Tag Archives: Steve Young

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

Episode 18: Maximum Bern and The Disgruntled Politicians of Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for listening!

Recommended reading/listening

Alison Redford Calgary candidates Alberta Election 2012

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

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

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

Steve Young MLA

Steve Young

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

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

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

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

Sarah Hoffman NDP MLA Edmonton-Glenora

Sarah Hoffman

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

Upcoming nomination meetings are being held in the following districts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday Morining Alberta Candidate Nomination Update

Photo: Danielle Larivee, Tanya Fir, Lori Sigurdson, and Sonya Savage.

I took a short break from writing about Alberta politics while I was on vacation over the past few weeks, so I am catching up this morning on the latest Alberta nomination candidate news.

Fir defeats former Ontario MP Jeff Watson for UCP nomination in Calgary-Peigan

Jeff Watson Essex Calgary Peigan UCP

Jeff Watson

Tanya Fir defeated former Ontario Member of Parliament Jeff Watson and past Wildrose Party candidate Jeevan Mangat to secure the United Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Peigan. Fir was backed by her campaign chair, Craig Chandler, a controversial conservative activist.

Quebec MP Maxime Bernier became momentarily involved in this nomination race when Fir’s campaign sent an email to their supporters claiming Maxine Bernier had endorsed his candidate. The real Bernier responded with an email disputing the claim and instead appeared to endorse his “good friend” Watson.

Larivee seeks re-election in Lesser Slave Lake

MLA Danielle Larivee is seeking the New Democratic Party nomination in Lesser Slave Lake. Larivee was first elected in 2015 unseating 7-term PC MLA Pearl Calahasen. She currently serves as Minister of Children’s Services and the Status of Women.

Former Liberal MLA runs for Alberta Party nomination

In Edmonton-South West, former Liberal Party MLA Mo Elsalhy is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Elsalhy was the MLA for Edmonton-McClung from 2004 and 2008 and ran for the party leadership in 2008. He attempted a comeback in 2012 but was unable unseat PC MLA David Xiao. During his time as MLA he served in various critic roles, including as Official Opposition critic for Justice and Public Safety, and Innovation and Science.

Here are some of the other recent updates to the list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of the 2019 Alberta provincial general election:

Randy Kerr UCP Calgary Beddington Climate Change Denial

Randy Kerr

Calgary-BeddingtonRandy Kerr defeated Josephine Pon to win the UCP nomination. Kerr was recently the focus of media attention when it was discovered he had made several social media postings that cast doubt on the legitimacy of climate change.

Calgary-EastAndre Chabot and Issa Mossa are the latest candidates to enter this UCP nomination contest. Chabot was a Calgary city councillor from 2005 to 2017. He placed a distant third in the October 2017 mayoral election, earning 3.08 percent of the vote. Mossa ran for Calgary city council in Ward 10 in 2017.

Calgary-FalconridgeChristopher Steeves is seeking the UCP nomination. He served as a councillor with the City of Chestermere from 2005 to 2017.

Calgary-Fish CreekCyndy Morin has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest in this south Calgary district and endorsed fellow candidate Cindy Ross over incumbent MLA Richard Gotfried. Morin had already previously withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest in Calgary-North West before the nomination vote was held in that district.

Morin noted on her Facebook page that she intends to “bring a defamation suit against the NDP for blatantly publishing what they refer to as facts.” The NDP issued a press release days ago “asking the Election Commissioner of Alberta to investigate UCP nomination candidate Cyndy Morin, running in Calgary-Fish Creek, for accepting and promoting corporate donations to her campaign.”

Calgary-NorthDevin Green is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-North East – Rajan Sawhney is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-North WestSonya Savage defeated Jennele Giong and Cam Khan to win the UCP nomination. Savage is a pipeline lobbyist and served as the president of the Progressive Conservative Party youth wing in 1992.

Calgary-Peigan – Herjinder Saran is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

David Shepherd NDP MLA Edmonton City Centre

David Shepherd

Edmonton-City Centre – MLA David Shepherd is seeking the NDP nomination, which is scheduled to take place on September 6, 2018. Shepherd was first elected in 2015 and in 2017 was voted “MLA to watch in 2018” in the Best of Alberta Politics survey. Stephen Hammerschmidt is the latest candidate to enter the UCP nomination contest in this district.

Edmonton-Glenora – Marjorie Newman, David Salopek, and former Edmonton-Riverview PC MLA Steve Young are seeking the UCP nomination. A nomination meeting will be held on August 15, 2018.

Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood – Atul Ranade is seeking the UCP nomination. Ranade previously withdrew from UCP nomination contests in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview and Edmonton-South.

Edmonton-Manning – Dakota Drouillard is seeking the UCP nomination. Jitender Sahni has withdrawn from the Alberta Party nomination contest.

Edmonton-Meadows Amrit Matharu has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.

Edmonton-Mill Woods – James Moore is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Edmonton-Riverview – MLA Lori Sigurdson has been nominated as the NDP candidate in this district. She was first elected in 2015 and currently serves as Minister of Seniors and Housing.

Edmonton-South – Inderdeep Sandhu is seeking the UCP nomination.

Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville– Marvin Olsen is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.

Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland: Don McCargar has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate. McCargar made headlines in 2016 when he put his $7.5 million Parkland County mansion for sale. The palatial home included a sauna, wet bar, six-vehicle garage, and a car wash, as well as herringbone marble tiles covering the floors and hand-painted dome murals adorning the ceilings.

Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright – Blake Prior is seeking the UCP nomination. Prior was the Progressive Conservative candidate in the Battle River-Wainwright district in the 2015 election.

West Yellowhead– Stuart Taylor is seeking the UCP nomination. Taylor was the Wildrose Party candidate in this district in the 2012 and 2015 elections. He is a former Hinton town councillor and was defeated in his bid for mayor in 2017.

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

Monday morning candidate nomination updates in Alberta

Super-Saturday-PC-Nomination-Election-AlbertaThe Progressive Conservatives held their first “Super Saturday” on Feb. 21, 2015, during which contested nominations were held in seven constituencies. The handful of contested PC nominations have been overshadowed by the nearly forty acclamations by incumbent PC MLAs across the province.

The Liberal Party, still without a permanent leader after Raj Sherman‘s abrupt resignation in Jan. 2015, has opened candidate nominations in all 87 constituencies and have made notice on their website that all Liberal nominations must be complete by March 1, 2015. If the Liberals are actually able to nominate candidates in all 87 constituencies in the next seven days, it will be a busy week on this blog.

Here are the latest updates to the growing list of nomination candidates preparing to run in the expected Spring 2015 Alberta Election:

Craig Copeland Bonnyville Cold Lake MLA PC

Craig Copeland

Bonnyville-Cold Lake: Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland defeated former Wildrose nomination candidate Dixie Dahlstedt in the PC nomination. Some local party members complained about the lack of multiple voting locations in the rural constituency and the police were called to the voting station after an allegedly intoxicated man caused a disturbance. A Municipal District of Bonnyville councillor told the Cold Lake Sun that alleged he was the man removed by the RCMP and he was not intoxicated. Current PC MLA Genia Leskiw is not seeking re-election.

Calgary-Buffalo: Lawyer David Khan will seek the Liberal nomination in this downtown Calgary constituency. Buffalo is currently represented by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, who is running for the federal Liberals in Calgary-Centre, and has elected Liberals in six of the eight elections held since 1986. Mr. Khan was his party’s candidate in the 2014 Calgary-West by-election where he earned 8.5% of the vote.

David Khan Liberal Calgary Buffalo Candidate

David Khan

Calgary-Bow: David Gamble is seeking the Liberal nomination. According to his Facebook Page, Mr. Gamble is the President and CEO of Dandly Writing and Communications.

Calgary-Cross: Seven candidates are seeking the PC nomination in this northeast Calgary constituency – Dan Singh SidhuMohamed El-Rafih, Jesse Minhas, Manjit Jaswal, Hardeep Rai, Hirde Paul, and Bill Kahlon. The constituency has been represented by PC MLA Yvonne Fritz since 1993. She is not seeking re-election.

Calgary-Currie: Pat Murray is seeking the Liberal nomination. Mr. Murray was the Liberal Party candidate in Calary-Currie in the 2001 election and Calgary-North Hill in 2004 and 2008 elections. He also ran as a federal PC candidate in Calgary-Nose Hill in the 1997 federal election.

Richard Gotfried Calgary Fish Creek PC MLA

Richard Gotfried

Calgary-Fish CreekRichard Gotfried defeated Myles McDougall to become the PC candidate. The constituency is currently represented by Wildrose MLA Heather Forsyth, who is not seeking re-election.

Calgary-Foothills: Electrical engineer Ali Bin Zahid is seeking the Liberal nomination to run against Premier Jim Prentice in the next election.

Calgary-Glenmore: David Waddington is the nominated Liberal Party candidate.

Calgary-Hawkwood: Beth Barberee has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.

Calgary-McCall: Realtor Avinash Khangura is seeking the Liberal nomination. The constituency is currently represented by Liberal MLA Darshan Kang, who is now the federal Liberal candidate in the Calgary-Skyview constituency.

Stephanie McLean NDP Calgary Varsity

Stephanie McLean

Calgary-Mountain View: Former MLA Mark Hlady defeated Mr. Prentice’s former Chief of Staff Jean-Sebastien Rioux and Lynn Moen in the PC nomination. Mr. Hlady was the MLA from 1993 until 2004, when he was unseated by the current Liberal MLA, David Swann.

Calgary-North West: First-term PC MLA and former cabinet minister Sandra Jansen defeated past city council candidate Blair Houston in the PC nomination.

Calgary-Varsity: Stephanie McLean was nominated as the NDP candidate in this northwest Calgary constituency. Ms. McLean was the NDP candidate in the recent Calgary-Elbow by-election and is also her party’s federally nominated candidate in Calgary-Confederation. Paramedic Pete Helfrich is the nominated Liberal Party candidate. Mr. Helfrich ran for the Liberals in Banff-Cochrane in the 2012 election.

Jamie Lall PC Chestermere Rocky View

Jamie Lall

Chestermere-Rockyview: Jamie Lall is challenging Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Bruce McAllister for the PC nomination. Mr. Lall was his party’s 2012 candidate in the Calgary-Buffalo constituency.

Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview: First-term NDP MLA Deron Bilous has been acclaimed as his party’s candidate in the next election.

Edmonton-Calder: Ministerial Chief of Staff Tom Bradley has been acclaimed as the PC candidate in this northeast Edmonton constituency current represented by NDP MLA David Eggen. Mr. Bradley is currently the Chief of Staff to Infrastructure Minister Manmeet Bhullar and also served as Base Commander for CFB Edmonton from 2009 to 2011 and Chief of Operations for Task Force Kandahar in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2008.

Chris Labossiere Edmonton Rutherford PC MLA

Chris Labossiere

Edmonton-MeadowlarkSteve Benson is challenging former Globe & Mail reporter Katherine O’Neill for the PC nomination. Former Catholic School District Trustee Debbie Cavaliere is said to been collecting signatures to contest the Liberal nomination. In 2008, Ms. Cavaliere challenged Raj Sherman in the Meadowlark PC nomination contest before withdrawing, switching parties and unsuccessfully running against him in that year’s election as the Liberal candidate. Dr. Sherman, who joined the Liberals in 2011 after becoming leader, is not seeking re-election.

Edmonton-Rutherford: Businessman and Edmonton enthusiast Chris Labossiere will face management consultant Grant Mann for the PC nomination. Mr. Labossiere has earned the endorsements of City Councillor Michael Walters, public school trustee Michael Janz, former Premier Dave Hancock, Edmonton Economic Development Corp. CEO Brad Ferguson and Poppy Barley CEO Kendall Barber, among others.

Rachel Notley Edmonton MLA Strathcona NDP

Rachel Notley

Edmonton-Strathcona: NDP leader Rachel Notley has been acclaimed as her party’s candidate in the next election. Former NDP MP Olivia Chow is scheduled to speak at Ms. Notley’s nomination meeting on March 1, 2015.

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo: Tracy McKinnon, chairperson of the Fort McMurray Catholic School District, is challenging first-term PC MLA Mike Allen for that party’s nomination. Mr. Allen achieved national notoriety in 2013 when he was charged in a prostitution sting while on government-funded trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota. He pleaded guilty to the charge in December 2013 and paid a $500 fine and court costs. Following the incident, he sat as an Independent MLA until July 2014, when PC MLAs voted to allow him to rejoin the Government Caucus.

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith

Highwood: Wildrose leader-turned-PC MLA Danielle Smith will face Okotoks town councillor Carrie Fischer in the PC nomination contest. Joel Windsor is running for the Alberta Party.

Medicine Hat: Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Blake Pedersen defeated former city councillor John Hamill and realtor Jeff Lanigan. Mr. Pedersen faced harsh criticism form his opponents in a recent nomination debate. “I will die on my sword before I cross the floor… people who cross the floor have no honour,” Mr. Hamill said of Mr. Pedersen.

Dustin Nau and local radio personality Val Olson are running for Wildrose nomination in Medicine Hat. Mr. Nau was his party’s 2012 election candidate in Calgary-Foothills.

Peace River: Debbie Jabbour is seeking the NDP nomination.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Tammy Cote defeated former Lacombe County Reeve Terry Engan in the PC nomination contest. Ms. Cote is the grand-niece of former PC MLA and lieutenant-governor Helen Hunley.

Spruce Grove-St. Albert: Rus Matichuk defeated former St. Albert city councillor Neil Kortash and government spokesperson Kathleen Range to become the PC candidate. The constituency was formerly represented by former Finance Minister Doug Horner, who resigned as MLA on Jan. 31, 2015.

Seven more PC MLAs have been acclaimed, bringing the total number of acclaimed PC candidates to 39: Moe Amery in Calgary-East, Dave Rodney in Calgary-Lougheed, David Dorward in Edmonton-Gold Bar, Steve Young in Edmonton-Riverview, Jacquie Fenske in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, Greg Weadick in Lethbridge-West and Richard Starke in Vermilion-Lloydminster.


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.

4 ways out of the PC leadership crisis

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The increasingly public struggle between Premier Alison Redford and a group of disgruntled MLAs in the Progressive Conservative Party continues this week.

Following Monday’s announcement by Calgary-Varsity PC MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans that she would sit as an Independent MLA, two more PC MLAs are publicly considering leaving.

Matt Jeneroux MLA Edmonton South West

Matt Jeneroux

Edmonton-South West PC MLA Matt Jeneroux mused that he is “taking time to reflect” about whether he should remain in the government caucus. Edmonton-Riverview MLA Steve Young, already , is also considering leaving the PC caucus.

Government House leader Robin Campbell says that PC MLAs are free to speak their mind. But the lack of discipline in the caucus suggests the real reason is that any attempt to silence the disgruntled MLAs could lead to a mass departure from the government caucus.

At a press conference held yesterday afternoon, party president Jim McCormick gave a luke-warm support for Ms. Redford’s leadership. Mr. McCormick also sent an email to PC Party supporters, explaining that the “work plan” issued to the premier last weekend does not exist on paper. There is no plan.

Meanwhile, Lougheed-era cabinet minister Allan Warrack has added his name to the list of Tories calling on the premier to resign.

With the current situation in flux, here are four possible scenarios that could play out over the next few weeks:

Redford resigns – Pressure from her caucus and party results in Ms. Redford resigning as Premier of Alberta and leader of the PC Party. The disgruntled MLAs remain in the government caucus. An interim premier, possibly Deputy Premier Dave Hancock, is appointed and a leadership contest is scheduled. MLAs hope that a new leader can reinvent and reenergize their aging party before the next election.

Redford stays, more MLAs leave – Ms. Redford and her loyalists resist the pressure from disgruntled MLAs and supporters calling for the premier’s resignation. Some of the ten MLAs, possibly as many as ten, leave the PC caucus to sit as Independent MLAs, causing a severe rift in the party and the caucus.

Kumbaya” – The disgruntled MLAs resolve their issues with Ms. Redford and she pledges to change her leadership style in order to improve her relationship with her caucus and party. The Tory dynasty continues as peace and harmony is returned to the government benches.

Conflict continues – Ms. Redford refuses to resign and the disgruntled MLAs continue to voice their discontent with the premier’s leadership style. The party and caucus are torn apart in the political fight. Wildrose leader Danielle Smith rejoices and leads her party to win the 2016 election.

That sinking feeling. More problems for the Redford Tories

Alison Redford Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership party sinking shipBlasting the culture of entitlement that has engulfed the 43-year governing Progressive Conservative Party, Calgary-Varsity MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans announced on Monday that she was leaving the government caucus to sit as an Independent MLA. Ms. Kennedy-Glans is the second MLA to leave the PC caucus this month, but unlike the departure of Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber, she did not have a well-known history of dissatisfaction with the party’s leadership.

Donna Kennedy Glans MLA Calgary Varsity Independent

Donna Kennedy-Glans

Since being elected, however, and particularly since joining Cabinet, I am increasingly convinced that elements of this 43-year old government are simply unable to make the changes needed to achieve that dream of a better Alberta. – Donna Kennedy-Glans

The now-former Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy was a star PC candidate in the 2012 election, and was seen as a rising star within the caucus. A former vice-president of Nexen, Ms. Kennedy-Glans decision to leave the PC caucus carries a significant amount of weight in Calgary’s corporate oil establishment, and her departure is a blow to Ms. Redford’s party.

Hoping to ease the turmoil amid calls for the premier’s resignation and the threat of an MLA revolt, senior PC Party officials gathered in Calgary last weekend and imposed an ambiguous “work plan” on Ms. Redford, essentially putting their leader on probation two years before the next election. A strange move, this action is hardly a vote of confidence in Ms. Redford’s leadership.

The “work plan” apparently did little to appease a group of ten disgruntled PC MLAs, who met in Edmonton on Sunday to discuss their next steps. According to CBC, the ten MLAs at the meeting were Moe Amery, Neil Brown, Ken Lemke, Jacquie Fenske, Mary Anne Jablonski, Matt Jeneroux, Cathy Olesen, Janice SarichDavid Xiao, and Steve Young.

Premier Alison Redford

Alison Redford

Over the past 43 years, the PC Party has survived, and dominated, by reinventing itself with each new leader. As such, the PC Party has transformed drastically since the principled Peter Lougheed first led it to victory in 1971. Tied to its current unpopular leadership, the PC Party faces a serious identity crisis, but the crisis is deeper than its current leader. As a natural governing party for more than four decades, the PC Party in 2014 has become tired, arrogant and absent of real principles.

Albertans have an overwhelmingly low opinion of Ms. Redford’s character and they are scratching their heads wondering why the party has not yet compelled her to resign. Her aloof reaction to scandals over her personal use of government planes and travel expenses have overshadowed the government’s entire agenda over the past two months.

The PC Party had an opportunity to send Ms. Redford packing last year, when instead they handed her  a 77% approval vote in her leadership review.

Now left with no official mechanism to remove her as leader, her opponents and her potential successors are forced to use eagerly using more public and more embarrassing methods to pressure Ms. Redford to resign. 

Update: This morning on CBC Edmonton AM, Edmonton-South West PC MLA Matt Jeneroux mused that he is “taking time to reflect” about whether he should remain in the government caucus.

$45000 trip has serious political costs for Redford

Alison Redford Joe Clark Nelson Mandela Alberta Funeral

Former Prime Minister Joe Clark and Premier Alison Redford at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa (photo from Premier Alison Redford’s Facebook Page)

After spending two months avoiding having to pay the costs of her $45,000 trip to South Africa, Premier Alison Redford called a press conference late yesterday to announce she would reimburse the government for costs of sending herself and her executive assistant Brad Stables to South Africa in December 2013.

Despite attempts to ignore the issue, Ms. Redford has been unable to escape criticism about her travel expenses and questionable use of government airplanes, including trips from Palm Springs and allegedly to attend a political fundraiser in Grande Prairie.

Len Webber MLA

Len Webber

Ms. Redford argued that because she had apologized for the cost of the South Africa trip, Albertans were ready to forgive her, even if she did not repay the cost. Recent polls showing the premier with a 20% approval rating suggested otherwise.

Responding to their leader’s dwindling popularity, Progressive Conservative MLAs have pushed back. Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber announced today that he was leaving the PC caucus to sit as an Independent, citing Ms. Redford’s record as the reason for his departure. There is little love between the premier and this MLA, who is currently campaigning to become the federal Conservative candidate in Calgary-Confederation.

“I hope this will be a catalyst, a domino effect and that others will follow to have the premier gone,” Mr. Webber told the Calgary Herald.

Edmonton PC MLAs Steve Young and David Xiao also openly criticizedMs. Redford for her refusal to pay for her travel costs.

Rumours about disgruntled MLAs have been circulating for months, but today, news reports suggest that up to 18 or 20 PC MLAs were ready to revolt against the premier. Feeding these rumours was the noticeable absence of Labour minister Thomas Lukaszuk from this week’s big LRT funding announcement, at which he was the only Edmonton-area PC MLA not in attendance.

Christine Cusanelli MLA

Christine Cusanelli

Feeding the unrest is the obvious double standard Ms. Redford held between herself and her party’s MLAs. More than a few PC MLAs were insulted by Ms. Redford’s decision during the last election to force them to pay out of pocket for payments received from the infamous no-meet committee. And in February 2013, Ms. Redford fired Calgary MLA Christine Cusanelli from cabinet after another travel expenses scandal, even though she had immediately repaid the cost before the story became public.

Ms. Redford’s own MLAs may be more eager to see her depart than the opposition. While Wildrose leader Danielle Smith is never hesitant to criticize Ms. Redford, her party is hoping the premier’s scandals will cause irreparable damage to the PC Party brand before the next election. A new leader would force the opposition to build a new strategy and the give the PC Party an opportunity to reinvent itself before the 2016 election.

Will paying the costs of the South Africa trip be enough to save Ms. Redford’s political career? It might, but it also might also be too little, too late. Albertans will applaud her decision to pay back the costs of this trip, but they might not easily forget how much pressure it took to convince Ms. Redford to write the cheque.

Albertans defend modest pensions, Redford staff defend Palm Springs flight

Rally for Pensions Alberta

Close to 2,000 Albertans gathered in Churchill Square on March 2, 2014 to rally for secure public sector pensions.

About 2,000 Albertans from every corner of the province braved the -33C windchill yesterday to defend their modest pension plans at a rally in Edmonton’s Churchill Square. Many municipal and provincial employees are concerned that Finance minister Doug Horner‘s proposed changes to Alberta’s public sector pension plans could impact their retirement security.

David Eggen Deron Bilous NDP MLA Alberta

NDP MLAs Deron Bilous and David Eggen show their support at yesterday’s rally.

Despite rhetoric about ‘gold-plated pension plans,’ the average full pension under the Local Authorities Pension Plan is only $15,000 per year.

Meanwhile, Premier Alison Redford is facing questions about another taxpayer funded flight on a government plane, this time from sunny Palm Springs, California.

After receiving a tip about a suspicious record in the Alberta Government Flight Manifests, I asked Ms. Redford on Twitter why a government plane flew empty to Palm Springs and returned to Calgary with her, her daughter and two members of her security detail onboard in April 2013.

David Climenhaga Laurie Blakeman Liberal Alberta MLA

Blogger David Climenhaga and Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman at yesterday’s rally.

Ms. Redford did not respond to my tweet, but her communications director Stefan Baranski did. He explained that the flight brought the premier back to Alberta from her vacation home in order to attend former premier Ralph Klein‘s memorial service.

While the cost of the $9,200 flight to and from Palm Springs is not as salacious as Ms. Redford’s $45,000 flight to South Africa, it is unclear why the premier did not return to Alberta on one of the many commercial flights available in the six days before the memorial service.

Both the Calgary Herald’s Don Braid and the Calgary Sun’s Rick Bell have penned articles in response to Ms. Redford’s Palm Springs flight.

Here’s the original tweet I sent on February 27, 2014:

Speech from the Throne & Budget
A Speech from the Throne will open the spring sitting of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly today at 3:00 p.m. The 2014 provincial budget will be tabled by Mr. Horner on the afternoon of Thursday, March 6.

NDP to nominate the first candidate of the 2016 election
As was first reported last week on this blog, the Alberta NDP will hold a candidate nomination meeting on March 4 in the Edmonton-Riverview constituency. The NDP are expected to nominate Lori Sigurdson, manager of professional affairs with the Alberta College of Social Workers, as their candidate. The constituency is currently represented by PC MLA Steve Young.

Will MLA Steve Young survive the PC caucus?

Steve Young, Edmonton-Riverview PC MLA

Steve Young

When former cop Steve Young was elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Riverview, it was considered to be a huge coup for the Progressive Conservatives. With Mr. Young as their candidate, the Tories succeeded in scooping the traditionally Liberal voting constituency previously represented by popular MLA Kevin Taft.

All indications suggest that Mr. Young has worked hard in his constituency since this election and most people who have met him, including this writer, will agree that he is a nice guy. And he had a bright political career ahead of him.

But as an MLA, and during his time as the Government Whip, he has been of mixed value to the governing Tories. Sometimes he has even been a source of embarrassment for the government.

Despite speculation he might be removed from the PC caucus after publicly criticizing Premier Alison Redford for her $45,000 trip to South Africa, he walked away from last weekend’s caucus meeting with his membership in tact.

The CBC reported this week that Mr. Young was under investigation by the RCMP while he was the PC candidate in the 2012 election. The CBC report stated that he “did not publicly disclose the criminal investigation and he also refused to cooperate with the RCMP after he resigned from the Edmonton Police Service.”

According to the CBC, the RCMP investigated Mr. Young’s and other officers involvement in the release of private information about a young offender as part of a public relations campaign. The young offender recently filed a lawsuit against Mr. Young and his former colleagues.

Mr. Young was criticized for his handling of a confusion confrontation between PC MLAs and Ms. Redford after the group of backbenchers on an MLA committee voted to recreate the MLA transition allowances that the premier publicly cancelled during the 2012 election.

As Government Whip, he helped Ms. Redford deal with the unrest in the PC caucus, but in December 2013, the premier  suddenly dropped him from cabinet before he was even officially appointed.

One week after announcing that Mr. Young would  serve as the Associate Minister for Public Safety, he was quietly removed from the list of ministers at the swearing-in ceremony. It was later suggested that he was dropped from cabinet because his involvement in an incident and investigation involving a taser during his time as a police officer.

He briefly made headlines during last year’s mayoral election after an unfortunately planned mayor forum was cancelled when it became clear that it was part of a fundraiser for Mr. Young’s Edmonton-Riverview PC association.

With the recent news reports about the RCMP investigation during the last election,  can Ms. Redford can allow Mr. Young to remain as part of the government? His criticism of Ms. Redford’s lavish travel costs may have bought him some time, but, according to one political insider, his opponents are already building a case to have him ejected from the PC caucus.

NDP to nominate Riverview candidate next week

Next week, the Alberta New Democrats are expected to nominate Lori Sigurdson as their candidate in Edmonton-Riverview for the 2016 election. As their first officially nominated candidate, the NDP hope the early start will help them build on their strong third-place finish in the last election (where Ms. Sigurdson tripled her party’s support in the constituency). With Mr. Young providing more ammunition for his election opponents each day, the NDP (and the Liberals) will have plenty of ammunition to use over the next two years.

Fresh meat and Alberta politics

House of Cards

Words of advice from fictional Vice-President Frank Underwood.

Fresh meat
Last week, he was publicly criticizing Premier Alison Redford for her  over-priced $45,000 trip to South Africa (see below) and faced a threat of expulsion from the Progressive Conservative caucus. This week, coincidentally, Edmonton-Riverview PC MLA Steve Young faces a new set of revelations dating back to his time as a Sergeant with the Edmonton Police Service (EPS).

Last week, an RCMP spokesperson told the Edmonton Journal’s Paula Simons that they had never conducted a criminal investigation into the decision by the EPS, including Mr. Young, related to the release information about an alleged young offender. This week, the CBC revealed that the RCMP conducted a year-long investigation related to the incident.

The $45,000 trip to South Africa
It’s the story that won’t disappear. People across Alberta shook their heads in disbelief when they learned the government spent $45,000 to send Ms. Redford and her executive assistant, Brad Stables, to attend Nelson Mandela‘s funeral in South Africa. Bringing Mr. Stables added an estimated $20,000 to the cost. It is unclear why he was required to travel with Ms. Redford to South Africa.  Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil made the same trip for less than $1,000. He did not require an executive assistant to accompany him.

Pension changes decreed
Finance minister Doug Horner is proposing significant changes to the province’s public pension plans, which could impact the retirement security of hundreds of thousands of Albertans. But you wouldn’t have read about it in the last election. The 2012 PC Party platform, “Alberta by Design,” does not once mention the word “pension.”

A report from Auditor General Merwan Saher this month chastised the government for not properly consulting with stakeholders about the proposed changes that will impact their members. The Local Authorities Pension Plan board has not endorsed Mr. Horner’s proposed changes.

Anti-labour law blocked by the courts
Court of Queen’s Bench Mr. Justice Denny Thomas issued an injunction halting the Redford government’s controversial Bill 46. Rammed through the Assembly in December 2013, the anti-labour law allowed the Tories to circumvent a neutral arbitration process which could have awarded fair salary increase for public sector employees. Bill 46 would have imposed a salary freeze. Advanced Education minister Dave Hancock said the government will appeal the court’s decision.

Grain and trains
Without a single-desk wheat board to coordinate grain sales, transport logistics and the use of port terminal facilities, Alberta’s grain farmers are at the mercy of Canada’s railway corporations.

“Today starts a new era in marketing for farmers,” Agriculture minister Verlyn Olson boasted in a press released in August 2012, as the federal government dismantled the Canadian Wheat Board. This week, Mr. Olson claimed he would push for greater rail system accountability.

The Wildrose opposition has been equally enthusiastic about the Canadian Wheat Board’s demise (one of its MLAs, Rick Strankman, was once charged for violating the board). But not to be outdone by Mr. Olson, Wildrose MLAs Shayne Saskiw and Drew Barnes are now hosting town hall meetings from Streamstown to Spirit River about the challenges of individual farmers are facing dealing with the large railway corporations.

A dozen Alberta MLAs worth watching in 2014

Alberta MLAs to watch in 2014: Manmeet Bhullar, Deron Bilous, Kent Hehr, Fred Horne, Doug Horner, Ken Hughes, Thomas Lukaszuk, Diana McQueen, Shayne Saskiw, Kerry Towle, Len Webber, Steve Youg.

Alberta MLAs to watch in 2014: Manmeet Bhullar, Deron Bilous, Kent Hehr, Fred Horne, Doug Horner, Ken Hughes, Thomas Lukaszuk, Diana McQueen, Shayne Saskiw, Kerry Towle, Len Webber, Steve Young.

Because politics are unpredictable, forecasting the future can be a tricky business for pundits, but here is a list of a dozen Alberta MLAs worth watching in 2014.

Manmeet Bhullar (Calgary-Greenway): An up and comer in the PC ranks, Mr. Bhullar was rewarded for his time as the competent Service Alberta minister with an appointment as the minister of the downsized Human Services department. Tasked with the difficult challenge of spinning hundreds of foster care deaths into a positive story for the government, Mr. Bhuller is already on his way to becoming a media darling.

Deron Bilous (Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview): A rising star in the 4 member NDP caucus, the 38 year old first-term MLA has proven himself to be a well-spoken addition to the opposition benches. Entering his second year in the Assembly, Mr. Bilous could become a more prominent public face for his party. It is no surprise that he is continually named by New Democrats as a future leader of Alberta’s tiny and scrappy social democratic party.

Kent Hehr (Calgary-Buffalo): Serving his second-term as the MLA representing downtown Calgary, the talented Mr. Hehr is faced with a difficult question: are his political talents best served by sticking with the stuck-in-the-mud Liberal Party? His 2012 guest post on this blog supporting cooperation by centre-left parties caused a stir but was quickly shot down by his party’s leadership. With Alberta’s five Liberal MLAs acting more like a group of independents who share office space than representatives of a unified political movement, I wouldn’t be shocked if Mr. Hehr considers his alternatives in 2014.

Doug Horner (Spruce Grove-St. Albert): As Alberta’s Finance minister, Mr. Horner is tasked to deliver the Redford Government’s 2014 budget. An already expected budget deficit will be intensified as the government directs billions of dollars towards fixing the damage caused by last summer’s floods in southern Alberta. His future leadership aspirations could be at risk as he tries to balance funding for public programs with pressure from the conservative right to cut spending in Canada’s wealthiest province.

Fred Horne (Edmonton-Rutherford): As Health minister, Mr. Horne has imposed drastic administrative changes in Alberta Health Services, including firing the entire AHS board of directors and overseeing the departure of two consecutive AHS CEOs. Confusion inside the health care system has intensified as he continues to assert more political control over the province-wide health authority. It remains unclear what Mr. Horne’s new political control means for AHS. Maybe Albertans will find out in 2014?

Ken Hughes (Calgary-West): A close confident of Alison Redford, the former Energy minister was shuffled to Municipal Affairs to quell conflict created by the previous minister with rural leaders and Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi. Having returned to electoral politics in 2012 after a 19 year hiatus (he served as the PC MP for Macleod from 1988 to 1993), he faces the challenge of fulfilling the province’s promise to create special big city charters for Calgary and Edmonton.

Thomas Lukaszuk (Edmonton-Castle Downs): As deputy premier and Advanced Education minister during last year’s budget cuts, Mr. Lukaszuk became the Redford government’s most recognizable face in the media. Now as Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour, he occupies a role that will see him undoubtably clash with the province’s public service unions. Two unions have already launched court challenges against the province’s new anti-labour laws. This likely will not stop the rumours that Mr. Lukaszuk hopes to one day become his party’s next leader and the next Premier of Alberta.

Diana McQueen (Drayton Valley-Devon): After serving as Alberta’s Environment minister (also known as the junior Energy minister), Ms. McQueen should be well versed in the portfolio she was appointed to in December’s cabinet shuffle. Some political watchers are skeptical of her ability to handle the all-important energy file and face upcoming debates on climate change and oilsands pipelines. Can she handle the pressure?

Shayne Saskiw (Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills): Rising star in the Wildrose official opposition and a potential future leader if Danielle Smith does not lead her party to victory in 2016. The young lawyer from rural Alberta is articulate and partisan, which I anticipate will lead him to play an even more prominent role in the opposition over the next year.

Kerry Towle (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake): A tough and outspoken critic of the government, Ms. Towle has become a familiar face of the Wildrose official opposition. As human services critic, she will face-off against Mr. Bhullar in the next session of the Assembly, which could be an entertaining pairing to watch.  A good spokesperson and only one of three women in her party’s 17 MLA caucus, she could play a key role in softening her party’s hard-edged conservative reputation.

Len Webber (Calgary-Foothills): The former cabinet minister was shuffled to the backbenches after Ms. Redford became leader of the PC Party. With half of his PC MLA colleagues now sitting in some type of cabinet seat, you have to wonder what Mr. Webber did to deserve his permanent banishment. The government praised his private members bill to create an agency to coordinate organ and tissue donations, but will that be enough to keep him in the PC fold? Rumour has it that he is eyeing a federal Conservative nomination for the 2015 election.

Steve Young (Edmonton-Riverview): Wronged by the premier and cast to the backbenches before he could officially enter a cabinet position he had been promised, Mr. Young’s future role in the PC caucus could be interesting. As a member of the conservative wing of the PC Party, he could cause trouble for the PC establishment in the backbenches. Elected to represent a traditionally Liberal-voting constituency that has been hit hard by university budget cuts, he could be vulnerable in the next election, which is why I don’t expect him to sit quietly for the next two years.

(This post was inspired by A dozen federal MPs worth watching in 2014, published by the Canadian Press)

Redford’s Christmas cabinet shuffle

Premier Alison Redford Cabinet Alberta

Premier Alison Redford announced a new cabinet late this afternoon.

As reported yesterday on this blog, rumours that Ms. Redford would shuffle her cabinet before the Christmas break began to intensify this week. Today, those rumours proved to be true.

Built around the government’s “Building Alberta” slogan, today’s Government of Alberta press release boasts a new cabinet that will focus on “innovation and economic growth.” And it signals a growth in numbers of Ms. Redford’s cabinet as well. The size of the cabinet will now be 30 MLAs, up from 27 MLAs in the previous cabinet. There are a total of 59 MLAs in the Progressive Conservative caucus.

Here is a description of some major changes in Alberta’s provincial cabinet:

Dave Hancock MLA Edmonton-Whitemud

Dave Hancock

Dave Hancock: Appointed Deputy Premier and moved from Human Services to Innovation and Advanced Education. Moving Mr. Hancock back to the Advanced Education portfolio he filled from 2004 to 2006 likely signals that Ms. Redford recognizes the need to repair the damage done to Alberta’s colleges and universities under its previous minister. The deep budget cuts imposed by Ms. Redford’s government in 2012 damaged both the post-secondary education system and the government’s relationship the leaders in that system. A well-known policy wonk and party loyalist, Mr. Hancock will be tasked with smoothing over those hard feelings.

Thomas Lukaszuk: The bull-dog of the Progressive Conservative caucus lost his Deputy Premier title and is moved from Enterprise & Advanced Education to a new Jobs, Skills, Training, and Labour portfolio. As Ms. Redford’s ‘heavy-hand’ in cabinet, it is likely that Mr. Lukaszuk will be tasked with imposing controversial new laws on Alberta’s public sector unions.

Manmeet Bhullar

Manmeet Bhullar

Manmeet Bhullar: Moved from Service Alberta to Human Services. This is a big promotion, as Human Services is a large ministry that represents a multitude of components of government services. Mr. Bhullar performed well as Minister of Service Alberta, but this portfolio will present a significant challenge to the new minister.

Diana McQueen: Moved from Environment & Sustainable Resource Development to Energy. With an increased focus on the government’s agenda to support the Keystone XL, Enbridge Northern Gateway and Energy East pipelines, the capable Ms. McQueen is well-armed with arguments to use in advocating for these projects in Canada and the United States.

Robin Campbell: Moved from Aboriginal Relations to Environment & Sustainable Resource Development, a high-profile position which is closely linked with the Energy portfolio. He is also now the Government House leader, a role that has been filled by Mr. Hancock for quite some time.

Doug Griffiths

Doug Griffiths

Doug Griffiths: Demoted from Municipal Affairs to Service Alberta. As Municipal Affairs Minister, Mr. Griffiths stumbled through the high profile items in his portfolio, making his demotion almost inevitable. As minister of the tiny Service Alberta department, Mr. Griffiths will have less chance to embarrass the government and an opportunity to redeem himself in cabinet.

Ken Hughes: Moved from Energy to Municipal Affairs. While this move could easily be seen as a demotion, Mr. Hughes, a trusted confident of Ms. Redford’s, will have an important role in repairing the provincial government’s strained relationship with its municipal leaders – both in the large cities and rural municipalities.

Frank Oberle: Promoted from Associate Minister of Services for Persons with Disabilities to a full-cabinet position as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. Mr. Oberle previously served as Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security and Minister of Sustainable Resource Development.

Wayne Drysdale: Moved from Infrastructure to Transportation, replacing Ric McIver.

Ric McIver: Moved from Transportation to Infrastructure, replacing Wayne Drysdale.

Steve Young: Left his position as Government Whip to become Associate Minister of Public Safety, a new position.

Donna Kennedy-Glans: Departed the backbenchers to become Associate Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy, a new position.

George VanderBurg: Appointed the Government Whip. Lost his position as Associate Minister of Seniors. Mr. VanderBurg had previously served as Minister of Government Services, Minister of Seniors, and Acting Minister of Innovation and Science.

A curious addition to the list of cabinet positions in the press release included the Progressive Conservative Caucus Chair, Maureen Kubinec. This appears to be a new addition to the cabinet, though the release was unclear what role this MLA will have at the cabinet table, as there now only remain 29 PC MLAs not included in the list of cabinet positions.

PC Party tries to use mayor candidates as headliners for fundraiser

A screenshot from the Edmonton-Riverview PC Party website.

A screenshot from the Edmonton-Riverview PC Party website.

In a strange departure from the non-partisan politics of civic elections, it appeared for a moment today that three main candidates in Edmonton’s mayoral election were headlining a fundraiser for a Progressive Conservative Party constituency association. Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths was even slated as its host.

Once the event came to the attention of the general public, it appears to have fallen apart.

First, Mr. Griffiths withdrew from hosting the event, probably a wise move for a minister who will have to work with whichever candidate is elected. Then, mayoral candidate Don Iveson announced on Twitter that he was withdrawing from the forum. An organizer inside the Iveson campaign said a miscommunication led them to believe the candidate forum would  be separate of the fundraising program for the evening.

According to the Edmonton-Riverview PC Party website (see above for screenshot), mayoral candidates Kerry Diotte, Karen Leibovici and Mr. Iveson were to participate in a forum as part of a $150 per ticket fundraiser for the local PC Party association at the posh Mayfair Golf & Country Club on October 9. Visitors to the website are invited to fill out an online form to purchase tickets and receive a tax receipt for their political donation.

At the fundraiser candidates would be asked “How will the new Mayor get along with Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government?”

Outgoing mayor Stephen Mandel was critical of Premier Alison Redford‘s Tories after they implemented deep budget cuts to post-secondary institutions in this year’s provincial budget. The 2013/2014 provincial budget cut cut $147 million in funding to Alberta’s post-secondary education system. The budget cuts have forced colleges and universities across Alberta to cut staff, programs, and enrolment in order to deal with the financial shortfall.

Edmonton-Riverview is currently represented by PC MLA and Government Whip Steve Young, who was elected in last year’s election. The University of Alberta exists within the boundaries of Edmonton-Riverview and many academic staff live in the constituency.

It seems unusual that the candidates would agree to step into a partisan event in the middle of a non-partisan election campaign, but it may speak to how far each of the main three mayoral contenders  are willing to go to seek out potential voters.

Still, it is concerning to this political watcher that  the three candidates would be willing to have their names used as a  pitch for a provincial political party event. And not just any political party, the governing party.

While this could certainly raise the ire of partisans affiliated with the Wildrose, New Democrats and Liberals, after more than forty years on continuous PC Party majority governments, there is a reality that whoever gets elected will have to work with them for at least the next three years.

The Progressive Conservatives earned 40% of the vote in Edmonton and hold twelve of the capital city’s nineteen provincial constituencies (one former Tory, Edmonton-Manning MLA Peter Sandhu, now sits as an Independent). 

Update: Mr. Young announces the mayoral forum is now cancelled:

Ms. Leibovici’s campaign released the following, awkwardly worded, statement:

The only reason that we agreed to participate it because our opponents agreed to. We’re not participating. We will debate our opponents on the issues anywhere, anytime on any subject. We have more experience than they have because this election matters.

Alberta politics takes a negative turn online.

An unflattering photo of Danielle Smith in an image released online by the Premier's Communications Office.

An image released online by the Premier’s Communications Office.

MLA pay remains an uncomfortable issue for Alberta’s political leaders. Yesterday, MLA’s sitting on the Member Services Committee voted to freeze the annual cost-of-living increase to their salary and housing allowance ahead of provincial budget release on March 7, 2013.

“The rationale is clearly we want to lead by example,” Edmonton-Riverview Tory MLA Steve Young told the Edmonton Journal.

The decision to freeze MLA pay happens as rhetoric about politician and doctor pay has reached an all-time high (though the conflict is really about control).

A Wildrose image picturing Premier Alison Redford in a less than flattering light.

A Wildrose image picturing Premier Alison Redford in a less than flattering light.

Yesterday’s pay vote also resulted in more online mudslinging on Twitter’s #ableg hashtag, though this time from an unexpected source.

The Twitter account operated by Premier Alison Redford‘s Communications Staff  – @ABPremierComms – tweeted an image featuring an incredibly unflattering photo of Wildrose leader Danielle Smith with a quote she made at a meeting on June 7, 2012 (see image at the top of this post).

While distasteful, the reaction from the Premier’s Office is not unprovoked.

Over the past year, the official opposition Wildrose Caucus has released numerous images and info-graphics on Twitter and Facebook filled with harsh criticisms and unflattering photos of Premier Redford.

The harsh negative politics and aggressive use of images and info-graphics has helped the Wildrose Party cultivate a significant online following, who have helped spread their message through social media.