Categories
Alberta Politics

OIL IS BACK, ALBERTA IS OPEN FOR SPRING AND OPEN FOR ELECTION SEASON

The price of oil is way up and COVID-19 public health restrictions are gone in Alberta.

Premier Jason Kenney and United Conservative Party cabinet ministers have fled the big cities and are hopping across the province making big spending announcements.

Grande Prairie. Red Deer. Acme. Hospitals. Schools. Airports. Childcare centres.

There is almost money for everything again. Unemployment is still high but government coffers are flush with oil revenues.

It feels like election season in Alberta.

The next provincial election is supposed to be just over a year away.

Bill 81 passed last year sets the next election day for the third Monday in May. That’s May 29, 2023. The bill was signed by Lieutenant Governor Salma Lakhani in December but it hasn’t been proclaimed into law by the Kenney cabinet.

Kenney could call a Hail Mary early election this year but with Rachel Notley’s NDP leading in every poll since November 2020, it would be a big gamble. The UCP could lose big.

Notley’s NDP are recruiting good candidates and have a lot more money in the bank than Kenney’s UCP, which has struggled to fundraise over the past two years.

But an early election would take advantage of high oil prices, boosted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has given Kenney a chance to shift back to talking about oil and pipelines. Plus, Kenney is keen to project a sense of optimism that the COVID pandemic might actually be over (for now, at least).

And a really early election could be a way to avoid that pesky April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.

‘Give all Albertans a chance to vote in the leadership review!’, Kenney could say.

A super early election would let Kenney punt out the growing chorus of opponents in his own caucus and avoid the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election (so long, Brian Jean!).

Kenney would still have a lot to answer for. He’s still sitting on an unpopular coal mining report the government was forced to write after nearly all Albertans rose up against open-pit coal mining in the Eastern Slopes.

Plus the draft education curriculum, a big fight with doctors, abandoned plans to privatize and sell provincial parks, and that $1.3 billion gambled on Donald Trump’s re-election.

New Labour Minister Kaycee Madu is still in cabinet after trying (and failing) to ‘interfere in the administration of justice’ after getting distracted driving ticket. And new Justice Minister Tyler Shandro is facing a code-of-conduct hearing at the Law Society.

While Kenney has callously used the Ukraine crisis as a pitch for Canadian oil, one big country dependent on Russian oil and gas, Germany, is talking about abandoning fossil fuels all together.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner has referred to renewable electricity sources as “the energy of freedom.”

But Kenney’s audience isn’t Germany or investment funds in New York. His primary audience is UCP voters in Alberta.

Back to the early election talk.

Maybe that’s what Pam Livingston is already working on?

The Premier’s chief of staff is on a leave of absence to make sure he wins the leadership review, but with party nominations heating up – notably in ridings held by Kenney loyalists – shifting into election campaign mode might be a natural transition.

City UCP MLAs are worried about the NDP, and rightfully so, but rural MLAs are mostly worried about a challenge from the populist right.

An early election could catch challengers like the Wildrose Independence Party off-guard, robbing them of a full year to organize and recruit candidates.

“But Dave,” you say, an early election call didn’t go so well for Kenney’s conservative predecessor in the Premier’s office.

That’s true.

Premier Jim Prentice led a calcified Progressive Conservative dynasty to get trampled in the 2015 Orange Wave election that broke the mold of Alberta politics. It’s probably a warning Kenney should heed.

The NDP could win big and Notley could become the first Premier in Alberta’s history to return after being defeated. It would be a big deal.

Notice that Kenney’s language has shifted in the past month?

After years of using divide and conquer tactics on almost every issue, the most divisive and unpopular premier in Alberta’s recent history is making a desperate appeal for “unity.”

He needs a big shift – and a big shovel to dig himself out of the giant hole he has spent the past three years digging.

Whether he is actually campaigning for the April 9 leadership review or setting up Albertans for an early election, gambling might be Kenney’s only option if he wants to stay in the Premier’s office. Otherwise he might as well book the U-Haul.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Nurse and former MLA Danielle Larivee running for NDP nomination in Lesser Slave Lake

Former MLA Danielle Larivee announced this morning that she is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in the Lesser Slave Lake riding.

“Our communities have really suffered from poor representation since 2019,” Larivee said in a press release. “I’ve lived in Slave Lake for over 40 years, and the people of Lesser Slave Lake are like family to me. I’m ready to get back to spending time with and listening to people across the constituency so that I can be a strong voice for our families and communities.”

Poll level results in Lesser Slave Lake in the 2019 election (source: Election-Atlas.ca)
Poll level results in Lesser Slave Lake in the 2019 election (source: Election-Atlas.ca)

A Registered Nurses and Vice President of United Nurses of Alberta, Larivee represented the sprawling northern Alberta riding from 2015 to 2019. Before and after her time as MLA she worked as a public health nurse and she is the co-chair of the Slave Lake Homeless Coalition Society.

“Our public healthcare system is not safe in the hands of Kenney and the UCP. They keep moving forward with privatizing our public health care, they attacked the frontline instead of supporting it, with little care for the crisis they have created. I am prepared to fight for high quality public healthcare instead of dismantling it.”

Larivee was first elected in 2015, unseating seven-term Progressive Conservative MLA Pearl Calahasen, and served as Minster of Municipal Affairs from 2015 to 2017 and Minister of Children’s Services from 2017 to 2019. As Children’s Services Minister she oversaw the launch of Alberta’s affordable childcare pilot program.

Pat Rehn MLA Lesser Slave Lake
Pat Rehn

She was unseated in the 2019 election by United Conservative Party candidate Pat Rehn. Rehn was a relatively unknown backbencher until he gained national attention in January 2021 after flying to Mexico for a hot holiday in contravention of the provincial government’s COVID-19 public health recommendations.

Soon after returning from Mexico, local municipal leaders called on Rehn to resign as MLA for being invisible in the riding.

The entire town council of Slave Lake, the largest municipality in the riding, called on him to resign for being an absentee MLA and being unwilling to live or spend time in the region since he was elected. The letter also alleged that he spent “more physical time managing his business in Texas” than being physically present in the constituency.

Rehn was soon after removed from the UCP Caucus and Premier Jason Kenney declared that he would not be allowed to run as a UCP candidate in the next election. But in July 2021 he was quietly allowed to rejoin the UCP Caucus. It is widely suspected he was allowed back in the government caucus so that he would not be tempted to join Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen in a breakaway caucus of former UCP MLAs.

On a recent episode of the Cross Border Interview Podcast, host Chris Brown speculated that Town of Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman could run for the UCP nomination in the riding. Warman was a vocal critic of Rehn and one of the many municipal leaders who called on him to resign.

The NDP are scheduled to hold the nomination meeting in Lesser Slave Lake on March 13, 2022.

The NDP also have nomination meetings scheduled in Calgary-North East on February 17, 2022 (Gurinder Brar is expected to be acclaimed), Calgary-Elbow on March 5 (Samir Kayande is expected to be nominated), Calgary-Bhullar-McCall on March 10, (where MLA Irfan Sabir is expected to be acclaimed) and in Calgary-Klein on March 26, 2022 (a contested nomination between Heather Eddy and Mattie McMillan).

List of candidates running in 2023 election

I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

(Disclosure: the publisher of this website works at United Nurses of Alberta).

Categories
Alberta Politics

Rules for you but not for Madu: Justice Minister’s phone call to police chief ties the UCP in knots

It wouldn’t be a January in Alberta without freezing rain and a big political scandal.

As the province comes to grips with the rise and spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Alberta’s United Conservative Party government has tied itself in knots over a distracted driving ticket.

Dale McFee, Edmonton Police Chief
Dale McFee, Edmonton Police Chief

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced last Monday night that Edmonton-South West MLA Kaycee Madu would “step back” from his role as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General following reports that ten months ago the Justice Minister phoned Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee after he was issued a ticket for distracted driving in a school zone.

The decision to ask Madu to “step back” and be temporarily replaced by Energy Minister Sonya Savage until an independent investigator can look into the issue, is far from the firing that many Albertans were calling for after news of the scandal was broken by intrepid CBC reporters Elise von Scheel and Janice Johnston.

Madu’s decision to call McFee was inappropriate and showed a stunning lack of judgement. The Minister should have known better to bring up the specific personal matter. Even if he didn’t ask the chief to rescind the ticket and wanted to discuss other issues, as Madu claims, it is impossible to ignore the power dynamic of making this call.

Elise von Scheel
Elise von Scheel

Following the release of the story by the CBC, Madu issued his own statement saying he did mention his ticket to the Chief but he wanted to raise concerns about racial profiling and whether he was being spied on by the Edmonton Police Service, similar to how officers of the Lethbridge Police Service were caught spying on former cabinet minister Shannon Phillips.

Shortly after Madu’s office released his statement, Kenney issued his own separate statement on Twitter, which made it look like the Premier’s and Madu’s offices weren’t even closely coordinating their responses to the scandal.

Kenney announced in his stream of tweets that the government was hiring an independent investigator, but a week later it is still unclear who the independent investigator will be and what exactly that person will be investigating. 

Both Madu and McFee have agreed the phone call happened, and it should be clear that the government does not need to pay someone to point out that a pretty big line was crossed.

Shannon Phillips NDP MLA Lethbridge West
Shannon Phillips

Will the investigator investigate whether the distracted driving ticket was valid? Madu and McFee disagree about whether the ticket was just, though the Justice Minister chose not to challenge the ticket in traffic court (which is another big issue) and he paid the fine.

Or will Kenney’s investigator investigate whether Madu was a victim of racial profiling or a target of a political conspiracy by members of the Edmonton Police Service?

Institutional racism is definitely a problem in Alberta’s police forces, and the shocking revelations of abuse of power by police officers in Lethbridge are nothing to dismiss, but it definitely seems that Madu statement shocked a few months of life into an embarrassing political scandal that could have been put to rest in a week or two.

If the allegations levelled by Madu against the Edmonton Police Service are as serious as he claims, it is hard to imagine why the government would not have acted on this 10 months ago, rather than sitting idle until the CBC broke the story.

Don Braid Calgary Herald Postmedia
Don Braid

Postmedia columnist Don Braid wrote that “the ticket episode was widely known in cabinet circles and talked about in jocular tones.”

Braid also wrote that senior cabinet ministers including Ric McIver and Jason Nixon and senior staffers like Pam Livingston (now Kenney’s Chief of Staff), Larry Kaumeyer (then Kenney’s Principal Secretary and now CEO of Ducks Unlimited Canada), and Matt Wolf (Kenney’s former director of issues management) were aware of the incident. Kenney said he was aware of the ticket but avoided answering whether he knew about Madu’s phone call to Chief McFee.

The government’s failure to act in response to the scandal 10 months ago and its fumbling reaction when it was made public last week certainly does not inspire confidence in how Madu or the UCP government would oversee the provincial police force they are hoping to replace to RCMP with in much of Alberta.

Janet Brown Calgary Pollster
Janet Brown

This is only one of the latest scandals that reeks of the kind of entitlement that brought down the old Progressive Conservative regime in 2015.

It was only one year ago that Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard resigned from cabinet and Kenney was forced to demote a handful of UCP MLAs who chose to flout the government’s public health travel advisories and fly off to hot holidays in Hawaii and Mexico.

And only three months ago, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen, a noted Kenney loyalist, resigned from cabinet after a former staffer filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, defamation, heavy drinking, and a toxic workplace culture in the Legislature Building.

As pollster Janet Brown tweeted this weekend, “elitism and entitlement are the kryptonite of the right!” And right now, Kenney is slipping and sliding on a skating rink made of kryptonite. 

Categories
Alberta Politics

Jack Lowery tried to merge the Alberta Liberals with Social Credit, and it destroyed his leadership

Supporters of the Alberta Liberal Party will gather virtually this weekend for the party’s annual general meeting two years after the party was shut out of the Legislative Assembly for the first time in more than three decades.

Jack Lowery Alberta Liberal Party leader
Jack Lowery

This year also marks 100 years since the Liberal Party lost the 1921 election to the United Farmers of Alberta after governing the province since it was founded in 1905.

The Liberals formed the official opposition for most of the period from their defeat until the 1967 election, when the Progressive Conservatives led by Peter Lougheed knocked the Liberals to third place in the Legislature. 

As the Liberals ponder what it means to be a seatless party in 2021, I took a look back at what happened the last time the Liberals were shut out of the Legislature.

The 1967 election marked the Liberal Party’s poorest showing in decades, and death, defection and resignation would mean the party’s three MLA caucus would not survive the full term.

Michael Maccagno

Party leader and Lac La Biche MLA Michael Maccagno resigned his seat in early 1968 to run in the federal election and later formally resigned as leader in October 1968. Edson MLA William Switzer died of a heart attack in June 1969. And in November 1969 the party’s sole remaining caucus member, Calgary-Glenmore MLA Bill Dickie, crossed the floor to join Lougheed’s PC Party. 

The party was on the decline and faired poorly in the by-elections to replace Maccagno and Switzer, with Liberal candidates finishing third in Lac La Biche and fourth in Edson. 

But that was not where this story of the Alberta Liberal Party’s ends.

Former United Church Minister Jack Lowery, who preached at Calgary’s Southwood United Church without collecting remuneration so he could work full-time as the public relations manager for ATCO Industries Ltd., was chosen as leader on April 26, 1969.

Harry Strom Alberta Premier
Harry Strom

He was also the chief statistician for the Calgary Stampeder Football Club, where he led a team of analysts and technicians who tracked the CFL team’s performance. It is no wonder that Calgary Herald’s Johnny Hopkins described him in 1967 as someone who simply couldn’t find enough activities to fill all his waking hours.

With none of the party’s MLA entering the leadership race, Lowery defeated Town of Manning Mayor Don Branigan (who would later become Mayor of Whitehorse in Yukon), future party leader Bob Russell, and 20-year old University of Alberta political science student Trevor Midgley (who entered the race 8 minutes before the nomination deadline). 

The 39-year old Lowery moved to Alberta after graduating from theology school in Toronto to serve churches in the Hardisty area and described himself as an “issues-oriented pragmatist” with a left-orientated slant on social development philosophy and “small conservative” financial ideas.

Nick Taylor Calgary-Centre Liberal candidate 1968 election Canada
A campaign poster from Nick Taylor’s campaign in Calgary-Centre in 1968.

This was Lowery’s second foray into elected politics, having just the previous year mounted an unsuccessful campaign against oilman and school board trustee Nick Taylor for the federal Liberal nomination in Calgary-Centre (Taylor would go on to lead the Liberals back into the Legislature in 1986).

“It’s been said for a long time that there are those in the Liberal Party who have had a vested interest in defeat,” Lowery told Calgary Herald for the “Personality of the Week” column on May 30, 1969.

“They’ve been quite happy to go directly to Ottawa without having to work in a party structure that could go somewhere. All of these people will be encouraged to become party of the team,” Lowery said.

Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed
Peter Lougheed

Lowery was an outsider who inherited the leadership of a deeply divided and cash poor party that was overshadowed by a flashier and increasingly unpopular federal Liberal Party led by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

He was the Liberal Party’s third leader in five years following the resignation of Adrian Berry after nine months as leader in 1966 and the return of Maccagno as leader for a second time before Lowery was chosen.

Early on in his leadership he dismissed the chances of Lougheed’s PCs and pledged to reestablish the Liberals as the alternative to the long-governing Social Credit Party, which he described as “very long on promises and short on implementation.”

The decision by MLA Dickie to join the Lougheed PCs in November 1969 because of what he described as “leftist philosophy” in the Liberal Party meant the party no longer had any representation in Legislature.

“This merely clears the decks so that we can do the kind of building we’ve been wanting to do. I do not agree with him that we have a leftist philosophy,” said Lowery in response his Dickie’s defection.

But it all really started to unravel for Lowery when was revealed the next month that he had reached out to Social Credit Premier Harry Strom to either merge or create an electoral alliance between the two parties.

His fate was sealed.

Pat Mahoney

“We can run candidates in the traditional sense in the next election. We can stand aside and let the Social Credit and Conservative partiee fight it out, or we can work with Social Credit to determine areas of mutual interest,” Lowery told the Calgary Herald on Dec. 30, 1969.

“We are 10 years away from being an effective political force and some form of coalition  in which the Liberal party would retain its identity is one of the alternatives open,” Lowery said.

Calgary-South Liberal Member of Parliament Pat Mahoney, a former President of the Calgary Stampeders Football Club, said the idea should be pursued with an open mind.

“The Alberta Liberals have been unfairly burned by the identification with Ottawa and the necessity of supporting federal policies,” Mahoney told the Calgary Herald. “They have a right to pursue an independent course.”

Hu Harries
Hu Harries

But Mahoney’s federal colleague from Edmonton had a different opinion. Edmonton-Strathcona Liberal MP Hu Harries called the proposal “bloody nonsense” and predicted it will not receive support from the Alberta Liberals membership.

Harries called on Lowery to resign and described talk of a Liberal-Socred alliance as a “selfish, stupid reaction to a complete failure” that was the Liberal Party’s inability to win the by-elections to replace the party’s former MLAs.

Prominent Edmonton Liberal and well-known publisher Mel Hurtig described the idea as absurd and clashed with Lowery at a party meeting in January 1970.

“Liberals are not people who are concerned with developing deals where they sell out their principles,” Hurtig was reported to have said.

Lowery defended his position by arguing that the merger discussions with the Socreds had “provoked interest and has given us an opportunity to delineate what we stand for as Liberals.”

But Harries and Hurtig were not alone. Constituency association presidents from across the province revolted against the idea – and Lowery.

And despite Lowery’s optimism, Strom’s own public response poured cold water on the entire idea of a Socred-Liberal alliance.

“We would be prepared to welcome those members of the Liberal party or any other party, who wish not join and work with us, but we are not at all interest in any deals or mergers,” Strom said.

The other opposition parties took it as an opportunity to welcome disaffected or confused Liberals into their camps.

Alberta New Democratic Party leader Grant Notley said his party would open wide the doors for disgruntled Liberals who wish to join “a genuine alternative to the conservative consensus of the Socreds and Tories.”

And Lougheed said any move toward a Liberal-Socred alliance would benefit his PC party.

“The last provincial election and the last two by-elections indicate that the majority of liberal-inclined voters would prefer to see a new progressive government in Alberta end 35 years of Social Credit control,” Lougheed said. 

On February 16, 1970, only 10 short months after winning the leadership, Lowery resigned as leader of the Alberta Liberal Party.

He was replaced by the third-place finisher from the previous year’s leadership contest, Bob Russell.

A year later, Lowery re-emerged into the political spotlight to publicly announced he had left the provincial Liberals and was joining the Social Credit Party. He was soon after named the coordinator of the party’s Calgary campaign for the 1971 provincial election.

When the votes were counted on August 30, 1971, Lougheed’s PC Party had unseated the Socreds to form the first new government in Alberta since 1935. It was a political earthquake from which the Socreds would never recover.

And the Liberals remained shut out of the Legislature. The party’s vote dropped to 1.01 per cent and no where in Alberta did a Liberal candidate come close to winning election.

The Liberals would remain in the electoral wilderness in Alberta for the next 15 years.

(For more history about Liberal Party in Alberta during the 1960s and 1970s, check out Darryl Raymaker’s excellent book, Trudeau’s Tango. Alberta meets Pierre Elliott Trudeau).

Categories
Alberta Politics

Kenney walks away from UCP AGM largely unscathed. Next up: defeating Brian Jean.

Premier Jason Kenney appeared to walk away mostly unscathed from last weekend’s United Conservative Party Annual General Meeting in Calgary.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney United Conservative Party AGM
Jason Kenney

Kenney delivered a much-watched keynote speech to more than a thousand UCP delegates that appears to have been generally well-received, though sounded like it might have been more appropriately aimed at a Chamber of Commerce or business crowd luncheon than a room of partisans hungry for more partisanship.

Kenney’s speech and it’s focus on the economy, and not his government’s fumbling response to the COVID-19 pandemic and failed “Open for Summer” plan, gives an indication of the direction the Premier and his inner circle believe they need to shift their message in order to salvage his embattled leadership and the party’s chances of winning re-election in 2023.

Regardless, Kenney tried hard to present an upbeat appearance, but as anyone who follows politics will know – party conventions are all production and all a show.

Leela Aheer ALberta MLA
Leela Aheer (Source: Twitter)

Kenney commanded the support of the convention, though he lost a critical vote on a special resolution that would have increased the number of constituency associations able to trigger a leadership vote from 1/4 of 87 to 1/3 of 87.

The motion received support from 57 per cent of delegates but fell short of the 75 per cent required to make the constitutional change.

This small defeat came less than a week after 22 UCP constituency associations announced they had passed an identical motion calling for an already scheduled April review of Kenney’s leadership to be moved to before March 1, 2022.

Cynthia Moore United Conservative Party President
Cynthia Moore

The new UCP President, Cynthia Moore, has said the newly elected party board will review the motions, though conservatives I’ve spoken with suggest that Kenney’s supporters are energetically searching for a technicality to disqualify the motions for an earlier vote.

Recent public opinion polls have shown Kenney with a 22 per cent approval rating among Albertans and his party has trailed Rachel Notley‘s Alberta NDP in the polls since November 2020, which has led to a growing number of UCP MLAs, including former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer, willing to publicly criticize his leadership or call for his resignation.

Even MLAs who are reluctant to publicly criticize Kenney are reluctant to publicly defend him.

Maclean’s columnist Jason Markusoff tweeted from the convention that reporters “asked Fort McMurray MLA Tany Yao how many members here want Kenney as leader. Half, he said. Does he want Kenney as leader? Sighed, said “you’ve put me in a tough spot,” then a minister’s press secretary whisked him away.”

Daniel Williams UCP Peace River
Daniel Williams

But perhaps the most interesting part of the convention was the vote by UCP delegates to pass a motion in support of conscience rights for health care professionals, which critics say could lead to the denial of access to women’s health and abortion services. A private members bill supporting conscience rights introduced into the Legislature by Peace River MLA and Kenney acolyte Dan Williams (now a parliamentary secretary – see below) failed at committee last year.

The passage of the policy at the UCP convention might provide an idea of how strong the different parts of the conservative coalition dominate the UCP right now, in this case – social conservatives.

Support for conscience rights for health care professionals stirred up quite a bit of controversy and backlash against the Wildrose Party during the 2012 provincial election.

It is unclear in what ways health professionals are being denied freedom of conscience at the moment,” penned the Globe & Mail editorial board on April 9, 2012.

Are doctors being required to perform abortions against their will? If so, no public complaint has been made that we are aware of. Would doctors have the right to swear off treating patients of the opposite sex? Would family physicians be entitled to refuse to prescribe birth control pills, or could they insist, when faced with a teenage girl, on counselling abstinence only?

Jim Prentice Danielle Smith Alberta Wildrose Merger PC
Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Premier Jim Prentice on December 17, 2014.

And speaking of the Wildrose Party, former party leader Danielle Smith was at the AGM and publicly mused to a reporter from Derek Fildebrandt‘s Western Standard website that she would run for the leadership of the UCP if Kenney’s stepped down.

Smith was quick to clarify to subscribers to her weekly email newsletter that she was merely musing and that she is not planning to run because the job is already filled. But that Smith could so casually make a comment like that to a reporter while standing in the same convention ball room as the current leader is embarrassing for Kenney.

Brian Jean Calgary Stampede Alberta
Brian Jean

After leading the party from obscurity to the brink of forming government, Smith famously crossed the floor along with a dozen other Wildrose MLAs to join Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservative Party in 2014 – a move that ended up gutting both parties and helping pave the way for Notley’s NDP to win the 2015 election.

And, continuing the blast from the past theme is another former Wildrose leader, Brian Jean, who is weeks away from potentially being selected as the UCP candidate in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election – that is, if he is not stopped by Joshua Gogo, a Fort McMurray economist.

Jean is probably Kenney’s main target now.

Trying to defeat him in the nomination vote, which is set for December 11 according to the Elections Alberta website, is likely one of the first steps the Premier will take in trying to reconsolidate his support in the UCP ahead of the next year’s leadership review – whether it be held in April or February.

Joshua Gogo
Joshua Gogo

Kenney has recently criticized Jean and questioned his political record after resigning before finishing his elected terms as a Member of Parliament and MLA for Fort McMurray, criticisms that were echoed by the Premier’s political staff on social media.

Also hanging out there is the Kamikaze campaign that Kenney’s closest advisors helped manufacture as part of the effort to defeat Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership race and the ongoing RCMP investigation into alleged voter fraud.

If he is not able to stop Jean from winning the nomination, Kenney will probably a harder time pretending he’s in an upbeat mood.


Kenney names five new parliamentary secretaries

Premier Kenney announced that five UCP MLAs have been appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries, roles that do not bring any additional salary but are a sign of which backbenchers could be on track for promotions to cabinet in the future – and which backbenchers a party leader in trouble is trying to solidify support from.

Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Parks for Water Stewardship. He also serves as UCP Caucus Chair.

Peace River MLA Dan Williams is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Culture and for la Francophonie. Before returning to Alberta to seek the UCP nomination, Williams worked in Ottawa for Kenney while he served as a federal cabinet minister.

Both Neudorf and Williams also sit as the MLA representatives on the UCP Board of Directors.

Camrose MLA Jackie Lovely is Parliamentary Secretary to the Associate Minister of Status of Women. Lovely was first elected as MLA for Camrose in 2019 and previously ran for the Wildrose Party in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015.

Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Community and Social Services for Civil Society. Nixon was first elected as MLA in 2019 and previously ran as a Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-Klein in 2012 and 2015. Nixon was removed from his previous role as parliamentary secretary for civil society after disregarding COVID-19 restrictions and traveling to Hawaii for a hot holiday in December 2020. He is the brother of Environment & Parks Minister and Government House Leader Jason Nixon.

Spruce Grove-Stony Plain MLA Searle Turton is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Energy. A former Spruce Grove City Councillor, Turton was widely rumoured to have been a potential pick for Minister of Municipal Affairs following Tracy Allard’s demotion in Jan. 2021. Turton also serves as the private sector union liaison for the Ministry of Labour and Immigration.

Categories
Alberta Politics

A look at this weekend’s UCP AGM as the formerly One-Big-Happy-Conservative-Family gathers for its first in-person convention since 2019

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s good news week ahead of this weekend’s United Conservative Party annual general meeting was largely overshadowed by a slow motion rebellion in his party.

While the Premier wanted to talk about childcare and the economy, a disgruntled group of UCP constituency presidents announced Monday morning that they had convinced 22 constituency associations to pass identical motions calling for a review of Kenney’s leadership to be moved before March 1, 2022.

The leadership review had been pushed to April 2022 from fall 2022 after Kenney averted a caucus revolt over the summer.

a map of the United Conservative Party constituency associations that have passed motions calling for a review of Jason Kenney’s leadership before March 1, 2022.
a map of the United Conservative Party constituency associations that have passed motions calling for a review of Jason Kenney’s leadership before March 1, 2022.

According to recent polling, Kenney is the least popular Premier in Canada, sitting at 22 per cent approval among Albertans, and his party has floundered in the polls and fundraising for the past year.

Rachel Notley would be Premier once again if an election were held today, which will surely be a future on the minds of many UCP activists this weekend.

Kenney’s fumbling response to the COVID-19 pandemic is part of the problem, but so to is his cabinet’s decision to wage a multi-front war against everyone from Alberta’s parks, nurses and teachers while trying to open the Rocky Mountains up to open-pit coal mining.

A party that famously promised “Jobs, Economy and Pipelines” in the 2019 election has delivered everything but.

When the business of the meeting begins, special resolutions will only be able to be brought to the floor of the AGM by Kenney and one resolution being introduced by the Kenney-friendly UCP association in Edmonton-North West would increase the number of constituency associations needed to trigger an early leadership review from 1/4 of 87 to 1/3 of 87.

A list of of the 22 constituency associations who passed the motion calling for an early review shows that this is largely a rural revolt against Kenney’s leadership, likely from the unruly rural Wildrose-side of the party, which has never been satisfied to subjugate itself to to the kind of centralized leadership that the Premier would have been comfortable with in Ottawa.

The first signatory of the letter from the 22 was a name that would be quite familiar to Kenney – Jack Redekop – the current president of the Calgary-Fish Creek UCP and former president of Kenney’s won former federal electoral district association in Calgary-Midnapore.

One of the common criticisms of Kenney is that he has become detached from the party’s organization and local leadership since his election as Premier in 2019. Wildrosers who don’t like a centralized party leadership are unhappy, as are former Progressive Conservatives, who might be accustomed to more attention and access to their leadership.

The two groups have also discovered that all the things they disliked about each others politics when they were two parties are still there, except now they are in the same party.

The revolt hasn’t been limited to the party membership.

Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer, UCP MLA Chestermere-Strathmore
Jason Kenney and former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer in happier time (source: YouTube)

Four MLAs – Chestemere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer, Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie, Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt, and Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried – have either publicly called for Kenney to resign or have openly criticized his leadership. And while most of their colleagues have avoided making public comments about Kenney’s leadership, the unhappiness among UCP MLAs and their staff is palpable.

There has been a steady stream of high-profile political staffers leaving their positions in the UCP government for jobs in the private sector. This past month saw the departure of press secretary Blaise Boehmer, who levelled some pretty heavy criticisms against Kenney, and UCP Caucus executive director Brittany Baltimore, who both recently took jobs with government relations companies.

Guthrie levelled allegations to the UCP Caucus this week that Political Action Committees supporting Kenney were paying the delegate fees of supporters in order to stack the votes in favour of the Premier during the AGM.

Peter Guthrie MLA Airdrie-Cochrane UCP Communism
Peter Guthrie

Postmedia columnist Don Braid wrote in his most recent column that a private company was organizing to send delegates in order to curry favour with UCP cabinet ministers if Kenney survives his leadership challenges.

Independent MLA Todd Loewen , who was kicked out of the UCP Caucus earlier this year for calling on Kenney to resign, and Edmonton-South NDP MLA Thomas Dang wrote letters to the Chief Elections Officer asking his office to investigate the allegations.

Albertans, and UCP members, are angry at Kenney, but aside from former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean who is running for the UCP nomination in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election, there is no obvious heir apparent inside the UCP for his opponents to rally around.

Cynthia Moore has been acclaimed as President and Sonia Kont acclaimed as Vice President of Fundraising, but there are races for the Secretary and Vice President of Communications positions.

Central Peace-Notley UCP President Samantha Steinke, who has publicly called for an early leadership review, is challenging incumbent Ruven Rajoo for VP Communications. Red Deer-South constituency President Janis Nett and Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo President Vicki Kozmak-LeFrense are running for the Secretary position, which was made vacant when former Secretary Cathy Smith resigned earlier this year.

A number of candidates are contesting regional director positions, including Sundre-resident Heidi Overguard, who was appointed by the UCP government to the Board of Directors of Alberta Health Services in Nov. 2019.

Meanwhile, UCP members will be lining up at the microphone to debate policies about cancel culture, private health care, private schools, and hydrogen, among other issues. The CBC reported that Kenney’s office instructed staffers to vote down policies “introducing a provincial sales tax, relocalizing 911 dispatch, a moratorium on new coal exploration and development on the eastern slopes of the Rockies and creating a revenue-neutral Alberta carbon tax to replace the federal backstop.”

This weekend’s convention will be a much different affair from the party’s last in-person annual general meeting after it’s big win in the 2019 election.

Kenney will surely be focused on rallying the party to give him one more chance ahead of next spring’s review, but don’t expect to hear many of the celebratory rallying cries we heard two years ago. The party no longer feels like it is united and it is certainly not the one big conservative happy family that Kenney helped establish in 2017.

The UCP AGM starts at the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino in Calgary on Friday, Nov. 19 and will wrap up on Sunday, Nov. 21.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Former MLAs jump into Alberta’s municipal elections

Municipal politicians making the leap into provincial politics is a pretty common occurrence, but less common are former provincial politicians jumping into municipal politics. 

This municipal election season, there are a handful of former Alberta MLAs who have decided to put their names on the ballot to run for their local municipal council. Here are a few that I’ve noticed on the lists of local candidates: 

– Former NDP MLA Annie McKitrick and former Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Quest are both running for Mayor of Strathcona County. McKittrick served as the MLA for Sherwood Park from 2015 to 2019 and as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Education from 2017 to 2019. Quest served as the PC MLA for Strathcona-Sherwood Park from 2008 to 2015 and Associate Minister for Seniors from 2013 to 2014. He ran for the Alberta Party in the 2019 election.

– Former NDP MLA Eric Rosendahl running for Hinton Town Council. Rosendahl was the NDP MLA for West Yellowhead from 2015 to 2019.

– Former NDP MLA Colin Piquette is running to become a councillor in the Village of Boyle. Piquette served as the MLA for Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater from 2015 to 2019 and was the President of the Boyle Chamber of Commerce before he was elected to the Legislature. He is the son of Leo Piquette, who was the NDP MLA for Athabasca-Lac La Biche from 1986 to 1989.

Victor Doerksen is running for Red Deer City Council. Doerksen was the Progressive Conservative MLA for Red Deer-South from 1993 to 2008 and Minister of Innovation and Science from 2001 to 2006. He finished seventh of eight candidates in the PC Party leadership in 2006. 

Mike Allen is running to become the next Mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Allen was the PC MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo from 2012 to 2015 with the exception of 2013 to 2014 when he sat as an Independent MLA after he was arrested in a prostitution sting operation while on a government trip to Minnesota (he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour and paid a $500 fine plus legal fees). If elected he would replace another former PC MLA, Don Scott, who was elected mayor in 2017 and is not seeking re-election.

– Former Wildrose MLA Wayne Anderson is running to become a councillor in Foothills County. Anderson was the Wildrose and United Conservative Party MLA for Highwood from 2015 to 2019. 

– Former PC MLA Arno Doerksen has been acclaimed as a councillor in Newell County. Doerksen served as the PC MLA for Strathmore-Brooks from 2008 to 2012. 

Kent Hehr dropped out of Calgary mayoral election race only weeks after entering the race. Hehr served as the Liberal MLA for Calgary-Buffalo from 2008 to 2015 and as the Liberal MP for Calgary-Centre from 2015 to 2019.

– And filed under “blast from the past,” long-time municipal politician Bob Russell is running for Mayor in the City of St. Albert. Russell served on city council from 1989 to 1992, 1995 to 2001 and 2013 to 2017 and ran for mayor in 1992, but before his municipal career he was leader of the Alberta Liberal Party from 1971 to 1974. 

Did I miss any former MLAs running in the municipal elections? Leave a comment below.

Categories
Alberta Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former NDP MLA running for Mayor

Annie McKitrick
Annie McKitrick

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

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

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

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

UCP MLA Recall law is MIA

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

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

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

Categories
Alberta Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lyle Oberg
Lyle Oberg

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

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

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

Doug Griffiths
Doug Griffiths

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

The challenges facing Morishita and his party are steep:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day Light Saving Time Referendum

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

Newspaper Election Ads from 1971

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

Conservationist Sarah Elmeligi running for the NDP nomination in Banff-Kananaskis

Canmore resident Sarah Elmeligi announced today that she is seeking the Alberta NDP nomination in Banff-Kananaskis to run in the next provincial election. She is the first candidate to announce plans to seek the nomination.

Elmeligi is a professional biologist and conservation and land-use planner. She currently runs her own consulting company but from 2016 to 2019 she worked as a Parks Facility Planner with the Kananaskis Region and from 2009 to 2013 was a Senior Conservation Planner with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Southern Alberta Chapter.

She earned a PhD from Central Queensland University in Australia and since 2013 has been conducting Grizzly Bear research in the Rocky Mountains.

“I value working collaboratively with multiple stakeholders to define solutions that are good for people and good for the landscape,” Elmeligi said in a press release. “The Banff-Kananaskis Constituency is a very special place, appreciated by locals, Albertans, and international visitors for its natural splendor and varied recreational opportunities.”

If nominated, Elmeligi would face United Conservative Party MLA Miranda Rosin, who was elected in 2019 in the closest race outside of the province’s urban centres.

Miranda Rosin Banff Kananaskis UCP MLA
Miranda Rosin

Former MLA Cam Westhead, who announced on Facebook today that he would not be seeking the nomination and would instead be running for re-election as Second Vice President of United Nurses of Alberta, was the only NDP incumbent in rural Alberta to increase his vote share from 2015.

Westhead finished 3 points higher than his 2015 results from the redistributed Banff-Cochrane district and Rosin finished 7 points lower than the combined Wildrose Party and Progressive Conservative results in the boundaries.

The 2019 race was geographically divided, with Banff, Canmore, and the First Nations communities in the western parts of the Bow River valley heavily voting NDP and the eastern polls, dominated by ranches, acreages and Calgary commuters, voting UCP.

As a backbench MLA, Rosin has stumbled into controversy numerous times over the past two years, from sending out a mailer declaring that the pandemic was over just as the third wave was just beginning to signing a letter calling on the provincial government to prematurely lift public health restrictions to allegedly improperly claiming more than $800 in meal per-diems.

Rosin has also defended the UCP’s plans to privatize and close provincial parks, a decision that Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon was forced to back down from after public backlash, and the UCP’s plans to open up the Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining – which the UCP has temporarily backed away from after another huge public backlash. Rosin also failed to stop the approval of the controversial Springbank Dam, an unpopular project in the eastern part of the district that she pledged to oppose.

A date for the NDP nomination meeting has not yet been set.

Categories
Alberta Politics

When a Premier is in trouble, the cabinet gets growing

It isn’t really a saying in Alberta politics but maybe it should be: When a Premier is in trouble, the cabinet gets growing.

That’s what we saw today as embattled Premier Jason Kenney made a major expansion of the provincial cabinet.

It is being described as a post-pandemic reset but today’s cabinet shuffle and expansion probably has more to do with internal turmoil in the UCP Caucus than any actual reset in the government’s agenda. Problem-creating ministers like Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon remain firmly in place.

Kenney, who eagerly declared the COVID-19 pandemic over in Alberta on July 1, has seen his approval ratings and his party’s popularity plummet as it mismanaged its response to the pandemic and pushed forward with an unpopular political agenda that included opening the Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining, a backward draft curriculum for kids, and aggressive attacks against doctors and nurses.

Kenney’s unpopularity now appears to be spilling over into the federal scene and dragging down the federal Conservative Party’s support in Alberta, which a string of polls show at a historic low.

Kenney is so unpopular that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was able to openly mock him at a press conference in Calgary yesterday and there was no public backlash in defence of the provincial Conservative leader.

Facing dissent from inside and outside his caucus and party, Kenney has taken the predictable route of previous Alberta premiers who were in political trouble and expanded his cabinet. Appointments to cabinet posts come with the prestige of a ministerial title, office and staff, a hefty pay hike and are seen as a way to reward a premier’s supporters – and punish dissenters.

The past twenty years of turmoil in conservative politics in Alberta has given us a few clear examples of how cabinets grow when premier’s find themselves in political trouble.

Premier Ralph Klein’s cabinet grew from a slim 17 in 1992 to an expanded 24 by the time he resigned in 2006 after his party’s membership gave him a weak 55.4 per cent endorsement in a leadership review.

Klein’s successor, Premier Ed Stelmach, started with a cabinet of 19 ministers in 2006 only to expand it to 23 by the time he resigned in the face of a caucus revolt in 2011.

But perhaps most famously, Premier Alison Redford’s cabinet grew from 21 in 2011 to 29, including 10 associate ministers, in 2013, representing almost half of the Progressive Conservative Caucus. There was a running joke at the time that if a PC MLA wasn’t in cabinet they must have done something really wrong.

Yesterday Kenney’s cabinet had 22 cabinet ministers and associate ministers. Today, Kenney’s cabinet has 26.

I bet it grows again in a few months.


Premier Jason Kenney, Lieutenant Governor Salma Lakhani and the new cohort of cabinet ministers.
Premier Jason Kenney, Lieutenant Governor Salma Lakhani and the new cohort of cabinet ministers.

Shuffled around …

Jason Luan, MLA Calgary-Foothills, is moved from Associate Minister of Additions and Mental Health to become Minister of Community and Social Services. Luan served as MLA for Calgary-Hawkwood from 2012 until his defeat in the 2015 election to NDP candidate Michael Connolly. Luan returned to the Legislature in 2019.

Ric McIver, MLA Calgary-Hays, keeps his role as Minister of Municipal Affairs but loses his dual role of Minister of Transportation. McIver took over Municipal Affairs when former minister Tracy Allard was removed from cabinet following her COVID rule breaking hot holiday to Hawaii in December 2020. McIver was first elected as a PC MLA in 2012 and previously served as an alderman on Calgary City Council from 2001 to 2010.

Rajan Sawhney, MLA Calgary-North East, leaves her current role as Minister of Community and Social Services to become Minister of Transportation. Sawhney is seen by many political insiders as an up and comer in the UCP cabinet.

Muhammad Yaseen, MLA Calgary-North, leaves his role as Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration to become the Associate Minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism reporting to Minister of Labour and Immigration Jason Copping. Yasseen is a former president of the Pakistan Canada Association of Calgary and was first elected as an MLA in 2019.

New in cabinet…

Mike Ellis, MLA Calgary-West, leaves his role as UCP Caucus Whip to become Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. Ellis was first elected in a 2014 by-election and was only one of a handful of PC MLAs re-elected in 2015.

Nate Horner, MLA Drumheller-Stettler, becomes Associate Minister of Rural Economic Development reporting to Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer. Horner is the grandson of former Member of Parliament Jack Horner and the cousin of former deputy premier Doug Horner.

Whitney Issik, MLA for Calgary-Glenmore, becomes the Associate Minister of Status of Women reporting to newly appointed Minister of Culture and Status of Women Ron Orr. Issik will also serve as UCP Whip. She was first elected in 2019 and was a longtime PC Party volunteer, serving as campaign manager for Jim Prentice during his brief run for the federal PC Party nomination in Calgary-Southwest in 2002, as a constituency assistant to former Calgary-Mountain View MLA Mark Hlady, and as policy co-chair of the federal PC Party during the 2000 federal election.

Ron Orr, MLA Lacombe-Ponoka, becomes Minister of Culture. Orr once declared that legalizing cannabis would spark a communist revolution and he wrote on Facebook in May 2021 that Kenney was raised by God to be leader of Alberta and public health restrictions are just as bad as getting COVID. Before his election as a Wildrose MLA in 2015 he worked as a Baptist Minister in Alberta and British Columbia.

Back in cabinet is Tanya Fir, MLA Calgary-Peigan, as Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction. Fir was surprisingly dropped from her role as Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism in August 2020. Fir was one of the UCP MLAs caught travelling on a hot holiday in December 2020, breaking the government’s public health restrictions.

Out of cabinet…

Leela Aheer, MLA Chestermere-Strathmore and UCP Deputy Leader, has lost her cabinet role as Minister of Culture and Status of Women. Her departure from cabinet is probably retribution for her publicly calling on Kenney to apologize after he and other senior cabinet ministers were caught breaking the government’s COVID-19 restrictions by holding a boozy dinner party on the balcony of the Sky Palace. Aheer also criticized Kenney for his tone-deaf defence of Sir John A Macdonald following the discovery of unmarked graves of children at former Indian Residential School sites.

Grant Hunter, MLA Taber-Warner, loses his position as Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction. Hunter is currently on a province-wide ministerial tour of northeast Alberta with Justice Minister Kaycee Madu and Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. Hunter was the only cabinet minister from south of Calgary.

Other non-cabinet changes today included:

Joseph Schow, MLA Cardston-Siksika, the current the deputy government whip becomes deputy government house leader. Brad Rutherford, MLA Leduc-Beaumont, becomes deputy government whip.

After 6 months without a permanent Chief of Staff, Premier Kenney has named his Deputy Chief of Staff Pam Livingston to the role. Livingston started working in the Premier’s Office in January 2021 after the resignation of Jamie Huckabay, who was caught in the international holiday scandal.

Interim Chief of Staff Larry Kaumeyer returns to his previous role as Principal Secretary in the Premier’s Office.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Sabrina Grover nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Centre

Sabrina Grover has been acclaimed as the federal Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Centre, according to a notice posted on the party website.

Grover is a Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer Nutrition International and Principal of Provoke Public Relations.

Grover was active in Alberta’a Progressive Conservative Party in the mid-2010s until Jason Kenney took over the leadership in 2017. She was also involved in Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver’s campaign for the party leadership in 2014.

Calgary-Centre was represented by Liberal MP Kent Hehr from 2015 to 2019. Hehr was defeated by Conservative Greg McLean in 2019. McLean is running for re-election.


See the full list of candidates nominated and seeking party nominations to run in Alberta in the next federal election.

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

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)