Tag Archives: Kelley Charlebois

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PC Party: Oh Albertans, give us one more chance (we want you back)

Jim Prentice Ric McIver Thomas Lukaszuk Alberta PoliticsIn 1971, The Jackson 5 were topping the billboard charts and Peter Lougheed‘s Progressive Conservatives were just starting what has become an uninterrupted 43-year reign as Alberta’s governing party. Recent messaging from the PC Party have certainly drawn inspiration from the band’s famous song – I Want You Back – as the PC Party tries to convince its former members, and former supporters, that all they need is one more chance.

Kelley-Charlebois-Alberta-PC-Party

Kelley Charlebois

Under the subject line “We want you back!,” an email sent to PC Party supporters over the weekend from party executive director Kelley Charlebois begged former members to renew their memberships to vote in the September 6 leadership vote.

“We’ve seen some upsetting revelations over the past weeks, and we are just as disappointed as you are,” Mr. Charlebois wrote. The email smelled desperate and gave a peek into how much the recent scandals and fiascos have rocked the long-governing party.

With frontrunner Jim Prentice giving away free memberships (after first denying it), the PC Party is rumoured to be scrambling to increase low membership sales. According to David Climenhaga‘s AlbertaDiary.ca, the party is rumoured to have only sold 23,700 memberships (though close to 5,000 were rumoured to be submitted to the party office by MLAs last week). Still, those would represent historically low numbers in a leadership race for this party and is a far cry from the 144,289 members who voted in the 2006 leadership race.

Doug Horner

Doug Horner

Asking for a second chance, former PC candidate Brian Henninger does not believe that voters should take out their frustration on the new premier in an upcoming by-election. “I don’t care what message you want to send to the premier, don’t do it with your vote,” Mr. Henninger told the Calgary Herald. Mr. Henninger was the PC candidate in the 2007 Calgary-Elbow by-election. With former Premier Alison Redford‘s resignation two weeks ago, there will be another by-election held in the same constituency. Voters may not be so kind to the next PC candidate in the upcoming by-election.

Hoping that they will forget what happened and let his political career live again, Finance Minister Doug Horner wrote a long-winded and typo-ridden letter to his PC caucus colleagues, claiming that he is not responsible for the gross misuse of government planes.

While the fleet of government planes is managed by the Finance Department, Mr. Horner claims he was blind to Ms. Redford’s extensive and allegedly personal use of the planes.

Ric McIver Alberta PC leadership candidate Calgary MLA

Ric McIver

A large group of disgruntled backbench PC MLAs are said to be furious with Mr. Horner and on the verge of forcing him to resign from the Finance Ministry.

Mr. Horner’s letter reminded me of the hastily written letter sent by then-junior health minister Raj Sherman to his PC caucus colleagues in 2009 (he was kicked out of the PC caucus shortly afterward). Meanwhile Dr. Sherman, now leading the opposition Liberals, has launched a petition calling on Mr. Horner to resign from cabinet.

The Tories gave themselves a second chance after secret plans were revealed in March 2014 to build a private penthouse residence for Ms. Redford were revealed days after she resigned as premier in March 2014. But Auditor General Merwan Saher says plans for the Premier’s Skypalace in the Federal Building are still in place.

When the “Skypalace” scandal was uncovered through a CBC investigation, Infrastructure Minister Wayne Drysdale told the media he cancelled the project in late 2012. Former Infrastructure Minister Ric McIver said he stopped the Skypalace in January 2014. And Deputy Minister Marcia Nelson confirmed to the Public Accounts Committee in May 2014 that Mr. McIver issued the cancellation of the residential suite. It is unclear who in the PC Government ordered the secret construction on the penthouse to continue.

It is yet to be seen how many second chances Albertans will give the PCs, but the opposition parties may be starting to feel optimistic about their chances in the next election.


 

And for those of you with the lyrics stuck in your head, you’re very welcome…

Alberta Tories confused about illegal donations.

Alberta Tories ConfusedCaught having accepted 45 prohibited donations from municipalities and publicly-funded institutions since 2009, the Progressive Conservative Association spent the past few days sending mixed messages whether it would or already had repaid the full amount of illegals funds as requested by Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer .

Party officials previously stated the funds would be repaid, but during a conference call to PC constituency presidents last month, executive director Kelley Charlebois laid out laid out plans to not repay the funds.

“Repaying the money does us no good in the court of public opinion” – PC Party executive director Kelley Charlebois

PC Party president Jim McCormick told the Edmonton Journal last week that he felt the orders from the elections office to repay illegal donations were unfair. Mr. McCormick later downplayed his public comments in an email to PC Party supporters in which he stated his party had “fully and willingly complied and repaid the dollars [the Chief Elections Officer] asked us to.”

Mr. McCormick then stated that talks between the PC Party and the elections office would continue and his “argument is not relative to the dollar amount but rather a request for clarification on the legislation.” There is some irony in that some of the prohibited donations were made to now-Justice Minister Jonathan DenisCalgary-Egmont constituency association.

2012 PC campaign manager Susan Elliott jumped to her party’s defence on Facebook, claiming that party officials had no way of knowing that many of the donors were being reimbursed by municipalities or public institutions for money spent at party fundraisers.

I am mystified by the Chief Electoral Officer’s conclusion that a political party is responsible if an individual illegally expenses a political donation to a prohibited organization. So Joe Smith buys a fundraising ticket using a personal cheque or credit card. That’s OK. He collects the tax receipt personally. That’s OK. But later, he submits the cost on his expense claim. He has now done something illegal. The prohibited organization does something illegal by paying it. But how is it the political party is supposed to anticipate Joe’s actions, learn about them later, prevent them or correct them? Since they can do none of those things, why are they the ones cited?

The 45 cases of illegal donations identified in the investigation were all made to the PC Party, not to any of the eight other registered political parties in Alberta.

In some cases Ms. Elliott’s argument may hold water, but in other cases the PC constituency organizers may have directly or indirectly solicited funds from these individuals through their places of employment in municipalities or public institutions.

In one case, which is not being investigated because it took place before the arbitrary 2009 cut-off date set by the elections office, a PC constituency official was actually employed by the organization that the donation was made by. In the former Athabasca-Redwater constituency, the local PC President was the head of the Athabasca University secretariat, which approved the financial contributions.

As was the case with the long list of municipalities that were named in the investigation, they were encouraged to purchase tickets to PC Party fundraisers as a means of lobbying provincial politicians. Over its 42 years in power, the PCs have fostered the creation of a culture where the lines between government business and party business are sometimes blurred.

The elections office is also investigating allegations that pharmaceutical industry billionaire and Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz made a $430,000 donation to the PC Party in the 2012 election, blowing away the $30,000 annual contribution limit stipulated in the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosures Act.

pc party shoots the [shiraz] shariff. premier redford to appoint a new candidate in calgary-west.

As I first wrote about in yesterday’s post, former Calgary-McCall MLA Shiraz Shariff has been disqualified as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Calgary-West after complaints of voting irregularities at the recent nomination meeting.

Shiraz Shariff Calgary-West PC nominee

Shiraz Shariff

Mr. Shariff narrowly defeated former Alberta Health Services chairman Ken Hughes, who sits in Premier Alison Redford‘s inner circle and was widely seen as the front-runner in the contest. Both Mr. Shariff and Mr. Hughes entered the contest only weeks before the nomination meeting. Mr. Shariff had been seeking the nomination in Calgary-Hawkwood until late 2011, when he switched constituencies.

Posting a statement on his Facebook profile, Mr. Shariff maintained that his campaign was run fairly and was aware “a potential bias from the onset of my candidacy and during my campaign for nomination… ran even as deep as within the PC Board of Calgary West.” He called on the PC Party to begin an arbitration process to address the complaints.

“I have not been made aware of specific issues, have not been consulted in this decision, and have not been offered an arbitration process, as stated in the PC Party constitution. If there were irregularities, I request that the PC Party will make them known and address how the security of the day, guided by the leadership of the Board, could not have protected the process against these irregularities.”

In a media release yesterday quoting President Bill Smith and Executive Director Kelley Charlebois , the PC Party announced that they would ask the local board of directors in Calgary-West to submit the names of three replacement candidates for Premier Redford to select.

Farouk Adatia Calgary-Hawkwood PC candidate

Farouk Adatia

Mr. Hughes may seem like the obvious choice for the appointed candidacy, but Tory sources say that lawyer Farouk Adatia may end up being Premier Redford’s choice. Mr. Adita served as Chief Financial Officer for Premier Redford’s leadership campaign and he was recently defeated in the crowded PC nomination contest in Calgary-Hawkwood.

It may be another month before the PCs actually drop the Writ and time to hold another open nomination meeting is cut short by that party’s public deadline to nominate candidates before February 10. This weekend, the PCs are holding a pre-election campaign training school in Edmonton, which will be a pep rally to energize their activist base. At these schools, the PCs will also select three candidates to stand in the upcoming Senator-in-Waiting election, which will be held along with the general election.

The PCs also appointed candidates in two other constituencies. Emerson Mayers, who was defeated in the Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood nomination contest will run against NDP MLA Rachel Notley in Edmonton-Strathcona. Jamie Lall, who was defeated in the Calgary-McCall nomination contest will challenge Liberal MLA Kent Hehr in Calgary-Buffalo.

redford’s ‘change from within’ is a nice slogan, but when you take a closer look…

Alison Redford Ed Stelmach Change

"Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss ..." Was Pete Townshend on to something?

Despite the narrative of “change from within” that was made popular after the October 1 leadership vote, the wave of change has not spilled far into the Progressive Conservative ranks since Alison Redford was elected into her new role one month ago.

– The Globe & Mail is reporting that the controversial Kelley Charlebois is expected to be appointed as the next Executive Director of the Alberta PC Party this week. Albertans may remember Mr. Charlebois as the owner of the company that was awarded $390,000 worth of controversial contracts to consult with with then-Health Minister Gary Mar between 2002 and 2004. During the recent PC leadership contest, Mr. Charlebois claimed that he was being unfairly targeted by the media.

– Long-time Tory strategist Susan Elliott has been appointed as the Progressive Conservative Party campaign manager for the next election. Along with 2008 campaign manager Randy Dawson, Ms. Elliott played a central role in Premier Ed Stelmach‘s election campaign.

– While Premier Redford did make a showing of dumping long-time Tory stalwarts from the provincial cabinet, many of the key ministers in her first cabinet are politicians played a central role in Premier Stelmach’s administration. Energy Minister Ted Morton, Human Services Minister Dave Hancock, Finance Minister Ron Liepert, Transportation Minister Ray Danyluk, Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, and Deputy Premier Doug Horner were all key players in Premier Stelmach’s final cabinet.

– Shortly after being sworn-in office, Premier Redford appointed leadership opponent Mr. Mar as Alberta’s representative in Hong Kong. Mr. Mar’s leadership campaign manager Elan McDonald soon found her way back into the Premier’s office as Advisor to the Premier and Legislative Affairs. She had previously worked in Premier Stelmach’s office.

– It is unclear what his official title will be, but leadership opponent and former cabinet minister Rick Orman is expected to be appointed by Premier Redford to work on a northern Alberta development strategy.

– When entering office, Premier Redford’s transition team also included some old-time Tory connectors, including current Alberta Health Services Chairman Ken Hughes, who was a Tory Member of Parliament under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Nearly all incumbent PC MLA’s who have already been nominated for the next election have been acclaimed and of those who faced nomination challenges only one was defeated (and he is now seeking a nomination in a neighbouring constituency).

City of Leduc Alderman Dominic Mishio unsuccessfully challenged two-term backbencher George Rogers in Leduc-Beaumont, Lars Lehmann unsuccessfully challenged three-term backbencher Alana DeLong in Calgary-Bow, and Rick Fraser defeated three-term backbencher Art Johnston in Calgary-South East. Now the Parliamentary Assistant to the Premier, Mr. Johnston recently announced that he will be seeking nomination in a different constituency (his current constituency is being redistributed in the next election). Jeff Wedman is standing for the PC nomination in St. Albert, though there is some talk that current PC MLA Ken Allred will retire before the next election.

‘Change from within’ is a nice slogan, but when you take a closer look, it looks awfully close to what things look liked before.

old boys club? gary mar is entitled to his entitlements.

Beating off criticisms that he represents the “Old Boys Club” of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party, leadership front-runner Gary Mar‘s campaign has been helped with a public plea from his former executive assistant and current campaign volunteer to leave him alone! Mr. Mar’s former EA happens to be none other than Kelley Charlebois.

Albertans may remember Mr. Charlebois as the owner of the company that was awarded $390,000 worth of controversial contracts to consult with with then-Health Minister Mar between 2002 and 2004.

When asked by Liberal MLA Kevin Taft in 2004 about what reports Charlebois Consulting had completed for Health and Wellness, Mr, Mar simply responded that “there are no reports as such.”

When asked whether Charlebois Consulting won these contracts through a competitive process, Mr. Mar simply responded “No.”

Even auditor general Fred Dunn reported that Mr. Mar’s ministry failed to follow its own policies when issuing the contract to Mr. Charlebois’ company.

Mr. Mar is also taking heat for accepting a a $478,499 severance payment when he resigned as a MLA to become Alberta’s representative in Washington D.C. in 2007. Mr. Mar had pledged not to accept the payment, but he quietly cashed in not long after he started his $264,069 base salary job as Alberta’s chief lobbyist in the American capital.

When asked about his decision to accept the severance, Mr. Mar told the media: “I did say I would defer it to some point in the future. I didn’t say when.”

In the words of former federal Liberal cabinet minister ‪David Dingwall, Mr. Mar was entitled to his entitlements.