Janet Eremenko is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Currie, kicking off a contested nomination race in the south west Calgary district. Eremenko will face former MLA Brian Malkinson at a yet to be scheduled nomination vote.
“Jason Kenney was elected on a promise of delivering jobs and economic growth, and over half-way through his mandate, he has failed to deliver on any of his promises,” Eremenko said in a press release.
“Rachel Notley has a positive vision for Alberta’s future. One that diversifies our economy and creates jobs for Albertans while taking action on climate change and protecting the environment,” Eremenko said. “I want to make sure Calgary-Currie is a part of that vision, and a part of defeating Kenney in the next election.”
Eremenko was the NDP candidate in the neighboring Calgary-Elbow in the 2019 election, where she placed third with 23 per cent of the vote behind United Conservative Party candidate Doug Schweitzer and Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark.
She was also a candidate for Calgary City Council in Ward 11 in the October 2017 election.
Eremenko will face Malkinson, who represented Calgary-Currie from 2015 until his narrow defeat to UCP candidate Nicholas Milliken in 2019. Malkinson was Alberta’s Minister of Service Alberta from 2018 to 2019.
Before Malkinson’s election in 2015, the district was represented by Progressive Conservative MLA Christine Cussanelli from 2012 to 2015 and Dave Taylor from 2004 to 2010 as a Liberal MLA and 2011 to 2012 as an Alberta Party MLA.
Malkinson previously stood as the NDP candidate in Calgary-North West in the 2012 provincial election and in the 2014 by-election in Calgary-West.
Elections Alberta hits former UCP nomination candidate with $8000 fine
Elections Alberta has reported that it has issued a $8,000 fine against former UCP nomination candidate Steve Thompson for violations of three sections of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. The violations are reported to have taken place Thompson’s bid for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-McClung in 2018.
Section 34(1.1) of the EFCDA: Furnished Funds to 3 persons for the purpose of making a contribution,
Section 34(2) of the EFCDA: Knowingly Accepted Funds, from 3 contributors, contrary to section 34(1) E
FCDA Section 46 of the EFCDA: Knowingly Made a False Financial Statement with the CEO.
Also listed as having received administrative penalties from Elections Alberta were Thompson’s chief financial officer, Caroline Thompson, who was issued a $3,500 fine, and three political contributors, Jaimie-Lee Wicentowich, Avaleen Nycz, and Gennady Sergeev. The three contributors were fined $1,500 each for violations of Section 34(1) of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act for “contributing funds to a registered nomination contestant that had been given or furnished to him by another person.”
Former PC MLA running as Conservative candidate on Vancouver Island, again
Continuing the tradition of former Alberta politicians running for elected office in British Columbia, former PC MLA Alana DeLong has been nominated as the federal Conservative Party candidate in the Vancouver Island district of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.
The number of candidates in the United Conservative Party nomination contest in the sprawling northwest district of Peace River has dropped from five to two.
Lisa Wardley, deputy reeve of Mackenzie County, and Dan Williams, who worked as a political staffer for Jason Kenney, are the two remaining candidates in the contest after three other candidates, Kelly Bunn, Donald Lee, and Shelly Shannon, dropped out over the past few weeks.
Bunn announced his withdrawal in a Facebook post citing disillusionment with Kenney’s “Grassroots Guarantee” and what he describes as a top heavy approach to candidate nominations. Lee withdrew citing a lack of support. And Shannon announced her departure from the contest by endorsing Williams.
In a post on Facebook, Wardley criticized the locations of the voting stations chosen by the UCP nomination committee for the July 31 and August 1, 2018 vote as “not representative of the largest Riding in the Province.”
Wardley wrote that the voting stations “do not lend to fairness, accessibility or the importance and value of all of our communities and citizens. Does not take into account the working communities that we host (with the early day hours in High Level), the lack of public transportation to and from communities, the addition of three new communities to the riding… or really anything else that is specific to this region other than hitting the three largest urban centers.”
Disclaimer: The polling stations and times have been decided by the Local Nominating Committee for the Constituency…
When contacted by this writer, Wardley said she was shocked when she learned that the nomination committee chose only three voting stations in the largest urban centres of the large rural district – Peace River, High Level and La Crete.
“All our communities and members are important and distance, accessibility to polling stations, travel time, workforce demographics, fairness are just some of the criteria that needed to be added to the mix when deciding,” Wardley wrote, saying that she would like to see voting stations in more communities and the voting period extended by one day.
For readers not familiar with this district, it would take more than 5 hours to drive from the northern most community of Indian Cabins to the southern more community of Reno.
UCP members in this district will vote to choose their candidate on July 31, 2018 in Peace River from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and August 1, 2018 in High Level from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and La Crete from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
The Peace River district is currently represented by New Democratic Party MLA Debbie Jabbour. Jabbour was first elected in 2015, earning 39 percent of the vote. She currently serves as Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees in the Legislative Assembly.
MLA Heather Sweet is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in this northeast Edmonton district on July 14, 2018. Sweet was first elected in 2015, earning 71 percent of the vote in a district that had swung between the PCs and Liberals in previous elections. She currently serves as Deputy Chair of Committees in the Legislative Assembly.
Citizenship judge appointed by Kenney seeks UCP nomination
Laurie Mozeson is seeking the UCP nomination in the southwest district of Edmonton-McClung. Mozeson is a long-time prosecutor with the federal and provincial governments and was appointed as a citizenship judge in 2012 by then federal immigration minister Jason Kenney.
A November 2012 report by the Hill Times noted Mozeson’s daughter, Marlee, had worked in Kenney’s office as an intern and special assistant, and later worked as assistant to Chungsen Leung, Kenney’s parliamentary secretary for multiculturalism. Her son, Jonah, had previously worked as communications director for Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose.
Gill resigns as deputy whip over ballot-snatching allegations
Current Calgary-Greenway MLA Prab Gill has resigned as UCP caucus deputy whip following allegations of ballot-snatching at the founding meeting of the Calgary-North UCP association. Gill has announced he is seeking the UCP nomination in the Calgary-North East district.
Calgary-Beddington – Daniel Kostak has announced his withdrawal from the UCP nomination contest and he has endorsed Randy Kerr.
Calgary-Bow – Eldon Siemens is seeking the UCP nomination.
Calgary-Currie – Terry Devries is seeking the UCP nomination. Devries was the Wildorse Party candidate in this district in the 2015 election, where he placed third with 20 percent of the vote behind New Democrat Brian Malkinson and PC MLA Christine Cusanelli.
Calgary-Falconridge – Devinder Toor is seeking the UCP nomination. Toor was the Wildrose Party candidate in the 2016 by-election and 2015 general election in Calgary-Greenway.
Calgary-Foothills: UCP members in this district will vote to choose their candidate on July 14, 2018. Former Calgary-Hawkwood PC MLA Jason Luan and federal Conservative political staffer Connor Staus are seeking the nomination.
Calgary-McCall – Jangbahadur Sidhu is seeking the UCP nomination.
Calgary-North – Tanis Fiss, Manpreet Sidhu and Muhammed Yassen are seeking the UCP nomination.
Calgary-Peigan – Andrew Griffin has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest. Griffin has previously worked as a constituency assistant for Kenney.
Calgary-Varsity – Beth Barberree has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate. Barberree was the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Hawkwood in the 2015 election. Grace Lane is seeking the UCP nomination.
Red Deer-South – Ryan McDougall has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.
St Albert – Rodney Laliberte is seeking the UCP nomination. Laine Matoga was withdrawn his name from the UCP nomination contest.t
Sherwood Park – Sue Timanson has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate. Timanson ran for the PC nomination in Sherwood Park in 2012 and 2015, and she is a former regional director of the PC Party.
Strathcona-SherwoodPark – Robb Connelly will challenge former PC MLA Dave Quest for the Alberta Party nomination in this district east of Edmonton.
If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will add them to the list. Thank you!
Photo: Alberta political party nomination candidates: Mike Walsh, Stephanie McLean, Leela Aheer and Craig Coolahan.
Here is the latest update to the list of candidates running for political party nominations ahead of Alberta’s expected 2019 provincial general election:
Calgary-Buffalo: Megan Brown is seeking the United Conservative Party nomination int his downtown Calgary district. Brown is the executive director of Common Sense Calgary, a conservative municipal political group with strong ties to Preston Manning’s Manning Centre. She ran as the Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-Elbow in the 2015 election.
Calgary-Klein: MLA Craig Coolahan is seeking the NDP nomination. Coolahan was first elected in 2015, defeating two-term PC MLA Kyle Fawcett by 3,220 votes.
Calgary-Falconridge: Calgary realtor Pete de Jong is seeking the UCP nomination.
Calgary-North: City of Calgary lawyer Paul Frank is seeking the UCP nomination. Frank previous ran for the federal Conservative Party nominations in Calgary-Rocky Ridge in 2014 and Calgary-Heritage in 2017. He also ran as an Independent candidate in Alberta’s 2012 Senator-in-Waiting election.
Calgary-Varsity: MLA Stephanie McLean is seeking the NDP nomination. McLean was first elected in 2015 and currently serves as Minister of Status of Women and Minister of Service Alberta.
Chestermere-Strathmore: MLA Leela Aheer is seeking the UCP nomination in this newly redrawn metro Calgary district. Aheer was first elected as a Wlidrose MLA in the Chesteremere-Rockyview district in 2015.
Edmonton-City Centre: LGBTQ activist Dylan Chevalier is seeking the Liberal Party nomination in this downtown Edmonton district. The area was represented by Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman from 1997 until 2015, when she was unseated by New Democrat David Shepherd.
Edmonton-West Henday: MLA Jon Carson is seeking the NDP nomination in this newly redrawn west Edmonton district. Carson was first elected in 2015 in the Edmonton-Meadowlark district. In 2016, Carson introduced a private members bill intended to enhance consumer protection for automobile repairs.
Innisfail-Sylvan Lake: Mike Walsh is seeking the UCP nomination in this central Alberta district. Walsh is the former president of the now-defunct Progressive Conservative association and is currently serving his second term on Penhold Town Council. The district is currently represented by former Wildrose and current UCP MLA Don MacIntyre (known for his climate-change denying views).
Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright: Lloydminster-based financial advisor Garth Rowswell is seeking the UCP nomination. Rowswell served as campaign manager for Wildrose candidate Danny Hozak in the 2015 election and he is currently the secretary of the local UCP association.
If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at email@example.com. I will add them to the list.
Some Progressive Conservative Party supporters are privately expressing frustration with the decision by Premier Jim Prentice and his cabinet ministers to openly campaign and endorse incumbent PC MLAs and Wildrose floor crossers facing nomination challenges. One PC member who contacted this blogger described it as a missed opportunity to renew the PC government with new blood.
Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater: Colin Piquette, son of former New Democratic Party MLA Leo Piquette, is seeking the NDP nomination. Mr. Piquette was the 2001 NDP candidate in the former Athabasca-Wabasca constituency, where he placed third with 9.5% of the vote.
Banff-Cochrane: First-term PC MLA Ron Casey has been acclaimed as his party’s candidate. Registered Nurse Cameron Westhead has also been acclaimed as the NDP candidate in this constituency.
Calgary-Buffalo: Lawyer Kathleen Ganley is seeking the NDP nomination in this downtown Calgary constituency. Buffalo is currently represented by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, who is leaving provincial politics to run for the federal Liberals in Calgary-Centre.
Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill: Past city council candidate Richard Poon is seeking the PC nomination. Also challenging incumbent PC MLA Neil Brown are Ako Ufodike and Gary Milan.
Calgary-Mountain View: Christopher McMillan and instructional designer Mirical MacDonald are seeking the NDP nomination. Mr. McMillan was the NDP candidate in this constituency in the 2012 election, when he earned 5% of the vote.
Calgary-Shaw: Brad Leishman has been acclaimed as the Wildrose candidate in this south Calgary constituency.
Calgary-Varsity: Lawyer Susan Billington is seeking the PC nomination. Ms. Billington is a mediator and Municipal Councillor for the Kananaskis Improvement District. She is also the wife of Richard Billington, a well-known Calgary Tory who challenged Joan Crockatt for the federal Conservative nomination in Calgary-Centre in 2012. Her son Jim was a staffer on Mr. Prentice’s PC leadership campaign and now works as Chief of Staff to Minister of Culture and Tourism Maureen Kubinec.
Cypress-Medicine Hat: Bev Waege was acclaimed as the NDP candidate.
Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley: Marg McCuaig Boyd is seeking the NDP nomination in this northwest rural Alberta constituency. Ms. McCuaig Boyd served as Vice-President Fairview for Grande Prairie Regional College from 2009 until 2013 and was a teacher and administrator with the Peace River School Division for more than 20 years.
Most of the area included in this constituency was represented by NDP leader and MLA Grant Notley from 1971 until 1984. Mr. Notley is the father of current NDP leader Rachel Notley.
Edmonton-Castle Downs: Former Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk has been acclaimed as the PC candidate in this north Edmonton constituency. Mr. Lukaszuk was first elected in 2001 and served in cabinet until he ran for the PC leadership in 2014.
Edmonton-Meadowlark: Jon Carson is seeking the NDP nomination in this west Edmonton constituency.
Edmonton-Mill Woods: Past city council candidate Roberto Maglalang is seeking the Liberal nomination. In 2013, Mr. Maglalang finished with 2.8% of the vote in southeast Edmonton’s Ward 11.
Grande Prairie-Smoky: Todd Loewen has been acclaimed as the Wildrose candidate. As his party’s candidate in 2012, Mr. Loewen earned 41% of the vote.
Innisfail-Sylvan Lake: Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Kerry Towle defeated Red Deer County mayor Jim Wood for the PC nomination. In 2012, Mr. Wood had endorsed former MLA Luke Ouellette, who was defeated by Ms. Towle in that year’s election.
Leduc-Beaumont: Shayne Anderson has been acclaimed as the NDP candidate.
Lacombe-Ponoka: Doug Hart has been acclaimed as the NDP candidate. Mr. Hart earned 10% of the vote as the NDP candidate in this constituency in the 2012 election.
Lethbridge-East: Legal counsel Tammy Perlich defeated former Lethbridge County reeve Lorne Hickey. This was Mr. Hickey’s second attempt at securing the PC nomination in Lethbridge-East.
Livingstone-MacLeod: Aileen Burke was acclaimed as the NDP candidate. Ms. Burke was the NDP candidate in the 2014 federal by-election in Macleod, where she earned 4.2% of the vote.
Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills: Central Alberta rancher Glenn Norman has been acclaimed as the NDP candidate. Mr. Norman has been described as a “vocal member” of the Alberta Surface Rights Federation and in 2009 was a spokesman for the Pine Lake Surface Rights Action Group.
Peace River: Debbie Jabbour has been acclaimed as the NDP candidate.
Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Sean Weatherall is seeking the NDP nomination.
Sherwood Park: Community Engagement consultant and social planner Annie McKitrick has been acclaimed as the NDP candidate. Ms. McKitrick is also nominated as the federal NDP candidate in the new Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan riding.
Strathmore-Brooks: Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Jason Hale announced he is retiring from provincial politics. Mr. Hale, show was first elected in 2012, faced a nomination challenge from County of Newell Reeve Molly Douglass.
I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.
From Lethbridge to Rimbey and Peace River to Cochrane, here is your Saturday morning candidate nomination update:
Airdrie: Mayor of Airdrie Peter Brownannounced this week that he will seek the Progressive Conservative nomination. Mr. Brown was first elected Mayor in 2010. The constituency is currently represented by PC-turned-Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Rob Anderson, who announced his retirement from politics this month.
Banff-Cochrane: Scott Wagner has been nominated as the Wildrose candidate. In 2014, Mr. Wagner made an unsuccessful bid for the federal Conservative Party nomination to run in the Macleod by-election. During that campaign he issued criticized now-MP John Barlow and calling for a judicial inquiry into allegations that RCMP seized privately owned firearms during the High River floods of 2013.
Calgary-Buffalo: Well-known arts community member Terry Rock will seek the PC nomination. The constituency is currently represented by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, who is the nominated federal Liberal candidate in Calgary-Centre and is not expected to seek re-election as MLA.
Calgary-Currie: First-term PC MLA Christine Cusanelli announced on Facebook that she will seek re-election. Ms. Cusanelli served as Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation for less than a year before an Olympic travel spending scandal led to her demotion to the backbencher. She is expected to face a challenge for the PC nomination.
Calgary-East: Ali Waissi is the Wildrose candidate in this constituency. In 2012, he was campaign manager for controversial Calgary-Greenway Wildrose candidate Ron Leech. The NDP are expected to choose Robyn Luff as their candidate at a Feb. 8, 2015 nomination meeting. Ms. Luff earned 8.73% of the vote as the NDP candidate in 2012 (her party’s second strongest showing in Calgary in that election).
Calgary-Glenmore: Chris Kemp-Jackson is the Wildrose candidate in this constituency. Mr. Kemp-Jackson is a business and immigration consultant.
Calgary-Hawkwood: The Wildrose have chosen lawyer and constituency association president Jae Shim as their candidate.
Calgary-Klein: Feb 8 Craig Coolahanis expected to be chosen as the NDP candidate at a Feb. 8, 2015 nomination meeting. Mr. Coolahan is a Business Representative with the United Utility Workers’ Association and was the 2012 NDP candidate in Calgary-Elbow.
Calgary-Lougheed: Two-time Mount Everest climber Dave Rodney will seek the PC nomination. Mr. Rodney has also served as the PC MLA for this constituency since 2004.
Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill: Retired police officer Kathy Macdonald has been nominated as the Wildrose candidate in this constituency. In 2014, Ms. Macdonald challenged Premier Jim Prentice as the Wildrose candidate in the Calgary-Foothills by-election.
Calgary-Mountain View: Three-term Liberal MLA David Swann is expected to announce his plans to seek re-election. The Liberals have scheduled a nomination meeting on February 20, 2015. Jean-Sebastien Rioux announced he will seek the PC nomination. Mr. Rioux is the Director, Master of Public Policy program, and Associate Director, International Policy at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy. He also served as Chief of Staff to Mr. Prentice when he was a cabinet minister in Ottawa.
Edmonton-Decore: Two-term PC MLA Janice Sarich announced she will seek her party’s nomination for re-election.
Edmonton-Whitemud: Health Minister Stephen Mandel is expected to seek the PC nomination for re-election. Mr. Mandel was first elected to the Assembly in a by-election in September 2014.
Grande Prairie-Wapiti: PC MLA Wayne Drysdale announced on Facebook that he plans to run for re-election. Mr. Drysdale was first elected in 2008.
Innisfail-Sylvan Lake: Mayor of Red Deer County Jim Woodannounced that he will challenge Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Kerry Towle for the PC nomination. During the 2012 election, Mr. Wood endorsed PC MLA Luke Ouellette, who was unseated by Ms. Towle in the Wildrose sweep of central and southern Alberta. Following that election, he raised concerns about how the PC Government would treat rural Alberta constituencies represented by opposition MLAs.
Peace River: Energy Minister Frank Oberle announced on Facebook that he plans to seek the PC nomination and re-election.
Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: ATB employee Tammy Cote is seeking the PC nomination and may face a challenge from current Independent MLA Joe Anglin. Ms. Cote is the grand-niece of former PC MLA and lieutenant-governor Helen Hunley.
Spruce Grove-St. Albert: Jaye Walter has been nominated as the Wildrose candidate in Spruce Grove-St. Albert. Previous to this nomination he had been seeking to become the candidate in the St. Albert constituency.
I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.
Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to introduce legislation, like Manitoba’s and Ontario’s, requiring all school boards to develop policies to support students who want to lead and establish gay-straight alliance activities and organizations, using any name that is consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive, welcoming, and respectful for all students regardless of sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
It was a simple motion introduced on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly on April 7, 2014 that would help create safer environments for students in schools. Nineteen Liberal, New Democrat, and Progressive Conservative MLAs voted in favour of the motion, but it failed after 31 PC and Wildrose MLAs stood up and voted against it.
Motion 503, introduced by Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr, was not a piece of binding legislation, it was a symbolic message of that all students, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, can be welcomed and accepted in Alberta’s education system.
Creating safe and supportive environments for all students, including LGBTQ youth who may face discrimination in and outside of school, should be something that is encouraged by MLAs.
Mr. Hehr’s motion undoubtably would have made some social conservatives uncomfortable, but it would have ultimately helped drag some of Alberta’s more stodgy school boards into the 21st century. The motion would not have forced any school board to form student-led gay-straight alliances, but it would have compelled the elected boards to accept the existence of the groups if students in their schools chose to organize them.
Passage of this motion would have sent a strong message that tolerance and acceptance are priorities Alberta’s provincial legislators.
Missing from the vote were Premier Dave Hancock and NDP leader Brian Mason, who both later said they would have voted in favour had they been in the Assembly. Wildrose opposition leader Danielle Smith was not present for the vote and it is not clear if she would have voted differently than her party’s MLAs.
The divided PC government caucus also missed an opportunity to send a clear message that they embrace 21st century values by singling out the opposition Wildrose as the only party to unanimously vote against the motion – and remind Albertans of the infamous Lake of Fire. And for the Wildrose, a vote for the motion, even by one or two of that party’s MLAs, would have done a lot of demonstrate the party is more moderate on social issues than its opponents claim.
In total, 36 MLAs were absent from the vote (minus the Speaker, who abstains from votes of the Assembly).
Voted in Favour: 19
Deron Bilous (NDP)
Laurie Blakeman (LIB)
Neil Brown (PC)
Pearl Calahasen (PC)
Cal Dallas (PC)
Alana DeLong (PC)
David Eggen (NDP)
Kyle Fawcett (PC)
Kent Hehr (LIB)
Ken Hughes (PC)
Sandra Jansen (PC)
Heather Klimchuk (PC)
Jason Luan (PC)
Thomas Luksazuk (PC)
Rachel Notley (NDP)
Don Scott (PC)
Raj Sherman (LIB)
David Swann (LIB)
Teresa Woo-Paw (PC)
Voted against: 31
Moe Amery (PC)
Rob Anderson (WR)
Drew Barnes (WR)
Gary Bikman (WR)
Robin Campbell (PC)
Ron Casey (PC)
Christine Cusanelli (PC)
Ian Donovan (WR)
David Dorward (PC)
Wayne Drysdale (PC)
Jacquie Fenske (PC)
Rick Fraser (PC)
Yvonne Fritz (PC)
Hector Goudreau (PC)
Jeff Johnson (PC)
Linda Johnson (PC)
Maureen Kubinec (PC)
Genia Leskiw (PC)
Bruce McAllister (WR)
Everett McDonald (PC)
Diana McQueen (PC)
Frank Oberle (PC)
Bridget Pastoor (PC)
Dave Rodney (PC)
Bruce Rowe (WR)
Shayne Saskiw (WR)
Richard Starke (PC)
Rick Strankman (WR)
Kerry Towle (WR)
George VanderBurg (PC)
Greg Weadick (PC)
After spending two months avoiding having to pay the costs of her $45,000 trip to South Africa, Premier Alison Redford called a press conference late yesterday to announce she would reimburse the government for costs of sending herself and her executive assistant Brad Stables to South Africa in December 2013.
Ms. Redford argued that because she had apologized for the cost of the South Africa trip, Albertans were ready to forgive her, even if she did not repay the cost. Recent polls showing the premier with a 20% approval rating suggested otherwise.
Responding to their leader’s dwindling popularity, Progressive Conservative MLAs have pushed back. Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber announced today that he was leaving the PC caucus to sit as an Independent, citing Ms. Redford’s record as the reason for his departure. There is little love between the premier and this MLA, who is currently campaigning to become the federal Conservative candidate in Calgary-Confederation.
“I hope this will be a catalyst, a domino effect and that others will follow to have the premier gone,” Mr. Webber told the Calgary Herald.
Rumours about disgruntled MLAs have been circulating for months, but today, news reports suggest that up to 18 or 20 PC MLAs were ready to revolt against the premier. Feeding these rumours was the noticeable absence of Labour minister Thomas Lukaszuk from this week’s big LRT funding announcement, at which he was the only Edmonton-area PC MLA not in attendance.
Feeding the unrest is the obvious double standard Ms. Redford held between herself and her party’s MLAs. More than a few PC MLAs were insulted by Ms. Redford’s decision during the last election to force them to pay out of pocket for payments received from the infamous no-meet committee. And in February 2013, Ms. Redford fired Calgary MLA Christine Cusanelli from cabinet after another travel expenses scandal, even though she had immediately repaid the cost before the story became public.
Ms. Redford’s own MLAs may be more eager to see her depart than the opposition. While Wildrose leader Danielle Smith is never hesitant to criticize Ms. Redford, her party is hoping the premier’s scandals will cause irreparable damage to the PC Party brand before the next election. A new leader would force the opposition to build a new strategy and the give the PC Party an opportunity to reinvent itself before the 2016 election.
Will paying the costs of the South Africa trip be enough to save Ms. Redford’s political career? It might, but it also might also be too little, too late. Albertans will applaud her decision to pay back the costs of this trip, but they might not easily forget how much pressure it took to convince Ms. Redford to write the cheque.
On March 22, 2013, Ms. Redford traveled on a government plane with her daughter, a political assistant and a member of her security detail from Calgary to Vancouver. In the public flight manifests, the purpose of the trip is listed as “attend meeting(s) with government officials.” If Ms. Redford was attending to government business in Vancouver as the manifest states, it is unclear why, almost a year later, she has decided to pay the costs of the flight.
The government airplane, and presumably its government-employed pilots, parked at Vancouver International Airport until Monday, March 25, 2013, when fight records show they returned to Alberta with the premier, her daughter and her entourage.
The premier has asked Finance minister Doug Horner to “find greater cost efficiencies” in government travel expenses, and has also referred the matter to Auditor General Merwan Saher.
Involving the Auditor General accomplishes two important public relations objectives: first, it allows the government to deflect questions from the media until the AG reports back, and second, it means the opposition cannot ask questions about Ms. Redford’s travel expenses in Question Period until the AG reports back.
As Ms. Redford appears to be the only MLA involved in this scandal, it is unclear who else the Auditor General will investigate.
The airplane scandal comes to light as a new poll shows Alberta’s long-governing Progressive Conservatives at an all-time low of 25% support province-wide and Ms. Redford with a 20% approval rating.
Meanwhile, leaked emails show Tory organizers were forced to delay the launch of the new “PC Legacy Fund” after it failed to sign up enough PC MLAs and party officials to contribute to the fundraising program.
This latest turbulence begs the question: can Ms. Redford’s leadership survive, and, who stands to gain the most if she crashes and burns?
Mr. Khan’s time in cabinet was largely seen as reserved and underwhelming. Ms. Cusanelli caused an unwelcome stir when she was forced to repay the government $10,600 for expenses made in her first five months in office, including $4,000 in airfare to have her daughter and mother join her at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, United Kingdom. She was also given the unenviable task of defending the government’s large line of hospitality expenses at the London Games.
Ms. Cusanelli’s ministerial office was recently shuffled with the hiring of Chief of Staff Tammy Forbes, who previously served as the Premier’s media liaison, and press secretary Andrew Fisher, who previously served as Chief of Staff.
Replacing Mr. Khan is Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who has been operating without an official cabinet portfolio since before last year’s election. First-term MLA Richard Starke, representing Vermilion-Lloydminster, has been tapped to replace Ms. Cusanelli as Minister of Tourism.
Minister Starke’s constituency has a long history of electing MLAs who later served as cabinet ministers.
First to the Tory cabinet was Lloydminster MLA Bud Miller served as the Minister of Public Lands and Wildlife in Premier Peter Lougheed‘s cabinet from 1979 to 1982.
Directly preceding Minister Starke was Lloyd Snelgrove, who was MLA from 2001 to 2012 and served in a number of portfolios during Premier Ed Stelmach‘s time in office, including a period of Minister of Finance. Citing irreconcilable differences, Mr. Snelgrove left the PC caucus to sit as an Independent MLA following Premier Redford’s successful leadership bid.
Preceding Mr. Snelgrove was Steve West, who served as the constituency’s MLA from 1986 to 2001 and served in a number of cabinet portfolios during Premier Ralph Klein‘s time in office, including Minister of Finance.
(Judging from historical trends, you might think there is a good chance that Minister Starke could one day be Minister of Finance).
After staff departures, former Ontario-based political operatives hold two top roles in Alberta Premier’s Office.
Last week it was announced that Jay O’Neill is departing his job as Director Communications under Premier Alison Redford‘s. Although Mr. O’Neill only joined the Premier’s office in late 2011, it is not uncommon for individuals to only fill these types positions for a short period of time.
Four other staff left or announced their departures from Premier Redford’s communications office over the past few months, perhaps a result of internal pressure to change direction and take a more aggressive approach towards political communications in 2013.
Tammy Forbes left her job as the Premier’s Communications Liaison Manager to become Chief of Staff to embattled Tourism Parks and Recreation Minister Christine Cusanelli.Minister Cusanelli faced harsh criticism before the Christmas break when she was forced to repay the government $10,600 for expenses racked up in her first five months in office, including a $4,000 airfare charge to have her daughter and mother fly with her to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, United Kingdom.
Before joining the Premier’s office in 2011, Ms. Forbes was director of communications in the Department of Transportation.
Two other departing staff have jumped from their political jobs to roles in the public service. Tracy Balash has left the Premier’s Communications Office to become the Executive Director of Communications Planning in the Public Affairs Bureau (PAB). As noted in a recent Globe & Mail article, the PAB is in a period of transition after the retirement of Kathy Lazowski, its executive director of strategic communications.
The Premier’s Issues Manager Nikki Booth is now the Acting Issues Manager (Communications) in the Department of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.
Kim Misik, the Premier’s press secretary, also announced that she will be leaving her position.
Social Media Manager Mike Jenkinson remains the longest serving member of the Premier’s team, having started in the office during Ed Stelmach‘s premiership.
It is suspected that not all of these vacant positions in the Communications office will be filled. Some sources suggest that the Premier’s office may increase their reliance on consultants from outside political and communications companies to fill the gap.
“The Redford government spent more than half a million dollars on its trip to the London Olympics earlier this year, including about $113,000 in hotel rooms that were not used…” – Edmonton Journal reporter Keith Gerein
I understand the value of sending cabinet ministers on these trips to promote our province abroad and I generally believe it is in our best interest, but there reaches a certain point when return on investment needs to be demonstrated.
Over the past eleven months, Premier Redford, cabinet ministers, and backbench Tory MLAs have traveled extensively on government business. The trips have taken Alberta Government officials to five continents and more than twelve countries, including numerous trips to Washington DC, New York, and Hong Kong.
Can the online campaign 1 Calgary Centre succeed in its goal to unite (or crowd-surf) progressive voters behind one candidate in the impending Calgary-Centre by-election? It is not impossible, but it is improbable.
The existence of a Naheed Nenshi, Linda Duncan, or Chima Nkemdirim style of candidate who progressive voters could unite behind could make Conservative organizers lose some sleep, but that candidate has yet to emerge and the December 4 deadline for the by-election to be called is quickly approaching. Much like the failure of the Democratic Renewal Project to unite parties on the provincial level, the reality of deep-rooted partisan associations driven by personalities who are committed to both brand and ideological are large challenges facing any group wanting to unite non-Conservative voters in this country.
Some supporters of the online 1 Calgary Centre movement have looked past the large plurality of votes earned by Conservative candidates in recent elections and point to the unlikely election of Joe Clark in the 2000 federal election. Keep in mind that Mr. Clark was no ordinary candidate. Mr. Clark was a former Prime Minister, senior cabinet minister, leader of the national Progressive Conservative Party, and he benefited from national profile, a televised leaders’ debate, and broad and diverse team of organizers in Calgary-Centre. Even with all this, he still only barely unseated Canadian Alliance Member of Parliament Eric Lowther. Mr. Clark was also a Conservative.
So perhaps Mr. Clark is not the best example. Of course, the by-election campaign has yet to officially begin and the final decision remains in the hands of voters in Calgary-Centre.
As the Conservative candidate in a riding that has only elected Conservative MPs since 1965, Ms. Crockatt is the safe bet to win (former Mayor Harry Hays was elected as a Liberal in 1963 when this riding was part of the larger Calgary-South riding). But being the safe bet does not always ensure a smooth road to victory, especially when said candidate has a somewhat controversial political past.
A number of provincial PC supporters have voiced frustration with Mr. Crockatt’s politics and her tacit support of Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party in the recent provincial election. A number of prominent provincial PCs, including Tourism Minister Christine Cusanelli, campaigned for Ms. Crockatt’s challengers in the Conservative nomination contest.
On September 22, the Liberal Party will be holding its nomination meeting to select a by-election candidate. The three approved candidates seeking this nomination are educator and TEDxCalgary co-founder Rahim Sajan, lawyer and conservationist Harvey Locke, and businessman Drew Atkins. A fourth candidate, who I understand has yet to be approved by party central, is Steve Turner.
Chatter on Twitter last week suggested that political spin-master Stephen Carter was involved in the campaign of Mr. Atkins, which turned out to be a false rumours. Both Mr. Lovett and Mr. Carter were involved in Mr. Clark’s successful Calgary-Centre campaign in 2000.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May was in Calgary earlier this month to congratulate popular local author Chris Turner on his acclamation as the Green Party candidate. An award-winning author, Mr. Turner is the co-founder of CivicCamp and was a board member of Sustainable Calgary from 2008 to 2011. Oil City might not seem like prosperous territory for the Green Party, but I would not be surprised to see Mr. Turner do well when the ballots are counted.
Past provincial New Democrat candidate Brian Malkinson is the first candidate to publicly announce he is seeking the yet to be scheduled federal NDP nomination. Running as the NDP candidate in Calgary-North West in the 2012 provincial election, Mr. Malkinson earned 3.17% of the vote. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was expected to attend an NDP fundraiser in Calgary on September 21, but the event has been postponed. He will be in Edmonton this weekend for the annual conference of provincial New Democrats.
The Greatest Show on Earth, also known as the Calgary Stampede, kicked-off celebrating its 100th anniversary this weekend. Between the chuck wagons and rodeo clowns, politicians off all stripes will drop into Calgary over the next week to kiss babies and grill pancakes.
The bleeding of large portions of the PC Party’s rural social conservative wing to Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party in the April 2011 election could be a blessing for Premier Redford and her government. Keeping the Wildrose Party electorally contained in the rural south and central regions of the province, while focusing on issues that will appeal to the rapidly growing and diverse urban populations in Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Calgary, Edmonton could be a solid strategy to provide a more forward-looking government agenda and preserve the PC Party’s electoral dominance in the coming decades.
In the three years leading into this year’s election, the Wildrose proved extremely successful in using wedge issues like property rights and the construction of electrical transmission lines to drive traditional PC voters in rural southern and central Alberta constituencies into their electoral camp. If they have not already, the PC brain trust should take note of similar strategies that will keep the Wildrose Party at bay in urban centres.
No longer forced to appease a more conservative rural base of MLAs and supporters, Premier Redford has an opportunity to lead a new urban agenda for Alberta, especially with the urban-based Liberal and NDP opposition pushed to the margins. With potential strong allies in Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, Premier Redford could make strides on issues like reinvesting in Alberta’s Heritage Fund and investing in urban public transit and transportation infrastructure.
If expected patterns of population growth continue, it is the urban areas which will receive additional constituencies in the Alberta Legislature when the boundaries are redistributed.
Alison Redford – Premier
Thomas Lukaszuk – Deputy Premier
Doug Horner – Minister of Finance & President of Treasury Board
Dave Hancock – Minister of Human Services
Cal Dallas – Minister of International & Intergovernmental Relations
Diana McQueen – Minister of Environment & Sustainable Resource Development
Fred Horne – Minister of Health
Ken Hughes – Minister of Energy
Jeff Johnson – Minister of Education
Verlyn Olson – Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
Jonathan Denis – Minister of Justice & Solicitor General
Doug Griffiths – Minister of Municipal Affairs
Robin Campbell – Minister of Aboriginal Relations
Heather Klimchuk – Minister of Culture
Manmeet Bhullar – Minister of Service Alberta
Wayne Drysdale – Minister of Infrastructure
Stephen Khan – Minister of Enterprise & Advanced Education
Ric McIver – Minister of Transportation
Christine Cusanelli – Minster of Tourism, Parks, and Recreation