There is an election happening on the other side of the Rockies.Ian Bushfield and Scott de Lange Boom from the Politicoast Podcast join Dave in this episode of the Daveberta Podcast to help Albertans understand what is happening in British Columbia’s provincial election.
Thank you to Ian and Scott for joining us and sharing their wealth of knowledge and insight into BC politics.
And thank you to our producer Adam Rozenhart for making this – our 60th episode – sound so great! And thank you to our listeners for continuing to subscribe and download the podcast over the past few years.
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Here are my quick thoughts on the latest fundraising numbers:
The United Conservative Party raised more than $1 million for the second quarter in a row, demonstrating the dominant conservative party’s ability to raise significantly larger amounts than any of the other parties. There is no doubt that the UCP is an impressive fundraising machine and will not be hurting for money when the next election is called.
The New Democratic Party raised $676,446.91 in this quarter, which is $237,000 more than the party raised in the same quarter in 2017 and a drop from the $856,960 raised in the last quarter. The NDP continues to lag behind the UCP in terms of total fundraising, but the governing party is around $500,000 ahead in total annual fundraising from where it was during last year’s third quarter.
The Alberta Party saw its fundraising totals drop by almost $100,000 compared to last quarter, leaving the third-place party with $28,915 in fundraising reported in the third quarter.
The total number of donations collected by Alberta’s political parties in 2017 and 2018 is somewhat complicated by the fact that donations collected during by-election periods from November 16, 2017 to February 14, 2018, and from June 14 to July 12, 2018 are counted separately from the regular quarterly reports.
During the by-election period that ended on February 14, 2018, the NDP collected $886,591.29 , the UCP collected $840,794.02, and the Liberal Party collected $61,662.19. The financial reports from the by-election period in June and July 2018 has not yet been released but will include funds raised by the parties during that period that might not be included in the third quarter financial disclosure released last week.
Pro-UCP PAC flush with car dealership cash
Not limited by donations laws banning corporate donations that apply to political parties, two pro-UCP Third Party Political Advertisers, known colloquially as Political Action Committees, are flush with cash.
The AAFund raised $261,500.00 in the third quarter of 2018 and a total of $915,454.77 in the first three quarters of 2018. Shaping Alberta’s Future raised $275,000 in the third quarter of 2018, of which at least $170,000 came from car dealerships across the province.
In his letter, Robinson noted Kenney would roll back personal and corporate taxes, freeze minimum wage and explore lower wages for young workers, and cancel all reforms the NDP have made the the Labour Code, Occupational Health & Safety and Workers’ Compensation Board.
Robinson wrote that the MDA board voted to solicit its dealer members to contribute to Shaping Alberta’s Future. The letter noted that the “MDA’s goal donation is $1,000,000.00” and that “each MDA dealership write a cheque in the amount of $5,000.00.”
The President of the MDA is Denis Ducharme, who served as the PC MLA for Bonnyville-Cold Lake from 1997 to 2008.
Speaking to Postmedia columnist Keith Gerein, Shaping Alberta’s Future executive director David Wasyluk denied that the UCP and the pro-UCP PAC have been collaborating. Wasyluk was until recently the spokesperson for the right-wing BC Liberal Party and a research officer for the BC Liberal Party caucus before that party was removed from government in 2017.
Elections Alberta disclosures also show that Edmonton philanthropist Stanley Milner is of the largest individual donors of the AAFund and Shaping Alberta’s Future, having donated around $88,000 to the two pro-UCP political action committees.
The primary contacts for each group are also provided by Elections Alberta. The primary contact for the AAFund is Edmonton lawyer and former Wildrose Party executive director Jonathan Wescott, who is the Principal of the Alberta Counsel lobby firm. The primary contract for Shaping Alberta’s Future is Douglas Nelson, who was previously listed as the Chief Financial Officer for Jason Kenney’s now defunct Third Party Political Advertisers, the Alberta Victory Fund.
Results of the British Columbia provincial election by political watchers and pundits in Alberta are being viewed through the same lens they have viewed the entire BC election campaign: by wondering how it will impact future construction of oil pipelines from Alberta to the West Coast.
But just because pipelines are top of mind for many Albertans, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing our priorities were the same priorities in the minds of BC voters who cast their ballots on Tuesday. Sure, pipelines, climate change, energy, and environmental issues were likely important issues for many BC voters, but so were health care, education, housing affordability, government corruption, political financing and many other issues.
While pipeline approvals fall under federal jurisdiction, opposition by a provincial government can create significant political problems for any project and a federal government that supports it. The unanswered question now on the minds of many Albertans is how the election results will impact the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline from Alberta to a shipping terminal in Burnaby.
A minority government formed by Clark’s Liberals could continue to support for pipelines, but if they become dependent on the votes of the three Green MLAs to maintain their government, political necessity could change their enthusiasm for the project. An NDP government supported by the Greens could result in further opposition to pipeline expansion.
Opposition to the pipeline by the BC NDP led pro-pipelineAlberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley to announce in Dec. 2016 that NDP political staffers in Edmonton would be barred from working on BC NDP campaigns in this election. The divide between the two parties, and two provinces, on the pipeline issue is stark. Public support for pipelines among Albertans appears to be near unanimous, while opposition to pipelines in BC is a broad and mainstream opinion.
While the BC Liberals are considered to be a conservative party, a Clark government will not necessarily have the best interests of Albertans in mind. In reaction to American President Donald Trump imposing a tariff on Canadian softwood lumber exports, Clark threatened to impose a $70 per tonne levy on thermal coal exports through BC ports. Alberta’s coal exports could be collateral damage in this move, even though Notley has questioned whether Clark actually has the constitutional authority to impose the levy.
Clark has attacked the Alberta NDP in speeches before and during the campaign, and it would not be uncharacteristic of the BC Liberals to attack Alberta in order to further expose the rifts between the Notley government and Horgan NDP.
While Albertans focus on prospects for oil pipelines to the West Coast, it is important to remember that what Albertans perceive as their best interests are not necessarily the top priorities for voters and politicians in BC, and nor should they be.
Vancouver-based website TheBreaker reported this week that Kenney was recently spotted in British Columbia speaking at a $500-a-plate federal Conservative Party fundraising event at Hy’s Steakhouse in downtown Vancouver. Kenney tweeted that he was in Vancouver for a conference, but did not mention any other political activities the PC Party leader has been engaged in on the west coast.
The website author, journalist Bob Mackin, alleged that Kenney urged guests at the fundraising dinner to support the BC Liberal Party of Christy Clark in the province’s May 9 general election and that a new conservative party could be formed in Alberta as soon as this weekend.
Meanwhile, as the unite-the-right discussions continue, a new poll released by Mainstreet Research asking Albertans who they would prefer as leader of a merged Wildrose-PC party showed Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean leading Kenney with 29 percent to 24 percent support. Twenty-four percent of respondents chose “Someone Else” and 23 percent were unsure, suggesting that there could be appetite for a third or fourth candidate to enter the contest (some Conservative activists have suggested outgoing interim federal Conservative leader Rona Ambrose could fill this void).
Jean has been criss-crossing the province holding town hall meetings ostensibly to collect feedback on the party merger, but in reality he is campaigning for the leadership of the yet-to-be-named and yet-to-be-merged Wildrose-PC party.
I am told that one of the significant issues of debate between the leadership of the two conservative parties is the timeline for a leadership vote. Jean has firmly said the leader of a new party should be chosen before October 15, 2017 while Kenney has been saying since last year that he wants a founding convention to be held in late 2017 before a leadership vote takes place in early 2018.
Jean’s preferred timeline appears to be more sensible, as it would allow a leader to hold court over a founding convention that could be unruly and filledwithbozo-erruptions if a leader is not in place to keep the rowdy membership base in line. Kenney’s preference would buy him more time to compete with Jean in a leadership vote, which he might need now that he has decided to lend himself out to conservative fundraising efforts in British Columbia.
Ms. Notley was in Ottawa last week as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline. At the press conference, Mr. Trudeau heaped praise on Alberta’s flagship climate change policy, which includes a price on carbon.
“I would certainly say that Rachel Notley is very different from the leader of the NDP in B.C.,” Ms. Clark told the Vancouver Sun. “They are deeply split on the issue of Kinder Morgan and whether or not it should go ahead.”
The NDP-schism over pipelines could further complicate the inner-politics of the party.
Senior political staffers at the Alberta Legislature, including Brian Topp, the premier’s Chief of Staff, John Heaney, Deputy Minister of the Policy Coordination Office, and ministerial chiefs of staff Jim Rutkowski and Steve Stringfellowhave strong ties to the BC NDP. Mr. Topp was the BC NDP campaign manager in 2013 and Mr. Heaney served as Mr. Horgan’s Chief of Staff until he joined Ms. Notley’s office in 2015.
It is well-known that the NDP operates a national network of political organizers who travel the country to work on election campaigns. This was an asset during Alberta’s 2015 election when experienced NDP campaigners from across Canada descended on our province. Some of those organizers now occupy political jobs in the Alberta government, which is now the only NDP government in Canada.
A few Alberta NDP staffers, including at least one current cabinet minister, traveled to BC to work for the NDP in the last election campaign.
But now that Mr. Horgan opposes the pipeline that Ms. Notley has staked her political future on, will the Alberta NDP lend their political staff to the BC NDP during next year’s election?
The attack ads write themselves.
“The NDP promises pipelines in Alberta but campaigns against them in BC. Whose side are they on?” an ad from Jason Kenney‘s Wildrose-PC Party might ask.
There are many New Democrats and progressive Albertans who would like to see Mr. Horgan’s NDP win the next election for reasons that go beyond pipelines (when I met Mr. Horgan in Victoria last year I found him to be quite engaging and likeable). But it would be foolish for the Alberta NDP government to allow its political staffers to campaign to elect a BC NDP government that will oppose Ms. Notley’s pipeline agenda and undermine all the work she is doing in BC this week.
Obviously Ms. Notley cannot stop individuals from campaigning on their own time, but if political staffers from Alberta are going to work against the pipelines in BC, they should not expect to have political jobs waiting for them back in Edmonton.