Tag Archives: Stephen Mandel

NDP MLAs stood behind by-election candidate Bob Turner at a campaign event in Sept. 2014. Left to right: David Eggen, Rachel Notley, Bob Turner, and Brian Mason.

Misericordia versus Royal Alex: A legacy of poor long-term planning by the old PC government

Campaigns to rebuild two Edmonton area hospitals now competing for scarce funds to fix crumbling infrastructure are being run by organizations that include former Tory insiders who sat at the budget table when the decisions were made that led to the two facilities’ current dilapidated condition.

Alex the Spokes-puppet

Alex the Spokes-puppet

Political jockeying for funding for the Alberta Health Services-run Royal Alexandra Hospital in north-central Edmonton and Covenant Health‘s Misericordia Hospital in southwest Edmonton is intensifying as provincial budget deliberations heat up.

The Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation recently launched a public campaign to lobby the provincial government to provide additional funding for the hospital. The campaign’s message isn’t wrong. As the campaign’s memorable spokes-puppet points out, the Royal Alex has been on “top of the list for infrastructure redevelopment for more than 20 years.

New Mis Now” was a campaign slogan used by the New Democratic Party opposition during a 2014 by-election in the Edmonton-Whitemud constituency. NDP candidate Bob Turner criticized then-unelected health minister Stephen Mandel for a lack of funding from the Progressive Conservative government to build a new Misericordia Hospital in booming southwest Edmonton. Covenant Health is continuing to put pressure on the now-NDP government to invest in a new Misericordia Hospital.

They are both right. Both aging facilities are in need of major investment.

Iris Evans

Iris Evans

But how did we get to this point?

Poor long-term planning and a legacy of political meddling in the administration of the regional health authorities is likely the real reason why two aging Edmonton hospitals are in their current condition.

The blame lies with the old PC government, which sat in power from 1971 until 2015. During some of the province’s biggest economic booms, when resource royalties from oil and natural gas flooded into government coffers, the PCs could have chosen to invest in our aging public infrastructure. But through many of the boom years that took place during their final two decades in power, the PCs were more focused on giving out tax breaks or vanity cheques than investing in public infrastructure or saving for future generations.

There is some irony that three people who were sitting at the table when the lack of long-term planning occurred over the past twenty to twenty-five years are now personally connected with the organizations lobbying the NDP government for hospital funding.

Shirley McClellan

Shirley McClellan

Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation board member Iris Evans served in the PC government from 1997 to 2012, including as minister of health and finance. Sitting on the Covenant Health Board of Directors are Ed Stelmach, a former premier and cabinet minister from 1997 until 2011, and Shirley McClellan, another former minister of health and minister of finance. McClellan served as Minister of Health from 1992 to 1996, when deep funding cuts were made to Alberta’s health care system, and later as Minister of Finance from 2004 to 2006.

So now, Albertans, and an NDP government faced with limited funds and low international oil prices, have to deal with the previous government’s lack of foresight.

As government, the NDP is now responsible for figuring out how to fix the infrastructure problems created by the old PC government while living up to the promises they made while in opposition. Some real long-term planning would be a good place to start.

Photo: NDP MLAs stood behind by-election candidate Bob Turner at a campaign event outside the Misericordia Hospital in Sept. 2014. Left to right: David Eggen, Rachel Notley, Bob Turner, and Brian Mason.

PC Alberta Tammany Hall

NDP Bill aims to take Big Money out of Alberta politics

The Alberta NDP are pushing forward with their plans to reform Alberta’s outdated election finance laws.

Christina Gray Edmonton Mill Woods MLA

Christina Gray

Labour Minister Christina Gray, who also serves as Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal, introduced the NDP’s latest election finance reforms in the Legislature today in Bill 35: Fair Elections Finances Act. This follows in the footsteps of the first bill championed by Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP after the party formed government in 2015, banning corporate and union donations to political parties.

The bill introduced today includes a handful of the reform ideas that were debated by the now-defunct Special Select Committee for Ethics and Accountability, which was created during the euphoria that followed the election of the NDP. The political mood soured quickly after the election and the committee quickly succumbed to a year of partisan wrangling and procedural brinksmanship until the Legislature allowed the committee to disband in September 2016.

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

The new bill has already received the support of committee member and Liberal Party leader David Swann. Dr. Swann, who is believed to be quite sympathetic to the NDP on many issues, was quoted in a government press released praising the changes.

The bill picks up where the committee left off, but does not include some of the more controversial ideas, such as per-vote financial subsidies for political parties.

Bill 35 would lower the limit that individuals can contribute annually to political parties to $4,000, which is a positive move, and is a reform that NDP and Wildrose MLAs on the all-party committee found room to agree on. The current annual contribution limits are $15,000 outside election periods and $30,000 during election periods.

Eric Rosendahl

Eric Rosendahl

The bill imposes a spending limit of $50,000 for each individual candidate’s campaigns and a $2 million limit for political parties (the Progressive Conservatives were the only party to spend more than $2 million in the last election). I am in favour of spending limits but I do believe that a $50,000 limit for constituency campaigns could be too low. I expect this could lead to some candidate campaigns spending additional funds in advance of the election being called in order to circumvent the low limit.

There are currently no spending limits in Alberta and our province is currently the only province in Canada without spending limits. The lack of spending limits has led to some significant disparities in what is spent in elections campaigns. For example, Edmonton-Whitemud PC candidate Stephen Mandel‘s campaign spent $132,991 in 2015, while candidates like West Yellowhead New Democrat Eric Rosendahl spent $748. Generally, the rule is that the candidate who spends the most money is likely to win, but 2015 was an exception to that rule (Mr. Mandel was defeated and Mr. Rosendahl was elected).

Rob Anderson MLA Airdrie PC WIldrose

Rob Anderson

The NDP have allowed a handful of costs to be exempted from the limit, including travel costs, parking and gas, childcare expenses, expenses related to a candidate living with a disability, and financial audits required by law. I suspect the exemption of travel and gas costs are meant to address some concerns that MLAs on the committee raised about additional expenses incurred when campaigning in geographically large rural constituencies. This issue was raised by Wildrose MLAs on the committee who represent some of these large rural areas.

The bill also proposes limiting spending by candidates running in party nomination contests, which currently does not exist in Alberta. Nomination candidates would now have to register their candidacy with Elections Alberta, which is similar to a system that already exists for federal political parties.

Rick Strankman

Rick Strankman

Perhaps most controversially, Bill 35 seeks to limit the total amount of money that third-party advertisers can spend during elections campaigns. The proposed limit of $150,000, of which no more than $3,000 could used in an individual constituency, is severely limiting. The high costs associated with advertising campaigns would mean that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for any third-party group to run an effective province-wide campaign during an election period in Alberta.

The province’s original third party advertising laws were introduced in 2009 by first term Progressive Conservative MLA Rob Anderson, who later crossed the floor to the Wildrose Party in 2010 before crossing back to the PCs in 2014. Mr. Anderson is now supporting Jason Kenney‘s campaign to merge the two parties and penned an apology to Wildrose supporters on his blog.

Perhaps somewhat ironically, considering the vastly different political environment in 2016, the third-party advertising laws passed by the PCs in 2009 were seen as a reaction to the Albertans for Change advertising campaign targeted then-premier Ed Stelmach. The ads, which became infamous for the spooky “Noooo Plaaan” tagline, were sponsored by a handful of Alberta labour unions.

It was during the 2009 debate in the Legislative Assembly over Mr. Anderson’s bill that the rookie MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona, Rachel Notley, foreshadowed what seven years later would become her government’s reforms to Alberta’s elections finance system:

…in Alberta we should have a much more comprehensive set of rules around our own election financing as candidates, as members of political parties, we should have much more substantial limits on how much we can spend as political parties, and we should have much more substantial rules on the maximum donation that we can receive, all of that designed to ensure it is the individual voter whose activity and whose engagement ultimately makes the day one way or the other at the end of the process and that it’s not one person or a group of 20 people with $15,000 each who can decide a particular campaign in a particular riding.


Where is Strankman’s bill?

Post media columnist Graham Thomson raises an important point in his latest column. Earlier this year Wlidrose MLA Rick Strankman introduced a Private Members’ Bill calling for a blackout of government announcements during election period in order to prevent a governing party from using public funds to influence the election.

The bill was introduced in the Assembly but then referred to the Special Select Committee for Ethics and Accountability, which never had the opportunity to debate it before it was disbanded. It is unclear whether Mr. Strankman’s bill will ever resurface in a future sitting.

NDP MLA Graham Sucha (left) with MLAs Joe Ceci, Shannon Phillips and Kathleen Ganley.

Spending limits for election candidates? Yes, Please.

Calgary-Shaw NDP MLA Graham Sucha is proposing there be a limit to how much money provincial candidates and parties can spend on election campaigns.

At a recent meeting of the Special Select Ethics and Accountability Committee, Mr. Sucha proposed local candidate campaign spending be limited to $40,000 for most constituencies and $50,000 for larger northern constituencies and provincial campaigns limited to $1.6 million per party. There are currently no spending limits in Alberta and our province is currently the only province in Canada without spending limits.

Alberta voters swept out cash-flush Progressive Conservative candidates in favour of the cash-strapped New Democrats in 2015, but it has generally been the case in Alberta elections that the richest campaigns win on election day. The absence of spending limits has allowed PC candidates to wildly outspend their opposition during that party’s 44 years as government from 1971 to 2015.

In the 2015 election, a handful of PC candidates spent incredibly large sums of money on local campaigns – Edmonton-Whitemud candidate Stephen Mandel‘s campaign spent $132,991 and ended the campaign with a $135,974 surplus. Lowering the spending limits would prevent parties from using these large funds held in trust following the last election in that constituency in the next election (I would expect they would be transferred to other targeted constituencies).

Federal candidates in Alberta are limited to spending between $200,000 and $270,000 depending on the riding they are running for election in. As provincial constituencies in Alberta are considerably smaller than federal ridings, it is expected that any limits would be lower.

Back in February I proposed ten ways that the election process in Alberta could be improved, and spending limits was my third recommendation. While I do believe the spending limits Mr. Sucha has proposed may be too low, especially for the provincial parties, I do believe he is on the right track. There should be spending limits in Alberta elections.


The committee also debated a motion introduced by Edmonton-Decore NDP MLA Chris Nielsen and amended by Bonnyville-Cold Lake Wildrose MLA Scott Cyr that would lower financial contribution limits to $4,000 during election periods and $2,300 outside election periods. Albertans can currently donate $30,000 to political parties during election and by-election periods and $15,000 outside election and by-election periods.

Jim Prentice is dwarfed by a giant photo of himself on the PC campaign bus at a stop in Edmonton this week.

The election rally that convinced me the Tories were running on fumes

I will be reminiscing on this blog over the next few days about some of the key moments from Alberta’s May 5, 2015 election campaign that stand out in my memory. The one year anniversary of that historic election, which saw the defeat of the 44-year old Progressive Conservative government and the election of Rachel Notley‘s New Democratic Party, is fast approaching.

One key moment was an April 14, 2015 rally held for Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice at a community hall in the Edmonton-Whitemud constituency, where PC MLA Stephen Mandel was running for re-election. The area had been a Tory stronghold since the 1997 election, when Dave Hancock was first elected, and voters in the area had chosen former mayor Mr. Mandel in a by-election only five months earlier.

The mid-afternoon event was well-organized and attracted a respectable crowd of about 250 supporters, candidates and party stalwarts into a hall in an affluent southwest Edmonton neighbourhood. It was a fairly typical political event, but it was an exchange at the tail-end of the rally convince me that the PC Party’s once-mighty campaign machine was running on fumes.

After a fairly unremarkable speech about his party’s commitment to fixing the problems it created in the health care system, Mr. Prentice remained on stage to take questions from the media. There had already been big signs of trouble on the campaign trail but his answer and the crowd’s response to the final media question convinced me that the PC campaign machine was running on fumes.

Over the course of the campaign Mr. Prentice had been harshly critical of the NDP election promise to review Alberta’s natural resource royalty structure and raise corporate taxes from 10 percent to 12 percent.

When asked if he would ever review royalties [note: the question was about either royalty rates or the corporate tax structure, I can’t remember for sure], Mr. Prentice delivered the most politically-mushy and non-commital answer I have ever heard: [paraphrased] ‘perhaps maybe sometime in the future my government might consider reviewing the structure.’

As soon as he delivered his response a forced cheer erupted from the party staffers in the back of the room and spread through the crowd of supporters, drowning out any further media questions and signalling an end to the official event program.

The crowd’s cheer was completely unenthusiastic. It was not the kind of answer that anyone would actually cheer. And it was undoubtably the wrong note on which to end a political rally.

If the PCs were unable to rally enthusiasm into a crowd of supporters in Edmonton-Whitemud, arguably the most loyal conservative area of the capital city, it was clear that Mr. Prentice’s party was in deep trouble in Edmonton.

On May 5, 2015, the NDP swept the Edmonton region, and Bob Turner defeated Mr. Mandel with 12,805 votes to 7,177 votes.

Jim Prentice speaks at the podium of his campaign rally on April 14, 2015.

Jim Prentice speaks at the podium of his campaign rally on April 14, 2015.

Edmonton City Councillor Michael Oshry

Let’s end the myth of partisan-free city council elections

We need to keep politics out of elections: That sums up recent comments made by Edmonton City Councillor Michael Oshry. The west Edmonton councillor has waded into the 32-candidate by-election race in southeast Edmonton’s Ward 12, questioning the decision of some MLAs to endorse candidates in the municipal contest.

Mr. Oshry’s comments have sparked a resurgence of the popular and misinformed myth that “there is no partisan politics in municipal elections.”

It is natural for politically engaged people to be involved in elections for different levels of government. In fact, the most successful campaigns I have been involved in at a municipal level have attracted organizers and volunteers from a variety of partisan loyalties. It is also not uncommon for municipal politicians to have party connections or the support of politicians from other levels of government. Despite this, no one is proposing to bring political parties back to city council, as existed in Edmonton until the late 1980s.

Like all municipal elections in Edmonton, a number of candidates running in the Ward 12 by-election have party affiliations or are being supported by individuals involved in party politics at the provincial and federal levels.

If partisan affiliations in provincial and federal elections or endorsements from provincial or federal politicians precluded citizens from running for political office, then a number of current city councillors, including Mr. Oshry, would be ineligible to serve.

  • Mr. Oshry was endorsed by St. Albert PC MLA Stephen Khan during the 2013 municipal election.
  • Councillor Tony Caterina ran as a PC candidate in the 2015 election and ran as an Alberta Alliance candidate in the 2004 provincial election.
  • Councillor Bev Esslinger was a PC candidate in 2012 election.
  • Councillor Ed Gibbons was a Liberal MLA from 1997 to 2001. In 2015, he donated $375.00 to the Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville PC Association and in 2007 and 2011 he donated $850 and $1,100 to the PC Party.
  • Mayor Don Iveson donated $250 to Linda Duncan’s election campaign in 2008, while he was city councillor.
  • Councillor Dave Loken campaigned for NDP candidate Janis Irwin in the 2015 federal election and donated more than $2,000 to the Alberta NDP between 2011 and 2014.
  • Councillor Mike Nickel is a former PC Party constituency director. In 2014, he donated $318.25 to the Leduc-Beaumont Wildrose Association and in 2005 he donated $600 to the PC Party.
  • Councillor Michael Walters was an Alberta Party candidate in the 2012 election and endorsed a PC candidate in the 2015 election. He also ran for an NDP nomination in 2000.

Here is a look back at some municipal politicians from the recent past who have had partisan affiliations:

  • Former mayor Stephen Mandel was a PC MLA from 2014 to 2015. He donated $3,000 to the PC Party between 2010 and 2012, while he was Mayor of Edmonton.
  • Former councillor Kim Krushell was a local PC Party constituency association president before being elected as a city councillor. In 2008, she donated $425 to the PC Party. She now serves as a regional director for the PC Party.
  • Former councillor Karen Leibovici was a Liberal MLA from 1993 to 2001 and a federal Liberal candidate in 2015. During her mayoral bid in 2013, she was endorsed by a handful of PC MLAs, including then-deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk and PC MLA David Xiao.
  • Former councillor Linda Sloan was a Liberal MLA from 1997 to 2001. She ran for the Liberal Party leadership in 1998.
  • Former councillor Jane Batty donated $425 to the PC Party in 2010.
  • Former councillor Wendy Kinsella ran as a PC candidate in the 2001 election, while she was still a sitting city councillor.
  • Former councillor Brian Mason was elected as an NDP MLA in a 2000 by-election. He is now Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation.
  • Perhaps the strangest example of partisan involvement in municipal politics was in 2007, when the Wildrose Party donated $250 to Kerry Diotte‘s city council campaign. This is the only example I have found of a political party actually donating money to a municipal election candidate.

These lists demonstrate that after more than four decades of PC governments in Alberta, support for the governing party became engrained in all levels of politics to the point where support for the PCs from municipal politicians was not seen as partisanship, just the way the business of politics was done.

All 32 candidates in the Ward 12 by-election are featured on the front cover of Metro Edmonton on Jan 26, 2016.

How to break from the pack in a 32 candidate by-election race

A map of Edmonton's Ward 12.

A map of Edmonton’s Ward 12.

Thirty-two candidates will be listed on the ballot in the Feb. 22 by-election to fill Edmonton City Council’s Ward 12. With this many candidates on the ballot, it could be challenging for voters to choose who would best represent them on city council. It will also be challenging for those 32 candidates to break from the pack and distinguish themselves with less than a month until election day.

Here are some ways these 32 candidates might break from pack.

Name recognition

Nav Kaur Ward 12 edmonton by election

Nav Kaur

Having voters who already recognize your name will be an advantage for some candidates, as long as that recognition is positive. Because there are no formal political parties at the municipal level, all candidates will be running on their own names.

  • Laura Thibert has been the Catholic School Board Trustee from the area since 2010 and was briefly nominated as a Wildrose Party candidate before the 2015 election.
  • Balraj Manhas has been spokesperson for the United Cabbies during the recent city council debates about allowing Uber to operate in Edmonton. He  was disqualified as a candidate in a Progressive Conservative nomination contest in early 2015.
  • Mohinder Banga was briefly a candidate for the federal Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Mill Woods in 2015 before being disqualified.
  • Don Koziak has run in at least eight municipal and provincial elections since 1995, including the mayoral race in 2007 and briefly in 2010, but he has never run as a candidate in this area of the city. He was the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Glenora in 2012 and 2015.
  • Mike Butler ran as a Liberal and New Democratic Party candidate in this area in various provincial and federal elections since 2008. In 2014, he wrote an open letter explaining why he was leaving the Liberals to join the Alberta Party.
  • Arundeep Singh Sandhu was until a few months ago the Vice-President of Organization of the Progressive Conservative Party.
  • Andrew Gorman ran for city council in Ward 9 in the 2013 election, as did Dan “Can Man” Johnstone in Ward 10.

Door Knocking/Canvassing

Irfan Chaudhry Edmonton Ward 12 byelection

Irfan Chaudhry

There is no better way to identify your supporters and meet voters than showing up on their doorstep and ringing their doorbell. If you are a voter who lives in Ward 12, there is a very real possibility that you might have 32 different candidates knocking on your door before Feb. 22, 2016. Don’t be surprised to see candidates waving to traffic at busy intersections during rush hour, shaking hands at Tim Horton’s or showing up in droves at any community event before Election Day.

All-Candidate Meetings

There are already numerous all-candidate forums being organized by different community groups and organizations in Ward 12. With 32 candidates in the race, there might be little value in holding traditional question and answer forums, which will be time consuming, lengthy and uninteresting. Other candidate meeting formats, like the speed dating-style events held in the 2013 election, might prove to be more valuable for candidates and voters.

The City of Edmonton is not hosting an official all-candidates forum during this by-election. The Women’s Advocacy Voice of Edmonton is hosting a forum on Feb. 5, 2016 at the Mill Woods Seniors and Multicultural Centre and the Mill Woods Presidents’ Council is hosting a forum on Feb. 17, 2016 at J. Percy Page High School.

Getting ahead of the issues

Preet Toor Ward 12 Edmonton byelection

Preet Toor

It is always difficult to determine what the defining issue of any election campaign will be, but that will not stop candidates from trying to get ahead of issues that are on the radar of voters in Ward 12.

  • A number of candidates, including Nav Kaur, Balraj Manhas, Mohinder Banga, Arundeep Sandhu and Danisha Bhaloo, called on council to delay the vote on the new bylaw to govern vehicle-for-hire businesses that would include Uber until after the by-election. Nav Kaur outlined her position on her campaign blog.
  • Sam Jhajj is hosting an open house at his campaign office to discuss and provide input into developing policies that can prevent domestic violence.
  • Three candidates are calling on the city to delay construction of LRT to southeast Edmonton. Don Koziak told CBC that money going toward LRT would be better spent improving the city’s roads and intersections. Dan Johnston told basketofyegs.com that he would delay all future LRT construction. Kelly Kadla told the Edmonton Journal he wants a moratorium on the Valley LRT Line.

Gimmicks

Arundeep Sandhu Edmonton By-election ward 12

Arundeep Sandhu

Gimmicks might not be the best word, but candidates should be expected to use different tactics to get attention for themselves and the issues they are focusing on during this campaign.

  • Nicole Szymanowka earned media attention for using the dating app Tinder as a campaign tool.
  • Irfan Chaudhry and his supporters are sporting flashy yellow toques with his campaign hashtag #irFANclub.
  • Nav Kaur tweeted her bus trip from her Mill Woods home to City Hall to demonstrate the need for improved public transit service to southeast Edmonton.
  • Nick Chamchuk is pledging not to use campaign signs and is encouraging his supporters to use the #‎YEGnoelectionsigns‬ hashtag on Twitter and Facebook. He wrote on Facebook that this is part of this campaign “to give Mother nature a break, make driving safer and more enjoyable, save resources and my daughter’s education fund…”
  • Stephen Wutzke told the Edmonton Journal that if he is elected he will donate $20,000 of his annual salary to the Edmonton Food Bank.
  • Jason Bale announced on his website that he will only spend $100 on his campaign to make a point about money in politics. In lieu of lawn signs, he is asking supporters to write ‘100’ in the snow in front of their homes and businesses.

Endorsements

Endorsements from prominent community members will not win an election but they can lend credibility to candidates and their campaigns.

  • Nav Kaur has received the endorsements of Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Rod Loyola, outspoken Catholic School Trustee Patricia Grell, Public School Board Trustee Michael Janz, former city councillor Michael Phair and recent federal Liberal candidate Beatrice Ghettuba.
  • Danisha Bhaloo has received the endorsement of former Progressive Conservative MLA and former mayor Stephen Mandel, former Edmonton-Glenora PC MLA Heather Klimchuk and former Ward 5 city council candidate Dan St. Pierre, who is serving as her official agent.
  • Laura Thibert has an endorsement from fellow Catholic Trustee Debbie Engel.
  • Don Koziak has the support of former MP and MLA Brent Rathgeber, who is serving as his official agent.

The 32 candidates in Ward 12

Here is the list of candidates who have registered their intentions to run, along with links to their websites and social media accounts. I will be posting any updates to the Ward 12 by-election webpage.

When to vote?
Voting stations will be open in Ward 12 on Feb. 22 from 9:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Advance polls are open at the Meadows Community Recreation Centre on Feb. 8, 9, 10 and 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Some candidates to watch on Election Night: Derek Fildebrandt, Sarah Hoffman, Chris Labossiere, Shannon Phillips and Joe Ceci.

12 races I’m watching on Election Night in Alberta

With all the polls showing the 43-year long governing Progressive Conservatives trailing the NDP and Wildrose across the province, there could be a race to watch in every constituency in Alberta when the provincial election polls close at 8:00 p.m. tonight.

Here are 12 races that I will be paying particular attention to on Election night:

Alberta Election Races to Watch 2015

12 races to watch in Alberta’s 2015 election (click to enlarge).

Calgary-Acadia: This south Calgary constituency has reliably voted PC since 1971, but recent controversy surrounding PC candidate Jonathan Denis, who was ordered to resign from his job as Justice Minister and Attorney General in the middle of the election campaign, could help boost support for NDP candidate Brandy Payne and Wildrose candidate Linda Carlson.

Calgary-Buffalo: Voters in this downtown Calgary constituency have elected Liberals in six of the last eight elections. Popular MLA Kent Hehr is running for federal office so the Liberals have nominated lawyer David Khan as his successor. Mr. Khan faces arts advocate Terry Rock running for the PCs and lawyer Kathleen Ganley running for the NDP.

Calgary-Elbow: A rematch between Alberta Party leader Greg Clark and PC candidate Gordon Dirks. Mr. Dirks narrowly defeated Mr. Clark in an October 2014 by-election and with recent cuts to education funds, a nasty debate over Gay-Straight Alliances, and neighbourhoods still recovering from the 2013 floods,  Mr. Dirks could be in trouble.

Calgary-Fort: Popular five-term PC MLA Wayne Cao is retiring from politics, leaving the PCs with rookie candidate Andy Nguyen. The NDP are have put a lot of hope into Alderman Joe Ceci, the party’s most high-profile Calgary candidate in decades. The Wildrose have nominated Jeevan Mangat, who came within 200 votes of defeating Mr. Cao in the 2012 election.

Calgary-Varsity: NDP candidate and lawyer Stephanie McLean faces off against PC stalwart and lawyer Susan Billington. Ms. Billington’s involvement in the Kananaskis Improvement District, which voted to provide millions of dollars to the privately-operated Kananaskis Golf Course, became an issue early in the campaign. This constituency elected Liberal MLA Harry Chase in the 2004 and 2008 elections.

Edmonton-Centre: Popular Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman has represented this constituency since 1997 and is one of the most effective voices in the Assembly. But her choice to split with her party and accept the nominations from the Alberta Party and Greens may confuse voters. The rising NDP tide in Edmonton, represented by the charismatic David Shepherd in Edmonton-Centre, may impact her chances of re-election.

Edmonton-Glenora: Former Edmonton Public School Board chairperson and NDP star candidate Sarah Hoffman is facing two-term PC MLA Heather Klimchuk. Glenora has never elected an NDP MLA, but the party saw its support rise in 2004 and 2012, giving Ms. Hoffman a strong base of support to build on.

Edmonton-Rutherford: Businessman and Edmonton enthusiast Chris Labossiere faces university instructor Richard Feehan in this southwest Edmonton constituency. Voters have swung between the Liberals and PCs in this area since the 1980s and without a strong Liberal campaign in this election, swinging to the NDP might not be a far stretch. Both the PCs and NDP are running strong campaigns in Rutherford, so this will be a constituency to watch.

Edmonton-Whitemud: Voters in Whitemud have elected PC MLAs since 1997 and chose former Mayor Stephen Mandel in an October 2014 by-election. The PCs typically win by large margins in this constituency but the NDP candidate Dr. Bob Turner earned record support in by-election. If Mr. Mandel cannot win in Whitemud, it is likely the PCs will not win anywhere else in Edmonton.

Fort-McMurray-Conklin: Wildrose leader Brian Jean is trying to unseat first-term PC MLA Don Scott. Mr. Jean’s name recognition as party leader and the former Conservative MP for the area could help him overcome Mr. Scott, who only narrowly won the 2012 election. Also a factor in this race is the NDP, which is represented by NDP candidate and local teacher Ariana Mancini.

Lethbridge-West: In 2012, Shannon Phillips surprised many political watchers when she placed 1,115 votes behind PC MLA Greg Weadick in a three-way race with the Wildrose. This time, it is a rematch between the two, with the Wildrose playing the wildcard.

Strathmore-Brooks: He is a familiar face in the media and former Taxpayers’ Federation spokesperson Derek Fildebrandt hopes to return to Edmonton as an MLA. Mr. Fildebrandt faces County of Newell Reeve Molly Douglass who is running for the PC Party in this southern Alberta rural riding. Former MLA Jason Hale, who was elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2012 but crossed the floor to the PCs in 2014, is not seeking re-election.


 

Voting stations are open in provincial constituencies across Alberta until 8:00 p.m. tonight. If you do know where to vote, visit the Elections Alberta website. If you do not know who the candidates in your constituency are, check out my list of candidates.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson presents the State of the City address.

The Final Countdown: 6 days left until Election Day in Alberta

Staying above the fray of Alberta’s wild 2015 election campaign, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson argued in his annual State of the City Address that which ever political party forms the provincial government after the May 5 election will have to focus on the capital city.

Stephen Mandel Health Minister Alberta Edmonton Whitemud MLA

Stephen Mandel

“I’m confident that no matter what Albertans decide on May 5, together you, along with our city council will not stand for any provincial government ever forgetting about Edmonton again,” Mr. Iveson told an audience in downtown Edmonton.

At his final State of the City Address two years ago, former Mayor Stephen Mandel publicly lambasted the Progressive Conservatives for their short-sighted funding cuts to Alberta’s colleges and universities.

“We should expect nothing less than passionate, relentless defence of this sector from our provincial representatives, who should know better than to just stand by,” Mr. Mandel said in 2013.

Now as the PC candidate in Edmonton-Whitemud, Mr. Mandel has remained quiet about deep cuts to education funding included in the most recent PC budget.

Michael Janz Edmonton

Michael Janz

The Edmonton Public School Board passed a budget this week that will not include enough provincial funding to compensate for the growth in student population in September, as a result of provincial budget cuts.

“If I have one key message for parents, it would be get out there and engage your candidates. Ask them how are you going to ensure that your party will fund my school? How will you ensure that my student will be successful as well as the other students in their class?,” school board chair Michael Janz told the Edmonton Journal.

As we enter the final six days of the election, the parties will now focus their energy and resources on consolidating their support and working to get their voters out to the advance polls and on election day.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

NDP leader Rachel Notley faced criticism last week after a meeting with the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. The Calgary Herald published a one-sided editorial criticizing the NDP proposal for a phased-in $15 minimum wage (which would ensure Albertans working full time earned at least $600 per week and around $31,200 per year).

While lobby groups like the Canadian Federation of Independent Business oppose the proposed increase, some economists, including Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, suggest an increase to the minimum wage as a means to stimulate the economy [via Ricochet].

The Progressive Conservative Party has not released any new policy positions since Jim Prentice announced last week that he would reopen the budget to reverse changes to the Charitable Donations Tax Credit. Since the leaders’ debate, the PCs have focused their energies on attacking Ms. Notley, who the governing party appears to perceive as their greater challenger on election day.

Danielle Smith Wildrose PC MLA

Danielle Smith

In one of the more bizarre moments of the campaign, former Highwood PC MLA Danielle Smith jumped to Ms. Notley’s defence on Twitter, claiming that the NDP leader’s doubts about the success of the Enbridge corporation’s Northern Gateway Pipeline project are similar to an opinion Mr. Prentice publicly expressed in September 2014.

Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean announced his party’s plans for funding special needs education and a formula for funding municipal growth. And AlbertaPolitics.ca blogger David Climenhaga wrote one of the more comprehensive backgrounds on Mr. Jean and his Fort McMurray “rags to riches” story.

Janet Keeping Alberta Green Party

Janet Keeping

The PCs sent out a press release yesterday attacking Calgary-Bow Wildrose candidate Trevor Grover who was a candidate for the anti-free trade Canada Action Party in the 2006 federal election. If the PCs hope to win the “controversial candidate accusations game,” they should reflect on one of their own nominated candidates who was arrested and plead guilty to prostitution related charges while travelling abroad on government business in December 2013.

The Alberta Party released plans to provide stable funding to post-secondary institutions and deal with municipal issues such as housing and public transit. The Liberals released plans to fix the health care system and accused the NDP of playing board games with finances. And Green Party leader Janet Keeping called for the adoption of an Environmental Bill of Rights [Ms. Keeping is running against Mr. Prentice in Calgary-Foothills].

Advance polls will be open across the province over the next four days from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Voters unable to cast a ballot on the May 5 Election Day can now vote on April 29 and 30, and May 1 and 2.


I made my debut on CBC Radio’s The Current yesterday morning when I joined the National Post’s Jen Gerson, the Edmonton Sun’s Lorne Gunter and host Anna Maria Tremonti for a panel discussion about Alberta’s election campaign.

NDP MLA Deron Bilous and Edmonton Public School Trustee Michelle Draper on the campaign trail.

PCs and NDP seal up full slates, election call expected tomorrow

With Alberta’s provincial election expected to be called tomorrow, both the governing Progressive Conservatives and New Democratic Party are expected to have candidates in place in all 87 constituencies today. If the writ is dropped tomorrow, April 7, then the provincial election will be held 28 days later on Tuesday, May 5, 2015.

Tony Caterina City Councillor PC MLA Candidate

Tony Caterina

The final PC candidate nomination meetings being held today are in Calgary-McCall and Calgary-Fort. There are six candidates seeking the nomination in Calgary-McCall (Rajinder Harika, Issa MosaMuhammad Rasheed, Jagdeep Sahota, Jangbahadur Sidhu and Kuldeep Sidhu) and four in Calgary-Fort (Bev DeSantis, Andy Nguyen, Christopher Primeau and Peter Singh). Ms. DeSantis has received Mr. Prentice’s endorsement in the Fort nomination.

Edmonton City Councillor Tony Caterina is the PC candidate in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview. Mr. Caterina will face hard-working first-term NDP MLA Deron Bilous. Mr. Caterina is well-known in northeast Edmonton, having represented that area since 2007, and his candidacy will keep this swing riding in play.

Since 2004, the constituency has changed hands three times between the PCs and NDP, with Mr. Bilous defeating PC MLA Tony Vandermeer in 2012 by 245 votes.

Harman Kandola Edmonton Ellerslie

Harman Kandola

This is Mr. Caterina’s second attempt at provincial office. He stood as the Alberta Alliance candidate in Edmonton-Centre in the 2004 provincial election.

According to CBC reports,  when the election is called Mr. Caterina will suspend his City Council salary but he will continue to participate in council meetings during the campaign.

Mr. Caterina replaces Harman Kandola, who was nominated as the PC candidate in that constituency in late March. Mr. Kandola is now the appointed PC candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie, a spot that was vacated under controversy by former cabinet minister Naresh Bhardwaj.

The PCs appointed Catherine Keill as their candidate to challenge Liberal/Green/Alberta Party candidate Laurie Blakeman in Edmonton-Centre. Ms. Keill is the Director of Community and Caucus Outreach in the Premier’s Office and previously worked for Mr. Prentice when he was a cabinet minister in Ottawa. She also served as Deputy Chief of Staff to former Mayor Stephen Mandel and was campaign manager for former City Councillor Karen Leibovici‘s mayoral election bid in 2013. The last time a PC candidate was elected in this constituency, Peter Lougheed was premier.

I have updated the list of Alberta Election candidates with these and more changes.


Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley NDP Leader Alberta

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley

Mack, Ryan and I are excited to announce that NDP leader Rachel Notley will be our guest on the AbVote Google Hangout at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 9, 2015. Watch the hangout live at abvote.ca and send us your questions using the #abvote hashtag on Twitter. You can also watch previous hangouts with Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman and the Wildrose leadership candidates.

PrenticeBlamesAlbertans

Who is really to blame for Alberta’s financial situation? #PrenticeBlamesAlbertans

Are Albertans to blame for the province’s current financial situation, as Premier Jim Prentice would have you believe? Mr. Prentice faced a public backlash this week when he commented on a CBC Radio call in show that “in terms of who is responsible, we need only look in the mirror.”

With an election call expected only weeks away, it is an odd strategy for a political leader to blame the voters for his own party’s record of poor long-term planning.

Robin Campbell Alberta Finance Yellowhead

Robin Campbell

Of course, while Mr. Prentice’s comments are supremely arrogant, there is a small kernel of truth in them. Albertans have voted Mr. Prentice’s Progressive Conservative Party into government in each election since 1971 and it is that party’s leaders who have made the decisions that have led us into the current situation.

And while hundreds of thousands of Albertans have cast ballots for the PCs over the past four decades, there are hundreds of thousands of Albertans who consistently vote for opposition parties. There have also been dozens of opposition MLAs in the Legislature over the same period who have demanded that the PCs take a more disciplined and mature approach to long-term planning.

Stephen Mandel Edmonton

Stephen Mandel

The response to the bad press received in the media and online through the #PrenticeBlamesAlbertans meme was truly strange. On short notice, Mr. Prentice sent out senior cabinet ministers – Finance Minister Robin Campbell and Health Minister Stephen Mandel – to defend his comments and explain to the media why what people say on the internet does not matter.

The truth is that Alberta’s current financial situation is a crisis by design.

The PC Government made an intentional decision to have the lowest corporate and personal tax rate in Canada, by $11 billion. A consequence of the decision to forgo an estimated $11 billion in potential revenue is that the government has relied heavily on revenue from unstable natural resource royalties to fund a significant portion of its operational budget.

Now, facing a shortfall in resource revenues, our politicians are taking advantage of the perceived crisis to make short-sighted 9% funding cuts to public services instead of focusing on diversifying the revenue sources that are causing our problem.

If our political leaders had kept corporate taxes at reasonable levels, not replaced our progressive income tax with the flat tax, and implemented a moderate provincial sales tax while saving the funds collected from royalties, Alberta could be in a situation today where we could rely on a large reserve fund for these “rainy days.”

Mr. Prentice blames Albertans. Who will Albertans blame when the next election is called?

Sunday evening candidate nomination updates in Alberta

MP Brian Storseth and Sun News talking head Ezra Levant.

MP Brian Storseth and Sun News talking head Ezra Levant.

With a provincial election expected in the next few months, the 43-year long governing Progressive Conservatives are expected to have all their candidates nominated by the end of March 2015 and be in a position to trigger an election soon after. The opposition parties are far behind in the candidate selection process.

The Progressive Conservative nomination in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills took a strange twist last week. The Lac La Biche Post reports that Brian Storseth, who is retiring from an unremarkable three-terms as a Conservative backbencher Member of Parliament in Ottawa, is seeking the PC nomination and his late candidacy came as the local PC nominating committee was thrown out over closing nominations too early.

Shayne Saskiw MLA Wildrose

Shayne Saskiw

According to the Post, in the nomination contest Mr. Storseth is facing his own step-mother Joanne Penner, former Lakeland County councillor Jeff Dechaine, current St. Paul Mayor Glenn Anderson, and St. Paul area school board executive Darrell Younghans. The current MLA for this constituency is Wildroser Shayne Saskiw, who is the husband of Shannon Stubbs, the Conservative candidate replacing Mr. Storseth in the next federal election.

Here are some other updates that I have added to the list of nomination candidates:

Banff-Cochrane: Registered Nurse Cam Westhead is seeking the New Democratic Party nomination. Mr. Westhead is also a district representative with United Nurses of Alberta.

Calgary-Bow: Two candidates are seeking the PC nomination to replace retiring MLA Alana DeLong. Former City Council candidate Chris Harper and lawyer Byron Nelson will contest the nomination scheduled for March 7, 2015. Mr. Nelson was seeking the PC nomination in Calgary-Fish Creek until Ms. DeLong announced her retirement. On Dec. 4, 2014, Mr. Harper announced that he had left the PC Party because of Premier Jim Prentice‘s approach to Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools. It appears he has now rejoined.

Dr Bob Turner NDP Edmonton-Whitemud By-election

Bob Turner

Calgary-CrossJesse Minhas and Dan Sidhu are seeking the PC nomination to replace retiring MLA Yvonne Fritz. Ms. Fritz was first elected in 1993.

Calgary-Mountain View: Former PC MLA Mark Hlady will challenge Jean-Sebastien Rioux for the PC nomination. Mr. Hlady served as MLA for this constituency from 1993 until 2004, when he was unseated by current Liberal MLA and interim party leader David Swann.

Edmonton-Glenora: Philipia Bates Renouf, a judicial clerk in Alberta’s Department of Justice and a former Vice-President of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, will challenge Public School Board Trustee Sarah Hoffman for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Glenora.

Edmonton-McClung: Realtor Lorne Dach will represent the NDP in the next election. This will be Mr. Dach’s fourth time standing as the NDP candidate in this southwest Edmonton constituency.

Donna Wilson Liberal Edmonton Whitemud By-Election

Donna Wilson

Edmonton-Meadowlark: Former Globe & Mail reporter Katherine O’Neill is seeking the PC nomination in this west Edmonton constituency. Ms. O’Neill’s mother-in-law, Mary O’Neill, served as PC MLA for St. Albert from 1997 to 2004. Former Liberal leader Raj Sherman currently represents this constituency and is not seeking re-election.

Edmonton-Riverview: University of Alberta Nursing Professor Dr. Donna Wilson is seeking the Liberal nomination in Edmonton-Riverview. Dr. Wilson placed fourth as the Liberal candidate in last year’s Edmonton-Whitemud by-election. The Liberals represented Riverview from its creation in 1997 until 2012, when former leader Kevin Taft retired from politics.

Edmonton-Whitemud: NDP candidate Bob Turner is seeking a rematch against Health Minister Stephen Mandel in Edmonton-Whitemud. The University of Alberta doctor placed second in the September 2014 by-election with the NDP’s best-ever showing in that constituency.

Lethbridge-East: Former Lethbridge County Reeve Lorne Hickey will challenge Tammy Perlich for the PC nomination. Mr. Hickey was defeated by Liberal-turned-PC MLA Bridget Pastoor in the 2012 PC nomination. Ms. Pastoor is not seeking re-election.

Medicine Hat: Former Alderman John Hamill, 77, and realtor Jeff Lanigan will challenge Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Blake Pedersen for the PC nomination.

Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills: Olds Town Councillor Debbie Bennett and former Mountain View County councillor Ron Richardson joined Olds Councillor Wade Bearchell in the PC nomination race. Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Bruce Rowe is not seeking re-election after one-term in office.

Red Deer: Red Deer County Councillor Christine Moore is seeking the PC nomination in Red Deer-North and Red Deer College Business Dean Darcy Mykytyshyn is seeking the PC nomination in Red Deer-South.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Wildrose-turned-Independent MLA Joe Anglin and ATB employee Tammy Cote will face former Lacombe County reeve Terry Engen for the PC nomination.

Strathmore-Brooks
: Former lobby group spokesperson Derek Fildebrandt has been acclaimed as the Wildrose candidate.

The following PC candidates have been acclaimed: Terry Rock in Calgary-Buffalo, Jason Luan in Calgary-HawkwoodRic McIver in Calgary-Hays, Mike Ellis in Calgary-West, Diana McQueen in Drayton Valley-Devon, Stephen Mandel in Edmonton-WhitemudDon Scott in Fort McMurray-Conklin, Wayne Drysdale in Grande Prairie-Wapiti, Ian Donovan in Little Bow and Frank Oberle in Peace River.


I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.

Saturday Morning election nomination updates in Alberta

From Lethbridge to Rimbey and Peace River to Cochrane, here is your Saturday morning candidate nomination update:

Peter Brown Airdrie PC MLA

Peter Brown

Airdrie: Mayor of Airdrie Peter Brown announced this week that he will seek the Progressive Conservative nomination. Mr. Brown was first elected Mayor in 2010. The constituency is currently represented by PC-turned-Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Rob Anderson, who announced his retirement from politics this month.

Banff-CochraneScott Wagner has been nominated as the Wildrose candidate. In 2014, Mr. Wagner made an unsuccessful bid for the federal Conservative Party nomination to run in the Macleod by-election. During that campaign he issued criticized now-MP John Barlow and calling for a judicial inquiry into allegations that RCMP seized privately owned firearms during the High River floods of 2013.

Christine Cusanelli MLA

Christine Cusanelli

Calgary-Buffalo: Well-known arts community member Terry Rock will seek the PC nomination. The constituency is currently represented by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, who is the nominated federal Liberal candidate in Calgary-Centre and is not expected to seek re-election as MLA.

Calgary-Currie: First-term PC MLA Christine Cusanelli announced on Facebook that she will seek re-election. Ms. Cusanelli served as Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation for less than a year before an Olympic travel spending scandal led to her demotion to the backbencher. She is expected to face a challenge for the PC nomination.

Robyn Luff NDP Calgary East

Robyn Luff

Calgary-EastAli Waissi is the Wildrose candidate in this constituency. In 2012, he was campaign manager for controversial Calgary-Greenway Wildrose candidate Ron Leech. The NDP are expected to choose Robyn Luff as their candidate at a Feb. 8, 2015 nomination meeting. Ms. Luff earned 8.73% of the vote as the NDP candidate in 2012 (her party’s second strongest showing in Calgary in that election).

Calgary-GlenmoreChris Kemp-Jackson is the Wildrose candidate in this constituency. Mr. Kemp-Jackson is a business and immigration consultant.

Jae Shim Wildrose Calgary Hawkwood

Jae Shim

Calgary-Hawkwood: The Wildrose have chosen lawyer and constituency association president Jae Shim as their candidate.

Calgary-Klein: Feb 8 Craig Coolahan is expected to be chosen as the NDP candidate at a Feb. 8, 2015 nomination meeting. Mr. Coolahan is a Business Representative with the United Utility Workers’ Association and was the 2012 NDP candidate in Calgary-Elbow.

Calgary-Lougheed: Two-time Mount Everest climber Dave Rodney will seek the PC nomination. Mr. Rodney has also served as the PC MLA for this constituency since 2004.

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill: Retired police officer Kathy Macdonald has been nominated as the Wildrose candidate in this constituency. In 2014, Ms. Macdonald challenged Premier Jim Prentice as the Wildrose candidate in the Calgary-Foothills by-election.

Calgary-Mountain View: Three-term Liberal MLA David Swann is expected to announce his plans to seek re-election. The Liberals have scheduled a nomination meeting on February 20, 2015. Jean-Sebastien Rioux announced he will seek the PC nomination. Mr. Rioux is the Director, Master of Public Policy program, and Associate Director, International Policy at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy. He also served as Chief of Staff to Mr. Prentice when he was a cabinet minister in Ottawa.

Stephen Mandel Edmonton

Stephen Mandel

Edmonton-Decore: Two-term PC MLA Janice Sarich announced she will seek her party’s nomination for re-election.

Edmonton-Whitemud
: Health Minister Stephen Mandel is expected to seek the PC nomination for re-election. Mr. Mandel was first elected to the Assembly in a by-election in September 2014.

Lethbridge-East: Lawyer Tammy Perlich is the first candidate to enter the PC nomination contest. Current PC MLA Bridget Pastoor announced her retirement earlier this month. Helen McMenamin is rumoured to be eyeing the Liberal Party nomination.

Wayne Drysdale MLA Grande Prairie Wapiti

Wayne Drysdale

Grande Prairie-Wapiti: PC MLA Wayne Drysdale announced on Facebook that he plans to run for re-election. Mr. Drysdale was first elected in 2008.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake: Mayor of Red Deer County Jim Wood announced that he will challenge Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Kerry Towle for the PC nomination. During the 2012 election, Mr. Wood endorsed PC MLA Luke Ouellette, who was unseated by Ms. Towle in the Wildrose sweep of central and southern Alberta. Following that election, he raised concerns about how the PC Government would treat rural Alberta constituencies represented by opposition MLAs.

Peace River: Energy Minister Frank Oberle announced on Facebook that he plans to seek the PC nomination and re-election.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: ATB employee Tammy Cote is seeking the PC nomination and may face a challenge from current Independent MLA Joe Anglin. Ms. Cote is the grand-niece of former PC MLA and lieutenant-governor Helen Hunley.

Spruce Grove-St. AlbertJaye Walter has been nominated as the Wildrose candidate in Spruce Grove-St. Albert. Previous to this nomination he had been seeking to become the candidate in the St. Albert constituency.


I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.

Top 10 moments in Alberta Politics in 2014

In my nearly ten years writing about politics in Alberta on this blog, 2014 was easily the most exciting. The sheer number of scandals, controversies, fumbles and resignations made for new content on a daily basis. If I had the time and resources, I could have easily written three or four posts a day for most of the year. As this year comes to an end, I took a look through this year’s posts and compiled a list of the top ten political moments in Alberta of 2014. Thank you for reading and enjoy the list.

Rob Anders Bow River Conservative MP

Rob Anders

10. Take a hike, Rob Anders
After 17 years as one of the most hyper-conservative politicians in Ottawa, Member of Parliament Rob Anders was finally shown the door by Conservative Party members. In April 2014, Mr. Anders lost a hotly contested Conservative Party nomination race in Calgary-Signal Hill to former Progressive Conservative MLA Ron Liepert. His second attempt at a nomination was in the rural riding of Bow River outside Calgary, where Mr. Anders was defeated by Brooks Mayor Martin Shields.

Merwan Saher

Merwan Saher

9. Auditor General on Climate Change
A July 2014 report from Auditor General Merwan Saher found no evidence that the Department of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development properly monitored the performance of the PC Government’s climate change strategy, which was first implemented in 2008. The report uncovered serious problems with the province’s expensive Carbon Capture and Storage strategy. Mr. Saher’s report found that the total emissions reductions from the CCS program was expected to be less than 10% of what was originally anticipated. The Auditor General also reported that Alberta was unlikely to meet its 2020 targets to reduce carbon emissions.

Laurie Blakeman MLA Edmonton Centre Liberal

Laurie Blakeman

8. Gay-Straight Alliances debate
What if politicians could stop school kids from starting clubs? A motion supporting Gay-Straight Alliances introduced by Liberal Party MLA Kent Hehr was defeated in April 2014 and a private members’ bill introduced by Liberal Laurie Blakeman in November 2014 derailed the PC agenda for the fall sitting. The debate showed rifts in the PC and Wildrose caucus and Jim Prentice’s ill conceived Bill 10 in response to Ms. Blakeman’s Bill 202 led to his first big fumble as Premier.

Dave Hancock MLA Edmonton-Whitemud

Dave Hancock

7. Dave Hancock appointed Premier
Long-time PC cabinet minister Dave Hancock was appointed Premier and interim leader of the PC Party following the resignation of Alison Redford in March 2014. A self-described policy-wonk, Mr. Hancock may have flourished under more agreeable circumstances, but most of his short time as premier was focused on undoing the damage inflicted by his predecessor. During his six months in office, Mr. Hancock’s government oversaw major collective agreement settlements with the United Nurses of Alberta and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees and invited the R.C.M.P. to investigate Ms. Redford’s travel habits. A surprising amount of his time in office was overshadowed by a silly and politically motivated plan to remove the “Wild Rose Country” slogan from Alberta’s license plate.

Rachel Notley Edmonton MLA Strathcona NDP

Rachel Notley

6. Ready for Rachel
After ten years as leader of Alberta’s New Democratic Party, Edmonton MLA Brian Mason announced he would step down from the party’s top job. A leadership race ensued and MLA Rachel Notley won a decisive victory over fellow MLA David Eggen and labour activist Rod Loyola. Expectations are high for the new NDP leader, as polls show her party’s support has surged in Edmonton in recent months.

Kyle Harrietha Liberal Fort McMurray alberta

Kyle Harrietha

5. Liberal near win in Fort McMurray-Athabasca
What should have been a sleepy federal by-election in the heart of Alberta’s Oil Belt turned into a race when Liberal Kyle Harrietha challenged Conservative David Yurdiga for the June 30, 2014 vote to replace retiring MP Brian Jean. Running an energetic campaign, Mr. Harrietha increased his party’s support from 10% in 2011 to 35.3%, placing less than 1,500 votes behind Mr. Yurdiga. The Liberal also defeated his Tory challenger in Fort McMurray, no small feat in the land of the oil sands. The two candidates will face off once again in the new Fort McMurray-Cold Lake riding when the next federal election is held in 2015.

Stephen Mandel Edmonton

Stephen Mandel

4. The October mini-election
Four by-elections on October 27, 2014 provided Albertans with a mini-election less than two months after Mr. Prentice became premier. Triggered by the resignations of former premiers Ms. Redford and Mr. Hancock and PC MLAs Ken Hughes and Len Webber, the votes allowed Mr. Prentice to win a seat in the Assembly along with PC candidates Stephen Mandel, Gordon Dirks and Mike Ellis. The opposition Wildrose had hoped to win at least two of the by-elections, but were upstaged by the NDP in Edmonton-Whitemud and an insurgent Alberta Party in Calgary-Elbow.

Jim Prentice Premier Alberta

Jim Prentice

3. Jim Prentice becomes Premier
After a first-ballot victory in a lack-lustre and uninspiring leadership contest, Jim Prentice started his time in office with a bang. After being sworn-in, Mr. Prentice implemented a swift de-Redfordization agenda, with daily announcements undoing some of his predecessors more unpopular policies and decisions. Purging Redford era cabinet ministers, selling the government’s fleet of aircraft, keeping the Michener Centre open, backing down from controversial changes to public sector pension plans and cancelling the botched license plate redesign were all no-brainers, but they projected an image of the new premier as a competent chief executive in command. Arguably, Mr. Prentice’s only missteps in his first few months in office were his aborted Gay-Straight Alliances bill and the unease caused after he tactfully dismantled the Official Opposition (see #2 below). Despite his success in distancing himself from Ms. Redford, the main thrust of Mr. Prentice’s government – promoting pipelines and the oil sands abroad – remains the same as hers.

Danielle Smith Wildrose PC MLA

Danielle Smith

2. Wildrose floor crossings
For four years, PCs told Albertans not to trust those kooky and scary Wildrosers. At the same time, the Wildrosers told Albertans not to trust those crooked and corrupt PCs. But in November and December 2014, Mr. Prentice’s PC Caucus accepted 11 Wildrose MLAs into their ranks, including Official Opposition leader Danielle Smith. The caucus merger, which was either in negotiations for months or sparked by the Wildrose by-election loss (depending on which story you believe), was encouraged by Conservative Godfather Preston Manning (Mr. Manning later apologized for his role). The floor crossing gutted the Official Opposition, left with 5 MLAs and enraged Wildrose supporters, who started a “Recall Danielle” campaign in her Highwood constituency. Five-term Calgary MLA Heather Forsyth stepped in as interim leader until a permanent leader can be chosen in 2015.

Alison Redford Premier of Alberta resigns 1

Alison Redford resigned as Premier of Alberta on March 23, 2014.

1. The spectacular fall of Alison Redford
Mistakes were made” were some of the last public words Albertans heard from premier Alison Redford before she resigned as MLA for Calgary-Elbow in August 2014. Albertans have never seen a political career crash and burn this badly. A $45,000 flight to South Africa, use of the government plane to return from Palm Springs, alleged fake passenger bookings to ensure her and her staff had the planes to themselves, a secretly constructed private penthouse known as the Skypalace, and long trips to exotic destinations overseas are just some of the allegations of misuse of power she faced prior to her resignation. Months after her resignation, the Auditor General reported the existence of an “aura of power around Premier Redford and her office.”

Alberta’s first woman premier started her time in office with great promise and many Albertans believed she signalled the beginning of a new, more progressive, era in our province. Ms. Redford quickly proved those believers wrong with deep funding cuts to colleges and universities and attacks on public sector workers and their collective bargaining rights.

In the end, plummeting fundraising returns, bad polling numbers, MLA defections, and a caucus and party on the verge of revolt forced Ms. Redford to step down as Premier of Alberta and Leader of the PC Party on March 23, 2014.

Have I missed any of your top 10 moments in Alberta politics? Please share what made your list in the comment section.

A Dozen Alberta MLAs worth watching in 2015

12 Alberta MLAs to watch in 2015

Alberta MLAs to watch in 2015: Rob Anderson, Joe Anglin, Manmeet Bhullar, Laurie Blakeman, Robin Campbell, Gordon Dirks, Heather Forsyth, Kent Hehr, Thomas Lukaszuk, Stephen Mandel, Rachel Notley, Danielle Smith

As 2014 reminded us, politics can be an extraordinarily unpredictable and forecasting the future can be a tricky business for political pundits. Aside from the obvious choice of Premier Jim Prentice, here is a list of a dozen Alberta MLAs worth watching in 2015.

Rob Anderson Joe Anglin Manmeet Bhullar Laurie Blakeman MLA

Alberta MLAs Rob Anderson, Joe Anglin, Manmeet Bhullar and Laurie Blakeman

Rob Anderson (Airdrie): The outspoken rookie MLA left the PC Caucus in 2010 to join the upstart Wildrose Party. And in 2014, after two years as a loud and enthusiastic critic of the government, he was one of 9 Wildrose MLAs who crossed to the PC Caucus in December 2014. It is speculated that Mr. Anderson could end up with a cabinet post in early 2015, to the ire of his new caucus colleagues. He thrived in the limelight of the opposition benches but can he survive in the government benches?

Joe Anglin (Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre): Mr. Anglin left the Wildrose Caucus in November 2014 before his colleagues could vote him out. On his way out, he declared that “an internal civil war” was being waged inside the Wildrose Party. It was recently revealed that Mr. Anglin has been in discussions with the Liberals about forming a legislative coalition that could steal Official Opposition status away from the downsized Wildrose Caucus.

Manmeet Bhullar (Calgary-Greenway): A rising star in the PC Party. Mr. Bhullar rose in the ranks under premiers Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford and became one of Mr. Prentice’s lieutenants during his party’s lacklustre 2014 PC leadership contest. In his current role as Infrastructure Minister, he has a big influence over which public projects get funding.

Laurie Blakeman (Edmonton-Centre): As the longest serving opposition MLA, Ms. Blakeman is a feisty voice in the Assembly. Her Bill 202 reignited the debate around student-led Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools and demonstrated how uncomfortable an issue gay rights remains for many PC MLAs. With the Liberal Party moribund under its current leadership, it is difficult to tell what her political future holds.

Robin Campbell Gordon Dirks Heather Forsyth Kent Hehr Alberta MLA

Alberta MLAs Robin Campbell, Gordon Dirks, Heather Forsyth and Kent Hehr.

Robin Campbell (West Yellowhead): As the price of oil declines, the soft-spoken Mr. Campbell finds himself in a situation where he must deal with his party’s poor long-term financial planning. Unfortunately, the PC Caucus is reluctant to entertain the idea of more stable funding sources like sales taxes, a progressive taxation system or an increase in natural resource royalties. Look to Mr. Campbell to provide a more diplomatic approach to public sector pension changes, an issue that hastened the demise of his predecessor, Doug Horner.

Gordon Dirks (Calgary-Elbow): Missing in Action during the contentious Gay-Straight Alliances debate, Mr. Dirks’ connections to socially conservative Christian evangelical groups is a liability for the PC Party among moderate and liberal voters. He brings experience from his time as a Saskatchewan cabinet minister and a Calgary school trustee, but his religious connections and the accusations about allegedly politically-driven school announcements make him a lightening rod for opposition criticism.

Heather Forsyth (Calgary-Fish Creek): The interim leader of the Official Opposition is one of the longest serving MLAs in the Legislature. First elected as a PC MLA in 1993, Ms. Forsyth served in the cabinets of Ralph Klein before joining the Wildrose in 2010. Her big challenge is keep the Wildrose Remnant alive and relevant as her party chooses their next leader in early 2015.

Kent Hehr (Calgary-Buffalo): This respected, hard-working MLA is aiming to become the first Liberal Member of Parliament in Calgary since the early 1970s. He is hoping to build on the support earned by Liberal Harvey Locke in the 2012 by-election. His departure from provincial politics will trigger a by-election that will test the popularity of the provincial Liberals in Alberta’s largest city.

Thomas Lukaszuk Stephen Mandel Rachel Notley Danielle Smith Alberta MLA

Alberta MLAs Thomas Lukaszuk, Stephen Mandel, Rachel Notley and Danielle Smith.

Thomas Lukaszuk (Edmonton-Castle Downs): Cast to the backbenches after Mr. Prentice became premier, Mr. Lukaszuk has not gone quietly. His connection to deep funding cuts to universities and colleges earned him many political enemies, including then-mayor of Edmonton Stephen Mandel. Mr. Lukaszuk turned on Ms. Redford when her star was falling and ran in PC leadership contest as an outsider. He has been outspoken from his spot in the backbenches, leading some political watchers to believe he could be the next Ken Kowalski.

Stephen Mandel (Edmonton-Whitemud): After nine years as Edmonton’s mayor, Mr. Mandel declared he was done with politics in 2013. One year later, he found himself riding to the rescue of Alberta’s 43 year old Progressive Conservative dynasty. As Mr. Prentice’s capital city commodore, Mr. Mandel is responsible for the most politically dangerous government department, Health. He has promised to increase local decision making in health care and is faced with a growing list of aging hospitals and health care centres that have faced decades of neglect by the provincial government.

Rachel Notley (Edmonton-Strathcona): Expectations are high that Ms. Notley will lead Alberta’s New Democratic Party to greatness. The second generation leader of Alberta’s social democratic party is smart, witty and well-positioned to boost her party’s standings in the opposition benches. Her challenge will be to present a viable alternative to the governing PCs while expanding her party’s support outside its traditional enclaves in Edmonton.

Danielle Smith (Highwood): After two years as the leader of the Wildrose Official Opposition, Ms. Smith shocked Albertans in December 2014 when she quit her job and join the Government. It is widely suspected that Ms. Smith will be appointed to cabinet in early 2015, possibly as Deputy Premier. She is a skilled politician but will continue to face heavy criticism in 2015 from her former colleagues for her betrayal.

(Last year’s post, A Dozen Alberta MLAs to Watch in 2014, was inspired by A dozen federal MPs worth watching in 2014, published by the Canadian Press)

Wildrose needs to be more than the Anti-Redford Party

PCs sweep four by-elections, NDP and Alberta Party make gains
Jim Prentice Gordon Dirks Calgary Elbow By-Election Alberta

Education Minister Gordon Dirks and Premier Jim Prentice during the by-election campaign.

Disgraced former premier Alison Redford gave Albertans a convincing reason to vote Wildrose, but Danielle Smith‘s official opposition needs to find a new strategy to defeat Premier Jim Prentice‘s Progressive Conservative.

This appears to be the case as Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives celebrate their candidates victories in four Alberta by-elections held yesterday.

Kathy Macdonald Wildrose Calgary-Foothills by-election

Kathy Macdonald

The wins in the four strong-PC voting constituencies are a signal that the long-governing party should not be underestimated. And despite two years of spending scandals, embarrassment and misdeeds, the PC Party remains a competitive political force in this province.

It appears that despite the scandals, many Albertans wan to give Mr. Prentice a chance. And the PC’s smooth ‘be boring‘ and ‘de-Redfordization‘ strategy appears to have paid off with voters, at least in the short-term, and helped the party hold onto Calgary-Elbow, Calgary-Foothills, Calgary-West and Edmonton-Whitemud. Chosen as PC Party leader in September 2014, Mr. Prentice was personally elected last night in Calgary-Foothills, with a commanding lead ahead of Wildrose candidate Kathy Macdonald.

Mike Ellis PC Alberta calgary-west MLA

Mike Ellis

In Calgary-West, a constituency the Wildrose had targeted to win, candidate Sheila Taylor was narrowly defeated by Tory Mike Ellis. The Wildrose hoped that Ms. Taylor’s high-profile role as a public school board trustee would take her to victory, but the PCs Mr. Ellis narrowly held on to the constituency first won by former premier Peter Lougheed in 1967.

The by-elections gave Ms. Smith’s Wildrose Party an opportunity to test campaign tactics, strategies and messages in preparation for the next election, and it is obvious they fell flat.

Stephen Mandel Health Minister Alberta Edmonton Whitemud MLA

Stephen Mandel

While PC Party supporters on social media have vocally called on their opponent to step down, the Wildrose would be foolish to part with the leader, who is one of their greatest assets. Ms. Smith is media savvy and has grown into her role as Premier-in-Waiting. Despite missing an opportunity to steal a by-election away from the PCs, the Wildrose is still strong in other areas of Alberta (and in other constituencies in Calgary and Edmonton).

One recent poll  shared with this blogger showed the Wildrose with 51% support in rural Alberta and 47% in the province’s small cities, which represent a significant number of constituencies in Alberta. Despite tonight’s losses, the 2016 election could still be hotly contested between the two conservative parties.

Dr Bob Turner NDP Edmonton-Whitemud By-election

Dr. Bob Turner

But worrying to both the Wildrose and the PCs should be the other opposition parties that made significant electoral gains in these by-elections. In Edmonton-Whitemud, PC Health Minister Stephen Mandel saw his party’s vote drop by nearly 20% from the 2012 election, but still collected enough votes to defeat New Democrat Dr. Bob Turner. Wildrose candidate Tim Grover was relegated to third place.

Dr. Turner’s 21% finish marks the first time the NDP has placed second in this constituency since the 1986 election, an impressive feat for the tiny Edmonton-based party.

Greg Clark Calgary-Elbow Alberta Party

Greg Clark

And in Calgary-Elbow, Alberta Party leader Greg Clark exceeded expectations, placing a close second behind PC Education Minister Gordon Dirks. Mr. Dirks’ was elected with the help of a convenient opposition vote-split between Mr. Clark and talented Liberal Susan Wright. But despite the narrow defeat, this second place finish gives Mr. Clark a solid foundation to run as a candidate in the next election.

Before the next election, can any of those tiny opposition parties garner enough strength on their own to take advantage of a split within Alberta’s conservative movement? And as Wildrose strategists analyze the results of yesterdays vote, can they come up with a plan to defeat the Tories? In spite of yesterday’s wins by the 43-year governing PC Party, will Albertans still be willing to give Mr. Prentice a chance in 2016?

One this is for sure, the political landscape in Alberta looks more interesting than ever.

 October 27, 2014 By-election Results

Calgary-Elbow
Gordon Dirks, PC: 4,207 (33.2%)
Greg Clark, AP: 3,412 (26.9%)
John Fletcher, WR: 3,056 (24.1%)
Susan Wright, LIB: 1,519 (11.9%)
Stephanie Mclean, NDP: 472 (3.7%)

Calgary-Foothills
Jim Prentice, PC: 6,898 (58.2%)
Kathy Macdonald, WR: 3,545 (29.9%)
Robert Prcic, LIB: 458 (3.8%)
Jennifer Burgess, NDP: 444 (3.7%)
Polly Knowlton Cockett, GRN: 261 (2.2%)
Michelle Glavine, AP: 212 (1.7%)
Dave Woody Phillips, IND: 23 (0.1%)

Calgary-West
Mike Ellis, PC: 4,843 (44.4%)
Sheila Taylor, WR: 4,528 (41.5%)
David Khan, LIB: 926 (8.5%)
Brian Malkinson, NDP: 336 (3.0%)
Troy Millington, AP: 265 (2.4%)

Edmonton-Whitemud
Stephen Mandel, PC: 6,003 (42.3%)
Bob Turner, NDP: 3,150 (22.2%)
Tim Grover, WR: 2,679 (18.9%)
Donna Wilson, LIB: 2,043 (14.4%)
William Munsey, AP: 202 (1.4%)
Rene Malenfant, GRN: 95 (0.6%)