Categories
Alberta Politics

All 33 Conservative MPs acclaimed in Alberta. Liberals have contested nomination in Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan

All 33 incumbent Members of Parliament representing the Conservative Party from Alberta have been acclaimed as candidates to run in the next federal election.

The only exception to the wave of unchallenged nominations is in Edmonton Strathcona, where Tunde Obasan and Rick Peterson are seeking the Conservative nomination to challenge New Democratic Party MP Heather McPherson in the next federal election. This is the only district in Alberta not currently represented by a Conservative MP.

Meanwhile, there is a surprise east of Edmonton. Two candidates have announced their plans to seek the Liberal Party nomination in the Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan district east of Edmonton. Tanya Reeb Holm and Ron Thiering are seeking the nomination at a meeting scheduled for June 22, 2021. Thiering was acclaimed as the party’s candidate in this riding in 2019 and finished in third place with 9.9 per cent in that year’s federal election.

Incumbent Member of Parliament Garnett Genuis has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate.

John Kuhn has been nominated as the separatist Maverick Party candidate. Kuhn was elected as mayor of the southern Alberta town of Bassano in 2007 but resigned four months later.

Here are the other candidates updates:

Banff-Airdrie: MP Blake Richards has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Richards was first elected in 2008. Tariq Elnaga has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate. Elnaga is Vice President of the Cochrane Roping Club and the Chute Experience Director with the Airdrie Pro Rodeo.

Battle River-Crowfoot – Doug Karwandy has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate.

Calgary-Centre: Sabrina Grover is seeking the Liberal Party nomination in this central Calgary district. Grover is a Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer Nutrition International and Principal of Provoke Public Relations. She was active in the Progressive Conservative Party in the mid-2010s. The district was represented by Liberal MP Kent Hehr from 2015 to 2019. Michael Pewtress is running as an Independent candidate in this district.

Calgary Forest Lawn: MP Jasraj Singh Hallan has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Hallan was first elected in 2019.

Calgary Heritage – MP Bob Benzen has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Benzen was first elected in the 2017 by-election held to replace former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Calgary Nose Hill: Jessica Dale-Walker is seeking the Liberal Party nomination.

Calgary Rocky Ridge: Dave Robinson has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate.

Calgary Skyview: Harry Dhillon has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate.

Calgary Signal Hill: Ajay Coop has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate.

Edmonton Centre: MP James Cumming has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Cumming was first elected in 2019 when he defeated Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault.

Edmonton Griesbach: MP Kerry Diotte has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Diotte served one-term on city council before he was elected to the House of Commons in 2015.

Edmonton Riverbend: MP Matt Jeneroux has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Jeneroux was first elected as MP in 2015 and previously served as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton-South West from 2012 to 2015. Shawn Gray is seeking the NDP nomination, which is scheduled to take place on June 15.

Edmonton West: MP Kelly McCauley has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. McCauley was first elected in 2015.

Edmonton Wetaskiwin: Tyler Beauchamp has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate. Travis Calliou no longer running as a Veterans Coalition Party candidate. 

Foothills: MP John Barlow has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Barlow was first elected in 2015.

Grande Prairie-Mackenzie: Benita Pedersen has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate.

Lakeland: MP Shannon Stubbs has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Stubbs was first elected in 2015 and has been rumoured to a potential candidate for the leadership of the United Conservative Party if Premier Jason Kenney does not survive his current leadership challenges.

Lethbridge: Kimberley Dawn Hovan has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate.

Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner: Brodie Heidinger has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate.

Peace River-Westlock: MP Arnold Viersen has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Gail Ungstad has been nominated as the NDP candidate. Colin Krieger is the Maverick Party candidate.

Red Deer-Lacombe: MP Blaine Calkins has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Calkins was first elected in 2006.

Red Deer-Mountain View: Jared Pilon no longer running as Independent. He’s a Libertarian candidate. Mark Wilcox has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate.

Sturgeon River-Parkland: Dane Lloyd has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Lloyd was first elected in a 2017 by-election to replace former Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose.

Yellowhead: MP Gerald Soroka has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. He was first elected in 2019.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney is having another bad week

When a politician repeatedly tries to gaslight his opponents and the media, deny what is perfectly obvious in a photo, refuse to apologize and then after five days only offer a non-apology when faced with a cabinet and caucus revolt, their credibility becomes damaged when the next scandal breaks – even if that alleged scandal might be hard to believe.

It doesn’t help that politician that he lost $1.3 billion betting Donald Trump would be re-elected as President of the United States last November. Or that his party and personal popularity continues to drop in the public opinion polls.

Premier Jason Kenney is having another bad week.

Categories
Alberta Politics

More turmoil in Kenney’s Caucus: UCP MLA Richard Gotfried resigns as chair of the Calgary Caucus and criticizes “hypocrisy” in government leadership

Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried is the latest member of the United Conservative Party Caucus to publicly criticize his party’s leadership.

According to a statement and comments on Facebook, Gotfried resigned as chair of the UCP’s Calgary Caucus last Thursday so that he can have “even more latitude to speak unreservedly on matters of principle, ethics and government/caucus operations…”

“I call upon all elected representatives at all levels of government across our province to show leadership, to act responsibly and to avoid the hypocrisy that makes a mockery of the tough decisions we have to make and the sacrifices/responsible behaviour we have been asking of each and every Albertan for the past 15 months,” Gotfried wrote in a post on his MLA Facebook page.

Gotfried’s statement was written in a very respectful tone and didn’t name Premier Jason Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Finance Minister Travis Toews or Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon, who were pictured in the photos of the boozy Sky Palace patio party that circulated on social media last week, but reading between the lines it was pretty clear who his message was directed to.

Richard Gotfried United Conservative Party MLA Calgary-Fish Creek
Richard Gotfried’s statement on Facebook

The timing of Gotfried’s statement follows the release of the final report of the Facility-based Continuing Care Review that Gotfried led, which was almost completely overshadowed by the boozy Sky Palace patio party and Kenney’s ill-timed lecture in defence of Sir John A Macdonald.

Boozy Sky Palace Patio Party Jason Kenney Tyler Shandro Travis Toews Jason Nixon
One of the now infamous boozy Sky Palace patio party photos.

Gotfried is the sponsor of Bill 70: COVID-19 Related Measures Act, a government bill designed to shield owners of long-term care centers from COVID-19 related lawsuits.

He was first elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019 under the UCP banner. He endorsed Kenney in the 2017 PC Party leadership race.

Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt and Bonnyville-Cold Lake-Two Hills MLA David Hanson, and cabinet ministers Leela Aheer and Rajan Sawhney have publicly called on Kenney to apologize for violating the government’s own COVID-19 public health rules by hosting the boozy patio party on the 11th floor balcony of the Federal Building in Edmonton.

Kenney and his staff continue to deny he broke any rules.

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen were ejected from the UCP Caucus three weeks ago after Loewen called on Kenney to resign as leader of the party.


Notley leads only united party left in AlbertaRachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

In a clear contrast to what is happening in the UCP Caucus, delegates to the Alberta NDP convention this past weekend gave Rachel Notley’s leadership a huge endorsement. When the ballots were counted, 98.2 per cent of NDP delegates endorsed Notley’s leadership in the mandatory leadership review vote held at every NDP convention.

The convention included the usual debate over policy positions and motions and a host of panels featuring Democratic strategists from Arizona and municipal politicians from rural Alberta.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Kenney’s reaction to boozy Sky Palace patio party photos sparks another UCP Caucus rebellion

Any appearance that Premier Jason Kenney had regained control over his United Conservative Party caucus three weeks ago when rebel MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen were ejected was shattered this weekend.

A handful of UCP MLAs, including two cabinet ministers, are now publicly calling on the Kenney to apologize for breaking COVID-19 public health restrictions by hosting a boozy Sky Palace patio party that was caught on camera.

The photos of Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon and Finance Minister Travis Toews, and senior political staff dining at a booze filled table atop the penthouse patio of the notorious Sky Palace circulated on social media this week.

Boozy Sky Palace Patio Party Jason Kenney Tyler Shandro Travis Toews Jason Nixon
One of the now infamous boozy Sky Palace patio party photos.

Kenney and company were clearly breaking the government’s own public health restrictions. But, instead of admitting they made a mistake and moving on, the Premier’s political staff jumped on social media to aggressively attack anyone who criticized their leader, claiming they did not break any rules.

But some UCP MLAs remain pretty unconvinced.

Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt, a leader of the UCP’s COVID-18, posted on Facebook that it was clear that Kenney and the senior cabinet ministers were breaking public health restrictions.

“Looking at these photos it seems clear to me that several health restrictions were violated,” wrote Pitt.

Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills UCP MLA David Hanson posted on Facebook that he agreed with Pitt. “I’m with you Angela. Albertans are angry, again, and rightly so, disappointing,” Hanson wrote.

Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer, UCP MLA Chestermere-Strathmore
Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer (source: YouTube)

And today, Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer, who also serves as Deputy Leader of the UCP and Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism & Status of Women, called on Kenney to “sincerely apologize” for breaking public health rules.

Aheer also took Kenney to task over his long-winded lecture defending Sir John A. Macdonald and claims that critics of Canada’s first Prime Minister are engaging in “cancel culture.”

Kenney’s comments were incredibly insensitive in light of the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried at a former Residential School in Kamloops. Kenney’s comments prompted strong responses from the Confederation of Treaty Six First Nations and the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta.

Jason Kenney Rajan Sawhney Calgary North East
Jason Kenney and Rajan Sawhney (source: YouTube)

Minister of Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney, the UCP MLA for Calgary-North East, also called on Kenney to apologize for his boozy Sky Palace patio party.

“If they have committed a mistake, they must accept it openly. (The) photo clearly speaks,” Sawhney said on RED 106.7 FM in Calgary.

Meanwhile, Red Deer-South UCP MLA Jason Stephan is calling on the Kenney government to launch a public inquiry into the cost of its public health restrictions.

In this case, the attempted coverup was probably worse than the crime. Most Albertans would probably have accepted a quick apology from Kenney and his senior cabinet ministers for the rule breaking that so obviously occurred in the photos.

Kenney’s inability to admit that he made a mistake, and his staff’s overly aggressive attacks on anyone who pointed out what was clearly happening in the photos, has only given his opponents in the UCP caucus another reason to publicly criticize him.

This is certainly not the type of criticism that a Premier with a 16 per cent approval rating should be courting.

Categories
Alberta Politics

John Leedy: The Governor of Kansas who tried, tried and tried again to get elected in Alberta

Alberta’s political history is filled with colourful characters, but perhaps one of the most unlikely, and unlucky, was John Leedy. But before Leddy even arrived in Alberta in 1910, he had already served as the Governor and a State Senator in Kansas and a mayor and city attorney in Alaska.

Born in Ohio in 1849, John Leedy was elected to the Kansas State Senate in 1893 and served there until he was elected Governor of Kansas in 1897 while leading the Populist Party ticket to a full sweep in that year’s election. 

Asked what in his opinion caused the defeat of the Republicans in that year’s election, Leedy told the Kansas City Gazette in November 1896 that “I attribute the defeat of the Republican party in Kansas more to the fact that the sate of Kansas is for free silver, than to any other cause.”

John Leedy

“The next legislature will pass laws which will afford the people of Kansas, at least, an equal opportunity for existences long with the corporations,” Leedy said, referencing his criticisms that the large railway companies had too much influence over politics in Kansas.

Two years later, Leedy lost his party’s nomination and the Republicans regained control of the Governorship in Kansas.

Leedy moved to Alaska in 1901 following his first big electoral defeat in what some Kansan newspaper described as an “Alaskan exile.” He practiced law in Alaska, despite never having actually studied law. And he didn’t stay out of politics for long. 

He lost by one vote in his first bid for election as city attorney of the City of Valdez, according to a report by the Osbourne County Farmer. He was later elected as city attorney and served as mayor of Valdez.

He quit his job as city attorney in 1910 and applied to become a British subject in order to move to Canada to start a farm near Whitecourt, Alberta. 

Henry Wise Wood

Even in a different country, farming couldn’t quench his thirst for politics. He joined the United Farmers of Alberta and became very active in the farming advocacy group, serving on the UFA executive and working closely with UFA president Henry Wise Wood. 

The Kansas City Journal described him as a “fighting man,” “the kind that fights at the drop of the hat and drops the hat himself.”

So, true to character, he jumped back into electoral politics.

“Edmonton is so far north it would appear that even a Kansan’s desire to be a member of the legislature might be frosted,” wrote the Kansas City Star in April 1916.  “If he gets into the Alberta legislature the Conservative Canadians will head the Kansas language as she is spoke. For Leedy’s desire to go to the legislature shows that he is still a Kansan.”

Leedy ran in the June 1917 provincial election under the Non-Partisan League banner alongside fellow candidates Louise McKinney and James Weir.  He ran the southern Alberta district of Gleichen and placed third with 17 per cent of the vote.

Edmonton Journal, 1926

Months later he ran in the December 1917 federal election in the rural Alberta riding of Victoria, placing third with 7.9 per cent of the vote. He appears to have relocated from Whitecourt to Edmonton after these two electoral defeats. 

He split with Wise Wood shortly after the UFA’s surprise sweeping win in the 1921 election and resigned from the UFA executive. 

Following his split with the UFA, he became an enthusiastic promoter of monetary reform, calling for the creation of a smaller localized banking system over a centralized system dominated by central Canadian banks. He also clashed with evangelical followers of Social Credit theory during the big monetary reform debates of the 1920s and 1930s.

An April 1922 report in the Financial Post described Leedy as “one of those who has achieved a reputation in this country as a bank baiter,” having once published a pamphlet describing bankers as “our overlords” who “have skinned the farmer instead of shearing him.” 

Ad in the Edmonton Journal, 1925

After a break from electoral politics, he announced plans to jump back into electoral politics in 1925 as an Independent Progressive in Edmonton East in the federal election but he did not make it on to the ballot.

His next and final run for elected office would happen in 1926, when he advocated for monetary reform as an Independent candidate for MLA in Edmonton’s multi-member district. He eared 0.75 per cent of the vote and placed last out of 18 candidates.

Continuing to promote monetary reform theories, at age 83 he took his first trip in a airplane when flying back to Kansas in 1932 to give bankers monetary advice. 

In an Edmonton Journal article marking his 86th birthday, Leedy credited his longevity to “accepting his doctor’s advice to move to a colder climate.”

Leedy died in Edmonton on March 24, 1935 and is buried in the Edmonton Municipal Cemetery. His wife, Sarah Boyd Leedy died in 1941 and is also buried in the Edmonton Municipal Cemetery. 

Upon notice of his death, the Kansas House of Representatives voted to provide $1,000 to meet the burial expenses for him and his wife and erect a burial monument.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Yeehaw! Alberta is lifting restrictions and opening for a one-dose summer

“Opening for summer” was Premier Jason Kenney’s new tagline as he announced that by July the provincial government will mount a quick retreat from the public health restrictions implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Jason Kenney

It is a bizarre whiplash from a week ago when Alberta was leading North America for active cases of COVID-19 and Intensive Care Units were starting to overflow (there are still 150 COVID patients in ICU beds in Alberta). But consistency has never been Kenney’s style during the pandemic and his decision to rush the removal of restrictions likely being driven by his need to score political points and save job as leader of the United Conservative Party.

The three stage plan appears to be planned around the start of the Ponoka Stampede and the Calgary Stampede, two of the largest public events in an Alberta summer.

It has been a long 15 months since the pandemic began, so it is hard not to be cautiously optimistic that the plan will work. But, like many of Kenney’s plans, it seems to be driven by political expediency rather than the vigilance our leaders probably should embrace to defeat this virus.

Alberta’s public health restrictions have been mild compared with most other provinces in Canada and jurisdictions abroad. Coffee shops and grocery stores have remained open, as have religious services (with lower attendance rates), and even the Legislative Assembly continued to meet in-person until last week. It even took a while for the government to be convinced that casinos should be closed.

Rachel Notley

Proactive measures have not been a distinguishing feature of Kenney’s response to COVID-19.

UCP staffers have been jubilantly tweeting that Albertans “crushed the spike,” referring to the third wave that peaked at more than 26,000 active cases, but it was only after weeks of delays and ignoring the pleas of medical professionals that the Kenney government implemented the measures that “crushed” the third wave of COVID-19 in Alberta.

Only a week before Kenney implemented the current public health measures, he was complaining to the media that restrictions don’t work because people don’t listen to them, despite the third wave that happened after the previous health measures were prematurely lifted in February 2021. 

The decline in active cases since the new public health measures were put in place suggests the restrictions did work.

A growing number of Albertans are getting injected with their first dose of COVID-19 vaccines and there are still questions about how many Albertans will have received a second dose of the vaccine by the time Kenney rips the bandaid off in July.

Despite conservative partisans criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for using the term “one-dose summer,” it would appear that a one-dose is enough for the UCP government to remove all public health restrictions.

There is also growing concern about how effective one dose of vaccine is in protecting people from the B.1.617.2 variant (the “India variant”), which is the source of a third wave in the United Kingdom.

New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley is urging caution and raising questions about the speed the restrictions will be lifted, which is a fair criticism. In typical fashion, Kenney responded with a partisan barb, accusing the NDP of being anti-vaxxers. All NDP MLAs have confirmed they have received their first vaccination, something not all UCP MLAs have confirmed doing.

A lot of Albertans, myself included, are hoping that the removal of restrictions will work and we can put COVID-19 behind us. It would be nice to have a summer not constrained by even mild public health restrictions. It would be nice for the pandemic to be over. We will find out by the fall whether the Kenney government jumped the gun in removing restrictions too soon.


Hinman only candidate in Wildrose Independence Party leadership vote

Paul Hinman Wildrose Independence Party MLA
Paul Hinman

Former Wildrose Party MLA Paul Hinman is the only candidate to enter the Wildrose Independence Party leadership race. A vote of the separatist party’s membership will be held on August 28, 2021 to confirm his leadership.

Hinman represented the Alberta Alliance and Wildrose Alliance parties as the MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 and the Wildrose Party as the MLA for Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012. He led the Wildrose Alliance in the 2008 election.

Hinman is the grandson of Social Credit MLA and cabinet minister Edgar Hinman.


NDP to hold nomination meeting in Calgary-Varsity on June 26

Luanne Metz Calgary-Varsity NDP
Luanne Metz

The Alberta NDP will hold the first nomination meeting of the 2023 election cycle on June 26, 2021 in Calgary-Varisty. Prominent physician Dr. Luanne Metz is expected to be acclaimed as candidate.

The northwest Calgary district is a key target riding for the NDP in the next election and was narrowly won by UCP MLA Jason Copping in 2019.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Becoming Daveberta – an interview on the Forgotten Corner Podcast

I don’t usually talk about myself much so it was fun to join Scott Schmidt and Jeremy Appell on the Forgotten Corner Podcast to chat about my path through Alberta politics and how Daveberta.ca became a thing.

Give the episode a listen and show them some support.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Leela Aheer faces early UCP nomination challenge in Chestermere-Strathmore

Chantelle de Jonge has filed papers with Elections Alberta to run for the United Conservative Party nomination in Chestermere-Strathmore. The district is currently represented by UCP MLA Leela Aheer, who has served as Alberta’s Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women since her party formed government in 2019.

Chestermere-Strathmore
Chestermere-Strathmore

It is not clear whether the UCP has actually opened the candidate nomination process in this district, or any others at this point, but Alberta’s election laws require people who are interested in actively campaigning for party nominations to file their expression of interest with Elections Alberta. 

As far as I can tell, de Jonge has not made any public statements about her candidacy, but I was able to find someone by that name on LinkedIn who is a former Constituency Assistant in the office of Calgary-Skyview Conservative MP Jag Sahota and a student of economics and philosophy at the University of Calgary. 

A new district created for the 2019 election, Chestermere-Strathmore saw Aheer face off against former UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt, who was first barred by Jason Kenney from running for the party nomination in that district and later ran in the election as leader of the Freedom Conservative Party (now the separatist Wildrose Independence Party).

After Fildebrandt was banned from the the UCP contest, a tense 2018 nomination race took place that included allegations of death threats and restraining orders when Aheer was challenged by David Campbell, who is now President of The Independence Party of Alberta.

Aheer was successful in her 2019 bid for re-election, earning 68 per cent of the vote. NDP candidate Melissa Langmaid placed second with 15.4 per cent and Fildebrant finished third with 7.4 per cent.

The NDP opened its candidate nomination process this months, with a number of nominees, including former MLA Brian Malkinson in Calgary-Currie and Dr. Luanne Metz in Calgary-Varsity, announcing their candidacies.

Former PC MLA running for Mayor of Strathcona County

Dave Quest
Dave Quest

Former Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Quest is running to become the next Mayor of Strathcona County

Quest represented Strathcona-Sherwood Park from 2008 until 2015, when he was unseated by NDP candidate Estefan Cortes-Vargas. He ran for the Alberta Party in that district in the 2019 election, placing third with 13.3 per cent of the vote.

Categories
Alberta Politics

List of Edmonton municipal election candidates now updated

I have *finally* updated the list of declared Edmonton Mayoral, City Council and school board candidates with social media links.

I am planning to publish a more detailed update with a review of some of the new candidates in the next few days.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out and shared new names and links.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Prominent Calgary physician Dr. Luanne Metz seeking NDP nomination in Calgary-Varsity

Calgary physician and well-known public health care advocate Dr. Luanne Metz is filing her papers to seek the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Varsity.

Dr. Metz is a Professor and the Head of the Division of Neurology at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary. She is also a founder of Eyes Forward Alberta, an advocacy group created to support public health care and oppose the United Conservative Party government’s plans to privatize large swaths of the health care system.

“I want to contribute to fixing our health-care system,” Metz said in a media statement released last night.

“My way of dealing with the stress of recent policies that are the opposite of what evidence recommends is to do whatever I can to be part of the solution. UCP policies are hurting Albertans and will increase health care costs,” she said. “I want to continue championing the health and wellness of Albertans in the Legislature.”

According to the University of Calgary website, Metz is recognized globally as an expert in Multiple Sclerosis and, in 2015, was awarded the Alberta Medal of Distinguished Service – which recognizes physicians who have made an outstanding personal contribution to the medical profession and to the people of Alberta.

Jason Copping Calgary Varsity
Jason Copping

If nominated as the NDP candidate, Metz could challenge current UCP MLA Jason Copping, now the Minister of Labour and Immigration, in the next election. Copping defeated NDP candidate Anne McGrath (now the National Director of the New Democratic Party of Canada) by 638 votes in the 2019 election.

Calgary-Varsity has been a swing riding that has generally leaned away from the conservative parties since the mid-2000s, being represented by popular Liberal MLA Harry Chase from 2004 to 2012, Progressive Conservative and Independent MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans from 2012 to 2015, and NDP MLA Stephanie McLean from 2015 to 2019.

Election results in Calgary-Varsity from 2001 to 2019.
Election results in Calgary-Varsity from 2001 to 2019.

The next Alberta provincial election is expected to be held between March 1, 2023 and May 31, 2023.


“Anti-lockdown” café owner running for separatist party nomination

Chris Scott Wildrose Independence Party Lacombe Ponoka
Chris Scott

Chris Scott, the owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe in the central Alberta hamlet of Mirror is reported to be seeking the Wildrose Independence Party nomination in Lacombe-Ponoka.

Scott has become well-known for keeping his cafe open in defiance of public health restrictions put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.

He was arrested by RCMP at a rally to oppose the government’s public health restrictions held outside his cafe on May 8, 2021. He was released from police custody on May 12.

Lacombe-Ponoka is currently represented by UCP MLA Ron Orr, who, in a Facebook post defending Premier Jason Kenney last week, claimed that Kenney was raised by God to be the leader of his party.

The right-wing separatist party formerly known as the Freedom Conservative Party is currently in the process of selecting its first permanent leader.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Amarjeet Sohi is in. Former federal cabinet minister running for Mayor of Edmonton

The race to replace Mayor Don Iveson got a little more crowded today.

Former city councillor and former federal cabinet minister Amarjeet Sohi announced his plans to enter the mayoral election this morning on Facebook Live.

After years working as a bus driver with the Edmonton Transit Service, Sohi was elected to City Council in 2007, where he became a vocal advocate for public transit and the sometimes overlooked communities he represented in south east Edmonton.

After being re-elected to council twice, he was elected as the Member of Parliament for Edmonton Mill Woods in 2015. As one of four Liberal MPs elected in Alberta that year, Sohi was appointed to the federal cabinet, first as Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and then as Minister of Natural Resources.

As Natural Resources Minister, Sohi was is believe to have been a driving force behind the federal government’s decision to buy the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project, saving the project at the moment its private-sector shareholders decided to walk away.

Sohi was defeated in his bid for re-election in the anti-Trudeau wave that swept Alberta in 2019, but the loss was more a reflection of Edmontonians unhappiness with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau than with Sohi himself.

A year and a half later, he dusted himself off and is now in the race to become Mayor.

Sohi is a very unique and compelling candidate, and, as anyone who has met him over the course of his 12 years of public service can attest, he is one of the most sincere, humble, and hard-working politicians in Edmonton.

Oshry officially launches

Michael Oshry Edmonton Mayor Election
Michael Oshry

Former city councillor Michael Oshry officially launched his campaign for mayor last week. Oshry submitted his nomination papers to become a candidate for mayor in February 2021 but waited until May 2021 to officially launch his campaign.

Oshry represented south west Edmonton on city council from 2013 to 2017. He was rumoured to have considered a run for the Progressive Conservative Party leadership in 2017 but ultimately declined. 

Krushell is back?

Kim Krushell Edmonton Mayor Election
Kim Krushell

After her campaign went silent on social media for an entire month, former city councillor Kim Krushell reappeared online last week. Krushell’s social media accounts went dormant from April 7 to May 4.

Krushell served on council from 2004 to 2013 and launched her mayoral bid with a big media splash in January 2021 so her recent absence generated speculation about whether she was planning to remain in the race.

Categories
Alberta Politics

MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen evicted from the UCP Caucus. What comes next?

United Conservative Party MLAs voted to expel Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen from the governing party’s caucus after an afternoon virtual caucus meeting that spilled into the evening.

The vote came less than 24-hours after Loewen released an open letter announcing his resignation as chair of the UCP Caucus and calling on Premier Jason Kenney to resign as party leader.

Todd Loewen, MLA Central Peace-Notley
Todd Loewen

The vote came more than two years after Barnes began his unofficial role as chief-caucus-thorn-in-Kenney’s-side. After being overlooked for a cabinet role when the UCP formed government in 2019, the third-term MLA representing the southeast corner of Alberta publicly toyed with separatism and climate change denial and became an open critic of the government’s response to COVID-19 (claiming the mild public health restrictions went too far).

Both were former Wildrose MLAs, with Barnes being the only original Wildroser from that party’s 2012 breakthrough still sitting in the Legislative Assembly.

Kenney had no choice but to appeal to his caucus to kick Loewen out after being directly challenged. Barnes was the icing on the cake for Kenney. (Noticeably missing from this list was Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA David Hanson, who posted his support for Loewen’s letter on Facebook).

Nicholas Milliken UCP Calgary Currie
Nicholas Milliken

The vote to expel the two, which was live-tweeted from leaks funnelled to Derek Fildebrandt‘s Western Standard website, was not cast by secret ballot but by MLAs texting their yes or no votes to new interim caucus chair, Calgary-Currie MLA Nicholas Milliken.

Now the question is whether any other UCP MLAs will join the two newly Independent MLAs in the opposition benches? Loewen and Barnes were two of 18 UCP MLAs who spoke out against the government’s COVID-19 response. And they are certainly not the only MLAs unhappy with Kenney’s leadership, which still remains on thin ice.

There is also the question of whether the two will remain as Independent MLAs for long. The Wildrose Independence Party is looking for a new leader, and the deadline to join that race is tomorrow. The Alberta Party is holding a leadership race soon, as are The Independence Party of Alberta and the Alberta Liberal Party.

Pat Rehn MLA Lesser Slave Lake
Pat Rehn

For these two outspoken MLAs – and their new desk-mate, Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn – there might be no shortage of options.

But this is a short-term solution to a bigger problem for the UCP.

One of the main problems is Kenney. He remains deeply unpopular with Albertans and conservatives, a reality reflected in dropping support in the polls and his party’s dismal fundraising returns over the last six months. His divisive style of politics has alienated many Albertans, including many influential people of communities who would otherwise be traditional supporters of the governing conservative party.

As Edmonton-based strategist Chris Henderson wrote of Kenney on Twitter, “[h]e is clearly a very exceptional political lieutenant, but doesn’t have the requisite skills/temperament to sustain leadership in a complex governing environment.”

“There’s no shame in that, some people are incredible college QBs and flame out in the NFL. It happens. Time to go.,” wrote Henderson, who managed many of Don Iveson‘s successful political campaigns in Edmonton.

Premier Jason Kenney
Premier Jason Kenney

Kenney may have been successful in imposing caucus discipline today, but he still faces critics within his own party who are calling for his resignation.

In more normal times, this could just be argued away as growing pains for a relatively new political party, but the UCP includes some unruly groups of conservative activists who spent most of the last decade at each others throats. These ideological and regional divides are easier to mend when the party is high in the polls and flush with cash (or the price of oil is high), but when the party’s fortunes began to nosedive more than a year ago the ideological cracks instantly started to appear.

In a statement released after the meeting,, UCP Caucus Whip and Calgary-West MLA Mike Ellis said “There is simply no room in our caucus for those who continually seek to divide our party and undermine government leadership.” But that the breakdown of the vote wasn’t released suggests that it wasn’t near unanimous and that opposition to Kenney still exists inside the UCP Caucus.

United Conservative Party statement Mike Ellis Drew Barnes Todd Loewen
Statement from the United Conservative Caucus (May 13, 2021)

The United Conservative Party already didn’t appear completely united, and now, with a growing number of former UCP MLAs sitting in the opposition benches, it appears even less united.

Kenney made an example of Barnes and Loewen by having them kicked out of the UCP Caucus, but when the other 59 UCP MLAs wake up tomorrow morning, the problems that led them to make this decision today will still remain.


Update: Drew Barnes issued a statement on social media following his eviction from the UCP Caucus.

Statement released by MLA Drew Barnes in response to his being removed from the UCP Caucus (May 13, 2021)
Statement released by MLA Drew Barnes in response to his being removed from the UCP Caucus (May 13, 2021)
Categories
Alberta Politics

It’s an open rebellion. UCP MLA Todd Loewen calls on Jason Kenney to resign

Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen has resigned as chair of the United Conservative Party Caucus and is calling on Premier Jason Kenney to resign as leader of the United Conservative Party.

Letter from Todd Loewen calling of Jason Kenney to resign
Letter from Todd Loewen calling of Jason Kenney to resign
Letter from Todd Loewen calling of Jason Kenney to resign
Letter from Todd Loewen calling of Jason Kenney to resign

In a letter posted on his Facebook page at  11:52 p.m. last night, Loewen, a former Wildrose Party MLA who was first elected in 2015 and supported Brian Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership race, announced his resignation as chair and explained the reasons for his calling on Kenney to step down.

Loewen was one of 18 UCP MLAs who openly criticized the government’s COVID-19 health restrictions, so it was surprising that the reasons listed in his letter were not related to the government’s response to COVID-19. Instead, Loewen criticized Kenney for his handling of negotiations with physicians, plans to expand open-pit coal mining in the Rockies and losing the trust of Albertans.

“We did not unite around one man,” Loewen wrote, taking a direct shot at Kenney’s leadership.

Kenney has always had lower approval and popularity ratings than his party, but over the last year his approval ratings have plummeted and he has begun to drag his party down with him. The UCP has polled behind Rachel Notley’s Alberta NDP in every public poll since November 2020 and the NDP raised twice as much money as the UCP in the first three months of 2021.

Challenges to Kenney’s leadership have been growing.

UCP constituency presidents and activists have signed a letter calling on Kenney to resign and for a leadership review to be held, and there have been rumblings of major unhappiness in the UCP caucus for months, but this is the first time a UCP MLA has called on the Premier to step down.

There is now an open rebellion against Kenney in the UCP caucus.

The Premier has no choice but to now remove Loewen from the government caucus. If he doesn’t, it will show that he has clearly lost control of his caucus and the loyalty of his MLAs.

As I have written before, the UCP Kenney helped create is an institutional mix of former Progressive Conservatives, who do not tolerate leaders who look like they are going to lose, and Wildrosers, who just don’t want to be led.

Now we wait to see how Kenney reacts.


Update: David Hanson, the UCP MLA for Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul, has posted on Facebook that he supports Loewen’s letter calling on Kenney to resign. Hanson was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2015 and was one of the 18 UCP MLAs who publicly criticized the government’s COVID-19 health restrictions. He also endorsed Brian Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership race.

MLA David Hanson's Facebook post supporting Todd Loewen's letter calling on Jason Kenney to resign as leader of the United Conservative Party.
MLA David Hanson’s Facebook post supporting Todd Loewen’s letter calling on Jason Kenney to resign as leader of the United Conservative Party.

Update: The UCP Caucus virtual meeting, which was scheduled to take place at 9:00 a.m. today has been cancelled.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Former MLA Brian Malkinson running for NDP nomination in Calgary-Currie, Elections Alberta hits former UCP nomination candidate with $8000 fine

Former Alberta NDP MLA Brian Malkinson has filed his papers with Elections Alberta signalling his intent to seek his party’s nomination in Calgary-Currie in the next provincial election, which is expected to be held in 2023.

Malkinson was elected as the NDP MLA in Calgary-Currie in the 2015 election, defeating Progressive Conservative MLA Christine Cusanelli, and served as Minister of Service Alberta from 2018 to 2019. He was defeated in the 2019 election by United Conservative Party candidate Nicholas Miliken by 191 votes, one of the closest races in the province.

Malkinson previously stood as the NDP candidate in Calgary-North West in the 2012 provincial election and in the 2014 by-election in Calgary-West.

Elections Alberta hits former UCP nomination candidate with $8000 fine

Elections Alberta has reported that it has issued a $8,000 fine against former UCP nomination candidate Steve Thompson for violations of three sections of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. The violations are reported to have taken place Thompson’s bid for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-McClung in 2018.

According to the Elections Alberta website, Thompson’s offences included violations of:

  • Section 34(1.1) of the EFCDA: Furnished Funds to 3 persons for the purpose of making a contribution,
  • Section 34(2) of the EFCDA: Knowingly Accepted Funds, from 3 contributors, contrary to section 34(1) E
  • FCDA Section 46 of the EFCDA: Knowingly Made a False Financial Statement with the CEO.

Also listed as having received administrative penalties from Elections Alberta were Thompson’s chief financial officer, Caroline Thompson, who was issued a $3,500 fine, and three political contributors, Jaimie-Lee Wicentowich, Avaleen Nycz, and Gennady Sergeev. The three contributors were fined $1,500 each for violations of Section 34(1) of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act for “contributing funds to a registered nomination contestant that had been given or furnished to him by another person.”

According to financial disclosures from the 2018 nomination contest, Wicentowich, Nycz, and Sergeev were reported to have donated $2,300 each to Thompson’s UCP nomination campaign.

Thompson was defeated in the nomination race by Laurie Mozeson, who was later unsuccessful in her attempt to unseat NDP MLA Lorne Dach. Thompson previously ran as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-McClung in the 2015 provincial election,

Former PC MLA running as Conservative candidate on Vancouver Island, again

Alana DeLong Alberta MLA Calgary-Bow
Alana DeLong

Continuing the tradition of former Alberta politicians running for elected office in British Columbia, former PC MLA Alana DeLong has been nominated as the federal Conservative Party candidate in the Vancouver Island district of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.

This is DeLong’s second time running in that district, having placed second in the 2019 federal election. She also ran for the BC Liberals in the 2017 provincial election in Nanaimo-North Cowichan.

DeLong served as the PC MLA for Calgary-Bow from 2001 to 2015 and made a brief bid for the PC Party leadership in 2006.

As previously noted on this website, also running for a federal party nomination on Vancouver Island is former Leduc-Beaumont NDP MLA Shaye Anderson. The federal NDP nomination in Nanaimo-Ladysmith is scheduled to take place on May 20, 2021.

(It continues to puzzle me why an Albertan who moved to Vancouver Island only to then run for a job that would require them to spend most of their time in Ottawa)

Categories
Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney is the King of Not Managing Expectations

“The work of democracy does not end in a crisis. The British House of Commons met every day during the blitz of the Luftwaffe on London.” 

That was Alberta Premier Jason Kenney‘s response on April 11, 2020 that the Legislative Assembly should stop meeting in-person to avoid spreading COVID-19 to MLAs, staff and their families.

Jason Nixon
Jason Nixon

Unlike Parliament in Ottawa, other provincial legislatures, and most school boards across Alberta, our Legislature did not shift to online sessions when the pandemic began, instead continuing to meet in-person with a pre-arranged limited attendance by MLAs.

That Churchillian resolve to keep the Legislature in session abruptly disappeared on Sunday morning when Government House Leader Jason Nixon issued a press release announcing that the Legislative Assembly would be suspended for at least the next two weeks.

The press release states this is in response to the third wave of COVID-19, which has arrived in Alberta with a vengeance. And with almost 23,000 current active cases in the province, things look bleak.

Alberta now has more new daily confirmed cases than any other province or state. (source: Trevor Tombe)
Alberta now has more new daily confirmed cases than any other province or state in North America. (source: Trevor Tombe)

The business of Assembly committees will continue through the traditional conference call system, but the regular business of the Assembly will stop instead of doing what many other Albertans  in a similar situation have done for the past 14 months – go on Zoom.

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley quickly disputed Nixon’s claims that the opposition was consulted, saying instead they were just told what was going to happen.

“The first item on the agenda for Monday must be an emergency debate on Jason Kenney’s failing pandemic response,” Notley said her own Sunday morning press release.

Rachel Notley (source: Facebook)

The surprise suspension of the in-person Spring session is probably a good idea, and a practice that should have been adopted a year ago.

Our legislators, including a growing group of UCP MLAs who are publicly critical of public health restrictions, spent last week in their constituencies could risk unknowingly bringing the virus back to the Legislature with them (it was revealed two weeks ago that staff in the Premier’s Office had tested positive for COVID-19).

But why now, 14 months after the pandemic started?

That’s where this feels like politics played into this last minute decision to lockdown the Legislature.

It is a big departure from Kenney’s chest puffing at the beginning of the pandemic, when he would frequently quote and evoke the memory of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who led Great Britain through the Second World War.

“The work of democracy does not end in a crisis. The British House of Commons met every day during the blitz of the Luftwaffe on London,” Kenney said as the pandemic began to spread last April.

Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill

Churchillian is not how most people would describe Kenney’s leadership since the pandemic began. His start-stop half-measures approach to COVID has proved ineffective at stopping the spread of the virus. It has also annoyed Albertans and made his United Conservative Party look not so united.

Suspending the Legislature means Kenney will not have to answer hard questions from the media and the NDP opposition about his government’s response to the third wave of the pandemic, paid sick leave for working Albertans, or the recently announced unpopular $90 annual fee to enter Kananaskis Country.

It also puts some physical distance between Kenney and his critics inside the UCP.

In normal times, it would make sense for the Premier to want MLAs in Edmonton where his staff could keep a watchful eye and hold a tight leash, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference anymore.

Angela Pitt (source: Facebook)
Angela Pitt

Kenney won’t have to answer tough questions about Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt, who recently walked back comments about vaccinations, and Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes, who issued another public statement criticizing the government’s public health measures. It is starting to feel like Kenney’s critics in the UCP Caucus are driving the government’s agenda.

Probably meaning to channel Churchill, Kenney was all big talk last year when the UCP government passed laws clamping down on protesters who would block bridges, pipelines, or anything the cabinet deems as “critical infrastructure.”

He had no shortage of words to denounce protesters in Montreal who decapitated a statue of Sir  John A. Macdonald.

He even launched a much-hyped public inquiry to investigate alleged enemies of Alberta’s oil industry.

But when it came to the 2,000 Albertans openly violating public health rules by attending the “No More Lockdowns Rodeo” in Bowden over the weekend, Kenney could only muster a string of strongly worded tweets.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat
Drew Barnes

Facing the biggest challenge of his premiership, Kenney is clearly out of his depth. While he may be a successful political tactician during election campaigns, he has consistently been unable to rise to the occasion as leader of a government during this pandemic crisis.

Two weeks ago, he said Alberta was on track to beat the COVID variants that are now sky-rocketing across the province. Last year, he downplayed COVID by comparing it to the flu. And just last month he repeatedly said that this summer would be Alberta’s best ever.

If he wore a crown, Kenney would be the King of Not Managing Expectations.

Maybe someone can ask him about it if he returns to the Legislature in two weeks?