Tag Archives: Ken Nicol

Councillor Linda Sloan not seeking re-election

Councillor Linda Sloan

Councillor Linda Sloan

To the surprise of many political watchers, Councillor Linda Sloan announced in a press release this morning that she will not seek re-election to Edmonton City Council in Ward 1. She had previously announced on June 28, 2013 that she would seek re-election.

A former president of the now-defunct Staff Nurses Association of Alberta, Councillor Sloan entered politics in 1997 when she was elected as the Liberal MLA in Edmonton-Riverview. She ran unsuccessfully for the Alberta Liberal Party leadership in 1998 against victor Nancy MacBeth, Lethbridge MLA Ken Nicol, and current mayoral candidate Karen Leibovici. She did not seek re-election to the Legislative Assembly in 2001.

Councillor Sloan, along with Councillors Leibovici and Ed Gibbons, are three former Liberal MLAs who were elected to city council following that party’s disastrous 2001 election results.

In 2004, Councillor Sloan was briefly nominated as the Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Meadowlark before choosing to run for City Council, to which she was elected and re-elected in 2007 and 2010.

As President of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, Councillor Sloan publicly sparred with Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths over provincial funding to municipalities.

With Councillor Sloan’s departure, the only candidate currently running in Ward 1 is Andrew Knack. UPDATE: That was quick. Within hours of Councillor Sloan’s announcement, candidate Sharon Maclise has abandoned her candidacy in the crowded Ward 6 race to now run in Ward 1.

Karen Leibovici launches Mandel 2013 campaign

Karen Leibovici Edmonton

Karen Leibovici

Councillor Karen Leibovici launched her campaign for mayor of Edmonton at a press conference this morning at the CKUA building in downtown Edmonton. The four-term city councillor kicked-off her campaign by delivering a speech that sounded as if it should have been delivered by outgoing Mayor Stephen Mandel, had he decided to seek re-election in this October’s election.

She echoed Mayor Mandel’s oft-heard comment that Edmontonians should not settle for “good-enough” and spent much of her speech praising his progress on infrastructure, transportation and arts issues over the past nine-years.

While Councillor Leibovici spoke about continuing along the current path laid by the mayor, she gave little explanation as to what she would do to build upon the ambitious past nine years. She did talk about the need to return to “bread and butter issues,” and was overly cautious not to criticize the outgoing mayor, vaguely responding that she only wanted to do better on some issues.

It is no surprise that Councillor Leibovici is trying to position herself as the heir to the current mayor. She is expected to have the backing of a swath of Edmonton’s political establishment, including the mayor’s former deputy chief of staff Catherine Keill, now an employee of Hill & Knowlton, and veteran Progressive Conservative Party campaign manager Hal Danchilla, who is rumoured to be a key strategist. Her campaign is also sending a message that it is well-financed, as demonstrated by the slick branding and glossy media kits handed out at her press conference.

Karen Leibovici GQ

Slick branding: The Three Leibovici’s.

She also used her remarks to target one of her competitors. “Edmonton needs a mayor with experience, one who doesn’t reduce significant issues to one-liners,” she told reporters, taking an obvious direct shot at Councillor Kerry Diotte.

Councillor Leibovici will be a formidable contender for the mayor’s chair, bringing with her 27 years of election campaign experience at the provincial and municipal levels.

After two unsuccessful runs as a Liberal Party candidate in the 1986 and 1989 provincial elections, Leibovici was first elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark in the 1993 provincial election. She was re-elected as MLA in 1997 and in 1998 she placed third in the Liberal Party’s leadership contest, behind former Tory cabinet minister Nancy MacBeth and Lethbridge MLA Ken Nicol. She was elected to City Council less than a year after the Liberal Party’s rout in the 2001 provincial election, of which she was a surprising casualty. She was re-elected to City Council in 2004, 2007, and 2010.

Edmonton’s last mayor with any lengthy amount of prior elected experience was Jan Reimer, who served three-terms on City Council before being elected as mayor in 1989. Mayor Bill Smith had only run for elected office once before his win and Mayor Mandel served only one-term on Council before being elected as mayor in 2004.

More council candidates enter the fray

Past provincial Liberal Party candidate Arif Khan is expected to run in Councillor Leibovici’s soon-to-be-incumbentless Ward 5. The Edmonton-based consultant placed second to Tory Steven Young in Edmonton-Riverview in the 2012 vote.

Citizenship judge Sonia Bitar and former Edmonton City Councillor Mike Nickel announced their candidacies in southeast Edmonton’s Ward 11. Edmontonians may remember Mr. Nickel from his unsuccessful mayoral bids in 1998 and 2001, and his one-term on city council from 2004 to 2007. In 2007, Mr. Nickel was unseated by Don Iveson in southwest Edmonton’s sprawling former Ward 5.

Councillor Iveson is expected to enter the mayoral race before the end of the month.

See an updated list of declared election candidates here.

Alberta Liberal merger with federal Liberals an idea worth considering.

Raj Sherman Alberta Liberal MLA Leader

Raj Sherman

Provincial Liberal leader Raj Sherman wants his party to work more closely with the federal Liberal Party.

Conventional wisdom would inform us that the Alberta Liberals should always do everything in their power to distance themselves from their federal cousins, who remain tainted in the province after a long-string of historical grievances and well-curated myths.

But has distancing the two parties helped either party?

With Justin Trudeau expected to become leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in the next few months, could a second-wave of Trudeaumania help boost support for the provincial Liberals in Alberta?

Since the 1970s, the two parties have been officially independent with varying degrees of unofficial cooperation and confrontation. Both parties have achieved limited success in pockets of the province at certain points over past twenty years, but support for both parties has dwindled over the past decade. The Liberal presence shrunk to five MLAs in last year’s provincial election and the federal Liberals last successfully elected a candidate to Parliament from Alberta in the 2004 election .

Provincial Liberal support in Alberta:
2001 election: 276,854 votes2012 election: 127,645 votes.
Federal Liberal support in Alberta:
2000 election: 263,008 votes, 2011 election: 129,310 votes.

If a merger with the NDP, Alberta Party, and Greens, as has been suggested by Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, is unpalatable to Dr. Sherman, perhaps he could be convinced a merger with his party’s federal namesake would not be a bad idea.

Sharing their limited resources, as the provincial and federal New Democratic Party do officially and the Wildrose Party and Conservative Party have done unofficially, could provide stability in membership, fundraising, and organization for the two Liberal Parties in Alberta. A merger could also cut costs on duplication of resources (the two parties currently operate separate offices located opposite each other on Edmonton’s 124th Street).

Harvey Locke Liberal Calgary-Centre By-Election

Harvey Locke

The two parties already share many members and candidates are frequently seen listed on the ballot under both party banners.

There are also no shortage of former Liberal MLAs who have tried to kickstart a career in Ottawa, though all of them unsuccessful. Liberal MLAs Ken Nicol and Debby Carlson ran as federal Liberals in the 2004 election and Sue Olsen and Frank Bruseker stood in the 2000 federal election. Former party leaders Grant Mitchell and Nick Taylor were appointed to the Senate on the advice of federal Liberal Prime Ministers.

Even Dr. Sherman was a member of the federal Liberals before he was elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2008 (he supported Gerard Kennedy in the 2006 federal Liberal leadership contest).

Calgary-Centre a spark of hope for the Liberals.

Liberal Harvey Locke surprised political watchers last year when he placed only 1158 votes behind Conservative Joan Crockatt in the hotly contested Calgary-Centre by-election.

Perhaps the results were a fluke, but they give the federal Liberals a sign that many voters in Alberta’s urban centres are becoming more receptive to a moderate non-Conservative alternative in Ottawa.

making cities matter in alberta’s election.

Alberta is the most urbanized province in Canada (81% of the population living in urban areas) and the Edmonton-Calgary corridor is one of the most urbanized regions in Canada.

Looking to put cities on the provincial election agenda, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is using the CitiesMatter.ca website to weigh in on why it is important that Albertans know where the provincial parties and their leaders stand on the future of our urban centres. Mayor Nenshi has sent surveys to each of the parties asking them about their positions on urban issues. The surveys responses are expected to be posted on the CitiesMatter.ca website when they are returned.

University of Alberta professor Ian Urquhart, who is standing as an Independent candidate in Alberta’s Senate Nominee election has written about the role the Senate and the federal government could play in supporting our municipalities and the inequity that exists between the orders of government.

Dr. Urquhart correctly points out that even after the federal and provincial governments have downloaded more services and responsibilities to our municipalities, our cities receive a pittance of the revenue collected from Alberta taxpayers (just 8% in Alberta):

“From this small pot of money our cities must try to finance more than half of the infrastructure we use every day.”

Enthusiast of everything Edmonton, Mack Male, has joined a group of under-40 Albertans who are trying to put some important issues on the provincial agenda, like the expansion of Light Rail Transit in our major cities:

Edmonton and Calgary are often thought of as “car cities” but the desire to change is strong. Both cities have transportation plans that call for the expansion of light rail transit. Edmontonians consistently rank public transportation as the most important issue that the City should address. Most recently, a Leger Marketing poll showed that two thirds of Edmontonians would like to see the province fast-track its share of the LRT expansion to Mill Woods. In Calgary, Mayor Naheed Nenshi himself has been leading the charge to convince the province to provide long term and predictable funding for transit infrastructure in Alberta’s large cities.

Edmonton Journal columnist David Staples has suggested that the Wildrose Party’s proposed fiscal plan would axe the much needed transit funding, something that supporters of Danielle Smith has disputed (having an anti-LRT former mayoral candidate on her slate of candidates surely does not help reassure their critics). The Wildrose Party would cancel the existing Green Trip funding for future projects, but slot 10% of provincial tax revenues and 10% of surplus money for municipalities, which I understand could actually be less than the amount currently received through regular funding and special funds like GreenTrip (please correct me if I am mistaken).

Alison Redford‘s Progressive Conservatives have not released any strong policies on municipal funding during this election, but they have committed to increasing funding for libraries, which play an important role in communities, and continuing the successful safe communities initiative.

In their “Yes!” platform, Dr. Raj Sherman‘s Alberta Liberals have called for the drafting of City Charters, the creation of a Municipal Heritage Fund (which would include direct funding for community associations), and the reinstatement of Community Lottery Boards. As a former Edmonton City Councillor, NDP leader Brian Mason, supports an increased in funding for the GreenTrip fund. Mr. Mason was also one of the only MLA’s who spoke out against provincial funding for Daryl Katz‘s new Downtown Arena.

Led by former Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor, the Alberta Party‘s municipal plan focuses on both urban and rural municipalities, Mr. Taylor also draws some strength from his past role as the chairman of the Rural Alberta Development Fund (whose board of directors includes former Tory MLA David Coutts and former Liberal leader Ken Nicol):

Some people will suggest that future Wildrose Party government heavy with conservative rural MLA’s would not understand the needs of our big cities. Although there is certainly a geographical divide in our politics (urban and rural, Calgary and Edmonton, small city and big city), fanning these flames will not move our province forward.

Urban enthusiasts worried about rural decision makers should remember that only a short time ago, it was a rural conservative leader, Ed Stelmach, whose government made some of the most important urban infrastructure investments of the past decade, including the creation of the GreenTrip fund.

alberta candidate nomination updates – august 2011.

I have updated the list of declared and nominated candidates hoping to stand in the next provincial election:

A photo of Shannon Phillips Alberta NDP Candidate in Lethbridge-East.

Shannon Phillips

Lethbridge-West: Shannon Phillips is seeking the NDP nomination in this constituency. Ms. Phillips is a researcher and policy analyst for the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) and previously worked at the Alberta Legislative Assembly as the very talented Communications Director for the Alberta NDP Caucus. She has the endorsements of activists Naomi Klein, Melanee Thomas, AFL President Gil McGowan, and former Edmonton-Calder NDP MLA David Eggen.

While Lethbridge’s two constituencies have traditionally been a close fought battleground between the Progressive Conservatives and Liberals (voters in Lethbridge-East have elected Liberal MLAs since 1993, including former party leader Ken Nicol and current MLA Bridget Pastoor), the area has seen substantial growth for the NDP. In the May 2011 federal election, NDP candidate Mark Sandilands earned an unheard-of strong 27% of the vote, mostly concentrated within Lethbridge city limits. When the votes from the federal election are overlaid on the Lethbridge-West provincial boundaries, the NDP earned around 38% of the vote in the provincial constituency.

The constituency is currently represented by first-term MLA and Advanced Education & Technology Minister Greg Weadick.

Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr and Dave Cournoyer daveberta

Kent Hehr and this blog's author.

Calgary-Buffalo: First-term MLA Kent Hehr has been acclaimed as the Liberal Party candidate. Mr. Hehr was elected in 2008 with 48% of the vote. The Wildrose have acclaimed former QR77 radio host Mike Blanchard as their candidate. Mr. Blanchard had originally sought his party’s nomination in the new constituency of Calgary-Nose Hill-Mackay, but was defeated by Roy Alexander.

Drayton Vally-Devon: Town of Drayton Valley Councillor Dean Shular has been acclaimed as the Wildrose candidate in his constituency. Mr. Shular was first elected to Town Council in 2007.

Drumheller-Stettler: A fifth candidate has joined the Wildrose nomination contest in this east central Alberta constituency. Drumheller Jeweler and Freemason Doug Wade in Drumheller-Stettler. As reported on this blog in July, Dave France, Rick Strankman, Chris Warwick, and Patrick Turnbull are also seeking the Wildrose nomination.

Edmonton-Meadowlark: Local Wildrose activist Rick Newcombe was acclaimed as the Wildrose candidate in this west Edmonton constituency. Mr. Newcombe had originally sought his party’s nomination in Edmonton-Whitemud, but stepped aside in favour of Ian Crawford. The area is currently represented by former Tory MLA Raj Sherman, who is currently a candidate for the Liberal Party leadership.

Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: He denied it on June 9, but on July 10 landowners rights advocate and Rimbey Town Councillor Joe Anglin submitted his papers to become a candidate for the Wildrose nomination in this constituency. The former Alberta Green Party leader is facing Rocky Mountain House Town Councillor Sheila Mizera and past-president of the local Wildorse Association Ed Wicks.

St. Albert: Tim Osborne is seeking the Alberta Party nomination in St. Albert. Mr. Osborne worked for the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region for seven years and recently started a new business, Civitas Consulting.

A photo of Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor, candidate in West Yellowhead.

Glenn Taylor

Sherwood Park: In his first step to become Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister Garnett Genuis has been acclaimed as the Wildrose candidate in Sherwood Park.

Sherwood Park-Strathcona: Two candidates have put their names forward for the Wildrose nomination in this constituency. Strathcona County Councillor Jason Gariepy and Paul Nemetchek. Councillor Gariepy made headlines last years when he was sanctioned after sending an email critical of a press release quoting local MLAs Iris Evans and Dave Quest. Mr. Nemetchek was campaign manager for former Reform Party MP Ken Epp.

West Yellowhead: Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor has been officially nominated as his party’s candidate in the sprawling west Alberta constituency of West Yellowhead.

Mr. Taylor was first elected as the Mayor of the Town of Hinton in 2004 and ran as a candidate for the NDP in this constituency in 1997. I am told that Mr. Taylor will be leaving his position as Mayor this fall to focus full-time on the party’s leadership.

Calgary: The NDP are expected to hold a round of joint-nomination meetings for candidates in Calgary later this month.

a look at the alberta liberal leadership candidates.

You might be forgiven if you have not paid much attention to the Alberta Liberal Party leadership contest, which is currently under way. The Liberal contest is not as exciting as the Progressive Conservative’s leadership contest, as flashy as the Wildrose (now minus the Alliance), or intriguing as the new Alberta Party, but it is important enough not to ignore. The Liberal Party is still the Official Opposition and while it has taken a beating in the polls and public image over the past few years, its next leader will play a role in the next provincial election.

Here is a look at the candidates for their leadership:

Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman

Laurie Blakeman

Laurie Blakeman
Slogan: Laurie4Leader
Elected Experience: MLA for Edmonton-Centre from 1997 to the present.
Background: Laurie Blakeman is known as a vocal and unrelenting critic of the governing Tories. As Deputy Leader under party leaders Kevin Taft and David Swann, she also served as critic for Finance, the Environment, and Culture.

Her strong views as an unapologetic feminist representing Edmonton’s densest urban constituency have made her an enemy to many conservatives, but her skills as Opposition House Leader have gained her respect from some Tory MLAs across the floor. She is also one half of Edmonton’s political power couple, her husband is Ward 8 City Councillor Ben Henderson.

In 1998, Ms. Blakeman supported then-MLA Linda Sloan‘s leadership bid. She declined to run for her party’s leadership in 2004, telling the Globe & Mail that “she doesn’t have the fire in her belly to run” and again in 2008 admitting that fundraising was not her strength. Earlier this year she publicly mused about joining the Alberta Party, but instead decided to seek the Liberal Party leadership.

(Disclaimer: I like Laurie Blakeman have volunteered for her election campaigns in 2004 and 2008).

Liberal candidate Bill Harvey

Bill Harvey

Bill Harvey
Slogan: Returning to responsible government
Elected Experience: Liberal candidate in Calgary-East in 2004 and 2008.
Background: Calgary financial advisor Bill Harvey entered the leadership contest this week with a message that Liberals need to return to their past roots to succeed in the future. The main message on his website reminds Liberals of their 1990’s glory days under former leader Laurence Decore and is peppered with fiscal conservative language.

In 2008, he ran a “law and order” and “tough on crime” focused campaign, which earned him an endorsement by Craig Chandler‘s hyper-conservative Progressive Group for Independent Business. His website says that he will be releasing a detailed platform later this month.

Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald

Hugh MacDonald

Hugh MacDonald
Slogan: None
Elected experience: MLA for Edmonton-Gold Bar from 1997 to present
Background: Since stepping into his role as the opposition labour critic during his first-term and making headlines over the government’s shaky handling of rotting pine shakes roofing and lack of whistle-blower protection, Hugh MacDonald earned a reputation as a dogged critic of the Tories. As Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, his focus on uncovering Tory scandals sometimes makes him appear on the verge of paranoia, but he is relentless and hardworking. It is not uncommon to see Mr. MacDonald buried in books, doing his own research in the Legislature Library.

Mr. MacDonald is a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal partisan. Even if the Liberal Party is wiped off the political map in the next election, Hugh MacDonald will fight to the end (clasping a battle-axe in one hand while caped in blood-soaked battle armour under a Liberal Party flag). Inside the Liberal Party, Mr. MacDonald appeals to the stalwart crowd who believe that it is not the Liberal brand that has damaged their party, but that party members who have not adhered enough loyalty to the Liberal brand are responsible for the party’s 80 years of electoral defeat.

Mr. MacDonald has the endorsements of former party leaders Nick Taylor and Ken Nicol and former MLAs Bill Bonner and Yolande Gagnon.

Bruce Payne Liberal candidate

Bruce Payne

Bruce Payne
Slogan: 87 Strong
Elected experience: Nominated as the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Varsity
Background: An unknown outside some Calgary political circles, it is difficult to know whether Bruce Payne is actually a serious candidate in this contest.

A long-time union leader, in 2007 he led the 6,000 southern Alberta carpenters union as it and seven other construction unions threatened Alberta’s first multi-trade strike in almost 30 years. He was later the Spokesperson for the Alberta and Northwest Territories Regional Council of Carpenters and Allied Workers and President of the Building Trades of Alberta Southern Council.

His 87 Strong slogan is in reference to the 87 constituencies that will be created when the next election is called. His campaign also takes a shot at the current Liberal MLAs and their tendency to attack the Tories for every “scandals, faux-pas, screw-ups, miscues and arrogant decisions” without a long-term strategy.

His campaign manager is the former Liberal Caucus communications director Neil Mackie, who departed from his job at the Assembly earlier this year.

Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman Independent Liberal

Raj Sherman

Raj Sherman
Slogan: None
Elected experience: MLA Edmonton-Meadowlark from 2008 to present
Background: Former Tory MLA Raj Sherman could be both the wildcard and the front-runner in this contest. Six months ago he wanted nothing to do with the Liberal Party as he sat in the PC caucus as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health & Wellness. Since writing the bluntly-worded email that led to hm being kicked out of the PC caucus, Dr. Sherman has attained a folk hero status among many Albertans.

After opening up their leadership vote to any Albertan without having to purchase a membership, I have a difficult time seeing Dr. Sherman as anything but the front-runner in this contest.

Although his opponents will criticize him for switching parties, it is hard to believe that Dr. Sherman has ever actually “belonged” to any political party. On February 13, 2008 PC candidate Dr. Sherman told the Edmonton Journal, “Ideas belong to society, they don’t belong to a party. For me, it wasn’t so much about parties as about getting the idea to the people who make decisions.”

Dr. Sherman has the support of former MLA Bharat Agnihotri, and I have been told that Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr and Calgary-McCall MLA Darshan Kang are lending their support to his campaign.

Not yet entered the contest:

There may be a sixth candidate to enter this contest. Word on the street is that the executive of a medium-sized Calgary-based energy company may announce his candidacy next week.

not seeing the forest for the trees: swann’s departure will change little.

After a tumultuous two years as leader of Alberta’s Liberal Party, Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann announced that he will not lead his party into the next election, and that he will formally submit his resignation after the Spring Session of the Alberta Legislature.

Dr. Swann is a good person and one of the kindest souls in provincial politics. Realistically, he never stood a chance as his party’s leader despite these qualities. It would be easy to blame the dismal state of the Liberal Party on the outgoing leader, but there is a greater responsibility belonging to members of a party establishment who played a central role in creating a dysfunctional political culture.

Starting with the quick leadership contest after the party’s devastating result in the 2008 election, the party establishment opted for political expediency, rather than taking advantage of an opportunity to reflect on the party’s future and heal internal rifts. This expediency effectively eliminated any opportunity that the party had to attract potential outside candidates for leader, limiting the pool to a handful of current and former MLAs.

Dr. Swann took the leader’s chair with a mandate for change and quickly discovered that this desire for change was not shared by some MLAs and many in his party. The Party establishment’s strong connections to the federal Liberal Party and its unhealthy obsession with their party’s past successes are just two of the many psychological barriers that Dr. Swann would have immediately faced in his job.

You do not have to spend much time inside the Liberal Party to become aware of how iconized their successes in the 1993 election are. As many Albertans will remember, that election saw former Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore lead the Liberals to their best showing in decades. The establishment Liberal motto against large-scale change within their party – especially a name change – has centered around the 1993 vote. “We won 32 seats under Decore and we can do it again,” is something that I have heard countless times.

Dr. Swann faced an establishment of Liberal stalwarts who could not fathom the concept of moving away from their beloved party identity (and it really is their identity). By wrapping themselves in their party identity, the party establishment always knew they were right, even when they lost. Dr. Swann challenged this identity when he tried to change the party’s name and when he offered to cooperate with other parties.

With near religious vigor, the Liberal establishment has sought the perfect leader, and when their chosen one has not succeeded in the monumental task of defeating the strongest Progressive Conservative organization in Canada, they are undermined from within or simply driven out. Nick Taylor, Mr. Decore, Grant Mitchell, Nancy MacBeth, Ken Nicol, Kevin Taft, and now Dr. Swann all faced these internal divisions and saw their leadership undermined by the party establishment and their fellow MLAs because they could not appease it.

A quick change of leader may appear to be an easy fix, but the departure of Dr. Swann will not solve the internal problems that have created this dysfunctional political culture.

After being elbowed to the sideline by the growing narrative of the Wildrose Alliance as the next government-in-waiting, and the growth of the new Alberta Party, the Liberal Party’s biggest challenge in 2011 is to be relevant. The Liberals jumped too quickly to choose a new leader a year after the last election. Now they are stuck in the polls with a resigning leader one year before the next election.

UPDATE: The Edmonton Journal’s Paula Simons is reporting that Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman is weighing her options at running for either the Alberta Party or Liberal Party leadership. Meanwhile, Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald has taken the position that “The Alberta Liberal party was good enough for Laurence Decore, Bettie Hewes and Sheldon Chumir, and it’s good enough for me.”

alberta politics notes 8/26/2010

– Finance Minister Ted Morton is not ruling out the idea of a Provincial Sales Tax for Alberta. Premier Ed Stelmach says it will not happen as long as he is in office. The Government of Alberta remains in a $4.7 billion deficit.
– Over 500 people packed a hall in Vegreville to voice their opposition to the construction of new electrical transmission lines. Although he is the MLA for this area and was invited to the meeting, Premier Stelmach declined to attend.
– Michael Walters is the new Executive Director of the Alberta Party. Mr. Walters previously served and excelled in his role as Lead Organizer for the Greater Edmonton Alliance from 2004 to 2010.
– Former City Councillors Michael Phair and Patricia Mackenzie have written an excellent opinion-editorial in the Edmonton Journal explaining why they believe redeveloping the City Centre Airport lands will benefit Edmonton.
Reboot 3.0 is scheduled for November 5 and 6 in Edmonton.
– Jeffrey Coffman is seeking election to Lethbridge City Council. Mr. Coffman previously served as an Alderman from 1995 to 1998 and later as Chief of Staff to MLA Ken NicolBridget Mearns, daughter of Lethbridge-East Liberal MLA Bridget Pastoor, has announced her campaign for Lethbridge City Council. Also in the running is long-time conservative activist and college professor Faron Ellis.
– What motivated Wildrose leader Danielle Smith to jump to the defence of a failing private health clinic?
– Quebec Conservative MP Maxime Bernier has recaped his summer visit to Edmonton and his encounters with Wildrose leader Ms. Smith and Edmonton-Strathcona Conservative candidate Ryan Hastman. Mr. Bernier’s former colleague Ken Epp is now the vice-president of the Strathcona Wildrose Alliance association. Mr. Epp represented the Elk Island and Edmonton-Sherwood Park constituencies from 1993 to 2006.
– Michael Butler has been acclaimed as the federal Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont. Mr. Butler has ran twice for the NDP in 2008, federally in Mill Woods-Beaumont and provincially in Edmonton-Rutherford. The riding has been represented by Conservative MP Mike Lake since 2006 after the retirement of long-time Liberal MP David Kilgour.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

victims of alberta’s opposition meat-grinder

Since Peter Lougheed catapulted from official opposition leader to Premier in 1971, Alberta’s opposition leadership have become a political graveyard for many well-intentioned and ambitious politicians. There are many reasons for this: Alberta’s tradition of electing large government majorities, the ability of the PC party to create a big-tent party, the unpopularity of opposition parties federal counterparts, and the trap of falling into an opposition mentality.

Dr. David Swann is one of many Albertans who have stepped up to the daunting task and challenge of leading a party in the divisive and dysfunctional world of opposition politics in Alberta. Calgary MLA Dave Taylor gave Dr. Swann a verbal lashing when he left the Liberal caucus earlier this past year and last week Tony Sansotta resigned as President after co-signing a letter with Dr. Swann appealing for cooperation with other opposition parties. To the untrained eye, it may look like the Liberal Party is on the verge of internal collapse and maybe it is, but I struggle to think of a time when Alberta has had an opposition party not rife with internal division.

Taking a quick look back at Alberta politics over the past twenty-five years, you will find opposition leaders that made positive contributions to Alberta politics, but could not withstand the meat-grinder of opposition politics in Alberta. A quick read of the list of individuals below could easily lead most Albertans to determine some of the most thankless jobs in our province indeed belong to leaders of provincial opposition parties.

Nick Taylor was the Liberal leader from 1974 to 1988.

Nick Taylor (Liberal leader, 1974 to 1988): He bravely led the Liberals through the darkness and proved that even in the height of the National Energy Program that Liberals had hope to win in Alberta. In 1979, Mr. Taylor placed only 355 votes behind PC candidate Ken Kowalski in a by-election in Barrhead. After six attempts at elected office since 1968, he was elected as MLA for Westlock-Sturgeon in 1986 and was only Leader of the Liberal Opposition in the Assembly for less than two years before his position was challenged by Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore and Edmonton MLA Grant Mitchell. He continued to serve as an MLA until 1996, when he was appointed to the Senate.

Former Calgary Mayor Rod Sykes briefly led the Social Credit Party from 1980 to 1982.

Rod Sykes (Social Credit leader, 1980 to 1982): After serving two terms as the Mayor of Calgary (1969-1977), Mayor Sykes took over the leadership of the Social Credit Party. After nine years in opposition, the party was mired with internal and financial problems which led him to resign in 1982. He later ran as a federal Liberal candidate in the 1984 election.

Former NDP leader Ray Martin introduces Jack Layton at a 2008 federal election rally.

Ray Martin (NDP leader, 1984 to 1994): He led the New Democrats to its height as Official Opposition with 16 MLAs in 1986 and 1989, but that did not stop the internal bickering. Mr. Martin’s faced calls to resign from Calgary candidate Barry Bristman in 1989 and fought a leadership challenge by St. Paul veterinarian Don Ronaghan in 1991. In 1992, Stony Plain MLA Stan Woloshyn abandoned the NDP for the PCs. Mr. Martin resigned after his party lost all their seats to the Liberals and PCs in the Assembly in the 1993 election. He returned to the Assembly when he was elected as MLA for Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview from 2004 to 2008.

Former Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore led the Liberals from 1989 to 1994.

Laurence Decore (Liberal leader, 1988 to 1994): The former Edmonton Mayor built the best political machine an opposition party had seen since the 1970s, but that was not enough for some of the MLAs in his caucus-mates. In 1993, after the Liberals won their largest vote share with 39.7% and 32 seats, a group of MLAs and party members were not satisfied with official opposition status called for his resignation. Calgary-North West MLA Frank Bruseker was stripped of his major critic portfolios after telling reporters he was worried the party could not win enough seats in Calgary to secure an election win due to Mr. Decore’s leadership. Mr. Decore gracefully resigned in 1994.

Former MP Ross Harvey briefly led the NDP from 1994 to 1996.

Ross Harvey (NDP leader, 1994 to 1996): The former NDP Member of Parliament was selected as leader of the seatless party shortly after he was unseated in the 1993 federal election. He was unable to satisfactorily rebuild his party after it was wiped out in 1993 and quit in 1996. He was soon replaced by Pam Barrett.

Grant Mitchell led the Liberals from 1994 to 1998.

Grant Mitchell (Liberal leader, 1994 to 1998): After a brutal and divisive leadership race in 1994, Mr. Mitchell faced opposition from within his own party and caucus. Three MLAs crossed to the PCs during his time as leader and his leadership opponent MLA Sine Chadi waged a constant campaign to undermine his leadership. Shortly after the 1997 election, former Calgary MLA Danny Dalla-Longa called for his resignation. He resigned in 1998 and in 2005 was appointed to the Senate.

Pam Barrett led the NDP from 1996 to 2000.

Pam Barrett (NDP leader, 1996 to 2000): After serving as MLA for Edmonton-Highlands from 1986 to 1993, Ms. Barrett returned in 1996. She led her party to elect two MLAs in the 1997 election and later resigned after a near-death experience in a dentist’s chair.

Former PC cabinet minister Nancy MacBeth led the Liberals from 1998 to 2001.

Nancy MacBeth (Liberal leader, 1998 to 2001): After losing to Ralph Klein in the 1992 PC leadership race, Ms. MacBeth (then Ms. Betkowski) left politics until 1998 when she swept into the Liberal leadership. The former PC cabinet minister faced some tough opposition from MLAs within her party’s caucus, including two who crossed the floor (Gene Zwozdesky joined the PCs and Pamela Paul sat as an Independent). She resigned almost immediately after she was unseated in the 2001 election.

Randy Thorsteinson led the Social Credit Party from 1992 to 1999 and the Alberta Alliance from 2003 to 2005.

Randy Thorsteinson (Social Credit leader, 1992 to 1999, Alberta Alliance leader, 2003 to 2005). Even after leading the long-dormant Social Credit Party to win 6.8% of the vote in 1997, Mr. Thorsteinson was at odds with his party after a movement within the party to limit the involvement of members of the Church of Latter-day Saints. Thorsteinson quit the party in April 1999 and was a founder of the Alberta First Party. In 2003, he re-emerged as leader of the Alberta Alliance – the Wildrose Alliance‘s predecessor – and led that party to earn 8.7% of the vote in 2004. He resigned after failing to win a seat in the 2004 election.

Lethbridge MLA Ken Nicol led the Liberals from 2001 to 2004.

Ken Nicol (Liberal leader, 2001 to 2004): Quiet, respected, and more conservative than most of his caucus colleagues, Dr. Nicol reluctantly accepted the leadership from the unseated Ms. MacBeth in 2001. He briefly led the Liberals until internal conflict from within his party and caucus convinced him that running as a federal Liberal candidate might be a better career option. He resigned as MLA in 2004 and was defeated in his bid represent Lethbridge in the House of Commons later that year.

Kevin Taft led the Liberal Party from 2004 to 2008.

Kevin Taft (Liberal leader, 2004 to 2008): The first Liberal leader to increase the party’s seat total since Mr. Decore, Dr. Taft led the Liberals through two elections. He tried to distance the provincial party from its unpopular federal counterparts and while he did not face as much internal dissent from his party and caucus as did his predecessors, he did have the unfortunate task of having to remove MLA Dan Backs from the Liberal caucus. He stepped down as leader after the 2008 election and is currently the opposition Health & Wellness critic.

alberta liberal attrition.

Today’s news that Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor is leaving the Liberal caucus is big news for political watchers, but it is far from the first time that an MLA has left the Alberta Liberal Caucus. Due to many circumstances, ten MLAs have departed the Liberal Caucus before their term has ended over the past 16 years.

2006: One-term Edmonton-Manning MLA Dan Backs was expelled from the Liberal caucus by party leader Kevin Taft due to “ongoing friction” between the MLA and his colleagues. Mr. Back sat an an Independent MLA. After unsuccessfully seeking the PC nomination in 2008, Mr. Backs ran as an Independent and placed third behind Tory Peter Sandhu and New Democrat Rick Murti.

2004: Leader and Lethbridge-East MLA Ken Nicol and Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Debby Carlson both left the Liberal caucus to run as federal Liberal candidates. Dr. Nicol eared 21.5% support against Conservative MP Rick Casson, and Ms. Carlson placed only 5,000 votes behind Edmonton-Strathcona Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer.

2000: Edmonton-Norwood MLA Sue Olsen left the Liberal caucus to run peruse a career in federal politics. Ms. Olsen was unsuccessful in her campaign to unseat Edmonton-Centre East MP Peter Goldring.

1999: One-term Edmonton-Castle Downs MLA Pamela Paul left the Liberal caucus to sit as an Independent MLA after domestic issues made it difficult for her to work with her caucus colleagues. She did not seek re-election in 2001.

1998: Two-term Edmonton-Mill Creek MLA Gene Zwozdesky left the Liberals over a dispute with leader Nancy MacBeth. One month later, he joined the Progressive Conservative caucus and is currently the Minister of Health & Wellness.

1996: Former leader and Redwater MLA Nick Taylor left the Liberal caucus when he was appointed to the Senate of Canada by Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

1995: Edmonton-Norwood MLA Andrew Beniuk was expelled from the Liberal caucus and sat as an Independent before joining the PCs in 1996. Mr. Beniuk was defeated by Liberal Sue Olsen in the 1997 election. Mr. Beniuk attempted political comebacks as the PC candidate in Edmonton-Glengarry in 2001 and Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood in 2008.

1994: Edmonton-Beverly-Belmont MLA Julius Yankowski and Lac La Biche-St. Paul MLA Paul Langevin left the Liberals to sit as Independent MLAs before joining the PC caucus in 1995 and were both re-elected in 1997. Mr. Langevin retired in 2001 and Mr. Yankowski was defeated by New Democrat Ray Martin in 2004.