Tag Archives: Shaping Alberta’s Future

Jason Kenney ramps up the old Tory patronage machine, begins purging NDP appointees from public agencies, boards and commissions

If you’re a conservative lawyer or energy company CEO in Alberta, you should check your email. There’s a good chance you might have been appointed to a public agency, board or commission last week.

A large number of political appointments made last Friday morning included new board chairpersons and directors at eleven post-secondary institutions, including the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, MacEwan University and Mount Royal University, as well as Alberta Health Services, the Workers’ Compensation Board, and the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis commission. The UCP appointees replaced a number of high-profile NDP-appointees, including U of A board chairperson Michael Phair, NAIT board chairperson Ray Martin, AHS board chairperson Linda Hughes, and WCB chairperson Grace Thostenson.

The list of appointees is flush with business insiders, corporate executives, and United Conservative Party donors. While partisan and political appointments are expected after any change in government (an occurrence we are just starting to become familiar with in Alberta – and hopefully will continue to be familiar with), this list might even make the old Progressive Conservative establishment blush.

As reported by David Climenhaga at AlbertaPolitics.ca, “At least 18 of the new UCP appointees were donors of significant sums to the party or UCP-friendly PACs set up to skirt election-financing laws.” Progress Alberta is expected to publish a more detailed report soon, but a scan of financing disclosures by executive director Duncan Kinney showed 16 donors who together contributed more than $100,000 to various conservative political causes were among the appointees.

Included in the flurry of appointments are a handful of former conservative politicians, activists, and officials with ties to the UCP, the federal Conservative Party, and right-wing lobby groups and think-tanks:

  • The AGLC will now be chaired by defeated UCP star candidate Len Rhodes. Rhodes was parachuted into Edmonton-Meadows following his retirement as president and CEO of the Edmonton Eskimos, but was defeated by NDP MLA Jasvir Deol in the provincial election.
  • Also appointed to the AGLC are Elan Harper, the chief financial officer for the Calgary-Varsity UCP association, and Gerard Curran, the owner of the James Joyce Pub in Calgary and former chairman of Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association (now known as the UCP-friendly Restaurants Canada).
  • Former Progressive Conservative MLA Janice Sarich was appointed to the board of MacEwan University, former MLA and associate cabinet minister Donna Kennedy-Glans was appointed to the board of the Banff Centre, and former Member of Parliament James Rajotte is now on the University of Alberta Board of Governors.
  • Former APPEGA president Kim Farwell, appointed to the board of governors of Keyano College in Fort McMurray, was campaign manager to Conservative MP David Yurdiga and president of the local Conservative Party association.
  • Lydell Torgerson, appointed as a public member of the Board of Directors of Grande Prairie Regional College has acted as the official agent for Conservative MP Chris Warkentin‘s election campaign.
  • Andy Crooks, the former chairman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation during Jason Kenney‘s time as its spokesperson, is now a member of the Municipal Government Board, and Moin Yahya, a U of A law professor and senior fellow with the Fraser Institute, is now a member of the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
  • Grafton Asset Management, the company run by newly appointed University of Calgary board chairperson Geeta Sankappanavar, donated $25,000 to the Shaping Alberta’s Future political action committee which purchased front-page pro-UCP ads in Alberta’s Postmedia newspapers.
  • Alex Pourbaix, president and CEO of Cenovus Energy and newly appointed chairman of the Mount Royal University board of directors, donated $4,000 to the UCP in 2019.

The biggest outlier when it comes to political donations might be new AHS board chairman David Weyant, the outgoing chairman of the Banff Centre of the Arts, who has donated $1,775 to the Alberta NDP since 2016, including a $550 donation in 2019.

Overall, the appointments send two messages:

  1. The Tory patronage machine is back, and it’s a deep well. While the NDP embraced the oil and gas sector and appointed corporate executives to public boards during their five years in government, Premier Rachel Notley‘s party never had a large political establishment to draw upon for appointees. The NDP also attempted to to professionalize the selection process but holding interviews and expanding the application process to allow a broader cross-section of Albertans to serve on some public boards. The long list of UCP appointees employed as corporate executives and lawyers, as well as the lack of representation from civil society groups, signals a return to something more similar to the old PC Party regime. It also serves as a reminder of the deep well of patronage appointees from the conservative establishment in this province that have made themselves available to the UCP.
  2. Resistance is futile (at least that’s what they want you to think). Serious political resistance at the board level to what are expected to be significant funding cuts to post-secondary education and public agencies like Alberta Health Services is now less likely to be successful. With significant budget cuts expected to be recommended in the “Blue Ribbon” panel report prepared by history professor and former Saskatchewan cabinet minister Janice McKinnon, it is likely that the UCP government wanted to install appointees who would be eager to enact the government’s austerity and privatization agenda when the provincial budget is tabled in the fall.

While it is difficult to criticize the qualifications of some of the appointees, some who are highly qualified for the positions they have been appointed to, it is expected that their experience was weighed closely with how compliant they will be with Kenney’s political agenda.

Episode 22: Special guest Jamil Jivani, author of Why Young Men

Jamil Jivani joined Dave and Ryan on the podcast this week as we discussed his new book, Why Young Men: Rage, Race and the Crisis of Identity, and delved into how Political Action Committees are shaping politics in our province and how they might impact the next election, this weekend’s New Democratic Party convention, and the latest candidate nomination news.

Daveberta Podcast Alberta PoliticsWe had such a good conversation with Jamil that we didn’t get to our mailbag this week. Thank you to everyone who sent us questions, we will answer them in an extra long mailbag segment in our next episode.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. The networks includes more than 30 Alberta-made podcasts, including We Are Alberta.

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

We would 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.

And a big 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:

UCP dominates third quarter fundraising, pro-UCP Shaping Alberta’s Future PAC flush with car dealership cash

Elections Alberta released the financial disclosures showing the results of political party fundraising in the third quarter of 2018.

Here are my quick thoughts on the latest fundraising numbers:

The United Conservative Party raised more than $1 million for the second quarter in a row, demonstrating the dominant conservative party’s ability to raise significantly larger amounts than any of the other parties. There is no doubt that the UCP is an impressive fundraising machine and will not be hurting for money when the next election is called.

The New Democratic Party raised $676,446.91 in this quarter, which is $237,000 more than the party raised in the same quarter in 2017 and a drop from the $856,960 raised in the last quarter. The NDP continues to lag behind the UCP in terms of total fundraising, but the governing party is around $500,000 ahead in total annual fundraising from where it was during last year’s third quarter.

The Alberta Party saw its fundraising totals drop by almost $100,000 compared to last quarter, leaving the third-place party with $28,915 in fundraising reported in the third quarter.

The remnant of the Progressive Conservative Party, which is now legally controlled by the UCP board of directors, disclosed a $2,500 donation from Jack Seguin of Acheson in the third quarter. It is not clear whether this donation was a mistake on the part of the UCP or whether this is an interest payment on the $192,237 remaining debt that was listed in the party’s annual disclosure filed at the end of 2017. 

The total number of donations collected by Alberta’s political parties in 2017 and 2018 is somewhat complicated by the fact that donations collected during by-election periods from November 16, 2017 to February 14, 2018, and from June 14 to July 12, 2018 are counted separately from the regular quarterly reports.

During the by-election period that ended on February 14, 2018, the NDP collected $886,591.29 , the UCP collected $840,794.02, and the Liberal Party collected $61,662.19. The financial reports from the by-election period in June and July 2018 has not yet been released but will include funds raised by the parties during that period that might not be included in the third quarter financial disclosure released last week.

Pro-UCP PAC flush with car dealership cash

A billboard advertisement from the Shaping Alberta's Future PAC.

A billboard advertisement from the Shaping Alberta’s Future PAC.

Not limited by donations laws banning corporate donations that apply to political parties, two pro-UCP Third Party Political Advertisers, known colloquially as Political Action Committees, are flush with cash.

The AAFund raised $261,500.00 in the third quarter of 2018 and a total of $915,454.77 in the first three quarters of 2018. Shaping Alberta’s Future raised $275,000 in the third quarter of 2018, of which at least $170,000 came from car dealerships across the province. 

Andrew Robinson

Andrew Robinson

Following a meeting with UCP leader Jason Kenney on September 6, 2018, Motor Dealer Association of Alberta chairman Andrew Robinson wrote in a letter to association members that the MDA board voted to “contribute $100,000.00 to the Shaping Alberta’s Future political action company to assist in the UCP 3rd party advertising campaign.”

In his letter, Robinson noted Kenney would roll back personal and corporate taxes, freeze minimum wage and explore lower wages for young workers, and cancel all reforms the NDP have made the the Labour Code, Occupational Health & Safety and Workers’ Compensation Board.

Robinson wrote that the MDA board voted to solicit its dealer members to contribute to Shaping Alberta’s Future. The letter noted that the “MDA’s goal donation is $1,000,000.00” and that “each MDA dealership write a cheque in the amount of $5,000.00.”

The President of the MDA is Denis Ducharme, who served as the PC MLA for Bonnyville-Cold Lake from 1997 to 2008.

Speaking to Postmedia columnist Keith Gerein, Shaping Alberta’s Future executive director David Wasyluk denied that the UCP and the pro-UCP PAC have been collaborating. Wasyluk was until recently the spokesperson for the right-wing BC Liberal Party and a research officer for the BC Liberal Party caucus before that party was removed from government in 2017.

Elections Alberta disclosures also show that Edmonton philanthropist Stanley Milner is of the largest individual donors of the AAFund and Shaping Alberta’s Future, having donated around $88,000 to the two pro-UCP political action committees.

The primary contacts for each group are also provided by Elections Alberta. The primary contact for the AAFund is Edmonton lawyer and former Wildrose Party executive director Jonathan Wescott, who is the Principal of the Alberta Counsel lobby firm. The primary contract for Shaping Alberta’s Future is Douglas Nelson, who was previously listed as the Chief Financial Officer for Jason Kenney’s now defunct Third Party Political Advertisers, the Alberta Victory Fund.