The closure of the facility, which houses local residents and is the main employer in the community, has also united politicians from across the political spectrum.
At a rally in front of Premier Alison Redford‘s constituency office in Calgary-Elbow, Edmonton-Calder NDP MLA David Eggen, Little BowWildrose MLA Ian Donovan, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle, and Calgary-Shaw Wildrose MLA Jeff Wilson stood with more than 80 people in opposition to the facility’s closure. At a previous rally, Highwood MLA and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Alberta Union of Provincial Employees president Guy Smith stood with local mayor Kym Nichols, who works at the facility.
While the decision to close the Little Bow facility would have made by Alberta Health Services, the final approval for the closure must be made by Health Minister Fred Horne. This is because, as an Approved Hospital, Section 28 of the Operation of Approved Hospitals Regulation states:
28 Every hospital shall require prior approval of the Minister for
(a) any proposed major change or termination of an existing service provided by the hospital, or
(b) the introduction of a new service.
Since the Wildrose Party swept rural southern and central Alberta, electing 17 MLA’s across the province in the May 2012 election, the long-governing Progressive Conservatives have faced the first rural MLA dominated official opposition since the early 1970s. Minister Horne has visited the community and apologized for the confusion, but the apology appears to have only confirmed the feelings held by some people that the big city Tories do not understand the needs of small rural communities.
The confusion around the closure of the facility has led more than a few members of the community wonder if a recent change in their voting patterns have affected their political influence on this issue. In the recent election, residents of the community voted overwhelmingly for Wildrose candidate and now-MLA Mr. Donovan over PC candidate John Kolk. Previous to that election, Carmangay had been a reliably Tory voting area.
If the Tories are trying to win back the hearts and minds of voters in the rural south, their grand strategy is beginning with a rough start.
With an election expected to be held in the next few months and a new Premier setting a new tone, many long-time and not-so-long-time Members of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly have decided that now is time to retire or look for greener pastures.
Some of the retiring politicians have spent a decade or more in office, so before the writ is dropped I thought it would be fun to take a look at what some of them looked like in their younger years in office.
For the past year I have been maintaining a list of declared and nominated candidates planning to stand in Alberta’s next provincial general election. To give readers a better idea about where in the province the five main political parties are actually nominating candidates, I have created an easy spreadsheet with a regional breakdown.
For the regional breakdown, I have used the same divisions used by Wikipedia. The Edmonton region consists of all constituencies within the city, and St. Albert, Spruce Grove-St. Albert, Sherwood Park, and Strathcona-Sherwood Park.
Here are some of the recent updates that I made to the list:
Calgary-Klein: Chris Tahn was nominated as the Liberal Party candidate.
Cardston-Taber-Warner: Pat Shimbashi defeated MLA Broyce Jacobs to win the PC nomination. Mr. Jacobs was first elected in 2001, was defeated by Alberta Alliance candidate Paul Hinman in 2004, and was re-elected in 2008.
Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville: Tofield Mayor Nabil Chehayeb has entered the PC nomination race. Already in the race are Vegreville Mayor Richard Coleman, Strathcona County Councillor Jacquie Fenske, and former Fort Saskatchewan Mayor Jim Sheasgreen. The nomination meeting to replace local MLA and former Premier Ed Stelmach is scheduled to be held on January 23, 2012.
Lacombe-Ponoka: Doug Hart is seeking the NDP nomination in this central Alberta constituency. In the 1989 election, Mr. Hart was the NDP candidate in the now defunct Ponoka-Rimbey constituency. He is the President of the Federal NDP association in the Wetaskiwin riding.
Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills: Darcy Davis has won the PC nomination in this central Alberta constituency. Mr. Davis defeated candidate Al Kemmere and Will Stevenson. Mr. Davis is the past Chair of Alberta Beef Producers.
Stony Plain: Stony Plain Mayor Ken Lemke is the nominated PC candidate, having defeated four other candidates – Parkland County Councillor Dianne Allen, Vern Hardman, David Cymbaluk and second-place finisher Lorna Wolodko. The Wildrose Party will nominate their candidate on December 17. Hal Tagg is only candidate to declare his entry so far.
West Yellohead: Barry Madsen is expected to be acclaimed at a December 9 nomination meeting in Hinton. As the NDP candidate in the 2004 provincial election, Mr. Madsen placed second with 21% of the vote.
After a week-long break, MLAs returned to the Assembly for a week that started with three-sided tailing ponds and ended with an emergency debate on health care.
Emergency Debate on Health Care Edmonton-Meadowlark PC MLA and parliamentary assistant for Health & WellnessRaj Sherman got the attention he was looking for when he wrote a blunt email to the Premier, and several MLAs, cabinet ministers, and medical colleagues. The letter continued a month long media firestorm on the state of emergency room wait times in Alberta.
As Question Period ended yesterday, Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman succeeded in her bid to hold an emergency debate, which lasted for just over an hour and showcased some of the most passionate debate I have seen in the Assembly this year. This was the second attempt by the opposition during this session to initiate an emergency debate on this topic. A motion to extend the debate during the afternoon was defeated when a number of PC MLAs who did not want to extend their four day week on the Assembly floor (Ron Liepert, Jeff Johnson, and Barry McFarlandas tweeted by Liberal caucus Chief of Staff Rick Miller). UPDATE: Mr. Miller has commented below that his tweet was naming the three PC MLAs for not standing in support of the initial vote to have an emergency debate, not to vote against extending the debate past 4:30pm.
For Dr. Sherman, the big question is what does his political future hold? After embarrassing the Premier and his caucus on this sensitive file, it is questionable how much longer his colleagues will tolerate an independence streak. With three former PC MLAs having crossed to the Wildrose Alliance in the past year, the Tories need to balance maintaining caucus unity without being too disciplinary with their more independent-minded MLAs. This is a balancing act that has proved difficult in the 68 MLA PC caucus.
Liberal Party AGM
The Liberal Party is holding its annual general meeting on November 27 and will elect three of its executive committee members, President, Vice-President (Policy), and Secretary. Edmonton Regional Director Erick Ambtman has declared his intentions to run for President. Current President, Debbie Cavaliere, was appointed on an interim basis after former President Tony Sansottaresigned in July. Ms. Cavaliere will be seeking election as VP (Policy) and current Secretary Nancy Cavanaugh will be seeking re-election for her position.
New NDP Communications Guy Richard Liebrecht started his new job as the Communications Director for the NDP Caucus this week. Mr. Liebrecht is a former reporter for the Edmonton Sun and editor at the Hinton Parklander. Mr. Liebrecht replaces another former Sun reporter Brookes Merritt, who recently left the NDP Caucus for a job at the Public Affairs Bureau.
Alberta Party (new) media coverage
If you missed the coverage of last weekend’s Alberta Party policy conference, there is no shortage of online news stories and blog posts. Here is a run-down from media and participants of the policy convention and recent Big Listens.
Calgary-Centre North by-election could be a test of conservative unity in alberta.
As the first major political event on the federal stage in Alberta since the Wildrose Alliance jumped from insignificance to contender in the polls over the past year, the Calgary-Centre North by-election could be a symbolic test of the Conservative Party’s strength in tolerating the provincial split in the conservative movement in Alberta. The resignation of Environment Minister Jim Prentice could open the door for a contested race for the Conservative Party nomination that could highlight some of these cleavages. Could that riding’s Conservative nomination contest become a proxy war in the battle between moderate and ideological conservatives that has exploded on the provincial level?
I have had an number of interesting and frank conversations with federal Conservative Party organizers who are acutely aware of their delicate balancing act. In most provinces, many members of the federal Conservative Party are also members of the equivalent “conservative” party in the provincial level (ie: BC Liberals, Saskatchewan Party, PC Party in Ontario and the maritimes). Alberta’s conservatives are in a different situation.
Many active members of the Conservative Party of Canada remain active members of the four decade-long governing Progressive Conservatives, but many have become active with the Wildrose Alliance over the past year (including Wildrose candidates Andrew Constantinidis in Calgary-West and Rod Fox in Lacombe-Ponoka who are former Conservative Party Electoral District Association Presidents). Two of the Wildroses main political staffers are also products of the federal Conservative school of politics. Executive Director Vitor Marciano and Communications Director William McBeath both left positions in the federal Conservative establishment to join the insurgent Wildrosers since Danielle Smith became leader.
It is somewhat reminiscent of the split that happened among conservative voters in the 1990s with the rise of the Reform Party of Canada and the decline of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. Although they did not form a functional provincial-wing, the split between the Reformers and the federal PC Party in Alberta also happened during a time of flux on the provincial level. Many Reform Party supporters were drawn to the policies of fiscal conservative provincial Liberal leader Laurence Decore. A few Reformers such as Don MacDonald and Donna Graham ran as Liberal Party candidates. Mr. MacDonald stunned many political watchers when he handily won a 1992 by-election in the Three Hills riding in the conservative heartland. The Liberals also won support in the Little Bow constituency where candidate Ms. Graham came within 262 votes of defeating Tory Barry McFarland. It was a different time.
Following the 1993 re-election of the PC Party led by Premier Ralph Klein, many of these tensions disappeared as many Reformers made amends with Alberta’s natural governing party. Some of these tensions re-emerged under a resurgent Social Creditin 1997, but that year’s election proved to bare no fruit for the antiquated political movement. By 2001, when Reform MP Ian McClelland moved into provincial politics it appeared that all was beautiful, calm, and quiet on the conservative front. What a difference nine years can make.
Back to my original point, it will be very interesting to watch how the Conservative Party of Canada will try to mitigate any migration of the conservative conflict into its ranks in Alberta.