Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried has announced he will not run for re-election. Gotfried was the only rookie Progressive Conservative MLA elected in 2015, stealing the south Calgary seat from the Wildrose Party after long-time MLA Heather Forsyth retired from elected politics.
Former Calgary Economic Development vice-president Court Ellingson was nominated as the Alberta NDP candidate in Calgary-Foothills.
Calgary Transit Operator Raj Jessel was nominated as the NDP candidate in Chestermere-Strathmore.
Lawyer Cheryl Hunter Loewen was nominated as the NDP candidate in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills.
Lawyer Andrew Stewarthas announced his plans to seek the NDP nomination in Calgary-Hays. A nomination meeting is scheduled for October 26. The riding has been represented by UCP MLA Ric McIver since 2012.
Upcoming nomination meetings
Former Red Deer City Manager Craig Curtis and past school board candidate Jaelene Tweedle are on the ballot as NDP members in Red Deer-North choose their next candidate on October 5.
MLA David Shepherd is expected to be nominated to run for re-election in Edmonton-City Centre on October 11.
More NDP nomination meetings are scheduled in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright (October 15), Calgary-Beddington (October 17), Lacombe-Ponoka (October 19), and Calgary-Hays (October 26).
The NDP have now nominated candidates in 54 of Alberta’s 87 electoral districts. As previously noted, it appears as though the UCP have paused the nomination process until after their new leader is selected on October 6. The Alberta Party has nominated three candidates.
“I am very grateful that the members of this community have trusted me to be their representative in the next provincial election,” said Kasawski. “I believe in the vision that Rachel Notley has for Alberta, and I am excited to be joining her team to bring that vision to life.”
Kasawski is a renewable energy expert who taught at NAIT’s Alternative Energy Technology Program from 2017 to 2021.
MLA Rod Loyola defeated psychologists association president Dr. Judi Malone and ETS driver Manpreet Tiwana to become the NDP candidate at a September 10 nomination meeting.
MLA Heather Sweet was acclaimed as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Manning at a September 8 nomination meeting. Sweet has represented the riding since 2015.
MLA Shannon Phillips was acclaimed as the NDP candidate in Lethbridge-West at a September 11 nomination meeting. Phillips was first elected in 2015 and served as Minister of Environment and Parks during the NDP’s term in government. She is currently the Official Opposition Finance critic.
Upcoming nomination meetings:
September 14: Former public school board trustee Michelle Draper and NDP provincial president Peggy Wright will face each other at a nomination vote in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview.
September 15: MLA Kathleen Ganley is running for the NDP nomination in Calgary-Mountain View.
September 17: MLA Marlin Schmidt is seeking the NDP in Edmonton-Gold Bar.
September 20: MLA Nicole Goehring is facing a nomination challenge from Nurmaiya Brady in Edmonton-Castle Downs.
September 24: Former city council candidate Rhiannon Hoyle and University of Alberta researcher Nasim Boroumand is seeking the NDP nomination in Edmonton-South.
September 25: Teacher David Cloutier is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Shaw.
September 25: MLA Janis Irwin is seeking the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood.
September 27: Former Spruce Grove city councillor Chantal Saramaga-McKenzie and former Parkland County Mayor Rod Shaigec are seeking the NDP nomination in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain.
Lovely has served as MLA for the central Alberta riding since 2019 and was appointed parliamentary secretary to the Associate Minister of Status of Women in November 2021. She previously ran as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015.
Smook was first elected to council council in 2013 and was the Alberta Party candidate in Camrose in 2019.
Lovely admitted today that she was the only other person to join MLA Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk on an awards committee that selected a sexist and racist essay for a third place prize. In a written statement Lovely said she regretted the decision but was not available to answer any questions about why she chose the essay (or whether she actually read it before giving the $200 prize). There were only 5 essays submitted for the Her Vision Inspires essay contest.
Response to Lovely’s nomination on social media was largely muted, with the notable exception of Haydn Place, the acting chief of staff to Minister of Infrastructure Nicholas Milliken, who tweeted: “Glad the former Alberta Party candidate was defeated by a long-term UCP/Wildrose activist like Ms Lovely.”
Deron Bilous not running for re-election
After three-terms in the Legislature, NDP MLA Deron Bilous announced today that he will not run for re-election in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview. The former NDP economic development minister was first elected in 2012 by unseating Progressive Conservative MLA Tony Vandermeer.
“It has been an honour to serve as the member for Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview for the past 10 years, but after much consideration, I have decided not to seek re-election,” Bilous said in a statement.
“I am incredibly proud of everything the NDP has accomplished during our time in government and as an opposition caucus, but the time has come for me to pursue new adventures in the private sector.”
“I would like to thank my constituents, volunteers, and party members for their support over the last decade. Together, we have built a stronger community in Beverly-Clareview.”
The working-class north east Edmonton riding has a long-history of NDP representation, with former party leader Ray Martin representing the riding from 2004 to 2008 and former city councillor Ed Ewasiuk holding the riding from 1986 to 1993. Bilous was re-elected in 2019 with 50 per cent of the vote.
No candidates have declared their intentions to run for the NDP nomination but names that immediately began circulating in political circles include former school trustee Michelle Draper, city councillor Aaron Paquette, recent city council candidate Cori Longo, and past federal NDP candidate Charmaine St. Germain.
Kathleen Ganley running for re-election in Calgary-Mountain View NDP
MLA and former justice minister Kathleen Ganley is seeking her party’s nomination for re-election in Calgary-Mountain View.
Ganley was first elected in Calgary-Buffalo in 2015 and hopped across the river to run in Mountain View after the riding boundaries were redrawn for the 2019 election (allowing former Calgary-Fort MLA Joe Ceci to run for re-election in Buffalo). She was re-elected in 2019 with 47.3 per cent of the vote.
Applications to run for the UCP nomination in Highwood close at 5:00 pm on August 12.
The cowboy hat wearing former Finance Minister from Beaverlodge, Travis Toews, launched his campaign last week with endorsements from 23 UCP MLAs, including Energy Minister Sonya Savage and Justice Minister Tyler Shandro.
Savage and Grande Prairie-Mackenzie MP Chris Warkentin are co-chairing his campaign.
Toews is seen as the establishment favourite, which isn’t always a blessing.
Former Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney launched her campaign yesterday with a whistle-stop tour down the QEII, starting with media events in Edmonton, Penhold and Airdrie before ending at a +700-person rally in north east Calgary.
It was a strong kick-off.
Sawhney’s campaign is being run by well-known political strategist and conservative thinker Ken Boessenkool, who worked as an advisor to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former BC Premier Christy Clark.
Her former chief of staff (and former Daveberta Podcast co-host) Ryan Hastman is her deputy campaign manager.
Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt is Sawhney’s campaign chair.
It’s an odd fit for a leadership candidate who appears to be trying to position herself as a political moderate (no word if South Tyrol-like autonomy for Alberta will be in her platform).
Pitt endorsed Brian Jean for the UCP leadership 2017, and even have him credit for her entry into politics.
This time she’s backing Sawhney.
Jean is launching his campaign at a hotel in west Edmonton tomorrow.
Autonomy for Albertans is Jean’s slogan, not Anatomy for Albertans, as this writer first thought he read.
The former Wildrose Party leader launched his second political comeback in last year’s Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election with the singular purpose of defeating Kenney in the leadership review and run to replace him.
He’s met half his goal so far.
Another former Wildrose leader, Danielle Smith is also trying for her second political comeback after a short and disastrous stint on the Calgary Board of Education in the late 1990s and as Wildrose Party leader from 2009 until she infamously abandoned her party to join Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservatives in 2014.
For many conservatives, especially those of the Wildrose-variety, it is a betrayal that will live in infamy.
The leadership is only one-half of Smith’s comeback attempt.
She’s also challenging MLA Roger Reid for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod, which appears far from a safe-bet.
First-term south Calgary MLA Rebecca Schulz stepped down as Children’s Services Minister to jump into the race.
Schulz wants to take on what she describes as “the boys club.”
She has the backing of Calgary City Councillor Dan McLean, Health Minister Jason Copping, UCP MLAs Michaela Frey and Jeremy Nixon, MPs Laila Goodridge and Stephanie Kusie, former federal Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose and former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall.
The Wall endorsement might seem odd, but he endorsed Schulz in her bid to win the hotly contested Calgary-Shaw UCP nomination race back in 2018.
The Saskatchewan native was a spokesperson in Wall’s government before moving to Alberta in the mid-2010s, and her husband, Cole Schulz, was a ministerial chief of staff in Regina (he’s now the Vice President, Communications for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in Calgary).
Northern Alberta UCP MLA-in-exile Todd Loewen also jumped into the race, as did Village of Amisk Mayor Bill Rock, another former Wildrose Party candidate.
But one of the big potential contenders, Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, is playing coy.
Maybe she’ll run. Maybe she won’t.
Her text message reply to Press Gallery Dean Don Braid was “hahahaha!”
And the hot gossip in political circles today is that erratic former Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman is thinking about joining the fray.
Sherman was first elected as a PC MLA in 2008 but was driven out of that party and scooped up the Liberal leadership in 2011. He left politics in 2015 and returned to being full-time ER doctor.
He also donated $4,000 to the Alberta Party last year.
So it’s a scramble. It’s a dog’s breakfast.
And there could be more.
We’ll know soon enough.
July 20 is the deadline for candidates to pay up if they want to stay in the race.
The high-entry fee will quickly weed out candidates who can’t raise enough money.
August 12 is the deadline to buy a membership.
No time for the two-minute Tories who wreaked havoc against the establishment candidates in the old PC Party leadership races.
The party is also organizing debates and attendance by all candidates is mandatory.
Stragglers will risk be fined or disqualified, or both.
It’s no Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, but it’s bound to be entertaining to watch.
Liberal Party seeks new leader
The Alberta Liberal Party also announced that it will be holding their own leadership vote and choosing a new leader on September 25, 2022.
Former party leader David Khanstepped down in November 2020 after failing to win a seat in the 2019 election, marking the first time since before 1986 that the provincial Liberals not represented in the Legislature.
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 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.
Jeremy Nixon running for re-election in Calgary-Klein
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.
Marie Renaud running for re-election in St. Albert
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
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.
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
Postmedia columnist Don Braidpenned 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The leadership review had been pushed to April 2022 from fall 2022 after Kenney averted a caucus revolt over the summer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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 DrewBarnes 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.