After 44 years as government, Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party built an impressive patronage machine. For many decades, there very likely has not been a board with provincially appointed members that did not enjoy the presence of a PC Party member. That political machine ground to a halt on May 5 when Albertans swept Rachel Notley‘s New Democratic Party into office.
As the NDP transition into office is the first real change of power since 1971, we can expect that many PC-connected appointees on numerous agencies, boards and commissions will exit or not have their terms renewed in the next few years. The same can be said for a slew of ideologically-based advocacy groups that have enjoyed generous funding from the PC Government in recent years.
While having a PC Party membership should not automatically preclude an individual from serving on a public board in the future, as many honest Albertans have held a membership in that party over its four decades in power, it will no longer be a golden ticket into the corridors of power in Alberta.
Here is a quick look at some prominent PC Party members, supporters and former MLAs and cabinet ministers who are currently serving in government appointed roles at colleges and universities:
- University of Alberta Board of Governors chairman Doug Goss demonstrated a servere lack of good judgement when he fumbled through a the mid-election press conference with three other corporate CEOs to denounce the NDP as “amateurs.” Mr. Goss is a former Vice-President of Finance for the PC Party and served as campaign co-chair for the party’s re-election campaign in 2008.
- MacEwan University Board of Governors chairman John Day signed the infamous CEO letter but had the good sense not to show up at Mr. Goss’ disastrous press conference. Mr. Day has donated thousands of dollars to the PC Party, according to Elections Alberta records.
- Former PC cabinet minister Ray Danyluk is chair of the Portage College Board of Governors. The opposition criticized the 2013 appointment in light of a CBC investigation which discovered that Portage College made thousands of dollars in illegal political donations the PC Party and constituency associations.
- Former PC Party President Margaret Mrazek is the current Acting Chair of Athabasca University Board of Governors and also serves on the Seniors Advisory Council of Alberta.
- Former Grande Prairie PC Party constituency president Peter Merlo is chair of Grande Prairie Regional College Board of Governors and vice-chair Stewart Wilson is former president of the Grande Prairie-Smoky PC Association.
- Darren Hirsch is chairman of the Medicine Hat College Board of Governors and was the PC candidate in Medicine Hat during the 2012 election.
- Joe Lougheed, the son of former premier Peter Lougheed who ran for the PC Party presidency in 2007, is chairman of the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) Board of Governors. In 2013, Mr. Lougheed was cleared by the Lobbyist Registrar for his role in a lobbying controversy involving the Alberta College of Art and Design.
Here are a number of other high-profile PC supporters who are serving in government appointed roles:
- Former finance minister Iris Evans sits on the board of the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation.
- Former cabinet minister Lorne Taylor is chairman of the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency. As Environment Minister in 2002, Dr. Taylor spearheaded the PC Government’s opposition to the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
- Former PC MLA Denis Herard is a public appointee to the Workers’ Compensation Board.
- Former PC MLA Gary Friedel chairs the Community Development Advisory Board.
- Former PC MLA LeRoy Johnson is a member of the Alberta Sport Connection (formerly Alberta Sports, Recreation and Parks Foundation).
- Defeated Calgary-Varsity PC candidate Susan Billington is a member of the Kananaskis Improvement District Council, which faced criticism during the election for approving an $5.4-million expenditure on a closed privately-operated golf course.
- Barry Heck is executive board chair of the Alberta Economic Development Authority. In 2012, Mr. Heck is reported to have brokered a $430,000 donation to the PC Party from billionaire sports-team owner Daryl Katz.
The last Social Credit Party education minister, Robert Clark, currently serves as chair of the Board of Governors of Olds College. Mr. Clark was elected as Social Credit MLA for Olds-Didsbury in 1960 at the age of 23 and served until 1981. He was Leader of the Official Opposition from 1973 to 1980.