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Alberta Election Candidates Nominations

Sunday candidate nomination update in Alberta

Some Progressive Conservative Party supporters are privately expressing frustration with the decision by Premier Jim Prentice and his cabinet ministers to openly campaign and endorse incumbent PC MLAs and Wildrose floor crossers facing nomination challenges. One PC member who contacted this blogger described it as a missed opportunity to renew the PC government with new blood.

By my count, the PCs have candidates in place in 51 of 87 constituencies across the province. The New Democratic Party have chosen 39 candidates and the Wildrose Party have 32 candidates in place. The Liberals have 7 candidates nominated and the Alberta Party has six. The Green Party has nominated two candidates.

Here are the latest updates to the growing list of candidates running for provincial party nominations in Alberta:

Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater: Colin Piquette, son of former New Democratic Party MLA Leo Piquette, is seeking the NDP nomination. Mr. Piquette was the 2001 NDP candidate in the former Athabasca-Wabasca constituency, where he placed third with 9.5% of the vote.

Banff-Cochrane: First-term PC MLA Ron Casey has been acclaimed as his party’s candidate. Registered Nurse Cameron Westhead has also been acclaimed as the NDP candidate in this constituency.

Calgary-Buffalo: Lawyer Kathleen Ganley is seeking the NDP nomination in this downtown Calgary constituency. Buffalo is currently represented by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, who is leaving provincial politics to run for the federal Liberals in Calgary-Centre.

Calgary-Currie: First-term MLA Christine Cusanelli defeated former political staffer Dustin Franks. Ms. Cusanelli served as Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation for less than a year before an Olympic travel spending scandal led to her demotion to the backbenches.

Calgary-Glenmore: Former Wildrose Party constituency vice-president Terrence Lo has announced he will seek the Alberta Party nomination in this constituency. Mr. Low left the Wildrose Party after the party split over support equal rights for sexual minorities.

Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill: Past city council candidate Richard Poon is seeking the PC nomination. Also challenging incumbent PC MLA Neil Brown are Ako Ufodike and Gary Milan.

Calgary-Mountain View: Christopher McMillan and instructional designer Mirical MacDonald are seeking the NDP nomination. Mr. McMillan was the NDP candidate in this constituency in the 2012 election, when he earned 5% of the vote.

Calgary-North West: Christopher Blatch has been acclaimed as the Alberta Party candidate.

Calgary-ShawBrad Leishman has been acclaimed as the Wildrose candidate in this south Calgary constituency.

Calgary-Varsity: Lawyer Susan Billington is seeking the PC nomination. Ms. Billington is a mediator and Municipal Councillor for the Kananaskis Improvement District. She is also the wife of Richard Billington, a well-known Calgary Tory who challenged Joan Crockatt for the federal Conservative nomination in Calgary-Centre in 2012. Her son Jim was a staffer on Mr. Prentice’s PC leadership campaign and now works as Chief of Staff to Minister of Culture and Tourism Maureen Kubinec.

Calgary-West: Mount Royal University economics professor Gerard Lucyshyn is the nominated Wildrose candidate. Mr. Lucyshyn was a candidate for the federal Conservative nomination in Bow River in 2014.

Cypress-Medicine Hat: Bev Waege was acclaimed as the NDP candidate.

Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley: Marg McCuaig Boyd is seeking the NDP nomination in this northwest rural Alberta constituency. Ms. McCuaig Boyd served as Vice-President Fairview for Grande Prairie Regional College from 2009 until 2013 and was a teacher and administrator with the Peace River School Division for more than 20 years.

Most of the area included in this constituency was represented by NDP leader and MLA Grant Notley from 1971 until 1984. Mr. Notley is the father of current NDP leader Rachel Notley.

Edmonton-Castle Downs: Former Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk has been acclaimed as the PC candidate in this north Edmonton constituency. Mr. Lukaszuk was first elected in 2001 and served in cabinet until he ran for the PC leadership in 2014.

Edmonton-Meadowlark: Jon Carson is seeking the NDP nomination in this west Edmonton constituency.

Edmonton-Mill Woods: Past city council candidate Roberto Maglalang is seeking the Liberal nomination. In 2013, Mr. Maglalang finished with 2.8% of the vote in southeast Edmonton’s Ward 11.

Grande Prairie-SmokyTodd Loewen has been acclaimed as the Wildrose candidate. As his party’s candidate in 2012, Mr. Loewen earned 41% of the vote.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake: Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Kerry Towle defeated Red Deer County mayor Jim Wood for the PC nomination. In 2012, Mr. Wood had endorsed former MLA Luke Ouellette, who was defeated by Ms. Towle in that year’s election.

Leduc-BeaumontShayne Anderson has been acclaimed as the NDP candidate.

Lacombe-PonokaDoug Hart has been acclaimed as the NDP candidate. Mr. Hart earned 10% of the vote as the NDP candidate in this constituency in the 2012 election.

Lethbridge-East: Legal counsel Tammy Perlich defeated former Lethbridge County reeve Lorne Hickey. This was Mr. Hickey’s second attempt at securing the PC nomination in Lethbridge-East.

Livingstone-MacLeod: Aileen Burke was acclaimed as the NDP candidate. Ms. Burke was the NDP candidate in the 2014 federal by-election in Macleod, where she earned 4.2% of the vote.

Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills: Central Alberta rancher Glenn Norman has been acclaimed as the NDP candidate. Mr. Norman has been described as a “vocal member” of the Alberta Surface Rights Federation and in 2009 was a spokesman for the Pine Lake Surface Rights Action Group.

Peace River: Debbie Jabbour has been acclaimed as the NDP candidate.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Sean Weatherall is seeking the NDP nomination.

St. Albert: Marie Renaud is seeking the NDP nomination. Ms. Renaud is the executive director of LoSeCa Foundation, an organization

Sherwood Park: Community Engagement consultant and social planner Annie McKitrick has been acclaimed as the NDP candidate. Ms. McKitrick is also nominated as the federal NDP candidate in the new Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan riding.

Strathmore-Brooks: Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Jason Hale announced he is retiring from provincial politics. Mr. Hale, show was first elected in 2012, faced a nomination challenge from County of Newell Reeve Molly Douglass. 


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

Thursday morning candidate nomination updates in Alberta

Alberta PC Nomination Spruce Grove St AlbertOn February 21, Rus Matichuk celebrated his victory over former city councillor Neil Korotash and government spokesperson Kathleen Range in the Progressive Conservative nomination contest in Spruce Grove-St. Albert. But yesterday, the PC Party announced that due to “errors” in the voting process a second vote will need to be held on March 14, 2015.

“It has been found that 4 ballots were cast by individuals ineligible to vote.  The riding has been directed by PC Alberta to have this vote redone as the votes for the candidates was very close,” PC nominations committee chairperson Carol Stewart told the St. Albert Leader.

Here are the latest updates to the growing list of candidates running in Alberta’s next provincial election:

Calgary-Klein: Noel Keough, professor in the Faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary, is running for the Green Party.

Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill: Ako Ufodike, PhD Management student in Accounting at the University of Calgary, is challenging MLA Neil Brown for the PC nomination.

Calgary-Varsity: University of Calgary Students’ Union Vice-President Academic Hana Kadri  has announced plans to seek the PC nomination. Also rumoured to be eyeing the PC nomination is Sam Shaw, former President of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton and current vice-president of the right-wing Manning Centre.

Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley: Former Member of Parliament Albert Cooper, school principal Nigel McCarthy, Donnelly-area farmer Rhonda Clarke-Gauthier, and Edmonton-base lawyer Gordon Andreiuk have entered the PC nomination contest to replace retiring MLA Hector Goudreau. Mr. Cooper, who served as the PC MP for Peace River from 1980 to 1993, was previously seeking the federal Conservative nomination in the new Peace River-Westlock constituency, but has now switched his focus to provincial politics.

Edmonton Beverly-Clareview: Articling law student Harman Kandola is seeking the PC nomination. Mr. Kandola is also the Executive Director of the Punjabi Sports Association Summer Soccer Camps.

Edmonton-Castle DownsNicole Goehring was acclaimed as the New Democratic Party candidate in this northwest Edmonton constituency.

Edmonton-Centre: Five-term Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman has been acclaimed as her party’s candidate for the next election. Ms. Blakeman made headlines last fall for leading the debate in favour of allowing student-created Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools.

Edmonton-Manning: Second-term PC MLA Peter Sandhu is seeking his party’s nomination for re-election. Mr. Sandhu sat as an Independent MLA from May to December 2013 during an Ethics Commissioner investigation into potential conflicts of interest.

Edmonton-Meadowlark: Former school trustee Debbie Cavaliere will face Dan Bildhauer in the Liberal Party’s March 3 nomination contest. Mr. Bildhauer is also seeking the federal Liberal nomination in Edmonton-West. Businessman Tom Choucair has joined the PC nomination contest. Mr. Choucair unsuccessfully sought the PC nomination in Edmonton-Riverview before the 2012 election.

Edmonton-Mill Creek: Liberal organizer Harpreet Gill is seeking the Liberal nomination. Mr. Gill is the co-founder of the Asianvision news magazine and sits on the boards of the provincial and federal Liberal Parties in Alberta.

HighwoodWayne Anderson has been acclaimed as the Wildrose candidate in this constituency currently represented by former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith. Mr. Anderson ran as his party’s candidate in Calgary-Hays in the 2012 election.

Livingstone-Macleod: Former Evan Berger was acclaimed as the PC candidate. Mr. Berger faced criticism after he landed a plum job in the public service after he was defeated in the 2012 election.

Lethbridge-East: William West defeated former Green candidate Helen McMenamin in this week’s Liberal nomination contest. Mr. West is a Peace Officer with Alberta’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement.

Peace RiverSherry Hilton, the manager at River City Cinema, has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.

Red Deer North : City Councillor Buck Buchanan, former city councillor Jeff Dawson, former city council candidate Matt Chapin and Red Deer County councillor Christine Moore are seeking the PC nomination. Current PC MLA Mary Anne Jablonski is not seeking re-election.


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

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.

 

A Dozen Alberta MLAs worth watching in 2015

12 Alberta MLAs to watch in 2015

Alberta MLAs to watch in 2015: Rob Anderson, Joe Anglin, Manmeet Bhullar, Laurie Blakeman, Robin Campbell, Gordon Dirks, Heather Forsyth, Kent Hehr, Thomas Lukaszuk, Stephen Mandel, Rachel Notley, Danielle Smith

As 2014 reminded us, politics can be an extraordinarily unpredictable and forecasting the future can be a tricky business for political pundits. Aside from the obvious choice of Premier Jim Prentice, here is a list of a dozen Alberta MLAs worth watching in 2015.

Rob Anderson Joe Anglin Manmeet Bhullar Laurie Blakeman MLA

Alberta MLAs Rob Anderson, Joe Anglin, Manmeet Bhullar and Laurie Blakeman

Rob Anderson (Airdrie): The outspoken rookie MLA left the PC Caucus in 2010 to join the upstart Wildrose Party. And in 2014, after two years as a loud and enthusiastic critic of the government, he was one of 9 Wildrose MLAs who crossed to the PC Caucus in December 2014. It is speculated that Mr. Anderson could end up with a cabinet post in early 2015, to the ire of his new caucus colleagues. He thrived in the limelight of the opposition benches but can he survive in the government benches?

Joe Anglin (Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre): Mr. Anglin left the Wildrose Caucus in November 2014 before his colleagues could vote him out. On his way out, he declared that “an internal civil war” was being waged inside the Wildrose Party. It was recently revealed that Mr. Anglin has been in discussions with the Liberals about forming a legislative coalition that could steal Official Opposition status away from the downsized Wildrose Caucus.

Manmeet Bhullar (Calgary-Greenway): A rising star in the PC Party. Mr. Bhullar rose in the ranks under premiers Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford and became one of Mr. Prentice’s lieutenants during his party’s lacklustre 2014 PC leadership contest. In his current role as Infrastructure Minister, he has a big influence over which public projects get funding.

Laurie Blakeman (Edmonton-Centre): As the longest serving opposition MLA, Ms. Blakeman is a feisty voice in the Assembly. Her Bill 202 reignited the debate around student-led Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools and demonstrated how uncomfortable an issue gay rights remains for many PC MLAs. With the Liberal Party moribund under its current leadership, it is difficult to tell what her political future holds.

Robin Campbell Gordon Dirks Heather Forsyth Kent Hehr Alberta MLA

Alberta MLAs Robin Campbell, Gordon Dirks, Heather Forsyth and Kent Hehr.

Robin Campbell (West Yellowhead): As the price of oil declines, the soft-spoken Mr. Campbell finds himself in a situation where he must deal with his party’s poor long-term financial planning. Unfortunately, the PC Caucus is reluctant to entertain the idea of more stable funding sources like sales taxes, a progressive taxation system or an increase in natural resource royalties. Look to Mr. Campbell to provide a more diplomatic approach to public sector pension changes, an issue that hastened the demise of his predecessor, Doug Horner.

Gordon Dirks (Calgary-Elbow): Missing in Action during the contentious Gay-Straight Alliances debate, Mr. Dirks’ connections to socially conservative Christian evangelical groups is a liability for the PC Party among moderate and liberal voters. He brings experience from his time as a Saskatchewan cabinet minister and a Calgary school trustee, but his religious connections and the accusations about allegedly politically-driven school announcements make him a lightening rod for opposition criticism.

Heather Forsyth (Calgary-Fish Creek): The interim leader of the Official Opposition is one of the longest serving MLAs in the Legislature. First elected as a PC MLA in 1993, Ms. Forsyth served in the cabinets of Ralph Klein before joining the Wildrose in 2010. Her big challenge is keep the Wildrose Remnant alive and relevant as her party chooses their next leader in early 2015.

Kent Hehr (Calgary-Buffalo): This respected, hard-working MLA is aiming to become the first Liberal Member of Parliament in Calgary since the early 1970s. He is hoping to build on the support earned by Liberal Harvey Locke in the 2012 by-election. His departure from provincial politics will trigger a by-election that will test the popularity of the provincial Liberals in Alberta’s largest city.

Thomas Lukaszuk Stephen Mandel Rachel Notley Danielle Smith Alberta MLA

Alberta MLAs Thomas Lukaszuk, Stephen Mandel, Rachel Notley and Danielle Smith.

Thomas Lukaszuk (Edmonton-Castle Downs): Cast to the backbenches after Mr. Prentice became premier, Mr. Lukaszuk has not gone quietly. His connection to deep funding cuts to universities and colleges earned him many political enemies, including then-mayor of Edmonton Stephen Mandel. Mr. Lukaszuk turned on Ms. Redford when her star was falling and ran in PC leadership contest as an outsider. He has been outspoken from his spot in the backbenches, leading some political watchers to believe he could be the next Ken Kowalski.

Stephen Mandel (Edmonton-Whitemud): After nine years as Edmonton’s mayor, Mr. Mandel declared he was done with politics in 2013. One year later, he found himself riding to the rescue of Alberta’s 43 year old Progressive Conservative dynasty. As Mr. Prentice’s capital city commodore, Mr. Mandel is responsible for the most politically dangerous government department, Health. He has promised to increase local decision making in health care and is faced with a growing list of aging hospitals and health care centres that have faced decades of neglect by the provincial government.

Rachel Notley (Edmonton-Strathcona): Expectations are high that Ms. Notley will lead Alberta’s New Democratic Party to greatness. The second generation leader of Alberta’s social democratic party is smart, witty and well-positioned to boost her party’s standings in the opposition benches. Her challenge will be to present a viable alternative to the governing PCs while expanding her party’s support outside its traditional enclaves in Edmonton.

Danielle Smith (Highwood): After two years as the leader of the Wildrose Official Opposition, Ms. Smith shocked Albertans in December 2014 when she quit her job and join the Government. It is widely suspected that Ms. Smith will be appointed to cabinet in early 2015, possibly as Deputy Premier. She is a skilled politician but will continue to face heavy criticism in 2015 from her former colleagues for her betrayal.

(Last year’s post, A Dozen Alberta MLAs to Watch in 2014, was inspired by A dozen federal MPs worth watching in 2014, published by the Canadian Press)

As 2 more Wildrose MLAs leave, can Danielle Smith’s leadership survive?

Alberta Wildrose Caucus MLA

After three departures in the past month, the Wildrose Caucus is now down to 14 MLAs,

Last week, the wheels were falling off the Wildrose bus. This week, the passengers have flung open the emergency exits and started leaping out into traffic.

The Wildrose Official Opposition started the month of November with 17 MLAs and might be ending it with only fourteen. Today, Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice, flanked by Little Bow MLA Ian Donovan and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle, announced at an afternoon press conference that the two Wildrose MLAs were joining the PC Government Caucus.

Ian Donovan David Eggen MLA

Ian Donovan and NDP MLA David Eggen protesting the closure of the Little Bow Health Centre at a rally in front of Alison Redford’s constituency office on August 14, 2012.

Even though he led the fight against the closure of the Little Bow Health Centre in Carmangay in 2012, Mr. Donovan’s departure did not come as a complete surprise (as was noted in my previous post). Ms. Towle’s departure was tougher to predict, as she had been one of the loudest Wildrose critics of the PC Party since she unseated cabinet minister Luke Ouellette in the 2012 election.

The floor-crossings come at the end of a tumultuous month for Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party, which began with the sting of defeat in four by-elections and the departure of Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Joe Anglin, who now sits as an Independent MLA.

Kerry Towle

Kerry Towle

Ms. Smith tried to demonstrate her party had modernized at its recent annual meeting but was sideswiped by angry conservative activists, who voted down a motion recognizing equality for specific minority groups and then blamed the media for the party’s poor reputation.

The loss of three MLAs in such a short period of time raises questions about Ms. Smith’s future as leader. As the party’s most recognizable face, she is one of her party’s strongest assets. But if more MLAs decide to leave her caucus and the internal turmoil continues, will her leadership survive until the next general election?

Jim Prentice Premier Alberta

Jim Prentice

Since becoming PC Party leader in September, Mr. Prentice has strived to distance his party from the toxic memory of Alison Redford and Ed Stelmach. He has skillfully robbed the Wildrose of its strongest talking points by proposing the repeal of unpopular property rights laws, stalling the closure of the Michener Centre, announcing the sale of the government’s fleet of airplanes, firing cabinet ministers too closely associated with the previous leader and a handful of other lightening rod issues.

He also has deep roots in Canada’s Conservative establishment, serving as a federal cabinet minister in Ottawa and as a bank executive on Bay Street. And the PCs are using Mr. Prentice’s Tory credibility to invite former Tory supporters in the Wildrose party back under their big tent.

Mr. Prentice has started strong and still has plenty of time to stumble, especially with the prospect of declining natural resource revenues, which leads me to believe a provincial election may come sooner than the fixed date of Spring 2016.

Ken Boessenkool

Ken Boessenkool

The temptation to take advantage of a crumbling official opposition, which could lead to a lack of vote splitting among conservative voters might be too appealing to resist (a bad sign for the NDP, Alberta Party and Liberals). If there is one thing that is true of Alberta politics, it is that the PC Party knows how to consolidate and preserve its own power.

As Ms. Smith’s party struggles through a tough month, they need to figure out what fundementally differentiates them from the PC Party led by Mr. Prentice. One conservative strategist – Ken Boessenkool – has once again raised the idea of a potential merger of the two parties to create the “Conservative Party of Alberta.”

Despite its bleak prospects in the immediate future, political fortunes can shift quickly. But if the party’s fortunes do not improve soon, more MLA floor-crossings may follow.

Wildrose knows about floor-crossing

Danielle Smith Rob Anderson Heather Forsyth Wildrose

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith (centre) with MLAs Heather Forsyth and Rob Anderson in 2010.

Floor-crossing is a familiar activity for the Wildrose Party, but they are used to it going the other way. In 2010, the Wildrose received a big boost when then-PC MLAs Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth left Mr. Stelmach’s PC Party to join Ms. Smith’s upstart party. Not long afterward, they were joined by former PC MLA Guy Boutilier, who had been sitting as an Independent MLA.

Over the course of its 43 years of uninterrupted power, one of the great successes of the PC Party has been its ability to build a big tent that includes individuals of all sorts of political persuasions. The two former Wildrose MLAs will now find themselves in the same caucus as two former Liberal MLAs who also crossed the floor to the PCs – Speaker Gene Zwozdesky and Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget Pastoor.

Over the past 25 years, there have been a total of six Liberal MLAs, one Representative Party MLA and one New Democrat MLA who have crossed the floor to the PCs. The lone NDP floor-crosser, Stony Plain MLA Stan Woloshyn, made himself comfortable in the Tory Party ranks as a Ralph Klein-era cabinet minister.

Should floor-crossing be illegal?

Thomas Lukaszuk

Thomas Lukaszuk

In 2010, following Mr. Anderson and Ms. Forsyth’s departure from the PC Caucus, Edmonton-Castle Downs PC MLA Thomas Lukaszuk declared that floor crossing should be banned. PC MLA Jonathan Denis responded to the defections by telling Sun Media that “[t]he Wildrose talks about parliamentary recall — why not initiate that and run in a byelection?”

Manitoba is the only province that currently prohibits MLAs from crossing the floor. If an MLA wishes to leave their party, they must step down and run in a by-election or sit as an Independent MLA until the next election.

And then there were three (white men)

2014 PC Leadership Race Alberta Thomas Lukaszuk Jim Prentice Ric McIver

Alberta PC Party leadership candidates Thomas Luksazuk, Ric McIver and Jim Prentice.

As the deadline for candidates to enter their names (and $50,000 fee) in the contest to become the next leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Association came to a close yesterday, three politicians have put forward their names – bank vice-president and former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice and former provincial cabinet ministers Ric McIver and Thomas Lukaszuk.

A quick glance at the names of the three candidates confirms that no women or visible minorities have entered the race to fill the position vacated by Alberta’s first woman premier, Alison Redford, who was pushed out of office only a few short months ago. A few woman candidates were rumoured to be interested, but the most high profile of those rumoured, Energy minister Diana McQueen, declined to run, choosing instead to endorse Mr. Prentice.

While Canada reached a high-water mark in recent years, with women occupying the premiers office in six provinces and territories, the number has plummeted after recent elections. Today, only British Columbia and Ontario have women premiers (and Ontario voters will decide the fate of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals on June 12, 2014).

Alberta could once again enter this category if Official Opposition leader Danielle Smith leads her Wildrose Party to win the next election. Edmonton MLA Rachel Notley is said to be considering a run for the Alberta NDP leadership and some say she would become an instant front-runner if she enters the race.

All three PC leadership candidates have cut their political teeth in Alberta’s largest cities. Mr. Prentice was the Member of Parliament for Calgary-Centre North from 2004 to 2010, Mr. McIver as a Calgary MLA, former Alderman and mayoral candidate, and Mr. Lukaszuk as the MLA for Edmonton-Castle Downs since 2001.

The presence of three urban candidates signals both the growing political importance of the province’s two largest cities (and the urban agenda’s put forward by popular mayors Don Iveson and Naheed Nenshi) and the PC Party’s weakness in rural Alberta.

Not having a candidate from rural Alberta is embarrassing for the 43-year governing party. Once almost universally dominated by PC MLAs, the Tories have seen their support plummet in rural and small-town Alberta over the past four years. In the last election, many PC MLAs, including a some senior cabinet ministers, were handily defeated by Wildrose candidates in rural constituencies that had voted enmasse for the PC Party for more than three decades.

This is also the smallest number of candidates to participate in a PC leadership race since the party chose Don Getty as leader in 1985. In 1992, there were 9 candidates; in 2006 there were 8 and the 2011 leadership race attracted 6 candidates.

The small-number of candidates is a testament of the internal turmoil in the PC Party following the coup d’etat that caused Ms. Redford’s departure and the strength of Mr. Prentice’s campaign. Whether it is perceived or real, the ‘Team Prentice’ brand quickly drew the support of more than twenty PC MLAs and an army of party insiders and political consultants.

Unlike the deflated front-runners in previous PC leadership campaigns – Jim Dinning and Gary Mar – Mr. Prentice has succeeded in scaring away most of his credible potential challengers. Whether he suffers the same fate as these former ‘front-runners’, who were later defeated by underdogs, is yet to be seen.

The challenge for the three candidates will be to generate interest in a campaign that already feels like it is a forgone conclusion (a victory by Mr. Prentice). A big question is whether the any of the candidates in this race will be compelling enough to convince those thousands of ‘two-minute Tories‘ to lend them their votes.

Is the Jim Prentice Juggernaut unstoppable?

Jim Prentice Alberta Juggernaut

Is Jim Prentice’s campaign for the leadership of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives unstoppable?

He is a leadership candidate backed by long-governing party establishment. He has chased away his potential rivals. He has experience in both the federal cabinet and the corporate sector. He is a respected party insider. He has a track record as a moderate conservative and can raise significant amounts of money for his party. The establishment sees him as the only person who can lead them to electoral victory against their aggressive opposition challengers.

His name is Paul Martin and it’s 2003.

Jim Prentice Alberta PC Leadership

Jim Prentice

It has become inreasingly easy to draw parallels between the ill-fated Dauphin of the federal Liberal Party and expected coronation of Jim Prentice in September’s Progressive Conservative leadership vote.

Like Mr. Martin, expectations for Mr. Prentice among the PC establishment are very high. And without having even officially entered the contest or releasing any policy positions or vision for Alberta, his strange shadow campaign has succeeded in chasing away some of his strongest potential rivals by giving the impression that he too strong to fail.

Cabinet ministers Doug Horner, Diana McQueen, Jonathan Denis and retired Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel have all decided against running. And Ken Hughes, who only entered the race a short time ago, has already dropped out and endorsed the front-runner.

Paul Martin Jim Prentice Alberta

Paul Martin

Challenger Ric McIver claims that Mr. Prentice’s supporters have urged him to drop out of the race, but insists he will remain the fray. Edmonton-Castle Downs MLA Thomas Lukaszuk, who served as Alison Redford’s deputy premier and budget slashing minister of Advanced Education, remains rumoured to be mulling a run for the leadership.

Pressure from Mr. Prentice’s campaign, the steep $50,000 entry fee and the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to run a leadership campaign have likely scared away potential serious candidates.

Curse of the front-runner
An advantage of being a frontrunner is that it becomes easy to collect endorsements. A disadvantage of being a frontrunner is that it becomes easy to collect endorsements. As PC MLAs trip over themselves in their rush to endorse Mr. Prentice, it will become increasingly difficult for the new leader to weed out the incompetent or redundant members of his caucus in the next election.

If he becomes leader, one of Mr. Prentice’s biggest challenges will be to increase the PC caucus bench strength by recruiting competent and credible candidates to run. This will require significant retirements, resignations, or nomination battles before the next election.

Thomas Lukaszuk MLA Edmonton-Castle Downs

Thomas Lukaszuk

Prentice Money
Like Mr. Martin, Mr. Prentice has proven he can raise a lot of money and fill a hall with people whose companies are willing to spend $500 a ticket to influence government, but can he resonate among regular voters? Raising money has never been a serious long-term problem for the PC Party. Their problem has become the existence of another party who can raise the same or more money than they can.

Prentice Co-Chairs
It was announced this week that former British Columbia Member of Parliament Jay Hill, Edmonton campaign strategist Patricia Mitsuka, and Calgary-Greenway MLA Manmeet Bhullar will serve as Mr. Prentice’s three campaign co-chairs. A fourth co-chair is expected to be announced at a later date.

Prentice stumbles to “unite the right” fight
Strange moves to unite the right, as Wildrose leader Danielle Smith claims she or one of her staffers were contacted by someone from Mr. Prentice’s campaign to discuss a merger. A spokesperson for Mr. Prentice’s not yet official campaign denies Ms. Smith’s claims, but it is difficult to believe the Wildrose leader is simply making this up.

If this is true, it is difficult to understand why Mr. Prentice’s campaign would make such a move. While his supporters see him as a White Knight, he will be inheriting a long-governing political party that is mired in controversy. Perhaps this move is a glimpse of how concerned the PC establishment is about the very real threat of defeat by the Wildrose in the next election?

Nominations open today
Starting today, PC Party leadership candidates can pick up their nomination forms and pay the $20,000 of their $50,000 entry fee. The candidates will need to submit their completed nomination forms on May 30 along with the remaining $30,000 entry fee. The approved candidates will be showcased at a $75 per ticket PC Party fundraiser on June 2 in Edmonton.

Don Iveson asks: Do you support LRT expansion?

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson took the the streets, and then to YouTube, to ask Edmontonians if they support expansion of Edmonton’s Light Rail Transit system. The campaign is part of Mr. Iveson’s bid to convince provincial and federal politicians to support the expansion of Edmonton’s light rail transit system, a key part of the city’s transportation infrastructure and a top priority for city council.

Facing enormous population and economic growth, and afforded limited resources as a municipal government, the City is struggling to fund LRT expansion to Mill Woods and west Edmonton (also known as the Valley Line). According to the City of Edmonton, daily ridership of Edmonton’s current north-south LRT Capital Line has grown from an estimated 42,160 in 2004 to 100,760 in 2013.

Edmonton LRT Ridership 2004-2013

Estimated Edmonton LRT ridership from 2004 to 2013 (graph from City of Edmonton 2013 LRT Passenger Count Report)

Hoping that the upcoming provincial budget could include funding for the capital city’s LRT, the mayor and city council are asking Edmontonians to put pressure on their MLA and MP by voicing support for LRT expansion. A second phase of this campaign is expected to be launched next week.

Don Iveson LRT Edmonton Expansion

A popular ad used on the LRT during last year’s mayoral election in Edmonton.

Although Mr. Iveson earned 63% of the vote in the October 2013 election, many provincial Conservatives, including Edmonton PC MLAs Thomas Lukaszuk, Naresh Bhardwaj and David Xiao, publicly endorsed his opponent, Karen Leibovici. Some political watchers suspect the results of the election did not sweeten the already sour relationship between the city and province. And while Premier Alison Redford has been cold towards the idea of granting cities more financial power, saying she’s “satisfied with the way things are,” her party should not forget that city voters are who they owe for their narrow re-election to government in 2012.

Earlier this month, while speaking to the all-party MLA Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future, Mr. Iveson explained  that expansion of Edmonton’s light rail transit system is critical for future growth of the capital city. While the committee was looking for feedback on the creation of high speed rail system through the Red Deer corridor from Edmonton to Calgary, Mr. Iveson argued that the inter-city project would only succeed if effective urban transit systems are already in place.

Mr. Iveson explained to the MLA committee that future expansion of Edmonton’s LRT network depends almost entirely on the availability of funding from the provincial and federal governments.

A short history of LRT expansion in Edmonton
Edmonton’s LRT line began regular service in 1978 and was extended to downtown and the University of Alberta in the 1980s and early 1990s. Expansion was then halted until the mid-2000s, when a new line to south Edmonton was constructed. New stations in north central Edmonton are expected to open in June 2014. The City of Edmonton’s population has grown from 461,361 in 1976 to 817,498 in 2012.