Tag Archives: United Conservative Party

Advance voting is popular in Alberta in 2019

According to Elections Alberta, approximately 696,000 Albertans cast their votes at advance polling stations across Alberta. This represents about 26 per cent of the estimate 2.6 million Albertans who are eligible to vote in the provincial general election.

And it shatters the previous record from the 2015 election, when 234,659 valid ballots were cast at the advance polls over four days, representing 15.77% of all valid ballots cast.

We will not know until after April 16 whether this signifies an overall increase in voter turnout or whether we are witnessing a shift in when people vote. Advance voting is now available for five days, an increase from four in the last election, and is even more convenient now that voters can cast ballots at any advance voting station outside their electoral district.

Elections Alberta tells us that approximately 223,000 Albertans voted at advance voting stations outside their electoral district, and counting these ballots creates some interesting logistical challenges.

It is my understanding that advance ballots from voters who voted at advance polling stations outside their districts will be transported to Elections Alberta’s main office in Edmonton to be sorted and counted on the day after the election. This means that voters living in districts with close results on election night may have to wait until after Election Day for all the votes to be counted.

Here are a few thoughts and questions about the large advance voter turnout in Alberta’s election:

  • Alberta is not the first province to allow for out of district voting. Colby Cosh wrote about the impact of a similar type of system in British Columbia’s most recent provincial election, where voters could vote at any polling station in the province on Election Day (Alberta’s vote-anywhere system only exists in the advance voting period).
  • It will be interesting to see how voters, and political parties, react to a potential delay of the results, and whether popular opinion supports the convenience of being able to vote anywhere if it means we do not get all the results immediately on election night.
  • From the perspective of someone who likes to analyze election data, the huge increase in the popularity of advance voting will make it challenging to track voter turnout and voting patterns on a poll-by-poll level in Alberta’s electoral districts. Votes cast on Election Day are tallied by individual poll within an electoral district while votes cast in advance voting are tallied together district wide.
  • It is also not clear whether the large turnout at advance polls helps or hurts any specific political party in this election. As I have said before on the Daveberta Podcast, the base voters of the New Democratic Party and United Conservative Party appear to be motivated in this election.

Rachel Notley’s focus on Calgary, Andrew Scheer coming to Alberta, and Stephen Mandel goes to Alaska

With five days remaining in Alberta’s election campaign, here is a quick look at what I have been watching today:

Notley woos Calgary

NDP leader Rachel Notley is expected to spend a lot of time in Calgary during the final five days of the campaign. Today she spoke about her pledge to expand Alberta’s $25/day childcare program at a press event today and spoke at a rally in central Calgary in support of Calgary-Mountain View candidate Kathleen Ganley and Calgary-Varsity candidate Anne McGrath this evening.

The NDP campaign has revolved around Notley, who is the party’s strongest asset, with signs showing her name and smiling face appearing as frequently as local candidate’s in electoral districts across Alberta.

While the 20 to 30 per cent province-wide lead that the United Conservative Party held months ago appears to have evaporated into a 6 to 10 per cent lead, most polls show the NDP are still in second place in Calgary. With the NDP appearing to hold a healthy lead in Edmonton and the UCP dominating in rural Alberta, the narrative in the final week of the campaign has become all about Calgary.

But the regional divide is only one part of the picture. As Jason Markusoff noted in his Maclean’s election newsletter, some polls suggest there is a significant divide in party support among men and women, with one poll showing the UCP leading among men by 16 points and the NDP leading among women by 1 point. The prominence of nasty social conservative comments raised in this campaign, like the ones made by UCP candidate Mark Smith from Drayton Valley-Devon, has likely contributed to this gender divide.

Scheer comes to Alberta

Federal Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer will campaign with UCP leader Jason Kenney at a event in Calgary tomorrow, which is expected to include a big focus on the Notley, Justin Trudeau and the carbon tax.

Scheer’s appearance comes days after Kenney has threatened to enact legislation to shut off the flow of oil and gas to British Columbia if that province’s government opposes the construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Such a move would almost certainly be unconstitutional, which is why the NDP passed but never proclaimed the law, and would likely foster more opposition to Alberta’s efforts than create support.

But back to Scheer… it is somewhat unusual to see a federal Conservative party leader campaigning in a provincial election in Alberta.

For most of the past three decades, there have been deep political divides between the various dominant provincial and federal Conservative parties in Alberta. Many political observers may have forgotten that even Progressive Conservative premier Ralph Klein personally campaigned for the federal PC Party candidate running against Reform Party leader Preston Manning in the 1993 federal election.

It is important to recognize that the merger of the PC and Wildrose parties in 2017 was just as much about uniting those two parties as it was creating a dominant provincial conservative party that would march in step with the Conservative Party in Ottawa. With this in mind, Kenney remains very much a national politician with ambitions beyond the Premier’s Office in Edmonton.

Scheer’s appearance on the campaign trail will come the day after it was revealed that his campaign chair, Hamish Marshall, allegedly threatened to sue the UCP over voting security during the party’s 2017 leadership race. CBC reported that email addresses fraudulently attached to party memberships were used to cast ballots in the party’s leadership race and there were virtually no safeguards against the practice.

Alaska, ho!

Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel has proposed the creation of a rail-pipeline corridor to Alaska. The creation of a northern corridor to transport Alberta’s natural resources is not a new idea in Alberta politics.

In 1972, PC cabinet minister Dave Russell publicly suggested that Alberta should annex parts of the North West and Yukon territories: “It makes sense in view of transportation and pipelines,” Russell told the Calgary Herald on April 19, 1972.

Episode 33: Ballot Questions, the Leaders’ Debate, and your great Alberta Election questions

In this episode Dave and Ryan discuss the latest Alberta’s election developments, including the fallout from Mark Smith’s homophobic comments, Jason Kenney’s interview with Charles Adler and how it might impact voters on April 16, the televised leaders’ debate, and what Rachel Notley needs to do in the final week of Alberta’s 2019 election. We also dive into the giant mailbag of questions sent in by our listeners and we share our results from the CBC Vote Compass survey.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. You can listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online.

We always love to feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download. You can also comment on the blogFacebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

And we were thrilled to welcome back our producer, Adam Rozenhart! A big thanks to our excellent guest producer, Chris Chang-Yen Phillips, who kept us on track for the last two episodes.

Thank you for listening and to everyone who sent in questions this week!

Recommended reading/listening:


Remember to vote!

Alberta’s provincial general election is on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Voting stations on Election Day will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on April 16. Advance voting stations will be open on April 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13. Visit Elections Alberta to find the location of your voting station.

Voters who will be away from their electoral division on Election Day and during the advance voting days can request a Special Ballot from Elections Alberta.

This is sad. Alberta’s leaders’ debate remarkable for being horribly boring

Anyone tuning in to watch Alberta’s leaders’ debate who might have hoped to watch a battle of the titans will have surely been disappointed. Tonight’s televised leaders’ debate was uninspiring and horribly boring.

New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley did well, spending most of her time on the attack against United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney, but she did not spend much time providing the positive message that some Albertans may have been looking for.

Notley targeted Kenney on a number of issues, ranging from the environment, health care, and homophobia in the UCP but she stopped short of taking him to task like conservative radio host Charles Adler did yesterday. Notley did not have a “math is difficult” moment in this debate.

A similar review can be given to Kenney, who spent much of his time attacking Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for supposedly stopping the construction of pipelines and destroying jobs in Alberta. Kenney focused on the same economic issues that have been his talking points on the campaign trail – jobs, the economy and pipelines – while skirting around questions about controversial social issues, delivering a similar response to the one he gave Alder.

Notley and Kenney are practiced debaters and parliamentarians, but they certainly did not show off the best of their skills in this debate. Their performances were satisfactory but underwhelming.

A shorter summary of the main two party leaders in this debate could be: Notley argued that Kenney will destroy Alberta if he is elected, and Kenney argued that Notley has already destroyed Alberta. Not exactly inspiring messages for Albertans.

Then, there were the leaders of two smaller parties that were invited to participate in the debate.

Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel actually did okay. He focused on differentiating his party from the NDP and UCP, and had a few memorable lines during the debate about being the only business person on stage and chirping in that “this is sad” as his opponents argued.

But if he was looking to break away from the pack, Mandel was unable to channel the Gordon Wilson moment that was needed to give his party momentum going into April 16.

Liberal Party leader David Khan performed well but with his party on the verge of electoral oblivion he has little to lose. The Liberals are also only running candidates in 51 of Alberta’s 87 districts. The profile earned through his appearance in this debate could help Khan in his bid to hold on to the Liberal Party’s last remaining district, Calgary-Mountain View

Missing from the stage was one of Alberta’s more colourful political actors, Derek Fildebrandt of the populist/libertarian Freedom Conservative Party. The former UCP MLA who is running for re-election in Chestermere-Strathmore was not invited and his party has only fielded 24 candidates across Alberta. While most Albertans watching would not have had the option to vote for Fildebrandt’s party, his presence in the debate may have helped to increase the entertainment value of the 90-minute program.

There were a lot of questions the leaders could have been challenged to answer, and the questions asked by the panel of journalists were good, but the free debate format encouraged the leaders to just talk over each other rather than actually debate the questions. There were points during the program where it was difficult to even figure out what was being said.

This year’s leaders’ debate was a sharp reminder that despite the exciting turning point that the debate played in the last election, most televised leaders’ debates are lacklustre and forgettable. This was one night that will not go down in the history books for any positive reason and it is unlikely it changed the minds of many voters in Alberta. 

Wading into the Lake of Fire. Jason Kenney should fire Mark Smith for gross comments about ‘homosexual love’

Jason Kenney wants to talk about jobs, the economy, and pipelines, but there has not been one week so far during Alberta’s provincial election campaign where his message has not been overshadowed by United Conservative Party candidates making comments about the demographic replacement of white peoples, that transgender people using public bathrooms was “a perversion,” and today, some fairly offensive views about love, same-sex relationships, and women’s reproductive choices.

The last comment was made by UCP education critic Mark Smith, who is running for re-election in Drayton Valley-Devon. Smith made the remarks in a sermon from November 2013 that was posted on the website of the Calvary Baptist Church in Drayton Valley.

You don’t have to watch any TV for any length of time today where you don’t see on the TV program them trying to tell you that homosexuality and homosexual love is good love,” Smith said in the sermon. “Heck, there are people out there, I could take you to places on the website I’m sure, where you can find out, where pedophilia is love.”

Smith also questioned how any woman who has an abortion could say that it is done out of love. His comments were made public today by the CJSR radio program GayWire.

Postmedia reports that Smith was also the author of a 2015 document circulated to his fellow Wildrose Party MLAs arguing that Christian public schools had a constitutional right to fire teachers who are gay.

It is notable that Smith’s comments were revealed on April 2, twenty-one years to the day that the Supreme Court of Canada released a unanimous ruling that proclaimed that gay and lesbian Canadians were entitled to equal protection under the law. The case had made its way to the Supreme Court after lab instructor Delwin Vriend was fired from his job at a private Christian college in Edmonton for being gay.

Edmonton-Glenora NDP candidate Sarah Hoffman was quick to criticize Smith’s comments, stating in a press release that his comments were “offensive, homophobic and completely neglect women’s rights.” She called on Kenney to fire Smith as a candidate.

Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel tweeted thatBy endorsing this candidate, Jason Kenney has shown he doesn’t understand Alberta in 2019. Albertans care about jobs and the economy, absolutely. But we also expect a fair, tolerant, pluralistic society where EVERYONE is equal.

As mayor of Edmonton in 2012, Mandel played a big role in that year’s election when he publicly criticized the Wildrose Party after two of its candidates made the now infamous homophobic Lake of Fire and racist caucasian advantage remarks.

Even popular conservative radio host Charles Adler weighed in, tweeting thatNo mainstream political leader who I have known, federal or provincial, aspiring to be the head of gov’t would be endorsing this candidacy. I hope Jason Kenney changes his mind.

The two UCP candidates who made the other comments I mentioned at the beginning of this article quickly resigned their candidacies after their comments became public.

Eva Kiryakos released a video on Facebook a few days ago thanking her supporters and refusing to apologize for her statements. Kenney has been dodging questions this week about whether he plans to allow her to remain as a member of the UCP.

With the deadline for being placed on the ballot having passed last Friday, Kenney cannot remove Smith from the ballot. Kenney can send a strong message that these comments are unacceptable in the UCP by telling Smith that he will not be welcome to sit in the UCP caucus if he re-elected on April 16.

But it appears that Kenney will continue to support him.

In a written statement released online this afternoon through Kenney’s @UniteAlberta twitter account, Smith said he did not recall making the comments and apologized if his words offended anyone. It was a classic non-apology apology.

In statements from Smith and Livingstone-Macleod candidate Roger Reid, who was also facing criticism for comments he made during a sermon in 2012, the UCP candidates said that “Albertans are tired of revisiting old, divisive debates from many years prior.” I think many Albertans are tired of UCP candidates revisiting these old, divisive debates.

With Smith’s comments in mind, it is less surprising that the UCP education platform released last week would remove privacy protections for students participating in Gay-Straight Alliance clubs at schools in Alberta. That announcement sparked pro-GSA rallies in Calgary and Edmonton that attracted hundreds of Albertans.

While the UCP tries to focus on its economic message, the constant stream of bozo-eruptions shows that on social issues and human rights, some members of Team Kenney continue to be way out of step with mainstream 21st century Alberta.


Ryan Jespersen calls out Mark Smith, homophobia and hate in Jason Kenney’s UCP like only he can:

Conservative radio host Charles Adler interviews Jason Kenny about his views on gay rights and UCP candidate Mark Smith:

Daveberta Podcast

Episode 32: GSAs, GSAs, GSAs. Week 2 of Alberta’s Election.

Alberta’s provincial election is 16 days away and for the duration of the campaign, we are going to be recording a new episode of the Daveberta Podcast each week.

In this episode Dave and Ryan talk about the United Conservative Party reopening the Gay-Straight Alliance debate, the transphobic comments that led to the departure of Calgary-South East UCP candidate Eva Kiryakos, Rachel Notley’s plan to expand Alberta’s $25/day childcare program and the Liberal Party‘s proposal to introduce a Harmonized Sales Tax and reform the electoral system. We also look ahead to this week’s televised leaders’ debate and whether Freedom Conservative Party leader Derek Fildebrandt should be allowed to join in the fun.

We also spend some time focusing on a few races we are watching. This week we look at Lethbridge-East and Lethbridge-West.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. The Network includes more than 30 made-in-Alberta podcasts, including the excellent Modern Manhood Podcast and Overdue Finds.

You can listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online.

We always love to feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download. You can also comment on the blogFacebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

And a big thanks to our excellent guest producer, Chris Chang-Yen Phillips, who kept us on track and made this episode sound so great.

Thank you for listening!

Recommended reading/listening:

Climate change lawsuits could be the new reality and Alberta better get used to it

Toronto City Councillor Mike Layton announced his plans to bring forward a motion to the council of Canada’s largest city this week asking for a report on the long term cost implications of climate change on the City of Toronto’s infrastructure and programs and any legal avenues to pursue compensation for those costs from major greenhouse gas emitters.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

On the campaign trail in Alberta, NDP leader Rachel Notley and United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney delivered sharp responses in defence of Alberta’s oil industry. Both leaders are trying to position themselves as the biggest defenders of the oil industry in an election where the economy and oil pipelines are top of mind for many Albertans.

Notley has spent the past four years positioning herself as the country’s biggest advocate in favour of oil pipelines and Kenney recently announced plans to create a government-funded PR war room to fight foreign criticism of behalf of the oil industry (I suspect Toronto now falls in the “foreign” category).

Layton’s motion has not even been debated yet and has been sent to committee, but it is part of a growing trend of North American municipal governments trying to hold large oil and gas companies to account for their role in global climate change.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in 2018 that his City had filed a lawsuit against five of the world’s largest investor-owned fossil fuel companies – BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell – for the billions of dollars the City will spend to protect the city and its residents from the impact of climate change.

Similar lawsuits have been launched by other American municipal governments, including San Francisco, Oakland, and Richmond.

Jason Kenney

Jason Kenney

For municipal governments suing oil and gas companies, the fight is over who is responsible for covering the cost of damages resulting from rising average temperatures – a particularly sensitive issue for Canadian cities located near large bodies of water like Victoria, Vancouver and Toronto. 

I am not a lawyer, so I cannot say for sure whether the same legal avenues are available to Canadian municipalities, it is clear that attitudes towards fossil fuels are changing in city halls across the country in respect to climate change. With an increasing number of provincial governments reneging on previous climate change initiatives, it is also becoming clearer that municipal councils cannot wait for provincial legislatures to find solutions.

Victoria City Council passed a resolution in January 2019 to support filing a class-action lawsuit against fossil fuel companies to recover costs arising from climate change.” Burnaby’s new Mayor Mike Hurley has asked the BC government to create legislation to allow municipal governments to launch and join class-action lawsuits against fossil fuel companies for climate-related harms.

The BC cities of Vancouver and Richmond have recently declared “climate emergencies.”

But in Alberta, with pipelines and Gay-Straight Alliances making headlines, climate change is a sleeper issue in the ongoing election campaign even as the World Meteorological Organization is reporting that extreme weather last year impacted 62 million people worldwide and forced 2 million people to relocate.

The Notley government implemented a much-lauded Climate Leadership Plan after it was elected into office in 2015, which included an ambitious plan to shut down Alberta’s dirty coal-fired power plants. But three years later, the most talked about element of Alberta’s climate change plan is the much-demonized carbon tax.

Kenney says a UCP government would repeal the carbon tax and dissolve Energy Efficiency Alberta, the government agency responsibly for renewable energy projects and energy efficiency programs, but he has not released any details about if he would take any meaningful action to combat climate change.

I expect that most or all of the Climate Leadership Plan would be scrapped under Kenney’s leadership, opening the province to more “foreign” criticism and making its large oil and gas industry into a more convincing target for political and legal challenges.

I already mentioned that attitudes towards oil and gas are changing, but so will demand for our oil, eventually. The challenge for future Alberta governments is how to meaningfully deal with climate change while recognizing that the goose that laid the golden egg could one day soon be barren. Alberta’s default has been to pray that the international price of oil will bounce back someday soon, creating plenty of jobs and replenishing government coffers.

Layton’s proposal, like similar actions pursued by the American cities, is to treat fossil fuel companies like tobacco companies who knew their products caused cancer but hid that information from the public. Like the tobacco companies, major oil companies have known for decades that they have been contributing to climate change and have been accused of spending $1 billion undermining climate change efforts.

Layton’s motion may just be a little bump on Alberta’s campaign trail, but it could be a sample of a much larger climate change fight coming in the years ahead.

Stephen Harper Senate Conservatives Reform

PC and Wildrose Party candidates running against Rachel Notley in Edmonton-Strathcona

Rising from the political grave, candidates from Alberta’s two former dominant conservative parties are running against NDP leader Rachel Notley in Edmonton-Strathcona.

Rachel Notley Alberta Premier NDP

Rachel Notley

According to the Elections Alberta website, Gary Horan has been nominated to run as a Progressive Conservative candidate and Dale Doan as a Wildrose Party candidate in the long-time NDP-held district in the heart of Edmonton.

While the two parties are organizationally non-existent, they are controlled by the United Conservative Party and Jason Kenney is technically the leader of all three parties.

In order to avoid de-registration by Elections Alberta, the parties are required to field at least one candidate in the election. It is likely they will be paper candidates, meaning no real campaign will be organized to elect them in this district.

It is believed that the shell of the PC Party still owes a significant amount of debt in the range of $175,000 that was accrued during the party’s disastrous 2015 election campaign, which is why the party still exists on paper. Alberta’s election finance laws bar the UCP or any other party from repaying the debts of the PC Party, even though its leadership controls the party.

It is likely that the UCP continues to keep the Wildrose Party registered in order to avoid another group claiming the party name and running candidates under its banner against the UCP.

The PC Party governed Alberta from 1971 until 2015. The Wildrose Party formed the Official Opposition from 2012 until 2017.

Notley was re-elected in 2015 with 82 per cent of the vote. Voters in Edmonton-Strathcona have elected NDP MLAs in eight of the nine elections since 1986.

There are now 11 candidates running in Edmonton-Strathcona:
Advantage Party: Don Meister
Alberta Party: Prem Pal
Alberta Independence: Ian Smythe
Communist: Naomi Rankin
Green: Stuart Andrews
Independent: Gord McLean
Liberal: Samantha Hees
NDP: Rachel Notley [FacebookTwitter]
Progressive Conservative: Gary Horan
UCP: Kulshan Gill
Wildrose: Dale Doan


If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

Episode 31: Game on. Week 1 of Alberta’s 2019 Election.

Alberta’s provincial election has been called and Albertans will be going to the polls on April 16. For the duration of the campaign, we’re going to be recording a new episode of the Daveberta Podcast each week.

In this episode we jump right into the fray, looking at the New Democratic Party‘s 10-minute documentary style video of Jason Kenney’s time in San Francisco and his history of anti-LGBTQ advocacy, the United Conservative Party‘s plan to fight foreign oil opponents, and the Alberta Party‘s pro-fluoride stance in Calgary.

We also spend some time focusing on a few races we are watching this week in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, Calgary-ElbowEdmonton-McClung, Red Deer-North and Red Deer-South, and Calgary-Mountain View.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial.

You can listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online.

We always love to feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download. You can also comment on the blogFacebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

And a huge thanks to our excellent guest producer, Chris Chang-Yen Phillips, who kept us on track and made this episode sound so great.

Thank you for listening!

Note: During this episode we discussed Kenney’s voting record his time in Ottawa. Kenney voted twice against bills supporting Trans Rights and missed a third vote because he was not in the House of Commons at the time.

Recommended watching/reading

Rachel Notley at a rally in north east Calgary.

The first week of Alberta’s 2019 election: NDP hammer Kenney on LGBTQ rights, UCP prepare for oil war, Mandel takes on fluoride in Calgary

Photo: NDP leader Rachel Notley speaks at a rally in north east Calgary (source: Twitter).

With the first week of Alberta’s election campaign coming to an end, the biggest challenges facing many campaigns this weekend is figuring out how they will plant their lawn signs when the snow melts but the ground remains frozen solid.

But aside from these more practical concerns of campaigning, here is a quick look at what the parties and party leaders said this week.

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley announced the creation of 2,000 new long-term care beds during her visit to Lethbridge, investments in the petrochemical industry and upgrading projects during a campaign stop in Edmonton, and $1 billion toward the construction of new upstream flood mitigation infrastructure on the Bow River in Calgary.

The main thrust of the NDP’s campaign this week focused on United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney and his past history of advocacy against LGBTQ rights. Sarah Hoffman, the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Glenora, held a press conference releasing a 10-minute documentary-style video detailing Kenney’s time spent in San Francisco in the late 1980’s.

The heart-wrenching video begins with Kenney touting his work with pro-life groups to successfully overturn a law giving hospital visitation rights to gay couples during the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco and includes interviews with the partners of some of the AIDS victims.

On the same topic, The Sprawl released the first part of its “The Young Zealot” investigative series focused on Kenney’s time in San Francisco.  Kenney responded to the article through a letter on a UCP-sponsored website.

Jason Kenney at the opening of his campaign office in Calgary-Lougheed (source: Facebook)

Jason Kenney at the opening of his campaign office in Calgary-Lougheed (source: Facebook)

Kenney was also dogged this week with questions about the RCMP investigation into the 2017 kamikaze campaign, and former star candidate Caylan Ford and her replacement candidate, Jeremy Wong, but the UCP campaign mostly stuck to its main talking points – jobs, the economy, and pipelines.

Kenney re-announced plans to repeal Alberta’s carbon tax, and use government funds and resources to launch the province into a political war against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s federal government and any organization that might oppose the oil pipelines or the oil industry. While the UCP has yet to release its own climate change policy, Kenney noted that those who deny man-made climate change are welcome in his party.

Stephen Mandel Alberta Election 2019

Stephen Mandel and Chestermere-Strathmore candidate Jason Avramenko.

Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel largely stayed out of the political fray and had a fairly good first week in this campaign.

Mandel mostly stuck close to Edmonton, releasing policies on a child care voucher system and the creation of the Ministry of Early Childhood, and ventured into Calgary today with a provocative announcement promising to  push for water fluoridation in that city (for some inexplicable reason, water fluoridation is still a controversial issue in Calgary).

Liberal Party leader David Khan did not stray too far from his campaign in Calgary-Mountain View this week when he announced plans to cap classroom sizes and urge the federal government to amend Bill C-69.

Khan also released the Liberal Party’s Indigenous People’s policy with promises to introduce Indigenous Language immersion programs and Indigenous-led revisions to the curriculum, implement justice reform, and add six new seats to the Alberta Legislature for Indigenous Peoples MLA’s.

The Green Party came out in favour of a Guaranteed Annual Income to address growing economic inequality. “The GAI will be funded by increased taxes on higher incomes and the significant savings it creates by reducing bureaucracy and service duplication, lowering criminal justice expenses, and tackling poverty-related health care,” party leader Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes said in a press release.

Freedom Conservative Party leader Derek Fildebrandt released his party’s sovereigntist manifesto, demanding that the federal government end the Equalization Program and give the Alberta government control over immigration, tax collection, Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan, and that Alberta withdraw from the Canada Revenue Agency.

Taking the fight to Ottawa to a different level, the Alberta Independence Party has received official party recognition from Elections Alberta.

Most parties continuing to nominate candidates in first week of Alberta’s election

With the first three days of Alberta’s election campaign already behind us, the political parties are busy filling their slates of candidates in districts across Alberta.

As of tonight, the New Democratic Party is the only party with a full slate of 87 candidates. The Alberta Party has 86 candidates in place, with Lethbridge-East left as the only vacant district. And the United Conservative Party nominated Leila Houle as its candidate in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood tonight and will hold its two final nomination contests in Edmonton-Ellerslie and Edmonton-Mill Woods this weekend.

The Liberal Party has nominated 47 candidates and the Green Party has nominated 24 candidates.

The Freedom Conservative Party has nominated 18 candidates, including actor and oil activist Bernard Hancock in Grande Prairie. The Alberta Advantage Party has nominated 15 candidates, and the Reform Party now has one candidate with the nomination of Lauren Thorsteinson in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake.

The Alberta Independence Party has nominated 51 candidates and will now be officially recognized as a political party on the ballot on April 16, 2019.

I am also told that the Communist Party of Alberta has nominated four candidates to run in the upcoming election.

I plan to have a more comprehensive post with the latest updates to the list of candidates from this week posted in the next few days.

Notley and Kenney visit Lethbridge on Day 2 of Alberta’s election, UCP appoints Jeremy Wong in Calgary-Mountain View

Photo: Lethbridge NDP candidates Maria Fitzpatrick and Shannon Phillips, and UCP candidates Nathan Neudorf and Karri Flatla.

Where the party leaders go during the first few days of the election campaign can sometimes give a good indication of where the parties are focusing their resources and what message they want to send to voters.

Alberta New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley announced the election call in central Calgary, where the NDP hope to create a battleground in this election. Today, Notley started the second day of the election in Edmonton and later travelled to Red Deer to campaign with MLAs Kim Schreiner and Barb Miller, She finished her day in Lethbridge to speak at the Canadian Union of Public Employees provincial convention and will be in the city tomorrow to support MLAs Shannon Phillips and Maria Fitzpatrick.

United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenny started the campaign in Leduc, south of Edmonton, and kicked off his party’s campaign at the office of Edmonton-City Centre candidate Lily Le. The UCP are hoping to make gains in Edmonton in this election. Today, Kenney also headed south to Lethbridge to support candidates Karri Flatla and Nathan Neudorf.

Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel spent the first two days of the election in Edmonton, where his party hopes to capitalize on his name-recognition as mayor of the city from 2004 to 2013. And Liberal Party leader David Khan was in Calgary, where he is expected to focus on his race in Calgary-Mountain View.

That both Notley and Kenney visited Lethbridge in the first few days of the election signifies how much both parties feel how important and competitive the city’s two districts could be in this election.

Lethbridge’s electoral history is more liberal-leaning than most of the surrounding region in southern Alberta, likely due to the influence of the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College and a large number of public sector workers in the city. Even during Ralph Klein’s time as premier, the Liberals either won a plurality of the votes or match the PC vote in the city’s, mostly due to the large margins of victory earned by Lethbridge-East MLAs Ken Nicol and Bridget Pastoor.

As the Liberal vote collapsed in 2012, Phillips came close to winning in Lethbridge-West in 2012,. The NDP swept both districts in 2015 with significant margins. As Minister of Environment and Parks, Shannon Phillips has been a key player in Notley’s cabinet and a strong advocate for the city in the Legislature. This makes Phillips a target for the UCP and the reason why Kenney travelled to Lethbridge to re-announce his plans to cancel climate change initiatives like the carbon tax.

Here is a look at the voting history of the two Lethbridge districts over the past 26 years.

Here is a list of the candidates running in the two Lethbridge districts, as of March 20, 2019:

Lethbridge-East
Alberta Independence: John McCanna
Liberal: Devon Hargreaves [Facebook, Twitter]
NDP: Maria Fitzpatrick [FacebookTwitter]
UCP: Nathan Neudorf [Facebook]

Lethbridge-West
Alberta Independence: Ben Maddison
Alberta Party: Zac Rhodenizer [Facebook, Twitter]
Liberal: Pat Chizek
NDP: Shannon Phillips [FacebookTwitter]
UCP: Karri Flatla [FacebookTwitter]


UCP appoints Jeremy Wong to replace Caylan Ford

The UCP announced that it has appointed Jeremy Wong as the UCP candidate in Calgary-Mountain View following the resignation of star candidate Caylan Ford earlier this week. Wong ran against Ford for the nomination in December 2018. He is a pastor with the Calgary Chinese Alliance Church and recently completed a Master of Public Administration at the University of Calgary.

The UCP now have three candidate vacancies remaining, with nominating meetings scheduled to take place in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood on March 21, Edmonton-Ellerslie on March 23, and Edmonton-Mill Woods on March 24.

NDP focus on Rachel versus Kenney, UCP sticks to jobs, economy and pipelines.

Standing in front of diverse group of supporters at the National Music Centre in Calgary, Premier Rachel Notley announced that Alberta’s next provincial general election will be held on Tuesday, April 16, 2019.

Notley’s campaign kick-off speech gave a good idea what the New Democratic Party’s narrative will be in this election campaign – creating a clear contrast in character, leadership and trust between Notley and United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney.

Jason Kenny isn’t working for you. He wants two Albertas – one for the wealthy and one for the rest of us. He wants two Alberta’s, divided over people’s rights,” Notley said.

I want to build one Alberta. I say we stick together through this final stage – from adversity to recovery to shared prosperity – that we take care of each other,” she said.

As I have written before, campaigns always try to play to their strengths and downplay their weaknesses. This is why the NDP campaign will put Notley front-and-centre and the UCP will not be featuring Kenney logos on their election lawn signs.

The two main party leaders have divergent popularity among voters. While her party is behind in the polls, Notley has fairly respectably approval ratings, making her the NDP’s strongest asset. On the flip side, Kenney’s approval ratings fall far below support for his party, meaning that he is far from his party’s strongest asset in the minds of many voters.

The NDP’s decision to launch the election in Calgary was not a shock, as the party needs to maintain a hold on its seats in Alberta’s largest city if it wants to be re-elected on April 16. At this point, it is hard to believe the NDP will hold most of their seats in Calgary but the governing party is realistically expected to be competitive in 5 or 6 districts in the city.

Notley also spoke about her government’s commitment to education and health care, including the long-overdue construction of the new Calgary Cancer Centre, and the economy and oil pipelines.

Notley gained the support of a powerful electoral ally in that city today when Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi stepped out of the municipal arena to criticize Kenney, saying the UCP leader is “not a person who is fit to lead this province.” Nenshi also accused Kenney of ‘pandering for votes‘ by opposing the Springbank dam, a critical part of flood mitigation plans for the city following the disastrous flood in 2013.

With recent allegations of collusion and an RCMP investigation into the 2017 UCP leadership race, the Kenney-Callaway collusion scandal, and the resignation of UCP star candidate Caylan Ford, the NDP clearly believed that starting the election campaign today would put them on their best possible footing going into April 16.

The Notley NDP still have an electoral math problem, with the UCP leading in the polls in Calgary and rural Alberta, but after this week’s internal UCP turmoil, the NDP are probably feeling as confident as they ever were going to be before the May 31 deadline to hold the provincial election.

Jason Kenney

Speaking with a handful of tradesmen standing behind him at a job site in Leduc, Kenney launched his first press conference of the election campaign trying to steer the focus away from Ford’s resignation and the Kenney-Callaway collusion scandal. Kenney returned to his key messages around jobs, the economy and pipelines – and how he believed the NDP have failed in these areas.

Kenney’s message will resonate with a lot of Albertans who have felt unease and frustration with the drop in the international price of oil, high than usual unemployment levels, and delays in oil pipeline construction. And the UCP hopes this message will resonate in the Edmonton region, where the NDP swept almost every seat in the 2015 election.

So, as the election gets going, expect the Kenney to try to stick to these three key messages while the NDP focus on contrasting Notley with her main opponent. Let the games begin!


Elections Commissioner issues new fines for donations to Callaway leadership campaign

The Elections Commissioner issued a new series of penalties and letters of reprimand against donors to Jeff Callaway’s UCP leadership campaign under Section 34(1) and 34 (1.1) of the Election Financial Contributions and Disclosure Act.

Maja McAllister and David Ruiz were issued letter of reprimand for donating $4,000 to Jeff Callaway, registered UCP leadership contestant, with funds given or furnished by another person.

Darcy McAllister was issued one administrative penalties of $4,000 for donating $4,000 to Callaway’s campaign with funds given or furnished by another person, and a second administrative penalty of $4,000 for furnishing $4,000 to Maja McAllister for the purpose of making contribution to Callaway’s campaign, according to the Election Commission website.


Writ Day Hot Take

I spoke with 630CHED host Ryan Jespersen this morning moments after Notley wrapped up her speech announcing the election. Here is my hot take:

Jason Kenney and Caylan Ford

Caylan Ford resigns as United Conservative Party candidate in Calgary-Mountain View

Caylan Ford has resigned as the United Conservative Party candidate in Calgary-Mountain View following a report by Press Progress that alleges she sent text messages complaining that ‘white supremacist terrorists face a double-standard compared to Islamic terrorists.’

In a statement published on Facebook early on the morning of March 19, 2019, Ford announced her resignation and wrote that the “comments published by PressProgress are distortions and are not reflective of my views.

She accused Karim Jivraj, who she appears to believe Press Progress’s source, of waging “an obsessive campaign of intimidation, harassment, and defamation” against her. Jivraj is a former Conservative Party of Canada nomination candidate in Calgary-Centre.

Ford was widely considered a star candidate for the UCP in this district, which has been represented by retiring Liberal MLA David Swann since 2004. She is an international affairs specialist with a background in China and human rights and has worked as a senior policy advisor with Global Affairs Canada.

Her candidacy in this district was not without controversy. The nomination contest was contentious, with questions about the eligibility of Ford and former MLA Mark Hlady in the contest. Ford’s candidacy was ultimately accepted by the UCP and she defeated Becca Polak and Jeremy Wong to win the nomination.

UCP leader Jason Kenney‘s Facebook page has recently been running advertisements in support of her candidacy in Calgary-Mountain View, suggesting that this was a priority district for the UCP in the upcoming election.

Here is Ford’s full statement:

 Statement by Caylan Ford on Facebook

Statement by Caylan Ford on Facebook

Still running in Calgary-Mountain View are New Democratic Party MLA and Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, Liberal Party leader David Khan, Alberta Party candidate Angela Kokott, Green Party candidate Thana Boonlert, and Independent candidate Monica Friesz, who is affiliated with the Alberta Independence Party.

With an election call expected within days, it is likely that Kenney will appoint now appoint a new candidate to run in this district.

The Kenney-Callaway collusion scandal erupts days before an expected election call in Alberta

What did Jason Kenney know and when did he know it?

A treasure trove of emails and documents released by CBC investigative reporters Charles Rusnell and Jennie Russell yesterday show that Jason Kenney‘s campaign for the United Conservative Party leadership provided Jeff Callaway’s campaign with resources ranging from “strategic political direction, media and debate talking points, speeches, videos, and attack advertisements, all aimed at undermining Kenney’s main political rival, Brian Jean.”

This comes a day after CBC broke the story that Alberta’s Election Commissioner has turned over to the RCMP its investigation into allegations of irregular political contributions involving Callaway’s so-called “kamikaze” campaign.

CBC reports that current UCP Caucus deputy chief of staff Matt Wolf, then director of issues management for Kenney’s campaign, communicated regularly with Callaway’s communications manager Cameron Davies, and at times Randy Kerr, who was working as Callaway’s campaign manager.

As director of issues management, Wolf was responsible for advising Kenney on the day-to-day campaign tactics and strategy of the leadership campaign.

Callaway’s withdrawal was something that wasn’t necessarily negotiable,” Davies told CBC. “It was something that had been decided in a meeting in mid-July between Callaway and the Jason Kenney leadership team.”

The Star Edmonton reporters Kieran Leavitt and Emma McIntosh reported that Davies said that ‘Kenney had first hand knowledge of the Callaway kamikaze campaign, and attended a meeting at Callaway’s house where it was discussed in July 2017.’

Kenney has repeatedly denied allegations that Callaway was a stalking horse candidate and he most recently denied knowledge of collusion. He told reporters at a press conference on Friday that that he asked his staff in late 2018 whether they had any knowledge of the the Callaway campaign allegations. “The result of those inquiries was that no one was aware of, had heard anything about or had in any way participated in such activity,” Kenney said.

And Clare Clancy has reported that Postmedia has obtained an email from Wolf to the UCP Caucus sent today in which he writes that “I’ve made no secret about that for those who have asked.”  The same Postmedia report says that Wolf has “gone home” and is not available for comment.

It is not clear whether “gone home” means Wolf was just not in the office at that minute or whether he has “gone home” to somewhere without wifi or cell phone signals for the duration of the election campaign.

Having one of Kenney’s senior advisors apparently leave on the eve of a provincial election call is not exactly the statement of confidence that UCP candidates and supporters will have been looking for today.

Collusion between the two leadership campaigns at this level is not illegal, but it is definitely not normal, certainly unethical and potentially a violation of the UCP’s Code of Conduct.

And as David Climenhaga noted on AlbertaPolitics.ca, U.S. Senator Howard Baker once said of a more famous political scandal, “it is almost always the cover-up rather than the event that causes trouble.”

The questions of legality surround the sharing of campaign resources and donations made by individuals to Callaway’s campaign, and where that money could have originated, which is why the RCMP have been asked to investigate. It has been alleged that some donors were not donating their own money, which is a violation of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. One donor to Callaway’s campaign has already been fined $3,500 by the Commissioner for violating the Act.

The whole Kenney-Callaway collusion scandal is bizarre mostly because, as anyone who was paying attention to Alberta politics in 2017 can attest, Kenney was the clear frontrunner in the UCP leadership race.

With 20-years of experience as an Ottawa politician and the strong backing of Canada’s Conservative establishment, Kenney had the networks, support, and money to win a race against Jean on his own, without Callaway.

But it appears that it may of not been enough for Kenney to just defeat Jean in the UCP leadership contest. Maybe Kenney’s campaign felt they needed Callaway in the race in order so that he could win so decisively that his position as leader of the UCP would be unquestionable in the face of a frequently unruly and fractious conservative movement in Alberta?

We do not have an answer to that question – and Kenney’s silence on the topic over the past two days is deafening.