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Alberta Politics

A Mile a Minute: Michelle Rempel Garner out, Raj Sherman in (kind of), and UCP leadership candidates debate Alberta autonomy

Alberta politics moves at a mile a minute.

Days after getting a waiver from the United Conservative Party to join the leadership race because she didn’t meet the 6 month membership requirement, Calgary Member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner announced she will not join the UCP leadership race.

Rempel Garner’s announcement comes less than 24-hours after Patrick Brown‘s campaign manager quit to allegedly work on her campaign and a poll put her at the top of the pack among UCP supporters.

But it wasn’t to be.

In a long statement posted on her newly launched Substack, Rempel Garner says the UCP is too much of a hot mess for her to lead.

“…there have also been squabbles that have erupted in the pages of national media, public meltdowns, nearly missed physical fights, coups, smear jobs, leaked recordings and confidential emails, lack of consensus on critical issues, caucus turfings, people harassed to the point where they resign roles, and hours long meetings where members have been subjected to hours of public castigation,” Rempel wrote.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP Premier
Rachel Notley (source: Facebook)

It was a brutal critique of Alberta’s main conservative party.

She’s not wrong.

Affable Calgary-Fish Creek UCP MLA Richard Gotfried agrees.

But while her criticisms are stingingly on point Rempel Garner doesn’t offer solutions to how to fix the UCP.

In fact, she basically reaffirms what NDP leader Rachel Notley has been saying for months: the UCP is too caught up in their own internal fights to do what’s right for Albertans.

The UCP wanted Rempel Garner but the White Knight from Calgary-Oklahoma will not be riding into this breach.

And the candidate the party didn’t want is in, well, kind of.

Raj Sherman Liberal Party leader Election 2012
Raj Sherman (source: Dave Cournoyer)

Edmonton emergency room doctor Raj Sherman says he’s running for the leadership despite the party denying him the same waiver granted to Rempel Garner.

Sherman is one of the most eccentric people in Alberta politics.

He was elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2008, was pushed out in 2010, and won the leadership of the Liberal Party in 2011. Narrowly re-elected in his Edmonton-Meadowlark seat in 2012, he left the party before the 2015 election.

He’s mostly stayed out of politics since then but in 2020 he spoke out about COVID-19 and last year he gave $4,000 to the Alberta Party.

It’s no wonder the UCP doesn’t want him in the race.

Sherman is persistent if anything, so he says he’s going to keep campaigning anyway.

Back in 2012, Sherman’s Liberals lost Official Opposition status in 2012 to Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party.

Now Smith is making waves as a candidate in this leadership race.

She wants Alberta to ignore federal laws she doesn’t like. She calls it the Alberta Sovereignty Act.

She also promises to never again “lockdown” Alberta.

Never mind that we  never really had a lockdown during the pandemic, but her message plays well with an extremely motivated and well-organized group of conservative activists who oppose everything from face-masks to mandatory vaccinations.

Ten years ago it might have been described as a bozo-eruption.

But not today.

Anything goes in Alberta politics, or at least in the UCP, so it would seem.

Meanwhile, the perceived frontrunner and establishment favourite, former finance minister Travis Toews, is running a safe and low-energy campaign.

The most controversial issue he has tackled is opposing health safety labels on beef packaging.

Toews’ campaign held a rally just outside of Edmonton at the River Cree Casino on the Enoch First Nation a few days ago. Watching the live-stream it looked like a big crowd but there were still enough chairs for everyone.

It was nothing like the massive barnburner put on by Pierre Poilievre‘s campaign a few months ago to which all future political rallies at River Cree will be compared to.

Maybe safe and steady is the right strategy for Toews.

It didn’t work for Jim Dinning or Gary Mar but the old PC Party was a very different political beast than today’s UCP.

Not that Toews is immune from controversy.

His campaign co-chair Grande Prairie-Mackenzie MP Chris Warkentin was part of a group of Conservatives who welcomed anti-vaccine activists to Ottawa this week.

The same poll that had Rempel Garner in the lead showed the top two issues on Albertans minds are the cost of living and health care.

It’s not hard to see why.

The price of everything has been skyrocketing, hospitals across Alberta are temporarily closing or diverting patients because of a nursing shortage crisis, and EMS is stretched past its limits.

So what did UCP leadership candidates gather online tonight to discuss?

Alberta autonomy.

Yeah, that’s right.

Former PC-turned-Wildrose-turned PC MLA Rob Anderson’s Free Alberta Strategy group hosted the first online candidates panel of the UCP leadership race.

It’s too bad Rempel Garner wasn’t there tonight.

She was the champion of the manifesto known as The Buffalo Declaration, named after Frederick Haultain‘s never formed mega-Province of Buffalo – a century old bad idea that has recently reached mythical status in some conservative circles.

Rempel Garner and 3 other Alberta MPs described the Buffalo Manifesto as a final attempt to make Alberta an equal partner in Confederation. They said without it a referendum on Alberta’s independence is an inevitability.

[Insert eye-roll emoji here]

Sometimes it seems like the faster Alberta politics moves the more it stays the same.


Michelle Rempel Garner isn’t the only person starting a Substack – sign up for the Daveberta Substack.

9 replies on “A Mile a Minute: Michelle Rempel Garner out, Raj Sherman in (kind of), and UCP leadership candidates debate Alberta autonomy”

Alberta politics has had a lot of strange moments over the last decade and it seems like there could be more. I am not sure if the Libertarian populist message will allow Smith to win. The disregard Federal laws message sure plays to some of the Conservative base, but I am not sure law and order Conservatives or social Conservatives will find her messages as appealing.

So, there could be something to the strategy of being more low key. It worked for steady Eddy, at least for a while. So, it might work for Toews or another more low key UCP leadership candidate.

As for Sherman, the UCP may be wise to try avoid him like the plague. While they need a moderate candidate, they do not need a candidate who leaves disaster in their wake. They already have one such candidate and that might be too much.

Raj is a good and reasonable gentleman, even if his hand picked liberal candidate turned feminist ceo extraordinary is currently trying to sell electric busses for Quebec.

The poll posed the question:

“What is your overall impression of each of the following people?:
(Alberta UCP Supporters Only)”. While Garner did have the highest total positive/somewhat positive score.

The poll never asked who UCP supporters supported for leader.

Progressives feel it’s their right to contort as they see fit. I wouldn’t get too worried about their comments. You notice they took their opportunity to mention Notley..,

All this “autonomy” nonsense is based on a farrago of lies. No, the rest of Canada, nor the federal government, are “out to get” Alberta. There is no foreign-funded conspiracy to smother Alberta’s oil & gas industry. Alberta does not cut an equalization cheque to Ottawa or Québec. The Canada Pension Plan does not underpay Alberta retirees in comparison to other Canadians — although Alberta has fewer retirees per capital as we have a demographically younger population, many Albertans retire to BC, collecting their pensions there, and many others are self-employed and might not be contributing to CPP as a result.

We should also remember two salient facts: (1) all,of Alberta’s territory is covered by treaties between the Government of Canada and the First Nations, treaties to which the province is not a party, and taking Alberta out of Confederation would most likely be a breach of those treaties; and (2) The Province of Alberta is actually a creature of the federal government, established under the 1905 Alberta Act. What would happen if, perhaps during a Québec-style sovereignty crisis, the Parliament of Canada simply repealed the Alberta Act and reverted the province to being part of the Northwest Territories?

For those who wanted to hear UCP Candidate Bill Rock, who was not invited to the event because he was told he did not qualify because he’s never been an MLA. I interviewed Mr. Rock the following morning and asked him the same 10 questions in the same time limit style (plus 5 more of my own, including whether or not he’d hold a referendum on independence).
https://www.facebook.com/715910481/videos/600518691328891/

Regardless of who is elected as the leader, the UCP will have to convince Albertans that a disjointed and ununited government is somehow superior to one that governs with a united purpose. We have seen that a Big Tent Party is more electable but obviously is much more difficult to govern. When the big tent collapses only the united efforts to restore it will save the tent from eternal ruin. No leader will convince this flock, with its’ diverse views and egos, that unity is essential. Kudos to Michelle Rempel for recognizing the obvious.

“Ucp is a hot mess”, “she’s not wrong”. Interesting times doesn’t make for a hot mess. It’s all about change and one’s ability to deal with it. I hope smith brings in change and a new lease on Alberta’s relationship with eastern Canada.

Precisely what we should be talking about – people want fully privatized health care in Alberta and that’s part of our autonomy.

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