Tag Archives: Grant Hunter

Rick Strankman Jason Kenney UCP Drumheller Stettler MLA

Rick Strankman ousted by Nate Horner in Drumheller-Stettler, UCP dumps Dale Johnson in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

Photo: Rick Strankman and Jason Kenney (source: Facebook)

Rick Strankman is the first incumbent MLA to lose his party’s nomination in this election cycle as he went down to defeat at the hands of Pollockville rancher and political family scion Nate Horner in last weekend’s United Conservative Party nomination contest in Drumheller-Stettler, located deep in Dinosaur Country.

Nate Horner UCP Drumheller Stettler

Nate Horner

Despite endorsements from fellow UCP MLAs Leela AheerScott CyrGrant HunterMark Smith, Pat Stier, and Wes Taylor, Strankman was unable to fend off this nomination challenge. Horner defeated Strankman by a margin of 969 votes to 740.

Strankman was first elected in 2012 and in 2016 was twice forced to apologize after penning an article comparing Alberta’s carbon tax to the Holodomor, the Ukrainian genocide of the 1930s.

His loss makes former Wildrose Party MLAs of his era an almost extinct species in Alberta politics. The only remaining former Wildrose MLA from the party’s 2012 breakthrough who is nominated to run as a UCP candidate in 2019 is Drew Barnes, who will be running for re-election in Cypress-Medicine Hat.

There is now speculation that Strankman could seek the nomination to run as a candidate with Derek Fildebrandt’s upstart Freedom Conservative Party in 2019.

As noted in a previous article, Horner is a rancher and the latest member of the Horner political family to recently jump into the provincial arena. The Nate Horner is a relative of former deputy premiers Hugh Horner and Doug Horner, and the grandson of Jack Horner, who served as Member of Parliament for central Alberta from 1958 to 1979. Jack Horner served as a Progressive Conservative until 1977, when he crossed the floor to the Liberals and served as Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce in Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau‘s government before he was soundly defeated in the 1979 election.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

A third candidate in the UCP nomination race, Todd Pawsey, was disqualified by the party at the eleventh hour following the discovery of unsavoury Facebook posts. The social media posts included “jokes about transgender people, making extremely sexual/sexist comments and calling Premier Rachel Notely a queen beyotch,” according to a report by the Ponoka News.

While it is not common for incumbent MLAs to lose their party nominations, it is not unheard of. Ahead of the 2015 election, incumbent MLAs Joe Anglin, Gary Bikman, Rod Fox, Peter Sandhu and Danielle Smith lost their nominations. MLAs Carl Benito, Broyce Jacobs and Art Johnston were defeated in their bids to secure their party’s nominations ahead of the 2012 election.

Johnson removed. Wood to be appointed?

Dale Johnson UCP Lac Ste Anne Parkland Candidate Nomination

Dale Johnson

Dale Johnson has been removed as the nominated UCP candidate in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland after the party discovered he paid $5,584.60 to an employee he fired with whom he was in a romantic relationship, according to a report by CBC

Johnson replied to the decision on his Facebook page: “…while I disagree with this decision, our Party has the right to make it and I will not be challenging it.

He previously served on Onoway town council, as president of Whitecourt-Ste. Anne PC association and as an appointed board member of the Aspen Regional Health Authority and Credit Counselling Services of Alberta.

Johnson defeated three other candidates to secure the nomination in August 2018. There is speculation in some political circles that the UCP could choose to appoint Leah Wood as the candidate in this district. Wood was a member of the UCP interim board and was widely considered to be the favourite of the party establishment in the August nomination contest.

Upcoming Nomination Meetings

Craig Coolahan NDP MLA Calgary Klein

Craig Coolahan

Edmonton-Mill Woods – Walter Espinoza and Anju Sharma will compete for the Alberta Party nomination at a meeting on October 2, 2018.

Calgary-Klein – MLA Craig Coolahan is expected to be chosen as the New Democratic Party candidate at a meeting on October 3, 2018. Coolahan was first elected in 2015 with 44.3 percent of the vote in the 2015 election. Before his election, he worked as a business representative with the United Utility Workers’ Association.

Edmonton-West Henday – MLA Jon Carson is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in this new west Edmonton district on October 3, 2018. Carson was first elected as MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark in the 2015 election while earning 57 percent of the vote. Carson was an apprentice electrician when he was elected to the Legislature.

Calgary-Currie – Tony Norman is expected to be nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Currie on October 4, 2018. Norman was the Alberta Party candidate in this district in the 2015 election.


Here are some of the latest updates to the list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of the 2019 Alberta provincial general election:

Calgary-EdgemontJulia Hayter is seeking the NDP nomination. Hayter is a constituency assistant to current Calgary-Varsity MLA Stephanie McLean and was seeking the NDP nomination in that district until Anne McGrath entered the contest last week.

After some deep consideration and conversations, I have decided to remove my name from the Varsity nomination race. As…

Posted by Julia Hayter on Monday, October 1, 2018

Calgary-North East – Rocky View County Councillor Jerry Gautreau is seeking the UCP nomination in this northeast Calgary district. Gautreau earned 178 votes when he ran as a Social Credit Party candidate in the 2004 election in the now defunct Airdrie-Chestermere district.

Edmonton-City Centre – Stephen Hammerschimidt has withdrawn from UCP contest in this downtown Edmonton district.

Fort McMurray-Lac La BicheLaila Goodridge was only elected as MLA on July 12, 2018 but she already faces two high-profile challengers for the UCP nomination in the new Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district. Former Lac La Biche County Councillor Gail Broadbent-Ludwig announced her candidacy last month and this week former Wood Buffalo mayoral candidate Allan Grandison entered the contest. The largest donor to Grandison’s October 2017 mayoral campaign came from City Centre Group, the company operated by the family of former MLA and Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean.

Sherwood Park – Jason Lafond has withdrawn from UCP contest.

Spruce Grove-Stony Plain – Brendan Greene has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest in this district west of Edmonton. Greene was the Green Party candidate in Sturgeon River-Parkland in the 2015 federal election.

Vermilion-Lloydminster-WainwrightBenjamin Acquaye is seeking the UCP nomination. Acquaye is an instructor with the Department of Business at Lakeland College in Lloydminster.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

Alberta Candidate Nomination Update: NDPer Stephanie McLean retiring, Mike Nickel runs for UCP nomination, UCP MLAs face challengers

Photo: Mike Nickel, Stephanie McLean, Angela Pitt, and Marco Reid

The big nomination news since my last update was the announcement by Stephanie McLean that she was withdrawing from the New Democratic Party nomination contest in Calgary-Varsity. McLean is Minister of Status of Women and Minister of Service Alberta and is the second NDP MLA to announced plans not to seek re-election in 2019. In 2016, she became the first first sitting cabinet minister in Alberta’s history to give birth while in office.

Calgary-Varsity was the NDP’s third strongest showing in Calgary in the 2015 election, behind Calgary-Fort, represented by Joe Ceci, and Calgary-Klein, represented by Craig Coolahan.

Edmonton City Councillor seeks UCP nomination

Edmonton City Councillor Mike Nickel is the third candidate to enter the United Conservative Party nomination contest in the new Edmonton-South district. Nickel has represented Ward 11 in southeast Edmonton since 2013 and previously represented southwest Edmonton’s Ward 5 from 2004 until 2007 when he was unseated by rookie candidate Don Iveson. Nickel ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1998 and 2001.

Nickel would not need to resign as a City Councillor unless he is elected as an MLA in the expected spring 2019 provincial election. Amarjeet Sohi took a leave of absence from council when he ran as a federal Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods in 2015 and resigned after he was elected. Councillor Tony Caterina took a leave of absence when he ran as a Progressive Conservative candidate in the Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview district in the 2015 provincial election. He returned to council following his election defeat.

UCP MLAs face nomination challengers

The UCP nominated their first five candidates for the next provincial election. Jason Kenney in Calgary-Lougheed, Mike Ellis in Calgary-West,  Jason Nixon in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, Grant Hunter in Taber-Warner and Nate Glubish in Strathcona-Sherwood Park were acclaimed in their nomination contests.

As noted in a previous update, Sportsnet commentator Roger Millions is challenging MLA Angela Pitt for the UCP nomination in the new Airdrie-East district. Pitt was first elected in 2015, earning 35 percent of the vote in a three-way contest with New Democrat Chris Noble, with 29 percent, and Progressive Conservative Peter Brown, with 28 percent. A nomination contest has been scheduled for June 20, 2018.

There is trouble in Airdrie-East. Board member Rick Northey resigned citing serious concerns with how “sixteen thousand dollars” left over in the former Wildrose Party association in the district was “given away with no discussion at all.” Northey claims in his letter that he faced “outright intimidation from a sitting MLA.”

Patrick Meckelborg is challenging UCP MLA Ric McIver for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Hays at a June 7, 2018 selection meeting. McIver was first elected as MLA for this district in 2012 and served as interim leader of the Progressive Conservative Party following the party’s disastrous defeat in the 2015 election,

Carrie Fischer and Dean Leask are challenging UCP MLA Wayne Anderson for the UCP nomination in Highwood. Fischer is a former councillor in the Town of Okotoks who ran against Anderson as the PC candidate in this district in the 2015 election.

Greens nominate by-election candidates

The Green Party of Alberta has nominated Marco Reid in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake and Brian Deheer in Fort McMurray-Conklin. By-elections are expected to be called in these districts soon. Reid is currently serving as president of the party and was a candidate for the party’s leadership in 2017. The party’s strongest showing in the last election was in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, where Deheer earned 2.8 percent of the vote.

Here are some of the other updates to the list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of Alberta’s 2019 provincial election:

Calgary-Bow – Cheryl Durkee is seeking the UCP nomination contest in Calgary-Bow.

Calgary-Cross – Emile Gabriel is seeking the UCP nomination contest.

Calgary-FalconridgeDeepak Sharma is seeking the Liberal Party nomination.

Edmonton-Manning – Kulshan Gill is seeking the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-McClung – Steve Thompson is seeking the UCP nomination. Thompson was the Wildrose Party candidate in this district in the 2015 election.

Edmonton-Mill Woods – David Fletcher is seeking the UCP nomination. Fletcher was a candidate for Edmonton Public School Board in 1998, a Progressive Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Gold Bar in 2001 and an Independent candidate for Senator Nominee in 2012.

Edmonton-Rutherford – Hannah Presakarchuk is seeking the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-Whitemud – Ian Crawford is seeking the UCP nomination. Crawford was the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Whitemud in 2012 and Edmonton-Riverview in 2015 and ran for the federal Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Riverbend in 2015. He also ran for City Council in 1989, 1992, and 2004, for the Capital Health Authority Board in 2001, for the Reform Party nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona in 1993, for the PC nominations in Edmonton-Rutherford and Edmonton-Ellerslie in 1993, for the Canadian Alliance in Edmonton-Southeast nomination in 2000, and for the PC nomination in Edmonton-Meadowlark in 2007.

Spruce Grove-Stony Plain – Jerry Semen is seeking the UCP nomination.

St. Albert – Brian Horak is seeking the UCP nomination.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

Oneil Carlier, Shannon Phillips, Sonya Savage, and Tyler Shandro.

Alberta Candidate Nomination Updates: 2 NDP cabinet ministers announce re-election and 3 more UCP MLAs plan to retire.

Photo: Oneil Carlier, Shannon Phillips, Sonya Savage, and Tyler Shandro.

Nominations are picking up speed.

Three more United Conservative Party MLAs have announced their plans to retire when the next election is called. Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Wayne Drysdale, Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier and Little Bow MLA David Schneider will not seek re-election in 2019.

Schneider changed his minds after previously announcing plans to seek re-election in the new Cardston-Siksika district. His entry into that contest forced Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter to seek the UCP nomination in the neighbouring Taber-Warner district, even though he lives in Cardston. It is not yet known whether Hunter will now run for the UCP nomination in what will soon be his home district of Cardston-Siksika.

Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips has filed her intentions with Elections Alberta to run for the New Democratic Party nomination in Lethbridge-West. Phillips was first elected as MLA in 2015 with 59 percent of the vote.

Also running for re-election is Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier, who told XM105FM that he will seek the NDP nomination in the newly redrawn Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland district. Carlier currently represents the Whitecourt-Ste. Anne district, which will no longer exist when the next election is called.

Independent MLA Derek Fildebrandt is agitating in Chestermere-Strathmore. After being banned from rejoining the UCP caucus in February 2, 2018 after a string of embarrassing scandals, Fildebrandt has essentially accused his former party of being afraid of an open nomination contest in the new district. The theatrical former finance critic accused the UCP of “Trudeau-style affirmative action” for not allowing him to run against popular Chestermere-Rockyview UCP MLA Leela Aheer.

As first reported on this blog on April 7, 2018, Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Jane Stroud will seek the NDP nomination in the upcoming Fort McMurray-Conklin by-election. The UCP have set May 1, 2018 as the date for their candidate nomination vote.

In Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, candidate Joel Loh was not allowed to join the UCP nomination contest and has since endorsed Red Deer County councillor Christine Moore.  UCP members in that district will select a candidate in a vote at the end of the month.

Here are some of the other nomination updates from around the province:

Calgary-Acadia – Lawyer Tyler Shandro is seeking the UCP nomination. Astute followers of Alberta politics might recall Shandro’s role in the EdStelmach.ca incident. Good luck and govern yourself accordingly, Tyler.

Calgary-Currie – Amoriza Gunnink is seeking the UCP nomination. Gunnink is the founder of the Kinderhouse Preschool. Tony Norman is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Norman was his party’s candidate in this district in the 2015 election.

Calgary-East – Pradeep Singh is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-FalconridgeHappy Mann is seeking the UCP nomination. Mann was the Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-McCall in the 2015 election and the 2012 Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-Cross.

Calgary-Glenmore – Maureen Zelmer is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-Mountain ViewDean Brawn is seeking the UCP nomination. Brawn was a candidate for Calgary City Council in Ward 7 in the 2017 municipal election.

Calgary-North WestSonya Savage is seeking the UCP nomination. She is the Senior Director of Policy & Regulatory Affairs at Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. In 2011, she served as co-chair of Rick Orman’s campaign for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party.

Drumheller-Stettler – MLA Rick Strankman is seeking the UCP nomination. Strankman was first elected in 2012 as a Wildrose Party candidate.

Edmonton-EllerslieYash Sharma is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Sharma is the Publisher of the Asia Tribune and producer of Harmony TV and in 2016 he was one of 32 candidates to run in the Ward 12 by-election.

Edmonton-South WestKevin Greco is seeking the UCP nomination.

Lethbridge-East – Brian Litchfield is seeking the UCP nomination.

Morinville-St. Albert – Dale Nally and Trina Jones have entered the UCP nomination contest. Jones is currently serving as Deputy Mayor of the Town of Legal

Sherwood ParkJordan Walker is seeking the UCP nomination. Walker and Strathcona-Sherwood Park nomination candidate Nate Glubish are being endorsed by Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan Member of Parliament Garnett Genuis, who is hosting a meet and greet for the two candidates on April 27, 2018. Genius was the 2012 Wildrose Party candidate in Sherwood Park.

Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright – Two-time Wildrose Party candidate Danny Hozack is seeking the UCP nomination. Hozack earned 37 percent of the vote in 2012 and 33 percent of the vote in 2015. He is seeking the nomination against Garth Rowswell, his campaign manager from the 2015 election.

West Yellowhead – MLA Eric Rosendahl is seeking the NDP nomination. He was first elected in 2015 with 39 percent of the vote.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list.

Grant Hunter and Jason Kenney (source: Facebook)

Oh, Grant Hunter. Where do I start?

Photo: Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA MLA Grant Hunter and UCP leader Jason Kenney. (source: Facebook)

While announcing his plans to run for re-election in the new Taber-Warner district, United Conservative Party MLA Grant Hunter is reported to have compared the New Democratic Party’s 2015 election win to the 2004 Tsunami that ravaged southeast Asia and is estimated to have killed upwards of 280,000 people.

Hunter offered an apology to anyone was offended by his comments, but this is just the sort of ridiculous anti-NDP hyperbole that we have become accustomed to hearing from some Wildrose/UCP MLAs over the past three years.

But when talking about his decision to run in the new Taber-Warner district, rather than challenging his caucus colleague Dave Schneider for the UCP nomination in the new Cardston-Siksika district, he made another statement that caught my attention.

“…the NDP have put us in a bad position in this southern part here, in that when the boundaries were redrawn, they split Cardston-Taber-Warner into two different ridings.”

The Cardston-Taber-Warner district Hunter currently represents will see significant changes when the next election is called. While he may have legitimate concerns about the redistribution of the electoral boundaries in southern Alberta, it is misleading to blame the NDP for putting him “…in a bad position…”

The new district boundaries for the 2019 election were drawn by a commission composed of an independent chairperson (Justice Myra Bielby), two NDP Caucus appointees (Bruce McLeod of Acme and Jean Munn of Calgary) and two Wildrose Caucus appointees (Laurie Livingstone of Calgary and Gwen Day of Carstairs). The commission was appointed in October 2016 and held public hearings and received hundreds of submissions from Albertans throughout 2017.

Of the Wildrose appointees, Livingstone supported the final report recommending the new electoral map, including the changes to Hunter’s district, and Day submitted a minority report opposing changes to rural district boundaries.

The bi-partisan commission submitted recommendations for a new electoral maps to the Legislative Assembly for debate and it were voted into law by 40 NDP MLAs and Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark last December.

The process used to redraw Alberta’s electoral boundaries certainly has its flaws (I will write more about this soon), but with Hunter’s own party’s handpicked appointees deeply involved in the process it is misleading for him to blame the party in power for changes he might not like.

Note: 25 MLAs voted against the new electoral map, including two NDP MLAs, Colin Piquette and Eric Rosendahl.

Candidate Nomination Update: Airdrie-Cochrane, Banff-Kananaskis, Cardston-Siksika and Central Peace-Notley

Photo: Dave Schneider, Cameron Westhead, Morgan Nagel, and Todd Loewen

With only about 13 months left until a potential provincial election call, the number of candidates stepping forward to run for party nominations is growing (this is the second time this week that I have written an update on candidate nominations).

Here is today’s candidate nomination update:

Airdrie-Cochrane: Cochrane town councillor Morgan Nagel is seeking the United Conservative Party nomination in this newly redrawn district. Nagel has worked as a organizer for Jason Kenney’s leadership campaign and as the youth director for the Manning Centre.

Banff-KananaskisNew Democratic Party MLA Cameron Westhead confirmed with the Cochrane Eagle that he will seek re-election in the new Banff-Kananaskis district. Westhead was first elected in 2015 in the Banff-Cochrane district, defeating Progressive Conservative MLA Ron Casey by 2,894 votes.

Cardston-Siksika: Little Bow UCP MLA Dave Schneider told the Vauxhall Advance that he will seek re-election as the UCP candidate in the new Cardston-Siksika district. Schneider recently apologized for a statement in which he said ‘these people don’t traditionally vote‘ in reference to his Indigenous constituents. The new district includes the Siksika Nation, the Blood Tribe and the Pikani Nation, which have a combined population of more than 20,000.

The redistribution of electoral boundaries in southern Alberta could lead to incumbent UCP MLAs facing off in nomination contests. Current Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter, whose official residence is listed as Cardston, could also seek re-election in this new district.

Central Peace-Notley: UCP MLA Todd Loewen is seeking re-election in this sprawling redrawn northwestern Alberta district. Loewen was first elected in 2015 as the Wildrose MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky. Energy Minister and NDP MLA Marg McCuaig-Boyd currently represents the Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley district and would presumably run in the same district if she seeks re-election.

Edmonton-Whitemud: According to Elections Alberta, Tunde Obasan has withdrawn his intention to seek the UCP nomination.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list.


Schweitzer goes for federal nomination instead?

Doug Schweitzer Calgary Alberta Conservative

Doug Schweitzer

According to a report by Postmedia’s James Wood, past UCP leadership candidate and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer could forgo running in the 2019 provincial election in favour of running for the federal Conservatives in Calgary-Centre in the 2019 federal election. Also considering bids for the Conservative nomination in that district are Dustin Franks and Rick Billington.

Franks previously ran for the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie in 2015 and was campaign manager for Greg McLean in that candidate’s unsuccessful bid for the Conservative nomination in Calgary-Centre in 2012. Billington previously ran for Conservative nominations in Calgary-Centre in 2012 and Calgary-Heritage in 2017.

United Conservative Party leadership candidates Brian Jean, Jason Kenney, Doug Schweitzer and Jeff Callaway.

Tracking MLA endorsements in the UCP leadership race

Members of the United Conservative Party will be selecting the party’s first permanent leader on October 28, 2017. After of this week’s fee payment deadline, four candidates will be listed on the ballot: Brian Jean, Jason Kenney, Doug Schweitzer and Jeff Callaway.

Of the 28 UCP MLAs represented in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly, nineteen have endorsed candidates in this leadership race (I am including Jean, the only sitting MLA in the contest, who has obviously endorsed himself). Here is a map showing which UCP MLAs have endorsed which leadership candidate as of September 14, 2017.Brian Jean: Leela Aheer (Chestermere-Rocky View), Wayne Anderson (Highwood), Dave Hanson (Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills), Todd Loewen (Grande Prairie-Smoky), Don MacIntyre (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake), Angela Pitt (Airdrie), Ron Orr (Lacombe-Ponoka), Dave Schneider (Little Bow), Pat Stier (Livingstone-Macleod), Glenn van Dijken (Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock), Tany Yao (Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo)

Jason Kenney: Drew Barnes (Cypress-Medicine Hat), Grant Hunter (Cardston-Taber-Warner), Ric McIver (Calgary-Hays), Jason Nixon (Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre), Mark Smith (Drayton Valley-Devon), Rick Strankman (Drumheller-Stettler)

Doug Schweitzer: Wayne Drysdale (Grande Prairie-Wapiti)

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt faced a bizarre 72 hour suspension from the Official Opposition caucus this week.

Wildrose Shuffles Critics, Fildebrandt no longer Public Accounts Committee Chairman

Outspoken Wildrose Party MLA Derek Fildebrandt, who finds himself frequently at odds with leader Brian Jean, remains in his high-profile role as Official Opposition Finance & Treasury critic after a shuffle of critic portfolios in the Wildrose caucus this week.

Brian Jean

But according to the MLA committee membership list released on Dec. 13, 2016, Fildebrandt is no longer Chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, a role he has filled since June 2015. The chair of the financial oversight committee is traditionally filled by an MLA from the Official Opposition. Fildebrandt has been replaced by Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA Scott Cyr.

While relinquishing the chair role could be seen as a demotion caused by conflict with his party’s leadership, it likely means that Fildebrandt, a former director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and aggressive critic of the NDP, can now play a more active and vocal role on the committee.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

The Wildrose shuffle included new assignments for Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes as Energy critic, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao as Health critic, Chestermere-Rockyview MLA Leela Aheer as Education Critic, Airdrie MLA Angela Pitt as Justice & Solicitor General critic, Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken as Jobs & Labour critic, and Little Bow MLA Dave Schneider as Agriculture critic. The capable and quick on his feet Nathan Cooper remains House Leader. (See a full list here)

The Wildrose caucus also shuffled their MLA committee membership:

  • Prasad Panda replaces Grant Hunter as a member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
  • Glenn van Dijken replaces Dave Schneider as Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future.
  • Leela Aheer replaces Ron Orr as a member of the Standing Committee on Families and Communities
  • Angela Pitt replaces Nathan Cooper as a member of the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices
  • Nathan Cooper replaces Derek Fildebrandt as a member of the Standing Committee on Members’ Services
  • Todd Loewen replaces Leela Aheer as a member of the Standing Committee on Resource Stewardship
  • Angela Pitt and Glenn van Dijken become members of the Select Special Ombudsman and Public Interest Commissioner Search Committee.
Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat Cardston Warner

40 days until the Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner by-election needs to be called

The map of Medicine Hat-Carston-Warner riding.

The map of Medicine Hat-Carston-Warner riding.

Conservative Glen Motz and Libertarian Sheldon Johnston appear to be the only two candidates to so far step up to run in the upcoming federal by-election in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner. The by-election has not been called yet but it will be called within the next 40 days – on or before the six month deadline of Sept. 26, 2016.

According to a story by iPolitics.ca reporter BJ Siekierski, neither the Liberals or New Democratic Party have nominated a candidate yet. Christian Heritage Party leader Rod Taylor will be touring through the riding on August 30 and 31.

Barring a political earthquake, it is expected the Conservative Party candidate will win the by-election in this sprawling southeast Alberta riding with a large Mormon community and a strong social conservative base.

Former Member of Parliament Jim Hillyer, who died earlier this year, was re-elected on October 5, 2015 with 68 percent of the vote, compared to 17 percent for Liberal Glen Allan and 9 percent for NDPer Erin Weir.

Provincially, the area covered by the federal riding is represented by Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter of the Wildrose Party and Medicine Hat MLA Bob Wanner of the New Democratic Party. Mr. Wanner is the Speaker of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly.

Is the sky blue? A Conservative win in Southern Alberta by-election a certainty

Following the death of Conservative Member of Parliament Jim Hillyer on March 23, 2016, Elections Canada has announced that a by-election must be called in the Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner electoral district before September 26, 2016. The earliest a by-election could be held is May 16, 2016.

A map of the electoral district.

A map of the electoral district.

By-elections can produce unexpected results, as we have seen recently in Alberta, but as one of the strongest Conservative voting areas of the country, it is very likely the next MP for this area will be a Conservative. Mr. Hillyer was elected in October 2015 with 68 percent of the vote, ahead of Liberal Glen Allan with 17 percent and New Democrat Erin Weir with 9 percent (not that Erin Weir).

Conservatives partisans in this region of Alberta tend to occupy the social conservative side of that party’s coalition. But that does not necessarily mean they are united.

The author of this blog outside the Creation Science Museum in Bow Island, Alberta.

The author of this blog outside the Creation Science Museum in Bow Island, Alberta.

This electoral district spans the beautiful stretch along Alberta’s southeast boundaries with Saskatchewan and Montana. The large rural district includes the City of Medicine Hat (a city of 63,000 residents), Canadian Forces Base Suffield, the Blood Indian Reserve (the largest and second most populated reserve in Canada), a large community of followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Bow Island Creation Discovery Centre.

The area was represented by Conservative MP LaVar Payne from 2008 to 2015. Former cabinet minister Monte Solberg represented the area as a Reform Party, Canadian Alliance, Democratic Representative Caucus and Conservative MP from 1993 until 2008.

Former Social Credit MP Bud Olson was re-elected as a Liberal MP in 1968 and served as Minister of Agriculture in Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s cabinet until his electoral defeat in 1972. The riding became a Progressive Conservative stronghold from 1972 to 1993.

Provincially, the area is currently represented by Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter of the Wildrose Party and Medicine Hat MLA Bob Wanner of the New Democratic Party.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci presents the Alberta NDP's first budget.

Sky does not fall as Alberta NDP presents its first budget

When Finance Minister Joe Ceci stood in the Legislature on Oct. 27 to deliver the Alberta NDP’s first budget, it marked the first time since 1972 that the budget was not tabled by a Progressive Conservative finance minister.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

The first budget of Premier Rachel Notley‘s NDP government includes a 15 percent increase in capital spending over the next five years, with a goal to create jobs and tackle the province’s aging and neglected hospitals, schools, roads and other public infrastructure.

The NDP budget includes modest increases and projected stable funding for health care, education, advanced education and human services – core services that Albertans depend on. This was a key component of the election platform that helped propel the NDP into government on May 5. The job creation and economic stimulus elements of the budget followed last week’s creation of an Economic Development and Trade portfolio, led by Edmonton MLA Deron Bilous.

Deron Bilous Edmonton Alberta MLA Minister

Deron Bilous Edmonton Alberta MLA Minister

A projected $6.1 billion deficit in the NDP budget is larger than the $5 billion deficit presented in the Tory spring budget, which was tabled but never passed. But the Alberta government’s eighth consecutive deficit budget is “…hardly sky is falling territory,” wrote University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe in Maclean’s Magazine this week.

While not trivial, obviously, it is completely manageable. Alberta is fully able to handle it and no one need panic. It represents 1.8 per cent of the province’s GDP, which is fairly small, as far as some deficits go,” Dr. Tombe wrote.

The NDP government will borrow to pay for parts of its operations budget starting next year, which will hopefully be a short-term move. Decades of bad financial management and poor long-term planning by the previous conservative government has exacerbated the provincial government’s current fiscal situation. The PCs simply became too comfortable and dependent on unreliable revenue from natural resource royalties to fund the province’s operations budget.

Jim Prentice Alberta Premier

Jim Prentice

Mr. Ceci also announced that the government would legislate a debt ceiling of 15 percent debt-to-GDP in order to hold off a risk of credit downgrades and higher debt service costs.

Former premier Jim Prentice was correct last year when he warned about getting “off the royalty roller coaster.” The Alberta government faces serious revenue problems and moving Alberta away from its over dependence on resource revenue will be a significant test of Ms. Notley’s first term in government.

Any plan to deal with the revenue problem will likely come after the government receives a much anticipated report from the royalty review panel chaired by ATB President and CEO Dave Mowat. The panel is expected to finalize its recommendations by the end of the year. But it will not be enough to simply wait for the international price of oil to rise again. Albertans need to have a serious conversation about revenue and taxation, including the potential introduction of a provincial sales tax.

Derek Fildebrandt Alberta Taxpayers

Derek Fildebrandt

To no ones surprise, Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean and finance critic Derek Fildebrandt responded to the NDP budget with outrage and a message filled with apocalyptic rhetoric.

Mr. Jean’s post-budget press conference was somewhat overshadowed by Mr. Fildebrandt’s bizarre decision to refuse to answer a question from Globe & Mail reporter Carrie Tait (see the ~8:50 mark in this video). Mr. Fildebrandt is sour from a recent interview Ms. Tait published in which she quotes him as claiming the NDP duped Alberta voters by actually implementing promises made during the election (and he later referred to Ms. Tait as a b-list reporter and accused her of auditioning for a job in the Premier’s Office – a comment he later retracted).

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

A joint opinion-editorial written by Wildrose MLAs Rick Strankman (Drumheller-Stettler), Grant Hunter (Cardston-Taber-Warner), and Don MacIntyre (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake) and Dave Schneider (Little Bow) and circulated to rural weekly newspapers in September 2015 provides some sense of how that party would approach provincial budgeting if elected to government:

“When governments borrow and spend, there’s no marketable asset. There’s only debt. It’s like using a credit card to buy pizza. Even when governments borrow to spend on bridges and highways rather than programs, the debt is still not connected to a marketable asset. It’s a liability. Mortgages can be liquidated. Houses can be sold. Who buys used government bridges and worn-out highways?”

This is a crude ideological approach to public governance. Using capital financing to pay for the construction and maintenance of public infrastructure like hospitals, schools, bridges and roads is nothing like using a credit card to buy a pizza.

The Alberta NDP’s first provincial budget is sensible and reflects the thoughtful approach that has defined the first six months of Ms. Notley’s tenure as Alberta’s Premier. Rather than follow a disastrous road taken by some of her predecessors, and slash funding to government services while the price of oil is low, the NDP government is taking an opportunity to invest in much needed public infrastructure when the economy is slow and the price is right. It’s not a brand new approach in Alberta politics, but it is refreshing to see a government focus on building rather than tearing down.