Tag Archives: Drew Barnes

The Energy East Blame Game. Who blames who?

Today’s announcement by the TransCanada Corporation that it would no longer pursue the construction of the Energy East Pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta to Saint John, New Brunswick triggered a storm of statements, accusations and criticisms from politicians trying to drive their political narratives.

While the reasons for the TransCanada Corporation withdrawing its plans are likely influenced more by economics than by politics, there will certainly be political implications for the politicians – like Premier Rachel Notley – who have tethered their governing agenda to the approval of pipeline projects.

So, politics being politics, here is a quick look at who is blaming who for the demise of the Energy East Pipeline:

The TransCanada Corporation blames existing and likely future delays caused by the National Energy Board regulatory process, associated costs and challenging “issues and obstacles” facing the project.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley blames “a broad range of factors that any responsible business must consider.”

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant doesn’t blame the TransCanada Corporation, but recognizes “recent changes to world market conditions and the price of oil have negatively impacted the viability of the project.”

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall blames Justin Trudeau, the federal government, and Montreal mayor Denis Coderre.

Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr blames the decision to cancel the pipeline project as a business decision.

Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer blames Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Alberta Liberal MPs Randy Boissonnault, Amarjeet Sohi and Kent Hehr blame “current market challenges related to world market conditions and lower commodity prices.

Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel blames “Liberal ideological opposition to the wealth and prosperity of western Canada, to the detriment of the nation as a whole.”

United Conservative Party interim leader Nathan Cooper blames the Alberta NDP.

UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean blames Rachel Notley, Justin Trudeau and Denis Coderre.

UCP leadership candidate Jason Kenney blames the Alberta NDP carbon-tax and social license, and the Trudeau Liberals. He later also blames Denis Coderre.

UCP leadership candidate Doug Schweitzer blames Justin Trudeau and Rachel Notley.

Alberta Party leader Greg Clark blames the Alberta NDP.

Alberta Liberal leader David Khan blames economic factors, describing the decision as “a business decision by TransCanada based on current economic and political realities.”

UCP MLA Drew Barnes blames Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

UCP MLA Prasad Panda blames the Alberta NDP’s carbon tax.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

United Conservative Party leadership candidates Brian Jean, Jason Kenney, Doug Schweitzer and Jeff Callaway.

Tracking MLA endorsements in the UCP leadership race

Members of the United Conservative Party will be selecting the party’s first permanent leader on October 28, 2017. After of this week’s fee payment deadline, four candidates will be listed on the ballot: Brian Jean, Jason Kenney, Doug Schweitzer and Jeff Callaway.

Of the 28 UCP MLAs represented in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly, nineteen have endorsed candidates in this leadership race (I am including Jean, the only sitting MLA in the contest, who has obviously endorsed himself). Here is a map showing which UCP MLAs have endorsed which leadership candidate as of September 14, 2017.Brian Jean: Leela Aheer (Chestermere-Rocky View), Wayne Anderson (Highwood), Dave Hanson (Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills), Todd Loewen (Grande Prairie-Smoky), Don MacIntyre (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake), Angela Pitt (Airdrie), Ron Orr (Lacombe-Ponoka), Dave Schneider (Little Bow), Pat Stier (Livingstone-Macleod), Glenn van Dijken (Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock), Tany Yao (Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo)

Jason Kenney: Drew Barnes (Cypress-Medicine Hat), Grant Hunter (Cardston-Taber-Warner), Ric McIver (Calgary-Hays), Jason Nixon (Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre), Mark Smith (Drayton Valley-Devon), Rick Strankman (Drumheller-Stettler)

Doug Schweitzer: Wayne Drysdale (Grande Prairie-Wapiti)

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

Wildrose Shuffles Critics, Fildebrandt no longer Public Accounts Committee Chairman

Outspoken Wildrose Party MLA Derek Fildebrandt, who finds himself frequently at odds with leader Brian Jean, remains in his high-profile role as Official Opposition Finance & Treasury critic after a shuffle of critic portfolios in the Wildrose caucus this week.

Brian Jean

But according to the MLA committee membership list released on Dec. 13, 2016, Fildebrandt is no longer Chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, a role he has filled since June 2015. The chair of the financial oversight committee is traditionally filled by an MLA from the Official Opposition. Fildebrandt has been replaced by Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA Scott Cyr.

While relinquishing the chair role could be seen as a demotion caused by conflict with his party’s leadership, it likely means that Fildebrandt, a former director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and aggressive critic of the NDP, can now play a more active and vocal role on the committee.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

The Wildrose shuffle included new assignments for Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes as Energy critic, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao as Health critic, Chestermere-Rockyview MLA Leela Aheer as Education Critic, Airdrie MLA Angela Pitt as Justice & Solicitor General critic, Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken as Jobs & Labour critic, and Little Bow MLA Dave Schneider as Agriculture critic. The capable and quick on his feet Nathan Cooper remains House Leader. (See a full list here)

The Wildrose caucus also shuffled their MLA committee membership:

  • Prasad Panda replaces Grant Hunter as a member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
  • Glenn van Dijken replaces Dave Schneider as Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future.
  • Leela Aheer replaces Ron Orr as a member of the Standing Committee on Families and Communities
  • Angela Pitt replaces Nathan Cooper as a member of the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices
  • Nathan Cooper replaces Derek Fildebrandt as a member of the Standing Committee on Members’ Services
  • Todd Loewen replaces Leela Aheer as a member of the Standing Committee on Resource Stewardship
  • Angela Pitt and Glenn van Dijken become members of the Select Special Ombudsman and Public Interest Commissioner Search Committee.
Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat Cardston Warner

40 days until the Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner by-election needs to be called

The map of Medicine Hat-Carston-Warner riding.

The map of Medicine Hat-Carston-Warner riding.

Conservative Glen Motz and Libertarian Sheldon Johnston appear to be the only two candidates to so far step up to run in the upcoming federal by-election in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner. The by-election has not been called yet but it will be called within the next 40 days – on or before the six month deadline of Sept. 26, 2016.

According to a story by iPolitics.ca reporter BJ Siekierski, neither the Liberals or New Democratic Party have nominated a candidate yet. Christian Heritage Party leader Rod Taylor will be touring through the riding on August 30 and 31.

Barring a political earthquake, it is expected the Conservative Party candidate will win the by-election in this sprawling southeast Alberta riding with a large Mormon community and a strong social conservative base.

Former Member of Parliament Jim Hillyer, who died earlier this year, was re-elected on October 5, 2015 with 68 percent of the vote, compared to 17 percent for Liberal Glen Allan and 9 percent for NDPer Erin Weir.

Provincially, the area covered by the federal riding is represented by Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter of the Wildrose Party and Medicine Hat MLA Bob Wanner of the New Democratic Party. Mr. Wanner is the Speaker of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly.

Is the sky blue? A Conservative win in Southern Alberta by-election a certainty

Following the death of Conservative Member of Parliament Jim Hillyer on March 23, 2016, Elections Canada has announced that a by-election must be called in the Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner electoral district before September 26, 2016. The earliest a by-election could be held is May 16, 2016.

A map of the electoral district.

A map of the electoral district.

By-elections can produce unexpected results, as we have seen recently in Alberta, but as one of the strongest Conservative voting areas of the country, it is very likely the next MP for this area will be a Conservative. Mr. Hillyer was elected in October 2015 with 68 percent of the vote, ahead of Liberal Glen Allan with 17 percent and New Democrat Erin Weir with 9 percent (not that Erin Weir).

Conservatives partisans in this region of Alberta tend to occupy the social conservative side of that party’s coalition. But that does not necessarily mean they are united.

The author of this blog outside the Creation Science Museum in Bow Island, Alberta.

The author of this blog outside the Creation Science Museum in Bow Island, Alberta.

This electoral district spans the beautiful stretch along Alberta’s southeast boundaries with Saskatchewan and Montana. The large rural district includes the City of Medicine Hat (a city of 63,000 residents), Canadian Forces Base Suffield, the Blood Indian Reserve (the largest and second most populated reserve in Canada), a large community of followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Bow Island Creation Discovery Centre.

The area was represented by Conservative MP LaVar Payne from 2008 to 2015. Former cabinet minister Monte Solberg represented the area as a Reform Party, Canadian Alliance, Democratic Representative Caucus and Conservative MP from 1993 until 2008.

Former Social Credit MP Bud Olson was re-elected as a Liberal MP in 1968 and served as Minister of Agriculture in Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s cabinet until his electoral defeat in 1972. The riding became a Progressive Conservative stronghold from 1972 to 1993.

Provincially, the area is currently represented by Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter of the Wildrose Party and Medicine Hat MLA Bob Wanner of the New Democratic Party.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean

Wildrose demands transparency from NDP and PCs but holds its annual meeting in secret

Alberta’s conservative Wildrose Party is holding its annual general meeting this weekend in Calgary and, according to one media source, the event will be closed to the media with the exception of leader Brian Jean‘s speech ahead of the leadership review vote on the evening of Nov 13, 2015.

It feels like an eternity in Alberta politics since the Wildrose Party’s last annual meeting in Nov. 2014, which saw then-leader Danielle Smith clash with the party’s social conservative base over support for sexual minority rights. Wildrose members at the open door meeting voted down a definitive statement on equal rights for all Albertans, destroying the party’s attempt to appear more mainstream on social issues.

Now, the Wildrose Party led by Mr. Jean will spend its first annual meeting after its spectacular return from the dead debating policy and politics behind closed doors.

Wildrose members will debate motions ranging from equalization paymentspublic sector pensions, ending mandatory membership in students’ unions, increasing access to firearms, abolishing the Canadian Senate, and allowing private enterprise to receive government grants to compete against public essential services.

Members will also debate a series of motions aimed at banning MLAs from crossing the floor to another party, an issue that nearly destroyed the party when 13 of its MLAs crossed the floor to join the Progressive Conservatives in the final months of 2014.

This type of anti-floor crossing policy could prove difficult to enforce, as it is against the spirit of the Westminster parliamentary system and idea of responsible government. Wildrose members should also note that none of the floor-crossers were re-elected in this year’s general election, providing some evidence that elements of our system of democracy worked without unneeded tinkering.

The closed door meeting could help hide controversial comments or embarrassing eruptions that regularily happen when political party members line up to speak at the microphone.

Rumours have circulated for months about a group of party members who still harbour bad feelings from the party’s March 28, 2015 leadership race and could create trouble for Mr. Jean at this annual meeting. The leadership vote, which Mr. Jean won with 54 percent to Drew Barnes’ 40 percent, was held days before the provincial election was called.

An internal investigation was launched amid allegations of illegal robocalls and the party imposed a $15,000 fine against Mr. Barnes’ campaign. The message in the robocalls allegedly attacked Mr. Jean for his $10,000 donation to Jim Prentice‘s PC leadership campaign only months before he entered the Wildrose Party leadership race.

Mr. Jean is now carefully manufacturing his pitch to convince members of the former governing PC Party to join his party’s ranks. Later in November, the Wildrose Party is hosting a “conversation” fundraiser in Calgary where Mr. Jean will make his pitch to conservatives to unite behind his party against the NDP. Any embarrassing or divisive fights at this meeting could derails those attempts.

Wildrose MLAs have eclipsed the tiny PC opposition in media attention while relentlessly hammering almost every decision made by Rachel Notley‘s NDP since they won the May 2015 election. But recently Wildrose MLAs have found themselves tied up in an embarrassing missteps including fighting a new 9:00 a.m. start time for the Legislature and a very public dispute with a Globe & Mail reporter.

Partisan debates about policy can be divisive and messy, but it is hypocritical for Wildrose Party MLAs to lambast the NDP for failing to be transparent and the PCs for being secretive and entitled while holding their own policy meetings behind closed doors.

If Mr. Jean’s Wildrose Party truly wants to prove it is ready to govern and represent mainstream Alberta, they should demonstrate it by giving Albertans a view into how their grassroots members really believe our province should be governed.

Premier Rachel Notley (centre) and Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason (right) announce that former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge (left) will advise the new government. (Photo Credit to premierofalberta on Flickr)

Notley NDP waste no time implementing popular progressive agenda in former conservative heartland

Banning corporate and union donations: Check.
Restoring funding to health, education and human services: Check.
Increasing corporate taxes: Check.
Introducing a new climate change strategy: Coming soon.
Phasing in a $15 per hour minimum wage: Coming soon.
Reviewing Alberta’s natural resource royalty framework: Coming soon.

Progress is the order of business in Canada’s so-called Conservative heartland as Premier Rachel Notley’s newly elected Alberta NDP government begins implementing the main promises from their winning election platform. Leaders of the previous PC regime, Alison Redford and Jim Prentice, styled themselves as Progressive Conservatives, their actions rarely matched their words. The NDP proposed a fairly moderate progressive agenda and it is refreshing to see it take action so quickly after the election.

Marg McCuaig Boyd

Marg McCuaig Boyd

Revenue and tax reform was a big issue before and during the recent election, with Mr. Prentice and the opposition argued over how best to remove Alberta from the oil revenue roller coaster. It remains clear that Alberta cannot continue to rely on revenues generated from oil and gas royalties to fund the provincial operating budget. Both the PCs and NDP proposed tax increases in the recent election, but Mr. Prentice’s refusal to increase corporate taxes, even symbolically, was a huge miscalculation.

While conservatives preach doom and gloom, our province still has corporate and personal tax rates lower than when Ralph Klein was premier, no provincial sales tax, and huge reserves of oil and gas. Alberta will now have the same corporate tax rate as Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Deron Bilous Edmonton Alberta MLA Minister

Deron Bilous

But there is still plenty more for the new government to do. Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier should extend protections to farmworkers injured on the job. Municipal Affairs Minister Deron Bilous should follow calls from Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton’s Don Iveson and Michael Janz to reform municipal election finance laws. And the province can do much more to clean up provincial election laws, something that a new all-party committee will be tasked to do soon (and they should consider adopting some of the amendments made by Wildrose MLAs during recent debates in the Legislature).

Kathleen Ganley NDP Calgary Buffalo

Kathleen Ganley

Apologizing for previous governments lack of action to stop residential schools and calling for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women was absolutely the right step to take but action needs to follow. Justice and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kathleen Ganley needs to show through government policy that this apology is more than just political posturing.

The government also announced it will soon take action to improve Alberta’s record of poor environmental management and lack of action of climate change, which has helped fuel international opposition to pipeline expansion and the oil sands. On climate change, the PCs lost the public relations battle years ago. Now the challenge will fall to Ms. Notley, Environment Minister Shannon Phillips and Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd to win the policy war on climate change.

Shannon Phillips

Shannon Phillips

I do not have enough room in this post to even begun to discuss the challenges facing Health Minister Sarah Hoffman and Education Minister David Eggen (which will be included in a series of future posts).

As the new government moves forward with what in most other provinces would be considered a moderate progressive agenda, Canada’s conservative outrage industry is gearing up its attacks on the Alberta’s new government.

Talking heads like Ezra Levant are fuelling the paranoia of right-wing fringe conservatives afraid we are witnessing a Red Dawn-style communistic coup (federal Conservative candidate Kerry Diotte and Wildrose MLAs Drew Barnes and Rick Strankman were among the registered spectators at one of Mr. Levant’s travelling circus shows). And recent opinion editorials by critics like conservative economist Jack Mintz, who suggested Alberta could be the next Greece, have verged on the bizarre.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

Ms. Notley and Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason moved quickly to quell criticism of their fiscal plan by announcing last week that former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge will be advising the Premier on infrastructure investment issues. Hiring Mr. Dodge is a smart move and shows a willingness to bring in talent from outside traditional NDP circles.

Aside from the angry conservatives, the new government appears to still enjoy popular support from Albertans, who tossed out the scandal-ridden and tone deaf Tories on May 5. Recent polling shows Ms. Notley, still in her honeymoon period, enjoying the approval of 53% of Albertans, making her the second most popular premier in Canada next to Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall.

The NDP need to be careful not to cut short their honeymoon by making small mistakes. They have already faced criticism for hiring too many provincial outsiders and the media is poking around the perceived influence of Ms. Notley’s husband. These are minor issues that I am sure most Albertans will look past today but the small mistakes can pile up quickly if the new government is not careful.

If the NDP can continue to limit their missteps, focus on implementing their popular platform, and remember why Albertans endorsed Ms. Notley’s charismatic leadership, they will enjoy a warm welcome on the summer political barbecue and parade circuit.

Alberta’s Tories Navigate through unfamiliar waters

As most Albertans head to work tomorrow morning, the Tory-connected public relations firm Navigator will host an invite-only session for clients in downtown Edmonton titled “Alberta’s New Government: What to Expect.” The session is being hosted by former Ottawa television host Don Newman and will feature main speaker Kathleen Monk (Ottawa NDP insider and former executive director of the Broadbent Institute) and Tory-connected panelists Jason Hatcher (managing principal at Navigator) and Jaime Watt (Toronto-based Navigator executive chairman). In a normal election year, it would not be surprising that this company would organize a session like this for their clients, but this has not been a normal election year.

Ric McIver

Ric McIver

One of Navigator’s managing principals, Randy Dawson, was the campaign manager for the Progressive Conservative Party‘s disastrous losing re-election campaign (despite the company’s slogan “When you can’t afford to lose”). After the firm became part of a controversy that damaged the Tories during the election campaign and one of its high profile employees led the campaign that ended the PC Party’s uninterrupted 44-year reign, it is surprising that Navigator is raising its flag in Alberta so soon after election day.

On Thursday night, interim PC Party leader Ric McIver will take the stage in what is sure to be a sombre event. Before Rachel Notley‘s NDP were swept to office on May 5, Premier Jim Prentice had been scheduled to speak at his party’s Calgary leader’s dinner on May 14. At the time tickets were so sought after that they sold out. Everyone in corporate Calgary wanted to be there to congratulate Mr. Prentice on his big win but voters had different plans. And while the fundraising dinner remains sold out, it is expected that a smaller and less powerful crowd will be in attendance.

Jonathan Denis MLA Calgary Acadia

Jonathan Denis

It has been astonishing to watch the breakneck speed in which some longtime PC supporters have abandoned any belief their party can someday return to power. Former justice minister Jonathan Denis called for a merger of the Wildrose and PC Party only days after his personal defeat in Calgary-Acadia.

Former MLA Greg Stevens, who served in Peter Lougheed’s cabinets, wrote in the Calgary Herald that the PC Party would “will cough and spit and be no more” after its election loss. And former Premier Ed Stelmach said shifting too far to the political right was a mistake made by the PC Party.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean responded to Mr. Denis by saying he was not interested in merging his party with the recently defeated Tories.

Ed Stelmach

Ed Stelmach

In December 2014, the Wildrose Party was moribund after former leader Danielle Smith led most of the party’s MLAs into the PC Caucus. Today, none of the floor crossers are MLAs and Mr. Jean’s Wildrose Party has formed Official Opposition with 21 MLAs (4 more than Ms. Smith led the party to win in 2012).

In response to Ms. Smith’s attempts to restore her public image, former Wildrose Communications Director Brock Harrison wrote an op-ed in the National Post aimed at debunking her “revisionist history.

Notley Senior Staff
Brian Topp Alberta Premier Chief of Staff

Brian Topp

Ms. Notley announced three senior roles in the Premier’s Office. Brian Topp will be Chief of Staff and Adrienne King will be Deputy Chief of Staff. Mr. Topp is the former federal NDP leadership candidate and deputy Chief of Staff to Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow and Ms. King is the former Chief of Staff at the Alberta’s NDP Caucus. Richard Dicerni will continue as Deputy Minister for Executive Council. Mr. Dicerni was appointed to the role by Mr. Prentice in September 2014.

Official Opposition Critics
Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

The Wildrose Official Opposition unveiled its front bench critics for the upcoming Legislative session: Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes as Shadow Minister for Health, Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman as Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier as Shadow Minister for Municipal Affairs, Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt as Shadow Minister for Finance & Treasury Board, Drayton Valley-Devon MLA Mark Smith as Shadow Minister for Education, Chestermere-Rockyview MLA Leela Aheer as Shadow Minister for Energy.

Wildrose Leadership Candidates Brian Jean, Linda Osinchuk and Drew Barnes.

#abvote Google Hangout with Wildrose leadership candidates

It has been a rough seven months for the Wildrose Party of Alberta. After losing four by-elections in September 2014, the party was decimated when eleven Wildrose MLAs, including leader Danielle Smith, crossed the floor to the governing Progressive Conservatives.

Now, with an election call expected within weeks, the opposition conservative party is searching for new leader.

Three leadership candidates – Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes, former Member of Parliament Brian Jean, and former Strathcona County Mayor Linda Osinchuk – are running for the leadership. Party members are already voting and the results will be released on March 28.

The candidates joined us on the latest #ABVote Google Hangout to talk about their campaigns, the state of conservative politics and respond to Premier Jim Prentice‘s televised address to the province. [Following a death in Mr. Jean’s family, Strathmore-Brooks candidate Derek Fildebrandt is standing in for the candidate in the final week of the leadership campaign].

Check out our past hangout with Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman.

Bill 45 deserved to die. Kudos to Prentice for killing it.

One year ago, the PC Party was on verge of meltdown as Alison Redford resigned as leader and Premier. Since then, the political landscape has shifted so dramatically that the only significant thing that remains the same is the PC Party is still in government and will almost certainly extend its 44 year reign in the upcoming spring election.

Alberta Legislature Building Alison Redford

Thousands of Albertans protested the Redford Government’s anti-labour laws in November 2013.

Jim Prentice is being praised as a saviour by conservatives for turning around his party’s electoral fortunes, but he is no magician. Like each of his predecessors over the past 44 years, Mr. Prentice’s goal is to ensure the PC Party remains in government. And also like these predecessors, he is succeeding.

Most of Mr. Prentice’s success has been based on his ability to reverse many of Ms. Redford’s most unpopular decisions. And this week, with an election expected to be called soon, he announced the government would repeal the unpopular Bill 45: Public Sector Services Continuation Act.

Dave Hancock MLA Edmonton-Whitemud

Dave Hancock

Introduced into the Assembly by former minister Dave Hancock, the unnecessary and probably unconstitutional Bill 45 was part of Ms. Redford’s attack on public sector workers. The bill was passed with the support of 33 PC MLAs and one Wildrose MLA in December 2013 but was never proclaimed into law (five Wildrose MLAs, two New Democrats and one Liberal voted against it). If made into law, it would have significantly increased the fines for public sector strikes and made it illegal for any person to publicly suggest that government employees take job action.

The bill also appeared to give significant powers to the Minister of Human Services to issue fines to government employees if there has even been a hint of discussion about an illegal strike or strike threat.

Robin Campbell Alberta Finance Yellowhead

Robin Campbell

When the bill was passed in December 2013, one constitutional law expert told the National Post it was “ripe for challenge” to the Supreme Court of Canada. Athabasca University professor Bob Barnetson suggested that because free speech is protected by Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is unlikely that these sections Bill 45 would survive a challenge to the Supreme Court of Canada (court challenges had already been launched by United Nurses of Alberta and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees).

Killing Bill 45 is only one step in repairing the government’s damaged relationship with its front-line workers. Five months ago, Mr. Prentice said he found low morale and high turnover in the public service “shocking.” But with Finance Minister Robin Campbell warning of 9 percent across the board funding cuts in next week’s provincial budget, it is difficult to see how Mr. Prentice plans to change this situation.

It remains embarrassing that so many of our elected officials supported this bill, but today Mr. Prentice deserves some kudos for committing to repeal Bill 45.


Wildrose Leadership Candidates

Wildrose Party leadership candidates Brian Jean, Linda Osinchuk and Drew Barnes.

Wildrose Party leadership candidates Drew Barnes, Brian Jean and Linda Osinchuk will be guests on the next AbVote Google Hangout on Tuesday, March 24, 2015. Tune in to abvote.ca at 7:00 p.m. and ask questions to the candidates using the #abvote hashtag on Twitter.

Rob Anders, being blessed by controversial Calgary street pastor Art Pazlowski and Gospel Elvis.

Rob Anders still lurking around the Wildrose Party

Twice denied an opportunity to run for the leadership of the Wildrose Party, controversial Conservative Party Member of Parliament Rob Anders is still lurking in the shadows of the deflated Alberta conservative opposition party.

As reported by the Medicine Hat News, Mr. Anders has been making personal phone calls to conservatives in Medicine Hat in support of Wildrose nomination candidate Dustin Nau.

Here’s a recording of the phone message left by Mr. Anders:

In the recorded phone message, Mr. Anders described Mr. Nau as “a good guy” and a “good solid social conservative” who did two tours in Iraq with the United States military. Mr. Anders says he believes Mr. Nau will would be a real asset for the Wildrose Party going forward in the next election.

Speaking to the Medicine Hat News, Mr. Nau denied knowing Mr. Anders personally and denied ever serving in the U.S. military. He was not able to answer why Mr. Anders was making phone calls in support of his campaign.

After failing to secure federal Conservative nominations in Calgary-Signal Hill and Bow River, Mr. Anders unsuccessfully appealed to the Wildrose Party executive to allow him to run for the leadership. Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, before she crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives in December 2014, said Mr. Anders was not welcome to run for the party in the next election.

Late last year, Mr. Anders publicly mused about starting his own conservative think-tank once his 17-year career as an MP ends in 2015.

Mr. Anders is well-known for his controversial conservative views in Ottawa, having called Nelson Mandela a terroristinsulting Canadian veteranscalling for war against Russia, and blaming Thomas Mulcair for hastening the death of former NDP leader Jack Layton.

The 17-year Conservative MP was recently featured in a YouTube video, where controversial Calgary street preacher Art Pawlowski, flanked by Gospel Elvis, dedicates a prayer to Mr. Anders. (Cabinet minister Ric McIver took heat for his support of Mr. Pawlowski’s activities, including the anti-gay March for Jesus, during the 2014 leadership contest).

New Wildrose leader on March 28
Linda Osinchuk Wildrose Sherwood Park Leadership

Linda Osinchuk

Anticipating a provincial election within weeks, the Wildrose Party executive decided to push forward the date of its leadership contest to March 28, 2015. A 12-day phone-in vote will take place from March 18 to 28, 2015.

Candidates for the leadership include former Fort McMurray-Athabasca Conservative MP Brian Jean, former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk and Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes.

Shayne Saskiw MLA Wildrose

Shayne Saskiw

Ms. Osinchuk is already nominated as the party’s candidate in Sherwood Park and Mr. Barnes has secured the nomination in Cypress-Medicine Hat.

Rumours have been circulating that Mr. Jean could run in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills if current Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw decides to leave provincial politics. The provincial constituency is located in the southern half of the federal riding Mr. Jean represented from 2004 to 2014 in the House of Commons.

Can Wildrose survive Rob Anders? Can floor crossers survive PC Party?

Melissa Mathieson Rob Anders Macleod Conservative Guns

Calgary-West MP Rob Anders with former Conservative nomination candidate Melissa Mathieson in Feb. 2014.

Initially turned away by Wildrose Party officials, controversial Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders has asked the Wildrose Party for a “waiver” to run for the party’s leadership. Having lost bids for federal Conservative nominations in Calgary-Signal Hill and Bow River last year, the controversial Mr. Anders, 42, is scrambling to salvage his 18 year long political career.

Derek Fildebrandt Alberta Taxpayers

Derek Fildebrandt

Before crossing the floor to the PC Party, former leader Danielle Smith publicly told Mr. Anders that he was not welcome to run for the Wildrose Party. But now with the party weakened and without a leader, Mr. Anders may be in a position to mobilize his legions of social conservatives to win the leadership.

Also said to be considering a run for the Wildrose leadership are former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk (a nominated candidate in Sherwood Park), former lobbyist Derek Fildebrandt (running for a nomination in Strathmore-Brooks) and Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes.

Can the PC-Wildrose MLAs survive?
Kerry Towle

Kerry Towle

It appears that all or most former Wildrose MLAs who crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives in the final months of 2014 will face strong competitions to win their new party’s nominations to run in the next election.

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Rod Fox is facing former Ponoka Mayor Larry Henkleman and businessman Peter DewitInnisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle is facing Red Deer County Mayor Jim WoodCardston-Taber-Warner MLA Gary Bikman is being challenged by Taber Reeve Brian Brewin, and Calgary-Shaw MLA Jeff Wilson is being challenged by arch-conservative activist Craig Chandler.

If Olds-Disbury-Three Hills MLA Bruce Rowe decides to seek re-election, he will face a challenge from Olds Town Councillor Wade Bearchell, who is already campaigning for the PC nomination. Medicine Hat MLA Blake Pedersen is also expected to face a strong challenge and Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson has already announced he will not run for re-election.

Immediately following the floor-crossings, Mr. Pedersen told the Medicine Hat News be believed their PC nominations were guaranteed, but that appears to be a key bargaining position the 9 Wildrose MLAs asked for and were denied before they joined the PCs.

Now the question is how many of the Wildrose-turned-PC MLAs can survive to run in the next election? Could a potential cabinet shuffle save their political careers?

What are PC-Wildrose MLAs are saying about being in government?

Olds-Disbury-Three Hills MLA Bruce Rowe (Olds Albertan):

“You know, it’s a shame to have to say this, but it’s amazing to me the doors that are open since I crossed the floor. I get into ministers’ office(s) and get things done. It’s just – it’s amazing. It’s really not the way it should be, but it is the way it is.”

What are PC MLAs saying about the PC-Wildrose MLAs?

Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Doug Horner (Spruce Grove Examimer):

“This shows that was all politics. That’s unfortunate, and we will have to let that go. But I think everybody should understand that when they make accusations like that and then (cross the floor), it’s obvious there was a lot of political motivation there and not a lot of fact,” Mr. Horner said.

“I’d like to see us stop with the unfounded character assassination — and I think that will stop from them.”

Edmonton-Castle Downs MLA Thomas Lukaszuk (Calgary Herald): 

“It’s sort of like that neighbour that screams at you all the time and calls the cops on you once in a while now moves into your house,” Mr. Lukaszuk said. “You sort of work around it and make it work. At the end of the day you have to focus on the prize — and that’s representing your constituents and making good decisions as a government.”


I will be taking a short break from blogging for the next week. In my absence, take a look at David Climenhaga‘s excellent blog at AlbertaPolitics.ca.

 

Friday morning provincial candidate nomination updates from Alberta

Bridget Pastoor Lethbridge-East MLA

Bridget Pastoor

Alberta MLAs will return to the Legislature for a spring sitting on March 10, 2015, the Progressive Conservative Party plans to have candidates nominated in all 87 constituencies by March 15, 2015 and Finance Minister Robin Campbell is expected to introduce a provincial budget in late March. It would be hard to find stronger indicators that an April 2015 provincial general election is on the horizon.

And as the PC Party plans to hold 35 nomination meetings on a February 21 “Super Saturday,” candidates have already begun to step up to run for nominations. The quickly approaching deadline and impending election will also force incumbent MLAs whether they will seek another term in the Legislative Assembly.

Maria Fitzpatrick Lethbridge NDP

Maria Fitzpatrick

In Lethbridge-East, PC MLA Bridget Pastoor announced this week that she would not seek re-election. The departure of the three-term MLA, who was elected as a Liberal in 2004 and 2008 before crossing the floor in 2011, will make Lethbridge-East a race to watch in the next election. Before Ms. Pastoor’s floor crossing, the constituency had been represented by Liberal MLAs since 1993.

With the prospect of gains following Shannon Phillips impressive performance in Lethbridge-West in 2012, the NDP chose Maria Fitzpatrick as their Lethbridge-East candidate this week in a three-way contest.

Mike Allen MLA

Mike Allen

In the heart of oil sands country, Fort McMurray-Conklin MLA Don Scott and Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Mike Allen announced they will once again seek the PC nominations in their constituencies. Mr. Allen may face a nomination challenge following his controversial first term, which included being arrested on prostitution related charges while on a government trip to Minneapolis, USA and his resulting time as an Independent MLA. He was fined $500 plus court costs after pleading guilty and was allowed to rejoin the PC caucus.

In Airdrie, the retirement of PC-turned-Wildrose-returned-PC MLA Rob Anderson has led to speculation that 2012 PC candidate and city councillor Kelly Hegg and Mayor Peter Brown may seek the PC nomination.

Blake Pedersen MLA Medicine Hat

Blake Pedersen

In Medicine Hat, Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Blake Pedersen could face two challengers for the PC nomination. Former city councillor John Hamill, 77, has expressed interest in the nomination, as has 2012 PC candidate Darren Hirsch.

Danny Fieldberg has announced plans to seek the PC nomination in Cypress-Medicine Hat , a constituency currently represented by Wildrose MLA Drew Barnes. Mr. Barnes is looked at as potential leadership replacement for retiring Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Heather Forsyth, who has served as interim leader of the Wildrose Party since Danielle Smith abandoned her former party on December 17, 2014.

Jack Hayden PC Drumheller Stettler

Jack Hayden

Stettler County councillor Greggory Jackson announced plans in November 2014 to seek the PC nomination in Drumheller-Stettler. The constituency is currently represented by Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman. Former PC MLA Jack Hayden and former business owner Ed Mah have also announced plans to enter the PC nomination race.

Olds Town Councillor Wade Bearchell has announced his intentions to challenge Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Bruce Rowe for the PC nomination in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills.

“My sense is that people are angry and upset and I know that the people of the constituency want somebody that they can believe in — that they trust,” Mr. Bearchell told the Olds Albertan in response to Mr. Rowe’s floor crossing on Dec. 17, 2014.


I have updated 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.

Who will be the next leader of the Wildrose Party?

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

After 11 of the party’s 16 MLAs crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives in November and December 2014, the conservative opposition Wildrose Party was thrown into chaos. Left without its most public faces, notably former leader Danielle Smith, the party will choose its next permanent leader sometime in the next year, likely between the months of March and September.

Soon-to-be-retired Member of Parliament Rob Anders said he will not run and Conservative Godfather Preston Manning would likely not be welcomed to join after he admitted to accidentally convincing the MLAs to abandon their party.

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes has been named as a natural choice for the leadership spot. Unknown to most Albertans, Mr. Barnes is the lone remaining Wildrose MLA, other than interim leader Heather Forsyth, to step into the spotlight in the weeks following the floor crossing. Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills MLA Shayne Saskiw has also been mentioned as a potential leadership candidate.

Shayne Saskiw MLA Wildrose

Shayne Saskiw

It is unclear whether the other remaining MLAs – Rick Strankman and Pat Stier – are interested in contesting the leadership.

Lawyer Richard Jones, the party’s nominated candidate in Calgary-Acadia, has been mentioned as a potential candidate, as has former lobby group spokesperson Derek Fildebrandt.

If the Wildrose Party waits too long to select a new leader, they could find themselves facing a provincial election without a permanent leader. On January 10, 2015, the PC Party Executive Board will meet and it is suspected they will discuss whether to keep the June 1st nomination timeline or whether to advance it in preparation for a Spring 2015 election.

Crossing the floor a last minute decision
Bruce McAllister MLA Wildrose PC

Bruce McAllister

The abruptness of the floor crossings shocked party supporters, political watchers and even some of the MLAs who crossed the floor.

“I too was shocked,” Chestermere-Rocky View MLA Bruce McAllister told the Rocky View Weekly. Mr. McAllister told the newspaper that he did not consult with his constituency prior to crossing the floor because the window of opportunity was quickly closing.

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Rod Fox told The Chautauqua that he “made an extremely difficult decision to join the governing PC Party of Alberta … a decision that was reached after many hours of agonizing and soul searching.”

“I finally made my decision moments before it was due,” Mr. Fox said.

Blake Pedersen MLA Medicine Hat

Blake Pedersen

In another bizarre addition to the floor crossing story, it appears that Medicine Hat MLA Blake Pedersen was on vacation in Australia when he crossed the floor to the PC Party. On the day of the floor crossings, Mr. Pedersen sent his statement to reporters in the form of a text message from Down Under.

Despite previously embracing a mantra that leaned heavily on “consulting constituents,” it does not appear any consultation actually occurred before the MLAs quit their party.

But as Maclean’s writer Colby Cosh suggests, Albertans angry with the floor crossings are likely to move on and forget the former Wildrose MLAs transgressions.

Another Wildrose candidate drops out

The nominated Wildrose candidate in Strathcona-Sherwood Park has announced he is dropping out of the raceBrian Tiessen was nominated in a contested race in October 2014 against County Councillor Vic Bidzinski. He is one of a handful of nominated Wildrose candidates to forfeit their candidacies following the mass floor crossing on Dec. 17, 2014.

In a neighbouring constituency, former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk tweeted that she will remain the nominated Wildrose candidate in Sherwood Park. Ms. Osinchuk will face PC MLA Cathy Olesen, a former mayor who Ms. Osinchuk defeated in the 2010 municipal elections.