Tag Archives: Sue Huff

Janet Keeping Rachel Notley Laurie Blakeman Women MLA Alberta

Candidate nomination update on International Women’s Day

In recognition of International Women’s Day, today’s candidate update focuses specifically on the total number of women nominated to run for Alberta’s political parties in the upcoming provincial election. Women make up the majority of our population, but they rarely come even close to being the majority in electoral politics.

Women in Alberta politics have accomplished a number of milestones in recent years, including the election of Alison Redford as our first female premier, but the total percentage of women elected to the Legislative Assembly has actually decreased since the late-1990s.

Alberta’s 2012 election was notable for many reasons, most notably because it marked the first time the two major parties were led by women – Progressive Conservative leader Ms. Redford and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith. Three years later, only one major party will be led into the 2015 spring election by a women – the New Democratic Party’s Rachel Notley. Wildrose Party interim leader Heather Forsyth, who has served as MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek since 1993, is not seeking re-election. The Green Party, with no MLAs in the Assembly, is led by Janet Keeping, who is nominated to run in Calgary-Foothills.

The Liberal and NDP have had women lead them in past elections – Pam Barrett led the NDP during the 1997 election and Nancy MacBeth led the Liberals in 2001 – and former Edmonton school trustee Sue Huff led the Alberta Party until 2011. Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Bettie Hewes became the first woman to lead a major political party when she served as interim leader of the Official Opposition in 1994.

There are currently 22 women MLAs serving in the Alberta Legislature (25%), down from a high-mark of 23 women MLAs (27%) in 1998. This number decreased upon Ms. Redford’s resignation in 2014, the percentage was still lower than 1998 because the total number of MLAs increased from 83 to 87 in 2012.

Only four of the twenty members of Jim Prentice‘s current cabinet are women.

The longest serving woman in the Assembly is Lesser Slave Lake PC MLA Pearl Calahasen, who was first elected in 1989 and has been acclaimed as her party’s candidate in the next election. First elected in 1997, Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman is the longest serving opposition MLA.

With the next election expected to be called in the next few weeks, Alberta’s political parties are still in the process of nominating candidates. Here is a look at how many women have been nominated so far by the five main parties.

The NDP, with a commitment to nominate a high percentage of women candidates, has so far chosen the most women candidates of the political parties contesting the 2015 election. By my count, the NDP has chosen 18 women out of 41 candidates (43%) already nominated or acclaimed. This is slightly less than the full NDP slate from the 2012 election, when that party nominated 40 women out of 87 candidates (45%).

The Progressive Conservatives have chosen 13 women out of the 58 candidates nominated to run in the next election (22%) as of today. In the last election, the PCs nominated 22 women in their slate of 87 candidates (25%), which was up slightly from 17 out of 83 candidates in the 2008 election (20%).

The Wildrose Party has nominated 33 candidates, 5 who are women (15%). In the last election, led by Ms. Smith, the Wildrose Party nominated 11 women in a slate of 87 candidates (12%).

The Liberal Party, with 12 candidates currently nominated, has nominated 2 women (16%). The Liberals saw a decrease of women candidates nominated in the 2012 election, down to 18 of 87 (20%) from 22 of 83 in 2008 (26%).

Five of the 17 candidates currently nominated by the Alberta Party are women (29%).

Number of women candidates by party

2015 election nominated/acclaimed (as of March 8, 2015)
NDP: 18 of 41 – 43%
Alberta Party: 5 of 17 – 29%
PC: 13 of 58 – 22%
Liberal: 2 of 12 – 16%
Wildrose: 5 of 33 – 15%

2012 election
NDP: 40 out of 87 – 45%
Alberta Party: 6 out of 21 – 28%
PC: 22 out of 87 – 25%
Liberal: 18 out of 87 – 20%
Wildrose: 11 out of 87 – 12%

2008 election
NDP: 38 out of 83 – 45%
Liberal: 22 out of 82 – 26%
PC: 17 out of 83 – 20%
Wildrose: 6 out of 61 – 9%

So long Liberalberta! Raj Sherman calls it quits.

March 2011, Independent MLA Raj Sherman stood with NDP leader Brian Mason, Alberta Party leader Sue Huff, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Liberal leader David Swann.

Calling for a public health care inquiry in March 2011, folk-hero Independent MLA Raj Sherman stood united with NDP leader Brian Mason, Alberta Party leader Sue Huff, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Liberal leader David Swann.

All four main political parties will have new leaders going into the next election after today’s announcement by Liberal leader Raj Sherman that he is resigning as leader and will not seek re-election as the MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.

Jim Prentice Premier Alberta

Jim Prentice

Like the Wildrose Party, who lost leader Danielle Smith and 10 other MLAs when they crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives in the final months of 2014, the Liberals will now need to find someone to lead them into the next election. Despite being less than three years from the last election, Premier Jim Prentice expected to trigger an election within weeks.

The Liberals will choose an interim party leader next weekend but the state of the party remains dire. Disorganization, low fundraising returns and a poor showing in four recent by-elections suggest the Liberals might have a difficult time surviving the next election. This is a scenario that likely pushed Dr Sherman to resign.

Hugh MacDonald MLA

Hugh MacDonald MLA

Rumour is that Dr. Sherman was facing considerable pressure from party constituency presidents and fellow MLAs to leave. Though it is not clear if the Liberal Party is in any better position without him as leader.

Elected as a PC MLA in 2008 and ejected in 2010, Dr. Sherman immediately enjoyed folk hero status as an Independent MLA for criticizing the PC Government’s record on health care. As an Independent, the former Tory toyed with joining all of the four opposition parties, but eventually used his status to help propel him to win the Liberal Party leadership in 2011, defeating party stalwarts Hugh MacDonald and Laurie Blakeman.

Laurie Blakeman MLA Edmonton Centre Liberal

Laurie Blakeman

His political capital as Alberta’s political folk hero was quickly diminished as the PCs used a narrowly focused health care inquiry to publicly discredit his claims. Internally, a very bizarre rebranding attempt confused and alienated many long-time party supporters (see Liberalberta Green).

As a health care advocate, he was a natural fit in the opposition benches. As a former Tory MLA, he was not the right fit to lead Alberta’s Liberal Party.

With such short notice before a potential spring election, who will replace Dr. Sherman as leader?

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

The soft-spoken and altruistic MLA from Calgary-Mountain View, David Swann, already served as leader from 2008 to 2011 and might be unlikely to step back into that role.

Party President Shelley Wark-Martyn is a former New Democratic Party MPP with cabinet experience in Ontario. Her profile in Alberta politics is extremely limited, but one Liberal organizer has suggested to me that she could be tapped as interim leader.

As the only remaining Liberal MLA who is running for re-election and has not already been leader, Ms. Blakeman is the obvious choice, if she wants it.

Rachel Notley Edmonton MLA Strathcona NDP

Rachel Notley

Alberta’s longest serving opposition MLA, Ms. Blakeman took centre stage in the 2014 fall session with Bill 202 and Bill 10, which sparked the debate about Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools. Over the course of the debate, she proved herself  to be the only opposition MLA who has been able to throw Mr. Prentice off balance and exposed a huge rift between moderates and social conservatives in the PC caucus. It was a strategy that could be hard to repeat.

In the not too distant past, the popular Edmonton-Centre MLA mused about joining the Alberta Party and many political observers suspect the NDP would welcome her with open arms if she choose to run under their banner.

The vacuum in the Liberal leadership is good news for the PC Party, Rachel Notley‘s New Democrats and the Alberta Party, who will try to offer Liberal voters a new home to park their votes. A weakened Liberal presence in Edmonton is a positive for the NDP, who will now no longer have the luxury of a conservative vote split between the PCs and Wildrose.

As I am sure Dr. Sherman and Dr. Swann would attest, being leader of the Liberal Party in Alberta is probably one of the least rewarding positions in provincial politics. And with an election quickly approaching, I do not envy the challenges faced by anyone willing to step into the role.


Three more PC MLAs announced on today that they will not be seeking re-election.

Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths
Red Deer-North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski
Calgary-Varsity MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans

Michael Walters, Ray Martin jump into the municipal election.

With much attention focused last week on Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel‘s harsh criticisms of the recent provincial budget, it may have been easy to miss news that candidates planning to seek election in this October’s municipal election are beginning to creep out of the woodwork.

Michael Walters

Michael Walters

Community organizer Michael Walters launched his campaign this weekend in Edmonton City Council’s Ward 10. The Ward is being vacated by two-term Councillor Don Iveson, who announced last year that he would not seek re-election in Ward 10. Mr. Walters was the Alberta Party candidate in Edmonton-Rutherford in the 2012 provincial election and has recently been involved in local initiatives to redevelop the near-abandoned Petrolia Mall in the Greenfield neighbourhood.

More than 200 people attended Mr. Walters’ campaign launch, including Ward 9 Councillor Bryan Anderson (who also recently announced his intentions to seek re-election), former Councillor Michael Phair, Edmonton-Riverview PC MLA Steven Young, former School Board Trustee Sue Huff, and past Liberal candidate Arif Khan.

Ray Martin Edmonton

Ray Martin

Speaking to a crowd of New Democrats gathered to celebrate his more than 30-year career in politics, former MLA Ray Martin announced his intention to seek election in Edmonton Public School Board’s Ward D in this October’s municipal elections. Ward D’s current Trustee, Dave Colburn, announced he will not seek re-election.

“Once again, Edmonton’s schools in the urban core are in the crosshairs of PC budget cuts.” said Mr. Martin said in a press release this morning. “It’s time for Edmontonians to stand up for these schools and neighbourhoods and I’ll be happy to take that fight to the board and to the PC government.”

If political candidates earned Air Miles for each time they ran in an election, Mr. Martin would be the New Democratic Party’s resident globetrotter. Having served as his party’s provincial leader and leader of the Official Opposition from 1984 to 1993, Mr. Martin has become his party’s most well-known standard bearer over the past thirty-years (at least).

First elected as MLA for Edmonton-Norwood from 1982 to 1993, Mr. Martin returned to provincial politics in 2004, serving as Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview‘s MLA until 2008. Between his times in provincial politics, Mr. Martin was an elected trustee representing Ward D and was a perennial federal NDP candidate in Edmonton. Most recently, Mr. Martin ran as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-East in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections and in Edmonton-Glenora in the 2012 provincial election.

Mimi Williams Edmonton

Mimi Williams

Writer and local activist Mimi Williams has announced her plans to challenge Councillor Tony Caterina in Ward 7 (Councillor Caterina is expected to seek re-election). A long-time NDP activist, Ms. Williams made her announcement at the NDP provincial council held last weekend in Edmonton. Her previous electoral experience includes runs for Edmonton Public School Board in 1995 and City Council in 1998, 2001, and 2004. Ms. Williams is expected to officially launch her campaign later this year.

Check out the updated list of Edmonton Election 2013 candidates for more.

is there any life left in the [alberta] party?

Sue Huff Dave Taylor Alberta Party

The Alberta Party's former Acting-Leader Sue Huff and MLA Dave Taylor on January 2011.

The only person to sit as an Alberta Party MLA in the Legislative Assembly, former Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor, published some thoughts on his website about the future of that party. Having decided to retire at the last election after two terms as a Liberal, Independent, and finally an Alberta Party MLA, Mr. Taylor is now suggesting his most recent party may want to rethink its existence as a partisan organization.

Mr. Taylor’s decision to criticize the Alberta Party as he leaves the political arena is not uncharacteristic and perhaps should have been expected. Not long after losing the Liberal Party leadership to MLA David Swann in 2008, Mr. Taylor burned many bridges by offering a brutal public critique of his opponent before leaving to sit as an Independent MLA.

Only two years after its reorganization as a new party, the Alberta Party did not do as well as many of its supporters and candidates had hoped it would in the recent election. This election gave that party its first opportunity to develop an electoral base of support, and though it resulted in a small base in a handful of constituencies, it is a critical long-term strategy for any political organization. Unlike the other parties, the stakes were low for the Alberta Party in 2012 because it had almost nothing to lose.

As a member of the Alberta Party and speaker at its founding policy convention, I feel the need to offer some thoughts on this topic.

I do not disagree with all of Mr. Taylor’s comments. Six months ago I expressed mixed-feelings about the direction that party was taking and reflected on some of its missed opportunities. In hindsight, it may be unlikely that party would have been able to take advantage of the opportunities for political gains that were presented.

The focus on the “Big Listen” process gave that party an opportunity to demonstrate what it was doing differently than the other parties, but it did not successfully articulate to the general public why this made them an alternative to the long-governing Tories. By simply defining itself as a moderate party, the Alberta Party deprived itself of any natural electoral base and positioned itself in an already highly competitive area on the political spectrum. Their message became even more difficult to articulate once the media narrative dominated by the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose Party was solidified.

I question Mr. Taylor’s suggestion that the PCs now embody what the Alberta Party stands for. Premier Alison Redford has certainly brought a new positive tone to her party’s leadership, but it is yet to be seen whether this “change from within” can be sustained for any substantial period of time within Alberta’s 41-year old institutional governing party.

With the PCs once again dominating the political centre, and the now former official opposition Liberals nearly decimated, should the Alberta Party, as Mr. Taylor suggests, take on a new role of a think-tank? Should it merge with another political party, like the Liberals? Or should it spend the next four years trying to position itself as an alternative for pragmatic centrists?

alberta election endorsements.

Over the course of the election campaign, I have identified candidates from all the political parties who would be good MLA’s in the next Legislature. Out of the group of more than 400 Albertans seeking office in the 2012 general election, I have chosen six candidates who I personally believe would make excellent additions to Alberta’s public life and I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically endorse.

Shannon Phillips in Lethbridge-West
Shannon Phillips is a dynamo who would bring new energy to the opposition benches as an MLA. With the two main conservative parties poised to sweep most of the province, the smart and politically savvy Ms. Phillips would bring a strong voice for her constituents on the floor of the Assembly.

Michael Walters in Edmonton-Rutherford
Michael Walters understands how to connect with and engage with large groups of people, which is a critical skill for anyone holding public office. As a seasoned community organizer and a quick learner, Mr. Walters’ would be a strong and refreshing voice to Alberta politics.

David Swann in Calgary-Mountain View
If you are troubled by the lack of honesty and integrity in politics, then David Swann is someone that you want in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly. Not a traditional politician, Dr. Swann is a voice of reason and calm in a political culture increasingly filled with blind partisanship.

David Eggen in Edmonton-Calder
From 2004 to 2008, David Eggen was one of the most effective opposition voices on the Assembly floor. Since 2008, he used the skills he honed in the opposition benches to become a strong defender of public medicare. He is a hard worker and Alberta politics will be better if Mr. Eggen returns to the Assembly.

Sue Huff in Edmonton-Glenora
Sue Huff provides a perfect example of how politics can be done differently in Alberta. As a trustee on Edmonton’s public school board, she maintained a positive tone while effectively advocating against the closure of core neighbourhood schools (a heated topic). As acting leader of the Alberta Party in 2011, she brought her positive tone to the provincial level. Hers is an effective voice that would bring a welcome change to the floor of the Assembly.

Ian Urquhart for Senate
Every few years in Alberta, we elect a non-elected position called a Senate Nominee (or Senator-in-Waiting). These elections have been held since the late 1980s in hopes that one day the appointed Upper House of Parliament in Ottawa will become elected. No matter what you believe about the Canadian Senate, this election is an opportunity to send a message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Ottawa Conservative Party that Albertans are not to be taken granted for. This is why I will be casting my ballot for Ian Urquhart.

A professor of political science at the University of Alberta, Dr. Urquhart was one of my favourite instructors during my time as a student. His candidacy gives political moderates and centre-left voters of all stripes an option other than refusing to vote or spoiling their Senate ballots at the polls.

predicting alberta’s election results.

We have received more than 100 entries for the joint Daveberta and CalgaryGrit Great Alberta Election pool and have entered these predictions into a state of the art spreadsheet to discover some interesting predictions for tomorrow’s vote.

Alberta Election Pool Seat Count Prediction Averages

Alberta election pool seat count prediction: Averages (from CalgaryGrit.ca)

The average of the seat count predictions would see Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party form a minority government with 42 of the 87 seats in the Assembly. The Progressive Conservatives would hold on to 37 (down from 72 in the 2008 election), the NDP would become the third largest party in the Assembly with 4 MLAs, and the Liberals would drop from 9 to 3 MLAs.

The average seat count prediction shows the Alberta Party electing one MLA, but the averages response to the question predicting that party’s best results in a constituency is 22%.

Who will be re-elected?

Most entrants predict that PC MLA Ted Morton will be defeated in Chestermere-Rockyview and that Premier Alison Redford will be re-elected in Calgary-Elbow. The entires were split on predicting whether Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman would be re-elected in Edmonton-Meadowlark.

MLA Hunsperger and Leech?

The entries also showed a signifiant split in predicting whether controversial Wildrose Party candidates Allan Hunsperger and Ron Leech would be elected tomorrow.

Edmonton-Glenora

More than 50% of entries predict that PC MLA Heather Klimchuk will be re-elected in hotly contested Edmonton-Glenora campaign. Predicting her opponents chances of winning, 21% chose NDP candidate Ray Martin, 17% chose Alberta Party candidate Sue Huff, 8% chose former Liberal MLA Bruce Miller, and 3% chose Wildrose candidate Don Koziak.

Highest Tory votes

Battle River-Wainwright (represented by PC MLA Doug Griffiths), Edmonton-Whitemud (represented by PC MLA Dave Hancock), Edmonton-South West, Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills (represented by PC MLA Ray Danyluk), Spruce Grove-St. Albert (represented by PC MLA Doug Horner), and Strathcona-Sherwood Park (represented by PC MLA Dave Quest) were the constituencies predicted to have the highest PC vote on election day.

The pool is still open for new participants until the polls open at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.

the great alberta election pool.

Alberta Legislative Assembly

Who will run the show after April 23?

On Monday, Albertans will go to the polls in what is already being dubbed a “historic” election. The outcome is uncertain, so why not gaze into your crystal ball and enter the Daveberta and CalgaryGrit election pool. It is simple enough – predict the seat totals for each party and answer 10 bonus questions. Everyone gets 87 points minus one point for each seat you are off per party, plus two points per correct bonus question.

Robert Vollman has generously donated the following political book prize packs (shipping extra, unless we can arrange a pick-up in Calgary, Edmonton, or Toronto):

1. The Bill of Rights package: One Canada (Diefenbaker), Memoirs (Trudeau)
2. The Preston Manning package: Thinking Big, The New Canada and Roots of Reform
3. The Jean Chretien package: The Friendly Dictatorship, Straight From the Heart
4. The Federalists package: A Nation Too Good to Lose (Joe Clark), Fighting for Canada (Diane Francis)
5. The Obscure Package: The Betrayal of Canada (Mel Hurtig), Navigating a New World (Lloyd Axworthy)

First choice goes to the overall winner, with the winners of the seat prediction portion and the bonus question portion also winning a book pack. So even if you are an Ontarian, like my friend Dan, with no clue what a “Ted Morton” is, never mind if he’ll win his seat, you can skip the bonus questions and still be eligible for the prizes, based on a shot-in-dark seat prediction.

Contest will close as soon as the polls open Monday. Please paste your entry in the comments here or at CalgaryGrit, or e-mail your picks in to david.cournoyer@gmail.com.

Election Results Questions

Number of MLAs elected by each party (total: 87 MLAs)

Alberta Party:
Liberal:
NDP:
PC:
Wildrose:
Other:

Bonus Question

1. The constituency where the PC candidate will earn their highest percentage of the popular vote:
(2008 results here; candidate list here; top ridings last time: Vermilion-Lloydminster (Lloyd Snelgrove – not running), Battle River-Wainwright (Doug Griffiths), Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville (Ed Stelmach – not running), Bonnyville-Cold Lake (Genia Leskiw), Strathmore-Brooks (Arno Doerksen), Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills (Ray Danyluk))

2. Will PC MLA Ted Morton be re-elected in Chestermere-Rockyview?
(Morton won with 57% of the vote last time, but 308.com projects 22-point Wildrose win)

3. Will Premier Alison Redford be re-elected in Calgary-Elbow?
(Redford beat the Liberals by 3% last election, and 308.com projects her to beat the Wildrose by 3%)

4. Will Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman be re-elected in Edmonton-Meadowlark?
(As a PC, Sherman defeated the Liberals 54% to 30% in 2008)

5. What will the highest vote percentage for the Alberta Party be in a riding? (points if you’re within +/- 5%)
(Polls show them under 5% province-wide, but they’ve targeted a pair of Edmonton constituencies, including the one in Q7)

6. Will either Allan Hunsperger (“gays burn in hell”) or Ron Leech (“being white is an advantage”) win their seat?
(308.com projects Hunsberger to lose, but has Leech in a virtual dead heat)

7. Who will be elected in Edmonton-Glenora?
(Candidates: Sue Huff AP, Bruce Miller Lib, Ray Martin NDP, Heather Klimchuk PC, Don Koziak WR; 2008 vote: PC 40%, Lib 39%, NDP 15%, WR 2%)

8. Which party leaders will announce plans to resign within 48 hours of the vote?
(Alison Redford PC, Danielle Smith WR, Raj Sherman Lib, Brian Mason NDP, Glenn Taylor AP)

9. How many of the 3 senate positions will the Wildrose Party win?
(They’re running 3 candidates, the PCs are running 3 candidates, the Greens have 1 candidate, and there are 6 independents; full list here)

10. Who will get more votes – Liberals or NDP?
(current polls have them effectively tied)

a wildrose government will need a real opposition.

Danielle Smith Alberta Wildrose

Danielle Smith with Wildrose MLA's Paul Hinman, Heather Forsyth, and Rob Anderson in 2010.

Despite questioning climate science and refusing to remove one candidate who railed against a policy to protect sexual minorities in public schools and another who claimed his skin colour as a political advantageDanielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party appears set to form a government after April 23.

If the Wildrose Party does succeed in electing enough MLA’s to form a government next Monday, unseating the 41-year governing Progressive Conservatives, Albertans should be asking themselves about which parties are best positioned to form effective opposition over the next four years? This election is as much about a change of government as it is about a change of opposition parties.

Alison Redford Alberta Election 2012 Conservative leader

Alison Redford

The PCs have governed the province since Peter Lougheed led that party to its first victory in the 1971 election. Behind in the polls for the past three weeks, Alison Redford‘s PCs have begun to quietly urge non-conservative urban voters to cast strategic votes for their party to block the chances of the Wildrose Party forming a government. With six days left in the election campaign, it may be too late for the PCs or urban voters to block a Wildrose government.

After four decades in government, there may be no one left in the PC Party who remembers what it is like to be an opposition party (or may no longer have an interest in supporting that party in opposition). As a conservative opposition party it is also unclear what policy differences it could present to contrast itself with a similarly conservative governing party. As a new website launched today reminds voters, the PC Party also has its share of MLA’s with extremist social conservative views.

The survival and success of the PCs as an opposition party may entirely depend on which Tory MLA’s are elected on April 23.

Voters who want more than two conservative voices in the Assembly should ignore the calls for strategic voting and cast their votes for the candidates and parties who best represent their views.

Raj Sherman Liberal leader 2012 Alberta Election

Raj Sherman

The Alberta Liberals, led by former Tory MLA Raj Sherman, have presented a good platform that focuses on health care, education, municipalities, and touches on controversial issues like tax increases.

From an experience standpoint, the Liberal Party’s slate of candidates includes a number of former MLAs, including Mo Elsalhy, Weslyn Mather, Bruce Miller, and Rick Miller, who served in the opposition benches from 2004 to 2008.

Unfortunately for the Liberals, being the official opposition since 1993 has not translated into their becoming the next government and the ingrained historical hostility felt by many Albertans towards the party suggests its chances of long-term growth are limited.

Brian Mason Alberta NDP leader 2012 Election

Brian Mason

During this election campaign the NDP led by Brian Mason has focused on skyrocketing utility costs, taking a friendlier position towards resource development, and expanding and protecting public medicare. The NDP are in a good position to make gains in Edmonton. A number of NDP Members of Parliament, including Olivia Chow, Jack Harris, Niki Ashton, and Peter Julian are making campaign stops in the province during the final week of the election.

As an opposition party, the NDP would certainly provide Albertans with clear policy differences from both the PC’s and the Wildrose Party.

Sue Huff Alberta Party Edmonton-Glenora

Sue Huff

Over the next four years, the Alberta Party may be in the best position to help build a real centrist-progressive alternative to a Wildrose Party government. Despite having never elected an MLA, the party has been punching above its weight during this campaign in terms of organization and media coverage. The question will be whether the party can survive as a political movement if it does not succeed in electing an MLA.

Candidates like community organizer Michael Walters in Edmonton-Rutherford and former school trustee Sue Huff in Edmonton-Glenora have been running strong local campaigns, which could produce some surprising results on election day.

Last weekend, more than 100 Alberta Party volunteers delivered flyers to 5,500 homes in Edmonton-Rutherford in less than an hour.

redford orders mla’s to return pay, cancels transition allowance, and sherman crashes her party.

Premier Alison Redford has announced that Tory MLA’s will repay all the money they received from the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections (aka the “no-work” committee) and that MLA’s who retire or are defeated in future elections may not received a generous severance package.

Ordering Tory MLAs to pay back all the money and admitting that she made a mistake by not doing so sooner was a wise move, and also demonstrates how worried the Tories have become after recent polls have put them in a dead heat with the Wildrose Party.

Premier Alison Redford campaign election Edmonton 2012

Premier Alison Redford arrives at her campaign stop on 124th Street in Edmonton.

Following the announcement, Premier Redford joined Edmonton-Glenora PC MLA Heather Klimchuk for some “main-streeting” down Edmonton’s 124th Street area in the Westmount neighbourhood. The area has gone through an incredible revival over the past few years, transitioning from a seedy pawn-shop infested street to a vibrant cafe and specialty shop destination in the city.

This was Premier Redford’s second campaign stop in Edmonton-Glenora in the first week of the election. Ms. Klimchuk is in a hotly contested race with former public school trustee and Alberta Party candidate Sue Huff, former Liberal MLA Bruce Miller, former NDP MLA Ray Martin, and past mayoral candidate and Wildrose candidate Don Koziak.

Alison Redford campaign election Edmonton 2012

Liberal candidate Bruce Miller drops in on Edmonton-Glenora PC MLA Heather Klimchuk and Premier Redford at a campaign stop at Cafe Tiramisu.

In what I can only describe as a strange attempt to garner media attention, Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman, local candidate Mr. Miller, and an entourage of Liberal candidates and handlers made two “coincidental” appearances on the Premier’s campaign stop, crashing her visits at two cafes on the same block. Here are some photos of the stop and of Dr. Sherman’s visit:

Premier Alison Redford Alberta Election 2012

Premier Redford with Edmonton-Glenora PC MLA Heather Klimchuk and business owner Dawit Isaac.

Premier Alison Redford Election 2012 Greenpeace

A Greenpeace activist at Premier Redford's campaign stop.

Premier Alison Redford Election 2012

Premier Redford at the Duchess Bake Shop on 124th Street.

Local candidate Bruce Miller makes a second appearance along with Liberal leader Raj Sherman at Premier Redford's campaign stop at the Duchess Bake Shop.

Local candidate Bruce Miller makes a second appearance along with Liberal leader Raj Sherman at Premier Redford's campaign stop at the Duchess Bake Shop.

I have posted more photos from the lunch-hour campaign stop on Flickr.

who should be invited to the televised leaders’ debate?

Alberta Election Leaders' Debate 2012

PC leader Premier Alison Redford, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, NDP leader Brian Mason, and Liberal leader Raj Sherman.

The televised Leaders’ debate for Alberta’s 2012 election will be aired on April 12 at 6:30pm to 8:00pm on Global Television.

The debate will include Progressive Conservative leader Premier Alison Redford, Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, and NDP leader Brian Mason. Some members of the Alberta Party have voiced disappointment that their leader Glenn Taylor was not invited to participate in the debate.

Glenn Taylor Alberta Party leader Election 2012

Glenn Taylor

The Alberta Party gained a presence in the Assembly in January 2011 when former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor joined that party. Despite strong campaigns from candidates Michael Walters in Edmonton-Rutherford, Sue Huff in Edmonton-Glenora, Tim Osborne in St. Albert, and Norm Kelly in Calgary-Currie, recent polls have placed the party with 2% support province-wide.

If I were making the decisions, I would invite the leader’s from all the political parties to join the televised debate, but because the decision is being made by a private television company I can understand how they came to this conclusion. With only 30 candidates nominated in 87 constituencies, most viewers tuning in to the televised debate will not have the option of voting for an Alberta Party candidate on Election Day. The four other parties are expected to nominate candidates in all 87 constituencies.

What about past leaders’ debates that included parties with no elected MLA’s?

During the 1997 election, both NDP leader Pam Barrett and Social Credit leader Randy Thorsteinson were allowed to participate in the leaders debate. Neither of those parties had elected an MLA in the previous election. The Social Credit Party had not elected an MLA since the 1979 election. During the 2004 election, as the Alberta Alliance leader, Mr. Thorsteinson was not invited to join the televised Leaders; debate, despite his party having an MLA in the Assembly. Just before the election was called, Edmonton-Norwood PC MLA Gary Masyk crossed the floor to the new party.

There is no denying that the Wildrose Party is a force in this election campaign and should be represented in the televised debates, but it is important to remember that neither Ms. Smith or any of her party’s four incumbent MLA’s were elected as Wildrose candidates in the last election. Former leader Paul Hinman returned to the Assembly in a 2009 by-election and Heather Forsyth, Rob Anderson, and Guy Boutilier were elected as PC candidates in 2008 before crossing the floor to join the Wildrose Party in 2010.

Debate in front of an audience.

Instead of holding the televised debate in a sterile and controlled television studio, I would love to see the party leader’s demonstrate their debating skills in front of a live audience. A live audience would add an atmosphere of unpredictability and would force the leaders to speak to both the voters in the room and those watching their television screens.

alberta election day 1: campaign kick-offs and legalizing prostitution.

With hours of the election being called yesterday, Premier Alison Redford kicked-off the Progressive Conservative campaign at the campaign office of Edmonton-Glenora MLA Heather Klimchuk.

First-term MLA Ms. Klimchuk is facing one of the most hotly contested races in the province, with strong challenges by former public school trustee and Alberta Party candidate Sue Huff, former Liberal MLA Bruce Miller, former NDP MLA Ray Martin, and past mayoral candidate and Wildrose candidate Don Koziak. The central Edmonton constituency has become a swing-riding in recent elections, but it was once held by Tory MLA’s Lou Hyndman and Nancy Betkowski.

After the campaign launch, Twitter reported her having visited a Tim Horton’s on the way to visit the campaign of new candidate Steve Christie in Lacombe-Ponoka. Last week, Mr. Christie replaced two-term MLA Ray Prins, who resigned after it was revealed he was being paid to chair a legislative committee that had not met in four years.

Eager to grab a scoop, two major television networks released the results of polls they commissioned in recent days. An Ipsos Reid online poll commissioned by Global News reports that the PC and Wildrose Party are tied at 38% support. The online poll surveyed 890 Albertans participating in Ipsos Reid’s online household panel (I am unclear how big the pool of Albertans in this online panel is). A CTV News commissioned ThinkHQ survey shows 44% of Albertans surveyed say the PCs don’t deserve to be reelected. No details of how these results were collected, sample size, or margin of error were included in the online news report. Poor reporting of these polls aside, these results could represent a shift in attitudes over the past month.

Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman will kickoff his party’s southern Alberta campaign at MLA Kent Hehr‘s Calgary-Buffalo campaign office this morning. Continuing to focus on health care and Premier Redford’s decision not to hold an independent judicial inquiry into health care issues, Dr. Sherman will be joined by a guest speaker who will talk about the issue of bullying and intimidation.

The Liberals are quickly filling their slate of nominations and I will update my list as I become aware of the new candidates.

Alberta Party Election 2012 Kickoff Calgary

The Alberta Party kicked off their election campaign in Calgary (photo from the Alberta Party Facebook Page).

Fresh from launching their election platform, the Alberta Party held campaign launches in Calgary and Edmonton. Leader Glenn Taylor, who is running in the West Yellowhead constituency, joined candidates at Ms. Huff’s campaign office in Edmonton-Glenora.

NDP leader Brian Mason is visiting the campaigns of Edmonton-Calder candidate David Eggen and Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview candidate Deron Bilous today, and will make an announcement about his party’s health care platform.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Alberta Election 2012 Day 1

Danielle Smith, with Link Byfield by her side (photo taken from screenshot of video).

Danielle Smith kicked off the first day of the campaign surrounded by Edmonton area candidates, and with Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock candidate Link Byfield by her side (Watch the video here).

Perhaps a sign of things to come in this election campaign, the PC’s launched their first salvo against Ms. Smith yesterday afternoon on an issue that no one would have predicted. Following the Ontario Appeal Court’s decision saying that prostitutes’ rights are violated by some criminal law, the PC’s released quotes from a Calgary Herald column penned by Ms. Smith in 2003 where she advocated legalizing the sex trade.

Some of Ms. Smith’s libertarian views may pose a threat to the conservative coalition of like-minded libertarians and social conservatives that she has worked hard to build. I have little doubt the Tories will take every opportunity to expose these types of cleavages in Ms. Smith’s record, with the purpose of breaking her coalition, as well as pushing wavering moderate conservatives back into the Tory camp.

Opinions that politicians have put out into the public sphere are fair game for use by opponents and are a cautionary tale for columnists, bloggers, or even tweeters with electoral ambitions. Loose tweets sink fleets and columns supporting the legalization of prostitution will be used against you.

alberta election 2012: counting women candidates.

Women make up the majority of Alberta’s population, but they rarely come even close to being the majority in electoral politics.

Alberta’s 2012 election could be notable for many reasons, two of those reasons being that it will be the first where both the incumbent Premier, Alison Redford, and the leader of the party polling in second place, Danielle Smith, are women.

The two other main political parties have had women lead them in past elections (Pam Barrett led the NDP during the 1997 election and Nancy MacBeth led the Liberals in 2001). Former Edmonton school trustee Sue Huff led the Alberta Party as acting-leader until May 2011.

Aside from the 100% increase of women party leaders since the last election, there also appears to be an increase in the number of women Alberta’s political parties are nominating as candidates.

The NDP has so far nominated the most woman candidates of the political parties contesting the 2012 election. By my count, the NDP has chosen 39 women out of 87 candidates (45%). This is a boost for the NDP from the 2008 election, when that party nominated 32 women out of 83 candidates (38%).

Also on the increase is the Progressive Conservatives, which has chosen 23 women out of the 86 candidates nominated to run in the next election (27%). All the contestants in the one remaining nomination contest in Calgary-West are men. This is a seven percent increase for the PCs from the last election when only 17 out of the 83 candidates were women (20%). The PCs have a long way to go before they even approach a gender balance of candidates, but a seven percent increase does move them closer.

Despite their strong female leader, Wildrose candidates are predominantly men. By my count, only 11 of the 84 nominated Wildrose candidates are women (13%). This is a tiny increase from 2008, when only 6 of the 61 candidates standing for the Wildrose Alliance were women (10%).

The Liberal Party, with 42 candidates currently nominated, has chosen 7 women candidates (17%). I expect this number to increase as the Liberals add to their slate of candidates before the election. In 2008, the 22 women under the Liberal Party banner out of 82 candidates (25%).

The Alberta Party has nominated four women out of fourteen candidates (28%).

Number of women candidates by party
2011 Election

NDP: 39 out of 87 – 45%
PC: 23 out of 86 – 27%
Wildrose: 11 out of 85 – 13%
Liberal: 7 out of 42 – 17%
Alberta Party: 4 out of 14 – 28%

2008 Election
NDP: 32 out of 83 – 38%
Liberal: 22 out of 83 – 26%
PC: 17 out of 83 – 20%
Wildrose: 6 out of 61 – 10%

15 races to watch in alberta’s 2012 election.

In the lead up to the Alberta’s 2012 election, I have identified fifteen constituencies across the province that could produce interesting contests and results when the election is called.

15 races to watch in Alberta's 2012 election.

15 races to watch in Alberta's 2012 election.

1) Highwood
The Wildrose Party has staked their future in the success of leader Danielle Smith and I expect that party will pull out all the stops to ensure she is elected. The PCs have nominated newspaper editor John Barlow to replace retiring PC MLA George Groeneveld.

2) Edmonton-Meadowlark
This area has deep Liberal roots, having first elected MLA Grant Mitchell in 1986, but since 2001 it has become a swing-riding electing both Liberals and PCs. Currently held by former PC MLA and now Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman, the next vote will be a test of his personal popularity as he runs under his new party’s banner. He will face former PC MLA Bob Maskell, who served from 2001 until 2004.

3) Edmonton-Calder
Voters in this constituency are notorious swing-voters. No incumbent has been re-elected here since 1997. Current PC MLA Doug Elniski made a last minute announcement that he would not seek re-election, leaving former school trustee and newly nominated candidate Bev Esslinger not a lot of time to catch up. Former MLA David Eggen has been campaigning in Calder for the past three years and is expected to launch a well-organized campaign. Wildrose candidate Rich Neumann may play kingmaker if he is able to attract enough past PC voters.

4) Calgary-Glenmore
In 2009, outgoing Wildrose leader Paul Hinman narrowly won a hotly contested by-election that was seen as a referendum on then-Premier Ed Stelmach‘s popularity in Calgary (which was low). With new Premier Alison Redford representing the neighboring constituency, PC candidate Linda Johnson may receive a warmer reception at the doors. Throw into the mix former Mount Royal College instructor Craig Cheffins, who served as the Liberal MLA for Calgary-Elbow from 2007 to 2008, and the outcome of this race could be difficult to predict.

5) Edmonton-Glenora
Represented by both PC and Liberal MLAs over the past twenty years, this constituency could be a key battleground for five opposition parties in the next election. Former Liberal MLA Bruce Miller is challenging PC cabinet minister Heather Klimchuk, who unseated him by 136 votes in 2008. Rev. Miller is not the only challenger in this election. The Alberta Party is pinning their hopes on former school trustee Sue Huff, the NDP have nominated former MLA and leader Ray Martin, and the Wildrose have chosen past Mayoral candidate Don Koziak.

6) Calgary-Varsity
With the retirement of popular two-term Liberal MLA Harry Chase, the Liberals have nominated former carpenters’ union official Bruce Payne, who ran for that party’s leadership in 2011. The PCs have chosen former Nexen vice-president Donna Kennedy-Glans. The results of this race will be a critical indicator of whether the Liberals can hold on to, and build on, important gains made in Calgary during the past two elections.

7) Chestermere-Rockyview
Energy Minister Ted Morton will face off against former Global Calgary news anchor and Wildrose candidate Bruce McAllister. The Wildrose attacked Minister Morton’s credentials as a “fiscal mallard” while he was Finance Minister and by nominating Mr. McAllister they are showing that they will not give him a pass in the next election.

8 ) Airdrie
When first-term PC MLA Rob Anderson joined the Wildrose in 2010, he automatically became a target of his former party, who have nominated Alderman Kelly Hegg as their candidate. The Airdrie area has typically voted for the PCs, but voters in this region have been known to elect opposition candidates in the past (Western Canadian Concept MLA Gordon Kesler was elected in 1982 and Liberal MLA Don MacDonald was elected in 1992).

9) Cardston-Taber-Warner
After being unseated by Wildorse MLA Mr. Hinman in 2004, PC MLA Broyce Jacobs won a narrow victory in 2008. Fast forward to 2012, Mr. Jacobs has lost his party’s nomination to Pat Shimbashi and the Wildrose has nominated Sterling Deputy Mayor Gary Bikman. If the Wildrose are to pick up seats in the election, this will likely be one.

10) Edmonton-Rutherford
In a rematch of the closest race of the 2008 election, PC MLA Fred Horne will face former Liberal MLA Rick Miller. While 2008 a two-way contest, the 2012 contest is more interesting with the presence of community organizer and Alberta Party candidate Michael Walters and Wildrose candidate Kyle McLeod.

11) Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo
After winning four elections as this constituency’s PC candidate, late-blooming Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier will face Wood Buffalo deputy mayor Mike Allen in the upcoming vote. After decades as a municipal and provincial politician, this election may be more a test of Mr. Boutilier’s personal support than that of his new party.

12) Edmonton-Gold Bar
A Liberal Party stronghold since 1986, the retirement of MLA Hugh MacDonald and the redistribution of electoral boundaries south encompassing Tory-voting neighbourhoods may give second-time PC candidate David Dorward a boost. Liberal candidate Josipa Petrunic is a well-spoken and passionate partisan who hopes to hold the constituency for her party. The NDP have nominated Marlin Schmidt and hope to capitalize on local support for NDP MP Linda Duncan.

13) Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview
A close contest in 2008 saw former PC MLA Tony Vandermeer defeat NDP MLA Ray Martin. In 2012, Mr. Vandermeer will face a strong challenge from NDP candidate Deron Bilous.

14) Lethbridge-West
After twenty years of close races, voters in this constituency have proven themselves to be deeply divided between the PCs and Liberals. This election, first-term PC MLA Greg Weadick and second-time Liberal candidate Bal Boora will be joined by NDP candidate Shannon Phillips, who has launched a spirited campaign, and Wildrose candidate Kevin Kinahan. Even if Mr. Weadick is re-elected, the real story may be who places second in this politically moderate southern Alberta constituency.

15) Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock
After more than three decades in the Assembly, the departure of PC MLA Ken Kowalski has created a large void to fill in this constituency north of Edmonton. The PCs have nominated Westlock County Councillor Maureen Kubinec, who will face off against her main opponent Wildrose candidate Link Byfield. Mr. Byfield has been campaigning for more than a year and could make gains if he is able to tap into the base of social conservative voters in this constituency.

looking back at 2011: alberta mla’s who made a difference.

Each year around this time, I compile a list of a handful of Members of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly who I believe deserve mentioning following their political performance over the past year. This is just my list, so please feel free to agree, disagree, or make your own suggestions in the comment section below. Here is my list of MLAs that made a significant impact on Alberta’s political scene in 2011:

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach and his wife Marie Stelmach at the Premier's resignation announcement on January 25, 2011.

Premier Ed Stelmach and his wife, Marie, as he announces his resignation as Premier.

Ed Stelmach (Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville) – Honest Ed – Triggering Alberta’s most significant political event of 2011, Premier Ed Stelmach surprised many political watchers when he announced his retirement after only  four years in the job. Almost immediately, his party’s political fortunes improved, showing increased support in the polls and attracting six candidates to its leadership contest.

Characterized by his opponents as a back-country rural politician, I believe history will be kinder when his achievements, such as the initiation of the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, the creation of the Capital Region Board, and significant public infrastructure investments across the province, are fully realized.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford

Premier Alison Redford

Alison Redford (Calgary-Elbow) – ‘New Hope‘ – Bringing renewed hope of generational renewal to the PC Party, first-term MLA and now Premier Alison Redford set a positive tone after being elected as leader in October 2011. She is smart, well-spoken, and bring a world of experience with her to the office. She still has to answer for the half-fulfilled promises like the creation of a “fixed election period” rather than the promised fixed-election date and empowering the quasi-judicial Health Quality Council, rather than the promised Judicial inquiry, to investigate the intimidation of health care professionals. Her reasonable responses to international corporations questioning Alberta’s environmental record is both refreshing and reasonable, now let us see some action.

Alberta Deputy Premier Doug Horner

Deputy Premier Doug Horner

Doug Horner (Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert) – Steady Second in Command – Placing third in the crowded PC leadership contest, cabinet minister Doug Horner’s support of Ms. Redford on the second ballot of the PC leadership contest helped make her Premier. Now as Deputy Premier and President of the Treasury Board, Minister Horner sits in the powerful position of being his party’s northern Alberta messenger in the next provincial election. This is similar to a role played by his father, Dr. Hugh Horner, when he served as Deputy Premier to Premier Peter Lougheed in the 1970s. He is smart and tough, and is in an ideal position to place himself as Premier Redford’s successor if the next election does not go smoothly for their party.

Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason

NDP Leader Brian Mason

Brian Mason (Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood) – Veteran leader with a cause – With a talented knack for quippy one-liners, NDP leader Brian Mason continues to outshine the other opposition leaders in the media and on the Assembly floor. With the Liberals moving to the political-right in order to compete with the Tories and Wildrose Party, Mr. Mason has carved out a recogizable piece of the political spectrum for his tiny social democratic party. With only a few months before the next provincial election, the NDP’s chances of making electoral gains in 2012 looks good. Will Mr. Mason get a new title in 2012? Maybe Leader of the Official Opposition?

Alberta Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman

Liberal leader Raj Sherman

Raj Sherman (Edmonton-Meadowlark) – new Liberal – Former Tory backbencher Raj Sherman inherited a divided and drifting party when he was elected Liberal Party leader in September 2011. Dr. Sherman talks about creating a business-friendly and socially-liberal party, which sounds suspiciously like political real estate already happily occupied by the PC Party. It is still unclear what the future of the Liberal Party will look like under his leadership, especially after losing the floor-crossing Lethbridge MLA Bridget Pastoor and retiring veteran MLAs Kevin TaftHarry Chase, and Hugh MacDonald.

Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald

MLA Hugh MacDonald

Hugh MacDonald (Edmonton-Gold Bar) – True Grit & Defender of the FaithEdmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald ran a passionate campaign of partisan preservation in this year’s Liberal Party leadership contest. His campaign did not prevail and following his defeat to Dr. Sherman he announced his plans to retire when the next election is called. Mr. MacDonald’s loss is also a loss for the Assembly, which will lose one of the hardest working and determined opposition MLAs. If the next election does not go well for his party, there may be more than a few Liberal stalwarts asking for Mr. MacDonald to come back.

Rob Anderson (Airdrie-Chestermere) – The Wildrose’s Thorn – First elected as a PC MLA in 2008, Rob Anderson crossed the floor to the Wildrose Party in 2010. Since then, he has relished in his role as an opposition MLA, becoming his party’s unofficial leader on the Assembly floor. While he is sometimes over the top (and negative) in his accusations against the governing Tories, his presence overshadows his three Wildrose caucus colleagues to the point where he might as well be a one man opposition caucus.

Jonathan Denis (Calgary-Egmont) – Rising Star – In his first-term as a PC MLA, Jonathan Denis has gone from backbencher to holding two cabinet portfolios. As Minister of Housing & Urban Affairs (which is now part of the Ministry of Human Services), Minister Denis supported the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness through its second and third years. The plan’s focus on the Housing-First Principle is key to its success. After supporting Ted Morton and Mr. Mar in the PC leadership contest, Minister Denis found himself promoted to Solicitor General in Premier Redford’s first cabinet.

Dave Taylor (Calgary-Currie) – The Alberta’s Party’s first MLA – The former Liberal MLA became the first Alberta Party MLA in January 2011. He may have played a low key role in the two sittings of the Assembly since he joined that party, but his jumping to the new party helped put them on the political map. Mr. Taylor will not be seeking re-election when the next provincial vote is called.

Doug Griffiths (Battle River-Wainwright) – Young Pup – After almost ten years as a PC backbencher, Doug Griffiths entered this year’s PC leadership contest as a dark horse and a long-shot. On the campaign trail he spoke articulately and passionately about issues that make conservative partisans uncomfortable. He placed last in the leadership contest and made what should have been a political career ending decision when he then endorsed another losing candidate. Somehow, he ended up as a cabinet minister after Premier Redford was elected. His energy and open-mindedness as a cabinet minister is refreshing and much needed.

To keep the list short it is limited to current MLAs, which immediately excludes a few people who made a big impact on the province’s political scene this year. While I did not include them in this list, I feel there are a few non-MLAs who deserve an honourable mention for having made a significant impact on Alberta’s political scene in 2011. They are Gary Mar, Naheed Nenshi, Danielle Smith, Sue Huff, and Stephen Carter.

the alberta party: what now?

Alberta party logoThere was an interesting bit of online chatter earlier this week after an article written by provincial affairs reporter Keith Gerein was published in the Edmonton Journal (“Alberta Party drifts out of limelight“).

It is really unfair to say that the Alberta Party ever occupied the limelight. It would probably be more accurate to describe it as having visited the limelight for a few short months.

As a card carrying member of the Alberta Party, I have had mixed feelings about the path the organization has taken over the past year. I joined that party late last year largely because the outstanding group of people it had attracted and the positive energy they beamed with. In November 2010, I delivered the closing remarks to that party’s Policy Meeting and I walked away from the meeting feeling positive about the people involved and the direction that the party was going. Being involved in the Alberta Party did not make me feel bad about politics in our province, which was nice for a change.

I believe that there was real momentum in the Alberta Party a year ago, and that a few factors have helped slow down that momentum.

The election of Naheed Nenshi as Mayor of Calgary was a great move forward for our province’s largest city, but I also suspect that it created an unexpected energy drain on the Alberta Party. Chima Nkemdirim, a driving force behind in Alberta Party, was heavily involved in Mr. Nenshi’s election campaign and soon became the Mayor’s Chief of Staff.

A young, dynamic, well-spoken, and thoughtful individual, Mr. Nkemdirim embodies the future of politics in Alberta. The Alberta Party would have benefited greatly if he had run for the leadership and won, as I suspect he would have. I do not begrudge him for not running. As Mayor Nenshi’s Chief of Staff, he is helping move Calgary forward in a way that he would not be able to as a the leader of a party with only one MLA in the Assembly.

Unfortunately, I believe Mr. Nkemdirim’s choice not to run, and the decision by other leading Alberta Party organizers to sit out the contest, contributed to a vacuum of talent in the leadership contest held in early 2011. All four of the candidates for leader had their own strengths and weaknesses, but none were going to be the next Premier of Alberta. The eventual winner, Town of Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor, entered the role with a hint of opportunity as a well-spoken municipal leader. Since then, he has not been as publicly visible as his party has needed him to be.

Reflecting on another missed opportunity of sorts, I am reminded of a phone conversation I had with Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman in February 2011. A frustrated Ms. Blakeman called me looking for information about how she could join the Alberta Party. I will not disclose any of the details of our conversation that are not already in the public domain (no super secret cabals were involved), but she sounded both fed up with her own party and frustrated with the reception she had recieved when she contacted Alberta Party officials. A few days later she decided to stick with the Liberals, but it was clear that the night she called me she was looking for a political life-boat.

Where does the Alberta Party go from here?

The next provincial election will be a tough slog for the Alberta Party. Expected to run no more than 40 candidates in the next election, it is likely that Mr. Taylor may face a tough fight to convince the television networks to let him join the leaders debate. Whether we like to admit it or not, many Albertans will base their vote on how they perceive the party leaders. Not having a leader in the debates poses an incredible challenge.

I have been told that the party’s board of directors passed a motion last month endorsing a strategy to focus resources on six target constituencies in the next election. I would suggest focusing on 1 to 3 constituencies would be a more reasonable target, but I am not going to argue over this point with a group of optimists.

Michael Walters, Alberta Party candidate Edmonton-Rutherford

Michael Walters, Alberta Party candidate in Edmonton-Rutherford

The Alberta Party does not have ground game province-wide, but areas where they do have ground game is where the party’s candidates have an opportunity to excel. Two ridings that immediately come to mind are Edmonton-Glenora where former school trustee Sue Huff is running, and Edmonton-Rutherford where community organizer Michael Walters has been running for months. Both Ms. Huff and Mr. Walters would be exceptional MLAs and both have the ability to mount strong local campaigns in their constituencies.

Mr. Walters already appears to have a strong ground game in Edmonton-Rutherford after helping community members in the Greenfield neighbourhood organize against the construction of a cell phone tower in a local park. Keeping his community profile in mind, it is not surprising that he attracted more than 100 people to his recent fundraiser.

In the end, the Alberta Party’s biggest advantage may be that expectations for its success are so low that even electing one MLA in next year’s provincial election would be a seen as a major win for the party. With polls suggesting the Tories could be steamrolling towards another huge majority government, lowering expectations might not be a bad strategy for all of Alberta’s opposition parties.