The Greatest Show on Earth, also known as the Calgary Stampede, kicked-off celebrating its 100th anniversary this weekend. Between the chuck wagons and rodeo clowns, politicians off all stripes will drop into Calgary over the next week to kiss babies and grill pancakes.
Conservative political pundit and former Calgary Herald editor Joan Crockatt and former Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation board member Andy Crooks were the first two candidates to announce their intentions to seek the Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Centre. Mr. Crooks has already been endorsed by Calgary-West MP Rob Anders, a supporter of the Wildrose Party who is known for his far-right conservative politics.
Two-term Calgary Alderman John Mar, recently in the news for his tough on potato farmers stances, entered the contest last week. With ties to the PCs, Alderman Mar could represent the voice of moderate Conservatives in the nomination contest.
Tory victory inevitable? Almost certainly, but…
Unless something cataclysmic occurs in the next six months, it is highly unlikely that the by-election in this riding will result in anything but the election of another Conservative MP. The type of Conservative candidate could effect how strong that outcome is.
While it may not translate to votes on the federal level, voters in this riding have a streak of electing non-Conservative representatives on the provincial level, including Liberal MLA’s Kent Hehr and Dave Taylor (Mr. Taylor later joined the Alberta Party).
Update: William Hamilton, the 2011 Green Party candidate, has announced that he will seek the Green Party nomination when the election is called. Mr. Hamilton was also the EverGreen Party candidate in Calgary-Elbow in the recent provincial election.
Update (July 24, 2012): Andy Crooks has dropped out of the Conservative nomination.
A reply-all email from Calgary-Southeast Conservative Member of Parliament and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney about Progressive Conservative Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk has given Albertans a glimpse at how split the Conservative movement in our province has become.
Kenney wrote the invective last Wednesday at 5:02 p.m. in response to an email sent from the office of MP Blaine Calkins, chairman of the federal Conservatives Alberta caucus, who wanted to know if Kenney and other MPs from Alberta would meet with Lukaszuk.
“Honourable Thomas Lukaszuk, deputy premier of Alberta will be in Ottawa on Thursday, June 21st, 2012 and is requesting a lunch or dinner with caucus,” says the email written by Calkins’ legislative assistant at 4:57 p.m. “Mr. Calkins will not be able to host this event as he has prior commitments, but would like to see if there is any caucus member who would be willing to host this event for the deputy premier.”
Kenney shot back a response just five minutes later, but instead of sending it only to Calkins’ office, he inadvertently sent it to everyone in the 26-member federal Alberta caucus, plus assistants: “I say a definite ‘no’ to Lukaszyk. I don’t think it makes sense to create a precedent to do a special caucus meeting for every visiting minister from the provincial government. Plus he is a complete and utter asshole.”
Relations between politicians from the two Conservative parties has been frayed since a number of federal Conservative Party MPs and many federal Conservative Party activists put their support behind the now-Official Opposition Wildrose Party in the recent provincial election.
During the election, Minister Kenney is reported to have said that “any attempt to hurt Wildrose by linking them to old Reform movement will backfire.”
Wildrose is under attack! The same people that caused the Liberal Party of Canada to be in power for 13 uninterrupted years now have Wildrose in their crosshairs. They want nothing more than to see the Redford PCs re-elected to impose their big government knows best, ivory tower views on all of us.
Much has been written about how much the electoral battle between Alberta’s PCs and the Wildrose Party is a continuation of the long-standing family feud between moderate Tories and Reform Party minded conservatives of yesteryear.
Premier Redford, who was a staffer to former Prime Minister Joe Clark, stepped up to challenge controversial right-winger Rob Anders for the Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-West before the 2004 federal election. Ms. Redford was defeated. (Ms. Redford’s ex-husband’s father was the last PC MP for Calgary-West and was defeated by Reform Party candidate Stephen Harperin 1993). PC campaign manager Susan Elliott was the national director of the former PC Party of Canada and a few of Premier Redford’s cabinet ministers, including Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Verlyn Olson and Lethbridge-West MLA Greg Weadick were federal PC candidates during the height of the Reform Party’s strength in Western Canada.
The Wildrose Party campaign includes a number of former Reform Party and federal Conservative stalwarts, including Mr. Fryers (who was Chief of Staff to Preston Manning), campaign manager Tom Flanagan (who was strategist for the Reform Party), Senate candidate and strategist Vitor Marciano (who is a long-time federal Conservative Party operative), and Jim Armour (an Ontario-based consultant and former Communications Director to Mr. Manning and Prime Minister Harper). Former federal Conservative candidate also Ryan Hastman joined the Wildrose Party staff shortly after the 2011 federal election.
Calgary-Southeast Conservative Member of Parliament Jason Kenney was reported to have said that “any attempt to hurt Wildrose by linking them to old Reform movement will backfire.”
With a few exceptions most Members of Parliament have kept a low-profile during this provincial campaign. Westlock-St. Paul Conservative MP Brian Storseth was spotted in the Bonnyville A&W with Ms. Smith earlier this week. Edmonton-Spruce Grove Conservative MP Rona Ambrose has endorsed Spruce Grove-St. Albert PC candidate and Deputy Premier Doug Horner.
On the NDP side, Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan has endorsed Edmonton-Gold Bar candidate Marlin Schmidt. Quebec NDP MP Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet will be campaigning with Mr. Schmidt today. The shift in electoral boundaries places Edmonton’s francophone community in Bonnie Doon into the Gold Bar constituency. The NDP are hoping that the retirement of popular Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald could be their opportunity to make electoral gains in this east Edmonton constituency.
Inspired by conservative political pundit Ezra Levant‘s book by the same name, the Ethical Oil website purports to “encourage people, businesses and governments to choose Ethical Oil from Canada, its oil sands and other liberal democracies.” The website suggests that “ethical oil” is a “fair trade” alternative to “conflict oil” exploited in some of our world’s more politically oppressive and environmentally reckless countries.
Pointing to Chiquita’s chequered past as the United Fruit Company, the website and its opportunistic political supporters, including Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and a handful of Conservative Party Members of Parliament have joined the fray pledging personal boycotts.
Starting with Mr. Levant, the Ethical Oil mantra has becomes a rotating door for young conservative activists. Until recently, the website was maintained by Alykhan Velshi, a former staffer to Conservative Minister Jason Kenney. Mr. Velshi now works as director of planning for Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s office. The website’s current spokesperson, Kathryn Marshall, is a former organizer with the Wildrose Party Club on the University of Calgary campus (her husband Hamish Marshall is a pollster and the former Manager of Strategic Planning for Prime Minister Harper).
There is no doubt that countries Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Nigeria have earned their reputations for having horrible human rights and environmental records, but I have never heard Ethical Oil directly challenge the multinational oil companies that operate in those countries. Many of the same companies that exploit “conflict oil” from these oppressive countries also happily operate in Alberta’s oil sands and employ many thousands of Canadians.
Court documents now reveal that in the 1990s Shell routinely worked with Nigeria’s military and mobile police to suppress resistance to its oil activities, often from activists in Ogoniland, in the delta region.
The company has been sued many times over its conduct in Nigeria. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) say oil companies working in the delta, of which Shell is the largest, have overseen a “human rights tragedy”. Most of the alleged human rights abuses, they say, follow the companies’ refusal to abide by acceptable environmental standards.
As the Ethical Oil website denounces and promotes boycotts of companies that question the environmental record of Alberta’s oilsands, the website does nothing to promote a boycott of unethical oil producers, like Shell, that make billions of dollars exploiting their definition of ‘conflict oil.’
The arguments put forward by Ethical Oil are misleading and disingenuous. They compare bananas to oranges and drive the debate away from the real issue – our unsustainable dependence on fossil fuels and the incredible environmental toll that multinational oil companies are enacting both overseas and in Alberta’s oilsands.
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:
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.
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.
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.
He supported Jim Dinning in the 2006 PC leadership contest.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Three years later.
What a change three years can make. On March 3, 2008, Premier Ed Stelmach led the PCs to a massive majority, winning 72 of 83 seats in the Assembly. The sweep saw the Kevin Taft led Liberals halved from 16 MLAs to 9 MLAs and that party’s stronghold in Edmonton wither to three seats, Brian Mason‘s NDP were reduced from 4 to 2 MLAs, and the Wildrose Alliance‘s leader and only MLA Paul Hinman was defeated in Cardston-Taber-Warner (he would later be elected in the 2009 Calgary-Glenmore by-election). The election also marked the lowest voter-turnout in Alberta’s history as almost 60% of Albertans did not exercise the vote.
The letter was discovered when it was accidentally delivered to Edmonton-StrathconaNDP MP Linda Duncan‘s Ottawa office. Unfortunately for Ms. Duncan, her office does not have much moral authority on this issue. In February 2010, a conservative blogger discovered that Ms. Duncan’s Constituency Assistant and Campaign Manager Erica Bullwinkle had used her Parliamentary email account for campaign purposes.
More Tories join Wildrose
Former Finance Minister Lyle Oberg is not the only former Tory member to join the Wildrose Alliance. Perennial Edmonton PC nomination candidate Ian Crawford has also signed up for a Wildrose membership. Mr. Crawford, who last ran unsuccessfully for the PC nomination in Edmonton-Meadowlark against Raj Sherman and (now-Liberal Party executive) Debbie Cavaliere in 2007, is the son of former PC cabinet minister Neil Crawford.
Liberals tackle health care
The Liberals are without a long-term leader, but that has not stopped them from focusingon healthcare – an issue I believe could be their ticket back to relevance before the next election, especially while the Wildrose continues to push for increased privatization inside the health care system.
AHS Chair joining PC contest?
Alberta Health Services Chairman Ken Hughes‘ name has been bandied around as a potential candidate for the PC leadership contest. The former PC MP and insurance industry executive has reportedly been testing the waters through phone polls over the past few weeks.
Deputy Pastoor Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget PastoorreplacedEdmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman as Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition this week. Ms. Blakeman, who is seeking the Liberal leadership, will continue in her other critic roles.
I have updated the list of nominated and declared election candidates to include two PC MLAs who were nominated this week, PC leadership candidate and former Justice Minister Allison Redford was chosen as her party’s candidate in Calgary-Elbow at a nomination meeting this week. Ms. Redford was first elected in 2008, unseating Liberal MLA Craig Cheffins in a close-fought campaign. Elbow was represented by Ralph Klein from 1989 until his resignation in 2007, when Mr. Cheffins was elected in a by-election.
Red Deer-South PC MLACal Dallas won his party’s nomination in the constituency he was first elected to represent in 2008.
The Calgary Herald has been posting a number of YouTube video interviews on their website. In this one, pollster Janet Brown offers some thoughts on the PC leadership contest: