He’s the former MLA, former MP, and former leader of the Wildrose Party.
He’s Fort Mac’s golden boy.
Now he’s the United Conservative Party candidate.
He’s also Jason Kenney’s worst enemy and if he wins he’ll become an even bigger thorn in the Premier’s side ahead of the April 9 leadership review.
Kenney beat Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership race and is now openly campaigning against him in the leadership review.
Jean isn’t the only anti-Kenney candidate in the race.
NDP candidate Ariana Mancini is campaigning hard.
The NDP are cautiously optimistic about their chances but it’s a real long shot and know they are the underdog.
Even with the NDP leading the UCP by 15 points in province-wide polls and Kenney’s approval ratings in free fall, there is still a big gap to close in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.
The UCP won the riding with 66 per cent of the vote in 2019.
Competing with Jean for disaffected conservative voters is another former Wildrose Party leader, Paul Hinman.
Hinman now leads the separatist Wildrose Independence Party.
He’s another long-shot candidate.
He’s also living proof that by-elections can produce weird and unpredictable results.
What do I mean?
Hop in and join me in the Alberta Politics Time Machine™.
One year after Hinman was lost his Cardston-Taber-Warner seat in the 2008 general election he shocked political watchers by winning a by-election in posh Calgary-Glenmore in the city’s southwest.
It was a real country-mouse-becomes-city-mouse situation.
But Hinman isn’t the only example of how by-elections can be sometimes have shocking results.
The Liberals stunned political watchers when Craig Cheffins won in the Calgary-Elbow by-election to replace retired Premier Ralph Klein in 2007.
Alberta Party leader Greg Clark very nearly repeated history in 2014 when he placed a painfully close second to PC cabinet minister Gord Dirks in another Calgary-Elbow by-election.
“But Dave,” you say, “aren’t those just fancy urban Calgary ridings?”
The Liberals won the 1992 by-election in Three Hills.
Yes. That’s right. Three. Hills.
Deficit hawk Liberal leader Laurence Decore recruited farm realtor Don MacDonald in that by-election.
It was a sign of how well the Liberals were doing as much as how poorly the old Progressive Conservatives had tumbled under Don Getty’s beleaguered premiership.
“This is the heartland of Conservative Alberta,” Decore told a boisterous crowd of supporters in Three Hills on the night of MacDonald’s win.
He won with a stunning 2,476 lead over the second place Social Credit candidate.
The PC placed third.
“This is rural Alberta. This is where it’s not supposed to happen. This is where Liberals are supposed to be the anathema of everything that this area stands for,” Decore said. “Not only are we winning but we’re winning handsomely.”
The Liberals even came within a hair of winning a by-election in Little Bow a few months earlier.
Yes. Little. Bow.
That’s the deep south and it’s where conservatives usually win big.
The Reform Party of Canada was on the rise and, just like Three Hills a few months later, Reformers were split between the provincial Liberals and Tories in that by-election.
Reformer-turned-Liberal Donna Graham finished 262 votes behind Reformer-turned-Tory winner Barry MacFarland.
It was a close race.
And then there’s the big by-election win that people always talk about when Alberta separatism periodically peaks in the polls: Western Canada Concept’s Gordon Kesler winning the 1982 Olds-Didsbury by-election.
It was the only time a separatist party candidate has been elected to the Alberta Legislature.
People were mad.
Mad at Pierre Trudeau.
Mad at Peter Lougheed.
And boy did they show it.
But Kesler only had a few months as an MLA before Lougheed shifted gears and steamrolled the WCC into electoral oblivion in the November 1982 general election.
Ok. Buckle up.
Let’s take the time machine back even further.
Young PC candidate Bill Yurko stole the Strathcona East seat vacated by retired Premier Ernest Manning in 1969, foreshadowing the demise of Social Credit only a few years later.
Even the New Democrats have squeaked in a surprise by-election win, though you’ll have to go way back to find it.
Pincher Creek-Crowsnest. 1966.
Garth Turcott becomes the first Alberta NDP MLA in the province’s history.
Turcott’s team brought in a professional organizer and used new campaigning techniques like “doorknocking.”
Federal NDP leader Tommy Douglas even lent Turcott’s campaign a hand and drew hundreds of people to a by-election rally in the riding.
Douglas roasted Premier Ernest Manning for standing in the way of public health care.
“He has been the spearpoint of the attack on medicare,” Douglas said of the Alberta Premier.
It’s probably how Rachel Notley would describe Jason Kenney today. She’d be right.
But that’s for another column.
Slide back to the present. March 14, 2022.
What a wild ride.
I’d love to take the time machine to tomorrow night to see how the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election turns out but our tank is almost empty (and radioactive plutonium almost costs as much as a tank of gas these days!).
So we’ll have to take a big deep breath and wait to see if Brian Jean reclaims his old seat tomorrow night.
It might be a Jean slam dunk, but as we just saw on our little journey through Alberta history – sometimes by-elections can have unexpected results.
The NDP have attracted a big name to run against United Conservative Party Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides. Former City Councillor Druh Farrell announced on social media today that she plans to seek the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Bow.
“As a born and raised Albertan I can no longer stand by as the government attacks our education and healthcare systems, makes everyday life more expensive, and proposes devastating changes to our wild places,” Farrell said in her online announcement.
Farrell served on city council for 20 years before retiring from municipal politics last October. She was a leading progressive voice in Calgary’s municipal debates during her time as Councillor, making her a frequent target of right-wing commentators and political action committees.
Nicolaides was elected in 2019 with 55 per cent of the vote, unseating NDP MLA Deborah Drever, who placed second with 34 per cent.
Other nomination updates:
Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz is running for re-election in Calgary-Shaw. The UCP nomination meeting is scheduled for March 21. Shultz was first elected in 2019 with 65 per cent of the vote.
Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda running for re-election in Calgary-Edgemont. The UCP nomination meeting is scheduled for March 24. He was first elected in a 2015 by-election in Calgary-Foothills to replace former Premier Jim Prentice, and was re-elected in the new riding in 2019 with 52 per cent. If nominated he will face a re-match with NDP candidate Julia Hayter.
Gurinder Brar has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-North East.
Richard Bruneau third candidate to enter NDP nomination contest in Camrose. Bruneau is a bookstore owner, farmer and former Canadian diplomat who served in Afghanistan, Jordan and Palestine.
The Green Party will not be running a candidate in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election. Party leader Jordan Wilkie told the Cross Border Interveiws Podcast that the Greens will be sitting this one out.
It certainly feels like Alberta’s political parties have shifted into campaign mode, despite the next election expected to be a year away.
NDP leader Rachel Notley was joined by an army of MLAs and volunteers for a day-long canvass in the Strathcona-Sherwood Park riding east of Edmonton. MLAs David Eggen and Lorne Dach were spotted with volunteers canvassing door to door in Edmonton-South West, and MLA Richard Feehan was door-knocking with volunteers in Calgary-Foothills and with candidate Janet Eremenko in Calgary-Currie this week. Up north, MLA Rakhi Pancholi spent most of the week campaigning alongside NDP candidate Ariana Mancini in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.
March 15 – the Ides of March – is the day voters in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche riding will go to the polls to choose their new MLA.
Premier Jason Kenney waited until the very last day possible to call a by-election to replace former MLA Laila Goodridge, who resigned six months ago to run in last year’s federal election. Waiting this late to call a normal by-election would be very unusual, but this is no normal by-election.
United Conservative Party members in the northern Alberta riding rejected Kenney’s favoured nomination candidate in favour of Brian Jean, the former leader of the Wildrose Party and former MLA and MP who is openly calling on Kenney to resign.
Jean dropped out of provincial politics in 2018, resigning as MLA for the former Fort McMurray-Conklin riding when he was not given a spot in Kenney’s shadow cabinet. But retirement didn’t suit him, and it wasn’t long before he was regularly chirping at Kenney on social media and in the newspaper editorial pages.
He now has the UCP nomination in a normally safe UCP riding and he is openly organizing and fundraising in an effort to dump Kenney at the April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.
With no pro-Kenney candidates on the March 15 ballot, don’t expect the Premier or any cabinet ministers to be visiting the riding in the next 28-days.
Rachel Notley‘s NDP have nominated Fort McMurray school teacher and past candidate Ariana Mancini as their choice in the by-election. And while Mancini remains an underdog in this race, she has been joined over the past few months by a steady stream of NDP MLAs travelling north to visit the riding.
Edmonton-Whitemud NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi was in Fort McMurray today for Mancini’s campaign launch.
While the NDP have been riding high in the poll and are flush with cash, this will be a tough riding for them to win. The UCP earned 66 per cent of the vote in 2019 and the last time voters in this area elected a New Democrat was in 1986, when Leo Piquette won in Athabasca-Lac La Biche.
But, never say never. By-elections can sometimes produce unpredictable results.
While the Kenney-Jean rivalry is the main theme going into the by-election, the candidacy of another former Wildrose Party leader makes this race even more unusual.
Former Wildrose Party leader Paul Hinman now leads and is running in the by-election for the Wildrose Independence Party – a party that not only promotes Alberta separatism from Canada, but, judging from its social media feeds, embraces a vast range of right-wing internet conspiracy theories.
The grandson of former provincial treasurer Edgar Hinman, the younger Hinman was the Alberta Alliance MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 before surprising political watchers by winning a 2009 by-election in posh Calgary-Glenmore. He led the Alliance and Wildrose Alliance from 2005 until resigning in 2009 to make way for Danielle Smith.
Hinman endorsed Jean for the Wildrose Party leadership in 2015 and Kenney for the UCP leadership in 2017 after cancelling his own bid to lead the new party.
Now he leads the separatist Wildrose Independence Party, which was created by a merger of the Freedom Conservative Party and the Wexit Alberta group in July 2020.
But that’s not where the Wildrose blast-from-the-past ends in this by-election!
Burns was a candidate for the Alberta Alliance Party in Stony Plain in 2004 and ran against Hinman for the Alliance leadership way back in 2005. She was later part of a small group of Wildrosers who campaigned against the merger with the Progressive Conservative Party before helping found the Alberta Advantage Party.
Burns led the Alberta Advantage Party into the 2019 election and resigned soon after amid a leadership challenge and announced plans to run for the position again. She now appears to once again be party leader.
The second separatist candidate in the by-election, the Independence Party of Alberta‘s Steven Mellott, has never led or tried to lead the Wildrose Party (as far as I am aware).
Two-term MLA and vocal Kenney-critic Leela Aheer has filed her intentions with Elections Alberta to run for the United Conservative Party nomination in Chestermere-Strathmore. Aheer was first elected in 2015 as a Wildrose Party candidate and was re-elected with 68.5 per cent of the vote in 2019 in the riding.
Aheer is being challenged for the nomination by Chantelle de Jonge, a former political staffer to former Calgary-Skyview Member of Parliament Jag Sahota and recent graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Philosophy from the University of Calgary.
Jeremy Nixon running for re-election in Calgary-Klein
UCP MLA Jeremy Nixon has also signalled his intentions with Elections Alberta to run for his party’s nomination in Calgary-Klein, the riding he has represented since 2019.
Nixon currently serves as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Community and Social Services for Civil Society. He was removed from a previous role as parliamentary secretary for civil society in January 2021 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.
The riding was home to one of the closer races in Calgary in the 2019 election and is expected to be strongly contested by the NDP in the next election.
Marie Renaud running for re-election in St. Albert
St. Albert NDP MLA Marie Renaud announced her plans to seek her party’s nomination to run for re-election in when the provincial election is called.
“I will continue to champion public healthcare, public education and economic security for St. Albert and Albertans across the province,” Renaud wrote in a tweet announcing her candidacy. “We cannot build a prosperous future by continuing to pass on costs to municipalities like St. Albert and, in turn, to Albertan families.”
Renaud was first elected to represent the suburban city located just north of Edmonton in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019 with 46.2 per cent of the vote. She was the first NDP MLA elected in St. Albert since 1986.
She currently serves as the Official Opposition critic for Community & Social Services, and Francophone Issues.
A nomination meeting is scheduled for March 24, 2022.
Former Alberta Party candidate running for UCP nomination
Beaver County Reeve Kevin Smook announced on Twitter that he plans to seek the UCP nomination in the Camrose, the riding currently represented by UCP MLA Jackie Lovely.
“I’m not here for the photo ops — I intend to roll up my sleeves and work for you and for the people of the Camrose Constituency,” Smook tweeted, in an apparent shot at Lovely.
Smook was first elected to Beaver County Council in 2013 and served as Reeve from 2014 to 2017 before starting his current term in 2021. He was the Alberta Party candidate in Camrose in the 2019 election, where he placed third with 12.8 per cent of the vote.
“I ran for the Alberta Party in the 2019 provincial election,” Smook told the Camrose Booster. “And while there was a conservative connection with them, I know that the strongest conservative movement is the United Conservative Party and I feel much more aligned here.
Tik tok, tik tok, the countdown to Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche
The countdown continues as Jason Kenney now has 6 days left to call the by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche. The by-election needs to be called by February 15 to choose a successor to former MLA Laila Goodridge who resigned nearly six months ago on August 15, 2021.
UCP candidate Brian Jean, who led the Wildrose Party from 2015 to 2018, has called on Kenney to resign and is openly organizing and fundraising against his party’s leader ahead of the April 9 leadership review. There has been chatter in some political circles that Kenney may be delaying the by-election until the last possible moment in order to replace Jean and appoint a UCP candidate who will demonstrate more loyalty to the leader.
Outside the UCP drama that has enveloped this by-election are NDP candidate Ariana Mancini , who was joined by Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan on the campaign trail last week, and Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman, who has been spending a considerable amount of time campaigning in the northeast Alberta riding.
The Alberta Party has not yet named its candidate.
“As a long-time advocate for reconciliation, public health care in Alberta, Calgary’s downtown, and the arts sector, I am all-in on building Alberta’s future and will bring my experience to the Alberta NDP and Team Rachel Notley,” North Peigan said in a press release announcing her candidacy.
North Peigan is a member of the Blackfoot Confederacy and is a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, where she trained as a field medic with Toronto EMS and was stationed with Edmonton Field Ambulance. She holds an MA in Integrated Studies, with a focus on Work, Organization, and Leadership.
She is vice-chair of the Calgary Police Commission and an author of the White Goose Flying Report, Calgary’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action. She was also a candidate for city council in Calgary’s 2021 municipal elections.
North Peigan has been endorsed by former Calgary-Klein MLA Craig Coolahan, who served as MLA from 2015 to 2019.
“Marilyn will bring a much-needed perspective to the party and the legislature,” Coolahan said when reached for comment.
The riding is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Jeremy Nixon and is on the NDP’s target list for the next election. The local NDP constituency association organized a large group canvass last weekend, with Calgary-Buffalo MLA Joe Ceci and Calgary-Mountain View MLA Kathleen Ganley joining the volunteers.
Oneil Carlier seeks nomination in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland
Former MLA Oneil Carlier announced today that he plans to seek the Alberta NDP nomination in the Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland riding.
“When I was an MLA and cabinet minister, I saw how government can work to get results for families,” Carlier said in a press release. “From his handling of the pandemic, to his attacks on health care workers, to sky-rocketing electricity rates, it’s clear Jason Kenney is not delivering for the families of our area.”
Carlier represented the Whitecourt-Ste. Anne riding from 2015 to 2019 and served as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in the NDP government. He was defeated in 2019 by United Conservative Party MLA Shane Getson in the redrawn Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland riding.
Getson has been an outspoken critic of the province’s COVID-19 protections and lost his position as Chair of the UCP’s Capital Region Caucus after he publicly suggested that people receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) were using the funds for Cheezies, cartoons and illegal drugs.
A nomination meeting is being scheduled for March 12, 2022.
Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election call down to the wire
Premier Jason Kenney has only 9 days left to call the by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, which will see his leadership rival, UCP candidate Brian Jean, face off against NDP candidate Ariana Mancini and Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman.
The 28-day long by-election to choose a successor to Laila Goodridge must be called by February 15, 2022.
Airdrie resident Steve Durrell has announced his plans to seek the Alberta NDP nomination to run in the Airdrie-Cochrane riding in the next provincial election.
“This coming election is one of high stakes. From education to our economy, from healthcare to respect for a person’s self-identity, Jason Kenney and the UCP have failed Albertans at every turn,” Durrell said in a statement posted on Facebook. “It’s time for change and to get Alberta back on track, and that is why I am seeking the nomination to run for the NDP, and support Rachel Notley on her road to once again being Premier of Alberta!”
Durrell is an organizer for United Steelworkers Local 1944.
If nominated, this will be Durrell’s second time as a NDP candidate in the riding. He ran in 2019 and placed second with 25.2 per cent of the vote behind United Conservative Party candidate Peter Guthrie.
Durrell became a target of Premier Jason Kenney in the 2019 election, when the UCP leader mocked him for being a 19-year old. He was actually 29-year old father of three at the time.
Rumble in Chestermere-Strathmore
Postmedia columnist Don Braidpenned a column about a showdown in the Chestermere-Strathmore riding, where Kenney loyalists are alleged to have mounted a hostile takeover of the local UCP constituency association.
The previous, or current riding association (depending on who’s side of the story you believe), is loyal to two-term UCP MLA and former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer, who has called on Kenney to resign after a former political staffer filed a lawsuit against the Premier’s Office alleging sexual harassment, defamation, and toxic workplace culture at the Legislature.
Ahreer is popular among her UCP MLA colleagues so Kenney probably does not have the support to remove her from the UCP caucus like he did Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen last summer, so removing her local support (and access to the local UCP bank account) is a more indirect way of ensuring she does not seek re-election in 2023. If Aheer still has political ambitions, she will probably need to find a new party to run for.
As first noted on this website in May 2021, former federal Conservative staffer Chantelle de Jonge is already challenging Aheer for the UCP nomination to run in the next election. de Jonge worked in the constituency office of former Calgary-Skyview Member of Parliament Jag Sahota and recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Philosophy from the University of Calgary.
Confirmed UCP candidate and future UCP leadership hopeful Brian Jean is continuing to fire shots across Kenney’s bow ahead of the leadership review and the impending by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.
Jean called on the UCP executive board to commit to holding an in-person vote on April 9 rather than moving to an online vote in response to the fifth wave of COVID-19 that is sweeping across Alberta. It was largely assumed that the Kenney loyal executive board chose to hold an in-person meeting in Red Deer to give the Premier more control of the process, but the rise in COVID-19 cases would justify moving the vote online.
A Leger poll released in December 2021 showed that 73 per cent of Albertans believed the province would be better off with a new premier.
In the background of this, as Jean noted, the RCMP are continuing to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the online vote for the UCP leadership in 2017. Kenney defeated Jean in that vote.
Jean defeated Kenney-backed candidate Joshua Gogo in the UCP nomination contest held in Nov. 2021. He will face NDP candidate Ariana Mancini and Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman in a by-election that needs to be called by Feb. 15, 2022. The other parties have not yet announced their candidates.
The Alberta Party is expected to make an announcement soon.
The Independence Party of Alberta has not announced a candidate, but announced in Nov. 2021 that their local constituency association board had been formed.
Former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean won the United Conservative Party nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, defeating engineer and economist Joshua Gogo.
Jean’s candidacy was criticized by Premier Jason Kenney and Gogo had the support of Justice Minister Kaycee Madu, who was reported to have been campaigning with him in Lac La Biche last week.
Reports say that Jean won with 68 per cent of the vote. He represented the area as an MP from 2004 to 2014 and MLA from 2015 to 2018.
Jean left elected office shortly after losing the UCP leadership to Kenney in 2017 (it was later revealed that Kenney’s inner circle backed a kamikaze campaign against Jean), but he never quite left politics. Instead, he opined about provincial politics online and in the pages of Postmedia newspapers, becoming a harsh critic of Kenney’s leadership.
In the summer of 2021 he called on Kenney to step down and warned that the NDP would win the next election if he did not resign.
Jean clearly believes he’s the person who can lead the UCP to win re-election in 2023, and he may have a willing following among the small but vocal group of UCP MLAs who have criticized or called on Kenney to resign.
Kenney said he would respect the wishes of UCP voters in the nomination contest, but failing to defeat Jean is a big blow to a Premier who has been lauded for his skills as a political organizer, and is facing a leadership review in April 2022.
While party leaders typically trumpet the nomination of their party’s candidates, both Kenney’s and the UCP’s normally prolific social media feeds were silent last night.
After announcing his win on social media, Jean said he would soon travel the province, presumably to rally opposition to Kenney ahead of the leadership review.
If he’s allowed to run under the UCP banner, Jean’s convincing win means the UCP candidate in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election will also be an openly anti-Kenney candidate.
Mancini congratulates Jean
Alberta NDP candidate Ariana Mancini released a statement congratulating Jean on his nomination.
“I want to congratulate Brian Jean on being nominated as the United Conservative Party candidate in the coming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.”
“Mr. Jean has made it clear, even this evening, that he is running because of his rivalry with Jason Kenney. I am running for the people of Fort McMurray and Lac La Biche. UCP MLAs haven’t delivered for our region. I am focused on job creation, improving public healthcare, protecting public education, protecting our community from flood and fire, and ensuring we have reliable EMS.”
Mancini was joined by NDP leader Rachel Notley at a nomination rally held last week in Fort McMurray.
Another former Wildrose Party leader, Paul Hinman, announced he is also running in the by-election, but this time as leader of the separatist Wildrose Independence Party.
I am building a list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of Alberta’s expected 2023 provincial election. If I have missed any candidates on my list, please post a comment below or send me an email at email@example.com. Thank you!
Adrienne King and Matt Solberg join the Daveberta Podcast for our year-end episode of 2021. We delve into Premier Jason Kenney‘s leadership challenges, the fireworks at the end of Alberta’s longest legislative session on record, and the upcoming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.
Adrienne King works for the Now Group, and is the former Chief of Staff to Alberta NDP Leaders Rachel Notley and Brian Mason, and Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili.
Matt Solberg is a Partner at New West Public Affairs and is a former Wildrose and UCP staffer who has worked at various times along-side Paul Hinman, Danielle Smith, Brian Jean, and Jason Kenney.
Best Cabinet Minister
Adrienne: Travis Toews, Minister of Finance
Matt: Jason Copping, Minister of Health
Best Opposition MLA
Adrienne: Shannon Phillips, NDP MLA for Lethbridge-West
Matt: David Shepherd, NDP MLA for Edmonton-City Centre
Up and Comer to Watch in 2022
Adrienne: Rakhi Pancholi, NDP MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud
Matt: Nate Horner, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry
Submissions for the Best of Alberta Politics 2021 Survey are open until Dec. 16, 2021 at 12:00 pm and the top three choices in each category will be included in a round of voting starting later that day. Voting for the top 3 will be open until Dec. 22, 2021 at 6:00 pm and the winners will be announced shortly afterward.
You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.
The much awaited United Conservative Party nomination vote in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche is being held on Dec. 11 and 12. The contest between former MLA and former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean and economist Joshua Gogo has attracted a lot of political attention.
Nursing a grudge from the 2017 leadership race and tapping into the current UCP leader’s unpopularity, Jean has openly predicted that Rachel Notley’s NDP would win the next election if Premier Jason Kenney doesn’t resign (a recent poll commissioned by CBC showed only 3 in 10 Albertans respect Kenney).
In response, Kenney and his staff have openly criticized Jean for a lack of sticktoitiveness after failing resigning mid-term as Member of Parliament and MLA for the area, causing two by-elections including the one that elected the former MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, Laila Goodridge.
Kenney’s supporters jumped at the opportunity to slam Jean’s description of Gogo as a “Nigerian economist living in Fort McMurray.” Despite a plummeting approval ratings from the public, Kenney has benefited from not having a challenger inside the party that his opponents could rally around. Jean wants to be that challenger.
This by-election will mark the first time the UCP government has had to face voters since it was elected in 2019, and also the first time since then that the question of Kenney’s leadership will be on a provincial ballot.
Under most circumstances, winning this by-election would be a slam dunk for the UCP, but Jean’s candidacy definitely complicates matters for Kenney’s party.
Here is a look at two scenarios that could play out as ballots are cast and counted in this weekend’s UCP nomination contest:
Brian Jean loses the nomination. Losing the nomination would be a big blow to Jean, who has never lost an election in Fort McMurray before. And it would be a win for Kenney. Jean would definitely be a diminished political force within the UCP after losing, and might decide to remain on the sidelines or retreat to private life. But he could decide to run as an Independent candidate. He has significant name recognition and enough personal funds and financial supporters in the riding that he would be a contender even without the blessing of local UCP members.
Brian Jean wins the nomination. Winning the nomination would be a big blow to Kenney, who has used his position as leader to speak out against Jean’s nomination bid. Unless Kenney refused to sign his nomination papers or found a way to disqualify him from winning the nomination, Jean would immediately become the central figure in effort to defeat Kenney at the April 9, 2022 leadership review. Jean has pledged to continue campaigning against Kenney’s leadership.
Mancini nominated as NDP candidate
Local teacher Ariana Mancini was acclaimed as the Alberta NDP candidate at a nomination rally featuring party leader Rachel Notley this week.
“This campaign is an opportunity for our region to send a message to Jason Kenney,” Mancini is reported to have told the crowd in Fort McMurray. “The message is that we don’t have to choose between bad and worse. We can choose better. Even the conservatives don’t like the conservatives. That’s saying something,” she said.
This is Mancini’s second time running as an NDP candidate. She placed second to Jean in the 2015 election in the former Fort McMurray-Conklin riding.
Another former Wildrose leader running for separatist party
Another former Wildrose Party leader has announced his plans to run in the by-election.
Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman, who led the Alberta Alliance-turned-Wildrose Alliance from 2005 to 2009, announced on social media today that he will run for the recently rebranded separatist party in the by-election (the Wildrose Independence Party was named the Freedom Conservative Party in the 2019 election and was previously known as the Western Freedom Party, the Alberta First Party and the Separation Party of Alberta).
Describing it on social media as the most important by-election in history, Hinman described Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche as “ground zero for Trudeau’s carbon net-zero attack against Alberta.”
Hinman appears to be relying on support from federal People’s Party of Canada supporters and has been loudly promoting COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media.
He served as the MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 and Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012.
I am building a list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of Alberta’s expected 2023 provincial election. If I have missed any candidates on my list, please post a comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
Fort McMurray teacher Ariana Mancini is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche ahead of the upcoming by-election in the riding.
Mancini teaches Grade 4 at Ecole Dickinsfield School in Fort McMurray and is on the executive of Fort McMurray Local 48 of the Alberta Teachers Association.
“Conservatives have failed to deliver on the promises they made in the last election. Their corporate tax cuts haven’t created the jobs they promised,” Mancini said in a press release. “Under Jason Kenney, life is getting more expensive: income taxes are up, insurance rates are up, electricity rates are up, tuition is up.
“It’s time we had representation in our region that believed in making life more affordable for families,” Mancini said.
A nomination meeting is scheduled for Dec. 9 and Mancini is expected to be acclaimed. NDP leader Rachel Notley will be in Fort McMurray for what the party describes will be a nomination rally.
This will be Mancini’s second time running for the provincial NDP.
In 2015 she placed second behind Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean (who is also running for the United Conservative Party nomination to run this by-election) and ahead of incumbent Progressive Conservative MLA Don Scott (who would later serve as Mayor of Wood Buffalo from 2017 to 2021) in the former Fort McMurray-Conklin riding.
NDP are the underdog in this race
Despite Notley’s NDP leading in the province-wide polls since last November and Premier Jason Kenney reaching record low approval ratings, it will be an uphill battle for any party other than the UCP to win this by-election. Voters in this region of north east Alberta have reliably elected Conservative candidates for over three decades.
Popular municipal councillor Jane Stroud was only able to earn 24 per cent as the NDP candidate in the 2019 election, and you have to look all the way back to 1986 to find the last time a New Democrat was elected in the area (NDP MLA Leo Piquette represented Athabasca-Lac La Biche from 1986 to 1989).
The last time a candidate from a non-Conservative party was elected in this area was in 1993, when Adam Germain was elected in Fort McMurray and Paul Langevin was elected in Lac La Biche-St. Paul under the Liberal Party banner (though, the Liberals in that election were arguably more conservative than they have ever been since).
All that said, by-elections can sometimes produce unexpected results.
The nasty feud between Jean and Kenney, unhappiness with the UCP’s response to COVID-19, persistent high unemployment, displeasure with the forced provincial centralization of ambulance dispatch, and skepticism about the UCP’s move to abandon the RCMP and form a provincial police force might just be a few of the issues that help voters decide who to cast their ballot.
The by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche must be called by Feb. 15, 2022.
Seven candidates have now entered the race to replace UCP MLA and UCP Rural Crime Task Force member Don MacIntyre in the central Alberta district of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. MacIntyre resigned in February 2018 after he was charged with sexual assault and sexual interference. He was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2015.
Christine Moore – Councillor in Red Deer County representing the area between Sylvan Lake and Red Deer city limits. She ran in the 2015 election as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Red Deer-North where she placed third with 22 percent of the vote behind New DemocratKim Schreiner and Wildroser Buck Buchanan.
Joel Loh is vice-president of Regulatory Affairs & public relations at Simba Industries Transload Ltd. and affiliated with something called the Committee for Proud Alberta Fair Trade Oil (editor comment: I’m not sure they understand the definition of Fair Trade). Loh served as the president of the Canadian Alliance association in Calgary-Southwest in the early 2000s. He was disqualified from running for the Alliance nomination in Calgary-Centre ahead of the 2004 election, according to a 2003 report from the Calgary Herald.
Victor Sloboda is a plumbing and gas inspector with the City of Red Deer.
The district was first created in the 2012 election from the southern and eastern half of the formerly larger Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo district. Jean was first elected in 2015 with 43 percent of the vote ahead of New Democrat Ariana Mancini with 30 percent and PC MLA Don Scott with 22 percent (Scott was elected Mayor of Wood Buffalo in October 2017).
Sources tell this blogger that Wood Buffalo Municipal Councillor Jane Stroud is planning to seek the NDP nomination to run in Fort McMurray-Conklin by-election. Since 2010, Stroud has represented Ward 4, which includes the communities of Gregorie Lakes Estates, Anzac, Janvier and Conklin. She was named a ‘Woman of Inspiration’ by Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta in 2017.
Three candidates have announced their plans to run for the UCP nomination contest in this district:
Unlike Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, which is largely untouched by the boundary redistribution, this district will be significantly redrawn when the next election is called, with most of the district’s population becoming part of a new Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district.
Here is a look at the vote share by party in Fort McMurray-Conklin in general elections in 2012 and 2015:
With all the polls showing the 43-year long governing Progressive Conservatives trailing the NDP and Wildrose across the province, there could be a race to watch in every constituency in Alberta when the provincial election polls close at 8:00 p.m. tonight.
Here are 12 races that I will be paying particular attention to on Election night:
Calgary-Acadia: This south Calgary constituency has reliably voted PC since 1971, but recent controversy surrounding PC candidate Jonathan Denis, who was ordered to resign from his job as Justice Minister and Attorney General in the middle of the election campaign, could help boost support for NDP candidate Brandy Payne and Wildrose candidate Linda Carlson.
Calgary-Buffalo: Voters in this downtown Calgary constituency have elected Liberals in six of the last eight elections. Popular MLA Kent Hehr is running for federal office so the Liberals have nominated lawyer David Khan as his successor. Mr. Khan faces arts advocate Terry Rock running for the PCs and lawyer Kathleen Ganley running for the NDP.
Calgary-Elbow: A rematch between Alberta Party leader Greg Clark and PC candidate Gordon Dirks. Mr. Dirks narrowly defeated Mr. Clark in an October 2014 by-election and with recent cuts to education funds, a nasty debate over Gay-Straight Alliances, and neighbourhoods still recovering from the 2013 floods, Mr. Dirks could be in trouble.
Calgary-Fort: Popular five-term PC MLA Wayne Cao is retiring from politics, leaving the PCs with rookie candidate Andy Nguyen. The NDP are have put a lot of hope into Alderman Joe Ceci, the party’s most high-profile Calgary candidate in decades. The Wildrose have nominated Jeevan Mangat, who came within 200 votes of defeating Mr. Cao in the 2012 election.
Edmonton-Centre: Popular Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman has represented this constituency since 1997 and is one of the most effective voices in the Assembly. But her choice to split with her party and accept the nominations from the Alberta Party and Greens may confuse voters. The rising NDP tide in Edmonton, represented by the charismatic David Shepherd in Edmonton-Centre, may impact her chances of re-election.
Edmonton-Glenora: Former Edmonton Public School Board chairperson and NDP star candidate Sarah Hoffman is facing two-term PC MLA Heather Klimchuk. Glenora has never elected an NDP MLA, but the party saw its support rise in 2004 and 2012, giving Ms. Hoffman a strong base of support to build on.
Edmonton-Rutherford: Businessman and Edmonton enthusiast Chris Labossiere faces university instructor Richard Feehan in this southwest Edmonton constituency. Voters have swung between the Liberals and PCs in this area since the 1980s and without a strong Liberal campaign in this election, swinging to the NDP might not be a far stretch. Both the PCs and NDP are running strong campaigns in Rutherford, so this will be a constituency to watch.
Edmonton-Whitemud: Voters in Whitemud have elected PC MLAs since 1997 and chose former Mayor Stephen Mandel in an October 2014 by-election. The PCs typically win by large margins in this constituency but the NDP candidate Dr. Bob Turner earned record support in by-election. If Mr. Mandel cannot win in Whitemud, it is likely the PCs will not win anywhere else in Edmonton.
Fort-McMurray-Conklin: Wildrose leaderBrian Jeanis trying to unseat first-term PC MLA Don Scott. Mr. Jean’s name recognition as party leader and the former Conservative MP for the area could help him overcome Mr. Scott, who only narrowly won the 2012 election. Also a factor in this race is the NDP, which is represented by NDP candidate and local teacher Ariana Mancini.
Lethbridge-West: In 2012,Shannon Phillipssurprised many political watchers when she placed 1,115 votes behind PC MLA Greg Weadick in a three-way race with the Wildrose. This time, it is a rematch between the two, with the Wildrose playing the wildcard.
Strathmore-Brooks: He is a familiar face in the media and former Taxpayers’ Federation spokesperson Derek Fildebrandt hopes to return to Edmonton as an MLA. Mr. Fildebrandt faces County of Newell Reeve Molly Douglass who is running for the PC Party in this southern Alberta rural riding. Former MLA Jason Hale, who was elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2012 but crossed the floor to the PCs in 2014, is not seeking re-election.
Voting stations are open in provincial constituencies across Alberta until 8:00 p.m. tonight. If you do know where to vote, visit the Elections Alberta website. If you do not know who the candidates in your constituency are, check out my list of candidates.
With the first full week of Alberta’s 2015 election campaign coming to an end, I took a look at where the leaders of Alberta’s political parties have visited in the last seven days [see the map above].
The day the writ was dropped, Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice hopped into his party’s campaign bus and hit the highway into rural Alberta. First driving through the West Yellowhead constituency, Mr. Prentice’s tour included campaign stops with Finance Minister Robin Campbell and a trip down memory lane to Grande Cache, where he spent part of his childhood.
The PC tour continued through central and southern rural Alberta with a quick stop in Calgary. Much of Mr. Prentice’s first week was dedicated to campaigning in constituencies that voted Wildrose in the last election – Airdrie, Drumheller-Stettler, Highwood, Lacombe-Ponoka, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, Livingstone-Macleod, and Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills.
NDP leader Rachel Notley started election with campaign stops in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge. During the first weekend of the campaign, Ms. Notley traveled to Fort McMurray, where she campaigned with candidates Stephen Drover and Ariana Mancini, and participated in the local Firefighters charity event. Upon her return to Edmonton, she was greeted by a crowd of more than 500 NDP supporters at a Sunday afternoon rally at the Citadel Theatre.
Wildrose leader Brian Jean, travelling Alberta in his campaign RV, has made stops in Edmonton, Grande Prairie, and Calgary, but has divided most of his time in rural southern and central Alberta and the two Fort McMurray constituencies (he is running for election in Fort McMurray-Conklin). As the campaign continues, I expect that Mr. Jean will continue to focus on key rural areas of rural Alberta and Calgary, including Strathmore-Brooks, where the Wildrose hope former Taxpayers Federation spokesperson Derek Fildebrandt can win.
Alberta Party leader Greg Clark and Liberal leader David Swann appear to be focusing most of their energies on winning their own constituencies in Calgary, but both have made trips to Edmonton to hold press conferences and campaign with local candidates. Mr. Clark, alongside Edmonton-Gold Bar candidate Cristina Stasia, released the Alberta Party platform at the University of Alberta campus.