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Alberta Politics

UCP backbenchers revolt against mild public health restrictions as COVID third wave hits Alberta

New cases of COVID-19 are on the rise and the third wave of the global pandemic is hitting Alberta, but that did not deter a group of nearly 20 United Conservative Party MLAs from publicly speaking out against the provincial government’s implementation of mild public health restrictions in response.

Like the virus, the group of COVID critics inside the UCP Caucus has grown exponentially from the original six-pack of MLAs who publicly spoke out against public health measures at the beginning of March. The public letter signed by 15 UCP MLAs criticized Premier Jason Kenney for moving back to Step 1 of the province’s mild public health measures in response to the spike in new cases, which is largely a result of a vicious new variant of the deadly virus.

The group of 15 includes Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper, who made an unusual move for a Speaker of the Assembly to publicly criticize the government, and already open COVID critics Drew Barnes and Angela Pitt, who recently split from the national End the Lockdown Caucus after Ontario MPP Randy Hillier posted a social media meme comparing public health restrictions to the Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. The UCP group also includes Tracy Allard, whose Christmas vacation to Hawaii cost her her job of Municipal Affairs Minister.

The letter signed by the 15 MLAs was soon after endorsed by Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright MLA Garth Rowswell and West Yellowhead MLA Martin Long, who also serves as the parliamentary secretary for small business. Also signalling support for the letter’s intentions was Calgary Member of Parliament Michelle Rempel-Garner, who serves as the Official Opposition Health Critic in Ottawa.

Peace River MLA Dan Williams, a long-time Kenney acolyte from Ottawa, did not endorse the letter but posted a video on social media criticizing the decision by Alberta Health Services to close down the rebel GraceLife Church, which had been holding in-person services in defiance of the government’s public health orders. He was joined in this call by Ontario MP Derek Sloan, who was kicked out of the federal Conservative caucus for his extreme social conservative views.

Active COVID-19 cases in Alberta (chart from @CBCFletch on Twitter)
Active COVID-19 cases in Alberta (chart from @CBCFletch on Twitter)

That the leaders of the UCP caucus mutiny appear to largely be from the former Wildrose caucus, or Wildrose-wing of the party, is not surprising. The former opposition party was notoriously raucous and unwilling to bow to the kind of centralized party leadership that Kenney would have become accustomed to during his many years in Ottawa.

It was also clear during Kenney’s press conference on Tuesday that he expected a negative reaction from his caucus. A significant portion of Kenney’s lecture was dedicated to managing MLAs expectations and acknowledging the differences of opinion in his caucus. Difference of opinion is one thing, but this is something entirely different.

The public health restrictions that Alberta fell back to earlier this week are nothing close to what restrictions have looked like in jurisdictions that have actually implemented lockdowns. Alberta schools are still open for in-person classes, and Albertans can still gather with up to 10 people outside, go shopping for non-essential items, get a haircut or a massage, dine or have drinks on a restaurant patio, and exercise at a gym with a personal trainer.

Jason Kenney
Premier Jason Kenney on April 6, 2021.

There is no doubt a lot of Albertans are frustrated about how the provincial government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Kenney government has not helped itself by releasing a string of confusing and inconsistent public health measures and messaging to Albertans about the government’s response.

While public opinion polling suggests many Albertans would like the government to impose stronger measures to stop the spread of the deadly virus, there is a loud minority who want to see the current restrictions lifted.

It is yet to be seen whether the revolt will extend beyond this strongly worded letter, but there is little doubt these MLAs are actively undermining the work being done by public health professionals and health care workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The caucus revolt is probably a reflection of deepening regional and partisan divides in Alberta, with most of the COVID Caucus MLAs representing largely rural and small town districts. It is notable that no UCP MLAs from Calgary, so far the hardest hit in the third wave, have publicly joined the revolt.

It also suggests that the United Conservative Party is not as united as its leader would like Albertans to believe.

Kenney’s personal approval ratings and support for his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic plummeted over the past 13 months, and his party has floundered in the polls, finishing behind Rachel Notley’s NDP in a handful of recent voter opinion polls. The rise of the separatist Wildrose Independence Party in rural Alberta has some backbench UCP MLAs nervously looking over their right shoulders.

In some ways, the revolt probably serves as a welcome distraction to some in the UCP from the never ending string of scandals and policy failures, most recently the failure to stop the Carbon Tax at the Supreme Court, the loss of $1.5 billion of public money when the Keystone XL Pipeline was cancelled, the failure to sign a new contract with Alberta doctors, the retreat on open-pit coal mining, and the open rebellion by parents against the draft K-6 curriculum.

Under normal circumstances it would be hard to believe that this kind of caucus revolt would happen on a day when more than 1,300 new cases of COVID were reported and doctors are calling for a circuit breaker response, but in today’s world of Alberta politics, it would be harder to believe this would happen if the UCP were not floundering so deeply in the polls.

The original 15 UCP MLAs who signed the letter

  • Tracy Allard, MLA Grande Prairie
  • Drew Barnes, MLA Cypress-Medicine Hat
  • Nathan Cooper, MLA Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills
  • Michaela Glasgo, MLA Brooks-Medicine Hat
  • Dave Hanson, MLA Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul
  • Nate Horner, MLA Drumheller-Stettler
  • Todd Loewen, MLA Central Peace-Notley
  • Ron Orr, MLA Lacombe-Ponoka
  • Angela Pitt, MLA Airdrie-East
  • Roger Reid, MLA Livingstone-Macleod
  • Miranda Rosin, MLA Banff-Kananaskis
  • RJ Sigurdson, MLA Highwood
  • Mark Smith, Drayton Valley-Devon
  • Jason Stephan, Red Deer-South
  • Glenn van Dijken, Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock
Categories
Alberta Politics

Some Assembly Required: Wildrosers make for a raucous caucus

Alberta’s Legislative Assembly is back in session next week after a weeklong Constituency Break that immediately followed last Thursday’s budget announcement. While Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro have been testing out their new health care friendly talking points this week, pandemic politics inside the United Conservative Party caucus threaten to derail the Premier’s Spring agenda.

An unofficial “end the lockdown caucus” inside the UCP caucus, which originally included outspoken MLA Drew Barnes and Deputy Speaker Angela Pitt – but now appears to have expanded to include former Wildrose MLAs Todd Loewen, Ron Orr, Dave Hanson and rookie MLA Michaela Glasgo (according to Postmedia columnist Rick Bell) – is causing problems for Kenney.

The group of disgruntled backbenchers are unhappy they are being kept out of the loop on public health decisions and want COVID public health measures lifted more quickly and on a regional basis. That most of the six-pack of UCP dissenters come from the former Wildrose caucus is not surprising. The former opposition party was notoriously raucous and unwilling to bow to the kind of centralized party leadership that Kenney would have become accustomed to during his many years in Ottawa.

But they aren’t alone. I’m told that there may be another 10 to 20 UCP backbenchers who are supportive of the six-pack but haven’t said so publicly and number of them are agitating for a leadership review to happen before the 2023 election.

Barnes in particular continues to play a game of chicken with Kenney, almost daring the Premier to kick him out of the caucus. After he was overlooked for a cabinet spot following the 2019 election, Barnes has been outspoken on his support for Alberta autonomy from Canada, has called on Kenney to appoint him as Minister of Autonomy, and most recently declared that he has not yet decided whether he will endorse the budget tabled by Finance Minister Travis Toews last week.

Kenney has been very cautious not to alienate the right-wing of his party, which explains why he hasn’t come down hard on Barnes in the past, but with more UCP backbenchers speaking out against the Premier it is beginning  to look like he’s losing control.

That Barnes remains in the UCP caucus today is a sign that Kenney is desperate not to have another conservative party represented in the Assembly – a split that would immediately undermine the entire “United Conservative” project that Kenney helped spearhead four years ago.

Already 1 Independent

Already outside the UCP Caucus is Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn, who is sitting as an Independent after he was removed from the UCP caucus following a chorus of calls for his resignation by local municipal leaders and the revelation of questionable expense claims. This all happened after a Christmas vacation to Mexico got him caught up in the hot holiday scandal.

While he now sits in the far corner of the opposition benches, Rehn has been acting on social media as if he is still a UCP MLA by regularity posting government press releases and statements.

New Municipal Affairs Minister?

And speaking of the hot holiday scandal, Kenney has yet to appoint a new Minister of Municipal Affairs following the resignation of former minister Tracy Allard after her unfortunate hot holiday in Hawaii.

Transportation Minister Ric McIver has been serving in a double-role as Municipal Affairs Minister, and there is some speculation that that Spruce Grove-Stony Plain MLA Searle Turton might be up for a promotion. The affable former Spruce Grove city councillor i chair of the UCP Capital Regional Caucus and Kenney’s special envoy to private sector unions.

Rodeo is back

Calgary-North UCP MLA Muhammad Yaseen has introduced a private members’ bill that would make rodeo the official sport of Alberta.

This is not the first time this idea has come up in the Legislative Assembly. Another UCP MLA introduced a private members’ motion calling for this last year and way back in 2008, outgoing Liberal Party leader Kevin Taft did the same (I worked on the caucus communications support for Taft’s motion).

The naysayers may claim it is just a distraction, that it would be controversial, and just play into outdated stereotypes. They are probably correct, but I say go for it. Yahoo! Yeehaw! Saddle up!

(Photo source: Travel Alberta)

Categories
Alberta Politics

Vote for the Best of Alberta Politics in 2020 – The Top 3

With more than 750 submissions made to the Best of Alberta Politics 2020 survey, your choices have been sorted and you can now vote in each category. Voting is open until Dec. 20, 2020 at 10:00 am and the winners will be announced on the special year-end episode of the Daveberta Podcast on the same day.

Here are the top choices in every category:

1. Who was the best Alberta MLA of 2020? – VOTE

  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • David Shepherd, MLA for Edmonton-City Centre

2. Who was the best Alberta cabinet minister of 2020? – VOTE

  • Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
  • Nate Glubish, Minster of Service Alberta
  • Ric McIver, Minister of Transportation
  • None of the Above

A None of the Above option is added to this question because a near majority of submissions fell into that category.

3. Who was the best opposition MLA of 2020? – VOTE

  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • David Shepherd, MLA for Edmonton-City Centre

An honourable mention to Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes, who received a number of votes in this category despite being a member of the governing United Conservative Party caucus.

4. Who is the up and coming MLA to watch in 2021? – VOTE

  • Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud
  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Thomas Dang, MLA for Edmonton-South

5. What was the biggest political play of 2020 in Alberta? – VOTE

  • UCP privatizing provincial parks
  • The Strategists winning biggest political play of 2020
  • UCP fight with Alberta doctors during COVID-19 pandemic

We have added a bonus category where we ask you to name an Alberta who you believe is most likely to be a future Premier of Alberta. VOTE

What was the biggest political issue of 2020 in Alberta?

This category is usually a dog’s breakfast, but 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 is not something that is unique to Alberta, but there is no doubt that it has defined 2020 in our province.

Categories
Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 62: Maybe Keystone XL wasn’t a very good investment after all

In this episode of the Daveberta Podcast we discuss:

  • the election of Joe Biden as President of the United States and the future of the Alberta government’s $7 billion investment into the Keystone XL Pipeline.
  • the Kenney government’s response to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s plans to lay-off 11,000 health support workers.
  • the Auditor General’s report and what it had to say about the Canadian Energy Centre.

We also take a deeper look at what Cypress-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Drew Barnes could be up to after he backed Edmonton-Ellerslie NDP MLA Rod Loyola’s motion to debate Canadian unity in the Alberta Legislature (Dave also nerds out about Alberta’s 1982 election, which took place 38 years to the day that Loyola introduced the motion).

And we dive into the mailbag to answer some great questions from our listeners.

The Daveberta Podcast is hosted by Dave Cournoyer and produced by Adam Rozenhart.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported. The Alberta Podcast Network includes dozens of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Find us on TwitterInstagram, Facebook, or you can email us at podcast@daveberta.ca. Thanks for listening.

Recommended Reading

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Alberta Politics

Failing Upwards: Kaycee Madu promoted to Justice after disastrous year in Municipal Affairs

Edmonton’s lone United Conservative Party MLA got a big promotion today in a mini-cabinet shuffle. After a year as Minister of Municipal Affairs, Edmonton-South West MLA Kaycee Madu has been appointed as Solicitor General and Minister of Justice.

Madu replaces Doug Schweitzer, who is the new Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, a rebranded Economic Development, Trade and Tourism department. Current EDTT Minister Tanya Fir moves to the backbenches and Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard is the new Municipal Affairs Minister.

Tracy Allard MLA Grande Prairie United Conservative Party
Tracy Allard (source: Facebook)

The mini-cabinet shuffle, the first since the UCP formed government in April 2019, is a minor readjustment and not nearly what many had expected, with controversial Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange retaining their cabinet posts.

Madu’s promotion will be a surprise to many of Alberta’s municipal leaders, who watched the junior cabinet minister take a paternalistic approach to municipal affairs by interfering in the construction of major infrastructure projects, overhauling municipal election laws to the point where the AUMA publicly described its relationship with the minister as “broken,” and sparking an uprising by traditionally docile rural municipalities over exemptions to oil & gas taxes.

It was the uproar in rural Alberta that most likely lead to Madu being shuffled. Dozens of rural municipalities have spoken out against the government exemptions for municipal oil and gas taxes.

Rural governments that were already having a difficult time collecting taxes from oil and gas companies said the new changes imposed by the UCP government force them to hike property and business taxes in their counties. And rural MLAs, who make up the majority of the UCP caucus, have been receiving an earful from normally supportive local leaders over the tax changes.

Doug Schweitzer Calgary Alberta Conservative
Doug Schweitzer

Madu may have spent a year burning bridges with municipalities but he is the only UCP from inside Edmonton city limits and a loyal party soldier, a geographic fact and trait that has now earned him a senior cabinet role. Control of the UCP cabinet and caucus is so firmly held by Premier Jason Kenney and his inner circle of political staff that unflinching loyalty is the key to promotion.

Madu is now expected to oversee changes to the Police Act, and provincial election finance laws proposed by the Select Special Democratic Accountability Committee. He will also oversee the implementation of MLA recall legislation and the Fair Deal report recommendations, the government’s never-ending fight against the federal government over the carbon tax, and the expected referendum on equalization in October 2021.

Doug Schweitzer: This appears to be a demotion for Calgary-Elbow MLA Doug Schweitzer, who has recently been bearing the brunt of the criticism about the public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns.

The public inquiry, which has been conducted in complete privacy, is over-budget and behind schedule and has had its mandate changed twice since it was formed, suggesting that the one-man commission is having troubling completing its goal of rooting out the alleged global conspiracy against Alberta.

Tanya Fir MLA Calgary Peigan United Conservative Party Alberta
Tanya Fir

Schweitzer’s move signals that the UCP is desperate to recover the “jobs and economy” part of their election slogan that has been sideswiped by the collapse in the international price of oil and economic shutdown in response to COVID-19 pandemic. Schweitzer will be responsible for the new Invest Alberta crown corporation.

Tracy Allard: The first-term MLA from Grande Prairie and owner of Tim Hortons restaurant franchises in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and in Grande Prairie is now the ninth Minister of Municipal Affairs since 2010. Her first order of business will likely be trying to repair some of the many relationships damaged by Madu during his short tenure, and, as Kenney announced in today’s press conference, oversee the creation of a spending report card for municipal governments in Alberta.

Tanya Fir: It is unclear what led to Fir’s demotion to the backbenches. The first-term UCP MLA from Calgary-Peigan appeared to be well-spoken and had not caused much public drama for the government. Fir appears to have avoided controversy but her election campaign manager, long-time conservative activist Craig Chanlder, has never shied from controversy and was recently a featured speaker at a separatist rally.

Who was left out: Not making it into cabinet in this mini-shuffle are a number of UCP MLAs who are rumoured to be cabinet contenders: UCP Caucus chairperson Todd Loewen, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao, Calgary-West MLA Mike Ellis, Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner, and Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA Michaela Glasgo.

Also missing from the shuffle is former UCP finance critic Drew Barnes, now the third-term MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat, who was left out of cabinet when the party formed government last year. Barnes recently made comments in support of separation if Alberta fails to get Ottawa’s attention regarding issues brought forward from the Fair Deal Panel.

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Alberta Politics

Paul Hinman is back, again, maybe! Former Wildrose leader to lead new Wildrose separatist party.

Alberta’s oldest newly rebranded separatist party has a new interim leader, maybe.

Paul Hinman leader of the Wildrose Independence Separatist Party
The tweet from the Wildrose Independence Party announcing Paul Hinman as its interim leader.

A now deleted tweet from the newly renamed Wildrose Independence Party announced that former Wildrose Alliance leader Paul Hinman is the new interim leader of the party. Unless the party’s account was hacked, it would appear that Hinman is launching another attempt at a political comeback.

The press release included with the now deleted tweet said that Hinman would speak to his new role at this week’s Freedom Talk “Firewall Plus” conference, a pro-separatist event organized by former Wildrose candidate and right-wing online radio show host Danny Hozak that features speakers including former arch-Conservative MP Rob Anders, conservative lawyer John Carpay, Postmedia columnist John Robson, and federal Conservative leadership candidate Derek Sloan.

The newly renamed party is a merger of the separatist Wexit group and the Freedom Conservative Party, which since 1999 has been known at various times as the Alberta First Party, the Separation Party, and the Western Freedom Party. The party’s most recent name was adopted when banished United Conservative Party MLA Derek Fildebrandt became leader shortly before the 2019 election.

The name change does not appear to have been approved by Elections Alberta, which still lists the party under its most recent previous name on its official website. But it was reported last week that former Wildrose activist and FCP candidate Rick Northey was the party’s new president. Former Social Credit leader James Albers is also on the party’s executive.

The oldest newest separatist party on Alberta’s right-wing fringe should not be confused with the also recently renamed Independence Party of Alberta (formerly known as the Alberta Independence Party and now led by past UCP nomination candidate Dave Campbell), the Alberta Advantage Party (led by former Alberta Alliance Party president Marilyn Burns), and the unregistered Alberta Freedom Alliance (led by former Wildrose Party candidate Sharon Maclise).

Edgar Hinman
Edgar Hinman

The United Independence Party name was also recently reserved with Elections Alberta, presumably by another former Wildrose candidate trying to start another new separatist party.

But back to the new interim leader of the new separatist Wildrose party…

The grandson of former Social Credit MLA and cabinet minister Edgar Hinman, Paul Hinman’s first foray into provincial electoral politics saw him elected in Cardston-Taber-Warner as the lone Alberta Alliance MLA in the 2004 election. Hinman inherited the leadership of the tiny right-wing party when Randy Thorsteinson (who had previously helped found the Alberta First Party) failed to win his election in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. He endorsed Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Ted Morton in 2006 and led the party through an eventual split and re-merger with a faction branding itself as the Wildrose Party – and thus the Wildrose Alliance was formed. 

Hinman lost his seat in the 2008 election in a rematch with former PC MLA Broyce Jacobs. He announced plans to step down as leader shortly afterward and then surprised political watchers when he won a 2009 by-election in posh Calgary-Glenmore, pumping some momentum behind Danielle Smith when she won the party’s leadership race a few months later.

Danielle Smith Alberta Wildrose
Danielle Smith with Wildrose MLA’s Paul Hinman, Heather Forsyth, and Rob Anderson in 2010.

In 2010, Hinman was joined by floor crossing PC MLAs Heather Forsyth, Guy Boutilier, and Rob Anderson (who four years later crossed the floor back to the PC Party and now hosts a Facebook video show where he promotes Alberta separatism), but, despite the party’s electoral breakthrough in 2012, Hinman was again unable to get re-elected.

Drew Barnes stands at Paul Hinman's side as he announced his bid to once again run for the Wildrose nomination in Cardston-Taber-Warner in 2015.
Drew Barnes stands at Paul Hinman’s side as he announced his bid to once again run for the Wildrose nomination in Cardston-Taber-Warner in 2015.

He endorsed Brian Jean for the Wildrose Party leadership in 2015 and announced his candidacy to seek the Wildrose nomination back in his old Cardston-Taber-Warner district in that year’s election but withdrew from the race a month later. Standing by Hinman’s side at this nomination launch was Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes, now de facto leader of the UCP separatist caucus.

A year later he mounted an unsuccessful bid for the Conservative Party nomination in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner in 2016 but was defeated by now Member of Parliament Glen Motz.

More recently, Hinman launched a brief bid for the UCP leadership in 2017, announcing a campaign focused on parental rights and conscience rights, but when the Sept 2017 deadline to deposit the $57,500 candidate fee passed, he did not make the cut. Hinman later endorsed Jason Kenney‘s candidacy.

Paul Hinman endorsed Jason Kenney in the 2017 UCP leadership contest.
Paul Hinman endorsed Jason Kenney in the 2017 UCP leadership contest.

Now he might be taking over the interim leadership of the fledgeling fringe separatist party at a time when public opinion polls show that Albertans’ appetite for leaving Canada is cooling as memory of the 2019 federal election fades. If historic trends hold, then the desire for separatism will drop if it looks like the next federal Conservative Party leader can form a government in Ottawa.

Separatism is ever-present on the fringes of Alberta politics and is more of a situational tendency than a real political movement with legs but a half-organized separatist party could syphon votes away from the UCP in the next provincial election.

And with next October’s Senate nominee election likely to be a showdown between candidates aligned with the federal Conservative Party led by whoever wins this summer’s leadership race and the federal Wexit Party led by former Conservative MP Jay Hill, expect the UCP to be paying a lot of attention to these fringe separatist groups sniping at its right-flank.

If he actually does become the leader of the oldest newest separatist party, Hinman will provide some profile and credibility in political circles where conservatives are perpetually disgruntled with New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and newly disgruntled with Premier Kenney, presumably for not pushing hard enough for Alberta’s separation from Canada.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Once upon a time Alberta had a provincial police force. Fair Deal report could recommend we have one again.

While much of my undergraduate studies at the University of Alberta focused on Canadian politics, one of my favourite courses covered a topic far away from the prairies – the Habsburg Monarchy. It was a combination of an unfamiliar topic and a passionate professor that made this course memorable. So my interest was piqued when the words “South Tyrol” began circulating in Alberta political circles this week.

Angela Pitt (source: Facebook)
Angela Pitt (source: Facebook)

“Should Alberta be an autonomous Province? South Tyrol has” asked Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt in a Facebook post linking to a website showcasing facts about the autonomous province in northern Italy.

While most of the separatist fever that swept Alberta following the re-election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in October 2019 appears to have subsided, the United Conservative Party government is expected to release the final report of the “Fair Deal Panel” when the province-wide state of emergency expires on June 15.

Unless she was planning a post-COVID vacation to the Dolomites, this is likely the reason why South Tyrol was on Pitt’s mind.

“Autonomous-province” sounds similar to the “sovereignty-association” historically promoted by some sovereigntists in Quebec but it is unclear whether in practice Alberta actually has more autonomy in Canada than does South Tyrol does in Italy. Canadian provinces already have incredible amounts of autonomy to do things like form parole boards, establish police forces (more on this in a moment), conduct adventures in foreign affairs and abdicate responsibility for approving oil sands development to unelected and unaccountable boards.

Much of South Tyrol’s status appears to be a result of it having a German-speaking majority population in a country where most people speak Italian. The former princely county of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was annexed by Italy after the First World War.

Charles I, the last Habsburg Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary and King of Bohemia.
Charles I, the last Habsburg Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary and King of Bohemia.

I expect many German-speaking South Tyroleans would probably prefer to re-join their linguistic cousins in Austria than remain in Italy.

I am not sure which other province or region Alberta would join if we adopt what might be Pitt’s version of an autonomous-province. Perhaps Frederick Haultain’s dream of a Province of Buffalo could be finally be realized if Alberta merged with its smaller cousin to the east, Saskatchewan? Or maybe British Columbia’s Peace Country will finally be released to unite with its northwestern Alberta cousins?

But Red Deer-South UCP MLA Jason Stephan is certainly whittling down the number of possible candidates.

Stephan apologized to the Legislative Assembly this week after describing other Canadian provinces as “hostile, parasitic partners” in a speech about federal fiscal policies and equalization program.

The rookie MLA and sole UCP backbencher appointed to the powerful Treasury Board committee also claimed that “Alberta must liberate itself from this mess.”

While Alberta is not going to separate from Canada, the final report from the government-appointed Fair Deal Panel will include recommendations to increase provincial autonomy from Ottawa.

Jason Stephan (source: Facebook)
Jason Stephan (source: Facebook)

The Fair Deal panel was announced by Premier Jason Kenney at last November’s gathering of Alberta conservatives at the Manning Centre conference in Red Deer.

The panel and its open-mic town hall meetings were both a relief valve and a steering wheel meant to allow Albertans to vent their frustrations while allowing Kenney to attempt to keep control of the latest burst of separatist fervour. The separatist fervour from Alberta’s right-wing fringe, despite the media attention it generated, now appears to have mostly died out.

The panelists included former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, former Progressive Conservative MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans, Peter Lougheed‘s son Stephen, and perennially disgruntled UCP backbencher MLA Drew Barnes of Cypress-Medicine Hat and fellow backbenchers Miranda Rosin of Banff-Kananaskis and Tany Yao of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. The panel was tasked with making recommendations on topics including withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan, replacing the Canada Revenue Agency by establishing a provincial revenue agency, opting out of federal programs like pharmacare, forming an office of a Chief Firearms Officer, and forming a provincial police force.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat
Drew Barnes

Kenney already announced plans to appoint a Chief Firearms Officer, one of the recommendations the panel was tasked with studying, and there has been speculation by Postmedia columnist Don Braid that the report could urge the creation of a provincial police force to replace the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Alberta.

Once upon a time, Alberta, like most other provinces, had a provincial police force.

The Alberta Provincial Police was formed in 1917 after the North West Mounted Police hastily withdrew from policing in Alberta.

The NWMP had been created in 1873 and was part of the federal government’s suppression of the North West Rebellion in 1885, but, by 1917, Ottawa’s attention was focused on the First World War and there was little federal interest in enforcing provincial prohibition laws that had been enacted in 1916.

The APP merged into the RCMP in 1932 following negotiations between the provincial and federal governments during the Great Depression. The agreement to offload the costs associated with policing to the RCMP stipulated that former provincial police officers who transferred to the federal police would maintain their seniority and be eligible to receive pensions in accordance with their years of service.

When officers hung up their blue APP uniforms on April 15, 1932, it was reported in the Calgary Daily Herald that it took more than a month for the red RCMP uniforms to arrive in Alberta. So during the short period following the return of the federal police, RCMP officers worked in civilian clothes or, for those who worked as police in Alberta before 1917, wore the uniforms of the old NWMP.

RCMP Take Over Policing of Alberta, Calgary Daily Herald, April 15, 1932
RCMP Take Over Policing of Alberta, Calgary Daily Herald, April 15, 1932

While Alberta politicians have generally expressed pleasure with contracting policing responsibilities to the federal government, there have been several attempts to reinstate a provincial police force. 

A resolution at the United Farmers of Alberta convention of 1935 called for the re-instatement of the APP, but the UFA were swept away from Alberta politics when the party lost all its seats in that year’s election.

The next notable attempt to reinstate the APP came in 1937 from Edson MLA Joseph Unwin, the Whip of the Social Credit government caucus. Unwin introduced a motion to abolish the RCMP in Alberta and replace it with an Alberta Provincial Police Force.

Unwin argued that it was preferable that “the police force in the province should be indisputably at the exclusive orders of the attorney general.” Given this comment and the context of the time, it is fairly safe to speculate that Unwin was hoping to create a police force that would enforce the Social Credit ideological and political agenda in Alberta.

Joseph Unwin
Joseph Unwin

Unwin introduced the motion the same week he was arrested on charges of libel and counselling to murder in what would become known as the Bankers’ Toadies scandal.

Unwin and British Social Credit expert George Frederick Powell were arrested when police raided the party headquarters following the printing of a pamphlet advocating the “extermination” of nine prominent Edmontonians. The nine men, labelled as “Bankers’ Toadies,” included Conservative Party leader David Duggan and Senator and former mayor William Griesbach.

Unwin was sentenced to 3-months hard labour for the libel charge, which was later overturned on appeal. He did not resign as an MLA when he went to jail and his return to the Legislature was celebrated by Social Credit MLAs with a “snake dance” on the floor of the Assembly.

Unwin was defeated by Labour Party candidate and United Mine Workers president Angus Morrison in the 1940 election.

Various PC MLAs called for the creation of a provincial police force during the 1980s and early 1990s but most of those calls were quickly discredited because they were usually followed closely by racist comments about RCMP officers wearing turbans or speaking French.

Ted Morton MLA
Ted Morton

Anti-oil patch activist Wiebo Ludwig called for the creation of a provincial police force during his brief run for the Social Credit Party leadership in 2000 before having withdraw from the race after a judge refused to waive the conditions of his bail.

Motions recommending the creation of a regional police force or to make public studies conducted to assess the creation of a provincial police force were introduced by Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths in 2003 and Lethbridge-East MLA Ken Nicol in 2004 were debated in the Legislature but gained no real traction.

But perhaps the most infamous call for the reinstatement of a provincial police force in Alberta came in the Firewall Manifesto in January 2001, signed by Conservative luminaries Stephen Harper, Tom Flanagan, Ted Morton, Rainer Knopff, Andrew Crooks and Ken Boessenkool.

In 2006, Morton, then a candidate for the leadership of the PC Party, called for the creation of a provincial police force, a proposal mocked by outgoing premier Ralph Klein. “We studied it and it was rejected,” Klein said. “Thus far, we’re getting a pretty good deal with the RCMP.”

Premier Ed Stelmach defeated Morton in the leadership race and signed a 20-year agreement with the federal Conservative government that would have the RCMP continue as Alberta’s police force until March 31, 2032.

Ed Stelmach
Ed Stelmach

“This is wonderful news for the province and for Albertans,” Stelmach said in an August 2011 press release. “This agreement makes good financial sense for Alberta and strengthens a valuable relationship with a partner who continues to play a key role after more than a century keeping Alberta communities safe.”

In 2006, the Alberta Sheriffs Branch was created from the Courts and Prisoner Security branch.

The Fair Deal report will have to be publicly released before we know for sure what it recommends, but a move to create a new provincial police force in 2020 would face two powerful political factors

First, systematic racism and police violence against people of colour in the Canada and the United States has led to mounting calls to “defund the police.” Massive protests calling out systematic racism have taken place across the country, including a 15,000-strong rally outside the Legislature in Edmonton and similar rallies in Calgary and around the province. City councils and police commissions are now facing increased public pressure to reign in budgets and address systematic racism in the civilian police forces.

Jason Kenney (source: Flickr)
Jason Kenney (source: Flickr)

And most shockingly, video footage of RCMP officers assaulting Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam has made international headlines.

Second, Kenney has said that a great reckoning is coming for Alberta’s finances, which will likely mean more massive job cuts in the public sector across Alberta. If the Kenney is laying-off teachers and nurses, it will be difficult for him to explain to Albertans that he needs to spend money on creating a brand new police force. A lack of finances was the main reason why the provincial police were disbanded in 1932.

For Kenney there is also the inconvenience of the RCMP’s investigation into whether a “kamikaze” campaign for the leadership of UCP in 2017 defrauded donors. That investigation is being guided by a special prosecutor from Ontario.

Creating a new provincial police force in this context would be incredibly tone deaf and completely unnecessary. But like many political decisions being made in Alberta lately, the world appears to be moving in one direction and our government moving in another. It kind of reminds me of those Habsburgs just over a century ago.

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Alberta Politics

Candidate nominations continue with weeks or days left until an election call in Alberta

With an election call expected within the next few weeks, or days, Alberta’s political parties are continuing to nominate candidates to run for the upcoming vote. As of this afternoon, the United Conservative Party has nominated 83 candidates in 87 districts, the New Democratic Party has nominated 80 candidates, the Alberta Party has nominated 73 candidates, the Liberal Party has nominated 35 candidates, the Green Party has nominated 19 candidates, the Freedom Conservative Party has nominated 15 candidates, and the Alberta Advantage Party has nominated 11 candidates.

Here are the latest updates to the list of candidates running in Alberta’s upcoming provincial general election:

The New Democratic Party are expected to nominated Heather Eddy in Calgary-South East and Paula Cackett in West Yellowhead on March 16 and Shannon Dunfield in Grande Prairie-Wapiti on March 17.

Message from Dr. Esther Tailfeathers NDP
Message from Dr. Esther Tailfeathers

Dr. Esther Tailfeathers has withdrawn as the New Democratic Party candidate in Cardston-Siksika. In a post on Facebook, Dr. Tailfeathers described her reason for withdrawing from the race. The NDP have scheduled a new nomination meeting in Cardston-Siksika on March 18, 2019 and a candidate nomination meeting in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright on March 16, 2019.

Avinash Khangura has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-McCall. Khangura was the Liberal Party candidate in this district in the 2015 election, where he earned 17.4 per cent of the vote. Khangura is also listed as the Riding Chair for the federal Liberal Party in Calgary-Skyview district, which is currently represented by former Liberal and now Independent Member of Parliament Darshan Kang, who represented Calgary-McCall as a Liberal MLA from 2008 to 2015. The district is currently represented by New Democratic Party MLA Irfan Sabir.

Daniel Ejumabone has withdrawn from the Liberal Party nomination in Calgary-West and is now running in Calgary-Bow, and Ben Midgely is the new candidate in Calgary-West. The Liberals have also nominated John Roggeveen in Calgary-Fish Creek, Prerna Mahtani in Calgary-North West, Michael McGowan in Edmonton-Ellerslie, Inderjeet Randhawa in Edmonton-Riverview, Sharon Howe in Chestermere-Strathmore, Anwar Kamaran in Cypress-Medicine Hat.

Tanya Herbert is running for the Green Party in Edmonton-Gold Bar and past city council candidate Taz Bouchier is running in Edmonton-Highands-Norwood.

The Freedom Conservative Party has nominated Kari Pomerlau in Calgary-Foothills and Matthew Chapin in Red Deer-North. Chapin had previously announced his intentions to seek the UCP nominations in Red Deer-North and Red Deer-South but withdrew from both races. He ran for the PC nomination in Red Deer-North in 2015 and has run for Red Deer City Council numerous times over the past decade.

Shawn Tylke has been nominated as the Alberta Advantage Party candidate in Lacombe-Ponoka

Eight additional candidates affiliated with the Alberta Independence Party have registered as Independent candidates in the upcoming election: Timothy Shanks in Edmonton-North West, Roberta McDonald in Calgary-North West, Vincent Loyer in Edmonton-Gold Bar, Dave Bjorkman in Edmonton-West Henday, Don Dubitz in Camrose, Mark Grinder in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, Michael Keller in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, and Michael Neufeld in Red Deer-North.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

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Alberta Politics

Len Rhodes to be appointed UCP candidate in Edmonton-Meadows. Firefighter captain Todd Russell wins NDP contest in Grande Prairie

Photo: Len Rhodes (source: cfl.ca)

The rumour mill is churning at full speed with news that Len Rhodes, outgoing President and CEO of the Edmonton Eskimos, is on the verge of being appointed by Jason Kenney as the United Conservative Party candidate in Edmonton-Meadows.

Arundeep Sandhu Edmonton By-election ward 12
Arundeep Sandhu

Rhodes’ appointment would bump three local nomination candidates, Joel Mullan, Arundeep Sandhu, and Sant Sharma, who have been campaigning for the UCP candidacy in the southeast Edmonton district for nearly a year. In particular, Sandhu, a young Edmontonian of Sikh heritage who mounted an energetic bid for City Council in 2016, has been campaigning hard for the nomination since May 2018.

Rhodes recently completed a term a Chair of the Board of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and announced last week that he was stepping away from his senior executive role with the Canadian Football League team as of Feb. 20. It appears we will know soon if this is the reason why.

With seven years as the top corporate executive of the Eskimos on his resume, Rhodes will certainly be described as a “star candidate,” which is something that has so far been absent from the UCP slate in NDP-leaning Edmonton. But his personal connections to the district, his own political views and understanding of local issues remains unclear.

The area included in the Edmonton-Meadows district is currently represented by New Democratic Party MLA Denise Woollard, who was first elected in 2015 in Edmonton-Mill Creek. Woollard is being challenged for her party’s nomination by 2015 federal NDP candidate Jasvir Deol and Alberta Pashtoon Association president Chand Gul. A nomination meeting for the NDP has been scheduled for Feb. 24, 2019.

Firefighter Captain wins NDP nomination in Grande Prairie

Rachel Notley (centre), with Grande Prairie NDP nomination candidates Melissa Byers and Todd Russell.
Rachel Notley (centre), with Grande Prairie NDP nomination candidates Melissa Byers and Todd Russell.

Firefighter Captain Todd Russell defeated non-profit executive director Melissa Byers to secure the NDP nomination Grande Prairie on Feb. 19. The contested nomination meeting was attended by Premier Rachel Notley and Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd, who is running for re-election in the new neighbouring Central Peace-Notley district.

Russell placed second in the Grande Prairie-Smoky district in the 2015 election, placing 334 votes behind then-Wildrose candidate Todd Loewen. Loewen is seeking re-election in the neighbouring district against McCuaig-Boyd.

The Alberta Firefighters Association has endorsed Notley and been actively campaigning for NDP candidates across the province. AFA President Craig Macdonald gave a rousing speech at the NDP convention in October 2018 praising the Notley government for introducing new workplace health and safety rules to protect firefighters and first responders.

NDP select more 5 candidates and announce new nomination meetings

NDP MLA Chris Nielsen was nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Decore and MLA Kim Schreiner has been nominated in Red Deer-North.

Jane Stroud NDP Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche
Jane Stroud

Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Jane Stroud has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district and Fort McMurray Public Schools trustee Stephen Drover has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. Cesar Cala has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-East.

The NDP announced a series of upcoming nomination meetings, with Robyn O’Brien seeking the nomination in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake on February 27, Kate Andrews seeking the nomination in Calgary-Acadia on March 1, Julia Bietz seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Lougheed on March 2, Rebecca Bounsall seeking the nomination in Calgary-Fish Creek and Hafeez Chishti is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-North West on March 3.

The NDP have also scheduled nomination meetings in Calgary-South East, Drumheller-Stettler, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, and Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright on February 28, 2019, and in Brooks-Medicine Hat on March 2, 2019.

Colette Smithers
 has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Cypress-Medicine Hat.

Another Alberta Party candidate banned

It appears as though Tim Meech, the Alberta Party candidate in Livingstone-Macleod, and his CFO Mark Taylor, who is the executive director of the Alberta Party, have been added to Elections Alberta’s now infamous list of people ineligible to serve as candidates or CFOs.

Taylor is also serving as CFO for Red Deer-North candidate Paul Hardy and 4 Alberta Party constituency associations.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

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Alberta Politics

Mid-Week Alberta Nomination Candidate Updates

Here are the latest updates to the list of candidates running in Alberta’s next provincial election:

Alberta NDP

The New Democratic Party has recently nominated ministerial press secretary and former CBC reporter John Archer in Edmonton-South West, retired teacher and political columnist Peter Mueller in Cypress-Medicine Hat and Gulshan Akter in Calgary-West.

The NDP has also announced additional series nomination meetings.

Laura Ross-Giroux will seek the NDP nomination in Taber-Warner at a candidate selection meeting on Feb. 23, 2019. Ross-Giroux was elected as a town councillor in Taber from 2013 to 2017 and served as President of the Alberta Library Trustees Association from 2014 to 2018 and chairperson of the Chinook Arch Regional Library System from 2010 to 2017.

– NDP MLA Eric Rosendahl is seeking his party’s nomination in West Yellowhead at a candidate selection meeting scheduled for Feb. 24, 2019. Rosendahl was first elected in 2015 with 39 percent of the vote and, if nominated, will seek re-election in a district that has been drastically enlarged to include the area surrounding the Town of Whitecourt.

– Doug Hart, a Registered Nurse from Ponoka, will seek the NDP nomination in Lacombe-Ponoka. Hart was the NDP candidate in this district in 2012 and in 2015, when he earned 30.1 percent of the vote. He also ran for the NDP in the Ponoka-Rimbey district in the 1989 and 1993 election and against Conservative MP Blaine Calkins in Red Deer-Lacombe in the 2015 federal election. A nomination meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 27, 2019.

Justin Sharpe will seek the NDP nomination in Peace River at a meeting scheduled for Feb. 28, 2019. The district is currently represented by NDP MLA Debbie Jabbour, who has not yet announced whether she plans to seek re-election.

A nomination meeting has been scheduled by the NDP in Cardston-Siksika on Feb. 26, 2019.

United Conservative Party

Muhammad Yaseen defeated Devin GreenTanis FissPaul Frank, and Jun Lin, to secure the United Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-North. Yaseen if a former president of the Pakistan Canada Association of Calgary and former president of the Calgary-Northern Hills Progressive Conservative association.

Nathan Neudorf defeated Robin JamesBryan LitchfieldKimberly Lyall and Angela Zuba to win the UCP nomination in Lethbridge-East.

Neudorf re-entered the UCP nomination contest in this district in December 2018 after dropping out to run for the UCP nomination in the Livingstone-Macleod district located west of Lethbridge, but was unsuccessful in that contest. He was endorsed by Roger Reid, UCP Candidate for Livingstone-Macleod, and local Conservative MP Rachael Harder

Rajesh Arora is seeking the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Ellerslie. The party has also finally opened the nomination process in the Red Deer-South district.

Alberta Party

The Alberta Party announced that it has selected candidates Braham Luddu in Calgary-Cross Zac Rhodenizer in Lethbridge-West. The party’s Calgary-Lougheed candidate, Rachel Timmermans, who was one of 6 candidates deemed ineligible to run in the next election, issued a statement announcing that she has retained legal counsel and plans to “apply for relief from the Court of Queen’s Bench.”

Freedom Conservative Party

Cam Khan has been nominated as the Freedom Conservative Party candidate in Calgary-North West, where he unsuccessfully mounted a campaign for the UCP nomination in August 2018 but was defeated by nominee Sonya Savage. Following the UCP nomination contest, he ran for a position on the Alberta Party board of directors at that party’s 2018 annual general meeting. He also ran for Calgary City Council in the 2017 municipal election.

The FCP also nominated Matthew Morrisey in Airdrie-Cochrane and Malcolm Stinson in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville.

Liberal Party

Rork Hillford is seeking the Liberal Party nomination in Calgary-Glenmore.

Green Party

Carl Svoboda is seeking the Green Party nomination in Calgary-Edgemont. Svoboda previously ran in Calgary-Varsity as the Evergreen Party candidate in the 2012 election and the Green Party candidate in the 2015 election. The candidate selection deadline is Feb. 13, 2019.

Alberta Advantage Party

The right-wing Alberta Advantage Party has nominated Chris Poplatek in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, Gordon Perrot in Edmonton-McClung, Donald Petruka in St. Albert, and Donald Melanson in Strathcona-Sherwood Park.


If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

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Alberta Politics

Rakhi Pancholi nominated for NDP in Edmonton-Whitemud, NDP to hold 3 more candidate selection meetings on Feb. 9

Photo: Rakhi Pancholi (source: Twitter)

With the nomination of Rakhi Pancholi in Edmonton-Whitemud, the Alberta New Democratic Party has selected 53 candidates across the province. Pancholi is a lawyer with McLennan Ross LLP and previously worked as the staff lawyer for the Alberta School Boards Association and as a Solicitor with the Government of Alberta. She is currently the Vice Chair of the Education Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association and sit on the Board of Directors of ParityYEG, an Edmonton-based organization promoting gender parity in politics.

Pancholi is aiming to succeed popular NDP MLA Bob Turner, who announced his plans to retire from politics late last year. She has the endorsements of Edmonton Public School Board trustee Michael Janz and former Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MLAs Raj Pannu and Barrie Chivers.

The NDP have scheduled a series of nomination meetings over the next few weeks and more are expected to be announced as we approach the impending election call later this spring:

John Archer NDP Edmonton South West
John Archer

February 9: Ministerial press secretary and former CBC reporter John Archer is seeking the NDP nomination in Edmonton-South West. Retired teacher and political columnist Peter Mueller is expected to secure the NDP nomination in Cypress-Medicine Hat. And Gulshan Akter is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-West.

February 16: Cesar Cala is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-East and MLA Chris Nielsen is seeking the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Decore.

February 17: Wood Buffalo Municipal Councillor and 2017 Fort McMurray-Conklin by-election candidate Jane Stroud will seek the NDP nomination in the new Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district. Fort McMurray school board trustee Stephen Drover is seeking the NDP nomination in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo.

February 19: Melissa Byers and Todd Russell are challenging each other for the NDP nomination in Grande Prairie.

February 20: MLA Kim Schreiner is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in Red Deer-North.

February 23: Cameron Gardner is seeking the NDP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. Gardner is Reeve of the Municipal District of Ranchland.

February 24: Jasvir Deol has joined MLA Denise Woollard and Chand Gul in the NDP nomination contest in Edmonton-MeadowsCrown Prosecutor Moira Vane is seeking the NDP nomination in Strathcona-Sherwood Park.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

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Alberta Politics

NDP MLA Colin Piquette not seeking re-election, Kelly Mandryk nominated for NDP in Calgary-North

Photo: Premier Rachel Notley and MLA Colin Piquette at an event in Athabasca in 2017 (source: Facebook)

New Democratic Party MLA Colin Piquette announced in a post on Facebook this week that he will not be seeking re-election when the writ is dropped. Piquette has represented the Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater district since 2015 and had previously announced plans to seek re-election in the sprawling new Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock district.

Concerns about the change in electoral boundaries and the geographic size of the new district were a reason given for his decision against running in the expected spring election:

“As it stands now my present riding is “only” 13,000 sqr km in size and laid out on a north-south access to Edmonton making it possible to visit communities on my way back and forth to meetings in the city. The new riding come this spring will be almost double that size spread west to east. For perspective, this is about half the size of Nova Scotia and just a little smaller than Belgium. That’s a lot of territory for one person to have to cover on a regular basis. I made no secret of my concerns over the electoral boundary changes and the negative impact they would have on effective rural representation. But I always somehow expected that if they did come to pass I would find a way to overcome the challenges they posed and make it work. However, as the election has drawn closer and campaign preparations have begun in earnest I realize just how much serving these new boundaries would demand, and not only of me. I just can’t see how to do this without an unacceptable degree of sacrifice from my family.”

Piquette raised concerns about the boundary changes when they were debated in the Assembly in 2017 and he and West Yellowhead MLA Eric Rosendahl were the only NDP MLAs to vote against changes recommended by Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission. The changes recommended by the commission significantly altered the boundaries of the electoral districts they represent.

A map of the new Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock district
A map of the new Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock district

Had he run for re-election, Piquette would have faced United Conservative Party MLA Glenn van Dijken, who was elected to represent Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock in 2015 and is standing for re-election in the new district. His decision not to seek re-election is not surprising. A path to a second term for Piquette, and most other rural NDP MLAs, would be extremely challenging as it is unlikely that this new district will be brimming with NDP voters in 2019. This is not a reflection on Piquette or his record as an MLA, but of the current prevailing political winds in rural Alberta.

Piquette is the former president of the Boyle District Chamber of Commerce and director with the Boyle and District Agricultural Society. He worked as a university instructor and an insurance agent representing the Cooperators in Athabasca and Boyle before his election.

Piquette is the 11th NDP MLA to announce plans not to seek re-election in 2019. A total of 19 MLAs are not seeking re-election.


Here are some of the latest updates to the list of candidates running in Alberta’s upcoming provincial election:

Kelly Mandryk NDP Calgary North
Kelly Mandryk

Kelly Mandryk was nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-North on February 4, 2019. Mandryk is a Senior Service Representative with Great West Life and is a former journalist and editor, having worked at the Barrhead Leader and Calgary Herald. 

Stephen Drover is seeking the NDP nomination in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. Drover is a trustee with the Fort McMurray Public School Board and was the NDP candidate in this district in 2015, earning 30.42 percent of the vote. He is an oil sands operator and member of Unifor Local 707-A. The NDP have scheduled a nomination contest in this district on February 17, 2019.

Gulshan Akter is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-West. Akter is the managing director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Education and President and CEO of the Peerless Training Institute, a government-accredited private career college in Calgary.

The NDP have scheduled candidate in Edmonton-Whitemud on February 7, 2019, and in Calgary-WestCypress-Medicine Hat, and Edmonton-South West on February 9, 2019. The UCP is holding nomination votes in Calgary-North and Lethbridge-East on February 9, 2019 (I hope to have updates about these two UCP contests posted tomorrow).

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Alberta Politics

NDP nominate 7 new candidates, Jordan Stein defeats MLA Anam Kazim in Calgary-Glenmore

Photo: Jordan Stein (pictured) defeated MLA Anam Kazim to secure the NDP nomination in Calgary-Glenmore. (photo source: @Jordan.Stein.Alberta on Instagram)

We are in the zone. As of February 1, 2019, Albertans are now living in the campaign period where an election can be called any day until May 31, 2019.

The New Democratic Party had a big nomination weekend, selecting candidates in 7 districts across the province. With candidates nominated in 52 districts, the NDP are now 35 candidates away from a full-slate in all 87 districts.

Anam Kazim NDP MLA Calgary Glenmore
Anam Kazim

In the southwest district of Calgary-GlenmoreJordan Stein defeated MLA Anam Kazim to win the NDP nomination. Stein is a former coffee shop owner, flight attendant with WestJet and employee engagement consultant with Air North.

Kazim was first elected in 2015 with a 6-vote margin of victory over Progressive Conservative MLA Linda Johnson. Kazim was one of 9 NDP candidates under the age of 30 to be elected in 2015.

Kazim is the second incumbent NDP MLA to lose a candidate nomination contest in this election cycle. MLA Marie Renaud defeated MLA Trevor Horne to secure the NDP nomination in St. Albert in December 2018.

Stein will face United Conservative Party candidate Whitney Issik, Alberta Party candidate Scott Appleby, and Green Party candidate Allie Tulick when the election is called.

Here are the six other NDP nominations that have been held over the past few days:

Airdrie-Cochrane: Steven Durrell was chosen as the party’s candidate in Airdrie-Cochrane. Durrell is a Telus dispatcher and trustee for the Telus Corporation pension plan. He has been a shop steward for the United Steelworkers. He was a target of UCP leader Jason Kenney this past weekend, as the conservative leader mocked Durrell for being a 19-year old. Durrell is a 29-year-old father of three.

Steven Durrell Airdrie Cochrane NDP election alberta
Steven Durrell

This new district north of Calgary includes areas currently part of the Airdrie, Banff-Cochrane, and Chestermere-Rockyview districts.

Calgary-Beddington: Amanda Chapman is a communications consultant and former communications coordinator with AIDS Awareness Calgary.

Calgary-Edgemont:  Julia Hayter was a constituency assistant to recently resigned Calgary-Varsity MLA Stephanie McLean. She was seeking the NDP nomination in McLean’s former district until Anne McGrath entered the contest and was chosen as her party’s candidate.

Calgary-Foothills: Sameena Arif is active with the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association. A teacher who immigrated from Pakistan to Canada with her family in 2004, Arif’s story was highlighted in an article on one of the Government of Alberta’s official websites in 2012.

Calgary-Hays: Tory Tomblin is a primary care paramedic with Alberta Health Services and was a candidate for the Calgary Board of Education in Wards 12 & 14 in the 2017 election.

Julia Hayter NDP candidate Calgary Edgemont Alberta
Julia Hayter

Camrose: Morgan Bamford is the Acting Supervisor of Indigenous Relations with the City of Edmonton and is the co-founder of Bamford & Henbest Research and Consulting Partners Ltd. He is vice-president of the board of directors of Volunteer Alberta.

The NDP have scheduled candidate selection meetings in Calgary-North on February 4, 2019, in Edmonton-Whitemud on February 7, 2019, and in Calgary-West, Cypress-Medicine Hat, and Edmonton-South West on February 9, 2019.

The contested NDP nomination race between Melissa Byers and Todd Russell in Grande Prairie was initially scheduled to take place on February 3, 2019 but has been rescheduled to February 19, 2019. 

Alberta Advantage Party

The Wildrose Party-offshoot Alberta Advantage Party has nominated former Wolf Creek School Division trustee Paula Lamoureux as its candidate in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre. This is considered one of the most conservative voting areas in Alberta and is currently represented by UCP MLA Jason Nixon

Marilyn Burns, the leader of the small right-wing party, will be holding a series of town hall meetings in Pincher Creek, Brooks, and Calgary in February 2019.

Freedom Conservative Party

Rick Northey Airdrie East Freedom Conservative Party election alberta
Rick Northey

Rick Northey has been nominated as the Freedom Conservative Party candidate in Airdrie-EastNorthey is the former president of the Airdrie UCP and Wildrose Party associations. He resigned from that UCP board in June 2018, saying he was unhappy with what he maintained was a secretive cash transfer of $16,000 from the local Wildrose Party association to the Alberta Fund political action committee in late 2017. Nothey accused UCP MLA Angela Pitt of “outright intimidation” in trying to get him to stop asking questions about it. He will now face Pitt in the provincial election.

Valerie Keefe has withdrawn plans to seek the FCP nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood.

The FCP has opened nomination contests in Airdrie-Cochrane, Calgary-North West, Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, and Leduc-Beaumont.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

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Alberta Politics

NDP nomination meetings sprouting up ahead of spring 2019 election

Photo: Peter Mueller, Kelly Mandryk, Jessica Littlewood, and Colin Piquette

With candidates nominated in 34 districts and less than two months until the official fixed-election period begins, the New Democratic Party has now scheduled nomination meetings in 23 additional districts between now and February 7, 2019. It is expected that more candidate selection meetings will be announced shortly.

The latest meetings to be announced will be held in Calgary-Foothills, Calgary-North and Grande Prairie on February 3, 2019 and Edmonton-Whitemud on February 7, 2019. 

Kelly Mandryk is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-North. Mandryk is a Senior Service Representative with Great West Life and is a former journalist and editor, having worked at the Barrhead Leader and Calgary Herald. A candidate selection meeting is scheduled for February 3, 2019.

MLA Jessica Littlewood has announced she will seek the NDP nomination for re-election in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville. Littlewood was first elected in 2015, earning 45 percent of the vote and unseating one-term Progressive Conservative MLA Jacquie Fenske. She has served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade since October 2017 and was recently voted Up and Coming MLA to Watch in 2019 in the Daveberta Best of Alberta Politics 2018 Survey. A candidate selection meeting has been scheduled for February 2, 2019.

NDP MLA Colin Piquette will seek his party’s nomination in the newly redrawn Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock district. Piquette was first elected in 2015 in the Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater, earning 40 percent of the vote. He is the son of former NDP MLA Leo Piquette, who represented Athabasca-Lac La Biche from 1986 to 1989.

If nominated, Piquette will face current Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock United Conservative Party MLA Glenn van Dijken in the next election. This will be the third race in which two incumbent MLAs are challenging each other in a newly redrawn electoral district. The other races are Central Peace-Notley, where NDP MLA Marg McCuaig-Boyd and UCP MLA Todd Loewen are running, and in Chestermere-Strathmore, where UCP MLA Leela Aheer and Freedom Conservative Party MLA Derek Fildebrandt are running.

Retired teacher Peter Mueller will seek the NDP nomination in Cypress-Medicine Hat. Mueller is a columnist in the pages of the Medicine Hat News where he has been a vocal and persistent critic of local UCP MLA Drew Barnes, who he plans to challenge in the next election. A nomination meeting has been scheduled for February 9, 2019.

Amanda Chapman is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Beddington, which is scheduled to take place on February 3, 2019. 

The Alberta Party has announced that Jason James will run for the party in Grande Prairie-Wapiti and Ivan Boles will run in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain. Boles was president of the PC Party association in Spruce Grove-St. Albert and Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert from 2010 to 2017 and endorsed Richard Starke in the 2017 PC Party leadership contest.

Putting an end to the rumours, Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer announced that she will not seek the UCP nomination in Red Deer-South. The UCP announced in early December that the party was  would delaying the selection meeting until 2019 in order to give time for a “high profile individual” run join the contest. Four candidates are already contesting the nomination. It remains unclear who the mystery star candidate will be.


Here is a list of upcoming candidate selection meetings: 

January 8, 2019: Bruce Hinkley was acclaimed as the NDP candidate in Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin. As I wrote in my previous update, Hinkley was first elected in 2015.

January 10, 2019: Shawna Gawreluck is seeking the NDP nomination in Morinville-St. Albert. Gawreluck is a lab technologist and a resident of Sturgeon County. She was the federal NDP candidate in the 2017 by-election in the Sturgeon River-Parkland district where she earned 7.7 percent of the vote.

January 10, 2019: MLA Annie McKitrick has officially filed her intention to seek the NDP nomination for re-election in Sherwood Park. McKitrick was first elected in 2015 with 52 percent of the vote and has served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Education since 2017.

January 10, 2019: MLA Erin Babcock is seeking the NDP nomination in the new Spruce Grove-Stony Plain district west of Edmonton. Babcock was first elected as MLA for Stony Plain in 2015, earning 38 percent of the vote and unseating PC MLA Ken Lemke.

January 17, 2019: MLA Ricardo Miranda is seeking the NDP nomination for re-election in Calgary-Cross. He was first elected in 2015 and has served as Alberta’s Minister of Culture and Tourism since February 2016. 

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

Categories
Alberta Politics

Dr. Bob Turner announces retirement, lawyer Rakhi Pancholi to seek NDP nomination in Edmonton-Whitemud

Dr. Bob Turner has announced he will not seek re-election as the MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud when the next election is called. Turner was first elected in 2015, defeating then-Progressive Conservative Health Minister Stephen Mandel by 5,628 votes in what had been a PC Party stronghold since the 1997 election.

Rakhi Pancholi NDP Edmonton Whitemud
Rakhi Pancholi

Turner’s victory in 2015 was not an anomaly in Edmonton, as the New Democratic Party swept every seat in the city and region, but it was his strong second place finish in the October 27, 2014 by-election that foreshadowed the rise of the NDP in Edmonton. The by-election was held after long-time PC MLA and former deputy premier Dave Hancock was abruptly shown the door when Jim Prentice became premier in 2014.

In a statement released earlier this week, Turner described his main goals and achievements since becoming an MLA. “From the beginning, I spoke about the need to move forward in building Nellie Carlson School, with upgrading the Misericordia Hospital and eliminating flavoured tobacco,” Turner wrote.“I’ve been proud to see all of these goals accomplished.”

A respected hematologist and oncologist at the University of Alberta Hospital and Cross Cancer Institute and Professor of Medicine and Oncology at the University of Alberta, Turner was the perfect fit for this district, which includes some of Edmonton’s most affluent neighbourhoods. His departure is not shocking, as Turner turned 70 years old this year, but his retirement does mean this could be one battleground district to watch in next year’s election.

Michael Janz Edmonton
Michael Janz

Rakhi Pancholi, a lawyer with McLennan Ross LLP, plans to seek the NDP nomination to run in Edmonton-Whitemud in the next election. Pancholi’s legal experience includes working as the staff lawyer for the Alberta School Boards Association and as a Solicitor with the Government of Alberta before joining McLennan Ross, which is known in the world of labour relations as an employer-friendly law firm.

Pancholi is the former director and adoptions coordinator for the Humane Animal Rescue Team and has volunteered with the Edmonton Community Legal Centre and the Treatment Action Campaign in Cape Town, South Africa. Find more exclusive content on legal advice here.

Pancholi already has the support of a popular progressive elected official representing the area, Edmonton Public School Board trustee Michael Janz. It was rumoured that the NDP were courting Janz to run for the provincial nomination following his landslide re-election in October 2017. But he is now expected to endorse Pancholi in her bid to become the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Whitemud.

A date for the NDP nomination meeting has not yet been announced.

Already nominated to run in this district are United Conservative Party candidate Elisabeth Hughes and Alberta Party candidate Jonathan Dai.


NDP nomination meetings scheduled for early 2019

With an election expected to be called in spring 2019, the NDP have begun to announce what is expected to be a flurry of nomination meetings to be held in the first few months of 2019.

NDP members will select candidates in Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin on January 8, 2019, Morinville-St. Albert, Spruce Grove-Stony Plain, and Sherwood Park on January 10, 2019, Calgary-Cross on January 17, 2019, Calgary-Peigan on January 19, 2019, Edmonton-Castle Downs on January 23, 2019, Calgary-Bow, Calgary-Shaw and Highwood on January 26, 2019, Airdrie-Cochrane on January 31, 2019, Camrose and Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville on February 2, 2019, and Cypress-Medicine Hat on February 9, 2019.