Tag Archives: Ray Martin

Alberta is always in Tough Economic Times

“They don’t know what to do with tough economic times. It was easy enough to govern when the money was flowing in, when things were going well. They took all the credit for it at that time. It’s much harder to govern, and the mark of a good government is how they handle it, when times get difficult.” – Ray Martin, Leader of the Official Opposition (June 13, 1986)

Jim Prentice Premier Alberta
Jim Prentice

Despite Alberta’s prosperity, Premier Jim Prentice is warning we could be heading into tough economic times. The decline in the world price of oil has spooked the 43-year governing Progressive Conservative establishment and the corporate elites in downtown Calgary.

The perilous “price trough” has led Mr. Prentice to warn of a potential $7 billion revenue shortfall if oil prices remain at lower than expected levels for the entire 2015/2016 fiscal year. According to a government spokesperson, some of the missing $7 billion could come from revenue streams such as land leases, but at this point the number is largely based in speculation and politically spin.

Mr. Prentice’s prophetic $7 billion shortfall becomes more startling when learning the Alberta Government is projected to collect only $7.5 billion in crude oil and bitumen royalty revenue in the 2014/2015 budget year. This projected revenue is based on the price of Western Canada Select (WCS) oil remaining at $77.18 per barrel. Although the yearly average price is $84.02 per barrel the current price of WCS  has dropped to $48.44 per barrel.

Ray Martin NDP MLA School Trustee Edmonton Alberta
Ray Martin

If the “tough economics times” message sounds vaguely familiar, that is because it is. In oil-rich Alberta, we hear a lot from our political leaders about tough economic times, even when times are prosperous. In most cases, our politicians are managing voters’ expectations and positioning themselves to take credit as ‘prudent fiscal managers’ when the world-wide price of oil inevitably increases.

Meeting the Challenge of Tough Times” was the name of the three-year economic plan launched by Premier Ed Stelmach’s PC government in 2009.

Bitumen Bubble Alberta
Bitumen Bubble

The sharp decline of natural gas royalty revenue and that year’s world-wide recession, which felt more like a mild economic pause in Alberta, even convinced the Tories to amend the Klein-era Fiscal Responsibility Act to allow the government to pass deficit budgets.

And in January 2013, Premier Alison Redford used a televised address to warn Albertans that a $8 billion shortfall in the provincial budget was being caused by an ominous “bitumen bubble.” Ms. Redford’s bubble was then used as justification to slash funding to colleges and universities by 7% in that year’s budget.

Alberta Finance Minister Ron Liepert
Ron Liepert

But the PCs have not always predicted “tough economic times.” In 2012, then-finance minister Ron Liepert told the Calgary Chamber of Commerce to expect $16 billion in projected resource revenues by 2015. A huge jump in revenue would certainly increase the likelihood of Mr. Prentice calling a provincial election in early 2015.

Alberta’s government has heavily depended on revenue from cyclically priced resource commodities for decades. After years of unrestrained growth, no one should be surprised that Alberta’s economy could slow down.

The question is how we respond to actual tough economic times in Alberta. Was NDP Official Opposition Leader Ray Martin correct in 1986 when he said that “they don’t know what to do with tough economic times”?

While some right-wing think tanks call for a return to brutal slash and burn fiscal policies, the implementation of real long-term financial planning would probably be a more mature solution.

Alberta Norway Oil Fund Money Savings
Comparing Alberta’s Heritage Fund and Norway’s Petroleum Savings Fund.

Norway, a country with 5.1 million people, invests oil revenues into the Government Pension Fund Global and contains more than $857 billion. The fund was established in 1990 to smooth out the disruptive effects of highly fluctuating oil prices. Oil-rich jurisdictions like Norway prove that economies can be both economically prosperous and environmentally green.

Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed
Peter Lougheed

Alberta, a province of 3.6 million people, launched the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund in 1976. Under the leadership of Peter Lougheed, the Heritage Fund initially received 30% of government resource revenues and was worth $12.7 billion in 1986. The Heritage Fund is now worth only $17.4 billion.

Facing tough economic times in 1987, the PC government of Don Getty halted all transfers to the Heritage Fund. Zero deposits were made between 1987 and 2004.

This week, PC MLAs passed Bill 11: Savings Management Repeal Act, which repealed the Savings Management Act, which was enthusiastically passed by the same group of PC MLAs in March 2014. The earlier bill would have diverted resource revenue to the newly created Alberta Future Fund, Social Innovation Endowment account and Agriculture and Food Innovation Endowment. The bill passed this week eliminates those new funds.

Kevin Taft Liberal Party MLA Alberta
Kevin Taft

Despite talk of revenue diversification, it is questionable whether the governing PCs would seriously consider increasing resource royalties, reinstating a progressive taxation system or introducing a provincial sales tax.

While many politicians view tax increases as politically unpalatable, a slight tax increase would not destroy the our province’s economy. “If Alberta increased its tax rates by $11 billion our province would still have the lowest tax rate in Canada,” Kevin Taft wrote in his 2012 book, Follow the Money.

Dr. Taft’s book breaks down government spending patterns over the past 30 years and details how corporate profits have skyrocketed in Alberta at the same time the PC Government has struggled with deficit budgets.

As a province with decades worth of dependence on revenues from natural resource royalties, it should not be a shock that we need to be smarter about how we plan and finance our government spending. Maybe our only problem is not our over reliance on cyclical natural resources revenues, but that the Progressive Conservatives are just bad fiscal managers.


Primetime Politics this week…
On this week’s Alberta Primetime politics panel, I joined Rob Breakenridge, Roberto Noce and host Michael Higgins to discuss the Gay-Straight Alliance debate, Moe Amery‘s texting-while-driving-demerits bill, and Bill 2: Alberta Accountability Act.

 

Nomination races begin for federal election 2015

There are 705 days until Monday, October 19, 2015, when the next Canadian federal election is scheduled to be held. With less than two years until Canadians choose who will serve as Members of Parliament and with new electoral boundaries coming into effect at the next election, candidates across Alberta are preparing to seek party nominations, a first step to becoming a candidate.

Edmonton's 2015 electoral districts as recommended by the Electoral Boundary Commission Final Report.
Edmonton’s 2015 electoral districts as recommended by the Electoral Boundary Commission Final Report.

Last week’s resignation announcement by Conservative MP Ted Menzies opens the door for a by-election to be held in southwest Alberta’s Macleod riding. When the next election is called, Macleod will be dissolved and the new Foothills riding will be created. Rumours circulated soon after Mr. Menzies announcement that Wildrose official opposition leader Danielle Smith could seek the Conservative nomination were quickly quashed when he announced she would remain as MLA for Highwood. According to the Okotoks Western Wheel, three local residents, businessman Scott Wagner, rancher Phil Rowland and former Parliament Hill staffer Melissa Mathieson, have expressed interest in seeking the Conservative nomination.

With former Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber confirming he will run as an Independent in the new St. Albert-Edmonton riding in the next election, aspirants are already lining up to contest Conservative Party nomination.

Expected to enter the race in St. Albert-Edmonton is businessman and former political organizer Ryan Hastman, who is currently employed as a Regional Director in the University of Alberta‘s Office of Advancement. Readers of his blog will recognize Mr. Hastman as a co-host of the #yegvote Google Hangout and as the 2011 Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona. He has previously worked in Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s Office and for the Wildrose Party.

Lawyer and conservative activist Michael Cooper has already announced his candidacy in the St. Albert-Edmonton Conservative nomination and has the support of the provincial Progressive Conservative establishment, including endorsements from Finance Minister Doug Horner, Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, and St. Albert MLA Stephen Khan. Also in the race is Kevin Tam, a Conservative Party activist who is currently employed as a researcher with the provincial Liberal Opposition.

Lethbridge and southern Alberta 2015 electoral districts as recommended by the Electoral Boundary Commission Final Report.
Lethbridge and southern Alberta 2015 electoral districts as recommended by the Electoral Boundary Commission Final Report.

Changing boundaries in southern Alberta mean that Lethbridge Conservative MP Jim Hillyer will soon find himself living inside the redrawn Medicine Hat riding, currently represented by Conservative MP LeVar Payne. While a nomination race between the two incumbents could easily be averted if Mr. Hillyer runs in the newly redrawn Lethbridge, he may still face a tough nomination contest now that his large base of support in the southern half of the old riding will now living in a new riding.

After a narrow win in last year’s by-election, Conservative MP Joan Crockatt can expect a strong challenge from a newly revitalized Liberal Party organization in Calgary-Centre.

Conservatives have still yet to resolve who will run in the handful of new ridings created in south Edmonton. Similar to the situation in southern Alberta, Conservatives are hopeful that nomination battles between MPs Mike Lake, James Rajotte, and Blaine Calkins can be averted. This may be even further complicated if current Edmonton-Sherwood Park MP Tim Uppal decides to seek a nomination in the newly redrawn Edmonton-Mill Woods riding. Mr. Uppal was the Canadian Alliance and Conservative candidate in south east Edmonton in the 2000 and 2004 federal elections and lost his party nomination to Mr. Lake before the 2006 election.

Rod Loyola announced his intentions to seek the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Mill Woods last year. Mr. Loyola was the 2012 provincial NDP candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie and is currently the president of the Non-Academic Staff Association at the University of Alberta.

Calgary's 2015 electoral districts as recommended by the Electoral Boundary Commission Final Report.
Calgary’s 2015 electoral districts as recommended by the Electoral Boundary Commission Final Report.

With the retirement of Calgary-Nose Hill MP Diane Ablonczy, who was first elected under the Reform Party banner in 1993, Calgarians can expect a hotly contested nomination race in this riding that is considered a Conservative stronghold. One candidate rumoured to be considering a run for a nomination is Calgary-Foothills PC MLA Len Webber, who served as a cabinet minister in Premier Ed Stelmach‘s government but was shuffled to the backbenches after Alison Redford became Premier in 2011.

In the always contested Edmonton-Centre, aboriginal activist and educator Lewis Cardinal, announced earlier this year that he would once again seek the NDP nomination. In 2011, Mr. Cardinal increased his party’s support in that riding by 11%, placing second to Conservative incumbent Laurie Hawn. The central Edmonton riding was represented by Liberal MP Anne McLellan from 1993 until 2006. Hoping for a revival of Liberal support in the next election, a number of candidates are said to be preparing to contest the Liberal nomination, including entrepreneur and Rhodes Scholar Randy Boissonnault, and  2011 candidate and lawyer Mary MacDonald.

Two-term Edmonton-Decore PC MLA Janice Sarich is rumoured to be mounting a challenge against current Edmonton-East Conservative MP Peter Goldring in the new Edmonton-Griesbach riding. With Mr. Goldring back in the Conservative fold after sitting as an independent, he is expected to seek his party’s nomination in the new riding. The NDP are searching for a star candidate in this riding, after seeing their support steadily increase since the past four federal elections. The new riding also significantly overlaps the areas represented by NDP MLA Brian Mason, David Eggen, and Deron Bilous in the provincial Legislature. The NDP’s 2008 and 2012 candidate, former MLA Ray Martin, was elected to serve on Edmonton’s Public School Board on October 21, 2013.

Update (November 14, 2013): Educator Janis Irwin has announced her intention to seek the NDP nomination in the new Edmonton-Griesbach riding.

Because lists are something that this writer tends to do well, I will soon start a list tracking declared and nominated candidates planning to run in the 2015 federal election in Edmonton. If I have missed anyone in this round-up, please post a comment below or send me an email at davidcournoyer@gmail.com.

The new (and old) faces of municipal elections in Alberta

Tomorrow is election day and in counties, municipal districts, villages, towns, and cities across the province, Albertans will cast their votes for mayors, reeves, councillors, aldermen, and school trustees.

Naheed Nenshi
Naheed Nenshi

In Calgary, uber-popular mayor Naheed Nenshi is expected to crush his opponents, including former Progressive Conservative MLA Jon Lord and a cast of challengers from the political fringe. This election also marks a change of title for Calgary city council members, from “Alderman” to “Councillor.”

With voters in Alberta’s second, third, and fourth largest cities – Edmonton, Red Deer, and Lethbridge – selecting new mayors, there could be a shift in how municipalities interact with the provincial government. With the ongoing war of words between Mayor Nenshi and Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths, a cast of new mayors could create a new dynamic in municipal-provincial relations in Alberta.

Don Iveson Edmonton Mayor Election
Don Iveson

In Edmonton, I am supporting for Don Iveson for Mayor. But don’t take my word for it. Check out Don Iveson’s ideas for our city and be sure to take a look at what the other candidates are offering. With 6 city councillors not seeking re-election and at least one incumbent in a vulnerable position, there will be some new faces on Edmonton City Council.

While there will be many new faces on municipal councils after the votes are counted, there could be some familiar characters returning to the fray. Observers of provincial politics in Alberta will recognize some of these candidates.

Fallen Tory titan Ray Danyluk is challenging incumbent Steve Upham to become the next Reeve of the County of St. Paul.  Since the former cabinet minister was unseated by Wildroser Shayne Saskiw in the 2012 election, he has become the unofficial government representative in northeast Alberta, hosting traveling cabinet ministers at events and town hall meetings.

Alberta PC MLA Ray Danyluk
Ray Danyluk

In Fort McMurray, former PC-turned-Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier is running for a councillor position on Wood Buffalo’s municipal council, a place where he served as mayor before entering provincial politics in 1997. In Edmonton, former MLA Edmonton-Mill Woods Liberal MLA Weslyn Mather and former Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Ray Martin could be elected as trustees on Edmonton’s Public School Board.

In St. Albert, where anonymous smear groups run rampant, former Alberta Liberal Party leader Bob Russell is aiming for a political comeback. While he was never elected to the Assembly, Mr. Russell served as Liberal Party leader from 1971 to 1974. He later served as an alderman in St. Albert from 1989 to 1992 and 1995 to 2001.

In the Village of Wabamum, former Stony Plain Tory MLA Fred Lindsay is running as part of a 3-candidate slate. Running for re-election to Wabamum village council, but not on Mr. Lindsay’s slate, is Bill Purdy, who served as the PC MLA for Stony Plain from 1971 to 1986.

Familial relations also cross municipal-provincial lines. Judy Hehr, mother of Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Kent Hehr is running for a spot on the Calgary Board of Education. Strathcona-Sherwood Park PC MLA Dave Quest‘s wife, Fiona Beland-Quest, is running to become a councillor in Strathcona County. Lethbridge mayoral candidate Bridget Mearns is the daughter of Lethbridge-East‘s Liberal-turned-PC MLA Bridget Pastoor. And in Edmonton, Ward 8 councillor Ben Henderson is running for re-election. Mr. Henderson is married to Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman.

In the City of Airdrie, Jane Anderson, the mother of Airdrie Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson is running for a spot on city council as part of the Airdrie United slate. Mr. Anderson’s brother, Nathan Anderson, is running for re-election as mayor of the town of Crossfield.

The appearance of municipal slates in Airdrie and Red Deer could signal the return of partisan style politics in municipal government (slates were common in Alberta’s larger cities until the 1970s and 1980s).

Edmonton election Substance and Style #2

Having focused on Edmonton’s mayoral contest in last week’s edition, I decided that this week’s ‘Substance and Style’ review should focus on the City Council and School Board campaigns across the city.

Aboriginal issues
Ward 6 candidate Kyle Brown wants to bring Aboriginal issues to the civic discussion. This is important, because by 2017 Edmonton is expected to have the largest urban aboriginal population in Canada.

Michael Walters Edmonton Ward 10 election
Michael Walters

Ward issues
CBC reporter Steve Finkelman reports on a day spent doorknocking with Ward 11 candidate Sonia Bitar. Ward 10 candidate Michael Walters focused on arts and culture in a blog post this week. And with 15 candidates in the running, urban sprawl was a hot topic at last night’s forum in Ward 6.

In Ward 3, incumbent councillor Dave Loken was endorsed by retiring Ward 2 councillor Kim Krushell.

Surveys
A significant part of a candidate’s time during an election is spent answering surveys from community organizations and advocacy groups. The Local Good has published responses to their candidate surveys, as has the Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton and the Edmonton Public Library.

Donor transparency
A number of city council candidates have publicly released the names of campaign donors, including David Dodge in Ward 3 (list here), Heather Mackenzie (list here) and Scott McKeen in Ward 6 (link here) and Dave Colburn in Ward 7 (list here). Mr. Colburn has taken the unusual step of refusing to accept donations from developers or unions as a matter of principle. If I have missed any others, please post in the comments section below.

Covering the media
Mack Male has published a round-up of how Edmonton’s media companies are offering civic election coverage.

School board candidates
The Edmonton Public School Board has posted video interviews with candidates competing in the nine wards across the city. Here are the two candidates contesting the election in my area, Ward D:

Elizabeth Johannson:

Ray Martin:

Election forums online
Archived video from mayoral and city council candidate forums can be found on the City of Edmonton website.

Advanced voting
Election Day is October 21, but advanced voting locations are now open in five locations across Edmonton. Three special post-secondary advanced voting locations will be open next week at NAIT, MacEwan University and the University of Alberta.

You are eligible to vote if: you present authorized identification, you are at least 18 years of age, you are a Canadian citizen, you are a resident of a ward within the city of Edmonton on Election Day, you have lived in Alberta since April 23, 2013, and you have not already voted in the current election.

Who is your candidate?
Not sure who the candidates are? Browse through this list of candidates and their social media links.

A short roundup of municipal election races across Alberta

With a feeling of excitement in the air, Nomination Day came and went today as residents across Alberta officially became candidates in this year’s municipal election. With nearly 120 candidates registered to run in Edmonton’s municipal election, today’s event was busy. I was at Edmonton City Hall at this morning’s event and snapped photos of many candidates.

While it was expected that some Edmonton City Council candidates could be acclaimed, the only two unchallenged incumbents in this year’s vote are Edmonton Public School Trustees Sarah Hoffman and Cheryl Johner. I have updated the list of Edmonton election candidates with their social media links.

After a busy morning and evening of attending election related events, I joined Ryan Hastman and Mack Male for a special Nomination Day #yegvote Google Hangout. You can watch the hangout in the embedded video above and find previous episodes at EdmontonPolitics.com.

Here is a quick look at some of the interesting municipal election news from across Alberta:

– Popular Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is expected to cruise to victory, but still faces eight challengers.

– Former Progressive Conservative MLA and cabinet minister Ray Danyluk is running to become the next Reeve of St. Paul County. Mr. Danyluk served as MLA for Lac La Biche-St. Paul from 2001 until 2012.

– Former PC and Wildrose candidate Guy Boutilier has thrown his name into the election for Wood Buffalo Municipal Council. Mr. Boutilier was MLA from 1997 until 2012 and Mayor of Wood Buffalo from 1995 until 1997.

– Former Wildrose candidate Maryann Chichak is running for Mayor in Whitecourt.

– Well-known political blogger David Climenhaga is running for city council in St. Albert.

– In July he announced his retirement from politics, but according to the Bonnyville Nouvelle, Town of Bonnyville Mayor Ernie Isely is running for re-election. Isley has served as mayor since 2006 and was the PC MLA for the area from 1979 to 1993.

– He may be enjoying retirement from Ottawa, but former Member of Parliament Myron Thompson is once again running for a spot on Sundre Town Council. Mr. Thompson was the MP for Wild Rose from 1993 until 2008, and was Mayor of Sundre from 1974 to 1980.

– Former MLAs Weslyn Mather and Ray Martin have thrown their hats in Edmonton’s public school board election. Ms. Mather was the Liberal MLA for Edmonton-Mill Woods from 2004 until 2008. Mr. Martin was leader of the Official Opposition NDP from 1986 to 1993, and was elected as MLA from 1982 to 1993 and 2004 to 2008.

Robert Wilkinson was convicted of impaired driving, became an internet sensation with his rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and is the only candidate challenging Edson Mayor Greg Pasychny in this year’s election.

– In the Village of Bawlf, only one candidate filed nomination papers to contest the election for the five member village council. According to the Village’s Twitter account, the “Village Office will be open 10-12 weekdays til Sept30, until 5 nominations are received.”

– In Grande Prairie, popular mayor Bill Given is being challenged by former councillor Gladys Blackmore.

Richard Richards has been acclaimed as mayor in the Town of Stettler.

Twenty-four candidates have filed nomination papers to contest five council seats in the flood damaged town of High River.

Please share in the comments section below if there are any interesting races or candidates who I have missed.

#yegvote Google Hangout #3 with ActivatED

On last night’s #yegvote Google Hangout, the third in our series, Ryan Hastman, Mack Male, and I were joined by Aliza Dadani from the group ActivatED. According to their website, “ActivatED is committed to electing forward-thinking progressive councillors in the 2013 Edmonton Municipal Election.” Endorsing candidates can be a messy business and ActivatED is already ruffling some feathers in Edmonton’s 2013 election season. The group has already endorsed Linda Sloan in Ward 1, David Dodge in Ward 3, Dave Colburn in Ward 7, Ben Henderson in Ward 8, and Amarjeet Sohi in Ward 12.

Thank you to Ms. Dadani for joining us on the hangout and articulately explaining her group’s raison-d’être and decision making process. You can watch the hangout in the embed above and at EdmontonPolitics.com.

There are numerous additions to the unofficial list of Edmonton election candidates. Many of the additions are in Downtown Edmonton’s Ward 6, where 12 candidates have now declared their intention to run in the ward being vacated by Councillor Jane Batty, the most of any race in the city.

New mayoral candidate Kristine Acielo thinks the proposed downtown arena is not big enough and 2012 Evergreen Party Senate candidate Elizabeth Johannson is challenging former New Democrat MLA Ray Martin in the Public School Board’s Ward D.

If you have any additions to the unofficial list of declared candidates, please let me know.

Twenty years since Alberta’s epic 1993 election.

Colleen and Ralph Klein (screenshot from CBC news archive)
Colleen and Ralph Klein (screenshot from CBC news archive)

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Alberta’s 1993 election, known in Tory political circles as “the miracle on the Prairies” and to others as the election that interrupted the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals (in which the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Wayne Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings). This election was Alberta’s most competitive in decades and saw the 22 year governing Progressive Conservatives led by former Calgary Mayor Ralph Klein face-off against the reenergized Liberals led by former Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore.

The Tories emerged as the victors of the closely fought election, successfully distancing themselves from the unpopular former Premier Don Getty, who Premier Klein had only replaced the year before the election. Significant retirements of long-time Tory MLAs brought a new batch of candidates on “Ralph’s Team” to compete with an impressive and well-funded slate of Liberal candidates.

Hoping to ride the wave of electoral discontent that the Reform Party would ride in the federal election later that year, the Liberals challenged the Tories on many traditional conservative issues and attracted some social conservative candidates who might not find a natural home in the Liberal Party. A few of these successful social conservative Liberal candidates, including Edmonton’s Julius Yankowsky, would later cross the floor to the Tories.

With both the PCs and Liberals campaigning on fiscal conservative platforms geared toward eliminating budget deficits and paying down debts, there may have been less policy difference between the two parties than could normally be expected.

Laurence Decore (screenshot from CBC news archive)
Laurence Decore (screenshot from CBC news archive)

Similar to last year’s provincial election, where a “Lake of Fire” helped cost Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party more than a few votes in  closely fought campaign, a controversial social issue played a defining role in the 1993 election. Political scientist Peter McCormick wrote in the Canadian Annual Review of Politics and Public Affairs, 1995, “…it was generally agreed the Liberal leader Laurence Decore’s causal raising of the abortion issue was one of the reasons his party lost the 1993 provincial election.”

On June 15, 1993, Premier Klein’s PC Party was re-elected with 51 seats out of 83 and 44% of the provincial vote. Premier Klein would lead his party through three more election victories before he retired in 2006. Winning every seat in Edmonton and a handful in rural Alberta, Calgary and Lethbridge, the Liberals elected 32 MLAs and earned 39% of the provincial vote.

A number of Tory stalwarts, including Bonnyville‘s Ernie Isley, Leduc‘s Donald Sparrow and St. Albert’s Dick Fowler were unseated by Liberal candidates. A Liberal candidate was even successful in capturing Calgary-West, the coveted constituency represented by Premier Peter Lougheed from 1967 to 1986. The Liberals have never again come this close to forming government in Alberta.

Ray Martin (screenshot from CBC news archive)
Ray Martin (screenshot from CBC news archive)

Led by Edmonton-Norwood MLA Ray Martin, the official opposition New Democrats lost the 16 seats they had won in the previous election. Electoral boundary redistribution, retiring incumbents, and the defection of Stony Plain NDP MLA Stan Woloshyn to the Tories did not help. With a rise of support for the Liberals in Edmonton and the Tory’s new popular leader Premier Klein, the NDP were abandoned by many of their traditional supporters in this election.

Watch this archived CBC news report on the 1993 election (points to anyone who can name the journalist narrating the CBC report).

Will Downtown Arena funding be issue #1 in Edmonton’s municipal elections?

Scrambling to fill $55 million in missing funding for the proposed Katz Group downtown arena, City Councillors voted last week to postpone any final vote on financing the project. Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel won the support of enough Capital Region politicians last week to potentially secure an extra $25 million for the project (though, the vote may have been improperly recorded).

Dave Colburn Edmonton City Council
Dave Colburn

As it becomes clear that poor planning and bad strategy is leaving a few current Edmonton politicians scratching their heads at how to fund this mega-project, it is becoming more likely that the downtown arena will become a top issue in the October 21, 2013 municipal elections.

There are still no candidates declared running for Mayor, but a swath of hopefuls eyeing spots on Edmonton’s City Council recently announced their intentions to run in the October elections.

In Ward 7, three-term Public School Board trustee Dave Colburn launched his campaign for City Council yesterday at the Bellevue Community Hall. Mr. Colburn recently wrote a guest post sharing some ideas about how to save inner-city schools from suburban sprawl. He will be challenging Ward 7’s incumbent Councillor Tony Caterina.

Running to replace Mr. Colburn in the public school board’s Ward D is his predecessor, former NDP MLA Ray Martin, who served as trustee for the area from 2001 until 2004.

David Dodge Edmonton City Council
David Dodge

On May 21, David Dodge will launch his campaign for City Council in Ward 3. Mr. Dodge is the producer of Green Energy Futures and the past-president of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues. Ward 3 is currently represented by first-term Councillor Dave Loken.

On May 14, Richard Feehan will be launching his campaign in Ward 10. Mr. Feehan is an instructor at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Social Work in Edmonton and is a former vice-president of Catholic Social Services. Also running in Ward 10 is community organizer Michael Walters. Incumbent Councillor Don Iveson, has announced he will not seek re-election for City Council in Ward 10.

See the full list of declared candidates running in Edmonton’s municipal elections

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

Laurie Blakeman MLA Edmonton-Centre
Laurie Blakeman

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

Gene Zwozdesky
Gene Zwozdesky

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

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

Here are some other Alberta Legislature milestones:

Michael Walters, Ray Martin jump into the municipal election.

With much attention focused last week on Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel‘s harsh criticisms of the recent provincial budget, it may have been easy to miss news that candidates planning to seek election in this October’s municipal election are beginning to creep out of the woodwork.

Michael Walters
Michael Walters

Community organizer Michael Walters launched his campaign this weekend in Edmonton City Council’s Ward 10. The Ward is being vacated by two-term Councillor Don Iveson, who announced last year that he would not seek re-election in Ward 10. Mr. Walters was the Alberta Party candidate in Edmonton-Rutherford in the 2012 provincial election and has recently been involved in local initiatives to redevelop the near-abandoned Petrolia Mall in the Greenfield neighbourhood.

More than 200 people attended Mr. Walters’ campaign launch, including Ward 9 Councillor Bryan Anderson (who also recently announced his intentions to seek re-election), former Councillor Michael Phair, Edmonton-Riverview PC MLA Steven Young, former School Board Trustee Sue Huff, and past Liberal candidate Arif Khan.

Ray Martin Edmonton
Ray Martin

Speaking to a crowd of New Democrats gathered to celebrate his more than 30-year career in politics, former MLA Ray Martin announced his intention to seek election in Edmonton Public School Board’s Ward D in this October’s municipal elections. Ward D’s current Trustee, Dave Colburn, announced he will not seek re-election.

“Once again, Edmonton’s schools in the urban core are in the crosshairs of PC budget cuts.” said Mr. Martin said in a press release this morning. “It’s time for Edmontonians to stand up for these schools and neighbourhoods and I’ll be happy to take that fight to the board and to the PC government.”

If political candidates earned Air Miles for each time they ran in an election, Mr. Martin would be the New Democratic Party’s resident globetrotter. Having served as his party’s provincial leader and leader of the Official Opposition from 1984 to 1993, Mr. Martin has become his party’s most well-known standard bearer over the past thirty-years (at least).

First elected as MLA for Edmonton-Norwood from 1982 to 1993, Mr. Martin returned to provincial politics in 2004, serving as Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview‘s MLA until 2008. Between his times in provincial politics, Mr. Martin was an elected trustee representing Ward D and was a perennial federal NDP candidate in Edmonton. Most recently, Mr. Martin ran as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-East in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections and in Edmonton-Glenora in the 2012 provincial election.

Mimi Williams Edmonton
Mimi Williams

Writer and local activist Mimi Williams has announced her plans to challenge Councillor Tony Caterina in Ward 7 (Councillor Caterina is expected to seek re-election). A long-time NDP activist, Ms. Williams made her announcement at the NDP provincial council held last weekend in Edmonton. Her previous electoral experience includes runs for Edmonton Public School Board in 1995 and City Council in 1998, 2001, and 2004. Ms. Williams is expected to officially launch her campaign later this year.

Check out the updated list of Edmonton Election 2013 candidates for more.