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Alberta Politics

Richard Bruneau wins NDP contest in Camrose, Walker-McKitrick rematch being set up in Sherwood Park, NDP MLAs flock to Battleground Calgary

‘Three candidates are contesting the NDP nomination contest in Camrose’ are not a series of words I imagined writing even a year ago, yet here we are.

Business owner and former diplomat Richard Bruneau defeated Registered Psychiatric Nurse Tonya Ratushniak and educational assistant and recent city council candidate Wyatt Tanton to win the NDP nomination in Camrose. 

“When attending Augustana their motto was ‘to lead and to serve,’ and this is my vision of how I would like to lead and lift people up in the community. A vision I believe Alberta’s NDP embodies,” Bruneau said in a press release announcing his win. “The UCP has not been serving the people of Alberta, and the pandemic highlighted the short-signed failures of UCP policy. Camrose deserves better than the UCP.”

Jackie Lovely MLA Camrose UCP
Jackie Lovely

Bruneau is a bookstore owner, farmer, former lecturer at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus and a former Canadian diplomat who served in Afghanistan, Jordan and Palestine. He lives with his family on a cattle farm.

Bruneau was joined by Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen at the nomination meeting and by Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin at a meet and greet in Camrose today.

The riding is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Jackie Lovely, who was first elected in 2019 with 65.2 per cent of the vote. This was Lovely’s third attempt at winning a seat in the Legislature, the first two being as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015. 

Lovely is being challenged for the UCP nomination by Beaver County Reeve Kevin Smook, who earned 12.8 per cent of the vote as the Alberta Party candidate in the riding in 2019.

The previous Wetaskiwin-Camrose riding was represented by NDP MLA Bruce Hinkley from 2015 to 2019 before it was redistributed into the current riding. Hinkley ran for re-election in the neighbouring Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin riding and was defeated by UCP candidate Rick Wilson.

Walker-McKitrick rematch being set up in Sherwood Park

Jordan Walker MLA Sherwood Park UCP
Jordan Walker

First-term UCP MLA Jordan Walker is seeking his party’s nomination for re-election in Sherwood Park.

The UCP backbencher was first elected in one of the closer races in Edmonton’s surrounding suburbs in 2019 by narrowly unseating NDP MLA Annie McKitrick. 

The stage is being set for a rematch in 2023, with McKitrick announcing last week that she plans to seek the NDP nomination to challenge Walker in the next election. This is a riding the NDP will need to win to form government. 

Gurinder Singh Gill running for NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross

Gurinder Singh Gill is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross. Gill previously ran as the federal NDP candidate in Calgary-Skyview in the 2019 and 2021 elections. He placed third with 16.2 per cent of the vote behind victorious Liberal George Chahal and incumbent Conservative MP Jag Sahota in the last federal election.

The east Calgary riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Mickey Amery, who was elected in 2019 with 54.2 per cent by unseating NDP cabinet minister Ricardo Miranda, who finished second with 37.3 per cent.

Amery is the son of Moe Amery, who represented the neighbouring Calgary-East riding from 1993 until his defeat in the 2015 election.

MLA Guthrie endorses Danielle Smith’s challenging Roger Reid

Peter Guthrie MLA Airdrie-Cochrane UCP Communism
Peter Guthrie

Airdrie-Cochrane UCP MLA Peter Guthrie has endorsed former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith’s bid for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. Smith is challenging Guthrie’s caucus colleague Roger Reid for the nomination. 

Smith is wasting no time making her mark in UCP circles as she eyes the nomination and the party leadership.

Tonight she will join Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan, a vocal Kenney critic, and former Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson to discuss the “Free Alberta Strategy.” And on April 23 she is joining Independent MLA Todd Loewen for a “Politics Uncensored” event in Three Hills.

Loewen is a former UCP Caucus chair who booted from the UCP Caucus in May 2021 after he publicly called on Premier Jason Kenney to resign.

Meanwhile, demonstrating how much bad blood remains between Smith and many UCP activists as a result of the 2014 Wildrose floor crossings, a Twitter account run by staff in Kenney’s office attacked Smith (and Brian Jean) by proclaiming that “I’ve always found it surprising that two people whose only track record is losing general elections, somehow feel they have all the answers.”

The “@UniteAlberta” twitter account is run by Deputy Director of  Government Communications and Speechwriter Harrison Fleming, who is currently on leave to work on Kenney’s leadership campaign.

Other senior staff on leave to work on their boss’s leadership review campaign are Chief of Staff Pam Livingston, Executive Director of Communications and Planning Brock Harrison, and Issues Manager Chad Hallman. 

Meanwhile, the former Wildrose leader and Kenney-foe has been sworn-in as an MLA the Legislature. Newly elected Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean has rejoined UCP Caucus he left in 2018.

CBC reporter Michelle Bellefontaine tweeted today that Jean said Kenney has not spoken to him since he was elected as a UCP MLA in March.

NDP MLAs flock to Calgary

Rakhi Pancholi NDP Edmonton Whitemud
Rakhi Pancholi

Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi will be nominated as her party’s candidate for re-election tonight.

“This community has shared with me their wisdom, their experiences, their hopes, and have trusted me to be their voice in the legislature,” said Pancholi. “I want to continue to work hard to help the families of this community – and across Alberta – seize the opportunities available for us to have a strong economic recovery.”

And with the next provincial election just over a year away, she, like most NDP MLAs, are spending a lot of time in Calgary – the expected battleground of the next election.

Janet Eremenko, Rachel Notley, and Rakhi Pancholi.

Pancholi was spotted door knocking in Calgary-Acadia with nomination candidate and Registered Nurse Diana Batten, and with NDP leader Rachel Notley and local candidate Janet Eremenko in Calgary-Currie.

Notley has been spending a lot of time in Calgary, including on the doors this week with Calgary-Edgemont candidate Julia Hayter. Notley will be headlining an April 9 nomination rally in Calgary-East where teacher Rosman Valencia is expected to be acclaimed.

Eggen was spotted door-knocking with MLA Joe Ceci in Calgary-Buffalo and candidate Gurinder Brar in Calgary-North East

Irwin and Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman are planning to join NDP nomination candidate Marilyn North Peigan on the doors this weekend in the Tuxedo Park neighbourhood in Calgary-Klein. Irwin is also scheduled to spend time door-knocking with Eremenko in Calgary-Currie and Hayter in Calgary-Edgemont.


The following nomination meetings have been scheduled.

• Calgary-East NDP: April 9, 2022
• Edmonton-Mill Woods NDP: April 10, 2022
• Leduc-Beaumont NDP: April 13, 2022
• Morinville-St. Albert NDP: April 30, 2022
• Calgary-Glenmore: May 10, 2022

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Alberta Politics

Marilyn North Peigan third candidate in Calgary-Klein NDP nomination contest, former MLA Oneil Carlier seeks nomination in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

Marilyn North Peigan is the third candidate to enter the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Klein. 

“As a long-time advocate for reconciliation, public health care in Alberta, Calgary’s downtown, and the arts sector, I am all-in on building Alberta’s future and will bring my experience to the Alberta NDP and Team Rachel Notley,” North Peigan said in a press release announcing her candidacy.

North Peigan is a member of the Blackfoot Confederacy and is a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, where she trained as a field medic with Toronto EMS and was stationed with Edmonton Field Ambulance. She holds an MA in Integrated Studies, with a focus on Work, Organization, and Leadership.

She is vice-chair of the Calgary Police Commission and an author of the White Goose Flying Report, Calgary’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action. She was also a candidate for city council in Calgary’s 2021 municipal elections.

North Peigan has been endorsed by former Calgary-Klein MLA Craig Coolahan, who served as MLA from 2015 to 2019.

“Marilyn will bring a much-needed perspective to the party and the legislature,” Coolahan said when reached for comment. 

Coolahan also released a video endorsement:

North Peigan joins Heather Eddy and Mattie McMillan in the nomination contest. A vote is scheduled to take place on March 26, 2022.

The riding is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Jeremy Nixon and is on the NDP’s target list for the next election. The local NDP constituency association organized a large group canvass last weekend, with Calgary-Buffalo MLA Joe Ceci and Calgary-Mountain View MLA Kathleen Ganley joining the volunteers. 

Oneil Carlier seeks nomination in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

Oneil Carlier NDP Lac Ste. Anne Parkland
Oneil Carlier

Former MLA Oneil Carlier announced today that he plans to seek the Alberta NDP nomination in the Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland riding.

“When I was an MLA and cabinet minister, I saw how government can work to get results for families,” Carlier said in a press release. “From his handling of the pandemic, to his attacks on health care workers, to sky-rocketing electricity rates, it’s clear Jason Kenney is not delivering for the families of our area.”

Carlier represented the Whitecourt-Ste. Anne riding from 2015 to 2019 and served as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in the NDP government. He was defeated in 2019 by United Conservative Party MLA Shane Getson in the redrawn Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland riding.

Getson has been an outspoken critic of the province’s COVID-19 protections and lost his position as Chair of the UCP’s Capital Region Caucus after he publicly suggested that people receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) were using the funds for Cheezies, cartoons and illegal drugs.

A nomination meeting is being scheduled for March 12, 2022.

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election call down to the wire

Premier Jason Kenney has only 9 days left to call the by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, which will see his leadership rival, UCP candidate Brian Jean, face off against NDP candidate Ariana Mancini and Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman.

The 28-day long by-election to choose a successor to Laila Goodridge must be called by February 15, 2022.

List of candidates running in 2023 election

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

Nomination update: Rob Miyashiro wins 4-way race in Lethbridge-East, Jennifer Burgess running for NDP nomination in Calgary-Glenmore

Former Lethbridge City Councillor Rob Miyashiro defeated former MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, non-profit executive director Amanda Jensen, and teacher Kevin McBeath to win the Alberta NDP nomination in Lethbridge-East on Nov. 21.

Miyashiro served on Lethbridge City Council from 2013 until 2021 and is the executive director of the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization.

This will be Miyashiro’s second time running as a candidate in Lethbridge-East. He was the Alberta Liberal candidate in the district in the 2012 provincial election, placing third with 14.6 per cent of the vote behind Progressive Conservative candidate Bridget Pastoor, who crossed the floor from the Liberals in 2011.

Nathan Neudorf Lethbridge East UCP MLA
Nathan Neudorf

The district is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Nathan Neudorf, who was elected as Chair of the UCP Caucus following Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen’s resignation and expulsion from the UCP Caucus last summer. Neudorf was first elected in 2019 after defeating Fitzpatrick.

As I’ve previously noted, Lethbridge-East has a unique voting history for a district in southern Alberta, with voters electing Liberal MLAs in every election from 1993 to 2008. Voters embraced the Orange Wave in 2015, electing Fitzpatrick as the riding’s first-ever NDP MLA.


We are now roughly 15 months away from the next provincial election in Alberta, so the candidate nomination news is rolling in slowly, candidates are starting to step forward across the province:

Banff-Kananaskis: Condo property manager Mark Tkacz is the third person to enter the NDP nomination contest in Banff-Kananaskis, joining biologist Sarah Elmeligi and bank manager Gavin McCaffrey.

Joe Ceci

Calgary-Buffalo: Two-term MLA Joe Ceci was acclaimed as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Buffalo, a riding he has represented since 2019. Ceci was first elected as the MLA for Calgary-Fort in 2015 and ran for re-election in the neighbouring Calgary-Buffalo in 2019 following the redrawing of electoral boundaries ahead of the last election.

Ceci served as a City Councillor in Calgary from 1995 to 2010 and was the Minister of Finance during the NDP’s four years as government.

Jennifer Burgess Alberta NDP Calgary-Glenmore nomination election
Jennifer Burgess

Calgary-Glenmore: Communications professional Jennifer Burgess announced yesterday that she is seeking the Alberta NDP nomination in this southwest Calgary riding.

Burgess is the President of the Braeside Community Association and a long-time NDP activist. She was president of the Calgary-Buffalo constituency association in 2016 and in 2019 managed the campaign of Calgary-Glenmore candidate Jordan Stein. 

Burgess previously ran for the NDP against then-Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice in the 2014 by-election in Calgary-Foothills. Her partner is former NDP MLA Graham Sucha, who represented Calgary-Shaw from 2015 to 2019.

The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Whitney Issik, who was appointed Associate Minister of Status of Women in July 2021. Before Issik’s election in 2019 the riding was represented by NDP MLA Anam Kazim. Kazim was elected in 2015 and was defeated by Stein in a nomination race ahead of the 2019 election. 

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche: The UCP hasn’t officially made the announcement it on its website, but the Elections Alberta website notes that the UCP will hold their nomination meeting in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche on December 11.

Membership sales closed over the weekend in the race to choose a candidate to run in the upcoming by-election, which has to be called by Feb. 15, 2022.

Former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, who represented much of the riding as an MLA from 2015 to 2018 and an MP from 2004 to 2013, is facing business consultant Joshua Gogo.

With a by-election call imminent, a steady stream of NDP MLAs have been travelling to Fort McMurray to raise the party banner and meet with locals.

Edmonton-City Centre NDP MLA and health critic David Shepherd was in Fort McMurray earlier this week, and party leader Rachel Notley, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous and Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan have recently visited Fort Mac.

There is still no word on who will run for the NDP in this by-election. The candidate who ran for the party in the 2018 by-election and 2019 election, Jane Stroud, was acclaimed to another term on the Wood Buffalo municipal council, a position she has held since 2010.

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Alberta Politics

Janet Eremenko wins NDP nomination in Calgary-Currie, Chand Gul running for NDP nomination in Edmonton-South West

Janet Eremenko defeated former MLA Brian Malkinson 155 votes to 120 votes to win the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Currie.

Eremenko was the party’s 2019 candidate in the neighboring Calgary-Elbow riding and ran for City Council in 2017. Her nomination candidacy was endorsed by former City Councillor Evan Woolley.

Calgary-Currie was the location of one of the closest races in the 2019 election, which saw Malkinson unseated by United Conservative Party candidate Nicholas Miliken by 191 votes.

The NDP have nomination meetings scheduled in Calgary-Buffalo on Nov. 15, where incumbent MLA Joe Ceci is expected to be acclaimed, and in Lethbridge-East on Nov. 21, where former MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, local non-profit executive director Amanda Jensen, teacher Kevin McBeath, and former City Councillor Rob Miyashiro will seek the nomination.


Chand Gul running for NDP nomination on Edmonton-South West

Behavioral specialist and trained clinical psychologist Chand Gul has announced plans to seek the Alberta NDP nomination in Edmonton-South West, the only riding in the capital city not currently represented by the NDP.

Chand Gul

“We want to move on from the negativity of Kacey Madu and Jason Kenney,” Gul said in a press release. “Rachel Notley has a positive vision for people; she shares my values of giving back to the community, defending human rights, and making sure government improves the lives of people. I want to be part of her team!”

Gul is the former president of the Alberta Pashtoon Association and previously worked for the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers through the organization’s Community Connector Immigrant Women’s Integration network.

She is also the former chair of the women’s wing of the Pakistan-Canada Association of Edmonton, and has also served as a Youth mentor to the Edmonton Immigrant Services Association and a board member for Canadians for a Civil Society.

Gul ran unsuccessfully for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Meadows ahead of the 2019 election, a race where she and incumbent MLA Denise Woollard were defeated by Jasvir Deol. Deol was elected as MLA in the 2019 election.

Before joining the Alberta NDP, she was the South Edmonton Regional director for the Alberta Liberal Party and a member of the federal Liberal Party’s board of directors in Edmonton-Mill Woods.

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

If nominated, she will likely face UCP MLA Kaycee Madu, who was first elected in 2019, and as I already mentioned, is the only UCP MLA from Edmonton. Madu defeated former journalist and political staffer John Archer by 715 votes in that election.

Madu was appointed as Minister of Municipal Affairs in 2019 and became Minister of Justice in a 2020 cabinet shuffle. Known for his abrasive-style of partisan politics, Madu has become a controversial figure in Jason Kenney’s UCP cabinet.

Edmonton-South West is almost certainly on every political watchers list of ridings to watch in the next provincial election.


Cringe

A screenshot from Brian Jean’s Facebook page.

Former Wildrose Party leader and Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche UCP nomination candidate Brian Jean has come out against mandatory vaccinations and the expansion of the province’s vaccine passport program for businesses.

Jean also faced criticism for a Facebook post in which he described his UCP nomination opponent, Joshua Gogo, as a “Nigerian economist who lives in Fort McMurray,” a description his opponents were quick to describe as a racist dog whistle.

Jean is running for the nomination to run in the upcoming by-election in the riding he mostly represented from 2015 to 2018, but he has also set his sights on challenging Kenney’s leadership of the UCP.

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Alberta Politics

NDP leads in fundraising, again, but UCP bounces back after weak returns in early 2021

The Alberta NDP raised more cash than the United Conservative Party in the third quarter of 2021, according to financial documents released today by Elections Alberta.

According to the returns, the NDP raised $1,367,080 and the UCP raised $1,235,482 between July 1 and Sept. 30, 2021.

While these results are better for the UCP than the previous quarters, this marks the fourth quarter in a row that Rachel Notley’s NDP have out-fundraised Jason Kenney‘s UCP. The NDP raised twice as much money as the UCP in the final quarter of 2020 and the first and second quarters of 2021.

Alberta NDP and United Conservative Party fundraising from 2019 Q4 to 2021 Q3.
Alberta NDP and United Conservative Party fundraising from 2019 Q4 to 2021 Q3.

The NDP have raised a stunning $4,060,290 since Jan. 1, 2021, dominating the governing UCP, which is trailing with $2,596,202 raised since the beginning of the year. It is pretty clear that the weak overall fundraising returns from the UCP have a result of Kenney’s plummeting personal approval ratings and the party’s dropping support in the polls.

The UCP’s bump in donations over the summer are likely a result of the party’s fundraising efforts in between the day when Kenney declared “Alberta open for the summer and open for good” and the start of the deadly fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the disclosures, $183,700 of the UCP’s total cash raised in the third quarter was from Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen‘s Innisfail-Sylvan Lake constituency association, likely generated at the annual horse derby fundraising event (Dreeshen has found himself at the centre of a sexual harassment and intoxication scandal). And $110,947 of the UCP’s total fundraising for the past quarter was raised by MLA Dan Williams constituency association in Peace River, likely at an August “town hall” fundraiser that featured Kenney and a number of cabinet ministers.

The Pro-Life Political Association, birthed from a hostile takeover of the moribund Social Credit Party in 2016, raised a surprising $92,560 in the third quarter. The party, which ran only one candidate in the 2019 election, is using the party as a vehicle for anti-abortion political activism that can legally issue tax-receipts for donations. It is unclear whether the party will move more aggressively into electoral politics in the 2023 election.

Here is what all of Alberta’s registered political parties raised in the third quarter of 2021:

  • Alberta NDP: $1,367,080.50
  • United Conservative Party: $1,235,482.45
  • Pro-Life Political Association: $92,560.92
  • Wildrose Independence: $53,839.92
  • Alberta Party: $31,617.41
  • Alberta Liberal Party: $13,930.54
  • Independence Party of Alberta: $1,740.00 
  • Green Party: $1,314.00
  • Alberta Advantage Party: $300.00

The Communist Party and Reform Party did not report any funds raised in this quarter.

NDP nominate Hoffman and Boporai

Parmeet Singh Boporai

The NDP have nominated two more candidates ahead of the expected 2023 provincial election. Sarah Hoffman was nominated in Edmonton-Glenora on Oct. 27 and Parmeet Singh Boparai in Calgary-Falconridge on Oct. 29.

Hoffman is the NDP deputy leader and was first elected as an MLA in 2015 after serving two terms on the Edmonton Public School Board.

Boparai finished a close second to UCP candidate Devinder Toor – losing by 96 votes in 2019 in the closest race of the provincial election.

The NDP have scheduled nomination meetings in Calgary-Currie on Nov. 13, and Calgary-Buffalo on Nov. 15 and Lethbridge-East on Nov. 21.

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Alberta Politics

Four candidates enter NDP nomination race in Lethbridge-East, Joshua Gogo first to seek UCP nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election

High School social studies teacher Kevin McBeath has entered the Alberta NDP nomination race in Lethbridge-East, becoming the fourth candidate to join the contest.

“My family is my top priority, and I am seeking this nomination with their future province in mind,” McBeath said in a Oct. 23 press release. “I have been investing my time, talent and treasure in Lethbridge-East for nearly two decades as a teacher and basketball coach at Winston Churchill High School. It is my love of teaching and coaching young people that has motivated me to run.”

McBeath will face former MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, local non-profit executive director Amanda Jensen, and former City Councillor Rob Miyashiro at a nomination meeting scheduled to take place on Nov. 21, 2021.

This is the second time in recent memory that the NDP have had a contested nomination in Lethbridge-East. Fitzpatrick won a nomination race against Tom Moffatt and Kris Hodgson ahead of the 2015 election.

Election results in Lethbridge-East from 1986 to 2019.
Election results in Lethbridge-East from 1986 to 2019.

Lethbridge-East has been represented by United Conservative Party MLA Nathan Neudorf since 2019.

The riding has an unusual electoral history for Conservative-voting southern Alberta, having been represented by two locally popular Liberal MLAs from 1993 t0 2011, and then by Fitzpatrick during the NDP’s term in government from 2015 to 2019.

The NDP have also scheduled nomination meetings in Edmonton-Glenora on Oct. 27, Calgary-Falconridge on Oct. 29, Calgary-Currie on Nov. 13, and Calgary-Buffalo on Nov. 15.

First candidate steps up for UCP nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche

Joshua Gogo
Joshua Gogo

Joshua Gogo is the first potential candidate to file papers with Elections Alberta to seek the United Conservative Party nomination in the upcoming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.

A by-election will need to be called before Feb. 15, 2022 to elect a replacement for former MLA Laila Goodridge, who was elected as the Member of Parliament for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake in the Sept. 20, 2021 federal election

Gogo is the Chief Economist and President of Global Advisory & Transaction Support at Afcote Associates based in Fort McMurray. He earned his Masters and PhD in Economics from Carleton University in Ottawa and a Masters degree in Computer Information Systems from Florida Institute of Technology.

In 2020, Gogo was appointed by the UCP government to serve on the Automobile Insurance Rate Board.

The date of a nomination meeting has not yet been announced.

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Alberta Politics

Joe Ceci running for re-election in Calgary-Buffalo

MLA Joe Ceci announced yesterday that he is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Buffalo and his third term in the Legislature in the expected 2023 provincial election.

A nomination meeting has been scheduled for Nov. 15, 2021.

Ceci was first elected as MLA for Calgary-Fort in 2015 and ran for re-election in Calgary-Buffalo on 2019 after a boundary change moved his neighbourhood into the downtown riding. Ceci served as Finance Minister during the NDP’s term in government and previously was elected to Calgary City Council from 1995 to 2010.

Calgary-Buffalo has a unique political history, having elected MLAs from non-conservative parties in 9 of the past 11 elections.

Liberal MLA Sheldon Chumir represented Calgary-Buffalo from 1986 until his death in 1992. Chumir was succeeded by Liberal Gary Dickson who won a 1992 by-election and served until 2001.

The riding was then represented by Progressive Conservative Harvey Cenaiko from 2001 until 2008, when Liberal MLA Kent Hehr defeated PC candidate and future City Councillor Sean Chu. Hehr served as MLA until 2015 when he jumped into federal politics and was elected as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Calgary-Centre.

NDP MLA Kathleen Ganley was elected in 2015 and ran for re-election in 2019 across the Bow River in Calgary-Mountain View, leaving the seat open for Ceci to run for re-election.

Ceci was re-elected with 48 per cent in 2019, defeating United Conservative Party challenger Tom Olsen, who placed second with  39 per cent (Olsen was soon after appointed as CEO of the Canadian Energy Centre, a government-funded oil industry public relations company colloquially known as “The War Room”).

The NDP have also scheduled nomination meetings in Edmonton-Glenora on Oct. 27, Calgary-Falconridge on Oct. 29, and Calgary-Currie on Nov. 13.

 

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Alberta Politics

Former MLAs jump into Alberta’s municipal elections

Municipal politicians making the leap into provincial politics is a pretty common occurrence, but less common are former provincial politicians jumping into municipal politics. 

This municipal election season, there are a handful of former Alberta MLAs who have decided to put their names on the ballot to run for their local municipal council. Here are a few that I’ve noticed on the lists of local candidates: 

– Former NDP MLA Annie McKitrick and former Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Quest are both running for Mayor of Strathcona County. McKittrick served as the MLA for Sherwood Park from 2015 to 2019 and as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Education from 2017 to 2019. Quest served as the PC MLA for Strathcona-Sherwood Park from 2008 to 2015 and Associate Minister for Seniors from 2013 to 2014. He ran for the Alberta Party in the 2019 election.

– Former NDP MLA Eric Rosendahl running for Hinton Town Council. Rosendahl was the NDP MLA for West Yellowhead from 2015 to 2019.

– Former NDP MLA Colin Piquette is running to become a councillor in the Village of Boyle. Piquette served as the MLA for Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater from 2015 to 2019 and was the President of the Boyle Chamber of Commerce before he was elected to the Legislature. He is the son of Leo Piquette, who was the NDP MLA for Athabasca-Lac La Biche from 1986 to 1989.

Victor Doerksen is running for Red Deer City Council. Doerksen was the Progressive Conservative MLA for Red Deer-South from 1993 to 2008 and Minister of Innovation and Science from 2001 to 2006. He finished seventh of eight candidates in the PC Party leadership in 2006. 

Mike Allen is running to become the next Mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Allen was the PC MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo from 2012 to 2015 with the exception of 2013 to 2014 when he sat as an Independent MLA after he was arrested in a prostitution sting operation while on a government trip to Minnesota (he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour and paid a $500 fine plus legal fees). If elected he would replace another former PC MLA, Don Scott, who was elected mayor in 2017 and is not seeking re-election.

– Former Wildrose MLA Wayne Anderson is running to become a councillor in Foothills County. Anderson was the Wildrose and United Conservative Party MLA for Highwood from 2015 to 2019. 

– Former PC MLA Arno Doerksen has been acclaimed as a councillor in Newell County. Doerksen served as the PC MLA for Strathmore-Brooks from 2008 to 2012. 

Kent Hehr dropped out of Calgary mayoral election race only weeks after entering the race. Hehr served as the Liberal MLA for Calgary-Buffalo from 2008 to 2015 and as the Liberal MP for Calgary-Centre from 2015 to 2019.

– And filed under “blast from the past,” long-time municipal politician Bob Russell is running for Mayor in the City of St. Albert. Russell served on city council from 1989 to 1992, 1995 to 2001 and 2013 to 2017 and ran for mayor in 1992, but before his municipal career he was leader of the Alberta Liberal Party from 1971 to 1974. 

Did I miss any former MLAs running in the municipal elections? Leave a comment below.

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Alberta Politics

MLA Recall focuses on punishing politicians rather than making them better representatives

Another MLA Recall bill has been introduced into the Alberta Legislative Assembly, and this one looks like it will actually pass and become law.

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

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu introduced Bill 52: Recall Act in the Assembly for first reading today. If it becomes law, the bill would allow for a by-election to be called in a provincial electoral district where the signatures of at least 40 percent of the eligible voters are collected. Unlike previous Recall efforts, Madu’s bill expands recall to municipal councillors and school board trustees.

Forty percent is likely a high enough threshold to avoid frivolous, or maybe any, actual Recall by-elections. While there are certainly some circumstances where constituents are united in unhappiness with their elected officials, this bill seems to be more of a signal that the United Conservative Party has checked off a box on its to-do list than actually create a mechanism to improve democracy in Alberta.

Instead of being fearful of a revolt by their own voters, it is more likely that MLAs will be concerned that well-funded special interest groups, like the the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, could swoop into their district with a legion of paid volunteers to rabble-rouse and cause trouble for local representatives.

It might be more proactive to limit recall, like they have in the United Kingdom, to politicians who are convicted of criminal offenses or providing false or misleading expenses claims while in office.

Our democratic institutions do need to be tinkered with and improved, but so much of the focus of efforts like MLA Recall are focused on punishing elected officials rather than empowering them to do a better job. So rather than finding new ways to fire politicians, which Albertans have done a fairly consistent job in the past two elections, we should be creating ways they can do better jobs for us.

Being a backbench MLA in a government caucus is not a glamorous job. They are told where to be and how to vote on most issues. Most rarely have the opportunity to demonstrate meaningful independence without facing the wrath of the Caucus Whip or the Leader’s Chief of Staff. And, when time comes for re-election, their nomination papers require the ultimate endorsement of the party leader.

One way that individual MLAs could empower themselves would be to change the standing orders to allow MLAs who are not in cabinet an increased opportunity to introduce private members bills. Right now MLAs earn the ability to introduce private members bills through a lottery, meaning that some MLAs will never have the chance to introduce a law into the Legislature.

And private members’ bills are only debated on Monday’s, severely limiting their ability to get attention and get passed into law.

Accountability of democratic officials is important, and that is why we have elections every four years. And as Albertans have enthusiastically demonstrated over the past two elections, they will not hesitate to dramatically unseat MLAs and governments if they feel the need.

It would be better for democracy in Alberta if we focused on ways to empower MLAs to better represent Albertans inside and outside the Assembly, rather than creating new ways to punish them.

History of Recall Legislation in Alberta

Madu’s Bill 52 marks the eleventh MLA Recall bill to be tabled in the Assembly since 1936.

1936: Bill No. 76 of 1936: A Bill Providing for the Recall of Members of the Legislative Assembly was introduced by the Social Credit government and passed after their surprising win in the 1935 election. The bill required 66.6 percent of voters to sign a petition to trigger a recall by-election.

1937: The law was repealed by the Social Credit government after a group of disgruntled Albertans was thought to have collected enough signatures to recall Premier William Aberhart in his Okotoks-High River constituency.

1993Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Gary Dickson introduced Bill 203: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. The bill was defeated in a 42-34 vote in the Legislature.

1995: Edmonton-Meadowlark Liberal MLA Karen Leibovici introduced Bill 224: Parliamentary Reform and Electoral Review Commission Act, which would have created a commission to study a handful of issues, including recall. The bill passed first reading but was never debated.

1996: Lethbridge-East Liberal MLA Ken Nicol introduced Bill 206: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. This bill was defeated in a 37-24 vote in the Legislature.

1997: Bill 216, Recall Act was introduced by Edmonton-Manning Liberal MLA Ed Gibbons but was never debated in the Legislature. If passed into law, the bill would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one

2010Calgary-Glenmore Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman introduced Bill 208: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 33 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. Reached second reading but was not debated further.

2015Chestermere-Rockyview Wildrose MLA Leela Aheer introduces Bill 206: Recall Act, which would trigger a recall by-election if 20 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. The bill passed first reading and died on the order paper.

2016: Drayton Valley-Devon Wildrose MLA Mark Smith introduces Bill 201: Election Recall Act, which would trigger a recall by-election is 66 per cent of the electorate’s signatures from the previous general election was collected in 60 days on a sanctioned petition. The bill was defeated in second reading.

2019: Drayton Valley-Devon United Conservative Party MLA Mark Smith introduces Bill 204: Election Recall Act, which would allow Albertans to trigger a by-election in a riding where 40 per cent of registered voters have signed a petition recalling their MLA. The bill died on the order paper after it passed second reading.

Categories
Alberta Politics

#1 for the wrong reason: Alberta leads Canada in new COVID-19 cases. Where is Jason Kenney?

Alberta broke its daily record for new COVID-19 cases and led the country in new cases. With 1,584 new cases, Alberta had more new cases than Canada’s two largest provinces, Quebec with 1,154, and Ontario with 1,534. 

The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting Alberta hard, and our leadership is sending out mixed messages. While the pandemic was of upmost importance earlier in the year, provincial leaders shifted their focus to the economy over the summer and resisted calls from health care experts for a province-wide mandatory mask requirement. Alberta is now the only province without a province-wide mask mandate.

Miranda Rosin Banff Kananaskis UCP MLA
Miranda Rosin

Premier Jason Kenney, who is in his second period of self-isolation after being exposed to someone with COVID-19 during a trip to northern Alberta earlier this month, has been silent on the daily record breaking cases. But although Kenney has been publicly silent on the surge in COVID cases and the many recent tragic deaths as a result of the virus, he was said to have recently appeared via Zoom at the Edmonton-South West United Conservative Party annual general meeting and a screenshot of him speaking via Zoom to the Canada India Foundation was circulating on social media this evening.

While no one is expecting Kenney to have all the answers, his disappearance is puzzling.

Even Health Minister Tyler Shandro has made only rare appearances outside the Legislative Assembly chamber lately, with most appearances related to defending Alberta’s ineffective COVID-19 tracing app.

In the absence of leadership, some UCP MLAs are filling the void with confusing information and mixed-messaging that undermines the work of public health professionals like Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Banff-Kananaskis MLA Miranda Rosin mailed pamphlets to thousands of her constituents last week claiming that the worst of the pandemic was over and that now was the time to focus on the economy.

And a video circulating on social media showed Associate Minster of Mental Health and Addictions and Calgary-Foothills MLA Jason Luan claiming that the government’s COVID-19 plan was to wait for hospital intensive care units to reach full capacity before changing course. Luan later retracted his comments in a carefully prepared written statement.

Meanwhile, the situation in hospital ICU’s across Alberta has reached serious levels. Not only are ICU beds filling up, but the pandemic is taking a serious toll on the health care professionals required to staff these intensive units. Most staff are overworked and having to work many additional shifts to cover for co-workers who have been exposed to COVID and are required to go into self-isolation.

In many cases, nurses and health workers are taking time-off without pay because their sick leave banks have run dry and a special self-isolation leave was ended by Alberta Health Services in July.

New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley has announced that she plans to ask for an emergency debate about the COVID-19 pandemic when MLAs return to the Legislature tomorrow.

And rumours are circulating tonight that Kenney may break his silence and join Dr. Hinshaw at a press conference tomorrow to announce a new series of measures to combat the pandemic, maybe even more stringent than the strongly encouraged voluntary measures that have clearly not been working.


David Khan to step down as Liberal Party leader

David Khan Alberta Liberal Party Leader
David Khan

The Alberta Liberal Party will soon be looking for a new leader. A press release sent out by the party today announced that leader David Khan would soon step down to pursue his legal career.

The congenial Khan has run under the provincial Liberal Party banner four times since 2014 and was chosen as party leader after launching a last-minute candidacy in 2017.

While Khan placed a strong third in Calgary-Buffalo in 2015, he finished a distant fourth in Calgary-Mountain View in 2019 as his party’s fortunes collapsed across the province. While he performed respectfully in the televised leaders debate, the Liberals were unable to break into what was largely two-party race between the UCP and NDP.

The 2019 election marked the first time since 1982 that the Liberals did not elect an MLA to the Legislative Assembly.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Nick Taylor was a giant in Alberta politics

He was never Premier of Alberta or even Leader of the Official Opposition, but Nick Taylor was a giant in Alberta politics nonetheless. The quick-witted oilman-turned-politican with swept-back silver hair and a droopy moustache was a fixture on the political scene for more than three decades and was probably one of the most persistent and determined politicians in our province’s recent history.

Taylor passed away last Saturday at the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary at the age of 92.

The Liberal Party’s voice in the wilderness

Nick Taylor Calgary-Centre Liberal candidate 1968 election Canada
A campaign poster from Nick Taylor’s campaign in Calgary-Centre in 1968.

Beginning his political career as a Liberal Party activist, with a stint as a trustee on the Calgary Separate School Board and a bid for City Council in 1964, Taylor made his first foray into federal electoral politics in 1968, nearly winning a seat in the House of Commons in the original Trudeaumania. He finished 301 votes behind long-time Progressive Conservative Douglas Harkness in Calgary-Centre. He placed further back in a second attempt in the 1972 election, but that was only the start of his political career.

Taylor jumped into provincial politics in 1974, defeating Edmontonian John Borger to win the leadership of the seatless Alberta Liberal Party. The party had been without an MLA in the Legislature since MLA Bill Dickie crossed the floor to join the Lougheed PC’s in 1969 (Taylor was Dickie’s campaign manager when he was first elected to the Assembly in 1963).

Appreciating some of the frustration expressed by some Albertans with the federal government at the time, Taylor told the Globe & Mail that Robert Stanfield‘s Tories might win the 1974 election. “Then,” he said, “I’m rid of the albatross of having to explain every asinine move Ottawa makes.”

Pierre Trudeau‘s Liberal government was narrowly re-elected.

Nick Taylor Trudeaumania Dynamiters Calgary-Centre 1968 Election
Nick Taylor and the Dynamiters (aka TNT – “Try Nick Taylor”) during the 1968 election in Calgary Centre.

But despite this comment, Taylor remained a Liberal Party stalwart and a fiercely pro-Canadian voice during the height of the separatist fervour that hit the Prairies in the 1970s and 1980s.

The new leader ran unsuccessfully in Dickie’s former Calgary-Glenmore riding in 1975 and 1979 before heading north of Edmonton to run in a by-election in the Barrhead stronghold of retiring Deputy Premier Hugh Horner. To the surprised of almost everyone, he finished just 350 votes behind rookie PC candidate Ken Kowalski.

Nick Taylor election campaign committee room Alberta Liberal Party
Nick Taylor, centre, stands with a crowd of supporters at his campaign headquarters.

Similar to his near-win in 1968, Taylor’s second attempt in Barrhead in 1982 was not as successful. Asked what he would have done if he had emerged victorious from beneath the Lougheed juggernaut, Taylor is quoted as saying he would “have demanded a recount.”

His rivalry with Kowalski became legendary in Alberta politics.

One story, whether it is true or not, took place at the grand opening of the Swan Hills Waste Treatment Centre. The local PC MLA proudly sat on the hood of the first truck as it rolled in to the facility. Taylor was in the crowd watching and yelled “here comes the first load!” leading to the crowd to burst into laughter.

His next attempt at elected office four years later in the newly redrawn neighbouring Westlock-Sturgeon riding paid off. Taylor was elected by 474 votes in 1986 and became the rarest of Alberta political species – a Liberal MLA from rural Alberta.

He led the Liberals to reenter the Legislative Assembly in that election, forming a caucus of four with Calgary-Buffalo MLA Sheldon Chumir, Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Bettie Hewes, and Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Grant Mitchell. The Liberal Party’s reappearance in the Assembly came just a few years after the National Energy Program mythically destroyed the province’s oil industry. 

Nick Taylor and Pierre Trudeau in Calgary Alberta Liberal Party election
Nick Taylor (right) on stage with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (left).

As an opposition MLA, Taylor brought his quick-witted and clever retorts to the floor of the Assembly.

As columnist Don Martin wrote in 2002, “[h]is most endearing incarnation was as a feisty Alberta MLA whose decade of deadly zingers triggered a no-laugh order from two premiers, forcing many a Conservative MLA to guffaw below their desk to avoid detection from ministers reeling under his verbal fire.”

After describing then-Forestry minister Ty Lund as “one of the finest examples of a Victorian environment minister I’ve ever met,” Taylor stung him with a nickname that stuck for years: Forest Stump.

He also legendarily got the word “cowbell” banned from being used in the Assembly after describing a group of PC backbenchers as having the “longest tongues and emptiest heads” in the building.

Nick Taylor Alberta Liberal Party leader
Nick Taylor poses with the local PC Party candidate.

“His wit made him very engaging and a great deal of fun to work with, but he was so much more than that. The nature of his wit was an indicator of his intelligence,” Mitchell, who served as party leader from 1994 to 1998, told Postmedia this week.

But 29 months after he became the first Liberal leader elected to the Assembly since 1968, he faced a leadership challenge that ended in 1989 with Edmonton mayor Laurence Decore becoming leader.

While trying to fight off his challengers during the bitter leadership race, Taylor described Decore as “Don Getty with glasses,” a clever quip and a gift to Decore’s political opponents that would periodically surface over the coming years.

When the leadership votes were counted, Decore captured 801 votes of the 1,444 cast, eclipsing Mitchell, who placed second with 385. Taylor, who led the party for the previous 14 years, finished a distant third with 259 votes.

Taylor had been usurped from the leadership but he remained an MLA for the next eight years, being re-elected by a similar margin of victory in Westlock-Sturgeon in 1989

But though he was no longer leader, the PC’s still desperately wanted to rid themselves of his quick-witted criticism and uncanny ability to embarrass the government in the Assembly.

Getty kicked off the PC Party’s provincial election campaign in Westlock in 1989, and a committee of PC MLAs drastically redrew his riding in 1993 so that he would have to run for re-election against incumbent PC MLA Steve Zarusky.

Nick Taylor (right) talks with a cowboy.
Nick Taylor (right) talks with a cowboy.

Taylor beat Zarusky by more than 1,500 votes in the new Redwater riding and joined by 31 other Liberals in the Assembly as the party formed Official Opposition for the first time since the 1960s.

As the mid-1990s approached, it was rumoured that Prime Minister Jean Chretien would appoint Taylor to the Lieutenant Governor’s post, but in the end it was a seat in Canada’s Senate that awaited him – a reward for his decades of public service and steadfast loyalty to the Liberal Party in the face of insurmountable opposition.

Nick Taylor and Jean Chretien Alberta Liberal Party
Nick Taylor and Jean Chretien (left).

He served as a Senator for Alberta from 1996 to 2002, choosing Bon Accord and Sturgeon as his Senatorial constituency.

Taylor remained a generous donor to the Alberta Liberal Party and was frequently seen at party fundraising events in Calgary. In his endorsement of current Liberal Party leader David Khan in 2017, he wrote “As a past leader of the Alberta Liberal Party, I learned how important it was to tackle the issue facing Albertans with integrity and compassion. The people of this province depend on you to stand up for their best interests.

Since he left to take up his Senate seat in Ottawa in 1996 there has not been anyone able to match his quick-witted humour and stinging retorts in Alberta politics or in the Assembly.

Nick Taylor Alberta Liberal Party convention
Nick Taylor at the Alberta Liberal Party convention in 1990.
Categories
Alberta Politics

The Battle of Alberta Politics: How voters in Calgary and Edmonton can sometimes be so different

The Battle of Alberta is a term usually reserved for competitions on the hockey rink or football field, but the rivalry between Calgary and Edmonton probably predates our professional sports clubs. While the animosity felt by some sports fans might not be felt the same way among voters, the politics and political divides between the two cities have helped defined Alberta politics since the province was created in 1905. From the decision of where to place Alberta’s capital city to where the province’s first university should be located, the roles played by the two major cities have been a periodic point of tension in provincial politics.

There are many reasons that explain the current political differences between the two cities, from the backgrounds of the settlers who founded the cities to the most recent round of economic convulsions.

As a friend of mine once put it, Calgary is where business decisions get made, Edmonton is where government decisions get made.

Calgary sees itself as the business capital, heavily influenced by connections to the American oil industry in Texas and the home of the braintrust of the federal Conservative movement. Edmonton is the government capital, heavily influenced by a combination of public servants and University employees as well as a base of blue-collar and trades workers with connections to Fort McMurray and northern Alberta.

Poll by poll results in Edmonton from the 2019 Alberta provincial general election. (Map by Shane Smith)
Poll by poll results in Edmonton from the 2019 Alberta provincial general election. (Map by Shane Smith)

These are obviously big generalizations that don’t reflect the diversity and complexity of the two cities but it does help explain some of the political differences between the two municipalities.

While I think the political differences between two two cities can sometimes be overstated, a troubling political narrative that has developed over the past six years has been that because Calgary is perceived to have felt the brunt of the economic fallout caused by the drop in the international price of oil, it is now Edmonton’s turn to feel the economic pain (translation: public sector wage rollbacks and job cuts).

There is an old saying in Alberta politics that a party has to win most of the seats in two of the three political regions of the province in order to form government – Calgary, Edmonton or rural Alberta. The “rural Alberta” in this calculation includes the small and medium size cities, which, with the exception of Lethbridge, have in the past four decades mostly voted in sync with the rest of rural Alberta – conservative.

But the calculation is generally correct. With a combined 46 seats in the Legislature, the two large cities represent the majority of Alberta voters (I hope to write more about voting patterns in “rural Alberta” in a future article).

This year marks one year since the United Conservative Party won the 2019 election and five years since the New Democratic Party won the 2015 election, undeniably two of the most important elections in Alberta’s recent political history. The two votes marked the first changes in government in Alberta since 1971, and both highlighted the political differences between Calgary and Edmonton.

The Progressive Conservatives had dominated Calgary since 1971 but in 2015 a combination of a surge of votes and the first-past-the-post electoral system allowed the NDP to elect 15 MLAs with 34 percent of the vote. The PCs earned 31 percent and the Wildrose placed third with 23 percent in Alberta’s largest city.

Poll by poll results in Calgary from the 2019 Alberta provincial general election. (Map by Shane Smith)
Poll by poll results in Calgary from the 2019 Alberta provincial general election. (Map by Shane Smith)

The 2015 election marked the first time since 1989 that the NDP had elected an MLA in Calgary and the first time since 1967 that a party other than the PCs won a majority of seats in the city.

While many prominent conservative pundits and politicians claimed the NDP breakthrough in Calgary, and much of the rest of Alberta, was a result of a vote-split on the political right, a closer look at that election would support the argument that the vote split was actually between the NDP and Wildrose among voters unhappy with the 43-year governing PC Party dynasty.

Edmonton has earned the nickname Redmonton for its reputation for electing more Liberals and NDP MLAs than anywhere else in the province. But despite the nickname, the capital city is historically more electorally competitive than it is an opposition bastion. Voters in the capital city have swung between parties more frequently than any other region in Alberta, making it one of the few consistently competitive areas of the province.

Led by Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley, the NDP swept the city in 2015, earning 65 percent of the total vote and winning every seat. The PCs earned 20 percent and the Wildrose finished with 8 percent in the capital city.

As one local PC Party campaign manager described to me after the 2015 election, their candidate faced “a giant impenetrable wall of orange.”

Provincial voting results in Edmonton from 1982 to 2019.
Provincial voting results in Edmonton from 1982 to 2019.

Four years later in 2019, the NDP maintained its vote share in Calgary but were only able to elect three MLAs as the UCP succeeded in consolidating the large base of PC and Wildrose voters, though a number of UCP candidates earned below the combined totals from the previous election. The NDP earned 34 percent of the vote and the UCP, led by Calgary-Lougheed MLA Jason Kenney, amassed 53 percent and elected 23 MLAs.

The seats won by Calgary NDP MLAs in the 2019 election have a tradition of electing non-conservative MLAs. Calgary-Buffalo and Calgary-Mountain View elected Liberals and NDP MLAs in the 1980s and 1990s, and Calgary-McCall swung to the Liberals in the 2000s.

Although the NDP lost all but one of the suburban surrounding the city, the party maintained its dominance in Edmonton in 2019, winning 53 percent of the vote and holding all but one seat. The UCP elected 1 MLA and earned 35 percent of the vote in the capital city.

Provincial voting results in Calgary from 1982 to 2019.
Provincial voting results in Calgary from 1982 to 2019.

The only viable third party in the 2019 election, the Alberta Party, earned 10 percent of the vote in both cities but failed to elect any MLAs. Party leader Stephen Mandel was unsuccessful in his bid for election in Edmonton-McClung and its two Calgary incumbents were defeated.

Past elections in the two cities

The results of these two elections, and how they have shaped Alberta politics in the most recent two election prompted me to take a broader look at voting results in Calgary and Edmonton over the past four decades.

Alberta MLAs elected in Edmonton from 1982 to 2019.
Alberta MLAs elected in Edmonton from 1982 to 2019.

1986: The departure of Peter Lougheed as Premier of Alberta in 1985 clearly had a big impact on Alberta politics, as the economic recession that followed allowed NDP led by Edmonton-Norwood MLA Ray Martin breakthrough in the capital city in the 1986 election.

Calgary remained a PC Party stronghold following Lougheed’s departure, with the NDP and Liberals electing a handful of MLAs between 1986 and 1997, and 2004 and 2012.

The election of Liberal Sheldon Chumir in Calgary-Buffalo in 1986 marked the beginning of a long-line of non-conservative MLAs representing that district. Non-conservative candidates would win in Calgary-Buffalo in nine of the next eleven elections (the district is currently represented by NDP MLA Joe Ceci).

Edmonton became the competitive hotbed of Alberta politics and a deep rivalry developed between Liberal Party and NDP partisans in the capital city.

The competition between the Liberals and NDP in Edmonton during this period generated much discussion around a “unite the left” movement to defeat the PCs, though this perennial debate largely became mute when the NDP formed government in 2015.

Alberta MLAs elected in Calgary from 1982 to 2019.
Alberta MLAs elected in Calgary from 1982 to 2019.

1993: In 1993, Premier Ralph Klein further consolidated his party’s electoral grip on Calgary while the Liberals led by former mayor Laurence Decore executed a clean sweep of the capital city. The Liberals were the beneficiaries of a collapsing NDP vote and also a burgeoning group of Reform Party voters wanting change on the provincial and federal levels.

The Liberals would again dominate Edmonton in the 1997 and 2004 elections, though the party began to resemble a group of independents more than the cohesive political organization created by Decore.

Competition between Decore’s Liberals and former Calgary mayor Klein’s PCs led to obvious descriptions of provincial politics as the battle of Alberta.

2001: The 2001 election marked a turn back toward the PC Party in Edmonton, which would then lose most of its seats when the Liberals and NDP rebounded in 2004 before regaining ground in the city in 2008 and 2012. This period marked the beginning of a decline of the Liberal Party in Edmonton after almost two decades as the official opposition party.

The 2001 election also marked the first time since 1982 that the PCs won every seat in Calgary.

2004: The 2004 election marked a breakthrough for the opposition Liberals in Calgary where the party elected three MLAs, the most since 1993. The Liberals would expand its voter base in Calgary and elect four MLAs in 2008 as the party’s fortunes in Edmonton sharply declined after it regained much of its seats in the 2004 election.

2012: The 2012 election marked a significant shift in the political environment in Alberta with the two large cities coalescing behind the PC Party. The opposition Wildrose Party swept much of rural Alberta, forming the first rural based official opposition party since the Social Credit Party in the 1970s. This trend would continue in the 2015 election as the Wildrose Party regained most of its seats following the 2014 floor-crossings.

(Note: Thank you to Shane Smith for sharing the poll level election maps. You can follow Shane on Twitter at @Smith80D).

Categories
Alberta Politics

Election bills give Albertans more democracy, less transparency and accountability.

Albertans could soon be given more opportunities to cast their ballots but with much less transparency about and accountability for who is spending money to influence their votes.

The United Conservative Party government continued to unwrap its electoral reform package this week with the introduction of:

Bill 26: Constitutional Referendum Amendment Act: introduced by Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer, the bill amends the Constitutional Referendum Act law to allow for province-wide referendums to be held on non-constitutional issues

Bill 27: Alberta Senate Election Amendment Act: also introduced by Schweitzer, this bill makes amendments to the Alberta Senate Election Act passed in June 2019. 

Bill 29: Local Authorities Election Amendment Act: introduced by Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu, this bill introduces major changes to the law that governs municipal elections in Alberta.

These bills are part of a series of election bills that are expected to also include future bills allowing for the recall of MLAs, municipal politicians and school trustees, citizen initiated referendums, and major changes to provincial election laws.

Doug Schweitzer Calgary Alberta Conservative
Doug Schweitzer

The three bills introduced this week provide more opportunities for Albertans to vote for candidates and on issues, but they also claw back important transparency and accountability rules implemented by the previous New Democratic Party government less than two years ago.

It has almost been 50 years since the last time a province-wide plebiscite was initiated by the Alberta government. Bill 26 would allow the provincial government to hold referendums on non-constitutional issues, like creating an Alberta Pension Plan or deciding if we should remain on Daylight Saving Time. Providing an opportunity for Albertans to cast ballots on important issues can be a powerful tool to engage voters, but the timing and wording of such votes can also be intentionally manipulative.

The bill allows third-party groups, colloquially known as political action committees, to spend up to $500,000 on advertising up from the current $150,000 limit. Third-party groups that spend less than $350,000 on advertising during a referendum would not be required to file financial statements with Elections Alberta.

Schweitzer did not hold a press conference to announce the bill, so it is unclear why he chose to include such a massive gap in transparency.

Changes to municipal election laws included in Bill 29 are being framed by Madu as helping “level the playing field” for new candidates running for municipal councils and school boards by not allowing incumbents to carry over campaign war chests between elections and increasing the amount candidates can spend ahead of the election period from $2,000 to $5,000.

Bill 29 raises the election period donation limit from $4,000 back up to $5,000 and allows candidates to self-finance their campaign up to $10,000, reversing a number of changes made by the NDP government in 2018 that have not had a chance to be tested in a municipal election campaign.

Madu’s bill would also make it legal for wealthy individuals to donate up to $5,000 each to as many candidates as they want in any municipal or school board election across the province, effectively removing the cap on individual donations.

Eliminating the ability of incumbents to store campaign surpluses in war chests for future elections might lower the amount of cash on hand at the beginning of an election campaign. But in Edmonton at least, only two city councillors – Sarah Hamilton and Ben Henderson – reported having surpluses of more than $10,000 at the end of the 2017 election, suggesting that war chests are not necessarily a significant issues in the capital city.

Raising the donation limit could strengthen the advantage of incumbents with name recognition and developed political networks running against challengers who may be seeking political office for the first time.

The advantage of name recognition that helps incumbents get re-elected in large numbers at the municipal level is a feature that predates any of the changes to municipal election finance laws introduced by the previous NDP and Progressive Conservative governments over the past decade. The incumbent advantage even existed when there were no donation limits.

Bill 29 removes the requirement that candidates disclose their donors ahead of election day, which allows voters to see who is financially supporting candidates before they head to the ballot box.

The bill also removes spending limits for third-party groups before the start of the election period, allowing groups like Calgary’s infamous Sprawl Cabal of land developers free reign to spend unlimited amounts of money on advertising before May 1, 2021.

Madu’s Bill 29 introduces big money back into municipal elections under the guise of fairness and without creating any of the structural changes required to design a real competitive electoral environment at the municipal level.

Bill 29 also removes all references to the Election Commissioner, a housekeeping item necessitated by the controversial firing of the Commissioner by the UCP government in November 2019. In its place, the bill creates a Registrar of Third Parties, though it is unclear if the person holding this title would have the legal investigative authority of the now defunct Election Commissioner.

In past elections many municipalities simply did not have the resources available to enforce municipal election finance rules, so in some cases complaints were simply left uninvestigated.

Some of these changes were expected and were included in the UCP’s 2019 election platform, others were necessitated by inconsistencies in the changes made by the NDP in 2018, and some have come completely out of left-field.

Alberta’s election laws should be dynamic and designed to encourage and facilitate participation by voters and candidates, not to hide the identities of those who would spend money influencing election campaigns.

Overall, these bills could probably be summed up as one step forward for democracy and two steps back for transparency and accountability.

Changes coming to provincial election laws

Joseph Schow Cardston-Siksika MLA UCP
Joseph Schow

These changes are likely a taste of what is to come from the recently appointed Select Special Democratic Accountability Committee. Chaired by Cardston-Siksika UCP MLA Joseph Schow, the committee will review Alberta’s Election Act and the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act within the next six months and has be tasked with answering a series of questions submitted by Schweitzer within four months.

Along with Schow, the committee membership includes Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner, Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard, Calgary-Buffalo MLA Joe Ceci, Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang, Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Laila Goodridge, Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon, Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi, Highwood MLA R.J. Sigurdson, Drayton Valley-Devon MLA Mark Smith and Edmonton-Manning MLA Heather Sweet.

Categories
Alberta Politics

WAR ROOM ENGAGE! Kenney hires former UCP candidate Tom Olsen to run the Canadian Energy Centre

The Alberta government’s much talked about energy war room now has its General. Energy Minister Sonya Savage announced yesterday that Tom Olsen has been hired as the managing director of the newly incorporated Canadian Energy Centre. The $30-million publicly funded private corporation is part of the UCP’s “fight back strategy” to counter claims made by critics of the oil and gas industry that Premier Jason Kenney said will target politicians, media and other opinion leaders, and could include satellite offices overseas.

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP
Joe Ceci

Olsen was most recently the United Conservative Party candidate in the downtown Calgary-Buffalo riding in the 2019 provincial election, where he finished 9 per cent short of unseating former New Democratic Party finance minister Joe Ceci. But despite his recent electoral loss, Olsen has been a fixture of Conservative politics in Alberta for more than a decade.

After years as a columnist and reporter for the large daily newspapers in Calgary and Edmonton, Olsen jumped into politics when he was hired as Premier Ed Stelmach’s spokesperson in 2007. (Olsen’s brother, Gordon Olsen, worked in senior roles in the Premier’s Office while Ralph Klein occupied the office).

While some Albertans will remember Olsen for his role in the Northumberland beach photos fiasco, he also oversaw the launch of the first version of the war room.

In 2008, the Alberta government launched a website called “For the Record” that was dedicated to correcting what the government determined was incomplete or incorrect information in the media. “It’s not a forum to argue philosophy and spin. . . it’s not debating the rightness or wrongness of a particular issue. It’s about factual information,”Olsen told the Calgary Herald in December 2008. “I don’t see it as government policing journalists.”

The Alberta Government’s short-lived “For the Record” webpage.

It was the government policing journalists, and it did not last very long. The government website posted six corrections to news stories from various media outlets between November 2008 and December 2010. The website briefly became a source of controversy when Olsen insisted the Globe & Mail be referred to as the Toronto Globe & Mail. The website was later edited to drop Toronto from the newspaper’s name.

Following a wholesale purge of Stelmach’s senior communications staff, Olsen was whisked off to Vancouver to handle the Alberta government’s public relations during the 2010 Winter Olympics, which included the renting of the luxury Rocky Mountaineer train and the distribution of free iPads to journalists and VIPs.

Sonya Savage

Olsen later worked as a lobbyist for groups including the Calgary Residential Rental Association, Greyhound and the national group representing Pay Day Loan companies. He found himself back in the Progressive Conservative Party fold when he became Vice-President of Communications during Jim Prentice‘s brief time as party leader.

Savage, a former pipeline lobbyist and now a member of the war room board of directors along with Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer and Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon, said this week that the war room will include a rapid response centre, an energy literacy unit and a data research unit. Former Postmedia columnist Claudia Cattaneo was hired in August 2019 by the government to write the Energy War Room Strategic plan.

Earlier this year, Postmedia hired Kenney’s former chief of staff, Nick Koolsbergen, to lobby the UCP government on ways the Toronto-headquartered newspaper company could be involved with the war room. 

In an interview with the Postmedia-owned Financial Post, Postmedia President and CEO Andrew MacLeod said that the lobby effort was part the company’s effort to find new revenue streams and that it had no relationship to editorial decision-making (meanwhile, the front cover of the Postmedia-owned National Post today featured a paid political advertisement attacking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau).

Andrew MacLeod Postmedia CEO President
Andrew MacLeod

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, a lobby group that represents many of Canada’s oil and gas companies, is also registered to lobby Alberta MLAs, the Minister of Energy and the Premier’s Office to share and advise on best practices for the war room to counter misinformation. 

Postmedia’s past relationship with CAPP is no secret, but these group’s business relationships with the war room could be.

As CBC’s Michelle Bellefontaine reported today, as a private corporation the Canadian Energy Centre will be exempt from freedom of information requests, meaning that Albertans might not ever know how much of the $30 million is paid to Postmedia, CAPP or whichever UCP-connected PR firms are hired to work for the publicly-funded private war room.

Regardless of which PR companies or Toronto-based newspaper company gets hired, Olsen will have his job cut out for him. The first order of business for the new Canadian Energy Centre might be playing defence for the Alberta government’s $2.5 million public inquiry into anti-oil campaigns – an effort that has been criticized as a witch-hunt by groups like EcoJustice and the venerable Amnesty International.

While it may be easy for Kenney to dismiss NGOs and suggest that the 4,000 Albertans participating in the climate strike protest outside the Legislature were communist sympathizers, Olsen’s war room will have a harder time dismissing its greatest opponent – the free market.

Many major international oil and gas corporations have withdrawn their investments in Canada’s oilsands over the past five years, and the UCP’s decision to scale back the Alberta government’s climate change commitments certainly will not help how our province is perceived internationally.

Conservatives howled loudly this week as a major Norwegian pension fund withdrew investments in four Alberta-based oilsands companies. The move was described by UCP supporters online as hypocritical, as Norway continues to make investments in its own off-shore oil and gas platforms. The move may have been hypocritical, but those are the types of decisions that countries like Norway can make when they have $1.1 trillion saved in the bank (something for Albertans to think about when they consider how much past governments have squandered our wealth).

Olsen’s biggest challenge might be to prove that the war room is more than a $30-million public relations subsidy to Alberta’s oil and gas companies.

Public attitudes toward fossil fuels and climate change are shifting dramatically, and Alberta risks becoming increasingly isolated on energy and climate issues on the national and international stage. Judging from the Alberta government’s numerous high-profile efforts over the past two decades to correct what it saw as misinformation about the oilsands and fight environmental advocates outside the province, the war room might be an example of the UCP preparing to fight the last war.


A short history of Alberta government  advertising campaigns and initiatives aimed at critics of oil and gas companies (I am sure I have missed a few):

2002: the Alberta government announced and later scrapped plans for an anti-Kyoto Accord advertising campaign in Ontario after focus group testing proved the messaging was unpopular among Torontonians.

2008: the Alberta government launched a public relations campaign targeting critics of the oilsands outside of Alberta, which included a 20-page glossy brochure entitled Alberta’s Oil Sands: Balance. Opportunity. This campaign included a North America and European speaking tour by the Premier.

2010: the Alberta government rolled out a slick $25-million “Tell It Like It Is” oilsands promotional campaign that included advertisements in London’s Piccadilly Circus and New York City’s Times Square. The multimedia blitz includes CDs and DVDs about “Alberta’s Clean Energy Future” and “A conversation on oilsands and the environment” – which features commentary from provincial experts.

2012: the Alberta government announced it was spending $77,000 on a pro-Keystone XL Pipeline advertising campaign during the Premier’s visit to Washington DC and hired lobbyists to directly lobby US officials.

2012: the federal Conservative government assigned Canadian diplomats to lobby Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. in order to counter campaigns launched by an environmental advocacy groups targeting the oilsands.

2013: the federal Conservative government launched a advertising campaign directed at American politicians ahead of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s trip to the United States. The ad campaign described Canada as a “world environmental leader” on oil and gas development.

2018: the Alberta government spent more than $23 million promoting its KeepCanadaWorking advertising campaign in support of the expansion of the Trans Mountain PIpeline from Alberta to British Columbia.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances, NDP critics, and auf Wiedersehen, Derek

It has been a busy week in Alberta politics and here are a few of my thoughts on some recent developments:

Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances

Premier Jason Kenney and Finance Minister Travis Toews appointed a “Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances” with a mandate to recommend changes limited to Alberta government spending. As others have already pointed out, the narrow mandate is a missed opportunity to actually address the fiscal challenges facing Alberta, which includes issues with revenue ranging from low taxation and over-dependence on oil and gas royalty revenues.

That Kenney, who started his political career as spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, would want to focus purely on spending is not a shock. But it is only part of the challenge facing Alberta.

Appointing an arms-length panel to make these recommendations is politically smart and will give cover to a United Conservative Party government that is already inclined to make significant cuts to funding of public services. The NDP made similar political moves when they appointed arms-length panels to recommend changes to the natural resource royalty structure and to recommend action on climate change, which included the creation of the carbon tax, which Kenney has pledged to repeal.

Kenney’s appointment of history professor and former Saskatchewan New Democratic Party cabinet minister Janice MacKinnon and former Alberta Liberal MLA Mike Percy was a clever move that on the surface mildly disarms its critics. But despite their past political affiliations, both MacKinnon and Percy have in the decades since they left elected office been welcomed in conservative circles because of their fiscally conservative views. MacKinnon was even prominently quoted in the UCP election platform.

Albertans need leaders who will look at the big picture, not just a slice of the problem. Judging by its narrow mandate, it is hard to imagine the blue ribboned panelists recommending anything but cuts, cuts, and more cuts.

NDP critics to be named next week 

The 24 Alberta NDP MLAs who will make up the Official Opposition will be sworn-in on May 13 at the Legislative Assembly. Unlike their UCP colleagues, who will be sworn-in before the Speech from the Throne on May 21, the two dozen NDP MLAs will have an 8-day jump start with access to their Legislative offices and time to prepare for their first week of Question Period. And with a caucus mostly hailing from Edmonton, NDP MLAs will have a hometown advantage of not having to regularly travel long-distances to work in the capital city.

The NDP critic line-up is expected to be announced shortly after NDP MLAs are sworn-in. With 9 cabinet minister in its ranks, the NDP opposition will be well-equipped to question the cabinet of mostly rookie UCP MLAs. There could be a natural temptation to appoint the former cabinet ministers as critics for the ministerial offices they previously held, but it could also compromise the credibility of those critics who in some cases would be watching much of their 4-years of work be dismantled by the UCP.

Look for Official Opposition leader Rachel Notley to place Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman, Lethbridge-East MLA Shannon Phillips, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous, Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen, and Calgary-Buffalo MLA Joe Ceci in key critic roles.

The NDP will be tempted to continue their relentless campaign against the UCP on social issues, but treating the post-election period as just an extension of the 2019 election could be a strategic mistake. The NDP need to prepare themselves for how to respond effectively to the aggressive legislative agenda Kenney is expected to implement in the “Summer of Repeal” and to a fall provincial budget that could include deep and short-sighted budget cuts.

auf Wiedersehen, Derek.

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt faced a bizarre 72 hour suspension from the Official Opposition caucus this week.Former Wildrose Party and UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt resigned as leader of the Freedom Conservative Party last week after his party’s electoral poor showing and his failure to win re-election in Chestermere-Strathmore in the April 2019 election. Fildebrandt, also a former spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, is succeeded by interim leader David White, a former paramedic who ran for the party in Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin.

Say what you want about his political views and personal behavior, but Fildebrandt has been one of the most consistently colourful characters in Alberta politics since he burst on to the provincial scene in 2012.

The Freedom Conservative Party is the latest name of a tiny right-wing populist and sometimes separatist party that has existed since 1999. It took its latest form in June 2018 when the Western Freedom Party was renamed the Freedom Conservative Party. The party was originally formed as the Alberta First Party in 1999, renamed the Separation Party of Alberta in 2004 and again renamed the Alberta First Party in 2013 before it became the Western Freedom Party in April 2018.