Tag Archives: Vitor Marciano

Notley’s NDP can’t afford to ignore Wildrose attacks

‘Risky,’ ‘ideological,’ ‘experimental,’ and ‘uncertain’ are all words that the conservative Wildrose Party opposition is using to describe Alberta’s New Democratic Party government.

Sarah Hoffman NDP MLA Edmonton-Glenora

Sarah Hoffman

Responding to Health Minister Sarah Hoffman‘s decision to cancel a $3 billion laboratory services contract with the Australian-based Sonic corporation, the Wildrose claimed the New Democratic Party government was imposing an “ideological” agenda.

The Wildrose appear to have succeeded in turning the tables on the NDP, who, while in opposition criticized the old conservative government of an ideological obsession with privatization of laboratory services. All of a sudden, the government is being accused of being too ideological for protecting Alberta’s public health care system.

Like the old Progressive Conservative government, I am sure the Wildrose would like to increase privatization of the health care system. The NDP could have framed this debate as one of protecting Alberta jobs and an Alberta-based company, rather than just about cancelling a contract with a giant Australian company (it was later announced that an appeal panel determined that Alberta Health Services breached its duty of procedural fairness in the RFP process in a substantive manner).

Vitor Marciano Wildrose

Vitor Marciano

Premier Rachel Notley‘s three-month old NDP government need to understand that the Wildrose Party is running a permanent negative campaign, and their track record as an attack-based opposition is impressive. The Wildrose Party can lay claim to playing a central role in ending the careers of PC Party premiers Ed Stelmach, Alison Redford and Jim Prentice.

And while the Wildrose Party’s purpose for existence was momentarily questioned during the infamous MLA floor crossings, the demise of the PC government and rise of the Alberta NDP has given the party a new lease on life and a new target to attack. And the conservative opposition has many right-wing allies in its fight against the new government spanning from the editorial pages of the Financial Post to the far corners of the internet.

While Brian Jean is party leader, one of the real brains behind the operation is the venerable press secretary Vitor Marciano. Perhaps the largest mistake that Mr. Prentice and Danielle Smith made during the floor crossings was not to secure Mr. Marciano in a government job where the PCs could keep a close eye on him.

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP

Joe Ceci

After retreating into political exile for a few months, the veteran political operator returned with a vengeance to lead the Wildrose election campaign that brought the party from the depths of the abyss to 21 MLAs, more than they won in 2012.

But despite the Wildrose’s part in destroying the PC dynasty, they lost 81,814 votes in the recent election, while the NDP gained an astonishing 477,441 and formed government.

The Wildrose is attempting to tie the new government to economic conditions caused by the decline of the international price of oil, but the Alberta NDP was elected on a moderate progressive platform and have moved swiftly to implement it. Funding was returned to health care, education and human services, two panels studying climate change and natural resource royalties were struck, corporate taxes were increased, a 3-year minimum wage increase was implemented, and a provincial budget is expected to be tabled in the fall.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

There is no doubt the new government faces challenging economic and revenue challenges but after a summer of reading briefing binders and moving into new offices, the NDP need to reengage in the political debate.

The recent verbal skirmish between federal Conservative leader Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Joe Ceci shows the new government does have cabinet ministers who can articulately respond to the partisan barbs of critics. Along with Ms. Notley and Mr. Ceci, I would also add Environment Minister Shannon Phillips, Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley , Education Minister David Eggen and Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason in this category.

When the legislature returns on October 26, the twenty-one Wildrose MLAs will have a daily platform in Question Period to target government ministers. The NDP can learn from some of the major communications mistakes made by the PC Party and respond promptly to the Wildrose attacks, otherwise the opposition and its conservative allies will set the agenda.

Here are a few examples of Wildrose attacks in recent press releases:

  • August 20, 2015 “Bad economic policies from the NDP continue to harm Alberta’s economy…”
  • August 19, 2015: “…the NDP government must move away from their risky, ideological experiments that will drive jobs out of Alberta…
  • August 18, 2015: “…Ms. Hoffman wants Albertans to believe she made the decision based on a lack of information, but it’s clear she made it based on ideology.
  • August 14, 2015: “…the actions this government decides to take cannot keep kicking our economy while it is down.”
  • August 13, 2015: “While Albertans are losing jobs by the thousands with the NDP piling on with damaging economic policies…”
  • August 13, 2015: “…driven by ideology and not evidence-based decision making…”
  • August 13, 2015: “…NDP government has contributed directly to uncertainty and job losses…“
  • August 13, 2015: “…more ideologically driven experiments from the NDP and career politicians…”
Social Credit was risky and ideological
William Aberhart

William Aberhart

August 22, 2015 marks eighty years since the Social Credit League formed government in Alberta. In the 1935 election, the party went from zero to fifty-six MLAs and did not even have a leader during the election campaign (William Aberhart was chosen as Premier on September 3, 1935).

During its first decade in government, Mr. Aberhart’s administration tried to print its own currency, legislate control over the media, tried to nationalize the banking system and banned alcohol sales.

Wildrose leader faces Rocky [Mountain House] challenges and leadership review

Tim Grover Danielle Smith Edmonton-Whitemud by-election 2014 1

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith at the launch of Edmonton-Whitemud candidate Tim Grover’s by-election campaign in October 2014.

Reacting to her party’s poor results in four provincial by-elections held this week, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith announced that she will face a leadership review at her party’s annual convention on November 14 and 15, 2014 in Red Deer.

Premier Alison Redford

Alison Redford

This is a smart move by the official opposition leader, as a solid approval rating could silence her detractors inside the party and mute Progressive Conservative activists who have been using social media to vocally call for her resignation after this week’s by-election votes.

It is not hard to imagine Ms. Smith doing well in the review. She earned 90% support in a leadership review following the 2012 election.

Ms. Smith has also publicly recognized that her party’s strategy of attack in the by-elections fell flat. And on a conference call with constituency presidents last night, Ms. Smith said she would not accept party strategist Vitor Marciano‘s resignation offer in wake of the by-election results. Mr. Marciano also serves as Ms. Smith’s press secretary and is a former member of the Conservative Party of Canada National Council.

Ed Stelmach

Ed Stelmach

But the move to reaffirm her leadership in advance of the 2016 election also comes with risks if her opponents inside the party do decide to strike.

And as we know from recent PC Party leadership reviews, who is able to vote is highly controlled and the results have limited meaning. In 2009 and 2013, PC leaders Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford earned 77% approval from party loyalists. But within months of the both votes, the leaders were drummed out of office by caucus and party revolts (a real revolt in Ms. Redford’s case and a threatened one in Mr. Stelmach’s case).

Wildrose Party members would be foolish to remove Ms. Smith as their leader before the next election. She is smart, media savvy and has grown into her role as official opposition leader since taking over the party in 2009. Removing her as leader would be a death knell for the party.

Trouble in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre

Joe Anglin MLA Wildrose Rocky Mountain House Rimbey Sundre

Joe Anglin

Aside from a leadership review, Ms. Smith may have to deal with growing unrest in one of her party’s rural constituency associations. The Wildrose Party executive committee has appointed a special subcommittee to investigate an ongoing dispute within the party’s Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre constituency association.

The controversy centres around a heated vote for a  new board of directors at an October 15, 2014 annual general meeting. A new board of directors is believed to have been elected, but is disputed by the previous board of directors, who claim that the meeting had officially adjourned before the new board could be elected.

Jason Nixon Wildrose Rocky Mountain House Rimbey Sundre

Jason Nixon

The President of the new board of directors is Edwin Erickson, a former leader of the Alberta Party and former deputy leader of the Alberta Greens during Mr. Anglin’s time as that party’s leader from 2008 to 2009.

These allegations have led the new board, which is operating as the official board, to retain the services of Toronto lawyer Donald Bur to represent them in any legal disputes.

According to the Rimbey Review, Wildrose MLA Joe Anglin did not attend the meeting and claims he heard a tape recording that proves the motion to adjourn was “soundly defeated.”

Much of the tension appears to stem from a recent nomination contest that was wrought with controversy and accusations. During the July 2014 contest, Mr. Anglin, an outspoken property rights activist, publicly accused the Wildrose Party executive committee of failing to enforce the party’s own nomination rules. When the votes were counted, Mr. Anglin was defeated by Jason Nixon.

Following Mr. Anglin’s nomination loss, Ms. Smith suggested that he might consider running in an Edmonton constituency in the next election.

Alberta PCs propose uninviting federal Tories to annual meetings.

A Conservative Split in Alberta

A Conservative Split in Alberta

An amendment proposed to the constitution of the Progressive Conservative Party by party supporters in Calgary-Glenmore would remove the automatic invitation and voting privileges of federal Conservative Party Members of Parliament at PC Party annual general meetings.

The explanation for the proposed amendment was listed in documents circulated by the PC Party this week (pdf):

The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta should be a distinct entity form the Conservative Party of Canada. During the last election we saw several federal cabinet ministers and their staffs actively support ‘other party’ candidates. This does not bode well for the future of Alberta.

Members of the federal Conservative party, specifically MP’s should not be allowed by tradition to be invited to our party’s annual general meeting and have any voting privileges. They can only vote if they have a valid PCAA membership.

The PC Party constitution as it is currently written invites federal Conservative MPs as voting delegates to PC Party annual meetings, which is likely a holdover from a time when the federal PC Party dominated Alberta’s representation in the House of Commons and Senate. The federal PC Party dissolved in 2003 and merged with the Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada.

The decision by numerous federal Conservative Party organizers and MPs, including Vitor Marciano, Tom Flanagan, Jim ArmourRob Anders, Brian Storseth, and cabinet minister Jason Kenney, to support Danielle Smith‘s right-wing Wildrose Party in the recent election has cooled relations between the two conservative parties. In June of this year, Minister Kenney apologized after hitting reply-all on a an email that harshly criticized Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk.

Perhaps it is not surprising that this proposal comes from PC supporters in Calgary-Glenmore. The recent election saw a pitch battle in Calgary-Glenmore between Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman, who narrowly won a 2009 by-election, and PC candidate Linda Johnson. When the votes were counted, Ms. Johnson defeated Mr. Hinman by 1,936 votes. The provincial constituency borders Premier Alison Redford‘s Calgary-Elbow constituency and is within the boundaries of Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s riding of Calgary-Southwest.

Other proposed changes to the PC Party constitution that will be debated at that party’s annual general meeting on November 9 and 10 in Calgary include overhauling the executive structure and the process in which party members select a new leader.

the reform-conservative family feud continues in alberta’s election.

Wildrose is under attack! The same people that caused the Liberal Party of Canada to be in power for 13 uninterrupted years now have Wildrose in their crosshairs. They want nothing more than to see the Redford PCs re-elected to impose their big government knows best, ivory tower views on all of us.

In a fundraising email sent to supporters yesterday by campaign chairman Cliff Fryers, the Wildrose Party revved up its political fear machine by pointing out that others are revving up theirs.

Reform Party of Canada Logo

Reform Party of Canada

Progressive Conservative Party leader Premier Alison Redford has started to hone in on some of the Wildrose Party’s controversial policies, like citizen-initiated referendums that some critics say could lead to province-wide votes on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. A similar constroversial policy was prominently placed in the platform of the former Reform Party and its successor, the Canadian Alliance. While many Albertans still have fond memories and continued respect for Preston Manning and the movement he created, one recent survey suggests that this could be a good strategy for the PCs to use against Danielle Smith‘s party.

Much has been written about how much the electoral battle between Alberta’s PCs and the Wildrose Party is a continuation of the long-standing family feud between moderate Tories and Reform Party minded conservatives of yesteryear.

Premier Redford, who was a staffer to former Prime Minister Joe Clark, stepped up to challenge controversial right-winger Rob Anders for the Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-West before the 2004 federal election. Ms. Redford was defeated. (Ms. Redford’s ex-husband’s father was the last PC MP for Calgary-West and was defeated by Reform Party candidate Stephen Harper in 1993). PC campaign manager Susan Elliott was the national director of the former PC Party of Canada and a few of Premier Redford’s cabinet ministers, including Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Verlyn Olson and Lethbridge-West MLA Greg Weadick were federal PC candidates during the height of the Reform Party’s strength in Western Canada.

While Premier Redford may be more moderate than some candidate in the Wildrose camp, by almost every objective standard she remains a conservative.

PC Party of Canada

The Wildrose Party campaign includes a number of former Reform Party and federal Conservative stalwarts, including Mr. Fryers (who was Chief of Staff to Preston Manning), campaign manager Tom Flanagan (who was strategist for the Reform Party), Senate candidate and strategist Vitor Marciano (who is a long-time federal Conservative Party operative), and Jim Armour (an Ontario-based consultant and former Communications Director to Mr. Manning and Prime Minister Harper). Former federal Conservative candidate also Ryan Hastman joined the Wildrose Party staff shortly after the 2011 federal election.

Calgary-Southeast Conservative Member of Parliament Jason Kenney was reported to have said that “any attempt to hurt Wildrose by linking them to old Reform movement will backfire.”

Fanning the flames of western political discontent from his desktop in Toronto, former federal Liberal Party strategist Warren Kinsella waded into Alberta’s election campaign yesterday by posting some of Wildrose leader Ms. Smith’s more controversial comments. A similar and more usefully packaged piece of advice was provided by former Edmonton-Meadowlark Liberal MLA Maurice Tougas over the past weekend.

With a few exceptions most Members of Parliament have kept a low-profile during this provincial campaign. Westlock-St. Paul Conservative MP Brian Storseth was spotted in the Bonnyville A&W with Ms. Smith earlier this week. Edmonton-Spruce Grove Conservative MP Rona Ambrose has endorsed Spruce Grove-St. Albert PC candidate and Deputy Premier Doug Horner.

On the NDP side, Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan has endorsed Edmonton-Gold Bar candidate Marlin Schmidt. Quebec NDP MP Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet will be campaigning with Mr. Schmidt today. The shift in electoral boundaries places Edmonton’s francophone community in Bonnie Doon into the Gold Bar constituency.  The NDP are hoping that the retirement of popular Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald could be their opportunity to make electoral gains in this east Edmonton constituency.

Saanich-Gulf Islands MP and Green Party leader Elizabeth May is in Edmonton this week campaigning with EverGreen Party candidates.

Later this week, Papineau Liberal MP Justin Trudeau joining Lacombe-Ponoka Liberal candidate Kyle Morrow over cyberspace to speak to a class of students at St. Augustine School in Ponoka.

alberta election 2012: ian urquhart for senate.

Ian Urquhart Alberta Senate Candidate Vote

Ian Urquhart for Senate

Bringing some political diversity to the race, University of Alberta Political Science Professor Ian Urquhart has announced that he will run as an Independent candidate in the upcoming Senator-in-Waiting election.

Active with the Alberta Wilderness Association, Dr. Urquhart is the first openly centre-left candidate to join the contest. His candidacy gives political moderates and centre-left voters of all stripes an option other than refusing to vote or spoiling their Senate ballots at the polls (the Liberal, NDP, and Alberta Party have chosen not to participate in the Senator-in-Waiting election).

While I was a student at the U of A, I had the pleasure of taking some courses with Dr. Urquhart focusing on public policy and Canadian constitutional politics. He ended up being one of my favourite professors and I look forward to voting for him in the Senator-in-Waiting election.

Meanwhile, the Wildrose Party announced two additional Senator-in-Waiting candidates to join the already nominated Vitor Marciano. Former party president Jeff Calloway and St. Paul gas line operator Raymond Germain will run under their party banner. The PCs have nominated Doug BlackScott Tannas, and Mike Shaikh. St. Albert Alderman and former Liberal MLA Len Bracko is running as an Independent candidate.

Most of the Wildrose and PC Senate candidates are expected to sit with the Conservative Senate Caucus if elected and subsequently appointed (I have heard some speculation that one of the PC candidates would sit as a PC in the Senate).

sitting out the senate election would be a missed opportunity for the liberals, ndp, alberta party.

Senate of Canada

Senate of Canada

Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Betty Unger to the Senate of Canada. Ms. Unger was chosen as one of Alberta’s Senators-in-Waiting in the 2004 election and is the third elected Senator to be made a member of Canada’s appointed Upper House.

This spring in conjunction with the 2012 General Election, the Province of Alberta will be holding another election to choose a new batch of Senator-in-Waiting candidates.

While Alberta’s previous Senator-in-Waiting elections quickly became quirky sideshows that attracted a crowd of unknown partisan insiders, the candidates lining up for the 2012 election may bring a higher level of seriousness to the contest. Seeking the nomination for the Progressive Conservative candidacy are lawyer Doug Black, Calgary Police Commission Chairman Mike Shaihk, businessman Scott Tannas, City of Leduc Mayor Greg Krischke, and past-President of NAIT Sam Shaw.

Long-time Conservative Party organizer Vitor Marciano has stepped up to carry the Wildrose Party flag and former Liberal MLA Len Bracko will run as an Independent candidate.

Hugh MacDonald MLA

MLA Hugh MacDonald

The Liberal Party, New Democratic Party, and Alberta Party have all declared that they will not participate in this election. I believe that not running a candidate in the upcoming Senator-in-Waiting election is a real missed opportunity for these opposition parties.

I have heard three main arguments by members of these parties against participating in the Senate election. Here are the arguments and the responses:

Argument #1: The non-conservative opposition parties do not have the resources to run a candidate in the Senate election. Having limited resources does not stop any of the parties from putting a name on the ballot. I believe it is a disservice to the voters not to have an alternative to the two conservative parties on the ballot. There is also political value in having a Liberal, NDP, or Alberta Party candidate on the ballot. These candidates will receive many votes, provide a natural opposition choice for thousands of Albertans, and they can generate positive media coverage for the parties (even if they don’t win).

Raj Pannu former MLA

Raj Pannu

I suggested in an earlier post that retiring Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald could be an ideal candidate for the Liberals. Former NDP MLA Raj Pannu would also make an ideal candidate for the NDP.

Argument #2: The Prime Minister is not obligated to appoint the Senator-in-Waiting. True. If the elected candidate is not appointed it would showcase how serious the Prime Minister is about elected Senators.

Argument #3: [From NDP supporters]: The NDP has a policy supporting the abolition of the Senate. I believe this is a bad policy, but even so, this would not stop the NDP from running candidates in the election. What better way to promote the abolishment of the Senate than to run a candidate in the very election that could choose Alberta’s next Senators?

The NDP now forms the Official Opposition in the House of Commons and has no representation in the Senate, where the Liberals form the Opposition. The NDP in Ottawa have rejected previous attempts by their supporters to represent the New Democrats in the Senate. When Lillian Dyck was appointed to represent Saskatchewan in the Senate in 2005, the NDP refused to recognize her as a member of their Parliamentary Caucus. She now sits with the Liberal Caucus.

If these opposition parties do not step up to the plate, Albertans can once again expect a Senator-in-Waiting election dominated by conservative politicians. Candidates from these three parties would challenge the dominant narrative that the two conservative parties are the only contenders in the next provincial election. It would be a real missed opportunity for them to sit on the sidelines.

could hugh macdonald save albertans from another snoozer senate election?

Alberta will be holding its fourth ever Senate election in 2012.

Last Friday, the Progressive Conservatives released the rules to guide the nomination of their candidates in next year’s Senate election (or more accurately, ‘Senator-in-Waiting‘ election). The PCs will open nominations on December 9, 2011.

Candidates must submit a non-refundable fee of $4000 and collects the signatures of 50 current PC Party members from Alberta’s five regions. Once they have gone through this process, they will be required to enter a special vote in February 2012, giving an indication about when then next provincial election may be called. Those participating in the vote will include constituency association presidents, nominated PC candidates, voting members of the party executive committee, and four elected delegates from each of the 87 constituency associations.

Calgary lawyer Doug Black and Calgary-area businessman Scott Tannas have already declared their interest in the PC Senate nomination. Mr. Black served as finance chairman for Jim Dinning during that party’s 2006 leadership contest.

Vitor Marciano Wildrose Senate Candidate Alberta

Vitor Marciano

Federal Conservative Party operative Vitor Marciano has already announced his intentions to run in the Senate election under the Wildrose Party banner. It is likely that all three of these candidates would sit with the federal Conservative caucus if elected to the Senate.

Alberta’s last Senate election, held in 2004, was boycotted by the Liberals and NDP. The lack of serious opposition candidates left Albertans to choose from a cast of right-wing characters ranging from the PC candidates to the Social Credit and Alberta Alliance. When the votes were counted, three PCs and one Independent candidate were elected, but many Albertans were disenfranchised by the lack of non-conservative candidates.

According to Elections Alberta, during the 2004 Senate elections 85,937 voters declined to cast a ballot in the election (equating to 4.2% of eligible voters, or 9.7% of the voters who received ballots) and 84,643 ballots were rejected (that equates to 9.5% of the total ballots cast).

Even though four of Alberta’s six Senate seats are currently held by appointed federal Liberal Party members (including former Liberal Party leader Grant Mitchell), sources say the party is unlikely to participate in next year’s Senate election. The Liberals have only participated in one Senate election in Alberta, which feels to me like a missed opportunity for much needed publicity.

Hugh MacDonald Alberta Liberal MLA

Senator-in-waiting Hugh MacDonald?

One long-time party insider suggested to me this weekend that choosing retiring Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald to carry the Liberal Party banner in next year’s Senate election could be a fitting tribute to the long-time party stalwart. Known for his hard work and (sometimes over the top) passionate criticisms of the PC government, the opposition MLA would almost surely spark more interest in the Senate race than the generic conservative party candidates will on their own.

It would be a long-shot, but if the federal Liberal Party is interested in building a base of support Western Canada, running an even half-serious campaign in a Senate election would be a good place as any to start. Even if it is a long-shot, and it is, I am sure that I am not the only person who would enjoy the irony of watching Prime Minister Stephen Harper being forced to appoint a fiercely partisan Liberal like Hugh MacDonald to the Senate of Canada.

why early opposition attacks on alison redford will backfire.

Danielle Smith Alberta Wildrose No Plan

Left: No Plan ads from 2008 election. Right: Wildrose attack ads in 2011.

Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party has launched a series of negative television ads against soon-to-be Premier Alison Redford, who will be sworn-in as Premier tomorrow in Edmonton. The television ads bear an eerie resemblance to the negative ads used by Nancy MacBeth‘s Alberta Liberals in the 2001 election and the “No Plan” ads aired by the ‘Albertans for Change‘ coalition in the 2008 election.

The Wildrosers early attack ads are a page out of the federal Conservative Party election campaign textbook, which should not come as a surprise considering that Ms. Smith has surrounded herself with federal Tory activists, including Vitor Marciano, William McBeath, Ryan Hastman, and Steven Dollansky.

The most obvious differences between Ms. Redford and successful targets of federal Conservative smear campaigns are that:

1) she is not a Liberal, she is a Conservative
2) the PCs have a massive majority government in the Assembly and are still the best-organized and most well-funded political organization in the province, and
3) I believe that Albertans have generally been impressed with what they have seen of her so far.

Is it too early for the opposition parties to be lobbing grenades at the yet to be sworn-in Premier Redford? Ms. Redford was selected as leader at around 1:30am on October 2 and at 4:45pm, Wildrose attack dog Rob Anderson had already sent out a media release criticizing her. Always a gentleman, Mr. Anderson later tweeted that he would take a break from attacking Ms. Redford on Wednesday so that she could attend her mother’s funeral. How compassionate of Mr. Anderson.

Rob Anderson Twitter MLA Wildrose

Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson's October 5 tweet.

With the next general election expected within six months, the Wildrosers have decided to strike a negative tone, starting with attack ads and releasing a list of forty mistakes they say that the PCs have made during their forty years in government. The PCs have made many mistakes, but Albertans will reject the negative tone of the Wildrosers just as they have rejected the negative tone of the other opposition parties year after year. It is not enough to just remind Albertans that the Tories have become a monument to institutional mediocrity after forty years in government. Albertans know that because they voted for the PCs. Opposition parties need to take an extra step to give Albertans compelling and positive reasons to support them at the polls, something the Wildrosers have failed to do.

Not to be outdone by the Wildrose attacks against Ms. Redford, the NDP joined the fray. On Monday morning, NDP leader Brian Mason attacked Ms. Redford for delaying the fall sitting of the legislature, which was scheduled to begin on October 25, and the appointment of Alberta Health Services chairman Ken Hughes to her transition team. While both criticisms were valid, they were never meant to be “constructive” as Mr. Mason claimed on his blog the next day.

Unlike the opposition parties, who rely heavily on the daily Question Period to get their media hits during the legislative session, I believe that it was perfectly reasonable for Ms. Redford to want more than 15 days to prepare a legitimate legislative agenda. Regardless of what I may believe, Ms. Redford took the opposition advice, and to Mr. Mason’s surprise, announced that there will be a fall sitting.

Meanwhile, Ontario conservative blogger Stephen Taylor spun the Wildrose talking points this week claiming that Ms. Redford is the product of a labour union conspiracy, because of the support she received from front-line education and health care workers during the campaign. Maybe the view from Ottawa is blurred, but Mr. Taylor’s argument is silly when you take into account that most of these front-line workers probably regularly vote for the PC Party anyway.

Edmonton Journal columnist Graham Thomson pointed out early this week that Ms. Redford’s ‘honeymoon,’ a period that is traditionally given to new political leaders to allow them to settle into their new job, has been cut short by the opposition attacks. I predict these early aggressive tactics will only backfire on the opposition.

Every Albertan knows what is is like to start a new job and how bad it feels to get criticized before you even have a chance to started. No one likes the jerk who criticizes them before they have a chance to get familiar with the job. Hardline supporters of the opposition parties will rise to support their leaders attacks, but as the Wildrosers ads say, Albertans support integrity and democracy, but they also support fairness and don’t like jerks.

alberta senate elections in 2011 or 2012.

Via Postmedia News, Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidates are calling for another round of Senator-in-Waiting elections to happen concurrent with the next provincial election:

“We want them (Senate nominees) to be current. We don’t want to end up with a stale list,” said Alison Redford, Calgary-Elbow member of provincial legislature and the lone female candidate in the Tory race. “There must be another election and we may as well hold it in conjunction with the next provincial election.”

Redford believes Albertans should elect three Senate nominees who could fill the three vacancies over the next few years. Liberal Sen. Tommy Banks faces retirement in December 2011; Conservative Sen. Bert Brown must retire by March 2013; and Liberal Sen. Joyce Fairbairn by November 2014.

Alberta has held three Senate elections, in 1989, 1998, and 2004. One of Ms. Redford’s opponents, former Finance Minister Ted Morton was elected as a Senator-in-Waiting in 1998 and gave up the position-in-waiting when he ran in the 2004 provincial election in the Foothills-Rockyview constituency. PC candidates elected in the 2004 contest include Senator-no-longer-in-waiting Bert Brown, and Senators-still-waiting Betty UngerCliff Breitkreuz, and Senator-got-tired-of-waiting Link Byfield (who is now the Wildrose candidate in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock).

The Wildrose announced yesterday that its former Executive Director, Vitor Marciano, would be one of its candidates in the next Senate election. Mr. Marciano is a well-known Conservative Party of Canada operative in Alberta. It is unknown whether the other opposition parties would support candidates in a Senate election.

The last Liberal to stand in a Senate election was Calgary lawyer Bill Code, who placed second in the 1989 contest. The New Democrats support the abolition of the Senate, but in 1998, future NDP candidate in Edmonton-Glenora Guy Desrosiers stood as an Independent Senate candidate (and placed third with 16.7% of the vote).

did danielle smith’s wildrose peak too early?

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Wildrose Alliance MLAs Paul Hinman, Heather Forsyth, and Rob Anderson. January 2010.

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Wildrose MLAs Paul Hinman, Heather Forsyth, and Rob Anderson in January 2010.

With the departure of Premier Ed Stelmach soon upon us, and the Tories choosing a new leader this fall, has the wave that carried the Wildrose high in the polls in 2010 crested in 2011?

In 2010, the Wildrose benefited greatly from a number of high-profile Tory defections. Convinced they were riding the next wave after a narrow by-election victory in a Tory stronghold saw Paul Hinman return to the Assembly, floor-crossing Tory MLAs Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth joined Danielle Smith‘s party in January 2010. The next month, the Wildrose were riding higher than the Tories in public opinion polls. Soon after they were joined by former PC organizer Hal Walker and banished former Tory cabinet minister Guy Boutilier. Rumours of more Tory defections were spreading like wildfire.

The high tide that was 2010 for the Wildrose led to a much more reality-based and sober 2011. Without the weather vane that was the unpopular Premier Stelmach, Ms. Smith’s Wildrose will be facing a new Progressive Conservative leader in the next general election.

Following a policy convention that reaffirmed the party’s commitment to a number of fringe conservative pet issues, a number of Tory-cum-Wildrose supporters returned to the PC Party. Dean Leask, Wildrose’s former vice-president of policy has returned to the Tory ranks, describing his now former party as “an antigrassroots movement.”

Mr. Leask is now supporting former Finance Minister Ted Morton‘s bid for the PC leadership. A number of other Wildrosers are said to have returned to the Tories to support Rick Orman‘s leadership bid.

Is the Wildrose an “anti-grassroots movement?” This is difficult to confirm, but evidence suggests that the party has handled internal disputes with a heavy-hand. Conflicts with the central party over the candidate nomination process led to the resignations of members of the board of directors in the Medicine Hat and Little Bow constituencies. Some disgruntled Wildrose supporters have put the blame on professional political operatives like Vitor Marciano, while others have complained to this blogger than MLA Mr. Anderson is “micro-managing” party affairs.

While much of the Wildrose’s future depends on who becomes the next leader of the PC Party, the high hopes of competing tête-à-tête with the PCs in the next general election may be dashed. The Wildrose have begun trending below the Tories in more reputable polls and are substantially behind the governing party in fundraising (though they are far ahead of the opposition NDP, Alberta Party, and Liberals).

The forecast of forming government anytime soon may be less optimistic, but Ms. Smith’s cadre of disgruntled conservatives appear to have positioned themselves as a permanent fixture on Alberta’s political scene, with the growing possibility that they may form the Official Opposition after the next election.

Even the once starry-eyed optimist, Ms. Smith appears to be shifting into the mode of managing the expectations of her party faithful. Instead of reaffirming previous comments that Albertans were ready to elect her party to government, she settled on a more modest comment at the Calgary Stampede this weekend, telling the Canadian Press that “after the next election there will be a large contingent of Wildrosers.”

testing conservative unity.

Calgary-Centre North by-election could be a test of conservative unity in alberta.

As the first major political event on the federal stage in Alberta since the Wildrose Alliance jumped from insignificance to contender in the polls over the past year, the Calgary-Centre North by-election could be a symbolic test of the Conservative Party’s strength in tolerating the provincial split in the conservative movement in Alberta. The resignation of Environment Minister Jim Prentice could open the door for a contested race for the Conservative Party nomination that could highlight some of these cleavages. Could that riding’s Conservative nomination contest become a proxy war in the battle between moderate and ideological conservatives that has exploded on the provincial level?

I have had an number of interesting and frank conversations with federal Conservative Party organizers who are acutely aware of their delicate balancing act. In most provinces, many members of the federal Conservative Party are also members of the equivalent “conservative” party in the provincial level (ie: BC Liberals, Saskatchewan Party, PC Party in Ontario and the maritimes). Alberta’s conservatives are in a different situation.

Many active members of the Conservative Party of Canada remain active members of the four decade-long governing Progressive Conservatives, but many have become active with the Wildrose Alliance over the past year (including Wildrose candidates Andrew Constantinidis in Calgary-West and Rod Fox in Lacombe-Ponoka who are former Conservative Party Electoral District Association Presidents). Two of the Wildroses main political staffers are also products of the federal Conservative school of politics. Executive Director Vitor Marciano and Communications Director William McBeath both left positions in the federal Conservative establishment to join the insurgent Wildrosers since Danielle Smith became leader.

It is somewhat reminiscent of the split that happened among conservative voters in the 1990s with the rise of the Reform Party of Canada and the decline of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. Although they did not form a functional provincial-wing, the split between the Reformers and the federal PC Party in Alberta also happened during a time of flux on the provincial level. Many Reform Party supporters were drawn to the policies of fiscal conservative provincial Liberal leader Laurence Decore. A few Reformers such as Don MacDonald and Donna Graham ran as Liberal Party candidates. Mr. MacDonald stunned many political watchers when he handily won a 1992 by-election in the Three Hills riding in the conservative heartland. The Liberals also won support in the Little Bow constituency where candidate Ms. Graham came within 262 votes of defeating Tory Barry McFarland. It was a different time.

Following the 1993 re-election of the PC Party led by Premier Ralph Klein, many of these tensions disappeared as many Reformers made amends with Alberta’s natural governing party. Some of these tensions re-emerged under a resurgent Social Credit in 1997, but that year’s election proved to bare no fruit for the antiquated political movement. By 2001, when Reform MP Ian McClelland moved into provincial politics it appeared that all was beautiful, calm, and quiet on the conservative front. What a difference nine years can make.

Back to my original point, it will be very interesting to watch how the Conservative Party of Canada will try to mitigate any migration of the conservative conflict into its ranks in Alberta.

the wildrose’s new hired gun.

The Wildrose Alliance is bolstering their staff in preparation for the next provincial election.

Recent hire William McBeath left his position as Director of Operations for Minister Diane Finley in Ottawa to become the Director of Candidate Operations and Party Communications for the Wildrose Alliance. Although he spent some time in Ottawa, political watchers will remember Mr. McBeath from his time as Alberta Regional Organizer for the Conservative Party of Canada, as researcher for former Edmonton City Councillor Mike Nickel, and as an organizer for Ted Morton‘s PC leadership campaign in 2006. Mr. McBeath joins long-time Conservative Party organizer Vitor Marciano, who was hired as the Wildrose Executive Director in March 2010.

The Wildrose Alliance has also attracted the support of two former Conservative Members of Parliament. Retired Edmonton-St. Albert MP John Williams and Westlock-St. Paul MP David Chatters are supporting Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock Wildrose nomination candidate Link Byfield in his campaign against PC MLA Speaker Ken Kowalski.

“The issue is not the MLA; it is the party and the government. The government has been around too long.” – Former Conservative MP John Williams

The Wildrosers will be holding a contested nomination meeting in the Liberal-stronghold of Edmonton-Riverview. Candidates John Corie and Chris Ozdoba will duke it out on October 21 for the chance to hold their party’s flag in the constituency represented by MLA Kevin Taft since 2001 (who is not seeking re-election).

The Liberals have yet to announce a nomination date in Riverview, but rumours are circulating that retiring Public School Board Trustee Don Fleming is interested in seeking the Liberal nomination. Before Dr. Taft, the Riverview constituency was represented by current City Councillor Linda Sloan from 1997 to 2001.

The Wildrosers have a head start in candidate nominations, but are not the only party holding nomination meetings.

The Liberal Party nominated former MLA Weslyn Mather in Edmonton-Mill Woods last weekend and will be holding a nomination meeting in Edmonton-McClung on October 23. Former MLA Mo Elsalhy is expected to be acclaimed at the nomination meeting.

The NDP have a contested nomination meeting in Grande Prairie-Wapiti scheduled for next week. Contestants Paula Anderson and John Friesen are probably participating in the first contested candidate nomination for the Grande Prairie NDP in recent memory.

turnover at the alberta ndp office.

Word on the street is that Alberta NDP Executive Director Sandra Houston is resigning to pursue an job in Islamabad, Pakistan involving women and democracy. Ms. Houston has held the position for a couple of years and is considered a close ally of leader Brian Mason, something that has frustrated many reform-minded New Democrats that I have spoken with.

The Wildrose Alliance and Progressive Conservative Party have also had recent turnover in their offices leading to the hirings of new Executive Directors Vitor Marciano and Patricia Godkin. In September 2009, Corey Hogan became Executive Director of the Liberal Party after filling a vacancy left after the resignation of long-time Executive Director Kieran Leblanc in 2008.

alberta politics notes 3/15/2010

– New polls from Angus-Reid (Wildrose: 42%, PC: 27%, Liberal: 19%, NDP 9%, Other 3%) and Environics (PC: 34%, Wildrose: 30%, Liberal: 23%, NDP 10%). Calgary Grit has more on these polls.
– According to the PC Party website, Patricia Godkin has replaced Jim Campbell as Executive Director (Mr. Campbell recently joined Cenovus Energy as their Vice-President Government Relations and Corporate Accountability). Ms. Godkin previously served as Director of Finance and was the acting Executive Director in 2007 after the resignation of Peter Elzinga. While holding the interim position in 2007, Ms. Godkin faced a challenge from outgoing PC Youth President David McColl, who published an op-ed in the Calgary Herald predicting that “PC Alberta will continue its slow death march, to the beat of a rural drum and tired, stale policies.”
Vitor Marciano is expected to become the new Executive Director of the Wildrose Alliance. Mr. Marciano recently stepped down from his position on the National Council of the Conservative Party of Canada and served as Campaign Manager for Edmonton-Centre MP Laurie Hawn in 2004 and 2006, and for Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq in 2008. In 2006, he supported former Edmonton-McClung PC MLA Mark Norris‘ bid for the PC leadership. This is the second prominent Edmonton conservative to join Danielle Smith‘s staff in recent months. In February, former PC Party VP Outreach and 2004 Edmonton-Strathcona candidate Shannon Stubbs became Executive Assistant to Ms. Smith.
– Former Edmonton-Meadowlark Liberal MLA Maurice Tougas has written a piece in this month’s Alberta Views Magazine that focuses on Danielle Smith’s time on the Calgary Board of Education from 1998 to 1999. Mr. Tougas’ reliance on comments from former Trustee Jennifer Pollock provided a fairly one-sided perspective of the issue. You can read my four part series Smith v. Board of Education part 1part 2part 3, and part 4.
– The Alberta Party has posted an update on The Big Listen.
Tyler Shandro has raised some interesting questions about the interim report of Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission.
– Three years after the a committee of top-tier economic experts recommended increasing the royalty rates collected by the provincial government, Premier Ed Stelmach has cut back the amount of resource royalties that are collected. The Pembina Institute responded by pointing out that “Albertans, the owners of the province’s oil and gas resources, were completely left out of the process of reviewing Alberta’s royalty rates.”