Tag Archives: Jean Chretien

An actual wall of fire.

Thank Goodness we didn’t build that Firewall!

Fifteen years ago, in Jan. 2001, six prominent Conservative lobbyists and university professors, including future prime minister Stephen Harper and provincial cabinet minister Ted Morton, penned the Firewall Manifesto.

Prime minister Jean Chretien‘s Liberals had been re-elected to a third-term in office and the failed rebrand of the Reform Party as the ‘Canadian Alliance‘ was quickly becoming apparent.

In reaction to the re-election of the Ontario-based Liberal government, the Firewall Manifesto called for then-premier Ralph Klein to build a firewall around Alberta by taking a number of actions, including the creation of an Alberta police force, an Alberta pension plan and the reduction of funds transferred from Alberta to the federal government*. Thankfully for Albertans, Mr. Klein ignored the Manifesto.

Fast-forward to Feb. 2016 and Alberta’s economy has slowed following a sharp decline in the international price of oil. For the first time in decades, Alberta’s traditionally cash-flush government is asking for economic and financial assistance from the rest of Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Rachel Notley at the Alberta Legislature on Feb. 3, 2016.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Rachel Notley at the Alberta Legislature on Feb. 3, 2016. (Photo from Rachel Notley’s Facebook Page)

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and New Democrat Premier Rachel Notley stood in the Legislature Rotunda yesterday and explained plans to fast-track $700 million in previously committed infrastructure funds from the federal government to Alberta. Mr. Trudeau also announced changes to Employment Insurance rules to help recently unemployed Albertans.

Alberta’s current economic situation and the drive to expand oil pipelines across Canada serve as an important reminder about why building bridges is more effective than burning bridges and erecting (fire)walls between our province and the rest of the country.

Thank goodness we didn’t build that firewall.

*It is completely unclear how this actually would have been done.

As lacklustre PC leadership race winds down, by-elections are on the horizon

2014 PC Leadership Race Alberta Thomas Lukaszuk Jim Prentice Ric McIver

Alberta PC Party leadership candidates Thomas Luksazuk, Ric McIver and Jim Prentice.

With one day left before the vote, Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Ric McIver’s campaign took to the radio airwaves, attacking frontrunner Jim Prentice for being “an insider.” It was an strange move for Mr. McIver, as the general public appears largely disinterested in the contest and the deadline to purchase memberships has already passed.

Premier Alison Redford

Alison Redford

While Mr. McIver said he remains committed to the PC Party and this government, whether he wins or loses, it was not the kind of move made by someone who wants to impress the new boss.

Although he is not an MLA, Mr. Prentice does have the support of 50 PC MLAs and a vast network of party insiders. He has also been active in the PC Party at the federal and provincial levels since the 1980s, including as a candidate in the 1986 election. Despite his large network of supporters inside the PC Party, membership sales are said to be significantly lower than in previous leadership races – some insiders say turnout could be as low as 25,000 votes (compared to more than 144,000 in 2006).

So, as the PC Party leadership race draws to a close, I may not be the only Albertan to ask “What was that all about?

The after-effects of Alison Redford’s resignation and two years of scandal plagued government have overshadowed the summer-time leadership race to chose Albertas next premier. Anti-Gay parades, term-limits, free memberships, misuse of government airplanes, the Skypalace Penthouse and a $20,000 cell phone bill were the most interesting features of this campaign.

Dave Hancock MLA Edmonton-Whitemud

Dave Hancock

The leadership candidates spoke in platitudes and took little opportunity to actually debate their ideas for Alberta’s future. Comfortable in Alberta’s oil wealth, we did not witness the PC Party have any real debate the future of Alberta’s natural resources, environment, schools, health care system or cities.

Even the short premiership of Edmonton MLA Dave Hancock was overshadowed by the record of his predecessor. Under other circumstances, Mr. Hancock could have excelled as Premier, but he spent most of his short time as premier attempting to provide stability to a damaged government.

The once unstoppable PC Party is still powerful but now aged and antiquated. And while the long-governing PCs deserve to be defeated, it would be foolish to underestimate them. The PC Party may have long forgotten how to win an election but they do know not to lose.

Doug Horner

Doug Horner

On Saturday, September 6, if his opponents, Mr. McIver and Thomas Lukaszuk, are able to deny Mr. Prentice a first ballot win, a second vote will be held on September 20. While this scenario is not impossible, it feels unlikely. The PC establishment appears to have done everything in its power to ensure Mr. Prentice’s smooth victory.

Soon after Mr. Prentice becomes PC Party leader, he will need to build a new cabinet. It is widely expected that he will promote loyal supporters – like PC MLAs Manmeet Bhullar and former leadership candidate Ken Hughes – into prominent promotions. It is also suspected that current ministers, like Finance minister Doug Horner, Health minister Fred Horne, and anti-bullying minister Sandra Jansen – all closely associated with Ms. Redford – may find themselves sitting out of cabinet.

Overall, with 25 MLAs now in cabinet, it will be challenging for Mr. Prentice to create a new cabinet seating plan from the current PC caucus.

Stephen Mandel Edmonton

Stephen Mandel

Rumours have begin to circulate that Mr. Prentice could appoint a group of cabinet ministers from outside the Assembly, and ask them to run in a series of by-elections in the fall. Mr. Prentice will need to become an MLA, and an impressive slate of by-election candidates could help bring some much-needed new talent into the PC caucus.

The idea is not unprecedented. Following the near-disasterous 1995 Quebec Referendum vote, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed Stéphane Dion and Pierre Pettigrew to the federal cabinet in advance of two Montreal by-elections.

Calgary MLA Neil Brown already said he would vacate his Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill constituency for Mr. Prentice to run in a by-election. PC MLA David Xiao and Independent MLA Len Webber are seeking federal Conservative Party nominations and may be interested in having the support of the new premier. And Calgary-Elbow, the constituency vacated by Ms. Redford, is in need of a by-election.

Neil Brown MLA Calgary-Nose Hill-Mackay

Neil Brown

Retired Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel suggested this week that he would consider running as a PC candidate if Mr. Prentice were premier. It may be stretch to believe that the 69 year old Mr. Mandel would jump back into politics (or be a breath of fresh air), but he would bring name recognition to the PC caucus.

Holding a series of by-elections would be a high-risk and high-reward strategy, because any loses could wound the new premier just as he leaves the starting gate. But if it paid off, it could help breath some new life into a 43-year old PC government that appears intent on defeating itself, or at least give Mr. Prentice a fighting chance before facing the Wildrose Party in the next election.


Calgary-Elbow By-Election

With an impending by-election expected to be called before the end of the year, politics in Calgary-Elbow are heating up.

Days before the PC Party chooses a new leader, Calgary-Elbow PC constituency association president Marina Mason announced her resignation.

Long-time partisan activist Pat Walsh has announced his plans to seek the PC Party nomination in that constituency. On his website, Mr. Walsh declares that he is willing to represent the constituency as a Government MLA “in the interim until the 2016 election is called,” when which he states he “will then step down.” I am not sure what to make of this strategy.

Alberta Party leader Greg Clark announced today that he will once again put his name on the ballot in this constituency. He ran there in the 2012 provincial election.

Retired Colonel John Fletcher is seeking the Wildrose Party nomination. And, as noted in a previous post, the Liberals are expected to nominate lawyer Susan Wright at a September 18, 2014 nomination meeting.

The ghosts of senate reform haunt the Harper Conservatives

Stephen Harper Senate Conservatives Reform

Howling “RREEEEFFFOOOORRRRMMMM,” the ghosts of the Reform Party stumble towards the Conservative Party Convention in Calgary (Yes, this is a photo of zombies, but ghosts don’t stumble).

The ghosts of Senate reform will haunt Prime Minister Stephen Harper as his party establishment gathers in Calgary on Halloween to discuss and debate party policy. After more than seven years in office, Mr. Harper’s Conservatives have accomplished little on the issue of reforming the Canadian Senate.

Who would have thought that a Senate scandal involving Conservative appointees could potentially be one of the defining stories of Mr. Harper’s third-term as Prime Minister? Was Mr. Harper not the Prime Minister who vowed to reform Canada’s archaic upper house of Parliament?

While the federal Conservatives had hoped to end this particular Senate scandal with the announcement of a new free trade agreement with the European Union and a consumer-first agenda, the wrath of Conservative Senators scorned has dominated the headlines.

After being ejected from Conservative Party ranks, Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau, all appointed by Mr. Harper, have proven to be incredibly dangerous liabilities. Accused of improper spending and expenses, the three former Conservatives have turned on their former party and are drawing national attention to alleged improper activities of Mr. Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright.

Senate reform was a defining policy for the now defunct Reform Party of Canada and a historical grievance that many western Conservatives hoped would finally be resolved when the Canadian Alliance (the Reform Party’s rebranded name) merged with the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 2003. While the crusade for a Triple-E Senate (equal, elected and effective) helped propel the Reform Party onto the national stage in the early 1990s, there does not appear to be much political appetite for this type of reform among Canada’s political leaders.

Since becoming Prime Minister in 2006, Mr. Harper has appointed at least 52 of the Senate’s 106 members, including many failed Conservative party candidates or close associates of the Prime Minister. Despite his claims that he would approach the Senate differently, Mr. Harper has proven by his actions that he is not much different than Prime Ministers Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, or Paul Martin.

In Alberta, the only province to have held elections for Senate nominees, the votes have attracted low levels of attention and there is no indication that the upper chamber is more effective with the three current elected nominees that have been appointed.

Popular Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, seen by many as a potential successor to Mr. Harper, announced today that his government will revoke its support for Senate nominee election in favour of supporting abolishment of the Senate. This positions Mr. Wall alongside Official Opposition NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, who has embraced NDP’s long-standing position that the Senate should be abolished.

The Reform Party’s first leader, Preston Manning, in his role as the godfather of Canada’s conservatives, will today be hosting an all-day Manning Foundation symposium on the future of the Senate. Speakers will include Member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre, former Alberta MLA Ted Morton,  retired Liberal Senator Dan Hays, Calgary School chieftains Tom Flanagan and Rainer Knopff, and former Senator-nominee turned Wildrose Party candidate Link Byfield. This and other Manning Foundation events will coincide with official Conservative Party events in Calgary this weekend.

Provincial NDP take Lethbridge

Meanwhile, in southern Alberta, provincial New Democrats will gather this weekend for their annual convention  in Lethbridge. Delegates will hear from NDP strategist Anne McGrath and Robyn Benson, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

At the annual meeting, NDP leader Brian Mason will not face a leadership review, but his party activists will debate some changes to party operations. One topic of debate will be whether the party holds annual conventions or moves to biennial conventions. Party members are also expected to debate whether the Labour movement should have two vice-presidents represented on the party’s executive council.

Most of the province outside of Edmonton is bleak for the social democratic party, but Lethbridge has provided a glimmer of hope that the NDP plan to build on. In the 2011 federal election, the NDP saw their support double to 27% and in the 2012 provincial election, Lethbridge-West candidate Shannon Phillips placed a strong second in a three-way race won by PC MLA Greg Weadick.

alison redford attends the bilderberg. thomas mulcair visits the oilsands.

Bilderberg Redford

Premier Alison Redford is attending the 2012 Bilderberg Group conference.

There are no shortage of internet conspiracy theories about the mysterious Bilderberg Group conference, but now Alberta Premier Alison Redford will know the truth about the invite-only private annual meeting of the world’s top neo-liberal financial, business, and political elites.

Premier Redford has been invited the the event, which is being held in Virginia from May 31 to June 3. Only a small group of Canadian political leaders have been invited to attend, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former Prime Ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, and former premiers Mike Harris and Gordon Campbell, to name a few.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Party Alberta Election 2012

Danielle Smith: Outraged.

As the emperors of industry behind the Bilderberg Group continue to push failed neo-liberal economic policies that have helped create crumbling markets across the globe, the unbounded potential of Alberta’s natural resource wealth will undoubtedly be a topic of discussion.

Premier Redford’s decision to attend this meeting earned immediate denunciation from Wildrose Official Opposition leader Danielle Smith. Ms. Smith criticized the Premier for not staying in Alberta to confront NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, who was in the province yesterday to visit Fort McMurray and tour an oilsands operation. Reaction to Mr. Mulcair’s visit drew a supportive comment from Wood Buffalo Mayor Melissa Blake, who told the Edmonton Journal:

“It seems like his interests are not necessarily out of alignment with what most Canadians would be interested in – a healthy sustainable environment.”

Breaking from the cries of outrage displayed by many of her Conservative counterparts, Premier Redford has taken a nuanced approach to responding to Mr. Mulcair’s comments that Alberta’s natural resource wealth has contributed to a high Canadian dollar and the decline of Ontario’s manufacturing industry.

Thomas Mulcair NDP Leader

Thomas Mulcair: It's a trap!

Rather than playing into Mr. Mulcair’s strategy to leverage a wedge issue among many voters outside of Alberta (especially in the economically depressed and voter rich southern Ontario) who are uncomfortable with the West’s economic growth and resulting environmental issues, Premier Redford has largely played it cool when responding to criticisms of the oilsands.

For all the criticism of Mr. Mulcair’s strategic play, it provides further evidence that the NDP Official Opposition under his leadership are prepared to use the same type of wedge politics that Prime Minister Harper’s Conservatives have successfully used over the past eight years. It should be noted that Ms. Smith’s Wildrose Party attempted to emulate the same type of wedge politics in the recent provincial election.

Premier Redford’s calm response is a break in style from recent political leaders like former Premier Ralph Klein, who expressed little interest in taking a leading role on the national stage.

As well as a change in tone, Premier Redford has made a number of political moves that suggest a shift toward Alberta’s provincial government becoming a serious player on the national stage, including beginning discussions with other provincial leaders about a [still vaguely defined] National Energy Strategy.

Earlier this month, Premier Redford announced the opening of an Alberta Office in Ottawa. Ms. Smith criticized the announcement, suggesting that the 27 Conservative Party Members of Parliament were doing a good enough job advocating for Albertans in the national capital. As both Ms. Smith and Premier Redford know, many of those Conservative MPs showed various levels of support for the Wildrose Party in the recent election. As a former lobbyist herself, Ms. Smith will undoubtedly be aware that successful lobbying includes more than meeting with politicians.

One person rumoured to be in line for the appointment as the Alberta government’s lobbyist in Ottawa is former Finance Minister Ted Morton, who is a former colleague of now-Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In Ottawa yesterday, Calgary-Centre Conservative MP Lee Richardson announced he had been hired as Premier Redford’s Principal Secretary and senior strategist. Before first heading to Ottawa in the 1980s, Mr. Richardson was the Chief of Staff to Premier Peter Lougheed, who may have been Alberta’s last provincial leader who was also a significant player on the national stage.

liberal party of canada convention 2012 – renewal past the tipping point.

Zack Siezmagraff - Alberta Liberal Daveberta.ca

Zack Siezmagraff

Guest Post by Zack Siezmagraff

I am confident that the LPC convention this past weekend, which I attended as a delegate and past candidate for AB-Yellowhead , is an event that I will look back at in 50 years and tell people, “I was there”.

For those of you who pithily pontificate that the Liberal Party does not fully comprehend the gravity and seriousness of its situation following the 2011 election – we know. Lord in heaven, do we know. As I chatted and dialogued with over 3,200 fellow Liberals in Ottawa, I found unimaginable optimism. With the Harper majority, we have several years to renew and reinvent ourselves – and enough time to get it right.

I believe we have passed the tipping point towards full renewal. We had several bold policy initiatives and constitutional changes on the docket, and with a 2/3 majority required to pass them, there was no certainty at all heading into the convention that the delegates would opt for change and bold ideas as opposed to maintaining the status quo (which won us a great majority in 1980 but hasn’t done much since).

Although we retained leader veto over specific policy and the ability of the leader to appoint candidates, we made several seismic structural changes that have set the stage for the Liberal Renaissance.

First – we are now the most open federal party in the history of the country with the adoption of the “supporter” system. Those delegates that spoke at the microphone for the “No” side of this resolution pleaded that this would open the party to be hijacked by special interests. I marched up to the yes microphone and I told 2,000 Liberals (and whoever was watching on CPAC) that in order for this party to truly become a party of the people, we cannot be afraid of Canadians, we must embrace them. The more voices we have, the better our platform will be. The more Canadians we engage, the more that will trust us with their vote in 2015. Against the odds most pundits and talking heads predicated – the party agreed.

Second – rejecting Sheila Copps for party President, we collectively rejected the leader-centric “Messiah” model in favour of pragmatism. I have nothing but respect and admiration for Ms. Copps, and as talented and dedicated as she would have been, electing her as party President would have sent the wrong message about renewal. Her presence is a reminder of the destructive leadership wars of the 1990s, and I am not convinced that she would not have implicitly gravitated toward the “winning formula” of the 1990s, a formula that only works with a shattered and splintered opposition. Furthermore, I doubt she would have remained in the background. She made more TV appearances in the weeks up to the convention than past President Alf Apps has made in his lifetime.

Third – the policy we passed is Liberal and is in concert with current Canadian sentiment. We rejected the option of severing ties with the monarchy. (For the undecided in the room, all it took was a delegate to march up to the microphone and thunder “Two words: PRESIDENT HARPER”.) We recognized the need for innovation in our infrastructure, and reaffirmed our commitment to development of the oilsands in an environmentally sustainable way.

But of course – the pot resolution. Like most, I was sceptical it would pass. But when I saw the results on the gigantic screen – well over the required 2/3 to pass – I had a profound realization. This convention, with all of the national media in the room – said loud and clear that we are no longer afraid to be Liberal.

As a Liberal, I believe in evidence based policy. I also believe in creative solutions to challenging problems. And I am not afraid to defend my position.

During the tumult of the minority parliaments, we were afraid. Time and again we capitulated to Harper in order to avoid bringing down the government. We did not have the balls to stand up to him – especially on crime. Terrified of the inevitable barrage of “soft on crime” ads, we lied about who we were.

No longer. Not a single person spoke against the pot resolution by arguing that we should be afraid of what Harper will do to us. No one trembled at the thought of an apoplectic Vic Towes predicting Armageddon should this policy come into effect. Why? Because we have evidence, science, and Canadian public opinion on our side. Imagine that. A policy based on evidence. (I’ll explain “evidence” to Gary Goodyear later.)

We opened the party. We took bold policy initiatives. We rejected the celebrity President in favour of a backroom business man with a brilliant vision. And we weren’t afraid to adopt a bold stance on a taboo subject and we will not be afraid to be Liberal.

And we also realize that our return to power will not be easy, and it may take more than one election. The arrogant Liberal Party that sent 3 “power brokers” to Harvard to pluck the next Prime Minister of Canada out of academic obscurity, complete with rigging the local riding nomination to shut out the two local candidates who signed up hundreds of new members, is no more. Casting our eyes south to the hysterical partisanship of a two-party state, we are secure in our belief that there must continue to be a Liberal Party of Canada.

So where does Alberta fit in? Well I learned something astounding. Albertan Liberals are held in tremendous regard by Eastern Liberals. Why? Because given the uphill battle we face in Alberta, our commitment to the Liberal Party is sincere. The supporter motion was born at the Alberta Liberal Party level, and part of the reason I helped convince the delegates to adopt that motion was the fact that the ALP database grew by over 1,000% during the course of last year’s leadership race.

The Liberal Party recognizes that the days of winning majorities with only a smattering of seats in the prairies (see Trudeau, Chretien) are over. There is a sincere and honest desire to build a grassroots, national party. As one delegate put it to me, “when we win a seat in Alberta, it will electrify the whole party.” And I know it can be done. Our new President made it clear that grassroots rebuilding in Alberta is a priority. The Liberal Party gets it. We cannot govern – in fact, I would argue we don’t deserve to govern – unless we can command support across this great nation.

Necessity is the mother of invention. Boy, did we ever (re)invent!

——-

Zack Siezmagraff is a fixture in the Edmonton Liberal community. He ran for the Liberal Party of Canada in the 2011 election in Yellowhead , and currently serves as the President of the Edmonton-Glenora Provincial Liberal Association.  You can follow him on Twitter @ZackSiezmagraff.

alberta liberal attrition.

Today’s news that Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor is leaving the Liberal caucus is big news for political watchers, but it is far from the first time that an MLA has left the Alberta Liberal Caucus. Due to many circumstances, ten MLAs have departed the Liberal Caucus before their term has ended over the past 16 years.

2006: One-term Edmonton-Manning MLA Dan Backs was expelled from the Liberal caucus by party leader Kevin Taft due to “ongoing friction” between the MLA and his colleagues. Mr. Back sat an an Independent MLA. After unsuccessfully seeking the PC nomination in 2008, Mr. Backs ran as an Independent and placed third behind Tory Peter Sandhu and New Democrat Rick Murti.

2004: Leader and Lethbridge-East MLA Ken Nicol and Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Debby Carlson both left the Liberal caucus to run as federal Liberal candidates. Dr. Nicol eared 21.5% support against Conservative MP Rick Casson, and Ms. Carlson placed only 5,000 votes behind Edmonton-Strathcona Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer.

2000: Edmonton-Norwood MLA Sue Olsen left the Liberal caucus to run peruse a career in federal politics. Ms. Olsen was unsuccessful in her campaign to unseat Edmonton-Centre East MP Peter Goldring.

1999: One-term Edmonton-Castle Downs MLA Pamela Paul left the Liberal caucus to sit as an Independent MLA after domestic issues made it difficult for her to work with her caucus colleagues. She did not seek re-election in 2001.

1998: Two-term Edmonton-Mill Creek MLA Gene Zwozdesky left the Liberals over a dispute with leader Nancy MacBeth. One month later, he joined the Progressive Conservative caucus and is currently the Minister of Health & Wellness.

1996: Former leader and Redwater MLA Nick Taylor left the Liberal caucus when he was appointed to the Senate of Canada by Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

1995: Edmonton-Norwood MLA Andrew Beniuk was expelled from the Liberal caucus and sat as an Independent before joining the PCs in 1996. Mr. Beniuk was defeated by Liberal Sue Olsen in the 1997 election. Mr. Beniuk attempted political comebacks as the PC candidate in Edmonton-Glengarry in 2001 and Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood in 2008.

1994: Edmonton-Beverly-Belmont MLA Julius Yankowski and Lac La Biche-St. Paul MLA Paul Langevin left the Liberals to sit as Independent MLAs before joining the PC caucus in 1995 and were both re-elected in 1997. Mr. Langevin retired in 2001 and Mr. Yankowski was defeated by New Democrat Ray Martin in 2004.