What happens when three federal ridings become one? South of Edmonton, large portions of the Wetaskiwin, Edmonton-Leduc and Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont ridings have been merged into the new Edmonton-Wetaskiwin riding.
The three Conservative MPs representing the area have chosen not to run against each other for their party’s nomination in the new amalgamated riding – Blaine Calkins will run in the new Red Deer-Wolf Creek and James Rajotte is expected to run in the new Edmonton-Riverbend – leaving Mike Lake to contest the Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Wetaskiwin.
Northeast Edmonton MP Tim Uppal was recently quietly acclaimed as the Conservative candidate in the new Edmonton-Mill Woods riding.
First elected in Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont in 2006, Mike Lake now faces a challenge from Mohinder Banga and Leduc County mayor John Whaley in the new riding. In a recent post on his Facebook page, Mr. Lake suggests that he might need to sign up 3,000 new members to defeat Mohinder Banga, who he claims could sell up to 4,000 Conservative memberships to win the nomination. It would certainly be some sort of record if 7,000 people showed up for one nomination meeting.
Deadline for membership sales is Thursday, May 22 and the nomination meeting is expected to be held in mid-June 2014.
The NDP will choose a candidate in the new Edmonton-Griesbach riding at a June 2 nomination meeting at Alberta Avenue Community Hall. Mona Gill, Janis Irwin and Zane Smith are seeking the nomination and have drawn crowds of hundreds to town hall forums organized by the local NDP association.
A recent Elections Canada report transposed the 2011 federal election results with the new riding boundaries and showed the Conservatives with 19,832 votes, the NDP with 14,151 votes, and the Liberals with 2,484 votes in the new Edmonton-Griesbach.
Liberal activist Wendy Butler is seeking her party’s nomination in the only NDP-held riding in Alberta. The Liberal vote has declined sharply in this riding over the past five elections as non-Conservative voters coalesced behind NDP MP Linda Duncan. In 2000, candidate Jonathan Dai earned 17,816 votes (31.8% of total votes) and in 2011, candidate Matthew Sinclair earned 1,372 votes (2.8% of total votes).
While the epic battle between Rob Anders and Ron Liepert in Calgary-Signal Hill was entertaining to watch, preparation for the next federal election has sparked nomination contests in ridings across the province. And with two by-elections expected to be called within weeks, federal political parties are lining up their candidates for the vote.
On March 30, Liberal Party members chose Kyle Harrietha as their candidate. Mr. Harrietha faced Chris Flett in the nomination contest.
The Liberals are expected to run a strong campaign in the sprawling northeast Alberta riding. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau recently visited the riding, drawing a crowd of hundreds to a meet-and-greet event in Fort McMurray.
The Conservative Party will hold its nomination votes on April 24 in High Prairie and Slave Lake, April 25 in Athabasca and Lac La Biche, and April 26 in Fort McMurray. The results will be announced following the Fort McMurray vote. Fort McMurray lawyer Arlan Delisle and Athabasca County councillor David Yurdiga are the only two candidates seeking the nomination.
Oilsands worker Lori McDaniel will run for the New Democrats and firefighter Tim Moen is the Libertarian Party candidate.
On April 6, Dustin Fullerwas nominated as the federal Liberal candidate in the upcoming by-election. Mr. Fuller will face Conservative John Barlow when the by-election is called. There has so far been no sign of any NDP or Green Party candidates.
General Election nominations
Meanwhile, nominations for the general election are also underway. As most of Alberta are largely considered safe territory for the Conservatives, competitive races have emerged in newly redrawn ridings across Alberta. Here are some ridings with recent updates:
Calgary-Nose Hill Michelle Rempel was acclaimed as the Conservative candidate in this newly redrawn north Calgary riding. Ms. Rempel has represented the Calgary-Centre North riding since 2011.
Recent defeated in the Calgary-Signal Hill nomination contest, Mr. Anders may seek the Conservative nomination in this neighbouring riding. The Conservative nomination is already being sought by former MP Eric Lowther and party organizer Gord Elliott.
Mr. Lowther represented Calgary-Centre as the Reform Party/Canadian Alliance MP from 1997 until 2000, when he was defeated by former Prime Minister Joe Clark, who had returned to politics to lead the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
Edmonton-Mill Woods Edmonton-Sherwood Park MP Tim Uppal has decided to jump across the city to seek the Conservative nomination in the new Edmonton-Mill Woods riding. Mr. Uppal was the Canadian Alliance/Conservative candidate in that area in 2000 and 2004 but was defeated by Mike Lake for the Conservative nomination in 2006.
This is not Mr. Chowdhury’s first attempt at a party nomination. In 2011, he challenged Matt Jeneroux for the Progressive Conservative nomination in the provincial riding of Edmonton-South West and in 2008 he unsuccessfully sought the federal Liberal Party nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona.
Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan Recent municipal election candidate Nicole van Kuppeveld has announced she will seek the Conservative nomination in this new riding east of Edmonton. Ms. van Kuppeveld, the former president of the Sherwood Park provincial PC Party, will face off against Garnett Genuis, the 2012 Wildrose candidate in Sherwood Park.
There are 705 days until Monday, October 19, 2015, when the next Canadian federal election is scheduled to be held. With less than two years until Canadians choose who will serve as Members of Parliament and with new electoral boundaries coming into effect at the next election, candidates across Alberta are preparing to seek party nominations, a first step to becoming a candidate.
Last week’s resignation announcement by Conservative MP Ted Menzies opens the door for a by-election to be held in southwest Alberta’s Macleod riding. When the next election is called, Macleod will be dissolved and the new Foothills riding will be created. Rumours circulated soon after Mr. Menzies announcement that Wildrose official opposition leader Danielle Smith could seek the Conservative nomination were quickly quashed when he announced she would remain as MLA for Highwood. According to the Okotoks Western Wheel, three local residents, businessman Scott Wagner, rancher Phil Rowland and former Parliament Hill staffer Melissa Mathieson, have expressed interest in seeking the Conservative nomination.
Lawyer and conservative activist Michael Cooper has already announced his candidacy in the St. Albert-Edmonton Conservative nomination and has the support of the provincial Progressive Conservative establishment, including endorsements from Finance Minister Doug Horner, Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, and St. Albert MLA Stephen Khan. Also in the race is Kevin Tam, a Conservative Party activist who is currently employed as a researcher with the provincial Liberal Opposition.
Changing boundaries in southern Alberta mean that Lethbridge Conservative MP Jim Hillyer will soon find himself living inside the redrawn Medicine Hat riding, currently represented by Conservative MP LeVar Payne. While a nomination race between the two incumbents could easily be averted if Mr. Hillyer runs in the newly redrawn Lethbridge, he may still face a tough nomination contest now that his large base of support in the southern half of the old riding will now living in a new riding.
Conservatives have still yet to resolve who will run in the handful of new ridings created in south Edmonton. Similar to the situation in southern Alberta, Conservatives are hopeful that nomination battles between MPs Mike Lake, James Rajotte, and Blaine Calkins can be averted. This may be even further complicated if current Edmonton-Sherwood Park MP Tim Uppal decides to seek a nomination in the newly redrawn Edmonton-Mill Woods riding. Mr. Uppal was the Canadian Alliance and Conservative candidate in south east Edmonton in the 2000 and 2004 federal elections and lost his party nomination to Mr. Lake before the 2006 election.
Rod Loyola announced his intentions to seek the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Mill Woods last year. Mr. Loyola was the 2012 provincial NDP candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie and is currently the president of the Non-Academic Staff Association at the University of Alberta.
With the retirement of Calgary-Nose Hill MP Diane Ablonczy, who was first elected under the Reform Party banner in 1993, Calgarians can expect a hotly contested nomination race in this riding that is considered a Conservative stronghold. One candidate rumoured to be considering a run for a nomination is Calgary-Foothills PC MLA Len Webber, who served as a cabinet minister in Premier Ed Stelmach‘s government but was shuffled to the backbenches after Alison Redford became Premier in 2011.
In the always contested Edmonton-Centre, aboriginal activist and educator Lewis Cardinal, announced earlier this year that he would once again seek the NDP nomination. In 2011, Mr. Cardinal increased his party’s support in that riding by 11%, placing second to Conservative incumbent Laurie Hawn. The central Edmonton riding was represented by Liberal MP Anne McLellan from 1993 until 2006. Hoping for a revival of Liberal support in the next election, a number of candidates are said to be preparing to contest the Liberal nomination, including entrepreneur and Rhodes Scholar Randy Boissonnault,and 2011 candidate and lawyer Mary MacDonald.
Two-term Edmonton-Decore PC MLA Janice Sarich is rumoured to be mounting a challenge against current Edmonton-East Conservative MP Peter Goldring in the new Edmonton-Griesbach riding. With Mr. Goldring back in the Conservative fold after sitting as an independent, he is expected to seek his party’s nomination in the new riding. The NDP are searching for a star candidate in this riding, after seeing their support steadily increase since the past four federal elections. The new riding also significantly overlaps the areas represented by NDP MLA Brian Mason, David Eggen, and Deron Bilous in the provincial Legislature. The NDP’s 2008 and 2012 candidate, former MLA Ray Martin, was elected to serve on Edmonton’s Public School Board on October 21, 2013.
Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeberunleashed a political storm last night when he announced on Twitter that he is leaving the Conservative Party of Canada caucus. Initially citing a “a lack of commitment to transparency and open government,” he expanded his criticisms to the control Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s office exercises over backbench MPs as interfering with the ability to represent his representing his constituents.
“When you have a PMO that tightly scripts its backbenches like this one attempts to do, MPs don’t represent their constituents in Ottawa, they represent the government to their constituents,” Mr. Rathgeber told reporters at an afternoon press conference in Edmonton.
First elected to Parliament in 2008, Mr. Rathgeber has built a case for leaving the Tories by earning a reputation as being one of the only Conservative politicians in Ottawa to purposely deviate from the party discipline enforced by Prime Minister Harper. This is certainly embarrassing for Prime Minister Harper’s government, which has been scandal plagued for the past few months, but it is yet to be seen how damaging the departure will be for the Tory government in Ottawa.
Starting his political career at the provincial level in 2001, Mr. Rathgeber became an unlikely politician when he stepped in as a last minute candidate after the already nominated PC candidate, Don Koziak, decided against challenging popular Liberal MLA Lance White (Mr. Rathgeber won the election). He served one term as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton-Calder until 2004, when he was defeated by New Democrat David Eggen. This means Mr. Rathgeber holds the dubious honour of being the only Alberta Conservative to have unseated an incumbent Liberal and been defeated by a New Democrat.
In south Edmonton, new boundaries have forced Tory MPs Mike Lake, James Rajotte, and Blaine Calkins to uncomfortably position themselves for the prospect of nomination fights in new ridings. Making the shuffle more complicated are rumours that north Edmonton MP Tim Uppal may seek a nomination in a south Edmonton riding, as his Edmonton-Sherwood Park riding is being dissolved. Add to this the rumours that Minister Rona Ambrose may opt to retire instead of seeking a fifth-term in the new Edmonton-West riding.
If the nomination contest tension reaches the point of fisticuffs, the Tories could offer one of these MPs an easy nomination race in the now non-Conservative Edmonton-St. Albert. This is similar to when Mr. Uppal was offered an easy nomination win in Edmonton-Sherwood Park after Mr. Lake him for the Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont nomination in 2006 (Mr. Uppal was that riding’s Conservative candidate in 2000 and 2004).
Mr. Goldring’s departure from the Conservative caucus a year and a half ago sparked interest among prospective Conservative nominees. Lawyer Michael Cooper, who is seeking the Conservative nomination in the new Edmonton-Griesbach riding, and PC MLA Janice Sarich, who is rumoured to be eyeing a federal candidacy, could see Mr. Rathgeber’s departure as an opening to run instead in Edmonton-St. Albert now that Mr. Goldring has been readmitted to the Tory caucus in Ottawa.
This week, Members of Parliament in Ottawa voted on Motion 312, which if passed could have re-opened a divisive debate about a woman’s right to make decisions concerning her own body. Thankfully, Motion 312 was defeated 203-91 votes, but it remains disappointing that in this modern age one-third of federal MPs stood in favour of this Motion.
Eight of Alberta’s twenty-seven MPs voted against and nineteen voted in favour of the Motion (the riding of Calgary-Centre is not currently represented in the House of Commons following the resignation of MP Lee Richardson).
Likely unbeknownst to most Canadians, commissions have been struck across the country and tasked with redrawing our federal electoral boundaries in advance of the expected 2015 general election. The process of electoral redistribution, which is done every decade, accounts for population change in the ridings which we elect Members of Parliament to represent us in the House of Commons. Separate commissions have been struck for each province.
Chairing the Alberta commission is the Justice Carole Conrad, who is currently a member of the courts of appeal of Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Ed Eggerer of Airdrie and Donna Wilson of Edmonton are the two public members appointed to the commission.
The commission is also tasked with adding six new ridings to the province, which will increase Alberta’s representation in the House of Commons to 34 MPs. Alberta’s two largest cities, Calgary and Edmonton, and their surrounding regions, can expect see their representation increased with the six additional ridings.
The federal commission is non-partisan in nature, unlike provincial electoral boundary commissions in Alberta, which include a neutral chairman and two representatives nominated by the leader of the governing party and the official opposition party.
The last federal electoral redistribution took place before the 2004 general election. In Edmonton, a number of ridings which had previously existed entirely within the City limits were redrawn to include large rural areas surrounding the City. This is why capital region communities like Beaumont, Fort Saskatchewan, Leduc, Sherwood Park, Stony Plain, and Spruce Grove find themselves sharing Members of Parliament with suburban Edmonton voters.
In some cases, these outward stretching boundaries have led to interesting internal political disputes.
Before the 2008 general election, conservative partisans in Sherwood Park were upset that Edmontonian Tim Uppal had won the nomination to become the Conservative Party candidate in Edmonton-Sherwood Park following the retirement of long-time MP Ken Epp. Not satisfied with internal party appeals, Sherwood Park resident James Fordchallenged Mr. Uppall by running as an Independent candidate in that year’s election. After a fierce election campaign, Mr. Uppal was elected with 17,628 votes to Mr. Ford’s 15,960.
A look at the electoral results from that campaign show that support for each candidate was divided almost entirely by the City of Edmonton boundary (Mr. Uppall earning strong support in Edmonton polls and Mr. Ford sweeping polls in Sherwood Park and Fort Saskatchewan). The geographically-based results were replicated to a lesser extent when Mr. Ford challenged Mr. Uppal once again in the 2011 general election (Mr. Uppal earned a commanding 24,623 votes to Mr. Ford’s respectable 16,263).
It is likely that all partisan eyes are waiting to glimpse at what boundary changes will be made to Edmonton-Strathcona, home of Alberta’s only non-Conservative MP. New Democrat MP Linda Duncan increased her margin of victory when she was re-elected in 2011, but shifting boundaries have a way of changing political fortunes.
After a week away from the blogging world, I spent some time this weekend catching up with plenty of election nomination candidate updates. Alberta’s political parties are all in varying degrees of preparation for the upcoming election and for the next session of the Legislative Assembly. The Spring sitting of the Assembly begins this week and the provincial budget is expected to be tabled by Finance Minister Ron Liepert by the end of the week.
In Edmonton-Mill Woods, Sohail Qadri defeated controversy-prone one-term MLA Carl Benito to win the PC nomination. Mr. Benito is the third PC MLA to lose a nomination contest in the run up to the next provincial election. The PCs have been unable to find candidates to run in Calgary-Buffalo and Edmonton-Strathcona.
The NDP, with more than 70 nominated candidates, acclaimed University of Alberta student Aditya Rao as a candidate in Drumheller-Stettler last weekend.
The Liberal Party, with only 29 candidates nominated, recently chose Pete Helfrich in Banff-Cochrane, Wilson McCutchan in Calgary-West, Les Vidok in Innifail-Sylvan Lake and Jason Chilibeck in Red Deer-South. Liberal leader Raj Sherman is expected to release key parts of his party’s election platform in Calgary and Edmonton today.
The Alberta Party recently nominated Brandon Beasley in Calgary-Shaw and will soon nominate candidates Midge Lambert in Battle River-Wainwright. On March 4, Alberta Party members in Lacombe-Ponoka will choose either Tony Jeglum or Brent Chalmers as their candidate in a contested nomination.
In the electoral realm beyond political parties, Sherwood Park Independent owner James Ford announced that he will run as an Independent candidate in Sherwood Park. Mr. Ford is better known as the Independent candidate who placed a strong second to Conservative Tim Uppal in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections. Mr. Ford’s candidacy in the federal elections were in response to Mr. Uppal’s nomination win over Strathcona County Councillor Jacquie Fenske, which many in the local Conservative establishment believed to be unfair. Ms. Fenske is now the nominated PC candidate in the neighbouring Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville constituency.
In the land where federal election results are typically much ado about nothing, the election scheduled for May 2, 2011 is not much of an exception. As the Liberals and NDP fill ballots across the province with last minute paper candidates, with few exceptions Alberta remains safe electoral territory for the Conservative Party of Canada.
If any riding in Alberta changes hands in this federal election, it will be Edmonton-Strathcona. It is the only riding represented by an opposition Member of Parliament and Conservatives have made it their goal to unseat NDP MP Linda Duncan, who defeated Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer by a slim 463 votes in 2008. After campaigning for two years, the Conservatives hope that candidate Ryan Hastman is the one who can do the job.
As the NDP’s Environment Critic in Ottawa, Ms. Duncan has gone against the grain of other Alberta MP colleagues by criticizing the oil sands and its impact on the environment. In a campaign stop in Edmonton this weekend, NDP leader Jack Layton only briefly mentioned the environment, suggesting that he may have been avoiding the issue while in Alberta (he also did not take media questions while in the province).
The Green Party has nominated Environmental Economics and Policy studentAndrew Fehr, who faces the challenge of convincing Green-leaning voters that actually voting for a Green Party is a better choice than a strategic vote for Ms. Duncan. The Liberals have not yet nominated a candidate and appear to be a non-factor in this contest.
The highly polarized geopolitics of this riding have the Conservatives drawing strong support from polls in the east and NDP drawing strong support from polls in the west. Both candidates will lean heavy on financial and organizational support from their national parties, making this riding too close to call.
The irony is that the NDP could increase their vote total across Edmonton at the same time they could lose the only riding they currently hold.
In Edmonton-Centre the real contest to watch is not to defeat door-knocking/hand-shaking/baby-kissing election-machine Conservative MP Laurie Hawn. The real contest is for second place. The Liberals hope their candidate Mary MacDonald can regain the support they lost in the last election and maintain their position as the de facto alternative to the Conservatives in this riding. The NDP are hoping that their candidate Lewis Cardinal can help build the kind of support needed to cut the Liberals down to third place. This is similar to the multi-election strategy that helped the NDP make gains in Strathcona.
The Liberals held this riding from 1993 until 2006 when Mr. Hawn defeated Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan. Mr Hawn’s vote share decreased in 2008 while his margin widened substantially as the Liberal vote collapsed. The Greens have nominated 2008 candidate David Parker and also running is Mikkel Paulson, leader of the Pirate Party of Canada.
Edmonton-East MP Peter Golding is what I would refer to as a wall-paper backbencher. Since he was first elected in 1997, Mr. Goldring seems to only pop into the media spotlight when taking up odd causes like exposing the “truth about Louis Riel” or joining the bizarre drive to get the obscure Caribbean Islands of Turks and Caicos to join Canada.
The NDP have steadily increased their support in this riding since the 2004 election and former MLA Ray Martin is hoping that this trend continues. Mr Martin is an NDP institution in northeast Edmonton, having been elected as an MLA from 1982 to 1993, a public school board trustee from 2001 to 2004, and once again as an MLA from 2004 to 2008. This is the fourth time Mr Martin has sought a seat in Parliament since 1997. The Liberals have nominated IT management consultant Shafik Ruda.
Edmonton-Sherwood Park was the second closest race in 2008, when Independent Conservative James Ford nearly defeated Conservative candidate Tim Uppal. It was a city mouse versus county mouse game as many voters in Strathcona County and Fort Saskatchewanwere upset with the Conservative nomination process that led to County Councillor Jacquie Fenske defeat and allowed Edmontonian Mr. Uppal to win the nomination.
Mr. Ford is running again and the Liberals and NDP, represented by Rick Szostak and Mike Scott, are expected to play minor supporting roles in this contest. The big question is whether voters in the county still feel that Mr. Uppal’s candidacy is the great injustice they believed it to be in 2008.
At the invitation of Edmonton-Mill-Woods-Beaumont MP Mike Lake, I participated in a roundtable discussion yesterday morning with some local Conservative MPs and a group of eight Edmontonians from diverse backgrounds. Along with Mr. Lake, the local MPs in attendance were Edmonton-Sherwood Park MP Tim Uppal, Edmonton-East MP Peter Goldring, Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber, and Edmonton-Centre MP Laurie Hawn (who unfortunately had to step out for part of the meeting).
As the start of the meeting, each participant was asked to name a few issues that were important to them and that they wanted to discuss. The three issues that I raised, and were discussed, were:
- Urban Growth: The growth of safe and healthy urban communities and investment in LRT and public transit.
- Telecommunications: CRTC, User Based Billing, and the lack of competitiveness in the telecommunications sector in Canada (Internet service providers and Mobile Phone service providers).
- Public Health Care: The need to provide stability in the public health care system. A big part of the Federal Government’s role in this could be ensuring the funding for the 2014 Canada Health Transfer.
I am not going to go into detail about the discussions that took place around the table over the next two hours, as they touched on a wide range of topics related to housing, immigration, temporary foreign workers, economic competitiveness, budget deficit, government debt, student finance, mental health, to urban growth and more.
I was actually surprised at how quickly the two hours passed and how smoothly the discussions flowed. The roundtable format of the small group discussion certainly gave the meeting a more intimate feel. It also allowed for more flowing conversations and exchanges between participants and topics than a traditional town hall meeting would allow.
I appreciated the opportunity to talk with local MPs about some of the important issues close to my heart and listen to the issues raised by the other participants.
The federal Liberals slate in Alberta is expected to be bolstered when a high-profile candidate announces their intentions to stand against Labour Minister Rona Ambrose in Edmonton-Spruce Grove. Alberta political watchers have been abuzz with rumours that Ruth Kelly, publisher of Alberta Venture magazine and former President of Edmonton’s Chamber of Commerce, will carry the Liberal Party banner against Minister Ambrose. The rumours began after Ms. Kelly’s became an outspoken critics of the Government of Canada’s denial of funding for Edmonton’s bid for the 2017 Expo (and the large pile of federal infrastructure funding that was expected to come with a successful bid).
While I have remained largely indifferent to the 2017 Expo bid, it is easy to understand the frustration of the people who committed their time and energy towards the bid only to have political powers in Ottawa deny the funds needed to make it a reality. Minister Ambrose will be difficult to defeat, but I am glad that the Conservatives might actually have to pay some attention to and focus some of their campaign resources on a riding that they would likely take for granted.
It is really hard to tell sometimes. Our Members of Parliament can be often seen at events around our city (some more than others), but none of them have distinguished themselves as Edmonton’s strong voice in the national capital.
Edmonton has its share of competent representatives in our local batch of current MPs, like Mike Lake, James Rajotte, Tim Uppal, and Mr. Hawn, but none of them have succeeded in carrying the kind of political clout that has defined Edmonton’s previous prominent champions in Ottawa.