Alberta Politics

federal opposition parties putting pressure on the tories in edmonton.

Opposition parties hope to turn the death of Edmonton’s Expo 2017 bid into a major campaign issue.

The Christian Heritage Party of Canada election campaign sign near Morinville, Alberta in the Westlock-St. Paul riding.

Federal opposition parties are preparing for the next federal election and nominating candidates in Alberta ridings where they think breakthroughs are possible.

The federal Liberals ended 2010 with a meeting in Edmonton-East selecting Shafik Ruda as their candidate of choice against five-term Member of Parliament Peter Goldring and former NDP MLA Ray Martin. Liberals in Calgary-East are expected to nominate Josipa Petrunic on January 18 to challenge Tory MP Deepak Obhrai. In late 2010, the Conservatives acclaimed party insider Michelle Rempel as their candidate in Calgary-Centre North, recently vacated by former Environment Minister Jim Prentice.

The federal Liberals slate in Alberta is expected to be bolstered when a high-profile candidate announces their intentions to stand against Labour Minister Rona Ambrose in Edmonton-Spruce Grove. Alberta political watchers have been abuzz with rumours that Ruth Kelly, publisher of Alberta Venture magazine and former President of Edmonton’s Chamber of Commerce, will carry the Liberal Party banner against Minister Ambrose. The rumours began after Ms. Kelly’s became an outspoken critics of the Government of Canada’s denial of funding for Edmonton’s bid for the 2017 Expo (and the large pile of federal infrastructure funding that was expected to come with a successful bid).

While I have remained largely indifferent to the 2017 Expo bid, it is easy to understand the frustration of the people who committed their time and energy towards the bid only to have political powers in Ottawa deny the funds needed to make it a reality. Minister Ambrose will be difficult to defeat, but I am glad that the Conservatives might actually have to pay some attention to and focus some of their campaign resources on a riding that they would likely take for granted.

A shift in financial and volunteer resources could also make a difference in the expected competitive races in Edmonton-Strathcona between NDP MP Linda Duncan and Tory candidate Ryan Hastman, and in Edmonton-Centre where Liberal Mary MacDonald and New Democrat Lewis Cardinal are challenging Tory MP Laurie Hawn.

A mail flyer sent out by Edmonton-Centre Conservative MP Laurie Hawn in Fall 2010.

Does Edmonton have a champion in Ottawa?

It is really hard to tell sometimes. Our Members of Parliament can be often seen at events around our city (some more than others), but none of them have distinguished themselves as Edmonton’s strong voice in the national capital.

Edmonton has its share of competent representatives in our local batch of current MPs, like Mike Lake, James Rajotte, Tim Uppal, and Mr. Hawn, but none of them have succeeded in carrying the kind of political clout that has defined Edmonton’s previous prominent champions in Ottawa.

In the recent past, our city has sent prominent voices like Jim EdwardsDeb Grey and Anne McLellan to the House of Commons and as one local columnist has suggested, we have not had a champion since. Edmonton’s lone opposition MP, Ms. Duncan, was elected with high expectations in October 2008, but has been somewhat of a ghost in our city ever since.

Are federal party leaders paying attention of Edmonton? Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, NDP leader Jack Layton, and Green Party leader Elizabeth May have visited Edmonton a number of times in the past year. Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Edmonton this year for the first time since 2008.

24 replies on “federal opposition parties putting pressure on the tories in edmonton.”

Ruth Kelly and the Expo crowd are in for a very rude awakening when (if) she hits the doors in Edmonton-Spruce Grove and realizes that not many folks outside her social circle actually care about Expo and, more importantly, that she and her party is totally out of touch with the Parkland County portion of the riding.

She, like Mary McWhatsit in Edmonton Centre, will be lucky to get her deposit back.

I agree with Blake Robert. Edmontonians that are actually interested in having Albertan MPs other than Conservatives need to look to the winnable options, which are clearly Linda Duncan and Ray Martin. I’m far from the world’s biggest Linda Duncan fan, but even I think your comment that she has been “a ghost” is a gross mischaracterization. Sure she isn’t out at many ribbon cutting ceremonies, but that’s because the Conservatives go out of their way to ensure that only their own MPs are booked to attend such things. The federal Liberal party is dead in this province. I know you like to think the last election was Dion’s fault, Dave, but if you talk to ordinary folks, there is far less interest in Team Iggy than there was for Dion. At least Dion stood for something and pulled those enviro votes from some otherwise Green and NDP voters. Iggy appeals to who exactly?

Thanks for the comments Blake and Neal. I also I have a difficult time believing that the death of Edmonton’s 2017 Expo bid will be a catalyst for a major change in Edmonton’s representation in the House of Commons.

Neal: Fair comment about the federal Liberals not exciting many people in our city, though I am not expecting any kind of NDP breakthrough in Edmonton in the next election.

Ruth Kelly as a “high-profile candidate” made me chuckle. And if any MP in Edmonton loses a seat over Expo 2017, I’ll eat my shorts. We should call ourselves lucky and move on. Hanover 2000 lost $1.6 Billion dollars. My guess is our “local columnist” will never mention that.

I’ve heard that rumour too. Ruth Kelly would be a great candidate but running for the Liberals in Alberta is a death wish. Even Bronconnier lost as a Liberal.

My guess is that she and her group of Expo lovers will sit back and raise a ton of $$$$$ for Liberal candidates without actually electing any of them.

I also think Linda Duncan is in far more trouble than some would believe.

She won in an election where she already had some name recognition having run in ’06, where Stephane Dion absolutely destroyed the Liberal vote in the riding, where the incumbent MP hadn’t done much in the way of campaigning during or leading up to the election, and where 2400 Tory votes stayed home. With all of these favourable factors coming together, she was still only able to squeeze out a 400-or-so vote win.

Fast forward to the next election where you’ll have a new Liberal leader who, although no rockstar, should be able to do better than Dion, a Tory voter base who saw what staying home last time got them, and a Tory candidate who has knocked on some 16,000 doors since he was nominated last year.

Methinks the result in Edmonton-Strathcona will be much different than the anomaly of 2008.

Interesting article Dave. I’ve been thinking about Ruth’s possible candidacy for awhile (where she will run, what her campaign will look like, what type of impact it will have, if any). I suppose I could just ask her, but it is way more fun to randomly speculate. 😉

Very generally, I find this intriguing in a number of ways. First, if she does run, it adds to a growing list of public grievances I’ve heard against the federal conservatives from non-traditional sources. I say public, because it is more common for complaints against any ruling party to be made in private. So why are people such as the mayor, more right leaning columnists and business people being so vocal? Is it just Expo? Like you, I don’t really think the loss of the Expo bid was felt strongly by the general populace. People were starting to get interested, but it had not really caught on. It feels like more general frustration and concern that Edmonton is being taken for granted. I say Edmonton, because I’ve not witnessed similar concerns in Calgary (as a side note, it makes me wonder if Edmonton will see more cabinet representation into today’s mini shuffle).

Second, if Ruth runs, she will undoubtedly mount a serious campaign – meaning lots of money, volunteers and media. She is well connected and has an exceptional understanding of how to use the media to her advantage. What this means, is that whoever she runs against will have to be “present” in their riding. In the past, conservative candidates could spend a fair portion of their campaign outside of the riding assisting candidates in other provinces. It will make things more interesting because I fully expect Ruth to go all out. Given her profile, I also expect that she will have a certain amount of freedom from the national campaign. Kind of like when Anne would do her own thing too.

Finally, does this mean she has a chance? Right at this moment, I’d lean to no, but I have no idea when the election will be called or why. And campaigns matter. Even in Alberta. Alberta also seems to be experiencing some sort of desire for change or at least an openness to something different (Mayor Nenshi’s win, the Wildrose poll numbers and growing intrigue about the Alberta Party). Of course, I don’t necessarily think different means people are going to rush out in droves and vote for the federal liberals, but I do think that conservative voters may STAY HOME. And if they stay home in large numbers, anything can happen.

Again, good article and look forward to lunch one day soon – nic.

Nicole, you should be on Twitter. Discussion of Edmonton’s role in the next federal election occurs under the hashtag of #yegfed. This same topic (Ruth as candidadte) was debated on there last night and Ruth herself appeared and declared that she will not be running for any party, anywhere, in the forthcoming federal election. Twitter’s awesome for real time info like that.

Blake, some counterpoints to your doom and gloom predictions for Edmonton – Strathcona could include the obvious power of incumbancy. Go down to the Whyte Ave district and ask random strangers who Linda Duncan is and who Ryan Hastman is, and you’ll quickly realize that the Tory candidate still has a lot of work to do in the name recognition department. Also, Ryan isn’t the right “kind” of Conservative to do well in that riding, to my mind. He’s too close to a Prime Minister few in that area like, and he’s a bit too “Stepford”. Say what you will about Jaffer, at least he had the energetic, urbane, multicultural thing going on, which I think hold’s more appeal to Strathcona’s residents than does the further right wing style of a Ryan Hastman. Obviously we won’t know till we know, but I think Linda Duncan can and will win again. She also has the benefit of drawing resources from virtually anyone in Alberta interested in having at least 1 MP not be a Conservative party member. And there’s a lot of us kind of folks out there.

Dave may not think that the NDP is poised for a break though in Edmonton, but I’m pretty excited about the fact the NDP is already gearing up for three very competitive races (Strathcona, Centre, and East). In my time in Alberta, I’ve never seen the federal NDP as well organized.

I don’t know if we will win one, none, or all three. But I believe those ridings offer the best hope in Alberta of electing non-conservatives in the next election.

BTW, it isn’t just Expo – the Tories have been ignoring Edmonton in many ways. Remember the snub of Folk Fest and the Fringe in favour of festivals back east?

You want invisible? Look no further than Peter Goldring – the only issue he’s spoken up on was to trash Louis Reil. Hardly a pressing issue on the streets of North East Edmonton.

Dave, or others? What exactly would a “local champion” from Edmonton do in Ottawa? Can someone in opposition be a “champion” especially when they mostly focus on hammering the government? Are we just talking delivering pork back home or is there anything else? Isn’t one of the points of our political system that those elected must think about how to best spend the nations resources and not have every MP try to bring home the bacon to their region?
(I’m fully aware that this is in theory and not in practice. I look forward to attending a Nords game in the new Oil Sands Arena sometime soon.)

In addition to the good points that Neal and Lou make regarding Linda Duncan being able to keep her seat, I also think it was a mistake for the Conservatives to nominate a green (in the rookie sense of the word) candidate like Ryan Hastman. He has no resume to run on that I am aware of other than having worked in the PMO. What would we in Edmonton-Strathcona gain from having someone with no clear expertise sitting on the Conservative backbenches in Ottawa?

Gee, I’m out of province for a couple days and I come back to discover that someone has plotted a new career path for me.
While I’m flattered that my name is being brunted about as a candidate, I want to make it very clear that I have no intention of running in the upcoming federal election in any riding. I own and actively operate a business and have no interest in selling my company at this time.
However, I do not subscribe to the mythology that all Conservative seats are ironclad in Alberta – and really wish that we would quit actively reinforcing that perception. Albertans are realizing that this is the most Toronto-centric prime minister that Canada has seen since Louis St. Laurent. Issues like the push to a single, Toronto-based securities regulator, the removal of the Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance for the oilsands, the federal restrictions on export markets for Alberta’s energy products, and yes, its shortsighted refusal to celebrate the economic power of the New West through Expo 2017, are creating significant discomfort in the business community. And that translates into an impact upon the fundraising activities of local MPs. As an example, Minister Ambrose sent out an email to her funders the week after the Expo announcement and received sharply pointed criticism back – and an equally sharp drop in financial support.
To Bjorn’s question on the value of a “local champion”, I would suggest the importance of having a diversity of voices is that it does not allow the government to treat its citizens as mindless sheep that will follow them off the cliff. It is not to ensure we can grab our own fatty bits from the pork barrel but rather to ensure that equity and fairness is not sacrificed to political expediency. In the words of Conservative MP, Dean del Mastro, the government should either be pure or be fair. In the example of Expo 2017, the government had already sacrificed purity when it decided to support the Pan-Am Games in Toronto; my expectation therefore was that it would have exercised fairness. I have obviously wrong.
So while I am not running, I am actively involved in ensuring Albertans understand the fullness of the choices they have in the next federal election and encouraging them to exercise their franchise thoughtfully.
On a personal note, I will point out, though, that my great grandparents homesteaded around Stony Plain; I grew up in Spruce Grove; and at any given time, my extended family probably accounts for 10% of the population in Parkland County. So I think I have significant insight into the perspectives held there and believe that Mr. Robert might find their views somewhat surprising.

I doubt anyone other than Dave is reading at this point, but further to my comments above that it is the NDP (and not the Liberals) who are challenging the Conservatives in Alberta, in the news today we learn that Jack Layton is planning another trip to Edmonton in January (after visiting in December) while Michael Ignatieff is skipping Alberta and Sask during his western tour at roughly the same time.

It’s pretty clear both parties have chosen their target areas.

Ruth: Thanks for the comment and for clearing up that rumour. I do think that you make a good point about Prime Minister Stephen Harper being Toronto-centric. I have never had the feeling that he was a particularly strong Alberta MP, rather an Ottawa politician. I think his focus on winning votes in Toronto show that his pure goal is to win a majority government, whatever the political cost. I would also agree that while we do have some good Conservative MPs in Edmonton, we would probably be more seriously paid attention to if we were more diverse in the representation we sent to Ottawa on Election Day.

Lou, Joel: Thanks for the comments. Maybe it is because I am focused more on the provincial-scene that I have missed something happening on the federal level. I have no doubt that the NDP are in a better position than the Liberals in Edmonton and Alberta as a whole, but I am not convinced that this will lead to a breakthrough in the next election. That said, solidifying their position as the second choice of Albertans to the Conservatives is an important step. Now the NDP need to build on the province-wide 12% support in the last election (NDP support grew in Edmonton, but the second places in other ridings across Alberta was largely due to the collapse of the Liberal vote from 22% in 2004 and 15% in 2006 to 11% in 2008). The NDP are in a good position to challenge the Tories in Edmonton-East and Strathcona, and build their support in Centre (as was stated in the comments), but I am not sensing a large breakthrough this time around – maybe I’ll be proven wrong. 😉

I’m just going to pop my head in here for a quick LOL at Ruth’s final two sentences addressed to one Mr. Robert.

I think Dave’s hit the nail on the head in that the NDP are on the brink of becoming Albertan’s second choice in federal politics. It appears to me as though the Liberal brand has become a poison pill across the province, which leaves room for growth. Unfortunately for the NDP, these new found votes could actually result in a reduction in seats.

I’ve spent a significant amount of time in Edmonton-Strathcona and many people feel as though they’ve been snookered by Ms. Duncan. She had a genuine opportunity to define what it means to be an opposition member, but she has spoiled that opportunity by being a one-issue MP who seems to have an intense hate for the livelihood of many residents in her riding. The environment is important to many residents, but it is by no means their only issue. Many are concerned about crime in their neighbourhoods, a slow economic recovery, and taxes eating away at their hard-earned incomes. These are issues that Ms. Duncan has spent little to no time addressing. In fact, I would argue she’s been counterproductive.

I don’t think its any secret that Ryan Hastman is young by political standards, but he has a successful small business and a political resume that is more extensive than many politicos twice his age. I’ve gotten to know Ryan over the past few years and can say that there are few people who have such a strong understanding of the issues in the riding. I think his “youth” only strengthens his chances in a riding that is looking for someone who will champion their issues rather than those of districts thousands of miles away.

As for Edmonton-Centre and Edmonton-East, I suspect the NDP to finish second in both. Strong candidates will build on past support, but it will be difficult to unseat the incumbents. This is particularly true in Edmonton-Centre, where its my view that most residents are happy with the tireless effort put in by Laurie Hawn. Even those who don’t agree with him on every issue tend to respect his dedication to the role and consider themselves to be well-represented.

So, Dave/Lou/Joel… I guess we will have to wait to see how the spring unfolds to see which prediction is more accurate.

Just a little correction to something the Journal story got wrong. PM Harper has visited Edmonton since the 2008 election; he was here April 2009.

A couple of things to respond to here.

I appreciate Neal’s points on Strathcona and certainly didnt want to give the impression that I think she’s dead in the water. But I think Neal exposes an NDP weakness when he talks about the average Strathcona voter walking down Whyte Ave. I dont think you’ll find the average Strathcona voter wandering down Whyte Ave, you’ll find them in Ottewell or Malmo or the like. Those are the kinds of neighbourhoods that got Rahim elected so many times and, unfortunately, the ones who stayed home in 2008. What they do in the next election is anyone’s guess, but I think suggesting that Garneau will be deciding what happens to Edmonton-Strathcona might be misguided.

As for the Ruth Kelly rumours for Edmonton-Spruce Grove, I appreciate her honesty and forthrightness in dispelling the rumour. The logic behind thinking Ruth was going to run, though, was sound. There was much buzz before Christmas that the Mayor and his group of boosters were going to run a high-profile candidate against Rona Ambrose to “make a point” about the decision not to fund Expo 2017. Given the outburst from this group when the decision was made, I took the suggestion seriously. Given that Ruth is very much a high-profile Edmontonian, and was also making a lot of noise of behalf of the Mayor and, subsequently, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, you can see how the notion of Ruth carrying the Liberal banner in the west-end riding was quite plausible.

The choice not to run is a sound one on her part, though, because I will gladly put money on the Liberal in Edmonton-Spruce Grove getting less than half the votes secured by Ms. Ambrose.

To get into the argument that Alberta isn’t doing well by the Conservative government is a bit laughable. More seats at cabinet, more investment (although not in the Expo pet project/party), and staunch defence of Alberta’s oilsands while the Ignatieff Liberals are voting against projects that will help diversify markets for our product (BC tanker traffic). I’ll take Stephen Harper and Edmonton’s Conservative MPs any day.

As an aside, I’m not sure how loosely one defines extended family these days, but I guess it’s an impressive claim to be related to 10% of a Parkland County. You would normally expect those kinds of figures in a place like PEI.

Anyway, a good discussion here as Dave is so often able to stimulate.

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