Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and United Conservative Party leader Danielle Smith presented two very different approaches on Tuesday morning to address the challenges facing the capital city’s downtown core.
No one will deny that there are big social problems facing Edmonton’s downtown. You can take a walk down almost any street downtown and see people facing mental health or addictions challenges. It’s sad and troubling.
With thousands of submissions made to the sixth annual Best of Alberta Politics 2022 survey, your choices have been sorted and you can now vote for the top 3 choices in each category. Voting is open until Dec. 22, 2022 at 8:00 pm and the winners will be announced shortly after at daveberta.ca. Thank you to everyone who voted.
“The last major announcement that we had with provincial money in Fort McMurray was Willow Square and that was with the NDP government,” Plowman told Fort McMurray Today. “I’m concerned that, with the amount of money and oil royalties that go out of Fort McMurray to the rest of the province, it’s a little disappointing that we don’t have more of that money coming back to Fort McMurray.”
Plowman is the President of the Fort McMurray Construction Association and was a candidate for Athabasca County Council in October 2021.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Davis has worked as Senior Manager of Legal Services for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo since 2020.
Schweitzer resigned as MLA on August 31, 2022 and because Premier Danielle Smith refused to call a concurrent by-election when she ran in Brooks-Medicine Hat the riding’s seat in the Legislature will remain vacant until the May 2023 election.
A nomination vote is being held on December 3.
Other nomination updates
Joan Chand’oiseau is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-West at a nomination meeting on November 16.
The UCP have opened nominations in Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin. The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Rick Wilson.
Today’s by-election in Brooks-Medicine Hat will determine if Premier Danielle Smith will have a seat in the Alberta Legislature, but ahead of that vote here are the latest candidate nomination updates.
Wellwood has a long history of posts on social media in which she has compared vaccine passports to Nazi Germany, promoted ivermectin as a cure for COVID-19, and spread the conspiracy theory that U.S. President Joe Biden stole the 2020 election from former president Donald Trump.
“I think her focus is not where the people of Livingstone-Macleod are focused,” Mr. Reid said in an interview when asked if he would support Ms. Wellwood. “What she has been posting and what she’s been speaking to is not addressing the broad concerns of most of the residents of this riding.”
Ms. Wellwood said she did not have time to respond to questions on Thursday.
Wellwood blamed the “party elite” in a statement saying she would appeal her disqualification.
Her appeal will be a first test of the new UCP board, which is now about half controlled by supporters of the Take Back Alberta PAC slate, which swept the elections at the recent UCP AGM. Supporters of that PAC have called for the reopening of nominations in Cardston-Sikiska and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, where challengers to the incumbent MLAs were disqualified earlier this year for making controversial statements on social media.
Former Wildrose MLA challenges Hanson
Former Wildrose MLA Scott Cyr joins former MD of Bonnyville Reeve Greg Sawchuck in challenging MLA David Hanson for the UCP nomination in Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul.
Cyr was first elected in 2015 and did not run for re-election in 2019 after his Bonnyville-Cold Lake and Hanson’s Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills ridings were merged in the electoral boundaries redistribution. Cyr endorsed Hanson in 2018.
Fred Kreiner of Jasper and Lavone Olson of Brule are running for the NDP nomination in West Yellowhead. Olson was Yellowhead County Councillor from 2007 to 2013 and 2017 to 2021. A December 8 nomination vote has been scheduled.
Kanwarjit Singh Sandhuannounced plans to seek the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Meadows at an event at the Sultan Banquet Hall. The southeast Edmonton riding is currently represented by NDP MLA Jasvir Deol.
The UCP has opened nominations in a handful of ridings, including Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock, where UCP MLA Glenn Van Dijkenfaces a challenge from 24-year old Westlock County Councillor Isaac Skuban.
Jacob Stacey has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in Sherwood Park. He previously announced his candidacy in Strathcona-Sherwood Park.
Jeremy Appell has some coverage and raises some questions about Marilyn North Peigan’s departure as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Klein, a key swing-riding in the next election.
And it looks like a UCP candidate who came close to winning in the last election probably won’t be running again in the next election. Former UCP candidate Karri Flatla, who ran for the party in Lethbridge-West in 2019, levelled some pretty harsh criticism at Smith on her Facebook page.
I’ll start with the by-election in Brooks-Medicine Hat.
Brooks-Medicine Hat by-election
A November 8 by-election has been called in Brooks-Medicine Hat and Premier Danielle Smith is running as the United Conservative Party candidate. She will face Alberta NDP candidate and retired teacher Gwendoline Dirk and Brooks mayor-turned-Alberta Party leader Barry Morishita.
Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips was on hand to help Dirk’s kick off her campaign this week. Dirks is a retired high school teacher and Medicine Hat College instructor. She ran for a seat on the Medicine Hat Public School Board in 2021 and is a member of the Medicine Hat Police Commission. Her partner Peter Mueller was the NDP candidate in the neighbouring Cypress-Medicine Hat riding in the 2019 election.
This is Morishita’s first time running in an election as the leader of the Alberta Party but he is a veteran of elections in the City of Brooks. He served on Brooks City Council from 1998 to 2003 and 2010 to 2016, and was Mayor from 2019 until 2021.
This is not Morishita’s first time running in a provincial election. In 2001, he ran for the Liberals against Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Lyle Oberg, earning 15.5 per cent of the vote.
The deadline for candidates to enter the nomination is October 21 and it’s looking like it won’t be a crowded race.
Buffalo Party leader John Holberg and party president Raman Bains announced that the recently formed right-wing party would not put forward a candidate to run in the by-election. “We wish the Premier the best of luck in the Brooks-Medicine Hat by election,” the statement declared.
Independence Party of Alberta leader and Calgary street preacher Artur Pawlowski is hosting information sessions on Oct 17 in Medicine Hat on Oct. 17 and Brooks on Oct. 19 but the party hasn’t publicly named a candidate. UPDATE: Bob Blayone has been named as the Independence Party candidate.
Now to other candidate nomination news from across Alberta:
Two-term MLA David Shepherd was nominated as the NDP candidate Edmonton-City Centre. Shepard was first elected in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019 with 66 per cent of the vote.
Dawn Flaata was nominated as the NDP candidate in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright at an October 15 meeting. Flaata is a local author with a long history of involvement in the chamber of commerce in Vermilion and was a Constituency Assistant to former Conservative MP Leon Benoit.
Communications consultant Amanda Chapman defeated firefighter Jason Curry to secure the NDP nomination in Calgary-Beddington.
Liana Paiva running for the NDP nomination in Peace River with a nomination meeting scheduled for Friday, October 28, 2022.
Lawyer Denis Ram is running for NDP nomination in Calgary-Peigan at a November 8 nomination meeting. Ram placed second in the NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross in July 2022.
United Conservative Party
Jon Horsman is the second candidate to declare plans to run for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Elbow. Horsman is a former bank vice-president and briefly was a candidate for the leadership of the UCP. Lawyer Andrea Jamesannounced her candidacy in June 2022.
Brazeau County Councillor Kara Westerlund is the third candidate to enter the UCP nomination contest in Drayton Valley-Devon. Westerlund has served on county council since 2010 and is a Vice President of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta. She joins Carol Vowk and Andrew Boitchenko.
The NDP have now nominated candidates in 58 of Alberta’s 87 electoral districts. As previously noted, it appears as though the UCP have paused the nomination process until after their new leader is selected on October 6. The Green Party has 15 candidates nominated and the Alberta Party has named three candidates.
A few quick candidate nomination updates for this Saturday afternoon.
It appears that the following United Conservative Party MLAs have been acclaimed for their party’s nominations: Mickey Amery in Calgary-Cross, Nicholas Miliken in Calgary-Currie, Jason Luan in Calgary-Foothills, Tanya Fir in Calgary-Peigan, Jordan Walker in Sherwood Park, and Searle Turton in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain.
For the Alberta NDP, MLA Lori Sigurdson is running for her party’s nomination in Edmonton-Riveriew on June 7 and MLA Lorne Dach is running for his party’s nomination for re-election in Edmonton-McClung on June 8.
The Incumbent and Challenger
The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting in Edmonton-Decore for June 25, 2022. Two-term MLA Chris Nielsen is being challenged for the nomination by Africa Centre executive director Sharif Haji.
City lawyer Michelle Baer announced this week that she is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Red Deer-South. Baer is the Legal and Legislative Services Manager for the City of Red Deer.
“We can’t have people getting care in the back of an ambulance. We can’t have surgeries being cancelled, and people being transferred to Edmonton and Calgary,” Baer told the Red Deer Advocate.
She was referring to a recent long lineup of ambulances at the Red Deer Regional Hospital to transfer patients to deal with a surge in demand, and the need to divert surgery patients.
“We need strong advocacy in Edmonton on the things that matter,” she said.
It is unclear whether Stephan will be allowed to run for re-election as a UCP candidate if Kenney wins the leadership review, which will be announced on May 18.
Stephan was first elected in 2019 with 60.3 per cent of the vote, a landslide win against then-incumbent NDP MLA Barb Miller, who finished second with 25.5 per cent.
Lesley MacKinnon is running for the NDP nomination in Calgary-North West.
MacKinnon is the Director of Investor and Indigenous Relations with Foresight Canada and the former CEO of the Fig Tree Foundation.
Calgary-North West is currently represented by UCP MLA and Energy Minister Sonya Savage, who was first elected in 2019 with 56.7 per cent of the vote. The riding was previously represented by MLA Sandra Jansen, who was elected as a Progressive Conservative in 2012 and 2015 and crossed the floor to the NDP in 2016.
NDP race in Calgary-Glenmore heats up
Three former NDP MLAs have made duelling endorsements in the Calgary-Glenmore NDP nomination race.
Former Calgary-Currie MLA Brian Malkinson and former Calgary-Acadia MLA Brandy Payne are endorsing Jennifer Burgess for the nomination and former Calgary-Glenmore MLA Anam Kazim is endorsing Nagwan Al-Guneid.
Burgess was the 2019 campaign manager for past candidate Jordan Stein, who defeated Kazim for the NDP nomination ahead of that year’s provincial election.
Both candidates have attracted some notable endorsements.
Al-Guneid’s endorsements include Calgary-Glenmore NDP association president Bryan Weismiller, Past federal NDP candidate Kathleen Johnson, past federal Liberal Party candidate Scott Forsyth, past Alberta Party candidate Kara Levis, former Jim Prentice staffer Emma May, lawyer Jeremy Barretto, and economist Lindsay Tedds.
Burgress’ endorsements include Calgary-Glenmore NDP association past president Chris Somoya, former NDP leader Brian Mason, past federal NDP candidate Dany Allard, past mayoral candidate Jan Damery, former school trustee Julie Hrdlicka, Building Trades of Alberta executive director Terry Parker, and IBEW Local 424 vice president Scott Crichton.
NDP members in the south west Calgary riding will vote to select a candidate on May 8 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., and May 10 from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Former Sturgeon County Councillor Karen Shaw defeated high school teacher James Grondin to win the Alberta NDP nomination in Morinville-St. Albert, a rurban riding located just north of Edmonton.
“This community is Alberta’s Industrial Heartland, and I know the importance of this area not only to Alberta but to all of Canada,” Shaw said.
“I believe that Rachel Notley and Alberta’s NDP will put Alberta on the world stage for all the right reasons, and I want to make sure that Morinville-St Albert has strong representation on that stage,” she said.
Shaw served on County Council from 2007 to 2021, representing the rural areas surrounding the Town of Redwater. She and her family run a cattle farm in the Redwater area.
The riding is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA and Associate Minister of Natural Gas Dale Nally. Nally was first elected with 50 per cent of the vote in 2019, defeating then-NDP candidate Natalie Birnie who placed second with 33.1 per cent.
Denis Ram second candidate to enter NDP race in Calgary-Cross
Denis Ram is the second candidate to enter the NDP nomination race in Calgary-Cross. Ram is a student-at-law and founder and executive director of the Complete Complaints Foundation. He is also a former intern editorial writer for The Hill Times in Ottawa.
Whoever wins the NDP nomination will probably face first-term UCP MLA Mickey Amery, who is running for his party’s nomination for re-election. The candidate entry deadline for the UCP nomination is May 3, 2022.
Open UCP nominations in Calgary-Currie, Calgary-Foothils, Calgary-Peigan and Sherwood Park have a candidate entry deadline of May 3, and in Spruce Grove-St. Albert the deadline is set for May 5. It is unclear whether the incumbent UCP MLAs representing these ridings will face any challengers.
Alberta Party opens nomination race in Calgary-Elbow
It also appears that the Alberta Party has scheduled their first nomination meeting for this election cycle – in Calgary-Elbow on May 29.
The riding was the first and to-date only riding to elect an Alberta Party MLA when, in 2015, party leader Greg Clark unseated Progressive Conservative Education Minister Gordon Dirks.
After the popular Clark was pushed out of the leadership and replaced by Stephen Mandel in 2018, he was unable to win re-election in 2019. Soon after the election, Clark was appointed by the UCP as board chair of Alberta’s balancing pool.
But while the next election is scheduled to take place in May 2023, there is increasing speculation that Kenney could call an early summer or fall 2022 election if he wins the leadership review in order to clear out his growing chorus of opponents in the UCP Caucus.
The second-term MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford was first elected in 2015 and served as the NDP’s Minister of Indigenous Relations from 2016 to 2019.
Before his election, Feehan worked as a social worker, social work instructor at the University of Calgary, Vice President of Catholic Social Services, and Program Director of the Edmonton Social Planning Council.
Feehan was re-elected in 2019 with 54.8 per cent of the vote, ahead of UCP candidate Hannah Presakarchuk, who finished second with 34.7
Calgary-Glenmore: Sustainable energy development expert Nagwan Al-Guneid and communications professional Jennifer Burgess are seeking the NDP nomination scheduled for May 10, 2022.
Calgary-North: Moses Mariam is seeking the NDP nomination. Mariam is a Member Administrator at Calgary’s CommunityWise Resource Centre.
Central Peace-Notley: Fairview resident Lynn Lekisch is seeking the NDP nomination in Central Peace-Notley. She is the owner of Enviro Projects and has previously worked as an environmental project manager for various energy companies.
Part of the riding was represented by NDP MLA Marg McCuaig-Boyd from 2015 until she was defeated by UCP MLA Todd Loewen after the riding was redistributed in the 2019 election. Loewen was ejected from the UCP Caucus in May 2021 after calling for Premier Jason Kenney to resign.
Leduc-Beaumont: Paramedic Cam Heenan was nominated as the NDP candidate in Leduc-Beaumont. Heenan defeated Registered Nurse Chantelle Hosseiny to win the nomination.
“I became a paramedic because I wanted to help people. I want to see a better future for our province, and that’s what led me to wanting to join Rachel Notley’s team,” Hennan said. “I know that with her leadership, Alberta’s NDP can expand our public healthcare, invest in education, and ensure all Alberta families can afford their bills at the end of the month.”
The riding has been represented by UCP MLA Brad Rutherford since 2019 and was held by NDP MLA Shaye Anderson from 2015 to 2019.
Morinville-St. Albert: Former Sturgeon County Councillor Karen Shaw and teacher James Grondin will face off for the NDP nomination at a meeting scheduled on April 30.The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Dale Nally, who serves as Associate Minister of Natural Gas.
Sherwood Park:Kyle Kasawski is the second candidate to enter the NDP nomination in Sherwood Park, a suburban hamlet of 71,000 people located directly east of Edmonton.
Kasawski is President of Solar People, a solar energy company, and previously worked as a Client Development Director with Alberta Municipalities and as an Instructor in the NAIT Alternative Energy Technology Program where he taught Advanced Energy System Design and Energy Economics.
“I want to help create an Alberta with an amazing, affordable, high quality of life – where our kids go to excellent public schools, access to healthcare is dependable, and we have a few bucks left over at the end of each month after paying all of the bills,” Kasawski said when reached for comment. “I want this to be a place for people to live and thrive.”
Edmonton-Mill Woods: Christina Gray was nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods. Gray has represented the riding since 2015 and served as Minister of Labour from 2016 to 2019.
Edmonton-North West: MLA David Eggen has announced his plans to run for re-election. Eggen was first elected in 2004 and served as MLA for Edmonton-Calder from 2004 to 2008 and 2012 to 2019 before being re-elected in the redrawn Edmonton-North West riding in 2019. He served as Minister of Education from 2015 to 2019. A nomination meeting is scheduled for May 18, 2022.
The UCP has opened up nominations in a handful of ridings. Nominations are now open in Calgary-Cross, Calgary-Currie, Calgary-Foothills, Calgary-Peigan, Sherwood Park and Spruce Grove-Stony Plain. Unsurprisingly, these ridings are all represented by MLAs who would be described as Kenney-loyalists.
While most of the UCP MLAs representing these ridings are expected to seek re-election, only Calgary-Cross’ Mickey Amery, Sherwood Park’s Walker and Spruce Grove-Stony Plain MLA Searle Turton have confirmed their intentions.
Turton was first elected to the Legislature in 2019 after serving three-terms on Spruce Grove City Council. He currently serves as the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Labour and Immigration’s liaison to private sector unions, and he is the chairperson of the UCP’s Capital Region Caucus.
Meanwhile, newly elected UCP MLA, Kenney critic and leadership aspirant Brian Jean says he would reopen the UCP nomination in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre to allow disqualified candidate Tim Hoven to challenge cabinet minister Jason Nixon.
Nixon, Kenney’s chief lieutenant, was acclaimed for the UCP nomination after Hoven was disqualified by the party. Many political observers believe that Hoven was mounting a very strong challenge to Nixon in the nomination.
NDP fixated on Calgary
The NDP have been spending a lot of time in Calgary.
Rachel Notley and a group of MLAs and candidates were on hand for a nomination rally for Rosman Valencia in Calgary-East. The NDP believe significant gains in east and northeast Calgary are critical to their path to winning the next election.
NDP MLAs were also spotted door knocking in Canmore and Banff with Banff-Kananaskis candidate Sarah Elmeligi. I’m told Elmeligi was joined on the doors by Notley and MLAs Joe Ceci, Sarah Hoffman, Janis Irwin, Marlin Schmidt, Irfan Sabir and Shannon Phillips. Notley and Irwin also posted a photo on social media with Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno.
It isn’t really a saying in Alberta politics but maybe it should be: When a Premier is in trouble, the cabinet gets growing.
That’s what we saw today as embattled Premier Jason Kenney made a major expansion of the provincial cabinet.
It is being described as a post-pandemic reset but today’s cabinet shuffle and expansion probably has more to do with internal turmoil in the UCP Caucus than any actual reset in the government’s agenda. Problem-creating ministers like Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon remain firmly in place.
Kenney, who eagerly declared the COVID-19 pandemic over in Alberta on July 1, has seen his approval ratings and his party’s popularity plummet as it mismanaged its response to the pandemic and pushed forward with an unpopular political agenda that included opening the Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining, a backward draft curriculum for kids, and aggressive attacks against doctors and nurses.
Kenney’s unpopularity now appears to be spilling over into the federal scene and dragging down the federal Conservative Party’s support in Alberta, which a string of polls show at a historic low.
Kenney is so unpopular that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was able to openly mock him at a press conference in Calgary yesterday and there was no public backlash in defence of the provincial Conservative leader.
Facing dissent from inside and outside his caucus and party, Kenney has taken the predictable route of previous Alberta premiers who were in political trouble and expanded his cabinet. Appointments to cabinet posts come with the prestige of a ministerial title, office and staff, a hefty pay hike and are seen as a way to reward a premier’s supporters – and punish dissenters.
The past twenty years of turmoil in conservative politics in Alberta has given us a few clear examples of how cabinets grow when premier’s find themselves in political trouble.
Premier Ralph Klein’s cabinet grew from a slim 17 in 1992 to an expanded 24 by the time he resigned in 2006 after his party’s membership gave him a weak 55.4 per cent endorsement in a leadership review.
Klein’s successor, Premier Ed Stelmach, started with a cabinet of 19 ministers in 2006 only to expand it to 23 by the time he resigned in the face of a caucus revolt in 2011.
But perhaps most famously, Premier Alison Redford’s cabinet grew from 21 in 2011 to 29, including 10 associate ministers, in 2013, representing almost half of the Progressive Conservative Caucus. There was a running joke at the time that if a PC MLA wasn’t in cabinet they must have done something really wrong.
Yesterday Kenney’s cabinet had 22 cabinet ministers and associate ministers. Today, Kenney’s cabinet has 26.
I bet it grows again in a few months.
Shuffled around …
Jason Luan, MLA Calgary-Foothills, is moved from Associate Minister of Additions and Mental Health to become Minister of Community and Social Services. Luan served as MLA for Calgary-Hawkwood from 2012 until his defeat in the 2015 election to NDP candidate Michael Connolly. Luan returned to the Legislature in 2019.
Ric McIver, MLA Calgary-Hays, keeps his role as Minister of Municipal Affairs but loses his dual role of Minister of Transportation. McIver took over Municipal Affairs when former minister Tracy Allard was removed from cabinet following her COVID rule breaking hot holiday to Hawaii in December 2020. McIver was first elected as a PC MLA in 2012 and previously served as an alderman on Calgary City Council from 2001 to 2010.
Rajan Sawhney, MLA Calgary-North East, leaves her current role as Minister of Community and Social Services to become Minister of Transportation. Sawhney is seen by many political insiders as an up and comer in the UCP cabinet.
Muhammad Yaseen, MLA Calgary-North, leaves his role as Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration to become the Associate Minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism reporting to Minister of Labour and Immigration Jason Copping. Yasseen is a former president of the Pakistan Canada Association of Calgary and was first elected as an MLA in 2019.
New in cabinet…
Mike Ellis, MLA Calgary-West, leaves his role as UCP Caucus Whip to become Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. Ellis was first elected in a 2014 by-election and was only one of a handful of PC MLAs re-elected in 2015.
Nate Horner, MLA Drumheller-Stettler, becomes Associate Minister of Rural Economic Development reporting to Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer. Horner is the grandson of former Member of Parliament Jack Horner and the cousin of former deputy premier Doug Horner.
Whitney Issik, MLA for Calgary-Glenmore, becomes the Associate Minister of Status of Women reporting to newly appointed Minister of Culture and Status of Women Ron Orr. Issik will also serve as UCP Whip. She was first elected in 2019 and was a longtime PC Party volunteer, serving as campaign manager for Jim Prentice during his brief run for the federal PC Party nomination in Calgary-Southwest in 2002, as a constituency assistant to former Calgary-Mountain View MLA Mark Hlady, and as policy co-chair of the federal PC Party during the 2000 federal election.
Ron Orr, MLA Lacombe-Ponoka, becomes Minister of Culture. Orr once declared that legalizing cannabis would spark a communist revolution and he wrote on Facebook in May 2021 that Kenney was raised by God to be leader of Alberta and public health restrictions are just as bad as getting COVID. Before his election as a Wildrose MLA in 2015 he worked as a Baptist Minister in Alberta and British Columbia.
Back in cabinet is Tanya Fir, MLA Calgary-Peigan, as Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction. Fir was surprisingly dropped from her role as Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism in August 2020. Fir was one of the UCP MLAs caught travelling on a hot holiday in December 2020, breaking the government’s public health restrictions.
Out of cabinet…
Leela Aheer, MLA Chestermere-Strathmore and UCP Deputy Leader, has lost her cabinet role as Minister of Culture and Status of Women. Her departure from cabinet is probably retribution for her publicly calling on Kenney to apologize after he and other senior cabinet ministers were caught breaking the government’s COVID-19 restrictions by holding a boozy dinner party on the balcony of the Sky Palace. Aheer also criticized Kenney for his tone-deaf defence of Sir John A Macdonald following the discovery of unmarked graves of children at former Indian Residential School sites.
Grant Hunter, MLA Taber-Warner, loses his position as Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction. Hunter is currently on a province-wide ministerial tour of northeast Alberta with Justice Minister Kaycee Madu and Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. Hunter was the only cabinet minister from south of Calgary.
Other non-cabinet changes today included:
Joseph Schow, MLA Cardston-Siksika, the current the deputy government whip becomes deputy government house leader. Brad Rutherford, MLA Leduc-Beaumont, becomes deputy government whip.
After 6 months without a permanent Chief of Staff, Premier Kenney has named his Deputy Chief of Staff Pam Livingston to the role. Livingston started working in the Premier’s Office in January 2021 after the resignation of Jamie Huckabay, who was caught in the international holiday scandal.
Interim Chief of Staff Larry Kaumeyer returns to his previous role as Principal Secretary in the Premier’s Office.
With it becoming increasingly likely that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could call a federal election in the next few months, the federal Conservative Party has been quietly nominating candidates in Alberta. The party holds all but one seat in Alberta and has nominated six of its incumbent Members of Parliament to seek re-election when the writs of election are drawn.
Earl Dreeshen in Red Deer-Mountain View. Dreeshen has represented Red Deer in the House of Commons since 2008 and is the father of Devin Dreeshen, the United Conservative Party MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake and Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.
Michelle Rempel Garner in Calgary-Nose Hill. Rempel Garner has served as a Calgary MP since 2011.
Damien Kurek in Battle River-Crowfoot. Kurek was first elected in 2019, succeeding longtime area MP Kevin Sorensen.
I am told that the Liberal Party opened its candidate nomination process in early November 2020 but no candidates have been officially nominated in Alberta as of today.
Jaro Giesbrecht has announced his plans to seek the Liberal Party nomination in Banff-Aidrie. Giesbrecht briefly sought the Liberal nomination ahead of the 2019 federal election but withdrew from the contest. He was the Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Peigan in the 2019 provincial election.
It has come to the attention of this Author that a number of influential government officials and Members of the Legislative Assembly have brought scandal to the highest seat in the land.
Sir Jamie Huckabay, the loyal right hand of Lord Jason Thomas Kenney, the Premier of Alberta, left the province and sailed to Great Britain in contravention of government rules requesting the good people of Alberta to remain at home.
If he had only kept his seat firmly planted in Alberta his scandal could have been avoided!
But alas, Sir Jamie was not alone.
Whilst most of polite society cancelled their festive gatherings in light of the latest pandemic, a handful of government ministers and deputies absconded to the tropics!
Accompanied by a large host of valets carrying numerous valises, the deputies appeared eager to enjoy a reprieve from the frigid weather and dry atmosphere of the prairies in December.
And with the waterways yet to be frozen over, off they sailed!
Until today, Lady Tracy Allard of La Grande Prairie was the newest Minister of the Crown, debuting in great fashion last August. She was widely seen as an up and coming star in an overcast sky, but her decision to flee Alberta for the Hawaiian Islands has led to a quick end to her political career. She was summarily sacked amid large fanfare.
Lord Kenney and his associates are said to have been barraged with the sort of commentary from the public that cannot be printed in an honourable publication such as this.
It is said that even Lady Danbury, forced by circumstance to cancel her annual Solstice Ball, had penned a strongly worded letter to Lord Kenney’s principal secretary.
Lady Allard is back in town, along with Misters Jeremy Nixon, Pat Rehn, and Jason Stephan, and Lady Tanya Fir. Marquess Tany Yao remains unaccounted for.
The Marquess absconded from his seat at Fort McMurray-on-the-Clearwater and appears to be incommunicado with the outside world from his retreat on the Mexican coast, much to the chagrin of Lord Kenney in Edmonton.
But despite the cold’s tendency to turn one’s nose a rather unattractive shade of red, Lord Kenney’s colour was likened to a sheet of white as he defended the now former-Minister Allard on Friday last.
This Author cannot help but wonder whether Lord Kenney’s decision to sack the whole lot was too little and too late, or whether it will appease the masses clamoring for a sacrifice.
One can only wonder if this incident will compel Lord Kenney, who has suffered from a bout of unpopularity locally, to finally leave the provincial town and return to the comfort of the capital in Ottawa.
Or perhaps, he is content with the situation at hand? Not every politician desires popularity, after all.
To any readers who do not understand the references in this post, please watch Bridgerton on Netflix. Viewer discretion is advised.
In the midst of its biggest scandal since the United Conservative Party formed government in April 2019, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao is still vacationing in Mexico, but, according to reports, no one can get ahold of him.
Reports online say that neither the Premier Jason Kenney’s office nor the UCP caucus have been able to contact the MIA MLA. Maybe Yao turned off his cell phone to avoid any distractions and enjoy a hot holiday on the beach while the rest of us are stuck at home?
Yao is the sixth UCP MLA we know of who ignored his government’s recommendations to cancel all non-essential international travel and stay home to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus.
Yao was first elected in 2015 as a Wildrose MLA and was re-elected under the UCP banner in 2019. He was one of three MLAs appointed to the UCP government’s “Fair Deal Panel” on Alberta autonomy in 2019.
The other UCP MLAs who ignored the COVID-19 recommendations include Minister of Municipal Affairs and Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard, Calgary-Klein MLA and parliamentary secretary Jeremy Nixon, Calgary-Peigan MLA Tanya Fir, Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn, and Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan.
Even Kenney’s own Chief of Staff, Jamie Huckabay, ignored the recommendations and recently travelled to the United Kingdom with his family.
Closer to home, it was also revealed yesterday that Energy Minister Sonya Savage recently made a trip to British Columbia to check on some recent maintenance work in her vacation home in that province.
At a press conference last Friday, Kenney said he would not remove Allard from cabinet because she technically did not break any rules by flying to Hawaii for a Christmas vacation with her family.
Former Energy minister calls on Kenney to sack sun-seeking MLAs and staffers
Adding to the growing chorus of voices calling for consequences for MLAs and political staffers flouting the public health recommendations is former Energy Minister Mel Knight. The former Grande Prairie MLA took to Facebook to call on Kenney to sack all the UCP MLAs and staffers who ignored the government’s COVID-19 advisories and went on hot holidays last month. Knight wrote that Kenney would no longer have his support if he failed to act.
Knight served as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky from 2001 to 2012 and as Minister of Energy from 2006 to 2010.
Another former PC cabinet minister, Greg Stevens, told the Calgary Herald’s Don Braid that “I cannot believe how stupid and unbelievably ignorant he (Kenney) has shown himself to truly be, when the issues demand strong and principled decisions.”
You could almost feel the collective anger of Albertans building as news trickled out yesterday that more and more United Conservative Party MLAs had ignored their own government’s COVID-19 recommendations to stay home and cancel any non-essential international travel over the Christmas break.
Despite receiving the same recommendations against non-essential international holidays that every other Albertan has been told by the government since March 2020, at least five UCP MLAs, including one cabinet minister, decided the recommendations put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 did not apply to them and instead jetted off to hotter locales.
As of today, we know the following UCP cabinet ministers, MLAs and senior political staffers have travelled internationally in recent weeks, or are just now returning home from abroad:
Tracy Allard, MLA for Grande Prairie and Minister of Municipal Affairs, was in Hawaii.
Jeremy Nixon, MLA for Calgary-Klein and parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Community and Social Supports, is returning from Hawaii.
Pat Rehn, MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, is returning from Mexico.
Tanya Fir, MLA for Calgary-Peigan and Treasury Board member, has returned from Las Vegas.
Jason Stephan, MLA for Red Deer-South and Treasury Board member, is returning from Arizona.
Jamie Huckabay, Chief of Staff to Premier Jason Kenney, has returned from the United Kingdom.
Michael Forian, Press Secretary to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and 2019 Conservative Party candidate, was in Hawaii.
Eliza Snider, Press Secretary to Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides, was in Hawaii.
Premier Jason Kenney has publicly shrugged off the hot holidays, claiming international travel was good for the economy despite his own government’s pandemic recommendations that Albertans don’t do it.
He has refused to fire or publicly discipline the MLAs for ignoring the public health recommendations that millions of Albertans abided by when they cancelled their own winter vacations and Christmas family gatherings.
Kenney says he was unaware of the trips, but it seems unlikely that a politician known for being a intense micromanager and workaholic would not have some inkling that this was happening.
The Premier’s weak response to the jet-set MLAs could suggest a few things: 1) he’s fine with them ignoring the recommendations, 2) there are more MLAs or staffers who travelled overseas on non-essential trips, or 3) support for his leadership in UCP Caucus and Party is tenuous and he cannot afford to discipline so many backbenchers at once.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford fired Finance Minister Rod Philips for attempting to cover up his Christmas vacation to a Caribbean island.
In Alberta, the lack of consequences for making such poor and tone-deaf decisions has stripped back Kenney’s populist-veneer and exposed an arrogant and elitist culture of exceptionalism within the leadership of the UCP.
For her part, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley says all of her party’s 24 MLAs remained in Alberta during the Christmas break.
Perhaps the only good news for Kenney is that the MLA hot holiday scandal, or Alohagate and Hawaiigate as some are calling it, is a distraction from the provincial government’s disappointingly slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
While waiting in the departures lounges of various international airports, some of the UCP MLAs published likely pre-written statements on their social media accounts saying they will now comply with the recommendations and return to Alberta. How thoughftul of them.
With the handful of UCP MLAs now on their way home, there are signs of a growing rift in the party, as two UCP MLAs are now publicly speaking out against the vacationing colleagues.
Since the most recent COVID-19 measures were announced, a number of my constituents requested guidance related to their own potential holiday travels. I have always encouraged my constituents to follow the public health measures including the following:
“An official global travel advisory remains in effect. Avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice.”
“The Canada/U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel.”
Michaela Glasgo, the UCP MLA for Brooks-Medicine Hat, was much more direct, describing the trips as “a major lack of judgment.”
“The directive that we were given was the same as every Albertan, which was to remain responsible, and ultimately I think this was a major lack of judgment shown by some of my colleagues,” Glasgo told CHAT NEWS.
Former right-wing talk radio icon Dave Rutherford took to his Facebook page to unload on Kenney.
“Dammit, I’m pissed off that my premier, the guy in whom we had placed such high hopes for principled leadership, has ignored all of the sacrifices that we have all made to fight this virus because ‘we are all in this together,” wrote Rutherford. “Obviously not.”
Ralph Leriger, Mayor of Westlock, also had some strong words in response to the vacationing MLAs and called on Premier Kenney to resign.
Postmedia’s two main political columnists in Alberta’s daily newspapers blasted Premier Jason Kenney for his weak response to UCP MLAs who ignored government recommendations to stay home and cancel all non-essential international travel to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
At least four UCP MLAs, including Minister of Municipal Affairs Tracy Allard, parliamentary secretary Jeremy Nixon, Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn and Calgary-Peigan MLA Tanya Fir, hopped on planes and jetted off to hot holiday destinations this December. Kenney’s chief of staff, Jamie Huckabay, also travelled to the United Kingdom to visit family.
While most of us were painfully isolating ourselves from family and friends, trying to decide if we should even risk the grocery store, these people were heading to Hawaii, Mexico the U.K. and the U.S.
By Saturday morning there were seven confirmed UCP politicians and officials who jumped ship for holiday, the latest being MLAs Tanya Fir and Jeremy Nixon.
Maybe Kenney can’t fire any because there are so many. This is a genuine scandal that shows no sign of fading away.
It’s been a great week on the sunny Big Island! The weather in Hawaii is fantastic and we are really enjoying continuing our family tradition this year. The pandemic has been a real drag back in Alberta, so it felt like a great time to hop on a plane and escape to a tropical paradise! Wake boarding is a real thrill!
I’m looking forward to being back soon and attending to my duties as the minister responsible for Alberta’s emergency management agency. I hope the vaccine distribution is going well and everyone is exercising personal responsibility back home!
We wish you could all be here with us! See you soon. ❤️
🌴 Merry Christmas (or Mele Kalikimaka as the locals say!)
UCP MLA for Grande Prairie
Minister of Municipal Affairs