Tag Archives: Mark Smith

Alberta’s Conservatives are obsessed with Gay-Straight Alliances

Following Progressive Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney’s comments to the Calgary Postmedia editorial board fifteen days ago when he came out in favour of allowing schools to inform parents when students join a student-initiated Gay-Straight Alliance club, Alberta’s conservative politicians have tied themselves in knots over the issue.

Gay-Straight Alliances are student-initiated clubs meant empower students to create safe environments in their own schools, which studies have found may reduce the odds of suicidal thoughts and attempts among both sexual minority and straight students. As I wrote last week, having schools track their involvement in these clubs and informing their parents is not just creepy but could be dangerous.

It appeared as if Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean was setting himself apart from Kenney on April 3 by coming out against outing students to their parents, saying that “it’s much like a math club or a prayer club, and I don’t think that would be appropriate (for parents to be told when a child joins).” On April 4, he changed his tune, stating that parents should only sometimes be notified. But by April 5, he switched back to his original position that he did not believe parents should be notified if their child joins a GSA.

On April 6, Jean appeared to be contradicted by Mark Smith, the Wildrose MLA for Drayton Valley-Devon, who criticized a letter sent to school officials by Education Minister David Eggen reaffirming the NDP government’s belief that parents should not be informed if students join GSAs.

The NDP have visibly enjoyed the attention that Kenney and Jean’s comments have generated, on a provincial and even international level. These types of social issues generally play to the strength of the NDP, which is why Kenney desperately tried to pivot his message back to the provincial economy before disappearing from public sight last week.

The NDP are trying to frame Kenney as a social conservative – which he is – going back to his days as an anti-abortion activist while enrolled as a student at a Roman Catholic university in San Francisco.

A large portion of the membership base of the Wildrose Party is also social conservative, which both Kenney and Jean are courting for support in their bids to lead a new conservative party.

This week, the president of the Wildrose Party association in Medicine Hat evoked the legacy of residential schools and forced sterilization in a Facebook post supporting Kenney’s position. “How did the native schools turn out? Yup, that was the government telling us they knew best. How about sterilizing handicapped people? Yup, another brilliant government idea,” wrote Maureen Prince on Facebook post published on April 4, 2017. She also claimed in a Facebook post published on March 16, 2017 that the United Nations wants to “redistribute children to be raised by governments.”

Prince appears to be an active member of a conservative education group called Concerned Parents of Medicine Hat School District #76, which is a vocal critic of the NDP and its stance on GSAs.

The Concerned Parents group provided “Include Parents” buttons to several Wildrose MLAs who wore them in the Legislative Assembly this week. The group appears to be associated or allied with a province-wide conservative education advocacy group called “Parents For Choice in Education.

Parents for Choice took issue with Jean’s first and third positions against potentially outing students to their parents, saying that he and Education Minister David Eggen had the “gall to falsely and audaciously accuse parents of being the greater danger to these vulnerable youth.”

With conservative politicians stuck on the GSA issue, Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government has been playing to their strengths, spending the past few weeks announcing lower school fees, school nutrition programs, locations for $25-per day childcare programs, and the construction of new schools, hospitals and affordable housing projects.

The NDP subtly shifted their messaging over the past few months, focusing on launching new programs and projects that they argue will “make lives better for Albertans,” rather than trying to out-flank the conservatives on economic issues. And it is working remarkably well for the NDP.

Meanwhile, despite previous claims by Brian Jean that he has “no interest” in social issues and Jason Kenney’s pledge to create a free-market conservative party, it appears that the only issue galvanizing conservatives over the past two weeks is whether or not to allow the state-sanctioned outing of gay kids.

Alberta’s Tories Navigate through unfamiliar waters

As most Albertans head to work tomorrow morning, the Tory-connected public relations firm Navigator will host an invite-only session for clients in downtown Edmonton titled “Alberta’s New Government: What to Expect.” The session is being hosted by former Ottawa television host Don Newman and will feature main speaker Kathleen Monk (Ottawa NDP insider and former executive director of the Broadbent Institute) and Tory-connected panelists Jason Hatcher (managing principal at Navigator) and Jaime Watt (Toronto-based Navigator executive chairman). In a normal election year, it would not be surprising that this company would organize a session like this for their clients, but this has not been a normal election year.

Ric McIver

Ric McIver

One of Navigator’s managing principals, Randy Dawson, was the campaign manager for the Progressive Conservative Party‘s disastrous losing re-election campaign (despite the company’s slogan “When you can’t afford to lose”). After the firm became part of a controversy that damaged the Tories during the election campaign and one of its high profile employees led the campaign that ended the PC Party’s uninterrupted 44-year reign, it is surprising that Navigator is raising its flag in Alberta so soon after election day.

On Thursday night, interim PC Party leader Ric McIver will take the stage in what is sure to be a sombre event. Before Rachel Notley‘s NDP were swept to office on May 5, Premier Jim Prentice had been scheduled to speak at his party’s Calgary leader’s dinner on May 14. At the time tickets were so sought after that they sold out. Everyone in corporate Calgary wanted to be there to congratulate Mr. Prentice on his big win but voters had different plans. And while the fundraising dinner remains sold out, it is expected that a smaller and less powerful crowd will be in attendance.

Jonathan Denis MLA Calgary Acadia

Jonathan Denis

It has been astonishing to watch the breakneck speed in which some longtime PC supporters have abandoned any belief their party can someday return to power. Former justice minister Jonathan Denis called for a merger of the Wildrose and PC Party only days after his personal defeat in Calgary-Acadia.

Former MLA Greg Stevens, who served in Peter Lougheed’s cabinets, wrote in the Calgary Herald that the PC Party would “will cough and spit and be no more” after its election loss. And former Premier Ed Stelmach said shifting too far to the political right was a mistake made by the PC Party.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean responded to Mr. Denis by saying he was not interested in merging his party with the recently defeated Tories.

Ed Stelmach

Ed Stelmach

In December 2014, the Wildrose Party was moribund after former leader Danielle Smith led most of the party’s MLAs into the PC Caucus. Today, none of the floor crossers are MLAs and Mr. Jean’s Wildrose Party has formed Official Opposition with 21 MLAs (4 more than Ms. Smith led the party to win in 2012).

In response to Ms. Smith’s attempts to restore her public image, former Wildrose Communications Director Brock Harrison wrote an op-ed in the National Post aimed at debunking her “revisionist history.

Notley Senior Staff
Brian Topp Alberta Premier Chief of Staff

Brian Topp

Ms. Notley announced three senior roles in the Premier’s Office. Brian Topp will be Chief of Staff and Adrienne King will be Deputy Chief of Staff. Mr. Topp is the former federal NDP leadership candidate and deputy Chief of Staff to Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow and Ms. King is the former Chief of Staff at the Alberta’s NDP Caucus. Richard Dicerni will continue as Deputy Minister for Executive Council. Mr. Dicerni was appointed to the role by Mr. Prentice in September 2014.

Official Opposition Critics
Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

The Wildrose Official Opposition unveiled its front bench critics for the upcoming Legislative session: Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes as Shadow Minister for Health, Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman as Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier as Shadow Minister for Municipal Affairs, Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt as Shadow Minister for Finance & Treasury Board, Drayton Valley-Devon MLA Mark Smith as Shadow Minister for Education, Chestermere-Rockyview MLA Leela Aheer as Shadow Minister for Energy.

Alberta Election candidates: Shelley Wark-Martyn (Liberal Calgary-Currie), David Xiao (PC Edmonton-McClung), Glenn van Dijken (Wildrose Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock), and Christina Gray (NDP Edmonton-Mill Woods).

Alberta Pre-Election 2015: Monday candidate nomination updates

With a provincial election expected to be called in the coming weeks, Alberta’s political parties are pushing to nominate their slates of candidates. Not surprisingly, the governing Progressive Conservatives are close to choosing candidates in all 87 constituencies. At fifty-one, the NDP have the second largest number of candidates nominated for the next election.

Here are some of the latest additions to my growing list of nominated candidates:

Map of nominated and acclaimed PC candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Map of nominated and acclaimed PC candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Progressive Conservatives

The PC Party has nominated 77 76 candidates, leaving only 10 remaining constituencies to choose candidates.

Driving school owner Gurcharan Garcha defeated two-term MLA Peter Sandhu to win the PC nomination in Edmonton-Manning. Mr. Sandhu, who was briefly removed from the government caucus after facing allegations of conflict of interest, is the first incumbent PC MLA to lose a nomination in 2015. Another candidate, Manpreet Gill, was originally contesting the nomination but does not appear to have been named in the final vote.

Controversial MLA David Xiao survived a strong challenge from party activist Amanda Nielson to win the PC nomination in Edmonton-McClung.

Other recently nominated PC candidates include Blake Prior in Battle River-Wainwright, Jeff Wilson in Calgary-Shaw, former MLA Jack Hayden in Drumheller-Stettler, Rhonda Clarke-Gauthier in Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley, Harman Kandola in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview, Gene Zwozdesky in Edmonton-Mill Creek, Shelley Wegner in Edmonton-Strathcona, Darrell Younghans in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, Wade Bearchell in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, Christine Moore in Red Deer-North, Darcy Mykytyshyn in Red Deer-South, Cathy Olesen in Sherwood Park, and Ken Lemke in Stony Plain, Molly Douglass in Strathmore-Brooks.

UPDATE: Former cabinet minister Naresh Bhardwaj has withdrawn his candidacy in Edmonton-Ellerslie. The second-term PC MLA  resigned as Associate Minister for Persons with Disabilities this month pending an investigation by the PC Party into allegations of bribery in his constituency’s nomination contest. Metro Edmonton first reported that a party member publicly accused Mr. Bhardwaj of offering him, through another person, a $10,000 bribe in return for recanting his support for candidate Balraj Manhas.

Map of nominated and acclaimed NDP candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Map of nominated and acclaimed NDP candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

New Democratic Party

The NDP have nominated candidates in fifty-two constituencies, the most of any opposition party. Recent nominations and acclamations include Chris Noble in Airdrie, Tristan Turner in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock, Kathleen Ganley in Calgary-Buffalo, Catherine Wellburn in Calgary-Elbow, Anam Kazim in Calgary-Glenmore, Chris McMillan in Calgary-Mountain View, Aaron Haugen in Cardston-Taber-Warner, and Erin Babcock in Stony Plain.

Candidates who have recently announced their intentions to seek nominations are: Gordon Naylor in Battle River Wainwright, Josalyne Head in Bonnyville-Cold Lake, Christina Gray in Edmonton-Mill Woods, Leslie Mahoney in Highwood, and Hannah Schlamp in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre.

The following candidates are seeking the NDP nominations at a five-constituency joint nomination meeting on March 31, 2015: Jill Moreton in Calgary-Fish Creek, Don Monroe in Calgary-Greenway, Danielle Nadeau McMillian in Calgary-Hawkwood, Ryan Wick in Calgary-MacKay-Nose Hill, and Karen Mills in Calgary-North West.

Map of nominated and acclaimed Wildrose candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Map of nominated and acclaimed Wildrose candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Wildrose Party

The Wildrose Party have at least forty candidates nominated and appear to have opened nominations in all remaining 47 constituencies.

Recently nominated candidates include Glenn van Dijken in Barrhead-Moriville-Westlock, Wes Taylor in Battle River-Wainwright, Trevor Grover in Calgary-Bow, Mark Smith in Drayton Valley-Devon, Donald MacIntyre in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, Val Olson in Medicine Hat and Norman Wiebe in Red Deer-North.

Map of nominated and acclaimed Alberta Party candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Map of nominated and acclaimed Alberta Party candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Alberta Party

The Alberta Party has nominated 28 candidates across Alberta (including MLA Laurie Blakeman in Edmonton-Centre).

Some of the more recently no mated candidates include: Alison Wemyss in Calgary-Fish Creek, Owais Siddiqui in Edmonton Beverly-Clareview, Derek Christensen in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, John Stewart in Leduc-Beaumont, Trevor Love in St. Albert, Krystal Kromm in Red Deer North, Serge Gingras in Red Deer South and Rob Fox in Bonnyville-Cold Lake.

Map of nominated and acclaimed Liberal candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Map of nominated and acclaimed Liberal candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Liberal Party

The Liberals have nominated candidates in at least nineteen constituencies.

Former Liberal Party President and Ontario NDP MPP Shelley Wark-Martyn was chosen to represent the Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Currie. Also recently nominated are Ronald Brochu in Edmonton-Gold Bar, Adam Mounzer in Edmonton-Manning, Michael Dawe in Red Deer-North, and Mike Hanlon in Stony Plain. Following the lead of Ms. Blakeman, Mr. Dawe plans to seek the Green Party nomination in Red Deer-North.

Map of nominated and acclaimed Green Party candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Map of nominated and acclaimed Green Party candidates (as of March 23, 2015).

Green Party

The Greens have nominated candidates in ten constituencies across Alberta (including MLA Laurie Blakeman in Edmonton-Centre).

Nominated Green candidates are David Reid in Calgary-Bow, Janet Keeping in Calgary-Foothills, Polly Knowlton Cockett in Calgary-Hawkwood, Noel Keough in Calgary-Klein, Sandy Aberdeen in Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill, Carl Svoboda in Calgary-Varsity, David Parker in Edmonton-Gold Bar and Alison Anderson in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville.


I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.