Tag Archives: Jonathan Denis

The PC Party’s Christmas gift to the NDP

A defamation lawsuit wrapped with a big bow.

Alan Hallman

Alan Hallman

Any hope Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party had of making the story of Sandra Jansen’s harassment go away is long gone as a political operative working for Jason Kenney’s leadership campaign has launched a lawsuit against a strategist who worked for Jansen’s now-defunct leadership campaign.

According to a report by the CBC, Alan Hallman claims his reputation suffered “irreparable harm” from a tweet posted by Stephen Carter. Hallman is being represented in the lawsuit by former justice minister Jonathan Denis, who is also supporting Kenney’s leadership bid.

The CBC reported that Carter will defend himself against the defamation claim and that the lawsuit is a “bullying tactic.”

“I believe it’s a tactic being used to try to suppress speech around the leadership. And that’s one of the reasons that I’m going to fight,” Carter told the CBC.

Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter

Facing harassment and online threats because of her moderate political views, Ms. Jansen dropped out of the PC leadership race and soon afterward crossed the floor to join the New Democratic Party. It is widely expected she will be appointed to a cabinet position in early 2017.

Hallman and Carter are veteran campaign strategists who have publicly clashed in the past. During the 2014 by-election in Calgary-Elbow, Carter, the campaign manager for Alberta Party candidate Greg Clark, filed a complaint with the CRTC regarding the use of robocalls by the PC campaign in Calgary-Elbow. Hallman was the manager of PC candidate Gordon Dirks’ campaign in that by-election.

Jonathan Denis MLA Calgary Acadia

Jonathan Denis

The PC Party released an investigative report last week in response to Jansen’s allegations that she was targeted by Kenney’s supporters during the party’s policy convention in Red Deer. There is digital evidence that the online harassment is real and it is likely the in-person harassment against Jansen was real as well, but the PC Party had little incentive to deliver justice after she joined the NDP.

The PC Party had little to gain by further penalizing or condemning Kenney’s supporters, as he appears to be on his way to sweeping the party leadership in 2017. The report was a way to end the story, and the allegation, that could tarnish the PC Party and Kenney’s leadership.

Thanks to Hallman, Denis and their lawsuit, the story of how a talented and high-profile woman was pushed out of Alberta’s PC Party will live on into 2017.

Merry Christmas, NDP.

Nomination candidates Jack Redekop, Khalis Ahmed, Haley Brown and Stephanie Kusie.

Calgary Midnapore and Heritage by-election updates

With federal by-elections expected to be called in the next few months in the ridings of Calgary-Heritage and Calgary-Midnapore, candidates are stepping up to seek party nominations.

In Calgary-Heritage, where a by-election must be called by February 25, 2017, three candidates ran for the Conservative nomination to succeed former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Party activist Bob Benzen defeated Paul Frank and Richard Billington to become his party’s candidate at a nomination meeting in late October.

The Liberals have yet to nominate a candidate in Calgary-Heritage but I am told that past candidate Brendan Miles is considering seeking his party’s nomination once again. Khalid Ahmed is seeking the New Democratic Party nomination. He ran for the NDP in Calgary-Signal Hill during the 2015 election where he earned 5 percent of the vote.

In Calgary-Midnapore, where a by-election must be called no later than March 22, 2017, Haley Brown announced her plans to run for the Liberal nomination. Ms. Brown won a contested nomination in July 2015 to become the party’s candidate in that year’s federal election. She placed second with 22.6 percent of the vote.

Former lobbyist Stephanie Kusie and party activist Jack Redekop are seeking the Conservative Party nomination o Calgary-Midnapore.

Ms. Kusie worked as a ministerial special advisor in Ottawa and served in the foreign service before running for Calgary City Council in 2013. After the municipal election she worked as executive director of the Manning Centre funded Common Sense Calgary group. She has the endorsement of Calgary-Shepard MP Tom Kmiec, former MLAs Cindy Ady, Jonathan Denis and Heather Forsyth, and public school trustee Amber Stewart. Her husband, James Kusie, is also a former Ottawa political staffer and is currently listed as the Government Relations and Issues Advisor for Imperial Oil Limited.

Mr. Redekop briefly ran as a candidate in the 2012 Senator Nominee election but appeared to have dropped out of the race before the filing deadline. He has the endorsement of Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried.

UPDATE: A third candidate, Myles McDougall, is running for the Conservative nomination in Calgary-Midnapore.

If I missed any candidates running for party nominations in these two federal ridings, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com.

Ghosts of the Progressive Conservative Party's 44-year long reign continue to haunt Alberta politics.

7 Conservatives scandals that still haunt Alberta politics

After forty-four years of Progressive Conservative government in Alberta, it still feels surreal to believe that another party has been elected into government. Two and a half months after the NDP victory, Premier Rachel Notley is putting her stamp on Alberta politics. But Alberta’s new government is left to deal with some of the more unhelpful legacies created by the previous government. Here is a look at a few of the Progressive Conservative scandals that continue to haunt Alberta politics.

Funeral Homes

CBC reports that it has obtained documents showing how the Alberta Funeral Service Association pressured former minister Jonathan Denis and the Department of Justice to reopen a contract and abandon earlier efforts to control spending. CBC reports the contract was reopened and revised against the advice of a government lawyer and chief medical examiner Dr. Anny Sauvageau.

Kananaskis Golf Course

Alberta’s auditor general is reviewing a controversial contract between the government and a private company operating a publicly-owned Kananaskis golf course. During this year’s election, NDP MLA Brian Mason asked the auditor general to investigate why the government paid $9.3 million to the company, which is known to have connections to the PC Party. The golf course has been closed since the 2013 floods in southern Alberta.

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt, who chairs the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, has said he hopes to compel former PC cabinet ministers, including Diana McQueen, to appear at a committee meeting. Critics have criticized the 1983 contract as a “sweetheart deal.”

Airplane sale

The rushed sale of the government’s fleet of airplanes led to a $5 million loss for Albertans. This contradicts claims by former PC premier Jim Prentice that the sale of the planes netted $6.1 million for the government. The planes were sold after Ms. Redford and PC MLAs faced harsh criticism for alleged misuse of the government air fleet for personal and partisan activities.

Public Sector Pensions

Alberta public sector pension liabilities dropped by more than $400 million last year, suggesting evidence that changes planned to the funds by former premier Alison Redford and finance minister Doug Horner were not necessary. The attacks on public sector pensions alienated thousands of public sector workers in Alberta, many who voted for Ms. Redford’s PC Party in the 2012 election. The PC government’s planned changes to the pension plan were scrapped after Ms. Redford resigned as premier in early 2014.

Cowboy welfare

The auditor general reported that the government has been forgoing an estimated $25 million in annual revenue by not limiting surface rights compensation paid by the energy companies to holders of provincial grazing leases. The report states the province does not track which leases have oil and gas activity on them or how much was paid to the leaseholders for access to the natural resources.

“Current legislation allows an unquantified amount of personal financial benefit to some leaseholders over and above the benefits of grazing livestock on public land,” the report says.

Previous attempts to change the law governing the leases met fierce opposition from rural leaseholders, including a posse of sixty cowboys on horseback who tried to block premier Ralph Klein from visiting the Royal Tyrrell Museum in 1999.

Carbon Capture and Storage

The government’s large investments in carbon capture and storage development has not paid off, according to a July 2014 report from the auditor general. Marketed as a key piece of the PC government’s climate change plan, the auditor general reported that “with only two carbon capture and storage projects planned, the total emissions reductions are expected to be less than 10% of what was originally anticipated.”

The NDP pledged to end the carbon capture contracts and instead reinvest hundreds of millions of dollars into public transit programs, but high cost of cancelling binding contracts with private sector corporations developing the projects could solidify this PC legacy.

Heritage Fund

When premier Peter Lougheed created the Heritage Savings Trust Fund in 1976, the government dedicated 30% of annual revenues into the rainy day fund “to save for the future, to strengthen or diversify the economy, and to improve the quality of life of Albertans.” The PC government halted non-renewable resource transfers to the fund in 1987, when it was worth $12.7 billion. Investments into the fund were only started again in 2004.

Despite Alberta’s immense natural wealth, the fund is now only worth an estimated $17.4 billion.

Alberta’s Tories Navigate through unfamiliar waters

As most Albertans head to work tomorrow morning, the Tory-connected public relations firm Navigator will host an invite-only session for clients in downtown Edmonton titled “Alberta’s New Government: What to Expect.” The session is being hosted by former Ottawa television host Don Newman and will feature main speaker Kathleen Monk (Ottawa NDP insider and former executive director of the Broadbent Institute) and Tory-connected panelists Jason Hatcher (managing principal at Navigator) and Jaime Watt (Toronto-based Navigator executive chairman). In a normal election year, it would not be surprising that this company would organize a session like this for their clients, but this has not been a normal election year.

Ric McIver

Ric McIver

One of Navigator’s managing principals, Randy Dawson, was the campaign manager for the Progressive Conservative Party‘s disastrous losing re-election campaign (despite the company’s slogan “When you can’t afford to lose”). After the firm became part of a controversy that damaged the Tories during the election campaign and one of its high profile employees led the campaign that ended the PC Party’s uninterrupted 44-year reign, it is surprising that Navigator is raising its flag in Alberta so soon after election day.

On Thursday night, interim PC Party leader Ric McIver will take the stage in what is sure to be a sombre event. Before Rachel Notley‘s NDP were swept to office on May 5, Premier Jim Prentice had been scheduled to speak at his party’s Calgary leader’s dinner on May 14. At the time tickets were so sought after that they sold out. Everyone in corporate Calgary wanted to be there to congratulate Mr. Prentice on his big win but voters had different plans. And while the fundraising dinner remains sold out, it is expected that a smaller and less powerful crowd will be in attendance.

Jonathan Denis MLA Calgary Acadia

Jonathan Denis

It has been astonishing to watch the breakneck speed in which some longtime PC supporters have abandoned any belief their party can someday return to power. Former justice minister Jonathan Denis called for a merger of the Wildrose and PC Party only days after his personal defeat in Calgary-Acadia.

Former MLA Greg Stevens, who served in Peter Lougheed’s cabinets, wrote in the Calgary Herald that the PC Party would “will cough and spit and be no more” after its election loss. And former Premier Ed Stelmach said shifting too far to the political right was a mistake made by the PC Party.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean responded to Mr. Denis by saying he was not interested in merging his party with the recently defeated Tories.

Ed Stelmach

Ed Stelmach

In December 2014, the Wildrose Party was moribund after former leader Danielle Smith led most of the party’s MLAs into the PC Caucus. Today, none of the floor crossers are MLAs and Mr. Jean’s Wildrose Party has formed Official Opposition with 21 MLAs (4 more than Ms. Smith led the party to win in 2012).

In response to Ms. Smith’s attempts to restore her public image, former Wildrose Communications Director Brock Harrison wrote an op-ed in the National Post aimed at debunking her “revisionist history.

Notley Senior Staff
Brian Topp Alberta Premier Chief of Staff

Brian Topp

Ms. Notley announced three senior roles in the Premier’s Office. Brian Topp will be Chief of Staff and Adrienne King will be Deputy Chief of Staff. Mr. Topp is the former federal NDP leadership candidate and deputy Chief of Staff to Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow and Ms. King is the former Chief of Staff at the Alberta’s NDP Caucus. Richard Dicerni will continue as Deputy Minister for Executive Council. Mr. Dicerni was appointed to the role by Mr. Prentice in September 2014.

Official Opposition Critics
Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

The Wildrose Official Opposition unveiled its front bench critics for the upcoming Legislative session: Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes as Shadow Minister for Health, Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman as Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier as Shadow Minister for Municipal Affairs, Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt as Shadow Minister for Finance & Treasury Board, Drayton Valley-Devon MLA Mark Smith as Shadow Minister for Education, Chestermere-Rockyview MLA Leela Aheer as Shadow Minister for Energy.

Some candidates to watch on Election Night: Derek Fildebrandt, Sarah Hoffman, Chris Labossiere, Shannon Phillips and Joe Ceci.

12 races I’m watching on Election Night in Alberta

With all the polls showing the 43-year long governing Progressive Conservatives trailing the NDP and Wildrose across the province, there could be a race to watch in every constituency in Alberta when the provincial election polls close at 8:00 p.m. tonight.

Here are 12 races that I will be paying particular attention to on Election night:

Alberta Election Races to Watch 2015

12 races to watch in Alberta’s 2015 election (click to enlarge).

Calgary-Acadia: This south Calgary constituency has reliably voted PC since 1971, but recent controversy surrounding PC candidate Jonathan Denis, who was ordered to resign from his job as Justice Minister and Attorney General in the middle of the election campaign, could help boost support for NDP candidate Brandy Payne and Wildrose candidate Linda Carlson.

Calgary-Buffalo: Voters in this downtown Calgary constituency have elected Liberals in six of the last eight elections. Popular MLA Kent Hehr is running for federal office so the Liberals have nominated lawyer David Khan as his successor. Mr. Khan faces arts advocate Terry Rock running for the PCs and lawyer Kathleen Ganley running for the NDP.

Calgary-Elbow: A rematch between Alberta Party leader Greg Clark and PC candidate Gordon Dirks. Mr. Dirks narrowly defeated Mr. Clark in an October 2014 by-election and with recent cuts to education funds, a nasty debate over Gay-Straight Alliances, and neighbourhoods still recovering from the 2013 floods,  Mr. Dirks could be in trouble.

Calgary-Fort: Popular five-term PC MLA Wayne Cao is retiring from politics, leaving the PCs with rookie candidate Andy Nguyen. The NDP are have put a lot of hope into Alderman Joe Ceci, the party’s most high-profile Calgary candidate in decades. The Wildrose have nominated Jeevan Mangat, who came within 200 votes of defeating Mr. Cao in the 2012 election.

Calgary-Varsity: NDP candidate and lawyer Stephanie McLean faces off against PC stalwart and lawyer Susan Billington. Ms. Billington’s involvement in the Kananaskis Improvement District, which voted to provide millions of dollars to the privately-operated Kananaskis Golf Course, became an issue early in the campaign. This constituency elected Liberal MLA Harry Chase in the 2004 and 2008 elections.

Edmonton-Centre: Popular Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman has represented this constituency since 1997 and is one of the most effective voices in the Assembly. But her choice to split with her party and accept the nominations from the Alberta Party and Greens may confuse voters. The rising NDP tide in Edmonton, represented by the charismatic David Shepherd in Edmonton-Centre, may impact her chances of re-election.

Edmonton-Glenora: Former Edmonton Public School Board chairperson and NDP star candidate Sarah Hoffman is facing two-term PC MLA Heather Klimchuk. Glenora has never elected an NDP MLA, but the party saw its support rise in 2004 and 2012, giving Ms. Hoffman a strong base of support to build on.

Edmonton-Rutherford: Businessman and Edmonton enthusiast Chris Labossiere faces university instructor Richard Feehan in this southwest Edmonton constituency. Voters have swung between the Liberals and PCs in this area since the 1980s and without a strong Liberal campaign in this election, swinging to the NDP might not be a far stretch. Both the PCs and NDP are running strong campaigns in Rutherford, so this will be a constituency to watch.

Edmonton-Whitemud: Voters in Whitemud have elected PC MLAs since 1997 and chose former Mayor Stephen Mandel in an October 2014 by-election. The PCs typically win by large margins in this constituency but the NDP candidate Dr. Bob Turner earned record support in by-election. If Mr. Mandel cannot win in Whitemud, it is likely the PCs will not win anywhere else in Edmonton.

Fort-McMurray-Conklin: Wildrose leader Brian Jean is trying to unseat first-term PC MLA Don Scott. Mr. Jean’s name recognition as party leader and the former Conservative MP for the area could help him overcome Mr. Scott, who only narrowly won the 2012 election. Also a factor in this race is the NDP, which is represented by NDP candidate and local teacher Ariana Mancini.

Lethbridge-West: In 2012, Shannon Phillips surprised many political watchers when she placed 1,115 votes behind PC MLA Greg Weadick in a three-way race with the Wildrose. This time, it is a rematch between the two, with the Wildrose playing the wildcard.

Strathmore-Brooks: He is a familiar face in the media and former Taxpayers’ Federation spokesperson Derek Fildebrandt hopes to return to Edmonton as an MLA. Mr. Fildebrandt faces County of Newell Reeve Molly Douglass who is running for the PC Party in this southern Alberta rural riding. Former MLA Jason Hale, who was elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2012 but crossed the floor to the PCs in 2014, is not seeking re-election.


 

Voting stations are open in provincial constituencies across Alberta until 8:00 p.m. tonight. If you do know where to vote, visit the Elections Alberta website. If you do not know who the candidates in your constituency are, check out my list of candidates.

Premier Jim Prentice Alberta Leadership Race Vote

Prentice to honour 2016 fixed election date, plans tough climate change targets

In a surprising reversal, Alberta Premier Jim Prentice announced that the next provincial election will be held in spring 2016, not in 2015 as many Albertans expected.

“Three years ago, Progressive Conservative MLAs passed Alberta’s fixed election date law,” said Prentice. “I intend to honour the spirit of this law by holding the next election in 2016.”

The Election Amendment Act, 2011 created a fixed, three-month period in which provincial elections are held every four years.

“Establishing the fixed election period has benefits for all Albertans,” said Jonathan Denis, Minister of Justice and Attorney General. “Albertans are better able to plan to participate or involve themselves in the election process – as voters, as candidates, and as volunteers.”

Some critics believe the delay is a result of a recent poll showing a negative public reaction to the provincial budget and an NDP surge to above 40 per cent support in Edmonton.

Prentice also announced tough new climate change targets that will reduce Alberta’s carbon emissions by 50 per cent before the 2016 election is called.

“Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation and we will not fail in defeating it,” Prentice said. “That is why I am appointing Danielle Smith to lead this initiative as the first Chief Executive Officer of the new Alberta Global Warming Institute.”

“Albertans have put their trust in us and going forward, we will demonstrate beyond a doubt that our government will be the change that Albertans are looking for,” Prentice said.

[Happy April Fools Day!]

Alberta PC Jim Prentice MLA

PC MLAs follow Prentice command to cut Auditor General budget

Progressive Conservative MLAs sitting on the Standing Committee for Legislative Offices voted last week to deny a request from Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff to reinstate more than $200,000 in funding cut in Dec. 2014. At the same committee meeting, MLAs voted to reinstated more than $500,000 in funding previously cut from the Office of the Auditor General.

Jim Prentice Premier Alberta

Jim Prentice

Sending a strong message that he just might not trust his party’s MLAs to act unsupervised, Premier Jim Prentice held a press conference shortly after the vote and publicly ordered his PC MLAs to backtrack on their decision to reinstate the Auditor General funding. This move served to redirect the public focus from cuts to the Child and Youth Advocate and on the cuts to the Auditor General.

Mr. Prentice’s directive removes the thin veneer of “committee independence.” It was always assumed that PC MLAs received their marching orders from the Premier’s Office, but typically those types of dispatches are sent from the 3rd floor before the committee meetings, not after the votes have already been counted.

Matt Jeneroux MLA Edmonton South West

Matt Jeneroux

Responding to his new orders, committee chairman Matt Jeneroux hastily scheduled a meeting for this week, allowing the PC MLAs to change their minds and vote how Mr. Prentice directed them to.

Not one of the Progressive Conservative MLAs on the committee, including former Wildrose MLAs Gary Bikman and Jeff Wilson, had the fortitude to defend the decision they made last week. Only NDP MLA David Eggen and Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman voted against the funding cut.

And now, because of Mr. Prentice’s orders, both the Auditor General and Child and Youth Advocate will face budget cuts this year.

Dave Hancock MLA Edmonton-Whitemud

Dave Hancock

Looking past the thick-rhetoric of “tough economic times,” the Office of the Auditor General is probably the last office of the Legislature that should have its funding cut. As Mr. Prentice and Finance Minister Robin Campbell plan to impose a 9% across the board budget cut, the Auditor General should have the funding available to audit the financial statements and the systems of government.

Last year, Auditor General Merwan Saher released a damning report into former Premier Alison Redford‘s misuse of government aircraft. The public outrage generated by that report forced former Premier Dave Hancock to request an R.C.M.P. investigation into Ms. Redford’s activities.

Jonathan Denis MLA Calgary Acadia

Jonathan Denis

With an election expected within weeks, the 43-year long governing PCs are likely cautious of any further scandals or critiques that a fully-funded Auditor General could uncover.

This is not the first time the PCs have cut funding to the Auditor General.

In 2009, then-Auditor General Fred Dunn announced the delay or cancellation of 27 out of 80 planned system and financial audits due to lack of financial resources. At the time, backbench PC MLA Jonathan Denis (now Justice Minister) was quoted as justifying the lack of funding to the Auditor General by defending that year’s one-year MLA pay freeze. [editor’s note: Alberta is always in tough economic times]

The 2009 funding cut came soon after Mr. Dunn’s office reported the PC Government kept quiet for 3 years about reports showing the province could bring in more than $1 billion in additional royalties each year without harming industry, that a former PC cabinet minister and his top aide charged nearly $50,000 in personal expenses to their government credit cards, and that the PC government’s poor planning left it with a maintenance backlog of roughly $6.1 billion.


Raj Sherman MLA

Raj Sherman

Raj Sherman is back

Only weeks after resigning as Liberal leader and announcing his retirement as MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark, Raj Sherman has been hired by the Liberal Party the campaign manager for the 2015 election campaign. It is unclear why interim leader David Swann has hired his predecessor, or what real campaign management experience the retiring politician brings to the table. Truly bizarre.

When is Alberta Election 2015? What We Know versus Speculation

Jim Prentice Danielle Smith Alberta Wildrose Merger PC

Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Premier Jim Prentice on December 17, 2014.

What we know:

The last provincial General Election was held 2 years, 9 months and 3 days ago on April 23, 2012.

The Election Amendment Act introduced by Wetaskiwin-Camrose Progressive Conservative MLA Verlyn Olson and passed on December 6, 2011 legislated that a General Election would be held between March 1 and May 31, 2012, and in the same three-month period in the fourth calendar year thereafter. This means that the next general election should be held between March 1 and May 31, 2016.

In accordance with our parliamentary system of government, the Election Amendment Act also stated that nothing in the law “affects the powers of the Lieutenant Governor, including the power to dissolve the Legislature, in Her Majesty’s name, when the Lieutenant Governor sees fit.” This means that Lieutenant Governor Donald Ethell could issue a writ of election and dissolve the Legislative Assembly whenever he is asked to do so by Premier Jim Prentice. It would be highly irregular for a Lieutenant Governor to deny a Premier’s wish to issue a writ of election.

Election campaign periods in Alberta last 28 days. Section 39 (d) of the Election Act states: “the 28th day after the date of the writ is the day on which voting is to take place, or if the 28th day is a holiday, the next following day not being a holiday.”

March 10 is when the Legislative Assembly is scheduled to reconvene for the spring sitting according to the sessional calendarMarch 15 is the PC Party deadline to have candidates nominated in all 87 constituencies. “…by the end of March” is when Justice Minister Jonathan Denis announced the 2015-2016 provincial budget would be tabled in the Assembly. The last four provincial budgets have been tabled on Thursdays. If this trend continues, the budget would be tabled on March 19 or 26, 2015. From March 30 to April 12 the Assembly pauses and MLAs return home for a “constituency break.” May 18 is Victoria Day, a statutory holiday.

Speculation:

The nomination of PC candidates in all 87 constituencies by March 15 suggests the governing PC Party is preparing for an election this spring. Elections Alberta financial disclosure reports show the PC Party raised more than $1.3 million in the final quarter of 2014, meaning the the party has a substantial more funds available than any of the opposition parties.

On January 16, 2015, the Calgary Herald reported that Mr. Prentice said he intends to seek “a clear mandate from the people” to deal with the provincial government’s revenue shortfall. It is hard to speculate this means anything but calling a spring election with the budget as the defacto PC Party platform.

In his media statement on January 15, Mr. Denis said that the “government will present a spring legislative agenda,” which would suggest the Assembly would be required the Assembly to sit for at least two or three weeks to pass new laws before dissolving for an election. Bill 10, the controversial Gay-Straight Alliance law, is the only piece of government legislation remaining from the fall session.

A big question is how soon the PCs will wait after tabling the budget to call an election. In 1997 and 2008, the PCs called an election soon after tabling the budget in the Assembly and used the provincial budget as a defacto campaign platform.

The constituency break from March 30 to April 12 would allow PC MLAs and cabinet ministers to travel the province on government business to test reaction to the budget. The extra few weeks would also allow PC candidates to get organized and allow cabinet ministers to join them at events in their constituencies.

An spring election would also take place before the Official Opposition Wildrose Party is able to choose their new leader. The Wildrose Party has scheduled their leadership vote for June 6, 2015. This means that the Official Opposition Party may not have a permanent leader during the next election (interim leader Heather Forsyth is retiring from politics).

If an election is called after a budget is tabled on Thursday, March 19, the election would be held on Thursday, April 16. If an election is called after a budget is tabled on Thursday, March 26, the election would be held on Thursday, April 23. And if the election is called after MLAs return from their “constituency week,” on Monday, April 13, then an election would be held on Monday, May 11.

But until we know for sure, it is all speculation.

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

Alberta Gay Straight Alliance Debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alberta Wildrose Caucus MLA

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

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

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

Ian Donovan David Eggen MLA

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

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

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

Kerry Towle

Kerry Towle

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

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

Jim Prentice Premier Alberta

Jim Prentice

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

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

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

Ken Boessenkool

Ken Boessenkool

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

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

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

Wildrose knows about floor-crossing

Danielle Smith Rob Anderson Heather Forsyth Wildrose

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

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

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

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

Should floor-crossing be illegal?

Thomas Lukaszuk

Thomas Lukaszuk

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

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

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.

Sources: MLA David Xiao disqualified from federal Conservative nomination

David Xiao MLA Edmonton West

David Xiao

A Progressive Conservative MLA is appealing a decision by a Conservative Party of Canada committee to disqualify him as a nomination candidate in the newly created Edmonton-West federal riding, according to reliable sources.

(see updates below)

It remains unclear why the committee chose to disqualify Edmonton-McClung MLA David Xiao, who announced his entry into the contest in March 2014.

If Mr. Xiao’s disqualification is upheld by the Conservative Party National Council, it is expected that Edmonton hotel manager Kelly McCauley will be acclaimed as the party’s candidate for the next federal election.

Kelly McCauley Edmonton-West Conservative

Kelly McCauley

Mr. Xiao’s candidacy has been endorsed by provincial Health Minister and Edmonton-Whitemud by-election candidate Stephen Mandel, former premier Ed Stelmach and provincial cabinet ministers Jonathan Denis and Manmeet Bhullar.

Since his election in 2008, Mr. Xiao has served as the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Energy, Minister of Transportation and the Minister of Employment and Immigration. ‘Edmonton-McClung MLA David Xiao’s claimed travel expenses of nearly $35,000 last year, more than any of his Edmonton colleagues,’ the CBC reported on Jan. 22, 2013.

The Conservative Party is expected to respond to Mr. Xiao’s appeal this week.


Contributing to more potential controversy, a lawyer representing Mr. Xiao recently informed Wildrose Official Opposition leader Danielle Smith and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle that he planned to issue notices under Alberta’s Defamation Act.

Potentially connected to the legal threats, Mr. Xiao publicly denied statements made by the Wildrose opposition about his relationship with the McClung Family Association.

UPDATE (October 15, 2014): Mr. Xiao has released a statement confirming he is appealing his disqualification as a nomination candidate by the Conservative Party in Edmonton-West.

UPDATE (October 16, 2014): According to reliable sources, Mr. Xiao’s appeal has been rejected by the Conservative Party of Canada National Council. Mr. McCauley is expected to be acclaimed as the candidate in Edmonton-West.

Nomination update: Yellowhead by-election, Bow River Tories vote, and Anybody but Xiao

Rob Merrifield Alberta Washington DC

Former Conservative MP Rob Merrifield will soon be Alberta’s new representative in Washington D.C.

Premier Jim Prentice announced this week that five-term Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Merrifield would be appointed as Alberta’s representative in Washington D.C. Mr. Merrifield’s resignation from the House of Commons means that a federal by-election will need to be called in the Yellowhead riding by March 17, 2015. This would be the fourth federal by-election in Alberta since the 2011 general election.

Yellowhead County mayor Gerald Soroka is the first to announce he will seek the Conservative nomination in this riding. Mr. Soroka was first elected mayor in 2007. Mr. Merrifield earned 77% of the vote in the 2011 election, so this is widely considered a safe riding for the Conseravtives.

Rob Anders Bow River Conservative MP

Rob Anders

Bow River
Conservative Party members in southern Alberta’s new Bow River riding are voting today to choose their next candidate.

UPDATE: Rob Anders has lost the Conservative nomination in Bow River. Brooks mayor Martin Shields will be the Conservative candidate in the next election.

On July 31, 2014, this website was the first to report that controversial Calgary MP Rob Anders would seek the nomination in this riding following his defeat in Calgary-Signal Hill. Outsider Mr. Anders is facing challenges from local municipal politicians Martin Shields and Rolly Ashdown, and Mount Royal University economics lecturer Gerard Lucyshyn.

Media have been banned from attending the forums of the Conservative nomination forums in the Bow River riding. This is no doubt to spare the Conservative Party of the embarrassment of having Mr. Anders on their ballot in that riding.

Last week, the Medicine Hat News reported an embarrassing exchange at a forum in that riding’s nomination contest which saw two social conservative candidates debating gay-rights and women’s access to abortion.

Local Conservative member Brian De Jon told the Brooks Bulletin that there has been “no substance” at the Bow River forums anyway.

David Xiao MLA Edmonton West

David Xiao

Edmonton-West
An “Anybody But Xiao” (ABX) campaign is heating up in this new west Edmonton riding. With candidate Brad Rutherford dropping out and throwing his support behind Kelly McCauley, a group of local Conservatives are trying to prevent Edmonton-McClung Progressive Conservative MLA David Xiao from winning the nomination.

Mr. McCauley, a local innkeeper, has the support of most Conservative MPs and the party establishment and is seen as having the best chance of defeating the local MLA. Mr. Xiao’s hefty public expenses and history in a past federal nomination campaign against Edmonton-Centre MP Laurie Hawn are said to have left a bad memories in the minds of local Tories.

But Mr. Xiao has his supporters. Former Edmonton mayor and newly appointed provincial health minister Stephen Mandel, former Premier Ed Stelmach, Justice minister Jonathan Denis and Infrastructure minister Manmeet Bhullar have all pledged their endorsements to Mr. Xiao.

Kent Hehr Calgary Centre MLA Liberals

Kent Hehr

Calgary-Centre
Conservative candidate Joan Crockett sent a shot across the bow of popular Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Kent Hehr’s campaign last week. In a column in the Calgary Herald, Ms. Crockatt claimed that Mr. Hehr has done little as an MLA to help with flood recovery in Calgary’s central neighbourhoods (also naming him in the same sentence as disgraced former Premier Alison Redford).

Mr. Hehr, who is seeking the Liberal nomination in the riding told the told Herald reporter James Wood that “it’s politics.” “Joan and I are going to have a lot of time to discuss the issues and she’s just getting an early jump on it,” Mr. Hehr said.

Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner
On the topic of controversial debates, Lethbridge MP Jim Hillyer defeated Dan Hein to become the Consevative candidate in this new southern Alberta riding. The Cardston Temple City Star reported that just under 1,400 votes were cast over the three day selection period.

Janis Irwin Megan Leslie NDP Edmonton Griesbach Halifax

NDP MP Megan Leslie (L) with local candidate Janis Irwin (R)

Edmonton-Griesbach
Most Edmontonians probably would not have noticed when Official Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair and 96 New Democratic Party MPs descended on the city for their caucus meeting earlier this month. But while the NDP MPs did appear to spend most of their time behind closed doors, they did take a notable break to help out a local candidate in east Edmonton’s new Griesbach riding.

NDP MPs Libby Davies, Megan Leslie , Dany Morin and Ruth Ellen Brosseau hit the doors with candidate Janis Irwin and Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood NDP MLA Brian Mason. The NDP are hoping they can turn their 37% showing in 2011 into a win in 2015.

Confirming what many believed to be inevitable, six-term Conservative MP Peter Goldring announced that he will not seek re-election. Mr. Goldring has endorsed Omar Tarchichi over former mayoral candidate Kerry Diotte in the nomination contest to replace him. Curiously, for a governing party’s candidate, Mr. Tarchichi’s campaign has chosen “Rise Up” as its slogan. It is unclear what Mr. Tarchichi plans to rise up against.

Shannon Stubbs Lakeland Conservative Nomination

Shannon Stubbs

Lakeland
Two candidates have stepped forward to run for the Conservative nomination in the new Lakeland riding after three-term backbencher Brian Storseth announced he was retiring from federal politics.

Shannon Stubbs is a former Wildrose caucus staffer and ran for the party in the 2012 provincial election (collecting 5,800 votes in the Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville riding). She is also the wife of popular Lac La Biche-Two Hills-St. Paul Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw (they were married today – congratulations!)

Ms. Stubbs will face Lewis Semashkewich, an Aspen View Public School Board trustee. The Athabasca Advocate reported that Mr. Semashkewich is calling for the construction of a new oil refinery in that corner of the province.

Edmonton-Riverbend
Lawyer Tom O’Leary is seeking the Liberal nomination in the new Edmonton-Riverbend riding.

Edmonton-Strathcona
Len Thom will carry the Conservative banner against NDP MP Linda Duncan in the next election. The lawyer of and provincial PC Party constituency president was acclaimed at a nomination meeting this week.

An updated list of federal candidate nominations in Alberta can be found here.

False Passengers and Fake Promises: Could the PC Party be choosing the next opposition leader?

Alison Redford Jim Prentice Thomas Lukaszuk Ric McIver Alberta Premier PC Leadership Race

Alison Redford, Thomas Lukaszuk, Ric McIver and Jim Prentice

Here’s a question that isn’t often asked in Alberta: Which of the three Progressive Conservative leadership candidates would make the best Leader of the Opposition?

An insane trail of scandal continues to leak out of the 43-year-long governing PC Party as it lurches towards a leadership vote on September 6.

A CBC exclusive story alleged today that Auditor General has uncovered “false passengers” were booked to ensure that Premier Alison Redford and her political staff would be the only passengers on government planes during certain flights.

The leak was a draft copy of a report Auditor General Merwan Saher is expected to release in August 2014 and will also include a review of the former premier’s flights to South Africa and Palm Springs.

Along with Ms. Redford’s secret plans for a private penthouse residence, this week’s secret cancellation of a three-year pay-freeze for senior government executives (which was only implemented 17 months ago), and the Auditor General’s discovery last month that the province has failed implement its much vaunted Climate Change plan, the PC government does not look like the well-polished machine it once was.

Two years ago, PC candidates led by Ms. Redford promised a new era of open and transparent government. It appears that the fake passengers were not the only fabrication.

Is it possible that the three men vying to lead the PC Party did not know about the false flyers?

Both insiders, Thomas Lukaszuk served as Ms. Redford’s Deputy Premier and Ric McIver was Transportation Minister from May 2012 to December 2013. While they have denied knowledge of the flights, it is strange that at the very least these two senior cabinet minister had not even heard rumours about the Premier’s alleged fictional bookings and questionable travel habits.

And Jim Prentice? He is not an MLA and was busy working for a big Bay Street bank during Ms. Redford’s reign.

But what of Finance Minister Doug Horner, whose department is responsible for the Alberta government’s fleet of airplanes? Surely someone within the Finance Department would have been aware of these alleged ghost travellers? Mr. Horner, along with 50 other PC MLAs and nearly every PC Party insider, is supporting Mr. Prentice’s bid for the PC Party leadership.

Mr. Prentice, who appears to only speak in generalizations and avoids details in all his public announcements, issued a statement on his Facebook Page in response to the allegations. “Albertans do not need excuses from those who were at the table when these decisions were made,” Mr. Prentice’s Facebook statement said.

Nearly everyone who would have been sitting around the cabinet table when these phantom flyers were on the books are now endorsing Mr. Prentice.

His opponent, Mr. Lukaszuk, was much more harsh on Ms. Redford, who remains the PC MLA for Calgary-Elbow. The former Deputy Premier said he would have his former boss thrown out of the PC Caucus and would ask a retired judge to investigate the allegations (Justice Minister Jonathan Denis, also supporting Mr. Prentice, today asked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to decide whether there should be an investigation).

This leads me back to my initial question: Which of the three leadership candidates would make the best Leader of the Opposition?

For the past four decades, this would have been a nonsensical question. But in 2014, the Tories face a relentlessly aggressive Wildrose opposition flush with cash and preparing for an election. There is an increasingly real possibility that the PC Party could be in opposition after the next election.

Mr. Prentice served in the Conservative Official Opposition benches in Ottawa for two years during the dying days of Paul Martin’s Liberal government, a time which may oddly familiar similar to the current politics in Alberta. An ambitious politician, Mr. Prentice does not strike me as someone who would be interested in remaining in the opposition benches if the PC Party were to lose the next election.

Mr. Lukaszuk is well-known for his partisan attack dog-style in Question Period, and might thrive in the opposition benches. Mr. McIver served as the unofficial opposition to Mayor Dave Bronconnier on Calgary City Council, but, like Mr. Lukaszuk, he has no support from his PC MLA colleagues.

In light of recent revelations, perhaps some time spent in the opposition benches could inject a much needed dose of humility into Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives, who have become very comfortable with the trappings of political power. Despite coming within a hair of losing the last election, the Tories act as if they are an invincible force. This recent string of scandals may help prove that the PCs are not invincible.

Ric McIver and the March for Jesus: A Lake of Fire Redux?

Ric McIver March for Jesus Lake of Fire

“The March for Jesus 2013 was officially opened by the Minister of Infrastructure Ric McIver…” according to the March for Jesus website (photo from MarchForJesus.ca).

“Last year alone, Calgary’s streets were flooded with people of wrong sexual preferences during a homosexual parade of over 30,000 attendees and none of them were embarrassed the slightest to publicly even present their nakedness in front of families and in front of future generations to openly proclaim and manifest that they are not ashamed to declare the name of their master (Satan) and in the same way not concerned with provoking greatly the wrath of the Living God.”

The quote above was taken from an article on MarchForJesus.ca, which has been circulating on social media this weekend. The article also features a photo of Calgary MLA and Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Ric McIver as the parade marshal for the group’s 2013 event. Mr. McIver tweeted a photo while attending this year’s march in Calgary on Sunday, June 15.

The website also features endorsements of the event by Christian Heritage Party of Canada leader David Reimer and perennial social conservative fringe candidate Larry Heather.

Street Church, one of the organizations behind the annual March for Jesus, features a photo of Justice Minister Jonathan Denis on their website as a supporter of the event.

UPDATE: On his Facebook Page, Mr. McIver has responded to the backlash caused by his participation in the March for Jesus event.

“I deplore discrimination against all groups and individuals without exception,” wrote Mr. McIver. “I shall continue to attend events celebrating the diversity of Alberta.”

“I hope this statement clears up any doubts about my commitment to the rights and freedoms of all Albertans, in the past, in the present and in my intentions for the future,” he wrote.

It’s as clear as mud, Mr. McIver.