It’s been a pretty busy week in Alberta politics, so I joined Chris Brown from the Cross Border Interviews Podcast for a chat about Premier Danielle Smith‘s first week in office and the fallout from the United Conservative Party leadership race. You can watch it on the YouTube embed above.
I also published a new column on the Daveberta Substack about the challenges facing Smith in the short 7-months ahead of the next provincial election. Thank you to everyone who has subscribed. If you like what you’re reading at Substack please feel free to share it with your friends.
Chris Brown and I discuss the last month in the United Conservative Party leadership race, Danielle Smith’s unexpected rise to the top, and how a Smith led UCP will do against Notley’s NDP in 2023 (or sooner) on the latest episode of the Cross Border Interviews Podcast.
Watch the interview here:
Subscribe and listen to Chris Brown’s Cross Border Podcast on Apple and Spotify.
It appears that the UCP will allow Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner to enter the leadership race, if she chooses, even though she has not had a current party membership for the full past six months as required (there is no doubt she is a committed Conservative partisan).
A similar request for an exemption by former Liberal Party leader Raj Shermanwas denied.
Kenney’s caretaker cabinet shuffle
Outgoing Premier Jason Kenney announced a cabinet shuffle to fill in the spots left by ministers leaving to run in the race to replace him.
Changes to the caretaker cabinet, which will be in place until a new Premier takes office after the October 6 UCP leadership vote, include:
Minister of Environment and Parks and Acting President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Jason Nixon becomes President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance.
Associate Minister of Status of Women Whitney Issik becomes Minister of Environment and Parks.
Calgary-South East MLA Matt Jones becomes Minister of Children’s Services.
Minister of Infrastructure Prasad Panda becomes Minister of Transportation.
Calgary-Currie MLA Nicholas Milliken becomes Minister of Infrastructure.
Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville MLA Jackie Armstrong Homeniuk becomes the Associate Minister of Status of Women.
Deputy Government Whip Brad Rutherford becomes Chief Government Whip and Minister without Portfolio.
Unsurprisingly, everyone on the list is considered a loyalist, and a few, notably Issik, Milliken, and Rutherford, are considered vulnerable to strong NDP challenges in the next election.
Issik, Jones and Armstrong Homeniuk have publicly endorsed former finance minister Travis Toews for the UCP leadership, who is widely considered the establishment favourite in the race.
Former MLA Danielle Larivee announced this morning that she is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in the Lesser Slave Lake riding.
“Our communities have really suffered from poor representation since 2019,” Larivee said in a press release. “I’ve lived in Slave Lake for over 40 years, and the people of Lesser Slave Lake are like family to me. I’m ready to get back to spending time with and listening to people across the constituency so that I can be a strong voice for our families and communities.”
“Our public healthcare system is not safe in the hands of Kenney and the UCP. They keep moving forward with privatizing our public health care, they attacked the frontline instead of supporting it, with little care for the crisis they have created. I am prepared to fight for high quality public healthcare instead of dismantling it.”
She was unseated in the 2019 election by United Conservative Party candidate Pat Rehn. Rehn was a relatively unknown backbencher until he gained national attention in January 2021 after flying to Mexico for a hot holiday in contravention of the provincial government’s COVID-19 public health recommendations.
The entire town council of Slave Lake, the largest municipality in the riding, called on him to resign for being an absentee MLA and being unwilling to live or spend time in the region since he was elected. The letter also alleged that he spent “more physical time managing his business in Texas” than being physically present in the constituency.
Rehn was soon after removed from the UCP Caucus and Premier Jason Kenney declared that he would not be allowed to run as a UCP candidate in the next election. But in July 2021 he was quietly allowed to rejoin the UCP Caucus. It is widely suspected he was allowed back in the government caucus so that he would not be tempted to join Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen in a breakaway caucus of former UCP MLAs.
On a recent episode of the Cross Border Interview Podcast, host Chris Brown speculated that Town of Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman could run for the UCP nomination in the riding. Warman was a vocal critic of Rehn and one of the many municipal leaders who called on him to resign.
The NDP are scheduled to hold the nomination meeting in Lesser Slave Lake on March 13, 2022.
The NDP also have nomination meetings scheduled in Calgary-North East on February 17, 2022 (Gurinder Brar is expected to be acclaimed), Calgary-Elbow on March 5 (Samir Kayande is expected to be nominated), Calgary-Bhullar-McCall on March 10, (where MLA Irfan Sabir is expected to be acclaimed) and in Calgary-Klein on March 26, 2022 (a contested nomination between Heather Eddy and Mattie McMillan).
We covered a lot of ground, including the recent scandal involving Edmonton-South West United Conservative Party MLA Kaycee Madu, the leadership challenges faced by Premier Jason Kenney, the role of Brian Jean in the upcoming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election, and the most likely paths to victory for Kenney and Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley in 2023.