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Alberta Politics

It’s a race. Former MLA Maria Fitzpatrick seeking Alberta NDP nomination in Lethbridge-East

It’s a race.

Former MLA Maria Fitzpatrick this morning announced her plans to run for the Alberta NDP nomination in Lethbridge-East, a district she represented from 2015 to 2019.

Fitzpatrick will face City Councillor Rob Miyashiro in the nomination contest. Miyashiro announced his candidacy last month. 

Fitzpatrick was elected in 2015 with 47.4 per cent of the vote but was unable to repeat her win four years later. She was unseated in 2019, placing second with 38.7 per cent of the vote behind United Conservative Party candidate Nathan Neudorf in 2019.

She is not the only former NDP MLA hoping to secure a party nomination to run again in 2023.

Former MLA Brian Malkinson will face Janet Eremenko in a contested nomination in Calgary-Currie, a riding he represented from 2015 to 2019.

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Alberta Politics

On The Current: Premier Kenney’s uncertain future and the wild ride of Alberta politics

I was up early this morning to join CBC Radio’s Matt Galloway on The Current to discuss Premier Jason Kenney‘s leadership challenges and the wild ride that is Alberta politics.

Take a listen to the segment where strategist Stephen Carter from The Strategists Podcast and I (separately) discuss Kennev’s leadership challenges and the wild ride that is Alberta politics.

Kenney lasts another day

He may have a plummeting approval rating, but Jason Kenney is still King of the United Conservative Party. 

As I noted in the interview on The Current, Kenney is a political survivor. It appears as though he out maneuvered his growing but disorganized opposition in his party and caucus.

Kenney avoided an attempted caucus coup when a motion for a confidence vote put forward by a group of MLAs was withdrawn when they discovered it would not be a secret ballot. He has pushed off demands for a leadership review at the party’s November 2021 annual general meeting by agreeing to a leadership review in Spring 2022 instead. A review had already been scheduled for the party’s planned November 2022 annual meeting. 

Moving the leadership review to next Spring gives Kenney time to organize against his opponents in the cabinet, caucus and party. If he can last that long and not turn his political fortunes around, it will be bad for his party and good for Rachel Notley‘s NDP, whose fundraisers had their prayers answered.

The NDP are hoping this financial quarter, which ends on September 30, will mark the fourth in a row that their party has raised more cash than the UCP.

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Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney is in big trouble and a minor cabinet swap isn’t going to solve his problems

Twenty-nine more Albertans died of COVID-19 yesterday and nearly 1,000 Albertans are in hospital because of the virus, including more than 220 people in intensive care units.

Premier Jason Kenney is in big trouble and a minor cabinet swap isn’t going to solve his problems.

Kenney swapped Health Minister Tyler Shandro with Labour and Immigration Minister Jason Copping in an apparent hope that this might salvage his leadership amid growing calls for his resignation.

Shandro has been a lightning rod as Health Minister, but that was by design. Every decision he made had Kenney’s stamp of approval. He was doing as he was told.

Swapping Shandro for Copping in the middle of the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is more about politics than good governance.

The blow to Kenney’s leadership after the failure of his Open for Summer plan that led to a deadlier fourth wave of COVID-19 in Alberta is not going to be fixed with a cabinet shuffle. 

Kenney’s plummeting popularity probably helped cost Erin O’Toole his chance of becoming Prime Minister in 2021. And the Premier almost certainly contributed to a sharp decline in Conservative support in Alberta that cost his federal cousins four seats in the province.

A few months ago it was almost unimaginable that the Conservatives would actually lose seats in Alberta in this federal election. But the NDP picked up an additional seat and the Liberals might have won two. 

But Kenney’s political woes are not all recent.

Since becoming Premier he has mastered the ability to anger the maximum number of Albertans possible at any given time.

His party’s financial health has also been hit hard. There have been three straight financial quarters in a row when Kenney’s UCP fell short of Rachel Notley’s NDP in fundraising. The Alberta NDP has been in the lead in every public poll since November 2020.

Calls for a leadership review are growing from UCP constituency associations and party executives like vice-president Joel Mullen. Even former deputy leader Leela Aheer has publicly questioned why he hasn’t stepped down. And the right-wing Western Standard website has reported on a rumour that country music star and two time Conservative candidate George Canyon might run for the party presidency on the platform of forcing a vote on Kenney’s leadership.

The UCP Caucus is holding a mandatory in-person meeting tomorrow, where, I imagine the growing number of disgruntled MLAs will have a lot to say about their leader’s future.

UCP waited until after the election to ask for federal help

Transportation Minister Ric McIver, who is in charge of Alberta’s Emergency Management Office, waited until the day after the federal election to send a letter to federal minister Bill Blair requesting help from the Ottawa to deal with the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UCP government waited until after Sept. 20 to request help because they didn’t want to embarrass the federal Conservatives during the election. Let that sink in.

The government’s plea for help from the federal government and other provinces will almost certainly undermine Kenney’s argument that Alberta is being treated unfairly by the rest of Canada, a key part of the reason for a province-wide referendum in October to ask for the equalization formula to be removed from the Constitution.

New Senate Nominee candidates

The nomination deadline passed at 12:00 pm yesterday for candidates to enter the Senate Nominee Election, which is being held in conjunction with two province-wide referendums and municipal elections on October 18, 2021.

Recent People’s Party of Canada candidates Ann McCormack, Kelly Lorencz, and Nadine Wellwood filed their papers to run as Senate Nominee candidates before the polls closed in the federal election in which they were defeated.

Also recently joining the Senate Nominee Election are Town of Ponoka Mayor Richard Bonnett, who ran for the Liberal Party in the 2004 federal election, and former Slave Lake Mayor and physician Karina Pillay.

Brian Jean’s favourite hobby is trolling Jason Kenney on the internet

With a provincial by-election expected to be called in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche in the next five months, Kenney’s arch-enemy, former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, is musing online that he might run as a candidate. Jean asked for feedback from his followers on Facebook about whether he should run in the by-election in the area he represented as an MLA from 2015 to 2018.

Since leaving elected office in 2019, Jean has flirted with Alberta separatism and recently publicly mused about running for the leadership of the Alberta Party, which he did not. He has also called on Kenney to resign as leader of the UCP.

The by-election will be held to replace former UCP MLA Laila Goodridge, who was elected as the Conservative MP for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake in the Sept. 20 federal election.

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Alberta Politics

Conservative support drops as Liberals and NDP make gains in Alberta

A map of tonight’s federal election results in Alberta would show a sea of Conservative Party blue, but if you zoomed in on the two largest urban centres the results are more interesting.

It looks like 29 Conservative incumbents were re-elected, many with margins of victory that are large but narrower than the party’s results in the 2019 federal election.

With 71 per cent of the vote, it appears that Battle River-Crowfoot Conservative Damien Kurek was elected with the largest percentage of the vote. This is down from his 85.5 per cent of the vote in 2019.

The only new Conservative candidate elected in Alberta is Laila Goodridge, a former United Conservative Party MLA who was elected in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake.

As of 11:14pm it looks like Liberal Party candidate George Chahal has been elected in Calgary-Skyview, unseating Conservative Jag Sahota in the northeast Calgary riding.

In Edmonton-Centre, Liberal Randy Boissonnault sits with 33 per cent of the vote ahead of Conservative incumbent James Cumming with 31 per cent and NDP candidate Heather Mackenzie with 30 per cent.

If successful in his bid for election, Boissonnault will likely join Chahal in the federal Liberal cabinet as the two Liberals from Alberta.The race in Edmonton-Centre marks a breakthrough for the NDP with Mackenzie earning the party’s best ever result in the riding.

With NDP incumbent Heather McPherson re-elected with a commanding 59 per cent in Edmonton-Strathcona, it looks like the NDP may have picked up a second seat in Edmonton. As of 11:17pm, Edmonton-Griesbach NDP candidate Blake Desjarlais was leading Conservative incumbent Kerry Diotte by 557 votes with 194 of 232 polls reporting.

The NDP poured a lot of resources into Desjarlais’ campaign, with party leader Jagmeet Singh visiting the riding twice during the election and Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley and local MLAs including Janis Irwin lending their support.

The mail-in ballots could help determine the final results in Edmonton-Centre and Edmonton-Griesbach. Elections Canada starts counting those tomorrow.

The Conservative vote dropped to 55 per cent from 69 per cent in the 2019 election. The NDP vote was up to 19 per cent, a big increase from 11 per cent in 2019 and even more than the 16 per cent the NDP earned during Jack Layton‘s Orange Wave of 2011. The Liberal vote is at 15 per cent, up from 13 per cent in 2019.

The People’s Party earned 7 per cent, placing a distant second in most rural ridings but not coming anywhere close to winning a seat in the province. The separatist Maverick Party was a lot of talk but barely showed up on the radar.

Ontario MP Derek Sloan, who moved to Alberta in hopes to win a seat was defeated in Banff-Airdrie, placing fifth with 2 per cent of the vote.

But the biggest loser of the night in Alberta is Premier Jason Kenney, who’s refusal to act early and prevent the deadly fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic damaged Erin O’Toole and the federal Conservatives in the final week of the federal election.

Kenney is expected to face serious questions about his leadership when United Conservative Party MLAs meet for a caucus meeting on Wednesday. There are rumours that Kenney might even be forced to resign as Premier.

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Alberta Politics

Alberta matters in this federal election for all the wrong reasons

There’s a chance that the federal election results in Alberta could end up being less than exciting, with the Conservatives winning most of the province’s seats, but there’s no doubt Alberta had an impact in this federal election: Premier Jason Kenney might have cost Erin O’Toole and the Conservatives their chance at forming government in Ottawa.

The former wonder kid of Canada’s conservative movement, Kenney spent a month in hiding to avoid embarrassing O’Toole only to emerge in the final few days of the campaign to drop a bomb in his federal cousin’s lap. Kenney’s Open for Summer plan that removed all public health restrictions in time for the Calgary Stampede in July led to a vicious fourth wave of COVID-19 that has seen a steep spike in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

It is unlikely that Premier Jason Kenney will be joining Conservative leader Erin O'Toole when he visits Edmonton-Centre tomorrow.
Erin O’Toole and Jason Kenney during happier times.

Intensive Care Units across Alberta are filling up and Kenney has had to plead with other provinces to take our sick patients if we run out of space.

All non-emergency surgeries in Alberta are cancelled and 75 per cent of the operating rooms at the Alberta Children’s Hospital are closing because doctors and nurses are being redeployed to take care of COVID patients.

Public sector health care unions are urging Kenney to ask the federal government for help from the military and the Red Cross.

O’Toole praised Kenney’s response to the pandemic and has refused to answer questions about it from reporters since Alberta once again declared a State of Public Health Emergency last week. 

While the Conservatives are expected to sweep Alberta once again, O’Toole only visited the province once in this election campaign. He spent a morning in Edmonton during the first week of the campaign, making a policy announcement in Edmonton-Centre and stopping for a photo-op at a Jollibee’s before shuffling back to the airport for an afternoon flight to British Columbia.

But unlike recent federal elections, this time the right-wing of the political spectrum is pretty crowded in Alberta.

People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier has taken advantage of O’Toole and Kenney’s perceived political weaknesses by spending a considerable amount of time in Alberta during this election.

Appealing to groups ranging from the vaccine hesitant to indoctrinated COVID conspiracy theorists, Bernier has been attracting large crowds at his Alberta rallies. And his candidates have earned endorsements from former Conservative MP David Yurdiga and former Reform MP Cliff Breitkreuz.

Former Ontario MP Derek Sloan, who was kicked out of the Conservative Party for accepting a donation from a well-known white supremacist, has been embraced the COVID conspiracy theories as he campaigns as an Independent candidate in Banff-Airdrie with the full-support of former Conservative MP Rob Anders.

And then there’s the separatist Maverick Party led by former Conservative MP and oil industry lobbyist Jay Hill, which is still in the mix despite Alberta separatism not being the hot topic it was after the 2019 federal election.

Meanwhile, the silence coming from the United Conservative Party Caucus is deafening.

Aside from dissenting Tweets and Facebook comments from two already disgruntled backbenchers – former cabinet minister and Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer and Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried – the predicted caucus revolt has not yet spilled out into the public. But maybe that changes if Justin Trudeau’s Liberals form government on Monday.

Directors of the UCP association in Olds-Didsbury-Three-Hills, home of Speaker and former interim leader Nathan Cooper, near unanimously passed a motion calling for a leadership review and party vice-president Joel Mullen is reported to have called for a review.

Kenney’s supporters on the UCP provincial executive headed off previous calls by scheduling leadership review at the party’s Fall 2022 convention, only months ahead of the expected 2023 provincial election.

If O’Toole does not become Prime Minister after the federal ballots are counted, he might not be the only Conservative leader looking for a new job. Kenney’s already embattled leadership could become even more tenuous.

Kerry Diotte unites the NDP in Alberta

Jagmeet Singh and Blake Desjarlais in Edmonton-Griesbach on Sept. 18, 2021.

In what is likely his biggest single achievement of his political career, Conservative candidate Kerry Diotte has succeeded in bridging the political divide between the provincial and federal NDP in Alberta.

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was back in Alberta yesterday for his second visit to the Edmonton-Griesbach, where the party believes candidate Blake Desjarlais can unseat Diotte to pick up a second seat for the NDP.

With NDP incumbent Heather McPherson believed to be secure for re-election in Edmonton-Strathcona, the party has been pouring its resources into Griesbach.

Rachel Notley and Janis Irwin with Blake Desjarlais and volunteers in Edmonton-Griesbach.
Rachel Notley and Janis Irwin with Blake Desjarlais and volunteers in Edmonton-Griesbach.

And Singh isn’t the only party leader on the campaign trail for Desjarlais.

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley was on the doors last week helping Desjarlais get his vote out. While Notley tried her best to avoid being involved in the 2019 federal campaign, she and about a dozen NDP MLAs, including local MLAs Janis Irwin and David Eggen have been spotted door knocking with Desjarlais.

Pipelines and the carbon tax kept the NDP cousins apart in 2019, but the possibility of defeating Kerry Diotte has brought the provincial and federal NDP together in 2021.

Liberals have their sights set on Edmonton-Centre, Mill Woods and Calgary-Skyview

The Liberals hope to reestablish a beachhead in Alberta and if they are successful it will likely be in Edmonton-Centre, Edmonton-Mill Woods or Calgary-Skyview.

Ben Henderson and Don Iveson in Edmonton-MIll Woods.
Ben Henderson and Don Iveson in Edmonton-MIll Woods.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau only made one brief stop in Alberta during the first week of the election campaign to speak at a rally for Calgary-Skyview candidate George Chahal.

University—Rosedale Liberal candidate and former Edmonton native Chrystia Freeland visited Alberta twice to campaign with candidates in Calgary and Edmonton, including Randy Boissonnault in Edmonton-Centre and Ben Henderson in Edmonton-Mill Woods.

Also visiting Alberta during the campaign were Vancouver-South Liberal candidate Harjit Sajan, who campaigned in Calgary-Centre with Sabrina Grover, and Surrey-Newton Liberal candidate Sukh Dhaliwal, who campaigned with Henderson in Mill Woods.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson endorsed Henderson and campaigned with him in the final days of the election. The two men have served together on Edmonton City Council since 2007. 

Voting stations are open from 7:30am to 7:30pm on Sept. 20, 2021. 

Categories
Alberta Politics

“I won’t apologize.” Jason Kenney fails to lead Alberta through the biggest crisis in a generation

Three years ago, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was the unquestioned leader of the Conservative movement in Canada. He was the national conservative standard bearer.

Now, Kenney is politically toxic.

And as the deadly fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit Alberta, he was in hiding.

His absence is mostly an attempt to avoid embarrassing his federal cousins in Ottawa, who until today have been grateful for his disappearance, and facing an unruly caucus of United Conservative Party MLAs already unhappy with his leadership, but it also means he has been out from public sight as new COVID cases skyrocketed, hospitals and intensive care units began to overflow, and more Albertans have died of the deadly disease.

From @CBCFletch on Twitter
From @CBCFletch on Twitter

Twenty-four more Albertans died yesterday. More than 90 Albertans have died over the past eight days.

Kenney reemerged for the second time in almost two months today to announce the end of his Best Summer Ever.

Joining Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, and Alberta Health Services CEO Dr. Verna Yiu, Kenney declared a public state of emergency and bumbled his way through a confusing new list of public health restrictions and a not a vaccine passport vaccine passport system that largely puts the burden on businesses to figure out (something his party was fundraising off its opposition to weeks ago and he described as illegal a few months ago).

Like the previous three waves of the pandemic, Kenney waited until the health care system was in crisis before acting. If Albertans comply with the new restrictions, we can hope that the number of COVID cases decrease. But not removing the restrictions too quickly, like he has before, will probably be key to its success.

Poking a big hole in Kenney’s decision to declare Alberta ‘reopened for good’ in time for the Calgary Stampede back in July, Hinshaw admitted the Premier’s much-promoted “Open for Summer” plan that removed nearly all public health restrictions led to the COVID-19 fourth wave that has hit Alberta.

When medical experts and media questioned how quickly Kenney removed the public health restrictions, he and his staff aggressively attacked and dismissed their warnings about a fourth wave.

Kenney eagerly pushed for 70 per cent of eligible Albertans over the age of 12 to get vaccinated in order to lift restrictions in time for the Stampede. The government offered lucrative lotteries and prizes, and even $100 cash cards, to convince Albertans to get vaccinated but it does not appear to have moved the needle to where we need it to be. Alberta still lags behind the rest of the country.

Kenney’s Open for Summer plan was all optimism that the COVID-19 pandemic was over with none of the vigilance required to make sure it actually was.

But don’t expect Kenney to volunteer to face the consequences for his actions.

Responding to his critics at today’s press conference, Kenney initially apologized for the results of his Open for Summer decision only to retract his apology minutes later when answering a question from Postmedia columnist Rick Bell, telling Bell that “I won’t apologize.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began 18 months ago, Kenney has failed to lead Albertans through the biggest health crisis in a generation.

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Alberta Politics

Former Deputy Premier Doug Horner running for Senate, former NDP MLA Annie McKitrick running for Mayor, UCP MLA Recall law MIA

Former cabinet minister Doug Horner is planning to run in Alberta’s Senate Nominee elections happening on October 18, 2021. The former Deputy Premier and Finance Minister quietly announced on his LinkedIn page that he is collecting signatures to make his candidacy official.

“I have also thought long and hard about the idea of running as a candidate with the endorsement of a political party,” Horner wrote on LinkedIn. “I believe that the Senate should have a strong degree of independence as well as representing Albertans and not parties, as such I will be going as an independent.”

“In my view the Senate can serve a very important purpose to review, advise, and give input to the Federal Government on legislative initiatives from the perspective of their experience and representation of their regions,” wrote Horner.  

Horner was first elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA after unseating two-term Liberal MLA Colleen Soetaert in Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert in 2001. He was re-elected in 2004 after facing a spirited challenge from Liberal Ray Boudreau and re-elected by large margins in 2008 and in 2012 in the redistributed Spruce Grove-St. Albert district.

Between 2004 and 2014 he served as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Minister of Advanced Education and Technology, Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance. 

He placed third in the 2011 PC Party leadership, with most of his votes shifting to help Alison Redford defeat frontrunner Gary Mar on the the third ballot. He resigned as an MLA in January 2015 after he was dropped from cabinet by Jim Prentice.

Horner is the scion of a genuine Western Canadian political family dynasty. He is the son of former Deputy Premier Hugh Horner, nephew of former MPs Jack HornerAlbert Horner and Norval Horner, and grandson of Saskatchewan Senator Ralph Horner. Drumheller-Stettler United Conservative Party MLA Nate Horner is his first cousin once removed.

The Conservative Party of Canada has already announced its endorsement of lobbyist and former United Conservative Party president Erika Barootes, UCP activist Pamela Davidson, and Canadian Ukrainian Free Trade Agreement Association president Mykhailo Martyniouk in the Senate Nominee elections. While he has not yet formally endorsed Barootes, Premier Jason Kenney was spotted at a Calgary Stampede event wearing one of her campaign buttons. 

Also running are Progress Alberta executive Director Duncan Kinney, emergency medicine doctor Sunil Sookram, retired lawyer Randy Hogle, former Western Barley Growers Association president Jeff Nielsen, and Chad Jett Thunders Sauders. 

Former NDP MLA running for Mayor

Annie McKitrick
Annie McKitrick

Former NDP MLA Annie McKitrick is running for mayor of Strathcona County. McKitrick served as MLA for Sherwood Park from 2015 to 2019.

“I am deeply committed to inclusion and planning for the future through more sustainable social, economic and environmental outcomes,” McKitrick wrote in a post on Facebook.

“As our community, Alberta, Canada and the rest of the world adjusts to what is often called the “new normal” we need a Mayor with the experience and knowledge to provide leadership in collaboration with other elected officials and with resident input.”

McKitrick will be challenging incumbent mayor and past Liberal candidate Rod Frank and former Strathcona-Sherwood Park PC MLA and past Alberta Party candidate Dave Quest. 

UCP MLA Recall law is MIA

It has been 88 days since Bill 52: Recall Act received Royal Assent but it still hasn’t been proclaimed into law by the Kenney government. When proclaimed, the law would allow Albertans to collect signatures to hold a vote to recall their MLA from the Legislature and trigger a by-election to replace them.

Political scientist Duane Bratt recently speculated on Twitter that “One theory is that there is a red zone of six months before an election, so it will be proclaimed in another year. This will prevent recalls until 18 months after 2023 election.”

I am sure the UCP’s poor standing in the polls and Kenney’s plummeting approval ratings have nothing to do with this law not yet being enacted.

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Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 77: Back from the Best Summer Ever

We are back from the summer with the first episode of Season 4 of the Daveberta Podcast and we dive right into Alberta’s response to the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, speculation about how long Jason Kenney might last in the Premier’s Office, the federal election, municipal political parties and slates and much much more.

The Daveberta Podcast is hosted by Dave Cournoyer and produced by Adam Rozenhart.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported.

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

Thanks for listening. Have a safe and fun summer.

Recommended reading and listening:

Categories
Alberta Politics

Shandro drags his feet on new COVID-19 measures, Kenney has disappeared… again.

The fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting Alberta hard. Forty-four Albertans are reported to have died of COVID-19 over the past six days. 1,522 new cases were announced yesterday. 679 Albertans are in hospital. 154 are in an Intensive Care Unit. Hundreds of surgeries are being cancelled because of the fourth wave.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro emerged yesterday at a press conference billed as an announcement to reduce pressure on hospitals, but he did not announce any further public health measures aimed at stopping the spread of the virus. In fact, Shandro’s bizarre press conference was really about nothing.

When asked repeatedly by reporters, Shandro once again danced around the question of vaccine passports, which have the support of nearly 80 per cent of Albertans according to some polls.

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley is calling on the province to implement a vaccine passport system instead of putting the burden on businesses to figure out their own patchwork system.

Like in the past waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, expect Alberta’s United Conservative Party government to drag its feet in response to the fourth wave before implementing measures after facing weeks of criticism.

And Premier Jason Kenney has disappeared again, likely to reappear on September 21, after the federal election is over.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Making the Alberta Party relevant is Barry Morishita’s new job

Brooks Mayor Barry Morishita has been acclaimed as leader of the Alberta Party.

“As a compassionate leader and experienced community builder, I believe that a new, fresh approach to politics is what Albertans need right now and that the Alberta Party is the vehicle to drive that positive change,” Morishita said in a press statement released by the party.

Kaycee Madu Edmonton South West
Kaycee Madu (Source: Twitter)

Morishita was first elected to Brooks City Council in 1998 and became Mayor of Brooks in 2016 after previous mayor Martin Shields was elected as the Conservative Member of Parliament for Bow River.

He was elected President of the Alberta Urban Municipality Association in 2017 and was a vocal critic of the United Conservative Party government’s overhaul of municipal election laws, going so far as to describe relations between municipalities and then-Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu as “broken.”

This is not his first foray into provincial politics. Like other leaders of the Alberta Party, Morishita’s past political experience was as a member of another political party.

He ran for Nancy MacBeth‘s Alberta Liberals in Strathmore-Brooks in 2001, placing second with 15.5 per cent of the vote behind Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Lyle Oberg. He had previously been active with the Liberal Party as a delegate to the convention that chose Laurence Decore as party leader in 1988.

Lyle Oberg
Lyle Oberg

He also made a $300 donation to the PC Party in Strathmore-Brooks in 2014.

The small moderate conseravtive political party broke through into the Legislature in 2015 when leader Greg Clark, who worked as a Liberal Caucus staffer in his youth, was elected in Calgary-Elbow. Despite growing its popular vote, the party was shut out of the Legislature in 2019 under the leadership of former Edmonton mayor and PC cabinet minister Stephen Mandel.

The Alberta Party has languished in obscurity since the 2019 election, with interim leader Jacquie Fenske, a former PC MLA from Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, holding the reins until a permanent leader was named.

Doug Griffiths
Doug Griffiths

According to a report from the Morinville News, former Morinville Mayor and past AUMA President Lisa Holmes and former Battle River-Wainwright PC MLA Doug Griffiths are part of Morishita’s transition team.

The challenges facing Morishita and his party are steep:

  1. Make his party relevant. Rachel Notley‘s NDP have led in the polls since November 2020 and have a commanding lead in fundraising. It is going to be challenging for the Alberta Party to convince Albertans who want Jason Kenney out of the Premier’s Office that they are the credible alternative.
  2. Winning a seat in the next election and getting his party back into the Legislature. Brooks-Medicine Hat will be the natural place for Morishita to run but it will be an uphill climb to win in the lopsidedly conservative voting district currently represented by UCP MLA Michaela Glasgo.There will also be a by-election held in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche in the next six months following the resignation of Laila Goodridge, who is running in the federal election.
Categories
Alberta Politics

Alberta is a pretty boring place to spend a federal election

Alberta is a pretty boring place to spend a federal election. Even as the polls shift nationally, there is a good chance the seat total could be the same as the 2019 election: 33 Conservative and one NDP.

It’s a quiet campaign.

Unlike the 2019 election, when Albertans were still riled up from that year’s April provincial election and federal campaign issues like pipelines and the carbon tax, this year feels sleepy. The majority of Albertans will surely cast their ballots again on September for the Conservative Party, but it might not be with the same level of enthusiasm and gusto as the last election.

But, if there is a chance that any seats could switch parties, here are a few of the ridings where it might happen:

Edmonton-Griesbach

Blake Desjarlais

Probably one of the only centres of electoral excitement in Alberta is where Conservative candidate Kerry Diotte is seeking re-election for his third-term against New Democrat Blake Desjarlais.

The NDP are hoping they can elect a second MP from Alberta and are putting that hope into Desjarlais’ campaign. Party leader Jagmeet Singh has visited the riding twice in the past month, spending an entire day campaigning in the district during the first week of the election, and pouring volunteer, financial and online advertising resources into the local campaign.

If the NDP are going to pick up a second seat in Alberta in this election, this is it. 

Even NDP MLAs, who shunned the federal party in 2019, have been campaigning with Desjarlais in his bid to unseat Diotte. Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin, Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman, Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan, Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang, Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen, and Edmonton-West Henday MLA Jon Carson have been spotted on the campaign trail in Edmonton-Griesbach. 

Full list of candidates in Edmonton-Griesbach:

  • Communist: Alex Boykowich
  • Conservative: Kerry Diotte
  • Green: Heather Lau
  • Liberal: Habiba Mohamud
  • Libertarian: Morgan Watson
  • Marxist-Leninist: Mary Joyce
  • NDP: Blake Desjarlais
  • People’s Party: Thomas Matty

Edmonton-Centre

Randy-Boissonnault Edmonton Centre Liberals
Randy Boissonnault

Conservative James Cumming and Liberal Randy Boissonnault are facing each other for the third time since 2015. Boissonnault won the first time they face each other in 2015 and Cumming unseated him in 2019. 

NDP candidate Heather MacKenzie, a former public school board trustee and past municipal candidate, is hoping to dislodge the Liberals as the main alternative to the Conservatives.

NDP vote has held firm over the past three elections, suggesting that Boissonnault’s win in 2015 and defeat in 2019 was more about voters switching between the Conservatives and Liberals than a split between the Liberals and NDP.

Toronto Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland stopped in the district at the beginning of the campaign to support Boissonnault’s bid for re-election.

Full list of candidates in Edmonton-Centre:

  • Conservative: James Cumming
  • Liberal: Randy Boissonnault
  • Libertarian: Valerie Keefe
  • Marxist-Leninist: Merryn Edwards
  • NDP: Heather Mackenzie
  • People’s Party: Brock Crocker

Edmonton-Mill Woods

Edmonton City Councillor Ben Henderson is running for the Liberal Party in Edmonton-Mill Woods
Edmonton City Councillor Ben Henderson is running for the Liberal Party in Edmonton-Mill Woods

Conservative Tim Uppal’s main challenger is city councillor Ben Henderson, who hopped south from his long-held municipal ward to run in his federal district.

While Uppal served as an MP for many terms, this is his first time running for re-election in Edmonton-Mill Woods. He was the MP for Edmonton-Sherwood Park from 2008 to 2015. 

The district was represented by Liberal MP Amarjeet Sohi from 2015 to 2019. Sohi is running for Mayor of Edmonton. 

Full list of candidates in Edmonton-Mill Woods:

  • Communist: Naomi Rankin
  • Conservative: Tim Uppal
  • Liberal: Ben Henderson
  • NDP: Nigel Logan
  • People’s Party: Paul McCormack

Calgary-Centre

Sabrina Grover Liberal Calgary-Centre
Sabrina Grover

It’s a long-shot but if the Liberals are able to salvage their national campaign in the next two weeks they could be in a position to pick up this district that Liberal Kent Hehr won in 2015. In this election Liberal Sabrina Grover is challenging first-term Conservative Greg McLean.

Full list of candidates in Calgary-Centre:

  • Christian Heritage Party: David Pawlowski
  • Conservative: Greg McLean
  • Green: Austin Mullins
  • Liberal: Sabrina Grover
  • NDP: Juan Estevez Moreno

Calgary-Skyview

Justin Trudeau and George Chahal (source: Twitter)

Conservative Jag Sahota is facing a challenge from city councillor George Chahal who is running for the Liberals in this northeast Calgary district. Chahal has been endorsed by Mayor Naheed Nenshi, and a handful of city councillors including mayoral election hopefuls Jyoti Gondek and Jeff Davison.

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau’s plane touched down just long enough for him to appear at a rally in support of Chahal during the first week of the election.

Former MLA Darshan Kang was elected as the Liberal MP in 2015 but left the Liberal caucus after allegations of sexual harassment.

Full list of candidates in Calgary-Skyview:

  • Centrist Party: Nadeem Rana
  • Conservative: Jag Sahota
  • Green: Janna So
  • Independent: Lee Aquart
  • Liberal: George Chahal
  • Marxist-Leninist: Daniel Blanchard
  • NDP: Gurinder Singh Gill
  • People’s Party: Harry Dhillon

Banff-Airdire

Conservative candidate Blake Richards will probably safely coast to re-election on September 20, but the cast of conservative characters in this district make it interesting. Richards faces former Ontario Conseravtive MP Derek Sloan, who has relocated to Alberta in order to hold rallies for anti-mask and COVID conspiracy theorists, Maverick Party candidate and rodeo competitor Tariq Elnaga, People’s Party candidate Nadine Wellwood, and Independent separatist candidate Ron Voss. 

Full list of candidates in Banff-Airdire:

  • Conservative: Blake Richards
  • Green: Aidan Blum
  • Independent: Caroline O’Driscoll
  • Independent: Derek Sloan
  • Independent: Ron Voss
  • Liberal: David Gamble
  • Maverick: Tariq Elnaga
  • NDP: Sarah Zagoda
  • People’s Party: Nadine Wellwood

The smaller right-wing parties

It has yet to be seen what kind of impact two smaller right-wing parties will have in Alberta in this election.

People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier is in Alberta this week holding a series of rallies and it seems like the right-wing populist party is gaining support among disenchanted conservatives and anti-vaxxer crowds.

Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman has been spotted at People’s Party events and Bernier also met with Cypress-Medicine Hat Drew Barnes, who currently sits as an Independent MLA after being ejected from the United Conservative Party caucus earlier in the summer. It also appears as though outgoing Fort McMurray-Cold Lake Conservative MP David Yurdiga endorsed the local People’s Party candidate in a post on his personal Facebook account.

The separatist Maverick Party is only running candidates in districts they have determined are not likely to elect a Liberal or NDP MP, which is most of Alberta, but limiting themselves to running in Conservative strongholds has probably eliminated their chances of being relevant in this election.

Former talk radio host Dave Rutherford has been joining Maverick Party interim leader Jay Hill at candidate events across the province.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney has mastered the ability to anger the maximum number of Albertans possible at any given time

I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed a government that has so successfully mastered the ability to make decisions that will almost immediately anger the maximum number of Albertans possible as Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party government has done over the past two years.

Open-pit coal mining, privatizing provincial parks, attacking doctors, attacking nurses, writing a draft school curriculum that would take the education system back to the 1950s are just a few of the almost universally unpopular policies this government has thrown itself into, and now – as the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hits Alberta – paying unvaccinated Albertans $100 to get their COVID-19 vaccinations.

The response to the spike in COVID cases and hospitalizations announced by Kenney was almost uuniversally panned by everyone – including the gaggle of conservative political pundits and columnists who can usually be depended upon to print defences and justifications for the government.

Political watchers who praised Kenney for throwing off public health restrictions at the beginning of the summer and declaring Alberta open for the summer are now openly questioning the UCP’s mind-boggling latest move.

One hundred dollars is much cheaper than paying for an unvaccinated Albertan who ends up in the now overflowing Intensive Care Units, the idea of paying people who did not get vaccinated when the majority of Albertans flocked to their clinics and pharmacies to get the jab is, well, pretty insulting – and tone deaf.

And the almost arbitrary move to impose a curfew on alcohol sales to 10:00 p.m., while granting immediate exemptions to a handful of rural rodeos, but not Calgary’s Pride events, suggests that this move could be more about what is politically palatable than what might work to stop the spread of COVID-19.

At the beginning of the summer, Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro stood on the banks high above Edmonton’s River Valley and declared that Alberta was open for summer. They even had vanity baseball hats made that said “Alberta Best Summer Ever.” Then cases started to rise, as did hospitalizations, and Kenney disappeared on a late summer vacation.

So, the question on the minds of many Albertans, and one that has been frequently asked since the pandemic began in early 2020: is this the best for Albertans or is this the best that Kenney could get his UCP cabinet and caucus to agree to?

Categories
Alberta Politics

Conservatives, Liberals and NDP nominate full slates of candidates in Alberta.

The filing deadlines have passed and it appears as though Elections Canada has released the final list of candidates who will be listed on the ballot in the September 20, 2021 federal election.

As of tonight, the Conservatives, Liberals and New Democratic Party are the only parties to have nominated a full slate of 34 candidates in Alberta. The People’s Party, which previously announced a full-slate, fell one candidate short with no nominee in Calgary-Centre.

Total nominated federal election candidates in Alberta

Conservative Party: 34/34
Liberal Party: 34/34
New Democratic Party: 34/34
People’s Party: 33/34
Green Party: 22/34
Maverick Party: 19/34
Marxist-Leninist: 7/34
Libertarian Party: 6/34
Christian Heritage: 5/34
Rhinoceros Party: 4/34
Veterans Coalition Party: 4/34
Communist Party: 3/34
National Citizens Alliance: 2/34
Centrist Party: 1/34

Here are some of the final candidates to be added to the list of federal election candidates in Alberta:

The NDP has nominated Sarah Zagoda in Banff-Airdrie, CRPNA President Tonya Ratushniak in Battle River-Crowfoot, Michael MacLean in Bow River, Kiera Gunn in Calgary-Forest Lawn, Kathleen Johnson in Calgary-Heritage, Jena Diane Kieren in Calgary-Rocky Ridge, Raj Jessel in Calgary-Shepard, Michelle Traxel in Foothills, Garnett Robinson in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, Jennifer Villebrun in Grande Prairie-Mackenzie, Elaine Perez in Lethbridge, Jocelyn Stenger in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner, Guillaume Roy in Yellowhead.

The Green Party nominated Brett Rogers in Foothills, Kira Brunner in Lakeland, Diandra Bruised Head in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner, Jordan MacDougall in Peace River-Westlock, Heather Lau in Edmonton-Griesbach, Malka Labell in Calgary-Heritage, and Keiran Corrigall in Calgary-Signal Hill.

The Maverick Party nominated John Wetterstrand in Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan to replace previously named candidate John Kuhn, who dropped out last month.

Independent candidate Caroline O’Driscoll is running in Banff-Airdrie.

The Veterans Coalition Party has named candidates John Irwin in Battle River-Crowfoot, and Hughie Shane Whitmore in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake.

Categories
Alberta Politics

NOW! 50 years since historic 1971 election that launched Peter Lougheed into the Premier’s Office

On August 30, 1971, the Progressive Conservative Party led by 43-year old Calgary lawyer Peter Lougheed were rocketed into government when they unseated the 36-year old Social Credit government led by 57-year old Harry Strom.

The front page of the Calgary Herald on August 31, 1971.
The front page of the Calgary Herald on August 31, 1971.

It was a shift that, until recently, had happened only once every generation in Alberta: a change in government.

Lougheed’s election represented a generational shift, with the voting age dropping from 21 to 18 years old for the first time, and an urban shift, with a handful of new urban districts added to the electoral map dislodging the disproportionate rural majority that had dominated Alberta’s elections until that point. 

As Ernest Manning’s successor, Strom inherited an aging dynasty that had governed Alberta since 1935. While he appeared open to new ideas, modernizing the long-in-the-tooth Socred government was a tall order.

In contrast, Lougheed embodied new ideas of a younger Alberta – or at least that’s what the mythology of that election tells us. His campaign was made for TV and the telegenic Lougheed could be frequently seen “main streeting” and running from door to door while canvassing for his party’s candidates. 

Social Credit tried to revitalize their look, with go-go girls and live bands at their election rallies, but once voters decided that change was needed it was impossible for Strom to turn that around. And the iconic NOW! slogan of Lougheed’s campaign tapped into that feeling.

The Lougheed PCs were not alone. They had the financial backing of corporate Calgary, including generous support from the Mannix Corporation, which employed Lougheed before he was first elected to the Legislature in 1967.

Alberta Social Credit 1971 Election Ad "Experienced. Respected. A New Kind of Leader. Harry Strom"
Alberta Social Credit 1971 Election Ad “Experienced. Respected. A New Kind of Leader. Harry Strom”

The PCs won with 49 seats and 46.4 per cent of the popular vote, sweeping out Social Credit, which, with 25 seats and 41.1 per cent of the vote formed the Official Opposition for the first time. While the Social Credit Party would wither in the opposition benches and eventually shrink into a 4 MLA rump that would survive until the early 1980s, Lougheed’s first victory transformed Alberta politics for the next five decades.

The PCs would form commanding majorities until their defeat to Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party in 2015.

Also elected in 1971 was NDP leader Grant Notley, who would represent the northern rural district of Spirit River-Fairview until 1984. The NDP narrowly missed out electing a few other MLAs in this election, and Notley would remain the party’s only MLA – and the only social democratic voice in the Legislature – until Ray Martin was elected in Edmonton-Norwood in 1982.

The Alberta Liberal Party, which had formed Official Opposition before Lougheed’s PCs earned the spot in 1967, were wiped off the political map and would remain in the political wilderness until 1986.

In politics timing is everything, and Lougheed lucked out. Massive windfalls in oil and gas revenues led to overflowing government coffers, allowing the PC government to make major investments in public infrastructure like hospitals, schools, universities and colleges. The Lougheed PCs founded the The Banff Centre, the Kananaskis Country recreation area, and even bought an airline – Pacific Western Airlines.

Alberta Progressive Conservative Rally Ad 1971 Election
Alberta Progressive Conservative Rally Ad 1971 Election

Lougheed’s government introduced a Bill of Rights, created the Legislature Hansard, and dissolved the notorious Alberta Eugenics Board.

The difference between Lougheed and some of his successors in Alberta’s Conservative dynasty was his belief that government had a positive role to play in society (a Reform Party Member of Parliament named Jason Kenney once criticized Lougheed’s legacy of “neo-Stalinist make-work projects.”)

Lougheed believed Alberta should behave like an owner of our oil and gas resources and that the government should collect its fair share of revenues. Royalty revenues were much higher than today, peaking at 40 per cent during his time as Premier. The oil companies complained but Lougheed was persistent.

“This is a sale of a depleting resource that’s owned by the people. Once a barrel of oil goes down the pipeline it’s gone forever. It’s like a farmer selling off his topsoil,” Lougheed once said.

Alberta Progressive Conservatives 1971 Election Ad "Peter Lougheed - Now"
Alberta Progressive Conservatives 1971 Election Ad “Peter Lougheed – Now”

Lougheed’s government also negotiated landmark financial investments from the federal government and the Ontario government in the oil sands that kickstarted development of the deposits when private investors would not take the risk. These government investments in Alberta’s oil industry likely helped save companies like Suncor when the international price of oil plummeted in the 1980s.

Relations between Lougheed’s government and Ottawa soured following the introduction of the National Energy Program, creating a political wedge that Conservative leaders have continued to crank ever since. But he always made sure he was seen as advocating for Alberta in a strong Canada and was a key player during the Constitution-making negotiations of the early 1980s.

The Heritage Savings Trust Fund is one of Lougheed’s biggest legacies. Today the trust fund is seen as a visionary move to save money for future generations of Albertans, which it is in a way, but it was also a result of a government that at one point literally had more money that it knew what to do with.

Lougheed commanded the loyalty of his cabinet, caucus and party – which built a political dynasty that would span four decades but also gave him a bit of an autocratic reputation.

PC MLAs would be required to share frequent local membership and fundraising updates with the Premier’s Office and Lougheed was known to make monthly calls with local PC Party association presidents in order to create a system of accountability with his local leaders. And there have also been stories that Lougheed kept undated and signed letters of resignation from his cabinet ministers in order to avoid having to fire anyone who became a political liability.

There is a Camelot-like mythology to Lougheed’s time in office. He towers over Alberta politics in ways that more recently popular leaders like Ralph Klein do not. While Klein was a populist, Lougheed was a builder. The oil money sure helped, but so did having a vision for making this province a better place.

Day Light Saving Time Referendum

Nothing is new under the prairie sun. In 1971, Albertans voted to adopt Daylight Saving Time in a province-wide referendum after voting against DST in a 1967 referendum. This October 2021, Albertans will vote whether to abandon the time change and permanently adopt Daylight Saving Time.

Newspaper Election Ads from 1971

Alberta Progressive Conservative Calgary Candidates 1971 Election Ad "Now is the time for a breakthrough"
Alberta Progressive Conservative 1971 Election Ad “Now is the time for a breakthrough”
Alberta Social Credit 1971 Election Campaign Ad "A New Kind of Leader"
Alberta Social Credit 1971 Election Campaign Ad “A New Kind of Leader”
Alberta NDP 1971 Election Ad "You owe it to yourself"
Alberta NDP 1971 Election Ad “You owe it to yourself”
Alberta Liberal Party Calgary candidates 1971 Election Ad
Alberta Liberal Party Calgary candidates 1971 Election Ad
Alberta Social Credit Rally Ad 1971 Election
Alberta Social Credit Rally Ad 1971 Election
Alberta Social Credit 1971 Election Campaign Ad "We've Changed"
Alberta Social Credit 1971 Election Campaign Ad “We’ve Changed”
Alberta Social Credit 1971 Election Ad "Taking Things for Granted"
Alberta Social Credit 1971 Election Ad “Taking Things for Granted”
Alberta Social Credit 1971 Election Ad "It's a Big Decision"
Alberta Social Credit 1971 Election Ad “It’s a Big Decision”
Categories
Alberta Politics

NDP nominate 4 more federal election candidates in Alberta, Nigel Logan wins contested vote in Edmonton-Mill Woods

Another quick federal election candidate nomination update this morning:

  • Nigel Logan defeated Satbir Singh in a contested online nomination vote in Edmonton-Mill Woods. Logan was the NDP candidate in this district in the 2019 federal election and ran for city council in 2017.
  • Patrick King has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Signal Hill. King was the NDP candidate in Calgary-Nose Hill in the 2019 federal election.
  • Sarah Zagoda has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Banff-Airdrie.
  • Tanya Heyden-Kaye has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Red Deer-Lacombe.
  • Joan Barnes is running as an Independent candidate in Red Deer-Lacombe.
  • Clayten Willington is running as an Independent candidate in Red Deer-Mountain View
  • Scott Fea is running for the Rhinoceros Party in Calgary-Centre.
  • Maverick Party candidate Fred Sirett has listed his name as Frederick Frederick on the ballot in Lakeland, according to his listing on the Elections Canada website.

Thank you to everyone who has sent me updates about new candidate nominations. I’ll be back on Monday with more nomination updates. Have a great weekend.