“We will not believe that result. We will not accept it, but we won’t even believe it, because our own polling here within our constituency is 72 per cent against Premier Kenney,” Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills president Rob Smith told CTV.
There’s a whole cabal of UCP MLAs who probably share Smith’s cynicism.
If Kenney wins he’ll have to decide the fate of his biggest critics in his own party.
What happens to Brian Jean? Leela Aheer? Angela Pitt? Jason Stephan? Peter Guthrie?
Cast them out and they’ll form another conservative party.
And then the UCP might as well drop the U.
So there’s the problem. Even if Kenney wins he still loses.
It’s a win-lose or lose-lose scenario.
It’s going to be a wild ride.
The UCP leadership review is probably going to take up most of the political oxygen in Alberta over the next few days, so I just wanted to note a few candidate nomination developments:
Former federal Liberal candidate and provincial Liberal leadership candidate Kerry Cundalis running for the Alberta Party nomination in Calgary-Elbow. She ran for the Alberta Liberal Party leadership in 2017 and joined the Alberta Party shortly afterward. A nomination meeting is scheduled for May 28, 2022.
Former cabinet minister David Eggen will be acclaimed as the Alberta NDP candidate in Edmonton-North West on May 18. Eggen is the second longest serving MLA currently in the Legislature, having represented Edmonton-Calder from 2004 to 2008 and 2012 to 2019, and Edmonton-North West from 2019 to the present.
NDP MLA Jon Carson announced today that he will not be seeking re-election in Edmonton-West Henday in the next election.
“Serving the people of Edmonton-West Henday has no doubt been the privilege of a lifetime,” Carson said in a statement posted on social media. “From our small campaign team huddled around the kitchen table in 2015 to the 2019 that was too close to call on election night… I know that our success was never my own, but always because of our strong team dedicated to creating a better future for Alberta families.”
Carson has represented west Edmonton since 2015 when he was elected as MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.
An Electrician by trade, he was one of 9 NDP MLAs under 30 years old elected in Notley Wave of 2015.
Carson was re-elected in 2019 in the newly redrawn Edmonton-West Henday riding in what was the closest race in Edmonton of that election. He finished 518 votes ahead of United Conservative Party candidate Nicole Williams, a former lobbyist who has spent the past 3 years as Chief of Staff to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.
Carson is the second NDP MLA to announce they are not running for re-election. Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehanannounced last month that he would not seek re-election.
The area, which includes parts of the former Edmonton-Calder and Edmonton-Meadowlark ridings, has swung between the NDP, Liberals and Progressive Conservatives over the past 40 years. Notable former MLAs include Liberals Grant Mitchell, Karen Leibovici, Progressive Conservative turned Liberal Raj Sherman, and NDP MLA David Eggen (who now represents Edmonton-North West).
Druh Farrell nominated in Calgary-Bow
Druh Farrell has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Bow. 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.
Farrell’s nomination has caused some tension with some local NDP organizers, including former president Krista Li, who have complained the party was too heavy handed in allowing the former city councilor to run.
The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA and Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides, who was elected in 2019 with 55 per cent of the vote, unseating NDP MLA Deborah Drever, who placed second with 34 per cent.
There’s an NDP race in Central Peace-Notley
There appears to be a contested NDP nomination in the northern rural Central Peace-Notley riding. Megan Cuirysek, a Research Officer at Northern Alberta Development Council, is challenging Fairview resident and Enviro Projects owner Lynn Lekisch.
The riding is currently represented by Independent MLA Todd Loewen, who was kicked out of the UCP Caucus for calling on Premier Jason Kenney to resign. He was elected in 2019 with 75 per cent of the vote.
The riding is not named after Rachel Notley, but after her father. Grant Notley represented Spirit River-Fairview, covering much of the region, in the Alberta Legislature from 1971 to 1984.
It is fairly quiet on the UCP nomination front, with the party largely focused on Kenney’s leadership review. There are a few updates though:
Former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith is busy campaigning for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod, including a recent meeting with the Citizens Supportive of Crowsnest Coal group. Smith is challenging first-term UCP MLA Roger Reid.
In his first piece for CBC, Jason Markusoff breakdowns which ridings current UCP members live in. Unsurprisingly, the three ridings with the most members eligible to vote in the leadership review are Cardston-Siksika and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, where nomination challengers Jodie Gateman and Tim Hoven were disqualified, and Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, where former Wildrose leader Brian Jean just won a by-election. All three are actively campaigning against Kenney in the review.
“Hey Dave, is Jason Kenney going to win the leadership review?”
It’s a question I get asked a lot these days.
I don’t know.
Anyone who tells you different probably has a personal or career stake in the game.
What was supposed to be a big in-person vote in Red Deer back in April turned into a province-wide mail in vote. And that loud swooshing sound you heard wasn’t the sound of a late winter Chinook but the sound of the goal posts moving.
And there’s strong feelings on both sides of this fight.
But commentary by out-of-Alberta conservatives, who probably have fond memories of Kenney’s two decades in Ottawa, almost always omit how intentionally and aggressively divisive he has been since stepping into the Premier’s Office.
Albertans who oppose, or even just dare to criticize, his government’s policies have been routinely derided and attacked by Kenney.
Are you an Albertan who opposed closing and selling provincial parks?
Then you’re a radical urban eco-marxist.
Did you oppose open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains?
Then you must be a radical urban eco-marxist who votes NDP (can you imagine telling that to a 5th generation cattle rancher from southern Alberta?).
You get the drift.
So, do Albertans see Kenney as the conservative philosopher king that his out-of-province admirers do?
Do normal UCP members?
Will Kenney win on May 18?
Will he get more than 50 per cent of the vote?
Your guess is probably as good as mine.
Will the deep divisions inside the UCP be healed?
Not a chance.
As veteran political columnist Graham Thomson signed off in a recent column, “No matter what happens that day, Alberta’s already wild politics will just get wilder.”
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But while the next election is scheduled to take place in May 2023, there is increasing speculation that Kenney could call an early summer or fall 2022 election if he wins the leadership review in order to clear out his growing chorus of opponents in the UCP Caucus.
The second-term MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford was first elected in 2015 and served as the NDP’s Minister of Indigenous Relations from 2016 to 2019.
Before his election, Feehan worked as a social worker, social work instructor at the University of Calgary, Vice President of Catholic Social Services, and Program Director of the Edmonton Social Planning Council.
Feehan was re-elected in 2019 with 54.8 per cent of the vote, ahead of UCP candidate Hannah Presakarchuk, who finished second with 34.7
Calgary-Glenmore: Sustainable energy development expert Nagwan Al-Guneid and communications professional Jennifer Burgess are seeking the NDP nomination scheduled for May 10, 2022.
Calgary-North: Moses Mariam is seeking the NDP nomination. Mariam is a Member Administrator at Calgary’s CommunityWise Resource Centre.
Central Peace-Notley: Fairview resident Lynn Lekisch is seeking the NDP nomination in Central Peace-Notley. She is the owner of Enviro Projects and has previously worked as an environmental project manager for various energy companies.
Part of the riding was represented by NDP MLA Marg McCuaig-Boyd from 2015 until she was defeated by UCP MLA Todd Loewen after the riding was redistributed in the 2019 election. Loewen was ejected from the UCP Caucus in May 2021 after calling for Premier Jason Kenney to resign.
Leduc-Beaumont: Paramedic Cam Heenan was nominated as the NDP candidate in Leduc-Beaumont. Heenan defeated Registered Nurse Chantelle Hosseiny to win the nomination.
“I became a paramedic because I wanted to help people. I want to see a better future for our province, and that’s what led me to wanting to join Rachel Notley’s team,” Hennan said. “I know that with her leadership, Alberta’s NDP can expand our public healthcare, invest in education, and ensure all Alberta families can afford their bills at the end of the month.”
The riding has been represented by UCP MLA Brad Rutherford since 2019 and was held by NDP MLA Shaye Anderson from 2015 to 2019.
Morinville-St. Albert: Former Sturgeon County Councillor Karen Shaw and teacher James Grondin will face off for the NDP nomination at a meeting scheduled on April 30.The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Dale Nally, who serves as Associate Minister of Natural Gas.
Sherwood Park:Kyle Kasawski is the second candidate to enter the NDP nomination in Sherwood Park, a suburban hamlet of 71,000 people located directly east of Edmonton.
Kasawski is President of Solar People, a solar energy company, and previously worked as a Client Development Director with Alberta Municipalities and as an Instructor in the NAIT Alternative Energy Technology Program where he taught Advanced Energy System Design and Energy Economics.
“I want to help create an Alberta with an amazing, affordable, high quality of life – where our kids go to excellent public schools, access to healthcare is dependable, and we have a few bucks left over at the end of each month after paying all of the bills,” Kasawski said when reached for comment. “I want this to be a place for people to live and thrive.”
Edmonton-Mill Woods: Christina Gray was nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods. Gray has represented the riding since 2015 and served as Minister of Labour from 2016 to 2019.
Edmonton-North West: MLA David Eggen has announced his plans to run for re-election. Eggen was first elected in 2004 and served as MLA for Edmonton-Calder from 2004 to 2008 and 2012 to 2019 before being re-elected in the redrawn Edmonton-North West riding in 2019. He served as Minister of Education from 2015 to 2019. A nomination meeting is scheduled for May 18, 2022.
The UCP has opened up nominations in a handful of ridings. Nominations are now open in Calgary-Cross, Calgary-Currie, Calgary-Foothills, Calgary-Peigan, Sherwood Park and Spruce Grove-Stony Plain. Unsurprisingly, these ridings are all represented by MLAs who would be described as Kenney-loyalists.
While most of the UCP MLAs representing these ridings are expected to seek re-election, only Calgary-Cross’ Mickey Amery, Sherwood Park’s Walker and Spruce Grove-Stony Plain MLA Searle Turton have confirmed their intentions.
Turton was first elected to the Legislature in 2019 after serving three-terms on Spruce Grove City Council. He currently serves as the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Labour and Immigration’s liaison to private sector unions, and he is the chairperson of the UCP’s Capital Region Caucus.
Meanwhile, newly elected UCP MLA, Kenney critic and leadership aspirant Brian Jean says he would reopen the UCP nomination in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre to allow disqualified candidate Tim Hoven to challenge cabinet minister Jason Nixon.
Nixon, Kenney’s chief lieutenant, was acclaimed for the UCP nomination after Hoven was disqualified by the party. Many political observers believe that Hoven was mounting a very strong challenge to Nixon in the nomination.
NDP fixated on Calgary
The NDP have been spending a lot of time in Calgary.
Rachel Notley and a group of MLAs and candidates were on hand for a nomination rally for Rosman Valencia in Calgary-East. The NDP believe significant gains in east and northeast Calgary are critical to their path to winning the next election.
NDP MLAs were also spotted door knocking in Canmore and Banff with Banff-Kananaskis candidate Sarah Elmeligi. I’m told Elmeligi was joined on the doors by Notley and MLAs Joe Ceci, Sarah Hoffman, Janis Irwin, Marlin Schmidt, Irfan Sabir and Shannon Phillips. Notley and Irwin also posted a photo on social media with Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno.
‘Three candidates are contesting the NDP nomination contest in Camrose’ are not a series of words I imagined writing even a year ago, yet here we are.
Business owner and former diplomat Richard Bruneau defeated Registered Psychiatric Nurse Tonya Ratushniak and educational assistant and recent city council candidate Wyatt Tanton to win the NDP nomination in Camrose.
“When attending Augustana their motto was ‘to lead and to serve,’ and this is my vision of how I would like to lead and lift people up in the community. A vision I believe Alberta’s NDP embodies,” Bruneau said in a press release announcing his win. “The UCP has not been serving the people of Alberta, and the pandemic highlighted the short-signed failures of UCP policy. Camrose deserves better than the UCP.”
Bruneau is a bookstore owner, farmer, former lecturer at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus and a former Canadian diplomat who served in Afghanistan, Jordan and Palestine. He lives with his family on a cattle farm.
Bruneau was joined by Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen at the nomination meeting and by Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin at a meet and greet in Camrose today.
The riding is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Jackie Lovely, who was first elected in 2019 with 65.2 per cent of the vote. This was Lovely’s third attempt at winning a seat in the Legislature, the first two being as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015.
Walker-McKitrick rematch being set up in Sherwood Park
First-term UCP MLA Jordan Walker is seeking his party’s nomination for re-election in Sherwood Park.
The UCP backbencher was first elected in one of the closer races in Edmonton’s surrounding suburbs in 2019 by narrowly unseating NDP MLA Annie McKitrick.
The stage is being set for a rematch in 2023, with McKitrick announcing last week that she plans to seek the NDP nomination to challenge Walker in the next election. This is a riding the NDP will need to win to form government.
Gurinder Singh Gill running for NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross
Gurinder Singh Gill is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross. Gill previously ran as the federal NDP candidate in Calgary-Skyview in the 2019 and 2021 elections. He placed third with 16.2 per cent of the vote behind victorious Liberal George Chahal and incumbent Conservative MP Jag Sahota in the last federal election.
The east Calgary riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Mickey Amery, who was elected in 2019 with 54.2 per cent by unseating NDP cabinet minister Ricardo Miranda, who finished second with 37.3 per cent.
Amery is the son of Moe Amery, who represented the neighbouring Calgary-East riding from 1993 until his defeat in the 2015 election.
MLA Guthrie endorses Danielle Smith’s challenging Roger Reid
Airdrie-Cochrane UCP MLA Peter Guthriehas endorsed former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith’s bid for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. Smith is challenging Guthrie’s caucus colleague Roger Reid for the nomination.
Smith is wasting no time making her mark in UCP circles as she eyes the nomination and the party leadership.
Tonight she will join Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan, a vocal Kenney critic, and former Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson to discuss the “Free Alberta Strategy.” And on April 23 she is joining Independent MLA Todd Loewen for a “Politics Uncensored” event in Three Hills.
Loewen is a former UCP Caucus chair who booted from the UCP Caucus in May 2021 after he publicly called on Premier Jason Kenney to resign.
Meanwhile, demonstrating how much bad blood remains between Smith and many UCP activists as a result of the 2014 Wildrose floor crossings, a Twitter account run by staff in Kenney’s office attacked Smith (and Brian Jean) by proclaiming that “I’ve always found it surprising that two people whose only track record is losing general elections, somehow feel they have all the answers.”
The “@UniteAlberta” twitter account is run by Deputy Director ofGovernment Communications and Speechwriter Harrison Fleming, who is currently on leave to work on Kenney’s leadership campaign.
Other senior staff on leave to work on their boss’s leadership review campaign are Chief of Staff Pam Livingston, Executive Director of Communications and Planning Brock Harrison, and Issues Manager Chad Hallman.
Meanwhile, the former Wildrose leader and Kenney-foe has been sworn-in as an MLA the Legislature. Newly elected Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean has rejoined UCP Caucus he left in 2018.
CBC reporter Michelle Bellefontaine tweeted today that Jean said Kenney has not spoken to him since he was elected as a UCP MLA in March.
NDP MLAs flock to Calgary
Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi will be nominated as her party’s candidate for re-election tonight.
“This community has shared with me their wisdom, their experiences, their hopes, and have trusted me to be their voice in the legislature,” said Pancholi. “I want to continue to work hard to help the families of this community – and across Alberta – seize the opportunities available for us to have a strong economic recovery.”
And with the next provincial election just over a year away, she, like most NDP MLAs, are spending a lot of time in Calgary – the expected battleground of the next election.
Pancholi was spotted door knocking in Calgary-Acadia with nomination candidate and Registered Nurse Diana Batten, and with NDP leader Rachel Notley and local candidate Janet Eremenko in Calgary-Currie.
Notley has been spending a lot of time in Calgary, including on the doors this week with Calgary-Edgemont candidate Julia Hayter. Notley will be headlining an April 9 nomination rally in Calgary-East where teacher Rosman Valencia is expected to be acclaimed.
Eggenwas spotted door-knocking with MLA Joe Ceci in Calgary-Buffalo and candidate Gurinder Brar in Calgary-North East
Irwin and Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman are planning to join NDP nomination candidate Marilyn North Peigan on the doors this weekend in the Tuxedo Park neighbourhood in Calgary-Klein. Irwin is also scheduled to spend time door-knocking with Eremenko in Calgary-Currie and Hayter in Calgary-Edgemont.
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 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.
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.
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).
We got the band back together for the final episode of the Daveberta Podcast. That’s right, folks. We are going on a semi-permanent hiatus. And to help mark this announcement, our good friend Ryan Hastman joined Dave Cournoyer and Adam Rozenhart for a trip down memory lane, reminiscing and reflecting on Alberta politics since we launched the Daveberta Podcast in 2017.
In our second segment, we were thrilled to welcome Alberta Party leader Barry Morishita as our guest on this episode to talk about his time as Mayor of Brooks and President of the AUMA, and why he decided to make the jump into provincial politics (he also confirmed his plans to run in the Brooks-Medicine Hat riding in the next election).
Thank you to our friends at the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported, for their support over the years. Make sure to check out their growing roster of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.
We’d like to send a big heartfelt thank you to everyone who has listened, subscribed to, supported, and joined us as a guest on the podcast over the years. It has been a lot of fun for us, and even more fun that many of you joined us on this ride (and a special thanks to our friend Mountain Ted for your always insightful and interesting questions).
We are signing off for now, but we are still around and might pop up again with some new special episodes when next year’s provincial election is called. Stay tuned.
And, of course, Dave will continue to write about Alberta politics and obscure Alberta political history at Daveberta.ca.
Take care, stay safe, be kind, and see you next time.
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.
We covered a lot of ground, including the recent scandal involving Edmonton-South West United Conservative Party MLA Kaycee Madu, the leadership challenges faced by Premier Jason Kenney, the role of Brian Jean in the upcoming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election, and the most likely paths to victory for Kenney and Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley in 2023.