Tag Archives: Randy Dawson

The election of Rachel Notley's NDP has turned the lobbyist industry on its head.

Navigator hires Notley’s press secretary. Former NDP, Wildrose, PC MLAs go into business.

The realm of government relations and lobbying is a world that most Albertans will never be exposed to. The industry of influencing elected officials and government policy as practiced by private lobbying companies and government relations departments has been turned on its head by the recent election of the New Democratic Party in Alberta.

Faced with the reality that the government had not changed since 1971, most companies and lobbyists ignored the opposition parties and focused their efforts entirely on influencing politicians associated with the Progressive Conservative Party.

A search through the public Lobbyist Registry reveals dozens of former PC cabinet ministers, MLAs and staffers working as lobbyists for various companies and organizations. For many decades networking within the PC Party was the only strategy that could produce changes in government policy. That business plan is now obsolete. It is completely shattered.

Now with Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP as government, many companies and lobbyists with deep PC Party connections are searching for and reaching out to any New Democrats who may have connections and influence with the new government and, perhaps most importantly, have some insight into how Alberta’s new political leaders will operate.

  • An email circulated by Navigator Senior Principal Jason Hatcher last week announcing that Sally Housser, Press Secretary to  Ms. Notley during the recent election campaign and former deputy national director of the federal NDP, had been hired as a Senior Consultant in Edmonton. Navigator is known for its political connections to the PC Party, with Managing Principal Randy Dawson serving as the 2015 PC Party campaign manager and Mr. Hatcher as a spokesperson for Jim Prentice‘s 2014 leadership campaign.
  • Impact Consulting, a company run by Premier Ed Stelmach’s former Chief of Staff Elan MacDonald, recently announced the hiring of former NDP Caucus Communications Director Brookes Merritt. Mr. Merritt was a well-respected journalist in Alberta before working for the NDP Caucus and more recently in communications roles with the Government of Alberta.
  • Former NDP MLA Leo Piquette, former Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw and former PC and Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier have joined forces with federal Conservative candidate Shannon Stubbs (Mr. Saskiw’s wife) and former Wildrose Party executive director Jonathon Wescott at the “Legal and Lobby” company Alberta Counsel Ltd. Mr. Piquette’s son, Colin Piquette, was recently elected as the NDP MLA for Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater, which raises questions about how much influence the father might have over his son in this new role.
  • The Hill Times reports on the response to the NDP election win by some of Canada’s larger government relations and lobbyist companies.

Alberta’s Tories Navigate through unfamiliar waters

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

Ric McIver

Ric McIver

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

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

Jonathan Denis MLA Calgary Acadia

Jonathan Denis

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

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

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

Ed Stelmach

Ed Stelmach

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

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

Notley Senior Staff
Brian Topp Alberta Premier Chief of Staff

Brian Topp

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

Official Opposition Critics
Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

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

redford’s ‘change from within’ is a nice slogan, but when you take a closer look…

Alison Redford Ed Stelmach Change

"Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss ..." Was Pete Townshend on to something?

Despite the narrative of “change from within” that was made popular after the October 1 leadership vote, the wave of change has not spilled far into the Progressive Conservative ranks since Alison Redford was elected into her new role one month ago.

– The Globe & Mail is reporting that the controversial Kelley Charlebois is expected to be appointed as the next Executive Director of the Alberta PC Party this week. Albertans may remember Mr. Charlebois as the owner of the company that was awarded $390,000 worth of controversial contracts to consult with with then-Health Minister Gary Mar between 2002 and 2004. During the recent PC leadership contest, Mr. Charlebois claimed that he was being unfairly targeted by the media.

– Long-time Tory strategist Susan Elliott has been appointed as the Progressive Conservative Party campaign manager for the next election. Along with 2008 campaign manager Randy Dawson, Ms. Elliott played a central role in Premier Ed Stelmach‘s election campaign.

– While Premier Redford did make a showing of dumping long-time Tory stalwarts from the provincial cabinet, many of the key ministers in her first cabinet are politicians played a central role in Premier Stelmach’s administration. Energy Minister Ted Morton, Human Services Minister Dave Hancock, Finance Minister Ron Liepert, Transportation Minister Ray Danyluk, Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, and Deputy Premier Doug Horner were all key players in Premier Stelmach’s final cabinet.

– Shortly after being sworn-in office, Premier Redford appointed leadership opponent Mr. Mar as Alberta’s representative in Hong Kong. Mr. Mar’s leadership campaign manager Elan McDonald soon found her way back into the Premier’s office as Advisor to the Premier and Legislative Affairs. She had previously worked in Premier Stelmach’s office.

– It is unclear what his official title will be, but leadership opponent and former cabinet minister Rick Orman is expected to be appointed by Premier Redford to work on a northern Alberta development strategy.

– When entering office, Premier Redford’s transition team also included some old-time Tory connectors, including current Alberta Health Services Chairman Ken Hughes, who was a Tory Member of Parliament under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Nearly all incumbent PC MLA’s who have already been nominated for the next election have been acclaimed and of those who faced nomination challenges only one was defeated (and he is now seeking a nomination in a neighbouring constituency).

City of Leduc Alderman Dominic Mishio unsuccessfully challenged two-term backbencher George Rogers in Leduc-Beaumont, Lars Lehmann unsuccessfully challenged three-term backbencher Alana DeLong in Calgary-Bow, and Rick Fraser defeated three-term backbencher Art Johnston in Calgary-South East. Now the Parliamentary Assistant to the Premier, Mr. Johnston recently announced that he will be seeking nomination in a different constituency (his current constituency is being redistributed in the next election). Jeff Wedman is standing for the PC nomination in St. Albert, though there is some talk that current PC MLA Ken Allred will retire before the next election.

‘Change from within’ is a nice slogan, but when you take a closer look, it looks awfully close to what things look liked before.

alberta politics notes 2/04/2011

A reality check from the Cosh.
Colby Cosh has delivered a cynical and un-sensationalist reality check for Albertans getting starry eyed or swept up in a whirlwind of political change. While Alberta’s political landscape may be more unstable than it has been in years, and it is exciting to be part of new emerging parties and movements, it is important to step back and keeping some perspective is key.

Cabinet resignations.
With cabinet ministers expected to resign in order to seek the PC Party leadership, Albertans could witness a series of cabinet shuffles over the coming months. The resignation of Finance Minister Ted Morton and potential resignations of Deputy Premier Doug Horner, Justice Minister Allison Redford, and Housing Minister Jonathan Denis could put a number of Parliamentary Assistants and backbench MLAs in cabinet positions. I would not be surprised if Greg Weadick, Janice Sarich, Diana McQueen, or Manmeet Bhullar had cabinet experience by the end of 2011.

American scientist resigns from Alberta Water panel.
Only days after the new panel to create a new provincial environmental monitoring system was appointed, prominent University of California-Irvine professor Helen Ingram has quit the panel.

According to the Edmonton Journal, Dr. Ingram resigned ‘citing concerns about a lack of scientific and First Nations representation on the panel, and what she saw as an overzealous draft confidentially agreement.’ The panel includes a number of credible scientists and is co-chaired by former TransCanada CEO Hal Kvisle, who has leveled strong criticism against environmental groups.

Budget on February 24.
Premier Ed Stelmach told an audience during speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce yesterday that the 2011 provincial budget will be tabled on February 24. The Assembly is scheduled to begin spring session on January 22 with the Speech from the Throne.

Redford getting some Carter power.
Wildrose Alliance Vice-President Membership Blaine Maller tweeted last night that Calgary political operative Stephen Carter has been hired to manage Allison Redford‘s campaign for the PC leadership. Mr. Carter had been staff to Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith and was a key player in Naheed Nenshi‘s successful Mayoral campaign in Calgary.

PC campaign manager exits.
Not surprisingly, the departure of Premier Ed Stelmach has also led to the departure of PC campaign manager Randy Dawson, who managed the party’s 2008 campaign and had been reappointed to manage their next election campaign.

Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor expected to run for the Alberta Party leadership.

Taylor versus Taylor?
Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor is expected to launch his campaign for the Alberta Party leadership on February 8 in Edmonton. Mr. Taylor was elected to his third-term as Mayor of Hinton in October 2010. It will be a battle of the Taylor’s if Alberta Party MLA Dave Taylor enters the leadership contest, as some political watchers expect him to.

An awkward place.
What an awkward place the Official Opposition caucus must be this week. Laurie Blakeman is reportedly weighing her options to seeking the leadership of the Alberta Party or the Liberal Party. This news comes the same week as leader David Swann announced his resignation. Ms. Blakeman’s colleague Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald is said to have ambitions for his party’s leadership.

Paramedic Rick Fraser wants to inject himself into the next election as the PC candidate in Calgary-Hays.

More candidates step up.
The list of nominated and declared candidates for the next provincial election has been updated to include Lori Sigurdson, who is seeking the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Riverview.

Ms. Sigurdson is the Professional Affairs Coordinator for the Alberta College of Social Workers and previously worked for former NDP leader Ray Martin when he was the MLA for Edmonton-Norwood. That constituency has been represented by Liberal MLA Kevin Taft since 2001, who was re-elected in 2008 with 50% of the vote. Dr. Taft is not be seeking re-election. The Wildrose Alliance has nominated John Corie as their candidate.

Calgary Paramedic Rick Fraser is seeking the PC nomination in Calgary-Hays. The constituency is currently represented by PC MLA Art Johnston, who was first elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2008 with 54% of the vote. Former Libertarian Party of Canada leader Dennis Young is seeking the Wildrose Alliance nomination in that constituency.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

don’t write an obituary yet.

The PC Party is weaker than it was two years ago, but it is far from dead.

As delegates to the Progressive Conservative Party convention gathered in Calgary this weekend, it appears that “re-invention” was in the air. By all accounts, it sounds like it was a pretty good party.

As I first reported here on October 21, the Tories will launch as series of “discussion sessions” billed as “the most democratic engagement process for policy development in the history of any political party in our province.” These sessions will attempt to reconnect the PC party leadership with an increasingly disillusioned membership-base in the year before the party celebrates its fortieth year in government. It is being billed as a process in which any Albertan can participate, except the price of participation is purchasing a PC Party membership. It would be refreshing to see a new kind of politics come from the PC Party, but I am not holding my breath.

(Bloggers note: The new Alberta Party has held hundreds of Big Listen meetings across the province since the beginning of 2010 which have been open to anyone, regardless of party membership or lack thereof.)

As a near 40-year governing party, the PC Party suffers all the problems, challenges, and disfunctionalities that our traditional institutional political parties are facing. Low interest from the general public, high involvement by senior citizens, low interest from the under 40 crowd. The obvious advantage that the PC Party has over its competitors is access to power, which helps draw a lot of people to their ranks (see: Liberal Party of Canada).

The PC Party has hired 2008 campaign manager Randy Dawson as its campaign manager for the next election and plans to have candidates nominated in all 87 constituencies by next Summer. Currently, the Wildrose Alliance 21 nominated or declared candidates, the NDP has nominated 4, and the Liberals have nominated two candidates. See a full list.

A policy proposal to limit the power of unions to spend money on political campaigns was defeated. The defeat has drawn the ire (and conspiracy theories) of some elements of the PC Party membership.

While some political watchers have found it easy to already write the PC Party’s obituary, they are still the most organized and well-funded partisan political machine in this province. The growth of the Wildrose Alliance signals that the PC Party may be weaker than it was two years ago when it swept 72 constituencies across the province, but they are still far from out for the count.