Tag Archives: George Groeneveld

Big names running for federal party nominations in Alberta

Justin Trudeau Edmoton Alberta

Federal Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau surrounded by supporters at an Edmonton rally on January 23, 2014. (photo from @JustinTrudeau on Twitter)

There has been plenty of activity this week as candidates from all political parties put forward their names to run in Canada’s next federal election, scheduled to be held in October 2015.

Wooing voters and potential candidates alike, both New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau travelled through Alberta this week. Mr. Muclair visited Edmonton and attended party events with provincial NDP leader Brian Mason. Mr. Trudeau was a headliner at well-attended Liberal Party rallies in Okotoks, Calgary and Edmonton.

George Canyon Conservative Canada Bow River

George Canyon

Bow River
Award-winning country music artist George Canyon has announced his intentions to seek the Conservative Party nomination in the new Bow River riding. Mr. Canyon will coordinate his campaign with John Barlow, who is seeking the Conservative by-election nomination in neighbouring Macleod riding (an eastern portion of the new Foothills riding will become part of Bow River when the next federal general election is called).

While he would be a star candidate for the Conservatives, he is expected to be joined by a large group of local conservatives interested in seeking the nomination.

Calgary Confederation
Calgary-Foothills PC MLA Len Webber announced his plans to seek the Conservative nomination in the new Calgary Confederation riding. Rumours of Mr. Webber’s jump into federal politics were first reported on this blog in November 2013. Consultant Susanne DiCocco is also seeking the Conservative nomination in this riding.

Calgary Forest Lawn
Abdul Mohamud has announced his plans to seek the Liberal Party nomination in this new east Calgary riding.

Calgary Shepard
Tom Kmiec
, a former staffer to Calgary MP Jason Kenney, is the first candidate to announce his candidacy for the the Conservative nomination in this new south east Calgary riding.

Edmonton-Centre
Lawyer and Metis advocate Harold Robinson has joined the Liberal Party nomination in Edmonton-Centre. Mr. Robinson will face entrepreneur Randy Boissonnault in his party’s yet to be scheduled contest. The Edmonton-Centre Liberals announced on their Twitter account this week that 2011 candidate Mary MacDonald would not seek the nomination.

Edmonton-Griesbach
PC MLA Janice Sarich is reportedly campaigning for the Conservative Party nomination in the new Edmonton-Griesbach riding. Ms. Sarich was an Edmonton Catholic school trustee from 2001 to 2007 and was elected as MLA for Edmonton-Decore in 2008. It is unclear whether current Edmonton-East MP Peter Goldring will seek his party’s nomination in the new riding. Mr. Goldring has represented the area in Ottawa since 1997.

There are at least six candidates running for NDP nomination in Edmonton-Griesbach. The riding association is hosting a candidate meet and greet on January 31.

Edmonton-West
The Globe & Mail reports that Edmonton-McClung PC MLA David Xiao is preparing to seek the Conservative nomination in the new Edmonton-West riding. This would not be Mr. Xiao’s first foray into federal politics. In 2004 he was defeated by Laurie Hawn in the Conservative nomination contest in Edmonton-Centre.

Fort McMurray-Athabasca
Following the resignation of Conservative MP Brian Jean, rumours continue to swirl about who could seek the party nominations in an upcoming by-election.

Former Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Don Scott, who was elected MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin in 2012, is suspected by some to be eyeing the Conservative nomination, but might be hard pressed to leave his provincial cabinet post. Expected to seek the nomination is Laila Goodridge, a Fort McMurray-native and current constituency assistant to Calgary-Centre MP Joan Crockatt.

Former Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA and current Wood Buffalo deputy mayor Guy Boutilier is being talked about as potentially seeking either the Conservative or Liberal Party nominations. First elected under the PC banner in 1997, Mr. Boutilier joined the Wildrose Party in 2011 and was defeated in the 2012 election.

Lethbridge
Investment advisor Doug McArthur will challenge incumbent MP Jim Hillyer for the Conservative Party nomination in the new Lethbridge riding.

Macleod
With a by-election expected in the coming months, five candidates – Melissa Mathieson, John Barlow, Scott Wagner, Phil Rowland and Rick Wiljamma – are vying for the Conservative Party nomination in Macleod.

While no Wildrose MLAs from the area have officially endorsed a candidate in this race (as far as I have seen), Mr Barlow has received the endorsement of former Highwood PC MLA George Groeneveld and Ms. Mathieson has the endorsement of former Livingstone-Macleod PC MLA David Coutts.

Peace River-Westlock
Peace River school administrator Terry Hogan is the first candidate to announce plans to seek the Conservative nomination in this new sprawling south west northwest Alberta riding.

Sturgeon River
Cabinet minister
Rona Ambrose announced her intentions today to seek the Conservative Party nomination in the new Sturgeon River riding. Ms. Ambrose has represented the rurban Edmonton-Spruce Grove riding since 2004.

Visit the Federal Election 2015 page to find links to websites and social media accounts for candidates listed in this post and in previous updates.

A by-election in Cowboy Country. Conservatives line up in Macleod

Macelod Conservative by-election candidates

Four candidates have stepped forward to contest the Conservative Party nomination in Macleod. AMC’s ‘Hell on Wheels’ is filmed in the Macleod riding south of Calgary.

Four candidates have stepped forward to duel for the yet to be scheduled Conservative Party nomination in southern Alberta’s Macleod riding following the resignation of Member of Parliament Ted Menzies. A by-election is expected to be held in the eastern slopes of Alberta’s cowboy country the next six months.

John Barlow Macleod Conservative

John Barlow

John Barlow, the associate editor of the Okotoks Western Wheel newspaper announced his entry into nomination race this week. In the 2012 provincial election, as the Progressive Conservative candidate in the Highwood constituency, Mr. Barlow placed  a surprisingly strong second behind  Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith.

Fourth generation rancher and farmer Phil Rowland is also contesting the nomination. Mr. Rowland is the past president of the Western Stock Growers Association and serves on numerous provincial and agriculture boards. He also served as a board member for the Highwood PC Association during George Groeneveld‘s time as MLA.

Melissa Mathison Macleod Conservative

Melissa Mathison

Former Parliament Hill staffer Melissa Mathieson has also entered the race. She currently works as a research associate for the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary and, according to her LinkedIn profile, she graduated from the U of C in 2011 with a bachelor of political science and has since worked as an intern and staffer for Mr. Menzies and in the Office of the Prime Minister in Ottawa.

Businessman Scott Wagner has been campaigning door-to-door since Mr. Menzies announced months ago that he would not seek re-election.

Update: Rick Wiljamma is also seeking the Conservative nomination in Macleod.

No candidates have stepped forward to become candidates for other political parties.

Last year’s Calgary-Centre by-election exposed significant splits in the conservative movement in Alberta. With some moderate conservatives believing Conservative nominee Joan Crockatt was too closely associated with the Wildrose Party, many formerly reliable Conservative voters choose to park their votes with Liberal Party candidate Harvey Locke.

A similar split is difficult to imagine in Macleod, but not impossible.

Voters in this region of Alberta last elected a non-conservative Member of Parliament in 1968, when Trudeaumania swept Liberal Allen Sulatycky into office as the MP for sprawling Rocky Mountain riding (the election was contested by two PC candidates, who, not unexpectedly, split the vote). Mr. Sulatycky served as a parliamentary assistant for four years until he was defeated in the 1972 election by future Prime Minister Joe Clark.

Voters in this riding have since reliably elected PC, Reform, Canadian Alliance, and Conservative MPs. Mr. Menzies earned 40,007 votes in the 2011 federal election, eclipsing his second-place New Democrat opponent, who earned 5,335 votes, and third place Green Party candidate, who earned 2,389 votes. The Liberal candidate placed a distant fourth with 1,898 votes.

Macleod Voting results 2004-2011

Voting results in the Macleod riding from the past four federal elections (2004-2011).

But the riding’s history as a Conservative strong-hold over the past four decades does not mean Macleod voters do hold not grievances or should be taken for granted.

Some areas of the riding, especially High River, suffered significant damage caused by this year’s floods and some residents have accused the RCMP of overstepping their bounds by removing privately-owned firearms from residences that had been evacuated during the flood.

The federal riding also overlaps provincial constituencies represented by Wildrose MLAs Ms. Smith, Pat Stier, Ian Donovan, Jason Hale, Gary Bikman and PC MLA Ron Casey. All of these constituencies were hotly contested battle grounds in the 2012 provincial election when significant numbers of long-time PC voters shifted their support to the Wildrose Party.

Under almost every normal circumstance this by-election should be an easy win for the nominated Conservative candidate. But as previous by-elections have demonstrated, the hyper-local focus on issues in an isolated by-election can sometimes produce unexpected results.

———

An update to a recent post about federal party nominations in Alberta: educator Janis Irwin has announced her intention to seek the NDP nomination in the new Edmonton-Griesbach riding.

Redford shines in flood aftermath, but political problems not washed away

Premier Alison Redford shakes the hand of a Canadian Forces member providing relief for flooding in southern Alberta.

Premier Alison Redford shakes the hand of a Canadian Forces member providing relief for flooding in southern Alberta (photo from @Premier_Redford on Twitter)

The day to day melee of provincial politics in Alberta was thrown out the window two weeks ago as rising rivers flooded communities in southern Alberta and forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 Albertans from low-lying Calgary neighbourhoods and surrounding communities.

Caring, compassionate, and pro-active, Premier Alison Redford has been front and centre since the flooding began, quickly flying back from a trip to New York two weeks ago, where she was speaking at a conference and meeting with oil industry investors. Only Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, the calm and confident voice of his city, has been more front and centre in the media during this natural disaster.

Abandoning the government’s austerity agenda, Premier Redford announced $1 billion in recovery funding and the appointment of three new cabinet ministers to lead the recovery: Lethbridge-West MLA Greg Weadick for south east regions, Calgary-Klein MLA Kyle Fawcett for south west regions, and Calgary-South East MLA Rick Fraser for High River.

Creating a more purposeful version of ‘Ralph Bucks,’ the government provided pre-paid debit cards to residents affected by the flooding.

 Almost immediately after the government announced the appointment of new cabinet ministers, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle took to Twitter to ask why Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, whose Highwood constituency includes High River, was not approached to fill one of these positions (although Wildrose MLAs represent all but three southern Alberta constituencies outside of Calgary, it still would be highly irregular for an opposition leader to be appointed to cabinet).

Despite some initial skepticism, the Wildrose leader quickly began to cooperate with the new minister.

As the flooding started, Ms. Smith was on the ground as a volunteer in High River and, after residents were evacuated from the town, she butted heads with Mayor Emile Blokland about when residents should be allowed back into the town.

With $1 billion in support promised for the flood ravaged communities, it will be difficult for the opposition Wildrose to criticize the Premier’s decision to abandon her promise to balance the provincial budget by 2014, especially as Ms. Smith’s constituency includes one of the hardest hit areas.

Overall, the Premier has assumed a pro-active position, a contrast to a 2010 in Medicine Hat, when then-Premier Ed Stelmach was criticized for not visiting the city in the aftermath.

Former MLA George Groeneveld, who represented  Highwood until last year’s election, told CBC last week that allowing development in flood zones has been a mistake. Mr. Groeneveld is the author of a shelved 2006 report that had the potential to cause major political problems for Premier Redford as the flood waters raged. “The one-in-100-year flood seems to be coming every two years, even more, especially in southern Alberta,” Mr. Groeneveld told the Calgary Herald in 2006.

While the blame for the shelved 2006 report can not personally be placed on Premier Redford, who was not even an MLA at the time, her government  furiously spun its support for the report and flood relief with Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths and Environment Minister Diana McQueen  aggressively promoting the government’s support for recommendations.

Despite these pro-active stances, the flood has not washed away Premier Redford’s political problems. The Premier has been known to keep her distance from domestic issues in Alberta, allowing cabinet ministers to take the lead on local issues while she focuses on Alberta’s international agenda.

A handful of senior cabinet ministers appear to have caused all sorts of problems and turmoil that may require the personal attention of the Premier, or new cabinet appointments, to resolve. Questions loom about the Alberta Health Services $100-million surplus in the midst of nurse layoffs and whether Health Minister Fred Horne approved the agency’s controversial bonuses for its senior executives before he fired the entire board of directors. Confusion also continues about the future of home care services.

On the education front, post-secondary staff layoffs continue and the University of Alberta remains defiant of Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk‘s attempts to control their institutional agenda. Under the watch of Education Minister Jeff Johnson, school boards, like Edmonton Public Schools, have been forced to eliminate hundreds of full-time staff. Meanwhile, Alberta’s booming population is set to exceed 4-million.

Premier Redford has shined during the flood, but still faces plenty of problems once the reality of politics returns.

Map: Alberta cabinet ministers catch the international travel bug.

“The Redford government spent more than half a million dollars on its trip to the London Olympics earlier this year, including about $113,000 in hotel rooms that were not used…” – Edmonton Journal reporter Keith Gerein

According to the Journal, the $518,280 trip sent 29 Albertans to London including Tory Premier Alison Redford, Culture Minister Heather Klimchuk, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Minister Christine Cusanelli, government officials, artists and performers including Corb Lund and Donovan Workun.

While the trip to the London Olympics has sticker shock, it is small potatoes in comparison to the Government of Alberta’s $14 million splash at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where Premier Ed Stelmach and cabinet ministers hosted Olympic attendees on a $499 per ticket luxury train to Whistler and showered them with gifts that included iPod Touchs and White Cowboy Hats.

I understand the value of sending cabinet ministers on these trips to promote our province abroad and I generally believe it is in our best interest, but there reaches a certain point when return on investment needs to be demonstrated.

Over the past eleven months, Premier Redford, cabinet ministers,  and backbench Tory MLAs have traveled extensively on government business. The trips have taken Alberta Government officials to five continents and more than twelve countries, including numerous trips to Washington DC, New York, and Hong Kong.

I have created a Google Map tracking the international travel of Premier Redford, cabinet ministers, and backbench Tory MLAs since November 2011. Zoom in and click the icons to read who traveled where and when.


View Alberta Cabinet Minister and MLA Travel November 2011-October 2012 in a larger map

Note: Travel dates and locations listed on this map were found in media releases published on the Government of Alberta website.

meltdown in highwood: the floods are coming, but danielle smith will prevail

Highwood Election Forum

A big turnout at a recent election forum in Highwood.

By Jody MacPherson

Okotoks, the little town with the international reputation for award-winning environmental sustainability, could very well be home to the next premier of Alberta, a climate-change denier.

This is just one of many ironies of this 28th election in the province that birthed the oil/tarsands (depending on where you stand). It’s the first election in more than a decade where the Progressive Conservatives are actually in danger of a meltdown, not unlike the glaciers at the hands of our overheated climate.

Tempers flaring

It’s not only global temperatures that are rising though, the good citizens of Highwood are split and tempers are flaring. In 2008, only 36% of voters bothered to come out and vote and the PC candidate, George Groeneveld, received 65% of the popular vote. It wasn’t exactly a contested race. But, if the two election forums held in Highwood are any indication, the turnout will likely be a lot higher this time.

Keegan Gibson Liberal Highwood

Liberal candidate Keegan Gibson

The first debate was held in Okotoks with PC candidate John Barlow, Alberta Liberal candidate Keegan Gibson and Wildrose candidate, Danielle Smith. Things got off to a cordial start, but soon the accusations were flying. The “conscience rights” uproar had just erupted onto the social media scene.

Questions covered the full-range of issues from the incendiary (abortion) to the benign (whose signs were purchased locally). At the end of the evening, Smith’s closing remarks had a slightly more enthusiastic response from the crowd than Barlow’s. There was a lot of heckling and booing from both sides throughout.

An orange wave of PCs

High River hosted the second forum last week. Again, the NDP candidate was missing from the debate. Liberal Gibson was a little more prepared this time, having met with local politicians and community members. High River has an older and more rural demographic. It’s also the community where Smith chose to take up residence.  She’s still considered a newcomer rather than the hometown girl, though.

The PC’s packed the conference hall with supporters. One woman told me the seats were filled 45 minutes before the forum began. The PC’s had a highly visible presence with their bright orange t-shirts and it seemed like the Wildrose supporters were mostly left standing along the side or sprinkled throughout the audience.

Barlow was much more prepared this time and took Smith to task on a number of issues of local concern. Smith was thrown off a little by the hecklers and boos as she struggled to explain her party’s position on a number of issues. The social issues were not as much of a concern at this forum. It was all about education, water, property rights and healthcare.

The community is split

Danielle Smith Highwood

Danielle Smith

It was surprising to see how split the room was, as men in cowboy gear mumbled remarks under their breath, seniors argued with those sitting next to them, and neighbours shook their heads in exasperation. At the end, Barlow received more applause—but my guess is the crowd was mostly comprised of decided voters. The undecideds were in short supply, watchful and solemn.

Given that spring flooding season is looming, this issue was top of mind. Barlow was at a disadvantage, given that his predecessor, Groeneveld’s flood mitigation report was never released to the public. Smith was quick to promise to release the report and even suggested a role for Groeneveld in implementing the recommendations, which went over well. Barlow was left with no response except his own personal opinion that the report should be released, which received awkward applause.

Groeneveld was a well-liked MLA, snubbed by Stelmach and stripped of his cabinet position. The local PC association wrote a public letter of discontent at the time.

In an earlier post, I wrote that it appeared Barlow got off to a slow start with his signs.  According to later reports from Okotoks, he did manage to get some more signs out on lawns.

Green crowd will support Barlow

This riding is by no means an easy win for Smith. She is up against a well-organized, locally focused campaign by Barlow’s team. The Tory establishment backs Barlow and my guess is that fundraising would not have been a problem. The boundaries were adjusted in 2010, giving the two towns a little more sway over the results, which pose an interesting challenge for Smith. With the influx of environmentally conscious urbanites to Okotoks, Smith’s climate change position will hurt her with those voters.

The Tory faithful won’t be budged and Barlow is a fresh, young family man—just the face they need to represent their stuffy, cadre of aging, wealthy landowners looking forward to retirement. The property owners angry about the “bad bills” as Smith calls them, will decide the election. If these angry rural voters make it out in strong enough numbers, she will pull it off.

Judging by the level of anger out there on the range, I think they will make the effort. Prior to the writ being dropped, Smith travelled the province and the riding for months campaigning extensively. This will likely hold her in good stead with voters in Highwood. I’m predicting a close race with underdog Barlow putting forward a good challenge, but with Smith edging him out in the end.

Jody MacPherson raised a family in Okotoks, where she has extended family and many valued friends. She has since moved into Calgary and has been active in the Alberta Liberal Party for several years. Coincidentally, she now lives in Calgary-Elbow, Alison Redford’s home riding.

15 races to watch in alberta’s 2012 election.

In the lead up to the Alberta’s 2012 election, I have identified fifteen constituencies across the province that could produce interesting contests and results when the election is called.

15 races to watch in Alberta's 2012 election.

15 races to watch in Alberta's 2012 election.

1) Highwood
The Wildrose Party has staked their future in the success of leader Danielle Smith and I expect that party will pull out all the stops to ensure she is elected. The PCs have nominated newspaper editor John Barlow to replace retiring PC MLA George Groeneveld.

2) Edmonton-Meadowlark
This area has deep Liberal roots, having first elected MLA Grant Mitchell in 1986, but since 2001 it has become a swing-riding electing both Liberals and PCs. Currently held by former PC MLA and now Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman, the next vote will be a test of his personal popularity as he runs under his new party’s banner. He will face former PC MLA Bob Maskell, who served from 2001 until 2004.

3) Edmonton-Calder
Voters in this constituency are notorious swing-voters. No incumbent has been re-elected here since 1997. Current PC MLA Doug Elniski made a last minute announcement that he would not seek re-election, leaving former school trustee and newly nominated candidate Bev Esslinger not a lot of time to catch up. Former MLA David Eggen has been campaigning in Calder for the past three years and is expected to launch a well-organized campaign. Wildrose candidate Rich Neumann may play kingmaker if he is able to attract enough past PC voters.

4) Calgary-Glenmore
In 2009, outgoing Wildrose leader Paul Hinman narrowly won a hotly contested by-election that was seen as a referendum on then-Premier Ed Stelmach‘s popularity in Calgary (which was low). With new Premier Alison Redford representing the neighboring constituency, PC candidate Linda Johnson may receive a warmer reception at the doors. Throw into the mix former Mount Royal College instructor Craig Cheffins, who served as the Liberal MLA for Calgary-Elbow from 2007 to 2008, and the outcome of this race could be difficult to predict.

5) Edmonton-Glenora
Represented by both PC and Liberal MLAs over the past twenty years, this constituency could be a key battleground for five opposition parties in the next election. Former Liberal MLA Bruce Miller is challenging PC cabinet minister Heather Klimchuk, who unseated him by 136 votes in 2008. Rev. Miller is not the only challenger in this election. The Alberta Party is pinning their hopes on former school trustee Sue Huff, the NDP have nominated former MLA and leader Ray Martin, and the Wildrose have chosen past Mayoral candidate Don Koziak.

6) Calgary-Varsity
With the retirement of popular two-term Liberal MLA Harry Chase, the Liberals have nominated former carpenters’ union official Bruce Payne, who ran for that party’s leadership in 2011. The PCs have chosen former Nexen vice-president Donna Kennedy-Glans. The results of this race will be a critical indicator of whether the Liberals can hold on to, and build on, important gains made in Calgary during the past two elections.

7) Chestermere-Rockyview
Energy Minister Ted Morton will face off against former Global Calgary news anchor and Wildrose candidate Bruce McAllister. The Wildrose attacked Minister Morton’s credentials as a “fiscal mallard” while he was Finance Minister and by nominating Mr. McAllister they are showing that they will not give him a pass in the next election.

8 ) Airdrie
When first-term PC MLA Rob Anderson joined the Wildrose in 2010, he automatically became a target of his former party, who have nominated Alderman Kelly Hegg as their candidate. The Airdrie area has typically voted for the PCs, but voters in this region have been known to elect opposition candidates in the past (Western Canadian Concept MLA Gordon Kesler was elected in 1982 and Liberal MLA Don MacDonald was elected in 1992).

9) Cardston-Taber-Warner
After being unseated by Wildorse MLA Mr. Hinman in 2004, PC MLA Broyce Jacobs won a narrow victory in 2008. Fast forward to 2012, Mr. Jacobs has lost his party’s nomination to Pat Shimbashi and the Wildrose has nominated Sterling Deputy Mayor Gary Bikman. If the Wildrose are to pick up seats in the election, this will likely be one.

10) Edmonton-Rutherford
In a rematch of the closest race of the 2008 election, PC MLA Fred Horne will face former Liberal MLA Rick Miller. While 2008 a two-way contest, the 2012 contest is more interesting with the presence of community organizer and Alberta Party candidate Michael Walters and Wildrose candidate Kyle McLeod.

11) Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo
After winning four elections as this constituency’s PC candidate, late-blooming Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier will face Wood Buffalo deputy mayor Mike Allen in the upcoming vote. After decades as a municipal and provincial politician, this election may be more a test of Mr. Boutilier’s personal support than that of his new party.

12) Edmonton-Gold Bar
A Liberal Party stronghold since 1986, the retirement of MLA Hugh MacDonald and the redistribution of electoral boundaries south encompassing Tory-voting neighbourhoods may give second-time PC candidate David Dorward a boost. Liberal candidate Josipa Petrunic is a well-spoken and passionate partisan who hopes to hold the constituency for her party. The NDP have nominated Marlin Schmidt and hope to capitalize on local support for NDP MP Linda Duncan.

13) Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview
A close contest in 2008 saw former PC MLA Tony Vandermeer defeat NDP MLA Ray Martin. In 2012, Mr. Vandermeer will face a strong challenge from NDP candidate Deron Bilous.

14) Lethbridge-West
After twenty years of close races, voters in this constituency have proven themselves to be deeply divided between the PCs and Liberals. This election, first-term PC MLA Greg Weadick and second-time Liberal candidate Bal Boora will be joined by NDP candidate Shannon Phillips, who has launched a spirited campaign, and Wildrose candidate Kevin Kinahan. Even if Mr. Weadick is re-elected, the real story may be who places second in this politically moderate southern Alberta constituency.

15) Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock
After more than three decades in the Assembly, the departure of PC MLA Ken Kowalski has created a large void to fill in this constituency north of Edmonton. The PCs have nominated Westlock County Councillor Maureen Kubinec, who will face off against her main opponent Wildrose candidate Link Byfield. Mr. Byfield has been campaigning for more than a year and could make gains if he is able to tap into the base of social conservative voters in this constituency.

rookie photos of alberta mlas retiring in 2012.

With an election expected to be held in the next few months and a new Premier setting a new tone, many long-time and not-so-long-time Members of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly have decided that now is time to retire or look for greener pastures.

The nineteen MLAs not seeking re-election are former Premier Ed Stelmach, Ken Kowalski, Iris Evans, Ron Liepert, Mel Knight, Barry McFarland, Janis Tarchuk, Richard Marz, Lloyd Snelgrove, Rob Renner, Hugh MacDonald, Kevin Taft, George Groeneveld, Dave Taylor, Harry Chase, Broyce Jacobs, Ken Allred, and Art Johnston. Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Johnston were defeated in nomination contests in their constituencies.

Rumours circulating suggest that other long-time MLAs are also considering retirement, including Yvonne Fritz and Dave Hancock.

The departures are not limited to MLAs. Yesterday, Liberal Communications Director Brian Leadbetter announced that he will be leaving after a year in the position.

Some of the retiring politicians have spent a decade or more in office, so before the writ is dropped I thought it would be fun to take a look at what some of them looked like in their younger years in office.

Ed Stelmach, MLA for Vegreville-Vermilion (1993-2004), Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville (2004-2012), Premier (2006-2011)

Ed Stelmach, MLA for Vegreville-Viking (1993-2004), Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville (2004-2012), Premier (2006-2011)

Ken Ken Kowalski, MLA for Barrhead (1979-1993), Barrhead-Westlock (1993-2004), Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock (2004-2012) MLA Barrhead

Ken Kowalski, MLA for Barrhead (1979-1993), Barrhead-Westlock (1993-2004), Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock (2004-2012)

Iris Evans 1997 and 2012

Iris Evans, MLA for Sherwood Park (1997-2012)

Rob Renner, MLA for Medicine Hat (1993-2012)

Rob Renner, MLA for Medicine Hat (1993-2012)

Barry McFarland, MLA for Little Bow (1991-2012)

Barry McFarland, MLA for Little Bow (1992-2012)

Kevin Taft, MLA for Edmonton-Riverview (2001-2012)

Kevin Taft, MLA for Edmonton-Riverview (2001-2012)

Janis Tarchuk, MLA for Banff-Cochrane (1997-2012)

Janis Tarchuk, MLA for Banff-Cochrane (1997-2012)

Hugh MacDonald, MLA for Edmonton-Gold Bar (1997-2012)

Hugh MacDonald, MLA for Edmonton-Gold Bar (1997-2012)

Richard Marz, MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills (1997-2012)

Richard Marz, MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills (1997-2012)

second-ballot math: alberta tory caucus splits between redford, mar, horner.

Map-of-MLA-support-in-the-2011-Alberta-PC-leadership-contest-September-21-2011

Map of MLA support in the 2011 Alberta PC leadership contest (September 21, 2011)

The three candidates eliminated on the first-ballot vote to choose the next leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives have all announced their support for front-runner Gary Mar. Carrying 40% of the vote on the first-ballot, it is understandable why the three would endorse the front-runner in terms of both personal political calculation and party unity.

Scattering a little differently, the group of MLAs who supported the three eliminated candidates have begun to throw their support among the remaining candidates.

Leadership candidate Doug Horner held a media conference yesterday to announce that Ted Morton supporter Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Carl Benito was joining his campaign.

Other supporters of Dr. Morton, Calgary-Lougheed MLA Dave Rodney, Edmonton-Calder MLA Doug Elniski, and Edmonton-McClung MLA David Xiao, are backing second place candidate Alison Redford.

The only MLA to follow Dr. Morton’s lead into Mr. Mar’s camp is St. Albert MLA Ken Allred. It has been speculated that Housing Minister and Calgary-Egmont MLA Jonathan Denis may endorse Mr. Mar this week. (UPDATE: Minister Denis has endorsed Mar).

Including Minister Denis, there remain five MLA supporters of Dr. Morton who have yet to throw their support behind any of the top three candidates (as far as I am aware). Those remaining MLAs are Livingstone-Macleod MLA Evan Berger, Highwood MLA George Groeneveld, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Tony Vandermeer, and Edmonton-Manning MLA Peter Sandhu.

Doug Griffiths‘ only caucus supporter, Calgary-North Hill MLA Kyle Fawcett, is also backing Alison Redford.

Meanwhile, Dr. Morton’s campaign manager Sam Armstrong, remained critical of Mr. Mar’s candidacy. Mr. Armstrong told the Calgary Herald in an interview that:

“It’s the same old, Old Boys’ Club around Gary that’s been there forever”

Mr. Orman’s endorsement of Mr. Mar was also not enough to convince his campaign manager Patrick Walsh to come along. Mr. Walsh is now supporting Ms. Redford’s campaign.

Check out the Alberta PC Leadership page on this blog to track MLA support for candidates on the second ballot.

guest post: high noon in highwood.

By: Jody MacPherson

A sleeper riding on the outskirts of Calgary, Highwood has more controversy per acre, than bales of hay. For instance, the first thing you might notice about Okotoks, the riding’s largest town, is how the steady convoy of polluting vehicles travelling to and from Calgary at rush hour contradicts the town’s proud sign, “Sustainable Okotoks.”

Sign on Hwy 2A as you come into Okotoks.

The irony continues with the feting of Okotoks as the greenest community in Canada by such pundits as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and CBC’s Peter Mansbridge at the same time the “rurban” community sits in the chosen provincial riding of Wildrose leader Danielle Smith – a right wing student of the climate-change-denying Fraser Institute and cheerful avower that global warming science is “not settled.”

Smith’s running here, of course, because the riding has become a hotbed of disgruntled former PC Party supporters. Ever since the Stelmach administration passed the Land Stewardship Act last year and alienated rural conservatives with its infringement of property ownership, wealthy rural landowners such as J.C. Anderson and others have been seething. It seems nothing puts Stetson-hatted ranchers – real McCoys or not – more at unease than threats to their property rights.

Smack in the middle of this controversy is Alberta’s smooth-talking finance minister, Ted Morton, formerly the Sustainable Resource Development Minister responsible for pushing through the Land Stewardship Act. Rumour has it that Morton personally met with disgruntled PC party members in Highwood to discuss their objections to the Act, but in the end, he was immoveable, leaving them unimpressed and in many cases, infuriated.

Given this prairie windstorm, it’s no surprise the Highwood Wildrose Riding Association was one of the first the party set up and that it has shown some of the strongest membership numbers in the province. Throw in the fact that Premier Ed Stelmach’s “dissing” of local and much loved MLA George Groeneveld prompted the local PC riding association to pen a public letter of discontent, and the Tory stronghold looks a might shaky these days.

The Town of Okotoks recycling facility.

Upping the ante are a couple of wild card issues. The first is the redrawing of Highwood’s boundaries where new electoral lines have transformed the riding from a large rural land base to a small, dense area of people that more closely resembles an urban riding. The face of the riding has changed significantly to give the two towns of Okotoks and High River more sway.

Generally speaking, I’ve found you can count on Okotokians for their support for the principles of sustainability. In town surveys, residents consistently vote for (and in large numbers) living within the carrying capacity of the Sheep River watershed (aka “the population cap”). Despite Chamber of Commerce-type efforts to discredit the “slow growth” approach as “elitist” and “anti-business,” and despite shamefully blatant local newspaper support for the pro-growth candidate in the recent municipal election, the pro-cap mayor won.

It will be interesting, then, to see how Okotokians, especially those thousands who ostensibly flocked to town specifically because of its environmental reputation, mark their ballot in the next provincial election if forced to choose between a not-so-green Smith and a pro-growth PC candidate such as Morton. I’ve failed to mention any so-called “progressive” candidates as, thus far, neither the Liberal, NDP, Alberta Party, or former Greens (now Vision 2012) have come up with a single viable name. Yet, with Smith’s presence virtually guaranteeing media limelight, it would be a choice opportunity for a progressive to toss their hat into the ring. In fact, a group of local citizens have been working behind the scenes to try and forge an agreement for electoral cooperation to run a single progressive candidate.

View of Okotoks from hill on west side of town

The ultimate wild card in a riding desperate for water, of course, is the spectre of an Alberta water market. With the Stelmach government sending signals that water licenses may soon be up for purchase, the Wildrose could stake out a stance opposed to the water market. Catch is, this would require a change from the free market approach expected from a right-wing Wildroser, and that’s not a given.

They must be aware though, with housing developments at a virtual standstill due to water license shortages and the town running out of options, Okotoks is “ground zero” for the coming water wars. Whichever candidate takes the high road by campaigning to protect its citizens from a water market, an expensive pipeline, higher taxes, and encroaching suburban (Calgary) growth is likely guaranteed the Highwood seat. After all, grizzled landowners who’ve ranched in the area for generations AND the newly minted, solar-powered, recycling Okotoks’ crowd share one common concern—a secure, local water supply for themselves and their children.

That said, if Morton decides to run in Highwood, a high noon showdown is certain to be in the offing. The Tories will likely do anything to avoid water as an election issue, thus an attack on the “water front” would either secure an almost certain victory in the riding by those opposing it, or at the very least, boost Wildrose’s reputation elsewhere.

Despite the pull to the right from within her own party, Smith and her new advisors are said to be considering a more “moderate” approach in the upcoming election. It follows then, that this could justify a policy platform opposed to an Alberta water market. If that were the case, the only candidate left standing after Election Day would likely be Smith. And the progressives would be left in the dust, again. (Cue cowboy music.)

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Jody MacPherson has lived in the Highwood Riding for 15 years. She raised her two children in Okotoks and has been active in water and other environmental issues in the community. She’s been working in communications for more than 20 years and served for two years as the VP, Communications for the Alberta Liberal Party before stepping down in November. She’s currently working as a freelance communications and political consultant. You can read her blog at www.jodymacpherson.com and follow her tweets at @jody_macpherson.

Read other guest posts to this blog.

“nearing the precipice of moral insolvency to govern.”

I bet there are some people who were wishing this letter would have just been a cruel April Fools joke:

In a blistering, unprecedented letter to Premier Ed Stelmach, a key Progressive Conservative riding association says the party is “nearing the precipice of moral insolvency to govern.”

The Highwood riding board charged that the Tory party “is bereft of policy, planning, execution, follow-through and communication to the members of the party, and, most importantly, to the citizens of Alberta.”

Without a rebirth of grassroots participation, the letter says, “this party can expect no mercy from the electorate on the election day, which is just two short years away.”

Highwood PC MLA George Groeneveld was dropped from cabinet in January 2010 after serving as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development since December 2006. After his departure from cabinet, Mr. Groeneveld told the High River Times:

“I was a little surprised to be removed,” he told the Times. “I was hoping for another year. But at the same time I was there three years, which is about par for a minister.”
He said he is getting a “little long in the tooth” (a term his wife hates), he said with a laugh, and he thought that may have been a factor as well. The premier might have been trying to bring in new blood.