Elections Alberta has released initial campaign finance disclosures from the March 22, 2016 by-election in the Calgary-Greenway constituency. The by-election was held following the death of PC MLA Manmeet Bhullar, who had represented the area in the Legislative Assembly since 2008.
Here is a brief description of what the initial submissions show us:
The campaign of Green Party candidate Thana Boonlert reported expenses of $6,749.52, which was the same as the campaign’s revenue.
Mr. Gill was elected on March 22 with 27 percent of the vote, holding the seat for the PCs in a close four way race. A mere 625 votes separated Mr. Gill from Mr. Toor (23 percent), Mr. Karbani (22 percent) and Ms. Rai (20 percent). Turnout by eligible voters was estimated to be at 29 percent.
When the initial expenses are broken down, each candidate’s campaign spent the following amount of money per vote received:
Perhaps demonstrating how high the political stakes were for the conservative opposition parties, the right-wing Wildrose Party delivered a last minute flyer to houses across Greenway attacking Mr. Gill for being a “Justin Trudeau Liberal.”
The braintrust at Wildrose Party headquarters, all federal Conservative loyalists, probably didn’t consider that Albertans are smart enough to know the difference between federal and provincial politics. And then there is the possibility that Mr. Trudeau, and local Liberal MP Darshan Kang, might actually be popular among voters in northeast Calgary.
Khalil Karbani, the actual Liberal Party candidate (who ran for a Wildrose Party nomination in 2012), placed third with an impressive 22 percent of the vote. As the provincial Liberals have essentially been non-existant in this constituency for some time (they did not run a candidate in 2015), the longtime community association president likely benefited from his own personal popularity and that of Mr. Kang (and Mr. Trudeau, I am sure).
Wildrose candidate Devinder Toor placed second with 23 percent, only three points higher than he placed in last year’s general election. Mr. Toor faced allegations of questionable business practices during the campaign which may have hurt his chances. But the loss can also be seen as a rebuke of the Wildrose Party’s no holds barred ideological and negative attacks against anyone who disagrees with its positions.
The Wildrose Party’s attacks on Mr. Gill probably do not bode well for Wildrose leader Brian Jean‘s fumbling attempts to convince the PCs to merge with them before the next election. With one by-election win under their belt, the PCs could feel a renewed sense of optimism for their own future electoral prospects.
The by-election will likely contribute to the narrative that the NDP have lost popularity in Alberta, regardless of the party never actually having won an election in Calgary-Greenway. It is also the start of the narrative that, despite their claims, the Wildrose Party is not the only party that can defeat the NDP – the PCs and the Liberals can now claim they can defeat the NDP as well.
As I wrote earlier this week, it is difficult to tell what impact a single by-election will have on future general elections. An abysmally low voter turnout, at 29 percent, suggests that none of the parties have meaningfully connected with voters in this constituency.
We do know two things. First, the PCs blocked the Wildrose Party from grabbing one of their nine remaining constituencies, which is an important victory for a party that was written off as dead less than one year ago. Second, attacking Justin Trudeau in Calgary might have actually hurt Wildrose chances of winning this by-election.
By-elections can produce unexpected results. While they are important snapshots of the political mood of an electorate at a certain point in time, the results can be poor indicators of outcomes of future general elections.
Alternatively, the Calgary-Greenway by-election is a must-win for the PC Party, which has dropped down to eight MLAs from 70 MLAs before the 2015 election. PC candidate Prab Gill needs to retain this by-election to signal his party will continue to be a viable alternative to the NDP.
A win by the PC Party would also throw a wrench into the plans of the official opposition Wildrose Party, which has been aggressively attacking the new NDP government since it took office less than a year ago. A Wildrose win might be a final nail in the coffin of the PC Party.
There was a time in the not too distant past when the Alberta Liberal Party went out of their way to distance themselves from the Liberal Party of Canada. The provincial party even formally separated from the federal party back in the 1970s in a move to distance itself from their Central Canadian-based federal cousins.
Those days are over. The election of Calgary-Skyview Member of Parliament Darshan Kang and Calgary-Centre MP Kent Hehr in October 2015 marked the first time since 1968 that Calgarians elected federal Liberal representatives in Ottawa. The provincial Liberals are eager to take advantage of any bump in support they can get from the popularity of the federal party and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
There has not been much for provincial Liberals to be excited about recently. The party lost Official Opposition status in 2012 and dropped to one MLA in the Legislative Assembly in 2015. Now without a permanent leader, the party delayed its next leadership vote until 2017. But the recent electoral success of the federal Liberals may have given the party some hope.
The provincial Liberals have adopted a nearly identical logo on their election signs as the federal Liberals and embraced the federal Liberal slogan ‘Vote for Real Change‘ for its campaign in the Calgary-Greenway provincial by-election. Federal Liberal MPs have even been spotted on campaigning for the local candidate.
Ottawa-area Liberal Member of Parliament Anita Vandenbeld, who was born in Calgary and studied at the University of Calgary, joinedMr. Kangthis past weekend to canvass with Calgary-Greenway candidate Khalil Karbani (who ran for a Wildrose Party nomination in 2012).
The results of the March 22 by-election will give some indication as to whether the provincial Liberal strategy to embrace their federal counterparts is a success. A provincial Liberal win, or even a strong showing, in the Calgary-Greenway by-election would be an unexpected surprise and much needed boost for a party that has been on a downward trend for the past eight years.
Remember Liberalberta Green?
In a move that was believed to be an attempt to distance the two parties, the provincial Liberals undertook a brief rebranding in 2012, ditching the colour red for green and calling themselves ‘Liberalberta’ but not long after the party moved to improve ties with the federal party. They later ditched Liberalberta green in favour of traditionally Liberal red.
The Alberta Party has decided to not run a candidate in the March 22, 2016 by-election in the Calgary-Greenway constituency. It was a strange choice by the small political party, which brands itself as a centrist alternative. Its leader, Greg Clark, was elected to the Legislative Assembly in May 2015.
The Alberta Party said the decision to not run a candidate was based on its choice to focus on preparing for the 2019 general election, but the party cannot brand themselves as the “de-facto official opposition,” as it did in a press release yesterday, if they do not participate in by-elections.
By sitting out the by-election, the Alberta Party is ceding ground to the other opposition parties ahead of the 2019 election. What else could this political party be doing that is more important than running a candidate in a by-election?
Here are a list of the other candidates nominated and registered to run in the March 22 by-election:
Perennial election candidate and social conservative advocate Larry Heather will run as an Independent candidate. Mr. Heather has run in at least 17 elections since 1984, including as an Independent candidate in Calgary-Heritage in the 2015 federal election and as a Social Credit candidate in the 2014 Calgary-Elbow by-election.
Said Abdulbaki will run as an Independent candidate. Mr. Abdulbaki stood as a Liberal candidate in the 2012 and 2015 provincial elections in the neighbouring Calgary-Fort constituency. He also ran as a Wildrose Alliance candidate in the 2008 provincial election in the Calgary-Montrose constituency, which became Calgary-Greenway in 2012.
After initially appointing Prabhdeep Gill as a candidate, the Progressive Conservatives changed course and held a nomination vote on February 27, 2016, the day the nomination vote was initially scheduled to happen. The previously appointed candidate, Mr. Gill, defeated three other candidates in the nomination vote.
Past candidate Devinder Toor defeated Robin Martin to win the Wildrose Party nomination on February 26, 2016. Mr. Toor was his party’s candidate in the 2015 election when he placed third with 20 percent of the vote. Mr. Martin is the son-in-law of Calgary-Forest Lawn Member of Parliament Deepak Obhrai.
Khalil Karbani defeated Saima Jamal to win the Liberal Party nomination. Mr. Karbani is the president of the Taradale Community Association and was a candidate for the Wildrose Party nomination in the neighbouring Calgary-McCall constituency before the 2012 election. Liberals are hoping to translate some of the federal party’s recent success in Calgary, including former Liberal MLA Darshan Kang’s win in Calgary-Skyview, to this by-election.
The Reform Party of Alberta announced on its Facebook Page that it would not be officially registered as a political party with Elections Alberta in time to contest the by-election. There will not be a Reform Party candidate running in this by-election.
Two candidates are seeking the New Democratic Party nomination to run in the Calgary-Greenway provincial by-election, which will need to be called before the end of May 2016. The NDP nomination meeting will be held on Feb. 20, 2016.
Roop Rai is known in northeast Calgary from her time as a host of the Roshni program on Red FM radio station. She is now constituency assistant for MLA Irfan Sabirin the neighbouring Calgary-McCall constituency.
Matt McMillan is the manager of MLA Ricardo Miranda‘s constituency office in the neighbouring of Calgary-Cross. His is a former vice-president external of the University of Calgary Students’ Union and, according to his linkedin profile, a Reserve Officer in the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets. Mr. McMillan sought the NDP nomination to run in the Calgary-Centre federal by-election in 2012. I am now told that Mr. McMillan is no longer a candidate in the nomination race.
I am told that John Phillips, a Calgary lawyer, has now entered the nomination contest.
Calgary-Currie: Alberta Party MLA Dave Taylor has announced that he will be retiring at the next election. This is not a complete surprise, but it is not good news for the new party, who will lose their only incumbent MLA at the next election. Mr. Taylor was first elected as a Liberal in 2004 and left that party to sit as an Independent in 2010. He joined the Alberta Party in 2011.
Drumheller-Stettler: Hanna Town Councillor Chris Warwick has withdrawn his nomination for the Wildrose candidacy in this constituency. Candidates Dave France, Rick Strankman, and Patrick Turnbull remain declared in the nomination contest,.
Edmonton-Castle Downs: Former pharmaceutical employee John Oplanich is the nominated Wildrose candidate in this north Edmonton constituency. Mr. Oplanich ran for Edmonton City Council in 2010, placing third in Ward 3.
With the federal election behind us, it is now time to turn attention towards the quiet preparation happening in the run up to the next provincial election. I have updated the growing list of declared and nominated candidates for the next provincial election and below are some of the interesting nominations and contests that I have been following. If you have any updates or know of any candidates that are missing from the list, please comment in the section below.
UPDATED: Calgary-South East: Two-term PC MLA Art Johnston is facing a nomination challenge from Paramedic Rick Fraser in this new constituency. Mr. Fraser is the former President of CUPE 3421, the Calgary Paramedics Union. Mr. Johnston has served as the MLA for Calgary-Hays since 2004.
Edmonton-Manning: Former Mayoral candidate Daryl Bonar is the Wildrose Alliance candidate in this north east Edmonton constituency. Mr. Bonar, a Community Relations Officer with the Canadian Forces, is a good catch for the Wildrose, who had yet to attract anything close to a “star candidate” in Edmonton. Manning is currently held by first term PC MLA Peter Sandhu, who was elected with 35% of the vote in 2008.
Edmonton-Rutherford: The first constituency to have a nominated candidate from each of the main political parties. This full-ballot was complete with the nomination of Michael Walters as the Alberta Party candidate in April. Mr. Walters is that party’s Provincial Organizer and previously served as an organizer for the Greater Edmonton Alliance, a coalition of community associations, church groups, and labour unions. Also on the ballot will be first-term PC MLA Fred Horne, former Liberal MLA Rick Miller, NDP candidate Melanie Samaroden, and second-time Wildroser Kyle McLeod.
Edmonton-Riverview: Arif Khan was nominated as the Liberal candidate in the constituency being vacated by former party leader Kevin Taft at the next election. Mr. Khan is a consultant and western Vice President of Condo Store Inc. Riverview has been represented by Liberal MLAs since 1997.
Innisfail-Sylvan Lake: Penhold Town Councillor Danielle Klooster is seeking the Alberta Party candidacy in this central Alberta constituency. It will be an uphill battle for Ms. Klooster, as voters gave incumbent PC MLA Luke Ouellette 62% support in the 2008 election.
Leduc-Beaumont: In a contested nomination, two-term PC MLA George Rogers fended off a spirited nomination challenge from Leduc Alderman Dominic Mishio. According to the Leduc Representative, Mr. Rogers earned 826 votes to Mr. Mishio’s 625 votes. Mr. Mishio’s candidacy was seen by some political watchers as an opportunity to rejuvenate the PC caucus, where Mr. Rogers has sat as a backbencher since he was first elected.
Albertans appointed to the Federal Cabinet Two Alberta Conservative MPs were included in a recent cabinet shuffle in Ottawa. Macleod MP Ted Menzies was appointed as the Minister of State (Finance) and Calgary-Nose Hill MP Diane Ablonczy was appointed as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Americas). These two minor appointments were meant to offset the loss of Environment Minister Jim Prentice from the federal cabinet in Ottawa.
Raj Against the Machine Tour
Independent Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman is hitting the road this spring on a province-wide town hall tour to hear Albertans’ views on health care. Dr. Sherman was kicked out of the PC caucus in November 2010 when he publicly criticized the PC government’s record on health care and singled out former Health Minister Ron Liepert as a problem. The good Doctor Sherman is also the newest MLA to join Twitter, where he can be found at @RajShermanMLA
NDP tackle the Tories on Long-term Care NDP MLA Brian Mason raised some fair criticisms of the PC Government’s handling of Long-term Care as the new Villa Caritas facility opened near the Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton. Many of the beds in the Covenant Health-operated Villa Caritas were originally slated as Long-term Care spaces, but were later changed to include geriatric mental health patients transferred from Alberta Hospital Edmonton. According to the NDP, there are more than 600 people on the waiting list for long-term care beds in Edmonton.
Also expected to join the contest is three-term Town of Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor, who is expected to launch his campaign for the new Alberta Party leadership in the next few weeks. Mayor Taylor was first elected to his current job in 2004. This would not be his first foray into provincial politics as he was the NDP candidate in West Yellowhead in the 1997 General Election when he placed a strong third with 20% of the vote.
Around the world in 21 days
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Iris Evans is gearing up for a trip around the globe that will land her in Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom from January 10 to 31, 2011. Cypress-Medicine Hat PC MLA Len Mitzel recently travelled to Texas for a three day trip to a meeting of the Ports-to-Plains Alliance meeting. I generally support sending representatives to promote Alberta internationally, but with the total amount of travel time being logged by cabinet ministers and PC MLAs, now might be the time to have a serious discussion about the value of these trips.
The Alberta-China Connection
The Calgary Herald has published the first of a four part series of articles written by Jason Fekete investigating the Province of Alberta’s relationship with the People’s Republic of China.