As is tradition here at daveberta, I have created an annual list of Alberta MLAs who have caught my eye over the past year. Due to a large grouping of MLAs who through sheer numbers, appear almost indistinguishable as they sit in the backbenches of the 72-MLA PC caucus, I am only focusing on a handful of MLAs who caught my attention for various reasons:
Doug Griffiths: (PC Battle River-Wainwright) Griffiths is an up and comer in the PC caucus. First elected in a 2002 by-election, much of his attention has focused on rural development strategies. As parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Griffiths brings a younger voice to the traditionally stogy agriculture file, and is in a good position to carve himself a solid position in the future of his party. Griffiths is also a bit of an exception to the rule when it comes to tech-know how, as he actually seems to comprehend the importance of web 2.0 in the politics of 2008 (like twitter).
Kent Hehr (Liberal Calgary-Buffalo) One of two new Liberals elected in 2008, Hehr is one of the strongest additions to the opposition benches in years. His brash hockey player attitude hasn’t stopped him from earning the respect of MLAs from all sides of the Assembly, and his well-spoken manner and compelling personal story have no doubt given him the credibility he has needed to focus public attention on Justice issues as Official Opposition critic.
Ken Kowalski (PC Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock) Since first taking his seat in the Speaker’s chair 12 years ago, Kowalski has done very little to halt the deterioration of decorum and respect in the Legislature as he frequently chooses to ignore offensive remarks and heckles thrown by MLAs on the Assembly floor. I have heard of a number of school teachers who now refuse to bring their elementary-level classes to visit Question Period because they don’t want their students to think the kind of behavior they’ll see in the Legislature is acceptable. From an outside perspective, it seems that the only part of his job he takes seriously includes greeting foreign dignitaries and publishing overpriced anthologies. Fail.
Ron Liepert (PC Calgary-West) I’m sure Liepert has been called many things since assuming the role of Health Minister, and judging from his behaviour on the floor of the Legislature, ‘arrogant jerk‘ is likely one of the more flattering. In charge of Alberta’s surprise Health Care restructuring following the 2008 election, Liepert has gone on a restructuring rampage, not only raising the ire of those in the system while convincing some of the province’s top public health professionals to resign, but has also created a new super-centralized provincial health board, dissolving the power of local health authorities.
Hugh MacDonald (Liberal Edmonton-Gold Bar) Somewhat obsessed with discovering scandal in Alberta’s 37-year PC government (and lord knows there are many), MacDonald has fine-tuned the exercise of calling wolf, diluting the real irresponsibility’s in environmental and economic management and stewardship by the PCs. As the PEI native continues to chase cars, I wonder if he’d know what to do if he caught one.
Ted Morton (PC Foothills-Rockyview) After being branded as the Great Right-Wing Threat of the 2006 PC leadership race, Morton has kept a strategically low-key profile over the past year. While not hitching his horse too tight to Stelmach’s reign and gaining a reputation as a reasonably competent Sustainable Resource Minister, Morton has put himself in a good position to ease the fears of moderate PCs who believed he would lead their party even further to the Right of the political spectrum. If Stephen Harper implodes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tom Flanagan pop up in a proximity close to Minister Morton.
Rachel Notley: (NDP Edmonton-Strathcona) While I remain unimpressed with her party’s leader, I have been pleasantly surprised by the performance of my MLA over the past year. No less
ideologically driven partisan then her caucus-mate, Notley has been the thoughtful and well-spoken member of the tiny NDP caucus since taking her seat after the 2008 election.
Raj Sherman (PC Edmonton-Meadowlark) This list won’t be able to top the list of sexiest MLAs, but it would be hard to keep Sherman off my list. The former emergency room doctor is one of the brighter stars in the vast expanse of dim lights in the Alberta Legislature. Though I wish this parliamentary assistant could knock some sense into Health Minister Liepert, Sherman’s experience in front-line medicine, and his openness about past challenges with mental health, give him insight into the medical arena that many other MLAs would have a difficult time understanding.
Ed Stelmach (PC Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville) Having helped quadruple this blog’s readership over the past year, Alberta’s Premier holds a special place in my heart. From quoting Cicero to comparing his opponents to communists, it’s hard to argue that any other MLA has been as ‘all over the board’ as Stelmach during his second year as Premier. Since January 1st, 2008, he has lashed out at the United Nations and a dead Prime Minister, skipped a First Ministers’ meeting, changed conflict of interest rules the day he called an election, and snuck himself a 30% pay raise all the while having been re-elected by Albertans on March 4 by running under the slogan “Change that works for Albertans.” In a time when Alberta could be blazing a bold new trail, Stelmach’s actions embody political mediocrity at its most deliberate.