Category Archives: Kevin Taft

alberta liberal attrition.

Today’s news that Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor is leaving the Liberal caucus is big news for political watchers, but it is far from the first time that an MLA has left the Alberta Liberal Caucus. Due to many circumstances, ten MLAs have departed the Liberal Caucus before their term has ended over the past 16 years.

2006: One-term Edmonton-Manning MLA Dan Backs was expelled from the Liberal caucus by party leader Kevin Taft due to “ongoing friction” between the MLA and his colleagues. Mr. Back sat an an Independent MLA. After unsuccessfully seeking the PC nomination in 2008, Mr. Backs ran as an Independent and placed third behind Tory Peter Sandhu and New Democrat Rick Murti.

2004: Leader and Lethbridge-East MLA Ken Nicol and Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Debby Carlson both left the Liberal caucus to run as federal Liberal candidates. Dr. Nicol eared 21.5% support against Conservative MP Rick Casson, and Ms. Carlson placed only 5,000 votes behind Edmonton-Strathcona Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer.

2000: Edmonton-Norwood MLA Sue Olsen left the Liberal caucus to run peruse a career in federal politics. Ms. Olsen was unsuccessful in her campaign to unseat Edmonton-Centre East MP Peter Goldring.

1999: One-term Edmonton-Castle Downs MLA Pamela Paul left the Liberal caucus to sit as an Independent MLA after domestic issues made it difficult for her to work with her caucus colleagues. She did not seek re-election in 2001.

1998: Two-term Edmonton-Mill Creek MLA Gene Zwozdesky left the Liberals over a dispute with leader Nancy MacBeth. One month later, he joined the Progressive Conservative caucus and is currently the Minister of Health & Wellness.

1996: Former leader and Redwater MLA Nick Taylor left the Liberal caucus when he was appointed to the Senate of Canada by Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

1995: Edmonton-Norwood MLA Andrew Beniuk was expelled from the Liberal caucus and sat as an Independent before joining the PCs in 1996. Mr. Beniuk was defeated by Liberal Sue Olsen in the 1997 election. Mr. Beniuk attempted political comebacks as the PC candidate in Edmonton-Glengarry in 2001 and Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood in 2008.

1994: Edmonton-Beverly-Belmont MLA Julius Yankowski and Lac La Biche-St. Paul MLA Paul Langevin left the Liberals to sit as Independent MLAs before joining the PC caucus in 1995 and were both re-elected in 1997. Mr. Langevin retired in 2001 and Mr. Yankowski was defeated by New Democrat Ray Martin in 2004.

perfesser dave’s five paths to obscurity.

In his most recent blog post and column in the Saint City News, David Climenhaga (aka Perfesser Dave) pointed out five main challenges that the new Alberta Party faces in becoming relevant in the 2012 election. It is a good list and these challenges do not face the new Alberta Party alone. Mr. Climenhaga is also accurate in describing the challenges facing the other opposition parties in Alberta.

While the Wildrose Alliance, now led by Danielle Smith, has been successful in raising piles of cash through their oil and gas sector bankrollers, both the Liberals and New Democrats have had a difficult time raising the kind of funds needed to compete with the near 40-year governing Progressive Conservative Party. In 2007, the Liberals led by Edmonton MLA Kevin Taft raised over $1 million, but it remained a miniscule amount compared to the PC Party’s multi-million dollar war chest.

For all the talk of vote-splitting among the opposition parties, the political field is really not that crowded. In 2008, over 60% of Albertans stayed away from the polls, which signals that Albertans are hardly overflowing the polling stations to split votes. Even the electoral equations provided by the Democratic Renewal Project show that a merger of Liberal and NDP votes in recent elections would only create a moderately-sized opposition. It is true that the new Alberta Party leader, Edwin Erickson, is not high profile and is unlikely to be the next Premier of Alberta, but once you step out of the political echo chamber or away from the Dome, all the parties become irrelevant. For all their hard work, show a picture of David Swann or Brian Mason to a random person on the street, and you will likely get a puzzled look.

Voter Turnout versus Eligible Voters (Alberta 1975-2008)
Total Vote: Party Breakdown (Alberta 1971-2008)

Mr. Climenhaga claimed that the Alberta Party is a group of “self-important yuppified professionals who would like to go straight into power.” I have met with some of the organizers of the new Alberta Party and some of them are even good friends of mine. I can attest that while they are ambitious (and perhaps a bit naive), they are not what Mr. Climenhaga describes.

I have spoken with many Liberals and New Democrats who remain befuddled as to why anyone would attempt to start something new, rather than join the ranks of the already assembled politicos. On many levels, the people behind the new party are looking for a cultural shift in Alberta politics. Although they may agree with some of the policies promoted by the traditional political parties, they see the culture of these traditional parties as part of the problem. The Alberta Party organizers appear to be fully aware of the risks of failure and that they are stepping beyond the political comfort zones of many people already involved in other parties.

I know many jilted Liberals and jolted New Democrats who have resolved to bask in the glory days of Pierre Trudeau or Laurence Decore and Tommy Douglas or Grant Notley. I somewhat admire their political stamina and strength (or madness) in the face of adversity, but I also completely understand why a group of young politically ambitious reformers would want to chart their own course. Joining a group that has become content with spending decades in the relative obscurity of the opposition benches is hardly attractive if you are serious about changing government policy.

Building a new political party from the ground up is hard work. The current leadership of the Liberals and New Democrats inherited a base of support and network that has existed for decades. Considering that the party was formed only eight years ago, the growth of the Wildrose Alliance is impressive (recognizing that it did have roots in the mini-resurgence of the Randy Thorsteinson-led Social Credit Party in 1997). It will be interesting to see whether the people involved with the new Alberta Party can actually build something different.

Contrary to what you may sometimes read on this blog, I do not always enjoying pointing out the flaws of Alberta’s opposition parties. I wish they would do better. I wish for opposition parties that were not uncompetitive in half the constituencies represented in the Assembly. I wish for a competitive election in 2012 that will attract Albertans back to the ballot booths. If the current polling trends continue, it looks like it may be competitive, but it remains to be seen who will actually be the contenders.

year in review 2009: alberta mla edition.

As is tradition here at daveberta.ca, I have created an annual list of Alberta MLAs who have caught my eye over the past year (see the 2008 MLA review). Due to a large grouping of MLAs who through sheer numbers appear almost indistinguishable as they sit in the backbenches of the 72  70 MLA Progressive Conservative caucus, this list focuses on the handful of MLAs who caught my attention for various reasons:


Kyle Fawcett: (PC Calgary-North Hill) I am really puzzled by this one. In February 2009, backbench MLA Fawcett was one of Premier Ed Stelmach‘s proudest cheerleaders, evangelizing the Premier on the floor of the Legislature as:

…a man of extraordinary vision, someone who fails to fall into the trap of regressive thinking during challenging times. He is a steady hand at the wheel of the ship in turbulent times. When others retreat, he has the optimism to search for the light at the end of the tunnel, the beacon of hope that all Albertans aspire to. He has the dogged determination to push forward to establish this province’s place in the new world paradigm when the negativity of others is enough to stop progress dead in its tracks.

Eight months later, Fawcett took a complete 180 degree turn and criticized Premier Stelmach for doing “very little, I believe, to instil confidence in at least people in Calgary that he has the leadership capabilities to lead this province.” He soon after apologized and was quietly punished for his outspoken behaviour. It appears that Fawcett wants to be the class rebel and the teachers pet at the same time, but has ended up wearing the dunce cap instead.

Doug Griffiths: (PC Battle River-Wainwright) A year of lateral moves from being shuffled from parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General makes me wonder if the PCs are blind to talent. Griffiths knows how to use social media effectively by actually providing value and allowing citizens outside the Legislature to get a peek at what personal beliefs and driving motivations have led him to seek office. With alternatives to the near 40 year governing PCs gaining support, independent-minded Griffiths may be in a position to decide whether he wants to stay in the backbenches or join something new.

Ken Kowalski (PC Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock) As Speaker Kowalski celebrated 30 years as an MLA, he also demonstrated his political vintage by outright banning MLAs from using social media such as Twitter and Facebook during Question Period. While I agree that MLAs should respect the institution and proud traditions of the Legislature, rather than outright banning the medium, Kowalski had the opportunity to explore how new technologies could be used to reconnect citizens to their democratic institutions. I offered to help Speaker Kowalski better understand the uses of social media, but I did not receive a response.

 #fail

Ron Liepert (PC Calgary-West) Minister Liepert is a blunt instrument. He and Premier Stelmach have continued to defer much of their public responsibility for health care restructuring to the unelected CEO of Alberta Health Services, Stephen Duckett, but it has not stopped the Minister from planting his foot firmly in his mouth. PC MLAs are growing weary of this political arrangement and the Calgary Herald called for Minister Liepert’s resignation after he blamed Albertans for the administrative mishandling of the H1N1 vaccinations. Odds are favouring Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Fred Horne to replace Minister Liepert early in the new year.



Hugh MacDonald (Liberal Edmonton-Gold Bar) Last year, I characterized MacDonald as “obsessed with discovering scandal,” and this year I say the same, but with a slightly more endearing tone. While he does come off as a little nuts, MacDonald is easily one of the hardest working MLAs in the Legislature – spending countless hours digging through files in the Legislature Library and as Chair of the Public Account CommitteeAIMco, AHS, and PC MLA extra pay and bonuses have been among MacDonald’s targets in 2009, but I am still not sure if he would know what to do if he uncovered a scandal that stuck.

Len Mitzel (PC Cypress-Medicine Hat) Haven’t heard of Len Mitzel? Not surprising. The backbench MLA has found his niche as the PC caucus’ designated American conference attendee. Over the past year, Mitzel has attended conferences on behalf of the Government of Alberta in Montana (again and again), San AngeloLaredo, Denver, and Boise, meaning that he likely understands more than most MLAs the important economic relationship that our province has with the western United States.

Rachel Notley: (NDP Edmonton-Strathcona) Notley has proven to be a consistently good parliamentarian. She is intelligent, articulate, and has worked hard to provide a clear voice for her constituents on the floor of the Legislature (on a wide range of issues). Lord only knows why NDP members have not demanded that she become the leader of her party.

Kevin Taft (Liberal Edmonton-Riverview) Freed from the burden of leading Alberta’s Liberal Party, Taft has returned to a more familiar role as Official Opposition Health Critic. Having written and researched extensively about public health care in Alberta in his pre-political life, Taft has proven to be a formidable opponent to Premier Stelmach and Minister Liepert over the past year.

doing elections right in alberta.

Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft and Public Interest Alberta are taking legal action to force the Government of Alberta to improve how elections are organized in our province. The notice of motion lists thirteen issues ranging including the appointment of returning officers with partisan connections to not notifying opposition candidates of the relocation of voting stations to the lack of voting stations on post-secondary campuses and First Nations reservations. Elections in our province are far from the corrupt processes in other jurisdictions, but the process is hardly vibrant and extraordinary in any sense of the imagination.

During the 2008 provincial election, the impartiality of Alberta’s electoral process came into question when it was discovered that half of the local Returning Officers had strong links to the governing Progressive Conservatives. Then-Liberal Leader Taft called for a complete review of how elections in Alberta are organized.

During the last election, Elections Alberta spokesperson Jacqueline Roblin told CBC that the list of returning officer nominees had “come right from the premier’s office with these names that they are recommending that they be appointed.” In the midst of an election campaign, Premier Ed Stelmach told the media in February 2008 that he would not review the appointment process.

After the 2008 election, Chief Electoral Officer Lorne Gibson submitted a long list of recommendations to the Legislative Assembly to change how elections are organized by giving more authority to the an independent elections office. Shortly afterward, Gibson’s contract was not renewed by a PC MLA dominated committee. Not surprisingly, Taft once again tackled the issue during Question Period in that Legislative sitting.

In 2009, another partisan appointment was made during the Calgary-Glenmore by-election. Premier Stelmach later said that he had no problem with the Elections Office appointing officers, though no legislative changes have been made to reflect the statement. Earlier this month, former Chief Electoral Officer Brian Fjeldheim was re-appointed to the position (he served in the position previous to Gibson from 1998 to 2005).

I do not believe that improvements to Elections Alberta organization would have changed the outcome of the last election or even increased the voter turnout higher than 40%, but that is not the point. The integrity of our representative government is based on the strength of our democracy, a large part of which is expressed in our elections process.

david swann’s 1st anniversary.

Yesterday marked the first year anniversary of Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann becoming leader of the Alberta Liberal Party and Leader of the Official Opposition in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly. In the race to replace former leader Kevin Taft, Swann was selected on the first ballot with 2,468 votes, compared to 1,616 for Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor and 491 votes for former Edmonton-McClung MLA Mo Elsalhy.

Swann is one of the most sincere MLAs that I have had the pleasure to meet, but since entering his current role his party has continued to struggle to define itself and has had difficulty creating messages that resonate with Albertans. Although Swann entered his role under the banner of internal party reform, the attempts at reform appear to have stalled. Media releases from the Official Opposition offices sometimes include aggressive quotes that I have a difficult time imaging coming out of gentle Swann’s mouth, leading me to believe that he has yet to fully discover his voice in his role.

The Liberals appeared to have stalled after their narrow defeat in this year’s Calgary-Glenmore by-election, but according to a recent poll, the party is tied with Premier Ed Stelmach‘s PCs at 25% province-wide and has second place support in Edmonton and Calgary.

transparency and epcor privatization.

Edmonton City Council’s vote to privatize the power production portions of EPCOR was held as a private shareholders meeting (the City of Edmonton owns 100% of the shares), but no rules were broken. What’s the real issue? The privatization or how the decision was made?

– While I thought the Edmonton Journal’s ‘MAJOR ABUSE OF POWER’ headline was a tad bit sensationalist considering that Council conducted itself within the rules laid out before them, I do think the transparency issue needs to be addressed for future decisions. Councillor Don Iveson has already said that he plans on introducing a motion that would require councillors to make decisions about significant Epcor asset sales or restructuring at council rather than shareholder meetings.

“There are a number of fair reasons why the recent Capital Power decision was made that way, but I don’t want to be asked to make any further decisions that way.”

“Our accountability is clearer when we are meeting as councillors than if we’re meeting as shareholders.”

Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft has written an op-ed on the EPCOR issue, arguing that Council should put entire process on hold to allow public scrutiny.

– The Our Power Citizens Group is trying to start a larger debate on the EPCOR issue, but who is behind this group? The address listed on their website is the same as Public Interest Alberta. The group will be hosting a meeting on Wednesday, July 8th at 7:30 PM at the Central Lions Seniors Centre 11113 — 113 Street.

photo post: edmonton pride parade 2009.


City Councillors Don Iveson and Ben Henderson show off their tricycle-made-for-two.

Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman and Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft.

Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan and MLA Rachel Notley.

Edmonton-Calder MLA Doug Elniski, Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Fred Horne, and Edmonton-Glenora MLA Heather Klimchuk were the first PC MLAs to ever participate in Edmonton’s Pride Parade. Klimchuk was given a unique initiation at the Pride festivities:

Edmonton Pride Parade revellers waved rainbow flags Saturday afternoon as they booed and yelled “shame” at Edmonton-Glenora MLA Heather Klimchuk, the first government minister to participate in the annual celebration.

As the Service Alberta minister spoke to a crowd of thousands at Sir Winston Churchill Square, the shouts were louder than she was.

The boos were in response to the provincial government’s passage of Bill 44 nearly two weeks ago. The bill made controversial changes to Alberta’s Human Rights Act by giving parents the right to take their children out of classes dealing with sexual orientation, human sexuality and religion.

Critics argued the new law put teachers in danger of facing human rights complaints and created a second tier of rights.

bill 44 debate an all-nighter.

The debate over Bill 44 is going late into the night at the Alberta Legislature. You can follow the debate online through video or by following the Twitter hashtags #ableg and #bill44.

So far, Opposition Liberal and NDP MLAs Laurie Blakeman, Kevin Taft, Brian Mason, Bridget Pastoor, Kent Hehr, David Swann, and Rachel Notley have spoken against Section 9 of Bill 44 (the controversial education opt-out), and Calgary-North Hill PC MLA Kyle Fawcett has spoken in support of the Bill as it is.

I have pledged to buy lunch for and write nice things about the first PC MLA to rise and speak against Bill 44 as it currently stands. Earlier today, Premier Ed Stelmach pledged to allow the PC caucus a free vote on tonight’s/tomorrow morning’s vote.

UPDATE: It’s now 8:01am on Wednesday May 27 and after having been whipped in line for a month, no PC MLA took advantage of the last minute ‘free vote’ they were awarded on Bill 44 amendments. I keep my lunch money.

While they didn’t succeed in getting their amendments to Bill 44 passed, congrats to opposition MLAs Laurie Blakeman, Kent Hehr, Rachel Notley, and Kevin Taft for their particularly well-spoken and colourful contributions to last night’s/this morning’s debates.

On another point, I wonder if any other provincial legislature watchers in Canada have a Twitter hashtag as active as #ableg?

new schools, bill 203, ndp conference, & preston manning.

A new school in the Pilot Sound neighbourhood of North East Edmonton will be named after former School Trustee and Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Don Massey. Massey was elected to Edmonton’s Public School Board from 1977 to 1989, and to the Alberta Legislature from 1993 to 2004. Massey served as Interim Leader of the Liberal Official Opposition between the resignation of Lethbridge-East MLA Ken Nicol and election of Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft.

Naheed Nenshi has some great commentary on Athabasca-Redwater PC MLA Jeff Johnson‘s Bill 203 (including special content on Calgary-Glenmore PC heir-apparent Diane Colley-Urquhart).

The Alberta NDP will be hosting a revitalization conference in Edmonton on June 6. Speakers include Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan, Edmonton NDP MLAs Brian Mason & Rachel Notley. Child-care critic Notley scored a big win this week after releasing leaked emails showing that ‘front-line workers were being told not to let potential subsidy recipients know about changes to the application process unless asked.’

– Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning has some strong words for Albertans.

– University of Alberta student Matthew Sztym has joined Ryan Hastman and Linda Blade in race to become the Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona.

bad timing award.

While last year’s Unfortunate-timing in Alberta Politics Award undoubtedly went to then-Liberal leader Kevin Taft, for his unfortunate timing in announcing a policy to end natural gas rebates during a -40C winter spell, this year’s winner is shaping up to be Premier Ed Stelmach.

Could you think of a worse time for an internal Health Department memo calling for a hiring freeze on doctors to be leaked?

(h/t to @journalistjeff for the video link)

what’s eating the alberta liberals?

The first sentence of a recent letter sent out by Liberal Leader David Swann sums up the state of Alberta’s Official Opposition Party:

“We need your help to keep the ALP office operating at a reasonable level, and ready to serve Albertans.”

Over a year after the last election, the Alberta Liberals are struggling to pay their bills. It’s hard to understand why a political organization that earned 251,158 votes in the last election would have such a hard time paying off their 8-year debt, now sitting at around $400,000. The once $1 million debt-load was largely the product of the 2001 election campaign under former leader Nancy MacBeth. The Liberals went from 16 to 7 seats in that election, including a loss by MacBeth in Edmonton-McClung.

Two leaders and four years later, Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft led the Liberals to reclaim a majority of seats in Edmonton and gain a three-seat beachhead in Calgary. While PC leader Ralph Klein was unceremoniously shown the door in 2006, the Liberals had high hopes. Ed Stelmach was selected as PC leader, and the Liberals raised $1 million in 2007 and won the by-election in Klein’s abandoned Calgary-Elbow constituency. As the 2008 election approached, most people predicted the PCs would be re-elected, but with a reduced majority government.

On March 3, 2008, the PCs got their vote out, and everyone else stayed home. Well, that’s not really what happened, but it’s almost true. The PCs surged from 63 to 72 seats, unseating Liberals, New Democrats, and Wildrosers across Alberta, but voter turnout dropped to record low levels. With only around 90% of Albertans registered to vote, the pathetic turnout likely sat under 40% of eligible voters (including 22 out of 83 ridings which had less than 40% turnout).

While the Liberals dropped to 9 MLAs in 2008 by losing seats in Edmonton and facing decreasing support in rural Alberta, they did manage to increase their seat and vote total in Calgary by electing two new MLAs. The election of Kent Hehr in Calgary-Buffalo and Darshan Kang in Calgary-McCall shifted the power base in the Liberal caucus to southern Alberta for the first time in recent memory (five MLAs from Calgary, three from Edmonton, and one from Lethbridge). In the contest to replace Taft, two Calgary MLAs quickly became frontrunners.

In December 2008, Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann won a first-ballot victory against fellow Calgary MLA Dave Taylor and former Edmonton MLA Mo Elsalhy to become the first Liberal leader from Calgary since Nick Taylor campaigned in that city during the 1970s (Nick Taylor was eventually elected MLA in the Westlock-Sturgeon and Redwater ridings north of Edmonton from 1986 to 1996).

Following his victory, Swann appointed Elsalhy to lead a committee tasked with proposing recommendations to renew the Liberal Party. Joining Elsalhy on the committee are Norma Block of Drayton Valley, Barry Cavanaugh and Stephanie Laskoski of Edmonton, Jade Boldt and Peter Willott of Calgary, and Zack Moline of Lethbridge. The committee has launched a website to jump start some discussion, and in a recent email, Elsalhy announced the launch of a survey for ALP members and non-members asking what Alberta’s Liberal Party can do to renew itself. At the Legislature, Swann has brought in former MLA Rick Miller as Chief of Staff, and Calgary Federal Liberal organizer Neil Mackie as Communications Director.

Can the Alberta Liberals renew by creating momentum, attracting new members, and paying down their financial debt? What will it take for the Swann Liberals to attract new strong candidates, as well as re-attracting the many former Liberal MLAs who have moved on to other levels of government (Edmonton City Councillors Linda Sloan, Karen Leibovici, and Ed Gibbons come to mind).

The Alberta Liberals are in a rough spot, financially and organizationally, and though it may be easy to criticize Swann’s choice to focus on open consultations rather than implement a pre-made strategy, consultation and dialogue are his style. At this point in the game, the Liberals have very little to lose, so my recommendations to them are to be bold, challenge their status quo, and turn things on their head, because if the current fundraising trends continue, the Alberta Liberal Party may not be in the position to do so after the next election.

Coming Wednesday: Tiny Perfect Alberta NDP

last thoughts on neil waugh.

Provincial Affairs/Fish & Game columnist Neil Waugh was one of twenty staff laid off at the Edmonton Sun yesterday. A fixture of the Alberta political scene for decades, Waugh seems to have become one of the latest casualties of continent-wide media layoffs.

Though I wish him good luck in his future endeavors, in my humble opinion, Waugh was not an amazing political columnist, nor even a mediocre columnist. I struggle to name another mainstream political writer in Alberta who’s columns were as qualitatively inconsistent as Waugh’s. Perhaps he showed promise as a columnist at one point in his writing career, but over the past ten years, his columns had rapidly declined in their quality, and had come closer to resembling one-line rants rather than well-thought out columns.

I have had two experiences with Waugh that stick out in my mind. The most obvious was his January 2008 column that ingrained in infamy the quote “…Dave Cournoyer isn’t some obscure fat frat boy with a sticky-up haircut” (or at least in the header of this blog). Though I appreciated the attention on the issue, I was surprised that Waugh didn’t even attempt to contact me before accusing me of being part of an secret well-oiled Liberal Party conspiracy to tarnish the image of Premier Ed Stelmach (and as we all know, the same well-oiled political machine steamrolled to electoral victory in March 2008… oh wait…).

My second memorable Waugh experience sits more in the realm of bizarre. During a February 2008 media conference about the PC-connected Election Returning Officers, Waugh threw then-Liberal leader Kevin Taft a screwball question about Federal Liberal appointments to the Canadian Senate. Off-topic? Yes. Bizarre? Undoubtably.

judy wilson leaves alberta liberal caucus. former mla rick miller new chief of staff.

Following the recent trend of staff departures at the Alberta Legislative Assembly that have included Larry Johnsrude and Troy Wason, Official Opposition Chief of Staff Judy Wilson is now the departing the Dome.

After serving as Director of Operations at Government House for 13 years, Judy Wilson joined the Official Opposition caucus in 2007 as Chief of Staff under former leader Kevin Taft, and remained in her position after David Swann was selected as leader of the Liberal Party in December 2008. Wilson will be succeeded by Rick Miller, who served as the MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford and Finance Critic from 2004 to 2008.

Media Release

March 3, 2009

Alberta Liberal caucus sees change in Chief of Staff

Edmonton – Judy Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Alberta Liberal Caucus will be leaving her position, effective Friday March 6, 2009. Rick Miller, former MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford, will be stepping into that role.

“Our caucus has a new leader, and he has decided to take a new direction,” said Wilson. “I wish Rick all the best in his new role.

“I’m looking forward to new challenges and opportunities, and to having time to focus on other projects that are important to me – like the Student Refugee program at the U of A, and my Rotary club. I’ll have more time to devote to coaching my daughter’s soccer team,” says Wilson.

“I have appreciated working with Judy and all that she has contributed to our Caucus in her nearly 2 years here”, says Dr. David Swann, Leader.

Rick Miller will assume his new role effective Monday, March 9, 2009.

“I see this as an opportunity to contribute to democracy in this province, which has always been important to me,” said Miller.

“I feel very fortunate to be able to come into an organization where a strong, solid foundation has been built, thanks to the commitment and talents of Judy Wilson. I’ve known Judy for many years – we are in the same Rotary Club and worked together in caucus when I was an MLA. I have tremendous respect for the skills that she brings to any endeavour in her future,” concluded Miller.

-30-

One of the first challenges faced by Miller will be to boost the moral and provide internal direction in Alberta’s Official Opposition caucus, which fell to 9 elected MLAs in 2008. Miller will also face the challenge of plugging leaks that have contributed to a rumour mill of anonymous gossip emanating from the Liberal Caucus over the past couple months. Many of the anonymous rumours surrounded Wilson’s participation in conversations being held by various groups of Albertans dissatisfied with the state of democracy in this province (including myself and Jason Morris from Gauntlet.ca).

opposition grills alison redford on lorne gibson dismissal.

Opposition Liberal MLAs Kevin Taft, Kent Hehr, and Hugh MacDonald grill PC Justice Minister Alison Redford on the firing of Chief Returning Officer Lorne Gibson and the continuing Election 2008 fiasco in this video clip of Question Period in the Alberta Legislature.


AGRDT has a solid run down of the commentary on Gibson’s dismissal.

(h/t to MarvinMouse for the Youtube link)

david swann meets ed stelmach, and faces challenges from inside the liberal caucus.

Liberal Opposition leader David Swann and PC Premier Ed Stelmach met yesterday to discuss niceties and the upcoming provincial budget. This is a positive step for both party leaders, and I hope that for Albertans sake, some semblance of civility can be preserved between the two men.

Swann’s challenge will be to balance the ‘spirit of cooperation’ while actually providing an effective opposition to the governing PCs in the Legislature (and this is probably as difficult as it sounds). It remains to be seen if the toxically partisan environment in the Legislative Assembly will allow any civility between the two party leaders to survive when the Legislature begins sitting in February. Up until the Fall 2008 Session of the Legislature, the tension between Stelmach and former Liberal leader Kevin Taft had gotten so heated that Stelmach would frequently accuse Taft of being a Red Menace.

He must also be weary of not taking a route too close to the one taken by former Liberal leader Ken Nicol. When replacing defeated leader Nancy MacBeth in 2001, then-Lethbridge-East MLA Nicol’s quiet and polite tone made it easy for the Klein PCs to railroad over the Legislative opposition and the Raj Pannu-led NDP to garner much of the media attention, leaving the newly reduced Liberal caucus (7 MLAs elected in 2001, down from 18 in 1997) in their weakest position in over a decade.

While striking a conciliatory tone with Premier Stelmach may be a productive start, Swann is likely aware of the challenges he faces within his caucus.

Managing Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald and Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor are likely going to be key challenges in keeping the rag-tag caucus together. MacDonald, who appears to have become almost obsessed with unearthing PC scandals, has fine-tuned the exercise of crying wolf, diluting the opposition Liberals’ position on many issues. As Swann’s former leadership challenger, Taylor holds some forceful opinions on the direction of the opposition and the Liberal Party which clash with some of Swann’s ideas (not that I believe a different name will solve the Liberal Party’s organizational and psychological problems, but more on that later).

If Swann is to lead an effective opposition in the Legislature, his caucus will need to reign in wild card Hugh MacDonald, while managing Dave Taylor’s recently bruised ego.