Tag Archives: Rob Anderson

Source: MLA Kent Hehr to run for Trudeau Liberals in Calgary-Centre

Kent Hehr Matt Grant Calgary Liberal
Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr (right) with nominated Calgary-Confederation Liberal candidate Matt Grant.

Political Calgary is abuzz with rumours that popular MLA Kent Hehr will seek the Liberal nomination in the federal riding of Calgary-Centre. Reliable sources say that Mr. Hehr has gone so far as to request nomination forms to become an official nomination candidate for the federal Liberals.

Joan Crockatt
Joan Crockatt

Mr. Hehr would be a star candidate for the Justin Trudeau-led Liberals in Alberta, who see an opportunity to unseat Conservative Member of Parliament Joan Crockatt in the next election. Ms. Crockatt placed a narrow 1,158 votes ahead of Liberal challenger Harvey Locke in a November 2012 by-election. That by-election took place one year after former Conservative MP Lee Richardson defeated his closest challenger with a 19,770 vote margin of victory in the 2011 federal election.

A well-respected lawyer before he entered politics, the likeable Mr. Hehr has represented the downtown Calgary-Buffalo constituency as a Liberal since the 2008 election. The Liberal Finance and Energy critic briefly ran for mayor in 2010, bowing out and endorsing Naheed Nenshi before nomination day. Mr. Nenshi’s campaign manager in that election and now his chief of staff Chima Nkemdirim also managed Mr. Hehr’s first election campaign in 2008 (Mr. Nkemdirim has also has been rumoured as a potential Liberal candidate in the same riding).

In December 2012, Mr. Hehr stirred up some controversy within his party when he wrote a guest post on this blog suggesting that the narrow Conservative win in the Calgary-Centre by-election should send a wake up call to Liberals, NDP and Greens in this province.

Darshan Kang Liberal MLA Calgary Skyview
Darshan Kang

As an MLA, Mr. Hehr has been a thorough opposition critic and a champion of LGBTQ issues, introducing Motion 503 supporting Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools (the motion was voted down by a coalition of 22 Progressive Conservative and 9 Wildrose MLAs).

Perhaps trying to appeal to a more conservative base of supporters, Mr. Hehr was pictured alongside Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson this week signing a “no-debt” pledge from the Tea Party-lite Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

He would not be the only Liberal MLA planning to jump into federal politics in the next election. Calgary-McCall MLA Darshan Kang was recently nominated as the federal Liberal candidate in the north east Calgary’s new Calgary-Skyview riding. If both Liberal MLAs are nominated, they would each be required to resign as MLAs when a federal election is called, leaving the Liberals with only three MLAs in the Assembly (and for the first time since before  the 1993 election, with less MLAs than the New Democratic Party, which currently has four MLAs).

Other MLAs running for federal nominations are Edmonton-McClung PC MLA David Xiao, who is seeking the federal Conservative nomination in the new Edmonton-West riding, and Independent Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber, who is running for the Conservative nomination in the new Calgary-Confederation riding.

Attempts were made to contact Mr. Hehr in order to confirm and comment on the rumours of his potential candidacy in Calgary-Centre. No response had been received at the time this post was published.

UPDATE (July 17, 2014): As predicted in this post, Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr has announced he will run for the federal Liberal nomination in Calgary-Centre.

Kent Hehr Calgary Centre Liberal

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

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

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

Kent Hehr MLA Calgary-Buffalo
Kent Hehr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A dozen Alberta MLAs worth watching in 2014

Alberta MLAs to watch in 2014: Manmeet Bhullar, Deron Bilous, Kent Hehr, Fred Horne, Doug Horner, Ken Hughes, Thomas Lukaszuk, Diana McQueen, Shayne Saskiw, Kerry Towle, Len Webber, Steve Youg.
Alberta MLAs to watch in 2014: Manmeet Bhullar, Deron Bilous, Kent Hehr, Fred Horne, Doug Horner, Ken Hughes, Thomas Lukaszuk, Diana McQueen, Shayne Saskiw, Kerry Towle, Len Webber, Steve Young.

Because politics are unpredictable, forecasting the future can be a tricky business for pundits, but here is a list of a dozen Alberta MLAs worth watching in 2014.

Manmeet Bhullar (Calgary-Greenway): An up and comer in the PC ranks, Mr. Bhullar was rewarded for his time as the competent Service Alberta minister with an appointment as the minister of the downsized Human Services department. Tasked with the difficult challenge of spinning hundreds of foster care deaths into a positive story for the government, Mr. Bhuller is already on his way to becoming a media darling.

Deron Bilous (Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview): A rising star in the 4 member NDP caucus, the 38 year old first-term MLA has proven himself to be a well-spoken addition to the opposition benches. Entering his second year in the Assembly, Mr. Bilous could become a more prominent public face for his party. It is no surprise that he is continually named by New Democrats as a future leader of Alberta’s tiny and scrappy social democratic party.

Kent Hehr (Calgary-Buffalo): Serving his second-term as the MLA representing downtown Calgary, the talented Mr. Hehr is faced with a difficult question: are his political talents best served by sticking with the stuck-in-the-mud Liberal Party? His 2012 guest post on this blog supporting cooperation by centre-left parties caused a stir but was quickly shot down by his party’s leadership. With Alberta’s five Liberal MLAs acting more like a group of independents who share office space than representatives of a unified political movement, I wouldn’t be shocked if Mr. Hehr considers his alternatives in 2014.

Doug Horner (Spruce Grove-St. Albert): As Alberta’s Finance minister, Mr. Horner is tasked to deliver the Redford Government’s 2014 budget. An already expected budget deficit will be intensified as the government directs billions of dollars towards fixing the damage caused by last summer’s floods in southern Alberta. His future leadership aspirations could be at risk as he tries to balance funding for public programs with pressure from the conservative right to cut spending in Canada’s wealthiest province.

Fred Horne (Edmonton-Rutherford): As Health minister, Mr. Horne has imposed drastic administrative changes in Alberta Health Services, including firing the entire AHS board of directors and overseeing the departure of two consecutive AHS CEOs. Confusion inside the health care system has intensified as he continues to assert more political control over the province-wide health authority. It remains unclear what Mr. Horne’s new political control means for AHS. Maybe Albertans will find out in 2014?

Ken Hughes (Calgary-West): A close confident of Alison Redford, the former Energy minister was shuffled to Municipal Affairs to quell conflict created by the previous minister with rural leaders and Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi. Having returned to electoral politics in 2012 after a 19 year hiatus (he served as the PC MP for Macleod from 1988 to 1993), he faces the challenge of fulfilling the province’s promise to create special big city charters for Calgary and Edmonton.

Thomas Lukaszuk (Edmonton-Castle Downs): As deputy premier and Advanced Education minister during last year’s budget cuts, Mr. Lukaszuk became the Redford government’s most recognizable face in the media. Now as Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour, he occupies a role that will see him undoubtably clash with the province’s public service unions. Two unions have already launched court challenges against the province’s new anti-labour laws. This likely will not stop the rumours that Mr. Lukaszuk hopes to one day become his party’s next leader and the next Premier of Alberta.

Diana McQueen (Drayton Valley-Devon): After serving as Alberta’s Environment minister (also known as the junior Energy minister), Ms. McQueen should be well versed in the portfolio she was appointed to in December’s cabinet shuffle. Some political watchers are skeptical of her ability to handle the all-important energy file and face upcoming debates on climate change and oilsands pipelines. Can she handle the pressure?

Shayne Saskiw (Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills): Rising star in the Wildrose official opposition and a potential future leader if Danielle Smith does not lead her party to victory in 2016. The young lawyer from rural Alberta is articulate and partisan, which I anticipate will lead him to play an even more prominent role in the opposition over the next year.

Kerry Towle (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake): A tough and outspoken critic of the government, Ms. Towle has become a familiar face of the Wildrose official opposition. As human services critic, she will face-off against Mr. Bhullar in the next session of the Assembly, which could be an entertaining pairing to watch.  A good spokesperson and only one of three women in her party’s 17 MLA caucus, she could play a key role in softening her party’s hard-edged conservative reputation.

Len Webber (Calgary-Foothills): The former cabinet minister was shuffled to the backbenches after Ms. Redford became leader of the PC Party. With half of his PC MLA colleagues now sitting in some type of cabinet seat, you have to wonder what Mr. Webber did to deserve his permanent banishment. The government praised his private members bill to create an agency to coordinate organ and tissue donations, but will that be enough to keep him in the PC fold? Rumour has it that he is eyeing a federal Conservative nomination for the 2015 election.

Steve Young (Edmonton-Riverview): Wronged by the premier and cast to the backbenches before he could officially enter a cabinet position he had been promised, Mr. Young’s future role in the PC caucus could be interesting. As a member of the conservative wing of the PC Party, he could cause trouble for the PC establishment in the backbenches. Elected to represent a traditionally Liberal-voting constituency that has been hit hard by university budget cuts, he could be vulnerable in the next election, which is why I don’t expect him to sit quietly for the next two years.

(This post was inspired by A dozen federal MPs worth watching in 2014, published by the Canadian Press)

Redford Tories anti-labour laws too extreme for Wildrose

More than 500 Albertans gathered on the steps of the Alberta Legislature to oppose Bills 45 and 46 on Monday, December 2, 2013.
More than 500 Albertans gathered on the steps of the Alberta Legislature to oppose Bills 45 and 46 on Monday, December 2, 2013.

Imagine a chilly and dark December evening in Alberta. It’s snowing and a cold wind is blowing. Standing at the steps of the Legislative Assembly building in Edmonton are more than 500 parka wearing Albertans, mostly public sector workers, listening to speeches decrying the government’s new anti-labour legislation. Labour leaders, New Democrats and Liberals have already spoken and voiced their strong opposition to the bills, next up at the microphone is a representative from… the Wildrose Party.

Amid a storm of embarrassing news stories of unreported deaths of children in the foster care system, Human Services Minister Dave Hancock rushed forward last week with Bill 45: Public Sector Services Continuation Act and Bill 46: Public Service Salary Restraint Act.

These two bills will allow the Redford Government to bypass a legally binding arbitration process in order to force a wage-freeze on 22,000 government employees represented by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, increase harsh fines for illegal strikes and “strike threats,” and introduce restrictions on freedom of speech. Mr. Hancock had initially proposed pass much of this legislation in a short 48 hour period.

Rob Anderson Wildrose MLA
Rob Anderson

Mr. Hancock’s haste, with the blessing of Premier Alison Redford, led to three days of large protests outside the Alberta Legislature. This is not Ukraine or Wisconsin, so there were not tens of thousands of protesters clashing with riot police or occupying government buildings. But there were more than five hundred public servants who, politely and passionately, gathered outside the Legislative Assembly building each day to voice their opposition to this legislation. This is Alberta. And it is winter. It is cold.

In Mr. Hancock’s rush, a most unlikely alliance appears to be forming. On Friday, Wildrose Official Opposition MLA Joe Anglin, a former United States Marine who briefly led Alberta’s Green Party, stood on the steps of the Assembly building to show his support for the 700 public sector workers braving the cold to oppose the Redford Government’s anti-labour bills.

And yesterday, perhaps more symbolically, the Wildrose Opposition’s conservative Deputy Leader, Rob Anderson, stood on those same steps to show party’s support for the more than 500 Albertans braving a December snowstorm to oppose Bills 45 and 46.

Some people may believe this is a sign that the Wildrose is moving to the political centre, but they are no less of an ideological conservative party because of their opposition to these bills. The Wildrose’s opposition to Bills 45 and 46 is rooted in their libertarian beliefs and their entry into this debate is a testament to how unpopular and poorly written, and obviously unconstitutional, this legislation is.

Targeting sections 4(4) and 18(d) of Bill 45 which could limit free speech of ordinary Albertans, Mr. Anderson said his party would introduce amendments to the bill in order to protect the free speech rights. While it has been suggested in the mainstream media that “the new legislation … is designed in part to intimidate high-profile, labour affiliated bloggers such as Dave Climenhaga and Dave Cournoyer,” this law will apply to all Albertans.

As I wrote last week, according to Bill 45, any “person” who suggests that public sector employees strike or threaten to strike could be fined $500 and prosecuted within one year. The bill vaguely defines a “person” as someone who is not a government employee or trade union official, meaning that the $500 fine and prosecution could arguably apply to newspaper columnists, radio hosts, bloggers, or just ordinary Albertans who publicly suggest that unionized government employees participate in an illegal strike or consider taking illegal strike action.

While the opposition parties in the Assembly do not have sufficient numbers to stop these two pieces of legislation from becoming law, the Wildrose Party is playing a long-game.

The Wildrose Party is eager to make allies of the tens of thousands of public sector workers who played a key role in Ms. Redford’s leadership win in 2011 and election win in 2012, but now feel that the Premier has turned her back on them. Ms. Redford claimed to be a champion of progressive conservative values, leading many moderate conservative and liberal voters to lend their support to her Progressive Conservatives in last year’s election in order to block a victory by the Wildrose Party.

Since the election, Ms. Redford’s team has shown little gratitude to this important part of her winning coalition. Instead, they are imposing contracts and have arbitrarily implemented deep budget cuts on the colleges and universities that employ many of Alberta’s public sector workers.

By attacking a constitutionally protected right to free speech and by undermining Albertans’ right to a fair bargaining process, Ms. Redford’s Tories have, in the midst of a cold December on the prairies, managed to unite their political opponents on both the left and the right.

Wildrose to PC MLAs: It’s not your fault, your party left you. Come on over.

The Wildrose Caucus has released a flashy new YouTube video encouraging Progressive Conservative MLAs to join the Official Opposition.

The video begins with two former PC MLAs making the pitch to cross the floor. “I was nervous when I first did I, but I have to tell you, it is so much better over here,” Wildrose MLA Heather Forsyth says in the video. “It’s not you, it’s them,” Rob Anderson testifies.

Rob Anderson Heather Forsyth Wildrose
PC MLAs Heather Forsyth and Rob Anderson crossed the floor to the Wildrose Party in 2010.

The rest of the video includes short clips of testimonials and pleas from Wildrose MLAs to their PC MLA colleagues. “It’s not your fault, your party left you. Come on over,” a welcoming Ms. Smith says in the final clip.

It is yet to be seen if any PC MLAs will accept the opposition offer.

A Wildrose history of floor crossing

In 2010, less than two months after then-Premier Ed Stelmach received 77% in the PC Party’s leadership review, two backbench PC MLAs, Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth, crossed the floor to join newly selected leader Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose opposition. Soon after, former PC MLA Guy Boutilier joined the Wildrose caucus. It is not surprising that the Wildrose would make this pitch only one week after current PC Party leader, Premier Alison Redford, received an eerily similar 77% in her party’s 2013 leadership review.

The Alberta Alliance, the precursor to the Wildrose Party, gained its first MLA when Edmonton-Norwood PC MLA Gary Masyk briefly ran under the party’s banner in the 2004 election in the new Edmonton-Decore constituency. Mr. Masyk was defeated in his bid for  re-election.

 

Redford Government shows bad faith by rushing labour law changes

Alberta Legislature Protest #BuildingAlberta
Hundreds of Albertans gathered outside of the Legislative Assembly today to protest new labour laws.

Providing a timely distraction for a government facing criticism over the sobering news stories of unreported deaths of children in the foster care system, Premier Alison Redford‘s Progressive Conservatives today suddenly introduced two pieces of legislation that could have a significant impact on labour relations in Alberta.

The first piece of legislation, Bill 46: Public Service Salary Restraint Act, introduced by Finance Minister Doug Horner, would impose a two-year wage-freeze on more than 22,000 government employees represented by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. AUPE is currently in negotiations with the government for a new collective agreement and this bill would allow the government to bypass a law requiring it to settle the negotiations with AUPE through arbitration, which had been scheduled for February 2014.  Bill 46 would take effect on January 31, 2014 if the two parties cannot reach a settlement before that date.

This bill is reminiscent of threats made by Education Minister Jeff Johnson to the Alberta Teachers’ Association earlier this year. During those negotiations, Mr. Johnson threatened to cut salaries and impose a new contract on Alberta’s teachers if an agreement was not reached by an arbitrary deadline. Once a deal was finally reached between the government and the teachers’ union, Mr. Johnson then legislated the agreement after a number of elected school boards voted to reject the deal on financial grounds.

The introduction of this legislation raises a real question about the state of collective bargaining in Alberta. Can this government, as an employer, be trusted to bargain in good faith with its employees? And what incentive is there for employers bargain fairly with their employees if the government will just impose an agreement?

The second piece of legislation, Bill 45: Public Sector Services Continuation Act, introduced by Human Services Minister Dave Hancock, significantly increases the penalties for illegal strikes by workers who are determined to provide essential services. Mr. Hancock introduced this bill as a response to the wildcat strike by corrections officers that began at the Edmonton Remand Centre earlier this year. The government proposes to introduce harsh fines of up to $1,000,000 per day on a union in the case of an illegal strike or even the threat of a illegal strike.

As David Climenhaga wrote on his blog, the real reason the government is rushing these changes through the legislature is not the possibility of illegal strikes, but the compromise currently enshrined in the current labour relations system:

“While former premier Peter Lougheed deprived public employees of the right to strike in the event of an impasse in bargaining, in return they got access to a compulsory arbitration process. In other words, an arbitrator who looks at the facts, the laws and private-sector comparisons, and who then has the right to impose a settlement on both parties.”

That these new laws threaten to damage the electoral coalition that helped elect Ms. Redford in the 2012 election doesn’t appear to have been considered by the long-governing PCs. Nor did the PC government blink when it proposed changes that will negatively impact public sector pensions or when it imposed deep budget cuts on Alberta’s post-secondary education system, attacking another key community that was part of Ms. Redford’s coalition.

With Ms. Redford turning on her supporters in the public service, Alberta’s public sector employees could find themselves with allies in untraditional places.

“A Wildrose government would never act in this way. Just because your negotiation isn’t going well, you don’t take away people’s arbitration rights that are in the contract that was signed. That’s not how you govern. That’s not good faith,” Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson told the Edmonton Sun.

For reasons that are unclear, Ms. Redford’s government is moving quickly to pass this legislation. At Mr. Hancock’s urging, MLAs have made an unordinary exception to meet for a special sitting on Friday, November 29 in order to ensure that Bill 45 passes through the Legislature in the next 48 hours and becomes law before the weekend.

The new (and old) faces of municipal elections in Alberta

Tomorrow is election day and in counties, municipal districts, villages, towns, and cities across the province, Albertans will cast their votes for mayors, reeves, councillors, aldermen, and school trustees.

Naheed Nenshi
Naheed Nenshi

In Calgary, uber-popular mayor Naheed Nenshi is expected to crush his opponents, including former Progressive Conservative MLA Jon Lord and a cast of challengers from the political fringe. This election also marks a change of title for Calgary city council members, from “Alderman” to “Councillor.”

With voters in Alberta’s second, third, and fourth largest cities – Edmonton, Red Deer, and Lethbridge – selecting new mayors, there could be a shift in how municipalities interact with the provincial government. With the ongoing war of words between Mayor Nenshi and Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths, a cast of new mayors could create a new dynamic in municipal-provincial relations in Alberta.

Don Iveson Edmonton Mayor Election
Don Iveson

In Edmonton, I am supporting for Don Iveson for Mayor. But don’t take my word for it. Check out Don Iveson’s ideas for our city and be sure to take a look at what the other candidates are offering. With 6 city councillors not seeking re-election and at least one incumbent in a vulnerable position, there will be some new faces on Edmonton City Council.

While there will be many new faces on municipal councils after the votes are counted, there could be some familiar characters returning to the fray. Observers of provincial politics in Alberta will recognize some of these candidates.

Fallen Tory titan Ray Danyluk is challenging incumbent Steve Upham to become the next Reeve of the County of St. Paul.  Since the former cabinet minister was unseated by Wildroser Shayne Saskiw in the 2012 election, he has become the unofficial government representative in northeast Alberta, hosting traveling cabinet ministers at events and town hall meetings.

Alberta PC MLA Ray Danyluk
Ray Danyluk

In Fort McMurray, former PC-turned-Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier is running for a councillor position on Wood Buffalo’s municipal council, a place where he served as mayor before entering provincial politics in 1997. In Edmonton, former MLA Edmonton-Mill Woods Liberal MLA Weslyn Mather and former Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Ray Martin could be elected as trustees on Edmonton’s Public School Board.

In St. Albert, where anonymous smear groups run rampant, former Alberta Liberal Party leader Bob Russell is aiming for a political comeback. While he was never elected to the Assembly, Mr. Russell served as Liberal Party leader from 1971 to 1974. He later served as an alderman in St. Albert from 1989 to 1992 and 1995 to 2001.

In the Village of Wabamum, former Stony Plain Tory MLA Fred Lindsay is running as part of a 3-candidate slate. Running for re-election to Wabamum village council, but not on Mr. Lindsay’s slate, is Bill Purdy, who served as the PC MLA for Stony Plain from 1971 to 1986.

Familial relations also cross municipal-provincial lines. Judy Hehr, mother of Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Kent Hehr is running for a spot on the Calgary Board of Education. Strathcona-Sherwood Park PC MLA Dave Quest‘s wife, Fiona Beland-Quest, is running to become a councillor in Strathcona County. Lethbridge mayoral candidate Bridget Mearns is the daughter of Lethbridge-East‘s Liberal-turned-PC MLA Bridget Pastoor. And in Edmonton, Ward 8 councillor Ben Henderson is running for re-election. Mr. Henderson is married to Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman.

In the City of Airdrie, Jane Anderson, the mother of Airdrie Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson is running for a spot on city council as part of the Airdrie United slate. Mr. Anderson’s brother, Nathan Anderson, is running for re-election as mayor of the town of Crossfield.

The appearance of municipal slates in Airdrie and Red Deer could signal the return of partisan style politics in municipal government (slates were common in Alberta’s larger cities until the 1970s and 1980s).

Wildrose MLA accused of slate-building in Airdrie civic election

Rob Anderson MLA Wildrose
Rob Anderson

Outgoing mayor of Cochrane Truper McBride has raised questions about the involvement of Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson in the ‘Team Airdrie United’ slate of candidates running in the October municipal elections. Mayor McBride alleged that Mr. Anderson’s involvement stems from his opposition to density requirements for new development bring implemented by the Calgary Regional Partnership. Mayor McBride is the chairperson of the CRP.

Responding quickly to the accusations, four Calgary-area Wildrose MLAs, Mr. Anderson of Airdrie, Bruce Rowe of Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, Pat Stier of Livingstone-MacLeod and Jason Hale of Strathmore-Brooks, were quoted in a press release dening the allegations and condemned Mayor McBride as “a failed PC nomination candidate.”

Mayor McBride contested the Progressive Conservative nomination in Banff-Cochrane before the 2012 election. The nomination was won by Canmore Mayor Ron Casey and is the only rural constituency in southern Alberta that elected a PC MLA in last year’s election.

Whether Mr. Anderson is involved or not, it appears there could  be a deeper level of personality politics influencing this quarrel (one of the candidates in the Team Airdrie United slate is Jane Anderson, Mr. Anderson’s mother). But there is also an undeniable push by some conservatives to have a concerted influence in this year’s municipal elections by organizing slates of candidates.

While Conservatives of varying stripes dominate the federal and provincial levels of government in Alberta, voters have been friendlier to moderate centrist and centre-left inclined candidates in the municipal sphere. Many politicians identified with the Liberal and New Democratic Parties have had successful political careers at the municipal level in Alberta.

One conservative-slate, Red Deer First has emerged in central Alberta’s largest city. Sources tell this blogger that many of the key figures behind this group have ties to the Wildrose Party.

The new lobby group Common Sense Calgary, funded by the conservative Manning Centre, emerged on Calgary’s political scene last week. While it is no surprise that the Manning Centre is aiming to influence municipal politics, the lobby group had a rough start when it was forced to remove Calgary Real Estate Board as a supporter after the board’s CEO was surprised to find his name attached to a group that decried housing affordability in the city.

In April 2013, a video leaked to Global Calgary showing a large group of prominent wealthy developers – known to some as the Sprawl Cabal – plotting to stack Calgary City Council with sympathetic candidates made waves in Alberta’s largest city. The video showed a prominent developer presenting a plan to defeat certain members of City Council who he perceived to be anti-urban sprawl.

Who would win a Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo by-election?

Mike Allen MLA
Mike Allen MLA

After being arrested in a prostitution sting in St. Paul, Minnesota, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Mike Allen resigned from the Progressive Conservative caucus. For the time-being, Mr. Allen will remain an Independent MLA, as police in St. Paul have yet to place charges against him. Barring charges and a conviction, Mr. Allen could reasonably be expected to complete his term in Legislative Assembly, albeit sitting outside the PC caucus.

The opposition, including Airdrie Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson, have been calling on Mr. Allen to resign as MLA. If, by chance, Mr. Allen did resign as MLA, voters in the northern Alberta constituency would choose a new representative in a by-election.

A key battlefield in the 2012 provincial election, how would Alberta’s political parties fare in a Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo by-election?

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo (image from wikipedia)
Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo (image from wikipedia)

In 2012, Mr. Allen was elected with 3,609 votes (49%), defeating Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier, who earned 3,164 votes (42.9%). A unique election, Mr. Boutilier served as a PC MLA since his first election in 1997 until he left the Tory caucus in 2009 and joined the Wildrose in 2010. According to Elections Alberta financial reports, Mr. Allen’s campaign spent $72,825 in the campaign, compared to Mr. Boutilier’s $65,457.

In the 2012 Elections Alberta financial disclosures, the PC constituency association in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo reported net assets of $11,438.40. The Wildrose constituency association listed $549.58 in net assets at the end of 2012.

Low voter turnout, 34%, in the 2012 general election suggests that many voters in the constituency are undeclared or unidentified by the parties.

Despite electing candidates in both Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo and neighbouring Fort McMurray-Conklin (where Tory Don Scott defeated Wildrose candidate Doug Faulkner), the Wildrose candidates earned strong second place finishes in the 2012 election.

Fort McMurray Today reports Mr. Boutilier remains silent on a possible comeback, but a by-election triggered by a Tory sex scandal would be the ideal scenario an opposition politician could hope for.

Guy Boutilier
Guy Boutilier

A Liberal base in Fort McMurray, which elected MLA Adam Germain in the 1993 election, has near completely eroded with that party earning 3% of the vote in both constituencies. The NDP saw a spike of support in constituency in the the 2001 election, but have not had much success in the three elections held since.

Who would the Tories look to for a by-election candidate? Would any of Mr. Allen’s challengers in last year’s PC nomination step up? Candidates in last year’s PC nomination race included Andrew Highfield, Nick Sanders, and school trustee Jeff Thompson. Popular Wood Buffalo mayor Melissa Blake, who is seeking re-election in this year’s municipal vote, would be seen as a star candidate for any party and could easily fill a top cabinet position if elected into government.

A rash of automobile accidents caused deaths on the busy highway 63 put heavy pressure on the governing Tories last year. The heavy pressures of a being boom-town have created many unique growth and social challenges in this northern Alberta community that could easily become an issue in a locally-focused by-election.

But Premier Alison Redford‘s Tories may want to avoid an embarrassing by-election defeat. Two of the three most recent provincial by-elections held in Alberta have resulted in opposition parties electing candidates in formerly government-held constituencies.

Tories versus Wildrose: Year One in Alberta’s new political game.

Alison Redford Campaign Bus
Premier Alison Redford hops of her campaign bus onto Edmonton’s 124 Street during the 2012 election.

On April 23, 2012, Alberta’s most hotly contested election in decades culminated with the re-election of the twelfth consecutive Progressive Conservative majority government since 1971. Despite holding the large majority elected MLAs, the popular vote showed Albertans were closely divided between Alison Redford‘s Tories who finished with 44% compared to an impressive 34% showing for Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Alberta
Danielle Smith

The first year of Premier Redford’s mandate has been rough for her governing party. Scandals bubbling up from now-defunct health authorities, accusations of a personal conflict-of-interest, and allegations that her party accepted up to $400,000 in illegal campaign donations from billionaire Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz have dogged her government.

Despite being branded as a policy-wonk, Premier Redford’s cabinet has implemented a confused domestic agenda that has resulted in public spats with popular Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Stephen Mandel and unnecessary conflicts with teachers and doctors. Recent budget cuts, blamed on a deflating bitumen bubble, also threaten to unravel the coalition of moderate voters who carried her party to victory one year ago.

The mixed bag that is Premier Redford’s cabinet could help explain some of this confusion. Younger cabinet ministers, like Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, Education Minister Jeff Johnson and Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths, constantly talk off the cuff and appear to sometimes be making government policy on the fly. Other ministers, like Finance Minister Doug Horner, Health Minister Fred Horne and Human Services Minister Dave Hancock, have shown restraint and maturity that comes with years of cabinet experience.

Doug Horner
Doug Horner

Premier Redford has been exceedingly strong on the national and international stage as she has travelled extensively over the past year lobbying for a Canadian Energy Strategy, the Keystone XL Pipeline, and to open new markets for Alberta’s oil sands. She appears to be less interested or willing to play the political game, which will become increasingly difficult in the face of an aggressive official opposition.

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith could have been celebrating her first year as Premier had it not been for late election bozo-erruptions that exposed an offensive social conservative element in her party. Comments about caucasian advantages and a Lake of Fire drove many moderate conservatives, liberals, and even some New Democrats, to vote PC in last year’s election.

Despite the disappointment of not defeating Alberta’s long-governing PC dynasty, Ms. Smith has grown into her role as Leader of the Official Opposition. Borrowing aggressive tactics from the federal Conservatives in Ottawa, who are organizationally tied at the hip with the Wildrose, Ms. Smith’s party is leading the most aggressive and partisan official opposition in recent memory. Her party has groomed a front-bench that dominate the media and have, in many cases, driven the government agenda from across the aisle. Rarely a week goes by where Ms. Smith, Rob Anderson, Shayne Saskiw, Kerry Towle, Bruce McAllister, or Heather Forsyth have not grabbed a headline or a prime time news story.

The Liberals, still led by former Tory MLA Raj Sherman, are still adjusting to their new role as the third-party in the Assembly after being bumped out of Official Opposition by the Wildrose. Accustomed to stealing the spotlight from the now-former Official Opposition Liberals, the four-MLA New Democrat caucus spent the past year figuring out how to play the same tricks on the Wildrose. Acclimatizing to the new political environment, Brian Mason’s NDP were overshadowed by Ms. Smith’s new team for most of last year. With some of the ‘progressive’ shine coming off Premier Redford’s Tories, the NDP are starting to find their footing again.

The Tories have broken more than a few election promises in the first year of this mandate, including pledges to balance the budget and provide stable funding for health, education, and municipalities. Despite the rough first year, Premier Redford’s Tories still have at least three years left until the next election to fulfill the promises made and mend fences with the bloc of moderate voters who saved their party from defeat one year ago today.