Tag Archives: Diana McQueen

A dozen Alberta MLAs worth watching in 2014

Alberta MLAs to watch in 2014: Manmeet Bhullar, Deron Bilous, Kent Hehr, Fred Horne, Doug Horner, Ken Hughes, Thomas Lukaszuk, Diana McQueen, Shayne Saskiw, Kerry Towle, Len Webber, Steve Youg.

Alberta MLAs to watch in 2014: Manmeet Bhullar, Deron Bilous, Kent Hehr, Fred Horne, Doug Horner, Ken Hughes, Thomas Lukaszuk, Diana McQueen, Shayne Saskiw, Kerry Towle, Len Webber, Steve Young.

Because politics are unpredictable, forecasting the future can be a tricky business for pundits, but here is a list of a dozen Alberta MLAs worth watching in 2014.

Manmeet Bhullar (Calgary-Greenway): An up and comer in the PC ranks, Mr. Bhullar was rewarded for his time as the competent Service Alberta minister with an appointment as the minister of the downsized Human Services department. Tasked with the difficult challenge of spinning hundreds of foster care deaths into a positive story for the government, Mr. Bhuller is already on his way to becoming a media darling.

Deron Bilous (Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview): A rising star in the 4 member NDP caucus, the 38 year old first-term MLA has proven himself to be a well-spoken addition to the opposition benches. Entering his second year in the Assembly, Mr. Bilous could become a more prominent public face for his party. It is no surprise that he is continually named by New Democrats as a future leader of Alberta’s tiny and scrappy social democratic party.

Kent Hehr (Calgary-Buffalo): Serving his second-term as the MLA representing downtown Calgary, the talented Mr. Hehr is faced with a difficult question: are his political talents best served by sticking with the stuck-in-the-mud Liberal Party? His 2012 guest post on this blog supporting cooperation by centre-left parties caused a stir but was quickly shot down by his party’s leadership. With Alberta’s five Liberal MLAs acting more like a group of independents who share office space than representatives of a unified political movement, I wouldn’t be shocked if Mr. Hehr considers his alternatives in 2014.

Doug Horner (Spruce Grove-St. Albert): As Alberta’s Finance minister, Mr. Horner is tasked to deliver the Redford Government’s 2014 budget. An already expected budget deficit will be intensified as the government directs billions of dollars towards fixing the damage caused by last summer’s floods in southern Alberta. His future leadership aspirations could be at risk as he tries to balance funding for public programs with pressure from the conservative right to cut spending in Canada’s wealthiest province.

Fred Horne (Edmonton-Rutherford): As Health minister, Mr. Horne has imposed drastic administrative changes in Alberta Health Services, including firing the entire AHS board of directors and overseeing the departure of two consecutive AHS CEOs. Confusion inside the health care system has intensified as he continues to assert more political control over the province-wide health authority. It remains unclear what Mr. Horne’s new political control means for AHS. Maybe Albertans will find out in 2014?

Ken Hughes (Calgary-West): A close confident of Alison Redford, the former Energy minister was shuffled to Municipal Affairs to quell conflict created by the previous minister with rural leaders and Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi. Having returned to electoral politics in 2012 after a 19 year hiatus (he served as the PC MP for Macleod from 1988 to 1993), he faces the challenge of fulfilling the province’s promise to create special big city charters for Calgary and Edmonton.

Thomas Lukaszuk (Edmonton-Castle Downs): As deputy premier and Advanced Education minister during last year’s budget cuts, Mr. Lukaszuk became the Redford government’s most recognizable face in the media. Now as Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour, he occupies a role that will see him undoubtably clash with the province’s public service unions. Two unions have already launched court challenges against the province’s new anti-labour laws. This likely will not stop the rumours that Mr. Lukaszuk hopes to one day become his party’s next leader and the next Premier of Alberta.

Diana McQueen (Drayton Valley-Devon): After serving as Alberta’s Environment minister (also known as the junior Energy minister), Ms. McQueen should be well versed in the portfolio she was appointed to in December’s cabinet shuffle. Some political watchers are skeptical of her ability to handle the all-important energy file and face upcoming debates on climate change and oilsands pipelines. Can she handle the pressure?

Shayne Saskiw (Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills): Rising star in the Wildrose official opposition and a potential future leader if Danielle Smith does not lead her party to victory in 2016. The young lawyer from rural Alberta is articulate and partisan, which I anticipate will lead him to play an even more prominent role in the opposition over the next year.

Kerry Towle (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake): A tough and outspoken critic of the government, Ms. Towle has become a familiar face of the Wildrose official opposition. As human services critic, she will face-off against Mr. Bhullar in the next session of the Assembly, which could be an entertaining pairing to watch.  A good spokesperson and only one of three women in her party’s 17 MLA caucus, she could play a key role in softening her party’s hard-edged conservative reputation.

Len Webber (Calgary-Foothills): The former cabinet minister was shuffled to the backbenches after Ms. Redford became leader of the PC Party. With half of his PC MLA colleagues now sitting in some type of cabinet seat, you have to wonder what Mr. Webber did to deserve his permanent banishment. The government praised his private members bill to create an agency to coordinate organ and tissue donations, but will that be enough to keep him in the PC fold? Rumour has it that he is eyeing a federal Conservative nomination for the 2015 election.

Steve Young (Edmonton-Riverview): Wronged by the premier and cast to the backbenches before he could officially enter a cabinet position he had been promised, Mr. Young’s future role in the PC caucus could be interesting. As a member of the conservative wing of the PC Party, he could cause trouble for the PC establishment in the backbenches. Elected to represent a traditionally Liberal-voting constituency that has been hit hard by university budget cuts, he could be vulnerable in the next election, which is why I don’t expect him to sit quietly for the next two years.

(This post was inspired by A dozen federal MPs worth watching in 2014, published by the Canadian Press)

Redford’s Christmas cabinet shuffle

Premier Alison Redford Cabinet Alberta

Premier Alison Redford announced a new cabinet late this afternoon.

As reported yesterday on this blog, rumours that Ms. Redford would shuffle her cabinet before the Christmas break began to intensify this week. Today, those rumours proved to be true.

Built around the government’s “Building Alberta” slogan, today’s Government of Alberta press release boasts a new cabinet that will focus on “innovation and economic growth.” And it signals a growth in numbers of Ms. Redford’s cabinet as well. The size of the cabinet will now be 30 MLAs, up from 27 MLAs in the previous cabinet. There are a total of 59 MLAs in the Progressive Conservative caucus.

Here is a description of some major changes in Alberta’s provincial cabinet:

Dave Hancock MLA Edmonton-Whitemud

Dave Hancock

Dave Hancock: Appointed Deputy Premier and moved from Human Services to Innovation and Advanced Education. Moving Mr. Hancock back to the Advanced Education portfolio he filled from 2004 to 2006 likely signals that Ms. Redford recognizes the need to repair the damage done to Alberta’s colleges and universities under its previous minister. The deep budget cuts imposed by Ms. Redford’s government in 2012 damaged both the post-secondary education system and the government’s relationship the leaders in that system. A well-known policy wonk and party loyalist, Mr. Hancock will be tasked with smoothing over those hard feelings.

Thomas Lukaszuk: The bull-dog of the Progressive Conservative caucus lost his Deputy Premier title and is moved from Enterprise & Advanced Education to a new Jobs, Skills, Training, and Labour portfolio. As Ms. Redford’s ‘heavy-hand’ in cabinet, it is likely that Mr. Lukaszuk will be tasked with imposing controversial new laws on Alberta’s public sector unions.

Manmeet Bhullar

Manmeet Bhullar

Manmeet Bhullar: Moved from Service Alberta to Human Services. This is a big promotion, as Human Services is a large ministry that represents a multitude of components of government services. Mr. Bhullar performed well as Minister of Service Alberta, but this portfolio will present a significant challenge to the new minister.

Diana McQueen: Moved from Environment & Sustainable Resource Development to Energy. With an increased focus on the government’s agenda to support the Keystone XL, Enbridge Northern Gateway and Energy East pipelines, the capable Ms. McQueen is well-armed with arguments to use in advocating for these projects in Canada and the United States.

Robin Campbell: Moved from Aboriginal Relations to Environment & Sustainable Resource Development, a high-profile position which is closely linked with the Energy portfolio. He is also now the Government House leader, a role that has been filled by Mr. Hancock for quite some time.

Doug Griffiths

Doug Griffiths

Doug Griffiths: Demoted from Municipal Affairs to Service Alberta. As Municipal Affairs Minister, Mr. Griffiths stumbled through the high profile items in his portfolio, making his demotion almost inevitable. As minister of the tiny Service Alberta department, Mr. Griffiths will have less chance to embarrass the government and an opportunity to redeem himself in cabinet.

Ken Hughes: Moved from Energy to Municipal Affairs. While this move could easily be seen as a demotion, Mr. Hughes, a trusted confident of Ms. Redford’s, will have an important role in repairing the provincial government’s strained relationship with its municipal leaders – both in the large cities and rural municipalities.

Frank Oberle: Promoted from Associate Minister of Services for Persons with Disabilities to a full-cabinet position as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. Mr. Oberle previously served as Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security and Minister of Sustainable Resource Development.

Wayne Drysdale: Moved from Infrastructure to Transportation, replacing Ric McIver.

Ric McIver: Moved from Transportation to Infrastructure, replacing Wayne Drysdale.

Steve Young: Left his position as Government Whip to become Associate Minister of Public Safety, a new position.

Donna Kennedy-Glans: Departed the backbenchers to become Associate Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy, a new position.

George VanderBurg: Appointed the Government Whip. Lost his position as Associate Minister of Seniors. Mr. VanderBurg had previously served as Minister of Government Services, Minister of Seniors, and Acting Minister of Innovation and Science.

A curious addition to the list of cabinet positions in the press release included the Progressive Conservative Caucus Chair, Maureen Kubinec. This appears to be a new addition to the cabinet, though the release was unclear what role this MLA will have at the cabinet table, as there now only remain 29 PC MLAs not included in the list of cabinet positions.

A Christmas cabinet shuffle in Alberta?

Alberta Redford Cabinet Shuffle

Premier Alison Redford and her MLA caucus.

With the Legislative Assembly’s fall sitting coming to an end, can some Progressive Conservative MLAs expect an early Christmas present from their leader, Premier Alison Redford? Nearly half-way through the PC Party’s twelfth term in office and fresh from a leadership review victory, it is expected that Ms. Redford could choose to shuffle her cabinet before Christmas. Speculation about an imminent cabinet shuffle has intensified this week.

Diana McQueen Alberta

Diana McQueen

With an increased focus on the government’s agenda to support the Keystone XL, Enbridge Northern Gateway and Energy East pipelines, some political watchers have suggested that calm and confident Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Diana McQueen could see her prominence in cabinet rise with an appointment as Deputy Premier.

Ms. McQueen has roots in rural Alberta as an MLA and mayor, both qualities the Redford Government would like to highlight in advance of the next provincial election. Her appointment as Deputy Premier could send a signal to out-of-province skeptics that Ms. Redford takes the environmental portfolio seriously (even though that is debatable from a substance standpoint).

With the intense focus on pipelines and a desire to shift attention away from this year’s more controversial budget cuts, Ms. Redford could look to replace Finance Minister Doug Horner, a former leadership rival, with Energy Minister Ken Hughes, a close confidant.

Ken Hughes

Ken Hughes

Moving Mr. Horner to the Energy portfolio would free him from the constrains of last year’s manufactured budget woes and put him in the important position of advocating for pipeline expansion to the United States and British Columbia. In Finance, Mr. Hughes would be someone the premier could rely on to present a consistent message while managing the government’s controversial and potentially dangerous push to overhaul Alberta’s public sector pension plans before the next election.

Among the political watchers I speak with, there is no concensus where current Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk could end up in a cabinet shuffle. Some believe he could be promoted to a higher profile role like Finance and others believe he could be completely stripped of his cabinet responsibilities. His confrontational and partisan style has certainly created difficulties for Ms. Redford, but he is also one of her government’s staunchest defenders.

Mr. Lukaszuk does not shy away from engaging in heated debates in the Assembly and on social media, where it is sometime difficult to distinguish confidence from arrogance. On Twitter last week, the Deputy Premier mocked opponents of Bill 45, which could infringe on free speech rights in Alberta.

Thomas Lukaszuk

Thomas Lukaszuk

Mr. Lukaszuk replaced MLA Stephen Khan as Enterprise & Advanced Education Minister earlier this year when Ms. Redford needed a heavy-hand to impose deep budget cuts on Alberta’s colleges and universities. Not only has Mr. Lukaszuk become Ms. Redford’s lieutenant, he appears to be positioning himself as premier-in-waiting. Mr. Lukaszuk is a double-edged sword for the Premier.

Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths is a prime candidate to be shuffled into a different cabinet position or even to the backbenches after his unimpressive performance in cabinet. Since he was first appointed to cabinet in 2011, Mr. Griffiths has stumbled through the high profile items in his portfolio, including managing to create unnecessary conflict with popular Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi while also alienating many rural politicians.

Mr. Griffiths caused some embarrassed for the government last month when Ms. Redford was forced to halt the passage of Bill 28 Moderinizing Regional Governance Act after rural municipal leaders protested that they had not been properly consulted before the introduction of the planning legislation. The bill has since been amended, but Mr. Griffiths remains unapologetic.

If the speculation is true, December could be a both exciting and very disappointing month for some members of Ms. Redford’s cabinet. If a cabinet shuffle is imminent, there will be PC MLAs  who return home for the Christmas break with lumps of coal and others with their arms full of holiday reading material (also known as ministerial briefing binders).

Strange claim made by PC backbencher

Filed under “strange claims made by backbenchers,” Edmonton-McClung MLA David Xiao claims on his official Progressive Conservative caucus website that he is the “first mainland Chinese candidate elected in Western democracy.” This claim should surprise some, including Mae Yih, born in Shanghai and elected to Oregon Legislature in 1977, and Richard Lee, born in Zhongshan and elected to the BC legislature in 2001.

Wildrose can grow from Tory seeds of doubt

Do you drain a Lake of Fire or do you dam it?

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith

Whatever it takes, Wildrose Party activists are expected to moderate the tone of their policies at their weekend policy convention in the booming central Alberta city of Red Deer. A delicate and sometimes shaky coalition of libertarians and social conservatives (among other groups), Alberta’s official opposition party will learn from the mistakes they made in the 2012 election. On the cusp of victory, offensive remarks made by social conservative candidates in Calgary and Edmonton scared many moderate Albertans to support the long-governing Progressive Conservatives at the ballot box.

Since forming the official opposition with 17 MLAs, Ms. Smith has led a disciplined front-bench that has in many cases driven the government’s agenda, or at the least frustrated government ministers unaccustomed to their aggressive style. Implementing tactics used by the Ottawa Conservatives, the Wildrose have been relentless in their opposition to the forty-two year old governing PC Party.

Fighting back against the Wildrose, or at least trying to, Tory environment minister Diana McQueen emerged from her legislature office yesterday to attack Wildrose leader Danielle Smith’s position on climate change. While Ms. Smith’s party is undoubtably weak on environmental issues, especially on the important climate change file, the Tory government’s environmental record is not much better. While the Alberta government is doing more on this file than it has in a decade, its plan appears to be propped up by snippets of truth and focus group tested sound bites.

Thomas Lukaszuk

Thomas Lukaszuk

The Wildrose are looking for second chances and there is opportunity for them. With drastic cuts to education and post-secondary education, constant political meddling in the health care system and fears that public sector pension changes may negatively impact the retirement prospects of hundreds of thousands of Albertans, Alison Redford’s Tories threaten to alienate the electoral coalition of moderate voters (including many former Liberal voters) who helped them narrowly win re-election. Shooting from their hips (and frequently missing their targets), cabinet ministers Thomas Lukaszuk, Jeff Johnson, Fred Horne, and Doug Griffiths often confuse their own confidence with arrogance. The Tories do not give any impression that they were humbled by their near-defeat in last year’s election.

Some Tories may point to the electoral success of Premier Ralph Klein following his drastic budget cuts in the early 1990s, but this is a very different political environment, and I am sure that most Albertans would agree that Ms. Redford is no Mr. Klein.

A recent poll from Leger Marketing, for what it’s worth three years before the next election, shows Ms. Redford’s and Ms. Smith’s parties competing with mid-30 percent range support. The poll also shows that more than half of Albertans disagree with the government’s performance, but the Wildrose’s support in the polls suggests voters have not settled on an alternative.

Brad Wall

Brad Wall

This weekend and over the next three years, the Wildrose Party could look to Saskatchewan for inspiration. Stalled for years in the opposition benches, the conservative Saskatchewan Party undertook a move to modernize its image and policies when Brad Wall became the party leader in 2004. The unruly coalition of Tories and Liberals led by a former Reform Party MP had been unable to defeat the institutionalized New Democrats, who dominated in that province’s major cities. Under the smart and savvy Mr. Wall, the Sask Party modernized, and slowly began to encroach into NDP held urban constituencies.

After his party finally defeated in NDP in 2007, the conservative Mr. Wall has become one of Canada’s most popular provincial leaders. Like the NDP did to the Sask Party, and the Tories did to the Wildrose in 2012, Albertans can expect to be berated by rounds of “ooga booga, the Wildrose is scary” ads in the next election. The part that will be missing from those ads is that many, if not most, current Wildrose supporters were sitting comfortably in the Tory camp until about three years ago.

Wildrose success is not entirely about policy. Planting the seeds of doubt in Ms. Redford’s ability to run an honest government will also be key to the Wildrose Party’s success in the next election. Ms. Redford’s tendency to avoid controversy by hiding the truth or bending the facts is something that many political watchers have noted. Her office’s decision to block requests to release details of more than $2 million in severance packages given to former premier’s office staffers planted one seed of doubt. Her actions, her words, and people she surrounds herself have planted others. Two bad seeds that might not go away, controversial former PC MLAs Mike Allen and Peter Sandhu, are expected to apply for re-entry into the Government Caucus.

And the Wildrose do not just need Tory voters to vote for them, they also need former New Democrat and Liberal voters to return to their prior allegiances (a key reason behind Ms. Smith’s province-wide debate tour with NDP leader Brian Mason).

So, it’s clear the Wildrose needs to moderate the tone of their policies to attract new voters, but they can also benefit greatly from the seeds of doubt that the Redford Tories appear to be planting each week.

Bitumen bubble deflates as Redford visits Washington D.C.

Alberta Bitumen Oil Bubble

Photo may not reflect actual “bitumen bubble.”

Remember the “Bitumen Bubble?”

The “bitumen bubble” spin was unleashed by Premier Alison Redford during her January 24, 2013 televised address that claimed our province was in the midst of a fiscal crisis caused by the so-called “bitumen bubble” — the difference between the price Alberta can get for its heavy oil (Western Canadian Select) and what the world is willing to pay for Texas crude (West Texas Intermediate).

On the day of Premier Redford’s January televised address, Western Canadian Select sat at $59.95 per barrel, compared to $95.95 per barrel for the West Texas Intermediate.

Albertans were told this price gap was why our oil industry needs more pipelines and why our provincial government claimed it needed to institute financial cuts to public services, including a drastic 7% cut to post-secondary education funding.

As of April 8, 2013, Western Canadian Select sat at $82.97 per barrel, compared to $93.36 per barrel for West Texas Intermediate.

Premier Alison Redford

Premier Alison Redford

By some act of nature, the dreaded “bitumen bubble” has miraculously deflated.

Alas, this price increase has little to nothing to do with our long-ruling Progressive Conservative government. Commodity prices are determined by international markets beyond the control of any individual government or ambitious politician.

No new pipelines have been built in the meantime, but Premier Redford, along with International Relations Minister Cal Dallas and Environment Minister Diana McQueen, traveled to Washington D.C. this week to lobby for the approval of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline that would carry crude oil and bitumen from Alberta to refineries dotting Texas’ Gulf Coast.

I expect the Premier has left the words “bitumen bubble” out of any speeches she plans make while visiting the American capital.

During her speech at the prestigious Brookings Institute yesterday, Premier Redford argued the debate over the Keystone XL Pipeline has misled Americans about Canada’s oilsands. The Premier promoted Alberta’s new proposed carbon tax, defended the province’s environmental record, and championed the investment in two major Carbon Capture and Storage project (she did not mention that two other major projects have been cancelled due to poor economic predictions).

Making a strong case for Alberta’s environmental record, Premier Redford’s economic arguments fell flat. She claimed that the Keystone XL Pipeline would create 75,000 jobs for Americans, despite the fact that a U.S. State Department reported the number of new permanent jobs could be as few as thirty-five once the pipeline is complete.

Premier Redford also argued that the Keystone XL Pipeline would lessen America’s dependance on countries like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia for oil imports. As the proposed pipeline would end at major Texas ports, it is widely suspected that the corporations that would own the Alberta oil refined in Texas could easily ship it overseas to China or India, rather than sell it in the United States or Canada.

Premier Redford’s fact-based talk was heavy in statistics, which unfortunately will have little effect on a national discussion about the environment and economy that is driven heavily by emotional arguments on both sides of the debate (as demonstrated by the hecklers at her speech). At least Albertans can be proud our leaders have come a long way since Premier Ralph Klein compared the causes of today’s climate change problems to “dinosaur farts” sixty-million years ago.

Sitting at 29% approval in a recent Angus-Reid survey, Premier Redford is searching for a win in the American capital that could boost her popularity at home. Even if the Keystone XL Pipeline is approved, there will be no evidence that Premier Redford’s lobbying was the reason for its success. That decision will be made by President Barack Obama.

———–

The Wall Street Journal:

President Obama hit California for some fundraising this week, including stops with various billionaires who fervently oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. The visit had the virtue of showing how Mr. Obama is cross-pressured between his superrich green friends who don’t need to worry about a job and the blue-collar types who wouldn’t mind laying oil pipe for $25 an hour.

Where in the world are Tory cabinet ministers?

Brussels, Bucharest, and Juneau are three international destinations where Tory MLAs were scheduled to visit during Government of Alberta sponsored trips today.

Environment and Sustainable Resources Minister Diana McQueen and Intergovernmental and International Relations Minister Cal Dallas have embarked on a pan-European tour, meeting with business and government leaders in a handful of continental counties. Backbench Tory MLA Richard Starke, from Vermilion-Lloydminster, is on government business in Juneau, Alaska.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Fred Horne is scheduled to depart for a trip that will take him to Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Belgium.

On October 1, 2012, I published a Google Map, tracking the travel of Alberta’s Tory cabinet minister and MLAs on government business. Here is an updated map, which includes all published scheduled government of Alberta travel by cabinet ministers and MLAs from November 2011 to February 2013.


View Alberta Cabinet Minister and MLA Travel November 2011-February 2013 in a larger map

Trips added since November 2012 include Middle-Eastern travel by Minister Dallas, trips to the United States by Calgary-Bow MLA Alana DeLong, Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber, and Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Dave Quest, a trip to Chicago by Premier Alison Redford and the four trips mentioned at the beginning of this post.

As I wrote in October, I understand the value of sending cabinet ministers on these trips to promote our province abroad and I generally believe it is in our best interest, but there reaches a certain point when return on investment needs to be demonstrated.

Map: Alberta cabinet ministers catch the international travel bug.

“The Redford government spent more than half a million dollars on its trip to the London Olympics earlier this year, including about $113,000 in hotel rooms that were not used…” – Edmonton Journal reporter Keith Gerein

According to the Journal, the $518,280 trip sent 29 Albertans to London including Tory Premier Alison Redford, Culture Minister Heather Klimchuk, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Minister Christine Cusanelli, government officials, artists and performers including Corb Lund and Donovan Workun.

While the trip to the London Olympics has sticker shock, it is small potatoes in comparison to the Government of Alberta’s $14 million splash at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where Premier Ed Stelmach and cabinet ministers hosted Olympic attendees on a $499 per ticket luxury train to Whistler and showered them with gifts that included iPod Touchs and White Cowboy Hats.

I understand the value of sending cabinet ministers on these trips to promote our province abroad and I generally believe it is in our best interest, but there reaches a certain point when return on investment needs to be demonstrated.

Over the past eleven months, Premier Redford, cabinet ministers,  and backbench Tory MLAs have traveled extensively on government business. The trips have taken Alberta Government officials to five continents and more than twelve countries, including numerous trips to Washington DC, New York, and Hong Kong.

I have created a Google Map tracking the international travel of Premier Redford, cabinet ministers, and backbench Tory MLAs since November 2011. Zoom in and click the icons to read who traveled where and when.


View Alberta Cabinet Minister and MLA Travel November 2011-October 2012 in a larger map

Note: Travel dates and locations listed on this map were found in media releases published on the Government of Alberta website.

leaky pipeline gives slick impression of alberta oil.

Alberta Oil Pipeline Leak Red Deer

A pipeline leak spews oil into a central Alberta lake (photo from @tedgbauer at https://twitter.com/tedgbauer/status/211154927446278144/photo/1)

When word first broke that a leaky pipeline near the central Alberta town of Sundre had poured an estimated 1000 to 3000 barrels of oil into a tributary of the Red Deer River, Premier Alison Redford was quick to respond. That afternoon, the Premier, flanked by Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Diana McQueen and local Wildrose MLA Joe Anglin, held a media conference near the location of the spill.

Premier Alison Redford Alberta

Premier Alison Redford

Despite the quick response, which is a change from the days when it felt like these types of leaks were publicly ignored by our political leaders, Premier Redford’s media conference cannot change the fact that oil spills and leaking pipelines have already become a regularly reported occurrence in Alberta. The latest leak comes at a crucial time when the Government of Alberta and Enbridge Inc are pushing the construction of a new oil pipeline that would travel through Alberta and British Columbia to the port at Kitimat.

As the Edmonton Journal’s Graham Thomson has pointed out, the latest leak only confirms the suspicions and fears that some British Columbians have about the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline:

B.C. will only agree to the pipeline if the economic benefits outweigh the environmental risk. That is an argument the Alberta government has not managed to put forward.

Political support for the project is also in question. B.C. Premier Christy Clark, a vocal supporter of the pipeline, has somewhat moderated her tone as her party’s electoral fortunes continue to slip further in the public opinion polls (the BC Liberals have been trailing the NDP in the polls since September 2011). The BC Conservative Party, led by septuagenarian former Member of Parliament John Cummins, are competing with Premier Clark’s Liberals for second place, and have come out in favour of the pipeline.

BC NDP leader Adrian Dix

Adrian Dix (photo from @terminator on Flickr)

Taking advantage of the unease about the environmental impact of the pipeline, BC NDP leader Adrian Dix launched a petition against the construction of the pipeline which respond to legitimate concerns about the navigation of oil-filled supertankers through the narrow Douglas Channel.

In the land of political spin, Enbridge spokesperson Paul Stanway claimed last week that the company had secured the support for the pipeline from 60% of First Nations communities along the proposed corridor. The Coastal First Nations group disputed that number, accusing Enbridge of expanding its corridor by 80 kilometres to boost the number of supporters. The group claimed many of the First Nations listed by Enbridge as supporters are located outside of any area that could be impacted by a potential spill.

BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark

Premier Christy Clark (photo from @bcgovphotos on Flickr)

Readers of this blog may remember Mr. Stanway from his previous roles as columnist and publisher at the Edmonton Sun and communications director to former Premier Ed Stelmach from 2007 until 2010.

Although the next federal election could be nearly three years away, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair is capitalizing on the concerns central Canadian and British Columbian voters about the effect of oilsands development on the environment and its effects on traditional manufacturing industries (a la Dutch Disease). Everyone from former Reform Party leader Preston Manning to former Prime Ministers Paul Martin and Brian Mulroney have chimed in to criticize Mr. Mulcair.

There is irony in Mr. Mulroney shaming Mr. Mulcair for playing regions against each other, considering that some of Mr. Mulroney’s more unpopular policies led to the divisive regionalization of Canadian politics following the 1993 election.

As Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s Conservatives have proven numerous times over the past nine years, leveraging social and regional wedge issues can lead to great electoral success. Mr. Mulcair would be foolish not to take a page from Prime Minister Harper’s book. While conservative pundits and politicians denounced Mr. Mulcair’s criticisms, the political strategy, at least in the short-term, does not appear to have hurt NDP chances in voter-rich regions outside the prairie provinces. A recent poll showed the federal NDP in a statistical tie with the governing Ottawa Conservatives.

life after dutch disease: thomas mulcair to visit alberta on may 31.

Thomas Mulcair Edmonton Alberta January 2011

Thomas Mulcair

After weeks of warring words about the economic influence of Western Canadian oilsands development on the crumbling Central Canadian manufacturing sector, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair will visit Alberta on May 31 to meet with business and political leaders. This will be Mr. Mulcair’s first visit to Alberta since being selected as his party’s leader in March (he visited Alberta at least once during the NDP leadership contest).

In a media release distributed this morning, provincial NDP leader Brian Mason was quoted as saying “Tom and I had a conversation over the phone a couple of days ago, and I invited him to come to Alberta. I’m pleased that he agreed to come.”

Alison Redford Alberta Election 2012 Conservative leader

Alison Redford

Mr. Mulcair’s comments that “Dutch Disease,” caused by Western natural resource development, is to blame for Central Canadian economic woes drew harsh criticism from Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Alberta Premier Alison Redford. Premier Redford accused the Official Opposition leader of being “wrong and misinformed” on the issue. Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Diana McQueen accused Mr. Mulcair of “old-style politics — trying to pit one part of the country against another.” (on another note, Minister McQueen admitted today that Alberta has likely missed its greenhouse gas reduction targets).

Earlier this year, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty also publicly mused that the high Canadian dollar, caused as a results of Western natural resource development, was hurting Ontario’s economy.

The federal NDP currently have only one Member of Parliament from Alberta and it is likely that Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan will play a prominent role in Mr. Mulcair’s day-trip to Alberta. During the recent provincial election, a number of NDP MP’s, including Olivia ChowJack HarrisNiki Ashton, and Peter Julian, visited the province to campaign alongside their provincial colleagues.

While the provincial NDP recently made electoral gains in Edmonton, doubling their caucus from 2 to 4 MLA’s, the party still faces tough criticism for perceived anti-oilsands positions. During the campaign, Mr. Mason argued that Alberta’s economy would benefit from building bitumen refineries in-province rather than shipping unrefined product internationally through pipelines and ocean tankers.

Linda Duncan NDP MP Edmonton-Strathcona

Linda Duncan

Mr. Mulcair’s visit will take place only days after the Premiers of Canada’s western provinces and territories meet in Edmonton for the Western Premiers’ Conference. The annual meeting is being held on May 29 at the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald in Edmonton.

While Mr. Mulcair’s comments will be a topic of small chat amongst the Premier’s and their staff, the topic of pipelines and international markets will likely be a hot topic on the agenda. As the only current NDP leader in government in western Canada, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger might be the closest person Mr. Mulcair has as an ally at this meeting.

Faced with plummeting poll numbers, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has expressed concern about the shipment of oilsands bitumen using the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline through northern BC. Riding high at 50% in the polls, BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix is opposed to the proposed Enbridge pipeline and is assembling a legal team to halt its construction.

 

alison redford and her new cabinet could lead a new urban agenda.

Alberta Cabinet Ministers Premier Redford

Premier Alison Redford's new cabinet ministers (photos from premierofalberta Flickr feed).

Premier Alison Redford appointed her post-election cabinet ministers today after forgoing an initial press release and announcing them on Twitter. These picks and the legislation they will bring forward over the next four years will shape the direction Premier Redford wants to take her Progressive Conservative Party into the next election.

The new cabinet will face a new Wildrose Party Official Opposition, which is dominated by rookie MLA’s from rural southern and central Alberta constituencies.

The bleeding of large portions of the PC Party’s rural social conservative wing to Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party in the April 2011 election could be a blessing for Premier Redford and her government. Keeping the Wildrose Party electorally contained in the rural south and central regions of the province, while focusing on issues that will appeal to the rapidly growing and diverse urban populations in Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Calgary, Edmonton could be a solid strategy to provide a more forward-looking government agenda and preserve the PC Party’s electoral dominance in the coming decades.

In the three years leading into this year’s election, the Wildrose proved extremely successful in using wedge issues like property rights and the construction of electrical transmission lines to drive traditional PC voters in rural southern and central Alberta constituencies into their electoral camp. If they have not already, the PC brain trust should take note of similar strategies that will keep the Wildrose Party at bay in urban centres.

 No longer forced to appease a more conservative rural base of MLAs and supporters, Premier Redford has an opportunity to lead a new urban agenda for Alberta, especially with the urban-based Liberal and NDP opposition pushed to the margins. With potential strong allies in Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, Premier Redford could make strides on issues like reinvesting in Alberta’s Heritage Fund and investing in urban public transit and transportation infrastructure.

If expected patterns of population growth continue, it is the urban areas which will receive additional constituencies in the Alberta Legislature when the boundaries are redistributed.

New cabinet:

Alison Redford – Premier
Thomas Lukaszuk – Deputy Premier
Doug Horner – Minister of Finance & President of Treasury Board
Dave Hancock – Minister of Human Services
Cal Dallas – Minister of International & Intergovernmental Relations
Diana McQueen – Minister of Environment & Sustainable Resource Development
Fred Horne – Minister of Health
Ken Hughes – Minister of Energy
Jeff Johnson – Minister of Education
Verlyn Olson – Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
Jonathan Denis – Minister of Justice & Solicitor General
Doug Griffiths – Minister of Municipal Affairs
Robin Campbell – Minister of Aboriginal Relations
Heather Klimchuk – Minister of Culture
Manmeet Bhullar – Minister of Service Alberta
Wayne Drysdale – Minister of Infrastructure
Stephen Khan – Minister of Enterprise & Advanced Education
Ric McIver – Minister of Transportation
Christine Cusanelli – Minster of Tourism, Parks, and Recreation

alison redford appoints gary mar’s cabinet.

Alberta cabinet ministers

Tory MLAs gather for the traditional game musical chairs to choose the new Cabinet.

Do you think Gary Mar left a draft cabinet list in the Premier’s Office when he was measuring the drapes? Because Premier Alison Redford found it.

We were told to expect big changes, that many “household names” would be dropped from cabinet, but as they enter their new jobs, Premier Alison Redford‘s cabinet looks like one that should have been made by her main leadership opponent Gary Mar.

Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Fred Horne‘s appointment as Minister of Health and Wellness and Ron Liepert‘s appointment as Finance Minister means that there will be no serious judicial inquiry into the intimidation of health care workers. Minister Liepert’s promotion from Energy to Finance is surprising considering that only last week he was openly defying Premier Redford on the need for a health care inquiry. Both Mr. Horne and Mr. Liepert were strong supporters of Mr. Mar in the leadership contest and would have likely ended up in similar positions had he not been defeated on the third ballot vote on October 1.

It has yet to be seen what new powers Minister Liepert will hold as Finance Minister. Remember that in recent cabinets, the President of the Treasury Board has held considerable sway over the province’s purse-strings. This could mean that ‘Liepert the Hound‘ could turn into ‘Liepert the Pup‘ when dealing with the current Treasury Board President and Deputy Premier Doug Horner.

New Alberta Cabinet Map

A map of the constituencies represented by members of Alberta's new cabinet.

Former Finance Minister Ted Morton is moving into the Energy Minister’s office, an area where he will be comfortable defending the province’s record on oil sands development. New Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk is a cabinet lightweight who will have to be a quick study if he wants to survive in his new job. He and Premier Redford started things off right this afternoon with the announcement adding $100 million into the education budget today. Both Minister Morton and Minister Lukaszuk supported Mr. Mar on the final ballot of the PC leadership contest.

The appointment of Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths as Minister of Municipal Affairs could turn out to be an interesting choice. Minister Griffiths, who was defeated on the first ballot of the PC leadership contest and has never served in cabinet, comes with both inexperience and an open-mind. Despite his rural pedigree, I would not discount his ability to build relationships with the group of young municipal leaders who have been elected in recent years, including Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton City Councillor Don Iveson.

The appointment of Edmonton-Whitemud MLA and long-time cabinet minister Dave Hancock (also a Mar loyalist) as Minister of the new Human Services super-ministry is a smart choice. Minister Hancock is a seasoned govern0r who may be the only MLA who can help weave and organize this newly formed portfolio, which includes Children and Youth Services, Employment and Immigration (except for immigration), Homelessness, Alberta Supports (from Seniors and Community Supports).

Rewarded for his most (if only) significant political decision is backbench MLA Art Johnston, who was appointed Parliamentary Assistant to Executive Council (which means he gets to carry Premier Redford’s briefing binder in the Assembly). Mr. Johnston was the only MLA to support Ms. Redford on the first ballot of the PC leadership vote.

Some much needed new blood around the cabinet table includes Drayton Valley-Calmar MLA Diana McQueen as Minister of Environment and Water, Calgary-Montrose MLA Manmeet Bhullar as Minister of Service Alberta, Athabasca-Redwater MLA Jeff Johnson as Minister of Infrastructure, and Red Deer-South MLA Cal Dallas as Minister of International, Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Relations.

Notable cabinet ministers joining the great unwashed masses in the Tory backbenches include Sherwood Park MLA Iris Evans, Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Lloyd Snelgrove, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Luke Ouellette, Edmonton-Mill Creek MLA Gene Zwozdesky, Calgary-Cross MLA Yvonne Fritz, Calgary-Shaw MLA Cindy Ady, and Medicine Hat MLA Rob Renner. It would not be surprising to see these now backbench MLAs and others decide to collect their million dollar severance packages and not stand in the next election.

Not to be unexpected, it did not take long for the rumour mill to start suggesting what next steps these former cabinet ministers might take. If he is not retiring, one rumour I heard today suggests that Mr. Zwozdesky may seek re-election and challenge Speaker Ken Kowalski for his position in the Assembly after the next election.

Avoiding one of former Premier Ed Stelmach‘s first mistakes, this cabinet reaches a respectable geographical balance. Four cabinet minister each from Calgary and Edmonton and the remaining twelve spread across the province.

cabinet building and the game of politics in alberta.

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones

With the coming of a new Premier, the great game of cabinet building is underway and the politicians are jockeying for their positions. As reported by the Edmonton Journal, the competition to woo the new Queen of Alberta politics took the form of hugs and cheers at today’s Tory caucus meeting, the first since Premier-designate Alison Redford won the Progressive Conservative leadership on October 1.

Geography, gender, experience, competency, and political loyalty are a few of the many factors that are taken into account when building a cabinet. The need to put a new face on the cabinet will certainly leave some veteran MLAs mispleased with the appointments, which are expected to take place next week. Two position are already assured to Doug Horner as Deputy Premier and Dave Hancock as House leader.

Idle speculation over coffee (or mead and meat if we were in King’s Landing) with David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, led to the creation of three speculative lists of “who’s in” the cabinet, “too soon to tell” what their future is, and “who’s out” the next provincial cabinet.

The first two of the three groups are listed below and are our contribution to what is sure to be at the centre of debate among members of Premier Redford’s transition team. The third group, which I will not list on this blog, we hope will be chaired by the always affable and cheery hopefully-soon-to-be-former cabinet minister Ron Liepert.

Who’s in?

Doug Horner – Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert (Already announced Deputy Premier, could be appointed Finance Minister)
Dave Hancock – Edmonton-Whitemud (Already appointed as House Leader)
Ted Morton – Foothills-Rockyview (lock the gun cabinet, keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer)
Ray Danyluk – Lac La Biche-St. Paul (Flexed his political muscle by drawing largest vote in his constituency in the PC leadership contest)
Robin Campbell – West Yellowhead
Dave Rodney – Calgary-Lougheed
Cal Dallas – Red Deer-South (from Red Deer and not Mary Ann Jablonski)
Kyle Fawcett – Calgary-North Hill (Supported Doug Griffiths on the first ballot and Redford on the second ballot)
Yvonne Fritz – Calgary-Cross (competent cabinet minister)
Jack Hayden – Drumheller-Stettler (to satisfy the rural vote)
Cindy Ady – Calgary-Shaw (to satisfy the Mormon vote)
Jeff Johnson – Athabasca-Redwater (New blood)
Art Johnston – Calgary-Hays (rewarded for being the only MLA to support Redford on the first ballot)
Diana McQueen – Drayton Valley-Calmar (Supported Horner and is a rising star in the PC caucus)
Frank Oberle – Peace River (Stays in Solicitor General)
Verlyn Olsen – Wetaskiwin-Camrose (Justice Minister)
Luke Ouellette – Innisfail-Sylvan Lake (hugged Redford at today’s caucus meeting)
Janice Sarich – Edmonton-Decore (Education Minister)

Too soon to tell

Thomas Lukaszuk – Edmonton-Castle Downs
Lloyd Snelgrove – Vermilion-Lloydminster
Doug Elniski – Edmonton-Calder (supported Redford, but has made questionable comments on women’s rights)
Greg Weadick – Lethbridge-West
Len Webber – Calgary-Foothills
Manmeet Bhullar – Calgary-Montrose
Genia Leskiw – Bonnyville-Cold Lake
Lindsay Blackett – Calgary-North West
Gene Zwozdesky – Edmonton-Mill Creek (the fixer)

Will all these MLAs make into the provincial cabinet next week? Perhaps not, but it is always fun to speculate what might come next in the increasingly interesting the game of politics in Alberta…

mla support in the alberta pc leadership contest (july 14, 2011)

Here is a preliminary list and map of MLAs who are supporting candidates in the 2011 Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership contest. Please comment below or send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com if there are additions or subtractions to be made to this list.

 

2011 Alberta PC leadership MLA support July 14 2011

Map of MLA support in the 2011 Alberta PC leadership contest.

Candidate: Doug Griffiths (1 MLA)
Kyle Fawcett (Calgary-North Hill)

Candidate: Doug Horner (12 MLAs)
Ray Danyluk (Lac La Biche-St. Paul)
Wayne Drysdale (Grande Prairie-Wapiti)
Hector Goudreau (Dunvegan-Central Peace)
Jack Hayden (Drumheller-Stettler)
Jeff Johnson (Athabasca-Redwater)
Ken Kowalski (Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock)
Genia Leskiw (Bonnyville-Cold Lake)
Len Mitzel (Cypress-Medicine Hat)
Frank Oberle (Peace River)
Luke Ouellette (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake)
Dave Quest (Strathcona)
Greg Weadick (Lethbridge-West)

Candidate: Gary Mar (11 MLAs)
Naresh Bhardwaj (Edmonton-Ellerslie)
Iris Evans (Sherwood Park)
Heather Klimchuk (Edmonton-Glenora)
Mel Knight (Grande Prairie-Smoky)
Diana McQueen (Drayton Valley-Calmar)
Ron Liepert (Calgary-West)
Thomas Lukaszuk (Edmonton-Castle Downs)
Ray Prins (Lacombe-Ponoka)
Rob Renner (Medicine Hat)
George Rogers (Leduc-Beaumont-Devon)
Lloyd Snelgrove (Vermilion-Lloydminster)

Candidate: Ted Morton (10 MLAs)
Moe Amery (Calgary-East)
Carl Benito (Edmonton-Mill Woods)
Evan Berger (Livingstone-Macleod)
Jonathan Denis (Calgary-Egmont)
Doug Elniski (Edmonton-Calder)
George Groenveld (Highwood)
Broyce Jacobs (Cardston-Taber-Warner)
Dave Rodney (Calgary-Lougheed)
Tony Vandermeer (Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview)
David Xiao (Edmonton-McClung)

Candidate: Rick Orman
None

Candidate: Alison Redford (1 MLA)
Art Johnston (Calgary-Hays)

a look at the candidates lining up in the race to replace ed stelmach.

The candidates lining up to replace Premier Ed Stelmach as leader of the PC Party have been campaigning for months, yet what should be the hottest political leadership contest of the year has so far been a quiet affair. Will it take the summer months to heat up this contest, or will Albertans wait until the September 17 first ballot vote approaches before they begin to pay attention?

Here is a look at the candidates who are seeking the PC Party leadership:

A photo of Doug Griffiths, Alberta PC leadership candidate.

Doug Griifths

Doug Griffiths
Slogan: Better Alberta
Elected experience: MLA for Wainwright from 2002-2004 and Battle River-Wainwright from 2004 to present.
Released policies: Energy, Finance, Property Rights
Background: An underdog in this contest, Mr. Griffiths’ public musings have made him a pariah among some fellow conservatives and his openness to go to these uncomfortable places makes him unique when contrasted with the large contingent of comfortably-silent MLAs in the PC caucus. These musings have likely cost him a spot in cabinet, but they have also built him a solid following of supporters online.

Despite support of some rural high-rolling Tories, word on the street is that Mr. Griffiths campaign has had a challenge keeping up with fundraising compared to the other candidates in this contest. Calgary-North Hill backbencher Kyle Fawcett is the only MLA to have endorsed Mr. Griffiths. He supported Jim Dinning in the 2006 PC leadership contest.

A photo of Doug Horner, Alberta PC Leadership candidate.

Doug Horner

Doug Horner
Slogan: Let’s get it done right.
Elected experience: MLA for Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert since 2001.
Background: Calgary Tories still bitter from Jim Dinning’s defeat in 2006 will try to paint Mr. Horner with the same brush as they did Premier Ed Stelmach. Mr. Horner is a more comfortable figure than the Premier and did a decent job filling various cabinet posts, including Agriculture and Advanced Education & Technology.

The heir to a three-generation political dynasty, Mr. Horner follows in the footsteps of his grand-father Senator Ralph Horner, his uncles former MPs Jack Horner and Norval Horner, and his father former MP, MLA and deputy Premier Hugh Horner. Big shoes to fill.

Under the auspices of the grassroots Albertan group, led by advisor Brad Ferguson, Mr. Horner is embarking on a province-wide “Think Big Alberta” speaking tour with retired Canadian Forces General Rick Hillier and Vancouver 2010 Olympic Committee CEO John Furlong. The tour kicks off in Edmonton on June 22 and has stops planned in Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and Calgary.

In 2006 he supported Mark Norris on the first ballot and Ed Stelmach on the second ballot.

A photo of Gary Mar, Alberta PC leadership candidate.

Gary Mar

Gary Mar
Slogan: None evident, supporters on Twitter are using the hashtag #GOGARY
Elected experience: MLA for Calgary-Nose Hill from 1993 to 2004 and Calgary-Mackay from 2004 to 2007.
Released policies: Education, Municipal Funding
Background: Smart and slick, Mr. Mar’s campaign has the feel of a candidate for the United States Senate, which is not surprising considering that he has spent the past five years dining and lobbying the Washington DC political establishment on behalf of the Alberta Government. An MLA and cabinet minister from 1993 until 2007, he has been out of the public eye long enough not to be directly tied to the current PC Party administration.

Mr. Mar’s campaign carries significant support from Establishment Tories like former Finance Minister Iris Evans and current Energy Minister Ron Liepert, who rumours say has been trying to strong-arm support from other Tory MLAs. Mr. Mar’s campaign public relations are being handled by long-time government spokesperson Mark Kastner, who is still listed as Alberta Health Services Executive Director of Media Relations.

The membership list of a secret Facebook group created before Mr. Mar officially entered the PC leadership contest included Jim Dinning‘s 2006 campaign chairman Brent Shervey, Calgary-Nose Hill MLA Neil Brown, Drayton Valley-Calmar MLA Diana McQueen, Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Fred Horne, co-chair of the PC Party’s 2008 election platform committee Brenda Barootes, and pollster Janet Brown.

He supported Jim Dinning in the 2006 PC leadership contest.

A photo of Rick Orman, Alberta PC leadership candidate.

Rick Orman

Rick Orman
Slogan: The Right Choice
Elected experience: MLA for Calgary-Montrose from 1986 to 1993
Background: This blast from the past could turn into the Ron Paul of the PC leadership contest. As the MLA for Calgary-Montrose from 1986 to 1993 and third place candidate in his party’s 1992 leadership contest, Mr. Orman faded into political obscurity until making a return as a candidate in this contest. Taking aggressive positions at candidate forms and typing with a sharp wit on Twitter, he does not owe much to the PC Party in its current incarnation and has little to lose by telling PC members what the other candidates are afraid to say. It has been suggested that Mr. Orman’s candidacy poses the biggest threat to Dr. Morton.

Mr. Orman’s campaign is moving into an office recently vacated by Calgary-Centre Conservative MP Lee Richardson‘s campaign team, opening speculation that Mr. Orman’s support may not be so thin.

A photo of Justice Minister Alison Redford at the 2011 Alberta budget announcement in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Alison Redford

Alison Redford
Slogan: None.
Elected experience: MLA for Calgary-Elbow since 2008
Released policies: Democratic Renewal, Education, Energy, Health Care
Background: The only woman in this contest, Ms. Redford is not your typical Red Tory. While her campaign has so far focused on important issues like health care, education, democratic renewal, and energy policy, the safe communities initiative during her time as Justice Minister demonstrated that she is creative enough to look beyond the “tough on crime” agenda. She is also appears to be taking a page from popular Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton City Councillor Don Iveson by “campaigning in full sentences.” (This may have been influenced by her campaign strategist Stephen Carter, who was involved with Mayor Nenshi’s campaign).

Ms. Redford has only been an MLA since 2008, but her political experience is broad, ranging from serving as a Senior Policy Advisor to External Affairs Minister Joe Clark, being appointed as one of four International Election Commissioners to administer Afghanistan’s first parliamentary elections, and challenging Calgary-West MP Rob Anders for the Conservative Party nomination in 2004 (she was unsuccessful).

A photo of Ted Morton, Alberta PC leadership candidate.

Ted Morton

Ted Morton
Slogan: Alberta Proud/Proud to be Albertan
Elected experience: Senator-in-Waiting 1998 to 2004, MLA for Foothills-Rockyview from 2004 to present
Released policies: Democratic Renewal, Power Transmission
Background: The former Finance Minister and third place leadership candidate from 2006 who’s actions forced Premier Ed Stelmach to resign and this contest to begin. Many of his key organizers from his previous leadership bid have joined the Wildrose Alliance and it is questionable whether they will return to the PC Party fold if they have embraced Dr. Morton’s ideological soul-mate Danielle Smith. His time as Finance Minister hurt his conservative credentials, especially among rural landowners furious at the government’s recently passed transmission line legislation – Bill 50.

In 2006, Dr. Morton received support of Rob Anders, Myron Thompson, and Jason Kenney, who have each since quietly or loudly shown support for the Wildrose Alliance.

Expected to enter the race:

Thomas Lukaszuk
Elected experience: MLA for Edmonton-Castle Downs from 2001 to present
Background: Yet to enter the contest, rumours have been swirling for months about Minister Lukaszuk’s potential entry into this contest. He would be the only MLA from Edmonton to enter the contest and while he would be a long-shot candidate, it could help solidify his position in cabinet under the next PC Premier.

He supported Jim Dinning in the 2006 leadership contest.

gary mar’s peeps – supporters secret facebook group revealed.

Gary Mar resigned today from his position as Alberta’s Representative in Washington DC, fuelling the speculation that the former cabinet minister will soon join the Progressive Conservative leadership contest.

Some of the more recent rumours predicting Mr. Mar’s entry into the leadership contest were based around a late February meeting of supporters, including Klein-era political operator Rod Love.

More concrete proof of Mr. Mar’s candidacy landed in my email inbox this afternoon when a reader emailed me a screenshot of a Secret Group on Facebook, named Gary Mar’s Peeps.” It appears as though this secret Facebook gathering place for Mr. Mar’s supporters has been up and running for the past month. Its content includes links to news stories, blog posts, and questions from group members ranging from where to send campaign donations to how to respond to chatter on Twitter.

A screenshot of "Gary Mar's Peeps" Secret Group on Facebook.

The 87 members of the invite-only Facebook group are an interesting camp of PC Party members. Some of the notable names in the members list include Jim Dinning‘s 2006 campaign chairman Brent Shervey, Calgary-Nose Hill MLA Neil Brown, Drayton Valley-Calmar MLA Diana McQueen, Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Fred Horne, former PC Youth President Courtney Luimes (who is currently the Executive Assistant to Energy Minister Ron Liepert), Airdrie-Chestermere PC Association President Janice Harrington, co-chair of the PC Party’s 2008 election platform committee Brenda Barootes, and pollster Janet Brown.

A person’s membership in a Facebook may not necessary translate into an official endorsement, but the exclusivity of this invite-only secret group may suggest that its members have a higher level of commitment towards Mr. Mar than if it were a regular public Facebook Group.