A Progressive Conservative MLA is appealing a decision by a Conservative Party of Canada committee to disqualify him as a nomination candidate in the newly created Edmonton-West federal riding, according to reliable sources.
(see updates below)
It remains unclear why the committee chose to disqualify Edmonton-McClung MLA David Xiao, who announced his entry into the contest in March 2014.
If Mr. Xiao’s disqualification is upheld by the Conservative Party National Council, it is expected that Edmonton hotel manager Kelly McCauley will be acclaimed as the party’s candidate for the next federal election.
Since his election in 2008, Mr. Xiao has served as the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Energy, Minister of Transportation and the Minister of Employment and Immigration. He faced public criticism after claiming travel expenses of nearly $35,000 in 2012, even though his constituency is located in Edmonton, Alberta’s provincial capital.
The Conservative Party is expected to respond to Mr. Xiao’s appeal this week.
Contributing to more potential controversy, a lawyer representing Mr. Xiao recently informed Wildrose Official Opposition leader Danielle Smithand Innisfail-SylvanLake Wildrose MLA Kerry Towlethat he planned to issue notices under Alberta’s Defamation Act.
UPDATE (October 15, 2014): Mr. Xiao has released a statement confirming he is appealing his disqualification as a nomination candidate by the Conservative Party in Edmonton-West.
UPDATE (October 16, 2014): According to reliable sources, Mr. Xiao’s appeal has been rejected by the Conservative Party of Canada National Council. Mr. McCauley is expected to be acclaimed as the candidate in Edmonton-West.
As the Progressive Conservatives brandish their new slogan, “A new era for Alberta,” many Albertans might be confused about which political party has been in power for the past 43 years.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines an era as “a long and distinct period of history.”
If we were to apply the geological time scale of the Earth to Alberta politics, we would now find ourselves in the Honeymoon Period of the Prentice Era of the Progressive Conservative Eon (I will resist the temptation to name any political dinosaurs).
And despite the PC Party Eon having stretched more than four decades, PC Party candidates in four Alberta by-elections being held on October 27 are not running on their party’s record as the government since 1971. They are running on their party’s record since Jim Prentice became leader of the PC Party on September 6, 2014.
And it is too early to tell whether Mr. Prentice will oversee “a long and distinct period.” His two most recent predecessors each lasted less than five years in office.
The PC Party’s “new era” slogan is somewhat reminiscent of another slogan used by Harry Strom‘s Social Credit Party as the 36 year old governing party tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to win re-election in 1971. But, unlike the Socreds in the 1970s, the PC Party has become masterful at reinvention, consistently rebranding their party since Peter Lougheed retired in 1984.
Unlike Mr. Strom, who was overshadowed by his popular and larger than life predecessor, Ernest Manning, Mr. Prentice would never be caught in public uttering the words “Alison” or “Redford.” But while the PC Party tries to put their recently departed leader’s legacy behind them, the opposition parties and candidates will eagerly remind voters about the past two years of PC government.
Just two years ago, the PC Party led by Alison Redford were re-elected in a hotly contested campaign under the slogan “Real life leadership” (see the campaign advertisement above). This slogan was a reference to both Ms. Redford’s time spent overseas as a United Nations lawyer and provided contrast with her predecessor, Ed Stelmach, and the perceived inexperience of Wildrose leader Danielle Smith.
During the 2012 election campaign, a controversial advertisement published in some urban newspapers featured the slogan “Not your father’s PC Party,” which suggested to younger and more liberal-minded Albertans that the PC Party had entered a new era (and again provided a contrast to the perceived social conservative values of the Wildrose Party).
Six years ago, borrowing from the success of Barack Obama‘s “Change we can believe in” slogan, the PC Party led by Mr. Stelmach chose “Change that works for Albertans” as their slogan in the 2008 election. The slogan suggested that Mr. Stelmach’s main opposition, the Liberals, would provide change that would not work for Albertans.
Like his successors, the PC Party under Mr. Stelmach worked hard to distance itself from the legacy of his predecessor, Ralph Klein.
In the four by-elections being held at the end of October 2014, the opposition parties are also using new slogans to help brand their campaigns. “Send the PCs a message” is a slogan being used by the Wildrose Party, and it is meant to remind Albertans that by-elections are an opportunity to show dissatisfaction with the PC Party’s past two years of scandal and misdeeds.
The NDP are using the slogan “Albertans deserve better,” which is a true statement, but it seems unlikely that most Albertans outside Edmonton city limits are about to look to the NDP as a better choice.
While slogans alone will not win or lose an election campaign, they can cleverly help define the narrative each party or candidate is advancing and can serve as a rallying cry for or against voters choosing change at the ballot box.
If you have a few moments after reading this post, I encourage you to take a glance at the extensive ‘List of Political Slogans‘ page on Wikipedia.
You are Jim Prentice. You have the podium and the attention of Alberta’s media. You are the next Premier of Alberta. You can dream big. You could promise to replace all of Alberta’s aging hospitals by 2020, to build a high-speed railway from Calgary to Edmonton, to forge a new relationship with municipalities through Big City Charters, or reinvent the way Alberta is governed. Heck, you could even promise to implement your party’s long-list of unfulfilled promises from the last election.
While many Albertans will probably support the idea of term-limits for their elected officials, from a practical standpoint it does not appear that a lack of term-limits are a real problem in Alberta politics. By my count, 80% of Alberta’s 86 current MLAs were elected within the last ten years and the last two Premiers – Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford – did not survive two terms in office.
The most recent notable exception was Ken Kowalski, who retired before the last election after 33 years as a PC MLA (and his three decade long political career in provincial politics is very uncommon). The current longest serving MLA is Pearl Calahasen, who has represented Lesser Slave Lake since 1989.
Promises of term-limits are also not a new issue in Alberta politics. Wildrose leader Danielle Smith said in 2012 that, if elected, she would only serve two-terms as Premier (her party constitution had it enshrined until it was removed in 2013). And, in 2011, PC leadership candidate Ted Morton proposed term-limits for Premiers.
Despite Mr. Prentice’s announcement, not long ago, the PC Party mocked and demonized their opponents for proposing term-limits for MLAs and the Premier. In a 2010 newsletter, the party he wants to lead compared MLA term-limits to “the whims of an Ayatollah or a general.”
The timing of this announcement is notable. On August 23, 2014, Alberta’s PC Party will become Canada’s longest-serving governing party ever (beating the record of the Nova Scotia Liberals, who governed that province from 1882 to 1925). And August 30, 2014 will mark 43 years since the PC Party won its first election in 1971. Perhaps term-limits for parties in government is a more worthwhile idea (but probably just as hard to implement).
It is hard to see Mr. Prentice’s term-limit pledge as anything but an attempt to distract Albertans from lacklustre leadership contest and the ongoing government spending and airplane scandals (and the PC government’s unwillingness to take responsibility for its actions).
Mr. Prentice’s front-runner campaign is appearing less dynamic and more vulnerable each day and rumours continue to circulate that less than 30,000 PC Party memberships have been sold, compared to more than 100,000 that were sold in that party’s 2011 contest.
With two weeks left before PC members vote to chose their next leader, Mr. Prentice’s campaign is desperately trying to spark some excitement in the minds of its supporters. With today’s term-limit announcement, they appear to have missed the mark, by a long-shot.
A report from Auditor GeneralMerwan Saher released this week found no evidence that the Department of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development has properly monitored the performance of the PC Government’s climate change strategy which was first implemented in 2008. The report also uncovered serious problems with the province’s expensive Carbon Capture and Storage strategy.
Since it was first announced in 2008, the PC government has committed to hand over more than a billion public dollars to the world’s largest energy companies, including Shell, to develop ways to bottle carbon dioxide deep in the ground.
Progressive Conservative leader-presumptive Jim Prentice dismissed the provincial government’s expensive Carbon Capture and Storage strategy, saying he would move away from the unproven technology. This echoes what the former federal minister told the Globe & Mail editorial board in 2009: “CCS is not the silver bullet in the oil sands.”
Mr. Prentice characterized the project a “science experiment,” which is a generous description (I refer to it as unicorn science).
“It was apparent to the department that the expected reductions from carbon capture and storage will not be achieved. Carbon capture and storage in the 2008 strategy represents the majority of forecasted emission reductions. However, with only two carbon capture and storage projects planned, the total emissions reductions are expected to be less than 10% of what was originally anticipated.” – Auditor General’s report on Alberta’s Climate Change strategy, July 2014 (Page 39)
Not surprisingly, the Auditor General also reports that Alberta is unlikely to meet its 2020 targets to reduce carbon emissions.
I am not sure what is worse: being a climate change denier or believing in climate change but not seriously doing anything to stop it?
Under Premiers Ed Stelmach,Alison Redford and now Dave Hancock, the PC government used funding unproven Carbon Capture and Storage technology to convince the international community and investors that Alberta can ‘green’ the oil sands. While the oil sands represents the fastest-growing source of carbon emissions in Canada, some of Alberta’s largest emissions result from of our large coal burning industry.
But it was not as if no one saw this coming. In 2008, a leaked government memo from a University of Calgary researcher suggested that Carbon Capture and Storage would do little to reduce carbon emissions emanating from Alberta’s oil sands. The report by researcher Dr. David Keith wrote that not enough of the oil sands carbon dioxide could be captured because most emissions are not concentrated enough.
A report by the Munk School of Global Affairs released in 2009 described the Carbon Capture and Storage plan as “sheer folly.” At the same time, Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Kent Hehr characterized Carbon Capture and Storage as an expensive “experiment” and the Wildrose opposition has said many times that it would cancel the project outright (although any government would likely be contractually obligated to complete some of the project funding already committed – or spend funds on legal bills resulting from broken contracts).
PC leadership candidate Thomas Lukaszuk, who served as a senior cabinet minister from 2010 to 2014, told the media that he continues to support the project.
As a public relations exercise, Carbon Capture and Storage has come with a high price. Allocated more intelligently, the hundreds of millions of public dollars spent on Carbon Capture and Storage could have helped Alberta become a world leader in smart innovation and research and development of renewable energy or sustainable transportation.
In party leadership races, endorsements by sitting MLAs can be a double-edged sword. Endorsements can lend credibility to candidates and individual MLAs own local political networks to the campaign. Large numbers of endorsements can also signal to rank and file party members where their party’s establishment is lining up.
But MLA endorsements are not always a solid indicator of who will win a party leadership vote. In 2006, Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Jim Dinning had the support of the majority of PC MLAs, but he was defeated by Ed Stelmach. In 2011, Gary Mar had the support of a majority of PC MLAs, but he was defeated by Alison Redford.
In this year’s Alberta PC Party leadership race, bank vice-president Jim Prentice has the overwhelming lead in MLA endorsements. As of today, I count at least 15 PC MLAs who have lent their names to support his campaign to become their leader. More are expected to endorse Mr. Prentice:
MLA’s endorsing Mr. Prentice’s bid for the PC leadership are Manmeet Bhullar (Calgary-Greenway), Neil Brown (Calgary-Nose Hill), Robin Campbell (West Yellowhead), Alana DeLong (Calgary-Bow), Jonathan Denis (Calgary-Acadia), David Dorward (Edmonton-Gold Bar), Kyle Fawcett (Calgary-Klein), Doug Griffiths (Battle River-Wainwright), Fred Horne (Edmonton-Rutherford) Ken Hughes (Calgary-West), Jeff Johnson (Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater), Diana McQueen (Drayton Valley-Devon), Dave Rodney (Calgary-Lougheed), George Rogers (Leduc-Beaumont), Greg Weadick (Lethbridge-West).
The only other candidate to enter the leadership race, Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver, has no declared support from inside the PC caucus. Thomas Lukaszuk, who is expected to enter the contest, also has yet to receive any MLA endorsements.
Calgary-Hawkwood MLA Jason Luan and Banff-Cochrane MLA Ron Casey endorsed the short-lived leadership campaign of Ken Hughes, who is now endorsing Mr. Prentice.
Nineteen days have passed since former Premier Alison Redfordannounced her resignation and not one candidate has officially announced their intentions to enter the race to become the next leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives.
But there is at least one unofficial candidate, maybe. Municipal Affairs minister Ken Hughes made the strange move of resigning from cabinet yesterday, but would not yet say whether he would enter the race. Mr. Hughes’ recently announced he would launch an “exploratory committee” to gauge support for a leadership bid.
Aside from Mr. Horner, whose political family dynasty stands on its own, most of the potential candidates are tied to the legacy and culture of entitlement that forced Ms. Redford to resign.
And unlike previous PC leadership races, which were billed by the establishment as the “real election,” because the next leader was virtually guaranteed to be the premier after the next election, this race cannot provide that guarantee.
There has been talk of potential outsiders interested in the race.
Former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice would be a strong candidate, but most political watchers suspect has loftier ambitions to become the next resident of 24 Sussex Drive when Prime Minister Stephen Harper retires. His entry into the race would also force him to leave a very lucrative job as a vice-president of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.
All about the numbers
Over the course of its 43 years in government, the PC Party has shown a remarkable ability to survive and reinvent itself. But can Alberta’s natural governing party survive a lacklustre or uninspiring leadership race?
Regardless of how many candidates enter, there will be comparisons drawn from previous contests. If the race fails to inspire widespread interest, membership sales could be lower than previous races that drew large sales of memberships.
In 2006, 144,289 PC Party members voted in the second ballot of the leadership vote that was won by Ed Stelmach.
Five years later in 2011, 78,176 PC Party members voted in the second ballot of the contest that selected Ms. Redford as leader.
After a short 898 days as Premier of Alberta, Alison Redford announced today that she plans to resign as premier and leader of the Progressive Conservatives on Sunday, March 23, 2014.
After facing months of controversy over travel expenses and weeks of turmoil in her caucus, Ms. Redford faced the prospects of an MLA revolt unless she took drastic action. With two recent MLA defections and indications that more were to come, it had become clear that Ms. Redford had lost control over her caucus, suggesting that her departure was imminent.
Preferring international travel to the day to day business of governing, she faced internal criticism for being inaccessible to her party’s MLAs, many who felt completely disconnected from the business of governing. Many chalked it up to her having been appointed straight into cabinet when she was first elected as an MLA in 2008.
Her departure is not unexpected, as the PC Party has proven itself ruthless towards leaders who threaten its chances of re-election. But while delivering her farewell speech in the Rotunda of the Legislative Assembly Building tonight, Ms. Redford was graceful in her departure. She looked and sounded like a Premier should.
Many Albertans, myself included, had great hope for Ms. Redford when she was chosen as the leader of the PC Party in 2011. After forty years in power, Alberta’s natural governing party had grown stodgy and complacent. Casting herself as a progressive conservative in the mould of former premier Peter Lougheed, she attracted the support of many non-traditional PC supporters – liberals, moderates, trade unionists and even soft-New Democrats.
And with the help of that new electoral coalition, Ms. Redford defeated the conservative Wildrose Party in our province’s most hotly contested election in memory. There was hope but Ms. Redford and her party were quick to disappoint.
While the Redford Tories continued the smart infrastructure investments begun under previous premier Ed Stelmach, they quickly turned against many of the moderate voters who supported the party in 2012.
Deep cuts to post-secondary education, cuts to supports for people with developmental disabilities, harsh anti-labour legislation, and drastic changes to pension plans have helped alienate many professionals and public sector workers who would have otherwise gladly continued to support her. Instead of being humbled by their near defeat in 2012, the PC Party has become more arrogant. After 43 years of power, they act as if they were invincible.
The divided and disgruntled PC caucus will soon appoint an interim leader who will serve until the PC Party chooses their next leader in four to six months. The Alison Redford experiment has come to an ugly end and the natural governing party now faces the challenge of once again reinventing itself under a new leader.
If the next leader succeeds to repair the aging institutional party, the PC dynasty may continue after the next election. If the next leader fails to convince Albertans that the PC Party is worthy of continuing to govern, it may fall in the next election.
Another Progressive Conservative MLA is about to jump into the federal arena. Edmonton-McClung PC MLA David Xiao will announce this week that he will seek the Conservative Party nomination in Edmonton-West.
An email circulated to Conservative supporters in Edmonton says that Mr. Xiao will make the announcement at 10 a.m on Tuesday March 4th, 2014 at the Edmonton Glenora Club. The email included a pamphlet with endorsements from former premier Ed Stelmach, former mayor Stephen Mandel, former cabinet minister Ted Morton and current cabinet ministers Jonathan Denis and Manmeet Bhullar.
After failing to secure the Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Centre in advance of the 2004 election, Mr. Xiao unseated Liberal MLA Mo Elsalhy in 2008. He defeated Mr. Elsalhy in a rematch in the 2012 election. Mr. Xiao has been criticized for claiming extravegant travel expenses, which were $35,000 in 2012.
Mr. Xiao is the third MLA to jump into federal politics.
Calgary-Foothills PC MLA Len Webber is seeking the Conservative nomination in Calgary-Confederation.
The Wildrose Caucus has released a flashy new YouTube video encouraging Progressive Conservative MLAs to join the Official Opposition.
The video begins with two former PC MLAs making the pitch to cross the floor. “I was nervous when I first did I, but I have to tell you, it is so much better over here,” Wildrose MLA Heather Forsyth says in the video. “It’s not you, it’s them,” Rob Anderson testifies.
The rest of the video includes short clips of testimonials and pleas from Wildrose MLAs to their PC MLA colleagues. “It’s not your fault, your party left you. Come on over,” a welcoming Ms. Smith says in the final clip.
It is yet to be seen if any PC MLAs will accept the opposition offer.
UPDATE: Delegates to the PC Party convention in Red Deer have voted 77% not to hold a leadership review, leaving Ms. Redford firmly in the leader’s chair for the time being. This is a solid endorsement, though the vote indicates that opposition inside her party ranks is still a concern.
This “teaser” video released before the Progressive Conservative Party Annual Meeting focuses on “trust.”
There was no mention of the ‘Socred Retreads‘ in Premier Alison Redford‘s speech to Progressive Conservative Party faithful last night. Unlike her speech to her party’s annual general meeting in November 2012, Ms. Redford took no partisan thrusts at the opposition Wildrose Party during her speech at this year’s PC Party convention. Instead, she promised to continue her party’s “legacy of success.“
Demonstrating the organizational strength of a party that has been in office for 42 years, the PC Party is said to have drawn up to 1,500 delegates and observers to their annual convention in Red Deer.
Although the event has attracted the attention of partisan faithful, most regular Albertans turned elsewhere for their Friday evening entertainment. According to the ticker on the party’s website, only 40 viewers appeared to tune in to the the online streaming of Ms. Redford’s opening speech. With the Grey Cup kicking off tomorrow in Saskatchewan, the Canadian Football League will attract significantly more attention for the Saskatchewan Roughriders – Hamilton Tiger-Cats game.
While delegates will spend time today discussing issues and party policy, the main event of this weekend’s gathering is Ms. Redford’s leadership review. Each delegate will have the opportunity to vote on whether they would like to hold a leadership race to replace Ms. Redford or to keep the current leadership.
Managing expectations before the vote, staunch supporters of the Premier began to lower expectations this week. Former party campaign manager Susan Elliott told the Globe & Mail that “Anything in the 60s is good. And anything in the 70s is actually a triumph.” While Ms. Redford does have her detractors inside her caucus and party, and recent budget cuts have threatened to unravel her new electoral coalition of moderates and former Liberals, it appears unlikely that party faithful will turn on their leader this weekend.
With Ms. Redford’s staff working hard to stack the meeting with supporters, it would be an organizational failure if her support at this convention reaches even the low 70% range.