Tag Archives: Jim Dinning

Get ready for a by-election in Calgary-Lougheed

Photo: A map of the Calgary-Lougheed constituency.

With Calgary-Lougheed MLA Dave Rodney expected to resign tomorrow in order to provide new United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney an opportunity to enter the Legislative Assembly, a by-election will need to be called by May 1, 2018.

Dave Rodney MLA Calgary Lougheed

Dave Rodney

The exact timing of the by-election will be determined by Premier Rachel Notley but the smart money is on it being called soon. Every day that Kenney is not tied up with Legislative duties in Edmonton, he will be campaigning across the province.

Despite being a close race in the 2015 election, with Rodney finishing 502 votes ahead of New Democrat Mihai Ion, the Orange Wave is now at low tide in Calgary. It seems likely that Kenney should have an easy time being elected in this constituency, which has elected conservative MLAs since it was first created in 1993 (but as well all know, by-elections can sometimes produce unexpected results…).

There is some irony that Kenney, who is in the midst of an ongoing feud with the Lougheed family, would become the MLA for a constituency named after Peter Lougheed. As a Member of Parliament, Kenney was quoted in 1999 describing the “neo-Stalinist make-work projects of the Lougheed and Getty years.

Presented with the chance to directly challenge Kenney, will Liberal Party leader David Khan carry his party’s banner in the by-election? His chance of victory are slim to none, but it would give him an opportunity to campaign and potentially face Kenney in any local all-candidates debates (if Kenney participates).

David Khan Alberta Liberal Party Leader

David Khan

The by-election also provides an opportunity for the Alberta Party to run a candidate. The party did not participate in the last Calgary by-election in Calgary-Greenway, but the recent floor-crossing of former NDP MLA Karen McPherson and potential future floor-crossings by former PC MLAs could provide some momentum for the upstart party.

The Calgary-Lougheed constituency was first created in 1993 and was represented by Provincial Treasurer Jim Dinning until 1997. PC MLA Marlene Graham then represented the constituency until 2004, when Rodney was first elected.

This would be the second time in recent history that a sitting MLA resigned in order to allow a party leader to run in a by-election. Len Webber resigned as MLA for Calgary-Foothills in 2014 to trigger a by-election for PC Party leader Jim Prentice. And in 1998, former Liberal Party leader Grant Mitchell stepped down as MLA for Edmonton-McClung to allow new party leader Nancy MacBeth to run in a by-election.

I have created a dedicated webpage to track party nominations and the candidates running in the Calgary-Lougheed by-election.

Here is a look at election results from Calgary-Lougheed for the General Elections from 1993 to 2015:
 

 

No place for second place in the UCP?

Brian Jean Calgary Stampede AlbertaFormer Wildrose leader and recent UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean was the only UCP MLA not assigned a role in the new Official Opposition critic roster.

Jean told reporters that he declined to accept any critic role, and despite the ill will generated towards each other in the leadership race, it seems hard to believe Kenney would completely shut-out the former party leader.

But this move, or lack thereof, will undoubtably fuel rumours that Jean is considering leaving politics. His resignation would trigger a by-election in the Fort McMurray-Conklin constituency, which he has represented since May 2015.

Updated: A Timeline of Alberta’s Gay-Straight Alliance debate

Alberta Gay Straight Alliance Debate

Justice Minister Jonathan Denis, Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, Premier Jim Prentice and PC MLA Sandra Jansen

It is sometimes amazing how quickly one political issue can transform and dominate the debate. This week’s raging debate about allowing Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) in Alberta schools has twisted and turned so many times, it has become difficult to figure out who is in and out of the closet on this issue.

Wikipedia defines a Gay-Straight Alliance as student-led organizations that are intended to provide a safe, supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth and their straight allies. A recent study from the University of British Columbia found that Canadian schools with GSAs may reduce the odds of suicidal thoughts and attempts among both sexual minority and straight students.

Here is a simple timeline following the ongoing provincial debate around these student clubs in Alberta schools:

April 7, 2014: Liberal MLA Kent Hehr introduces Motion 503:

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

A coalition of 31 Progressive Conservative and Wildrose MLAs vote down Motion 503. Nineteen Liberal, NDP and PC MLAs, including PC anti-bullying Minister Sandra Jansen vote in favour of the motion.

September 15, 2014: Premier Jim Prentice appoints Gordon Dirks as Education Minister. Mr. Dirks is criticized for his relationship with evangelical Christian schools in Calgary.

 October 15, 2014: Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman announces plans to introduce a private members’ bill to mandate school boards to develop policies to support students who start a gay-straight alliance in their schools by offering meeting space and benefits given to other clubs.

November 15, 2014: At the party’s annual policy convention, Wildrose members reject a ‘definitive’ statement on equality. Party members voted against adopting as policy a statement affirming the rights for everyone regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, and other differences.

November 18, 2014: Wildrose leader Danielle Smith says her caucus will likely support Ms. Blakeman’s private members’ bill and prominent members of Edmonton’s LGBTQ community speak in favour of the bill.

November 20, 2014: Ms. Blakeman introduces Bill 202: Safe and Inclusive Schools Statutes Amendment Act, 2014 into the Legislative Assembly. It passes first reading.

November 22, 2014: Attending the annual Gay-Straight Alliances conference at the University of Alberta, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson speaks in favour of Bill 202. “People don’t all come in the same shapes and sizes, colours and genders so it is important that a space everyone is compelled to go to as part of their education makes space for everyone,” Mr. Iveson told reporters.

November 24, 2014: Wildrose MLAs Kerry Towle and Ian Donovan cross the floor to the PC caucus. The Wildrose Caucus defies its party’s members by issuing its own resolution on equality.

Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson proposes amendments to Bill 202 which would allow Catholic and other religious schools to opt-out of allowing student to form gay-straight alliances.

November 25, 2014: Mr. Prentice announces that PC MLAs will be allowed a “free vote on Bill 202. Mr. Donovan tells CBC that the PC Party is now more socially conservative than the Wildrose Party and that the GSA vote contributed to his joining the PC Party.

November 27, 2014: At a hastily called press conference, Mr. Prentice declares that Ms. Blakeman’s bill was no longer needed because he plans to introduce his own bill dealing with Gay-Straight Alliances. Arguing in favour of ‘parental rights,’ Mr. Prentice says his bill will allow school boards to decide whether GSAs should be allowed. If students are turned down, Mr. Prentice says they can take legal action against their school boards. It is suspected that Mr. Prentice’s bill was not yet written at this time.

December 1, 2014: Mr. Dirks, Ms. Jansen and Justice Minister Jonathan Denis hold a press conference during the time originally allotted to debate Bill 202. Bill 10: An Act to Amend the Alberta Bill of Rights to Protect our Children is introduced into the Legislature by Ms. Jansen and passes first reading. ‘We’re moving forward. We’re moving forward incrementally,‘ said Ms. Jansen on the issue of gay rights. The Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald publish editorials harshly critical of Bill 10.

December 2, 2014: Bill 10 passes second reading and procedurally removes Bill 202 from the legislative order paper. Forty-two PC and Wildrose MLAs vote in favour and 9 opposition MLAs, including Ms. Blakeman, Ms. Smith, NDP leader Rachel Notley and Liberal leader Raj Sherman, vote against the bill.

Only one PC MLA, Thomas Lukaszuk, votes against it. “I simply do not believe in incremental granting of human rights,” Mr. Lukaszuk told the media. “We didn’t give women half a vote, we gave them a full vote during the suffrage debate.”

Klein-era Alberta Treasurer Jim Dinning condemns the PCs on Twitter for the limited time made available to debate the GSA issue in the Legislature.

Jon Cornish, a running back for the 2014 Grey Cup champion Calgary Stampeders, criticizes Bill 10 on Twitter.

December 3, 2014: Two days after it was introduced in the Legislature, Mr. Denis announces plans to amend Bill 10. The Edmonton Youth Council votes 14-1 to pass an amendment against Bill 10.

Ms. Jansen introduces an amendment that opposition parties say will simply segregate gay students and move their support groups out of schools entirely. “That student now does not have to go to the court, they come to the Alberta ministry of education and we provide that GSA for them, and hopefully within the school environment,” Jansen said in the Assembly. “But if that is impossible, we’ll make sure they get that GSA regardless.” Education Minister Mr. Dirks was silent during this debate and Mr. Prentice was not in attendance.

The amendment passes with the support of 38 PC MLAs, including Mr. Dirks. PC MLAs Doug Griffiths, Mr. Donovan and Mr. Lukaszuk join with 14 opposition MLAs and vote against the amendment. PC MLA Jason Luan spoke against Bill 10, but was absent during the vote on the amendment.

December 4, 2014: Former PC MLA and Senator Ron Ghitter tells the Calgary Herald he is disappointed in the “backwards” legislation put forward by Mr. Prentice’s government to deal with the issue of gay-straight alliances in schools.

BT Edmonton host Ryan Jespersen uses his platform on the popular morning television program to castigate PC MLAs for their support of Bill 10.

Popular artists Tegan and Sarah published a post on their blog against Bill 10 and well-known Canadian entertainer Rick Mercer also takes aim at Mr. Prentice’s Bill 10 and his position on gay rights.

A number of PC Party members announce their resignations from positions in their party in opposition to Bill 10. Calgary-Bow PC association President Josh Traptow announced he resigned in order to speak out against Bill 10. Former Calgary City Council candidate Chris Harper announced on Twitter that he left the PC Party and resigned from his local PC constituency association. And Brenda Meneghetti, campaign manager for former leadership candidate Ken Hughes, announced she has left the PC Party because of Bill 10.

After facing four-days of widespread opposition and condemnation, Mr. Prentice announces at a hastily arranged press conference that he is putting Bill 10 on hold and that is postponing the third reading vote on the controversial bill.

Bill 10 has added to, rather than resolved these divisions, and I accept personal responsibility for that as the premier,” Mr. Prentice told reporters. Following Mr. Prentice’s backtrack on Bill 10, Ms. Blakeman announced plans to ask the Legislature to resurrect her original Bill 202.

And then there were three (white men)

2014 PC Leadership Race Alberta Thomas Lukaszuk Jim Prentice Ric McIver

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

As the deadline for candidates to enter their names (and $50,000 fee) in the contest to become the next leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Association came to a close yesterday, three politicians have put forward their names – bank vice-president and former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice and former provincial cabinet ministers Ric McIver and Thomas Lukaszuk.

A quick glance at the names of the three candidates confirms that no women or visible minorities have entered the race to fill the position vacated by Alberta’s first woman premier, Alison Redford, who was pushed out of office only a few short months ago. A few woman candidates were rumoured to be interested, but the most high profile of those rumoured, Energy minister Diana McQueen, declined to run, choosing instead to endorse Mr. Prentice.

While Canada reached a high-water mark in recent years, with women occupying the premiers office in six provinces and territories, the number has plummeted after recent elections. Today, only British Columbia and Ontario have women premiers (and Ontario voters will decide the fate of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals on June 12, 2014).

Alberta could once again enter this category if Official Opposition leader Danielle Smith leads her Wildrose Party to win the next election. Edmonton MLA Rachel Notley is said to be considering a run for the Alberta NDP leadership and some say she would become an instant front-runner if she enters the race.

All three PC leadership candidates have cut their political teeth in Alberta’s largest cities. Mr. Prentice was the Member of Parliament for Calgary-Centre North from 2004 to 2010, Mr. McIver as a Calgary MLA, former Alderman and mayoral candidate, and Mr. Lukaszuk as the MLA for Edmonton-Castle Downs since 2001.

The presence of three urban candidates signals both the growing political importance of the province’s two largest cities (and the urban agenda’s put forward by popular mayors Don Iveson and Naheed Nenshi) and the PC Party’s weakness in rural Alberta.

Not having a candidate from rural Alberta is embarrassing for the 43-year governing party. Once almost universally dominated by PC MLAs, the Tories have seen their support plummet in rural and small-town Alberta over the past four years. In the last election, many PC MLAs, including a some senior cabinet ministers, were handily defeated by Wildrose candidates in rural constituencies that had voted enmasse for the PC Party for more than three decades.

This is also the smallest number of candidates to participate in a PC leadership race since the party chose Don Getty as leader in 1985. In 1992, there were 9 candidates; in 2006 there were 8 and the 2011 leadership race attracted 6 candidates.

The small-number of candidates is a testament of the internal turmoil in the PC Party following the coup d’etat that caused Ms. Redford’s departure and the strength of Mr. Prentice’s campaign. Whether it is perceived or real, the ‘Team Prentice’ brand quickly drew the support of more than twenty PC MLAs and an army of party insiders and political consultants.

Unlike the deflated front-runners in previous PC leadership campaigns – Jim Dinning and Gary Mar – Mr. Prentice has succeeded in scaring away most of his credible potential challengers. Whether he suffers the same fate as these former ‘front-runners’, who were later defeated by underdogs, is yet to be seen.

The challenge for the three candidates will be to generate interest in a campaign that already feels like it is a forgone conclusion (a victory by Mr. Prentice). A big question is whether the any of the candidates in this race will be compelling enough to convince those thousands of ‘two-minute Tories‘ to lend them their votes.

Tracking Alberta MLA endorsements in the PC Leadership race

 

MLA endorsements in the 2014 Alberta PC leadership race. Blue: Jim Prentice; Red: Ric McIver; White: No endorsement; Grey: Opposition-held riding

MLA endorsements in the 2014 Alberta PC leadership race. Blue: Jim Prentice; Red: Ric McIver; White: No endorsement; Grey: Opposition-held riding

In party leadership races, endorsements by sitting MLAs can be a double-edged sword. Endorsements can lend credibility to candidates and individual MLAs own local political networks to the campaign. Large numbers of endorsements can also signal to rank and file party members where their party’s establishment is lining up.

But MLA endorsements are not always a solid indicator of who will win a party leadership vote. In 2006, Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Jim Dinning had the support of the majority of PC MLAs, but he was defeated by Ed Stelmach. In 2011, Gary Mar had the support of a majority of PC MLAs, but he was defeated by Alison Redford.

In this year’s Alberta PC Party leadership race, bank vice-president Jim Prentice has the overwhelming lead in MLA endorsements. As of today, I count at least 15 PC MLAs who have lent their names to support his campaign to become their leader. More are expected to endorse Mr. Prentice:

MLA’s endorsing Mr. Prentice’s bid for the PC leadership are Manmeet Bhullar (Calgary-Greenway), Neil Brown (Calgary-Nose Hill), Robin Campbell (West Yellowhead), Alana DeLong (Calgary-Bow), Jonathan Denis (Calgary-Acadia), David Dorward (Edmonton-Gold Bar), Kyle Fawcett (Calgary-Klein), Doug Griffiths (Battle River-Wainwright), Fred Horne (Edmonton-Rutherford) Ken Hughes (Calgary-West), Jeff Johnson (Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater), Diana McQueen (Drayton Valley-Devon), Dave Rodney (Calgary-Lougheed), George Rogers (Leduc-Beaumont), Greg Weadick (Lethbridge-West).

The only other candidate to enter the leadership race, Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver, has no declared support from inside the PC caucus. Thomas Lukaszuk, who is expected to enter the contest, also has yet to receive any MLA endorsements.

Calgary-Hawkwood MLA Jason Luan and Banff-Cochrane MLA Ron Casey endorsed the short-lived leadership campaign of Ken Hughes, who is now endorsing Mr. Prentice.

I will be tracking the list of PC MLA endorsements on the 2014 Progressive Conservative Party leadership contest page.

Alberta Tories waiting for a Jim Prentice coronation

Jim Prentice: The Great Tory Hope

Jim Prentice: The Great Tory Hope

Could the snoozer that has become Alberta’s Progressive Conservative leadership race risk becoming a coronation if former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice jumps into the race?

Necessitated by the resignation of Premier Alison Redford on March 19, the race to choose the next leader of Alberta’s 43-year long governing PC Party has so far drawn little interest from serious candidates and yawns from political watchers.

While other would-be contenders, like Labour Minister Thomas Lukaszuk and Justice Minister Jonathan Denis, are kicking-tires and positioning themselves for a run, the popular wisdom of the day suggests that Mr. Prentice would be an unstoppable front-runner. Even the sole candidate to have entered the contest so far, former Municipal Affairs minister Ken Hughes, has publicly suggested he would consider withdrawing his candidacy if Mr. Prentice runs. [see comment section below for clarification]

This popular wisdom is based on the assumption that he will actually be a candidate, which may not be a forgone conclusion.

Some Tories I have spoken with talk about Mr. Prentice as their only hope of stopping Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party in the next election. They talk about Mr. Prentice as the only person who can shake off the damaging baggage left after Ms. Redford’s tenure as PC leader. And they talk about the large amount of corporate money they expect he could attract to fill their party’s coffers.

Thomas Lukaszuk MLA Edmonton-Castle Downs

Thomas Lukaszuk

Mr. Prentice has already received the endorsement of Calgary cabinet minister Manmeet Bhullar and is said to be convening a team largely made up of  supporters of past PC Party leadership front-runners Jim Dinning and Gary Mar.

As an outsider, it appears the Tories risk being blinded by star power, as all these hopes and dreams are built on a complete lack of information about what Mr. Prentice would stand for as a party leader and premier.

Sure, Mr. Prentice has built a respectable career as a cabinet minister in Ottawa and as a senior executive of a major Canadian bank, but no one really knows what kind of Premier or Party leader he would be. Does he support Finance minister Doug Horner‘s plans to impose drastic changes on public sector pension plans? How would he approach the province’s choppy relationships with Alberta’s fast-growing cities? Where does he stand on public health care? Education curriculum? Agriculture? Public infrastructure? Climate change?

Jonathan Denis MLA Calgary Acadia

Jonathan Denis

Two years ago, many Albertans looked at Ms. Redford’s resume and assumed that she hailed from the Lougheedian progressive side of the her party. Many of those same Albertans were bitterly disappointed when she forced deep funding cuts on universities and colleges, and attacked the public sector workers whose votes saved her party from defeat on election day in 2012.

A coronation would also present a missed opportunity for the PC Party to reconnect with its supporters and discover who its base of support is in 2014. This would be important because it is not entirely clear what the PC Party stands for today and is very unclear what it will stand for after their new leader is selected in September.

Provincial By-Elections?
With Ms. Redford appearing uninterested in continuing her duties as the MLA for Calgary-Elbow, it is possible that a by-election could be held to provide an opportunity for a new party leader who is not an MLA to earn a seat in the Assembly. This would be the second by-election in that riding in eight years. Liberal Craig Cheffins won the seat in the by-election held to replace retired Premier Ralph Klein in 2007.

Other opportunities for by-elections may open up if the three MLAs seeking federal party nominations – Calgary-McCall MLA Darshan Kang, Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber, and Edmonton-McClung MLA David Xiao – decide to resign their seats in advance of the next federal election.

Insiders will pretend to be outsiders in the PC leadership race

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel

Former Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel is not running for the PC Party leadership

Former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel announced yesterday that he will not run for the Progressive Conservative Party leadership. Mr. Mandel was seen as a great hope by many Edmonton Tories, who believed him to be the outsider who could breath some fresh air into the stuffy corridors of the Alberta Legislature. Mr. Mandel would have been 70-years old by the time the next election would be called.

Jim Prentice Alberta PC Leadership

Jim Prentice

Former cabinet minister Gary Mar has ruled himself out as a candidate, as has former Finance minister Jim Dinning. Conservative MP James Rajotte is frequently mentioned as a potential leadership candidate, but it seems unlikely. Senator Scott Tannas briefly expressed interest, but has since declined.

Former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice is frequently mention as a contender, but is he willing to abandon his high-paying job on Bay Street, and a chance at becoming Prime Minister? Why would Mr. Prentice want lead a provincial political party that is scandal-ridden and behind the times on fundamental social policy issues?

With the obvious outsiders sitting out, this leadership race could end up being a contest defined by insiders pretending they are outsiders.

Announcing his bid last week, Municipal Affairs minister Ken Hughes is the first candidate to enter the contest. He launched his campaign by positioning himself as a political outsider, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

The former MP and chairman of Alberta Health Services served on Premier Alison Redford‘s transition team before he jumped back into electoral politics in 2011. Running for the PC nomination in Calgary-West, Mr. Hughes lost and then won a subsequent vote against former MLA Shiraz Shariff. Upon his election, he was immediately appointed Minister of Energy, one of the most coveted positions in cabinet.

Doug Horner

Doug Horner

If Finance minister Doug Horner is going to run for the leadership, which may not a certainty, he is expected to wait until after the provincial budget is passed before resigning from cabinet. Mr. Horner’s support for controversial changes to Alberta’s public sector pension plan, which could negatively impact the retirement security of more than 300,000 Albertans, will certainly dog him during the campaign.

Currently scheduled to break on June 5, Premier Dave Hancock suggested this week the spring session of the Assembly might be cut short before May 15. That also happens to be the first day that candidates for the PC Party leadership can pick up their nomination packages and pay $20,000 of the $50,000 entry fee. Nominations close on May 30 and accepted nominees will be announced at a party event on June 2.

Ending the session early would also save the Tories from an embarrassing two weeks of having to dodge tough questions from the Wildrose Party about Ms. Redford’s travel expenses and Alberta Health Services’ $1 billion in untendered sole source contracts. Other than Mr. Horner’s provincial budget and two pension bills, the PCs have brought almost no substance to this session.

Other cabinet ministers rumoured to be preparing a run for the leadership include Labour minister Thomas Lukaszuk, Justice minister Jonathan Denis, Energy minister Diana McQueen, and Infrastructure minister Ric McIver. Of this group, perhaps only Mr. McIver, a first-term MLA and former Calgary alderman, could realistically argue he is an outsider.

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Union donations in Alberta
Labour unions traditionally make up a small percentage of donors to Alberta’s political parties, and when they donate, it is typically to one party in particular.

According to financial disclosures from Elections Alberta, the large majority of political donations made by trade unions in the first quarter of 2014 were made to the Progressive Conservatives, with more than $18,000. The province’s social democratic NDP, the traditional party of organized labour, collected slightly more $6,100 in union donations in the same period.

6 reasons why history will be kind to Ed Stelmach

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach

On January 25, 2011, Ed Stelmach announced his plans to step down as premier of Alberta. He left office on October 7, 2011.

Two years ago today, Ed Stelmach quietly stepped out of the political spotlight after a nearly five years as Premier of Alberta. The mild-mannered farmer from Andrew dedicated more than twenty-five years of his life to municipal and provincial politics and led the Progressive Conservative Association to win one of its largest electoral victories in forty years. Despite this win, his party’s Calgary establishment never forgave him for defeating their choice for leader.

On January 25, 2011, facing dangerous divisions in his party and caucus, Mr. Stelmach announced his decision to resign. On October 7, 2011, he was officially replaced by Calgary MLA Alison Redford.

While there were certainly controversies and missteps during his time as premier, Mr. Stelmach made significant decisions that have had a positive effect on our province. Considering my history with the man, some readers may be surprised to learn that I believe history will be kind to Alberta’s thirteenth Premier. Here’s why.

Six reasons why history will be kind to Ed Stelmach

1) Mr. Stelmach reinvested in public services and infrastructure. After years of neglect, his government tackled the province’s growing deferred maintenance budget by investing billions of dollars into public infrastructure. The $1 billion GreenTrip Fund provided to municipalities allowed for the expansion of public transit in Alberta’s fast-growing cities. A series of 5% increases to the health care budget helped to stabilize the see-saw of unpredictable funding allocated by his predecessor, Ralph Klein.

2) The creation of the Capital Region Board helped de-escalate the tensions and narrow the deep divisions between the dozens of municipalities in the Edmonton region. While tensions still exist in some corners of the capital region, Mr. Stelmach helped usher a détente‎ by forcing the municipal politicians to use a process for resolving grievances and planning the future.

3) The creation of the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness set a bold plan in motion to eliminate homelessness in our province by 2017. Along with plans to end homelessness in Calgary, Edmonton, and many other cities in the province, thousands of Albertans have been successfully housed through programs like Housing First. In 2012, Edmonton’s Homeward Trust honoured Mr. Stelmach with Special Recognition for Leadership towards Ending Homelessness

4) The introduction of the Lobbyist Registry helped shine a spotlight into the shadowy world of political lobbying and horse-trading. Although not foolproof, the registry gives Albertans a chance to see who is being paid to influence their elected officials on a daily basis.

5) During his first year in office, Mr. Stelmach concluded a deal with the Alberta Teachers Association in which the province agreed to contribute $2.1 billion towards the $6.6 billion unfunded pension liability. In exchange, Alberta’s 34,000 teachers  agreed to a five-year contract.

6) Mr. Stelmach moved the Tories back to the centre of the political spectrum. While he did not stay to face them in an election, he recognized that to compete with the upstart Wildrose Party, he needed to move his party to the middle, rather than the political right. While this angered his opponents both inside and outside his party, this decision may have helped save his party from political defeat in the 2012 election.

Alberta Budget 2013 a confusing start to the Tory re-election strategy.

Rumours swirled through the halls of the Legislative for weeks. Whispers and warnings of cuts and rollbacks not seen since Ralph Klein and Jim Dinning unleashed a scorched earth policy on the provincial budget in the mid-1990s. Back in debt. Broken promises. Bankrupt budgets.

The end was nigh.

And today, the budget was tabled and the massive cutbacks did not emerge.

The end is not nigh, but remains difficult to figure out what long-term goals Finance Minister Doug Horner and Premier Alison Redford plan to accomplish with Alberta’s 2013 provincial budget. The devil is in the details and the posturing for the next provincial election, expected in 2016, has already begun.

Doug Horner

Doug Horner

The Sustainability Fund that has saved our provincial government from going back into debt for five years is gone and in its place, the government is introducing the Fiscal Management Act, which Minister Horner says will mandate annual savings. In hindsight, and the world of smart fiscal management, this is probably something that the Tories should have started doing when they first formed government more than forty years ago.

Different than most years, this year’s budget is separated into three categories – operating, capital, and savings. This helps the government deflect criticism that it has returned to capital financing in order to build much needed public infrastructure and poses roadblocks to opposition groups hoping to make straight comparisons to previous budgets. The split also allows government ministers to argue with the deficit-hawks in the Wildrose official opposition that the “real” deficit, in the operating budget, is only projected to be $2 billion.

Overall, the budget for 2013-2014 is projected to stay the same as last year’s provincial budget, though the funding within the $36 billion has shifted. Cuts have been made.

Premier Alison Redford

Premier Alison Redford

The largest slice of the budget, going Alberta Health Services budget was increased by 3%, rather than the promised 4.5%. AHS Chairman Stephen Lockwood, the trucking magnate from Okotoks, weeks ago publicly declared that he would not fight for the full promised increase.

The Municipal Sustainability Initiative grants awarded to cities, towns, and counties have been frozen at $846 million, the rate in last year’s budget. This may feel problematic for some municipalities, who have already borrowed funds based on expected MSI funding in order to finance critical infrastructure projects. Alberta’s municipalities are responsible for so much of the critical infrastructure and services Albertans interact with daily.

The Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, known to political insiders as the “Tory farm team” because past rural Tory MLAs who have emerged from its ranks, expressed its disappointment in the cuts to municipal funding programs.

“Rural municipalities are responsible for the roads that keep our economy moving and the government’s lack of support for this critical responsibility will have a huge impact on our members’ budgets,” said AAMDC President Bob Barss.

The Advanced Education budget was cut by 6.8%, creating a likely situation that will see Universities and colleges turn to raising tuition and non-instructional fees levied on students to fill their financial gaps. University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera sent a mass-email to staff and students earlier this week warning them that changes are on their way.

Calling the post-secondary cuts the largest in two decades, Council of Alberta University Students chair Raphael Jacob said “these cuts are going to have an immediate impact on the quality of our post-secondary education, and potentially longer impacts on the affordability and accessibility of degrees in Alberta.”

The budget also leaves unresolved a number of outstanding political issues facing Premier Redford’s government, such as the two ongoing labour disputes with Alberta teachers and doctors. These fights remain unresolved as the budget included a one year wage freeze for all public employees, including remuneration for doctors. The wage freeze should not be an issue for the teachers, who proposed a deal for two years without wage increases, but the doctors may move to escalate their dispute.

There will be no shortage of commentary on the political implications of this year’s provincial budget, but it is the long-game that matters. This budget is the first of a potential four before the Tories are expected call the next election in 2016. Whether they hope the Fiscal Management Act will earn them dividends from voters or that revenue from an increased price of oil will once again overflow government coffers, we are just in the first year of a four-year long political game.

Something was rotten in the former Calgary Health Region.

Tory Party Calgary Health Region Fundraising

A PC Party fundraiser mourns the loss of the Calgary Health Region.

Intrepid CBC investigative journalist Charles Rusnell has uncovered another swath of illegal political donations made to Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party:

Lynn Redford, sister of Alberta Premier Alison Redford, attended Progressive Conservative party events at public expense and helped organize an annual Tory barbeque while she was a senior executive at the Calgary Health Region.

Expense-claim records, obtained by CBC News through Freedom of Information, show Redford attended a Conservative party annual general meeting in Edmonton, and several fundraisers, including premier’s dinners and a golf tournament fundraiser for Tory MLA Dave Coutts.

The documents show she attended these functions, all, or in part, at the health region’s expense, claiming fundraiser tickets, travel costs, mileage, hotel rooms and even more than $200 for liquor for a Tory barbeque.

Redford also expensed a breakfast with her sister Alison, a couple months after she was first elected in 2008.

Under Alberta law, it is illegal for publicly-funded institutions, including the Calgary Health Region, to make political donations.

As I wrote on August 23 2012, for many years, the Calgary Health Region benefited from political proximity to both Premier Ralph Klein, and former Provincial Treasurer Jim Dinning, who later served as chairman of the health region’s board of directors. Numerous political archetypes with close connections to the PC Party were appointed by the government to serve on the health authority’s board of directors.

This summer, following the implementation of an audit to investigate allegations of misspending by an executive of the former Capital Health Region, the government and Alberta Health Services initially resisted expanding an audit to other former regional health authorities.

Limiting the investigation to the former Edmonton health executives fuelled speculation that executives of the former Calgary Health Region, now comfortably occupying senior positions at AHS, were campaigning to discredit the work done by executives of Edmonton’s former Capital Health Region.

Following the expense claims controversy, current AHS President and CEO Chris Eagle, a former Calgary Health Region executive, reimbursed the provincial health authority for expenses including airfare and liquor.

It is suspected that the creation of the provincial health superboard was a reaction to the political brazenness of former Calgary Health Region CEO and Klein-loyalist Jack Davis. As the Calgary Health Region recorded a $85 million deficit, Mr. Davis went public to get more money from Premier Ed Stelmach’s government before the 2008 election, which threatened to make it an campaign issue.

Soon after the Tories were re-elected in 2008, the remaining regional health authorities were dissolved and Alberta Health Services was created.

is edmonton’s former capital health board being targeted by a calgary-led witch-hunt?

Witch Trial Alberta Health Services

The Alberta Health Services investigation into former Capital Health executives.

Are executives of the former Calgary Health Region, now comfortably occupying senior positions at Alberta Health Services, campaigning to discredit the work done by executives of Edmonton’s now-defunct Capital Health Region?

AHS President and CEO Chris Eagle announced earlier this week that, following the Allaudin Merali expense-claims scandal, an Ernst and Young audit would expand to include expense-claims from all former executives of Edmonton’s Capital Region Heath Authority. This expenses audit could include investigations into former Capital Health President and CEO Sheila Weatherhill, who recently resigned from the AHS Board of Directors, and potentially Ethics Commissioner Neil Wilkinson, who served as Capital Health’s board chairman until 2008.

Despite calls from critics to expand the expenses audit, it will not investigate former executives from Alberta’s other now-defunct regional health authorities.

Before it was dissolved, Capital Health was widely seen as an example of innovative regional health care in Alberta for its pioneering of Health Link and creation of the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute and the Edmonton Clinic at the University of Alberta. The targeting of only Capital Health officials in this expense-audit could be seen as a campaign to discredit their many successes of Capital Health by officials from the former Calgary Health Region, which was mired in a financial deficit.

Some current Alberta Health Services senior executives who were employed or connected with the former Calgary Health Region include President & CEO Mr. Eagle, Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer Bill Trafford, Chief Operations Officer Chris Marzukowich, Chief Medical Officer David Megran, and Senior Vice President (Communications) Roman Cooney. Even the AHS senior vice-president in charge of the Edmonton zone, Mike Conroy, held several senior management positions with the Calgary Health Region.

For many years, the Calgary Health Region benefited from political proximity to both Premier Ralph Klein, and former Provincial Treasurer Jim Dinning, who later served as chairman of the health region’s board of directors. Prominent politically connected directors appointed to serve on the Calgary Health board included Premier Klein’s constituency president Skip MacDonald and Progressive Conservative Party vice-president Scobey Hartley.

In some circles, it is suspected that the creation of the provincial health superboard was a reaction to the political brazenness of former Calgary Health Region CEO Jack Davis, who was known to use media attention to leverage increased funding from the provincial government. As CEO of Capital Health, Ms. Weatherill used considerably more tact than her Calgary counterpart, relying on official channels to lobby the government.

In its final year of existence, the Calgary Health Region recorded a $85 million deficit and Mr. Davis went public to get more money from Premier Ed Stelmach’s government before the 2008 election, which threatened to make it an campaign issue. Shortly after the Tories were re-elected in 2008, the regional health authorities were dissolved and Health Minister Ron Liepert created Alberta Health Services. The dissolution of the Calgary Health Region led to Mr. Davis receiving a $4 million retirement package (Ms. Weatherill was paid about $2 million under her supplemental executive retirement plan).

Expanding the expense-claims audit beyond the Capital Health Region could reveal similarities and contrasts in expense-claims, but more dangerously for some, it could dive into the annals of PC Party patronage. The regional health boards across the province were notoriously stacked with appointees who also happened to be card-carrying members of the PC Party.

Among the prominent Tories appointed as chairman of the former regional health authorities included cabinet minister and PC election campaign manager Marvin Moore in the Peace Country Health Authority and former cabinet minister, Ernie Isley, who served as chairman of the Lakeland Health Authority, which posted a $4 million deficit in 2002.

could hugh macdonald save albertans from another snoozer senate election?

Alberta will be holding its fourth ever Senate election in 2012.

Last Friday, the Progressive Conservatives released the rules to guide the nomination of their candidates in next year’s Senate election (or more accurately, ‘Senator-in-Waiting‘ election). The PCs will open nominations on December 9, 2011.

Candidates must submit a non-refundable fee of $4000 and collects the signatures of 50 current PC Party members from Alberta’s five regions. Once they have gone through this process, they will be required to enter a special vote in February 2012, giving an indication about when then next provincial election may be called. Those participating in the vote will include constituency association presidents, nominated PC candidates, voting members of the party executive committee, and four elected delegates from each of the 87 constituency associations.

Calgary lawyer Doug Black and Calgary-area businessman Scott Tannas have already declared their interest in the PC Senate nomination. Mr. Black served as finance chairman for Jim Dinning during that party’s 2006 leadership contest.

Vitor Marciano Wildrose Senate Candidate Alberta

Vitor Marciano

Federal Conservative Party operative Vitor Marciano has already announced his intentions to run in the Senate election under the Wildrose Party banner. It is likely that all three of these candidates would sit with the federal Conservative caucus if elected to the Senate.

Alberta’s last Senate election, held in 2004, was boycotted by the Liberals and NDP. The lack of serious opposition candidates left Albertans to choose from a cast of right-wing characters ranging from the PC candidates to the Social Credit and Alberta Alliance. When the votes were counted, three PCs and one Independent candidate were elected, but many Albertans were disenfranchised by the lack of non-conservative candidates.

According to Elections Alberta, during the 2004 Senate elections 85,937 voters declined to cast a ballot in the election (equating to 4.2% of eligible voters, or 9.7% of the voters who received ballots) and 84,643 ballots were rejected (that equates to 9.5% of the total ballots cast).

Even though four of Alberta’s six Senate seats are currently held by appointed federal Liberal Party members (including former Liberal Party leader Grant Mitchell), sources say the party is unlikely to participate in next year’s Senate election. The Liberals have only participated in one Senate election in Alberta, which feels to me like a missed opportunity for much needed publicity.

Hugh MacDonald Alberta Liberal MLA

Senator-in-waiting Hugh MacDonald?

One long-time party insider suggested to me this weekend that choosing retiring Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald to carry the Liberal Party banner in next year’s Senate election could be a fitting tribute to the long-time party stalwart. Known for his hard work and (sometimes over the top) passionate criticisms of the PC government, the opposition MLA would almost surely spark more interest in the Senate race than the generic conservative party candidates will on their own.

It would be a long-shot, but if the federal Liberal Party is interested in building a base of support Western Canada, running an even half-serious campaign in a Senate election would be a good place as any to start. Even if it is a long-shot, and it is, I am sure that I am not the only person who would enjoy the irony of watching Prime Minister Stephen Harper being forced to appoint a fiercely partisan Liberal like Hugh MacDonald to the Senate of Canada.

guest post: decision time for the alberta liberals.

 

Alberta Liberal Party Leadership Candidates

Alberta Liberal Party leadership candidates (left to right) Bill Harvey, Bruce Payne, Raj Sherman, Laurie Blakeman, and Hugh MacDonald

By Justin Archer

On Saturday September 10, the Alberta Liberals will select their next leader following current leader David Swann’s resignation from the post, announced this past January.

An understanding of the dynamics that lead to the initiation of this leadership race is helpful in interpreting the parry and thrust that has played out among the candidates running to be Swann’s successor. It’s probably not quite accurate to say that Swann was forced out—he left of his own volition, but he certainly didn’t have an easy time of it throughout most of his tenure as leader. Job one for the new leader will be to unite the caucus and inspire the membership as Alberta moves ever closer to the next election.

Don Braid’s piece in the Calgary Herald last weekend was a bang-on analysis of the recent and not so recent dynamic within the Party.

I found this section particularly apropos:

“There was another flicker of losing mentality recently when MLAs and leadership candidates suddenly discovered the party has 25,000 members.

The reaction was not joy, or even a touch of pride, but claims of duplicity from candidates who thought Raj Sherman was pushing the rules.”

It has been written elsewhere that this election will be a defining moment in the history of the Party, and I don’t disagree. When Daveberta left the ALP a few years ago he explained to me how his decision was motivated by the Party’s culture that put fealty to the Liberal brand above all else. At the time I didn’t know what he meant. Perhaps I hadn’t spent enough time in the trenches to see it up close. Now, a few years later, I see that Dave was absolutely right: there are elements within the Liberal Party that would take “being a Liberal” over “being in a progressive government that shares my values and does things the way I think it ought to” ten times out of ten. It’s weird, and kind of hard to explain until you’ve seen it. But it’s there.

This leadership election is an opportunity for the Liberal Party to decide what it wants to be: a band of true believers who will always be safe in the knowledge that they remained loyal to the Liberal brand through thick and thin; or a pragmatic, progressive group of people who are willing to stretch their boundaries and open up the organization to new people, new thinking, and ultimately a shot at real relevance again.

The various potential paths for the Liberal Party have been foreshadowed during this leadership campaign. I’ve been to a few of the debates and watched the campaign closely. By my best estimation, the candidates have offered visions as such:

Laurie Blakeman: Solid traditional Liberal credentials as well as an eye towards pragmatism. A Laurie Blakeman Liberal Party would not close itself off to outsiders, and would likely make some attempt to establish consensus with the Alberta Party and the NDP.

Bill Harvey: Move the Party far to the right of its traditional space on the political spectrum, to the point where many members would no longer feel comfortable with policy positions. Harvey has a very small natural constituency within the Party. If he were to win it would be in large part due to his organizational skills.

Hugh MacDonald: A die-hard Liberal if ever there was one. MacDonald has staked out the traditional Liberal territory with a vengeance during this campaign. He is an unapologetic devotee of the brand, and has played up his Party renewal strategy of empowering constituency associations.

Bruce Payne: A kind and decent human being who doesn’t quite have the backstory that explains why he should be the Liberal Leader. If he can hold Calgary-Varsity when incumbent Harry Chase retires at the start of the next election he would make a strong Alberta Liberal MLA.

Raj Sherman: His policy strength is in health care, but he speaks frequently about the social determinants of health and the correlative relationship between government actions and social outcomes across many policy areas. Sherman’s participation is the story of this campaign. He brings strong name recognition and folk hero status to this race. However his history as a Conservative MLA makes him an unknown and perhaps unsettling quantity in some Liberal circles.

I could certainly be wrong, and in fact I usually am (just ask Premier Jim Dinning and LPC Leader Gerard Kennedy), but I think this race is essentially between Hugh MacDonald and Raj Sherman.

MacDonald represents the true believers; the ones with a Liberal tattoo. Those people who look at traditional Liberal policies like the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, multiculturalism, the right to marry who you love, environmentalism, non-violence, fiscal responsibility, and at a host of other Liberal policy positions and say “yes, I am a Liberal.” MacDonald’s supporters come from the noblest of places within the human spirit. They see a set of values that they call “Liberal”, and they won’t be pushed off that brand come hell or high water. However, the dedication to Liberalism exemplified by MacDonald supporters is myopic: though they have the best outcomes in mind, their inflexibility and inability to understand the bigger picture have trapped them in a perpetual state of being “right”, while being marginalized. And what’s the good in that?

On the other hand, Raj Sherman brings a whole new dynamic to the Liberal Party. He’s famous. He’s smart. He’s brash. He stood up to the government and lived to tell the tale. I’ve spent a fair amount of time with Raj this summer and I can attest to the fact that he is an incredibly hard worker and the most pure retail politician I’ve ever seen. He is totally comfortable in his own skin and loves being with people. During the leadership race Sherman has signed up a large number of new Party supporters, giving the ALP a big new list of people to build its constituency and campaign teams with for the next election.

Over the past several years the Liberal Party has been pulling in two different directions. On the one hand there are the traditional loyalists who think the Party must do the same things, but better. On the other hand there are the younger, more pragmatic activists who wish to reshape the Party in a way that will allow it to continue to be relevant in the 21st Century. MacDonald and Sherman are two nearly perfect proxy candidates for this debate.

When the Party selects a new Leader on September 10, a Raj Sherman victory will indicate a willingness to work outside the Party’s traditional comfort zone with the aim of greater electoral success, while maintaining its commitment to Liberal values and philosophy; a Hugh MacDonald victory will represent a decision to redouble efforts to build the traditional Liberal Party along the same lines that have failed for so long.

This is an important conversation for the Party to have, and I’m genuinely interested in seeing which way the Party decides to go. If nothing else, the Liberal Party leadership contest has been passionate, surprising and interesting. The Party feels exciting again, which is a step in the right direction.

—-
Justin Archer is an Edmonton-based public relations consultant and political watcher. www.archerstrategies.com.

where the votes were in the 2006 alberta pc leadership vote, where the mla support is in 2011.

Maps comparing total number of votes in the final ballot of the 2006 Alberta PC leadership contest and MLA support in the 2011 PC leadership contest.

Total number of votes in the final ballot of the 2006 Alberta PC leadership contest and MLA support in the 2011 PC leadership contest.

As Jim Dinning learned six years ago, having the support of MLAs in a leadership contest does not assure victory. The long-time front-runner in the 2006 Progressive Conservative leadership contest counted the support of over forty sitting MLAs, but on the final ballot vote, it was a low-key cabinet minister named Ed Stelmach with the initial support of nine MLAs who upset Mr. Dinning’s sure-win.

The current PC leadership contest has shown a larger diversity in choices among PC MLAs, with Gary Mar drawing the support of seventeen MLAs, Doug Horner twelve MLAs, Ted Morton nine MLAs, and one each for both Alison Redford and Doug Griffiths.

Premier Christy Clark‘s recent victory in the BC Liberal leadership contest proved that even a candidate with the support of only one-MLA can become the leader of a governing party. A downside of this scenario, as Premier Clark is said to be discovering, and as Premier Stelmach discovered, is that you still have to work with those MLAs who did not support your bid.

Support from sitting-MLAs does have its advantages if the MLA has a strong local organization and especially in rural areas, where local representatives have a different kind of relationship with municipal councils, community organizations, and local weekly newspapers than their counterparts representing big city constituencies.

The maps above compare the total number of votes in the final weekend of the 2006 PC leadership contest with the support of MLAs in 2011. The number of voting members in each constituency will change in this year’s contest, due to different candidates and a different political environment, but it is an interesting look at where the largest groupings of PC memberships were sold in that year’s contest.

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.

updated: nomination updates – alberta election.

With the federal election behind us, it is now time to turn attention towards the quiet preparation happening in the run up to the next provincial election. I have updated the growing list of declared and nominated candidates for the next provincial election and below are some of the interesting nominations and contests that I have been following. If you have any updates or know of any candidates that are missing from the list, please comment in the section below.

Calgary-Bow: Three term PC MLA Alana DeLong is facing a nomination challenge from Lars Lehmann at a May 14 nomination meeting. Mr. Lehmann may be the only candidate to also have a profile on IMDB.com, where he is listed as a Production Director for a number of films including Calgary-based Exit Wounds, and others including Rat Race (starring Whoopi Goldberg, John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson, and Seth Green among others). Ms. DeLong has sat in the Government backbenches since being elected and gained media attention for her brief entry into the PC leadership contest in 2006 (she dropped out and endorsed Jim Dinning before the vote was held).

Calgary-McCall: The Wildrose Alliance nomination scheduled for May 7 has been suspended until the party can address a number of irregularities in the local membership list. The hotly contested nomination has drawn at least three candidates, Grant Galpin, Khalil Karbani, Deepshikha Brar. McCall has been represented by Liberal MLA Darshan Kang since 2008.

UPDATED: Calgary-South East: Two-term PC MLA Art Johnston is facing a nomination challenge from Paramedic Rick Fraser in this new constituency. Mr. Fraser is the former President of CUPE 3421, the Calgary Paramedics Union. Mr. Johnston has served as the MLA for Calgary-Hays since 2004.

Calgary-Varsity: Justin Anderson was nominated as the Wildrose Alliance candidate after defeating challengers Kevin Dick and Brian Sembo. Mr. Anderson is the brother of Airdrie-Chestermere Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson and Town of Crossfield Mayor Nathan Anderson. The riding has been held by retiring Liberal MLA Harry Chase since 2004. The Liberals have nominated Union Representative Bruce Payne.

Edmonton-Manning: Former Mayoral candidate Daryl Bonar is the Wildrose Alliance candidate in this north east Edmonton constituency. Mr. Bonar, a Community Relations Officer with the Canadian Forces, is a good catch for the Wildrose, who had yet to attract anything close to a “star candidate” in Edmonton. Manning is currently held by first term PC MLA Peter Sandhu, who was elected with 35% of the vote in 2008.

Edmonton-Rutherford: The first constituency to have a nominated candidate from each of the main political parties. This full-ballot was complete with the nomination of Michael Walters as the Alberta Party candidate in April. Mr. Walters is that party’s Provincial Organizer and previously served as an organizer for the Greater Edmonton Alliance, a coalition of community associations, church groups, and labour unions. Also on the ballot will be first-term PC MLA Fred Horne, former Liberal MLA Rick Miller, NDP candidate Melanie Samaroden, and second-time Wildroser Kyle McLeod.

Edmonton-Riverview: Arif Khan was nominated as the Liberal candidate in the constituency being vacated by former party leader Kevin Taft at the next election. Mr. Khan is a consultant and western Vice President of Condo Store Inc. Riverview has been represented by Liberal MLAs since 1997.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake: Penhold Town Councillor Danielle Klooster is seeking the Alberta Party candidacy in this central Alberta constituency. It will be an uphill battle for Ms. Klooster, as voters gave incumbent PC MLA Luke Ouellette 62% support in the 2008 election.

Leduc-Beaumont: In a contested nomination, two-term PC MLA George Rogers fended off a spirited nomination challenge from Leduc Alderman Dominic Mishio. According to the Leduc Representative, Mr. Rogers earned 826 votes to Mr. Mishio’s 625 votes. Mr. Mishio’s candidacy was seen by some political watchers as an opportunity to rejuvenate the PC caucus, where Mr. Rogers has sat as a backbencher since he was first elected.