Tag Archives: Joe Anglin

Five candidates run to lead the Green Party of Alberta

Photo: Green Party of Alberta leadership candidates Grant Neufeld, Romy Tittel, Marco Reid, Brian Deheer and James Friesen.

While the Green Party has succeeded in electing MLAs in British Columbia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, as well as MP Elizabeth May to the House of Commons, the party remains below the radar for most Albertans.

Janet Keeping Alberta Green Party

Janet Keeping

Five Albertans seeking to lead our province’s Green Party are hoping to change that.

Grant NeufeldRomy Tittel, Marco ReidJames Friesen and Brian Deheer have submitted their applications to run in the race to replace Janet Keeping, who has led the party since 2012 and announced earlier this year that she would step down. Members will select a new leader at the party’s annual general meeting in Red Deer on November 4, 2017. According to the party website, members can either vote in person at the AGM or cast their ballots online.

The party is far from the mainstream of Alberta politics on issues like the construction of oil pipelines, but it could be position to gain the votes of some environmentalist New Democrat voters dissatisfied with the Notley Government’s avid pro-pipeline advocacy and working relationship with energy industry leaders.

Somewhat ironically, a book published by former Liberal Party leader Kevin Taft, Oil’s Deep State: How the petroleum industry undermines democracy and stops action on global warming – in Alberta, and in Ottawa, could provide a savvy Green Party leader with the manifesto required to carve a small beachhead in Alberta’s political discourse.

No one expects the Greens to form government, and their potential for electing their first Alberta MLA appears to be slim, but the lack of high-stakes puts the Greens in a position to talk about certain issues – especially around the environment and development – that the mainstream parties will not touch.

The party ran candidates in 24 constituencies in the 2015 election and earned a total 7,321 votes across the province. Leadership candidate Brian Deheer had the party’s strongest showing in the last election in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, where he earned 2.8 percent of the vote.

More recently, Keeping earned 2.9 percent in the 2015 Calgary-Foothills by-election and Thana Boonlert earned 2 percent of the vote in the 2016 Calgary-Greenway by-election.

The Green Party’s best ever showing in a provincial election took place in 2008, when the party earned 43,222 votes, or 4.5 percent of the province-wide vote. In that election, property rights activist Joe Anglin earned 22 percent of the vote in the Lacombe-Ponoka constituency. Anglin led the party for a short period until it was dissolved in 2009 (it reformed in 2011) and was later elected as a Wildrose candidate in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, where he served as MLA until 2015.


The Green Party published a list of questions and answers posed to each of the five candidates:

Who wants to lead Alberta’s Green Party?

Green Party of Alberta leadership candidates Grant Neufeld, Romy Tittel, and Marco Reid.

The Green Party of Alberta may not enjoy the same success of its cousins on the West Coast and in the Maritimes, but that has not stopped three Calgarians from stepping up to run for the leadership of the party.

Janet Keeping Alberta Green Party

Janet Keeping

Romy Tittel, Grant Neufeld and Marco Reid have submitted their applications to run in the race to replace Janet Keeping, who has led the party since 2012 and announced earlier this year that she would step down. Members will select a new leader at the party’s annual general meeting on November 4, 2017.

Tittel was a Green Party candidate in the 2015 federal election in Foothills and was the second woman to become a journeyman electrician in Alberta. Neufeld is a social activist, was president of the Alberta Greens from 2004 to 2006 and a candidate in Calgary-Buffalo in the 2004 provincial election. Marco Reid is a volunteer and member at large on the Green Party board.

The deadline to enter the race is September 10, 2017.

The party ran candidates in 24 constituencies in the 2015 election and earned a total 7,321 votes across the province. The party’s strongest showing in the last election was in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, where candidate Brian Deheer earned 2.8 percent of the vote.

More recently, Keeping earned 2.9 percent in the 2015 Calgary-Foothills by-election and Thana Boonlert earned 2 percent of the vote in the 2016 Calgary-Greenway by-election.

The Green Party’s best ever showing in a provincial election took place in 2008, when property rights activist Joe Anglin earned 22 percent of the vote in the Lacombe-Ponoka constituency. Anglin led the party for a short period until it was dissolved in 2009 and was later elected as a Wildrose candidate in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, where he served as MLA until 2015.

The party remerged in 2011 as the EverGreen Party and officially changed its name to the Green Party of Alberta in 2012.

Wildrose MLA Jason Nixon faces an expulsion motion from the students’ union he used to lead.

Wildrose MLA Jason Nixon faces expulsion motion from students’ union

While the mainstream media has spent an inordinate amount of time focusing on the social media indiscretions of Calgary-Bow MLA Deborah Drever, newly elected Wildrose Party MLA Jason Nixon faces an expulsion motion from members of an organization he used to lead.

According to the student newspaper The Voice Magazine, members of the Athabasca University Students’ Union brought forward a motion at their May 27, 2015 annual general meeting to have former president and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Mr. Nixon expelled from the organization.

Mr. Nixon was president of the students’ union from April 2014 until his resignation shortly after the May 2015 provincial election.

The student newspaper reported motions to expel Mr. Nixon and other leading members of the students’ council were made in response to allegations that the council violated its own bylaws when making changes to the elections policy without issuing the required notice to members, failing to give email notice of the AGM, and interfering in the student newspaper by removing the April 17, 2015 issue of The Voice from its website without the managing editor’s consent.

The autonomously operating student newspaper published an article in its April 17 issue alleging that the students’ council had voted to significantly increase student executive salaries in the final months of the 2014/2015 fiscal year. An article in that issue described Mr. Nixon as being “the highest paid Student Executive in Alberta.”

A blog posted published on the AUSU website from Vice-President External Shawna Wasylyshyn, who is currently serving as (Acting) Editor in Chief of The Voice and (Acting) President of AUSU, claims the April 17 issue was removed because of a legal complaint received about one of the articles.

The individual chairing the AGM ruled the motion to expel Mr. Nixon out of order and that members at the meeting could only make recommendations to the students’ council. The motion to recommend Mr. Nixon’s expulsion from the organization was passed.

Sunday evening candidate nomination updates in Alberta

MP Brian Storseth and Sun News talking head Ezra Levant.

MP Brian Storseth and Sun News talking head Ezra Levant.

With a provincial election expected in the next few months, the 43-year long governing Progressive Conservatives are expected to have all their candidates nominated by the end of March 2015 and be in a position to trigger an election soon after. The opposition parties are far behind in the candidate selection process.

The Progressive Conservative nomination in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills took a strange twist last week. The Lac La Biche Post reports that Brian Storseth, who is retiring from an unremarkable three-terms as a Conservative backbencher Member of Parliament in Ottawa, is seeking the PC nomination and his late candidacy came as the local PC nominating committee was thrown out over closing nominations too early.

Shayne Saskiw MLA Wildrose

Shayne Saskiw

According to the Post, in the nomination contest Mr. Storseth is facing his own step-mother Joanne Penner, former Lakeland County councillor Jeff Dechaine, current St. Paul Mayor Glenn Anderson, and St. Paul area school board executive Darrell Younghans. The current MLA for this constituency is Wildroser Shayne Saskiw, who is the husband of Shannon Stubbs, the Conservative candidate replacing Mr. Storseth in the next federal election.

Here are some other updates that I have added to the list of nomination candidates:

Banff-Cochrane: Registered Nurse Cam Westhead is seeking the New Democratic Party nomination. Mr. Westhead is also a district representative with United Nurses of Alberta.

Calgary-Bow: Two candidates are seeking the PC nomination to replace retiring MLA Alana DeLong. Former City Council candidate Chris Harper and lawyer Byron Nelson will contest the nomination scheduled for March 7, 2015. Mr. Nelson was seeking the PC nomination in Calgary-Fish Creek until Ms. DeLong announced her retirement. On Dec. 4, 2014, Mr. Harper announced that he had left the PC Party because of Premier Jim Prentice‘s approach to Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools. It appears he has now rejoined.

Dr Bob Turner NDP Edmonton-Whitemud By-election

Bob Turner

Calgary-CrossJesse Minhas and Dan Sidhu are seeking the PC nomination to replace retiring MLA Yvonne Fritz. Ms. Fritz was first elected in 1993.

Calgary-Mountain View: Former PC MLA Mark Hlady will challenge Jean-Sebastien Rioux for the PC nomination. Mr. Hlady served as MLA for this constituency from 1993 until 2004, when he was unseated by current Liberal MLA and interim party leader David Swann.

Edmonton-Glenora: Philipia Bates Renouf, a judicial clerk in Alberta’s Department of Justice and a former Vice-President of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, will challenge Public School Board Trustee Sarah Hoffman for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Glenora.

Edmonton-McClung: Realtor Lorne Dach will represent the NDP in the next election. This will be Mr. Dach’s fourth time standing as the NDP candidate in this southwest Edmonton constituency.

Donna Wilson Liberal Edmonton Whitemud By-Election

Donna Wilson

Edmonton-Meadowlark: Former Globe & Mail reporter Katherine O’Neill is seeking the PC nomination in this west Edmonton constituency. Ms. O’Neill’s mother-in-law, Mary O’Neill, served as PC MLA for St. Albert from 1997 to 2004. Former Liberal leader Raj Sherman currently represents this constituency and is not seeking re-election.

Edmonton-Riverview: University of Alberta Nursing Professor Dr. Donna Wilson is seeking the Liberal nomination in Edmonton-Riverview. Dr. Wilson placed fourth as the Liberal candidate in last year’s Edmonton-Whitemud by-election. The Liberals represented Riverview from its creation in 1997 until 2012, when former leader Kevin Taft retired from politics.

Edmonton-Whitemud: NDP candidate Bob Turner is seeking a rematch against Health Minister Stephen Mandel in Edmonton-Whitemud. The University of Alberta doctor placed second in the September 2014 by-election with the NDP’s best-ever showing in that constituency.

Lethbridge-East: Former Lethbridge County Reeve Lorne Hickey will challenge Tammy Perlich for the PC nomination. Mr. Hickey was defeated by Liberal-turned-PC MLA Bridget Pastoor in the 2012 PC nomination. Ms. Pastoor is not seeking re-election.

Medicine Hat: Former Alderman John Hamill, 77, and realtor Jeff Lanigan will challenge Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Blake Pedersen for the PC nomination.

Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills: Olds Town Councillor Debbie Bennett and former Mountain View County councillor Ron Richardson joined Olds Councillor Wade Bearchell in the PC nomination race. Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Bruce Rowe is not seeking re-election after one-term in office.

Red Deer: Red Deer County Councillor Christine Moore is seeking the PC nomination in Red Deer-North and Red Deer College Business Dean Darcy Mykytyshyn is seeking the PC nomination in Red Deer-South.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Wildrose-turned-Independent MLA Joe Anglin and ATB employee Tammy Cote will face former Lacombe County reeve Terry Engen for the PC nomination.

Strathmore-Brooks
: Former lobby group spokesperson Derek Fildebrandt has been acclaimed as the Wildrose candidate.

The following PC candidates have been acclaimed: Terry Rock in Calgary-Buffalo, Jason Luan in Calgary-HawkwoodRic McIver in Calgary-Hays, Mike Ellis in Calgary-West, Diana McQueen in Drayton Valley-Devon, Stephen Mandel in Edmonton-WhitemudDon Scott in Fort McMurray-Conklin, Wayne Drysdale in Grande Prairie-Wapiti, Ian Donovan in Little Bow and Frank Oberle in Peace River.


I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.

Saturday Morning election nomination updates in Alberta

From Lethbridge to Rimbey and Peace River to Cochrane, here is your Saturday morning candidate nomination update:

Peter Brown Airdrie PC MLA

Peter Brown

Airdrie: Mayor of Airdrie Peter Brown announced this week that he will seek the Progressive Conservative nomination. Mr. Brown was first elected Mayor in 2010. The constituency is currently represented by PC-turned-Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Rob Anderson, who announced his retirement from politics this month.

Banff-CochraneScott Wagner has been nominated as the Wildrose candidate. In 2014, Mr. Wagner made an unsuccessful bid for the federal Conservative Party nomination to run in the Macleod by-election. During that campaign he issued criticized now-MP John Barlow and calling for a judicial inquiry into allegations that RCMP seized privately owned firearms during the High River floods of 2013.

Christine Cusanelli MLA

Christine Cusanelli

Calgary-Buffalo: Well-known arts community member Terry Rock will seek the PC nomination. The constituency is currently represented by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, who is the nominated federal Liberal candidate in Calgary-Centre and is not expected to seek re-election as MLA.

Calgary-Currie: First-term PC MLA Christine Cusanelli announced on Facebook that she will seek re-election. Ms. Cusanelli served as Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation for less than a year before an Olympic travel spending scandal led to her demotion to the backbencher. She is expected to face a challenge for the PC nomination.

Robyn Luff NDP Calgary East

Robyn Luff

Calgary-EastAli Waissi is the Wildrose candidate in this constituency. In 2012, he was campaign manager for controversial Calgary-Greenway Wildrose candidate Ron Leech. The NDP are expected to choose Robyn Luff as their candidate at a Feb. 8, 2015 nomination meeting. Ms. Luff earned 8.73% of the vote as the NDP candidate in 2012 (her party’s second strongest showing in Calgary in that election).

Calgary-GlenmoreChris Kemp-Jackson is the Wildrose candidate in this constituency. Mr. Kemp-Jackson is a business and immigration consultant.

Jae Shim Wildrose Calgary Hawkwood

Jae Shim

Calgary-Hawkwood: The Wildrose have chosen lawyer and constituency association president Jae Shim as their candidate.

Calgary-Klein: Feb 8 Craig Coolahan is expected to be chosen as the NDP candidate at a Feb. 8, 2015 nomination meeting. Mr. Coolahan is a Business Representative with the United Utility Workers’ Association and was the 2012 NDP candidate in Calgary-Elbow.

Calgary-Lougheed: Two-time Mount Everest climber Dave Rodney will seek the PC nomination. Mr. Rodney has also served as the PC MLA for this constituency since 2004.

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill: Retired police officer Kathy Macdonald has been nominated as the Wildrose candidate in this constituency. In 2014, Ms. Macdonald challenged Premier Jim Prentice as the Wildrose candidate in the Calgary-Foothills by-election.

Calgary-Mountain View: Three-term Liberal MLA David Swann is expected to announce his plans to seek re-election. The Liberals have scheduled a nomination meeting on February 20, 2015. Jean-Sebastien Rioux announced he will seek the PC nomination. Mr. Rioux is the Director, Master of Public Policy program, and Associate Director, International Policy at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy. He also served as Chief of Staff to Mr. Prentice when he was a cabinet minister in Ottawa.

Stephen Mandel Edmonton

Stephen Mandel

Edmonton-Decore: Two-term PC MLA Janice Sarich announced she will seek her party’s nomination for re-election.

Edmonton-Whitemud
: Health Minister Stephen Mandel is expected to seek the PC nomination for re-election. Mr. Mandel was first elected to the Assembly in a by-election in September 2014.

Lethbridge-East: Lawyer Tammy Perlich is the first candidate to enter the PC nomination contest. Current PC MLA Bridget Pastoor announced her retirement earlier this month. Helen McMenamin is rumoured to be eyeing the Liberal Party nomination.

Wayne Drysdale MLA Grande Prairie Wapiti

Wayne Drysdale

Grande Prairie-Wapiti: PC MLA Wayne Drysdale announced on Facebook that he plans to run for re-election. Mr. Drysdale was first elected in 2008.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake: Mayor of Red Deer County Jim Wood announced that he will challenge Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Kerry Towle for the PC nomination. During the 2012 election, Mr. Wood endorsed PC MLA Luke Ouellette, who was unseated by Ms. Towle in the Wildrose sweep of central and southern Alberta. Following that election, he raised concerns about how the PC Government would treat rural Alberta constituencies represented by opposition MLAs.

Peace River: Energy Minister Frank Oberle announced on Facebook that he plans to seek the PC nomination and re-election.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: ATB employee Tammy Cote is seeking the PC nomination and may face a challenge from current Independent MLA Joe Anglin. Ms. Cote is the grand-niece of former PC MLA and lieutenant-governor Helen Hunley.

Spruce Grove-St. AlbertJaye Walter has been nominated as the Wildrose candidate in Spruce Grove-St. Albert. Previous to this nomination he had been seeking to become the candidate in the St. Albert constituency.


I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.

Tuesday Night candidate nomination updates in Alberta

With the spectre of a spring provincial general election hanging over us, the Progressive Conservative, Wildrose and New Democratic parties are in a hurry to nominate candidates in Alberta’s 87 constituencies. On Jan. 19, 2015, the PC Party announced that nomination votes would be opened in 12 more constituencies on Feb. 28, (in addition to the 35 constituencies scheduled to hold nomination contests on Feb 21, 2015). This means the PC Party will have more than half of their election candidates nominated before the end of February 2015.

In desperate need of good news, the Wildrose Party is expected to soon announce a handful of newly nominated candidates in constituencies across Alberta. The Liberals have yet to nominate any candidates.

Here are the latest candidate nomination updates, by constituency:

Ron Casey Banff Cochrane MLA

Ron Casey

Banff-Cochrane: Progressive Conservative MLA Ron Casey has announced plans to run for his party’s nomination. Mr. Casey was first elected in 2012 and was the only PC MLA elected from rural southern Alberta in that election. Scott Wagner remains the only candidate in the Wildrose nomination contest, as Paul McLean withdrew from the contest soon after the mass-floor crossing of Wildrose MLAs in December 2014.

Calgary-Northern Hills: MLA Teresa Woo-Paw declared on Twitter that she is running for re-election. The two-term MLA is being challenged for the PC nomination by mortgage broker and L.L.B. graduate Aryan Sadat.

Calgary-VarsityStephanie Mclean is seeking the NDP nomination, scheduled for February 21, 2015. Ms. Mclean recently stood as the NDP candidate in the Calgary-Elbow by-election and will also soon be nominated as the federal NDP candidate in the new Calgary-Confederation riding.

Sarah Hoffman NDP Edmonton Glenora

Sarah Hoffman

Edmonton-Glenora: As predicted in my previous update, Edmonton Public School Board Chairperson Sarah Hoffman will seek the NDP nomination, scheduled for Feb. 13, 2015. Ms. Hoffman was first elected to the school board in 2010. Ms. Hoffman’s candidacy has been endorsed by fellow trustees Michael Janz, Michelle Draper, and Ray Martin.

Edmonton-Gold Bar: This will be a race to watch. PC MLA David Dorward plans to seek re-election. Gold Bar was held by the Liberals from 1986 until 2012, when popular MLA Hugh MacDonald retired. The lack of Liberal incumbent led to a three-way race which saw Mr. Dorward elected with 33% of the vote. Placing second in that race with 29% was NDP candidate Marlin Schmidt, who is already nominated to run again.

Kerry Towle

Kerry Towle

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake: Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Kerry Towle announced she will seek the PC nomination. Ms. Towle crossed the floor to the PCs in late November 2014.

Little Bow: Bev Muendel-Atherstone announced on Facebook that she has submitted her nomination papers to run in this southern rural constituency. Ms. Muendel-Atherstone earned 6.15% of the vote as the NDP candidate in the 2012 election.

Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills: Town of Carstairs Councillor Nathan Cooper is running for the Wildrose Party nomination in this central Alberta constituency. Mr. Cooper currently serves as Chief of Staff for the Wildrose Official Opposition.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: The Sundre RoundUp reports that the former Wildrose-turned-Independent MLA Joe Anglin is considering a run for the PC nomination in his constituency. First elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2012, Mr. Anglin also led the Alberta Green Party from 2008 to 2009.

Vermilion-Lloydminster: First-term PC MLA Richard Starke announced on Twitter that he will seek the PC nomination in this east central Alberta constituency. Mr. Starke briefly served as Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation from 2013 until 2014.


I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.

What a year 2015 has been in Alberta politics!

Alberta Legislature Building Edmonton Canada

Alberta’s Legislative Assembly (photo credit Timorose, CC BY-SA 3.0)

December 29, 2015

Column by: Dirk Pranter, Provincial Affairs columnist, Edmonton Journal-Sun

Tories re-elected for 14th time

A snap mid-Summer election returned Jim Prentice’s renamed “Conservative Party of Alberta” to its fourteenth term as government. In an unexpected twist of fate, Finance Minister Danielle Smith was defeated in her home riding by Wildrose Party leader Randy Thorsteinson.

But don’t feel sorry for Smith. She was appointed to the Senate in one of Stephen Harper’s last acts as Prime Minister before the Conservatives lost the October federal election. Harper’s applecart was upset when the beautiful, unseasonably warm October weather caused Canadian voters to turn out in droves.

Back on the provincial scene, NDP leader Rachel Notley led her party to a breakthrough in Edmonton to form the Official Opposition with 21 MLAs. Notley’s party won its first seat in Calgary since the 1980s and its first ever seat in Lethbridge.

But perhaps the biggest surprise was the re-election of Wildrose-turned-Liberal MLA Joe Anglin, who won by 3,000 votes in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre. As the only Liberal to survive the election, Anglin is now the leader of the party.

“Unlike the 2012 election, 2015 gave Albertans two clear choices in the PCs and NDP,” said Rick Dunderland, a professor of political science at University of Red Deer. “Even though the PCs still won, there is now a difference between the government and official opposition and that will be a good thing for democracy.”

Tough Economic Times behind us

With a return to $120/barrel oil, Premier Prentice praised good economic times ahead for Albertans in the 2016.

“Back to budgeting as usual,” a senior government official said. “Now we don’t have to worry about saving money for the future, because the price of oil is never going to go down again.”

The Prentice Government is facing international criticism for his government’s continued lack of climate change plan. “Alberta’s climate change framework is important and will be a continued focus of our government in 2016,” Energy Environment Minister Rob Anderson said. “Under new management, we are continuing to take the time to ensure the decisions we make are right.”

And big city mayors have a lot to celebrate. The recently negotiated City Charters granting the municipalities new powers are expected to be unveiled in early 2016. A newly released poll showed Mayors Don Iveson and Naheed Nenshi with 95% approval among voters.

Redford tell-all

Palm Springs resident Alison Redford is set to launch a new tell-all book about her time as Premier of Alberta. Driven out by scandal in 2014, Redford has dedicated her time to charity work and has announced all proceeds from the book will go to charity. Not surprisingly, Tory insiders are expecting the wurst about what might be included in the book.

Keystone XL Pipeline

Recently elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau celebrated the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline over a bottle of champagne with President Barack Obama during his first visit to the White House last month. Conservative opposition leader Jason Kenney complained that Canadians should thank former Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the pipeline’s success.

In an unexpected gesture, Prime Minister Trudeau named Harper the Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine where, unfortunately, the Canadian Ambassador’s residence was burned down last week by a pro-Russian mob.

Read Dirk Pranter’s December 20, 2014 column: What a year 2014 has been in Alberta politics!

A Dozen Alberta MLAs worth watching in 2015

12 Alberta MLAs to watch in 2015

Alberta MLAs to watch in 2015: Rob Anderson, Joe Anglin, Manmeet Bhullar, Laurie Blakeman, Robin Campbell, Gordon Dirks, Heather Forsyth, Kent Hehr, Thomas Lukaszuk, Stephen Mandel, Rachel Notley, Danielle Smith

As 2014 reminded us, politics can be an extraordinarily unpredictable and forecasting the future can be a tricky business for political pundits. Aside from the obvious choice of Premier Jim Prentice, here is a list of a dozen Alberta MLAs worth watching in 2015.

Rob Anderson Joe Anglin Manmeet Bhullar Laurie Blakeman MLA

Alberta MLAs Rob Anderson, Joe Anglin, Manmeet Bhullar and Laurie Blakeman

Rob Anderson (Airdrie): The outspoken rookie MLA left the PC Caucus in 2010 to join the upstart Wildrose Party. And in 2014, after two years as a loud and enthusiastic critic of the government, he was one of 9 Wildrose MLAs who crossed to the PC Caucus in December 2014. It is speculated that Mr. Anderson could end up with a cabinet post in early 2015, to the ire of his new caucus colleagues. He thrived in the limelight of the opposition benches but can he survive in the government benches?

Joe Anglin (Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre): Mr. Anglin left the Wildrose Caucus in November 2014 before his colleagues could vote him out. On his way out, he declared that “an internal civil war” was being waged inside the Wildrose Party. It was recently revealed that Mr. Anglin has been in discussions with the Liberals about forming a legislative coalition that could steal Official Opposition status away from the downsized Wildrose Caucus.

Manmeet Bhullar (Calgary-Greenway): A rising star in the PC Party. Mr. Bhullar rose in the ranks under premiers Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford and became one of Mr. Prentice’s lieutenants during his party’s lacklustre 2014 PC leadership contest. In his current role as Infrastructure Minister, he has a big influence over which public projects get funding.

Laurie Blakeman (Edmonton-Centre): As the longest serving opposition MLA, Ms. Blakeman is a feisty voice in the Assembly. Her Bill 202 reignited the debate around student-led Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools and demonstrated how uncomfortable an issue gay rights remains for many PC MLAs. With the Liberal Party moribund under its current leadership, it is difficult to tell what her political future holds.

Robin Campbell Gordon Dirks Heather Forsyth Kent Hehr Alberta MLA

Alberta MLAs Robin Campbell, Gordon Dirks, Heather Forsyth and Kent Hehr.

Robin Campbell (West Yellowhead): As the price of oil declines, the soft-spoken Mr. Campbell finds himself in a situation where he must deal with his party’s poor long-term financial planning. Unfortunately, the PC Caucus is reluctant to entertain the idea of more stable funding sources like sales taxes, a progressive taxation system or an increase in natural resource royalties. Look to Mr. Campbell to provide a more diplomatic approach to public sector pension changes, an issue that hastened the demise of his predecessor, Doug Horner.

Gordon Dirks (Calgary-Elbow): Missing in Action during the contentious Gay-Straight Alliances debate, Mr. Dirks’ connections to socially conservative Christian evangelical groups is a liability for the PC Party among moderate and liberal voters. He brings experience from his time as a Saskatchewan cabinet minister and a Calgary school trustee, but his religious connections and the accusations about allegedly politically-driven school announcements make him a lightening rod for opposition criticism.

Heather Forsyth (Calgary-Fish Creek): The interim leader of the Official Opposition is one of the longest serving MLAs in the Legislature. First elected as a PC MLA in 1993, Ms. Forsyth served in the cabinets of Ralph Klein before joining the Wildrose in 2010. Her big challenge is keep the Wildrose Remnant alive and relevant as her party chooses their next leader in early 2015.

Kent Hehr (Calgary-Buffalo): This respected, hard-working MLA is aiming to become the first Liberal Member of Parliament in Calgary since the early 1970s. He is hoping to build on the support earned by Liberal Harvey Locke in the 2012 by-election. His departure from provincial politics will trigger a by-election that will test the popularity of the provincial Liberals in Alberta’s largest city.

Thomas Lukaszuk Stephen Mandel Rachel Notley Danielle Smith Alberta MLA

Alberta MLAs Thomas Lukaszuk, Stephen Mandel, Rachel Notley and Danielle Smith.

Thomas Lukaszuk (Edmonton-Castle Downs): Cast to the backbenches after Mr. Prentice became premier, Mr. Lukaszuk has not gone quietly. His connection to deep funding cuts to universities and colleges earned him many political enemies, including then-mayor of Edmonton Stephen Mandel. Mr. Lukaszuk turned on Ms. Redford when her star was falling and ran in PC leadership contest as an outsider. He has been outspoken from his spot in the backbenches, leading some political watchers to believe he could be the next Ken Kowalski.

Stephen Mandel (Edmonton-Whitemud): After nine years as Edmonton’s mayor, Mr. Mandel declared he was done with politics in 2013. One year later, he found himself riding to the rescue of Alberta’s 43 year old Progressive Conservative dynasty. As Mr. Prentice’s capital city commodore, Mr. Mandel is responsible for the most politically dangerous government department, Health. He has promised to increase local decision making in health care and is faced with a growing list of aging hospitals and health care centres that have faced decades of neglect by the provincial government.

Rachel Notley (Edmonton-Strathcona): Expectations are high that Ms. Notley will lead Alberta’s New Democratic Party to greatness. The second generation leader of Alberta’s social democratic party is smart, witty and well-positioned to boost her party’s standings in the opposition benches. Her challenge will be to present a viable alternative to the governing PCs while expanding her party’s support outside its traditional enclaves in Edmonton.

Danielle Smith (Highwood): After two years as the leader of the Wildrose Official Opposition, Ms. Smith shocked Albertans in December 2014 when she quit her job and join the Government. It is widely suspected that Ms. Smith will be appointed to cabinet in early 2015, possibly as Deputy Premier. She is a skilled politician but will continue to face heavy criticism in 2015 from her former colleagues for her betrayal.

(Last year’s post, A Dozen Alberta MLAs to Watch in 2014, was inspired by A dozen federal MPs worth watching in 2014, published by the Canadian Press)

Is the Wildrose Caucus about to merge with the PC Caucus?

Wildrose MLA Caucus Alberta Danielle Smith

Are more Wildrose MLAs preparing to cross the floor to the Progressives Conservatives? Independent MLA Joe Anglin has told reporters that Danielle Smith‘s 14 MLA Wildrose Official Opposition Caucus will vote on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 on whether to join the governing PC Caucus.

Rob Anderson Wildrose MLA

Rob Anderson

Mr. Anglin’s comments, claims published on an anonymously blog and tweets from conservative activists fuelled the rumours of the Wildrose Party’s demise on social media last night.

The sources of the rumours are questionable, but the curious silence of official Wildrose Party social media accounts suggests that the merger of the two caucuses could indeed be on the table when Wildrose MLAs meet on Dec. 16.

The loudest rumours point to Wildrose MLAs Rob Anderson and Shayne Saskiw crossing the floor, a claim Mr. Saskiw quickly denied on Twitter.

Shayne Saskiw MLA Wildrose

Shayne Saskiw

More reliable sources say that Mr. Anderson and Mr. Saskiw will make a presentation to their fellow MLAs on Dec. 16 detailing an offer extended by Mr. Prentice to Wildrose MLAs to join the PC Caucus. [Update: The Calgary Sun’s Rick Bell has obtained a copy of the “Reunification Agreement.”]

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes also tweeted his commitment to the Wildrose Party in response to the rumours.

This is not the first time we have heard rumours of a merger. In May 2014, Ms. Smith told reporters that then-PC leadership candidate Jim Prentice had proposed a merger of the two conservative parties. At the time, Premier Dave Hancock denied the claims, but it was clear that Mr. Prentice was reaching out to Wildrose MLAs.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

Since becoming Premier, Mr. Prentice has robbed the Wildrose of its most effective talking points by committing to focus on property rights and reversing many of former premier Alison Redford‘s most unpopular decisions. In some ways, it is now difficult to tell what differentiates the Wildrose Party from Mr. Prentice’s PCs.

Last month, Wildrose MLAs Ian Donovan and Kerry Towle, crossed the floor to the PC Caucus. And only weeks before that, Mr. Anglin left the Wildrose Caucus, claiming that a ‘civil war‘ was being waged within the party.

After losing four by-elections in October 2014 and losing three MLAs since then, the normally loud Wildrosers have toned down, and in some cases struck a more conciliatory tone with the governing PCs.

Kerry Towle

Kerry Towle

Even normally hyper-partisan Justice Minister Jonathan Denis tweeted about working with Mr. Anderson on a Wildrose Caucus amendment to Bill 2: Alberta Accountability Act. If that does not signal a warming of relations between the two caucuses, I’m not sure what else would.

But despite the party’s recent poor showing, a Wildrose Party led by Ms. Smith could still remain competitive going into the next election.

The party has collected an impressive war chest and has nominated candidates in more than a quarter of Alberta’s constituencies. Recent polls show the party sitting at 29% support, only five points behind Mr. Prentice’s PCs.

The question is whether the change in tone signals a new strategy or preparation for a merger with the 43-year governing PC Party? If there is truth to the merger rumours, the departure of more Wildrose MLAs (including Ms. Smith) would be a death blow to that party.

What would a Wildrose-PC Caucus merger mean?
Raj Sherman MLA

Raj Sherman

MLAs crossing the floor is a fairly common occurrence in Alberta and Canadian politics, but I cannot think of any time when an Official Opposition Caucus has voted to merger with a governing caucus.

Unlike the merger of the federal Canadian Alliance and PC Party that created the Conservative Party of Canada in 2003, there is little to no chance another party will form government in the next election (in the context of 2003, a PC-Wildrose merger would be more like Stephen Harper‘s Canadian Alliance joining Paul Martin‘s Liberal Party).

In a scenario where nearly all the Wildrose MLAs crossed the floor to the PC Party, Raj Sherman‘s five MLA Liberal Caucus could regain its role as the Official Opposition. But the Liberals would only hold that title until MLAs Kent Hehr and Darshan Kang resigned to run in the October 2015 federal election. Upon their resignations, Rachel Notley‘s four MLA NDP Caucus could become the Official Opposition.

As 2 more Wildrose MLAs leave, can Danielle Smith’s leadership survive?

Alberta Wildrose Caucus MLA

After three departures in the past month, the Wildrose Caucus is now down to 14 MLAs,

Last week, the wheels were falling off the Wildrose bus. This week, the passengers have flung open the emergency exits and started leaping out into traffic.

The Wildrose Official Opposition started the month of November with 17 MLAs and might be ending it with only fourteen. Today, Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice, flanked by Little Bow MLA Ian Donovan and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle, announced at an afternoon press conference that the two Wildrose MLAs were joining the PC Government Caucus.

Ian Donovan David Eggen MLA

Ian Donovan and NDP MLA David Eggen protesting the closure of the Little Bow Health Centre at a rally in front of Alison Redford’s constituency office on August 14, 2012.

Even though he led the fight against the closure of the Little Bow Health Centre in Carmangay in 2012, Mr. Donovan’s departure did not come as a complete surprise (as was noted in my previous post). Ms. Towle’s departure was tougher to predict, as she had been one of the loudest Wildrose critics of the PC Party since she unseated cabinet minister Luke Ouellette in the 2012 election.

The floor-crossings come at the end of a tumultuous month for Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party, which began with the sting of defeat in four by-elections and the departure of Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Joe Anglin, who now sits as an Independent MLA.

Kerry Towle

Kerry Towle

Ms. Smith tried to demonstrate her party had modernized at its recent annual meeting but was sideswiped by angry conservative activists, who voted down a motion recognizing equality for specific minority groups and then blamed the media for the party’s poor reputation.

The loss of three MLAs in such a short period of time raises questions about Ms. Smith’s future as leader. As the party’s most recognizable face, she is one of her party’s strongest assets. But if more MLAs decide to leave her caucus and the internal turmoil continues, will her leadership survive until the next general election?

Jim Prentice Premier Alberta

Jim Prentice

Since becoming PC Party leader in September, Mr. Prentice has strived to distance his party from the toxic memory of Alison Redford and Ed Stelmach. He has skillfully robbed the Wildrose of its strongest talking points by proposing the repeal of unpopular property rights laws, stalling the closure of the Michener Centre, announcing the sale of the government’s fleet of airplanes, firing cabinet ministers too closely associated with the previous leader and a handful of other lightening rod issues.

He also has deep roots in Canada’s Conservative establishment, serving as a federal cabinet minister in Ottawa and as a bank executive on Bay Street. And the PCs are using Mr. Prentice’s Tory credibility to invite former Tory supporters in the Wildrose party back under their big tent.

Mr. Prentice has started strong and still has plenty of time to stumble, especially with the prospect of declining natural resource revenues, which leads me to believe a provincial election may come sooner than the fixed date of Spring 2016.

Ken Boessenkool

Ken Boessenkool

The temptation to take advantage of a crumbling official opposition, which could lead to a lack of vote splitting among conservative voters might be too appealing to resist (a bad sign for the NDP, Alberta Party and Liberals). If there is one thing that is true of Alberta politics, it is that the PC Party knows how to consolidate and preserve its own power.

As Ms. Smith’s party struggles through a tough month, they need to figure out what fundementally differentiates them from the PC Party led by Mr. Prentice. One conservative strategist – Ken Boessenkool – has once again raised the idea of a potential merger of the two parties to create the “Conservative Party of Alberta.”

Despite its bleak prospects in the immediate future, political fortunes can shift quickly. But if the party’s fortunes do not improve soon, more MLA floor-crossings may follow.

Wildrose knows about floor-crossing

Danielle Smith Rob Anderson Heather Forsyth Wildrose

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith (centre) with MLAs Heather Forsyth and Rob Anderson in 2010.

Floor-crossing is a familiar activity for the Wildrose Party, but they are used to it going the other way. In 2010, the Wildrose received a big boost when then-PC MLAs Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth left Mr. Stelmach’s PC Party to join Ms. Smith’s upstart party. Not long afterward, they were joined by former PC MLA Guy Boutilier, who had been sitting as an Independent MLA.

Over the course of its 43 years of uninterrupted power, one of the great successes of the PC Party has been its ability to build a big tent that includes individuals of all sorts of political persuasions. The two former Wildrose MLAs will now find themselves in the same caucus as two former Liberal MLAs who also crossed the floor to the PCs – Speaker Gene Zwozdesky and Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget Pastoor.

Over the past 25 years, there have been a total of six Liberal MLAs, one Representative Party MLA and one New Democrat MLA who have crossed the floor to the PCs. The lone NDP floor-crosser, Stony Plain MLA Stan Woloshyn, made himself comfortable in the Tory Party ranks as a Ralph Klein-era cabinet minister.

Should floor-crossing be illegal?

Thomas Lukaszuk

Thomas Lukaszuk

In 2010, following Mr. Anderson and Ms. Forsyth’s departure from the PC Caucus, Edmonton-Castle Downs PC MLA Thomas Lukaszuk declared that floor crossing should be banned. PC MLA Jonathan Denis responded to the defections by telling Sun Media that “[t]he Wildrose talks about parliamentary recall — why not initiate that and run in a byelection?”

Manitoba is the only province that currently prohibits MLAs from crossing the floor. If an MLA wishes to leave their party, they must step down and run in a by-election or sit as an Independent MLA until the next election.

Are the wheels falling off the Wildrose bus?

Danielle Smith Wildrose Alberta

Danielle Smith

A short few months ago, it almost felt inevitable that the Wildrose Party would sweep into a majority government at the next election. Their support in the polls was skyrocketing and the 43-year governing Progressive Conservatives looked corrupt, broken and battered. But over the past few weeks, it appears the Official Opposition is stumbling into disarray.

Leader Danielle Smith’s plans to reenergize her party after its four recent by-election loses were sabotaged by social conservative party activists who rallied to reject a motion in support of equality at the party’s recent annual meeting. The defeated motion would have pledged the Wildrose to defend the rights of all people, “regardless of race, religious belief, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation of that person or class of persons.” The vote has cast a shadow over the party.

After spending two years trying to distance herself from the “Lake of Fire” comments that cost the Wildrose its chance of winning the last election, it appears that Ms. Smith is back to square one.

Chris Bataluk Wildrose Edmonton Decore

Chris Bataluk

The defeat of the motion led Terrence Lo, the party’s vice-president in Calgary-Glenmore, to publicly resign.

“This vote confirmed to me that the misguided angry beliefs of a minority of the rank and file holds actual sway in party policy,” Mr. Lo wrote on his blog.

Lawyer Chris Bataluk, who ran for the Wildrose in Edmonton-Decore in the 2012 election, posted a stinging critique of his now former party on Facebook today.

“At this point I feel that the Wildrose Party was a noble but failed experiment,” Mr. Bataluk wrote. “It is of little joy to participate in a party that allows itself to be branded as the party of backward homophobes.”

Mr. Bataluk also noted that he did not renewed his party membership when it expired in August 2014.

Ian Donovan Wildrose

Ian Donovan

Mr. Bataluk’s Facebook post was notably “liked” by Little Bow Wildrose MLA Ian Donovan. Mr. Donovan’s colleague, Joe Anglin, recently left the Wildrose Caucus to sit as an Independent MLA, citing an internal civil war.

The opposition party’s sudden turn is an important reminder of how quickly a party, or a leader’s, political fortunes can turn from good to worse.

Ms. Smith still has time to turn her party’s fortunes around, but the Wildrose Party is increasingly beginning to look like a flash in the pan. The party has a dedicated base of supporters and has shown its ability to raise significant amounts of money, but it now struggles to find relevance in a post-Alison Redford political environment. Can the Wildrose Party be more than a protest party?

Joe Anglin MLA Wildrose Rocky Mountain House Rimbey Sundre

Joe Anglin

While PC Premier Jim Prentice is still surrounded by many of the MLAs and party activists who stood loyally with Ms. Redford until her spectacular end, he has skillfully distanced himself from his predecessor’s legacy. The PC Party is once again masterfully attempting to reinvent itself in the image of its new leader.

After 43 years in power, it seems that anytime an opposition party gets close to defeating the PCs, they soon get knocked out. Not long after Laurence Decore led the Liberal Party to near victory in 1993, infighting and floor crossing destroyed any opportunity of a second chance at unseating the PCs.

Perhaps a sign of the PC Party’s versatility are two key players from Mr. Decore’s 1993 surge who now sit comfortably in the government ranks. Former Liberal MLA Mike Percy is now Mr. Prentice’s Chief of Staff and Gene Zwozdesky, first elected as a Liberal MLA, is now a PC MLA and the Speaker of the Assembly.

While the Wildrose Party has proven itself to be a tough and aggressive opposition, it is very much a party of disgruntled former PC supporters. While the party’s roots can be traced back to Alberta Alliance formed by former Social Credit leader Randy Thorsteinson in 2002, the Wildrose Party did not begin to gain real support until it started attracting former PC members like Ms. Smith, Shayne Saskiw, Shannon Stubbs, Rob Anderson, Guy Boutilier, and Heather Forsyth.

Those disenchanted Tories took a big political risk when they stepped out of line with Alberta’s Natural Governing Party to help start the Wildrose. The dangerous question for Ms. Smith is whether they are beginning to regret making that choice?

The least interesting part of Legislative Session: The Throne Speech

Alberta's Legislature

Alberta’s Legislative Assembly

Every year, political watchers gather at the Alberta Legislature for the pomp and circumstance of the Speech from the Throne, hoping to get a glimpse of a political agenda. And every year they are sorely disappointed at the Throne Speech’s lack of detail.

Jim Prentice Premier Alberta

Jim Prentice

Yesterday’s Throne Speech, delivered by elderly Lieutenant Governor Donald Ethell, was unremarkable, but it was never meant to be more than predictable motherhood and apple pie.

On a year to year basis, it is actually difficult to identify much difference in Throne Speeches. It is perhaps more interesting to identify the promises made that never became reality, like the PC Government’s much talked about but never implemented plan to reduce carbon emissions.

A quick read of the text of this year’s speech will reveal that it was little more than a lengthened version of talking points that we have heard from Premier Jim Prentice since he launched his campaign to become Progressive Conservative Party leader last summer.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Alberta

Danielle Smith

The real political agenda was revealed after the Lieutenant Governor left the Assembly chambers. Mr. Prentice revealed his first piece of legislation as Premier will remove another bill passed by PC MLAs in 2009. Bill 1, the Respecting Property Rights Act, is a one-page  bill that rescinds the unpopular Land Assembly Project Area Act, which was passed in 2009 and amended in 2011, but never proclaimed by the PC Government.

In 2011, then-Infrastructure Minister Jeff Johnson praised amendments to the original law, saying it would “give more power to landowners.” Yet the law remained unproclaimed.

Jeff Johnson Alberta Education Minister MLA

Jeff Johnson

Stemming from widespread opposition to the construction of electrical transmission lines, property rights became a volatile issue that cost the PCs support in rural central and southern Alberta over the past five years. The lack of understanding shown by rural PC MLAs on this issue was mind-boggling. It provided a clear demonstration that the PCs had forgotten how to speak to their loyal base of rural voters. And it cost them in the last election.

The Wildrose Party, with the help of rural rabble-rousers Keith Wilson and Joe Anglin, were able to take advantage of this disenchantment and translate it into electoral wins in long-time Tory strongholds. With his bill, Mr. Prentice hopes to remove the lightening rod that cost his party its rural strongholds.

Laurie Blakeman MLA Edmonton-Centre Liberal

Laurie Blakeman

The Tories are giddy with the decision by Wildrose Party activists to defeat a definitive statement supporting equality at their recent annual meeting in Red Deer. Despite attempts at rebranding as a softer ‘Mildrose’ party, leader Danielle Smith scrambled to explain her party’s position after the vote was held.

But the PC Party’s giddiness may be short-lived. Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman is reviving the debate around Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools. A similar motion introduced by Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr to create more safe and welcoming environments for all students in schools was soundly defeated earlier this year by a coalition of 31 PC and Wildrose MLAs, including then-Education Minister Mr. Johnson.

While some PC MLAs may cringe at the idea of schools that embrace lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered youth, Mr. Prentice now has an opportunity to show that his party is clearly different that the Wildrosers. By supporting Ms. Blakeman’s motion, the Premier can send a message to progressive-minded urban voters that the PCs have fully embraced 21st century social values.

If Mr. Prentice’s first few months as Premier have demonstrated anything, it is that he and his staff are skilled at controlling and shaping political narratives. I have little doubt that he will skillfully navigate these and other hot button issues that come his way. The new Premier’s big challenge will be to demonstrate that the PC Government under his leadership is more than just talking points in a Throne Speech.


Federal Tories win in Tory stronghold…
To no one’s surprise, the Conservative candidate coasted to victory in the by-election held in the federal riding of Yellowhead yesterday. Tory Jim Eglinski, a retired RCMP officer and former B.C. mayor, won with 62% of the vote. His main opponent, Liberal Ryan Maguhn, improved party’s standing by earning 20%, up from 2% in 2011. New Democrat Eric Rosendahl placed third with 9%. Unofficial results show that voter turnout was a measly 16%.

 

Alberta Politics Roundup – Eve of Fall Sitting

Alberta Legislative Assembly

Alberta’s Legislative Assembly will begin the fall session on Monday, November 17, 2014.

Fall Legislative Session
November 17, 2014 will mark the start of the first legislative session for new Premier Jim Prentice, Health Minister Stephen Mandel and Education Minister Gordon Dirks. The 43-year old governing Progressive Conservatives have promised to introduce new laws focusing on property rights and ‘ending entitlements’ for their MLAs.

This will be Rachel Notley’s first session as leader of the NDP Caucus. And Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman will introduce a private members’ bill supporting students who want to create Gay-Straight Alliances in their schools. Newly Independent MLA Joe Anglin is also expected to introduce a private members’ bill.

With the price of oil declining to the mid-$70 range and next year’s budget being prepared, Jonathan Teghtmeyer has shared 9 ways that Alberta could better manage our resources.

Constitutional Property Rights
Flanked by Lethbridge Conservative Member of Parliament Jim Hillyer and Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Rod Fox, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith announced her plans to introduce a motion calling on property rights to be included in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Wildrose motion will likely call for stronger action than will be included in Mr. Prentice’s flagship property rights bill. Also, it is almost politically impossible to amend the Canadian Constitution.

Wildrose in Red Deer
The Wildrose Party is holding its annual convention in Red Deer on November 14 and 15 (the PCs will meet in Banff). Sparks are expected to fly as activists vent their frustration about the party’s poor showing in four recent by-elections.

The departure of Mr. Anglin, a cancelled leadership review and a controversial motion to take away the ability of MLAs to remove their leader and the leader’s staff are also expected to fuel intense debate.

Government House leader
CBC reporter John Archer tweeted news that Justice Minister Jonathan Denis has replaced Municipal Affairs Minister Diana McQueen as Government House leader. Ms. McQueen was appointed to the position two months ago.

Tobacco
Mr. Mandel has announced plans to make it illegal for adults to smoke tobacco in vehicles with children and ban flavoured tobacco, but not menthol cigarettes. Menthol cigarettes are said to be favoured by seniors, who also tend to vote in larger numbers.

In 2012, Liberal leader Raj Sherman introduced the Tobacco Reduction (Protection of Children in Vehicles) Amendment Act, which would have made it illegal for adults to smoke tobacco in vehicles with children. Dr. Sherman’s bill was passed but never proclaimed by the PC Government.

Tailing Ponds
It has been one year since a breach of a containment pond at the Obed Mine spilled 670 million litres of toxic tailings into the Athabasca River and its tributaries.

The Alberta Wilderness AssociationMikisew Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations  and other groups are criticizing the federal and provincial governments for laying charges against the mine’s former owners, Sherritt International, or new owners, Westmoreland Coal Company.

Pro-pipeline Democrats force Keystone XL Vote
Hoping to stave off defeat in a December 6, 2014 runoff vote, Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu is trying to force the United States Senate to vote on approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline before the end of 2014. Approval of the pipeline’s crossing the US-Canada border ultimately rests in the hands of President Barack Obama.

Yellowhead by-election
Voters in the Yellowhead federal riding will cast ballots in a by-election on Monday, November 17, 2014. Although Conservative candidate Jim Eglinski is expecting an easy victory, federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau visited the constituency to campaign with candidate Ryan Mahugn last week.

Calgary Liberals
November 28. Kent Hehr expected to be acclaimed as federal Liberal candidate in Calgary-Centre. The popular MLA was first elected in Calgary-Buffalo in 2008. It is unclear if Mr. Hehr and fellow Liberal MLA Darshan Kang, who is running for the federal Liberals in Calgary-Skyview will resign their provincial positions before the next federal election.

Borderlands By-election
Voters on the Saskatchewan side of the divided city of Lloydminster elected a new MLA in a by-election held yesterday. Saskatchewan Party candidate Colleen Young was elected with 64% of the vote, defeating second place New Democrat Wayne Byers, who earned 29%. It is almost impossible to image an NDP candidate receiving that much support on the Alberta side of Lloydminster.  

Ms. Young replaces former Rural and Remote Health Minister Tim McMillan, who resigned in September to become the President of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

A plug…
I had the pleasure of joining the good folks at The Unknown Studio podcast to chat about Alberta politics this week. I also appeared on this week’s Alberta Primetime politics panel with Edmonton lawyer Roberto Noce and Mount Royal University professor Lori Williams.

What Civil War? After Joe Anglin quits, Wildrose MLAs rally behind Danielle Smith

Wildrose MLA Caucus Alberta Danielle Smith

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith surrounded by her caucus on March 19, 2014.

In a move designed to quash any further internal party dissent, Wildrose MLAs rallied around their leader yesterday by unanimously requesting their party’s executive committee cancel a leadership review that Danielle Smith requested last week.

Joe Anglin MLA Wildrose Rocky Mountain House Rimbey Sundre

Joe Anglin

The sign of caucus unity came shortly after Sundre-Rocky Mountain House-Rimbey MLA Joe Anglin announced he was leaving the Official Opposition Caucus to sit as an Independent MLA.

Ms. Smith requested the review in response to the Wildrose Party’s poor showing in four by-elections held on October 27. Although the by-elections were held in traditionally safe Progressive Conservative voting constituencies, they were seen by many political watchers as a mid-term review for the 43-year governing PC Party, now led by Jim Prentice.

Will the sign of caucus support for Ms. Smith’s leadership put an end to the Wildrose “civil war” between pragmatic and ideological conservatives that Mr. Anglin referred to in a Facebook post yesterday?

Jim Prentice Premier Alberta

Jim Prentice

From the outside, it is difficult to tell whether an actual “civil war” is being waged. Mr. Anglin has always been more comfortable as a political lone-wolf and his departure was not unexpected. And despite the party’s sometimes uneasy coalition of libertarian and social conservatives, it is reasonable to believe Ms. Smith would still receive a strong endorsement from party members in a leadership review (she received 90% approval in a 2013 review).

But the entrance of Mr. Prentice onto the political stage may have slightly shifted the ground in Alberta’s conservative movement. As the by-election results suggest, there are many conservative voters comfortable with a PC Party led by Mr. Prentice and, at the very least, they willing to give him a chance.

Mr. Prentice does pose a serious challenge for the Wildrose Party, which made former Premier Alison Redford into political lightening rod. And while the sting of Ms. Redford’s legacy did not resonate in the by-elections, the recent announcement of an R.C.M.P investigation into her alleged misdeeds may reignite Albertans anger.

It is difficult to imagine who would replace the Wildrose Party’s high-profile leader. Although MLAs Kerry Towle, Bruce McAllister, Shayne Saskiw, Heather Forsyth and Rob Anderson have some provincial profile, none are as recognizable as their current leader. I would guess that most Albertans would struggle to name a Wildrose MLA other than Ms. Smith.

Whether a “civil war” is actually underway, it is clear that the Ms. Smith’s Wildrose Party is facing an identity crisis in a post-Redford political environment.

———

Meanwhile, NDP leader Rachel Notley and Liberal leader Raj Sherman have ruled out any talk of a merger by Alberta’s centre/centre-left political parties. Talk of a potential merger arose following significant vote-splitting in the Oct. 27 by-elections.

Joe Anglin fires opening shot in Wildrose Civil War

Danielle Smith Joe Anglin Wildrose MLA Election Alberta 2012

Happier times: Wildrose leader Danielle Smith with Joe Angiln during the 2012 Alberta Election.

Citing a “civil war” within the Wildrose Party, MLA Joe Anglin has decided to leave the Official Opposition caucus to sit as an Independent MLA.

Mr. Anglin said in a Facebook message posted this morning that he did so in advance of today’s caucus meeting, where leader Danielle Smith was expected to introduce a motion to expel him from the Official Opposition caucus.

The first-term MLA for Sundre-Rocky Mountain House-Rimbey claimed foul-play when losing his nomination bid to represent the Wildrose in the next election. A divisive split in the local constituency association has drawn the ire of senior party officials.

His departure represents the first time the Wildrose has lost an MLA to a defection and now leaves the Official Opposition with 16 MLAs.

A political wildcard, Mr. Anglin admitted in his Facebook post he had “been a round peg in a square hole in the Wildrose Party.” And despite the more recent troubles, rumours of his departure have been circulating in political circles for at least one year.

The former leader of the Alberta Green Party and outspoken critic of electrical transmission line development in rural Alberta was an odd fit for the Wildrose Party.

Mr. Anglin’s advocacy came to province-wide attention in 2007 when it was revealed the now defunct Energy and Utilities Board hired a private detective to spy on central Alberta landowners who were organizing in opposition to transmission line construction through their property.

Fanning the flames of enraged farmers and landowners, Mr. Anglin, along with lawyer Keith Wilson, helped lay the ground for the Wildrose surge in central and southern Alberta in the 2012 election.

The question now is whether Progressive Conservative Premier Jim Prentice‘s peace-offerings towards property-rights activists like Mr. Anglin could convince him to join the government caucus, or at the very least support related legislation expected to be introduced in November.

While the party’s loss in four recent by-elections put the spotlight on Ms. Smith and her call for a leadership review at the party’s November convention, Mr. Anglin’s departure casts a light on a split in the party and caucus.

It has been caught up in a civil war between ideologues and pragmatists, with staff, volunteers, and even MLAs being placed into and forced out of positions with alarming frequency,” Mr. Anglin wrote in his Facebook post.

While most Wildrose Party activists I have spoken with support Ms. Smith’s leadership, there is a group who remain disappointed with the party’s lack of focus and inability to hold significant ground against the PCs in the polls.

The clear beneficiary of this public dispute is Mr. Prentice, who, after nearly two months in office, has left the Wildrose Party scrambling to respond to a post-Alison Redford reality.

Since Peter Lougheed catapulted from official opposition leader to Premier in 1971, leadership positions in Alberta’s opposition benches have become a political graveyard for many well-intentioned and ambitious politicians.

If Ms. Smith is able to rally her MLAs and party activists in unity at the party’s convention and secure a strong leadership vote, the party could remain competitive going into the next election.

If Mr. Anglin’s departure deepens the splits in the party, and other MLAs join him or cross the floor to the PCs, Ms. Smith may be destined to join the list of many other Official Opposition leaders who failed to defeat Alberta’s 43-year governing PC Party.