Tag Archives: John Archer

Calgary Foothills Election By Results

What’s at stake for who in the Calgary-Foothills by-election

The Calgary-Foothills by-election to replace former Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice, who resigned on the evening he was re-elected as MLA on May 5, will take place on September 3, 2015.

Jim Prentice Alberta Premier

Jim Prentice

Like most constituencies in Calgary before this year’s election, Foothills has been a traditionally conservative voting area that elected PC MLAs since the party began its 44-year run as government in 1971. But unlike most constituencies in Calgary in the recent election, enough voters in Calgary-Foothills supported Mr. Prentice to avoid Rachel Notley‘s orange wave.

This by-election is the first electoral test for Ms. Notley’s new government since it was voted into office on May 5.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

The NDP have nominated former alderman Bob Hawkesworth, who also served as the NDP MLA for Calgary-Mountain View from 1986 to 1993.

With a comfortable majority of 53 MLAs in the Legislature, the NDP do not need to win this by-election, but a win would demonstrate that the NDP sweep in May can be expanded into new areas of the province. A very poor showing would be seen as a rebuke of Ms. Notley’s policies.

Showing how serious the party is taking the by-election opportunity, one of the Premier’s top communications staffers, former CBC reporter John Archer, tweeted last week that he would be taking a leave of absence from his job at the Legislature to work on Mr. Hawkesworth’s campaign.

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP

Joe Ceci

Expect Calgary NDP MLAs and cabinet ministers Finance Minister Joe Ceci, Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley and Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir to be flooding through this constituency many times over the next month.

Although the by-election will take place in the depths of summer, it also falls in the midst of a federal election campaign, which could create some fascinating political scenarios.

Ric McIver

Ric McIver

Federal Conservatives united behind Stephen Harper‘s federal party may be forced to choose sides between the old Progressive Conservatives now led by former Calgary alderman Ric McIver and the opposition Wildrose Party led by former Fort McMurray Conservative MP Brian Jean.

It is well known that many federal Conservative MPs, including Rob Anders and Jason Kenney, support the Wildrose but recent polls show the PCs remain popular in Calgary while the Wildrose opposition caucus is almost entirely based in rural Alberta. But in 2015, three former PC MLAs are running as federal Conservative candidates – Ron Liepert in Calgary-Signal Hill, Matt Jeneroux in Edmonton-Riverbend and former Calgary-Foothills PC MLA Len Webber in Calgary-Confederation.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

The by-election will be an important indicator showing if the PC still have a political pulse.The party remains in shock after their stunning electoral defeat and has yet to nominate a candidate to run in the by-election.

Update: AlbertaPolitics.ca author David Climenhaga reports that past city council candidate Blair Houston is expected to be nominated as the PC candidate.

Stakes are also high for the Wildrose Party and Mr. Jean. The Wildrose was unable to elect any candidates in Alberta’s two largest urban centres in the recent election, despite having elected two MLAs in Calgary in 2012. A Wildrose win in Foothills could torpedo activities by conservative operatives to merge the two conservative parties.

Greg Clark Calgary-Elbow Alberta Party

Greg Clark

Originally scheduled for August 15, the Wildrose has moved up their nomination vote to August 11, 2015 (John Huang, Kathy Macdonald, and Prasad Panda are contesting the nomination).

The by-election could also be an important test for the Alberta Party, whose leader Greg Clark was elected in Calgary-Elbow and has earned a reputation as a vocal critic of the NDP over the past three months. While still new to the Legislature, Mr. Clark has an opportunity to turn his party into the moderate conservative alternative to the PC Party and Liberal Party. The Alberta Party has yet to nominate a candidate.

The Liberals have nominated electrical engineer and past candidate Ali Bin Zahid, and Green Party leader Janet Keeping, who ran against Mr. Prentice in May, is running again.

Alberta’s new political insiders mostly come from outside Alberta

Edmonton Journal report Karen Kleiss published a story this week naming the new Chiefs of Staff hired to advise Alberta’s twelve NDP cabinet ministers and manage their offices at the Legislature. The new government has faced criticism for hiring too many staff from outside of the province and Premier Rachel Notley‘s NDP have responded that the new government needs to hire the best people for the job no matter where they come from (even Alberta’s premiere Tory lobbyist companies are hiring British Columbia New Democrats to advise them about Alberta’s new political landscape).

The criticism is valid. A balance of experience and local knowledge is required within the senior ranks of the new government, and as a Alberta’s first new government in 44 years, there might not be many operatives in-province with non-Progressive Conservative governing experience to rely on.

As previous premier’s Alison Redford and Jim Prentice discovered, filling senior political jobs with outsiders who may not be familiar with the provincial political environment can alienate party loyalists and MLAs and lead to embarrassing mistakes.

List of Alberta’s Ministerial Chiefs of Staff

Lisa Blanchette, Education, Culture and Tourism: Former organizer for ACTRA Toronto, previous employee of SEIU, and national political action coordinator for the United Steelworkers.

Jessica Bowering, Justice and Solicitor General and Aboriginal Relations: Lawyer and former director of Legal Services for the British Columbia Nurses Union.

Tony Clark, Human Services: Former research for the Alberta Federation of Labour and staffer for the NDP Opposition Caucus.

Brent Dancey, Environment and Parks and the Status of Women: Former Special Assistant to Premier Greg Selinger‘s Office for Manitoba Hydro.

Scott Harris, Agriculture and Forestry: Former Political Research Coordinator in Office of the Leader of the NDP Official Opposition in Ottawa.

Graham Mitchell, Energy: Former Director of Training and Leadership at the Broadbent Institute and former Executive Assistant to Toronto City Councillors Jack Layton.

Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Health and Seniors: Former Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta, President of the Riverdale Community League.

Nathan Rotman, Finance and Treasury Board: Former National Director of the NDP, former campaign manager for Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow, former national director of  Political Action and Campaigns at the Canadian Labour Congress.

Nathaniel Smith, Municipal Affairs and Service Alberta: Former organizer for the NDP in Halifax, former executive assistant to NDP cabinet ministers in Nova Scotia.

Steve Stringfellow, Innovation and Advanced Education and Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour: Former CUPE National Representative in Alberta and BC NDP campaign manager.

Robin Steudel, Infrastructure and Transportation: Former Principal Secretary to the Alberta NDP Caucus, former Communications Officer at the NDP Official Opposition in British Columbia, former spokesperson for the Yukon NDP, and federal NDP communications officer.

Brian Topp, International and Intergovernmental Relations (Premier): NDP campaign manager, former federal NDP leadership candidate, deputy chief of staff to former Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow.

Journos flee the fourth estate for NDP jobs

Intrepid CBC reporter John Archer announced this week that he has accepted a job in the Premier’s Media Relations Office. Mr. Archer is one of a handful of journalists who have recently accepted jobs with the new NDP government, including Veronica Jubinville and Laura Tupper from CTV, and Jeremy Nolais and Leah Holoiday from Metro.

PC Party executive director Kelley Charlebois was recently featured in lobby company Canadian Strategy Group's annual "House of Cards" photo shoot.

“It’s like we’ve become House of Cards,” PC activist says of party nomination interference

“It’s like we’ve become House of Cards,” is how one Progressive Conservative Party member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described their party’s candidate nomination process. With a rush of nomination contests being held in advance of a spring provincial election in Alberta, the member said “the entire process has gone straight to hell.”

A number of frustrated PC Party members have contacted me over the past few weeks to vent their frustration with interference by senior cabinet ministers and party officials in local nomination contests, especially in rural constituencies where long-standing PC Party loyalists are challenging former Wildrose MLAs who crossed the floor to the PC Party in December 2014.

Over the past few months, cabinet ministers have criss-crossed the province to campaign and be seen alongside their favoured candidate nominees. The interference is coming from “the boys on the third floor,” said another disaffected PC activist, referring to the Premier’s Office, which is located on the third floor of the Legislative Assembly Building.

While hurt feelings, drama and even the odd scandal are not uncommon in party nomination contests, the increased number of controversies arising from PC nomination contests this year could be a cause of concern for the 44-year long governing party. In many Alberta constituencies, winning the PC nomination is a more challenging campaign than winning the actual election.

When running for the PC leadership last year, Jim Prentice promised to restore trust in a PC Party badly damaged by former Premier Alison Redford, but the latest nomination controversies undermine his promise and will likely increase cynicism among Alberta voters.

Here is a quick run-down of some of the more contentious nomination races that have been reported in by the media:

– PC MLA Naresh Bhardwaj resigned as Associate Minister for Persons with Disabilities last Friday pending an investigation by the PC Party into allegations of bribery in the recent Edmonton-Ellerslie nomination contest. Metro Edmonton first reported that a party member publicly accused Mr. Bhardwaj of offering him, through another person, a $10,000 bribe in return for recanting his support for candidate Balraj Manhas. Mr. Bhardwaj, who was acclaimed as the PC candidate, has stated that he plans to clear his name.

 As I suspected in February, former Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson was appointed by Mr. Prentice as the PC Party’s candidate in Calgary-Cross. Normally, the appointment of this type of star candidate is celebrated, but in this case, there were at least six other candidates already campaigning for the nomination. Although the party leader has the power to appoint the candidates of his choosing, it is a delicate balance not to offend or alienate local party organizers.

– One day before the Edmonton-Meadowlark PC nomination vote on March 14, 2015, candidate Tom Choucair was disqualified after another candidate, Steve Benson, alleged someone from another candidate’s campaign offered him money to drop out of the race. Mr. Benson announced in an email sent to the local PC Association that he had filed an affidavit with the party. “Personally, the party wants a particular person to be the nominee,” Mr. Choucair told CBC. Former Globe & Mail reporter Katherine O’Neill won the nomination vote this weekend.

CBC reporter John Archer has written about the strange details behind the Meadowlark nomination controversy, including mistaken phone calls from senior staff in the Premier’s Office and a former Edmonton City Councillor.

Don Martin, a 2012 Wildrose candidate and a 2015 nomination candidate in Edmonton-Decore, claims he was forced out of the nomination contest by a PC Party official. Mr. Martin posted his account of the situation on his Facebook page, claiming he was forced out of the race amid wrongful accusations of misconduct and threats of a mystery affidavit. His withdrawal from the nomination led to PC MLA Janice Sarich being acclaimed as the PC candidate.

– Defeated nomination candidate Dixie Dahlstedt submitted an official complaint to the PC Party about the conduct of the party’s nomination vote in the Bonnyville-Cold Lake constituency. Ms. Dahlstedt’s complaint lists a series of objections about the organization of the nomination, alleged conflicts of interest, and calls for the party to conduct an inquiry. The nomination vote was won by Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland.

Only two remaining constituencies – Chestermere-Rockyview and Calgary-McCall – have not yet scheduled nomination contests, leaving some PC Party members to speculate that Mr. Prentice is aiming to appoint candidates in those spots.

Sharpen Your Pencils, Alberta. Slash-and-burn is back.

Premier Jim Prentice Alberta PC leadership race

Jim Prentice celebrates his victory in the PC Party leadership contest on September 6, 2014.

Living in the land of the lowest taxation rates in Canada allows many personal benefits but long-term government stability has not been one of them. Relying heavily on natural resource revenues, our political leaders continue to stumble from embarrassment of riches to poverty and never appear to learn from our past.

Robin Campbell Alberta Finance Yellowhead

Robin Campbell

And here we go again. Progressive Conservative Finance Minister Robin Campbell announced plans yesterday for a 9% across the board funding cut in the 2015/2016 provincial budget, which is expected to tabled near the end of March.

Two years ago, we were told that funding for colleges and universities needed to be slashed in order to survive Alison Redford‘s “Bitumen Bubble.” Twenty years ago, many Albertans accepted the deep funding cuts imposed by former Premier Ralph Klein and then watched with cynicism as the government spent the next two decades trying to repair the damage done to our public infrastructure and health and education systems.

Premier Alison Redford

Alison Redford

While claiming “all options” are on the table, the PCs have already ruled out increases to corporate taxes or resource royalties, and likely also the introduction of a provincial sales tax or a return to a progressive taxation system. Rather than looking at alternative revenue sources, Mr. Campbell and Premier Jim Prentice appear to be on an unfortunate course towards drastically cutting public service funding.

Four months ago, Mr. Prentice said he found low morale and high turnover in the public service “shocking.” But with the Finance Minister warning of deep funding cuts across the government, it is difficult to see how he plans to change this situation.

Alberta is now facing a crisis not caused by low oil prices but by decades of poor planning.

As a province with decades worth of dependence on revenues from natural resource royalties, it should not be a shock that we need to be smarter about how we plan and finance our government spending. Maybe our only problem is not our over reliance on cyclical natural resources revenues, but that the Progressive Conservatives are just bad fiscal managers.

One dull pencil

Genia Leskiw MLA Bonnyville Cold Lake

Genia Leskiw

Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA Genia Leskiw fumbled embarrassingly this week when she tried to explain why the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices, which is controlled by PC MLAs, voted to reject a request from Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff to restore $275,000 in funding that the committee voted to cut in December 2014.

I don’t really believe they’ve sharpened their pencils as sharp as they could have,” Ms. Leskiw told CBC reporter John Archer when asked why the advocate’s request was denied. When pressed for details about why the funding was denied, Ms. Leskiw responded that she was not an accountant.

This is not the first time Ms. Leskiw has used the ‘I’m not an accountant’ defence. In 2012, she pleaded ignorance when asked about the extra money she was collecting from the infamous ‘no-meet committee,’ telling the CBC that “I don’t even look at my paycheque.

Mr. Graff asked for the funds in order to continue investigations into the deaths of children who are in the province’s care or who are supported by the province. In 2014, the PC Government faced harsh criticism when a Calgary Herald-Edmonton Journal investigation revealed the government had dramatically under-reported the number of child welfare deaths over the previous decade.

Mr. Prentice defended the funding cut and ordered the MLA committee to revoke the $500,000 in additional funding it had just granted this week to the Auditor General. The Premier’s heavy-handed move raises the question of why legislative committees exist if he can unilaterally overrule their decisions. Will any of the PC MLAs on the committee have the backbone to stand up for their decision when they meet again next Tuesday? Or will they simply bow to the whim of their party leader?

The cuts in funding for the Child and Youth Advocate and the Auditor General take place as the provincial government provides $18 million to rebuild the Kananaskis Country Golf Course, which was damaged in the 2013 floods. Public funding for the golf course has not been revoked, but plans for other critical projects, like the long promised new Cancer Centre in Calgary, have now been delayed.

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.