Tag Archives: John Barlow

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.

A closer look at the Fort McMurray-Athabasca and Macleod by-elections

Conservative candidates were elected in two federal by-elections yesterday in Alberta. This is an event which would normally not be a source for much commentary, but there are some interesting points to be made from the outcome of these two by-elections.

Fort McMurray Athabasca Federal By-Election Results 2014

Unofficial results of the 2014 federal by-election in Fort McMurray-Athabasca.

Conservatives hold, but support shrinks
In Fort McMurray-Athabasca, Conservative David Yurdiga was elected with 5,945 votes (47% of the vote), significantly lower than the landslide 21,988 votes (71.8% of the vote) earned by former MP Brian Jean in the 2011 general election. The regional breakdown of the votes could provide some interesting insight into this by-election, as Mr. Yurdiga hails from the voter-rich southern limits of this large rural riding.

In Macleod, John Barlow was elected with 12,394 votes (68%), only slightly lower than the 77% earned by MP Ted Menzies in 2011.

Liberals back in second place
The Liberals dislodged the official opposition New Democratic Party as the main challenger to the Conservatives in both ridings. Strong local campaigns as well as a boost from Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who visited the ridings numerous times during the by-elections, likely contributed to these results.

Fort McMurray-Athabasca Liberal Kyle Harrietha placed a strong second with 35.3% of the vote (4,491 votes), up from his party’s 10% in the 2011 general election. While the Liberals were not able to pull off a win, they should not be disappointed with their level of support. Percentage wise, this is the strongest a non-conservative candidate has placed in this riding since 1980.

In Macleod, Liberal Dustin Fuller earned 17% of the vote (3,062 votes), up from his party’s distant 3.6% fourth place finish in the 2011 general election.

Macleod federal by-election results 2014

Unofficial results from the 2014 federal by-election in Macleod.

Low voter turnout
Voter turnout was abysmally low. Only 15.19% of registered voters cast a ballot in Fort McMurray-Athabasca and 19.59% voted in Macleod. Although by-elections traditionally attract low voter turnout, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s choice to schedule the voting day between a weekend and Canada Day likely contributed to the low participation.

On Canada Day, we should reflect on how voter participation strengthens our democracy and the consequences of ignoring our country’s political and electoral process.

A Liberal win in Fort McMurray-Athabasca would send shockwaves to Ottawa

Kyle Harrietha Justin Trudeau Fort McMurray Athabasca Liberal

Fort McMurray-Athabasca Liberal candidate Kyle Harrietha with Justin Trudeau.

On Monday, June 30, voters in four federal ridings across Canada, including Alberta’s Fort McMurray-Athabasca and Macleod, have an opportunity to choose their next Member of Parliament. Paying close attention to a by-election campaign may not be the most thrilling activity to occupy your time during the summer months, but it is an important one.

Voters in southern Alberta’s Macleod riding are expected to march into the ballot box and elect Conservative John Barlow as their next MP, but the race in the vast northern riding of Fort McMurray-Athabasca could produce much more interesting results after the polls close at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow.

While the opposition parties have written off the area in the past, it is hard to make that argument in 2014. Kyle Harrietha has run the strongest Liberal campaign the riding has seen in a generation, and has been boosted by leader Justin Trudeau, who has visited the riding three times since Conservative MP Brian Jean resigned in January 2014.

Lori McDaniel Linda Duncan NDP Fort McMurray Athabasca

NDP candidate Lori McDaniel with Edmonton NDP MP Linda Duncan

New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair had been scheduled to visit the riding and campaign alongside Lori McDaniel during the by-election but cancelled his planned trip to attend the funeral of the three murdered R.C.M.P. officers in Moncton, New Brunswick.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, still leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, was nowhere to be seen during this by-election.

While national issues like the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and the ongoing environmental debates about climate change and the impact of Oil Sands development, are sure the play a role in how voters decide to cast their ballots, Tip O’Neill‘s well-known saying “all politics is local” will certainly be a factor in this by-election.

Fort McMurray is a booming community where there are serious concerns about the lagging pace of infrastructure investment from the provincial and federal governments. The pace of economic growth sparked a huge influx of diverse migrants from across Canada and the globe.

While the region is an economic engine for the country, residents I have spoken with feel their community has been forgotten, or just plain ignored, by the higher levels of government.

Federal cabinet minister Kellie Leitch campaigned with Conservative candidate David Yurdiga in Fort McMurray this week.

Federal cabinet minister Kellie Leitch campaigned with Conservative candidate David Yurdiga in Fort McMurray in May 2014.

Conservative candidate David Yurdiga has played a peekaboo campaign, skipping all-candidates debates and not engaging with voters on social media (he has been accused of “blocking” local voters who have criticized him on Twitter). He hails from the voter-rich southern reaches of the riding in Athabasca County, which faces some similar and many different issues than the industrial oil capital to the north.

In the south, Mr. Yurdiga has received the endorsements of Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw and embattled provincial Education Minister Jeff Johnson.

As Canadians have witnessed many times in the past, by-elections pose a risk to incumbent governments, as they give voters an opportunity to send a strong message of approval or disapproval to Ottawa without changing who is in power.

Former Conservative MP Mr. Jean was re-elected in 2011 with a 17,935 vote margin of victory over his closest challenger. If Mr. Yurdiga is elected with even a significantly smaller margin, voters will send a message that will quickly be forgotten in Ottawa. If voters in this riding elect Mr. Harrietha tomorrow, they will send shockwaves through the comfortable Conservative establishment in the nation’s capital.

A federal by-election in Cowboy Country

Earlier this week, I wrote about the interesting by-election in Fort McMurray-Athabasca, today I look at the other federal by-election in Alberta that will take place on June 30, 2014.

Macleod Federal Election Results 2006 2008 2011 by-election 2014

Situated on the eastern slopes of of the Rocky Mountains, the Conservative machine appears strong in southern Alberta’s Macleod riding. Although growth in the communities of Okotoks and High River, which was devastated by flooding in the summer of 2013, have brought many new voters in the riding, Macleod is a much more traditionally Conservative riding than its northern by-election counter-part.

John Barlow Macleod Conservative

John Barlow

Respected local newspaper editor John Barlow won a hotly contested nomination race in which he faced loud criticism from the National Firearms Association for his support of RCMP gun-seizures during the High River floods. The gun lobby endorsed his nomination opponents but have remained silent since the nomination vote was held.

This is Mr. Barlow’s second attempt at political office, having recently run as the Highwood Progressive Conservative candidate against Wildrose leader Danielle Smith in the 2012 provincial election. Unlike the Calgary-Centre by-election of 2012, which saw a federal split among PC and Wildrose supporters, it appears that most Wildrosers are lining up behind Mr. Barlow’s campaign (or, at least, are not publicly opposing him).

One media report from the riding suggest that Prime Minister Stephen Harper may become a defining issue of this by-election campaign. Mr. Harper and his family are said to have recently purchased property near Bragg Creek in the northern portion of Macleod. The prime minister’s wife, Laureen Harper, was seen voting at the Conservative nomination meeting on March 8, 2014.

Dustin Fuller Liberal by-election macleod Justin Trudeau 2014

Liberal candidate Dustin Fuller and Justin Trudeau (from the Dustin Fuller for Macleod Facebook page).

Mr. Barlow so far faces only two challengers. Liberal Dustin Fuller, an oil and gas worker has been campaigning for months. Mr. Fuller works in the energy sector and is a former president of the University of Lethbridge Students’ Union.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has visited the riding numerous times, drawing curious crowds in Okotoks and High River. The last time a federal Liberal was elected in this region, was when his father, Pierre Trudeau, led his party to a majority victory in the 1968 election.

Larry Ashmore Green Party Macleod By-election Alberta

Larry Ashmore

The Green Party has chosen Larry Ashmore to carry their banner in the by-election. Mr. Ashmore is the former leader of the Evergreen Party (now renamed the Green Party of Alberta) and was a  candidate in the 2008 and 2012 provincial elections in Foothills-Rockyview and Livingstone-Macleod . In the 2006 federal election, he placed fourth with 3,075 votes (6.18% of the vote) as the Green candidate in Macleod.

Aileen Burke is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate. Mr. Burke is listed as the treasurer of the Lethbridge-East provincial NDP constituency association and was a trustee candidate for the Lethbridge School District No. 51 in the October 2013 municipal elections.

Conservatives spar for safe Alberta ridings

While the epic battle between Rob Anders and Ron Liepert in Calgary-Signal Hill was entertaining to watch, preparation for the next federal election has sparked nomination contests in ridings across the province. And with two  by-elections expected to be called within weeks, federal political parties are lining up their candidates for the vote.

By-Election nominations

Justin Trudeau and Kyle Harrietha on the front page of Fort McMurray Today.

Justin Trudeau and Kyle Harrietha on the front page of Fort McMurray Today.

Fort McMurray-Athabasca
On March 30, Liberal Party members chose Kyle Harrietha as their candidate. Mr. Harrietha faced Chris Flett in the nomination contest.

The Liberals are expected to run a strong campaign in the sprawling northeast Alberta riding. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau recently visited the riding, drawing a crowd of hundreds to a meet-and-greet event in Fort McMurray.

The Conservative Party will hold its nomination votes on April 24 in High Prairie and Slave Lake, April 25 in Athabasca and Lac La Biche, and April 26 in Fort McMurray. The results will be announced following the Fort McMurray vote. Fort McMurray lawyer Arlan Delisle and Athabasca County councillor David Yurdiga are the only two candidates seeking the nomination.

Oilsands worker Lori McDaniel will run for the New Democrats and firefighter Tim Moen is the Libertarian Party candidate.

John Barlow George Canyon Conservative Macleod By-Election

John Barlow and George Canyon

Macleod
On April 6, Dustin Fuller was nominated as the federal Liberal candidate in the upcoming by-election. Mr. Fuller will face Conservative John Barlow when the by-election is called. There has so far been no sign of any NDP or Green Party candidates.

General Election nominations

Meanwhile, nominations for the general election are also underway. As most of Alberta are largely considered safe territory for the Conservatives, competitive races have emerged in newly redrawn ridings across Alberta. Here are some ridings with recent updates:

Bow River
Country music crooner George Canyon has withdrawn his name from the Conservative nomination contest in southern Alberta’s Bow River. Christian television talk show host Paul Arthur has since announced he will seek the nomination.

Calgary-Nose Hill
Michelle Rempel was acclaimed as the Conservative candidate in this newly redrawn north Calgary riding. Ms. Rempel has represented the Calgary-Centre North riding since 2011.

Calgary-Rocky Ridge
Recent defeated in the Calgary-Signal Hill nomination contest, Mr. Anders may seek the Conservative nomination in this neighbouring riding. The Conservative nomination is already being sought by former MP Eric Lowther and party organizer Gord Elliott.

Mr. Lowther represented Calgary-Centre as the Reform Party/Canadian Alliance MP from 1997 until 2000, when he was defeated by former Prime Minister Joe Clark, who had returned to politics to lead the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

Edmonton-Mill Woods
Edmonton-Sherwood Park MP Tim Uppal has decided to jump across the city to seek the Conservative nomination in the new Edmonton-Mill Woods riding. Mr. Uppal was the Canadian Alliance/Conservative candidate in that area in 2000 and 2004 but was defeated by Mike Lake for the Conservative nomination in 2006.

Varinder Bhullar is seeking the Liberal nomination and Deep Hundal has announced that he plans to run for the NDP nomination.

Edmonton-Riverbend
Will James Rajotte run for the Alberta PC Party leadership? It seems unlikely, but rumours persistTofael Chowdhury is challenging Mr. Rajotte for the Conservative nomination in this new south Edmonton riding.

This is not Mr. Chowdhury’s first attempt at a party nomination. In 2011, he challenged Matt Jeneroux for the Progressive Conservative nomination in the provincial riding of Edmonton-South West and in 2008 he unsuccessfully sought the federal Liberal Party nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona.

Edmonton-West
Edmonton Police Constable Brad Rutherford has entered the Conservative nomination race in this new riding. He will face Edmonton-McClung PC MLA David Xiao, who announced his candidacy in March.

Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan
Recent municipal election candidate Nicole van Kuppeveld has announced she will seek the Conservative nomination in this new riding east of Edmonton. Ms.  van Kuppeveld, the former president of the Sherwood Park provincial PC Party, will face off against Garnett Genuis, the 2012 Wildrose candidate in Sherwood Park.

If there are any additions to the list of nomination candidates for the 2015 federal election, please contact me through the comment section below or by email at david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com.

By-election update: Conservatives choose Barlow for Macleod, Liberal MPs invade Alberta

Macleod by-election map

The sprawling prairie, peaks of mountains, and rolling hills of the Macleod riding run from Spray Lakes in the north to the edge of Waterton National Park in the south.

John Barlow was chosen as the Conservative Party candidate last night in the Macleod riding. With a by-election expected to be called soon, Mr. Barlow defeated three other candidates – Melissa Mathieson, Phil Rowland and Scott Wagner – to win the nomination.

During the campaign, Mr. Barlow faced severe opposition from Canada’s gun lobby for his defence of RCMP actions during last year’s flood in High River. The National Firearms Association waded into the debate and urged Conservatives to support Ms. Mathieson and Mr. Rowland.

Mr. Barlow was the Progressive Conservative candidate in Highwood in the 2012 election, where he faced off against Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith. In that race, he earned 8,159 votes to Ms. Smith’s 10,094 votes.

Dustin Fuller is the first person to declare a candidacy for the Liberal nomination in Macleod. Wascana Liberal MP Ralph Goodale is expected to visit the Macleod next week for a meet and greet in Okotoks. Mr. Goodale will also attend an event in Calgary-Centre.

Fort McMurray-Athabasca
Up north, Chris Flett is the second candidate to enter the Liberal nomination to run in the upcoming Fort McMurray-Athabasca by-election. Mr. Flett, an active member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 955, joins Kyle Harrietha in the race.

A nomination date has not yet been announced, but the cutoff to purchase a Liberal membership to vote in the contest is March 13, 2014.

Hoping to gain support in the by-election, the Liberals have focused resources on the diverse and energy rich northern Alberta riding. Liberal MPs Rodger Cuzner and Marc Garneau will headline a $250 a plate fundraising dinner in Fort McMurray on March 18. Last month, Labrador Liberal MP Yvonne Jones visited Fort McMurray to meet with local members.

Meanwhile, rumours continue to circulate about whether former PC turned Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier will jump into federal politics as the Conservative candidate. Tim Moen announced last week that he plans to run for the Libertarian Party nomination.

Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan
Conservative activist Garnett Genuis is the first candidate to enter the Conservative nomination in the new Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan riding.

Mr. Genuis was the 2012 Wildrose Party candidate in Sherwood Park, and is a vice-president of a polling company and the executive director for Parents for Choice in Education, a pro-Charter school lobby group whose board of directors includes former Wildrose candidates John Carpay and Andrew Constantinidis. Mr. Genuis has been endorsed by former MPs Ken Epp and Stockwell Day.

Canada’s next federal election is scheduled to be held on October 19, 2015. I have been maintaining a list of candidates who have announced their intentions to seek nominations and run in the next federal election in Alberta ridings. Please contact me at david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com for additions or updates related to candidate nominations in Alberta.

Interesting federal nomination races emerging across Alberta

Edmonton's 2015 electoral districts as recommended by the Electoral Boundary Commission Final Report.

Edmonton’s 2015 electoral districts as recommended by the Electoral Boundary Commission Final Report.

Interesting nomination races are emerging across Alberta as parties prepare to choose candidates to run in the next federal election, slated for October 2015. Below are some of the most recent updates from ridings across the province, where candidates are seeking nominations to run in two by-elections and the general election.

By-elections

Macleod
Conservative Party members will choose their candidate at nomination meetings in Pincher Creek on March 6, Claresholm on March 7 and Okotoks on March 8. Five candidates remain in the contest after Rick Waljamaa withdrew from the race. The remaining candidates include John Barlow, Melissa Mathieson, Phil Rowland, and Scott Wagner. Firearms lobby groups and conservative media pundits have intervened to ensure that guns have become the dominant issue of the campaign.

Fort McMurray-Athabasca
First out of the gate, Kyle Harrietha announced that he is seeking the Liberal nomination to run in the impending by-election. Mr. Harrietha is a former Ottawa staffer and worked in Fort McMurray as the program manager of the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA). He now works as General Manager of Fort McMurray Métis Local 1935.

The NDP have recruited their first nomination candidate in Lori McDaniel, a Suncor employee and health and safety representative for Unifor Local 707A. Ms. McDaniel announced her plans as NDP leader Thomas Mulcair visited Fort McMurray last week.

Three-term councillor and former Athabasca County reeve David Yurdiga is the first candidate to enter the Conservative Party nomination contest. Mr. Yurdiga currently represents the Grasslands area, which will become part of the new Lakeland riding when the next general election is called and the new Fort McMurray-Cold Lake riding is created. The current boundaries will remain the same when the by-election is held.

General Election 2015

Banff-Airdrie
Incumbent Conservative MP Blake Richards will seek his party’s nomination in the new Banff-Airdrie riding. Mr. Richards has represented the current Wild Rose riding since 2006.

iPolitics.ca
is reporting that Marlo Raynolds is seeking the Liberal Party nomination in the new Banff-Airdrie riding. Mr. Raynolds is the former executive director of the Pembina Institute and spoke at last weekend’s federal Liberal Party convention in Montreal on the topic of cities and infrastructure investment. He currently serves Vice-President of Market Development for BluEarth Renewables.

Edmonton-Greisbach
Six Five candidates have stepped up to run for the NDP nomination in this east central Edmonton riding. Candidates include Canadian Labour Congress representative Amanda Freistadt, educator Janis Irwin, Cam McCormick, Namrata Gill, Bashir Mohamed and Zane Smith.

Edmonton-Riverbend
Five-term Conservative Member of Parliament James Rajotte plans to seek his party’s nomination in the new Edmonton-Riverbend riding. He has represented southwest Edmonton since 2000.

Edmonton-Wetaskiwin
Three-term Conservative MP Mike Lake has announced his plans to seek the Conservative nomination in the new Edmonton-Wetaskiwin riding. Mr. Lake has represented Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont since 2006 and lives in the south portion of Edmonton that will be included in the new riding. He will face Mohinder Banga for the Conservative nomination.

For up-to-date nomination news, follow the list of Alberta Federal Election candidates.

Gun-toting conservatives take aim at Macleod by-election candidate

Melissa Mathieson Rob Anders Macleod Conservative Guns

Conservative nomination candidate Melissa Mathieson and Calgary-West MP Rob Anders pose with their guns and targets: bearded men wearing turbans, and zombies. (Photo supplied by a friendly daveberta.ca reader).

Just say no-to-Barlow!” was the message broadcast to the 15,941 followers of the National Firearms Association Facebook page.

The National Rifle Association‘s Canadian cousins hope to drag down John Barlow, a candidate for the Macleod Conservative Party of Canada by-election nomination who they claim supports the RCMP seizure of firearms from abandoned houses during last year’s High River flood. The organization calls the gun seizure the “largest breech (sic) of Canadian civil rights in Canadian history.”

The controversy stems from a comment Mr. Barlow posted on his Facebook page defending the intentions of the local RCMP detachment during the flood. He later deleted the comment after the page was swarmed by critics (you can see the screenshot of Mr. Barlow’s comment here).

A reasonable person might believe that collecting abandoned weapons in an disaster zone is a sensible idea for any police force wanting to avoid potentially dangerous confrontation with emotionally distressed citizens. But the gun lobby is not convinced and has encouraged its supporters to vote for other candidates in the Conservative nomination race. “We need concerned citizens in the Macleod riding to support either Philip Rowland or Melissa Mathieson,” the NFA said in another message posted on its Facebook page.

It may not be a mere coincidence that these attacks have occurred just as Mr. Barlow’s opponent, Ms. Mathieson, received the endorsement of Shawn Bevins, the Vice President of the National Firearms Association and Todd Brown, the co-founder of the Concerned Gun Owners of Alberta group.

John Barlow George Canyon Conservative Macleod By-Election

John Barlow and George Canyon

A local newspaper editor and former provincial election candidate, Mr. Barlow’s chances of winning the hotly contested Conservative nomination received a boost last month when popular country music artist George Canyon endorsed his campaign. The two men have since been making campaign stops across the Macleod riding. Mr. Canyon is seeking the Conservative nomination in the neighbouring Bow River riding.

The other candidates for the Conservative nomination in Macleod have released mixed reactions to the attacks. Scott Wagner issued a statement criticizing Mr. Barlow and calling for a judicial inquiry into the RCMP actions and Rick Wiljamma appears to have not responded to the attacks on his opponent through social media.

This is not the first time this issue has been raised by politcians. Wildrose Party leader and local Highwood MLA Danielle Smith was raked over the coals last year for criticizing the RCMP in a fundraising letter to supporters.

February 10 is the deadline for Macleod residents to purchase Conservative Party memberships in order to vote in the nomination contest. The date of the by-election has not been set.

Fort McMurray-Athabasca By-Election update

Fort McMurray Today published a list of potential candidates who could run in the imminent by-election in the northern Alberta riding. Potentially seeking the Conservative nomination are former Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier, political staffer Laila Goodridge, and municipal councillor Phil Meagher. The Liberals have attracted a surprisingly large crowd of potential nominees, including Chris FlettKyle Harrietha, Joanne Roberts, Colleen Tatum, and Ron Quintal

Big names running for federal party nominations in Alberta

Justin Trudeau Edmoton Alberta

Federal Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau surrounded by supporters at an Edmonton rally on January 23, 2014. (photo from @JustinTrudeau on Twitter)

There has been plenty of activity this week as candidates from all political parties put forward their names to run in Canada’s next federal election, scheduled to be held in October 2015.

Wooing voters and potential candidates alike, both New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau travelled through Alberta this week. Mr. Muclair visited Edmonton and attended party events with provincial NDP leader Brian Mason. Mr. Trudeau was a headliner at well-attended Liberal Party rallies in Okotoks, Calgary and Edmonton.

George Canyon Conservative Canada Bow River

George Canyon

Bow River
Award-winning country music artist George Canyon has announced his intentions to seek the Conservative Party nomination in the new Bow River riding. Mr. Canyon will coordinate his campaign with John Barlow, who is seeking the Conservative by-election nomination in neighbouring Macleod riding (an eastern portion of the new Foothills riding will become part of Bow River when the next federal general election is called).

While he would be a star candidate for the Conservatives, he is expected to be joined by a large group of local conservatives interested in seeking the nomination.

Calgary Confederation
Calgary-Foothills PC MLA Len Webber announced his plans to seek the Conservative nomination in the new Calgary Confederation riding. Rumours of Mr. Webber’s jump into federal politics were first reported on this blog in November 2013. Consultant Susanne DiCocco is also seeking the Conservative nomination in this riding.

Calgary Forest Lawn
Abdul Mohamud has announced his plans to seek the Liberal Party nomination in this new east Calgary riding.

Calgary Shepard
Tom Kmiec
, a former staffer to Calgary MP Jason Kenney, is the first candidate to announce his candidacy for the the Conservative nomination in this new south east Calgary riding.

Edmonton-Centre
Lawyer and Metis advocate Harold Robinson has joined the Liberal Party nomination in Edmonton-Centre. Mr. Robinson will face entrepreneur Randy Boissonnault in his party’s yet to be scheduled contest. The Edmonton-Centre Liberals announced on their Twitter account this week that 2011 candidate Mary MacDonald would not seek the nomination.

Edmonton-Griesbach
PC MLA Janice Sarich is reportedly campaigning for the Conservative Party nomination in the new Edmonton-Griesbach riding. Ms. Sarich was an Edmonton Catholic school trustee from 2001 to 2007 and was elected as MLA for Edmonton-Decore in 2008. It is unclear whether current Edmonton-East MP Peter Goldring will seek his party’s nomination in the new riding. Mr. Goldring has represented the area in Ottawa since 1997.

There are at least six candidates running for NDP nomination in Edmonton-Griesbach. The riding association is hosting a candidate meet and greet on January 31.

Edmonton-West
The Globe & Mail reports that Edmonton-McClung PC MLA David Xiao is preparing to seek the Conservative nomination in the new Edmonton-West riding. This would not be Mr. Xiao’s first foray into federal politics. In 2004 he was defeated by Laurie Hawn in the Conservative nomination contest in Edmonton-Centre.

Fort McMurray-Athabasca
Following the resignation of Conservative MP Brian Jean, rumours continue to swirl about who could seek the party nominations in an upcoming by-election.

Former Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Don Scott, who was elected MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin in 2012, is suspected by some to be eyeing the Conservative nomination, but might be hard pressed to leave his provincial cabinet post. Expected to seek the nomination is Laila Goodridge, a Fort McMurray-native and current constituency assistant to Calgary-Centre MP Joan Crockatt.

Former Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA and current Wood Buffalo deputy mayor Guy Boutilier is being talked about as potentially seeking either the Conservative or Liberal Party nominations. First elected under the PC banner in 1997, Mr. Boutilier joined the Wildrose Party in 2011 and was defeated in the 2012 election.

Lethbridge
Investment advisor Doug McArthur will challenge incumbent MP Jim Hillyer for the Conservative Party nomination in the new Lethbridge riding.

Macleod
With a by-election expected in the coming months, five candidates – Melissa Mathieson, John Barlow, Scott Wagner, Phil Rowland and Rick Wiljamma – are vying for the Conservative Party nomination in Macleod.

While no Wildrose MLAs from the area have officially endorsed a candidate in this race (as far as I have seen), Mr Barlow has received the endorsement of former Highwood PC MLA George Groeneveld and Ms. Mathieson has the endorsement of former Livingstone-Macleod PC MLA David Coutts.

Peace River-Westlock
Peace River school administrator Terry Hogan is the first candidate to announce plans to seek the Conservative nomination in this new sprawling south west northwest Alberta riding.

Sturgeon River
Cabinet minister
Rona Ambrose announced her intentions today to seek the Conservative Party nomination in the new Sturgeon River riding. Ms. Ambrose has represented the rurban Edmonton-Spruce Grove riding since 2004.

Visit the Federal Election 2015 page to find links to websites and social media accounts for candidates listed in this post and in previous updates.

A by-election in Cowboy Country. Conservatives line up in Macleod

Macelod Conservative by-election candidates

Four candidates have stepped forward to contest the Conservative Party nomination in Macleod. AMC’s ‘Hell on Wheels’ is filmed in the Macleod riding south of Calgary.

Four candidates have stepped forward to duel for the yet to be scheduled Conservative Party nomination in southern Alberta’s Macleod riding following the resignation of Member of Parliament Ted Menzies. A by-election is expected to be held in the eastern slopes of Alberta’s cowboy country the next six months.

John Barlow Macleod Conservative

John Barlow

John Barlow, the associate editor of the Okotoks Western Wheel newspaper announced his entry into nomination race this week. In the 2012 provincial election, as the Progressive Conservative candidate in the Highwood constituency, Mr. Barlow placed  a surprisingly strong second behind  Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith.

Fourth generation rancher and farmer Phil Rowland is also contesting the nomination. Mr. Rowland is the past president of the Western Stock Growers Association and serves on numerous provincial and agriculture boards. He also served as a board member for the Highwood PC Association during George Groeneveld‘s time as MLA.

Melissa Mathison Macleod Conservative

Melissa Mathison

Former Parliament Hill staffer Melissa Mathieson has also entered the race. She currently works as a research associate for the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary and, according to her LinkedIn profile, she graduated from the U of C in 2011 with a bachelor of political science and has since worked as an intern and staffer for Mr. Menzies and in the Office of the Prime Minister in Ottawa.

Businessman Scott Wagner has been campaigning door-to-door since Mr. Menzies announced months ago that he would not seek re-election.

Update: Rick Wiljamma is also seeking the Conservative nomination in Macleod.

No candidates have stepped forward to become candidates for other political parties.

Last year’s Calgary-Centre by-election exposed significant splits in the conservative movement in Alberta. With some moderate conservatives believing Conservative nominee Joan Crockatt was too closely associated with the Wildrose Party, many formerly reliable Conservative voters choose to park their votes with Liberal Party candidate Harvey Locke.

A similar split is difficult to imagine in Macleod, but not impossible.

Voters in this region of Alberta last elected a non-conservative Member of Parliament in 1968, when Trudeaumania swept Liberal Allen Sulatycky into office as the MP for sprawling Rocky Mountain riding (the election was contested by two PC candidates, who, not unexpectedly, split the vote). Mr. Sulatycky served as a parliamentary assistant for four years until he was defeated in the 1972 election by future Prime Minister Joe Clark.

Voters in this riding have since reliably elected PC, Reform, Canadian Alliance, and Conservative MPs. Mr. Menzies earned 40,007 votes in the 2011 federal election, eclipsing his second-place New Democrat opponent, who earned 5,335 votes, and third place Green Party candidate, who earned 2,389 votes. The Liberal candidate placed a distant fourth with 1,898 votes.

Macleod Voting results 2004-2011

Voting results in the Macleod riding from the past four federal elections (2004-2011).

But the riding’s history as a Conservative strong-hold over the past four decades does not mean Macleod voters do hold not grievances or should be taken for granted.

Some areas of the riding, especially High River, suffered significant damage caused by this year’s floods and some residents have accused the RCMP of overstepping their bounds by removing privately-owned firearms from residences that had been evacuated during the flood.

The federal riding also overlaps provincial constituencies represented by Wildrose MLAs Ms. Smith, Pat Stier, Ian Donovan, Jason Hale, Gary Bikman and PC MLA Ron Casey. All of these constituencies were hotly contested battle grounds in the 2012 provincial election when significant numbers of long-time PC voters shifted their support to the Wildrose Party.

Under almost every normal circumstance this by-election should be an easy win for the nominated Conservative candidate. But as previous by-elections have demonstrated, the hyper-local focus on issues in an isolated by-election can sometimes produce unexpected results.

———

An update to a recent post about federal party nominations in Alberta: educator Janis Irwin has announced her intention to seek the NDP nomination in the new Edmonton-Griesbach riding.

big money spent in alberta’s 2012 election.

 

Canadian Money

Money, money, money.

Elections Alberta has released the financial disclosure forms submitted by candidates who ran in the April 2012 provincial election and some of the disclosure forms reveal some interesting information about how much money was fundraised and spent during the campaign. The money spent by candidates and political parties in Alberta elections are nowhere near the truckloads being spent south of the border in advance of November’s presidential and senate elections, but some of these numbers demonstrate how pitched some electoral battles were in the recent provincial election. Although money cannot replace hard-working candidates and dedicated volunteers, it makes available resources that can, in many cases, make a big difference in pushing a candidate to electoral success.

Premier Alison Redford Alberta

Premier Alison Redford

It appears that the most expensive race between two candidates was in Calgary-Elbow, where Premier Alison Redford faced Wildrose Party challenger James Cole. While Premier Redford’s campaign spent a massive $154,345.53, Mr. Cole’s campaign was not far behind, spending $123,647 during the election period.

South of Calgary in the Highwood constituency, the campaign of Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith (named Marlaina Danielle Smith by Elections Alberta) spent only $55,010.97 compared to the $90,706.19 spent by the campaign of Tory challenger John Barlow.

In the hotly-contested constituency of Calgary-Acadia, Wildrose challenger Richard Jones spent 69,335.39 on his unsuccessful campaign to unseat Justice Minister Jonathan Denis, whose campaign spent $71,246.45. Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson, who crossed the floor to the Wildrose Party in 2010, saw his campaign spend $77,295.20, which dwarfed the $32,411 spent by the campaign of his main challenger Kelly Hegg.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Party Alberta Election 2012

Danielle Smith

In the long-time Liberal-held Edmonton-Gold Bar constituency, Tory David Dorward‘s campaign spent $77,732.39, NDP Marlin Schmidt‘s spent $38,400.73, and Liberal Josipa Petrunic‘s spent $33,079.39. The contest was won by Mr. Dorward, who was elected with 33% of the vote. In Calgary-McCall, Liberal MLA Darshan Kang‘s campaign spent $82,629.80 to ward off challengers Tory Muhammad Rasheed and Wildroser Grant Galpin, whose campaigns spent $87,327.25 and $27,695.12.

In Edmonton-Rutherford, Tory Health Minister Fred Horne‘s $108,327.30 campaign easily outspent a wide field of challengers. Former Liberal MLA Rick Miller‘s campaign spent $41,117.36, the campaign of Alberta Party candidate Michael Walters spent $30,085.18, and Wildrose challenger Kyle Mcleod‘s campaign spent $23,477.51.

In many cases, the Tory MLA’s vastly outspent their main challengers (which in most cases, was the local Wildrose candidate). In Calgary-Greenway, Tory Manmeet Bhullar‘s campaign spent $133,294 against challenger Ron Leech‘s $14,078.05 campaign. In Fort McMurray-Conklin, the campaign of first-time Tory candidate Don Scott spent $110,955.44 to Wildroser Doug Faulkner‘s $21,011.41. In Edmonton-Whitemud, Tory cabinet minister Dave Hancock‘s campaign spent $121,233.35 to Wildrose challenger Ian Crawford‘s $11,598.73. In Calgary-West, Tory candidate Ken Hughes‘ campaign spent $111,796.33 compared to $31,781.49 from Wildrose challenger Andrew Constantinidis.

Ted Morton MLA

Ted Morton: the $159,618.90 man.

In some cases, outspending a challenge made little difference for incumbent Tory MLAs. In Chestermere-Rockyview, Energy Minister Ted Morton‘s campaign spent $159,618.90 compared to Wildrose challenger Bruce McAllister‘s $48,062.69. Mr. McAllister defeated Minister Morton on election night.

There were some other surprising finds as well. In Lethbridge-West, the campaign of NDP candidate Shannon Phillips spent $48,852.88 compared to PC MLA Greg Weadick‘s $39,394.54. This was also the NDP’s best showing outside of Edmonton.

The ‘Maurice Tougas Award for Electoral Victory on a Shoestring Budget’ goes to Wildrose MLA Jeff Wilson, who was elected in Calgary-Shaw for the first time in April 2012. Mr. Wilson was one of the last Wildrose Party candidates to be nominated and defeated Tory star candidate Farouk Adatia, who outspent the Wildrose challenger $78,347 to $15,358. Less extreme cases took place across central and southern Alberta, where Wildrose candidates were elected in long-time Tory voting constituencies.

The award is named after writer Maurice Tougas, who served as the Liberal MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark from 2004 to 2008. Mr. Tougas’ campaign spent $5,366.55 in his last minute campaign against Tory MLA Bob Maskell, whose campaign spent $46,957.00. Mr. Tougas unseated Mr. Maskell on election night.

Note: I had hoped that I would be able to provide a more comprehensive list of numbers from the financial disclosure. Unfortunately, the unfriendly interfaced used by Elections Alberta on their website did not allow me the time to complete this. Rather than transferring the data into easily searchable and useable formats on their website, Elections Alberta provides PDFs of scanned paper forms which were completed in handwriting by the candidate’s Chief Financial Officers (the writing ranges from chicken-scratch to cursive). It is my hope that in the near future, Elections Alberta is able to build a more user-friendly website that allows Albertans to more easily access these important records.

meltdown in highwood: the floods are coming, but danielle smith will prevail

Highwood Election Forum

A big turnout at a recent election forum in Highwood.

By Jody MacPherson

Okotoks, the little town with the international reputation for award-winning environmental sustainability, could very well be home to the next premier of Alberta, a climate-change denier.

This is just one of many ironies of this 28th election in the province that birthed the oil/tarsands (depending on where you stand). It’s the first election in more than a decade where the Progressive Conservatives are actually in danger of a meltdown, not unlike the glaciers at the hands of our overheated climate.

Tempers flaring

It’s not only global temperatures that are rising though, the good citizens of Highwood are split and tempers are flaring. In 2008, only 36% of voters bothered to come out and vote and the PC candidate, George Groeneveld, received 65% of the popular vote. It wasn’t exactly a contested race. But, if the two election forums held in Highwood are any indication, the turnout will likely be a lot higher this time.

Keegan Gibson Liberal Highwood

Liberal candidate Keegan Gibson

The first debate was held in Okotoks with PC candidate John Barlow, Alberta Liberal candidate Keegan Gibson and Wildrose candidate, Danielle Smith. Things got off to a cordial start, but soon the accusations were flying. The “conscience rights” uproar had just erupted onto the social media scene.

Questions covered the full-range of issues from the incendiary (abortion) to the benign (whose signs were purchased locally). At the end of the evening, Smith’s closing remarks had a slightly more enthusiastic response from the crowd than Barlow’s. There was a lot of heckling and booing from both sides throughout.

An orange wave of PCs

High River hosted the second forum last week. Again, the NDP candidate was missing from the debate. Liberal Gibson was a little more prepared this time, having met with local politicians and community members. High River has an older and more rural demographic. It’s also the community where Smith chose to take up residence.  She’s still considered a newcomer rather than the hometown girl, though.

The PC’s packed the conference hall with supporters. One woman told me the seats were filled 45 minutes before the forum began. The PC’s had a highly visible presence with their bright orange t-shirts and it seemed like the Wildrose supporters were mostly left standing along the side or sprinkled throughout the audience.

Barlow was much more prepared this time and took Smith to task on a number of issues of local concern. Smith was thrown off a little by the hecklers and boos as she struggled to explain her party’s position on a number of issues. The social issues were not as much of a concern at this forum. It was all about education, water, property rights and healthcare.

The community is split

Danielle Smith Highwood

Danielle Smith

It was surprising to see how split the room was, as men in cowboy gear mumbled remarks under their breath, seniors argued with those sitting next to them, and neighbours shook their heads in exasperation. At the end, Barlow received more applause—but my guess is the crowd was mostly comprised of decided voters. The undecideds were in short supply, watchful and solemn.

Given that spring flooding season is looming, this issue was top of mind. Barlow was at a disadvantage, given that his predecessor, Groeneveld’s flood mitigation report was never released to the public. Smith was quick to promise to release the report and even suggested a role for Groeneveld in implementing the recommendations, which went over well. Barlow was left with no response except his own personal opinion that the report should be released, which received awkward applause.

Groeneveld was a well-liked MLA, snubbed by Stelmach and stripped of his cabinet position. The local PC association wrote a public letter of discontent at the time.

In an earlier post, I wrote that it appeared Barlow got off to a slow start with his signs.  According to later reports from Okotoks, he did manage to get some more signs out on lawns.

Green crowd will support Barlow

This riding is by no means an easy win for Smith. She is up against a well-organized, locally focused campaign by Barlow’s team. The Tory establishment backs Barlow and my guess is that fundraising would not have been a problem. The boundaries were adjusted in 2010, giving the two towns a little more sway over the results, which pose an interesting challenge for Smith. With the influx of environmentally conscious urbanites to Okotoks, Smith’s climate change position will hurt her with those voters.

The Tory faithful won’t be budged and Barlow is a fresh, young family man—just the face they need to represent their stuffy, cadre of aging, wealthy landowners looking forward to retirement. The property owners angry about the “bad bills” as Smith calls them, will decide the election. If these angry rural voters make it out in strong enough numbers, she will pull it off.

Judging by the level of anger out there on the range, I think they will make the effort. Prior to the writ being dropped, Smith travelled the province and the riding for months campaigning extensively. This will likely hold her in good stead with voters in Highwood. I’m predicting a close race with underdog Barlow putting forward a good challenge, but with Smith edging him out in the end.

Jody MacPherson raised a family in Okotoks, where she has extended family and many valued friends. She has since moved into Calgary and has been active in the Alberta Liberal Party for several years. Coincidentally, she now lives in Calgary-Elbow, Alison Redford’s home riding.

guest post: the election in highwood – week one.

By Jody MacPherson

Danielle Smith Trailer Alberta Highwood Wildrose Election 2012

A trailer sign for Wildrose candidate Danielle Smith.

The commute to Okotoks from Calgary is a scenic drive southwest with truly spectacular mountain views on a clear day. Having travelled the route almost daily for about 15 years, I saw something this week I’ve never seen before.

Beginning at the turnoff to Dunbow Road on Highway 2, there is a series of election signs for a party other than the Progressive Conservatives (PC’s). The Wildrose Party’s Danielle Smith has a half dozen or more signs at regular intervals all the way into Okotoks. Not one PC sign could be found along the same stretch of road. The first sign of Smith’s PC rival, John Barlow, isn’t visible until just outside the town boundaries.

Glacial shift

Okotoks is adjacent to the famous Okotoks erratic, the largest of its kind in the world. It’s a town where political sensibilities shift as slowly as this “big rock,” left behind as the glaciers retreated 10,000 years ago.

Don’t let the town’s sleepy, peaceful appearance fool you, though. There’s an epic battle being waged in the community on several fronts. The traditional power base in the town has been frustrated in its attempts to overturn the sustainable Okotoks model in favour of expanding residential development. They want to build a water pipeline to the community from Calgary to fuel growth in a town that has literally “tapped out” its water supply.

John Barlow trailer Progressive Conservative Highwood Alberta Election 2012

A trailer sign for PC candidate John Barlow.

Bullying hits home

In the surrounding Municipal District of Foothills, it’s a different story. The MD politicians have been a burr in the sides of the provincial government for several years now, resisting attempts at regionalization. Their motives are less about protecting the environment and more about preserving the rights of their constituents to control their land. Land use planning is the enemy in these parts.

Promises to property owners

It’s not surprising Alison Redford kicked off the race with an olive branch at her fundraiser in High River last week. She assured cantankerous landowners she was sympathetic to their concerns about property rights and about the voting structure of the Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP). The governance model gives Calgary a veto over rural planning decisions and Redford surprised everyone by promising to get rid of the veto. But, as the U2 song lyric says, “she’s the promise, in the year of election.”

The ground game

Okotoks is the largest town in the large, mostly rural riding of Highwood. Driving around, viewing the lawn signs, it looks as though Smith’s campaign has not yet penetrated these neighbourhoods.  After the first week of the campaign, Barlow’s lawn signs seem to slightly outnumber Smith’s in most areas of town. In such a conservative stronghold, with an unprecedented battle unfolding, it’s surprising there are not more signs.

Highwood Constituency Alberta Election 2012

A map of the Highwood constituency.

Media on side

Barlow is a likeable candidate, strongly backed by business interests and younger families who can identify with his balance of community-mindedness and conservative sensibilities. He’s the comfortable choice. He’s also the associate publisher of the Western Wheel newspaper and showed questionable judgment by not stepping down from his duties immediately after being nominated as the PC candidate. He continued at the newspaper while also campaigning, not stepping down until after the writ was dropped. It’s worth noting that his backers are some of the same people who are calling for a water pipeline.

When the National Post came to town to do a story on Highwood, they reported their conversation with former pharmacist Allen King, who they described as  “tidying up” around Barlow’s office. They likely didn’t realize they had stumbled on one of the town’s biggest power brokers. King is an unapologetic, anti-sustainability, conservative columnist for the Wheel and true blue Tory royalty.

Also on the ballot

Let’s be up front here. I’m a liberal, but I’ll admit Highwood shows no signs of electing a centre-left candidate any time soon. The PC’s captured 65 per cent of the popular vote in 2008. So, I’m not going to spend time on the other candidates. This is a showdown between Smith and Barlow.

Showdown at the OK-otoks corral

At first blush, Barlow might seem outgunned by the savvy, sophisticated Smith. A master politician, she’s demonstrated how to win votes, even when in unfamiliar territory and in a riding that doesn’t always welcome newcomers. This is Barlow’s first real foray into politics, but I’m not prepared to underestimate the Tory dynasty yet. They are likely putting significant effort into this race and Smith has to cover an entire province, by comparison.

The riding was also one of redrawn to give it more of a “rurban” flavour.  Rural residents are likely favouring the Wildrose, but their influence may have been neutralized somewhat by the boundary changes. I’d wager the Wildrose is strong in High River as well.

Shades of the republic

Some of the more progressive voters might fear Smith’s right wing views and decide to vote for Barlow to try and keep her from winning. The worst possible outcome for Barlow is a low voter turnout. If disaffected PCs decide to stay home, rather than defend their party against the Wildrose onslaught, Smith will easily win. Given the dismal performance of the Tories thus far in the election, this seems like a serious concern for Barlow. He’s fighting an uphill battle with Smith’s political skill and Redford’s inability to control her wayward party.

Okotoks will no doubt be the main battleground. A debate organized by the chamber of commerce and scheduled for April 10 will be standing room only. Smith and Barlow will go head to head.

As I left town, I noticed yet another large billboard of Smith’s smiling face adorning a property south on Highway 2. Next to her sign, on the same property owner’s fence is a sign that reads, “Vote Ron Paul.” At this intersection, I turned left and drove back to Calgary.

Jody MacPherson raised a family in Okotoks, where she has extended family and many valued friends. She has since moved into Calgary and has been active in the Alberta Liberal Party for several years. Coincidentally, she now lives in Calgary-Elbow, Alison Redford’s home riding.

alberta election day 2: health care, balanced budgets, and benitomania.

Premier Alison Redford John Barlow Evan Berger Alberta Election 2012

Premier Alison Redford with PC candidates John Barlow and Evan Berger (photo from Alison4Premier Facebook Page).

Campaigning in the same constituency yesterday, it is interesting to wonder what Premier Alison Redford and Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith would have said to each other if their paths had intersected. Close polls, push polls, and sharp criticisms have defined the first two days of Alberta’s 2012 election campaign.

Premier Redford was in Highwood campaigning with Progressive Conservative candidate John Barlow, who faces the daunting task of keeping the high-profile Ms. Smith out of the Assembly.

Campaigning in southern Alberta yesterday, Ms. Smith released her party’s pledge to table balance budgets. Under the Wildrose platform, future government spending would be limited to population growth plus inflation. Despite Wildrose Party assurances that they would not launch into a round of drastic service cuts if they are elected, I cannot help believe that a government led by Ms. Smtih would do anything but.

Health care was the focus of the second day of the election campaign for the NDP and Liberals, as both parties leaders unveiled parts of their platforms.

Brian Mason David Eggen Alberta NDP 2012 Election

NDP leader Brian Mason and Edmonton-Calder candidate David Eggen (photo via @johnalanashton).

In the north end constituency of Edmonton-Calder, NDP leader Brian Mason joined candidate and former MLA David Eggen to announce that his party would create 1,500 long-term care beds, cover dental costs for Albertans under the age of 18, and bring down the cost of prescription drugs through a new provincial pharmaceutical plan. Mr. Eggen was the MLA for this constituency from 2004 until 2008, and since then has served as the executive director of the Friends of Medicare.

On the day the election was called, Mr. Eggen’s campaign team flexed their organization muscle by placing more than 1,100 lawn signs on private property across the constituency, painting Edmonton-Calder orange.

Raj Sherman Calgary Alberta Liberal Election 2012

Raj Sherman campaigns in Calgary (photo via @alanacbaker).

In Calgary yesterday, Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman reaffirmed his party’s commitment to increase funding to build and operate more long-term care beds and facilities. Joined by a medical doctor and a retired health care worker, Dr. Sherman continued to call on Premier Redford to fulfil her promise to hold a judicial inquiry into doctor intimidation.

Today, the Dr. Sherman will travel to Red Deer to make another health care related announcement at the campaign office of Red Deer-North candidate Michael Dawe and Red Deer-South candidate Jeff Chilibeck.

Focusing on health care is a smart strategy for the Liberals, who are seen as strong on this issue, yet have slipped in the polls over the past four years. It gives the party an opportunity to contrast itself with the PC’s, whose poor management has created many of the staffing problems faced in the health care system, and the Wildrose Party, which would introduce a “hybrid” or “European” model of health care. It is suspected that the Wildrose model would include the introduction of private medical insurance.

Meanwhile, in Lethbridge, interesting contests are shaping up in both of that city’s constituencies.

As first predicted on this blog on February 24, former Edmonton-Mill Woods Tory MLA Carl Benito is entering this election as an Independent candidate. Campaign-like signs began to appear on fences near major intersections in the constituency in late February. The controversyprone Mr. Benito was first elected in 2008 and lost his party’s nomination to Sohail Qadri. Mr. Benito will face Mr. Qadri, former Liberal MLA Weslyn Mather, NDP candidate Sandra Azocar, Wildroser Joanne Autio, and Alberta Party candidate Robert Leddy.

15 races to watch in alberta’s 2012 election.

In the lead up to the Alberta’s 2012 election, I have identified fifteen constituencies across the province that could produce interesting contests and results when the election is called.

15 races to watch in Alberta's 2012 election.

15 races to watch in Alberta's 2012 election.

1) Highwood
The Wildrose Party has staked their future in the success of leader Danielle Smith and I expect that party will pull out all the stops to ensure she is elected. The PCs have nominated newspaper editor John Barlow to replace retiring PC MLA George Groeneveld.

2) Edmonton-Meadowlark
This area has deep Liberal roots, having first elected MLA Grant Mitchell in 1986, but since 2001 it has become a swing-riding electing both Liberals and PCs. Currently held by former PC MLA and now Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman, the next vote will be a test of his personal popularity as he runs under his new party’s banner. He will face former PC MLA Bob Maskell, who served from 2001 until 2004.

3) Edmonton-Calder
Voters in this constituency are notorious swing-voters. No incumbent has been re-elected here since 1997. Current PC MLA Doug Elniski made a last minute announcement that he would not seek re-election, leaving former school trustee and newly nominated candidate Bev Esslinger not a lot of time to catch up. Former MLA David Eggen has been campaigning in Calder for the past three years and is expected to launch a well-organized campaign. Wildrose candidate Rich Neumann may play kingmaker if he is able to attract enough past PC voters.

4) Calgary-Glenmore
In 2009, outgoing Wildrose leader Paul Hinman narrowly won a hotly contested by-election that was seen as a referendum on then-Premier Ed Stelmach‘s popularity in Calgary (which was low). With new Premier Alison Redford representing the neighboring constituency, PC candidate Linda Johnson may receive a warmer reception at the doors. Throw into the mix former Mount Royal College instructor Craig Cheffins, who served as the Liberal MLA for Calgary-Elbow from 2007 to 2008, and the outcome of this race could be difficult to predict.

5) Edmonton-Glenora
Represented by both PC and Liberal MLAs over the past twenty years, this constituency could be a key battleground for five opposition parties in the next election. Former Liberal MLA Bruce Miller is challenging PC cabinet minister Heather Klimchuk, who unseated him by 136 votes in 2008. Rev. Miller is not the only challenger in this election. The Alberta Party is pinning their hopes on former school trustee Sue Huff, the NDP have nominated former MLA and leader Ray Martin, and the Wildrose have chosen past Mayoral candidate Don Koziak.

6) Calgary-Varsity
With the retirement of popular two-term Liberal MLA Harry Chase, the Liberals have nominated former carpenters’ union official Bruce Payne, who ran for that party’s leadership in 2011. The PCs have chosen former Nexen vice-president Donna Kennedy-Glans. The results of this race will be a critical indicator of whether the Liberals can hold on to, and build on, important gains made in Calgary during the past two elections.

7) Chestermere-Rockyview
Energy Minister Ted Morton will face off against former Global Calgary news anchor and Wildrose candidate Bruce McAllister. The Wildrose attacked Minister Morton’s credentials as a “fiscal mallard” while he was Finance Minister and by nominating Mr. McAllister they are showing that they will not give him a pass in the next election.

8 ) Airdrie
When first-term PC MLA Rob Anderson joined the Wildrose in 2010, he automatically became a target of his former party, who have nominated Alderman Kelly Hegg as their candidate. The Airdrie area has typically voted for the PCs, but voters in this region have been known to elect opposition candidates in the past (Western Canadian Concept MLA Gordon Kesler was elected in 1982 and Liberal MLA Don MacDonald was elected in 1992).

9) Cardston-Taber-Warner
After being unseated by Wildorse MLA Mr. Hinman in 2004, PC MLA Broyce Jacobs won a narrow victory in 2008. Fast forward to 2012, Mr. Jacobs has lost his party’s nomination to Pat Shimbashi and the Wildrose has nominated Sterling Deputy Mayor Gary Bikman. If the Wildrose are to pick up seats in the election, this will likely be one.

10) Edmonton-Rutherford
In a rematch of the closest race of the 2008 election, PC MLA Fred Horne will face former Liberal MLA Rick Miller. While 2008 a two-way contest, the 2012 contest is more interesting with the presence of community organizer and Alberta Party candidate Michael Walters and Wildrose candidate Kyle McLeod.

11) Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo
After winning four elections as this constituency’s PC candidate, late-blooming Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier will face Wood Buffalo deputy mayor Mike Allen in the upcoming vote. After decades as a municipal and provincial politician, this election may be more a test of Mr. Boutilier’s personal support than that of his new party.

12) Edmonton-Gold Bar
A Liberal Party stronghold since 1986, the retirement of MLA Hugh MacDonald and the redistribution of electoral boundaries south encompassing Tory-voting neighbourhoods may give second-time PC candidate David Dorward a boost. Liberal candidate Josipa Petrunic is a well-spoken and passionate partisan who hopes to hold the constituency for her party. The NDP have nominated Marlin Schmidt and hope to capitalize on local support for NDP MP Linda Duncan.

13) Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview
A close contest in 2008 saw former PC MLA Tony Vandermeer defeat NDP MLA Ray Martin. In 2012, Mr. Vandermeer will face a strong challenge from NDP candidate Deron Bilous.

14) Lethbridge-West
After twenty years of close races, voters in this constituency have proven themselves to be deeply divided between the PCs and Liberals. This election, first-term PC MLA Greg Weadick and second-time Liberal candidate Bal Boora will be joined by NDP candidate Shannon Phillips, who has launched a spirited campaign, and Wildrose candidate Kevin Kinahan. Even if Mr. Weadick is re-elected, the real story may be who places second in this politically moderate southern Alberta constituency.

15) Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock
After more than three decades in the Assembly, the departure of PC MLA Ken Kowalski has created a large void to fill in this constituency north of Edmonton. The PCs have nominated Westlock County Councillor Maureen Kubinec, who will face off against her main opponent Wildrose candidate Link Byfield. Mr. Byfield has been campaigning for more than a year and could make gains if he is able to tap into the base of social conservative voters in this constituency.