Tag Archives: Sandra Jansen

Nathan Cooper

Nathan Cooper claims the throne in Alberta’s latest Speaker election

When MLAs gathered for the first sitting of the new Legislature today, the first piece of business they were required to conduct was the election of a Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, who will preside over debates and ensure that the established rules of behaviour and procedure are followed.

The Speaker is elected by MLAs through a secret ballot held at the beginning of each legislative session. Candidates are nominated by their colleagues on the floor of the Assembly and voting takes place immediately afterward. 

It has been fairly well known in most political circles that Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper has had his eye on the Speaker’s Chair. Cooper made his intentions known shortly after the election and as former interim leader of the United Conservative Party and opposition house leader, he was well positioned to take on the role. His lack of appointment to the UCP cabinet earlier this month was a pretty definite signal that he would have the support of Premier Jason Kenney and most or all of the UCP caucus in this election.

Heather Sweet NDP Edmonton-Manning

Heather Sweet

As has become the norm in recent years, the opposition also nominated a candidate for the Speaker’s Chair. Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Christina Gray nominated her New Democratic Caucus colleague, Edmonton-Manning MLA Heather Sweet in the election. Sweet had served as Deputy Chair of Committees during the previous Assembly. 

Not surprisingly, the UCP majority elected Cooper as Speaker.

The election of a Speaker through a secret ballot is a relatively new invention in Alberta politics. Before 1993, when the first secret ballot vote took place, the Premier’s choice for Speaker was typically acclaimed by the Assembly.

An exception that I discovered was in 1922, when a United Farmers of Alberta MLA surprised the Assembly when he nominated a Conservative opposition MLAs to challenge Premier Herbert Greenfield’s chosen candidate for Speaker. The Conservative MLA declined the nomination and Greenfield’s choice was acclaimed.

Here is a look at a few of the contested Speaker elections held since 1993:

2015: When MLAs gathered for the first sitting of the legislature following the 2015 election, Medicine Hat NDP MLA Bob Wanner was elected as Speaker. Wanner faced Calgary-Lougheed Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Rodney. The Wildrose opposition attempted to nominate others challengers in a strange attempt to disrupt the process. Wildrose MLAs Angela Pitt and Leela Aheer nominated NDP MLAs Stephanie McLean and Marie Renaud and PC MLA Sandra Jansen, all who declined their nominations.

Laurie Blakeman MLA Edmonton-Centre Liberal

Laurie Blakeman

2008 and 2012: Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman was nominated by her Liberal caucus colleagues in the 2008 and 2012 Speaker elections and was defeated by incumbent Speaker Ken Kowalski in the first election and Edmonton-Mill Creek Progressive Conservative MLA Gene Zwozdesky in the second election.

1997: Barrhead-Westlock PC MLA and former deputy premier Ken Kowalski was elected as Speaker on the second round of voting over Dunvegan MLA Glen Clegg after Highwood MLA Don Tannas was eliminated on the first ballot. Liberal leader Grant Mitchell nominated then-Liberal MLA Gene Zwozdesky as a candidate for Speaker, but he declined to stand.

It is believed that the 18 Liberal MLA votes in that Speaker election helped secure Kowalski’s over Clegg, who was seen as Premier Ralph Klein’s preferred choice. Kowalski’s comeback happened a short three years after he had been unceremoniously booted from Klein’s cabinet.

1993: Liberal leader Laurence Decore nominated Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Bettie Hewes as speaker in 1993, the first time the Speaker was elected by secret ballot. Hewes was defeated by PC MLA Stan Schumacher.


Speaker punches newspaper publisher over wife-swapping allegations, 1935

Oran McPherson

Oran McPherson

A glance through the history of Speakers of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly reveals some fascinating stories. One story really stuck out.

In 1935, Speaker Oran McPherson is reported to have engaged in a heated argument at the top of the rotunda’s grand staircase with Edmonton Bulletin publisher Charles Campbell, who McPherson accused of spreading lies about his divorce. McPherson punched Campbell and he hit a railing and banged his head on a pillar.

It had been reported that McPherson was arranging a “wife-swap” with the aide-de-camp to the serving Lieutenant Governor.

Women in Alberta Politics: Shannon Phillips, Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes, Rachel Notley, Leela Aheer, and Sarah Hoffman.

Alberta Election Update on International Women’s Day

Photo: Women in Alberta Politics: Shannon Phillips, Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes, Rachel Notley, Leela Aheer, and Sarah Hoffman.

In honour of International Women’s Day, today’s candidate update focuses specifically on the total number of women nominated to run for Alberta’s political parties in the upcoming provincial election. Women make up the majority of our population, but they rarely come even close to being the majority in electoral politics.

The only woman leading a major political party in Alberta is Premier Rachel Notley of the New Democratic Party. Notley is also currently the longest serving woman in the Assembly, having been first elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona in 2008, and re-elected in 2012 and 2015. The second longest serving woman MLA currently in the Legislature is Sandra Jansen, who was elected as MLA for Calgary-North West in 2012.

Green Party leader Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes is the first Indigenous woman to lead a political party in Alberta. She has been nominated as her party’s candidate in Calgary-Varsity.

Marilyn Burns leads the Alberta Advantage Party.

And Naomi Rankin has the distinction of being both the first and longest serving woman leader of a registered political party in Alberta. Rankin has led the Communist Party of Alberta since 1992.

There are currently 29 MLAs who identify as women serving in the Alberta Legislature (33%), up from the previous record of 23 women MLAs (27%) in 1998. Forty-eight per cent of NDP MLAs elected in 2015 were women, and, in 2016, the majority of Alberta cabinet ministers were women.

With the next election expected to be called in the next few weeks, Alberta’s political parties are still in the process of nominating candidates. Here is a look at how many women have been nominated so far:

The NDP has nominated the most women candidates of the political parties contesting the 2019 election with 42 women (53%) out of 79 candidates already nominated to stand in the upcoming election. In 2015, the NDP nominated 45 women (51%) in their slate of 87 candidates.

The United Conservative Party has nominated 27 women (32%) out of the 83 candidates already nominated to run in the next election as of today. The UCP’s predecessor parties, the Progressive Conservative Party nominated 21 women candidates (24%) and the Wildrose Party nominated 16 women candidates (18%) in 2015.

The Alberta Party has nominated 22 women (30%) in their slate of 71 candidates nominated as of today. And the Liberal Party, with 26 candidates currently nominated, has nominated 10 women candidates (38%). Eight of the 17 candidates currently nominated by the Green Party are women (47%).

The Freedom Conservative Party slate of 11 candidates includes no women, and the Alberta Advantage Party has nominated 1 woman candidate out of 9 nominated candidates as of today.

Number of women candidates by party in the previous 3 elections

2019 election (as of March 8, 2019)
NDP: 42 of 79 – 53%
Green Party: 8 of 17 – 47%
Liberal: 10 of 26 – 38%
UCP: 27 of 83 – 32%
Alberta Party: 22 of 71 – 30%
Alberta Advantage Party: 1 of 9 – 11%
Freedom Conservative: 0 of 11 – 0%

2015 election
NDP: 45 of 87 – 51%
Alberta Party: 9 of 36 – 25%
PC: 21 of 87 – 24%
Liberal: 11 of 56 – 19%
Wildrose: 16 of 86 – 18%

2012 election
NDP: 40 of 87 – 45%
Alberta Party: 6 of 21 – 28%
PC: 22 of 87 – 25%
Liberal: 18 of 87 – 20%
Wildrose: 11 of 87 – 12%

2008 election
NDP: 38 of 83 – 45%
Liberal: 22 of 82 – 26%
PC: 17 of 83 – 20%
Wildrose: 6 of 61 – 9%

Episode 27: When is Alberta’s next election? And will Don Iveson be the next Prime Minister of Canada?

In this episode of the Daveberta Podcast, we stare deep into our crystal ball to figure out when Premier Rachel Notley will call Alberta’s next election, dissect some of the key messages from the party leaders, discuss how the United Conservative Party reacted to the controversy over Jason Kenney’s residency, and muse about whether Edmonton mayor Don Iveson will be the next Prime Minister of Canada.

Don Iveson Edmonton Mayor Election

Don Iveson

Dave and Ryan also delve into the latest candidate nomination news, including a handful of new NDP contested races.  We also answered a long list of questions sent in by listeners on topics ranging from provincial sales taxes, battleground ridings, municipal infrastructure funding, and more.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial.

You can listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online.

We always love to feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download. You can also comment on the blogFacebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

And a huge thanks to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, who keeps us on track and makes each episode of the Daveberta Podcast sound so great.

Thank you for listening!

Recommended reading/watching:

Big Nomination Update: Estefania Cortes-Vargas and Sandra Jansen not seeking re-election, and much, much more.

Today’s big nomination news is the announcements by two New Democratic Party MLAs, Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Estefania Cortes-Vargas and Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen, that they will not seek re-election when the next general election is called.

Cortes-Vargas was first elected in 2015 and is one of the three first openly LGBTQ MLAs in the Alberta history. Cortes-Vargas is the current NDP caucus whip and announced on Facebook post an endorsement of crown prosecutor Moira Vane as the NDP candidate in the next election. 

“Our government has a strong record, I am proud to have worked alongside Premier Rachel Notley, someone I consider to have been an incredible mentor to me. It was her encouragement that brought me into politics, then saw me become one of the first of three openly LGBTQ+ MLAs, first of three Latin-American Canadians and the youngest government whip in Alberta’s history. I am appreciative of the work our government has done to continue to break the glass ceiling. It has always been my hope that it paves the way for more diverse voices to enter our political landscape.” – Estefania Cortes-Vargas, MLA for Strathcona-Sherwood Park

Jansen, who was previously elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2012 and 2015, had announced in August 2018 that she would seek re-election in Calgary-North West as an NDP candidate. Jansen left the PC Party in 2016 and soon after joined the NDP caucus. She was appointed Minister of Infrastructure in October 2017. 

Cortes-Vargas and Jansen are the seventeenth and eighteenth Alberta MLAs to announce they will not seek re-election in 2019. As I have noted in the past, the number of MLA retirements during this election cycle is fairly average, with 19 MLAs not seeking re-election in 2015, 23 MLAs choosing to not run for re-election in 2012, and 20 MLAs not seeking re-election in 2008.

Alberta MLAs not seeking re-election in 2019

I was away for most of last week teaching at the Jasper Labour School organized by the Alberta Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress, so I was not able to publish a detailed update last week. Upon my return I was not surprised to discover the list of nomination updates has grown considerably.

I am planning to provide more frequent updates in the few months left before the next election is called in order to avoid these novel-length articles. So without further ado, here is the long-list of nomination updates:

Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul – Kari Whan is seeking the NDP nomination. Whan is a Grade 2 teacher at Cold Lake Elementary School.

Calgary-Acadia – Liberal Lorissa Good was nominated as the Liberal Party candidate on January 21, 2019. She is the Salon Coordinator with Swish Salon.

Calgary-Beddington – Heather Erlen will challenge Amanda Chapman for the NDP nomination in this north Calgary district.Erlen is the Alberta regional representative for the Canadian Labour Congress and is the former Team Lead for the Calgary Dream Centre Women’s Initiative. A candidate selection meeting is scheduled to take place on February 3, 2019.

Calgary-Cross – Ricardo Miranda was nominated as the NDP candidate. Miranda was first elected in 2015 and has served as Alberta’s Minister of Culture and Tourism since February 2016. Naser Al-Kukhun was nominated as the Liberal Party candidate on January 21, 2019.

Calgary-Foothills – Sameena Arif is seeking the NDP nomination. Arif is active with the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association.

Calgary-Glenmore – Jordan Stein is seeking the NDP nomination in this southwest Calgary district. Glenmore is currently represented by NDP Anam Kazim. A candidate selection meeting is scheduled to take place on February 3, 2019.

Calgary-Hays – Tory Tomblin is seeking the NDP nomination. Tomblin is a primary care paramedic with Alberta Health Services and was a candidate for the Calgary Board of Education in Wards 12 & 14 in the 2017 election. A candidate selection meeting is scheduled to take place on February 2, 2019.

Calgary-North – Salima Haq was nominated as the Liberal Party candidate on January 7, 2019. Gary Arora was nominated as the Alberta Party candidate on January 13, 2019. Arora replaces previously nominated Alberta Party candidate Melanie Wen, who withdrew her candidacy in late 2018.

Calgary-Peigan – Joe Pimlott has been nominated as the NDP candidate in this east Calgary district. Pimlott is a community liaison with Metis Calgary Family Services and the former executive director of the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary and provincial vice-president of the Metis Nation of Alberta. 

Ron Reinhold has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate. Reinhold was the Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Cross in the 2008 provincial election, where he earned 22.2 percent of the vote. He endorsed Dave Taylor in the Liberal Party’s 2008 leadership contest. 

Calgary-Shaw – John Daly was nominated as the Green Party candidate in this district on January 21, 2019.

Calgary-West – Frank Penkala has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate. Penkala previously sought the party’s nomination in the neighbouring Calgary-Bow district but was defeated by Paul Goddard in the nomination contest.

Drayton Valley-Devon – Ronald Brochu was nominated as the Liberal Party candidate on January 18, 2019. Brochu was the Liberal Party candidate in Edmonton-Gold Bar in the 2015 election, earning 3.1 percent of the vote.

Edmonton-Ellerlsie – Faton Bislimi is seeking the United Conservative Party nomination in this southeast Edmonton district. Bislimi is an Albanian activist and author from present-day Kosovo. According to his entry on Wikipedia, in 2007 he ran for mayor of Gnjilane, a city of 54,239 in southeast Kosovo. He is currently completing his PhD in Political Science at the University of Alberta. He received a master’s degree in public administration and international development from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 2007 and he worked as a lecturer of public policy and governance at the American University in Kosovo.

Chuck McKenna has withdrawn from the Alberta Party nomination in this southeast Edmonton district. Richard Corbin and former Liberal Party candidate Todd Ross will contest the nomination set for January 26, 2019. A candidate selection meeting has been scheduled for January 26, 2019.

Edmonton-Meadows – Chand Gul and MLA Denise Woollard are seeking the NDP nomination in this redrawn and renamed district in southeast Edmonton. Woollard was first elected in 2015 in the Edmonton-Mill Creek district.

Gul is the president of the Alberta Pashtoon Association and previously worked for the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers through the organization’s Community Connector Immigrant Women’s Integration network. She is the former chair of the women’s wing of the Pakistan-Canada Association of Edmonton. She was previously the South Edmonton Regional director for the Alberta Liberal Party and a member of the federal Liberal Party’s board of directors in Edmonton-Mill Woods, but she appears to have recently joined the NDP and attended the party’s convention in October 2018.

Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville – Jessica Littlewood was nominated as the NDP candidate in this district on January 20, 2019. Littlewood was first elected in 2015, earning 45 percent of the vote and unseating one-term Progressive Conservative MLA Jacquie Fenske. She has served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade since October 2017 and was recently voted Up and Coming MLA to Watch in 2019 in the Daveberta Best of Alberta Politics 2018 Survey. 

Leduc-Beaumont – Robb Connelly was acclaimed as the Alberta Party candidate in this district following the withdrawal of Jan Becker and the party not accepting the candidacies of Tauras Pawluk and Coreina Hubert. Connelly previously sought the Alberta Party nomination in the neighbouring Strathcona-Sherwood Park district. 

Gil Poitras is the first candidate nominated by the Alberta Advantage Party in this election cycle. Poitras served as interim leader of new right-wing party in 2017, and previously served as Chief Financial Officer for the Alberta Party in 2013 and 2014, and as the president of the Alberta Party association in Leduc-Beaumont in 2015. He served on Beaumont town council from 2001 to 2004 and ran for mayor in in 2013 and 2017.

Lethbridge-West – Patricia Chizek was nominated as the Liberal Party candidate on January 7, 2019. 

Morinville-St. Albert – Neil Korotash defeated Wayne Rufiange to secure the Alberta Party nomination on January 19, 2019. Korotash teaches Biology and Urban Agriculture at Morinville Community High School and he sought the PC Party nomination in Spruce Grove-St. Albert ahead of the 2015 election. In 2001, Korotash became the youngest city councillor in St. Albert history when he was elected at age 21 in that year’s municipal elections.

Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills – Chase Brown has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in this central Alberta district. Brown studied business economics at the University of Alberta and has coached special Olympians in softball, curling, and floor hockey programs.

West Yellowhead – Zack Seizmagraff is seeking the Liberal Party nomination, which is scheduled to take place on January 25, 2019. Seizmagraff was the federal Liberal Party candidate in Yellowhead in the 2011 election, earning 2.87 percent of the vote. A candidate selection meeting has been scheduled for January 26, 2019.

The NDP have scheduled nomination meetings to be held in Calgary-West on February 6, 2019, Calgary-East on February 16, 2019, and in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche and Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo on February 17, 2019. The UCP have scheduled a nomination meeting in Lethbridge-East for February 9, 2019.

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

Calgary-East MLA Robyn Luff and Premier Rachel Notley at a roundtable on education affordability in 2017 (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

MLA Robyn Luff removed from NDP Caucus after speaking out “about culture of fear and intimidation”

Photo: Calgary-East MLA Robyn Luff and Premier Rachel Notley at a roundtable on education affordability in 2017 (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Calgary-East MLA Robyn Luff has been removed from the New Democratic Party Caucus after releasing a public letter announcing she would not sit in the Legislative Assembly “in protest of a culture of fear and intimidation that leads to MLA’s being unable to properly represent their constituents in the legislature.”

Writing that she “felt bullied by the NDP leadership for over 3 and a half years” and faced “a culture of fear and intimidation,” Luff’s letter details the grievances she feels as a backbencher in the government caucus, which include whipped votes and reading scripted questions and private members statements in the Assembly.

Luff wrote in the letter that she would not return to the Assembly “until a resolution has been presented.” It is now likely that when she does return it will be as an Independent MLA.

Robyn Luff MLA Calgary East NDP Press Release

MLA Robyn Luff’s letter on November 5, 2018

Luff is correct that many of the prepared statements and questions that backbenchers are frequently required to read in the Assembly are scripted, and sometimes comically so. Many provinces do not provide time for government backbench MLAs to ask questions in Question Period, and anyone who has watched an episode of QP will likely see why. Known colloquially as “puffballs,” the scripted questions asked by backbench MLAs are rarely challenging and exist to provide cabinet ministers with an opportunity to read government talking points into Hansard.

“People are permitted to speak their minds, and they have an opportunity to do that,” said Government House leader Brian Mason in response to Luff’s letter. “Everybody in a caucus, especially large caucuses, is frustrated from time to time.”

A statement released by the NDP Caucus late on November 5, 2018, stated that “NDP MLAs have lost confidence in her ability to participate as a productive and trustworthy member of the government caucus.”

Despite her family roots in the Alberta NDP (her grandfather Alan Bush was an Anglican minister who stood in the federal NDP in northern Alberta in the 1965 and 1967 federal elections and ran against Grant Notley for the leadership of the NDP in 1968) a breach of caucus solidarity this large was not going be treated lightly.

There is no doubt Premier Rachel Notley runs a tight ship and because of it the NDP have imposed an impressive level of caucus discipline since forming government in 2015. Since their election victory, the NDP have largely avoided the types of bozo-eruptions and embarrassing scandals that have sometimes become weekly occurrences in the Wildrose-turned-United Conservative Party Caucus.

Caucus discipline is nothing new. It is a characteristic of most functional parliamentary democracies. But the level of control exerted on individual MLAs by party leaders and their staffers is something that could feel incredibly stifling for some backbench MLAs, especially those who might feel more naturally inclined to sit in the opposition benches.

Backbenchers who do not feel they are being valued or given an opportunity to speak up and advocate for the issues they or their constituents feel are important can create resentment towards the political leadership. Providing some sort of relief valve to deal with backbencher frustration is important.

In the mid-1990s, rookie backbench Progressive Conservative MLAs Jon Havelock, Mark Hlady, Lyle Oberg, Murray Smith, Ed Stelmach, and Lorne Taylor formed “the Deep Six” by attempting to drive an agenda of cuts to spending and government services, or at least that is the political narrative that was created.

The short-lived sequel to the Deep Six, the Fiscal Four, was formed by Doug Griffiths, Jonathan Denis, Rob Anderson, and Kyle Fawcett after the 2008 election. The group of PC backbenchers soon expanded to include three or four other MLAs, but it did not last long after Anderson crossed the floor to the Wildrose Party in 2010 (and the “Fiscal Seven” did not have the same ring to it).

Aside from being allowed to play minor theatrical roles as the internal opposition to government, most backbench MLAs were largely compliant during the PC Party’s 43-year reign. The caucus and party revolt that ended Alison Redford’s political career in 2014 was a notable exception, but the most significant actual rebellion by backbench MLAs in Alberta’s history was the Social Credit backbenchers revolt of 1937, which nearly toppled Premier William Aberhart’s nascent government.

It is not uncommon for disgruntled MLAs to leave their caucus to sit as Independent MLAs or join other parties, like Sandra Jansen did in 2016 and Rick Fraser and Karen McPherson did in 2017, but Luff’s decision to refuse to take her seat in the Assembly is not a tenable long-term strategy.

Without knowing more, it is not clear that anything Luff wrote she has experienced is new or unique to the NDP Caucus in Alberta, or if she is alone in feeling this way. It is also unclear what Luff’s political future outside the NDP Caucus will hold over the next five months until the 2019 election is called.

Whether publishing that letter was politically smart or political suicide, it took courage for Luff to speak up. And speaking truth to power is something that we should encourage our elected officials to do more regularly.

Derek Fildebrandt Maxime Bernier Jagmeet Sighn Rachel Notley Daveberta Podcast Alberta Politics

Episode 18: Maximum Bern and The Disgruntled Politicians of Canada

In this episode of the Daveberta Podcast, Dave Cournoyer and Ryan Hastman discuss the what’s happening in Alberta politics, including the New Democratic Party convention on September 28, 29 and 30, 2018 in Red Deer and the Freedom Conservative Party convention on October 20, 2018 in Chestermere.

We also delve into federal politics and talk about what impact Maxime Bernier’s departure from the Conservative Party of Canada might have in Alberta and the pipeline split between Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley and federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. We also discuss some of the latest candidate nomination news and answer some of the questions you sent us, including our origin story.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. The network includes more than 30 podcasts, including The Creative Block.

You can listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, Stitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We’d love to hear what you think of this episode, so feel free to leave a review where you download, comment on the blogFacebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

Also, it would be a big help if you could leave a review where you download this podcast and share this episode with a friend.

We are always thankful to our hard working producer, Adam Rozenhart, who helps make each episode of the Daveberta Podcast sound so great.

Thank you for listening!

Recommended reading/listening

Alison Redford Calgary candidates Alberta Election 2012

PC-turned-NDP MLA Sandra Jansen running for re-election, former PC MLA loses bid for comeback in Edmonton-Glenora

Photo: Then-rookie PC candidate Sandra Jansen at an election rally in 2012, pictured with then-Premier Alison Redford (right) and now UCP candidate Jason Luan (left).

Former PC MLA Sandra Jansen will seek re-election as a New Democratic Party candidate in Calgary-North West in the 2019 election. Jansen, who was first elected as a PC MLA in 2012, crossed the floor to the NDP in 2016. She has since been appointed Minister of Infrastructure and the United Conservative Party has painted a giant target on her district going into the next election.  

Steve Young MLA

Steve Young

Meanwhile, one of Jansen’s former caucus colleagues had his political comeback halted in its tracks. Former PC MLA Steve Young was unable to secure the United Conservative Party nomination in Edmonton-Glenora last week after he and David Salopek were defeated by Marjorie Newman in the party’s nomination contest. 

Young served as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton-Riverview from 2012 to 2015, when he was unseated by New Democrat Lori Sigurdson. It is unclear why Young decided to mount a comeback in the neighbouring Glenora district.

Current Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate at a September 12, 2018 nomination meeting. Hoffman was first elected in 2015, earning 68.5 percent of the vote. She currently serves as Deputy Premier and Minster of Health.

Young was the latest in a group of former PC MLAs defeated in the 2015 seeking to make a political comeback in 2019. Former Calgary-Hawkwood MLA Jason Luan has been nominated as the UCP candidate in Calgary-Foothills and former MLA PC MLA David Dorward has been nominated as a UCP candidate in Edmonton-Gold Bar.

Sarah Hoffman NDP MLA Edmonton-Glenora

Sarah Hoffman

Former PC MLA Janice Sarich is seeking the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Decore, which she represented from 2008 to 2015, and former Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Sohail Quadri is running for the nomination in Edmonton-South West. Dave Quest is seeking the Alberta Party nomination in Strathcona-Sherwood Park, which he represented as a PC MLA from 2008 to 2015. And as first reported on this blog, former Liberal MLA Mo Elsalhy is seeking the Alberta Party nomination in Edmonton-South West.

Upcoming nomination meetings are being held in the following districts:

Drayton Valley-Devon – UCP MLA Mark Smith will face challenger Andrew Boitchenko in a nomination vote on August 29, 2018.

Edmonton-Ellerslie – NDP MLA Rod Loyola is expected to be nominated at an August 28, 2018 meeting in this southeast Edmonton district. Loyola was first elected in 2015, earning 61 percent of the vote.

Livingstone-Macleod – Dylin Hauser is expected to be nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in this south west Alberta district on August 23, 2018.

Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin – Three candidates are contesting the UCP nomination vote scheduled for August 23 and 30, 2018. Former Wetaskiwin City Councillor Donna Andres, former County of Wetaskiwin Councillor and Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools trustee Richard Wilson, and local business owner Sandra Kim are seeking the nomination. Kim found herself in the centre of controversy when it was revealed she had shared Facebook posts denouncing same-sex marriage. 

Here are some more of the latest updates to the growing list of Alberta election nomination candidates:

Calgary-Acadia: Sohail Chaudhry is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-East: Gar Gar is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Gar is the past president of the SAIT Students’ Association and ran for Calgary City Council in Ward 10 in the 2017 municipal elections.

Calgary-McCall – Amarjit Singh Banwait is seeking the UCP nomination. 

Calgary-North East – Manjit Jaswal is seeking the UCP nomination. Jaswal is the sixth candidate to enter the UCP nomination contest in this district. Jaswal ran for the PC Party nomination in the Calgary-Cross district in 2015.

Calgary-North West – Andrew Bradley is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview – Ruby Malik is seeking the UCP nomination. 

Edmonton-City Centre – Robert Philp has been acclaimed as the Alberta Party candidate after Stephanie Shostak withdrew from the contest. Philip is a former judge and former Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Edmonton-Mill Woods – Sophia Kahn and Muhammad Afzal are seeking the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-West Henday – Winston Leung has been acclaimed as the Alberta Party candidate.

Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland – Dale Johnson defeated Barbara Costache, Everett Normandeau, and Leah Wood to secure the UCP nomination in this new rural district northwest of Edmonton. Jerry Molnar was disqualified following the discovery of controversial social media posts. Johnson previously served as president of Whitecourt-Ste. Anne PC association and as an appointed board member of the Aspen Regional Health Authority and Credit Counselling Services of Alberta.

Lesser Slave Lake – Real estate agent Jim Sparks is seeking the UCP nomination.

Red Deer-NorthLawrence Lee and Reg Warkentin are the latest candidates to join the race for the UCP nomination in this district. Lee has served on Red Deer City Council since 2013 and Warkentin is the policy and advocacy manager with the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce.

St. Albert – Shelley Biermanski is seeking the UCP nomination. Biermanski ran for the Wildrose Party in this district in the 2015 election and mounted an unsuccessful campaign for mayor of St. Albert in 2013.

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

Alberta MLAs to watch in 2018: Leela Aheer, Shaye Anderson, Deron Bilous, Joe Ceci, Rick Fraser, Sandra Jansen, Brian Jean, Danielle Larivee, Jessica Littlewood, Shannon Phillips, David Shepherd and Richard Starke.

12 Alberta MLAs to watch in 2018

Photo: Alberta MLAs to watch in 2018: Leela Aheer, Shaye Anderson, Deron Bilous, Joe Ceci, Rick Fraser, Sandra Jansen, Brian Jean, Danielle Larivee, Jessica Littlewood, Shannon Phillips, David Shepherd and Richard Starke.

Despite its past reputation, Alberta politics has become extraordinarily unpredictable over the past twelve years. This makes forecasting the future a very tricky business for political pundits.

As is tradition on this blog, each year I publish a list of Alberta MLAs that I will be watching closely in the new year. Beyond the obvious choices, like Premier Rachel Notley or United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney, I try to look into the government and opposition benches to see who could make the news next year.

Here are the MLAs I will be watching in 2018:

Leela Aheer (UCP – Chestermere-Rockyview): Aheer was a staunch supporter of former Wildrose leader Brian Jean during the 2017 UCP leadership race, but when the dust settled, a victorious Kenney appointed her as Deputy Leader of the UCP caucus. Her private members’ bill, Bill 206: the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement (Adoption Advertising) Amendment Act, which aimed to bring the process of adoption into the digital age by allowing prospective adoptive parents to go online through licensed adoption agencies, was passed after a remarkably civil debate in 2017.

Shaye Anderson (NDP – Leduc-Beaumont): Anderson is charming and has just the kind of average working-man appeal that the NDP government needs. Appointed to cabinet in 2017, the Municipal Affairs Minister will oversee the implementation of the new City Charters and a reformed Municipal Government Act in 2018. With talk of the AUMA and AAMDC merging and increasing pressure on the NDP to reform municipal election finance laws, Anderson’s role at the cabinet table could become more important in 2018.

Deron Bilous (NDP – Edmonton-Beverly Clareview): As Economic Development and Trade Minister, Bilous has led successful trade missions to China, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. With the province’s economy growing but unemployment rates remaining unchanged, he faces the challenge of proving the government’s job creation plan is working as the provincial economy recovers from the sharp decline of international oil prices.

Joe Ceci (NDP – Calgary-Fort): With Alberta’s economy projected to have grown between 3.9 percent and 6.7 percent in 2017, the Finance Minister will implement what Notley describes as “compassionate belt-tightening.” The NDP need to present a more defined budget plan, but it should not just focus on spending. Alberta has a revenue problem and if we should have learned anything since the international price of oil collapsed in 2014, it is that we should not depend on royalty revenues from oil and gas to fund the day to day operations of our public services. And did I mention he is a champion of Alberta’s booming craft brewing industry?

Rick Fraser (Independent – Calgary-South East): The former PC MLA left the UCP caucus in September 2017, citing concerns about the party’s position on climate change and social issues. There were strong rumours that Fraser would join the Alberta Party caucus in 2017, but the resignation of Greg Clark as party leader may have put any floor-crossing plans on hold.

Sandra Jansen (NDP – Calgary-North West): Appointed to cabinet in 2017, the former PC MLA plays a big role in Notley’s charm offensive in Calgary. As Minister of Infrastructure, Jansen has a powerful spot at the cabinet table, allowing her to champion the construction of big capital projects like the new Calgary Cancer Centre and the completion of the city’s ring road. She should spend less time arguing with Conservative partisans on Twitter and more time trying to boost her government’s fortunes in Calgary.

Brian Jean (UCP – Fort McMurray-Conklin): The former leader of the Wildrose Party disappeared from public sight after losing the UCP leadership to Kenney. As the only Official Opposition MLA without a critic role, there were questions raised about whether Jean will stick around until the 2019 election or whether Albertans can expect a by-election to be held in Fort McMurray-Conklin in 2018. But in a year-end interview with Fort McMurray Today, Jean says he is not planning on leaving politics in 2018.

Danielle Larivee (NDP – Lesser Slave Lake): A rising star in the Alberta cabinet, Larivee was shuffled from Municipal Affairs to Children’s Services in 2017 to quell a political scandal, which she appears to have successfully done. She launched and expanded Alberta’s $25 per day child care program, which will have a real positive impact on a lot of Alberta families.

Jessica Littlewood (NDP – Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville): Appointed as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade with responsibilities for small business, Littlewood is another rising star in the NDP caucus. With a potential cabinet shuffle ahead in 2018, I would not be surprised if she is appointed to a full cabinet position.

Shannon Phillips (NDP – Lethbridge-West): The Environment and Parks Minister continues to champion the Alberta government’s high-profile Climate Leadership Plan. The plan has led to the creation of Canada’s lowest renewable electricity rates, but a focused opposition campaign by its Conservative critics has led to mass confusion about the goal of the carbon levy. Phillips will have a big challenge ahead of her in 2018 to explain how the NDP’s plan to combat climate change will have a positive impact on individual Albertans ahead of the 2019 election.

David Shepherd (NDP – Edmonton-Centre): With 1,200 votes counted, Shepherd was chosen as the Up and Comer to Watch in 2018 in the Best of Alberta Politics 2017 Survey. He is a hard-working, well-spoken and passionate MLA who has excelled at communicating online, in-person and on the floor of the Assembly.

Richard Starke (Progressive Conservative – Vermilion-Lloydminster): The former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister and leadership candidate opted not to join his fellow PC MLAs when they joined the Wildrose-heavy UCP caucus in July 2017. He instead decided to remain a PC MLA in the Assembly. Like his former PC colleague Rick Fraser, there were strong rumours in 2017 that Starke could join the Alberta Party caucus.

Compare this list of Alberta MLAs to watch to previous lists from 201720162015 and 2014.

Best of Alberta Politics 2017 Survey Photo: Jessica Littlewood, Greg Clark, Shannon Phillips, Nathan Cooper, and Sarah Hoffman.

Vote in the Best of Alberta Politics 2017 Survey (Round 2!)

In our most recent episode of The Daveberta Podcast, Ryan and I asked you to help us shape our final episode of 2017 by voting in the Best of Alberta Politics 2017 Survey.

More than 300 of you responded to the survey last week with your choices for the biggest political players and defining political issues of 2017. We tallied all the responses from that survey and we are now asking you to vote on the top 3 choices in each category.

Voting will be open until 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 21, 2017 and we will reveal and discuss the results in the final podcast episode of 2017, which we will be recording on the same day.

Here are the top 3 contenders who you can vote for in Round 2 of the Best of Alberta Politics 2017 Survey:

Who was the best Alberta MLA of 2017? – Vote

  • Premier Rachel Notley, NDP MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
  • Greg Clark, Alberta Party MLA for Calgary-Elbow
  • David Shepherd, NDP MLA for Edmonton-Centre

An honourable mention to Sandra Jansen, the NDP MLA for Calgary-North West, who placed a strong fourth in the first round of voting.

What was the biggest political issue in 2017 in Alberta politics? – Vote

  • Gay-Straight Alliances
  • The Economy and Jobs
  • Oil Pipelines

Who was the best Alberta cabinet minister of 2017? – Vote

  • Sarah Hoffman, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Seniors
  • David Eggen, Minister of Education
  • Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks

Honourable mentions to Danielle Larivee, Minister of Children’s Services, and Deron Bilous, Minister of Trade and Economic Development, who placed a strong fourth and fifth in the first round of voting.

Who was the Best Opposition MLA for 2017? – Vote

  • Greg Clark, Alberta Party MLA for Calgary-Elbow
  • Nathan Cooper, UCP MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills
  • David Swann, Liberal MLA for Calgary-Mountain View

Honourable mentions to Richard Starke, the Independent PC MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster, and Brian Jean, the UCP MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin, who placed a strong fourth and fifth in the first round of voting.

Who is the up and comer for 2018? – Vote

  • Jessica Littlewood, NDP MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville
  • Jason Kenney, UPC MLA for Calgary-Lougheed and Leader of the Official Opposition
  • David Shepherd, NDP MLA for Edmonton-Centre

An honourable mention to Brian Malkinson, the NDP MLA for Calgary-Currie, who placed a strong fourth in the first round of voting.

What was the biggest political play of 2017 in Alberta politics? – Voting Closed

In the first round of voting, 59 percent of you chose the creation of the United Conservative Party as the biggest political play of 2017. Because of this was the choice of a clear majority, we have declared this result as the winner in this category. Congrats, UCP.

Other notable choices in his category were Premier Rachel Notley’s pipeline tour, Greg Clark’s being forced out of the Alberta Party leadership and the NDP government’s Bill 24: An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances in Schools.

Photo: Jessica Littlewood, Greg Clark, Shannon Phillips, Nathan Cooper, and Sarah Hoffman.

United Conservative Party of Alberta leader Jason Kenney.

Jason Kenney as the face of Conservatism in Alberta

When the Legislative Assembly resumes for its fall sitting on Monday, there will be a new seating plan.

Brian Jean Wildrose Leader

Brian Jean

A new Official Opposition United Conservative Caucus made up of twenty-two former Wildrose MLAs and six former Progressive Conservative MLAs will make its debut.

Richard Starke of Vermilion-Lloydminster will continue to sit as a lone PC MLA and former UCP MLA Rick Fraser of Calgary-South East will join exiled former Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt as Independent MLAs. Former New Democratic Party MLA Karen McPherson will join Greg Clark in doubling the Alberta Party Caucus. And sitting alongside Premier Rachel Notley in the government front-benches will be newly appointed Minister of Infrastructure Sandra Jansen, who left the PCs to join the NDP last November.

Leading the new United Conservative Party Caucus will be former Member of Parliament Jason Kenney, who won yesterday’s leadership vote with 61 percent, defeating former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, who finished with 31 percent, and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer, who finished a distant third with 7 percent.

Kenney does not have a seat in the Assembly and indicated today that Calgary-Lougheed MLA Dave Rodney will resign on November 1, 2017 in order to create a by-election for his party’s new leader. Rodney was first elected in 2004.

David Eggen

As the new leader of the Official Opposition, Kenney will face some immediate issues as the Assembly reconvenes. He will need to reorganize his caucus office staff, reassign his party’s MLAs to new critic roles, and set an opposition agenda for the next 16 months. Kenney will do his best to avoid the bozoeruptions that plagued the former Wildrose MLAs in his UCP caucus and pivot to issues that will solidify his party’s conservative base.

As Kenney enters his new role as the new face of Conservatism in Alberta, the NDP will hope that Albertans forgive their more unpopular policies when reminded of the new UCP leader’s more bizarre social conservative views and rhetoric.

Education Minister David Eggen will introduce legislation making it illegal for schools to “out” students who join gay-straight alliances. Bill 24: An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances will reopen an issue that had conservative politicians tying themselves in knots after Kenney told a Postmedia editorial board that he would support teachers outing students who join GSAs.

Eggen has said most schools have been working with the province to establish codes of conduct against discrimination and adopt policies to protect LGBTQ youth, but a small group of mostly publicly-subsidized private schools are resisting. This bill could reignite the debate over the existence of publicly-subsidized private schools, some of which charge tens of thousands of tuition per student in order to attend.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

Despite calls from their political allies, Notley’s NDP government has avoided overhauling the structure of Alberta’s school system. But open resistance by private schools over GSAs, and by publicly-funded Catholic Superintendents wanting to dumb-down the Sexual Education curriculum, could force a debate over accountability of public funds being provided to these religious schools.

Kenney has been a vocal supporter of the Catholic schools, claiming that Notley’s opposition to a dumbed-down Sexual Education curriculum is the “statist ideology of the NDP on steroids.”

Of course, Notley is not telling publicly-funded Catholic schools not to teach Catholicism, she is telling them that they must teach consent and acknowledge the existence of homosexuality (welcome to the 21st century).

Alberta is one of a few remaining provinces that provides full public funding to Catholic schools. Former PC MLA David King, who served as education minister from 1979 to 1986, has collected close to 1,000 signatures in an online petition demanding a referendum on the future of publicly funded Catholic schools in Alberta.

David King

On the flip-side, as Kenney enters his role as UCP leader, he will hope that Albertans forgive his more bizarre social conservative views and rhetoric when reminded of the NDP’s more unpopular policies.

Repealing farm safety laws and the government’s climate leadership plan, including the carbon tax and phase-out of dirty coal-fired power plants, were two of his key promises, along with much chest-thumping about withdrawing from Canada’s equalization program (which is not something any province can do, because the funds are collected through Canadian federal income taxes, not by the provinces).

We can expect Kenney to spend a lot of time criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has developed a relatively friendly working relationship with Notley’s government on issues ranging from oil pipeline construction to climate change. With deep connections to the Conservatives in Ottawa, expect a Kenney-led UCP to march in lockstep with their federal cousins on these issues.

Justin Trudeau

Notley’s NDP subtly shifted their messaging last year, focusing on launching new programs and projects they argue will “make lives better for Albertans.” This will provide the NDP with a significant contrast to the Kenney-led UCP, who they will argue would attack public services and hurt Alberta families.

Kenney has said that if he becomes Premier in 2019, the months that follow would be known as the “Summer of Repeal” as his government would immediately move to repeal legislation passed by the NDP since 2015. The trouble with Kenney’s promise to repeal all of the NDP’s agenda is that, despite anger from conservatives still bitter from losing the 2015 election, some of the changes introduced by Notley’s NDP are popular among Albertans.

Would a UCP government cancel the construction of the Cancer Treatment Centre and the Green Line in Calgary or the new hospital in south Edmonton? Would a UCP government increase school fees and cancel the $25/day childcare program? Would Kenney close schools and hospitals, like his political role model Ralph Klein did in the 1990s? Expect the NDP start asking these questions when MLAs meet in Edmonton tomorrow.

This weekend’s UCP leadership vote and the resumption of the Legislative session tomorrow marks a huge change in Alberta’s political landscape. Alberta politics has changed drastically over the past two years, and even the past decade. The next few weeks, and the next 16 months, in Alberta politics will be fascinating to watch.

Sandra Jansen (left) and Premier Rachel Notley (right) at the press conference announcing the PC MLA had crossed the floor to join the NDP.

Former Tory Sandra Jansen appointed to Notley NDP cabinet

Photo: Sandra Jansen (left) and Premier Rachel Notley (right) at the press conference announcing the PC MLA had crossed the floor to join the NDP in November 2016. (Photo from Premier Rachel Notley’s Facebook Page)

It was widely expected to happen in 2017, and today NDP MLA Sandra Jansen was sworn-in to the provincial cabinet as Minister of Infrastructure. She takes over the portfolio from veteran MLA Brian Mason, who had served as both Minister of Infrastructure and Minister of Transportation since the NDP formed government in 2015.

First elected as a Progressive Conservative in 2008, Jansen was one of ten PCs to survive the NDP orange wave of 2015. After being driven out of the PC leadership race by social conservative supporters of Jason Kenney, she crossed the floor to the NDP.

Bringing Jansen into cabinet bolsters the number of NDP cabinet ministers in Calgary, which is expected to be a critical electoral battleground in the next election. Infrastructure issues, like the construction of a new cancer centre, were key issues for voters in the last election.

The NDP swept Calgary in the last election, but they will face a very steep uphill battle to re-elected many of those MLAs in the next election.

Jansen’s appointment to the provincial cabinet means the majority of Alberta’s cabinet ministers – eleven out of twenty-one – are women.

Other recent changes to the provincial leadership include the appointment of Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville MLA Jessica Littlewood as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade for Small Business and Sherwood Park MLA Annie McKitrick as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Education.

Under the old PC government, appointments of Parliamentary Secretaries, or Parliamentary Assistants, were used in some cases to provide training for backbench MLA’s identified as being future cabinet minister material. In other cases, when the PCs were burdened with large caucuses, some MLAs were given with Parliamentary Secretary appointments as a way of generating busy-work for backbenchers who might otherwise cause trouble for the government leadership.

Littlewood and McKitrick are the first two Parliamentary Secretaries appointed since the NDP formed government in 2015, so it is unclear what their actual role in the government will be.

Other notable appointments include:

  • Calgary-Currie MLA Brian Malkinson was recently appointed to the provincial Treasury Board.
  • Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Estefania Cortes-Vargas was recently sworn in as a member of the Legislative Review Committee.
Gwnyth Midgeley and David Khan Liberal

David Khan wins leadership of obscure Liberal Party

Photo: Liberal Party executive director Gwyneth Midgley and newly elected party leader David Khan (photo from March 2017).

Calgary – In a battle of Calgary lawyers, David Khan defeated Kerry Cundal to become the next leader of the Alberta Liberal Party.

Khan earned 54 percent of the vote with 897 votes to Cundal’s 765 votes. He succeeds interim leader David Swann, who is also the party’s only MLA. He may also be the first leader of a political party in Alberta who is openly-gay.

It would be easy to have forgotten the Liberals were picking a new leader today, as the race did not generate much interest outside of loyal Liberal Party circles. The race was also fraught by a series of resignations.

Leadership co-chair Kevin Feehan was appointed as a judge of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in October 2016. And the other leadership co-chair, Nirmala Naidoo, resigned in October 2016 to work on Sandra Jansen’s campaign for the Progressive Conservative leadership (Jansen later withdrew from that race and joined the New Democratic Party).

The two candidates both entered the race at almost the last minute after St. Albert mayor Nolan Crouse dropped out days before the nomination deadline in March 2017. It was widely expected until that point that Crouse would be acclaimed.

Cundal, a past federal Liberal candidate who was a PC Party member only weeks before she launched her leadership bid, promoted the idea that it was time for the Liberal Party to work with other centrist parties, and maybe even create a new party. Khan ran on a more traditionalist platform of keeping the party name, which appealed to the party’s loyalists.

But it is hard to figure out where the Liberal Party fits in today’s provincial political environment.

Most of the party’s voter base in Edmonton shifted enmasse to Rachel Notley’s NDP in the 2015 election. I am not sure why many of those former Liberal voters would abandon the NDP in the next election, especially faced with the alternative of Derek Fildebrandt, Jason Kenney, or Brian Jean becoming the next premier of Alberta.

Far from being a party of socialist firebrands like Jeremy Corbyn‘s UK Labour Party, Notley’s NDP are basically governing Alberta as centrist-leftish Liberals.

I am sure that Khan will work hard in his new role. As his party’s 2014 candidate in Calgary-West (where he earned 8.5 percent of the vote) and 2015 candidate in Calgary-Buffalo (where he earned 24.6 percent of the vote), Khan already has experience campaigning at a local level. And a local level might be the best place for him to start in his new role. He has a huge challenge ahead of him to rebuild a party that over the past five years has fallen from official opposition to obscurity.

Both Khan and Cundal were endorsed by former Senator Nick Taylor, the likeable and quotable stalwart who led the party from 1974 until 1988. As the last person to lead the party through a long-period in the wilderness, Taylor might have some wise advice to share with Khan as he starts his new role as leader of the Alberta Liberal Party.

Alberta’s Conservatives are obsessed with Gay-Straight Alliances

Following Progressive Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney’s comments to the Calgary Postmedia editorial board fifteen days ago when he came out in favour of allowing schools to inform parents when students join a student-initiated Gay-Straight Alliance club, Alberta’s conservative politicians have tied themselves in knots over the issue.

Gay-Straight Alliances are student-initiated clubs meant empower students to create safe environments in their own schools, which studies have found may reduce the odds of suicidal thoughts and attempts among both sexual minority and straight students. As I wrote last week, having schools track their involvement in these clubs and informing their parents is not just creepy but could be dangerous.

It appeared as if Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean was setting himself apart from Kenney on April 3 by coming out against outing students to their parents, saying that “it’s much like a math club or a prayer club, and I don’t think that would be appropriate (for parents to be told when a child joins).” On April 4, he changed his tune, stating that parents should only sometimes be notified. But by April 5, he switched back to his original position that he did not believe parents should be notified if their child joins a GSA.

On April 6, Jean appeared to be contradicted by Mark Smith, the Wildrose MLA for Drayton Valley-Devon, who criticized a letter sent to school officials by Education Minister David Eggen reaffirming the NDP government’s belief that parents should not be informed if students join GSAs.

The NDP have visibly enjoyed the attention that Kenney and Jean’s comments have generated, on a provincial and even international level. These types of social issues generally play to the strength of the NDP, which is why Kenney desperately tried to pivot his message back to the provincial economy before disappearing from public sight last week.

The NDP are trying to frame Kenney as a social conservative – which he is – going back to his days as an anti-abortion activist while enrolled as a student at a Roman Catholic university in San Francisco.

A large portion of the membership base of the Wildrose Party is also social conservative, which both Kenney and Jean are courting for support in their bids to lead a new conservative party.

This week, the president of the Wildrose Party association in Medicine Hat evoked the legacy of residential schools and forced sterilization in a Facebook post supporting Kenney’s position. “How did the native schools turn out? Yup, that was the government telling us they knew best. How about sterilizing handicapped people? Yup, another brilliant government idea,” wrote Maureen Prince on Facebook post published on April 4, 2017. She also claimed in a Facebook post published on March 16, 2017 that the United Nations wants to “redistribute children to be raised by governments.”

Prince appears to be an active member of a conservative education group called Concerned Parents of Medicine Hat School District #76, which is a vocal critic of the NDP and its stance on GSAs.

The Concerned Parents group provided “Include Parents” buttons to several Wildrose MLAs who wore them in the Legislative Assembly this week. The group appears to be associated or allied with a province-wide conservative education advocacy group called “Parents For Choice in Education.

Parents for Choice took issue with Jean’s first and third positions against potentially outing students to their parents, saying that he and Education Minister David Eggen had the “gall to falsely and audaciously accuse parents of being the greater danger to these vulnerable youth.”

With conservative politicians stuck on the GSA issue, Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government has been playing to their strengths, spending the past few weeks announcing lower school fees, school nutrition programs, locations for $25-per day childcare programs, and the construction of new schools, hospitals and affordable housing projects.

The NDP subtly shifted their messaging over the past few months, focusing on launching new programs and projects that they argue will “make lives better for Albertans,” rather than trying to out-flank the conservatives on economic issues. And it is working remarkably well for the NDP.

Meanwhile, despite previous claims by Brian Jean that he has “no interest” in social issues and Jason Kenney’s pledge to create a free-market conservative party, it appears that the only issue galvanizing conservatives over the past two weeks is whether or not to allow the state-sanctioned outing of gay kids.

Gwnyth Midgeley and David Khan Liberal

Does anyone want to lead Alberta’s Liberal Party?

The deadline is fast approaching. On March 31 at 5:00 p.m. we will know for sure who, if anyone, wants to lead Alberta’s Liberal Party. The race to choose a replacement for the party’s last permanent leader – Raj Sherman, who resigned in January 2015 – has been less than exciting.

Nolan Crouse

Nolan Crouse

Until he dropped out of the race yesterday, the candidacy of three-term St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse had given the leadership contest some much needed media attention. It also gave the party some hope for its political future. Crouse is a well-known name in the Edmonton-region, which is also where Rachel Notley’s NDP has its strongest support.

David Swann was the only Liberal to be re-elected in 2015, and that was largely due to his own personal popularity in Calgary-Mountain View. He was the party’s leader from 2008 to 2011 and interim leader since 2015.

Crouse’s departure only days before the deadline left the party in a lurch. Party executives scrambled to ensure that they would have at least one candidate, or maybe even two, submit their papers before 5:00 p.m. on March 31. It would be incredibly embarrassing if no one signed up to run.

In the wake of Crouse leaving the race, rumours circulated that former Tory MLA Thomas Lukaszuk could become a candidate, but those rumours appear to have dried up.

Kerry Cundal Liberal Calgary

Kerry Cundal

CBC reports that two last-minute candidates are planning to throw their names in the race: Kerry Cundal and David Khan.

Cundal ran as a federal Liberal candidate in the 2015 election, placing second to Conservative Ron Liepert in Calgary-Signal Hill. She was involved with the Progressive Conservative Party in support of Sandra Jansen’s brief leadership campaign and the “Renew” faction of the party that opposed Jason Kenney’s campaign.

Khan is a Calgary-based lawyer who ran as a provincial Liberal candidate in Calgary-West in 2014 and in Calgary-Buffalo in 2015. He was the executive vice-president of the party until recently (his name has been removed from the party website). He has also become a frequent political commentator on CBC’s national politics program, Power & Politics.

Jacob Huffman Alberta Liberal Leadership

Jacob Huffman

Neither Cundal or Khan have formally announced their plans to run.

A third potential candidate, University of Calgary student Jacob Huffman, launched a Facebook page announcing his candidacy shortly after Crouse dropped out. The way this race has progressed it might be hard to tell whether or not his candidacy is serious, but at the rate it is going Huffman might be acclaimed (he’s already planning his victory party).

Who will actually run for the leadership of the Alberta Liberal Party? Wait to find out at 5:00 p.m. on March 31, 2017.

Photo above: Liberal Party executive director Gwyneth Midgley and David Khan at the reception following the 2017 Speech from the Throne.

Jason Kenney’s hostile takeover of Alberta’s PC Party is complete

Former federal politician Jason Kenney won the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta today, as was widely expected. Kenney received the support of 75 percent of the delegates attending the party’s voting meeting today at the Hyatt in downtown Calgary.

Richard Starke

Richard Starke

His only opponents, Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke and Calgary lawyer Byron Nelson, earned 21 percent and two percent support from the voting delegates.

Kenney’s leadership bid was more of a hostile takeover than a traditional leadership campaign. The central point of his platform was his plan to dissolve the 8-MLA PC Party and form a new party with the official opposition Wildrose Party. Kenney has said he plans to meet with Wildrose leader Brian Jean on Monday to further discuss his plans.

Over the course of the campaign, Kenney and his legions of social conservative supporters, many who also happen to be card-carrying members of the Wildrose Party, worked tirelessly to marginalize progressive voices in the party. Two leadership candidates, Sandra Jansen and Stephen Khan, said they and their supporters faced threats and bullying by Kenney’s supporters before they dropped out of the race. Jansen later crossed the floor to join the New Democratic Party and Khan endorsed Starke.

Kenney’s reputation for being a focused campaigner helped him win an overwhelming number of delegates at the local constituency votes. The lethargic and uninspiring campaigns mounted by his opponents were left in the dust.

Sandra Jansen

Sandra Jansen

But even with such a commanding lead, Kenney’s campaign couldn’t stop itself from getting into trouble. His campaign was fined $5,000 for breaking party rules and the party executive was faced with complaints from former MLAs and calls for Kenney to be disqualified from the race. One of his key organizers, Alan Hallman, was expelled from the party and was reportedly charged with assault last night at the convention hotel.

Despite all the big talk by party stalwarts about the strength of the progressive-wing of the party, the political moderates just did not show up to vote in this race. The progressives who showed up in droves to vote for Ed Stelmach in 2006 and Alison Redford in 2011 stayed home this time. Or maybe they, like Sandra Jansen, like what they see from Rachel Notley’s NDP government?

Alberta Party leader Greg Clark said this week that Kenney-ally Preston Manning is eyeing his party’s name, even going so far as to offer Clark a cabinet spot in a future government. It was only one year ago that the Kenney-front group Alberta Can’t Wait attempted a takeover of the Alberta Party.

Brian Jean Wildrose Leader

Brian Jean

Clark claims that a number of former PC MLAs and activists, including former deputy premier and vocal Kenney critic Thomas Lukaszuk, are in discussions with his party. This may be related to an upcoming “unite the centre” event in Red Deer that former PC MLA and Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel is said to be behind. Another former PC MLA, Heather Klimchuk, said in an interview on The Broadcast podcast that she is watching St. Albert mayor Nolan Crouse‘s campaign to lead the Liberal Party.

What we discovered today is that less than two years after Alberta’s natural governing party lost its first election in 44 years, the PC Party is a shell of its former self and was ripe for a takeover by Wildrose Party supporters.

In his victory speech, Kenney confidently told delegates at the PC Party convention that he plans to repeal all the changes made by the NDP when he becomes Premier in 2019. That would mean the repeal of policies unpopular with conservatives, like the carbon tax, the Climate Leadership Plan and new farm safety laws, all introduced by the NDP.

Thomas Lukaszuk

Thomas Lukaszuk

If Kenney is true to his word this would also mean that corporate political donations would be reintroduced, small business taxes would be increased, the minimum wage would be lowered, school fees would be increased, the wealthiest Albertans would get tax cuts, and laws protecting sexual minorities from discrimination would be repealed.

When Kenney pledged today to repeal all of the changes made by the NDP, he was not talking to the now former progressive-wing of the PC Party. He was talking to the social conservative and rural base of the Wildrose Party.

Now that the takeover of the PC Party is complete, Kenney will set his sights on his main challenger for the leadership of a new conservative party, Wildrose leader Brian Jean.