Tag Archives: Randy Thorsteinson

Who might and might not be invited to the Leaders’ Debate in Alberta’s 2019 election?

Photo: Alberta political party leaders – Rachel Notley, Jason Kenney, Stephen Mandel, David Khan, and Derek Fildebrandt.

We are now somewhere between seven and ten months away from the next provincial general election in Alberta. For the past seven provincial elections, leaders of the main political parties have participated in televised leaders debates, and while a lot of media and political attention is focused on these events, their impact on the outcome of the election varies.

Most readers of this website will remember Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice‘s infamous “math is difficult” rebuttal to New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley during the 2015 debate. The comment was viewed by many as sexist and the embodiment of a 44-year old political dynasty way past it’s best before date.

Which party leaders are invited to participate in the debates, which are typically organized by private news media companies, can sometimes be contentious. Generally, only leaders whose parties have elected MLAs in the previous general election have been invited, but this has not always been the case. Unlike our neighbours to the south, there are no official rules or commission governing who is invited, which has led to inconsistencies since the televised leaders debates began in Alberta in 1993.

Assuming one is held, let’s take a look at who might and might not be invited to participate in a televised leaders debate held in Alberta’s next provincial election, which is expected to be called between March 1 and May 31, 2019.

Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney: Notley and United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney are shoe-ins to participate in the leaders debate. Notley is the current Premier of Alberta and Kenney leads the Official Opposition UCP. Although the UCP did not exist in the last election, the party has won three by-elections since it was formed in 2017.

Stephen Mandel: Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel will almost certainly be invited to join the debate even though he is not currently an MLA. Mandel served as a PC MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud from October 2014 to May 2015 and was defeated by NDP MLA Bob Turner in 2015. The Alberta Party elected one MLA in 2015 – Calgary-Elbow MLA Greg Clark – and now has three MLAs due to floor-crossings by former NDP MLA Karen McPherson and UCP MLA Rick Fraser.

David Khan: Liberal Party leader David Khan is not a sitting MLA and his party’s sole MLA, former leader David Swann, is not seeking re-election. This is the first election since 1986 that the Liberals will not have an incumbent MLA running for re-election. Khan is running for election in Swann’s Calgary-Mountain View district. While the party has had one elected MLA since 2015, the party’s lack of incumbent MLAs and declining relevance in Alberta politics could lead to the Liberals not being invited to join next year’s debate.

The Derek Fildebrandt Question: Derek Fildebrandt is a sitting MLA and most likely will be leader of the Freedom Conservative Party when the next election is called. He was first elected as the Wildrose Party MLA for Strathmore-Brooks in 2015 and joined the FCP in 2018. His party did not elect any MLAs in 2015, but neither did the UCP, which was formed in 2017 by MLAs who were previously members of the PC and Wildrose parties.

Fildebrandt has said his party will not run candidates in all districts, only focusing on districts where the NDP is not considered to be competitive. This means that most viewers tuning in to the televised debate will not have the option of voting for a Freedom Conservative Party candidate on Election Day, but a lack of a full-slate has not stopped leaders from being invited to the debates in the past.

Fildebrandt is a fiery quote-machine and his participation in the debates would undoubtably create some entertainment value for viewers. While I suspect Notley and Mandel would be supportive of Fildebrandt’s involvement in the debate, I expect that Kenney would not be eager to share a stage with Fildebrandt. As I predicted on a recent episode of the Daveberta Podcast, I suspect Kenney could threaten to withhold his participation in the debate if Fildebrandt is invited to join.

As for the format of a leaders debate, as I have written before, my preference would be to hold in front of a live audience, rather than a sterile and controlled television studio. This would allow the party leaders to demonstrate their debating skills and a live audience would add an atmosphere of unpredictability and would force the leaders to speak to both the voters in the room and those watching their television screens.


A History of Leaders Debates in Alberta Elections

Here is a quick history of leaders debates during general elections in Alberta:

1967 election – Four party leaders participated in this debate: Social Credit leader Ernest Manning, PC Party leader Peter Lougheed, NDP leader Neil Reimer and Liberal leader Michael Maccagno. Lougheed had initially challenged Manning to a televised debate, but a public debate was held instead. The meeting was sponsored by the City Centre Church Council and held in downtown Edmonton. The leaders fielded questions from the audience of the packed church.

The Calgary Herald reported that “…Manning was booed by a small contingent of hecklers while the new leader of the Conservatives reportedly “appeared to score heavily and draw the most applause.”

At the time of the debate, only Manning and Maccagno were MLAs. Reimer was not an MLA but there was one incumbent NDP MLA, Garth Turcott, who had been elected in a 1965 by-election in Pincher Creek-Crowsnest. Lougheed was not an MLA and his party had not elected an MLA since the 1959 election.

1971-1989 elections – No leaders debates were held during the 1971, 1975, 1979, 1982, 1986 and 1989 elections. Lougheed was challenged by opposition leaders, including NDP leader Grant Notley and Western Canada Concept leader Gordon Kesler, to participate in a televised debate but were turned down. Don Getty also refused to debate his opponents on television.

1993 election – Three party leaders participated in two televised debates: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, NDP leader Ray Martin, and Liberal Party leader Laurence Decore. The first debate was held in-front of a live studio audience and was broadcast on CFCN in Calgary and CFRN in Edmonton. The second debate was held without a live studio audience and broadcast on Channel 2&7 in Calgary and ITV in Edmonton.

An alternative debate that included leaders of smaller parties was also televised. That debate included the leaders of the Communist Party, Confederation of Regions, Alliance Party and Green Party. Social Credit Party leader Randy Thorsteinson refused to participate, arguing that the Social Credit party should have been included in the main leaders debate.

1997 election – Four party leaders participated in this televised debate organized by the Alberta Chamber of Commerce and broadcast by CBC: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal Party leader Grant Mitchell, NDP leader Pam Barrett, and Social Credit Party leader Randy Thorsteinson.

Barrett and Thorsteinson were invited to participate despite not being MLAs at the time and neither of their parties having elected any MLAs in the previous election. The NDP and Social Credit Party did not nominate a full slate, with only 77 and 70 candidates running in 83 districts. 

2001 election – Three leaders participated in this televised debate organized by Calgary Herald and Global News: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal leader Nancy MacBeth and NDP leader Raj Pannu. The three major parties nominated candidates in all 83 districts.

2004 election – Three leaders participated in this televised debate broadcast by Global Television: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal leader Kevin Taft and NDP leader Brian Mason.

Despite having been invited to join the televised debate in 1997, Alberta Alliance leader Randy Thorsteinson was not allowed to join in 2004 because he was not an MLA and his new party did not elect any members in the previous election. The party had one MLA, former Edmonton-Norwood PC MLA Gary Masyk, who crossed the floor in the months before the election was called.

The PCs, NDP and the Alberta Alliance nominated candidates in all 83 districts in this election. The Liberals nominated candidates in 82 of 83 districts.

2008 election – Four leaders participated in this debate broadcast on Global, CTV and CBC: PC Party leader Ed Stelmach, Liberal Party leader Kevin Taft, NDP leader Brian Mason and Wildrose Alliance leader Paul Hinman. Hinman was the Alberta Alliance Party’s sole elected MLA in the 2004 election before the party changed its name to the Wildrose Alliance (he would be defeated in his bid for re-election in Cardston-Taber-Warner in 2008).

The Wildrose Alliance nominated 61 candidates in 83 districts. Green Party leader George Read was not invited to participate in the debate, despite his party nominating candidates in 79 of 83 districts (the Greens would earn 4.5 percent of the total province-wide vote, only slightly behind the 6.7 percent earned by the Wildrose Alliance in this election). 

2012 election – Four leaders participated in this debate broadcast by Global and streamed on the internet: PC Party leader Alison Redford, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman and NDP leader Brian Mason.

Smith was invited to join the debate despite her party not having elected any MLAs in the previous election. The Wildrose Party was represented in the Assembly by four MLAs when the election was called. Former leader Paul Hinman returned to the Assembly in a 2009 by-election in Calgary-Glenmore and Heather Forsyth, Rob Anderson, and Guy Boutilier were elected as PC candidates in 2008 before crossing the floor to join the Wildrose Party in 2010.

Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor was not invited to join the leaders debate, despite his party having one MLA in the Legislature. Former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor became the Alberta Party’s first MLA in 2011. The Alberta Party nominated 38 candidates in 87 districts.

2015 election – Four leaders participated in this debate broadcast by Global: PC leader Jim Prentice, NDP leader Rachel Notley, Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, and Liberal leader David Swann. Despite only narrowly losing a 2014 by-election in Calgary-Elbow, Alberta Party leader Greg Clark was not invited to join the debate. Clark would go on to be elected in Calgary-Elbow in this election.

The NDP and PCs nominated candidates in all 87 districts, while the Wildrose Party nominated 86 candidate and the Liberals nominated 56. The Alberta Party nominated 36 candidates in 87 districts.

Calgary-Lougheed by-election report reveals $885,206.29 in NDP donations not reported in regular quarterly reports

Elections Alberta has released the initial campaign finance reports from political parties during the Calgary-Lougheed by-election held on December 14, 2017.

Jason Kenney

Jason Kenney

Due to a strange quirk in Alberta’s election finance laws, all or most donations collected by political parties during the official by-election period between November 16, 2017 and February 14, 2018 were not reported in the regular quarterly financial reports. Those donations are instead included in this by-election report.

The report showed the Alberta NDP raising $885,206.29 in donations during this three month period, which would include the party’s aggressive year-end fundraising appeal.

When combined with the quarterly reports, this means the NDP fundraised more than $1.5 million in the period covering the final quarter of 2017 and first quarter of 2018.

The Alberta Liberal Party reported raising $79,083.09, the Reform Party reported raising $8,500, and the Green Party reported raising $8,580.00 during the by-election period.

The United Conservative Party did not file a report before the Election Alberta deadline.

The Alberta Party did not file a report because they did not participate in the Calgary-Lougheed by-election.

Phillip van der Merwe

UCP leader Jason Kenney won the by-election with a landslide 71 percent, ahead of New Democrat Phillip van der Merwe with 16 percent and Liberal leader David Khan with 9 percent.

Recent legislation passed by the Legislative Assembly reduces the length of the confusing by-election financial reporting period which these donations fell under.

Introduced by Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal Christina Gray, Bill 16: Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Statutes Amendment Act shortened the by-election financial reporting period from the day the writ is issued to begin the by-election until it ends on voting day.

It is my understanding that the three-month long by-election financial reporting period is a hold-over from when the old Progressive Conservative regime increased maximum donation limits from $15,000 to $30,000 for individuals, corporations or unions during the writ period. The NDP banned corporate and union donations in 2015 and have since lowered the maximum annual donation limit to $4,000.

The top donors to political parties during the Calgary-Lougheed by-election period (November 16, 2017 to February 14, 2018):

New Democratic Party
Renee Katz – $4,000
K Shugarman – $4,000
Brune Sinneave – $4,000
Cody Sater – $4,000
Don Smith – $4,000
Allan Wood – $4,000

Liberal
Dan Hays – $2,500
Bart MacLean – $1,500
Aletha Crowe – $1,500

Reform Party of Alberta
Kathleen Thorsteinson – $4,000
Randy Thorsteinson – $4,000

Green Party
Jill Browne – $2,300
Alan Ernst – $1,000
Richard Willott – $790


Fringe separatist party renames itself, again… 

The Western Freedom Party has been renamed the Freedom Conservative Party, according to Elections Alberta. The party was originally formed as the Alberta First Party in 1999, renamed the Separation Party in 2004 and again renamed the Alberta First Party in 2013. It was renamed the Western Freedom Party in April 2018 and again renamed the Freedom Conservative Party in June 2018.

The party’s Facebook page does not yet reflect the name change, but it wants to make sure that Albertans “Don’t find yourself waking up one day to find that the World Bank or George Soros and Aga Khan own your financial institutions. You will then understand what you should have done to stop the UN, the Songbird initiative, the Boreal Initiative, Y to Y and the Leap Manifesto and take your country back from the elites!

It is not yet known what this fringe party will be named in 2019, but stay tuned.

July by-elections called in two UCP-friendly districts.

Photo: Laila Goodridge, Jane Stroud, Nicole Mooney, and Abigail Douglass

By-elections were called today and will be held in the provincial districts of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake and Fort McMurray-Conklin on July 12, 2018.

The by-elections are needed to replace United Conservative Party MLAs Don MacIntyre and Brian Jean. MacIntyre resigned in February 2018 after he was charged with sexual assault and sexual interference, and Jean resigned in March 2018 after he was defeated in the UCP leadership contest.

In a different context in another part of the world, July 12 is known as Orangemen’s Day, but don’t expect any kind of NDP orange parade to march through these districts on July 12. Both districts are traditionally reliably conservative voting areas that elected Wildrose Party candidates in the 2015 election. And Innisfail-Sylvan Lake has been one of the strongest conservative voting districts in Alberta over the past two decades.

Judging by the voting history of the two districts, it is very likely the UCP should win both by-elections. Anything less than landslide victories in both districts will be bad news for the UCP.

While we can expect New Democratic Party cabinet ministers and MLAs to campaign alongside their party’s candidates in both districts, it appears likely that the governing party will focus most of its by-election resources in Fort McMurray-Conklin. The results will provide an indication if Premier Rachel Notley‘s championing the Trans Mountain Pipeline has had any impact on the electorate.

The strong showing by the Liberals in the 2014 by-election in the federal Fort McMurray district proves that the Conservative party’s electoral grip on the area has been loser than other rural areas of the province, but a lot has changed in Alberta politics in the past 4 years.

I almost feel sorry for the NDP that none of their MLAs have resigned since the 2015 election. All five by-election elections that have taken place during the NDP’s first term in government have been located in unfriendly districts that elected Progressive Conservative or Wildrose MLAs in 2015.

A respectable second place finish will look good for the NDP.

The Alberta Party sat out the previous two by-elections in Calgary-Greenway in 2016 and Calgary-Lougheed in 2017, but they now are fielding candidates in these races. This is the party’s first electoral test since former PC cabinet minster and Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel was selected as the party’s leader. How the Alberta Party fares in these by-elections could provide them with momentum ahead of next year’s expected provincial election.

A respectable second place finish will look great for the Alberta Party and help them position themselves as a viable conservative alternative to the UCP.

It is important to remember that by-elections can sometimes produce unpredictable results, and that those results that may or may not be an indicator of future general election results. But as these two districts have very long histories as conservative voting areas, it is difficult to see voters in these districts choosing any other candidate but the UCP in 2018.


Here are the candidates nominated as of June 14, 2018.

Fort McMurray-Conklin
Alberta Party – Sid Fayed [Twitter]
Green Party – Brian Deheer
Liberal – Robin Le Fevre
New Democratic Party – Jane Stroud [Facebook, Twitter]
United Conservative Party – Laila Goodridge [Facebook, Twitter]

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
Alberta Party – Abigail Douglass [Facebook, Twitter]
Green Party – Marco Reid [Facebook]
Liberal – Nicolaas Jansen
New Democratic Party – Nicole Mooney [Facebook, Twitter]
United Conservative Party – Devin Dreeshen [Facebook, Twitter]

Note: Reform Party of Alberta leader Randy Thorsteinson had initially announced plans to run in the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake by-election. He has since withdrawn his candidacy.

Alberta MLAs Maria Fitzpatrick, Wes Taylor, Shannon Phillips, Tany Yao, and Brian Malkinson

Alberta Candidate Nomination Updates: 3 NDP MLAs nominated and another UCP MLA announces retirement.

New Democratic Party MLAs nominated: Three New Democratic Party MLAs were chosen as their party’s candidates for the next election at meetings held on May 6 and May 12, 2018. MLA Maria Fitzpatrick was nominated in Lethbridge-East and MLA Christina Gray was nominated in Edmonton-Mill Woods on May 6 and MLA Brian Malkinson was nominated in Calgary-Currie at a meeting on May 12, 2018. Gray currently serves as Minister of Labour and Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal.

The NDP have scheduled nomination meetings in Calgary-McCall on June 9, 2018 and June 11, 2018 in Lethbridge-West, where NDP MLA Shannon Phillips has already announced her plans to run for re-election.

Another UCP MLA retiring from politics: United Conservative Party MLA Wes Taylor announced in a note on his Facebook page that he would not seek re-election in 2019. Taylor is recovering from having recently undergone open heart surgery. The Battle River-Wainwright district he has represented since 2015 will be significantly redistributed in the next election into the redrawn CamroseDrumheller-Stettler, and Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright districts.

It’s truly been and honor and a privilege to serve the constituents of Battle River-Wainwright over the past 3 years as…

Posted by Wes Taylor on Monday, May 14, 2018

Taylor is the fifth UCP MLA to announce he will not seek re-election in 2019 (and the sixth if you include former Wildrose leader Brian Jean, who resigned as MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin in March 2018).

Meanwhile, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao is running for the UCP nomination in the district he has represented since 2015.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake by-election: Devin Dreeshen defeated five other candidates to win the as the United Conservative Party nomination to run in the upcoming Innisfail-Sylvan Lake by-election. He is son of Red Deer-Mountain View Member of Parliament Earl Dreeshen.

The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting in that district on May 25, 2018 and are expected to select Nicole Mooney as their candidate. Mooney is an English teacher at St. Joseph’s High School in Red Deer and the Communications and Political Engagement Officer with Alberta Teachers’ Association Local 80.

It appears that Reform Party of Alberta leader Randy Thorsteinson has withdrawn his name from the by-election ballot. He declared his candidacy in February 2018.

A by-election will be called in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake by August 5, 2018 following the resignation of UCP MLA Don MacIntyre in February 2018 after he was charged with sexual assault and sexual interference.

Here are some other updates to the list of candidates running for party nominations across Alberta:

Airdrie-Cochrane Ian Chitwood and Laura Talsma are seeking the UCP nomination. Chitwood is director of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission. Talsma is a Registered Nurse at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre and Bethany Cochrane Long Term Care facility in Calgary.

Brooks-Medicine Hat – Jim Black is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Black ran for the Alberta Party in the Medicine Hat district in the 2015 election, earning 5.7 percent of the vote.

Calgary-McCall – Jasraj Singh Hallan is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-North – Jun Lin is seeking the UCP nomination. He ran in the 2017 Calgary municipal election in Ward 3, placing third with 25 percent of the vote.

Calgary-Varsity – Michael Kim is seeking the UCP nomination. Kim is the president of MKMK Education and MKMK Insurance.

Camrose – Dawn Anderson is seeking the UCP nomination. Anderson is the general manager of the Camrose Resort Casino.

Drumheller-Stettler – Mark Nikota is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Nikota was Mayor of Hanna from 2010 to 2013 and currently works as the Chief Administrative Officer of the Village of Delia. 

Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview – David Egan (not to be confused with David Eggen) is seeking the UCP nomination. He is listed as the Chief Financial Officer of the UCP association in the neighbouring Edmonton-Manning district.

Edmonton-Castle Downs – Gordon Reekie and Ed Ammar are seeking the UCP nomination. Both candidates are Real Estate agents. Ammar served as chair of the UCP interim board until the recent founding convention and was Liberal Party candidate in the neighbouring Edmonton-Decore district in the 2012 election.

Edmonton-Glenora – Immigration consultant Marjorie Newman is seeking the UCP nomination. Carla Stolte is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Edmonton-Manning – Jitender Sahni is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Edmonton-MeadowsJoel Mullan is seeking the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-North West – Ali Eltayeb is seeking the UCP nomination. He is the owner and manager of Liberty Tax franchises in Edmonton.

Edmonton-Rutherford – Aisha Rauf is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. She is an instructor and according to her website biography is waiting for her PhD Linguistics thesis defence. She was interviewed in a September 2017 episode of the Broadcast.

Edmonton-SouthDan Johnstone, known to some by his nickname “Can Man Dan,” is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Johnston was a candidate for Edmonton City Council in Ward 10 in the 2013 election, placing fourth with 4.9 percent of the vote. He more recently ran in the 2016 by-election for Edmonton City Council’s Ward 12 where he finished with 3.2 percent of the vote.

Edmonton-West HendayWinston Leung is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Lesser Slave Lake Garrett Tomlinson is seeking the UCP nomination. Tomlinson served as a councillor in Northern Sunrise County from 2013 to 2017 and country reeve from 2014 to 2017. He is listed online as a communications coordinator for the Lubicon Lake First Nation.

Livingstone-Macleod – Justin Murphy is seeking the UCP nomination. He was a candidate for High River town council in the 2017 municipal election.

Morinville-St. Albert: Joe Gosselin is seeking the UCP nomination. Gosselin is a former Morinville town councillor and was the Wildrose Party candidate in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville in the 2015 election. He originally sought the Wildrose nomination in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock ahead of the last election but was defeated by Glenn van Dijken.

Red Deer-South – Ryan Mcdougal is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

West Yellowhead – Martin Long is seeking the UCP nomination.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list.


Listen to the latest episode of the Daveberta Podcast to hear Dave and Ryan talk about some of the latest nomination news, including tips and advice for candidates fundraising for the next election.

Updates: Innisfail-Sylvan Lake and Fort McMurray-Conklin by-elections. Jane Stroud expected to seek NDP nomination.

Photo: Christine Moore, Gayle Langford, Laila Goodridge and Jane Stroud.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake

The United Conservative Party has announced the nomination period to choose a candidate for the upcoming Innisfail-Sylvan Lake by-election. The deadline for candidates to enter the nomination contest is April 16 and a vote will held on April 28. The by-election must be called by August 5, 2018.

Seven candidates have now entered the race to replace UCP MLA and UCP Rural Crime Task Force member Don MacIntyre in the central Alberta district of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. MacIntyre resigned in February 2018 after he was charged with sexual assault and sexual interference. He was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2015.

Along with already declared candidates Devin Dreeshen, Joan Barnes, Gayle Langford, and Mike Walsh, three additional candidates have entered the race since I last wrote about this nomination contest:

  • Christine Moore – Councillor in Red Deer County representing the area between Sylvan Lake and Red Deer city limits. She ran in the 2015 election as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Red Deer-North where she placed third with 22 percent of the vote behind New Democrat Kim Schreiner and Wildroser Buck Buchanan.
  • Joel Loh is vice-president of Regulatory Affairs & public relations at Simba Industries Transload Ltd. and affiliated with something called the Committee for Proud Alberta Fair Trade Oil (editor comment: I’m not sure they understand the definition of Fair Trade). Loh served as the president of the Canadian Alliance association in Calgary-Southwest in the early 2000s. He was disqualified from running for the Alliance nomination in Calgary-Centre ahead of the 2004 election, according to a 2003 report from the Calgary Herald.
  • Victor Sloboda is a plumbing and gas inspector with the City of Red Deer.

The only other party to nominate a candidate thus far is the Reform Party, which will be represented by its leader, Randy Thorsteinson.

Fort McMurray-Conklin

Another by-election will need to be called in the Fort McMurray-Conklin district following the resignation of UCP MLA and former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean. Jean was first elected as MLA for this district in 2015 and served as Leader of the Official Opposition Wildrose Party from 2015 until 2017, when he stepped down to join the UCP leadership contest.

The district was first created in the 2012 election from the southern and eastern half of the formerly larger Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo district. Jean was first elected in 2015 with 43 percent of the vote ahead of New Democrat Ariana Mancini with 30 percent and PC MLA Don Scott with 22 percent (Scott was elected Mayor of Wood Buffalo in October 2017).

Sources tell this blogger that Wood Buffalo Municipal Councillor Jane Stroud is planning to seek the NDP nomination to run in Fort McMurray-Conklin by-election. Since 2010, Stroud has represented Ward 4, which includes the communities of Gregorie Lakes Estates, Anzac, Janvier and Conklin. She was named a ‘Woman of Inspiration’ by Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta in 2017.

Three candidates have announced their plans to run for the UCP nomination contest in this district:

Goodridge and Meagher were considered potential candidates for the Conservative nomination in the 2014 by-election that was held to replace Jean when he resigned from federal politics in 2015.

Unlike Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, which is largely untouched by the boundary redistribution, this district will be significantly redrawn when the next election is called, with most of the district’s population becoming part of a new Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district.

Here is a look at the vote share by party in Fort McMurray-Conklin in general elections in 2012 and 2015:

Results of the 2012 and 2015 elections in Fort McMurray-Conklin.

Results of the 2012 and 2015 elections in Fort McMurray-Conklin.

Photo: Jason Kenney (centre) and Devon Dreeshen (right). (Photo source: Twitter)

Son of Conservative MP Earl Dreeshen running for UCP nomination in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake by-election

Photo: Jason Kenney (centre) and Devin Dreeshen (right). (Photo source: Twitter)

Facing charges of sexual assault and sexual interference, United Conservative Party MLA Don MacIntyre resigned from his party’s caucus on Feb. 2 and then from the Legislative Assembly on Feb. 5. A by-election in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake will be called within the next six months, allowing voters in this rural central Alberta district to choose a new MLA.

Earl Dreeshen MP Red Deer Mountain View

Earl Dreeshen

Devin Dreeshen, the son of Red Deer-Mountain View Conservative MP Earl Dreeshen, is seeking the UCP nomination. Dreeshen is a director with the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association and worked as an advisor to former federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz from 2009 to 2015.

According to rdnewsNow.com, Dreeshen is being endorsed by former Progressive Conservative MLA and cabinet minister Luke Ouellette, who represented the district from 2001 to 2012.

The elder Dreeshen’s federal district includes most of the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake provincial district (excluding the town of Sylvan Lake, which is located in the Red Deer-Lacombe federal district). He has represented the district since 2008.

The junior Dreeshen is not the first relative of a federal politician to recently attempt a jump into provincial politics. In 2016, Robin Martin, son-in-law of Calgary-Forest Lawn Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai, ran for the Wildrose nomination ahead of the Calgary-Greenway by-election.

Penhold town councillor Mike Walsh was already planning to challenge MacIntyre for the UCP nomination ahead of the next provincial election. He is now running for UCP nomination to stand in the by-election.

Reform Party of Alberta leader Randy Thorsteinson has also declared his intentions to run under his party’s banner in the by-election. Thorsteinson ran in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake as leader of the Alberta Alliance in the 2004 election.


Elsewhere in Alberta, three other candidates have put their names forward for UCP nominations in other districts:

Janice Sarich Edmonton-Decore

Janice Sarich

Calgary-Fish Creek
Cindy Ross is seeking the United Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Fish Creek. Ross is a math teacher with the Calgary Catholic School District. She will likely be challenging incumbent UCP MLA Richard Gotfried, who was first elected as a PC candidate in 2015.

Calgary-Varsity
John Volponi is seeking the UCP nomination. Volponi is the general manager of ‎West Air CCM. The district is currently represented by cabinet minister and New Democratic Party MLA Stephanie McLean, who has announced her plans to seek re-election in 2019.

This district was represented by Liberal MLA Harry Chase from 2004 to 2012.

Edmonton-Decore
Former PC MLA Janice Sarich is seeking the UCP nomination in this north Edmonton district which she represented from 2008 until she was defeated by New Democrat Chris Neilsen in 2015. Sarich briefly considered running for the federal Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Griesbach until Jan. 2014.

This district is named after former Edmonton mayor and Liberal Party leader Laurence Decore. He represented the district under its former name, Edmonton-Glengarry, from 1989 to 1997.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list.

Get ready for a by-election in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake

Following Don MacIntyre’s resignation from the United Conservative Party caucus last week, it was confirmed by media Monday that he had also resigned as the MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake.

Don MacIntyre MLA

Don MacIntyre

Information about MacIntyre’s unexpected departure is currently prohibited from publication by a court ordered publication ban, though rumours circulated fairly quickly through political networks since the weekend.

UDPATE: MacIntyre has been charged with sexual interference and sexual assault.

A by-election will need to be called in the central Alberta district in the next six months, before August 5, 2018.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake is one of the strongest conservative voting districts in Alberta, so the likelihood of a conservative candidate being elected in a by-election is very high.

When New Democratic Party candidate Patricia Norman earned 23 percent of the vote int he 2015 election, she also earned the highest vote percentage of any candidate representing a non-conservative party in the district’s history.

The district was first created in 1993 when sections of the old Rocky Mountain House district, including the town of Sylvan Lake, were merged with the old Innisfail district.

Since then, voters in the district have elected Progressive Conservative MLAs Gary Severtson (1993 to 2001) and Luke Ouellette (2001 to 2012), and Wildrose MLAs Kerry Towle (2012-2015) and MacIntyre (2015-2018). Towle was one of 11 Wildrose MLAs to cross the floor to the PCs in late 2014. She won a contested PC nomination against Red Deer County mayor Jim Wood but was defeated in the 2015 election by MacIntyre.

Kerry Towle

Kerry Towle

As noted in yesterday’s post, Penhold town councillor Mike Walsh had already announced his plans to seek the UCP nomination. Neither Towle or Wood have announced whether he will mount another bid for provincial office in this by-election.

Also announcing his intention to run in the by-election is Reform Party of Alberta leader Randy Thorsteinson, who was already planning to run in this district in the next general election. Thorsteinson earned 20 percent of the vote when he ran in this district as leader of the Alberta Alliance into the 2004 election. In the 1997 election he earned 9.3 percent of the vote when running in the neighbouring Red Deer-South district as leader of the Social Credit Party.

Here is a look at the vote share by party in general elections from 1993 to 2015:


Only minor changes to Innisfail-Sylvan Lake boundaries in 2019

With 46,717 residents, the population of the district is virtually the same as the provincial average, meaning that its boundaries will remain nearly unchanged when the province-wide redistribution of electoral boundaries take place in 2019. A minor change in the southwest corner of the district moves the area west of Garrington into the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre district.

The Town of Sylvan Lake was one of the fastest growing communities in Canada, according to Statistics Canada. Between 2011 and 2016, the town grew by 19.9 percent from 12,362 to 14,816 residents.

Social Credit introduced recall laws in Alberta in 1936 and repealed them in 1937 when Premier William Aberhart faced a recall challenge in his own riding.

Social Credit Party renamed the Alberta Pro-Life Political Association

The Alberta Social Credit Party is no more. Taken over by a group of anti-abortion activists in 2016, the party has officially changed its name to the Alberta Pro-Life Political Association. According to Elections Alberta, the name change became official on May 3, 2017.

While the Social Credit Party has sat on the conservative fringe of Alberta politics for much of the past four decades, the party fundamentally reshaped the politics of our province when it formed government from 1935 to 1971.

Inspired by the Social Credit teachings of British Major CH DouglasWilliam Aberhart‘s Social Credit Party swept the 1935 Alberta election in a populist wave, going from zero to 56 seats during the height of the Great Depression.

Upon learning of the election victory in 1935, the Social Credit Greenshirts in London were reported to have marched around the Bank of England Building holding torches and blowing their trumpets – no doubt inspired by the Battle of Jericho. (this was a period in western history when it was not uncommon for political parties to have official uniforms).

During its first decade in government, Aberhart’s radical administration tried to print its own currency, legislate control over the media, nationalize the banking system and ban alcohol sales. The Social Credit Party also introduced the province’s short-lived MLA recall law and a provincial sales tax.

In response to what they claimed to be a “world plot” by “socialists and world finance” (which is coded language for Jewish) the Alberta government-funded Social Credit Board proposed in 1947 that the secret ballot and political parties be abolished. “The obvious remedy for the evils of party politics is the abolition of political parties dominated at the top as we know them today,” the report argued.

Ernest Manning abolished the Social Credit Board in 1948.

It really was a bizarre time in Alberta politics.

Under Manning’s leadership from 1943 to 1968, the Social Credit Party evolved into a generic conservative governing party, albeit with a social conservative bent.

Perhaps the most important lasting legacy of the Social Credit government today is the continued existence of the Alberta Treasury Branches, which was founded in 1938 after the federal government thwarted attempts by Aberhart to impose government control over banks operating in Alberta.

The party was defeated in 1971 and last elected an MLA to the Legislature in 1979. Leader Randy Thorsteinson, led the party to win 6.8 percent of the vote in the 1997 election and later formed the Alberta Alliance Party (which later became the Wildrose Party). He is now the leader of the Reform Party of Alberta.

The Social Credit Party ran six candidates in the 2015 election, earning a total 832 votes.

Perhaps hoping to capitalize on Hillary Clintons candidacy, the Reform Party of Alberta logo, shown above, is remarkably similar to the American Democratic Party's logo. 

Reform Party of Alberta now officially registered as a political party

In the midst the latest round of unite-the-right chatter, conservative voters in Alberta now have another party to cast their ballots for.

Randy Thorsteinson

Randy Thorsteinson

The Reform Party of Alberta is now officially registered as a political party with Elections Alberta. The party describes itself as “Alberta’s principled, compassionate, socially and fiscally conservative political party.

The drive to register the party was launched in mid-2014 by conservative activist Randy Thorsteinson, who pledged in March 2015 to run a full-slate of candidates in the upcoming election. Unfortunately for Mr. Thorsteinson and his followers, Jim Prentice called the provincial election one year earlier than expected and his party was unable to register with Elections Alberta before the vote.

The party again tried to gain registered status with Elections Alberta in advance of the March 22, 2016 by-election in Calgary-Greenway but they were unable to meet the deadline required to have a candidate listed on the ballot.

I am told the party definitely plans on running a full-slate of candidates in the next provincial election, expected to be held in early 2019.

A party with the same name previously existed from 1989 until 2004 as a place-holder vehicle for the Reform Party of Canada to contest Alberta’s Senator-in-Waiting elections in 1989 and 1998. Although federal party leader Preston Manning is said to have pondered expanding the provincial-wing to challenge the Progressive Conservatives, Reform partisans alternatively found willing supporters in the conservative-wings of the PC and Liberal parties in advance of the 1993 election.

That party should also not be confused with the Alberta Reform Movement, which was founded in 1981 by former PC MLA Tom Sindlinger.

Party leader Mr. Thorsteinson led the Social Credit Party from 1992 to 1999 and the Alberta Alliance Party from 2003 until 2005. He stood as a candidate in the 1993, 1997 elections in Red Deer-South and in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake in 2004.

He participated in the televised leaders debate in 1997 and led the Socreds to earn 6.8 percent of the province-wide vote, the strongest showing by that party since 1979. The Alberta Alliance, which later became the Wildrose Party, earned 8.7 percent of the vote in 2004 while campaigning on the slogan “Blame Ralph,” in reference to then-premier Ralph Klein (his legacy is now lauded by conservatives, but many Albertans forget how unpopular Mr. Klein was starting to become during his final years in office).

In February 2016, Mr. Thorsteinson explained his reasons for forming a new party and not joining the Wildrose Party:

“The challenge I have with the Wildrose is that I am also a Social Conservative. I believe in the traditional Albertan family values, the Wildrose does not. Brian Jean, leader of the Wildrose, just after his victory as Wildrose leader called Social Conservatives “wingnuts” and “nutbars” in newspapers. I obviously can’t support him.

Additionally, the Wildrose Caucus MLAs also joined with all other parties in the Alberta legislature on Dec. 7, 2015 to unanimously vote in favour of Bill 7 the “Alberta Human Rights Amendment Act, 2015”. This is the law that allowed the NDP government to have the legal authority to pronounce the outrageous “Guidelines of Best Practices” that mandates that boys and men have the right to use women’s public washrooms and showers if they “self identify” as a girl or woman. My wife and I have six daughters, we are very concerned there will be a lot of teenage boys who “self identify” as a girl to go into the girls showers. It recently happened at the University of Toronto where male students were videoing female students taking showers in “gender neutral showers” on campus. Progressive/Liberals will call it fear mongering, parents call it outrageous. The guidelines also undermine parents and wants schools to stop using the words mother and father; him and her for something “gender neutral”. For the record for progressive/liberals I am a husband and father, Kathleen is my wife and mother of our children. We are not gender neutral.

All of the Wildrose MLAs unanimously voted for it. As a Social Conservative I can’t support them. It’s not the party I founded, it’s Progressive Conservative lite.”

So there you have it. If you are a conservative who does not believe the other five conservative parties in Alberta are conservative enough, then the Reform Party of Alberta could be a good fit for you.

Note: As noted in the photo caption above, the Reform Party of Alberta logo, shown above, is remarkably similar to the logo used by the American Democratic Party.

What a year 2015 has been in Alberta politics!

Alberta Legislature Building Edmonton Canada

Alberta’s Legislative Assembly (photo credit Timorose, CC BY-SA 3.0)

December 29, 2015

Column by: Dirk Pranter, Provincial Affairs columnist, Edmonton Journal-Sun

Tories re-elected for 14th time

A snap mid-Summer election returned Jim Prentice’s renamed “Conservative Party of Alberta” to its fourteenth term as government. In an unexpected twist of fate, Finance Minister Danielle Smith was defeated in her home riding by Wildrose Party leader Randy Thorsteinson.

But don’t feel sorry for Smith. She was appointed to the Senate in one of Stephen Harper’s last acts as Prime Minister before the Conservatives lost the October federal election. Harper’s applecart was upset when the beautiful, unseasonably warm October weather caused Canadian voters to turn out in droves.

Back on the provincial scene, NDP leader Rachel Notley led her party to a breakthrough in Edmonton to form the Official Opposition with 21 MLAs. Notley’s party won its first seat in Calgary since the 1980s and its first ever seat in Lethbridge.

But perhaps the biggest surprise was the re-election of Wildrose-turned-Liberal MLA Joe Anglin, who won by 3,000 votes in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre. As the only Liberal to survive the election, Anglin is now the leader of the party.

“Unlike the 2012 election, 2015 gave Albertans two clear choices in the PCs and NDP,” said Rick Dunderland, a professor of political science at University of Red Deer. “Even though the PCs still won, there is now a difference between the government and official opposition and that will be a good thing for democracy.”

Tough Economic Times behind us

With a return to $120/barrel oil, Premier Prentice praised good economic times ahead for Albertans in the 2016.

“Back to budgeting as usual,” a senior government official said. “Now we don’t have to worry about saving money for the future, because the price of oil is never going to go down again.”

The Prentice Government is facing international criticism for his government’s continued lack of climate change plan. “Alberta’s climate change framework is important and will be a continued focus of our government in 2016,” Energy Environment Minister Rob Anderson said. “Under new management, we are continuing to take the time to ensure the decisions we make are right.”

And big city mayors have a lot to celebrate. The recently negotiated City Charters granting the municipalities new powers are expected to be unveiled in early 2016. A newly released poll showed Mayors Don Iveson and Naheed Nenshi with 95% approval among voters.

Redford tell-all

Palm Springs resident Alison Redford is set to launch a new tell-all book about her time as Premier of Alberta. Driven out by scandal in 2014, Redford has dedicated her time to charity work and has announced all proceeds from the book will go to charity. Not surprisingly, Tory insiders are expecting the wurst about what might be included in the book.

Keystone XL Pipeline

Recently elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau celebrated the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline over a bottle of champagne with President Barack Obama during his first visit to the White House last month. Conservative opposition leader Jason Kenney complained that Canadians should thank former Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the pipeline’s success.

In an unexpected gesture, Prime Minister Trudeau named Harper the Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine where, unfortunately, the Canadian Ambassador’s residence was burned down last week by a pro-Russian mob.

Read Dirk Pranter’s December 20, 2014 column: What a year 2014 has been in Alberta politics!

A closer look at PC constituency-level fundraising

Alberta Progressive Conservative PC Party Fundraising Assets 2013

Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, Fundraising and Assets in 2013 (click to enlarge).

After 43-years in government, Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party now faces serious competition in the fundraising field from the Wildrose Party.

Raising only $2.86 million in 2013, the PC Party ran a $136,000 deficit and owed $1.1 million on a line of credit. This shaky financial situation is unheard of for a natural governing party that is usually flush with cash.

The PC Party is are also facing criticism over a secret trust fund – the TAPCAL fund – which is a holdover from before changes were made to Alberta’s elections laws 36 years ago.

At the local-level, PC constituency associations raised more than $1.4 million in 2013. While most of the 87 PC associations reported  revenue in the thousands of dollars in the post-election year, a sharp gap in fundraising amounts has highlighted wealthy and poorer constituency associations in the PC Party.

More than $650,000 of the $1.4 million were raised by eleven local PC associations. In former premier Alison Redford‘s Calgary-Elbow constituency, the local PC association claimed more than $119,000 in revenue in 2013. In Calgary-Hays, represented by Infrastructure minister Ric McIver, the local PC association raised more than $95,000 last year. Most of the other nine associations are located in constituencies represented by cabinet ministers.

Meanwhile, PC associations in opposition held constituencies mostly reported low or insignificant levels of revenue in 2013. Many of these areas are now represented by Wildrose MLAs and had been represented by PC MLAs since the 1970s.

Last year, formerly powerful PC constituency associations in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, Medicine Hat reported zero revenue in 2013. PC associations in Cypress-Medicine Hat, Little Bow, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, Calgary-McCall, and Edmonton-Mill Woods reported less than $1,000 in revenue in 2013.

These low numbers suggest that some Tories may be having a difficult time adjusting to business without a local MLA to boost their fundraising initiatives.

———

It appears as though Randy Thorsteinson is attempting to resurrect the Reform Party of Alberta. Mr. Thorsteinson, the former leader of the Social Credit Party and the Alberta Alliance Party, has launched a Facebook page advocating for the recreation of the party that was dissolved in 2004.

who should be invited to the televised leaders’ debate?

Alberta Election Leaders' Debate 2012

PC leader Premier Alison Redford, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, NDP leader Brian Mason, and Liberal leader Raj Sherman.

The televised Leaders’ debate for Alberta’s 2012 election will be aired on April 12 at 6:30pm to 8:00pm on Global Television.

The debate will include Progressive Conservative leader Premier Alison Redford, Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, and NDP leader Brian Mason. Some members of the Alberta Party have voiced disappointment that their leader Glenn Taylor was not invited to participate in the debate.

Glenn Taylor Alberta Party leader Election 2012

Glenn Taylor

The Alberta Party gained a presence in the Assembly in January 2011 when former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor joined that party. Despite strong campaigns from candidates Michael Walters in Edmonton-Rutherford, Sue Huff in Edmonton-Glenora, Tim Osborne in St. Albert, and Norm Kelly in Calgary-Currie, recent polls have placed the party with 2% support province-wide.

If I were making the decisions, I would invite the leader’s from all the political parties to join the televised debate, but because the decision is being made by a private television company I can understand how they came to this conclusion. With only 30 candidates nominated in 87 constituencies, most viewers tuning in to the televised debate will not have the option of voting for an Alberta Party candidate on Election Day. The four other parties are expected to nominate candidates in all 87 constituencies.

What about past leaders’ debates that included parties with no elected MLA’s?

During the 1997 election, both NDP leader Pam Barrett and Social Credit leader Randy Thorsteinson were allowed to participate in the leaders debate. Neither of those parties had elected an MLA in the previous election. The Social Credit Party had not elected an MLA since the 1979 election. During the 2004 election, as the Alberta Alliance leader, Mr. Thorsteinson was not invited to join the televised Leaders; debate, despite his party having an MLA in the Assembly. Just before the election was called, Edmonton-Norwood PC MLA Gary Masyk crossed the floor to the new party.

There is no denying that the Wildrose Party is a force in this election campaign and should be represented in the televised debates, but it is important to remember that neither Ms. Smith or any of her party’s four incumbent MLA’s were elected as Wildrose candidates in the last election. Former leader Paul Hinman returned to the Assembly in a 2009 by-election and Heather Forsyth, Rob Anderson, and Guy Boutilier were elected as PC candidates in 2008 before crossing the floor to join the Wildrose Party in 2010.

Debate in front of an audience.

Instead of holding the televised debate in a sterile and controlled television studio, I would love to see the party leader’s demonstrate their debating skills in front of a live audience. A live audience would add an atmosphere of unpredictability and would force the leaders to speak to both the voters in the room and those watching their television screens.

victims of alberta’s opposition meat-grinder

Since Peter Lougheed catapulted from official opposition leader to Premier in 1971, Alberta’s opposition leadership have become a political graveyard for many well-intentioned and ambitious politicians. There are many reasons for this: Alberta’s tradition of electing large government majorities, the ability of the PC party to create a big-tent party, the unpopularity of opposition parties federal counterparts, and the trap of falling into an opposition mentality.

Dr. David Swann is one of many Albertans who have stepped up to the daunting task and challenge of leading a party in the divisive and dysfunctional world of opposition politics in Alberta. Calgary MLA Dave Taylor gave Dr. Swann a verbal lashing when he left the Liberal caucus earlier this past year and last week Tony Sansotta resigned as President after co-signing a letter with Dr. Swann appealing for cooperation with other opposition parties. To the untrained eye, it may look like the Liberal Party is on the verge of internal collapse and maybe it is, but I struggle to think of a time when Alberta has had an opposition party not rife with internal division.

Taking a quick look back at Alberta politics over the past twenty-five years, you will find opposition leaders that made positive contributions to Alberta politics, but could not withstand the meat-grinder of opposition politics in Alberta. A quick read of the list of individuals below could easily lead most Albertans to determine some of the most thankless jobs in our province indeed belong to leaders of provincial opposition parties.

Nick Taylor was the Liberal leader from 1974 to 1988.

Nick Taylor (Liberal leader, 1974 to 1988): He bravely led the Liberals through the darkness and proved that even in the height of the National Energy Program that Liberals had hope to win in Alberta. In 1979, Mr. Taylor placed only 355 votes behind PC candidate Ken Kowalski in a by-election in Barrhead. After six attempts at elected office since 1968, he was elected as MLA for Westlock-Sturgeon in 1986 and was only Leader of the Liberal Opposition in the Assembly for less than two years before his position was challenged by Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore and Edmonton MLA Grant Mitchell. He continued to serve as an MLA until 1996, when he was appointed to the Senate.

Former Calgary Mayor Rod Sykes briefly led the Social Credit Party from 1980 to 1982.

Rod Sykes (Social Credit leader, 1980 to 1982): After serving two terms as the Mayor of Calgary (1969-1977), Mayor Sykes took over the leadership of the Social Credit Party. After nine years in opposition, the party was mired with internal and financial problems which led him to resign in 1982. He later ran as a federal Liberal candidate in the 1984 election.

Former NDP leader Ray Martin introduces Jack Layton at a 2008 federal election rally.

Ray Martin (NDP leader, 1984 to 1994): He led the New Democrats to its height as Official Opposition with 16 MLAs in 1986 and 1989, but that did not stop the internal bickering. Mr. Martin’s faced calls to resign from Calgary candidate Barry Bristman in 1989 and fought a leadership challenge by St. Paul veterinarian Don Ronaghan in 1991. In 1992, Stony Plain MLA Stan Woloshyn abandoned the NDP for the PCs. Mr. Martin resigned after his party lost all their seats to the Liberals and PCs in the Assembly in the 1993 election. He returned to the Assembly when he was elected as MLA for Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview from 2004 to 2008.

Former Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore led the Liberals from 1989 to 1994.

Laurence Decore (Liberal leader, 1988 to 1994): The former Edmonton Mayor built the best political machine an opposition party had seen since the 1970s, but that was not enough for some of the MLAs in his caucus-mates. In 1993, after the Liberals won their largest vote share with 39.7% and 32 seats, a group of MLAs and party members were not satisfied with official opposition status called for his resignation. Calgary-North West MLA Frank Bruseker was stripped of his major critic portfolios after telling reporters he was worried the party could not win enough seats in Calgary to secure an election win due to Mr. Decore’s leadership. Mr. Decore gracefully resigned in 1994.

Former MP Ross Harvey briefly led the NDP from 1994 to 1996.

Ross Harvey (NDP leader, 1994 to 1996): The former NDP Member of Parliament was selected as leader of the seatless party shortly after he was unseated in the 1993 federal election. He was unable to satisfactorily rebuild his party after it was wiped out in 1993 and quit in 1996. He was soon replaced by Pam Barrett.

Grant Mitchell led the Liberals from 1994 to 1998.

Grant Mitchell (Liberal leader, 1994 to 1998): After a brutal and divisive leadership race in 1994, Mr. Mitchell faced opposition from within his own party and caucus. Three MLAs crossed to the PCs during his time as leader and his leadership opponent MLA Sine Chadi waged a constant campaign to undermine his leadership. Shortly after the 1997 election, former Calgary MLA Danny Dalla-Longa called for his resignation. He resigned in 1998 and in 2005 was appointed to the Senate.

Pam Barrett led the NDP from 1996 to 2000.

Pam Barrett (NDP leader, 1996 to 2000): After serving as MLA for Edmonton-Highlands from 1986 to 1993, Ms. Barrett returned in 1996. She led her party to elect two MLAs in the 1997 election and later resigned after a near-death experience in a dentist’s chair.

Former PC cabinet minister Nancy MacBeth led the Liberals from 1998 to 2001.

Nancy MacBeth (Liberal leader, 1998 to 2001): After losing to Ralph Klein in the 1992 PC leadership race, Ms. MacBeth (then Ms. Betkowski) left politics until 1998 when she swept into the Liberal leadership. The former PC cabinet minister faced some tough opposition from MLAs within her party’s caucus, including two who crossed the floor (Gene Zwozdesky joined the PCs and Pamela Paul sat as an Independent). She resigned almost immediately after she was unseated in the 2001 election.

Randy Thorsteinson led the Social Credit Party from 1992 to 1999 and the Alberta Alliance from 2003 to 2005.

Randy Thorsteinson (Social Credit leader, 1992 to 1999, Alberta Alliance leader, 2003 to 2005). Even after leading the long-dormant Social Credit Party to win 6.8% of the vote in 1997, Mr. Thorsteinson was at odds with his party after a movement within the party to limit the involvement of members of the Church of Latter-day Saints. Thorsteinson quit the party in April 1999 and was a founder of the Alberta First Party. In 2003, he re-emerged as leader of the Alberta Alliance – the Wildrose Alliance‘s predecessor – and led that party to earn 8.7% of the vote in 2004. He resigned after failing to win a seat in the 2004 election.

Lethbridge MLA Ken Nicol led the Liberals from 2001 to 2004.

Ken Nicol (Liberal leader, 2001 to 2004): Quiet, respected, and more conservative than most of his caucus colleagues, Dr. Nicol reluctantly accepted the leadership from the unseated Ms. MacBeth in 2001. He briefly led the Liberals until internal conflict from within his party and caucus convinced him that running as a federal Liberal candidate might be a better career option. He resigned as MLA in 2004 and was defeated in his bid represent Lethbridge in the House of Commons later that year.

Kevin Taft led the Liberal Party from 2004 to 2008.

Kevin Taft (Liberal leader, 2004 to 2008): The first Liberal leader to increase the party’s seat total since Mr. Decore, Dr. Taft led the Liberals through two elections. He tried to distance the provincial party from its unpopular federal counterparts and while he did not face as much internal dissent from his party and caucus as did his predecessors, he did have the unfortunate task of having to remove MLA Dan Backs from the Liberal caucus. He stepped down as leader after the 2008 election and is currently the opposition Health & Wellness critic.

perfesser dave’s five paths to obscurity.

In his most recent blog post and column in the Saint City News, David Climenhaga (aka Perfesser Dave) pointed out five main challenges that the new Alberta Party faces in becoming relevant in the 2012 election. It is a good list and these challenges do not face the new Alberta Party alone. Mr. Climenhaga is also accurate in describing the challenges facing the other opposition parties in Alberta.

While the Wildrose Alliance, now led by Danielle Smith, has been successful in raising piles of cash through their oil and gas sector bankrollers, both the Liberals and New Democrats have had a difficult time raising the kind of funds needed to compete with the near 40-year governing Progressive Conservative Party. In 2007, the Liberals led by Edmonton MLA Kevin Taft raised over $1 million, but it remained a miniscule amount compared to the PC Party’s multi-million dollar war chest.

For all the talk of vote-splitting among the opposition parties, the political field is really not that crowded. In 2008, over 60% of Albertans stayed away from the polls, which signals that Albertans are hardly overflowing the polling stations to split votes. Even the electoral equations provided by the Democratic Renewal Project show that a merger of Liberal and NDP votes in recent elections would only create a moderately-sized opposition. It is true that the new Alberta Party leader, Edwin Erickson, is not high profile and is unlikely to be the next Premier of Alberta, but once you step out of the political echo chamber or away from the Dome, all the parties become irrelevant. For all their hard work, show a picture of David Swann or Brian Mason to a random person on the street, and you will likely get a puzzled look.

Voter Turnout versus Eligible Voters (Alberta 1975-2008)
Total Vote: Party Breakdown (Alberta 1971-2008)

Mr. Climenhaga claimed that the Alberta Party is a group of “self-important yuppified professionals who would like to go straight into power.” I have met with some of the organizers of the new Alberta Party and some of them are even good friends of mine. I can attest that while they are ambitious (and perhaps a bit naive), they are not what Mr. Climenhaga describes.

I have spoken with many Liberals and New Democrats who remain befuddled as to why anyone would attempt to start something new, rather than join the ranks of the already assembled politicos. On many levels, the people behind the new party are looking for a cultural shift in Alberta politics. Although they may agree with some of the policies promoted by the traditional political parties, they see the culture of these traditional parties as part of the problem. The Alberta Party organizers appear to be fully aware of the risks of failure and that they are stepping beyond the political comfort zones of many people already involved in other parties.

I know many jilted Liberals and jolted New Democrats who have resolved to bask in the glory days of Pierre Trudeau or Laurence Decore and Tommy Douglas or Grant Notley. I somewhat admire their political stamina and strength (or madness) in the face of adversity, but I also completely understand why a group of young politically ambitious reformers would want to chart their own course. Joining a group that has become content with spending decades in the relative obscurity of the opposition benches is hardly attractive if you are serious about changing government policy.

Building a new political party from the ground up is hard work. The current leadership of the Liberals and New Democrats inherited a base of support and network that has existed for decades. Considering that the party was formed only eight years ago, the growth of the Wildrose Alliance is impressive (recognizing that it did have roots in the mini-resurgence of the Randy Thorsteinson-led Social Credit Party in 1997). It will be interesting to see whether the people involved with the new Alberta Party can actually build something different.

Contrary to what you may sometimes read on this blog, I do not always enjoying pointing out the flaws of Alberta’s opposition parties. I wish they would do better. I wish for opposition parties that were not uncompetitive in half the constituencies represented in the Assembly. I wish for a competitive election in 2012 that will attract Albertans back to the ballot booths. If the current polling trends continue, it looks like it may be competitive, but it remains to be seen who will actually be the contenders.

does policy matter?

Last week’s posts “Danielle Smith’s Free-ride” and “PC Policy Veep defects to the Wildrose Alliance” generated a lot of heated discussion and responses from at least three other bloggers either supporting (Alberta Altruist and Brian Dell) or criticizing (David Climenhaga) the policy positions of the Wildrose Alliance. These posts and the debate that followed in the comment sections has led me to ask the question: how much does party policy really matter?

The defection of Progressive Conservative Party Vice-President Policy and Resolution Shayne Saskiw to the Wildrose Alliance has raised questions about how much influence do PC Party members have on the actual policy that a government implements? According to Saskiw, not much.

“I was able to give their opinions on policy to the government, but the government was not acting on their advice.”

This is not a surprise, nor a new criticism of how responsive governments are to ordinary citizens – engaged or otherwise. Does anyone remember Premier Ed Stelmach campaigning on the PC Party platform of dissolving the regional health authorities and centralizing control into the largest employer in the province? It was not mentioned in the “Change that Works for Albertans” (PDF) document, nor do know of any PC candidates who campaigned on this policy position. Perhaps after nearly 40 years in government, the upper echelons of power at the Legislature feel that the election process is simply a formality. Perhaps the PC Party interpreted the 52% support they received in the election that recorded the lowest voter turnout in Alberta history equal a blank check mandate?

It would be wrong to suggest that policy does not matter, because it does. It is important to recognize that in many cases, the majority of challenges that a government will deal with during a term in office will be reactive. In these cases, it is important to recognize leadership and which elected official or officials will offer the kind of leadership that will be best suited to dealing with reactive situations. For example, mainstream business and economic forecasters were predicting smooth sailing ahead during the 2008 election when politicians were practically promising a jet-pack for every citizen. In 2010, the economic outlook is quite a bit more modest (though we are fairing better than our American neighbors).

During my time working with the Liberal Party until 2007, I remember it being normal for policies to be generated from the Official Opposition Caucus offices, rather than the party policy committees. Perhaps this is one of the problems with the traditional political parties in Alberta. They do consult with stakeholders and rely on well-educated researchers and analyst, but in the end, new policies became more about marketing and messaging instead of listening and generating a party membership driven policy apparatus.

This leads me back to Ms. Smith and a statement she made about Wildrose Alliance policy:

“Our party does not take a position on divisive social issues. We prefer to focus on those areas where we agree.”

This statement reflects a smart (and so far successful) strategy of positioning the Wildrose Alliance as the moderate conservative/conservatively moderate anti-establishment party in Alberta politics. I have been told that many of Ms. Smith’s financial backers in Calgary’s oil and gas sector would like to turn the page on the more hard social conservative views that the party has advocated in the past. Refusing to talk about divisive social issues is a smart political tactic, given the positions that her party has taken in the past.

During the 2004 election, the Alliance led by Randy Thorsteinson called for province-wide votes on abortion and same-sex marriage. There have also been questions about the influence that conservative members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have had on the development of Alliance policies.

This said, an elected official’s personal or religious views on social issues do not necessarily result in major government policy changes. During the 2001 election, Vegreville-Viking MLA Ed Stelmach responded to a questionnaire from LifeSiteNews in which he declared his opposition to abortion under any circumstances (his response to the 2004 election questionnaire is not published online). This was his position nine years ago and may continue to be his position today, but since becoming Premier three years ago, Stelmach has hardly been a champion in the fight against allowing women the choice to access abortions. Like Premier Stelmach’s, it would be extremely difficult for Ms. Smith’s party to enter a divisive debate on social issues and continue to hold their current mainstream support in the polls.

Tempering the more extreme elements in her party is going to be one of Ms. Smith’s largest challenges. In 2009, nearly 2,000 Wildrose Alliance members voted for social conservative candidate Mark Dyrholm. What happens if these “grassroots” dispute Ms. Smith’s position? Is Ms. Smith willing to cut them loose in order to avoid the damage of being labeled as the “scary conservative party?” If it reaches the point where push comes to shove, maybe policy will matter.