Tag Archives: Hugh Horner

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!

Michael Connolly MLA NDP

Alberta Election Updates: NDP MLA Michael Connolly not running for re-election, Ron Orr wins UCP contest in Lacombe-Ponoka

Photo: NDP MLA Michael Connolly (left) with Premier Rachel Notley and Finance Minister Joe Ceci (source: Facebook)

New Democratic Party MLA Michael Connolly announced this weekend that he will not seek re-election to the Legislative Assembly when the next provincial election is called in 2019.

Connolly, 24, was one of eight under-30 NDP MLAs elected in 2015. He was elected in Calgary-Hawkwood, unseating Progressive Conservative MLA Jason Luan (who is now the nominated United Conservative Party candidate in Calgary-Foothills) and had declared his plans to seek re-election in the newly redrawn Calgary-Varsity district. Due to boundary redistribution, the Hawkwood district is being split into the new Calgary-Edgemont, Calgary-Foothills and Calgary-Varsity districts.

Connolly had been challenging Julia Hayter for the NDP nomination in this district. Hayter works as a Constituency Assistant in the office of current Calgary-Varsity MLA Stephanie Maclean, who is also not seeking re-election in 2019.

Posted by Michael Connolly on Saturday, September 22, 2018

Connolly is the eleventh MLA to announce plans not to seek re-election in 2019.

NDP MLA Deron Bilous was nominated as his party’s candidate for re-election in 2019. Bilious has represented Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview since 2012 and currently serves as Minister of Economic Development and Trade.

Ron Orr UCP MLA Lacombe Ponoka

Ron Orr

MLA Ron Orr defeated Lacombe City Councillor Thalia Hibbs to secure the UCP nomination in Lacombe-Ponoka. Orr was first elected in 2015 as a Wildrose Party candidate and currently serves as his party’s critic for Culture and Tourism.

Long-time conservative partisan activist Whitney Issik defeated Michael LaBerge, Christopher Grail, and Philip Schuman to win the UCP nomination in Calgary-Glenmore. As noted in a previous article, Issik worked as a campaign manager for Jim Prentice during his brief run for the federal PC Party nomination in Calgary-Southwest in 2002 and as policy co-chair of the federal PC Party during the 2000 federal election.

One of Issik’s opponents, Philip Schuman, was forced to apologize days before the nomination vote after it was revealed that he offered to introduce potential fundraisers to the administrators of an Instagram account that frequently posts anti-Semitic and racist memes.

Jeremy Nixon defeated Kathy Macdonald to secure the UCP nomination in Calgary-Klein. Nixon ran in this district under the Wildrose banner in 2012 and 2015, when he placed third with 23 percent of the vote. He is the brother of Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon.

Kenneth Carl Paproski MLA Edmonton-Kingsway

Kenneth and Carl Paproski

If elected, the Nixons might be the first brotherly-duo elected to Alberta’s Legislative Assembly at the same time. While there are cases of family members serving as MLAs during different periods of time (perhaps most notably, current Premier Rachel Notley and her father Grant Notley), I have not found a case of two siblings serving in the Legislature at the same time.

The closest case I could find was the Paproski brothers. Kenneth Paproski served as the PC MLA for Edmonton-Kingsway from 1971 to 1982 and was succeeded by his brother, Carl Paproski, who served as MLA of the same district from 1982 until 1986. Their other brother, Steve Paproski, served as MP for Edmonton-Centre and Edmonton-North from 1968 to 1993. (If any readers know of a period where two relatives served together in the Assembly, please let me know).

Calgary-Klein is currently represented by NDP MLA Craig Coolahan, who was elected with 44.3 percent of the vote in 2015. Coolahan is expected to be nominated as a meeting on October 3, 2018 and former Alberta Party leadership candidate Kara Levis is her party’s nominated candidate.

Upcoming nomination meetings

Nate Horner UCP Drumheller Stettler

Nate Horner

UCP members in Drumheller-Stettler will choose their candidate for the next election at meetings being held on September 27, 28 and 29, 2018 in communities across this sprawling rural central Alberta district. Incumbent UCP MLA Rick Strankman, who was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2012, is believed to be in a fight for his political life against challengers Nate Horner and Todd Pawsey.

Strankman serves as UCP Agriculture critic and is known for courting controversy, including in 2016 when he was twice forced to apologize after penning an article comparing Alberta’s carbon tax to the Holodomor, the Ukrainian genocide of the 1930s.

Horner is a rancher and the latest member of the Horner political family to jump into the provincial arena. Horner is the grandson of former area Member of Parliament Jack Horner and a relative of former deputy premiers Hugh Horner and Doug Horner. (Another Horner, Byron Horner, has been nominated as the Conservative Party candidate for the next federal election in Courtney-Alberni).

The Alberta Party is expected to nominate Mount Royal University contract faculty member Lana Bentley as their candidate in Calgary-Acadia on September 24, 2018. Bentley teaches in the Faculty of Health, Community and Education. The Alberta Party is also expected to nominate a candidate in Edmonton-Glenora on September 25, 2018, but the party has yet to announce who is seeking the candidacy. Previously nominated candidate Carla Stolte withdrew her candidacy during the summer.

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

– Sohail Chaudhry has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest in Calgary-Acadia.

Sherissa Celis has joined the UCP nomination contest in Calgary-Cross.

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 NDP should tap the brakes on Bill 6, its new Farm and Ranch Safety law

The Alberta government needs to rethink its approach to overhauling safety laws on family farms and ranches. Since it was introduced in the Legislature on Nov. 17, confusion about Bill 6: Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act has triggered a significant backlash from Albertans in rural communities across the province.

Bill 6 would expand sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Workers’ Compensation Act, Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code to apply to farm worksites. If Bill 6 is approved by the Legislature, WCB coverage will be mandatory and farms and ranches in Alberta will no longer be exempt from OHS laws. Alberta is currently the only province without employment standards coverage for farm and ranch workers.

Around 200 protesters gathered at the Alberta Legislature on Nov. 27, 2015.

Around 200 protesters gathered at the Alberta Legislature on Nov. 27, 2015.

Nearly 400 angry farmers showed up to voice their concerns about Bill 6 at a government-organized town hall meeting in Grande Prairie last week. The event was hosted by public servants and consultants with no MLAs in attendance. Western Producer reporter Mary MacArthur reported this week that MLAs will be present at future town hall meetings planned for Red Deer, Okotoks, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Leduc, Vegreville, Olds and Athabasca.

Close to 200 people, along with 2 ponies, 1 border collie and 1 turkey (see above), staged an afternoon protest against Bill 6 outside the Alberta Legislature on Nov. 27, 2015. To their credit, Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Minister Lori Sigurdson and Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee waded into the crowd of protesters at the Legislature to hear their concerns.

Lori Sigurdson waded into the crowd of protesters outside the Legislature.

Lori Sigurdson waded into the crowd of protesters outside the Legislature.

It is clear that there are some changes that do need to be made to farm safety laws in Alberta. As is the case in every other province in Canada, the government has a responsibility to ensure that safety standards exist for all worksites in Alberta, including agricultural work environments.

But this is where the New Democratic Party government may have put the cart before the horse. It is unfortunate that the government did not choose to hold these public consultation meetings before introducing the bill. It seems that the NDP could have saved themselves a lot of grief if Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier, Premier Rachel Notley, Ms. Sigurdson and other NDP MLAs had started this process by travelling to the rural areas of the province to ask farmers and ranchers how changes could impact them.

Danielle Larivee waded into the crowd of protesters outside the Legislature.

Danielle Larivee waded into the crowd of protesters outside the Legislature.

Under current safety laws, provincial officers are not allowed to conduct investigations when a workplace fatality takes place on a farm or ranch. The WCB is a shield to protect employers from lawsuits in case of workplace injury and should probably be extended to cover all actual employees of farms and ranches. And farm workers should not be exempt from being given the choice to bargain collectively, a right affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

But legal changes also need to reflect the uniqueness of family farms and ranches.

Unlike other worksites, farms rely heavily on incidental and seasonal help during spring and fall from family, friends and neighbours. And by definition, work on a family farm will include work done by family members, some who will not be paid a regular salary and some who will be under the age of 18. It has not been clearly communicated by the government how these changes would impact the day to day operations of these family farms or whether exceptions will be made for smaller farming operations.

While some of the criticism of Bill 6 is rooted in hyperbole and hysterics generated by opponents of the government, it is clear that there is much confusion around this bill, which is a communications failure on the part of the government.

Ms. Sigurdson released a statement following yesterday’s protest at the Legislature trying to clarify the government’s position. “A paid farmworker who is directed to do something dangerous can say no, just like other workers in Alberta and Canada. And if they are hurt or killed at work, they or their family can be compensated, just like other workers in Alberta and Canada,” Ms. Sigurdson said.

The debate around Bill 6 also highlights a political divide between rural and urban Alberta, neither of which are monolithic communities. It would be easy for us city dwellers to cast rural Albertans opposing these legislative changes as being backward or uncaring when we read media reports of workers or young children killed in farm accidents. And comments by MLAs like Liberal leader David Swann that the current legal framework would make “Charles Dickens blush” probably do not help foster a feeling of collaboration, even if there is a hint of truth to how far behind Alberta is in farm safety rules compared to other provinces.

Alberta is an increasingly urban province. According to Statistics Canada, in 1961, 53 percent of Albertans lived in rural areas. As of 2011, 83 percent of Albertans lived in urban centres with only 17 percent of our province’s population living in rural areas. This is a massive population shift.

The recent provincial election marked a rare moment in our province’s history where MLAs from rural Alberta do not have a large voice in the government caucus. Twelve of the 53 NDP MLAs elected in May 2015 represent rural or partially rural constituencies. Most areas of rural Alberta are represented by Wildrose Party MLAs, who have taken every opportunity to attack the new government and advance the narrative that the NDP do not understand rural Alberta.

As most of their NDP MLAs were elected in urban centres, they should heed the advice that MLA Hugh Horner gave Progressive Conservative Party leader Peter Lougheed more than forty years ago.

David Wood observed in his biography of Mr. Lougheed, the Lougheed Legacy, that “Horner made one point that Lougheed and his colleagues have never forgotten: when you start believing that the people in rural Alberta are somehow different than the people in the bigger centres, you’re making a mistake. Rural Albertans come into the cities, go to concerts, shop in the malls: they’re as sophisticated and as aware of the rest of the world as any of their city cousins.”

Ms. Notley grew up in the northern Alberta town of Fairview. Her father, Grant Notley, was elected and re-elected as the MLA for Spirit River-Fairview four times between 1971 and 1984. Coming from rural Alberta, Ms. Notley should have an understanding of these changes could impact farmers and ranchers.

The government has a responsibility to ensure that safety standards exist for all worksites in Alberta, including agricultural work environments. It also has a responsibility to clearly communicate to Albertans why these changes are needed and how they would be implemented. The NDP would demonstrate good will to rural Albertans by slightly tapping the breaks on Bill 6 and restarting this process with a thorough and meaningful consultation about improving farm and ranch safety in Alberta.

Update (Dec 1, 2015): The government announced it is proposing amendments to Bill 6 that would:

  • make clear WCB coverage would be required only for paid employees, with an option for farmers to extend coverage to unpaid workers like family members, neighbours and friends;
  • make clear that Occupational Health and Safety standards apply when a farm employs one or more paid employees at any time of the year.

8 candidates who could run for the leadership of the Alberta PC Party

With yesterday’s announcement by Premier Alison Redford that she will resign on March 23, 2014, the Progressive Conservative caucus will need to select an interim premier and the PC Party is required to hold a leadership contest to select a new leader.

Dave Hancock MLA Edmonton-Whitemud

Dave Hancock: Interim Premier

Deputy Premier Dave Hancock and Agriculture minister Verlyn Olson have been rumoured as potential choices for interim premier until the party selects a new leader.

UPDATE: Dave Hancock is the new Premier of Alberta until the PC Party is able to hold a leadership vote. Candidates for the interim position are said to have included Doug Griffiths, Frank Oberle, and Verlyn Olson (who declined).

According to section 14.2 of the PC Party constitution, a leadership race must be held between four and six months from the time previous leader resigns. This means the vote will need to be held between July 23, 2014 and September 23, 2014.

Unlike previous PC leadership races, according to recently changed party rules, if no candidate earns a majority of votes on the first ballot, only the first and second candidate move to the second ballot vote. Previously, three candidates would move to the second ballot.

The future of the PC Party could be determined by the candidates who step forward to become its next leader and, for the time being, the next premier of Alberta. As blogger David Climenhaga writes, “[v]ery possibly the quality of the field will be a weathervane for the party’s chances of survival.”

Thomas Lukaszuk MLA Edmonton-Castle Downs

Thomas Lukaszuk

With that in mind, here are some potential candidates who could run for the leadership of Alberta’s PC Party:

Ric McIver (Calgary-Hays)
A former Calgary Alderman and mayoral candidate, Mr. McIver was first elected to the Legislature in 2012. Upon his election he immediately joined cabinet and served as Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, becoming a high profile member of Ms. Redford’s cabinet. Because of his conservative political leanings, some observers were surprised when he shunned the Wildrose in favour of being a star Tory candidate in the last election.

Thomas Lukaszuk (Edmonton-Castle Downs)
Until recently, the former deputy premier had become the most recognizable face of the PC government. Serving as the unofficial premier while Ms. Redford traveled the globe on trade missions, his combativeness and growing public profile may have been the reason he was demoted to labour minister in December 2013. It has long been suspected that Mr. Lukaszuk has aspirations to occupy the premier’s office.

Jonathan Denis MLA Calgary Acadia

Jonathan Denis

Doug Horner (Spruce Grove-St. Albert)
Currently the Finance minister, Mr. Horner was first elected as MLA in 2001. He placed third in the 2011 PC leadership race and became an ally of Ms. Redford’s after the leadership race. Born into a political family, his father Hugh Horner was Lougheed-era minister, his grandfather Ralph Horner was a Senator, and three of his uncles served as Members of Parliament.

James Rajotte
Member of Parliament representing south Edmonton since 2000, Mr. Rajotte chairs the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. He is said to be considering his options after he was once again looked over for a spot in the federal cabinet.

Donna Kennedy Glans MLA Calgary Varsity

Donna Kennedy-Glans

Jonathan Denis (Calgary-Acadia)
The current minister of Justice and Solicitor General is relatively young compared to others on this list, but Mr. Denis is a long-time politico. A lawyer and former business partner of federal Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre‎, he could earn the support of his party’s shrinking right-wing. A “Draft Jonathan Denis for Premier” Facebook page has already been created.

Donna Kennedy-Glans (Calgary-Varsity)
The first-term MLA left the PC caucus earlier this week, blasting what she described as a culture of entitlement. A former senior executive in Calgary’s corporate oil sector, Ms. Kennedy-Glans would bring business experience, deep pocketed friends and, now, an independent streak, to a candidacy for leadership.

Stephen Mandel Edmonton

Stephen Mandel

Gary Mar
The sure-bet to win the 2011 PC leadership race was quickly whisked away to Hong Kong after losing to Ms. Redford. Since then, the former cabinet minister has been far away from the lime-light while serving as Alberta’s envoy to Asia. It is unclear whether he would try a second time to win his party’s leadership.

Stephen Mandel
Oft-talked about as a potential premier, the retired mayor of Edmonton has not shown any signs he is actually interested in the job. After nine years as mayor of Alberta’s capital city, Mr. Mandel left office in October 2013 as a well-respected civic leader. He has since been critical of Ms. Redford’s government’s policies, but is is unclear why he would want to lead the deeply divided caucus.

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.

recap of the alberta progressive conservative leadership forum in vermilion.

Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership forum July 21, 2011 in Vermilion.

Alberta PC leadership candidates at the July 21, 2011 forum in Vermilion.

More than 350 Progressive Conservative supporters packed into the main hall at Vermilion’s Lakeland College Campus to hear and ask questions to the six candidates seeking the leadership of Alberta’s governing party.

Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Alison Redford in Vermilion on July 21, 2011.

Alison Redford

The format of the debate only allowed each candidate a short 30 seconds to respond to questions. Instead of encouraging direct answers, it limited the candidates responses to quick soundbites, leaving many of the questions to be simply unanswered. This visibly frustrated some of the candidates, most notably Alison Redford who attempted numerous times to delve into details only to have her mic cut off at the 30 second mark.

The only candidate this seemed to help was Gary Mar, who rattled out 15 second soundbites with ease. Unfortunately, this also meant that he said very little of substance during the entire evening. “Alberta is a beautiful garden of flowers”, “forged in the fire of fiscal fury”, and “opportunities in agriculture are sensational” are not exactly policy positions. His soundbite-style responses were an unfortunate distraction and, in my opinion, downplayed his intelligence.

Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Gary Mar on July 21, 2011 in Vermilion

Gary Mar

The limiting format aside, it was interesting to watch how the candidates are positioning themselves in the group. As this was the first of seven all-candidates forums planned to be held across Alberta, the candidates were fairly collegial to each other. It will be interesting to see if this changes as the September 17 first ballot vote approaches.

Each of the candidates spoke against the lay-off of over 1,000 teachers province-wide. Rick Orman accused the government of breaking its word, saying that “a deal is a deal.” Doug Griffiths compared the lay-offs to “selling the topsoil off the farm.”

When asked if any of the candidate would support provincial funding for billionaire Daryl Katz‘s planned downtown Edmonton arena, each of the candidates answered with a definitive “no.” Ted Morton led the group consensus, saying that schools and hospitals, not expensive sports facilities, should be the provincial government’s funding priorities.

Peddling another non-starter issue at the forum was a group of sad looking volunteers representing Envision Edmonton. The lobby group failed to stop the phased closure and re-development of the City Centre Airport lands during the 2010 municipal elections and has been living in a self-imposed exile in Vermilion ever since. They also failed to ask the leadership candidates any questions about their issue at the forum.

Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Doug Horner at the July 21, 2011 forum in Vermilion.
Doug Horner

Dr. Morton was the only candidate to take a more than veiled shot at the outgoing Premier Ed Stelmach, saying that the 2007 Royal Review was his party’s biggest mistake and that under his leadership the government would return to Ralph Klein-style fiscal planning. Considering that Dr. Morton was a key player in forcing Premier Stelmach to resign, it is not surprising that he took the most aggressive stance against the Premier’s agenda.

Doug Horner told the audience that he believed his party’s biggest problem has been the failure to engage their grassroots in a meaningful way. In his closing speech, he reminded the crowd about his family’s connection to the PC dynasty and the role his father, Dr. Hugh Horner, played in building the PC Party with Peter Lougheed.

This weekend, I will write a post that compares and contrasts the two leadership forums I attended this week (the other being the Liberal Party forum).

View more photos of last night’s PC leadership forum in Vermilion on Flickr.

doug horner reminds albertans that he is still running for premier.

Alberta PC leadership candidate Doug Horner.

Doug Horner

Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Doug Horner held a media conference on the steps of the Legislative Assembly building in Edmonton today.

The presser was billed as a launch of his “Enhancing Education” policy framework and his plan to “unite the PC Party,” but in reality it was used as an opportunity to remind the media that despite the attention-making campaigns of Alison Redford and Gary Mar, Mr. Horner is still in this race.

Lite-policy framework
While policy framework introduced some interesting ideas, including the creation of a $50 million fund to help students experience overseas studies and volunteer work, it was surprisingly vague for Mr. Horner who has very capably held the Advanced Education & Technology portfolio over the past four years. The biggest example of this vagueness was found in the eighth point of  his plan to unite the PC Party, “Organizational ability to understand the structure needed to implement change and to effectively make things happen.”

A Premier who will be his own gatekeeper
Included in the “Accessible Leadership” section of today’s policy framework release was the promise that as Premier, Mr. Horner would dissolve the Chief of Staff position and create “regional liaison officers” in its place “to ensure that MLA`s, Cabinet Ministers and stakeholders have direct access to the Premier.” This is a subtle shot at Premier Ed Stelmach‘s Chief of Staff Ron Glenn, who’s “gatekeeper” tendencies led to much frustration and resentment among PC MLAs over the past four years.

Alberta PC leadership candidate Doug Horner and MLA supporters

Doug Horner with his MLA supporters

MLA endorsements
Standing behind Mr. Horner during the media conference were a group of MLAs endorsing his candidacy. Many of these rural MLAs made up the core of Premier Stelmach’s caucus support in his 2006 leadership bid, they include Lac La Biche-St. Paul MLA Ray Danyluk, Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Wayne Drysdale, Dunvegan-Central Peace MLA Hector Goudreau, Drumheller-Stettler MLA Jack Hayden, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Luke Ouellette, and Peace River MLA Frank Oberle. Mr. Horner also has the endorsements of Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA Genia Leskiw and Strathcona MLA Dave Quest.

These endorsements will make it easy for his opponents to make comparisons between Mr. Horner and to the unpopular Premier Stelmach, but these comparisons would be misguided. Mr. Horner is a sharp mind and is a much better public speaker that the current occupant of the Premier’s office.

Mr. Horner is a former Deputy Premier and has served as the MLA for Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert since 2001. He is the son of former Deputy Premier Hugh Horner.

a look at the candidates lining up in the race to replace ed stelmach.

The candidates lining up to replace Premier Ed Stelmach as leader of the PC Party have been campaigning for months, yet what should be the hottest political leadership contest of the year has so far been a quiet affair. Will it take the summer months to heat up this contest, or will Albertans wait until the September 17 first ballot vote approaches before they begin to pay attention?

Here is a look at the candidates who are seeking the PC Party leadership:

A photo of Doug Griffiths, Alberta PC leadership candidate.

Doug Griifths

Doug Griffiths
Slogan: Better Alberta
Elected experience: MLA for Wainwright from 2002-2004 and Battle River-Wainwright from 2004 to present.
Released policies: Energy, Finance, Property Rights
Background: An underdog in this contest, Mr. Griffiths’ public musings have made him a pariah among some fellow conservatives and his openness to go to these uncomfortable places makes him unique when contrasted with the large contingent of comfortably-silent MLAs in the PC caucus. These musings have likely cost him a spot in cabinet, but they have also built him a solid following of supporters online.

Despite support of some rural high-rolling Tories, word on the street is that Mr. Griffiths campaign has had a challenge keeping up with fundraising compared to the other candidates in this contest. Calgary-North Hill backbencher Kyle Fawcett is the only MLA to have endorsed Mr. Griffiths. He supported Jim Dinning in the 2006 PC leadership contest.

A photo of Doug Horner, Alberta PC Leadership candidate.

Doug Horner

Doug Horner
Slogan: Let’s get it done right.
Elected experience: MLA for Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert since 2001.
Background: Calgary Tories still bitter from Jim Dinning’s defeat in 2006 will try to paint Mr. Horner with the same brush as they did Premier Ed Stelmach. Mr. Horner is a more comfortable figure than the Premier and did a decent job filling various cabinet posts, including Agriculture and Advanced Education & Technology.

The heir to a three-generation political dynasty, Mr. Horner follows in the footsteps of his grand-father Senator Ralph Horner, his uncles former MPs Jack Horner and Norval Horner, and his father former MP, MLA and deputy Premier Hugh Horner. Big shoes to fill.

Under the auspices of the grassroots Albertan group, led by advisor Brad Ferguson, Mr. Horner is embarking on a province-wide “Think Big Alberta” speaking tour with retired Canadian Forces General Rick Hillier and Vancouver 2010 Olympic Committee CEO John Furlong. The tour kicks off in Edmonton on June 22 and has stops planned in Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and Calgary.

In 2006 he supported Mark Norris on the first ballot and Ed Stelmach on the second ballot.

A photo of Gary Mar, Alberta PC leadership candidate.

Gary Mar

Gary Mar
Slogan: None evident, supporters on Twitter are using the hashtag #GOGARY
Elected experience: MLA for Calgary-Nose Hill from 1993 to 2004 and Calgary-Mackay from 2004 to 2007.
Released policies: Education, Municipal Funding
Background: Smart and slick, Mr. Mar’s campaign has the feel of a candidate for the United States Senate, which is not surprising considering that he has spent the past five years dining and lobbying the Washington DC political establishment on behalf of the Alberta Government. An MLA and cabinet minister from 1993 until 2007, he has been out of the public eye long enough not to be directly tied to the current PC Party administration.

Mr. Mar’s campaign carries significant support from Establishment Tories like former Finance Minister Iris Evans and current Energy Minister Ron Liepert, who rumours say has been trying to strong-arm support from other Tory MLAs. Mr. Mar’s campaign public relations are being handled by long-time government spokesperson Mark Kastner, who is still listed as Alberta Health Services Executive Director of Media Relations.

The membership list of a secret Facebook group created before Mr. Mar officially entered the PC leadership contest included Jim Dinning‘s 2006 campaign chairman Brent Shervey, Calgary-Nose Hill MLA Neil Brown, Drayton Valley-Calmar MLA Diana McQueen, Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Fred Horne, co-chair of the PC Party’s 2008 election platform committee Brenda Barootes, and pollster Janet Brown.

He supported Jim Dinning in the 2006 PC leadership contest.

A photo of Rick Orman, Alberta PC leadership candidate.

Rick Orman

Rick Orman
Slogan: The Right Choice
Elected experience: MLA for Calgary-Montrose from 1986 to 1993
Background: This blast from the past could turn into the Ron Paul of the PC leadership contest. As the MLA for Calgary-Montrose from 1986 to 1993 and third place candidate in his party’s 1992 leadership contest, Mr. Orman faded into political obscurity until making a return as a candidate in this contest. Taking aggressive positions at candidate forms and typing with a sharp wit on Twitter, he does not owe much to the PC Party in its current incarnation and has little to lose by telling PC members what the other candidates are afraid to say. It has been suggested that Mr. Orman’s candidacy poses the biggest threat to Dr. Morton.

Mr. Orman’s campaign is moving into an office recently vacated by Calgary-Centre Conservative MP Lee Richardson‘s campaign team, opening speculation that Mr. Orman’s support may not be so thin.

A photo of Justice Minister Alison Redford at the 2011 Alberta budget announcement in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Alison Redford

Alison Redford
Slogan: None.
Elected experience: MLA for Calgary-Elbow since 2008
Released policies: Democratic Renewal, Education, Energy, Health Care
Background: The only woman in this contest, Ms. Redford is not your typical Red Tory. While her campaign has so far focused on important issues like health care, education, democratic renewal, and energy policy, the safe communities initiative during her time as Justice Minister demonstrated that she is creative enough to look beyond the “tough on crime” agenda. She is also appears to be taking a page from popular Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton City Councillor Don Iveson by “campaigning in full sentences.” (This may have been influenced by her campaign strategist Stephen Carter, who was involved with Mayor Nenshi’s campaign).

Ms. Redford has only been an MLA since 2008, but her political experience is broad, ranging from serving as a Senior Policy Advisor to External Affairs Minister Joe Clark, being appointed as one of four International Election Commissioners to administer Afghanistan’s first parliamentary elections, and challenging Calgary-West MP Rob Anders for the Conservative Party nomination in 2004 (she was unsuccessful).

A photo of Ted Morton, Alberta PC leadership candidate.

Ted Morton

Ted Morton
Slogan: Alberta Proud/Proud to be Albertan
Elected experience: Senator-in-Waiting 1998 to 2004, MLA for Foothills-Rockyview from 2004 to present
Released policies: Democratic Renewal, Power Transmission
Background: The former Finance Minister and third place leadership candidate from 2006 who’s actions forced Premier Ed Stelmach to resign and this contest to begin. Many of his key organizers from his previous leadership bid have joined the Wildrose Alliance and it is questionable whether they will return to the PC Party fold if they have embraced Dr. Morton’s ideological soul-mate Danielle Smith. His time as Finance Minister hurt his conservative credentials, especially among rural landowners furious at the government’s recently passed transmission line legislation – Bill 50.

In 2006, Dr. Morton received support of Rob Anders, Myron Thompson, and Jason Kenney, who have each since quietly or loudly shown support for the Wildrose Alliance.

Expected to enter the race:

Thomas Lukaszuk
Elected experience: MLA for Edmonton-Castle Downs from 2001 to present
Background: Yet to enter the contest, rumours have been swirling for months about Minister Lukaszuk’s potential entry into this contest. He would be the only MLA from Edmonton to enter the contest and while he would be a long-shot candidate, it could help solidify his position in cabinet under the next PC Premier.

He supported Jim Dinning in the 2006 leadership contest.

tories to celebrate 40 years as government with new leader.

A late evening tweet from Progressive Conservative Party President Bill Smith was the first official announcement that Premier Ed Stelmach would formally resign as leader of his party in September 2011. The Premier announced his intentions to resign last week, but did not specify an exact date.

September 2011 is a milestone year for the PCs. On September 10, 1971, Peter Lougheed was sworn in as his party’s first Premier in Alberta and the PC has kept that line partisan-pure ever since. I imagine that party members has mixed feelings about the date. On one hand, forty years of majority governments is an impressive achievement for any political party. On the other hand, it is also risky to draw too much attention to this kind of longevity when a thirst for political change is in the air.

I am sure that many PCs wish their fortieth anniversary as government to be an occasion to celebrate a fresh new face as the leader. Some PC members have started an online campaign to recruit the outspoken 30-something MLA Doug Griffiths, but so far the only candidate to officially announce he is running for that party’s leadership is 61-year old former Finance Minister Ted Morton. Current Deputy Premier Doug Horner, son of Premier Lougheed’s Deputy Premier Hugh Horner, is expected to enter the PC leadership contest in the next few days.

The Tories are not the only party seeking a new leader. With both the Alberta Party and Liberal Party also looking for new leaders in 2011, there is a lot of opportunity for the PCs fortieth anniversary to be much more interesting than anyone could have imagined.

UPDATE: The Edmonton Journal’s Paula Simons is reporting that Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman is weighing her options at running for either the Alberta Party or Liberal Party leadership.