Tag Archives: Lisa Holmes

Greg Clark Alberta Party Calgary-Elbow

Will the Alberta Together takeover turn the Alberta Party into PC 2.0?

Photo: Alberta Party leader Greg Clark on the campaign trail in Calgary-Elbow in 2014. Source: Twitter.

In the latest shakeup in Alberta politics, Greg Clark announced last Friday that he would resign as leader of the Alberta Party at the party’s upcoming annual general meeting on November 18, 2017. Clark has served as party leader since 2013 and became the party’s first elected MLA in 2015 when he unseated Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Gordon Dirks in Calgary-Elbow.

Karen McPherson Alberta Party MLA Calgary Mackay Nose HIll

Karen McPherson

With the floor-crossing of former New Democratic Party MLA Karen McPherson earlier this month, Clark had succeeded in helping double his party’s caucus. But despite generating an impressive share of media attention, Clark has been unable to raise the amounts of money the Alberta Party would need to be competitive in the next election. And even though there has been increased interest in the party’s membership since the PC Party became defunct under Jason Kenney’s leadership, the Alberta Party has not seen growth in the public opinion polls.

With the increasing influence of the Alberta Together political action committee, formed by former PC Party officials including Stephen Mandel, rumours had been circulating for months that Clark’s leadership could come to an end before the party’s annual meeting.

Over the course of its three decades in existence, the Alberta Party has become sort of a rotating door for politcos without a home, starting with western separatists in the early 1980s and disaffected Greens, Liberals, New Democrats and moderate Tories in the late 2000s. Clark was a former Liberal, having worked as a staffer at the Legislature during Laurence Decore‘s time as party leader (Clark’s father, Gilbert Clark, was 823 votes away from ending Ralph Klein‘s political career when the former mayor first ran for provincial office in Calgary-Elbow in 1989).

Now it appears the party is a new home for moderate Tories unhappy with the hard right-ward turn of the UCP under Kenney’s leadership.

Katherine O'Neill

Katherine O’Neill

As I wrote in June 2017, the Alberta Party is a blank slate with a great name, but whether or not this latest group to wander over will translate that name into electoral success is yet to be determined.

The party has the support of well-known political operatives Susan Elliott and Stephen Carter, who worked together as the top campaign strategists for Alison Redford in the 2012 provincial election – the last successful Hail Mary campaign of the PC Party.

According to the Globe & Mail, the party could lean on the Alberta Together PAC for fundraising support to help offset the costs of the leadership race. This is concerning because PACs like Alberta Together fall outside of the province’s Election Finances and. Contributions Disclosure Act, which raises legitimate concerns about transparency and accountability of political fundraising and spending.

With less than 15 months until a potential election call, the urgency surrounding the leadership and the role of Alberta Together could be a reaction to signals from Premier Rachel Notley that the NDP government plans to tighten rules governing PACs before the next election.

Now that Clark has made his announcement, it is unclear if he or the Alberta Together group have a chosen candidate waiting in the wings to run for the party leadership.

Doug Griffiths

Doug Griffiths

McPherson has said she does not intend to run and neither does Alberta Together CEO Katherine O’Neill. It is also unclear whether Clark will re-contest the leadership he is about to resign from.

Had Clark resigned four months ago, it might not be surprising to see municipal politicians like Nenshi, Edmonton mayor Don Iveson and Grande Prairie mayor Bill Given consider throwing their name in the race. But with the municipal elections having only been held on October 16, it would be difficult politically for any current municipal mayor or councillor to justify running for the leadership.

Former Morinville mayor and past Alberta Urban Municipalities Association president Lisa Holmes has been rumoured as a potential candidate, as has Nenshi’s chief of staff Chima Nkemdirim.

Former PC MLAs Thomas Lukaszuk, Doug Griffiths, Teresa Woo-Paw, and Stephen Khan and current Independent PC MLA Richard Starke have been mentioned as potential candidates, though bringing in former politicians associated with an unpopular old government might not be the best strategy for the newly rebranded party.

Ryan Jespersen 630 CHED Alberta Party

Ryan Jespersen

Popular 630CHED radio host Ryan Jespersen is a compelling name on the list of rumoured leadership candidates named by Postmedia columnist Don Braid. Jespersen is well-known in Edmonton and northern Alberta, well-spoken on a wide-range of issues and is not a former PC MLA – which would be an asset if he did decide to run. (He would not be the first of his family to enter Alberta politics. His great-uncle, Ralph Jespersen, served as the Social Credit MLA for Stony Plain from 1967 to 1971).

And on the topic of radio personalities turned politicians, the political action committee named for the son of one such politician, the Manning Centre, will also hold its first Alberta Networking Conference in Red Deer on November 18. Attendees will hear from Kenny and UCP MLAs, Conservative MPs, and representatives of likeminded groups including the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation and the Canadian Constitution Foundation who will “chart the course for the future” of conservative politics in Alberta.

As some conservatives will meet under Preston Manning’s banner at Red Deer College, former PC supporters and the Alberta Together group will meet across town at the Radisson Hotel to consolidate their position inside the Alberta Party. A dozen notable former PC officials are running to fill the 12 positions on the party’s board of directors:

  • Sumita Anand served as the PC Party’s west Calgary regional director until she resigned on May 24, 2017. She had served as president of the PC association in Calgary-Foothills during and immediately following Jim Prentice’s tenure as party leader.
  • Denise Brunner served as the PC Party’s vice president organization. She stepped down in January 2017 after being accused of bias by Kenney’s supporters during the PC leadership race. According to Elections Alberta financial disclosures, she was Chief Financial Officer for the Edmonton-Castle Downs PC association in 2006 and currently serves as the president of Alberta Party association in Edmonton-Castle Downs.
  • Cole Harbin served as Executive Vice President of the PC Youth of Alberta until 2016 and as a Vice President of the PC constituency association in Lethbridge-West until 2017. He previously worked as a constituency assistant for former MLAs Doug Griffiths and former Lethbridge-West PC MLA Greg Weadick.
  • Jackie Clayton was recently re-elected to serve a second term on Grande Prairie City Council and is the former Peace Country regional director for the PC Party.
  • Kerry Cundal is a former PC Party activist and federal Liberal candidate who ran for the provincial Liberal leadership earlier this year on a platform of working closer with the Alberta Party.
  • Brian Heidecker is a big name in the former PC Party establishment. He served as Chair of University of Alberta Board of Governors, and was appointed to the boards of the Alberta Treasury Branches Board and the Alberta Securities Commission. He served as a PC Party Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer for Doug Griffiths’ 2011 campaign for the PC Party leadership.
  • Blake Pedersen was elected in 2012 as the Wildrose Party MLA for Medicine Hat and crossed the floor to the PC caucus in 2014. He was defeated by NDP candidate Bob Wanner in 2015 and currently serves as president of the Alberta Party association in Cypress-Medicine Hat.
  • Shawn Pickett served as president of the PC association in Red Deer-North and Central North regional director until resigning in July 2017, referring to Kenney’s leadership bid as a “hostile takeover” of the PC Party.
  • Stephanie Shostak is the former north Edmonton regional director for the PC Party. Shostak now serves as the president of the Alberta Party association in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview.
  • Marcel Van Hecke was the PC Party’s Northern Vice President and appears to have started attending Alberta Together meetings in July 2017.
  • Patty Wickstrom served as the PC Party’s Board Secretary until she resigned in July 2017. According to Elections Alberta financial disclosures, she previously served as president of the PC association in Calgary-Currie from 2008 to 2010.
  • Lorna Wolodko previously served as St. Albert regional director with the PC Party and worked as a constituency manager for Stony Plain PC MLAs Fred Lindsey and Ken Lemke before working in the Office of the Premier. Wolodko ran for the PC Party nomination in Stony Plain ahead of the 2015 election.

Don Iveson’s win a vote for optimism and smart planning in Edmonton

Don Iveson Karen Leibovici Kerry Diotte Edmonton Election 2013

Mayor-elect Don Iveson, and mayoral candidates Karen Leibovici and Kerry Diotte.

There will be plenty of analysis about what last night’s election means for the city of Edmonton. With 132,162 votes – 62% of the vote – Don Iveson earned a commanding victory in the mayoral election over his two main opponents, Karen Leibovici and Kerry Diotte.

This is a win for the positive campaign and a stunning rebuke of the traditional negative campaign. While his main opponents strayed into negative tactics, Mr. Iveson’s campaign avoided the taunts by focusing on remaining positive and optimistic. And it worked. This should send a strong message to voters and politicians across the land that you do not need to go negative to win.

This is a vote for the future. I spoke with many people over the past month who weren’t sure what this election was about. While “the future” and “long-term planning” aren’t sexy wedge issues like the closure of an airport or the construction of a new hockey arena, they are so much more important. Campaigns can be delivered in full-sentences. Mr. Iveson’s comprehensive platform and its focus on long-term planning differentiated him from the other candidates.

Edmontonians have given Mr. Iveson a clear mandate to move forward with an agenda to renew public infrastructure, kickstart innovation, expand LRT, and change the way we fund our city.

There are challenges ahead. As mayor, Mr. Iveson will have to build a team on a city council with six new faces. Any successful mayor understands that they are only one vote of thirteen on council. Balancing progressive voices like re-elected councillors Ben Henderson and Amarjeet Sohi and newly-elected Michael Walters and Scott McKeen, along with moderate conservatives like Michael Oshry and fiscal hawks like Mike Nickel could be a challenge.

Building a strong region will be critical to moving Edmonton forward and new opportunities exist for the Capital Region Board with new mayors Tom Flynn in Sturgeon County, Lisa Holmes in Morinville, and Roxanne Carr in Strathcona County. Regional cooperation on planning and development, as well as service delivery, are areas where the capital region could see progress over the next four years.

Solving the fiscal challenges facing Alberta’s cities will also be difficult. The provincial government needs to be convinced that Alberta’s cities require additional resources and responsibilities to address the tremendous pressures associated with fast growing populations. The introduction of City Charters could be a significant step to helping cities deal with this issue.

With the province’s most dynamic political leaders now leading our large urban municipalities, Naheed Nenshi in Calgary, Don Iveson in Edmonton, Melissa Blake in Wood Buffalo, Bill Given in Grande Prairie, and newly elected Tara Veer in Red Deer have an opportunity to pursue a strong urban agenda that the provincial government cannot ignore.

(Note: I have been happy to volunteer my personal time during the election campaign to help Don Iveson become the next mayor of Edmonton. I am ecstatic that Edmontonians have entrusted him with their votes)

sturgeon school division to offer secular public education in morinville.

A photo of the St. Jean Baptiste Church and Rectory in Morinville, Alberta, Canada
St. Jean Baptiste Church and Rectory are the most familiar buildings in the Town of Morinville.

On March 6, 2011 I wrote about the situation in my hometown of Morinville, where due to local history and a weird quirk in Alberta’s Schools Act, the only “public schools” in the community are Catholic schools administrated by the Greater St. Albert Catholic School District.

Parents in the Town of Morinville wanting a non-religious education option for their children put public pressure on Education Minister Dave Hancock and local MLA Ken Kowalski to what seemed to be little avail. Councillor Lisa Holmes brought the issue to the Town Council, which voted 4-3 against taking a position on the issue. Even as Catholic School District officials admitted that only 30% of Morinville students identified themselves as Catholic, the elected trustees would not waver from their mandate to offer religious-based education.

Until last week, it appeared as though advocates for secular public education in Morinville had been stonewalled in their drive to bring a non-religious education option to their community of 7,900 residents.

The neighbouring school district, Sturgeon School Division, has agreed to offer secular education options in Morinville starting this September. Classes will be temporarily housed in portable classrooms until a permanent location can be found. A survey released by the Catholic School District showed that as at least 270 students in the town of 7,900 residents would enrol in the secular K-12 education program and that 37% of parents and residents in the town supported secular educational choice.

The question now is whether residents of Morinville residents who enrol their children in the new secular education option will be able to cast their vote for Trustee on the Sturgeon School Board Elections in October 2013. At the moment, Morinville residents are only able to vote for Trustees on the Greater St. Albert Catholic School District, which also collects taxes from Morinville residents whether they are Catholic or not.

The extension of the Sturgeon School Division into Morinville will certainly create some waves in the community, but in the long-run I believe embracing a diversity in education options will be a healthy move for the town I grew up in.