Author Archives: Dave Cournoyer

WAR ROOM ENGAGE! Kenney hires former UCP candidate Tom Olsen to run the Canadian Energy Centre

The Alberta government’s much talked about energy war room now has its General. Energy Minister Sonya Savage announced yesterday that Tom Olsen has been hired as the managing director of the newly incorporated Canadian Energy Centre. The $30-million publicly funded private corporation is part of the UCP’s “fight back strategy” to counter claims made by critics of the oil and gas industry that Premier Jason Kenney said will target politicians, media and other opinion leaders, and could include satellite offices overseas.

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP

Joe Ceci

Olsen was most recently the United Conservative Party candidate in the downtown Calgary-Buffalo riding in the 2019 provincial election, where he finished 9 per cent short of unseating former New Democratic Party finance minister Joe Ceci. But despite his recent electoral loss, Olsen has been a fixture of Conservative politics in Alberta for more than a decade.

After years as a columnist and reporter for the large daily newspapers in Calgary and Edmonton, Olsen jumped into politics when he was hired as Premier Ed Stelmach’s spokesperson in 2007. (Olsen’s brother, Gordon Olsen, worked in senior roles in the Premier’s Office while Ralph Klein occupied the office).

While some Albertans will remember Olsen for his role in the Northumberland beach photos fiasco, he also oversaw the launch of the first version of the war room.

In 2008, the Alberta government launched a website called “For the Record” that was dedicated to correcting what the government determined was incomplete or incorrect information in the media. “It’s not a forum to argue philosophy and spin. . . it’s not debating the rightness or wrongness of a particular issue. It’s about factual information,”Olsen told the Calgary Herald in December 2008. “I don’t see it as government policing journalists.”

The Alberta Government’s short-lived “For the Record” webpage.

It was the government policing journalists, and it did not last very long. The government website posted six corrections to news stories from various media outlets between November 2008 and December 2010. The website briefly became a source of controversy when Olsen insisted the Globe & Mail be referred to as the Toronto Globe & Mail. The website was later edited to drop Toronto from the newspaper’s name.

Following a wholesale purge of Stelmach’s senior communications staff, Olsen was whisked off to Vancouver to handle the Alberta government’s public relations during the 2010 Winter Olympics, which included the renting of the luxury Rocky Mountaineer train and the distribution of free iPads to journalists and VIPs.

Sonya Savage

Olsen later worked as a lobbyist for groups including the Calgary Residential Rental Association, Greyhound and the national group representing Pay Day Loan companies. He found himself back in the Progressive Conservative Party fold when he became Vice-President of Communications during Jim Prentice‘s brief time as party leader.

Savage, a former pipeline lobbyist and now a member of the war room board of directors along with Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer and Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon, said this week that the war room will include a rapid response centre, an energy literacy unit and a data research unit. Former Postmedia columnist Claudia Cattaneo was hired in August 2019 by the government to write the Energy War Room Strategic plan.

Earlier this year, Postmedia hired Kenney’s former chief of staff, Nick Koolsbergen, to lobby the UCP government on ways the Toronto-headquartered newspaper company could be involved with the war room. 

In an interview with the Postmedia-owned Financial Post, Postmedia President and CEO Andrew MacLeod said that the lobby effort was part the company’s effort to find new revenue streams and that it had no relationship to editorial decision-making (meanwhile, the front cover of the Postmedia-owned National Post today featured a paid political advertisement attacking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau).

Andrew MacLeod Postmedia CEO President

Andrew MacLeod

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, a lobby group that represents many of Canada’s oil and gas companies, is also registered to lobby Alberta MLAs, the Minister of Energy and the Premier’s Office to share and advise on best practices for the war room to counter misinformation. 

Postmedia’s past relationship with CAPP is no secret, but these group’s business relationships with the war room could be.

As CBC’s Michelle Bellefontaine reported today, as a private corporation the Canadian Energy Centre will be exempt from freedom of information requests, meaning that Albertans might not ever know how much of the $30 million is paid to Postmedia, CAPP or whichever UCP-connected PR firms are hired to work for the publicly-funded private war room.

Regardless of which PR companies or Toronto-based newspaper company gets hired, Olsen will have his job cut out for him. The first order of business for the new Canadian Energy Centre might be playing defence for the Alberta government’s $2.5 million public inquiry into anti-oil campaigns – an effort that has been criticized as a witch-hunt by groups like EcoJustice and the venerable Amnesty International.

While it may be easy for Kenney to dismiss NGOs and suggest that the 4,000 Albertans participating in the climate strike protest outside the Legislature were communist sympathizers, Olsen’s war room will have a harder time dismissing its greatest opponent – the free market.

Many major international oil and gas corporations have withdrawn their investments in Canada’s oilsands over the past five years, and the UCP’s decision to scale back the Alberta government’s climate change commitments certainly will not help how our province is perceived internationally.

Conservatives howled loudly this week as a major Norwegian pension fund withdrew investments in four Alberta-based oilsands companies. The move was described by UCP supporters online as hypocritical, as Norway continues to make investments in its own off-shore oil and gas platforms. The move may have been hypocritical, but those are the types of decisions that countries like Norway can make when they have $1.1 trillion saved in the bank (something for Albertans to think about when they consider how much past governments have squandered our wealth).

Olsen’s biggest challenge might be to prove that the war room is more than a $30-million public relations subsidy to Alberta’s oil and gas companies.

Public attitudes toward fossil fuels and climate change are shifting dramatically, and Alberta risks becoming increasingly isolated on energy and climate issues on the national and international stage. Judging from the Alberta government’s numerous high-profile efforts over the past two decades to correct what it saw as misinformation about the oilsands and fight environmental advocates outside the province, the war room might be an example of the UCP preparing to fight the last war.


A short history of Alberta government  advertising campaigns and initiatives aimed at critics of oil and gas companies (I am sure I have missed a few):

2002: the Alberta government announced and later scrapped plans for an anti-Kyoto Accord advertising campaign in Ontario after focus group testing proved the messaging was unpopular among Torontonians.

2008: the Alberta government launched a public relations campaign targeting critics of the oilsands outside of Alberta, which included a 20-page glossy brochure entitled Alberta’s Oil Sands: Balance. Opportunity. This campaign included a North America and European speaking tour by the Premier.

2010: the Alberta government rolled out a slick $25-million “Tell It Like It Is” oilsands promotional campaign that included advertisements in London’s Piccadilly Circus and New York City’s Times Square. The multimedia blitz includes CDs and DVDs about “Alberta’s Clean Energy Future” and “A conversation on oilsands and the environment” – which features commentary from provincial experts.

2012: the Alberta government announced it was spending $77,000 on a pro-Keystone XL Pipeline advertising campaign during the Premier’s visit to Washington DC and hired lobbyists to directly lobby US officials.

2012: the federal Conservative government assigned Canadian diplomats to lobby Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. in order to counter campaigns launched by an environmental advocacy groups targeting the oilsands.

2013: the federal Conservative government launched a advertising campaign directed at American politicians ahead of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s trip to the United States. The ad campaign described Canada as a “world environmental leader” on oil and gas development.

2018: the Alberta government spent more than $23 million promoting its KeepCanadaWorking advertising campaign in support of the expansion of the Trans Mountain PIpeline from Alberta to British Columbia.

Let the fall session begin – MLAs return to Edmonton on Oct 8

The fall session of the Alberta Legislative Assembly reconvenes on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, with Government House Leader Jason Nixon promising up to 17 new pieces of government legislation to be introduced before MLAs break for the year in December. The Legislature was initially scheduled to return on October 22, the day after the federal election, but MLAs were called back to the capital earlier than expected. As well as new bills, UCP Finance Minister Travis Toews is expected to present an austerity budget on October 24, 2019.

Richard Gotfried MLA UCP Calgary Fish Creek Alberta Election 2019

Richard Gotfried

The tone of the session is already expected to be confrontational, but the results of the October 21 federal election will determine whether the UCP caucus be celebratory (in the case of Conservative Party victory) or antagonized (in the case of a Liberal Party victory) as Toews tables his first budget.

There will also be some changes at the Legislative committee level. According to the Legislative Order Paper, Calgary-Fish Creek United Conservative Party MLA Richard Gotfried appears to have been removed as chairperson of the Standing Committee on the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund, replaced as chairperson by Lacombe-Ponoka UCP MLA Ron Orr and as a committee member by Calgary-East UCP MLA Peter Singh. Gotfried also appears to have been removed from the Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills, where he will be replaced by Brooks-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Michaela Glasgo. Gotfried was first elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2015 and was re-elected as a UCP MLA in 2019.

It is not clear what sparked the shuffle, but there has been speculation that Premier Jason Kenney might make some minor adjustments to his cabinet this fall.

NDP wrap up town hall tour, Notley staying put.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP

Rachel Notley (photo from Facebook)

The official opposition New Democratic Party wrapped up a multi-city town hall tour of Alberta focused on the upcoming provincial budget. The NDP likely used these town hall meetings to collect contact information and expand their outreach network while adjusting to their role as opposition after four years as government. The uncertainty created by the expected budget cuts will almost certainly be a central narrative of this legislative session.

Despite rumours of an ambassadorial appointment, NDP leader Rachel Notley told David Climenhaga of AlbertaPolitics.ca that she has no plans on stepping down as leader anytime soon. “I’ve been very clear. I’m staying on until the next election,” Notley said.

Notley’s declaration puts aside rumours of her departure, at least for now, that fuelled speculation about an NDP leadership contest that could include former cabinet ministers and now prominent opposition critics Sarah Hoffman and Shannon Phillips.

Alberta Liberals to report on their future.

The Alberta Liberal Party is holding its annual convention on November 16 in Edmonton. The one-day meeting will include the presentation of a report by the party’s Review Committee,  which was tasked determining potential options for the future of the party. The 2019 provincial election marked the first time since 1982 that the Liberals failed to elect any candidates to the Assembly. The convention will feature a keynote presentation from John Santos, a respected public opinion and political science researcher based in Calgary.

Disqualified UCP nomination candidate now separatist party president.

Todd Beasley is now president of the Alberta Independence Party. Beasley was considered the front-runner in the July 2018 UCP nomination contest in Brooks-Medicine Hat before he was removed from the race for publishing horrible comments about muslims on the internet. He ran as an Independent candidate instead and earned 12.4 per cent of the vote. The party is without a leader since Dave Bjorkman resigned following the 2019 provincial election.

More names added to Elections Alberta’s list of banned candidates

Elections Alberta has added a number of new names to its public list of Individuals Ineligible to Run as a Candidate or Act as a Chief Financial Officer. Names on this list can include election candidates, nomination candidates, and CFOs who have missed deadlines or improperly submitted financial disclosure forms to Elections Alberta.

New additions to the list include Former MLA Ian Donovan, who ran as an Independent candidate in Cardston-Siksika, Jovita Mendita, who was a candidate for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona, and a number of Alberta Independence Party and Freedom Conservative Party candidates.

Episode 41: The federal election and Jason Kenney’s Ontario whistle-stop tour

What is missing from the federal election debate, Premier Jason Kenney’s whistle-stop tour through Ontario, and the fall session of the Alberta Legislature are some of the hot topics Dave tackles with this week’s guest co-hosts – Natalie Pon and Justin Archer.

Natalie Pon is a chartered professional accountant and a conservative activist in Edmonton. Most recently she was on the interim board of the United Conservative Party.

Justin Archer is a partner at Berlin Communications in Edmonton and a professional communications strategist. Justin and Dave worked together in their first political jobs with the Alberta Liberal Party back in the mid-2000s.

Thanks to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, for helping us put the show together, and a huge thanks to the Alberta Podcast Network, powered by ATB, for supporting the show. The Alberta Podcast Network includes more than 30 great made-in-Alberta podcasts, including The Common Ground Podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We always love to feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Send us your feedback, or ask us any questions you have for our next episode. You can get us on TwitterInstagram, the Daveberta Facebook page, or you can email us at podcast@daveberta.ca.

We will be back again in two weeks! Enjoy!

Recommended reading/listening/upcoming events:

Kenney campaigns for federal Conservatives in Ontario this weekend

With Ontario Premier Doug Ford nowhere to be seen in this federal election, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is pinch-hitting for federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer in Ontario this weekend. Kenny will be spending a few days campaigning for federal Conservative candidates in the Ottawa region and Greater Toronto Area, a trip paid for by the Conservative Party of Canada.

It is not unusual for a provincial premier to campaign in support of their federal party of choice.  Rachel Notley shared the stage with Thomas Mulcair at a campaign rally in Edmonton in 2015 and Ralph Klein campaigned in Calgary with local Member of Parliament Bobbie Sparrow in 1993 and Progressive Conservative Party leader Jean Charest in 1997. But it is quite unusual for a premier to be campaign for their federal party of choice in another province.

Premier Ralph Klein

Ralph Klein

It is perhaps less unusual because the premier in question is Jason Kenney. As a federal cabinet minister he was praised by fellow partisans for his role in expanding Conservative Party’s outreach into New Canadian communities that had previously been the strongholds of the Liberal Party, a strategy that appeared solid until its collapse in 2015.

And while Kenney is currently the Premier of Alberta, he very much remains a national politician and one of the leaders of Conservative movement in Canada, frequently speaking at partisan fundraisers and events hosted by right-wing think tanks like the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies and the Manhattan Institute.

Kenney’s interest in the federal campaign is no surprise. Much of the United Conservative Party campaign in Alberta’s recent provincial election focused on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who Kenney had pledged his efforts to defeat in the October 21 federal election. And it is probably the worst-kept secret in Canadian politics that Kenney still harbours federal leadership ambitions. Ambitions that could be realized sooner than expected if Scheer stumbles in this election.

This is the first federal election in decades that both the federal and provincial Conservative parties in Alberta are marching in lock-step. The creation of the United Conservative Party in 2017 was just as much about the merging of the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties as it was creating harmony between the dominant provincial and federal Conservative parties.

This campaign trip to Ontario is not Kenney’s first, but it is much more extensive than his previous visits.

Rajan Sawhney

Kenney made an appearance at a fundraiser earlier this year in Brampton-North, where his former ministerial staffer Arpan Khanna is running for the Conservatives. Khanna managed Kenney’s Toronto office during his time as Minister of Multiculturalism and Minister of National Defence.

Flying to Ottawa today, Kenney launched his campaign tour with Conservative candidates Brian St. Louis in Nepean and Abdul Abdi in Ottawa-West Nepean.

While Kenney’s Ontario itinerary does not appear to be publicly available, UCP sources tell me that he is scheduled to spend the rest of the weekend canvassing door-to-door with Markham-Stouffville candidate Theodore Antony, attending a BBQ for Brampton-Centre candidate Pawanjit Gosal, headlining a rally with Vaughn-Woodbridge candidate Teresa Kruze, and attending an event at the Canadian Coptic Centre in support of Conservative candidates in Mississauga, among about ten other appearances.

Kenney is not the first Alberta politician to spend some time campaigning in this region of Ontario. Alberta’s Minister of Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney was in the area over the summer to campaign with Conservative candidates Sean Weir in Oakville North-Burlington and Ramandeep Singh Brar in Brampton-South.

If the federal Conservatives have any chance of forming government, it is believed that this is the region where that party will need to gain seats from the Liberals.

While Kenney campaigns in Ontario, he is also acutely aware of how this sort of intervention can go awry. Kenny was one of the senior Conservative Party officials who scolded then-Alberta premier Ralph Klein for contributing to his party’s defeat in the 2004 federal election.

Two days after that election was called, Klein publicly mused that his health-care reforms could possibly violate the Canada Health act, a statement which senior officials in the Conservative Party said helped Paul Martin’s Liberal Party shore up support in Ontario.

There’s pretty much unanimous consensus in the federal party that these remarks weren’t helpful,” Kenney told the Calgary Herald in 2004. “Suggesting the Alberta government was prepared to announce violations of the Canada Health Act two days after an election was giving the Liberals a big fat one over centre plate.”

Few politicians can sustain themselves in a permanent campaign-mode like Kenney can. Anyone who has been paying attention to Alberta politics over the past few years can attest that he hasn’t stopped campaigning since his jumped into provincial politics in 2017. He is a career politician who can probably out-hustle almost any of his peers, but he also carries a few suitcases worth of political baggage on his trip east.

On the issue of gun control, which the Liberals raised at the beginning of the campaign, how will Kenney’s decision to publicly endorse vigilante gun justice in rural Alberta play in suburban Ontario? Kenney will be speaking to crowds of friendly Conservative voters, but I would not be surprised to see the Liberals bird-dog Kenney on this issue during his Ontario tour.

Kenney has also spent much of the past two years fanning the flames of western alienation against Ottawa and other provinces over the national equalization formula and the expansion of oil pipelines – but mostly against Trudeau. He has also launched a crusade against climate change and environmental groups who he and his supporters claim are funded by nefarious foreign sources.

While Kenney is certainly not a separatist, he is trying to do what many past Alberta premiers have done in order to position themselves as the province’s great defender against the political interests of Central Canada.

Stoking western alienation will help solidify Kenney’s support among Conservative voters at home but it could also poison Alberta’s relationship with Ottawa even further if Trudeau’s Liberals are re-elected on October 21. This could help explain why no Alberta premier has parlayed their provincial success to federal politics – something Kenney may want to consider as he hits the campaign trail in Ontario this weekend.


Notley plays coy about her federal vote

Rachel Notley Alberta Premier NDP

Rachel Notley

Former Alberta premier Rachel Notley, now leader of the official opposition, continues to play coy when asked who she is planning to vote for in the October 21 federal election. “When we get closer to the election, I’ll make a decision in my own riding about which candidate’s best able to represent the needs of Albertans and the people in my riding of Edmonton-Strathcona,” Notley told CBC.

This comment will certainly not be helpful for the federal NDP in Edmonton-Strathcona, where the popular Notley remains MLA for the provincial riding of the same name. Heather McPherson is hoping to hold on to the seat held since 2008 by retiring NDP MP Linda Duncan. Many of Notley’s close supporters helped propel McPherson to a narrow victory over Paige Gorsak in a November 2018 nomination contest.

While I would be surprised if Notley did not vote for McPherson on October 21, it does demonstrate the deep distrust between the provincial and federal wings of the NDP in Alberta over issues like the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. While some former NDP MLAs defeated in the April 2019 election have been actively campaigning for federal NDP candidates, Notley and her current 24 NDP MLA caucus remain nowhere to be seen on the federal campaign trail in Alberta.


The kamakaze campaign that just won’t die

CBC investigative reporters have dived deep into the allegations of fraud and misuse of voting kiosks by Kenney’s campaign during the 2017 UCP leadership contest. According to CBC, the RCMP, which has been tight-lipped on the status and focus of its investigation, will only say it continues to investigate allegations of fraud as it relates to the 2017 UCP leadership race.

The climate strikes and Alberta’s increasing isolation on climate change urgency

Albertans risk political isolation on climate change urgency

Jason Kenney Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney

While politicians like Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Energy Minister Sonya Savage doubling down in defence of the oil and gas industry and abandoning provincial climate change initiatives, attitudes toward climate change in most of the rest of Canada could lead to Alberta to become increasingly politically isolated on this critical issue.

Two surveys released over the summer suggest there could be a deep divide between Albertans and most of the rest of Canada on the urgency of climate change crisis.

According to a survey conducted by Abacus Data in July 2019, only 27 per cent of Albertan surveyed believed that climate change is now an emergency, compared to 59 per cent in Quebec, 42 per cent in British Columbia, 39 per cent in Atlantic Canada, and 38 per cent in Ontario.

When asked about the threat of climate change, only 32 per cent of Albertans surveyed by Angus-Reid in August 2019 said that it is a very serious threat and 24 per cent said it is not really a threat at all. This is big difference from the 49 per cent in British Columbia and Quebec and 50 per cent in Ontario who told Angus-Reid that climate change is a very serious threat.

Sonya Savage

The overwhelming presence and influence that oil and gas companies hold over political discourse and media coverage in Alberta, especially over issues like oil pipelines and climate change, is not a surprise. 

When asked in the Angus-Reid survey what they believe should be the bigger priority overall for Canada for the next five to ten years, 60 per cent of Albertans said the oil and gas sector, and 31 per cent said climate change. Nationally, 52 per cent chose climate change and 34 per cent chose the oil and gas sector.

Seth Klein, who commissioned the Abacus poll, wrote on rabble.ca that “we see the highest level of support for bold action is in Quebec, while the lowest levels of support are in Alberta. Most of the country falls somewhere in between the two provinces.

Depending on the results of the October 21 federal election, just how out of step Albertans attitudes are about climate change may become an increasing focal point of provincial and federal politics. And as along as the oil sands remain the fastest growing source of carbon emissions in Canada, national attitudes toward climate change will have an increasing impact on our province.

Public School Board grants academic amnesty to Climate Strikers

Students from the Edmonton Public School Board are being granted academic amnesty if they have parental consent to attend the student-led global climate strikes on Friday, September 27, 2019. The strikes have been held over the past week in protest of climate change and the lack of action being taken against it by institutions and governments.

Michael Janz Edmonton

Michael Janz

The elected trustees of the Edmonton Public School Board voted 6-1 in favour of granting academic amnesty for students who participate in the international actions.

The motion to support the strike was tabled by trustee Michael Janz, who said in a statement that “Public education is the cornerstone of our democratic system and exists to create an engaged and educated electorate. Now, in the midst of a federal election, our young people are trying to urge us into action on a life-or-death issue deciding our future. As adults, we need to make sure that we get out of the way, and not get in the way of their engagement in real-life education.”

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, a former Catholic School Trustee from Red Deer, took issue with the motion and denounced Janz as an “activist school board trustee.”

Students and supporters will march from MacEwan University, the University of Alberta, and Churchill Square to the main rally outside Alberta’s Legislature Building, which is set to begin at 1:30 p.m. on September 27.

Edmonton City Council declared a climate emergency

More than 450 municipal councils across Canada have voted to declare a climate emergency, but last month Edmonton became the first and so far only municipality in Alberta to declare a climate emergency.

Aaron Paquette Edmonton

Aaron Paquette

A majority of City Councillors endorsed a motion introduced by Councillor Aaron Paquette. Paquette’s motion called for the City of Edmonton declare a climate emergency and for the City administration to “provide quarterly memorandums to Council and the public, beginning in 2020, on the City of Edmonton’s climate action progress and future actions directed by Edmonton’s Energy Transition Strategy.”

Declaring a climate emergency is a political statement that serves a few purposes:

1. These motions add to the growing list of governments and organizations building a critical mass in support of taking action against climate change by making bold statements. Hundreds of municipalities and big cities, including Vancouver, Ottawa, Halifax and London (and soon, Toronto), have declared a climate emergency. Some city councils have taken further steps to investigate the potential for lawsuits against large fossil fuel corporations in response to climate change.

2. These motions act as a public declaration that cities can hold themselves accountable. The quarterly reports on the City’s climate action progress will be an important reminder of this commitment. It will be up to Councillors to ensure that the required action is being taken and that this is not simply incrementalism or bureaucratic lip-service to a critical challenge.


Note about the surveys referenced in this post:

The Abacus survey was conducted online with 2,000 Canadians aged 18 and over from July 16 to 19, 2019. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.1%, 19 times out of 20.  

The Angus Reid survey was conducted online from August 21 – 26 among a representative randomized sample of 1,534 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Liberals and NDP *finally* fill their slates of candidates in Alberta

The New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party now appear to have full slates of 34 candidates in Alberta. The two parties have scrambled to nominate candidates in Calgary and parts of rural Alberta, with both parties dropping parachute candidates into many rural ridings in the province.

The dominance of the Conservative Party in rural areas, as well as the palpable hostility toward Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal NDP over the issue of oil pipelines (even though the Trudeau Government purchased and saved the Trans Mountain Pipeline project) is likely the biggest reason why the two parties have had such a difficult time fielding local candidates.

Here are the latest updates to the list of candidates nominated to run in the federal election in Alberta:

Battle River-Crowfoot: Dianne Clarke has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate.

Bow River: Margaret Rhemtulla has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate. Rhemtulla is the Policy Chair for the Alberta-wing of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Calgary-Midnapore: Brian Aalto has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate.

Calgary-Skyview: Rafih Bari has been nominated as the Libertarian Party candidate.

Edmonton-Centre: Donovan Eckstrom is the Rhinoceros Party candidate. Eckstrom ran for the Rhino Party in Edmonton-Strathcona in the 2015 federal election. Perennial candidate Adil Pirbhai is running as an Independent.

Edmonton-Griesbach: Andrzej Gudanowski is running as an Independent candidate. Gudanowski recently ran as an Independent candidate in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview in the 2019 provincial election and in Edmonton’s 2017 municipal election in Ward 7.

Edmonton—Wetaskiwin: Emily Drzymala is the Green Party candidate. Drzymala is a social worker and the former president of the Alberta College of Social Workers. She was the NDP candidate in Calgary-North Hill in the 1989 provincial election.

Foothills: Cheryl Moller has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate. Moller is a retired teacher and president of the Liberal Party association in Calgary-Rocky Ridge. She was a volunteer for Kara Levis’ campaign for the leadership of the Alberta Party in 2018.

Grande Prairie-Mackenzie: Ken Munro has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate. Munro is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Alberta. He is a longtime Liberal Party supporter in Edmonton, having served as president of the Liberal Party’s Alberta-wing and candidate in Edmonton-South in the 1984 election.

Lakeland: Mark Watson has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate. Watson is a former Smoky Lake town councillor and director with the Smoky Lake & District Agricultural Society. He is also president of the Liberal Party association in this riding.

University of Alberta political science student Jeffrey Swanson has been nominated as the NDP candidate. Swanson is Vice President of the U of A Campus New Democrat club.

Kira Brunner has replaced Elke Crosson as the Green Party candidate.

Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner: Harris Kirshenbaum has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate. Kirshenbaum was campaign manager for former Liberal MLA David Swann in Calgary Mountain-View.

Red Deer-Lacombe: Tiffany Rose has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate. Rose is a PTSD Yoga educator and facilitator and owner of LacOMbe Yoga. Sarah Palmer has replaced Desmond Bull as the Green Party candidate.

Red Deer-Mountain View: Gary Tremblay has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate. Tremblay is the Chair of the Liberal Party association in Calgary-Shepard.

St. Albert-Edmonton: Jason J. Brodeur is the Rhinoceros Party candidate.

Sturgeon River-Parkland: Heather Wood is the Rhinoceros Party candidate.

Please contact me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com for additions or updates related to candidate nominations in Alberta and I will add them to the list. Thank you!
PHOTO: MAGALIE L’ABBE, CREATIVE COMMONS

Episode 40: Alberta Politics and Federal Election Q&A

We are back from our summer break with a special Question and Answer edition of the Daveberta Podcast. Dave dives deep into our mailbag to answer some of the great Alberta politics and federal election questions our listeners have sent in over the past few weeks.

Thanks to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, for helping us put the show together, and a huge thanks to the Alberta Podcast Network, powered by ATB, for supporting the show.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We always love to feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Send us your feedback, or ask us any questions you have for our next episode. You can get us on TwitterInstagram, the Daveberta Facebook page, or you can email us at podcast@daveberta.ca.

We will be back again in a few weeks! Enjoy!

Recommended reading/listening/events:


Note: In this episode we referred to the investigation into sexual harrassment allegations against MP Kent Hehr’s as being inconclusive. This is incorrect. The third-party report found the claims against Hehr were legitimate, but details of the independent investigation were not publicly released. We apologize for this mistake.

Elizabeth May with Green Party candidates in Calgary and southern Alberta on September 20, 2019 (photo from @EvTanaka on Twitter)

11 days into the federal election, only 2 parties have full slates of candidates in Alberta

Photo: Elizabeth May with Green Party candidates in Calgary and southern Alberta on September 20, 2019 (photo from @EvTanaka on Twitter)

We are now 11 days into Canada’s federal election and almost all the main political parties have filled or are close to filling an entire slate of candidates in Alberta’s 34 electoral districts. By my count, the Conservative Party and People’s Party now have candidates in every Alberta riding, the New Democratic Party and Green Party have nominated candidates in 33 ridings while the governing Liberal Party still only has candidates named in 25 ridings in Alberta.

Candidates have until October 2, 2019 to submit their names to Elections Canada in order to appear on the ballot on October 21, 2019.

Here are the latest updates to the list of candidates nominated and running in the federal election in Alberta:

Banff-Airdrie: Anne Wilson is the New Democratic Party candidate. Wilson ran as a provincial NDP candidate in 2008 in Banff-Cochrane and 2015 in Calgary-Foothills (against Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice). In July 2015 she ran for the NDP nomination for the Calgary-Foothills by-election but was defeated by former alderman Bob Hawkesworth. Until recently she was first vice-president of the Alberta NDP.

Battle River-Crowfoot: Natasha Fryzuk is the NDP candidate. Fryzuk  is the communications coordinator for the Quarters Arts Society in Edmonton.

Bow River: Lynn MacWilliam has been acclaimed as the NDP candidate. MacWilliam serves on Bassano Town Council and ran for the provincial NDP in Strathmore-Brooks in 2015, for the federal NDP in Bow River in 2015, and again provincially in Brooks-Medicine Hat in 2019, earning 18 per cent of the vote. She previously worked in Ottawa for former Burnaby-Douglas MP Bill Siksay.

Calgary-Centre: Jessica Buresi has been nominated as the NDP candidate.

Calgary-Confederation: Gurcharan Sidhu has been nominated as the NDP candidate.

Calgary-Forest Lawn: Brent Nichols is registered as an Independent candidate.

Calgary-Midnapore: Taylor Stasila is the Green Party candidate. Stasila was the Green Party candidate in Calgary-Fish Creek in the 2019 provincial election.

Calgary-Rocky Ridge: Nathan Fortin is the NDP candidate. Fortin is an activist with UFCW 401 in Calgary. Shaoli Wang is an Independent candidate in this riding.

Calgary-Shepard: David Smith is the NDP candidate. Smith is a Workers Advocate with UFCW 401 in Calgary.

Calgary-Signal Hill: Khalis Ahmed is the NDP candidate. Ahmed was the NDP candidate in the 2017 by-election in Calgary-Heritage, and in Calgary-Signal Hill in 2015. Marco Reid is the Green Party candidate. Reid is president of the provincial Green Party and was briefly a candidate in the 2018 Innisfail-Sylvan Lake by-election before dropping out and endorsing the Liberal Party candidate. He ran for the leadership of the provincial Greens in 2017.

Calgary-Skyview: Signe Knutson is the Green Party candidate. Knutson was the Green Party of Manitoba candidate in St. Boniface in the 2016 Manitoba election.

Edmonton-Griesbach: Safi Khan has been nominated as the Green Party candidate.

Edmonton-Manning: Vancouver-based real estate associate Laura-Leah Shaw appears to have replaced Chris Vallee as the the Green Party candidate. Shaw was the Green Party candidate in Steveston-Richmond East in the 2015 federal election.

Edmonton-West: Jackie Pearce has replaced Jeff Culihull as the Green Party candidate in this riding.

Foothills: Calgary-based writer and director Mickail Hendi is the NDP candidate. 

Fort McMurray-Cold Lake: Matthew Gilks is the NDP candidate. Gilks is a vice-president with UFCW 401. Brian Deheer is the Green Party candidate. Deheer was the federal Green candidate in the 2014 Fort McMurray-Athabasca by-election and in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake during the 2015 federal general election, and most recently in the 2019 provincial election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

Grande Prairie-Mackenzie: Erin Alyward is the NDP candidate and Shelley Termuende is the Green Party candidate.

Medicine Hat-Cardson-Warner: Liz Thomson is the NDP candidate. Thomson is the community connections coordinator with Saamis Immigration. 

Red Deer-Lacombe: Lauren Pezzela is the NDP candidate. She is vice-president and coach of the Central Alberta Quidditch league. Sarah Palmer has replaced Desmond Bull as the Green Party candidate. 

Red Deer-Mountain View: Logan Garbanewski has been nominated as the NDP candidate.

Peace River-Westlock: Jennifer Villeburn has been nominated as the NDP candidate. She was the NDP candidate in Peace River in 2006 and Green Party candidate in 2008.

St. Albert-Edmonton: Kathleen Mpulubusi is the NDP candidate. Mpulubusi is a Letter Carrier with Canada Post and an active member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. Rob Dunbar is the Green Party candidate.

Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan: Ronald Thiering has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate.

Sturgeon River-Parkland: Guy Desforges has been nominated as the NDP candidate. Desforges is the president of Unifor Local 445 in Edmonton. He was the NDP candidate in this riding in the 2015 federal election.

Yellowhead: Kristine Bowman has been nominated as the NDP candidate. She is a Letter Carrier with Canada Post.

Please contact me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com for additions or updates related to candidate nominations in Alberta and I will add them to the list. Thank you!

More federal candidate nomination updates from Alberta

Photo: Campaign central in Edmonton-Centre: Randy Boissonnault’s campaign office (in an old bank) and James Cumming’s campaign office (in an old car dealership) are kitty-corner to each other on Jasper Avenue and 115 Street.

The first full day of Canada’s 2019 federal election campaign marked another round of new candidate nomination updates for the Liberal Party, New Democratic Party, Green Party, and other opposition parties in Alberta. Here are the latest updates:

  • Gwyneth Midgley has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in Banff-Airdire. Midgley is the executive director of the Alberta Liberal Party and was that party’s 2019 candidate in Banff-Kananaskis, where she earned 1.08 per cent of the vote. Previously declared nomination candidate Jaro Giesbrecht announced on social media that his candidacy had not passed the Liberal Party’s vetting process.
  • The NDP has nominated retired Registered Nurse Holly Heffernan in Calgary-Heritage, app developer Patrick King in Calgary-Nose Hill, UFCW Local 401 activist Charmaine St. Germain in Edmonton-Manning, and law student Noah Garver in Edmonton-Wetaskiwin. Hefferman has run for the NDP in numerous past provincial and federal elections, most recently as the provincial NDP candidate in Drumheller-Stettler.
  • Logan Garbanewski is seeking the NDP nomination in Red Deer-Mountain View and a selection meeting is scheduled to take place on September 20
  • The Green Party has nominated Jeff Cullihall in Edmonton-West, Brian Deheer in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, Shannon Hawthore in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner, Angelena Satdeo in Yellowhead, Allison Tulick in Calgary-Heritage, Chris Vallee in Edmonton-Manning, and Stephanie Watson in Lethbridge
  • The Christian Heritage Party has nominated Tom Lipp in Bow River, Esther Sutherland in Calgary-Forest Lawn, Larry Heather in Calgary-Heritage, Joseph Alexander in Calgary-Skyview, Christine Armas in Edmonton-Griesbach, Pamella Phiri in Edmonton-Manning, Don Melanson in Edmonton-Mill Woods, and Marc Singerland in Lethbridge. Slingerland narrowly lost the United Conservative Party nomination in Cardston-Siksika to Joseph Schow ahead of the 2019 provincial election.
  • The Marxist-Leninist Party has nominated Kevan Hunter in Calgary-Confederation, Peggy Askin in Calgary-Nose Hill, Daniel Blanchard in Calgary-Skyview, Peggy Morton in Edmonton-Centre, Mary Joyce in Edmonton-Griesbach, and Andre Vachon in Edmonton-Manning.
  • Naomi Rankin is the Communist Party of Canada candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona. Rankin has served as leader of the Communist Party of Alberta since 1992 and has run in every provincial and federal election in Alberta since 1982. Also running for the Communist Party are Jonathan Trautman in Calgary-Forest Lawn and Adam Handy in Calgary-Skyview.

Please contact me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com for additions or updates related to candidate nominations in Alberta and I will add them to the list. Thank you!


Thank you to CBC Edmonton for having me on the radio on Tuesday morning to talk politics with Mark Connolly, Melissa Caouette, and Chaldeans Mensah ahead of the official election call.

Amarjeet Sohi Justin Trudeau in Edmonton Mill Woods

Trudeau coming to Edmonton on the first day of the federal election

Photo: Justin Trudeau at a rally to launch Amarjeet Sohi’s re-election campaign in July 2019.

The federal election is expected to be called tomorrow and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to be in Edmonton on September 12 for a rally with candidates and supporters at the Westbury Theatre in the heart of Edmonton-Strathcona.

The Liberal Party could be hoping to make gains in this riding with the retirement of long-time New Democratic Party MLA Linda Duncan, but, while it is certainly “in play,” it is more likely Liberal resources will be focused on re-electing the party’s two local MPs – Randy Boissonnault in Edmonton-Centre and Amarjeet Sohi in Edmonton-Mill Woods.

As Minister of Natural Resources, the congenial and personally popular Sohi has been tasked with the unfortunate role of being one of the public faces of the federal government-owned Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project. Despite spending considerable political and financial capital saving the project from failure, the Trudeau Liberals have faced growing hostility in traditionally Conservative-dominated Alberta.

The election will be held on October 21, 2019.

Liberals filling out their slate of candidates in Alberta

Phones are buzzing across Alberta tonight as the Liberals, NDP and Greens try to fill their slates of candidates in this province before an expected federal election call tomorrow. With around 40-days left until Election Day, these last minute candidates will have a lot of ground to cover in order to catch up with their opponents, and, in reality, many of them will serve as paper candidates carrying their party’s banner.

The Liberal Party nominated six additional candidates since last Friday:

  • Calgary-Forest Lawn: Jagdish Anand is an Ophthalmologist and Retina Surgeon with a practice in Sunridge Professional Centre and is also attached with Rockyview General Hospital. He was previously a candidate for the Liberal Party nomination in Calgary-Skyview before Nirmala Naidoo was appointed.
  • Calgary-Heritage: Scott Forsyth is a photographer and family physician who holds both medical and law degrees from the University of Calgary. He was the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Heritage in the 2017 by-election where he earned 21.7 per cent of the vote.
  • Calgary-Nose Hill: Josephine Tsang leads the programming and partnership development in the Energy Transitions section of TELUS Spark. She previously taught at Mount Royal University and  holds a Ph.D in Physical Organic Chemistry from Queen’s University.
  • Edmonton-Wetaskiwin: Richard Wong is the vice-chairperson of the Liberal Party association in Edmonton-Riverbend.
  • St. Albert-Edmonton: Gregory Springate is a assistant professor teaching accounting, auditing, tax, finance and information systems at MacEwan University in Edmonton. Springate is the former treasurer and chief financial officer of the Alberta Liberal Party. He briefly sought the Liberal Party nomination in Edmonton-West ahead of the 2015 federal election.
  • Yellowhead: Jeremy Hoefsloot is chairperson of the Young Liberals of Canada in Alberta and until recently was a student of political science and philosophy at the University of Alberta.

The NDP have a number of nomination meetings scheduled for this week, including in Calgary-Nose Hill, where Patrick King is expected to be acclaimed on September 11, 2019. Gurmit Bhachu was nominated as his party’s candidate in Calgary-Midnapore and the NDP were also expected to name a candidate in Calgary-Heritage today.

The Christian Heritage Party nominated Dawid Pawlowski as its candidate in Calgary-Centre. Pawlowski is the brother of controversial street pastor Art Pawlowski. Also running in Calgary-Centre is Animal Party of Canada candidate Eden Gould.

Please contact me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com for additions or updates related to candidate nominations in Alberta and I will add them to the list. Thank you!

Inquiry into foreign-funded un-Albertan activities launches new website, snitch-line

An artist depiction of what an agent of a foreign-funded anti-Alberta energy campaign might look like.

An artist depiction of what an agent of a foreign-funded anti-Alberta energy campaign might look like.

Do you suspect the teenager next-door of flirting with Greenpeace?

Did the granny down the lane suggest the government focus on health care and education rather than oil pipelines?

Has someone on your block started riding their bike to work instead of using their gas-powered car?

Did you overhear someone at the local Starbucks talk about the need to take action against climate change?

Has your neighbour failed to attach an “I love Canadian oil and gas” sticker to the bumper of their truck?

These people could be agents of a dangerous foreign-funded campaign to land-lock Alberta’s oil and gas.

Be sober, be vigilant, and report them to the public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns at submissions@albertainquiry.ca.


Note: This post is satire, but the public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns is not. Along with the United Conservative Party’s mythical War Room and the proclamation of a law to “turn off the taps” to British Columbia, this public inquiry is an attempt to stir up regional political grievances and use the threat of foreign-funded boogeymen to scare critics of Alberta’s oil and gas industry into silence. The public inquiry will also be exempt from the transparency provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Jasraj Singh Hallan, Nirmala Naidoo, Joe Pimlott, Gurdiner Singh Gill

Liberals, NDP and Greens scrambling to fill candidate slates in Alberta ahead of federal election call

Photo: federal candidates Jasraj Singh Hallan, Nirmala Naidoo, Joe Pimlott, and Gurinder Singh Gill

With a federal election expected to begin sometime in the next nine days, some of Canada’s major political parties are scrambling to fill their slate of candidates in Alberta. At the time this update was published, the Liberal Party had 17 candidates nominated in Alberta’s 34 ridings, the NDP had nominated candidates in 9 ridings, and the Greens had candidates in 21 ridings. The Conservative Party and People’s Party had nominated full-slates of 34 candidates.

The regionally dominant Conservative Party is already expected to sweep most of the federal races in Alberta on October 21, 2019, but it is still a bit shocking that the other major political parties are still so far behind in their candidate selection process. It sends a pretty strong signal that those parties will be spending most of their resources in other provinces that are seen as more competitive, with the exception of a few Alberta ridings – Edmonton-Strathcona for the NDP and Calgary-Centre, Edmonton-Centre and Edmonton-Mill Woods for the Liberals.

Former UCP candidiate Hallan wins Conservative nomination in Calgary-Forest Lawn

Jasraj Singh Hallan won the Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Forest Lawn, defeating Andre Chabot, Amrit Rai Nannan, and Aman Obhrai (son of deceased former MP Deepak Obhrai). Hallan runs a residential home building business in Calgary and was the United Conservative Party candidate in Calgary-McCall in Alberta’s 2019 provincial election where he finished 13 points behind New Democratic Party MLA Irfan Sabir.

Calgary-Forest Lawn was the eighth closest race in Alberta in the 2015 federal election, with Obhrai finishing 4,932 votes ahead of the Liberal candidate in that election.

As noted in a previous update, Joe Pimlott has been chosen as the federal NDP candidate in Calgary-Forest Lawn. Pimlott is a community liaison with Metis Calgary Family Services and was the NDP candidate in Calgary-Peigan in the 2019 provincial election.

Naidoo runs for Liberals in Calgary-Skyview

Nirmala Naidoo has been acclaimed as the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Skyview. The former television broadcaster was the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Rocky Ridge in the 2015 election. She briefly served as co-chair of the Alberta Liberal Party’s leadership contest before stepping down to serve as the spokesperson for Sandra Jansen during her brief campaign for the Progressive Conservative Party leadership in 2016 (Jansen had endorsed Naidoo’s federal candidacy in 2015).

Naidoo’s candidacy was approved despite two other candidates having announced their intentions to run for the Liberal Party nomination in this riding.

The riding is currently represented by Independent MP Darshan Kang. Kang is a former two-term Liberal MLA who was elected as a federal Liberal in 2015 before leaving the Liberal caucus in 2018 following allegations of sexual harassment.

Gurinder Singh Gill was recently nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Skyview.

Here are some of the other nomination updates:

  • The Liberals have nominated Ghada Alatrash in Calgary-Signal Hill. She is a Syrian-Canadian writer and holds a PhD in Educational Research from the University of Calgary.
  • Leslie Penny is the nominated Liberal Party candidate in Peace River-Westlock. Penny ran for the provincial Liberal Party in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock in the 2008 and 2012 elections.
  • Ronald Brochu is the Liberal Party candidate in Sturgeon River-Parkland. Brochu has run for the provincial Liberal Party in Edmonton-Gold Bar in 2015 and Drayton Valley-Devon in 2019.
  • Del Arnold has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Shepard. Arnold is the former vice-president of the Alberta Society of Registered Cardiology Technologists.
  • Tariq Chaudary has been acclaimed as the Liberal Party candidate in Edmonton-Riverbend. Chaudary was the Liberal candidate in this riding in 2015, where he earned 30 per cent of the vote.
  • Audrey Redman is expected to seek the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Riverbend on September 16, 2019.
  • Gurmit Bhachu is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Midnapore. Bhachu is active with the provincial NDP in Calgary-Fish Creek and briefly considered seeking the nomination in that district before the 2019 provincial election. The nomination meeting is scheduled to take place on September 10, 2019.
  • The NDP will nominate candidates in Calgary-Heritage on September 10 and in Calgary-Nose Hill on September 11.
  • Elke Crosson has been nominated as the Green Party candidate in Lakeland.
  • Alex Boykowich is running in Edmonton-Griesbach for the Communist Party of Canada. Boykowich recently ran as the Communist Party of Alberta candidate in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood in the 2019 election.
  • Dougal MacDonald is running in Edmonton-Strathcona as a candidate for the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada. MacDonald also ran for his party in this riding in the 2015 federal election.

Federal Green candidate now interim leader of the Green Party of Alberta

Will Carnegie Green Party of Alberta Calgary Forest Lawn

Will Carnegie

Will Carnegie, the federal Green candidate in Calgary-Forest Lawn, is now the interim leader of the Green Party of Alberta following the resignation of Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes.

“I’ve had devastating personal losses and health challenges over the past year, and I need time to step away, focus on family, and heal,” Chagnon-Greyeyes explained in a press release from the party.

Carnegie, who ran for the provincial Greens in Calgary-East in the 2019 election, will remain interim leader until a new leader is elected in early 2020.

This marks the fourth change in Green Party leadership in Alberta since 2017.

Janice MacKinnon

MacKinnon Report endorses Jason Kenney’s political agenda, doesn’t fix Alberta’s big revenue problems

The report and recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances, known widely as the MacKinnon Report, after the panel’s chairperson – former Saskatchewan cabinet minister and history professor Janice MacKinnon – was released yesterday.

Jason Kenney Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney

The report is an endorsement of the United Conservative Party government plan to implement deep cuts to public sector funding, a wide-range of drastic changes to how Alberta’s public services are delivered (or delivered at all), and the use of legislative tools to interfere with the collective bargaining process.

When reading the panel’s report and recommendations, it is important to remember this is not a neutral or academic document. The MacKinnon Report is very much a political document written by political people who were appointed because they share the government’s vision.

Despite her past political affiliation as an NDP cabinet minister in Saskatchewan, MacKinnon’s fiscal conservative views make her more likely to feel welcome in the UCP or the Fraser Institute than in a party led by Rachel Notley or Jagmeet Singh. For decades MacKinnon has been a champion of fiscal conservatism and more recently provided an enthusiastic endorsement that was prominently displayed in the UCP’s election platform.

The MacKinnon Report calls for funding freezes or cuts to public services across the board, including increased privatization of health services, changing the funding formula for Alberta schools (and likely introducing more private and charter schools), increasing government control of post-secondary institutions and lifting the current freeze on tuition fees, and downloading more infrastructure costs on municipalities.

Premier Ralph Klein

Ralph Klein

In yesterday’s press conference announcing the report, MacKinnon suggested that “fewer hospitals” could be a solution to cutting the health care budget, which should raise giant red flags in rural communities across Alberta. During her time as Saskatchewan’s finance minister, 52 rural hospitals were closed as a result of budget cuts.

The report’s suggestion that the government scale back capital investments could also spell trouble for the much-needed new hospital in southwest Edmonton, which was announced by the previous New Democratic Party government in 2017.

The recommended cuts and creation of legislative mechanisms to interfere with the collective bargaining processes are likely designed to create strife with public sector unions whose members would be directly impacted by these cuts – a group that the UCP is eager to pick fights with.

For anyone who grew up or lived in Alberta in the 1990s, it may feel like deja-vu.

When premier Ralph Klein and treasurer Jim Dinning imposed drastic cuts on public services, Albertans were told that balancing the budget and paying down the provincial debt was necessary to get Alberta’s fiscal house in order. At the time, a young anti-tax crusader named Jason Kenney cheered on those cuts, going so far as to tell the Western Report that “Education will be the toughest area to cut, but it will also be the most important. If the government backs down on this one, then the entire Klein revolution will fail.”

Successive governments, both Progressive Conservative and NDP, spent decades trying to fix the damage those short-sighted cuts had on Alberta’s communities, public infrastructure and public services.

The “blue ribbon” panel was created to provide an endorsement of Premier Kenney’s political program, and, if its recommendations are adopted, could be the most radically ideologically conservative agenda Albertans have seen in decades. It is a far cry from the technocratic conservative agenda meticulously implemented by former prime minister Stephen Harper, who Kenney served dutifully in Ottawa.

Unlike Harper, there is no indication that Kenney is interested in half-measures or incrementalism.

Alberta still has a big revenue problem

The narrow mandate of this panel was a missed opportunity to actually address the fiscal challenges facing Alberta, which includes issues with revenue ranging from low taxation and over-dependence on oil and gas royalty revenues.

Rachel Notley Alberta Premier NDP

Rachel Notley

The report briefly mentions that over-dependence on unreliable natural resource revenue is an issue, but the panel was specifically told not to provide recommendations to fix the revenue problem – only spending. Both MacKinnon and Finance Minister Travis Toews repeated the government’s well-used talking points during yesteday’s press conference – that Alberta has a spending problem and not a revenue problem.

The report frequently compares public sector spending in Alberta with British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, but only when it comes to government spending. The big problem with comparing Alberta with our provincial counterparts on the spending side is that our revenue – generated through taxes – is significantly lower than every other province.

If Alberta had the same level of taxation as BC, which is the second lowest in Canada, then Alberta could have no deficit and could be collecting billions of dollars in additional revenue each year. 

By not addressing the revenue challenges faced by the Alberta government, the MacKinnon Report shows it was created to justify the spending cuts and privatization of public services that the UCP was likely already planning to implement. Remember, this is a political document.

It’s hard to criticize the MacKinnon Report without also laying some criticism at the feet of the past PC and NDP governments who did not fix Alberta’s revenue problems when they had the chance. Had the NDP been as aggressive in fixing Alberta’s long-standing revenue problems as the UCP will be in attacking government spending, we might not be reading the MacKinnon Report today.

Four candidates running for Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Forest Lawn

Four candidates have been approved to seek the Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Forest Lawn on August 29, 2019. Already declared candidates Andre Chabot and Amrit Rai Nannan are seeking the nomination along with two additional candidates:

  • Aman Obhrai is a real estate agent and the son of former Member of Parliament Deepak Obhrai, who died on August 2, 2019 and had represented this riding since 1997. The senior Obhrai had been nominated to run as the Conservative Party candidate.
  • Jasraj Hallan runs a residential home building business in Calgary and was the United Conservative Party candidate in Calgary-McCall in Alberta’s 2019 provincial election. He placed second to NDP MLA Irfan Sabir with 39 per cent of the vote.

Former Ontario MP Jeff Watson announced on Facebook that he had declined to seek the nomination. Watson previously ran for a UCP nomination in 2018 and Conservative nomination in Battle River-Crowfoot in 2019. It would also appear as though previously declared candidate Ryan Ellis is no longer seeking the nomination.

Joe Pimlott is expected to seek the New Democratic Party nomination in Calgary-Forest Lawn. Pimlott is a community liaison with Metis Calgary Family Services and the former executive director of the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary and provincial vice-president of the Metis Nation of Alberta. He was the Alberta NDP candidate in Calgary-Peigan in the 2019 provincial election where he placed second to UCP candidate Tanya Fir with 29 per cent of the vote.

Here are some other updates from nomination contests across Alberta:

  • Habiba Mohamud defeated Brian Gold to secure the Liberal Party nomination in Edmonton-Griesbach on August 24, 2019. Mohamud is listed online as a researcher at the Alberta Women’s Science Network and a professor of sociology at MacEwan University.
  • Stephanie Watson has been nominated as the Green Party candidate in Lethbridge.
  • The Greens have also nominated Gordie Nelson in Battle River-Crowfoot, Riny Tuithof de Jonge in Bow River, Jocelyn Grosse in Calgary-Nose Hill, Bridget Lacey in Foothills, and Shannon Hawthorne in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner.
  • Victoria Stevens has withdrawn from the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Griesbach, which is scheduled to take place on August 27, 2019. Mark Cherrington and Abdulhakim Dalel are contesting the nomination.
  • Jesse Lipscombe has withdrawn from the Liberal nomination in St. Albert-Edmonton.
  • Nick Flaumitsch has withdrawn as an Independent candidate in Banff-Airdrie.

Update: Maggie Farrington has been acclaimed as the Liberal Party candidate in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake. Farrington is the Chief Executive Officer at Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and former chair of the Board of Governors at Keyano College.

Please contact me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com for additions or updates related to candidate nominations in Alberta and I will add them to the list. Thank you!


Dave Cournoyer and Jagmeet Singh.

Jagmeet Singh visits Alberta

Wandering through the Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival grounds over the weekend I bumped into federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who was enjoying some of the local cuisine with his supporters.

Singh was in Alberta last week to support local candidates, including Edmonton-Strathcona candidate Heather McPherson who is running to succeed three-term NDP MP Linda Duncan

UCP and NDP close in 2019 post-election fundraising reports

Political party fundraising data for the second quarter of 2019 has been released by Elections Alberta and shows the United Conservative Party and New Democratic Party fairly close in their total fundraising during the reported period.

Here’s the breakdown of the combined funds raised by the parties and their constituency associations during the second quarter of 2019:

  • United Conservative Party: $1,593,698
  • Alberta NDP: $1,427,710
  • Alberta Party: $101,382
  • Liberal Party: $38,270
  • Freedom Conservative Party: $5,205
  • Green Party: $3,184

This quarterly disclosure that would normally include all information from April to June does not include funds raised by the political parties or candidates during the election period from March 20 to April 16, 2019. The fundraising results from the 28-day election period will be included in a separate report not yet released by Elections Alberta. It is expected that all the parties, especially the UCP, raised significantly more during the election period.

The second quarter report provides us with a snapshot of the period immediately following the 2019 election. The UCP and NDP raised a fairly similar amount during the immediate post-election period, and despite losing government the NDP donor base continues for the moment to draw in cash for the new official opposition party.

Update: The candidate campaign financial statements from the 2019 provincial general election have now been released


Notley to speak at Sask NDP gala

Alberta NDP leader and former premier Rachel Notley is the speaker and special guest at an upcoming event hosted by the Saskatchewan NDP in Regina on September 14, 2019. The “Tommy’s Big Win” gala is being held to mark the 75th anniversary of the election of Tommy Douglas and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation in Saskatchewan – the first time a socialist government was elected anywhere in Canada.

Notley’s trip to Saskatchewan comes just over a month after former NDP caucus chief of staff and government staffer Adrienne King started her new job as Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili‘s chief of staff.

Also in NDP news, it is being reported that former ministerial staffer Brandon Stevens has been hired as that party’s new Provincial Secretary. Stevens replaces Roari Richardson, who filled that role during the party’s time as government.

Shortly after the election, UCP executive director Janice Harrington stepped down and was replaced by long-time conservative operative Brad Tennant.