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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

Sarah Hoffman secures NDP nomination in Edmonton-Glenora, MLA Dave Hanson fends off two challengers in Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul

Minster of Health and Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman has been nominated as the New Democratic Party candidate in Edmonton-Glenora for the next election. Hoffman was first elected as MLA for this district in 2015 with 68 percent of the vote, unseating two-term Progressive Conservative MLA Heather Klimchuk. She previously served two terms on Edmonton’s Public School Board including as chair from 2012 to 2015.

Hoffman has managed to navigate her role as Health Minister, a large and challenging department, and continue to serve as Premier Rachel Notley’s chief political lieutenant. As I have written before, she is a contender for strongest member of cabinet, and is on my list of cabinet ministers who I believe are future Premier material.

Dave Hanson MLA UCP Bonnyville Cold Lake St Paul
Dave Hanson

MLA Dave Hanson fended off two challengers to secure the United Conservative Party nomination in the new Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul district today. City of Cold Lake mayor Craig Copeland, who also ran for the PC Party in Bonnyville-Cold Lake in the 2015 election, and private school administrator Glenn Spiess, were unable to unseat Hanson in this contest.

Hanson was endorsed by former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, who served as the MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin until resigning earlier this year. Copeland had the endorsement of Fort McMurray-Cold Lake Conservative Member of Parliament David Yurdiga.

At a candidate forum held before the vote, all three candidates, including Hanson, expressed their support for the further privatization of health care in Alberta.

The nomination contest in this district initially looked as if it would be a contest between Hanson and Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA Scott Cyr, but Cyr dropped out of the contest in April 2018.

Hanson was first elected in 2015 as the Wildrose MLA for Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills. He currently serves as UCP Indigenous Relations critic.

Upcoming Nomination Meetings

On September 13, 2018, UCP members in Calgary-Elbow will choose either past city council candidate Chris Davis or former party leadership candidate Doug Schweitzer as their candidate in the next election. Schweitzer is a lawyer who briefly considered running for the PC Party leadership in 2017 before dropping out and later running for the UCP leadership, where he placed third with 7.3 percent of the vote. He served as CEO of the Manitoba PC Party from 2008 to 2009 and was manager of Jim Prentice’s campaign for the leadership of the PC Party in 2014.

Doug Schweitzer Calgary Alberta Conservative
Doug Schweitzer

Schweitzer is endorsed by Chestermere-Rockyview UCP MLA Leela Aheer, former PC MLA and cabinet minister Jim Dinning, and former Calgary mayoral candidate Bill Smith. And Davis is endorsed by retired oil company executive Allan Markin and Kudatah leader George Clark.

Whoever wins this nomination will face Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark, who was first elected as MLA for Calgary-Elbow in 2015.

UCP members in Grande Prairie-Wapiti will choose their next candidate on September 14, 2018. With incumbent UCP MLA Wayne Drysdale not seeking re-election in 2019, party members will choose between Sexsmith town councillor, family literacy coordinator and former bible school registrar Kate Potter and former president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association Travis Toews.

Toews is being endorsed by Walter Paszkowski (MLA for Smoky River from 1989 to 1993, and MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky from 1993 to 2001),Everett McDonald (MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky from 2012 to 2015), and County of Grande Prairie councillor Peter Harris.

Former Liberal Party MLA Mo Elsalhy is expected to be nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Edmonton-South West on September 15, 2018. Elsalhy was the MLA for Edmonton-McClung from 2004 and 2008 and ran for the party leadership in 2008. He attempted a comeback in 2012 but was unable unseat PC MLA David Xiao. During his time as MLA he served in various critic roles, including as Official Opposition critic for Justice and Public Safety, and Innovation and Science.

Danielle Larivee
Danielle Larivee

UCP members in Edmonton-Rutherford will select their next candidate on September 15, 2018.  Four candidates are seeking the nomination: MacEwan University assistant professor Rafat Alam, Shaun Collicott, Laine Larson, and Hannah Presakarchuk.

CBC reported in May 2018 that Larson has questioned vaccination science and has suggested parents may be harming their children by vaccinating them against disease. Larson is an independent contractor and the step-son of former Reform Party Member of Parliament Deborah Grey.

NDP MLA Danielle Larivee is expected to be nominated as her party’s candidate in Lesser Slave Lake on September 16, 2018. Larivee was first elected in 2015, unseating seven-term PC MLA Pearl Calahasen. Larivee currently serves as Minister of Children’s Services and Minister for the Status of Women.

Marvin Olsen expected to be chosen as the Alberta Party candidate in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville on September 16, 2018. Olsen is the owner of Grim’s Contracting Ltd. Previously declared nomination candidate Campbell Pomeroy withdrew his name from the contest.

Here are some of the latest updates to the list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of the 2019 Alberta provincial general election:

Calgary-Klein – Julie Huston has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest.

Calgary-LougheedRachel Timmermans has been selected as the Alberta Party candidate in this southwest Calgary district. Timmermans, a Mount Royal University policy studies student, will face UCP leader Jason Kenney in the next election.

Calgary-NorthTommy Low is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-North EastGurbachan Brar is seeking the NDP nomination in this new north east Calgary district. Brar is a former President of the Punjabi Likhari Sabha and a former broadcaster at RED FM 106.7.

CamroseKevin Smook is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Smook is councillor for Division 1 on Beaver County council, where he was first elected in 2013. He served as Reeve of Beaver County from 2014 to 2017.

Edmonton-Rutherford – Aisha Rauf defeated Arnold D’Souza to secure the Alberta Party nomination. She is an instructor and according to her website biography is waiting for her PhD Linguistics thesis defence. She was interviewed in a September 2017 episode of the Broadcast.

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!


Former NDP leader, school trustee Ray Martin releasing new book

Ray Martin NDP MLA School Trustee Edmonton Alberta
Ray Martin

Former MLA Ray Martin is releasing his memoir, “Made in Alberta: The Ray Martin Story” on September 27, 2018.

Martin is the former leader of the Alberta NDP and served as leader of the Official Opposition in the Legislative Assembly from 1984 to 1993. He was elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Norwood from 1982 to 1993 and Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview from 2004 to 2008, and ran for the provincial NDP in 9 separate elections between 1975 and 2012. He most recently served as a trustee on the Edmonton Public School Board representing Ward D from 2013 to 2017.

Martin’s decades worth of experiences in Alberta politics will certainly mean he has many interesting stories to tell. I am definitely adding this new book to my Fall 2018 reading list.

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Alberta Politics

Who is running in Alberta’s 2019 Election?

A handful of aspiring elected officials have already put their names forward to run in Alberta’s next provincial general election, which, due to our odd-ball fixed-election period, is expected to be called between March 1, 2019 and May 31, 2019.

Omar Masood ALberta Party Calgary Buffalo
Omar Masood

One candidate has already been nominated. Omar Masood was acclaimed as the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Buffalo in December 2016.

Six incumbent MLAs were acclaimed to run as Wildrose Party candidates in February and March 2017, before the formation of the United Conservative Party and the redistribution of electoral boundaries for the next election. Those six MLAs were Angela Pitt in Airdrie, Glenn van Dijken in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock, Leela Aheer in Chestermere-Rockyview, Todd Loewen in Grande Prairie-Smoky, Dave Hanson in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills and Ron Orr in Lacombe-Ponoka. It is expected that, due to the creation of a new party and a new electoral map, those MLAs will have to run for their new party’s nominations.

Here is a list of candidates who have announced their intentions to seek party nominations:

Aidrie-Cochrane: Peter Guthrie is seeking the UCP nomination in this new district. Guthrie is a former owner of a Mr. Lube franchise in north east Calgary and a former co-owner of a ranch near Castor. He has a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alberta.

Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul: Glenn Spiess is seeking the UCP nomination in this newly redistributed district. Spiess was the Assistant Director of Development for the Living Water College of the Arts in Derwent and is a homeschooling facilitator with WISDOM, the home schooling administration of Trinity Christian School in Cold Lake.

Philip Schuman United Conservative Party Calgary Glenmore
Philip Schuman

Calgary-Beddington: Videographer and editor Daniel Kostek is seeking the UCP nomination in this new northwest Calgary district. The new district will be created from areas of the current Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill, Calgary-Northern Hills and Calgary-Foothills districts.

Calgary-Glenmore: Philip Schuman is seeking the UCP nomination in this southwest Calgary district. Schuman is an MBA student, insurance company account executive and the Vice President of the Braeside Community Association. Until July 2017, Schuman was listed as the Media Coordinator for United Liberty, the political action committee created by now-former UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt.

Calgary-Mountain View: Thana Boonlert is seeking the Green Party  nomination, which is scheduled to take place on  February 28, 2018. Boonlert previously ran in the 2016 Calgary-Greenway by-election and 2015 federal election in Calgary-Centre. The district is currently represented by fourth-term Liberal MLA David Swann.

Calgary-South East: Matthew Jones is seeking the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-Gold Bar: New Democratic Party MLA Marlin Schmidt is seeking re-election. Schmidt is currently serving as Minister of Advanced Education and Acting Minister of Justice and Solicitor General. Schmidt was elected in 2015 with 68.9 percent of the vote and his crushing 11,205 vote margin of victory, the largest in any district in that election, earned him the nickname “Hurricane Marlin.”

Christina Gray Edmonton Mill Woods MLA
Christina Gray

Edmonton-Mill Woods: Christina Gray will seek re-election as the NDP candidate. She was elected in 2015 with 64.8 percent of the vote and currently serves as Minister of Labour and Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal.

Edmonton-Whitemud: Tunde Obasan is seeking the UCP nomination. He is an accounting and finance professional and was an organizer for Andrew Scheer‘s federal Conservative leadership campaign and Jason Kenney‘s UCP leadership campaign in 2017.

Leduc-Beaumont: Former Edmonton police officer Brad Rutherford is seeking the UCP nomination. Rutherford previously ran for the federal Conservative Party nomination in Edmonton-West ahead of the 2015 election. He is the president of the Leduc-Beaumont UCP and the federal Edmonton-Wetaskiwin Conservative association.

Red Deer-North: Cole Kander is seeking the UCP nomination. He is a former political assistant who publicly attacked former Wildrose leader Brian Jean after he lost his job at the UCP caucus due to budget cutbacks in September 2017.

St. Albert: Marie Renaud plans to seek re-election as the NDP candidate. Renaud was first elected in 2015 with 53.9 percent of the vote.

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.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Alberta’s Boundary Commission recommends new Electoral Map for 2019

Photo: Justice Myra Bielby chaired Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission.

The final report of the Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission was released today with recommendations to redraw the province’s electoral map for the 2019, and presumably the 2023, elections.

The challenge facing the five-person commission was to redraw Alberta’s electoral boundaries to reflect growth and declining population in regions across the province. Without the ability to increase or decrease the number of constituencies from the current 87, the commission’s work was no easy task.

I was pleased to see the final report recommends new boundaries that will increase representation in the Legislature from growing communities such as Calgary, Edmonton, Airdrie, Grande Prairie, Spruce Grove, Cochrane and Chestermere.

I was pleased to see the final report incorporate a number of changes that I recommended in my initial submission in February 2017 and response to the interim report in July 2017.

In my response to the interim report, I recommend that the Commission attempt to keep districts within ten percent, and ideally within five percent, above or below the provincial average population per electoral district. The commission improved this average in the final report, with 73 of 87 districts now falling with ten percent above or below the provincial average.

The creation of the Morinville-St. Albert district north of Edmonton is an improvement from both the current boundaries and those included in the interim report. Rather than splitting the Sturgeon Valley communities like spokes in a bicycle wheel-like districts like the current Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock and Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater, drawing these communities into a common district north of Edmonton is a sensible choice.

The final report renames some of the odd district naming choices including in the interim report, such as Calgary-Airport, Edmonton-Mill Woods-East and Edmonton-Mill Woods-West.

The final report eliminates the problems with the shelter belt-like Fort Saskatchewan-St. Paul, Vermilion-Lloydminster and Stettler-Wainwright districts proposed in the interim report.

Eliminating the non-contiguous district of Wetaskiwin-Camrose and recommending the creation of a Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin district will bring together a large community of interest that was previously split into two districts. This is positive.

While the final report eliminates some troubling rural district changes that were included in the interim report, it does include some of its own odd boundary changes. Most notable is the hour-glass shaped Cardston-Siksika district that would include two large sprawling rural areas that connect through a narrow gap near Lethbridge.

The final report also recommends the elimination of the single urban Medicine Hat district in favour of creating two rurban districts, Brooks-Medicine Hat and Cypress-Medicine Hat. This may face criticism in Medicine Hat, which has had its own urban district since at least the 1960s.

Having to balance regional population growth and decline without having the ability to increase the number of districts makes the task of redrawing districts very challenging. The lines must be drawn somewhere. And while this final report will not please everyone, the commission should be commended for their hard work.

The final report will be presented to the Legislative Assembly in the fall session, which begins at the end of October, and will require the support of a majority of MLAs to be approved.

What does this mean for incumbent MLAs?

The boundary changes propose in the interim report could led to incumbent MLAs facing each other in next election.

In northwest Alberta, Grande Prairie-Smoky United Conservative Party MLA Todd Loewen could face Dunvegan-Central-Peace Notley New Democratic Party MLA Marg McCuaig-Boyd in the new Dunvegan-Notley district.

North of Edmonton, Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock UCP MLA Glenn Van Dijken could face Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater NDP MLA Colin Piquette in the new Athabasca-Barrhead district. And in northeast Alberta, three UCP MLAs – Brian Jean, Dave Hanson and Scott Cyr – will need to face the reality that only two districts will exist in their region in 2019.

NDP MLA Trevor Horne will see his current Spruce Grove-St. Albert district absorbed into a redrawn St. Albert district and the new Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland and Spruce Grove-Stony Plain districts. Much of the areas included in these proposed districts are currently represented by NDP MLAs Marie Renaud, Erin Babcock and Oneil Carlier.

 

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Alberta Politics

Tracking MLA endorsements in the UCP leadership race

Members of the United Conservative Party will be selecting the party’s first permanent leader on October 28, 2017. After of this week’s fee payment deadline, four candidates will be listed on the ballot: Brian Jean, Jason Kenney, Doug Schweitzer and Jeff Callaway.

Of the 28 UCP MLAs represented in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly, nineteen have endorsed candidates in this leadership race (I am including Jean, the only sitting MLA in the contest, who has obviously endorsed himself). Here is a map showing which UCP MLAs have endorsed which leadership candidate as of September 14, 2017.Brian Jean: Leela Aheer (Chestermere-Rocky View), Wayne Anderson (Highwood), Dave Hanson (Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills), Todd Loewen (Grande Prairie-Smoky), Don MacIntyre (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake), Angela Pitt (Airdrie), Ron Orr (Lacombe-Ponoka), Dave Schneider (Little Bow), Pat Stier (Livingstone-Macleod), Glenn van Dijken (Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock), Tany Yao (Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo)

Jason Kenney: Drew Barnes (Cypress-Medicine Hat), Grant Hunter (Cardston-Taber-Warner), Ric McIver (Calgary-Hays), Jason Nixon (Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre), Mark Smith (Drayton Valley-Devon), Rick Strankman (Drumheller-Stettler)

Doug Schweitzer: Wayne Drysdale (Grande Prairie-Wapiti)

Categories
Alberta Politics

Party Business: Leadership Races and Palace Coups

– The Wildrose Party constituency association in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills passed a motion calling for Brian Jean to face a leadership review at the party’s annual meeting in Red Deer on October 28 and 29, 2016. That constituency is represented by MLA Dave Hanson, who was one of the 9 Wildrose MLAs who signed an article comparing carbon pricing to genocide. Postmedia reports that Mr. Hanson was present at the constituency meeting where the motion was debated but did not speak in Mr. Jean’s defence or vote on the resolution. Similar motions are expected to be proposed by a number of other Wildrose constituency associations.

Late last month, pressure from party activists and MLAs inside his caucus forced Mr. Jean to back down from his attempt to suspend Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt from the Wildrose Caucus.

Mr. Jean received 78 percent support in a leadership review following last year’s provincial election, which appears to mean little now as elements within his party are openly challenging his leadership.

– The Progressive Conservatives will be choosing a new leader before April 30, 2017. Party President Katherine O’Neill will chair the leadership race and former premier Dave Hancock will act as a senior advisor to the Leadership Election Committee. Cynthia Williams and Krista Balsom will co-chair the Delegate Convention & Debates Subcommittee. A motion introduced by Ms. Williams at the PC Party’s recent convention led to the adoption of a delegate system to choose the new leader.

– The Alberta Liberal Party executive board appointed Calgarian Nirmala Naidoo and Edmontonian Kevin Feehan as the co-chairs to oversee their leadership campaign scheduled for 2017 (Mr. Feehan is the brother of Edmonton-Rutherford NDP MLA and Minister of Indigenous Relations Richard Feehan). The next Liberal Party leader will be selected by a system that counts votes through a constituency-based point system. Calgarian Russell Scantlebury appears to be the only candidate openly campaigning for the position.

– The Alberta Party is holding its annual general meeting on June 11 to elect a new board of directors and debate constitutional amendments. One proposed amendment would limit future leadership candidates to those who have been a “member in good standing of the Party for at least one (1) year prior” to the candidate nomination deadline. The amendment would allow the board of directors to waive this requirement by a super-majority vote.

– It is not a leadership change or challenge but this motion might set off some fireworks at this weekend’s New Democratic Party convention in Calgary. Members of the Edmonton-Calder NDP association in the constituency represented by Education Minister David Eggen‘s are expected to introduce the following motion for debate: Be it resolved that the Alberta NDP urges the Provincial Government to discontinue advocacy or promotion of specific pipeline projects while stakeholders such as First Nations communities,Metis settlements, farm owners, and municipalities have expressed objections to a pipeline project being built through or terminating on their land.

Since entering office last year, Premier Rachel Notley has become a strong advocate for oil pipelines and has taken a more diplomatic approach to pipeline advocacy than her predecessors.

Categories
Alberta Politics

A look at some of the new laws passed in Alberta in Spring 2016

The Spring session of the Alberta Legislature ended yesterday after forty-days of debate.

The evacuation of more than 88,000 Albertans sparked by the wildfires in Fort McMurray dominated the attention of our political leaders during this session. In response to the wildfire crisis, Premier Rachel Notley and Wildrose leader Brian Jean briefly put aside politics and demonstrated their strengths as political leaders. It was a refreshing break from the negative rhetoric and hyperbole that has come to dominate Alberta politics.

The legislative session produced ejections, MLA suspensions and other intrigue but amidst the budget debates and political drama the New Democratic Party government pursued a fairly ambitious legislative agenda.

Twenty-one government bill and one two private members’ bills were passed during this session.

Bill 205: Pharmacy and Drug (Pharmaceutical Equipment Control) Amendment Act, a private members’ bill introduced by Calgary-West Progressive Conservative MLA Mike Ellis received unanimous support from MLAs when it was passed in the Legislature. The bill restricts ownership of pill presses in response to the Fentanyl crisis.

Bill 1: Promoting Job Creation and Diversification Act introduced by Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous gave the minister new powers to create programs focused on broadening the province’s industries and businesses. “Jobs” and “diversification” were key buzzwords used by NDP cabinet ministers this spring as they face an increase in unemployment and decrease in industry investment caused by the decline of the international price of oil.

Bill 4: An Act to Implement a Supreme Court Ruling Governing Essential Services introduced by Labour Minister Christina Gray lifted the ban on strikes by all public sector employees in response to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2015.

Bill 7: Electoral Boundaries Commission Amendment Act introduced by Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley pushed forward the timelines to redraw the electoral boundaries before the provincial election in 2019, which could have an impact on the results of that election. The timelines as they were previously legislated were askew after the Progressive Conservatives called an election one year earlier than Alberta’s fixed-election date law in 2015.

The NDP missed an opportunity to improve the composition of the commissions, which will include five appointees (two appointed by the Government Caucus, two by the Official Opposition and one “neutral” chairperson chosen by the government). The NDP should have amended the legislation to create a non-partisan judicial commission similar to the ones appointed to redraw federal electoral boundaries.

Introduced by Finance Minister Joe Ceci, Bill 10: Fiscal Statutes Amendment Act removed the 15 per cent debt-to-nominal-GDP cap implemented by the NDP in the fall session of 2015. This was a classic example of a government walking back on a law which they probably should not have passed in the first place. The Alberta government’s net-debt levels remain low enough that Albertans should not immediately be worried. But as our provincial credit ratings have been downgraded, it will be important for the current and future governments to implement policies that will actually address the government’s significant revenue shortfall and growing budget deficit.

Bill 11: Alberta Research and Innovation Amendment Act reorganized Alberta’s four “Innovates” branded research and development agencies into one agency governed by a single board and CEO. Bill 18: An Act to Ensure Independent Environmental Monitoring dissolved the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency and brought its responsibilities into the Department of Environment and Parks. Bill 11 also established the position of Chief Scientist.

Bill 15: An Act to End Predatory Lending introduced by Service Alberta Minister Stephanie McLean targeted the payday loan industry, bringing down the amounts paid on payday loans from $23 per $100 borrowed down to $15 per $100. Ms. McLean announced that the government is working with credit unions to offer short-term loans as an alternative to predatory loans.

Bill 19: Reform of Agencies, Boards and Commissions Compensation Act injected transparency into Alberta’s byzantine system of appointed agencies, boards and commissions that had become a safe-haven for PC Party loyalists, patrons and retired MLAs during the previous government’s 44 years in power.

A long-time coming, Bill 21: Modernized Municipal Government Act, was in the works for years, but even so it was surprising that the NDP has been able to introduce it so early in their mandate. Bill 21 overhauls and updates sections of the province’s second largest piece of legislation. Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee, a rising-star in the NDP, will travel across the province this summer to consult with municipal leaders about the changes proposed in this bill, which only passed first reading during this session.

Bill 21 sets the ground for the creation of Big City Charters in the Act’s regulations, as advocated for by Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. The Charters are expected to be drafted by Spring 2017 and enacted by Summer 2017.

The NDP government’s flag ship piece of legislation of spring 2016 was Bill 20: Climate Leadership Implementation ActPart of the much-lauded Climate Leadership Plan, Bill 20 implements the Carbon levy and rebate program. In what is becoming a signature move of the NDP government, Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips assembled an impressive coalition of municipal, industry and environmental leaders in support of the new law.

While there are legitimate criticism of the bill, including whether the carbon levy is actually “revenue neutral,” the Wildrose Opposition failed to offer any alternative plan. The Official Opposition was knee-capped by a serious self-inflicted wound when an article signed by nine Wildrose MLAs compared carbon pricing to Holodomor, the genocide that killed an estimated 2.5–7.5 million Ukrainians in the Soviet Union from 1932 to 1933. Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills MLA Dave Hanson apologized for the comment but the nine MLAs avoided answering questions about the genocide comparison when asked by the media.

Alberta’s Legislative Assembly is expected to reconvene on October 31, 2016 and sit until December 1, 2016.

[Note: This was just a brief description of some of the bills debated and passed during the spring session. A full list of bills debated in this session can be found here]