Alberta Politics

PC Party patronage machine grinds to a halt, future of appointees unknown

After 44 years as government, Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party built an impressive patronage machine. For many decades, there very likely has not been a board with provincially appointed members that did not enjoy the presence of a PC Party member. That political machine ground to a halt on May 5 when Albertans swept Rachel Notley‘s New Democratic Party into office.

As the NDP transition into office is the first real change of power since 1971, we can expect that many PC-connected appointees on numerous agencies, boards and commissions will exit or not have their terms renewed in the next few years. The same can be said for a slew of ideologically-based advocacy groups that have enjoyed generous funding from the PC Government in recent years.

While having a PC Party membership should not automatically preclude an individual from serving on a public board in the future, as many honest Albertans have held a membership in that party over its four decades in power, it will no longer be a golden ticket into the corridors of power in Alberta.

Here is a quick look at some prominent PC Party members, supporters and former MLAs and cabinet ministers who are currently serving in government appointed roles at colleges and universities:

Here are a number of other high-profile PC supporters who are serving in government appointed roles:

The last Social Credit Party education minister, Robert Clark, currently serves as chair of the Board of Governors of Olds College. Mr. Clark was elected as Social Credit MLA for Olds-Didsbury in 1960 at the age of 23 and served until 1981. He was Leader of the Official Opposition from 1973 to 1980.

14 replies on “PC Party patronage machine grinds to a halt, future of appointees unknown”

I would like to defend the appointment of Mr. Johnson to Alberta Sport Connection. For the 30 years prior to his becoming an MLA Mr. Johnson was a huge contributor to sport in Camrose Alberta and worked with Augustana University tirelessly for the Vikings Hockey organization as well as other sport organizations. His entire career should be looked at when thinking of this appointment, not just the few years he served as an MLA. I think it is rather unfair to paint his appointment as merely one of patronage, Leroy really is an excellent choice for this position no matter where his political allegiances lie.

It is not just appointees. The people they these appointees have hired are also part of the party machine. A quote from this story about Athabasca University’s illegal donations to the PCs is illustrative:

Carol Lund is head of the university’s secretariat. As such, she is responsible for administration of its policies and procedures, including its policies governing conflict of interest. Lund is also president of the Athabasca-Redwater Conservative riding association.

Documents show Lund personally approved spending for several Tory fundraisers, including for her own riding association. Emails show she also actively recruited university executives to attend these functions.

“For members of Executive that do not golf, you may want to attend the breakfast and or dinner, as there are a number of Ministers and MLAs who will be in attendance. A good opportunity to network,” Lund wrote in an Aug. 11, 2008 email sent under the title “Jeff Johnson Golf Tournie.”

Let’s not forget Mel Knight being appoint to the Alberta Surface Rights Board, and that is the exact time landowners stopped getting paid for oil and gas leases from companies that filed for bankruptcy .

Dave, you work for a closed shop big union. You’re one to talk about being “ideologically-based”…

Truly, the PC party has become the Albertan equivalent of the old Tammany Hall Democratic machine of the late 1800s.
Trust me, the appointees are the tip of a massive iceberg; I’ve heard stories of elderly Chinese seniors being bussed to polling stations by PC campaign workers. That one really truly pissed me off and made me realize the rot that was going on.

Future unknown? How about some good old fashioned incarceration and application of the law? Judicial public inquiries with real legal punishments meted out? Saskatchewan did it, why don’t we clean house and open up the books? This will be a test of how tough the NDs can be on white collar crime.


While I agree wholeheartedly that changes will be made, to be fair to these individuals it is submitted that, in most cases, they do have backgrounds other than political that would lend themselves to the respective roles they were appointed.

We will see similar situations with appointments made by the NDP. They may have political connections to the governing party, but they will have some link, some expertise, background, education relevant to the role for which they are chosen.

What about Dave Cournoyer working for a union during the day and blogging by night? Is there any bias there?

Hi Ernie – Thanks for the comment. Most people who write blogs in their spare time also have full-time day jobs. I am proud to work for the union that represents Alberta’s Registered Nurses and Registered Psychiatric Nurses, and I’ve been upfront about that for +5 years.



Hi Jay – Thanks for the comment. I don’t doubt some of these individuals have the credentials to serve in these roles, but there is little doubt that some of them are in those positions because of their political connections and history.

– Dave

in dec 2010 darrel ried, quietly exited harpers pmo as deputy chief of staff, and other roles in the pmo, then recieved an ethical exemption to accept some sort of position at the u of c, as well as becoming executive director of the manning centre for democracy (ried was also preston mannings chief of staff when manning was pm)

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