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.
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.
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.
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 Hebertnoted 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.
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].”
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.
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.
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.
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 underminedby internal party disputes and self-inflictedembarrassment, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 Dirksis facing strong challengers in Wildrose candidates John Fletcher, Alberta Party leader Greg Clark and Liberal Susan Wright.
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 WATERS – CBC 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.
The Lethbridge -> Medicine Hat Shuffle
Almost as soon as Medicine Hat MP LaVar Payne announced that he will retire at the next election, neighbouring MP Jim Hillyer jumped into the nomination race to replace him. The controversial Mr. Hillyer, who has represented the Lethbridge riding since 2011, had initially announced he would run against Mr. Payne for the Conservative nomination in the redrawn Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner, but was then sternly directed by his Ottawa bosses not to challenge a fellow MP. But once Mr. Payne announced his retirement, Mr. Hillyer jumped back into the Medicine Hat race.
As a nomination challenger, he faces Dan Hein, the former president of the local Conservative association and former the campaign manager for Mr. Payne in 2011.
Fort McMurray-Cold Lake
Fresh off the by-election campaign trail in Fort McMurray-Athabasca, the Liberals are expected to nominateKyle Harrietha as their candidate in their candidate in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake on July 26 (the current riding boundaries will change when the next federal election is called). Conservative Member of Parliament David Yurdiga is expected to be automatically acclaimed as his party’s candidate because of the recent by-election.
The Liberals will hold a nomination meeting on August 7, 2014 where party members will have their choice of three candidates – entrepreneur Randy Boissonnaultand lawyers Don Padget and Harold Robinson.
On July 15, Conservatives gathered for what was described as a “soft launch” event for James Cumming, President and CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, in support of his potential campaign for the Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Centre. Current MP Laurie Hawn has announced his plans to retire at the next election.
Edmonton-Strathcona Liberal activist Wendy Butler, artist Heather Workman(aka Lady Dolphin), and lawyer Eleanor Olszewski are running for the Liberal nomination in this south central Edmonton riding. Lawyer and Edmonton-Gold Bar Progressive Conservative association president Len Thom is seeking the Conservative nomination. The riding has been represented by NDP MP Linda Duncan since 2008.
On May 5, Valerie Kennedy was acclaimed as the Green Party candidate in Edmonton-Riverbend. Ms. Kennedy was the Green Party candidate in Edmonton-Leduc in 2011. where she earned 2,896 votes (4.87% of the votes cast).
Local hotel manager Kelly McCauley has jumped into the Conservative contest in this new west Edmonton riding. Before moving to Edmonton, Mr. McCauley was the president of the Victoria Conservative association. He now faces Edmonton-McClung PC MLA David Xiaoand Edmonton Police Constable Brad Rutherford for the nomination.
MP Mike Lake defeated Leduc County mayor John Whaley for the Conservative nomination in this new mostly-south of Edmonton riding. A third candidate, Mohinder Banga was disqualified shortly before the nomination vote was held.
Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan Four candidates are contesting the Conservative nomination in this new east-of-Edmonton riding. Past Wildrose candidate Garnett Genuis, Bee Clean Building Maintenance vice president Randy Moore, Telus employee and retired Canadian Forces Major Joe Theberge, and 2013 Strathcona County municipal candidate Nicole van Kuppeveld.
There has been plenty of activity this week as candidates from all political parties put forward their names to run in Canada’s next federal election, scheduled to be held in October 2015.
Wooing voters and potential candidates alike, both New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau travelled through Alberta this week. Mr. Muclair visited Edmonton and attended party events with provincial NDP leader Brian Mason. Mr. Trudeau was a headliner at well-attended Liberal Party rallies in Okotoks, Calgary and Edmonton.
Award-winning country music artist George Canyon has announced his intentions to seek the Conservative Party nomination in the new Bow River riding. Mr. Canyon will coordinate his campaign with John Barlow, who is seeking the Conservative by-election nomination in neighbouring Macleod riding (an eastern portion of the new Foothills riding will become part of Bow River when the next federal general election is called).
While he would be a star candidate for the Conservatives, he is expected to be joined by a large group of local conservatives interested in seeking the nomination.
Calgary Forest Lawn Abdul Mohamud has announced his plans to seek the Liberal Party nomination in this new east Calgary riding.
Calgary Shepard Tom Kmiec, a former staffer to Calgary MP Jason Kenney, is the first candidate to announce his candidacy for the the Conservative nomination in this new south east Calgary riding.
Lawyer and Metis advocate Harold Robinson has joined the Liberal Party nomination in Edmonton-Centre. Mr. Robinson will face entrepreneur Randy Boissonnault in his party’s yet to be scheduled contest. The Edmonton-Centre Liberals announced on their Twitter account this week that 2011 candidate Mary MacDonald would not seek the nomination.
PC MLA Janice Sarich is reportedly campaigning for the Conservative Party nomination in the new Edmonton-Griesbach riding. Ms. Sarich was an Edmonton Catholic school trustee from 2001 to 2007 and was elected as MLA for Edmonton-Decore in 2008. It is unclear whether current Edmonton-East MP Peter Goldring will seek his party’s nomination in the new riding. Mr. Goldring has represented the area in Ottawa since 1997.
There are at least six candidates running for NDP nomination in Edmonton-Griesbach. The riding association is hosting a candidate meet and greet on January 31.
Edmonton-West The Globe & Mail reports that Edmonton-McClung PC MLA David Xiao is preparing to seek the Conservative nomination in the new Edmonton-West riding. This would not be Mr. Xiao’s first foray into federal politics. In 2004 he was defeated by Laurie Hawn in the Conservative nomination contest in Edmonton-Centre.
Following the resignation of Conservative MP Brian Jean, rumours continue to swirl about who could seek the party nominations in an upcoming by-election.
Former Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Don Scott, who was elected MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin in 2012, is suspected by some to be eyeing the Conservative nomination, but might be hard pressed to leave his provincial cabinet post. Expected to seek the nomination is Laila Goodridge, a Fort McMurray-native and current constituency assistant to Calgary-Centre MP Joan Crockatt.
Former Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA and current Wood Buffalo deputy mayor Guy Boutilier is being talked about as potentially seeking either the Conservative or Liberal Party nominations. First elected under the PC banner in 1997, Mr. Boutilier joined the Wildrose Party in 2011 and was defeated in the 2012 election.
Investment advisor Doug McArthur will challenge incumbent MP Jim Hillyer for the Conservative Party nomination in the new Lethbridge riding.
While no Wildrose MLAs from the area have officially endorsed a candidate in this race (as far as I have seen), Mr Barlow has received the endorsement of former Highwood PC MLA George Groeneveld and Ms. Mathieson has the endorsement of former Livingstone-Macleod PC MLA David Coutts.
Peace River-Westlock Peace River school administrator Terry Hogan is the first candidate to announce plans to seek the Conservative nomination in this new sprawling south west northwest Alberta riding.
It’s a fight – or at least it could be if two southern Alberta Conservative Members of Parliament seek their party’s nomination in the same riding. Boundary changes in the next federal election will mean that Lethbridge Conservative MP Jim Hillyer will find himself living within the boundaries of the new Medicine Hat riding. Mr. Hillyer has already announced he plans to seek the Conservative Party of Canada nomination in the new Medicine Hat riding, which may pit him against current Medicine Hat MP LeVar Payne. Mr. Payne has represented that riding since 2008 and has not yet announced his plans for the next election. UPDATE: Mr. Hillyer may be having second thoughts.
Six-term Member of Parliament Jason Kenneyannounced on Twitter that he will seek the Conservative nomination in the new Calgary-ShepardCalgary-Midnapore riding. Mr. Kenney was first elected in Calgary-Southeast in 1997 and currently serves as Minister of Employment and Social Development.
With her Edmonton-Spruce Grove riding being redistributed in the next election, it is expected that Conservative MP Rona Ambrose may choose to seek her party’s nomination in the new Sturgeon River riding.
Bashir Mohamed has entered the New Democratic Party nomination race in the new Edmonton-Griesbach riding. A student at the University of Alberta, Mr. Mohammed caused a stir last year when he confronted Mr. Kenney at a Conservative Party fundraiser about the federal government’s cuts to refugee health care. He joins teacher Janis Irwin in the NDP contest.
As mentioned in my previous roundup,Ryan Hastman has made official his plans to seek the Conservative Party of Canada nomination in St. Albert-Edmonton. A fundraiser for the University of Alberta, Mr. Hastman was the 2008 Conservative Party candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona.
Lawyer Matt Grant has announced plans to seek the Liberal Party nomination in the new Calgary-Confederation riding, which will include most of the current Calgary-Centre North riding. Currently an associate with Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer LLP, he previously worked as executive assistant to Calgary Liberal MLAs Craig Cheffins and Kent Hehr.
Seven-term Conservative MP Leon Benoit will also be affected by the electoral boundary changes. The Lloydminster Source reported that Mr. Benoit told an audience of supporters that “no decision has been made on where he would be running, but one thing for sure is that he would not be running against his colleagues in the next general election.”
The Vegreville-Wainwright riding, which Mr. Benoit has represented since 2004, will be redistributed into the new Lakeland riding. He currently resides in Sherwood Park, which will be included in the new Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan riding. If re-elected in 2015, Mr. Benoit will become Alberta’s longest serving Member of Parliament.
Some Conservatives would like to convince former Progressive Conservative MLA Rob Lougheedto seek their party’s nomination in the new Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan. Mr. Lougheed represented the area in the Alberta Legislature from 1997 to 2008.
Dan Bildhauer plans to seek the Liberal Party nomination in the new Edmonton-West riding. According to his LinkedIn profile, Mr. Bildhauer is the Director of Operations for Bildhaur Construction and worked as a Senior Policy Advisor for Citizenship and Immigration Canada from 2007 to 2013.
Tanveer Taj has announced his plans to run as a candidate in the Calgary-Skyview constituency. It is unclear whether he will seek a party nomination or run as an Independent. Mr. Taj earned 19% of the vote as a candidate in Calgary’s City Council Ward 3 in the recent municipal election.
Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeberunleashed a political storm last night when he announced on Twitter that he is leaving the Conservative Party of Canada caucus. Initially citing a “a lack of commitment to transparency and open government,” he expanded his criticisms to the control Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s office exercises over backbench MPs as interfering with the ability to represent his representing his constituents.
“When you have a PMO that tightly scripts its backbenches like this one attempts to do, MPs don’t represent their constituents in Ottawa, they represent the government to their constituents,” Mr. Rathgeber told reporters at an afternoon press conference in Edmonton.
First elected to Parliament in 2008, Mr. Rathgeber has built a case for leaving the Tories by earning a reputation as being one of the only Conservative politicians in Ottawa to purposely deviate from the party discipline enforced by Prime Minister Harper. This is certainly embarrassing for Prime Minister Harper’s government, which has been scandal plagued for the past few months, but it is yet to be seen how damaging the departure will be for the Tory government in Ottawa.
Starting his political career at the provincial level in 2001, Mr. Rathgeber became an unlikely politician when he stepped in as a last minute candidate after the already nominated PC candidate, Don Koziak, decided against challenging popular Liberal MLA Lance White (Mr. Rathgeber won the election). He served one term as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton-Calder until 2004, when he was defeated by New Democrat David Eggen. This means Mr. Rathgeber holds the dubious honour of being the only Alberta Conservative to have unseated an incumbent Liberal and been defeated by a New Democrat.
In south Edmonton, new boundaries have forced Tory MPs Mike Lake, James Rajotte, and Blaine Calkins to uncomfortably position themselves for the prospect of nomination fights in new ridings. Making the shuffle more complicated are rumours that north Edmonton MP Tim Uppal may seek a nomination in a south Edmonton riding, as his Edmonton-Sherwood Park riding is being dissolved. Add to this the rumours that Minister Rona Ambrose may opt to retire instead of seeking a fifth-term in the new Edmonton-West riding.
If the nomination contest tension reaches the point of fisticuffs, the Tories could offer one of these MPs an easy nomination race in the now non-Conservative Edmonton-St. Albert. This is similar to when Mr. Uppal was offered an easy nomination win in Edmonton-Sherwood Park after Mr. Lake him for the Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont nomination in 2006 (Mr. Uppal was that riding’s Conservative candidate in 2000 and 2004).
Mr. Goldring’s departure from the Conservative caucus a year and a half ago sparked interest among prospective Conservative nominees. Lawyer Michael Cooper, who is seeking the Conservative nomination in the new Edmonton-Griesbach riding, and PC MLA Janice Sarich, who is rumoured to be eyeing a federal candidacy, could see Mr. Rathgeber’s departure as an opening to run instead in Edmonton-St. Albert now that Mr. Goldring has been readmitted to the Tory caucus in Ottawa.
Wildrose is under attack! The same people that caused the Liberal Party of Canada to be in power for 13 uninterrupted years now have Wildrose in their crosshairs. They want nothing more than to see the Redford PCs re-elected to impose their big government knows best, ivory tower views on all of us.
Much has been written about how much the electoral battle between Alberta’s PCs and the Wildrose Party is a continuation of the long-standing family feud between moderate Tories and Reform Party minded conservatives of yesteryear.
Premier Redford, who was a staffer to former Prime Minister Joe Clark, stepped up to challenge controversial right-winger Rob Anders for the Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-West before the 2004 federal election. Ms. Redford was defeated. (Ms. Redford’s ex-husband’s father was the last PC MP for Calgary-West and was defeated by Reform Party candidate Stephen Harperin 1993). PC campaign manager Susan Elliott was the national director of the former PC Party of Canada and a few of Premier Redford’s cabinet ministers, including Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Verlyn Olson and Lethbridge-West MLA Greg Weadick were federal PC candidates during the height of the Reform Party’s strength in Western Canada.
The Wildrose Party campaign includes a number of former Reform Party and federal Conservative stalwarts, including Mr. Fryers (who was Chief of Staff to Preston Manning), campaign manager Tom Flanagan (who was strategist for the Reform Party), Senate candidate and strategist Vitor Marciano (who is a long-time federal Conservative Party operative), and Jim Armour (an Ontario-based consultant and former Communications Director to Mr. Manning and Prime Minister Harper). Former federal Conservative candidate also Ryan Hastman joined the Wildrose Party staff shortly after the 2011 federal election.
Calgary-Southeast Conservative Member of Parliament Jason Kenney was reported to have said that “any attempt to hurt Wildrose by linking them to old Reform movement will backfire.”
With a few exceptions most Members of Parliament have kept a low-profile during this provincial campaign. Westlock-St. Paul Conservative MP Brian Storseth was spotted in the Bonnyville A&W with Ms. Smith earlier this week. Edmonton-Spruce Grove Conservative MP Rona Ambrose has endorsed Spruce Grove-St. Albert PC candidate and Deputy Premier Doug Horner.
On the NDP side, Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan has endorsed Edmonton-Gold Bar candidate Marlin Schmidt. Quebec NDP MP Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet will be campaigning with Mr. Schmidt today. The shift in electoral boundaries places Edmonton’s francophone community in Bonnie Doon into the Gold Bar constituency. The NDP are hoping that the retirement of popular Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald could be their opportunity to make electoral gains in this east Edmonton constituency.
The federal Liberals slate in Alberta is expected to be bolstered when a high-profile candidate announces their intentions to stand against Labour Minister Rona Ambrose in Edmonton-Spruce Grove. Alberta political watchers have been abuzz with rumours that Ruth Kelly, publisher of Alberta Venture magazine and former President of Edmonton’s Chamber of Commerce, will carry the Liberal Party banner against Minister Ambrose. The rumours began after Ms. Kelly’s became an outspoken critics of the Government of Canada’s denial of funding for Edmonton’s bid for the 2017 Expo (and the large pile of federal infrastructure funding that was expected to come with a successful bid).
While I have remained largely indifferent to the 2017 Expo bid, it is easy to understand the frustration of the people who committed their time and energy towards the bid only to have political powers in Ottawa deny the funds needed to make it a reality. Minister Ambrose will be difficult to defeat, but I am glad that the Conservatives might actually have to pay some attention to and focus some of their campaign resources on a riding that they would likely take for granted.
It is really hard to tell sometimes. Our Members of Parliament can be often seen at events around our city (some more than others), but none of them have distinguished themselves as Edmonton’s strong voice in the national capital.
Edmonton has its share of competent representatives in our local batch of current MPs, like Mike Lake, James Rajotte, Tim Uppal, and Mr. Hawn, but none of them have succeeded in carrying the kind of political clout that has defined Edmonton’s previous prominent champions in Ottawa.
The federal government announced yesterday that it will not to provide an estimated $700 million to support Edmonton’s bid for the 2017 Expo. Many people saw this bid as an opportunity to invest more federal and provincial funding for transportation and public infrastructure in Edmonton.
But as much as Alberta could see the potential, our Federal partner is not there. Our own Minister Ambrose completely failed to stand up for this City and Province. And in the end, her lack of support cost us this opportunity.
I stand somewhat incredulous at this result.
This is a Government that has far too easily ignored the needs and aspirations of this Province, indicating instead that we are not the political priority.
And I get it – taking electoral success for granted here has become a habit.
I have a lot of respect for many of the people involved in the bid to host the 2017 Expo and I understand why they would be angry about the denial of federal funding, but I have to admit that I have remained very indifferent towards the project. While it would have been great to have the extra infusion of infrastructure funding, I have been skeptical why it needed to be camouflaged under the guise of a mega-event.
Also, as furious as Mayor Mandel may be, I have a difficult time believing that the death of Edmonton’s 2017 Expo bid will be a catalyst for a major change in Edmonton’s representation in the House of Commons.