Photos: Leela Aheer, John Archer, Greg Clark, Devin Dreeshen, Sarah Hoffman, Danielle Larivee, Rachel Notley, Janis Irwin, Rakhi Pancholi, Shannon Phillips (source: Legislative Assembly of Alberta website)
With more than 500 submissions made to the Best of Alberta Politics 2019 survey, your choices have been sorted and you can now vote in each category. Voting is open until Dec. 14, 2019 at 11:59 pm and the winners will be announced on the special year-end episode of the Daveberta Podcast on Dec. 16, 2019.
An honourable mention to Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West who placed a strong fourth in total submissions. Notley was last year’s winner in this category.
Who was the best Alberta cabinet minister of 2019? – Vote
Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
Sarah Hoffman, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health
Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks
Honourable mentions to Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen and Minister of Finance Travis Toews, who placed a close forth and fifth in this category. Former Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson was last year’s winner in this category.
Former Calgary-Elbow MLA Greg Clark was last year’s winner in this category.
Who is the up and coming MLA to watch in 2020? – Vote
Devin Dreeshen, MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud
An honourable mention to Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang, who placed a strong fourth in the first round of voting. Jessica Littlewood, former MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, was last year’s winner in this category..
Who was the best candidate who didn’t win in the 2019 Alberta election? – Vote
John Archer, NDP candidate in Edmonton-South West
Greg Clark, Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Elbow
Danielle Larivee, NDP candidate in Lesser Slave Lake
An honourable mention to Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville NDP candidate Jessica Littlewood, and Leduc-Beaumont NDP candidate Shaye Anderson, who tied for fourth place in this category..
What was the biggest political issue of 2019 in Alberta? – Vote
Economy and jobs
Firing the Elections Commissioner
Turkey farm hostage taking
There were a lot of submissions in this category, so we decided to give you a chance to vote on the top four in this category.
What was the biggest political play of 2019 in Alberta?
This category is usually a dog’s breakfast, but this year your choice was clear. So we have declared the biggest political play of 2019 in Alberta was the United Conservative Party government firing of Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson. The UCP government’s omnibus Bill 22 dissolved the Office of the Election Commissioner, who was in the midst of investigating and issuing fines for violations of Alberta’s elections laws during the UCP leadership race in 2017.
Government watch-dog Democracy Watch has called on the RCMP to investigate the firing of the Election Commissioner and wants a special prosecutor appointed to oversee the investigation to ensure there is no political interference.
MLA Thomas Dang was nominated as the New Democratic Party‘s candidate in the new Edmonton-South district. Dang was first elected as the MLA for Edmonton-South West in the 2015 election.
Dang received a considerable amount of media attention in 2017 when he tabled the Alberta Standard Time Act, a private members’ bill which would have ended the observance of Daylight Savings Time in Alberta. While the idea was fairly popular among the public, strong pushback by Alberta’s two professional hockey teams and a major Alberta-based airline company are believed to be what stalled the bill before it could complete second reading in the Assembly.
Getson is a manager of a pipeline construction and maintenance company. He will face NDP MLA and Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Oneil Carlier and Alberta Party candidate Don McCargar.
Speaker Wanner not seeking re-election
Medicine Hat NDP MLA Bob Wanner announced that he will not be seeking re-election when the next vote is called. Wanner, who was elected as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in 2015, was first elected in 2015, earning 38 percent of the vote. He previously ran for the NDP in this district in the 1993 election. The current Medicine Hat district faces a significant redistribution in the next election and has been redrawn into the new Brooks-Medicine Hat and Cypress-Medicine Hat districts.
Fildebrandt nominated as a Fildebrandt Party candidate
Freedom Conservative Party MLA and leader Derek Fildebrandt was nominated as his party’s candidate in the Chestermere-Strathmore district. Fildebrandt was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2015 and is now expected to face his former caucus colleague Leela Aheer in the next election.
With Christmas less than one week away, nominations appear to have ended for 2018, but the first few months of 2019 are expected to included a flurry of nomination activity. The UCP have eight remaining districts in which to nominate candidates and the NDP have already scheduled nomination contests in January in Airdrie-Cochrane, Maskwaskis-Wetaskiwin, Morinville-St. Albert, Sherwood Park, and Spruce Grove-Stony Plain.
Calgary-Bow – Paul Godard defeated Frank Penkala to secure the Alberta Party nomination in this northwest Calgary district.
Calgary-North East – Gurbachan Brar defeated Roop Rai to secure the NDP nomination in this district. Brar is the former President of the Punjabi Likhari Sabha and is a former Broadcaster at RED FM 106.7.
Camrose – Morgan Bamford is seeking the NDP nomination in this central Alberta district. Bamford is the Acting Supervisor of Indigenous Relations with the City of Edmonton and is the co-founder of Bamford & Henbest Research and Consulting Partners Ltd. He is vice-president of the board of directors of Volunteer Alberta.
Drayton Valley-Devon – Ronald Brochu is seeking the Liberal Party nomination. Brochu was the Liberal Party candidate in Edmonton-Gold Bar in the 2015 election, earning 3.1 percent of the vote.
Edmonton-Castle Downs – MLA Nicole Goehring is seeking the NDP nomination for re-election in this north Edmonton district. Goehring was first elected in 2015, earning 64.5 percent of the vote. Goehring’s main challenger in the next election is expected to be Ed Ammar, a UCP activist who ran for the Liberal Party in Edmonton-Decore in the 2012 election.
Edmonton-North West – Brandon Teixeira has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in this district.
Edmonton-West Henday – Leah McRorie has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in this west Edmonton district. McRorie is a certified facilitator with the Alberta Caregivers Association.
Leduc-Beaumont – Coreina Hubert’s candidacy for the Alberta Party nomination is listed by Elections Alberta as not having been accepted by the party or constituency association. Hubert is the third candidacy to depart the Alberta Party nomination contest in this district, leaving Robb Connolly as the sole candidate. Connolly previously attempted to seek the Alberta Party nomination in the neighbouring Strathcona-Sherwood Park.
This nomination contest was contentious, with questions about the eligibility of Fordand former MLAMark Hlady in the contest. Ford’s candidacy was ultimately accepted and Hlady, who represented his district as a Progressive Conservative MLA from 1993 to 2004 and as the PC Party candidate in 2015, was not approved by the UCP to run.
According to Postmedia, one woman in Calgary-East “said she was solicited by Singh at his auto shop while getting her vehicle repaired last July, and soon after discovered her credit card number had been used to purchase a party membership.”
Calgary-Falconridge – Parmeet Singh was nominated as the NDP candidate in this northeast Calgary district.
Edmonton-South West – Kaycee Madu defeated Kevin Greco and former PC MLA Sohail Quadri to secure the UCP nomination on December 6, 2018.
Livingstone-Macleod – Roger Reid defeated Nathan Neudorf and Thomas Schneider to win the UCP nomination on December 8, 2018. Reid is the owner of Tim Hortons franchises in Nanton and Claresholm. He is the second Tim Horton’s franchaise owner to win a UCP nomination, along with Grande Prairie UCP candidate Tracy Allard.
Sherwood Park – Jordan Walker defeated Maureen Gough, Sean Kenny, and Len Thom to secure the UCP nomination in Sherwood Park. Walker is a conservative party activist and an Assessment Consultant in the Alberta Department of Labour.
Upcoming nomination meetings
With the end of the year approaching, Alberta’s political parties have begun winding down nomination meetings scheduled for this year. By the end of 2018, the UCP will have nominated candidates in 77 of Alberta’s 87 districts, the NDP will have nominated candidates in 33 districts, and the Alberta Party in around 50 districts. Here are the remaining nomination meetings being held in 2018:
December 12, 2018 – Richard Dempsey, Karri Flatla, and George Rigaux are seeking the UCP nomination in Lethbridge-West.
December 12, 2018 – Two NDP MLAs are challenging each other for their party’s nomination in the newly redrawn St. Albert district. Current Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Trevor Horne and current St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud are seeking the NDP candidacy. Both MLAs were first elected in 2015.
Renaud has been endorsed by eleven of her caucus colleagues, including Stony Plain MLA Erin Babcock, Calgary-Hawkwood MLA Michael Connolly, Calgary-Klein MLA Craig Coolahan, Calgary-Bow MLA Deborah Drever, Lethbridge-East MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, Edmonton-Castle Downs MLA Nicole Goehring, Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Rod Loyola, Sherwood Park MLA Annie McKitrick, Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater MLA Colin Piquette, Edmonton-Centre MLA David Shepherd, and Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Bob Turner.
December 13, 2018 – NDP MLA Thomas Dang is expected to be nominated as his party’s candidate in Edmonton-South. Dang was first elected in 2015 in Edmonton-South West, where he earned 53 percent of the vote and unseated PC MLA Matt Jeneroux.
December 15, 2018 – Manwar Khan and Keli Tamaklo are seeking the Alberta Party nomination in Edmonton-Manning. Tamaklo is a former member of Edmonton Police Commission, Vice-Chair of the Africa Centre, and former Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of High Prairie. Khan is a Business Coordinator in the provincial Department of Community and Social Services and founded Do Not Be a Bystander, after witnessing and attempting to intervene to prevent a murder on Edmonton’s LRT.
December 15, 2018 – “Mulligan!” Shane Getson and Leah Wood are facing off in the second UCP nomination contest in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland. A previous nomination contest held in August 2018 resulted in a win for Onoway business owner Dale Johnson, who was later disqualified after the UCP discovered he was alleged to have paid $5,584.60 to an employee he fired with whom he was in a romantic relationship. A former member of the UCP interim board of directors, Wood was widely seen as the establishment favourite in the first contest and is in a similar position in this second nomination contest.
December 16, 2018 – Gurbachan Brar and Roop Rai are seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-North East. Brar is the former President of the Punjabi Likhari Sabha and is a former Broadcaster at RED FM 106.7. Rai is a constituency assistant to Calgary-McCall NDP MLA Irfan Sabir and was her party’s candidate in the 2016 by-election in Calgary-Greenway. In that contest she earned 20.17 percent of the vote in a competitive four-way race that saw PC candidate Prab Gill win with 27.7 percent.
If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at email@example.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!
Photo: Jason Kenney and Tunde Obasan (source: Facebook)
Government audit manager Tunde Obasan defeated three-term City Councillor Mike Nickel and chiropractor William Farrell to secure the United Conservative Party nomination in the new Edmonton-South district. Three other candidates, Atul Ranade, Inderdeep Sandhu, and Payman Paresan, withdrew from the contest before the vote.
Nickel, who said in June 2018 that “I’ve done as much as I can do from a council seat,” will now presumably remain on city council until the 2021 municipal election.
Former MLA disqualified in Calgary UCP contest
Former Progressive Conservative MLA Mark Hlady has been disqualified from the UCP nomination contest in Calgary-Mountain View.
The former MLA wrote in a message to supporters that he was disqualified over a dispute over the date of purchased of his UCP membership. Hlady claims that the UCP made an exception in a similar situation with another candidate, who he does not name but is almost certainly a reference to nomination candidate Caylan Ford.
Members of the UCP Board of Directors in the district, including Hlady’s CFO, Dean Brawn, filed a complaint last month with the party over Ford’s membership status.
Hlady also claimed in his email that while the UCP disqualified him from the race, the party asked Elections Alberta to list him as having withdrawn on their website.
He represented Calgary-Mountain View in the Alberta Legislature from 1993 to 2004 and was the PC candidate in the 2015 election.
Schreiner seeking re-election in Red Deer
NDP MLA Kim Schreiner is seeking her party’s nomination for re-election in Red Deer-North. Schreiner was elected in 2015 in a 4-way race with 29.4 percent of the vote (Wildrose candidate Buck Buchanan earned 24.6 percent and PC Christine Moore earned 22.7 percent and Liberal Michael Dawe earned 19.3 percent).
And in Calgary-Falconridge, Parmeet Singh Boparai is challenging Paramjit Singh Mann for the NDP nomination. Boparai is the former president of the Dashmesh Culture Centre.
November 21, 2018 – Jim Black is expected to be nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Brooks-Medicine Hat. Black was the Alberta Party candidate in Medicine Hat in the 2015 provincial election, where he earned 5.7 percent of the vote.
November 21, 2018 – MLA Richard Feehan is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Rutherford. Feehan was first elected in 2015, earning 63.9 percent of the vote. He now serves as Minister of Indigenous Relations and Deputy Government House Leader.
November 23, 2018 – MLA David Eggen is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in the new district of Edmonton-North West. Eggen has represented the Edmonton-Calder district from 2004 to 2008 and 2012 to the now. He currently serves as Minister of Education.
November 21 & 24, 2018 – There is a Wildrose Stomp in Camrose with four of the five candidates seeking the UCP nomination having run under the Wildrose Party banner in a past election. Former Edmonton-Ellerslie Wildrose candidate Jackie Lovely, former Strathcona-Sherwood Park Wildrose candidate Rob Johnson, former Calgary-South East Wildrose candidate Brandon Lunty, and former Wetaskiwin-Camrose Wildrose candidate Trevor Miller will face casino manager Dawn Anderson.
If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will add them to the list. Thank you!
Banff-Kananaskis – Miranda Rosin and restaurant owner Scott Winograd are seeking the UCP nomination.
Calgary-Acadia – NDP MLA Brandy Payne announced last week that she will not be seeking re-election in 2019. Payne was first elected in 2015 when she unseated former Justice Minister Jonathan Denis. She has served as Associate Minister of Health since 2016. David Guenter is seeking the UCP nomination.
Calgary-Beddington – Randy Kerr is seeking the UCP nomination.
Calgary-Elbow – Lawyer and former UCP leadership candidate Doug Schweitzer is seeking the UCP nomination in Calgary-Elbow. Schweitzer placed third in last year’s UCP leadership contest and if he wins his party’s nomination, he will face off against Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark in the next election.
Calgary-Foothills – Former Progressive Conservative MLA Jason Luan is seeking the UCP nomination. Luan served as MLA for Calgary-Hawkwood from 2012 to 2015, when he was unseated by NDP candidate Michael Connolly. The Foothills district is currently represented by UCP MLA Prasad Panda, who was first elected as a Wildrose candidate in a 2016 by-election to replace former MLA Jim Prentice.
Calgary-Hays – Two-term MLA Ric McIver is seeking re-election as the UCP candidate. McIver was elected in 2012 and 2015 as a Progressive Conservative and sought that party’s leadership in 2014.
Calgary-Klein – Two time Wildrose candidate Jeremy Nixon is seeking the UCP nomination. Nixon ran in this district under the Wildrose banner in 2012 and 2015. He is the brother of Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon.
Calgary-Piegan – Andrew Griffin and Jeevan Mangat are seeking the UCP nomination. Mangat was the Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-Fort in the 2015 election.
Calgary-West – MLA Mike Ellis is seeking re-election under the UCP banner. Ellis was elected in a 2014 by-election and the 2015 general election as a PC candidate.
Cardston-Siksika – Joseph Schow and Marc Slingerland are challenging MLA Dave Schneider for the UCP nomination in this newly redrawn southern rural district that largely covers the areas included in the current Cardston-Taber-Warner and Little Bow districts. Slingerland was a Christian Heritage Party candidate in the 2006, 2008 and 2011 federal elections and the 2015 federal by-election in Foothills.
Drayton Valley-Devon – MLA Mark Smith is seeking the UCP nomination. Smith was first elected in 2015 as a Wildrose Party candidate.
Drumheller-Stettler – Nathan Horner is seeking the UCP nomination in this district, which is currently represented by UCP MLA Rick Strankman.
Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview – NDP MLA Deron Bilous is seeking his party’s nomination to run for re-election. Bilous was first elected in this district in 2012 and was re-elected in 2015. He was one of four NDP incumbents to run in the 2015 election and currently serves as Minister of Economic Development and Trade.
Edmonton-Whitemud – Nawaz Panhwer is seeking the UCP nomination. Panhwer is Infrastructure Manager for the Town of Redwater and the former VP Finance of the PC Association in the district. His nomination is being endorsed by MPs Matt Jeneoroux, Kerry Diotte, and Michael Cooper, and former PC MLAs Naresh Bhardwaj and Sohail Quadri.
Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville – Campbell Pomeroy is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.
Leduc-Beaumont – Sharon Smith is seeking the UCP nomination. Smith ran for the Wildrose Party in this district in the 2015 election. She placed second with 29 percent of the vote.
Lethbridge-West – George Rigaux and Rick Dempsey are seek the UCP nomination. Rigaux was the chief organizer for the Reform Party in British Columbia ahead of the 1997 federal election. He is reported to have resigned from that position before the election after the media reported him making controversial comments about the role played by the Sikh community in party nominations that year.
Morinville-St. Albert – Gibbons town councillor Amber Harris has announced plans to seek the UCP nomination. Harris made news in November 2017 when she raised concerns on Facebook about the construction of gender-neutral washrooms at the Sturgeon Composite High School.
Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin – Business owner Sandra Kim has announced plans to seek the UCP nomination.
If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at email@example.com. I will add them to the list.
DST was introduced in Alberta after a 1971 province-wide plebiscite resulted in 386,846 votes (61.47%) in favour of adopting the change. This followed the first plebiscite, which took place in 1967 and resulted in a narrow defeat for the Daylight Saving Time change (248,680, or 51.25%, against the change).
While the time change is anecdotally unpopular, a CBC report suggested that lobbyists representing big-box stores, sporting and recreational goods manufacturers, barbecue and charcoal retailers, shopping malls and golf courses remain big supporters of Daylight Saving Time.
National Post columnist Colby Cosh chimed in today, taking a totally reasonable if it’s not broken why fix it? approach to the debate.
Since it was introduced in Alberta, there have been a handful of attempts by opposition critics and government backbenchers to abolish the practice or at least raise concerns about Daylight Saving Time.
In 1978, Spirit River-Fairview MLA and New Democratic Party leader Grant Notley tabled a petition in the Assembly from 36 constituents “living in an area of the province that comes closest to having the midnight sun,” which called on the government to hold a referendum or plebiscite at the time of the next provincial election.
In 1983, Walt Buck, an Independent former Social Credit MLA representing the Clover Bar constituency, asked in Question Period whether the Progressive Conservative government “if any studies have been done as to the feasibility of leaving daylight saving time year-round?”
Premier Peter Lougheed was quick on his feet with a non-response to Buck, “I have to admit I haven’t had a question on that subject since possibly 1972, and I would be somewhat concerned to ask the Minister of Agriculture or the Minister of Economic Development. So the question is quite properly directed to me. I’ll have to take consideration and decide who will be the fortunate person to whom I delegate the answer.”
Lacombe PC MLA Ronald Moore introduced private members’ bill in 1991 and 1992 which proposed the adoption of daylight saving time year-round. Both bills were introduced into the Assembly but did not make it further than first reading and were not debated.
In March 2015, Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville PC MLA Jacquie Fenske tabled a petition organized by Ruby Kassian calling for an end to Daylight Saving Time. More than year later, in December 2016, Vermilion-Lloydminster PC MLA Richard Starketabled a petition urging the government to introduce legislation to repeal the Daylight Saving Time Act and require the observance of Central Standard Time in Alberta.
Daylight Saving Time now longer than it was in 1972
The first Daylight Saving Time was observed in Alberta at 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday in April in 1972.
In 2006, Justice Minister Ron Stevens introduced Bill 4: Daylight Saving Time Amendment Act, which moved the start of Daylight Saving Time to the second Sunday in March and ending the first Sunday in November. This was in response to the same change made by the United States Congress in 2005.
Despite its past reputation, Alberta politics has become extraordinarily unpredictable over the past decade. This makes forecasting the future a very tricky business for political pundits. As is tradition on this blog, each December I sit down by the open fire and pen a list of Alberta MLAs that I will be watching closely in the new year. Beyond the obvious choices, like Premier Rachel Notley or Finance Minister Joe Ceci, I try to look into the government and opposition benches to see who could make the news next year.
Here is my list of MLAs to watch in 2017:
Shannon Phillips (Lethbridge-West): The implementation of Alberta’s much lauded and much derided Climate Leadership Plan will be central to the government’s agenda in 2017. Navigating attacks against the incoming carbon tax, which led to the approval of two oil pipelines, will be critical to the success of the plan. Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips will also have to navigate the politics of replacing Alberta’s dirty coal fired power plants with renewable electricity generation, which could include potentially controversial hydro electric dam projects in northern Alberta.
Sarah Hoffman (Edmonton-Glenora): Now as Alberta’s Deputy Premier, Sarah Hoffman continues to prove that she is one of the toughest MLAs in the government benches. She has managed to navigate her role as Health Minister, a large and challenging department, and continue to serve as Ms. Notley’s chief political lieutenant. As I noted in last year’s list, she is a contender for strongest member of cabinet, and I place her in the “future Premier material” category.
Sandra Jansen (Calgary-North West): The former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister who crossed the floor to join the NDP in November 2016 could find herself with a cabinet post in 2017. Speculation is rampant that Ms. Notley could shuffle the cabinet early next year. Appointing Ms. Jansen as Minister of Energy could help shore up NDP support in Calgary, especially with the recent approval of two oil pipelines. Or perhaps she could replace embattled Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir?
Brian Jean (Fort McMurray-Conklin): What lies ahead for the leader of the Wildrose Party? After Mr. Kenney succeeds in his hostile takeover of the PC Party leadership in May 2017, Mr. Jean might be the only obstacle standing in the way of the two parties merging. He saved his party from the electoral abyss in 2015, but the well-meaning Fort McMurray politician will face significant pressure from his party and the federal Conservatives to step aside to let Mr. Kenney take over. It seems unlikely that his leadership will survive 2017.
Richard Starke(Vermilion-Lloydminster): If PC Party members want to preserve their party, rallying behind the MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster might be their only, and last, chance. Standing in opposition to Mr. Kenney’s hostile takeover, Mr. Starke appears to understand that his party’s success over the past four decades was not based in rigid ideology but in the ability to build a big tent that invited conservatives, moderates and liberals to the table. If he cannot win, then 2017 will be the final year for the PC Party in Alberta.
Thomas Dang (Edmonton-South West): Alberta’s youngest MLA could become known as the Daylight Saving Time Slayer in 2017. He announced this week that he plans to introduce a private members’ bill in the spring session of Assembly that would abolish the unpopular annual time-shift.
Christina Gray (Edmonton-Mill Woods): Labour Minister Christina Gray is not the most high profile cabinet minister but she is charged with steering some of the NDP government’s important policy changes. This fall she introduced reforms to Alberta’s electoral finance laws, and next year she will face the government’s much-needed review of the Workers’ Compensation Board, expected changes to the Labour Relations Code and implementation of Occupational Health & Safety rules under the controversial Bill 6 farm safety law.
Jessica Littlewood (Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville): She had a rough time while serving as chair of the Special Select Committee on Ethics and Accountability, but the trial by fire was more than most of her rookie MLA colleagues have experienced. Despite the committee fumble, Ms. Littlewood stands out as a well-spoken and articulate member of the NDP caucus. A junior cabinet position could be in her future.
David Swann (Calgary-Mountain View): The ernest and hardworking interim leader of the Liberal Party will step down from that role in June 2017. It is not clear who will succeed Dr. Swann, who is currently Alberta’s only Liberal MLA (he is serving his fourth-term as MLA for Calgary-Mountain View), which makes it difficult to predict what his role will be in a Liberal Party led by someone from outside the Legislature.
Compare this list of Alberta MLAs to watch to previous lists from 2016, 2015 and 2014.
The past few years in Alberta politics have reminded us that politics can be an extraordinarily unpredictable and forecasting the future can be a very tricky business for political pundits. Aside from the obvious choices of Premier Rachel Notley, Finance Minister Joe Ceci and Wildrose leader Brian Jean, here is a list of eleven Alberta MLAs worth watching in 2016.
Deron Bilous (Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview): As Economic Development and Trade Minister, Deron Bilous faces the challenge of proving the government’s job creation plan can work as the provincial economy faces declining international oil prices.
Greg Clark (Calgary-Elbow): As leader of the one MLA Alberta Party opposition, Greg Clark is punching above his weight in getting media attention and working hard to position himself as a moderate conservative alternative to the NDP and Wildrose Parties. He was also the only opposition MLA to propose an alternative budget and climate change plan in 2015.
Nathan Cooper (Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills): With a detailed knowledge of Assembly rules and procedure, Official Opposition House Leader Nathan Cooper will prove to be a valuable asset to the rookie Wildrose Caucus.
Deborah Drever (Calgary-Bow): Elected as a New Democrat and sent into legislative exile as an Independent after embarrassing social media posts were reported, she has been the target of relentless personal attacks by Wildrose MLAs and anonymous internet trolls. She has redeemed herself as a well-spoken representative and shepherded her first private members’ bill – Bill 204 – to unanimous approval in the Legislature. Expect Ms. Drever to be invited to rejoin the NDP caucus in 2016.
Derek Fildebrandt (Strathmore-Brooks): Probably the most high profile Wildrose MLA, Derek Fildebrandt is the loudest critic of the NDP government. But his hyper-partisan outbursts, including an embarassing fight with a Globe & Mail reporter and an angry tweet directed at the Assembly Speaker, are not necessarily the kind of attention his MLA colleagues are pleased to receive. Can he tone down the rhetoric and offer reasonable solutions and alternatives in 2016?
Sarah Hoffman (Edmonton-Glenora): As Health and Seniors Minister, Sarah Hoffman is well-spoken and smart as a fox. She can explain complex issues and spar with the opposition with ease. She is a contender for strongest member of Rachel Notley’s cabinet, and I place her in the “future Premier material” category.
Sandra Jansen (Calgary-North West): Sandra Jansen is the voice of the moderate wing of the Progressive Conservative Party. She has publicly clashed with interim leader Ric McIver over his decision to endorse the federal Conservatives, and with Wildrose supporters over her decision to endorse Liberal candidates in the 2015 federal election. Her record as a vocal opponent of a merger with the Wildrose would make her a candidate to watch in her party’s next leadership race.
Prasad Panda (Calgary-Foothills): When he won a Sept. 2015 by-election in Jim Prentice’s former constituency, he became the Wildrose Party’s only MLA from Calgary. He has been quite quiet since his win, but Mr. Panda’s performance as MLA over the coming years could determine how far his rural-based party might expand its presence in Alberta’s largest city.
Shannon Phillips(Lethbridge West): Smart, passionate and a fierce partisan, Shannon Phillips impressed many with her calm and cool delivery of Alberta’s climate change plan ahead of the Paris Climate Change conference in Nov. 2015. As Environment and Parks Minister, she helped bring together oil industry leaders and environmental groups to endorse the province’s plan. Selling the plan and its carbon tax to Albertans over the next year will be a serious test of Ms. Phillips’ political skills.
Richard Starke (Vermilion-Lloydminster): As a critic of Bill 6, Richard Starke took a more reasoned approach to criticizing the farm safety law and avoided the hysterical and negative reactions characteristic of his counterparts in the Official Opposition caucus. One of two remaining rural PC MLAs, he is said to be interested in making a bid for his party’s leadership.
The Under 30s: Another result of the massive turnover in the legislature last year was a significant drop in the average age of Alberta’s MLAs, from 53 to 40 years old. Among the newly elected younger MLAs are a handful who are under thirty-years old (including Ms. Drever, who is noted above).
While it is not uncommon to have one to two under-30s elected to the Assembly from time to time, I cannot remember a time when so many were elected at once. It is a refreshing change, as younger Albertans bring a very different perspective than the typical older, greyer elected representative.
Ms. Notley proved to be a smart, likeable and charismatic leader on the campaign trail. I would argue that she was then and remains now her party’s greatest asset.
Voters opted for wholesale change by choosing 75 new MLAs, a huge turnover, to serve in Alberta’s 87 seat Legislative Assembly. The NDP started the election with 4 seats and ended it with 54 seats, including every seat in Edmonton, 15 seats in Calgary, seats in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Red Deer, and a handful in rural Alberta.
The PCs lost a total of 60 seats and were relegated to third place with 10 MLAs (9 after leader Jim Prentice resigned on election night) and the official opposition Wildrose won 21 seats, four more than the party won in 2012.
A record number of women were elected to the Legislature, including 26 in the 54 MLA NDP caucus and 7 of 13 cabinet ministers.
Thomas Dang, age 20, became the youngest MLA in Alberta history.
Optimism was in the air as thousands of Albertans showed up to the Legislature Grounds to watch the new Premier and cabinet be sworn-in to office.
In their first session as government, the NDP banned corporate and union donations, restored $1 billion in health care, education and human services funding cuts made by the PCs, increased Alberta’s corporate tax rate from 10 percent to 12 percent and announced a phased in $15 per hour minimum wage by 2018.
Ms. Notley demonstrated an ability to reach outside NDP circles for expert advice by appointing Alberta Treasury Branches President & CEO Dave Mowat to lead a Royalty Review Panel, respected economics professor Andrew Leach to lead a Climate Change Panel, and former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge to provide advice on infrastructure investment. Calgary Liberal MLA David Swann was asked to co-chair a review of the province’s mental health services and Joseph Doucet, Dean of the University of Alberta’s School of Business, was tapped to chair the Premier’s Advisory Committee on the Economy.
The PC Party patronage machine ground to a halt. University and college boards of governors are still dominated with well-connected conservatives, but some high-profile appointees have been replaced. For example, Alberta’s representative in Washington D.C. Rob Merrifield, a former Conservative MP, was replaced by Gitane De Silva, a former Deputy Minister of International and Intergovernmental Affairs and Canadian Consul General to Chicago.
On the financial front, the NDP government faces serious problems inherited from the old PC government.
After years of poor long-term planning and over-reliance on royalty revenues to fund the province’s operations budget, the sharp decline in the international price of oil had a huge impact on the government’s coffers. The drop in the price of oil has also led to significant job losses in Calgary and northern Alberta, which have impacted tens of thousands of Albertans.
Instead of dealing with the drop in revenue by cutting budget funding and slashing public sector jobs, like the Wildrose and PC parties proposed, the NDP have decided to invest in public infrastructure, such as highway, school and hospital construction.
As well as keeping many Albertans in the construction industry employed during the economic downturn, investing in building public infrastructure now means the government will spend less time playing catch up when the next oil boom arrives. Ironically, this is similar to what Wildrose leader Brian Jeanargued in favour of when he resigned as Fort McMurray’s MP in January 2014.
Despite a constant barrage of criticism from conservative critics, who claim the NDP election win was simply a fluke, a recent poll showed the NDP with a narrow lead in Calgary and a wide lead in Edmonton. The poll was not fantastic news for the governing party, but it undermines the argument that the NDP were elected by accident. The NDP appear to be developing a solid base of support among moderate and progressive voters in urban Alberta.
This election was a reminder that Alberta has defied its stodgy political stereotype and has rapidly become a young and urban province.
The city of Calgary, long known for its conservative political roots, has now elected progressive politicians in the municipal, provincial and federal levels of government, something that would have been unheard of in past years.
According to Statistics Canada, in 1961, 53 percent of Albertans lived in rural areas. As of 2011, 83 percent of Albertans lived in urban centres with only 17 percent of our province’s population living in rural areas. This is a massive population shift that has and will continue to impact our political map for decades to come.
The year’s election was a rejection of establishment politics and a reminder that Albertans are largely politically moderate and more populist than conservative, which is an important distinction that the ruling PCs forgot after 44 years in power. It was also a reminder of how dramatically voters can abandon their traditional patterns of voting and embrace change.
This year was filled with many exciting firsts for progressive politics in Alberta. And while it is impossible to tell what the next year will bring in Alberta politics it is clear that our province changed in a significant way in 2015.
I had the pleasure of joining Ryan Jespersen on 630CHED on Dec. 16, 2015 to talk about the past year in Alberta politics. Take a listen and let me know what you think about what happened in 2015.
With only 111 days left until Canada’s next federal election, parties are scrambling to nominate candidates in Alberta’s thirty-four new electoral ridings. Despite their win in the recent provincial election and a sharp rise in the polls, the federal NDP are still far behind in choosing candidates in Alberta, with only fourfive of thirty-four candidates nominated. The Conservatives recently lost one incumbent following the surprise announcement by MP James Rajotte that he would not seek re-election. The federal Liberals have nominated at least 23 candidates.
Calgary-Forest Lawn:Myra D’Souza is seeking the NDP nomination in this east Calgary riding. Ms. D’Souza was a candidate for the Calgary Catholic School Board elections in 2013 and is currently serving her third term as a member of Calgary’s Co-op.
Calgary Heritage: Dr. Brendan Miles has been nominated as the Liberal candidate in this southwest Calgary riding. The physician will challenge Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the October 2015 election.
Calgary-Midnapore: Laura Weston has been nominated as the NDP candidate in this south Calgary constituency. Formerly nominated candidate Michael Connolly was elected as the MLA for Calgary-Hawkwood on May 5, 2015.
Calgary Nose Hill: The Liberals have nominated Ala Buzreba as their candidate. Ms. Buzreba currently studies at the University of Calgary and works with the City of Calgary’s Community and Neighbourhood Services.
Calgary Shepherd: Mechanical engineer Jerome James is the nominated Liberal candidate.
Edmonton-Manning: Artist and advocate Aaron Paquette, community activist Jeanne Lehman, and University of Alberta english instructorGlenda Baker are seeking the NDP nomination in this newly redrawn north east Edmonton riding. Mr. Paquette was one of the creators of the #Ottawapiskat hashtag, that satirized criticisms of the Idle No More protests.
Edmonton-West: Former Edmonton Public School Board trustee Heather Mackenzie and hotelier Jim Hill are seeking the NDP nomination. The Liberals have nominated former city councillor and mayoral candidate Karen Leibovici as their candidate.
Sherwood Park – Fort Saskatchewan: JoanneCave and Adam Comartin are seeking the NDP nomination. Mr. Comartin is the son of retiring NDP MP Joe Comartin, who has represented a Windsor-area riding since 2000.
Sturgeon River-Parkland: Guy Desforges has announced plans to seek the NDP nomination in this new riding, which includes areas west and north of Edmonton.
Speaking at a fundraiser during the mayoral election campaign, Ms. Leibovici is reported to have said that Edmonton “would grind to a halt” if voters did not choose her as mayor. Her mayoral bid was managed by prominent Progressive Conservative insiders Hal Danchilla and Catherine Keill.
Hotelier Kelly McCauley was acclaimed as the Conservative candidate in Edmonton-West, but not without controversy. During the nomination race, Edmonton-McClung PC MLA David Xiaowas disqualified from the contest by the Conservative Party National Council (Mr. Xiao was defeated in this month’s provincial election).
The federal NDP have not yet nominated a candidate but as a result of the May 5 provincial election NDP candidates were elected with large margins in the four constituencies that overlap the federal Edmonton-West riding. Those new NDP MLAs include Jon Carson in Edmonton-Meadowlark, Lorne Dach in Edmonton-McClung, Thomas Dang in Edmonton-South West, and Sarah Hoffman in Edmonton-Glenora.
If Ms. Leibovici does run in Edmonton-West, she will add to a growing trend of municipal politicians running for federal office in the October 2015 federal election. Three-term Edmonton city councillor Amarjeet Sohi is the nominated federal Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods, former Edmonton councillor Kerry Diotte is the Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Griesbach, Hinton Town Councillor Ryan Maguhn is running for the Liberals in Yellowhead and City of Brooks Mayor Martin Shields is the Conservative candidate in Bow River.
Date of Alberta’s 2015 election: May 5, 2015
Date of Alberta’s 2016 fixed-election: Between March 1 and May 31, 2016
Total number of votes cast in the 2015 election (unofficial results): 1,486,877 Total number of votes cast in the 2012 election (unofficial results): 1,290,223 Constituency with highest voter turnout: 68.07% in Drayton Valley-Devon Constituency with lowest voter turnout: 40.8% in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo Total number of re-elected MLAs: 13* Total number of new MLAs: 74* Newly elected MLAs in the Government Caucus: 49 Newly elected MLAs in the Opposition: 20 (18 Wildrose, 1 PC and 1 Alberta Party) Number of women in the Government Caucus: 25* out of 53 MLAs (47% of the NDP Caucus) Number of women in the Opposition Caucuses: 3* Number of MLA resignations since May 5, 2015: 1 (Jim Prentice in Calgary-Foothills) Number of tied races: 1 (*Calgary-Glenmore, pending a recount) Most votes for a candidate: 15,350 for the NDP’s Marlin Schmidt in Edmonton-Gold Bar Highest percentage of votes for a candidate: 82.4% for Rachel Notley in Edmonton-Strathcona Longest serving re-elected MLA: Brian Mason, NDP MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood first elected in 2000. Closest race that is not a tie: Little Bow with a margin of 12 votes (recount pending) Youngest elected MLA: Thomas Dang, 20 years old, was elected in Edmonton-South West. Total vote for the NDP in 2015: 603,461 Total vote for the NDP in 2012: 126,752 Total vote for the Wildrose Party in 2015: 360,101 Total vote for the Wildrose Party in 2012: 442,429 Total vote for the PC Party in 2015: 412,955 Total vote for the PC Party in 2012: 567,312
Total vote for the Liberal Party in 2015: 62,171
Total vote for the Liberal Party in 2012: 127,645 Total vote for the Alberta Party in 2015: 33,867
Total vote for the Alberta Party in 2012: 16,959