Alberta’s Progressive Future calls for Alberta NDP to distance itself from the Ottawa NDP
When I worked for the Alberta Liberal Party back in the 2000s, we had an inside joke that the Liberals could run Jesus Christ as a candidate in Wainwright and still lose. It was funny because it was probably true (the last time voters in Wainwright elected a Liberal MLA was in 1909) and was a reflection of how cynical we were that the party had any chance of actually winning any seats in rural Alberta.
I imagine more than a few Alberta NDP supporters felt the same when the results of the 2023 election started rolling in on May 29, 2023. Despite making big gains in Calgary and winning 38 seats province-wide, the party’s hopes of forming government were dashed at the city limits.
Rutherford was elected in 2019 with 58.4 per cent of the vote. He announced his retirement from provincial politics shortly after he was appointed by Premier Danielle Smith as Government Caucus Whip and Minister without Portfolio.
The NDP have nominated paramedic Cam Heenan as their candidate. The riding was represented by NDP MLA Shaye Anderson from 2015 to 2019.
Taking Back Jason Nixon’s nomination
The Take Back Alberta-stacked board of the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre UCP association announced on Facebook that they have begun discussions to reopen the nomination in the riding. Incumbent MLA Jason Nixon‘s allies were recently voted off the board and replaced by a TBA-backed slate.
Nixon served as Minister of Finance in the waining days of Kenney’s government and was dropped from cabinet when Smith entered the Premier’s Office. His brother, Jeremy Nixon, is the UCP MLA for Calgary-Klein and is now the Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services.
Take Back Alberta also has its sights set on taking over the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake UCP board and reopening the candidate nomination in that riding.
Local UCP President and the junior Dreeshen’s uncle, Charlie Moore, is defiant.
“They’re storming the castle and we’re heating up the boiling oil, I guess,” Moore told the Western Standard. “I’ve sent my troops forward to try to talk to some of the more logical ones in that group. We have to convert some of them. Surely there’s some common sense in there somewhere. They can’t all be totally extremists.”
Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock: Landen Tischer is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in this sprawling rural riding north of Edmonton at a February 25 nomination meeting. Check out his TikTok’s.
Calgary-North East – Inderjit Grewal has joined the UCP nomination contest in this riding currently represented by cabinet minister Rajan Sawhney. Former Dashmesh Culture Centre chairman Harjit Singh Saroya is also running for the nomination.
Cypress-Medicine Hat: Independent MLA Drew Barnesannounced he will not seek the UCP nomination to run for re-election. The former UCP was kicked out of the governing caucus in 2021 after becoming one of Kenney’s biggest internal public critics. He and now-returned UCP MLA Todd Loewen formed an unofficial UCP-caucus-in-exile during their banishment but Barnes did not return into the UCP fold when Loewen ran for the party leadership in 2022. Barnes publicly mused in 2021 about starting a rural-based political party.
Edmonton-Ellerslie: Ranjit Bath was nominated as the UCP candidate in this southeast Edmonton riding.
The party has opened up nominations in Edmonton-Whitemud but has not signalled if they plan to let Sherman actually enter the race.
Sherman served as MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark as a Progressive Conservative from 2008 to 2010, as an Independent MLA from 2010 to 2011 and as a Liberal from 2011 to 2015. He led the Alberta Liberal Party from 2011 to 2015.
Edmonton-Whitemud has been represented by Alberta NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi since 2019, when she was elected with 49.18 per cent of the vote.
AUPE’s Heisted running for NDP nomination in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
Innisfail Town Councillor and AUPE Executive Secretary-Treasurer Jason Heistad is running for the NDP nomination in the central Alberta riding of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake.
Heistad was first elected to town council in 2010 and was re-elected in 2021 with the most votes of any councillor candidate. He was elected to his fifth term as AUPE’s Executive Secretary-Treasurer in 2021.
A nomination vote is scheduled for February 6.
The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA and cabinet minister Devin Dreeshen.
Martine Carifelle and Scott Sinclair are seeking the UCP nomination. The NDP have nominated registered nurse Danielle Larivee, who represented the riding from 2015 to 2019 and served as a cabinet minister in Rachel Notley‘s first government.
Drumheller-Stettler: Stettler pharmacist Juliet Franklin is running for the NDP nomination in this sprawling east central Alberta riding. A nomination meeting is scheduled for February 13, 2023.
Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Fisheries biologist Vance Buchwald is running for the NDP nomination in this sprawling west central Alberta riding. A nomination meeting scheduled for February 15, 2023. In 2021, Buchwald urged Clearwater County Council to take a stand against coal mining development near Nordegg.
Green Party of Alberta
The Green Party has nominated Regan Boychuk in Banff-Kananaskis, Ahmad Hassan in Calgary-Falconridge, Kenneth Drysdale in Calgary-Klein, and Cheri Hawley in Edmonton-Whitemud.
Heather Morigeau has withdrawn her candidacy in Calgary-Buffalo, as has Jonathan Parks in Calgary-Currie.
The Alberta Party has opened up nominations in Calgary-Varsity. Nominations closed on January 15. If more than one candidate entered the race a nomination vote will be held on January 29, 2023.
The United Conservative Party announced the nominations of incumbent MLAs Peter Guthrie in Airdrie-Cochrane, Angela Pitt in Airdrie-East, Jason Copping in Calgary-Varsity, and Todd Loewen in Central Peace-Notley.
Calgary-Elbow: Lawyer Chris Davis defeated past city council candidate Cornelia Weibe and lawyer Andrea James to win the UCP nomination. Recent UCP leadership candidate Jon Horsman had announced his candidacy in the race but did not appear on the ballot. The riding not been represented in the Legislature since former UCP MLA Doug Schweitzerresigned on August 31, 2022.
Calgary-Lougheed: Former premier Jason Kenney has resigned as MLA for the southwest Calgary riding. Kenney was first elected as MLA in a 2017 by-election and was re-elected in 2019.
Drayton Valley-Devon: Real estate agent Andrew Boitchenko defeated former constituency president Carol Vowk and Brazeau County Councillor Kara Westerlund to secure the UCP nomination. Boitchenko ran for the UCP nomination in 2018 but was defeated by UCP MLA Mark Smith. Smith is not running for re-election in 2023.
Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview: Felix Amenaghawon, Lana Palmer and Luke Suvanto are seeking the UCP nomination. A nomination vote is scheduled for December 20.
Edmonton-Mill Woods: Raman Athwal has been nominated as the UCP candidate.
Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo: MLA Tany Yao is facing Zulkifl Mujahid and construction association CEO Keith Plowman in the UCP nomination in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. Voting for the nomination closes at 9:00 p.m. tonight. UPDATE: Mujahid defeated Yao and Plowman to win the UCP nomination.
St. Albert: Past mayoral candidate Angela Wood defeated ministerial press secretary Melissa Crane to win the UCP nomination.
And as noted in the Alberta Today newsletter, Ontario political staffer Pierçon Knezic has been hired as the UCP’s Director of Election Readiness.
Livingstone-Macleod: Conservationist and author Kevin Van Tighem was nominated as the Alberta NDP candidate in Livingstone-Macleod. Van Tighem is the former Superintendent of Banff National Park and he has been an outspoken critic of the UCP government’s plans to allow open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains.
The Green Party has nominated Catriona Wright in Calgary-South East and Ernestina Malheiro in Edmonton-Gold Bar, Kristina Howard in Edmonton-West Henday, Taylor Lower in Lacombe-Ponoka, and Tegra-Lee Campbell in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright.
Upcoming nomination meetings
Here are the scheduled upcoming nominations:
December 4 – Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo UCP
December 8 – West Yellowhead NDP
December 9 & 10 – Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock UCP
December 10, 11, 12 – Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul UCP
Aheer was vague about whether she would run as an Independent or for another party, but it became increasingly clear that she would have a very difficult time winning the UCP nomination in her riding.
The second-term MLA placed last in the recent UCP leadership race and is facing a strong nomination challenge from Chantelle De Jonge. The former MP constituency assistant has stressed her conservative political credentials in contrast to Aheer’s more moderate conservative positions on social issues like abortion and public health restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
De Jonge’s recent endorsement from Bruce McAllister, who Aheer unseated as MLA in 2015 and now serves as Premier Danielle Smith‘s executive director at the McDougall Centre, sent a pretty clear message that there isn’t room for Aheer in the UCP.
McAllister is only one of the former Wildrose Party MLAs who crossed the floor with Smith to the Progressive Conservatives in 2014 to reemerge in the new Premier’s orbit.
Former Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson is Smith’s Transition Team Chair and Executive Director of the Premier’s Office, and former Strathmore-Brooks MLA Jason Hale was appointed last week as the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation.
New NDP candidates
The Alberta NDP have nominated Caitlyn Blake in Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul, lawyer Andrew Stewart in Calgary-Hays, and teacher Liana Paiva in Peace River. The NDP now have 63 candidates nominated to run in the next election.
UCP nominees emerge
Since Smith won the party leadership, the party has opened up nominations in a handful of ridings. The deadline to enter nominations in Drayton Valley-Devon, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, Livingstone-Macleod, St. Albert and Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright is October 31, and in Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock, Airdrie-Cochrane, Airdrie-East, Calgary-Varsity, Edmonton-South and Taber-Warner is November 7, and Calgary-Elbow is November 10.
A number of prospective UCP nominees have recently announced their plans to run:
Martine Carifelle is seeking the UCP nomination in Lesser Slave Lake. She is incumbent UCP MLA Pat Rehn‘s former constituency manager. Rehn has not publicly announced if he is running for re-election.
Tunde Obasan is running for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-South. He was the party’s candidate in the riding in 2019 and ran for the federal Conservatives in Edmonton-Strathcona in 2021. Saad Siddiq and Karen Stix are also seeking the nomination.
Angela Wood is seeking the UCP nomination in St. Albert. Wood placed second in the St. Albert mayoral election in 2021.
The other parties
The Green Party has nominated Zak Abdi in Edmonton-City Centre, Chitra Bakshi in Edmonton-Mill Woods and Carl McKay in Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock.
Interim party leader John Roggeveen announced in an email to Alberta Liberal Party supporters they has opened up applications for people to run under the party’s banner in the next election.
There’s not much of anything that is constant in Alberta politics these days, maybe except for the Calgary Stampede.
At least in some non-pandemic years, it’s the Northern Star of Alberta politics. It’s the must attend event for political aspirants of all stripes, from Prime Ministers to aspiring future Premiers.
The Stampede is back in full force this year, with last year’s disastrous “Best Summer Ever” disaster unfortunately an almost distant memory, even though its a big reason why we are where we are today in Alberta politics.
And for anyone watching the Stampede, even this writer from his perch in Edmonton, the race to replace Jason Kenney as Premier and leader of the United Conservative Party was on display as urbanites of all stripes dusted off their cowboys hats and plaid shirts for the week of pancake breakfasts and beer tents.
The big talk of the town this week is Danielle Smith’s unexpectedly strong comeback in the UCP leadership race.
Most political watchers will remember her downfall after a treacherous floor-crossing nearly destroyed the Wildrose Party and helped created the conditions for Rachel Notley to lead her NDP to sweep the province in 2015. (Real political nerds will remember her time on the disastrous Calgary Board of Education from 1998 to 1999, but that’s for another column).
But what we politicos may have missed is that a lot of Albertans, including the thousands who have signed up to support her and are showing up to her campaign events in droves, remember her from her more recent role as the host of a popular talk radio show.
Smith has always been a talented political communicator, despite some high-profile flameouts.
She knows how to talk to conservatives, and it just happens there are a lot of those in Alberta.
It’s not clear how many UCP MLAs support her separatist-leaning “Alberta First” campaign or her dipping into COVID conspiracy theories, but she has nabbed at least one endorsement from the governing caucus – Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie.
Smith hasn’t held a seat in the Legislature sine 2015 but she’s challenging MLA Roger Reid for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. And recently she said she would reopen nomination contests some party activists believe were unfairly stacked in favour of Kenney loyalists, a move that is unlikely to endear her to most current UCP MLAs.
Her comeback would be the political story of the year, and while Premier Danielle Smith is far from a sure thing, she is certainly driving the narrative of the UCP leadership campaign. She’s tapped into a motivated group of Alberta conservatives unhappy with the status-quo.
Those are probably the people Kenney referred to as “lunatics.”
And they might just be the mainstream of the UCP right now.
Even the perceived frontrunner is responding to Smith.
Establishment favourite Travis Toews followed Smith’s lead with a milquetoast “Enough is Enough” social media meme opposing COVID-19 vaccinations. It’s not clear what message he was trying to telegraph.
It was the kind of vague response you would expect from a frontrunner campaign, wanting to respond and not offend but failing at both.
Toews also released a list of autonomist policies that read like they were copied and pasted from 2020’s Fair Deal Panel report.
Smith and Toews aren’t alone.
Brian Jean is hitting the same notes, though he’s running a sleepier than expected campaign. Still, Fort McMurray’s Golden Boy shouldn’t be underestimated.
Independent MLA Todd Loewenis also hitting the same notes on separatist and anti-COVID health measures but his chances of winning appear much less likely than the others in this pack.
Smith’s extreme positions are probably leaving Rachel Notley’s NDP salivating at the opportunity to run against an extremist right-wing UCP that would leave a lot of Albertans alienated.
Two months ago, Notley’s victory in Alberta’s next election looked like a sure bet, but Kenney’s resignation announcement gave his party a bump in the polls and now it’s a race.
Notley and her MLAs have basically decamped to Calgary for the summer, showing up at every event and taking every chance to door knock with their growing slate of local candidates that includes former city councillor Druh Farrell in Calgary-Bow, energy analyst Samir Kayande in Calgary-Elbow, sustainable energy expert Nagwan Al-Guneid in Calgary-Glenmore. Canadian Forces veteran Marilyn North Peigan in Calgary-Klein, and physician Luanne Metz in Calgary-Varsity.
It’s probably the closest thing Calgary has seen to a Progressive Conservative slate since 2015 but the NDP still have a lot of hard work ahead of them to convince Calgarians to vote for them en masse in 2023.
But the UCP leadership candidate the NDP might fear the most so far hasn’t been playing the same cards as Smith, Toews, Jean and Loewen.
The first-term MLA from Calgary-Shaw and former children’s service minister had already nabbed an endorsement from Rona Ambrose but the former interim Conservative Party leader is now chairing her campaign.
Schulz and her husband were political staffers in Wall’s government before moving to Calgary seven years ago and her husband worked for McMillan as VP Communications of CAPP.
It’s hard to tell where her politics are. Schulz seems more moderate than the rest of the pack, which isn’t saying much, but how much more moderate is not clear.
Along with her political establishment connections, Schulz might become a pretty appealing candidate if there are enough UCP members left who don’t want to fight the next election on COVID conspiracy theories and Alberta separatism.
At the very least, there might actually be enough Saskatchewan expats alone living in Alberta to win a leadership race.
And I would be remise if I failed to mention the other candidates who are also busy yahooing their way through the Stampede.
Rajan Sawhney is running an outsiders campaign, leaning on her years of business experience. She is also a candidate to watch.
She was the NDP candidate in the northwest Calgary district in the 2019 election, where she earned 34 per cent of the vote to United Conservative Party candidate Prasad Panda’s 52 per cent. Panda currently serves as Minister of Infrastructure.
Hayter previously worked as a constituency assistant to former Calgary-Varsity NDP MLA Stephanie McLean and sought that neighbouring district until switching to Calgary-Edgemont ahead of the 2019 election.
“Opening for summer” was Premier Jason Kenney’s new tagline as he announced that by July the provincial government will mount a quick retreat from the public health restrictions implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19.
It is a bizarre whiplash from a week ago when Alberta was leading North America for active cases of COVID-19 and Intensive Care Units were starting to overflow (there are still 150 COVID patients in ICU beds in Alberta). But consistency has never been Kenney’s style during the pandemic and his decision to rush the removal of restrictions likely being driven by his need to score political points and save job as leader of the United Conservative Party.
The three stage plan appears to be planned around the start of the Ponoka Stampede and the Calgary Stampede, two of the largest public events in an Alberta summer.
It has been a long 15 months since the pandemic began, so it is hard not to be cautiously optimistic that the plan will work. But, like many of Kenney’s plans, it seems to be driven by political expediency rather than the vigilance our leaders probably should embrace to defeat this virus.
Alberta’s public health restrictions have been mild compared with most other provinces in Canada and jurisdictions abroad. Coffee shops and grocery stores have remained open, as have religious services (with lower attendance rates), and even the Legislative Assembly continued to meet in-person until last week. It even took a while for the government to be convinced that casinos should be closed.
Proactive measures have not been a distinguishing feature of Kenney’s response to COVID-19.
UCP staffers have been jubilantly tweeting that Albertans “crushed the spike,” referring to the third wave that peaked at more than 26,000 active cases, but it was only after weeks of delays and ignoring the pleas of medical professionals that the Kenney government implemented the measures that “crushed” the third wave of COVID-19 in Alberta.
Only a week before Kenney implemented the current public health measures, he was complaining to the media that restrictions don’t work because people don’t listen to them, despite the third wave that happened after the previous health measures were prematurely lifted in February 2021.
The decline in active cases since the new public health measures were put in place suggests the restrictions did work.
A growing number of Albertans are getting injected with their first dose of COVID-19 vaccines and there are still questions about how many Albertans will have received a second dose of the vaccine by the time Kenney rips the bandaid off in July.
Despite conservative partisans criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for using the term “one-dose summer,” it would appear that a one-dose is enough for the UCP government to remove all public health restrictions.
There is also growing concern about how effective one dose of vaccine is in protecting people from the B.1.617.2 variant (the “India variant”), which is the source of a third wave in the United Kingdom.
New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley is urging caution and raising questions about the speed the restrictions will be lifted, which is a fair criticism. In typical fashion, Kenney responded with a partisan barb, accusing the NDP of being anti-vaxxers. All NDP MLAs have confirmed they have received their first vaccination, something not all UCP MLAs have confirmed doing.
A lot of Albertans, myself included, are hoping that the removal of restrictions will work and we can put COVID-19 behind us. It would be nice to have a summer not constrained by even mild public health restrictions. It would be nice for the pandemic to be over. We will find out by the fall whether the Kenney government jumped the gun in removing restrictions too soon.
Hinman only candidate in Wildrose Independence Party leadership vote
Former Wildrose Party MLA Paul Hinman is the only candidate to enter the Wildrose Independence Party leadership race. A vote of the separatist party’s membership will be held on August 28, 2021 to confirm his leadership.
Hinman represented the Alberta Alliance and Wildrose Alliance parties as the MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 and the Wildrose Party as the MLA for Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012. He led the Wildrose Alliance in the 2008 election.
Hinman is the grandson of Social Credit MLA and cabinet minister Edgar Hinman.
NDP to hold nomination meeting in Calgary-Varsity on June 26
The Alberta NDP will hold the first nomination meeting of the 2023 election cycle on June 26, 2021 in Calgary-Varisty. Prominent physician Dr. Luanne Metz is expected to be acclaimed as candidate.
The northwest Calgary district is a key target riding for the NDP in the next election and was narrowly won by UCP MLA Jason Copping in 2019.
Chantelle de Jonge has filed papers with Elections Alberta to run for the United Conservative Party nomination in Chestermere-Strathmore. The district is currently represented by UCP MLA Leela Aheer, who has served as Alberta’s Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women since her party formed government in 2019.
It is not clear whether the UCP has actually opened the candidate nomination process in this district, or any others at this point, but Alberta’s election laws require people who are interested in actively campaigning for party nominations to file their expression of interest with Elections Alberta.
As far as I can tell, de Jonge has not made any public statements about her candidacy, but I was able to find someone by that name on LinkedIn who is a former Constituency Assistant in the office of Calgary-Skyview Conservative MP Jag Sahota and a student of economics and philosophy at the University of Calgary.
Quest represented Strathcona-Sherwood Park from 2008 until 2015, when he was unseated by NDP candidate Estefan Cortes-Vargas. He ran for the Alberta Party in that district in the 2019 election, placing third with 13.3 per cent of the vote.
Dr. Metz is a Professor and the Head of the Division of Neurology at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary. She is also a founder of Eyes Forward Alberta, an advocacy group created to support public health care and oppose the United Conservative Party government’s plans to privatize large swaths of the health care system.
“I want to contribute to fixing our health-care system,” Metz said in a media statement released last night.
“My way of dealing with the stress of recent policies that are the opposite of what evidence recommends is to do whatever I can to be part of the solution. UCP policies are hurting Albertans and will increase health care costs,” she said. “I want to continue championing the health and wellness of Albertans in the Legislature.”
According to the University of Calgary website, Metz is recognized globally as an expert in Multiple Sclerosis and, in 2015, was awarded the Alberta Medal of Distinguished Service – which recognizes physicians who have made an outstanding personal contribution to the medical profession and to the people of Alberta.
Calgary-Varsity has been a swing riding that has generally leaned away from the conservative parties since the mid-2000s, being represented by popular Liberal MLA Harry Chase from 2004 to 2012, Progressive Conservative and Independent MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans from 2012 to 2015, and NDP MLA Stephanie McLean from 2015 to 2019.
It’s a magical time at daveberta.ca. We’ve now entered a zone where I am tracking candidates running in three separate elections: municipal, federal, and now provincial.
With the announcement by the Alberta NDP that they are opening candidate nominations for the expected 2023 election in spring 2021, they have had their first candidate announced plans to run for a nomination.
Outreach and community engagement specialist Julia Hayter announced on Twitter yesterday that she plans to run for the NDP nomination in Calgary-Edgemont.
Hayter was the NDP candidate in that north west Calgary district in the 2019 election, where she earned 34 per cent of the vote against United Conservative Party candidate Prasad Panda.
She previously served as a constituency assistant to former Calgary-Varsity NDP MLA Stephanie McLean and sought the nomination in that district until switching the Calgary-Edgemont ahead of the 2019 election.
The NDP have also opened nominations in Banff-Kananaskis. No candidates have announced their plans to run as of yet.
And, as usual, if you know of any municipal, provincial and federal candidates planning to run, please let me know and I will add them and their social media links to the various lists. Thank you!
Annalise Klingbeil joins the Daveberta Podcast to discuss the latest developments in United Conservative Party government’s plans to close and privatize more than 160 provincial parks and recreation areas. We also discuss the mixed-messaging about COVID-19 from Premier Jason Kenney and his cabinet ministers as the second wave of the pandemic surges in Alberta. And we share some ideas about how the government could improve its COVID-19 communications.
Annalise is co-founder of Champion Communications & PR. She previously worked as a ministerial press secretary and before that she was a journalist at the Calgary Herald. She is also the co-founder of the Go Outside newsletter.
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.
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“This Alberta is a meritocracy” – Jason Kenney (April 30, 2019)
It was first reported this week by the CBC that John Weissenberger has been hired as the Alberta Energy Regulator’s new vice president of its science and innovation branch. Weissenberger is a former adjunct professor at the University of Alberta and manager of geological services with Husky, but it is his deep political connections that raised eyes this week.
Weissenberger is a long-time conservative activist going back to the early days of the Reform Party and was Jason Kenney’s campaign manager during his successful bids for the the Progressive Conservative and United Conservative Party leadership campaigns in 2017. He was also director of the Alberta Victory Fund, the political action committee created to support Kenney’s campaign for the UCP leadership, and has been described as former prime minister Stephen Harper’s best friend.
It has also been reported that Weissenberger is a self-proclaimed ‘climate change skeptic,’ something that is unlikely to help the government’s bid to attract international investment and companies to move to Alberta.
Weissenberger’s wife, Angela Tu Weissenberger, was appointed by the UCP to the board of the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission in November 2019.
“Sherpa Dave” is Kenney’s Man in Texas
Congenial former Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Rodney has been appointed as Alberta’s Agent General in Houston, Texas. Rodney served as the PC MLA for Calgary-Lougheed from 2004 until 2017 when he resigned to allow Kenney to run in a by-election.
Rodney’s reward for stepping down, it would appear, is a pseudo-diplomatic post with a $250,000 annual salary. The former MLA served as a backbencher for all but two of his thirteen years in the Legislature. He served as Associate Minister of Wellness from 2012 to 2014.
And as anyone who has paid close attention to Alberta politics will know, Rodney is the first Canadian to have reached the summit of Mount Everest, twice.
Rodney’s appointment is reminiscent of former Stettler MLA Brian Downey‘s appointment as chairman of the Alberta Grain Commission when he resigned his seat in 1989 to allow Premier Don Getty to return to the Assembly (Getty had lost his Edmonton-Whitemud seat to Liberal Percy Wickman in the 1989 general election).
Rodney’s appointment marks the return of the Agent General title, a term that was widely used by Alberta’s out-of-country representatives until 1996, when the Agent-General Act was repealed and the Managing Director job title was adopted.
At the time the Agent General title was abolished, it had become associated with partisan patronage following a long string of appointments that included former PC MLA Mary LeMessurier to a post in London, former MLA Fred Peacock as the Asia-Pacific Agent General, a political aide in Getty’s office as Agent General in Hong Kong, and Getty’s wife’s cousin’s husband as Agent General in Tokyo.
Tory Patronage Machine Humming
Like the engine of a blue Dodge Ram, the UCP patronage machine has revved up since the party formed government in April 2019. counting donors, which would expand the list substantially, here is a quick list of individuals with connections to Kenney, the UCP and the conservative movement who have been appointed to various agency, board and commission positions:
Len Rhodes was appointed as Chair of the board of directors of the Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Commission. He was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Meadows in 2019.
Janice Sarich was appointed to the board of governors of MacEwan University. Sarich was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Decore in 2019 and represented the district as a PC MLA from 2008 to 2015.
Lily Le was appointed to board of governors of Norquest College. Le was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-City Centre in 2019.
Laurie Mozeson was appointed to the Municipal Government Board. Mozeson was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-McClung in 2019.
Karri Flatla was appointed to the Board of Governors of Lethbridge College. She was the UCP candidate in Lethbridge-West in 2019.
Tom Olsen was hired as CEO of the Canadian Energy Centre. He was the UCP candidate in Calgary-Buffalo in 2019.
Bettina Pierre-Gilles was appointed to board of Bow Valley College. Pierre-Gilles ran for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Currie ahead of the 2019 election.
Donna Kennedy-Glans appointed to board of governors of Banff Centre. Kennedy-Glans was the PC MLA for Calgary-Varsity from 2012 to 2015 and briefly ran for the party leadership in 2017. She was also appointed to the Fair Deal Panel.
Janice Harrington was appointed as Alberta’s Health Advocate and Mental Health Patient Advocate. Harrington was executive director of the PC Party and UCP from 2017 to 2019 and was previously involved in PC Party campaigns.
Shelley Beck was appointed to the board of governors of Medicine Hat College. Beck has worked as a constituency assistant to Cypress-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Drew Barnes.
Wayne Drysdale was appointed to the Municipal Government Board. Drysdale served as the PC and UCP MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti from 2008 to 2019. He was Minister of Transportation from 2014 to 2015.
Heather Forsyth was appointed to the Alberta Review Board. Forsyth served as the PC and Wildrose MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek from 1993 to 2015. She served as Solicitor General from 2001 to 2004 and Minister of Children’s Services from 2004 to 2006.
Lloyd Snelgrove was appointed to the Board of Governors of Lakeland College. Snelgrove served as the PC MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster from 2001 to 2012. He served as Minister of Finance and Enterprise from January 2011 to October 2011.
Bill Smith was appointed as member and vice-chair of the Public Health Appeal Board. Smith is the former president of the PC Party and was a candidate for Mayor of Calgary in 2017.
Andy Crooks was appointed to Municipal Government Board. Crooks was chairman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation during Jason Kenney‘s time as its spokesperson in the 1990s.
Richard Casson was appointed to the Board of Governors of the University of Lethbridge. Casson served as the Member of Parliament for Lethbridge from 1997 to 2011.
James Rajotte was appointed to the Board of Governors of the University of Alberta. Rajotte served as the MP for Edmonton-South West and Edmonton-Leduc from 2000 to 2015.
Diane Ablonczy was appointed as a member of the Council of the Alberta Order of Excellence. Ablonczy served as the MP for Calgary-North and Calgary-Nose Hill from 1993 to 2015.
Ted Menzies was appointed to the Board of Governors of Olds College. Menzies served as MP for Macleod from 2004 to 2015.
Janice MacKinnon was appointed to the Board of Governors of The University of Alberta. MacKinnon chaired the UCP government’s Panel on Alberta’s Finances in 2019.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Brent Wittmeier for the inspiration for the title of this post.
If you’re a conservative lawyer or energy company CEO in Alberta, you should check your email. There’s a good chance you might have been appointed to a public agency, board or commission last week.
A large number of political appointments made last Friday morning included new board chairpersons and directors at eleven post-secondary institutions, including the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, MacEwan University and Mount Royal University, as well as Alberta Health Services, the Workers’ Compensation Board, and the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis commission. The UCP appointees replaced a number of high-profile NDP-appointees, including U of A board chairperson Michael Phair, NAIT board chairperson Ray Martin, AHS board chairperson Linda Hughes, and WCB chairperson Grace Thostenson.
As reported by David Climenhaga at AlbertaPolitics.ca, “At least 18 of the new UCP appointees were donors of significant sums to the party or UCP-friendly PACs set up to skirt election-financing laws.” Progress Alberta is expected to publish a more detailed report soon, but a scan of financing disclosures by executive director Duncan Kinney showed 16 donors who together contributed more than $100,000 to various conservative political causes were among the appointees.
Included in the flurry of appointments are a handful of former conservative politicians, activists, and officials with ties to the UCP, the federal Conservative Party, and right-wing lobby groups and think-tanks:
Also appointed to the AGLC are Elan Harper, the chief financial officer for the Calgary-Varsity UCP association, and Gerard Curran, the owner of the James Joyce Pub in Calgary and former chairman of Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association (now known as the UCP-friendly Restaurants Canada).
Former Progressive Conservative MLA Janice Sarich was appointed to the board of MacEwan University, former MLA and associate cabinet minister Donna Kennedy-Glans was appointed to the board of the Banff Centre, and former Member of Parliament James Rajotte is now on the University of Alberta Board of Governors.
Former APPEGA president Kim Farwell, appointed to the board of governors of Keyano College in Fort McMurray, was campaign manager to Conservative MP David Yurdiga and president of the local Conservative Party association.
Lydell Torgerson, appointed as a public member of the Board of Directors of Grande Prairie Regional College has acted as the official agent for Conservative MP Chris Warkentin‘s election campaign.
Andy Crooks, the former chairman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation during Jason Kenney‘s time as its spokesperson, is now a member of the Municipal Government Board, and Moin Yahya, a U of A law professor and senior fellow with the Fraser Institute, is now a member of the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
Grafton Asset Management, the company run by newly appointed University of Calgary board chairperson Geeta Sankappanavar, donated $25,000 to the Shaping Alberta’s Future political action committee which purchased front-page pro-UCP ads in Alberta’s Postmedia newspapers.
Alex Pourbaix, president and CEO of Cenovus Energy and newly appointed chairman of the Mount Royal University board of directors, donated $4,000 to the UCP in 2019.
The biggest outlier when it comes to political donations might be new AHS board chairman David Weyant, the outgoing chairman of the Banff Centre of the Arts, who has donated $1,775 to the Alberta NDP since 2016, including a $550 donation in 2019.
Overall, the appointments send two messages:
The Tory patronage machine is back, and it’s a deep well. While the NDP embraced the oil and gas sector and appointed corporate executives to public boards during their five years in government, Premier Rachel Notley‘s party never had a large political establishment to draw upon for appointees. The NDP also attempted to to professionalize the selection process but holding interviews and expanding the application process to allow a broader cross-section of Albertans to serve on some public boards. The long list of UCP appointees employed as corporate executives and lawyers, as well as the lack of representation from civil society groups, signals a return to something more similar to the old PC Party regime. It also serves as a reminder of the deep well of patronage appointees from the conservative establishment in this province that have made themselves available to the UCP.
Resistance is futile (at least that’s what they want you to think). Serious political resistance at the board level to what are expected to be significant funding cuts to post-secondary education and public agencies like Alberta Health Services is now less likely to be successful. With significant budget cuts expected to be recommended in the “Blue Ribbon” panel report prepared by history professor and former Saskatchewan cabinet minister Janice McKinnon, it is likely that the UCP government wanted to install appointees who would be eager to enact the government’s austerity and privatization agenda when the provincial budget is tabled in the fall.
While it is difficult to criticize the qualifications of some of the appointees, some who are highly qualified for the positions they have been appointed to, it is expected that their experience was weighed closely with how compliant they will be with Kenney’s political agenda.