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Alberta Politics

Doing the Minimum: Kenney’s Covid Plan

Premier Jason Kenney emerged from ten days in seclusion to announce new measures in response to the record-breaking daily increases in COVID-19 cases in Alberta.

Far below the “circuit-breaker lockdown” that had been called for by public health experts, the new plan announced by Kenney is mostly previously made suggestions that are now loosely enforced rules with a lot of exceptions. And they are just as confusing at the previous restrictions.

Middle schools and high schools will move to online instruction, but restaurants, bars and casinos will remain open. There was no mention of allowing the federal CovidAlert tracing app to be activated in Alberta, even as our province’s contact tracing capacity has collapsed. And because the contract tracing has largely stopped, it is unclear what data Kenney’s government used when creating these new targeted measures.

The new rules are mostly directed at Calgary and Edmonton, with no face-mask requirements or permanent expanded business restrictions in rural areas. Alberta is now the only province without a province-wide mandatory mask mandate.

The exemptions for rural Alberta communities, as well as exemptions for indoor social gatherings in churches, suggest the the United Conservative Party government is prioritizing appeasing it’s main political constituencies – rural Albertans, libertarians, social conservatives, and industry lobby groups like Restaurants Canada and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business – over taking the advice of public health experts.

Kenney frequently frames the government’s options as either “total lockdown” or “the minimum” measures, but as we know from other provinces and countries there are many actions that can be taken that the Alberta government is unwilling to do.

In a harshly worded column in the Globe & Mail, Andre Picard described Kenney’s announcement as “inaction posing as action, a quasi-libertarian Premier bending over backward to do nothing while pretending to do something.”

The half-measures announced today are undoubtably the result of political bargaining within a cabinet and caucus that appear unprepared or unwilling to take drastic action to protect Albertans by stopping the spread of the virus. It is hard to imagine any past Alberta government, whether it be Progressive Conservative or New Democrat, making these types of concessions during a public health crisis.

During the press conference, Kenney repeatedly spoke about the need to protect the economy and “the poor,” but the economy is people and any economic recovery won’t happen until the virus is contained. Government has the ability and responsibility to provide financial supports for all Albertans who are impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

True to form, Kenney also took a moment to chastise public sector workers who collect a “public paycheque.” It is notable that none of the measures announced by Kenney were specifically aimed at relieving the pressure on understaffed hospitals and care centres where over-worked frontline nurses, doctors and health workers risk their lives to face the pandemic everyday. In fact, the fiscal update released earlier in the day by Finance Minister Travis Toews actually described public sector workers as a drain on the economy.

The Kenney government had eight months to plan and prepare for a second wave that was widely predicted but it appears that in their eagerness over the summer to shift the political narrative back to pipelines and the economy, Kenney has been caught flat footed.

The UCP government had eight months where it could have supported health care workers and educators, built up contact tracing capacity, and put in place plans for the second wave. But instead the UCP cabinet pulled an all-nighter and threw together a patch-work plan in eight hours.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Mayor Don Iveson not running for re-election in 2021

Don Iveson will not run for re-election as Edmonton’s Mayor in next year’s election.

Iveson made the big announcement in a statement on his website this morning and is expected to discuss his decision as the first guest on the inaugural episode of Real Talk, a new show launched by Ryan Jespersen, who was until recently hosting a popular morning show on 630CHED.

Don Iveson in 2007 (photo: Dave Cournoyer)
Don Iveson in 2007 (photo: Dave Cournoyer)

While Iveson will remain mayor until next October’s election and has pledged his full commitment to leading the city through the COVID-19 pandemic and economic issues the city is grappling with, this announcement signals the end of a remarkable career in municipal politics in Edmonton.

As a relatively unknown first-time candidate in 2007, Iveson ran an energetic, youthful and intelligent campaign focused on “smart growth” and “politics in full sentences” that not only got him elected to Edmonton City Council but knocked-off high-profile incumbent Mike Nickel in the process. Iveson was easily re-elected to council in 2010.

In 2013, as three-term Mayor Stephen Mandel made his first exit from elected politics, Iveson trounced two well-known councillors, Karen Liebovici and Kerry Diotte, to win the Mayoral election by a big margin. He was re-elected by a landslide in 2017.

Don Iveson
Don Iveson in 2020

Today’s announcement opens the gates to candidates who were waiting for Iveson to announce his plans before entering the race. Already rumoured to be planning their mayoral campaigns are current councillors Andrew Knack and Mike Nickel and former councillor Kim Krushell. Former economic development executive Cheryll Watson has already announced her candidacy.

There will be plenty of time over the next year to discuss Iveson’s time as Mayor and the legacy he will leave, but it is clear that his last two years as Mayor – leading the city through the global pandemic – have likely been the most challenging and will help define Alberta’s capital city for years to come.

Leaving the Mayor’s office at the young age of 42-years old next year will put Iveson in a position where he could potentially do anything he wants as his next endeavour. Perhaps he will write a book about being a big city mayor? Or host a Netflix documentary series – may I suggest “Smart Growth with Don Iveson” or “Little City, Big Dreams” as a few names. Or he could shift-careers and make a cameo appearance as Leonard McCoy on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds?

Or maybe, after a healthy break, he will return to politics.

Premier Don Iveson sounds good to me.


Listen to my recent interview with Don Iveson on the Daveberta Podcast where we discussed being a big city mayor during the COVID-19 global pandemic, municipal relations with the provincial government, Edmonton’s rapid plan to end homelessness, and the excellence of Star Trek: Lower Decks.


Thinking of running?

Interested in running in the 2021 Edmonton Elections as a candidate? Edmonton Elections is hosting a virtual information session that will cover important information about the election processes for candidates, including how to register, upcoming deadlines and changes to rules and regulations. Tune in at 12:00 pm on November 24, 2020 to watch.

Categories
Alberta Politics

#1 for the wrong reason: Alberta leads Canada in new COVID-19 cases. Where is Jason Kenney?

Alberta broke its daily record for new COVID-19 cases and led the country in new cases. With 1,584 new cases, Alberta had more new cases than Canada’s two largest provinces, Quebec with 1,154, and Ontario with 1,534. 

The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting Alberta hard, and our leadership is sending out mixed messages. While the pandemic was of upmost importance earlier in the year, provincial leaders shifted their focus to the economy over the summer and resisted calls from health care experts for a province-wide mandatory mask requirement. Alberta is now the only province without a province-wide mask mandate.

Miranda Rosin Banff Kananaskis UCP MLA
Miranda Rosin

Premier Jason Kenney, who is in his second period of self-isolation after being exposed to someone with COVID-19 during a trip to northern Alberta earlier this month, has been silent on the daily record breaking cases. But although Kenney has been publicly silent on the surge in COVID cases and the many recent tragic deaths as a result of the virus, he was said to have recently appeared via Zoom at the Edmonton-South West United Conservative Party annual general meeting and a screenshot of him speaking via Zoom to the Canada India Foundation was circulating on social media this evening.

While no one is expecting Kenney to have all the answers, his disappearance is puzzling.

Even Health Minister Tyler Shandro has made only rare appearances outside the Legislative Assembly chamber lately, with most appearances related to defending Alberta’s ineffective COVID-19 tracing app.

In the absence of leadership, some UCP MLAs are filling the void with confusing information and mixed-messaging that undermines the work of public health professionals like Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Banff-Kananaskis MLA Miranda Rosin mailed pamphlets to thousands of her constituents last week claiming that the worst of the pandemic was over and that now was the time to focus on the economy.

And a video circulating on social media showed Associate Minster of Mental Health and Addictions and Calgary-Foothills MLA Jason Luan claiming that the government’s COVID-19 plan was to wait for hospital intensive care units to reach full capacity before changing course. Luan later retracted his comments in a carefully prepared written statement.

Meanwhile, the situation in hospital ICU’s across Alberta has reached serious levels. Not only are ICU beds filling up, but the pandemic is taking a serious toll on the health care professionals required to staff these intensive units. Most staff are overworked and having to work many additional shifts to cover for co-workers who have been exposed to COVID and are required to go into self-isolation.

In many cases, nurses and health workers are taking time-off without pay because their sick leave banks have run dry and a special self-isolation leave was ended by Alberta Health Services in July.

New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley has announced that she plans to ask for an emergency debate about the COVID-19 pandemic when MLAs return to the Legislature tomorrow.

And rumours are circulating tonight that Kenney may break his silence and join Dr. Hinshaw at a press conference tomorrow to announce a new series of measures to combat the pandemic, maybe even more stringent than the strongly encouraged voluntary measures that have clearly not been working.


David Khan to step down as Liberal Party leader

David Khan Alberta Liberal Party Leader
David Khan

The Alberta Liberal Party will soon be looking for a new leader. A press release sent out by the party today announced that leader David Khan would soon step down to pursue his legal career.

The congenial Khan has run under the provincial Liberal Party banner four times since 2014 and was chosen as party leader after launching a last-minute candidacy in 2017.

While Khan placed a strong third in Calgary-Buffalo in 2015, he finished a distant fourth in Calgary-Mountain View in 2019 as his party’s fortunes collapsed across the province. While he performed respectfully in the televised leaders debate, the Liberals were unable to break into what was largely two-party race between the UCP and NDP.

The 2019 election marked the first time since 1982 that the Liberals did not elect an MLA to the Legislative Assembly.

Categories
Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 63: Defending Alberta Parks and the COVID emergency

Annalise Klingbeil joins the Daveberta Podcast to discuss the latest developments in United Conservative Party government’s plans to close and privatize more than 160 provincial parks and recreation areas. We also discuss the mixed-messaging about COVID-19 from Premier Jason Kenney and his cabinet ministers as the second wave of the pandemic surges in Alberta. And we share some ideas about how the government could improve its COVID-19 communications.

Annalise is co-founder of Champion Communications & PR. She previously worked as a ministerial press secretary and before that she was a journalist at the Calgary Herald. She is also the co-founder of the Go Outside newsletter.

The Daveberta Podcast is hosted by Dave Cournoyer and produced by Adam Rozenhart.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported. The Alberta Podcast Network includes dozens of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Find us on TwitterInstagram, Facebook, or you can email us at podcast@daveberta.ca. Thanks for listening.

Recommended Reading/Listening

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Alberta Politics

T-Minus 11 months: Candidates stepping up to run for Edmonton City Council

With less than a year to go until the 2021 municipal elections, candidates are stepping up to run for Edmonton City Council.

Don Iveson
Don Iveson

The big unanswered question about the October 18, 2021 election is whether incumbent Mayor Don Iveson will seek re-election for a third-term. Iveson was first elected in 2013 and won re-election with 73.6 per cent of the vote in 2017. When I asked about his plans for the election on a recent episode of the Daveberta Podcast, Iveson said he wasn’t yet ready to announce his intentions for 2021.

Former Economic Development Edmonton vice-president Cheryl Watson is the first candidate to throw her hat into the mayor contest. Rumoured to be planning or considering a run for mayor are current councillors Andrew Knack and Mike Nickel, as well as former city councillor Kim Krushell.

Also rumoured to be considering a run is former Member of Parliament Amarjeet Sohi, who previously served on city council from 2007 to 2015.

Edmonton City Council’s new Ward boundaries with new Indigenous names.

Newly redrawn Ward boundaries will also come with new Indigenous names, a first for a large Canadian city. The new boundaries and new names will be initially confusing for many Edmontonians, but I am hopeful that the City of Edmonton will engage the public in an education campaign explaining the meaning of the new names and the role they play in reconciliation.

By my count, the candidates who have already announced their plans to run are:

  • Glynnis Lieb is running in Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi. Lieb is the Executive Director of iSMSS in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta.
  • Keren Tang and Shamair Turner have announced their plans to run in the new Karhiio ward. Tang was a candidate in Ward 11 in the 2017 election, where she placed second and earned 26.7 per cent of the vote. Turner is a first time candidate and former Vice President and Account Executive at Aon Risk Solutions.
  • Cori Longo and Caroline Matthews are running in the Metis ward. Longo is a former postal worker and Registered Nurse who has worked as the Alberta regional representative for the Canadian Labour Congress. Matthews is the former Director of Recruitment for the University of Alberta’s MBA program and appears to have been endorsed by Edmonton-Greisbach Conservative MP Kerry Diotte, who is pictured campaigning with her in photos on social media.
  • Community organizer Adrian Bruff is running in the O-day’min ward, which encompasses most of the central core neighbourhoods of the city.
  • Kirsten Goa has announced her plans to run in the papastew ward. Goa placed second in Ward 8 in the 2017 election, earning 23 per cent of the vote. Also rumoured to be considering running in this new ward is Edmonton Public School Trustee Michael Janz. Janz was first elected to the school board in 2010 and was re-elected in a landslide in 2017.
  • Cody Bondarchuk announced his plans to run in the new tastawiyiniwak (ᑕᐢᑕᐃᐧᔨᓂᐊᐧᐠ) ward. Known locally as the “Robin Hood of Chicken Nuggets,” Bondarchuk works as a constituency assistant for Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview New Democratic Party MLA Deron Bilous.

I am once again tracking candidates who have announced their plans to run for Mayor, City Council and School Board in Edmonton. If I am missing anyone on the list, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com or post a comment and let me know. Thanks!


Walters not seeking re-election

Michael Walters and a team of supporters at the Edmonton Municipal Election Nomination Day in 2013.
Michael Walters (centre) and a team of supporters at the Edmonton Municipal Election Nomination Day in 2013.

Ward 10 Councillor Michael Walters is so far the only incumbent to officially announce he will not seek re-election in next year’s vote. A well-known community organizer involved with groups like the Greater Edmonton Alliance, Walters was first elected to council in 2013 and was re-elected in 2017. He previously ran for the Alberta Party in Edmonton-Rutherford in 2012 and for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Norwood ahead of the 2001 election.

Categories
Alberta Politics

A spectre is haunting the UCP – the spectre of communism

From the columns of Postmedia newspapers to the halls of the United Conservative Party caucus, the the spectre of communism and socialism is striking fear in the minds of political elites who see Bolsheviks breeding in every corner of Alberta, from City Council chambers to voluntary blood donor clinics.

Kaycee Madu Edmonton South West
Kaycee Madu (Source: Twitter)

Using the same abrasive approach that got him promoted in cabinet, Justice Minister and Edmonton-South West UCP MLA Kaycee Madu warned against reforms to the Calgary police budget, describing City Councillors in the province’s largest city as “a bunch of socialists who would prefer to have a chaotic world. That is how they win elections and that is how they demonize people they disagree with.”

Last week, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo UCP MLA Tany Yao described labour unions and advocates opposed to his private members’ bill to legalize corporate for-profit blood donation clinics as socialists who want to harvest organs from people without consent.

This was not the first time Yao had warned against the perils of the Red Menace.

Tany Yao UCP MLA Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo
Tany Yao

In July 2020, Yao stood on the floor of the Assembly and claimed that Edmonton-Ellerslie NDP MLA Rod Loyola was the former leader of the Communist Party. Yao was later forced to withdraw his claim because it was not true.

Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland UCP MLA Shane Getson posted on Facebook that there was a “VIP section” in hell awaiting the “Socialist NDP.”

And in a video on Facebook, Getson described the federal Liberal Party as communists.”They think it’s the red they used to vote for twenty years ago. Well, the only red that’s happening there is so akin to that hammer and sickle right now, it’s not a centrist, it’s that slow dance to socialism,” Getson said.

In February 2020, Airdrie-Cochrane UCP MLA Peter Guthrie wrote an entire MLA column warning about the dangers of communism. Guthrie’s column was syndicated on the websites of weekly Postmedia newspapers across Canada.

Red Deer-South UPC MLA Jason Stephan referred to the NDP’s elected term in government as a “socialist occupation” and described other provinces as “hostile, parasitic partners” that depend on Alberta for welfare payments.

Former UCP cabinet minister Tanya Fir has referred to the former NDP government as a “socialist dumpster fire.”

Ron Orr UCP MLA Lacombe Ponoka
Ron Orr

And who could forget the time Lacombe-Ponoka UCP MLA Ron Orr warned that the legalization of marijuana could lead to a communist revolution.

Former Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis, who led the votes in Alberta, published an op-ed in the National Post that accused Trudeau of plotting a “Socialist coup” in Canada.

Even Premier Jason Kenney is known to toss around flamboyant warnings about the rise of ‘bohemian Marxism’ or radical European green-left eco-socialists who have undue influence over the international banking system. A fixture on the libertarian think tank symposium circuit, Kenney frequently indulges in attacks on socialism in his responses to the opposition in Question Period.

Peter Guthrie MLA Airdrie-Cochrane UCP Communism
Peter Guthrie

Of course, this kind of rhetoric is nothing new.

It appears that there could be a competition among UCP MLAs about who can sound the most like a paranoid Social Credit MLA from the 1950s.

In Alberta, history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

Of course, it has been a long time since any major political party in Alberta could have been described as socialist or communist.

UCP claims that Rachel Notley and the NDP are dangerous socialists are meant to marginalize and discredit the opposition or bait their opponents into a debate. But it is increasingly clear that in the minds of some government MLAs, the talking points have become reality.

The anti-communist terminology is from another era and, quite frankly, it is very weird.

As a government and now as official opposition, the Alberta NDP were only slightly to the political left of the Progressive Conservative Party it defeated in 2015.

In reality, the NDP government only moved Alberta to the mainstream of labour laws compared to other provinces and the only industries it ever seriously mused about nationalizing were driver’s road tests and hospital laundry services.

In most other provinces, the Alberta NDP would be considered closer to a centre-leftish Liberal Party than anything resembling anything Karl Marx wrote about.


Secret Public Inquiry delayed again

The final report of the McCarthy-esq Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns has been delayed again. The $3.5 million public inquiry, which was lauded by Kenney as part of his “Fight Back Strategy” against alleged enemies of Alberta’s oil industry, was granted a second extension to submit its final report to Energy Minister Sonya Savage.

The public inquiry that has operated in near-complete secrecy under the leadership of Commissioner Steve Allan will now submit its final report to Savage on Jan. 31, 2021, at least until the deadline is extended again.

Categories
Alberta Politics

A different kind of Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day has always been an important day of reflection for me personally, but this year it was very different. For the past few years, my family has gathered at a Remembrance Day ceremony at La Cité francophone. Due to COVID, the ceremony was not held this year. But even if the ceremony had not been cancelled today, it would have been missing one of its annual speakers.

My grandfather, Daniel Cournoyer, in 1943.

On September 4, 2020, my grandfather, Daniel Cournoyer, passed away at the age of 97. He was a veteran of the Second World War who served in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany during the war.

His experiences during the the war had a profound impact on him and he made it his mission to tell those stories and ensure that those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice were not forgotten.

Each November 11 at La Cité, he would collect and share the stories of franco-albertains who served and made the ultimate sacrifice during the two World Wars, the Korean War and the war in Afghanistan.

I did not anticipate how difficult it would be today, not being able to hear him share his stories and not being able to thank him for his service. It made me appreciate even more the time I did get to spend with him, hear his stories, and the work he had done to preserve the memories of those who had lost their lives in the service of our country.

A few years ago, he wrote down some reflections on his experience and what Remembrance Day meant to him:

Canada, situated far from war-torn Europe, never did experience the destructive aspects of war. World War II was an historical event taking place far from Canadian shores. What Canadians knew of the war, they learned through the intermediate of the radio and the press. For its sons who participated in the campaigns in Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, they experienced the pain and anguish of war with its devastation and destruction.

With my grandfather, Daniel Cournoyer, at the Remembrance Day ceremony in 2019.
With my grandfather, Daniel Cournoyer, at the Remembrance Day ceremony in 2019.

On my departure for overseas, the local reporter wrote in the Survivance, the provincial French newspaper: “It is needless to say that our hears are mixed with emotions every time we say good-bye to one of our young men leaving on such a perilous and perhaps tragic voyage.” To some of our families, (the Caouette family, the Foment-Allaire family, the McDonald family and the Theberge family), the loss of a beloved son brought to the very heart of their home the tragic reality of war.

Today, as a teacher and a veteran, I’m often called upon to talk to the students at their Remembrance Day ceremonies, Following the singing of “O Canada.” I address them as follows:

Your singing of “O Canada” has brought to mind a touching and vivid memory of my return to Canada as a soldier.

The “Ile de France, one of the oldest ocean liners of that time, entered Halifax Harbour with thousands of Canadian men in their khaki battle dress, viewing the Canadian shores for the first time after many years of war service overseas. All of a sudden, the dock’s public address system blasted these simple words across the harbour “WELCOME HOME” followed by “O CANADA, OUR HOME AND NATIVE LAND.” As we stood there, on the decks, the reality of our homeland overwhelmed us.

We couldn’t sing, we just stood there. Never or ever since, have I experienced with such emotion the singing of our National Anthem. I had learned its words like all the students do at school, but not hat day of my return to Canada, every word and every verse had taken on a new meaning.

“F” Troop Training Wing, Esquimalt, BC. 1943.

We were back home. We had come home alive and safe. We were the fortunate soldiers who had survived the war, but what about those who hadn’t made it back?

Later, during this Remembrance Ceremony, during the 2 minutes of silence in tribute to those fallen Canadians of both World Wars, what will I be thinking about as a veteran? I will be thinking of those thousands of Canadians who lost their lives but to give it more perspective, I’ll be thinking of the former classmates and friends who didn’t make it back and the activities we carried on together – Leo Allaire, classmate at Couvent Notre Dame, killed in Italy; Paul Couette, friend and nephew of my uncle Georges Tellier, killed in Hollard; Richard McDonald, who played hockey against the Main Street Gang every Saturday morning at the old skating rink, killed in Italy; Leon Theberge, who with his brothers worked at the Cournoyer-Trottier-Lamarre mink range, killed in Italy.

Let us now look at their photos and remember them. They were amongst us for a very short period of time, we knew them briefly and they left us in the flower of they youth and most of all let us not forget them. As Governor-General Schreyer once said to a group of veterans, “Not enough is said about them and not enough is remembered. We often lose sight of those who sacrificed their the lives of rate preservation of peace and the highest ideals of civilization.”

Daniel E. Cournoyer
(Veteran 1943-1946)

Categories
Alberta Politics

3 Years of the Daveberta Podcast!

Time flies when you’re having fun!

Rachel Notley Daveberta Podcast
Interviewing Premier Rachel Notley for the Daveberta Podcast in April 2018 (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Three years and 63 episodes ago, we launched the Daveberta Podcast and it continues to be a thrill to share the platform with many great guests who continue to bring a wealth of knowledge and riveting discussion and debate about Alberta politics.

And while we were sad to lose our co-host Ryan to the UCP last year, Dave and Adam are still having a lot of fun bringing you the podcast every two weeks.

A big thanks to our friends at the Alberta Podcast Network for their support and a sincerely thank you to everyone who keeps listening!

Presenting Jason Kenney with a Best of Alberta Politics Award in 2018.
Presenting Jason Kenney with a Daveberta Podcast Best of Alberta Politics Award in 2018.

In case you’re new to the Daveberta Podcast or need to catch up, listen to a few of our recent episodes:

Categories
Alberta Politics

Make Calgary Great Again, Edmonton!

The right-wing municipal lobby group “Common Sense Calgary” is apparently setting up shop in Edmonton ahead of next year’s municipal elections. But when the lobby group with ties to the United Conservative Party and the Manning Centre launched its “Common Sense Edmonton” website, someone forgot to remove all the big photos of Calgary City Hall and references to how great a city Calgary is.

The main page of the group’s Edmonton website features a counter counting down the days until the municipal election which sits on a giant backdrop of Calgary City Hall and our southern neighbour’s iconic Bow Tower. On the same page of their Edmonton website, the group praises Calgary as a city built on people, built on ideas and built on trust.

Screenshots from the "Common Sense Edmonton" website.
Screenshots from the “Common Sense Edmonton” website.
Screenshots from the "Common Sense Edmonton" website.
Screenshots from the “Common Sense Edmonton” website.

The Calgary group was founded with funding from the conservative Manning Centre (now known as the “Strong and Free Network) and its current executive director is past Wildrose Party candidate and UCP nomination candidate Megan McCaffrey. She is also the Director of Research at the Alberta Institute, a Calgary-based libertarian think tank with an almost identical website.

New legislative changes recently introduced by the UCP government would allow individuals to donate up to $30,000 to these types of political action committees during next year’s municipal election.

Categories
Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 62: Maybe Keystone XL wasn’t a very good investment after all

In this episode of the Daveberta Podcast we discuss:

  • the election of Joe Biden as President of the United States and the future of the Alberta government’s $7 billion investment into the Keystone XL Pipeline.
  • the Kenney government’s response to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s plans to lay-off 11,000 health support workers.
  • the Auditor General’s report and what it had to say about the Canadian Energy Centre.

We also take a deeper look at what Cypress-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Drew Barnes could be up to after he backed Edmonton-Ellerslie NDP MLA Rod Loyola’s motion to debate Canadian unity in the Alberta Legislature (Dave also nerds out about Alberta’s 1982 election, which took place 38 years to the day that Loyola introduced the motion).

And we dive into the mailbag to answer some great questions from our listeners.

The Daveberta Podcast is hosted by Dave Cournoyer and produced by Adam Rozenhart.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported. The Alberta Podcast Network includes dozens of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Find us on TwitterInstagram, Facebook, or you can email us at podcast@daveberta.ca. Thanks for listening.

Recommended Reading

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Alberta Politics

COVID was supposed to be Jason Kenney’s Battle of Britain. What happened?

When the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic first hit Alberta many months ago, Premier Jason Kenney was front-and-centre.

Ever the Anglophile, Kenney quoted Winston Churchill and compared the pandemic to the Battle of Britain. Under Kenney’s leadership we were going to fight COVID on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets.

He delivered a bleak televised address to Albertans, presented an awkward to watch 54-minute powerpoint display in an attempt to explain Alberta’s pandemic modelling, and elbowed his way to the front of Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s press conferences on a weekly basis. It was clear that he wanted Albertans to know he was their Commander-in-Chief in the war against the pandemic.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney at a March 15 press conference about COVID-19.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney at a March 15 press conference about COVID-19. (Source: Government of Alberta)

In one of his more notable comments, Kenney compared Albertans to a herd of buffalo that “move closely together and go into the storm head on, coming out of it faster, stronger, and united.”

But at some point over the summer, as new cases of COVID dropped into the teens and single digits, Kenney shifted gears. He stopped showing up at Dr. Hinshaw’s press conferences and his government ostensibly shifted toward an economic recovery message. But in reality the UCP government began a game of catch-up after the pandemic delayed the United Conservative Party‘s political agenda by five-months – a political agenda designed for a pre-pandemic Alberta.

Health support workers on a wildcat strike outside the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton.
Health support workers on a wildcat strike outside the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton.

The glorious battle was over and it was time for Kenney’s government to resume its multi-front war with nurses, doctors and health care workers.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced plans to privatize large swaths of the public health care system and lay-off more than 11,000 nurses and health support workers. As a result, many physicians have indicated their plans to leave Alberta and health support workers represented by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees walked off the job at more than 40 hospitals and health centres in a one-day wildcat strike last week.

A sensible political leader would appreciate that picking a very public fight with health care workers in the middle of a global pandemic is a bad way to run a government. But despite his falling approval ratings, Kenney appears to be moving forward as if everything has returned to normal. It clearly hasn’t.

Now the second wave of COVID-19 has hit Alberta. Dr. Hinshaw reported 800 new cases today, shattering previous records. The public health care system is showing signs of strain as nurses and health care workers are over-worked and understaffed, and COVID outbreaks are being reported at hospitals around the province.

The beaches are being stormed, but, unlike eight months ago, Kenney is no longer showing up at Dr. Hinshaw’s press conferences, confidently quoting Churchill or comparing Albertans to buffalo stampeding together through a thunder storm.

Categories
Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 61: Don Iveson on being a Mayor during COVID and his plan to end homelessness

“Countries investing in cities are winning.” 

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson joins Dave Cournoyer on the Daveberta Podcast to talk about being a big city mayor during the COVID-19 global pandemic, municipal relations with the provincial government, and Edmonton’s rapid plan to end homelessness.

Iveson has served as Mayor since 2013 and was previously a City Councillor in southwest Edmonton from 2007 to 2013.

Thanks to Mayor Iveson for setting some time aside to join us on the podcast. And thank you to our producer Adam Rozenhart for making the podcast sound so good.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported. The Alberta Podcast Network includes dozens of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Find us on TwitterInstagram, Facebook, or you can email us at podcast@daveberta.ca. Thanks for listening.

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Alberta Politics

UCP advisors erase Residential Schools and inject Anglophilia into primary grades’ Social Studies curriculum, show leaked documents

Perhaps it should not be a shock that a government initiative ostensibly aimed at “removing political bias” actually includes a whole lot of bias, but the curriculum advisory panel struck by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange appears to be doing just that.

According to draft copies leaked to CBC reporter Janet French, all references to residential schools will be removed from kindergarten to Grade 4 Social Studies curriculum if recommendations from an advisory panel appointed by the United Conservative Party government are accepted.

The authors of the draft copies have deemed residential schools to be “too sad” for younger students, but lighter topics like feudal societies, the Roman Empire and Chinese dynasties were considered appropriate by the panel.

The draft, which appears to be written partially in first-person, is also filled with strange Anglophilia like teaching students to memorize a Gilbert and Sullivan song and recognize the chimes of the Big Ben clock tower in London. It oddly describes Queen Elizabeth II as “Canada’s ruler” and claims that the monarchy represents “unity in diversity,” seemingly sugarcoating the legacy of British colonialism (this does not sound like the model of a modern major education system).

CBC reported the curriculum advisory panel also recommended the removal of all references to “equity” (which was deemed too politically partisan and charged), and that first grade students should learn Bible verses about creation as poetry and fourth grade students should learn that most non-white Albertans are Christians. It is not clear how the injection of a pseudo-religious curriculum would fit into the role of secular public schools, which the vast majority of Alberta students attend.

The handpicked advisory panel includes former political staffer Chris Champion as the Social Studies advisor. Champion was a senior advisor to Jason Kenney during his time in Ottawa from 2007 to 2015 and has been criticized for a 2019 article in which he described First Nations perspectives in school lessons as a fad.

“The Indian Residential School system was created to erase the cultures, histories, languages, and perspectives of Indigenous peoples within Canada, and these recommendations perpetuate that erasure,” said Alberta Teachers’ Association Staff Officer for Indigenous Education Melissa Purcell in a press release this afternoon.

“The recommendations perpetuate systemic racism through whitewashing of the draft curriculum. These recommendations cannot be taken seriously and must be rejected outright,” said Purcell.

This is not the first time someone with close ties to Kenney has been criticized for comments about residential schools. Paul Bunner, who worked as Kenney’s speechwriter from 2019 until this fall once wrote an article dismissing the “bogus genocide story” of Canada’s residential school system.

Both Bunner and Champion are former employees of the Alberta Report, a now defunct conservative weekly news magazine.

Between the early 1880’s and 1996, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and forced to attend residential schools operated by church organizations and the Government of Canada.

The children were strictly forbidden from practicing their culture and speaking their language and were forced to assimilate into ‘white Canada.’ The number of school-related deaths is estimated to range from 3,200 to more than 6,000.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which was organized by the parties of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and held its final hearing in Edmonton in 2015, recommended that provincial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Residential School survivors, Indigenous peoples, and educators create “age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students” and implement “Kindergarten to Grade Twelve curriculum and learning resources on Aboriginal peoples in Canadian history, and the history and legacy of residential schools” (Calls to Action 62 and 63).

The TRC final report described the residential school system as cultural genocide, a description that was adopted by the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in 2019.

Grande Prairie and District Catholic School Board Chair Michael Ouellette told MyGrandePrairieNow that leaving out residential schools from learning plans is a terrible idea.

“It’s concerning where it’s going, it’s concerning where they’re going with education in this province,” Ouellette said.” “Other provinces are so much further ahead of us with the curriculum.”

Education experts interviewed by CBC described the recommendations included in the draft as “utter nonsense,” “a laughingstock” and out of touch with the past 30 to 40 years of research.


In 2016, Historica Canada released a Heritage Minute about the heart-breaking story of 12-year old Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack, whose death sparked the first inquest into the treatment of Indigenous children in Canadian residential schools.


COVID hits UCP cabinet

Tracy Allard MLA Grande Prairie United Conservative Party
Tracy Allard (source: Facebook)

It was announced today that Kenney is in self-isolation after Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard contracted COVID-19. Allard was appointed to cabinet last month. Also self-isolating are Transportation Minister Ric McIver, Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt, Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie and Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf.

Kenney tested negative for COVID-19 but a statement released by his office says he plans to remain in self-isolation until October 29, 2020.

The total number of new COVID-19 cases in Alberta announced today hit 406, a record daily high since the pandemic began.

Despite the emergence of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta, Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced last week that the UCP government plans to lay-0ff 11,000 health support workers and Alberta Health Services reiterated its plans to layoff 650 Registered Nurses.

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Alberta Politics

NDP and UCP nearly tied in 2020 third quarter fundraising

The results of political party fundraising for the third quarter of 2020 have been released by Elections Alberta.

The province’s two major political parties were nearly tied in fundraising between July and September, with the United Conservative Party raising $1,199,941.32 and the New Democratic Party raising $1,126,580.38.

This is a rebound for the UCP, which raised only $642,677 in the second quarter of 2020, compared to $1,032,796.85 for the NDP in that period. The UCP responded to last quarter’s fundraising totals by explaining that they had dialled back their fundraising pitches during the beginning of the pandemic.

The UCP continues to rely more heavily on larger donations, with 80 per cent of this quarter’s contributions coming in sums larger than $250. The NDP continue to collect a large number of donations in smaller sums, with 47 per cent of donations is sums smaller than $250.

These results suggest that Alberta’s two major political parties remain financially viable and competitive.

Here is what the political parties raised during the third quarter of 2020:

  • UCP $1,199,941.32
  • NDP $1,126,580.38
  • Alberta Party $35,654.25
  • Wildrose Independence Party $28,717.00
  • Liberal Party $17,026.78
  • Green Party  $1,505.00
  • Independence Party – $1,215.00
  • Alberta Advantage Party – $907.00

The Communist Party, Pro-Life Alberta Political Association, and Reform Party of Alberta reported no donations during this period.

The maximum annual donation to political parties was increased to $4,243 from $4.000 as of January 1, 2020.

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Alberta Politics

So you want to have an emergency debate

With Alberta’s Legislative Assembly back in session until the beginning of December, there is good chance that Albertans will hear the term “emergency debate” used a lot.

With a global pandemic, a struggling economy and the United Conservative Party government implementing drastic overhauls and layoffs, MLAs from the opposition New Democratic Party will likely invoke legislative mechanisms to force emergency debates in the Assembly.

According to the rules that govern how the Assembly operates, the Standing Orders, there are two ways for MLAs to trigger emergency debates in the Legislature:

1. Standing Order 30: After the daily routine and before the Orders of the Day, any MLA can request to delay the scheduled business of the Assembly in order to discuss a matter of urgent public importance. After the MLA is given an opportunity to state their arguments, the Speaker can allow a debate on the question of urgency of debate and decide whether the call for a debate is needed.

If the Speaker agrees that debate is needed and there are any objections, then a standing vote of those in favour takes place. If 15 MLAs rise in favour in the standing vote, then the debate can happen with 10 minutes allocated to any MLA who wishes to speak on the matter.

Under SO 30, the MLA proposing the emergency debate must give the Speaker written notice at least 2 hours ahead of time.

2. Standing Order 42: This standing order allows MLAs to delay the regular business the Assembly to deal with matters of “urgent and pressing necessity” and can be invoked anytime without advance notice having been given to the Speaker.

This order requires unanimous consent of the Assembly to proceed. If no MLA objects then each MLA is given 20 minutes to debate the motion.

The government typically opposes this kind of motion.


Heather Sweet (source: Facebook)

This afternoon, Edmonton-Manning NDP MLA and Opposition House Leader Heather Sweet introduced a motion for emergency debate on the economic crisis under Standing Order 30.

Sweet’s motion was declined by Speaker Nathan Cooper because he determined a motion on a similar topic had already been introduced to the Order Paper by Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre UCP MLA and Government House Leader Jason Nixon.