Tag Archives: Lori Sigurdson

Premier Rachel Notley's expanded 17-member Alberta NDP cabinet.

Notley spreads out the workload in new expanded NDP cabinet

Alberta’s provincial cabinet grew by six today as Premier Rachel Notley announced an early 2016 cabinet shuffle. These appointments bring the size of Alberta’s cabinet up to 19, which is larger than the initial 12 cabinet ministers appointed after the NDP won the 2015 election but is still the smallest Alberta cabinet in more than a decade.

It became clear in the NDP government’s first half year in office that it would be unrealistic to have such a small group be responsible for so many large government ministries. Because of this, it was widely suspected that the new government would wait until 2016 before deciding which backbench NDP MLAs were cabinet material.

Here are some of the changes made as a result of today’s cabinet shuffle.

Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman retains her position as Minster of Health while also taking on the role of Deputy Premier. Ms. Hoffman has proven herself to be one of the strongest members of the provincial cabinet, so this promotion is not a surprise.

Calgary-Acadia MLA Brandy Payne will assist Ms. Hoffman as Associate Minister of Health, a position that has existed in the past.

Edmonton-Riverview MLA Lori Sigurdson took a political beating during the Bill 6 farm safety law debates has been demoted from her role as Minister of Advanced Education and Minister of Jobs, Skills and Labour. She is now Minister of Seniors and Housing.

Replacing Ms. Sigurdson are Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Marlin Schmidt as Minister of Advanced Education and Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Christina Gray as Minister of Labour (no longer the Ministry of Jobs, Skills and Labour).

Ms. Gray is also Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal, a role that coincides with her position as chairperson of the Select Special Ethics and Accountability Committee, which is reviewing the Election Act, the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, the Conflicts of Interest Act, and the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act.

Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan has been appointed Minister of Indigenous Relations, which has been renamed from Aboriginal Relations.

Calgary-Cross MLA Ricardo Miranda, is now Minister of Culture and Tourism. He is also Alberta’s first openly gay cabinet minister.

Two new cabinet ministers, Ms. Payne and Calgary-Varsity MLA Stephanie McLean, who is Minister of Service Alberta and Status of Women, are pregnant and expecting to add new additions to their families in 2016.

Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier is now Deputy Government House Leader, a role he shares with Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous.

It is unclear whether Mr. Schmidt and Ms. McLean will continue in their roles from the previous Legislative session as Government Whip and Deputy Government Whip. It is expected that MLAs will choose a new Deputy Chair of Committees to replace Mr. Feehan as he moves into his new ministerial role when the Legislature returns on March 8, 2016.

A full list of the new cabinet can be found here.

New Climate Change Office

The cabinet shuffle also included the announcement that a new Climate Change Office has been created to help implement the government’s Climate Leadership Plan. The new office will report to Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips.

Thousands of Albertans packed the Legislature Grounds to watch Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP cabinet be sworn-in.

What new laws did Alberta’s NDP Government pass in 2015?

The fall session of the Alberta Legislature ended last week and MLAs will now spend the next few weeks working in their constituencies until the Assembly returns in early 2016. The Assembly passed nine pieces of legislation introduced by Alberta’s New Democratic Party government in its first full session of the Legislature since it formed government.

The first four bills introduced by the government reflected key promises made by Rachel Notley‘s NDP during the 2015 election. One private members bill, introduced by Independent Calgary-Bow MLA Deborah Drever, was passed by the Assembly (a rare feat for opposition MLAs).

Here is a quick look at the ten bills that were passed by MLAs since the NDP formed government in 2015:

Kathleen Ganley NDP Calgary Buffalo

Kathleen Ganley

Bill 1: An Act to Renew Democracy in Alberta

Introduced by Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, Bill 1 banned corporate and union donations to provincial political parties in Alberta. The bill received royal assent on June 29, 2015, but was made retroactive on June 15, 2015. This new law was a major blow to the Progressive Conservative Party, which had become accustomed to relying heavily on corporate donations to fund their campaigns and operations. The ban was not extended to municipal elections.

Bill 2: An Act to Restore Fairness to Public Revenue

Introduced by Finance Minister Joe Ceci, Bill 2 eliminated Alberta’s 10 percent flat tax and introduced a progressive taxation system with five rates of personal income tax up to 15 percent for income above $300,000. Bill 2 also increased Alberta’s corporate tax rate from 10 percent to 12 percent, bringing our province in line with Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Despite the increase, tax rates in Alberta still remain lower than what existed during much of the time Ralph Klein served as Premier.

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP

Joe Ceci

Bill 3: Appropriation (Interim Supply) Act, 2015

Introduced by Mr. Ceci, Bill 3 reversed funding cuts made to education, health care, and human services by the PC government before the May 5, 2015 election.

Bill 4: An Act to Implement Various Tax Measures and to Enact the Fiscal Planning and Transparency Act

Introduced by Mr. Ceci, Bill 4 repealed and replaced the Fiscal Management Act and introduced requirements in a Fiscal Planning and Transparency Act, which include presenting government finances in a three-year fiscal plan and the establishment of a new debt cap based on a debt-to-GDP ratio of 15 percent.

Bill 5: Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act 

Introduced by Ms. Ganley, Bill 5 expanded the “sunshine list” to include employees of public agencies, boards, commissions, post-secondary institutions and health service entities whose earnings are more than $125,000 annually. This is a continuation of work already done by the previous PC government and has been criticized by supporters of the NDP as “bad policy.”

Lori Sigurdson NDP

Lori Sigurdson

Bill 6: Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act

Introduced by Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Minister Lori Sigurdson, Bill 6 introduced occupational health and safety and mandatory Workers’ Compensation Board coverage for employees of farming operations. Alberta is currently the only province in Canada without OH&S laws and employment standards coverage for farm and ranch workers. Amid protests by farmers and ranchers, the government introduced amendments to exempt farm and ranch owners and their families from the bill. This was undoubtably the most controversial legislation passed by the NDP government in 2015.

Bill 7: Alberta Human Rights Amendment Act, 2015

Introduced by Ms. Ganley, Bill 7 amended the Alberta Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression as expressly prohibited grounds of discrimination.

David Eggen

David Eggen

Bill 8: Public Education Collective Bargaining Act

Introduced by Education Minister David Eggen, Bill 8 restructures collective bargaining between teachers, school boards and the government. The bill initially would have had the government be the sole party negotiating with the Alberta Teachers’ Association on matters that should be bargained centrally versus locally but an amendment to the bill allowed a new employer bargaining association to negotiate with the ATA to decide.

Bill 9: Appropriation Act, 2015

Introduced by Mr. Ceci, Bill 9 provides budget funding authority to the Government of Alberta and the Legislative Assembly for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Deborah Drever MLA Calgary Bow

Deborah Drever

Bill 204: Residential Tenancies (Safer Spaces for Victims of Domestic Violence) Amendment Act, 2015

Introduced by Ms. Drever, Bill 204 amended the Residential Tenancies Act to allow victims of domestic violence to end their housing leases early and without penalty in order to leave unsafe home environments. Lethbridge-East MLA Maria Fitzpatrick bravely stood in the legislature to share a powerful story about her personal experiences with domestic violence.

Around 200 protesters gathered at the Alberta Legislature on Nov. 27, 2015.

Alberta NDP face legitimate concerns and kooky conspiracy theories in debate over Bill 6 farm safety bill

Alberta’s NDP government has been in full damage control mode since Bill 6: Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act exploded in their faces late last month. While attempting to bring our province closer to national standards on farm safety – Alberta is currently the only province without occupation health and safety laws and employment standards coverage for farm and ranch workers – the bill sparked two large protests at the Legislature and continues to bring out thousands of agitated rural Albertans to government-sponsored town-hall style consultation meetings across the province.

Commies

No, it’s not.

Bill 6 has been perceived as a threat to what many rural Albertans see as a traditional way of life and business on the family farm, and inept communications by the government only fuelled claims that this was the intention of the bill.

Taken by surprise, NDP cabinet ministers fanned out to the town hall meetings in an attempt to assure angry rural Albertans that they are listening to their concerns.

While the Wildrose, PC and Alberta Party MLAs have taken positions against Bill 6, the biggest advocate for the bill outside of the mostly silent NDP caucus has been Liberal party interim leader David Swann, a Calgary MLA and former medical officer of health of the now defunct Palliser and Headwaters health authorities in southern Alberta.

Returned from her trip to the Paris Climate Change Conference, Premier Rachel Notley published an open letter to reassure the media and the public that this bill was about farm safety, not about destroying the family farm.

Lori Sigurdson, Minister of Jobs, Employment and Labour, introduced amendments to Bill 6 in the Legislature this week.

The amendments, which “make clear WCB coverage would be required only for paid employees, with an option for farmers to extend coverage to unpaid workers like family members, neighbours and friends” and “make clear that Occupational Health and Safety standards apply when a farm employs one or more paid employees at any time of the year,” appear to address two of the main criticisms of the bill that many opponents and critics (including myself) have raised as concerns.

Aside from legitimate criticisms that rural Albertans were not properly consulted before Bill 6 was introduced into the Legislature, some opponents of the government have tried to spread the kookiest of conspiracy theories about the NDP’s proposed farm safety law.

Over the past week, I have heard claims that Bill 6 would:

  • allow the government to nationalize farm land to build solar or wind farms,
  • force farm workers to unionize as part of some secret communist conspiracy,
  • mark the beginning of a Stalinist farm collectivization program.

None of these outlandish claims are true. But while these claims largely emanate from the anonymity of Twitter and the internet, other oddball claims are actually being made by opposition MLAs.

In the Legislature on Dec. 1, Rick Strankman, the Wildrose MLA for Drumheller-Stettler, suggested that Bill 6 could lead to OHS inspectors confiscating privately owned firearms if they were found to be improperly stored on farms. Mr. Strankman spared fellow MLAs from hearing his best Charlton Heston impersonation.

But perhaps the kookiest of conspiracy theories comes from Progressive Conservative Party interim leader Ric McIver, who is reported to have claimed Bill 6 was part of the NDP plan to turn Alberta into a “Socialist Disneyland.” According to Metro Calgary, Mr. McIver continued in length to praise the conservatism of Saskatchewan, while choosing to omit the fact that our neighbour to the east has a 5 percent provincial sales tax, a 12 percent corporate tax rate, crown corporations for insurance, power and gas, and… farm safety legislation.

Alberta’s NDP government was caught totally off guard by opposition to Bill 6 and has helped fuel the backlash by being slow to react to concerns about changes to farm safety laws. For this, they deserve to be criticized. This is an important lesson for the new government, and one they should recognized as being lucky took place in the first year of their four year term in government, and not six months before the next election.

What’s next?

Bill 6 is currently in second reading in the Legislature.

This will not be the last time the new government will need to challenge the status quo in rural Alberta. The government’s next challenge to rural Alberta will likely be related to province’s longstanding grazing lease program, which the auditor general reports has cost the government an estimated $25 million in annual revenue and is currently under review.

Changes to Alberta’s electoral boundaries, which could be redistributed before the next election to reflect changes in Alberta’s population, would likely result in a reduction of rural constituencies and an increase of urban constituencies in the Alberta Legislature.

Alberta NDP should tap the brakes on Bill 6, its new Farm and Ranch Safety law

The Alberta government needs to rethink its approach to overhauling safety laws on family farms and ranches. Since it was introduced in the Legislature on Nov. 17, confusion about Bill 6: Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act has triggered a significant backlash from Albertans in rural communities across the province.

Bill 6 would expand sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Workers’ Compensation Act, Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code to apply to farm worksites. If Bill 6 is approved by the Legislature, WCB coverage will be mandatory and farms and ranches in Alberta will no longer be exempt from OHS laws. Alberta is currently the only province without employment standards coverage for farm and ranch workers.

Around 200 protesters gathered at the Alberta Legislature on Nov. 27, 2015.

Around 200 protesters gathered at the Alberta Legislature on Nov. 27, 2015.

Nearly 400 angry farmers showed up to voice their concerns about Bill 6 at a government-organized town hall meeting in Grande Prairie last week. The event was hosted by public servants and consultants with no MLAs in attendance. Western Producer reporter Mary MacArthur reported this week that MLAs will be present at future town hall meetings planned for Red Deer, Okotoks, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Leduc, Vegreville, Olds and Athabasca.

Close to 200 people, along with 2 ponies, 1 border collie and 1 turkey (see above), staged an afternoon protest against Bill 6 outside the Alberta Legislature on Nov. 27, 2015. To their credit, Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Minister Lori Sigurdson and Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee waded into the crowd of protesters at the Legislature to hear their concerns.

Lori Sigurdson waded into the crowd of protesters outside the Legislature.

Lori Sigurdson waded into the crowd of protesters outside the Legislature.

It is clear that there are some changes that do need to be made to farm safety laws in Alberta. As is the case in every other province in Canada, the government has a responsibility to ensure that safety standards exist for all worksites in Alberta, including agricultural work environments.

But this is where the New Democratic Party government may have put the cart before the horse. It is unfortunate that the government did not choose to hold these public consultation meetings before introducing the bill. It seems that the NDP could have saved themselves a lot of grief if Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier, Premier Rachel Notley, Ms. Sigurdson and other NDP MLAs had started this process by travelling to the rural areas of the province to ask farmers and ranchers how changes could impact them.

Danielle Larivee waded into the crowd of protesters outside the Legislature.

Danielle Larivee waded into the crowd of protesters outside the Legislature.

Under current safety laws, provincial officers are not allowed to conduct investigations when a workplace fatality takes place on a farm or ranch. The WCB is a shield to protect employers from lawsuits in case of workplace injury and should probably be extended to cover all actual employees of farms and ranches. And farm workers should not be exempt from being given the choice to bargain collectively, a right affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

But legal changes also need to reflect the uniqueness of family farms and ranches.

Unlike other worksites, farms rely heavily on incidental and seasonal help during spring and fall from family, friends and neighbours. And by definition, work on a family farm will include work done by family members, some who will not be paid a regular salary and some who will be under the age of 18. It has not been clearly communicated by the government how these changes would impact the day to day operations of these family farms or whether exceptions will be made for smaller farming operations.

While some of the criticism of Bill 6 is rooted in hyperbole and hysterics generated by opponents of the government, it is clear that there is much confusion around this bill, which is a communications failure on the part of the government.

Ms. Sigurdson released a statement following yesterday’s protest at the Legislature trying to clarify the government’s position. “A paid farmworker who is directed to do something dangerous can say no, just like other workers in Alberta and Canada. And if they are hurt or killed at work, they or their family can be compensated, just like other workers in Alberta and Canada,” Ms. Sigurdson said.

The debate around Bill 6 also highlights a political divide between rural and urban Alberta, neither of which are monolithic communities. It would be easy for us city dwellers to cast rural Albertans opposing these legislative changes as being backward or uncaring when we read media reports of workers or young children killed in farm accidents. And comments by MLAs like Liberal leader David Swann that the current legal framework would make “Charles Dickens blush” probably do not help foster a feeling of collaboration, even if there is a hint of truth to how far behind Alberta is in farm safety rules compared to other provinces.

Alberta is an increasingly urban province. According to Statistics Canada, in 1961, 53 percent of Albertans lived in rural areas. As of 2011, 83 percent of Albertans lived in urban centres with only 17 percent of our province’s population living in rural areas. This is a massive population shift.

The recent provincial election marked a rare moment in our province’s history where MLAs from rural Alberta do not have a large voice in the government caucus. Twelve of the 53 NDP MLAs elected in May 2015 represent rural or partially rural constituencies. Most areas of rural Alberta are represented by Wildrose Party MLAs, who have taken every opportunity to attack the new government and advance the narrative that the NDP do not understand rural Alberta.

As most of their NDP MLAs were elected in urban centres, they should heed the advice that MLA Hugh Horner gave Progressive Conservative Party leader Peter Lougheed more than forty years ago.

David Wood observed in his biography of Mr. Lougheed, the Lougheed Legacy, that “Horner made one point that Lougheed and his colleagues have never forgotten: when you start believing that the people in rural Alberta are somehow different than the people in the bigger centres, you’re making a mistake. Rural Albertans come into the cities, go to concerts, shop in the malls: they’re as sophisticated and as aware of the rest of the world as any of their city cousins.”

Ms. Notley grew up in the northern Alberta town of Fairview. Her father, Grant Notley, was elected and re-elected as the MLA for Spirit River-Fairview four times between 1971 and 1984. Coming from rural Alberta, Ms. Notley should have an understanding of these changes could impact farmers and ranchers.

The government has a responsibility to ensure that safety standards exist for all worksites in Alberta, including agricultural work environments. It also has a responsibility to clearly communicate to Albertans why these changes are needed and how they would be implemented. The NDP would demonstrate good will to rural Albertans by slightly tapping the breaks on Bill 6 and restarting this process with a thorough and meaningful consultation about improving farm and ranch safety in Alberta.

Update (Dec 1, 2015): The government announced it is proposing amendments to Bill 6 that would:

  • make clear WCB coverage would be required only for paid employees, with an option for farmers to extend coverage to unpaid workers like family members, neighbours and friends;
  • make clear that Occupational Health and Safety standards apply when a farm employs one or more paid employees at any time of the year.
The main campus of Athabasca University, located 152 kilometres north of Edmonton.

Will the NDP save or shutter Athabasca University?

Residents of one northern Alberta community want to know what Alberta’s new New Democratic Party government has planned for their local university.

Peter McKinnon

Peter MacKinnon

Athabasca University, the province’s largest distance-learning institution employs more than 400 people in Athabasca, making it the largest employer in the town of 3,000.

There is significant fear in the town about the consequences of the university closing or relocating to a larger urban centre, like Edmonton.

In recent years, Athabasca University has been the source of much controversy, ranging from illegal political donations made to the Progressive Conservative Party to claims of financial insolvency.

In 2012, staff called for then-university president Frits Pannekoek to retire, citing questions around illegal donations to the PC Party and the institution’s finances, including the depletion of its reserve fund.

In 2013, four of the institution’s vice-presidents and associate vice-presidents had their positions apparently terminated without explanation to the public shortly after the Public Accounts Committee called the university out for its fiscal mismanagement. And after denying there were financial problems in 2012, the institution cut around 100 positions in 2013, citing financial difficulties.

Colin Piquette NDP

Colin Piquette

During those cuts, sources in government reported that discussions were taking place to merge parts of Athabasca with the University of Alberta, talks that then-PC cabinet minister Thomas Lukaszuk said he was not aware of.

PC MLA Jeff Johnson was unseated by NDP candidate Colin Piquette in this year’s provincial election, with the future of the university being a key issue for voters in the area. The election of an NDP MLA has led locals to believe Mr. Piquette will take action to ensure the university stays open and remains in Athabasca.

In June 2015, Athabasca University interim president Peter MacKinnon released a task force report on the university’s sustainability, which indicated the institution was facing insolvency in the 2015/2016 financial year. The report blamed over-reliance on tuition fees, the state of its information technology infrastructure, as well as staff compensation and the university’s location, for the university’s financial difficulties.

Lori Sigurdson NDP

Lori Sigurdson

While the task force report focused on alarming terms like ”insolvency,” the university had small surpluses in its 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 budgets.

Some observers in the community have suggested that Mr. MacKinnon is playing chicken with the government in an attempt to force new Advanced Education Minister Lori Sigurdson to commit to keeping the university in Athabasca.

Current Wildrose MLA Jason Nixon was a student representative on Mr. MacKinnon’s task force.

In response to the report, the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3911, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees Local 69 and the Athabasca University Faculty Association have launched a petition demanding the government ensure Athabasca University and its jobs remain in Athabasca.

Jeff Johnson Alberta Education Minister MLA

Jeff Johnson

Politically speaking, it may have been an easier decision for the new government to make if an NDP MLA was not currently representing the area. If the constituency had remained PC territory, the NDP would not have to worry about Mr. Piquette’s re-election chances in 2019.

Now the NDP government is stuck in an odd position. Even if the new government wanted to relocate the institution, it would not be difficult to reallocate extra funds in the provincial budget to cover the deficits.

If the NDP’s first budget is focused on job creation and stimulus, then protecting 400 jobs in Athabasca should be on the list of priorities.

The new government also faces the question about what to do with the university’s board of governors after years of controversy. Like several universities and colleges across Alberta, the board is headed by someone with strong political connections to the old governing party.

Jason Nixon Wildrose Rocky Mountain House Rimbey Sundre

Jason Nixon

Acting chair Marg Mrazek is a former president of the PC Party. While the Post-Secondary Learning Act gives the government the ability to replace the board, with Ms. Mrazek’s term is set to expire on July 24, 2016 the NDP may wait until that date before replacing the Tory appointee.

In many ways, Athabasca University is a microcosm for the challenges of regime change after forty-four years of Progressive Conservative government in Alberta.

But Athabasca University may be able to use its NDP connections to apply pressure to the new government. Mr. MacKinnon is the husband of former Saskatchewan NDP MLA and Finance Minister Janice MacKinnon, who served in Roy Romanow‘s cabinet in the 1990s. Premier Rachel Notley‘s Chief of Staff, Brian Topp, was Mr. Romanow’s deputy chief of staff during that period.

While the new government has been able to remain coy about the future of the institution in its first four months in office, residents of Athabasca will demand to know what the NDP has planned for their university. They may find out this week when Ms. Sigurdson is scheduled to meet with Ms. Mrazek and Mr. MacKinnon.

Thousands of Albertans packed the Legislature Grounds to watch Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP cabinet be sworn-in.

Notley’s Crew: Alberta’s First NDP Cabinet

Thousands of Albertans packed the Legislature Grounds for the swearing-in ceremony of Premier Rachel Notley and Alberta’s first NDP Cabinet. This marked the first time in 44 years that a party other than the Progressive Conservatives were sworn-in to office and the event felt more like an outdoor festival than a protocol-ruled government ceremony. The hot weather, live music, free ice cream, food trucks and wading pools helped contribute to this atmosphere, but there was an unmistakable feeling of excitement and optimism in the sea of onlookers. It was really unlike anything I have experienced in my ten years writing about politics in this province. This crowd was cheering for Alberta.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

Along with serving as Premier, Ms. Notley is also responsible for the Ministry of International and Intergovernmental Relations, a double role that her predecessors Ralph Klein and Jim Prentice also took responsibility for. The three other incumbent NDP MLAs, Brian Mason, Deron Bilous and David Eggen, were appointed to senior roles and first-term Edmonton MLAs Sarah Hoffman and Lori Sigurdson were also named to cabinet.

The new 12-member cabinet has an equal number of women and men, and while half of its MLAs represent Edmonton constituencies, ministers from rural Alberta, Lethbridge and Calgary have been given important responsibilities.

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP

Joe Ceci

Former Calgary Alderman Joe Ceci is Finance Minister and Treasury Board President, Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kathleen Ganley is Justice Minister, Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips is Environment Minister, Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley MLA Marg McCuaig-Boyd is Energy Minister, Whitecourt-Ste. Anne MLA Oneil Carlier is Agriculture and Forestry Minister, and Calgary-McCall MLA Irfan Sabir is Minister of Human Services.

The new cabinet will hold its first meetings in Calgary on May 27 and 28.

It was reported on social media this weekend that the NDP Caucus will nominate Medicine Hat MLA Bob Wanner as Speaker of the Assembly when MLAs convene to replace Speaker Gene Zwozdesky on June 11. Mr. Wanner is the former commissioner of public services at the City of Medicine Hat and worked as a professional mediator before he was elected. The Speech from the Throne will be read by recently appointed Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell on June 15.

Here is a list of the new cabinet ministers:

Rachel Notley (Edmonton-Strathcona): Premier of Alberta and Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations

Brian Mason (Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood): Minister of Infrastructure, Minister of Transportation, Government House Leader

David Eggen (Edmonton-Calder): Minister of Education, Minister of Culture and Tourism

Deron Bilous (Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview): Minister of Municipal Affairs, Minister of Service Alberta, Deputy Government House Leader

Joe Ceci (Calgary-Fort): President of Treasury Board, Minister of Finance

Marg McCuaig-Boyd (Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley): Minister of Energy

Sarah Hoffman (Edmonton-Glenora): Minister of Health, Minister of Seniors

Kathleen Ganley (Calgary-Buffalo): Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, Minister of Aboriginal Relations

Lori Sigurdson (Edmonton-Riverview): Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education, Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour

Oneil Carlier (Whitecourt-Ste. Anne): Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development

Shannon Phillips (Lethbridge-West): Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, Minister of Parks and Recreation, Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, Deputy Government House Leader

Irfan Sabir (Calgary-McCall): Minister of Human Services

Tory requests Judicial Recount in Glenmore

The last outstanding race of the May 5 provincial election will face a judicial recount. The election in Calgary-Glenmore was tied on election night and the official count showed NDP candidate Anam Kazim six votes ahead of Progressive Conservative candidate Linda Johnson. Ms. Johnson, who served one-term as an MLA after her election in 2012, has requested a judicial recount.

When is the next Alberta election?

Alberta Legislature 2014

With the governing Progressive Conservatives selecting their new leader in September 2014, there is growing suspicion that Albertans could be going to polls sooner than expected. While Alberta’s next strange “three-month fixed election period” is not until 2016, a loosely written law may allow the next premier to trigger an early election.

According to Section 38.01(2) of the Elections Act, the next election should take place between March 1 and May 31, 2016, but under 38.01(1), the Lieutenant Governor retains the authority to dissolve the assembly and call an election when he sees fit. This would typically occur when a government loses confidence of the Assembly or when the leader of the government asks him to do so (it would be highly irregular for the Lieutenant Governor to deny this request).

By my reading, what the Elections Act really says is that the next election must be held by May 31, 2016, but it could easily be held before that date. And I bet it will be.

An election in 2015

An early election would allow the next PC Party leader to seek a new mandate from Albertans, highlight new candidates and purge his caucus of deadwood and troublesome MLAs. With expected growth in resource revenues next year, it will be very tempting for the PCs to call an election after tabling a cash-rich provincial budget in Spring 2015.

An early provincial election could also conveniently rid the PCs of three potentially embarrassing by-elections in constituencies soon-to-be vacated by MLAs seeking federal party nominations (these MLAs are Len Webber in Calgary-Foothills, David Xiao in Edmonton-McClung, and Darshan Kang in Calgary-McCall).

A Jim Prentice By-Election

If the next PC leader is Jim Prentice, who currently has endorsements from 45 of 58 PC MLAs, a by-election would need to be held to provide the new Premier with a seat in the Assembly. In the past, when a party leader does not have a seat in the Assembly, a sitting MLA has resigned in order to trigger a by-election.

When Premier Don Getty was chosen as PC leader in October 1985, Edmonton-Whitemud PC MLA Robert Alexander resigned so that the new premier would win a by-election in December 1985. Mr. Getty later won a May 1989 by-election after he was unseated in the March 1989 General Election.

The Social Credit Party formed government in August 1935 without its leader on any ballot. Seatless Premier William Aberhart ran and won a by-election in November 1935.

Wild rumours suggest that Mr. Prentice could wait until the next election to win a seat, perhaps running against popular Liberal MLA David Swann in Calgary-Mountain View (where Mr. Prentice was defeated in the 1986 election). But it is unlikely that he would wait that long or risk challenging a popular incumbent.

It is more likely that Mr. Prentice would follow tradition and quickly seek to run in a by-election. It is plausible that former Premier Alison Redford would resign as MLA to trigger a by-election in Calgary-Elbow.

Opposition Parties gearing up

The Wildrose Party already has candidates preparing to contest nominations across the province. The party has attracted an early high profile candidate in Sherwood Park, where former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk has announced she will seek the Wildrose nomination. In anticipation of an upcoming by-election, retired Colonel John Fletcher is seeking the Wildrose nomination in Calgary-Elbow.

The NDP will nominate candidates Shannon Phillips in Lethbridge-West and Chris Nielsen in Edmonton-Decore on June 17, 2014. The NDP was the first party to nominate a candidate for the next election months ago when Lori Sigurdson was chosen in Edmonton-Riverview.

While no Liberal candidates have been officially nominated, MLAs Laurie Blakeman, Kent Hehr and Mr. Swann have all indicated they plan on running in the next election.

To keep track of party nominations, I have compiled a list of official and unofficial candidates planning to stand in Alberta’s next provincial election. Please feel free to contact me if there are additions to the list.

Albertans defend modest pensions, Redford staff defend Palm Springs flight

Rally for Pensions Alberta

Close to 2,000 Albertans gathered in Churchill Square on March 2, 2014 to rally for secure public sector pensions.

About 2,000 Albertans from every corner of the province braved the -33C windchill yesterday to defend their modest pension plans at a rally in Edmonton’s Churchill Square. Many municipal and provincial employees are concerned that Finance minister Doug Horner‘s proposed changes to Alberta’s public sector pension plans could impact their retirement security.

David Eggen Deron Bilous NDP MLA Alberta

NDP MLAs Deron Bilous and David Eggen show their support at yesterday’s rally.

Despite rhetoric about ‘gold-plated pension plans,’ the average full pension under the Local Authorities Pension Plan is only $15,000 per year.

Meanwhile, Premier Alison Redford is facing questions about another taxpayer funded flight on a government plane, this time from sunny Palm Springs, California.

After receiving a tip about a suspicious record in the Alberta Government Flight Manifests, I asked Ms. Redford on Twitter why a government plane flew empty to Palm Springs and returned to Calgary with her, her daughter and two members of her security detail onboard in April 2013.

David Climenhaga Laurie Blakeman Liberal Alberta MLA

Blogger David Climenhaga and Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman at yesterday’s rally.

Ms. Redford did not respond to my tweet, but her communications director Stefan Baranski did. He explained that the flight brought the premier back to Alberta from her vacation home in order to attend former premier Ralph Klein‘s memorial service.

While the cost of the $9,200 flight to and from Palm Springs is not as salacious as Ms. Redford’s $45,000 flight to South Africa, it is unclear why the premier did not return to Alberta on one of the many commercial flights available in the six days before the memorial service.

Both the Calgary Herald’s Don Braid and the Calgary Sun’s Rick Bell have penned articles in response to Ms. Redford’s Palm Springs flight.

Here’s the original tweet I sent on February 27, 2014:

Speech from the Throne & Budget
A Speech from the Throne will open the spring sitting of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly today at 3:00 p.m. The 2014 provincial budget will be tabled by Mr. Horner on the afternoon of Thursday, March 6.

NDP to nominate the first candidate of the 2016 election
As was first reported last week on this blog, the Alberta NDP will hold a candidate nomination meeting on March 4 in the Edmonton-Riverview constituency. The NDP are expected to nominate Lori Sigurdson, manager of professional affairs with the Alberta College of Social Workers, as their candidate. The constituency is currently represented by PC MLA Steve Young.

Will MLA Steve Young survive the PC caucus?

Steve Young, Edmonton-Riverview PC MLA

Steve Young

When former cop Steve Young was elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Riverview, it was considered to be a huge coup for the Progressive Conservatives. With Mr. Young as their candidate, the Tories succeeded in scooping the traditionally Liberal voting constituency previously represented by popular MLA Kevin Taft.

All indications suggest that Mr. Young has worked hard in his constituency since this election and most people who have met him, including this writer, will agree that he is a nice guy. And he had a bright political career ahead of him.

But as an MLA, and during his time as the Government Whip, he has been of mixed value to the governing Tories. Sometimes he has even been a source of embarrassment for the government.

Despite speculation he might be removed from the PC caucus after publicly criticizing Premier Alison Redford for her $45,000 trip to South Africa, he walked away from last weekend’s caucus meeting with his membership in tact.

The CBC reported this week that Mr. Young was under investigation by the RCMP while he was the PC candidate in the 2012 election. The CBC report stated that he “did not publicly disclose the criminal investigation and he also refused to cooperate with the RCMP after he resigned from the Edmonton Police Service.”

According to the CBC, the RCMP investigated Mr. Young’s and other officers involvement in the release of private information about a young offender as part of a public relations campaign. The young offender recently filed a lawsuit against Mr. Young and his former colleagues.

Mr. Young was criticized for his handling of a confusion confrontation between PC MLAs and Ms. Redford after the group of backbenchers on an MLA committee voted to recreate the MLA transition allowances that the premier publicly cancelled during the 2012 election.

As Government Whip, he helped Ms. Redford deal with the unrest in the PC caucus, but in December 2013, the premier  suddenly dropped him from cabinet before he was even officially appointed.

One week after announcing that Mr. Young would  serve as the Associate Minister for Public Safety, he was quietly removed from the list of ministers at the swearing-in ceremony. It was later suggested that he was dropped from cabinet because his involvement in an incident and investigation involving a taser during his time as a police officer.

He briefly made headlines during last year’s mayoral election after an unfortunately planned mayor forum was cancelled when it became clear that it was part of a fundraiser for Mr. Young’s Edmonton-Riverview PC association.

With the recent news reports about the RCMP investigation during the last election,  can Ms. Redford can allow Mr. Young to remain as part of the government? His criticism of Ms. Redford’s lavish travel costs may have bought him some time, but, according to one political insider, his opponents are already building a case to have him ejected from the PC caucus.

NDP to nominate Riverview candidate next week

Next week, the Alberta New Democrats are expected to nominate Lori Sigurdson as their candidate in Edmonton-Riverview for the 2016 election. As their first officially nominated candidate, the NDP hope the early start will help them build on their strong third-place finish in the last election (where Ms. Sigurdson tripled her party’s support in the constituency). With Mr. Young providing more ammunition for his election opponents each day, the NDP (and the Liberals) will have plenty of ammunition to use over the next two years.

it’s crunch time!

In the final days of Alberta’s 2012 General Election, party leaders will be focusing their time and energy in the places that will matter on election day.

Alison Redford Calgary candidates Alberta Election 2012

Premier Alison Redford with Calgary candidates Jason Luan, Teresa Woo-Paw, Sandra Jansen, and Len Webber (photo from Alison4Premier Facebook Page)

Progressive Conservative leader Alison Redford will spend the final day of the campaign making whistle stop appearances with Christine Cusanelli in Calgary-Currie, Alana DeLong in Calgary-Bow, Ken Hughes in Calgary-West, Cecilia Low in Calgary-Mountain View, Moe Amery in Calgary-East, Len Webber in Calgary-Foothills, and Manmeet Bhullar in Calgary-Greenway.

In past elections, most Calgary constituencies would be considered safe territory for the governing PCs. Since the beginning of this election campaign, polls have shown the Wildrose Party in a position to make significant gains across Calgary and Southern Alberta, putting many Tory incumbents and rookie candidates at risk of defeat.

With Wildrose Party candidate Ron Leech drawing fire after making some controversial racial comments, the Tories are undoubtedly hoping this controversy will translate into an advantage for their party in Calgary.

Danielle Smith Linda Carlson Wildrose

Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith with candidate Linda Carlson (photo from Danielle Smith-Wildrose Alliance Party leader Facebook Page)

Also in Calgary tomorrow, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith will be making appearances at the at campaign offices of David Yager in Calgary-Hawkwood and Chris Challis in Calgary-North West, Richard Jones in Calgary-Acadia and Corrie Adolph in Calgary-Currie, and Dustin Nau in Calgary-Foothills.

Marlin Schmidt Brian Mason Olivia Chow NDP Alberta Election 2012

NDP MP Olivia Chow, candidate Marlin Schmidt, and NDP leader Brian Mason (photo from Marlin Schmidt's Facebook Page)

Toronto New Democrat Member of Parliament Olivia Chow was in Edmonton today campaigning with NDP leader Brian Mason in his Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood constituency, and making stops in Edmonton-RiverviewEdmonton-Manning and Edmonton-Gold Bar. The NDP are hoping candidates Lori SigurdsonCindy Olsen and Marlin Schmidt can make gains in these three constituencies.

The contest in Edmonton-Gold Bar will be very interesting to watch. Unlike the 2008 election, when incumbent Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald‘s signs dominated front lawns across the constituency, this election’s lack of incumbent  has opened up a three- or four- way competitive contest. Driving through the constituency it appears that Mr. Schmidt is holding his own against Liberal Josipa Petrunic and Progressive Conservative David Dorward.

Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor will be where he should, campaigning in the Town of Hinton in the West Yellowhead constituency. Mr Taylor served as Mayor of Hinton from 2004 until January 2012. He recently recorded an online message to Albertans about why they should support his party on April 23.

Perhaps not where anyone would expect him to be during the last weekend of the campaign, Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman was scheduled to spend today in the traditionally conservative voting Red Deer, where the Liberals nabbed prominent local historian Michael Dawe as their candidate in Red Deer-North. Despite polls showing Liberal support has collapsed in Central Alberta, I would not be surprised to see Mr. Dawe do well on Election Night.

Dr. Sherman will spend the final day of the campaign in his Edmonton-Meadowlark constituency.

Tomorrow: The coveted daveberta election endorsements.

election in edmonton-riverview heating up.

Edmonton-Riverview

Former Edmonton Public School Trustee Bev Esslinger announced today in an email (pdf) that she is seeking the Progressive Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Riverview. The constituency is currently represented by three-term Liberal MLA Kevin Taft, who will not be seeking re-election.

As a trustee, Ms. Esslinger represented Ward A in north Edmonton from 2004 until 2010. She is the current President of the Cumberland/Oxford Community League, which is located in the constituency of Edmonton-Castle Downs. When she declined to seek re-election to the Public School Board in October 2010, some observers suspected that she was preparing to challenge MLA Doug Elniski for the PC nomination in Edmonton-Calder.

Riverview will be one of the constituencies that I will be watching closely when the next election is called. The Liberals hope to hold the constituency that they have held since 1997 and have nominated businessman Arif Khan.

Unlike most constituencies in Alberta, the Liberals have a strong-base of support and solid-organization in this constituency, no doubt cultivated by Dr. Taft’s high-profile as his party’s leader from 2004 to 2010. Mr. Khan has been busy campaigning over the past year, but the Liberals will face a strong challenge from the yet to be nominated Tory and the already nominated New Democrat.

Excited by high levels of support in the area during the May 2010 federal election, the NDP are putting their hopes in social worker Lori Sigurdson. The portion of Edmonton-Riverview east of the North Saskatchewan River includes some of the strongest areas of support for Edmonton-Strathcona Member of Parliament Linda Duncan. Electing an MLA in Riverview would be a victory trophy for the NDP.

The Wildrose Party has nominated consultant John Corie.

Past election results in Edmonton-Riverview

2008 Election
Kevin Taft, Lib – 7,471
Wendy Andrews, PC – 5,171
Erica Bullwinkle, NDP – 1,284
Cameron Wakefield, Grn – 506
Kyle Van Hauwaert, Wildrose – 329

2004 Election
Kevin Taft, Lib – 10,280
Fred Horne, PC – 3,575
Donna Martyn, NDP – 1,058
John Lackey, Green – 357
David Edgar, Alliance – 313
David Power, SC – 116

UPDATE: Edmonton Police Officer Steve Young is expected to enter the PC nomination contest next week.

nominations update – edmonton.

As the contests to replace the leaders of the governing Progressive Conservative Party and the Opposition Liberal Party and new Alberta Party grab the media spotlight, political parties have been quietly nominating candidates for the next election. I have been keeping track of the nominated and declared candidates across the province and this post focuses on the candidates stepping up to stand for election in Edmonton.

There is little reason to believe that constituencies in Edmonton will be any less competitive than they have been over the past 25 years and the rise of the Wildrose Alliance in public opinion polls will certainly effect the electoral environment in ways that we have not seen in previous elections.

Edmonton ridings with nominated NDP candidates (as of March 1, 2011).

Edmonton-Calder
Former MLA David Eggen has secured the NDP nomination and will attempt to win back the constituency that he represented from 2004 to 2008. The boundary changes presented in the interim report of the Electoral Boundaries Committee convinced Mr. Eggen to initially seek his party’s nomination in neighboring Edmonton-Glenora, but the final report’s boundaries shifted key neighbourhoods back to his former constituency.

The incumbent MLA, PC backbencher Doug Elniski, defeated Mr. Eggen by 201 votes in 2008. An amiable guy, Mr. Elniski has suffered from a few unfortunate public mis-speaks in his first term. Calder may be the truest “swing-riding” in Alberta, as it has been represented by PCs, New Democrats, and Liberals since 1986 and in the same time only twice re-elected an incumbent to a second term.

Edmonton-Clareview
Incumbent backbench PC MLA Tony Vandermeer was elected in 2008 by defeating NDP MLA Ray Martin by 337 votes (Mr. Martin is now the federal NDP candidate in Edmonton-East). Mr. Vandermeer also served as the PC MLA for Edmonton-Manning between 2001 and 2004. The NDP have nominated teacher Deron Bilous, who was his party’s candidate in Edmonton-Centre in the 2008 election.

Edmonton-Decore
First-term PC backbencher Janice Sarich made the transition from Catholic School District Trustee to MLA in 2008, snatching this seat from Liberal MLA Bill Bonko by 682 votes. Mrs. Sarich’s victory marked the first time that the PCs elected an MLA in this area since 1982. The Liberals have yet to officially nominate their candidate, but Zack Siezmagraff has started his campaign to reclaim the constituency for his party. The NDP have nominated Sheriff Ali Haymour as their candidate. Mr. Haymour was his party’s 2008 candidate in the neighboring Edmonton-Castle Downs, where he earned 9.6% against incumbent MLA Thomas Lukaszuk.

Edmonton ridings with nominated Liberal candidates (as of March 1, 2011).

Edmonton-Gold Bar
Incumbent Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald is expected to seek re-election in the constituency he has represented since 1997. The only nominated challenger is New Democrat Marlin Schmidt, who is also President of his party’s electoral district association in the federal riding of Edmonton-Strathcona. Mr. MacDonald could face another dog-fight with his 2008 PC challenger David Dorward, who built a substantial amount of name recognition after his unsuccessful Mayoral bid in 2010.

Edmonton-McClung
Another swing-riding, first-term PC backbencher David Xiao could face of against nominated former Liberal MLA Mo Elsalhy, who represented the constituency from 2004 until 2008. Mr. Elsalhy sought the Liberal leadership in 2008, placing third and has announced that he will stay out of the current contest.

Edmonton-Meadowlark
Elected as a PC in 2008, Dr. Raj Sherman became an Independent MLA after being kicked out of the PC caucus in November 2010. Dr. Sherman has used his position as a vocal critic of the PC government’s record on health care to become a sort of political folk hero for Albertans, but recent comments have rubbed off some of his political shine. The constituency has been represented for most of the past 20 years by Liberal MLAs, most recently Maurice Tougas until 2008. Notwithstanding that party’s long history in the constituency, it has yet to nominate a candidate for the next election. Local Wildrose constituency President Rick Newcombe has expressed an interest in being his party’s candidate, but has yet to official declare his intentions.

Edmonton-Mill Woods
Former Liberal MLA Weslyn Mather will attempt to reclaim the constituency she lost to PC Carl Benito in 2008. Since being elected, Mr. Benito has become the source of amusement/ridicule for his strident support of Alberta’s official mushroom, his broken promise to donate his entire MLA salary to a scholarship fund, and his publicly blaming his wife for not filing his property taxes for two years. The NDP have nominated AUPE Vice-President Sandra Azocar as their candidate and are hoping that former Liberal-represented middle-class constituencies like Mill Woods are places that they can grow.

Edmonton ridings with nominated Wildrose candidates (as of March 1, 2011).

Edmonton-Riverview
The retirement of three-term Liberal MLA Kevin Taft will leave big shoes for candidates in this constituency to fill. I spoke with 2008 PC candidate Wendy Andrews at last week’s Speech from the Throne and she told me that she was still undecided about whether she wanted to run again. The Liberals have yet to hold a nomination meeting and the only candidate to publicly declare interest is consultant and Rotarian Arif Khan. I have heard rumors that former Public School Board Trustee Don Fleming may be interested in seeking the nomination. The NDP will nominate College of Social Workers coordinator Lori Sigurdson and are hoping that the votes MP Linda Duncan received in this area can be translated provincially. The Wildrose Alliance have nominated John Corie.

Edmonton-Rutherford
With three challengers already nominated, first-term PC backbencher Fred Horne has his work cut out for him. His main challenger at this point is former Liberal MLA Rick Miller, who represented the constituency from 2004 until 2008 when he was unexpectedly unseated by Mr. Horne. Mr. Miller has stayed involved in politics since 2008 as the Chief of Staff for the Liberal Official Opposition. The NDP have nominated Melanie Samaroden as their candidate and the Wildrose have re-nominated their 2008 candidate Kyle McLeod.

An overview of nominations in Calgary constituencies will be posted later this week.

alberta politics notes 2/11/2011

New Environics Poll
A new Environics Poll shows the PCs with 38% support of decided voters province-wide, compared to 26% for the Wildrose party, 22% for the Liberals, and 10% for the NDP. In Edmonton, the PCs are at 36%, with the Liberals at 27%, Wildrose Alliance at 18%, and NDP at 15%. In Calgary, the PCs are at 34%, the Wildrose Alliance at 31%, the Liberals at 24%, and the NDP at 6%. The poll is also reported to show the PCs sitting at 43% outside of Edmonton and Calgary, compared to 29% for the Wildrose Alliance, 15% for the Liberals, and 9% for the NDP. While these are interesting numbers, I have a difficult time putting to much weight in this poll now that Premier Ed Stelmach and Liberal leader David Swann have announced their resignation.

Will Alison Redford run?

Probably, but not yet. Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson is calling on Justice Minister Alison Redford to meet the requirements set by Premier Stelmach and resign from cabinet if she is planning to seek the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party. Despite hiring campaign strategist Stephen Carter last week, a number of Tory sources have told me that Minister Redford continues to be indecisive about whether or not to run.

The Alberta government's man in Washington DC: Gary Mar.

Mr. Mar leaving Washington?
Former cabinet minister and Alberta’s current Washington D.C. representative Gary Mar is said to be preparing a run for his party’s leadership. Earlier this week I tweeted that GaryMar.ca was registered on January 27, 2011, the day that Premier Stelmach announced his resignation. The domain name was registered by Todd Herron, a former Chief Information Officer and Assistant Deputy Minister of Health. Mr. Mar faces the challenge of either returning to Alberta to enter the contest or potentially being replaced as Alberta’s representative when a new party leader is selected in eight months.

A candidate from Coronation?
The online campaign to lure Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths into his party’s leadership contest continues. With Housing Minister Jonathan Denis declaring today via Twitter that he will not enter the contest, the well-spoken and idea-focused Mr. Griffiths could be the only candidate under the age of 45 to enter the contest.

One Taylor enters the Alberta Party race
Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor formally announced his candidacy for the Alberta Party leadership this week. The three-term Mayor and former chair of the Rural Alberta Development Fund made the announcement at the Art Gallery of Alberta and was live streamed over the Internet.

Other Alberta Party candidates?
Lisa Fox, stepped down as the federal Green Party candidate in Wild Rose this week telling the Cochrane Eagle that she is considering a run for the Alberta Party leadership. Another candidate based out of Calgary is expected to enter the race in the next few weeks.

The route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline (image from The Economist).

Keystone XL
To the dread of Alberta’s oil companies and the Public Affairs Bureau, the “Tar Sands” are featured in a recent issue of The Economist. The article describes the proposed Keystone XL pipeline as potentially pumping $20 billion into the American economy and creating $5 billion in taxes to the individual states on the route. The proposed pipeline, which has been a subject of ferocious debate, was opposed by many Congressional Democrats, including Representative Henry Waxman and is publicly supported by 39 Congressional Republicans. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that he is “inclined” to support the pipeline.

Friends of Medicare tour
Touring with the Friends of Medicare, Independent Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman has been drawing crowds across the province. At a recent town hall meeting in Red Deer, Dr. Sherman told a packed crowd that solutions to the current crisis in emergency rooms starts with enhancing home care and long-term care for seniors, particularly those in the low and middle income groups. The next town hall meeting will be held in Medicine Hat on February 19, 2011.

Liberals hire new Communications Director
Brian Leadbetter has been hired as the new Communications Director for the Official Opposition Liberals. Mr. Leadbetter will fill a vacancy that was created when former Director Neil Mackie had his contract terminated in January. Mr. Leadbetter was the Director of Government & Community Relations for Northlands from 2007 to 2010 and a Senior Communications Director for the City of Edmonton previous to that.

AUPE Re-starts negotiations
After reaching an impasse in January, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees has proposed re-starting their negotiations between their General Services Bargaining Unit and the provincial government. The resignation of Premier Stelmach may have hastened their decision to restart negotiations, especially with the prospects of potentially bargaining with a more ideologically driven government under future Premier Ted Morton.

Social Credit policy renewal
Acknowledging that there is room for improvement, the Social Credit Party is inviting Albertans to participate in their policy development process. According to the party website, reasonable, innovative suggestions will be formulated into policy proposals to be presented at the Party Policy Convention on March 26, 2011 in Innisfail.

Marc Power is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-North Hill/Klein.

More candidates step up
I have updated the list of nominated and declared candidates for the next provincial election (please note the new link) to include Marc Power, who is seeking the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-North Hill, which will be known as Calgary-Klein when the election is called. Mr. Power, a software trainer and former co-chair of the NDP LGBT committee, was that party’s 2008 candidate in Calgary-Currie. North Hill is currently represented by PC MLA Kyle Fawcett, who was first elected in 2008.

Federal Edmonton-Strathcona NDP President Marlin Schmidt is seeking his party’s nomination in Edmonton-Gold Bar at a February 24 selection meeting. The constituency has been represented by Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald since 1997.

UPDATE via Insight into Government Leduc Alderman Dominic Mishio has declared his intentions to seek the PC nomination against two term MLA George Rogers in the new Leduc-Beaumont constituency.

In Edmonton-Riverview, Arif Khan is the first candidate to declare interest in seeking the Liberal nomination to replace retiring MLA Kevin Taft. Mr. Khan is the western Vice-President of the Condo Store Inc. As noted in last week’s Alberta Politics Notes, the NDP are expected to nominate Lori Sigurdson in Riverview.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

alberta politics notes 2/04/2011

A reality check from the Cosh.
Colby Cosh has delivered a cynical and un-sensationalist reality check for Albertans getting starry eyed or swept up in a whirlwind of political change. While Alberta’s political landscape may be more unstable than it has been in years, and it is exciting to be part of new emerging parties and movements, it is important to step back and keeping some perspective is key.

Cabinet resignations.
With cabinet ministers expected to resign in order to seek the PC Party leadership, Albertans could witness a series of cabinet shuffles over the coming months. The resignation of Finance Minister Ted Morton and potential resignations of Deputy Premier Doug Horner, Justice Minister Allison Redford, and Housing Minister Jonathan Denis could put a number of Parliamentary Assistants and backbench MLAs in cabinet positions. I would not be surprised if Greg Weadick, Janice Sarich, Diana McQueen, or Manmeet Bhullar had cabinet experience by the end of 2011.

American scientist resigns from Alberta Water panel.
Only days after the new panel to create a new provincial environmental monitoring system was appointed, prominent University of California-Irvine professor Helen Ingram has quit the panel.

According to the Edmonton Journal, Dr. Ingram resigned ‘citing concerns about a lack of scientific and First Nations representation on the panel, and what she saw as an overzealous draft confidentially agreement.’ The panel includes a number of credible scientists and is co-chaired by former TransCanada CEO Hal Kvisle, who has leveled strong criticism against environmental groups.

Budget on February 24.
Premier Ed Stelmach told an audience during speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce yesterday that the 2011 provincial budget will be tabled on February 24. The Assembly is scheduled to begin spring session on January 22 with the Speech from the Throne.

Redford getting some Carter power.
Wildrose Alliance Vice-President Membership Blaine Maller tweeted last night that Calgary political operative Stephen Carter has been hired to manage Allison Redford‘s campaign for the PC leadership. Mr. Carter had been staff to Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith and was a key player in Naheed Nenshi‘s successful Mayoral campaign in Calgary.

PC campaign manager exits.
Not surprisingly, the departure of Premier Ed Stelmach has also led to the departure of PC campaign manager Randy Dawson, who managed the party’s 2008 campaign and had been reappointed to manage their next election campaign.

Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor expected to run for the Alberta Party leadership.

Taylor versus Taylor?
Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor is expected to launch his campaign for the Alberta Party leadership on February 8 in Edmonton. Mr. Taylor was elected to his third-term as Mayor of Hinton in October 2010. It will be a battle of the Taylor’s if Alberta Party MLA Dave Taylor enters the leadership contest, as some political watchers expect him to.

An awkward place.
What an awkward place the Official Opposition caucus must be this week. Laurie Blakeman is reportedly weighing her options to seeking the leadership of the Alberta Party or the Liberal Party. This news comes the same week as leader David Swann announced his resignation. Ms. Blakeman’s colleague Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald is said to have ambitions for his party’s leadership.

Paramedic Rick Fraser wants to inject himself into the next election as the PC candidate in Calgary-Hays.

More candidates step up.
The list of nominated and declared candidates for the next provincial election has been updated to include Lori Sigurdson, who is seeking the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Riverview.

Ms. Sigurdson is the Professional Affairs Coordinator for the Alberta College of Social Workers and previously worked for former NDP leader Ray Martin when he was the MLA for Edmonton-Norwood. That constituency has been represented by Liberal MLA Kevin Taft since 2001, who was re-elected in 2008 with 50% of the vote. Dr. Taft is not be seeking re-election. The Wildrose Alliance has nominated John Corie as their candidate.

Calgary Paramedic Rick Fraser is seeking the PC nomination in Calgary-Hays. The constituency is currently represented by PC MLA Art Johnston, who was first elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2008 with 54% of the vote. Former Libertarian Party of Canada leader Dennis Young is seeking the Wildrose Alliance nomination in that constituency.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.