Tag Archives: Rebel Media

Anti-Abortion activists stage an “invalid takeover” of Alberta’s Social Credit Party

Jeremy Fraser Social Credit Party Alberta Leader

Jeremy Fraser

It has been a long time since Alberta’s Social Credit Party played a central role in mainstream politics in our province. This could be why little attention was paid to the Socred’s annual general meeting in January 2016, where it appears that a group of anti-abortion activists staged a takeover the party leadership.

Len Skowronski, who served as leader from 2007 until the leadership change at the AGM, described it as an “invalid takeover” executed by a group of pro-lifers. “We true Socreds hope to rectify the situation at the next AGM,” Mr. Skowronski wrote in an email to this blogger.

According to Elections Alberta documents, Jeremy Fraser is now the party leader. He previously served as the party’s first vice-president and the party’s candidate in Highwood in the 2015 election, where he earned 187 votes.

Mr. Fraser posted the following message on his Facebook page days before the AGM:

Dear Pro-Life Social Credit Party Members and Supporters,

I want to thank you for all your support of the Social Credit Party over the past year! We have made great progress in building the Pro-Life political movement in Alberta. From recruiting many emerging Pro-Life leaders who have gained valuable knowledge and skills in political leadership on our provincial board to activating lifelong Pro-Life supporters at the grassroots level, helping them engage effectively in our last provincial election.

It hasn’t always been easy, but we have made great strides in promoting Pro-Life public policy and working for a Culture of Life! Thank you!

This Saturday is our Party’s Annual General Meeting. This is a very important opportunity to forward the Pro-Life cause politically in Alberta!

We will be voting to elect a strong team of Pro-Life leaders to the Provincial Executive and Board of Directors. Registration will take place from 1:00-1:30 PM at the Capitol Hill Community Hall, 1531 21 Ave NW, Calgary from 1-4. You can register at the door, $10/person 14yrs or older. Families are welcome to bring their younger children as there will be plenty of room.

This year’s AGM will be critical. We will be voting on the current leadership of the party which could result in the election of a new Leader of the Alberta Social Credit Party. It is vital that we ensure that we vote for a Leader who stands strongly for Pro-Life principles and shares our focus on promoting them openly.

A Social Credit advertisement from Alberta's 1944 election.

A Social Credit advertisement from Alberta’s 1944 election.

Speaking to the High River Times in April 2015, Mr. Fraser was quoted as saying “I will emphasize the Pro-Life values of Albertans, making constituents and other candidates aware of the issues surrounding abortion and how they are directly relevant to provincial policy… We should de-fund abortion and fund the life affirming alternatives of crisis pregnancy support, parental support, and adoption.”

It just so happens that “Eliminate the funding of abortions” is now prominently included in the first section of the Social Credit Party 2019 election platform, which has been published on the party website.

Mr. Fraser was a volunteer for the publicity campaign to recall Highwood MLA Danielle Smith after the former Wildrose leader crossed the floor to the PCs in December 2014. Also volunteering for that campaign were conservative activists Amanda Achtman and Caitlyn Madlener, who are now contributors to Ezra Levant‘s Rebel Media website (Ms. Madlener stood behind Jason Kenney as he launched his campaign for the Progressive Conservative leadership).

Ironically for Mr. Fraser, Alberta’s only recall legislation was repealed by the Social Credit government in 1936.

The Social Credit Party formed government in Alberta from 1935 to 1971. The party last elected an MLA to the Legislature in 1979. Former Social Credit Party leader Randy Thorsteinson, who led the party to win 6.8 percent of the vote in the 1997 election and later formed the Alberta Alliance Party (now known as the Wildrose Party) recently became the leader of the newly formed Reform Party of Alberta.

A message sent to Mr. Fraser was not responded to at the time this post was published.

Tonight ends the second quarter of political fundraising in Alberta

On the final night of second quarter fundraising period for Alberta’s political parties, I thought it would be useful to take a look back at the past year in political party fundraising. There has been a seismic shift in our politics in this province since last year when the Progressive Conservatives were defeated in the general election and Albertans elected their first new government in 44 years.

Immediately after their election, the New Democratic Party government implemented one of their key election promises to ban corporations and unions from donating money to political parties. This change had a significant immediate impact on the PC Party, which had relied heavily on large donations from corporations to sustain its operations and fill its large campaign war-chest. The shock of the election loss and severing of its access to corporate donors led the PC Party to raise only $15,575.50 in the third quarter of 2015, it’s lowest fundraising period in decades.

The PC Party appeared to have somewhat recovered by the fourth quarter of 2015, when it raised $221,959.50.

Alberta Political Party Fundraising 2015 2016

Alberta Political Party fundraising total in 2015 and 2016. These numbers only include funds raised by political parties, not candidates or constituency associations. (Click the image to enlarge)

The NDP and Wildrose Party faired better and adapted much quicker to the changes due to their already substantial base of individual donors. Both parties rely heavily on individual donors contributing amounts under the $250 reporting threshold.

All the major political parties have been soliciting donations in advance of tonight’s deadline. The NDP and Wildrose Party in particular have been flooding their supporters and past donors inboxes with email appeals for donations over the past week.

Here is a sample of what has hit my inbox over the past few weeks:

Help us defeat the NDP in Q2!” was the subject line of one email from Wildrose executive director Jeremy Nixon on June 24, 2016.

We’re publicly measured against our opponents, and we’ve got just five days to match the Wildrose dollar for dollar.” was the lede of one email from NDP Provincial Secretary Roari Richardson on June 25, 2016.

The NDP are now charging you $5.1 million to advertise their carbon tax plan that is putting 15,000 jobs at risk and taking $1,000 a year out of the typical Alberta household.” was the start of one appeal from Wildrose environment critic Todd Loewen on June 21, 2016. (The Wildrose Party paid Ezra Levant‘s Rebel Media to send this letter to its list of supporters).

It’s 2016 – yet the opposition seems to be stuck in the stone age. Countries around the world are working to address climate change. Yet Wildrose leaders continue to deny basic science.” was the lede of an email from NDP Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman on June 28, 2016.

We need to send a strong message to the NDP, and to all Albertans, that Wildrose is the only party ready to govern in 2019.” wrote Wildrose House Leader Nathan Cooper on June 30, 2016.

We ended 44 years of Conservative rule, reversed devastating cuts to education. We’re leading Alberta’s future with our forward-thinking Climate Leadership Plan. We can’t go back to the days of tax giveaways for the wealthiest and less support for hard working families.” was the end of an email appeal from Premier Rachel Notley on June 30, 2016.

The results of the second quarter fundraising will be released in July 2016.

Journalism degrees or degrees of journalism

This week’s kerfuffle over the Rebel Media website’s fight with the Government of Alberta has dominated the news cycle, demonstrating the lack of experience of an NDP government still in their first year in government. Here is a quick summary of what I understand happened:

  1. Rebel freelancer Holly Nicholas attended a technical briefing meeting for media before the release of the Royalty Review Panel report on Jan. 29, 2016. She says that she was asked to leave after being in the room for most of the meeting. It is not clear why she would have been asked to leave.
  2. Rebel freelancer Sheila Gunn Reid was denied entry into a technical briefing meeting for stakeholders before the release of the Royalty Review Panel report which was being held on the same day as the technical briefing meeting for media. It is my understating that no media were allowed entry into this meeting.
  3. Ms. Gunn Reid was not allowed entry into the Alberta Legislature on Feb. 3, 2016 to attend a joint press conference held by Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Neither was I, or was blogger David Climenhaga. On that day, I was informed by the Premier’s Communications Office that this was a decision made by the Prime Minster’s Communications Office.
  4. In response to a letter sent by Rebel’s lawyer Fred Kozak on Feb. 8, 2016, a letter from a government lawyer on Feb. 12, 2016 stated the government believes that Rebel and those identifying as being connected to the website are not journalists and not entitled to access media lock-ups or other events.

The fourth point in the most mind-boggling. The Government of Alberta does not have the authority to decide who is and who is not a “journalist.” I cannot understand how someone in government thought that response would be a good idea. It makes the NDP look heavy-handed and is a good example of what the right-wing fringe means when it uses the phrase ‘nanny-state.”

Founded by former lobbyist and Sun TV host Ezra Levant, the Rebel website speaks to Alberta’s right-wing fringe and essentially operates with the characteristics of an opposition group. I find much of their coverage distasteful and intentionally provocative, but they should be allowed to attend government media events, just as other media and opposition groups would be allowed.

As Warren Kinsella and Jason Markusoff pointed out, this is exactly the reaction that Mr. Levant and his crew wanted. And even though the NDP backed down from the ban today, they have already delivered Mr. Levant the attention he sought.

Heather Boyd, the former western bureau director for Canadian Press, has been recruited by the government to recommend new rules for media access. It would be a step backward for media in Alberta if new rules restrict access and participation of new online media.

Ms. Boyd’s recommendations will be submitted to the government in two or three weeks, which means this issue will become a topic of media coverage as MLAs return for the spring session of the Legislative Assembly and the government presents a Speech from the Throne.

A changing media landscape means there will be more online media with employees and freelancers who may not fall under the traditional description of “journalist.” As the large media corporations slash staff and cut back on local content, there is still a public demand for news. Citizens are turning online for their news sources, something that most of these news companies already recognize.

As the corporate media cuts back, I expect some newly unemployed journalists to start their own innovative online news companies. New trusted sources for political information will continue to sprout up online – this cannot be stopped by the government or the already established media companies.