Tag Archives: Unite the Right

Setting the stage for Wildrose 2.0: Moderates need not apply

“We must also ensure that a new, united party will be built on a solid foundation of conservative principles and policy. The left-liberal clique that managed to slowly highjack the PC Party must never again be allowed to seize control of Alberta’s conservative movement.”

Derek Fildebrandt Alberta Taxpayers

Derek Fildebrandt

This call for ideological purity came from Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt in an opinion-editorial published by Postmedia earlier this week. Fildebrandt, who sounds as if he is preparing his own leadership bid, has been a vocal supporter of Jason Kenney’s bid to “unite” the Progressive Conservative Party and the Wildrose Party to form a new consertvative party before the next election.

Fildebrandt’s manifesto reads like a call to create a rebranded Wildrose Party without the moderates, centrists and liberals who once found a home in the old PC Party. Driving this ideological agenda, Fildebrandt would undoubtably be a prominent leader in the new Conservative Party, one that a province-builder like Peter Lougheed might not even recognize.

Sandra Jansen

Sandra Jansen

Kenney’s hostile takeover of the PC Party appears unstoppable at this time. Along with support from former prime minister Stephen Harper, the Manning Centre, and Wildrose Party members, he appears to have secured a majority in the leadership delegate count.

Kenney’s supporters have succeeded in driving out a number of high profile political moderates from the party.

Former cabinet minister Sandra Jansen quit the leadership race after being harassed and threatened with violence. She later joined the NDP and is expected to be appointed to cabinet sometime this year.

Former MLA Stephen Khan told Postmedia columnist Paula Simons last week that he quit the PC leadership race last week after an ugly race where he was the target of racist and Islamaphobic emails from new party members supporting Kenney.

Stephen Khan

Stephen Khan

When AlbertaPolitics.ca author David Climenhaga, well-known for his progressive views, asked him about his political future, Khan replied “I have as much interest in joining the Wildrose 2.0 Party as you do.

Party president Katherine O’Neill has done an admirable and thankless job trying to lead the PCs through the turbulent period. Under siege from conservative hard-liners and Kenney supporters, O’Neill represents urban, centrist and moderate views that could lead to a PC Party revival. Too bad she is not a candidate for the leadership.

One year and eight months after losing the election, the big blue tent that led the PC Party to 44 years of electoral success has collapsed but not folded. The party was ripe for Kenney’s hostile takeover but any plans to dissolve the party will have to address  vendor contracts, party constitutional issues, local and provincial board approvals, legalities around fundraising and bank accounts, and fairly strict legal parameters. Despite his campaign to “unite” the two political parties, it is legally impossible to merge political parties in Alberta.

Ed Stelmach

Ed Stelmach

All this is occurring at the same time as Rachel Notley’s NDP government looks more moderate and centrist by the day. And with pipeline approvals and some projections of a recovering economy, the NDP might be the sensible option on Albertans’ ballots in 2019. But attacks on the NDP, and on Notley personally, will be harsh.

Last week marked six years since Ed Stelmach announced he would step down as Premier of Alberta. Faced with a revolt by right-wing cabinet ministers and the rise of an insurgent Wildrose Party, Stelmach surprised the province at a Jan. 2011 press conference, where he issued a stern warning about the direction and tone of politics in our province, which is shockingly relevant to today:

“There is a profound danger that the next election campaign will focus on personality and US style negative, attack politics that is directed at me personally.

The danger is that it could allow for an extreme right party to disguise itself as a moderate party by focussing on personality – on me personally.

This type of U.S. style wedge politics is coming into Canada, and it comes at our peril.”

Stelmach was a few years early, but he was right.

Premier Rachel Notley speaks to a crowd of 700 at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in downtown Calgary earlier this week.

PCs don’t need the Wildrose to win, NDP should watch their Liberal flank

Uneventful weeks have become rare in Alberta politics and this week in particular has been uniquely interesting.

We started with the release of political party fundraising data from Elections Alberta showing the NDP raised more funds in the last quarter than any of the conservative parties combined, a first. This news was followed by a State of the Province address from Premier Rachel Notley and an oddly curious poll showing the Progressive Conservatives with a 13 point lead in support ahead of the NDP and the Wildrose Party.

The telephone poll conducted by the Citizen Society Research Lab at Lethbridge College, which was in the field from from October 1 to 8, 2016, showed the formerly governing PCs with 38.4 percent support. The survey showed the Wildrose Party in second place with 25.7 percent and the NDP in a distant third-place with 19.7 percent. It is important to look at polls with a grain of salt, especially ones which deviate dramatically from other polls, but it is important to recognize that polls can be indicative of trends.

Here are a few thoughts and observations:

1) NDP electoral coalition is fraying
We are still two or three years away from the next election so the NDP are smart to avoid focusing on any horse race polls but they should be concerned.

There are signs that moderate voters, who were a key part of the NDP’s winning coalition in 2015, are migrating to the PCs and Liberal parties. The NDP need to ask themselves why, only 17 months after their election, they appear to have lost nearly half their supporters.

Ms. Notley tried to bolster support for her government’s agenda through the State of the Province Address delivered to a crowd of 700 at downtown Calgary’s Jack Singer Concert Hall. She used the opportunity to reiterated her commitment not to make the sort of funding cuts to health care and education that Albertans could expect her Conservative opponents to make if they were in government.

The NDP need to take a hard look at why key elements of their government agenda, including some of their flagship policies, might not be resonating with the Albertans who voted them into office. This may require a more thoughtful and aggressive communications strategy and putting Ms. Notley front and centre is a good start to remind Albertans why they voted NDP. She is their greatest asset.

2) PCs don’t need to merge with the Wildrose Party to win the next election 

Having the NDP drop into third place in the polls weakens the argument promoted by Jason Kenney and groups like the Manning Centre that the PC and Wildrose parties need to merge in order to defeat the NDP in the next election.

It is probably more true that the Wildrose Party needs to merge with the PC Party in order to break the ceiling it has reached under Brian Jean’s leadership. But this poll would suggest that the PCs do not need to merge with the Wildrose Party in order to win the next election.

Despite both parties being conservative in philosophy, the PCs and Wildrose hold fundamentally different views on issues ranging from climate change to social issues to education and health care. The strength of the PC Party during its 44 years as government was its ability to attract a broad coalition of conservative, moderate and liberal voters. Everything the Wildrose Party has done over the past 17 months indicates the leadership of that party is not interested in building a broad coalition of Albertans.

We should expect support for the PCs and Wildrose Party to fluctuate over the next few months as the PCs choose their next leader. If the PCs anoint a more right-wing social conservative leader on March 18, 2017, they could drive moderate voters back into the NDP coalition.

3) Watch out for the Liberals

An unexpected result of a decline in NDP support could be a resurgence in support for the Alberta Liberal Party, which will be choosing a new leader in early 2017. According to the survey, Liberal support is at 9 percent up from an abysmal 4 percent in the May 2015 election. The popularity of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is likely part of the provincial Liberal Party’s small boost, which saw the party’s candidate place a close third in a by-election earlier this year.

A significant part of the NDP’s winning coalition from the 2015 election was made up of former Liberal voters who abandoned their party in favour of the PCs in the 2012 election (in order to stop a Wildrose victory). It appears that many of those moderate voters may have become disenchanted with the NDP and have migrated back to the Liberals, and the PCs, for the time being.

As AlbertaPolitics.ca blogger David Climenhaga wrote earlier this week, the loss of this vote may signal to the NDP that “[m]aybe it’s time to start talking about uniting the left again.


Speaking of Liberals, it was announced today that Edmonton lawyer Kevin Feehan has been appointed as a Judge on the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta. Mr. Feehan was serving as co-chair of the Alberta Liberal Party’s leadership selection process, a position he will likely have to vacate due to his judicial appointment. Mr. Feehan is the brother of Richard Feehan, the NDP MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford and Minister of Indigenous Relations.

The Liberals replaced Calgary leadership co-chair Nirmala Naidoo last month when she resigned to join the campaign team trying to elect Sandra Jansen to the leadership of the PC Party.

Byron Nelson to announce PC leadership bid, pans Kenney’s hostile takeover bid

Calgary lawyer Byron Nelson is expected to announce his plans to seek the leadership of Alberta’s third-place Progressive Conservative Party tomorrow in Calgary. Mr. Nelson was his party’s candidate in Calgary-Bow in the 2015 election and was defeated by New Democrat Deborah Drever.

Early in August, Mr. Nelson took to Facebook to share his thoughts on Jason Kenney’s plans to take over the PC Party and merge it with the Wildrose Party. Here is an excerpt:

“It is, in a sense, the low-effort method of getting rid of the NDP. It is the method of taking two parties whose visions were resoundingly rejected in the last election, and hoping/assuming that there were enough people clinging to those rejected visions to beat the NDP and form government.

It involves no new vision for Alberta, as has been repeatedly seen by the comments and responses of those who tout it. It merely answers that it will govern in a “conservative manner”. Surely we can all understand and agree, based on the elections of the past 15 months, that simply trying to unite a large group, and promising to govern in a “conservative manner” is a roadmap to electoral defeat. Voters need to be inspired by a vision and a plan. When you don’t have a vision and a plan, you will not get people to vote for you.

The fact that he “unite the right” option for the PC party is countered by the “rebuilding the party” option, is an interesting study in sharp contrasts. The former involves no effort, just a suggestion that we can duct-tape two parties together and win. The latter involves maximum effort by many people. The former offers no vision for the future other than a bland promise of governing conservatively. The latter produces a specific vision and a plan.”

Mr. Nelson joins Mr. Kenney and former Calgary-Varsity MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans as the third candidate in the PC leadership race, which officially kicks off on October 1, 2016. Another Calgary lawyer, Doug Schweitzer, announced his was not entering the race last week. The party will host an all-candidates forum during its policy meeting in Red Deer on November 4 to 6, 2016.

Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning and Jason Kenney.

A look at who is backing Jason Kenney’s bid for the PC Party leadership

Conservative Member of Parliament Jason Kenney is expected to announce his candidacy for the leader of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta tomorrow, July 6, in Calgary, deliver a speech in Grande Prairie that evening and then travel to Edmonton on July 7 for another speech. He was widely expected to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada and only just recently began positioning himself as candidate to unite Alberta’s conservative partisans under one banner.

He would be the first candidate to officially enter the PC leadership contest, which is scheduled to be held on March 18, 2017.

  • As I explained in a column last month, Mr. Kenney could have a rough landing in Alberta politics.
  • A skilled organizer with more than 25 years of experience as a taxpayers federation lobbyist and Ottawa politician, Mr. Kenney should not be underestimated by his opponents.
  • Mr. Kenney follows in the footsteps of his former colleague, Jim Prentice, who led the PC Party from 2014 until its defeat by Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party in May 2015. That election ended forty-four uninterrupted years of PC majority governments in Alberta.
  • Mr. Kenney recently purchased a membership in the PC Party, despite being widely seen as a supporter and ideological ally of the Official Opposition Wildrose Party, currently led by former MP Brian Jean.
  • Perhaps anticipating a threat of takeover, the PC Party recently abandoned its one-member one-vote system of choosing its leader in favour of a closed-delegate system, which forces candidates to campaign and organize in all 87 constituencies across the province.
  • Mr. Kenney is not assured an easy victory in the PC leadership race. I spoke with CTV about some of the potential candidates who also might enter the race, including former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who Mr. Kenney once described as an “asshole,” Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke, and Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen, who said she would consider leaving the PC Party if Mr. Kenney became the leader. Edmonton City Councillor Michael Oshry is also considering entering the contest and former MLA Doug Griffiths is rumoured to be interested.

It is unclear whether Mr. Kenney would resign as the MP for Calgary-Midnapore immediately or if he would keep one foot in federal politics until he secures a leadership position in a provincial party. Under provincial elections law, he does not need to resign his federal seat until he is a registered candidate in a provincial election.

Because of his track-record as a social conservative and Wildrose supporter, Mr. Kenney might not find a great deal of support among existing PC Party members, including the 1,001 who attended the party’s annual general meeting earlier this year. But two unite-the-right groups could provide him with a base with which to organize his PC leadership bid.

Mr. Kenney appears to have the support of two unite-the-right groups. The Alberta Can’t Wait group, backed by former Reform Party stalwarts Preston Manning and Cliff Fryers, lobbyist Hal Danchilla and 1980s Tory cabinet minister Rick Orman, and the Alberta Prosperity Fund, backed by former right-wing talk radio host Dave Rutherford, former MLAs Heather Forsyth and Shiraz Shariff, and former PC Party president Jim McCormick. The Alberta Prosperity Fund issued a formal endorsement of Mr. Kenney on July 5, 2016.

The Alberta Can’t Wait group was reportedly planning to hijack the Alberta Party later this summer and Prosperity Fund founder and director Barry McNamar, formerly of the Fraser Institute and Manning Centre, is reportedly suing the Wildrose Party.

The two groups are part of a burgeoning cottage industry of anti-NDP groups, including the infamous and less polished Kudatah, that have popped up since the May 2015 election. Both the Wildrose and PC Parties have publicly rejected their overtures.

Alberta’s elections laws bar political parties from merging financial assets, meaning any actual merger between conservative parties is highly unlikely. Making things more complicated was the formation of a sixth conservative party last month – the Reform Party of Alberta. It may be a more likely scenario that a PC Party led by Mr. Kenney would apply to Elections Alberta to change its name to the Conservative Party of Alberta and urge Wildrose MLAs to run under its banner in the 2019 general election.

Cast into the opposition for the first time in 44 years, Conservatives in Alberta will need to define what their vision is for the future of our province. After decades of fiscal mismanagement, much of Alberta’s current economic situation is a result of decisions made by PC Party governments. Conservatives cannot simply expect that Albertans will forgive, forget and restore the natural governing party in 2019. Those days are gone.

Aside from his politically charged rhetoric about “free enterprise” and the bogeyman ‘bohemian Marxism‘ it remains completely unclear what Mr. Kenney’s vision for Alberta would be, besides just returning Conservatives to power. I expect we will find out more in the next few days.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean (right) and Strathmore-Brooks candidate Derek Fildebrandt use a comically large arrow to point out tax increases to alcohol included in the PC Party's recent provincial budget.

“Over My Dead Body” – This week in Alberta’s Big Happy Conservative Family

It was only last week that the leaders of Alberta’s two main conservative political parties – Progressive Conservative interim leader Ric McIver and Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean – were in Ottawa hobnobbing with the conservative and right-wing establishment at the annual Manning Centre conference. It was reported that the two party leaders met with federal Conservatives at Stornoway, the official residence of official opposition leader Rona Ambrose, who were trying to help facilitate a merger between the two parties.

Yesterday, it appeared that any ground closed between the two party leaders last week may have been lost after Mr. Jean publicly claimed that Mr. McIver was encouraging PC Party members to purchase Wildrose Party memberships.

The Calgary Herald reported that Mr. McIver would not directly answer a question in an interview Monday on whether he had encouraged dual membership in both parties. But yesterday afternoon, Mr. McIver came out swinging with a LinkedIn post titled “Over My Dead Body,” in which he refuted Mr. Jean’s “outrageous statement.”

This strange blowout follows another odd episode on social media on Monday between the president of the Calgary-North West PC association and a Wildrose Caucus staffer, which PC MLA Sandra Jansen responded to on Twitter. Seen as a moderate conservative, Ms. Jansen is a vocal opponent of a merger with the Wildrose Party, and she could be a potential candidate for the PC Party’s permanent leadership.

In another odd story, Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt stirred up attention with his aggressive defence of his decision to submit expenses for a breakfast meeting with former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, the Manning Centre’s namesake.

Mr. Manning’s recent move to insert himself into the merger debates was publicly rebuffed by Mr. Jean. Conservatives still remember Mr. Manning’s role in the defection of nine Wildrose MLAs to the PC Party in December 2015, which proved to be a very unpopular move with party members and regular Albertans.

Both the PCs and Wildrose parties are running candidates in the March 22 by-election in Calgary-Greenway to choose a successor to PC MLA Manmeet Bhullar. The results of the by-election could be vital in projecting the future viability of the PCs, who formed government in Alberta from 1971 until they were defeated by Rachel Notley‘s NDP in 2015.

It is clear that despite attempts by outside groups to merge the two parties, which have a history as vicious opponents, there is still a very wide gap between the leadership and supporters in both camps.

Interim PC Party leader Ric McIver and 7 of his party's MLAs at their post-election leader's dinner.

PC Party financials reveal $1.5 million debt from 2015 election

Reports of the death of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta might only be slightly exaggerated. Financial disclosure reports submitted to Elections Alberta show the former governing party amassed a $1.5 million debt during the May 2015 election.

After reportedly nearly missing the deadline to submit its financial disclosures from the recent provincial election, the PCs posted the disclosure on its own website, which provides some detail into the overwhelming wealth of the former governing party during its failed attempt at re-election in May 2015. (The full report is now posted on the Elections Alberta website).

The disclosure report provides information about a $2,000,000 loan secured by the PC Party from the Canadian Western Bank with an outstanding balance of $1,544,866 as of July 5, 2015. Security on the loan includes a personal guarantee of $1,455,000 from a former director, who is unnamed in the document.

The report shows the PCs raised $2,802,500 in donations greater than $250 and $90,625 lower than $250 during the April 7 to July 15, 2015 campaign period. The PCs spent $4,303,969 and ran a deficit of $930,236 during the election campaign.

In response to its financial troubles, the party received significant financial transfers from some of its wealthier constituency associations, including $30,000 from Edmonton-Whitemud, $25,000 from Calgary-Elbow, $20,000 from each Calgary-Varsity and St. Albert, and $15,000 from Whitecourt-Ste. Anne.

Major donors listed on the PC Party’s financial disclosure include Richard Haskayne ($30,000), Ronald Joyce ($30,000), Ken King ($30,000), Calfrac Well Services Ltd ($30,000), MacLab Hotels & Resorts Ltd ($30,000), Matco Investments ($30,000), Christopher Potter ($30,000), Primrose Livestock Ltd ($30,000), Susan Rose Riddell ($30,000), Clayton Riddell ($30,000), Ronald P Mathison Private Banking Ltd ($30,000), Cathy Roozen ($30,000), Mike Rose ($30,000), Shane Homes Ltd ($30,000), Walton International Group Inc ($30,000), TIW Western ($25,000), CIBC ($23,750), Scotiabank ($23,750), BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc ($20,000), Matthew Brister ($20,000), Brian Michael Brix ($20,000), Grandview Cattle Feeders Ltd ($20,000), Kolf Farms Ltd ($20,000), Kelly Koss ($20,000), Mancal Corporation ($20,000), Kyle Ross ($20,000), Nancy Southern ($20,000), and Sunset Feeders Ltd ($20,000).

During its 44 years in government the PCs were able to depend on large corporate donors to help pay off campaign bills and debts, but the party has struggled after corporate donations to political parties were banned by the first law passed by the Alberta NDP Government in June 2015. Interim leader Ric McIver initially denounced the ban, but later stood with the entire nine member PC caucus in voting in favour of the bill.

The PCs will hold their annual general meeting in spring 2016 and have launched a 500-Day Plan to prepare the party for the 2019 provincial election. The PCs are expected to choose a permanent leader in early 2016.

New Unite the Right By Moving Further to the Right Group

According to a report from the Calgary Herald, a new group calling themselves “ The Alberta Prosperity Fund” has launched the latest bid to unite the two main conservative parties in Alberta. The private group is reported to have looked far to the political right for inspiration by inviting American anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist as guest speaker to a closed-door session in Calgary this week. Mr. Norquist is known for his role in pushing the Republican Party further to the political right, contributing to the deep political division in America.

The group is headed by Barry McNamar, a former vice-president of the right-wing Fraser Institute and director of the Calgary School of Public Policy. It is unclear who is providing financial support for the Fund.

Responding to the group’s formation, Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean told the Herald that “[w]e have had our lawyer send them a letter requesting that they stop telling people they have our endorsement or support.

Is the Jim Prentice Juggernaut unstoppable?

Jim Prentice Alberta Juggernaut

Is Jim Prentice’s campaign for the leadership of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives unstoppable?

He is a leadership candidate backed by long-governing party establishment. He has chased away his potential rivals. He has experience in both the federal cabinet and the corporate sector. He is a respected party insider. He has a track record as a moderate conservative and can raise significant amounts of money for his party. The establishment sees him as the only person who can lead them to electoral victory against their aggressive opposition challengers.

His name is Paul Martin and it’s 2003.

Jim Prentice Alberta PC Leadership

Jim Prentice

It has become inreasingly easy to draw parallels between the ill-fated Dauphin of the federal Liberal Party and expected coronation of Jim Prentice in September’s Progressive Conservative leadership vote.

Like Mr. Martin, expectations for Mr. Prentice among the PC establishment are very high. And without having even officially entered the contest or releasing any policy positions or vision for Alberta, his strange shadow campaign has succeeded in chasing away some of his strongest potential rivals by giving the impression that he too strong to fail.

Cabinet ministers Doug Horner, Diana McQueen, Jonathan Denis and retired Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel have all decided against running. And Ken Hughes, who only entered the race a short time ago, has already dropped out and endorsed the front-runner.

Paul Martin Jim Prentice Alberta

Paul Martin

Challenger Ric McIver claims that Mr. Prentice’s supporters have urged him to drop out of the race, but insists he will remain the fray. Edmonton-Castle Downs MLA Thomas Lukaszuk, who served as Alison Redford’s deputy premier and budget slashing minister of Advanced Education, remains rumoured to be mulling a run for the leadership.

Pressure from Mr. Prentice’s campaign, the steep $50,000 entry fee and the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to run a leadership campaign have likely scared away potential serious candidates.

Curse of the front-runner
An advantage of being a frontrunner is that it becomes easy to collect endorsements. A disadvantage of being a frontrunner is that it becomes easy to collect endorsements. As PC MLAs trip over themselves in their rush to endorse Mr. Prentice, it will become increasingly difficult for the new leader to weed out the incompetent or redundant members of his caucus in the next election.

If he becomes leader, one of Mr. Prentice’s biggest challenges will be to increase the PC caucus bench strength by recruiting competent and credible candidates to run. This will require significant retirements, resignations, or nomination battles before the next election.

Thomas Lukaszuk MLA Edmonton-Castle Downs

Thomas Lukaszuk

Prentice Money
Like Mr. Martin, Mr. Prentice has proven he can raise a lot of money and fill a hall with people whose companies are willing to spend $500 a ticket to influence government, but can he resonate among regular voters? Raising money has never been a serious long-term problem for the PC Party. Their problem has become the existence of another party who can raise the same or more money than they can.

Prentice Co-Chairs
It was announced this week that former British Columbia Member of Parliament Jay Hill, Edmonton campaign strategist Patricia Mitsuka, and Calgary-Greenway MLA Manmeet Bhullar will serve as Mr. Prentice’s three campaign co-chairs. A fourth co-chair is expected to be announced at a later date.

Prentice stumbles to “unite the right” fight
Strange moves to unite the right, as Wildrose leader Danielle Smith claims she or one of her staffers were contacted by someone from Mr. Prentice’s campaign to discuss a merger. A spokesperson for Mr. Prentice’s not yet official campaign denies Ms. Smith’s claims, but it is difficult to believe the Wildrose leader is simply making this up.

If this is true, it is difficult to understand why Mr. Prentice’s campaign would make such a move. While his supporters see him as a White Knight, he will be inheriting a long-governing political party that is mired in controversy. Perhaps this move is a glimpse of how concerned the PC establishment is about the very real threat of defeat by the Wildrose in the next election?

Nominations open today
Starting today, PC Party leadership candidates can pick up their nomination forms and pay the $20,000 of their $50,000 entry fee. The candidates will need to submit their completed nomination forms on May 30 along with the remaining $30,000 entry fee. The approved candidates will be showcased at a $75 per ticket PC Party fundraiser on June 2 in Edmonton.