Tag Archives: Frank Bruseker

Sandra Jansen (left) and Premier Rachel Notley (right) at the press conference announcing the PC MLA had crossed the floor to join the NDP.

When it comes to Sandra Jansen, it’s a grudge match for the UCP

It was supposed to be an event highlighting an effort to recruit more conservative women into politics in Alberta, but it was overshadowed by the news that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper plans to personally campaign against New Democratic Party MLA Sandra Jansen in the next provincial election. 

Stephen Harper Calgary Stampede

Stephen Harper

Laureen Harper told a gathering at the launch of the She Leads group that she and her husband plan to campaign in the next election for whoever the United Conservative Party candidate is in their home Calgary-North West district. 

For UCP activists, and Jason Kenney in particular, the fight in Calgary-North West likely feels personal. Jansen was elected as a Progressive Conservative in 2012 and re-elected in 2015 before crossing the floor to the NDP in 2016. But Conservative anger was directed at Jansen before her floor-crossing.

Jansen’s support for her friend Nirmala Naidoo, who ran as a Liberal candidate in the 2015 federal election, drew the ire of the legions of federal Conservatives who were moving to take over the PC Party following its defeat in the 2015 election (Naidoo’s Conservative competitor, now Member of Parliament Pat Kelly, is endorsing UCP nomination candidate and pipeline lobbyist Sonya Savage). 

Sonya Savage UCP Calgary North West

Sonya Savage

Jansen attempted a mount a campaign for the leadership after her party’s disastrous results in the last election but was all but drummed out of the party by social conservatives allied with Kenney.

Her moderate views on social issues like abortion and rights for sexual minorities, as well as her role as a former communications manager and key supporter of former premier Alison Redford contributed to the mounting tension from more hard-line conservatives.

Her comment to her former colleague and now Conservative MP Len Webber that he “should go back to being an electrician” smacked of Tory elitism.

Jansen accused Kenney of wanting to destroy the PC Party in his plans to merge with the Wildrose Party. And when push came to shove at the PC Party’s annual convention in 2016, Jansen was shoved hard by social conservative activists and soon after decided to leave the party.

She joined the NDP and was appointed Minister of Infrastructure in 2017.

For Conservative partisans, this was the biggest betrayal. 

Pat Kelly MP Calgary Rocky View

Pat Kelly

As Minister of Infrastructure, Jansen has a powerful spot at the cabinet table, allowing her to champion the construction of big capital projects like the new Calgary Cancer Centre and the completion of the city’s ring road and the Green Line C-Train route. 

Jansen plays a big role in Premier Rachel Notley’s charm offensive in Calgary, but her tendency to get involved in petty arguments with Conservative partisans on social media distracts from the NDP government’s narrative. As I have written in the past, she could probably spend less time arguing on Twitter and more time trying to boost her government’s fortunes in Calgary.

Uniting the Right meant CPC-UCP unity too

Regardless of whether Jansen wins or loses the next election, she should take it as a complement that a Conservative heavy hitter like Harper would personally campaign against her. She should wear it as a badge of honour.

Harper likely remains popular among Conservatives in particular and Calgarians in general, and his support for Kenney’s UCP is not surprising. Harper endorsed Kenney’s leadership bid last year and was rumoured to be one of the driving forces behind the scenes in the PC-Wildrose unity referendum last year.

Harper is now the chairman of the International Democratic Union, an international club of right-wing political parties from 63 countries. His congratulatory tweet to extreme right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in April 2018 raised eyebrows among political watchers. Orbán was re-elected after campaigning on a platform that included hostile anti-immigrant rhetoric. 

But the federal Conservative connections to the UCP go deeper than Harper. Organizationally, the UCP has become an extension of the Conservative Party of Canada in Alberta, with most Conservative MPs actively involved or endorsing candidates in UCP nomination races. This is a significant change since the 1990s, when the provincial PC Party and the federal Reform Party were at each other throats.

Despite forming the opposition, the UCP are not the underdogs going into the next election. The next election campaign will represent the first time in more than 25-years that the dominant federal and provincial conservative parties in Alberta will be marching in lock-step.

While this may give Conservatives a big boost in an election campaign, it is yet to be seen whether a UCP government would stand up for the interests of Albertans over partisan gain if faced by a Conservative government in Ottawa.

Not first time a Calgary-North West MLA targeted

Frank Bruseker MLA Calgary North West

Frank Bruseker

It is reminiscent of another election in Calgary-North West more than two decades ago. Liberal MLA Frank Bruseker had represented the district since 1989 and had become a major thorn in the side of Premier Ralph Klein going into the 1997 election.

Bruseker was described at the time as being a relentless and ferocious critic of Klein during the Multi-Corp Inc. share affair, in which the premier was accused of promoting a company his wife had shares in. 

It was reported during that campaign that PC Party campaign manager Rod Love had a poster hanging in his office of Bruseker framed by the crosshairs of a rifle scope.

The PCs poured significant resources into Calgary-North West and, when the dust settled in March 1997, Bruseker was unseated by Tory Greg Melchin by a margin of 1,964 votes.

Ron Liepert versus Rob Anders: the next PC-Wildrose proxy war?

Rob Anders

Rob Anders

Will former provincial cabinet minister Ron Liepert make the jump into federal politics?

With the launch of the TimeToDoBetter.ca website today, rumours began to spread that the former two-term Calgary-West Progressive Conservative MLA turned consultant could challenge ultra-conservative Rob Anders for the Conservative Party nomination in the new Calgary Signal Hill riding.

Alberta Finance Minister Ron Liepert

Ron Liepert

Mr. Liepert’s candidacy would surely spark another proxy-war between the supporters of the provincial PC and Wildrose parties first seen in last year’s Calgary-Centre by-election.

This would not be the first time these two men have publicly sparred. In 2009, Mr. Liepert accused Mr. Anders of campaigning against him in the 2008 provincial election. Many of Mr. Anders associates have joined Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party, including his close confident Andrew Constantinidis, who ran to replace Mr. Liepert in the 2012 provincial election.

While many of his supporters flocked to the new provincial party, some in the Wildrose establishment see Mr. Anders as a political liability whose ideology could challenge their attempt to rebrand as a moderate conservative alternative to the governing PCs.

In the conservative bloodbath that is sure to ensue if the rumours are true, I would expect nothing less than for Mr. Anders and conservative entertainer Ezra Levant to slice directly at Mr. Liepert’s jugular. They will be sure to remind their conservative base about Mr. Leipert’s record as the Health minister who created the centralized Alberta Health Services and the Finance minister who introduced deficit budgets and talked about increasing taxes.

Mr. Liepert’s ties to the provincial PC establishment date back to the Peter Lougheed era, when he worked at the Legislative Assembly and was appointed as a staff member at Alberta’s trade office in Los Angeles. He first ran for the PC Party in 1993, first in an unsuccessfully bid for the party nomination in Edmonton-Glenora and then as the PC candidate in  Edmonton-Highlands-Beverly (in the election he was defeated by his Liberal opponent, Alice Hanson). He was first elected to the Assembly in 2004 as the PC MLA for Calgary-West.

Alison Redford Alberta Election 2012 Conservative leader

Alison Redford

Mr. Leipert is no slouch. In provincial politics, he thrived off the cut and thrust of partisan conflict.  Whether he could win the Conservative Party nomination against Mr. Anders is yet to be seen.

There is no shortage of criticism of Mr. Anders. Perhaps the most hard-edged social conservative in Ottawa, he is well-known for being the sole parliamentarian to vote against granting former South African president Nelson Mandela an honorary Canadian citizenship. He also embarrassingly attacked two Canadian Forces veterans, who he described as “NDP hacks.” He used his podium at an official Government of Canada press conference to endorse right-wing conservative Ted Morton. And he recently suggested that former NDP leader Jack Layton‘s death was hastened by now-leader Thomas Mulcair.

Since he was first elected in 1997, Mr. Anders has been challenged by many high profile conservatives and easily defeated all of them in nomination battles.

At the age of 24, Mr. Anders, then a young Republican Party provocateur, returned to Canada to defeat nine other candidates to win his first Reform Party nomination in Calgary-West. His election coincided with the election of a group of young conservative Reformers, including Jason Kenney and Rahim Jaffer.

If he is challenged by Mr. Liepert in the upcoming nomination, it would not be the first time a high-profile politico who has attempted to end Mr. Anders career in Ottawa.

In 2004, future Progressive Conservative premier Alison Redford made her first jump into electoral politics with an unsuccessful nomination bid against Mr. Anders. Mr. Liepert was her campaign manager.

In 2000, he was unsuccessfully challenged by Calgary-Currie PC MLA Jocelyn Burgener (now a poet) and in 2009 he faced future Calgary-Varsity PC MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans. With the help of Mr. Levant, he nastily branded Ms. Kennedy-Glans as a “Liberal saboteur” and a “bizarre cross between a radical feminist and an apologist for a women-hating Arab dictatorship.”

Internal nomination contests are not the only area Mr. Anders has faced challengers. In the 1997 election, alderman and future mayor Dave Bronconnier led an unsuccessful campaign against him as the Liberal Party candidate. In the 2000 election, Mr. Anders defeated both former Calgary-North West Liberal MLA Frank Bruseker and PC candidate Jim Silye (a Reform Party MP for Calgary-Centre from 1993 to 1997). Wind energy entrepreneur Justin Thompson earned 29% as the Liberal candidate in the 2004 election, the highest of any of Mr. Anders challengers. And the 2006 and 2008 elections, former Calgary Board of Education trustee Jennifer Pollock carried the Liberal banner against Mr. Anders.

Despite these high-profile challengers from inside and outside his party, Mr. Anders has yet to face electoral defeat in the political arena.

Alberta Liberal merger with federal Liberals an idea worth considering.

Raj Sherman Alberta Liberal MLA Leader

Raj Sherman

Provincial Liberal leader Raj Sherman wants his party to work more closely with the federal Liberal Party.

Conventional wisdom would inform us that the Alberta Liberals should always do everything in their power to distance themselves from their federal cousins, who remain tainted in the province after a long-string of historical grievances and well-curated myths.

But has distancing the two parties helped either party?

With Justin Trudeau expected to become leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in the next few months, could a second-wave of Trudeaumania help boost support for the provincial Liberals in Alberta?

Since the 1970s, the two parties have been officially independent with varying degrees of unofficial cooperation and confrontation. Both parties have achieved limited success in pockets of the province at certain points over past twenty years, but support for both parties has dwindled over the past decade. The Liberal presence shrunk to five MLAs in last year’s provincial election and the federal Liberals last successfully elected a candidate to Parliament from Alberta in the 2004 election .

Provincial Liberal support in Alberta:
2001 election: 276,854 votes2012 election: 127,645 votes.
Federal Liberal support in Alberta:
2000 election: 263,008 votes, 2011 election: 129,310 votes.

If a merger with the NDP, Alberta Party, and Greens, as has been suggested by Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, is unpalatable to Dr. Sherman, perhaps he could be convinced a merger with his party’s federal namesake would not be a bad idea.

Sharing their limited resources, as the provincial and federal New Democratic Party do officially and the Wildrose Party and Conservative Party have done unofficially, could provide stability in membership, fundraising, and organization for the two Liberal Parties in Alberta. A merger could also cut costs on duplication of resources (the two parties currently operate separate offices located opposite each other on Edmonton’s 124th Street).

Harvey Locke Liberal Calgary-Centre By-Election

Harvey Locke

The two parties already share many members and candidates are frequently seen listed on the ballot under both party banners.

There are also no shortage of former Liberal MLAs who have tried to kickstart a career in Ottawa, though all of them unsuccessful. Liberal MLAs Ken Nicol and Debby Carlson ran as federal Liberals in the 2004 election and Sue Olsen and Frank Bruseker stood in the 2000 federal election. Former party leaders Grant Mitchell and Nick Taylor were appointed to the Senate on the advice of federal Liberal Prime Ministers.

Even Dr. Sherman was a member of the federal Liberals before he was elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2008 (he supported Gerard Kennedy in the 2006 federal Liberal leadership contest).

Calgary-Centre a spark of hope for the Liberals.

Liberal Harvey Locke surprised political watchers last year when he placed only 1158 votes behind Conservative Joan Crockatt in the hotly contested Calgary-Centre by-election.

Perhaps the results were a fluke, but they give the federal Liberals a sign that many voters in Alberta’s urban centres are becoming more receptive to a moderate non-Conservative alternative in Ottawa.

victims of alberta’s opposition meat-grinder

Since Peter Lougheed catapulted from official opposition leader to Premier in 1971, Alberta’s opposition leadership have become a political graveyard for many well-intentioned and ambitious politicians. There are many reasons for this: Alberta’s tradition of electing large government majorities, the ability of the PC party to create a big-tent party, the unpopularity of opposition parties federal counterparts, and the trap of falling into an opposition mentality.

Dr. David Swann is one of many Albertans who have stepped up to the daunting task and challenge of leading a party in the divisive and dysfunctional world of opposition politics in Alberta. Calgary MLA Dave Taylor gave Dr. Swann a verbal lashing when he left the Liberal caucus earlier this past year and last week Tony Sansotta resigned as President after co-signing a letter with Dr. Swann appealing for cooperation with other opposition parties. To the untrained eye, it may look like the Liberal Party is on the verge of internal collapse and maybe it is, but I struggle to think of a time when Alberta has had an opposition party not rife with internal division.

Taking a quick look back at Alberta politics over the past twenty-five years, you will find opposition leaders that made positive contributions to Alberta politics, but could not withstand the meat-grinder of opposition politics in Alberta. A quick read of the list of individuals below could easily lead most Albertans to determine some of the most thankless jobs in our province indeed belong to leaders of provincial opposition parties.

Nick Taylor was the Liberal leader from 1974 to 1988.

Nick Taylor (Liberal leader, 1974 to 1988): He bravely led the Liberals through the darkness and proved that even in the height of the National Energy Program that Liberals had hope to win in Alberta. In 1979, Mr. Taylor placed only 355 votes behind PC candidate Ken Kowalski in a by-election in Barrhead. After six attempts at elected office since 1968, he was elected as MLA for Westlock-Sturgeon in 1986 and was only Leader of the Liberal Opposition in the Assembly for less than two years before his position was challenged by Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore and Edmonton MLA Grant Mitchell. He continued to serve as an MLA until 1996, when he was appointed to the Senate.

Former Calgary Mayor Rod Sykes briefly led the Social Credit Party from 1980 to 1982.

Rod Sykes (Social Credit leader, 1980 to 1982): After serving two terms as the Mayor of Calgary (1969-1977), Mayor Sykes took over the leadership of the Social Credit Party. After nine years in opposition, the party was mired with internal and financial problems which led him to resign in 1982. He later ran as a federal Liberal candidate in the 1984 election.

Former NDP leader Ray Martin introduces Jack Layton at a 2008 federal election rally.

Ray Martin (NDP leader, 1984 to 1994): He led the New Democrats to its height as Official Opposition with 16 MLAs in 1986 and 1989, but that did not stop the internal bickering. Mr. Martin’s faced calls to resign from Calgary candidate Barry Bristman in 1989 and fought a leadership challenge by St. Paul veterinarian Don Ronaghan in 1991. In 1992, Stony Plain MLA Stan Woloshyn abandoned the NDP for the PCs. Mr. Martin resigned after his party lost all their seats to the Liberals and PCs in the Assembly in the 1993 election. He returned to the Assembly when he was elected as MLA for Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview from 2004 to 2008.

Former Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore led the Liberals from 1989 to 1994.

Laurence Decore (Liberal leader, 1988 to 1994): The former Edmonton Mayor built the best political machine an opposition party had seen since the 1970s, but that was not enough for some of the MLAs in his caucus-mates. In 1993, after the Liberals won their largest vote share with 39.7% and 32 seats, a group of MLAs and party members were not satisfied with official opposition status called for his resignation. Calgary-North West MLA Frank Bruseker was stripped of his major critic portfolios after telling reporters he was worried the party could not win enough seats in Calgary to secure an election win due to Mr. Decore’s leadership. Mr. Decore gracefully resigned in 1994.

Former MP Ross Harvey briefly led the NDP from 1994 to 1996.

Ross Harvey (NDP leader, 1994 to 1996): The former NDP Member of Parliament was selected as leader of the seatless party shortly after he was unseated in the 1993 federal election. He was unable to satisfactorily rebuild his party after it was wiped out in 1993 and quit in 1996. He was soon replaced by Pam Barrett.

Grant Mitchell led the Liberals from 1994 to 1998.

Grant Mitchell (Liberal leader, 1994 to 1998): After a brutal and divisive leadership race in 1994, Mr. Mitchell faced opposition from within his own party and caucus. Three MLAs crossed to the PCs during his time as leader and his leadership opponent MLA Sine Chadi waged a constant campaign to undermine his leadership. Shortly after the 1997 election, former Calgary MLA Danny Dalla-Longa called for his resignation. He resigned in 1998 and in 2005 was appointed to the Senate.

Pam Barrett led the NDP from 1996 to 2000.

Pam Barrett (NDP leader, 1996 to 2000): After serving as MLA for Edmonton-Highlands from 1986 to 1993, Ms. Barrett returned in 1996. She led her party to elect two MLAs in the 1997 election and later resigned after a near-death experience in a dentist’s chair.

Former PC cabinet minister Nancy MacBeth led the Liberals from 1998 to 2001.

Nancy MacBeth (Liberal leader, 1998 to 2001): After losing to Ralph Klein in the 1992 PC leadership race, Ms. MacBeth (then Ms. Betkowski) left politics until 1998 when she swept into the Liberal leadership. The former PC cabinet minister faced some tough opposition from MLAs within her party’s caucus, including two who crossed the floor (Gene Zwozdesky joined the PCs and Pamela Paul sat as an Independent). She resigned almost immediately after she was unseated in the 2001 election.

Randy Thorsteinson led the Social Credit Party from 1992 to 1999 and the Alberta Alliance from 2003 to 2005.

Randy Thorsteinson (Social Credit leader, 1992 to 1999, Alberta Alliance leader, 2003 to 2005). Even after leading the long-dormant Social Credit Party to win 6.8% of the vote in 1997, Mr. Thorsteinson was at odds with his party after a movement within the party to limit the involvement of members of the Church of Latter-day Saints. Thorsteinson quit the party in April 1999 and was a founder of the Alberta First Party. In 2003, he re-emerged as leader of the Alberta Alliance – the Wildrose Alliance‘s predecessor – and led that party to earn 8.7% of the vote in 2004. He resigned after failing to win a seat in the 2004 election.

Lethbridge MLA Ken Nicol led the Liberals from 2001 to 2004.

Ken Nicol (Liberal leader, 2001 to 2004): Quiet, respected, and more conservative than most of his caucus colleagues, Dr. Nicol reluctantly accepted the leadership from the unseated Ms. MacBeth in 2001. He briefly led the Liberals until internal conflict from within his party and caucus convinced him that running as a federal Liberal candidate might be a better career option. He resigned as MLA in 2004 and was defeated in his bid represent Lethbridge in the House of Commons later that year.

Kevin Taft led the Liberal Party from 2004 to 2008.

Kevin Taft (Liberal leader, 2004 to 2008): The first Liberal leader to increase the party’s seat total since Mr. Decore, Dr. Taft led the Liberals through two elections. He tried to distance the provincial party from its unpopular federal counterparts and while he did not face as much internal dissent from his party and caucus as did his predecessors, he did have the unfortunate task of having to remove MLA Dan Backs from the Liberal caucus. He stepped down as leader after the 2008 election and is currently the opposition Health & Wellness critic.

alberta politics notes 7/09/2010

– The Government of Alberta has purchased +$50,000 newspaper advertisements in Washington DC and written a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defending the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas. The pipeline is facing opposition from Democratic Representative Henry Waxman, who currently Chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The provincial government also employs former cabinet minister Gary Mar as a permanent envoy in the American capital and frequently sends cabinet ministers and MLAs to conferences and trade meetings in the United States.
– Members of the United Nurses of Alberta have voted to ratify a new collective agreement that includes a 6%-pay increase over three years. Both the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald editorial boards have praised the agreement.
– At the age of 40-years, two-term Wood Buffalo Mayor Melissa Blake is a hot political commodity.
– The Alberta PC Party has hired Brent Harding as their Director of Communications.
– The Liberals purchased newspaper ads calling for cooperation with other parties and received cool responses from the NDP and Alberta Party.
– Former MLA Dan Backs is gearing up to run for City Council against Councillor Ed Gibbons. Both men are former MLAs for Edmonton-Manning. Mr. Gibbons sat as a Liberal MLA from 1997 to 2001, and Mr. Backs sat as a Liberal from 2004 until he was ejected from the Opposition caucus in 2006. After being defeated by Peter Sandhu when seeking the PC nomination in 2007, he placed third in his bid for re-election as an Independent in 2008.
Jim Hillyer has been nominated as the Conservative candidate in Lethbridge for the next federal election. The federal Liberals held their candidate nomination in Edmonton-St. Albert last night.
Jim Silye has been appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as chair of the board of the Museum of Science and Nature in Ottawa. Mr. Silye served as the Reform Party MP for Calgary-Centre from 1993 until 1997. Mr. Silye was defeated by Wayne Cao in the Calgary-Fort Progressive Conservative candidate nomination in 1997. In 2000, he ran as the PC candidate in Calgary-West against Canadian Alliance MP Rob Anders and Liberal candidate Frank Bruseker.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.