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Alberta Politics

Gondek. Sohi. What a night, Alberta.

Jyoti Gondek defeats Jeromy Farkas to become Calgary’s next Mayor.

Amarjeet Sohi defeats Mike Nickel to become Edmonton’s next Mayor.

Eight of Edmonton’s 12 City Councillors elected today are women – a historic record. Four are persons of colour. Four incumbents are on the verge of defeat. 

Premier Jason Kenney’s referendum to remove Equalization from the constitution gets a very tepid endorsement (59% support in Calgary – Edmonton results next week).

Support for abandoning the twice yearly time change is even more divided.

What a night, Alberta.

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Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 79: Everything you wanted to know about Equalization * But were afraid to ask

University of Alberta political scientist Dr. Jared Wesley joins Dave Cournoyer on the Daveberta Podcast for a deep dive into Alberta’s October 18 Equalization Referendum, why it is being held, what Premier Jason Kenney hopes to accomplish (and why he’s been absent on the campaign trail), and what the ramifications of the vote could be for Alberta and Canada.

We also answer some great listener questions about Equalization and dive into the history of Alberta’s low-key Senate Nominee Elections and more.

The Daveberta Podcast is produced by the talented Adam Rozenhart.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Recommended listening/reading

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Alberta Politics

Talking municipal politics with Éric Grenier on The Writ Podcast

I joined Éric Grenier on The Writ Podcast this week to talk about Alberta’s municipal elections, the Senate Nominee election and referenda on Equalization and Daylight Saving Time. You can watch our chat below and download the podcast tomorrow.

A Leger poll commissioned by Postmedia was released today showing that Amarjeet Sohi now has double the support of second place challenger Mike Nickel in Edmonton’s mayoral election.

According to the poll, 60 per cent of Edmontonians said they are more likely to vote for a mayor who opposes the policies of the provincial government. Only 14 per cent said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports the government’s actions

And the outgoing mayors of Alberta’s two largest cities shared some harsh words about Premier Jason Kenney on the latest episode of CBC’s West of Centre Podcast.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson spoke on CBC’s West of Centre Podcast and shared criticism of Kenney’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and a leadership style that soured the relationship with the two largest cities.

“I know that even the cabinet ministers who are just trying to do a good job are frustrated that they’re unable to make decisions or move files forward because petty partisan politics get in the way,” Nenshi said.

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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 Daveberta Podcast

Episode 69: Biting the hand that isn’t feeding you

Dani Paradis and Chris Henderson join the Daveberta Podcast for a deep dive into municipal politics and a look ahead at the October 2021 elections in Edmonton. What issues will resonate with voters and what does a pandemic election campaign looks like? We cover a lot of ground, from Lucy the Elephant to equalization to centralization of 911 dispatch to the souring of relations between municipalities and the provincial government. This was a fun episode.

Dani Paradis is a Contributing Editor at Canadaland and co-editor of Rage Against the Municipal. Chris Henderson is Chief Strategist and Partner at Y-Station Communications and Research and was campaign manager for Don Iveson‘s 2007 and 2010 city council campaigns and 2013 mayoral campaign.

The Daveberta Podcast is hosted by Dave Cournoyer and produced by Adam Rozenhart.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported. The Alberta Podcast Network includes dozens of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Recommended reading/listening: 

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Alberta Politics

Make Calgary Great Again, Edmonton!

The right-wing municipal lobby group “Common Sense Calgary” is apparently setting up shop in Edmonton ahead of next year’s municipal elections. But when the lobby group with ties to the United Conservative Party and the Manning Centre launched its “Common Sense Edmonton” website, someone forgot to remove all the big photos of Calgary City Hall and references to how great a city Calgary is.

The main page of the group’s Edmonton website features a counter counting down the days until the municipal election which sits on a giant backdrop of Calgary City Hall and our southern neighbour’s iconic Bow Tower. On the same page of their Edmonton website, the group praises Calgary as a city built on people, built on ideas and built on trust.

Screenshots from the "Common Sense Edmonton" website.
Screenshots from the “Common Sense Edmonton” website.
Screenshots from the "Common Sense Edmonton" website.
Screenshots from the “Common Sense Edmonton” website.

The Calgary group was founded with funding from the conservative Manning Centre (now known as the “Strong and Free Network) and its current executive director is past Wildrose Party candidate and UCP nomination candidate Megan McCaffrey. She is also the Director of Research at the Alberta Institute, a Calgary-based libertarian think tank with an almost identical website.

New legislative changes recently introduced by the UCP government would allow individuals to donate up to $30,000 to these types of political action committees during next year’s municipal election.

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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.

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Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 53: COVID-19 provides cloud cover over Alberta’s economic crisis

“…in a crisis there are no capitalists left. Everybody is a socialist.”

Zain Velji Daveberta Podcast
Zain Velji

Zain Velji, campaign strategist and Vice President Strategy at Northweather joins host Dave Cournoyer and producer Adam Rozenhart on this episode of the Daveberta Podcast to discuss the how COVID-19 is providing cloud cover to and accelerating Calgary’s economic problems and how the pandemic could provide an opportunity to reshape politics and policies at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.

We also discuss whether the United Conservative Party government is pushing forward with a now outdated agenda and we dive into wild speculation about how this pandemic and economic crisis could impact the 2023 election in Alberta.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network, powered by ATB. The Alberta Podcast Network includes more than 30 great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Find us on TwitterInstagram, Facebook, or you can email us at podcast@daveberta.ca. Thanks for listening.

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Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 48: An urban big city agenda in Alberta. Municipally Speaking with Mack Male

More than half of Albertans live in Calgary and Edmonton, so why does it feel like big city issues are an afterthought for the provincial government?

Daveberta Podcast Alberta Politics Dave Cournoyer Adam Rozenhart
Daveberta Podcast

Mack Male joins Dave Cournoyer on this episode of the Daveberta Podcast to discuss the state of local media in Edmonton, Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu’s paternalistic approach to municipal relations, the review of the Local Authorities Election Act and how it might change the rules of the 2021 municipal elections, and whether there is hope for ever getting a real urban agenda for Alberta (plus free transit and gondolas).

Mack is a co-founder of Taproot Edmonton and co-host of the Speaking Municipally podcast, which focuses on Edmonton City Council and municipal issues in Alberta’s capital city.

A big thanks to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, for making this episode sound so good.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network, powered by ATB. The Alberta Podcast Network includes more than 30 great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Find us on TwitterInstagram, Facebook, or you can email us at podcast@daveberta.ca. Thanks for listening!

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