Tag Archives: Lorne Gibson

One Big Happy Conservative Movement: Kamikaze campaigns, Jason Kenney, Brian Jean, Derek Fildebrandt, Scott Moe, and the RCMP

Alberta politics can be a wild ride.

With an election expected to be called in a matter of days or weeks, Alberta’s Election Commissioner has turned over to the RCMP its investigation into allegations of irregular political contributions involving the so-called “kamikaze” campaign of United Conservative Party leadership contender Jeff Callaway, according to a report by CBC investigative journalists Charles Rusnell and Jennie Russell.

Brian Jean and Jason Kenney

Brian Jean and Jason Kenney

It has been alleged that that the UCP leadership campaign of Jason Kenney supported a “kamikaze mission“ by Jeff Callaway to target former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean during the UCP leadership contest in 2017.

Elections Commissioner Lorne Gibson has already issued fines of $15,000 against Callaway’s campaign manager and former UCP nomination candidate, Cameron Davies, and $3,500 against donor Karen Brown. And last week, UCP executive director Janice Harrington announced that Calgary-Beddington candidate Randy Kerr had been removed because he “was not forthright in responding to the Party’s inquiries regarding his financial contribution to the Jeff Callaway Leadership campaign.

Scott Moe and Jason Kenney

Scott Moe and Jason Kenney

The story comes the day after heavy-hitters from western Canada’s Conservative establishment, most notably Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and former prime minister Stephen Harper, rallied around Kenney following rumours that Jean was preparing to jump back into politics – with the Alberta Party or Freedom Conservative Party.

It turns out that Jean was either actually working with the Freedom Conservatives, as party leader Derek Fildebrandt claims, or was clumsily trying to position himself as a UCP leader-in-waiting in case Kenney’s leadership collapsed following the news of a potential RCMP investigation. 

Jean has provided copies of emails and text messages showing that he contacted the UCP board of directors, Kenney and Harper months ago to raise concerns about Callaway situation, only to receive no response from Kenney.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean campaigned with Derek Fildebrandt in Strathmore-Brooks on the first day of the 2015 election. (Photo from Brian Jean's Facebook Page).

Wildrose leader Brian Jean campaigned with Derek Fildebrandt in Strathmore-Brooks on the first day of the 2015 election. (Photo from Brian Jean’s Facebook Page).

As Premier Rachel Notley noted to the media today, if the leader of another major political party was tied up in such an investigation, the UCP would be calling for their resignation. Notley is right, but do not expect Kenney to step aside anytime soon.

With the conservative political establishment rallying to Kenney’s defence, barring criminal charges being laid or Kenney-connected UCP organizers being perp walked in handcuffs, it is unlikely he would step aside because of or even during the course of this potential RCMP investigation. And even if Kenney did step aside, Jean now seems like a very unlikely choice to replace him. The role of interim leader would be a better fit for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper, who ably filled the role as interim leader during the UCP leadership contest.

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt joined Jason Kenney on the eve of his victory in the PC Party leadership race. (Photo credit: @pcyouthalberta on Twitter)

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt joined Jason Kenney on the eve of his victory in the PC Party leadership race. (Photo credit: @pcyouthalberta on Twitter)

An RCMP investigation is serious business and would take time before coming to a resolution, meaning that it would likely not be until after the election that Albertans learn the results of an investigation. I have heard some calls for Notley to delay the election call until after this potential investigation is concluded, pushing beyond Alberta’s unique three-month fixed election window, which seems unlikely but not impossible.

Even with a significant lead in most public opinion polls, the timing of this announcement is bad news for the UCP. It is without a doubt that we will hear leaders and candidates from the other parties use the words “UCP” and “RCMP” in the same sentence very frequently over the next few weeks.

NDP put health care on their pre-election legislative agenda

Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell is scheduled to read the Speech from the Throne on Monday, March 18, and the New Democratic Party government is expected to introduce health care legislation as a flagship bill in what is expected to be a short spring session of the Legislature.

Sarah Hoffman NDP MLA Edmonton-Glenora

Sarah Hoffman

The Throne Speech and Bill 1: Protecting Public Health Care Act, could be the last big pre-election opportunity for the NDP to push forward an election narrative on an issue that plays to their strengths.

Public health care is traditionally a strong issue for the NDP and stability in the health care system has been a hallmark issue for the NDP government. Health Minister Sarah Hoffman has steered the public health care system clear of the perpetual lurch from crisis to crisis that happened under the old Progressive Conservative governments.

It is unknown how many days or weeks the NDP plan to take for this spring session, but I am told that many NDP staffers and organizers are already “on vacation” from their day jobs working hard on campaigns across the province. 


UPDATE!

CBC has released a report report with new information related to the collusion between the Kenney and Callaway campaigns during the 2017 UCP leadership contest: The leaked cache of documents show Kenney’s campaign provided Callaway with resources including strategic political direction, media and debate talking points, speeches, videos, and attack advertisements, all aimed at undermining Kenney’s main political rival, Brian Jean.”

illegal donations continue to dog alberta’s tories.

Tories Illegal Donations

Another case of illegal donations to the PC Party has been relvealed.

In the weeks leading to the election call earlier this year, it appeared that a series of illegal donations collected by Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Association could become a defining issue of the campaign. The donations, made public through the great investigative work of CBC reporter Charles Rusnell, revealed that many public institutions, municipalities, and organizations that receive public funds had made financial or in-kind donations to the PC Party. Under the laws that govern Alberta’s political financing, these types of contributions are deemed illegal.

As the Writ was dropped and the electioneering began, the public focus shifted away from the illegal donations towards more sensational issues, like MLA pay, which were soon eclipsed by other issues and the Tories were re-elected on April 23.

Brian Fjeldheim

Brian Fjeldheim

As the Assembly ended and summer break began last week, Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer O. Brian Fjeldheim had announced that Elections Alberta was charging fines to some of these groups but would not make public the names of these groups. Mr. Fjeldheim told the media that he is barred by law from making these names public and does not have the authority to further investigate breaches of Alberta’s political financing laws.

Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk and Justice Minister Jonathan Denis responded by claiming the Chief Electoral Officer’s inability to publicly release the group names was a results of recommendations made by Mr. Fjeldheim’s predecessor, Lorne Gibson.

The Calgary Herald’s Don Braid interviewed Mr. Gibson, who disputed this claim and said he is being used as a scapegoat by Tory politicians:

It stretches the bounds of credibility to suggest that the intention of (my) recommendation was to keep private the results of an investigations that lead to a finding of wrongdoing.

This week, Mr. Rusnell unveiled another case of illegal contributions. Documents obtained by the CBC show that Joe Lougheed, a prominent lawyer and the son of former Premier Peter Lougheed, purchased $4,500 worth of tickets to PC Party fundraisers on behalf of the University of Calgary and billed the University extra hours to pay for them. To the university’s credit, their legal counsel put an end to the practice.

Joe Lougheed

Joe Lougheed

Mr. Lougheed’s connections to the PC Party are more than just familial. He has been active in that party and he ran for to be President of the PC Party in 2007. He was defeated by Marg Mrazek in what was split between northern and southern regional factions within the party (Ms.Mrazek was from St. Albert, which is located north of Edmonton).  At the time, Mount Royal University Professor David Taras described Mr. Lougheed as “a symbol of the old party and Calgary power.”

Since her stepping into the role last year, PC Premier Alison Redford has made a priority to improve her party’s image amid these types of allegations. This is not an easy task. After four decades in government, her party has essentially institutionalized this type of behaviour. I would not be shocked if the University of Calgary is not the final example.

Before the election, opposition party leaders claimed that that many of these institutions and municipalities faced intimidation to make those donations. Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman frequently used the example of the banned donations to accuse the Tories of practising “warlord politics” in rural Alberta.

While there does not seem to be much hard evidence proving the claims of intimidation, Alberta’s one-party state political environment has certainly created the belief that joining and supporting the PC Party is the only way to participate and influence debate in this province. It is just the way business is done in Alberta.

alberta politics notes 3/18/2011

AMA President Dr. Patrick White

Public Inquiry.
As a third case of doctor intimidation was made public, opposition MLAs continued their chorus calls for a full public inquiry. The Health Quality Council of Alberta released the terms of reference for the investigation ordered by Premier Ed Stelmach last week. Meanwhile, the opposition held up a letter from Alberta Medical Association President Patrick White in Question Period today claiming that even the doctors’ union wanted a public inquiry. According to the Globe & Mail’s Josh Wingrove, Dr. White later clarified that the AMA is not calling for a public inquiry, but would support one if it were called.

The debate among politicians has shifted to now focus on doctors intimidation and away from the focus on patient outcomes that dominated the debate during the 2010 Fall session of the Assembly.

Mar enters, Redford makes a mark.
Former cabinet minister Gary Mar entered the PC leadership contest with a slick campaign speech, his own Twitter hashtag – #GOGARY, and an endorsement from cabinet minister Iris Evans. Candidate Alison Redford distanced herself from her party’s unpopular property rights legislation, criticising the Land Stewardship Act for not having “the appropriate balance” between the rights of individual property owners, industry and environment.

Former MLA supports Raj for Liberal leader
Conservative MLA turned Liberal leadership hopeful Dr. Raj Sherman has the support of at least one former Liberal MLA. Bharat Agnihotri, who served as MLA for Edmonton-Ellerslie from 2004 to 2008, left a gushing endorsement on Dr. Sherman’s Facebook wall.

Meanwhile, another former Liberal MLA, Maurice Tougas, takes a more critical look at Dr. Sherman’s politics.

Gibson’s back, not going quietly.
Former Chief Electoral Officer Lorne Gibson is suing the Government of Alberta after his sudden dismissal in March 2009. Mr. Gibson was dismissed from his role after releasing two reports with over 100 recommendations on how to improve Alberta’s election laws. Seen by many as a scapegoat, his dismissal was the result of a vote by PC MLAs at the Standing Committee of Legislative Offices.

Chima Nkemdirim at the 2010 Alberta Party conference.

Draft Chima
He says that he is not interested, but that is not stopping his supporters from trying to convince Chima Nkemdirim to join the Alberta Party leadership contest. A Calgary-based lawyer and smart growth advocate, Mr. Nkemdirim was the campaign manager for Naheed Nenshi‘s successful Mayoral campaign and now serves as the Mayor’s Chief of Staff. Mr. Nkemdirim is the former President and a founder of the new Alberta Party. Other candidates in the race are Calgarians Tammy Maloney and Chris Tesarski, and Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor.

More candidate nominations…
I have updated the list of declared provincial election candidates

The Calgary-Foothills Wildrose nomination has attracted two candidates, Dustin Nau and Walter Wakula. Foothills is represented by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Len Webber, who has also been nominated as his party candidate for the next election. Said Abdulbaki will seek the Wildrose nomination against Chestermere Town Councillor Heather Davies in Chestermere-RockyviewJohn Hilton-O’Brien in Calgary-Bow. Mr. Hilton-O’Brien will be facing Tim Dyck in his party’s nomination contest. Bow is represented by backbench PC MLA Alana DeLong, who was first elected in 2001. Beiseker Mayor Bruce Rowe has announced his intentions to seek the Wildrose nomination in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills.

The Liberals will nominate candidates in Calgary-Foothills on April 8 and Edmonton-Riverview on April 15 , where Arif Khan is the only declared candidate.

Meanwhile, a number of PC MLAs have been nominated for the next election: Mary Anne Jablonski in Red Deer-North, Cal Dallas in Red Deer-South, Yvonne Fritz in Calgary-Cross, Manmeet Bhullar in Calgary-Greenway, and Naresh Bhardwaj in Edmonton-Ellerslie.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

transparency rules.

The cover of this week's SEE Magazine in Edmonton.

While announcing the dates of their upcoming leadership contest last week, the Alberta Party also released the contest rules, which include some interesting and encouraging requirements for candidates to release and make public a list of financial donors to their campaign.

A condition of candidacy is that a candidate for election as Leader shall consent to full disclosure of all donations, receipts and expenses related to the campaign, including:

(i) an interim report on the same, in the form adopted by the convention rules committee which shall be filed by the Official Agent of the candidates with the Convention Rules Committee 14 days in advance of Voting Day; and
(ii) a final report on the same, which shall be filed by the Official Agent of the candidate with the Convention Rules Committee within 30 days after voting day

The donor information contained in both the interim and final reports referred to in (5) above will be posted by the Alberta Party to its website (Candidates are urged to post donor information, for the knowledge of the public, on a real time basis).

There are no laws governing political party leadership contest in Alberta and each party has the opportunity to be as transparent or closed-door as they decide when it comes to financial contributions and making public the names of campaign donors.

Progressive Conservative
There were no rules requiring candidates in the 2006 PC leadership contest to release the names of their financial donors, but this did not stop some from making their donor lists public.

Candidates Jim Dinning, Dave Hancock, and Mark Norris released varying versions of donors lists, some which included specific donation amounts for each donor and some listing donors in categories between donation sizes. Current Finance Minister Ted Morton refused to make public a list of donors who supported his bid to become Leader of the PC Party.

The contest winner, now-Premier Ed Stelmach released a partial list of financial contributors to his leadership campaign, keeping secret the names of 80 donors whose contributions made up 15% of the $1.1 million raised by his leadership campaign. The partially released list allowed the media and opposition parties to later point out fairly obvious conflict-of-interests, but the remaining eighty donors remain secret.

While not committing to implement any changes in the short-term, PC Party President Bill Smith has publicly committed to have a system in place to monitor and make public who donates cash to their leadership campaigns for his party’s next leadership campaign.

Liberal Party
Candidates in the December 2008 Liberal leadership contest were required to provide the Party with a list of donors who had contributed to their campaign. The donors lists were then posted on the Liberal Party website. The section of the Liberal Party website that had listed these donors was removed when that Party relaunched their website late last year.

New Democratic Party
I was not able to find any current information on whether candidates for the leadership of Alberta’s NDP would be required to release a list of financial contributions. The last time the Alberta NDP held a contested leadership race was in 1996, so it is possible that in the absence of a campaign over the past 15 year that these rules do not exist.

Wildrose Alliance
Leadership candidates in the 2009 contest were not required to release a list of their financial contributors. Leadership contest winner and current Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith claims to have raised $250,000 for her leadership campaign, but has refused to release the names of her donors. Ms. Smith told the Edmonton Journal after her election in 2009 that she would not make public a list of her donors because they “are afraid of repercussions by this government.”

Alberta’s former Chief Elections Officer, Lorne Gibson, proposed in 2009 that the Elections Finances Act be amended to include a section governing political party leadership finances. Mr. Gibson’s contract was not renewed by a PC MLA dominated legislative committee soon after the recommendations were made.

According to a report released by Public Interest Alberta, there are currently three Provinces that require party leadership contestants to release names of their financial backers. In Ontario, leadership candidates are required to report from the time of the official call of the contest until two months after the vote and then within six months of the contest’s completion. In Manitoba and British Columbia, leadership contestants are required to report a list of their financial contributions and donors thirty days after the end of the contest.

alison redford’s big opportunity.

(Re)Enter Mister Fjeldheim.
There has been a certain amount of attention focused on Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer and his comments regarding his philosophy towards his newly re-inherited position. Brian Fjeldheim, who held the position from 1998 to 2005, was recently reappointed following the dismissal of his more activist successor-turned-predecessor Lorne Gibson. After re-assuming his role last week, Mr. Fjeldheim was a little more reserved when describing his role in advocating the importance of the vote to Albertans (60% of Albertans did not vote in the 2008 election). Dave Breakenridge offered some thoughts on Mr. Fjeldhiem’s comments in today’s Calgary Sun.

Open up the Elections Act.
In the next few weeks, Justice Minister Alison Redford is expected to introduce legislative amendments to Alberta’s aging Elections Act. Minister Redford has said that the amendments will include some of the 182 recommended changes submitted by Mr. Gibson before his departure (but will not include fixed election dates). Of course, the recommendations included in the Bill will have be carefully chosen and measured for political impact by Minister Redford and her PC cabinet colleagues. Minister Redford’s amendments will likely include changes to how Returning Officers are chosen. During the 2008 election, it was revealed that the PC Party had provided lists of candidates for Returning Officers to the Elections Office (over half of the appointed Returning Officers had partisan connections to the PC Party).

Elections procedures can be improved through legislation, but democratic participation can be strengthened through meaningful engagement. In September 2007, the Government of New Zealand tried something completely different. As an innovative way to capture the views of the public on what a new Policing Act should look like, the Ministry of Justice launched an online Wiki. This Wiki allowed citizens from across that country to contribute their ideas and collaborate in the creation of new legislation.

What better way to reinvigorate our Elections Act than by opening up the amendment process to allow Albertans to collaborate by contributing their ideas for changes and improvements? What better opportunity to do things differently in than by allowing Albertans to invest their own ideas into the development of the important piece of legislation that will decide how their elections are structured? Is there a more meaningful piece of legislation that could be opened up to public collaboration than the Elections Act? Would this kind of online collaboration succeed in Alberta? There is only one way to find out.

Prior to entering elected office in 2008, Minister Redford cultivated an international legal career helping build democracies in countries around the globe (including as one of four international election commissioners appointed by the Secretary General of the United Nations to administer Afghanistan’s first parliamentary elections in September 2005). Legislative amendments can improve structure, but opening up the Elections Act to real public collaboration could be Minister Redford’s big opportunity to create more meaningful democratic participation in Alberta.

Making it easier for students to vote.
I am sure that there would be no shortage of Albertans who would contribute their ideas to an open dialogue on improving our Elections Act. The Council of Alberta University Students submitted a handful of recommendations (pdf) to Minister Redford last year when they heard about the upcoming legislative amendments. Each of the five recommendations have been adopted by Elections officials in provinces across Canada (though no jurisdiction has adopted all five). The recommendations would improve access to a voting demographic that due to its geographic transience, are likely to face barriers and challenges to participating in elections.

These are good recommendation, most of which would require minor administrative changes that are not anything that a little Alberta ingenuity could not overcome. Decreasing barriers to voting for younger Albertans will create a positive culture of participating in elections and could help create life-long voters – a group that is increasingly becoming a minority in Alberta elections. I hope to see some of these positive improvements included among Minister Redford’s amendments.

Coming Soon: New Maps.
Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission is due to release its interim report by February 26, 2010.