Tag Archives: Rick Orman

Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning and Jason Kenney.

A look at who is backing Jason Kenney’s bid for the PC Party leadership

Conservative Member of Parliament Jason Kenney is expected to announce his candidacy for the leader of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta tomorrow, July 6, in Calgary, deliver a speech in Grande Prairie that evening and then travel to Edmonton on July 7 for another speech. He was widely expected to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada and only just recently began positioning himself as candidate to unite Alberta’s conservative partisans under one banner.

He would be the first candidate to officially enter the PC leadership contest, which is scheduled to be held on March 18, 2017.

  • As I explained in a column last month, Mr. Kenney could have a rough landing in Alberta politics.
  • A skilled organizer with more than 25 years of experience as a taxpayers federation lobbyist and Ottawa politician, Mr. Kenney should not be underestimated by his opponents.
  • Mr. Kenney follows in the footsteps of his former colleague, Jim Prentice, who led the PC Party from 2014 until its defeat by Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party in May 2015. That election ended forty-four uninterrupted years of PC majority governments in Alberta.
  • Mr. Kenney recently purchased a membership in the PC Party, despite being widely seen as a supporter and ideological ally of the Official Opposition Wildrose Party, currently led by former MP Brian Jean.
  • Perhaps anticipating a threat of takeover, the PC Party recently abandoned its one-member one-vote system of choosing its leader in favour of a closed-delegate system, which forces candidates to campaign and organize in all 87 constituencies across the province.
  • Mr. Kenney is not assured an easy victory in the PC leadership race. I spoke with CTV about some of the potential candidates who also might enter the race, including former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who Mr. Kenney once described as an “asshole,” Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke, and Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen, who said she would consider leaving the PC Party if Mr. Kenney became the leader. Edmonton City Councillor Michael Oshry is also considering entering the contest and former MLA Doug Griffiths is rumoured to be interested.

It is unclear whether Mr. Kenney would resign as the MP for Calgary-Midnapore immediately or if he would keep one foot in federal politics until he secures a leadership position in a provincial party. Under provincial elections law, he does not need to resign his federal seat until he is a registered candidate in a provincial election.

Because of his track-record as a social conservative and Wildrose supporter, Mr. Kenney might not find a great deal of support among existing PC Party members, including the 1,001 who attended the party’s annual general meeting earlier this year. But two unite-the-right groups could provide him with a base with which to organize his PC leadership bid.

Mr. Kenney appears to have the support of two unite-the-right groups. The Alberta Can’t Wait group, backed by former Reform Party stalwarts Preston Manning and Cliff Fryers, lobbyist Hal Danchilla and 1980s Tory cabinet minister Rick Orman, and the Alberta Prosperity Fund, backed by former right-wing talk radio host Dave Rutherford, former MLAs Heather Forsyth and Shiraz Shariff, and former PC Party president Jim McCormick. The Alberta Prosperity Fund issued a formal endorsement of Mr. Kenney on July 5, 2016.

The Alberta Can’t Wait group was reportedly planning to hijack the Alberta Party later this summer and Prosperity Fund founder and director Barry McNamar, formerly of the Fraser Institute and Manning Centre, is reportedly suing the Wildrose Party.

The two groups are part of a burgeoning cottage industry of anti-NDP groups, including the infamous and less polished Kudatah, that have popped up since the May 2015 election. Both the Wildrose and PC Parties have publicly rejected their overtures.

Alberta’s elections laws bar political parties from merging financial assets, meaning any actual merger between conservative parties is highly unlikely. Making things more complicated was the formation of a sixth conservative party last month – the Reform Party of Alberta. It may be a more likely scenario that a PC Party led by Mr. Kenney would apply to Elections Alberta to change its name to the Conservative Party of Alberta and urge Wildrose MLAs to run under its banner in the 2019 general election.

Cast into the opposition for the first time in 44 years, Conservatives in Alberta will need to define what their vision is for the future of our province. After decades of fiscal mismanagement, much of Alberta’s current economic situation is a result of decisions made by PC Party governments. Conservatives cannot simply expect that Albertans will forgive, forget and restore the natural governing party in 2019. Those days are gone.

Aside from his politically charged rhetoric about “free enterprise” and the bogeyman ‘bohemian Marxism‘ it remains completely unclear what Mr. Kenney’s vision for Alberta would be, besides just returning Conservatives to power. I expect we will find out more in the next few days.

#InsiderBaseball: NDP government shuffles ministerial Chiefs of Staff

Rumours that the NDP government was shuffling its senior staffers appears to be true. Sources confirm that three ministerial Chiefs of Staff have been shuffled into different offices and two new Chiefs of Staff have been hired.

Chief of Staff Bill Moore-Kilgannon will move from the Office of the Minister of Health and Seniors to the Office of the Minister of Human Services, Scott Harris will move from the Office of the Minister of Agriculture to the Office of the Minister of Minister of Health and Seniors, and Tony Clark will move from the Office of Human Services to the Office of the Minister of Agriculture.

It was also noted that Andrew Tarver has been hired to succeed Jessica Bowering as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Justice and Aboriginal Relations, and Miriam Rycroft was hired to succeed Robin Steudel as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Transport and Infrastructure. Ms. Rycroft previously served as a Ministerial Assistant in the same office.

It is unclear why the three senior political staffers were shuffled, though there is a chance it could simply be a human resources decision.

Tory lobby firm hires more Tories

In the world of lobbyists, the Tory-connected Canadian Strategy Group announced today that former Progressive Conservative MLA Rick Orman and former Conservative MP Brian Storseth would join its payroll. Located in Ottawa, Mr. Storseth served in the government backbenches as the MP for Westlock-St. Paul from 2006 to 2015, when he resigned and later sought the PC nomination in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills (he was defeated in the nomination). Mr. Orman was the MLA for Calgary-Montrose from 1986 to 1993 and ran for the PC Party leadership in 2011.

 

[updated] lee richardson resigns, calgary-centre by-election could be a conservative proxy war.

Lee Richardson MP Calgary-Centre

Recently resigned MP Lee Richardson, soon to be Principal Secretary to Premier Alison Redford. (Photo from 5of7 on Flickr)

After a bitterly fought provincial election campaign drove a deep rift into Alberta’s conservative movement between the moderate institutional Progressive Conservatives and the ideologically-driven Wildrose Party, a federal by-election in Calgary may be the first real test of how united supporters of the federal Conservative Party supporters are in Alberta.

Alison Redford Alberta Election 2012 Conservative leader

Alison Redford

Calgary-Centre Member of Parliament Lee Richardson announced today that he is leaving Ottawa to become Principal Secretary to PC Premier Alison Redford in Edmonton. Mr. Richardson’s decision will boost Premier Redford’s credentials among federal Conservative supporters, many of whom were openly supportive of Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith in the recent election.

As a senior political advisor, Mr. Richardson is an old pro. From 1979 to 1983, Mr. Richardson was Chief of Staff to Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed and later served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. In last year’s PC leadership contest, Mr. Richardson supported candidate Rick Orman, who he worked with at the Legislative Assembly before he was first elected as a PC MP in Calgary-Southeast in 1988. He served until his defeat by Reform Party candidate Jan Brown in 1993. He re-entered federal politics as the Conservative MP for Calgary-Centre in 2004.

Triggering a by-election that will occur in the next six months, the contest for the Conservative Party nomination in this constituency could expose some uncomfortable cleavages between moderate and ideologically conservatives in Alberta.

Ezra Levant

Ezra Levant

A Twitter account supporting the possible candidacy of right-wing talk show host Ezra Levant was created within a hour of Mr. Richardson’s announcement. Many Albertans may remember Mr. Levant as the Wildrose Party’s biggest cheerleader on his cable news program during the recent provincial election. In 2002, he stepped down as the Canadian Alliance candidate in Calgary-Southwest to allow Stephen Harper to win a seat in the House of Commons.

Also rumoured as a potential candidates are Calgary Alderman John Mar, who has close connections to PC Party organizers, and recent Calgary-Klein Wildrose Party candidate Jeremy Nixon. Mr. Nixon placed second with more than 34% of the vote in the recent election. Although unlikely in my mind, one Conservative supporter emailed me this evening to name former Calgary-Glenmore Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman as a potential candidate.

Of course, the Conservatives could avoid a nasty nomination battle and simply acclaim a candidate, as they did to party organizer Michelle Rempel after cabinet minister Jim Prentice resigned as MP for Calgary-Centre North in 2010.

The Liberals earned respectable second-place votes in this constituency under its former boundaries in the 1990s, but have fallen further behind the Conservatives in recent elections.

In the 2011 federal election, Liberal candidate Jennifer Pollock placed second with 17% of the vote, a full 40% behind Mr. Richardson. Edmontonian parachute candidate Donna Montgomery earned 14% for the NDP.

While some sort of centre-left coalition could place a respectable second in the imminent Calgary-Centre by-election, it seems unlikely that anyone other a Conservative would win this vote.

UPDATE: Mr. Levant has declared he will not seek the nomination. Alderman Mar is considering running for the nomination.

gary mar ordered to take unpaid leave pending investigation. alberta pc party releases leadership campaign audited financial reports.

Gary Mar Alberta Representative to Asia

Gary Mar

Premier Alison Redford has ordered former cabinet minister Gary Mar, now the Government of Alberta’s representative in Asia, to take an unpaid leave of absence during an ethics investigation of a recent fundraiser held in Edmonton. Mr. Mar, who placed second in the 2011 PC leadership, hosted a fundraiser to help pay off his campaign debt, which exceeds $226,000.

CBC is reporting that one version of an invitation for the fundraiser mentioned Mr. Mar’s position in Asia and implied that ticket-holders would learn how to do business in Hong Kong.

PC Party releases audited leadership campaign financials
Financial statements from five of the six Progressive Conservative leadership campaigns who participated in the 2011 contest have been published on that party’s website. Former MLA Rick Orman, who now leads a government northern economic strategy group, is the only candidate who’s campaign had not submitted his records at the time the PC Party posted them online yesterday.

Audited documents
Doug Griffiths
Doug Horner
Gary Mar
Ted Morton
Alison Redford

Much of the financial contributions information in these audited documents is already known, as the candidates released some of their donation records during the course of the leadership campaign. It is sometimes interesting to see which businesses and lobby groups contribute to all campaigns, and the broad number of groups that participate in the governing party’s leadership campaigns.

Many of Alberta’s well-known corporations, like Telus and TransAlta, donated large sums of money to each candidate. Demonstrating just how wide the big blue tent is in Alberta, the Merit Contractors Association, an association of anti-union construction industry employers, is listed as having donated more than $71,000 to various leadership candidates, while Local 488 of the United Association of Plumbers & Pipefitters donated $5,000 each to the campaigns of the top three placing candidates.

These audited documents also gives Albertans a closer look at the financial outcomes and expenses of the campaigns.

The campaign of second place Mr. Mar reported $2,687,155 in expenditures and a $262,099 deficit when the campaign period ended. This is a monumental amount of money and may be the first time that an unsuccessful Canadian provincial party leadership candidate has spent this much. Having watched Mr. Mar’s campaign, which included all the bells and whistles (from an Obama-style campaign bus to a mock cooking show), I am not shocked to discover that the expenses piled up. As noted at the beginning of this post, Mr. Mar is still trying to pay off his campaign debt.

Doug Griffiths‘ campaign spent $164,400 and retained a surplus of $10,068. The financial report notes that surplus funds will be used to create a post-secondary bursary for residents in Mr. Griffiths’ Battle River-Wainwright constituency.

Ted Morton‘s campaign reported $977,238 in expenses and $115,732 revenue in excess of expenditures. The surplus funds will be donated to the Glenbow Ranch Foundation and the University of Calgary Political Science department.

The campaign of now-Deputy Premier Doug Horner recorded $1,231,383 in expenses and recorded an $8,059 surplus. His financial disclosure form does not make note of where the surplus funds were allocated.

Premier Redford’s campaign spent $1,290,575 and was left with a $20,846 surplus when the campaign ended. The statement does not indicate what was done with the surplus funds.

Audited statements from three of the campaigns provided a breakdown in expenditures (Redford, Mar, and Morton). Mr. Morton and Premier Redford’s documents breakdown expenditures into a number of identifiable categories, while the majority of Mr. Mar’s expenses are lumped into the vague and all-encompassing “advertising and other campaign expenses” category.

Alison Redford PC leaderhship campaign 2011, Expenses

Alison Redford PC leadership campaign 2011, Expenses

Gary Mar PC leaderhship campaign 2011, Expenses

Gary Mar PC leadership campaign 2011, Expenses

Ted Morton PC leaderhship campaign 2011, Expenses

Ted Morton PC leadership campaign 2011, Expenses

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.

blue man group plans to unite the right in alberta.

 

    The original blue man group united the right in Ottawa: Ted Morton, Stephen Harper, and Ken Boessenkool.

The original blue man group united the right in Ottawa: Ted Morton, Stephen Harper, and Ken Boessenkool.

Aiming to ‘unite the right’ in Alberta by mending fences in Alberta’s conservative political camps, a new “Alberta Blue Committee” has been formed by long-time conservative strategist Ken Boessenkool.

From the Edmonton Journal:

He has promised its members will reveal themselves next week and that Albertans will see them as “politically active, smart, young people,” mostly between the ages of 35 and 45, whom either the Tories or Wildrose Party would see as attractive candidates for cabinet posts depending on which party wins the next provincial election.

Despite claims by Journal columnist Lorne Gunter that the forty-year governing Progressive Conservatives sit in the “centre-left” or by Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party that leadership candidates Doug Horner, Gary Mar, and Alison Redford are too “progressive” for the average Alberta, anyone with basic understanding of these concepts will see that the labels do not fit. (See Robert Remington’s recent column in the Calgary Herald for more on this topic).

Mr. Boessenkool’s new initiative appears to be based on a perceived threat of a vote split between the two main conservative parties in the next provincial general election.

The province’s only traditional “left” political party, the New Democrats, are vocal, but their support has been electorally limited to a handful of urban pockets across the province (mostly in Edmonton). The Alberta Party, a new centrist alternative led by Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor, are slowly organizing and still need to prove that they can elect an MLA.

Even the official opposition Alberta Liberals, now led by former Conservative MLA Raj Sherman, need to figure out what they stand for before they can be seen as challenging the two dominant conservative parties (and decide if they want to be the third).

second-ballot math: alberta tory caucus splits between redford, mar, horner.

Map-of-MLA-support-in-the-2011-Alberta-PC-leadership-contest-September-21-2011

Map of MLA support in the 2011 Alberta PC leadership contest (September 21, 2011)

The three candidates eliminated on the first-ballot vote to choose the next leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives have all announced their support for front-runner Gary Mar. Carrying 40% of the vote on the first-ballot, it is understandable why the three would endorse the front-runner in terms of both personal political calculation and party unity.

Scattering a little differently, the group of MLAs who supported the three eliminated candidates have begun to throw their support among the remaining candidates.

Leadership candidate Doug Horner held a media conference yesterday to announce that Ted Morton supporter Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Carl Benito was joining his campaign.

Other supporters of Dr. Morton, Calgary-Lougheed MLA Dave Rodney, Edmonton-Calder MLA Doug Elniski, and Edmonton-McClung MLA David Xiao, are backing second place candidate Alison Redford.

The only MLA to follow Dr. Morton’s lead into Mr. Mar’s camp is St. Albert MLA Ken Allred. It has been speculated that Housing Minister and Calgary-Egmont MLA Jonathan Denis may endorse Mr. Mar this week. (UPDATE: Minister Denis has endorsed Mar).

Including Minister Denis, there remain five MLA supporters of Dr. Morton who have yet to throw their support behind any of the top three candidates (as far as I am aware). Those remaining MLAs are Livingstone-Macleod MLA Evan Berger, Highwood MLA George Groeneveld, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Tony Vandermeer, and Edmonton-Manning MLA Peter Sandhu.

Doug Griffiths‘ only caucus supporter, Calgary-North Hill MLA Kyle Fawcett, is also backing Alison Redford.

Meanwhile, Dr. Morton’s campaign manager Sam Armstrong, remained critical of Mr. Mar’s candidacy. Mr. Armstrong told the Calgary Herald in an interview that:

“It’s the same old, Old Boys’ Club around Gary that’s been there forever”

Mr. Orman’s endorsement of Mr. Mar was also not enough to convince his campaign manager Patrick Walsh to come along. Mr. Walsh is now supporting Ms. Redford’s campaign.

Check out the Alberta PC Leadership page on this blog to track MLA support for candidates on the second ballot.

doing second-ballot math: ted morton and rick orman endorse gary mar.

Ted Morton Gary Mar Alberta Conservatives
Ted Morton has endorsed Gary Mar

Ted Morton and Rick Orman have endorsed Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership front-runner Gary Mar.

It is unclear how many of Dr. Morton’s supporters may show up to support Mr. Mar on the second-ballot vote on October 1, but it may have saved his political career, which appeared to be close to an end when the former Finance Minister placed a distant fourth with 11% of the vote on September 17.

Mr. Orman placed fifth with 10% of the vote. One Tory insider emailed me this morning suggesting that Mr. Orman’s endorsement could lead to his appointment as Alberta’s envoy in Washington D.C., a job Mr. Mar held until earlier this year.

Two days ago it was difficult to see anyone defeating Mr. Mar on the second ballot. It feels even less likely now.

Conservative versus Progressive?

Since the first-ballot vote eliminated Dr. Morton and Mr. Orman, the hard-edged conservatives of the group, the Wildrose and their friends at the Toronto National Post have been spinning the narrative that the progressives (or “soft-centrists”) have defeated the conservatives in this contest. While the endorsement of the two more “conservative” candidates will aid Mr. Mar in dispelling this attack, I am not sure that I would put a “progressive” label or Mr. Mar, or either of the other two remaining candidates.

Like Dr. Morton, front-runner Mr. Mar has expressed solid support for privatized health care. Mr. Mar’s comments put him in the unfortunate position of appearing more supportive of the Americanization than even Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, who supports the introduction of private facilities, but sticks to finely-tuned talking points when talking about full-privatization. Of course, spin alley is in a near traffic jam trying to explain away Mr. Mar’s feelings towards having Albertans pay out of pocket for health care.

While the remaining three candidates may not espouse hard edged conservatism like Dr. Morton or Mr. Orman, the three candidates have received financial support from not-so-progressive groups, like the Merit Contractors Association, which is an anti-union lobby group in the construction industry.

All three candidates have received support from across the center and right of the political spectrum. Like Mr. Mar, Ms. Redford has received the support of Liberals and Red Tories alike, including former federal candidate Kevin Taron, former provincial candidate Beth Gignac, and former Prime Minister Joe Clark. Mr. Horner is certainly a moderate conservative and has received the support of longtime MLA and Assembly Speaker Ken Kowalski, who’s campaign once published an election ad stating that “While human beings can create laws, the laws of God must take precedence.”

mapping alberta’s progressive conservative leadership first-ballot vote results.

Members of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party will be voting for their next leader in a second (or third) ballot on October 1. Gary Mar, Alison Redford, and Doug Horner will contest the vote in two weeks, and until then will be selling memberships across the province.

Last Saturday’s first-ballot vote gave Mr. Mar a wide-lead with 40% of the of vote. Ms. Redford at 18% and Mr. Horner at 14% have a big challenge to catch up with the front-runner. Not moving on to the next ballot are former Finance Minister Ted Morton, former cabinet minister Rick Orman, and backbench MLA Doug Griffiths.

While the right-wing Mr. Orman placed a respectful fifth place, Dr. Morton’s support from his previous run in the 2006 leadership campaign appears to have evaporated last weekend, leaving many political watchers to suspect that his base has migrated to the Wildrose on a more permenant basis. It appears that Mr. Griffiths’ outsider message was not enough to resonate with PC Party members across the province.

Here is a breakdown of the September 17 first-ballot results:

Maps: Number of total votes cast in the first-ballot, MLA endorsements of leadership candidates, poll-by-poll results in the first-ballot vote. (Click to enlarge)

Maps: Number of total votes cast in the first-ballot, MLA endorsements of leadership candidates, poll-by-poll results in the first-ballot vote. (Click to enlarge)

Gary Mar Alison Redford Doug Horner PC leadership Vote Alberta

Maps: Percentage of PC voter support for Gary Mar, Alison Redford, and Doug Horner. (Click to enlarge)

 

Ted Morton-Rick Orman-Doug Griffiths Alberta PC leadership vote

Maps: Percentage of PC voter support for Ted Morton, Rick Orman, and Doug Griffiths. (Click to enlarge)

 

results: alberta progressive conservative leadership first ballot.

First ballot results of today’s Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership vote:

Gary Mar: 24195
Alison Redford: 11129
Doug Horner: 8635
Ted Morton: 6962
Rick Orman: 6005
Doug Griffiths: 2435

As no candidate received more than 50% of the vote, the top three candidates will contest a second ballot on October 1. More detailed poll by poll analysis coming soon.

living in the one party state of alberta: “vote today. today is election day.”

Alberta PC Leadership

"Vote today. Today is election day."

Today is election day in Alberta, but not the kind of election day that would dominate the airwaves and twitter streams in most other provinces in a modern liberal democratic state like Canada. Today, Alberta’s forty-year governing Progressive Conservatives are casting their vote in the first ballot for their new leader, which has become in the minds of many long-time Conservative stalwarts and hoards of two-minute Tories, an event as important as a general election.

Does this sound scary? It is probably a confusing political environment for most Canadians, and while most Albertans will not participate in this internal party leadership contest, it will have a large effect on the direction that Alberta’s governing party will take in the months before (and most likely after) the next general election. Despite the lack of defining issues or real narrative during this campaign (aside from candidates reassuring party members that they are not Premier Ed Stelmach), it has been a fairly dull affair.

If you do decide to track down the location of your local PC Party voting station and pay the $5 to purchase a membership, who do you vote for? Over the past few months, and increasingly over the past few days, I have heard more plans for strategic voting than I had ever hoped to.

Vote for Gary Mar to stop Ted Morton from winning.
Vote for Alison Redford to stop Ted Morton from winning.
Vote Gary Mar to stop Frederick Lee from winning.
Vote for Ted Morton to stop Gary Mar from winning.
Vote for Alison Redford to stop Gary Mar from winning.
Vote for Doug Horner to stop Gary Mar from winning.
Vote for Doug Griffiths to stop Gary Mar from winning.
Vote for Rick Orman to stop Gary Mar from winning.
Vote for a Calgarian to stop Doug Horner from winning.
Vote for Doug Horner to stop a Calgarian from winning.
Vote for Rick Orman to split the right-wing Ted Morton vote.

What ever combination of results is achieved today, it could be an interesting next two weeks. If no candidate receives more than 50% tonight, then a second vote will be held on October 1. The results of the first ballot vote are expected to be announced at an event in Calgary at 7:30pm tonight. You will find the results posted on this blog around that time.

I will also have the pleasure of joining the Calgary Herald political commentary crew starting around 7:00pm on their Cover it Live feed. Feel free to stop by there and join the conversation.

alberta progressive conservative leadership blog poll results.

Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership poll blog daveberta September 2011

Readers voted in this poll between September 12 and 16.

Over the past four days, readers of this blog have voted for their top three Progressive Conservative leadership candidates of their choice.

The results show Gary Mar placing first and Alison Redford in second with Doug Horner and Ted Morton competing for third place.

A recent poll of PC Party members also placed Mr. Mar and Ms. Redford as first and second in the contest. The source of the lists used to conduct the poll are now under question.

Progressive Conservative members will be voting on the first ballot of their leadership selection process on September 17. If no candidate receives more than 50%, the top three candidates contest a second ballot on October 1.

when you really want to win. alberta progressive conservative first ballot vote on september 17.

With three days left until the results of the first ballot voting in Alberta’s Progressive Conservative leadership contest are tallied, some candidates are being accused of breaking campaign rules.

Perceived front-runner Gary Mar is facing accusations that his campaign was selling memberships outside an advanced polling station set up in Edmonton, something that is no allowed under PC Party rules. Mr. Mar’s campaign is also being criticized for their use of buses to transport PC Party members from seniors centres to advanced voting stations.

Continuing a trend in the campaign, Mr. Mar was universally criticized by his rival candidates, leading me to question how a recent poll could have reached the conclusion that he is considered “consensus candidate” in this contest.

Meanwhile, questions are being raised about a recent Environics poll gauging support among PC Party members. The poll found that Mr. Mar and fellow Calgarian Alison Redford as the leading competitors in the contest. The main question being asked by some political watchers is who provided Environics the list of 22,000 PC Party members and was the list accurate?

UPDATE: PC Party President Bill Smith says which ever campaign leaked the membership list to Environics broke a confidentiality agreement.

As voting day approaches, the PC leadership candidates are pressing the flesh and doing their best to get their message out to eleventh hour supporters. Ms. Redford released ideas about Family Care Clinics. Rick Orman proposed a development strategy for Northern Alberta. Doug Horner has held a series of question and answer times on Twitter using the hashtag #askdoughorner. And Doug Griffiths released another high production quality video, this one about reforming government:

new environics poll shows gary mar in the lead, alison redford in close second.

The Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald have published the results of a joint-Environics poll gauging support for Progressive Conservative leadership candidates among 800 card-carrying party members:

Province-wide
Gary Mar: 31%
Alison Redford: 20%
Doug Horner: 12%
Ted Morton: 10%
Rick Orman: 5%
Doug Griffiths: 4%
Undecided/Won’t vote: 17%

Edmonton
Gary Mar: 43%
Doug Horner: 14%
Alison Redford: 10%
Ted Morotn: 7%

Calgary
Alison Redford: 36%
Gary Mar: 22%
Ted Morton 11%
Doug Horner: 1%

It is not a big surprise to see Mr. Mar in the lead, but Ms. Redford’s support is likely to surprise a few political watchers who thought that she would be fighting for third place in this contest.

Advanced voting for the first-ballot of the leadership selection process begins today. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote on the first-ballot on September 17, the top three candidates will compete in a second-ballot vote on October 1.

ted morton aka frederick lee and the shredder.

 Ted Morton, Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate

Ted Morton aka Frederick Lee

After a week of dodging questions from intrepid CBC reporter Charles Rusnell about a covert email alias and shredded ministerial documents, former Finance Minister Ted Morton‘s campaign for Alberta’s Progressive Conservative leadership has taken its first big hit with just more than a week before the first ballot vote.

After making ‘government transparency’ a key theme of his campaign, squeaky clean conservative Dr. Morton’s commitment to the pledge is being questioned when it was revealed that he used a covert email address under his little known full first- and middle-names “Frederick Lee” to conduct government business. It is being suggested that Dr. Morton’s covert email alias could have foiled Freedom of Information requests.

CBC discovered that correspondence and documents, including those connected to the covert email alias, were shredded or destroyed when Dr. Morton left his ministry to seek the PC leadership earlier this year.

A spokesperson for Alberta’s Information and Privacy Commissioner told the media that the Office would be launching an immediate investigation into the shredding allegations.

Dr. Morton downplayed the criticisms yesterday, but that did not stop his right-wing competitors Rick Orman and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith from tackling him in the media. Ms. Smith claimed that because the documents belonged to the people of Alberta, Dr. Morton’s staff had no right to feed them to the paper shredder on a whim.

Will these revelations hurt Dr. Morton’s chances in next week’s leadership vote? It is difficult to say. Dr. Morton has run a stealth campaign during this contest, which has focused on low-profile events and selling memberships. This is very different from his run in 2006, which publicly stressed his social conservative values on issues like same-sex marriage.

Watch for the other PC candidates to train their guns on Dr. Morton’s last minute weakness in the final week.