Tag Archives: Stephen Harper

PC Party leadership race off to a very slow start

Ken Hughes MLA PC leadership Race Calgary

Ken Hughes has resigned from cabinet, but has yet to announce he is running for leader of the PC Party.

Nineteen days have passed since former Premier Alison Redford announced her resignation and not one candidate has officially announced their intentions to enter the race to become the next leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives.

But there is at least one unofficial candidate, maybe. Municipal Affairs minister Ken Hughes made the strange move of resigning from cabinet yesterday, but would not yet say whether he would enter the race. Mr. Hughes’ recently announced he would launch an “exploratory committee” to gauge support for a leadership bid.

Jonathan Denis MLA Calgary Acadia

Jonathan Denis

A handful of other cabinet ministers are said to be interested in running, including Justice minister Jonathan Denis, Labour minister Thomas Lukaszuk, Energy minister Diana McQueen, Infrastructure minister Ric McIver and Finance minister Doug Horner.

Aside from Mr. Horner, whose political family dynasty stands on its own, most of the potential candidates are tied to the legacy and culture of entitlement that forced Ms. Redford to resign.

And unlike previous PC leadership races, which were billed by the establishment as the “real election,” because the next leader was virtually guaranteed to be the premier after the next election, this race cannot provide that guarantee.

There has been talk of potential outsiders interested in the race.

Former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice would be a strong candidate, but most political watchers suspect has loftier ambitions to become the next resident of 24 Sussex Drive when Prime Minister Stephen Harper retires. His entry into the race would also force him to leave a very lucrative job as a vice-president of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

All about the numbers

Over the course of its 43 years in government, the PC Party has shown a remarkable ability to survive and reinvent itself. But can Alberta’s natural governing party survive a lacklustre or uninspiring leadership race?

Regardless of how many candidates enter, there will be comparisons drawn from previous contests. If the race fails to inspire widespread interest, membership sales could be lower than previous races that drew large sales of memberships.

In 2006, 144,289 PC Party members voted in the second ballot of the leadership vote that was won by Ed Stelmach.

Five years later in 2011, 78,176 PC Party members voted in the second ballot of the contest that selected Ms. Redford as leader.

Thomas Mulcair reminds me of Stephen Harper

Edmonton-Centre NDP candidate Lewis Cardinal and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair in Edmonton on March 26, 2014.

Edmonton-Centre NDP candidate Lewis Cardinal and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair in Edmonton on March 26, 2014.

More than 500 people packed into the lobby of the Winspear Centre yesterday to watch the New Democratic Party of Canada officially nominate Edmonton-Centre‘s Lewis Cardinal as the first candidate for 2015 federal election. The selection of Edmonton-Centre as the NDP’s first nomination demonstrates that party’s desire to turn Edmonton into a battle ground in the next election.

Jack Layton NDP Edmonton

Jack Layton at a NDP rally in Edmonton during the 2008 federal election.

After Mr. Cardinal was nominated, NDP leader Thomas Muclair took to the stage to congratulate the new candidate.

During his speech, I could not help but reflect on the differences between Mr. Mulcair and former leader Jack Layton, who spoke to a raucous crowd in the same room during the 2008 federal election.

I remember being impressed with Mr. Layton’s ability to raise the level of energy in the room just with his presence. He oozed style, was charismatic and felt like a made-for-TV leader. His energy was contagious, but I could not help but question whether he had enough substance behind that style.  I always had a difficult time picturing Mr. Layton as the next Prime Minister of Canada.

This week, Mr. Mulcair’s speech to the crowd at the Winspear was more business than partisan play. Unlike Mr. Layton’s high-energy speech in 2008, Mr. Mulcair’s speech focused on the policy and values that differentiates his party from the Conservatives and Liberals. The partisans cheered, but he did not generate the same type of excitement in the room that his predecessor was able to.

Mr. Mulcair’s speech reminded me of what Stephen Harper sounded like before the Conservatives formed government in Ottawa eight years ago. What he delivered was a perfectly acceptable grounded speech. Mr. Mulcair sounded like he could be the next Prime Minister of Canada.

Side note: A great concert hall and an excellent venue, the Winspear Centre is named for philanthropist Francis Winspear, who, along with Preston Manning,  helped found of the Reform Party of Canada in 1987.

Harper endorses Rob Anders and more nomination updates

With Dave Hancock being sworn-in as the 15th Premier of Alberta and speculation running rampant about who will replace him in four to six months, I thought now would be a good opportunity to provide a quick update about nominations for federal election candidates in Alberta.

Calgary-Signal Hill

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and MP Rob Anders.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and MP Rob Anders.

In what could be a deciding factor in one of Calgary most hotly contested Conservative Party nomination races, Member of Parliament Rob Anders has posted on his website an endorsement from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Here is the audio from a robocall placed by Mr. Anders’ campaign to Conservative Party members in Calgary-Signal Hill announcing Mr. Harper’s endorsement:

One of Canada’s most offensive hyper-Conservatives, Mr. Anders is facing a stiff nomination challenge in the new Calgary-Signal Hill from former Calgary MLA and provincial cabinet minister Ron Liepert.

Mr. Harper’s endorsement is sure to inflame supporters of Mr. Liepert, who will be quick to point out how unusual it is for leader of a party to openly endorse a candidate in a contested nomination race.

Moderate Tories have tried for 17 years to grab the nomination from Mr. Anders, sending high-profile candidates like Alison Redford, Jocelyn Burgener and Donna Kennedy-Glans to run against him, to no avail.

Fort McMurray-Athabasca
Unlike the raucous Conservative by-election nomination race in Macleod, the contest to choose the next Conservative candidate in northeastern Alberta’s Fort McMurray-Athabasca is a sleepy affair. As of this morning, only Fort McMurray lawyer Arlan Delisle and Athabasca County councillor David Yurdiga have entered the Conservative nomination race.

Today, March 24, is the deadline for candidates to enter the Conservative Party nomination contest and the cutoff for membership sales is March 31, 2014.

Lewis Cardinal Edmonton NDP

Lewis Cardinal

Edmonton-Centre
On March 26, Edmonton-Centre’s Lewis Cardinal is expected to be acclaimed as the first New Democratic Party candidate nominated for the 2015 federal general election. The nomination meeting will take place in the lobby of the Winspear Centre and will leader Thomas Mulcair and a handful of NDP MPs from across the country. The lobby of the Winspear is a memorable place for many local New Democrats, who remember when Jack Layton used the venue to host a large and energy-filled election campaign rally in 2008.

No candidates have yet to step forward for the Conservative nomination since MP Laurie Hawn announced his resignation on March 9, 2014. Three candidates – Randy BoissonnaultHarold Robinson and Don Padget – are seeking the Liberal Party nomination.

Edmonton-Mill Woods
Varinder Bhullar 
has announced that he will seek the Liberal Party nomination in the new Edmonton-Mill Woods riding.

Edmonton-Wetaskiwin
When Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont MP Mike Lake decided to seek the Conservative nomination in the new Edmonton-Wetaskiwin riding, he was taking a gamble. Mr. Lake, who lives a south Edmonton neighbourhood included in the new riding now facing the challenge of winning a nomination in a riding where 75% of the new territory is new ground. Well-respected in Edmonton, he is now facing a challenge from Leduc County mayor John Whaley and Edmonton police officer Mohinder Banga.

Lethbridge
First-term MP Jim Hillyer is facing two challengers for the Conservative nomination in the new Lethbridge riding. With Mr. Hillyer cut-off from his base of support in the southern half of the former Lethbridge riding, Doug McArthur and Alex Hann hope to replace him as the Tory candidate.

Red Deer-Mountain View
MP Earl Dreeshen has announced his plans to seek the Conservative nomination in the new Red Deer-Mountain View riding. Mr. Dreeshen has represented the current Red Deer riding since 2008.

If there are any additions to the list of nomination candidates for the 2015 federal election, please contact me through the comment section below or by email at david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com.

Fair Elections Act would introduce Alberta-style partisan elections officials

A proposed amendment to Canada’s Elections Act would introduce handpicked partisan elections officials into the current non-partisan election process.

The ‘Fair Elections Act,’ a sweeping act introduced by Conservative minister Pierre Poilievre, includes an amendment to Section 124 of the Elections Act which would give the incumbent candidate, riding association or political party the authority to submit a list of names from which that riding’s Central Polling Supervisor will be appointed.

Under the current Elections Act, the Central Polling Supervisors are appointed by the local returning officer, a non-partisan elections official.

It is unclear why this amendment is necessary, as it would give new powers to incumbent politicians and their political parties to hold over the election process.

In Alberta, a similar practice was stopped in 2010 by then-Justice minister Alison Redford after it was revealed that local returning officers had been appointed from a list submitted by the Progressive Conservative Party. Many of those appointed were PC constituency officers, past nomination candidates and supporters of the governing party. Nearly half of the returning officers appointed in the 2008 provincial election had ties to the PC Party.

This specific amendment to the Elections Act is particularly problematic for incumbent Members of Parliament who plan to seek re-election under a different party banner or as an independent candidate.

Reached via email, Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber explained that these amendments will create advantages for parties at the expense of fairness. ”These are paid positions; it is blatant patronage for local volunteers,” Rathgeber wrote.

Elected as a Conservative in 2011, Mr. Rathgeber left the governing Conservative Party to sit as an Independent MP in 2013 because of what he described as a “lack of commitment to transparency and open government.”

If this law passes and Mr. Rathgeber seeks re-election as an independent candidate, his Conservative opponent will be allowed to submit a list of Central Polling Supervisors who will supervise the election.

The amendment to Section 124 of the Elections Act is unnecessary and would undermine and introduce doubt into a process that is currently fair and non-partisan.

CURRENT Section 124 of the Elections ActCentral poll supervisor

(2) When a returning officer establishes a central polling place that contains four or more polling stations, the returning officer may appoint a central poll supervisor to attend at the central polling place on polling day to supervise proceedings and keep the returning officer informed of any matter that adversely affects, or is likely to adversely affect, the proceedings.

Proposed by the ‘Fair Elections Act’44. Section 124 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (2):

(3) Each of the central poll supervisors for an electoral district shall be appointed from lists of names of suitable persons provided by the candidate of the registered party whose candidate finished first in the electoral district in the last election or by the registered association of that registered party or, if there is no registered association, by that registered party.

(4) A returning officer shall proceed to appoint central poll supervisors from other sources if, by the 24th day before polling day, none of the candidate, the registered association and the registered party has made a recommendation or all three have not, as a group, recommended a sufficient number of suitable persons.

(5) A returning officer may, on reasonable grounds, refuse to appoint a central poll supervisor that is recommended by a candidate, a registered association or a registered party and shall immediately advise the candidate, registered association or registered party of the refusal.

(6) If as a result of the refusal a position is not filled, the candidate, registered association or registered party may, within 24 hours after being advised of the refusal, recommend another person and, if no one is recommended, the returning officer shall proceed to appoint another person whose name is solicited from another source.

Five ways to save the Senate of Canada

Save the Canadian Senate

Is the Senate of Canada broken? And if so, is it worth saving? Here are the positions held by Canada’s federal political parties:

1) Abolish the Senate
The New Democratic Party of Canada, the official opposition since 2011, are staunchly in favour of entirely abolishing the Senate of Canada. “Unelected party hacks have no place writing or rewriting the laws of this country. It’s as simple as that,” NDP leader Thomas Mulcair told reporters in August 2013. Saskatchewan’s conservative premier Brad Wall is also in favour of abolishing the Senate.

It is unclear how the NDP would actually implement the abolition of the Senate if the party ever formed government in Ottawa.

2) Elect the Senate
Elected, equal and effective was the Triple-E proposal supported by the now-defunct Reform Party of Canada.  Alberta is the only province to have ever held Senate nominee elections (in 1989, 1998, 2004 and 2012). Typically coinciding with provincial or municipal elections, the Senate elections are a sideshow that have received little attention from the media or the general public. The Senate nominee candidates have run as provincial party candidates. Five elected nominees have been appointed to the Senate by prime ministers since 1990.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s Conservative Party of Canada proposed legislation that could shorten terms in office and move towards provincially elected senators in 2006. The legislation was stalled and  the Conservative have since asked the Supreme Court of Canada for its opinion on the Senate reform proposals.

3) Panel-appointed independent Senate
Liberal Party of Canada leader Justin Trudeau announced this week that he had removed all 32 Liberal senators from the party’s national caucus. The justification for doing so was to make the Senate less partisan and to eliminate patronage. Mr. Trudeau suggested that a non-partisan panel select new appointees to the Senate.

4) Proportional representation Senate
The Green Party of Canada passed a motion at their 2010 convention which supports the election of senators through a system that ensures proportional representation. While the policy is not specific, it could be referring to the electoral system used to elected members to the Australian Senate.

5) The status-quo Senate
In practice, the Governor General makes appointments to the Senate at the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Senators must be citizens of Canada and at least thirty years of age to be eligible for appointment to the Senate. They must maintain residency in the provinces or territories for which they are appointed and can only serve until the age of seventy-five.

While prominent Canadians have been appointed to the Senate, they overshadowed by the long-list of party loyalists who have been rewarded with appointments by various Conservative and Liberal prime ministers. Mr. Harper has appointed 51 of the 96 current senators since the Conservatives formed government in 2006 (there are currently 9 vacancies in the Senate).

Fort McMurray MP Brian Jean resigns

Brian Jean

Brian Jean

Fort McMurray-Athabasca Conservative Member of Parliament Brian Jean announced his resignation today in a written statement to the media. Mr. Jean was first elected in 2004. He was re-elected in 2011 with 71.8% of the vote.

His departure will trigger a second federal by-election in Alberta in 2014. In late 2013, Macleod MP Ted Menzies resigned.

In late 2013, Mr. Jean faced ridicule from critics who questioned his decision to include a crossword puzzle about himself in a constituency newsletter.

Here are exerts from Mr. Jean’s resignation letter:

“In every job, there is a right time to move on. For me, that time has come. I’ve spent the past ten years fighting for the priorities of Northern Albertans in Ottawa and now I feel I’m needed more right here at home in Fort McMurray,” says MP Jean. “This decision has not been an easy one and I am extremely grateful to my family, my outstanding staff, and my constituents for their constant support. I would also like to thank Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his leadership and for allowing me the opportunity to publically serve the greatest people and place in Canada.”

“When I was first elected, I made a commitment to my constituents that I would serve seven to ten years and work towards a number of goals including: a strong Canadian economy, the protection of individual rights, the elimination of the long barrel firearms registry, fiscal responsibility of government, and responding to all constituents’ concerns. I’m extremely proud of the work I’ve done for my constituents and for Northern Alberta,” says Jean. “I’m also proud of the accomplishments achieved by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and our Conservative Government, with our success being evident in the strong performance of Canada’s economy over our time in Government. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of it but look forward to contributing in other ways to making Northern Alberta the best place in which to work, live and raise a family.”