Tag Archives: Lee Richardson

Source: MLA Kent Hehr to run for Trudeau Liberals in Calgary-Centre

Kent Hehr Matt Grant Calgary Liberal
Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr (right) with nominated Calgary-Confederation Liberal candidate Matt Grant.

Political Calgary is abuzz with rumours that popular MLA Kent Hehr will seek the Liberal nomination in the federal riding of Calgary-Centre. Reliable sources say that Mr. Hehr has gone so far as to request nomination forms to become an official nomination candidate for the federal Liberals.

Joan Crockatt
Joan Crockatt

Mr. Hehr would be a star candidate for the Justin Trudeau-led Liberals in Alberta, who see an opportunity to unseat Conservative Member of Parliament Joan Crockatt in the next election. Ms. Crockatt placed a narrow 1,158 votes ahead of Liberal challenger Harvey Locke in a November 2012 by-election. That by-election took place one year after former Conservative MP Lee Richardson defeated his closest challenger with a 19,770 vote margin of victory in the 2011 federal election.

A well-respected lawyer before he entered politics, the likeable Mr. Hehr has represented the downtown Calgary-Buffalo constituency as a Liberal since the 2008 election. The Liberal Finance and Energy critic briefly ran for mayor in 2010, bowing out and endorsing Naheed Nenshi before nomination day. Mr. Nenshi’s campaign manager in that election and now his chief of staff Chima Nkemdirim also managed Mr. Hehr’s first election campaign in 2008 (Mr. Nkemdirim has also has been rumoured as a potential Liberal candidate in the same riding).

In December 2012, Mr. Hehr stirred up some controversy within his party when he wrote a guest post on this blog suggesting that the narrow Conservative win in the Calgary-Centre by-election should send a wake up call to Liberals, NDP and Greens in this province.

Darshan Kang Liberal MLA Calgary Skyview
Darshan Kang

As an MLA, Mr. Hehr has been a thorough opposition critic and a champion of LGBTQ issues, introducing Motion 503 supporting Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools (the motion was voted down by a coalition of 22 Progressive Conservative and 9 Wildrose MLAs).

Perhaps trying to appeal to a more conservative base of supporters, Mr. Hehr was pictured alongside Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson this week signing a “no-debt” pledge from the Tea Party-lite Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

He would not be the only Liberal MLA planning to jump into federal politics in the next election. Calgary-McCall MLA Darshan Kang was recently nominated as the federal Liberal candidate in the north east Calgary’s new Calgary-Skyview riding. If both Liberal MLAs are nominated, they would each be required to resign as MLAs when a federal election is called, leaving the Liberals with only three MLAs in the Assembly (and for the first time since before  the 1993 election, with less MLAs than the New Democratic Party, which currently has four MLAs).

Other MLAs running for federal nominations are Edmonton-McClung PC MLA David Xiao, who is seeking the federal Conservative nomination in the new Edmonton-West riding, and Independent Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber, who is running for the Conservative nomination in the new Calgary-Confederation riding.

Attempts were made to contact Mr. Hehr in order to confirm and comment on the rumours of his potential candidacy in Calgary-Centre. No response had been received at the time this post was published.

UPDATE (July 17, 2014): As predicted in this post, Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr has announced he will run for the federal Liberal nomination in Calgary-Centre.

Kent Hehr Calgary Centre Liberal

Alberta politics takes a negative turn online.

An unflattering photo of Danielle Smith in an image released online by the Premier's Communications Office.
An image released online by the Premier’s Communications Office.

MLA pay remains an uncomfortable issue for Alberta’s political leaders. Yesterday, MLA’s sitting on the Member Services Committee voted to freeze the annual cost-of-living increase to their salary and housing allowance ahead of provincial budget release on March 7, 2013.

“The rationale is clearly we want to lead by example,” Edmonton-Riverview Tory MLA Steve Young told the Edmonton Journal.

The decision to freeze MLA pay happens as rhetoric about politician and doctor pay has reached an all-time high (though the conflict is really about control).

A Wildrose image picturing Premier Alison Redford in a less than flattering light.
A Wildrose image picturing Premier Alison Redford in a less than flattering light.

Yesterday’s pay vote also resulted in more online mudslinging on Twitter’s #ableg hashtag, though this time from an unexpected source.

The Twitter account operated by Premier Alison Redford‘s Communications Staff  - @ABPremierComms – tweeted an image featuring an incredibly unflattering photo of Wildrose leader Danielle Smith with a quote she made at a meeting on June 7, 2012 (see image at the top of this post).

While distasteful, the reaction from the Premier’s Office is not unprovoked.

Over the past year, the official opposition Wildrose Caucus has released numerous images and info-graphics on Twitter and Facebook filled with harsh criticisms and unflattering photos of Premier Redford.

The harsh negative politics and aggressive use of images and info-graphics has helped the Wildrose Party cultivate a significant online following, who have helped spread their message through social media.

Big turnover in Premier’s communications office.

After staff departures, former Ontario-based political operatives hold two top roles in Alberta Premier’s Office.

Last week it was announced that Jay O’Neill is departing his job as Director Communications under Premier Alison Redford‘s. Although Mr. O’Neill only joined the Premier’s office in late 2011, it is not uncommon for individuals to only fill these types positions for a short period of time.

The Tories were hit with a handful of embarrassing scandals in the closing months of 2012 and were caught unprepared, having to spend the fall sitting of the Assembly playing defence against an aggressive Wildrose Party opposition. The Spring sitting of the Assembly will begin on March 5, 2013.

Premier Alison Redford
Premier Alison Redford

Four other staff left or announced their departures from Premier Redford’s communications office over the past few months, perhaps a result of internal pressure to change direction and take a more aggressive approach towards political communications in 2013.

Tammy Forbes left her job as the Premier’s Communications Liaison Manager to become Chief of Staff to embattled Tourism Parks and Recreation Minister Christine Cusanelli. Minister Cusanelli faced harsh criticism before the Christmas break when she was forced to repay the government $10,600 for expenses racked up in her first five months in office, including a $4,000 airfare charge to have her daughter and mother fly with her to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, United Kingdom.

Before joining the Premier’s office in 2011, Ms. Forbes was director of communications in the Department of Transportation.

Two other departing staff have jumped from their political jobs to roles in the public service. Tracy Balash has left the Premier’s Communications Office to become the Executive Director of Communications Planning in the Public Affairs Bureau (PAB). As noted in a recent Globe & Mail article, the PAB is in a period of transition after the retirement of Kathy Lazowski, its executive director of strategic communications.

Stefan Baranski
Stefan Baranski

The Premier’s Issues Manager Nikki Booth is now the Acting Issues Manager (Communications) in the Department of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.

Kim Misik, the Premier’s press secretary, also announced that she will be leaving her position.

Social Media Manager Mike Jenkinson remains the longest serving member of the Premier’s team, having started in the office during Ed Stelmach‘s premiership.

The new Director of Communications is Stefan Baranski, who joined the Premier’s office as Director of Strategic Communications in September 2012 after leaving his job with the Toronto-based Counsel Public Affairs firm. In Ontario, he served as senior advisor to PC Party leaders Tim Hudak and John Tory, and Premier Ernie Eves.

Mr. Baranski is not the only former Ontario-based political operative in the Premier’s office. While originally from Alberta, Director of Operations Darren Cunningham is a veteran of Ottawa’s political scene, having served in Chief of Staff and communications roles for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and various Conservative cabinet ministers. He started working for the Premier’s office in June 2012. Another Ottawa insider, Lee Richardson left his job as a Member of Parliament to become the Premier’s Principal Secretary in May 2012.

It is suspected that not all of these vacant positions in the Communications office will be filled. Some sources suggest that the Premier’s office may increase their reliance on consultants from outside political and communications companies to fill the gap.

Alison Redford’s revenue problem will define 2013 budget fight.

The low price of oil and natural gas and an election 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.

Premier Alison Redford Alberta
Premier Alison Redford

This week, Lee Richardson, Principal Secretary to Premier Alison Redford, released a trial balloon suggesting the government is looking at all revenue options, including tax increases, to fund the provincial operating budget.

On the capital side of the provincial budget, Premier Redford and Finance Minister Doug Horner have talked about taking an adult approach to long-term financing of capital projects and maintenance of public infrastructure.

After decades of aggressive messaging and lobbying from interest groups like Americans for Tax Reform in the United States and its the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Fraser Institute in Canada, our political culture has been shaped to include a gag reflex to the concept of increasing tax revenue.

The averse public reactions to tax increases are inevitable and is also strengthened with the increasingly prominent belief that government is inefficient and wasting public funds.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Party Alberta Election 2012
Danielle Smith

This perception has essentially robbed government of its ability to increase its most easily accessible and more reliable source of revenue. Alberta currently has some of the lowest tax rates in Canada. Alberta’s corporate tax rates have remained low even as profits of corporations in the province have climbed more than 300%. We could afford to raise corporate taxes and remain the most competitive jurisdiction in Canada.

In the recent provincial election, the Tories pledged they would not raise taxes, Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose are ideologically inclined to cut taxes (and cut services), and Raj Sherman‘s Liberalbertans have differentiated themselves by calling for increased taxes. Brian Mason‘s New Democrats largely shied away from tax talk, but remained steadfast that natural resources revenues should increase (in Norway, a $600 billion oil fund was created from resource revenues collected and invested by the government).

If you asked most Albertans whether they would support cuts to essential services like health care, education, and public infrastructure maintenance, most would overwhelmingly disagree with the cuts. Alberta is just beginning to recover from the decade-long turmoil caused by short-sighted budget cuts and public sector layoffs made by Premier Ralph Klein‘s government in the mid-1990s.

Albertans have a strong economy and good quality of life that is boosted by strong government programs that improve our health, education, and community services. With a growing population and a booming economy, long-term planning and stable funding, not cuts to government services, are critical to preserving and increasing our quality of life.

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Worth listening to: A recent recording of the popular This American Life radio show highlighted the debate and some of the affects that “austerity policies” have had south of the border.

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As noted in yesterday’s post, Premier Redford’s Director of Communications, Jay O’Neill, announced that he will be leaving his position at the Legislature. Stefan Baranski, a communications adviser to the Premier and formerly an Ontario-based consultant, will serve as the new Director of Communications.

Right-wing Sun News tries to rescue Conservative fortunes in Calgary-Centre.

Justin Trudeau Harvey Locke
Justin Trudeau and Harvey Locke

Just when it seems like Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt was losing ground and a tight three-way contest in the Calgary-Centre by-election, right-wing cable channel Sun News swooped in with news that will stir up the anti-Liberal sentiments among Conservative voters in the riding. Boasting that it has discovered a “breaking exclusive,” the channel roasted Mr. Trudeau for comments made during an interview in late 2010:

“Canada isn’t doing well right now because it’s Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda. It doesn’t work.”

There is no one who can get angry conservatives worked up in this province like a Trudeau.

Chris Turner Calgary-Centre Green By-election
Chris Turner

Mr. Trudeau is on a leadership tour through British Columbia and Alberta this week, having campaigned with Liberal by-election candidate Harvey Locke in Calgary-Centre and rallying a crowd of more than 400 party faithful in downtown Edmonton.

Following Liberal MP David McGuinty‘s comments earlier this week, the release of Sun News’ “breaking exclusive” of Mr. Trudeau’s two year-old anti-Alberta comments is miraculously well-timed for the Conservatives. It feels as if the Conservative campaign in Calgary-Centre got exactly what it was asking for.

Polling since August has shown Mr. Locke in second place and Green Chris Turner gaining momentum in Calgary-Centre.

Over the course of the campaign, Ms. Crockatt’s has opted to avoid numerous public all-candidate forums in favour of canvassing doors. Interestingly, the campaign found time in its busy schedule yesterday to stop by Sun News studios in Calgary to denounce Mr. Guinty’s comments on a talk show hosted by vicious right-winger Ezra Levant.

Ms. Crockatt’s sudden appearance on the right-wing talk show has everything to do with her campaign’s slip in the polls, which is seen by many to be a result of her campaign’s connections to the right-wing Wildrose Party.

Joan Crockatt Conservative Calgary-Centre By-Election
Joan Crockatt

It should be noted that the connections between Sun News, the federal Conservative Party, and the Wildrose Party are deep.

Sun News has been nothing short of a cheerleader for both the opposition Wildrose Party in Alberta and Conservatives in Ottawa. Even staff appear to be interchangeable. Candice Malcolm, the current Director of Research for Sun News is the former executive assistant to Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and spokesperson for Conservative politician Jason Kenney.

The strong connections between the federal Conservatives and the Wildrose Party is suspected to have driven away many moderate conservatives, who support Alison Redford‘s governing Progressive Conservatives and see the by-election campaign as too closely associated with the hard right-wing provincial party (including campaign manager, William McBeath, is also on staff with the Wildrose Party). These connections are believe to have contributed to near evaporation of the 40% margin of victory that former MP Lee Richardson earned in the 2011 election.

Threehundredeight.com analyst Eric Grenier has looked beyond the politics and has analyzed the numbers, and his a recent post, he suggests that more disenchanted Conservative voters are shifting to the Greens, rather than the Liberals.

This movement of Tories to the Greens in Calgary-Centre seems to be supported by Donal O’Beirne, the former president of the Conservative association in Calgary-North East, who has endorsed Mr. Turner, and the launch of a new Facebook Group, “Progressive Conservatives 4 Turner“, which sprung up this week.

One senior provincial Tory suggested to me this week that the Wildrose Party now “controls almost the entire federal Conservative Party in Alberta,” suggesting that the split between the provincial and federal Tory parties will be very difficult to mend.

If the Conservatives are not able to win the riding on the November 26 vote, or even if the results are close, the by-election should be a warning to the Ottawa Tories that their support of the Wildrose Party could cause moderate Albertans to park their votes elsewhere.

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A new poll was released by Return on Insight today. The poll shows Mr. Crockatt with 37% to 32% for Mr. Locke and 17% for Mr. Turner.

While I am naturally skeptical of all polls, I am immediately skeptical of this poll due to ROI owner Bruce Cameron‘s close connections to the Liberal campaign in Calgary-Centre (watch this video from October 21, 2012, where Mr. Locke talks about the work Mr. Cameron is doing for his campaign).

Guest Post: Yes, Calgary-Centre Can Elect a Progressive MP.

1CalgaryCentre
1 Calgary Centre

By Jeremy Barretto

Like anyone who arrived in Calgary Centre after 1968, I’ve never witnessed a Liberal, NDP or Green candidate win an election. It’s understandable that some progressives feel that their vote does not count.

Over the past four decades, progressive and conservative parties have each earned significant support in Calgary Centre (with usually around a 45% to 55% split respectively).  The multiplicity of progressive parties has ensured a Conservative Party of Canada victory in recent elections.

Some progressives were happy with our former MP, Lee Richardson, who was generally regarded as a moderate voice in Government. Then along came Joan Crockatt. She is the Conservative candidate in the Calgary Centre who is reportedly “an avid cheerleader for the Wildrose Party” and who has said the role of a backbench MP is to “support the Prime Minister in whatever way that he thinks”.

In spite of the history, the communities that make up Calgary Centre have proven the ability to defy expectations and elect progressive candidates. In 2000, progressives united behind the Right Honourable Joe Clark, a former Prime Minister and who was generally regarded as the consensus progressive candidate, to oust the incumbent Reform MP Eric Lowther. Liberal Kent Hehr was recently re-elected as MLA by many Calgary Centre residents. In 2010, a majority of Calgary Centre residents voted for Naheed Nenshi for Mayor—and there were 15 candidates on the ballot!

Can progressives do it again in Calgary Centre?

1CalgaryCentre

1CalgaryCentre is an independent progressive campaign that was launched this summer by a group of volunteers. Our idea is pretty simple: engage progressives in a dialogue in the months before the by-election and then hold a vote to select a consensus progressive candidate. We use the term progressive broadly, including the centre-left parties, progressive conservatives, independents and post-partisans.

The parties (and voters) would in no way be bound by the 1CalgaryCentre vote. Rather, our goal is to send a clear signal to progressive voters about the relative strength of the progressive candidates. In other words, if you believe you’re the strongest progressive candidate, prove it with 1CalgaryCentre.

This summer we approached the national leadership of each of the progressive political parties. We invited them to participate in a process to select a consensus progressive candidate in Calgary Centre. For the most part, the parties were not interested in engaging with us. They went forward and nominated candidates.

We then turned our attention to working with the local campaigns. The progressive parties have nominated three impressive candidates: conservationist Harvey Locke for the Liberals; sustainability author Chris Turner for the Greens; and poverty reduction advocate Dan Meades for the NDP. Any of these candidates would work hard to promote progressive policies if elected as MP for Calgary Centre.

The Process

Since August 2012, 1CalgaryCentre has engaged progressives through social media, online forums and an “unconference”. We are reaching over 37,000 people through our social media channels. Stories about 1Calgary centre have appeared in the Globe and Mail, FFWD, Huffington Post and most other media covering the by-election. Our video got the internet excited about the CBC.

1CalgaryCentre has proposed a progressive primary—an online vote to be held on November 22nd. Why hold a vote? To give progressives a clear signal of who has the best chance of winning the by-election on November 26th.

I’ve had the pleasure of personally engaging with people from all of the progressive parties about 1CalgaryCentre. There is some interest and some apprehension about our process. Here are the most common questions that I’ve heard:

What if my candidate doesn’t win the 1CalgaryCentre vote?
The candidates and voters are free to decide what their next steps after the 1CalgaryCentre process.

Why don’t progressives just get behind my candidate, as they have the best chance of winning?
I’ve heard this message from all of the progressive parties. My response: prove it. If your candidate is able to take on a 40-year conservative dynasty in Calgary Centre, they should be able to establish that they have more support than the other progressive candidates in an online vote.

Isn’t an online vote susceptible to tampering?
Political parties regularly use online voting for their leadership elections. 1CalgaryCentre is using a combination of high-tech and hands-on tools to ensure the integrity of our process. Every registration is reviewed by at least two people.

I heard that 1CalgaryCentre is really a front for party X?
1CalgaryCentre is a registered third party with Elections Canada. Pursuant to the Canada Elections Act political parties cannot register as third parties. Our volunteers have been completely transparent about their diverse interests and backgrounds—one even revealed that he once cooked dinner for Jack Layton and Olivia Chow. Disclosure!

1CalgaryCentre may or may not achieve its goal of electing a progressive MP on November 26th. However, we have helped people believe that electing a progressive MP in Calgary Centre is possible. The polls show this. Social media shows this. Mainstream media admits that the Conservatives could lose in a historic upset.

We don’t believe that doing the same thing over and over again in Calgary Centre elections and expecting different results makes sense.

We won’t subscribe to the narcissism of small differences between the progressive parties.

Instead, register with 1CalgaryCentre to try something new on November 22. We just might make history in Calgary Centre. Again.

 Jeremy Barretto is an environmental lawyer and long time Calgary Centre resident. He is a member of the 1CalgaryCentre team. 

 

IT’S A RACE! New poll shows emerging three-way race in Calgary-Centre by-election.

Calgary-Centre By-Election candidates Joan Crockatt, Harvey Locke, and Chris Turner.
Calgary-Centre By-Election candidates Joan Crockatt, Harvey Locke, and Chris Turner.

A new survey conducted by Forum Research shows a three-way race in the Calgary-Centre by-election between Conservative Joan Crockatt, Liberal Harvey Locke, and Green Chris Turner.

As reported by the Globe & Mail, the November survey of 376 randomly selected residents in Calgary-Centre showed Ms. Crockatt with 32% to 30% for Mr. Locke and 23% for Mr. Turner. New Democrat Dan Meades was in fourth place with 12%.

The survey is considered to be accurate by plus or minus five percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

If this new survey is to be believed, then the November 26 vote could be much more exciting than most political watchers, including myself, had previously predicted.

A similar survey conducted by Forum Research in October found Ms. Crockatt with 48% to 28% for Mr. Locke, 11% for Mr. Turner, and 8% for Mr. Meades. Another survey from Forum Research conducted in August found the Conservatives with 44% to 21% for the Liberals, 14% for the NDP, and 12% for the Greens.

It appears that within a matter of months, the 40% margin of victory earned by former Conservative MP Lee Richardson in the 2011 federal election and 23% margin for the Conservatives found in the September survey may have completely evaporated.

It is always important to approach surveys, like this interactive voice response (IVR) survey, with a healthy dose of skepticism. Survey results are a snapshot of the opinions of a surveyed group of individuals at a given moment in time. This said, surveys like this one can be an important indicator of trends.

A close race could increase the importance of the 1CalgaryCentre campaign if progressive voters see an opportunity to coalesce behind one of the main opposition candidates. Although 1CalgaryCentre was initially ignored and ridiculed by the campaigns, it has played a central role in the debate around vote-splitting in the riding. On November 22, the group will hold its “selection vote” which allows voters in Calgary-Centre to register and select their choice from the progressive candidates running in the by-election.

Harvey Locke Bob Rae Liberal Calgary-Centre (photo from Mr. Locke's Facebook Page)
Harvey Locke and Bob Rae.

As this contest enters its final two weeks, Ms. Crockatt’s two main opponents have taken aim at their mutual opponent and each other.

Ms. Crockatt’s tacit support of the Wildrose Party in the spring provincial election appears to have driven a number of moderate Tories away from her campaign in the downtown Calgary riding. Her campaign manager, William McBeath, is the Wildrose Party’s Political Operations and Communications Director.

Mr. Turner’s campaign has criticized Mr. Locke for not living in the riding (he lives in Banff) and Mr. Locke’s campaign has accused Mr. Turner of splitting the anti-conservative vote in the riding. All campaigns have made use of social media, Mr. Locke’s campaign recently launched a Tumblr for Calgarians to show their support for his campaign.

While Ms. Crockatt’s and Mr. Locke’s campaigns have mainly focused on the tried and true strategy of doorknocking, Mr. Turner has incorporated some tactical and guerrilla style techniques into his campaign, which has helped create an air of excitement around the Green Party candidate (Mr. Turner has been seen delivering flash speeches on Calgary transit buses and holding numerous intimate coffee and wine and cheese parties).

Chris Turner Linda Johnson Green Party Calgary-Centre
Calgary-Glenmore PC MLA Linda Johnson (left) stopped by Chris Turner’s (right) campaign office to visit her daughter (centre), who is volunteering on the Green campaign (Photo by @rottonchild on Instagram).

Meanwhile, all parties have benefited from high-profile visits. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney met with groups of seniors in the riding with Ms Crockatt today. Conservative MPs Michelle Rempel and Blake Richards joined Mr. Crockatt on the campaign trail last week

Outgoing Liberal leader Bob Rae campaigned with Mr. Locke today and leadership candidate Justin Trudeau is making a second appearance in Calgary-Centre on November 19. Former Ontario MP Martha Hall Findlay is expected to used Calgary as her launch pad into the Liberal leadership campaign.

Mr. Turner has benefited from the support of key organizers from Mayor Naheed Nenshi‘s 2010 election campaign. On November 17, Green Party leader Elizabeth May and famous environmentalist David Suzuki will be attending a “Turning Point” rally at Scarboro United Church in support of Mr. Turner’s candidacy. Mr. Turner was event pictured in a photo online with Calgary-Glenmore PC MLA Linda Johnson, whose daughter is volunteering with the Green Party campaign.

Meanwhile, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair made an appearance at a packed rally tonight to support Mr. Meades campaign in Calgary-Centre. Mr. Meades, the director of Vibrant Communities Calgary, was also joined on the campaign trail by Edmonton-Calder MLA David Eggen last week.

How Alberta’s federal politicians voted on Motion 312.

This week, Members of Parliament in Ottawa voted on Motion 312, which if passed could have re-opened a divisive debate about a woman’s right to make decisions concerning her own body. Thankfully, Motion 312 was defeated 203-91 votes, but it remains disappointing that in this modern age one-third of federal MPs stood in favour of this Motion.

Eight of Alberta’s twenty-seven MPs voted against and nineteen voted in favour of the Motion (the riding of Calgary-Centre is not currently represented in the House of Commons following the resignation of MP Lee Richardson).

Alberta MP Vote Bill motion 312
How Alberta’s Members of Parliament voted on Motion 312: Yay (Blue), Nay (Red)

The Alberta MPs who voted against the motion were Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan, Macleod MP Ted MenziesCalgary-East MP Deepak ObhraiCalgary-Centre North MP Michelle RempelWild Rose MP Blake Richards, Calgary-Northeast MP Devinder Shory, and Edmonton-Sherwood Park MP Tim Uppal.

“transparency” is hard when your party has been in power for 41 years.

Premier Alison Redford Alberta
Premier Alison Redford

Surrounded by dozens of Tory MLAs at a late-afternoon press conference, Premier Alison Redford announced plans to make the expense claims of all cabinet ministers, MLAs, and government officials publicly available on the internet.

After a summer of scandals and embarrassing revelations, ranging from the overflowing expense accounts of former regional health authority executive Allaudin Merali and current University of Calgary board chairman Doug Black, the suspicious hiring of former cabinet minister Evan Berger, and the cancellation of funding to a long-promised police college in Fort Macleod, Alberta Tories must be desperately thirsty for anything that could be cast as a good news story.

The new rules place limits on the purchase of business class airline tickets and a ban on expensing alcohol. What format the expense disclosures will be made available online is still unknown. As I wrote about last month, not all online transparency is created equally (or accessibly). As has also been pointed out by political reporters online, the new rules are unclear if there will be sanctions for employees who break the new expense rules. It is also unclear if the rationale behind any special exemptions, made by the Treasury Board, will be made public.

Yesterday’s burst of transparency comes one week after Premier Redford and Finance Minister Doug Horner were widely criticized for only not releasing the full data from the quarterly provincial fiscal update which predicted a potential $3 billion deficit. Earlier in the summer, it was announced that Elections Alberta investigations into illegal donations to the Progressive Conservative Party would also remain secret.

Perhaps trying to create a positive defining narrative for Premier Redford’s government, which has been largely absent since the April 2012 election, Ontario-based public relations and issues management expert Stefan Baranski has been tapped to work with the Premier. A Principal with Counsel Public Affairs, Mr. Baranski founded ontarionewswatch.com and served as senior advisor to PC leaders Tim Hudak and John Tory, and Premier Ernie Eves. In 2010, he served a Director of Communications and chief spokesperson for Toronto mayoral candidate George Smitherman.

Earlier this year, Calgary-Centre Conservative Member of Parliament Lee Richardson left Ottawa to join Premier Redford’s staff as her Principal Secretary. I am told that long-time Tory and Volunteer Alberta executive director Karen Lynch recently joined Premier Redford’s staff as her director of tours and schedules.

calgary-centre conservatives and liberals choosing their by-election candidates.

On Saturday, August 25, Conservative Party members in the riding of Calgary-Centre will choose a candidate to carry their party’s banner in an upcoming and yet-to-be called by-election. Six candidates are contesting the nomination. The Conservative candidate is widely expected to win the by-election in this moderate conservative voting downtown Calgary riding. Here is a quick look at the Conservative Party nomination candidates:

Rick Billington: Lawyer and Conservative Party insider. Endorsed by Alberta Progressive Conservative Party president Bill Smith, Manitoba Senator Don Plett, Manitoba MP Joy Smith and former PC MP for Calgary-Centre Harvie Andre, former Calgary-Southwest PC MP Bobbie Sparrow.

Joan Crockatt Stephen Harper Calgary Centre
Joan Crockatt and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Joan Crockatt: Political commentator and former managing editor of the Calgary Herald. Ms. Crockatt was spokesperson for candidate Barb Higgins during the 2010 mayoral election. She has been endorsed by Prince Edward Island Senator Mike Duffy.

Jon Lord Calgary Centre Conservative
Jon Lord

Jon Lord: Former PC MLA for Calgary-Currie (2001-2004) and Alderman (1995-2001). Owner of Casablanca Video and active in the Marda Loop community. Mr. Lord ran unsuccessfully to become mayor of Calgary in 2010 and for the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie in 2012. In the past, Mr. Lord has been connected to the socially conservative Progressive Group for Independent Business and its leader Craig Chandler. He has been endorsed by Calgary Alderman Peter Demong. In a message on his Facebook Page, Mr. Lord recently accused his opponents of vandalizing his Wikipedia biography.

Greg McLean: Former president of the Calgary-Centre Conservative District Association. Campaign manager for former MP Lee Richardson, who endorsed Mr. McLean last week. Mr. McLean is also said to have the support of Calgary-Currie PC MLA and Tourism Minister Christine Cusanelli. On twitter, former Wildrose president Jeff Calloway called Mr. McLean “a strong conservative”.

Mr. McLean’s campaign manager is Dustin Franks, who served as Mr. Richardson’s executive assistant until his recent resignation. Mr. Franks was also campaign manager to Aldermanic candidate Sean Chu during the 2010 municipal election and has worked for PC MLAs Doug Griffiths and Manmeet Bhullar.

 

Joe Soares Thomas Mulcair
Joe Soares attacks Thomas Mulcair.

Joe Soares (aka “Calgary Joe”): Quebec political organizer and Conservative Party activist. Has accused NDP leader Thomas Mulcair of wanting to destroy Alberta’s economy and has criticized his opponent Ms. Crockatt for political columns she penned in the Calgary Herald. Endorsed by Ontario’s Senator Doug Finley and Manitoba MP Rod Bruinooge.

Stefan Spargo Stephen Harper Calgary Centre
Stefan Spargo and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Stefan Spargo: Former campaign manager for MP Mr. Richardson and Conservative official in Calgary-Centre. Mr. Spargo made an unsuccessful bid for the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie before the 2012 provincial election.

The Liberal Party is unlikely to place any higher than their traditional second place in this downtown Calgary constituency. In 2011, candidate Jennifer Pollock earned 17% of the vote to Mr. Richardson’s 57%. Privately, one Liberal organizer suggested to this blogger that 35% may be the optimistic ceiling for Liberal candidate in this by-election (note, optimistic). There are two officially approved candidates seeking the Liberal Party nomination on September 15. A third candidate is said to have entered the race, but has yet to be approved by the central party. Here is a look at the Liberal Party candidates:

Harvey Locke: Lawyer, well-known conservationist, and former president of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. Mr. Locke ran as a Liberal candidate in the 1989 provincial election in Calgary-Foothills. Word on the street is that he has the support of popular Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann (who, at one point, was suspected to be eying the NDP nomination).

Rahim Sajan: Educator and organizer of TEDxCalgary. Mr. Sajan’s supporters include Zain Velji, who was 2012 campaign manager for Calgary-Varsity PC MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans.

Steve Turner: A former supporter of Manitoba Conservative MP Mr. Bruinooge. A Liberal insider told this blogger that Mr. Turner is seeking the Liberal nomination because he “decided that the conservatives are not progressive on social issues.” His nomination papers have yet to be approved by the Liberal Party.

Meanwhile, a poll of Calgary-Centre voters conducted by Forum Research for the Huffington Post showed the Conservatives with 44% support, the Liberals with 21%, the New Democrats with 14% and the Green Party with 12%.