Tag Archives: Doug Black

The Senate Chamber in Canada's Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.

Alberta’s Senate Election Law expires on Dec. 31, 2016

The Senatorial Selection Act, the law that governs Alberta’s unique Senate nominee elections, expires on Dec. 31, 2016. With the current session of the Legislature expected to end at the end of this week, it is unlikely the law will be renewed.

The longstanding policy of the Alberta New Democratic Party which supports the abolition of the Canadian Senate likely means the Act will be allowed to expire, into the dust of legislative history.

Alberta has held Senate Nominee elections in 198919982004 and 2012. Only the Progressive Conservative, Wildrose and Evergreen parties nominated candidates in the April 2012 contest, which was marred by low turnout and a high-percentage of spoiled ballots. Three PC candidates were “elected” in 2012 and two – Doug Black and Scott Tannas – were appointed to the Senate in 2013.

I wrote about more about the end of Alberta’s Senate elections back on February 16, 2016

The Senate Chamber in Canada's Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.

2016 will mark the end of Senate Elections in Alberta

The Senatorial Selection Act, the law that governs Alberta’s unique Senate nominee elections, expires on Dec. 31, 2016. The longstanding policy of the Alberta New Democratic Party which supports the abolition of the Canadian Senate likely means the Act will be allowed to expire, into the dust of legislative history.

Don Getty Premier of Alberta

Don Getty

Members of the Canadian Senate are appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. Alberta is the only province with a general election process to select Senate nominees, which have been held in 1989, 1998, 2004 and 2012.

The Senatorial Selection Act was introduced in 1989, in part to allow the Progressive Conservative government of Don Getty to co-opt the issue of Senate reform, which had become a powerful rallying crying of the populist Reform Party. Reform candidate Stanley Waters won the 1989 election and was appointed to the Senate in 1990 on the advice of then-prime minister Brian Mulroney.

Stan Waters Alberta Senate

Stanley Waters

Only a handful of Alberta’s elected Senators have actually been appointed to the upper chamber, as the election process exists outside of the Constitution and can be ignored by the federal government. Current Conservative Senators Doug Black and Scott Tannas, elected in 2012, and Betty Unger, elected in 2004, were appointed to the Senate on the advice of former prime minister Stephen Harper.

With the exception of the 1989 election, when Liberal Bill Code placed second, only the conservative Reform Party, Progressive Conservative, Alberta Alliance, Social Credit and Wildrose Party, and the environmentalist Evergreen Party have participated in the elections. Progressive candidates have also run as Independents without the backing of their political parties. In 1998, future NDP candidate Guy Desrosiers stood as an Independent Senate candidate (and placed third with 16.7% of the vote).

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

A high-level of rejected, declined and spoiled ballots in the Senate elections suggests that many Albertans are unengaged in this process. More than 178,000 ballots were rejected, spoiled and declined in the 2004 Senate election, amounting to 19 percent of Albertans who showed up to the polls. In 2012, more than 189,000 Senate election ballots were rejected, spoiled and declined, compared to only 7,822 in the provincial general election held the same day.

While the NDP have long supported the abolishment of the Senate, the idea has grown popular in conservative circles in recent years. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has echoed the NDP’s calls for Senate abolishment, and in an odd pre-election maneuver, Mr. Harper tacitly endorsed the abolishment of the Senate if it could not be reformed (this took place after he appointed more than 50 Conservatives to the Senate, including Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin).

Stephen Harper Calgary Stampede

Stephen Harper

new Senate appointment advisory board created by the federal Liberal government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after the October 2015 election will review nominated Canadians who meet the criteria of demonstrating a record of leadership in community service or professional expertise, a proven record of ethics and integrity and knowledge of the Senate’s role. It is unclear whether the new advisory board will place future provincially-endorsed elected nominees in higher consideration.

The current Alberta NDP government has not officially announced it will not renew the Senatorial Selection Act, but a speech from now-Premier Rachel Notley in 2009, while she was debating amendments to extend the Act until Dec. 31, 2016, strongly suggests that it will not be renewed again this year:

“…this is a piece of legislation that we can’t support because, quite frankly, it just provides a foundation to continue with what is currently a very ineffective system on the federal level.

As has been previously stated, our view is simply that the Senate should be abolished. It is not something that reflects the democratic makeup of our country. The historical rationale behind appointing a Senate has long since dissipated in terms of sort of the historical political concerns that underlay the initial construction of the Senate. The current elements of the Senate that we would effectively be promoting and encouraging the continuation of are, in my view, quite unacceptable.

Whether we elect our Senators or whether we have elections where the government chooses to appoint our Senators, we’re still dealing with the current situation, which is that the Senate itself does not reflect the national population distribution in that, you know, Alberta has six Senate seats, and New Brunswick, with about one fifth of Alberta’s population, has 10 seats. Eligibility for appointment in the Senate is still based in part on property ownership, and once appointed, Senators just get to hang around there until 75.

Whether we have this legislation or do not have this legislation, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. Having had this legislation, we’ve actually, if anything, encouraged the continuation of the Senate. We’ve encouraged buy-in to what is a fundamentally antidemocratic institution.

You know, this was something that came up originally as a means to make a political point when there were substantive discussions around Senate reform a long, long time ago. There have been no meaningful discussions around Senate reform for, I would suggest, about a decade at least.

This piece of legislation will simply give credence to what continues to be a dysfunctional system and one that is costly and one that has long since outlived its purpose. The bill has outlived the purpose, the process in Alberta has outlived the purpose, and frankly the Senate has outlived its purpose. For that reason, we cannot support the bill.”

“transparency” is hard when your party has been in power for 41 years.

Premier Alison Redford Alberta

Premier Alison Redford

Surrounded by dozens of Tory MLAs at a late-afternoon press conference, Premier Alison Redford announced plans to make the expense claims of all cabinet ministers, MLAs, and government officials publicly available on the internet.

After a summer of scandals and embarrassing revelations, ranging from the overflowing expense accounts of former regional health authority executive Allaudin Merali and current University of Calgary board chairman Doug Black, the suspicious hiring of former cabinet minister Evan Berger, and the cancellation of funding to a long-promised police college in Fort Macleod, Alberta Tories must be desperately thirsty for anything that could be cast as a good news story.

The new rules place limits on the purchase of business class airline tickets and a ban on expensing alcohol. What format the expense disclosures will be made available online is still unknown. As I wrote about last month, not all online transparency is created equally (or accessibly). As has also been pointed out by political reporters online, the new rules are unclear if there will be sanctions for employees who break the new expense rules. It is also unclear if the rationale behind any special exemptions, made by the Treasury Board, will be made public.

Yesterday’s burst of transparency comes one week after Premier Redford and Finance Minister Doug Horner were widely criticized for only not releasing the full data from the quarterly provincial fiscal update which predicted a potential $3 billion deficit. Earlier in the summer, it was announced that Elections Alberta investigations into illegal donations to the Progressive Conservative Party would also remain secret.

Perhaps trying to create a positive defining narrative for Premier Redford’s government, which has been largely absent since the April 2012 election, Ontario-based public relations and issues management expert Stefan Baranski has been tapped to work with the Premier. A Principal with Counsel Public Affairs, Mr. Baranski founded ontarionewswatch.com and served as senior advisor to PC leaders Tim Hudak and John Tory, and Premier Ernie Eves. In 2010, he served a Director of Communications and chief spokesperson for Toronto mayoral candidate George Smitherman.

Earlier this year, Calgary-Centre Conservative Member of Parliament Lee Richardson left Ottawa to join Premier Redford’s staff as her Principal Secretary. I am told that long-time Tory and Volunteer Alberta executive director Karen Lynch recently joined Premier Redford’s staff as her director of tours and schedules.

alberta election 2012: ian urquhart for senate.

Ian Urquhart Alberta Senate Candidate Vote

Ian Urquhart for Senate

Bringing some political diversity to the race, University of Alberta Political Science Professor Ian Urquhart has announced that he will run as an Independent candidate in the upcoming Senator-in-Waiting election.

Active with the Alberta Wilderness Association, Dr. Urquhart is the first openly centre-left candidate to join the contest. His candidacy gives political moderates and centre-left voters of all stripes an option other than refusing to vote or spoiling their Senate ballots at the polls (the Liberal, NDP, and Alberta Party have chosen not to participate in the Senator-in-Waiting election).

While I was a student at the U of A, I had the pleasure of taking some courses with Dr. Urquhart focusing on public policy and Canadian constitutional politics. He ended up being one of my favourite professors and I look forward to voting for him in the Senator-in-Waiting election.

Meanwhile, the Wildrose Party announced two additional Senator-in-Waiting candidates to join the already nominated Vitor Marciano. Former party president Jeff Calloway and St. Paul gas line operator Raymond Germain will run under their party banner. The PCs have nominated Doug BlackScott Tannas, and Mike Shaikh. St. Albert Alderman and former Liberal MLA Len Bracko is running as an Independent candidate.

Most of the Wildrose and PC Senate candidates are expected to sit with the Conservative Senate Caucus if elected and subsequently appointed (I have heard some speculation that one of the PC candidates would sit as a PC in the Senate).

alberta election candidate update – february 2012.

With an election call expected in the next three to six weeks, Alberta’s opposition parties are busily nominating candidates to stand in the upcoming vote. Some parties, like the Wildrose Party and the NDP, are close to nominating a full-slate, while the Liberals are scrambling to catch up. The Alberta Party and EverGreen Party are only expected to nominate a small number of candidates.

The Progressive Conservatives are expected to appoint their final candidate in Calgary-West on February 16. This appointment will replace previously nominated candidate Shiraz Shariff, who was disqualified by the PC Party last week.

Here are some of the recent updates I have made to the list of declared and nominated candidates standing in the 2012 provincial general election:

Battle River-Wainwright: Midge Lambert is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Ms. Lambert was the Green Party candidate in Wetaskiwin-Camrose in the 2008 election. The NDP are holding a nomination meeting on February 21 where Terry Zalwalski is expected to be acclaimed. Mr. Zalwalski was the NDP candidate in the federal riding of Vegreville in the 1993 election.

Bonnyville-Cold Lake: Retired municipal administrator Roy Doonanco has been nominated as the Wildrose candidate, replacing previously nominated candidate Chuck Farrer.

Nicole Hankel Liberal Party candidate Calgary-Acadia

Nicole Hankel

Calgary-Acadia: Nicole Hankel is the Liberal candidate. She ran in the 2011 federal election as a Liberal candidate in the Macleod riding south west of Calgary.

Calgary-Elbow: William Hamilton has been nominated as the EverGreen Party candidate.

Calgary-Fish Creek: Nazir Rahemtulla is the nominated Liberal candidate in this south Calgary constituency.

Calgary-Fort: Said Abdulbaki has been nominated as the Liberal candidate in this east Calgary constituency. I am unclear whether this is the same Mr. Abdulbaki who ran for the Wildrose Alliance in Calgary-Montrose in 2008 and for the Wildrose nomination in Chestermere-Rockyview in 2011.

Calgary-Hawkwood: Social Credit Party leader Len Skowronski will stand as a candidate in this newly created constituency.

Calgary-Hays: Brian MacPhee will stand under the Liberal Party banner. Mr. MacPhee was the federal Liberal candidate in Calgary-Southeast in the 2011 election.

Calgary-Northern Hills: Stephanie Woodlund was recently nominated as the NDP candidate.

Calgary-South East: Marta Warszynski was chosen as the NDP candidate in a nomination meeting held earlier this week.

Calgary-Varsity: Jackie Seidel, Director of Field Curriculum at the University of Calgary Faculty of Education, was chosen as the NDP candidate this week, replacing previously nominated candidate Cynthia Caldwell.

Cardston-Taber-Warner: Aaron Haugen was nominated as the NDP candidate this week, replacing previously nominated candidate Barbara Eng-Bonthoux.

Rod Loyola NDP Edmonton-Ellerlsie nomination candidate

Rod Loyola

Cypress-Medicine Hat: Manuel Martinez is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate on March 2, replacing previously nominated candidate Scott Riable. Mr. Martinez was his party’s candidate in the 2008 election.

Edmonton-Ellerslie: The NDP nomination contest is heating up. Rod LoyolaKevin Wright, and one other candidate are seeking the nomination. Former Liberal MLA Bharat Agnihotri, who was previously nominated as his party’s candidate in the upcoming election, appears to no longer be the candidate.

Edmonton-South West: Former Catholic School Trustee Rudy Arcilla was nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in this newly created constituency. Served as a trustee from 2007 to 2010.

Rick Szostak Liberal candidate Edmonton-Whitemud

Rick Szostak

Edmonton-Whitemud: Rick Szostak is the nominated Liberal candidate in this constituency. Mr. Szostak was previously the Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Sherwood Park in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections.

Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville: Spencer Dunn is the nominated Liberal Party candidate.

Highwood: Miles Dato was recently nominated as the NDP candidate.

Leduc-Beaumont: Dave Stasiewich has been chosen as the Wildrose candidate.

Little Bow: Everett Tanis is the Liberal Party candidate. Mr. Tanis was the 2008 Liberal candidate in this constituency, earning 1,080 votes. In 2011, he was honoured as Picture Butte’s Citizen of the Year.

Medicine Hat: Graham Murray is the nominated EverGreen Party candidate

Sherwood Park: Past County Councillor candidate and local bus driver Dave Anderson was recently nominated as the Liberal candidate.

Whitecourt-Ste. Anne: Likely winning the best name of the 2012 provincial election, is newly nominated NDP candidate Blue Knox.

SENATOR-IN-WAITING ELECTIONS

This past weekend, Progressive Conservative officials selected Doug BlackMike Shaikh, and Scott Tannas as their three candidates in this Spring’s Senator-in-Waiting vote.

sitting out the senate election would be a missed opportunity for the liberals, ndp, alberta party.

Senate of Canada

Senate of Canada

Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Betty Unger to the Senate of Canada. Ms. Unger was chosen as one of Alberta’s Senators-in-Waiting in the 2004 election and is the third elected Senator to be made a member of Canada’s appointed Upper House.

This spring in conjunction with the 2012 General Election, the Province of Alberta will be holding another election to choose a new batch of Senator-in-Waiting candidates.

While Alberta’s previous Senator-in-Waiting elections quickly became quirky sideshows that attracted a crowd of unknown partisan insiders, the candidates lining up for the 2012 election may bring a higher level of seriousness to the contest. Seeking the nomination for the Progressive Conservative candidacy are lawyer Doug Black, Calgary Police Commission Chairman Mike Shaihk, businessman Scott Tannas, City of Leduc Mayor Greg Krischke, and past-President of NAIT Sam Shaw.

Long-time Conservative Party organizer Vitor Marciano has stepped up to carry the Wildrose Party flag and former Liberal MLA Len Bracko will run as an Independent candidate.

Hugh MacDonald MLA

MLA Hugh MacDonald

The Liberal Party, New Democratic Party, and Alberta Party have all declared that they will not participate in this election. I believe that not running a candidate in the upcoming Senator-in-Waiting election is a real missed opportunity for these opposition parties.

I have heard three main arguments by members of these parties against participating in the Senate election. Here are the arguments and the responses:

Argument #1: The non-conservative opposition parties do not have the resources to run a candidate in the Senate election. Having limited resources does not stop any of the parties from putting a name on the ballot. I believe it is a disservice to the voters not to have an alternative to the two conservative parties on the ballot. There is also political value in having a Liberal, NDP, or Alberta Party candidate on the ballot. These candidates will receive many votes, provide a natural opposition choice for thousands of Albertans, and they can generate positive media coverage for the parties (even if they don’t win).

Raj Pannu former MLA

Raj Pannu

I suggested in an earlier post that retiring Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald could be an ideal candidate for the Liberals. Former NDP MLA Raj Pannu would also make an ideal candidate for the NDP.

Argument #2: The Prime Minister is not obligated to appoint the Senator-in-Waiting. True. If the elected candidate is not appointed it would showcase how serious the Prime Minister is about elected Senators.

Argument #3: [From NDP supporters]: The NDP has a policy supporting the abolition of the Senate. I believe this is a bad policy, but even so, this would not stop the NDP from running candidates in the election. What better way to promote the abolishment of the Senate than to run a candidate in the very election that could choose Alberta’s next Senators?

The NDP now forms the Official Opposition in the House of Commons and has no representation in the Senate, where the Liberals form the Opposition. The NDP in Ottawa have rejected previous attempts by their supporters to represent the New Democrats in the Senate. When Lillian Dyck was appointed to represent Saskatchewan in the Senate in 2005, the NDP refused to recognize her as a member of their Parliamentary Caucus. She now sits with the Liberal Caucus.

If these opposition parties do not step up to the plate, Albertans can once again expect a Senator-in-Waiting election dominated by conservative politicians. Candidates from these three parties would challenge the dominant narrative that the two conservative parties are the only contenders in the next provincial election. It would be a real missed opportunity for them to sit on the sidelines.

could hugh macdonald save albertans from another snoozer senate election?

Alberta will be holding its fourth ever Senate election in 2012.

Last Friday, the Progressive Conservatives released the rules to guide the nomination of their candidates in next year’s Senate election (or more accurately, ‘Senator-in-Waiting‘ election). The PCs will open nominations on December 9, 2011.

Candidates must submit a non-refundable fee of $4000 and collects the signatures of 50 current PC Party members from Alberta’s five regions. Once they have gone through this process, they will be required to enter a special vote in February 2012, giving an indication about when then next provincial election may be called. Those participating in the vote will include constituency association presidents, nominated PC candidates, voting members of the party executive committee, and four elected delegates from each of the 87 constituency associations.

Calgary lawyer Doug Black and Calgary-area businessman Scott Tannas have already declared their interest in the PC Senate nomination. Mr. Black served as finance chairman for Jim Dinning during that party’s 2006 leadership contest.

Vitor Marciano Wildrose Senate Candidate Alberta

Vitor Marciano

Federal Conservative Party operative Vitor Marciano has already announced his intentions to run in the Senate election under the Wildrose Party banner. It is likely that all three of these candidates would sit with the federal Conservative caucus if elected to the Senate.

Alberta’s last Senate election, held in 2004, was boycotted by the Liberals and NDP. The lack of serious opposition candidates left Albertans to choose from a cast of right-wing characters ranging from the PC candidates to the Social Credit and Alberta Alliance. When the votes were counted, three PCs and one Independent candidate were elected, but many Albertans were disenfranchised by the lack of non-conservative candidates.

According to Elections Alberta, during the 2004 Senate elections 85,937 voters declined to cast a ballot in the election (equating to 4.2% of eligible voters, or 9.7% of the voters who received ballots) and 84,643 ballots were rejected (that equates to 9.5% of the total ballots cast).

Even though four of Alberta’s six Senate seats are currently held by appointed federal Liberal Party members (including former Liberal Party leader Grant Mitchell), sources say the party is unlikely to participate in next year’s Senate election. The Liberals have only participated in one Senate election in Alberta, which feels to me like a missed opportunity for much needed publicity.

Hugh MacDonald Alberta Liberal MLA

Senator-in-waiting Hugh MacDonald?

One long-time party insider suggested to me this weekend that choosing retiring Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald to carry the Liberal Party banner in next year’s Senate election could be a fitting tribute to the long-time party stalwart. Known for his hard work and (sometimes over the top) passionate criticisms of the PC government, the opposition MLA would almost surely spark more interest in the Senate race than the generic conservative party candidates will on their own.

It would be a long-shot, but if the federal Liberal Party is interested in building a base of support Western Canada, running an even half-serious campaign in a Senate election would be a good place as any to start. Even if it is a long-shot, and it is, I am sure that I am not the only person who would enjoy the irony of watching Prime Minister Stephen Harper being forced to appoint a fiercely partisan Liberal like Hugh MacDonald to the Senate of Canada.