Photo: Kent Hehr with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Calgary Stampede in July 2017. (Photo from Kent Hehr’s Facebook Page)
It has been a busy week for me, so without the time to write a full column-type post, here is a quick summary of what I have been watching in Alberta politics over the past few days.
Calgary MP moved in Trudeau cabinet shuffle
Calgary-Centre Member of Parliament Kent Hehr was appointed Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities this week as part of a fairly significant shuffle in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet. Hehr had previously served as Minister of Veterans Affairs, a post he had held since his election in 2015. Though the move is viewed as a demotion at worst or a lateral move at best, there is no indication that the shuffle was a reflection on Hehr’s performance as minister, which appeared to fulfill competently.
As a former amateur athlete and leader in the Canadian Paraplegic Association, Hehr appears to be a good fit for this role.
While the Minister of Sports is traditionally seen as a junior level position in cabinet, the prospect of Calgary bidding for the 2026 Winter Olympics and Canada joining with the United States and Mexico in a bid to co-host the 2026 World Cup could increase its political importance.
Meanwhile, Calgary-Skyview Liberal MP Darshan Kang announced he would take a medical leave of absence due to stress caused by allegations of sexual harassment that have dogged the federal politician over the past few weeks.
Alberta MPs in Ottawa Shadow Cabinet
Following this week’s federal cabinet shuffle, Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer announced a new roster of Official Opposition critics. Alberta Conservative MPs in the shadow cabinet include: International Development critic Ziad Aboultaif, Agriculture and Agri-Food critic John Barlow, Status of Women critic Rachael Harder, Science critic Matt Jeneroux, National Revenue critic Pat Kelly, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship critic Michelle Rempel, and Natural Resources critic Shannon Stubbs.
NDP Minister continues his Coal Tour
Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous continues his town hall tour of Alberta’s coal communities this week. In the Town of Hanna, Bilous and mayor Chris Warwick announced $450,000 in funding create Community Action Teams led by the Cactus Corridor Economic Development Corporation to focus on initiatives identified in a report by the Hanna Climate Change Strategy Task Force.
While Bilous left Hanna with more questions than answers, he deserves some credit for traveling to these communities holding these town halls – something the NDP government should have done two years ago.
UCP candidate calls on Alberta to national Manitoba port
Jeff Callaway was looking to generate headlines for his United Conservative Party leadership campaign, and he succeeded with his proposal for the Alberta government to nationalize and build a pipeline to access Manitoba’s Port of Churchill. Federal NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton, who is the MP for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, called on the federal government to nationalize the port of Churchill in Dec. 2016.
Low federal NDP membership numbers in Alberta
Speaking of the federal NDP, the party released the breakdown of membership numbers by province ahead of its September leadership vote. Despite having one of only two NDP governments in the country, the federal NDP only recorded having 10,188 members in Alberta, compared to 52,200 in Ontario and 31,974 in British Columbia.
The low participation rate may have a lot to do with the deep political divide between the Alberta NDP and its federal and provincial counterparts over the expansion and construction of oil pipelines, which is a priority for Rachel Notley’s government. To my knowledge, no Alberta NDP MLAs have released public endorsements for any of the federal NDP leadership candidates.
Garry Keller joins the UCP caucus
Until recently he was rumoured to be eyeing the federal Conservative nomination in the upcoming Sturgeon River-Parkland by-election, but it was announced today that Garry Keller, a former chief of staff to Rona Ambrose, would join the United Conservative caucus as a special advisor.