Tag Archives: Harry Chase

Some candidates to watch on Election Night: Derek Fildebrandt, Sarah Hoffman, Chris Labossiere, Shannon Phillips and Joe Ceci.

12 races I’m watching on Election Night in Alberta

With all the polls showing the 43-year long governing Progressive Conservatives trailing the NDP and Wildrose across the province, there could be a race to watch in every constituency in Alberta when the provincial election polls close at 8:00 p.m. tonight.

Here are 12 races that I will be paying particular attention to on Election night:

Alberta Election Races to Watch 2015

12 races to watch in Alberta’s 2015 election (click to enlarge).

Calgary-Acadia: This south Calgary constituency has reliably voted PC since 1971, but recent controversy surrounding PC candidate Jonathan Denis, who was ordered to resign from his job as Justice Minister and Attorney General in the middle of the election campaign, could help boost support for NDP candidate Brandy Payne and Wildrose candidate Linda Carlson.

Calgary-Buffalo: Voters in this downtown Calgary constituency have elected Liberals in six of the last eight elections. Popular MLA Kent Hehr is running for federal office so the Liberals have nominated lawyer David Khan as his successor. Mr. Khan faces arts advocate Terry Rock running for the PCs and lawyer Kathleen Ganley running for the NDP.

Calgary-Elbow: A rematch between Alberta Party leader Greg Clark and PC candidate Gordon Dirks. Mr. Dirks narrowly defeated Mr. Clark in an October 2014 by-election and with recent cuts to education funds, a nasty debate over Gay-Straight Alliances, and neighbourhoods still recovering from the 2013 floods,  Mr. Dirks could be in trouble.

Calgary-Fort: Popular five-term PC MLA Wayne Cao is retiring from politics, leaving the PCs with rookie candidate Andy Nguyen. The NDP are have put a lot of hope into Alderman Joe Ceci, the party’s most high-profile Calgary candidate in decades. The Wildrose have nominated Jeevan Mangat, who came within 200 votes of defeating Mr. Cao in the 2012 election.

Calgary-Varsity: NDP candidate and lawyer Stephanie McLean faces off against PC stalwart and lawyer Susan Billington. Ms. Billington’s involvement in the Kananaskis Improvement District, which voted to provide millions of dollars to the privately-operated Kananaskis Golf Course, became an issue early in the campaign. This constituency elected Liberal MLA Harry Chase in the 2004 and 2008 elections.

Edmonton-Centre: Popular Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman has represented this constituency since 1997 and is one of the most effective voices in the Assembly. But her choice to split with her party and accept the nominations from the Alberta Party and Greens may confuse voters. The rising NDP tide in Edmonton, represented by the charismatic David Shepherd in Edmonton-Centre, may impact her chances of re-election.

Edmonton-Glenora: Former Edmonton Public School Board chairperson and NDP star candidate Sarah Hoffman is facing two-term PC MLA Heather Klimchuk. Glenora has never elected an NDP MLA, but the party saw its support rise in 2004 and 2012, giving Ms. Hoffman a strong base of support to build on.

Edmonton-Rutherford: Businessman and Edmonton enthusiast Chris Labossiere faces university instructor Richard Feehan in this southwest Edmonton constituency. Voters have swung between the Liberals and PCs in this area since the 1980s and without a strong Liberal campaign in this election, swinging to the NDP might not be a far stretch. Both the PCs and NDP are running strong campaigns in Rutherford, so this will be a constituency to watch.

Edmonton-Whitemud: Voters in Whitemud have elected PC MLAs since 1997 and chose former Mayor Stephen Mandel in an October 2014 by-election. The PCs typically win by large margins in this constituency but the NDP candidate Dr. Bob Turner earned record support in by-election. If Mr. Mandel cannot win in Whitemud, it is likely the PCs will not win anywhere else in Edmonton.

Fort-McMurray-Conklin: Wildrose leader Brian Jean is trying to unseat first-term PC MLA Don Scott. Mr. Jean’s name recognition as party leader and the former Conservative MP for the area could help him overcome Mr. Scott, who only narrowly won the 2012 election. Also a factor in this race is the NDP, which is represented by NDP candidate and local teacher Ariana Mancini.

Lethbridge-West: In 2012, Shannon Phillips surprised many political watchers when she placed 1,115 votes behind PC MLA Greg Weadick in a three-way race with the Wildrose. This time, it is a rematch between the two, with the Wildrose playing the wildcard.

Strathmore-Brooks: He is a familiar face in the media and former Taxpayers’ Federation spokesperson Derek Fildebrandt hopes to return to Edmonton as an MLA. Mr. Fildebrandt faces County of Newell Reeve Molly Douglass who is running for the PC Party in this southern Alberta rural riding. Former MLA Jason Hale, who was elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2012 but crossed the floor to the PCs in 2014, is not seeking re-election.


 

Voting stations are open in provincial constituencies across Alberta until 8:00 p.m. tonight. If you do know where to vote, visit the Elections Alberta website. If you do not know who the candidates in your constituency are, check out my list of candidates.

Can the Alberta NDP win in Calgary?

Rachel Notley NDP MLA Leadership Candidate Alberta

Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley

To describe it as a long-shot is polite, but two Edmonton MLAs running for the leadership of Alberta’s New Democratic Party say that growing support in Calgary is critical. Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley launched her campaign for her party’s leadership at Niko’s Bistro in Kensington this week. And Edmonton-Calder MLA David Eggen described Alberta’s largest city as ‘unploughed ground’ for the NDP.

David Eggen NDP MLA Leadership Candidate Alberta

Edmonton-Calder MLA David Eggen

At her Calgary launch, Ms. Notley was introduced by former alderman Bob Hawkesworth, one of the last New Democrats to be elected under that party’s banner in Calgary. Mr. Hawkesworth was elected along with fellow New Democrat Barry Pashak in the 1986 and 1989 elections. Both men were defeated in the 1993 election, along with every other NDP candidate in the province.

The NDP has regained support in Edmonton, earning 21% in the last provincial election, but it has never recovered in Calgary. In the past two provincial elections the NDP earned less than 5% of the total vote in Calgary.

Although the provincial NDP earned 19,942 votes (4%) in Calgary in the 2012 provincial election, the Orange Wave in the 2011 federal election helped that party collect an impressive 51,652 votes in cowtown.

A handful of popular Liberal MLAs – like  David Swann, Kent Hehr, and formerly Harry Chase – have successfully held the progressive (non-PC Party) banner in that city for the past three elections. But a decline in Liberal Party support may open an opportunity for a resurgent NDP looking for gains in Calgary, if the NDP actually work for it.

Back in 2009, I was a freelance writer covering the annual NDP convention. While most delegates were caught up debating constitutional resolutions in a dingy and windowless conference room in downtown Edmonton, the Calgary-Glenmore by-election was heating up.

When I asked an NDP organizer why they hadn’t hired a bus to shuttle the 150 delegates down south for a day to help their candidate (a move that would have been a strong show of support), the individual replied that they were sure the party had it under control. Come election day, Wildrose candidate Paul Hinman narrowly defeated Liberal Avalon Roberts, with Tory Diane Colley-Urquhart placing third and the NDP candidate placed a distant fourth with an insignificant 1.3% of the vote.

Any viable opposition party in Alberta needs to be competitive in the province’s largest city. Even if they are only competitive in a few constituencies, the NDP need to have a presence in Calgary before they can claim to be a true provincial opposition.

NDP could make gains in Lethbridge
This week the NDP nominated researcher Shannon Phillips as their candidate in Lethbridge-West. The NDP hope that with some hard work Ms. Phillips can build on her 2012 results, when she boosted her party’s support to 29%, up from 10% in the 2008 election. Those 2012 results placed Ms. Phillips ahead of the Wildrose candidate and just over 1,000 votes behind PC MLA Greg Weadick.

A Rural Target?
Last month, the NDP sought to hire a field organizer based in the Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater riding, which is currently represented by controversial Education minister Jeff Johnson.

While the area northeast of Edmonton has not been a hotbed of traditional support, NDP candidate and potential leadership candidate Mandy Melnyk earned 13.7% of the vote in the last election, the NDP’s best result in rural Alberta.

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.

alberta tories holding a packed nomination week.

I have updated the list of nominated Alberta election candidates to include the following three Progressive Conservative nominees:

Edmonton-Centre: Young lawyer Akash Khokhar defeated Nicole Martel to win the PC nomination. In the next election, Mr. Khokhar will face Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, who has represented the constituency since 1997.

Edmonton-Gold Bar: Past Mayoral candidate David Dorward defeated past City Council candidate Lori Jeffrey-Heany to become the PC candidate. This is Mr. Dorward’s second attempt at becoming MLA in Gold Bar. In 2008, he placed second to Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald, who will be retiring at the next election.

Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville: Strathcona County Councillor Jacquie Fenske defeated Tofield Mayor Nabil Chehayeb, former Fort Saskatchewan Mayor Jim SheasgreenGene Hrabec, and Adam Kozakiewicz to become the PC candidate. Former Premier Ed Stelmach has represented this region since 1993.

UPCOMING NOMINATION MEETINGS

The PCs will be holding a packed week of nomination meetings that will see Alberta’s 40 year governing party nearly fill its entire slate of 87 candidates. Two final nomination meetings are scheduled to be held in February to replace MLAs who recently announced their retirements.

I will be away from my blog for the next week, so to earn forgiveness for my absence, here is a look at the PC nomination meetings that will be happening in the final week of January. I will provide updates when I return.

Calgary-Glenmore (January 26, 2012): Lawyer Byron Nelson and Linda Johnson are seeking the PC nomination.

Bridget Pastoor Lethbridge-East MLA

Bridget Pastoor

Lethbridge-East (January 26, 2012): Former Liberal MLA Bridget Pastoor is facing Lethbridge County Reeve Lorne Hickey for the PC nomination. Ms. Pastoor has represented the constituency since 2004 and cross the floor to join the PC caucus in late 2011. Lethbridge Alderman Jeff Carlson and Lethbridge Senior Citizens Origanization executive director Rob Miyashiro announced this week that they will seek the Liberal nomination (date not scheduled). The constituency has been represented by Liberal MLAs since 1993.

Edmonton-Riverview (January 27, 2012): Edmonton police office Steve Young and businessman Tom Choucair are seeking the PC nomination. The constituency has been represented by Liberal MLA Kevin Taft, who is not seeking re-election.

Edmonton-Strathcona (January 27, 2012): No candidate stepped forward to claim the nomination, though the date is still listed on the PC Party website.

Kelly Hegg Airdrie

Kelly Hegg

Airdrie (January 28, 2012): Former Airdrie Mayor Linda Bruce, Councillor Kelly Hegg, and Michael Crawford are seeking the PC nomination. The constituency is represented by MLA Rob Anderson, who left the PC Party in 2010 to join the Wildrose Alliance.

Banff-Cochrane (January 28, 2012): The PC nomination contest has drawn a crowd to replace retiring MLA Janis Tarchuk. Real Estate broker Jon Bjorgum, Canmore Mayor Ron CaseyRob Seeley, businessman John Fitzsimmons and Cochrane Mayor Truper McBride are seeking the nomination.

Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock (January 28, 2012): The retirement of Speaker Ken Kowalski, who has represented this region since 1979, has attracted five candidates including Morinville Mayor Lloyd Bertschi, Westlock Town Councillor David Truckey, ministerial executive assistant Tim Schultz, and Westlock County Councillors Maureen Kubinec and Bert Seatter.

Brian Holtby Calgary-Currie PC

Brian Holtby

Calgary-Currie (January 28, 2012): Candidates seeking the PC nomination include school principal Christine Cusanelli long-time PC Party organizer Dale Galbraith, lawyer Brian HoltbyStefan Spargo, and former MLA Jon Lord.

Calgary-Hawkwood (January 28, 2012): This newly created constituency has attracted the most candidates of any nomination contest of the 2012 election. Kiron Banik, Farouk Adatia, Sumita AnandJason Luan, Adam Idris, Jerry Mandryk, Chris Roberts, Kumar Sharma, Doug Stevens, and Darryl Wernham are contesting the PC nomination.

Calgary-Varsity (January 28, 2012): Former Nexen Vice-President Donna Kennedy-Glans is facing Ph.D. business student Rhiannon MacDonnell. The constituency has been represented by Liberal MLA Harry Chase since 2004. Mr. Chase is retiring at the next election.

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo (January 28, 2012): Four candidates have lined up to earn the right to face PC-turned-Wildrose MLA Guy Boutiler as the PC candidate. Candidates include Councillor Mike Allen, teacher Andrew Highfield, Nick Sanders, and School Trustee Jeff Thompson.

Tab Pollock Grande Prairie-Smoky

Tab Pollock

Grande Prairie-Smoky (January 28, 2012): The retirement of former cabinet minister Mel Knight has sparked a three-way nomination contest that has drawn Grande Prairie County Reeve Everett McDonald, Tab Pollock, and Tom Burton.

Highwood (January 28, 2012): Associate publisher at the Okotoks Western Wheel John BarlowJohn Hankins, and Okotoks Town Councillor Ed Sands are seeking the PC nomination. Wildrose leader Danielle Smith is also seeking election in this constituency.

Little Bow (January 28, 2012): Deputy Reeve of the County of Lethbridge Henry Doeve  and former County Councillor John Kolk are seeking the PC nomination.

Medicine Hat (January 28, 2012): Former Alderman Darren Hirsch, retired school district superintendent Linda Rossler, and Investment Advisor Dan Hein are seeking the PC nomination to replace long-time MLA Rob Renner. Mr. Hein is the former campaign manager for Medicine Hat MP LaVar Payne

Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood (January 30, 2012): Past City Council candidate Cris Basualdo and Emerson Mayers are the two candidates I have heard are seeking the PC nomination. The constituency has been represented by NDP MLA Brian Mason since 2000.

Edmonton-South West (January 30, 2012): This new constituency has drawn the candidacy of four PC nominees Charles Balenga, Tofael Chowdhury, Matt Jeneroux, and Eva Mah-Borsato.

Calgary-Buffalo (January 30, 2012): Donna Haslam is the only candidate that I am aware of who is seeking the PC nomination. The constituency has been represented by popular Liberal MLA Kent Hehr since 2008.

Edmonton-Mill Woods (January 31, 2012): Despite bizarre nomination shenanigans, the PC nomination contest will still include Ron RandhawaSohail Qadri, and controversy-prone MLA Carl Benito.

St. Albert (January 31, 2012): School Trustee Jacquie Hansen, businessman Stephen Khan, and retired armed forces pilot Jeff Wedman are seeking the PC nomination to replace retiring one-term MLA Ken Allred.

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)

looking back at 2011: alberta mla’s who made a difference.

Each year around this time, I compile a list of a handful of Members of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly who I believe deserve mentioning following their political performance over the past year. This is just my list, so please feel free to agree, disagree, or make your own suggestions in the comment section below. Here is my list of MLAs that made a significant impact on Alberta’s political scene in 2011:

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach and his wife Marie Stelmach at the Premier's resignation announcement on January 25, 2011.

Premier Ed Stelmach and his wife, Marie, as he announces his resignation as Premier.

Ed Stelmach (Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville) – Honest Ed – Triggering Alberta’s most significant political event of 2011, Premier Ed Stelmach surprised many political watchers when he announced his retirement after only  four years in the job. Almost immediately, his party’s political fortunes improved, showing increased support in the polls and attracting six candidates to its leadership contest.

Characterized by his opponents as a back-country rural politician, I believe history will be kinder when his achievements, such as the initiation of the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, the creation of the Capital Region Board, and significant public infrastructure investments across the province, are fully realized.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford

Premier Alison Redford

Alison Redford (Calgary-Elbow) – ‘New Hope‘ – Bringing renewed hope of generational renewal to the PC Party, first-term MLA and now Premier Alison Redford set a positive tone after being elected as leader in October 2011. She is smart, well-spoken, and bring a world of experience with her to the office. She still has to answer for the half-fulfilled promises like the creation of a “fixed election period” rather than the promised fixed-election date and empowering the quasi-judicial Health Quality Council, rather than the promised Judicial inquiry, to investigate the intimidation of health care professionals. Her reasonable responses to international corporations questioning Alberta’s environmental record is both refreshing and reasonable, now let us see some action.

Alberta Deputy Premier Doug Horner

Deputy Premier Doug Horner

Doug Horner (Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert) – Steady Second in Command – Placing third in the crowded PC leadership contest, cabinet minister Doug Horner’s support of Ms. Redford on the second ballot of the PC leadership contest helped make her Premier. Now as Deputy Premier and President of the Treasury Board, Minister Horner sits in the powerful position of being his party’s northern Alberta messenger in the next provincial election. This is similar to a role played by his father, Dr. Hugh Horner, when he served as Deputy Premier to Premier Peter Lougheed in the 1970s. He is smart and tough, and is in an ideal position to place himself as Premier Redford’s successor if the next election does not go smoothly for their party.

Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason

NDP Leader Brian Mason

Brian Mason (Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood) – Veteran leader with a cause – With a talented knack for quippy one-liners, NDP leader Brian Mason continues to outshine the other opposition leaders in the media and on the Assembly floor. With the Liberals moving to the political-right in order to compete with the Tories and Wildrose Party, Mr. Mason has carved out a recogizable piece of the political spectrum for his tiny social democratic party. With only a few months before the next provincial election, the NDP’s chances of making electoral gains in 2012 looks good. Will Mr. Mason get a new title in 2012? Maybe Leader of the Official Opposition?

Alberta Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman

Liberal leader Raj Sherman

Raj Sherman (Edmonton-Meadowlark) – new Liberal – Former Tory backbencher Raj Sherman inherited a divided and drifting party when he was elected Liberal Party leader in September 2011. Dr. Sherman talks about creating a business-friendly and socially-liberal party, which sounds suspiciously like political real estate already happily occupied by the PC Party. It is still unclear what the future of the Liberal Party will look like under his leadership, especially after losing the floor-crossing Lethbridge MLA Bridget Pastoor and retiring veteran MLAs Kevin TaftHarry Chase, and Hugh MacDonald.

Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald

MLA Hugh MacDonald

Hugh MacDonald (Edmonton-Gold Bar) – True Grit & Defender of the FaithEdmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald ran a passionate campaign of partisan preservation in this year’s Liberal Party leadership contest. His campaign did not prevail and following his defeat to Dr. Sherman he announced his plans to retire when the next election is called. Mr. MacDonald’s loss is also a loss for the Assembly, which will lose one of the hardest working and determined opposition MLAs. If the next election does not go well for his party, there may be more than a few Liberal stalwarts asking for Mr. MacDonald to come back.

Rob Anderson (Airdrie-Chestermere) – The Wildrose’s Thorn – First elected as a PC MLA in 2008, Rob Anderson crossed the floor to the Wildrose Party in 2010. Since then, he has relished in his role as an opposition MLA, becoming his party’s unofficial leader on the Assembly floor. While he is sometimes over the top (and negative) in his accusations against the governing Tories, his presence overshadows his three Wildrose caucus colleagues to the point where he might as well be a one man opposition caucus.

Jonathan Denis (Calgary-Egmont) – Rising Star – In his first-term as a PC MLA, Jonathan Denis has gone from backbencher to holding two cabinet portfolios. As Minister of Housing & Urban Affairs (which is now part of the Ministry of Human Services), Minister Denis supported the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness through its second and third years. The plan’s focus on the Housing-First Principle is key to its success. After supporting Ted Morton and Mr. Mar in the PC leadership contest, Minister Denis found himself promoted to Solicitor General in Premier Redford’s first cabinet.

Dave Taylor (Calgary-Currie) – The Alberta’s Party’s first MLA – The former Liberal MLA became the first Alberta Party MLA in January 2011. He may have played a low key role in the two sittings of the Assembly since he joined that party, but his jumping to the new party helped put them on the political map. Mr. Taylor will not be seeking re-election when the next provincial vote is called.

Doug Griffiths (Battle River-Wainwright) – Young Pup – After almost ten years as a PC backbencher, Doug Griffiths entered this year’s PC leadership contest as a dark horse and a long-shot. On the campaign trail he spoke articulately and passionately about issues that make conservative partisans uncomfortable. He placed last in the leadership contest and made what should have been a political career ending decision when he then endorsed another losing candidate. Somehow, he ended up as a cabinet minister after Premier Redford was elected. His energy and open-mindedness as a cabinet minister is refreshing and much needed.

To keep the list short it is limited to current MLAs, which immediately excludes a few people who made a big impact on the province’s political scene this year. While I did not include them in this list, I feel there are a few non-MLAs who deserve an honourable mention for having made a significant impact on Alberta’s political scene in 2011. They are Gary Mar, Naheed Nenshi, Danielle Smith, Sue Huff, and Stephen Carter.

alberta candidate nomination update – november 2011.

The Progressive Conservatives have opened their nomination process, leading a number of candidates to declared their interest in opposition held constituencies. This first wave out of the floodgates have allowed me to update the list of declared and nominated candidates for the next provincial election:

Calgary-Buffalo: Dawna Haslam announced on her Facebook profile that she will be seeking the Progressive Conservative nomination in this downtown constituency. Buffalo has been represented by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr since 2008, and has been represented by both opposition and government MLAs over the past twenty years.

Ric McIver Calgary PC Calgary-Hays

Ric McIver is seeking the PC nomination in Calgary-Hays


Calgary-Hays: Long-time Alderman and defeated Mayoral candidate Ric McIver is seeking the PC nomination in this south east Calgary constituency. Mr. McIver will face current MLA Art Johnston and former PC constituency President Alex Girvin. First elected to the Assembly in 2004, Mr. Johnston was defeated by Rick Fraser in the May 2011 nomination contest for the new Calgary-South East constituency.

Calgary-Hawkwood: Former MLA Shiraz Shariff is said to be seeking the PC nomination in this new north west Calgary constituency. Mr. Shariff was first elected as the MLA for Calgary-McCall in a 1995 by-election and served until he was defeated by Liberal Darshan Kang in 2008.

Calgary-Mountain View: Energy company owner and past Alberta Party leadership candidate Chris Tesarski is seeking the PC nomination. Mr. Tesarski was briefly a candidate for the Alberta Party leadership earlier this year before dropping out and endorsing Alison Redford for the PC leadership. Mountain View has been represented by former Liberal leader David Swann since 2004.

Calgary-Varisty: Former Nexen senior executive Donna Kennedy-Glans is seeking the PC nomination. Readers may remember Ms. Kennedy-Glans for her unsuccessful bid to wrestle the Calgary-West federal Conservative nomination from ultra-conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders in 2010. The nasty contest saw conservative pundit Ezra Levant descend on Ms. Kennedy-Glans labelling her a “Liberal saboteur.” Seeking the PC nomination in Calgary-Varsity may be less of a bloodsport.
Varisty has been represented by Liberal MLA Harry Chase since 2004 and with his retirement, the Liberals have nominated Carpenters’ Union leader Bruce Payne to carry their flag. This will be a race to watch.

Edmonton-Centre: The NDP have rescheduled their nomination meeting to November 9, 2011. Past federal candidate Nadine Bailey is expected to be acclaimed.

Edmonton-South West: Matt Jeneroux is seeking the PC nomination in this new constituency which will be created from parts of the Edmonton-McClung and Edmonton-Whitemud constituencies in south west Edmonton.

Grande Prairie-Smoky: Three-term PC MLA Mel Knight has announced that he will not seek re-election. No candidates have officially declared themselves in the contest to replace Mr. Knight as the PC candidate, but some names of potential candidates being suggested include City of Grande Prairie Alderman Kevin O’Toole, Greenview Councillor Tom Burton, and Grande Prairie County Reeve Everett Macdonald.

Duane Stevenson has entered the Wildrose Party nomination contest in Grande Prairie-Smoky, challenging Todd Loewen. Mr. Stevenson is the General Manager of Nitehawk Recreation Area.

St. Albert: Local businessman Steve Khan has joined the PC nomination contest against Jeff Wedman and incumbent MLA Ken Allred.

West Yellowhead: The Wildrose has nominated forester Stuart Taylor as their candidate. Mr. Taylor is not to be confused with the other Mr. Taylor nominated to stand in this constituency Alberta Party leader and Mayor of Hinton Glenn Taylor.

guest post: decision time for the alberta liberals.

 

Alberta Liberal Party Leadership Candidates

Alberta Liberal Party leadership candidates (left to right) Bill Harvey, Bruce Payne, Raj Sherman, Laurie Blakeman, and Hugh MacDonald

By Justin Archer

On Saturday September 10, the Alberta Liberals will select their next leader following current leader David Swann’s resignation from the post, announced this past January.

An understanding of the dynamics that lead to the initiation of this leadership race is helpful in interpreting the parry and thrust that has played out among the candidates running to be Swann’s successor. It’s probably not quite accurate to say that Swann was forced out—he left of his own volition, but he certainly didn’t have an easy time of it throughout most of his tenure as leader. Job one for the new leader will be to unite the caucus and inspire the membership as Alberta moves ever closer to the next election.

Don Braid’s piece in the Calgary Herald last weekend was a bang-on analysis of the recent and not so recent dynamic within the Party.

I found this section particularly apropos:

“There was another flicker of losing mentality recently when MLAs and leadership candidates suddenly discovered the party has 25,000 members.

The reaction was not joy, or even a touch of pride, but claims of duplicity from candidates who thought Raj Sherman was pushing the rules.”

It has been written elsewhere that this election will be a defining moment in the history of the Party, and I don’t disagree. When Daveberta left the ALP a few years ago he explained to me how his decision was motivated by the Party’s culture that put fealty to the Liberal brand above all else. At the time I didn’t know what he meant. Perhaps I hadn’t spent enough time in the trenches to see it up close. Now, a few years later, I see that Dave was absolutely right: there are elements within the Liberal Party that would take “being a Liberal” over “being in a progressive government that shares my values and does things the way I think it ought to” ten times out of ten. It’s weird, and kind of hard to explain until you’ve seen it. But it’s there.

This leadership election is an opportunity for the Liberal Party to decide what it wants to be: a band of true believers who will always be safe in the knowledge that they remained loyal to the Liberal brand through thick and thin; or a pragmatic, progressive group of people who are willing to stretch their boundaries and open up the organization to new people, new thinking, and ultimately a shot at real relevance again.

The various potential paths for the Liberal Party have been foreshadowed during this leadership campaign. I’ve been to a few of the debates and watched the campaign closely. By my best estimation, the candidates have offered visions as such:

Laurie Blakeman: Solid traditional Liberal credentials as well as an eye towards pragmatism. A Laurie Blakeman Liberal Party would not close itself off to outsiders, and would likely make some attempt to establish consensus with the Alberta Party and the NDP.

Bill Harvey: Move the Party far to the right of its traditional space on the political spectrum, to the point where many members would no longer feel comfortable with policy positions. Harvey has a very small natural constituency within the Party. If he were to win it would be in large part due to his organizational skills.

Hugh MacDonald: A die-hard Liberal if ever there was one. MacDonald has staked out the traditional Liberal territory with a vengeance during this campaign. He is an unapologetic devotee of the brand, and has played up his Party renewal strategy of empowering constituency associations.

Bruce Payne: A kind and decent human being who doesn’t quite have the backstory that explains why he should be the Liberal Leader. If he can hold Calgary-Varsity when incumbent Harry Chase retires at the start of the next election he would make a strong Alberta Liberal MLA.

Raj Sherman: His policy strength is in health care, but he speaks frequently about the social determinants of health and the correlative relationship between government actions and social outcomes across many policy areas. Sherman’s participation is the story of this campaign. He brings strong name recognition and folk hero status to this race. However his history as a Conservative MLA makes him an unknown and perhaps unsettling quantity in some Liberal circles.

I could certainly be wrong, and in fact I usually am (just ask Premier Jim Dinning and LPC Leader Gerard Kennedy), but I think this race is essentially between Hugh MacDonald and Raj Sherman.

MacDonald represents the true believers; the ones with a Liberal tattoo. Those people who look at traditional Liberal policies like the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, multiculturalism, the right to marry who you love, environmentalism, non-violence, fiscal responsibility, and at a host of other Liberal policy positions and say “yes, I am a Liberal.” MacDonald’s supporters come from the noblest of places within the human spirit. They see a set of values that they call “Liberal”, and they won’t be pushed off that brand come hell or high water. However, the dedication to Liberalism exemplified by MacDonald supporters is myopic: though they have the best outcomes in mind, their inflexibility and inability to understand the bigger picture have trapped them in a perpetual state of being “right”, while being marginalized. And what’s the good in that?

On the other hand, Raj Sherman brings a whole new dynamic to the Liberal Party. He’s famous. He’s smart. He’s brash. He stood up to the government and lived to tell the tale. I’ve spent a fair amount of time with Raj this summer and I can attest to the fact that he is an incredibly hard worker and the most pure retail politician I’ve ever seen. He is totally comfortable in his own skin and loves being with people. During the leadership race Sherman has signed up a large number of new Party supporters, giving the ALP a big new list of people to build its constituency and campaign teams with for the next election.

Over the past several years the Liberal Party has been pulling in two different directions. On the one hand there are the traditional loyalists who think the Party must do the same things, but better. On the other hand there are the younger, more pragmatic activists who wish to reshape the Party in a way that will allow it to continue to be relevant in the 21st Century. MacDonald and Sherman are two nearly perfect proxy candidates for this debate.

When the Party selects a new Leader on September 10, a Raj Sherman victory will indicate a willingness to work outside the Party’s traditional comfort zone with the aim of greater electoral success, while maintaining its commitment to Liberal values and philosophy; a Hugh MacDonald victory will represent a decision to redouble efforts to build the traditional Liberal Party along the same lines that have failed for so long.

This is an important conversation for the Party to have, and I’m genuinely interested in seeing which way the Party decides to go. If nothing else, the Liberal Party leadership contest has been passionate, surprising and interesting. The Party feels exciting again, which is a step in the right direction.

—-
Justin Archer is an Edmonton-based public relations consultant and political watcher. www.archerstrategies.com.

liberal leadership candidates woo edmonton supporters.

 

Liberal leadership candidates (L-R) Bruce Payne, Raj Sherman, Laurie Blakeman, and Hugh MacDonald.

Liberal leadership candidates (L-R) Bruce Payne, Raj Sherman, Laurie Blakeman, and Hugh MacDonald.

More than 200 dedicated Liberal Party supporters piled into Edmonton’s Santa Maria Centre yesterday evening to hear candidates for their party’s leadership speak and answer questions. I attended and was surprised to discover a fairly lively evening for a traditional style all-candidates forum.

All the candidates spoke well, but I believe that the real star of the evening was the moderator, Josipa Petrunic. Ms. Petrunic was well-spoken, articulate, and did not seem to take herself too seriously. I had to ask myself a few times through the course of the evening why she was not on stage as a candidate (she did announce that she plans to stand as a candidate in the next provincial election).

The perceived front-runner, former Tory MLA Raj Sherman, was well-received by the crowd of Liberals, many who see him (rightfully or wrongfully) as a an anti-Tory folk hero. Dr. Sherman spoke well, but will need to expand his responses beyond “health care” in order to prove that he is not a one-trick policy pony.

Despite my being distracted by his uncanny resemblance to James Brolin‘s Governor Robert Ritchie, Bruce Payne spoke well. I am not convinced that he should lead the Liberals, but this experience is sure to help him as his party’s next candidate in Calgary-Varsity (replacing the retiring Harry Chase)

Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald showed his experience with a commanding performance, abandoning his usual conspiracy theory-driven Question Period style for a more dignified pose. His knowledge of detail and experience as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee helped him throughout the evening.

Calgarian Bill Harvey took a strong conservative-angle on fiscal and social policy, made contradictory statements about government involvement in business, and never missed an opportunity to mention a certain former political leader. After hearing the policy positions espoused by this candidate, I would not be surprised to see Mr. Harvey’s name on a Wildrose lawn sign in the near future.

In my opinion, Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman was the only candidate who left the impression that she would define the Liberal Party as more than just a softer version of the Progressive Conservatives. I believe this may be the biggest challenge that will face the next Liberal leader. What place does their party have in a field that has become increasingly dominated by the PCs and Wildrose?

Switching gears, this evening I will be hitting the road eastward to attend the PC leadership forum in Vermilion to watch candidates Doug Griffiths, Doug Horner, Gary Mar, Ted Morton, Rick Orman, and Alison Redford square off in the first of many open-forums.

Visit my Flickr page to see more photos of last night’s Liberal Party forum.

alberta liberals special general meeting.

The Alberta Liberal Party will be holding a Special General Meeting on Sunday,  May 29 to discuss a series of structural changes around how that Party selects its candidates and leader. The Liberals are facing many challenges that have been around for decades and while these proposals may not be a silver bullet to solve their problem, they may be a move in the right direction.  

Opening Nomination Contests to All Albertans
Allowing any Albertan who registers as a supporter of the Alberta Liberal Party to vote in the Party’s contest for nominations, commencing in 2013 for all unheld constituencies and upon the retiring of the incumbent MLA for all held constituencies. 

With a potential election call expected as early as November 2011, this proposal as it is currently written would not take effect until after the next election. There is another proposal that would have this and the next policy change implemented immediately (see below). 

A close look at the wording of this proposal reveals that incumbent MLAs are excluded from this open change. Even with only 8 incumbent Liberal MLAs (including former Edmonton-Meadowlark PC MLA  Raj Sherman ) and nomination contests already having been held to replace retiring  Calgary-Varsity MLA  Harry Chase and  Edmonton-Riverview MLA  Kevin Taft, it makes little sense to not allow constituencies with incumbent Liberal MLAs running for re-election to participate in this new party structure.

Opening Leadership Contests to All Albertans
Allowing any Albertan who registers as a supporter of the Alberta Liberal Party to vote in the Party’s leadership contests, commencing in 2013.  

A lot of people will heckle that only a Party that cannot sell large swaths of memberships would do this, and in this case they would be correct, which is why I believe this is a good idea. Opening leadership contests up to “primary style” voting could draw in new blood and new candidates, something the Liberal Party desperately needs.

In a recent column in the Globe & Mail,  John Ibbitson  recommended that the Liberal Party of Canada make a similar move to open its leadership contests beyond its dwindling membership base.

Expediting Implementation of Open Contests
Speeding up the implementation of the previous two resolutions to commence immediately.  

A good move. See  my comments above for caveats.

Weighted One-Member-One-Vote
Moving from a pure one-member (or one-supporter) one-vote system for deciding leadership contests to one weighed by constituency, where each constituency gets up to 200 points. 

There are good arguments for and against this type of weighted system. A weighed system was used in the recent BC Liberal leadership contest that selected  Christy Clark. The idea behind the weighed system is to increase the equity between voters in constituencies with heavy support and low  support, which would be urban versus rural constituencies in this case.

What do you think?

updated: nomination updates – alberta election.

With the federal election behind us, it is now time to turn attention towards the quiet preparation happening in the run up to the next provincial election. I have updated the growing list of declared and nominated candidates for the next provincial election and below are some of the interesting nominations and contests that I have been following. If you have any updates or know of any candidates that are missing from the list, please comment in the section below.

Calgary-Bow: Three term PC MLA Alana DeLong is facing a nomination challenge from Lars Lehmann at a May 14 nomination meeting. Mr. Lehmann may be the only candidate to also have a profile on IMDB.com, where he is listed as a Production Director for a number of films including Calgary-based Exit Wounds, and others including Rat Race (starring Whoopi Goldberg, John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson, and Seth Green among others). Ms. DeLong has sat in the Government backbenches since being elected and gained media attention for her brief entry into the PC leadership contest in 2006 (she dropped out and endorsed Jim Dinning before the vote was held).

Calgary-McCall: The Wildrose Alliance nomination scheduled for May 7 has been suspended until the party can address a number of irregularities in the local membership list. The hotly contested nomination has drawn at least three candidates, Grant Galpin, Khalil Karbani, Deepshikha Brar. McCall has been represented by Liberal MLA Darshan Kang since 2008.

UPDATED: Calgary-South East: Two-term PC MLA Art Johnston is facing a nomination challenge from Paramedic Rick Fraser in this new constituency. Mr. Fraser is the former President of CUPE 3421, the Calgary Paramedics Union. Mr. Johnston has served as the MLA for Calgary-Hays since 2004.

Calgary-Varsity: Justin Anderson was nominated as the Wildrose Alliance candidate after defeating challengers Kevin Dick and Brian Sembo. Mr. Anderson is the brother of Airdrie-Chestermere Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson and Town of Crossfield Mayor Nathan Anderson. The riding has been held by retiring Liberal MLA Harry Chase since 2004. The Liberals have nominated Union Representative Bruce Payne.

Edmonton-Manning: Former Mayoral candidate Daryl Bonar is the Wildrose Alliance candidate in this north east Edmonton constituency. Mr. Bonar, a Community Relations Officer with the Canadian Forces, is a good catch for the Wildrose, who had yet to attract anything close to a “star candidate” in Edmonton. Manning is currently held by first term PC MLA Peter Sandhu, who was elected with 35% of the vote in 2008.

Edmonton-Rutherford: The first constituency to have a nominated candidate from each of the main political parties. This full-ballot was complete with the nomination of Michael Walters as the Alberta Party candidate in April. Mr. Walters is that party’s Provincial Organizer and previously served as an organizer for the Greater Edmonton Alliance, a coalition of community associations, church groups, and labour unions. Also on the ballot will be first-term PC MLA Fred Horne, former Liberal MLA Rick Miller, NDP candidate Melanie Samaroden, and second-time Wildroser Kyle McLeod.

Edmonton-Riverview: Arif Khan was nominated as the Liberal candidate in the constituency being vacated by former party leader Kevin Taft at the next election. Mr. Khan is a consultant and western Vice President of Condo Store Inc. Riverview has been represented by Liberal MLAs since 1997.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake: Penhold Town Councillor Danielle Klooster is seeking the Alberta Party candidacy in this central Alberta constituency. It will be an uphill battle for Ms. Klooster, as voters gave incumbent PC MLA Luke Ouellette 62% support in the 2008 election.

Leduc-Beaumont: In a contested nomination, two-term PC MLA George Rogers fended off a spirited nomination challenge from Leduc Alderman Dominic Mishio. According to the Leduc Representative, Mr. Rogers earned 826 votes to Mr. Mishio’s 625 votes. Mr. Mishio’s candidacy was seen by some political watchers as an opportunity to rejuvenate the PC caucus, where Mr. Rogers has sat as a backbencher since he was first elected.

alberta politics notes 2/18/2011

Robbing Peter to pay Paul…
…or robbing the Liberals and NDP to pay the Wildrose Alliance. The PC MLA-dominated Legislative committee responsible for allocating funds to Assembly caucuses voted to give in to Wildrose Alliance demands for increased caucus funding, but it came at the expense of the other three parties caucuses. While the 67 MLA PC caucus will barely notice the decrease, the slightest decrease in funding is the difference between a one more staff member or not for the opposition caucuses. Chalk this one up to another round of institutional micro-management and political games by Speaker Ken Kowalski.

New Justice Minister Verlyn Olson.

Cabinet Shuffle
A cabinet shuffle led to two first term backbench MLAs replacing two Cabinet Ministers seeking the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party. Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Verlyn Olson replaces Alison Redford as Justice Minister and Lethbridge-West MLA Greg Weadick replaces Doug Horner as Minister of Advanced Education & Technology. Red Deer-South MLA Cal Dallas replaces Doug Griffiths as the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance, who is now Minister Lloyd Snelgrove.

Readers may remember Mr. Olson from his controversial motion on the Public Accounts Committee in 2010, which tried to strip the autonomy of the committee’s chairman, Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald. Fun fact: Mr. Weadick is a decedent of Guy Weadick, the founder of the Calgary Stampede.

Calgary’s new Political Minister
Filling Ms. Redford’s former position as political minister for Calgary is long-time Calgary-Cross MLA and Minister of Children & Youth Services Yvonne Fritz.

Bitumen!
The Provincial Government and North West Upgrading announced that a deal had been reached to begin the construction of the first phase of a new upgrader near Fort Saskatchewan. Premier Ed Stelmach called it “a bold step”, but that was not good enough for NDP MLA Brian Mason. Mr. Mason made the point of attacking Premier Stelmach, saying that despite past promises to keep upgrading jobs in Alberta, more jobs have moved to the United States.

Blakeman aims for Liberal leadership
Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman announced yesterday that she is seeking the Liberal leadership. The four-term opposition MLA is the first candidate to enter the contest to replace outgoing leader David Swann. In her speech yesterday, Ms. Blakeman, the party’s Deputy Leader, explained that she had toyed with the idea of joining the new Alberta Party, but later decided to stay with her current party.

Ms. Blakeman is one half of an Edmonton political power couple with her husband Ben Henderson, who is the City Councillor for Ward 8.


Ms. Blakeman’s second V-log takes a creative angle at explaining the political spectrum.

Lukaszuk weighing his options
A well-placed source has informed this blogger that Employment & Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk has been weighing his options about joining the PC leadership contest.

Second Alberta Party leadership candidate
Calgarian Tammy Maloney has announced that she is seeking the Alberta Party leadership. Ms. Maloney is an entrepreneur, a former Oil & Gas business analyst and IESE MBA. She also worked for the Clinton Foundation in Nigeria. Ms. Maloney’s only other challenger so far is Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor, who entered the contest two weeks ago.

Unions call for fair revenue
At a joint media conference yesterday morning, the Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan, United Nurses of Alberta Vice-President Bev Dick, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees President Guy Smith, and Health Sciences Association of Alberta President Elisabeth Ballermann called for the Auditor General to investigate the amount of natural resource royalties collected by the provincial government. In advance of next week’s provincial budget, the Union leaders want an open debate about Alberta’s revenue challenges.

Carter: smooth political operator
Edmonton Journal columnist Graham Thomson focused his latest column on the strategies of paid political operative Stephen Carter. Mr.Carter, who is known for his work for the Wildrose Alliance and Naheed Nenshi‘s campaign, is a high-profile hire on Ms. Redford’s PC leadership campaign. Watch out Rod Love, at this rate Mr. Carter is becoming Alberta’s next biggest celebrity political operative.

PC leadership candidate Ted Morton hunting for conservative votes.

Morton country no more?
An editorial in the Rocky View Weekly questions whether former Finance Minister Ted Morton will receive the kind of support from Airdrie-Chestermere Tories in the current PC leadership contest that he did in 2006. Five years ago Mr. Morton earned the support of 57% of PC members in that constituency, with 26% supporting Jim Dinning and 17% supporting Premier Stelmach. With the constituency now represented by Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson, it will be interesting to see if conservative voters in that area are still comfortable with Mr. Morton or whether they have found a new political home.

Nomination updates: Calgary Varsity and Edmonton-Centre
The list of declared and nominated candidates for the next provincial election has been updated. The nomination contest to replace two-term Calgary-Varisty Liberal MLA Harry Chase looks to be an acclamation. The only candidate to step forward appears to be Bruce Payne, a Business Representative with Carpenters’ Union, Local 2103 in Calgary. Mr. Chase surprised many political watchers when he grabbed the seat from the PCs in a close election in 2004 and was re-elected in 2008 defeating PC Jennifer Diakiw.

The Wildrose Alliance nomination contest in Varsity has drawn three candidates, Justin Anderson, Kevin Dick, and Brian Sembo.

Meanwhile, 26-year old Drew Adamick is seeking the yet to be scheduled NDP nomination in Edmonton-Centre. Mr. Adamick was the 2008 federal Liberal candidate in Cariboo-Prince George, where he placed third behind Conservative MP Dick Harris.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

swann’s song: liberal leader david swann expected to resign.

Six Liberal MLAs stood behind David Swann at this 2010 media conference. How many will stand behind him tomorrow?

As first reported by Global Calgary and the Globe and Mail, Calgary MLA David Swann is expected to resign as leader of Alberta’s Liberal Party tomorrow. This announcement will take place exactly one week after Premier Ed Stelmach‘s announced that he would not lead his party into the next election.

After reportedly consulting party officials about his future this past weekend, Dr. Swann is expected to officially announce his resignation to the eight MLA Liberal caucus at a 10:00am meeting tomorrow morning.

One Liberal source told me tonight told me that Dr. Swann is expected to make his announcement public at an 11:30am media conference tomorrow morning at the Alberta Legislature Building. He is expected to announce that he will remain as leader until the end of the Spring Session, when a leadership contest will start or interim leader could be appointed.

I am told that Lethbridge-East Liberal MLA Bridget Pastoor was shocked to learn with short notice of Dr. Swann’s intentions to announce his resignation only days before a scheduled Caucus outreach tour and major fundraising dinner in Lethbridge.

Dr. Swann was elected leader in December 2008, replacing Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft as Leader of the Official Opposition. Under the well-meaning and soft-spoken Dr. Swann, the Liberals have faced a number of problems in the form of resignations, internal party divisions, and which have manifested itself into some substantial external communications challenges, which have all been magnified as that party fell to third place behind the Wildrose Alliance in public opinion polls.

Sources tell me that Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald is likely to seek the Liberal Party leadership.

health care could take the liberals off life support in 2011.

The Alberta Liberals shuffled their shadow cabinet yesterday in preparation for the Spring Sitting of the Legislature, an expected PC cabinet shuffle, and a provincial election expected early in 2012. After a rough 2010 filled with internal party divisions, incoherent messaging, and growing communications challenges, the Liberals need to be a lot more strategic in 2011 if they want to be a significant player in the political narrative building towards a 2012 provincial election.

With only eight Liberal MLAs in the Assembly, there are not many combinations that would make for a dramatic shuffle of critic portfolios, but yesterday’s changes includes some interesting moves.

There were a few interesting moves, including shuffling Hugh MacDonald out of the Labour critic portfolios and Kent Hehr from Justice critic to Energy, but most interesting move has Health & Wellness critic Kevin Taft shuffled aside to let Liberal leader David Swann take an additional critic responsibility. This gives us a pretty good clue about what the Liberals want to focus on in 2011, and how they might try to write themselves back into the political narrative.

Becoming the Health Care Party.

Health care was the dominant issue of the Fall 2010 sitting of the Legislature and is expected to be front and centre when the Spring sitting begins on February 22, 2011. The past six months of high-profile health care news stories, the firing of Dr. Raj Sherman, and the political battles that ensued make it a no-brainer why the Liberals would want their leader to be front and centre on this issue.

Liberal leader Dr. David Swann, the next great defender of health care?

The soft-spoken Dr. Swann brings years of practical experience as a medical doctor that gives him a unique and personal perspective from inside the health care system, but that does not make his challenge any easier. As Health & Wellness critic, Dr. Taft has easily been the most well spoken and focused Liberal MLA in the Assembly. Carrying a wealth of knowledge collected after years working in the health care policy field, Dr. Taft was a formidable critic in that role.

As a strategy, it would be smart for the Liberals to want to become the health care party and the main alternative to the “lurch planning” of the Progressive Conservatives and the privatization agenda of the Wildrose Alliance. Putting their leader front and centre is one small step towards this and gaining more media attention, as NDP leader Brian Mason has discovered in his dual role as Health critic for his party.

Former Liberal Health & Wellness critic Kevin Taft

The big challenge for any party is whether to emphasize the strength of their current team or improve the visibility of their current leader? With Dr. Taft having announced that he will not be standing for re-election there is a good argument to be made that the caucus should shift that high profile role to an MLA who is planning to stand for re-election. The challenge for the eight Liberal MLAs is whether they can afford to put their leader front and centre at the cost of putting one of their strongest players on the bench? It is a bit of gamble, but it could work for the Liberals.

New Liberal Critic Portfolios
David Swann
(Calgary-Mountain View)- Health & Wellness, Executive Council
Laurie Blakeman (Edmonton-Centre) – Environment, Sustainable Resource Development, Culture and Community Spirit
Harry Chase (Calgary-Varsity) – Children and Youth Services, Tourism, Parks, and Recreation, Employment and Immigration
Kent Hehr (Calgary-Buffalo) – Energy, Education
Darshan Kang (Calgary-McCall) – Service Alberta, Housing and Urban Affairs, Infrastructure, Transportation
Hugh MacDonald (Edmonton-Gold Bar) – Treasury Board, Finance and Enterprise, Justice and Attorney General, Solicitor General and Public Security
Bridget Pastoor (Lethbridge-East) – Seniors and Community Supports, Municipal Affairs, International and Intergovernmental Affairs, Agriculture and Rural Development
Kevin Taft (Edmonton-Riverview) – Aboriginal Relations, Advanced Education and Technology

historic merger “unites the centre-right” in alberta.

Historic Conservative-Liberal merger “unites the centre-right” in Alberta
Edmonton Morning Star

Page: A1
January 16, 2012

In a move designed to stop a Wildrose Alliance victory in the imminent provincial general election, two long-time political foes have agreed to put aside their differences and form a “coalition of the centre-right.” At a press conference this morning, Progressive Conservative Premier Ed Stelmach and Liberal leader David Swann announced the formation of the electoral coalition.

“As difficult as it might be, we, uh, have decided to, um, work together for Alberta’s future,” said Stelmach. “Uh, the reality is that Alberta’s future will be brighter and stronger when, uh, we work together.”

Recent polling has shown Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Alliance with 35% support across Alberta. The PCs and Liberals have 36% combined support, which they argue will be enough to form government. The Liberals had initially hoped to negotiate electoral cooperation with the NDP and the resurgent Alberta Party, but they began talks with the Tories following the Wildrose Alliance victory in the hotly contested Calgary-Buffalo by-election to replace Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, who was elected Mayor in 2010.

Under the agreement the PC and Liberals will not challenge each others incumbent MLAs. Until the election and if re-elected, Stelmach has appointed Swann as Deputy Premier, former leader Kevin Taft as Minister of Health & Wellness, and Calgary MLA Harry Chase as Minister of Education.

Premier Stelmach told the media that the two parties will run on a five point platform that emphasizes good governance, the economy, the environment, safe communities, and an strong role for Alberta in Canada. Details will be released when the election is called.

“Just as the Liberal Conservative coalition has succeeded in the United Kingdom, Premier Stelmach and I intend to prove that it can work in Alberta,” said Swann. “We intend to protect Albertans from the new and scary Wildrose Alliance.”

Some Liberals were quick to rise up in arms in opposition to the merger, saying it will only drive voters to the NDP and Alberta Party.

Party organizers defended the decision. “Liberals overwhelmingly approved the idea of cooperation with other progressive parties at our last policy convention,” said a Liberal spokesperson. “Cooperation with the Progressive Conservatives will stop the vote splitting the new and scary Wildrose Alliance is depending on.”

Danielle Smith was unavailable for comment, but Wildrose Alliance strategists were quick to attack the announcement as a “merger of convenience.”

“It’s official, Stelmach is the new Trudeau,” boasted the Wildrose Communications Director.