Jim Prentice appoints another Pipeline Obsessed Cabinet

Jim Prentice Pipeline Cabinet Oil Sands
Members of the PC cabinet, elected and non-elected, stand preparing to be sworn-in to their new jobs at Government House today.

As he prepared to be sworn-in as the 16th Premier of Alberta at Government House today, Jim Prentice aimed to project the image of a leader who is in command and in control of the situation. And today’s tightly controlled cabinet shuffle achieved that goal. Unlike previous cabinet shuffles, the news around today’s appointments was tightly sealed, with no leaks to the media to spoil Mr. Prentice’s opening day as Premier.

Jim Prentice Alberta PC Party Premier Leader
Jim Prentice

But did Mr. Prentice really give Albertans the change he promised with this cabinet shuffle? There are a few new faces in top positions and two unelected cabinet ministers from outside the Legislative Assembly, but at least fifteen of the twenty cabinet ministers previously served in the cabinets of Premier Alison Redford or Dave Hancock.

Without appointing a larger group of unelected cabinet ministers, he had little choice but to draw on the current pool of PC MLAs. If Albertans really want to see change in their government, they will have to do what people in every other province do from time to time: elect a new party to form government.

Viewed as having the endorsement of Corporate Calgary’s Oil Executives, Mr. Prentice’s choices for cabinet sends a message that the construction and expansion of oil sands pipelines will remain a priority for the Progressive Conservatives.

Frank Oberle MLA Peace River
Frank Oberle

As well as being Premier, Mr. Prentice takes on the role of Aboriginal Affairs and Intergovernmental Affairs, both important roles when dealing with the construction of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline through northern British Columbia and the TransCanada Energy East Pipeline to New Brunswick.

The Northern Gateway Pipeline, which would pump raw bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands to the port city of Kitimat, is facing stiff opposition in Alberta’s neighbouring province, especially from First Nations and environmental groups. Before entering the PC Party leadership race, Mr. Prentice worked for Enbridge as an envoy to B.C.’s First Nations communities.

Teresa Woo-Paw, the two-term MLA from north Calgary, is now the Associate Minister for Asia-Pacific Relations, an important position as the proposed pipeline would send Alberta’s raw bitumen to be refined and processed in Asia (likely in the People’s Republic of China).

Teresa Woo Paw MLA
Teresa Woo-Paw

How Mr. Prentice and Ms. Woo-Paw approach Alberta’s trade relations with Asian countries will also seal the fate of former cabinet minister Gary Mar, who was appointed as Alberta’s representative in Hong Kong after he was defeated in the 2011 Progressive Conservative leadership contest.

Expenses related to Mr. Mar’s patronage appointment have been harshly criticized by the opposition parties.

During Ms. Redford’s time as Premier, the Government of Alberta expanded trade operations in Asia, operating offices in China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. A new trade office was opened last year in Singapore and another will soon open in Mumbai, India.

Third-term Peace River MLA Frank Oberle is now Alberta’s Energy minister. It is unclear how Mr. Oberle will approach the role differently than his predecessors, but his connections to northern British Columbia may play a role in the government’s focus on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline. Mr. Oberle’s father, Frank Oberle Sr. was the Member of Parliament for Prince George-Peace River from 1972 to 1993, serving as Minister of Forestry under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Kyle Fawcett MLA Calgary-Klein
Kyle Fawcett

His past relations with northern Albertans opposed to nuclear development may be an indication to how the new energy minister plans to approach opposition to pipeline expansion.

Serving as the defacto junior energy minister, Calgary MLA Kyle Fawcett was appointed as Environment & Sustainable Resource Development. Prone to embarrassing outbursts, Mr. “Leaky” Fawcett’s appointment suggests that Mr. Prentice might not be serious about tackling climate change and environmental issues linked to natural resource development.

The Auditor General reported in July that the Alberta Government has not been monitored its climate change targets and that its expensive carbon capture program is nowhere near meeting its targets for emission reductions. I sincerely hope that Mr. Fawcett sees his role as environment minister as more than a public relations activity for the government’s oil sands and pipeline expansion agenda.

On the environment and energy file, actions will speak louder than cabinet appointments.

Unelected Cabinet Ministers

Stephen Mandel Edmonton
Stephen Mandel

Mr. Prentice handed the helm of two very important ministries to individuals who have never been elected to the Alberta Legislature. Former Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, 69, and former Saskatchewan cabinet minister Gordon Dirks, 67, were appointed to cabinet as Minister of Health and Minister of Education.

Mr. Mandel remains popular among many Edmontonians, and is expected to run in a by-election in Edmonton-Whitemud, the southwest Edmonton constituency made vacant following Mr. Hancock’s resignation last week. His tendency to show thin-skin when he does not get his way may prove challenging when having to compromise with his new cabinet and caucus colleagues, or his political opponents.

Mr. Dirks’ affiliations with a socially conservative evangelical church have raised the ire of his critics, who worry these views may impact his support of secular public education in Alberta. The appointment of the former Calgary Board of Education trustee and 1980s Saskatchewan politician was unexpected, to say the least.

It is suspected that Mr. Dirks will run for the PC Party nomination in the impending Calgary-Elbow by-election, triggered by Ms. Redford’s departure from political life. The nomination is also being contested by long-time PC Party activist Pat Walsh.

Who’s not welcome in Prentice’s cabinet?

Thomas Lukaszuk Alberta Edmonton MLA PC Leadership
Thomas Lukaszuk

Thomas Lukaszuk, Fred Horne, Doug Griffiths, Ken Hughes, Sandra Jansen are all names that many Albertans have become familiar with over the past few years. These former senior cabinet ministers will now occupy seats in the backbenches (and have their offices relocated from prime real estate in the Legislature Building to the aging and stuffy Legislature Annex).

Also demoted were former Finance minister Doug Horner, who will take on the role of “trade advisor” for the Premier and former International Affairs minister Cal Dallas, who will now serve as a “Legislative Secretary” for intergovernmental relations.

The resignation of Mr. Hancock last week took many political watchers by surprise. I am told by sources in the PC Party that Premier Hancock was informed by his party’s new leader that he would not be appointed to cabinet if he chose to remain as an MLA.

Rejection of Gay-Straight Alliances motion shows some Alberta MLAs need a reality check

Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to introduce legislation, like Manitoba’s and Ontario’s, requiring all school boards to develop policies to support students who want to lead and establish gay-straight alliance activities and organizations, using any name that is consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive, welcoming, and respectful for all students regardless of sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

It was a simple motion introduced on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly on April 7, 2014 that would help create safer environments for students in schools. Nineteen Liberal, New Democrat, and Progressive Conservative MLAs voted in favour of the motion, but it failed after 31 PC and Wildrose MLAs stood up and voted against it.

Kent Hehr MLA Calgary-Buffalo
Kent Hehr

Motion 503, introduced by Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr, was not a piece of binding legislation, it was a symbolic message of that all students, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, can be welcomed and accepted in Alberta’s education system.

Creating safe and supportive environments for all students, including LGBTQ youth who may face discrimination in and outside of school, should be something that is encouraged by MLAs.

Mr. Hehr’s motion undoubtably would have made some social conservatives uncomfortable, but it would have ultimately helped drag some of Alberta’s more stodgy school boards into the 21st century. The motion would not have forced any school board to form student-led gay-straight alliances, but it would have compelled the elected boards to accept the existence of the groups if students in their schools chose to organize them.

Alberta MLA Vote Gay Straight Alliances Vote Motion 503
A map showing the constituencies represented by MLAs who voted in favour (blue) and against (red) Motion 503. White indicates MLAs who were not present for the vote. (Click to enlarge)

Passage of this motion would have sent a strong message that tolerance and acceptance are priorities Alberta’s provincial legislators.

Anti-bullying minister Sandra Jansen voted in favour but Education minister Jeff Johnson voted against it.

Missing from the vote were Premier Dave Hancock and NDP leader Brian Mason, who both later said they would have voted in favour had they been in the Assembly. Wildrose opposition leader Danielle Smith was not present for the vote and it is not clear if she would have voted differently than her party’s MLAs.

The divided PC government caucus also missed an opportunity to send a clear message that they embrace 21st century values by singling out the opposition Wildrose as the only party to unanimously vote against the motion – and remind Albertans of the infamous Lake of Fire.  And for the Wildrose, a vote for the motion, even by one or two of that party’s MLAs, would have done a lot of demonstrate the party is more moderate on social issues than its opponents claim.

In total, 36 MLAs were absent from the vote (minus the Speaker, who abstains from votes of the Assembly).

Voted in Favour: 19
Deron Bilous (NDP)
Laurie Blakeman (LIB)
Neil Brown (PC)
Pearl Calahasen (PC)
Cal Dallas (PC)
Alana DeLong (PC)
David Eggen (NDP)
Kyle Fawcett (PC)
Kent Hehr (LIB)
Ken Hughes (PC)
Sandra Jansen (PC)
Heather Klimchuk (PC)
Jason Luan (PC)
Thomas Luksazuk (PC)
Rachel Notley (NDP)
Don Scott (PC)
Raj Sherman (LIB)
David Swann (LIB)
Teresa Woo-Paw (PC)
Voted against: 31
Moe Amery (PC)
Rob Anderson (WR)
Drew Barnes (WR)
Gary Bikman (WR)
Robin Campbell (PC)
Ron Casey (PC)
Christine Cusanelli (PC)
Ian Donovan (WR)
David Dorward (PC)
Wayne Drysdale (PC)
Jacquie Fenske (PC)
Rick Fraser (PC)
Yvonne Fritz (PC)
Hector Goudreau (PC)
Jeff Johnson (PC)
Linda Johnson (PC)
Maureen Kubinec (PC)
Genia Leskiw (PC)
Bruce McAllister (WR)
Everett McDonald (PC)
Diana McQueen (PC)
Frank Oberle (PC)
Bridget Pastoor (PC)
Dave Rodney (PC)
Bruce Rowe (WR)
Shayne Saskiw (WR)
Richard Starke (PC)
Rick Strankman (WR)
Kerry Towle (WR)
George VanderBurg (PC)
Greg Weadick (PC)

8 candidates who could run for the leadership of the Alberta PC Party

With yesterday’s announcement by Premier Alison Redford that she will resign on March 23, 2014, the Progressive Conservative caucus will need to select an interim premier and the PC Party is required to hold a leadership contest to select a new leader.

Dave Hancock MLA Edmonton-Whitemud
Dave Hancock: Interim Premier

Deputy Premier Dave Hancock and Agriculture minister Verlyn Olson have been rumoured as potential choices for interim premier until the party selects a new leader.

UPDATE: Dave Hancock is the new Premier of Alberta until the PC Party is able to hold a leadership vote. Candidates for the interim position are said to have included Doug Griffiths, Frank Oberle, and Verlyn Olson (who declined).

According to section 14.2 of the PC Party constitution, a leadership race must be held between four and six months from the time previous leader resigns. This means the vote will need to be held between July 23, 2014 and September 23, 2014.

Unlike previous PC leadership races, according to recently changed party rules, if no candidate earns a majority of votes on the first ballot, only the first and second candidate move to the second ballot vote. Previously, three candidates would move to the second ballot.

The future of the PC Party could be determined by the candidates who step forward to become its next leader and, for the time being, the next premier of Alberta. As blogger David Climenhaga writes, “[v]ery possibly the quality of the field will be a weathervane for the party’s chances of survival.”

Thomas Lukaszuk MLA Edmonton-Castle Downs
Thomas Lukaszuk

With that in mind, here are some potential candidates who could run for the leadership of Alberta’s PC Party:

Ric McIver (Calgary-Hays)
A former Calgary Alderman and mayoral candidate, Mr. McIver was first elected to the Legislature in 2012. Upon his election he immediately joined cabinet and served as Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, becoming a high profile member of Ms. Redford’s cabinet. Because of his conservative political leanings, some observers were surprised when he shunned the Wildrose in favour of being a star Tory candidate in the last election.

Thomas Lukaszuk (Edmonton-Castle Downs)
Until recently, the former deputy premier had become the most recognizable face of the PC government. Serving as the unofficial premier while Ms. Redford traveled the globe on trade missions, his combativeness and growing public profile may have been the reason he was demoted to labour minister in December 2013. It has long been suspected that Mr. Lukaszuk has aspirations to occupy the premier’s office.

Jonathan Denis MLA Calgary Acadia
Jonathan Denis

Doug Horner (Spruce Grove-St. Albert)
Currently the Finance minister, Mr. Horner was first elected as MLA in 2001. He placed third in the 2011 PC leadership race and became an ally of Ms. Redford’s after the leadership race. Born into a political family, his father Hugh Horner was Lougheed-era minister, his grandfather Ralph Horner was a Senator, and three of his uncles served as Members of Parliament.

James Rajotte
Member of Parliament representing south Edmonton since 2000, Mr. Rajotte chairs the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. He is said to be considering his options after he was once again looked over for a spot in the federal cabinet.

Donna Kennedy Glans MLA Calgary Varsity
Donna Kennedy-Glans

Jonathan Denis (Calgary-Acadia)
The current minister of Justice and Solicitor General is relatively young compared to others on this list, but Mr. Denis is a long-time politico. A lawyer and former business partner of federal Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre‎, he could earn the support of his party’s shrinking right-wing. A “Draft Jonathan Denis for Premier” Facebook page has already been created.

Donna Kennedy-Glans (Calgary-Varsity)
The first-term MLA left the PC caucus earlier this week, blasting what she described as a culture of entitlement. A former senior executive in Calgary’s corporate oil sector, Ms. Kennedy-Glans would bring business experience, deep pocketed friends and, now, an independent streak, to a candidacy for leadership.

Stephen Mandel Edmonton
Stephen Mandel

Gary Mar
The sure-bet to win the 2011 PC leadership race was quickly whisked away to Hong Kong after losing to Ms. Redford. Since then, the former cabinet minister has been far away from the lime-light while serving as Alberta’s envoy to Asia. It is unclear whether he would try a second time to win his party’s leadership.

Stephen Mandel
Oft-talked about as a potential premier, the retired mayor of Edmonton has not shown any signs he is actually interested in the job. After nine years as mayor of Alberta’s capital city, Mr. Mandel left office in October 2013 as a well-respected civic leader. He has since been critical of Ms. Redford’s government’s policies, but is is unclear why he would want to lead the deeply divided caucus.

Anti-Redford coup fails to materialize at PC MLA meeting

Old white men: Progressive Conservative MLAs leave their Thursday morning caucus meeting at Government House.
Old white men: Progressive Conservative MLAs leave their Thursday morning caucus meeting at Government House.

A rumoured coup d’etat within Alberta’s Progressive Conservative caucus failed to materialize yesterday as government MLAs gathered at Government House to discuss Premier Alison Redford‘s future.

Cancelling all public appearances and media events for the day, including the premier’s trip to Regina to participate in the New West  Partnership meeting, PC MLAs cloistered themselves in the stately mansion for more than four hours.

The media were positioned outside of Government House, waiting for news of the rumoured MLA revolt.
The media were positioned outside of Government House, waiting for news of the rumoured MLA revolt.

Despite rumours that up to 20 PC MLAs were considering leaving to sit as Independents if Ms. Redford did not pay back the $45,000 she expensed for a trip to South Africa, only Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber announced his departure yesterday.

At a morning press conference in Calgary, Mr. Webber laid down harsh criticism against Ms. Redford, describing her as an abusive bully and claiming she is killing the PC Party. Mr. Webber’s departure from the PC caucus is a blow, but not a complete surprise. He is currently seeking a federal Conservative nomination, meaning that he was already planning on leaving provincial politics.

With a gloom look on her face, Ms. Redford briskly left the building around 11:30am and was quickly whisked away in her black Suburban SUV.

Premier Alison Redford quickly departs Government House.
Premier Alison Redford quickly departs Government House.

Not long after the premier’s departure, Tory MLAs slowly poured out of Government House. Most MLAs were tight-lipped and refused to comment about what transpired at their meeting. It appeared that Ms. Redford remained leader of the PC caucus.

Were rumours of an MLA revolt against the premier exaggerated or is it yet to come? Was Ms. Redford able to appease the critics in her caucus by pledging to pay the $45,000 she expensed for a trip to South Africa? Has the PC caucus put the premier on probation?

Deputy Premier Dave Hancock scrums with the media after the PC caucus meeting.
Deputy Premier Dave Hancock scrums with the media after the PC caucus meeting.

A party loyalist to the core, deputy premier Dave Hancock held a media scrum announcing that his party’s MLAs were united and focused on “building Alberta.” Meanwhile, the normally combative Labour minister Thomas Lukaszuk was curiously coy, saying only that the caucus had “a very productive conversation.

Alberta’s long-governing PCs have a history of ruthlessly deposing leaders who threaten their re-election prospects. But while Ms. Redford’s popularity is low and her premiership has become scandal-plagued, PC MLAs must recognize the reality facing their own party.

PC MLAs Moe Amery and Jacquie Fenske leave Government House.
PC MLAs Moe Amery and Jacquie Fenske leave Government House.

With less than two years until the next election, the PC Party can ill-afford the financial costs of a hastily called leadership race, which would increase party expenses while diluting their already strapped donor base.

But this is not likely the end of the challenges facing Ms. Redford’s premiership. This upcoming weekend, senior PC Party officials will gather to discuss the future of their party, and their leader will surely be a topic of discussion. For the time-being, Ms. Redford appears to have survived the wrath of her caucus, but can she appease party activists with no appetite for defeat?

Redford’s Christmas cabinet shuffle

Premier Alison Redford Cabinet Alberta
Premier Alison Redford announced a new cabinet late this afternoon.

As reported yesterday on this blog, rumours that Ms. Redford would shuffle her cabinet before the Christmas break began to intensify this week. Today, those rumours proved to be true.

Built around the government’s “Building Alberta” slogan, today’s Government of Alberta press release boasts a new cabinet that will focus on “innovation and economic growth.” And it signals a growth in numbers of Ms. Redford’s cabinet as well. The size of the cabinet will now be 30 MLAs, up from 27 MLAs in the previous cabinet. There are a total of 59 MLAs in the Progressive Conservative caucus.

Here is a description of some major changes in Alberta’s provincial cabinet:

Dave Hancock MLA Edmonton-Whitemud
Dave Hancock

Dave Hancock: Appointed Deputy Premier and moved from Human Services to Innovation and Advanced Education. Moving Mr. Hancock back to the Advanced Education portfolio he filled from 2004 to 2006 likely signals that Ms. Redford recognizes the need to repair the damage done to Alberta’s colleges and universities under its previous minister. The deep budget cuts imposed by Ms. Redford’s government in 2012 damaged both the post-secondary education system and the government’s relationship the leaders in that system. A well-known policy wonk and party loyalist, Mr. Hancock will be tasked with smoothing over those hard feelings.

Thomas Lukaszuk: The bull-dog of the Progressive Conservative caucus lost his Deputy Premier title and is moved from Enterprise & Advanced Education to a new Jobs, Skills, Training, and Labour portfolio. As Ms. Redford’s ‘heavy-hand’ in cabinet, it is likely that Mr. Lukaszuk will be tasked with imposing controversial new laws on Alberta’s public sector unions.

Manmeet Bhullar
Manmeet Bhullar

Manmeet Bhullar: Moved from Service Alberta to Human Services. This is a big promotion, as Human Services is a large ministry that represents a multitude of components of government services. Mr. Bhullar performed well as Minister of Service Alberta, but this portfolio will present a significant challenge to the new minister.

Diana McQueen: Moved from Environment & Sustainable Resource Development to Energy. With an increased focus on the government’s agenda to support the Keystone XL, Enbridge Northern Gateway and Energy East pipelines, the capable Ms. McQueen is well-armed with arguments to use in advocating for these projects in Canada and the United States.

Robin Campbell: Moved from Aboriginal Relations to Environment & Sustainable Resource Development, a high-profile position which is closely linked with the Energy portfolio. He is also now the Government House leader, a role that has been filled by Mr. Hancock for quite some time.

Doug Griffiths
Doug Griffiths

Doug Griffiths: Demoted from Municipal Affairs to Service Alberta. As Municipal Affairs Minister, Mr. Griffiths stumbled through the high profile items in his portfolio, making his demotion almost inevitable. As minister of the tiny Service Alberta department, Mr. Griffiths will have less chance to embarrass the government and an opportunity to redeem himself in cabinet.

Ken Hughes: Moved from Energy to Municipal Affairs. While this move could easily be seen as a demotion, Mr. Hughes, a trusted confident of Ms. Redford’s, will have an important role in repairing the provincial government’s strained relationship with its municipal leaders – both in the large cities and rural municipalities.

Frank Oberle: Promoted from Associate Minister of Services for Persons with Disabilities to a full-cabinet position as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. Mr. Oberle previously served as Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security and Minister of Sustainable Resource Development.

Wayne Drysdale: Moved from Infrastructure to Transportation, replacing Ric McIver.

Ric McIver: Moved from Transportation to Infrastructure, replacing Wayne Drysdale.

Steve Young: Left his position as Government Whip to become Associate Minister of Public Safety, a new position.

Donna Kennedy-Glans: Departed the backbenchers to become Associate Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy, a new position.

George VanderBurg: Appointed the Government Whip. Lost his position as Associate Minister of Seniors. Mr. VanderBurg had previously served as Minister of Government Services, Minister of Seniors, and Acting Minister of Innovation and Science.

A curious addition to the list of cabinet positions in the press release included the Progressive Conservative Caucus Chair, Maureen Kubinec. This appears to be a new addition to the cabinet, though the release was unclear what role this MLA will have at the cabinet table, as there now only remain 29 PC MLAs not included in the list of cabinet positions.

Pipelines before persons with developmental disabilities?

Alison Redford Christy Clark
Alberta Premier Alison Redford and BC Premier Christy Clark in October, 2011. Photo: PremierofAlberta via Flickr.

Fresh from a surprise election win, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark‘s government formally announced its opposition this week to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline that would carry bitumen from Alberta to Kitimat. A controversial issue during the heated election campaign, BC Environment Minister Terry Lake told the media that evidence supporting the pipeline “simply is insufficient for us to think it should go forward.”

Perhaps sending a political message to her western counterpart, Alberta Premier Alison Redford is flying to New Brunswick this week, hoping to use Premier David Alward‘s idea of an eastbound pipeline to kickstart her still undefined National Energy Strategy.

Thomas Lukaszuk
Thomas Lukaszuk

Maintaining a presence on the national and international stage appear to be continuing priorities for Premier Redford. The Premier has recently travelled twice to Washington D.C. to advocate for the construction of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline and numerous cabinet ministers have been scouting the globe in name of the PC Government’s new slogan – “Building Markets.” Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk is currently travelling in Europe, and Finance Minister Doug Horner and Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olsen recently returned from trips to China and Kazakhstan.

There is certainly value in government leaders travelling internationally, but in Alberta’s case, the perception has become that the Premier is more comfortable travelling outside of Alberta than dealing with the day-to-day domestic issues in the province.

Frank Oberle MLA Peace River
Frank Oberle

For example, a week after the Premier re-announced plans to open five new international trade offices, hundreds of Albertans with developmental disabilities and their families rallied at the Legislature and outside Premier Redford’s Calgary-Elbow constituency office to protest deep cuts to service providers.

The minister responsible for explaining the cuts, Peace River‘s mild-mannered MLA Frank Oberle, has been tongue-tied and delivering confusing diversionary messages to Albertans.

While Minister Oberle correctly states that the entire budget of his department is increasing, he has yet to convincingly explain why $42 million is being cut from programs designed to help the province’s most vulnerable citizens become more employable.

Beyond Question Period: Debating Bill 1.

If you pay attention to political pundits or follow the #ableg hashtag on Twitter, you will have read about how nasty and partisan the fall sitting of the Legislative Assembly has been. But if you logout of Twitter for a bit and ignore the embarrassing theatrics of Question Period, you will find some substantial debate and even more interesting (and sometimes confusing) politics at work on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly.

Rachel Notley MLA Edmonton-Strathcona NDP
Rachel Notley

Take last week’s debate around Bill 1 as an example.

Introduced during the six-day long spring sitting earlier this year, the Workers’ Compensation Amendment Act, 2012 (pdf) was the flagship legislation of the first term of Premier Alison Redford‘s elected government. Each year, a new Bill 1 is introduced and typically tends to be a feel-good piece of legislation tailored to the government’s immediate public relations program.

This year’s Bill 1 meant to extend “presumptive coverage” to first-responders – police, firefighters, peace officers, and emergency medical technicians – to access treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through the Workers’ Compensation Board. As explained in the Edmonton Journal, presumptive coverage means that anyone working as a first responder who is diagnosed with PTSD is presumed to have developed that condition as a result of their job.

No government or opposition Members of the Legislative Assembly publicly voiced any opposition to the bill. The most interesting debate about Bill 1 occurred around two amendments introduced by Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MLA Rachel Notley that proposed to include two other professions to be covered in the Bill – corrections officers and social workers.

The first amendment, to include corrections officers, received strong support from the opposition benches. Ms. Notley and ten other opposition MLAs – New Democrat David Eggen, Liberal David Swann, and Wildrose MLAs Jeff Wilson, Joe Anglin, Rob Anderson, Bruce Rowe, Ian Donovan, Kerry Towle, Blake Pedersen, and Heather Forsyth – rose to speak in favour of the first amendment.

Only Human Service Minister Dave Hancock and backbench Tory Rick Fraser rose to speak against.

Dave Hancock MLA Edmonton-Whitemud
Dave Hancock

The two Tory MLAs speaking against the amendment praised the work done by corrections officers but spoke against including them in the bill, claiming that it would be unfair to pick and choose between professions (which is what the Bill did). At one point in the debate, Mr. Fraser presented the strange argument that they should not be included because police, firefighters, peace officers, and EMTs cannot “lock down” a city like some correctional institutions can be “locked down.” The two Tories made strong arguments why police, firefighters, peace officers, and EMTs should be included in Bill 1, but they struggled to explain why presumptive coverage should be limited to those four professions.

“The associate minister [Frank Oberle] talked about sort of the conflicting arguments that exist when you say, on one hand, that you shouldn’t be picking and choosing certain professions, and then, of course, he anticipated correctly that we are going to move forward with amendments to identify certain professions.” – Rachel Notley

The amendment to include corrections officers received the support of the NDP, Wildrose, and Liberal MLAs in the Assembly, but was defeated by the large Tory majority.

Ms. Notley’s second amendment, to include social workers, received strong support from NDP and Liberal caucuses. In a strange twist, most Wildrose MLAs spoke against the amendment with only Wildrose MLA Mr. Anglin breaking from his caucus and speaking in favour of including social workers in the Bill.

Presenting similar points as Tories had used only minutes before to argue against including corrections officers, Wildrose MLAs praised social workers while arguing against including them Bill, claiming that it would be unfair to pick and choose between professions.

So, it came as little surprise that Ms. Notley’s second amendment was defeated, with only the NDP, Liberals, and Mr. Anglin voting in favour.

Bill 1 passed third reading on November 1, with MLAs from all parties voting in favour.

(Read transcripts of debates in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly using Hansard)

cabinet building and the game of politics in alberta.

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones

With the coming of a new Premier, the great game of cabinet building is underway and the politicians are jockeying for their positions. As reported by the Edmonton Journal, the competition to woo the new Queen of Alberta politics took the form of hugs and cheers at today’s Tory caucus meeting, the first since Premier-designate Alison Redford won the Progressive Conservative leadership on October 1.

Geography, gender, experience, competency, and political loyalty are a few of the many factors that are taken into account when building a cabinet. The need to put a new face on the cabinet will certainly leave some veteran MLAs mispleased with the appointments, which are expected to take place next week. Two position are already assured to Doug Horner as Deputy Premier and Dave Hancock as House leader.

Idle speculation over coffee (or mead and meat if we were in King’s Landing) with David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, led to the creation of three speculative lists of “who’s in” the cabinet, “too soon to tell” what their future is, and “who’s out” the next provincial cabinet.

The first two of the three groups are listed below and are our contribution to what is sure to be at the centre of debate among members of Premier Redford’s transition team. The third group, which I will not list on this blog, we hope will be chaired by the always affable and cheery hopefully-soon-to-be-former cabinet minister Ron Liepert.

Who’s in?

Doug Horner – Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert (Already announced Deputy Premier, could be appointed Finance Minister)
Dave Hancock – Edmonton-Whitemud (Already appointed as House Leader)
Ted Morton – Foothills-Rockyview (lock the gun cabinet, keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer)
Ray Danyluk – Lac La Biche-St. Paul (Flexed his political muscle by drawing largest vote in his constituency in the PC leadership contest)
Robin Campbell – West Yellowhead
Dave Rodney – Calgary-Lougheed
Cal Dallas – Red Deer-South (from Red Deer and not Mary Ann Jablonski)
Kyle Fawcett – Calgary-North Hill (Supported Doug Griffiths on the first ballot and Redford on the second ballot)
Yvonne Fritz – Calgary-Cross (competent cabinet minister)
Jack Hayden – Drumheller-Stettler (to satisfy the rural vote)
Cindy Ady – Calgary-Shaw (to satisfy the Mormon vote)
Jeff Johnson – Athabasca-Redwater (New blood)
Art Johnston – Calgary-Hays (rewarded for being the only MLA to support Redford on the first ballot)
Diana McQueen – Drayton Valley-Calmar (Supported Horner and is a rising star in the PC caucus)
Frank Oberle – Peace River (Stays in Solicitor General)
Verlyn Olsen – Wetaskiwin-Camrose (Justice Minister)
Luke Ouellette – Innisfail-Sylvan Lake (hugged Redford at today’s caucus meeting)
Janice Sarich – Edmonton-Decore (Education Minister)

Too soon to tell

Thomas Lukaszuk – Edmonton-Castle Downs
Lloyd Snelgrove – Vermilion-Lloydminster
Doug Elniski – Edmonton-Calder (supported Redford, but has made questionable comments on women’s rights)
Greg Weadick – Lethbridge-West
Len Webber – Calgary-Foothills
Manmeet Bhullar – Calgary-Montrose
Genia Leskiw – Bonnyville-Cold Lake
Lindsay Blackett – Calgary-North West
Gene Zwozdesky – Edmonton-Mill Creek (the fixer)

Will all these MLAs make into the provincial cabinet next week? Perhaps not, but it is always fun to speculate what might come next in the increasingly interesting the game of politics in Alberta…

mla support in the alberta pc leadership contest (july 14, 2011)

Here is a preliminary list and map of MLAs who are supporting candidates in the 2011 Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership contest. Please comment below or send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com if there are additions or subtractions to be made to this list.

 

2011 Alberta PC leadership MLA support July 14 2011
Map of MLA support in the 2011 Alberta PC leadership contest.

Candidate: Doug Griffiths (1 MLA)
Kyle Fawcett (Calgary-North Hill)

Candidate: Doug Horner (12 MLAs)
Ray Danyluk (Lac La Biche-St. Paul)
Wayne Drysdale (Grande Prairie-Wapiti)
Hector Goudreau (Dunvegan-Central Peace)
Jack Hayden (Drumheller-Stettler)
Jeff Johnson (Athabasca-Redwater)
Ken Kowalski (Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock)
Genia Leskiw (Bonnyville-Cold Lake)
Len Mitzel (Cypress-Medicine Hat)
Frank Oberle (Peace River)
Luke Ouellette (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake)
Dave Quest (Strathcona)
Greg Weadick (Lethbridge-West)

Candidate: Gary Mar (11 MLAs)
Naresh Bhardwaj (Edmonton-Ellerslie)
Iris Evans (Sherwood Park)
Heather Klimchuk (Edmonton-Glenora)
Mel Knight (Grande Prairie-Smoky)
Diana McQueen (Drayton Valley-Calmar)
Ron Liepert (Calgary-West)
Thomas Lukaszuk (Edmonton-Castle Downs)
Ray Prins (Lacombe-Ponoka)
Rob Renner (Medicine Hat)
George Rogers (Leduc-Beaumont-Devon)
Lloyd Snelgrove (Vermilion-Lloydminster)

Candidate: Ted Morton (10 MLAs)
Moe Amery (Calgary-East)
Carl Benito (Edmonton-Mill Woods)
Evan Berger (Livingstone-Macleod)
Jonathan Denis (Calgary-Egmont)
Doug Elniski (Edmonton-Calder)
George Groenveld (Highwood)
Broyce Jacobs (Cardston-Taber-Warner)
Dave Rodney (Calgary-Lougheed)
Tony Vandermeer (Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview)
David Xiao (Edmonton-McClung)

Candidate: Rick Orman
None

Candidate: Alison Redford (1 MLA)
Art Johnston (Calgary-Hays)

doug horner reminds albertans that he is still running for premier.

Alberta PC leadership candidate Doug Horner.
Doug Horner

Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Doug Horner held a media conference on the steps of the Legislative Assembly building in Edmonton today.

The presser was billed as a launch of his “Enhancing Education” policy framework and his plan to “unite the PC Party,” but in reality it was used as an opportunity to remind the media that despite the attention-making campaigns of Alison Redford and Gary Mar, Mr. Horner is still in this race.

Lite-policy framework
While policy framework introduced some interesting ideas, including the creation of a $50 million fund to help students experience overseas studies and volunteer work, it was surprisingly vague for Mr. Horner who has very capably held the Advanced Education & Technology portfolio over the past four years. The biggest example of this vagueness was found in the eighth point of  his plan to unite the PC Party, “Organizational ability to understand the structure needed to implement change and to effectively make things happen.”

A Premier who will be his own gatekeeper
Included in the “Accessible Leadership” section of today’s policy framework release was the promise that as Premier, Mr. Horner would dissolve the Chief of Staff position and create “regional liaison officers” in its place “to ensure that MLA`s, Cabinet Ministers and stakeholders have direct access to the Premier.” This is a subtle shot at Premier Ed Stelmach‘s Chief of Staff Ron Glenn, who’s “gatekeeper” tendencies led to much frustration and resentment among PC MLAs over the past four years.

Alberta PC leadership candidate Doug Horner and MLA supporters
Doug Horner with his MLA supporters

MLA endorsements
Standing behind Mr. Horner during the media conference were a group of MLAs endorsing his candidacy. Many of these rural MLAs made up the core of Premier Stelmach’s caucus support in his 2006 leadership bid, they include Lac La Biche-St. Paul MLA Ray Danyluk, Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Wayne Drysdale, Dunvegan-Central Peace MLA Hector Goudreau, Drumheller-Stettler MLA Jack Hayden, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Luke Ouellette, and Peace River MLA Frank Oberle. Mr. Horner also has the endorsements of Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA Genia Leskiw and Strathcona MLA Dave Quest.

These endorsements will make it easy for his opponents to make comparisons between Mr. Horner and to the unpopular Premier Stelmach, but these comparisons would be misguided. Mr. Horner is a sharp mind and is a much better public speaker that the current occupant of the Premier’s office.

Mr. Horner is a former Deputy Premier and has served as the MLA for Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert since 2001. He is the son of former Deputy Premier Hugh Horner.