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Alberta Politics

Western Standard’s James Finkbeiner running for UCP nomination in Cypress-Medicine Hat

James Finkbeiner announced on social media that he is seeking the United Conservative Party nomination in Cypress-Medicine Hat.
Finkbeiner was until recently the Vice-President of Operations for the Western Standard, right-wing news website run by former UCP MLA and Canadian Taxpayers Federation spokesperson Derek Fildebrandt. Before joining the Western Standard, Finkbeiner was general manager of an oilfield services company.
Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat
Drew Barnes (source: Dave Cournoyer)

Incumbent Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes was kicked out of the UCP Caucus in 2021 after becoming one of former Premier Jason Kenney’s loudest critics inside the party. He hasn’t ruled out rejoining the UCP but he is also seriously considering running for re-election as an Independent candidate.

Barnes was first elected in 2012 as a member of Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party and did not cross the floor in 2014. He was re-elected as a Wildrose candidate in 2015 and under the UCP banner in 2019.
Despite serving as official opposition finance critic before the UCP formed government in 2019, Barnes was left out of Kenney’s and Smith’s cabinets. He has publicly advocated for the creation of the Ministry of Autonomy, which he would like to lead.

Rowswell acclaimed in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright

Garth Rowswell Vermilion Lloydminster Wainwright United Conservative Party Election Alberta
Garth Rowswell

UCP MLA Garth Rowswell was acclaimed as his party’s candidate in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright.

A financial advisor, Rowswell was first elected in 2019 after winning a hotly contested nomination race in 2018.
The NDP have nominated Dawn Flaata in the east central Alberta riding.

Other nomination updates

  • The UCP have scheduled a nomination vote in Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock on December 9 and 10. Second-term MLA Glenn van Dijken is being challenged by 24-year old Westlock County Councillor Isaac Skuban.
  • Globe and Mail journalist Carrie Tait reports that incumbent MLA Roger Reid will not reenter the UCP nomination contest in Livingstone-Macleod even after Nadine Wellwood’s disqualification was upheld. The vacancy has sparked speculation that Premier Smith, who lives in the riding, may run for re-election there in 2023. 

Total nominated candidates

The NDP have nominated candidates in 64 of Alberta’s 87 ridings. The UCP have candidates named in 37 ridings and the Green Party has 18 candidates. The Alberta Party has nominated 3 candidates and the Liberal Party has one.

Here are the scheduled upcoming nominations:

  • November 16 – Calgary-West NDP
  • November 20 – Airdrie-East NDP
  • November 23 – Livingstone-Macleod NDP
  • November 26 – St. Albert UCP
  • December 2 & 3 – Drayton Valley-Devon UCP
  • December 3 – Calgary-Elbow UCP
  • December 4 – Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo UCP
  • December 8 – West Yellowhead NDP
  • December 9 & 10 – Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock UCP
  • December 17 – Calgary-North NDP

I am building a list of candidates running for party nominations, so if you are seeking a nomination and would like you name added to the list please let me know. Thanks!

Subscribe to the Daveberta Substack and get my bi-weekly Alberta politics column delivered straight into your email inbox.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Nomination Drama! Nadine Wellwood disqualified in Livingstone-Macleod, former Wildrose MLA Scott Cyr launches a UCP comeback

Today’s by-election in Brooks-Medicine Hat will determine if Premier Danielle Smith will have a seat in the Alberta Legislature, but ahead of that vote here are the latest candidate nomination updates.

Drama in Livingstone-Macleod 

Livingstone-Macleod MLA Roger Reid and Premier Danielle Smith United Conservative Party nomination
Roger Reid and Danielle Smith (source: Roger Reid/Instagram)

Days after he withdrew from the United Conservative Party’s nomination contest in Livingstone-Macleod, MLA Roger Reid told Globe & Mail reporter Carrie Tait that he would not vote for Nadine Wellwood if she succeeds him as the UCP candidate. Now, Wellwood’s controversial nomination has been rejected by the party.

Here’s what Reid told the Globe & Mail:

Wellwood has a long history of posts on social media in which she has compared vaccine passports to Nazi Germany, promoted ivermectin as a cure for COVID-19, and spread the conspiracy theory that U.S. President Joe Biden stole the 2020 election from former president Donald Trump. 

“I think her focus is not where the people of Livingstone-Macleod are focused,” Mr. Reid said in an interview when asked if he would support Ms. Wellwood. “What she has been posting and what she’s been speaking to is not addressing the broad concerns of most of the residents of this riding.” 

Ms. Wellwood said she did not have time to respond to questions on Thursday.

Nadine Wellwood Livingstone-Macleod UCP Nomination Disqualification Statement
A statement from Nadine Wellwood’s campaign.

Wellwood blamed the “party elite” in a statement saying she would appeal her disqualification.

Her appeal will be a first test of the new UCP board, which is now about half controlled by supporters of the Take Back Alberta PAC slate, which swept the elections at the recent UCP AGM. Supporters of that PAC have called for the reopening of nominations in Cardston-Sikiska and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, where challengers to the incumbent MLAs were disqualified earlier this year for making controversial statements on social media.

Former Wildrose MLA challenges Hanson

Scott Cyr UCP Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul Nomination Candidate MLA
Scott Cyr (source: Scott Cyr/Facebook)

Former Wildrose MLA Scott Cyr joins former MD of Bonnyville Reeve Greg Sawchuck in challenging MLA David Hanson for the UCP nomination in Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul.

Cyr was first elected in 2015 and did not run for re-election in 2019 after his Bonnyville-Cold Lake and Hanson’s Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills ridings were merged in the electoral boundaries redistribution. Cyr endorsed Hanson in 2018.

He was openly critical of UCP MLA’s caught up in the Aloha-gate scandal in December 2021, telling CTV that the vacations were a “slap in the face” for his family and the average Albertan.”

The UCP has now opened nominations in Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul, as well as Central Peace-Notley, Chestermere-Strathmore, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview, and Edmonton-Mill Woods.

Other nomination updates:

  • NDP members are expected to nominate Justin Huseby in Calgary-South East and Denis Ram in Calgary-Peigan tonight.
  • MLA Jason Stephan publicly announced he will be seeking the UCP nomination for re-election in Red Deer-South. He is being challenged by Adele Poratto, who ran against Stephan for the nomination in 2019 and also ran for the Progressive Conservative nomination in 2008.
  • Fred Kreiner of Jasper and Lavone Olson of Brule are running for the NDP nomination in West Yellowhead. Olson was Yellowhead County Councillor from 2007 to 2013 and 2017 to 2021. A December 8 nomination vote has been scheduled.
  • Kanwarjit Singh Sandhu announced plans to seek the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Meadows at an event at the Sultan Banquet Hall. The southeast Edmonton riding is currently represented by NDP MLA Jasvir Deol.
  • The UCP has opened nominations in a handful of ridings, including Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock, where UCP MLA Glenn Van Dijken faces a challenge from 24-year old Westlock County Councillor Isaac Skuban.
  • Jacob Stacey has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in Sherwood Park. He previously announced his candidacy in Strathcona-Sherwood Park.
  • Jeremy Appell has some coverage and raises some questions about Marilyn North Peigan’s departure as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Klein, a key swing-riding in the next election.

And it looks like a UCP candidate who came close to winning in the last election probably won’t be running again in the next election. Former UCP candidate Karri Flatla, who ran for the party in Lethbridge-West in 2019, levelled some pretty harsh criticism at Smith on her Facebook page.

A screenshot from Karri Flatla's Facebook page criticizing Premier Danielle Smith.
A screenshot from Karri Flatla’s Facebook page criticizing Premier Danielle Smith.

Total nominated candidates

The NDP have nominated candidates in 62 of Alberta’s 87 ridings. The UCP have candidates named in 36 ridings and the Green Party has 18 candidates. The Alberta Party has nominated 3 candidates and the Liberal Party has one.

Here are the scheduled upcoming nominations:

  • November 8 – Calgary-Peigan NDP
  • November 8 – Calgary-South East NDP
  • November 16 – Calgary-West NDP
  • November 20 – Airdrie-East NDP
  • November 23 – Livingstone-Macleod NDP
  • November 26 – St. Albert UCP
  • December 2 & 3 – Drayton Valley-Devon UCP
  • December 8 – West Yellowhead NDP

I am maintaining a list of candidates running for party nominations, so if you are seeking a nomination and would like you name added to the list please let me know. Thanks!

(Subscribe to the Daveberta Substack and get my bi-weekly Alberta politics column delivered straight into your email inbox)

Categories
Alberta Politics

Sky does not fall as Alberta NDP presents its first budget

When Finance Minister Joe Ceci stood in the Legislature on Oct. 27 to deliver the Alberta NDP’s first budget, it marked the first time since 1972 that the budget was not tabled by a Progressive Conservative finance minister.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader
Rachel Notley

The first budget of Premier Rachel Notley‘s NDP government includes a 15 percent increase in capital spending over the next five years, with a goal to create jobs and tackle the province’s aging and neglected hospitals, schools, roads and other public infrastructure.

The NDP budget includes modest increases and projected stable funding for health care, education, advanced education and human services – core services that Albertans depend on. This was a key component of the election platform that helped propel the NDP into government on May 5. The job creation and economic stimulus elements of the budget followed last week’s creation of an Economic Development and Trade portfolio, led by Edmonton MLA Deron Bilous.

Deron Bilous Edmonton Alberta MLA Minister
Deron Bilous Edmonton Alberta MLA Minister

A projected $6.1 billion deficit in the NDP budget is larger than the $5 billion deficit presented in the Tory spring budget, which was tabled but never passed. But the Alberta government’s eighth consecutive deficit budget is “…hardly sky is falling territory,” wrote University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe in Maclean’s Magazine this week.

While not trivial, obviously, it is completely manageable. Alberta is fully able to handle it and no one need panic. It represents 1.8 per cent of the province’s GDP, which is fairly small, as far as some deficits go,” Dr. Tombe wrote.

The NDP government will borrow to pay for parts of its operations budget starting next year, which will hopefully be a short-term move. Decades of bad financial management and poor long-term planning by the previous conservative government has exacerbated the provincial government’s current fiscal situation. The PCs simply became too comfortable and dependent on unreliable revenue from natural resource royalties to fund the province’s operations budget.

Jim Prentice Alberta Premier
Jim Prentice

Mr. Ceci also announced that the government would legislate a debt ceiling of 15 percent debt-to-GDP in order to hold off a risk of credit downgrades and higher debt service costs.

Former premier Jim Prentice was correct last year when he warned about getting “off the royalty roller coaster.” The Alberta government faces serious revenue problems and moving Alberta away from its over dependence on resource revenue will be a significant test of Ms. Notley’s first term in government.

Any plan to deal with the revenue problem will likely come after the government receives a much anticipated report from the royalty review panel chaired by ATB President and CEO Dave Mowat. The panel is expected to finalize its recommendations by the end of the year. But it will not be enough to simply wait for the international price of oil to rise again. Albertans need to have a serious conversation about revenue and taxation, including the potential introduction of a provincial sales tax.

Derek Fildebrandt Alberta Taxpayers
Derek Fildebrandt

To no ones surprise, Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean and finance critic Derek Fildebrandt responded to the NDP budget with outrage and a message filled with apocalyptic rhetoric.

Mr. Jean’s post-budget press conference was somewhat overshadowed by Mr. Fildebrandt’s bizarre decision to refuse to answer a question from Globe & Mail reporter Carrie Tait (see the ~8:50 mark in this video). Mr. Fildebrandt is sour from a recent interview Ms. Tait published in which she quotes him as claiming the NDP duped Alberta voters by actually implementing promises made during the election (and he later referred to Ms. Tait as a b-list reporter and accused her of auditioning for a job in the Premier’s Office – a comment he later retracted).

Brian Jean Wildrose
Brian Jean

A joint opinion-editorial written by Wildrose MLAs Rick Strankman (Drumheller-Stettler), Grant Hunter (Cardston-Taber-Warner), and Don MacIntyre (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake) and Dave Schneider (Little Bow) and circulated to rural weekly newspapers in September 2015 provides some sense of how that party would approach provincial budgeting if elected to government:

“When governments borrow and spend, there’s no marketable asset. There’s only debt. It’s like using a credit card to buy pizza. Even when governments borrow to spend on bridges and highways rather than programs, the debt is still not connected to a marketable asset. It’s a liability. Mortgages can be liquidated. Houses can be sold. Who buys used government bridges and worn-out highways?”

This is a crude ideological approach to public governance. Using capital financing to pay for the construction and maintenance of public infrastructure like hospitals, schools, bridges and roads is nothing like using a credit card to buy a pizza.

The Alberta NDP’s first provincial budget is sensible and reflects the thoughtful approach that has defined the first six months of Ms. Notley’s tenure as Alberta’s Premier. Rather than follow a disastrous road taken by some of her predecessors, and slash funding to government services while the price of oil is low, the NDP government is taking an opportunity to invest in much needed public infrastructure when the economy is slow and the price is right. It’s not a brand new approach in Alberta politics, but it is refreshing to see a government focus on building rather than tearing down.