Tag Archives: Glenn Taylor

Alberta politics last week

After spending some much needed time relaxing in beautiful British Columbia, I returned to Alberta this week and noticed some of the political stories that occurred during my absence. Here are some of the top political stories from last week that caught my attention:

Political games in High River
Buckling under the pressure of constant opposition criticism, rookie Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths lost his cool this week when responding to Wildrose leader Danielle Smith‘s latest salvo. Ms. Smith, the MLA for the High River area, has taken advantage of allegations that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police overstepped their authority by removing privately-owned firearms from private residences during the High River flood evacuation earlier this year. As masters of wedge-issue politics in Alberta, the Wildrose Party appears to be using every political tool they can to solidify Ms. Smith’s base in that area by wedging voters away from the Tories.

Another Alberta Health Services shake-up
David Climenhaga has an excellent analysis of the political implications of Health Minister Fred Horne‘s recent changes to Alberta Health Services executive structure, Janet Davidson‘s appointment as Deputy Minister of Health and whether this actually constitutes a significant change.

Alberta Party leadership race
Two candidates – Greg Clark and Troy Millington – have stepped forward to contest the Alberta Party leadership selection being held on September 21, 2013 in Red Deer. Although the party experienced a significant amount of growth before the 2012 provincial election, including gaining an MLA in former Calgary-Currie Liberal Dave Taylor, the party was unable to elect any candidates to the Assembly on Election Day. The contest is being held to replace former party leader Glenn Taylor, who stepped down shortly after last year’s election.

Sex and the suburbs…
Two-term Strathcona County Councillor Jason Gariepy made national headlines this week when he publicly announced that someone was trying to blackmail him with explicit photos and emails collected during an illicit online relationship. No stranger to controversy, Councillor Gariepy was the centre of attention in the 2010 election when he claimed an email critical of the provincial government was the reason county administrators removed his Blackberry and computer privileges. In 2011, Councillor Gariepy made an unsuccessful bid for the Wildrose Party nomination in Strathcona-Sherwood Park.

Lordly, lordly…
Former Progressive Conservative MLA Jon Lord announced his plans to challenge mayor Naheed Nenshi in Calgary’s upcoming municipal elections. Mr. Lord, also a former Alderman, most recently challenged Joan Crockatt for the federal Conservative nomination in last year’s Calgary-Centre by-election. Unscientific polls show Mayor Nenshi holds 99.6% support among Calgarians.

News from parties not named PC or Wildrose

With Alberta’s daily political scene dominated by the loud and partisan voices of the governing Progressive Conservatives and the official opposition Wildrose, it has become easy to miss what is happening in Alberta’s other political parties. Here is a quick look at some news from the other parties represented in the Legislative Assembly – the Liberals and NDP – and the parties sitting outside the dome – the Alberta Party,  Green Party, and Social Credit Party.

Alberta Liberals

Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman (right), Justin Trudeau (centre), and Sherman's partner Sharon (left) at the Calgary Stampede.
Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman (right), Justin Trudeau (centre), and Sherman’s partner Sharon (left) at the Calgary Stampede. (Photo from Raj Sherman’s Facebook Page).

At a recent annual meeting, the Alberta Liberals abandoned their controversial “supporter” category of party involvement. Described by some Liberals as groundbreaking, gargantuanreal renewal, and politics re-imagined when the party first adopted the new category in May 2011, the idea remained controversial among party loyalists. Some long-time Liberals believed the creation of a “free” category opening leadership selections to non-members gave former Tory MLA Raj Sherman an advantage over loyalist favourite Hugh MacDonald  in the party’s 2011 vote.

According to the Edmonton Journal, the Liberal Party current has about 1,200 registered members, compared to about 3,500 members in August 2011. While the party signed up 27,000 members and supporters in the 2011 leadership race, only 8,900 voted.

A surprise win by past candidate Mike Butler in the party’s vice-president (communications) contest surprised many Liberals at the annual meeting. Mr. Butler is a supporter of cooperation with other parties like the NDP, Alberta Party and Greens, and has helped organize ‘soapbox’ events in Edmonton to promote cross-party dialogue.

The cooperation debate has been heated among Liberals. Last year, party president Todd Van Vliet publicly rebuked Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr for a guest post published on this blog promoting the idea of cooperation.

Alberta NDP

Alberta NDP MLAs Deron Bilous, Brian Mason, David Eggen, and Rachel Notley (photo from Rachel Notley's Facebook page).
Alberta NDP MLAs Deron Bilous, Brian Mason, David Eggen, and Rachel Notley (photo from Rachel Notley’s Facebook page).

The Alberta NDP will  hold their annual conference in Lethbridge in November, hoping to build on recent gains in the southern Alberta city. The NDP have seen significant growth in Lethbridge, with both federal candidate Mark Sandilands and provincial candidate Shannon Phillips significantly increasing their party’s support in recent elections.

NDP executive member Chris O’Halloran was chosen to serve as the interim president following Nancy Furlong‘s departure to accept a new job in Ontario. A new president will be selected at the November annual meeting.

Alberta Party

Following the resignation of leader Glenn Taylor after the last election, the Alberta Party  set September 21, 2013 as the date it will choose their next leader. Calgary businessman Greg Clark is so far the only candidate to step into the race to lead the party.

Not unfamiliar with Alberta politics, Mr. Clark worked as a spokesperson for the Liberal Caucus in the mid-1990s after that party first formed official opposition under Laurence Decore. He ran against Premier Alison Redford in Calgary-Elbow during last year’s election, placing 6th 5th with 518 votes.

Green Party

Reformed after a divisive internal party split and poor party financial audits led to the dissolution of the former Alberta Greens and the creation of the Evergreen Party, the newly renamed Green Party of Alberta is now led by Calgary-based civil liberties advocate Janet Keeping.

Social Credit

In April, the Social Credit Party held a policy convention in Innisfail where members of the small party affirmed policies that support human rights of the preborn, disallowing casino gambling and no sales tax. The Socreds also pledge to make the Alberta Treasury Branch the “economic engine of Alberta.”

Leader Len Skowronski ran in Calgary-Hawkwood in the last election, placing 7th out of 8 candidates with 105 votes. The Social Credit Party ran 3 candidates in the 2012 election.

Alberta Party decides to remain an Alberta party. Could a Liberal merger be next?

Alberta Party Logo
The Alberta Party

Members of Alberta’s eternally optimistic political party, the Alberta Party, met in Calgary for their annual general meeting this past weekend.

Dave Taylor MLA
Dave Taylor

At the meeting, members debated and decided to remain a political party. After the party’s less than stellar debut in the May 2012 provincial election, the party’s only ever MLA, Dave Taylor, penned a blog post suggesting the party fold or become a think-tank. In the spring election, with 38 candidates province-wide, the party earned 1.3% of the vote.

Having elected no MLAs in the last election and being leaderless since the resignation of Glenn Taylor this summer, the Alberta Party could have easily folded and moved on into the sunset.

On May 25, 2012, in response to Dave Taylor’s comments, I wrote:

The focus on the “Big Listen” process gave that party an opportunity to demonstrate what it was doing differently than the other parties, but it did not successfully articulate to the general public why this made them an alternative to the long-governing Tories. By simply defining itself as a moderate party, the Alberta Party deprived itself of any natural electoral base and positioned itself in an already highly competitive area on the political spectrum. Their message became even more difficult to articulate once the media narrative dominated by the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose Party was solidified.

This year was a bad time for moderate or progressive opposition parties in Alberta. With the Tories selecting a moderate leader in Alison Redford, many traditional Liberal voters and potential Alberta Party voters flocked to or remained with the PC Party.

Raj Sherman Liberal Party leader Election 2012
Raj Sherman

More than a few people have suggested that the Alberta Party merge with the Liberal Party, which dropped from eight to five MLAs in the spring election. With provincial New Democrats celebrating their 50th anniversary at their convention in Edmonton this weekend and reaffirmed its opposition to merging with other opposition parties, most mainstream political pundits did not pay much attention to the Alberta Party meeting, but attendees Tweeted that Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman and Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr popped in to say “hi,” as did Evergreen Party leader Larry Ashmore.

If I were the leader of a political party which has failed to form government for more than 80 years, I would be eyeing the Alberta Party’s biggest asset, its name. In a land where the Liberal brand is dirt, most diehard Liberals would still likely oppose any merger that included a name-change.

The Alberta Party faces an incredible challenge if it seriously wants to build a functional political organization before the next election, and just having a great name will not be enough.

murky waters ahead for alberta’s liberal party.

Raj Sherman delivers his leadership victory speech as leadership chair Josipa Petrunic, and candidates Laurie Blakeman, Hugh MacDonald, and Bruce Payne look on (September 2011).
Raj Sherman delivers his leadership victory speech as leadership chair Josipa Petrunic, and candidates Laurie Blakeman, Hugh MacDonald, and Bruce Payne look on (September 2011).

The Alberta Liberals will be holding a vote to affirm or oppose the continued leadership of  Raj Sherman on June 16 at the Whitehorn Community Association in northeast Calgary.

While the 2012 election gave the Liberal Party its worst electoral showing in decades, including the loss of Official Opposition status to the Wildrose Party, many Liberal partisans are lining up to reaffirm Dr. Sherman’s leadership. Dr. Sherman was first elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2008, became Liberal leader in 2011 and was re-elected as MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark in the recent vote.

It is unclear where the Liberal Party fits in the new political environment and despite its dismal showing at the polls last month and it is disputable whether changing leadership at this time will improve that party’s electoral fortunes. Dr. Sherman’s biggest advantage in the June vote may be a lack of anyone else interested in taking up the unenviable position of trying to rebuild Alberta’s Liberal Party.

With only four other MLAs in the Assembly, the Liberals would have a small pool to draw from if Dr. Sherman were to leave. One of those MLA’s, David Swann, already served as leader from 2008 until 2011, and another, Laurie Blakeman, was defeated in the 2011 leadership contest.

Ms. Blakeman spent the past month campaigning to become the Speaker of the Assembly, which if she had won would have, for all intents and purposes, bumped the group of Liberal MLA’s down to 4. Ms. Blakeman was unsuccessful in her bid and was defeated by Edmonton-Mill Creek PC MLA Gene Zwozdesky, who himself crossed the floor from the Liberals to the PCs in 1998.

Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr demonstrated ambition for higher office during his short-lived run for Mayor of Calgary in 2010, but has not publicly displayed interest in his party’s leadership position. I have little insight into whether Calgary-McCall MLA Darshan Kang would be interested in the role.

A few long-time Liberal partisans have shared their frustration with me, suggesting that if long-time Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald had not decided to retire in the recent election, he would be in an ideal position to claim the party leadership. Mr. MacDonald placed second in that party’s 2011 leadership contest and many of his supporters continue to see Dr. Sherman as an outsider to their party.

Other Party Leadership Reviews

It is expected that PC Premier Alison Redford will face a leadership affirmation vote at her party’s annual convention next year. After leading her party to re-election, winning 61 of 87 seats, it is likely that her leadership will be strongly affirmed in the vote.

Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, now Leader of the Official Opposition, is required to face a leadership affirmation vote every three years, which means the next vote would be held in 2013 at the latest. Under section 8.4 of the Wildrose Party constitution, Ms. Smith leadership also faces conditions of term-limits:

8.4 The Leader shall be limited to holding the office of Leader of the Party for the longer of two terms of the Legislative Assembly or eight years, unless endorsed by a two-thirds majority to continue for an additional four years at the Annual General Meeting immediately preceding the expiry of the allowed term.

Both the Alberta NDP and the Alberta Party hold votes to affirm or oppose the current leadership at each annual general meeting, meaning that Brian Mason and Glenn Taylor will face votes in the upcoming year.

it’s crunch time!

In the final days of Alberta’s 2012 General Election, party leaders will be focusing their time and energy in the places that will matter on election day.

Alison Redford Calgary candidates Alberta Election 2012
Premier Alison Redford with Calgary candidates Jason Luan, Teresa Woo-Paw, Sandra Jansen, and Len Webber (photo from Alison4Premier Facebook Page)

Progressive Conservative leader Alison Redford will spend the final day of the campaign making whistle stop appearances with Christine Cusanelli in Calgary-Currie, Alana DeLong in Calgary-Bow, Ken Hughes in Calgary-West, Cecilia Low in Calgary-Mountain View, Moe Amery in Calgary-East, Len Webber in Calgary-Foothills, and Manmeet Bhullar in Calgary-Greenway.

In past elections, most Calgary constituencies would be considered safe territory for the governing PCs. Since the beginning of this election campaign, polls have shown the Wildrose Party in a position to make significant gains across Calgary and Southern Alberta, putting many Tory incumbents and rookie candidates at risk of defeat.

With Wildrose Party candidate Ron Leech drawing fire after making some controversial racial comments, the Tories are undoubtedly hoping this controversy will translate into an advantage for their party in Calgary.

Danielle Smith Linda Carlson Wildrose
Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith with candidate Linda Carlson (photo from Danielle Smith-Wildrose Alliance Party leader Facebook Page)

Also in Calgary tomorrow, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith will be making appearances at the at campaign offices of David Yager in Calgary-Hawkwood and Chris Challis in Calgary-North West, Richard Jones in Calgary-Acadia and Corrie Adolph in Calgary-Currie, and Dustin Nau in Calgary-Foothills.

Marlin Schmidt Brian Mason Olivia Chow NDP Alberta Election 2012
NDP MP Olivia Chow, candidate Marlin Schmidt, and NDP leader Brian Mason (photo from Marlin Schmidt's Facebook Page)

Toronto New Democrat Member of Parliament Olivia Chow was in Edmonton today campaigning with NDP leader Brian Mason in his Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood constituency, and making stops in Edmonton-RiverviewEdmonton-Manning and Edmonton-Gold Bar. The NDP are hoping candidates Lori SigurdsonCindy Olsen and Marlin Schmidt can make gains in these three constituencies.

The contest in Edmonton-Gold Bar will be very interesting to watch. Unlike the 2008 election, when incumbent Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald‘s signs dominated front lawns across the constituency, this election’s lack of incumbent  has opened up a three- or four- way competitive contest. Driving through the constituency it appears that Mr. Schmidt is holding his own against Liberal Josipa Petrunic and Progressive Conservative David Dorward.

Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor will be where he should, campaigning in the Town of Hinton in the West Yellowhead constituency. Mr Taylor served as Mayor of Hinton from 2004 until January 2012. He recently recorded an online message to Albertans about why they should support his party on April 23.

Perhaps not where anyone would expect him to be during the last weekend of the campaign, Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman was scheduled to spend today in the traditionally conservative voting Red Deer, where the Liberals nabbed prominent local historian Michael Dawe as their candidate in Red Deer-North. Despite polls showing Liberal support has collapsed in Central Alberta, I would not be surprised to see Mr. Dawe do well on Election Night.

Dr. Sherman will spend the final day of the campaign in his Edmonton-Meadowlark constituency.

Tomorrow: The coveted daveberta election endorsements.

the great alberta election pool.

Alberta Legislative Assembly
Who will run the show after April 23?

On Monday, Albertans will go to the polls in what is already being dubbed a “historic” election. The outcome is uncertain, so why not gaze into your crystal ball and enter the Daveberta and CalgaryGrit election pool. It is simple enough – predict the seat totals for each party and answer 10 bonus questions. Everyone gets 87 points minus one point for each seat you are off per party, plus two points per correct bonus question.

Robert Vollman has generously donated the following political book prize packs (shipping extra, unless we can arrange a pick-up in Calgary, Edmonton, or Toronto):

1. The Bill of Rights package: One Canada (Diefenbaker), Memoirs (Trudeau)
2. The Preston Manning package: Thinking Big, The New Canada and Roots of Reform
3. The Jean Chretien package: The Friendly Dictatorship, Straight From the Heart
4. The Federalists package: A Nation Too Good to Lose (Joe Clark), Fighting for Canada (Diane Francis)
5. The Obscure Package: The Betrayal of Canada (Mel Hurtig), Navigating a New World (Lloyd Axworthy)

First choice goes to the overall winner, with the winners of the seat prediction portion and the bonus question portion also winning a book pack. So even if you are an Ontarian, like my friend Dan, with no clue what a “Ted Morton” is, never mind if he’ll win his seat, you can skip the bonus questions and still be eligible for the prizes, based on a shot-in-dark seat prediction.

Contest will close as soon as the polls open Monday. Please paste your entry in the comments here or at CalgaryGrit, or e-mail your picks in to david.cournoyer@gmail.com.

Election Results Questions

Number of MLAs elected by each party (total: 87 MLAs)

Alberta Party:
Liberal:
NDP:
PC:
Wildrose:
Other:

Bonus Question

1. The constituency where the PC candidate will earn their highest percentage of the popular vote:
(2008 results here; candidate list here; top ridings last time: Vermilion-Lloydminster (Lloyd Snelgrove – not running), Battle River-Wainwright (Doug Griffiths), Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville (Ed Stelmach – not running), Bonnyville-Cold Lake (Genia Leskiw), Strathmore-Brooks (Arno Doerksen), Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills (Ray Danyluk))

2. Will PC MLA Ted Morton be re-elected in Chestermere-Rockyview?
(Morton won with 57% of the vote last time, but 308.com projects 22-point Wildrose win)

3. Will Premier Alison Redford be re-elected in Calgary-Elbow?
(Redford beat the Liberals by 3% last election, and 308.com projects her to beat the Wildrose by 3%)

4. Will Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman be re-elected in Edmonton-Meadowlark?
(As a PC, Sherman defeated the Liberals 54% to 30% in 2008)

5. What will the highest vote percentage for the Alberta Party be in a riding? (points if you’re within +/- 5%)
(Polls show them under 5% province-wide, but they’ve targeted a pair of Edmonton constituencies, including the one in Q7)

6. Will either Allan Hunsperger (“gays burn in hell”) or Ron Leech (“being white is an advantage”) win their seat?
(308.com projects Hunsberger to lose, but has Leech in a virtual dead heat)

7. Who will be elected in Edmonton-Glenora?
(Candidates: Sue Huff AP, Bruce Miller Lib, Ray Martin NDP, Heather Klimchuk PC, Don Koziak WR; 2008 vote: PC 40%, Lib 39%, NDP 15%, WR 2%)

8. Which party leaders will announce plans to resign within 48 hours of the vote?
(Alison Redford PC, Danielle Smith WR, Raj Sherman Lib, Brian Mason NDP, Glenn Taylor AP)

9. How many of the 3 senate positions will the Wildrose Party win?
(They’re running 3 candidates, the PCs are running 3 candidates, the Greens have 1 candidate, and there are 6 independents; full list here)

10. Who will get more votes – Liberals or NDP?
(current polls have them effectively tied)

no knockout punches as candidates give it 110% in alberta’s leaders’ debate.

Alberta Election Leaders Debate 2012
Four of the main party leaders at last night's televised debate.

After watching last night’s televised Leaders’ Debate, I am left wondering whether it will even have an effect on how Albertans vote on April 23. In many ways, the Leaders’ Debate felt like a microcosm of the entire election campaign. Here are a few of my initial thoughts on the leaders debate:

Alison Redford leaders debate alberta election 2012
Alison Redford

Progressive Conservative leader Alison Redford performed well while spending the bulk of the debate on the defensive fending off criticisms from all three of her political opponents. The other parties leaders honed in on issues like the MLA Committee Pay fiasco, which has proven to be a significant weakness for the PC Party in this campaign.

A skilled debater, Premier Redford handled her opponents criticisms well, though I am not convinced her own message was successfully delivered. If this was a big opportunity to turn around her party’s electoral fortunes, she surely did not make it worse.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Party leader debate election 2012
Danielle Smith

The main challenger, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, was on the offensive and kept her eyes focused on the camera during the debate. She performed well, but floundered when providing some shaky and confusing responses to questions about her party’s positions on education and support of citizen initiated referenda.

Ms. Smith is a talented politician and an untested governor, and last night it showed. The debate was her opportunity to make the sales pitch to voters leaning towards her party and undecided voters. I do not think she did that.

Brian Mason NDP Leaders Debate Alberta Election 2012
Brian Mason

He has experienced two previous televised Leaders Debates and in his third NDP leader Brian Mason was a secondary character. He succeeded in clearly differentiating himself from his two (or three, depending how you count) conservative political opponents on policy issues, but the debate steered clear of the issues most important to the NDP in this election (health care and electrical bills being two examples).

 

Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman was the wild-card entering this debate. I initially believed he was doing well, but as the debate went on, his over-rehearsed soundbites began to fall flat and his body language turned stiff. The Liberals have presented a good platform, but this debate suggests to me that Dr. Sherman might not be their best salesman.

Not invited to the debate, Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor live-blogged his responses to the questions posed during the televised program.

The debate was exciting because we are in the midst of a rare competitive election, but it was not the battle of the titans that it was hyped to be. from the perspective of a viewer it suffered from the sterile television studio format. The set was devoid of life and the entire debate would have benefited greatly from the kind of energy that only a real life audience can create.

My call: There was no clear winner in this debate.

Watch the debate for yourself here.

sparks will fly as party leaders take off their gloves at tonight’s “make or break” televised debate.

Alberta-Election-Leaders-Debate-2012
The televised leaders' debate starts tonight at 6:30pm.

Tonight’s hotly anticipated televised Leaders’ Debate will be the first time that the four main party leaders have debated each other in this format. All eyes will be on Progressive Conservative Premier Alison Redford and Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, but do not count out veteran NDP leader Brian Mason or Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman, who is the wild-card in tonight’s debate.

Whether tonight’s debate will have an impact on how Albertans vote on April 23 is yet to be seen. Its relevance will entirely depend on the leaders’ performances and abilities to deliver a message that connects with Albertans.

The talented Jen Gerson, now with the National Post, has prepared a drinking game for the evening.

Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor was not invited to join the debate and he will be live-blogging his responses to debate questions on his party’s website.

I will be live-chatting about the debate on Global Edmonton’s website with Calgary’s Joey Oberhoffner and Lethbridge’s Jeff Henry. I will also be talking about the election on CityTV’s Breakfast Television at 7:10am tomorrow.

If you are looking for a place to debate, the Edmonton-Calder NDP are hosting a debate party at candidate David Eggen‘s campaign office and the non-partisan folks behind Alberta Votes Matter will be watching the debate at Edmonton’s Suede Lounge.

making cities matter in alberta’s election.

Alberta is the most urbanized province in Canada (81% of the population living in urban areas) and the Edmonton-Calgary corridor is one of the most urbanized regions in Canada.

Looking to put cities on the provincial election agenda, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is using the CitiesMatter.ca website to weigh in on why it is important that Albertans know where the provincial parties and their leaders stand on the future of our urban centres. Mayor Nenshi has sent surveys to each of the parties asking them about their positions on urban issues. The surveys responses are expected to be posted on the CitiesMatter.ca website when they are returned.

University of Alberta professor Ian Urquhart, who is standing as an Independent candidate in Alberta’s Senate Nominee election has written about the role the Senate and the federal government could play in supporting our municipalities and the inequity that exists between the orders of government.

Dr. Urquhart correctly points out that even after the federal and provincial governments have downloaded more services and responsibilities to our municipalities, our cities receive a pittance of the revenue collected from Alberta taxpayers (just 8% in Alberta):

“From this small pot of money our cities must try to finance more than half of the infrastructure we use every day.”

Enthusiast of everything Edmonton, Mack Male, has joined a group of under-40 Albertans who are trying to put some important issues on the provincial agenda, like the expansion of Light Rail Transit in our major cities:

Edmonton and Calgary are often thought of as “car cities” but the desire to change is strong. Both cities have transportation plans that call for the expansion of light rail transit. Edmontonians consistently rank public transportation as the most important issue that the City should address. Most recently, a Leger Marketing poll showed that two thirds of Edmontonians would like to see the province fast-track its share of the LRT expansion to Mill Woods. In Calgary, Mayor Naheed Nenshi himself has been leading the charge to convince the province to provide long term and predictable funding for transit infrastructure in Alberta’s large cities.

Edmonton Journal columnist David Staples has suggested that the Wildrose Party’s proposed fiscal plan would axe the much needed transit funding, something that supporters of Danielle Smith has disputed (having an anti-LRT former mayoral candidate on her slate of candidates surely does not help reassure their critics). The Wildrose Party would cancel the existing Green Trip funding for future projects, but slot 10% of provincial tax revenues and 10% of surplus money for municipalities, which I understand could actually be less than the amount currently received through regular funding and special funds like GreenTrip (please correct me if I am mistaken).

Alison Redford‘s Progressive Conservatives have not released any strong policies on municipal funding during this election, but they have committed to increasing funding for libraries, which play an important role in communities, and continuing the successful safe communities initiative.

In their “Yes!” platform, Dr. Raj Sherman‘s Alberta Liberals have called for the drafting of City Charters, the creation of a Municipal Heritage Fund (which would include direct funding for community associations), and the reinstatement of Community Lottery Boards. As a former Edmonton City Councillor, NDP leader Brian Mason, supports an increased in funding for the GreenTrip fund. Mr. Mason was also one of the only MLA’s who spoke out against provincial funding for Daryl Katz‘s new Downtown Arena.

Led by former Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor, the Alberta Party‘s municipal plan focuses on both urban and rural municipalities, Mr. Taylor also draws some strength from his past role as the chairman of the Rural Alberta Development Fund (whose board of directors includes former Tory MLA David Coutts and former Liberal leader Ken Nicol):

Some people will suggest that future Wildrose Party government heavy with conservative rural MLA’s would not understand the needs of our big cities. Although there is certainly a geographical divide in our politics (urban and rural, Calgary and Edmonton, small city and big city), fanning these flames will not move our province forward.

Urban enthusiasts worried about rural decision makers should remember that only a short time ago, it was a rural conservative leader, Ed Stelmach, whose government made some of the most important urban infrastructure investments of the past decade, including the creation of the GreenTrip fund.

who should be invited to the televised leaders’ debate?

Alberta Election Leaders' Debate 2012
PC leader Premier Alison Redford, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, NDP leader Brian Mason, and Liberal leader Raj Sherman.

The televised Leaders’ debate for Alberta’s 2012 election will be aired on April 12 at 6:30pm to 8:00pm on Global Television.

The debate will include Progressive Conservative leader Premier Alison Redford, Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, and NDP leader Brian Mason. Some members of the Alberta Party have voiced disappointment that their leader Glenn Taylor was not invited to participate in the debate.

Glenn Taylor Alberta Party leader Election 2012
Glenn Taylor

The Alberta Party gained a presence in the Assembly in January 2011 when former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor joined that party. Despite strong campaigns from candidates Michael Walters in Edmonton-Rutherford, Sue Huff in Edmonton-Glenora, Tim Osborne in St. Albert, and Norm Kelly in Calgary-Currie, recent polls have placed the party with 2% support province-wide.

If I were making the decisions, I would invite the leader’s from all the political parties to join the televised debate, but because the decision is being made by a private television company I can understand how they came to this conclusion. With only 30 candidates nominated in 87 constituencies, most viewers tuning in to the televised debate will not have the option of voting for an Alberta Party candidate on Election Day. The four other parties are expected to nominate candidates in all 87 constituencies.

What about past leaders’ debates that included parties with no elected MLA’s?

During the 1997 election, both NDP leader Pam Barrett and Social Credit leader Randy Thorsteinson were allowed to participate in the leaders debate. Neither of those parties had elected an MLA in the previous election. The Social Credit Party had not elected an MLA since the 1979 election. During the 2004 election, as the Alberta Alliance leader, Mr. Thorsteinson was not invited to join the televised Leaders; debate, despite his party having an MLA in the Assembly. Just before the election was called, Edmonton-Norwood PC MLA Gary Masyk crossed the floor to the new party.

There is no denying that the Wildrose Party is a force in this election campaign and should be represented in the televised debates, but it is important to remember that neither Ms. Smith or any of her party’s four incumbent MLA’s were elected as Wildrose candidates in the last election. Former leader Paul Hinman returned to the Assembly in a 2009 by-election and Heather Forsyth, Rob Anderson, and Guy Boutilier were elected as PC candidates in 2008 before crossing the floor to join the Wildrose Party in 2010.

Debate in front of an audience.

Instead of holding the televised debate in a sterile and controlled television studio, I would love to see the party leader’s demonstrate their debating skills in front of a live audience. A live audience would add an atmosphere of unpredictability and would force the leaders to speak to both the voters in the room and those watching their television screens.