Tag Archives: Peter Sandhu

Alberta politics this week

Alison Redford Joe Clark Nelson Mandela Alberta Funeral

Former Prime Minister Joe Clark and Premier Alison Redford at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa this week (photo from Premier Alison Redford’s Facebook Page)

A new provincial cabinet was sworn-in this morning, one a week after the cabinet shuffle was announced. The original announcement, made by press release at the unusual time of 4:45pm on Friday, December 6, was typical of a tactic used by government when it wants a story to be underreported.

After facing a week of stories about unreported deaths in the foster care system and introducing arguably unconstitutional anti-labour laws, it appeared that Premier Alison Redford‘s government was looking to quietly reshuffle the cast of characters involved in those stories. But the week-long delay was caused by Ms. Redford’s trip to South Africa to attend the funeral of former president Nelson Mandela. Upon her return, the new cabinet was sworn-in.

In response to the cabinet shuffle, the Wildrose Official Opposition announced minor adjustments to its critic roster.

Young dropped from cabinet at the last minute

CBC reports that Edmonton-Riverview PC MLA Steve Young has been abruptly dropped from the provincial cabinet over undisclosed allegations dating back to his time as a police officer in Edmonton. In last Friday’s government press release, Mr. Young was announced to become the Associate Minister of Public Safety in Ms. Redford’s cabinet. He previously served as Whip of the PC caucus. Calgary-South East MLA Rick Fraser was appointed as Associate Minister of Public Safety instead.

Ken Hughes Don Iveson Mayor Edmonton Alberta

Ken Hughes and Don Iveson (photo from Twitter at @kenhughesMLA)

A provincial-municipal detente?

Some cabinet ministers did not wait for the cabinet changes to occur before tackling their new portfolios. In a move of detente to Alberta’s civic leaders, Minister of Municipal Affairs Ken Hughes met this week with Edmonton mayor Don Iveson , Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, and Association of Municipal Districts and County president Bob Barss before he had transitioned out of the Energy portfolio. Tensions rose high between municipalities and the provincial government during former minister Doug Griffiths time in the post.

Edmonton’s Mr. Iveson announced this week that expansion of the city’s Light Rail Transit system is the top infrastructure priority for the newly elected City Council. The City is searching for the additional $515 million needed to build the southeast Valley Line to Mill Woods.

Following the cabinet shuffle, Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Wayne Drysdale is Transportation Minister and Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver is Infrastructure Minister.

AUPE launches court challenge of Bill 46

Not long after controversial Bill 45 and Bill 46 received royal assent from Lieutenant Governor Donald Ethell this week, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees submitted a statement of claim against Bill 46 laws to the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Sandhu rejoins the Tories

Controversial Edmonton-Manning MLA Peter Sandhu was allowed to rejoin the Progressive Conservative caucus this week after sitting as an independent MLA for seven months. The second-term MLA resigned from the governing caucus in May 2013 after a CBC investigation revealed that a company owned by the politician had accumulated a trail of unpaid debt. While Ethics Commissioner Neil Wilkinson cleared Mr. Sandhu of conflict-of-interest charges, the MLA’s creditors beg to differ.

Former NDP MPP now on Liberal Party executive

Shelley Wark-Martyn is now the secretary of the Alberta Liberal Party. Ms. Wark-Martyn was the Ontario New Democratic Party MPP for Port Arthur from 1990 to 1995 during which time she served as Minister of Revenue and the junior minister for health and education in Premier Bob Rae‘s cabinet.

Wildrose can grow from Tory seeds of doubt

Do you drain a Lake of Fire or do you dam it?

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith

Whatever it takes, Wildrose Party activists are expected to moderate the tone of their policies at their weekend policy convention in the booming central Alberta city of Red Deer. A delicate and sometimes shaky coalition of libertarians and social conservatives (among other groups), Alberta’s official opposition party will learn from the mistakes they made in the 2012 election. On the cusp of victory, offensive remarks made by social conservative candidates in Calgary and Edmonton scared many moderate Albertans to support the long-governing Progressive Conservatives at the ballot box.

Since forming the official opposition with 17 MLAs, Ms. Smith has led a disciplined front-bench that has in many cases driven the government’s agenda, or at the least frustrated government ministers unaccustomed to their aggressive style. Implementing tactics used by the Ottawa Conservatives, the Wildrose have been relentless in their opposition to the forty-two year old governing PC Party.

Fighting back against the Wildrose, or at least trying to, Tory environment minister Diana McQueen emerged from her legislature office yesterday to attack Wildrose leader Danielle Smith’s position on climate change. While Ms. Smith’s party is undoubtably weak on environmental issues, especially on the important climate change file, the Tory government’s environmental record is not much better. While the Alberta government is doing more on this file than it has in a decade, its plan appears to be propped up by snippets of truth and focus group tested sound bites.

Thomas Lukaszuk

Thomas Lukaszuk

The Wildrose are looking for second chances and there is opportunity for them. With drastic cuts to education and post-secondary education, constant political meddling in the health care system and fears that public sector pension changes may negatively impact the retirement prospects of hundreds of thousands of Albertans, Alison Redford’s Tories threaten to alienate the electoral coalition of moderate voters (including many former Liberal voters) who helped them narrowly win re-election. Shooting from their hips (and frequently missing their targets), cabinet ministers Thomas Lukaszuk, Jeff Johnson, Fred Horne, and Doug Griffiths often confuse their own confidence with arrogance. The Tories do not give any impression that they were humbled by their near-defeat in last year’s election.

Some Tories may point to the electoral success of Premier Ralph Klein following his drastic budget cuts in the early 1990s, but this is a very different political environment, and I am sure that most Albertans would agree that Ms. Redford is no Mr. Klein.

A recent poll from Leger Marketing, for what it’s worth three years before the next election, shows Ms. Redford’s and Ms. Smith’s parties competing with mid-30 percent range support. The poll also shows that more than half of Albertans disagree with the government’s performance, but the Wildrose’s support in the polls suggests voters have not settled on an alternative.

Brad Wall

Brad Wall

This weekend and over the next three years, the Wildrose Party could look to Saskatchewan for inspiration. Stalled for years in the opposition benches, the conservative Saskatchewan Party undertook a move to modernize its image and policies when Brad Wall became the party leader in 2004. The unruly coalition of Tories and Liberals led by a former Reform Party MP had been unable to defeat the institutionalized New Democrats, who dominated in that province’s major cities. Under the smart and savvy Mr. Wall, the Sask Party modernized, and slowly began to encroach into NDP held urban constituencies.

After his party finally defeated in NDP in 2007, the conservative Mr. Wall has become one of Canada’s most popular provincial leaders. Like the NDP did to the Sask Party, and the Tories did to the Wildrose in 2012, Albertans can expect to be berated by rounds of “ooga booga, the Wildrose is scary” ads in the next election. The part that will be missing from those ads is that many, if not most, current Wildrose supporters were sitting comfortably in the Tory camp until about three years ago.

Wildrose success is not entirely about policy. Planting the seeds of doubt in Ms. Redford’s ability to run an honest government will also be key to the Wildrose Party’s success in the next election. Ms. Redford’s tendency to avoid controversy by hiding the truth or bending the facts is something that many political watchers have noted. Her office’s decision to block requests to release details of more than $2 million in severance packages given to former premier’s office staffers planted one seed of doubt. Her actions, her words, and people she surrounds herself have planted others. Two bad seeds that might not go away, controversial former PC MLAs Mike Allen and Peter Sandhu, are expected to apply for re-entry into the Government Caucus.

And the Wildrose do not just need Tory voters to vote for them, they also need former New Democrat and Liberal voters to return to their prior allegiances (a key reason behind Ms. Smith’s province-wide debate tour with NDP leader Brian Mason).

So, it’s clear the Wildrose needs to moderate the tone of their policies to attract new voters, but they can also benefit greatly from the seeds of doubt that the Redford Tories appear to be planting each week.

PC Party tries to use mayor candidates as headliners for fundraiser

A screenshot from the Edmonton-Riverview PC Party website.

A screenshot from the Edmonton-Riverview PC Party website.

In a strange departure from the non-partisan politics of civic elections, it appeared for a moment today that three main candidates in Edmonton’s mayoral election were headlining a fundraiser for a Progressive Conservative Party constituency association. Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths was even slated as its host.

Once the event came to the attention of the general public, it appears to have fallen apart.

First, Mr. Griffiths withdrew from hosting the event, probably a wise move for a minister who will have to work with whichever candidate is elected. Then, mayoral candidate Don Iveson announced on Twitter that he was withdrawing from the forum. An organizer inside the Iveson campaign said a miscommunication led them to believe the candidate forum would  be separate of the fundraising program for the evening.

According to the Edmonton-Riverview PC Party website (see above for screenshot), mayoral candidates Kerry Diotte, Karen Leibovici and Mr. Iveson were to participate in a forum as part of a $150 per ticket fundraiser for the local PC Party association at the posh Mayfair Golf & Country Club on October 9. Visitors to the website are invited to fill out an online form to purchase tickets and receive a tax receipt for their political donation.

At the fundraiser candidates would be asked “How will the new Mayor get along with Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government?”

Outgoing mayor Stephen Mandel was critical of Premier Alison Redford‘s Tories after they implemented deep budget cuts to post-secondary institutions in this year’s provincial budget. The 2013/2014 provincial budget cut cut $147 million in funding to Alberta’s post-secondary education system. The budget cuts have forced colleges and universities across Alberta to cut staff, programs, and enrolment in order to deal with the financial shortfall.

Edmonton-Riverview is currently represented by PC MLA and Government Whip Steve Young, who was elected in last year’s election. The University of Alberta exists within the boundaries of Edmonton-Riverview and many academic staff live in the constituency.

It seems unusual that the candidates would agree to step into a partisan event in the middle of a non-partisan election campaign, but it may speak to how far each of the main three mayoral contenders  are willing to go to seek out potential voters.

Still, it is concerning to this political watcher that  the three candidates would be willing to have their names used as a  pitch for a provincial political party event. And not just any political party, the governing party.

While this could certainly raise the ire of partisans affiliated with the Wildrose, New Democrats and Liberals, after more than forty years on continuous PC Party majority governments, there is a reality that whoever gets elected will have to work with them for at least the next three years.

The Progressive Conservatives earned 40% of the vote in Edmonton and hold twelve of the capital city’s nineteen provincial constituencies (one former Tory, Edmonton-Manning MLA Peter Sandhu, now sits as an Independent). 

Update: Mr. Young announces the mayoral forum is now cancelled:

Ms. Leibovici’s campaign released the following, awkwardly worded, statement:

The only reason that we agreed to participate it because our opponents agreed to. We’re not participating. We will debate our opponents on the issues anywhere, anytime on any subject. We have more experience than they have because this election matters.

Fort McMurray MLA Mike Allen arrested in U.S. prostitution sting

Mike Allen MLA

Mike Allen MLA

Mike Allen is the second MLA to resign from the Progressive Conservative caucus since last year’s election. The Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA resigned today from the Tory caucus after he was arrested in a prostitution sting in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The first-term MLA and former Wood Buffalo municipal councillor was in St. Paul to represent the Government of Alberta at the Council of State Governments Midwestern Legislative Conference. According to a Government press release, Calgary-Fort MLA Wayne Cao was also attending the conference.

This was Mr. Allen’s fourth trip to the United States as an official representative of the Alberta Government since he was elected. In 2012, he attended conferences in Cleveland, Ohio and Madison, Wisconsin and in 2013 he attended a conference in Washington state as a representative of the Premier’s Standing Committee on Resource Stewardship.

Mr. Allen’s resignation letter was published on the Edmonton Journal website:

“Today, I informed the Chief Government Whip of a legal incident that I have been involved in. Pending resolution of this incident, I have resigned from the government caucus and all legislative committee effective immediately. I apologize to my family, my friends, my constituents, my colleagues, my staff, and to all Albertans for the embarrassment I have caused in failing to live up to the standards expected of me and the standards I expect of myself. I made this mistake as a result of a profound lapse in my personal judgment. It is a mistake for which there are no excuses and for which I accept full responsibility. This is deeply embarrassing moment and all I can say is that I am sorry and I humbly ask for forgiveness. I will work long and hard to regain the trust of the many I have let down.”

Mr. Allen was first elected in 2012, defeating former Tory cabinet minister-tuned-Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier. In 2012, he was appointed by Premier Alison Redford as the special advisor to the Minister of Transportation for highway 63.

Mr. Allen is the second MLA to resign from the governing Tory caucus since the 2012 election. In May 2013, Edmonton-Manning MLA Peter Sandhu resigned from the PC caucus after a CBC investigation revealed that a company owned by the politician had accumulated a trail of unpaid debt and that he made a false statement in a sworn affidavit.

CBC investigation, Wildrose aggressiveness real reasons Peter Sandhu quit Tories.

Celebrating one-year since the 2012 Tory victory: Moe Amery, Premier Alison Redford, Wayne Cao, and Peter Sandhu.

Celebrating one-year since the 2012 Tory victory is Moe Amery, Premier Alison Redford, Wayne Cao, and Peter Sandhu.

Edmonton-Manning MLA Peter Sandhu has resigned from the Progressive Conservative Caucus after a CBC investigation revealed that a company owned by the politician had accumulated a trail of unpaid debt. The report, by investigative reporter Charles Rusnell, also found that Mr. Sandhu made a false statement in a sworn affidavit.

It is not uncommon for Tory MLAs to face investigations by the ethics commissioner, but it is uncommon for Tory MLAs to actually resign from the Government caucus because of these investigations.

Mr. Sandhu’s resignation shows how different Alberta’s political environment has become in recent years. The Wildrose Official Opposition is waging a permanent aggressive campaign against the Tories, something the long-governing party is not accustomed to. And with Premier Alison Redford facing an internal party leadership review in November, the Tories are desperately trying to avoid the kind of embarrassing controversies that dominated the political narrative in 2012.

As far as I can recollect, the last Tory MLA to resign because of an ethics scandal was in 2001, when former cabinet minister Robert “Butch” Fischer quit as the MLA for Wainwright after being investigated for a breach of ethics regarding a private business deal.

Mr. Sandhu was first elected in Edmonton-Manning in 2008, defeating Independent MLA Dan Backs, who had been kicked out of the Liberal caucus in 2006 (Mr. Backs challenged Mr. Sandhu, and was defeated, in the PC nomination contest).

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Westward, support for Premier Christy Clark‘s Liberal Party surged in yesterday’s British Columbia provincial election, leaving Adrian Dix‘s New Democrats in the dust. Long expected to form government in this year’s vote, the NDP were only able to elect 33 MLAs, compared to 50 for the Liberals. The only win the NDP are likely to celebrate is the defeat of Premier Clark in her own Vancouver-Point Grey constituency against newly elected NDP MLA David Eby.

Wildrose raised big cash in 2012, Tories fell behind.

Falling behind in fundraising, Premier Alison Redford and MLAs Peter Sandhu and Steven Young count their pennies.

Falling behind in fundraising, Premier Alison Redford and MLAs Peter Sandhu and Steven Young count their pennies.

Unofficial political donation records published by Elections Alberta yesterday show that Premier Alison Redford‘s Progressive Conservative Association is not in the robust financial situation its leaders are accustomed to over the past four-decades in office.

At least not in 2012, when the Tory Party was eclipsed by its main rival in fundraising amounts.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Party Alberta Election 2012

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party smashed political fundraising records in 2012, raising an incredible $5,916,565 over the course of the year. Contributing to the $5 million figure was $3,122,670 of revenue reported from the 2012 election and $2,793,895 raised outside the campaign period. In their non-campaign period, the Wildrose Party recorded a $175,133 deficit and $405,361 in net assets.

While the Wildrose Party attracted large donations from medium-sized oil and pipeline equipment companies, the large majority of that party’s donations came from individual donors. This trend suggests the Wildrose has harnessed a fundraising machine similar to the Conservative Party of Canada. With close ties to the federal party, it is no surprise that the Wildrose has chosen to mimic this successful fundraising goal.

Premier Alison Redford

Premier Alison Redford

The Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper were the first federal political party in recent history to succeed in effectively cultivating a large base of individual donors to fund their political operations. This energized base of individual donors helped free the Tories from having to depend on the large corporate donations that for decades fuelled the Liberal Party of Canada.

The test for the Wildrose Party will be whether they can sustain this level of fundraising in the years between election periods.

Meanwhile, Alberta’s PC Party reported a $3,055,621 deficit after last year’s election that had been whittled down to $794,767 in liabilities at the end of 2012. Relying heavily on corporate donations, the Tories raised $1,607,581 during the 2012 election and $2,331,592 in the non-campaign period.

Manmeet Bhullar

Manmeet Bhullar

The Tory fundraising numbers from the 2012 election are lower than expected and are somewhat misleading as many Tory candidates raised astonishing amounts of funds on their own accord. For example, Calgary-Greenway Tory Manmeet Bhullar‘s campaign spent $133,294, Fort McMurray-Conklin Tory Don Scott‘s campaign spent $110,955.44, Edmonton-Whitemud Tory cabinet minister Dave Hancock‘s campaign spent $121,233.35, and Calgary-West Tory candidate Ken Hughes‘ campaign spent $111,796.33.

Despite the old saying that Alberta’s PCs strived to always have enough money in their coffers to run two back-to-back election campaigns, the party is struggling with a smaller donor base and growing debt wracked up in last year’s election.

Brian Mason‘s New Democrats reported impressive revenue of $1,380,659 outside the campaign period in 2012, but remain strapped with a $554,883 debt from previous election campaigns. Raj Sherman‘s Liberals reported $478,795 in revenue in the non-election period and a $30,015 surplus in funds at the end of 2012.