Tag Archives: Susan Elliott

Brian Jean United Conservative Party Leadership Wildrose

UCP merger kickstarts another summer of politiking in Alberta

Photo: Wildrose leader Brian Jean formally launches his campaign to lead the United Conservative Party (source: Facebook)

It has been a busy week in Alberta politics, and it is only Tuesday.

Nathan Cooper

On Saturday, 95 percent of Wildrose and Progressive Conservative Party members who cast ballots voted in favour of amending their respective parties constitutions and create a new political party – the United Conservative Party.

Only 57 per cent of eligible Wildrose members, and 55 percent of PC member, cast a ballot, which is roughly 25,000 and 27,000 members of the two parties. It is suspected that a significant number of individuals who voted held membership in both parties, and voted twice.

Here is a quick look at what has happened since:

  • As predicted on this blog a few days ago, Nathan Cooper has been chosen as interim leader of the new 29-MLA joint-Wildrose-PC United Conservative caucus. Cooper will serve as leader of the Official Opposition, though likely not in the Assembly as the Legislature is not scheduled to reconvene until after the new party chooses a permanent leader in October 2017. He is a first-term Wildrose MLA for Olds-Didisbury Three Hills and a former Wildrose caucus Chief of Staff, Carstairs town councillor, and spokesperson for the social conservative Canada Family Action group.
  • Richard Starke

    Richard Starke

    PC MLA Richard Starke will not join the new UCP caucus. Starke, who has represented Vermilion-Lloydminster since 2012, ran against Jason Kenney in the 2017 PC leadership race and opposed his plans to merge the PCs with the Wildrose Party. Starke wrote on Facebook that: “My experience, and that of many like-minded party members who have left or been driven from the party, is that our views are not welcome, and that the values and principles we believe in will not be part of the new party going forward.”

  • Wildrose leader Brian Jean formally announced his bid for the leadership of the new party at the Apple Creek Golf Course in Rockyview County. Jean was accompanied by Airdrie Wildrose MLA Angela Pitt, who has endorsed his campaign.
  • Kenney is expected to formally announce his leadership bid on Saturday, July 29, 2017.
  • Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt, who is also expected to join the leadership race, vowed he would never support Jean in a leadership race. Jean briefly attempted to suspend Fildebrandt from the Wildrose Caucus in May 2016, after the MLA’s partisan antics went too far. 
  • Long-time PC Party strategist Susan Elliott announced she will be joining the Alberta Party. Elliott managed the PC Party’s successful 2012 election campaign.

Where are the ideas? PC leadership race lacking meaningful policy debate

Jim Prentice Stephen Mandel Edmonton Alberta PC leadership

Former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel endorsed Jim Prentice for PC leader last week.

The race is still in its early stages, but Albertans hoping the Progressive Conservatives leadership contest would spark a great policy debate about the future of our province are so far disappointed. The most notable news so far from this race has been the growing number of endorsements collected by front-runner Jim Prentice.

While 45 of 58 PC MLAs lending their names to his campaign, Mr. Prentice has only released five priority statements. Although few will doubt his competence or intelligence, it remains unclear where Mr. Prentice stands on many important issues facing Albertans.

Thomas Lukaszuk Alberta Edmonton MLA PC Leadership

Thomas Lukaszuk

What is Mr. Prentice’s position on the increasing privatization of seniors care in Alberta? What does he think about proper funding for our fast-growing municipalities? What are his thoughts on the impact oil sands pipelines will have on northern Alberta’s caribou herds? What about poverty? Does he believe locally elected school boards have a meaningful future? What about the future of Alberta Health Services?

Without policy or ideas to discuss, Mr. Prentice’s past has become one of the issues of the campaign.

Friends of Medicare raised concerns about Mr. Prentice’s recent role on the board of a company that owns an exclusive private boutique health clinic in Calgary. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a conservative lobby group which keeps its own financial backers secret, took a cheap shot at Mr. Prentice because the federal government has no copies of expense claims he filed before he left his job as a minister in Ottawa four years ago.

PC leadership candidate and former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk is attempting to downplay his high-profile role in Premier Alison Redford’s cabinet. In an interview with the University of Calgary’s student newspaper, the Gauntlet, Mr. Lukaszuk claims he is not responsible for deep budget cuts to Alberta’s colleges and universities, because he was only appointed to the position in early 2013.

Ric McIver Alberta PC leadership candidate Calgary MLA

Ric McIver

While it is true that Mr. Lukaszuk was only appointed into that role shortly before the provincial budget cuts were announced, he accepted the job to become the public face of the PC Government’s cuts to post-secondary education. Mr. Lukaszuk is a political bulldog and his attempts to dress himself as a political lamb are unconvincing.

Meanwhile, former Tory campaign manager Susan Elliott does not want anyone to underestimate candidate Ric McIver’s in this contest.

As most Tories are struggling to pretend this is a competitive race, I tend agree with Ms. Elliott. Serving his first-term as an MLA, former Calgary Alderman Mr. McIver is the only candidate of the three who can convincingly argue he is an outsider to PC establishment politics (Mr. Lukaszuk has been an MLA for 13 years and Mr. Prentice has been involved in PC Party politics since the 1980s).

And while Mr. Prentice’s polished-style and well-tailored suits give him the resemblance of a “full bodied, oak aged Chardonnay, grilled veal chops with mushrooms, red peppers and butternut squash conservative,” Mr. McIver’s presents the image of a less sophisticated “meat and potatoes conservative.” Because of this, I have no doubt that Mr. McIver will appeal to many PC supporters looking for a more populist and less polished candidate for leader.

Mr. McIver’s campaign has drawn the support of long-time conservative strategist Ken Boessenkool and Hill & Knowlton consultant Kristen Lawson.

The opposition parties are taking advantage of the lack of  meaningful policy discussion in the PC leadership race. Last week,  Wildrose leader Danielle Smith released the first section of her party’s platform for the next provincial election, promising more funding for light-rail transit and public transit in Calgary and Edmonton, and loosened rules around water supply in smaller communities.

When (or if) PC leadership candidates finally choose to have a meaningful policy debate during this contest, they will not only be competing  with each other for attention, but also with the opposition parties they will be competing with in the next general election.

Celebrating 42 years in power, PC Party expected to back Redford

UPDATE: Delegates to the PC Party convention in Red Deer have voted 77% not to hold a leadership review, leaving Ms. Redford firmly in the leader’s chair for the time being. This is a solid endorsement, though the vote indicates that opposition inside her party ranks is still a concern. 

This “teaser” video released before the Progressive Conservative Party Annual Meeting focuses on “trust.”

There was no mention of the ‘Socred Retreads‘ in Premier Alison Redford‘s speech to Progressive Conservative Party faithful last night. Unlike her speech to her party’s annual general meeting in November 2012, Ms. Redford took no partisan thrusts at the opposition Wildrose Party during her speech at this year’s PC Party convention. Instead, she promised to continue her party’s “legacy of success.

Alison Redford Alberta Speech

Premier Alison Redford delivers her opening speech to PC Party convention delegates.

Demonstrating the organizational strength of a party that has been in office for 42 years, the PC Party is said to have drawn up to 1,500 delegates and observers to their annual convention in Red Deer.

Although the event has attracted the attention of partisan faithful, most regular Albertans turned elsewhere for their Friday evening entertainment. According to the ticker on the party’s website, only 40 viewers appeared to tune in to the the online streaming of Ms. Redford’s opening speech. With the Grey Cup kicking off tomorrow in Saskatchewan, the Canadian Football League will attract significantly more attention for the Saskatchewan RoughridersHamilton Tiger-Cats game.

While delegates will spend time today discussing issues and party policy, the main event of this weekend’s gathering is Ms. Redford’s leadership review. Each delegate will have the opportunity to vote on whether they would like to hold a leadership race to replace Ms. Redford or to keep the current leadership.

Speaking to the Calgary Herald’s Don Braid, former Premier Ed Stelmach‘s chief of staff Ron Glen questioned why his party continues to schedule mandatory leadership reviews two years after elections.

Managing expectations before the vote, staunch supporters of the Premier began to lower expectations this week. Former party campaign manager Susan Elliott told the Globe & Mail that “Anything in the 60s is good. And anything in the 70s is actually a triumph.” While Ms. Redford does have her detractors inside her caucus and party, and recent budget cuts have threatened to unravel her new electoral coalition of moderates and former Liberals, it appears unlikely that party faithful will turn on their leader this weekend.

With Ms. Redford’s staff working hard to stack the meeting with supporters, it would be an organizational failure if her support at this convention reaches even the low 70% range.

What are the pundits saying? Despite a long list of broken election promises, including deep budget cuts to colleges and universities, the Calgary Sun’s Rick Bell does not believe the PC Party is ready to part with Ms. Redford and the Edmonton Journal’s Graham Thomson agrees. David Climenhaga believes her victory in this leadership review is a forgone conclusion, and I agree.

Alberta Tories confused about illegal donations.

Alberta Tories ConfusedCaught having accepted 45 prohibited donations from municipalities and publicly-funded institutions since 2009, the Progressive Conservative Association spent the past few days sending mixed messages whether it would or already had repaid the full amount of illegals funds as requested by Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer .

Party officials previously stated the funds would be repaid, but during a conference call to PC constituency presidents last month, executive director Kelley Charlebois laid out laid out plans to not repay the funds.

“Repaying the money does us no good in the court of public opinion” – PC Party executive director Kelley Charlebois

PC Party president Jim McCormick told the Edmonton Journal last week that he felt the orders from the elections office to repay illegal donations were unfair. Mr. McCormick later downplayed his public comments in an email to PC Party supporters in which he stated his party had “fully and willingly complied and repaid the dollars [the Chief Elections Officer] asked us to.”

Mr. McCormick then stated that talks between the PC Party and the elections office would continue and his “argument is not relative to the dollar amount but rather a request for clarification on the legislation.” There is some irony in that some of the prohibited donations were made to now-Justice Minister Jonathan DenisCalgary-Egmont constituency association.

2012 PC campaign manager Susan Elliott jumped to her party’s defence on Facebook, claiming that party officials had no way of knowing that many of the donors were being reimbursed by municipalities or public institutions for money spent at party fundraisers.

I am mystified by the Chief Electoral Officer’s conclusion that a political party is responsible if an individual illegally expenses a political donation to a prohibited organization. So Joe Smith buys a fundraising ticket using a personal cheque or credit card. That’s OK. He collects the tax receipt personally. That’s OK. But later, he submits the cost on his expense claim. He has now done something illegal. The prohibited organization does something illegal by paying it. But how is it the political party is supposed to anticipate Joe’s actions, learn about them later, prevent them or correct them? Since they can do none of those things, why are they the ones cited?

The 45 cases of illegal donations identified in the investigation were all made to the PC Party, not to any of the eight other registered political parties in Alberta.

In some cases Ms. Elliott’s argument may hold water, but in other cases the PC constituency organizers may have directly or indirectly solicited funds from these individuals through their places of employment in municipalities or public institutions.

In one case, which is not being investigated because it took place before the arbitrary 2009 cut-off date set by the elections office, a PC constituency official was actually employed by the organization that the donation was made by. In the former Athabasca-Redwater constituency, the local PC President was the head of the Athabasca University secretariat, which approved the financial contributions.

As was the case with the long list of municipalities that were named in the investigation, they were encouraged to purchase tickets to PC Party fundraisers as a means of lobbying provincial politicians. Over its 42 years in power, the PCs have fostered the creation of a culture where the lines between government business and party business are sometimes blurred.

The elections office is also investigating allegations that pharmaceutical industry billionaire and Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz made a $430,000 donation to the PC Party in the 2012 election, blowing away the $30,000 annual contribution limit stipulated in the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosures Act.

redford’s ‘change from within’ is a nice slogan, but when you take a closer look…

Alison Redford Ed Stelmach Change

"Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss ..." Was Pete Townshend on to something?

Despite the narrative of “change from within” that was made popular after the October 1 leadership vote, the wave of change has not spilled far into the Progressive Conservative ranks since Alison Redford was elected into her new role one month ago.

– The Globe & Mail is reporting that the controversial Kelley Charlebois is expected to be appointed as the next Executive Director of the Alberta PC Party this week. Albertans may remember Mr. Charlebois as the owner of the company that was awarded $390,000 worth of controversial contracts to consult with with then-Health Minister Gary Mar between 2002 and 2004. During the recent PC leadership contest, Mr. Charlebois claimed that he was being unfairly targeted by the media.

– Long-time Tory strategist Susan Elliott has been appointed as the Progressive Conservative Party campaign manager for the next election. Along with 2008 campaign manager Randy Dawson, Ms. Elliott played a central role in Premier Ed Stelmach‘s election campaign.

– While Premier Redford did make a showing of dumping long-time Tory stalwarts from the provincial cabinet, many of the key ministers in her first cabinet are politicians played a central role in Premier Stelmach’s administration. Energy Minister Ted Morton, Human Services Minister Dave Hancock, Finance Minister Ron Liepert, Transportation Minister Ray Danyluk, Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, and Deputy Premier Doug Horner were all key players in Premier Stelmach’s final cabinet.

– Shortly after being sworn-in office, Premier Redford appointed leadership opponent Mr. Mar as Alberta’s representative in Hong Kong. Mr. Mar’s leadership campaign manager Elan McDonald soon found her way back into the Premier’s office as Advisor to the Premier and Legislative Affairs. She had previously worked in Premier Stelmach’s office.

– It is unclear what his official title will be, but leadership opponent and former cabinet minister Rick Orman is expected to be appointed by Premier Redford to work on a northern Alberta development strategy.

– When entering office, Premier Redford’s transition team also included some old-time Tory connectors, including current Alberta Health Services Chairman Ken Hughes, who was a Tory Member of Parliament under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Nearly all incumbent PC MLA’s who have already been nominated for the next election have been acclaimed and of those who faced nomination challenges only one was defeated (and he is now seeking a nomination in a neighbouring constituency).

City of Leduc Alderman Dominic Mishio unsuccessfully challenged two-term backbencher George Rogers in Leduc-Beaumont, Lars Lehmann unsuccessfully challenged three-term backbencher Alana DeLong in Calgary-Bow, and Rick Fraser defeated three-term backbencher Art Johnston in Calgary-South East. Now the Parliamentary Assistant to the Premier, Mr. Johnston recently announced that he will be seeking nomination in a different constituency (his current constituency is being redistributed in the next election). Jeff Wedman is standing for the PC nomination in St. Albert, though there is some talk that current PC MLA Ken Allred will retire before the next election.

‘Change from within’ is a nice slogan, but when you take a closer look, it looks awfully close to what things look liked before.