Tag Archives: Rick Miller

Rick Miller was a true gentleman of the Alberta Legislature

Liberal Opposition Chief of Staff Rick Miller was the MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford from 2004 to 2008.
Rick Miller

Rick Miller was a gentleman in the truest sense of the word.

I was saddened to learn that former MLA Rick Miller passed away yesterday after a long battle with prostate cancer. Rick served as the Liberal MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford from 2004 to 2008 and during that time as the official opposition Finance critic. He became Chief of Staff at the official opposition caucus in 2009, a position he held until before the 2012 election.

I had the pleasure of working with Rick on several projects during his time as MLA and in the years afterward. While we had many meetings in the Annex and at Liberal Party headquarters, some of my fondest memories of Rick were on the campaign trail, door-knocking in Rutherford or hitting the road to win-over voters in the Drumheller-Stettler and Calgary-Elbow by-elections of 2007.

Soft-spoken and determined, Rick earned the respect of his colleagues in the opposition and government benches and he was one of the few opposition MLAs at the time who I would have considered to be cabinet material. Passionate about Alberta and its politics, he was one of the hardest working opposition MLAs I have known.

A family man, a rotarian, a businessman, a community leader, and a huge Edmonton Oilers fan, Rick Miller will be missed.

big money spent in alberta’s 2012 election.

 

Canadian Money
Money, money, money.

Elections Alberta has released the financial disclosure forms submitted by candidates who ran in the April 2012 provincial election and some of the disclosure forms reveal some interesting information about how much money was fundraised and spent during the campaign. The money spent by candidates and political parties in Alberta elections are nowhere near the truckloads being spent south of the border in advance of November’s presidential and senate elections, but some of these numbers demonstrate how pitched some electoral battles were in the recent provincial election. Although money cannot replace hard-working candidates and dedicated volunteers, it makes available resources that can, in many cases, make a big difference in pushing a candidate to electoral success.

Premier Alison Redford Alberta
Premier Alison Redford

It appears that the most expensive race between two candidates was in Calgary-Elbow, where Premier Alison Redford faced Wildrose Party challenger James Cole. While Premier Redford’s campaign spent a massive $154,345.53, Mr. Cole’s campaign was not far behind, spending $123,647 during the election period.

South of Calgary in the Highwood constituency, the campaign of Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith (named Marlaina Danielle Smith by Elections Alberta) spent only $55,010.97 compared to the $90,706.19 spent by the campaign of Tory challenger John Barlow.

In the hotly-contested constituency of Calgary-Acadia, Wildrose challenger Richard Jones spent 69,335.39 on his unsuccessful campaign to unseat Justice Minister Jonathan Denis, whose campaign spent $71,246.45. Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson, who crossed the floor to the Wildrose Party in 2010, saw his campaign spend $77,295.20, which dwarfed the $32,411 spent by the campaign of his main challenger Kelly Hegg.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Party Alberta Election 2012
Danielle Smith

In the long-time Liberal-held Edmonton-Gold Bar constituency, Tory David Dorward‘s campaign spent $77,732.39, NDP Marlin Schmidt‘s spent $38,400.73, and Liberal Josipa Petrunic‘s spent $33,079.39. The contest was won by Mr. Dorward, who was elected with 33% of the vote. In Calgary-McCall, Liberal MLA Darshan Kang‘s campaign spent $82,629.80 to ward off challengers Tory Muhammad Rasheed and Wildroser Grant Galpin, whose campaigns spent $87,327.25 and $27,695.12.

In Edmonton-Rutherford, Tory Health Minister Fred Horne‘s $108,327.30 campaign easily outspent a wide field of challengers. Former Liberal MLA Rick Miller‘s campaign spent $41,117.36, the campaign of Alberta Party candidate Michael Walters spent $30,085.18, and Wildrose challenger Kyle Mcleod‘s campaign spent $23,477.51.

In many cases, the Tory MLA’s vastly outspent their main challengers (which in most cases, was the local Wildrose candidate). In Calgary-Greenway, Tory Manmeet Bhullar‘s campaign spent $133,294 against challenger Ron Leech‘s $14,078.05 campaign. In Fort McMurray-Conklin, the campaign of first-time Tory candidate Don Scott spent $110,955.44 to Wildroser Doug Faulkner‘s $21,011.41. In Edmonton-Whitemud, Tory cabinet minister Dave Hancock‘s campaign spent $121,233.35 to Wildrose challenger Ian Crawford‘s $11,598.73. In Calgary-West, Tory candidate Ken Hughes‘ campaign spent $111,796.33 compared to $31,781.49 from Wildrose challenger Andrew Constantinidis.

Ted Morton MLA
Ted Morton: the $159,618.90 man.

In some cases, outspending a challenge made little difference for incumbent Tory MLAs. In Chestermere-Rockyview, Energy Minister Ted Morton‘s campaign spent $159,618.90 compared to Wildrose challenger Bruce McAllister‘s $48,062.69. Mr. McAllister defeated Minister Morton on election night.

There were some other surprising finds as well. In Lethbridge-West, the campaign of NDP candidate Shannon Phillips spent $48,852.88 compared to PC MLA Greg Weadick‘s $39,394.54. This was also the NDP’s best showing outside of Edmonton.

The ‘Maurice Tougas Award for Electoral Victory on a Shoestring Budget’ goes to Wildrose MLA Jeff Wilson, who was elected in Calgary-Shaw for the first time in April 2012. Mr. Wilson was one of the last Wildrose Party candidates to be nominated and defeated Tory star candidate Farouk Adatia, who outspent the Wildrose challenger $78,347 to $15,358. Less extreme cases took place across central and southern Alberta, where Wildrose candidates were elected in long-time Tory voting constituencies.

The award is named after writer Maurice Tougas, who served as the Liberal MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark from 2004 to 2008. Mr. Tougas’ campaign spent $5,366.55 in his last minute campaign against Tory MLA Bob Maskell, whose campaign spent $46,957.00. Mr. Tougas unseated Mr. Maskell on election night.

Note: I had hoped that I would be able to provide a more comprehensive list of numbers from the financial disclosure. Unfortunately, the unfriendly interfaced used by Elections Alberta on their website did not allow me the time to complete this. Rather than transferring the data into easily searchable and useable formats on their website, Elections Alberta provides PDFs of scanned paper forms which were completed in handwriting by the candidate’s Chief Financial Officers (the writing ranges from chicken-scratch to cursive). It is my hope that in the near future, Elections Alberta is able to build a more user-friendly website that allows Albertans to more easily access these important records.

assembly housekeeping: new staff, new speaker, & new public accounts committee chair.

As the Opposition Caucuses and Parties reorganize following electoral changes caused as a results of the April 23 election, there will be a number of staff and role changes in Assembly. The new Assembly will convene for the first time to elect a new Speaker on May 23, 2012 and listen to the Speech from the Throne on May 24, 2012.

New Speaker

Gene Zwozdesky
Gene Zwozdesky

As the result of the retirement of long-time Progressive Conservative MLA Ken Kowalski, the Speaker’s Office is vacant for the first time since 1997. Vying to become the new Assembly Speaker are former cabinet minister and Edmonton-Mill Creek PC MLA Gene Zwozdesky, Deputy Speaker and Calgary-Fort PC MLA Wayne Cao, former cabinet minister and Red Deer-North PC MLA Mary Anne Jablonski, and long-time Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman. (Both Mr. Cao and Ms. Jablonski have exited the race).

Before his appointed as Minister of Aboriginal Relations last week, West Yellowhead PC MLA Robin Campbell was seen by some political insiders as a front-runner in this race.

This new Speaker will be selected by sitting MLA’s through a secret ballot and because this election is traditionally not a whipped vote, it can sometimes lead to interesting and unexpected results. When Mr. Kowalski was selected as Speaker in 1997, many political observers believed it was the Liberal and NDP MLA’s who helped him defeat Premier Ralph Klein‘s preferred choice, then-Dunvegan MLA Glen Clegg.

Opposition Staff Housekeeping

For the first time in 19 years, the Liberal Opposition Caucus will not be the Official Opposition in the Assembly. The Liberal Caucus, led by Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman, will undergo staff and research budget downsizing due to the number of Liberal MLAs shrinking from 8 to 5. The Liberal Caucus recently released its MLA critic and committee assignments.

Jonathan Huckabay Liberal candidate Edmonton-Manning
Jonathan Huckabay

A recent listing on the Government of Alberta website shows that Dr. Sherman’s long-time adviser Jonathan Huckabay will return to his role as Chief of Staff of the Liberal Caucus Office. Mr. Huckabay entered that role earlier this year when former MLA Rick Miller resigned to focus on his election campaign in Edmonton-Rutherford. When the election was called, Mr. Huckabay stood as a Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Manning, where he placed fourth with just over 1,000 votes.

Recently the party’s candidate in Cypress-Medicine Hat, Jon Mastel is Dr. Sherman’s new Executive Assistant.

Senior Communications Advisor Earl J Woods announced in a blog post last week that he would be leaving the Liberal Caucus, where he has worked for six and a half years (if you are looking to hire a great writer, contact Mr. Woods).

In the NDP Opposition Caucus, which doubled in size from 2 to 4 MLAs, Communications Officer Richard Liebrecht announced on Twitter last week that he was moving on from his role in the Legislature Annex. A former Reporter for Sun Media and the Hinton Parklander, Mr. Liebrecht started his job with the NDP in November 2010. He also previously worked for the Liberal Party of Canada.

The NDP are also hiring a number of constituency staff positions.

While the Wildrose Party‘s new role as Official Opposition will mean additional staff and research funding, a party position was made vacant following the election of Shayne Saskiw in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, the Wildrose Party is hiring a new Executive Director.

New Public Accounts Committee Chairperson

Hugh MacDonald MLA
Former MLA Hugh MacDonald

For the first time since 2001, someone other than Hugh MacDonald will serve as chair of the important Public Accounts Committee, which has ability to scrutinize government spending. Mr. MacDonald served as the MLA for Edmonton-Gold Bar from 1997 until the recent election when he chose to retire from the Assembly. While he sometimes appeared to be relentlessly focused on discovering scandal in the Tory government, Mr. MacDonald was easily one of the hardest working MLA’s under the Dome.

The role of Public Accounts Committee Chair traditionally falls to a MLA representing the Official Opposition Caucus, meaning that one of the 17 Wildrose Party MLA’s will fill this role when the new Assembly convenes next week. Second-term Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson, who will also serve as Official Opposition Finance Critic, could be a powerful force in this important role. Calgary-Fish Creek Wildrose MLA Heather Forsyth served as the Wildrose representative on the committee before the election.

Previous to Mr. MacDonald, former Liberal MLAs Lance White and Muriel Abdurahman filled the role as Chair.

a wildrose government will need a real opposition.

Danielle Smith Alberta Wildrose
Danielle Smith with Wildrose MLA's Paul Hinman, Heather Forsyth, and Rob Anderson in 2010.

Despite questioning climate science and refusing to remove one candidate who railed against a policy to protect sexual minorities in public schools and another who claimed his skin colour as a political advantageDanielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party appears set to form a government after April 23.

If the Wildrose Party does succeed in electing enough MLA’s to form a government next Monday, unseating the 41-year governing Progressive Conservatives, Albertans should be asking themselves about which parties are best positioned to form effective opposition over the next four years? This election is as much about a change of government as it is about a change of opposition parties.

Alison Redford Alberta Election 2012 Conservative leader
Alison Redford

The PCs have governed the province since Peter Lougheed led that party to its first victory in the 1971 election. Behind in the polls for the past three weeks, Alison Redford‘s PCs have begun to quietly urge non-conservative urban voters to cast strategic votes for their party to block the chances of the Wildrose Party forming a government. With six days left in the election campaign, it may be too late for the PCs or urban voters to block a Wildrose government.

After four decades in government, there may be no one left in the PC Party who remembers what it is like to be an opposition party (or may no longer have an interest in supporting that party in opposition). As a conservative opposition party it is also unclear what policy differences it could present to contrast itself with a similarly conservative governing party. As a new website launched today reminds voters, the PC Party also has its share of MLA’s with extremist social conservative views.

The survival and success of the PCs as an opposition party may entirely depend on which Tory MLA’s are elected on April 23.

Voters who want more than two conservative voices in the Assembly should ignore the calls for strategic voting and cast their votes for the candidates and parties who best represent their views.

Raj Sherman Liberal leader 2012 Alberta Election
Raj Sherman

The Alberta Liberals, led by former Tory MLA Raj Sherman, have presented a good platform that focuses on health care, education, municipalities, and touches on controversial issues like tax increases.

From an experience standpoint, the Liberal Party’s slate of candidates includes a number of former MLAs, including Mo Elsalhy, Weslyn Mather, Bruce Miller, and Rick Miller, who served in the opposition benches from 2004 to 2008.

Unfortunately for the Liberals, being the official opposition since 1993 has not translated into their becoming the next government and the ingrained historical hostility felt by many Albertans towards the party suggests its chances of long-term growth are limited.

Brian Mason Alberta NDP leader 2012 Election
Brian Mason

During this election campaign the NDP led by Brian Mason has focused on skyrocketing utility costs, taking a friendlier position towards resource development, and expanding and protecting public medicare. The NDP are in a good position to make gains in Edmonton. A number of NDP Members of Parliament, including Olivia Chow, Jack Harris, Niki Ashton, and Peter Julian are making campaign stops in the province during the final week of the election.

As an opposition party, the NDP would certainly provide Albertans with clear policy differences from both the PC’s and the Wildrose Party.

Sue Huff Alberta Party Edmonton-Glenora
Sue Huff

Over the next four years, the Alberta Party may be in the best position to help build a real centrist-progressive alternative to a Wildrose Party government. Despite having never elected an MLA, the party has been punching above its weight during this campaign in terms of organization and media coverage. The question will be whether the party can survive as a political movement if it does not succeed in electing an MLA.

Candidates like community organizer Michael Walters in Edmonton-Rutherford and former school trustee Sue Huff in Edmonton-Glenora have been running strong local campaigns, which could produce some surprising results on election day.

Last weekend, more than 100 Alberta Party volunteers delivered flyers to 5,500 homes in Edmonton-Rutherford in less than an hour.

15 races to watch in alberta’s 2012 election.

In the lead up to the Alberta’s 2012 election, I have identified fifteen constituencies across the province that could produce interesting contests and results when the election is called.

15 races to watch in Alberta's 2012 election.
15 races to watch in Alberta's 2012 election.

1) Highwood
The Wildrose Party has staked their future in the success of leader Danielle Smith and I expect that party will pull out all the stops to ensure she is elected. The PCs have nominated newspaper editor John Barlow to replace retiring PC MLA George Groeneveld.

2) Edmonton-Meadowlark
This area has deep Liberal roots, having first elected MLA Grant Mitchell in 1986, but since 2001 it has become a swing-riding electing both Liberals and PCs. Currently held by former PC MLA and now Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman, the next vote will be a test of his personal popularity as he runs under his new party’s banner. He will face former PC MLA Bob Maskell, who served from 2001 until 2004.

3) Edmonton-Calder
Voters in this constituency are notorious swing-voters. No incumbent has been re-elected here since 1997. Current PC MLA Doug Elniski made a last minute announcement that he would not seek re-election, leaving former school trustee and newly nominated candidate Bev Esslinger not a lot of time to catch up. Former MLA David Eggen has been campaigning in Calder for the past three years and is expected to launch a well-organized campaign. Wildrose candidate Rich Neumann may play kingmaker if he is able to attract enough past PC voters.

4) Calgary-Glenmore
In 2009, outgoing Wildrose leader Paul Hinman narrowly won a hotly contested by-election that was seen as a referendum on then-Premier Ed Stelmach‘s popularity in Calgary (which was low). With new Premier Alison Redford representing the neighboring constituency, PC candidate Linda Johnson may receive a warmer reception at the doors. Throw into the mix former Mount Royal College instructor Craig Cheffins, who served as the Liberal MLA for Calgary-Elbow from 2007 to 2008, and the outcome of this race could be difficult to predict.

5) Edmonton-Glenora
Represented by both PC and Liberal MLAs over the past twenty years, this constituency could be a key battleground for five opposition parties in the next election. Former Liberal MLA Bruce Miller is challenging PC cabinet minister Heather Klimchuk, who unseated him by 136 votes in 2008. Rev. Miller is not the only challenger in this election. The Alberta Party is pinning their hopes on former school trustee Sue Huff, the NDP have nominated former MLA and leader Ray Martin, and the Wildrose have chosen past Mayoral candidate Don Koziak.

6) Calgary-Varsity
With the retirement of popular two-term Liberal MLA Harry Chase, the Liberals have nominated former carpenters’ union official Bruce Payne, who ran for that party’s leadership in 2011. The PCs have chosen former Nexen vice-president Donna Kennedy-Glans. The results of this race will be a critical indicator of whether the Liberals can hold on to, and build on, important gains made in Calgary during the past two elections.

7) Chestermere-Rockyview
Energy Minister Ted Morton will face off against former Global Calgary news anchor and Wildrose candidate Bruce McAllister. The Wildrose attacked Minister Morton’s credentials as a “fiscal mallard” while he was Finance Minister and by nominating Mr. McAllister they are showing that they will not give him a pass in the next election.

8 ) Airdrie
When first-term PC MLA Rob Anderson joined the Wildrose in 2010, he automatically became a target of his former party, who have nominated Alderman Kelly Hegg as their candidate. The Airdrie area has typically voted for the PCs, but voters in this region have been known to elect opposition candidates in the past (Western Canadian Concept MLA Gordon Kesler was elected in 1982 and Liberal MLA Don MacDonald was elected in 1992).

9) Cardston-Taber-Warner
After being unseated by Wildorse MLA Mr. Hinman in 2004, PC MLA Broyce Jacobs won a narrow victory in 2008. Fast forward to 2012, Mr. Jacobs has lost his party’s nomination to Pat Shimbashi and the Wildrose has nominated Sterling Deputy Mayor Gary Bikman. If the Wildrose are to pick up seats in the election, this will likely be one.

10) Edmonton-Rutherford
In a rematch of the closest race of the 2008 election, PC MLA Fred Horne will face former Liberal MLA Rick Miller. While 2008 a two-way contest, the 2012 contest is more interesting with the presence of community organizer and Alberta Party candidate Michael Walters and Wildrose candidate Kyle McLeod.

11) Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo
After winning four elections as this constituency’s PC candidate, late-blooming Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier will face Wood Buffalo deputy mayor Mike Allen in the upcoming vote. After decades as a municipal and provincial politician, this election may be more a test of Mr. Boutilier’s personal support than that of his new party.

12) Edmonton-Gold Bar
A Liberal Party stronghold since 1986, the retirement of MLA Hugh MacDonald and the redistribution of electoral boundaries south encompassing Tory-voting neighbourhoods may give second-time PC candidate David Dorward a boost. Liberal candidate Josipa Petrunic is a well-spoken and passionate partisan who hopes to hold the constituency for her party. The NDP have nominated Marlin Schmidt and hope to capitalize on local support for NDP MP Linda Duncan.

13) Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview
A close contest in 2008 saw former PC MLA Tony Vandermeer defeat NDP MLA Ray Martin. In 2012, Mr. Vandermeer will face a strong challenge from NDP candidate Deron Bilous.

14) Lethbridge-West
After twenty years of close races, voters in this constituency have proven themselves to be deeply divided between the PCs and Liberals. This election, first-term PC MLA Greg Weadick and second-time Liberal candidate Bal Boora will be joined by NDP candidate Shannon Phillips, who has launched a spirited campaign, and Wildrose candidate Kevin Kinahan. Even if Mr. Weadick is re-elected, the real story may be who places second in this politically moderate southern Alberta constituency.

15) Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock
After more than three decades in the Assembly, the departure of PC MLA Ken Kowalski has created a large void to fill in this constituency north of Edmonton. The PCs have nominated Westlock County Councillor Maureen Kubinec, who will face off against her main opponent Wildrose candidate Link Byfield. Mr. Byfield has been campaigning for more than a year and could make gains if he is able to tap into the base of social conservative voters in this constituency.

what to make of alison redford’s budget before election strategy.

A photo of Alberta Premier Alison Redford
Premier Alison Redford

Premier Alison Redford has told reporters that her government will approve Alberta’s 2012/2013 budget before the next provincial general election is called. The budget is expected to be introduced shortly after MLAs return to the Assembly on February 7, 2012. The election must take place between March 1 and May 31, based on Alberta’s new ‘fixed-election period.’

In previous years, including 1997 and 2008, the Assembly only briefly returned for a sitting before elections were called.

A Spring sitting of three to four weeks would put the Progressive Conservatives in a position to force their greatest perceived threat, the Wildrose Party, to make some firm commitments on the public record about what they would cut from the provincial budget. The Wildrose have been weakened in the polls since the departure of Premier Ed Stelmach and the PCs will do their best to frame Danielle Smith‘s party as a disgruntled fringe group of angry and outraged conservatives.

Albertans can expect the PCs to use the Spring sitting of the Assembly to saturate the media airwaves with spin about how great their provincial budget will be. Think of it as Phase 1 of the PC Party election platform.

Alberta Finance Minister Ron Liepert
Ron Liepert

A full Spring sitting would also allow retiring Finance Minister Ron Liepert to table and implement one budget before the next election. Minister Liepert was appointed to the Finance portfolio in late 2011 and will not be seeking re-election (some political watchers have suggested that Minister Liepert could be hired as Premier Redford’s post-election Chief of Staff)

Holding a Spring sitting will also give the many PC candidates set to be nominated at the end of January a months to knock on doors and organize before the vote is called. The PCs are scheduled to select their candidates for the Senate Nominee election on February 10 and 11.

Meanwhile, the other opposition parties are continuing their preparations for a Spring election.

The NDP are close to nominating a full-slate of candidates (they have nominated 73 candidates in 87 constituencies) and plan to make regulating Alberta’s expensive energy prices one of their key election issues. NDP leader Brian Mason is the only current party leader with experience leading a party through a previous election.

A photo of former MLA Rick Miller
Rick Miller

The Liberal Party, veering toward the political right under Tory MLA-turned-Liberal leader Raj Sherman, will be without two key staff members when the Assembly returns on February 7. Communications Director Brian Leadbetter announced earlier this month that he would be departing for a new position with the Parkland School Division and Chief of Staff Rick Miller is leaving to peruse a candidacy in Edmonton-Rutherford. Mr. Miller served as the MLA for that constituency from 2004 until 2008, when he was narrowly defeated by now Health & Wellness Minister Fred Horne.

The Liberals are far behind in the nomination process, having only chosen candidates in 23 out of 87 constituencies. Some Liberal insiders have suggested that the Official Opposition party will likely fall short of nominating a full-slate in the upcoming election.

The Alberta Party has nominated 11 candidates and only plans to focus resources on a handful of those when the vote is called.

in alberta politics, what once was old is new again.

Premier Alison Redford is expected to introduce new fixed-election date legislation in the postponed fall sitting of the Assembly, expected to sit in late November. In 2009, I wrote:

“In April 2008, St. Albert PC MLA Ken Allred introduced a Private Member’s Bill, Bill 203: Election Statutes (Fixed Election Dates), in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta that would have created fixed-election dates in our province. The Bill received very little public debate in the Legislature and was opposed by MLAs in the PC caucus, including Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Richard Marz, who argued to the media that fixed-election dates would allow public sector unions to strike in conjunction with elections.

In May 2008, Marz introduced a motion that “Bill 203, the Election Statutes (Fixed Election Dates) Amendment Act, 2008, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.” Marz’s motion was passed when 36 PC MLAs (including Allred) out-voted 5 opposition MLAs.”

Now it is November 2011, the Progressive Conservatives are still in office, Premier Ed Stelmach is gone, Premier Redford is in, Mr. Marz is retiring, Mr. Allred is being challenged for the PC nomination (and may retire), and Alberta might get fixed-election dates.

The Alberta Liberals announced with a gleeful media release this week that Alex MacDonald would be joining their caucus staff as a part-time strategist. Political watchers may remember Mr. MacDonald as the Chief of Staff to former Edmonton Mayor and Liberal Party leader Laurence Decore in the 1980s and early 1990s.

A seasoned strategist, Mr. MacDonald is said to be the man behind Mr. Decore’s infamous ‘debt clock’ that helped launch the Liberals into Official Opposition status in the 1993 election (and their best showing since the 1917 election). While the addition of Mr. MacDonald may boost their roster, it eats into the narrative that Tory MLA-turned-Liberal leader Dr. Raj Sherman is promoting about the birth (or re-birth) of the “new Liberals.”

Also biting into Dr. Sherman’s “new Liberals” narrative is the nomination of five former one-term MLAs as his party’s candidates in five potentially winnable constituencies – Mo Elsalhy in Edmonton-McClung, Bharat Agnihotri in Edmonton-Ellerslie, Weslyn Mather in Edmonton-Mill Woods, Rick Miller in Edmonton-Rutherford, and Bruce Miller in Edmonton-Glenora. Some of these are good candidates, but certainly not new.

A new face in the next election, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith has floated in conservative political circles since the 1990s and two of her party’s four MLAs have been in the Assembly for more than a decade. The “nascent” or “rookie” Alberta Party has existed in various forms since the 1980s and their leader Glenn Taylor ran for the NDP in the 1997 election.

Refusing to believe that new will ever be old or old will ever be new, the New Democrats have put a fresh face on an veteran politician. NDP leader Brian Mason has a fresh face – at least for the short-term – as he has shaved his mustache for Movember to raise awareness about prostate cancer. Mr. Mason has told the media that his trademark cookie-duster will return, meaning that once again, old will be new again.

NDP leader Brian Mason sans mustache
The new face of Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason (sans mustache).

liberal party tries to raid alberta party staff with promise of job and nomination.

The New Liberals: Raj Sherman leads the Liberal Party on a morning raid against the Alberta Party staff.
The New Liberals: Raj Sherman leads his Liberal Party on a morning raid, hoping to pillage the Alberta Party staff.

Outgoing Liberal Party executive director Corey Hogan and Liberal Caucus strategist Jonathan Huckabay offered Alberta Party provincial organizer Michael Walters a job as their party’s executive director, sources close to both parties have told this blogger.

The offer was made over the phone earlier this week. Sources say that Mr. Walters, the nominated Alberta Party candidate in Edmonton-Rutherford, was also offered a candidate nomination in the constituency of his choice if he would join the Liberals.

Sources say that the offer was sweetened when it was strongly implied that the Liberals would reopen the nomination process in Edmonton-Rutherford, to allow Mr. Walters to compete against already nominated candidate and former Liberal MLA Rick Miller.

When contacted by this blogger, Mr. Walters, the former lead organizer for the Greater Edmonton Alliance, said that he declined both offers and remains committed to the Alberta Party.

Kent Hehr is new deputy leader

New leader Raj Sherman is attempting to shake-up his eight MLA Liberal Caucus. One of his first moves was to appoint Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr as the party’s Deputy Leader, a position recently held by Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman. Mr. Hehr is a strong MLA and a rising star in the opposition benches, but the job of deputy leader is a minor-lead in a caucus of nine MLAs.

MacDonald retiring?

Also emerging from the Liberal ranks is speculation that long-time MLA Hugh MacDonald might not seek re-election when the writ is dropped for the next provincial general election. Mr. MacDonald has represented Edmonton-Gold Bar since 1997 and placed second to Dr. Sherman in his party’s recent leadership contest.

It is also being reported that two other Liberals may sit out the next election. In Edmonton-Ellerslie, former MLA and nominated candidate Bharat Agnihotri and in Calgary, past federal Liberal candidate Josipa Petrunic, may take a pass in the next campaign if it interferes with approaching commitments in their personal and professional lives.

what’s next for raj sherman and the alberta liberals?

MLA Raj Sherman's victory speech at Alberta Liberal leadership event September 10, 2011.
Newly elected Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman gives his victory speech with his wife Sharon standing to the right. Leadership co-chair Josipa Petrunic and candidates Laurie Blakeman, Hugh MacDonald, and Bruce Payne stand to the left (Bill Harvey did not join the other candidates on stage).

What kind of leader will Raj Sherman be?
This is a tough question to answer. As Edmonton Journal columnist Graham Thomson somewhat dramatically described yesterday:

Sherman – energetic, intelligent, charismatic – could prove to be a political white knight riding to the Liberals’ rescue. Or Sherman – inexperienced, mercurial, impetuous – could yet prove to be one of the horsemen of the apocalypse.

Simply put, Dr. Sherman is a mixed-bag. (Don Braid, David Climenhaga, and Maurice Tougas have all penned opinions on what Dr. Sherman’s acendency to the leadership might mean for Alberta’s Official Opposition party).

The Caucus
Former Tory MLA Dr. Sherman will walk into his new office as the Leader of the Official Opposition this week surrounded by an eight MLA Liberal caucus, which has had a tense relationship with its leaders since the 2008 general election. The caucus includes two of his leadership competitors (Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman and Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald) and two of the party’s former leaders (Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann and Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft). Of the group of eight, two (Dr. Taft and Calgary-Varsity MLA Harry Chase) are planning to retire at the next election.

The Big Four
It is my experience that the Chief of Staff, Caucus Communications Director, Party President, and Party Executive Director are four key positions that a Liberal party leader needs support from in order to successfully command the leadership of the party. Two of these positions are about to be vacated.

As noted in a recently Globe & Mail article, Erick Ambtman has resigned as President. Corey Hogan, executive director since 2009, has announced his plans to move on to future challenges. Chief of Staff Rick Miller, a former MLA and nominated candidate in Edmonton-Rutherford, may want to focus his energies on his election campaign. In his short time in the job, Communications Director Brian Leadbetter has proven to be an effective communication manager in a position that has turned into a rotating door over the past few years.

The Liberals need a ground game
While only around a paltry 8,600 out of almost 27,000 eligible voters actually participated in the leadership vote, the party is still left with a vast list of almost 30,000 potential volunteers, sign locations, and voters to help them in the next provincial election. One of the areas that Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Payne stressed during the leadership campaign was the need for the Liberals to build their strength on the ground.

Currently, the Liberals do not have functional organizations in most constituencies across the province, including in constituencies that they held up until the 2008 election. The lack of local organization and funds will pose a challenge in finding credible candidates to run in an expected fall 2011 or spring 2012 general election.

Mending fences
A significant number of the party’s staunch loyalists supported Mr. MacDonald’s candidacy and his criticisms of the open voting leadership process. Many of these Liberals were furious at former leader Dr. Swann’s attempts to cooperate with other opposition parties in response to his party’s shrinking political fortunes. Dr. Sherman will need to mend fences with this sometimes unreasonable group of stalwarts while cementing his own activists into the party ranks.

It will also be interesting to see if right-wing leadership candidate Bill Harvey remains in the Liberal Party (it is suspected that he may join the Wildrose Party). The two-time candidate, who was supported by right-wing agitator Craig Chandler, earned 7% of the vote in this contest.

Of interesting note, party Vice-President (Policy) Debbie Cavaliere challenged Dr. Sherman for the PC nomination in 2007 and later ran as the Liberal candidate against him in the 2008 general election.

Other Parties
The Progressive Conservatives will be voting for the first ballot in their leadership contest on September 17. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, then a second ballot with the top three candidates will be held on October 1. The victor of that leadership contest will determine the tone and calendar of the next provincial election, which many political watchers are expecting to be held later this fall or early next spring.

Since 2010, the Wildrose Party led by Danielle Smith have moved into second place in the polls, with the NDP led by Brian Mason are competing with the Liberals for third place. The question is whether Dr. Sherman’s star power can write the Liberals back into the political narrative they have been largely absent from over the past two years.

There is also the question of what effect Dr. Sherman’s victory will have on the new Alberta Party, which continues to organize, but has dropped to a lower-profile since Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor was chosen as its leader earlier this year.

how much money do alberta’s political parties have in the bank? comparing financial disclosures from 2009 and 2010.

Submitted to Elections Alberta earlier this year, the 2010 financial disclosures from the constituency associations of Alberta’s political parties have been released (the central party financial disclosures were released in April). I have taken some time over the past few days to collect the 2010 data and compare them with financial disclosures from 2009.

There are a number of interesting things about these disclosures, including the annual expenses of some constituency associations as recently mentioned by Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald.

Not surprisingly, the Progressive Conservatives have shown their political strength with functional organizations in nearly all 83 constituencies. PC constituency associations disclosed over $3.1 million in net assets in 2010, a jump from $2.5 million in 2009. The three wealthiest PC constituency associations with over $100,000 in net assets are Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock (MLA Ken Kowalski), Calgary-Elbow (MLA Alison Redford), and Whitecourt-Ste. Anne (MLA George VanderBurg).

The Wildrose Alliance showed substantial growth in 2010, as its constituency associations grew their total net assets to $455,595 from a low $78,298 in 2009. The constituency organizations of two of that party’s new MLAs, former Tories Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth, increased their net assets by an impressive $60,723 in Airdrie-Chestermere and $36,075 in Calgary-Fish Creek in 2010.

The Liberals showed marginal financial growth and still face substantial challenges in fundraising compared to the PCs and Wildrose Alliance. The Liberals fundraised well in constituencies their 8 MLAs currently represent and a few other constituencies which that party’s MLAs held until the last election (notably Edmonton-Rutherford, where former MLA RIck Miller is his party’s nominated candidate).

In five constituencies that the Liberals represented until 2008 or more recently, there were signs that none or very little local fundraising had taken place in 2010 (Calgary-Currie, Calgary-Elbow, Edmonton-Decore, Edmonton-Ellerslie, and Edmonton-Meadowlark).

Alberta NDP local organizations in the majority of the province’s constituencies appeared to be dormant or non-existant in 2010.

The NDP is strategically targeting its financial and organizational resources in a handful of constituencies in Edmonton where it hopes it can make gains in the next election. While the party’s local organizations have not wracked up large net assets, there is noticeable spending happening in a few constituencies (including more than $24,000 in expenses in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview where candidate Deron Bilous is campaigning).

Here are breakdowns of the party’s 2009 and 2010 financial disclosures: