated former St. Albert city councillor Neil Kortash and government spokesperson Kathleen Range to become the PC candidate. The constituency was formerly represented by former Finance Minister Doug Horner, who resigned as MLA on Jan. 31, 2015.

Seven more PC MLAs have been acclaimed, bringing the total number of acclaimed PC candidates to 39: Moe Amery in Calgary-East, Dave Rodney in Calgary-Lougheed, David Dorward in Edmonton-Gold Bar, Steve Young in Edmonton-Riverview, Jacquie Fenske in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, Greg Weadick in Lethbridge-West and Richard Starke in Vermilion-Lloydminster.


I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.

Alberta NDP still running that other leadership contest

Alberta NDP leadership race Rachel Notley David Eggen

Alberta NDP leadership rivals Rachel Notley and David Eggen (photo from Ms. Notley’s Facebook page).

It is pennies compared to the $1.8 million raised by Jim Prentice during the Progressive Conservative leadership race, but in the world of the Alberta NDP leadership contest, the money is flowing.

The NDP’s monthly contributions report from its leadership candidates shows Edmonton-Strathcona MLA and front-runner Rachel Notley has raised $82,826.99, Edmonton-Calder MLA David Eggen has has raised $32,924 and labour activist Rod Loyola raised $5,310 since the race started.

The largest donations made to the candidate have been from UFCW Local 401, which donated $15,000 each to Ms. Notley and Mr. Eggen, and $5,000 to Mr. Loyola. UFCW Local 401 is a major player in the provincial NDP and is expected to take up a large percentage of reserved NDP union-affiliate votes in this contest. None of the NDP supporters I have spoken with have been able to clearly explain how the union-affiliate vote process will work.

Ms. Notley’s candidacy has received a number of high profile endorsements, including those of fellow NDP MLA Deron Bilous, former NDP MLAs Barrie Chivers, Bob Hawkesworth and Jim Gurnett, former Red Deer mayor Morris Flewwelling (who ran for the PCs in the 1997 federal election), former PC MLA Tom Sindlinger and former Edmonton Public School Board trustee Dave Colburn.

While Ms. Notley appears to have the support of many NDP insiders and luminaries, I am told that Mr. Eggen’s campaign is busy selling memberships across the province. This being the party’s first contested leadership campaign since 1996, it is unclear what the benchmark for membership sales should be.

So far, the contest appears to have been a friendly affair, with no  public clashing between the candidates. Ms. Notley has released a five priority platform, and she and Mr. Eggen have continued in their roles as opposition critics.

Mirroring a larger internal NDP debate on the national level, Mr. Eggen has released a statement calling for peace between Israel and the Palestinians living in Gaza. Mr. Eggen called on the provincial government to review its investments through AIMCo and look to divestment in order to pressure a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict.

Recent polls have shown NDP support growing in Edmonton, suggesting that the party could expand its four MLA caucus in the next election. Despite being in the midst of a leadership contest, which ends with a vote on October 18, 2014, the NDP continues to nominate candidates for the next election.

This week the NDP nominated Marlin Schmidt in Edmonton-Gold Bar and, on September 30, AUPE activist Heather Sweet is expected to be nominated in Edmonton-Manning. Those are both constituencies that the NDP are said to be targeting resources toward for the next election.

While current disenchantment with the PC Party has helped the NDP increase its support in Edmonton, the political environment remains unstable. The next leader of the NDP will need to work hard to ensure that progressive voters do not flock to one conservative party in order to block another conservative party from forming government during the next election.


The NDP is hosting a series of forums with the three leadership candidates across Alberta. The follow events all begin at 7:00 p.m.

Lethbridge, GALT Museum (502 1st Street S)- September 16, 2014

Calgary, Barnsworth Theatre (750 – 9th Avenue SE)- September 17, 2014

Edmonton, Campus St. Jean Auditorium (8406 Rue Anne Gaboury)- October 2, 2014