Tag Archives: Link Byfield

The ghosts of senate reform haunt the Harper Conservatives

Stephen Harper Senate Conservatives Reform

Howling “RREEEEFFFOOOORRRRMMMM,” the ghosts of the Reform Party stumble towards the Conservative Party Convention in Calgary (Yes, this is a photo of zombies, but ghosts don’t stumble).

The ghosts of Senate reform will haunt Prime Minister Stephen Harper as his party establishment gathers in Calgary on Halloween to discuss and debate party policy. After more than seven years in office, Mr. Harper’s Conservatives have accomplished little on the issue of reforming the Canadian Senate.

Who would have thought that a Senate scandal involving Conservative appointees could potentially be one of the defining stories of Mr. Harper’s third-term as Prime Minister? Was Mr. Harper not the Prime Minister who vowed to reform Canada’s archaic upper house of Parliament?

While the federal Conservatives had hoped to end this particular Senate scandal with the announcement of a new free trade agreement with the European Union and a consumer-first agenda, the wrath of Conservative Senators scorned has dominated the headlines.

After being ejected from Conservative Party ranks, Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau, all appointed by Mr. Harper, have proven to be incredibly dangerous liabilities. Accused of improper spending and expenses, the three former Conservatives have turned on their former party and are drawing national attention to alleged improper activities of Mr. Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright.

Senate reform was a defining policy for the now defunct Reform Party of Canada and a historical grievance that many western Conservatives hoped would finally be resolved when the Canadian Alliance (the Reform Party’s rebranded name) merged with the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 2003. While the crusade for a Triple-E Senate (equal, elected and effective) helped propel the Reform Party onto the national stage in the early 1990s, there does not appear to be much political appetite for this type of reform among Canada’s political leaders.

Since becoming Prime Minister in 2006, Mr. Harper has appointed at least 52 of the Senate’s 106 members, including many failed Conservative party candidates or close associates of the Prime Minister. Despite his claims that he would approach the Senate differently, Mr. Harper has proven by his actions that he is not much different than Prime Ministers Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, or Paul Martin.

In Alberta, the only province to have held elections for Senate nominees, the votes have attracted low levels of attention and there is no indication that the upper chamber is more effective with the three current elected nominees that have been appointed.

Popular Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, seen by many as a potential successor to Mr. Harper, announced today that his government will revoke its support for Senate nominee election in favour of supporting abolishment of the Senate. This positions Mr. Wall alongside Official Opposition NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, who has embraced NDP’s long-standing position that the Senate should be abolished.

The Reform Party’s first leader, Preston Manning, in his role as the godfather of Canada’s conservatives, will today be hosting an all-day Manning Foundation symposium on the future of the Senate. Speakers will include Member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre, former Alberta MLA Ted Morton,  retired Liberal Senator Dan Hays, Calgary School chieftains Tom Flanagan and Rainer Knopff, and former Senator-nominee turned Wildrose Party candidate Link Byfield. This and other Manning Foundation events will coincide with official Conservative Party events in Calgary this weekend.

Provincial NDP take Lethbridge

Meanwhile, in southern Alberta, provincial New Democrats will gather this weekend for their annual convention  in Lethbridge. Delegates will hear from NDP strategist Anne McGrath and Robyn Benson, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

At the annual meeting, NDP leader Brian Mason will not face a leadership review, but his party activists will debate some changes to party operations. One topic of debate will be whether the party holds annual conventions or moves to biennial conventions. Party members are also expected to debate whether the Labour movement should have two vice-presidents represented on the party’s executive council.

Most of the province outside of Edmonton is bleak for the social democratic party, but Lethbridge has provided a glimmer of hope that the NDP plan to build on. In the 2011 federal election, the NDP saw their support double to 27% and in the 2012 provincial election, Lethbridge-West candidate Shannon Phillips placed a strong second in a three-way race won by PC MLA Greg Weadick.

thorny candidates could be the wildrose party’s biggest liability.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Alberta

Danielle Smith (photo from Wildrose Facebook page)

As the face of the campaign, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith is her party’s biggest asset. She is media savvy, personable and, despite her limited governance experience (one year as a trustee on the dysfunctional Calgary Board of Education), she talks about becoming Premier with more confidence than any opposition leader in a long time.

But looking beyond the high-profile face of the Wildrose Party, which polls from the first week of the campaign suggest could be poised to form government, Albertans should be asking important questions about who would serve as cabinet ministers in a Wildrose Party government? The Premier is only one person at the table. Which Wildrose candidate would serve as Minister of Justice, Minister of Education, Minister of Finance, and Minister of Health?

Ask most Albertans to name a Wildrose candidate outside their own riding, and they will probably respond with a puzzled face. The lack of “star-candidates” is likely a product of timing. The Wildrose Party began to hold its candidate nominations in 2010 during a time when the party was seen to have peaked and was sitting in the mid-teens in the polls. What the party ended up with were plenty of well meaning candidates, but not many who would be defined as “star candidates.”

The recent success of the federal NDP in Quebec provides a textbook example of why any party should take seriously the candidates it nominates to run under its banner, even if it does not look like they might form government at the time.

If the Wildrose Party are to form the next government in Alberta, an important question needs to be asked about whether their candidates are the kind of politicians that Albertans want running the show. Here is a look at some of the Wildrose candidates who could end up serving as a cabinet minister under Premier Danielle Smith:

Link Byfield Wildrose Barrhead Morinville Westlock

Link Byfield

Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock candidate Link Byfield is the former publisher of the right-wing Alberta Report magazine. As has been noted elsewhere, Mr. Byfield was the president of the Society to Explore and Record Christian History and the founder of the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy, which stands, among other things, “against expanding influence of the Charter of Rights.”

John Carpay Wildrose Calgary Lougheed

John Carpay

Calgary-Lougheed candidate John Carpay penned an opinion-editorial in the National Post in 1994 which criticized Premier Ralph Klein for not invoking the Notwithstanding Clause to block the Supreme Court decision forcing Alberta to include protection of homosexuals from discrimination.

More recently, Mr. Carpay defended the University of Calgary Campus Pro-Life Club and was part of the legal team which defended anti-gay activist Bill Whatcott against charges in Saskatchewan. (Mr. Whatcott was recently detained by the police for distributing anti-gay hate literature to homes in northwest Calgary).

Ron Leech Wildrose Calgary Greenway

Ron Leech

Calgary-Greenway Wildrose candidate and evangelical pastor Ron Leech penned an article in the Calgary Herald in 2004 which argued “to affirm homosexuality is to distort the image of God, to insult the nature and being of God.” Perhaps this fits with Ms. Smith’s ideas on conscience rights (which has angered at least one now former Wildrose supporter).

Edmonton-South West candidate Allan Hunsperger is the self-described pioneer in the establishment of Alberta’s private schools in the late seventies and founder of Heritage Christian Schools.

Don Koziak Wildrose Edmonton Glenora

Don Koziak

Edmonton-Glenora candidate Don Koziak‘s short-lived mayoral bid in 2010 was kicked off by a promise to halt LRT expansion, calling the public transit “enormously environmentally unfriendly.” When asked what he would do differently, Mr. Koziak trumpeted the construction of more “interchanges and wider roads.” Toronto Mayor Rob Ford would be proud.

Edmonton-Castle Downs candidate John Oplanich, kicked off his campaign by offering to raffle a free big screen televisionto voters who would support him.

Andrew Constantinidis Wildrose Calgary-West

Andrew Constantinidis

– A number of Wildrose candidates running in Edmonton constituencies have indicated over the past year that they would re-open the acrimonious City Centre Airport debate, even though elected City Councillors have already made the decision to phase out operations of the tiny downtown airport.

– As I have already written, a few Wildrose candidates from Calgary have strong connections with controversial Conservative MP Rob Anders. This includes Calgary-West candidate Andrew Constantinidis, who served as Mr. Anders’ local constituency president and media coordinator during the 2011 federal election.

These are the highest profile stories around these candidates, the truth is that outside of Ms. Smith and the four established Wildrose MLA’s running for re-election, surprisingly little is known about the party’s candidates. And the Wildrose Party has done a superb job of focusing the media’s and voters attention on what they want, namely Ms. Smith and ensuring that she, rather than their candidates are the ones making headlines.

alberta election day 1: campaign kick-offs and legalizing prostitution.

With hours of the election being called yesterday, Premier Alison Redford kicked-off the Progressive Conservative campaign at the campaign office of Edmonton-Glenora MLA Heather Klimchuk.

First-term MLA Ms. Klimchuk is facing one of the most hotly contested races in the province, with strong challenges by former public school trustee and Alberta Party candidate Sue Huff, former Liberal MLA Bruce Miller, former NDP MLA Ray Martin, and past mayoral candidate and Wildrose candidate Don Koziak. The central Edmonton constituency has become a swing-riding in recent elections, but it was once held by Tory MLA’s Lou Hyndman and Nancy Betkowski.

After the campaign launch, Twitter reported her having visited a Tim Horton’s on the way to visit the campaign of new candidate Steve Christie in Lacombe-Ponoka. Last week, Mr. Christie replaced two-term MLA Ray Prins, who resigned after it was revealed he was being paid to chair a legislative committee that had not met in four years.

Eager to grab a scoop, two major television networks released the results of polls they commissioned in recent days. An Ipsos Reid online poll commissioned by Global News reports that the PC and Wildrose Party are tied at 38% support. The online poll surveyed 890 Albertans participating in Ipsos Reid’s online household panel (I am unclear how big the pool of Albertans in this online panel is). A CTV News commissioned ThinkHQ survey shows 44% of Albertans surveyed say the PCs don’t deserve to be reelected. No details of how these results were collected, sample size, or margin of error were included in the online news report. Poor reporting of these polls aside, these results could represent a shift in attitudes over the past month.

Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman will kickoff his party’s southern Alberta campaign at MLA Kent Hehr‘s Calgary-Buffalo campaign office this morning. Continuing to focus on health care and Premier Redford’s decision not to hold an independent judicial inquiry into health care issues, Dr. Sherman will be joined by a guest speaker who will talk about the issue of bullying and intimidation.

The Liberals are quickly filling their slate of nominations and I will update my list as I become aware of the new candidates.

Alberta Party Election 2012 Kickoff Calgary

The Alberta Party kicked off their election campaign in Calgary (photo from the Alberta Party Facebook Page).

Fresh from launching their election platform, the Alberta Party held campaign launches in Calgary and Edmonton. Leader Glenn Taylor, who is running in the West Yellowhead constituency, joined candidates at Ms. Huff’s campaign office in Edmonton-Glenora.

NDP leader Brian Mason is visiting the campaigns of Edmonton-Calder candidate David Eggen and Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview candidate Deron Bilous today, and will make an announcement about his party’s health care platform.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Alberta Election 2012 Day 1

Danielle Smith, with Link Byfield by her side (photo taken from screenshot of video).

Danielle Smith kicked off the first day of the campaign surrounded by Edmonton area candidates, and with Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock candidate Link Byfield by her side (Watch the video here).

Perhaps a sign of things to come in this election campaign, the PC’s launched their first salvo against Ms. Smith yesterday afternoon on an issue that no one would have predicted. Following the Ontario Appeal Court’s decision saying that prostitutes’ rights are violated by some criminal law, the PC’s released quotes from a Calgary Herald column penned by Ms. Smith in 2003 where she advocated legalizing the sex trade.

Some of Ms. Smith’s libertarian views may pose a threat to the conservative coalition of like-minded libertarians and social conservatives that she has worked hard to build. I have little doubt the Tories will take every opportunity to expose these types of cleavages in Ms. Smith’s record, with the purpose of breaking her coalition, as well as pushing wavering moderate conservatives back into the Tory camp.

Opinions that politicians have put out into the public sphere are fair game for use by opponents and are a cautionary tale for columnists, bloggers, or even tweeters with electoral ambitions. Loose tweets sink fleets and columns supporting the legalization of prostitution will be used against you.

15 races to watch in alberta’s 2012 election.

In the lead up to the Alberta’s 2012 election, I have identified fifteen constituencies across the province that could produce interesting contests and results when the election is called.

15 races to watch in Alberta's 2012 election.

15 races to watch in Alberta's 2012 election.

1) Highwood
The Wildrose Party has staked their future in the success of leader Danielle Smith and I expect that party will pull out all the stops to ensure she is elected. The PCs have nominated newspaper editor John Barlow to replace retiring PC MLA George Groeneveld.

2) Edmonton-Meadowlark
This area has deep Liberal roots, having first elected MLA Grant Mitchell in 1986, but since 2001 it has become a swing-riding electing both Liberals and PCs. Currently held by former PC MLA and now Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman, the next vote will be a test of his personal popularity as he runs under his new party’s banner. He will face former PC MLA Bob Maskell, who served from 2001 until 2004.

3) Edmonton-Calder
Voters in this constituency are notorious swing-voters. No incumbent has been re-elected here since 1997. Current PC MLA Doug Elniski made a last minute announcement that he would not seek re-election, leaving former school trustee and newly nominated candidate Bev Esslinger not a lot of time to catch up. Former MLA David Eggen has been campaigning in Calder for the past three years and is expected to launch a well-organized campaign. Wildrose candidate Rich Neumann may play kingmaker if he is able to attract enough past PC voters.

4) Calgary-Glenmore
In 2009, outgoing Wildrose leader Paul Hinman narrowly won a hotly contested by-election that was seen as a referendum on then-Premier Ed Stelmach‘s popularity in Calgary (which was low). With new Premier Alison Redford representing the neighboring constituency, PC candidate Linda Johnson may receive a warmer reception at the doors. Throw into the mix former Mount Royal College instructor Craig Cheffins, who served as the Liberal MLA for Calgary-Elbow from 2007 to 2008, and the outcome of this race could be difficult to predict.

5) Edmonton-Glenora
Represented by both PC and Liberal MLAs over the past twenty years, this constituency could be a key battleground for five opposition parties in the next election. Former Liberal MLA Bruce Miller is challenging PC cabinet minister Heather Klimchuk, who unseated him by 136 votes in 2008. Rev. Miller is not the only challenger in this election. The Alberta Party is pinning their hopes on former school trustee Sue Huff, the NDP have nominated former MLA and leader Ray Martin, and the Wildrose have chosen past Mayoral candidate Don Koziak.

6) Calgary-Varsity
With the retirement of popular two-term Liberal MLA Harry Chase, the Liberals have nominated former carpenters’ union official Bruce Payne, who ran for that party’s leadership in 2011. The PCs have chosen former Nexen vice-president Donna Kennedy-Glans. The results of this race will be a critical indicator of whether the Liberals can hold on to, and build on, important gains made in Calgary during the past two elections.

7) Chestermere-Rockyview
Energy Minister Ted Morton will face off against former Global Calgary news anchor and Wildrose candidate Bruce McAllister. The Wildrose attacked Minister Morton’s credentials as a “fiscal mallard” while he was Finance Minister and by nominating Mr. McAllister they are showing that they will not give him a pass in the next election.

8 ) Airdrie
When first-term PC MLA Rob Anderson joined the Wildrose in 2010, he automatically became a target of his former party, who have nominated Alderman Kelly Hegg as their candidate. The Airdrie area has typically voted for the PCs, but voters in this region have been known to elect opposition candidates in the past (Western Canadian Concept MLA Gordon Kesler was elected in 1982 and Liberal MLA Don MacDonald was elected in 1992).

9) Cardston-Taber-Warner
After being unseated by Wildorse MLA Mr. Hinman in 2004, PC MLA Broyce Jacobs won a narrow victory in 2008. Fast forward to 2012, Mr. Jacobs has lost his party’s nomination to Pat Shimbashi and the Wildrose has nominated Sterling Deputy Mayor Gary Bikman. If the Wildrose are to pick up seats in the election, this will likely be one.

10) Edmonton-Rutherford
In a rematch of the closest race of the 2008 election, PC MLA Fred Horne will face former Liberal MLA Rick Miller. While 2008 a two-way contest, the 2012 contest is more interesting with the presence of community organizer and Alberta Party candidate Michael Walters and Wildrose candidate Kyle McLeod.

11) Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo
After winning four elections as this constituency’s PC candidate, late-blooming Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier will face Wood Buffalo deputy mayor Mike Allen in the upcoming vote. After decades as a municipal and provincial politician, this election may be more a test of Mr. Boutilier’s personal support than that of his new party.

12) Edmonton-Gold Bar
A Liberal Party stronghold since 1986, the retirement of MLA Hugh MacDonald and the redistribution of electoral boundaries south encompassing Tory-voting neighbourhoods may give second-time PC candidate David Dorward a boost. Liberal candidate Josipa Petrunic is a well-spoken and passionate partisan who hopes to hold the constituency for her party. The NDP have nominated Marlin Schmidt and hope to capitalize on local support for NDP MP Linda Duncan.

13) Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview
A close contest in 2008 saw former PC MLA Tony Vandermeer defeat NDP MLA Ray Martin. In 2012, Mr. Vandermeer will face a strong challenge from NDP candidate Deron Bilous.

14) Lethbridge-West
After twenty years of close races, voters in this constituency have proven themselves to be deeply divided between the PCs and Liberals. This election, first-term PC MLA Greg Weadick and second-time Liberal candidate Bal Boora will be joined by NDP candidate Shannon Phillips, who has launched a spirited campaign, and Wildrose candidate Kevin Kinahan. Even if Mr. Weadick is re-elected, the real story may be who places second in this politically moderate southern Alberta constituency.

15) Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock
After more than three decades in the Assembly, the departure of PC MLA Ken Kowalski has created a large void to fill in this constituency north of Edmonton. The PCs have nominated Westlock County Councillor Maureen Kubinec, who will face off against her main opponent Wildrose candidate Link Byfield. Mr. Byfield has been campaigning for more than a year and could make gains if he is able to tap into the base of social conservative voters in this constituency.

ken kowalski chooses retirement over death in office.

Ken Kowalski Speaker Alberta MLA

Retiring Speaker Ken Kowalski

He once told Albertans that he would “die in office” rather than retire and collect his gold plated severance package, but this week Speaker Ken Kowalski opted for retirement instead of the afterlife. The long-time MLA announced yesterday in a letter to the Progressive Conservative Party that he would not be seeking re-election in the Spring 2012 provincial election. He was in August 2011.

Speaker Kowalski is the longest serving MLA in the Assembly and was first elected in a 1979 by-election in the Barrhead constituency. His absence will undoubtably lead to a hotly contested PC nomination in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock. Hoping to capture the seat from the Tories is Wildrose candidate and former Alberta Report publisher Link Byfield, who has been on the hustings for more than a year.

Upon his retirement, Speaker Kowalski is expected to collect $1,271,600 in transition allowance, and it is suspected that he may also collect $54,000 per year from the now-defunct MLA pension that was dissolved in 1992. His retirement announcement takes place before a review of MLA salaries and benefits, led by retired Justice John Major, can take place.

This MLA pay review initiated by Premier Alison Redford may succeed in forcing generational change in the PC caucus by prompting the retirement of a number of stodgy former Tory cabinet ministers, including Sherwood Park MLA Iris Evans, Grande Prairie-Smoky MLA Mel Knight, Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Lloyd Snelgrove, Banff-Cochrance MLA Janis Tarchuk, and current Finance Minister and Calgary-West MLA Ron Liepert.

joe anglin speaks. wildrose candidates get creative with their biographies.

Joe Anglin Wildrose Alberta Rocky Mountain House - Sundre

Joe Anglin

As reported on this blog earlier this week, and reported by the mainstream media yesterday, Joe Anglin has been nominated as the Wildrose candidate in the newly created constituency of Rocky Mountain House-Sundre.

Mr. Anglin is a well-known landowners rights advocate and was the last leader of the now defunct Alberta Green Party, but you will not learn that from the short biography released by the Wildrose yesterday. His past party leadership position was omitted from the party’s official media release circulated yesterday.

According to Wildrose Director of Communications William McBeath, the omissions were not the party’s doing, they were Mr. Anglin’s. “Joe provided info for his bio – his wording was used,” wrote Mr. McBeath in an email.

When asked about the omission, Mr. Anglin responded that “the bio was limited to 100 words” and that the two omissions in the short-biography are well-known facts in his constituency. “I will run on my reputation as an advocate of landowner rights,” wrote Mr. Anglin in an email.

Why did Anglin join the Wildrose?

When asked about his conversion from the former Green Party to the right-wing Wildrose, Mr. Anglin told this blogger that he chose his new party because they “supported and recognized the importance of my work advocating for landowner rights, and democratic principles.”

Since becoming leader, Danielle Smith focused on landowners rights one of her party’s key issues to drive a wedge between rural landowners and the party they traditionally support, the Progressive Conservatives.

“Danielle [Smith] met with me multiple times. She listened to me and then convinced me that if I am elected, I will be able to represent the people of my constituency, as they see fit,” wrote Mr. Anglin. “This is an important principle for many voters in my constituency and it is a very sensitive issue for me. People are not asking to be heard anymore, they are demanding to be heard.”

“What is not well known is that many Green Party supporters joined the Wildrose Party before I did, for this very reason,” wrote Mr. Anglin. “In summary, it wasn’t so much the party, as it was the issues. As long as the Wildrose Party walks the talk — this riding will be a Wildrose riding.”

Wildrose candidates write selective biographies.

While Mr. Anglin’s biography may have just included some honest omissions, he is not the first Wildrose candidate to leave certain biographical information off the official record. As pointed out on the talented David Climenhaga‘s blogBarrhead-Morinville-Westlock candidate Link Byfield‘s online biographies appear to have been scrapped of the fact that he was once the president of the bizarre sounding Society to Explore and Record Christian History.

Seeking the Wildrose nomination in Calgary-North West is candidate Russell Hillier, a founding member of the Canadian Culture and Integration Society, which is dedicated to reducing mass-immigration and eliminating official multiculturalism in Canada. Mr. Hillier’s involvement in this anti-immigration group is omitted from his campaign website biography and the organization’s website has mysteriously disappeared since I first wrote about his connections to the group in July 2011.

Even the recently nominated Wildrose candidate in St. Albert, former Alderman James Burrows, pumped up his biography, claiming to be a “Corporate Sales Specialist” (a more vague job title could not be found). I am told that he actually works for Lowe’s Canada in South Edmonton Common and runs his own television installation company, two respectable occupations that do not need to be omitted or hidden behind a vague job title. Yet they are.

Perhaps a creative editing course is a requirement for Wildrose candidates?

alberta senate elections in 2011 or 2012.

Via Postmedia News, Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidates are calling for another round of Senator-in-Waiting elections to happen concurrent with the next provincial election:

“We want them (Senate nominees) to be current. We don’t want to end up with a stale list,” said Alison Redford, Calgary-Elbow member of provincial legislature and the lone female candidate in the Tory race. “There must be another election and we may as well hold it in conjunction with the next provincial election.”

Redford believes Albertans should elect three Senate nominees who could fill the three vacancies over the next few years. Liberal Sen. Tommy Banks faces retirement in December 2011; Conservative Sen. Bert Brown must retire by March 2013; and Liberal Sen. Joyce Fairbairn by November 2014.

Alberta has held three Senate elections, in 1989, 1998, and 2004. One of Ms. Redford’s opponents, former Finance Minister Ted Morton was elected as a Senator-in-Waiting in 1998 and gave up the position-in-waiting when he ran in the 2004 provincial election in the Foothills-Rockyview constituency. PC candidates elected in the 2004 contest include Senator-no-longer-in-waiting Bert Brown, and Senators-still-waiting Betty UngerCliff Breitkreuz, and Senator-got-tired-of-waiting Link Byfield (who is now the Wildrose candidate in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock).

The Wildrose announced yesterday that its former Executive Director, Vitor Marciano, would be one of its candidates in the next Senate election. Mr. Marciano is a well-known Conservative Party of Canada operative in Alberta. It is unknown whether the other opposition parties would support candidates in a Senate election.

The last Liberal to stand in a Senate election was Calgary lawyer Bill Code, who placed second in the 1989 contest. The New Democrats support the abolition of the Senate, but in 1998, future NDP candidate in Edmonton-Glenora Guy Desrosiers stood as an Independent Senate candidate (and placed third with 16.7% of the vote).

wildrose drops the alliance.

New Wildrose Alliance Logo

Before and after, the new Wildrose logo.

As hundreds of party members meet at their annual general meeting in Calgary this weekend, political observers may have noticed a quiet marketing shift that has seen the Wildrose Alliance drop the word “Alliance” from their logo on their website and url in their press releases (using wildrose.ca instead).

 

It also puts behind them a bizarre period of their party’s history when a splinter group led by Rob James and Link Byfield left the Paul Hinman led Alberta Alliance to form the Wildrose Party. The two parties merged once again in the months before the 2008 provincial election under the banner of the Wildrose Alliance.

It is an interesting visual shift as that party now led by Danielle Smith prepares for an election, which is expected to be held soon after the Progressive Conservatives choose a new leader in September 2011.

Former Edmonton-Strathcona Conservative candidate Ryan Hastman is joining the Wildrose political staff in an election readiness role. Popular talk radio host Mike Blanchard is seeking the Wildrose nomination in Calgary-Buffalo. Mr. Blanchard had sought the nomination in Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill but was defeated by Roy Alexander.

The party is also rebuilding in Medicine Hat, where internal fighting forced high-profile candidate Milvia Bauman to step down late last year.

alberta politics inside and outside the dome.

Alberta’s Legislative Assembly resumes for Fall Sitting in a constantly changing political environment.

As the leaves fall and winter approaches, so does the resumption of the venerable institution known as the Alberta Legislative Assembly. Much has changed since last year’s Fall Sitting in Edmonton.

When MLAs return to the Assembly next Monday, they will have a few unfinished business to continue. The summer months have been far from quiet on Alberta’s political landscape. Premier Ed Stelmach has focused on promoting the oilsands to both audiences internationally and at home, including a tour with Hollywood Film Director James Cameron.

Premier Ed Stelmach at his Summer BBQ at the Alberta Legislature.

There were three pieces of legislation that were left undealt with at the end of the Spring sitting. The Traffic Safety (Distracted Driving) Amendment Act, 2010 (Bill 16) which will ban the use of handheld mobile telephones while driving is back up and two private members Bills that may have little chance of reaching third reading. The Municipal Government (Local Access and Franchise Fees) Amendment Act, 2010 (Bill 203) and the Fiscal Responsibility (Spending Limit) Amendment Act, 2010 (Bill 204) are two private members bills that may have very little chance of reaching third reading. Bill 203 was introduced by Calgary-North Hill PC backbencher Kyle Fawcett, who recently had his knuckles rapped for boneheaded comments made over Twitter. Bill 204 was introduced by Airdrie-Chestermere Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson and may be blocked from ever reaching third reading by the Tory majority in the Assembly.

The Alberta Health Act will likely be the most contentious piece of legislation introduced in this sitting of the Assembly. Originally framed as a replacement for already existing pieces of health care legislation, the PC Government has since backed off after receiving an earful from Albertans in province-wide consultation meetings. The previously expected Alberta Health Act may be a shell of what it was envisioned to be when it is introduced in the next few weeks, but it could leave the door open for further legislative reforms (after the next election?).

At a media conference yesterday, Minister Gene Zwozdesky accepted recommendations from the Minister’s Advisory Committee on Health, led by Edmonton-Rutherford PC MLA Fred Horne, but used his time to take a defensive stance against his critics. Minister Zwozdesky and Mr. Horne were also unable to fully explain the purpose of their proposed non-legally-binding Health Charter when questioned by reporters. The purpose of the new Alberta Health Act was challenged by Edmonton-Riverview MLA and Liberal Health Critic Kevin Taft, who labelled the Health Charter idea as “vacant” and predicted that the new Act “will be filled with platitudes that have no legal standing and have no recourse.”

Wildrose Alliance MLAs Paul Hinman, Heather Forsyth, and Rob Anderson with their party leader Danielle Smith.

I fully expect a continuation of the blood fued between the Wildrose Caucus and Assembly Speaker Ken Kowalski to continue over the next session. Since the Wildrose Caucus grew to three MLAs with the floor-crossing of Mr. Anderson and Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Heather Forsyth in January 2010, Speaker Kowalski has used his power on the Members’ Services Committee to block any further increases in funding to the now third party caucus (the two MLA NDP Caucus still receives more funding that the 3 MLA Wildrose Caucus) and even demand that Danielle Smith‘s name be removed from media releases. Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Guy Boutilier joined the Wildrose Alliance Party in June 2010, but has remained as an Independent MLA in order to secure more research and communications funding (when he officially joins the Wildrose Caucus next week, their combined funding will decrease).

Since last session, the Wildrose have declared war on Speaker Kowalski outside the Assembly by nominating Senator-in-Waiting Link Byfield as their candidate in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock. Speaker Kowalski has represented variations of that constituency since 1979. Mr. Byfield has been endorsed by former Conservative Members of Parliament John Williams and David Chatters.

Not to be outdone by the insurgent Wildrosers, the PC Party will be holding their Annual Convention in Calgary on October 29 and 30. I am told by a number of sources that the Convention will also serve as the kickoff for a series of “discussion sessions” with PC Party members billed as Speak Easies which will attempt to reconnect the party leadership with an increasingly disillusioned voter-base in the year before the party celebrates its fortieth year in government.

Liberal leader David Swann.

After a brutal Spring sitting that included the high-profile departure of Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor from the Official Opposition Caucus, Liberal Opposition leader David Swann is looking to improve his party’s position this Fall. Dr. Swann is attempting to hitch his horse close to the Reboot Alberta group, which has attracted many partisan and non-partisan activists to its ranks during its two previous gatherings. In an email sent out today from his Calgary-Mountain View constituency office email, Dr. Swann implored his supporters to join him in attending the next Reboot Alberta meeting in Edmonton on November 5 and 6.

The NDP Caucus is probably feeling rightfully jubilant for the election of their Director of Research, Sarah Hoffman, to the Edmonton Public School Board, but those feeling of excitement may be tempered as they enter the Fall Sitting short-staffed. In early October, Communications Director Brookes Merritt left the NDP Caucus to accept a job with the Government of Alberta’s Public Affairs Bureau. Until they find a replacement, Chief of Staff Jim Gurnett is covering the Communications portfolio.

NDP MLA Rachel Notley

The NDP will be reporting tomorrow on the results of their province-wide “Earning your trust” tour that saw Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley and Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Brian Mason make summer policy announcements in a handful of cities across the province. The NDP will also be holding their annual convention in Red Deer on November 4, which will include British Columbia NDP leader Carole James as the keynote speaker (assuming that she is still leader on November 4).

Outside the dome of the Assembly Building, there are some very real political changes happening. The new Alberta Party held its Annual General Meeting in Red Deer at the beginning of October and after months of touring the province holding Big Listen events, that party will hold their first policy convention in the same city on November 13.

The Alberta Party Annual General Meeting.

The new Alberta Party has also moved forward with the hiring of their provincial organizer Michael Walters. The party will also undoubtedly benefit from having many of its members involved in recent municipal election campaigns, including Alberta Party Vice-President Chima Nkemdirim, who was the Campaign Director for Naheed Nenshi’s successful Mayoral campaign in Calgary. Mr. Walters was also heavily involved in the Election Day get out the vote organization that helped get Mayor Stephen Mandel re-elected in Edmonton.

Also not to be ignored is the role that the Wildrose Alliance played in recent municipal elections in the province’s two largest cities. The party has already hired organizers and been nominating candidates for the next provincial election, but leader Danielle Smith’s foray into the City Centre Airport issue in Edmonton and the Airport Tunnel issue in Calgary should not be ignored. Many Wildrose organizers active in the campaigns of Calgary Mayor candidate Ric McIver and Edmonton Mayor candidate David Dorward. While they may not walk away with voters lists, it is clear that they are taking advantage of any opportunity to get an organizational edge over the Progressive Conservatives in the next provincial election.

A lot of attention has been paid to Mayor-elect Nenshi’s victory in the Calgary Mayoral contest (and rightfully so), but he was not the only new Mayor elected on October 18. Seven of Alberta’s medium sized municipalities also elected new Mayor’s this week. In the north west city of Grande Prairie, Bill Given unseated Mayor Dwight Logan. East of Edmonton, Linda Osinchuk unseated Mayor Cathy Olesen to become Mayor of Strathcona County, Rajko Dodic was elected as the new Mayor of Lethbridge. Along the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary, Jeff Mulligan defeated incumbent Mayor Ken Baker in the City of Lloydminster. In the City of Wetaskiwin, Bill Elliot defeated incumbent Mayor Don Montgomery. In Airdrie, Peter Brown defeated incumbent Mayor Linda Bruce. In Alberta’s newest City, Steve Christie was elected Mayor of Lacombe, replacing the retiring Mayor Judy Gordon (who also served as the PC MLA for Lacombe-Stettler from 1993 to 2004). There was a lot of political change happening across Alberta on October 18, 2010. Of course, it is too soon to tell whether this will foreshadow a provincial election expected in March 2012.

The Fall Sitting of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly will likely open with a low level of substantive legislation and legislative debate, but outside the Dome there will be no shortage of new characters and exciting politics.

the wildrose’s new hired gun.

The Wildrose Alliance is bolstering their staff in preparation for the next provincial election.

Recent hire William McBeath left his position as Director of Operations for Minister Diane Finley in Ottawa to become the Director of Candidate Operations and Party Communications for the Wildrose Alliance. Although he spent some time in Ottawa, political watchers will remember Mr. McBeath from his time as Alberta Regional Organizer for the Conservative Party of Canada, as researcher for former Edmonton City Councillor Mike Nickel, and as an organizer for Ted Morton‘s PC leadership campaign in 2006. Mr. McBeath joins long-time Conservative Party organizer Vitor Marciano, who was hired as the Wildrose Executive Director in March 2010.

The Wildrose Alliance has also attracted the support of two former Conservative Members of Parliament. Retired Edmonton-St. Albert MP John Williams and Westlock-St. Paul MP David Chatters are supporting Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock Wildrose nomination candidate Link Byfield in his campaign against PC MLA Speaker Ken Kowalski.

“The issue is not the MLA; it is the party and the government. The government has been around too long.” – Former Conservative MP John Williams

The Wildrosers will be holding a contested nomination meeting in the Liberal-stronghold of Edmonton-Riverview. Candidates John Corie and Chris Ozdoba will duke it out on October 21 for the chance to hold their party’s flag in the constituency represented by MLA Kevin Taft since 2001 (who is not seeking re-election).

The Liberals have yet to announce a nomination date in Riverview, but rumours are circulating that retiring Public School Board Trustee Don Fleming is interested in seeking the Liberal nomination. Before Dr. Taft, the Riverview constituency was represented by current City Councillor Linda Sloan from 1997 to 2001.

The Wildrosers have a head start in candidate nominations, but are not the only party holding nomination meetings.

The Liberal Party nominated former MLA Weslyn Mather in Edmonton-Mill Woods last weekend and will be holding a nomination meeting in Edmonton-McClung on October 23. Former MLA Mo Elsalhy is expected to be acclaimed at the nomination meeting.

The NDP have a contested nomination meeting in Grande Prairie-Wapiti scheduled for next week. Contestants Paula Anderson and John Friesen are probably participating in the first contested candidate nomination for the Grande Prairie NDP in recent memory.

ed stelmach declares no need for elections, extends senate terms by decree.

December 3, 2004: “It is a worthwhile cause,” says Ed Stelmach, Alberta’s intergovernmental affairs minister. “We are going to continue to push for Senate reform and one way is to hold these elections.”

April 29, 2010: Premier Stelmach announced that Alberta will not hold a new round of Senate nominee elections, and will instead extend the terms for the province’s three senators-in-waiting through a cabinet decree.

While legislation exists governing Senate elections in Alberta, there is a regulation that allows the provincial cabinet to extend the terms of Senators-in-Waiting until cabinet ministers decide to hold another election (which could be indefinite), defeating the purpose of holding Senate elections in the first place.

UPDATEAlberta’s Senators-in-Waiting have some harsh words for Premier Stelmach and the Calgary Herald says he “could use a refresher course on democracy.

alberta politics notes 4/07/2010

David Akin recently sat down with Liberal Senator Tommy Banks for a chat on Senate reform.
– Alberta has held Senate elections in 1989, 1998, and 2004, and is expected to hold a Senate election in the next two years to fill upcoming vacancies. Senator-in-Waiting Link Byfield has declared his intentions to seek the Wildrose Alliance nomination.
– Alberta will be getting five new federal ridings if new legislation is passed in Ottawa.
– The provincial Electoral Boundaries Commission will be starting their second round of public hearings on April 12 in Calgary.
– After originally being lukewarm to the idea of an urban riding for Grande Prairie as proposed in the Boundaries Commission’s interim report, City Councillors have decided to support the two existing ‘rurban’ ridings of Grande Prairie-Smoky and Grande Prairie-Wapiti.
– Alberta Health Services CEO Dr. Stephen Duckett was given failing grades from employees and physicians this week. Friends of Medicare executive director David Eggen told the Edmonton Journal that the survey points to the need for new leadership: “To make a fresh start, I think it’s important to make significant changes in senior leadership. This is a back-to-Australia kind of performance indicator.”
– Advanced Education Minister Doug Horner caved to the wishes of the University Administrations by allowing them to increase their base tuition rates beyond what is currently allowed under Alberta’s tuition policy for six programs. I wrote some background on the Universities quest for tuition hikes in November 2009.
– Premier Ed Stelmach will be speaking at the University of Alberta tomorrow at an event hosted by the campus Conservative club. The same club hosted an event with Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith last month.
– From Capital Notebook, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development paid $33,963 to a company called Borat High Five Consulting Ltd. between April 2008 and October 2009. This gives me a good excuse to post my favourite Borat clip…