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Alberta Politics

Megan Ciurysek wins NDP nomination in Central Peace-Notley, results of UCP vote in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake not yet released

Grimshaw-resident Megan Ciurysek defeated Lynn Lekisch to secure the Alberta NDP nomination in Central Peace-Notley. Ciurysek is an analyst with the Government of Alberta. Ciurysek was raised on a grain farm near Berwyn, and earned a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Political Science and a Minor in Fine Arts from the University of Alberta, and a Master of Arts in Political Science from York University.

The United Conservative Party has not yet released the results of the July 19 and 20 nomination vote in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, where MLA Devin Dreeshen faced a nomination challenge from pharmacy owner Onsy Tawadrous.

Some more candidate nomination updates:

  • Rhiannon Hoyle is running for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-South. Hoyle is the past president of the Alberta Party and the former president of the Heritage Point Community League, which includes the Rutherford and MacEwan neighbourhoods. She ran for city council in Ward Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi in 2021, narrowly losing to Jennifer Rice. The riding is currently represented by Independent MLA Thomas Dang, who’s involvement in a hacking scandal is making it look increasingly unlikely he will be allowed to run under the NDP banner in the next election.
  • As first reported on this website, former city councillor Jon Dziadyk was acclaimed as the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Castle Downs. The urban planner served on city council from 2017 to 2021, when he was unseated by Karen Principe (who was the 2019 UCP candidate in the neighbouring Edmonton-Decore). The riding is currently represented by NDP MLA Nicole Goehring.
  • Teacher Michael Lisboa is the third candidate to enter the NDP nomination race in Calgary-North West. Lesley MacKinnon and Shiraz Mir have already declared their candidacies in the riding currently represented by UCP MLA Sonya Savage.
  • Gurinder Gill and Denis Ram are running for the NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross on July 25.
  • The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting in Edmonton-Gold Bar for September 17. Two-term MLA Marlin Schmidt is seeking re-election. Schmidt served as Minister of Advanced Education from 2016 to 2019.
  • The UCP have set an August 2 deadline for candidates to run for the nomination in West Yellowhead. UCP MLA Martin Long has represented the sprawling west central rural riding since 2019.

I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

(And I am launching a Substack this summer. Sign up at  Daveberta Substack).

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Alberta Politics

Nomination Updates: UCP races in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, Camrose, and first NDP race in Central Peace-Notley since 1984

Candidate nominations appear to have slowed down a bit over the summer, but four hotly contest votes are coming up.

Dreeshen challenged in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake

Pharmacy owner Onsy Tawadrous will challenge United Conservative Party MLA Devin Dreeshen in a July 20 nomination vote in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake.

Tawadrous ran for town council in the 2021 Sylvan Lake municipal elections. UCP leadership candidate Danielle Smith thanked Tawadrous on Twitter for organizing a 300-person event for her campaign in Sylvan Lake on June 28.

Dreeshen was first elected in a 2018 by-election to replace Don MacIntyre, who resigned after he was charged with sexual assault and sexual interference.

Dreeshen served as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry from 2019 until his resignation in 2021 after facing allegations of excessive drinking in the Legislature by a former ministerial chief of staff. He is the son of five-term Conservative MP Earl Dreeshen.

Sylvan Lake town councillor Kjeryn Dakin announced her candidacy in June but was disqualified by the party when it was revealed she also held memberships in the NDP and Alberta Party.

First NDP race in Central Peace-Notley since 1984 

Environmental scientist, registered agrologist Lynn Lekisch and Northern Alberta Development Council analyst Megan Ciurysek are seeking the Alberta NDP nomination in Central Peace-Notley. A vote is scheduled for July 20, 2022.

December 8, 1984 was the last time the NDP held a contested nomination in this riding, well technically in its predecessor riding of Spirit River-Fairview.

At a 400-person meeting, School principal Jim Gurnett defeated Fairview school board chairperson Betty MacArthur, farmer Dave Ross and college instructor Bill Stephenson to win the nomination to replace the current riding’s namesake, Grant Notley, who died in a plane crash in 1984.

NDP nomination candidates in Spirit River-Fairview (Daily Herald Tribune, Nov. 23, 1984)
NDP nomination candidates in Spirit River-Fairview (Daily Herald Tribune, Nov. 23, 1984)

According to a Canadian Press report from Dec. 10, 1984, many delegates at the nomination meeting credited a rousing speech Gurnett delivered for his victory in which he attacked the Tories as “Robin Hoods in reverse.”

“We don’t need a government that increases taxes for ordinary people and then gives it back to the oil companies,” Gurnett said.

Gurnett won the February 1985 by-election for the NDP in a close three-way race that saw the Progressive Conservative and Western Canada Concept candidates as runners-up, but he was narrowly defeated by PC candidate Glen Clegg in the 1986 general election.

The Tories would dominate the riding for the next 29 years, with the exception of near-wins for the Liberals in 1993 and the Alberta Alliance in 2004, until New Democrat Marg McCuaig Boyd won in the 2015 Orange Wave.

Current UCP leadership candidate Todd Loewen unseated McCuaig Boyd in 2019 after the Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley riding was merged with the Grande Prairie-Smoky riding to form the current Central Peace-Notley riding.

NDP race in Calgary-Cross

Gurinder Gill and Denis Ram are seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross at a July 25 candidate selection meeting.

Gill is a two-time federal NDP candidate in Calgary-Skyview, improving the party’s standing in the north east Calgary riding from 8 per cent in 2015 to 16 per cent in 2021.

Ram is a student-at-law and founder and executive director of the Complete Complaints Foundation. He is also a former intern editorial writer for The Hill Times in Ottawa.

The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Mickey Amery and was held by NDP MLA Ricardo Miranda from 2015 to 2019.

County Reeve challenging UCP MLA in Camrose

Jackie Lovely MLA Camrose UCP
Jackie Lovely

UCP MLA Jackie Lovely will face Beaver County Reeve Kevin Smook in a nomination vote in the Camrose riding on August 4, 5 and 6, 2022.

Lovely was first elected in 2019 after defeating four other candidates to secure the UCP nomination in 2018 and went on to win the 2019 election with 65 per cent of the vote. She previously ran as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015. 

Smook was the Alberta Party candidate in the riding in 2019.

And here is some more nomination news:

I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

(And I am launching a Substack this summer. Sign up at  Daveberta Substack.)

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Alberta Politics

Candidate nomination races heat up as UCP leadership race takes the spotlight

The United Conservative Party leadership race is taking the spotlight but Alberta’s political parties are chugging along with candidate nominations ahead of a provincial election that is scheduled for next May but could happen anytime after the new UCP leader is chosen.

As of today, the Alberta NDP has nominated 31 candidates, the UCP has nominated 23, and two Alberta Party candidates have been nominated.

Here are the latest updates:

The incumbents

  • Second-term MLA Lorne Dach was nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-McClung, the riding he has represented since 2015. “I will make sure that my community continues to have a champion in the legislature,” Dach said in a statement. “Alberta’s NDP has spent our time as Official Opposition listening to Albertans and what they need to build their future’s here. I am so happy for the opportunity to keep working for Edmonton-McClung, to ensure they have access to quality public healthcare, good paying jobs, and can afford the roof over their head.”
  • Whitney Issik UCP Calgary-Glenmore MLA candidate
    Whitney Issik

    UCP MLA Mike Ellis was nominated in Calgary-West and UCP MLA Whitney Issik was nominated in Calgary-Glenmore.

  • Candidate nominations are now open in four UCP held ridings: Banff-Kananaskis (MLA Miranda Rosin), Calgary-Hays (MLA Ric McIver), Calgary-North (MLA Mohammad Yaseen), and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake (MLA Devin Dreeshen).

The incumbents and challengers

  • UCP MLA Kaycee Madu will face a nomination challenge from Slava Cravcenco in Edmonton-South West on June 29. This is the first time in this election cycle that the UCP have allowed an incumbent to be challenged in a nomination vote. Madu currently serves as Minister of Labour and was removed from his previous role as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General after it was made public that he phoned Edmonton police chief Dale McFee after getting a districted driving ticket. Madu was first elected in 2019 with 44 per cent of the vote.
  • Sharif Haji Edmonton-Decore NDP nomination candidate
    Sharif Haji (source: Dave Cournoyer)

    MLA Chris Nielsen is facing a challenge for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Decore from Africa Centre executive director Sharif Haji. Nielsen was first elected in 2015. A nomination vote is being held on June 24 and 25. 

The challengers

I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

(And, I know I’ve said this before but feel free to sign up for the Daveberta Substack.)

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Alberta Politics

The First Four: Travis Toews, Brian Jean, Danielle Smith and Todd Loewen enter the United Conservative Party leadership race

The race has started.

Four candidates have filed their intent with Elections Alberta to join the race to replace Jason Kenney as leader of the United Conservative Party:

Travis Toews: Finance Minister since 2019. MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti since 2019. Former president of the Canadian Cattleman’s Association. Looks comfortable in a business suit or Carhartts. Sounds like the adult in the room but is connected to a northern Alberta Bible college with some fairly backwards views about yoga and same-sex relationships. Probably one of the more hardline fiscal conservatives in the UCP cabinet. Grand champion of the 1976 4-H calf show in Hythe. Likely UCP establishment favourite.

Brian Jean United Conservative Party Leadership Wildrose
Brian Jean during his 2017 bid for the United Conservative Party leadership.

Brian Jean: Leader of the Wildrose Party from 2015 to 2017. Target of a kamikaze campaign during the 2017 UCP leadership race. MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche since 2022. MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin from 2015 to 2018. MP for Fort McMurray-Athabasca from 2004 to 2014. Toyed with COVID skepticism and Alberta separatism. Jason Kenney’s worst enemy. Lawyer, businessman and Golden Boy of Fort McMurray.

Jim Prentice Danielle Smith Alberta Wildrose Merger PC
Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Premier Jim Prentice on December 17, 2014.

Danielle Smith: Leader of the Wildrose Party from 2009 to 2014. MLA for Highwood from 2012 to 2015. Crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservative Party in 2014. Calgary public school trustee from 1998 to 1999. Alumna of the Fraser Institute, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Calgary Herald, Global TV, and Chorus Radio. Current President of the Alberta Enterprise Group. Running for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. Embraced COVID conspiracy theories.

Independent MLA Todd Loewen Free Alberta Strategy Separatist
Independent MLA Todd Loewen

Todd Loewen: MLA for Central Peace-Notley since 2019. MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky from 2015 to 2019 and Wildrose candidate in the riding in 2008 and 2012. Resigned as UCP Caucus chair in 2021 after calling on Kenney to resign and was kicked out of caucus the next day. Formed a UCP Caucus-in-exile with fellow ousted MLA Drew Barnes. Drove his motorhome in the Freedom Convoy to Ottawa. Renowned in the UCP Caucus for his pancake cooking skills.

These four have registered others are expected.

Rajan Sawhney

Transportation Minister and Calgary-North East MLA Rajan Sawhney has tapped longtime conservative strategist Ken Boessenkool to run her exploratory committee.

“[W]hat this race needs right now is just not more of the same,” Sawhney told reporters in a statement.

Children’s Services Minister and Calgary-Shaw MLA Rebecca Schultz isn’t in the race yet but already has an endorsement from former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall. Schultz worked for Wall’s government before she moved to Alberta in 2016.

Government House leader and chief Kenney lieutenant Jason Nixon is rumoured to be thinking about running.

So are former cabinet ministers Leela Aheer and Devin Dreeshen.

And Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner is rumoured to be testing the waters. She would be an interesting addition to the race, though recent history has not been kind to federal politicians jumping into provincial politics in Alberta.

The party has appointed a committee that is expected to release rules, entry requirements and timelines for the leadership race before the beginning of summer.

UDPATE! Village of Amisk mayor Bill Rock has registered with Elections Alberta to run in the UCP leadership race. Rock was the Wildrose Party candidate in the Wetaskiwin-Camrose riding in the 2015 election. He was parachuted into the riding after previously nominated candidate Gordon Hatch withdrew from the race and endorsed PC MLA Verlyn Olson following Danielle Smith‘s floor-crossing.

Note: Registering as a candidate with Elections Alberta does not mean automatic approval as a candidate by the UCP. Registering with Election Alberta allows the candidates to fundraise under Alberta’s current political finance rules.

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Alberta Politics

NDP choose RN Diana Batten in Calgary-Acadia, UCP push ahead with nominations in Calgary and Edmonton

The Alberta NDP nominated Registered Nurse Diana Batten in Calgary-Acadia.

“This community is especially tired of the lack of professionalism their MLA has shown in government. They’re tired of the constant shuffling, the infighting, and the war the UCP have taken on our healthcare system,” Batten said in a statement following the nomination meeting.

“I’m here to join Rachel Notley and Alberta’s NDP on their road to fix the mess the UCP has created, ensure my community has access to public healthcare, good paying jobs, and to make sure we can trust our government again,” she said.

United Conservative Party MLA Tyler Shandro has confirmed he plans to run for re-election in Calgary-Acadia.

Shandro is currently serving as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General and will face three days of hearings in October to determine if he broke the Law Society of Alberta’s Code of Conduct.

Shandro was first elected in 2019 with 54 per cent of the vote.

UCP open nominations in Calgary-Glenmore, Calgary-West, and Edmonton-South West

Jason Kenney and Kaycee Madu (source: YouTube)
Jason Kenney and Kaycee Madu (source: YouTube)

Despite not knowing who will lead the UCP into the next election, the governing conservative party is continuing to nominate candidates. 

The UCP announced this week that nominations are open in Calgary-Glenmore (currenty represented by UCP MLA Whitney Issik), Calgary-West (currenty represented by UCP MLA Mike Ellis) and Edmonton-South West (currenty represented by UCP MLA Kaycee Madu).

The deadline for prospective candidates to apply to run for the nomination is June 7. 

These three MLAs certainly fall in the Kenney camp of the UCP.

It remains unclear whether the party will allow two former UCP MLAs, and big Kenney critics, Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen, to rejoin and run under the UCP banner in the next election.

Loewen has publicly mused about running for the party leadership.

Longtime teacher running for NDP nomination in Brooks-Medicine Hat

Retired teacher Gwendoline Dirk is seeking the NDP nomination in Brooks-Medicine Hat.

Dirk spent 33 years teaching in different school systems, including the last 13 years of her career at Medicine Hat College. She is a member of the Medicine Hat Police Commission and ran for the Medicine Hat Public School Board in 2021.

Her spouse, Peter Mueller, ran for the NDP against Drew Barnes in the neighbouring Cypress-Medicine Hat riding in the 2019 election.

The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting for June 23.

The riding is currently represented by first-term United Conservative Party MLA Michaela Frey. Alberta Party leader and former Brooks mayor Barry Morishita was nominated as his party’s candidate last week.

Former MLA Barb Miller enters NDP race in Red Deer-South

Barb Miller MLA Red Deer South
Barb Miller

Former MLA Barb Miller will challenge city lawyer Michelle Baer for the NDP nomination contest in Red Deer-South on June 18, 2022.

Miller represented the riding from 2015 to 2019. Before her election in 2015 she worked as a cashier at Safeway and was President of the Red Deer and District Labour Council.

Miller was defeated by UCP MLA Jason Stephan in the 2019 election.

More nomination news

Edmonton-Meadows MLA Jasvir Deol and Edmonton-Rutherford nomination candidate Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse will be nominated as NDP candidates on May 28.

The Alberta Party will nominate lawyer and past provincial Liberal Party leadership candidate Kerry Cundal in Calgary-Elbow on May 29.

University of Calgary Associate Law Professor Shaun Fluker and union activist and past candidate Steve Durrell are seeking the NDP nomination in Airdrie-Cochrane. A nomination meeting is being held on May 30.

And in Livingstone-Macleod, where first-term MLA Roger Reid is being challenged by UCP leadership aspirant and former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, the town council of High River this week voted for a permanent ban on new coal exploration and development in the Rocky Mountains.

And here are the upcoming candidate nomination meetings:

  • Edmonton-Meadows NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Edmonton-Rutherford NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Calgary-Elbow AP: May 29, 2022
  • Airdrie-Cochrane NDP: May 30, 2022
  • Edmonton-Riverview NDP: June 7, 2022
  • Edmonton-McClung NDP: June 8, 2022
  • Strathcona-Sherwood Park NDP: June 9, 2022
  • Edmonton-South West NDP: June 18, 2022
  • Red Deer-South NDP: June 18, 2022
  • Brooks-Medicine Hat NDP: June 23, 2022
  • Edmonton-Decore NDP: June 25, 2022
Categories
Alberta Politics

MLA Jon Carson not running for re-election in Edmonton-West Henday, NDP nominate former city councillor Druh Farrell in Calgary-Bow

NDP MLA Jon Carson announced today that he will not be seeking re-election in Edmonton-West Henday in the next election.

“Serving the people of Edmonton-West Henday has no doubt been the privilege of a lifetime,” Carson said in a statement posted on social media. “From our small campaign team huddled around the kitchen table in 2015 to the 2019 that was too close to call on election night… I know that our success was never my own, but always because of our strong team dedicated to creating a better future for Alberta families.”

Dave Cournoyer and Jon Carson at the NDP Victory Party on election night in 2015.

Carson has represented west Edmonton since 2015 when he was elected as MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.

An Electrician by trade, he was one of 9 NDP MLAs under 30 years old elected in Notley Wave of 2015.

Carson was re-elected in 2019 in the newly redrawn Edmonton-West Henday riding in what was the closest race in Edmonton of that election. He finished 518 votes ahead of United Conservative Party candidate Nicole Williams, a former lobbyist who has spent the past 3 years as Chief of Staff to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.

Carson is the second NDP MLA to announce they are not running for re-election. Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan announced last month that he would not seek re-election.

The area, which includes parts of the former Edmonton-Calder and Edmonton-Meadowlark ridings, has swung between the NDP, Liberals and Progressive Conservatives over the past 40 years. Notable former MLAs include Liberals Grant Mitchell, Karen Leibovici, Progressive Conservative turned Liberal Raj Sherman, and NDP MLA David Eggen (who now represents Edmonton-North West).

Druh Farrell nominated in Calgary-Bow

Druh Farrell has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Bow. Farrell served on city council for 20 years before retiring from municipal politics last October.

She was a leading progressive voice in Calgary’s municipal debates during her time as Councillor, making her a frequent target of right-wing commentators and political action committees.

Farrell’s nomination has caused some tension with some local NDP organizers, including former president Krista Li, who have complained the party was too heavy handed in allowing the former city councilor to run.

The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA and Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides, who was elected in 2019 with 55 per cent of the vote, unseating NDP MLA Deborah Drever, who placed second with 34 per cent.

There’s an NDP race in Central Peace-Notley

There appears to be a contested NDP nomination in the northern rural Central Peace-Notley riding. Megan Ciurysek, a Research Officer at Northern Alberta Development Council, is challenging Fairview resident and Enviro Projects owner Lynn Lekisch.

The riding is currently represented by Independent MLA Todd Loewen, who was kicked out of the UCP Caucus for calling on Premier Jason Kenney to resign. He was elected in 2019 with 75 per cent of the vote.

The riding is not named after Rachel Notley, but after her father. Grant Notley represented Spirit River-Fairview, covering much of the region, in the Alberta Legislature from 1971 to 1984.

It is fairly quiet on the UCP nomination front, with the party largely focused on Kenney’s leadership review. There are a few updates though:

Former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith is busy campaigning for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod, including a recent meeting with the Citizens Supportive of Crowsnest Coal group. Smith is challenging first-term UCP MLA Roger Reid.

In his first piece for CBC, Jason Markusoff breakdowns which ridings current UCP members live in. Unsurprisingly, the three ridings with the most members eligible to vote in the leadership review are Cardston-Siksika and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, where nomination challengers Jodie Gateman and Tim Hoven were disqualified, and Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, where former Wildrose leader Brian Jean just won a by-election. All three are actively campaigning against Kenney in the review.

Upcoming nomination meetings

  • Edmonton-North West NDP: May 18, 2022
  • Calgary-Acadia NDP: May 26, 2022
  • Edmonton-Meadows NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Edmonton-Rutherford NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Brooks-Medicine Hat AP: May 25, 2022
  • Calgary-Elbow AP: May 29, 2022
  • Airdrie-Cochrane NDP: May 30, 2022
  • Edmonton-Riverview NDP: June 7, 2022
  • Edmonton-McClung NDP: June 8, 2022
  • Strathcona-Sherwood Park NDP: June 9, 2022
  • Edmonton-South West NDP: June 18, 2022
  • Edmonton-Decore NDP: June 25, 2022

I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

(And, once again, feel free to sign up for the Daveberta Substack.)

Categories
Alberta Politics

Richard Feehan retiring, Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse running for NDP nomination in Edmonton-Rutherford, Sharif Haji challenging Chris Neilsen in Edmonton-Decore

I’m back, again, with another candidate nomination update.

The United Conservative Party is still tied in knots over Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership review and a real-time caucus revolt, so most of the nomination news is coming from the Alberta NDP column today.

But while the next election is scheduled to take place in May 2023, there is increasing speculation that Kenney could call an early summer or fall 2022 election if he wins the leadership review in order to clear out his growing chorus of opponents in the UCP Caucus.

Back to nominations. Here we go.

Richard Feehan NDP Edmonton Rutherford MLA
Richard Feehan

Edmonton-Rutherford NDP MLA Richard Feehan announced last Friday that he will not run for re-election when the next provincial election is called. 

The second-term MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford was first elected in 2015 and served as the NDP’s Minister of Indigenous Relations from 2016 to 2019.

Before his election, Feehan worked as a social worker, social work instructor at the University of Calgary, Vice President of Catholic Social Services, and Program Director of the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

Feehan was re-elected in 2019 with 54.8 per cent of the vote, ahead of UCP candidate Hannah Presakarchuk, who finished second with 34.7

Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse is the first person to enter the NDP nomination contest in this southwest Edmonton riding. 

Calahoo Stonehouse is the Executive Director of the Yellowhead Indigenous Education Foundation and is a member of the Edmonton Police Commission. She is a former Band Councillor with the Michel First Nation and in 2021 she ran to become National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

Endorsing Calahoo Stonehouse at her camapign launch were Edmonton-Griesbach NDP Member of Parliament Blake Desjarlais and City Councillor Michael Janz. 

Sharif Haji NDP Nomination Edmonton-Decore
Sharif Haji

On the north side of the capital city, Sharif Haji has announced his plans to challenge two-term MLA Chris Nielsen for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Decore.

Haji is executive director of the Africa Centre and previously worked as for the provincial government’s departments of Seniors and Housing and Health.

Nielsen has represented the riding since 2015, when the NDP’s orange wave swept the province. He is also seeking the nomination.

The Challengers

Calgary-Bow: Former city councillor Druh Farrell is expected to be acclaimed at a May 12, 2022 nomination meeting in this south west Calgary riding. Farrell served on Calgary City Council from 2001 to 2021 and her candidacy created some controversy among local New Democratic activists in the riding.

Nagwan Al-Guneid Calgary-Glenmore NDP nomination
Nagwan Al-Guneid

Calgary-Glenmore: Sustainable energy development expert Nagwan Al-Guneid and communications professional Jennifer Burgess are seeking the NDP nomination scheduled for May 10, 2022.

Calgary-North: Moses Mariam is seeking the NDP nomination. Mariam is a Member Administrator at Calgary’s CommunityWise Resource Centre. 

Central Peace-Notley: Fairview resident Lynn Lekisch is seeking the NDP nomination in Central Peace-Notley. She is the owner of Enviro Projects and has previously worked as an environmental project manager for various energy companies.

Part of the riding was represented by NDP MLA Marg McCuaig-Boyd from 2015 until she was defeated by UCP MLA Todd Loewen after the riding was redistributed in the 2019 election. Loewen was ejected from the UCP Caucus in May 2021 after calling for Premier Jason Kenney to resign. 

Edmonton-South West: The NDP have set June 18, 2022 for a nomination meeting in the only Edmonton riding that did not elect an NDP MLA in 2019. Ben Acquaye, Chand Gul, Mohammad Ali Kamal, and Nathan Ip are seeking the nomination.

Leduc-Beaumont: Paramedic Cam Heenan was nominated as the NDP candidate in Leduc-Beaumont. Heenan defeated Registered Nurse Chantelle Hosseiny to win the nomination.

“I became a paramedic because I wanted to help people. I want to see a better future for our province, and that’s what led me to wanting to join Rachel Notley’s team,” Hennan said. “I know that with her leadership, Alberta’s NDP can expand our public healthcare, invest in education, and ensure all Alberta families can afford their bills at the end of the month.”

The riding has been represented by UCP MLA Brad Rutherford since 2019 and was held by NDP MLA Shaye Anderson from 2015 to 2019.

Morinville-St. Albert: Former Sturgeon County Councillor Karen Shaw and teacher James Grondin will face off for the NDP nomination at a meeting scheduled on April 30.  The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Dale Nally, who serves as Associate Minister of Natural Gas. 

Sherwood Park: Kyle Kasawski is the second candidate to enter the NDP nomination in Sherwood Park, a suburban hamlet of 71,000 people located directly east of Edmonton.

Kasawski is President of Solar People, a solar energy company, and previously worked as a Client Development Director with Alberta Municipalities and as an Instructor in the NAIT Alternative Energy Technology Program where he taught Advanced Energy System Design and Energy Economics.

“I want to help create an Alberta with an amazing, affordable, high quality of life – where our kids go to excellent public schools, access to healthcare is dependable, and we have a few bucks left over at the end of each month after paying all of the bills,” Kasawski said when reached for comment. “I want this to be a place for people to live and thrive.”

Kasawski will face former MLA Annie McKitrick in the nomination race.

The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Jordan Walker, who is seeking his party’s nomination for re-election.

The Incumbents

Edmonton-Meadows: MLA Jasvir Deol is running for the NDP nomination, which is scheduled to take place on May 28, 2022. Deol was first elected in 2019 after defeating former MLA Denise Woollard for the NDP nomination.

Edmonton-Mill Woods: Christina Gray was nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods. Gray has represented the riding since 2015 and served as Minister of Labour from 2016 to 2019. 

Edmonton-North West: MLA David Eggen has announced his plans to run for re-election. Eggen was first elected in 2004 and served as MLA for Edmonton-Calder from 2004 to 2008 and 2012 to 2019 before being re-elected in the redrawn Edmonton-North West riding in 2019. He served as Minister of Education from 2015 to 2019. A nomination meeting is scheduled for May 18, 2022.

Searle Turton Spruce Grove Stony Plain United Conservative Party Alberta Election
Searle Turton

The UCP has opened up nominations in a handful of ridings. Nominations are now open in Calgary-Cross, Calgary-Currie, Calgary-Foothills, Calgary-Peigan, Sherwood Park and Spruce Grove-Stony Plain. Unsurprisingly, these ridings are all represented by MLAs who would be described as Kenney-loyalists.

While most of the UCP MLAs representing these ridings are expected to seek re-election, only Calgary-Cross’ Mickey Amery, Sherwood Park’s Walker and Spruce Grove-Stony Plain MLA Searle Turton have confirmed their intentions.

Turton was first elected to the Legislature in 2019 after serving three-terms on Spruce Grove City Council. He currently serves as the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Labour and Immigration’s liaison to private sector unions, and he is the chairperson of the UCP’s Capital Region Caucus.

Meanwhile, newly elected UCP MLA, Kenney critic and leadership aspirant Brian Jean says he would reopen the UCP nomination in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre to allow disqualified candidate Tim Hoven to challenge cabinet minister Jason Nixon.

Nixon, Kenney’s chief lieutenant, was acclaimed for the UCP nomination after Hoven was disqualified by the party. Many political observers believe that Hoven was mounting a very strong challenge to Nixon in the nomination.

NDP fixated on Calgary

The NDP have been spending a lot of time in Calgary.

Rachel Notley and a group of MLAs and candidates were on hand for a nomination rally for Rosman Valencia in Calgary-East. The NDP believe significant gains in east and northeast Calgary are critical to their path to winning the next election.

MLA David Eggen was recently spotted on social media door-knocking with Calgary-North East candidate Gurinder Brar and Richard Feehan was door-knocking with supporters in Calgary-Beddington.

MLA David Eggen with Gurdiner Brar and supporters in Calgary-North East.
MLA David Eggen with Gurdiner Brar and supporters in Calgary-North East.

NDP MLAs were also spotted door knocking in Canmore and Banff with Banff-Kananaskis candidate Sarah Elmeligi. I’m told Elmeligi was joined on the doors by Notley and MLAs Joe Ceci, Sarah Hoffman, Janis Irwin, Marlin Schmidt, Irfan Sabir and Shannon Phillips. Notley and Irwin also posted a photo on social media with Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno.

NDP leader Rachel Notley, Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno, and NDP MLA Janis Irwin (source: Twitter)
NDP leader Rachel Notley, Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno, and NDP MLA Janis Irwin (source: Twitter)

Upcoming nomination meetings

  • Morinville-St. Albert NDP: April 30, 2022
  • Calgary-Glenmore NDP: May 10, 2022
  • Calgary-Bow NDP: May 12, 2022
  • Edmonton-North West NDP: May 18, 2022
  • Calgary-Acadia NDP: May 26, 2022
  • Edmonton-Meadows NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Airdrie-Cochrane NDP: May 30, 2022
  • Edmonton-South West NDP: June 18, 2022
Categories
Alberta Politics

Nomination update: Rob Miyashiro wins 4-way race in Lethbridge-East, Jennifer Burgess running for NDP nomination in Calgary-Glenmore

Former Lethbridge City Councillor Rob Miyashiro defeated former MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, non-profit executive director Amanda Jensen, and teacher Kevin McBeath to win the Alberta NDP nomination in Lethbridge-East on Nov. 21.

Miyashiro served on Lethbridge City Council from 2013 until 2021 and is the executive director of the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization.

This will be Miyashiro’s second time running as a candidate in Lethbridge-East. He was the Alberta Liberal candidate in the district in the 2012 provincial election, placing third with 14.6 per cent of the vote behind Progressive Conservative candidate Bridget Pastoor, who crossed the floor from the Liberals in 2011.

Nathan Neudorf Lethbridge East UCP MLA
Nathan Neudorf

The district is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Nathan Neudorf, who was elected as Chair of the UCP Caucus following Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen’s resignation and expulsion from the UCP Caucus last summer. Neudorf was first elected in 2019 after defeating Fitzpatrick.

As I’ve previously noted, Lethbridge-East has a unique voting history for a district in southern Alberta, with voters electing Liberal MLAs in every election from 1993 to 2008. Voters embraced the Orange Wave in 2015, electing Fitzpatrick as the riding’s first-ever NDP MLA.


We are now roughly 15 months away from the next provincial election in Alberta, so the candidate nomination news is rolling in slowly, candidates are starting to step forward across the province:

Banff-Kananaskis: Condo property manager Mark Tkacz is the third person to enter the NDP nomination contest in Banff-Kananaskis, joining biologist Sarah Elmeligi and bank manager Gavin McCaffrey.

Joe Ceci

Calgary-Buffalo: Two-term MLA Joe Ceci was acclaimed as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Buffalo, a riding he has represented since 2019. Ceci was first elected as the MLA for Calgary-Fort in 2015 and ran for re-election in the neighbouring Calgary-Buffalo in 2019 following the redrawing of electoral boundaries ahead of the last election.

Ceci served as a City Councillor in Calgary from 1995 to 2010 and was the Minister of Finance during the NDP’s four years as government.

Jennifer Burgess Alberta NDP Calgary-Glenmore nomination election
Jennifer Burgess

Calgary-Glenmore: Communications professional Jennifer Burgess announced yesterday that she is seeking the Alberta NDP nomination in this southwest Calgary riding.

Burgess is the President of the Braeside Community Association and a long-time NDP activist. She was president of the Calgary-Buffalo constituency association in 2016 and in 2019 managed the campaign of Calgary-Glenmore candidate Jordan Stein. 

Burgess previously ran for the NDP against then-Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice in the 2014 by-election in Calgary-Foothills. Her partner is former NDP MLA Graham Sucha, who represented Calgary-Shaw from 2015 to 2019.

The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Whitney Issik, who was appointed Associate Minister of Status of Women in July 2021. Before Issik’s election in 2019 the riding was represented by NDP MLA Anam Kazim. Kazim was elected in 2015 and was defeated by Stein in a nomination race ahead of the 2019 election. 

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche: The UCP hasn’t officially made the announcement it on its website, but the Elections Alberta website notes that the UCP will hold their nomination meeting in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche on December 11.

Membership sales closed over the weekend in the race to choose a candidate to run in the upcoming by-election, which has to be called by Feb. 15, 2022.

Former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, who represented much of the riding as an MLA from 2015 to 2018 and an MP from 2004 to 2013, is facing business consultant Joshua Gogo.

With a by-election call imminent, a steady stream of NDP MLAs have been travelling to Fort McMurray to raise the party banner and meet with locals.

Edmonton-City Centre NDP MLA and health critic David Shepherd was in Fort McMurray earlier this week, and party leader Rachel Notley, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous and Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan have recently visited Fort Mac.

There is still no word on who will run for the NDP in this by-election. The candidate who ran for the party in the 2018 by-election and 2019 election, Jane Stroud, was acclaimed to another term on the Wood Buffalo municipal council, a position she has held since 2010.

Categories
Alberta Politics

A look at this weekend’s UCP AGM as the formerly One-Big-Happy-Conservative-Family gathers for its first in-person convention since 2019

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s good news week ahead of this weekend’s United Conservative Party annual general meeting was largely overshadowed by a slow motion rebellion in his party.

While the Premier wanted to talk about childcare and the economy, a disgruntled group of UCP constituency presidents announced Monday morning that they had convinced 22 constituency associations to pass identical motions calling for a review of Kenney’s leadership to be moved before March 1, 2022.

The leadership review had been pushed to April 2022 from fall 2022 after Kenney averted a caucus revolt over the summer.

a map of the United Conservative Party constituency associations that have passed motions calling for a review of Jason Kenney’s leadership before March 1, 2022.
a map of the United Conservative Party constituency associations that have passed motions calling for a review of Jason Kenney’s leadership before March 1, 2022.

According to recent polling, Kenney is the least popular Premier in Canada, sitting at 22 per cent approval among Albertans, and his party has floundered in the polls and fundraising for the past year.

Rachel Notley would be Premier once again if an election were held today, which will surely be a future on the minds of many UCP activists this weekend.

Kenney’s fumbling response to the COVID-19 pandemic is part of the problem, but so to is his cabinet’s decision to wage a multi-front war against everyone from Alberta’s parks, nurses and teachers while trying to open the Rocky Mountains up to open-pit coal mining.

A party that famously promised “Jobs, Economy and Pipelines” in the 2019 election has delivered everything but.

When the business of the meeting begins, special resolutions will only be able to be brought to the floor of the AGM by Kenney and one resolution being introduced by the Kenney-friendly UCP association in Edmonton-North West would increase the number of constituency associations needed to trigger an early leadership review from 1/4 of 87 to 1/3 of 87.

A list of of the 22 constituency associations who passed the motion calling for an early review shows that this is largely a rural revolt against Kenney’s leadership, likely from the unruly rural Wildrose-side of the party, which has never been satisfied to subjugate itself to to the kind of centralized leadership that the Premier would have been comfortable with in Ottawa.

The first signatory of the letter from the 22 was a name that would be quite familiar to Kenney – Jack Redekop – the current president of the Calgary-Fish Creek UCP and former president of Kenney’s won former federal electoral district association in Calgary-Midnapore.

One of the common criticisms of Kenney is that he has become detached from the party’s organization and local leadership since his election as Premier in 2019. Wildrosers who don’t like a centralized party leadership are unhappy, as are former Progressive Conservatives, who might be accustomed to more attention and access to their leadership.

The two groups have also discovered that all the things they disliked about each others politics when they were two parties are still there, except now they are in the same party.

The revolt hasn’t been limited to the party membership.

Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer, UCP MLA Chestermere-Strathmore
Jason Kenney and former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer in happier time (source: YouTube)

Four MLAs – Chestemere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer, Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie, Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt, and Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried – have either publicly called for Kenney to resign or have openly criticized his leadership. And while most of their colleagues have avoided making public comments about Kenney’s leadership, the unhappiness among UCP MLAs and their staff is palpable.

There has been a steady stream of high-profile political staffers leaving their positions in the UCP government for jobs in the private sector. This past month saw the departure of press secretary Blaise Boehmer, who levelled some pretty heavy criticisms against Kenney, and UCP Caucus executive director Brittany Baltimore, who both recently took jobs with government relations companies.

Guthrie levelled allegations to the UCP Caucus this week that Political Action Committees supporting Kenney were paying the delegate fees of supporters in order to stack the votes in favour of the Premier during the AGM.

Peter Guthrie MLA Airdrie-Cochrane UCP Communism
Peter Guthrie

Postmedia columnist Don Braid wrote in his most recent column that a private company was organizing to send delegates in order to curry favour with UCP cabinet ministers if Kenney survives his leadership challenges.

Independent MLA Todd Loewen , who was kicked out of the UCP Caucus earlier this year for calling on Kenney to resign, and Edmonton-South NDP MLA Thomas Dang wrote letters to the Chief Elections Officer asking his office to investigate the allegations.

Albertans, and UCP members, are angry at Kenney, but aside from former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean who is running for the UCP nomination in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election, there is no obvious heir apparent inside the UCP for his opponents to rally around.

Cynthia Moore has been acclaimed as President and Sonia Kont acclaimed as Vice President of Fundraising, but there are races for the Secretary and Vice President of Communications positions.

Central Peace-Notley UCP President Samantha Steinke, who has publicly called for an early leadership review, is challenging incumbent Ruven Rajoo for VP Communications. Red Deer-South constituency President Janis Nett and Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo President Vicki Kozmak-LeFrense are running for the Secretary position, which was made vacant when former Secretary Cathy Smith resigned earlier this year.

A number of candidates are contesting regional director positions, including Sundre-resident Heidi Overguard, who was appointed by the UCP government to the Board of Directors of Alberta Health Services in Nov. 2019.

Meanwhile, UCP members will be lining up at the microphone to debate policies about cancel culture, private health care, private schools, and hydrogen, among other issues. The CBC reported that Kenney’s office instructed staffers to vote down policies “introducing a provincial sales tax, relocalizing 911 dispatch, a moratorium on new coal exploration and development on the eastern slopes of the Rockies and creating a revenue-neutral Alberta carbon tax to replace the federal backstop.”

This weekend’s convention will be a much different affair from the party’s last in-person annual general meeting after it’s big win in the 2019 election.

Kenney will surely be focused on rallying the party to give him one more chance ahead of next spring’s review, but don’t expect to hear many of the celebratory rallying cries we heard two years ago. The party no longer feels like it is united and it is certainly not the one big conservative happy family that Kenney helped establish in 2017.

The UCP AGM starts at the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino in Calgary on Friday, Nov. 19 and will wrap up on Sunday, Nov. 21.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Kenney’s office hit with lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, defamation, and toxic workplace culture at the Legislature

On Oct. 26, 2021, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was having a rare good day. He got the result he argued he was looking for from the province-wide Equalization Referendum and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave him the gift of appointing long-time environmental activist Steven Guilbeault as Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

Kenney’s good day lasted less than 24 hours.

In what can only be described as a bombshell story, the CBC first reported today that a former ministerial Chief of Staff is suing the Premier’s Office, “saying she suffered from a toxic workplace culture and was fired as retribution for speaking out about the problems she saw there.”

Devin Dreeshen

The allegations in Ariella Kimmel‘s lawsuit include sexual harassment and heavy drinking by ministers and staff in legislature offices, as well as claims that senior staff in the premier’s office fabricated rumours about her contributing to her termination, reported CBC journalist Elise von Scheel.

The CBC reported that Kimmel has filed a lawsuit against the Kenney’s office for alleged sexual harassment and defamation.

Kimmel was Chief of Staff to Minister Doug Schweitzer until February 2021 and before that worked as Director of Community Relations in the Premier’s Office and as the United Conservative Party’s Director of Outreach before the 2019 election.

Kimmel had previously worked for Kenney during his time in Ottawa as executive coordinator for multiculturalism when he was Minister of Employment and Social Development and as an assistant during his time as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

The statement of claim, which is reported in detail by CBC, makes serious allegations against numerous officials and staffers in the UCP government, including Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen.

Responding to a question in the Assembly today from Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood NDP MLA Janis Irwin, Kenney said that his office was appointing an independent review to make recommendations to revise human resource practices for political staff.

Calgary-Fish Creek UCP MLA Richard Gotfried called on the government to not wait for a review and instead immediately adopt the Respect in the Workplace program promoted by Respect Group Inc.

While none of the allegations have been proven in court, the conditions described are probably not uncommon in political offices across Canada. Kimmel’s lawsuit shines a big spotlight on a toxic workplace culture in the Legislature that needs to change immediately.

Aheer is having none of it

Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer, UCP MLA Chestermere-Strathmore
Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer (source: YouTube)

Chestermere-Strathmore UCP MLA Leela Aheer responded to the allegations by calling on Kenney to resign and drawing comparisons to disgraced Calgary City Councillor Sean Chu. A A former cabinet minister and UCP deputy leader, Aheer was dropped from cabinet after criticizing the UCP’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Standing at a podium in the Legislature Rotunda today, Aheer refused to stand down and appeared to be daring Kenney and her MLA colleagues to remove her from the UCP Caucus.

UCP MLAs voted to remove Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen from the caucus in June following Loewen’s call for Kenney to resign.

Kenney avoided a caucus revolt and non-confidence vote last month when he agreed to push up his leadership review from fall 2022 to April 2022. That move was successful in appeasing the disorganized opposition inside the UCP Caucus, but not the party, as numerous UCP constituency associations continue to push for Kenney’s review to be held before March 1, 2022.

Kenney’s approval rating dropped to an abysmal 22 per cent last month and leaked poll results showed that 75 per cent of Albertans disapprove of the UCP government, one of the strongest disapproval ratings for an Alberta government in recent memory.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Bozo Eruption! UCP MLAs back “Free Alberta Strategy” as ICUs fill up and separatists get trounced in federal election

Alberta’s Intensive Care Units and hospitals are full of COVID-19 patients and the province now has more than half of the active cases of the deadly disease in Canada. School boards like the Edmonton Public School Board are reporting hundreds of young students have contracted the virus, forcing dozens of schools to shut down in-person classes and move to virtual classrooms. And 34 more Albertans died because of COVID-19 yesterday.

But what was the most important issue for a group of Alberta MLAs this week?

Alberta separatism.

Yep. That’s right.

Rob Anderson former MLA Free Alberta Strategy Separatist
Former MLA Rob Anderson

With help from the libertarian Alberta Institute, former Progressive Conservative-turned-Wildrose-turned Progressive Conservative MLA and online talk show host Rob Anderson launched the “Free Alberta Strategy,” announcing a manifesto that declares Alberta a “sovereign jurisdiction” and, among other things, would allow the province to just ignore federal laws it doesn’t like.

Anderson was joined at the online press conference by United Conservative Party MLAs Angela Pitt (who is also the Deputy Speaker of the Legislature) and Jason Stephan, and Independent MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen. The latter two MLAs were ejected from the UCP Caucus in May 2021 after losing confidence in Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership, a sentiment that Pitt echoed during this press conference.

The Alberta Institute is led by former New Zealand political activist and Manning Centre researcher Peter McCaffrey. He also happens to be married to the institute’s former director of operations and past UCP nomination candidate Megan McCaffrey, who is now working as the Chief of Staff in Barnes’ and Loewen’ UCP Caucus-in-exile.

Red Deer-South UCP MLA Jason Stephan Free Alberta Strategy Separatist
Red Deer-South UCP MLA Jason Stephan

Legislative Assembly Speaker Nathan Cooper was also in attendance but was described as being an observer rather than a participant in the press conference.

Calling for a type of sovereignty-association with the rest of Canada, Anderson brought up a number of perennial ideas like an Alberta police force and pension plan, but then connected them to a whole swath of bad ideas that would either create needless bureaucracy or just be plain unconstitutional.

The group pled with reporters not to describe their group as separatists, but it is hard not to think of it as anything else. 

Independent MLA Todd Loewen Free Alberta Strategy Separatist
Independent MLA Todd Loewen

It is hard to think of a more tone deaf time to fly the separatist flag in Alberta.

The actual separatist party earned 1.3 per cent in Alberta in the federal election held last week and the UCP government last week sent out a desperate plea for health care support from Ottawa and other provinces to deal with the COVID-19 fourth wave.

Just as tone deaf is Kenney’s province-wide referendum on October 18 asking Albertans to vote yes if they want the equalization formula removed from Canada’s constitution – a referendum that no one is talking about because of the COVID-19 crisis.

William Aberhart University of Alberta Honourary Degree
William Aberhart

The one person who wasn’t at the online press conference, but who might as well have been there in spirit (literally), was Premier William Aberhart, who himself pushed through unconstitutional laws in the 1930s that would nationalize banks and force newspapers to publish government propaganda.

When the Lieutenant Governor at the time refused to sign one of his unconstitutional laws, Aberhart chained the doors and evicted the vice-regal representative from of his official residence in Government House.


UCP MLA backs down on criticism of AHS, Kenney faces leadership review and offers no new plan to stop COVID

  • UCP vice-president Joel Mullan was fired by the board yesterday after calling for Kenney to face a leadership review, which has now been scheduled for April 2022.
  • Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland UCP MLA Shane Getson back pedalled on his attempts to shift blame for the overcapacity ICUs on Alberta Health Services President Dr. Verna Yiu, likely as a ploy to push more privatization of the public health care system.
  • Kenney joined Health Minister Jason Copping and Justice Minister Kaycee Madu yesterday not to announce further public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 but to announce the government will ban protests outside of hospitals in reaction to anti-vaccine and COVID-19 conspiracy theorist rallies that were held two weeks ago.With none of these rallies having been held in weeks, some political watchers are wondering if the protest ban is actually being aimed at health care workers who could take job action in the coming months.

We are through the looking glass, Alberta.

Categories
Alberta Politics

More turmoil in Kenney’s Caucus: UCP MLA Richard Gotfried resigns as chair of the Calgary Caucus and criticizes “hypocrisy” in government leadership

Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried is the latest member of the United Conservative Party Caucus to publicly criticize his party’s leadership.

According to a statement and comments on Facebook, Gotfried resigned as chair of the UCP’s Calgary Caucus last Thursday so that he can have “even more latitude to speak unreservedly on matters of principle, ethics and government/caucus operations…”

“I call upon all elected representatives at all levels of government across our province to show leadership, to act responsibly and to avoid the hypocrisy that makes a mockery of the tough decisions we have to make and the sacrifices/responsible behaviour we have been asking of each and every Albertan for the past 15 months,” Gotfried wrote in a post on his MLA Facebook page.

Gotfried’s statement was written in a very respectful tone and didn’t name Premier Jason Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Finance Minister Travis Toews or Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon, who were pictured in the photos of the boozy Sky Palace patio party that circulated on social media last week, but reading between the lines it was pretty clear who his message was directed to.

Richard Gotfried United Conservative Party MLA Calgary-Fish Creek
Richard Gotfried’s statement on Facebook

The timing of Gotfried’s statement follows the release of the final report of the Facility-based Continuing Care Review that Gotfried led, which was almost completely overshadowed by the boozy Sky Palace patio party and Kenney’s ill-timed lecture in defence of Sir John A Macdonald.

Boozy Sky Palace Patio Party Jason Kenney Tyler Shandro Travis Toews Jason Nixon
One of the now infamous boozy Sky Palace patio party photos.

Gotfried is the sponsor of Bill 70: COVID-19 Related Measures Act, a government bill designed to shield owners of long-term care centers from COVID-19 related lawsuits.

He was first elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019 under the UCP banner. He endorsed Kenney in the 2017 PC Party leadership race.

Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt and Bonnyville-Cold Lake-Two Hills MLA David Hanson, and cabinet ministers Leela Aheer and Rajan Sawhney have publicly called on Kenney to apologize for violating the government’s own COVID-19 public health rules by hosting the boozy patio party on the 11th floor balcony of the Federal Building in Edmonton.

Kenney and his staff continue to deny he broke any rules.

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen were ejected from the UCP Caucus three weeks ago after Loewen called on Kenney to resign as leader of the party.


Notley leads only united party left in AlbertaRachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

In a clear contrast to what is happening in the UCP Caucus, delegates to the Alberta NDP convention this past weekend gave Rachel Notley’s leadership a huge endorsement. When the ballots were counted, 98.2 per cent of NDP delegates endorsed Notley’s leadership in the mandatory leadership review vote held at every NDP convention.

The convention included the usual debate over policy positions and motions and a host of panels featuring Democratic strategists from Arizona and municipal politicians from rural Alberta.

Categories
Alberta Politics

MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen evicted from the UCP Caucus. What comes next?

United Conservative Party MLAs voted to expel Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen from the governing party’s caucus after an afternoon virtual caucus meeting that spilled into the evening.

The vote came less than 24-hours after Loewen released an open letter announcing his resignation as chair of the UCP Caucus and calling on Premier Jason Kenney to resign as party leader.

Todd Loewen, MLA Central Peace-Notley
Todd Loewen

The vote came more than two years after Barnes began his unofficial role as chief-caucus-thorn-in-Kenney’s-side. After being overlooked for a cabinet role when the UCP formed government in 2019, the third-term MLA representing the southeast corner of Alberta publicly toyed with separatism and climate change denial and became an open critic of the government’s response to COVID-19 (claiming the mild public health restrictions went too far).

Both were former Wildrose MLAs, with Barnes being the only original Wildroser from that party’s 2012 breakthrough still sitting in the Legislative Assembly.

Kenney had no choice but to appeal to his caucus to kick Loewen out after being directly challenged. Barnes was the icing on the cake for Kenney. (Noticeably missing from this list was Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA David Hanson, who posted his support for Loewen’s letter on Facebook).

Nicholas Milliken UCP Calgary Currie
Nicholas Milliken

The vote to expel the two, which was live-tweeted from leaks funnelled to Derek Fildebrandt‘s Western Standard website, was not cast by secret ballot but by MLAs texting their yes or no votes to new interim caucus chair, Calgary-Currie MLA Nicholas Milliken.

Now the question is whether any other UCP MLAs will join the two newly Independent MLAs in the opposition benches? Loewen and Barnes were two of 18 UCP MLAs who spoke out against the government’s COVID-19 response. And they are certainly not the only MLAs unhappy with Kenney’s leadership, which still remains on thin ice.

There is also the question of whether the two will remain as Independent MLAs for long. The Wildrose Independence Party is looking for a new leader, and the deadline to join that race is tomorrow. The Alberta Party is holding a leadership race soon, as are The Independence Party of Alberta and the Alberta Liberal Party.

Pat Rehn MLA Lesser Slave Lake
Pat Rehn

For these two outspoken MLAs – and their new desk-mate, Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn – there might be no shortage of options.

But this is a short-term solution to a bigger problem for the UCP.

One of the main problems is Kenney. He remains deeply unpopular with Albertans and conservatives, a reality reflected in dropping support in the polls and his party’s dismal fundraising returns over the last six months. His divisive style of politics has alienated many Albertans, including many influential people of communities who would otherwise be traditional supporters of the governing conservative party.

As Edmonton-based strategist Chris Henderson wrote of Kenney on Twitter, “[h]e is clearly a very exceptional political lieutenant, but doesn’t have the requisite skills/temperament to sustain leadership in a complex governing environment.”

“There’s no shame in that, some people are incredible college QBs and flame out in the NFL. It happens. Time to go.,” wrote Henderson, who managed many of Don Iveson‘s successful political campaigns in Edmonton.

Premier Jason Kenney
Premier Jason Kenney

Kenney may have been successful in imposing caucus discipline today, but he still faces critics within his own party who are calling for his resignation.

In more normal times, this could just be argued away as growing pains for a relatively new political party, but the UCP includes some unruly groups of conservative activists who spent most of the last decade at each others throats. These ideological and regional divides are easier to mend when the party is high in the polls and flush with cash (or the price of oil is high), but when the party’s fortunes began to nosedive more than a year ago the ideological cracks instantly started to appear.

In a statement released after the meeting,, UCP Caucus Whip and Calgary-West MLA Mike Ellis said “There is simply no room in our caucus for those who continually seek to divide our party and undermine government leadership.” But that the breakdown of the vote wasn’t released suggests that it wasn’t near unanimous and that opposition to Kenney still exists inside the UCP Caucus.

United Conservative Party statement Mike Ellis Drew Barnes Todd Loewen
Statement from the United Conservative Caucus (May 13, 2021)

The United Conservative Party already didn’t appear completely united, and now, with a growing number of former UCP MLAs sitting in the opposition benches, it appears even less united.

Kenney made an example of Barnes and Loewen by having them kicked out of the UCP Caucus, but when the other 59 UCP MLAs wake up tomorrow morning, the problems that led them to make this decision today will still remain.


Update: Drew Barnes issued a statement on social media following his eviction from the UCP Caucus.

Statement released by MLA Drew Barnes in response to his being removed from the UCP Caucus (May 13, 2021)
Statement released by MLA Drew Barnes in response to his being removed from the UCP Caucus (May 13, 2021)
Categories
Alberta Politics

UCP backbenchers revolt against mild public health restrictions as COVID third wave hits Alberta

New cases of COVID-19 are on the rise and the third wave of the global pandemic is hitting Alberta, but that did not deter a group of nearly 20 United Conservative Party MLAs from publicly speaking out against the provincial government’s implementation of mild public health restrictions in response.

Like the virus, the group of COVID critics inside the UCP Caucus has grown exponentially from the original six-pack of MLAs who publicly spoke out against public health measures at the beginning of March. The public letter signed by 15 UCP MLAs criticized Premier Jason Kenney for moving back to Step 1 of the province’s mild public health measures in response to the spike in new cases, which is largely a result of a vicious new variant of the deadly virus.

The group of 15 includes Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper, who made an unusual move for a Speaker of the Assembly to publicly criticize the government, and already open COVID critics Drew Barnes and Angela Pitt, who recently split from the national End the Lockdown Caucus after Ontario MPP Randy Hillier posted a social media meme comparing public health restrictions to the Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. The UCP group also includes Tracy Allard, whose Christmas vacation to Hawaii cost her her job of Municipal Affairs Minister.

The letter signed by the 15 MLAs was soon after endorsed by Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright MLA Garth Rowswell and West Yellowhead MLA Martin Long, who also serves as the parliamentary secretary for small business. Also signalling support for the letter’s intentions was Calgary Member of Parliament Michelle Rempel-Garner, who serves as the Official Opposition Health Critic in Ottawa.

Peace River MLA Dan Williams, a long-time Kenney acolyte from Ottawa, did not endorse the letter but posted a video on social media criticizing the decision by Alberta Health Services to close down the rebel GraceLife Church, which had been holding in-person services in defiance of the government’s public health orders. He was joined in this call by Ontario MP Derek Sloan, who was kicked out of the federal Conservative caucus for his extreme social conservative views.

Active COVID-19 cases in Alberta (chart from @CBCFletch on Twitter)
Active COVID-19 cases in Alberta (chart from @CBCFletch on Twitter)

That the leaders of the UCP caucus mutiny appear to largely be from the former Wildrose caucus, or Wildrose-wing of the party, is not surprising. The former opposition party was notoriously raucous and unwilling to bow to the kind of centralized party leadership that Kenney would have become accustomed to during his many years in Ottawa.

It was also clear during Kenney’s press conference on Tuesday that he expected a negative reaction from his caucus. A significant portion of Kenney’s lecture was dedicated to managing MLAs expectations and acknowledging the differences of opinion in his caucus. Difference of opinion is one thing, but this is something entirely different.

The public health restrictions that Alberta fell back to earlier this week are nothing close to what restrictions have looked like in jurisdictions that have actually implemented lockdowns. Alberta schools are still open for in-person classes, and Albertans can still gather with up to 10 people outside, go shopping for non-essential items, get a haircut or a massage, dine or have drinks on a restaurant patio, and exercise at a gym with a personal trainer.

Jason Kenney
Premier Jason Kenney on April 6, 2021.

There is no doubt a lot of Albertans are frustrated about how the provincial government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Kenney government has not helped itself by releasing a string of confusing and inconsistent public health measures and messaging to Albertans about the government’s response.

While public opinion polling suggests many Albertans would like the government to impose stronger measures to stop the spread of the deadly virus, there is a loud minority who want to see the current restrictions lifted.

It is yet to be seen whether the revolt will extend beyond this strongly worded letter, but there is little doubt these MLAs are actively undermining the work being done by public health professionals and health care workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The caucus revolt is probably a reflection of deepening regional and partisan divides in Alberta, with most of the COVID Caucus MLAs representing largely rural and small town districts. It is notable that no UCP MLAs from Calgary, so far the hardest hit in the third wave, have publicly joined the revolt.

It also suggests that the United Conservative Party is not as united as its leader would like Albertans to believe.

Kenney’s personal approval ratings and support for his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic plummeted over the past 13 months, and his party has floundered in the polls, finishing behind Rachel Notley’s NDP in a handful of recent voter opinion polls. The rise of the separatist Wildrose Independence Party in rural Alberta has some backbench UCP MLAs nervously looking over their right shoulders.

In some ways, the revolt probably serves as a welcome distraction to some in the UCP from the never ending string of scandals and policy failures, most recently the failure to stop the Carbon Tax at the Supreme Court, the loss of $1.5 billion of public money when the Keystone XL Pipeline was cancelled, the failure to sign a new contract with Alberta doctors, the retreat on open-pit coal mining, and the open rebellion by parents against the draft K-6 curriculum.

Under normal circumstances it would be hard to believe that this kind of caucus revolt would happen on a day when more than 1,300 new cases of COVID were reported and doctors are calling for a circuit breaker response, but in today’s world of Alberta politics, it would be harder to believe this would happen if the UCP were not floundering so deeply in the polls.

The original 15 UCP MLAs who signed the letter

  • Tracy Allard, MLA Grande Prairie
  • Drew Barnes, MLA Cypress-Medicine Hat
  • Nathan Cooper, MLA Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills
  • Michaela Glasgo, MLA Brooks-Medicine Hat
  • Dave Hanson, MLA Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul
  • Nate Horner, MLA Drumheller-Stettler
  • Todd Loewen, MLA Central Peace-Notley
  • Ron Orr, MLA Lacombe-Ponoka
  • Angela Pitt, MLA Airdrie-East
  • Roger Reid, MLA Livingstone-Macleod
  • Miranda Rosin, MLA Banff-Kananaskis
  • RJ Sigurdson, MLA Highwood
  • Mark Smith, Drayton Valley-Devon
  • Jason Stephan, Red Deer-South
  • Glenn van Dijken, Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock
Categories
Alberta Politics

Mid-week Alberta Candidate Nomination Update

Photo: NDP MLA Deborah Drever, centre in white, with supporters at the NDP nomination meeting in Calgary-Bow.

Here are the latest updates to the list of candidates seeking nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial general election:

As noted in my previous update, New Democratic Party MLAs Deborah Drever and Graham Sucha were nominated as their party’s candidates in Calgary-Bow and Calgary-Shaw.

Kari Whan NDP Bonnyville Cold Lake St Paul
Kari Whan

– In new northeast Alberta district of Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul, the NDP has nominated Kari Whan as their candidate. Whan is a teacher at Cold Lake Elementary School and previously taught at Bonnyville Centralized High School.

Heather Morigeau has been nominated as the Green Party candidate in the downtown district of Calgary-Buffalo. Morigeau is a founder of FoodScape Calgary. A nomination meeting is scheduled for January 29, 2019.

– United Way of Calgary and Area manager Cesar Cela is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-East. A nomination meeting is scheduled for February 16, 2019. The district currently represented by NDP-turned-Independent MLA Robyn Luff. who has announced she will not seek re-election.

– NDP MLA Chris Nielsen is seeking his party’s nomination for re-election in Edmonton-Decore. Nielsen was first elected in 2015, earning 67.9 percent of the vote. A nomination meeting has been scheduled for February 19, 2019. 

– Valerie Keefe has announced plans to seek the Freedom Conservative Party nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood.

– Ronald Malowany has been nominated as the Alberta Advantage Party candidate in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville. Malowany is the northern provincial director for the party.

Devon Hargreaves Lethbridge East Liberal Alberta Election 2019
Devon Hargreaves

– HIV North executive director Melissa Byers and local Fire Captain Todd Russell are seeking the NDP nomination in Grande Prairie. Russell was the NDP candidate in Grande Prairie-Smoky in the 2015 election, earning 31.1 percent of the vote and placing 334 votes behind then-Wildrose Party candidate Todd Loewen. Loewen is now seeking re-election as a United Conservative Party candidate in the new Central Peace-Notley district where he will face NDP MLA and Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd.

Devon Hargreaves is seeking the Liberal Party nomination in Lethbridge-East. In 2018, Hargreaves launched an e-petition to ban “conversion therapy” – religious or psychological counselling meant to persuade LGBT people to become straight.

– Sherry Greene has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin. Greene is a member of the Samson Cree First Nation and a First Nations governance expert. She made headlines in 2017 when she lead a fight for more financial accountability, transparency and consultation with membership at Samson Cree.

– Matthew Powell is seeking the Freedom Conservative Party nomination in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright. 

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!