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Alberta Politics

A spectre is haunting the UCP – the spectre of communism

From the columns of Postmedia newspapers to the halls of the United Conservative Party caucus, the the spectre of communism and socialism is striking fear in the minds of political elites who see Bolsheviks breeding in every corner of Alberta, from City Council chambers to voluntary blood donor clinics.

Kaycee Madu Edmonton South West
Kaycee Madu (Source: Twitter)

Using the same abrasive approach that got him promoted in cabinet, Justice Minister and Edmonton-South West UCP MLA Kaycee Madu warned against reforms to the Calgary police budget, describing City Councillors in the province’s largest city as “a bunch of socialists who would prefer to have a chaotic world. That is how they win elections and that is how they demonize people they disagree with.”

Last week, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo UCP MLA Tany Yao described labour unions and advocates opposed to his private members’ bill to legalize corporate for-profit blood donation clinics as socialists who want to harvest organs from people without consent.

This was not the first time Yao had warned against the perils of the Red Menace.

Tany Yao UCP MLA Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo
Tany Yao

In July 2020, Yao stood on the floor of the Assembly and claimed that Edmonton-Ellerslie NDP MLA Rod Loyola was the former leader of the Communist Party. Yao was later forced to withdraw his claim because it was not true.

Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland UCP MLA Shane Getson posted on Facebook that there was a “VIP section” in hell awaiting the “Socialist NDP.”

And in a video on Facebook, Getson described the federal Liberal Party as communists.”They think it’s the red they used to vote for twenty years ago. Well, the only red that’s happening there is so akin to that hammer and sickle right now, it’s not a centrist, it’s that slow dance to socialism,” Getson said.

In February 2020, Airdrie-Cochrane UCP MLA Peter Guthrie wrote an entire MLA column warning about the dangers of communism. Guthrie’s column was syndicated on the websites of weekly Postmedia newspapers across Canada.

Red Deer-South UPC MLA Jason Stephan referred to the NDP’s elected term in government as a “socialist occupation” and described other provinces as “hostile, parasitic partners” that depend on Alberta for welfare payments.

Former UCP cabinet minister Tanya Fir has referred to the former NDP government as a “socialist dumpster fire.”

Ron Orr UCP MLA Lacombe Ponoka
Ron Orr

And who could forget the time Lacombe-Ponoka UCP MLA Ron Orr warned that the legalization of marijuana could lead to a communist revolution.

Former Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis, who led the votes in Alberta, published an op-ed in the National Post that accused Trudeau of plotting a “Socialist coup” in Canada.

Even Premier Jason Kenney is known to toss around flamboyant warnings about the rise of ‘bohemian Marxism’ or radical European green-left eco-socialists who have undue influence over the international banking system. A fixture on the libertarian think tank symposium circuit, Kenney frequently indulges in attacks on socialism in his responses to the opposition in Question Period.

Peter Guthrie MLA Airdrie-Cochrane UCP Communism
Peter Guthrie

Of course, this kind of rhetoric is nothing new.

It appears that there could be a competition among UCP MLAs about who can sound the most like a paranoid Social Credit MLA from the 1950s.

In Alberta, history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

Of course, it has been a long time since any major political party in Alberta could have been described as socialist or communist.

UCP claims that Rachel Notley and the NDP are dangerous socialists are meant to marginalize and discredit the opposition or bait their opponents into a debate. But it is increasingly clear that in the minds of some government MLAs, the talking points have become reality.

The anti-communist terminology is from another era and, quite frankly, it is very weird.

As a government and now as official opposition, the Alberta NDP were only slightly to the political left of the Progressive Conservative Party it defeated in 2015.

In reality, the NDP government only moved Alberta to the mainstream of labour laws compared to other provinces and the only industries it ever seriously mused about nationalizing were driver’s road tests and hospital laundry services.

In most other provinces, the Alberta NDP would be considered closer to a centre-leftish Liberal Party than anything resembling anything Karl Marx wrote about.


Secret Public Inquiry delayed again

The final report of the McCarthy-esq Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns has been delayed again. The $3.5 million public inquiry, which was lauded by Kenney as part of his “Fight Back Strategy” against alleged enemies of Alberta’s oil industry, was granted a second extension to submit its final report to Energy Minister Sonya Savage.

The public inquiry that has operated in near-complete secrecy under the leadership of Commissioner Steve Allan will now submit its final report to Savage on Jan. 31, 2021, at least until the deadline is extended again.

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Alberta Politics

Failing Upwards: Kaycee Madu promoted to Justice after disastrous year in Municipal Affairs

Edmonton’s lone United Conservative Party MLA got a big promotion today in a mini-cabinet shuffle. After a year as Minister of Municipal Affairs, Edmonton-South West MLA Kaycee Madu has been appointed as Solicitor General and Minister of Justice.

Madu replaces Doug Schweitzer, who is the new Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, a rebranded Economic Development, Trade and Tourism department. Current EDTT Minister Tanya Fir moves to the backbenches and Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard is the new Municipal Affairs Minister.

Tracy Allard MLA Grande Prairie United Conservative Party
Tracy Allard (source: Facebook)

The mini-cabinet shuffle, the first since the UCP formed government in April 2019, is a minor readjustment and not nearly what many had expected, with controversial Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange retaining their cabinet posts.

Madu’s promotion will be a surprise to many of Alberta’s municipal leaders, who watched the junior cabinet minister take a paternalistic approach to municipal affairs by interfering in the construction of major infrastructure projects, overhauling municipal election laws to the point where the AUMA publicly described its relationship with the minister as “broken,” and sparking an uprising by traditionally docile rural municipalities over exemptions to oil & gas taxes.

It was the uproar in rural Alberta that most likely lead to Madu being shuffled. Dozens of rural municipalities have spoken out against the government exemptions for municipal oil and gas taxes.

Rural governments that were already having a difficult time collecting taxes from oil and gas companies said the new changes imposed by the UCP government force them to hike property and business taxes in their counties. And rural MLAs, who make up the majority of the UCP caucus, have been receiving an earful from normally supportive local leaders over the tax changes.

Doug Schweitzer Calgary Alberta Conservative
Doug Schweitzer

Madu may have spent a year burning bridges with municipalities but he is the only UCP from inside Edmonton city limits and a loyal party soldier, a geographic fact and trait that has now earned him a senior cabinet role. Control of the UCP cabinet and caucus is so firmly held by Premier Jason Kenney and his inner circle of political staff that unflinching loyalty is the key to promotion.

Madu is now expected to oversee changes to the Police Act, and provincial election finance laws proposed by the Select Special Democratic Accountability Committee. He will also oversee the implementation of MLA recall legislation and the Fair Deal report recommendations, the government’s never-ending fight against the federal government over the carbon tax, and the expected referendum on equalization in October 2021.

Doug Schweitzer: This appears to be a demotion for Calgary-Elbow MLA Doug Schweitzer, who has recently been bearing the brunt of the criticism about the public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns.

The public inquiry, which has been conducted in complete privacy, is over-budget and behind schedule and has had its mandate changed twice since it was formed, suggesting that the one-man commission is having troubling completing its goal of rooting out the alleged global conspiracy against Alberta.

Tanya Fir MLA Calgary Peigan United Conservative Party Alberta
Tanya Fir

Schweitzer’s move signals that the UCP is desperate to recover the “jobs and economy” part of their election slogan that has been sideswiped by the collapse in the international price of oil and economic shutdown in response to COVID-19 pandemic. Schweitzer will be responsible for the new Invest Alberta crown corporation.

Tracy Allard: The first-term MLA from Grande Prairie and owner of Tim Hortons restaurant franchises in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and in Grande Prairie is now the ninth Minister of Municipal Affairs since 2010. Her first order of business will likely be trying to repair some of the many relationships damaged by Madu during his short tenure, and, as Kenney announced in today’s press conference, oversee the creation of a spending report card for municipal governments in Alberta.

Tanya Fir: It is unclear what led to Fir’s demotion to the backbenches. The first-term UCP MLA from Calgary-Peigan appeared to be well-spoken and had not caused much public drama for the government. Fir appears to have avoided controversy but her election campaign manager, long-time conservative activist Craig Chanlder, has never shied from controversy and was recently a featured speaker at a separatist rally.

Who was left out: Not making it into cabinet in this mini-shuffle are a number of UCP MLAs who are rumoured to be cabinet contenders: UCP Caucus chairperson Todd Loewen, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao, Calgary-West MLA Mike Ellis, Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner, and Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA Michaela Glasgo.

Also missing from the shuffle is former UCP finance critic Drew Barnes, now the third-term MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat, who was left out of cabinet when the party formed government last year. Barnes recently made comments in support of separation if Alberta fails to get Ottawa’s attention regarding issues brought forward from the Fair Deal Panel.

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Alberta Politics

More Nots than Hots as Alberta MLAs wrap up heated summer session at the Legislature

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit Alberta five months ago, our Legislative Assembly was one of only a handful of provincial assemblies that continued with a mostly regular sitting schedule. Premier Jason Kenney and his ministers frequently quoted Winston Churchill and compared the current pandemic to the Nazi blitz of the United Kingdom during World War II. But the narrative of fighting on the beaches and uniting Albertans did not stick around for long.

United Conservative Party MLAs were eager to continue the regular business of the Legislature and Kenney barely skipped a beat in continuing to implement a political agenda aimed at dismantling government regulation and imposing swift changes to health care, education and labour laws.

While the UCP enjoys a big majority in the Legislature, and the continued support of enough Albertans to probably form another majority government (albeit likely smaller) if an election were held tomorrow, the government’s decision to move forward with a business as usual approach further entrenched some political divides that grew more conciliatory in other provinces. While other premiers were pulling their provinces together, and enjoying popularity bumps as a result, Alberta’s premier actively pushed people apart.

Politics as usual meant that unlike other provinces, where government and opposition parties generally worked together or at least put partisan politics on hold, in Alberta, politics remained heated and partisan.

Along with a flurry of attacks on provincial parks and public sector unions, and pushing for increased autonomy from Ottawa at the same time as the provincial government was increasingly relying on federal funding, the UCP, usually led by Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon used every opportunity to attack the New Democratic Party opposition. Rachel Notley and the NDP responded in kind.

If someone out there was keeping a political scorecard of Alberta’s MLAs, here is look at a few individuals who stood out during this session:

Tyler Shandro Alberta Health Minister Calgary Acadia
Tyler Shandro

Not: Health Minister Tyler Shandro (MLA Calgary-Acadia): Appointed to oversee a major overhaul and dismantling of Alberta’s public health care system, Shandro’s combative and confrontational approach has undermined much of the good will generated by the government’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shandro’s ongoing dispute with the Alberta Medical Association, including a temper-tantrum in the driveway outside a physician’s house, has poisoned the relationship between the government and doctors in the middle of a pandemic. The threat of doctors leaving rural Alberta practices has created an uncomfortable divide in the UCP Caucus between rural MLAs worried about the impact of losing doctors in their communities and Calgary MLAs not wanting to back down from a fight.

Pincher Creek Mayor Don Anderberg announced this week that the town’s council had to step in to convince doctors to not withdraw their services from that community’s hospital. Anderberg condemned Shandro and accused him of not being honest about the impact that doctors leaving the hospital could have on the community.

Adriana LaGrange Alberta MLA Red Deer North
Adriana LaGrange

Not: Education Minister Adriana LaGrange (MLA Red Deer-North): The soft-spoken former Catholic school trustee from central Alberta spent much of her first year in office battling with school boards and the Alberta Teachers’ Association, leaving her with few allies when schools were forced online at the beginning of the pandemic.

Now, with a return to school plan that appears woefully inadequate, LaGrange faces opposition and a lot of unanswered questions from parents, teachers and students who will be returning to school as normal in September.

Hot: Janis Irwin (MLA Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood), Rakhi Pancholi (MLA Edmonton-Whitemud), and David Shepherd (MLA Edmonton-City Centre): These three NDP MLAs stood out to me as some of the most effective voices and sharpest critics in the opposition benches during this session.

Rakhi Pancholi NDP Edmonton Whitemud
Rakhi Pancholi

Not: Finance Minister Travis Toews (MLA Grande Prairie-Wapiti): The provincial budget was barely tabled when the international price of oil plunged once again, putting the Alberta government’s optimistic projected natural resource royalty revenues in the realm of fantasy for the foreseeable future. The drop in oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic changed Alberta’s reality, but that did not stop Toews from shepherding an outdated budget through the legislative approval process.

With its revenues in the tank, the government continues to refuse to consider options to diversify its revenue streams, meaning Toews, who usually fills the roll of the adult in the room, will likely be announcing big cuts and layoffs when the Legislature returns for a one-day fiscal update debate on August 27.

To top it off, Calgary economist Trevor Tombe has declared Alberta is now a “have-not” province.

Hot: Mike Ellis (MLA Calgary-West): Ellis’ role as chair of the Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills will be unnoticed by most Albertans, but he has succeeded in fairly navigating some contentious issues that have arisen at committee hearings on private members’ bills this session. The expanded committee process for private members bills is new and is a very procedural and important part of how laws are made in Alberta.

Kaycee Madu Edmonton South West
Kaycee Madu (Source: Twitter)

Not: Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu (MLA Edmonton-South West): Carrying a definitively paternalistic approach to the provincial government’s relationship with municipalities, Madu introduced changes to local elections laws that led the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association to declare that their relationship with the minister was broken.

Many rural municipalities have spoken out about oil and gas companies that are either unable or refusing to pay their municipal taxes and now tax structure changes implemented by the province threaten to strip oil and gas tax revenue from those same rural municipalities.

According to a statement from Camrose County: “Council and administration are extremely concerned about the serious impacts of this decision because it will mean an increase in property tax, reduction of services, or combination of both to make up for this lost revenue.

While the stated intention of this decision is to increase the competitiveness of oil and gas companies in this hard time, these changes will disproportionately benefit large oil and gas companies and harm smaller local firms.”

Sonya Savage

Not: Energy Minister Sonya Savage (MLA Calgary-North West): It is a pretty grim time to be an Energy Minister in Alberta. Former pipeline lobbyist Sonya Savage had some success in negotiating funding from the federal government to clean up orphan and abandoned well sites, but her brave rhetoric has not matched the reality of the world’s energy market. Big oil companies like Total are pulling out of Alberta and barely a week goes by without a major investment house or bank divesting its funds from Alberta’s oil sands.

The much-lauded “Fightback” strategy touted by Savage and Kenney, which features a scandal-plagued Canadian Energy Centre and a $3.5 million secret public inquiry, seems to amount to the minister accusing companies like Total and financial institutions like Deutsche Bank of being “highly-hypocritical.” The world is moving away from Alberta’s oil sands and the government is either unable or unwilling to face that challenge.

Marlin Schimdt NDP MLA Edmonton Gold Bar Alberta Election 2019 politics
Marlin Schimdt

Not: Shane Getson (MLA Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland): Getson’s adolescent behavior – telling the NDP that they have a special VIP section reserved in Hell and allegedly making inappropriate gestures toward opposition MLAs – are unbecoming of an elected representative. Grow up, Shane.

Hot: Speaker Nathan Cooper (MLA Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills): An effort to demystify the Legislative Assembly, Cooper’s weekly videos highlighting different parts of the Legislature Building and functions of the Assembly has been entertaining and educating. Cooper and his staff should be commended for recognizing the opportunity to open the Legislature to Albertans through social media.

Not: Marlin Schmidt (MLA Edmonton-Gold Bar): Schmidt’s comments about former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were an unnecessary distraction at a point when it looked like the NDP were on a role. Smarten up, Marlin.

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Alberta Politics

Election bills give Albertans more democracy, less transparency and accountability.

Albertans could soon be given more opportunities to cast their ballots but with much less transparency about and accountability for who is spending money to influence their votes.

The United Conservative Party government continued to unwrap its electoral reform package this week with the introduction of:

Bill 26: Constitutional Referendum Amendment Act: introduced by Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer, the bill amends the Constitutional Referendum Act law to allow for province-wide referendums to be held on non-constitutional issues

Bill 27: Alberta Senate Election Amendment Act: also introduced by Schweitzer, this bill makes amendments to the Alberta Senate Election Act passed in June 2019. 

Bill 29: Local Authorities Election Amendment Act: introduced by Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu, this bill introduces major changes to the law that governs municipal elections in Alberta.

These bills are part of a series of election bills that are expected to also include future bills allowing for the recall of MLAs, municipal politicians and school trustees, citizen initiated referendums, and major changes to provincial election laws.

Doug Schweitzer Calgary Alberta Conservative
Doug Schweitzer

The three bills introduced this week provide more opportunities for Albertans to vote for candidates and on issues, but they also claw back important transparency and accountability rules implemented by the previous New Democratic Party government less than two years ago.

It has almost been 50 years since the last time a province-wide plebiscite was initiated by the Alberta government. Bill 26 would allow the provincial government to hold referendums on non-constitutional issues, like creating an Alberta Pension Plan or deciding if we should remain on Daylight Saving Time. Providing an opportunity for Albertans to cast ballots on important issues can be a powerful tool to engage voters, but the timing and wording of such votes can also be intentionally manipulative.

The bill allows third-party groups, colloquially known as political action committees, to spend up to $500,000 on advertising up from the current $150,000 limit. Third-party groups that spend less than $350,000 on advertising during a referendum would not be required to file financial statements with Elections Alberta.

Schweitzer did not hold a press conference to announce the bill, so it is unclear why he chose to include such a massive gap in transparency.

Changes to municipal election laws included in Bill 29 are being framed by Madu as helping “level the playing field” for new candidates running for municipal councils and school boards by not allowing incumbents to carry over campaign war chests between elections and increasing the amount candidates can spend ahead of the election period from $2,000 to $5,000.

Bill 29 raises the election period donation limit from $4,000 back up to $5,000 and allows candidates to self-finance their campaign up to $10,000, reversing a number of changes made by the NDP government in 2018 that have not had a chance to be tested in a municipal election campaign.

Madu’s bill would also make it legal for wealthy individuals to donate up to $5,000 each to as many candidates as they want in any municipal or school board election across the province, effectively removing the cap on individual donations.

Eliminating the ability of incumbents to store campaign surpluses in war chests for future elections might lower the amount of cash on hand at the beginning of an election campaign. But in Edmonton at least, only two city councillors – Sarah Hamilton and Ben Henderson – reported having surpluses of more than $10,000 at the end of the 2017 election, suggesting that war chests are not necessarily a significant issues in the capital city.

Raising the donation limit could strengthen the advantage of incumbents with name recognition and developed political networks running against challengers who may be seeking political office for the first time.

The advantage of name recognition that helps incumbents get re-elected in large numbers at the municipal level is a feature that predates any of the changes to municipal election finance laws introduced by the previous NDP and Progressive Conservative governments over the past decade. The incumbent advantage even existed when there were no donation limits.

Bill 29 removes the requirement that candidates disclose their donors ahead of election day, which allows voters to see who is financially supporting candidates before they head to the ballot box.

The bill also removes spending limits for third-party groups before the start of the election period, allowing groups like Calgary’s infamous Sprawl Cabal of land developers free reign to spend unlimited amounts of money on advertising before May 1, 2021.

Madu’s Bill 29 introduces big money back into municipal elections under the guise of fairness and without creating any of the structural changes required to design a real competitive electoral environment at the municipal level.

Bill 29 also removes all references to the Election Commissioner, a housekeeping item necessitated by the controversial firing of the Commissioner by the UCP government in November 2019. In its place, the bill creates a Registrar of Third Parties, though it is unclear if the person holding this title would have the legal investigative authority of the now defunct Election Commissioner.

In past elections many municipalities simply did not have the resources available to enforce municipal election finance rules, so in some cases complaints were simply left uninvestigated.

Some of these changes were expected and were included in the UCP’s 2019 election platform, others were necessitated by inconsistencies in the changes made by the NDP in 2018, and some have come completely out of left-field.

Alberta’s election laws should be dynamic and designed to encourage and facilitate participation by voters and candidates, not to hide the identities of those who would spend money influencing election campaigns.

Overall, these bills could probably be summed up as one step forward for democracy and two steps back for transparency and accountability.

Changes coming to provincial election laws

Joseph Schow Cardston-Siksika MLA UCP
Joseph Schow

These changes are likely a taste of what is to come from the recently appointed Select Special Democratic Accountability Committee. Chaired by Cardston-Siksika UCP MLA Joseph Schow, the committee will review Alberta’s Election Act and the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act within the next six months and has be tasked with answering a series of questions submitted by Schweitzer within four months.

Along with Schow, the committee membership includes Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner, Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard, Calgary-Buffalo MLA Joe Ceci, Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang, Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Laila Goodridge, Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon, Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi, Highwood MLA R.J. Sigurdson, Drayton Valley-Devon MLA Mark Smith and Edmonton-Manning MLA Heather Sweet.

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Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 48: An urban big city agenda in Alberta. Municipally Speaking with Mack Male

More than half of Albertans live in Calgary and Edmonton, so why does it feel like big city issues are an afterthought for the provincial government?

Daveberta Podcast Alberta Politics Dave Cournoyer Adam Rozenhart
Daveberta Podcast

Mack Male joins Dave Cournoyer on this episode of the Daveberta Podcast to discuss the state of local media in Edmonton, Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu’s paternalistic approach to municipal relations, the review of the Local Authorities Election Act and how it might change the rules of the 2021 municipal elections, and whether there is hope for ever getting a real urban agenda for Alberta (plus free transit and gondolas).

Mack is a co-founder of Taproot Edmonton and co-host of the Speaking Municipally podcast, which focuses on Edmonton City Council and municipal issues in Alberta’s capital city.

A big thanks to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, for making this episode sound so good.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network, powered by ATB. The Alberta Podcast Network includes more than 30 great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Find us on TwitterInstagram, Facebook, or you can email us at podcast@daveberta.ca. Thanks for listening!

Recommended:

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Alberta Politics

Vote for the Best of Alberta Politics in 2019 – The Top 3

Photos: Leela Aheer, John Archer, Greg Clark, Devin Dreeshen, Sarah Hoffman, Danielle Larivee, Rachel Notley, Janis Irwin, Rakhi Pancholi, Shannon Phillips (source: Legislative Assembly of Alberta website)

With more than 500 submissions made to the Best of Alberta Politics 2019 survey, your choices have been sorted and you can now vote in each category. Voting is open until Dec. 14, 2019 at 11:59 pm and the winners will be announced on the special year-end episode of the Daveberta Podcast on Dec. 16, 2019.

Here are the top three choices in every category:

Who was the best Alberta MLA of 2019? – Vote

  • Devin Dreeshan, MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona

An honourable mention to Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West who placed a strong fourth in total submissions. Notley was last year’s winner in this category.

Who was the best Alberta cabinet minister of 2019? – Vote

  • Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
  • Sarah Hoffman, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health
  • Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks

Honourable mentions to Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen and Minister of Finance Travis Toews, who placed a close forth and fifth in this category. Former Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson was last year’s winner in this category.

Who was the best opposition MLA of 2019? – Vote

  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
  • Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West

Former Calgary-Elbow MLA Greg Clark was last year’s winner in this category.

Who is the up and coming MLA to watch in 2020? – Vote

  • Devin Dreeshen, MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud

An honourable mention to Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang, who placed a strong fourth in the first round of voting. Jessica Littlewood, former MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, was last year’s winner in this category..

Who was the best candidate who didn’t win in the 2019 Alberta election? – Vote

  • John Archer, NDP candidate in Edmonton-South West
  • Greg Clark, Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Elbow
  • Danielle Larivee, NDP candidate in Lesser Slave Lake

An honourable mention to Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville NDP candidate Jessica Littlewood, and Leduc-Beaumont NDP candidate Shaye Anderson, who tied for fourth place in this category..

What was the biggest political issue of 2019 in Alberta? – Vote

  • Budget cuts
  • Economy and jobs
  • Firing the Elections Commissioner
  • Turkey farm hostage taking

There were a lot of submissions in this category, so we decided to give you a chance to vote on the top four in this category.

What was the biggest political play of 2019 in Alberta?

Lorne Gibson Alberta Election Commissioner
Lorne Gibson

This category is usually a dog’s breakfast, but this year your choice was clear. So we have declared the biggest political play of 2019 in Alberta was the United Conservative Party government firing of Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson. The UCP government’s omnibus Bill 22 dissolved the Office of the Election Commissioner, who was in the midst of investigating and issuing fines for violations of Alberta’s elections laws during the UCP leadership race in 2017.

Government watch-dog Democracy Watch has called on the RCMP to investigate the firing of the Election Commissioner and wants a special prosecutor appointed to oversee the investigation to ensure there is no political interference.

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Alberta Politics

How much Alberta’s political parties spent in the 2019 election

Elections Alberta has released the initial financial disclosures showing how much money Alberta’s political parties spent and raised during the 2019 provincial general election campaign period spanning from February 1, 2019 to June 16, 2019.

This was the first election under the new election finance rules implemented by the New Democratic Party during their term in government. The NDP made a number of significant changes to how Alberta’s elections were financed, including banning donations to political parties by corporations and unions, and introducing a spending limit of $2,000,000 for political parties and $50,000 for candidate campaigns, but at the financial returns show, what the spending limits apply to are limited.

The $2,000,000 and $50,000 spending limits only apply to the actual 28-day election period from the time the election is called until Election Day. So the limit does not apply to the broader campaign period, which according to Section 38.1(2) of the Election Act, begins on February 1 in the year of the fixed-election date and ends ends 2 months after Election Day.

The Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act also creates exceptions to the spending limit on expenses categorized as “election expenses.” The expense limit during the 28-day election period does not apply to a candidate’s travel expenses related to the election, including meals and accommodation, a candidate’s child care expenses, expenses related to the provision of care for a person with a physical or mental incapacity for who the candidate normally provides such care, etc.

What the parties spent

Initial Financial Disclosures from Alberta's provincial political parties from the 2019 general election. The Alberta Advantage Party and Freedom Conservative Party returns have not been posted online (source: Elections Alberta)
Initial Financial Disclosures from Alberta’s provincial political parties from the 2019 general election. The Alberta Advantage Party and Freedom Conservative Party returns have not been posted online (source: Elections Alberta)

The United Conservative Party spent $4,561,362.10 while raising $3,889,582.70 during the campaign period, ending the campaign with a deficit of $671,779.40.

$1,909,116.43 of the UCP’s expenses were spent on items that fall under the provincial limit, including $1,202,965.43 spent on advertising, posters, pamphlets and promotional materials. $2,619,471.83 was spent on expenses that was exempt from the spending limit.

The NDP spent $5,363,029.30 and raised $3,706,785.66, ending the campaign with a deficit of $1,656,043.64.

Of the NDP’s campaign expenses, $1,977,367.65 were spent on items that fall under the provincial limit, including $1,363,029.74 for advertising, posters, pamphlets and promotional material. $2,200,131.09 was spent on expenses that was exempt from the spending limit.

The Alberta Party raised $206,597 and spent $199,935 during the campaign period. $118,960 of the Alberta Party’s expenses fell under the provincial limit rules, including $21,932 spent on advertising, posters, pamphlets and promotional. Of the party’s total expenses, $74,975 was exempt from the limit.

The Alberta Liberal Party raised $101,233 and spent $130,063, ending the campaign with a deficit of $28,830. The Green Party raised $14,894.40 and spent $41,702.22, earning a deficit of $26,807.82.

Some candidates spent a lot during the campaign period

The campaigns of a number of UCP candidates spent considerable amount during the course of the broader campaign period. Here is a snapshot of some of the higher candidate campaign expenses:

  • Doug Schweitzer, UCP candidate in Calgary-Elbow: spent $309,597.22, of which $268,166.23 did not fall under the spending limit.
  • Tyler Shandro, UCP candidate in Calgary-Acadia: spent $122,170.91, with $77,463.88 not falling under the spending limit.
  • Kaycee Madu, UCP candidate in Edmonton-South West: spent $101,098, with $55,527 exempt from the spending limit.
  • Dan Williams, UCP candidate in Peace River: spent $92,268, with $52,750 exempt from the spending limit.
  • Jason Luan, UCP candidate in Calgary-Foothills: spent $92,268, with $52,750 exempt from the spending limit.

No NDP candidate candidate campaign spent anywhere near the amount of the big spenders on the UCP slate, but a number of candidates did exceed the $50,000 limit:

  • Rachel Notley, running for re-election in Edmonton-Strathcona: spent $73,297, with $39,798 exempt from the spending limit.
  • Christina Gray, NDP candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods: spent $73,576, with $27,742 exempt from the spending limit.
  • Lorne Dach, NDP candidate in Edmonton-McClung: spent $64,282, with $27,396 exempt from the spending limit.

And the campaign of Caylan Ford, the UCP star candidate in Calgary-Mountain View who withdrew from the election before the nomination deadline, was recorded to have spent $83,100,50 during the campaign period that began on February 1, 2019, with $32,676.94 of these expenses being exempt from the spending limit.

Chief Elections Officer recommends changes

Glen Resler Chief Elections Officer Alberta
Glen Resler (Source: Elections Alberta)

Chief Elections Officer Glen Resler recommended in his office’s recently released annual report that the spending limits be placed on the entire campaign period, rather than just the election period. He argued in the report that this change would “reduce the administrative burden and provide clarity for Chief Financial Officers of parties, constituency associations and candidates with respect to apportioning expenses between election and campaign periods.

Resler recommended that Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act and the Election Act be “combined into one coherent statute to make the legislation more accessible to participants and electors and provide a much-needed opportunity to renumber the legislation.” Currently, eight other provinces and territories have one piece of legislation governing provincial elections.

The report also recommends that political entities be expressly prohibited from contributing to third party advertisers, which seems to be a reaction to the decision by the now defunct Wildrose Party association in Airdrie to donate $16,000 to a political action committee.

CBC reports that the UCP government is expected to make major changes to Alberta’s election finance laws in the spring 2020 session of the Legislature. It is suspected that some changes could removing the limits of third-party advertisers to spend funds during the election and campaign periods, and raising the amount that individuals can donate to political parties. Changes are also expected to include moves to limit the ability of unions to fund third-party groups and to advocate for their members on political and policy issues.

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Alberta Politics

Alberta is getting an MLA Recall Law. Here is what it could mean for Alberta politics.

Photo: Mark Smith, UCP MLA for Drayton Valley-Devon (source: Facebook)

A private members’ bill introduced by Drayton Valley-Devon MLA Mark Smith would, if passed, create a law to allow Albertans to trigger a by-election in a riding where 40 per cent of registered voters have signed a petition recalling their MLA.

William Aberhart
William Aberhart

This is the second time Smith has introduced a private members’ bill calling for what is known as MLA recall. The first recall bill introduced by Smith, then a Wildrose Party MLA, was defeated in second reading in April 2016. His latest attempt, Bill 204: Election Recall Act, passed second reading today and stands a strong chance of passing third reading and becoming law. 

MLA recall was included in the United Conservative Party’s election platform, and allowing Smith deliver on this promise through a private members’ bill may his consolation prize after he was excluded from the cabinet after his gross comments about “homosexual love” surfaced during the provincial election.

MLA Recall is nothing new in Alberta. Bill 204 marks the eighth time since 1993 that Alberta MLAs have debated recall in the Legislature, and Alberta even briefly had an MLA recall law in the 1930s.

An law passed in 1936 by the newly elected Social Credit government of Premier William Aberhart required 66.6 percent of voters to sign a petition to trigger a recall by-election. The law was repealed by the government in 1937 when a recall campaign in Aberhart’s Okotoks-High River was gaining momentum and expected to trigger a by-election.

Leela Aheer ALberta MLA
Leela Aheer (Source: Twitter)

Smith’s bill would create a threshold of 40 per cent of eligible voters needed to trigger a recall by-election, which is significantly higher than previous versions of the bill, including one introduced in 2015 by Chestermere-Rockyview Wildrose MLA Leela Aheer that set the bar at a low 20 per cent of eligible voters.

Mark Smith’s bill has a number of concerning weaknesses

Removing a democratically-elected MLA from office through recall is a very serious action, and one that should be done only in certain serious circumstances.

Bill 204 places limits on when recall can take place, starting 18 months following a provincial election, but it does not place limits why it can be triggered.

Recall legislation proclaimed in the United Kingdom in 2015 states specific circumstances in which a recall petition can be triggered against a sitting Member of Parliament:

  • A custodial prison sentence of a year or less—longer sentences automatically disqualify MPs without need for a petition;
  • Suspension from the House of least 10 sitting days or 14 calendar days, following a report by the Committee on Standards;
  • A conviction for providing false or misleading expenses claims.
Shannon Phillips
Shannon Phillips

If there is going to be a recall law in Alberta, it should be fair and should only be allowed to be triggered under certain circumstances, otherwise it could be used to punish MLAs who make unpopular decisions or break from their party on high-profile political issues.

Because Bill 204 appears to be silent on how political parties and third-party political groups, widely known as political action committees, can engage in the recall process, it seems possible that they could play a role in collecting petition signatures through coordinated campaigns.

Bill 204 does not appear to address the role of political parties in funding, supporting, or organizing recall petitions, meaning that the UCP, New Democratic Party, or another political party might be able to actively support a recall campaign against its political opponents.

While political parties and third-party political groups would still be required to report their financial disclosures, it is not clear how their activities or interference during the recall process would be monitored.

Kaycee Madu Edmonton South West
Kaycee Madu (Source: Twitter)

It is not far-fetched to believe that third-party groups, of both conservative and progressive persuasions, could start collecting signatures to trigger recall elections in ridings where MLAs were elected by narrow margins in 2019, like NDP MLAs Shannon Phillips in Lethbridge-West and Jon Carson in Edmonton-West Henday or UCP MLAs Nicholas Milliken in Calgary-Currie and Kaycee Madu in Edmonton-South West.

Empower MLAs rather than punish them

Being a backbench MLA in a government caucus is not a glamorous job. They are told where to be and how to vote on most issues, and rarely have the opportunity to demonstrate meaningful independence without facing admonishment from the Caucus Whip.

In many ways, the Legislative Assembly has become subservient to the Premier’s Office, and serves as a body that exists to pass government legislation introduced by cabinet, rather than debate legislation introduced by individual MLAs. This is not unique to Alberta and it is a problem that plagues legislative bodies across Canada (and likely the world).

One way that individual MLAs could empower themselves would be to change the standing orders to allow MLAs who are not in cabinet an increased opportunity to introduce private members bills. Right now MLAs earn the ability to introduce private members bills through a lottery, meaning that some MLAs will never have the chance to introduce a law into the Legislature. And private members’ bills are only debated on Monday afternoons, severely limiting their ability to get attention and get passed into law. 

Accountability of democratic officials is important, and that is why we have elections every four years. And as Albertans have demonstrated over the past two elections, they will not hesitate to dramatically unseat MLAs and governments.

It would be better for democracy in Alberta if we focused on ways to empower MLAs to better represent Albertans in the Legislative Assembly, rather than creating new ways to punish them.

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Alberta Politics

Pick a lane, Joe! Anglin now running for Alberta Party in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre

Former Green Party leader, Wildrose Party MLA, Independent MLA, and Progressive Conservative nomination candidate Joe Anglin has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate inRimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre months after he publicly mused about running for Derek Fildebrandt’s populist Freedom Conservative Party.

A relentless and fearless advocate with a reputation for being a lone-wolf, Anglin is one of the more colourful characters to have graced Alberta politics over the past decade.

Anglin was elected as MLA Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre in the 2012 election and first served as a Wildrose Party MLA and then as an Independent MLA until his defeat in the 2015 election.

Danielle Smith Joe Anglin Wildrose MLA Election Alberta 2012
Wildrose leader Danielle Smith with Joe Angiln during the 2012 Alberta Election.

Anglin lost the Wildrose Party nomination to Jason Nixon in 2014 and left the Wildrose Caucus shortly afterward. He attempted to mount a campaign for the PC Party nomination in the district in early 2015 but was denied entry into the race. He then ran as an Independent and earned 11.3 per cent of the vote in the 2015 election.

With service in the United States Marine Corps, the Canadian Coast Guard, and a New Hampshire police service under this belt, Anglin burst on to the political stage in the mid-2000s, leading the Lavesta Area Group in a landowners revolt against the construction of giant electrical transmission lines through rural central Alberta and soon after took over the leadership of the Alberta Greens. He earned the best result ever for a provincial Green candidate in Alberta in 2008, when he earned 22 per cent of the vote in Lacombe-Ponoka.

Jason Nixon Wildrose Rocky Mountain House Rimbey Sundre
Jason Nixon

He left the Greens soon after the election as the party dissolved. He won a seat on Rimbey Town Council and was rumoured to be considering numerous political options, including a potential jump to the then-renewed Alberta Party, but ended up joining the Wildrose Party instead.

Anglin has been on a legal crusade over the past few years as he pursued lawsuits against Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer and Elections Alberta, alleging abuse of process and challenging financial penalties. Most recently, he asked the RCMP to investigate Nixon for alleged obstruction of justice.

His nomination as a candidate for the Alberta Party is a surprising because of his previous statements about the Freedom Conservative Party, but not surprising because of his history of party-hopping. His return to the world of electoral politics will undoubtably bring a level of entertainment value that will make this race worth watching in the upcoming election.

Anglin will face Alberta Advantage Party candidate Paula Lamoureux, Green Party candidate Jane Drummond, New Democratic Party candidate Jeff Ible and United Conservative Party candidate Jason Nixon.


Non-Joe Anglin related nomination news

  • The NDP have nominated Melissa Langmaid in Chestermere-Strathmore. And Kyle Johnston is seeking the NDP nomination in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills. Johnston is the former president of the Red Deer & District Labour Council and a member of United Steel Workers Local 1944 Unit 205.
  • The Alberta Party has nominated Vincent Rain in Lesser Slave Lake.
  • The Liberal Party has nominated Steve Cochan as its candidate in Edmonton-Gold Bar and Ryan Campbell in Calgary-Varsity.
  • The Green Party has nominated Stuart Andrews as its candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona.
  • Alberta Advantage Party leader Marilyn Burns will run as a candidate in Edmonton-South West.
  • The Freedom Conservative Party has nominated Regina Shakirova in Calgary-Bow and Wesley Caldwell in Camrose.
  • Eight more candidates affiliated with the Alberta Independence Party have filed their papers to run as Independent candidates:: Buster Malcolm in Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock, Thomas Manasek in Calgary-Fish Creek, Richard Fontaine in Calgary-South East, Christopher McAndrews in Calgary-Varsity, Terris Kolybaba in Edmonton-Manning, Dallas Price in Edmonton-Mill Woods, Dan Irving in Highwood, John McCanna in Lethbridge-East, and Vern Sparks in Livingstone-Macleod.

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!


Six members of the Livingstone-Macleod UCP Constituency Association Board of Directors have walked away from the Board and the Party in recent days.

According to a report by High River Online:

“Board President Maureen Moncrieff says, for her, this has been coming for a while.

“I have not been happy with the UCP Party as a whole. I don’t like the fact that it’s supposed to be “grass roots guaranteed” and that flew out the window a month after it was told.”

She says she’s been growing disillusioned with the Party, and in particular Leader Jason Kenney, who she says promised a grass roots party, but has shown it to be anything but.

“It’s too top down, It’s not what I expected it to be. I came from the Wildrose side and it was all about being grass roots. And I’m really disappointed that there is no grass roots in the UCP Party.”

Categories
Alberta Politics

Mid-Week Alberta Nomination Candidate Updates

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

Alberta NDP

The New Democratic Party has recently nominated ministerial press secretary and former CBC reporter John Archer in Edmonton-South West, retired teacher and political columnist Peter Mueller in Cypress-Medicine Hat and Gulshan Akter in Calgary-West.

The NDP has also announced additional series nomination meetings.

Laura Ross-Giroux will seek the NDP nomination in Taber-Warner at a candidate selection meeting on Feb. 23, 2019. Ross-Giroux was elected as a town councillor in Taber from 2013 to 2017 and served as President of the Alberta Library Trustees Association from 2014 to 2018 and chairperson of the Chinook Arch Regional Library System from 2010 to 2017.

– NDP MLA Eric Rosendahl is seeking his party’s nomination in West Yellowhead at a candidate selection meeting scheduled for Feb. 24, 2019. Rosendahl was first elected in 2015 with 39 percent of the vote and, if nominated, will seek re-election in a district that has been drastically enlarged to include the area surrounding the Town of Whitecourt.

– Doug Hart, a Registered Nurse from Ponoka, will seek the NDP nomination in Lacombe-Ponoka. Hart was the NDP candidate in this district in 2012 and in 2015, when he earned 30.1 percent of the vote. He also ran for the NDP in the Ponoka-Rimbey district in the 1989 and 1993 election and against Conservative MP Blaine Calkins in Red Deer-Lacombe in the 2015 federal election. A nomination meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 27, 2019.

Justin Sharpe will seek the NDP nomination in Peace River at a meeting scheduled for Feb. 28, 2019. The district is currently represented by NDP MLA Debbie Jabbour, who has not yet announced whether she plans to seek re-election.

A nomination meeting has been scheduled by the NDP in Cardston-Siksika on Feb. 26, 2019.

United Conservative Party

Muhammad Yaseen defeated Devin GreenTanis FissPaul Frank, and Jun Lin, to secure the United Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-North. Yaseen if a former president of the Pakistan Canada Association of Calgary and former president of the Calgary-Northern Hills Progressive Conservative association.

Nathan Neudorf defeated Robin JamesBryan LitchfieldKimberly Lyall and Angela Zuba to win the UCP nomination in Lethbridge-East.

Neudorf re-entered the UCP nomination contest in this district in December 2018 after dropping out to run for the UCP nomination in the Livingstone-Macleod district located west of Lethbridge, but was unsuccessful in that contest. He was endorsed by Roger Reid, UCP Candidate for Livingstone-Macleod, and local Conservative MP Rachael Harder

Rajesh Arora is seeking the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Ellerslie. The party has also finally opened the nomination process in the Red Deer-South district.

Alberta Party

The Alberta Party announced that it has selected candidates Braham Luddu in Calgary-Cross Zac Rhodenizer in Lethbridge-West. The party’s Calgary-Lougheed candidate, Rachel Timmermans, who was one of 6 candidates deemed ineligible to run in the next election, issued a statement announcing that she has retained legal counsel and plans to “apply for relief from the Court of Queen’s Bench.”

Freedom Conservative Party

Cam Khan has been nominated as the Freedom Conservative Party candidate in Calgary-North West, where he unsuccessfully mounted a campaign for the UCP nomination in August 2018 but was defeated by nominee Sonya Savage. Following the UCP nomination contest, he ran for a position on the Alberta Party board of directors at that party’s 2018 annual general meeting. He also ran for Calgary City Council in the 2017 municipal election.

The FCP also nominated Matthew Morrisey in Airdrie-Cochrane and Malcolm Stinson in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville.

Liberal Party

Rork Hillford is seeking the Liberal Party nomination in Calgary-Glenmore.

Green Party

Carl Svoboda is seeking the Green Party nomination in Calgary-Edgemont. Svoboda previously ran in Calgary-Varsity as the Evergreen Party candidate in the 2012 election and the Green Party candidate in the 2015 election. The candidate selection deadline is Feb. 13, 2019.

Alberta Advantage Party

The right-wing Alberta Advantage Party has nominated Chris Poplatek in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, Gordon Perrot in Edmonton-McClung, Donald Petruka in St. Albert, and Donald Melanson in Strathcona-Sherwood Park.


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!

Categories
Alberta Politics

Rakhi Pancholi nominated for NDP in Edmonton-Whitemud, NDP to hold 3 more candidate selection meetings on Feb. 9

Photo: Rakhi Pancholi (source: Twitter)

With the nomination of Rakhi Pancholi in Edmonton-Whitemud, the Alberta New Democratic Party has selected 53 candidates across the province. Pancholi is a lawyer with McLennan Ross LLP and previously worked as the staff lawyer for the Alberta School Boards Association and as a Solicitor with the Government of Alberta. She is currently the Vice Chair of the Education Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association and sit on the Board of Directors of ParityYEG, an Edmonton-based organization promoting gender parity in politics.

Pancholi is aiming to succeed popular NDP MLA Bob Turner, who announced his plans to retire from politics late last year. She has the endorsements of Edmonton Public School Board trustee Michael Janz and former Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MLAs Raj Pannu and Barrie Chivers.

The NDP have scheduled a series of nomination meetings over the next few weeks and more are expected to be announced as we approach the impending election call later this spring:

John Archer NDP Edmonton South West
John Archer

February 9: Ministerial press secretary and former CBC reporter John Archer is seeking the NDP nomination in Edmonton-South West. Retired teacher and political columnist Peter Mueller is expected to secure the NDP nomination in Cypress-Medicine Hat. And Gulshan Akter is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-West.

February 16: Cesar Cala is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-East and MLA Chris Nielsen is seeking the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Decore.

February 17: Wood Buffalo Municipal Councillor and 2017 Fort McMurray-Conklin by-election candidate Jane Stroud will seek the NDP nomination in the new Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district. Fort McMurray school board trustee Stephen Drover is seeking the NDP nomination in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo.

February 19: Melissa Byers and Todd Russell are challenging each other for the NDP nomination in Grande Prairie.

February 20: MLA Kim Schreiner is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in Red Deer-North.

February 23: Cameron Gardner is seeking the NDP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. Gardner is Reeve of the Municipal District of Ranchland.

February 24: Jasvir Deol has joined MLA Denise Woollard and Chand Gul in the NDP nomination contest in Edmonton-MeadowsCrown Prosecutor Moira Vane is seeking the NDP nomination in Strathcona-Sherwood Park.

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!

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Alberta Politics

NDP MLA Colin Piquette not seeking re-election, Kelly Mandryk nominated for NDP in Calgary-North

Photo: Premier Rachel Notley and MLA Colin Piquette at an event in Athabasca in 2017 (source: Facebook)

New Democratic Party MLA Colin Piquette announced in a post on Facebook this week that he will not be seeking re-election when the writ is dropped. Piquette has represented the Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater district since 2015 and had previously announced plans to seek re-election in the sprawling new Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock district.

Concerns about the change in electoral boundaries and the geographic size of the new district were a reason given for his decision against running in the expected spring election:

“As it stands now my present riding is “only” 13,000 sqr km in size and laid out on a north-south access to Edmonton making it possible to visit communities on my way back and forth to meetings in the city. The new riding come this spring will be almost double that size spread west to east. For perspective, this is about half the size of Nova Scotia and just a little smaller than Belgium. That’s a lot of territory for one person to have to cover on a regular basis. I made no secret of my concerns over the electoral boundary changes and the negative impact they would have on effective rural representation. But I always somehow expected that if they did come to pass I would find a way to overcome the challenges they posed and make it work. However, as the election has drawn closer and campaign preparations have begun in earnest I realize just how much serving these new boundaries would demand, and not only of me. I just can’t see how to do this without an unacceptable degree of sacrifice from my family.”

Piquette raised concerns about the boundary changes when they were debated in the Assembly in 2017 and he and West Yellowhead MLA Eric Rosendahl were the only NDP MLAs to vote against changes recommended by Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission. The changes recommended by the commission significantly altered the boundaries of the electoral districts they represent.

A map of the new Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock district
A map of the new Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock district

Had he run for re-election, Piquette would have faced United Conservative Party MLA Glenn van Dijken, who was elected to represent Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock in 2015 and is standing for re-election in the new district. His decision not to seek re-election is not surprising. A path to a second term for Piquette, and most other rural NDP MLAs, would be extremely challenging as it is unlikely that this new district will be brimming with NDP voters in 2019. This is not a reflection on Piquette or his record as an MLA, but of the current prevailing political winds in rural Alberta.

Piquette is the former president of the Boyle District Chamber of Commerce and director with the Boyle and District Agricultural Society. He worked as a university instructor and an insurance agent representing the Cooperators in Athabasca and Boyle before his election.

Piquette is the 11th NDP MLA to announce plans not to seek re-election in 2019. A total of 19 MLAs are not seeking re-election.


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

Kelly Mandryk NDP Calgary North
Kelly Mandryk

Kelly Mandryk was nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-North on February 4, 2019. Mandryk is a Senior Service Representative with Great West Life and is a former journalist and editor, having worked at the Barrhead Leader and Calgary Herald. 

Stephen Drover is seeking the NDP nomination in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. Drover is a trustee with the Fort McMurray Public School Board and was the NDP candidate in this district in 2015, earning 30.42 percent of the vote. He is an oil sands operator and member of Unifor Local 707-A. The NDP have scheduled a nomination contest in this district on February 17, 2019.

Gulshan Akter is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-West. Akter is the managing director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Education and President and CEO of the Peerless Training Institute, a government-accredited private career college in Calgary.

The NDP have scheduled candidate in Edmonton-Whitemud on February 7, 2019, and in Calgary-WestCypress-Medicine Hat, and Edmonton-South West on February 9, 2019. The UCP is holding nomination votes in Calgary-North and Lethbridge-East on February 9, 2019 (I hope to have updates about these two UCP contests posted tomorrow).

Categories
Alberta Politics

NDP nominate 7 new candidates, Jordan Stein defeats MLA Anam Kazim in Calgary-Glenmore

Photo: Jordan Stein (pictured) defeated MLA Anam Kazim to secure the NDP nomination in Calgary-Glenmore. (photo source: @Jordan.Stein.Alberta on Instagram)

We are in the zone. As of February 1, 2019, Albertans are now living in the campaign period where an election can be called any day until May 31, 2019.

The New Democratic Party had a big nomination weekend, selecting candidates in 7 districts across the province. With candidates nominated in 52 districts, the NDP are now 35 candidates away from a full-slate in all 87 districts.

Anam Kazim NDP MLA Calgary Glenmore
Anam Kazim

In the southwest district of Calgary-GlenmoreJordan Stein defeated MLA Anam Kazim to win the NDP nomination. Stein is a former coffee shop owner, flight attendant with WestJet and employee engagement consultant with Air North.

Kazim was first elected in 2015 with a 6-vote margin of victory over Progressive Conservative MLA Linda Johnson. Kazim was one of 9 NDP candidates under the age of 30 to be elected in 2015.

Kazim is the second incumbent NDP MLA to lose a candidate nomination contest in this election cycle. MLA Marie Renaud defeated MLA Trevor Horne to secure the NDP nomination in St. Albert in December 2018.

Stein will face United Conservative Party candidate Whitney Issik, Alberta Party candidate Scott Appleby, and Green Party candidate Allie Tulick when the election is called.

Here are the six other NDP nominations that have been held over the past few days:

Airdrie-Cochrane: Steven Durrell was chosen as the party’s candidate in Airdrie-Cochrane. Durrell is a Telus dispatcher and trustee for the Telus Corporation pension plan. He has been a shop steward for the United Steelworkers. He was a target of UCP leader Jason Kenney this past weekend, as the conservative leader mocked Durrell for being a 19-year old. Durrell is a 29-year-old father of three.

Steven Durrell Airdrie Cochrane NDP election alberta
Steven Durrell

This new district north of Calgary includes areas currently part of the Airdrie, Banff-Cochrane, and Chestermere-Rockyview districts.

Calgary-Beddington: Amanda Chapman is a communications consultant and former communications coordinator with AIDS Awareness Calgary.

Calgary-Edgemont:  Julia Hayter was a constituency assistant to recently resigned Calgary-Varsity MLA Stephanie McLean. She was seeking the NDP nomination in McLean’s former district until Anne McGrath entered the contest and was chosen as her party’s candidate.

Calgary-Foothills: Sameena Arif is active with the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association. A teacher who immigrated from Pakistan to Canada with her family in 2004, Arif’s story was highlighted in an article on one of the Government of Alberta’s official websites in 2012.

Calgary-Hays: Tory Tomblin is a primary care paramedic with Alberta Health Services and was a candidate for the Calgary Board of Education in Wards 12 & 14 in the 2017 election.

Julia Hayter NDP candidate Calgary Edgemont Alberta
Julia Hayter

Camrose: Morgan Bamford is the Acting Supervisor of Indigenous Relations with the City of Edmonton and is the co-founder of Bamford & Henbest Research and Consulting Partners Ltd. He is vice-president of the board of directors of Volunteer Alberta.

The NDP have scheduled candidate selection meetings in Calgary-North on February 4, 2019, in Edmonton-Whitemud on February 7, 2019, and in Calgary-West, Cypress-Medicine Hat, and Edmonton-South West on February 9, 2019.

The contested NDP nomination race between Melissa Byers and Todd Russell in Grande Prairie was initially scheduled to take place on February 3, 2019 but has been rescheduled to February 19, 2019. 

Alberta Advantage Party

The Wildrose Party-offshoot Alberta Advantage Party has nominated former Wolf Creek School Division trustee Paula Lamoureux as its candidate in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre. This is considered one of the most conservative voting areas in Alberta and is currently represented by UCP MLA Jason Nixon

Marilyn Burns, the leader of the small right-wing party, will be holding a series of town hall meetings in Pincher Creek, Brooks, and Calgary in February 2019.

Freedom Conservative Party

Rick Northey Airdrie East Freedom Conservative Party election alberta
Rick Northey

Rick Northey has been nominated as the Freedom Conservative Party candidate in Airdrie-EastNorthey is the former president of the Airdrie UCP and Wildrose Party associations. He resigned from that UCP board in June 2018, saying he was unhappy with what he maintained was a secretive cash transfer of $16,000 from the local Wildrose Party association to the Alberta Fund political action committee in late 2017. Nothey accused UCP MLA Angela Pitt of “outright intimidation” in trying to get him to stop asking questions about it. He will now face Pitt in the provincial election.

Valerie Keefe has withdrawn plans to seek the FCP nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood.

The FCP has opened nomination contests in Airdrie-Cochrane, Calgary-North West, Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, and Leduc-Beaumont.

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!

Categories
Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 27: When is Alberta’s next election? And will Don Iveson be the next Prime Minister of Canada?

In this episode of the Daveberta Podcast, we stare deep into our crystal ball to figure out when Premier Rachel Notley will call Alberta’s next election, dissect some of the key messages from the party leaders, discuss how the United Conservative Party reacted to the controversy over Jason Kenney’s residency, and muse about whether Edmonton mayor Don Iveson will be the next Prime Minister of Canada.

Don Iveson Edmonton Mayor Election
Don Iveson

Dave and Ryan also delve into the latest candidate nomination news, including a handful of new NDP contested races.  We also answered a long list of questions sent in by listeners on topics ranging from provincial sales taxes, battleground ridings, municipal infrastructure funding, and more.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial.

You can listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online.

We always love to feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download. You can also comment on the blogFacebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

And a huge thanks to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, who keeps us on track and makes each episode of the Daveberta Podcast sound so great.

Thank you for listening!

Recommended reading/watching:

Categories
Alberta Politics

Marie Renaud defeats Trevor Horne to secure NDP nomination in St. Albert, Karri Flatla wins UCP nomination in Lethbridge-West

Photo: Marie Renaud (centre) and Trevor Horne (right)

MLA Marie Renaud defeated MLA Trevor Horne to secure the New Democratic Party candidacy in St. Albert at a nomination meeting held tonight. This was the NDP’s first contested nomination race of the pre-election season.

Both MLAs, who were elected in 2015, saw their electoral districts significantly redrawn ahead of the next election. Horne’s district, Spruce Grove-St. Albert, was divided into the new Spruce Grove-Stony Plain, Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland, and St. Albert districts. 

Renaud is a well-known advocate for persons with developmental disabilities, and worked for almost 15 years as the executive director of Lo-Se-Ca Foundation before her election in 2015. She was elected in 2015 with 53 percent of the vote, unseating PC MLA Stephen Khan, who earned 28 percent.

This was the first time two NDP MLAs faced each other in a nomination contest in more than 25 years. Ahead of the 1993 election, Edmonton-Kingsway MLA Alex McEachern and Edmonton-Jasper Place MLA John McInnis both sought the NDP nomination in the newly redrawn Edmonton-Mayfield district. McEachern won the nomination contest and McInnis ended up running in another district across the city.

St. Albert is a bedroom community northwest of Edmonton and this district has a history as a competitive elections, with voters electing New Democrat MLAs in 1986 and 2015, PC MLAs in 1989, 1997, 2001, 2008 and 2012, and Liberal MLAs in 1993 and 2004.

Real Estate Agent wins UCP nomination in Lethbridge-West

Real Estate Agent Karri Flatla defeated Richard Dempsey and George Rigaux to secure the UCP nomination in Lethbridge-West. The district is currently represented by NDP MLA Shannon Phillips, who has served as Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Parks since 2015.

UCP delay Red Deer-South nomination for mystery “high profile individual” 

Despite four candidates already actively campaigning for the UCP nomination in Red Deer-South, the UCP announced last week that they are delaying the selection meeting until 2019 in order to give time for a “high profile individual” run join the contest.

This mystery individual has not yet revealed themselves, but it has been rumoured for months that the UCP has been trying to recruit Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer to run in the next election. 

Veer has served as mayor of Alberta’s third largest city since 2013.


Here are some more of the latest updates to this list of candidates nominated to run in Alberta’s next provincial election:

Edmonton-North West – Brandon Teixeira is seeking the Liberal Party nomination.

Edmonton-South West – Former CBC reporter and current ministerial press secretary John Archer is seeking the NDP nomination.

Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin – The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting in this district on January 8, 2019.

Spruce Grove-Stony Plain: MLA Erin Babcock is seeking the NDP nomination in this district west of Edmonton. Babcock was first elected as MLA for Stony Plain in 2015, earning 38 percent of the vote and unseating PC MLA Ken Lemke. Spruce Grove City Councillor Searle Turton won the UCP nomination contest in this district last week.

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!