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Alberta Politics

Bank manager Gavin McCaffrey is the second candidate to enter the Alberta NDP nomination race in Banff-Kananaskis

Gavin McCaffrey is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Banff-Kananaskis. McCaffrey first arrived in the area in 1997 and has worked as a general manager for a series of Banff-area hotels. He is currently lives in Canmore and is a Branch Manager for the BMO Financial Group.

“The opportunity to represent the Banff Kananaskis region, that is so socially, culturally, geographically and economically diverse, is both humbling and exciting” McCaffrey said in a press release sent out today.  “I look forward to engaging with community members from all parts of the constituency and to listen to their thoughts on the key topics impacting them the most.”

Sarah Elmeligi is seeking the NDP nomination in Banff-Kananaskis
Sarah Elmeligi is also seeking the NDP nomination in Banff-Kananaskis

McCaffrey will challenge conservationist Sarah Elmeligi in a yet to be scheduled nomination meeting.

Banff-Kananaskis is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Miranda Rosin, who was elected in 2019 in the closest race outside of the province’s urban centres. In that race, former NDP MLA Cam Westhead was the only NDP incumbent in rural Alberta to increase his vote share from 2015. Westhead announced in August that he would not be seeking the nomination.

I had added McCaffrey to the list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of the expected 2023 provincial election.

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Alberta Politics

Four candidates enter NDP nomination race in Lethbridge-East, Joshua Gogo first to seek UCP nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election

High School social studies teacher Kevin McBeath has entered the Alberta NDP nomination race in Lethbridge-East, becoming the fourth candidate to join the contest.

“My family is my top priority, and I am seeking this nomination with their future province in mind,” McBeath said in a Oct. 23 press release. “I have been investing my time, talent and treasure in Lethbridge-East for nearly two decades as a teacher and basketball coach at Winston Churchill High School. It is my love of teaching and coaching young people that has motivated me to run.”

McBeath will face former MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, local non-profit executive director Amanda Jensen, and former City Councillor Rob Miyashiro at a nomination meeting scheduled to take place on Nov. 21, 2021.

This is the second time in recent memory that the NDP have had a contested nomination in Lethbridge-East. Fitzpatrick won a nomination race against Tom Moffatt and Kris Hodgson ahead of the 2015 election.

Election results in Lethbridge-East from 1986 to 2019.
Election results in Lethbridge-East from 1986 to 2019.

Lethbridge-East has been represented by United Conservative Party MLA Nathan Neudorf since 2019.

The riding has an unusual electoral history for Conservative-voting southern Alberta, having been represented by two locally popular Liberal MLAs from 1993 t0 2011, and then by Fitzpatrick during the NDP’s term in government from 2015 to 2019.

The NDP have also scheduled nomination meetings in Edmonton-Glenora on Oct. 27, Calgary-Falconridge on Oct. 29, Calgary-Currie on Nov. 13, and Calgary-Buffalo on Nov. 15.

First candidate steps up for UCP nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche

Joshua Gogo
Joshua Gogo

Joshua Gogo is the first potential candidate to file papers with Elections Alberta to seek the United Conservative Party nomination in the upcoming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.

A by-election will need to be called before Feb. 15, 2022 to elect a replacement for former MLA Laila Goodridge, who was elected as the Member of Parliament for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake in the Sept. 20, 2021 federal election

Gogo is the Chief Economist and President of Global Advisory & Transaction Support at Afcote Associates based in Fort McMurray. He earned his Masters and PhD in Economics from Carleton University in Ottawa and a Masters degree in Computer Information Systems from Florida Institute of Technology.

In 2020, Gogo was appointed by the UCP government to serve on the Automobile Insurance Rate Board.

The date of a nomination meeting has not yet been announced.

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Alberta Politics

Public Inquiry into anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns, key part of Kenney’s “Fight Back Strategy,” fails to uncover vast conspiracy against our oil

To be very clear, I have not found any suggestions of wrongdoing on the part of any individual or organization. No individual or organization, in my view, has done anything illegal. Indeed, they have exercised their rights of free speech. – Page 596 of the Final Report of the Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns

The final report of the Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns was released this week.

A key part of Premier Jason Kenney’s “Fight Back Strategy” against perceived enemies of Alberta’s oil and gas industry, the public inquiry was launched in July 2019 with a political promise to unearth the vast conspiracy of wealthy international foundations and environmental activists who were working together in the shadows to undermine Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

It was these secretive groups and their dark money, Albertans were lead to believe, who were blocking oil pipelines and were the source of our economic woes. This public inquiry was meant to intimidate those critics. 

Speaking to a crowd of supporters on the night of the United Conservative Party’s victory in the 2019 election, Premier Jason Kenney declared he had a message for the “foreign funded special interests who have been leading a campaign of economic sabotage against this great province.”

“To the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, to the Tides Foundation, to the LeadNow, to the David Suzuki Foundation, and to all of the others, your days of pushing around Albertans with impunity just ended,” Kenney decreed.

More than two years and $3.5 million later, Commissioner Steve Allan’s final report does not detail a vast conspiracy, because a vast conspiracy doesn’t exist. It turns out that most of the information he was looking for is already public and the devious activity he was sent to uncover was totally legal.

In fact, Allan’s final report released by Energy Minister Sonya Savage says that “[w]hile anti-Alberta energy campaigns may have played a role in the cancellation of some oil and gas developments, I am not in a position to find that these campaigns alone caused project delays or cancellations.”

The pretence of the report and the boogeymen created to blame for the cancellation of oil pipeline projects completely leaves off the hook the large oil companies and the Alberta government, with their own near bottomless pockets of money and resources to combat any advertising campaign launched by environmental groups.

In fact, the report does not delve into decades of uncoordinated and ham-fisted attempts to respond to international criticism of the oil sands going back to the week in July 2006 when the Alberta government parked a giant Caterpillar 777F hauler on the Mall in Washington DC.

Premier Jason Kenney (at the podium) announces the appointment of Steve Allan (right) as Commissioner of the Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns.Also pictured are then-Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer and Energy Minister Sonya Savage.
Premier Jason Kenney (at the podium) announces the appointment of Steve Allan (right) as Commissioner of the Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns.Also pictured are then-Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer and Energy Minister Sonya Savage.

Unlike the press conference that launched the inquiry, during which Kenney, Savage, Allan, and then-Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer stood together on stage, Savage stood alone at the podium this week as she was given the unenviable task of releasing the report and trying to justify its results.

Kenney was nowhere to be seen (he currently has a 22 per cent approval rating), Schweitzer is no longer Justice Minister, and Allan has presumably been relieved of his duties.

The over-budget and thrice-extended public inquiry was conducted almost completely in secret, with no actual public hearings, leaving the inquiry to instead hold “hearing by correspondence.”

The confusingly organized 657 page report details how Environmental Non-Profit Groups wrote grants to receive funding for environmental advocacy in Canada, but there is no suggestion of wrong doing or that anything illegal happened.

But that hasn’t stopped Savage and her UCP MLA colleagues from bandying around a $1.2 billion number, which is the amount the report says it found foreign donors provided in grant funding to Canadian environmental organizations between 2003 and 2019.

But the report found that, of the $1.2 billion, around $554 million went to well-known and respected conservation groups like Ducks Unlimited Canada, which does not participate in “anti-Alberta” campaigns (Ducks Unlimited Canada is run by CEO Larry Kaumeyer, who until recently was employed as Kenney’s Chief of Staff and Principal Secretary), and only somewhere between $37.5 to $58.9 million was specifically granted to anti-oil and gas campaigns in Canada.

Canadian Energy Centre CEO Tom Olsen and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. (Source: Facebook)
Canadian Energy Centre CEO Tom Olsen and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. (Source: Facebook)

In fact, the most interesting result of Allan’s final report are his criticisms of the other left foot of Kenney’s Fight Back Strategy – the Canadian Energy Centre.

The CEC, known to most Albertans as the “War Room,” was created in 2019 and is run by former UCP candidate Tom Olsen.

Established as a Crown Corporation with a $30-million annual budget, the Canadian Energy Centre essentially operates as a publicly-funded public relations agency for the oil and gas industry.

Buried on the last page of Allan’s report is a list of criticisms of the Canadian Energy Centre, including an observation that “it may well be that the reputation of this entity has been damaged beyond repair.”

Allan wrote that the way the War Room was established, as a Crown Corporation, with three provincial cabinet ministers as its board of directors (Savage, Schweitzer and Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon) has “seriously compromised” the organization’s credibility.

“There may be a need for a vehicle such as this, assuming proper governance and accountability is established, to develop a communications/marketing strategy for the industry and/or the province, but it may well be that the reputation of this entity has been damaged beyond repair,” Allan wrote.

While Savage deflected from questions from reporters about what was accomplished by the $3.5 million inquiry by denouncing foreign-funded campaigns and demanding transparency from ENGOs who run campaigns in Alberta, the FOIP-exempt War Room recently purchased billboards in Washington D.C. and New York City’s Times Square.

War Room CEO Olsen issued a statement in response to the Public Inquiry’s criticisms but the statement had to be resent soon afterward because of typos. (I’m not making this up).

So, the great Alberta witch hunt is over and no witches have been found.

Now that this embarrassing public inquiry is over, the other part of Kenney’s failed strategy – the Canadian Energy Centre – should be scrapped.

If the public inquiry taught us anything, it is probably that our leaders should be focused on figuring out how Alberta is going to survive the massive shifts happening in world energy markets and not wasting precious time making empty threats and settling vendettas with critics of the oil and gas industry.


Energy Minister Sonya Savage will be back next month to release the report of the committee investigating open-pit coal mining in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.

Amplifying the loud public opposition to open-pit coal mining in Alberta’s Rockies, a group of country music artists released a new version of the popular song, This Is My Prairie. The song features Corb Lund, Terri Clark, Brett Kissel,, Sherryl Sewepagaham, Paul Brandt, Armond Duck Chief, Katie Rox and Brandi Sidoryk.

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Alberta Politics

Gondek. Sohi. What a night, Alberta.

Jyoti Gondek defeats Jeromy Farkas to become Calgary’s next Mayor.

Amarjeet Sohi defeats Mike Nickel to become Edmonton’s next Mayor.

Eight of Edmonton’s 12 City Councillors elected today are women – a historic record. Four are persons of colour. Four incumbents are on the verge of defeat. 

Premier Jason Kenney’s referendum to remove Equalization from the constitution gets a very tepid endorsement (59% support in Calgary – Edmonton results next week).

Support for abandoning the twice yearly time change is even more divided.

What a night, Alberta.

Categories
Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 79: Everything you wanted to know about Equalization * But were afraid to ask

University of Alberta political scientist Dr. Jared Wesley joins Dave Cournoyer on the Daveberta Podcast for a deep dive into Alberta’s October 18 Equalization Referendum, why it is being held, what Premier Jason Kenney hopes to accomplish (and why he’s been absent on the campaign trail), and what the ramifications of the vote could be for Alberta and Canada.

We also answer some great listener questions about Equalization and dive into the history of Alberta’s low-key Senate Nominee Elections and more.

The Daveberta Podcast is produced by the talented Adam Rozenhart.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported.

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.

Recommended listening/reading

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Alberta Politics

Joe Ceci running for re-election in Calgary-Buffalo

MLA Joe Ceci announced yesterday that he is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Buffalo and his third term in the Legislature in the expected 2023 provincial election.

A nomination meeting has been scheduled for Nov. 15, 2021.

Ceci was first elected as MLA for Calgary-Fort in 2015 and ran for re-election in Calgary-Buffalo on 2019 after a boundary change moved his neighbourhood into the downtown riding. Ceci served as Finance Minister during the NDP’s term in government and previously was elected to Calgary City Council from 1995 to 2010.

Calgary-Buffalo has a unique political history, having elected MLAs from non-conservative parties in 9 of the past 11 elections.

Liberal MLA Sheldon Chumir represented Calgary-Buffalo from 1986 until his death in 1992. Chumir was succeeded by Liberal Gary Dickson who won a 1992 by-election and served until 2001.

The riding was then represented by Progressive Conservative Harvey Cenaiko from 2001 until 2008, when Liberal MLA Kent Hehr defeated PC candidate and future City Councillor Sean Chu. Hehr served as MLA until 2015 when he jumped into federal politics and was elected as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Calgary-Centre.

NDP MLA Kathleen Ganley was elected in 2015 and ran for re-election in 2019 across the Bow River in Calgary-Mountain View, leaving the seat open for Ceci to run for re-election.

Ceci was re-elected with 48 per cent in 2019, defeating United Conservative Party challenger Tom Olsen, who placed second with  39 per cent (Olsen was soon after appointed as CEO of the Canadian Energy Centre, a government-funded oil industry public relations company colloquially known as “The War Room”).

The NDP have also scheduled nomination meetings in Edmonton-Glenora on Oct. 27, Calgary-Falconridge on Oct. 29, and Calgary-Currie on Nov. 13.

 

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Alberta Politics

Parmeet Singh Boparai running for Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Falconridge

Parmeet Singh Boparai is expected to be nominated as the Alberta NDP candidate in Calgary-Falconridge at an October 29 nomination meeting.

Boparai finished a close second to United Conservative Party candidate Devinder Toor – losing by 96 votes in 2019 in the closest race of the provincial election.

Toor was fined $15,000 by Elections Alberta in July 2021 for violating five sections of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act during his UCP nomination campaign in 2018 and election campaign in 2019.

Calgary UCP MLA pushing for earlier leadership review

Calgary-Fish Creek UCP MLA Richard Gotfried is encouraging more UCP constituency associations to vote in favour of holding a review of Premier Jason Kenney‘s leadership before March 1, bumping up an already scheduled April 2022 review. At least 16 UCP associations have passed a motion calling for the review and Gotfried tweeted that he hopes that number reaches 30.

Earlier this month, Kenney out-maneuvered his opponents in the UCP Caucus who were pushing for a vote of non-confidence in his leadership by agreeing to move another previously scheduled leadership review from fall 2022 to April 2022. Kenney’s supporters on the UCP Board of Directors had already avoided having to hold a fall 2021 leadership review by scheduling one for fall 2022.

Polls from Leger and Angus Reid Institute released this month both show Kenney with a dismal 22 per cent approval rating.

Exiled UCP MLA wants new rural party

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes is musing about creating a new political party that would only contest seats outside of Calgary and Edmonton.

About two-thirds of Albertans live in and around the two major cities.

First elected as a Wildrose Party MLA in 2012, Barnes has been sitting as an Independent MLA since June when he and Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen were kicked out of the UCP Caucus. Barnes was a featured speaker at the recent “Free Alberta Strategy” campaign launch.

Elections Alberta has currently reserved 11 names for political parties that are ostensibly being organized right now. They are The Blue Collar Movement of Alberta, The Buffalo Party of Alberta, Alberta Statehood Party, Alberta National Party, Unlock Party of Alberta, Tax Revolt Party of Alberta, The Alberta Patriot Party, Alberta Unity Party, Common Sense Party of Alberta, Alberta Influence Party, Albertans First Independents Coalition Party.

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Alberta Politics

Talking municipal politics with Éric Grenier on The Writ Podcast

I joined Éric Grenier on The Writ Podcast this week to talk about Alberta’s municipal elections, the Senate Nominee election and referenda on Equalization and Daylight Saving Time. You can watch our chat below and download the podcast tomorrow.

A Leger poll commissioned by Postmedia was released today showing that Amarjeet Sohi now has double the support of second place challenger Mike Nickel in Edmonton’s mayoral election.

According to the poll, 60 per cent of Edmontonians said they are more likely to vote for a mayor who opposes the policies of the provincial government. Only 14 per cent said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports the government’s actions

And the outgoing mayors of Alberta’s two largest cities shared some harsh words about Premier Jason Kenney on the latest episode of CBC’s West of Centre Podcast.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson spoke on CBC’s West of Centre Podcast and shared criticism of Kenney’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and a leadership style that soured the relationship with the two largest cities.

“I know that even the cabinet ministers who are just trying to do a good job are frustrated that they’re unable to make decisions or move files forward because petty partisan politics get in the way,” Nenshi said.

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Alberta Politics

How much longer can Jason Kenney survive?

Premier Jason Kenney managed to out maneuver disgruntled United Conservative Party MLAs by convincing them to withdraw a motion of non-confidence by pushing ahead his leadership review to April 2022, but he still has his party to contend with.

A growing number of UCP constituency associations have passed motions calling for a leadership review to take place before March 1, 2022. The CBC first reported that more than 10 constituency associations had passed motions, and Postmedia columnist Don Braid tweeted that number was 16.

Text of the UCP motion calling to hold a review of Jason Kenney’s leadership before March 1, 2021.
Text of the UCP motion calling to hold a review of Jason Kenney’s leadership before March 1, 2021.

Calgary-Fish Creek UCP MLA Richard Gotfried, who has been publicly critical of Kenney’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, posted the text of the motion on Twitter.

Gotfried noted that his constituency board passed the motion two weeks ago with 21 votes in favour and none opposed.

For Kenney’s opponents in the UCP, 22 is the magic number of constituency boards required to force the leadership vote before March 1 and quite possibly at the party’s upcoming annual general meeting in Calgary in November 2021.

Kenney’s leadership has been in a constant state of turmoil for most of the past two years and a recent poll from ThinkHQ showed him plummeting to a dismal 22 per cent approval rating. According to the poll, Kenney is deeply unpopular with every demographic and regional group of Albertans.

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Alberta Politics

Cori Longo and Michael Janz for City Council

One of the fun things about writing about politics is that every few years I have a chance to say nice things about friends and people I know who are running as candidates for election.

As the advance voting stations have opened this week and Edmontonians are beginning to mark their municipal election ballots, there are a few people who I want to write some nice things about.

Cori Longo (source: Facebook)

The first is my friend Cori Longo, who is running in my City Council ward of Ward Métis.

I first met Cori ten years ago through our involvement in the labour movement and have had the privilege of co-facilitating an annual Communications for Union Activists course with her for many years since then. I learned first hand during these classes that she is probably one of the best facilitators I’ve ever worked with.

Cori’s enthusiasm and positivity is contagious and she is incredibly down to earth. She is without pretence and doesn’t carry any hint of elitism with her.

And as the mother of young kids, I think she will bring an important voice to City Council that isn’t always represented under the glass pyramids.

These traits, along with her progressive values, I believe will serve Cori well as a City Councillor.

Michael Janz (source: Facebook)

The second person I want to write some nice things about is my friend Michael Janz, who is running for City Council in Ward Papastew.

I’ve been friends with Michael since we were students many years ago at the University of Alberta. I actually first met him when he volunteered for my campaign for Students’ Union Vice President External (I won) and we’ve been good friends ever since.

One of the things I like most about Michael is his addiction to learning. He reads more books and listens to more podcasts than anyone else I know. It’s remarkable.

Michael has also proven himself to be an enthusiastic and relentless advocate for better public education during his eleven years as a trustee on the Edmonton Public School Board. I have no doubt he will bring that same tireless work ethic to City Council if he is elected on Oct. 18.

For the Edmonton Public School Board, I am happy to support Trisha Estabrooks in her bid for re-election in Ward D. Trisha has been a strong advocate for public education and the safety of children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amarjeet Sohi

And, for Mayor, it’s Amarjeet Sohi.

Amarjeet is one of the most sincere, humble, genuine and hardest working politicians I have ever met. He brings a wealth of real world experience with him with a resume that ranges from cab driver to bus driver to city councillor to federal cabinet minister. I think he would be an exceptional Mayor of Edmonton.

I also want to give a shout-out to Jenn Prosser, who is running for City Council in Lethbridge and DJ Kelly who is running for City Council in Calgary. If you live in their communities please consider supporting them on Election Day.

Don’t forget to vote in the advance polls or on Election Day on Oct. 18. If you’re confused about what might show up on your ballot, check out my guide to Alberta’s municipal elections, Senate Nominee election and referenda on Equalization and Daylight Saving Time.

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Alberta Politics

It’s a dog’s breakfast! A guide to Alberta’s municipal elections, Senate Nominee election and referenda on Equalization and Daylight Saving Time 

Alberta’s municipal election is only 14 days away.

When you think of municipal elections, you might immediately think about roads, libraries, sidewalks, pools, traffic, playgrounds, potholes, public transit, bike lanes and snow removal. And while these are some of the more high-profile responsibilities of municipal governments, the amount of information being thrown at voters in this year’s election has muddied the water about what the ballot issues on October 18 might be.

Electing Mayors, Councillors and School Trustees

The primary function of municipal elections is for voters to elect their local municipal officials in their city, county, municipal district, town, or village. Voters also cast ballots for trustees to govern their Public, Catholic or Francophone school boards. (Here is a list of candidates running in Edmonton’s municipal election).

This year there are open mayoral races with no incumbent running for re-election in the cities of Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Red Deer and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which will mark a big turnover in municipal leadership in Alberta.

As if there weren’t already are a lot of challenges facing municipalities, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit Alberta hard and municipal governments are bearing the brunt of many of those health, social and economic challenges.

Municipalities also face a hostile provincial government that has not hesitated to interfere in local issues, in some cases leaving Albertans with a choice between candidates who agree with the provincial government interference, candidates who want to keep their heads down in hopes for a change of provincial government in 2023, or candidates who will stand up for their communities and challenge the United Conservative Party government.

Senate Nominee Election

When you vote on Oct. 18 or in the advance polls you will probably be handed a few different ballots. One of them will ask you to choose up to three candidates in this year’s Senate Nominee Election.

Senate Nominee elections are a uniquely Alberta activity dating back to 1989. The elections are held to choose a list of names for the Premier to recommend to the Prime Minister for appointment to the Senate if vacancies occur.

There is currently one vacancy in Alberta’s 6-member Senate delegation and another vacancy is expected when Senator Doug Black retires on October 31, 2021.

Unfortunately for the candidates running in this election, they are not going to be appointed unless the Prime Minister is a member of the Conservative Party, the only major party that recognizes the elections as legitimate. The Liberal Party has created a new application process for Senate appointments, dismantling the old partisan patronage machine, and the NDP believe the Upper Chamber should be abolished.

One of the major flaws of the Senate Nominee election is that winning candidates who might eventually be appointed to the Senate never ever have to face re-election, so there is no opportunity for voters to hold these “elected” Senators accountable for their decisions. In fact, they can stay in the Senate until they turn 75-years old if they decide to.

Another major flaw is that a province-wide election in a province of 4.3 million people makes it impossible for the Senate candidates to meaningfully reach many voters. I doubt most Albertans could name a candidate running in year’s Senate Nominee election, but here they are:

Progress Alberta executive director Duncan Kinney is running on the “Fuck Kenney Vote Kinney” slogan and Chad Jett Thunders Saunders is running to turn the Senate into a “Thunderdome.”

Physicians Dr. Sunil Sookram. and Dr. Karina Pillay (also the former Mayor of Slave Lake), Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett, former Western Barley Growers Association President Jeff Nielsen, and former deputy premier and finance minister Doug Horner are running as Independent candidates are are the more serious candidates with real public service experience.

Then there are the three People’s Party endorsed candidates who filed their papers to run in the Senate Nominee election only hours before they were defeated as candidates in the Sept. 20 federal election – Nadine Wellwood, Kelly Lorencz, and Ann McCormack.

And finally there are the three UCP loyalists endorsed by the Conservative Party of Canada – lobbyist and former UCP President Erika Barootes, right-wing activist and failed municipal candidate Pam Davidson, and Ukrainian-Canadian trade association president Mikhailio Martyniouk.

The three UCP/Conservative Party candidates, who appear to have less comparable actual public service experience than many of the Independent candidates on the ballot, are still probably going to win. But like previous Senate Nominee elections, the turnout will be low and number of spoiled ballots will be high.

Alberta’s Senate Nominee election should be a serious affair, but it will probably end up being a joke or an afterthought for most Albertans who will have no idea who to vote for.

Plebiscites and Referendums

Depending where you live in Alberta you could also be handed one, two or three additional ballots to cast your vote for referendums and plebiscites, though there is a good chance you haven’t heard much about them during this election.

There are two province-wide referendums.

The first is Premier Jason Kenney’s referendum to remove the Equalization program from the Constitution. The results won’t actually remove Equalization from the Constitution, but Kenney has said it would put Alberta in a strong bargaining position to negotiate with the rest of Canada. This is unlikely.

Even if the Equalization formula was removed from the Constitution, Albertans wouldn’t actually notice any change. We would still pay federal taxes the same as we do now, but the federal government would not be obligated to distribute funds collected through federal taxes to the provinces through an Equalization formula as currently required by the Constitution.

The Equalization referendum is all about the politics of grievance and saving Jason Kenney’s leadership of the UCP. A yes vote won’t accomplish much and a no vote will probably hurt Kenney’s chance of remaining in the Premier’s Office for much longer (Kenney’s approval rating has dropped to 22 per cent according to a recent poll from ThinkHQ).

The other province-wide referendum will ask Albertans whether they want to permanently remain on Daylight Saving Time rather than having to switch between DST and Mountain Standard Time twice each year. While the annual time-change is widely unpopular, it is unclear why the UCP cabinet chose to ask Albertans if they want to make DST permanent rather being able to choose between DST and MST.

In this referendum, a no vote is a vote to continue the annual time change and a yes vote is a vote for darker mornings and lighter evenings in the winter. If I understand correctly, it could also mean that from March to November each year Alberta’s timezone will be two hours ahead of the times observed in much of British Columbia. The result of the vote on this question is binding on the provincial government.

And if you live in Calgary, you have a chance to vote to rejoin the 21st century and put fluoride back into your public water. Good luck with that, Calgary.

Endorsements

At least in Edmonton, candidate endorsements have become a mini-story.

This year’s city council election has seen a string of high-profile endorsements of city council candidates from Mayor Don Iveson, mayoral candidate Mike Nickel and some individual NDP MLAs across the city. While it is not unheard of for incumbent City Councillors to endorse candidates in a municipal election, the number of endorsements in this year’s election is significantly higher than usual.

List of candiayes incumbent City Councillors have endorsed in this municipal elections.
List of candidates incumbent Edmonton City Councillors have endorsed in this municipal elections.

Just like City Councillor endorsements, it is not unheard of for MLAs to endorse candidates, but this year the number of MLAs endorsing municipal candidates is higher.

The decision by some NDP MLAs to endorse candidates has flustered some political watchers who for some reason believe municipal politics should exist in a vacuum outside of provincial and federal politics, the endorsements appear to be a choice made by individual MLAs rather than a decision made by the party.

And in at least one case, NDP MLAs have endorsed different candidates. In Ward tastawiyiniwak, for example, the NDP endorsements appear to be split, with Edmonton-City Centre MLA David Shepherd endorsing Ahmed Knowmadic Ali and Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview NDP MLA Deron Bilous endorsing Cody Bondarchuk.

List of City Council candidates who Edmonton MLAs have endorsed in this election.
List of City Council candidates who Edmonton MLAs have endorsed in this election.

While there was an attempt a year ago to create a single-slate of progressive candidates in Edmonton’s city council election in response to expectations that the UCP would organize a slate, the organizing effort appears to have failed because there were too many progressive candidates wanting to run for city council to make a single-slate feasible.

While it has certainly made Edmonton’s political establishment uncomfortable, it is positive to see progressive groups organizing to support candidates. With traditional low turnout, low interest and high-incumbent re-election, municipal politics in Edmonton could use a bit of disruption.

Election Finance law changes are the real story

Changes to Alberta’s municipal election finance laws introduced by UCP cabinet Ministers Kaycee Madu and Doug Schweitzer in June 2020 allow for much less transparency and accountability showing who is spending money to influence candidates and votes.

The new rules make it legal for wealthy people to donate up to $5,000 each to as many candidates as they want in any municipal or school board election across the province, effectively removing the cap on individual donations. While municipal political donors do not receive the generous tax credits they get from provincial or federal donations, there are wealthy Albertans with the ability to financially influence candidates across the board.

The UCP also removed the requirement for candidates to disclose their list of donors ahead of Election Day, which would have allowed voters to see who is financially supporting candidates before they go to the ballot booth. Many candidates will already do this on their own but many won’t because they are not required to by law.

The new rules introduced by the UCP also allow Third Party Advertisers, colloquially known as political action committees, to spend up to $500,000 on advertising during the referendums, up from the previous $150,000 limit. Third Party Advertisers that spend less than $350,000 on advertising during a referendum are not required to file financial statements with Elections Alberta, which means those groups don’t have to publicly disclose their donor lists.

There are currently four registered Third Party Advertisers registered with Elections Alberta that are advertising during the Referendum. Alberta Proud (who’s contact person is former Wildrose Party press secretary Vitor Marciano), Equalization Fairness Alberta (run by former UCP ministerial chief of staff Dr. Bill Bewick), Society of Albertans Against Equalization (run by Canadian Taxpayers Federation director Franco Terrazzano), and Vote Yes To End Equalization Inc.

One Third Party Advertiser registered to participate in Calgary’s municipal election is being investigated by Elections Alberta for allegedly sending out campaign signs for Calgary mayoral candidate Jeff Davison.

And that is a quick guide to the dog’s breakfast that is Alberta’s 2021 municipal elections. Make sure to vote on Oct. 18 or in the advance polls starting today.

Good luck, Alberta.

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Alberta Politics

Sarah Hoffman planning to run for re-election, Amanda Jensen the third candidate to enter NDP race in Lethbridge-East

Alberta NDP Deputy Leader Sarah Hoffman has filed her papers to run for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Glenora, a riding she has represented since 2015. Hoffman served as Minister of Health from the entirety of the NDP’s term in government and was re-elected in 2019 with 58 per cent of the vote.

A nomination meeting in Edmonton-Glenora has been scheduled for October 27, 2021. Hoffman is the only candidate in the race as of today.

Volunteer Lethbridge executive director Amanda Jensen is the third candidate to enter the NDP nomination race in Lethbridge-East. Also seeking the nomination are former MLA Maria Fitzpatrick and City Councillor Rob Miyashiro.

In an email to supporters last Wednesday, Alberta Liberal Party President Helen McMenamin said the party is gearing up for a leadership race, though no dates have been announced. John Roggeveen has served as interim leader since early this year after the party was shut out in 2019.

The last election marked the first time since the 1982 election that the Liberals were unable to win a seat in the Assembly.

And former Alberta Party leader and Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel resigned from the Board of Directors of Alberta Health Services last week as the health authority faces a devastating fourth wave of COVID-19.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Former MLAs jump into Alberta’s municipal elections

Municipal politicians making the leap into provincial politics is a pretty common occurrence, but less common are former provincial politicians jumping into municipal politics. 

This municipal election season, there are a handful of former Alberta MLAs who have decided to put their names on the ballot to run for their local municipal council. Here are a few that I’ve noticed on the lists of local candidates: 

– Former NDP MLA Annie McKitrick and former Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Quest are both running for Mayor of Strathcona County. McKittrick served as the MLA for Sherwood Park from 2015 to 2019 and as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Education from 2017 to 2019. Quest served as the PC MLA for Strathcona-Sherwood Park from 2008 to 2015 and Associate Minister for Seniors from 2013 to 2014. He ran for the Alberta Party in the 2019 election.

– Former NDP MLA Eric Rosendahl running for Hinton Town Council. Rosendahl was the NDP MLA for West Yellowhead from 2015 to 2019.

– Former NDP MLA Colin Piquette is running to become a councillor in the Village of Boyle. Piquette served as the MLA for Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater from 2015 to 2019 and was the President of the Boyle Chamber of Commerce before he was elected to the Legislature. He is the son of Leo Piquette, who was the NDP MLA for Athabasca-Lac La Biche from 1986 to 1989.

Victor Doerksen is running for Red Deer City Council. Doerksen was the Progressive Conservative MLA for Red Deer-South from 1993 to 2008 and Minister of Innovation and Science from 2001 to 2006. He finished seventh of eight candidates in the PC Party leadership in 2006. 

Mike Allen is running to become the next Mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Allen was the PC MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo from 2012 to 2015 with the exception of 2013 to 2014 when he sat as an Independent MLA after he was arrested in a prostitution sting operation while on a government trip to Minnesota (he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour and paid a $500 fine plus legal fees). If elected he would replace another former PC MLA, Don Scott, who was elected mayor in 2017 and is not seeking re-election.

– Former Wildrose MLA Wayne Anderson is running to become a councillor in Foothills County. Anderson was the Wildrose and United Conservative Party MLA for Highwood from 2015 to 2019. 

– Former PC MLA Arno Doerksen has been acclaimed as a councillor in Newell County. Doerksen served as the PC MLA for Strathmore-Brooks from 2008 to 2012. 

Kent Hehr dropped out of Calgary mayoral election race only weeks after entering the race. Hehr served as the Liberal MLA for Calgary-Buffalo from 2008 to 2015 and as the Liberal MP for Calgary-Centre from 2015 to 2019.

– And filed under “blast from the past,” long-time municipal politician Bob Russell is running for Mayor in the City of St. Albert. Russell served on city council from 1989 to 1992, 1995 to 2001 and 2013 to 2017 and ran for mayor in 1992, but before his municipal career he was leader of the Alberta Liberal Party from 1971 to 1974. 

Did I miss any former MLAs running in the municipal elections? Leave a comment below.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Bozo Eruption! UCP MLAs back “Free Alberta Strategy” as ICUs fill up and separatists get trounced in federal election

Alberta’s Intensive Care Units and hospitals are full of COVID-19 patients and the province now has more than half of the active cases of the deadly disease in Canada. School boards like the Edmonton Public School Board are reporting hundreds of young students have contracted the virus, forcing dozens of schools to shut down in-person classes and move to virtual classrooms. And 34 more Albertans died because of COVID-19 yesterday.

But what was the most important issue for a group of Alberta MLAs this week?

Alberta separatism.

Yep. That’s right.

Rob Anderson former MLA Free Alberta Strategy Separatist
Former MLA Rob Anderson

With help from the libertarian Alberta Institute, former Progressive Conservative-turned-Wildrose-turned Progressive Conservative MLA and online talk show host Rob Anderson launched the “Free Alberta Strategy,” announcing a manifesto that declares Alberta a “sovereign jurisdiction” and, among other things, would allow the province to just ignore federal laws it doesn’t like.

Anderson was joined at the online press conference by United Conservative Party MLAs Angela Pitt (who is also the Deputy Speaker of the Legislature) and Jason Stephan, and Independent MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen. The latter two MLAs were ejected from the UCP Caucus in May 2021 after losing confidence in Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership, a sentiment that Pitt echoed during this press conference.

The Alberta Institute is led by former New Zealand political activist and Manning Centre researcher Peter McCaffrey. He also happens to be married to the institute’s former director of operations and past UCP nomination candidate Megan McCaffrey, who is now working as the Chief of Staff in Barnes’ and Loewen’ UCP Caucus-in-exile.

Red Deer-South UCP MLA Jason Stephan Free Alberta Strategy Separatist
Red Deer-South UCP MLA Jason Stephan

Legislative Assembly Speaker Nathan Cooper was also in attendance but was described as being an observer rather than a participant in the press conference.

Calling for a type of sovereignty-association with the rest of Canada, Anderson brought up a number of perennial ideas like an Alberta police force and pension plan, but then connected them to a whole swath of bad ideas that would either create needless bureaucracy or just be plain unconstitutional.

The group pled with reporters not to describe their group as separatists, but it is hard not to think of it as anything else. 

Independent MLA Todd Loewen Free Alberta Strategy Separatist
Independent MLA Todd Loewen

It is hard to think of a more tone deaf time to fly the separatist flag in Alberta.

The actual separatist party earned 1.3 per cent in Alberta in the federal election held last week and the UCP government last week sent out a desperate plea for health care support from Ottawa and other provinces to deal with the COVID-19 fourth wave.

Just as tone deaf is Kenney’s province-wide referendum on October 18 asking Albertans to vote yes if they want the equalization formula removed from Canada’s constitution – a referendum that no one is talking about because of the COVID-19 crisis.

William Aberhart University of Alberta Honourary Degree
William Aberhart

The one person who wasn’t at the online press conference, but who might as well have been there in spirit (literally), was Premier William Aberhart, who himself pushed through unconstitutional laws in the 1930s that would nationalize banks and force newspapers to publish government propaganda.

When the Lieutenant Governor at the time refused to sign one of his unconstitutional laws, Aberhart chained the doors and evicted the vice-regal representative from of his official residence in Government House.


UCP MLA backs down on criticism of AHS, Kenney faces leadership review and offers no new plan to stop COVID

  • UCP vice-president Joel Mullan was fired by the board yesterday after calling for Kenney to face a leadership review, which has now been scheduled for April 2022.
  • Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland UCP MLA Shane Getson back pedalled on his attempts to shift blame for the overcapacity ICUs on Alberta Health Services President Dr. Verna Yiu, likely as a ploy to push more privatization of the public health care system.
  • Kenney joined Health Minister Jason Copping and Justice Minister Kaycee Madu yesterday not to announce further public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 but to announce the government will ban protests outside of hospitals in reaction to anti-vaccine and COVID-19 conspiracy theorist rallies that were held two weeks ago.With none of these rallies having been held in weeks, some political watchers are wondering if the protest ban is actually being aimed at health care workers who could take job action in the coming months.

We are through the looking glass, Alberta.

Categories
Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 78: Orange and Red in a Sea of Blue

Brad Lafortune joins Dave Cournoyer on the Daveberta Podcast to discuss the federal election results in Alberta, including NDP candidate Blake Desjarlais‘ spectacular win over Kerry Diotte in Edmonton-Griesbach, and the ongoing troubles in the United Conservative Party and how many more days Jason Kenney might have as leader.

We also discuss the future of childcare and early childhood education in Alberta now that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have formed government after signing $10/day childcare agreements with more than half of Canada’s provinces.

Brad Lafortune is the Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta.

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.

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.