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Alberta Politics

Is the Wildrose Caucus about to merge with the PC Caucus?

Wildrose MLA Caucus Alberta Danielle Smith

Are more Wildrose MLAs preparing to cross the floor to the Progressives Conservatives? Independent MLA Joe Anglin has told reporters that Danielle Smith‘s 14 MLA Wildrose Official Opposition Caucus will vote on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 on whether to join the governing PC Caucus.

Rob Anderson Wildrose MLA
Rob Anderson

Mr. Anglin’s comments, claims published on an anonymously blog and tweets from conservative activists fuelled the rumours of the Wildrose Party’s demise on social media last night.

The sources of the rumours are questionable, but the curious silence of official Wildrose Party social media accounts suggests that the merger of the two caucuses could indeed be on the table when Wildrose MLAs meet on Dec. 16.

The loudest rumours point to Wildrose MLAs Rob Anderson and Shayne Saskiw crossing the floor, a claim Mr. Saskiw quickly denied on Twitter.

Shayne Saskiw MLA Wildrose
Shayne Saskiw

More reliable sources say that Mr. Anderson and Mr. Saskiw will make a presentation to their fellow MLAs on Dec. 16 detailing an offer extended by Mr. Prentice to Wildrose MLAs to join the PC Caucus. [Update: The Calgary Sun’s Rick Bell has obtained a copy of the “Reunification Agreement.”]

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes also tweeted his commitment to the Wildrose Party in response to the rumours.

This is not the first time we have heard rumours of a merger. In May 2014, Ms. Smith told reporters that then-PC leadership candidate Jim Prentice had proposed a merger of the two conservative parties. At the time, Premier Dave Hancock denied the claims, but it was clear that Mr. Prentice was reaching out to Wildrose MLAs.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat
Drew Barnes

Since becoming Premier, Mr. Prentice has robbed the Wildrose of its most effective talking points by committing to focus on property rights and reversing many of former premier Alison Redford‘s most unpopular decisions. In some ways, it is now difficult to tell what differentiates the Wildrose Party from Mr. Prentice’s PCs.

Last month, Wildrose MLAs Ian Donovan and Kerry Towle, crossed the floor to the PC Caucus. And only weeks before that, Mr. Anglin left the Wildrose Caucus, claiming that a ‘civil war‘ was being waged within the party.

After losing four by-elections in October 2014 and losing three MLAs since then, the normally loud Wildrosers have toned down, and in some cases struck a more conciliatory tone with the governing PCs.

Kerry Towle
Kerry Towle

Even normally hyper-partisan Justice Minister Jonathan Denis tweeted about working with Mr. Anderson on a Wildrose Caucus amendment to Bill 2: Alberta Accountability Act. If that does not signal a warming of relations between the two caucuses, I’m not sure what else would.

But despite the party’s recent poor showing, a Wildrose Party led by Ms. Smith could still remain competitive going into the next election.

The party has collected an impressive war chest and has nominated candidates in more than a quarter of Alberta’s constituencies. Recent polls show the party sitting at 29% support, only five points behind Mr. Prentice’s PCs.

The question is whether the change in tone signals a new strategy or preparation for a merger with the 43-year governing PC Party? If there is truth to the merger rumours, the departure of more Wildrose MLAs (including Ms. Smith) would be a death blow to that party.

What would a Wildrose-PC Caucus merger mean?
Raj Sherman MLA
Raj Sherman

MLAs crossing the floor is a fairly common occurrence in Alberta and Canadian politics, but I cannot think of any time when an Official Opposition Caucus has voted to merger with a governing caucus.

Unlike the merger of the federal Canadian Alliance and PC Party that created the Conservative Party of Canada in 2003, there is little to no chance another party will form government in the next election (in the context of 2003, a PC-Wildrose merger would be more like Stephen Harper‘s Canadian Alliance joining Paul Martin‘s Liberal Party).

In a scenario where nearly all the Wildrose MLAs crossed the floor to the PC Party, Raj Sherman‘s five MLA Liberal Caucus could regain its role as the Official Opposition. But the Liberals would only hold that title until MLAs Kent Hehr and Darshan Kang resigned to run in the October 2015 federal election. Upon their resignations, Rachel Notley‘s four MLA NDP Caucus could become the Official Opposition.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Look who’s running in 2016: Alberta Election nominations

With the four provincial by-elections over, the focus will soon turn back to nominating candidates to stand in Alberta’s next general election. The next election is scheduled to be held sometime between March 1 and May 31, 2016, but can be called earlier if premier requests the Lieutenant Governor to issue a writ of election.

The Wildrose Party and the New Democrats are the first out of the starting gate with the most nominated candidates and nomination contests currently underway.

Jack Hayden PC Drumheller Stettler
Jack Hayden

Blast from the past?
Two defeated Progressive Conservatives MLAs are not ruling out a return to politics in the next election. Former Cypress-Medicine Hat PC MLA Len Mitzel, who was defeated by Wildrose candidate Drew Barnes in 2012, told the Medicine Hat News he has not ruled out a comeback in 2016. And in Drumheller-Stettler, former Infrastructure Minister and registered lobbyist Jack Hayden is said to be mulling a 2016 bid. Mr. Hayden was unseated by Wildroser Rick Strankman in 2012.

Bonnyville-Cold Lake
Accountant Scott Cyr and architect Dixie Dahlstedt are facing off for the Wildrose Party nomination. Ms. Dahlstedt is a Daughter of the American Revolution who recently returned from a career in New York City to raise quarter-horses near Therrien, Alberta.

Dixie Dahlstedt Wildrose Bonnyville Cold Lake
Dixie Dahlstedt

Calgary-Bow
The Wildrose nomination in this west Calgary constituency has been set aside as a open spot for a candidate to be appointed by leader Danielle Smith. Rumours have been circulating for some time that Ms. Smith is working hard to recruit Canadian Taxpayer Federation spokesperson Derek Fildebrandt as the Wildrose candidate in Calgary-Bow. Mr. Fildebrandt is an outspoken critic of the PC Government and has targeted Premier Jim Prentice with FOIP requests dating back to his time in Ottawa.

Calgary-Elbow
Both Alberta Party leader Greg Clark and Liberal candidate Susan Wright have declared their intentions to seek their parties nominations to run in the next provincial election. In the recent by-election held on Oct. 27, Mr. Clark placed a close second with 26.94% of the vote. Ms. Wright placed fourth with 11.99%.

Heather Sweet NDP Edmonton-Manning
Heather Sweet

Edmonton-Manning
On September 30, Heather Sweet was acclaimed as the NDP candidate in this northeast Edmonton constituency. Ms. Sweet is a registered social worker working in child protection and is member of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees’ Committee On Political Action.

Edmonton-Rutherford
The NDP are holding a nomination meeting on November 5, 2014 in this southwest Edmonton constituency. Former City Council candidate and social work instructor Richard Feehan and 2012 candidate Melanie Samaroden are running for the nomination.

Grande Prairie-Smoky
Construction company manager Greg Tymchyna is seeking the Wildrose Party nomination in this northwest Alberta constituency. Now living in Grande Prairie, Mr. Tymchyna is also a homeowner in High River, where he is part of a legal battle seeking more compensation from the provincial government for flood damaged homes.

Kris Hodgson NDP Lethbridge East
Kris Hodgson

Lesser Slave Lake
Registered Nurse Danielle Larivee has been nominated as the NDP candidate in this rural northern Alberta constituency. Ms. Larivee is the President of the United Nurses of Alberta Local in Slave Lake.

Lethbridge-East
Kris Hodgson has tweeted his plans to seek the New Democratic Party nomination in this southern Alberta urban constituency. Mr. Hodgson is a Lethbridge College journalism instructor and president of Allied Arts Council. Earlier in the summer, Lethbridge College political scientist and former city councillor Faron Ellis declared his candidacy for the Wildrose Party nomination.

Medicine Hat
The NDP are holding a nomination meeting on November 12, 2014. Paramedic Jason Soklofske is expected to be acclaimed. Mr. Soklofske is a southern representative with the Health Sciences Association of Alberta and, according to his online biography, chairs that union’s political action committee.

Brian Tiessen Wildrose Sherwood Park Strathcona
Brian Tiessen

Sherwood Park-Strathcona
Businessman Brian Tiessen defeated Strathcona County Councillor Vic Bidzinski to become the Wildrose Party candidate in this constituency east of Edmonton. Mr. Bidzinski’s political past, as a Liberal candidate in the 1997 federal election, drew confused reactions from some local Wildrose supporters.

West Yellowhead
Stuart Taylor was acclaimed as the Wildrose Party candidate in West Yellowhead. As the party’s candidate in the 2012 election, Mr. Taylor placed second with 26.91%. The constituency is currently represented by Finance Minister Robin Campbell, who was first elected in 2008.

Categories
Alberta Politics

A closer look at PC constituency-level fundraising

Alberta Progressive Conservative PC Party Fundraising Assets 2013
Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, Fundraising and Assets in 2013 (click to enlarge).

After 43-years in government, Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party now faces serious competition in the fundraising field from the Wildrose Party.

Raising only $2.86 million in 2013, the PC Party ran a $136,000 deficit and owed $1.1 million on a line of credit. This shaky financial situation is unheard of for a natural governing party that is usually flush with cash.

The PC Party is are also facing criticism over a secret trust fund – the TAPCAL fund – which is a holdover from before changes were made to Alberta’s elections laws 36 years ago.

At the local-level, PC constituency associations raised more than $1.4 million in 2013. While most of the 87 PC associations reported  revenue in the thousands of dollars in the post-election year, a sharp gap in fundraising amounts has highlighted wealthy and poorer constituency associations in the PC Party.

More than $650,000 of the $1.4 million were raised by eleven local PC associations. In former premier Alison Redford‘s Calgary-Elbow constituency, the local PC association claimed more than $119,000 in revenue in 2013. In Calgary-Hays, represented by Infrastructure minister Ric McIver, the local PC association raised more than $95,000 last year. Most of the other nine associations are located in constituencies represented by cabinet ministers.

Meanwhile, PC associations in opposition held constituencies mostly reported low or insignificant levels of revenue in 2013. Many of these areas are now represented by Wildrose MLAs and had been represented by PC MLAs since the 1970s.

Last year, formerly powerful PC constituency associations in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, Medicine Hat reported zero revenue in 2013. PC associations in Cypress-Medicine Hat, Little Bow, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, Calgary-McCall, and Edmonton-Mill Woods reported less than $1,000 in revenue in 2013.

These low numbers suggest that some Tories may be having a difficult time adjusting to business without a local MLA to boost their fundraising initiatives.

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It appears as though Randy Thorsteinson is attempting to resurrect the Reform Party of Alberta. Mr. Thorsteinson, the former leader of the Social Credit Party and the Alberta Alliance Party, has launched a Facebook page advocating for the recreation of the party that was dissolved in 2004.