Tag Archives: Heather Klimchuk

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

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

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

Kent Hehr MLA Calgary-Buffalo

Kent Hehr

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

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

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

Alberta MLA Vote Gay Straight Alliances Vote Motion 503

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The confusing reinvention of Alberta’s Natural Governing Party.

Culture Minister Heather Klimchuk and Premier Alison Redford at Duchess Bakeshop in Edmonton.

Culture Minister Heather Klimchuk and Premier Alison Redford at Duchess Bakeshop in Edmonton.

Success comes with challenges, and for Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives, forty-two years of electoral success has come with its own unique set of challenges.

One of the PC Party’s biggest successes has been its ability to reinvent itself over its more than four decades in power. It is sometimes difficult to explain to someone from outside Alberta how the same party has been led by the very different leadership styles of Peter Lougheed, Don Getty, Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach, and now Premier Alison Redford.

What does today’s version of the PC Party stand for? I am not sure its leaders have a clear idea what the latest reinvention embodies.

Alberta's new political map after the 2012 election (map from Wikipedia).

Alberta’s new political map after the 2012 election (map from Wikipedia).

While Premier Redford’s clear focus has been on the international stage, her government has presented a confusing domestic agenda.

The PC Party under Premier Redford claims to be progressive (though it fights with unions, and has made deep funding cuts to post-secondary education and support for persons with developmental disabilities). The PC Party under Premier Redford also claims to be conservative (despite running deficit budgets).

Confusion appears to be another challenge of being the Natural Governing Party.

The PC Party is also less of a real political party and more of an amorphous blob that exists to sustain power.

Recognizing the need to connect with its base of activists ahead of November’s leadership review vote, Premier Redford announced at last weekend’s party policy conference in Edmonton the formation of new committees that will help connect party policy with the government’s agenda. This is a tricky goal to accomplish, as the PC Government is expected to represent all Albertans, not just those who hold a membership with the Premier’s political party.

This is also not the first time the PC Party has boldly attempted to make party membership relevant outside of leadership races or nomination contests. In the early 2000′s, Premier Klein commissioned numerous initiatives with his party’s base of activists to try to reengage with them. The success of those particular initiatives was questionable.

Following last year’s election, the latest reinvention of the PC Party is largely urban-based and faces a rural-based official opposition. The PC Party’s recent attacks on the Wildrose Party’s more extreme social conservative-base, which until recently played a significant role in the governing coalition, have demonstrated that Alberta’s Natural Governing Party might not be sure what its latest reinvention is, it is starting to show what it does not want to be.

Map: Alberta cabinet ministers catch the international travel bug.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

edmonton’s advantage: we owe danielle smith nothing.

Danielle-Smith-Stephen-Mandel

After three years of slagging him in the media, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith met Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel for the first time yesterday (The image is a dramatization of actual events).

Three years after becoming leader of her party, Official Opposition Wildrose Party leader and southern Alberta MLA Danielle Smith met with Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel for the first time yesterday.

It is bizarre that Ms. Smith, who believed she was on the verge of becoming Premier of Alberta before April 23, had not met the Mayor of Alberta’s capital city until today. Knowing how many events Mayor Mandel attends on a weekly basis it is surprising to me that the two  have not coincidentally (or even purposely) bumped into each other at a reception or fundraiser. Perhaps this suggests where Edmonton fit in the Wildrose Party’s grand strategy to form government on April 23, 2012.

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel

Stephen Mandel

In the three years since she was selected as leader of the Wildrose Alliance, Ms. Smith has attempted, very publicly, to turn decisions made by Edmonton City Council into wedge issues in northern Alberta.

The most notable attempt was in 2010, when the Wildrose Party leader denounced the decision by City Councillors to implement a phased closure of the City Centre Airport, and used the conclusion of the long-standing and painful civic to wedge away traditional Tory support in northern communities concerned about what effects the closure could have on medivac and charter flight services.

While campaigning for the cancelation of the phased closure plans, Ms. Smith and her party started what became a personal battle against Mayor Mandel, who supported the phased closure. Despite the Wildrose Party’s incursion into municipal affairs, Mayor Mandel was re-elected with 55% of the vote.

Over the course of the next two years, and the 2012 election campaign, Ms. Smith’s party made issue of the provincial funding for a new Royal Alberta Museum and the renovation of the too-long abandoned Federal Building in Edmonton’s downtown.

These wedge issue did not translate into seats in northern Alberta on election day. The party’s candidates were competitive in many constituencies north of Edmonton, but only Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills candidate Shayne Saskiw was successful and the party’s only incumbent in the north, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Guy Boutilier, was defeated.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Party Alberta Election 2012

Danielle Smith

The Wildrose Party was also strongly rebuked in Edmonton, where in total votes it placed behind both the Progressive Conservatives and the New Democrats. Following controversial comments made on a blog by Edmonton Wildrose candidate Allan Hunsperger, Mayor Mandel cautiously waded into the election campaign. Voters in only one urban Edmonton-area constituency gave the party more than 30% support (in Sherwood Park).

Newly elected Cardston-Taber-Warner Wildrose MLA Gary Bikman believes his party’s drubbing in Edmonton was a result of rural voters “possessing more common sense” than the city dwellers, suggesting that Ms. Smith’s party may still have to undergo a significant psychological transformation before it will appeal to those nonsensical city voters.

The Edmonton’s Advantage

Simple geopolitics gives the two other opposition parties an advantage over the new Wildrose Official Opposition in the capital city. The leaders of of the two other opposition parties actually live there. The four MLA NDP caucus, led by Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Brian Mason, is entirely based in Edmonton and the former official opposition Liberal Party, led by Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman, holds two seats in the capital city.

Even as a Calgary-based politician, PC Premier Alison Redford appointed some powerful Edmonton representatives at the cabinet table, including Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, Human Services Minister Dave Hancock, Health Minister Fred Horne, Culture Minister Heather Klimchuk, and PC caucus whip Steven Young. Just outside the city limits, Advanced Education Minister Stephen Khan, Education Minister Jeff Johnson, and Finance Minister Doug Horner represent constituencies in the Capital Region.

Despite Ms. Smith’s electoral posturing against the Mayor and City Council, and her party’s contingent of MLA’s hailing mostly from rural southern constituencies, Edmonton’s municipal officials will benefit from cultivating working relationships with the new Official Opposition. There will undoubtably be times over the next four years when the Mayor and City Council do not see eye to eye with the Government and that is when a healthy relationship with the bodies occupying the Official Opposition benches will be of benefit to Edmontonians.

With Ms. Smith’s party shut out of Edmonton, the city’s elected representatives do not owe anything to the Wildrose MLA’s, meaning that the Mayor and City Council can build relationships in their own time and on their own terms.

alison redford and her new cabinet could lead a new urban agenda.

Alberta Cabinet Ministers Premier Redford

Premier Alison Redford's new cabinet ministers (photos from premierofalberta Flickr feed).

Premier Alison Redford appointed her post-election cabinet ministers today after forgoing an initial press release and announcing them on Twitter. These picks and the legislation they will bring forward over the next four years will shape the direction Premier Redford wants to take her Progressive Conservative Party into the next election.

The new cabinet will face a new Wildrose Party Official Opposition, which is dominated by rookie MLA’s from rural southern and central Alberta constituencies.

The bleeding of large portions of the PC Party’s rural social conservative wing to Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party in the April 2011 election could be a blessing for Premier Redford and her government. Keeping the Wildrose Party electorally contained in the rural south and central regions of the province, while focusing on issues that will appeal to the rapidly growing and diverse urban populations in Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Calgary, Edmonton could be a solid strategy to provide a more forward-looking government agenda and preserve the PC Party’s electoral dominance in the coming decades.

In the three years leading into this year’s election, the Wildrose proved extremely successful in using wedge issues like property rights and the construction of electrical transmission lines to drive traditional PC voters in rural southern and central Alberta constituencies into their electoral camp. If they have not already, the PC brain trust should take note of similar strategies that will keep the Wildrose Party at bay in urban centres.

 No longer forced to appease a more conservative rural base of MLAs and supporters, Premier Redford has an opportunity to lead a new urban agenda for Alberta, especially with the urban-based Liberal and NDP opposition pushed to the margins. With potential strong allies in Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, Premier Redford could make strides on issues like reinvesting in Alberta’s Heritage Fund and investing in urban public transit and transportation infrastructure.

If expected patterns of population growth continue, it is the urban areas which will receive additional constituencies in the Alberta Legislature when the boundaries are redistributed.

New cabinet:

Alison Redford – Premier
Thomas Lukaszuk – Deputy Premier
Doug Horner – Minister of Finance & President of Treasury Board
Dave Hancock – Minister of Human Services
Cal Dallas – Minister of International & Intergovernmental Relations
Diana McQueen – Minister of Environment & Sustainable Resource Development
Fred Horne – Minister of Health
Ken Hughes – Minister of Energy
Jeff Johnson – Minister of Education
Verlyn Olson – Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
Jonathan Denis – Minister of Justice & Solicitor General
Doug Griffiths – Minister of Municipal Affairs
Robin Campbell – Minister of Aboriginal Relations
Heather Klimchuk – Minister of Culture
Manmeet Bhullar – Minister of Service Alberta
Wayne Drysdale – Minister of Infrastructure
Stephen Khan – Minister of Enterprise & Advanced Education
Ric McIver – Minister of Transportation
Christine Cusanelli – Minster of Tourism, Parks, and Recreation

predicting alberta’s election results.

We have received more than 100 entries for the joint Daveberta and CalgaryGrit Great Alberta Election pool and have entered these predictions into a state of the art spreadsheet to discover some interesting predictions for tomorrow’s vote.

Alberta Election Pool Seat Count Prediction Averages

Alberta election pool seat count prediction: Averages (from CalgaryGrit.ca)

The average of the seat count predictions would see Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party form a minority government with 42 of the 87 seats in the Assembly. The Progressive Conservatives would hold on to 37 (down from 72 in the 2008 election), the NDP would become the third largest party in the Assembly with 4 MLAs, and the Liberals would drop from 9 to 3 MLAs.

The average seat count prediction shows the Alberta Party electing one MLA, but the averages response to the question predicting that party’s best results in a constituency is 22%.

Who will be re-elected?

Most entrants predict that PC MLA Ted Morton will be defeated in Chestermere-Rockyview and that Premier Alison Redford will be re-elected in Calgary-Elbow. The entires were split on predicting whether Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman would be re-elected in Edmonton-Meadowlark.

MLA Hunsperger and Leech?

The entries also showed a signifiant split in predicting whether controversial Wildrose Party candidates Allan Hunsperger and Ron Leech would be elected tomorrow.

Edmonton-Glenora

More than 50% of entries predict that PC MLA Heather Klimchuk will be re-elected in hotly contested Edmonton-Glenora campaign. Predicting her opponents chances of winning, 21% chose NDP candidate Ray Martin, 17% chose Alberta Party candidate Sue Huff, 8% chose former Liberal MLA Bruce Miller, and 3% chose Wildrose candidate Don Koziak.

Highest Tory votes

Battle River-Wainwright (represented by PC MLA Doug Griffiths), Edmonton-Whitemud (represented by PC MLA Dave Hancock), Edmonton-South West, Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills (represented by PC MLA Ray Danyluk), Spruce Grove-St. Albert (represented by PC MLA Doug Horner), and Strathcona-Sherwood Park (represented by PC MLA Dave Quest) were the constituencies predicted to have the highest PC vote on election day.

The pool is still open for new participants until the polls open at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.