Alberta Politics

josipa petrunic – the liberal party’s next great hope in edmonton-gold bar?

If there was a Liberal Party heartland in Alberta, it would be located in the boundaries of Edmonton-Gold Bar. The east central Edmonton constituency is the longest Liberal held constituency in the province, having elected Liberal MLAs since the 1986 election.

Represented by popular Alderman Bettie Hewes from 1986 until 1997, Gold Bar’s current MLA Hugh MacDonald was first elected in 1997. Some call him salt of the earth, others may call him obsessed, but over his 14 years in office Mr. MacDonald has undoubtably been one of the hardest working MLAs in the opposition benches. Last month, Mr. MacDonald announced that he would be retiring from politics when the next election is called.

The big question is who will succeed Mr. MacDonald. While the chatting class has quietly chitted and chatted about big name long-shot candidates like Councillor Ben Henderson or former AUPE President Dan MacLennan, the chatterers had kept their voices low until an odd choice and potential star candidate recently declared her intentions to join the contest.

Josipa Petrunic

Currently residing in Cambridge, UK to complete a research fellowship, Josipa Petrunic is planning to seek the Liberal Party nomination in Gold Bar.

Incredibly articulate and well-spoken, Ms. Petrunic chaired the recent Liberal Party leadership contest that saw former PC MLA Raj Sherman defeat Mr. MacDonald. As moderator at the leadership candidate forums Ms. Petrunic was many times the most impressive person on the stage.

She may be new to electoral politics in Edmonton, but Ms. Petrunic is no pushover. A Liberal candidate in Calgary-East in last May’s federal election, Ms. Petrunic’s candidacy grabbed headlines after incumbent Member of Parliament Deepak Obhrai accused her of being “a visitor from Toronto.”

This rallying cry may become familiar to voters in Gold Bar if Ms. Petrunic wins her party’s nomination. The truth is that while she lived abroad, Calgary was her family’s home.

When contacted by email, Ms. Petrunic was quick to certify her connection to Edmonton, calling Gold Bar a community that she considers a home and an area that she will be moving to in December 2011.

She is planning to move to Edmonton to take up a fellowship at the University of Alberta that is in the process of being approved. At the University, she would conduct research that focuses on a comparative history of engineering techniques in bitumen extraction.

“Moving back to Edmonton is a homecoming for me,” Ms. Petrunic wrote. “In 2000, I moved to Gold Bar specifically, as I was a university student in the French immersion program at the Faculté Saint-Jean.”

“I then moved to the north side of the riding a year later, when I got a job as a journalist at the Edmonton Journal. That journalism job was crucial to my career because the Journal gave me the by-lines I needed to move on to the Globe and Mail a year later, where I won a national journalism award,” wrote Ms. Petrunic.

Reflecting on the upcoming contest in Gold Bar, NDP organizer Lou Arab said “MacDonald’s departure, along with the low poll numbers the Alberta Liberals are experiencing at the moment, creates a great opportunity for the NDP to take this seat. But it won’t be easy.”

Mr. Arab managed the campaign of the area’s Public School Trustee Sarah Hoffman in October 2010.

In the recent federal election, NDP MP Linda Duncan received 45% of the votes in the area compared to 50% for Conservative candidate Ryan Hastman. The fresh contacts, new donors, and sign locations gathered during the federal vote could help boost the campaign of already nominated NDP candidate Marlin Schmidt.

“The combination of Linda’s decisive win in the federal election, the Liberals’ flagging fortunes, and Hugh MacDonald stepping down have created an excellent opportunity for the NDP in this riding,” said Mr. Schmidt.

Other parties are also keeping their eye on Gold Bar.

“Judging by history I feel that Gold Bar voters, some of the most active in the province, will choose their next MLA based more on personal qualities than party affiliation,” said Leslie Bush, a member of the local Alberta Party constituency association.

The Progressive Conservatives have scheduled their local nomination meeting for Wednesday, January 25, 2012. Past candidate David Dorward has said he will take the next two weeks to decide whether he will seek the nomination. Mr. Dorward placed second to Mayor Stephen Mandel in the 2010 municipal election.

When asked about her chances in the campaign, Ms. Petrunic wrote “if the nomination goes my way, there’s a campaign storm on the horizon. And I plan to be at its epi-centre.”

Past Election Results in Edmonton-Gold Bar

Hugh MacDonald, L – 6,279
David Dorward, PC – 5,261
Sherry McKibben, NDP – 1,923
David Zylstra, Grn – 525

Hugh MacDonald, L – 8,798
Manjit Dhaliwal, PC – 2,572
Keith Turnbull, NDP – 1,967
Delmar Hunt, AA – 538
Dave Dowling, Ind – 167

38 replies on “josipa petrunic – the liberal party’s next great hope in edmonton-gold bar?”

I don’t see her winning the nomination. She has no history or support there, aside from a short stint as a student and the local paper as a stepping stone. All her support is in Toronto: just look at her filings with elections Canada, as most of her donations are from there.

The same is likely with her supporters.

Anyone who runs against her who is worth their salt will demolish Ms. Petrunic. Eloquent or not, without roots or support she’ll just blow away at the first gust of wind.

Jim Arthurson

Knowing Raj as I do, I find it mind-boggling that an apparently highly intelligent woman would want to run with him as the leader of the party. I guess she’s setting herself up to take over when he inevitably flames out (likely in the middle of the debate during the next general election).

The best way to lose the safest Liberal seat in the province is to put in a carpet bagger who imagines they are gods gift.
Her partner lives in Toronto, her friends live in Toronto, yeah lets get a profesor from Toronto to run for us cause the only thing Edmontonians would love more would be a carpet bagger from Calgary.

Josipa is an articulate and intelligent individual and an excellent candidate for Goldbar. As for the detractors, they are just jealous, sour grapes and can’t handle that an intelligent, articulate female has got more brains and cajonas than them. She will build plenty of roots and support. There is good Liberal pedigree in that riding and MacDonald supporters will.

@Bob, BTW, Sherman has more brains, bawls, and courage than most politicians and trough drinkers in this province. Most people with a sense of right and wrong, a sense of vision to bring true change, any body like that would be proud to serve along side the New ALP leader.

The Liberal Red Wave is starting to build in this province and guaranteed, there will be some surprises next election. The Liberals are poised to grow significantly, as are the Wildrose. One of the two, may even come up the centre. It will definintely be very interesting.

Many thanks for the comments so far.

Jim/Happeningfish – I’d appreciate knowing how you’ve constructed your facts, since I ran in Calgary East federally, not in Toronto. Nor am I professor in Toronto (never have been. A postdoc, yes; a professor, no. I wish I had been a professor – it would have paid a lot better!). Nor are the bulk of my federal donations from Toronto (take a look at the official returns). Nor do I live currently in Toronto.

In point of fact, I spent 6 years in Scotland completing a second Master’s degree and a PhD. So I suppose I’m Scottish. Then again, I studied and worked in France. So I suppose I’m French. Then again, I worked in London, so I suppose I’m English. Then again, then again, then again… the list goes on. Terrible. I know. I have global experience.

Constructing mythologies is fine if you’re aiming to amuse yourself. Constructing mythologies to defame or libel someone is just poor form.
And geographical tribalism is superficial at best.

I invite you both to the nomination meeting in Gold Bar so that you can meet me in person. Your comments sound angry, as if you’re angry at some unidentified threat. Perhaps I can allay your fears by helping you understand the reality I live in rather than the irreality you’ve taken it upon yourselves to construct.

And happeningfish – many thanks for the honorific “carpet bagger”. In fact, I am grateful that I’ve been able to live and work in so many places around the world, including Britain, France, South Africa and Egypt. A healthy Alberta is a global one. Welcome to my world.

At the end of the day, geographic tribalism produces a narrow-minded world. I’m a Liberal because I’m not narrow-minded.

I encourage you both to avoid the close-mindedness expressed in your comments above, because an Alberta for the 21st century needs broad-minded representatives.

– Looking forward to a real meeting, rather than a constructed one,
Cheers, Josipa

@Stephen – since you seem illiterate in two languages, the correct spellings are cojones and balls, respectively. Or, since we are referring to the super duper Dr. Raj, maybe you were correct in using bawls.

@Josipa Petrunic – did you really mean to imply that anybody who isn’t a Liberal is narrow-minded? If so, you’ll fit right in. Superciliousness is part of the job description for the ever-decreasing numbers of Liberal MPs and MLAs in this country. It’s not that your policies don’t speak to Canadians, it’s that Canadians are stupid.

Good for you that you have your own world.
Unfortunatly most Alberta voters (as we saw in Calgary East) do not live anywhere near your world.
Many good things are true of you, you speak well, you are educated you are commited…but you are not anyone that can be elected as a Liberal in Alberta, Maybe Michael Ignatieff should be running for us in Riverview, it would make the same kind of sense.
I think you meet the very definition of the word carpet bagger.
Question…Where do you file your taxes?

Does no one here understand the concept of a month being an eternity in politics? Unless there’s an election next week, a lot of this is simply irrelevant. Josipa has several months to demonstrate her commitment to the party and the constituency. Let people make the local versus parachute argument at the time of the election call. Right now, it’s all to early to tell. Let’s see what she has to say and what she brings to the table before we laud or dismiss.

Clearly, the announcement of Dr. Petrunic’s return to Edmonton following so soon after the announcement that the downtown arena will be built is evidence that Edmonton is finally a world-class city. Congrats, Edmonton! We’ve made it.

Going door to door for Linda Duncan in Gold Bar in the last two elections, I came across a fair number of people who chose to identify themselves as “solid Liberals” who were supporting Linda in 2008 because she was the only candidate with a chance of defeating Rahim Jaffer and in 2011 because she had done a good job of representing them. Unless the Liberals collapse under Sherman’s leadership–unlikely but not impossible–or the NDP has a star candidate in Gold Bar, this seat will be a race between the Liberals and the Tories.

Bob Morgan, a Calgarian who did doorknocking on Elizabeth May’s campaign, Linda Duncan’s campaign, and Josipa Petrunic’s campaign in the federal election saw Josipa as being a candidate of the calibre of the other two. Everyone who attended a Liberal leadership forum from whom I’ve heard, including people who don’t support the Liberal party, had the same reaction as Dave regarding how impressive a political personality she is.

I’ve met Ms. Petrunic and I think she is a well spoken young person who might have a good chance in a traditionally Liberal riding, if such a thing can be said to exist in Alberta. But I don’t think that she is quite the political goddess you describe her as being. We’ll just have to see what the voters make of her. All that said, I thought the fashion-model photos were darned weird and did her a disservice by making her look like someone from a royalty-free art disk. Regardless, when I got to the last one and saw PLATO prominently displayed on the spine of a book she’d supposedly been reading, well, that was it for me! Philosopher kings? Nuts to that! Smacks of Trudeau! Next think we’ll find out is she’s been reading Leo Straus and Friedrick Hayek. Platonists and MBAs, I swear I’m never voting for either. Especially when there’s a guy named Marvin in the running. I mean, really, what could be more Albertan than that? He ought to get the Social Credit vote for shure!

The caustic, judgmental tone of a couple of commentators above serves to illustrate the divisive, vulturish, petty partisan politics of the centre-left in this province. No wonder the Tories keep winning. Divide and conquer it is…

The reality is that if the Liberals had much of a chance in this riding, Hugh MacDonald probably wouldn’t have packed it in. He’s been running around telling everyone the Liberals are finished.

And if the Liberals were actually strong, they would have a candidate come forward with some roots in the community. As talented as this candidate is – it’s something of a joke to run for a riding you don’t even yet live in.

Its shocking to see some of you jerks convulse with fear and hatred at the Liberals. The ALP is the most non threatening entity, NOT associated with even ONE scandal in Alberta. Sorry but the Trudeau excuse is wearing thin, he is long gone and the ALP is a new party. As for McDonald going around telling people the ALP is finished, he probably means, HE is finished, since he never grew the party or made it relevant, he sure made sure that HE was relevant to a few. As for the Josipa Petrunic detractors, its very common for people who don’t live in a riding to run in it, it just means they have to work harder to build support. Not everybody in a riding wants to run for politics, sometimes it requires an outsider.

Josipa, tear apart your detractors one by one. NOt one of them have the balls to say anything to your face. They are threatened by you, because you are capable and will show up a lot of establishment losers who have achieved nothing. Smart young intelligent Liberals with vision are the future of this party and this province and Petrunic along with others. The negative detractors should grab a bag of pork rinds and watch the hockey game. The Liberals are poised to become a political wrecking machine under the new ALP leader. Left of centre imbeciles need to grow up, if they ever want to get serious about change and challenging the Tories. Get your act together stop being so negative and build the alliances to strengthen the centrist vote. Most of the Liberals are in the Tory party, they just have political amnesia and will one day soon wake up and realize they have been voting for the wrong party. Wildrosers know that is true, now its time for some of you old timers Libs to understand that too.

Josipa, don’t waste your energy and time explaining yourself to imbeciles. The useless, negative, twits never amounted to much in the first place, politically or otherwise. There is a bright road ahead for the liberals. Let the backseaters, and pablum pukers and detractors create self amusement, concoted in their own minds. There is no necessity to explain yourself to stagnant, static, negative twits.

Only 2 months after leadership and Hugh announces he will not run again!
Seems he was in the race only for himself.

Perhaps he should step down now and stop stabbing his own team in the back. Personalities aside.

It is frustrating seeing the work that I and others do for the party destroyed when some kick sand around.

Not one scandal?

To name a few scandals the Alberta Liberals were involved in such as the Alberta and Great Waterways Railway scandal, the AGT Scandal, the 1921 redistribution scandal, imprisoning opposition campaign workers in the 1913 election. withholding buisness licenses for party donations. Raiding the treasury when the government was defeated. Than there was the various gerrymandering and vote rigging.

Early Alberta news papers were chalk full of all sorts of Alberta Liberal Party scandals.

You really need to grab a life, pulling something from almost 100 yrs ago as a scandal is purely irrelevant today. None of us, nor our parents were born then.

Tom wrote:
“Only 2 months after leadership and Hugh announces he will not run again!
Seems he was in the race only for himself.”

Only 2 months before even taking a position at the U of A, Josipa is already looking for another job! Seems she is only in the race for herself.

I wonder how the U of A feels about this.

Wow, vitriolic comments attempting to pass as political commentary. I will now be following Edmonton Gold Bar closely on election day.

To Ms. Petrunic: I would love to hear why you want to run in Gold Bar specifically. I agree that your international travel, work and living experiences are unique qualifications and no doubt will be extremely helpful in bringing a global viewpoint to local circumstances, but I’m not as sure that they make you uniquely qualified.

I wish you were running in Calgary Varsity so we could get a closer look at you.

Gold Bar will fall to the Conservatives. It’s been a long time coming, and without Hugh’s local connections/team, it’s done for.

As a voter now in Gold Bar after Bonnie Doon got moved from Strathcona, I’m happy to see that there’s someone interesting running for the Liberals in my riding(presuming she gets nominated). I’ve already had the NDP candidate, Marlin Schmidt, knock on my door, and am looking forward to the PCs, Wildrose and maybe even the Alberta Party nominate good candidates. Despite the alternating frenzy and moroseness of the commenters, I’m genuinely looking forward to a bunch of energetic candidates from all the parties competing for this seat. It’ll be good for democracy and great for a debate.

You might want to double-check the results for Edmonton-Strathcona in the last federal election. Duncan received 54 per cent of the vote,compared to 41 per cent for Hastman.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Josipa on 3 or 4 occasions. After 20 years of working on both Provincial and Federal Campaigns – one thing about Josipa – she has all the leadership qualities of a great candidate; including motivation, appreciation for her supporters and a great personal character and personality. Youth, seniors and Alberta’s new demographic will be drawn to her. Her campaign would be a BLAST to work on, and for the Liberals (and others in Edmonton Goldbar who come out to help) it will result in a WIN – and I suspect a lot of good times along the way. Politics is, after all, the art of communication but more than that it requires the motivation of making a difference. Get involved – you will be glad that you did.

Wow, copposing parties are running scared–demeaning comments are soo disgusting.

Time for women to have a fairer proportion of decision making in this province and a woman candidate that understands bitumen research, global experienced, bilinqual, intelligent and friendly can be my MLA any day heck I want her as my Premier.

Gold Bar–she is a STAR candidate and she won’t be stomped on! Vote her in!

It is a sign of unthinking and poor character to use ad hominem attacks against anyone. It isn’t an argument, rather, it shows the inability to come up with one.

That said, I would suggest that equating the passion, love and interest in one’s home, community, and province with “geographical tribalism” isn’t consistent with either thought nor reality. It is impossible to live in a completely abstract, universalized state.

I agree that in the modern context of a globalized world it is important to think beyond our particularities towards the larger picture, but that requires addressing and learning to appreciate our own particular people, culture, attributes, and the history behind them rather than ignoring them for an abstract universal where, at this point, threatens to have us become citizens of nowhere.

It doesn’t mean that one is narrow-minded to do this, but rather, it is because one is able to look at the unique character of their place in the world that one indeed becomes more worldly. Change begins at home, but that requires we have a home — one that we can love and feel a passion for. This is a provincial election, not a global one.

Finally, living in other places is neither the sufficient, nor the necessary condition of open, far-reaching, and thoughtful thought and action. Nor is it a requisite to being a proper representative in this lovely place that we call home: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

[…] With Mr. MacDonald announcing that he will not seek re-election, many political watchers are expecting that this constituency could be a tight contest in the next election expected in Spring 2012. Liberals Josipa Petrunic and Christian Villeneuve will face off at their party’s nomination meeting on December 5. Read more about Ms. Petrunic here. […]

Hugh MacDonald has been an MLA of the highest calibre. He has been a relentless pursuer of Tory wrongdoing and an excellent constituency representative. Nevertheless, I understand his desire to move on.
I don’t know Josipa Petrunic and I don’t know whether I would support her. But, in my opinion, it is a definite plus that she brings a wealth of international experience and obvious intelligence. In Alberta politics, those qualities are at a premium and are badly needed to help us overcome our insular, me-first outlook where leadership too often has meant finding a parade and trying to put yourself in front of it.

Glen Argan,

I agree with some of what you say. However, to equate what Jim had to say (and what is implied in happeningfish’s assertions) with geographical tribalism does not, in any way, demonstrate the education and intelligence that I have no doubt Ms. Petrunic possesses. It is, if anything, an affront to those that understand what the words she uses mean. And again, I think that any ad hominem attacks — directed at Ms. Petrunic or otherwise — ought to be ignored as they only speak to the absence of argument.

But, to ask a representative about their commitment to a particular riding is not an ad hominem attack, it is a legitimate question in the context of a constitutional democracy. If the terms of debate are to be changed, it is up to (or ought to be up to) the members of the constituency to demand this of government, and for their elected representative to bring them forward, or support them in doing so (which is, I will add, a good reason to get out people to vote for the opposition — to hold the government accountable to all of its constituents).

That said, and fortunately, it appears that Edmonton Gold-bar has not one, but two educated and apparently committed contenders if you include the addition of Mr. Villeneuve. This should make for an exciting nomination race, and hopefully, an exciting and engaged provincial election. It speaks poorly on the whole election process when any race, nomination or otherwise, is essentially decided in advance. I wish both the best of luck.

parenthetical commas, when used repeatedly with intellectual flair, come off as a grating and obnoxious – however legitimate their usage may be.

The one big factor that no one has mentioned is the effect the re-drawing of the riding boundaries will have on the vote. All of the strong Liberal polls north of the river are gone, and replaced by higher socieconomic areas in Avonmore and King Edward Park. Rightly or wrongly, these changes hurt the Libs and NDP here, no matter who they nominate.

Graduate student much?: I take it that you are, or have been a graduate student to assert such a thing which only serves to demonstrate the reality that understanding a particular community and culture, and all that comes with it, begins at home. How ironic. And what you say may be true but in response, so does lack of capitalization come off as grating and obnoxious, especially when there is no legitimate excuse or reason for it. We are not all e.e.cummings.

I agree with turtle concerning the redrawing of boundaries. Both of the Liberal candidates will have to think carefully about who they are representing and engage all of the constituents in a very focused and honest way. Though MacDonald’s participation is truly missed it appears that both candidates are capable and up to the task. May the best candidate win.

So, she’s nominated, and all references to Toronto and to her partner have been removed from her Facebook page and from I’m guessing happeningfish was onto something. This partner never seemed to be seen with her in Calgary either. Can’t find further discussion so posted here.

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