Tag Archives: Karen Kleiss

Alberta’s new political insiders mostly come from outside Alberta

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

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

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

List of Alberta’s Ministerial Chiefs of Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journos flee the fourth estate for NDP jobs

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

Alberta NDP use strange voting system to select new leader

Rachel Notley David Eggen Alberta NDP Leadership Race 2014

NDP MLAs David Eggen and Rachel Notley at a recent rally calling for the construction of a new Misericordia Hospital in south west Edmonton. Both MLAs are running for the leadership of the Alberta NDP.

On October 18, 2014 Alberta’s New Democratic Party will choose a replacement for retiring leader Brian Mason, who has held the position since 2004. The three candidates seeking the leadership are Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley, Edmonton-Calder MLA David Eggen and Edmonton-Ellerslie candidate Rod Loyola.

Brian Mason

Brian Mason

This is the Alberta NDP’s first foray into a one-member, one-vote system preferential ballot system of selecting their leader, at least partially. While 75% of the total votes cast to choose the next leader are allocated to individual members, 25% of the total votes are allocated to organizations affiliated with the NDP.

This hybrid system was adopted after a vote by NDP members at a recent policy convention. The 25% affiliate organization vote is a recognition of the party’s historical ties to labour unions, who are suspected to make up most of the affiliates.

How the votes will actually be counted is also a source of confusion among NDP members I have spoken with. The Edmonton Journal’s Karen Kleiss did an admirable job trying to explain the system, but even after an explanation it remains needlessly complicated:

The affiliate status gives the eight unions a 25 per cent weighted vote in the leadership election.

This means that if each of the eight unions cast one ballot, each of those ballots would count for 3.12 per cent of the total votes. In a hypothetical race with 10,000 ballots cast, each union ballot would count for 312 votes.

Rod Loyola Edmonton Ellerslie NDP

Rod Loyola

Simply put, the votes of indivdiual organizations will be weighed heavier than votes of individual NDP members in this leadership vote. But even though NDP members may be told how those votes are weighed within the 25%, there is still no public listing of the affiliated organizations.

I am told there are at most ten organizations eligible to cast votes in the leadership contest, but privacy rules restrict the NDP from releasing the names of the organizations without their approval.

Not shy about their affiliation with the NDP, one of the affiliates is certainly the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401. UFCW 401 President Doug O’Halloran announced earlier this month that his union has endorsed Ms. Notley’s candidacy.

There are limited rules around how provincial political parties conduct leadership contests. Unlike the United States, where open primary votes feel like general elections and are highly structured, leadership votes in Alberta feel like the Wild West.

Raj Sherman MLA Edmonton-Meadowlark

Raj Sherman

Leadership candidates and their Chief Financial Officers must register with Elections Alberta, but aside from that, party’s set their own rules around entry fees, spending limits, debates, and how the leader is selected. This has led to some odd voting schemes and irregularities during recent leadership contests.

The Progressive Conservatives used a simple one-member, one-vote system and still faced numerous allegations of irregularities and online voting systems glitches in the leadership contest that selected Jim Prentice. One PC volunteer accused MLA Sohail Quadri of improperly accessing PIN numbers of PC members and Mr. Prentice’s campaign was caught handing out free memberships at public events.

In their 2011 leadership contest, the Liberal Party introduced a “supporter” category of voter, who could vote in their leadership contest by signing up for free. The “supporters” did little to boost the active membership of the party and the category was dissolved shortly after Raj Sherman was selected as leader.

Our political leaders should be encouraged to develop new and innovative ways of engaging voters in leadership races, but Albertans need to know the processes being used are fair and transparent.

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

Via the Edmonton Journal:

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

BY KAREN KLEISS, EDMONTON JOURNAL JANUARY 30, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

the new royal alberta museum – a political legacy project that was doomed to fail.

Hastily prepared in the final months of Premier Ed Stelmach‘s term in office, the construction of the new Royal Alberta Museum had political legacy project written all over it. This is why it should not come as such a shock that the funding for the project is in jeopardy since Mr. Stelmach left office in early October.

Announced on April 7, 2011, the new museum was expected to cost $340 million, including $180 million over the first three years of the project which was expected to include $30 million in previously committed federal dollars (see below).

On June 6, 2011, the Government of Alberta began to search for designers and builders for the new museum. Submissions for design concepts were officially opened on July 4, 2011, and on August 18, 2011 the provincial government announced that four designs had been submitted.

In the August 18 media release, then-Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett said “the exterior design of the new Royal Alberta Museum must be such as to compel Albertans and our guests to visit and experience the facility for the first time.

On September 14, 2011, the winning design of the new Royal Alberta Museum was chosen. Despite near universal criticism of the uninspiring design, Infrastructure Minister Ray Danyluk said the design “expresses our province’s history, landscapes, and potential.”

The winning design had all the aura and sophistication of a prairie warehouse.

On October 1, 2011, members of the Progressive Conservative Association selected Alison Redford to replace Premier Stelmach as their leader. The Tories selected Alberta’s new Premier and with a new leader came new priorities.

Politically, it is easy to see why  both the new provincial administraion and the federal government are not especially excited about funding the project and neither want to look like the bad guy by cancelling it. The uncertainty of a portion of the funds may have made this situation a political inevitability, and an easy way out of putting the project on the backburner.

What federal funding?
The Edmonton Journal‘s Karen Kleiss has written a quick and easy to read explanation of where the the federal funding for the new museum was expected to come from.

The first envelope included $30 million from $55.2 million that had been allocated by the federal government to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the province of Alberta in 2005. The envelope was announced by then-Edmonton MP and Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan in a media release from Western Economic Diversification Canada:

WD will deliver the $55.2 million in federal centennial funding allocated to capital legacy projects that Albertans and visitors alike can enjoy. Projects selected for funding include the Provincial Museum of Alberta, the Edmonton Art Gallery and the Glenbow Museum.

The funding source that may cause the mothballing of the new museum project was expected to come in the form of $92 million from the Building Canada Fund, which was apparently a not very reliable source of funding (which perhaps should not be surprising considering how rushed the process was).

Tomorrow morning, I will be participating in Mayor Stephen Mandel‘s Arts Visioning Committee Recommendation Review Session. I am sure that the funding for the new Royal Alberta Museum will be a topic of discussion among the participants (as well as City Council’s vote to allocate more than $450 million to support the proposed Katz Group Arena – more on that later).

queue jumping for political insiders could unleash the wrath and fury of albertans.

The beginning of a slow news week, the rantings of an angry fall-guy, or the first tremor of an earthquake that could shake the foundation of a 40-year political dynasty?

Queue Jumpers

Warning.

As reported by CBC, former Alberta Health Services CEO and President Stephen Duckett told the audience at a May 5 conference in Toronto that some of his predecessor CEOs under the old Regional Health Authorities “had designated ‘go-to guys’ for discrete waiting list adjustments on request from MLAs.

If true, this is a bombshell that would unleash upon each Tory MLA the wrath and fury of every Albertan who has ever had to watch a loved one suffer in pain while waiting in queue for a medical procedure. Accusations like this would cause parties in most jurisdictions to easily lose elections, in Alberta it could awaken an electorate that has supported the PC Party for nearly 40 years.

Dr. Duckett served as President and CEO of AHS from March 2009 until November 2010, he became a liability for his political masters after a turbulent fall session of the Assembly. He was unceremoniously dumped after spending 2 minutes refusing to answer media questions while eating a cookie.

With his recent employment history still fresh in our minds, no one should doubt that Dr. Duckett has an axe to grind with his former political masters, but taking into account that grain of salt, we should not immediately discount his words.

Are these allegations true? An Alberta Health spokesperson’s response to CBC was telling: “[Dr. Duckett made] vague allegations about what may or may not have occurred in the past.” Dr. Duckett did not provide the names of the CEOs, MLAs, or “go-to-guys” involved in arranging the alleged queue jumping, but as the week continues I imagine that the tiny spotlight shone by CBC today will grow wider into a spotlight of political commentary and intrigue.

UDPATE: The Edmonton Journal’s Karen Kleiss posted this June 11, 2009 memo from Dr. Duckett to the executives of the then newly created Alberta Health Services in regards to requests for expedited care.
Duckett Memo on Expedited Care