Alberta Politics

It’s an Alberta Party leadership race: Kara Levis, Rick Fraser… Stephen Mandel

Photo: Former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel when he announced his plans to retire from municipal politics in 2013.

The rumours have been circulating for weeks, and they now appear to be confirmed.

Dr Bob Turner NDP Edmonton-Whitemud By-election
Dr. Bob Turner

Stephen Mandel is jumping back into provincial politics by launching a campaign for the leadership of the Alberta Party. The 72-year old former Edmonton mayor and provincial cabinet minister is expected to officially join the race on Jan. 10, 2018 at an “announcement about Alberta’s future” at the Boyle Street Community Hall.

Mandel was a popular mayor from 2004 to 2013 and briefly served as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud and Minister of Health from 2014 to 2015. Despite his largely successful three-terms as mayor, his short and unremarkable time in the provincial cabinet was ended when New Democratic Party candidate and Cross Cancer Institute oncologist Bob Turner unseated Mandel in the 2015 election.

He was rumoured to have considered a run for the PC Party leadership in 2017, but instead made a last-minute endorsement of Richard Starke. Since then, Mandel has been seen as a driving force behind Alberta Together, the political action committee led by former PC Party president Katherine O’Neill. AT is believed to have been influential in pushing former leader Greg Clark to step down as leader ahead of the party’s annual general meeting in November 2017.

Both Mandel and O’Neill were seen as star candidates for the PC Party in the 2015 election and were featured in online and television ads produced for the campaign.

Mandel’s installation as Chancellor of Concordia University of Edmonton on Nov. 30, 2017 makes the timing of his reentry into political life confusing, but his well-known dislike for the Wildrose Party and his cool relationship with former prime minister Stephen Harper’s Ottawa Conservatives – which would extend to Jason Kenney – could be what is driving him. He will certainly add some interest to the Alberta Party leadership race.

Former UCP MLA enters the Alberta Party race

Rick Fraser Alberta Party
Rick Fraser

The news of Mandel’s entry into the race broke on the same day it was reported that Calgary-South East MLA Rick Fraser will join the Alberta Party and enter the leadership race. Fraser’s candidacy means he will join party MLAs Greg Clark and Karen McPherson to form a caucus of three. McPherson joined the party shortly after she left the NDP caucus in Oct. 2017.

Fraser was elected as MLA for Calgary-South East in 2012 and 2015 as a Progressive Conservative and left the United Conservative Party Caucus in July 2017 citing concerns about the party’s positions on climate change and social issues.

He served as Associate Minister of Recovery and Reconstruction of High River following the floods that devastated southern Alberta in 2013. And he is the former president of CUPE Local 3421, which until April 2009 represented two-thirds of the province’s paramedics.

Kara Levis was the first candidate in the race

The two men joined the contest almost one month after Kara Levis, a Calgary-based commercial lawyer and President of the National Women’s Liberal Commission, became the first candidate to enter the leadership race. Levis is a co-founder of Ask Her, an organization dedicated to encouraging more women candidates to run in the 2017 Calgary Municipal Election.

Huffman is back

Jacob Huffman Alberta Liberal Leadership
Jacob Huffman

Also declared as a candidate in the race is jokester Jacob Huffman, whose previous attempt to run for the leadership of the Alberta Liberal Party was rebuffed.

His top campaign promises include returning “Redford supporters to positions of power and influence” and stimulating “economic growth by building the greatest Sky Place ever.”

It is unclear if the Alberta Party is prepared to allow such bold ideas in their leadership race.

The Alberta Party leadership race will take place on Feb. 27, 2018. The deadline for candidates to join the race is January 15, 2018.

5 replies on “It’s an Alberta Party leadership race: Kara Levis, Rick Fraser… Stephen Mandel”

Thank god actual candidates including Levis have appeared now in the Alberta Party leadership race. Now people can stop cracking jokes about Huffman and how he will steamroll everyone. I wonder if Huffman will pop up during the leadership debate being held soon.

It took long enough, but perhaps there is a spark of life in the Alberta Party after all. Although I like former mayor Mandel, I think Mr. Fraser would be the best choice at this point. He is already a sitting MLA and the record of former Mayors taking over struggling provincial parties in Alberta has been mixed over the years. Former Calgary Mayor Sykes did not do so well after he took over Social Credit in the early 1980’s. Former Edmonton Mayor Decore did better when he took over the leadership of the Alberta Liberals about a decade later.

In any event, more choice is good and politics like nature abhors a vacuum. Kenney may have succeeded in killing of the PC party, but it might be harder for him to try stop another similar party from popping up to fill the gap that was left.

You know, there was once a former big city mayor who led his party to a majority government and became Premier, back in the early 90s. You might remember him, a former Liberal and radio journalist, and Mayor of Calgary: a certain Ralph Klein. So, your thesis that big city mayors don’t do well in provincial politics isn’t really supported by evidence.

I’m not at all a Klein supporter, but this is about electoral success, not good government.

Oh I thought about him, but Klein didn’t take over a struggling party with 4 or less seats did he? As I recall he ran in a fairly safe seat (ie. one his party already held), and unlike my two mayoral examples was elevated to cabinet soon after he won in the by election. There was no cabinet post or seat in the Legislature for Sykes and I don’t see one for Mandel either. Even for all the advantages of incumbency and popularity after right after the Winter Olympics , Klein initially later faced a close race for the PC leadership and after the election faced the largest opposition even in Alberta (even larger than the current UCP opposition I believe). Maybe Mandel is better than Klein, but the horse he is riding (the Alberta Party) is so far much less powerful than the PC’ machine of the 90’s was.

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