Tag Archives: Edmonton Eskimos

Jason Kenney ramps up the old Tory patronage machine, begins purging NDP appointees from public agencies, boards and commissions

If you’re a conservative lawyer or energy company CEO in Alberta, you should check your email. There’s a good chance you might have been appointed to a public agency, board or commission last week.

A large number of political appointments made last Friday morning included new board chairpersons and directors at eleven post-secondary institutions, including the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, MacEwan University and Mount Royal University, as well as Alberta Health Services, the Workers’ Compensation Board, and the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis commission. The UCP appointees replaced a number of high-profile NDP-appointees, including U of A board chairperson Michael Phair, NAIT board chairperson Ray Martin, AHS board chairperson Linda Hughes, and WCB chairperson Grace Thostenson.

The list of appointees is flush with business insiders, corporate executives, and United Conservative Party donors. While partisan and political appointments are expected after any change in government (an occurrence we are just starting to become familiar with in Alberta – and hopefully will continue to be familiar with), this list might even make the old Progressive Conservative establishment blush.

As reported by David Climenhaga at AlbertaPolitics.ca, “At least 18 of the new UCP appointees were donors of significant sums to the party or UCP-friendly PACs set up to skirt election-financing laws.” Progress Alberta is expected to publish a more detailed report soon, but a scan of financing disclosures by executive director Duncan Kinney showed 16 donors who together contributed more than $100,000 to various conservative political causes were among the appointees.

Included in the flurry of appointments are a handful of former conservative politicians, activists, and officials with ties to the UCP, the federal Conservative Party, and right-wing lobby groups and think-tanks:

  • The AGLC will now be chaired by defeated UCP star candidate Len Rhodes. Rhodes was parachuted into Edmonton-Meadows following his retirement as president and CEO of the Edmonton Eskimos, but was defeated by NDP MLA Jasvir Deol in the provincial election.
  • Also appointed to the AGLC are Elan Harper, the chief financial officer for the Calgary-Varsity UCP association, and Gerard Curran, the owner of the James Joyce Pub in Calgary and former chairman of Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association (now known as the UCP-friendly Restaurants Canada).
  • Former Progressive Conservative MLA Janice Sarich was appointed to the board of MacEwan University, former MLA and associate cabinet minister Donna Kennedy-Glans was appointed to the board of the Banff Centre, and former Member of Parliament James Rajotte is now on the University of Alberta Board of Governors.
  • Former APPEGA president Kim Farwell, appointed to the board of governors of Keyano College in Fort McMurray, was campaign manager to Conservative MP David Yurdiga and president of the local Conservative Party association.
  • Lydell Torgerson, appointed as a public member of the Board of Directors of Grande Prairie Regional College has acted as the official agent for Conservative MP Chris Warkentin‘s election campaign.
  • Andy Crooks, the former chairman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation during Jason Kenney‘s time as its spokesperson, is now a member of the Municipal Government Board, and Moin Yahya, a U of A law professor and senior fellow with the Fraser Institute, is now a member of the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
  • Grafton Asset Management, the company run by newly appointed University of Calgary board chairperson Geeta Sankappanavar, donated $25,000 to the Shaping Alberta’s Future political action committee which purchased front-page pro-UCP ads in Alberta’s Postmedia newspapers.
  • Alex Pourbaix, president and CEO of Cenovus Energy and newly appointed chairman of the Mount Royal University board of directors, donated $4,000 to the UCP in 2019.

The biggest outlier when it comes to political donations might be new AHS board chairman David Weyant, the outgoing chairman of the Banff Centre of the Arts, who has donated $1,775 to the Alberta NDP since 2016, including a $550 donation in 2019.

Overall, the appointments send two messages:

  1. The Tory patronage machine is back, and it’s a deep well. While the NDP embraced the oil and gas sector and appointed corporate executives to public boards during their five years in government, Premier Rachel Notley‘s party never had a large political establishment to draw upon for appointees. The NDP also attempted to to professionalize the selection process but holding interviews and expanding the application process to allow a broader cross-section of Albertans to serve on some public boards. The long list of UCP appointees employed as corporate executives and lawyers, as well as the lack of representation from civil society groups, signals a return to something more similar to the old PC Party regime. It also serves as a reminder of the deep well of patronage appointees from the conservative establishment in this province that have made themselves available to the UCP.
  2. Resistance is futile (at least that’s what they want you to think). Serious political resistance at the board level to what are expected to be significant funding cuts to post-secondary education and public agencies like Alberta Health Services is now less likely to be successful. With significant budget cuts expected to be recommended in the “Blue Ribbon” panel report prepared by history professor and former Saskatchewan cabinet minister Janice McKinnon, it is likely that the UCP government wanted to install appointees who would be eager to enact the government’s austerity and privatization agenda when the provincial budget is tabled in the fall.

While it is difficult to criticize the qualifications of some of the appointees, some who are highly qualified for the positions they have been appointed to, it is expected that their experience was weighed closely with how compliant they will be with Kenney’s political agenda.

Appointed UCP candidate Len Rhodes and UCP leader Jason Kenney.

Jason Kenney fumbles Len Rhodes’ appointment, and NDP MLA loses nomination in Edmonton-Meadows

Photo: Appointed UCP candidate Len Rhodes and UCP leader Jason Kenney (source: YouTube).

The fallout from Jason Kenney’s decision to appoint former Edmonton Eskimos President and CEO Len Rhodes as the United Conservative Party candidate in Edmonton-Meadows continues.

As mentioned in the latest episode of the Daveberta Podcast, some members of the local UCP board of directors are up in arms about Kenney’s claim that they were consulted with and asked for Rhodes to be appointed as the candidate. Some of the disgruntled board members are said to be collecting signatures for a letter disputing Kenney’s claims, and that more than a dozen local directors have signed the letter.

Letter from Arundeep Sandhu to UCP supporters Edmonton Meadows

Letter from Arundeep Sandhu to UCP supporters Edmonton Meadows (Click to enlarge)

Rhodes’ surprise appointment last week eliminated three candidates – Arundeep Sandhu, Joel Mullen and Sant Sharma – who had been selling party memberships and door-knocking to compete for the UCP nomination for up to twelve months.

Arundeep Sandhu released a letter on social media today expressing his disappointment in the decision and thanking his supporters. It was a classy letter, but it certainly did not include the “let’s all get behind the appointed candidate” message that Kenney and Rhodes were likely looking for. 

Meanwhile, more than 400 New Democratic Party members voted to choose Jasvir Deol as their candidate in Edmonton-Meadows. Deol defeated Chand Gul and MLA Denise Woollard, who had been elected to represent Edmonton-Mill Creek in 2015. 

Jasvir Deol Alberta NDP Edmonton Meadows

Jasvir Deol

Deol was the NDP candidate in the 2015 federal election in the Edmonton-Mill Woods district, where he earned 12.7 per cent of the vote in the contest against Liberal Amarjeet Sohi and Conservative Tim Uppal. 

Woollard is the third NDP MLA to be challenged and defeated in a nomination contest. MLA Trevor Horne was defeated by MLA Marie Renaud in St. Albert and Jordan Stein defeated MLA Anam Kazim in Calgary-Glenmore

Peace River NDP MLA Debbie Jabbour is facing a nomination challenge from Justin Sharpe at a meeting scheduled to take place on February 28, 2019.

The NDP also nominated three other candidates this past weekend:

  • MD of Ranchlands Reeve Cameron Gardner has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Livingstone-Macleod.
  • Former Taber town councillor and past president of the Alberta Library Trustees Association Laura Ross-Giroux has been nominated as the NDP candidate in the southern Alberta district of Taber-Warner.
  • Crown prosecutor Moira Vane is the NDP candidate in Strathcona-Sherwood Park.

An NDP nomination meeting in West Yellowhead that was originally scheduled for this past weekend appears to have been rescheduled to March 9, 2019.

Dr. Esther Tailfeathers is seeking the NDP nomination in Cardston-Siksika. Dr. Tailfeathers is a Physician at the Blood Tribe Clinic at Standoff and a Clinical Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta.

Melissa Langmaid has announced plans to seek the NDP nomination in Chestermere-Strathmore. Langmaid is an Environmental Advisor with AltaLink and a unit coordinator with the United Utility Workers’ Association

Holly Heffernan is seeking the NDP nomination in Drumheller-Stettler. Heffernan is a retired Registered Nurse and long-time NDP activist, having run numerous times for the NDP in both provincial and federal elections in Calgary.

UCP set Red Deer-South nomination vote for March 16

Adele Poratto Red Deer South United Conservative Party Alberta

Adele Poratto

The elusive mystery star candidate is nowhere to be seen, but the UCP has moved ahead with the party’s nomination vote in Red Deer-South anyway. Party members will choose from the Bruce Buruma, Gary Davidson, Adele Poratto, Jason Stephan, and Norman Wiebe on March 16, 2019.

Buruma is Director of Community Relations for  Red Deer Public School District and Executive Director of the Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools. Davidson is Chief of Emergency Medicine for Alberta Health Services’ Central Zone. Poratto is a decorator and event planner, and ran for the PC Party nomination in the district ahead of the 2008 election. Stephan is a lawyer and president of the Red Deer Taxpayers’ Association. And Wiebe was the Wildrose Party candidate in this district in the 2015 election, earning 24 percent of the vote behind NDP candidate Barb Miller and PC candidate Darcy Mykytyshyn.

Davidson’s wife, Pamela Davidson, sought the UCP Central Alberta Director election at the party’s 2018 annual general meeting and previously ran against Christine Moore in the Red Deer County Division 6 election in 2017. Moore ran unsuccessfully for the UCP nomination in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake ahead of the 2018 by-election and as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Red Deer-North in the 2015 election. 

The UCP has also opened nomination contests in Edmonton-EllerslieEdmonton-Highlands-Norwood, and Edmonton-MIll Woods. 

Rebel Strankman running as Independent

Rick Strankman Alberta United Conservative Drumheller Stettler MLA

Rick Strankman

Former UCP MLA Rick Strankman has announced his plans to run for re-election as an Independent candidate in Drumheller-Stettler. Strankman was elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2012 and 2015 and left the UCP caucus on January 15, 2019 following his loss of the party’s nomination to rancher Nate Horner in October 2018.

After nearly seven years as an MLA shackled with Party-first priorities, it is clear that Alberta’s party system of government has stripped effective representation and across-the-board best interests from Alberta’s citizens,” wrote Strankman in a media release posted on this website. “Running for election and winning office as an Independent will enable me to restore the priorities of all Drumheller Stettler citizens to the front lines of the Legislature and advance their priorities for resurrecting Alberta’s prosperity.” he said.

Former MLA Ian Donovan is running as an Independent in the new Cardston-Siksika district. Donovan was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in Little Bow in 2012 and crossed the floor to the PC Party in 2014. He was narrowly defeated in the 2015 election, finishing 12 votes behind Wildrose candidate David Schneider.

With Schneider declining to seek re-election, Donovan supported past Christian Heritage candidate Marc Slingerland in the UCP nomination contest against eventual winner Joseph Schow. Donovan later announced he was quitting the UCP, citing a dictatorship-like control of the party by Kenney.

Mandel awaits fate as 2 Alberta Party candidates back on the ballot 

The Court of Queen’s Bench has waived the 5-year ban on Alberta Party candidates Moe Rahall in Edmonton-Castle Downs and Diana Ly in Edmonton-Gold Bar, who will now be allowed to run in the 2019 election. Party leader Stephen Mandel and four other Alberta Party candidates still await their fate as the court has yet to remove their bans. 

Swann staffer runs for the Green Party

Janice Fraser is running for the Green Party in Calgary-McCall. Fraser is currently the office manager for Calgary-Mountain View Liberal MLA David Swann, who is retiring after four-terms in the Legislature. Swann’s other constituency office staffer, Joshua Codd, is the nominated Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Currie.

Jane Drummond is running for the Green Party in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre. Drummond is the editor of the Nordegg Squeek and has served as an Alberta Hiking Association member representing Terra Firma Nordegg Hiking.

Meanwhile, Chris Glassford has been nominated as the Alberta Advantage Party candidate in Sherwood Park and Mark Gregor has been nominated in Drayton Valley-Devon.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

Len Rhodes Edmonton-Meadows UCP

Len Rhodes to be appointed UCP candidate in Edmonton-Meadows. Firefighter captain Todd Russell wins NDP contest in Grande Prairie

Photo: Len Rhodes (source: cfl.ca)

The rumour mill is churning at full speed with news that Len Rhodes, outgoing President and CEO of the Edmonton Eskimos, is on the verge of being appointed by Jason Kenney as the United Conservative Party candidate in Edmonton-Meadows.

Arundeep Sandhu Edmonton By-election ward 12

Arundeep Sandhu

Rhodes’ appointment would bump three local nomination candidates, Joel Mullan, Arundeep Sandhu, and Sant Sharma, who have been campaigning for the UCP candidacy in the southeast Edmonton district for nearly a year. In particular, Sandhu, a young Edmontonian of Sikh heritage who mounted an energetic bid for City Council in 2016, has been campaigning hard for the nomination since May 2018.

Rhodes recently completed a term a Chair of the Board of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and announced last week that he was stepping away from his senior executive role with the Canadian Football League team as of Feb. 20. It appears we will know soon if this is the reason why.

With seven years as the top corporate executive of the Eskimos on his resume, Rhodes will certainly be described as a “star candidate,” which is something that has so far been absent from the UCP slate in NDP-leaning Edmonton. But his personal connections to the district, his own political views and understanding of local issues remains unclear.

The area included in the Edmonton-Meadows district is currently represented by New Democratic Party MLA Denise Woollard, who was first elected in 2015 in Edmonton-Mill Creek. Woollard is being challenged for her party’s nomination by 2015 federal NDP candidate Jasvir Deol and Alberta Pashtoon Association president Chand Gul. A nomination meeting for the NDP has been scheduled for Feb. 24, 2019.

Firefighter Captain wins NDP nomination in Grande Prairie

Rachel Notley (centre), with Grande Prairie NDP nomination candidates Melissa Byers and Todd Russell.

Rachel Notley (centre), with Grande Prairie NDP nomination candidates Melissa Byers and Todd Russell.

Firefighter Captain Todd Russell defeated non-profit executive director Melissa Byers to secure the NDP nomination Grande Prairie on Feb. 19. The contested nomination meeting was attended by Premier Rachel Notley and Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd, who is running for re-election in the new neighbouring Central Peace-Notley district.

Russell placed second in the Grande Prairie-Smoky district in the 2015 election, placing 334 votes behind then-Wildrose candidate Todd Loewen. Loewen is seeking re-election in the neighbouring district against McCuaig-Boyd.

The Alberta Firefighters Association has endorsed Notley and been actively campaigning for NDP candidates across the province. AFA President Craig Macdonald gave a rousing speech at the NDP convention in October 2018 praising the Notley government for introducing new workplace health and safety rules to protect firefighters and first responders.

NDP select more 5 candidates and announce new nomination meetings

NDP MLA Chris Nielsen was nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Decore and MLA Kim Schreiner has been nominated in Red Deer-North.

Jane Stroud NDP Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche

Jane Stroud

Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Jane Stroud has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district and Fort McMurray Public Schools trustee Stephen Drover has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. Cesar Cala has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-East.

The NDP announced a series of upcoming nomination meetings, with Robyn O’Brien seeking the nomination in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake on February 27, Kate Andrews seeking the nomination in Calgary-Acadia on March 1, Julia Bietz seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Lougheed on March 2, Rebecca Bounsall seeking the nomination in Calgary-Fish Creek and Hafeez Chishti is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-North West on March 3.

The NDP have also scheduled nomination meetings in Calgary-South East, Drumheller-Stettler, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, and Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright on February 28, 2019, and in Brooks-Medicine Hat on March 2, 2019.

Colette Smithers
 has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Cypress-Medicine Hat.

Another Alberta Party candidate banned

It appears as though Tim Meech, the Alberta Party candidate in Livingstone-Macleod, and his CFO Mark Taylor, who is the executive director of the Alberta Party, have been added to Elections Alberta’s now infamous list of people ineligible to serve as candidates or CFOs.

Taylor is also serving as CFO for Red Deer-North candidate Paul Hardy and 4 Alberta Party constituency associations.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

The future of Rexall Place without the Edmonton Oilers

Northlands Rexall Place Edmonton Oilers Arena

Northlands’ Rexall Place is the current home of the Edmonton Oilers.

In the great rush to relocate the Edmonton Oilers to Daryl Katz‘s new downtown arena district, there appears to have been little serious thought or planning focused on what to do with the professional hockey team’s long-time current home, Rexall Place.

Located north east of downtown on the Northlands Exposition Grounds, Rexall Place is an aging facility and, unlike the planned entertainment district surrounding the new downtown arena, the current arena is located inside a concrete no-man’s land surrounded by residential neighbourhoods.

Once known as “Northlands Coliseum,” the arena opened on November 10, 1974 and initially housed the World Hockey Association Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers joined the National Hockey League in 1979. According to Wikipedia, the arena is the third oldest NHL arena behind Madison Square Garden and the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which opened in 1968 and 1972.

As a homeowner in the Bellevue neighbourhood directly east of the Northlands Grounds, I am naturally interested in the future of Rexall Place, which could both impact the future quality of the area neighbourhood and the property value of my home. In fact, part of the current Northlands Grounds were once part of Bellevue, before the blocks of houses were demolished to make way for an expansive parking lot.

Northlands has named a 17-person strategy committee to help determine the future of Rexall Place. While it is a good sign that Northlands is now weighing its options, it is concerning that the committee does not appear to include any residents of the neighbourhoods surrounding the arena.

As a neighbour who has politely lived through the lively crowds of KDays, has not complained publicly about the sounds of SONiC BOOM, and who chooses to recycle the empties deposited on our lawn after hockey games, it is my hope that the committee will seriously consider what the implications of their decisions will be on the local community.

I hope that Northlands will listen to the advice and ideas of the residents living in the neighbourhoods surrounding the soon to be former arena. While Northlands provides venues for the entire city and northern Alberta, the people living with the arena in their backyard deserve to be given significant input into the decision making process.

I worry that in the rush to compete with the new downtown arena district, Northlands may miss bigger opportunities.

Northlands would be wise to look to the revitalization of 118th Avenue (also known as Alberta Avenue) to its west and become part of the ongoing renewal. Although large parts of the area are still rough around the edges, the area has come a long way. Drive down 118th Avenue on a Saturday morning and you will discover bustling locally-owned butcher shops, bakeries, cafes and grocery stores.

The redevelopment of Borden Park, south of the Northlands Grounds, could provide inspiration for the future of the current concrete expanse that surrounds Rexall Place. A friendlier and greener area would certainly be more welcoming than the current expanse of concrete walkways and parking lots.

Northlands should also consider the success of the nearby Commonwealth Community Rec Centre, adjacent to Commonwealth Stadium (home to the Edmonton Eskimos), in providing value for residents in this area of the city. Rather than just being a venue for travelling carnivals, conferences and cattle shows, Northlands should look at ways the arena space can become more relevant to the communities that surround it.

Given the opportunities available to the Northlands committee and future developers, the worst thing that could happen would be to leave the arena as it is; devoid of street interaction, free of community building activities and unfriendly to better development.

The departure of the Edmonton Oilers from Rexall Place presents a unique opportunity for Northlands to engage the residents living in the area. Just as the arena district is reshaping the area north of downtown Edmonton, the redevelopment of the arena could present a positive opportunity for residents north east of downtown.


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