Tag Archives: Richard Starke

Interim PC Party leader Ric McIver and 7 of his party's MLAs at their post-election leader's dinner.

The tough road ahead for Alberta’s opposition PC Party

When Members of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly gather on June 11 to choose a new Speaker, the seating chart will be unlike anything Albertans have seen in this province’s 110 year history. Premier Rachel Notley‘s New Democrats will occupy the majority of the seats, the Wildrose Party will sit as Official Opposition, and for the first time in 44 years the Progressive Conservative MLAs will sit in the opposition benches.

Ric McIver

Ric McIver

The three other political parties that previously held government in Alberta faded into obscurity soon after losing power. With the exception of the Liberal Party, none of the other parties (the United Farmers of Alberta and the Social Credit Party) ever reemerged into Alberta politics a meaningful way (though the UFA transformed into a successful agricultural cooperative).

And with these historical precedents in mind, it will undoubtably be a tough transition for the remaining PC MLAs and their party, who have no institutional memory of how to operate in opposition.

The PC Party has actually appointed a transition team to help navigate the party into opposition. While other provincial conservative parties in Canada can rely on their federal counterpart for assistance, it has been long suspected that many in the Conservative Party of Canada favour the more conservative Wildrose Party over the PCs.

Preston Manning

Preston Manning

A big challenge facing PC MLAs in the upcoming session of the Legislature is to simply be relevant now that they are no longer in government. Interim leader Ric McIver announced his caucus critic roster today (see the list below) and it will be fascinating to watch how those MLAs perform in their new roles. It is still yet to be seen what the motley crew of nine MLAs that make up the PC Caucus have in common politically, other than wanting to have been elected into government, or if they can even work together as a team.

Who does and does not vie to become the party’s seventh leader in the past ten years will also be telling. Former cabinet ministers Mr. McIver and Manmeet Bhullar are frequently named as possible contenders, as is former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who was unseated by Nicole Goehring in the NDP sweep of Edmonton. What political direction these potential leaders would lead the new party is unknown.

Thomas Lukaszuk MLA Edmonton-Castle Downs

Thomas Lukaszuk

Losing power after 44 years in office makes the PC Party a brokerage party with nothing left to broker. And while a future in opposition without the comfort of large corporate donations may look bleak, PC Party supporters now have an opportunity to redefine what their party stands for and rebuild its credibility after crippling election defeat. While the memory of PC scandals and arrogance are fresh in the minds of Albertans today, including distasteful comments recently made by a member of the PC Party board, there are four long years before the next election.

We can expect many of the usual suspects, including professional political meddler Preston Manning, to advocate a merger of two main conservative parties. Both PC and Wildrose MLAs should not forget the role Mr. Manning played in manufacturing the disastrous floor-crossing that critically damaged both conservative parties in Alberta before the recent election.

Because of its history and bitter political differences, future floor crossings are not a palatable option and a merger of the PC Party and Wildrose Party would probably not be a match made in heaven. If it is possible for the PC Party to survive outside of government, could it play a role in Alberta politics as an urban based conservative opposition?


Here is the PC Opposition Caucus critic roster for the upcoming session of the Legislature:

PC MLA Critic Role
Ric McIver, MLA
Calgary-Hays
  • Interim Leader
  • Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour
  • Municipal Affairs
Wayne Drysdale, MLA
Grande Prairie-Wapiti
  • Caucus Whip
  • Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development
  • Transportation
Richard Starke, MLA
Vermilion-Lloydminster
  • PC Opposition House Leader
  • Culture and Tourism
  • Health
  • Parks and Recreation
Richard Gotfried, MLA
Calgary-Fish Creek
  • International and Intergovernmental Relations
  • Seniors
Manmeet Bhullar, MLA
Calgary-Greenway
  • Finance and Treasury Board
  • Infrastructure
Dave Rodney, MLA
Calgary-Lougheed
  • Aboriginal Relations
  • Innovation and Advanced Education
Sandra Jansen, MLA
Calgary-North West
  • Education
  • Human Services
  • Status of Women
Rick Fraser, MLA
Calgary-South East
  • Energy
  • Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
Mike Ellis, MLA
Calgary-West
  • Justice and Solicitor General
  • Service Alberta

 

Monday morning candidate nomination updates in Alberta

Super-Saturday-PC-Nomination-Election-AlbertaThe Progressive Conservatives held their first “Super Saturday” on Feb. 21, 2015, during which contested nominations were held in seven constituencies. The handful of contested PC nominations have been overshadowed by the nearly forty acclamations by incumbent PC MLAs across the province.

The Liberal Party, still without a permanent leader after Raj Sherman‘s abrupt resignation in Jan. 2015, has opened candidate nominations in all 87 constituencies and have made notice on their website that all Liberal nominations must be complete by March 1, 2015. If the Liberals are actually able to nominate candidates in all 87 constituencies in the next seven days, it will be a busy week on this blog.

Here are the latest updates to the growing list of nomination candidates preparing to run in the expected Spring 2015 Alberta Election:

Craig Copeland Bonnyville Cold Lake MLA PC

Craig Copeland

Bonnyville-Cold Lake: Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland defeated former Wildrose nomination candidate Dixie Dahlstedt in the PC nomination. Some local party members complained about the lack of multiple voting locations in the rural constituency and the police were called to the voting station after an allegedly intoxicated man caused a disturbance. A Municipal District of Bonnyville councillor told the Cold Lake Sun that alleged he was the man removed by the RCMP and he was not intoxicated. Current PC MLA Genia Leskiw is not seeking re-election.

Calgary-Buffalo: Lawyer David Khan will seek the Liberal nomination in this downtown Calgary constituency. Buffalo is currently represented by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, who is running for the federal Liberals in Calgary-Centre, and has elected Liberals in six of the eight elections held since 1986. Mr. Khan was his party’s candidate in the 2014 Calgary-West by-election where he earned 8.5% of the vote.

David Khan Liberal Calgary Buffalo Candidate

David Khan

Calgary-Bow: David Gamble is seeking the Liberal nomination. According to his Facebook Page, Mr. Gamble is the President and CEO of Dandly Writing and Communications.

Calgary-Cross: Seven candidates are seeking the PC nomination in this northeast Calgary constituency – Dan Singh SidhuMohamed El-Rafih, Jesse Minhas, Manjit Jaswal, Hardeep Rai, Hirde Paul, and Bill Kahlon. The constituency has been represented by PC MLA Yvonne Fritz since 1993. She is not seeking re-election.

Calgary-Currie: Pat Murray is seeking the Liberal nomination. Mr. Murray was the Liberal Party candidate in Calary-Currie in the 2001 election and Calgary-North Hill in 2004 and 2008 elections. He also ran as a federal PC candidate in Calgary-Nose Hill in the 1997 federal election.

Richard Gotfried Calgary Fish Creek PC MLA

Richard Gotfried

Calgary-Fish CreekRichard Gotfried defeated Myles McDougall to become the PC candidate. The constituency is currently represented by Wildrose MLA Heather Forsyth, who is not seeking re-election.

Calgary-Foothills: Electrical engineer Ali Bin Zahid is seeking the Liberal nomination to run against Premier Jim Prentice in the next election.

Calgary-Glenmore: David Waddington is the nominated Liberal Party candidate.

Calgary-Hawkwood: Beth Barberee has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.

Calgary-McCall: Realtor Avinash Khangura is seeking the Liberal nomination. The constituency is currently represented by Liberal MLA Darshan Kang, who is now the federal Liberal candidate in the Calgary-Skyview constituency.

Stephanie McLean NDP Calgary Varsity

Stephanie McLean

Calgary-Mountain View: Former MLA Mark Hlady defeated Mr. Prentice’s former Chief of Staff Jean-Sebastien Rioux and Lynn Moen in the PC nomination. Mr. Hlady was the MLA from 1993 until 2004, when he was unseated by the current Liberal MLA, David Swann.

Calgary-North West: First-term PC MLA and former cabinet minister Sandra Jansen defeated past city council candidate Blair Houston in the PC nomination.

Calgary-Varsity: Stephanie McLean was nominated as the NDP candidate in this northwest Calgary constituency. Ms. McLean was the NDP candidate in the recent Calgary-Elbow by-election and is also her party’s federally nominated candidate in Calgary-Confederation. Paramedic Pete Helfrich is the nominated Liberal Party candidate. Mr. Helfrich ran for the Liberals in Banff-Cochrane in the 2012 election.

Jamie Lall PC Chestermere Rocky View

Jamie Lall

Chestermere-Rockyview: Jamie Lall is challenging Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Bruce McAllister for the PC nomination. Mr. Lall was his party’s 2012 candidate in the Calgary-Buffalo constituency.

Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview: First-term NDP MLA Deron Bilous has been acclaimed as his party’s candidate in the next election.

Edmonton-Calder: Ministerial Chief of Staff Tom Bradley has been acclaimed as the PC candidate in this northeast Edmonton constituency current represented by NDP MLA David Eggen. Mr. Bradley is currently the Chief of Staff to Infrastructure Minister Manmeet Bhullar and also served as Base Commander for CFB Edmonton from 2009 to 2011 and Chief of Operations for Task Force Kandahar in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2008.

Chris Labossiere Edmonton Rutherford PC MLA

Chris Labossiere

Edmonton-MeadowlarkSteve Benson is challenging former Globe & Mail reporter Katherine O’Neill for the PC nomination. Former Catholic School District Trustee Debbie Cavaliere is said to been collecting signatures to contest the Liberal nomination. In 2008, Ms. Cavaliere challenged Raj Sherman in the Meadowlark PC nomination contest before withdrawing, switching parties and unsuccessfully running against him in that year’s election as the Liberal candidate. Dr. Sherman, who joined the Liberals in 2011 after becoming leader, is not seeking re-election.

Edmonton-Rutherford: Businessman and Edmonton enthusiast Chris Labossiere will face management consultant Grant Mann for the PC nomination. Mr. Labossiere has earned the endorsements of City Councillor Michael Walters, public school trustee Michael Janz, former Premier Dave Hancock, Edmonton Economic Development Corp. CEO Brad Ferguson and Poppy Barley CEO Kendall Barber, among others.

Rachel Notley Edmonton MLA Strathcona NDP

Rachel Notley

Edmonton-Strathcona: NDP leader Rachel Notley has been acclaimed as her party’s candidate in the next election. Former NDP MP Olivia Chow is scheduled to speak at Ms. Notley’s nomination meeting on March 1, 2015.

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo: Tracy McKinnon, chairperson of the Fort McMurray Catholic School District, is challenging first-term PC MLA Mike Allen for that party’s nomination. Mr. Allen achieved national notoriety in 2013 when he was charged in a prostitution sting while on government-funded trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota. He pleaded guilty to the charge in December 2013 and paid a $500 fine and court costs. Following the incident, he sat as an Independent MLA until July 2014, when PC MLAs voted to allow him to rejoin the Government Caucus.

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith

Highwood: Wildrose leader-turned-PC MLA Danielle Smith will face Okotoks town councillor Carrie Fischer in the PC nomination contest. Joel Windsor is running for the Alberta Party.

Medicine Hat: Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Blake Pedersen defeated former city councillor John Hamill and realtor Jeff Lanigan. Mr. Pedersen faced harsh criticism form his opponents in a recent nomination debate. “I will die on my sword before I cross the floor… people who cross the floor have no honour,” Mr. Hamill said of Mr. Pedersen.

Dustin Nau and local radio personality Val Olson are running for Wildrose nomination in Medicine Hat. Mr. Nau was his party’s 2012 election candidate in Calgary-Foothills.

Peace River: Debbie Jabbour is seeking the NDP nomination.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Tammy Cote defeated former Lacombe County Reeve Terry Engan in the PC nomination contest. Ms. Cote is the grand-niece of former PC MLA and lieutenant-governor Helen Hunley.

Spruce Grove-St. Albert: Rus Matichuk defeated former St. Albert city councillor Neil Kortash and government spokesperson Kathleen Range to become the PC candidate. The constituency was formerly represented by former Finance Minister Doug Horner, who resigned as MLA on Jan. 31, 2015.

Seven more PC MLAs have been acclaimed, bringing the total number of acclaimed PC candidates to 39: Moe Amery in Calgary-East, Dave Rodney in Calgary-Lougheed, David Dorward in Edmonton-Gold Bar, Steve Young in Edmonton-Riverview, Jacquie Fenske in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, Greg Weadick in Lethbridge-West and Richard Starke in Vermilion-Lloydminster.


I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.

Tuesday Night candidate nomination updates in Alberta

With the spectre of a spring provincial general election hanging over us, the Progressive Conservative, Wildrose and New Democratic parties are in a hurry to nominate candidates in Alberta’s 87 constituencies. On Jan. 19, 2015, the PC Party announced that nomination votes would be opened in 12 more constituencies on Feb. 28, (in addition to the 35 constituencies scheduled to hold nomination contests on Feb 21, 2015). This means the PC Party will have more than half of their election candidates nominated before the end of February 2015.

In desperate need of good news, the Wildrose Party is expected to soon announce a handful of newly nominated candidates in constituencies across Alberta. The Liberals have yet to nominate any candidates.

Here are the latest candidate nomination updates, by constituency:

Ron Casey Banff Cochrane MLA

Ron Casey

Banff-Cochrane: Progressive Conservative MLA Ron Casey has announced plans to run for his party’s nomination. Mr. Casey was first elected in 2012 and was the only PC MLA elected from rural southern Alberta in that election. Scott Wagner remains the only candidate in the Wildrose nomination contest, as Paul McLean withdrew from the contest soon after the mass-floor crossing of Wildrose MLAs in December 2014.

Calgary-Northern Hills: MLA Teresa Woo-Paw declared on Twitter that she is running for re-election. The two-term MLA is being challenged for the PC nomination by mortgage broker and L.L.B. graduate Aryan Sadat.

Calgary-VarsityStephanie Mclean is seeking the NDP nomination, scheduled for February 21, 2015. Ms. Mclean recently stood as the NDP candidate in the Calgary-Elbow by-election and will also soon be nominated as the federal NDP candidate in the new Calgary-Confederation riding.

Sarah Hoffman NDP Edmonton Glenora

Sarah Hoffman

Edmonton-Glenora: As predicted in my previous update, Edmonton Public School Board Chairperson Sarah Hoffman will seek the NDP nomination, scheduled for Feb. 13, 2015. Ms. Hoffman was first elected to the school board in 2010. Ms. Hoffman’s candidacy has been endorsed by fellow trustees Michael Janz, Michelle Draper, and Ray Martin.

Edmonton-Gold Bar: This will be a race to watch. PC MLA David Dorward plans to seek re-election. Gold Bar was held by the Liberals from 1986 until 2012, when popular MLA Hugh MacDonald retired. The lack of Liberal incumbent led to a three-way race which saw Mr. Dorward elected with 33% of the vote. Placing second in that race with 29% was NDP candidate Marlin Schmidt, who is already nominated to run again.

Kerry Towle

Kerry Towle

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake: Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Kerry Towle announced she will seek the PC nomination. Ms. Towle crossed the floor to the PCs in late November 2014.

Little Bow: Bev Muendel-Atherstone announced on Facebook that she has submitted her nomination papers to run in this southern rural constituency. Ms. Muendel-Atherstone earned 6.15% of the vote as the NDP candidate in the 2012 election.

Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills: Town of Carstairs Councillor Nathan Cooper is running for the Wildrose Party nomination in this central Alberta constituency. Mr. Cooper currently serves as Chief of Staff for the Wildrose Official Opposition.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: The Sundre RoundUp reports that the former Wildrose-turned-Independent MLA Joe Anglin is considering a run for the PC nomination in his constituency. First elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2012, Mr. Anglin also led the Alberta Green Party from 2008 to 2009.

Vermilion-Lloydminster: First-term PC MLA Richard Starke announced on Twitter that he will seek the PC nomination in this east central Alberta constituency. Mr. Starke briefly served as Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation from 2013 until 2014.


I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.

Alberta Tories hold the World’s Most Boring Leadership Race

2014 PC Leadership Race Alberta Thomas Lukaszuk Jim Prentice Ric McIver

Yaaawwwnn… Alberta Progressive Conservative Party leadership candidates Thomas Lukaszuk, Ric McIver and Jim Prentice.

In 53 days, members of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party will vote to choose their next leader and the next Premier of Alberta.

Unlike previous PC leadership races, where Albertans of all political-inclinations were excited to participate in the vote to directly choose the next Leader of the Natural Governing Party, there does not appear to be any sign of overwhelming interest in 2014. This year’s PC leadership race, held less than three years since the last one, appears to be far away from the minds of most Albertans.

The overwhelming perception that former federal politician and bank executive Jim Prentice is the sure-bet in the race has certainly contributed to the disinterest. Mr. Prentice’s campaign has the backing of the party’s powerful establishment and boasts a long-list of MLA endorsements – 49 of 59 PC MLAs, including recent additions St. Albert MLA Stephen Khan, Tourism minister Richard Starke and Anti-bullying minister Sandra Jansen.

With their party lagging behind the Wildrose (and the NDP) in some polls, PC MLAs are nervous that a divisive leadership race will further damage their party.

Mr. Prentice’s campaign succeeded early in the race in chasing away his most serious potential rivals, like Finance minister Doug Horner, current Energy minister Diana McQueen and former Energy minister Ken Hughes, out of the race. He now faces former cabinet ministers Ric McIver and Thomas Lukaszuk, who have no support in the caucus (other than themselves).

On the ideas front, there has not been much to discuss. Two months after Mr. Prentice entered the leadership race, it still remains unclear what he stands for. He speaks in vague generalizations about “keeping Alberta strong,” “pursuing commons sense policies,” “global markets and long-term capital investment” and “an end to sweet heart government contracts for political staff,” but provides little detail.

Unlike the 2011 leadership contest, during which the PC Party organized public forums in each region of the province, there are no public debates scheduled for this contest. The lack of public venues for the candidates to engage with each other has made Mr. Prentice’s low-risk front-runner campaign hard to beat.

And without any public debates, there is little opportunity for PC Party members or any interested members of the general public to challenge the candidates into providing more details about what they would do as premier.

While two years of embarrassment and scandal have seriously damaged the reputation of the 43-year old government, the PC Party is still the party in power and will sell a lot of memberships. But the key number will be how many of these members actually vote in the leadership selection (144,289 voted in 2006 and 78,176 voted in 2011).

Unlike previous races, where anyone could show up on the day of the vote and buy a membership, this year’s vote will be held online and memberships sales will be cut off 36 hours before the vote is held.

Any voter apathy around Mr. Prentice’s front-runner status could help his opponents. However unlikely, it is not impossible to foresee a scenario where one of his opponents could capitalize on perception that Mr. Prentice’s win is a forgone conclusion. A low-voter turnout on the September 6 first ballot vote could actually help another candidate with a more motivated base of support.

Mr. McIver’s reputation as Calgary’s Dr. No still carries some cache among Calgary conservatives. And, despite condemnations from media columnists and liberals, his association with Calgary Street Church and the March for Jesus could have actually solidified his support among social conservatives (who have the motivation to vote).

Some political watchers suspect that the PC Party is purposely downplaying the leadership race, and there may be truth to this. The establishment of the long-governing party is eager to avoid any controversy that would result in the defeat of the establishment’s chosen candidate, like happened in 1992, 2006 and 2011.

So, while we may spend the next 53 days watching a leadership race devoid of excitement and substance, we can only hope that this boring leadership race produce some interesting results.

Rejection of Gay-Straight Alliances motion shows some Alberta MLAs need a reality check

Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to introduce legislation, like Manitoba’s and Ontario’s, requiring all school boards to develop policies to support students who want to lead and establish gay-straight alliance activities and organizations, using any name that is consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive, welcoming, and respectful for all students regardless of sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

It was a simple motion introduced on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly on April 7, 2014 that would help create safer environments for students in schools. Nineteen Liberal, New Democrat, and Progressive Conservative MLAs voted in favour of the motion, but it failed after 31 PC and Wildrose MLAs stood up and voted against it.

Kent Hehr MLA Calgary-Buffalo

Kent Hehr

Motion 503, introduced by Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr, was not a piece of binding legislation, it was a symbolic message of that all students, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, can be welcomed and accepted in Alberta’s education system.

Creating safe and supportive environments for all students, including LGBTQ youth who may face discrimination in and outside of school, should be something that is encouraged by MLAs.

Mr. Hehr’s motion undoubtably would have made some social conservatives uncomfortable, but it would have ultimately helped drag some of Alberta’s more stodgy school boards into the 21st century. The motion would not have forced any school board to form student-led gay-straight alliances, but it would have compelled the elected boards to accept the existence of the groups if students in their schools chose to organize them.

Alberta MLA Vote Gay Straight Alliances Vote Motion 503

A map showing the constituencies represented by MLAs who voted in favour (blue) and against (red) Motion 503. White indicates MLAs who were not present for the vote. (Click to enlarge)

Passage of this motion would have sent a strong message that tolerance and acceptance are priorities Alberta’s provincial legislators.

Anti-bullying minister Sandra Jansen voted in favour but Education minister Jeff Johnson voted against it.

Missing from the vote were Premier Dave Hancock and NDP leader Brian Mason, who both later said they would have voted in favour had they been in the Assembly. Wildrose opposition leader Danielle Smith was not present for the vote and it is not clear if she would have voted differently than her party’s MLAs.

The divided PC government caucus also missed an opportunity to send a clear message that they embrace 21st century values by singling out the opposition Wildrose as the only party to unanimously vote against the motion – and remind Albertans of the infamous Lake of Fire.  And for the Wildrose, a vote for the motion, even by one or two of that party’s MLAs, would have done a lot of demonstrate the party is more moderate on social issues than its opponents claim.

In total, 36 MLAs were absent from the vote (minus the Speaker, who abstains from votes of the Assembly).

Voted in Favour: 19
Deron Bilous (NDP)
Laurie Blakeman (LIB)
Neil Brown (PC)
Pearl Calahasen (PC)
Cal Dallas (PC)
Alana DeLong (PC)
David Eggen (NDP)
Kyle Fawcett (PC)
Kent Hehr (LIB)
Ken Hughes (PC)
Sandra Jansen (PC)
Heather Klimchuk (PC)
Jason Luan (PC)
Thomas Luksazuk (PC)
Rachel Notley (NDP)
Don Scott (PC)
Raj Sherman (LIB)
David Swann (LIB)
Teresa Woo-Paw (PC)
Voted against: 31
Moe Amery (PC)
Rob Anderson (WR)
Drew Barnes (WR)
Gary Bikman (WR)
Robin Campbell (PC)
Ron Casey (PC)
Christine Cusanelli (PC)
Ian Donovan (WR)
David Dorward (PC)
Wayne Drysdale (PC)
Jacquie Fenske (PC)
Rick Fraser (PC)
Yvonne Fritz (PC)
Hector Goudreau (PC)
Jeff Johnson (PC)
Linda Johnson (PC)
Maureen Kubinec (PC)
Genia Leskiw (PC)
Bruce McAllister (WR)
Everett McDonald (PC)
Diana McQueen (PC)
Frank Oberle (PC)
Bridget Pastoor (PC)
Dave Rodney (PC)
Bruce Rowe (WR)
Shayne Saskiw (WR)
Richard Starke (PC)
Rick Strankman (WR)
Kerry Towle (WR)
George VanderBurg (PC)
Greg Weadick (PC)

Two rookies turfed from Tory cabinet.

New Tourism Minister Richard Starke, and departing cabinet ministers Stephen Khan and Christine Cusanelli.

New Tourism Minister Richard Starke, and departing cabinet ministers Stephen Khan and Christine Cusanelli.

In an unexpected move, Premier Alison Redford shuffled two rookie cabinet ministers out of her cabinet yesterday morning. Advanced Education & Enterprise Minister Stephen Khan (MLA St. Albert) and Tourism Minister Christine Cusanelli (MLA Calgary-Currie) were both appointed to cabinet in May 2012.

Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk

Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk

Mr. Khan’s time in cabinet was largely seen as reserved and underwhelming. Ms. Cusanelli caused an unwelcome stir when she was forced to repay the government $10,600 for expenses made in her first five months in office, including $4,000 in airfare to have her daughter and mother join her at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, United Kingdom. She was also given the unenviable task of defending the government’s large line of hospitality expenses at the London Games.

Ms. Cusanelli’s ministerial office was recently shuffled with the hiring of Chief of Staff Tammy Forbes, who previously served as the Premier’s media liaison, and press secretary Andrew Fisher, who previously served as Chief of Staff.

Replacing Mr. Khan is Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who has been operating without an official cabinet portfolio since before last year’s election. First-term MLA Richard Starke, representing Vermilion-Lloydminster, has been tapped to replace Ms. Cusanelli as Minister of Tourism.

——

Minister Starke’s constituency has a long history of electing MLAs who later served as cabinet ministers.

First to the Tory cabinet was Lloydminster MLA Bud Miller served as the Minister of Public Lands and Wildlife in Premier Peter Lougheed‘s cabinet from 1979 to 1982.

Directly preceding Minister Starke was Lloyd Snelgrove, who was MLA from 2001 to 2012 and served in a number of portfolios during Premier Ed Stelmach‘s time in office, including a period of Minister of Finance. Citing irreconcilable differences, Mr. Snelgrove left the PC caucus to sit as an Independent MLA following Premier Redford’s successful leadership bid.

Preceding Mr. Snelgrove was Steve West, who served as the constituency’s MLA from 1986 to 2001 and served in a number of cabinet portfolios during Premier Ralph Klein‘s time in office, including Minister of Finance.

(Judging from historical trends, you might think there is a good chance that Minister Starke could one day be Minister of Finance).

Where in the world are Tory cabinet ministers?

Brussels, Bucharest, and Juneau are three international destinations where Tory MLAs were scheduled to visit during Government of Alberta sponsored trips today.

Environment and Sustainable Resources Minister Diana McQueen and Intergovernmental and International Relations Minister Cal Dallas have embarked on a pan-European tour, meeting with business and government leaders in a handful of continental counties. Backbench Tory MLA Richard Starke, from Vermilion-Lloydminster, is on government business in Juneau, Alaska.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Fred Horne is scheduled to depart for a trip that will take him to Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Belgium.

On October 1, 2012, I published a Google Map, tracking the travel of Alberta’s Tory cabinet minister and MLAs on government business. Here is an updated map, which includes all published scheduled government of Alberta travel by cabinet ministers and MLAs from November 2011 to February 2013.


View Alberta Cabinet Minister and MLA Travel November 2011-February 2013 in a larger map

Trips added since November 2012 include Middle-Eastern travel by Minister Dallas, trips to the United States by Calgary-Bow MLA Alana DeLong, Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber, and Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Dave Quest, a trip to Chicago by Premier Alison Redford and the four trips mentioned at the beginning of this post.

As I wrote in October, I understand the value of sending cabinet ministers on these trips to promote our province abroad and I generally believe it is in our best interest, but there reaches a certain point when return on investment needs to be demonstrated.

Wildrose Party wages permanent negative campaign against Redford Tories.

Alberta Wildrose Party Negative Ad

A yet to be released negative ad from the Wildrose Party.

The Wildrose Party is running a permanent negative campaign against the long-governing Progressive Conservative Party. Not taking time to break after their defeat in the May 2012 election, Danielle Smith and her 16 Wildrose MLAs are pushing hard to make Alison Redford’s Tories look corrupt and un-conservative.

Taking a more aggressive approach than their predecessors in the official opposition benches, the Wildrose have stunned the Tories into a stammer. Relentlessly berating the Tories for taking new approaches towards capital financing, the Wildrose Party are doing their best to cast the Tories as Conservatives in Name Only (CINOs). Gary Bikman, the Wildrose MLA from the deep rural south Cardston-Taber-Warner constituency, has started referring to the Tories as the “Progressive Party” on his Facebook Page.

The opposition is limited in the tactics available to them, so Wildrose MLAs use the “open-mic” available in Question Period to launch unrelenting attacks against Tory cabinet ministers. Taking a cue from the federal Conservatives in Ottawa, preambles to questions asked by Wildrose MLAs are now typically little more than negative partisan attacks. Considering the strong connections between the Wildrose Party and the Ottawa Conservatives, it is not surprising that they would adopt a similar strategy.

Here is a sample of a typical question asked by a Wildrose MLA during Question Period:

Mr. Speaker, this government has mismanaged our ___________ for years: illegal donations from ___________, outrageous expenses on ___________. Albertans are saying that they’ve had enough of the abuse from this government and enough of living in the most oppressive, intimidating environment that anyone could find themselves in. Will the Minister of ___________ finally recognize that years of systemic waste, abuse, intimidation, and disrespect on the part of this government have led to this crisis situation and immediately change his course of action and start addressing the obvious concerns of Albertans?

Short translation: “Mr. Speaker, can the Minister tell me why he is so awful at his job?

Anyone who has watched Question Period will know that it always includes a certain level of partisan rhetoric, but the level the level of partisan rhetoric has dramatically increased since the Wildrose MLAs formed official opposition this year. For example, earlier this week Two Hills-St. Paul-Lac La Biche Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw was called out for insinuating that the Premier’s sister, Lynn Redford, was a criminal (our justice system still operates under the presumption of innocence in this country).

It is a cynical approach towards politics. Not winning by offering better ideas or stronger leadership but by dragging your opponents deeper into the mud.

Speaker Gene Zwozdesky and Vermilion-Lloydminster Tory MLA Richard Starke have pleaded for decorum in the Assembly. But with the opposition MLAs unlikely to change their tactics, not all members of the Tory cabinet are willing to be great contributors to a reasoned debate.

Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who has been charged as the Question Period attack dog, strikes back at the Wildrose MLAs with ease. The Deputy Premier recently accused Ms. Smith of throwing her party’s candidates and Albertans under a bus. As any veteran opposition politician can attest, the Tories have not been in power for forty-one uninterrupted years by “being nice.”

Albertans tired of the rhetoric from this year’s elections should settle in and accept the reality that the negative campaign did not end on April 23, 2012. This campaign will continue until at least the next election.

alberta election candidate update – january 2012.

With an election fast approaching, Alberta’s political parties are busy nominating candidates across the province. Here is a regional breakdown showing where candidates have been nominated and some of the recent updates.

Nominated Alberta Election candidates by region (January 16, 2012)

Nominated Alberta Election candidates by region (January 16, 2012)

Airdrie: Former Airdrie Mayor Linda Bruce and current Alderman Kelly Hegg are seeking the Progressive Conservative nomination.

Banff-Cochrane: Real Estate broker Jon Bjorgum, Canmore Mayor Ron Casey have Rob Seeley have joined businessman John Fitzsimmons and Cochrane Mayor Truper McBride in the contest for the PC nomination on January 28, 2012. The Liberal Party nomination is scheduled to take place on January 26, 2012.

Bonnyville-Cold Lake: The Wildrose Party is searching for a candidate to replace Chuck Farrer, who has withdrawn his candidacy. Mr. Farrer was nominated in October 2010.

Norm Kelly Alberta Party candidate Calgary-Currie

Norm Kelly

Calgary-Currie: Lawyer Norm Kelly has been acclaimed as the Alberta Party candidate.

Calgary-GlenmoreLinda Johnson will face lawyer Byron Nelson for the PC nomination. The constituency is currently represented by Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman, who was elected in a 2010 by-election.

Calgary-Hawkwood: Sumita Anand has joined declared candidates Farouk AdatiaJason Luan, Chris Roberts, Kumar Sharma, and Doug Stevens in the PC nomination contest.

Calgary-McCall: It is a full house in the PC nomination contest on January 21, 2012 with 10 candidates having entered the race. Candidates include Khandaker Alam, Deepshikha Brar, Afzal Hanid, Amtul Khan, Jamie Lall, Aslam Malik, Ravi Prasad, Muhammad Rasheed, Jagdeep Sahota, and Jangbahadur Sidhu.

Calgary-Mountain View: Lawyer Cecilia Low was acclaimed as the PC candidate. This constituency has been represented by Liberal MLA David Swann since 2004.

Calgary-Northwest: First reported on this blog, former cabinet minster Lindsay Blackett will not be seeking re-election. Sandra Jansen announced yesterday that she will be seeking the PC nomination. Ms. Jansen is a former news anchor for Global Television and has served as Communications Manager for Premier Alison Redford‘s Southern Alberta Office since late last year.

Calgary-Shaw: The Alberta Party will be holding a nomination meeting on January 30, 2012. At this time, Brandon Beasley is the only declared candidate.

Calgary-West: Allan Ryan and former Calgary-McCall MLA Shiraz Shariff have joined Calgary Police Sergeant Mike Ellis and Ken Hughes.

Nicole Martel Edmonton-Centre PC nomination candidate

Nicole Martel

Edmonton-Centre: Urban Development Institute executive director Nicole Martel is seeking the PC nomination scheduled for January 24, 2012. Ms. Martel was the federal Liberal candidate in Edmonton-East in the 2006 election and a candidate for the Liberal nomination in Edmonton-Centre in 2008.

Edmonton-Ellerlise: Past Public School Board candidate Tina Jardine has withdrawn her name as the NDP candidate for personal reasons.

Edmonton-Gold Bar: Dennis O’Neill was acclaimed as the Alberta Party candidate.

Edmonton-Mill Woods: Despite bizarre nomination shenanigans, the PCs will hold their nomination meeting on January 28, 2012. Candidates include Ron Randhawa, Sohail Qadri, and controversy-prone MLA Carl Benito.

Edmonton-Riverview: Taleb Choucair, Edmonton Police Officer Steve Young, and former Public School Trustee Bev Esslinger are seeking the PC nomination on January 27, 2012.

Edmonton-South WestAllan Hunsperger is the nominated Wildrose candidate. Matt Jeneroux and Tofael Chowdhury are competing in the PC nomination scheduled for January 30, 2012. Mr. Choudhury was a candidate for the federal Liberal nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona in 2008.

Doug Faulkner Fort McMurray-Conklin Wildrose

Doug Faulkner

Fort McMurray-Conklin: Former Wood Buffalo Mayor Doug Faulkner was acclaimed as the Wildrose candidate. Mr. Faulkner was a federal PC candidate in the 2000 election and federal Liberal candidate in the 2004 election. Councillor Don Scott was acclaimed as the PC candidate.

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo: Andrew Highfield has joined declared candidates Mike Allen, Nick Sanders, and Jeff Thompson in competing for the PC nomination scheduled for January 28, 2012.

Lethbridge-East: Lethbridge County Reeve Lorne Hickey is challenging Liberal-turned-Tory MLA Bridget Pastoor for the PC nomination scheduled for January 26, 2012.

Medicine Hat: Darren Hirsch and Linda Rossler are seeking the PC nomination. The constituency is currently represented by 17-year MLA Rob Renner, who is not seeking re-election.

Red Deer-North: Well-known local historian Michael Dawe is seeking the Liberal nomination scheduled to be held on January 19, 2012.

Sherwood Park: Six candidates are vying for the PC nomination on January 21, 2012 to replace outgoing MLA Iris Evans. Declared candidates include Matthew Bissett, County Councillor Brian Botterill, Helen Calahasen, Murray Hutchinson, former Mayor Cathy Oleson, and local PC organizer Susan Timanson. Ms. Calahasen is the sister of long-time Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pearl Calahasen.

Vermilion-Lloydminster: Dr. Richard Starke was acclaimed as the PC candidate to replace outgoing MLA Lloyd Snelgrove.

Senator-in-Waiting Election 
Former PC Member of Parliament Douglas Fee has joined the PC nomination contest, to be held on February 10 and 11. Mr. Fee served as the MP for Red Deer from 1988 to 1993.

alberta election candidate update – december 2011.

The list of candidates nominated across the province continues to grow as we get closer to an expected Spring 2012 election.

Nominated Alberta election candidates by region. December 8, 2011
Nominated Alberta election candidates by region. December 8, 2011

The sudden burst of retirement announcements by Stelmach-era cabinet ministers has prompted a flurry of nomination activity in constituencies that could be considered Tory strongholds (where winning the PC nomination is typically the toughest fight):

Banff-Cochrane: Mayor Truper McBride is expected to enter the PC nomination contest in this mountain/foothills constituency today. Current PC MLA and former cabinet minister Janis Tarchuk announced this week that she will seek re-election, though some political watchers expect the former cabinet minister to retire when the next election is called.

Calgary-West: The Calgary Herald reported last night that Finance Minister Ron Liepert will not be running in the next election. Minister Liepert was first elected in 2004.

Grande Prairie-Smoky: Grande Prairie County Reeve Everett McDonald is seeking the PC nomination. The constituency is currently represented by MLA and former cabinet minister Mel Knight, who is not seeking re-election.

Iris Evans Sherwood Park MLA Progressive Conservative 2010

Retiring! Iris Evans

Sherwood Park: Long-time PC MLA and former cabinet minister Iris Evans will retire when the next election is called. Ms. Evans was first elected as MLA in 1997, defeating Liberal MLA Bruce Collingwood by over 300 votes. Matthew Bissett has announced his intentions to seek the PC nomination.

Vermilion-Lloydminster: Dr. Richard Starke is seeking the PC nomination, which is being left vacant by retiring MLA and former cabinet minister Lloyd Snelgrove.

Aside from the constituencies represented by retiring former cabinet ministers, here are other updates to the list of declared and nominated election candidates:

Calgary-Buffalo: The NDP are expected to acclaim Rebecca Eras as their candidate on December 13

Calgary-Cross:  The NDP are expected to acclaim Reinaldo Conterras on December 13. Mr. Conterras replaces previously nominated candidate Preet Sihota, who withdrew his candidacy for personal reasons.

Running?: Former MLA Jon Lord

Running? Former MLA Jon Lord

Calgary-Currie: Five prospective nomination candidates were testing the waters at a recent Meet and Greet event organized by the Calgary-Currie PC association. Potential nominees noted to have attended the event include former MLA and Alderman Jon LordStefan Spargo, Chair of the Calgary International Children’s Festival Charity Callahan, former Calgary-McCall constituency president Dale Galbraith, school principalChristine Cusanelli, and past-President of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association Brian Holtby.

Calgary-Glenmore: The PC nomination has been scheduled for January 28, 2012. Linda Johnson has declared her candidacy for the nomination.

Calgary-Hays: Former Alderman and recent Mayoral candidate Ric McIver defeated incumbent MLA Art Johnston to nab the PC nomination. This is the second time that Mr. Johnston, the parliamentary assistant to Premier Alison Redford, has lost a nomination contest this year. In May 2011, he was defeated by Rick Fraser in the Calgary-South East PC nomination.

Cecilia Low Progressive Conservative Calgary-Mountain View 2011

Running: Cecilia Low

Calgary-Mountain View: Lawyer Cecilia Low has announced her intention to seek the PC nomination, which has yet to be officially scheduled.

Calgary-North West: The NDP are expected to acclaim Brian Malkinson as their candidate on December 13.

Edmonton-Gold Bar: Liberal Party members nominated Josipa Petrunic as their candidate earlier this week (read more about Ms. Petrunic here). The PC nomination date has been scheduled for January 25, 2012. Past candidate David Dorward is the only candidate to have declared his candidacy.

Edmonton-Whitemud: The NDP are expected to acclaim Muriel Stanley Venne as their candidate on December 13.

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo: After circulating a rumour about a secret nomination meeting, Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier has decided that he will seek his party’s nomination in the new Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo constituency.

Leduc-Beaumont: Perennial political candidate Hana Razga is seeking the NDP nomination. Ms. Razga recently ran for Edmonton City Council in Ward 8.

Lethbridge-WestKevin Kinahan is the nominated Wildrose Party candidate. Mr. Kirnahan was his party’s 2008 candidate in Little Bow and failed to once again secure his party’s nomination in that constituency last year. Most of the local Wildrose constituency association board resigned in protest following claims of irregularities in the nomination process.

Little Bow: Farmer John Kolk has announced his intentions to seek the PC nomination.

Livingstone-Macleod: PC MLA Evan Berger was acclaimed for his party’s nomination. Mr. Berger was first elected in 2008.

St. Albert: First-term MLA PC Ken Allred announced yesterday that he will not be seeking re-electionKent La Rose was the fourth candidate to join the crowded PC nomination contest in this constituency last week.

Senate: City of Leduc Mayor Greg Krischke will seek the PC nomination for Senate. City of St. Albert Alderman and former Liberal MLA Len Bracko told the Edmonton Journal that he will be running in the Senate election as an Independent candidate. Mr. Bracko was the MLA for St. Albert from 1993 to 1997. He returned to St. Albert City Council in 2001.

Sources tell me that Calgary Police Commission chairman Mike Shaikh will enter the contest for the PC nomination for Senate later this week.