Tag Archives: Jim McCormick

Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning and Jason Kenney.

A look at who is backing Jason Kenney’s bid for the PC Party leadership

Conservative Member of Parliament Jason Kenney is expected to announce his candidacy for the leader of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta tomorrow, July 6, in Calgary, deliver a speech in Grande Prairie that evening and then travel to Edmonton on July 7 for another speech. He was widely expected to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada and only just recently began positioning himself as candidate to unite Alberta’s conservative partisans under one banner.

He would be the first candidate to officially enter the PC leadership contest, which is scheduled to be held on March 18, 2017.

  • As I explained in a column last month, Mr. Kenney could have a rough landing in Alberta politics.
  • A skilled organizer with more than 25 years of experience as a taxpayers federation lobbyist and Ottawa politician, Mr. Kenney should not be underestimated by his opponents.
  • Mr. Kenney follows in the footsteps of his former colleague, Jim Prentice, who led the PC Party from 2014 until its defeat by Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party in May 2015. That election ended forty-four uninterrupted years of PC majority governments in Alberta.
  • Mr. Kenney recently purchased a membership in the PC Party, despite being widely seen as a supporter and ideological ally of the Official Opposition Wildrose Party, currently led by former MP Brian Jean.
  • Perhaps anticipating a threat of takeover, the PC Party recently abandoned its one-member one-vote system of choosing its leader in favour of a closed-delegate system, which forces candidates to campaign and organize in all 87 constituencies across the province.
  • Mr. Kenney is not assured an easy victory in the PC leadership race. I spoke with CTV about some of the potential candidates who also might enter the race, including former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who Mr. Kenney once described as an “asshole,” Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke, and Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen, who said she would consider leaving the PC Party if Mr. Kenney became the leader. Edmonton City Councillor Michael Oshry is also considering entering the contest and former MLA Doug Griffiths is rumoured to be interested.

It is unclear whether Mr. Kenney would resign as the MP for Calgary-Midnapore immediately or if he would keep one foot in federal politics until he secures a leadership position in a provincial party. Under provincial elections law, he does not need to resign his federal seat until he is a registered candidate in a provincial election.

Because of his track-record as a social conservative and Wildrose supporter, Mr. Kenney might not find a great deal of support among existing PC Party members, including the 1,001 who attended the party’s annual general meeting earlier this year. But two unite-the-right groups could provide him with a base with which to organize his PC leadership bid.

Mr. Kenney appears to have the support of two unite-the-right groups. The Alberta Can’t Wait group, backed by former Reform Party stalwarts Preston Manning and Cliff Fryers, lobbyist Hal Danchilla and 1980s Tory cabinet minister Rick Orman, and the Alberta Prosperity Fund, backed by former right-wing talk radio host Dave Rutherford, former MLAs Heather Forsyth and Shiraz Shariff, and former PC Party president Jim McCormick. The Alberta Prosperity Fund issued a formal endorsement of Mr. Kenney on July 5, 2016.

The Alberta Can’t Wait group was reportedly planning to hijack the Alberta Party later this summer and Prosperity Fund founder and director Barry McNamar, formerly of the Fraser Institute and Manning Centre, is reportedly suing the Wildrose Party.

The two groups are part of a burgeoning cottage industry of anti-NDP groups, including the infamous and less polished Kudatah, that have popped up since the May 2015 election. Both the Wildrose and PC Parties have publicly rejected their overtures.

Alberta’s elections laws bar political parties from merging financial assets, meaning any actual merger between conservative parties is highly unlikely. Making things more complicated was the formation of a sixth conservative party last month – the Reform Party of Alberta. It may be a more likely scenario that a PC Party led by Mr. Kenney would apply to Elections Alberta to change its name to the Conservative Party of Alberta and urge Wildrose MLAs to run under its banner in the 2019 general election.

Cast into the opposition for the first time in 44 years, Conservatives in Alberta will need to define what their vision is for the future of our province. After decades of fiscal mismanagement, much of Alberta’s current economic situation is a result of decisions made by PC Party governments. Conservatives cannot simply expect that Albertans will forgive, forget and restore the natural governing party in 2019. Those days are gone.

Aside from his politically charged rhetoric about “free enterprise” and the bogeyman ‘bohemian Marxism‘ it remains completely unclear what Mr. Kenney’s vision for Alberta would be, besides just returning Conservatives to power. I expect we will find out more in the next few days.

Boring Jim Prentice might be what the Tories need

Low turnout, lack of interest overshadows Prentice’s win
Premier Jim Prentice Alberta PC leadership race

Alberta’s next Premier, Jim Prentice, delivered his victory speech with his wife Karen at his side.

The  atmosphere was noticeably subdued as I walked into the large hall at Northlands Expo Centre that hosted the Progressive Conservative’s leadership event. It was 6:45 pm and there were probably 300 loyal party supporters scattered across the hall, which looked like it could comfortably fit 2,000.

By the time the results were announced  at 7:36 pm by PC Party president Jim McCormick, the crowd appeared to have grown to around 400. Crowded around the stage at the end of the cavernous hall, supporters of former bank executive and retired federal politician Jim Prentice cheered when it was announced that he received 17,963 votes, 77% of the votes cast in the two day online and phone-in vote.

It is a strong mandate from PC Party members, and would have been a landslide if not for the incredibly low voter turnout. Only 23,386 PC Party members bothered to vote in the 43-year governing party’s latest leadership contest, much lower than the 78,176 who voted in the party’s 2011 leadership contest and the 144,289 who voted in 2006. I am told that around a total of 42,000 memberships were sold in this race, resulting in a 54% turnout.

Premier Jim Prentice Alberta Leadership Race Vote

Jim Prentice scrums with the media after his victory speech.

While pundits and politicos predicted for months that there would be a low turnout, 23,386 is shockingly low, especially considering Mr. Prentice publicly set a benchmark to sell 100,000 memberships. Interest in the race to replace former Premier Alison Redford was dismal, and the other candidates – Thomas Lukaszuk with 2,681 votes and Ric McIver with 2,742 votes – were unable to generate much opposition to Mr. Prentice’s well-financed and insider-supported campaign.

Despite the excitement of Mr. Prentice’s supporters in the crowd, there was a weariness in the air and a feeling that even the PC Party’s most loyal activists are tired. Many of them are becoming aware of how hard the next election could be to win. The Wildrose leads in the polls province-wide and support for the New Democrats has grown in Edmonton since the last election. And while support for the long-governing Tories has not completely collapsed, it was hard to walk away from this event without the feeling that the PCs are at their weakest.

Mr. Prentice’s victory speech was not remarkable. In fact, it was boring and forgetful, but maybe a little boring is what the PC Party needs. After two years of endless scandals, backstabbing and controversy, I am sure most PC MLAs are looking for stability. And while Mr. Prentice is nothing close to exciting, he is confident and could be a stable hand who can attract new talent to the party.

The politicos and MLAs I spoke with were glad the leadership contest is over and hope to put the technical irregularities of the PC Party’s contracted online voting system behind them. Although it appears there are PC members who were unable to vote or even able to vote twice because of technical glitches, it is unlikely that Mr. Prentice’s majority would have been drastically altered.

After the celebrations die down, Mr. Prentice and his team of advisors will begin the process of transitioning into the Premier’s Office. The new Premier is expected to seek a by-election soon (it is suspected that more than one by-election could be called) and once he is sworn-in as Premier, a cabinet shuffle will occur.

Aside from term-limits for MLAs, Mr. Prentice’s leadership campaign largely stayed away from details or promises, a point that no PC Party supporter I spoke with in the convention hall seemed worried about. In fact, some praised the lack of details and promises as a virtue and a good campaign strategy.

“By not making any promises, he won’t break any promises,” said one PC supporter.

So, as this unexciting summer leadership race comes to an end, it is difficult to say what a new Premier will mean for Alberta. While most Albertans wait and see, I am sure many of the loyal Tories who spent their evening in that large convention hall are hoping this fall will bring calm, stability, and maybe a little boring to their long-governing party.

4 ways out of the PC leadership crisis

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The increasingly public struggle between Premier Alison Redford and a group of disgruntled MLAs in the Progressive Conservative Party continues this week.

Following Monday’s announcement by Calgary-Varsity PC MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans that she would sit as an Independent MLA, two more PC MLAs are publicly considering leaving.

Matt Jeneroux MLA Edmonton South West

Matt Jeneroux

Edmonton-South West PC MLA Matt Jeneroux mused that he is “taking time to reflect” about whether he should remain in the government caucus. Edmonton-Riverview MLA Steve Young, already , is also considering leaving the PC caucus.

Government House leader Robin Campbell says that PC MLAs are free to speak their mind. But the lack of discipline in the caucus suggests the real reason is that any attempt to silence the disgruntled MLAs could lead to a mass departure from the government caucus.

At a press conference held yesterday afternoon, party president Jim McCormick gave a luke-warm support for Ms. Redford’s leadership. Mr. McCormick also sent an email to PC Party supporters, explaining that the “work plan” issued to the premier last weekend does not exist on paper. There is no plan.

Meanwhile, Lougheed-era cabinet minister Allan Warrack has added his name to the list of Tories calling on the premier to resign.

With the current situation in flux, here are four possible scenarios that could play out over the next few weeks:

Redford resigns – Pressure from her caucus and party results in Ms. Redford resigning as Premier of Alberta and leader of the PC Party. The disgruntled MLAs remain in the government caucus. An interim premier, possibly Deputy Premier Dave Hancock, is appointed and a leadership contest is scheduled. MLAs hope that a new leader can reinvent and reenergize their aging party before the next election.

Redford stays, more MLAs leave – Ms. Redford and her loyalists resist the pressure from disgruntled MLAs and supporters calling for the premier’s resignation. Some of the ten MLAs, possibly as many as ten, leave the PC caucus to sit as Independent MLAs, causing a severe rift in the party and the caucus.

Kumbaya” – The disgruntled MLAs resolve their issues with Ms. Redford and she pledges to change her leadership style in order to improve her relationship with her caucus and party. The Tory dynasty continues as peace and harmony is returned to the government benches.

Conflict continues – Ms. Redford refuses to resign and the disgruntled MLAs continue to voice their discontent with the premier’s leadership style. The party and caucus are torn apart in the political fight. Wildrose leader Danielle Smith rejoices and leads her party to win the 2016 election.

Does the PC Party have a revenue problem?

Does Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party have a “revenue problem?” According to reports from the Calgary Herald, that is how PC Party president Jim McCormick described his party’s financial situation in an email to party officials. The PC Party recently backed down from a plan its board of directors approved for the party to take a 10% levy on contributions donated to its 87 constituency associations.

The PC Party has trailed the official opposition Wildrose Party in donations in the first three quarters of 2013. Most significantly, the four decade long governing PC Party significantly trails the Wildrose in individual donations by more than $780,000 so far in 2013.

Although Premier Alison Redford is expected to successfully face her mandated leadership review at next weekend’s PC Party convention in Red Deer, she still must account for her party’s dipping financial fortunes. At the end of 2012, the PC Party reported a $594,951 deficit in their  Elections Alberta financial disclosure. To understand how much the PC Party’s financial health has changed, it reported a $2,889,972 surplus in 2004.

While the PC Party may be feeling a financial crunch, some of that party’s constituency associations continue to raise considerable amounts of funds. In the 2012 election, more than a few PC candidate campaigns raised more than $100,000 at the constituency level.

After Danielle Smith became leader of the Wildrose Party in 2010, that party has seen a significant rise in financial support, especially in the form of smaller individual donations cultivated from an engaged base of supporters. The Wildrose Party continues rival the PC Party in revenue in 2013, something no political party has done in Alberta in decades.

Below are charts showing the donations to Alberta’s four main political parties since 2004. Before recent legislative changes, donations were reported to Elections Alberta above and below $375. They are now reported below and above $250. Maximum donations during annual periods are limited to $15,000 and $30,000 during election periods.

Alberta Progressive Conservative donations 2004-2013

Alberta Progressive Conservative donations from 2004 to the third quarter of 2013.

Wildrose Party donations 2004-2013

Wildrose Party donations from 2004 to the third quarter of 2013. Includes the Alberta Alliance and Wildrose Alliance.

The drop in donations to the Liberal Party appears to coincide with the rise of the Wildrose Party and the departure of Kevin Taft as party leader following the 2008 election. The Liberals have succeeded in paying off a large amount of debt incurred in previous elections, but have most recently struggled to fund party operations after only raising $50,539 in the third quarter of 2013.

The New Democrats continue to enjoy a healthy base of individual donors and a relatively healthy flow of larger donations, though the NDP continues to hold a significant debt and reported $707,524 in total liabilities in 2012.

Alberta Liberal Party Donations 2004-2013

Alberta Liberal Party donations from 2004 to the third quarter of 2013

Alberta NDP donations 2004-2013

Alberta NDP donations from 2004 to the third quarter of 2013

Alberta Tories confused about illegal donations.

Alberta Tories ConfusedCaught having accepted 45 prohibited donations from municipalities and publicly-funded institutions since 2009, the Progressive Conservative Association spent the past few days sending mixed messages whether it would or already had repaid the full amount of illegals funds as requested by Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer .

Party officials previously stated the funds would be repaid, but during a conference call to PC constituency presidents last month, executive director Kelley Charlebois laid out laid out plans to not repay the funds.

“Repaying the money does us no good in the court of public opinion” – PC Party executive director Kelley Charlebois

PC Party president Jim McCormick told the Edmonton Journal last week that he felt the orders from the elections office to repay illegal donations were unfair. Mr. McCormick later downplayed his public comments in an email to PC Party supporters in which he stated his party had “fully and willingly complied and repaid the dollars [the Chief Elections Officer] asked us to.”

Mr. McCormick then stated that talks between the PC Party and the elections office would continue and his “argument is not relative to the dollar amount but rather a request for clarification on the legislation.” There is some irony in that some of the prohibited donations were made to now-Justice Minister Jonathan DenisCalgary-Egmont constituency association.

2012 PC campaign manager Susan Elliott jumped to her party’s defence on Facebook, claiming that party officials had no way of knowing that many of the donors were being reimbursed by municipalities or public institutions for money spent at party fundraisers.

I am mystified by the Chief Electoral Officer’s conclusion that a political party is responsible if an individual illegally expenses a political donation to a prohibited organization. So Joe Smith buys a fundraising ticket using a personal cheque or credit card. That’s OK. He collects the tax receipt personally. That’s OK. But later, he submits the cost on his expense claim. He has now done something illegal. The prohibited organization does something illegal by paying it. But how is it the political party is supposed to anticipate Joe’s actions, learn about them later, prevent them or correct them? Since they can do none of those things, why are they the ones cited?

The 45 cases of illegal donations identified in the investigation were all made to the PC Party, not to any of the eight other registered political parties in Alberta.

In some cases Ms. Elliott’s argument may hold water, but in other cases the PC constituency organizers may have directly or indirectly solicited funds from these individuals through their places of employment in municipalities or public institutions.

In one case, which is not being investigated because it took place before the arbitrary 2009 cut-off date set by the elections office, a PC constituency official was actually employed by the organization that the donation was made by. In the former Athabasca-Redwater constituency, the local PC President was the head of the Athabasca University secretariat, which approved the financial contributions.

As was the case with the long list of municipalities that were named in the investigation, they were encouraged to purchase tickets to PC Party fundraisers as a means of lobbying provincial politicians. Over its 42 years in power, the PCs have fostered the creation of a culture where the lines between government business and party business are sometimes blurred.

The elections office is also investigating allegations that pharmaceutical industry billionaire and Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz made a $430,000 donation to the PC Party in the 2012 election, blowing away the $30,000 annual contribution limit stipulated in the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosures Act.

What the Heck? Tory tied to donation controversy now head of Alberta Economic Development Authority.

Via the Edmonton Journal:

Conservative linked to Katz donation named chairman of the Alberta Economic Development Authority

BY KAREN KLEISS, EDMONTON JOURNAL JANUARY 30, 2013

EDMONTON – Premier Alison Redford has given a provincial political appointment to a veteran Conservative insider who allegedly brokered a $430,000 donation from Oilers owner and billionaire Daryl Katz.

Media reports quoting unnamed sources suggested Wednesday that Calgary businessman Barry Heck is the party fundraiser who persuaded Katz to make the donation now under investigation by Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer.

Redford has named Heck chairman of the Alberta Economic Development Authority.

Heck has declined to comment on the allegations, citing the ongoing investigation.

On another election finance related note, Progressive Conservative President Jim McCormick has also asked Chief Electoral Officer O. Brian Fjeldheim to reverse orders mandating that the party repay thousands of dollars in illegal donations tied to post-secondary institutions and local governments

Inside Baseball: Alberta’s conservative parties hold executive elections.

Alberta PC MLA Ray Danyluk

Ray Danyluk

Former cabinet minister Ray Danyluk dropped out of race for the presidency of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party this week, prompting a few political insiders to ask the question “why was he running in the first place?

The recently defeated three-term Tory MLA from Lac La Biche-St. Paul joined the race to replace outgoing president Bill Smith less than a month ago. After throwing his considerable political weight behind Doug Horner‘s PC leadership campaign in 2011, he was appointed to Premier Alison Redford‘s first cabinet and was unseated by Wildrose candidate Shayne Saskiw in the 2012 election.

The race to replace the outgoing PC Party president is now narrowed between Calgary Tory Jim McCormick and Lac Ste. Anne County Councillor Lorne Olsvik. The vote will take place at the Alberta PC’s annual meeting on November 9 and 10, 2012 at the Telus Convention Centre in Calgary.

Troy Wason

Troy Wason

While most of the positions on the PC executive board have been acclaimed, the race to replace Mr. McCormick as ‘VP Calgary’ could be interesting. Social media maven Troy Wason is facing winery owner Leslie LeQuelenec and long-time Tory volunteer Gary Millan in that race.

Mr. Millan’s online biography lists him as “born in Montreal” and having “witnessed the FLQ crisis first hand and experienced the “War Measures Act.“” I am unclear what this actually means and with no contact information made available on the PC Party website, I was unable to clarify this.

Delegates to the PC Party annual meeting will also debate changes to their party constitution that could change the system used to select its leader. The current system, which includes a run-off second ballot vote, has been criticized for allowing second place candidates from the first ballot to win on the second-ballot (as Premier Redford did in 2011).

Meanwhile, the official opposition Wildrose Party is holding their own annual meeting on November 23 and 24, 2012, in Edmonton at the Mayfield Inn. While leader Danielle Smith had probably hoped she would be addressing this convention as her party’s first Premier, she will instead rise to the podium as leader of a 17-MLA official opposition party.

Paul Hinman Wildrose Calgary

Paul Hinman

Among the crowd running in some of the hotly contested Wildrose Party executive committee elections are former Social Credit Party leader James Albers, former Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman, former Canadian Alliance MP Eric Lowther (defeated by Joe Clark in the 2000 federal election), and former party president Jeff Callaway. Also running for positions are recent election candidates Dave Yager, Wayde Lever, Prasad Panda, Chris Challis, Nathan Stephan, Maryann Chichak, Travis Olson, Rob Solinger, and Mike Blanchard.

One of the most interesting candidates is Broderyck “Broddy” Olson, a Wildrose Party activist and Violinist of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. He is President of the union representing musicians in Edmonton’s Symphony Orchestra and played with the ESO during its legendary performance and recording in 1971 with Procol Harum: