It appears that the UCP will allow Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner to enter the leadership race, if she chooses, even though she has not had a current party membership for the full past six months as required (there is no doubt she is a committed Conservative partisan).
A similar request for an exemption by former Liberal Party leader Raj Shermanwas denied.
Kenney’s caretaker cabinet shuffle
Outgoing Premier Jason Kenney announced a cabinet shuffle to fill in the spots left by ministers leaving to run in the race to replace him.
Changes to the caretaker cabinet, which will be in place until a new Premier takes office after the October 6 UCP leadership vote, include:
Minister of Environment and Parks and Acting President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Jason Nixon becomes President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance.
Associate Minister of Status of Women Whitney Issik becomes Minister of Environment and Parks.
Calgary-South East MLA Matt Jones becomes Minister of Children’s Services.
Minister of Infrastructure Prasad Panda becomes Minister of Transportation.
Calgary-Currie MLA Nicholas Milliken becomes Minister of Infrastructure.
Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville MLA Jackie Armstrong Homeniuk becomes the Associate Minister of Status of Women.
Deputy Government Whip Brad Rutherford becomes Chief Government Whip and Minister without Portfolio.
Unsurprisingly, everyone on the list is considered a loyalist, and a few, notably Issik, Milliken, and Rutherford, are considered vulnerable to strong NDP challenges in the next election.
Issik, Jones and Armstrong Homeniuk have publicly endorsed former finance minister Travis Toews for the UCP leadership, who is widely considered the establishment favourite in the race.
Morishita was Mayor of Brooks from 2016 to 2021 and was first elected as a city Councillor in 1998. He was President of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association from 2017 to 2021 and became leader of the Alberta Party in September 2021.
Then-party leader Stephen Mandel was defeated in his bid for election in Edmonton-McClung, as were incumbent Alberta Party MLAs Greg Clark in Calgary-Elbow and Rick Fraser in Calgary-South East.
This is Morishita’s second time running for provincial office.
In 2001, he finished second with 15 per cent of the vote in Strathmore-Brooks as the Liberal Party candidate behind then-Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Lyle Oberg.
Brooks-Medicine Hat is a natural place for Morishita to run in the next election, but it will be an uphill battle. Incumbent United Conservative Party MLA Michaela Frey was elected in 2019 with 60 per cent of the vote.
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I’m trying something new. I’m hoping to share some thoughts on Alberta politics and history on a new Substack and share the platform with some pretty smart people.
Alberta politics never takes a break, but sometimes I do. I was away last week having a great time facilitating a communications planning course at the Winter Labour School, an annual conference for working Albertans organized by the Alberta Federation of Labour and Canadian Labour Congress.
But now I’m back, and upon my return a growing mountain of candidate nomination news was awaiting me.
Here we go.
Probably the biggest news happened today: former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith is jumping back into provincial politics by taking a run at the United Conservative Party nomination in Livingstone-Macleod, a riding currently represented by UCP MLA Roger Reid. She even says she could run for the party leadership if Jason Kenney loses the upcoming leadership review.
Smith has been around Alberta politics for a while, working for lobby groups including the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, writing newspaper columns, hosting television and radio shows, briefly serving as a school trustee in Calgary, and most notably, serving as the leader of the Wildrose Party from 2009 until 2014.
Crossing the floor secured Smith a spot in the governing PC Caucus but she was unable to secure the PC nomination in the Highwood riding she had represented since 2012, so she did not run for re-election in 2015.
Boundary changes ahead of the 2019 election moved her home town of High River into the Livingstone-Macleod riding.
– MLA Marie Renaud was nominated in St. Albert. Renaud was first elected in 2015 and serves as Official Opposition Community & Social Services, and Francophone Issues critic.
– Danielle Lariveewas nominated in Lesser Slave Lake. Larivee was the MLA for this riding from 2015 to 2019 and served as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Minister of Children’s Services. She is a Registered Nurse and currently serves as First Vice-President of United Nurses of Alberta.
– Oneil Carlier was nominated in Parkland-Lac Ste. Anne. Carlier was MLA for this riding from 2015 to 2019 and served as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry from 2015 to 2019.
The NDP recently held contested nomination votes in two ridings.
Sarah Elmeligi defeated Canmore town councillor Tanya Foubert, bank manager Gavin McCaffrey, and condo manager Mark Tkacz to become the NDP candidate in Banff-Kananaskis. Elmeligi is a professional biologist and conservation and land-use planner. She currently runs her own consulting company but from 2016 to 2019 she worked as a Parks Facility Planner with the Kananaskis Region and from 2009 to 2013 was a Senior Conservation Planner with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Southern Alberta Chapter.
Marilyn North Peigan defeated Heather Eddy and Mattie McMillan to become the NDP candidate in Calgary-Klein. North Peigan is a member of the Blackfoot Confederacy and is a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, where she trained as a field medic with Toronto EMS and was stationed with Edmonton Field Ambulance. She is vice-chair of the Calgary Police Commission and was a candidate for city council in Calgary’s 2021 municipal elections.
Joining Ip at his campaign launch were former city councillor Michael Phair and former city council candidate and past Alberta Party president Rhiannon Hoyle. He is also endorsed by former NDP MLAs Bob Turner and Jim Gurnett, and Public School Boards Association of Alberta past president Patty Dittrick.
Also running for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-South West are Ben Acquaye, Chand Gul, and Mohammad Ali Masood Kamal. The riding is currently represented by UCP cabinet minister Kaycee Madu.
“Albertans deserve a compassionate government that will exercise positive and responsible leadership on energy and environmental policy”, Fluker said in a press release announcing his candidacy. “The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly revealed that the UCP has no ability to lead when it matters.”
Manpreet Singh Tiwana and Psychologists’ Association of Alberta President Judi Malone are seeking the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Ellerslie. Two-term NDP MLA Rod Loyola has not yet announced whether he plans to run for re-election.
Amanda Chapman is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Beddington. Chapman is a communications consultant and former communications coordinator with AIDS Awareness Calgary. She ran for the NDP in the riding in 2019, finishing second with 35.7 per cent off the vote.
Now back to the governing UCP, who are twisting themselves into pretzels ahead of Kenney’s fast approaching leadership review (more on that very soon).
UCP nominations have been a lot quieter since the party disqualified challengers Jodie Gateman in Cardston-Siksika and Tim Hoven in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre.
The following UCP MLAs have been acclaimed for their nominations: Josephine Pon in Calgary-Beddington, Peter Singh in Calgary-East, Prasad Panda in Calgary-Edgemont, Jeremy Nixon in Calgary-Klein, Rebecca Schulz in Calgary-Shaw, Matt Jones in Calgary-South East, Joseph Schow in Cardston-Siksika, Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, Nathan Neudorf in Lethbridge-East, Dale Nally in Morinville-St. Albert, Nathan Cooper in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, Jason Nixon in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, and Nate Glubish in Strathcona-Sherwood Park.
This is a big change from nominations ahead of the last election, which saw many competitive UCP nominations and many, many NDP acclamations. So far this time it’s been the opposite.
It sure feels like election season in Alberta. Or maybe it’s just Leadership Review season.
Ok. Let’s get on with the updates.
Tim Hoven and Jodie Gateman have been disqualified from the United Conservative Party nomination races in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre and Cardston-Siksika.
The right-wing municipal politicians were challenging two high-profile Jason Kenney loyalists – Government House Leader and Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon and Deputy Government House Leader Joseph Schow.
The party says they were disqualified because of controversial posts they shared and liked on social media.
People close to Gateman’s campaign say it was because she was accused of reposting conspiracy theories on her social media accounts.
They tell me that party staff even asked her if she was in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021. (The person I spoke with said she was visiting family in Las Vegas).
Disqualifying them avoids negative media attention from unwanted bozo-eruptions and has the added bonus of protecting two Kenney loyalists who were by most accounts considered vulnerable in the nomination.
They also both happened to be endorsed by Kenney rivals Brian Jean and Drew Barnes.
Without nomination races to keep them busy, there’s more time to focus on the April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.
Gateman is now shifting her attention to getting as many of her supporters to vote against Kenney at the April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.
A new poll from ThinkHQ shows that 64 per cent of Albertans and 59 per cent of UCP voters want Kenney gone.
More on that later. Now back to the nomination updates.
For the UCP:
It hasn’t been announced yet, but is appears that Calgary-Shaw MLA Rebecca Schulz and Calgary-South East MLA Matt Jones will be acclaimed as the UCP candidates in their ridings.
MLA Josephine Pon is running for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Beddington. Pon was first elected in 2019.
MLA Mickey Amery is running for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Cross. Amery was first elected in 2019.
MLA Peter Singh is running for the UCP nomination in Calgary-East. Singh was first elected in 2019.
Legislative Assembly Speaker MLA Nathan Cooper is running for the UCP nomination in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills. Cooper was first elected in 2015.
MLA Dan Williams is running for the UCP nomination in Peace River. Williams was first elected in 2019.
Service Alberta Minister and MLA Nate Glubish is running for the UCP nomination in Strathcona-Sherwood Park. Glubish was first elected in 2019.
For the NDP:
MLA Irfan Sabir has been nominated to run for re-election in the recently renamed Calgary-Bhullar-McCall. Sabir was first elected in 2015.
MLA Rakhi Pancholi has announced her plans to run for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Whitemud. Pancholi was first elected in 2019.
MLA Christina Gray is running for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Mill Woods. Gray was first elected in 2015 and served as Minister of Labour from 2015 to 2019.
Respected energy analyst Samir Kayande is now the NDP candidate in Calgary-Elbow.
Canmore town councillor Tonya Foubert is the fourth candidate to join the NDP nomination contest in Banff-Kananaskis.
Director Business Renewables Centre Canada director Nagwan Al-Guneid is the second candidate to enter the NDP nomination race in Calgary-Glenmore. They join communications consultant Jennifer Burgess in the race.
Registered Nurse Diana Batten is running for the NDP nomination in Calgary-Acadia.
Rosman Valencia is now the only candidate seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-East after Alison Karim-McSwiney withdrew from the contest.
Registered Nurse Chantelle Hosseiny and paramedic Cameron Heenan are seeking the NDP nomination in Leduc-Beaumont.
Teacher James Grondin is the second candidate to enter the NDP nomination race in Morinville-St. Albert. Former Sturgeon County Councillor Karen Shawjoined the race in Dec. 2021.
The NDP have attracted a big name to run against United Conservative Party Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides. Former City Councillor Druh Farrell announced on social media today that she plans to seek the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Bow.
“As a born and raised Albertan I can no longer stand by as the government attacks our education and healthcare systems, makes everyday life more expensive, and proposes devastating changes to our wild places,” Farrell said in her online announcement.
Farrell served on city council for 20 years before retiring from municipal politics last October. She was a leading progressive voice in Calgary’s municipal debates during her time as Councillor, making her a frequent target of right-wing commentators and political action committees.
Nicolaides was elected in 2019 with 55 per cent of the vote, unseating NDP MLA Deborah Drever, who placed second with 34 per cent.
Other nomination updates:
Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz is running for re-election in Calgary-Shaw. The UCP nomination meeting is scheduled for March 21. Shultz was first elected in 2019 with 65 per cent of the vote.
Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda running for re-election in Calgary-Edgemont. The UCP nomination meeting is scheduled for March 24. He was first elected in a 2015 by-election in Calgary-Foothills to replace former Premier Jim Prentice, and was re-elected in the new riding in 2019 with 52 per cent. If nominated he will face a re-match with NDP candidate Julia Hayter.
Gurinder Brar has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-North East.
Richard Bruneau third candidate to enter NDP nomination contest in Camrose. Bruneau is a bookstore owner, farmer and former Canadian diplomat who served in Afghanistan, Jordan and Palestine.
The Green Party will not be running a candidate in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election. Party leader Jordan Wilkie told the Cross Border Interveiws Podcast that the Greens will be sitting this one out.
It certainly feels like Alberta’s political parties have shifted into campaign mode, despite the next election expected to be a year away.
NDP leader Rachel Notley was joined by an army of MLAs and volunteers for a day-long canvass in the Strathcona-Sherwood Park riding east of Edmonton. MLAs David Eggen and Lorne Dach were spotted with volunteers canvassing door to door in Edmonton-South West, and MLA Richard Feehan was door-knocking with volunteers in Calgary-Foothills and with candidate Janet Eremenko in Calgary-Currie this week. Up north, MLA Rakhi Pancholi spent most of the week campaigning alongside NDP candidate Ariana Mancini in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.
Government House Leader and Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon is running to reclaim the United Conservative Party nomination in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre. Nominations in this and three other ridings held by Jason Kenney loyalists were quietly opened earlier this week.
Nixon appears to be facing a challenge from former Clearwater County Reeve and Councillor Tim Hoven. Elections Alberta lists March 21, 2022 as the nomination meeting date.
Nixon’s younger brother, Jeremy Nixon, will face a nomination vote on March 24, 2022 in Calgary-Klein. It is unclear whether he will face any challengers.
UCP MLA Matt Jones is also seeking his party’s nomination to run for re-election in Calgary-South East. A nomination meeting has been scheduled for March 21, 2022, according to Elections Alberta’s website.
Nominations were opened tonight in five other ridings currently held by Kenney loyalists – Calgary-Edgemont (represented by Minister of InfrastructurePrasad Panda), Drumheller-Stettler (represented by Minister of Agriculture Nate Horner), Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville (represented by MLA Jackie Armstrong Homeniuk), Morinville-St. Albert (represented by Associate Minister of Natural Gas Dale Nally), and Peace River (represented by MLA Dan Williams). The deadline for candidates to enter these nomination contests is March 3.
Michelle Landsiedel running for Alberta Party in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election
Suncor employee Michelle Landsiedel is the Alberta Party candidate in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.
Landsiedel is the vice-chair of the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Fort McMurray and is an Emergency Response Team Supervisor and National Member of the Canadian Red Cross. She was a candidate for Wood Buffalo municipal council in 2021 in Ward 1.
Election Alberta also listed Abdulhakim Hussein as the Liberal Party candidate.
Nurse Diana Batten running for NDP nomination in Calgary-Acadia
Registered Nurse Diana Batten announced she plans to run for the NDP nomination in Calgary-Acadia.
“Like many, I have struggled with feelings of hopelessness and frustration throughout the pandemic,” Batten writes on her campaign website. “The lack of transparency, communication, and planning demonstrated by the UCP government, while strengthening my resolve, has also reinforced that my values do not align with this government.”
Batten is a Nursing Instructor at Bow Valley College and a nurse at the Rotary Flames House, a residential community-based hospice at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.
Calgary-Acadia is currently represented by UCP MLA Tyler Shandro, who was first elected in 2019, and until recently served as Minister of Health. He is now Minister of Labour.
Wyatt Tanton running for NDP nomination in Camrose
Educational Assistant Wyatt Tanton is the second candidate to enter the NDP nomination contest in the Camrose riding.
“Classroom sizes are ballooning, staff are burning out, and students are the ones paying the price when the government implements unjustifiable sweeping cuts, fires tens of thousands of essential support staff, and continues pushing forward a curriculum so outdated and out-of-touch that it would’ve made Ernest Manning pause in the 60’s,” Tanton said. “We need a strong voice for our constituency in Edmonton, and a government that’s willing to listen to them – and I want to be that strong voice for Camrose when we elect Rachel Notley and the Alberta NDP to a strong mandate in 2023.”
Tanton was a candidate for Camrose City Council in 2021 and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce through Athabasca University. He joins Registered Psychiatric Nurse Tonya Ratushniak in the contested nomination race.
The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Jackie Lovely, who is being challenged for her party’s nomination by Beaver County Reeve Kevin Smook.
Dave Klepacki fourth candidate in Banff-Kananaskis NDP race
Dave Klepacki is the fourth candidate to join the NDP nomination contest in Banff-Kananaskis.
Klepacki is the co-founder of Experience Journeys and the former Vice President of Wilcox Energy Corporation. He earned a PhD in Geological Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology mapping rock structures along the Kootenay Arc of British Columbia.
Klepacki joined the other candidates in the nomination race – Sarah Elmeligi, Gavin McCaffrey, and Mark Tkacz – at the second candidate’s forum on Zoom organized by the local NDP association on Feb. 17. More than 50 NDP members in the riding attended the forum, which focused on climate and the environment.
The United Conservative Party has opened candidate nominations in four ridings held by MLAs loyal to Premier Jason Kenney.
Dates for nomination meetings haven’t been announced but a February 28 deadline for candidates to put their names forward has been announced for Calgary-South East (represented by MLA Matt Jones), Calgary-Shaw (represented by Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz), Cardston-Siksika (represented by UCP Caucus Whip Joseph Schow) and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre (represented by Environment & Parks Minister and Government House leader Jason Nixon).
Farmer Tim Hoven has announced his plans to challenge Nixon for the nomination and will be launching his campaign at the James River Community Hall on Feb. 17. Hoven was a municipal councillor in Clearwater County from 2017 until his defeat in the 2021 election.
Nurse Tonya Ratushniak running for NDP nomination in Camrose
Registered Psychiatric Nurse Tonya Ratushniak is seeking the NDP nomination in the Camrose riding.
“I’m running to become the next NDP candidate in Camrose because mental health, I believe, will be the next wave we need to address. I have the education, passion and experience to ensure the needs of mental health are no longer ignored. No longer thought of as the ugly stepchild of the healthcare system.”
“I see firsthand how rural mental health services have been eroded by UCP policies,” she said. “Wait times have become so long that many problems go undiagnosed, treatment centers have been closed and mental health beds have been reduced.”
Ratushniak works at St. Mary’s Hospital in Camrose as a Mental Health Therapist and serves as the President of the College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses.
She was the federal NDP candidate in the 2021 election in Battle River-Crowfoot, where she placed second and earned 9.8 per cent of the vote.
Saad Siddiq running for UCP nomination in Edmonton-South
Engineer Saad Siddiq is seeking the UCP nomination in Edmonton-South.
“The UCP party is at a cross roads about its identity and I firmly believe that Millennials and Gen-Z representation must be there to make sure our voices are heard,” Siddiq said. “It’s about time we take the charge into our own hands and make Alberta affordable, a place where you have the freedom to exercise your rights and make your own choices and a symbol of tolerance for everyone living in this province and beyond.”
Siddiq is a 24-year old oil and gas engineer who graduated from the University of Calgary in 2020 and has been involved in the Conservative Student Association.
The riding is currently represented by Independent MLA Thomas Dang, who was first elected in 2015 and 2019 under the NDP banner. He left the NDP Caucus in December 2021 after the RCMP executed a search warrant of his house.
Alberta Party leader running in Brooks-Medicine Hat
Alberta Party leader Barry Morishita confirmed on this week’s episode of the Daveberta Podcast that he plans to seek his party’s nomination to run in his home riding when the next election is called. Morishita served as Mayor of the City of Brooks from 2016 to 2021 and served on city council from 1998 to 2004 and 2010 to 2016. The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Michaela Frey.
Public school teacher second candidate in Calgary-East NDP race
Public school teacher Rosman Valencia is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-East.
“I’m running to ensure the voice of our communities in Calgary-East can be heard and be a part of the decision making in shaping Alberta’s future,” said Valencia. “Not only has the UCP’s response to Covid-19 been a daily challenge for us in the classroom, but I also see families struggling with UCP increases to their expenses like insurance, income tax, and electricity. That’s the last thing families need right now.”
Rosman holds a Bachelor of Secondary Education from the Philippine Normal University-Manila and became a teacher in Alberta through the University of Calgary’s Bridge to Teaching Program.
International Avenue Business Revitalization Zone executive director Alison Karim-McSwiney is also seeking the NDP nomination.
Here are a few other nomination updates:
Calgary-Elbow: Energy analyst Samir Kayande has been acclaimed as the NDP candidate. The party will hold an official nomination meeting on March 5. Kayande announced his candidacy in November 2021.
Calgary-North East: Gurinder Brar is expected to be acclaimed as the NDP candidate at a February 17 nomination meeting. Brar announced his candidacy in January 2022.
Heather Eddy has announced her plans to seek the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Klein. Eddy was the Director of Human Resources for Suncor from 2009 to 2015 and currently runs her own independent HR company.
“I want to champion job creation in the energy industry and all industries,” Eddy said in a press release announcing her candidacy. “I’m passionate about the environment and want to position Alberta to lead the transformation to a new energy economy and to get to net-zero by 2050, as has been committed by Leader Rachel Notley.”
Eddy holds an M.Sc. in Global Human Resource Management and is a Chartered Professional in Human Resources. She lives in the Tuxedo Park neighbourhood.
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.
The Alberta Party hasn’t been making many headlines lately, but there will soon be a significant staff change in the ranks of the small moderate conservative party. The party announced today that former Progressive Conservative executive director Troy Wason is taking over as interim executive director of the Alberta Party, replacing outgoing interim executive director Mark Taylor.
A well-respected long-time PC Party activist, Wason took over as executive director of the PC Party following the long-time governing party’s defeat in the 2015 election and resigned on the dayJason Kenney became that party’s leader in 2017.
Wason’s joining the Alberta Party could provide some internal direction for the party, which lost all of 3 of its seats in the 2019 election. The party continues to struggle to define itself and remains without a bigger key player – a permanent leader.
The Alberta Party has been without a permanent leader since the resignation of former leader Stephen Mandel in June 2019. The role remained vacant until earlier this year when former Fort Sasktachewan-Vegreville PC MLA Jacquie Fenske was named as interim leader, solidifying the party’s image as a refuge for former PC supporters uncomfortable with the social conservative flavour of the United Conservative Party and unable to support the moderate New Democratic Party.
The party was expected to have held a leadership race in 2020 but, like most other things, it was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Alberta Party will soon be seeking applications for a new leader.
The party announced through a press release today that on June 30, 2019 Stephen Mandel will step down as leader 15-months after he was elected into the role. The former three-term Edmonton mayor and Progressive Conservative cabinet minister ran for the leadership in 2018 after MLA Greg Clark was ousted in a successful bid by former PC Party members to take over the Alberta Party.
This was Mandel’s second attempt at a political comeback.
Prominent Progressive Conservatives like Mandel, Katherine O’Neill, Dave Quest, Sue Timanson, and Stephen Khan hoped to turn the Alberta Party into a home for former PC supporters disenchanted by what became the United Conservative Party.
Policy direction under Mandel shifted further to the economic-right but the party steadfastly refused to describe itself as conservative, sticking instead to the ambiguous “centrist” label. In a province where many eligible voters self-identify as conservatives, it remains puzzling why a political party run by conservatives and presenting a moderate conservative program would actively distance itself from the description.
The Alberta Party under Mandel increased the party’s vote from 2.2% in 2015 to 9.1% in 2019, but failed to win any seats in the Legislative Assembly. Unlike 2015, when the party focused all of its resources to successfully elect Greg Clark in Calgary-Elbow, in 2019 the Alberta Party spread thin its resources by running a province-wide campaign and a full-slate of candidates.
But the Alberta Party campaign stumbled out of the starting gate early in the campaign, with Mandel and a handful of candidates and chief financial officers being banned from running in the election by Election Alberta after missing their financial disclosure deadlines. The bans were lifted after court challenges by Mandel and the other candidates but it damaged the party’s chances of being seen as a serious contender in an election dominated by the UCP and NDP.
The party earned significant media coverage but struggled to gain traction and hit a ceiling of 12 percent in polling during the campaign. Mandel’s significant of name recognition in Edmonton was not able to help the Alberta Party break the dominance of Rachel Notley’s NDP in the provincial capital city. The NDP won 19 of 20 seats in Edmonton.
Mandel finished third behind NDP MLA Lorne Dach and UCP challenger Laurie Mozeson in Edmonton-McClung, which includes parts of the area he represented on city council before his time as mayor. The party’s two incumbent MLAs, Clark and Calgary-South East MLA Rick Fraser, were both defeated in their bids for re-election. The party’s third MLA, former NDPer Karen McPherson, declined to run for re-election.
From the very beginning, Mandel’s second attempt at a political comeback was a strange endeavour. And despite Mandel’s nine-years as a popular big city mayor with a significant list of accomplishments, his final appearance on the political scene will largely be a footnote in Alberta’s history (unless, of course, this was not his final comeback…).
Alberta Party finances…
The Alberta Party’s financial disclosures from the 2019 election have not yet been released, but the 2018 annual financial disclosures paint a picture of a party in financial disarray. The Alberta Party raised $525,430 in 2018 while running a $137,964 deficit.
In a May 25, 2019 email sent to members explaining the financial situation, the party explained that it had cycled through three CFOs in 2018 and that larger than expected expenses related to the creation of the party’s proprietary Customer Relationship Management database and “too large of an AGM” put the party in a deficit position.
The email told members that “[t]he Party is not broke but will be operating on a tight budget for the foreseeable future.”
The last comment was made by UCP education critic Mark Smith, who is running for re-election in Drayton Valley-Devon. Smith made the remarks in a sermon from November 2013 that was posted on the website of the Calvary Baptist Church in Drayton Valley.
“You don’t have to watch any TV for any length of time today where you don’t see on the TV program them trying to tell you that homosexuality and homosexual love is good love,” Smith said in the sermon. “Heck, there are people out there, I could take you to places on the website I’m sure, where you can find out, where pedophilia is love.”
Smith also questioned how any woman who has an abortion could say that it is done out of love. His comments were made public today by the CJSR radio program GayWire.
Postmedia reports that Smith was also the author of a 2015 document circulated to his fellow Wildrose Party MLAs arguing that Christian public schools had a constitutional right to fire teachers who are gay.
Edmonton-GlenoraNDP candidate Sarah Hoffman was quick to criticize Smith’s comments, stating in a press release that his comments were “offensive, homophobic and completely neglect women’s rights.” She called on Kenney to fire Smith as a candidate.
Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandeltweeted that “By endorsing this candidate, Jason Kenney has shown he doesn’t understand Alberta in 2019. Albertans care about jobs and the economy, absolutely. But we also expect a fair, tolerant, pluralistic society where EVERYONE is equal.”
Even popular conservative radio host Charles Adler weighed in, tweeting that “No mainstream political leader who I have known, federal or provincial, aspiring to be the head of gov’t would be endorsing this candidacy. I hope Jason Kenney changes his mind.”
The two UCP candidates who made the other comments I mentioned at the beginning of this article quickly resigned their candidacies after their comments became public.
With the deadline for being placed on the ballot having passed last Friday, Kenney cannot remove Smith from the ballot. Kenney can send a strong message that these comments are unacceptable in the UCP by telling Smith that he will not be welcome to sit in the UCP caucus if he re-elected on April 16.
But it appears that Kenney will continue to support him.
In a written statement released online this afternoon through Kenney’s @UniteAlberta twitter account, Smith said he did not recall making the comments and apologized if his words offended anyone. It was a classic non-apology apology.
In statements from Smith and Livingstone-Macleod candidate Roger Reid, who was also facing criticism for comments he made during a sermon in 2012, the UCP candidates said that “Albertans are tired of revisiting old, divisive debates from many years prior.” I think many Albertans are tired of UCP candidates revisiting these old, divisive debates.
While the UCP tries to focus on its economic message, the constant stream of bozo-eruptions shows that on social issues and human rights, some members of Team Kenney continue to be way out of step with mainstream 21st century Alberta.
Ryan Jespersen calls out Mark Smith, homophobia and hate in Jason Kenney’s UCP like only he can:
Conservative radio host Charles Adler interviews Jason Kenny about his views on gay rights and UCP candidate Mark Smith:
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And a big thanks to our excellent guest producer, Chris Chang-Yen Phillips, who kept us on track and made this episode sound so great.
Until Kiryakos’ resignation, it appeared that the UCP had filled its slate of 87 candidates with the nomination of Sanjay Patel in Edmonton-Ellerslie and Heather Sworin in Edmonton-Mill Woods. The UCP is expected to appoint a new candidate to replace Kiryakos before the March 29, 2019 candidate nomination deadline.
Trustees call out leaders on education funding, Kenney reignites the GSA issue
Trustees from Public and Catholic school boards across Alberta gathered in Calgary and Edmonton today to call on provincial political party leaders to explain how they plan to fund expected growth in student population in the public education system.
“Politicians who will not commit to more funding at a time when 15,000 new students will join our classrooms next year need to come clean that they really are planning to cut to Education” Edmonton Public School trustee Bridget Stirling said in a press release.
“We have not recovered from the Klein cuts of the 1990s. More students and fewer dollars is a recipe for a crisis in our classrooms. At the very bare minimum, all parties must commit to funding new student enrollment growth for the next year,” Stirling said.
NDP leader Rachel Notley stated that an NDP government would provide funds to help with the enrolment increases.
It is not clear to me if Kenney responded to the trustees’ challenge, but he did release his party’s education platform today, promising to reinforce standardized tests and lift the cap on the number of charter schools in Alberta and allow charter schools to own property. He also reopened the Gay-Straight Alliance debate by announcing plans to repeal protections implemented by the NDP that bars school administrators from notifying parents if their kids join one of the clubs (potentially outing gay kids to their parents).
Notley announces big expansion of affordable childcare program
Notley announced her party’s plan to expand the pilot project $25/day childcare program to cover all childcare across Alberta. Notley said at an event at Calgary’s SPARK Centre that the plan would include adding 13,000 daycare spaces to the current 62,000 spaces in the province. With the youngest population in Canada, the cost and availability of childcare is a particularly important issue for many Albertans.
While I would have preferred the NDP be a little more ambitious, by subsidizing the entire cost of childcare, even at $25/day this kind of program would make a big difference in the lives of many Alberta families.
Rounding up the slate of NDP candidates across the province are Roxie Baez Zamora in Airdrie-East, former Smoky Lake town councillor Theresa Taschuk in Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock, Heather Eddy in Calgary-South East, Kirby Smith in Cardston-Siksika, past city council candidate Shannon Dunfield in Grande Prairie-Wapiti, Acheson Business Association interim executive director Natalie Birnie in Morinville-St. Albert, Ryan Clarke in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright, and Paula Cackett in West Yellowhead.
Birnie replaces previously nominated NDP candidate Shawna Gawreluck, who announced on social media yesterday that she was withdrawing her candidacy for family reasons.
The UCP has three nomination contests still underway:
Sherry Adams, Rajesh Arora, Faton Bislimi, and Sanjay Patel are seeking the nomination in Edmonton-Ellerslie scheduled to take place on March 30, 2019.
Leila Houle and Atul Ranade are seeking the nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood scheduled to take place on March 21, 2019. Del Shupenia’s candidacy was not accepted by the party and George Lam and Michael Kalyn have withdrawn from the contest.
Sophia Kahn, Nazia Naqvi, Baljit Singh, and Heather Sworin are seeking the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Mill Woods scheduled to take place on March 30, 2019. Previously declared candidates Muhammad Afzal, Tariq Chaudhry and David Fletcher have withdrawn from the contest. Chaudhry withdrew from the contest in December 2018, claiming in an affidavit that Jason Kenney and the UCP cost him more than $25,000. Chaudhry claims Kenney encouraged him to run and asked him to sign up and pay for the $10-membership fee for 1,200 new members.
It is expected that candidates will be appointed for the three remaining UCP candidacies if an election is called this week.
The Alberta Party has nominated Robert Tremblay in Calgary-Fish Creek and Jason Avramenko in Chestermere-Strathmore.
Two former UCP nomination candidates have been nominated to run for other parties this week. Sandra Kim has been nominated as the Advantage Party candidate in Camrose, and Jerry Semen is the Freedom Conservative Party candidate in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain.
Yash Sharma, who was disqualified as a candidate for the Alberta Party, is now an Advantage Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie.
Faiza Ali Abdi has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-McCall.
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!