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Daveberta Podcast

Episode 72: The COVID 18 and the Curriculum Catastrophe

Alberta politics moves at a mile a minute and there’s no time to waste. On this episode of the Daveberta Podcast, we dive into the United Conservative Caucus rebellion against mild public health restrictions to fight COVID-19 and challenges to Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership, the controversial draft K-6 curriculum, and the government’s toxic relationship with Alberta doctors and public sector unions.

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. The Alberta Podcast Network includes dozens of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

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.

Music featured in this episode: Prairie Soil by Johnny Bomblast and Dave Harris.

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Alberta Politics

UCP backbenchers revolt against mild public health restrictions as COVID third wave hits Alberta

New cases of COVID-19 are on the rise and the third wave of the global pandemic is hitting Alberta, but that did not deter a group of nearly 20 United Conservative Party MLAs from publicly speaking out against the provincial government’s implementation of mild public health restrictions in response.

Like the virus, the group of COVID critics inside the UCP Caucus has grown exponentially from the original six-pack of MLAs who publicly spoke out against public health measures at the beginning of March. The public letter signed by 15 UCP MLAs criticized Premier Jason Kenney for moving back to Step 1 of the province’s mild public health measures in response to the spike in new cases, which is largely a result of a vicious new variant of the deadly virus.

The group of 15 includes Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper, who made an unusual move for a Speaker of the Assembly to publicly criticize the government, and already open COVID critics Drew Barnes and Angela Pitt, who recently split from the national End the Lockdown Caucus after Ontario MPP Randy Hillier posted a social media meme comparing public health restrictions to the Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. The UCP group also includes Tracy Allard, whose Christmas vacation to Hawaii cost her her job of Municipal Affairs Minister.

The letter signed by the 15 MLAs was soon after endorsed by Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright MLA Garth Rowswell and West Yellowhead MLA Martin Long, who also serves as the parliamentary secretary for small business. Also signalling support for the letter’s intentions was Calgary Member of Parliament Michelle Rempel-Garner, who serves as the Official Opposition Health Critic in Ottawa.

Peace River MLA Dan Williams, a long-time Kenney acolyte from Ottawa, did not endorse the letter but posted a video on social media criticizing the decision by Alberta Health Services to close down the rebel GraceLife Church, which had been holding in-person services in defiance of the government’s public health orders. He was joined in this call by Ontario MP Derek Sloan, who was kicked out of the federal Conservative caucus for his extreme social conservative views.

Active COVID-19 cases in Alberta (chart from @CBCFletch on Twitter)
Active COVID-19 cases in Alberta (chart from @CBCFletch on Twitter)

That the leaders of the UCP caucus mutiny appear to largely be from the former Wildrose caucus, or Wildrose-wing of the party, is not surprising. The former opposition party was notoriously raucous and unwilling to bow to the kind of centralized party leadership that Kenney would have become accustomed to during his many years in Ottawa.

It was also clear during Kenney’s press conference on Tuesday that he expected a negative reaction from his caucus. A significant portion of Kenney’s lecture was dedicated to managing MLAs expectations and acknowledging the differences of opinion in his caucus. Difference of opinion is one thing, but this is something entirely different.

The public health restrictions that Alberta fell back to earlier this week are nothing close to what restrictions have looked like in jurisdictions that have actually implemented lockdowns. Alberta schools are still open for in-person classes, and Albertans can still gather with up to 10 people outside, go shopping for non-essential items, get a haircut or a massage, dine or have drinks on a restaurant patio, and exercise at a gym with a personal trainer.

Jason Kenney
Premier Jason Kenney on April 6, 2021.

There is no doubt a lot of Albertans are frustrated about how the provincial government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Kenney government has not helped itself by releasing a string of confusing and inconsistent public health measures and messaging to Albertans about the government’s response.

While public opinion polling suggests many Albertans would like the government to impose stronger measures to stop the spread of the deadly virus, there is a loud minority who want to see the current restrictions lifted.

It is yet to be seen whether the revolt will extend beyond this strongly worded letter, but there is little doubt these MLAs are actively undermining the work being done by public health professionals and health care workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The caucus revolt is probably a reflection of deepening regional and partisan divides in Alberta, with most of the COVID Caucus MLAs representing largely rural and small town districts. It is notable that no UCP MLAs from Calgary, so far the hardest hit in the third wave, have publicly joined the revolt.

It also suggests that the United Conservative Party is not as united as its leader would like Albertans to believe.

Kenney’s personal approval ratings and support for his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic plummeted over the past 13 months, and his party has floundered in the polls, finishing behind Rachel Notley’s NDP in a handful of recent voter opinion polls. The rise of the separatist Wildrose Independence Party in rural Alberta has some backbench UCP MLAs nervously looking over their right shoulders.

In some ways, the revolt probably serves as a welcome distraction to some in the UCP from the never ending string of scandals and policy failures, most recently the failure to stop the Carbon Tax at the Supreme Court, the loss of $1.5 billion of public money when the Keystone XL Pipeline was cancelled, the failure to sign a new contract with Alberta doctors, the retreat on open-pit coal mining, and the open rebellion by parents against the draft K-6 curriculum.

Under normal circumstances it would be hard to believe that this kind of caucus revolt would happen on a day when more than 1,300 new cases of COVID were reported and doctors are calling for a circuit breaker response, but in today’s world of Alberta politics, it would be harder to believe this would happen if the UCP were not floundering so deeply in the polls.

The original 15 UCP MLAs who signed the letter

  • Tracy Allard, MLA Grande Prairie
  • Drew Barnes, MLA Cypress-Medicine Hat
  • Nathan Cooper, MLA Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills
  • Michaela Glasgo, MLA Brooks-Medicine Hat
  • Dave Hanson, MLA Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul
  • Nate Horner, MLA Drumheller-Stettler
  • Todd Loewen, MLA Central Peace-Notley
  • Ron Orr, MLA Lacombe-Ponoka
  • Angela Pitt, MLA Airdrie-East
  • Roger Reid, MLA Livingstone-Macleod
  • Miranda Rosin, MLA Banff-Kananaskis
  • RJ Sigurdson, MLA Highwood
  • Mark Smith, Drayton Valley-Devon
  • Jason Stephan, Red Deer-South
  • Glenn van Dijken, Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock
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Alberta Politics

Alberta back to Step 1 after a long-weekend of confusing COVID communications

While most Albertans stuck close to home or gathered in small groups to celebrate Easter over the long weekend, the usual fun of watching the kids hunt for chocolate eggs on Sunday morning was accompanied by a growing unease about the third-wave of COVID-19 that has hit Alberta.

Cases started to rise late last week, and over the weekend the province was reporting up to 1,100 new cases of COVID each day. But despite the growing spike of new cases, our elected officials were nowhere to be seen.

A daily thread of ominously vague tweets from the office of Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw was the source of most information released by the government over the four-day long weekend.

Dr. Hinshaw’s tweets also announced a series of outbreaks of COVID-19 variants in parts of the province but did not include any specific details about where those outbreaks were happening. The tweets also stated that the variant came to Alberta from a traveller, but it appeared as though reporters who asked where that traveller came from were given different answers.

Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA Michaela Glasgo tried to put a positive spin on Dr. Hinshaw’s tweets when she tweeted that it was good news that hospitalizations were “stable” but there was no explanation what that meant and it was clear the backbench United Conservative Party MLA was just as out of the loop as the rest of us.

The third wave of COVID had arrived and our leaders took the weekend off.

A press conference originally scheduled for Monday was bumped to Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. It was then rescheduled to 4:30 p.m., but as Premier Jason Kenney was joining Dr. Hinshaw, it ended up being delayed until 4:45 p.m.

When he finally arrived at the podium, Kenney announced that the province was going back to Step 1 restrictions. When Kenney was done, Health Minister Tyler Shandro took to the podium to essentially repeat the Premier’s speaking notes.

This is far from a circuit breaker that we are seeing in other provinces or a lockdown that we have seen in other countries or the COVID Zero approach that has nearly eliminated the virus in the Atlantic provinces and northern territories.

Kenney acknowledged that many Albertans are frustrated with the length of the pandemic and has tried to square the blame on the federal government over vaccine supply. A good part of Kenney’s speech was dedicated to caucus management, as many of his UCP MLAs are openly critical of public health restrictions and many more have expressed these views behind closed doors.

But it has become clear that Kenney’s start-stop approach to dealing with the pandemic and his government’s selective willingness to enforce the rules has contributed to the fatigue – and growing anger that Kenney is unwilling to make tough decisions that could alienate part of his conservative base of supporters.

Taking a step back to Step 1 today was a good choice, but it seems likely that it will take more serious actions to stop the renewed spread of the COVID-19 variant in Alberta. If this doesn’t work, look for increased restrictions in the next week or two.


Nenshi not running for re-election

The big political news coming out of Calgary today was the announcement by Mayor Naheed Nenshi that he will not seek re-election in the October municipal elections.

First elected in 2010, and re-elected in 2013 and 2017, Nenshi has dominated Calgary politics and reshaped many Canadians’ views of Calgary as a more urban, more progressive and more forward-thinking city. He is a giant in Alberta politics and he will be missed.

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Alberta Politics

Meet Billy Briquette. Alberta War Room launches Ethical Coal Mining cartoon for kids.

Move aside Bigfoot Family, there’s a new cartoon on the block. Meet Billy Briquette!

The Canadian Energy Centre is launching a new cartoon series to educate young Albertans about the virtues of open pit coal mining in the Alberta Rocky Mountains.

Billy Briquette
Billy Briquette

“We’re taking our campaign against Sasquatch Family to the next level,” said CEC CEO Tom Olsen, who appeared at a Thursday morning press conference standing beside a life-sized Billy Briquette mascot.

The 100-episode cartoon series will feature Billy Briquette as he joins his friends Nixy the Wild Horse and Bobby Bitumen as they use teamwork to stop villains ranging from local town councils and country music stars to eco-left European bankers and coal dictators. Billy will also be joined in Episode 37 by his Australian cousin, Hector.

“My friends, for a long time oil has been in the crosshairs of the radical-urban-eco-bohemian-marxist-left and now they are targeting our democratic coal,” said Premier Jason Kenney, also standing uncomfortably close to the smiling life-sized piece of coal.

“Let me be clear, Alberta’s ethical mountain top removal of coal needs a champion and that’s why we’re introducing you to Billy today,” Kenney said.

The cartoon series also received praise from senior Alberta cabinet ministers.

“Changes to the Film and Television Tax Credit make productions like Billy Briquette possible,” said Doug Schweitzer, Alberta’s Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation and director of the Canadian Energy Centre.

“I’m thrilled that productions like Billy Briquette will help drive diversification and provide customers to open pit coal mines across Alberta,” Schweitzer said.

“Alberta – with large coal reserves – is perfectly positioned to continue to offer investment in a stable and ethical democracy,” said Energy Minister Sonya Savage.

“Billy Briquette will showcase this to young Albertans and the investors across the world,” said Savage, who is also serves on the War Room’s board of directors.

Along with a wide variety of branded merchandise, bumper stickers and a theme song performed by Tom Olsen and the Wreckage, the life-sized lump of coal mascot is expected to visit more than 100 Alberta elementary schools in the next year. The cartoon series will be integrated into the new provincial Social Studies curriculum and be mandatory viewing for students in Grades One through Six.

After Netflix declined a proposal to stream the series, it was decided that the $25 million animated production will be viewable exclusively on the Canadian Energy Centre YouTube page. 

Author’s note: Readers will note that today is April 1 and, as the Canadian Energy Centre is exempt from FOIP, we are unable to confirm that plans for the Billy Briquette cartoon series and associated merchandise are in the works.

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Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 71: Peace, Order and Good Carbon Taxes

University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach joins the Daveberta Podcast for a rousing discussion about the Supreme Court of Canada’s big decision about the federal carbon tax, the politics of climate change in Canada, and what Alberta’s next oil boom might look like.

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. The Alberta Podcast Network includes dozens of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

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.

Recommended Reading (coming soon)

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Alberta Politics

Former Alberta MLA Shaye Anderson running for NDP nomination in Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Former Alberta NDP MLA Shaye Anderson announced on Twitter this weekend that he is seeking the federal NDP nomination in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

https://twitter.com/sandersonNDP/status/1373710864927223808

 

Anderson was a shop steward with the United Steelworkers and a technician for Telus when he was first elected as MLA for Leduc-Beaumont in the 2015 Orange Wave. He served as Minister of Municipal Affairs from 2017 until his defeat in the 2019 election to United Conservative Party candidate Brad Rutherford.

Anderson announced last year that he and his family had moved back to his hometown of Duncan on Vancouver Island.

In an interview with Alberta View Magazine in 2018, Anderson recalled how growing up in the Cowichan Valley shaped his politics:

So where I grew up, the Cowichan Valley, is a big resource area. My dad’s in forestry, as are a lot of people I know. And when I was born, in 1975, Tommy Douglas was our MP for one term—which I didn’t know until I got elected. So it makes sense why we were usually NDP. We were labour and blue collar, right? That said, my parents always told me, “Get informed. It doesn’t matter who you vote for but make sure you understand why.” 

If successful in his nomination bid, Anderson would face Green Party MP Paul Manly when the next federal election is called. Manly was first elected in a May 2019 by-election and is the son of former NDP MP James Manly.


Anderson continues the long-tradition of Alberta politicians jumping into electoral politics in British Columbia.

  • Former Calgary-Bow Progressive Conservative MLA Alana DeLong was the BC Liberal candidate in Nanaimo-North Cowichan in the 2017 provincial election and the Conservative candidate in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford in the 2019 federal election.
  • Former cabinet minister and Red Deer-North PC MLA Stockwell Day ran in Okanagan-Coquihalla after becoming leader of the Canadian Alliance and served as MP until 2011.
  • One-time St. Albert NDP candidate Michelle Mungall served as the NDP MLA for Nelson-Creston from 2009 to 2020 and in various cabinet roles during this period.
  • Michael Charrois, who ran for the NDP in Edmonton-Castle Downs in the 2001 election, was the federal NDP candidate in North Vancouver in 2008 and 2011 and the BC NDP candidate in North Vancouver-Seymour in 2017.
  • Former Edmonton-Belmont NDP MLA Tom Sigurdson ran for the BC NDP nomination in Burnaby-Willingdon ahead of the 2005 provincial election.
  • Former Edmonton-Glengarry PC MLA Rollie Cook currently serves as an elected member of the Salt Spring Island Fire Protection District.
  • Former Slave Lake mayor Val Meredith served as the Reform Party MP for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley and Surrey—White Rock—South Langley from 1993 to 2004. Meredith has since moved to Calgary and is now leading the candidate selection committee for the separatist Maverick Party.
  • Former Edmonton mayor Vincent Dantzer served as the PC MP for Okanagan North from 1980 to 1988.
  • Macleod MP Ernest Hansell was Alberta Premier Ernest Manning‘s handpicked choice to lead the Social Credit Party into British Columbia’s 1952 election. When the Socreds unexpectedly won the election, Hansell remained an Alberta MP and W.A.C. Bennett was chosen to become Premier.
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Alberta Politics

Conservative MP Rachel Harder nominated in Lethbridge, Heather Mackenzie seeking NDP nomination in Edmonton-Centre

There are a few recent additions to the list of candidates running for federal party nominations in Alberta ahead of the next federal election, which is widely expected to called in the next few months:

Rachel Harder was nominated as the Conservative Party candidate in Lethbridge, a district she has represented since the 2015 election. She was re-elected in 2019 with 65.8 per cent of the vote and currently serves as the Official Opposition critic for Digital Government.

Blake Desjarlais was nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Griesbach. He was joined at his Zoom nomination meeting by Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Heather McPherson and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. Desjarlais is the Director of Public Affairs & National Operations for the Métis Settlements General Council.

Gurinder Singh Gill is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary Skyview at a meeting scheduled to take place on March 22. Gill was the NDP candidate in this district in 2019 and he earned 14.9 per cent of the vote.

Kathleen Mpulubusi is expected to be acclaimed as the NDP candidate in St. Albert-Edmonton at a March 31 nomination meeting. She was the NDP candidate in this district in the 2019 election and she earned 15.2 per cent of the vote. Mpulubusi is a Letter Carrier with Canada Post and an active member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

On April 1, Heather Mackenzie is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Centre. Mackenzie is a former Edmonton Public School Board trustee and was an NDP candidate in Edmonton-West in the 2015 federal election. She previously ran for City Council in the downtown Ward 6 in the 2013 election.

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Alberta Politics

NDP first out of the gate opening candidate nominations for 2023

It’s a magical time at daveberta.ca. We’ve now entered a zone where I am tracking candidates running in three separate elections:  municipal, federal, and now provincial.

With the announcement by the Alberta NDP that they are opening candidate nominations for the expected 2023 election in spring 2021, they have had their first candidate announced plans to run for a nomination.

Outreach and community engagement specialist Julia Hayter announced on Twitter yesterday that she plans to run for the NDP nomination in Calgary-Edgemont.

Prasad Panda Calgary Foothills Wildrose
Prasad Panda

Hayter was the NDP candidate in that north west Calgary district in the 2019 election, where she earned 34 per cent of the vote against United Conservative Party candidate Prasad Panda.

She previously served as a constituency assistant to former Calgary-Varsity NDP MLA Stephanie McLean and sought the nomination in that district until switching the Calgary-Edgemont ahead of the 2019 election.

The NDP have also opened nominations in Banff-Kananaskis. No candidates have announced their plans to run as of yet.

And, as usual, if you know of any municipal, provincial and federal candidates planning to run, please let me know and I will add them and their social media links to the various lists. Thank you!

 

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Alberta Politics

MLA Recall focuses on punishing politicians rather than making them better representatives

Another MLA Recall bill has been introduced into the Alberta Legislative Assembly, and this one looks like it will actually pass and become law.

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

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu introduced Bill 52: Recall Act in the Assembly for first reading today. If it becomes law, the bill would allow for a by-election to be called in a provincial electoral district where the signatures of at least 40 percent of the eligible voters are collected. Unlike previous Recall efforts, Madu’s bill expands recall to municipal councillors and school board trustees.

Forty percent is likely a high enough threshold to avoid frivolous, or maybe any, actual Recall by-elections. While there are certainly some circumstances where constituents are united in unhappiness with their elected officials, this bill seems to be more of a signal that the United Conservative Party has checked off a box on its to-do list than actually create a mechanism to improve democracy in Alberta.

Instead of being fearful of a revolt by their own voters, it is more likely that MLAs will be concerned that well-funded special interest groups, like the the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, could swoop into their district with a legion of paid volunteers to rabble-rouse and cause trouble for local representatives.

It might be more proactive to limit recall, like they have in the United Kingdom, to politicians who are convicted of criminal offenses or providing false or misleading expenses claims while in office.

Our democratic institutions do need to be tinkered with and improved, but so much of the focus of efforts like MLA Recall are focused on punishing elected officials rather than empowering them to do a better job. So rather than finding new ways to fire politicians, which Albertans have done a fairly consistent job in the past two elections, we should be creating ways they can do better jobs for us.

Being a backbench MLA in a government caucus is not a glamorous job. They are told where to be and how to vote on most issues. Most rarely have the opportunity to demonstrate meaningful independence without facing the wrath of the Caucus Whip or the Leader’s Chief of Staff. And, when time comes for re-election, their nomination papers require the ultimate endorsement of the party leader.

One way that individual MLAs could empower themselves would be to change the standing orders to allow MLAs who are not in cabinet an increased opportunity to introduce private members bills. Right now MLAs earn the ability to introduce private members bills through a lottery, meaning that some MLAs will never have the chance to introduce a law into the Legislature.

And private members’ bills are only debated on Monday’s, severely limiting their ability to get attention and get passed into law.

Accountability of democratic officials is important, and that is why we have elections every four years. And as Albertans have enthusiastically demonstrated over the past two elections, they will not hesitate to dramatically unseat MLAs and governments if they feel the need.

It would be better for democracy in Alberta if we focused on ways to empower MLAs to better represent Albertans inside and outside the Assembly, rather than creating new ways to punish them.

History of Recall Legislation in Alberta

Madu’s Bill 52 marks the eleventh MLA Recall bill to be tabled in the Assembly since 1936.

1936: Bill No. 76 of 1936: A Bill Providing for the Recall of Members of the Legislative Assembly was introduced by the Social Credit government and passed after their surprising win in the 1935 election. The bill required 66.6 percent of voters to sign a petition to trigger a recall by-election.

1937: The law was repealed by the Social Credit government after a group of disgruntled Albertans was thought to have collected enough signatures to recall Premier William Aberhart in his Okotoks-High River constituency.

1993Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Gary Dickson introduced Bill 203: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. The bill was defeated in a 42-34 vote in the Legislature.

1995: Edmonton-Meadowlark Liberal MLA Karen Leibovici introduced Bill 224: Parliamentary Reform and Electoral Review Commission Act, which would have created a commission to study a handful of issues, including recall. The bill passed first reading but was never debated.

1996: Lethbridge-East Liberal MLA Ken Nicol introduced Bill 206: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. This bill was defeated in a 37-24 vote in the Legislature.

1997: Bill 216, Recall Act was introduced by Edmonton-Manning Liberal MLA Ed Gibbons but was never debated in the Legislature. If passed into law, the bill would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one

2010Calgary-Glenmore Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman introduced Bill 208: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 33 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. Reached second reading but was not debated further.

2015Chestermere-Rockyview Wildrose MLA Leela Aheer introduces Bill 206: Recall Act, which would trigger a recall by-election if 20 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. The bill passed first reading and died on the order paper.

2016: Drayton Valley-Devon Wildrose MLA Mark Smith introduces Bill 201: Election Recall Act, which would trigger a recall by-election is 66 per cent of the electorate’s signatures from the previous general election was collected in 60 days on a sanctioned petition. The bill was defeated in second reading.

2019: Drayton Valley-Devon United Conservative Party MLA Mark Smith introduces Bill 204: Election Recall Act, which would allow Albertans to trigger a by-election in a riding where 40 per cent of registered voters have signed a petition recalling their MLA. The bill died on the order paper after it passed second reading.

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Alberta Politics

Michael Janz running for City Council in Edmonton’s new Ward papastew

Michael Janz is filing his papers to run for Edmonton City Council in the new Ward papastew. The ward encompasses many central Edmonton neighbourhoods that lie south of the North Saskatchewan River.

The three-term public school trustee announced late last year that he would not run for re-election to the Edmonton Public School Board after 11 years, a handful which he served as board chairperson and vice president of the Alberta School Boards Association.  Janz has been an outspoken advocate for fair and equitable funding for public schools and improving financial literacy in schools.

Janz was re-elected in 2017 with a landslide, earning more votes than any winning municipal candidate in Edmonton except Mayor Don Iveson.

Along with filing his papers with the municipal elections office to officially enter the race, Janz released a long list of prominent Edmontonians who are endorsing his city council campaign. The list includes Edmonton-Glenora NDP MLA Sarah Hoffman, former Liberal MLA Raj Sherman, former Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MLA Raj Pannu, former city councillors Allan Bolstad and Michael Phair, former school trustees Heather Mackenzie, Dave Colburn and Ray Martin, former Catholic school trustee John Acheson, past city council candidate Sim Senol, past school board candidate Neda Asadi, harm reduction advocate Petra Schulz, and former cabinet minister Danielle Larivee among many others.

Already in the race in papastew are Haruun Ali, Kirsten Goa, Tarcy Schindelka, and Byron Vass. Visit the Edmonton Elections page to see the full list of candidates running for Council, Mayor, and School Boards in Edmonton in the October 2021 elections.


Publisher’s Note: Michael Janz is a friend of mine and I have enthusiastically supported his campaigns for public school board in 2010, 2013 and 2017. He was a guest on the Daveberta Podcast in December 2019.

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Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 70: Who was the most unpopular Premier in Alberta history?

We dive into our mailbag and answer some great questions sent in by Daveberta Podcast listeners. From the possibility of a United Conservative Party leadership review to Premier Jason Kenney’s new health care-friendly talking points to the Alberta Party leadership to the unpopularity of premiers Richard Reid and John Brownlee, you sent us a lot of great questions!

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. The Alberta Podcast Network includes dozens of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

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.

Recommended Reading

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Alberta Politics

On the outside looking in: smaller parties seeking new leaders

Going into the last election there were five parties represented in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly, but on election night in April 2019 the two main political parties dominated and the smaller parties failed to elect any candidates. Since then Alberta’s smaller parties have been struggling for attention as they search for new people to lead them into the 2023 election.

The Green Party of Alberta was the first to choose a new leader, with Jordan Wilkie being selected in a March 2020 leadership vote. And it now looks like there will be at least two smaller parties holding leadership races and competing for attention in this very busy political year.

Alberta Party seeks new leader

The Alberta Party has announced its plans to kick off a leadership race on May 25, 2021. Candidate nominations will close August 31 and the Leadership will be held on October 23, 2021, one week after the municipal elections.

Interim leader Jacquie Fenske, a former Progressive Conservative MLA, has served in the role since Feb. 2020, filling the position vacated by former leader Stephen Mandel, also a former PC MLA, in June 2019. No candidates have yet to declare their plans to run for the party leadership.

The Alberta Party elected one MLA, Greg Clark in Calgary-Elbow, in 2015 and grew its caucus to 3 MLAs by 2019 after floor crossings from the Alberta NDP and United Conservative Party. The Alberta Party tripped its popular vote to 9 per cent in 2019 but failed to elect any candidates to the Legislative Assembly.

Liberal Party names interim leader

Lawyer and longtime party loyalist John Roggeveen has stepped up to fill the role of interim leader of the Alberta Liberal Party until the party can select a permanent leader at a future date.

John Roggeveen has served on the party’s executive and was a candidate in Calgary-Shaw in 2004, 2008 and 2012, Calgary-Elbow in 2015 and Calgary-Fish Creek in 2019.

Roggeveen fills the role made vacant after David Khan’s resignation in November 2020. Khan is now the Senior Staff Lawyer at EcoJustice.

The party has not yet announced the dates for a leadership race.

The Liberal Party formed Official Opposition in Alberta between 1993 and 2012. The 2019 election marked the first time since the 1982 election that the Liberals failed to elect an MLA to the Legislative Assembly.

Separatist parties seek new leaders

The separatist Wildrose Independent Party will open nominations for its leadership race on April 2 and kick off its leadership race on June 5. Voting for the party’s new leader will take place on Aug. 28, 2021.

Former Alberta Alliance leader and Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman has served as interim leader since last summer. Hinman served as MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 and Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012.

No candidates have declared their plans to run as of yet, but at the party’s recent annual general meeting former Wildrose Party organizer Rick Northey was elected president, former PC Party candidate Gurcharan Garcha was selected as Edmonton Director, and former Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders was selected as a Director-at-Large.

Meanwhile, former Wexit spokesperson Peter Downing, who stepped down when that organization folded into the Freedom Conservative Party to form the Wildrose Independence Party in June 2020, now appears to have joined another separatist party. According to the Independence Party of Alberta website, Downing is now serving as its Public Safety Critic.

The Independence Party of Alberta is also currently without a permanent leader, as is the separatist Alberta Advantage Party.

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Alberta Politics

Some Assembly Required: Wildrosers make for a raucous caucus

Alberta’s Legislative Assembly is back in session next week after a weeklong Constituency Break that immediately followed last Thursday’s budget announcement. While Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro have been testing out their new health care friendly talking points this week, pandemic politics inside the United Conservative Party caucus threaten to derail the Premier’s Spring agenda.

An unofficial “end the lockdown caucus” inside the UCP caucus, which originally included outspoken MLA Drew Barnes and Deputy Speaker Angela Pitt – but now appears to have expanded to include former Wildrose MLAs Todd Loewen, Ron Orr, Dave Hanson and rookie MLA Michaela Glasgo (according to Postmedia columnist Rick Bell) – is causing problems for Kenney.

The group of disgruntled backbenchers are unhappy they are being kept out of the loop on public health decisions and want COVID public health measures lifted more quickly and on a regional basis. That most of the six-pack of UCP dissenters come from the former Wildrose caucus is not surprising. The former opposition party was notoriously raucous and unwilling to bow to the kind of centralized party leadership that Kenney would have become accustomed to during his many years in Ottawa.

But they aren’t alone. I’m told that there may be another 10 to 20 UCP backbenchers who are supportive of the six-pack but haven’t said so publicly and number of them are agitating for a leadership review to happen before the 2023 election.

Barnes in particular continues to play a game of chicken with Kenney, almost daring the Premier to kick him out of the caucus. After he was overlooked for a cabinet spot following the 2019 election, Barnes has been outspoken on his support for Alberta autonomy from Canada, has called on Kenney to appoint him as Minister of Autonomy, and most recently declared that he has not yet decided whether he will endorse the budget tabled by Finance Minister Travis Toews last week.

Kenney has been very cautious not to alienate the right-wing of his party, which explains why he hasn’t come down hard on Barnes in the past, but with more UCP backbenchers speaking out against the Premier it is beginning  to look like he’s losing control.

That Barnes remains in the UCP caucus today is a sign that Kenney is desperate not to have another conservative party represented in the Assembly – a split that would immediately undermine the entire “United Conservative” project that Kenney helped spearhead four years ago.

Already 1 Independent

Already outside the UCP Caucus is Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn, who is sitting as an Independent after he was removed from the UCP caucus following a chorus of calls for his resignation by local municipal leaders and the revelation of questionable expense claims. This all happened after a Christmas vacation to Mexico got him caught up in the hot holiday scandal.

While he now sits in the far corner of the opposition benches, Rehn has been acting on social media as if he is still a UCP MLA by regularity posting government press releases and statements.

New Municipal Affairs Minister?

And speaking of the hot holiday scandal, Kenney has yet to appoint a new Minister of Municipal Affairs following the resignation of former minister Tracy Allard after her unfortunate hot holiday in Hawaii.

Transportation Minister Ric McIver has been serving in a double-role as Municipal Affairs Minister, and there is some speculation that that Spruce Grove-Stony Plain MLA Searle Turton might be up for a promotion. The affable former Spruce Grove city councillor i chair of the UCP Capital Regional Caucus and Kenney’s special envoy to private sector unions.

Rodeo is back

Calgary-North UCP MLA Muhammad Yaseen has introduced a private members’ bill that would make rodeo the official sport of Alberta.

This is not the first time this idea has come up in the Legislative Assembly. Another UCP MLA introduced a private members’ motion calling for this last year and way back in 2008, outgoing Liberal Party leader Kevin Taft did the same (I worked on the caucus communications support for Taft’s motion).

The naysayers may claim it is just a distraction, that it would be controversial, and just play into outdated stereotypes. They are probably correct, but I say go for it. Yahoo! Yeehaw! Saddle up!

(Photo source: Travel Alberta)

Categories
Alberta Politics

8 more Conservative MPs acclaimed, Blake Desjarlais seeking NDP nomination in Edmonton-Griesbach

The non-Conservative parties are slowly starting the process of nominating candidates in Alberta ahead of the next federal election.

Blake Desjarlais is seeking the New Democratic Party nomination in Edmonton-Griesbach. Desjarlais is the Director of Public Affairs & National Operations for the Métis Settlements General Council and was the co-chairperson of the Alberta government’s Indigenous Climate Leadership Summits in 2017 and 2018. The nomination meeting is scheduled for March 18.

David Gamble is seeking the Liberal Party nomination in Calgary-Confederation. Gamble was the provincial Liberal candidate in Calgary-Klein in the 2015 election and previously served as Executive Vice-President of the Alberta Liberal Party.  

Government audit manager Tunde Obasan is challenging former federal Conservative leadership candidate Rick Petersen for the Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona. Obsan was the United Conservative Party candidate in Edmonton-South in the 2019 election where he was defeated by NDP MLA Thomas Dang.

The Conservatives are continuing to acclaim their incumbents in Alberta. As of today, I am not aware of any Conservative MPs in Alberta being challenged for their party nomination ahead of the next election.

Here is the list of the most recently acclaimed Conservatives in Alberta:

  • Calgary-Confederation – Len Webber has served as the Conservative MP for this district since 2015. He previously served as the Progressive Conservative and Independent MLA for Calgary-Foothills from 2004 to 2014.
  • Calgary-Skyview – Jag Sahota has served as the MP for this district since 2019. She was the PC candidate in Calgary-McCall in the 2015 provincial election.
  • Grande Prairie-Mackenzie – Chris Warkentin has served as an MP in northwest Alberta since 2006.
  • Fort McMurray-Cold Lake – David Yurdiga has served as an MP since 2014.
  • Edmonton-Mill Woods – Tim Uppal was first elected as MP for Edmonton-Mill Woods since 2019 and previously served as MP for Edmonton-Sherwood Park from 2008 to 2015.
  • Edmonton-West – Kelly McCauley has served as MP for this district since 2015.
  • Edmonton-Wetaskiwin – Mike Lake has served as MP for Edmonton-Wetaskiwin from 2006 to 2015 and MP for Edmonton-Wetaskiwin since 2015.
  • Medicine Hat — Cardston — Warner – Glen Motz has served as MP for this district since 2016.

See a full list of candidates who have announced their plans to run for federal party nominations in Alberta.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Keep up the good work, Janis. We’ve got your back.

Provincial politics in Alberta can be hard to stomach sometimes. The kind of overwrought partisanship that comes with competitive electoral politics is new for many people in Alberta, and it can sometime be distasteful and feel alienating.

But this weekend we saw a bit of hope on a local level.

Janis Irwin MLA Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
Janis Irwin

Waking up Saturday morning, Janis Irwin, the MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, found out that someone had spray-painted “ANTIFA LIAR” in big red letters on the front window of her 112th Avenue constituency office.

Only less than two-years into her first-term as MLA, Janis is probably is one of the hardest working constituency MLAs I know.

She’s my MLA, so it is hard not to notice that she shows up to almost every community event.

If there is something happening in the area, she’s there. If there is a neighbourhood clean up event, she’s probably there. She really exemplifies public service and community spirit.

She is also no slouch when it comes to speaking out against injustice and discrimination in Alberta, especially to her huge social media following.

So it was perhaps no surprise that without being prompted, the community stepped up to help Janis on that cold Saturday morning.

Janis Irwin MLA Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
Constituents outside Janis Irwin’s office (photo credit: Jessica Littlewood)

Within a few minutes of tweeting a photo of the graffiti, a random constituent who lives a few doors down was out scrubbing the paint off with acetone. Luckily the cold weather prevented the paint from sticking.

And within hours, along with hundreds of messages of support on social media, cut-out paper hearts and messages of support covered the office door and the window where the graffiti had been.

On a weekend where tiki torch-carrying racists openly marched on the streets of Alberta’s largest city, it is easy to be dismayed and grossed out by politics. But the community response in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood gives a glimmer of hope that ordinary people are standing up and supporting good people in politics who speak out against hate and discrimination.

Keep up the good work, Janis. We’ve got your back.