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Alberta Politics

Steve Durrell running for NDP nomination in Airdrie-Cochrane, UCP rumble in Chestermere-Strathmore

Airdrie resident Steve Durrell has announced his plans to seek the Alberta NDP nomination to run in the Airdrie-Cochrane riding in the next provincial election. 

This coming election is one of high stakes. From education to our economy, from healthcare to respect for a person’s self-identity, Jason Kenney and the UCP have failed Albertans at every turn,” Durrell said in a statement posted on Facebook. “It’s time for change and to get Alberta back on track, and that is why I am seeking the nomination to run for the NDP, and support Rachel Notley on her road to once again being Premier of Alberta!”

Durrell is an organizer for United Steelworkers Local 1944. 

If nominated, this will be Durrell’s second time as a NDP candidate in the riding. He ran in 2019 and placed second with 25.2 per cent of the vote behind United Conservative Party candidate Peter Guthrie.

Durrell became a target of Premier Jason Kenney in the 2019 election, when the UCP leader mocked him for being a 19-year old. He was actually 29-year old father of three at the time. 

Rumble in Chestermere-Strathmore

Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer, UCP MLA Chestermere-Strathmore
Jason Kenney and former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer in happier time (source: YouTube)

Postmedia columnist Don Braid penned a column about a showdown in the Chestermere-Strathmore riding, where Kenney loyalists are alleged to have mounted a hostile takeover of the local UCP constituency association.

The previous, or current riding association (depending on who’s side of the story you believe), is loyal to two-term UCP MLA and former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer, who has called on Kenney to resign after a former political staffer filed a lawsuit against the Premier’s Office alleging sexual harassment, defamation, and toxic workplace culture at the Legislature.

Ahreer is popular among her UCP MLA colleagues so Kenney probably does not have the support to remove her from the UCP caucus like he did Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen last summer, so removing her local support (and access to the local UCP bank account) is a more indirect way of ensuring she does not seek re-election in 2023. If Aheer still has political ambitions, she will probably need to find a new party to run for.

As first noted on this website in May 2021, former federal Conservative staffer Chantelle de Jonge is already challenging Aheer for the UCP nomination to run in the next election. de Jonge worked in the constituency office of former Calgary-Skyview Member of Parliament Jag Sahota and recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Philosophy from the University of Calgary.

Chestermere-Strathmore was the scene of significant political drama ahead of the 2019 election, with MLA Derek Fildebrandt banned from the the nomination contest and a tense 2018 nomination race that included allegations of death threats and restraining orders when Aheer was challenged by David Campbell (who is now President of The Independence Party of Alberta).

Brian Jean still kicking around

Brian Jean and Jason Kenney
Brian Jean and Jason Kenney in happier times

Confirmed UCP candidate and future UCP leadership hopeful Brian Jean is continuing to fire shots across Kenney’s bow ahead of the leadership review and the impending by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

Jean called on the UCP executive board to commit to holding an in-person vote on April 9 rather than moving to an online vote in response to the fifth wave of COVID-19 that is sweeping across Alberta. It was largely assumed that the Kenney loyal executive board chose to hold an in-person meeting in Red Deer to give the Premier more control of the process, but the rise in COVID-19 cases would justify moving the vote online.

A Leger poll released in December 2021 showed that 73 per cent of Albertans believed the province would be better off with a new premier.

In the background of this, as Jean noted, the RCMP are continuing to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the online vote for the UCP leadership in 2017. Kenney defeated Jean in that vote.

Jean defeated Kenney-backed candidate Joshua Gogo in the UCP nomination contest held in Nov. 2021. He will face NDP candidate Ariana Mancini and Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman in a by-election that needs to be called by Feb. 15, 2022. The other parties have not yet announced their candidates.

The Alberta Party is expected to make an announcement soon.

The Independence Party of Alberta has not announced a candidate, but announced in Nov. 2021 that their local constituency association board had been formed.

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Alberta Politics

Janis Irwin voted Best Alberta MLA for the second year in a row. Results of the Best of Alberta Politics 2021 Survey revealed.

With more than 2,000 votes cast this past week, the winners of the fifth annual Best of Alberta Politics 2021 survey are:

Best Alberta MLA: Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highands-Norwood

Always a fan favourite, for the second year in a row Janis Irwin has been voted Best Alberta MLA. Irwin is a hard-working MLA in the Assembly and in her constituency, and her sense of humour (and her social media star cat, Oregano) has endeared her to politicos on both sides of the aisle.

Leela Aheer ALberta MLA
Leela Aheer (Source: Twitter)

Best Alberta Cabinet Minister: Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women

Nurturing a reputation as an affable politician, Leela Aheer proved herself to be on the right side of public opinion in Alberta when she spoke out against Premier Jason Kenney and called on him to resign. The MLA for Chestermere-Strathmore was booted from cabinet for speaking out against Kenney, but that probably only further endeared her to the growing majority of Albertans who disapprove of the Premier’s performance.

That Aheer remains a member of UCP Caucus after openly calling on Kenney to resign is also a testament to how well-liked she is by her UCP MLA colleagues.

Rachel Notley (source: Facebook)

Best Opposition MLA: Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona

For the third year in a row, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley has been voted Best Opposition MLA. Notley continues to be her party’s greatest asset and, if the polls and party fundraising returns are any indication, might stand a good chance at leading her party to form government when the next election is held in 2023.

If Notley’s party is successful in 2023, she would be the first former Premier to return to that office in Alberta’s history.

Rakhi Pancholi NDP Edmonton Whitemud
Rakhi Pancholi

Up and Coming MLA to Watch in 2022: Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud

A tireless advocate for childcare since she was first elected in 2019, Rakhi Pancholi has been voted Up and Coming MLA to Watch for a second year in a row.

Pancholi is smart and well-spoken, and has been tough and tenacious in her calls for affordable and accessible childcare for Alberta families.

Jyoti Gondek Mayor Calgary
Jyoti Gondek

Best Political Play of 2021: Jyoti Gondek‘s election as Mayor of Calgary

Jyoti Gondek defied public expectations and a motivated conservative establishment to win Calgary’s mayoral election in October 2021, becoming the first woman to be elected mayor of Alberta’s largest city.


The annual Best of Alberta Politics survey was started in 2017 as a way to give followers of Alberta politics a chance to recognize the best players in Alberta politics.

Listen to our year-end episode of the Daveberta Podcast where guests Adrienne King and Matt Solberg share their picks for the Best of Alberta Politics in 2021.

Thank you to the more than 2,000 people who voted in this year’s survey and for everyone who read this website and listened to the Daveberta Podcast this year.

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Alberta Politics

MLA Thomas Dang leaves the NDP Caucus, Carol Vowk running for UCP nomination in Drayton Valley-Devon 

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley announced today that Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang has temporarily left the NDP Official Opposition Caucus to sit as an Independent MLA after the RCMP executed a search warrant at his house this morning.

While none of the details are clear, Notley said she believed the search was related to a Department of Health data breach that Dang reported to the government in Sept. 2021.

MLA Thomas Dang’s statement on Dec. 21, 2021.
MLA Thomas Dang’s statement on Dec. 21, 2021.

Dang issued a statement in response in which he reiterated Notley’s comments, saying that he believed the warrant was executed in relation to vulnerabilities of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination records website.

“In September, a concern was raised to me as a Member of the Legislative Assembly about the security of the vaccination record system,” Dang wrote. “I tested these concerns and found a security flaw did exist.

“I immediately notified Alberta Health with the relevant information so that the vulnerability could be corrected. It was resolved shortly thereafter,” wrote Dang, who studied Computing Sciences at the University of Alberta before his election as MLA in 2015.

Notley said that Dang, who was in the mountains skiing, voluntarily left the NDP Caucus until the police investigation was complete. Dang is the Official Opposition critic for Democracy and Ethics.

Notley framed Dang’s departure from the caucus as a contrast from the United Conservative Party MLAs and cabinet ministers who remain in the government caucus after having been interviewed by the police, had search warrants executed at their businesses, or are connected to active police investigations.

First elected as the NDP MLA for Edmonton-South West in 2015 and ran for re-election in the redistributed Edmonton-South in 2019. 

Carol Vowk running for UCP nomination in Drayton Valley-Devon

Carol Vowk

Carol Vowk has filed papers with Elections Alberta signalling her intention to run for the UCP nomination in Drayton Valley-Devon. Vowk is Treasurer of the Drayton Valley Health Foundation and has volunteered with the Drayton Valley Air Cadets, Brazeau Snowmobile Club, and Drayton Valley Soccer.

But perhaps most notable under the current political circumstances, she is the President of the UCP Association in Drayton Valley-Devon and was a signatory of the letter from 22 UCP CA presidents requesting the party move Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership review before March 1, 2022. The party executive denied the request and will be holding the leadership review at a meeting in Red Deer on April 9, 2022 instead.

The central Alberta riding is currently represented by Mark Smith, who was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2015. Smith was the centre of controversy during the 2019 election with the release of an audio recording of a church sermon he delivered which included some gross comments about “homosexual love.”

Smith was re-elected in 2019 with 71.1 per cent of the vote. He has not publicly announced whether he plans to run for re-election in 2023.

Brian Jean *is* the UCP candidate in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche

Former Wildrose Party leader and Kenney-rival Brian Jean is officially the endorsed UCP candidate in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche. Both Kenney and the UCP have been completely silent on the results of the nomination meeting, in which Jean defeated Kenney-backed candidate Joshua Gogo. A by-election must be called in the riding by February 15, 2022.


Voting in the Best of Alberta Politics 2021 Survey is open until 6:00 p.m. on Dec. 22, so vote now before it’s too late.

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Alberta Politics

Vote in the Best of Alberta Politics 2021 Survey

With hundreds of submissions made to the Best of Alberta Politics 2021 survey, your choices have been sorted and you can now vote in each category. Voting is open until Dec. 22, 2021 at 6:00 pm and the winners will be announced shortly after that.

Here are the top choices in each category:

1. Who was the best Alberta MLA of 2021? – VOTE

  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
  • Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud

2. Who was the best Alberta cabinet minister of 2021? – VOTE

  • Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
  • Ric McIver, Minister of Municipal Affairs
  • Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Transportation

Honourable mentions to runners-up Minister of Health Jason Copping and Minister of Finance Travis Toews. It is also worth noting that a large number of people chose to submit various versions of “none of the above.”

3. Who was the best opposition MLA of 2021? – VOTE

  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
  • Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West

Honourable mention to runners-up Edmonton-City Centre MLA David Shepherd and Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi..

4. Who is the up and coming MLA to watch in 2022? – VOTE

  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Brian Jean, (potentially future) MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche
  • Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud

Honourable mentions to runners-up Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner and Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang.

5. What was the biggest political play of 2021 in Alberta? – VOTE

  • Brian Jean’s political comeback
  • Jason Kenney’s “Open For Summer/Best Summer Ever” COVID-19 plan
  • Jyoti Gondek’s election as Mayor of Calgary

What was the biggest political issue of 2021 in Alberta?

In some past years this category has been a dog’s breakfast, but like last year, this year your choice was clear. COVID-19 was the clear choice of the overwhelming majority of people who submitted in this category. The global COVID-19 pandemic defined Alberta politics in 2021, with the failure of Premier Jason Kenney’s “Open For Summer” plan and the fourth wave that followed garnering the most submissions.

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Alberta Politics

Former County Councillor Karen Shaw seeking NDP nomination in Morinville-St. Albert, Kenney still silent on Jean’s win in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche

Former Sturgeon County councillor Karen Shaw announced that she is seeking the Alberta NDP nomination in Morinville-St. Albert. Shaw represented Division 6 on Sturgeon County Council from 2007 to 2021, which covers the northeast corner of the riding surrounding the Town of Redwater. She did not run for re-election to council in 2021.

“As a municipal leader for the past 14 years, I’ve worked to make positive changes to strengthen the community and economy, especially when it came to the Heartland and regional partners.” said Shaw. “It’s clear to me that Rachel Notley is the leader we need, and she has the best vision for Alberta.”

Karen and her husband Stuart, raise commercial Simmental X Angus cattle in the Redwater area.

The riding was created in 2019 from areas of the former Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock riding, which elected Wildrose MLA Glenn van Dijken in 2015, and Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater and St. Albert ridings, which elected NDP MLAs Colin Piquette and Marie Renaud in 2015. 

It is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Dale Nally, who has served as Associate Minister of Natural Gas and Electricity since April 2019. Nally was elected in 2019 with 50 per cent of the vote, with NDP candidate Natalie Birnie placing second with 33.2 per cent.

Kenney silent on Jean’s win

It has been more than 24 hours since former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean declared victory in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche UCP nomination contest and neither Premier Jason Kenney nor the UCP have made any public statement about the results.

Party leaders typically trumpet the nomination of their party’s candidates, but the radio silence from Kenney and the UCP telegraphs how the Premier feels about his rival winning the contest to run in the by-election.

Running on an anti-Kenney platform, Jean won the nomination with 68 per cent of the vote and defeated Kenney-backed candidate Joshua Gogo.


I am building a list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of Alberta’s expected 2023 provincial election. If I have missed any candidates on my list, please post a comment below or send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

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Alberta Politics

Best of Alberta Politics 2021 Survey – Submit your choices!

It is that time of year again and the Daveberta Podcast is launching the fifth annual Best of Alberta Politics Survey.

It has been a tough year for many of us and we struggled with whether to even hold these awards this year. But we thought that in these dark times it is perhaps even more important to focus on the positive. So we are continuing the annual tradition of hearing from you about the big political players and issues of 2021. Submit your choices in six categories.

  1. Who was the best Alberta MLA of 2021?
  2. Who was the best Alberta cabinet minister of 2021?
  3. Who was the best opposition MLA of 2021?
  4. Who is the up and coming MLA to watch in 2022?
  5. What was the biggest political issue of 2021 in Alberta?
  6. What was the biggest political play of 2021 in Alberta?

Submissions for the Best of Alberta Politics 2021 Survey are open until Dec. 16, 2021 at 12:00 pm and the top three choices in each category will be included in a round of voting starting later that day. Voting for the top 3 will be open until Dec. 22, 2021 at 6:00 pm and the winners will be announced shortly afterward.

Vote early. Vote often. 

Good luck.

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Alberta Politics

He’s back! Brian Jean wins UCP nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election

Former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean won the United Conservative Party nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, defeating engineer and economist Joshua Gogo.

Jean’s candidacy was criticized by Premier Jason Kenney and Gogo had the support of Justice Minister Kaycee Madu, who was reported to have been campaigning with him in Lac La Biche last week.

Reports say that Jean won with 68 per cent of the vote. He represented the area as an MP from 2004 to 2014 and MLA from 2015 to 2018.

Jean left elected office shortly after losing the UCP leadership to Kenney in 2017 (it was later revealed that Kenney’s inner circle backed a kamikaze campaign against Jean), but he never quite left politics. Instead, he opined about provincial politics online and in the pages of Postmedia newspapers, becoming a harsh critic of Kenney’s leadership.

In the summer of 2021 he called on Kenney to step down and warned that the NDP would win the next election if he did not resign.

Jean clearly believes he’s the person who can lead the UCP to win re-election in 2023, and he may have a willing following among the small but vocal group of UCP MLAs who have criticized or called on Kenney to resign.

Kenney said he would respect the wishes of UCP voters in the nomination contest, but failing to defeat Jean is a big blow to a Premier who has been lauded for his skills as a political organizer, and is facing a leadership review in April 2022.

While party leaders typically trumpet the nomination of their party’s candidates, both Kenney’s and the UCP’s normally prolific social media feeds were silent last night.

After announcing his win on social media, Jean said he would soon travel the province, presumably to rally opposition to Kenney ahead of the leadership review.

If he’s allowed to run under the UCP banner, Jean’s convincing win means the UCP candidate in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election will also be an openly anti-Kenney candidate.

Mancini congratulates Jean

Alberta NDP candidate Ariana Mancini in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election
Ariana Mancini

Alberta NDP candidate Ariana Mancini released a statement congratulating Jean on his nomination.

“I want to congratulate Brian Jean on being nominated as the United Conservative Party candidate in the coming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.”

“Mr. Jean has made it clear, even this evening, that he is running because of his rivalry with Jason Kenney. I am running for the people of Fort McMurray and Lac La Biche. UCP MLAs haven’t delivered for our region. I am focused on job creation, improving public healthcare, protecting public education, protecting our community from flood and fire, and ensuring we have reliable EMS.”

Mancini was joined by NDP leader Rachel Notley at a nomination rally held last week in Fort McMurray.

Another former Wildrose Party leader, Paul Hinman, announced he is also running in the by-election, but this time as leader of the separatist Wildrose Independence Party.


I am building a list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of Alberta’s expected 2023 provincial election. If I have missed any candidates on my list, please post a comment below or send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

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Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 82: Best of Alberta Politics with Adrienne King and Matt Solberg

Adrienne King and Matt Solberg join the Daveberta Podcast for our year-end episode of 2021. We delve into Premier Jason Kenney‘s leadership challenges, the fireworks at the end of Alberta’s longest legislative session on record, and the upcoming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.

Adrienne King works for the Now Group, and is the former Chief of Staff to Alberta NDP Leaders Rachel Notley and Brian Mason, and Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili.

Matt Solberg is a Partner at New West Public Affairs and is a former Wildrose and UCP staffer who has worked at various times along-side Paul Hinman, Danielle Smith, Brian Jean, and Jason Kenney. 

Best of Alberta Politics 2021

We also launched the fifth annual Best of Alberta Politics Survey and asked Adrienne and Matt for their picks the best of 2021:

Best Cabinet Minister
Adrienne: Travis Toews, Minister of Finance
Matt: Jason Copping, Minister of Health

Best Opposition MLA
Adrienne: Shannon Phillips, NDP MLA for Lethbridge-West
Matt: David Shepherd, NDP MLA for Edmonton-City Centre

Up and Comer to Watch in 2022
Adrienne: Rakhi Pancholi, NDP MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud
Matt: Nate Horner, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry

Submissions for the Best of Alberta Politics 2021 Survey are open until Dec. 16, 2021 at 12:00 pm and the top three choices in each category will be included in a round of voting starting later that day. Voting for the top 3 will be open until Dec. 22, 2021 at 6:00 pm and the winners will be announced shortly afterward.


The Daveberta Podcast is hosted by Dave Cournoyer and 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 reading/listening

And, as promised on the podcast, here is the infamous and hilarious NDP Caucus Press Gallery Christmas Party video from 2010:

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Alberta Politics

Showdown in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche. Can Jason Kenney block Brian Jean from becoming the UCP candidate?

The much awaited United Conservative Party nomination vote in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche is being held on Dec. 11 and 12. The contest between former MLA and former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean and economist Joshua Gogo has attracted a lot of political attention.

Nursing a grudge from the 2017 leadership race and tapping into the current UCP leader’s unpopularity, Jean has openly predicted that Rachel Notley’s NDP would win the next election if Premier Jason Kenney doesn’t resign (a recent poll commissioned by CBC showed only 3 in 10 Albertans respect Kenney).

In response, Kenney and his staff have openly criticized Jean for a lack of sticktoitiveness after failing resigning mid-term as Member of Parliament and MLA for the area, causing two by-elections including the one that elected the former MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, Laila Goodridge.

Kenney’s supporters jumped at the opportunity to slam Jean’s description of Gogo as a “Nigerian economist living in Fort McMurray.” Despite a plummeting approval ratings from the public, Kenney has benefited from not having a challenger inside the party that his opponents could rally around. Jean wants to be that challenger.

This by-election will mark the first time the UCP government has had to face voters since it was elected in 2019, and also the first time since then that the question of Kenney’s leadership will be on a provincial ballot.

Under most circumstances, winning this by-election would be a slam dunk for the UCP, but Jean’s candidacy definitely complicates matters for Kenney’s party.

Here is a look at two scenarios that could play out as ballots are cast and counted in this weekend’s UCP nomination contest:

  1. Brian Jean loses the nomination. Losing the nomination would be a big blow to Jean, who has never lost an election in Fort McMurray before. And it would be a win for Kenney. Jean would definitely be a diminished political force within the UCP after losing, and might decide to remain on the sidelines or retreat to private life. But he could decide to run as an Independent candidate. He has significant name recognition and enough personal funds and financial supporters in the riding that he would be a contender even without the blessing of local UCP members.
  2. Brian Jean wins the nomination. Winning the nomination would be a big blow to Kenney, who has used his position as leader to speak out against Jean’s nomination bid. Unless Kenney refused to sign his nomination papers or found a way to disqualify him from winning the nomination, Jean would immediately become the central figure in effort to defeat Kenney at the April 9, 2022 leadership review. Jean has pledged to continue campaigning against Kenney’s leadership.

Mancini nominated as NDP candidate

Rachel Notley and Ariana Mancini (source: Twitter)

Local teacher Ariana Mancini was acclaimed as the Alberta NDP candidate at a nomination rally featuring party leader Rachel Notley this week.

“This campaign is an opportunity for our region to send a message to Jason Kenney,” Mancini is reported to have told the crowd in Fort McMurray. “The message is that we don’t have to choose between bad and worse. We can choose better. Even the conservatives don’t like the conservatives. That’s saying something,” she said.

This is Mancini’s second time running as an NDP candidate. She placed second to Jean in the 2015 election in the former Fort McMurray-Conklin riding.

Another former Wildrose leader running for separatist party

Paul Hinman (source: Twitter)

Another former Wildrose Party leader has announced his plans to run in the by-election.

Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman, who led the Alberta Alliance-turned-Wildrose Alliance from 2005 to 2009, announced on social media today that he will run for the recently rebranded separatist party in the by-election (the Wildrose Independence Party was named the Freedom Conservative Party in the 2019 election and was previously known as the Western Freedom Party, the Alberta First Party and the Separation Party of Alberta).

Describing it on social media as the most important by-election in history, Hinman described Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche as “ground zero for Trudeau’s carbon net-zero attack against Alberta.”

Hinman appears to be relying on support from federal People’s Party of Canada supporters and has been loudly promoting COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media.

He served as the MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 and Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012.


I am building a list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of Alberta’s expected 2023 provincial election. If I have missed any candidates on my list, please post a comment below or send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

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Alberta Politics

Jack Lowery tried to merge the Alberta Liberals with Social Credit, and it destroyed his leadership

Supporters of the Alberta Liberal Party will gather virtually this weekend for the party’s annual general meeting two years after the party was shut out of the Legislative Assembly for the first time in more than three decades.

Jack Lowery Alberta Liberal Party leader
Jack Lowery

This year also marks 100 years since the Liberal Party lost the 1921 election to the United Farmers of Alberta after governing the province since it was founded in 1905.

The Liberals formed the official opposition for most of the period from their defeat until the 1967 election, when the Progressive Conservatives led by Peter Lougheed knocked the Liberals to third place in the Legislature. 

As the Liberals ponder what it means to be a seatless party in 2021, I took a look back at what happened the last time the Liberals were shut out of the Legislature.

The 1967 election marked the Liberal Party’s poorest showing in decades, and death, defection and resignation would mean the party’s three MLA caucus would not survive the full term.

Michael Maccagno

Party leader and Lac La Biche MLA Michael Maccagno resigned his seat in early 1968 to run in the federal election and later formally resigned as leader in October 1968. Edson MLA William Switzer died of a heart attack in June 1969. And in November 1969 the party’s sole remaining caucus member, Calgary-Glenmore MLA Bill Dickie, crossed the floor to join Lougheed’s PC Party. 

The party was on the decline and faired poorly in the by-elections to replace Maccagno and Switzer, with Liberal candidates finishing third in Lac La Biche and fourth in Edson. 

But that was not where this story of the Alberta Liberal Party’s ends.

Former United Church Minister Jack Lowery, who preached at Calgary’s Southwood United Church without collecting remuneration so he could work full-time as the public relations manager for ATCO Industries Ltd., was chosen as leader on April 26, 1969.

Harry Strom Alberta Premier
Harry Strom

He was also the chief statistician for the Calgary Stampeder Football Club, where he led a team of analysts and technicians who tracked the CFL team’s performance. It is no wonder that Calgary Herald’s Johnny Hopkins described him in 1967 as someone who simply couldn’t find enough activities to fill all his waking hours.

With none of the party’s MLA entering the leadership race, Lowery defeated Town of Manning Mayor Don Branigan (who would later become Mayor of Whitehorse in Yukon), future party leader Bob Russell, and 20-year old University of Alberta political science student Trevor Midgley (who entered the race 8 minutes before the nomination deadline). 

The 39-year old Lowery moved to Alberta after graduating from theology school in Toronto to serve churches in the Hardisty area and described himself as an “issues-oriented pragmatist” with a left-orientated slant on social development philosophy and “small conservative” financial ideas.

Nick Taylor Calgary-Centre Liberal candidate 1968 election Canada
A campaign poster from Nick Taylor’s campaign in Calgary-Centre in 1968.

This was Lowery’s second foray into elected politics, having just the previous year mounted an unsuccessful campaign against oilman and school board trustee Nick Taylor for the federal Liberal nomination in Calgary-Centre (Taylor would go on to lead the Liberals back into the Legislature in 1986).

“It’s been said for a long time that there are those in the Liberal Party who have had a vested interest in defeat,” Lowery told Calgary Herald for the “Personality of the Week” column on May 30, 1969.

“They’ve been quite happy to go directly to Ottawa without having to work in a party structure that could go somewhere. All of these people will be encouraged to become party of the team,” Lowery said.

Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed
Peter Lougheed

Lowery was an outsider who inherited the leadership of a deeply divided and cash poor party that was overshadowed by a flashier and increasingly unpopular federal Liberal Party led by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

He was the Liberal Party’s third leader in five years following the resignation of Adrian Berry after nine months as leader in 1966 and the return of Maccagno as leader for a second time before Lowery was chosen.

Early on in his leadership he dismissed the chances of Lougheed’s PCs and pledged to reestablish the Liberals as the alternative to the long-governing Social Credit Party, which he described as “very long on promises and short on implementation.”

The decision by MLA Dickie to join the Lougheed PCs in November 1969 because of what he described as “leftist philosophy” in the Liberal Party meant the party no longer had any representation in Legislature.

“This merely clears the decks so that we can do the kind of building we’ve been wanting to do. I do not agree with him that we have a leftist philosophy,” said Lowery in response his Dickie’s defection.

But it all really started to unravel for Lowery when was revealed the next month that he had reached out to Social Credit Premier Harry Strom to either merge or create an electoral alliance between the two parties.

His fate was sealed.

Pat Mahoney

“We can run candidates in the traditional sense in the next election. We can stand aside and let the Social Credit and Conservative partiee fight it out, or we can work with Social Credit to determine areas of mutual interest,” Lowery told the Calgary Herald on Dec. 30, 1969.

“We are 10 years away from being an effective political force and some form of coalition  in which the Liberal party would retain its identity is one of the alternatives open,” Lowery said.

Calgary-South Liberal Member of Parliament Pat Mahoney, a former President of the Calgary Stampeders Football Club, said the idea should be pursued with an open mind.

“The Alberta Liberals have been unfairly burned by the identification with Ottawa and the necessity of supporting federal policies,” Mahoney told the Calgary Herald. “They have a right to pursue an independent course.”

Hu Harries
Hu Harries

But Mahoney’s federal colleague from Edmonton had a different opinion. Edmonton-Strathcona Liberal MP Hu Harries called the proposal “bloody nonsense” and predicted it will not receive support from the Alberta Liberals membership.

Harries called on Lowery to resign and described talk of a Liberal-Socred alliance as a “selfish, stupid reaction to a complete failure” that was the Liberal Party’s inability to win the by-elections to replace the party’s former MLAs.

Prominent Edmonton Liberal and well-known publisher Mel Hurtig described the idea as absurd and clashed with Lowery at a party meeting in January 1970.

“Liberals are not people who are concerned with developing deals where they sell out their principles,” Hurtig was reported to have said.

Lowery defended his position by arguing that the merger discussions with the Socreds had “provoked interest and has given us an opportunity to delineate what we stand for as Liberals.”

But Harries and Hurtig were not alone. Constituency association presidents from across the province revolted against the idea – and Lowery.

And despite Lowery’s optimism, Strom’s own public response poured cold water on the entire idea of a Socred-Liberal alliance.

“We would be prepared to welcome those members of the Liberal party or any other party, who wish not join and work with us, but we are not at all interest in any deals or mergers,” Strom said.

The other opposition parties took it as an opportunity to welcome disaffected or confused Liberals into their camps.

Alberta New Democratic Party leader Grant Notley said his party would open wide the doors for disgruntled Liberals who wish to join “a genuine alternative to the conservative consensus of the Socreds and Tories.”

And Lougheed said any move toward a Liberal-Socred alliance would benefit his PC party.

“The last provincial election and the last two by-elections indicate that the majority of liberal-inclined voters would prefer to see a new progressive government in Alberta end 35 years of Social Credit control,” Lougheed said. 

On February 16, 1970, only 10 short months after winning the leadership, Lowery resigned as leader of the Alberta Liberal Party.

He was replaced by the third-place finisher from the previous year’s leadership contest, Bob Russell.

A year later, Lowery re-emerged into the political spotlight to publicly announced he had left the provincial Liberals and was joining the Social Credit Party. He was soon after named the coordinator of the party’s Calgary campaign for the 1971 provincial election.

When the votes were counted on August 30, 1971, Lougheed’s PC Party had unseated the Socreds to form the first new government in Alberta since 1935. It was a political earthquake from which the Socreds would never recover.

And the Liberals remained shut out of the Legislature. The party’s vote dropped to 1.01 per cent and no where in Alberta did a Liberal candidate come close to winning election.

The Liberals would remain in the electoral wilderness in Alberta for the next 15 years.

(For more history about Liberal Party in Alberta during the 1960s and 1970s, check out Darryl Raymaker’s excellent book, Trudeau’s Tango. Alberta meets Pierre Elliott Trudeau).

Categories
Alberta Politics

Teacher Ariana Mancini running for Alberta NDP nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election

Fort McMurray teacher Ariana Mancini is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche ahead of the upcoming by-election in the riding.

Mancini teaches Grade 4 at Ecole Dickinsfield School in Fort McMurray and is on the executive of Fort McMurray Local 48 of the Alberta Teachers Association.

“Conservatives have failed to deliver on the promises they made in the last election. Their corporate tax cuts haven’t created the jobs they promised,” Mancini said in a press release. “Under Jason Kenney, life is getting more expensive: income taxes are up, insurance rates are up, electricity rates are up, tuition is up.

“It’s time we had representation in our region that believed in making life more affordable for families,” Mancini said.

Don Scott MLA Fort McMurray Conklin
Don Scott

A nomination meeting is scheduled for Dec. 9 and Mancini is expected to be acclaimed. NDP leader Rachel Notley will be in Fort McMurray for what the party describes will be a nomination rally.

This will be Mancini’s second time running for the provincial NDP.

In 2015 she placed second behind Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean (who is also running for the United Conservative Party nomination to run this by-election) and ahead of incumbent Progressive Conservative MLA Don Scott (who would later serve as Mayor of Wood Buffalo from 2017 to 2021) in the former Fort McMurray-Conklin riding.

NDP are the underdog in this race

Despite Notley’s NDP leading in the province-wide polls since last November and Premier Jason Kenney reaching record low approval ratings, it will be an uphill battle for any party other than the UCP to win this by-election. Voters in this region of north east Alberta have reliably elected Conservative candidates for over three decades.

Leo Piquette NDP MLA Athabasca-Lac La Biche
Leo Piquette

Popular municipal councillor Jane Stroud was only able to earn 24 per cent as the NDP candidate in the 2019 election, and you have to look all the way back to 1986 to find the last time a New Democrat was elected in the area (NDP MLA Leo Piquette represented Athabasca-Lac La Biche from 1986 to 1989).

The last time a candidate from a non-Conservative party was elected in this area was in 1993, when Adam Germain was elected in Fort McMurray and Paul Langevin was elected in Lac La Biche-St. Paul under the Liberal Party banner (though, the Liberals in that election were arguably more conservative than they have ever been since).

All that said, by-elections can sometimes produce unexpected results.

The nasty feud between Jean and Kenney, unhappiness with the UCP’s response to COVID-19, persistent high unemployment, displeasure with the forced provincial centralization of ambulance dispatch, and skepticism about the UCP’s move to abandon the RCMP and form a provincial police force might just be a few of the issues that help voters decide who to cast their ballot.

The by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche must be called by Feb. 15, 2022.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Nomination update: Rob Miyashiro wins 4-way race in Lethbridge-East, Jennifer Burgess running for NDP nomination in Calgary-Glenmore

Former Lethbridge City Councillor Rob Miyashiro defeated former MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, non-profit executive director Amanda Jensen, and teacher Kevin McBeath to win the Alberta NDP nomination in Lethbridge-East on Nov. 21.

Miyashiro served on Lethbridge City Council from 2013 until 2021 and is the executive director of the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization.

This will be Miyashiro’s second time running as a candidate in Lethbridge-East. He was the Alberta Liberal candidate in the district in the 2012 provincial election, placing third with 14.6 per cent of the vote behind Progressive Conservative candidate Bridget Pastoor, who crossed the floor from the Liberals in 2011.

Nathan Neudorf Lethbridge East UCP MLA
Nathan Neudorf

The district is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Nathan Neudorf, who was elected as Chair of the UCP Caucus following Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen’s resignation and expulsion from the UCP Caucus last summer. Neudorf was first elected in 2019 after defeating Fitzpatrick.

As I’ve previously noted, Lethbridge-East has a unique voting history for a district in southern Alberta, with voters electing Liberal MLAs in every election from 1993 to 2008. Voters embraced the Orange Wave in 2015, electing Fitzpatrick as the riding’s first-ever NDP MLA.


We are now roughly 15 months away from the next provincial election in Alberta, so the candidate nomination news is rolling in slowly, candidates are starting to step forward across the province:

Banff-Kananaskis: Condo property manager Mark Tkacz is the third person to enter the NDP nomination contest in Banff-Kananaskis, joining biologist Sarah Elmeligi and bank manager Gavin McCaffrey.

Joe Ceci

Calgary-Buffalo: Two-term MLA Joe Ceci was acclaimed as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Buffalo, a riding he has represented since 2019. Ceci was first elected as the MLA for Calgary-Fort in 2015 and ran for re-election in the neighbouring Calgary-Buffalo in 2019 following the redrawing of electoral boundaries ahead of the last election.

Ceci served as a City Councillor in Calgary from 1995 to 2010 and was the Minister of Finance during the NDP’s four years as government.

Jennifer Burgess Alberta NDP Calgary-Glenmore nomination election
Jennifer Burgess

Calgary-Glenmore: Communications professional Jennifer Burgess announced yesterday that she is seeking the Alberta NDP nomination in this southwest Calgary riding.

Burgess is the President of the Braeside Community Association and a long-time NDP activist. She was president of the Calgary-Buffalo constituency association in 2016 and in 2019 managed the campaign of Calgary-Glenmore candidate Jordan Stein. 

Burgess previously ran for the NDP against then-Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice in the 2014 by-election in Calgary-Foothills. Her partner is former NDP MLA Graham Sucha, who represented Calgary-Shaw from 2015 to 2019.

The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Whitney Issik, who was appointed Associate Minister of Status of Women in July 2021. Before Issik’s election in 2019 the riding was represented by NDP MLA Anam Kazim. Kazim was elected in 2015 and was defeated by Stein in a nomination race ahead of the 2019 election. 

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche: The UCP hasn’t officially made the announcement it on its website, but the Elections Alberta website notes that the UCP will hold their nomination meeting in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche on December 11.

Membership sales closed over the weekend in the race to choose a candidate to run in the upcoming by-election, which has to be called by Feb. 15, 2022.

Former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, who represented much of the riding as an MLA from 2015 to 2018 and an MP from 2004 to 2013, is facing business consultant Joshua Gogo.

With a by-election call imminent, a steady stream of NDP MLAs have been travelling to Fort McMurray to raise the party banner and meet with locals.

Edmonton-City Centre NDP MLA and health critic David Shepherd was in Fort McMurray earlier this week, and party leader Rachel Notley, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous and Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan have recently visited Fort Mac.

There is still no word on who will run for the NDP in this by-election. The candidate who ran for the party in the 2018 by-election and 2019 election, Jane Stroud, was acclaimed to another term on the Wood Buffalo municipal council, a position she has held since 2010.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Kenney walks away from UCP AGM largely unscathed. Next up: defeating Brian Jean.

Premier Jason Kenney appeared to walk away mostly unscathed from last weekend’s United Conservative Party Annual General Meeting in Calgary.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney United Conservative Party AGM
Jason Kenney

Kenney delivered a much-watched keynote speech to more than a thousand UCP delegates that appears to have been generally well-received, though sounded like it might have been more appropriately aimed at a Chamber of Commerce or business crowd luncheon than a room of partisans hungry for more partisanship.

Kenney’s speech and it’s focus on the economy, and not his government’s fumbling response to the COVID-19 pandemic and failed “Open for Summer” plan, gives an indication of the direction the Premier and his inner circle believe they need to shift their message in order to salvage his embattled leadership and the party’s chances of winning re-election in 2023.

Regardless, Kenney tried hard to present an upbeat appearance, but as anyone who follows politics will know – party conventions are all production and all a show.

Leela Aheer ALberta MLA
Leela Aheer (Source: Twitter)

Kenney commanded the support of the convention, though he lost a critical vote on a special resolution that would have increased the number of constituency associations able to trigger a leadership vote from 1/4 of 87 to 1/3 of 87.

The motion received support from 57 per cent of delegates but fell short of the 75 per cent required to make the constitutional change.

This small defeat came less than a week after 22 UCP constituency associations announced they had passed an identical motion calling for an already scheduled April review of Kenney’s leadership to be moved to before March 1, 2022.

Cynthia Moore United Conservative Party President
Cynthia Moore

The new UCP President, Cynthia Moore, has said the newly elected party board will review the motions, though conservatives I’ve spoken with suggest that Kenney’s supporters are energetically searching for a technicality to disqualify the motions for an earlier vote.

Recent public opinion polls have shown Kenney with a 22 per cent approval rating among Albertans and his party has trailed Rachel Notley‘s Alberta NDP in the polls since November 2020, which has led to a growing number of UCP MLAs, including former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer, willing to publicly criticize his leadership or call for his resignation.

Even MLAs who are reluctant to publicly criticize Kenney are reluctant to publicly defend him.

Maclean’s columnist Jason Markusoff tweeted from the convention that reporters “asked Fort McMurray MLA Tany Yao how many members here want Kenney as leader. Half, he said. Does he want Kenney as leader? Sighed, said “you’ve put me in a tough spot,” then a minister’s press secretary whisked him away.”

Daniel Williams UCP Peace River
Daniel Williams

But perhaps the most interesting part of the convention was the vote by UCP delegates to pass a motion in support of conscience rights for health care professionals, which critics say could lead to the denial of access to women’s health and abortion services. A private members bill supporting conscience rights introduced into the Legislature by Peace River MLA and Kenney acolyte Dan Williams (now a parliamentary secretary – see below) failed at committee last year.

The passage of the policy at the UCP convention might provide an idea of how strong the different parts of the conservative coalition dominate the UCP right now, in this case – social conservatives.

Support for conscience rights for health care professionals stirred up quite a bit of controversy and backlash against the Wildrose Party during the 2012 provincial election.

It is unclear in what ways health professionals are being denied freedom of conscience at the moment,” penned the Globe & Mail editorial board on April 9, 2012.

Are doctors being required to perform abortions against their will? If so, no public complaint has been made that we are aware of. Would doctors have the right to swear off treating patients of the opposite sex? Would family physicians be entitled to refuse to prescribe birth control pills, or could they insist, when faced with a teenage girl, on counselling abstinence only?

Jim Prentice Danielle Smith Alberta Wildrose Merger PC
Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Premier Jim Prentice on December 17, 2014.

And speaking of the Wildrose Party, former party leader Danielle Smith was at the AGM and publicly mused to a reporter from Derek Fildebrandt‘s Western Standard website that she would run for the leadership of the UCP if Kenney’s stepped down.

Smith was quick to clarify to subscribers to her weekly email newsletter that she was merely musing and that she is not planning to run because the job is already filled. But that Smith could so casually make a comment like that to a reporter while standing in the same convention ball room as the current leader is embarrassing for Kenney.

Brian Jean Calgary Stampede Alberta
Brian Jean

After leading the party from obscurity to the brink of forming government, Smith famously crossed the floor along with a dozen other Wildrose MLAs to join Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservative Party in 2014 – a move that ended up gutting both parties and helping pave the way for Notley’s NDP to win the 2015 election.

And, continuing the blast from the past theme is another former Wildrose leader, Brian Jean, who is weeks away from potentially being selected as the UCP candidate in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election – that is, if he is not stopped by Joshua Gogo, a Fort McMurray economist.

Jean is probably Kenney’s main target now.

Trying to defeat him in the nomination vote, which is set for December 11 according to the Elections Alberta website, is likely one of the first steps the Premier will take in trying to reconsolidate his support in the UCP ahead of the next year’s leadership review – whether it be held in April or February.

Joshua Gogo
Joshua Gogo

Kenney has recently criticized Jean and questioned his political record after resigning before finishing his elected terms as a Member of Parliament and MLA for Fort McMurray, criticisms that were echoed by the Premier’s political staff on social media.

Also hanging out there is the Kamikaze campaign that Kenney’s closest advisors helped manufacture as part of the effort to defeat Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership race and the ongoing RCMP investigation into alleged voter fraud.

If he is not able to stop Jean from winning the nomination, Kenney will probably a harder time pretending he’s in an upbeat mood.


Kenney names five new parliamentary secretaries

Premier Kenney announced that five UCP MLAs have been appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries, roles that do not bring any additional salary but are a sign of which backbenchers could be on track for promotions to cabinet in the future – and which backbenchers a party leader in trouble is trying to solidify support from.

Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Parks for Water Stewardship. He also serves as UCP Caucus Chair.

Peace River MLA Dan Williams is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Culture and for la Francophonie. Before returning to Alberta to seek the UCP nomination, Williams worked in Ottawa for Kenney while he served as a federal cabinet minister.

Both Neudorf and Williams also sit as the MLA representatives on the UCP Board of Directors.

Camrose MLA Jackie Lovely is Parliamentary Secretary to the Associate Minister of Status of Women. Lovely was first elected as MLA for Camrose in 2019 and previously ran for the Wildrose Party in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015.

Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Community and Social Services for Civil Society. Nixon was first elected as MLA in 2019 and previously ran as a Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-Klein in 2012 and 2015. Nixon was removed from his previous role as parliamentary secretary for civil society after disregarding COVID-19 restrictions and traveling to Hawaii for a hot holiday in December 2020. He is the brother of Environment & Parks Minister and Government House Leader Jason Nixon.

Spruce Grove-Stony Plain MLA Searle Turton is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Energy. A former Spruce Grove City Councillor, Turton was widely rumoured to have been a potential pick for Minister of Municipal Affairs following Tracy Allard’s demotion in Jan. 2021. Turton also serves as the private sector union liaison for the Ministry of Labour and Immigration.

Categories
Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 81: Taking ideas and turning them into action. An interview with City Councillor Michael Janz.

Edmonton City Councillor Michael Janz joins the Daveberta Podcast to talk about the recent municipal election, his experiences during his first month on City Council, what he hopes to accomplish in the years ahead, and how ordinary Edmontonians can have an impact on decisions at City Hall. We also dive into provincial politics and what might lie ahead in the future for Premier Jason Kenney and Alberta’s 2023 election.

The Daveberta Podcast is hosted by Dave Cournoyer and 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 reading/listening

Categories
Alberta Politics

A look at this weekend’s UCP AGM as the formerly One-Big-Happy-Conservative-Family gathers for its first in-person convention since 2019

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s good news week ahead of this weekend’s United Conservative Party annual general meeting was largely overshadowed by a slow motion rebellion in his party.

While the Premier wanted to talk about childcare and the economy, a disgruntled group of UCP constituency presidents announced Monday morning that they had convinced 22 constituency associations to pass identical motions calling for a review of Kenney’s leadership to be moved before March 1, 2022.

The leadership review had been pushed to April 2022 from fall 2022 after Kenney averted a caucus revolt over the summer.

a map of the United Conservative Party constituency associations that have passed motions calling for a review of Jason Kenney’s leadership before March 1, 2022.
a map of the United Conservative Party constituency associations that have passed motions calling for a review of Jason Kenney’s leadership before March 1, 2022.

According to recent polling, Kenney is the least popular Premier in Canada, sitting at 22 per cent approval among Albertans, and his party has floundered in the polls and fundraising for the past year.

Rachel Notley would be Premier once again if an election were held today, which will surely be a future on the minds of many UCP activists this weekend.

Kenney’s fumbling response to the COVID-19 pandemic is part of the problem, but so to is his cabinet’s decision to wage a multi-front war against everyone from Alberta’s parks, nurses and teachers while trying to open the Rocky Mountains up to open-pit coal mining.

A party that famously promised “Jobs, Economy and Pipelines” in the 2019 election has delivered everything but.

When the business of the meeting begins, special resolutions will only be able to be brought to the floor of the AGM by Kenney and one resolution being introduced by the Kenney-friendly UCP association in Edmonton-North West would increase the number of constituency associations needed to trigger an early leadership review from 1/4 of 87 to 1/3 of 87.

A list of of the 22 constituency associations who passed the motion calling for an early review shows that this is largely a rural revolt against Kenney’s leadership, likely from the unruly rural Wildrose-side of the party, which has never been satisfied to subjugate itself to to the kind of centralized leadership that the Premier would have been comfortable with in Ottawa.

The first signatory of the letter from the 22 was a name that would be quite familiar to Kenney – Jack Redekop – the current president of the Calgary-Fish Creek UCP and former president of Kenney’s won former federal electoral district association in Calgary-Midnapore.

One of the common criticisms of Kenney is that he has become detached from the party’s organization and local leadership since his election as Premier in 2019. Wildrosers who don’t like a centralized party leadership are unhappy, as are former Progressive Conservatives, who might be accustomed to more attention and access to their leadership.

The two groups have also discovered that all the things they disliked about each others politics when they were two parties are still there, except now they are in the same party.

The revolt hasn’t been limited to the party membership.

Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer, UCP MLA Chestermere-Strathmore
Jason Kenney and former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer in happier time (source: YouTube)

Four MLAs – Chestemere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer, Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie, Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt, and Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried – have either publicly called for Kenney to resign or have openly criticized his leadership. And while most of their colleagues have avoided making public comments about Kenney’s leadership, the unhappiness among UCP MLAs and their staff is palpable.

There has been a steady stream of high-profile political staffers leaving their positions in the UCP government for jobs in the private sector. This past month saw the departure of press secretary Blaise Boehmer, who levelled some pretty heavy criticisms against Kenney, and UCP Caucus executive director Brittany Baltimore, who both recently took jobs with government relations companies.

Guthrie levelled allegations to the UCP Caucus this week that Political Action Committees supporting Kenney were paying the delegate fees of supporters in order to stack the votes in favour of the Premier during the AGM.

Peter Guthrie MLA Airdrie-Cochrane UCP Communism
Peter Guthrie

Postmedia columnist Don Braid wrote in his most recent column that a private company was organizing to send delegates in order to curry favour with UCP cabinet ministers if Kenney survives his leadership challenges.

Independent MLA Todd Loewen , who was kicked out of the UCP Caucus earlier this year for calling on Kenney to resign, and Edmonton-South NDP MLA Thomas Dang wrote letters to the Chief Elections Officer asking his office to investigate the allegations.

Albertans, and UCP members, are angry at Kenney, but aside from former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean who is running for the UCP nomination in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election, there is no obvious heir apparent inside the UCP for his opponents to rally around.

Cynthia Moore has been acclaimed as President and Sonia Kont acclaimed as Vice President of Fundraising, but there are races for the Secretary and Vice President of Communications positions.

Central Peace-Notley UCP President Samantha Steinke, who has publicly called for an early leadership review, is challenging incumbent Ruven Rajoo for VP Communications. Red Deer-South constituency President Janis Nett and Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo President Vicki Kozmak-LeFrense are running for the Secretary position, which was made vacant when former Secretary Cathy Smith resigned earlier this year.

A number of candidates are contesting regional director positions, including Sundre-resident Heidi Overguard, who was appointed by the UCP government to the Board of Directors of Alberta Health Services in Nov. 2019.

Meanwhile, UCP members will be lining up at the microphone to debate policies about cancel culture, private health care, private schools, and hydrogen, among other issues. The CBC reported that Kenney’s office instructed staffers to vote down policies “introducing a provincial sales tax, relocalizing 911 dispatch, a moratorium on new coal exploration and development on the eastern slopes of the Rockies and creating a revenue-neutral Alberta carbon tax to replace the federal backstop.”

This weekend’s convention will be a much different affair from the party’s last in-person annual general meeting after it’s big win in the 2019 election.

Kenney will surely be focused on rallying the party to give him one more chance ahead of next spring’s review, but don’t expect to hear many of the celebratory rallying cries we heard two years ago. The party no longer feels like it is united and it is certainly not the one big conservative happy family that Kenney helped establish in 2017.

The UCP AGM starts at the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino in Calgary on Friday, Nov. 19 and will wrap up on Sunday, Nov. 21.