Tag Archives: Pearl Calahasen

Janet Keeping Rachel Notley Laurie Blakeman Women MLA Alberta

Candidate nomination update on International Women’s Day

In recognition of International Women’s Day, today’s candidate update focuses specifically on the total number of women nominated to run for Alberta’s political parties in the upcoming provincial election. Women make up the majority of our population, but they rarely come even close to being the majority in electoral politics.

Women in Alberta politics have accomplished a number of milestones in recent years, including the election of Alison Redford as our first female premier, but the total percentage of women elected to the Legislative Assembly has actually decreased since the late-1990s.

Alberta’s 2012 election was notable for many reasons, most notably because it marked the first time the two major parties were led by women – Progressive Conservative leader Ms. Redford and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith. Three years later, only one major party will be led into the 2015 spring election by a women – the New Democratic Party’s Rachel Notley. Wildrose Party interim leader Heather Forsyth, who has served as MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek since 1993, is not seeking re-election. The Green Party, with no MLAs in the Assembly, is led by Janet Keeping, who is nominated to run in Calgary-Foothills.

The Liberal and NDP have had women lead them in past elections – Pam Barrett led the NDP during the 1997 election and Nancy MacBeth led the Liberals in 2001 – and former Edmonton school trustee Sue Huff led the Alberta Party until 2011. Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Bettie Hewes became the first woman to lead a major political party when she served as interim leader of the Official Opposition in 1994.

There are currently 22 women MLAs serving in the Alberta Legislature (25%), down from a high-mark of 23 women MLAs (27%) in 1998. This number decreased upon Ms. Redford’s resignation in 2014, the percentage was still lower than 1998 because the total number of MLAs increased from 83 to 87 in 2012.

Only four of the twenty members of Jim Prentice‘s current cabinet are women.

The longest serving woman in the Assembly is Lesser Slave Lake PC MLA Pearl Calahasen, who was first elected in 1989 and has been acclaimed as her party’s candidate in the next election. First elected in 1997, Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman is the longest serving opposition MLA.

With the next election expected to be called in the next few weeks, Alberta’s political parties are still in the process of nominating candidates. Here is a look at how many women have been nominated so far by the five main parties.

The NDP, with a commitment to nominate a high percentage of women candidates, has so far chosen the most women candidates of the political parties contesting the 2015 election. By my count, the NDP has chosen 18 women out of 41 candidates (43%) already nominated or acclaimed. This is slightly less than the full NDP slate from the 2012 election, when that party nominated 40 women out of 87 candidates (45%).

The Progressive Conservatives have chosen 13 women out of the 58 candidates nominated to run in the next election (22%) as of today. In the last election, the PCs nominated 22 women in their slate of 87 candidates (25%), which was up slightly from 17 out of 83 candidates in the 2008 election (20%).

The Wildrose Party has nominated 33 candidates, 5 who are women (15%). In the last election, led by Ms. Smith, the Wildrose Party nominated 11 women in a slate of 87 candidates (12%).

The Liberal Party, with 12 candidates currently nominated, has nominated 2 women (16%). The Liberals saw a decrease of women candidates nominated in the 2012 election, down to 18 of 87 (20%) from 22 of 83 in 2008 (26%).

Five of the 17 candidates currently nominated by the Alberta Party are women (29%).

Number of women candidates by party

2015 election nominated/acclaimed (as of March 8, 2015)
NDP: 18 of 41 – 43%
Alberta Party: 5 of 17 – 29%
PC: 13 of 58 – 22%
Liberal: 2 of 12 – 16%
Wildrose: 5 of 33 – 15%

2012 election
NDP: 40 out of 87 – 45%
Alberta Party: 6 out of 21 – 28%
PC: 22 out of 87 – 25%
Liberal: 18 out of 87 – 20%
Wildrose: 11 out of 87 – 12%

2008 election
NDP: 38 out of 83 – 45%
Liberal: 22 out of 82 – 26%
PC: 17 out of 83 – 20%
Wildrose: 6 out of 61 – 9%

Prentice term-limit idea is gimmicky and probably unconstitutional

Jim Prentice Stephen Mandel Edmonton Alberta PC leadership

Jim Prentice with former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel on June 10, 2014 in Edmonton.

You are Jim Prentice. You have the podium and the attention of Alberta’s media. You are the next Premier of Alberta. You can dream big. You could promise to replace all of Alberta’s aging hospitals by 2020, to build a high-speed railway from Calgary to Edmonton, to forge a new relationship with municipalities through Big City Charters, or reinvent the way Alberta is governed. Heck, you could even promise to implement your party’s long-list of unfulfilled promises from the last election.

But what is your big promise? Term-limits for MLAs.

Today, Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Mr. Prentice pledged to limit future Premiers to two-terms and  MLAs to three-terms in office. It was a strange announcement. And it is gimmicky.

As someone who practices the law, Mr. Prentice should understand that term-limits are likely unconstitutional and, unlike a presidential republic like the United States of America, the concept of term limits does not fit in Canada’s system of parliamentary democracy.

While many Albertans will probably support the idea of term-limits for their elected officials, from a practical standpoint it does not appear that a lack of term-limits are a real problem in Alberta politics. By my count, 80% of Alberta’s 86 current MLAs were elected within the last ten years and the last two Premiers – Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford – did not survive two terms in office.

The most recent notable exception was Ken Kowalski, who retired before the last election after 33 years as a PC MLA (and his three decade long political career in provincial politics is very uncommon). The current longest serving MLA is Pearl Calahasen, who has represented Lesser Slave Lake since 1989.

Promises of term-limits are also not a new issue in Alberta politics. Wildrose leader Danielle Smith said in 2012 that, if elected, she would only serve two-terms as Premier (her party constitution had it enshrined until it was removed in 2013). And, in 2011, PC leadership candidate Ted Morton proposed term-limits for Premiers.

Despite Mr. Prentice’s announcement, not long ago, the PC Party mocked and demonized their opponents for proposing term-limits for MLAs and the Premier. In a 2010 newsletter, the party he wants to lead compared MLA term-limits to “the whims of an Ayatollah or a general.”

The timing of this announcement is notable. On August 23, 2014, Alberta’s PC Party will become Canada’s longest-serving governing party ever (beating the record of the Nova Scotia Liberals, who governed that province from 1882 to 1925).  And August 30, 2014 will mark 43 years since the PC Party won its first election in 1971. Perhaps term-limits for parties in government is a more worthwhile idea (but probably just as hard to implement).

It is hard to see Mr. Prentice’s term-limit pledge as anything but an attempt to distract Albertans from lacklustre leadership contest and the ongoing government spending and airplane scandals (and the PC government’s unwillingness to take responsibility for its actions).

Mr. Prentice’s front-runner campaign is appearing less dynamic and more vulnerable each day and rumours continue to circulate that less than 30,000 PC Party memberships have been sold, compared to more than 100,000 that were sold in that party’s 2011 contest.

With two weeks left before PC members vote to choose their next leader, Mr. Prentice’s campaign is desperately trying to spark some excitement in the minds of its supporters. With today’s term-limit announcement, they appear to have missed the mark, by a long-shot.

Rejection of Gay-Straight Alliances motion shows some Alberta MLAs need a reality check

Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to introduce legislation, like Manitoba’s and Ontario’s, requiring all school boards to develop policies to support students who want to lead and establish gay-straight alliance activities and organizations, using any name that is consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive, welcoming, and respectful for all students regardless of sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

It was a simple motion introduced on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly on April 7, 2014 that would help create safer environments for students in schools. Nineteen Liberal, New Democrat, and Progressive Conservative MLAs voted in favour of the motion, but it failed after 31 PC and Wildrose MLAs stood up and voted against it.

Kent Hehr MLA Calgary-Buffalo

Kent Hehr

Motion 503, introduced by Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr, was not a piece of binding legislation, it was a symbolic message of that all students, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, can be welcomed and accepted in Alberta’s education system.

Creating safe and supportive environments for all students, including LGBTQ youth who may face discrimination in and outside of school, should be something that is encouraged by MLAs.

Mr. Hehr’s motion undoubtably would have made some social conservatives uncomfortable, but it would have ultimately helped drag some of Alberta’s more stodgy school boards into the 21st century. The motion would not have forced any school board to form student-led gay-straight alliances, but it would have compelled the elected boards to accept the existence of the groups if students in their schools chose to organize them.

Alberta MLA Vote Gay Straight Alliances Vote Motion 503

A map showing the constituencies represented by MLAs who voted in favour (blue) and against (red) Motion 503. White indicates MLAs who were not present for the vote. (Click to enlarge)

Passage of this motion would have sent a strong message that tolerance and acceptance are priorities Alberta’s provincial legislators.

Anti-bullying minister Sandra Jansen voted in favour but Education minister Jeff Johnson voted against it.

Missing from the vote were Premier Dave Hancock and NDP leader Brian Mason, who both later said they would have voted in favour had they been in the Assembly. Wildrose opposition leader Danielle Smith was not present for the vote and it is not clear if she would have voted differently than her party’s MLAs.

The divided PC government caucus also missed an opportunity to send a clear message that they embrace 21st century values by singling out the opposition Wildrose as the only party to unanimously vote against the motion – and remind Albertans of the infamous Lake of Fire.  And for the Wildrose, a vote for the motion, even by one or two of that party’s MLAs, would have done a lot of demonstrate the party is more moderate on social issues than its opponents claim.

In total, 36 MLAs were absent from the vote (minus the Speaker, who abstains from votes of the Assembly).

Voted in Favour: 19
Deron Bilous (NDP)
Laurie Blakeman (LIB)
Neil Brown (PC)
Pearl Calahasen (PC)
Cal Dallas (PC)
Alana DeLong (PC)
David Eggen (NDP)
Kyle Fawcett (PC)
Kent Hehr (LIB)
Ken Hughes (PC)
Sandra Jansen (PC)
Heather Klimchuk (PC)
Jason Luan (PC)
Thomas Luksazuk (PC)
Rachel Notley (NDP)
Don Scott (PC)
Raj Sherman (LIB)
David Swann (LIB)
Teresa Woo-Paw (PC)
Voted against: 31
Moe Amery (PC)
Rob Anderson (WR)
Drew Barnes (WR)
Gary Bikman (WR)
Robin Campbell (PC)
Ron Casey (PC)
Christine Cusanelli (PC)
Ian Donovan (WR)
David Dorward (PC)
Wayne Drysdale (PC)
Jacquie Fenske (PC)
Rick Fraser (PC)
Yvonne Fritz (PC)
Hector Goudreau (PC)
Jeff Johnson (PC)
Linda Johnson (PC)
Maureen Kubinec (PC)
Genia Leskiw (PC)
Bruce McAllister (WR)
Everett McDonald (PC)
Diana McQueen (PC)
Frank Oberle (PC)
Bridget Pastoor (PC)
Dave Rodney (PC)
Bruce Rowe (WR)
Shayne Saskiw (WR)
Richard Starke (PC)
Rick Strankman (WR)
Kerry Towle (WR)
George VanderBurg (PC)
Greg Weadick (PC)

Laurie Blakeman now the longest-serving opposition MLA and other #ableg milestones.

Laurie Blakeman MLA Edmonton-Centre

Laurie Blakeman

This week Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman was recognized in the Legislative Assembly as being the “longest-serving member to serve exclusively in opposition in Alberta’s history. Ms. Blakeman was elected on March 11, 1997 and, as Speaker Gene Zwozdesky noted, she has served continuously since that time for a total of 5,876 days over the course of five-terms.

Gene Zwozdesky

Gene Zwozdesky

Ms. Blakeman surpassed David Duggan, who served in opposition from June 28, 1926, to May 4, 1942, for a total of 5,790 days. A historical irony is that had Speaker Zwozdesky, who was first elected as a Liberal in 1993, not crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives in 1998, he would now own this new record.

According to my estimation, the longest-serving opposition MLA who did not serve exclusively in opposition, is Walt Buck. Mr. Buck represented Clover Bar in the Social Credit government from 1967 to 1971 and in the Social Credit opposition from 1971 until 1982, as an Independent MLA from 1982 until 1984, and as a Representative Party MLA from 1984 until his retirement from politics in 1989. Mr. Buck recently passed away.

Here are some other Alberta Legislature milestones:

alberta election candidate update – january 2012.

With an election fast approaching, Alberta’s political parties are busy nominating candidates across the province. Here is a regional breakdown showing where candidates have been nominated and some of the recent updates.

Nominated Alberta Election candidates by region (January 16, 2012)

Nominated Alberta Election candidates by region (January 16, 2012)

Airdrie: Former Airdrie Mayor Linda Bruce and current Alderman Kelly Hegg are seeking the Progressive Conservative nomination.

Banff-Cochrane: Real Estate broker Jon Bjorgum, Canmore Mayor Ron Casey have Rob Seeley have joined businessman John Fitzsimmons and Cochrane Mayor Truper McBride in the contest for the PC nomination on January 28, 2012. The Liberal Party nomination is scheduled to take place on January 26, 2012.

Bonnyville-Cold Lake: The Wildrose Party is searching for a candidate to replace Chuck Farrer, who has withdrawn his candidacy. Mr. Farrer was nominated in October 2010.

Norm Kelly Alberta Party candidate Calgary-Currie

Norm Kelly

Calgary-Currie: Lawyer Norm Kelly has been acclaimed as the Alberta Party candidate.

Calgary-GlenmoreLinda Johnson will face lawyer Byron Nelson for the PC nomination. The constituency is currently represented by Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman, who was elected in a 2010 by-election.

Calgary-Hawkwood: Sumita Anand has joined declared candidates Farouk AdatiaJason Luan, Chris Roberts, Kumar Sharma, and Doug Stevens in the PC nomination contest.

Calgary-McCall: It is a full house in the PC nomination contest on January 21, 2012 with 10 candidates having entered the race. Candidates include Khandaker Alam, Deepshikha Brar, Afzal Hanid, Amtul Khan, Jamie Lall, Aslam Malik, Ravi Prasad, Muhammad Rasheed, Jagdeep Sahota, and Jangbahadur Sidhu.

Calgary-Mountain View: Lawyer Cecilia Low was acclaimed as the PC candidate. This constituency has been represented by Liberal MLA David Swann since 2004.

Calgary-Northwest: First reported on this blog, former cabinet minster Lindsay Blackett will not be seeking re-election. Sandra Jansen announced yesterday that she will be seeking the PC nomination. Ms. Jansen is a former news anchor for Global Television and has served as Communications Manager for Premier Alison Redford‘s Southern Alberta Office since late last year.

Calgary-Shaw: The Alberta Party will be holding a nomination meeting on January 30, 2012. At this time, Brandon Beasley is the only declared candidate.

Calgary-West: Allan Ryan and former Calgary-McCall MLA Shiraz Shariff have joined Calgary Police Sergeant Mike Ellis and Ken Hughes.

Nicole Martel Edmonton-Centre PC nomination candidate

Nicole Martel

Edmonton-Centre: Urban Development Institute executive director Nicole Martel is seeking the PC nomination scheduled for January 24, 2012. Ms. Martel was the federal Liberal candidate in Edmonton-East in the 2006 election and a candidate for the Liberal nomination in Edmonton-Centre in 2008.

Edmonton-Ellerlise: Past Public School Board candidate Tina Jardine has withdrawn her name as the NDP candidate for personal reasons.

Edmonton-Gold Bar: Dennis O’Neill was acclaimed as the Alberta Party candidate.

Edmonton-Mill Woods: Despite bizarre nomination shenanigans, the PCs will hold their nomination meeting on January 28, 2012. Candidates include Ron Randhawa, Sohail Qadri, and controversy-prone MLA Carl Benito.

Edmonton-Riverview: Taleb Choucair, Edmonton Police Officer Steve Young, and former Public School Trustee Bev Esslinger are seeking the PC nomination on January 27, 2012.

Edmonton-South WestAllan Hunsperger is the nominated Wildrose candidate. Matt Jeneroux and Tofael Chowdhury are competing in the PC nomination scheduled for January 30, 2012. Mr. Choudhury was a candidate for the federal Liberal nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona in 2008.

Doug Faulkner Fort McMurray-Conklin Wildrose

Doug Faulkner

Fort McMurray-Conklin: Former Wood Buffalo Mayor Doug Faulkner was acclaimed as the Wildrose candidate. Mr. Faulkner was a federal PC candidate in the 2000 election and federal Liberal candidate in the 2004 election. Councillor Don Scott was acclaimed as the PC candidate.

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo: Andrew Highfield has joined declared candidates Mike Allen, Nick Sanders, and Jeff Thompson in competing for the PC nomination scheduled for January 28, 2012.

Lethbridge-East: Lethbridge County Reeve Lorne Hickey is challenging Liberal-turned-Tory MLA Bridget Pastoor for the PC nomination scheduled for January 26, 2012.

Medicine Hat: Darren Hirsch and Linda Rossler are seeking the PC nomination. The constituency is currently represented by 17-year MLA Rob Renner, who is not seeking re-election.

Red Deer-North: Well-known local historian Michael Dawe is seeking the Liberal nomination scheduled to be held on January 19, 2012.

Sherwood Park: Six candidates are vying for the PC nomination on January 21, 2012 to replace outgoing MLA Iris Evans. Declared candidates include Matthew Bissett, County Councillor Brian Botterill, Helen Calahasen, Murray Hutchinson, former Mayor Cathy Oleson, and local PC organizer Susan Timanson. Ms. Calahasen is the sister of long-time Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pearl Calahasen.

Vermilion-Lloydminster: Dr. Richard Starke was acclaimed as the PC candidate to replace outgoing MLA Lloyd Snelgrove.

Senator-in-Waiting Election 
Former PC Member of Parliament Douglas Fee has joined the PC nomination contest, to be held on February 10 and 11. Mr. Fee served as the MP for Red Deer from 1988 to 1993.

pearl calahasen backs doug horner. verlyn olsen, dave hancock, fred horne endorse gary mar.

Map of MLA support in the 2011 Alberta PC leadership contest (August 11, 2011)

Map of MLA support in the 2011 Alberta PC leadership contest (August 11, 2011)

I have updated the list of Progressive Conservative MLAs endorsing leadership candidates to reflect four recent endorsements.

Only days after leadership candidates Gary Mar and Alison Redford got into a very public spat over the success of the Safe Communities Initiative (which Ms. Redford spearheaded during her time as Justice Minister), current Justice Minister and Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Verlyn Olsen sided with Mr. Mar. Not to be outdone, Ms. Redford received the endorsement of the Calgary Police Association.

Mr. Mar also secured the endorsement of Education Minister and Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Dave Hancock, who placed fifth in the 2006 PC leadership contest. As was expected, Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Fred Horne followed Minister Hancock into Mr. Mar’s leadership camp.

Former cabinet minister and Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pearl Calahasen has endorsed former Deputy Premier Doug Horner‘s candidacy. Ms. Calahasen has served as an MLA since 1989 and was Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Children’s Services in the government led by Premier Ralph Klein.

lyle oberg’s wildrose jump: connecting the dots.

Danielle Smith and Lyle Oberg at last night's Wildrose fundraising dinner in Edmonton. Photo via @wmcbeath.

Twelve years after he fired Trustee Danielle Smith by dissolving the Calgary Board of Education, former PC cabinet minister Lyle Oberg announced yesterday that he was joining the Wildrose Alliance and would be introducing Ms. Smith at her party’s fundraising dinner last night in Edmonton.

Attracting a high-profile Tory like Mr. Oberg is a public relations coup for the Wildrose, but it is not impossible to connect the dots that led to his decision. Mr. Oberg’s wife, Evelyn, works for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier and, in 2006, Mr. Boutilier was one of two PC MLAs who supported Mr. Oberg in his failed PC leadership bid (the other was Lesser Slave Lake PC MLA Pearl Calahasen).

Mr. Oberg served as Minister of various portfolios while Ralph Klein was Premier and was Finance Minister in Premier Ed Stelmach‘s first government from 2006 to 2008. After discovering that the real financial power rested not with the Finance Minister, but with Treasury Board President Lloyd Snelgrove, Mr. Oberg went out of his way to publicly contradict the Premier’s message on energy royalty review and a national securities regulator before announcing that he would not seek re-election in 2008.

Another former PC cabinet minister, Doug Main, was the Master of Ceremonies for last night’s fundraiser.

I thought that Premier Stelmach’s resignation announcement would have stemmed the flow of high-profile former PCs joining the Wildrose. I wonder who could be next?

spring session of the alberta legislature cut short.

Alberta's Legislative Assembly Building in Edmonton.

The 2010 Spring session of the Alberta Legislature wrapped up yesterday with little fanfare. Ending a month and a half earlier than the increasingly pointless Legislative calendar had scheduled, Premier Ed Stelmach‘s PCs seemed happy to cut short one of their roughest sessions in decades. Here are some thoughts on how each of the parties fared during the 2010 Spring session:

Progressive Conservatives
Entering their 39th year in office, the Progressive Conservatives caucus appeared to list from left to right and back again during this session. The massive cuts expected in the 2010 budget never emerged (and the cuts that did take place were largely overshadowed by funding to health care and education). Their flagship bill, the Competitiveness Act, is already becoming largely forgotten in the minds of most political watchers and did not have the public splash impact that was likely intended.

Premier Ed Stelmach

Premier Ed Stelmach speaking to students and staff at the University of Alberta.

The PCs faced criticism over sending junkets of Cabinet Ministers to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games while the Assembly was in session to hobnob with international business leaders on the Alberta Olympic Train. The PCs also made changes that lowered the amount of resource royalties collected by the provincial government, effectively undoing in one day the long process of industry consultation, economic study, and public relations that they had undertaken prior to the 2008 election.

Their political machinery is still well-financed, but the PC Party leadership appears disconnected from mainstream Albertans. Premier Stelmach’s weak public speaking skills were crutched by some of the cabinet ministers who were shuffled into new positions in February and have made an impact this Spring. Most notably, Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky, Labour Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, Finance Minister Ted Morton, Housing Minister Jonathan Denis, and Solicitor General Municipal Affairs Minister Hector Goudreau have performed fairly well in their new roles. In the Health Care file, Minister Zwozdesky appears to have spent much of the past three months travelling the province attempting to extinguish the fires set by his predecessor (now -Energy Minister Ron Liepert). While his style has brought a much friendlier tone to his position, there are still remains unanswered questions around issues ranging from seniors’ pharmacare to the future of Alberta Hospital Edmonton.

Finance Minister Ted Morton delivered his first budget in March 2010.

As criticisms have increased from outside the Legislature, it appears that a few PC backbenchers are increasingly unwilling to read the puff-ball questions that they regularly line up for. Whitecourt-Ste. Anne MLA George VanderBurg, Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pearl Calahasen, and Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Wayne Drysdale have asked some pretty tough questions and have noticeably got under the skin of some cabinet ministers during Question Period.

Premier Stelmach and his cabinet ministers will undertake a province-wide tour over the summer to talk with Albertans (and try to win back the hearts and minds of PC supporters who have flocked to the Wildrose Alliance). The optimist in me hopes that the tour will actually be effective in reconnecting our elected government officials with Albertans.

Liberal leader David Swann and MLAs Bridget Pastoor, Laurie Blakeman, Kevin Taft, Hugh MacDonald, Kent Hehr, and Harry Chase.

Liberals
With the exception of Health critic Kevin Taft and Calgary International Airport-tunnel advocate Darshan Kang, the Official Opposition Liberals struggled to focus during this session. David Swann‘s rag-tag Liberal caucus gained some attention after releasing a new oil and gas policy, but have had a difficult time finding a role in the new and increasingly dominant political narrative being developed between the PCs and the Wildrose Alliance.

The very public departure of Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor and his verbal lashing of Dr. Swann in the media seemed to be the most memorable moment for the Liberals during this session, though internally, they are probably better off without Mr. Taylor. The Liberals won a reprieve from negative attention when a motion by backbench PC MLA Verlyn Olson temporarily removed the independence of Public Accounts Committee chairman Hugh MacDonald. While I believe Dr. Swann’s performance actually improved after Mr. Taylor’s departure, similar to their federal counterparts, the provincial Liberals biggest weakness is their focus on daily tactics, rather than long-term strategy to form government.

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

Wildrose Alliance
With the addition of former PC MLAs Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth, the WRA caucus was boosted to third-party status for the first time. Ms. Forsyth’s Mandatory Reporting of Child Pornography bill was passed on third reading (I cannot remember any time that an opposition MLAs private members bill was passed into legislation). The Wildrose Alliance was faced with the challenge of not becoming the NDP of the right and have been strategic in what issues they chose to focus on (ie: opposing the centralization of regional health authorities into Alberta Health Services).

With three MLAs in the Assembly, seatless leader Danielle Smith has spent the majority of her time during this session criss-crossing the province, speaking to town hall meetings, trade shows, chambers of commerce, and anyone interested in meeting with the newly anointed Dauphine of Alberta politics (a very smart decision in my mind).

NDP MLA Brian Mason in a media scrum at the Alberta Legislature.

New Democrats
The NDP caucus of Brian Mason and Rachel Notley did what they do well this session: get media attention. Rather than striking out on their own when their position in the Question Period line-up was in jeopardy, they joined with the Liberals and Wildrose Alliance at the press gallery podium to present a united front against this change. On the policy front, the NDP released a report on Health Care that was generated after a series of town hall meetings.

Outside the Legislature, the NDP appear to be stalled in the polls and have not been able to capitalize on the destabilization inside the Liberal Party. At their 2009 convention, Nova Scotia NDP organizer Matt Hebb advised his Alberta cousins to build a bigger tent of supporters and to act like a party of government by taking a pragmatic and constructive approach to politics. “Act like a party of government, don’t talk about it,” was Mr. Hebb’s message. Judging by the daily outrage and ankle bitting during Question Period, it does not appear that the two MLAs have heeded Mr. Hebb’s advice.

Independent MLAs now include Guy Boutilier and Dave Taylor.

Independents
Independent MLAs Guy Boutilier and Dave Taylor now share the lonely northwest corner of the Assembly floor. It was suspected that Mr. Boutilier might join the Wildrose Alliance caucus (his 2008 campaign manager has joined the WRA), but he may be too much of a wildcard for a party that is riding high in the polls and posturing to form the next government. More recently, there have been rumors floating that Mr. Taylor would like to acquire the leadership of the newly reorganized Alberta Party and reshape it into his own image (knowing the people involved in the Alberta Party, this might not be a welcoming prospect).

Floor-crossings
Since the 2008 election, five of 83 MLAs have forced the changing of seating arrangements on the Assembly floor. There has not been this much movement across the Assembly floor between elections since the early 1990s, which saw some significant Liberal by-election victories, a New Democrat cross to the PCs, a PC leave to sit as an Independent, and a handful of right-leaning Liberals cross to the PCs. It is also the first time since 1989 that an opposition party other than the Liberals or NDP have had more than one MLA in the Assembly (the Representative Party elected two former Social Credit MLAs in 1986).

Press Gallery
This was the final session for long-time Canadian Press reporter Jim MacDonald, who will be retiring from his role in May. After 27 years working for Canadian Press, Mr. MacDonald has become an institution in the Press Gallery. During my time as a spokesperson for the Council of Alberta University Students from 2006 to 2007, Mr. MacDonald was always the most nerve-racking reporter in a media scrum – always asking the toughest questions and not taking spin for an answer. He will be missed.

On a final note, I feel the need to recognize Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid, who is normally a very good columnist, but during this spring session has written some excellent columns about politics in Alberta.