Tag Archives: Rick Fraser

Karen McPherson Jamie Kleinsteuber Calgary NDP MLA

MLA Karen McPherson bids farewell to the Alberta NDP

Photo: Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill MLA Karen McPherson (right) and Calgary-Northern Hills MLA Jamie Kleinsteuber (left). Source: Facebook

There have been a lot of changes on the opposition side of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly this year, but today marked the first time since 2015 that we saw a decline in the number of MLAs on the government side.

Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill MLA Karen McPherson unexpectedly announced on social media this morning that she was leaving the governing New Democratic Party caucus in order to sit as an Independent MLA. Elected in the Orange Wave that swept Alberta in 2015, McPherson has kept a relatively low profile in the Assembly while serving as chairperson of the Standing Committee on Private Bills.

In a statement that in parts sounded somewhat similar to what former UCP MLA Rick Fraser wrote last month when he announced he was sitting as an Independent MLA, McPherson wrote:

“Alberta, in fact the world, is changing quickly and I believe our political processes need to reflect these shifts. Continuing to do politics the way it’s being done will lead to further polarization. We are missing the middle where we have more in common with each other than we are different. Albertans need political choices that inspire them, not scare them.”

McPherson’s letter was short on details but included statements about the need to transform the health care and education system and the role of technology in the economy, including expanding high speed internet to all rural communities (she also mentioned this in a promotional video produced by the NDP caucus in July 2016).

As a backbench MLA, McPherson’s departure is not likely to have any significant impact on the functions of the government. But it does mark the most significant breach of party discipline the NDP has experienced during their first term in government. To their credit, Rachel Notley‘s NDP have done an impressive job enforcing MLA discipline in the government caucus, avoiding the kind of embarrassing bozo-eruptions that have plagued the Conservative opposition benches over the past two years.

Despite her low-profile and her insistence that the decision was made without malice, McPherson’s departure does add fuel to the narrative that the NDP is weak in Calgary, which is expected to be a key electoral battleground in the next election.


SHOCKER: Callaway endorses Kenney

If McPherson’s announcement came out of nowhere, the decision by Jeff Callaway to drop out of the United Conservative Party leadership race to endorse Jason Kenney was the exact opposite. Most political watchers I have spoken with believe that Callaway’s only real reason for entering the UCP leadership race was to attack Brian Jean on Kenney’s behalf.

Former PC MLAs Richard Starke (left) and Rick Fraser (right) at the 2016 Calgary Pride Parade.

No Thanks and So Long. Former PC MLA Rick Fraser leaves the UCP to sit as an Independent

Photo: Former PC MLAs Richard Starke (left) and Rick Fraser (right) at the 2016 Calgary Pride Parade (Photo from Facebook). 

The recently formed United Conservative Party may be leading in the polls but the party is looking a lot less united. One of the party’s 28 MLAs, Calgary-South East MLA Rick Fraser, announced on social media this morning that he was leaving the UCP caucus to sit as an Independent MLA.

Fraser, who was re-elected for a second term as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2015, is the third politician to leave the ranks of the UCP since it was formed in July 2017. Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke declined to join the UCP and decided to continue sitting as a PC MLA in the Assembly shortly after he party was founded. Then, in August 2017, the party’s co-finance critic Derek Fildebrandt resigned from the caucus after an expenses controversy and a traffic-accident related court battle.

In his resignation letter, Fraser gave a number of reasons for his departure, ranging from social and economic issues to the party’s increasingly polarizing hyper-partisan tone. While the UCP does not yet have any official policies, or even a permanent leader, it is seems clear that Fraser is uncomfortable with the direction that the province’s largest conservative party is heading.

Social issues are the achilles heel for the UCP, just as they were for the party’s previous incarnation, the Wildrose Party.

The two main candidates for the leadership of the party,  Jason Kenney and Brian Jean, are openly appealing to the party’s social conservative and rural base of supporters and have been extremely reluctant to discuss any social issues. And as we saw in this week’s UCP leadership debate, only Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer was willing to come out in support of gay rights, taking Kenney to task for his silence.

Earlier this year, Wildrose MLAs were tying themselves in knots over student-organized Gay-Straight Alliances and whether school administrators should be required to inform parents if their children joined one of the anti-bullying clubs. The debate, which was triggered by comments Kenney made to the Postmedia editorial board in Calgary, was painful and acrimonious to watch.

And while the party’s interim governing board has issued a statement in support of LGBTQ rights, support for that position by some of UCP MLAs and party members is questionable.

The unanimous position among the UCP leadership candidates to repeal the carbon tax without proposing any alternatives to reform or replace it suggests that none of them see climate change as a serious issue.

Comments, tweets and Facebook posts promoting climate change denial and skepticism have been rampant among the former Wildrose MLAs in the UCP caucus. Earlier this year, Cypress-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Drew Barnes helped fund a film promoting climate science skepticism. And last year, Drumheller-Stettler UCP MLA Rick Strankman was  forced to apologize – twice – after penning an article comparing Alberta’s carbon tax to the Holodomor – the Ukrainian genocide of the 1930s.

An MLA’s first responsibility is to their constituents, and if Fraser does not feel he can effectively represent the people of Calgary-South East as a member of the UCP, he has every right to leave that caucus. He was elected under that banner of the Progressive Conservative Party and now that party is now essentially defunct.

Fraser writes in his letter that he will consult his constituents before making any future decisions, which means he might be open to joining another party sometime in the future. I am willing to bet that Greg Clark , leader of the upstart conservative-lite Alberta Party, is making some phone calls today.

Photo: Former PC MLAs Jacquie Fenske, Don Scott, Linda Johnson and Ron Casey

Former PC MLAs running for municipal office in 2017

Alberta’s 2015 provincial election resulted in the election of 75 new MLAs in the 87 seat Legislative Assembly. More than two years after that historic election, a group of former Progressive Conservative MLAs have put forward their names to stand in the October 16, 2017 municipal elections. Here is a quick look at some of the former PC MLAs jumping into municipal politics:

  • Jacquie Fenske is running for Mayor of Strathcona County. Fenske served as the PC MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville from 2012 until 2015 and previous to that as a Strathcona County councillor. Fenske was unseated by New Democrat Jessica Littlewood in the 2015 election.
  • Former Fort McMurray-Conklin PC MLA Don Scott is running to become the next mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Scott served on council from 2010 to 2012 and as MLA from 2012 until he was unseated by Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean in 2015. He served as Associate Minister of Accountability, Transparency and Transformation from 2012 to 2014 and Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education from 2014 until 2015.
  • Linda Johnson announced she is running for Calgary City Council in Ward 11. Johnson was the PC MLA for Calgary-Glenmore from 2012 until 2015, when she was defeated by 6 votes by New Democrat Anam Kazim. Current Ward 11 councillor Brian Pincott, who is not seeking re-election this year, is considering a run for the NDP in Calgary-Mountain View in the next provincial election.
  • Former Banff-Cochrane PC MLA Ron Casey is running for Mayor of Canmore, an office he held from 1998 to 2001 and 2004 until entering provincial politics in 2012. Casey will challenge John Borrowman, who was elected mayor in the by-election following the 2012 provincial election. Casey was unseated in the 2015 election by New Democrat Cameron Westhead.
  • Former PC MLA David Xiao is running for city council in Ward 5. Xiao was the MLA for Edmonton-McClung from 2008 to 2012 and served as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Employment and Immigration. ‘Edmonton-McClung MLA David Xiao’s claimed travel expenses of nearly $35,000 last year, more than any of his Edmonton colleagues,’ the CBC reported on Jan. 22, 2013. In 2014, he was disqualified from running for the federal Conservative nomination in the Edmonton-West riding. He was defeated in the 2015 election by New Democrat Lorne Dach.
  • Former PC MLA Art Johnston is running for Calgary City Council in Ward 13. Johnston was MLA for Calgary-Hays from 2004 to 2012. Johnston has the distinction of being the only MLA to endorse Alison Redford in the first round of voting in the 2011 PC leadership race and he served as parliamentary assistant to premier Redford from 2011 until 2012. He lost two bids to win his party’s nominations in advance of the 2012 election – to Rick Fraser in Calgary-South East and Ric McIver in Calgary-Hays.
  • Dave Quest had initially announced plans to run for Strathcona County council but has since withdrawn his name from the race. He served as the PC MLA for Strathcona-Sherwood Park from 2004 to 2015 until he was unseated by New Democrat Estefania Cortes-Vargas.

If I have missed any former MLAs running in this year’s municipal election, please let me know and I will mention them in future updates. Thanks!

Former PC MLA now organizing for the Alberta Party

Blake Pedersen MLA Medicine Hat

Blake Pedersen

Speaking of former PC MLAs… Blake Pedersen is listed as the contact person for upcoming annual general meetings for Alberta Party associations in the Medicine Hat and Cypress-Medicine Hat constituencies.

Pedersen was elected in 2012 as the Wildrose Party MLA for Medicine Hat and crossed the floor to the PCs in 2014. During his time as MLA he served as the Official Opposition critic for Culture and Innovation and Advanced Education.

He was unseated by New Democrat Bob Wanner in the 2015 election.

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

 

The Gang of Seven MLAs who have not endorsed Jim Prentice

The-Gang-of-Eight-Alberta

Dave Hancock, Alison Redford, Gene Zwozdesky, George VanderBurg, Bridget Pastoor, Rick Fraser, Linda Johnson (removed from list after she announced she is endorsing Jim Prentice – see update below), and Ron Casey.

By my count, there remain eight seven Progressive Conservative MLAs who have not endorsed a leadership candidate Jim Prentice in the race to become that party’s next leader. As of this week, 49 50 of 59 PC MLAs have endorsed Mr. Prentice’s candidacy to become their next leader. Leadership candidates Ric McIver and Thomas Lukaszuk have not earned any endorsements from their MLA colleagues.

Premier Dave Hancock, who is serving as the PC Party’s interim leader, has said he will not endorse any candidate as a condition of his temporary position in the Premier’s Office. Former Premier Alison Redford, whose scandal-filled departure triggered the leadership race, is not expected to endorse a candidate (it is unlikely that any of the leadership candidates would accept her endorsement). Ms. Redford remains the MLA for Calgary-Elbow.

Assembly Speaker Gene Zwozdesky and PC Caucus Whip George VanderBurg are expected to stay neutral in the contest because of their positions in the Assembly. Although these are legitimate reasons, it is not a requirement. Former Speaker Ken Kowalski set a precedent by endorsing candidates in the 2006 and 2011 PC leadership races.

Banff-Cochrane MLA Ron Casey was one of two MLAs to endorse Ken Hughes short-lived leadership campaign and has remained quiet since he dropped out of the contest on May 12, 2014. The remaining three Tories who have yet to issue an endorsement are Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget Pastoor, Calgary-Glenmore MLA Linda Johnson (see update below) and Calgary-South East MLA Rick Fraser.

It is suspected that Mr. Fraser’s decision to not join his colleagues in endorsing the front-runner is a reflection of the support Mr. McIver has in south east Calgary.  It is expected that Mr. McIver’s campaign has sold a significant amount of PC memberships in south east Calgary’s sprawling suburbs, the area he represented on City Council and dominated in the 2010 Mayoral election.

Coincidentally, the previous MLA for Mr. Fraser’s south east Calgary riding, Art Johnston, was the only candidate to endorse Ms. Redford in the PC Party’s 2011 leadership race.

Update: MLA Ms. Johnson has endorsed Mr. Prentice’s candidacy, raising his total MLA endorsements to 50 out of 59 PC MLAs.

Tories invite Mike Allen back in, Wildrose show Joe Anglin the door

Mike Allen Jim Prentice Fort McMurray MLA

Alberta PC MLAs voted to invite Independent MLA Mike Allen back into the government caucus after a year in the opposition benches.

Progressive Conservative MLAs have voted to extend an invitation to Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Mike Allen to rejoin their caucus. A relatively popular first-term politician in his constituency who many watchers believe will still do well in the next election (as an PC or an Independent), Mr. Allen left the PC caucus after he was arrested while trying to hire two prostitutes in St. Paul, Minnesota. Unfortunately for the Mr. Allen, the prostitutes happened to be police officers.

Police said he answered an online ad placed by undercover police, agreeing to pay two women $200 for sex. He was arrested and charged with a gross misdemeanour but pleaded guilty in December to a lesser misdemeanour of trying to hire prostitutes. He was fined $500, ordered to pay another $500 in court fees and sentenced to one-year of probation. His probation expires Dec. 18. (Edmonton Journal)

From a jail cell in Minnesota in July 2013 Mr. Allen did not deny the allegations, he admitted to his mistakes and voluntarily resigned from the PC caucus. As for his readmission into government, perhaps the MLAs in the PC caucus believe that one-year banishment into the opposition benches was punishment enough for Mr. Allen’s indiscretions.

Joe Anglin MLA Wildrose Rocky Mountain House Rimbey Sundre

Joe Anglin

Joe Anglin Out
What is Joe Anglin to do? After losing the Wildrose Party nomination in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre last weekend, some political watchers have speculated that he might join the Alberta Party, others believe he could run as an Independent candidate in the next election. He has yet to let his intentions known.

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith cheekily suggested he should run in Edmonton, which would be akin to Stephen Harper saying Rob Anders should run for re-election in Toronto. A one man wolf pack, Mr. Anglin is a liability for any party in the rigid system of party discipline that exists in our political system. And the closer a party gets to power, like the Wildrose is, the more rigid they become with their MLAs and candidates.

Is it uncommon for incumbent politicians to lose party nomination races? In Alberta, yes. In fact, there are only a handful of examples I can remember from recent history in Alberta politics:

Carl Benito MLA Edmonton Mill Woods

Carl Benito

– First-term MLA Carl Benito was defeated by Sohail Quadri in the Progressive Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Mill Woods in 2012, Mr. Benito ran as an Independent in that year’s election. He placed fifth of six candidates with 480 votes (3.9%).

– PC MLA Art Johnston lost two nominations in advance of the 2012 election – to Rick Fraser in Calgary-South East and Ric McIver in Calgary-Hays. Mr. Johnston retired from politics after the election was held.

– Then-Leduc mayor George Rogers upset two-term MLA Albert Klapstein in the PC nomination in Leduc before the 2004 election. Mr. Klapstein retired from politics after the election was held.

– Two-term MLA Tony Abbott was defeated for the PC nomination in Drayton Valley-Calmar by then-Drayton Valley mayor Diana McQueen before the 2008 election. Mr. Abbott retired rather than run for another party or as an Independent.

New Licence Plates
Albertans are living with flooding hospitals, overcrowded schools and a cash-strapped legal aid system, but a new licence plate design is a government priority? Premier Dave Hancock announced changes to Alberta’s licence plates at a press conference today, including the removal of the long-time slogan ‘Wild Rose Country‘ from the plates. Recent polls suggest that the current slogan is accurate.

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)

Alberta politics this week

Alison Redford Joe Clark Nelson Mandela Alberta Funeral

Former Prime Minister Joe Clark and Premier Alison Redford at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa this week (photo from Premier Alison Redford’s Facebook Page)

A new provincial cabinet was sworn-in this morning, one a week after the cabinet shuffle was announced. The original announcement, made by press release at the unusual time of 4:45pm on Friday, December 6, was typical of a tactic used by government when it wants a story to be underreported.

After facing a week of stories about unreported deaths in the foster care system and introducing arguably unconstitutional anti-labour laws, it appeared that Premier Alison Redford‘s government was looking to quietly reshuffle the cast of characters involved in those stories. But the week-long delay was caused by Ms. Redford’s trip to South Africa to attend the funeral of former president Nelson Mandela. Upon her return, the new cabinet was sworn-in.

In response to the cabinet shuffle, the Wildrose Official Opposition announced minor adjustments to its critic roster.

Young dropped from cabinet at the last minute

CBC reports that Edmonton-Riverview PC MLA Steve Young has been abruptly dropped from the provincial cabinet over undisclosed allegations dating back to his time as a police officer in Edmonton. In last Friday’s government press release, Mr. Young was announced to become the Associate Minister of Public Safety in Ms. Redford’s cabinet. He previously served as Whip of the PC caucus. Calgary-South East MLA Rick Fraser was appointed as Associate Minister of Public Safety instead.

Ken Hughes Don Iveson Mayor Edmonton Alberta

Ken Hughes and Don Iveson (photo from Twitter at @kenhughesMLA)

A provincial-municipal detente?

Some cabinet ministers did not wait for the cabinet changes to occur before tackling their new portfolios. In a move of detente to Alberta’s civic leaders, Minister of Municipal Affairs Ken Hughes met this week with Edmonton mayor Don Iveson , Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, and Association of Municipal Districts and County president Bob Barss before he had transitioned out of the Energy portfolio. Tensions rose high between municipalities and the provincial government during former minister Doug Griffiths time in the post.

Edmonton’s Mr. Iveson announced this week that expansion of the city’s Light Rail Transit system is the top infrastructure priority for the newly elected City Council. The City is searching for the additional $515 million needed to build the southeast Valley Line to Mill Woods.

Following the cabinet shuffle, Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Wayne Drysdale is Transportation Minister and Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver is Infrastructure Minister.

AUPE launches court challenge of Bill 46

Not long after controversial Bill 45 and Bill 46 received royal assent from Lieutenant Governor Donald Ethell this week, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees submitted a statement of claim against Bill 46 laws to the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Sandhu rejoins the Tories

Controversial Edmonton-Manning MLA Peter Sandhu was allowed to rejoin the Progressive Conservative caucus this week after sitting as an independent MLA for seven months. The second-term MLA resigned from the governing caucus in May 2013 after a CBC investigation revealed that a company owned by the politician had accumulated a trail of unpaid debt. While Ethics Commissioner Neil Wilkinson cleared Mr. Sandhu of conflict-of-interest charges, the MLA’s creditors beg to differ.

Former NDP MPP now on Liberal Party executive

Shelley Wark-Martyn is now the secretary of the Alberta Liberal Party. Ms. Wark-Martyn was the Ontario New Democratic Party MPP for Port Arthur from 1990 to 1995 during which time she served as Minister of Revenue and the junior minister for health and education in Premier Bob Rae‘s cabinet.

Redford shines in flood aftermath, but political problems not washed away

Premier Alison Redford shakes the hand of a Canadian Forces member providing relief for flooding in southern Alberta.

Premier Alison Redford shakes the hand of a Canadian Forces member providing relief for flooding in southern Alberta (photo from @Premier_Redford on Twitter)

The day to day melee of provincial politics in Alberta was thrown out the window two weeks ago as rising rivers flooded communities in southern Alberta and forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 Albertans from low-lying Calgary neighbourhoods and surrounding communities.

Caring, compassionate, and pro-active, Premier Alison Redford has been front and centre since the flooding began, quickly flying back from a trip to New York two weeks ago, where she was speaking at a conference and meeting with oil industry investors. Only Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, the calm and confident voice of his city, has been more front and centre in the media during this natural disaster.

Abandoning the government’s austerity agenda, Premier Redford announced $1 billion in recovery funding and the appointment of three new cabinet ministers to lead the recovery: Lethbridge-West MLA Greg Weadick for south east regions, Calgary-Klein MLA Kyle Fawcett for south west regions, and Calgary-South East MLA Rick Fraser for High River.

Creating a more purposeful version of ‘Ralph Bucks,’ the government provided pre-paid debit cards to residents affected by the flooding.

 Almost immediately after the government announced the appointment of new cabinet ministers, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle took to Twitter to ask why Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, whose Highwood constituency includes High River, was not approached to fill one of these positions (although Wildrose MLAs represent all but three southern Alberta constituencies outside of Calgary, it still would be highly irregular for an opposition leader to be appointed to cabinet).

Despite some initial skepticism, the Wildrose leader quickly began to cooperate with the new minister.

As the flooding started, Ms. Smith was on the ground as a volunteer in High River and, after residents were evacuated from the town, she butted heads with Mayor Emile Blokland about when residents should be allowed back into the town.

With $1 billion in support promised for the flood ravaged communities, it will be difficult for the opposition Wildrose to criticize the Premier’s decision to abandon her promise to balance the provincial budget by 2014, especially as Ms. Smith’s constituency includes one of the hardest hit areas.

Overall, the Premier has assumed a pro-active position, a contrast to a 2010 in Medicine Hat, when then-Premier Ed Stelmach was criticized for not visiting the city in the aftermath.

Former MLA George Groeneveld, who represented  Highwood until last year’s election, told CBC last week that allowing development in flood zones has been a mistake. Mr. Groeneveld is the author of a shelved 2006 report that had the potential to cause major political problems for Premier Redford as the flood waters raged. “The one-in-100-year flood seems to be coming every two years, even more, especially in southern Alberta,” Mr. Groeneveld told the Calgary Herald in 2006.

While the blame for the shelved 2006 report can not personally be placed on Premier Redford, who was not even an MLA at the time, her government  furiously spun its support for the report and flood relief with Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths and Environment Minister Diana McQueen  aggressively promoting the government’s support for recommendations.

Despite these pro-active stances, the flood has not washed away Premier Redford’s political problems. The Premier has been known to keep her distance from domestic issues in Alberta, allowing cabinet ministers to take the lead on local issues while she focuses on Alberta’s international agenda.

A handful of senior cabinet ministers appear to have caused all sorts of problems and turmoil that may require the personal attention of the Premier, or new cabinet appointments, to resolve. Questions loom about the Alberta Health Services $100-million surplus in the midst of nurse layoffs and whether Health Minister Fred Horne approved the agency’s controversial bonuses for its senior executives before he fired the entire board of directors. Confusion also continues about the future of home care services.

On the education front, post-secondary staff layoffs continue and the University of Alberta remains defiant of Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk‘s attempts to control their institutional agenda. Under the watch of Education Minister Jeff Johnson, school boards, like Edmonton Public Schools, have been forced to eliminate hundreds of full-time staff. Meanwhile, Alberta’s booming population is set to exceed 4-million.

Premier Redford has shined during the flood, but still faces plenty of problems once the reality of politics returns.

Beyond Question Period: Debating Bill 1.

If you pay attention to political pundits or follow the #ableg hashtag on Twitter, you will have read about how nasty and partisan the fall sitting of the Legislative Assembly has been. But if you logout of Twitter for a bit and ignore the embarrassing theatrics of Question Period, you will find some substantial debate and even more interesting (and sometimes confusing) politics at work on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly.

Rachel Notley MLA Edmonton-Strathcona NDP

Rachel Notley

Take last week’s debate around Bill 1 as an example.

Introduced during the six-day long spring sitting earlier this year, the Workers’ Compensation Amendment Act, 2012 (pdf) was the flagship legislation of the first term of Premier Alison Redford‘s elected government. Each year, a new Bill 1 is introduced and typically tends to be a feel-good piece of legislation tailored to the government’s immediate public relations program.

This year’s Bill 1 meant to extend “presumptive coverage” to first-responders – police, firefighters, peace officers, and emergency medical technicians – to access treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through the Workers’ Compensation Board. As explained in the Edmonton Journal, presumptive coverage means that anyone working as a first responder who is diagnosed with PTSD is presumed to have developed that condition as a result of their job.

No government or opposition Members of the Legislative Assembly publicly voiced any opposition to the bill. The most interesting debate about Bill 1 occurred around two amendments introduced by Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MLA Rachel Notley that proposed to include two other professions to be covered in the Bill – corrections officers and social workers.

The first amendment, to include corrections officers, received strong support from the opposition benches. Ms. Notley and ten other opposition MLAs – New Democrat David Eggen, Liberal David Swann, and Wildrose MLAs Jeff Wilson, Joe Anglin, Rob Anderson, Bruce Rowe, Ian Donovan, Kerry Towle, Blake Pedersen, and Heather Forsyth – rose to speak in favour of the first amendment.

Only Human Service Minister Dave Hancock and backbench Tory Rick Fraser rose to speak against.

Dave Hancock MLA Edmonton-Whitemud

Dave Hancock

The two Tory MLAs speaking against the amendment praised the work done by corrections officers but spoke against including them in the bill, claiming that it would be unfair to pick and choose between professions (which is what the Bill did). At one point in the debate, Mr. Fraser presented the strange argument that they should not be included because police, firefighters, peace officers, and EMTs cannot “lock down” a city like some correctional institutions can be “locked down.” The two Tories made strong arguments why police, firefighters, peace officers, and EMTs should be included in Bill 1, but they struggled to explain why presumptive coverage should be limited to those four professions.

“The associate minister [Frank Oberle] talked about sort of the conflicting arguments that exist when you say, on one hand, that you shouldn’t be picking and choosing certain professions, and then, of course, he anticipated correctly that we are going to move forward with amendments to identify certain professions.” – Rachel Notley

The amendment to include corrections officers received the support of the NDP, Wildrose, and Liberal MLAs in the Assembly, but was defeated by the large Tory majority.

Ms. Notley’s second amendment, to include social workers, received strong support from NDP and Liberal caucuses. In a strange twist, most Wildrose MLAs spoke against the amendment with only Wildrose MLA Mr. Anglin breaking from his caucus and speaking in favour of including social workers in the Bill.

Presenting similar points as Tories had used only minutes before to argue against including corrections officers, Wildrose MLAs praised social workers while arguing against including them Bill, claiming that it would be unfair to pick and choose between professions.

So, it came as little surprise that Ms. Notley’s second amendment was defeated, with only the NDP, Liberals, and Mr. Anglin voting in favour.

Bill 1 passed third reading on November 1, with MLAs from all parties voting in favour.

(Read transcripts of debates in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly using Hansard)

trying to go viral: pre-election youtube videos.

With a provincial election expected to be called within the next week or two, candidates representing Alberta’s political parties have been hoping to grab voters attentions by uploading campaign videos on YouTube.

The best YouTube video I have seen so far in this pre-election period belongs to Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview NDP candidate Deron Bilous. The video is a five minute mini-documentary that gives a good introduction and background to the candidate.

Mostly produced by the candidates and their campaign teams, with the exception of the central campaign filmed Progressive Conservative videos. The PC videos, featuring candidates Doug Griffiths, Jason Luan, Rick Fraser, and Bob Maskell, include the same format and special effects (including a talking billboard headshot of the candidates). These videos have a good production quality, but have a better effect when the speaker is dynamic.

The Wildrose Party video features Cardston-Taber-Warner candidate Gary Bikman. Having only lost this constituency to the PCs by 49 votes in the last provincial election, it is high on the Wildrose list of target constituencies.

The next two videos feature Innisfail-Sylvan Lake Liberal candidate Les Vidok and Edmonton-Ellerslie NDP candidate Rod Loyola.

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.

alberta candidate nomination update – november 2011.

The Progressive Conservatives have opened their nomination process, leading a number of candidates to declared their interest in opposition held constituencies. This first wave out of the floodgates have allowed me to update the list of declared and nominated candidates for the next provincial election:

Calgary-Buffalo: Dawna Haslam announced on her Facebook profile that she will be seeking the Progressive Conservative nomination in this downtown constituency. Buffalo has been represented by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr since 2008, and has been represented by both opposition and government MLAs over the past twenty years.

Ric McIver Calgary PC Calgary-Hays

Ric McIver is seeking the PC nomination in Calgary-Hays


Calgary-Hays: Long-time Alderman and defeated Mayoral candidate Ric McIver is seeking the PC nomination in this south east Calgary constituency. Mr. McIver will face current MLA Art Johnston and former PC constituency President Alex Girvin. First elected to the Assembly in 2004, Mr. Johnston was defeated by Rick Fraser in the May 2011 nomination contest for the new Calgary-South East constituency.

Calgary-Hawkwood: Former MLA Shiraz Shariff is said to be seeking the PC nomination in this new north west Calgary constituency. Mr. Shariff was first elected as the MLA for Calgary-McCall in a 1995 by-election and served until he was defeated by Liberal Darshan Kang in 2008.

Calgary-Mountain View: Energy company owner and past Alberta Party leadership candidate Chris Tesarski is seeking the PC nomination. Mr. Tesarski was briefly a candidate for the Alberta Party leadership earlier this year before dropping out and endorsing Alison Redford for the PC leadership. Mountain View has been represented by former Liberal leader David Swann since 2004.

Calgary-Varisty: Former Nexen senior executive Donna Kennedy-Glans is seeking the PC nomination. Readers may remember Ms. Kennedy-Glans for her unsuccessful bid to wrestle the Calgary-West federal Conservative nomination from ultra-conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders in 2010. The nasty contest saw conservative pundit Ezra Levant descend on Ms. Kennedy-Glans labelling her a “Liberal saboteur.” Seeking the PC nomination in Calgary-Varsity may be less of a bloodsport.
Varisty has been represented by Liberal MLA Harry Chase since 2004 and with his retirement, the Liberals have nominated Carpenters’ Union leader Bruce Payne to carry their flag. This will be a race to watch.

Edmonton-Centre: The NDP have rescheduled their nomination meeting to November 9, 2011. Past federal candidate Nadine Bailey is expected to be acclaimed.

Edmonton-South West: Matt Jeneroux is seeking the PC nomination in this new constituency which will be created from parts of the Edmonton-McClung and Edmonton-Whitemud constituencies in south west Edmonton.

Grande Prairie-Smoky: Three-term PC MLA Mel Knight has announced that he will not seek re-election. No candidates have officially declared themselves in the contest to replace Mr. Knight as the PC candidate, but some names of potential candidates being suggested include City of Grande Prairie Alderman Kevin O’Toole, Greenview Councillor Tom Burton, and Grande Prairie County Reeve Everett Macdonald.

Duane Stevenson has entered the Wildrose Party nomination contest in Grande Prairie-Smoky, challenging Todd Loewen. Mr. Stevenson is the General Manager of Nitehawk Recreation Area.

St. Albert: Local businessman Steve Khan has joined the PC nomination contest against Jeff Wedman and incumbent MLA Ken Allred.

West Yellowhead: The Wildrose has nominated forester Stuart Taylor as their candidate. Mr. Taylor is not to be confused with the other Mr. Taylor nominated to stand in this constituency Alberta Party leader and Mayor of Hinton Glenn Taylor.

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

Alison Redford Ed Stelmach Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

alberta politics notes 5/13/2011

Hancock astray on Education
Parents are holding a “don’t drop the ball” stop the cuts rally at the Legislature on May 29, calling on Minister Dave Hancock to stop layoffs in schools that would affect the quality of K-12 education in Alberta. In a recent interview with CBC Radio, Minister Hancock said that class sizes had little effect on a child’s education and the education students looking for jobs as teachers in Alberta would need to slug it out. The recent Education budget cuts mixed with his recent comments raises the question about how much influence Minister Hancock actually has among his PC cabinet colleagues.

Minister Hancock participated in a flash mob earlier this week…

Tears in Tory wallpaper
Two-term Calgary-Hays MLA Art Johnston was defeated by Rick Fraser in his attempt to be his party’s candidate in the new Calgary-South East constituency. With a low-turnout for PC nominations, Mr. Johnston was defeated 78-74. Mr. Johnston now has the option of seeking the PC nomination in the redrawn Calgary-Hays.

As noted in a post last week, three-term PC backbencher Alana DeLong is facing a nomination challenge from Lars Lehmann that will take place on May 14.

Tough guy Rick Orman
Billing himself as “The Right Choice” for the job of PC Party leader, former cabinet minister Rick Orman has some tough talk for his party.

Alberta’s NDP Bill 208: Guaranteeing Public Healthcare for Our Future
NDP MLA Brian Mason introduced Bill 208 in the final days of the Spring sitting of the Assembly. The NDP are billing this piece of legislation as a law that would “shield public health care from the attacks it is facing.”

Liberals appoint Interim leader
The Liberal Party approved their leadership contest rules last weekend and appointed outgoing leader David Swann as the interim leader until the contest, set to conclude on September 10, chooses a new leader. Edmonton MLA Laurie Blakeman is kicking off her leadership campaign on May 15.

Energy Superboard
Energy Minister Ron Liepert must like something about Superboards that he is not telling us.