More confusing messaging about the Alberta Pension Plan
As Alberta’s United Conservative Party government continues its big $7 million advertising push to convince Albertans to leave the Canada Pension Plan and start a separate Alberta Pension Plan, Finance Minister Nate Horner told CTV’s Vassy Kapelos that the province’s decision on whether or not to hold a referendum on leaving the CPP will be based on a “high level feeling from many sources.”
Kind of like Aunt Martha’s fruitcake. It keeps coming back at you year after year.
Over the summer months, while most Albertans were focusing on navigating wildfire smoke and intense heat, the provincial government released a steady stream of mandate letters from Premier Danielle Smith to her cabinet ministers.
The mandate letters are meant to provide direction from the Premier to the Ministers on where the departments they are responsible for fit in the government’s agenda.
Publicly releasing ministerial mandate letters provides a certain level of transparency on the surface but the stream of press releases, as conservative thinker KenBoessenkool mused last year, “turns an important governing process into a communications and stakeholder exercise.”
The United Conservative Party won big in Alberta’s 2019 election, taking 63 seats in the Alberta Legislature and earning 54.8 per cent of the province-wide vote. The party racked up huge margins of victory in rural ridings and swept Calgary.
It was a juggernaut.
It also wasn’t clear on that election night if the Alberta NDP would be able to recover from their defeat. It felt unlikely.
That the UCP is now neck-and-neck with the NDP in most polls with only 24 days left until the next election says a lot about the UCP’s four years as government and the NDP’s time in opposition.
Aheer was vague about whether she would run as an Independent or for another party, but it became increasingly clear that she would have a very difficult time winning the UCP nomination in her riding.
The second-term MLA placed last in the recent UCP leadership race and is facing a strong nomination challenge from Chantelle De Jonge. The former MP constituency assistant has stressed her conservative political credentials in contrast to Aheer’s more moderate conservative positions on social issues like abortion and public health restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
De Jonge’s recent endorsement from Bruce McAllister, who Aheer unseated as MLA in 2015 and now serves as Premier Danielle Smith‘s executive director at the McDougall Centre, sent a pretty clear message that there isn’t room for Aheer in the UCP.
McAllister is only one of the former Wildrose Party MLAs who crossed the floor with Smith to the Progressive Conservatives in 2014 to reemerge in the new Premier’s orbit.
Former Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson is Smith’s Transition Team Chair and Executive Director of the Premier’s Office, and former Strathmore-Brooks MLA Jason Hale was appointed last week as the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation.
New NDP candidates
The Alberta NDP have nominated Caitlyn Blake in Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul, lawyer Andrew Stewart in Calgary-Hays, and teacher Liana Paiva in Peace River. The NDP now have 63 candidates nominated to run in the next election.
UCP nominees emerge
Since Smith won the party leadership, the party has opened up nominations in a handful of ridings. The deadline to enter nominations in Drayton Valley-Devon, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, Livingstone-Macleod, St. Albert and Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright is October 31, and in Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock, Airdrie-Cochrane, Airdrie-East, Calgary-Varsity, Edmonton-South and Taber-Warner is November 7, and Calgary-Elbow is November 10.
A number of prospective UCP nominees have recently announced their plans to run:
Martine Carifelle is seeking the UCP nomination in Lesser Slave Lake. She is incumbent UCP MLA Pat Rehn‘s former constituency manager. Rehn has not publicly announced if he is running for re-election.
Tunde Obasan is running for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-South. He was the party’s candidate in the riding in 2019 and ran for the federal Conservatives in Edmonton-Strathcona in 2021. Saad Siddiq and Karen Stix are also seeking the nomination.
Angela Wood is seeking the UCP nomination in St. Albert. Wood placed second in the St. Albert mayoral election in 2021.
The other parties
The Green Party has nominated Zak Abdi in Edmonton-City Centre, Chitra Bakshi in Edmonton-Mill Woods and Carl McKay in Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock.
Interim party leader John Roggeveen announced in an email to Alberta Liberal Party supporters they has opened up applications for people to run under the party’s banner in the next election.
Four candidates were expected to contest the PC nomination at a meeting scheduled for Feb. 27, but the local constituency association decided on Feb, 23 to forgo the nomination process and appoint their own candidate at a meeting. Instead they chose Prab Gill.
This is not the first time the PCs have decided to appoint a candidate in this constituency rather than allow members to vote for a candidate through an open nomination contest. Before the 2012 election Calgary-Greenway was known as Calgary-Montrose, and the MLA this by-election is being held to replace, Manmeet Bhullar, was appointed by the party leader as a candidate.
Then a law student at the University of Windsor, Mr. Bhullar was appointed by Premier Ed Stelmach ahead of the 2008 election following a nasty dispute between the party and the local constituency association.
Four years later, the local PC constituency association refused to hold a nomination meeting when PC MLA Hung Pham decided to not seek re-election before the 2008 election. Instead, a committee of Calgary-Montrose PC members named local pastor Ron Leechas their candidate before his nomination was quickly overturned by the central party. Mr. Leech would run as an Independent candidate in 2008 and as a Wildrose Party candidate in 2012, during which his controversial comments would become a flashpoint of the campaign.
Back to 2016, the Tories obviously felt some urgency to appoint a candidate and holding an open nomination process would have demonstrated that the PCs were a vibrant political organization and that they had learned a lesson from the rash of nomination scandals that bruised the party before the 2015 election.
Update: Ric McIver released a second statement on evening of Feb. 24, 2016, reversing his initial endorsement of the Calgary-Greenway nomination process.
“Earlier today, I released a statement indicating that the Calgary-Greenway Constituency Association Board had decided…
Recent polls show a three-way split in support between the Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic and Wildrose Parties have generated some interest in Alberta’s provincial election campaign but with 24 days left until voting day we can expect a lot to change. Here is a quick review of what the politicians were saying and political parties were spinning in the first week of this election campaign.
Mr. Prentice targeted his opponents as extremists while moderating his own tone around Alberta’s economy. Before the election was called, Mr. Prentice’s repeated doom-and-gloom messages led opposition critics to name him “Grim Jim.” The PCs are attempting to present Mr. Prentice as the balanced (a.k.a. safe) candidate, as opposed to the extremist (a.k.a. dangerous) leaders of the opposition.
The recent provincial budget included almost sixty tax and fee increases, including increases to personal taxes but no increases to corporate taxes, which appears to have been a political miscalculation on the part of the PCs. The government’s own budget survey results showed 69% of Albertans support a corporate tax increase, a point the NDP has stressed.
PC MLAs and candidates took to social media to post different variations of a message that 8,900 jobs would be lost if corporate taxes were increased by 1%. It is unclear what study the 8,900 jobs number originates from.
Creating more confusion around corporate tax increases, a PC press release from April 9 stated ‘Prentice pointed out that more than 95% in Alberta are small businesses, employing fewer than 50 people, and questioned those who would put those jobs at risk with a corporate tax increase.” This is a good talking point, if not for the issue that small businesses do not pay corporate tax rates.
According to the Department of Finance website, small businesses earning $500,000 of less profit each year pay a separate 3% small business tax, not the 10% corporate tax applied to companies earning more than $500,000 in profit annually. The PCs dropped the corporate tax rate in Alberta from 15% in 2001 to the current 10% in 2006.
NDP leader Rachel Notleylaunched her party’s election campaign in Edmonton and travelled to Calgary and Lethbridge to campaign with candidates in those cities. It is notable that the NDP are focusing resources on candidates outside of Edmonton, where the party has traditionally been weak. Calgary-Fort candidate Joe Ceci, Calgary-Varsity candidate Stephanie McLean and Lethbridge-West candidate Shannon Phillips were prominently placed at Ms. Notley’s side during photo-ops at these stops
NDP messaging in the first week of the campaign focused on the economy. Ms. Notley announced the creation of a Job Creation Tax Credit for businesses as the first NDP election promise, providing balance from their calls for corporate tax increases. The credit sounds reasonable, but much like the PC Party’s 8,900 job loss argument, I am skeptical about this credit creating 27,000 new jobs. The NDP also announced that in-province refining and upgrading is also a top priority. Before the election was called, Ms. Notley’s unveiled her party’s plans to create a Resource Owners’ Rights Commission.
The NDP responded to Mr. Prentice’s “extremist” claims with an “extremist of the week” press release quoting former Premier Peter Lougheed’s support of increased corporate taxes and former Deputy Premier (and current PC candidate) Thomas Lukaszuk support for in-province refining and upgrading.
Focusing on rural Alberta, Wildrose leader Brian Jean campaigned in southern Alberta and his Fort McMurray constituency this week. While the campaign trail in Strathmore-Brooks, Mr. Jean and candidate Derek Fildebrandt cleverly walked around town with a giant arrow in hand pointing out services and commodities, like alcohol and gas, which became more expensive due to tax increases in the recent provincial budget.
Mr. Jean released his party’s “Five Priorities” that include positions on taxes, health care, education, democracy and rural Alberta. Part of the Wildrose plan to balance the budget by 2017 without raising taxes includes cutting 3,200 management jobs, including 1,600 in Alberta Health Services and 1,600 in the Government public service.
The Wildrose announced they would sell the Kananaskis Golf Course, a publicly owned and privately-operated golf course that the provincial government had paid millions of dollars to repair after it was damaged by floods in 2013.
The Wildrose Party also nominated new candidates this week including City Councillor Buck Buchanan in Red Deer-North, past mayoral candidate Shelley Biermanski in St. Albert, Don Koziak in Edmonton-Glenora and Ian Crawford in Edmonton-Riverview.
The Green Party published a media release criticizing the PC Government’s record on environmental regulation, describing it as a “fake, not authentic, regulation and thus an insult to the intelligence, dignity and trusting nature of Albertans.” The release takes issue with the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan and calls on the government to create a regulator that understands the impact of proposed activity and puts rules in place to prevent any unacceptable impacts.
The Parkland Institute released a new report looking at political values of Albertans. Public Interest Alberta released its “Priorities for Change” report as a resource for political candidates in this election And Change Alberta has returned to rank the progressive candidates most likely to win in constituencies across Alberta.
Progressive Conservative activist Jamie Lall was unexpectedly disqualified for unknown reasons before his party’s April 1 nomination meeting in Chestermere-Rockyview, allowing Wildrose PC MLA Bruce McAllister to be acclaimed. After months of campaigning, Mr. Lall lashed out at his party and questioned why he was disqualified when an incumbent MLA who plead guilt to prostitution related charges was allowed to be nominated. Mr. Lall is also the President of the PC association in the neighbouring Calgary-McCall, a position he has not been disqualified from.
@metrocalgary Whatever the phantom reason is, it’d better be worse than a solicitation of a prostitute conviction as that’s the bare minimum
According to the PC Party website, Jonathan Dai has been appointed as the party’s candidate in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood in advance of the April 11 scheduled nomination meeting. Mr. Dai is the President of the Canada-China Council for Cooperation and Development and was the Liberal candidate in the 2000 federal election in Edmonton-Strathcona, where he placed 5,647 votes behind Canadian Alliance MP Rahim Jaffer. While attempting a rematch with Mr. Jaffer in 2004, he narrowly lost the Liberal nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona to Liberal MLA Debby Carlson. Highlands-Norwood is currently represented by NDP MLA Brian Mason.
The PCs are expected to appoint a candidate in Edmonton-Centre after it was unable to nominate a candidate before the March 28 nomination meeting. The PCs last elected an MLA in Edmonton-Centre in 1982.
One of Mr. Jean’s first acts as leader was to dismiss Calgary-South East candidate Bill Jarvis, whose comments about “brown people” embarrassed the party on the night of its leadership announcement.
The Wildrose Party has now nominated at least 47 candidates, including recent nominees Angela Pitt in Airdire, Blaine Maller in Calgary Fish Creek, and Tany Yao in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. Former leader and MLA Paul Hinmanwithdrew from the nomination contest in Cardston-Taber-Warner, leaving three candidates still in the race – Larry Bates, Jon Hood and Grant Hunter.
New Democratic Party
The New Democratic Party has now nominated at least 75 candidates in constituencies across Alberta. The latest nominated candidates include Christina Gray in Edmonton-Mill Woods, Jon Carson in Edmonton-Meadowlark, Emily Shannon in Drumheller-Stettler, Patricia Norman in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, , Karen McPherson in Calgary-Northern Hills, William Pelech in Chestermere-Rockyview, and Lynn MacWilliam in Strathmore-Brooks.
The Alberta Party has nominated 29 candidates, including recent nominees Jim Black in Medicine Hat and Rory Tarant in Grande Prairie-Wapiti.
The Liberal Party has nominated 24 candidates across the province. The latest nominated candidates include Ron Williams in Battle River-Wainwright, Todd Ross in Edmonton-Castle Downs, Bradley Whalen in Edmonton-Decore, Kevin McLean in Grande Prairie-Smoky and Helen McMenamin in Little Bow. Mr. McLean is a city councillor in Grande Prairie.
The Green Party has nominated fifteen candidates and has recently nominated Josh Drozda in Leduc-Beaumont, Peter Meic in Calgary-Cross, Coral Bliss Taylor in Chestermere-Rockyview, and Sandra Wolf Lange in Edmonton-Riverview.
The Communist Party of Alberta plans to field two candidates in the upcoming election. Leader Naomi Rankin will represent her party in Edmonton-Mill Woods and Bonnie Devine will run in Calgary-East. Ms. Rankin has been leader of the Communist Party since 1992 and, according to her Wikipedia biography, has run in every provincial and federal election in Alberta since 1982.
I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.
The Progressive Conservatives held their first “Super Saturday” on Feb. 21, 2015, during which contested nominations were held in seven constituencies. The handful of contested PC nominations have been overshadowed by the nearly forty acclamations by incumbent PC MLAs across the province.
The Liberal Party, still without a permanent leader after Raj Sherman‘s abrupt resignation in Jan. 2015, has opened candidate nominations in all 87 constituencies and have made notice on their website that all Liberal nominations must be complete by March 1, 2015. If the Liberals are actually able to nominate candidates in all 87 constituencies in the next seven days, it will be a busy week on this blog.
Bonnyville-Cold Lake: Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland defeated former Wildrose nomination candidate Dixie Dahlstedt in the PC nomination. Some local party members complained about the lack of multiple voting locations in the rural constituency and the police were called to the voting station after an allegedly intoxicated man caused a disturbance. A Municipal District of Bonnyville councillor told the Cold Lake Sun that alleged he was the man removed by the RCMP and he was not intoxicated. Current PC MLA Genia Leskiw is not seeking re-election.
Calgary-Buffalo: Lawyer David Khan will seek the Liberal nomination in this downtown Calgary constituency. Buffalo is currently represented by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, who is running for the federal Liberals in Calgary-Centre, and has elected Liberals in six of the eight elections held since 1986. Mr. Khan was his party’s candidate in the 2014 Calgary-West by-election where he earned 8.5% of the vote.
Calgary-Bow: David Gamble is seeking the Liberal nomination. According to his Facebook Page, Mr. Gamble is the President and CEO of Dandly Writing and Communications.
Calgary-Cross: Seven candidates are seeking the PC nomination in this northeast Calgary constituency – Dan Singh Sidhu, Mohamed El-Rafih, Jesse Minhas, Manjit Jaswal, Hardeep Rai, Hirde Paul, and Bill Kahlon. The constituency has been represented by PC MLA Yvonne Fritz since 1993. She is not seeking re-election.
Calgary-Currie: Pat Murray is seeking the Liberal nomination. Mr. Murray was the Liberal Party candidate in Calary-Currie in the 2001 election and Calgary-North Hill in 2004 and 2008 elections. He also ran as a federal PC candidate in Calgary-Nose Hill in the 1997 federal election.
Calgary-Foothills: Electrical engineer Ali Bin Zahid is seeking the Liberal nomination to run against Premier Jim Prentice in the next election.
Calgary-Glenmore: David Waddington is the nominated Liberal Party candidate.
Calgary-Hawkwood: Beth Barberee has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.
Calgary-McCall: Realtor Avinash Khangura is seeking the Liberal nomination. The constituency is currently represented by Liberal MLA Darshan Kang, who is now the federal Liberal candidate in the Calgary-Skyview constituency.
Calgary-Mountain View: Former MLA Mark Hlady defeated Mr. Prentice’s former Chief of Staff Jean-Sebastien Rioux and Lynn Moen in the PC nomination. Mr. Hlady was the MLA from 1993 until 2004, when he was unseated by the current Liberal MLA, David Swann.
Calgary-North West: First-term PC MLA and former cabinet minister Sandra Jansen defeated past city council candidate Blair Houston in the PC nomination.
Calgary-Varsity: Stephanie McLean was nominated as the NDP candidate in this northwest Calgary constituency. Ms. McLean was the NDP candidate in the recent Calgary-Elbow by-election and is also her party’s federally nominated candidate in Calgary-Confederation. Paramedic Pete Helfrich is the nominated Liberal Party candidate. Mr. Helfrich ran for the Liberals in Banff-Cochrane in the 2012 election.
Chestermere-Rockyview: Jamie Lall is challenging Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Bruce McAllister for the PC nomination. Mr. Lall was his party’s 2012 candidate in the Calgary-Buffalo constituency.
Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview: First-term NDP MLA Deron Bilous has been acclaimed as his party’s candidate in the next election.
Edmonton-Calder: Ministerial Chief of Staff Tom Bradley has been acclaimed as the PC candidate in this northeast Edmonton constituency current represented by NDP MLA David Eggen. Mr. Bradley is currently the Chief of Staff to Infrastructure Minister Manmeet Bhullar and also served as Base Commander for CFB Edmonton from 2009 to 2011 and Chief of Operations for Task Force Kandahar in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2008.
Edmonton-Meadowlark: Steve Benson is challenging former Globe & Mail reporter Katherine O’Neill for the PC nomination. Former Catholic School District Trustee Debbie Cavaliere is said to been collecting signatures to contest the Liberal nomination. In 2008, Ms. Cavaliere challenged Raj Sherman in the Meadowlark PC nomination contest before withdrawing, switching parties and unsuccessfully running against him in that year’s election as the Liberal candidate. Dr. Sherman, who joined the Liberals in 2011 after becoming leader, is not seeking re-election.
Edmonton-Strathcona: NDP leader Rachel Notley has been acclaimed as her party’s candidate in the next election. Former NDP MP Olivia Chow is scheduled to speak at Ms. Notley’s nomination meeting on March 1, 2015.
Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo: Tracy McKinnon, chairperson of the Fort McMurray Catholic School District, is challenging first-term PC MLA Mike Allen for that party’s nomination. Mr. Allen achieved national notoriety in 2013 when he was charged in a prostitution sting while on government-funded trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota. He pleaded guilty to the charge in December 2013 and paid a $500 fine and court costs. Following the incident, he sat as an Independent MLA until July 2014, when PC MLAs voted to allow him to rejoin the Government Caucus.
Medicine Hat: Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Blake Pedersen defeated former city councillor John Hamill and realtor Jeff Lanigan. Mr. Pedersen faced harsh criticism form his opponents in a recent nomination debate. “I will die on my sword before I cross the floor… people who cross the floor have no honour,” Mr. Hamill said of Mr. Pedersen.
Peace River: Debbie Jabbour is seeking the NDP nomination.
Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Tammy Cote defeated former Lacombe County Reeve Terry Engan in the PC nomination contest. Ms. Cote is the grand-niece of former PC MLA and lieutenant-governor Helen Hunley.
Spruce Grove-St. Albert: Rus Matichuk defeated former St. Albert city councillor Neil Kortash and government spokesperson Kathleen Range to become the PC candidate. The constituency was formerly represented by former Finance Minister Doug Horner, who resigned as MLA on Jan. 31, 2015.
Seven more PC MLAs have been acclaimed, bringing the total number of acclaimed PC candidates to 39: Moe Amery in Calgary-East, Dave Rodney in Calgary-Lougheed, David Dorward in Edmonton-Gold Bar, Steve Young in Edmonton-Riverview, Jacquie Fenske in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, Greg Weadick in Lethbridge-West and Richard Starke in Vermilion-Lloydminster.
I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.
I have made the following updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if you have additions to the list. Thank you.
Calgary-Bow: Troy Millingtonannounced on Twitter that he will seek the Alberta Party nomination. Mr. Millington was the Alberta Party candidate in the 2014 Calgary-West by-election.
Calgary-Cross: Alyx Nanji has now declared his intentions to seek the PC nomination in this east Calgary constituency (he initially announced he would seek the PC nomination in Calgary-Bow). Mr. Nanji is a former staffer to PC MLA Ted Morton and recently completed a degree at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law. Also in Calgary-Cross, Ricardo Miranda will seek the New Democratic Party nomination scheduled for Feb. 21, 2015.
Calgary-Lougheed: Mihai Ion is seeking the NDP nomination scheduled for Feb 21, 2015.
Calgary-Shaw: Graham Sucha is seeking the NDP nomination scheduled for Feb 21, 2015.
Cardston-Taber-Warner: Municipal District of Taber Reeve Brian Brewinis challenging Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Gary Bikman for the PC nomination. Mr. Brewin was first elected to Taber municipal council in 1998 and has been endorsed by Brooks Mayor Martin Shields (nominated federal Conservative candidate in Bow River) and former PC MLA Bob Bogle.
Former MLA Paul Hinman is said to be considering a run for the Wildrose nomination. Mr. Hinman was the MLA for this constituency from 2004 to 2008 and Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012.
Strathmore-Brooks: Former Canadian Taxpayers Federation lobbyist Derek Fildebrandt announced this week that he will run for the Wildrose Party in this southern rural constituency. Last year, Mr. Fildebrandt was rumoured to be eyeing the Wildrose nomination in Calgary-Bow. The constituency is currently represented by MLA Jason Hale, a former Wildrose MLA who crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives in December 2014. Update: Update: The Brooks Bulletin reports that County of Newell Reeve Molly Douglass will challenge Mr. Hale for the PC nomination.
Whitecourt-Ste. Anne: Oniel Carlier is seeking the NDP nomination scheduled for Feb 27, 2015. Carlier is a Regional Representative at Public Service Alliance of Canada.
After 11 of the party’s 16 MLAs crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives in November and December 2014, the conservative opposition Wildrose Party was thrown into chaos. Left without its most public faces, notably former leader Danielle Smith, the party will choose its next permanent leader sometime in the next year, likely between the months of March and September.
It is unclear whether the other remaining MLAs – Rick Strankman and Pat Stier – are interested in contesting the leadership.
Lawyer Richard Jones, the party’s nominated candidate in Calgary-Acadia, has been mentioned as a potential candidate, as has former lobby group spokesperson Derek Fildebrandt.
If the Wildrose Party waits too long to select a new leader, they could find themselves facing a provincial election without a permanent leader. On January 10, 2015, the PC Party Executive Board will meet and it is suspected they will discuss whether to keep the June 1st nomination timeline or whether to advance it in preparation for a Spring 2015 election.
Crossing the floor a last minute decision
The abruptness of the floor crossings shocked party supporters, political watchers and even some of the MLAs who crossed the floor.
“I too was shocked,” Chestermere-Rocky View MLA Bruce McAllister told the Rocky View Weekly. Mr. McAllister told the newspaper that he did not consult with his constituency prior to crossing the floor because the window of opportunity was quickly closing.
Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Rod Foxtold The Chautauqua that he “made an extremely difficult decision to join the governing PC Party of Alberta … a decision that was reached after many hours of agonizing and soul searching.”
“I finally made my decision moments before it was due,” Mr. Fox said.
In another bizarre addition to the floor crossing story, it appears that Medicine Hat MLA Blake Pedersen was on vacation in Australia when he crossed the floor to the PC Party. On the day of the floor crossings, Mr. Pedersen sent his statement to reporters in the form of a text message from Down Under.
Despite previously embracing a mantra that leaned heavily on “consulting constituents,” it does not appear any consultation actually occurred before the MLAs quit their party.
But as Maclean’s writer Colby Coshsuggests, Albertans angry with the floor crossings are likely to move on and forget the former Wildrose MLAs transgressions.
Another Wildrose candidate drops out
The nominated Wildrose candidate in Strathcona-Sherwood Park has announced he is dropping out of the race. Brian Tiessen was nominated in a contested race in October 2014 against County Councillor Vic Bidzinski. He is one of a handful of nominated Wildrose candidates to forfeit their candidacies following the mass floor crossing on Dec. 17, 2014.
In a neighbouring constituency, former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk tweeted that she will remain the nominated Wildrose candidate in Sherwood Park. Ms. Osinchuk will face PC MLA Cathy Olesen, a former mayor who Ms. Osinchuk defeated in the 2010 municipal elections.
FYI I am still planning to run to be the next MLA representing Sherwood Park. Bold leadership is still needed. #shpk
Mass MLA defection cripples Alberta’s Official Opposition
Anyone already cynical about politics in Alberta will have their views reinforced with yesterday’s announcement that Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and eight of her party’s MLAs have abandoned their role as the Official Opposition and joined the 43-year governing Progressive Conservatives.
After a five hour meeting of the PC Caucus at Government House, Premier Jim Prentice and Ms. Smith walked side-by-side down the staircase to announce news that nine Wildrose MLAs had been accepted into the government caucus.
It was a shrewd move that could be a decisive win for Mr. Prentice in the Conservative Civil War that the two parties have waged against each other since the mid-2000s. But what led to this mass exodus of Wildrose MLAs?
Many political watchers, including myself, have pointed to Mr. Prentice’s leadership or the September 2014 by-election losses as catalysts for today’s news, but one long-time reader and observer of Alberta politics shared a different view:
“The Wildrose was not founded on political principles, like the fiscal conservatism of the Progressive Conservatives, or the social democracy of the New Democrats – but rather it was created, out of nothing, for the sole purpose of exerting political pressure on the PC government.”
While the Wildrose Party was founded on a social conservative base, the purpose of the party was to pull the meandering centrist Tories back to their conservative political roots. Over the past four years the Wildrose has excelled at using wedge issues like oil and gas royalties and property rights to drive the political agenda in Alberta.
Premier Ed Stelmach‘s meddling with natural resource royalties led the oil industry to quickly begin funnelling donations to the Wildrose, then led by a photogenic former school trustee named Danielle Smith. When the PCs abandoned plans to raise royalties, the Wildrose honed in on property rights and stirred up a considerable amount of fear and resentment among rural landowners, who were mostly traditional PC voters.
And now, with Mr. Prentice as leader of the PC Party, it has become difficult to point out significant policy differences between the two parties. By refusing to meddle in the marketplace, halting the poorly written Bill 10 and pledging to protect property rights, Mr. Prentice has robbed the Wildrose of their most effective critiques of the PC Party.
The Wildrose Party still exists with a significant campaign war chest and a membership role of 23,000. But it now lacks a leader, which the party executive says it will soon begin a search for. The steps taken by the party over the coming weeks could determine whether it can actually recover or whether it will join the list of conservative fringe parties after the next election.
Despite Ms. Smith’s agreement with new premier, the departure of the nine MLAs is a betrayal of the party’s hundreds of volunteers and donors and the more than 440,000 Albertans who voted Wildrose in the last election.
Life as an opposition MLA in Alberta is not glamorous, but as the Official Opposition, those nine MLAs played a critically important role in our parliamentary democracy. The timing and nature of the floor crossing reeks of political opportunism. And the quality of our democratic system will be weaker tomorrow with the loss of these nine opposition MLAs into the government backbenches.
The five remaining Wildrose MLAs will technically form the Official Opposition, but with their party in disarray, many political observers are watching to see if another political leader -NDP leader Rachel Notley – is able to form an effective opposition to the 43-year governing PC Party.
The nine Wildrose MLAs who crossed the floor to the PCs are:
In a move designed to quash any further internal party dissent, Wildrose MLAs rallied around their leader yesterday by unanimously requesting their party’s executive committee cancel a leadership review that Danielle Smith requested last week.
The sign of caucus unity came shortly after Sundre-Rocky Mountain House-Rimbey MLA Joe Anglin announced he was leaving the Official Opposition Caucus to sit as an Independent MLA.
Ms. Smith requested the review in response to the Wildrose Party’s poor showing in four by-elections held on October 27. Although the by-elections were held in traditionally safe Progressive Conservative voting constituencies, they were seen by many political watchers as a mid-term review for the 43-year governing PC Party, now led by Jim Prentice.
Will the sign of caucus support for Ms. Smith’s leadership put an end to the Wildrose “civil war” between pragmatic and ideological conservatives that Mr. Anglin referred to in a Facebook post yesterday?
From the outside, it is difficult to tell whether an actual “civil war” is being waged. Mr. Anglin has always been more comfortable as a political lone-wolf and his departure was not unexpected. And despite the party’s sometimes uneasy coalition of libertarian and social conservatives, it is reasonable to believe Ms. Smith would still receive a strong endorsement from party members in a leadership review (she received 90% approval in a 2013 review).
But the entrance of Mr. Prentice onto the political stage may have slightly shifted the ground in Alberta’s conservative movement. As the by-election results suggest, there are many conservative voters comfortable with a PC Party led by Mr. Prentice and, at the very least, they willing to give him a chance.
Mr. Prentice does pose a serious challenge for the Wildrose Party, which made former Premier Alison Redford into political lightening rod. And while the sting of Ms. Redford’s legacy did not resonate in the by-elections, the recent announcement of an R.C.M.P investigation into her alleged misdeeds may reignite Albertans anger.
It is difficult to imagine who would replace the Wildrose Party’s high-profile leader. Although MLAs Kerry Towle, Bruce McAllister, Shayne Saskiw, Heather Forsyth and Rob Anderson have some provincial profile, none are as recognizable as their current leader. I would guess that most Albertans would struggle to name a Wildrose MLA other than Ms. Smith.
Whether a “civil war” is actually underway, it is clear that the Ms. Smith’s Wildrose Party is facing an identity crisis in a post-Redford political environment.
Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to introduce legislation, like Manitoba’s and Ontario’s, requiring all school boards to develop policies to support students who want to lead and establish gay-straight alliance activities and organizations, using any name that is consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive, welcoming, and respectful for all students regardless of sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
It was a simple motion introduced on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly on April 7, 2014 that would help create safer environments for students in schools. Nineteen Liberal, New Democrat, and Progressive Conservative MLAs voted in favour of the motion, but it failed after 31 PC and Wildrose MLAs stood up and voted against it.
Motion 503, introduced by Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr, was not a piece of binding legislation, it was a symbolic message of that all students, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, can be welcomed and accepted in Alberta’s education system.
Creating safe and supportive environments for all students, including LGBTQ youth who may face discrimination in and outside of school, should be something that is encouraged by MLAs.
Mr. Hehr’s motion undoubtably would have made some social conservatives uncomfortable, but it would have ultimately helped drag some of Alberta’s more stodgy school boards into the 21st century. The motion would not have forced any school board to form student-led gay-straight alliances, but it would have compelled the elected boards to accept the existence of the groups if students in their schools chose to organize them.
Passage of this motion would have sent a strong message that tolerance and acceptance are priorities Alberta’s provincial legislators.
Missing from the vote were Premier Dave Hancock and NDP leader Brian Mason, who both later said they would have voted in favour had they been in the Assembly. Wildrose opposition leader Danielle Smith was not present for the vote and it is not clear if she would have voted differently than her party’s MLAs.
The divided PC government caucus also missed an opportunity to send a clear message that they embrace 21st century values by singling out the opposition Wildrose as the only party to unanimously vote against the motion – and remind Albertans of the infamous Lake of Fire. And for the Wildrose, a vote for the motion, even by one or two of that party’s MLAs, would have done a lot of demonstrate the party is more moderate on social issues than its opponents claim.
In total, 36 MLAs were absent from the vote (minus the Speaker, who abstains from votes of the Assembly).
Voted in Favour: 19
Deron Bilous (NDP)
Laurie Blakeman (LIB)
Neil Brown (PC)
Pearl Calahasen (PC)
Cal Dallas (PC)
Alana DeLong (PC)
David Eggen (NDP)
Kyle Fawcett (PC)
Kent Hehr (LIB)
Ken Hughes (PC)
Sandra Jansen (PC)
Heather Klimchuk (PC)
Jason Luan (PC)
Thomas Luksazuk (PC)
Rachel Notley (NDP)
Don Scott (PC)
Raj Sherman (LIB)
David Swann (LIB)
Teresa Woo-Paw (PC)
Voted against: 31
Moe Amery (PC)
Rob Anderson (WR)
Drew Barnes (WR)
Gary Bikman (WR)
Robin Campbell (PC)
Ron Casey (PC)
Christine Cusanelli (PC)
Ian Donovan (WR)
David Dorward (PC)
Wayne Drysdale (PC)
Jacquie Fenske (PC)
Rick Fraser (PC)
Yvonne Fritz (PC)
Hector Goudreau (PC)
Jeff Johnson (PC)
Linda Johnson (PC)
Maureen Kubinec (PC)
Genia Leskiw (PC)
Bruce McAllister (WR)
Everett McDonald (PC)
Diana McQueen (PC)
Frank Oberle (PC)
Bridget Pastoor (PC)
Dave Rodney (PC)
Bruce Rowe (WR)
Shayne Saskiw (WR)
Richard Starke (PC)
Rick Strankman (WR)
Kerry Towle (WR)
George VanderBurg (PC)
Greg Weadick (PC)
On April 23, 2012, Alberta’s most hotly contested election in decades culminated with the re-election of the twelfth consecutive Progressive Conservative majority government since 1971. Despite holding the large majority elected MLAs, the popular vote showed Albertans were closely divided between Alison Redford‘s Tories who finished with 44% compared to an impressive 34% showing for Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party.
Despite being branded as a policy-wonk, Premier Redford’s cabinet has implemented a confused domestic agenda that has resulted in public spats with popular Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Stephen Mandel and unnecessary conflicts with teachers and doctors. Recent budget cuts, blamed on a deflating bitumen bubble, also threaten to unravel the coalition of moderate voters who carried her party to victory one year ago.
The mixed bag that is Premier Redford’s cabinet could help explain some of this confusion. Younger cabinet ministers, like Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, Education Minister Jeff Johnson and Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths, constantly talk off the cuff and appear to sometimes be making government policy on the fly. Other ministers, like Finance Minister Doug Horner, Health Minister Fred Horne and Human Services Minister Dave Hancock, have shown restraint and maturity that comes with years of cabinet experience.
Premier Redford has been exceedingly strong on the national and international stage as she has travelled extensively over the past year lobbying for a Canadian Energy Strategy, the Keystone XL Pipeline, and to open new markets for Alberta’s oil sands. She appears to be less interested or willing to play the political game, which will become increasingly difficult in the face of an aggressive official opposition.
Wildrose leader Danielle Smith could have been celebrating her first year as Premier had it not been for late election bozo-erruptions that exposed an offensive social conservative element in her party. Comments about caucasian advantages and a Lake of Fire drove many moderate conservatives, liberals, and even some New Democrats, to vote PC in last year’s election.
Despite the disappointment of not defeating Alberta’s long-governing PC dynasty, Ms. Smith has grown into her role as Leader of the Official Opposition. Borrowing aggressive tactics from the federal Conservatives in Ottawa, who are organizationally tied at the hip with the Wildrose, Ms. Smith’s party is leading the most aggressive and partisan official opposition in recent memory. Her party has groomed a front-bench that dominate the media and have, in many cases, driven the government agenda from across the aisle. Rarely a week goes by where Ms. Smith, Rob Anderson, Shayne Saskiw, Kerry Towle, Bruce McAllister, or Heather Forsyth have not grabbed a headline or a prime time news story.
The Liberals, still led by former Tory MLA Raj Sherman, are still adjusting to their new role as the third-party in the Assembly after being bumped out of Official Opposition by the Wildrose. Accustomed to stealing the spotlight from the now-former Official Opposition Liberals, the four-MLA New Democrat caucus spent the past year figuring out how to play the same tricks on the Wildrose. Acclimatizing to the new political environment, Brian Mason’s NDP were overshadowed by Ms. Smith’s new team for most of last year. With some of the ‘progressive’ shine coming off Premier Redford’s Tories, the NDP are starting to find their footing again.
The Tories have broken more than a few election promises in the first year of this mandate, including pledges to balance the budget and provide stable funding for health, education, and municipalities. Despite the rough first year, Premier Redford’s Tories still have at least three years left until the next election to fulfill the promises made and mend fences with the bloc of moderate voters who saved their party from defeat one year ago today.
Elections Alberta has released the financial disclosure forms submitted by candidates who ran in the April 2012 provincial election and some of the disclosure forms reveal some interesting information about how much money was fundraised and spent during the campaign. The money spent by candidates and political parties in Alberta elections are nowhere near the truckloads being spent south of the border in advance of November’s presidential and senate elections, but some of these numbers demonstrate how pitched some electoral battles were in the recent provincial election. Although money cannot replace hard-working candidates and dedicated volunteers, it makes available resources that can, in many cases, make a big difference in pushing a candidate to electoral success.
It appears that the most expensive race between two candidates was in Calgary-Elbow, where Premier Alison Redford faced Wildrose Party challenger James Cole. While Premier Redford’s campaign spent a massive $154,345.53, Mr. Cole’s campaign was not far behind, spending $123,647 during the election period.
South of Calgary in the Highwood constituency, the campaign of Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith (named Marlaina Danielle Smith by Elections Alberta) spent only $55,010.97 compared to the $90,706.19 spent by the campaign of Tory challenger John Barlow.
In the hotly-contested constituency of Calgary-Acadia, Wildrose challenger Richard Jones spent 69,335.39 on his unsuccessful campaign to unseat Justice Minister Jonathan Denis, whose campaign spent $71,246.45. Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson, who crossed the floor to the Wildrose Party in 2010, saw his campaign spend $77,295.20, which dwarfed the $32,411 spent by the campaign of his main challenger Kelly Hegg.
In the long-time Liberal-held Edmonton-Gold Bar constituency, Tory David Dorward‘s campaign spent $77,732.39, NDP Marlin Schmidt‘s spent $38,400.73, and Liberal Josipa Petrunic‘s spent $33,079.39. The contest was won by Mr. Dorward, who was elected with 33% of the vote. In Calgary-McCall, Liberal MLA Darshan Kang‘s campaign spent $82,629.80 to ward off challengers Tory Muhammad Rasheed and Wildroser Grant Galpin, whose campaigns spent $87,327.25 and $27,695.12.
In Edmonton-Rutherford, Tory Health Minister Fred Horne‘s $108,327.30 campaign easily outspent a wide field of challengers. Former Liberal MLA Rick Miller‘s campaign spent $41,117.36, the campaign of Alberta Party candidate Michael Walters spent $30,085.18, and Wildrose challenger Kyle Mcleod‘s campaign spent $23,477.51.
In many cases, the Tory MLA’s vastly outspent their main challengers (which in most cases, was the local Wildrose candidate). In Calgary-Greenway, Tory Manmeet Bhullar‘s campaign spent $133,294 against challenger Ron Leech‘s $14,078.05 campaign. In Fort McMurray-Conklin, the campaign of first-time Tory candidate Don Scott spent $110,955.44 to Wildroser Doug Faulkner‘s $21,011.41. In Edmonton-Whitemud, Tory cabinet minister Dave Hancock‘s campaign spent $121,233.35 to Wildrose challenger Ian Crawford‘s $11,598.73. In Calgary-West, Tory candidate Ken Hughes‘ campaign spent $111,796.33 compared to $31,781.49 from Wildrose challenger Andrew Constantinidis.
In some cases, outspending a challenge made little difference for incumbent Tory MLAs. In Chestermere-Rockyview, Energy Minister Ted Morton‘s campaign spent $159,618.90 compared to Wildrose challenger Bruce McAllister‘s $48,062.69. Mr. McAllister defeated Minister Morton on election night.
There were some other surprising finds as well. In Lethbridge-West, the campaign of NDP candidate Shannon Phillips spent $48,852.88 compared to PC MLA Greg Weadick‘s $39,394.54. This was also the NDP’s best showing outside of Edmonton.
The ‘Maurice Tougas Award for Electoral Victory on a Shoestring Budget’ goes to Wildrose MLA Jeff Wilson, who was elected in Calgary-Shaw for the first time in April 2012. Mr. Wilson was one of the last Wildrose Party candidates to be nominated and defeated Tory star candidate Farouk Adatia, who outspent the Wildrose challenger $78,347 to $15,358. Less extreme cases took place across central and southern Alberta, where Wildrose candidates were elected in long-time Tory voting constituencies.
The award is named after writer Maurice Tougas, who served as the Liberal MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark from 2004 to 2008. Mr. Tougas’ campaign spent $5,366.55 in his last minute campaign against Tory MLA Bob Maskell, whose campaign spent $46,957.00. Mr. Tougas unseated Mr. Maskell on election night.
Note: I had hoped that I would be able to provide a more comprehensive list of numbers from the financial disclosure. Unfortunately, the unfriendly interfaced used by Elections Alberta on their website did not allow me the time to complete this. Rather than transferring the data into easily searchable and useable formats on their website, Elections Alberta provides PDFs of scanned paper forms which were completed in handwriting by the candidate’s Chief Financial Officers (the writing ranges from chicken-scratch to cursive). It is my hope that in the near future, Elections Alberta is able to build a more user-friendly website that allows Albertans to more easily access these important records.