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Alberta Politics

Sharif Haji defeats MLA Chris Nielsen in Edmonton-Decore NDP race, UCP choose Sayid Ahmed in same north Edmonton riding

Sharif Haji defeated MLA Chris Nielsen to win the Alberta NDP nomination in Edmonton-Decore.

“As a immigrant, as a black person, as a Muslim person, and as someone who has spent years working in community building, I hope to empower voices that have not always been heard in the halls of power,” said Haji. “I believe that we can all be uplifted through our collective efforts and that government has a responsibility to address the needs of all Albertans.”

Haji is the executive director of the Africa Centre and previously worked as for the provincial government’s departments of Health and Seniors and Housing. He has a master’s degree in public health from the University of Alberta.

Edmonton-Decore MLA Chris Nielsen (center) at a demonstration with members of United Nurses of Alberta
Edmonton-Decore MLA Chris Nielsen (center) at a demonstration with members of United Nurses of Alberta

Nielsen has represented the north Edmonton riding since 2015 and is the first incumbent MLA to lost their party’s nomination during this election cycle.

And also in Edmonton-Decore, Sayid Ahmed has been acclaimed as the United Conservative Party candidate. Ahmed is a manager in the provincial Department of Health and Vice President of Policy for the Alberta Advisory Board of the Conservative Black Congress of Canada.

Sayid Ahmed and UCP MLA Jordan Walker

The Edmonton-Decore riding is named after former Edmonton mayor and Liberal MLA Laurence Decore, who represented the north end riding of Edmonton-Glengarry from 1989 to 1997. The riding was renamed in his honour ahead of the 2004 election.

MLA Decore’s successors included Liberal MLAs Bill Bonner (1997-2004) and Bill Bonko (2004-2008), Progressive Conservative MLA Janice Sarich (2008-2015), and Nielsen (2015-present). 

NDP nominate retired teacher in Brooks-Medicine Hat

Gwendoline Dirk was nominated as the NDP candidate in Brooks-Medicine Hat. The retired school teacher currently serves on the Medicine Hat Police Commission.

“All of the communities in this area face unique challenges, and that can change from town to town and even from farm to farm,” Dirk said. “We need folks in the legislature that are listening and collaborating with these communities to address the challenges they face, and I am confident I can be that voice on Rachel Notley’s team.”

Camrose UCP open nominations

Jackie Lovely MLA Camrose UCP
Jackie Lovely

The UCP have opened nominations in Camrose, where first term MLA Jackie Lovely is facing a challenge from Beaver County Reeve Kevin Smook. Lovely was elected in Camrose in 2019 after running as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015. Smook ran as the Alberta Party candidate in Camrose in 2019.

The UCP have also set June 29 as the date of the nomination meeting in Edmonton-South West. Labour Minister Kaycee Madu is being challenged by window and door restoration company owner and former champion Moldovan table tennis Slava Cravcenco.

And in the neighbouring riding to the north, Edmonton-West Henday, the NDP are expected to acclaim lawyer Brooks Arcand-Paul as their candidate at a June 29 nomination meeting.

On the doors

NDP leader Rachel Notley and Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen were spotted doorknocking with candidate Diana Batten in Calgary-Acadia.

Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin and St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud joined Lethbridge-West Shannon Phillips at Lethbridge pride celebrations this weekend.

UCP leadership candidate Travis Toews was doorknocking with MLA Josephine Pon in Calgary-Beddington.

Toews campaign did not respond to questions from the media about his stance on womens’ access to abortion services following the repeal of Roe v. Wade in the United States.

Anti-abortion activist MP Arnold Viersen, celebrated the decision by the US Supreme Court last week. Viersen has reportedly endorsed Toews in the UCP leadership race.


I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

(And, I know I’ve said this before but feel free to sign up for the Daveberta Substack.)

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Alberta Politics

Candidate nomination races heat up as UCP leadership race takes the spotlight

The United Conservative Party leadership race is taking the spotlight but Alberta’s political parties are chugging along with candidate nominations ahead of a provincial election that is scheduled for next May but could happen anytime after the new UCP leader is chosen.

As of today, the Alberta NDP has nominated 31 candidates, the UCP has nominated 23, and two Alberta Party candidates have been nominated.

Here are the latest updates:

The incumbents

  • Second-term MLA Lorne Dach was nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-McClung, the riding he has represented since 2015. “I will make sure that my community continues to have a champion in the legislature,” Dach said in a statement. “Alberta’s NDP has spent our time as Official Opposition listening to Albertans and what they need to build their future’s here. I am so happy for the opportunity to keep working for Edmonton-McClung, to ensure they have access to quality public healthcare, good paying jobs, and can afford the roof over their head.”
  • Whitney Issik UCP Calgary-Glenmore MLA candidate
    Whitney Issik

    UCP MLA Mike Ellis was nominated in Calgary-West and UCP MLA Whitney Issik was nominated in Calgary-Glenmore.

  • Candidate nominations are now open in four UCP held ridings: Banff-Kananaskis (MLA Miranda Rosin), Calgary-Hays (MLA Ric McIver), Calgary-North (MLA Mohammad Yaseen), and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake (MLA Devin Dreeshen).

The incumbents and challengers

  • UCP MLA Kaycee Madu will face a nomination challenge from Slava Cravcenco in Edmonton-South West on June 29. This is the first time in this election cycle that the UCP have allowed an incumbent to be challenged in a nomination vote. Madu currently serves as Minister of Labour and was removed from his previous role as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General after it was made public that he phoned Edmonton police chief Dale McFee after getting a districted driving ticket. Madu was first elected in 2019 with 44 per cent of the vote.
  • Sharif Haji Edmonton-Decore NDP nomination candidate
    Sharif Haji (source: Dave Cournoyer)

    MLA Chris Nielsen is facing a challenge for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Decore from Africa Centre executive director Sharif Haji. Nielsen was first elected in 2015. A nomination vote is being held on June 24 and 25. 

The challengers

I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

(And, I know I’ve said this before but feel free to sign up for the Daveberta Substack.)

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Alberta Politics

NDP choose RN Diana Batten in Calgary-Acadia, UCP push ahead with nominations in Calgary and Edmonton

The Alberta NDP nominated Registered Nurse Diana Batten in Calgary-Acadia.

“This community is especially tired of the lack of professionalism their MLA has shown in government. They’re tired of the constant shuffling, the infighting, and the war the UCP have taken on our healthcare system,” Batten said in a statement following the nomination meeting.

“I’m here to join Rachel Notley and Alberta’s NDP on their road to fix the mess the UCP has created, ensure my community has access to public healthcare, good paying jobs, and to make sure we can trust our government again,” she said.

United Conservative Party MLA Tyler Shandro has confirmed he plans to run for re-election in Calgary-Acadia.

Shandro is currently serving as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General and will face three days of hearings in October to determine if he broke the Law Society of Alberta’s Code of Conduct.

Shandro was first elected in 2019 with 54 per cent of the vote.

UCP open nominations in Calgary-Glenmore, Calgary-West, and Edmonton-South West

Jason Kenney and Kaycee Madu (source: YouTube)
Jason Kenney and Kaycee Madu (source: YouTube)

Despite not knowing who will lead the UCP into the next election, the governing conservative party is continuing to nominate candidates. 

The UCP announced this week that nominations are open in Calgary-Glenmore (currenty represented by UCP MLA Whitney Issik), Calgary-West (currenty represented by UCP MLA Mike Ellis) and Edmonton-South West (currenty represented by UCP MLA Kaycee Madu).

The deadline for prospective candidates to apply to run for the nomination is June 7. 

These three MLAs certainly fall in the Kenney camp of the UCP.

It remains unclear whether the party will allow two former UCP MLAs, and big Kenney critics, Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen, to rejoin and run under the UCP banner in the next election.

Loewen has publicly mused about running for the party leadership.

Longtime teacher running for NDP nomination in Brooks-Medicine Hat

Retired teacher Gwendoline Dirk is seeking the NDP nomination in Brooks-Medicine Hat.

Dirk spent 33 years teaching in different school systems, including the last 13 years of her career at Medicine Hat College. She is a member of the Medicine Hat Police Commission and ran for the Medicine Hat Public School Board in 2021.

Her spouse, Peter Mueller, ran for the NDP against Drew Barnes in the neighbouring Cypress-Medicine Hat riding in the 2019 election.

The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting for June 23.

The riding is currently represented by first-term United Conservative Party MLA Michaela Frey. Alberta Party leader and former Brooks mayor Barry Morishita was nominated as his party’s candidate last week.

Former MLA Barb Miller enters NDP race in Red Deer-South

Barb Miller MLA Red Deer South
Barb Miller

Former MLA Barb Miller will challenge city lawyer Michelle Baer for the NDP nomination contest in Red Deer-South on June 18, 2022.

Miller represented the riding from 2015 to 2019. Before her election in 2015 she worked as a cashier at Safeway and was President of the Red Deer and District Labour Council.

Miller was defeated by UCP MLA Jason Stephan in the 2019 election.

More nomination news

Edmonton-Meadows MLA Jasvir Deol and Edmonton-Rutherford nomination candidate Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse will be nominated as NDP candidates on May 28.

The Alberta Party will nominate lawyer and past provincial Liberal Party leadership candidate Kerry Cundal in Calgary-Elbow on May 29.

University of Calgary Associate Law Professor Shaun Fluker and union activist and past candidate Steve Durrell are seeking the NDP nomination in Airdrie-Cochrane. A nomination meeting is being held on May 30.

And in Livingstone-Macleod, where first-term MLA Roger Reid is being challenged by UCP leadership aspirant and former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, the town council of High River this week voted for a permanent ban on new coal exploration and development in the Rocky Mountains.

And here are the upcoming candidate nomination meetings:

  • Edmonton-Meadows NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Edmonton-Rutherford NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Calgary-Elbow AP: May 29, 2022
  • Airdrie-Cochrane NDP: May 30, 2022
  • Edmonton-Riverview NDP: June 7, 2022
  • Edmonton-McClung NDP: June 8, 2022
  • Strathcona-Sherwood Park NDP: June 9, 2022
  • Edmonton-South West NDP: June 18, 2022
  • Red Deer-South NDP: June 18, 2022
  • Brooks-Medicine Hat NDP: June 23, 2022
  • Edmonton-Decore NDP: June 25, 2022
Categories
Alberta Politics

Doug Schweitzer’s out. Senior UCP Minister not running for leadership or re-election.

Doug Schweitzer is not running for the leadership of the United Conservative Party and not running for re-election as MLA for Calgary-Elbow.

The first-term MLA and former UCP leadership candidate issued a Victoria Day statement announcing that he will be stepping out of elected politics when the next election is called. He is the first UCP cabinet minister to announce plans to leave office in 2023.

Doug Schweitzer's statement announcing he will not run for re-election.
Doug Schweitzer’s statement announcing he will not run for re-election.

Largely shying away from social conservative issues embraced by some of his colleagues, he was widely named as someone who could take up the mantle of the business conservative-style candidate for the UCP leadership.

Schweitzer was first elected in 2019 by defeating Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark. He won with 44 per cent of the vote, compared to 30 per cent for Clark and 23 per cent for Alberta NDP candidate Janet Eremenko (who is now nominated as the NDP candidate in the neighbouring Calgary-Currie).

Samir Kayande Alberta NDP Nomination Calgary-Elbow
Samir Kayande (source: Pembina Instittute)

Premier Jason Kenney chose him as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General when the first UCP cabinet was sworn-in and shuffled him to Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation in 2020.

While he was involved in some UCP controversies, like the creation of the Energy War Room and the Allan Inquiry, I think it’s fair to say it appears he will walk away from politics largely untarnished by the political games that recently brought down Kenney.

The former downtown Calgary lawyer and past CEO of the Manitoba PC Party was Jim Prentice‘s campaign manager in 2014 and very nearly ran for Alberta Progressive Conservative Party leadership in 2017. He instead served as Kenney’s scrutineer in that race and soon after ran for the UCP leadership, finishing third in that contest with 7.3 per cent of the vote.

This leaves an open race for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Elbow, a riding that is considered competitive in the next election.

Kerry Cundal Liberal Calgary
Kerry Cundal

The NDP are putting their hopes in energy analyst Samir Kayande and lawyer and former federal Liberal Party candidate Kerry Cundal recently announced she will be running for the Alberta Party nomination on May 29.

The riding has been somewhat of a swing-riding for the past 15 years after Liberal Craig Cheffins won the 2007 by-election to replace former premier Ralph Klein, who had represented the south west Calgary riding since 1989.

Clark almost won a 2014 by-election to replace another former premier, Alison Redford, and went on to win in the 2015 election.

More nomination news

  • Alberta Party leader Barry Morishita was nominated as his party’s candidate in Brooks-Medicine Hat at a May 17 meeting, which was pushed up from a previously scheduled May 25 meeting.
  • Registered Nurse Diana Batten is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Acadia on May 26.
  • Edmonton-Meadows MLA Jasvir Deol will be nominated as his party’s candidate on May 28. He was first elected in 2019.
  • Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse will be nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Rutherford on May 28. She succeeds two-term MLA Richard Feehan, who is not seeking re-election.
  • Shiraz Mir is the second candidate to announce their candidacy for the NDP nomination in Calgary-North West.
  • Jeff Manchak is the third candidate to enter the NDP race in Sherwood Park. Already in the race are former MLA Annie McKitrick and solar energy expert Kyle Kasawski.

And here are the upcoming candidate nomination meetings:

  • Calgary-Acadia NDP: May 26, 2022
  • Edmonton-Meadows NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Edmonton-Rutherford NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Calgary-Elbow AP: May 29, 2022
  • Airdrie-Cochrane NDP: May 30, 2022
  • Edmonton-Riverview NDP: June 7, 2022
  • Edmonton-McClung NDP: June 8, 2022
  • Strathcona-Sherwood Park NDP: June 9, 2022
  • Edmonton-South West NDP: June 18, 2022
  • Red Deer-South NDP: June 18, 2022
  • Edmonton-Decore NDP: June 25, 2022

I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

(And, I know I’ve said this before but feel free to sign up for the Daveberta Substack.)

Categories
Alberta Politics

Alberta Party leader Barry Morishita to be nominated in Brooks-Medicine Hat on May 25

The Alberta Party has scheduled a candidate nomination meeting in Brooks-Medicine Hat for May 25. Party leader Barry Morishita is running there.

Morishita was Mayor of Brooks from 2016 to 2021 and was first elected as a city Councillor in 1998. He was President of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association from 2017 to 2021 and became leader of the Alberta Party in September 2021.

The Alberta Party increased its support to 9 per cent of the province-wide vote in 2019 but was unable to elect any candidates.

Then-party leader Stephen Mandel was defeated in his bid for election in Edmonton-McClung, as were incumbent Alberta Party MLAs Greg Clark in Calgary-Elbow and Rick Fraser in Calgary-South East.

This is Morishita’s second time running for provincial office.

In 2001, he finished second with 15 per cent of the vote in Strathmore-Brooks as the Liberal Party candidate behind then-Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Lyle Oberg.

Brooks-Medicine Hat is a natural place for Morishita to run in the next election, but it will be an uphill battle. Incumbent United Conservative Party MLA Michaela Frey was elected in 2019 with 60 per cent of the vote.

Sign up for the Daveberta Substack

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Sign up at daveberta.substack.com

 

Categories
Alberta Politics

Former City Councillor Druh Farrell running for NDP in Calgary-Bow, UCP MLAs Prasad Panda and Rebecca Schulz running for re-election

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 Medicine Hat News reports on nomination news in Brooks-Medicine Hat and Cypress-Medicine Hat.
  • 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.
  • UCP candidate Brian Jean appears to be more focused on ousting Jason Kenney at the April 9 leadership review and less focused on the by-election he is running in

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. 

And candidate nomination are ramping up. Here are the upcoming nomination meetings that have been scheduled: 

  • Calgary-Elbow NDP: March 5, 2022
  • Calgary-Bhullar-McCall NDP: March 10, 2022
  • Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland NDP: March 12, 2022 
  • Lesser Slave Lake NDP: March 13, 2022
  • Calgary-Shaw UCP: March 21, 2022
  • Calgary-South East UCP: March 21, 2022
  • Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre UCP: March 21, 2022
  • Calgary-Edgemont UCP: March 24, 2022
  • Calgary-Klein UCP: March 24, 2022
  • St. Albert NDP: March 24, 2022
  • Calgary-Klein NDP: March 26, 2022
  • Camrose NDP: April 3, 2022
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Alberta Politics

UCP opens nominations in 4 ridings, Tonya Ratushniak running for NDP nomination in Camrose, Saad Siddiq seeks UCP nomination in Edmonton-South

The United Conservative Party has opened candidate nominations in four ridings held by MLAs loyal to Premier Jason Kenney.

Dates for nomination meetings haven’t been announced but a February 28 deadline for candidates to put their names forward has been announced for Calgary-South East (represented by MLA Matt Jones), Calgary-Shaw (represented by Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz), Cardston-Siksika (represented by UCP Caucus Whip Joseph Schow) and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre (represented by Environment & Parks Minister and Government House leader Jason Nixon).

Farmer Tim Hoven has announced his plans to challenge Nixon for the nomination and will be launching his campaign at the James River Community Hall on Feb. 17. Hoven was a municipal councillor in Clearwater County from 2017 until his defeat in the 2021 election.

Nurse Tonya Ratushniak running for NDP nomination in Camrose

Registered Psychiatric Nurse Tonya Ratushniak is seeking the NDP nomination in the Camrose riding.

Tonya Ratushniak NDP Camrose
Tonya Ratushniak

“I’m running to become the next NDP candidate in Camrose because mental health, I believe, will be the next wave we need to address. I have the education, passion and experience to ensure the needs of mental health are no longer ignored. No longer thought of as the ugly stepchild of the healthcare system.”

“I see firsthand how rural mental health services have been eroded by UCP policies,” she said. “Wait times have become so long that many problems go undiagnosed, treatment centers have been closed and mental health beds have been reduced.”

Ratushniak works at St. Mary’s Hospital in Camrose as a Mental Health Therapist and serves as the President of the College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses.

She was the federal NDP candidate in the 2021 election in Battle River-Crowfoot, where she placed second and earned 9.8 per cent of the vote.

Saad Siddiq running for UCP nomination in Edmonton-South

Engineer Saad Siddiq is seeking the UCP nomination in Edmonton-South.

Saad Siddiq United Conservative party Edmonton south
Saad Siddiq

“The UCP party is at a cross roads about its identity and I firmly believe that Millennials and Gen-Z representation must be there to make sure our voices are heard,” Siddiq said. “It’s about time we take the charge into our own hands and make Alberta affordable, a place where you have the freedom to exercise your rights and make your own choices and a symbol of tolerance for everyone living in this province and beyond.”

Siddiq is a 24-year old oil and gas engineer who graduated from the University of Calgary in 2020 and has been involved in the Conservative Student Association.

The riding is currently represented by Independent MLA Thomas Dang, who was first elected in 2015 and 2019 under the NDP banner. He left the NDP Caucus in December 2021 after the RCMP executed a search warrant of his house.

Alberta Party leader running in Brooks-Medicine Hat

Alberta Party leader Barry Morishita confirmed on this week’s episode of the Daveberta Podcast that he plans to seek his party’s nomination to run in his home riding when the next election is called. Morishita served as Mayor of the City of Brooks from 2016 to 2021 and served on city council from 1998 to 2004 and 2010 to 2016. The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Michaela Frey.

Public school teacher second candidate in Calgary-East NDP race

Public school teacher Rosman Valencia is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-East.

“I’m running to ensure the voice of our communities in Calgary-East can be heard and be a part of the decision making in shaping Alberta’s future,” said Valencia. “Not only has the UCP’s response to Covid-19 been a daily challenge for us in the classroom, but I also see families struggling with UCP increases to their expenses like insurance, income tax, and electricity. That’s the last thing families need right now.”

Rosman holds a Bachelor of Secondary Education from the Philippine Normal University-Manila and became a teacher in Alberta through the University of Calgary’s Bridge to Teaching Program.

International Avenue Business Revitalization Zone executive director Alison Karim-McSwiney is also seeking the NDP nomination.

Here are a few other nomination updates:

Calgary-Elbow: Energy analyst Samir Kayande has been acclaimed as the NDP candidate. The party will hold an official nomination meeting on March 5. Kayande announced his candidacy in November 2021.

Calgary-North East: Gurinder Brar is expected to be acclaimed as the NDP candidate at a February 17 nomination meeting. Brar announced his candidacy in January 2022.


I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

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Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 83: Take care, stay safe, be kind, and see you next time.

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.

Barry Morishita

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).

You can listen to and find archived episodes of the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online.

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).

Daveberta Podcast - Ryan Hastman Adam Rozenhart Dave Cournoyer
The OG Daveberta Podcast crew. Ryan Hastman, Adam Rozenhart and Dave Cournoyer (Jan. 2018)

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.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Making the Alberta Party relevant is Barry Morishita’s new job

Brooks Mayor Barry Morishita has been acclaimed as leader of the Alberta Party.

“As a compassionate leader and experienced community builder, I believe that a new, fresh approach to politics is what Albertans need right now and that the Alberta Party is the vehicle to drive that positive change,” Morishita said in a press statement released by the party.

Kaycee Madu Edmonton South West
Kaycee Madu (Source: Twitter)

Morishita was first elected to Brooks City Council in 1998 and became Mayor of Brooks in 2016 after previous mayor Martin Shields was elected as the Conservative Member of Parliament for Bow River.

He was elected President of the Alberta Urban Municipality Association in 2017 and was a vocal critic of the United Conservative Party government’s overhaul of municipal election laws, going so far as to describe relations between municipalities and then-Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu as “broken.”

This is not his first foray into provincial politics. Like other leaders of the Alberta Party, Morishita’s past political experience was as a member of another political party.

He ran for Nancy MacBeth‘s Alberta Liberals in Strathmore-Brooks in 2001, placing second with 15.5 per cent of the vote behind Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Lyle Oberg. He had previously been active with the Liberal Party as a delegate to the convention that chose Laurence Decore as party leader in 1988.

Lyle Oberg
Lyle Oberg

He also made a $300 donation to the PC Party in Strathmore-Brooks in 2014.

The small moderate conseravtive political party broke through into the Legislature in 2015 when leader Greg Clark, who worked as a Liberal Caucus staffer in his youth, was elected in Calgary-Elbow. Despite growing its popular vote, the party was shut out of the Legislature in 2019 under the leadership of former Edmonton mayor and PC cabinet minister Stephen Mandel.

The Alberta Party has languished in obscurity since the 2019 election, with interim leader Jacquie Fenske, a former PC MLA from Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, holding the reins until a permanent leader was named.

Doug Griffiths
Doug Griffiths

According to a report from the Morinville News, former Morinville Mayor and past AUMA President Lisa Holmes and former Battle River-Wainwright PC MLA Doug Griffiths are part of Morishita’s transition team.

The challenges facing Morishita and his party are steep:

  1. Make his party relevant. Rachel Notley‘s NDP have led in the polls since November 2020 and have a commanding lead in fundraising. It is going to be challenging for the Alberta Party to convince Albertans who want Jason Kenney out of the Premier’s Office that they are the credible alternative.
  2. Winning a seat in the next election and getting his party back into the Legislature. Brooks-Medicine Hat will be the natural place for Morishita to run but it will be an uphill climb to win in the lopsidedly conservative voting district currently represented by UCP MLA Michaela Glasgo.There will also be a by-election held in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche in the next six months following the resignation of Laila Goodridge, who is running in the federal election.
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Alberta Politics

UCP backbenchers revolt against mild public health restrictions as COVID third wave hits Alberta

New cases of COVID-19 are on the rise and the third wave of the global pandemic is hitting Alberta, but that did not deter a group of nearly 20 United Conservative Party MLAs from publicly speaking out against the provincial government’s implementation of mild public health restrictions in response.

Like the virus, the group of COVID critics inside the UCP Caucus has grown exponentially from the original six-pack of MLAs who publicly spoke out against public health measures at the beginning of March. The public letter signed by 15 UCP MLAs criticized Premier Jason Kenney for moving back to Step 1 of the province’s mild public health measures in response to the spike in new cases, which is largely a result of a vicious new variant of the deadly virus.

The group of 15 includes Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper, who made an unusual move for a Speaker of the Assembly to publicly criticize the government, and already open COVID critics Drew Barnes and Angela Pitt, who recently split from the national End the Lockdown Caucus after Ontario MPP Randy Hillier posted a social media meme comparing public health restrictions to the Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. The UCP group also includes Tracy Allard, whose Christmas vacation to Hawaii cost her her job of Municipal Affairs Minister.

The letter signed by the 15 MLAs was soon after endorsed by Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright MLA Garth Rowswell and West Yellowhead MLA Martin Long, who also serves as the parliamentary secretary for small business. Also signalling support for the letter’s intentions was Calgary Member of Parliament Michelle Rempel-Garner, who serves as the Official Opposition Health Critic in Ottawa.

Peace River MLA Dan Williams, a long-time Kenney acolyte from Ottawa, did not endorse the letter but posted a video on social media criticizing the decision by Alberta Health Services to close down the rebel GraceLife Church, which had been holding in-person services in defiance of the government’s public health orders. He was joined in this call by Ontario MP Derek Sloan, who was kicked out of the federal Conservative caucus for his extreme social conservative views.

Active COVID-19 cases in Alberta (chart from @CBCFletch on Twitter)
Active COVID-19 cases in Alberta (chart from @CBCFletch on Twitter)

That the leaders of the UCP caucus mutiny appear to largely be from the former Wildrose caucus, or Wildrose-wing of the party, is not surprising. The former opposition party was notoriously raucous and unwilling to bow to the kind of centralized party leadership that Kenney would have become accustomed to during his many years in Ottawa.

It was also clear during Kenney’s press conference on Tuesday that he expected a negative reaction from his caucus. A significant portion of Kenney’s lecture was dedicated to managing MLAs expectations and acknowledging the differences of opinion in his caucus. Difference of opinion is one thing, but this is something entirely different.

The public health restrictions that Alberta fell back to earlier this week are nothing close to what restrictions have looked like in jurisdictions that have actually implemented lockdowns. Alberta schools are still open for in-person classes, and Albertans can still gather with up to 10 people outside, go shopping for non-essential items, get a haircut or a massage, dine or have drinks on a restaurant patio, and exercise at a gym with a personal trainer.

Jason Kenney
Premier Jason Kenney on April 6, 2021.

There is no doubt a lot of Albertans are frustrated about how the provincial government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Kenney government has not helped itself by releasing a string of confusing and inconsistent public health measures and messaging to Albertans about the government’s response.

While public opinion polling suggests many Albertans would like the government to impose stronger measures to stop the spread of the deadly virus, there is a loud minority who want to see the current restrictions lifted.

It is yet to be seen whether the revolt will extend beyond this strongly worded letter, but there is little doubt these MLAs are actively undermining the work being done by public health professionals and health care workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The caucus revolt is probably a reflection of deepening regional and partisan divides in Alberta, with most of the COVID Caucus MLAs representing largely rural and small town districts. It is notable that no UCP MLAs from Calgary, so far the hardest hit in the third wave, have publicly joined the revolt.

It also suggests that the United Conservative Party is not as united as its leader would like Albertans to believe.

Kenney’s personal approval ratings and support for his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic plummeted over the past 13 months, and his party has floundered in the polls, finishing behind Rachel Notley’s NDP in a handful of recent voter opinion polls. The rise of the separatist Wildrose Independence Party in rural Alberta has some backbench UCP MLAs nervously looking over their right shoulders.

In some ways, the revolt probably serves as a welcome distraction to some in the UCP from the never ending string of scandals and policy failures, most recently the failure to stop the Carbon Tax at the Supreme Court, the loss of $1.5 billion of public money when the Keystone XL Pipeline was cancelled, the failure to sign a new contract with Alberta doctors, the retreat on open-pit coal mining, and the open rebellion by parents against the draft K-6 curriculum.

Under normal circumstances it would be hard to believe that this kind of caucus revolt would happen on a day when more than 1,300 new cases of COVID were reported and doctors are calling for a circuit breaker response, but in today’s world of Alberta politics, it would be harder to believe this would happen if the UCP were not floundering so deeply in the polls.

The original 15 UCP MLAs who signed the letter

  • Tracy Allard, MLA Grande Prairie
  • Drew Barnes, MLA Cypress-Medicine Hat
  • Nathan Cooper, MLA Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills
  • Michaela Glasgo, MLA Brooks-Medicine Hat
  • Dave Hanson, MLA Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul
  • Nate Horner, MLA Drumheller-Stettler
  • Todd Loewen, MLA Central Peace-Notley
  • Ron Orr, MLA Lacombe-Ponoka
  • Angela Pitt, MLA Airdrie-East
  • Roger Reid, MLA Livingstone-Macleod
  • Miranda Rosin, MLA Banff-Kananaskis
  • RJ Sigurdson, MLA Highwood
  • Mark Smith, Drayton Valley-Devon
  • Jason Stephan, Red Deer-South
  • Glenn van Dijken, Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock
Categories
Alberta Politics

Alberta back to Step 1 after a long-weekend of confusing COVID communications

While most Albertans stuck close to home or gathered in small groups to celebrate Easter over the long weekend, the usual fun of watching the kids hunt for chocolate eggs on Sunday morning was accompanied by a growing unease about the third-wave of COVID-19 that has hit Alberta.

Cases started to rise late last week, and over the weekend the province was reporting up to 1,100 new cases of COVID each day. But despite the growing spike of new cases, our elected officials were nowhere to be seen.

A daily thread of ominously vague tweets from the office of Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw was the source of most information released by the government over the four-day long weekend.

Dr. Hinshaw’s tweets also announced a series of outbreaks of COVID-19 variants in parts of the province but did not include any specific details about where those outbreaks were happening. The tweets also stated that the variant came to Alberta from a traveller, but it appeared as though reporters who asked where that traveller came from were given different answers.

Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA Michaela Glasgo tried to put a positive spin on Dr. Hinshaw’s tweets when she tweeted that it was good news that hospitalizations were “stable” but there was no explanation what that meant and it was clear the backbench United Conservative Party MLA was just as out of the loop as the rest of us.

The third wave of COVID had arrived and our leaders took the weekend off.

A press conference originally scheduled for Monday was bumped to Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. It was then rescheduled to 4:30 p.m., but as Premier Jason Kenney was joining Dr. Hinshaw, it ended up being delayed until 4:45 p.m.

When he finally arrived at the podium, Kenney announced that the province was going back to Step 1 restrictions. When Kenney was done, Health Minister Tyler Shandro took to the podium to essentially repeat the Premier’s speaking notes.

This is far from a circuit breaker that we are seeing in other provinces or a lockdown that we have seen in other countries or the COVID Zero approach that has nearly eliminated the virus in the Atlantic provinces and northern territories.

Kenney acknowledged that many Albertans are frustrated with the length of the pandemic and has tried to square the blame on the federal government over vaccine supply. A good part of Kenney’s speech was dedicated to caucus management, as many of his UCP MLAs are openly critical of public health restrictions and many more have expressed these views behind closed doors.

But it has become clear that Kenney’s start-stop approach to dealing with the pandemic and his government’s selective willingness to enforce the rules has contributed to the fatigue – and growing anger that Kenney is unwilling to make tough decisions that could alienate part of his conservative base of supporters.

Taking a step back to Step 1 today was a good choice, but it seems likely that it will take more serious actions to stop the renewed spread of the COVID-19 variant in Alberta. If this doesn’t work, look for increased restrictions in the next week or two.


Nenshi not running for re-election

The big political news coming out of Calgary today was the announcement by Mayor Naheed Nenshi that he will not seek re-election in the October municipal elections.

First elected in 2010, and re-elected in 2013 and 2017, Nenshi has dominated Calgary politics and reshaped many Canadians’ views of Calgary as a more urban, more progressive and more forward-thinking city. He is a giant in Alberta politics and he will be missed.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Kenney’s weak response to Hot Holiday Scandal exposes rifts inside the UCP

You could almost feel the collective anger of Albertans building as news trickled out yesterday that more and more United Conservative Party MLAs had ignored their own government’s COVID-19 recommendations to stay home and cancel any non-essential international travel over the Christmas break. 

Despite receiving the same recommendations against non-essential international holidays that every other Albertan has been told by the government since March 2020, at least five UCP MLAs, including one cabinet minister, decided the recommendations put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 did not apply to them and instead jetted off to hotter locales.

As of today, we know the following UCP cabinet ministers, MLAs and senior political staffers have travelled internationally in recent weeks, or are just now returning home from abroad:

  • Tracy Allard, MLA for Grande Prairie and Minister of Municipal Affairs, was in Hawaii.
  • Jeremy Nixon, MLA for Calgary-Klein and parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Community and Social Supports, is returning from Hawaii.
  • Pat Rehn, MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, is returning from Mexico.
  • Tanya Fir, MLA for Calgary-Peigan and Treasury Board member, has returned from Las Vegas.
  • Jason Stephan, MLA for Red Deer-South and Treasury Board member, is returning from Arizona.
  • Jamie Huckabay, Chief of Staff to Premier Jason Kenney, has returned from the United Kingdom.
  • Michael Forian, Press Secretary to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and 2019 Conservative Party candidate, was in Hawaii.
  • Eliza Snider, Press Secretary to Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides, was in Hawaii.

Premier Jason Kenney has publicly shrugged off the hot holidays, claiming international travel was good for the economy despite his own government’s pandemic recommendations that Albertans don’t do it.

He has refused to fire or publicly discipline the MLAs for ignoring the public health recommendations that millions of Albertans abided by when they cancelled their own winter vacations and Christmas family gatherings.

Kenney says he was unaware of the trips, but it seems unlikely that a politician known for being a intense micromanager and workaholic would not have some inkling that this was happening.

The Premier’s weak response to the jet-set MLAs could suggest a few things: 1) he’s fine with them ignoring the recommendations, 2) there are more MLAs or staffers who travelled overseas on non-essential trips, or 3) support for his leadership in UCP Caucus and Party is tenuous and he cannot afford to discipline so many backbenchers at once.

In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford fired Finance Minister Rod Philips for attempting to cover up his Christmas vacation to a Caribbean island.

In Alberta, the lack of consequences for making such poor and tone-deaf decisions has stripped back Kenney’s populist-veneer and exposed an arrogant and elitist culture of exceptionalism within the leadership of the UCP.

For her part, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley says all of her party’s 24 MLAs remained in Alberta during the Christmas break.

Perhaps the only good news for Kenney is that the MLA hot holiday scandal, or Alohagate and Hawaiigate as some are calling it, is a distraction from the provincial government’s disappointingly slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

While waiting in the departures lounges of various international airports, some of the UCP MLAs published likely pre-written statements on their social media accounts saying they will now comply with the recommendations and return to Alberta. How thoughftul of them.

With the handful of UCP MLAs now on their way home, there are signs of a growing rift in the party, as two UCP MLAs are now publicly speaking out against the vacationing colleagues.

In a statement published on Facebook, Calgary-South East MLA Matt Jones refused to apologize for the sun-seeking MLAs:

Since the most recent COVID-19 measures were announced, a number of my constituents requested guidance related to their own potential holiday travels. I have always encouraged my constituents to follow the public health measures including the following:

“An official global travel advisory remains in effect. Avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice.”

“The Canada/U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel.”

Michaela Glasgo, the UCP MLA for Brooks-Medicine Hat, was much more direct, describing the trips as “a major lack of judgment.”

“The directive that we were given was the same as every Albertan, which was to remain responsible, and ultimately I think this was a major lack of judgment shown by some of my colleagues,” Glasgo told CHAT NEWS.

Former UCP MLA Scott Cyr called it a “slap in the face.

Former right-wing talk radio icon Dave Rutherford took to his Facebook page to unload on Kenney.

“Dammit, I’m pissed off that my premier, the guy in whom we had placed such high hopes for principled leadership, has ignored all of the sacrifices that we have all made to fight this virus because ‘we are all in this together,” wrote Rutherford. “Obviously not.”

Ralph Leriger, Mayor of Westlock, also had some strong words in response to the vacationing MLAs and called on Premier Kenney to resign.

Ralph Leriger Mayor of Westlock Kenney Resign
A tweet from Ralph Leriger, Mayor of Westlock

I expect many Albertans are feeling the same way.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Failing Upwards: Kaycee Madu promoted to Justice after disastrous year in Municipal Affairs

Edmonton’s lone United Conservative Party MLA got a big promotion today in a mini-cabinet shuffle. After a year as Minister of Municipal Affairs, Edmonton-South West MLA Kaycee Madu has been appointed as Solicitor General and Minister of Justice.

Madu replaces Doug Schweitzer, who is the new Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, a rebranded Economic Development, Trade and Tourism department. Current EDTT Minister Tanya Fir moves to the backbenches and Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard is the new Municipal Affairs Minister.

Tracy Allard MLA Grande Prairie United Conservative Party
Tracy Allard (source: Facebook)

The mini-cabinet shuffle, the first since the UCP formed government in April 2019, is a minor readjustment and not nearly what many had expected, with controversial Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange retaining their cabinet posts.

Madu’s promotion will be a surprise to many of Alberta’s municipal leaders, who watched the junior cabinet minister take a paternalistic approach to municipal affairs by interfering in the construction of major infrastructure projects, overhauling municipal election laws to the point where the AUMA publicly described its relationship with the minister as “broken,” and sparking an uprising by traditionally docile rural municipalities over exemptions to oil & gas taxes.

It was the uproar in rural Alberta that most likely lead to Madu being shuffled. Dozens of rural municipalities have spoken out against the government exemptions for municipal oil and gas taxes.

Rural governments that were already having a difficult time collecting taxes from oil and gas companies said the new changes imposed by the UCP government force them to hike property and business taxes in their counties. And rural MLAs, who make up the majority of the UCP caucus, have been receiving an earful from normally supportive local leaders over the tax changes.

Doug Schweitzer Calgary Alberta Conservative
Doug Schweitzer

Madu may have spent a year burning bridges with municipalities but he is the only UCP from inside Edmonton city limits and a loyal party soldier, a geographic fact and trait that has now earned him a senior cabinet role. Control of the UCP cabinet and caucus is so firmly held by Premier Jason Kenney and his inner circle of political staff that unflinching loyalty is the key to promotion.

Madu is now expected to oversee changes to the Police Act, and provincial election finance laws proposed by the Select Special Democratic Accountability Committee. He will also oversee the implementation of MLA recall legislation and the Fair Deal report recommendations, the government’s never-ending fight against the federal government over the carbon tax, and the expected referendum on equalization in October 2021.

Doug Schweitzer: This appears to be a demotion for Calgary-Elbow MLA Doug Schweitzer, who has recently been bearing the brunt of the criticism about the public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns.

The public inquiry, which has been conducted in complete privacy, is over-budget and behind schedule and has had its mandate changed twice since it was formed, suggesting that the one-man commission is having troubling completing its goal of rooting out the alleged global conspiracy against Alberta.

Tanya Fir MLA Calgary Peigan United Conservative Party Alberta
Tanya Fir

Schweitzer’s move signals that the UCP is desperate to recover the “jobs and economy” part of their election slogan that has been sideswiped by the collapse in the international price of oil and economic shutdown in response to COVID-19 pandemic. Schweitzer will be responsible for the new Invest Alberta crown corporation.

Tracy Allard: The first-term MLA from Grande Prairie and owner of Tim Hortons restaurant franchises in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and in Grande Prairie is now the ninth Minister of Municipal Affairs since 2010. Her first order of business will likely be trying to repair some of the many relationships damaged by Madu during his short tenure, and, as Kenney announced in today’s press conference, oversee the creation of a spending report card for municipal governments in Alberta.

Tanya Fir: It is unclear what led to Fir’s demotion to the backbenches. The first-term UCP MLA from Calgary-Peigan appeared to be well-spoken and had not caused much public drama for the government. Fir appears to have avoided controversy but her election campaign manager, long-time conservative activist Craig Chanlder, has never shied from controversy and was recently a featured speaker at a separatist rally.

Who was left out: Not making it into cabinet in this mini-shuffle are a number of UCP MLAs who are rumoured to be cabinet contenders: UCP Caucus chairperson Todd Loewen, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao, Calgary-West MLA Mike Ellis, Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner, and Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA Michaela Glasgo.

Also missing from the shuffle is former UCP finance critic Drew Barnes, now the third-term MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat, who was left out of cabinet when the party formed government last year. Barnes recently made comments in support of separation if Alberta fails to get Ottawa’s attention regarding issues brought forward from the Fair Deal Panel.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Alberta’s “Fair Deal” Panel hosts first Separatist Open Mic Night in Edmonton

Dozens of speakers stepped up to to the mic to share their two-minutes worth of opinions at the first “Fair Deal” Panel town hall meeting in Edmonton last night. The event in the large meeting room at the St. Michael’s Heritage Hall was well-attended, but not overflowing with crowds of angry Albertans demanding separation from Canada.

The panel was appointed last month to decide whether Alberta is receiving a fair deal from Ottawa.

Fair Deal Panel Edmonton Alberta Politics 1
Fair Deal Panelists: Oryssia Lennie, Preston Manning, Stephen Lougheed, Jason Goodstriker, Donna Kennedy-Glans, Drew Barnes, Moin Yahya, Miranda Rosin, and Tany Yao.

The first speaker up to the mic told the panel that he was a separatist from Quebec when he moved to Alberta in the 1980s and feels Alberta is not getting a fair deal from Ottawa. The second speaker used his two-minutes at the mic to boisterously declare that Canada was broken and that his personal Christmas wish was for Premier Jason Kenney to hold a referendum on separation.

A few speakers criticized the government for stirring up separatist sentiment, expressed hope that Alberta could collaborate with other provinces, and said they wouldn’t trust the United Conservative Party government to manage a provincial pension plan (a statement which got some enthusiastic cheers from sections of the room). But many of the speakers tended to share separatist, or at least anti-federal Liberal sentiments, venting frustrations about federal environmental laws, delivering detailed plot summaries of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, and offering their expertise on constitutional issues.

Chris Chang-Yen Phillips
Chris Chang-Yen Phillips

In what was probably the most thoughtful two-minutes of the evening, Chris Chang-Yen Phillips, Edmonton’s former historian laureate and host of the Let’s Find Out Podcast, urged the panel to focus less on what we believe we are owed and more on taking care of each other.

Chang-Yen Phillips went on to explain that a fair deal in Confederation for him would be where every province does its part to lower carbon emissions, or transition away from fossil fuels. His comments might fall on deaf ears on the panel but it was a refreshing break from the separatist rhetoric that dominated the evening.

Who stood up at the mic was also telling. While not all of the speakers were white men who appeared to be older than 60 years old, it certainly skewed toward that demographic from my view in the room.

The panel was created following the Liberal Party‘s victory in the October 21, 2019 federal election, despite the Conservative Party earning 70 percent of the vote in Alberta, and was prescribed nine policy proposals that would ostensibly make Alberta more autonomous from the federal government in Ottawa. The proposals, ranging from creating a provincial police force to withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan to barring municipal governments from making agreements with the federal government, are inspired by the Firewall Manifesto penned by a group of conservative luminaries in 2001.

Separatist Open Mic Night Edmonton Alberta
The panel hears from a speaker at the town hall

Politically, the panel and its town hall meetings are both a relief valve and a steering wheel meant to allow Albertans to vent separatist sentiments while allowing Kenney to attempt to keep ahead of the crowd. Or at least that’s the plan.

The first town hall took place on the same day as the international credit rating agency Moody’s once again downgraded the provincial government’s credit rating.

During their time in opposition, the UCP was very eager to blame the credit downgrades on the New Democratic Party government’s “reckless” and “ideological” agenda, but it turns out that the credit rating downgrades have more to do with structural problems facing Alberta’s finances – like our unwavering over-dependence on oil and gas royalties to fund the day to day operations of the public service. That might have been a topic at a town hall interested in a fair deal for Albertans in Alberta, but this panel has a narrow political scope – and Kenney has Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is square in its sights.

There are plenty of articulate arguments to be made in favour and against pursuing the nine autonomy policies presented by the panel but they weren’t heard last night. The two-minute open mic format is a good way to let people vent and a poor way to collect meaningful information. If this is the format that is going to be used for the rest of the panel’s town hall meetings, it is difficult to believe they will gather much substantial feedback for their report to the government.


Independence Party of Alberta fires its President

Overshadowed by the media-darling Wexit group, the Independence Party of Alberta appears to be in a bit of internal turmoil.

The IPA, which recently changed its name from the Alberta Independence Party to the Independence Party of Alberta, released a statement on Nov. 1, 2019 announcing that interim president S. Todd Beasley had been removed from the position and his membership had been rescinded. The party then released another statement accusing Beasley and a group of former candidates of breaking internal party rules and being in possession of books of party membership forms.

Beasley is a controversial conservative activist who was believed to be the frontrunner for the UCP nomination in Brooks-Medicine Hat before he withdrew from the contest after making derogatory remarks about Muslims.

The Alberta Independence Party fielded 63 candidates in the April 2019 provincial election and earned a total of 0.71 per cent of the province-wide vote. Party leader Dave Bjorkman resigned shortly after the election and Wexit leader Peter Downing had announced plans to seek the leadership but his supporters appear to be continuing to collect signatures to form a separate Wexit Party.

Meanwhile, another group of separatists led by former Wildrose Party candidate Sharon Maclise, appears to be continuing its effort to collect signatures to register the Alberta Freedom Alliance as an official party in Alberta.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Let the fall session begin – MLAs return to Edmonton on Oct 8

The fall session of the Alberta Legislative Assembly reconvenes on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, with Government House Leader Jason Nixon promising up to 17 new pieces of government legislation to be introduced before MLAs break for the year in December. The Legislature was initially scheduled to return on October 22, the day after the federal election, but MLAs were called back to the capital earlier than expected. As well as new bills, UCP Finance Minister Travis Toews is expected to present an austerity budget on October 24, 2019.

Richard Gotfried MLA UCP Calgary Fish Creek Alberta Election 2019
Richard Gotfried

The tone of the session is already expected to be confrontational, but the results of the October 21 federal election will determine whether the UCP caucus be celebratory (in the case of Conservative Party victory) or antagonized (in the case of a Liberal Party victory) as Toews tables his first budget.

There will also be some changes at the Legislative committee level. According to the Legislative Order Paper, Calgary-Fish Creek United Conservative Party MLA Richard Gotfried appears to have been removed as chairperson of the Standing Committee on the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund, replaced as chairperson by Lacombe-Ponoka UCP MLA Ron Orr and as a committee member by Calgary-East UCP MLA Peter Singh. Gotfried also appears to have been removed from the Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills, where he will be replaced by Brooks-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Michaela Glasgo. Gotfried was first elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2015 and was re-elected as a UCP MLA in 2019.

It is not clear what sparked the shuffle, but there has been speculation that Premier Jason Kenney might make some minor adjustments to his cabinet this fall.

NDP wrap up town hall tour, Notley staying put.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP
Rachel Notley (photo from Facebook)

The official opposition New Democratic Party wrapped up a multi-city town hall tour of Alberta focused on the upcoming provincial budget. The NDP likely used these town hall meetings to collect contact information and expand their outreach network while adjusting to their role as opposition after four years as government. The uncertainty created by the expected budget cuts will almost certainly be a central narrative of this legislative session.

Despite rumours of an ambassadorial appointment, NDP leader Rachel Notley told David Climenhaga of AlbertaPolitics.ca that she has no plans on stepping down as leader anytime soon. “I’ve been very clear. I’m staying on until the next election,” Notley said.

Notley’s declaration puts aside rumours of her departure, at least for now, that fuelled speculation about an NDP leadership contest that could include former cabinet ministers and now prominent opposition critics Sarah Hoffman and Shannon Phillips.

Alberta Liberals to report on their future.

The Alberta Liberal Party is holding its annual convention on November 16 in Edmonton. The one-day meeting will include the presentation of a report by the party’s Review Committee,  which was tasked determining potential options for the future of the party. The 2019 provincial election marked the first time since 1982 that the Liberals failed to elect any candidates to the Assembly. The convention will feature a keynote presentation from John Santos, a respected public opinion and political science researcher based in Calgary.

Disqualified UCP nomination candidate now separatist party president.

Todd Beasley is now president of the Alberta Independence Party. Beasley was considered the front-runner in the July 2018 UCP nomination contest in Brooks-Medicine Hat before he was removed from the race for publishing horrible comments about muslims on the internet. He ran as an Independent candidate instead and earned 12.4 per cent of the vote. The party is without a leader since Dave Bjorkman resigned following the 2019 provincial election.

More names added to Elections Alberta’s list of banned candidates

Elections Alberta has added a number of new names to its public list of Individuals Ineligible to Run as a Candidate or Act as a Chief Financial Officer. Names on this list can include election candidates, nomination candidates, and CFOs who have missed deadlines or improperly submitted financial disclosure forms to Elections Alberta.

New additions to the list include Former MLA Ian Donovan, who ran as an Independent candidate in Cardston-Siksika, Jovita Mendita, who was a candidate for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona, and a number of Alberta Independence Party and Freedom Conservative Party candidates.