Tag Archives: Edmonton-Sherwood Park

Working under the Dome: A look at some political staffers hired to work for Alberta’s new UCP government

One of the results of a change in government is a mass turnover in the political staffers who occupy the offices of the premier, cabinet ministers and caucuses. As a new government enters office in Alberta, there are many dozens of political jobs that need to be filled. Here is a quick glance at some of the political staffers who have been hired to fill key roles since the United Conservative Party formed government in Alberta:

  • As has already been widely reported, former UCP Caucus Chief of Staff Jamie Huckabay is now Chief of Staff in Premier Jason Kenney’s office. Joining him in Kenney’s office are Howard Anglin as Principal Secretary, Katy Merrifield as executive director of communications and planning, and Christine Myatt as press secretary and deputy director of communications. Anglin previously served as executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, deputy chief of staff in the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Chief of Staff to Kenney while he was the federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Merrifield was communications director to former B.C. premier Christy Clark and senior advisor to the BC Liberal Party.
  • Paul Bunner has been hired as a Speechwriter in the Premier’s Office. Bunner served as a speechwriter and communications advisor in the office of Prime Minster Harper and as editor of the right-wing C2C Journal website, which is part of the Manning Foundation for Democratic Education.
  • Former UCP Caucus communications advisor Harrison Fleming is a special communications advisor in Executive Council.
  • Former Daveberta Podcast co-host Ryan Hastman is Chief of Staff to Minister of Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney. Natasha Kornak is Sawhney’s press secretary. She is the co-founder of the Story of a Tory blog with Brooks-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Michaela Glasgo. 
  • Recent Daveberta Podcast guest co-host Lianne Bell is now Chief of Staff to Speaker Nathan Cooper. Bell previously worked for the Wildrose and UCP Caucus as director of stakeholder relations.
  • Jamie Mozeson is Chief of Staff to Minister for Service Alberta Nate Glubish. Mozeson was the director of operations at the UCP Caucus and ran for the federal Conservative nomination in the Sturgeon River-Parkland district in 2016. Glubish’s press secretary is Tricia Velthuizen, a former Wildrose and UCP Caucus staffer and candidate for Edmonton City Council in 2017.
  • Jonah Mozeson, who is married to Jamie Mozeson, is the press secretary in the Office of the Minister Justice and Attorney General Doug Schweitzer. His mother, Laurie Mozeson, was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-McClung in the 2019 election.
  • Craig Bellfontaine is Schweitzer’s Chief of Staff. Until recently he was a Toronto-based lawyer at the firm Farken and is a former federal Conservative ministerial staffer. Schweitzer’s Ministerial Assistant Kalyna Kardash is a former Outreach Coordinator for the UCP Caucus and Party during the election campaign.
  • Andrea Smotra is Chief of Staff to Minister of Energy Sonya Savage. Smotra was the director of election readiness for the UCP and previously worked as Regional Affairs Advisor in the office of Prime Minister Harper and deputy director of issues management for Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.
  • Nicole Williams is Chief of Staff to Education Minster Adriana LaGrange. Williams is a former lobbyist and ministerial assistant who was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-West Henday in the recent election. Colin Aitchison is LaGrange’s press secretary. Until recently he was the Issues Manager for Ontario Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa McLeod.
  • Warren Singh is Chief of Staff to Health Minister Tyler Shandro. Singh previously served as director of government relations with NAIT and vice-president policy and outreach with the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. Before that he served in various chief of staff roles in the old PC government. Steve Buick is Shandro’s press secretary. Buick served as press secretary to former health minister Stephen Mandel and as a policy advisor to health minsters Gene Zwozdesky and Fred Horne. Previous to that he served as Director of Media Relations and Issues Management for Capital Health.
  • Kris Barker recently resigned from the UCP board of directors to start his new job as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism Tanya Fir. Barker was elected at the party’s annual general meeting as the Edmonton Regional Director. He is married to Kara Barker, who ran as the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Riverview. Fir’s press secretary Justin Brattinga is a former BC Liberal Caucus staffer.
  • Mark Jacka is Chief of Staff to Transportation Minister Ric McIver. Jacka previously served as UCP Constituency Development Coordinator, as an assistant to Edmonton-West MP Kelly McCauley and as Director of Political Operations for the Wildrose Party. Brooklyn Elhard is McIver’s press secretary. She previously served as Scheduling and Tour Coordinator for the UCP leader. 
  • Tim Schultz is Chief of Staff to Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen. Schultz previously served as chief of staff to the Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education and the Minister of Finance in Progressive Conservative governments from 2008 to 2012. 
  • Mandi Johnson is Chief of Staff to Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women Leela Aheer. She previously worked for the PC, Wildrose and UCP Caucus. She is married to James Johnson, the Director of Research at the UCP Caucus. Payman Parseyan is Aheer’s press secretary. He ran for Edmonton City Council in 2017 and was a candidate for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Whitemud. 
  • TJ Keil is chief of staff to Minster of Red Tape Reduction Grant Hunter. Keil previously worked as a Senior Stakeholder Relations Consultant with Alberta Real Estate Association and ran for the PC Party in Edmonton-Strathcona against first-time NDP candidate Rachel Notley in 2008. 
  • Steven Puhallo is chief of staff to Minister of Children’s Services Rebecca Schulz. He previously as chief of staff to various BC cabinet ministers from 2001 to 2008 and more recently was President and CEO of Cowboy Gaming (Canada), a country and western themed free online bingo and casino. Lauren Armstrong is Schulz’s press secretary. Armstrong worked as Kenney’s press secretary while he served as Minister of National Defence in Ottawa and until recently was chief of staff to Calgary city councillor Jeromy Farkas.
  • Former Wildrose Caucus staffer and Alberta Counsel communications lead Tim Gerwing is the press secretary for Minister of Municipal Affairs Kaycee Madu.
  • Former Hill & Knowlton senior consultant Jessica Goodwin is press secretary to Minister of Finance Travis Toews.
  • Ted Bauer is press secretary to Minister of Indigenous Relations Richard Wilson. Bauer is the former Communications and Media Coordinator for Homeward Trust Edmonton and editor for Global News and CityTV.

And looking at the legislative branch:

  • Robyn Henwood is executive director of the UCP Caucus. Henwood will be known by political watchers as the chair of the party’s leadership election committee and as campaign manager for Len Rhodes’ election campaign in Edmonton-Meadows.
  • Brianna Morris is deputy director of the UCP caucus. She previously served as Senior Advisor to the UCP House Leader and as a Legislative and Outreach Assistant in the Wildrose Caucus.
  • Author and one-time Daveberta Podcast guest Jamil Jivani is a Stakeholders Relations Manager for the UCP Caucus. 
  • Tim Uppal is also a Stakeholders Relations Manager for the UCP Caucus. Uppal served as the Member of Parliament for Edmonton-Sherwood Park from 2008 to 2015 and is currently the nominated federal Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods.

As has already been noted in a previous post, former UCP campaign director Nick Koolsbergen is now the CEO of the Wellington Advocacy lobbyist company. Matt Wolf, who served as Kenney’s Deputy Chief of Staff and director of the UCP campaign war room, is now a vice-president with public affairs giant Hill & Knowlton. Also with new jobs outside of government are UCP President Erika Barootes and former UCP Caucus director of issues management Peter Csillag have been hired by the Toronto-based public affairs company Enterprise. 

City Councillor Amarjeet Sohi speaks at a rally during the 2015 federal election.

Who will run to succeed Amarjeet Sohi in the Ward 12 by-election?

On Oct. 19, City Councillor Amarjeet Sohi was elected as a Member of Parliament in the federal riding of Edmonton-Mill Woods. With Mr. Sohi’s resignation from city council in order to take his seat in the House of Commons, and his new post as Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, a by-election will be held in order to fill the vacancy in Ward 12.

Ward 12 Edmonton by-election map

A map of Ward 12.

The Municipal Government Act states that a by-election must take place within 90 days of a council seat being vacated, which means the by-election would need to be held before the end of January 2016, depending on the exact date that Mr. Sohi resigned from city council.

At the council meeting on Nov. 3, 2015, councillors Tony Caterina and Andrew Knack introduced a motion requesting the city administration to prepare a report with recommendations for a date for the Ward 12 by-election. The motion was passed and the report is due at the next council meeting on Nov. 17, 2015 .

Mack Male has published an excellent blog post outlining many of the rules governing municipal by-elections in Edmonton.

Four candidates have already publicly declared their plans to become candidates in the Ward 12 by-election:

  • Danisha Bhaloo – Manager of Fund Development, Boys and Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton and Area. Named by Avenue Magazine as one of Edmonton’s Top 40 under 40 in 2013. (Reported in Metro Edmonton)
  • Irfan Chaudhry – Project Manager in the City of Edmonton’s Multicultural Relations Office and sessional criminology instructor at MacEwan University. Named by Avenue Magazine as one of Edmonton’s Top 40 under 40 in 2013. (Announced on Twitter)
  • Arundeep Singh – Vice-President Outreach of the Progressive Conservative Party and employee of his family’s gravel trucking business. (Reported in Metro Edmonton)
  • Damien Austin – announced on his Facebook page that he will be a candidate in Ward 12.

In the realm of speculation and rumours, here are some names of potential candidates who could enter the Ward 12 by-election:

  • Balraj Manhas – The president of the United Cabbies Association has been an outspoken advocate for the taxi industry against incursions by private driving company Uber. He ran for the PC nomination in Edmonton-Ellerslie but was disqualified by the central party.
  • Laura Thibert Serving her second term as a trustee of the Edmonton Catholic School District. Ms. Thibert was briefly nominated as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods in 2014 before declining to run in the provincial election.
  • Naresh Bhardwaj – Now cleared of bribery allegations, the former PC MLA from Edmonton-Ellerslie could seek a return to political office after serving two terms in the Alberta Legislature.
  • Tim Uppal – Former three-term Member of Parliament for Edmonton-Sherwood Park who was defeated by Mr. Sohi in this election in Edmonton-Mill Woods. Previously ran for parliament in the former Edmonton-Southeast riding in 2000 and served as Minister of State for Multiculturalism in the Conservative government.
  • Harpreet Singh Gill – Founder of Asian Vision magazine and 2015 provincial Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Mill Creek.
  • Carl Benito – The PC MLA for Edmonton-Mill Woods from 2008 to 2012. After facing controversy and media attention in his first term he was defeated in the PC nomination contest ahead of the 2012 election. He ran as an Independent candidate, placing fifth with 3.9 percent of the vote.

City council by-elections are uncommon in Edmonton, with the last one being held in 1994 to replace councillor Judy Bethel who had been elected as the Liberal MP for the Edmonton-East riding. Eighteen candidates ran in that by-election which resulted in Sherry McKibben being elected with 20 percent of the vote.

Conservatives spar for safe Alberta ridings

While the epic battle between Rob Anders and Ron Liepert in Calgary-Signal Hill was entertaining to watch, preparation for the next federal election has sparked nomination contests in ridings across the province. And with two  by-elections expected to be called within weeks, federal political parties are lining up their candidates for the vote.

By-Election nominations

Justin Trudeau and Kyle Harrietha on the front page of Fort McMurray Today.

Justin Trudeau and Kyle Harrietha on the front page of Fort McMurray Today.

Fort McMurray-Athabasca
On March 30, Liberal Party members chose Kyle Harrietha as their candidate. Mr. Harrietha faced Chris Flett in the nomination contest.

The Liberals are expected to run a strong campaign in the sprawling northeast Alberta riding. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau recently visited the riding, drawing a crowd of hundreds to a meet-and-greet event in Fort McMurray.

The Conservative Party will hold its nomination votes on April 24 in High Prairie and Slave Lake, April 25 in Athabasca and Lac La Biche, and April 26 in Fort McMurray. The results will be announced following the Fort McMurray vote. Fort McMurray lawyer Arlan Delisle and Athabasca County councillor David Yurdiga are the only two candidates seeking the nomination.

Oilsands worker Lori McDaniel will run for the New Democrats and firefighter Tim Moen is the Libertarian Party candidate.

John Barlow George Canyon Conservative Macleod By-Election

John Barlow and George Canyon

Macleod
On April 6, Dustin Fuller was nominated as the federal Liberal candidate in the upcoming by-election. Mr. Fuller will face Conservative John Barlow when the by-election is called. There has so far been no sign of any NDP or Green Party candidates.

General Election nominations

Meanwhile, nominations for the general election are also underway. As most of Alberta are largely considered safe territory for the Conservatives, competitive races have emerged in newly redrawn ridings across Alberta. Here are some ridings with recent updates:

Bow River
Country music crooner George Canyon has withdrawn his name from the Conservative nomination contest in southern Alberta’s Bow River. Christian television talk show host Paul Arthur has since announced he will seek the nomination.

Calgary-Nose Hill
Michelle Rempel was acclaimed as the Conservative candidate in this newly redrawn north Calgary riding. Ms. Rempel has represented the Calgary-Centre North riding since 2011.

Calgary-Rocky Ridge
Recent defeated in the Calgary-Signal Hill nomination contest, Mr. Anders may seek the Conservative nomination in this neighbouring riding. The Conservative nomination is already being sought by former MP Eric Lowther and party organizer Gord Elliott.

Mr. Lowther represented Calgary-Centre as the Reform Party/Canadian Alliance MP from 1997 until 2000, when he was defeated by former Prime Minister Joe Clark, who had returned to politics to lead the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

Edmonton-Mill Woods
Edmonton-Sherwood Park MP Tim Uppal has decided to jump across the city to seek the Conservative nomination in the new Edmonton-Mill Woods riding. Mr. Uppal was the Canadian Alliance/Conservative candidate in that area in 2000 and 2004 but was defeated by Mike Lake for the Conservative nomination in 2006.

Varinder Bhullar is seeking the Liberal nomination and Deep Hundal has announced that he plans to run for the NDP nomination.

Edmonton-Riverbend
Will James Rajotte run for the Alberta PC Party leadership? It seems unlikely, but rumours persistTofael Chowdhury is challenging Mr. Rajotte for the Conservative nomination in this new south Edmonton riding.

This is not Mr. Chowdhury’s first attempt at a party nomination. In 2011, he challenged Matt Jeneroux for the Progressive Conservative nomination in the provincial riding of Edmonton-South West and in 2008 he unsuccessfully sought the federal Liberal Party nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona.

Edmonton-West
Edmonton Police Constable Brad Rutherford has entered the Conservative nomination race in this new riding. He will face Edmonton-McClung PC MLA David Xiao, who announced his candidacy in March.

Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan
Recent municipal election candidate Nicole van Kuppeveld has announced she will seek the Conservative nomination in this new riding east of Edmonton. Ms.  van Kuppeveld, the former president of the Sherwood Park provincial PC Party, will face off against Garnett Genuis, the 2012 Wildrose candidate in Sherwood Park.

If there are any additions to the list of nomination candidates for the 2015 federal election, please contact me through the comment section below or by email at david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com.