Tag Archives: Prasad Panda

Wildrose-PC merger a big deal, but not a silver bullet for 2019

Albertans will find out on July 22 whether members of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties have voted to amend their party constitutions in order to abandon their existing parties and form a new party named the United Conservative Party.

For the vote to pass, it will need the support of 75 percent of Wildrose members and 50 percent plus one of PC Party members.

There seems to be two likely scenarios: if it passes or fails.

A) If members from both parties vote to approve the agreement and amend their party constitutions, then a joint board of directors will be appointed to govern the business of the UCP and the two existing parties. The creation of a new party will need to be approved by Elections Alberta, which I expect will happen shortly after a successful vote.

An interim leader will be appointed by the caucuses of the two parties. There is strong speculation that the interim leader will be the mild-mannered and well-respected Wildrose Opposition House Leader Nathan Cooper, who has served as MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills since 2015. Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried and Calgary-Foothills MLA Prasad Panda could also be contenders for interim leader position.

A leadership race will be scheduled for October 28, 2017 and four candidates have already declared their candidacy or interest in running: Wildrose leader Brian Jean, PC Party leader Jason Kenney, Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer.

B) If the vote fails, it is expected this would be because of opposition by Wildrose Party members. While I would be very surprised if the vote fails, it would not be the most outlandish event to occur in Alberta politics in the past decade. The Wildrose membership are known for being cantankerous and notoriously anti-establishment.

A big loss would be a huge blow to Jean’s leadership of the party and would probably spell the end of his career in provincial politics. It might also lead to Wildrose MLAs crossing the floor to the PCs, as Kenney could continue to move ahead and create a UCP regardless of a rejected vote by Wildrose members.

A Plan B could take the form of a non-compete agreement, where the two parties would not challenge each other in constituencies in the next election. This would be similar to what Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke proposed during the PC leadership race.

If technical issues hamper the vote and cause party members to question or challenge the validity of the results, it could damage the UCP before it is even officially formed.

What does this mean for the conservative movement in Alberta? 

With some prominent PC members jumping to the Alberta Party, a group of disgruntled Wildrose members threatening to start another new party and some conservatives even joining the NDP, Conservatives actually appear less united than they have been in years. While much of the Conservative establishment is backing the Wildrose-PC merger, there is a threat that it would lead to a further split into smaller conservative parties.

The outcome of the Wildrose-PC merger could be determined during the UCP leadership race, which will set the tone and policy direction of the new party. And association with unpopular positions could dog the candidates.

Jean is trying to appeal to rural Wildrose supporters while convincing urban conservatives that he is a centrist. Kenney is associated with social conservative causes and sparked controversy when he told a Postmedia editorial board he would support outing students who join Gay-Straight Alliances. And Fildebrandt’s leadership campaign can be expected to bring a blunt message of ‘weaponized conservatism‘ and painful funding cuts to public services.

What does this mean for the NDP?

While the NDP have mostly stayed out of the Wildrose-PC merger fray, they will be eager to define the new Conservative party as angry and uncompassionate right-wingers who are out-of-touch with modern and increasingly urban Alberta.

Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party has subtly shifted their messaging over the past year, focusing on launching new programs and projects that they argue will “make lives better for Albertans.” This will provide the NDP with a significant contrast to the UCP, who they will argue would attack the public services and hurt Alberta families.

Kenney has stated that if he becomes Premier in 2019, the months that follow would be known as the “Summer of Repeal” as his government would immediately move to repeal legislation passed by the NDP since 2015. The trouble with Kenney’s promise to repeal all of the NDP’s agenda is that, despite anger from conservatives still bitter from losing the 2015 election, some of the changes introduced by Notley’s NDP are popular among Albertans.

Would a UCP government cancel the construction of the Cancer Treatment Centre in Calgary or the new hospital in south Edmonton? Would a UCP government lower the minimum wage, increase school fees and cancel the $25/day childcare program? Expect the NDP to make sure Albertans are asking these questions.

What does this mean for Alberta Together and the Alberta Party?

Moderate and centrist Conservatives who have left the PC Party to support the Alberta Together political action committee and the Alberta Party also have an interest in seeing the UCP branded as Wildrose 2.0 in the minds of Alberta voters.

Since being elected as MLA for Calgary-Elbow in 2015, Greg Clark has punched above his weight in generating media attention while his party has floundered at fundraising and constituency organization. The recent injection of centrist PC activists into his party might be a boon for fundraising and organizing, especially if the UCP is cast as just a new Wildrose Party.

Wildrose-PC merger not a silver bullet

Since the morning after the NDP’s victory in the 2015 election, many Conservatives have talked about merging the Wildrose and PCs parties as if it were a silver bullet to winning the next election. While the NDP have not been the most popular government in Alberta history, Conservatives underestimate Rachel Notley at their own peril. Notley is a smart and savvy political leader and, as 2015 proved, she is an incredibly talented campaigner.

And, as the past two elections have proven, Conservatives in Alberta have a track record of shooting themselves in the foot at the most inopportune times.


I joined Brock Harrison and Shaye Ganam on July 21, 2017 to chat about Alberta politics and the July 22 vote on 630CHED. Here is the audio recording of our discussion.

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt faced a bizarre 72 hour suspension from the Official Opposition caucus this week.

Wildrose Shuffles Critics, Fildebrandt no longer Public Accounts Committee Chairman

Outspoken Wildrose Party MLA Derek Fildebrandt, who finds himself frequently at odds with leader Brian Jean, remains in his high-profile role as Official Opposition Finance & Treasury critic after a shuffle of critic portfolios in the Wildrose caucus this week.

Brian Jean

But according to the MLA committee membership list released on Dec. 13, 2016, Fildebrandt is no longer Chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, a role he has filled since June 2015. The chair of the financial oversight committee is traditionally filled by an MLA from the Official Opposition. Fildebrandt has been replaced by Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA Scott Cyr.

While relinquishing the chair role could be seen as a demotion caused by conflict with his party’s leadership, it likely means that Fildebrandt, a former director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and aggressive critic of the NDP, can now play a more active and vocal role on the committee.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

The Wildrose shuffle included new assignments for Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes as Energy critic, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao as Health critic, Chestermere-Rockyview MLA Leela Aheer as Education Critic, Airdrie MLA Angela Pitt as Justice & Solicitor General critic, Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken as Jobs & Labour critic, and Little Bow MLA Dave Schneider as Agriculture critic. The capable and quick on his feet Nathan Cooper remains House Leader. (See a full list here)

The Wildrose caucus also shuffled their MLA committee membership:

  • Prasad Panda replaces Grant Hunter as a member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
  • Glenn van Dijken replaces Dave Schneider as Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future.
  • Leela Aheer replaces Ron Orr as a member of the Standing Committee on Families and Communities
  • Angela Pitt replaces Nathan Cooper as a member of the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices
  • Nathan Cooper replaces Derek Fildebrandt as a member of the Standing Committee on Members’ Services
  • Todd Loewen replaces Leela Aheer as a member of the Standing Committee on Resource Stewardship
  • Angela Pitt and Glenn van Dijken become members of the Select Special Ombudsman and Public Interest Commissioner Search Committee.
Premier Rachel Notley (centre), Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir (fourth from left) and NDP candidate Roop Rai (third from left) at a campaign stop in Calgary-Greenway.

Expect the unexpected in the Calgary-Greenway by-election

The second by-election since Alberta’s May 2015 election will be held on March 22, 2016 in the northeast Calgary constituency of Calgary-Greenway. With the re-election of Manmeet Bhullar, this constituency was one of eight in Calgary to elect a Progressive Conservative candidate in that election. His death in November 2015 triggered this by-election.

By-elections can produce unexpected results. While they are important snapshots of the political mood of an electorate at a certain point in time, the results can be poor indicators of outcomes of future general elections.

In October 2014, four by-election wins by the PC Party made Premier Jim Prentice look like a political juggernaut. His party was swept out of office by Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party seven months later. A by-election win by the Wildrose Party in 2009 did not produce a Danielle Smith-led government in 2012 and an important by-election win by the Liberals in Ralph Klein’s Calgary-Elbow constituency in 2007 also ended up being a false start for that party in the next election.

Last year’s by-election in Calgary-Foothills, triggered by Mr. Prentice’s election night resignation, was the first in Alberta’s dramatically new political environment. The NDP poured significant resources in their campaign to elect former MLA  Bob Hawkesworth and his loss to Wildroser Prasad Panda was a blow to the NDP, which is likely why the NDP appear to have done a better job managing expectations for Roop Rai‘s campaign in Greenway.

Alternatively, the Calgary-Greenway by-election is a must-win for the PC Party, which has dropped down to eight MLAs from 70 MLAs before the 2015 election. PC candidate Prab Gill needs to retain this by-election to signal his party will continue to be a viable alternative to the NDP.

A win by the PC Party would also throw a wrench into the plans of the official opposition Wildrose Party, which has been aggressively attacking the new NDP government since it took office less than a year ago. A Wildrose win might be a final nail in the coffin of the PC Party.

A win by the Liberals would be, well, unexpected.

One poll, released by Mainstreet Research on March 12, projected a four-way race between the PC Party, NDP, Wildrose and Liberals.

Unlike most of the 44-years of PC Party government, Albertans no longer live in a political environment where we can expect the governing party to win every seat. And that’s a good thing.


The following candidates will be listed on the ballot on the March 22, 2016 by-election in Calgary-Greenway:

Green PartyThana Boonlert [FacebookTwitter]
Liberal PartyKhalil Karbani [FacebookTwitter]
Independent: Said Abdulbaki
Independent: Larry Heather
Independent: Sukhi Rai
New Democratic PartyRoop Rai [FacebookTwitter]
Progressive Conservative: Prab Gill [FacebookTwitter]
Wildrose PartyDevinder Toor [Facebook]

 

Alberta MLAs to watch in 2016: Sarah Hoffman, Nathan Cooper, Deborah Drever, Greg Clark, Sandra Jansen, Deron Bilous, Danielle Larivee, Richard Starke, Shannon Phillips, and Prasad Panda.

A Rookie Crew: Eleven Alberta MLAs to watch in 2016

The past few years in Alberta politics have reminded us that politics can be an extraordinarily unpredictable and forecasting the future can be a very tricky business for political pundits. Aside from the obvious choices of Premier Rachel Notley, Finance Minister Joe Ceci and Wildrose leader Brian Jean, here is a list of eleven Alberta MLAs worth watching in 2016.

Deron Bilous (Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview): As Economic Development and Trade Minister, Deron Bilous faces the challenge of proving the government’s job creation plan can work as the provincial economy faces declining international oil prices.

Greg Clark (Calgary-Elbow): As leader of the one MLA Alberta Party opposition, Greg Clark is punching above his weight in getting media attention and working hard to position himself as a moderate conservative alternative to the NDP and Wildrose Parties. He was also the only opposition MLA to propose an alternative budget and climate change plan in 2015.

Nathan Cooper (Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills): With a detailed knowledge of Assembly rules and procedure, Official Opposition House Leader Nathan Cooper will prove to be a valuable asset to the rookie Wildrose Caucus.

Deborah Drever (Calgary-Bow): Elected as a New Democrat and sent into legislative exile as an Independent after embarrassing social media posts were reported, she has been the target of relentless personal attacks by Wildrose MLAs and anonymous internet trolls. She has redeemed herself as a well-spoken representative and shepherded her first private members’ bill – Bill 204 – to unanimous approval in the Legislature. Expect Ms. Drever to be invited to rejoin the NDP caucus in 2016.

Derek Fildebrandt (Strathmore-Brooks): Probably the most high profile Wildrose MLA, Derek Fildebrandt is the loudest critic of the NDP government. But his hyper-partisan outbursts, including an embarassing fight with a Globe & Mail reporter and an angry tweet directed at the Assembly Speaker, are not necessarily the kind of attention his MLA colleagues are pleased to receive. Can he tone down the rhetoric and offer reasonable solutions and alternatives in 2016?

Sarah Hoffman (Edmonton-Glenora): As Health and Seniors Minister, Sarah Hoffman is well-spoken and smart as a fox. She can explain complex issues and spar with the opposition with ease. She is a contender for strongest member of Rachel Notley’s cabinet, and I place her in the “future Premier material” category.

Sandra Jansen (Calgary-North West): Sandra Jansen is the voice of the moderate wing of the Progressive Conservative Party. She has publicly clashed with interim leader Ric McIver over his decision to endorse the federal Conservatives, and with Wildrose supporters over her decision to endorse Liberal candidates in the 2015 federal election. Her record as a vocal opponent of a merger with the Wildrose would make her a candidate to watch in her party’s next leadership race.

Danielle Larivee (Lesser Slave Lake): Appointed to cabinet as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Service Alberta in a fall shuffle, Danielle Larivee has proven herself as a tough and well-spoken advocate. As one of the government’s point-people for the fumbled Bill 6 Farm Safety Bill, she demonstrated her toughness. A Registered Nurse, she is also co-chair of the government’s review of mental health services, which is expected to be released early in 2016.

Prasad Panda (Calgary-Foothills): When he won a Sept. 2015 by-election in Jim Prentice’s former constituency, he became the Wildrose Party’s only MLA from Calgary. He has been quite quiet since his win, but Mr. Panda’s performance as MLA over the coming years could determine how far his rural-based party might expand its presence in Alberta’s largest city.

Shannon Phillips (Lethbridge West): Smart, passionate and a fierce partisan, Shannon Phillips impressed many with her calm and cool delivery of Alberta’s climate change plan ahead of the Paris Climate Change conference in Nov. 2015. As Environment and Parks Minister, she helped bring together oil industry leaders and environmental groups to endorse the province’s plan. Selling the plan and its carbon tax to Albertans over the next year will be a serious test of Ms. Phillips’ political skills.

Richard Starke (Vermilion-Lloydminster): As a critic of Bill 6, Richard Starke took a more reasoned approach to criticizing the farm safety law and avoided the hysterical and negative reactions characteristic of his counterparts in the Official Opposition caucus. One of two remaining rural PC MLAs, he is said to be interested in making a bid for his party’s leadership.

Young Alberta MLA Under 30 Politics 2016

The Under 30s: Jon Carson, Michael Connolly, Estefania Cortes-Vargas, Thomas Dang, Trevor Horne, Anam Kazim, Stephanie McLean, and Graham Sucha.

The Under 30s: Another result of the massive turnover in the legislature last year was a significant drop in the average age of Alberta’s MLAs, from 53 to 40 years old. Among the newly elected younger MLAs are a handful who are under thirty-years old (including Ms. Drever, who is noted above).

While it is not uncommon to have one to two under-30s elected to the Assembly from time to time, I cannot remember a time when so many were elected at once. It is a refreshing change, as younger Albertans bring a very different perspective than the typical older, greyer elected representative.

There could be future cabinet ministers or party leaders in this group, so in 2016, I will be keeping an eye on Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Jon CarsonCalgary-Hawkwood MLA Michael Connolly, Sherwood Park-Strathcona MLA Estefania Cortes-VargasEdmonton-Southwest MLA Thomas Dang, Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Trevor HorneCalgary-Glenmore MLA Anam KazimCalgary-Varsity MLA Stephanie McLean, and Calgary-Shaw MLA Graham Sucha.


Compare this list of Alberta MLAs to watch to previous lists from 2015 and 2014.

Bob Hawkesworth with Premier Rachel Notley during the by-election in Calgary-Foothills.

What about Bob? Hawkesworth swoops into top political job.

Former Calgary alderman Bob Hawkesworth has been appointed Executive Director of Premier Rachel Notley’s southern Alberta office at the McDougall Centre in Calgary. A press release sent out on Nov. 7 states that Mr. Hawkesworth will be responsible for “the day-to-day operation of McDougall Centre, including stakeholder relations, communications and outreach services.

Richard Gotfried Calgary Fish Creek PC MLA

Richard Gotfried

Mr. Hawkesworth is a familiar name in Calgary politics, having served on city council from 1980 to 1986 and 1993 to 2010, and as the NDP MLA for Calgary-Mountain View from 1986 to 1993.

But his long career in municipal politics ended with a flame out. When faced with dwindling support in his bid for mayor in 2010, the respected alderman known for his ‘nice guy’ image launched a blistering negative attack on Naheed Nenshi before dropping out and endorsing Barb Higgins (his name still appeared on the ballot – he earned 1,513 votes). The negativity and surprised endorsements had many Calgarians scratching their heads in confusion.

He attempted a return to provincial politics in a September 2015 by-election but was defeated by Wildrose candidate Prasad Panda.

Reaction from the opposition parties to his appointment this weekend was surprisingly mixed.

Prasad Panda Calgary Foothills Wildrose

Prasad Panda

Calgary-Fish Creek Progressive Conservative MLA Richard Gotfried tweeted a congratulatory note, describing Mr. Hawkesworth as “A good man and an able representative of the @albertaNDP in #YYC.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre Wildrose MLA Jason Nixon attacked the announcement as “a patronage appointment while Albertans across the province are hurting.” It seemed odd that the Wildrose caucus did not choose their only MLA from Calgary, Mr. Panda, to respond to the appointment. Maybe they are still preparing themselves for the rigours of a 9:00 a.m. start time?

Was this appointment based on political connections? It is hard to argue it is not. We can expect Ms. Notley to hire who she knows and who she trusts to these top positions. Mr. Hawkesworth might be the most well-connected and well-known partisan New Democrat in Calgary (Finance Minister Joe Ceci, another former alderman, might be the only other Calgary New Democrat as well connected). And he did earn endorsements from a number of conservatives during his by-election bid, including Councillor Diane Colley-Urquhart, former PC MLA Gordon Shrake and former mayor Rod Sykes.

Jason Nixon Wildrose Rocky Mountain House Rimbey Sundre

Jason Nixon

This appointment of a long-time party loyaltist also signals that the NDP don’t have a broadly developed network of fresh talent to draw from in Calgary and southern Alberta, which may explain the large number of out-of-province hires. Many Calgary progressives I speak with regularily, some who are affiliated with Mr. Nenshi’s mayoral campaigns, are completely unfamiliar with the NDP’s political networks in their city, mostly because these networks are just now being built.

Despite electing 15 MLAs in Calgary, the NDP only earned 35 percent of the city-wide vote in the May 2015 election. It will largely depend on these 15 MLAs in Calgary and their colleagues in Banff-Cochrane, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat to develop those networks through the work they do on the ground in their constituencies over the next four years.

Rob Merrifield Alberta Washington DC

Rob Merrifield

The appointment of Mr. Hawkesworth does raise the question about Ms. Notley’s pledge to operate differently than the old PC government. In fact, only a few months ago, the NDP government publicly fired and criticized former Alberta representative in Washington D.C. Rob Merrifield for being a political appointee.

Mr. Merrifield was a partisan political appointee, hired by former Premier Jim Prentice, because he knew him and believed he could trust him to do a good job. Just as I am sure Ms. Notley knows and believes she can trust Mr. Hawkesworth to do a good job running the Premier’s office in at the McDougall Centre.

Danielle Larivee Rachel Notley Deron Bilous

Notley creates Economic Development ministry, appoints rural Municipal Affairs minister

Alberta’s provincial cabinet grew from twelve to thirteen today with the appointment of Lesser Slave Lake MLA Danielle Larivee to the posts of Minister of Municipal Affairs and Service Alberta.

Ms. Larivee takes over those roles from Deron Bilous. Mr. Bilous, one of the four NDP MLAs elected before this year’s orange chinook swept across Alberta, is now the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, a new department created from elements of the Ministry of Advanced Education and Innovation and International and Intergovernmental Affairs.

With Finance Minister Joe Ceci scheduled to table the provincial budget in the Legislative Assembly on Oct. 27, the creation of this new ministry is meant to send a message about the importance of job creation and economic diversification. It was announced today that the budget will also include an “economic development plan” that will help provide some direction for this initiative.

The provincial budget is expected to include significant investment in public infrastructure and job creation projects to compensate for the loss of jobs caused by the drop in the international price of oil.

Calgary No Longer the Centre of Alberta’s Political Universe

The appointment of a rural northern Alberta MLA to cabinet has already generated complaints from some Calgary-based pundits. Only four of thirteen cabinet ministers represent constituencies south of Edmonton, including Finance Minister Joe Ceci, Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley and Environment Minister Shannon Phillips.

Over the course of its 44 years in power, the old Progressive Conservative government was led by Calgarians for more than three decades – Premiers Peter Lougheed (1971 to 1985), Ralph Klein (1992 to 2006), Alison Redford (2011-2014) and Jim Prentice (2014-2015).

It is suspected that former Alderman Bob Hawkesworth would have been appointed to cabinet as Minister of Municipal Affairs if he had won a September by-election in the Calgary-Foothills riding. If this is true, Calgarians can rightfully ask why one of the other eleven NDP MLAs in Calgary wasn’t appointed to cabinet. But they would be mistaken to believe they are the only group the provincial government is trying to represent.

As an MLA representing a large rural constituency, Ms. Larivee’s appointment to the Municipal Affairs post is more likely a tip of the hat to the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties. An incredibly well-connected lobby group during the PC Party’s time in power, the AAMDC has found itself sitting on the outside of political power for the first time in decades.

The group was known in political circles as the PC Party’s “farm team,” because many of its officials have used the group as a springboard in attempts to win PC candidate nominations (including current president Al Kemmere and former cabinet minister Jack Hayden).

As a registered nurse who worked in a community health care setting, Ms. Larivee will understand some of the challenges facing the rural and remote communities represented by the AAMDC. It just so happens that Ms. Larivee’s new job starts a month before her first large event as minister – the AAMDC’s annual general meeting on November 17 and 18.


Alberta’s New Cabinet

Rachel Notley (Edmonton-Strathcona) – Premier

Deron Bilous (Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview) – Economic Development and Trade

Oneil Carlier (Whitecourt-Ste. Anne) – Agriculture and Forestry

Joe Ceci (Calgary-Fort) – Finance and Treasury Board President

David Eggen (Edmonton-Calder) — Education and Culture and Tourism

Kathleen Ganley (Calgary-Buffalo) Justice and Aboriginal Affairs

Sarah Hoffman (Edmonton Glenora)— Health and Seniors

Danielle Larivee (Lesser Slave Lake) – Municipal Affairs and Service Alberta

Brian Mason (Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood) –  Infrastructure and Transportation

Margaret Mccuaig-Boyd (Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley) – Energy

Shannon Phillips (Lethbridge-West) – Environment and Parks and Status of Women

Irfan Sabir (Calgary-McCall) – Human Services.

Lori Sigurdson (Edmonton-Riverview) – Advanced Education, and Jobs, Skills, Training & Labour

Wildrose win Calgary-Foothills by-election, NDP hold on to ‘Orange Chinook’ support

Wildrose Party candidate Prasad Panda became his party’s only MLA from Calgary with a fairly decisive win in yesterday’s by-election in Calgary-Foothills, stealing the constituency away from the Progressive Conservatives. PC candidate Blair Houston finished third in the constituency that elected former Premier Jim Prentice in another by-election ten months ago and in a general election only four months ago.

The New Democrats mounted what appeared to be a strong campaign with candidate Bob Hawkesworth, but the governing party was only able to finish with second place in the by-election.

The NDP lost some ground in this by-election, holding 25.7 percent of the vote compared to the 32.3 percent earned by candidate Anne Wilson in the May 5, 2015 general election but still significantly more than the 3.7 percent earned by the NDP candidate in the October 2014 by-election. The results suggest that the NDP “orange chinook” from May 2015 has not completely dissipated as some would have argued and that NDP have developed a base of support in the city that was non-existent only a few months ago.

An NDP loss in this by-election would not have been a notable outcome had that party not intentionally raised the stakes of the results by pouring significant resources into the campaign, including high-profile endorsements of Mr. Hawkesworth and at least three campaign visits by Premier Rachel Notley. The loss does not spell the end of the NDP in Calgary but it does demonstrate that the party faces strong conservative opposition in the city, which should come as a surprise to no one.

Media commentaries will likely frame the Wildrose win as a rebuke of NDP policies in Calgary-Foothills, which it was, but at a more interesting level the results of this by-election are reflective of the divide between the Wildrose and the PC Party.

While the electoral outcomes were different from the last election, the percentages of the combined PC and Wildrose votes were 59.8 percent, up slightly from their combined vote of 58 percent in May 2015. This is a major decline from the October 2014 by-election, when the two conservative parties dominated with a combined 88 percent of the vote.

Conservative voters were split in this by-election, but Mr. Panda’s win will give the Wildrose Party potent ammunition to argue that the old PC Party is not a viable conservative alternative to the NDP in the three and a half years leading up to the next general election. The by-election results do suggest that in Calgary, the mostly rural based Wildrosers could still have some hard work ahead of them, as the PC Party is at the very least “still standing.”

The Wildrose caucus will now grow from 21 to 22 MLAs, making it the largest official opposition since the Liberals had 31 MLAs in the early-1990s. The PCs have 9 MLAs in the Legislature.

Here are the unofficial results from the September 3, 2015 by-election (66/66 polls reporting):

Prasad Panda, Wildrose: 4,877 (38.3%)
Bob Hawkesworth, NDP: 3,270 (25.7%)
Blair Houston, PC: 2,7,46 (21.5%)
Ali Bin Zahid, Liberal:  791 (6.2%)
Mark Taylor, Alberta Party: 610 (4.8%)
Janet Keeping, Green: 377 (2.9%)
Antoni Grochowski, Independent: 46 (0.36%)

Premier Jim Prentice Alberta PC leadership race

It is anyone’s guess what comes next after today’s by-election in Calgary-Foothills

Today’s by-election in Calgary-Foothills is the first major litmus test for Alberta’s political parties in the post-Progressive Conservative political world. After forty-four years of PC Party-government in Alberta end earlier this year, politics in this province could still be in flux.

Bob Hawkesworth NDP Calgary Foothills

Bob Hawkesworth

When Rachel Notley led NDP candidates to victory in fifteen constituencies in the city on May 5, 2015, the “Orange Wave” broke at the boundaries of Calgary-Foothills as conservative voters re-elected Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice as their MLA (Mr. Prentice the triggered the by-election when he resigned as MLA on election night).

Despite considerable conservative strength in Calgary-Foothills, the NDP have willingly turned low expectations into high stakes by pouring significant resources into this by-election. Ms. Notley has personally visited the constituency at least three times to campaign alongside Bob Hawkesworth, a well-known candidate with thirty-years of experience in municipal and provincial office in Calgary.

Prasad Panda Calgary Foothills Wildrose

Prasad Panda

Mr. Hawkesworth’s campaign has released impressive endorsements from some unlikely figures – former Calgary Mayor Rod Sykes, former PC MLA Gordon Shrake, former Liberal candidate Brian Edy, and current city councillors Diane Colley-Urquhart and Druh Farrell – to demonstrate a broad support for his candidacy.

Talk in political circles is that he would be a shoe-in for a cabinet spot if elected, maybe as Minister of Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour or Minister of Infrastructure.

But the decline of the international price of oil and recent energy-sector layoffs may have voters in this constituency sticking with their conservative options. The opposition parties have been quick to blame NDP plans to review resource royalties for making the economic situation worse.

Blair Houston PC Calgary Foothills

Blair Houston

The war of words in the by-election got nasty after it was discovered that a Chinese-language pamphlet circulated by Wildrose Party candidate Prasad Panda’s campaign accused the NDP of being communists. The Wildrose campaign claimed the translation was unintentional but it is difficult to believe this would be a mistake.

There is a reason why the communist message was only included in the Chinese-language material. According to data from the 2011 National Household Survey, 12.4% of homes in Calgary-Foothills identify Chinese as their household language and 24.1% of the population in the constituency is of Chinese ethnic origin.

Instead of repudiating Mr. Panda’s claims, Wildrose leader Brian Jean doubled down on the communist accusations, telling NewsTalk770 yesterday that the NDP “are the most socialist out of any party in Canada.”

Sandra Jansen

Sandra Jansen

The presence of an increasingly depressing PC Party, represented by candidate Blair Houston could spoil an easy Wildrose victory. Mr. Houston’s campaign material claims that “only the moderate can defeat the extremes,” sending a strong message that there is still significant distrust between the two conservative parties.

The split between Wildrose and PC conservatives is evident among conservative activists on the internet.

An army of Wildrose twitterati launched online attacks yesterday against Calgary-North West PC MLA Sandra Jansen for her support of former television news anchor Nirmala Naidoo, who is running as the federal Liberal candidate in Calgary-Rocky Ridge, which overlaps with the Calgary-Foothills constituency.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

Ms. Jansen responded that she is not a member of the federal Conservative Party and is under no obligation to support their candidates (her pragmatic reply is unlikely to appease her Wildrose critics).

As litmus tests, by-elections can be indicators of citizens approval or disapproval of a governing party at a given time, but by-election results are not necessarily indicators of how voters will cast their ballots in the future.

The Progressive Conservatives swept four by-elections in October 2014, including one in Calgary-Foothills, leading many political observers to believe that Mr. Prentice was an unstoppable political juggernaut. Only ten months later, Mr. Prentice is gone, the NDP have a majority government, the Wildrose rebounded into official opposition and Alberta has been thrown into a new political reality.

It is anyone’s guess what comes next after today’s by-election in Calgary-Foothills.

Unofficial results from today’s by-election will appear on the Elections Alberta website after 8:00 p.m.

Calgary-Foothills by-election candidates Blair Houston (PC), Bob Hawkesworth (NDP), Janet Keeping (Green), Prasad Panda (Wildrose), Ali Bin Zahid (Liberal) and Mark Taylor (Alberta Party).

Calgary-Foothills by-election vote on Sept 3. Here’s what the parties are saying.

Taking place in the backdrop of a federal election, the September 3 provincial by-election in the Calgary-Foothills constituency could have a profound impact on the federal election in Alberta.

A win by the NDP would almost certainly boost momentum for the federal NDP in Alberta, a win by the Wildrose would solidify that party’s dominance over the third-place Progressive Conservatives, and a win by the PCs would be that party’s first sign of a pulse since its defeat in the May 2015 election.

This is the third time voters in this constituency have gone to the polls to select a new MLA since October 2014, when PC leader Jim Prentice entered the Legislature. When it became clear the PC Party has lost the election on May 5, Mr. Prentice resigned as MLA before the votes were even finished being counted.

New Democratic Party: Premier Rachel Notley was the guest of honour at NDP candidate Bob Hawkesworth campaign launch this weekend. Mr. Hawkesworth is a well-known figure in Calgary politics, having served on city council from 1980 to 1986 and 1993 to 2010 and as MLA for Calgary-Mountain View from 1986 to 1993. He received a surprise endorsement last week from Alderman Diane Colley-Urquhart, who is a former PC Party candidate.

Agreeing with calls from opposition parties, the NDP government committed to not making any government announcements in Calgary until after the by-election. This follows criticism levelled at the former PC government, which used its office for political gain to boost support for candidates in four 2014 by-elections.

Progressive Conservative: The PCs have chosen past city council candidate and bar owner Blair Houston as their candidate. Before the 2015 provincial election, Mr. Houston ran for the PC nomination in Calgary-North West against incumbent MLA Sandra Jansen.

Wildrose: The Wildrose Party nominated Prasad Panda as their candidate in a three-way contest with more than 700 Wildrose members voting in the nomination selection. Mr. Panda was the 2012 and 2015 Wildrose candidate in the neighbouring Calgary-Northern Hills constituency.

Alberta PartyMark Taylor has been nominated to run as the Alberta Party candidate. Mr. Taylor was President of the Wildrose Party’s Highwood association from 2012 until 2013 (at the time, the constituency was represented by Wildrose leader Danielle Smith). His campaign released an interview with a local business owner criticizing the NDP government’s 3-year phased increases of the minimum wage.

Liberal: Candidate Ali Bin Zahid issued a press release urging the NDP government to delay their promised royalty review, which is being chaired by Alberta Treasury Branches CEO and President Dave Mowatt. “The last thing the people of Foothills want at this moment is another career politician who will contribute to the NDP’s stubborn determination to do this review now,” said Mr. Zahid.

Green: Green Party leader Janet Keeping criticized the NDP for a lack of basic amenities in the Calgary-Foothills constituency and for an end to the political polarization in the debate about oilsands development. “Sustainability is about more than the physical environment. It is also about maintaining a healthy employment climate. The rate of oilsands development should be reduced decisively but gradually,” said Ms. Keeping.

Calgary Foothills Election By Results

What’s at stake for who in the Calgary-Foothills by-election

The Calgary-Foothills by-election to replace former Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice, who resigned on the evening he was re-elected as MLA on May 5, will take place on September 3, 2015.

Jim Prentice Alberta Premier

Jim Prentice

Like most constituencies in Calgary before this year’s election, Foothills has been a traditionally conservative voting area that elected PC MLAs since the party began its 44-year run as government in 1971. But unlike most constituencies in Calgary in the recent election, enough voters in Calgary-Foothills supported Mr. Prentice to avoid Rachel Notley‘s orange wave.

This by-election is the first electoral test for Ms. Notley’s new government since it was voted into office on May 5.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

The NDP have nominated former alderman Bob Hawkesworth, who also served as the NDP MLA for Calgary-Mountain View from 1986 to 1993.

With a comfortable majority of 53 MLAs in the Legislature, the NDP do not need to win this by-election, but a win would demonstrate that the NDP sweep in May can be expanded into new areas of the province. A very poor showing would be seen as a rebuke of Ms. Notley’s policies.

Showing how serious the party is taking the by-election opportunity, one of the Premier’s top communications staffers, former CBC reporter John Archer, tweeted last week that he would be taking a leave of absence from his job at the Legislature to work on Mr. Hawkesworth’s campaign.

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP

Joe Ceci

Expect Calgary NDP MLAs and cabinet ministers Finance Minister Joe Ceci, Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley and Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir to be flooding through this constituency many times over the next month.

Although the by-election will take place in the depths of summer, it also falls in the midst of a federal election campaign, which could create some fascinating political scenarios.

Ric McIver

Ric McIver

Federal Conservatives united behind Stephen Harper‘s federal party may be forced to choose sides between the old Progressive Conservatives now led by former Calgary alderman Ric McIver and the opposition Wildrose Party led by former Fort McMurray Conservative MP Brian Jean.

It is well known that many federal Conservative MPs, including Rob Anders and Jason Kenney, support the Wildrose but recent polls show the PCs remain popular in Calgary while the Wildrose opposition caucus is almost entirely based in rural Alberta. But in 2015, three former PC MLAs are running as federal Conservative candidates – Ron Liepert in Calgary-Signal Hill, Matt Jeneroux in Edmonton-Riverbend and former Calgary-Foothills PC MLA Len Webber in Calgary-Confederation.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

The by-election will be an important indicator showing if the PC still have a political pulse.The party remains in shock after their stunning electoral defeat and has yet to nominate a candidate to run in the by-election.

Update: AlbertaPolitics.ca author David Climenhaga reports that past city council candidate Blair Houston is expected to be nominated as the PC candidate.

Stakes are also high for the Wildrose Party and Mr. Jean. The Wildrose was unable to elect any candidates in Alberta’s two largest urban centres in the recent election, despite having elected two MLAs in Calgary in 2012. A Wildrose win in Foothills could torpedo activities by conservative operatives to merge the two conservative parties.

Greg Clark Calgary-Elbow Alberta Party

Greg Clark

Originally scheduled for August 15, the Wildrose has moved up their nomination vote to August 11, 2015 (John Huang, Kathy Macdonald, and Prasad Panda are contesting the nomination).

The by-election could also be an important test for the Alberta Party, whose leader Greg Clark was elected in Calgary-Elbow and has earned a reputation as a vocal critic of the NDP over the past three months. While still new to the Legislature, Mr. Clark has an opportunity to turn his party into the moderate conservative alternative to the PC Party and Liberal Party. The Alberta Party has yet to nominate a candidate.

The Liberals have nominated electrical engineer and past candidate Ali Bin Zahid, and Green Party leader Janet Keeping, who ran against Mr. Prentice in May, is running again.

Inside Baseball: Alberta’s conservative parties hold executive elections.

Alberta PC MLA Ray Danyluk

Ray Danyluk

Former cabinet minister Ray Danyluk dropped out of race for the presidency of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party this week, prompting a few political insiders to ask the question “why was he running in the first place?

The recently defeated three-term Tory MLA from Lac La Biche-St. Paul joined the race to replace outgoing president Bill Smith less than a month ago. After throwing his considerable political weight behind Doug Horner‘s PC leadership campaign in 2011, he was appointed to Premier Alison Redford‘s first cabinet and was unseated by Wildrose candidate Shayne Saskiw in the 2012 election.

The race to replace the outgoing PC Party president is now narrowed between Calgary Tory Jim McCormick and Lac Ste. Anne County Councillor Lorne Olsvik. The vote will take place at the Alberta PC’s annual meeting on November 9 and 10, 2012 at the Telus Convention Centre in Calgary.

Troy Wason

Troy Wason

While most of the positions on the PC executive board have been acclaimed, the race to replace Mr. McCormick as ‘VP Calgary’ could be interesting. Social media maven Troy Wason is facing winery owner Leslie LeQuelenec and long-time Tory volunteer Gary Millan in that race.

Mr. Millan’s online biography lists him as “born in Montreal” and having “witnessed the FLQ crisis first hand and experienced the “War Measures Act.“” I am unclear what this actually means and with no contact information made available on the PC Party website, I was unable to clarify this.

Delegates to the PC Party annual meeting will also debate changes to their party constitution that could change the system used to select its leader. The current system, which includes a run-off second ballot vote, has been criticized for allowing second place candidates from the first ballot to win on the second-ballot (as Premier Redford did in 2011).

Meanwhile, the official opposition Wildrose Party is holding their own annual meeting on November 23 and 24, 2012, in Edmonton at the Mayfield Inn. While leader Danielle Smith had probably hoped she would be addressing this convention as her party’s first Premier, she will instead rise to the podium as leader of a 17-MLA official opposition party.

Paul Hinman Wildrose Calgary

Paul Hinman

Among the crowd running in some of the hotly contested Wildrose Party executive committee elections are former Social Credit Party leader James Albers, former Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman, former Canadian Alliance MP Eric Lowther (defeated by Joe Clark in the 2000 federal election), and former party president Jeff Callaway. Also running for positions are recent election candidates Dave Yager, Wayde Lever, Prasad Panda, Chris Challis, Nathan Stephan, Maryann Chichak, Travis Olson, Rob Solinger, and Mike Blanchard.

One of the most interesting candidates is Broderyck “Broddy” Olson, a Wildrose Party activist and Violinist of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. He is President of the union representing musicians in Edmonton’s Symphony Orchestra and played with the ESO during its legendary performance and recording in 1971 with Procol Harum:

updated: alberta candidate nomination updates – june 2011.

The summer months are here and while the Progressive Conservatives and Liberals are preoccupied with choosing new leaders, the Wildrose Alliance are focusing on nominating a swath of candidates across the province. Here are some updates to the list of candidate nominations happening across Alberta:

Travis Olson, Wildrose Alliance candidate in Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater

Travis Olson, Wildrose Alliance candidate in Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater

Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater: Travis Olson was nominated as the Wildrose candidate on June 3, defeating Smoky Lake County Councillor Lori Danyluk, Thorhild social worker Lauri Genert and Sturgeon County Mayor Don Rigney in a mail-in ballot nomination contest. Athabasca-Redwater PC MLA Jeff Johnson has been nominated as his party’s candidate.

Calgary-Bow: Tim Dyck and John Hilton-O’Brien are vying for the Wildrose Alliance nomination. Mr. Hilton-O’Brien was the Alberta Alliance candidate in Grande Prairie-Wapiti in the 2004 election. PC MLA Alana DeLong has been nominated as her party’s candidate.

Calgary-Currie: Carrie Adolph was nominated as the Wildrose Alliance candidate defeating Sonja Chycoski. Ms. Adolph will face Alberta Party MLA Dave Taylor, who has represented this constituency since 2004.

Calgary Fort: The Wildrose Alliance is now without a candidate after Bob McInnis withdrew his candidacy for personal and professional reasons.

Calgary-Hays: Former Wildrose Alliance nomination candidate Wendi Moore appears to have withdrawn from the contest and is now supporting real estate agent Gene Sarmaga, who is facing Libertarian Party of Canada leader Dennis Young.

A photo of Cory Morgan, nomination candidate for the Wildrose Alliance in Wildrose Cory Morgan Calgary Klein North Hill

Former separatist leader Cory Morgan is a Wildrose Alliance nomination candidate in Calgary-Klein.

Calgary-Klein: Recent Aldermanic candidate Jeremy Nixon and former Alberta separatist leader Cory Morgan are seeking the Wildrose Alliance nomination scheduled for June 29. This will be Mr. Morgan’s fourth attempt at provincial elected office, having run as a candidate for the Alberta Independence Party in Banff-Cochrane in 2001, the Separation Party of Alberta in Highwood in 2004, and the Wildrose Alliance in Calgary-Mountain View in 2008.

Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill: The host of the popular CHQR radio show Calgary Today Mike Blanchard and Roy Alexander are seeking the Wildrose Alliance nomination in this constituency at a June 13 meeting.

Calgary-Northern Hills: Prasad Panda was nominated as the Wildrose Alliance candidate on May 27, 2011. Mr. Panda replaces previously nominated candidate Harpreet Nijjar, who withdrew from the nomination earlier this year. Calgary-Mackay PC MLA Teresa Woo-Paw has been nominated as her party’s candidate.

Cardston-Taber-Warner: This constituency was represented by now-Calgary-Glenmore Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman from 2004 until 2008. Dave Wright and Stirling businessman Doug Cooper are seeking that party’s nomination.

Mike Blanchard, Wildrose Alliance nomination candidate in Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill

Mike Blanchard, Wildrose Alliance nomination candidate in Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill

Chestermere-Rockyview: It would appear that Chestermere Town Councillor Heather Davies defeated Said Abdulbaki to become the Wildrose Alliance candidate in that constituency.

Edmonton-Centre: Four-term Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman was acclaimed as her party’s candidate on May 15. The Wildrose Alliance has nominated Barb de Groot, the Executive Director/Registrar of the College of Alberta Professional Forest Technologists.

Edmonton-Decore: The Wildrose Alliance has nominated lawyer Chris Bataluk as their candidate.

Edmonton-Glenora: Former Alberta Party acting-leader Sue Huff is expected to be acclaimed as her party’s candidate in this constituency. PC MLA Heather Klimchuk has been nominated as her party’s candidate.

A photo of Cindy Olsen, Edmonton Catholic School District Trustee

Catholic School Trustee Cindy Olsen is considering a run for NDP in Edmonton-Manning, according to unnamed source.

Edmonton-Manning: According to an unnamed source, Edmonton Catholic School District Trustee Cindy Olsen is strongly considering seeking the NDP nomination in this constituency, which is one of five in the province where the NDP candidate placed second in 2008. (UPDATE: Ms. Olsen announced this morning that she will seek the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Manning. See media release and confirmation from Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MLA Rachel Notley in the comments below) Already seeking the nomination is Mike Scott, who was the Edmonton-Sherwood Park NDP candidate in the recent federal election (and is also formerly known as Mike Koala on 100.3 FM The Bear). The NDP has scheduled their nomination meeting for June 27.

Edmonton-Whitemud: Rick Newcombe and Ian Crawford are seeking the Wildrose Alliance nomination. Although this will be Mr. Crawford’s first time seeking a Wildrose nomination, he has run unsuccessfully for City Council numerous times since 1992, for the Reform Party nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona in 1993, for the PC nominations in Edmonton-Rutherford and Edmonton-Ellerslie in 1993, for the Canadian Alliance in Edmonton-Southeast nomination in 2000, and for the PC nomination in Edmonton-Meadowlark in 2007 against Raj Sherman and Debbie Cavaliere. PC MLA Dave Hancock has been nominated as his party’s candidate.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake: Developer Rod English and real estate broker Kerry Towle are seeking the Wildrose Alliance nomination, which is scheduled to happen on June 16.

Joe Anglin is seeking the Wildrose Alliance nomination in Rocky Mountain House-Sundre

The Rimbey Review reports that Joe Anglin is seeking the Wildrose Alliance nomination in Rocky Mountain House-Sundre

Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills: Village of Beiseker Mayor Bruce Rowe was acclaimed as the Wildrose Alliance candidate.

Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: The Rimbey Review is reporting that Rocky Mountain House Town Councillor Sheila Mizera and Rimbey Town Councillor Joe Anglin are seeking the Wildrose Alliance nomination. Mr. Anglin is well-known as a vocal advocate for landowners rights and earned 23% of the vote as the 2008 Green Party candidate in Lacombe-Ponoka. He served briefly as the Leader of the Alberta Green Party until it was dissolved in 2009.

UPDATE: I have received an email from Mr. Anglin in in regards to the news he is seeking the Wildrose Alliance nomination: “I have been fishing in the Yukon for the last two weeks. Just returned today. This is news to me. I have not made any such announcement.

Whitecourt-Ste. Anne: Whitecourt Town Councillor Maryann Chichak was announced as her party’s candidate on May 20. PC MLA George VanderBurg has been nominated as his party’s candidate.

Am I missing anyone? Post a comment below or send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com.