Tag Archives: Rona Ambrose

Sturgeon River-Parkland by-election.

Sturgeon River-Parkland by-election competing with Alberta’s municipal elections

As if voters won’t already have enough candidates knocking on their doors with Alberta’s municipal elections scheduled for October 16, 2017, a federal by-election will be held in the Sturgeon River-Parkland electoral district with a vote on October 23.

It is widely expected that whoever wins the Conservative Party of Canada candidate nomination will be easily elected as the riding’s next Member of Parliament. And with the by-election being held one week after the municipal elections, voter fatigue could lead to a record low turnout in this by-election.

I plan to pay particular attention to this by-election over the next few weeks, as it is where I grew up and where my family originally settled and homesteaded in the 1890s.

Here is a look at the candidates running in the by-election and for party nominations:

Conservative Party

Jamie Mozeson Conservative Sturgeon River-Parkland

Jamie Mozeson

Initially scheduled for mid-October, the Conservative Party moved its nomination meeting dates to September 23, 2017 in Stony Plain and September 24, 2017 in Morinville.

Four candidates are seeking the Conservative Party nomination: local party organizer Jamie Mozeson, recently relocated Vancouver businessman Rick Peterson, and political staffers Dane Lloyd and Luke Inberg (Note: I haven’t seen Luke in years, but our families lived down the street from each other in Morinville and we worked together at the St. Albert IGA while we were both studying in University. I can’t speak to his politics today, but I remember him as a nice guy back then).

Mozeson’s website lists endorsements from former riding MP Rona Ambrose, former Stony Plain MLA Ken Lemke, and sitting Conservative MPs Michelle Rempel, Matt Jeneroux, Tom Kmeic, Garnett Genuis, and Arnold Vierson.

After a twelfth-place finish in the Conservative Party’s recent leadership race, Peterson relocated moved from Vancouver to Spruce Grove in order to run in this by-election. His campaign has adopted an oil derrick as their logo, likely to demonstrate how Albertan he has become since moving back to the province a few months ago.

New Democratic Party

Shawna Gawreluck NDP Sturgeon River Parkland

Shawna Gawreluck

Medical laboratory technologist and small business owner Shawna Gawreluck is expected to be acclaimed as the New Democratic Party candidate at a nomination meeting on September 21 at the Elks Social Hall in Spruce Grove.

Christian Heritage Party

Ernest Chauvet defeated Kevin Schulthies in a nomination meeting to become the Christian Heritage Party candidate in early September. Chauvet earned 690 votes as his party’s candidate in this riding during the 2015 federal election.

Liberal Party

While i have not been able to find any information on who might run as the Liberal Party candidate in this by-election, the party has scheduled a nomination meeting on Sept. 21 at the Border Paving Athletic Centre in Spruce Grove. The party does appear to have shown some activity in the riding. A tweet was posted showing Halifax Liberal MP Andy Fillmore campaigning with local party supporters on Sept. 8.

Update: The St. Albert Gazette reports that Brian Gold will be acclaimed as the Liberal Party candidate in Sturgeon River-Parkland. Gold ran in the 2015 election in the Edmonton Griesbach riding and finished third with 10,387 votes.

 

Photo: Kent Hehr with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Calgary Stampede in July 2017. (Photo from Kent Hehr's Facebook Page)

Mid-week Alberta Politics Roundup

Photo: Kent Hehr with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Calgary Stampede in July 2017. (Photo from Kent Hehr’s Facebook Page)

It has been a busy week for me, so without the time to write a full column-type post, here is a quick summary of what I have been watching in Alberta politics over the past few days.

Calgary MP moved in Trudeau cabinet shuffle

Calgary-Centre Member of Parliament Kent Hehr was appointed Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities this week as part of a fairly significant shuffle in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet. Hehr had previously served as Minister of Veterans Affairs, a post he had held since his election in 2015. Though the move is viewed as a demotion at worst or a lateral move at best, there is no indication that the shuffle was a reflection on Hehr’s performance as minister, which appeared to fulfill competently.

As a former amateur athlete and leader in the Canadian Paraplegic Association, Hehr appears to be a good fit for this role.

While the Minister of Sports is traditionally seen as a junior level position in cabinet, the prospect of Calgary bidding for the 2026 Winter Olympics and Canada joining with the United States and Mexico in a bid to co-host the 2026 World Cup could increase its political importance.

Meanwhile, Calgary-Skyview Liberal MP Darshan Kang announced he would take a medical leave of absence due to stress caused by allegations of sexual harassment that have dogged the federal politician over the past few weeks.

Alberta MPs in Ottawa Shadow Cabinet

Following this week’s federal cabinet shuffle, Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer announced a new roster of Official Opposition critics. Alberta Conservative MPs in the shadow cabinet include: International Development critic Ziad Aboultaif, Agriculture and Agri-Food critic John Barlow, Status of Women critic Rachael Harder, Science critic Matt Jeneroux, National Revenue critic Pat Kelly, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship critic Michelle Rempel, and Natural Resources critic Shannon Stubbs.

NDP Minister continues his Coal Tour

Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous continues his town hall tour of Alberta’s coal communities this week. In the Town of Hanna, Bilous and mayor Chris Warwick announced $450,000 in funding create Community Action Teams led by the Cactus Corridor Economic Development Corporation to focus on initiatives identified in a report by the Hanna Climate Change Strategy Task Force.

While Bilous left Hanna with more questions than answers, he deserves some credit for traveling to these communities holding these town halls – something the NDP government should have done two years ago.

UCP candidate calls on Alberta to national Manitoba port

Jeff Callaway was looking to generate headlines for his United Conservative Party leadership campaign, and he succeeded with his proposal for the Alberta government to nationalize and build a pipeline to access Manitoba’s Port of Churchill. Federal NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton, who is the MP for  Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, called on the federal government to nationalize the port of Churchill in Dec. 2016.

Low federal NDP membership numbers in Alberta

Speaking of the federal NDP, the party released the breakdown of membership numbers by province ahead of its September leadership vote. Despite having one of only two NDP governments in the country, the federal NDP only recorded having 10,188 members in Alberta, compared to 52,200 in Ontario and 31,974 in British Columbia.

The low participation rate may have a lot to do with the deep political divide between the Alberta NDP and its federal and provincial counterparts over the expansion and construction of oil pipelines, which is a priority for Rachel Notley’s government. To my knowledge, no Alberta NDP MLAs have released public endorsements for any of the federal NDP leadership candidates.

Garry Keller joins the UCP caucus

Until recently he was rumoured to be eyeing the federal Conservative nomination in the upcoming Sturgeon River-Parkland by-election, but it was announced today that Garry Keller, a former chief of staff to Rona Ambrose, would join the United Conservative caucus as a special advisor.

Sturgeon River-Parkland by-election.

Sturgeon River-Parkland by-election to replace Rona Ambrose to be called by end of 2017

A federal by-election will be held in Sturgeon River-Parkland in the coming months following the resignation of Conservative Member of Parliament Rona Ambrose. Ambrose served as MP for this riding from 2015 to 2017 and as MP for the now defunct Edmonton-Spruce Grove riding from 2004 to 2015.

A by-election must be called by December 31, 2017.

This is a very safe Conservative riding.

Ambrose earned 43,220 votes in the October 2015 election, compared to 9,586 votes for Liberal Travis Dueck, 6,166 for New Democrat Guy Desforges, 1,875 votes for Green Brendon Greene and 690 for Christian Heritage candidate Ernest Chauvet.

In order to find a competitive race in this riding, you have to go all the way back to a 1986 by-election, when parts of the riding were included in the former Pembina riding. In that year’s by-election, Progressive Conservative Walter Van de Walle narrowly edged out New Democrat and former Edmonton mayor Ivor Dent by 274 votes.

No doubt an indication of their political strength in the riding, the Conservatives appear to be the only party with an active candidate nomination race underway. Here is a look at the candidates, both declared and prospective:

  • According to her online biography, Conservative Party activist Jamie Mozeson has worked as a political staffer in the offices of a few prominent Conservative politicians, including former Stony Plain MLA Stan Woloshyn, Edmonton MP Mike Lake, Premier Jim Prentice and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. She recently served as Alberta Regional Organizer and Target Seat Manager during the 2015 election.
  • Vancouver businessman Rick Peterson placed 11th out of 13 candidates in the recent Conservative Party leadership race and is reported to be considering running for the Conservative Party’s nomination in this by-election. According to recent comments posted on Twitter, he is moving to Edmonton this month, presumably to run in the by-election.
  • Garry Keller does not appear to have officially announced his candidacy, but there was speculation by Ottawa media following Ambrose’s resignation that he might run in the by-election. Keller, who is from Stony Plain, served as Ambrose’s chief of staff and previously served as chief of staff for Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird. He worked as Legislative Assistant to former area MP John Williams from 1997 to 2006.

Ambrose appointed to blue ribbon NAFTA Panel

It was announced today that Ambrose will be appointed to the Canadian government’s North American Free Trade Agreement advisory panel ahead of renegotiation discussions with the United States and Mexico. Ambrose joins 12 other panelists, including Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff, fellow former Conservative MP James Moore, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley‘s former Chief of Staff Brian Topp.

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.

The U-C-P: Jean and Kenney launch the United Conservative Party

Today’s announcement from Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean and Progressive Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney that they plan to create a new conservative political party has been expected for weeks. The press conference was filled with fairly nauseating partisan rhetoric about how awful and catastrophic the NDP are, but most importantly, we found out what is included in the agreement that was negotiated by a committee of party insiders and signed by the two party leaders.

– It is not really a merger. Under the Jean-Kenney agreement released today, a new legal entity will be created under the Societies Act. It is not clear what will happen to the two currently existing parties and whether they will eventually be dissolved or will continue to exist in name only.

– The new party will be called the United Conservative Party, or U-C-P, for short (the acronym was widely mocked on social media today). This name might not have been the first choice of the two leaders. A failed plot was supposedly hatched by the Kenney-support group Alberta Can’t Wait, to take control of the Alberta Party board of directors at their 2016 annual general meeting. The Alberta Partiers thwarted the takeover and preserved their control over their party’s coveted name.

– The two parties will hold a vote of their memberships on July 22, asking whether the membership would like to create a new party. Approval would require the support of 50 percent plus one of the PC Party membership and 75 percent of the Wildrose Party membership. It is fairly well known that many of Kenney’s supporters in the PC Party leadership race also hold memberships in the Wildrose Party, so it is unclear whether those individuals will be able to cast their ballots twice.

– If members of the two parties vote in favour of creating a new party, the two leaders will step down from their current position and a newly merged caucus of Wildrose and PC MLAs will elect an interim leader. The UCP, Wildrose and PC parties will then be governed by the same leader and executive officers.

– A leadership vote would be held on October 28, 2017. Jean and Kenney have said they will run for the leadership. Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt is said to be preparing a leadership bid. Interim federal Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose, who announced her retirement from federal politics this week, was rumoured to be considering a run, has instead taken a position with the Washington DC-based Wilson Centre.

– There are still outstanding questions about what will happen to the finances of the two parties, in particular the PC Party’s outstanding debt from the 2015 election. According to financial documents published by Elections Alberta, as of December 31, 2016, the PC Party had drawn $754,475 from their $850,000 line of credit. The line of credit is guaranteed by a former director of the party.

The next five months could be fascinating to watch.

Jason Kenney emerges from hiding at Conservative fundraising dinner in Vancouver

As Premier Rachel Notley returns from leading a ten-day economic trade mission to China and Japan, political watchers have been wondering where the recently elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party has been? Jason Kenney appeared to go into hiding around a month ago after he sparked controversy with his comments about Gay-Straight Alliances and outing gay kids in Alberta schools during an interview with the Postmedia editorial board in Calgary.

Vancouver-based website TheBreaker reported this week that Kenney was recently spotted in British Columbia speaking at a $500-a-plate federal Conservative Party fundraising event at Hy’s Steakhouse in downtown Vancouver. Kenney tweeted that he was in Vancouver for a conference, but did not mention any other political activities the PC Party leader has been engaged in on the west coast.

The website author, journalist Bob Mackin, alleged that Kenney urged guests at the fundraising dinner to support the BC Liberal Party of Christy Clark in the province’s May 9 general election and that a new conservative  party could be formed in Alberta as soon as this weekend.

Readers will remember that a question first asked on this blog on December 5, 2016 about whether the Alberta New Democratic Party would lend a hand to their BC cousins led to a decree by Notley banning any west coast election-related travel by her government’s political staffers. The BC NDP under the leadership of John Horgan oppose the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline, a project that the Notley NDP are firmly in favour of.

According to the latest opinion poll, conducted on April 22, 2017, Horgan’s NDP leads Clark’s Liberals 44 percent to 34 percent, with an insurgent Green Party led by Andrew Weaver polling at 22 percent support.

Meanwhile, as the unite-the-right discussions continue, a new poll released by Mainstreet Research asking Albertans who they would prefer as leader of a merged Wildrose-PC party showed Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean leading Kenney with 29 percent to 24 percent support. Twenty-four percent of respondents chose “Someone Else” and 23 percent were unsure, suggesting that there could be appetite for a third or fourth candidate to enter the contest (some Conservative activists have suggested outgoing interim federal Conservative leader Rona Ambrose could fill this void).

Jean has been criss-crossing the province holding town hall meetings ostensibly to collect feedback on the party merger, but in reality he is campaigning for the leadership of the yet-to-be-named and yet-to-be-merged Wildrose-PC party.

I am told that one of the significant issues of debate between the leadership of the two conservative parties is the timeline for a leadership vote. Jean has firmly said the leader of a new party should be chosen before October 15, 2017 while Kenney has been saying since last year that he wants a founding convention to be held in late 2017 before a leadership vote takes place in early 2018.

Jean’s preferred timeline appears to be more sensible, as it would allow a leader to hold court over a founding convention that could be unruly and filled with bozo-erruptions if a leader is not in place to keep the rowdy membership base in line. Kenney’s preference would buy him more time to compete with Jean in a leadership vote, which he might need now that he has decided to lend himself out to conservative fundraising efforts in British Columbia.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean and MLA Don MacIntyre speak at the weekend anti-carbon tax rally.

That Totally Weird Anti-Carbon Tax Rally

While I am in the mood to dispense political advice, my next tip goes out to Wildrose leader Brian Jean, who was a featured speaker at Ezra Levant’s totally weird anti-carbon tax rally.

Mr. Jean and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Don MacIntyre shared the podium at the event organized to protest Alberta’s carbon tax (yes, the carbon tax that led to the approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline).

Conservative MP Kerry Diotte and Bernard Hancock.

Conservative MP Kerry Diotte and Bernard Hancock.

The rally featured Neal Bernard “The Roughneck” Hancock removing his shoes and throwing them at the doors of the Legislature, former federal cabinet minister Chris Alexander appearing to nod as protesters chanted “lock her up in reference to Premier Rachel Notley, and climate change denying, anti-gay and anti-immigration messages on signs and pamphlets.

Also present was Edmonton-Griesbach Conservative MP Kerry Diotte, who later posted a message on Facebook attacking the media for alleged biased coverage of the rally.

While the crowd certainly included Albertans who are frustrated and angry at the economy and the government, the bizarre program and assortment of weird fringe groups distracted from any anti-carbon tax message they hoped to send.

Mr. Jean denounced the “lock her up” chanters at the rally two days later after calls by NDP House Leader Brian Mason for the Wildrose leader to reject “Trump-style hate politics.” The chant was also denounced by Conservative Party interim leader Rona Ambrose.

We don’t lock people up in Canada for bad policy, we vote them out,” Ms. Ambrose said. “I don’t know what to say — it’s people acting like idiots.”

Unless the Wildrose Party’s election strategy is to remind Albertans about the Lake of Fire, Mr. Jean and his Wildrose MLAs should probably avoid any public association with this crowd in the future.

Notley’s Climate Change plan earns Trudeau’s Pipeline approval

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today the fate of three pipelines that have dominated political debate in Alberta over the past six years. Yes to Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline. No to the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Yes to the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline replacement. Plus, a ban of tanker traffic along British Columbia’s North Coast.

Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau

Mr. Trudeau heaped praise on Premier Rachel Notley for Alberta’s flagship climate change policy, which includes a price on carbon, the elimination coal-fired power plants, a cap on carbon emissions, and significant investments in renewables, as a central reason for the pipeline approval.

Alberta’s Climate Plan is a vital contributor to our national strategy,” Mr. Trudeau said. “This would not be possible without the leadership of the Notley government,” he said.

Mr. Trudeau basically said everything but “Hey Alberta, Rachel Notley is the reason you got a pipeline.”

It has been a long, dark night for the people of Alberta… Today we are finally seeing some morning light,” Ms. Notley said in a statement released from Ottawa this afternoon. That morning light could help drive up the Alberta NDP’s support in the polls, which has dwindled over their first 18 months in office.

Rachel Notley Edmonton MLA Strathcona NDP

Rachel Notley

The pipeline approval is a big political win for Ms. Notley’s government as it deals with an economic downturn caused by the low international price of oil. Her conservative critics have attacked her for not being a more vocal cheerleader for pipelines, but it appears a strategy of quiet climate change diplomacy with Ottawa may have been more effective.

It is odd that after years of hearing pro-pipeline rhetoric from Conservative political leaders about the need for more privately-owned and operated pipelines, it was an NDP Premier and a Liberal Prime Minister who secured their approval.

Interim federal Conservative leader Rona Ambrose criticized the government for not approving Northern Gateway, saying it cost the creation of 4,000 jobs, and claimed that Mr. Trudeau does not have enough political capital to make the Trans-Mountain project a reality.

While the pipeline has been approved on paper, it has not been built yet. The Kinder Morgan website projected a September 2017 start of construction.

kinder-morgan-trans-mountain-pipeline-runSupport for pipelines is high in Alberta, but not so much in British Columbia, where there will be fierce opposition to Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline expansion.

While visiting B.C. last September, I picked up a copy of Burnaby Now, a major newspaper in the City of Burnaby. Reported on the front page was a story about a charity-run style event against the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline. In the same newspaper, an editorial cartoon lambasted BC NDP leader John Horgan for his then-indecisive position on the Kinder Morgan pipeline (he is now against it).

As an Albertan, I was unaccustomed to seeing positive mainstream media coverage of a pipeline protest. Editorial views in Alberta’s mostly-Postmedia owned newspapers are typically boiled down to ‘NDP bad, pipelines good.’

But the view in Burnaby was different, literally.

Unlike Alberta, where oil and gas is a large employer and many large oil projects are hidden from public view in the far north, the Kinder Morgan pipeline staging area is clearly visible on the side of Burnaby Mountain near Simon Fraser University. It is a powerful symbol.

If you believe that carbon emissions are a key cause of climate change, it makes sense that you would oppose the expansion of a permanent piece of infrastructure to transport oil. But stopping the Trans Mountain pipeline will not stop the development of Canada’s oil industry. Oil will continue to be shipped by truck or by rail but the policies included in the Climate Leadership Plan may lead to reduced carbon emissions.

With a provincial election in BC scheduled for early next year, expect the pipeline debate to take a central role in the campaign.

But in the meantime, Ms. Notley and Mr. Trudeau can enjoy their political victory.

The symbolism of today’s announcement is great, because Mr. Trudeau’s father was the great antagonist to western Canadian interests, and because it affirms the national direction on carbon pricing in the climate change policy debate.

As a friend and frequent observer of Alberta politics pointed out today, this might be the most politically significant pro-western decision made by a non-conservative Prime Minister in modern Canadian history.


Trump advisor coming to Alberta

Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway is headlining a fundraiser for the Alberta Prosperity Fund, a right-wing group backing Jason Kenney‘s hostile takeover of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party.

The same group hosted American anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist at a closed door reception in Calgary last November.

The results of the by-election, as of 10:20 p.m. on October 24, 2016.

Is the Sky Blue? Conservatives crush in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner by-election

Glen Motz

Glen Motz

It is 10:20 p.m. and Conservative Party candidate Glen Motz has cruised to a crushing victory in the Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner federal by-election. With 190 of 223 polls reporting, Mr. Motz had earned 69.3 percent of the vote, which is slightly higher to what the Conservative candidate earned in the October 2015 federal election. This is not unexpected, as voters in this sprawling southeast rural Alberta riding have a long history of supporting conservative candidates.

Though in a distant second place, Liberal candidate Stan Sakamoto is set to have achieved a high-water mark for the Liberals in this riding by earning the highest share of the vote for the Liberals since since 1974. An impressive mid-campaign splash by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a first by a sitting prime minister since 1993, also prompted a visit by Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, a first by a Conservative Party leader since before 2006.

Meanwhile, the New Democratic Party candidate, Bev Waege, is sitting at an embarrassingly low 1 percent of the vote, down from the 2015 candidate’s 9 percent. Neither the federal nor provincial parties appear to have put much, if any, effort into this by-election campaign. The lack of an NDP candidate until midway through the campaign also likely pushed NDP supporters towards Mr. Sakamoto’s campaign.

The results are undoubtably a reflection of how voters in this deep southern rural Alberta riding (the heart of Wildrose Party territory) feel about the federal NDP opposition in Ottawa and the provincial NDP government in Edmonton (which is not encouraging news for Medicine Hat NDP MLA Bob Wanner).

I expect Wildrose MLAs will try to blame Premier Rachel Notley for this poor showing, but anyone who has been paying attention to rural politics in this province over the past 17 months will not be completely shocked by this result.

Shorter version: Not much has really changed. Carry on with politics as usual.

The final results of the by-election can be found on the Elections Canada website.

A crowd of more than 2,000 showed up to see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Medicine Hat on October 13, 2016 (photo by @braedencaley on Twitter)

Liberal underdog versus Conservative favourite in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner by-election

stan-sakamoto-liberal

Stan Sakamoto

Today is election day in the federal riding of Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner. Polls are open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

What was expected to be a sleepy by-election campaign in this long-time Conservative-held riding in southeast Alberta turned out to be surprisingly exciting. More than 2,000 Albertans showed up to see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a rally for local Liberal Party candidate Stan Sakamoto, marking the first time a sitting prime minister has visited Medicine Hat since 1993.

Mr. Sakamoto is a well-known local businessman and appears to be fairly popular in the city.

glen-motz-conservative

Glen Motz

Conservative Party candidate Glen Motz is a retired police officer and also appears to be a fairly well-liked figure in the community. The Conservatives won this riding with 68.8 percent of the vote in October 2015 and Mr. Motz is expected to win. Interim party leader Rona Ambrose was in the riding last week and was met by a crowd of 500 local Conservatives.

Mr. Trudeau has said “I know that this is one we can win, but the odds of Mr. Sakamoto winning the by-election still feel like a long-shot. I expect that Conservatives know this, but the strong turnout to Mr. Trudeau’s rally in this southern Alberta city has likely spooked the Conservative establishment.

Not a headline I ever would have expected to read from a newspaper in Medicine Hat.

Not a headline I ever would have expected to read from a newspaper in Medicine Hat.

A Liberal win in this by-election would send shockwaves through the Conservative Party, but a strong second place would be a success for the Liberals, who last earned more than 20 percent of the vote in this riding in the 1993 election.

Meanwhile, despite being officially connected, neither the federal or provincial New Democratic parties appear to have put much public effort or resources into supporting candidate Bev Waege during this by-election campaign. As Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hebert noted today, “this byelection has illustrated the dysfunctional nature of the relationship between the federal NDP opposition and Alberta’s New Democrat government.”

This is a race between a Liberal underdog and a Conservative favourite.

Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning and Jason Kenney.

In or Out? Jason Kenney could have a rough landing into Alberta politics

CBC reports that after 19 years as a Member of Parliament in Ottawa, former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney, 48, is considering entering provincial politics in Alberta. Postmedia’s Jen Gerson writes that he will not confirm whether this is true.

It was a prediction first made by Postmedia’s Graham Thomson in January 2016.

Premier Rachel Notley Calgary Stampede Alberta

Rachel Notley

Mr. Kenney is reportedly backed by a cadre of federal Conservative strategists and insiders, including former Reform Party and Wildrose Party campaign strategist Tom Flanagan, who told CBC that the group discussed whether “he could win the PC leadership then negotiate a merger [with Wildrose].

So, Mr. Kenney, who just this week was appointed to the parliamentary committee studying electoral reform, could be abandoning plans to replace Rona Ambrose as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and setting his sights on uniting-the-right and challenging Rachel Notley‘s moderate New Democratic Party government in 2019. If Mr. Kenney is going to enter Alberta politics, he will need to decide quick because the Progressive Conservative Party will be choosing its new leader before April 30, 2017.

Jim Prentice Premier Alberta

Jim Prentice

Mr. Kenney is a skilled politician, but he would ominously follow in the footsteps of another former federal Conservative cabinet minister, Jim Prentice, who jumped into provincial politics in 2014 before leading the 44-year old PC government to defeat in May 2015.

New rules approved by the PC Party at its recent annual general meeting could make a leadership bid challenging for an outsider candidate. The PCs replaced the one-member one-vote system that existed from 1992 to 2014 with a new closed delegate system. This will require candidates to build broad support in 87 constituencies across the province, rather than relying on the ability to sign up large groups of voters in concentrated regions.

Sandra Jansen

Sandra Jansen

If federal Conservative MPs decided to back Mr. Kenney’s bid, an orchestrated takeover could be possible, but there is significant animosity among rank and file PC members to a merger with the more hard-line Wildrose Party. And he would undoubtedly face a strong challenge from the moderate wing of the PC Party, most vocally represented by Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen and Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke.

Mr. Kenney’s supporters may have been connected to a recent attempt by a conservative lobby group to hijack the one-MLA Alberta Party. The takeover was thwarted when the party’s executive quickly rescheduled its annual general meeting to an earlier date. It is likely that the marauding band of conservatives were coveting the party’s brand name rather than its moderate-conservative platform.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

A bid for the PC Party or the Alberta Party leadership might seem odd for Mr. Kenney, who is likely more comfortable in the social conservative wing of the Wildrose Party and with his former colleagues at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. The historical success of the PC Party in Alberta between 1971 and 2015 was not based on adherence to conservative ideology but on the ability of its leaders to build a big blue tent of conservative, moderate and liberal voters.

Despite strong support for sending federal Conservatives to Ottawa, Alberta is now a much more progressive and moderate province than it was 20 years ago, when a young Mr. Kenney was roaming the halls of the Legislature as the spokesperson for the taxpayers federation.

Naheed Nenshi

Naheed Nenshi

Mr. Kenney is not well-known for his conciliatory approach to Alberta politics. In 2015, he argued that “people like” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi were to blame for the politicization of the niqab ban instituted by the federal Conservative government. In 2014, he engaged in a  public spat with Ron Liepert when the former finance minister defeated long-time MP Rob Anders for the Conservative nomination in Calgary-Signal Hill. And in 2012, Mr. Kenney’s true feelings about then-deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk were made known in a leaked reply-all email.

There is also the inconvenient fact that Alberta’s elections laws make it impossible to actually merge the financial assets of the two political parties. Those laws also make it unlikely that the Wildrose Party could change its name to the Conservative Party of Alberta. This does not mean that there could not be one dominant conservative party to face the NDP in the next election, it just means that any sort of actual merger of parties is unlikely to happen.

It should be noted that the last time an attempt was made to unite-the-right in Alberta, former Reform Party leader Preston Manning (pictured above with Mr. Kenney) was forced to apologize for his role in nudging 9 Wildrose MLAs across the floor to the PCs. That was in December 2014.

There is also the question of how his former federal colleague Brian Jean, now leader of the official opposition Wildrose Party, will feel about Mr. Kenney stealing the spotlight, and potentially his leadership. Despite being constantly undermined by internal party disputes and self-inflicted embarrassment, Mr. Jean deserves credit for leading his party from the brink of extinction to 22 MLAs in 2015. The inconvenient truth that his party still only sits at 35 percent in the latest public opinion poll could add momentum to those pushing to replace the Wildrose leader.

The decision by Mr. Prentice, Mr. Jean and now maybe Mr. Kenney, gives the impression that Conservative party politics in Alberta is becoming a grazing plot for Conservative politicians whose careers in Ottawa have stalled. It was widely believed that Mr. Prentice was using his job as premier to springboard into a future bid for the federal Conservative leadership. I expect the same would be suspected about Mr. Kenney, if he does actually jump into provincial politics in Alberta.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean (right) and Strathmore-Brooks candidate Derek Fildebrandt use a comically large arrow to point out tax increases to alcohol included in the PC Party's recent provincial budget.

“Over My Dead Body” – This week in Alberta’s Big Happy Conservative Family

It was only last week that the leaders of Alberta’s two main conservative political parties – Progressive Conservative interim leader Ric McIver and Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean – were in Ottawa hobnobbing with the conservative and right-wing establishment at the annual Manning Centre conference. It was reported that the two party leaders met with federal Conservatives at Stornoway, the official residence of official opposition leader Rona Ambrose, who were trying to help facilitate a merger between the two parties.

Yesterday, it appeared that any ground closed between the two party leaders last week may have been lost after Mr. Jean publicly claimed that Mr. McIver was encouraging PC Party members to purchase Wildrose Party memberships.

The Calgary Herald reported that Mr. McIver would not directly answer a question in an interview Monday on whether he had encouraged dual membership in both parties. But yesterday afternoon, Mr. McIver came out swinging with a LinkedIn post titled “Over My Dead Body,” in which he refuted Mr. Jean’s “outrageous statement.”

This strange blowout follows another odd episode on social media on Monday between the president of the Calgary-North West PC association and a Wildrose Caucus staffer, which PC MLA Sandra Jansen responded to on Twitter. Seen as a moderate conservative, Ms. Jansen is a vocal opponent of a merger with the Wildrose Party, and she could be a potential candidate for the PC Party’s permanent leadership.

In another odd story, Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt stirred up attention with his aggressive defence of his decision to submit expenses for a breakfast meeting with former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, the Manning Centre’s namesake.

Mr. Manning’s recent move to insert himself into the merger debates was publicly rebuffed by Mr. Jean. Conservatives still remember Mr. Manning’s role in the defection of nine Wildrose MLAs to the PC Party in December 2015, which proved to be a very unpopular move with party members and regular Albertans.

Both the PCs and Wildrose parties are running candidates in the March 22 by-election in Calgary-Greenway to choose a successor to PC MLA Manmeet Bhullar. The results of the by-election could be vital in projecting the future viability of the PCs, who formed government in Alberta from 1971 until they were defeated by Rachel Notley‘s NDP in 2015.

It is clear that despite attempts by outside groups to merge the two parties, which have a history as vicious opponents, there is still a very wide gap between the leadership and supporters in both camps.

This Week in Alberta Politics

Here are a few items to watch out for in Alberta politics this week:

  • Which of the four Liberal Members of Parliament will be appointed to the federal cabinet on Nov. 4, 2015? Most speculation points toward newly elected Calgary-Centre MP Kent Hehr being given a cabinet spot. Mr. Hehr, along with Calgary-Skyview MP Darshan Kang, were the first federal Liberals to be elected in Calgary since 1968. But will one of the two Liberal MPs from Edmonton – Amarjeet Sohi and Randy Boissonnault – get a cabinet spot? If not, it would mark the first time since before Jim Edwards was appointed as President of the Treasury Board in 1993 that Edmonton has not had representation in the federal cabinet.
  • Two Conservative MPs from Alberta – Edmonton-Wetaskiwin MP Mike Lake and Sturgeon River-Parkland MP Rona Ambrose – have joined four other Conservative MPs with bids to become the interim leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. That party has only had one permanent leader, Calgary MP Stephen Harper, since the party was formed in 2003 and is expected to choose a new permanent leader next year.
  • Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Finance Minister Joe Ceci will continue their sales pitch for the Alberta NDP’s first provincial budget this week. The NDP budget received some sensible and encouraging reviews when it was released from Calgary Economic Development and the Alberta Chambers of Commerce.
  • Overshadowing debate about the Alberta NDP’s first provincial budget last week was the Wildrose Party Finance critic Derek Fildebrant‘s war with a Globe & Mail reporter and House leader Nathan Cooper‘s war against a 9:00 a.m. start time for the Legislative sitting. Will the Wildrose Official Opposition be able to move on to actual issues of substance in the second week of the fall session?
  • It was always expected that uniting the Wildrose and PC parties will be tough. Richard Starke, the PC MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster, had some choice words for his Wildrose counterparts in the Legislature last week: “…the Official Opposition rather reminds me of the chippy hockey player that hacks and slashes in the corner and then, as soon as something similar happens back to them, goes running to the referee.”

I will be taking a short break from blogging this week. In my absence, check out David Climenhaga‘s informative and entertaining AlbertaPolitics.ca blog.

Liberals drop candidate in Sturgeon River-Parkland

A Facebook post of disallowed Liberal candidate Chris Austin.

A Facebook post of disallowed Liberal candidate Chris Austin.

The federal Liberal Party appears to have cancelled the candidacy of Chris Austin, who was nominated as the party’s candidate in Sturgeon River-Parkland on September 7, 2015.

According to a post on his Facebook page, Mr. Austin was disallowed because of something he has said in the past on social media. Mr. Austin said in the post that he plans to run as an Independent candidate in the riding instead.

Mr. Austin ran as the Liberal candidate in the now-defunct Edmonton-Spruce Grove riding in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections, earning 11.5 percent and 9.3 percent of the vote in those races. He was also the provincial Liberal candidate in the Spruce Grove-St. Albert constituency in the 2012 election.

His departure brings the Liberals back down to 33 nominated candidates in Alberta. A new nomination meeting has been scheduled for September 17, 2015, where the Liberals are expected to acclaim candidate Travis Dueck.

Other candidates running in Sturgeon River-Parkland include Conservative Rona Ambrose, Green Brendon Green, New Democrat Guy Desforges and Christian Heritage candidate Ernest Chauvet.

Alberta politics round up: Health Ministers, By-Elections and Troubled Waters Ahead

Health Ministers

Provincial Health Ministers met at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel this week.

BANFF – Stepping onto the national stage for the first time since he was appointed as Alberta’s Minister of Health, Stephen Mandel met with his provincial and federal counterparts this week in Banff for the annual Health Ministers meeting. Mr. Mandel co-chaired the meeting, a role his predecessor, Fred Horne, had planned to fill.

The ministers are said to have discussed a wide-range of topics, perhaps most dramatically, a strategy for pharmacare, a plan that could decrease the cost of prescription drugs by billions of dollars each year. This sort of national plan would require the involvement of a federal Conservative Government that has, unfortunately for Canadians, taken a hands-off approach to health care.

Mr. Mandel began on the long road of rebuilding relationships with federal government by meeting with federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose. Despite being represented by federal Conservative MPs in Ottawa, relations between the City and federal government soured in recent years.  In November 2010, an angry Mr. Mandel publicly blamed Ms. Ambrose for the failure of the City’s unarticulated plans to host Expo 2017.

CALGARY – The Wildrose Party announced two of its by-election candidates this week. Former Calgary police officer Kathy Macdonald is running against Jim Prentice in Calgary-Foothills and Calgary public school board trustee Sheila Taylor will run in Calgary-West.

A savvy move, Mr. Prentice announced the appointment of Emma May as the executive director of the Premier’s Southern Alberta Office at the McDougall Centre. A well-respected community advocate, Ms. May leads the Calgary River Communities Action Group, which represents residents whose homes were damaged by the 2013 floods.

Ms. May’s appointment may also have an impact on the by-election in Calgary-Elbow, a constituency which includes many flood impacted neighbourhoods. Running as the PC candidate, appointed Education Minister Gordon Dirks is facing strong challengers in Wildrose candidates John Fletcher, Alberta Party leader Greg Clark and Liberal Susan Wright.

EDMONTONDonna Wilson will run as the Liberal Party candidate in the Edmonton-Whitemud by-election. Dr. Wilson is a well-respected Professor of Nursing at the University of Alberta and the former President of the U of A Academic Staff Association.

The Green Party is expected to announce its candidate in Edmonton-Whitemud shortly. The Social Credit Party will not run candidates in any of the by-elections.

TROUBLED WATERSCBC reports that the Auditor General Merwan Saher found that sole-source contracts of up to $274,000 were awarded to Navigtor Ltd. during the 2013 southern Alberta floods. The firm has close connections to Mr. Prentice and former Premier Alison Redford.

FLOOR CROSSING? – Rumours are stirring in political circles this week that Mr. Prentice and PC Caucus Whip George VanderBurg have reached out to a handful of Wildrose MLAs in an attempt to convince them to cross the floor. Any opposition floor crossings could be seen as a significant political win for the long-governing PC Party.