Tag Archives: Kevin Taft

Will MLA Steve Young survive the PC caucus?

Steve Young, Edmonton-Riverview PC MLA

Steve Young

When former cop Steve Young was elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Riverview, it was considered to be a huge coup for the Progressive Conservatives. With Mr. Young as their candidate, the Tories succeeded in scooping the traditionally Liberal voting constituency previously represented by popular MLA Kevin Taft.

All indications suggest that Mr. Young has worked hard in his constituency since this election and most people who have met him, including this writer, will agree that he is a nice guy. And he had a bright political career ahead of him.

But as an MLA, and during his time as the Government Whip, he has been of mixed value to the governing Tories. Sometimes he has even been a source of embarrassment for the government.

Despite speculation he might be removed from the PC caucus after publicly criticizing Premier Alison Redford for her $45,000 trip to South Africa, he walked away from last weekend’s caucus meeting with his membership in tact.

The CBC reported this week that Mr. Young was under investigation by the RCMP while he was the PC candidate in the 2012 election. The CBC report stated that he “did not publicly disclose the criminal investigation and he also refused to cooperate with the RCMP after he resigned from the Edmonton Police Service.”

According to the CBC, the RCMP investigated Mr. Young’s and other officers involvement in the release of private information about a young offender as part of a public relations campaign. The young offender recently filed a lawsuit against Mr. Young and his former colleagues.

Mr. Young was criticized for his handling of a confusion confrontation between PC MLAs and Ms. Redford after the group of backbenchers on an MLA committee voted to recreate the MLA transition allowances that the premier publicly cancelled during the 2012 election.

As Government Whip, he helped Ms. Redford deal with the unrest in the PC caucus, but in December 2013, the premier  suddenly dropped him from cabinet before he was even officially appointed.

One week after announcing that Mr. Young would  serve as the Associate Minister for Public Safety, he was quietly removed from the list of ministers at the swearing-in ceremony. It was later suggested that he was dropped from cabinet because his involvement in an incident and investigation involving a taser during his time as a police officer.

He briefly made headlines during last year’s mayoral election after an unfortunately planned mayor forum was cancelled when it became clear that it was part of a fundraiser for Mr. Young’s Edmonton-Riverview PC association.

With the recent news reports about the RCMP investigation during the last election,  can Ms. Redford can allow Mr. Young to remain as part of the government? His criticism of Ms. Redford’s lavish travel costs may have bought him some time, but, according to one political insider, his opponents are already building a case to have him ejected from the PC caucus.

NDP to nominate Riverview candidate next week

Next week, the Alberta New Democrats are expected to nominate Lori Sigurdson as their candidate in Edmonton-Riverview for the 2016 election. As their first officially nominated candidate, the NDP hope the early start will help them build on their strong third-place finish in the last election (where Ms. Sigurdson tripled her party’s support in the constituency). With Mr. Young providing more ammunition for his election opponents each day, the NDP (and the Liberals) will have plenty of ammunition to use over the next two years.

Does the PC Party have a revenue problem?

Does Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party have a “revenue problem?” According to reports from the Calgary Herald, that is how PC Party president Jim McCormick described his party’s financial situation in an email to party officials. The PC Party recently backed down from a plan its board of directors approved for the party to take a 10% levy on contributions donated to its 87 constituency associations.

The PC Party has trailed the official opposition Wildrose Party in donations in the first three quarters of 2013. Most significantly, the four decade long governing PC Party significantly trails the Wildrose in individual donations by more than $780,000 so far in 2013.

Although Premier Alison Redford is expected to successfully face her mandated leadership review at next weekend’s PC Party convention in Red Deer, she still must account for her party’s dipping financial fortunes. At the end of 2012, the PC Party reported a $594,951 deficit in their  Elections Alberta financial disclosure. To understand how much the PC Party’s financial health has changed, it reported a $2,889,972 surplus in 2004.

While the PC Party may be feeling a financial crunch, some of that party’s constituency associations continue to raise considerable amounts of funds. In the 2012 election, more than a few PC candidate campaigns raised more than $100,000 at the constituency level.

After Danielle Smith became leader of the Wildrose Party in 2010, that party has seen a significant rise in financial support, especially in the form of smaller individual donations cultivated from an engaged base of supporters. The Wildrose Party continues rival the PC Party in revenue in 2013, something no political party has done in Alberta in decades.

Below are charts showing the donations to Alberta’s four main political parties since 2004. Before recent legislative changes, donations were reported to Elections Alberta above and below $375. They are now reported below and above $250. Maximum donations during annual periods are limited to $15,000 and $30,000 during election periods.

Alberta Progressive Conservative donations 2004-2013

Alberta Progressive Conservative donations from 2004 to the third quarter of 2013.

Wildrose Party donations 2004-2013

Wildrose Party donations from 2004 to the third quarter of 2013. Includes the Alberta Alliance and Wildrose Alliance.

The drop in donations to the Liberal Party appears to coincide with the rise of the Wildrose Party and the departure of Kevin Taft as party leader following the 2008 election. The Liberals have succeeded in paying off a large amount of debt incurred in previous elections, but have most recently struggled to fund party operations after only raising $50,539 in the third quarter of 2013.

The New Democrats continue to enjoy a healthy base of individual donors and a relatively healthy flow of larger donations, though the NDP continues to hold a significant debt and reported $707,524 in total liabilities in 2012.

Alberta Liberal Party Donations 2004-2013

Alberta Liberal Party donations from 2004 to the third quarter of 2013

Alberta NDP donations 2004-2013

Alberta NDP donations from 2004 to the third quarter of 2013

When did Alberta become a have-not province?

Premier Alison Redford

Premier Alison Redford

Eighteen days ago, Alberta became a have-not province.

Eighteen days ago, Premier Alison Redford appeared on Albertans television screens to warn them of the notorious “bitumen bubble” that has been keeping the price of our oil down.

Today, after eighteen days of political spin about deep budget cuts and tough economic times, it would be easy to believe that the federal transfer payments are on their way (finally, equalization will work for us!).

Of course, Alberta is not a have-not province.

Alberta’s economy remains competitive, our population is growing, and job growth is on the rise. Alberta is Canada’s economic engine.

Most of the talk is part of the government’s attempt to manage the expectations of Albertans before the provincial budget is tabled on March 7. From the opposition benches, there are always political points to be gained before a government budget is tabled.

As has been the case each year since the Alberta government began to run “technical deficits,” the earlier projected deficits will likely be much lower when the budget is tabled. As any accountant or political strategist knows, bookkeeping is closer to an art-form than an exact science.

On budget day, a lower than predicted deficit will result in the government looking like better fiscal managers than the opposition has claimed and the opposition researchers will be caught scrambling through the volumes of budget documents to fill their message box.

With this year’s budget ready to be sent to the printers, the first Alberta Economic Summit was held this past Saturday in Calgary.

Initially derided by the opposition parties as a government-sponsored public relations exercise, the day-long event brought together panels of experts from the private, public, and not-for-profit sector to discuss our province’s fiscal future.

Whether it was a PR exercise or not, it did present an opportunity for a continued discussion about the need to raise taxes in Alberta. Our government relies heavily on the sometimes unpredictable revenues from our natural resources to fill the gap created by our low taxes to fund our essential public services.

As Kevin Taft explained last year in his book, Follow the Money, if Alberta increased its tax rates by $11 billion our province would still have the lowest tax rate in Canada

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Onward and eastward, says Alward.

Last week, David Alward, the Premier of a real have-not province, swept into our province boasting the advantage of an eastward oil pipeline to New Brunswick’s deep-water ports as a solution to Alberta’s fiscal woes.

With almost no details or research about whether it would be financially viable, both Premier Redford and Premier Alward touted the Alberta-to-New Brunswick pipeline as progress.

Considering how many problems, both political and geographical, the province has faced with the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia (two provinces), I can only imagine the level of political challenges that could be stirred up by an oilsands pipeline running through six provinces.

Will Premier Redford’s TV message address Alberta’s tax dilemma?

“Our party was elected to keep building Alberta — to focus our spending on the priorities that you told me were important, and that is exactly what
we’ll do.” – Premier Alison Redford in an email to Progressive Conservative Party supporters on January 23, 2013

Premier Alison Redford will star in a pre-recorded television message tonight following the 6pm news hour on CTV in Calgary and Edmonton. The Premier is expected to use the 8-minute address as part of the government’s ongoing exercise of managing public expectations about the upcoming provincial budget.

The budget is expected to include a projected $3 billion deficit, largely influenced by a lower price of oil than  including a drop in the price of oil. The promise of “no new taxes, no service cuts” has put Alberta’s Tories in an unenviable political bind and set the tone for this year’s provincial budget debate.

Despite the cries of fiscal hawks wanting to slash and burn the province’s public services, as I wrote earlier this month, Alberta’s revenue problem has already become the defining issue the 2013 budget debate.

Raising the levels of natural resources royalties or reasonably increasing taxes are not issues the Premier is expected to touch on during tonight’s television appearance, but raising taxes is an issue that a handful of former politicians have recently delved into. Former Premier Ed Stelmach, former Finance Minister Shirley McClellan, former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, and former provincial Liberal leader Kevin Taft tackled the tax dilemma facing Alberta’s finances last weekend at the University of Alberta.

According to economist Bob Ascah, who was at the weekend event, a one-per cent sales tax could raise $750 million in revenue for the province.

And as reported on David Climenhaga‘s Alberta Diary Blog, Glen Hodgson, the chief economist of the Conference Board of Canada has also weighed in on Alberta’s tax dilemma:

“Not having a provincial consumption or sales tax is highly popular and has been great politics, but it denies the provincial government a steady and stable source of revenue through the business cycle.”

Who are Alberta’s top MLAs of 2012?

It has become tradition on this blog that near the end of each year I publish a list of Members of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly who have been the best, worst, or most notable of the past year. Each year’s list has taken a different form and focus (see 2010 and 2011), and the addition of dozens of rookie MLAs after the spring election has left me with little more than seven months to base this list upon. There are sure to be talented and not-so-talented MLAs that have not made list this, so if you feel inspired, please feel free to make additions to the list in the comment section below.

Rookie of the Year - Jeff Wilson, MLA for Calgary-Shaw.

Rookie of the Year – Jeff Wilson, MLA for Calgary-Shaw.

Jeff Wilson (Wildrose – Calgary-Shaw) Rookie of the Year. Perhaps the most unexpected addition to this year’s list is the newly elected Wildrose Party MLA for Calgary-Shaw. Mr. Wilson was a virtual unknown to political watchers when he defeated well-funded Tory star candidate Farouk Adatia (who is now Premier Alison Redford‘s Chief of Staff), but he seems to be fitting into his new role quite comfortably. During the fall sitting, Mr. Wilson stood out from his colleagues when asking tough in question period and launching into spirited and thoughtful debates over legislation. He may have also asked one of the more light-hearted question of this year’s session.

Premier Alison Redford

Premier Alison Redford

Alison Redford (PC – Calgary-Elbow) A better Premier than she is a politician. In her first year, Premier Redford excels at the duties of her job, whether it be advocating for the province at international conferences or in interprovincial relations or debating shifts in government policy. The Premier appears to be less interested or willing to play the political game, which will become increasingly difficult in the face of an aggressive official opposition and a growing list of government scandals and missteps. A recent change in her communications staff may be a sign that the Premier hopes to react more swiftly to the Wildrose attacks in the new year.

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith (Wildrose – Highwood) – A better politician than she probably would be a Premier. She was unable to lead her party into government in the April 2012 election, but with 17 MLAs and 34% of the province-wide vote, the Wildrose Party secured the Official Opposition benches. Borrowing aggressive tactics from the federal Conservatives in Ottawa, who are organizationally tied at the hip with the Wildrose, Ms. Smith’s party is leading the most aggressive and partisan official opposition in recent memory. Whether or not you like her tactics, it is nice to see the Tories sweat for a change.

Kent Hehr

Kent Hehr

Kent Hehr (Liberal – Calgary-Buffalo) The two-term MLA from downtown Calgary is easily one of the most effective and reasonable voices in the tiny Liberal caucus. Mr. Hehr has picked up the mantle left by recently retired Liberal MLA Kevin Taft and challenged the governing Tories about the serious revenue problems facing our province. More recently, his comments about uniting progressive voters drew the ire of Liberal Party archetypes. While his party plays with gimmicky name changes, Mr. Hehr is trying to figure out how to get the Liberal-minded Albertans back in the game after the party fell to third place in the 2012 election.

Doug Horner (PC – Spruce Grove-St. Albert) Trying to change the political culture around debt and budget financing in Alberta is a the tough job faced by Finance Minister Doug Horner. Taking advantage of low inflation and avoiding boom-time construction costs, Mr. Horner is leading the government to using financing to make some much needed investments in public infrastructure. While initially the clear second in command to Premier Redford, he appears to have taken a slight step back from the spotlight. If the next three years do not go well for the current Premier, Mr. Horner could find himself in a position to take his party’s reins.

Thomas Lukaszuk (PC – Edmonton-Castle Downs) The Tory attack dog has been both Minister of Nothing and Everything at the same time. Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk has been the Tory government’s main defender against aggressive attacks launched by the Wildrose Party during Question Period. Whether or not his sometimes aloof style is effective, I expect we have yet to witness just how tough this political minister is.

Kerry Towle (Wildrose – Innisfail-Sylvan Lake) and Ian Donovan (Wildrose – Little Bow) The two first-term Wildrose MLAs were thrown into the media spotlight this summer over issues related to seniors care in Alberta. As Seniors critic, Ms. Towle has been relentless in attacking the government over the quality of food in long-term care centres (an issue raised by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees) and the “one-bath a week” policy. Mr. Donovan was thrown into the media spotlight when the Tory government closed the Little Bow Continuing Care Centre in his Little Bow constituency. As rookies finding their political footing on this issue, it was not an uncommon sight this summer to see the two Wildrose MLAs awkwardly sharing the podium (or megaphone) with NDP MLA David Eggen and leaders of Alberta’s public sector unions.

This year’s honourable mentions go to two candidates who were not elected in April, but contributed a considerable amount to the results on election day. Edmonton-South West Wildrose candidate Allan Hunsperger‘s “Lake of Fire” comments and Calgary-Greenway Wildrose candidate Ron Leech‘s “caucasian advantage” comments were a last minute reminder to Albertans about the extreme conservative elements that exist within the Wildrose Party’s coalition. It indisputable that these two men helped convince many thousands of Albertans to vote for a party led by political moderate Premier Redford, rather than Wildrose leader Ms. Smith.

On this blog, the post that attracted the highest readership and most comments in 2012 was Thorny candidates could be the Wildrose Party’s Biggest Liability. The April 4, 2012 post was shared 603 times on Twitter and Liked by 4,724 Facebook users (Thank you).

Alberta Liberals set to rebrand as Liberalberta, sources say.

Liberalberta Alberta Liberal Party

A screenshot of the Liberal Party website.

The Alberta Liberal Party is rebranding its image with plans to relaunch its website, adopt a new logo, change its official colours, and, according to Liberal sources, rename itself Liberalberta.

Last forming government following the 1917 election, Liberals are the constant underdogs of Alberta politics and being severely hampered by connections to unpopular Liberal governments in Ottawa.

Raj Sherman Liberal Party leader Election 2012

Raj Sherman

After three years of internal turmoil following left-leaning leader Kevin Taft‘s resignation in 2008, the Liberals selected former Tory MLA Raj Sherman as their leader in 2011. During those intervening years, the Liberals lost their position as the default opposition to the Tories and were replaced by a reinvigorated Wildrose Party led by lobbyist and former newspaper columnist Danielle Smith.

The Liberals dropped to 9% province-wide support in the 2012 election, electing only 5 MLA’s and losing Official Opposition status for the first time since the party’s high-watermark in the 1993 election.

In August 2012, the Liberals hired a new executive directorGerald McEachern, a New Brunswick-based writer and consultant. The major rebranding, an idea that in the past has been rejected by the more orthodox Liberal crowd, is likely an attempt for the party to gain back the ground it lost – which just may require a drastic move (and perhaps they drew some inspiration from the name of a popular political blog).

As well as rebranding, the Liberal Party’s board of directors is said to have rescinded its offer to cooperate with other “progressive” political parties – namely the New Democratic Party and the Alberta Party - to prevent vote splitting.

Unfortunately for all three of these parties, the shifted political narrative in the 2012 election led many progressive and moderate Albertans to support Premier Alison Redford‘s Progressive Conservatives in order to block Ms. Smith’s Wildrose Party from forming government.

Update (October 19, 2012): I posted a question on Twitter to Liberal Party strategist Alex Macdonald asking whether the new “Liberalberta” wordmark logo had been focus group tested. Mr. Macdonald’s response was that the “Liberalberta” wordmark had been approved by the Liberal Party executive and executive board, and not a impartial focus group.

Meanwhile, Calgary Liberal Party activist Gwyneth Midgley raised concerns on Twitter that Liberal Party members were not consulted in the rebrand.