United Conservative Party leader Danielle Smith and Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley met last night for the only televised leaders debate of Alberta’s election campaign. The debate was entertaining for political watchers and it will probably be analyzed to death for the next 24 hours, but I’m not sure it will have much of an impact on the election campaign.
Here are a few quick thoughts on the leaders debate…
The NDP announced on Saturday that author and editor Dustin Archibald would be the party’s candidate in Grande Prairie-Wapiti.
“As a parent, I was very concerned when the UCP introduced their inappropriate curriculum. This backwards curriculum is not one that will give my son a strong start in life,” Archibald said in a statement released after his nomination “Education is one of our biggest economic drivers in the province, so we must invest in public education to ensure children have the best start to their lives.”
And at a party event on Sunday afternoon, Alberta Liberal Party leader John Roggeveen announced he is running in Calgary-Lougheed. The Liberals currently have 12 candidates nominated to run in Alberta’s election.
Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley was nominated as her party’s candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona this past weekend. Speaking to a crowd of more than 800 supporters gathered at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Notley delivered an energetic speech that felt like a campaign kick-off for the former premier’s party.
Notley was first elected as MLA for the central Edmonton riding in 2008 and was re-elected in 2019 with 72.2 per cent of the vote. The riding has elected NDP MLAs since 1997 and the party previously held the riding from 1986 to 1993.
UCP choose Claresholm Mayor in ‘do-over’ nomination vote in Livingstone-Macleod
Town of Claresholm Mayor Chelsae Petrovic won the United Conservative Party‘s ‘do-over’ nomination vote in Livingstone-Macleod. Petrovic defeated Tanya Clemens and Don Whalen in a decisive first ballot victory. Petrovic earned 759 votes with Clemens collecting 469 votes and Whalen finishing third with 118 votes.
This is the UCP’s second time holding a nomination vote in the southern Alberta riding.
The riding was represented by former premier Jason Kenney from 2017 until his resignation in November 2022.
NDP members in the riding voted to select Venkat Akkiraj over Kim Wagner in that party’s nomination vote this week. Akkiraj is a law student and former organizer with the Ontario NDP.
City Councillor jumps into Grande Prairie UCP race
City Councillor Gladys Blackmore is the fourth candidate to enter the UCP nomination contest in Grande Prairie. Blackmore served on City Council from 2001-2010 before making an unsuccessful bids for mayor in 2010 and 2013. She returned to city council in 2021.
She joins Nolan Dyck, Larry Gibson, and Tayyab Parvez in the race to choose a UCP successor to retiring MLA Tracy Allard.
The UCP MLA for the neighbouring Grande Prairie-Wapiti riding, Finance Minister Travis Toews, has still not announced whether he plans to run for re-election. Toews is now the only remaining MLA who has not announced their plans for the May election.
Hinshaw critic wins UCP nomination in Lethbridge-West
Torry Tanner defeated Rick Dempsey to win the UCP nomination vote in Lethbridge-West. Tanner was a participant in an unsuccessful lawsuit against former Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw challenging Alberta’s COVID-19 public health restrictions.
The riding is currently represented by NDP Shannon Phillips.
Other nomination updates
Calgary-Foothills: The Alberta Party disqualified Shaoli Wang as a candidate after a series of embarrassing social media posts were revealed. Wang will instead run as an Independent candidate.
Cypress-Medicine Hat: James Finkbeiner and Justin Wright are on the ballot when UCP members vote to nominate a candidate on March 16. The riding is currently represented by Independent MLA Drew Barnes.
Edmonton-City Centre: Richard Wong is the UCP candidate in this downtown Edmonton riding.
Leduc-Beaumont: Heather Feldbusch, Nam Kular, Brandon Lunty, Dawn Miller, Dave Quest, and Karen Richert are running for the UCP nomination. A vote is scheduled for March 18.
Peace River: Nancy O’Neill is running for the Independence Party of Alberta nomination.
Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Former Clearwater County Reeve Tim Hovenwill run as an Independent candidate. Hoven was disqualified from running for the UCP nomination against Jason Nixon last year. It was widely believed that Hoven could have defeated Nixon, who was then serving as former premier Kenney’s chief lieutenant.
The Alberta NDP leads the pack with 75 candidates nominated across the province. NDP leader Rachel Notley will be nominated as her party’s candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona at a pre-election rally at the big NDP campaign training school in Edmonton on March 11. And two candidates – Venkat Akkiraj and Kim Wagner – are vying for the NDP nomination in Calgary-Lougheed on March 14.
The remaining NDP vacancies without scheduled nomination meetings are in the ridings of Cardston-Siksika, Drayton Valley-Devon, Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, Grande Prairie, Grande Prairie-Wapiti, Highwood, Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin, and Taber-Warner.
These are mostly ridings where the NDP is seen as having little chance of winning, though NDP MLAs did represent Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville and parts of Maskwacis-Wetaskwin from 2015 to 2019.
Nominations votes are scheduled for Livingstone-Macleod (March 9, 10, 11), Calgary-Lougheed (March 13), Lethbridge-West (March 14), Cypress-Medicine Hat (March 16), and Leduc-Beaumont (March 18).
That leaves unscheduled or unannounced UCP nominations in Grande Prairie and Grande Prairie-Wapiti (where Finance Minister Travis Toews has not announced his intentions to run for re-election), and the central Edmonton ridings of Edmonton-City Centre, Edmonton-Glenora, Edmonton-Gold Bar, Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, Edmonton-Riverview and Edmonton-Strathcona (which are all among the safest NDP ridings in Alberta).
And it’s in Edmonton-Whitemud that the Emergency Room doctor and former leader of the Alberta Liberal Party hopes to make his next political comeback.
Sherman first jumped onto the political scene back in 2008, when he was elected as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark. He briefly served as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health and Wellness but his time in the PC fold was short.
Sherman was removed from the PC Caucus in 2010 and briefly enjoyed an almost folk-hero status in Alberta politics before deciding to run for the Liberal Party leadership in 2011. He won on the first ballot in the party’s first (and only) open-membership vote.
Sherman was unable to mend the Liberal Party’s political wounds and only narrowly held on to his seat in the 2012 election. The moribund Liberals placed a distant third behind Alison Redford‘s PCs and Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party.
Four candidates are on the ballot in the Lesser Slave Lake UCP nomination vote on February 25 and 26. Former constituency assistant Martine Carifelle, oil field operator Jerrad Cunningham, auto glass repair shop owner Scott Sinclair, and former chief Silas Yellowknee of the Bigstone First Nation are seeking the nomination to succeed retiring UCP MLA Pat Rehn.
Tischer running for NDP in Athbasca-Barrhead-Westlock
Pastor-turned-horizontal directional driller Landen Tischer is expected to be acclaimed as the NDP candidate in this sprawling rural riding north of Edmonton. A nomination meeting is being held on February 25.
The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Glenn van Dijken, who fended off a nomination challenge from Westlock County Councillor Isaac Skuban late last year.
Newly nominated candidates
Edmonton-Manning: UCP voters in this north east Edmonton riding voted to select their candidate last night but the results have not yet been released. Alberto Mazzocca and Jaspreet Saggu were seeking the nomination.
Edmonton-North West: Ali Haymour was acclaimed as the UCP candidate. Haymour is a familiar name to north Edmonton voters, having previously run for City Council in 2017 and 2021, and as the Alberta Party candidate in Edmonton-Decore in 2019 and the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Castle Downs in 2008 and 2012.
Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland: UCP MLA Shane Getson has been acclaimed as his party candidate in this rural riding just north west of Edmonton. Town of Mayerthorpe Mayor Janet Jabush is now the Alberta Party candidate. Jabush has served as mayor since 2019.
Edmonton-Strathcona: NDP leader Rachel Notley is expected to be acclaimed as her party’s candidate at a nomination rally at NAIT on March 11. Notley was first elected in 2008 and was re-elected in 2019 with 72.27 per cent of the vote.
Cypress-Medicine Hat:Dustin Cartwright has withdrawn his candidacy for the Green Party in this south east Alberta riding.
Toor’s first term as a UCP backbencher was not short of controversy.
In June 2020, CBC reported that the owners of two popular food trucks claimed they were being bullied and harassed by residents who didn’t want them there, including Toor.
He was hit with a $15,000 fine from Elections Alberta in July 2021 for violating five sections of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. And in September 2021, Alberta Health Services issued a closure order for a Gleichen hotel owned by Toor.
Toor was one of only a handful of UCP MLAs to support Danielle Smith in her bid to win the party’s leadership and he was rewarded in October 2022 with an appointment as Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism.
This is a riding the NDP believe they can flip. It is on my list to watch.
Four in Livingstone-Macleod UCP race, former candidate now running for Alberta Party
It looked like there might be six or seven candidates in the race but when the nomination papers were handed in, there were only four candidates contesting the ‘do-over‘ UCP nomination Livingstone-Macleod.
This was an extremely difficult decision to make, and I didn’t make it lightly. However, after being involved more closely with the party, I found that some of my values, morals and ethics were just not aligning as much as they used to.
Constituency office manager Lizette Tejada defeated four other candidates to win the NDP nomination in this hotly contested Calgary riding. This was the party’s second time holding a nomination contest in the riding. Brady Adkins, Angela McIntyre, Mattie McMillan and Laurie O’Neil were the other candidates in the race.
All quiet in Grande Prairie-Wapiti
What’s one of the big questions being asked in Alberta political circles this week?
The rancher-accountant and UCP leadership race runner-up has been silent on his plans for the next election and the party has not released any news about nominating a candidate in his Grande Prairie-Wapiti riding.
Will Toews bow out of provincial politics after tabling the spring budget? We’ll find out soon.
Calgary-Bhullar-McCall: Sonya Virk joins Amanpreet Singh Gill in the UCP nomination race in this north east Calgary riding. Virk is a former member of the Alberta Party provincial board. A vote is scheduled for March 5.
Edmonton-Glenora: Shannon Berry and Amit Batra are seeking the UCP nomination. Batra previously ran as a Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Calder in 2015, was active in Wexit Alberta and, until recently, served as a director of the Wildrose Independence Party.
Edmonton-McClung: Daniel Heikkinen defeated Terry Vankka to win the UCP nomination. Heikkinen was a candidate for Edmonton City Council in October 2021.
Edmonton-Manning: Alberto Mazzocca and Jaspreet Saggu are seeking the UCP nomination. A nomination vote is scheduled for February 22, 2023.
Lethbridge-West: Rick Dempsey and Torry Tanner are seeking the UCP nomination. Dempsey ran for the nomination in 2018. Tanner was named in an unsuccessful lawsuit against former Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw challenging Alberta’s COVID-19 public health restrictions. A nomination vote is scheduled for March 14.
Lesser Slave Lake: Martine Carifelle, Jerrad Cunningham, Scott Sinclair, and Silas Yellowknee are seeking the UCP nomination. A vote is being held on February 25 and 26.
Calgary-Lougheed: Venkat Ravulaparthi and Kim Wagner are seeking the NDP nomination. A nomination vote is scheduled for March 14.
Drumheller-Stettler: Pharmacist Juliet Franklin was nominated as the NDP candidate. This was the only riding where the NDP candidate placed 4th in the 2019 election.
Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Fisheries biologist Vance Buchwald was nominated as the NDP candidate.
Julian Schulz has been nominated as the Green Party candidate in Edmonton-Glenora. Two of the party’s nominated candidates have withdrawn their candidacies: Brandy Kinkead in Calgary-Edgemont and Lucas Bevan in Sherwood Park.
“March 9th of 2020 was a pivotal day for our province. It marked the first presumptive case of Covid 19 in Alberta, commencing our province’s journey into the pandemic. It marked the worst oil price crash in Alberta’s history, leaving the provincial treasury in the unimaginable position of paying other jurisdictions to take our oil. On top of that, it was the day I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. It was an incredibly tough Monday – both for our province and for me personally.”
Allard was caught in the Aloha-gate scandal in December 2021 when she and her family travelled to Hawaii for a hot holiday, despite the provincial government’s COVID-19 public health recommendations against international travel. She resigned as Minister of Municipal Affairs shortly after her return from the tropical paradise.
In December 2022, Premier Danielle Smithquietly appointed Allard as Parliamentary Secretary for Civil Liberties, though it still remains unclear what her responsibilities in that role actually are.
Former MLA jumps into Leduc-Beaumont UCP race
Former Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Quest is running for the UCP nomination in Leduc-Beaumont.
Quest served as the PC MLA for Strathcona from 2008 to 2012 and Strathcona-Sherwood Park from 2012 to 2015 and he has had a bit of a roundabout political journey ever since.
Quest shunned the UCP in 2019, running instead as the Alberta Party candidate in Strathcona-Sherwood Park, placing third with 13.38 per cent of the vote. He then placed a distant second in the October 2021 Strathcona County mayoral election. And he later joined the UCP fold in April 2022 when he signed a public letter in support of Premier Jason Kenney‘s leadership (Kenney announced his resignation a month later after a poor showing in party’s leadership review).
Also joining the UCP race in Leduc-Beaumont is Dawn Miller, who has served as a trustee with the St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Schools since October 2021.
Calgary-Bow: Demetrios Nicolaides was acclaimed as the UCP candidate. Nicolaides was first elected in 2019 and currently serves as Minister of Advanced Education.
Calgary-Buffalo: Dr. Astrid Kuhn was acclaimed as the UCP candidate in this downtown Calgary riding. Kuhn is a business instructor and communications consultant and previously worked as a reporter and news anchor with Global TV and CBC Television in Calgary.
Calgary-Lougheed: Eric Bouchard is the fourth candidate to join the race.
Calgary-Varsity: Well-known education advocate Dr. Angela Grace has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate. Grace is the fifth candidate nominated by the Alberta Party in this election cycle.
Cypress-Medicine Hat – Damyan Davis is the third candidate to join the UCP nomination in this southeast Alberta riding.
Edmonton-Whitemud: David Masieyi is the third candidate to join the UCP race in this southwest Edmonton riding.
Innsifail-Sylvan Lake – Innisfail town councillor Jason Heistad was nominated as the NDP candidate in this central Alberta riding. Heistad also serves as Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.
Lesser Slave Lake: Silas Yellowknee, former chief of the Bigstone First Nation, is the third candidate to join the UCP nomination contest.
Livingstone-Macleod: Shauna Oseen is the sixth candidate to join the UCP nomination race in this southwest Alberta riding.
An Alberta NDP nomination in a competitive north central Calgary riding is drawing a crowd. There are now five candidates vying to become the next NDP candidate in Calgary-Klein.
Canadian Natural Resources Limited environmental coordinator Brady Adkins is the latest candidate to join the race. Adkins joins policy analyst Mattie McMillan, Calgary Climate Hub director and past city council candidate Angela McIntyre, retired nurse and infection control professional Laurie O’Neil, and Calgary-Mountain View constituency manager Lizette Tejada.
Nixon ran as the Wildrose Party candidate in 2012 and 2015, making 2023 his fourth time running in the riding, so he’s well known to voters in the area. He’s now Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services and he’s running for re-election.
It is one of two remaining ridings in Calgary without an NDP candidate (Calgary-Lougheed is the other) and the party sees this as a key riding to win in the May 2023 election. NDP MLAs from neighbouring ridings and from Edmonton have been frequently spotted helping out local volunteers during door-to-door canvasses, but this is the NDP’s second time holding a vote to choose a candidate.
NDP members in the riding selected past city council candidate Marilyn North Peigan as their candidate in a March 2022 nomination contest, which also attracted two other candidates, McMillan and former Suncor human resources director Heather Eddy. But North Peigan’s candidacy was revoked in November 2022 after she sent out a series of tweets about the Calgary Stampede board of directors that were described as defamatory.
North Peigan later apologized for her posts, saying they were ‘untrue, disrespectful and hurtful.’
The speed of North Peigan’s disqualification was a clear signal of how serious and sensitive Rachel Notley‘s NDP are about anything that could derail their chances of making gains in Calgary in the next election.
So now the NDP are holding a second vote in a more crowded nomination race on February 15 at the Winston Heights Community Association. Whoever wins that vote will have a lot of ground to make up in a short period of time. The election is in 118 days.
Calgary-Klein is on my list of ridings to watch in 2023.
Rutherford was elected in 2019 with 58.4 per cent of the vote. He announced his retirement from provincial politics shortly after he was appointed by Premier Danielle Smith as Government Caucus Whip and Minister without Portfolio.
The NDP have nominated paramedic Cam Heenan as their candidate. The riding was represented by NDP MLA Shaye Anderson from 2015 to 2019.
Taking Back Jason Nixon’s nomination
The Take Back Alberta-stacked board of the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre UCP association announced on Facebook that they have begun discussions to reopen the nomination in the riding. Incumbent MLA Jason Nixon‘s allies were recently voted off the board and replaced by a TBA-backed slate.
Nixon served as Minister of Finance in the waining days of Kenney’s government and was dropped from cabinet when Smith entered the Premier’s Office. His brother, Jeremy Nixon, is the UCP MLA for Calgary-Klein and is now the Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services.
Take Back Alberta also has its sights set on taking over the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake UCP board and reopening the candidate nomination in that riding.
Local UCP President and the junior Dreeshen’s uncle, Charlie Moore, is defiant.
“They’re storming the castle and we’re heating up the boiling oil, I guess,” Moore told the Western Standard. “I’ve sent my troops forward to try to talk to some of the more logical ones in that group. We have to convert some of them. Surely there’s some common sense in there somewhere. They can’t all be totally extremists.”
Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock: Landen Tischer is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in this sprawling rural riding north of Edmonton at a February 25 nomination meeting. Check out his TikTok’s.
Calgary-North East – Inderjit Grewal has joined the UCP nomination contest in this riding currently represented by cabinet minister Rajan Sawhney. Former Dashmesh Culture Centre chairman Harjit Singh Saroya is also running for the nomination.
Cypress-Medicine Hat: Independent MLA Drew Barnesannounced he will not seek the UCP nomination to run for re-election. The former UCP was kicked out of the governing caucus in 2021 after becoming one of Kenney’s biggest internal public critics. He and now-returned UCP MLA Todd Loewen formed an unofficial UCP-caucus-in-exile during their banishment but Barnes did not return into the UCP fold when Loewen ran for the party leadership in 2022. Barnes publicly mused in 2021 about starting a rural-based political party.
Edmonton-Ellerslie: Ranjit Bath was nominated as the UCP candidate in this southeast Edmonton riding.
Here are the most recent candidate nomination updates:
United Conservative Party
The UCP are actively nominating candidates across the province and by my count currently have nominations open in nine ridings. The governing party paused nominations during their leadership race in 2022 so they are playing catch up, quickly, ahead of the May 29 election day.
Calgary-Lougheed: Max DeGroat is the first person in the race to fill the vacancy left when former premier Jason Kenneyresigned as MLA for this southwest Calgary riding in November 2022. DeGroat is the former treasurer of the UCP and was Nicholas Milliken’s campaign manager in Calgary-Currie in 2019. He is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and the former director of policy development for the Sustaining Alberta’s Energy Network, an organization formed by Kris Kinnear, who now works on special projects in Premier Danielle Smith’s office in Calgary.
De Groat is launching his campaign as a guest speaker at the Progressive Group for Independent Business luncheon on January 24. PGIB was founded by conservative activist and perennial election candidate Craig Chandler, who was recently caught up in a scandal with former justice minister Jonathan Denis.
Calgary-North East: Harjit Singh Saroya is running for the UCP nomination in the riding is currently represented by cabinet minister Rajan Sawhney. Saroya is the former chairman of the Dashmesh Culture Centre.
Cypress-Medicine Hat: Food truck owner and recent Medicine Hat city council candidate Justin Wright joins James Finkbeiner and Robin Kurpjuweit in the UCP nomination contest in this southeast Alberta riding.
Lacombe-Ponoka: Jennifer Johnson, Dusty Myrshrall, and Chris Ross will face off for the UCP nomination in a vote on February 17, 2023. Voting will take place in Ponoka in the morning and Lacombe in the afternoon of the nomination day.
Leduc-Beaumont:Heather Feldbusch and Brandon Lunty join former catholic school trustee Karen Richert in the UCP nomination contest. Feldbusch currently works for the Alberta Counsel lobbyists company and is a former UCP political staffer. She is also former trustee on the Leduc Public Library Board and is active with the federal Conservative association in Edmonton-Wetaskiwin. Lunty previously ran for the Wildrose Party in Calgary-South East in 2015 and ran for the UCP nomination in Camrose in 2018.
Parkland-Lac Ste. Anne: UCP MLA Shane Getson is running for his party’s nomination for re-election. Getson was first elected in 2019 and briefly served as the UCP Caucus’ Capital Region Caucus chairperson until he publicly accused people who accepted Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments of wanting to eat cheezies and watch cartoons instead of working. Getson also participated in the anti-COVID 19 restriction Freedom Convoy demonstrations in downtown Edmonton.
Red Deer-South: MLA Jason Stephan announced that he plans to run for re-election and is running for the UCP nomination in Red Deer-South. He’s being challenged by Adele Poratto. Poratto ran for the UCP nomination ahead of the 2019 election and for the Progressive Conservative nomination in 2008.
At this point, the NDP have already nominated candidates in most of the ridings that are considered competitive and within their reach to win in the next election. Now, the party is mostly nominating candidates in ridings that are a more a long shot for the NDP (translation: very conservative rural ridings), but the party does not appear to be parachuting urban candidates in like they might have in previous year. They are trying to recruit local candidates, even if their chances of winning in some of these rural ridings are slim to none.
Calgary-Lougheed: Venkat Akkiraj is running for the NDP nomination. According to Akkiraj’s LinkedIn profile, he has experience with the Ontario NDP as a local campaign organizer and communications director in provincial ridings in Toronto. He recently had an article published in AlbertaViews Magazine about electoral reform.
The Greens aren’t usually on the radar for most Albertans but they are putting in an effort to run candidates in the next election in both urban, rural and suburban ridings. The party has played a bit of musical chairs with some of their candidates switching ridings, like leader Jordan Wilkie switching from Banff-Kananaskis to Edmonton-Rutherford, and the latest switch listed below.
Jonathan Parks is now running for the Green Party in Calgary-Buffalo. He was previously nominated to run in the neighbouring Calgary-Currie but withdrew his candidacy in that riding earlier this month.
The United Conservative Party announced the nominations of incumbent MLAs Peter Guthrie in Airdrie-Cochrane, Angela Pitt in Airdrie-East, Jason Copping in Calgary-Varsity, and Todd Loewen in Central Peace-Notley.
Calgary-Elbow: Lawyer Chris Davis defeated past city council candidate Cornelia Weibe and lawyer Andrea James to win the UCP nomination. Recent UCP leadership candidate Jon Horsman had announced his candidacy in the race but did not appear on the ballot. The riding not been represented in the Legislature since former UCP MLA Doug Schweitzerresigned on August 31, 2022.
Calgary-Lougheed: Former premier Jason Kenney has resigned as MLA for the southwest Calgary riding. Kenney was first elected as MLA in a 2017 by-election and was re-elected in 2019.
Drayton Valley-Devon: Real estate agent Andrew Boitchenko defeated former constituency president Carol Vowk and Brazeau County Councillor Kara Westerlund to secure the UCP nomination. Boitchenko ran for the UCP nomination in 2018 but was defeated by UCP MLA Mark Smith. Smith is not running for re-election in 2023.
Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview: Felix Amenaghawon, Lana Palmer and Luke Suvanto are seeking the UCP nomination. A nomination vote is scheduled for December 20.
Edmonton-Mill Woods: Raman Athwal has been nominated as the UCP candidate.
Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo: MLA Tany Yao is facing Zulkifl Mujahid and construction association CEO Keith Plowman in the UCP nomination in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. Voting for the nomination closes at 9:00 p.m. tonight. UPDATE: Mujahid defeated Yao and Plowman to win the UCP nomination.
St. Albert: Past mayoral candidate Angela Wood defeated ministerial press secretary Melissa Crane to win the UCP nomination.
And as noted in the Alberta Today newsletter, Ontario political staffer Pierçon Knezic has been hired as the UCP’s Director of Election Readiness.
Livingstone-Macleod: Conservationist and author Kevin Van Tighem was nominated as the Alberta NDP candidate in Livingstone-Macleod. Van Tighem is the former Superintendent of Banff National Park and he has been an outspoken critic of the UCP government’s plans to allow open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains.
The Green Party has nominated Catriona Wright in Calgary-South East and Ernestina Malheiro in Edmonton-Gold Bar, Kristina Howard in Edmonton-West Henday, Taylor Lower in Lacombe-Ponoka, and Tegra-Lee Campbell in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright.
Upcoming nomination meetings
Here are the scheduled upcoming nominations:
December 4 – Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo UCP
December 8 – West Yellowhead NDP
December 9 & 10 – Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock UCP
December 10, 11, 12 – Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul UCP
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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).
“This Alberta is a meritocracy” – Jason Kenney (April 30, 2019)
It was first reported this week by the CBC that John Weissenberger has been hired as the Alberta Energy Regulator’s new vice president of its science and innovation branch. Weissenberger is a former adjunct professor at the University of Alberta and manager of geological services with Husky, but it is his deep political connections that raised eyes this week.
Weissenberger is a long-time conservative activist going back to the early days of the Reform Party and was Jason Kenney’s campaign manager during his successful bids for the the Progressive Conservative and United Conservative Party leadership campaigns in 2017. He was also director of the Alberta Victory Fund, the political action committee created to support Kenney’s campaign for the UCP leadership, and has been described as former prime minister Stephen Harper’s best friend.
It has also been reported that Weissenberger is a self-proclaimed ‘climate change skeptic,’ something that is unlikely to help the government’s bid to attract international investment and companies to move to Alberta.
Weissenberger’s wife, Angela Tu Weissenberger, was appointed by the UCP to the board of the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission in November 2019.
“Sherpa Dave” is Kenney’s Man in Texas
Congenial former Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Rodney has been appointed as Alberta’s Agent General in Houston, Texas. Rodney served as the PC MLA for Calgary-Lougheed from 2004 until 2017 when he resigned to allow Kenney to run in a by-election.
Rodney’s reward for stepping down, it would appear, is a pseudo-diplomatic post with a $250,000 annual salary. The former MLA served as a backbencher for all but two of his thirteen years in the Legislature. He served as Associate Minister of Wellness from 2012 to 2014.
And as anyone who has paid close attention to Alberta politics will know, Rodney is the first Canadian to have reached the summit of Mount Everest, twice.
Rodney’s appointment is reminiscent of former Stettler MLA Brian Downey‘s appointment as chairman of the Alberta Grain Commission when he resigned his seat in 1989 to allow Premier Don Getty to return to the Assembly (Getty had lost his Edmonton-Whitemud seat to Liberal Percy Wickman in the 1989 general election).
Rodney’s appointment marks the return of the Agent General title, a term that was widely used by Alberta’s out-of-country representatives until 1996, when the Agent-General Act was repealed and the Managing Director job title was adopted.
At the time the Agent General title was abolished, it had become associated with partisan patronage following a long string of appointments that included former PC MLA Mary LeMessurier to a post in London, former MLA Fred Peacock as the Asia-Pacific Agent General, a political aide in Getty’s office as Agent General in Hong Kong, and Getty’s wife’s cousin’s husband as Agent General in Tokyo.
Tory Patronage Machine Humming
Like the engine of a blue Dodge Ram, the UCP patronage machine has revved up since the party formed government in April 2019. counting donors, which would expand the list substantially, here is a quick list of individuals with connections to Kenney, the UCP and the conservative movement who have been appointed to various agency, board and commission positions:
Len Rhodes was appointed as Chair of the board of directors of the Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Commission. He was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Meadows in 2019.
Janice Sarich was appointed to the board of governors of MacEwan University. Sarich was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Decore in 2019 and represented the district as a PC MLA from 2008 to 2015.
Lily Le was appointed to board of governors of Norquest College. Le was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-City Centre in 2019.
Laurie Mozeson was appointed to the Municipal Government Board. Mozeson was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-McClung in 2019.
Karri Flatla was appointed to the Board of Governors of Lethbridge College. She was the UCP candidate in Lethbridge-West in 2019.
Tom Olsen was hired as CEO of the Canadian Energy Centre. He was the UCP candidate in Calgary-Buffalo in 2019.
Bettina Pierre-Gilles was appointed to board of Bow Valley College. Pierre-Gilles ran for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Currie ahead of the 2019 election.
Donna Kennedy-Glans appointed to board of governors of Banff Centre. Kennedy-Glans was the PC MLA for Calgary-Varsity from 2012 to 2015 and briefly ran for the party leadership in 2017. She was also appointed to the Fair Deal Panel.
Janice Harrington was appointed as Alberta’s Health Advocate and Mental Health Patient Advocate. Harrington was executive director of the PC Party and UCP from 2017 to 2019 and was previously involved in PC Party campaigns.
Shelley Beck was appointed to the board of governors of Medicine Hat College. Beck has worked as a constituency assistant to Cypress-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Drew Barnes.
Wayne Drysdale was appointed to the Municipal Government Board. Drysdale served as the PC and UCP MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti from 2008 to 2019. He was Minister of Transportation from 2014 to 2015.
Heather Forsyth was appointed to the Alberta Review Board. Forsyth served as the PC and Wildrose MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek from 1993 to 2015. She served as Solicitor General from 2001 to 2004 and Minister of Children’s Services from 2004 to 2006.
Lloyd Snelgrove was appointed to the Board of Governors of Lakeland College. Snelgrove served as the PC MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster from 2001 to 2012. He served as Minister of Finance and Enterprise from January 2011 to October 2011.
Bill Smith was appointed as member and vice-chair of the Public Health Appeal Board. Smith is the former president of the PC Party and was a candidate for Mayor of Calgary in 2017.
Andy Crooks was appointed to Municipal Government Board. Crooks was chairman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation during Jason Kenney‘s time as its spokesperson in the 1990s.
Richard Casson was appointed to the Board of Governors of the University of Lethbridge. Casson served as the Member of Parliament for Lethbridge from 1997 to 2011.
James Rajotte was appointed to the Board of Governors of the University of Alberta. Rajotte served as the MP for Edmonton-South West and Edmonton-Leduc from 2000 to 2015.
Diane Ablonczy was appointed as a member of the Council of the Alberta Order of Excellence. Ablonczy served as the MP for Calgary-North and Calgary-Nose Hill from 1993 to 2015.
Ted Menzies was appointed to the Board of Governors of Olds College. Menzies served as MP for Macleod from 2004 to 2015.
Janice MacKinnon was appointed to the Board of Governors of The University of Alberta. MacKinnon chaired the UCP government’s Panel on Alberta’s Finances in 2019.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Brent Wittmeier for the inspiration for the title of this post.
When MLAs gathered for the first sitting of the new Legislature today, the first piece of business they were required to conduct was the election of a Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, who will preside over debates and ensure that the established rules of behaviour and procedure are followed.
The Speaker is elected by MLAs through a secret ballot held at the beginning of each legislative session. Candidates are nominated by their colleagues on the floor of the Assembly and voting takes place immediately afterward.
It has been fairly well known in most political circles that Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper has had his eye on the Speaker’s Chair. Cooper made his intentions known shortly after the election and as former interim leader of the United Conservative Party and opposition house leader, he was well positioned to take on the role. His lack of appointment to the UCP cabinet earlier this month was a pretty definite signal that he would have the support of Premier Jason Kenney and most or all of the UCP caucus in this election.
As has become the norm in recent years, the opposition also nominated a candidate for the Speaker’s Chair. Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Christina Gray nominated her New Democratic Caucus colleague, Edmonton-Manning MLA Heather Sweet in the election. Sweet had served as Deputy Chair of Committees during the previous Assembly.
The election of a Speaker through a secret ballot is a relatively new invention in Alberta politics. Before 1993, when the first secret ballot vote took place, the Premier’s choice for Speaker was typically acclaimed by the Assembly.
An exception that I discovered was in 1922, when a United Farmers of Alberta MLA surprised the Assembly when he nominated a Conservative opposition MLAs to challenge Premier Herbert Greenfield’s chosen candidate for Speaker. The Conservative MLA declined the nomination and Greenfield’s choice was acclaimed.
Here is a look at a few of the contested Speaker elections held since 1993:
2015: When MLAs gathered for the first sitting of the legislature following the 2015 election, Medicine Hat NDP MLA Bob Wanner was elected as Speaker. Wanner faced Calgary-Lougheed Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Rodney. The Wildrose opposition attempted to nominate others challengers in a strange attempt to disrupt the process. Wildrose MLAs Angela Pitt and Leela Aheer nominated NDP MLAs Stephanie McLean and Marie Renaud and PC MLA Sandra Jansen, all who declined their nominations.
2008 and 2012:Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman was nominated by her Liberal caucus colleagues in the 2008 and 2012 Speaker elections and was defeated by incumbent Speaker Ken Kowalski in the first election and Edmonton-Mill Creek Progressive Conservative MLA Gene Zwozdesky in the second election.
1997:Barrhead-Westlock PC MLA and former deputy premier Ken Kowalski was elected as Speaker on the second round of voting over Dunvegan MLA Glen Clegg after Highwood MLA Don Tannas was eliminated on the first ballot. Liberal leader Grant Mitchell nominated then-Liberal MLA Gene Zwozdesky as a candidate for Speaker, but he declined to stand.
It is believed that the 18 Liberal MLA votes in that Speaker election helped secure Kowalski’s over Clegg, who was seen as Premier Ralph Klein’s preferred choice. Kowalski’s comeback happened a short three years after he had been unceremoniously booted from Klein’s cabinet.
Speaker punches newspaper publisher over wife-swapping allegations, 1935
A glance through the history of Speakers of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly reveals some fascinating stories. One story really stuck out.
In 1935, former Speaker OranMcPherson is reported to have engaged in a heated argument at the top of the rotunda’s grand staircase with Edmonton Bulletin publisher Charles Campbell.
McPherson accused Campbell of spreading lies about his divorce in the Bulletin. The argument escalated to the point of McPherson punching Campbell, knocking the newspaper publisher over a railing and then banging his head on a pillar.
It had been reported that McPherson was arranging a “wife-swap” with the aide-de-camp to the serving Lieutenant Governor. The “morality scandal” was a contributing factor in the United Farmers of Alberta’s defeat in the 1935 election.
United Conservative Party executive director Janice Harrington released a statement this evening announcing that Randy Kerr has been removed as the party’s candidate in the new Calgary-Beddington district. Here is an excerpt from Harrington’s statement:
“Effective immediately, Mr. Randy Kerr has been removed as the UCP’s candidate in the constituency of Calgary-Beddington.
“In the last 48-hours, new information has come to our attention indicating Mr. Kerr was not forthright in responding to the Party’s inquiries regarding his financial contribution to the Jeff Callaway Leadership campaign.”
“To be clear, the Party is not making any allegations against Mr. Kerr regarding the legitimacy of his contribution to the Callaway Leadership, not against Mr. Callaway or his Campaign. This is not the Party’s rule to judge, and the Party does not in any way oversee financial contributions to leadership campaigns.
“However, it is our conclusion that Mr. Kerr was not sufficiently forthcoming with the Party’s earlier inquiries, and for that, he has been removed as a candidate.
“The Party has also proactively provided this new information to the appropriate office – that of the Elections Commissioner. Given that the matter is now with the Commissioner, it is inappropriate for us to comment further.
According to Elections Alberta financial disclosures, Kerr donated $4,000 to Callaway’s leadership campaign in 2017. The disclosure was released months ago, so it is unclear what Harrington meant when she wrote that “Mr. Kerr was not forthright in responding to the Party’s inquiries regarding his financial contribution to the Jeff Callaway Leadership campaign.”
Earlier this week, UCP staffer posted a creepy video online of Gill meeting with an NDP staffer in an apparent attempt to discredit him. Kenney later accused the NDP of “working in secret” and “conspiring” with Gill to attack the UCP.
The Elections Commissioner is said to be investigating allegations that UCP leadership candidate Jeff Callaway was running a “kamikaze mission” backed by Kenney’s campaign in order to damage the chances of former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean winning the vote.
Harrington also announced that the UCP has appointed Josephine Pon as their candidate in this district. Pon had been defeated by Kerr in the August 2018 nomination contest.
Meanwhile, Karen McPherson, one of three Alberta Party MLAs in the Legislative Assembly, announced on social media today that she has decided against running for re-election when the provincial election is called.
McPherson had already been nominated to run as the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Beddington, which replaces much of her the Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill district she currently represents. She was first elected as an New Democratic Party MLA in 2015 in, unseating Progressive Conservative MLA Neil Brown, and left the NDP in 2017 to sit as an Independent and later joined the Alberta Party caucus.
The NDP have nominated Amanda Chapman as its candidate in Calgary-Beddington.
Non-Beddington related news
The Alberta Party has announced two new nominated candidates: Wayne Rufiange in Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock and Jason Beekman in Taber-Warner. Rufiange recently sought the Alberta Party nomination in Morinville-St. Albert, but was defeated by Neil Korotash. Rufiange is principal of R.F. Staples Secondary School in Westlock.
The Liberals have nominated a handful of new candidates: Robin Macintosh in Calgary-Elbow, Michael Macdonald in Calgary-Klein, and Wilson McCutchan in Calgary-Lougheed. McCutchan was the Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-West in the 2012 election, where he earned 7.4 per cent of the vote. And Shirley Ksienski has replaced previously nominated candidate Rork Hilford in Calgary-Glenmore.
The Green Party has announced Brian Deheer will be that party’s candidate in the new Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district. Deheer was a candidate for the leadership of the party in 2017 and 2018, and in the 2015 election had the party’s strongest showing in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, where he earned 2.8 percent of the vote. He was the federal Green candidate in the 2014 Fort McMurray-Athabasca by-election and in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake during the 2015 federal general election. He most recently ran in the Fort McMurray-Conklin by-election, where he earned 0.72 percent of the vote.
Four more candidates affiliated with the Alberta Independence Party have filed their papers to run as Independent candidates: John Morton in Edmonton-City Centre, Kenneth Morrice in Calgary-Hays, Todd Wayne in Edmonton-Castle Downs and Ben Maddison in Lethbridge-West.
Currently operating as an unregistered political party, Alberta Independence Party will need 44 candidates approved by Elections Alberta in order to gain official party status in the upcoming election.
If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at email@example.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!