Kind of like Aunt Martha’s fruitcake. It keeps coming back at you year after year.
Over the summer months, while most Albertans were focusing on navigating wildfire smoke and intense heat, the provincial government released a steady stream of mandate letters from Premier Danielle Smith to her cabinet ministers.
The mandate letters are meant to provide direction from the Premier to the Ministers on where the departments they are responsible for fit in the government’s agenda.
Publicly releasing ministerial mandate letters provides a certain level of transparency on the surface but the stream of press releases, as conservative thinker KenBoessenkool mused last year, “turns an important governing process into a communications and stakeholder exercise.”
As a columnist, Smith was a harsh critic of “unreliable” renewable energy
The United Conservative Party government’s decision to impose an immediate 7-month moratorium on all new major wind and solar energy projects in Alberta came as a surprise to many political watchers.
The drastic decision was sudden and it wasn’t featured in any of the UCP’s campaign promises in the election held only 75 days ago. But anyone who has paid close attention to now-Premier Danielle Smith’s newspaper and radio commentary knows she has not hidden her deeply critical and skeptical views of wind and solar power.
It has been almost two weeks since Alberta Premier Danielle Smithnamed her new 24-member cabinet and a lot of ink has been spilled dissecting what the appointments could mean for the start of the United Conservative Party’s second term as government and the next four years.
There are big challenges facing the new cabinet, especially for ministers appointed to high-profile positions. But what caught my attention among the appointments was the return of two former cabinet ministers who were pushed into the backbenches when Smith entered the Premier’s Office last October.
Election outcome doesn’t appear any clearer today than it did on Day 1
We’re midway through the final week of Alberta’s election campaign and while the most recent poll from Abacus Data points to Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party having an edge over Rachel Notley’s Alberta NDP, it will probably come down to ground game – who can get their voters out to the polls.
It feels like the closest election we’ve had in a long time.
The United Conservative Party won big in Alberta’s 2019 election, taking 63 seats in the Alberta Legislature and earning 54.8 per cent of the province-wide vote. The party racked up huge margins of victory in rural ridings and swept Calgary.
It was a juggernaut.
It also wasn’t clear on that election night if the Alberta NDP would be able to recover from their defeat. It felt unlikely.
That the UCP is now neck-and-neck with the NDP in most polls with only 24 days left until the next election says a lot about the UCP’s four years as government and the NDP’s time in opposition.
Rebuking a decision by the United Conservative Party to disqualify candidate Zulkifl Mujahid, the board of directors of the UCP constituency association in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo has voted to continue supporting him as their candidate. The motion was passed at a meeting on April 18.
Here’s the motion:
“Zulkifl Mujhid is the UCP Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo Constituency preferred candidate. He is democratically elected.”
The nomination vote followed another contentious annual general meeting that saw a slate of new candidates elected to the local constituency board of directors.
The UCP announced last week that it had disqualified Mujahid after court records revealed he is being sued for defamation by Sultan Zamman, the vice-president of fundraising for the riding’s constituency association. Zamman is seeking $250,000 in damages and a further $50,000 in special damages.
The UCP is expected to appoint a candidate to replace Mujahid before the election is officially called on May 1. But the board’s motion and the former UCP candidate’s continued posting on social media as if he is still a candidate could create some difficulty for whoever the is appointed candidate by the party.
There has been some speculation that the UCP could appoint Yao as the candidate. He is a long-time friend of the MLA from the neighbouring Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche riding, Brian Jean, and endorsed him in the 2022 UCP leadership race.
Yao appears to have spent most of the past week canvassing door-to-door with UCP MLAs running for re-election in Calgary ridings.
The election in this otherwise safe UCP riding in northern Alberta could also be made even more interesting by the entry of Wood Buffalo Municipal Councillor Funky Banjoko, who is running as an Independent candidate in the riding. Banjoko earned more votes than any other candidate running for municipal council in 2021.
Suncor laboratory technician and Unifor organizer Tanika Chaisson is expected to be nominated as the Alberta NDP candidate.
There are 37 days left until Alberta’s May 29 provincial election.
UPDATE: The UCP has appointed Tany Yao as the party’s candidate in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. With his appointment, the UCP once again have 87 candidates nominated to run in the next election (see the full list of candidates).
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Because Smith won in a by-election on November 8, 2022, the UCP provincial board decided to accept her candidacy in the south east Alberta riding without opening a new nomination process.
Smith won the by-election with 54.5 per cent of the vote shortly after winning the UCP leadership.
In the upcoming provincial election she will again face NDP candidate Gwendoline Dirk, who placed second with 26.7 per cent in the by-election, and Alberta Party leader Barry Morishita, who placed third in the by-election with 16.5 per cent.
Smith previously represented the Highwood riding in the Legislature from 2012 to 2015.
Brian Jean nominated in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche
Also having his nomination approved by the UCP board was Brian Jean, who will run for re-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.
While Jean has been a political figure in Fort McMurray for many years, he most recently won the March 2022 by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche with 63.6 per cent of the vote.
Jean previously represented Fort McMurray-Conklin in the Legislature from 2015 to 2018 and Athabasca-Fort McMurray in the House of Commons from 2004 to 2014. He currently serves as Minister of Jobs, Economy and Northern Development.
He is the only candidate nominated to run in the north east Alberta riding.
One of the three candidates running for the United Conservative Party nomination in south west Alberta’s Livingstone-Macleod riding was at the Petroleum Club event.
Tanya Clemens posted a photo of herself posing with Anderson on her social media at the talk. The photo caption included the quote “If the government is afraid of the people, you have democracy. If the people are afraid of the government, you have tyranny.”
When asked for comment about her attendance at Anderson’s event, Clemens replied:
“Like our Members of Parliament, I was unaware of her views and political history.
She was one of a few individuals that used their international platforms to call out Justin Trudeau’s unacceptable and dictator like behaviour during COVID and that is why I went to the event in the first place.
I had no additional information on Anderson, but had I known about her unacceptable stances beforehand, I would not have attended the event.”
The Calgary events were attended by Freedom Convoy organizer Tamara Lich and lawyer Keith Wilson, and street pastor-turned-Independence Party of Alberta leader Artur Pawlowski, who has turned the party into a vehicle of right-wing conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the World Economic Forum.
Following the event, Anderson sat down for a one-on-one interview with Canadian Olympian and COVID-19 conspiracy theorist Jamie Salé.
Former Alberta Prosperity Project leader running for UCP nomination in Edmonton-Riverview
The APP has organized chapters around the province and promotes a range of conspiracy theories on its social media related to COVID-19, Digital ID, 15-minute cities and the World Economic Forum. The organization also recently promoted the debunked claim that commissioner of the Public Order Emergency Commission Paul Rouleau is the husband of Trudeau’s aunt (he’s not).
Until recently, the Alberta Prosperity Project’s chief executive officer was Dr. Dennis Modry.
Dr. Modry is a well-known Edmonton-based surgeon, having completed Alberta’s first heart transplant in 1985 and founding the heart & lung transplantation program at the University of Alberta. He was also a fundraiser for the Progressive Conservative Party in the 1980s and 1990s and was co-chair of Doug Main’s campaign for the PC Party leadership in 1992.
But Dr. Modry’s more recent political activities have moved further from the mainstream. He served as VP Policy and Governance of the Wildrose Independence Party before that party’s implosion and has since promoted Alberta sovereignty through the APP.
The APP has loudly advocated for the Alberta government to hold a referendum on independence from Canada, which the group says would give Alberta a strong position to negotiate with Ottawa.
The APP recently changed the by-laws posted on its website but a proposed party by-laws document posted in May 2022 outlined APP plans to create a separatist political party called the “Provincial Party” that would be renamed the “National Party” after a successful referendum on independence from Canada. The 2022 by-laws called for an independence referendum and included vague plans about establishing an Alberta “Constitution, Charter of Freedoms, Rights, & Responsibilities, and Declaration of Independence.”
The 2023 by-laws outline the creation of a new Alberta Republic, including the creation of a “Defense Force for the Republic” that would include an army, air force, cyber force, and navy (presumably the Alberta navy would have a home port at Cold Lake or Slave Lake).
The 2023 document also outlines APP plans to create a “Republic’s Reserve Bank” and create a “a mint for the Republic” that “will be evaluated in relation to three currency choices; Canadian, USA, or new currency minted in Alberta.”
The fundraising event was billed as an opportunity for the UCP leadership candidates to share their plans to protect Albertans from “the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 and World Economic Forum’s Great Reset.”
Only three of the seven UCP leadership candidates participated in the debate: Danielle Smith, Brian Jean and Todd Loewen.
“So part of when I decided I wanted to run [for Alberta premier], I knew how important it was to make sure that we addressed the issues of autonomy,” Smith said. “And I talked to Dr. Modry as one of my first steps. I said, ‘let’s try this together.’”
A UCP nomination meeting has not yet been scheduled in Edmonton-Riverview and I’m told that at least one or two other candidates might enter the contest.
A nomination vote in Livingstone-Macleod is scheduled for March 9, 10 and 11. The candidates in that race are Tanya Clemens, Town of Claresholm Mayor Chelsae Petrovic, and former pastor Don Whalen.
Chris Brown and I discuss the last month in the United Conservative Party leadership race, Danielle Smith’s unexpected rise to the top, and how a Smith led UCP will do against Notley’s NDP in 2023 (or sooner) on the latest episode of the Cross Border Interviews Podcast.
Watch the interview here:
Subscribe and listen to Chris Brown’s Cross Border Podcast on Apple and Spotify.
JASON: Hi there, it’s Premier Jason Kenney calling to tell you about how affordable houses are in Alberta.
CANADA: Ok, cool, eh.
JASON: Salaries are higher and we have mountains and a big mall. We also…
CANADA: Just a minute Jason I have another call.
DANIELLE: Hi, this is Danielle Smith the front runner to become the next Premier of Alberta. I’m calling to warn you that Justin Trudeau, international bankers and Greta Thunberg are building an army of climate change police to take away your trucks.
CANADA: Sorry, what?
DANIELLE: That’s why I’m going to pass a law that lets Alberta ignore federal laws.
DANIELLE: We need your vote, except if you’re a secret communist, then you’re not welcome in Alberta.
CANADA: Danielle I’m going to put you on hold.
TRAVIS: Hi, this is Travis Toews. I’m calling to tell you that Justin Trudeau’s climate change police are trespassing on your farm.
CANADA: Uh, I think that’s what Danielle Smith already called me about.
BRIAN: Hi, this is Brian Jean. I want to talk to you about Alberta Autonomy.
CANADA: Sorry, you want to talk to me about your anatomy?
BRIAN. No. Autonomy.
CANADA: Um, ok. Like separatism?
BRIAN: No, autonomy.
CANADA: Um, ok…
JASON: Hi, it’s Jason Kenney calling again. Have you thought about moving to Alberta?
CANADA: Uh, yeah, about that, I think we’re going to wait to see how things turn out next May. Do you have Rachel’s number?
With Danielle Smith‘s campaign for the United Conservative Party leadership appearing to pick up momentum, and recent endorsements from Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen, Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Nate Glubish, Edmonton-South West MLA Kaycee Madu, and Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn suggesting the mood in the UCP caucus is shifting in her favour, some people have been sharing links of a series of articles I wrote 13 years ago about Smith’s time on the disastrous 1998-1999 Calgary Board of Education.
Reading it now, I see it’s a little awkwardly formatted, so please forgive this young blogger from 2009.
It’s also important to recognize that the Calgary Board of Education in those years wasn’t a gong show just because of Danielle Smith. It was a real group effort.
The board of trustees was so dysfunctional that it was fired by the provincial government.
Smith’s current beliefs and past record on public education became more relevant after last week’s UCP leadership candidates forum at the Alberta Teachers’ Association summer conference in Banff, which you can watch here:
There ain’t no party like a fringe right-wing Alberta separatist party.
Less than two months after Paul Hinman was ousted as leader of the Wildrose Independence Party and replaced by interim leader Jeevan Mangat, it appears that a counter-kudatah (known outside Alberta as a “coup d’état”) has pushed out Hinman’s opponents.
An online statement and email to WIP members from former Wexit Alberta interim leader Kathy Flett, who identifies herself as the WIP VP Communications, says a false narrative is being put out by the former Provincial Board after a well-attended annual general meeting on July 23, 2022 in Red Deer.
“There have been repeated claims that a “Minority Group of 40 or so” members “Took Over” the AGM,” Flett writes. “The Facts tell a different story.”
“This weekend in Red Deer, history was made as Wildrose members stood steadfast for what they knew was right. Their tenacity and persistence forced those who thought they should remain on the board to finally walk out in shame.”
“What occurred yesterday is a sad example of what happens when a small group of individuals completely lose touch with the will of the majority.”
“The Wildrose Independence Party belongs to its members, not the Party Board of Governors, and, therefore, Rick Northey, Wes Caldwell, Bill Jones, et al, are no longer Governors of the Wildrose Independence Party.”
“As of this moment, they still control the party’s website and email system. As such, we advise you to disregard any communications originating from “Wildrosenation.com” until we’ve confirmed with you that it is, again, from us.”
According to Flett’s statement, the newly elected board includes President Angela Tabak (the party’s president in Cardston-Siksika), Chief Finance Officer Allan Wesley, and Secretary Gord Elliot (who until recently was President of the United Conservative Party constituency association in Calgary-North West).
The takeover appears to have pushed out President Rick Northey (the former President of the Wildrose Party association in Airdrie) and CFO Bill Jones.
As of this afternoon, the party’s website showed most of the party’s Board of Governors positions as vacant but still listed Northey and Jones, as well as former Conservative MP Rob Anders and separatist activist Bob Lefurgey as members of the party’s board.
It appears as though Hinman has been reinstated as party leader but Elections Alberta still lists Mangat as the party’s interim leader, so it’s not totally clear.
Hinman originally stepped into the role on an interim basis in 2020 but later became the party’s permanent leader when no one else ran for the leadership. He was leader of the Wildrose Alliance from 2005 to 2009 and was elected to the Legislature twice – as MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 and MLA for Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012. He briefly mounted a campaign for the UCP leadership in 2017 but withdrew before the nomination deadline and endorsed Jason Kenney.
The Wildrose Independence Party was created in 2020 as a merger of the Wexit Alberta group created after the federal Liberals were re-elected in 2019 and the Freedom Conservative Party, which was previously known as the Alberta First Party, Separation Party of Alberta, and the Western Freedom Party.
The WIP has suffered from poor fundraising returns in recent months, raising a measly $7,613 in the second quarter of 2022, and low support in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.
A recent push by UCP leadership candidates Danielle Smith, Brian Jean and Todd Loewen toward all out separatism or some form of provincial autonomy has given a second wind to Alberta separatists but sucked the wind out of the sails of the actual separatist parties.
Recent merger talks with the competing Independence Party of Alberta fell apart in June 2022. A statement on the IPA website lists Northey and Jones as key negotiators for the WIP in those talks.
The IPA, formerly known as the Alberta Independence Party, went through its own internal drama after the 2019 election and is now in the process of choosing its second new leader since that election. Former federal Liberal candidate and anti-COVID restrictions activist lawyer Katherine Kowalchuk is the only candidate in the race.
All this ongoing drama is almost par for the course for Alberta’s small cottage industry of right-wing separatist parties, but it raises the big question: How do they plan to fight Ottawa when they are so busy fighting themselves?