Tag Archives: Stephen Mandel

Edmonton municipal election candidates Aaron Paquette, Brandy Burdeniuk, Tim Cartmell and Keren Tang.

Edmonton City Council Elections Updates

There are 179 days left until Edmontonians cast their votes to choose their next city council. With the spring approaching and prime campaigning weather just around the corner, candidates are beginning to launch their campaigns.

Here are some of the most recent updates from my list of candidates running in Edmonton’s 2017 municipal elections:

Ward 1: First-term councillor Andrew Knack held a re-election fundraiser on March 26, 2017 at a at the Delux Burger Bar. Knack is expected to formally launch his campaign in the coming months.

Ward 4: Local artist and advocate Aaron Paquette is running in Ward 4. Paquette was the federal New Democratic Party candidate in Edmonton-Manning during the October 2015 election, where he placed third with 11,582 votes  (23.6 percent of the total votes cast). He is also known as the founder of the clever #Ottawapiskat meme that satirized criticisms of the Idle No More protests.

Ward 5: Sarah Hamilton is running in Ward 5. Hamilton is the owner of a local communications and public relations company. She previously served as the director of communications and media relations for the Coal Association of Canada from 2015 to 2017, and previous to that served as deputy press secretary for health minister Stephen Mandel from 2014 to 2015.

Ward 6: First-term councillor Scott McKeen will launch his bid for re-election on May 13, 2017 at the Westmount Community League. McKeen’s event will feature music from El Niven and The Alibi, singer-songwriter Lucette, and indie folk group Post Script.

Rental property manager and developer Tish Prouse is also running in Ward 6. He ran for city council in 2013 as a candidate in Ward 7 where he placed fourth with 1,053 votes (7.3 percent of the total votes cast).

Ward 7: Matt Kleywegt launched his campaign at the Bellevue Community Hall on March 31, 2017. According to his website, Kleywegt is a Graduation Coach with Edmonton Public Schools, where he assists Indigenous teens graduate High School. Here is the video of his campaign launch:

Ward 9: Physician Rob Agostinis will launch his campaign for election on April 21, 2017 at the Whitemud Creek Community Centre. Agostinis is a former president of the Terwillegar Riverbend Advisory Council and former president of the U of A medical alumni association. HE was briefly nominated a candidate for the Liberal Party in Edmonton-Whitemud before the 2001 election.

Also in Ward 9, engineer Tim Cartmell launched his campaign on April 9 and realtor Payman Parseyan launched his campaign on April 16.

Ward 10: First-term councillor Michael Walters will launch his re-election campaign on May 13, 2017 event at the Yellowbird Community Hall.

Ward 11Keren Tang and Brandy Burdeniuk have launched their bids for city council in this south east Edmonton ward. Tang is President of the board of the Edmonton Multicultural Coalition and is a health promotion researcher. Burdeniuk is a co-founder of a building certification and sustainability company.

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

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt joined Jason Kenney on the eve of his victory in the PC Party leadership race. (Photo credit: @pcyouthalberta on Twitter)

Kenney shifts into Phase Two of Uniting the Right

Shifting into the second phase of his campaign to unite Alberta’s two largest right-wing political parties, newly elected Progressive Conservative leader Jason Kenney met with Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean this week. According to an email from Kenney’s campaign, the two men, who are both expected to run for the leadership of a new conservative party, shared a carton of Tim Horton’s coffee in the official opposition offices located in the Federal Building.

Brian Jean Wildrose Leader

Brian Jean

Kenney emerged from the meeting alone, holding a press conference by himself without Jean outside the building to announce the creation of conservative discussion groups. Jean probably made a good decision not to participate in a joint press conference at this point, as he would have certainly been made to look like he was playing second fiddle to his main leadership rival.

Jean told CBC that he wants a new party to hold a leadership race before October 15, 2017. This is slightly ahead of the timeline proposed by Kenney, which would have the leadership vote held later in 2017 or in early 2018.

An October 2017 vote would coincide with the creation of new electoral boundaries for the next provincial election, when parties are expected to begin nominating candidates in earnest. The final report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission is due to be presented to the Legislative Assembly on October 31, 2017.

Jean also reiterated his position that a new party should exist within the current legal framework of the Wildrose Party, which puts him at odds with Kenney’s previously stated plans to either merge the two or create an entirely new party.

Wason Resigns

Troy Wason

Troy Wason

PC Party executive director and long-time party activist Troy Wason resigned his position over the weekend. “It’s very difficult to put a round peg into a square hole,” Wason was quoted as saying about Kenney’s PC-Wildrose merger plans in response to the Feminism is Cancer email sent out the Wildrose campus club at the University of Calgary last week. His departure was not a complete surprise but a signal that the Kenney’s victory has some moderate Tories looking for an exit.

It is also notable that former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel’s name disappeared from the PC Party website this week. Mandel, who briefly served as the PC MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud and health minister from 2014 to 2015, was the party’s northern Alberta finance committee chairman. As I wrote earlier this week, Mandel is rumoured to be backing an upcoming “unite the centre” meeting to discuss the potential creation of an alternative to the PC-Wildrose coalition.

Merger aims to keep Tory cash
A group of PC and Wildrose associated lawyers calling themselves the Alberta Conservative Consolidation Committee believe that Elections Alberta’s statement that political parties cannot legally merge is wrong. The group is chaired by former Canadian Taxpayers’ Association president Andy Crooks and includes past Wildrose candidate Richard Jones and PC constituency president Tyler Shandro and two other lawyers.

The desire to merge the two parties rather than create a new party is likely partly driven by the estimated $1.5 million believed to be sitting in dozens of PC Party constituency bank accounts and candidate trusts. If a party dissolves, the funds are held in trust by Elections Alberta and later transferred into the Alberta government’s general revenue.

Former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who is spending much his political retirement on Twitter, posted a photo online showing the PC constituency association in Edmonton-Castle Downs, which he represented in the Assembly from 2001 until 2015, had liquidated its financial assets by donating the funds to local charities.

I do not expect a new conservative party would have trouble raising money before the next election but new donation limits have lowered the maximum annual contribution from $15,000 to $4,000. The NDP also banned corporate and union donations, which the PC Party relied heavily on before the last election. The Wildrose Party, like the NDP, have cultivated a large individual donor base, but losing that $1.5 million would be a hit.

Gotfried and the Red Menace

Richard Gotfried Calgary Fish Creek PC MLA

Richard Gotfried

Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried, the lone rookie PC MLA elected in 2015, evoked his father’s flight from Bolshevik Russia and Maoist China during a speech criticizing the NDP government in the Assembly this week. It takes a special amount of partisan and ideological gymnastics to draw connections between brutal and tyrannical dictatorships and a freely elected democratic government in Alberta, but Gotfried did it.

This is not the first time an opposition MLA has drawn these kinds of connections. Last summer, Drumheller-Stettler Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman apologized, twice, for an open-letter signed by nine Wildrose MLAs that compared the NDP government’s carbon tax to the Holodomor, the genocide that killed an estimated 2.5–7.5 million Ukrainians in the Soviet Union in the 1930s.

What does Jason Kenney’s PC Party stand for?

Kenney has played it pretty smooth since entering provincial politics last summer, largely avoiding getting directly caught in any of the controversy generated by his campaign. But that will not stop his political opponents from reminding Albertans of his more controversial, and in some cases totally bizarre, political statements.

Press Progress unleashed a long list of “abnormal” comments that the 48-year old Kenney has made over the course of his 30ish-year political career. They include comments from his time as an anti-abortion activist at the Catholic University of San Francisco to more recent claims that schools brainwash children with anti-conservative beliefs“bohemian” youths are “unconsciously” promoting communism and marxist professors are working to “suppress” Canada’s “Christian patrimony.”

There is no doubt Kenney has his share of political baggage, but his opponents, including the governing New Democrats, would be foolish to underestimate him. Despite his apparent belief in some weird conspiracy theories, Kenney is an extremely capable campaigner.

Main photo: Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt joined Jason Kenney on the eve of his victory in the PC Party leadership race. (Photo credit: @pcyouthalberta on Twitter)

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

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

Richard Starke

Richard Starke

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

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

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

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

Sandra Jansen

Sandra Jansen

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

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

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

Brian Jean Wildrose Leader

Brian Jean

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

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

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

Thomas Lukaszuk

Thomas Lukaszuk

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

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

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

Richard Starke’s last push – what happens to the Renew PCers after March 18?

With five days left until Jason Kenney wins the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party in a landslide vote, his main rival is marshalling his forces.

Representing PC supporters who want to renew the party, rather than dissolve it, Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke has announced a string of endorsements from former PC cabinet ministers and MLAs over the past few days, including former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel and former leadership candidate Stephen Khan.

Khan dropped out of the leadership race earlier this year and claimed Kenney’s plans to dissolve the PC Party and form a new party would lead to the creation of a party dominated by Wildrose Party supporters – “Wildrose 2.0.”

Starke’s list of endorsers include former MLAs Doug Horner, Doug Griffiths, Thomas Lukaszuk, Mike Allen, Rob Lougheed, Hector Goudreau, LeRoy Johnson, Jack Hayden, Ron Casey, Cal Dallas, Arno Doerksen, Bridget Pastoor, Dave Quest, Teresa Woo-Paw, Ron Ghitter, Verlyn Olson, Genia Leskiw, Iris Evans, Cathy Olesen, Heather Klimchuk, Pearl Calahasen, Ray Danyluk, Jim Horsman, Peter Elzinga, Linda Johnson, and Jacquie Fenske.

It seems like an odd strategy to pull out a list of prominent endorsers after the delegate selection meetings have been held but it could be the last card that Starke’s team had to play. Kenney is an impressive campaigner and his organization solidified a solid lead in the elected delegate count.

Jason Kenney Wildrose Conservative Alberta

Jason Kenney

After party delegates vote to elect Kenney as their leader on Saturday, March 18, 2017, the PC Party will become a vassal of the Wildrose Party, which Kenney also seeks to lead into a new conservative party. His campaign against Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean has essentially already begun.

Starke’s campaign to renew the PC Party released a “Common Sense Plan” in January 2017 which laid out a vague plan to work with the Wildrose Party without merging with them, but even at the time it felt like a last ditch attempt to ward off Kenney’s juggernaut.

It is unclear what Starke and his supporters will do when Kenney wins the leadership in a landslide on March 18, 2017. He and his only supporter in the PC caucus, Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Wayne Drysdale, will have to decide whether they want to remain in a Kenney-led PC Party which could potentially cross over to the Wildrose caucus before the 2019 election.

Maybe they will start a new moderate conservative party, or join another party? Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen left the PC leadership race and joined the NDP caucus in November 2016. Perhaps hoping to gain a caucus-mate, Alberta Party leader Greg Clark has been pushing his ‘Centre Together’ message targeted at centrist Tories unimpressed with Kenney’s Wildrose merger plans.

What comes after a bozo-eruption? A bozo-aftershock. 

Last week I wrote about the “Feminism is Cancer” email sent out by the Wildrose Party campus club at the University of Calgary promoting the screening of a Men’s Rights film on International Women’s Day. The Gauntlet, the campus newspaper, reports that the student who the club claimed to have fired as communications director after the incident may have not actually existed. The newspaper was unable to find any student with the name “Robert McDavid” listed with the university’s registrar or the party membership list.

If The Gauntlet report is correct, either the club did not actually fire their director or they fired someone who did not want their name to be publicly associated with the “Feminism is Cancer” email.

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.