Tag Archives: Rick Strankman

More than 200 people packed into the Bellevue Community Hall tonight to support Janis Irwin’s bid for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood.

Janis Irwin running for NDP nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, Daniel Williams wins UCP contest in Peace River

Photo: More than 200 people packed into the Bellevue Community Hall tonight to support Janis Irwin’s bid for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood.

Janis Irwin launched her campaign for the New Democratic Party nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood this evening at the Bellevue Community Hall. Irwin is a community advocate and educator, and she was the federal NDP candidate in Edmonton-Griesbach in the 2015 election, where she placed a strong-second behind Conservative candidate Kerry Diotte.

Janis Irwin NDP Edmonton Highlands Norwood

Janis Irwin (source: Facebook)

Her campaign launched was attended by more than 200 supporters, including Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Rod Loyola, and public school trustees Bridget Stirling and Michael Janz.

Irwin currently works as a Director of Stakeholder Relations in the Office of the Premier.

The area has been represented by outgoing NDP MLA Brian Mason since 2000 and and is considered to be one of the strongest NDP-voting districts in Alberta. Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood makes up the Orange Core of the federal Edmonton-Griesbach district. (Note: I live in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, so I have a particularly keen interest in this nomination contest).

A nomination meeting has been scheduled for October 23, 2018 at the Alberta Avenue Community Hall.

Former Kenney staffer nominated in Peace River

Daniel Williams UCP Peace River

Daniel Williams

Daniel Williams defeated Mackenzie County deputy reeve Lisa Wardley to secure the UCP nomination in this sprawling northern Alberta district. Williams worked as a political staffer for Jason Kenney in Ottawa before returning to Alberta to seek the UCP nomination in Peace River.

Three candidates dropped out of what had been a 5-candidate race in June and July, and Wardley raised concerns that the locations and hours of nomination votes in this large rural district would make it difficult for UCP members not living in the main urban centres to participate in the vote.

Eleventh MLA announces retirement in 2019

NDP MLA Jamie Kleinsteuber announced on social media that he will not seeking re-election in 2019. Kleinsteuber was first elected in 2015 in Calgary-Northern Hills and in 2019 the district is being redistribtued between the Calgary-Beddington, Calgary-North and Calgary-North East districts.

Earlier this evening, an Annual General Meeting was held to create the new NDP constituency associations for the new…

Posted by Jamie Kleinsteuber, MLA for Calgary-Northern Hills on Monday, July 23, 2018

Kleinsteuber becomes the eleventh MLA to announce plans not to seek re-election in 2019. The list of retiring MLAs now include five UCP MLAs, four NDP MLAs, one Liberal MLA and one Independent MLA.

Bozo-Eruptions continue to haunt UCP

The UCP has been striken with a series of embarrassing bozo-eruptions over the past few weeks. Most recently are Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin nomination candidate Sandra Kim‘s Facebook comments about same-sex marriage and Calgary-Glenmore nomination candidate Maureen Zelmer’s Facebook comments about Muslims. Kim is endorsed by UCP MLAs Leela Aheer and Rick Strankman.

Here are some of the latest updates to the list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of the 2019 Alberta provincial general election:

Calgary-Mountain ViewLiberal Party leader David Khan has been nominated as his party’s candidate in this north central Calgary district. This area has been represented by Liberal MLA David Swann since 2004. Swann is not seeking re-election.

Calgary-North East – Mandeep Shergill is seeking the UCP nomination. Shergill works as a Constituency Assistant to Calgary-Greenway MLA Prab Gill, who was seeking the UCP nomination in this district before he resigned from the UCP caucus following allegations of ballot-stuffing at the local UCP association’s annual general meeting.

Calgary-Peigan – Three candidates are seeking the UCP nomination in a vote scheduled for August 2, 2018: Former Ontario MP Jeff Watson (who moved to Alberta in November 2016 and works as an assistant to Calgary-Hays UCP MLA Ric McIver), Tanya Fir (who is supported by Craig Chandler), and Jeevan Mangat (who ran for the Wildrose Party in Calgary-Fort in the 2012 and 2015 elections).

Edmonton-Castle DownsEd Ammar defeated Arthur Hagen and Gennadi Boitchenko to win the UCP nomination. Ammar is a real estate agent and served as the first chairman of the UCP interim board following the formation of the party in 2017. Ammar was the Liberal Party candidate in Edmonton-Decore in the 2012 election and president of the Wildrose Party association in Edmonton-Castle Downs in 2016.

Edmonton-City CentreLily Le is the third candidate seeking the UCP nomination in this downtown Edmonton district.

Edmonton-Mill Woods – Abdi Bakal is seeking the Liberal Party nomination in this southeast Edmonton district. This area was represented by Liberal MLAs Don Massey from 1993 to 2004 and Weslyn Mather from 2004 to 2008. Tariq Chaudhry is seeking the UCP nomination. Chaudhry is the owner of the Maharaja Banquet Hall.

Edmonton-South – Pramod Kumar defeated Enayat Aminzadah to win the Alberta Party nomination. William Farrell becomes the fifth candidate to join the UCP nomination contest.

Edmonton-South West – Former PC MLA Sohail Quadri is seeking the UCP nomination. Quadri previously represented Edmonton-Mill Woods from 2012 to 2015. From 2014 to 2015, he served as Legislative Secretary to Premier Jim Prentice. He was unseated in 2015 by NDP candidate Christina Gray.

Grande PrairieTracy Allard was acclaimed as the UCP canddiate. School trustee John Lehners withdrew from the contest after serious car accident. According to the Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune, Lehners’s brush with death made politics seem less important. “When I was hanging upside down I wasn’t thinking about running for MLA. I’m thinking about my dog, I’m thinking about my family, I’m thinking about my friends and what I’m going to do next and ‘Thank God I’m alive,’” Lehners told the Daily Herald Tribune.

Lacombe-Ponoka -Lacombe City Councillor Thalia Hibbs is seeking the UCP nomination in this central Alberta district. The district is currently represented by UCP MLA Ron Orr, who was elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2015.

Lesser Slave Lake– Darryl Boisson is seeking the UCP nomination in this sprawling northern Alberta district. This will be Boisson’s third attempt at provincial office in this district. He was the Wildrose Party candidate in Lesser Slave Lake in the 2012 and 2015 elections.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

UCP MLAs rush to help Angela Pitt in nomination fight against Sportsnet commentator Roger Millions

Photo: Angela Pitt and Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean during the 2015 election.

It looks like Angela Pitt is in trouble.

The first-term MLA from Airdrie is facing a stiff challenge for the United Conservative Party nomination in the newly redrawn Airdrie-East district.

Roger Millions UCP Airdrie-East

Roger Millions

As first reported on this blog on May 31, 2018, Sportsnet Calgary Flames commentator Roger Millions is challenging Pitt for the nomination. Millions could have run for the UCP nomination in the other Airdrie district – Airdrie-Cochrane – where no incumbent MLA is running, but he is instead challenging Pitt in Airdrie-East.

Having a high-profile nomination challenger like Millions unseat an incumbent in a nomination contest, especially as she is one of two women MLAs in the UCP caucus, would be embarrassing for the UCP.

Pitt’s caucus colleagues are rallying with support. Thirteen UCP MLAs (Nathan Cooper, Tany Yao, Jason Nixon, Mike Ellis, Todd Loewen, Rick Strankman, David Hanson, Scott Cyr, Glenn van Dijken, Prab Gill, Dave Schneider, Mark Smith and Wayne Drysdale) and Calgary Conservative MP Stephanie Kusie have publicly endorsed Pitt’s nomination bid through videos on her Facebook page.

It is unusual for an incumbent to garner so many endorsements in a nomination contest from other MLAs unless that incumbent is in danger of being defeated. It is also not clear if the endorsements will have an impact on the outcome of the nomination contest.

I am told that Pitt is fairly popular among her UCP MLA colleagues, but that she might not have laid the ground work needed in Airidrie to fend off a nomination challenge from someone as high-profile as Millions.

Pitt was acclaimed as the Wildrose Party candidate in 2015 and had already been acclaimed to run as a Wildrose Party candidate for the 2019 election before the UCP was formed.

Controversy arose earlier this month when a member of the local UCP board of directors resigned after disagreeing with the local association’s decision to donate the $16,000 remaining in the bank account of the defunct local Wildrose Party association to the Alberta Fund political action committee.

The Alberta Fund PAC was created to support Brian Jean‘s candidacy in the 2017 UCP leadership race and is run by former Wildrose Party president David Yager. Pitt endorsed Jean in the leadership race.

The UCP nomination vote in Airdrie-East will be held on June 20, 2018 from 11:00am to 8:00pm at the Town and Country Centre in Airdrie.

NDP nominate Phillips and Sabir

Shannon Phillips takes a selfie in front of a crowded nomination meeting in Lethbridge-West.

Shannon Phillips takes a selfie in front of a crowded nomination meeting in Lethbridge-West.

Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips has been officially nominated as the New Democratic Party candidate in Lethbridge-West. Phillips was first elected in 2015, earning 59 percent of the vote and unseating Progressive Conservative MLA Greg Weadick. Community and Social Services Minister Irfan Sabir was expected to be nomination as the NDP candidate in Calgary-McCall at a meeting on June 12, 2018.

Former PC MLA runs for Alberta Party nomination

Dave Quest is running for the Alberta Party nomination in Strathcona-Sherwood Park. Quest represented the district from 2008 to 2015 as a PC MLA. He served as Associate Minister for Seniors from 2013 to 2014. He briefly planned to run for municipal office in Strathcona County ahead of the 2017 elections but withdrew before the nomination deadline.

Here are some of the latest updates to the list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of Alberta’s 2019 provincial election:

Athabasca-Barrhead-WestlockMonty Bauer, a grain farmer from Thorhild, is challenging MLA Glenn van Dijken for the UCP nomination. Bauer has been endorsed by former Westlock-St. Paul Conservative MP Brian Storseth.

Brooks-Medicine Hat – Conservative activist S. Todd Beasley is seeking the UCP nomination. Beasley was an organizer for the anti-NDP Alberta Wide Rallies held in 2016 and is the organizer behind the ‘Stop the Shock‘ group, which opposes the closure of dirty coal-fired power plants in Alberta.

Calgary-Edgemont: Prasad Panda was nominated as the UCP candidate in this district. Panda was first elected as the Wildrose Party candidate in the 2015 by-election in Calgary-Foothills.

Calgary-North EastTariq Khan is seeking the UCP nomination. Khan is a real estate agent and general secretary of the Pakistan Canada Association Calgary.

Calgary-Shaw Brad Leishman is seeking the UCP nomination. Leishman was the Wildrose Party candidate in this district in the 2015 election.

Cypress-Medicine Hat – Drew Barnes has been acclaimed in the UCP nomination in this district covering the southeast corner of Alberta. Barnes was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2012 and was re-elected in 2015.

Edmonton-Meadows – Sant Sharma is seeking the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-GlenoraCarla Stolte has been acclaimed as the Alberta Party candidate. She is the former president of the Westmount Community League.

Edmonton-Manning – Manwar Khan is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Edmonton-South – Pramod Kumar is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Atul Ranade is seeking the UCP nomination. Ranade was a declared candidate for Mayor of Edmonton in 2017 but did not enter the race on nomination day.

Edmonton-WhitemudPayman Parseyan has withdrawn from UCP nomination contest in Edmonton-South and is now seeking the UCP nomination in the neighbouring Edmonton-Whitemud district.

Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland – Dale Johnson is seeking the UCP nomination.

Red Deer-NorthAdriana LaGrange has announced plans to seek the UCP nomination. LaGrange has served as a trustee on Red Deer’s Regional Catholic School Board since 2007 and is a past president of the  Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association and former vice-president of the Canadian Catholic School Trustees’ Association. She resigned from her role with the ACSTA in June 2018.

West Yellowhead – Maryann Chichak announced on her Facebook page that she has withdrawn from the UCP concest. Chichak has served as Mayor of the Town of Whitecourt since 2013 and was the Wildrose Party candidate in Whitecourt-Ste. Anne in the 2012 election.

After much deliberation with my family, I will be stepping down from seeking the nomination for the West Yellowhead…

Posted by Maryann Chichak, Nomination Candidate for UCP West Yellowhead on Monday, June 11, 2018

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

Oneil Carlier, Shannon Phillips, Sonya Savage, and Tyler Shandro.

Alberta Candidate Nomination Updates: 2 NDP cabinet ministers announce re-election and 3 more UCP MLAs plan to retire.

Photo: Oneil Carlier, Shannon Phillips, Sonya Savage, and Tyler Shandro.

Nominations are picking up speed.

Three more United Conservative Party MLAs have announced their plans to retire when the next election is called. Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Wayne Drysdale, Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier and Little Bow MLA David Schneider will not seek re-election in 2019.

Schneider changed his minds after previously announcing plans to seek re-election in the new Cardston-Siksika district. His entry into that contest forced Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter to seek the UCP nomination in the neighbouring Taber-Warner district, even though he lives in Cardston. It is not yet known whether Hunter will now run for the UCP nomination in what will soon be his home district of Cardston-Siksika.

Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips has filed her intentions with Elections Alberta to run for the New Democratic Party nomination in Lethbridge-West. Phillips was first elected as MLA in 2015 with 59 percent of the vote.

Also running for re-election is Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier, who told XM105FM that he will seek the NDP nomination in the newly redrawn Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland district. Carlier currently represents the Whitecourt-Ste. Anne district, which will no longer exist when the next election is called.

Independent MLA Derek Fildebrandt is agitating in Chestermere-Strathmore. After being banned from rejoining the UCP caucus in February 2, 2018 after a string of embarrassing scandals, Fildebrandt has essentially accused his former party of being afraid of an open nomination contest in the new district. The theatrical former finance critic accused the UCP of “Trudeau-style affirmative action” for not allowing him to run against popular Chestermere-Rockyview UCP MLA Leela Aheer.

As first reported on this blog on April 7, 2018, Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Jane Stroud will seek the NDP nomination in the upcoming Fort McMurray-Conklin by-election. The UCP have set May 1, 2018 as the date for their candidate nomination vote.

In Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, candidate Joel Loh was not allowed to join the UCP nomination contest and has since endorsed Red Deer County councillor Christine Moore.  UCP members in that district will select a candidate in a vote at the end of the month.

Here are some of the other nomination updates from around the province:

Calgary-Acadia – Lawyer Tyler Shandro is seeking the UCP nomination. Astute followers of Alberta politics might recall Shandro’s role in the EdStelmach.ca incident. Good luck and govern yourself accordingly, Tyler.

Calgary-Currie – Amoriza Gunnink is seeking the UCP nomination. Gunnink is the founder of the Kinderhouse Preschool. Tony Norman is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Norman was his party’s candidate in this district in the 2015 election.

Calgary-East – Pradeep Singh is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-FalconridgeHappy Mann is seeking the UCP nomination. Mann was the Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-McCall in the 2015 election and the 2012 Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-Cross.

Calgary-Glenmore – Maureen Zelmer is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-Mountain ViewDean Brawn is seeking the UCP nomination. Brawn was a candidate for Calgary City Council in Ward 7 in the 2017 municipal election.

Calgary-North WestSonya Savage is seeking the UCP nomination. She is the Senior Director of Policy & Regulatory Affairs at Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. In 2011, she served as co-chair of Rick Orman’s campaign for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party.

Drumheller-Stettler – MLA Rick Strankman is seeking the UCP nomination. Strankman was first elected in 2012 as a Wildrose Party candidate.

Edmonton-EllerslieYash Sharma is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Sharma is the Publisher of the Asia Tribune and producer of Harmony TV and in 2016 he was one of 32 candidates to run in the Ward 12 by-election.

Edmonton-South WestKevin Greco is seeking the UCP nomination.

Lethbridge-East – Brian Litchfield is seeking the UCP nomination.

Morinville-St. Albert – Dale Nally and Trina Jones have entered the UCP nomination contest. Jones is currently serving as Deputy Mayor of the Town of Legal

Sherwood ParkJordan Walker is seeking the UCP nomination. Walker and Strathcona-Sherwood Park nomination candidate Nate Glubish are being endorsed by Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan Member of Parliament Garnett Genuis, who is hosting a meet and greet for the two candidates on April 27, 2018. Genius was the 2012 Wildrose Party candidate in Sherwood Park.

Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright – Two-time Wildrose Party candidate Danny Hozack is seeking the UCP nomination. Hozack earned 37 percent of the vote in 2012 and 33 percent of the vote in 2015. He is seeking the nomination against Garth Rowswell, his campaign manager from the 2015 election.

West Yellowhead – MLA Eric Rosendahl is seeking the NDP nomination. He was first elected in 2015 with 39 percent of the vote.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list.

In Photo: Jason Luan, Mauri Stiff, Deron Bilous, Thomas Dang, Mark Smith, Marc Slingerland

Monday Night Candidate Nomination Update

Here are some of the latest updates to the list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of Alberta’s expected 2019 provincial general election:

Airdrie-Cochrane: Airdrie realtor Mauri Stiff is seeking the United Conservative Party nomination.

Banff-Kananaskis – Miranda Rosin and restaurant owner Scott Winograd are seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-Acadia – NDP MLA Brandy Payne announced last week that she will not be seeking re-election in 2019. Payne was first elected in 2015 when she unseated former Justice Minister Jonathan Denis. She has served as Associate Minister of Health since 2016. David Guenter is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-BeddingtonRandy Kerr is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-Elbow – Lawyer and former UCP leadership candidate Doug Schweitzer is seeking the UCP nomination in Calgary-Elbow. Schweitzer placed third in last year’s UCP leadership contest and if he wins his party’s nomination, he will face off against Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark in the next election.

Calgary-Foothills – Former Progressive Conservative MLA Jason Luan is seeking the UCP nomination. Luan served as MLA for Calgary-Hawkwood from 2012 to 2015, when he was unseated by NDP candidate Michael Connolly. The Foothills district is currently represented by UCP MLA Prasad Panda, who was first elected as a Wildrose candidate in a 2016 by-election to replace former MLA Jim Prentice.

Calgary-Hays – Two-term MLA Ric McIver is seeking re-election as the UCP candidate. McIver was elected in 2012 and 2015 as a Progressive Conservative and sought that party’s leadership in 2014.

Calgary-Klein – Two time Wildrose candidate Jeremy Nixon is seeking the UCP nomination. Nixon ran in this district under the Wildrose banner in 2012 and 2015. He is the brother of Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon.

Calgary-Piegan – Andrew Griffin and Jeevan Mangat are seeking the UCP nomination. Mangat was the Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-Fort in the 2015 election.

Calgary-West – MLA Mike Ellis is seeking re-election under the UCP banner. Ellis was elected in a 2014 by-election and the 2015 general election as a PC candidate.

Cardston-Siksika – Joseph Schow and Marc Slingerland are challenging MLA Dave Schneider for the UCP nomination in this newly redrawn southern rural district that largely covers the areas included in the current Cardston-Taber-Warner and Little Bow districts. Slingerland was a Christian Heritage Party candidate in the 2006, 2008 and 2011 federal elections and the 2015 federal by-election in Foothills.

Drayton Valley-Devon – MLA Mark Smith is seeking the UCP nomination. Smith was first elected in 2015 as a Wildrose Party candidate.

Drumheller-Stettler – Nathan Horner is seeking the UCP nomination in this district, which is currently represented by UCP MLA Rick Strankman.

Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview – NDP MLA Deron Bilous is seeking his party’s nomination to run for re-election. Bilous was first elected in this district in 2012 and was re-elected in 2015. He was one of four NDP incumbents to run in the 2015 election and currently serves as Minister of Economic Development and Trade.

Edmonton-South – MLA Thomas Dang is running for the NDP nomination in this newly redrawn southwest Edmonton district. Dang was first elected as MLA for Edmonton-Southwest in 2015. Edmonton-South includes most of the east half of the district he currently represents. Running for the UCP nomination in this district is Payman Parseyan. Parseyan ran in the 2017 Edmonton municipal election in Ward 9, placing fourth with 15.3 percent of the vote.

Edmonton-WhitemudNawaz Panhwer is seeking the UCP nomination. Panhwer is Infrastructure Manager for the Town of Redwater and the former VP Finance of the PC Association in the district. His nomination is being endorsed by MPs Matt Jeneoroux, Kerry Diotte, and Michael Cooper, and former PC MLAs Naresh Bhardwaj and Sohail Quadri.

Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville – Campbell Pomeroy is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Leduc-Beaumont – Sharon Smith is seeking the UCP nomination. Smith ran for the Wildrose Party in this district in the 2015 election. She placed second with 29 percent of the vote.

Lethbridge-West – George Rigaux and Rick Dempsey are seek the UCP nomination. Rigaux was the chief organizer for the Reform Party in British Columbia ahead of the 1997 federal election. He is reported to have resigned from that position before the election after the media reported him making controversial comments about the role played by the Sikh community in party nominations that year.

Morinville-St. Albert – Gibbons town councillor Amber Harris has announced plans to seek the UCP nomination. Harris made news in November 2017 when she raised concerns on Facebook about the construction of gender-neutral washrooms at the Sturgeon Composite High School.

Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin – Business owner Sandra Kim has announced plans to seek the UCP nomination.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list.

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.

United Conservative Party leadership candidates Brian Jean, Jason Kenney, Doug Schweitzer and Jeff Callaway.

Tracking MLA endorsements in the UCP leadership race

Members of the United Conservative Party will be selecting the party’s first permanent leader on October 28, 2017. After of this week’s fee payment deadline, four candidates will be listed on the ballot: Brian Jean, Jason Kenney, Doug Schweitzer and Jeff Callaway.

Of the 28 UCP MLAs represented in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly, nineteen have endorsed candidates in this leadership race (I am including Jean, the only sitting MLA in the contest, who has obviously endorsed himself). Here is a map showing which UCP MLAs have endorsed which leadership candidate as of September 14, 2017.Brian Jean: Leela Aheer (Chestermere-Rocky View), Wayne Anderson (Highwood), Dave Hanson (Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills), Todd Loewen (Grande Prairie-Smoky), Don MacIntyre (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake), Angela Pitt (Airdrie), Ron Orr (Lacombe-Ponoka), Dave Schneider (Little Bow), Pat Stier (Livingstone-Macleod), Glenn van Dijken (Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock), Tany Yao (Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo)

Jason Kenney: Drew Barnes (Cypress-Medicine Hat), Grant Hunter (Cardston-Taber-Warner), Ric McIver (Calgary-Hays), Jason Nixon (Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre), Mark Smith (Drayton Valley-Devon), Rick Strankman (Drumheller-Stettler)

Doug Schweitzer: Wayne Drysdale (Grande Prairie-Wapiti)

Another Season of Stampede Politicking in Calgary

Rachel Notley Calgary Stampede Alberta

Rachel Notley

Politicians of all stripes descended on Alberta’s largest city this week for the annual Calgary Stampede festivities.

Though most of them have probably never ridden a horse or woke up at 5am (or earlier) to start their day on the farm, they were almost all brandishing big shiny belt buckles, wrangler-style shirts and cowboy hats of various sizes (and if they are lucky, they weren’t wearing them backwards).

Alberta’s NDP caucus held their annual summer caucus meeting in Calgary this week, which allowed most of the 54 NDP MLAs to scatter across the city to attend pancake breakfasts and BBQ lunches that could be found on almost every street corner this week.

The NDP had a particularly strong presence at Stampede events this year, signalling what many political watchers already believe – that Calgary will be a major battleground in the next provincial election. Calgarians elected fifteen NDP MLAs in the Orange Wave of 2015 but the party still remains organizationally weak in this city.

Brian Jean Calgary Stampede Alberta

Brian Jean

Premier Rachel Notley and various cabinet ministers used the week in Calgary to make a series of funding announcements, including loosening restrictions on restaurant patios, construction industry tax credits, improvements to the Canada-Alberta Job Grant and business grants for Alberta’s food processing and booming craft beer industry.

Already campaigning for the leadership of the currently non-existent United Conservative Party, Brian Jean was spotted attending some events that a leader of the right-wing Wildrose Party would not expected to be seen at – such as the annual United Nurses of Alberta BBQ and LGBTQ events. This is likely an attempt to differentiate himself from his social conservative leadership rival Jason Kenney.

Kenney, who is earning a reputation as the potshot king of Alberta politics, offered to pay for Notley to take a course in economics this week. Notley, who has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Alberta and a Law Degree from Osgoode Hall, rightfully pointed out the arrogance of Kenney’s comments.

Jason Kenney Calgary Stampede Alberta

Jason Kenney

Meanwhile, Alberta Together, a political action committee for the Alberta Party, attracted a sizeable group of disgruntled former PC Party members unhappy with Kenney’s leadership to an event this week in Calgary.

By the end of Sunday, most of the politicians visiting Calgary will have hung up their cowboy hats and packed away their boots and denim until next year. But while the Calgary Stampede may be the biggest political event of the season, it is only the beginning of what will be a summer full of political campaigns and maneuvering.

Wildrose MLA blames “hack job” for anti-Trudeau tweet

Speaking to a radio station in his Drumheller-Stettler constituency, Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman claimed the “electronic sphere” and a “hack job” were responsible for a tweet posted by his MLA twitter account last week accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of being a “gutless puke.”

The tweet appeared to have been sent in response to Trudeau’s initial plans not to attend this year’s Stampede, which he later changed (Trudeau was attending the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany earlier this week).

The tweet, which was deleted moments after it was posted, was first reported on this blog last week.

Two weeks until decision day for Conservatives in Alberta

On July 6, 2016, Jason Kenney officially launched his campaign to capture the leadership of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives and lead them into a merger with the right-wing Wildrose Party. After 19-years as an Ottawa politician, Kenney was easily able to stage a hostile take-over the broken and battered former governing party.

One year later, Kenney is campaigning to convince PC and Wildrose members to approve the creation of a new party in a July 22 vote, while also campaigning for the leadership of the yet-to-be created United Conservative Party (whether Conservatives are actually more united now is a completely different question).

A vote of 50 percent plus one is needed from PC Party members to approve the deal, but a steeper 75 percent support vote is needed from Wildrose Party members to fulfill their end of the agreement.

As has been pointed out before, it is expected that many conservative activists will purchase memberships in both the PC and Wildrose parties in order to vote twice on July 22.

Some Wildrosers are nervous that the three-quarters support could be hard to achieve.

On most days it can be hard to get 75 percent of Wildrose members to agree what day of the week it is,” one former Wildrose Party member told me, referring to the raucous reputation and anti-establishment tendencies of the party’s membership. But with the political careers of so many prominent Conservative politicians tied to the success of the July 22 vote, it is hard to believe it would be allowed to fail.

But just in case, a Plan B might be needed.

Rona Ambrose

Rona Ambrose

Four candidates have officially declared their interest in running for the leadership of the new United Conservative Party, when and if it is actually formed: Kenney, Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer and Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt.

Both Jean and Kenney have essentially been using their parties as vehicles to promote their leadership campaigns while also setting up separate political action committees. Fildebrandt has created United Liberty PAC and his leadership bid appears to be at least partly inspired by the strong showing by Maxime Bernier in Alberta during the recent federal Conservative leadership race.

It may just be wishful thinking by some conservatives, but speculation continues that former federal Official Opposition leader Rona Ambrose could enter the race. Ambrose recently resigned her seat in Parliament and is expected to begin a new role in Washington D.C. She, along with a crowd of Conservatives MPs, also endorsed Kenney after he announced his bid for the PC leadership a year ago.

Another Wildrose Bozo-Eruption

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travelled to Hamburg, Germany to meet with world leaders at the G20 summit, some conservatives are angry he is not instead attending the Calgary Stampede.

Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman, who has represented Drumheller-Stettler since 2012, posted a tweet on July 4, 2017 which appeared to accuse Trudeau of being a “Gutless puke” for not attending the Stampede (see the screenshot).

The tweet was deleted moments after it was posted.

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt joined Jason Kenney on the eve of his victory in the PC Party leadership race. (Photo credit: @pcyouthalberta on Twitter)

Kenney shifts into Phase Two of Uniting the Right

Shifting into the second phase of his campaign to unite Alberta’s two largest right-wing political parties, newly elected Progressive Conservative leader Jason Kenney met with Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean this week. According to an email from Kenney’s campaign, the two men, who are both expected to run for the leadership of a new conservative party, shared a carton of Tim Horton’s coffee in the official opposition offices located in the Federal Building.

Brian Jean Wildrose Leader

Brian Jean

Kenney emerged from the meeting alone, holding a press conference by himself without Jean outside the building to announce the creation of conservative discussion groups. Jean probably made a good decision not to participate in a joint press conference at this point, as he would have certainly been made to look like he was playing second fiddle to his main leadership rival.

Jean told CBC that he wants a new party to hold a leadership race before October 15, 2017. This is slightly ahead of the timeline proposed by Kenney, which would have the leadership vote held later in 2017 or in early 2018.

An October 2017 vote would coincide with the creation of new electoral boundaries for the next provincial election, when parties are expected to begin nominating candidates in earnest. The final report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission is due to be presented to the Legislative Assembly on October 31, 2017.

Jean also reiterated his position that a new party should exist within the current legal framework of the Wildrose Party, which puts him at odds with Kenney’s previously stated plans to either merge the two or create an entirely new party.

Wason Resigns

Troy Wason

Troy Wason

PC Party executive director and long-time party activist Troy Wason resigned his position over the weekend. “It’s very difficult to put a round peg into a square hole,” Wason was quoted as saying about Kenney’s PC-Wildrose merger plans in response to the Feminism is Cancer email sent out the Wildrose campus club at the University of Calgary last week. His departure was not a complete surprise but a signal that the Kenney’s victory has some moderate Tories looking for an exit.

It is also notable that former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel’s name disappeared from the PC Party website this week. Mandel, who briefly served as the PC MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud and health minister from 2014 to 2015, was the party’s northern Alberta finance committee chairman. As I wrote earlier this week, Mandel is rumoured to be backing an upcoming “unite the centre” meeting to discuss the potential creation of an alternative to the PC-Wildrose coalition.

Merger aims to keep Tory cash
A group of PC and Wildrose associated lawyers calling themselves the Alberta Conservative Consolidation Committee believe that Elections Alberta’s statement that political parties cannot legally merge is wrong. The group is chaired by former Canadian Taxpayers’ Association president Andy Crooks and includes past Wildrose candidate Richard Jones and PC constituency president Tyler Shandro and two other lawyers.

The desire to merge the two parties rather than create a new party is likely partly driven by the estimated $1.5 million believed to be sitting in dozens of PC Party constituency bank accounts and candidate trusts. If a party dissolves, the funds are held in trust by Elections Alberta and later transferred into the Alberta government’s general revenue.

Former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who is spending much his political retirement on Twitter, posted a photo online showing the PC constituency association in Edmonton-Castle Downs, which he represented in the Assembly from 2001 until 2015, had liquidated its financial assets by donating the funds to local charities.

I do not expect a new conservative party would have trouble raising money before the next election but new donation limits have lowered the maximum annual contribution from $15,000 to $4,000. The NDP also banned corporate and union donations, which the PC Party relied heavily on before the last election. The Wildrose Party, like the NDP, have cultivated a large individual donor base, but losing that $1.5 million would be a hit.

Gotfried and the Red Menace

Richard Gotfried Calgary Fish Creek PC MLA

Richard Gotfried

Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried, the lone rookie PC MLA elected in 2015, evoked his father’s flight from Bolshevik Russia and Maoist China during a speech criticizing the NDP government in the Assembly this week. It takes a special amount of partisan and ideological gymnastics to draw connections between brutal and tyrannical dictatorships and a freely elected democratic government in Alberta, but Gotfried did it.

This is not the first time an opposition MLA has drawn these kinds of connections. Last summer, Drumheller-Stettler Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman apologized, twice, for an open-letter signed by nine Wildrose MLAs that compared the NDP government’s carbon tax to the Holodomor, the genocide that killed an estimated 2.5–7.5 million Ukrainians in the Soviet Union in the 1930s.

What does Jason Kenney’s PC Party stand for?

Kenney has played it pretty smooth since entering provincial politics last summer, largely avoiding getting directly caught in any of the controversy generated by his campaign. But that will not stop his political opponents from reminding Albertans of his more controversial, and in some cases totally bizarre, political statements.

Press Progress unleashed a long list of “abnormal” comments that the 48-year old Kenney has made over the course of his 30ish-year political career. They include comments from his time as an anti-abortion activist at the Catholic University of San Francisco to more recent claims that schools brainwash children with anti-conservative beliefs“bohemian” youths are “unconsciously” promoting communism and marxist professors are working to “suppress” Canada’s “Christian patrimony.”

There is no doubt Kenney has his share of political baggage, but his opponents, including the governing New Democrats, would be foolish to underestimate him. Despite his apparent belief in some weird conspiracy theories, Kenney is an extremely capable campaigner.

Main photo: Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt joined Jason Kenney on the eve of his victory in the PC Party leadership race. (Photo credit: @pcyouthalberta on Twitter)

PC Alberta Tammany Hall

NDP Bill aims to take Big Money out of Alberta politics

The Alberta NDP are pushing forward with their plans to reform Alberta’s outdated election finance laws.

Christina Gray Edmonton Mill Woods MLA

Christina Gray

Labour Minister Christina Gray, who also serves as Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal, introduced the NDP’s latest election finance reforms in the Legislature today in Bill 35: Fair Elections Finances Act. This follows in the footsteps of the first bill championed by Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP after the party formed government in 2015, banning corporate and union donations to political parties.

The bill introduced today includes a handful of the reform ideas that were debated by the now-defunct Special Select Committee for Ethics and Accountability, which was created during the euphoria that followed the election of the NDP. The political mood soured quickly after the election and the committee quickly succumbed to a year of partisan wrangling and procedural brinksmanship until the Legislature allowed the committee to disband in September 2016.

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

The new bill has already received the support of committee member and Liberal Party leader David Swann. Dr. Swann, who is believed to be quite sympathetic to the NDP on many issues, was quoted in a government press released praising the changes.

The bill picks up where the committee left off, but does not include some of the more controversial ideas, such as per-vote financial subsidies for political parties.

Bill 35 would lower the limit that individuals can contribute annually to political parties to $4,000, which is a positive move, and is a reform that NDP and Wildrose MLAs on the all-party committee found room to agree on. The current annual contribution limits are $15,000 outside election periods and $30,000 during election periods.

Eric Rosendahl

Eric Rosendahl

The bill imposes a spending limit of $50,000 for each individual candidate’s campaigns and a $2 million limit for political parties (the Progressive Conservatives were the only party to spend more than $2 million in the last election). I am in favour of spending limits but I do believe that a $50,000 limit for constituency campaigns could be too low. I expect this could lead to some candidate campaigns spending additional funds in advance of the election being called in order to circumvent the low limit.

There are currently no spending limits in Alberta and our province is currently the only province in Canada without spending limits. The lack of spending limits has led to some significant disparities in what is spent in elections campaigns. For example, Edmonton-Whitemud PC candidate Stephen Mandel‘s campaign spent $132,991 in 2015, while candidates like West Yellowhead New Democrat Eric Rosendahl spent $748. Generally, the rule is that the candidate who spends the most money is likely to win, but 2015 was an exception to that rule (Mr. Mandel was defeated and Mr. Rosendahl was elected).

Rob Anderson MLA Airdrie PC WIldrose

Rob Anderson

The NDP have allowed a handful of costs to be exempted from the limit, including travel costs, parking and gas, childcare expenses, expenses related to a candidate living with a disability, and financial audits required by law. I suspect the exemption of travel and gas costs are meant to address some concerns that MLAs on the committee raised about additional expenses incurred when campaigning in geographically large rural constituencies. This issue was raised by Wildrose MLAs on the committee who represent some of these large rural areas.

The bill also proposes limiting spending by candidates running in party nomination contests, which currently does not exist in Alberta. Nomination candidates would now have to register their candidacy with Elections Alberta, which is similar to a system that already exists for federal political parties.

Rick Strankman

Rick Strankman

Perhaps most controversially, Bill 35 seeks to limit the total amount of money that third-party advertisers can spend during elections campaigns. The proposed limit of $150,000, of which no more than $3,000 could used in an individual constituency, is severely limiting. The high costs associated with advertising campaigns would mean that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for any third-party group to run an effective province-wide campaign during an election period in Alberta.

The province’s original third party advertising laws were introduced in 2009 by first term Progressive Conservative MLA Rob Anderson, who later crossed the floor to the Wildrose Party in 2010 before crossing back to the PCs in 2014. Mr. Anderson is now supporting Jason Kenney‘s campaign to merge the two parties and penned an apology to Wildrose supporters on his blog.

Perhaps somewhat ironically, considering the vastly different political environment in 2016, the third-party advertising laws passed by the PCs in 2009 were seen as a reaction to the Albertans for Change advertising campaign targeted then-premier Ed Stelmach. The ads, which became infamous for the spooky “Noooo Plaaan” tagline, were sponsored by a handful of Alberta labour unions.

It was during the 2009 debate in the Legislative Assembly over Mr. Anderson’s bill that the rookie MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona, Rachel Notley, foreshadowed what seven years later would become her government’s reforms to Alberta’s elections finance system:

…in Alberta we should have a much more comprehensive set of rules around our own election financing as candidates, as members of political parties, we should have much more substantial limits on how much we can spend as political parties, and we should have much more substantial rules on the maximum donation that we can receive, all of that designed to ensure it is the individual voter whose activity and whose engagement ultimately makes the day one way or the other at the end of the process and that it’s not one person or a group of 20 people with $15,000 each who can decide a particular campaign in a particular riding.


Where is Strankman’s bill?

Post media columnist Graham Thomson raises an important point in his latest column. Earlier this year Wlidrose MLA Rick Strankman introduced a Private Members’ Bill calling for a blackout of government announcements during election period in order to prevent a governing party from using public funds to influence the election.

The bill was introduced in the Assembly but then referred to the Special Select Committee for Ethics and Accountability, which never had the opportunity to debate it before it was disbanded. It is unclear whether Mr. Strankman’s bill will ever resurface in a future sitting.

What the 2nd quarter fundraising results mean for Alberta’s political parties

Elections Alberta released the results of this year’s second quarter of fundraising for provincial political parties this week. Following the release of the disclosures I took a closer look at last quarter’s results and what they could mean for the parties.

Alberta Political Party fundraising in 2015 and the first two quarters of 2016.

Alberta Political Party fundraising in 2015 and the first two quarters of 2016. (Click for a larger image)

New Democratic Party

The Alberta NDP raised ten percent less than they did in the first quarter of 2016, which marks the third best full quarter fundraising results since the party formed government in May 2015. The NDP have never led party fundraising but they appear to have developed a healthy and significant base of individual donors. Note: The NDP do not register donations to individual constituency associations, so all funds raised are disclosed through the central party.

Wildrose Party

The Wildrose Party maintained its fundraising lead over the NDP by raising the most funds of any party the second quarter. This is a good sign for leader Brian Jean, who’s position as leader of Alberta’s conservatives is being challenged by federal Conservative Member of Parliament Jason Kenney through a hostile take-over bid of the PC Party. Not counted in the chart above is the funds raised by constituency associations in the second quarter, including Highwood which raised $17,545, Strathmore-Brooks which raised $8,350 and Calgary-Foothills which raised $8,100.

Of note:

  • Drumheller-Stettler Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman and his wife Diane Strankman donated $1,500 to the Vermilion-Lloydminster Wildrose Association, that constituency association’s largest donors in the second quarter. The constituency is represented in the Legislative Assembly by PC MLA Richard Starke.
  • Gary Bikman, an MLA who crossed the floor from the Wildrose to the PCs in December 2014, donated $500 to the Wildrose association in Cardston-Taber-Warner. He represented the constituency from 2012 to 2015 and was defeated in his bid to become the PC candidate in 2015.

Progressive Conservative Party

Long gone are the days of secret trust funds and overflowing campaign war-chests. This was a dismal second quarter for the former governing Progressive Conservative Party, which raised only $27,376. This was the party’s second worst quarterly fundraising result in recent memory, which is not a good sign as the PCs are set to begin a leadership race on October 1, 2016. But the poor showing by the central party is somewhat deceiving as some local PC constituency associations raised a significant amount of funds in the second quarter: $11,090 in Calgary-Hays, $10,166 in Vermilion-Lloydminster, $10,100 in Calgary-West, $9,386 in Calgary-Northern Hills and $8,277 in Grande Prairie-Wapiti.

Liberal Party

For the Alberta Liberals, the good news is they increased the quarterly fundraising by 97 percent, the bad news is that they only raised $57,561.04, which is less than their highest quarter last year (they raised more than $110,000 in the first quarter of 2015). Worth noting is a fundraising reception the Liberals are holding on July 21 at the Mayfair Golf Club that will be hosted by Marc de La Bruyere, chairperson of MacLab Enterprises and a well-connected businessman (he also donated $5,000 to the PC Party during the 2015 election).

Alberta Party

After the election of their first elected MLA in 2015, the Alberta Party appears to still be struggling to develop a sustainable base of donors. Unlike the other parties, the newish party is without an already established fundraising network, which takes significant time and resources to develop.


Here is a list of the top donors for each of the five parties, including donations to constituency associations, in the first two quarters of 2016:

New Democratic Party
Harinder Rai: $15,000
Pavan Kumar Elapavuluri: $5,000
Tim Foster: $5,000
Jamie Kleinsteuber: $3,653.75
Jason Rockwell: $3,407.50
Trevor Horne: $3,051.25
Darshan Brar: $3,000
David Eggen: $2,773.75
Mary Williams: $2,730
Alayne Sinclair: $2,643.75

Wildrose Party
Arnell Gordon: $29,000
Tom Goodchild: $15,000
Maurice Swertz: $15,000
Arlene Goodchild: $7,000
Robert Such: $6,050.00
Iris Kirschner: $7,587.50
James Brown: $5,000
Ryan Crawford: $5,000
Alexander Soutzo: $5,000
Frances Jean: $3,962.33

Progressive Conservative Party
Marcel Van Hecke: $15,957.50
Dave Bissett: $15,000
Scott Burns: $15,000
Stanley Milner: $15,000
Bradley Shaw: $15,000
Celine Belanger: $5,000
Ric McIver: $2,940
Chris Warren: $1,020
Elizabeth Henuset: $1,000
Franklin Kernick: $1,000

Liberal Party
Grant Dunlop: $5,600
Karen Sevcik: $5,300
Ian Cartwright: $3,306
Peter Poole: $3,000
Raj Sherman: $2,000
Dan MacLennan: $1,520
Dan Hays: $1,500
Rowland Nichol: $1,500
Catherine Ryan: $1,260
David Swann: $1,000

NDP leader Rachel Notley, surrounded by her party's Calgary candidates in the 2015 election.

1 year later – has the NDP kept their election promises to improve ethics in government?

Days after the Alberta New Democratic Party was elected with a majority government in 2015, I wrote a column outlining the promises made in the party’s election platform to improve ethics in government. One year later, here is a look at those six platform points and whether the NDP have kept their promises to implement them.

(2.1) We will ban both corporate and union donations to political parties.

This was the first law passed by the NDP after they formed government. Introduced by Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, Bill 1: An Act to Renew Democracy in Alberta banned corporate and union donations to provincial political parties in Alberta. The received unanimous support in the Legislature and retroactively came into effect on June 15, 2015.

It is banned provincially and federally but it is still legal for corporations and unions to make financial contributions to municipal election candidates in Alberta. There is still time for the NDP to amend the Local Authorities Elections Act to ban these donations before the October 2017 municipal elections.

(2.2) We will make infrastructure decisions and priorities transparent with a public “infrastructure sunshine list,” so that funding goes to build the most important projects rather than to promote the political fortunes of the PCs.

A promise made by Premier Rachel Notley at a campaign stop in Calgary on April 17, 2015. An NDP press release at the time said that “[t]he list will indicate how projects are prioritized, including the standards used to make the decisions, and will identify when and how changes are made to those priorities.”

Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason said in July 2015 that a list would be released soon but by November 2015 he told reporters that an “artificial order” of priority might create too much animosity between municipalities. The NDP still have until 2019 to implement this promise but I suspect they have decided the political blowback from municipal governments and school boards would cause more trouble than it is worth for the provincial government.

(2.3) We will strengthen the Conflict of Interest Act to prevent MLAs from using their position to benefit their own financial interests or that of political friends, and to strengthen cooling-off periods for former political staff. We will also expand the application of the Act to apply to all senior staff of all of our province’s agencies, boards and commissions.

The Select Special Committee on Ethics and Accountability was created in 2015 to review the Conflicts of Interest Act, the Election Act, the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act and the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act.

The committee is chaired by Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville NDP MLA Jessica Littlewood and is composed of 10 NDP MLAs, 5 Wildrose MLAs, and one Progressive Conservative, Liberal and Alberta Party MLA. The committee is expected to submit its recommendations for amendments to the Acts in September 2016. A motion introduced by Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark to extend the committee’s mandate until March 2017 failed last week.

(2.4) We will amend the Elections Act to prohibit MLAs from using government resources during elections and we will ensure the Chief Electoral officer can effectively investigate breaches of the Act.

This could be included in the Special Select Committee for Ethics and Accountability recommendations expected to be completed in September 2016. A private members’ bill introduced by Drumheller-Stettler Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman in 2016 that would ban government advertising during election periods was referred to this committee.

(2.5) We will extend the sunshine list to include our province’s agencies, boards and commissions.

Bill 5: Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act was introduced by Ms. Ganley on November 5, 2015 and came into effect on December 11, 2015. This bill extended the sunshine list to require compensation disclosure for certain employees who work for agencies, boards and commissions, public post-secondary institutions, Offices of the Legislature and provincial health authorities.

(2.6) We will respect the independence of all-party committees, and will work to respect and maintain the independence and adequate funding of the Officers of the Legislature, such as the Auditor General.

This is a perennial pledge made by opposition politicians that in practice is difficult to prove when the party forms government. When the NDP won a majority government on May 5, 2015, they also won  a majority majorities on the all-party committees of the Legislature. Like all majority governments, they are using their majority to push forward their agenda at the committee level.

As long as our legislative system is dominated by the government leadership it is unlikely that MLAs committees will actually be independent of influence from the Premier’s Office. There is little evidence to suggest that MLA committees are now controlled any more or any less than they were under the previous PC Party government.

Funding for the eight Offices of the Legislature has decreased by $26,300,000 from $152,407,000 in 2015-2016 to $126,107,000 in 2016-2017, largely due to a decrease in funding for the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer (because the next election is not expected to be held until 2019).

Ethics Commissioner Complaints

Responding to a request by Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre Wildrose MLA Jason Nixon, Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler investigated allegations that two fundraisers attended by Ms. Notley were in violation of the Conflicts of Interest Act. Ms. Trussler’s report concluded that Ms. Notley was not in breach of the act with respect to either of Mr. Nixon’s complaints.

Questions have been raised about the results of another investigation made by Ms. Trussler into allegations that former PC Finance Minister Robin Campbell had violated the Conflicts of Interest Act through his activities as President of the Coal Association of Canada. Political strategist Corey Hogan penned a letter to Ms. Trussler asking for clarification of how she interpreted the Act in this investigation.

Around 200 protesters gathered at the Alberta Legislature on Nov. 27, 2015.

Alberta NDP face legitimate concerns and kooky conspiracy theories in debate over Bill 6 farm safety bill

Alberta’s NDP government has been in full damage control mode since Bill 6: Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act exploded in their faces late last month. While attempting to bring our province closer to national standards on farm safety – Alberta is currently the only province without occupation health and safety laws and employment standards coverage for farm and ranch workers – the bill sparked two large protests at the Legislature and continues to bring out thousands of agitated rural Albertans to government-sponsored town-hall style consultation meetings across the province.

Commies

No, it’s not.

Bill 6 has been perceived as a threat to what many rural Albertans see as a traditional way of life and business on the family farm, and inept communications by the government only fuelled claims that this was the intention of the bill.

Taken by surprise, NDP cabinet ministers fanned out to the town hall meetings in an attempt to assure angry rural Albertans that they are listening to their concerns.

While the Wildrose, PC and Alberta Party MLAs have taken positions against Bill 6, the biggest advocate for the bill outside of the mostly silent NDP caucus has been Liberal party interim leader David Swann, a Calgary MLA and former medical officer of health of the now defunct Palliser and Headwaters health authorities in southern Alberta.

Returned from her trip to the Paris Climate Change Conference, Premier Rachel Notley published an open letter to reassure the media and the public that this bill was about farm safety, not about destroying the family farm.

Lori Sigurdson, Minister of Jobs, Employment and Labour, introduced amendments to Bill 6 in the Legislature this week.

The amendments, which “make clear WCB coverage would be required only for paid employees, with an option for farmers to extend coverage to unpaid workers like family members, neighbours and friends” and “make clear that Occupational Health and Safety standards apply when a farm employs one or more paid employees at any time of the year,” appear to address two of the main criticisms of the bill that many opponents and critics (including myself) have raised as concerns.

Aside from legitimate criticisms that rural Albertans were not properly consulted before Bill 6 was introduced into the Legislature, some opponents of the government have tried to spread the kookiest of conspiracy theories about the NDP’s proposed farm safety law.

Over the past week, I have heard claims that Bill 6 would:

  • allow the government to nationalize farm land to build solar or wind farms,
  • force farm workers to unionize as part of some secret communist conspiracy,
  • mark the beginning of a Stalinist farm collectivization program.

None of these outlandish claims are true. But while these claims largely emanate from the anonymity of Twitter and the internet, other oddball claims are actually being made by opposition MLAs.

In the Legislature on Dec. 1, Rick Strankman, the Wildrose MLA for Drumheller-Stettler, suggested that Bill 6 could lead to OHS inspectors confiscating privately owned firearms if they were found to be improperly stored on farms. Mr. Strankman spared fellow MLAs from hearing his best Charlton Heston impersonation.

But perhaps the kookiest of conspiracy theories comes from Progressive Conservative Party interim leader Ric McIver, who is reported to have claimed Bill 6 was part of the NDP plan to turn Alberta into a “Socialist Disneyland.” According to Metro Calgary, Mr. McIver continued in length to praise the conservatism of Saskatchewan, while choosing to omit the fact that our neighbour to the east has a 5 percent provincial sales tax, a 12 percent corporate tax rate, crown corporations for insurance, power and gas, and… farm safety legislation.

Alberta’s NDP government was caught totally off guard by opposition to Bill 6 and has helped fuel the backlash by being slow to react to concerns about changes to farm safety laws. For this, they deserve to be criticized. This is an important lesson for the new government, and one they should recognized as being lucky took place in the first year of their four year term in government, and not six months before the next election.

What’s next?

Bill 6 is currently in second reading in the Legislature.

This will not be the last time the new government will need to challenge the status quo in rural Alberta. The government’s next challenge to rural Alberta will likely be related to province’s longstanding grazing lease program, which the auditor general reports has cost the government an estimated $25 million in annual revenue and is currently under review.

Changes to Alberta’s electoral boundaries, which could be redistributed before the next election to reflect changes in Alberta’s population, would likely result in a reduction of rural constituencies and an increase of urban constituencies in the Alberta Legislature.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci presents the Alberta NDP's first budget.

Sky does not fall as Alberta NDP presents its first budget

When Finance Minister Joe Ceci stood in the Legislature on Oct. 27 to deliver the Alberta NDP’s first budget, it marked the first time since 1972 that the budget was not tabled by a Progressive Conservative finance minister.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

The first budget of Premier Rachel Notley‘s NDP government includes a 15 percent increase in capital spending over the next five years, with a goal to create jobs and tackle the province’s aging and neglected hospitals, schools, roads and other public infrastructure.

The NDP budget includes modest increases and projected stable funding for health care, education, advanced education and human services – core services that Albertans depend on. This was a key component of the election platform that helped propel the NDP into government on May 5. The job creation and economic stimulus elements of the budget followed last week’s creation of an Economic Development and Trade portfolio, led by Edmonton MLA Deron Bilous.

Deron Bilous Edmonton Alberta MLA Minister

Deron Bilous Edmonton Alberta MLA Minister

A projected $6.1 billion deficit in the NDP budget is larger than the $5 billion deficit presented in the Tory spring budget, which was tabled but never passed. But the Alberta government’s eighth consecutive deficit budget is “…hardly sky is falling territory,” wrote University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe in Maclean’s Magazine this week.

While not trivial, obviously, it is completely manageable. Alberta is fully able to handle it and no one need panic. It represents 1.8 per cent of the province’s GDP, which is fairly small, as far as some deficits go,” Dr. Tombe wrote.

The NDP government will borrow to pay for parts of its operations budget starting next year, which will hopefully be a short-term move. Decades of bad financial management and poor long-term planning by the previous conservative government has exacerbated the provincial government’s current fiscal situation. The PCs simply became too comfortable and dependent on unreliable revenue from natural resource royalties to fund the province’s operations budget.

Jim Prentice Alberta Premier

Jim Prentice

Mr. Ceci also announced that the government would legislate a debt ceiling of 15 percent debt-to-GDP in order to hold off a risk of credit downgrades and higher debt service costs.

Former premier Jim Prentice was correct last year when he warned about getting “off the royalty roller coaster.” The Alberta government faces serious revenue problems and moving Alberta away from its over dependence on resource revenue will be a significant test of Ms. Notley’s first term in government.

Any plan to deal with the revenue problem will likely come after the government receives a much anticipated report from the royalty review panel chaired by ATB President and CEO Dave Mowat. The panel is expected to finalize its recommendations by the end of the year. But it will not be enough to simply wait for the international price of oil to rise again. Albertans need to have a serious conversation about revenue and taxation, including the potential introduction of a provincial sales tax.

Derek Fildebrandt Alberta Taxpayers

Derek Fildebrandt

To no ones surprise, Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean and finance critic Derek Fildebrandt responded to the NDP budget with outrage and a message filled with apocalyptic rhetoric.

Mr. Jean’s post-budget press conference was somewhat overshadowed by Mr. Fildebrandt’s bizarre decision to refuse to answer a question from Globe & Mail reporter Carrie Tait (see the ~8:50 mark in this video). Mr. Fildebrandt is sour from a recent interview Ms. Tait published in which she quotes him as claiming the NDP duped Alberta voters by actually implementing promises made during the election (and he later referred to Ms. Tait as a b-list reporter and accused her of auditioning for a job in the Premier’s Office – a comment he later retracted).

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

A joint opinion-editorial written by Wildrose MLAs Rick Strankman (Drumheller-Stettler), Grant Hunter (Cardston-Taber-Warner), and Don MacIntyre (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake) and Dave Schneider (Little Bow) and circulated to rural weekly newspapers in September 2015 provides some sense of how that party would approach provincial budgeting if elected to government:

“When governments borrow and spend, there’s no marketable asset. There’s only debt. It’s like using a credit card to buy pizza. Even when governments borrow to spend on bridges and highways rather than programs, the debt is still not connected to a marketable asset. It’s a liability. Mortgages can be liquidated. Houses can be sold. Who buys used government bridges and worn-out highways?”

This is a crude ideological approach to public governance. Using capital financing to pay for the construction and maintenance of public infrastructure like hospitals, schools, bridges and roads is nothing like using a credit card to buy a pizza.

The Alberta NDP’s first provincial budget is sensible and reflects the thoughtful approach that has defined the first six months of Ms. Notley’s tenure as Alberta’s Premier. Rather than follow a disastrous road taken by some of her predecessors, and slash funding to government services while the price of oil is low, the NDP government is taking an opportunity to invest in much needed public infrastructure when the economy is slow and the price is right. It’s not a brand new approach in Alberta politics, but it is refreshing to see a government focus on building rather than tearing down.

Premier Rachel Notley (centre) and Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason (right) announce that former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge (left) will advise the new government. (Photo Credit to premierofalberta on Flickr)

Notley NDP waste no time implementing popular progressive agenda in former conservative heartland

Banning corporate and union donations: Check.
Restoring funding to health, education and human services: Check.
Increasing corporate taxes: Check.
Introducing a new climate change strategy: Coming soon.
Phasing in a $15 per hour minimum wage: Coming soon.
Reviewing Alberta’s natural resource royalty framework: Coming soon.

Progress is the order of business in Canada’s so-called Conservative heartland as Premier Rachel Notley’s newly elected Alberta NDP government begins implementing the main promises from their winning election platform. Leaders of the previous PC regime, Alison Redford and Jim Prentice, styled themselves as Progressive Conservatives, their actions rarely matched their words. The NDP proposed a fairly moderate progressive agenda and it is refreshing to see it take action so quickly after the election.

Marg McCuaig Boyd

Marg McCuaig Boyd

Revenue and tax reform was a big issue before and during the recent election, with Mr. Prentice and the opposition argued over how best to remove Alberta from the oil revenue roller coaster. It remains clear that Alberta cannot continue to rely on revenues generated from oil and gas royalties to fund the provincial operating budget. Both the PCs and NDP proposed tax increases in the recent election, but Mr. Prentice’s refusal to increase corporate taxes, even symbolically, was a huge miscalculation.

While conservatives preach doom and gloom, our province still has corporate and personal tax rates lower than when Ralph Klein was premier, no provincial sales tax, and huge reserves of oil and gas. Alberta will now have the same corporate tax rate as Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Deron Bilous Edmonton Alberta MLA Minister

Deron Bilous

But there is still plenty more for the new government to do. Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier should extend protections to farmworkers injured on the job. Municipal Affairs Minister Deron Bilous should follow calls from Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton’s Don Iveson and Michael Janz to reform municipal election finance laws. And the province can do much more to clean up provincial election laws, something that a new all-party committee will be tasked to do soon (and they should consider adopting some of the amendments made by Wildrose MLAs during recent debates in the Legislature).

Kathleen Ganley NDP Calgary Buffalo

Kathleen Ganley

Apologizing for previous governments lack of action to stop residential schools and calling for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women was absolutely the right step to take but action needs to follow. Justice and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kathleen Ganley needs to show through government policy that this apology is more than just political posturing.

The government also announced it will soon take action to improve Alberta’s record of poor environmental management and lack of action of climate change, which has helped fuel international opposition to pipeline expansion and the oil sands. On climate change, the PCs lost the public relations battle years ago. Now the challenge will fall to Ms. Notley, Environment Minister Shannon Phillips and Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd to win the policy war on climate change.

Shannon Phillips

Shannon Phillips

I do not have enough room in this post to even begun to discuss the challenges facing Health Minister Sarah Hoffman and Education Minister David Eggen (which will be included in a series of future posts).

As the new government moves forward with what in most other provinces would be considered a moderate progressive agenda, Canada’s conservative outrage industry is gearing up its attacks on the Alberta’s new government.

Talking heads like Ezra Levant are fuelling the paranoia of right-wing fringe conservatives afraid we are witnessing a Red Dawn-style communistic coup (federal Conservative candidate Kerry Diotte and Wildrose MLAs Drew Barnes and Rick Strankman were among the registered spectators at one of Mr. Levant’s travelling circus shows). And recent opinion editorials by critics like conservative economist Jack Mintz, who suggested Alberta could be the next Greece, have verged on the bizarre.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat

Drew Barnes

Ms. Notley and Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason moved quickly to quell criticism of their fiscal plan by announcing last week that former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge will be advising the Premier on infrastructure investment issues. Hiring Mr. Dodge is a smart move and shows a willingness to bring in talent from outside traditional NDP circles.

Aside from the angry conservatives, the new government appears to still enjoy popular support from Albertans, who tossed out the scandal-ridden and tone deaf Tories on May 5. Recent polling shows Ms. Notley, still in her honeymoon period, enjoying the approval of 53% of Albertans, making her the second most popular premier in Canada next to Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall.

The NDP need to be careful not to cut short their honeymoon by making small mistakes. They have already faced criticism for hiring too many provincial outsiders and the media is poking around the perceived influence of Ms. Notley’s husband. These are minor issues that I am sure most Albertans will look past today but the small mistakes can pile up quickly if the new government is not careful.

If the NDP can continue to limit their missteps, focus on implementing their popular platform, and remember why Albertans endorsed Ms. Notley’s charismatic leadership, they will enjoy a warm welcome on the summer political barbecue and parade circuit.