Tag Archives: Jack Layton

More than 300 people packed into the Metro Cinema at the Garneau Theatre to watch the election night results on a 30 foot screen.

Trudeau Liberals crack Conservative “Fortress Alberta” in nationwide sweep

The dust has yet to finally settle on tonight’s election night results but we know that the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau will form a majority government with more than 180 seats in the next parliament. Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper, who has led his party’s government since 2006, conceded to defeat and resigned as party leader. The New Democratic Party led by Tom Mulcair, who rocketed from fourth place to Official Opposition under Jack Layton‘s leadership in 2011, was cut back to third place.

In Alberta, the Liberals appear to have cracked the Conservative fortress with wins in Edmonton and Calgary.

In Calgary-Skyview, former Liberal MLA Darshan Kang has become the first Liberal Member of Parliament elected in Calgary since 1968. Another former Liberal MLA, Kent Hehr, is currently leading Conservative MP Joan Crockatt in Calgary-Centre with more polls yet to be counted. In Edmonton-Mill Woods, popular city councillor Amarjeet Sohi, running for the Liberals, is in a tight race with Conservative cabinet minister Tim Uppal. In Edmonton-Centre, Liberal Randy Boissonnault is leading Conservative candidate James Cumming and NDP hopeful Gil McGowan.

While Canadians rejected a Conservative government led by a Calgary MP, Alberta will not be left without representation in government. It will be expected that at least one Liberal MP from each of Alberta’s two largest cities will be appointed to Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet.

For the NDP, it appears that only incumbent Linda Duncan was re-elected to a third-term as the MP for Edmonton-Strathcona.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper delivers his concession speech.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper delivers his concession speech.

There will be plenty of times in the coming days to discuss what happened on election night and over the past eleven weeks, and what it means for the future of Canada. But tonight’s results make it clear that Canadians have rejected the politics of negativity, fear and division that Mr. Harper’s Conservative believed would help them secure re-election.

Tomorrow morning, Albertans will wake up in a new Canada  – with an incoming progressive Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a progressive New Democrat Premier Rachel Notley, and progressive mayors Don Iveson in Edmonton and Naheed Nenshi in Calgary.

Rob Anders, being blessed by controversial Calgary street pastor Art Pazlowski and Gospel Elvis.

Rob Anders still lurking around the Wildrose Party

Twice denied an opportunity to run for the leadership of the Wildrose Party, controversial Conservative Party Member of Parliament Rob Anders is still lurking in the shadows of the deflated Alberta conservative opposition party.

As reported by the Medicine Hat News, Mr. Anders has been making personal phone calls to conservatives in Medicine Hat in support of Wildrose nomination candidate Dustin Nau.

Here’s a recording of the phone message left by Mr. Anders:

In the recorded phone message, Mr. Anders described Mr. Nau as “a good guy” and a “good solid social conservative” who did two tours in Iraq with the United States military. Mr. Anders says he believes Mr. Nau will would be a real asset for the Wildrose Party going forward in the next election.

Speaking to the Medicine Hat News, Mr. Nau denied knowing Mr. Anders personally and denied ever serving in the U.S. military. He was not able to answer why Mr. Anders was making phone calls in support of his campaign.

After failing to secure federal Conservative nominations in Calgary-Signal Hill and Bow River, Mr. Anders unsuccessfully appealed to the Wildrose Party executive to allow him to run for the leadership. Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, before she crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives in December 2014, said Mr. Anders was not welcome to run for the party in the next election.

Late last year, Mr. Anders publicly mused about starting his own conservative think-tank once his 17-year career as an MP ends in 2015.

Mr. Anders is well-known for his controversial conservative views in Ottawa, having called Nelson Mandela a terroristinsulting Canadian veteranscalling for war against Russia, and blaming Thomas Mulcair for hastening the death of former NDP leader Jack Layton.

The 17-year Conservative MP was recently featured in a YouTube video, where controversial Calgary street preacher Art Pawlowski, flanked by Gospel Elvis, dedicates a prayer to Mr. Anders. (Cabinet minister Ric McIver took heat for his support of Mr. Pawlowski’s activities, including the anti-gay March for Jesus, during the 2014 leadership contest).

New Wildrose leader on March 28
Linda Osinchuk Wildrose Sherwood Park Leadership

Linda Osinchuk

Anticipating a provincial election within weeks, the Wildrose Party executive decided to push forward the date of its leadership contest to March 28, 2015. A 12-day phone-in vote will take place from March 18 to 28, 2015.

Candidates for the leadership include former Fort McMurray-Athabasca Conservative MP Brian Jean, former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk and Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes.

Shayne Saskiw MLA Wildrose

Shayne Saskiw

Ms. Osinchuk is already nominated as the party’s candidate in Sherwood Park and Mr. Barnes has secured the nomination in Cypress-Medicine Hat.

Rumours have been circulating that Mr. Jean could run in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills if current Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw decides to leave provincial politics. The provincial constituency is located in the southern half of the federal riding Mr. Jean represented from 2004 to 2014 in the House of Commons.

Dear Rob Anders, Take a Hint and Take a Hike.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and MP Rob Anders.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and MP Rob Anders.

Many Canadians hoped to have bade a final farewell to offensive conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders when he lost the Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Signal Hill to Ron Liepert earlier this year. But perhaps it was wishful thinking to believe a stunning rebuke in the area of the city he represented for 17 years was enough to end his political career.

Hoping for a second chance, Mr. Anders attempted to win his party’s nomination in the rural Bow River riding, an area in which he does not live nor have any personal connection to. He told the media that Bow River was, unlike the suburbs of west Calgary, a place with “more trucks” and closer to the Alberta he “moved to in the 1980s.” [note: Mr. Anders was born in 1972].

But as all Albertans know, owning a pickup truck and holding offensive social conservative views are not mutually inclusive. So we all breathed a sign of relief when Mr. Anders was defeated in the Conservative’s Bow River nomination contest this weekend by Martin Shields, mayor of the City of Brooks.

It is hard to imagine Bow River Conservative members appreciating an outsider like Mr. Anders wading into their local nomination, and his track record in Ottawa probably did little to enamour them. Mr. Anders is well-known for having called Nelson Mandela a terroristinsulting Canadian veteranscalling for war against Russia, and blaming Thomas Mulcair for hastening the death of former NDP leader Jack Layton.

Licking his wounds after a second defeat, what can we expect Mr. Anders do next? Without a political party to support him in the next election, what is Mr. Anders next move?

Here are a few of the options available to him:

1) Take a hint and take a hike: Mr. Anders should probably take a break from politics, but he probably will not. He might end up working as a commenter with Sun News talk show host Ezra Levant, as a political advisor for some right-wing lobby group, or as an advisor to another socially conservative MP in Ottawa.

By the time the next federal election is called in October 2015, Mr. Anders will have spent 18 of his 42 years on Earth as a Member of Parliament (he was first elected when he was 24 years old). He knows nothing but life in politics.

2) Run for another Conservative Party nomination. By my count, there are at least a dozen Conservative Party nomination contests still open in Alberta (and an imminent by-election in Yellowhead). Looking abroad, he could also decide to run for a nomination in another province, like British Columbia or Saskatchewan.

If I were the Conservative Party, I would sternly warn him that he would be severely unwelcome to run in another riding. If I were the opposition New Democrats or Liberals, I would encourage him to keep on running.

3) Run as an Independent or for another party. His own party has rejected him twice, so he could decide to mobilize his social conservative followers to inflict revenge and damage on a party that no longer wants him in Ottawa.

Mr. Anders would not likely win if he ran as an Independent, or even as another party’s candidate (perhaps, the Christian Heritage Party),  but he could exert revenge by becoming a major nuisance for Mr. Liepert in Calgary-Signal Hill.

4) Go back to the USA. With the 2016 presidential elections around the corner, maybe Mr. Anders could pull out his old Pinocchio nose and start applying for jobs south of the border.

Three years before Mr. Anders was elected as the MP for Calgary-West, he worked as a political agitator for the Republican Party in the United States. In the video below, he demonstrates his political talents while trying to embarrass Oklahoma Democratic Party Senate candidate Dave McCurdy.

Sources: Rob Anders to run in new Bow River riding

Rob Anders

Sources say controversial MP Rob Anders could run for the Conservative nomination in the new Bow River riding.

Sources say that controversial Member of Parliament Rob Anders is preparing to run for the Conservative Party of Canada nomination in new rural Bow River riding east of Calgary. The six-term MP has represented Calgary-West since 1997 but lost a heated Conservative nomination contest in the new Calgary-Signal Hill riding to former Progressive Conservative MLA Ron Liepert in April 2014.

The new federal Bow River riding

The new federal Bow River riding

It had been speculated that Mr. Anders could run in the neighbouring riding of Calgary-Rocky Ridge. It is unclear whether Mr. Anders, who has the endorsement of senior cabinet minister Jason Kenney, will be approved by the Ottawa Tories as their candidate in this new riding.

Maybe the most hard-edged social conservative in Ottawa, Mr. Anders is well-known for being the sole parliamentarian to vote against granting former South African president Nelson Mandela an honorary Canadian citizenship. He also embarrassingly attacked two Canadian Forces veterans, who he described as “NDP hacks.” He used his podium at an official Government of Canada press conference to endorse right-wing conservative Ted Morton. And he most recently suggested that former NDP leader Jack Layton‘s death was hastened by now-leader Thomas Mulcair.

Mr. Anders would face some local challengers in this new riding. Rockyview County councillor Rolly Ashdown is expected to enter the Bow River Conservative contest this week and City of Brooks mayor Martin Shields announced his candidacy last month. Popular country music artist George Canyon briefly sought the Conservative nomination, but has since withdrawn from the contest.

Thomas Mulcair reminds me of Stephen Harper

Edmonton-Centre NDP candidate Lewis Cardinal and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair in Edmonton on March 26, 2014.

Edmonton-Centre NDP candidate Lewis Cardinal and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair in Edmonton on March 26, 2014.

More than 500 people packed into the lobby of the Winspear Centre yesterday to watch the New Democratic Party of Canada officially nominate Edmonton-Centre‘s Lewis Cardinal as the first candidate for 2015 federal election. The selection of Edmonton-Centre as the NDP’s first nomination demonstrates that party’s desire to turn Edmonton into a battle ground in the next election.

Jack Layton NDP Edmonton

Jack Layton at a NDP rally in Edmonton during the 2008 federal election.

After Mr. Cardinal was nominated, NDP leader Thomas Muclair took to the stage to congratulate the new candidate.

During his speech, I could not help but reflect on the differences between Mr. Mulcair and former leader Jack Layton, who spoke to a raucous crowd in the same room during the 2008 federal election.

I remember being impressed with Mr. Layton’s ability to raise the level of energy in the room just with his presence. He oozed style, was charismatic and felt like a made-for-TV leader. His energy was contagious, but I could not help but question whether he had enough substance behind that style.  I always had a difficult time picturing Mr. Layton as the next Prime Minister of Canada.

This week, Mr. Mulcair’s speech to the crowd at the Winspear was more business than partisan play. Unlike Mr. Layton’s high-energy speech in 2008, Mr. Mulcair’s speech focused on the policy and values that differentiates his party from the Conservatives and Liberals. The partisans cheered, but he did not generate the same type of excitement in the room that his predecessor was able to.

Mr. Mulcair’s speech reminded me of what Stephen Harper sounded like before the Conservatives formed government in Ottawa eight years ago. What he delivered was a perfectly acceptable grounded speech. Mr. Mulcair sounded like he could be the next Prime Minister of Canada.

Side note: A great concert hall and an excellent venue, the Winspear Centre is named for philanthropist Francis Winspear, who, along with Preston Manning,  helped found of the Reform Party of Canada in 1987.

Harper endorses Rob Anders and more nomination updates

With Dave Hancock being sworn-in as the 15th Premier of Alberta and speculation running rampant about who will replace him in four to six months, I thought now would be a good opportunity to provide a quick update about nominations for federal election candidates in Alberta.

Calgary-Signal Hill

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and MP Rob Anders.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and MP Rob Anders.

In what could be a deciding factor in one of Calgary most hotly contested Conservative Party nomination races, Member of Parliament Rob Anders has posted on his website an endorsement from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Here is the audio from a robocall placed by Mr. Anders’ campaign to Conservative Party members in Calgary-Signal Hill announcing Mr. Harper’s endorsement:

One of Canada’s most offensive hyper-Conservatives, Mr. Anders is facing a stiff nomination challenge in the new Calgary-Signal Hill from former Calgary MLA and provincial cabinet minister Ron Liepert.

Mr. Harper’s endorsement is sure to inflame supporters of Mr. Liepert, who will be quick to point out how unusual it is for leader of a party to openly endorse a candidate in a contested nomination race.

Moderate Tories have tried for 17 years to grab the nomination from Mr. Anders, sending high-profile candidates like Alison Redford, Jocelyn Burgener and Donna Kennedy-Glans to run against him, to no avail.

Fort McMurray-Athabasca
Unlike the raucous Conservative by-election nomination race in Macleod, the contest to choose the next Conservative candidate in northeastern Alberta’s Fort McMurray-Athabasca is a sleepy affair. As of this morning, only Fort McMurray lawyer Arlan Delisle and Athabasca County councillor David Yurdiga have entered the Conservative nomination race.

Today, March 24, is the deadline for candidates to enter the Conservative Party nomination contest and the cutoff for membership sales is March 31, 2014.

Lewis Cardinal Edmonton NDP

Lewis Cardinal

Edmonton-Centre
On March 26, Edmonton-Centre’s Lewis Cardinal is expected to be acclaimed as the first New Democratic Party candidate nominated for the 2015 federal general election. The nomination meeting will take place in the lobby of the Winspear Centre and will leader Thomas Mulcair and a handful of NDP MPs from across the country. The lobby of the Winspear is a memorable place for many local New Democrats, who remember when Jack Layton used the venue to host a large and energy-filled election campaign rally in 2008.

No candidates have yet to step forward for the Conservative nomination since MP Laurie Hawn announced his resignation on March 9, 2014. Three candidates – Randy BoissonnaultHarold Robinson and Don Padget – are seeking the Liberal Party nomination.

Edmonton-Mill Woods
Varinder Bhullar 
has announced that he will seek the Liberal Party nomination in the new Edmonton-Mill Woods riding.

Edmonton-Wetaskiwin
When Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont MP Mike Lake decided to seek the Conservative nomination in the new Edmonton-Wetaskiwin riding, he was taking a gamble. Mr. Lake, who lives a south Edmonton neighbourhood included in the new riding now facing the challenge of winning a nomination in a riding where 75% of the new territory is new ground. Well-respected in Edmonton, he is now facing a challenge from Leduc County mayor John Whaley and Edmonton police officer Mohinder Banga.

Lethbridge
First-term MP Jim Hillyer is facing two challengers for the Conservative nomination in the new Lethbridge riding. With Mr. Hillyer cut-off from his base of support in the southern half of the former Lethbridge riding, Doug McArthur and Alex Hann hope to replace him as the Tory candidate.

Red Deer-Mountain View
MP Earl Dreeshen has announced his plans to seek the Conservative nomination in the new Red Deer-Mountain View riding. Mr. Dreeshen has represented the current Red Deer riding since 2008.

If there are any additions to the list of nomination candidates for the 2015 federal election, please contact me through the comment section below or by email at david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com.

Ron Liepert versus Rob Anders: the next PC-Wildrose proxy war?

Rob Anders

Rob Anders

Will former provincial cabinet minister Ron Liepert make the jump into federal politics?

With the launch of the TimeToDoBetter.ca website today, rumours began to spread that the former two-term Calgary-West Progressive Conservative MLA turned consultant could challenge ultra-conservative Rob Anders for the Conservative Party nomination in the new Calgary Signal Hill riding.

Alberta Finance Minister Ron Liepert

Ron Liepert

Mr. Liepert’s candidacy would surely spark another proxy-war between the supporters of the provincial PC and Wildrose parties first seen in last year’s Calgary-Centre by-election.

This would not be the first time these two men have publicly sparred. In 2009, Mr. Liepert accused Mr. Anders of campaigning against him in the 2008 provincial election. Many of Mr. Anders associates have joined Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party, including his close confident Andrew Constantinidis, who ran to replace Mr. Liepert in the 2012 provincial election.

While many of his supporters flocked to the new provincial party, some in the Wildrose establishment see Mr. Anders as a political liability whose ideology could challenge their attempt to rebrand as a moderate conservative alternative to the governing PCs.

In the conservative bloodbath that is sure to ensue if the rumours are true, I would expect nothing less than for Mr. Anders and conservative entertainer Ezra Levant to slice directly at Mr. Liepert’s jugular. They will be sure to remind their conservative base about Mr. Leipert’s record as the Health minister who created the centralized Alberta Health Services and the Finance minister who introduced deficit budgets and talked about increasing taxes.

Mr. Liepert’s ties to the provincial PC establishment date back to the Peter Lougheed era, when he worked at the Legislative Assembly and was appointed as a staff member at Alberta’s trade office in Los Angeles. He first ran for the PC Party in 1993, first in an unsuccessfully bid for the party nomination in Edmonton-Glenora and then as the PC candidate in  Edmonton-Highlands-Beverly (in the election he was defeated by his Liberal opponent, Alice Hanson). He was first elected to the Assembly in 2004 as the PC MLA for Calgary-West.

Alison Redford Alberta Election 2012 Conservative leader

Alison Redford

Mr. Leipert is no slouch. In provincial politics, he thrived off the cut and thrust of partisan conflict.  Whether he could win the Conservative Party nomination against Mr. Anders is yet to be seen.

There is no shortage of criticism of Mr. Anders. Perhaps the most hard-edged social conservative in Ottawa, he is well-known for being the sole parliamentarian to vote against granting former South African president Nelson Mandela an honorary Canadian citizenship. He also embarrassingly attacked two Canadian Forces veterans, who he described as “NDP hacks.” He used his podium at an official Government of Canada press conference to endorse right-wing conservative Ted Morton. And he recently suggested that former NDP leader Jack Layton‘s death was hastened by now-leader Thomas Mulcair.

Since he was first elected in 1997, Mr. Anders has been challenged by many high profile conservatives and easily defeated all of them in nomination battles.

At the age of 24, Mr. Anders, then a young Republican Party provocateur, returned to Canada to defeat nine other candidates to win his first Reform Party nomination in Calgary-West. His election coincided with the election of a group of young conservative Reformers, including Jason Kenney and Rahim Jaffer.

If he is challenged by Mr. Liepert in the upcoming nomination, it would not be the first time a high-profile politico who has attempted to end Mr. Anders career in Ottawa.

In 2004, future Progressive Conservative premier Alison Redford made her first jump into electoral politics with an unsuccessful nomination bid against Mr. Anders. Mr. Liepert was her campaign manager.

In 2000, he was unsuccessfully challenged by Calgary-Currie PC MLA Jocelyn Burgener (now a poet) and in 2009 he faced future Calgary-Varsity PC MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans. With the help of Mr. Levant, he nastily branded Ms. Kennedy-Glans as a “Liberal saboteur” and a “bizarre cross between a radical feminist and an apologist for a women-hating Arab dictatorship.”

Internal nomination contests are not the only area Mr. Anders has faced challengers. In the 1997 election, alderman and future mayor Dave Bronconnier led an unsuccessful campaign against him as the Liberal Party candidate. In the 2000 election, Mr. Anders defeated both former Calgary-North West Liberal MLA Frank Bruseker and PC candidate Jim Silye (a Reform Party MP for Calgary-Centre from 1993 to 1997). Wind energy entrepreneur Justin Thompson earned 29% as the Liberal candidate in the 2004 election, the highest of any of Mr. Anders challengers. And the 2006 and 2008 elections, former Calgary Board of Education trustee Jennifer Pollock carried the Liberal banner against Mr. Anders.

Despite these high-profile challengers from inside and outside his party, Mr. Anders has yet to face electoral defeat in the political arena.

Alberta politics 2013: The NDP Wildrose alliance

NDP leader Brian Mason and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith

NDP leader Brian Mason and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith spar at a University of Alberta debate.

Perhaps one of the most unexpected developments in Alberta politics in 2013 was the emergence of the informal alliance between the New Democratic Party and the Wildrose Official Opposition.

It was not uncommon in 2013 to see NDP and Wildrose MLAs working together, or tackling the same issues during Question Period on the floor of the Assembly, but the informal alliance existed outside the Dome.

NDP leader Brian Mason and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith toured the province holding one-on-one policy debates in college and university campus lecture theatres. The debates were very well attended, and they were certainly more entertaining and informative than a mid-election leaders debates. I cannot remember when two party leaders last debated in this type of public forum. It was refreshing.

Last year, the NDP struggled to find their footing in the new political environment created by the 2012 election. Accustomed to running circles around the Liberal official opposition, the NDP were not yet accustomed to competing with the more conservative Wildrose official opposition. With this informal alliance, and a consistent message, the NDP found their footing in 2013. They may not be on the cusp of forming government, but they are receiving much more media coverage and public attention than they were in 2012.

Although the two parties worship different ideologies, there is a kind of mutual respect between the two groups because of their defining ideologies (example: social democracy and libertarianism). There also exists a mutual distaste of the wishy-washy moderate politics of the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals.

Most recently, the Wildrose and NDP (and Liberals) stood together in opposition to Premier Alison Redford‘s hastily introduced Bill 45 and Bill 46, which stripped away collective bargaining rights of public sector workers and attacked free speech rights of ordinary Albertans. It was a strange sight to see the Wildrose defending the rights of public sector workers. But their opposition to the anti-labour laws was not a show of support for organized labour, but a reflection of their libertarian values around freedom of speech and expression.

And, not unexpectedly, there is an electoral strategy element to this informal coalition.

If the Wildrose is to defeat the PCs in the next election, they need to win votes away from the governing party and they need other parties to do so as well. As the Wildrose does not have a strong base of support in Edmonton,  the NDP are well-positioned to steal votes away from the Tories in the provincial capital.

Will the NDP Wildrose alliance survive 2014?

As with any alliance of convenience, the effort will succeed as long as the groups involved are able to work together to achieve similar aims. Like the informal alliance between Stephen Harper‘s Conservatives and Jack Layton‘s  NDP before the 2006 election that toppled Paul Martin Liberals, I expect the two groups will continue down this path until the ballots cast in the next provincial election are counted. After that, all bets are off.

Christmas presents for politicos: Joe Clark and Brad Lavigne launch new books in Edmonton

The Christmas season is nearly upon us, and what better time than the present to purchase some new reading material for a political junkie or policy wonk dear to your heart. Authors of two new books about Canadian politics will be speaking about their new books and signing copies in Edmonton in the coming weeks.

How We Lead: Canada in a Century of Change by Joe Clark
November 27, 2013
7:00 pm
Edmonton City Hall, 1 Sir Winston Churchill Square

Joe Clark Calgary-Centre MP

Joe Clark

Former Prime Minister Joe Clark will be in Edmonton on November 27 to talk about his new book, How We Lead: Canada in a Century of Change. Mr. Clark will speak about his book and share his thoughts about what is happening to Canada’s reputation in the world today. The former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister speaks from a unique perspective when he criticizes Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s approach to international relations and how it has impacted our country.

Mr. Clark served as a Member of Parliament from Alberta between 1972 and 1993, and 2000 and 2004. He became Canada’s 16th Prime Minister in 1979 and served as Secretary of State for External Affairs from 1984 to 1991. During his time in office, he was known for taking a strong stance against apartheid in South Africa and his role in helping steer the North American Free Trade Agreement to a final agreement.

Watch Peter Mansbridge‘s One-on-One interview with Mr. Clark about his new book

Brad Lavigne

Brad Lavigne

Building the Orange Wave by Brad Lavigne
December 5, 2013
5:30pm – 7:30 pm
The Common, 9910 109 Street NW, Edmonton
Facebook Event

Brad Lavigne will be speaking about his new book, Building the Orange Wave, on December 5, 2013 in Edmonton.

Mr. Lavigne was the 2011 campaign director for the federal New Democratic Party. He served in many strategic roles with the federal NDP and worked closely with former leader Jack Layton. In this book, Mr. Lavigne is said to recount the story of how Mr. Layton and his team developed and implemented a plan that propelled the NDP from the fourth largest party in the House of Commons to become Canada’s Official Opposition.

Mason vs Smith: Wildrose and NDP leaders on province-wide debate tour

NDP leader Brian Mason and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith

NDP leader Brian Mason and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith spar at their latest debate hosted by the University of Alberta Political Science Undergraduate Association.

Three years before the next provincial election, a public debate tour might not be where you would expect to find the leaders of two political parties. Breaking convention, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith and Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason are joining forces to bring provincial politics to college and university campuses across Alberta. In the second of a planned seven stops, the two leaders stood at their podiums in front of a crowd of 400 at the University of Alberta last night to debate the future of Alberta.

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith

It made me wonder when was the last time one party leader faced another in such a public arena and reflect on how this format is more humanizing than the sterile television studio we typically watch our political leaders debate in. Needless to say, it was a highly entertaining evening.

Ms. Smith and Mr. Mason playfully sparred over issues facing the energy sector, pipelines, the economy, post-secondary education, health care and public services.

On so many issues, it was refreshing to see two distinct opinions being debated. It was also refreshing that, for a change, the long-governing Progressive Conservatives were not always the centre of attention. Highlighting the point of the debate tour, Mr. Mason urged the crowd to “think past the PC government,” reminding them that he was in Grade 11 when the Tories first formed government in Alberta.

On government spending, Mr. Mason cleverly pledged his party would not raise taxes, but reversing tax cuts implemented by former Tory finance ministers Stockwell Day and Steve West. Ms. Smith affirmed that new pipelines would help Alberta restore its revenue stream, and worried that the government was becoming too centralized, especially in health care and potentially in post-secondary education.

“I’m not an expert in post-secondary education, but guess what, neither is Thomas Lukaszuk.” – Danielle Smith

Brian Mason

Brian Mason

On the topical issue of pipelines, Mr. Mason reaffirmed his party’s support for refining bitumen in Alberta, rather than creating refinery jobs in Texas and China. Ms. Smith avoided commenting on the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines, instead focusing on the Energy East proposal that would pump oil from Alberta to New Brunswick (which Mr. Mason said he also supports).

While it may seem odd that the two opponents would so comfortably share the stage, there is method to this strategy. After recent budget cuts and government scandals, the two parties are betting that Albertans will be less enamoured with Premier Alison Redford‘s Tories when the next election approaches.

If the Wildrose wants to defeat the Tories in the next election, they not only need to steal votes away from the four-decade old political dynasty, they need other parties to do so as well. While the Wildrose does not have a strong base of support in Edmonton,  the NDP are well-positioned to steal votes away from the Tories in the provincial capital (the NDP increased their vote share in Edmonton from 18% in 2008 to 21% in 2012).

If this sounds a tad familiar, there are some parallels that can be drawn to the strategy used by Conservative leader Stephen Harper and NDP leader Jack Layton to destroy Paul Martin‘s Liberal Party in the mid-2000s (except in this case, the Martin Liberals are the Redford Tories).

If you missed tonight’s debate, check out on of the upcoming debates near you:

September 25 – Medicine Hat College
September 26 – University of Lethbridge
October 3 – Red Deer College
October 10 – MacEwan University
October 17 – Mount Royal University

calgary-centre by-election nominations take a strange turn.

The Calgary-Centre Conservative Party nomination contest took a turn for the strange over the past few weeks.

Originally shaping up to be a three-candidate contest, Alderman John Mar and former Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation chairman Andy Crooks dropped out of the race earlier this summer, leaving political commentator Joan Crockatt as the lone survivor of the original three candidates in the nomination contest.

Jon Lord Calgary-Centre Conservative

Jon Lord

Video store owner, former Alderman and Progressive Conservative MLA Jon Lord is one of the new candidates to enter the contest. Mr. Lord placed a distant sixth in his bid to become Mayor of Calgary in 2010 and was unsuccessful in his attempt to win back the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie before the recent provincial election. In the 2004 provincial election, Mr. Lord was unseated as MLA by Liberal Dave Taylor.

Lawyer Rick Billington has also joined the contest. Mr. Billington is a long-time Conservative Party director in the neighbouring riding of Calgary-Southwest. His website biography lists him as having participated in the Leaders Debate preparation team for Premier Alison Redford during the 2012 Alberta election.

Also running are Stefan Spargo, who was former MP Lee Richardson‘s campaign manager and also made an unsuccessful bid for the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie, and past Conservative riding president Greg McLean, who entered the contest last week.

Calgary Joe Soares

“Calgary Joe” Soares

Perhaps the strangest candidate to join the Conservative nomination contest is Quebec political advisor and Ottawa-area resident Joe Soares – who describes himself as “Calgary Joe.” It is not known whether Mr. Soares has spent any significant amount of time in Calgary or has any connection to the city or the province of Alberta.

The messaging on Mr. Soares’ website is a textbook case of negative partisanship, taking aim at New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair, who he accuses of wanting to destroy Alberta’s economy. The political insider also takes aim at the perceived frontrunner Ms. Crockatt, who he accuses of defending former Ontario Conservative MP Belinda Stronach when she crossed the floor to the Liberal Party in 2005 (which I imagine is a top of mind issue for Conservative Party members in Calgary-Centre).

The date of the Conservative nomination vote has not yet been set, though the deadline to enter the contest occurred last week.

Despite rumours that popular Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann might enter the Liberal Party nomination contest (or the NDP contest), only two candidates will be on the ballot at the vote on September 15, 2012. Lawyer and former Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association President Harvey Locke and educator Rahim Sajan.

Past candidate William Hamilton has already declared his interest in running for the Green Party and author Chris Turner told the Calgary Herald that he is considering seeking the nomination.

Anne McGrath NDP

Anne McGrath

Their status as Official Opposition in Ottawa does not seem to have generated wide interest in the NDP nomination. I have heard very little about who the NDP candidate in this by-election could be.

However unlikely, the latest speculation I have heard is that some party members are trying to draft Anne McGrath to carry her party’s banner in the downtown Calgary riding. Ms. McGrath is the former President of the NDP and chief of staff to former NDP leader Jack Layton. She ran for the provincial NDP in the Calgary-McCall by-election in 1995.

The newly created Online Party of Canada has attained registered status with Elections Canada just in time to nominate a candidate to run in the Calgary-Centre by-election.

i missed the orange wave.

Around 1:30 am on May 2, 2011, I returned to Edmonton after spending a month travelling across the vast continent of Australia. That day also happened to be Election Day in Canada. On a social media detox while I was out of the country and suffering from severe jet lag from the moment I returned, I missed and was near oblivious of the phenomenon that had become known as “the Orange Wave.”

That night, as I watched election results come in from across Canada, I felt like I had returned to a different country. The Conservative Party won a majority government, the official opposition Liberal Party collapsed, the Bloc Quebecois almost vanished off the electoral map, the Green Party elected its first Member of Parliament, and candidates from Jack Layton‘s New Democratic Party were elected in more than one hundred constituencies and for the first time formed the Official Opposition in Ottawa.

To magnify the degree of how out of the loop I was at the time, I fall into a category with an incredibly small fraction of Canadians who voted for the NDP in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but cast their ballot for the Liberal candidate in 2011 (also known as the “Liberal Back Eddy of 2011“). This choice had little to do with Michael Ignatieff and nearly everything to do with the hard-working and very-likeable local Liberal candidate, Mary MacDonald.

Thomas Mulcair Edmonton Alberta January 2011

Thomas Mulcair

Yesterday, Thomas Mulcair was chosen to lead the NDP Official Opposition in Ottawa. Having had the opportunity to meet the three leading candidates – Mr. Mulcair, Brian Topp, and Nathan Cullen – I was impressed with the quality of leadership candidates that members of the NDP had to choose from. In January of this year, I met Mr. Mulcair while he was visiting Edmonton. At the time, I wrote that:

I was not sure what to expect from his talk, but I found myself pleasantly surprised with Mr. Mulcair’s ability to offer intelligent pragmatic social democratic answers to a crowd  consisting of committed leftists was both impressive and sometimes brave.

As a centre-leftish voter, I am looking for a party that will put forward a forward-looking progressive agenda for Canada, which should not be confused with the tired traditional partisan socialist dogma (referred to by some as the Church of the NDP). As an outsider to the NDP, I have found Mr. Mulcair’s ability to challenge those traditional positions encouraging and I recognize that it may be one of his largest challenges from inside his own party’s ranks.

Western Canada is becoming the country’s economic leader. As a Quebec MP, Mr. Mulcair should try to avoid being sucked into the traditional eastern Canadian “father knows best” attitude around economic development. Mr. Mulcair should also try to avoid being caught in the Conservative Party trap that would have any criticism or suggestion of deviation from our current resources extraction methods labelled as “anti-Albertan.” (Stephen Harper‘s Conservative Party has already released talking points to be used against Mr. Mulcair).

Mr. Mulcair and all of the NDP Members of Parliament from central and eastern Canada should consider travelling west and knocking on some doors during Alberta’s upcoming provincial election. Their provincial cousins will undoubtably appreciate the help and it may give those MP’s a better idea of what real Albertans, not just their Conservative politicians, are actually thinking.

thomas mulcair comes to edmonton.

Thomas Mulcair NDP Edmonton

Thomas Mulcair

Last week I had to opportunity to hear Outremont MP and NDP leadership candidate Thomas Mulcair speak in Edmonton.

Aside from being aware of his role as Jack Layton‘s Quebec Lieutenant and that he was once a provincial cabinet minister, my knowledge of Mr. Mulcair was not vast.

I was not sure what to expect from his talk, but I found myself pleasantly surprised with Mr. Mulcair’s ability to offer intelligent pragmatic social democratic answers to a crowd  consisting of committed leftists was both impressive and sometimes brave (Blogger David Climenhaga has written an interesting blog post with his impressions of Mr. Mulcair’s visit to Edmonton).

Much like Brian Topp, who I heard speak in December 2011, I was left with the impression that Mr. Mulcair understands that most Canadians are political moderates and that that his party needs the support of those moderates to form a government.

Closer to home, Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Linda Duncan is expected to endorse Ottawa-Centre MP and leadership candidate Paul Dewar on Thursday.

Check out Pundits’ Guide for more information about the federal NDP leadership contest.

ndp leadership candidates attending edmonton kitchen table talks.

2012 NDP leadership candidates Nathan Cullen Paul Dewar and Brian Topp

Three federal NDP leadership candidates: Nathan Cullen, Paul Dewar, and Brian Topp

Home of Alberta’s only NDP Member of Parliament, Linda Duncan, the Edmonton-Strathcona NDP Association is hosting a series of “Kitchen Table Talks” with NDP leadership candidates (named in honour of Jack Layton and his penchant for addressing the kinds of problems that people talk about around the kitchen table).

The informal format of the “kitchen table talks” will give Edmontonians a chance to meet the candidates and give the candidates a chance to ask questions and engage with participants.

Talks have been scheduled with three of the leadership candidates, so far:

November 17: Nathan Cullen 18:30-20:30 at the McKernan Community League, 11341 78th Avenue

November 22: Paul Dewar 19:30-21:30 at the City Arts Centre, 10943 84th Avenue

December 12: Brian Topp 19:30-21:30 at the City Arts Centre, 10943 84th Avenue

The other candidates to enter the leadership contest are Niki Ashton, Robert ChisholmThomas Mulcair, Peggy Nash, Romeo Saganash, and Martin Singh. NDP members will be selecting their new leader on March 24, 2012.

Visit PunditGuide.ca for more detailed information about the NDP leadership contest.

rest in peace, jack layton.

NDP leader Jack Layton in Edmonton.

NDP Leader Jack Layton at a rally at the Winspear Centre in Edmonton (September 20, 2008).


Very sad news this morning. NDP leader Jack Layton has passed away at the age of 61. Mr. Layton took a break as NDP leader earlier this summer to battle a new cancer he had been diagnosed with.

NDP Leader Jack Layton has died, his family said in a statement today.

Mr. Layton’s wife, Olivia Chow and his children Michael and Sarah, said Mr. Layton passed away at 4:45 am today.

“He passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and loved ones,” the statement read.