Tag Archives: Laurence Decore

Tories hope for a Hancockian era of stability

Alison Redford Dave Hancock Alberta Premier

Outgoing Premier Alison Redford with incoming Premier Dave Hancock.

On March 20, 1989, Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives were re-elected with a majority government but Premier Don Getty was defeated by voters in his Edmonton-Whitemud constituency. It was a stunning embarrassment for the then 18-year governing PC Party.

Alberta Premier Don Getty

Don Getty

Twenty-five years later, on March 20, 2014, Alberta’s still-governing PCs selected Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Dave Hancock to serve as Premier of Alberta until a replacement could be chosen for the embattled departing Premier Alison Redford.

Mr. Hancock was president of PC Party during the dying days of Mr. Getty’s premiership, when it appeared as though the Tories would be defeated by the Liberals led popular former mayor Laurence Decore.

Mr. Getty’s resigned in 1992 after being dragged down by low public approval ratings and a disgruntled caucus. A divisive leadership race chose his successor, Ralph Klein, who soon after led the Tories to win a majority government in the 1993 election. Tory partisans of a certain age fondly refer to this period as “the miracle on the prairies.”

Mr. Hancock’s experience as party president during the early 1990s and his 43 years of involvement in the province’s natural governing party could help him calm the dissent in the unwieldy PC caucus.

Facing increased pressure from the opposition Wildrose Party, the next four to six months will be an incredibly important time for the Tories, as the upcoming leadership race will define the PC Party in advance of a fast approaching 2016 election.

The parallels between the early 1990s and today are not perfect, and perhaps not even fair, but they serve as a reminder about the ability of the PC Party to reinvent itself. Even at its most damaged and divided, as it appeared to be this week, the PC Party remains a political force to be reckoned with.

Neala Barton Redford Press Secretary

Neala Barton

Redford press secretary returns to Toronto

Ms. Redford’s resignation has  resulted in the departure of many of her senior staff from the Legislature. The now-former press secretary to the premier, Neala Barton, appears to have already landed a new communications job in Toronto with the scandal plagued Pan Am Games Committee. Before joining Ms. Redford’s staff last year, Ms. Barton had previously served as press secretary for Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

News from parties not named PC or Wildrose

With Alberta’s daily political scene dominated by the loud and partisan voices of the governing Progressive Conservatives and the official opposition Wildrose, it has become easy to miss what is happening in Alberta’s other political parties. Here is a quick look at some news from the other parties represented in the Legislative Assembly – the Liberals and NDP – and the parties sitting outside the dome – the Alberta Party,  Green Party, and Social Credit Party.

Alberta Liberals

Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman (right), Justin Trudeau (centre), and Sherman's partner Sharon (left) at the Calgary Stampede.

Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman (right), Justin Trudeau (centre), and Sherman’s partner Sharon (left) at the Calgary Stampede. (Photo from Raj Sherman’s Facebook Page).

At a recent annual meeting, the Alberta Liberals abandoned their controversial “supporter” category of party involvement. Described by some Liberals as groundbreaking, gargantuanreal renewal, and politics re-imagined when the party first adopted the new category in May 2011, the idea remained controversial among party loyalists. Some long-time Liberals believed the creation of a “free” category opening leadership selections to non-members gave former Tory MLA Raj Sherman an advantage over loyalist favourite Hugh MacDonald  in the party’s 2011 vote.

According to the Edmonton Journal, the Liberal Party current has about 1,200 registered members, compared to about 3,500 members in August 2011. While the party signed up 27,000 members and supporters in the 2011 leadership race, only 8,900 voted.

A surprise win by past candidate Mike Butler in the party’s vice-president (communications) contest surprised many Liberals at the annual meeting. Mr. Butler is a supporter of cooperation with other parties like the NDP, Alberta Party and Greens, and has helped organize ‘soapbox’ events in Edmonton to promote cross-party dialogue.

The cooperation debate has been heated among Liberals. Last year, party president Todd Van Vliet publicly rebuked Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr for a guest post published on this blog promoting the idea of cooperation.

Alberta NDP

Alberta NDP MLAs Deron Bilous, Brian Mason, David Eggen, and Rachel Notley (photo from Rachel Notley's Facebook page).

Alberta NDP MLAs Deron Bilous, Brian Mason, David Eggen, and Rachel Notley (photo from Rachel Notley’s Facebook page).

The Alberta NDP will  hold their annual conference in Lethbridge in November, hoping to build on recent gains in the southern Alberta city. The NDP have seen significant growth in Lethbridge, with both federal candidate Mark Sandilands and provincial candidate Shannon Phillips significantly increasing their party’s support in recent elections.

NDP executive member Chris O’Halloran was chosen to serve as the interim president following Nancy Furlong‘s departure to accept a new job in Ontario. A new president will be selected at the November annual meeting.

Alberta Party

Following the resignation of leader Glenn Taylor after the last election, the Alberta Party  set September 21, 2013 as the date it will choose their next leader. Calgary businessman Greg Clark is so far the only candidate to step into the race to lead the party.

Not unfamiliar with Alberta politics, Mr. Clark worked as a spokesperson for the Liberal Caucus in the mid-1990s after that party first formed official opposition under Laurence Decore. He ran against Premier Alison Redford in Calgary-Elbow during last year’s election, placing 6th 5th with 518 votes.

Green Party

Reformed after a divisive internal party split and poor party financial audits led to the dissolution of the former Alberta Greens and the creation of the Evergreen Party, the newly renamed Green Party of Alberta is now led by Calgary-based civil liberties advocate Janet Keeping.

Social Credit

In April, the Social Credit Party held a policy convention in Innisfail where members of the small party affirmed policies that support human rights of the preborn, disallowing casino gambling and no sales tax. The Socreds also pledge to make the Alberta Treasury Branch the “economic engine of Alberta.”

Leader Len Skowronski ran in Calgary-Hawkwood in the last election, placing 7th out of 8 candidates with 105 votes. The Social Credit Party ran 3 candidates in the 2012 election.

Twenty years since Alberta’s epic 1993 election.

Colleen and Ralph Klein (screenshot from CBC news archive)

Colleen and Ralph Klein (screenshot from CBC news archive)

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Alberta’s 1993 election, known in Tory political circles as “the miracle on the Prairies” and to others as the election that interrupted the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals (in which the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Wayne Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings). This election was Alberta’s most competitive in decades and saw the 22 year governing Progressive Conservatives led by former Calgary Mayor Ralph Klein face-off against the reenergized Liberals led by former Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore.

The Tories emerged as the victors of the closely fought election, successfully distancing themselves from the unpopular former Premier Don Getty, who Premier Klein had only replaced the year before the election. Significant retirements of long-time Tory MLAs brought a new batch of candidates on “Ralph’s Team” to compete with an impressive and well-funded slate of Liberal candidates.

Hoping to ride the wave of electoral discontent that the Reform Party would ride in the federal election later that year, the Liberals challenged the Tories on many traditional conservative issues and attracted some social conservative candidates who might not find a natural home in the Liberal Party. A few of these successful social conservative Liberal candidates, including Edmonton’s Julius Yankowsky, would later cross the floor to the Tories.

With both the PCs and Liberals campaigning on fiscal conservative platforms geared toward eliminating budget deficits and paying down debts, there may have been less policy difference between the two parties than could normally be expected.

Laurence Decore (screenshot from CBC news archive)

Laurence Decore (screenshot from CBC news archive)

Similar to last year’s provincial election, where a “Lake of Fire” helped cost Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party more than a few votes in  closely fought campaign, a controversial social issue played a defining role in the 1993 election. Political scientist Peter McCormick wrote in the Canadian Annual Review of Politics and Public Affairs, 1995, “…it was generally agreed the Liberal leader Laurence Decore’s causal raising of the abortion issue was one of the reasons his party lost the 1993 provincial election.”

On June 15, 1993, Premier Klein’s PC Party was re-elected with 51 seats out of 83 and 44% of the provincial vote. Premier Klein would lead his party through three more election victories before he retired in 2006. Winning every seat in Edmonton and a handful in rural Alberta, Calgary and Lethbridge, the Liberals elected 32 MLAs and earned 39% of the provincial vote.

A number of Tory stalwarts, including Bonnyville‘s Ernie Isley, Leduc‘s Donald Sparrow and St. Albert’s Dick Fowler were unseated by Liberal candidates. A Liberal candidate was even successful in capturing Calgary-West, the coveted constituency represented by Premier Peter Lougheed from 1967 to 1986. The Liberals have never again come this close to forming government in Alberta.

Ray Martin (screenshot from CBC news archive)

Ray Martin (screenshot from CBC news archive)

Led by Edmonton-Norwood MLA Ray Martin, the official opposition New Democrats lost the 16 seats they had won in the previous election. Electoral boundary redistribution, retiring incumbents, and the defection of Stony Plain NDP MLA Stan Woloshyn to the Tories did not help. With a rise of support for the Liberals in Edmonton and the Tory’s new popular leader Premier Klein, the NDP were abandoned by many of their traditional supporters in this election.

Watch this archived CBC news report on the 1993 election (points to anyone who can name the journalist narrating the CBC report).

Mandel’s retirement kicks-off Edmonton’s first open mayoral race in 45 years.

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel‘s announcement yesterday that he will not seek re-election in the October 21, 2013 election has made way for our city’s first real open mayoral contest in 45 years.

Over those 45 years, Mandel is only the second Edmonton Mayor to leave on his own terms. In 1988, Mayor Laurence Decore stepped down to become leader of Alberta’s Liberal Party. Mayor William Hawrelak died in office in 1975. All other Mayors or interim Mayors were defeated in an election.

Here’s a short history lesson about Edmonton’s mayoral elections:

When Mayor Vincent Dantzer retired from municipal politics in 1968, he was succeeded by Mayor Ivor Dent. Dent was defeated by former Mayor Hawrelak in the 1974 election. When Mayor Hawrelak died in office in 1975, Alderman Terry Cavanagh became interim Mayor. Interim Mayor Cavanaugh contested the 1977 election and was defeated by Cec Purves. Mayor Purves was then defeated by Mr. Decore in 1983. When Mayor Decore resigned in 1988, Alderman Cavanaugh once again filled the role of interim Mayor and was defeated in the 1989 election by Councillor Jan Reimer. Mayor Reimer was later defeated by businessman Bill Smith in the 1995 election. Councillor Mandel unseated Mayor Smith in 2004.

Who can Edmontonians expect to run in our first real open mayoral election in a generation?

Councillor Kerry Diotte launched his campaign last week and Councillors Don IvesonKaren Leibovici, and Amarjeet Sohi are suspected to be interested in running. The absence of an incumbent candidate might also draw candidates from outside City Council or traditional political circles.

More on this soon.

Disappointed Wildrosers sit outside as Redford Tories abandon Klein-era financing.

Danielle Smith Rob Anderson Heather Forsyth Wildrose

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith (centre) with MLAs Heather Forsyth and Rob Anderson in 2010.

Alberta’s opposition parties are traditionally notorious for being unforgiving towards leaders who fail to meet or beat electoral expectations.

Take for example former Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore, who after leading his Liberal Party to its best showing in more than 70 years, was driven out by MLAs and members who were disappointed to be sitting in the opposition benches. Now in 2012, will Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith‘s leadership end with a similar fate? Not likely anytime soon.

As I said on election night, despite her party’s strong showing and newly acquired official opposition status, one of Ms. Smith’s biggest challenges will be to deal with many of her party’s supporters and MLAs who will be disappointed they did not form government. With 17 MLAs and a strong record of fundraising, I expect that Ms. Smith’s party and the powers that finance it will allow her to have a second chance, rather than destabilizing the delicate coalition of fiscal hawks and social conservatives they helped her build.

Last week, an anonymous online video emerged that made waves in the ranks of the Wildrose Party. Borrowing music from Michael Bay‘s Transformers 3: Dark Side of the Moon, the anonymous creators of the online video clumsily detailed the threat that certain individuals posed to the “grassroots” of the Wildrose Party and suggested the chance of a potential coup d’etat against leader Ms. Smith (the video is now removed from the Dailymotion site).

Like blogger David Climenhaga, I hesitate to read too much into the twisted innuendo of internal party politics that this online video delved into. And I would not be surprised if, at their upcoming AGM, Ms. Smith begins taking a more hard-line approach to party discipline, similar to the approach taken by Stephen Harper when he became leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

For the first time in decades, conservative supporters of the Wildrose Party are sitting outside to the ruling coalition of which they had previously been a pillar constituency. As Premier Alison Redford builds a new moderate political coalition, she will not have to dwell on the every-want of the “Socred Retreads,” as she called them in her speech to last weekend’s PC AGM.

Despite Wildrose MLAs relentlessly criticizing Premier Redford in the media, it must be frustrating for many Wildrose Party supporters to now watch their former party, the long-governing Progressive Conservatives, turn away from the anti-debt orthodoxy that defined former Premier Ralph Klein‘s era in Alberta politics. Without the hype of personality politics behind it, the short-sighted policies of Premier Klein’s govermnent look and feel like they are from a by-gone era. Gone are the days when even a hint of long-term investment was sacrificed in favour of short-term balanced budgets or at-any-cost debt reduction.

Premier Redford, like Premier Ed Stelmach before her, is talking about taking an adult approach to long-term financing of capital projects and maintenance of public infrastructure. With the bulk of the hard-line fiscal conservative hawks sitting in the opposition benches, Premier Redford and Finance Minister Doug Horner are afforded more fiscal flexibility.

Instead of waiting for “cash-in-pocket” to build and maintain important public infrastructure, the Tories are pushing forward with capital financing. Their newly discovered fiscal flexibility could give the Tories an opportunity to fix the problems created by their predecessors.

This of course does not mean they will not face opposition within their own caucus when charting this new fiscal course or creating a new narrative for their party. Like Premier Stelmach before them, neither Ms. Redford or Minister Horner had the support of the majority of their fellow MLAs during last year’s leadership selection.

alberta election candidates update – march 2012.

With a provincial election expected to be called early next week, three of Alberta’s main political parties – the Progressive Conservatives, New Democrats, and Wildrose Party – have nominated full-slates of 87 candidates. The official opposition Liberal Party, with 60 candidates nominated, is rushing to fill  their remaining 27 candidacies. Expected to nominate more than 30 candidates in this election, the Alberta Party has already nominated 27 candidates. The Evergreen Party, which has risen from the financial ashes of the defunct Green Party, has sixteen candidates nominated across the province. [Last week, I spoke on CBC Calgary's The Eyeopener how different political parties are progressing in candidate nominations].

Alberta Liberal Party nominated election candidates (March 22, 2012)

Alberta Liberal Party nominated election candidates (March 22, 2012)

Alberta Party nominated election candidates (March 22, 2012)

Alberta Party nominated election candidates (March 22, 2012)

Evergreen Party nominated election candidates (March 22, 2012)

Evergreen Party nominated election candidates (March 22, 2012)

Here are a few of the recent updates that I have made to the growing list of candidates running in the election:

Lacombe-Ponoka: Replacing MLA Ray Prins, who announced a last minute withdrawal as the Progressive Conservative candidate earlier this week, will be replaced by City of Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie. Mayor Christie was first elected in October 2010. Meanwhile, Pauline Prins, wife of Mr. Prins, wrote a letter defending her husband to the Lacombe Globe. The local paper has been filled with letters criticizing Mr. Prins over the past few weeks.

Calgary-Bow: Ellen Phillips has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.

Calgary-Buffalo: Comedian and writer Cory Mack has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in this downtown Calgary constituency.

Calgary-East: Ali Abdulbaki has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate.

Jason Webster Alberta Party candidate Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill

Jason Webster

Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill: The Alberta Party has nominated Jason Webster and the Liberals have nominated Don Thompson.

Drayton Valley-Calmar: The Liberals have nominated Chantel Lillycrop as their candidate.

Edmonton-Castle Downs: Kim Cassady has been chosen as the Liberal Party candidate in this north Edmonton constituency. Mr. Cassady ran in the 2010 City Council election and was the Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Highlands in the 2001 provincial election. Previous to his first provincial run, he worked for Edmonton-Glenora Liberal MLA Howard Sapers.

Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood: The Liberal Party has nominated University of Alberta student Keegan Wynychuk as their candidate. The Alberta Party has announced Cameron McCormick will be their candidate.

Jonathan Huckabay Liberal candidate Edmonton-Manning

Jonathan Huckabay

Edmonton-Manning: Official Opposition Chief of Staff Jonathan Huckabay was chosen as the Liberal Party candidate in this north east Edmonton constituency. Mr. Huckabay worked as legislative assistant to PC MLA’s until Raj Sherman was suspended from the governing caucus. The Alberta Party has nominated Mark Wall, professor of Church History and Theology and Dean of Students at Vanguard College.

Edmonton-Strathcona: University of Alberta student Ed Ramsden has been acclaimed as the Liberal Party candidate.

Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville: Matthew Levicki has been nominated as the Evergreen Party candidate.

Livingstone-Macleod: The Liberals have appointed Alex Macdonald as their candidate in this south west Alberta constituency. Mr. Macdonald works as a strategic advisor to Liberal leader Dr. Sherman at the Assembly and played a key role in former Liberal leader Laurence Decore‘s campaigns in the early 1990s.

Sherwood Park: Teacher Chris Kuchmak has been chosen as the Alberta Party candidate.

Whitecourt-Ste. Anne: Vern Hardman has been acclaimed as the Liberal Party candidate. In 2011, Mr. Hardmand was an unsuccessful candidate for the PC nomination in the neighbouring Stony Plain constituency.