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Alberta Politics

MLAs Leela Aheer, Jeremy Nixon and Marie Renaud running for re-election, Kevin Smook seeks UCP nomination in Camrose

Two-term MLA and vocal Kenney-critic Leela Aheer has filed her intentions with Elections Alberta to run for the United Conservative Party nomination in Chestermere-Strathmore. Aheer was first elected in 2015 as a Wildrose Party candidate and was re-elected with 68.5 per cent of the vote in 2019 in the riding.

Aheer served as Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism & Status of Women and Deputy Leader of the UCP until she was dropped from cabinet in July 2021 after publicly criticizing Premier Jason Kenney‘s disastrous Open for Summer plan. She soon after called on Kenney to resign as Premier after a former staffer filed a lawsuit against the Premier’s Office alleging sexual harassment, defamation, and toxic workplace culture at the Legislature.

Aheer is being challenged for the nomination by Chantelle de Jonge, a former political staffer to former Calgary-Skyview Member of Parliament Jag Sahota and recent graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Philosophy from the University of Calgary.

Chestermere-Strathmore was the location of a political showdown last month when Kenney loyalists allegedly mounted a hostile takeover at the annual general meeting of the local UCP constituency association. The results of that AGM vote are still in dispute.

Jeremy Nixon running for re-election in Calgary-Klein

Jeremy Nixon MLA Calgary-Klein UCP
Jeremy Nixon

UCP MLA Jeremy Nixon has also signalled his intentions with Elections Alberta to run for his party’s nomination in Calgary-Klein, the riding he has represented since 2019.

Nixon currently serves as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Community and Social Services for Civil Society. He was removed from a previous role as parliamentary secretary for civil society in January 2021 after disregarding COVID-19 restrictions and traveling to Hawaii for a hot holiday in December 2020.

He is the brother of Environment & Parks Minister and Government House Leader Jason Nixon.

The riding was home to one of the closer races in Calgary in the 2019 election and is expected to be strongly contested by the NDP in the next election.

If nominated, Nixon will face one of three candidates running for the NDP nomination. NDP nominee candidates Heather Eddy, Mattie McMillan or Marilyn North Peigan will face off at a candidate selection meeting on March 26, 2022.

Marie Renaud running for re-election in St. Albert

Marie Renaud NDP MLA St Albert
Marie Renaud

St. Albert NDP MLA Marie Renaud announced her plans to seek her party’s nomination to run for re-election in when the provincial election is called.

“I will continue to champion public healthcare, public education and economic security for St. Albert and Albertans across the province,” Renaud wrote in a tweet announcing her candidacy. “We cannot build a prosperous future by continuing to pass on costs to municipalities like St. Albert and, in turn, to Albertan families.”

Renaud was first elected to represent the suburban city located just north of Edmonton in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019 with 46.2 per cent of the vote. She was the first NDP MLA elected in St. Albert since 1986.

She currently serves as the Official Opposition critic for Community & Social Services, and Francophone Issues.

A nomination meeting is scheduled for March 24, 2022.

Former Alberta Party candidate running for UCP nomination

Kevin Smook UCP nomination Camrose
Kevin Smook’s ad in the Camrose Booster.

Beaver County Reeve Kevin Smook announced on Twitter that he plans to seek the UCP nomination in the Camrose, the riding currently represented by UCP MLA Jackie Lovely.

“I’m not here for the photo ops — I intend to roll up my sleeves and work for you and for the people of the Camrose Constituency,” Smook tweeted, in an apparent shot at Lovely.

Smook was first elected to Beaver County Council in 2013 and served as Reeve from 2014 to 2017 before starting his current term in 2021. He was the Alberta Party candidate in Camrose in the 2019 election, where he placed third with 12.8 per cent of the vote.

“I ran for the Alberta Party in the 2019 provincial election,” Smook told the Camrose Booster. “And while there was a conservative connection with them, I know that the strongest conservative movement is the United Conservative Party and I feel much more aligned here.

Tik tok, tik tok, the countdown to Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche

The countdown continues as Jason Kenney now has 6 days left to call the by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche. The by-election needs to be called by February 15 to choose a successor to former MLA Laila Goodridge who resigned nearly six months ago on August 15, 2021.

UCP candidate Brian Jean, who led the Wildrose Party from 2015 to 2018, has called on Kenney to resign and is openly organizing and fundraising against his party’s leader ahead of the April 9 leadership review. There has been chatter in some political circles that Kenney may be delaying the by-election until the last possible moment in order to replace Jean and appoint a UCP candidate who will demonstrate more loyalty to the leader.

Outside the UCP drama that has enveloped this by-election are NDP candidate Ariana Mancini , who was joined by Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan on the campaign trail last week, and Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman, who has been spending a considerable amount of time campaigning in the northeast Alberta riding.

The Alberta Party has not yet named its candidate.


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!

Categories
Alberta Politics

Steve Durrell running for NDP nomination in Airdrie-Cochrane, UCP rumble in Chestermere-Strathmore

Airdrie resident Steve Durrell has announced his plans to seek the Alberta NDP nomination to run in the Airdrie-Cochrane riding in the next provincial election. 

This coming election is one of high stakes. From education to our economy, from healthcare to respect for a person’s self-identity, Jason Kenney and the UCP have failed Albertans at every turn,” Durrell said in a statement posted on Facebook. “It’s time for change and to get Alberta back on track, and that is why I am seeking the nomination to run for the NDP, and support Rachel Notley on her road to once again being Premier of Alberta!”

Durrell is an organizer for United Steelworkers Local 1944. 

If nominated, this will be Durrell’s second time as a NDP candidate in the riding. He ran in 2019 and placed second with 25.2 per cent of the vote behind United Conservative Party candidate Peter Guthrie.

Durrell became a target of Premier Jason Kenney in the 2019 election, when the UCP leader mocked him for being a 19-year old. He was actually 29-year old father of three at the time. 

Rumble in Chestermere-Strathmore

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

Postmedia columnist Don Braid penned a column about a showdown in the Chestermere-Strathmore riding, where Kenney loyalists are alleged to have mounted a hostile takeover of the local UCP constituency association.

The previous, or current riding association (depending on who’s side of the story you believe), is loyal to two-term UCP MLA and former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer, who has called on Kenney to resign after a former political staffer filed a lawsuit against the Premier’s Office alleging sexual harassment, defamation, and toxic workplace culture at the Legislature.

Ahreer is popular among her UCP MLA colleagues so Kenney probably does not have the support to remove her from the UCP caucus like he did Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen last summer, so removing her local support (and access to the local UCP bank account) is a more indirect way of ensuring she does not seek re-election in 2023. If Aheer still has political ambitions, she will probably need to find a new party to run for.

As first noted on this website in May 2021, former federal Conservative staffer Chantelle de Jonge is already challenging Aheer for the UCP nomination to run in the next election. de Jonge worked in the constituency office of former Calgary-Skyview Member of Parliament Jag Sahota and recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Philosophy from the University of Calgary.

Chestermere-Strathmore was the scene of significant political drama ahead of the 2019 election, with MLA Derek Fildebrandt banned from the the nomination contest and a tense 2018 nomination race that included allegations of death threats and restraining orders when Aheer was challenged by David Campbell (who is now President of The Independence Party of Alberta).

Brian Jean still kicking around

Brian Jean and Jason Kenney
Brian Jean and Jason Kenney in happier times

Confirmed UCP candidate and future UCP leadership hopeful Brian Jean is continuing to fire shots across Kenney’s bow ahead of the leadership review and the impending by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

Jean called on the UCP executive board to commit to holding an in-person vote on April 9 rather than moving to an online vote in response to the fifth wave of COVID-19 that is sweeping across Alberta. It was largely assumed that the Kenney loyal executive board chose to hold an in-person meeting in Red Deer to give the Premier more control of the process, but the rise in COVID-19 cases would justify moving the vote online.

A Leger poll released in December 2021 showed that 73 per cent of Albertans believed the province would be better off with a new premier.

In the background of this, as Jean noted, the RCMP are continuing to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the online vote for the UCP leadership in 2017. Kenney defeated Jean in that vote.

Jean defeated Kenney-backed candidate Joshua Gogo in the UCP nomination contest held in Nov. 2021. He will face NDP candidate Ariana Mancini and Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman in a by-election that needs to be called by Feb. 15, 2022. The other parties have not yet announced their candidates.

The Alberta Party is expected to make an announcement soon.

The Independence Party of Alberta has not announced a candidate, but announced in Nov. 2021 that their local constituency association board had been formed.

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Alberta Politics

Janis Irwin voted Best Alberta MLA for the second year in a row. Results of the Best of Alberta Politics 2021 Survey revealed.

With more than 2,000 votes cast this past week, the winners of the fifth annual Best of Alberta Politics 2021 survey are:

Best Alberta MLA: Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highands-Norwood

Always a fan favourite, for the second year in a row Janis Irwin has been voted Best Alberta MLA. Irwin is a hard-working MLA in the Assembly and in her constituency, and her sense of humour (and her social media star cat, Oregano) has endeared her to politicos on both sides of the aisle.

Leela Aheer ALberta MLA
Leela Aheer (Source: Twitter)

Best Alberta Cabinet Minister: Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women

Nurturing a reputation as an affable politician, Leela Aheer proved herself to be on the right side of public opinion in Alberta when she spoke out against Premier Jason Kenney and called on him to resign. The MLA for Chestermere-Strathmore was booted from cabinet for speaking out against Kenney, but that probably only further endeared her to the growing majority of Albertans who disapprove of the Premier’s performance.

That Aheer remains a member of UCP Caucus after openly calling on Kenney to resign is also a testament to how well-liked she is by her UCP MLA colleagues.

Rachel Notley (source: Facebook)

Best Opposition MLA: Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona

For the third year in a row, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley has been voted Best Opposition MLA. Notley continues to be her party’s greatest asset and, if the polls and party fundraising returns are any indication, might stand a good chance at leading her party to form government when the next election is held in 2023.

If Notley’s party is successful in 2023, she would be the first former Premier to return to that office in Alberta’s history.

Rakhi Pancholi NDP Edmonton Whitemud
Rakhi Pancholi

Up and Coming MLA to Watch in 2022: Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud

A tireless advocate for childcare since she was first elected in 2019, Rakhi Pancholi has been voted Up and Coming MLA to Watch for a second year in a row.

Pancholi is smart and well-spoken, and has been tough and tenacious in her calls for affordable and accessible childcare for Alberta families.

Jyoti Gondek Mayor Calgary
Jyoti Gondek

Best Political Play of 2021: Jyoti Gondek‘s election as Mayor of Calgary

Jyoti Gondek defied public expectations and a motivated conservative establishment to win Calgary’s mayoral election in October 2021, becoming the first woman to be elected mayor of Alberta’s largest city.


The annual Best of Alberta Politics survey was started in 2017 as a way to give followers of Alberta politics a chance to recognize the best players in Alberta politics.

Listen to our year-end episode of the Daveberta Podcast where guests Adrienne King and Matt Solberg share their picks for the Best of Alberta Politics in 2021.

Thank you to the more than 2,000 people who voted in this year’s survey and for everyone who read this website and listened to the Daveberta Podcast this year.

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Alberta Politics

Vote in the Best of Alberta Politics 2021 Survey

With hundreds of submissions made to the Best of Alberta Politics 2021 survey, your choices have been sorted and you can now vote in each category. Voting is open until Dec. 22, 2021 at 6:00 pm and the winners will be announced shortly after that.

Here are the top choices in each category:

1. Who was the best Alberta MLA of 2021? – VOTE

  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
  • Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud

2. Who was the best Alberta cabinet minister of 2021? – VOTE

  • Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
  • Ric McIver, Minister of Municipal Affairs
  • Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Transportation

Honourable mentions to runners-up Minister of Health Jason Copping and Minister of Finance Travis Toews. It is also worth noting that a large number of people chose to submit various versions of “none of the above.”

3. Who was the best opposition MLA of 2021? – VOTE

  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
  • Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West

Honourable mention to runners-up Edmonton-City Centre MLA David Shepherd and Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi..

4. Who is the up and coming MLA to watch in 2022? – VOTE

  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Brian Jean, (potentially future) MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche
  • Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud

Honourable mentions to runners-up Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner and Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang.

5. What was the biggest political play of 2021 in Alberta? – VOTE

  • Brian Jean’s political comeback
  • Jason Kenney’s “Open For Summer/Best Summer Ever” COVID-19 plan
  • Jyoti Gondek’s election as Mayor of Calgary

What was the biggest political issue of 2021 in Alberta?

In some past years this category has been a dog’s breakfast, but like last year, this year your choice was clear. COVID-19 was the clear choice of the overwhelming majority of people who submitted in this category. The global COVID-19 pandemic defined Alberta politics in 2021, with the failure of Premier Jason Kenney’s “Open For Summer” plan and the fourth wave that followed garnering the most submissions.

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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.

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Alberta Politics

Alberta matters in this federal election for all the wrong reasons

There’s a chance that the federal election results in Alberta could end up being less than exciting, with the Conservatives winning most of the province’s seats, but there’s no doubt Alberta had an impact in this federal election: Premier Jason Kenney might have cost Erin O’Toole and the Conservatives their chance at forming government in Ottawa.

The former wonder kid of Canada’s conservative movement, Kenney spent a month in hiding to avoid embarrassing O’Toole only to emerge in the final few days of the campaign to drop a bomb in his federal cousin’s lap. Kenney’s Open for Summer plan that removed all public health restrictions in time for the Calgary Stampede in July led to a vicious fourth wave of COVID-19 that has seen a steep spike in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

It is unlikely that Premier Jason Kenney will be joining Conservative leader Erin O'Toole when he visits Edmonton-Centre tomorrow.
Erin O’Toole and Jason Kenney during happier times.

Intensive Care Units across Alberta are filling up and Kenney has had to plead with other provinces to take our sick patients if we run out of space.

All non-emergency surgeries in Alberta are cancelled and 75 per cent of the operating rooms at the Alberta Children’s Hospital are closing because doctors and nurses are being redeployed to take care of COVID patients.

Public sector health care unions are urging Kenney to ask the federal government for help from the military and the Red Cross.

O’Toole praised Kenney’s response to the pandemic and has refused to answer questions about it from reporters since Alberta once again declared a State of Public Health Emergency last week. 

While the Conservatives are expected to sweep Alberta once again, O’Toole only visited the province once in this election campaign. He spent a morning in Edmonton during the first week of the campaign, making a policy announcement in Edmonton-Centre and stopping for a photo-op at a Jollibee’s before shuffling back to the airport for an afternoon flight to British Columbia.

But unlike recent federal elections, this time the right-wing of the political spectrum is pretty crowded in Alberta.

People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier has taken advantage of O’Toole and Kenney’s perceived political weaknesses by spending a considerable amount of time in Alberta during this election.

Appealing to groups ranging from the vaccine hesitant to indoctrinated COVID conspiracy theorists, Bernier has been attracting large crowds at his Alberta rallies. And his candidates have earned endorsements from former Conservative MP David Yurdiga and former Reform MP Cliff Breitkreuz.

Former Ontario MP Derek Sloan, who was kicked out of the Conservative Party for accepting a donation from a well-known white supremacist, has been embraced the COVID conspiracy theories as he campaigns as an Independent candidate in Banff-Airdrie with the full-support of former Conservative MP Rob Anders.

And then there’s the separatist Maverick Party led by former Conservative MP and oil industry lobbyist Jay Hill, which is still in the mix despite Alberta separatism not being the hot topic it was after the 2019 federal election.

Meanwhile, the silence coming from the United Conservative Party Caucus is deafening.

Aside from dissenting Tweets and Facebook comments from two already disgruntled backbenchers – former cabinet minister and Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer and Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried – the predicted caucus revolt has not yet spilled out into the public. But maybe that changes if Justin Trudeau’s Liberals form government on Monday.

Directors of the UCP association in Olds-Didsbury-Three-Hills, home of Speaker and former interim leader Nathan Cooper, near unanimously passed a motion calling for a leadership review and party vice-president Joel Mullen is reported to have called for a review.

Kenney’s supporters on the UCP provincial executive headed off previous calls by scheduling leadership review at the party’s Fall 2022 convention, only months ahead of the expected 2023 provincial election.

If O’Toole does not become Prime Minister after the federal ballots are counted, he might not be the only Conservative leader looking for a new job. Kenney’s already embattled leadership could become even more tenuous.

Kerry Diotte unites the NDP in Alberta

Jagmeet Singh and Blake Desjarlais in Edmonton-Griesbach on Sept. 18, 2021.

In what is likely his biggest single achievement of his political career, Conservative candidate Kerry Diotte has succeeded in bridging the political divide between the provincial and federal NDP in Alberta.

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was back in Alberta yesterday for his second visit to the Edmonton-Griesbach, where the party believes candidate Blake Desjarlais can unseat Diotte to pick up a second seat for the NDP.

With NDP incumbent Heather McPherson believed to be secure for re-election in Edmonton-Strathcona, the party has been pouring its resources into Griesbach.

Rachel Notley and Janis Irwin with Blake Desjarlais and volunteers in Edmonton-Griesbach.
Rachel Notley and Janis Irwin with Blake Desjarlais and volunteers in Edmonton-Griesbach.

And Singh isn’t the only party leader on the campaign trail for Desjarlais.

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley was on the doors last week helping Desjarlais get his vote out. While Notley tried her best to avoid being involved in the 2019 federal campaign, she and about a dozen NDP MLAs, including local MLAs Janis Irwin and David Eggen have been spotted door knocking with Desjarlais.

Pipelines and the carbon tax kept the NDP cousins apart in 2019, but the possibility of defeating Kerry Diotte has brought the provincial and federal NDP together in 2021.

Liberals have their sights set on Edmonton-Centre, Mill Woods and Calgary-Skyview

The Liberals hope to reestablish a beachhead in Alberta and if they are successful it will likely be in Edmonton-Centre, Edmonton-Mill Woods or Calgary-Skyview.

Ben Henderson and Don Iveson in Edmonton-MIll Woods.
Ben Henderson and Don Iveson in Edmonton-MIll Woods.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau only made one brief stop in Alberta during the first week of the election campaign to speak at a rally for Calgary-Skyview candidate George Chahal.

University—Rosedale Liberal candidate and former Edmonton native Chrystia Freeland visited Alberta twice to campaign with candidates in Calgary and Edmonton, including Randy Boissonnault in Edmonton-Centre and Ben Henderson in Edmonton-Mill Woods.

Also visiting Alberta during the campaign were Vancouver-South Liberal candidate Harjit Sajan, who campaigned in Calgary-Centre with Sabrina Grover, and Surrey-Newton Liberal candidate Sukh Dhaliwal, who campaigned with Henderson in Mill Woods.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson endorsed Henderson and campaigned with him in the final days of the election. The two men have served together on Edmonton City Council since 2007. 

Voting stations are open from 7:30am to 7:30pm on Sept. 20, 2021. 

Categories
Alberta Politics

NDP nominate Julia Hayter in Calgary-Edgemont. Sayid Ahmed running for UCP nomination in Edmonton-Decore.

Julia Hayter was nominated as the Alberta NDP candidate in Calgary-Edgemont at a meeting held last night.

Hayter was the NDP candidate in the northwest Calgary district in the 2019 election, where she earned 34 per cent of the vote to United Conservative Party candidate Prasad Panda’s 52 per cent. Panda currently serves as Minister of Infrastructure.

Hayter is the second NDP candidate nominated to run in the expected 2023 provincial election. Dr. Luanne Metz has been nominated to run in the neighbouring Calgary-Varisty.

Sayid Ahmed seeking UCP nomination in Edmonton-Decore

Sayid Ahmed has filed papers with Elections Alberta to seek the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Decore. Ahmed is a manager in the provincial Department of Health and is President of the UCP association in the neighbouring Edmonton-Manning district and Vice President of Policy for the Alberta Advisory Board of the Conservative Black Congress of Canada.

Edmonton-Decore has been represented by NDP MLA Chris Nielsen since 2015. Nielson was re-elected in 2019 with 47.5 per cent of the vote, ahead of UCP candidate Karen Principe (Principe is currently running for Edmonton City Council in Ward tastawiyiniwak). The third place candidate in that year’s race, Alberta Party candidate Ali Haymour, is running for city council in Edmonton’s Ward Anirniq.

The district is named after former MLA Laurence Decore, who served as MLA for the then-named Edmonton-Glengarry from 1989 to 1997 and as Mayor of Edmonton from 1983 to 1988. He was leader of the Alberta Liberal Party from 1988 to 1994.

Ahmed is the second prospective candidate to announce plans to seek a UCP nomination ahead of the 2023 election. Chantelle de Jonge has filed her papers to run for the UCP nomination in Chestermere-Strathmore.

Former Edmonton lawyer Randy Hogle running for Senate

Former Edmonton lawyer Randy Hogle has filed his papers to run as a candidate in the Senate Nominee election, which is being held on the same day as Alberta’s October 18 municipal elections.

Hogle had a successful legal career and, despite being legally blind, he excelled as an equestrian athlete. This is his second attempt at political office after a previous run for Edmonton City Council in 1992, during which one of his key platform points was the construction of bike lanes on Jasper Avenue.

Hogle is the son of former long-time CFRN news director Bruce Hogle and brother of former sports reporter and current Hockey Edmonton General Manager Steve Hogle.

Also running are Progress Alberta executive Director Duncan Kinney, lobbyist and former UCP President Erika Barootes, conservative activist Pamela Davidson, and emergency medicine doctor Sunil Sookram.

Banff Mayor appointed to the Senate

Despite the upcoming elections to choose a Senate Nominee, a process that is unique to Alberta, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that one of two of Alberta’s vacant seats in the Senate would be filled by Town of Banff Mayor Karen Sorenson.

Sorensen’s long record of public service includes terms as a trustee on the Canadian Rockies Public Schools from 1997 to 2001, as a Banff town councillor from 2004 to 2010 and as mayor from 2010 until her appointment to the Senate in 2021.

She will sit as an Independent member of Canada’s upper chamber.

UPDATE:

Mykhailo Martyniouk has submitted his papers with Elections Alberta to run in the Senate Nominee election. Martyniouk is the current president of the Canadian Ukrainian Free Trade Agreement Association.

In 2019, Martyniouk donated $1,155 to Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview UCP candidate David Egan and in 2018 he donated $300 to the UCP association in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview. In 2020, he donated 1,600 to the Conservative Party of Canada association in Edmonton-Manning.

Categories
Alberta Politics

When a Premier is in trouble, the cabinet gets growing

It isn’t really a saying in Alberta politics but maybe it should be: When a Premier is in trouble, the cabinet gets growing.

That’s what we saw today as embattled Premier Jason Kenney made a major expansion of the provincial cabinet.

It is being described as a post-pandemic reset but today’s cabinet shuffle and expansion probably has more to do with internal turmoil in the UCP Caucus than any actual reset in the government’s agenda. Problem-creating ministers like Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon remain firmly in place.

Kenney, who eagerly declared the COVID-19 pandemic over in Alberta on July 1, has seen his approval ratings and his party’s popularity plummet as it mismanaged its response to the pandemic and pushed forward with an unpopular political agenda that included opening the Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining, a backward draft curriculum for kids, and aggressive attacks against doctors and nurses.

Kenney’s unpopularity now appears to be spilling over into the federal scene and dragging down the federal Conservative Party’s support in Alberta, which a string of polls show at a historic low.

Kenney is so unpopular that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was able to openly mock him at a press conference in Calgary yesterday and there was no public backlash in defence of the provincial Conservative leader.

Facing dissent from inside and outside his caucus and party, Kenney has taken the predictable route of previous Alberta premiers who were in political trouble and expanded his cabinet. Appointments to cabinet posts come with the prestige of a ministerial title, office and staff, a hefty pay hike and are seen as a way to reward a premier’s supporters – and punish dissenters.

The past twenty years of turmoil in conservative politics in Alberta has given us a few clear examples of how cabinets grow when premier’s find themselves in political trouble.

Premier Ralph Klein’s cabinet grew from a slim 17 in 1992 to an expanded 24 by the time he resigned in 2006 after his party’s membership gave him a weak 55.4 per cent endorsement in a leadership review.

Klein’s successor, Premier Ed Stelmach, started with a cabinet of 19 ministers in 2006 only to expand it to 23 by the time he resigned in the face of a caucus revolt in 2011.

But perhaps most famously, Premier Alison Redford’s cabinet grew from 21 in 2011 to 29, including 10 associate ministers, in 2013, representing almost half of the Progressive Conservative Caucus. There was a running joke at the time that if a PC MLA wasn’t in cabinet they must have done something really wrong.

Yesterday Kenney’s cabinet had 22 cabinet ministers and associate ministers. Today, Kenney’s cabinet has 26.

I bet it grows again in a few months.


Premier Jason Kenney, Lieutenant Governor Salma Lakhani and the new cohort of cabinet ministers.
Premier Jason Kenney, Lieutenant Governor Salma Lakhani and the new cohort of cabinet ministers.

Shuffled around …

Jason Luan, MLA Calgary-Foothills, is moved from Associate Minister of Additions and Mental Health to become Minister of Community and Social Services. Luan served as MLA for Calgary-Hawkwood from 2012 until his defeat in the 2015 election to NDP candidate Michael Connolly. Luan returned to the Legislature in 2019.

Ric McIver, MLA Calgary-Hays, keeps his role as Minister of Municipal Affairs but loses his dual role of Minister of Transportation. McIver took over Municipal Affairs when former minister Tracy Allard was removed from cabinet following her COVID rule breaking hot holiday to Hawaii in December 2020. McIver was first elected as a PC MLA in 2012 and previously served as an alderman on Calgary City Council from 2001 to 2010.

Rajan Sawhney, MLA Calgary-North East, leaves her current role as Minister of Community and Social Services to become Minister of Transportation. Sawhney is seen by many political insiders as an up and comer in the UCP cabinet.

Muhammad Yaseen, MLA Calgary-North, leaves his role as Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration to become the Associate Minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism reporting to Minister of Labour and Immigration Jason Copping. Yasseen is a former president of the Pakistan Canada Association of Calgary and was first elected as an MLA in 2019.

New in cabinet…

Mike Ellis, MLA Calgary-West, leaves his role as UCP Caucus Whip to become Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. Ellis was first elected in a 2014 by-election and was only one of a handful of PC MLAs re-elected in 2015.

Nate Horner, MLA Drumheller-Stettler, becomes Associate Minister of Rural Economic Development reporting to Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer. Horner is the grandson of former Member of Parliament Jack Horner and the cousin of former deputy premier Doug Horner.

Whitney Issik, MLA for Calgary-Glenmore, becomes the Associate Minister of Status of Women reporting to newly appointed Minister of Culture and Status of Women Ron Orr. Issik will also serve as UCP Whip. She was first elected in 2019 and was a longtime PC Party volunteer, serving as campaign manager for Jim Prentice during his brief run for the federal PC Party nomination in Calgary-Southwest in 2002, as a constituency assistant to former Calgary-Mountain View MLA Mark Hlady, and as policy co-chair of the federal PC Party during the 2000 federal election.

Ron Orr, MLA Lacombe-Ponoka, becomes Minister of Culture. Orr once declared that legalizing cannabis would spark a communist revolution and he wrote on Facebook in May 2021 that Kenney was raised by God to be leader of Alberta and public health restrictions are just as bad as getting COVID. Before his election as a Wildrose MLA in 2015 he worked as a Baptist Minister in Alberta and British Columbia.

Back in cabinet is Tanya Fir, MLA Calgary-Peigan, as Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction. Fir was surprisingly dropped from her role as Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism in August 2020. Fir was one of the UCP MLAs caught travelling on a hot holiday in December 2020, breaking the government’s public health restrictions.

Out of cabinet…

Leela Aheer, MLA Chestermere-Strathmore and UCP Deputy Leader, has lost her cabinet role as Minister of Culture and Status of Women. Her departure from cabinet is probably retribution for her publicly calling on Kenney to apologize after he and other senior cabinet ministers were caught breaking the government’s COVID-19 restrictions by holding a boozy dinner party on the balcony of the Sky Palace. Aheer also criticized Kenney for his tone-deaf defence of Sir John A Macdonald following the discovery of unmarked graves of children at former Indian Residential School sites.

Grant Hunter, MLA Taber-Warner, loses his position as Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction. Hunter is currently on a province-wide ministerial tour of northeast Alberta with Justice Minister Kaycee Madu and Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. Hunter was the only cabinet minister from south of Calgary.

Other non-cabinet changes today included:

Joseph Schow, MLA Cardston-Siksika, the current the deputy government whip becomes deputy government house leader. Brad Rutherford, MLA Leduc-Beaumont, becomes deputy government whip.

After 6 months without a permanent Chief of Staff, Premier Kenney has named his Deputy Chief of Staff Pam Livingston to the role. Livingston started working in the Premier’s Office in January 2021 after the resignation of Jamie Huckabay, who was caught in the international holiday scandal.

Interim Chief of Staff Larry Kaumeyer returns to his previous role as Principal Secretary in the Premier’s Office.

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.

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Alberta Politics

Kenney’s reaction to boozy Sky Palace patio party photos sparks another UCP Caucus rebellion

Any appearance that Premier Jason Kenney had regained control over his United Conservative Party caucus three weeks ago when rebel MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen were ejected was shattered this weekend.

A handful of UCP MLAs, including two cabinet ministers, are now publicly calling on the Kenney to apologize for breaking COVID-19 public health restrictions by hosting a boozy Sky Palace patio party that was caught on camera.

The photos of Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon and Finance Minister Travis Toews, and senior political staff dining at a booze filled table atop the penthouse patio of the notorious Sky Palace circulated on social media this week.

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

Kenney and company were clearly breaking the government’s own public health restrictions. But, instead of admitting they made a mistake and moving on, the Premier’s political staff jumped on social media to aggressively attack anyone who criticized their leader, claiming they did not break any rules.

But some UCP MLAs remain pretty unconvinced.

Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt, a leader of the UCP’s COVID-18, posted on Facebook that it was clear that Kenney and the senior cabinet ministers were breaking public health restrictions.

“Looking at these photos it seems clear to me that several health restrictions were violated,” wrote Pitt.

Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills UCP MLA David Hanson posted on Facebook that he agreed with Pitt. “I’m with you Angela. Albertans are angry, again, and rightly so, disappointing,” Hanson wrote.

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

And today, Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer, who also serves as Deputy Leader of the UCP and Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism & Status of Women, called on Kenney to “sincerely apologize” for breaking public health rules.

Aheer also took Kenney to task over his long-winded lecture defending Sir John A. Macdonald and claims that critics of Canada’s first Prime Minister are engaging in “cancel culture.”

Kenney’s comments were incredibly insensitive in light of the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried at a former Residential School in Kamloops. Kenney’s comments prompted strong responses from the Confederation of Treaty Six First Nations and the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta.

Jason Kenney Rajan Sawhney Calgary North East
Jason Kenney and Rajan Sawhney (source: YouTube)

Minister of Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney, the UCP MLA for Calgary-North East, also called on Kenney to apologize for his boozy Sky Palace patio party.

“If they have committed a mistake, they must accept it openly. (The) photo clearly speaks,” Sawhney said on RED 106.7 FM in Calgary.

Meanwhile, Red Deer-South UCP MLA Jason Stephan is calling on the Kenney government to launch a public inquiry into the cost of its public health restrictions.

In this case, the attempted coverup was probably worse than the crime. Most Albertans would probably have accepted a quick apology from Kenney and his senior cabinet ministers for the rule breaking that so obviously occurred in the photos.

Kenney’s inability to admit that he made a mistake, and his staff’s overly aggressive attacks on anyone who pointed out what was clearly happening in the photos, has only given his opponents in the UCP caucus another reason to publicly criticize him.

This is certainly not the type of criticism that a Premier with a 16 per cent approval rating should be courting.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Leela Aheer faces early UCP nomination challenge from Chantelle de Jonge in Chestermere-Strathmore

Chantelle de Jonge has filed papers with Elections Alberta to run for the United Conservative Party nomination in Chestermere-Strathmore. The district is currently represented by UCP MLA Leela Aheer, who has served as Alberta’s Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women since her party formed government in 2019.

Chestermere-Strathmore
Chestermere-Strathmore

It is not clear whether the UCP has actually opened the candidate nomination process in this district, or any others at this point, but Alberta’s election laws require people who are interested in actively campaigning for party nominations to file their expression of interest with Elections Alberta. 

As far as I can tell, de Jonge has not made any public statements about her candidacy, but I was able to find someone by that name on LinkedIn who is a former Constituency Assistant in the office of Calgary-Skyview Conservative MP Jag Sahota and a student of economics and philosophy at the University of Calgary. 

A new district created for the 2019 election, Chestermere-Strathmore saw Aheer face off against former UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt, who was first barred by Jason Kenney from running for the party nomination in that district and later ran in the election as leader of the Freedom Conservative Party (now the separatist Wildrose Independence Party).

After Fildebrandt was banned from the the UCP contest, a tense 2018 nomination race took place that included allegations of death threats and restraining orders when Aheer was challenged by David Campbell, who is now President of The Independence Party of Alberta.

Aheer was successful in her 2019 bid for re-election, earning 68 per cent of the vote. NDP candidate Melissa Langmaid placed second with 15.4 per cent and Fildebrant finished third with 7.4 per cent.

The NDP opened its candidate nomination process this months, with a number of nominees, including former MLA Brian Malkinson in Calgary-Currie and Dr. Luanne Metz in Calgary-Varsity, announcing their candidacies.

Former PC MLA running for Mayor of Strathcona County

Dave Quest
Dave Quest

Former Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Quest is running to become the next Mayor of Strathcona County

Quest represented Strathcona-Sherwood Park from 2008 until 2015, when he was unseated by NDP candidate Estefan Cortes-Vargas. He ran for the Alberta Party in that district in the 2019 election, placing third with 13.3 per cent of the vote.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Vote for the Best of Alberta Politics in 2019 – The Top 3

Photos: Leela Aheer, John Archer, Greg Clark, Devin Dreeshen, Sarah Hoffman, Danielle Larivee, Rachel Notley, Janis Irwin, Rakhi Pancholi, Shannon Phillips (source: Legislative Assembly of Alberta website)

With more than 500 submissions made to the Best of Alberta Politics 2019 survey, your choices have been sorted and you can now vote in each category. Voting is open until Dec. 14, 2019 at 11:59 pm and the winners will be announced on the special year-end episode of the Daveberta Podcast on Dec. 16, 2019.

Here are the top three choices in every category:

Who was the best Alberta MLA of 2019? – Vote

  • Devin Dreeshan, MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona

An honourable mention to Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West who placed a strong fourth in total submissions. Notley was last year’s winner in this category.

Who was the best Alberta cabinet minister of 2019? – Vote

  • Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
  • Sarah Hoffman, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health
  • Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks

Honourable mentions to Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen and Minister of Finance Travis Toews, who placed a close forth and fifth in this category. Former Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson was last year’s winner in this category.

Who was the best opposition MLA of 2019? – Vote

  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
  • Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West

Former Calgary-Elbow MLA Greg Clark was last year’s winner in this category.

Who is the up and coming MLA to watch in 2020? – Vote

  • Devin Dreeshen, MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud

An honourable mention to Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang, who placed a strong fourth in the first round of voting. Jessica Littlewood, former MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, was last year’s winner in this category..

Who was the best candidate who didn’t win in the 2019 Alberta election? – Vote

  • John Archer, NDP candidate in Edmonton-South West
  • Greg Clark, Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Elbow
  • Danielle Larivee, NDP candidate in Lesser Slave Lake

An honourable mention to Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville NDP candidate Jessica Littlewood, and Leduc-Beaumont NDP candidate Shaye Anderson, who tied for fourth place in this category..

What was the biggest political issue of 2019 in Alberta? – Vote

  • Budget cuts
  • Economy and jobs
  • Firing the Elections Commissioner
  • Turkey farm hostage taking

There were a lot of submissions in this category, so we decided to give you a chance to vote on the top four in this category.

What was the biggest political play of 2019 in Alberta?

Lorne Gibson Alberta Election Commissioner
Lorne Gibson

This category is usually a dog’s breakfast, but this year your choice was clear. So we have declared the biggest political play of 2019 in Alberta was the United Conservative Party government firing of Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson. The UCP government’s omnibus Bill 22 dissolved the Office of the Election Commissioner, who was in the midst of investigating and issuing fines for violations of Alberta’s elections laws during the UCP leadership race in 2017.

Government watch-dog Democracy Watch has called on the RCMP to investigate the firing of the Election Commissioner and wants a special prosecutor appointed to oversee the investigation to ensure there is no political interference.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances, NDP critics, and auf Wiedersehen, Derek

It has been a busy week in Alberta politics and here are a few of my thoughts on some recent developments:

Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances

Premier Jason Kenney and Finance Minister Travis Toews appointed a “Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances” with a mandate to recommend changes limited to Alberta government spending. As others have already pointed out, the narrow mandate is a missed opportunity to actually address the fiscal challenges facing Alberta, which includes issues with revenue ranging from low taxation and over-dependence on oil and gas royalty revenues.

That Kenney, who started his political career as spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, would want to focus purely on spending is not a shock. But it is only part of the challenge facing Alberta.

Appointing an arms-length panel to make these recommendations is politically smart and will give cover to a United Conservative Party government that is already inclined to make significant cuts to funding of public services. The NDP made similar political moves when they appointed arms-length panels to recommend changes to the natural resource royalty structure and to recommend action on climate change, which included the creation of the carbon tax, which Kenney has pledged to repeal.

Kenney’s appointment of history professor and former Saskatchewan New Democratic Party cabinet minister Janice MacKinnon and former Alberta Liberal MLA Mike Percy was a clever move that on the surface mildly disarms its critics. But despite their past political affiliations, both MacKinnon and Percy have in the decades since they left elected office been welcomed in conservative circles because of their fiscally conservative views. MacKinnon was even prominently quoted in the UCP election platform.

Albertans need leaders who will look at the big picture, not just a slice of the problem. Judging by its narrow mandate, it is hard to imagine the blue ribboned panelists recommending anything but cuts, cuts, and more cuts.

NDP critics to be named next week 

The 24 Alberta NDP MLAs who will make up the Official Opposition will be sworn-in on May 13 at the Legislative Assembly. Unlike their UCP colleagues, who will be sworn-in before the Speech from the Throne on May 21, the two dozen NDP MLAs will have an 8-day jump start with access to their Legislative offices and time to prepare for their first week of Question Period. And with a caucus mostly hailing from Edmonton, NDP MLAs will have a hometown advantage of not having to regularly travel long-distances to work in the capital city.

The NDP critic line-up is expected to be announced shortly after NDP MLAs are sworn-in. With 9 cabinet minister in its ranks, the NDP opposition will be well-equipped to question the cabinet of mostly rookie UCP MLAs. There could be a natural temptation to appoint the former cabinet ministers as critics for the ministerial offices they previously held, but it could also compromise the credibility of those critics who in some cases would be watching much of their 4-years of work be dismantled by the UCP.

Look for Official Opposition leader Rachel Notley to place Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman, Lethbridge-East MLA Shannon Phillips, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous, Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen, and Calgary-Buffalo MLA Joe Ceci in key critic roles.

The NDP will be tempted to continue their relentless campaign against the UCP on social issues, but treating the post-election period as just an extension of the 2019 election could be a strategic mistake. The NDP need to prepare themselves for how to respond effectively to the aggressive legislative agenda Kenney is expected to implement in the “Summer of Repeal” and to a fall provincial budget that could include deep and short-sighted budget cuts.

auf Wiedersehen, Derek.

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt faced a bizarre 72 hour suspension from the Official Opposition caucus this week.Former Wildrose Party and UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt resigned as leader of the Freedom Conservative Party last week after his party’s electoral poor showing and his failure to win re-election in Chestermere-Strathmore in the April 2019 election. Fildebrandt, also a former spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, is succeeded by interim leader David White, a former paramedic who ran for the party in Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin.

Say what you want about his political views and personal behavior, but Fildebrandt has been one of the most consistently colourful characters in Alberta politics since he burst on to the provincial scene in 2012.

The Freedom Conservative Party is the latest name of a tiny right-wing populist and sometimes separatist party that has existed since 1999. It took its latest form in June 2018 when the Western Freedom Party was renamed the Freedom Conservative Party. The party was originally formed as the Alberta First Party in 1999, renamed the Separation Party of Alberta in 2004 and again renamed the Alberta First Party in 2013 before it became the Western Freedom Party in April 2018.

Categories
Alberta Politics

I’m back, so about that Alberta Election…

Eleven days have passed since Alberta’s provincial election in which Albertans voted in droves and gave our province its first ever one-term government. That alone provides a lot of reflect on, but there is so much more.

Having taken a much-needed vacation after the election (I was on an early flight out of the country on the morning following election night), I now have some thoughts on the results and what they could mean for Alberta and the political parties. 

First, the voter turnout was high. The official results of the election were released this week, showing that 64 per cent of eligible voters in Alberta participated in the election. This is down from the previous voter turnout numbers released by Elections Alberta before the count was official that showed a 71 per cent turnout. While the numbers are not as fantastic as 71 per cent, this election marks the highest turnout since the 1982 election, which was 66 per cent.

The high turnout in advance voting, in particular the “vote anywhere” ballots that allowed Albertans to vote at any advance polling station in the province, was remarkable. More than 700,000 votes were cast at the advance polls, with more than 260,000 of them being “vote anywhere” advance ballots. This was the first time this option was allowed in an Alberta election, and it appears that many Albertans liked the option of voting anywhere during the 5-days of advance voting.

The United Conservative Party elected 63 MLAs and earned a remarkable 1,040,004 votes, the highest of any political party in Alberta’s history. That party’s 54.9 per cent is the highest earned by a political party since the Progressive Conservatives in the 2001 election. It appears as though much of the UCP’s popular vote was boosted by significant landslide victories in rural districts across the province, making rural MLAs a powerful force in the UCP caucus.

While the internal politics of this relatively new party are still evolving, incoming-premier Jason Kenney has a strong mandate to implement his incoming government’s agenda. Kenney has said he will appoint a cabinet by the end of April and hold a session of the Legislative Assembly in May, kicking off what he previously described as a “Summer of Repeal.” Kenney has pledged to dismantle many of the NDP’s flagship programs, including the Climate Leadership Plan and Energy Efficiency Alberta. 

The large UCP caucus only includes one MLA with previous provincial cabinet experience, Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver, so the learning curve will be steep for those appointed by Kenney next week. But like the NDP when it formed government in 2015, the UCP in 2019 will be bolstered by legions of career political staffers migrating to Alberta over the next few months.

Kenney is expected to continue to focus on his three key talking points from the election campaign – jobs, economy and pipelines – which is also expected to include a heavy does of political rhetoric aimed at Ottawa, Justin Trudeau, and anyone from outside Alberta who dares criticize the oil and gas sector (which will certainly keep Kenney busy).

The social conservative issues that dogged Kenney and many now elected UCP MLAs will not be his focus, but the social conservative groups who make up critical elements of his electoral coalition will expect to be rewarded for their loyalty. This could potentially create a difficult balancing act over the next four years.

The New Democratic Party was unable to get re-elected into government, but earned 619,147 votes, the party’s highest ever vote total. The larger voter turnout and consolidation of conservative votes around UCP candidates meant the NDP only earned 32.7 per cent of the vote and elected 24 MLAs, which is still one of the largest elected opposition caucuses in Alberta’s history. The NDP vote was heavily concentrated within Edmonton city limits, delivering the party all but one of the capital city’s electoral districts.

Outgoing-Premier Rachel Notley has pledged to stay on as party leader, which is a positive outcome for the NDP after its election defeat. Notley is the party’s strongest asset and is probably key to why the party formed government in 2015 and was not decimated in this election.

While the NDP sometimes tends to act like it is more inclined for life on the opposition benches, the new official opposition caucus will only have 3 MLAs who previously served in opposition (Notley, Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen and Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous). This is the first time the NDP will form official opposition since its previous tenure in the role from 1982 to 1993. 

A struggle for the new NDP caucus and for the NDP internally will be to decide whether it wants to remain the centre-leftish liberal-like party it was in government or whether it should return to something closer to its social democratic roots.

While I have a hard time expecting the NDP’s advocacy for oil pipelines to waver, the party has the opportunity to present a strong alternative to the UCP on issues ranging from climate change to support for strong public services like health care and education. Support for pipelines might be the biggest challenge the NDP will have to reconcile with if it wants to be seen as a serious advocate for action against climate change.

The Alberta Party lost all 3 of its seats in the Assembly despite having high-profile former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel at its helm. The Alberta Party increased its popular vote to 9.1 per cent but none of its candidates came close to being elected. Even in Calgary-Elbow, popular opposition MLA and former party leader Greg Clark fell more than 3,000 votes short of being re-elected.

This result should prompt some serious internal discussions about what role the moderate conservative party plays in Alberta politics, especially as it now has no presence in the Assembly.

For the first time in 33 years the Liberal Party has no presence in the Assembly. Leader David Khan performed well in the televised leaders’ debate and was expected to have a shot at being elected in Calgary-Mountain View, the seat being vacated by retiring four-term Liberal MLA David Swann. But when the votes were counted Khan finished in fourth place with 5.6 per cent. The party only fielded 51 candidates and earned 18,546 votes, which translated into 1 per cent of the vote.

The Liberals will continue to exist on paper but for all intents and purposes the party that formed the official opposition from 1993 to 2012 has ceased to exist as a political force in Alberta.

Disgruntled former Wildrose and UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt’s Freedom Conservative Party barely registered on the electoral radar. Running candidates only 24 districts, the populist-UCP spinoff finished with 9,945 votes province-wide. Fildebrandt finished a distant third in Chestermere-Strathmore, 61 per cent behind UCP MLA Leela Aheer.

Despite the crushing loss, Fildebrandt carries no shortage of political ambition. My bet is that he will show on a ballot as a People’s Party of Canada candidate in the October 2019 federal election.

I am planning on taking a closer look at the district and regional level results over the next few weeks, so stay tuned for more analysis and commentary about the results of Alberta’s election.