There ain’t no party like a fringe right-wing Alberta separatist party.
Less than two months after Paul Hinman was ousted as leader of the Wildrose Independence Party and replaced by interim leader Jeevan Mangat, it appears that a counter-kudatah (known outside Alberta as a “coup d’état”) has pushed out Hinman’s opponents.
An online statement and email to WIP members from former Wexit Alberta interim leader Kathy Flett, who identifies herself as the WIP VP Communications, says a false narrative is being put out by the former Provincial Board after a well-attended annual general meeting on July 23, 2022 in Red Deer.
“There have been repeated claims that a “Minority Group of 40 or so” members “Took Over” the AGM,” Flett writes. “The Facts tell a different story.”
“This weekend in Red Deer, history was made as Wildrose members stood steadfast for what they knew was right. Their tenacity and persistence forced those who thought they should remain on the board to finally walk out in shame.”
“What occurred yesterday is a sad example of what happens when a small group of individuals completely lose touch with the will of the majority.”
“The Wildrose Independence Party belongs to its members, not the Party Board of Governors, and, therefore, Rick Northey, Wes Caldwell, Bill Jones, et al, are no longer Governors of the Wildrose Independence Party.”
“As of this moment, they still control the party’s website and email system. As such, we advise you to disregard any communications originating from “Wildrosenation.com” until we’ve confirmed with you that it is, again, from us.”
According to Flett’s statement, the newly elected board includes President Angela Tabak (the party’s president in Cardston-Siksika), Chief Finance Officer Allan Wesley, and Secretary Gord Elliot (who until recently was President of the United Conservative Party constituency association in Calgary-North West).
The takeover appears to have pushed out President Rick Northey (the former President of the Wildrose Party association in Airdrie) and CFO Bill Jones.
As of this afternoon, the party’s website showed most of the party’s Board of Governors positions as vacant but still listed Northey and Jones, as well as former Conservative MP Rob Anders and separatist activist Bob Lefurgey as members of the party’s board.
It appears as though Hinman has been reinstated as party leader but Elections Alberta still lists Mangat as the party’s interim leader, so it’s not totally clear.
Hinman originally stepped into the role on an interim basis in 2020 but later became the party’s permanent leader when no one else ran for the leadership. He was leader of the Wildrose Alliance from 2005 to 2009 and was elected to the Legislature twice – as MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 and MLA for Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012. He briefly mounted a campaign for the UCP leadership in 2017 but withdrew before the nomination deadline and endorsed Jason Kenney.
The Wildrose Independence Party was created in 2020 as a merger of the Wexit Alberta group created after the federal Liberals were re-elected in 2019 and the Freedom Conservative Party, which was previously known as the Alberta First Party, Separation Party of Alberta, and the Western Freedom Party.
The WIP has suffered from poor fundraising returns in recent months, raising a measly $7,613 in the second quarter of 2022, and low support in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.
A recent push by UCP leadership candidates Danielle Smith, Brian Jean and Todd Loewen toward all out separatism or some form of provincial autonomy has given a second wind to Alberta separatists but sucked the wind out of the sails of the actual separatist parties.
Recent merger talks with the competing Independence Party of Alberta fell apart in June 2022. A statement on the IPA website lists Northey and Jones as key negotiators for the WIP in those talks.
The IPA, formerly known as the Alberta Independence Party, went through its own internal drama after the 2019 election and is now in the process of choosing its second new leader since that election. Former federal Liberal candidate and anti-COVID restrictions activist lawyer Katherine Kowalchuk is the only candidate in the race.
All this ongoing drama is almost par for the course for Alberta’s small cottage industry of right-wing separatist parties, but it raises the big question: How do they plan to fight Ottawa when they are so busy fighting themselves?
He’s the former MLA, former MP, and former leader of the Wildrose Party.
He’s Fort Mac’s golden boy.
Now he’s the United Conservative Party candidate.
He’s also Jason Kenney’s worst enemy and if he wins he’ll become an even bigger thorn in the Premier’s side ahead of the April 9 leadership review.
Kenney beat Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership race and is now openly campaigning against him in the leadership review.
Jean isn’t the only anti-Kenney candidate in the race.
NDP candidate Ariana Mancini is campaigning hard.
The NDP are cautiously optimistic about their chances but it’s a real long shot and know they are the underdog.
Even with the NDP leading the UCP by 15 points in province-wide polls and Kenney’s approval ratings in free fall, there is still a big gap to close in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.
The UCP won the riding with 66 per cent of the vote in 2019.
Competing with Jean for disaffected conservative voters is another former Wildrose Party leader, Paul Hinman.
Hinman now leads the separatist Wildrose Independence Party.
He’s another long-shot candidate.
He’s also living proof that by-elections can produce weird and unpredictable results.
What do I mean?
Hop in and join me in the Alberta Politics Time Machine™.
One year after Hinman was lost his Cardston-Taber-Warner seat in the 2008 general election he shocked political watchers by winning a by-election in posh Calgary-Glenmore in the city’s southwest.
It was a real country-mouse-becomes-city-mouse situation.
But Hinman isn’t the only example of how by-elections can be sometimes have shocking results.
The Liberals stunned political watchers when Craig Cheffins won in the Calgary-Elbow by-election to replace retired Premier Ralph Klein in 2007.
Alberta Party leader Greg Clark very nearly repeated history in 2014 when he placed a painfully close second to PC cabinet minister Gord Dirks in another Calgary-Elbow by-election.
“But Dave,” you say, “aren’t those just fancy urban Calgary ridings?”
The Liberals won the 1992 by-election in Three Hills.
Yes. That’s right. Three. Hills.
Deficit hawk Liberal leader Laurence Decore recruited farm realtor Don MacDonald in that by-election.
It was a sign of how well the Liberals were doing as much as how poorly the old Progressive Conservatives had tumbled under Don Getty’s beleaguered premiership.
“This is the heartland of Conservative Alberta,” Decore told a boisterous crowd of supporters in Three Hills on the night of MacDonald’s win.
He won with a stunning 2,476 lead over the second place Social Credit candidate.
The PC placed third.
“This is rural Alberta. This is where it’s not supposed to happen. This is where Liberals are supposed to be the anathema of everything that this area stands for,” Decore said. “Not only are we winning but we’re winning handsomely.”
The Liberals even came within a hair of winning a by-election in Little Bow a few months earlier.
Yes. Little. Bow.
That’s the deep south and it’s where conservatives usually win big.
The Reform Party of Canada was on the rise and, just like Three Hills a few months later, Reformers were split between the provincial Liberals and Tories in that by-election.
Reformer-turned-Liberal Donna Graham finished 262 votes behind Reformer-turned-Tory winner Barry MacFarland.
It was a close race.
And then there’s the big by-election win that people always talk about when Alberta separatism periodically peaks in the polls: Western Canada Concept’s Gordon Kesler winning the 1982 Olds-Didsbury by-election.
It was the only time a separatist party candidate has been elected to the Alberta Legislature.
People were mad.
Mad at Pierre Trudeau.
Mad at Peter Lougheed.
And boy did they show it.
But Kesler only had a few months as an MLA before Lougheed shifted gears and steamrolled the WCC into electoral oblivion in the November 1982 general election.
Ok. Buckle up.
Let’s take the time machine back even further.
Young PC candidate Bill Yurko stole the Strathcona East seat vacated by retired Premier Ernest Manning in 1969, foreshadowing the demise of Social Credit only a few years later.
Even the New Democrats have squeaked in a surprise by-election win, though you’ll have to go way back to find it.
Pincher Creek-Crowsnest. 1966.
Garth Turcott becomes the first Alberta NDP MLA in the province’s history.
Turcott’s team brought in a professional organizer and used new campaigning techniques like “doorknocking.”
Federal NDP leader Tommy Douglas even lent Turcott’s campaign a hand and drew hundreds of people to a by-election rally in the riding.
Douglas roasted Premier Ernest Manning for standing in the way of public health care.
“He has been the spearpoint of the attack on medicare,” Douglas said of the Alberta Premier.
It’s probably how Rachel Notley would describe Jason Kenney today. She’d be right.
But that’s for another column.
Slide back to the present. March 14, 2022.
What a wild ride.
I’d love to take the time machine to tomorrow night to see how the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election turns out but our tank is almost empty (and radioactive plutonium almost costs as much as a tank of gas these days!).
So we’ll have to take a big deep breath and wait to see if Brian Jean reclaims his old seat tomorrow night.
It might be a Jean slam dunk, but as we just saw on our little journey through Alberta history – sometimes by-elections can have unexpected results.
March 15 – the Ides of March – is the day voters in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche riding will go to the polls to choose their new MLA.
Premier Jason Kenney waited until the very last day possible to call a by-election to replace former MLA Laila Goodridge, who resigned six months ago to run in last year’s federal election. Waiting this late to call a normal by-election would be very unusual, but this is no normal by-election.
United Conservative Party members in the northern Alberta riding rejected Kenney’s favoured nomination candidate in favour of Brian Jean, the former leader of the Wildrose Party and former MLA and MP who is openly calling on Kenney to resign.
Jean dropped out of provincial politics in 2018, resigning as MLA for the former Fort McMurray-Conklin riding when he was not given a spot in Kenney’s shadow cabinet. But retirement didn’t suit him, and it wasn’t long before he was regularly chirping at Kenney on social media and in the newspaper editorial pages.
He now has the UCP nomination in a normally safe UCP riding and he is openly organizing and fundraising in an effort to dump Kenney at the April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.
With no pro-Kenney candidates on the March 15 ballot, don’t expect the Premier or any cabinet ministers to be visiting the riding in the next 28-days.
Rachel Notley‘s NDP have nominated Fort McMurray school teacher and past candidate Ariana Mancini as their choice in the by-election. And while Mancini remains an underdog in this race, she has been joined over the past few months by a steady stream of NDP MLAs travelling north to visit the riding.
Edmonton-Whitemud NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi was in Fort McMurray today for Mancini’s campaign launch.
While the NDP have been riding high in the poll and are flush with cash, this will be a tough riding for them to win. The UCP earned 66 per cent of the vote in 2019 and the last time voters in this area elected a New Democrat was in 1986, when Leo Piquette won in Athabasca-Lac La Biche.
But, never say never. By-elections can sometimes produce unpredictable results.
While the Kenney-Jean rivalry is the main theme going into the by-election, the candidacy of another former Wildrose Party leader makes this race even more unusual.
Former Wildrose Party leader Paul Hinman now leads and is running in the by-election for the Wildrose Independence Party – a party that not only promotes Alberta separatism from Canada, but, judging from its social media feeds, embraces a vast range of right-wing internet conspiracy theories.
The grandson of former provincial treasurer Edgar Hinman, the younger Hinman was the Alberta Alliance MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 before surprising political watchers by winning a 2009 by-election in posh Calgary-Glenmore. He led the Alliance and Wildrose Alliance from 2005 until resigning in 2009 to make way for Danielle Smith.
Hinman endorsed Jean for the Wildrose Party leadership in 2015 and Kenney for the UCP leadership in 2017 after cancelling his own bid to lead the new party.
Now he leads the separatist Wildrose Independence Party, which was created by a merger of the Freedom Conservative Party and the Wexit Alberta group in July 2020.
But that’s not where the Wildrose blast-from-the-past ends in this by-election!
Burns was a candidate for the Alberta Alliance Party in Stony Plain in 2004 and ran against Hinman for the Alliance leadership way back in 2005. She was later part of a small group of Wildrosers who campaigned against the merger with the Progressive Conservative Party before helping found the Alberta Advantage Party.
Burns led the Alberta Advantage Party into the 2019 election and resigned soon after amid a leadership challenge and announced plans to run for the position again. She now appears to once again be party leader.
The second separatist candidate in the by-election, the Independence Party of Alberta‘s Steven Mellott, has never led or tried to lead the Wildrose Party (as far as I am aware).
The much awaited United Conservative Party nomination vote in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche is being held on Dec. 11 and 12. The contest between former MLA and former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean and economist Joshua Gogo has attracted a lot of political attention.
Nursing a grudge from the 2017 leadership race and tapping into the current UCP leader’s unpopularity, Jean has openly predicted that Rachel Notley’s NDP would win the next election if Premier Jason Kenney doesn’t resign (a recent poll commissioned by CBC showed only 3 in 10 Albertans respect Kenney).
In response, Kenney and his staff have openly criticized Jean for a lack of sticktoitiveness after failing resigning mid-term as Member of Parliament and MLA for the area, causing two by-elections including the one that elected the former MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, Laila Goodridge.
Kenney’s supporters jumped at the opportunity to slam Jean’s description of Gogo as a “Nigerian economist living in Fort McMurray.” Despite a plummeting approval ratings from the public, Kenney has benefited from not having a challenger inside the party that his opponents could rally around. Jean wants to be that challenger.
This by-election will mark the first time the UCP government has had to face voters since it was elected in 2019, and also the first time since then that the question of Kenney’s leadership will be on a provincial ballot.
Under most circumstances, winning this by-election would be a slam dunk for the UCP, but Jean’s candidacy definitely complicates matters for Kenney’s party.
Here is a look at two scenarios that could play out as ballots are cast and counted in this weekend’s UCP nomination contest:
Brian Jean loses the nomination. Losing the nomination would be a big blow to Jean, who has never lost an election in Fort McMurray before. And it would be a win for Kenney. Jean would definitely be a diminished political force within the UCP after losing, and might decide to remain on the sidelines or retreat to private life. But he could decide to run as an Independent candidate. He has significant name recognition and enough personal funds and financial supporters in the riding that he would be a contender even without the blessing of local UCP members.
Brian Jean wins the nomination. Winning the nomination would be a big blow to Kenney, who has used his position as leader to speak out against Jean’s nomination bid. Unless Kenney refused to sign his nomination papers or found a way to disqualify him from winning the nomination, Jean would immediately become the central figure in effort to defeat Kenney at the April 9, 2022 leadership review. Jean has pledged to continue campaigning against Kenney’s leadership.
Mancini nominated as NDP candidate
Local teacher Ariana Mancini was acclaimed as the Alberta NDP candidate at a nomination rally featuring party leader Rachel Notley this week.
“This campaign is an opportunity for our region to send a message to Jason Kenney,” Mancini is reported to have told the crowd in Fort McMurray. “The message is that we don’t have to choose between bad and worse. We can choose better. Even the conservatives don’t like the conservatives. That’s saying something,” she said.
This is Mancini’s second time running as an NDP candidate. She placed second to Jean in the 2015 election in the former Fort McMurray-Conklin riding.
Another former Wildrose leader running for separatist party
Another former Wildrose Party leader has announced his plans to run in the by-election.
Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman, who led the Alberta Alliance-turned-Wildrose Alliance from 2005 to 2009, announced on social media today that he will run for the recently rebranded separatist party in the by-election (the Wildrose Independence Party was named the Freedom Conservative Party in the 2019 election and was previously known as the Western Freedom Party, the Alberta First Party and the Separation Party of Alberta).
Describing it on social media as the most important by-election in history, Hinman described Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche as “ground zero for Trudeau’s carbon net-zero attack against Alberta.”
Hinman appears to be relying on support from federal People’s Party of Canada supporters and has been loudly promoting COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media.
He served as the MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 and Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012.
I am building a list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of Alberta’s expected 2023 provincial election. If I have missed any candidates on my list, please post a comment below or send me an email at email@example.com. Thank you!
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is visiting Governor General Mary Simon this morning to ask the House of Commons to be dissolved and election to be called. About 3,000 kilometres west of the national capital, the Liberal Party is still scrambling to nominate candidates to run in the impending federal election.
The Liberals have nominated 20 candidates in Alberta’s 34 electoral districts, including two new candidates yesterday:
John Turvey is the Liberal Party candidate in Lakeland. Turvey is an instructor at Lakeland College.
Paula Shimp is the Liberal Party candidate in Foothills. Shimp was the Alberta Liberal candidate in Cardston-Taber-Warner in the 2004 provincial election.
The NDP are also behind in nominating candidates in Alberta, with 13 candidates nominated across the province. The latest being Grumit Bhachu in Calgary-Midnapore. Bhachu was the NDP candidate in this district in the 2019 federal election.
The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) has nominated candidates Kevan Hunter in Calgary-Confederation, Merryn Edwards in Edmonton-Centre, Mary Joyce in Edmonton-Griesbach, Andre Vachon in Edmonton-Manning, and Peggy Morton in Edmonton-West.
Eden Gould is running in Calgary-Centre for the Animal Protection Party of Canada.
“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.
Progress Alberta executive director Duncan Kinney is the first candidate to file his papers with Elections Alberta to run in Alberta’s Senate Nominee Election, which is taking place on the same day as the municipal elections on October 18, 2021.
A well-known online provocateur and progressive activist, Kinney is listed as an Independent candidate in a contest where candidates can choose to have their federal party affiliations listed next to their name on the ballot.
Reached for comment, Kinney said he plans to be the only Senate candidate that wants to abolish the Senate.
“I’ll be working with my team to actually build a campaign website and a platform for this incredibly important and serious election very soon,” Kinney said, who also hosts the Progress Report Podcast.
Alberta is the only province to have held Senate Nominee elections and this will be Alberta’s fifth such election since 1989.
Paul Hinman running for Wildrose Independence Party leadership
As well as supporting Alberta’s separation from Canada, Hinman’s campaign focuses on opposing the mild public health restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic. His social media posts frequently promote right-wing online conspiracy theories about the pandemic.
Hinman is a standard bearer in right-wing politics in Alberta, having served as the Alberta Alliance MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2005 to 2008 and the Wildrose Alliance MLA for Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012. He was leader of the Alberta Alliance and Wildrose Alliance from 2005 to 2009 and briefly ran for the United Conservative Party leadership in 2017 before dropping out and endorsing Jason Kenney.
He also made unsuccessful bids for the Wildrose nomination in Cardston-Taber-Warner in 2015 and the federal Conservative nomination in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner in 2016.
Nominations for the Wildrose Independence Party leadership will close on May 14, 2021 and the date of the leadership vote is scheduled for Aug. 28, 2021.
Another right-wing separatist party, the Independence Party of Alberta has also opened up its leadership race, with a leadership vote scheduled for Sept. 28, 2021.
Going into the last election there were five parties represented in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly, but on election night in April 2019 the two main political parties dominated and the smaller parties failed to elect any candidates. Since then Alberta’s smaller parties have been struggling for attention as they search for new people to lead them into the 2023 election.
The Green Party of Alberta was the first to choose a new leader, with Jordan Wilkie being selected in a March 2020 leadership vote. And it now looks like there will be at least two smaller parties holding leadership races and competing for attention in this very busy political year.
Alberta Party seeks new leader
The Alberta Party has announced its plans to kick off a leadership race on May 25, 2021. Candidate nominations will close August 31 and the Leadership will be held on October 23, 2021, one week after the municipal elections.
Interim leader Jacquie Fenske, a former Progressive Conservative MLA, has served in the role since Feb. 2020, filling the position vacated by former leader Stephen Mandel, also a former PC MLA, in June 2019. No candidates have yet to declare their plans to run for the party leadership.
The Alberta Party elected one MLA, Greg Clark in Calgary-Elbow, in 2015 and grew its caucus to 3 MLAs by 2019 after floor crossings from the Alberta NDP and United Conservative Party. The Alberta Party tripped its popular vote to 9 per cent in 2019 but failed to elect any candidates to the Legislative Assembly.
Liberal Party names interim leader
Lawyer and longtime party loyalist John Roggeveen has stepped up to fill the role of interim leader of the Alberta Liberal Party until the party can select a permanent leader at a future date.
John Roggeveen has served on the party’s executive and was a candidate in Calgary-Shaw in 2004, 2008 and 2012, Calgary-Elbow in 2015 and Calgary-Fish Creek in 2019.
Roggeveen fills the role made vacant after David Khan’s resignation in November 2020. Khan is now the Senior Staff Lawyer at EcoJustice.
The party has not yet announced the dates for a leadership race.
The Liberal Party formed Official Opposition in Alberta between 1993 and 2012. The 2019 election marked the first time since the 1982 election that the Liberals failed to elect an MLA to the Legislative Assembly.
Separatist parties seek new leaders
The separatist Wildrose Independent Party will open nominations for its leadership race on April 2 and kick off its leadership race on June 5. Voting for the party’s new leader will take place on Aug. 28, 2021.
Former Alberta Alliance leader and Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman has served as interim leader since last summer. Hinman served as MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 and Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012.
No candidates have declared their plans to run as of yet, but at the party’s recent annual general meeting former Wildrose Party organizer Rick Northey was elected president, former PC Party candidate Gurcharan Garcha was selected as Edmonton Director, and former Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders was selected as a Director-at-Large.
Meanwhile, former Wexit spokesperson Peter Downing, who stepped down when that organization folded into the Freedom Conservative Party to form the Wildrose Independence Party in June 2020, now appears to have joined another separatist party. According to the Independence Party of Alberta website, Downing is now serving as its Public Safety Critic.
The Independence Party of Alberta is also currently without a permanent leader, as is the separatist Alberta Advantage Party.
Alberta’s oldest newly rebranded separatist party has a new interim leader, maybe.
A now deleted tweet from the newly renamed Wildrose Independence Party announced that former Wildrose Alliance leader Paul Hinman is the new interim leader of the party. Unless the party’s account was hacked, it would appear that Hinman is launching another attempt at a political comeback.
The press release included with the now deleted tweet said that Hinman would speak to his new role at this week’s Freedom Talk “Firewall Plus” conference, a pro-separatist event organized by former Wildrose candidate and right-wing online radio show host Danny Hozak that features speakers including former arch-Conservative MP Rob Anders, conservative lawyer John Carpay, Postmedia columnist John Robson, and federal Conservative leadership candidate Derek Sloan.
The name change does not appear to have been approved by Elections Alberta, which still lists the party under its most recent previous name on its official website. But it was reported last week that former Wildrose activist and FCP candidate Rick Northey was the party’s new president. Former Social Credit leader James Albers is also on the party’s executive.
The oldest newest separatist party on Alberta’s right-wing fringe should not be confused with the also recently renamed Independence Party of Alberta (formerly known as the Alberta Independence Party and now led by past UCP nomination candidate Dave Campbell), the Alberta Advantage Party (led by former Alberta Alliance Party president Marilyn Burns), and the unregistered Alberta Freedom Alliance (led by former Wildrose Party candidate Sharon Maclise).
The United Independence Party name was also recently reserved with Elections Alberta, presumably by another former Wildrose candidate trying to start another new separatist party.
But back to the new interim leader of the new separatist Wildrose party…
The grandson of former Social Credit MLA and cabinet minister Edgar Hinman, Paul Hinman’s first foray into provincial electoral politics saw him elected in Cardston-Taber-Warner as the lone Alberta Alliance MLA in the 2004 election. Hinman inherited the leadership of the tiny right-wing party when Randy Thorsteinson (who had previously helped found the Alberta First Party) failed to win his election in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. He endorsed Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Ted Morton in 2006 and led the party through an eventual split and re-merger with a faction branding itself as the Wildrose Party – and thus the Wildrose Alliance was formed.
Hinman lost his seat in the 2008 election in a rematch with former PC MLA Broyce Jacobs. He announced plans to step down as leader shortly afterward and then surprised political watchers when he won a 2009 by-election in posh Calgary-Glenmore, pumping some momentum behind Danielle Smith when she won the party’s leadership race a few months later.
In 2010, Hinman was joined by floor crossing PC MLAs Heather Forsyth, Guy Boutilier, and Rob Anderson (who four years later crossed the floor back to the PC Party and now hosts a Facebook video show where he promotes Alberta separatism), but, despite the party’s electoral breakthrough in 2012, Hinman was again unable to get re-elected.
More recently, Hinman launched a brief bid for the UCP leadership in 2017, announcing a campaign focused on parental rights and conscience rights, but when the Sept 2017 deadline to deposit the $57,500 candidate fee passed, he did not make the cut. Hinman later endorsed Jason Kenney‘s candidacy.
Now he might be taking over the interim leadership of the fledgeling fringe separatist party at a time when public opinion polls show that Albertans’ appetite for leaving Canada is cooling as memory of the 2019 federal election fades. If historic trends hold, then the desire for separatism will drop if it looks like the next federal Conservative Party leader can form a government in Ottawa.
Separatism is ever-present on the fringes of Alberta politics and is more of a situational tendency than a real political movement with legs but a half-organized separatist party could syphon votes away from the UCP in the next provincial election.
And with next October’s Senate nominee election likely to be a showdown between candidates aligned with the federal Conservative Party led by whoever wins this summer’s leadership race and the federal Wexit Party led by former Conservative MP Jay Hill, expect the UCP to be paying a lot of attention to these fringe separatist groups sniping at its right-flank.
If he actually does become the leader of the oldest newest separatist party, Hinman will provide some profile and credibility in political circles where conservatives are perpetually disgruntled with New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and newly disgruntled with Premier Kenney, presumably for not pushing hard enough for Alberta’s separation from Canada.
Photo: Alberta political party leaders – Rachel Notley, Jason Kenney, Stephen Mandel, David Khan, and Derek Fildebrandt.
We are now somewhere between seven and ten months away from the next provincial general election in Alberta. For the past seven provincial elections, leaders of the main political parties have participated in televised leaders debates, and while a lot of media and political attention is focused on these events, their impact on the outcome of the election varies.
Which party leaders are invited to participate in the debates, which are typically organized by private news media companies, can sometimes be contentious. Generally, only leaders whose parties have elected MLAs in the previous general election have been invited, but this has not always been the case. Unlike our neighbours to the south, there are no official rules or commission governing who is invited, which has led to inconsistencies since the televised leaders debates began in Alberta in 1993.
Assuming one is held, let’s take a look at who might and might not be invited to participate in a televised leaders debate held in Alberta’s next provincial election, which is expected to be called between March 1 and May 31, 2019.
Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney: Notley and United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney are shoe-ins to participate in the leaders debate. Notley is the current Premier of Alberta and Kenney leads the Official Opposition UCP. Although the UCP did not exist in the last election, the party has won three by-elections since it was formed in 2017.
David Khan: Liberal Party leader David Khan is not a sitting MLA and his party’s sole MLA, former leader David Swann, is not seeking re-election. This is the first election since 1986 that the Liberals will not have an incumbent MLA running for re-election. Khan is running for election in Swann’s Calgary-Mountain View district. While the party has had one elected MLA since 2015, the party’s lack of incumbent MLAs and declining relevance in Alberta politics could lead to the Liberals not being invited to join next year’s debate.
The Derek Fildebrandt Question:Derek Fildebrandt is a sitting MLA and most likely will be leader of the Freedom Conservative Party when the next election is called. He was first elected as the Wildrose Party MLA for Strathmore-Brooks in 2015 and joined the FCP in 2018. His party did not elect any MLAs in 2015, but neither did the UCP, which was formed in 2017 by MLAs who were previously members of the PC and Wildrose parties.
Fildebrandt has said his party will not run candidates in all districts, only focusing on districts where the NDP is not considered to be competitive. This means that most viewers tuning in to the televised debate will not have the option of voting for a Freedom Conservative Party candidate on Election Day, but a lack of a full-slate has not stopped leaders from being invited to the debates in the past.
Fildebrandt is a fiery quote-machine and his participation in the debates would undoubtably create some entertainment value for viewers. While I suspect Notley and Mandel would be supportive of Fildebrandt’s involvement in the debate, I expect that Kenney would not be eager to share a stage with Fildebrandt. As I predicted on a recent episode of the Daveberta Podcast, I suspect Kenney could threaten to withhold his participation in the debate if Fildebrandt is invited to join.
As for the format of a leaders debate, as I have written before, my preference would be to hold in front of a live audience, rather than a sterile and controlled television studio. This would allow the party leaders to demonstrate their debating skills and a live audience would add an atmosphere of unpredictability and would force the leaders to speak to both the voters in the room and those watching their television screens.
A History of Leaders Debates in Alberta Elections
Here is a quick history of leaders debates during general elections in Alberta:
1967 election – Four party leaders participated in this debate: Social Credit leader Ernest Manning, PC Party leader Peter Lougheed, NDP leader Neil Reimer and Liberal leader Michael Maccagno. Lougheed had initially challenged Manning to a televised debate, but a public debate was held instead. The meeting was sponsored by the City Centre Church Council and held in downtown Edmonton. The leaders fielded questions from the audience of the packed church.
The Calgary Herald reported that “…Manning was booed by a small contingent of hecklers while the new leader of the Conservatives reportedly “appeared to score heavily and draw the most applause.”
At the time of the debate, only Manning and Maccagno were MLAs. Reimer was not an MLA but there was one incumbent NDP MLA, Garth Turcott, who had been elected in a 1965 by-election in Pincher Creek-Crowsnest. Lougheed was not an MLA and his party had not elected an MLA since the 1959 election.
1971-1989 elections – No leaders debates were held during the 1971, 1975, 1979, 1982, 1986 and 1989 elections. Lougheed was challenged by opposition leaders, including NDP leader Grant Notley and Western Canada Concept leader Gordon Kesler, to participate in a televised debate but were turned down. Don Getty also refused to debate his opponents on television.
1993 election – Three party leaders participated in two televised debates: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, NDP leader Ray Martin, and Liberal Party leader Laurence Decore. The first debate was held in-front of a live studio audience and was broadcast on CFCN in Calgary and CFRN in Edmonton. The second debate was held without a live studio audience and broadcast on Channel 2&7 in Calgary and ITV in Edmonton.
1997 election – Four party leaders participated in this televised debate organized by the Alberta Chamber of Commerce and broadcast by CBC: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal Party leader Grant Mitchell, NDP leader Pam Barrett, and Social Credit Party leader Randy Thorsteinson.
Barrett and Thorsteinson were invited to participate despite not being MLAs at the time and neither of their parties having elected any MLAs in the previous election. The NDP and Social Credit Party did not nominate a full slate, with only 77 and 70 candidates running in 83 districts.
2001 election – Three leaders participated in this televised debate organized by Calgary Herald and Global News: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal leader Nancy MacBeth and NDP leader Raj Pannu. The three major parties nominated candidates in all 83 districts.
2004 election – Three leaders participated in this televised debate broadcast by Global Television: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal leader Kevin Taft and NDP leader Brian Mason.
Despite having been invited to join the televised debate in 1997, Alberta Alliance leader Randy Thorsteinson was not allowed to join in 2004 because he was not an MLA and his new party did not elect any members in the previous election. The party had one MLA, former Edmonton-Norwood PC MLA Gary Masyk, who crossed the floor in the months before the election was called.
The PCs, NDP and the Alberta Alliance nominated candidates in all 83 districts in this election. The Liberals nominated candidates in 82 of 83 districts.
The Wildrose Alliance nominated 61 candidates in 83 districts. Green Party leader George Read was not invited to participate in the debate, despite his party nominating candidates in 79 of 83 districts (the Greens would earn 4.5 percent of the total province-wide vote, only slightly behind the 6.7 percent earned by the Wildrose Alliance in this election).
2012 election – Four leaders participated in this debate broadcast by Global and streamed on the internet: PC Party leader Alison Redford, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman and NDP leader Brian Mason.
Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor was not invited to join the leaders debate, despite his party having one MLA in the Legislature. Former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor became the Alberta Party’s first MLA in 2011. The Alberta Party nominated 38 candidates in 87 districts.
2015 election – Four leaders participated in this debate broadcast by Global: PC leader Jim Prentice, NDP leader Rachel Notley, Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, and Liberal leader David Swann. Despite only narrowly losing a 2014 by-election in Calgary-Elbow, Alberta Party leader Greg Clark was not invited to join the debate. Clark would go on to be elected in Calgary-Elbow in this election.
The NDP and PCs nominated candidates in all 87 districts, while the Wildrose Party nominated 86 candidate and the Liberals nominated 56. The Alberta Party nominated 36 candidates in 87 districts.
But when talking about his decision to run in the new Taber-Warner district, rather than challenging his caucus colleague Dave Schneiderfor the UCP nomination in the new Cardston-Siksika district, he made another statement that caught my attention.
“…the NDP have put us in a bad position in this southern part here, in that when the boundaries were redrawn, they split Cardston-Taber-Warner into two different ridings.”
The Cardston-Taber-Warner district Hunter currently represents will see significant changes when the next election is called. While he may have legitimate concerns about the redistribution of the electoral boundaries in southern Alberta, it is misleading to blame the NDP for putting him “…in a bad position…”
The new district boundaries for the 2019 election were drawn by a commission composed of an independent chairperson (Justice Myra Bielby), two NDP Caucus appointees (Bruce McLeod of Acme and Jean Munn of Calgary) and two Wildrose Caucus appointees (Laurie Livingstone of Calgary and Gwen Day of Carstairs). The commission was appointed in October 2016 and held public hearings and received hundreds of submissions from Albertans throughout 2017.
Of the Wildrose appointees, Livingstone supported the final report recommending the new electoral map, including the changes to Hunter’s district, and Day submitted a minority report opposing changes to rural district boundaries.
The process used to redraw Alberta’s electoral boundaries certainly has its flaws (I will write more about this soon), but with Hunter’s own party’s handpicked appointees deeply involved in the process it is misleading for him to blame the party in power for changes he might not like.
Conservative Glen Motz and Libertarian Sheldon Johnston appear to be the only two candidates to so far step up to run in the upcoming federal by-election in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner. The by-election has not been called yet but it will be called within the next 40 days – on or before the six month deadline of Sept. 26, 2016.
Barring a political earthquake, it is expected the Conservative Party candidate will win the by-election in this sprawling southeast Alberta riding with a large Mormon community and a strong social conservative base.
Former Member of Parliament Jim Hillyer, who died earlier this year, was re-elected on October 5, 2015 with 68 percent of the vote, compared to 17 percent for Liberal Glen Allan and 9 percent for NDPer Erin Weir.
Provincially, the area covered by the federal riding is represented by Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter of the Wildrose Party and Medicine Hat MLA Bob Wanner of the New Democratic Party. Mr. Wanner is the Speaker of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly.
Glen Motz will be the Conservative Party of Canada candidate in the upcoming federal by-election in the riding of Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner. Mr. Motz defeated five other men, including former Wildrose Party leader and Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Paul Hinman, in a contest that drew more than 3,100 party members to vote. The candidate was chosen on a fourth round of voting using a preferential ballot system.
He also has some social conservative views that are probably closer to the mainstream in this sprawling rural south east Alberta riding than they are in most of Canada.
“I’m pro-life, there’s no question. Unfortunately it’s the law of the land in this country,” Mr. Motz is reported to have told a crowd of supporters at a candidate’s forum in June 2016. “I will continue to fight that the rights of the unborn are not eroded further. I believe in the sanctity of life.”
Women’s reproductive rights and gay rights were some of the top issues debated by a field of white male candidates in the last nomination contest held in this riding in 2014.
This is one of the most reliably Conservative voting ridings in Canada, so it is almost a certainty that Mr. Motz will be the next Member of Parliament. Mr. Hillyer earned 68.8 percent of the vote when he was re-elected in October 2015.
Another federal by-election is expected to be held in the Calgary-Heritage riding if former Prime Minister Stephen Harperresigns as an MP later this summer as predicted. The names of a handful of potential nominees for the Conservative nomination have been rumoured, including Calgary-HaysProgressive Conservative MLA Ric McIver.
While it is expected that the Conservatives will easily hold on to this riding, the Liberals did see their share of the vote skyrocket from 7 percent in the 2011 election to 26 percent in the 2015 election (the Conservative vote in this riding dropped from 74.3 percent in 2011 to 63.7 percent in 2015).
The Liberals also saw their vote share increase significantly in four federal by-elections held in Alberta before the 2015 election, including in Calgary-Centre in 2012. Without the appeal of an incumbent Conservative MP or a sitting Prime Minister, the Liberals could see their vote increase in this by-election as well.
He does not appear to have officially declared his intentions to run for the Liberal Party nomination, but past candidate Brendan Miles has been knocking on doors in the riding for months and the local Liberal association is holding a pancake breakfast during the Calgary Stampede.
Following the death of Conservative Member of Parliament Jim Hillyer on March 23, 2016, Elections Canada has announced that a by-election must be called in the Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner electoral district before September 26, 2016. The earliest a by-election could be held is May 16, 2016.
By-elections can produce unexpected results, as we have seen recently in Alberta, but as one of the strongest Conservative voting areas of the country, it is very likely the next MP for this area will be a Conservative. Mr. Hillyer was elected in October 2015 with 68 percent of the vote, ahead of LiberalGlen Allan with 17 percent and New DemocratErin Weir with 9 percent (not that Erin Weir).