Tag Archives: Kellie Leitch

Kevin O'Leary is coming to Alberta but skipping the Conservative Party leadership debate.

O’Leary skips Conservative debate, federal NDP debate skips Alberta

The most high-profile candidate running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada will be skipping tomorrow’s leadership debate in Edmonton. As the thirteen other candidates for the leadership gather on stage at the Citadel Theatre, Boston-resident and American reality television personality Kevin O’Leary will instead be hosting a “fireside chat” in a fireplace-less conference room across the street at the Westin Hotel.

Jason Kenney Wildrose Conservative Alberta

Jason Kenney

O’Leary will be joined by former Conservative MP Tim Uppal who will moderate the chat. Uppal represented the Edmonton-Sherwood Park riding from 2006 until 2015 when he switched ridings and was defeated by Liberal candidate Amarjeet Sohi in Edmonton-Mill Woods in October 2015.

O’Leary was spotted chatting with former MP and Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Jason Kenney at last weekend’s Manning Centre Conference in Ottawa. Kenney participated in a panel discussion at the conference with Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt and conference namesake Preston Manning on the topic of uniting Conservatives in Alberta.

Manning, who has been involved in conservative politics in Alberta since the 1960s (his father, Ernest Manning was premier of Alberta from 1943 to 1968), played an instrumental role in convincing nearly the whole Wildrose caucus to cross the floor to join the PCs in 2014.

Back to the federal Conservative leadership, Fildebrandt has endorsed leadership candidate Maxime Bernier, the Quebec MP known for his libertarian views briefly served as Minister of Foreign Affairs before resigning in 2008 after he acknowledged leaving sensitive government documents out in the open, apparently at his former girlfriend’s home. Bernier has also been endorsed by Calgary MP Tom Kmiec and former Wildrose MLA Heather Forsyth.

The largest group of Conservative MPs (ten) from Alberta are supporting Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer‘s bid for the leadership. Four are supporting Ontario MP Erin O’Toole and one, David Yurdiga, is supporting Kellie Leitch (watch her latest video here, if you can bear it). Bow Valley MP Martin Shields is supporting Calgary MP Deepak Obhrai‘s candidacy.

Derek Fildebrandt Alberta Wildrose MLA

Derek Fildebrandt

O’Leary does not have the support of any sitting MPs from Alberta but has gained support from Uppal and former PC MLA Ken Hughes. O’Leary was widely mocked online last year after writing an open letter to Premier Rachel Notley pledging to invest $1 million to Alberta economy if she would resign (it is not known if the letter was sent by O’Leary from his home in Massachusetts).

Federal NDP skip Alberta in leadership debate schedule

Meanwhile, the federal NDP released a schedule of debates for their leadership contest and have apparently skipped over Alberta, the only province in Canada with an NDP government.

It is an odd slight, but one that is probably welcomed by Notley’s pro-pipeline NDP government, whose Climate Leadership Plan helped gain approval for the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia. The divide between the Alberta NDP and its counterparts in Ottawa on the pipeline issue is stark and the federal party would not be doing Notley’s government any favours by rolling into the province trumpeting an anti-pipeline message.

Justin Trudeau Edmonton Liberal

Mulcair and Trudeau bring “Change” and “Real Change” to Edmonton this week

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair will visit Edmonton this week to campaign with local candidates and to rally their supporters. The visit by the two leaders follows an earlier stop by Conservative leader Stephen Harper during the second week of the election.

In a competition to own the “change” message, the NDP are holding a “Rally for Change in Edmonton” on September 10 and the Liberals are holding a “Rally for Real Change in Edmonton” on September 9. It is clear that both parties have identified varying degrees “change” as a common theme in this election campaign and that message could resonate in a handful of ridings in Edmonton in this election.

It is expected that popular Premier Rachel Notley might take the stage with Mr. Mulcair on September 10, to give her personal endorsement to the federal leader. With 64 percent of Edmontonians casting their ballots for the NDP in the May 2015 provincial election, the opposition parties have reason to believe that Alberta’s capital city is fertile ground for progressive messages.

Taking notice of the political shift in the city, the Conservatives recently dispatched Ontario candidate Kellie Leitch and Calgary candidate Michelle Rempel to canvass alongside Edmonton candidates who are in tough contests. Liberal MPs Ralph Goodale and Rodger Cuzner have travelled to Alberta in recent weeks and Ontario MP Carolyn Bennett will campaign in Edmonton later this week.

With forty days left in this election, here is a look at a few races in Edmonton and northern Alberta that could have interesting outcomes on October 19, 2015:

Janis Irwin

Janis Irwin

Edmonton-Strathcona: Two-term NDP MP Linda Duncan is expected to be re-elected but a resurgence in Liberal support for candidate Eleanor Olszewski could spoil an easy NDP victory and put Conservative Len Thom in a position to win. Note: The Liberal vote fell to an astonishing 2.82 percent in the 2011 election, down from 9 percent in the 2008 election.

Edmonton-Griesbach: If a second NDP MP is elected in Alberta, it will likely be Janis Irwin in this north east Edmonton riding. Ms. Irwin’s chances are boosted by highly-organized provincial NDP campaigns in the area and helped by the embarrassing antics of retiring Conservative MP Peter Goldring. The Conservatives nominated former city councillor Kerry Diotte as their candidate. Mr. Diotte’s record on city council and lacklustre bid for mayor in 2013 have left some Conservative activists unenthusiastic about their party’s chances of holding the riding. Note: I live in this riding and can attest to the large number of orange lawn signs that have popped up over the past few weeks, including one on my own lawn.

Brent Rathgeber

Brent Rathgeber

St. Albert-Edmonton: Will long-time Conservative Party loyalist Michael Cooper prevail over rebel MP Brent Rathgeber? Mr. Rathgeber is running as an Independent conservative candidate after quitting the Conservative caucus in 2013 to protest the level of control held over MPs by the Prime Minister’s Office. The two-term MP is well-known in the riding, but a deep Conservative establishment in the riding could be difficult for an Independent to uproot. Note: Before being elected as an MP in 2008, Mr. Rathgeber served as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton-Calder from 2001 to 2004.

Edmonton-Mill Woods: Popular city councillor Amarjeet Sohi surprised many political watchers when he declared his plans to seek the Liberal nomination earlier this year. Mr. Sohi faces former Edmonton-Sherwood Park Conservative MP Tim Uppal and NDP candidate Jasvir Deol in what could be a fascinating three-way race. Note: Mr. Uppal ran against Liberal MP David Kilgour in this riding as a Canadian Alliance candidate in the 2000 election and Conservative in 2004 election.

Amarjeet Sohi Edmonton

Amarjeet Sohi

Edmonton-Centre: Three-term Conservative MP Laurie Hawn is retiring, leaving this central Edmonton riding up for grabs. The Conservatives have nominated former Chamber of Commerce CEO James Cumming as their candidate, while entrepreneur Randy Boissonnault is running for the Liberals and Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan for the NDP. While the demographics of this riding do not suggest chances would be favourable for the Conservatives, Mr. Hawn benefited in the 2011 election from a sharp vote split by the NDP and Liberals. Note: In 2011, Mr. Hawn earned 48 percent of the vote and the combined Liberals and NDP vote in this riding was 47.8 percent.

Edmonton-Manning: Encompassing the area of Edmonton north east of Edmonton-Griesbach, this riding could result in a close race between Conservative Zaid Aboultaif and New Democrat Aaron Paquette. Note: Mr. Paquette is also known as the founder of the clever #Ottawapiskat meme.


 

Justin Trudeau’s event, the “Rally for Real Change in Edmonton,” will be held on Wednesday, September 9th at 5:00 pm at the Radisson Edmonton South, 4440 Gateway Blvd.

Thomas Mulcair’s event, the “Rally for Change in Edmonton,” will be held on Thursday, September 10th at 6:30 pm at the Edmonton Shaw Convention Centre, Hall D, 9797 Jasper Ave.

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

Kyle Harrietha Justin Trudeau Fort McMurray Athabasca Liberal

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

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

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

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

Lori McDaniel Linda Duncan NDP Fort McMurray Athabasca

NDP candidate Lori McDaniel with Edmonton NDP MP Linda Duncan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Underdog Liberal has a shot in Fort McMurray-Athabasca by-election

Kyle Harrietha Fort McMurray Athabasca By Election Liberal

Liberal candidate Kyle Harrietha stands with his first sign of the Vote Harrietha campaign in Fort McMurray-Athabasca. (Photo from Kyle Harrietha’s Facebook Page)

Four federal by-elections will be held across Canada on June 30, 2014, including in Alberta’s Macleod and Fort McMurray-Athabasca ridings made vacant by the retirements of Conservative Members of Parliament Ted Menzies and Brian Jean months ago.

While most general elections in Alberta can be counted on to result in broad Conservative sweeps, Albertans have shown themselves to be a more unpredictable when an uncommon by-election is held.

Last year’s by-election in Calgary-Centre, a riding represented by Conservatives for nearly fifty years came within a sliver of being won by Liberal Harvey Locke. And in 1989, the spark that led to a Reform Party sweep of the West four years later was lit when Deborah Grey won a by-election in Beaver River.

This year’s by-election in Fort McMurray-Athabasca is expected to be particularly interesting. Home of Canada’s Oil Sands, this riding is Ground Zero for the international debate about climate change, pipelines and the future of the energy industry. This riding is also demographically different than southern Alberta’s Macleod or most other rural Alberta ridings.

Fort McMurray-Athabasca Federal Election Results 2006 2008 2011 by-election 2014

Home to a young and transient population that includes Aboriginals, New Canadians and Canadians from across the country (and many temporary foreign workers), the industrial nature of employment in the riding means it also has a higher percentage of labour union membership than most rural Alberta ridings. Low levels of voter turnout in recent general elections (40% turnout in 2011) could contribute to an unpredictable by-election result.

While much of the northern half of the riding benefits from an industrial boom, the Municipality of Wood Buffalo faces the incredible challenge of keeping up with the pressures that accompany this type of fast growth – transportation infrastructure (and Highway 63), housing, public services, etc.

Some local Fort McMurray-ites I have spoken with feel that federal government has not contributed its fair share in helping their community deal with these pressures – something that Conservative candidate David Yurdiga is likely to hear about at the doorsteps.

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

Federal cabinet minister Kellie Leitch campaigned with Conservative candidate David Yurdiga in Fort McMurray this week. (Photo from Ms. Leitch’s Twitter page @KellieLeitch)

Mr. Yurdiga hails from the vote-rich southern portion of the riding, where he is a councillor in the County of Athabasca (the area he represents on County Council will not be part of the new Fort McMurray-Cold Lake riding, which will be created at the next federal election).

The regional divide between the northern and southern parts of this riding are relevant and the large geographic distances can present a significant challenge in organizing an effective campaign.

Mr. Yurdiga will face a strong challenge from well-organized Liberal candidate Kyle Harrietha, who has been bolstered by Justin Trudeau, who has become a frequent visitor to the community over the past year.

Mr. Harrietha also draws on the support of an extensive network that includes provincial Progressive Conservatives, community organizers (he was a campaign manager for Wood Buffalo Mayor Melissa Blake) and the Metis community, who he works for as executive director of General Manager of Fort McMurray Métis Local 1935. 

While Mr. Harrietha is certainly the underdog in this race, resentment toward the former MP and a lacklustre Conservative nomination race could help him make gains in this by-election (and now would be a good time for Mr. Trudeau to make sure Ottawa-South MP David McGuinty does not stray off message).

NDP candidate Lori McDaniel with Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Linda Duncan (Photo from Lori McDaniel's Facebook Page).

NDP candidate Lori McDaniel with Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Linda Duncan (Photo from Lori McDaniel’s Facebook Page).

The New Democrats have nominated Suncor employee and Unifor Local 707A health and safety representative Lori McDaniel as their candidate. This by-election will be an important test for the official opposition NDP, who have been criticized by Conservatives for leader Tom Mulcair‘s ‘Dutch Disease‘ comments last year.

In a gesture of pan-Canadianism, it perhaps would not be a bad idea for Mr. Mulcair to fly his party’s large contingent of first-term MPs from Quebec to campaign alongside Ms. McDaniel in the by-election in our nation’s new industrial capital. It would probably help her campaign and expand the horizons of opposition MPs who are sometimes too eager to criticize those who work in Canada’s energy industry.

Federal by-elections in Alberta have proven to be unpredictable events and if the trend continues, as I sense it might, the results of the Fort McMurray-Athabasca vote could be very interesting on June 30.

Next post… a by-election in Cowboy Country (aka Macleod)… yah hoo.