Tag Archives: David Climenhaga

Let the fall session begin – MLAs return to Edmonton on Oct 8

The fall session of the Alberta Legislative Assembly reconvenes on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, with Government House Leader Jason Nixon promising up to 17 new pieces of government legislation to be introduced before MLAs break for the year in December. The Legislature was initially scheduled to return on October 22, the day after the federal election, but MLAs were called back to the capital earlier than expected. As well as new bills, UCP Finance Minister Travis Toews is expected to present an austerity budget on October 24, 2019.

Richard Gotfried MLA UCP Calgary Fish Creek Alberta Election 2019

Richard Gotfried

The tone of the session is already expected to be confrontational, but the results of the October 21 federal election will determine whether the UCP caucus be celebratory (in the case of Conservative Party victory) or antagonized (in the case of a Liberal Party victory) as Toews tables his first budget.

There will also be some changes at the Legislative committee level. According to the Legislative Order Paper, Calgary-Fish Creek United Conservative Party MLA Richard Gotfried appears to have been removed as chairperson of the Standing Committee on the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund, replaced as chairperson by Lacombe-Ponoka UCP MLA Ron Orr and as a committee member by Calgary-East UCP MLA Peter Singh. Gotfried also appears to have been removed from the Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills, where he will be replaced by Brooks-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Michaela Glasgo. Gotfried was first elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2015 and was re-elected as a UCP MLA in 2019.

It is not clear what sparked the shuffle, but there has been speculation that Premier Jason Kenney might make some minor adjustments to his cabinet this fall.

NDP wrap up town hall tour, Notley staying put.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP

Rachel Notley (photo from Facebook)

The official opposition New Democratic Party wrapped up a multi-city town hall tour of Alberta focused on the upcoming provincial budget. The NDP likely used these town hall meetings to collect contact information and expand their outreach network while adjusting to their role as opposition after four years as government. The uncertainty created by the expected budget cuts will almost certainly be a central narrative of this legislative session.

Despite rumours of an ambassadorial appointment, NDP leader Rachel Notley told David Climenhaga of AlbertaPolitics.ca that she has no plans on stepping down as leader anytime soon. “I’ve been very clear. I’m staying on until the next election,” Notley said.

Notley’s declaration puts aside rumours of her departure, at least for now, that fuelled speculation about an NDP leadership contest that could include former cabinet ministers and now prominent opposition critics Sarah Hoffman and Shannon Phillips.

Alberta Liberals to report on their future.

The Alberta Liberal Party is holding its annual convention on November 16 in Edmonton. The one-day meeting will include the presentation of a report by the party’s Review Committee,  which was tasked determining potential options for the future of the party. The 2019 provincial election marked the first time since 1982 that the Liberals failed to elect any candidates to the Assembly. The convention will feature a keynote presentation from John Santos, a respected public opinion and political science researcher based in Calgary.

Disqualified UCP nomination candidate now separatist party president.

Todd Beasley is now president of the Alberta Independence Party. Beasley was considered the front-runner in the July 2018 UCP nomination contest in Brooks-Medicine Hat before he was removed from the race for publishing horrible comments about muslims on the internet. He ran as an Independent candidate instead and earned 12.4 per cent of the vote. The party is without a leader since Dave Bjorkman resigned following the 2019 provincial election.

More names added to Elections Alberta’s list of banned candidates

Elections Alberta has added a number of new names to its public list of Individuals Ineligible to Run as a Candidate or Act as a Chief Financial Officer. Names on this list can include election candidates, nomination candidates, and CFOs who have missed deadlines or improperly submitted financial disclosure forms to Elections Alberta.

New additions to the list include Former MLA Ian Donovan, who ran as an Independent candidate in Cardston-Siksika, Jovita Mendita, who was a candidate for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona, and a number of Alberta Independence Party and Freedom Conservative Party candidates.

Jason Kenney ramps up the old Tory patronage machine, begins purging NDP appointees from public agencies, boards and commissions

If you’re a conservative lawyer or energy company CEO in Alberta, you should check your email. There’s a good chance you might have been appointed to a public agency, board or commission last week.

A large number of political appointments made last Friday morning included new board chairpersons and directors at eleven post-secondary institutions, including the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, MacEwan University and Mount Royal University, as well as Alberta Health Services, the Workers’ Compensation Board, and the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis commission. The UCP appointees replaced a number of high-profile NDP-appointees, including U of A board chairperson Michael Phair, NAIT board chairperson Ray Martin, AHS board chairperson Linda Hughes, and WCB chairperson Grace Thostenson.

The list of appointees is flush with business insiders, corporate executives, and United Conservative Party donors. While partisan and political appointments are expected after any change in government (an occurrence we are just starting to become familiar with in Alberta – and hopefully will continue to be familiar with), this list might even make the old Progressive Conservative establishment blush.

As reported by David Climenhaga at AlbertaPolitics.ca, “At least 18 of the new UCP appointees were donors of significant sums to the party or UCP-friendly PACs set up to skirt election-financing laws.” Progress Alberta is expected to publish a more detailed report soon, but a scan of financing disclosures by executive director Duncan Kinney showed 16 donors who together contributed more than $100,000 to various conservative political causes were among the appointees.

Included in the flurry of appointments are a handful of former conservative politicians, activists, and officials with ties to the UCP, the federal Conservative Party, and right-wing lobby groups and think-tanks:

  • The AGLC will now be chaired by defeated UCP star candidate Len Rhodes. Rhodes was parachuted into Edmonton-Meadows following his retirement as president and CEO of the Edmonton Eskimos, but was defeated by NDP MLA Jasvir Deol in the provincial election.
  • Also appointed to the AGLC are Elan Harper, the chief financial officer for the Calgary-Varsity UCP association, and Gerard Curran, the owner of the James Joyce Pub in Calgary and former chairman of Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association (now known as the UCP-friendly Restaurants Canada).
  • Former Progressive Conservative MLA Janice Sarich was appointed to the board of MacEwan University, former MLA and associate cabinet minister Donna Kennedy-Glans was appointed to the board of the Banff Centre, and former Member of Parliament James Rajotte is now on the University of Alberta Board of Governors.
  • Former APPEGA president Kim Farwell, appointed to the board of governors of Keyano College in Fort McMurray, was campaign manager to Conservative MP David Yurdiga and president of the local Conservative Party association.
  • Lydell Torgerson, appointed as a public member of the Board of Directors of Grande Prairie Regional College has acted as the official agent for Conservative MP Chris Warkentin‘s election campaign.
  • Andy Crooks, the former chairman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation during Jason Kenney‘s time as its spokesperson, is now a member of the Municipal Government Board, and Moin Yahya, a U of A law professor and senior fellow with the Fraser Institute, is now a member of the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
  • Grafton Asset Management, the company run by newly appointed University of Calgary board chairperson Geeta Sankappanavar, donated $25,000 to the Shaping Alberta’s Future political action committee which purchased front-page pro-UCP ads in Alberta’s Postmedia newspapers.
  • Alex Pourbaix, president and CEO of Cenovus Energy and newly appointed chairman of the Mount Royal University board of directors, donated $4,000 to the UCP in 2019.

The biggest outlier when it comes to political donations might be new AHS board chairman David Weyant, the outgoing chairman of the Banff Centre of the Arts, who has donated $1,775 to the Alberta NDP since 2016, including a $550 donation in 2019.

Overall, the appointments send two messages:

  1. The Tory patronage machine is back, and it’s a deep well. While the NDP embraced the oil and gas sector and appointed corporate executives to public boards during their five years in government, Premier Rachel Notley‘s party never had a large political establishment to draw upon for appointees. The NDP also attempted to to professionalize the selection process but holding interviews and expanding the application process to allow a broader cross-section of Albertans to serve on some public boards. The long list of UCP appointees employed as corporate executives and lawyers, as well as the lack of representation from civil society groups, signals a return to something more similar to the old PC Party regime. It also serves as a reminder of the deep well of patronage appointees from the conservative establishment in this province that have made themselves available to the UCP.
  2. Resistance is futile (at least that’s what they want you to think). Serious political resistance at the board level to what are expected to be significant funding cuts to post-secondary education and public agencies like Alberta Health Services is now less likely to be successful. With significant budget cuts expected to be recommended in the “Blue Ribbon” panel report prepared by history professor and former Saskatchewan cabinet minister Janice McKinnon, it is likely that the UCP government wanted to install appointees who would be eager to enact the government’s austerity and privatization agenda when the provincial budget is tabled in the fall.

While it is difficult to criticize the qualifications of some of the appointees, some who are highly qualified for the positions they have been appointed to, it is expected that their experience was weighed closely with how compliant they will be with Kenney’s political agenda.

Episode 38: Students get a pay cut and big corporations get a tax cut

The cut to minimum wage for Alberta students under the age of 18 and cuts to corporate income taxes are the big topics discussed by Dave Cournoyer and guest co-host Brad Lafortune on this episode of the Daveberta Podcast.

We also discuss Attorney General Doug Schweitzer’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor to advise police investigating allegations of voter fraud in the 2017 United Conservative Party leadership race. And we answer some great questions shared by our listeners.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. The APN is asking podcast listeners to participate in their annual listener survey, so please do so if you are so inclined.

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

You can also comment on the blogFacebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

Thanks again to our talented producer, Adam Rozenhart, for making us sound so great.

Thanks for listening!

Note: The Daveberta Podcast will be taking a break for the next few weeks as Dave and Adam go on vacation with their families. We will be back on July 15!

Recommended Reading/Listening

The Kenney-Callaway collusion scandal erupts days before an expected election call in Alberta

What did Jason Kenney know and when did he know it?

A treasure trove of emails and documents released by CBC investigative reporters Charles Rusnell and Jennie Russell yesterday show that Jason Kenney‘s campaign for the United Conservative Party leadership provided Jeff Callaway’s campaign with resources ranging from “strategic political direction, media and debate talking points, speeches, videos, and attack advertisements, all aimed at undermining Kenney’s main political rival, Brian Jean.”

This comes a day after CBC broke the story that Alberta’s Election Commissioner has turned over to the RCMP its investigation into allegations of irregular political contributions involving Callaway’s so-called “kamikaze” campaign.

CBC reports that current UCP Caucus deputy chief of staff Matt Wolf, then director of issues management for Kenney’s campaign, communicated regularly with Callaway’s communications manager Cameron Davies, and at times Randy Kerr, who was working as Callaway’s campaign manager.

As director of issues management, Wolf was responsible for advising Kenney on the day-to-day campaign tactics and strategy of the leadership campaign.

Callaway’s withdrawal was something that wasn’t necessarily negotiable,” Davies told CBC. “It was something that had been decided in a meeting in mid-July between Callaway and the Jason Kenney leadership team.”

The Star Edmonton reporters Kieran Leavitt and Emma McIntosh reported that Davies said that ‘Kenney had first hand knowledge of the Callaway kamikaze campaign, and attended a meeting at Callaway’s house where it was discussed in July 2017.’

Kenney has repeatedly denied allegations that Callaway was a stalking horse candidate and he most recently denied knowledge of collusion. He told reporters at a press conference on Friday that that he asked his staff in late 2018 whether they had any knowledge of the the Callaway campaign allegations. “The result of those inquiries was that no one was aware of, had heard anything about or had in any way participated in such activity,” Kenney said.

And Clare Clancy has reported that Postmedia has obtained an email from Wolf to the UCP Caucus sent today in which he writes that “I’ve made no secret about that for those who have asked.”  The same Postmedia report says that Wolf has “gone home” and is not available for comment.

It is not clear whether “gone home” means Wolf was just not in the office at that minute or whether he has “gone home” to somewhere without wifi or cell phone signals for the duration of the election campaign.

Having one of Kenney’s senior advisors apparently leave on the eve of a provincial election call is not exactly the statement of confidence that UCP candidates and supporters will have been looking for today.

Collusion between the two leadership campaigns at this level is not illegal, but it is definitely not normal, certainly unethical and potentially a violation of the UCP’s Code of Conduct.

And as David Climenhaga noted on AlbertaPolitics.ca, U.S. Senator Howard Baker once said of a more famous political scandal, “it is almost always the cover-up rather than the event that causes trouble.”

The questions of legality surround the sharing of campaign resources and donations made by individuals to Callaway’s campaign, and where that money could have originated, which is why the RCMP have been asked to investigate. It has been alleged that some donors were not donating their own money, which is a violation of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. One donor to Callaway’s campaign has already been fined $3,500 by the Commissioner for violating the Act.

The whole Kenney-Callaway collusion scandal is bizarre mostly because, as anyone who was paying attention to Alberta politics in 2017 can attest, Kenney was the clear frontrunner in the UCP leadership race.

With 20-years of experience as an Ottawa politician and the strong backing of Canada’s Conservative establishment, Kenney had the networks, support, and money to win a race against Jean on his own, without Callaway.

But it appears that it may of not been enough for Kenney to just defeat Jean in the UCP leadership contest. Maybe Kenney’s campaign felt they needed Callaway in the race in order so that he could win so decisively that his position as leader of the UCP would be unquestionable in the face of a frequently unruly and fractious conservative movement in Alberta?

We do not have an answer to that question – and Kenney’s silence on the topic over the past two days is deafening.

Stephen Mandel Alberta Party Leadership

Episode 28: An Unconstitutional Dog Ate My Homework

The Friday night bombshell that hit Stephen Mandel and the Alberta Party, the likelihood of Premier Rachel Notley tabling a budget before calling the 2019 election and how much influence the anti-abortion group the Wilberforce Project actually has over United Conservative Party nominations. These are just a few of the hot topics Dave Cournoyer discussed with special guests Natalie Pon and David Climenhaga in this episode of the Daveberta Podcast.

They also delved into the latest candidate nomination news, including recent UCP votes in Calgary-North and Lethbridge-East, former CBC reporter John Archer’s candidacy in Edmonton-South West, and whether we are ever going to find out the true identity of the mystery UCP candidate in Red Deer-South. They also opened the mailbag to answer some of the questions you have sent us over the past few weeks.

Daveberta Podcast Dave Cournoyer Natalie Pon David Climenhaga Alberta Politics Election

Dave Cournoyer with special guests Natalie Pon and David Climenhaga.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial.

You can listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, SpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online.

We always love to feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download. You can also comment on the blogFacebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

And a huge thanks to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, who keeps us on track and makes each episode of the Daveberta Podcast sound so great.

Thank you for listening!

Recommended reading/events/listening:

Controversy over Jason Kenney’s very unusual living arrangements bogged down by wonkish details

When I first heard about the controversy swelling around United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney‘s former domestic arrangements, I was very reluctant to write about or event comment on the issue. It even took me a few days to be convinced that it might be more than just the political pot-shot of the week.

Kenney’s past domestic arrangements ballooned into a big political issue this week when it was revealed that, for a period of time while serving in Ottawa, the former seven-term MP and senior cabinet minister designated the basement of his parents home in a Calgary retirement community as his primary residence.

Kyle Morrow Alberta Jason Kenney

Kyle Morrow

During his time in Ottawa from 1997 to 2016, Kenney appears to have always designated his primary residence in Calgary, which is to be expected even if he did not spend much time in the city during his time as a senior cabinet minister. This is probably not uncommon for a lot of MPs or cabinet ministers. But it did mean he was eligible for a $900 per month subsidy to pay for the cost of his secondary residence in Ottawa.

There is no hard evidence that Kenney actual broke any House of Commons rules – rules written by MPs for MPs – but his decision to declare his primary residence as the basement of his parents house in a Calgary retirement community is… very unusual, to say the least.

Add to the controversy that a former staff member of the retirement community has told various media outlets that this type of basement lease arrangement is not allowed under the retirement community’s own rules.

Then there is also the related issue of Kenney donating $399.00 to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party while his primary residence was in Alberta, an act he was prohibited from doing unless he was a resident of Ontario.

The controversy and its related spin-off stories are fairly wonkish. David Climenhaga did an excellent job dissecting the details of Kenney’s housing arrangements and how MPs determine where to designate their primary residence.

The only reason Albertans are talking about this controversy, and why I am writing about it, is Ottawa-based lawyer Kyle Morrow, who for the past few months has been sharing a treasure-trove of research and political criticisms of Kenney on social media. Morrow is originally from Alberta and was the Liberal Party candidate in Lacombe-Ponoka in the 2012 provincial election. But from his political perch in Ottawa, Morrow has been researching and tweeting all sorts of tidbits and information about Kenney from his 19 years as an Ottawa politician.

The UCP and the usual cast of characters, including Postmedia columnists Licia Corbella and Rick Bell, quickly leapt to Kenney’s defence, claiming that this was an unfair personal attack by Morrow against Kenney and his elderly mother, and dismissing anyone who attacks the party leader as a victim of Kenney Derangement Syndrome.

The furious response by the UCP leads me to believe that Morrow hit a very sensitive nerve by raising this issue. Despite it already being part of Kenney’s public record from his time in Ottawa, the party clearly did not like it being talked about at all. But the tone and volume of their response has only drawn more attention to the issue.

All this political ruckus does raise the question about what a young Jason Kenney, who burst onto Alberta’s political scene in the early 1990s in the form of an aggressive anti-tax crusader, would have to say about the unusual living arrangements of his senior self. There is more than a little bit of irony that Kenney made a name for himself at the start of his political career as a fierce critic of Progressive Conservative excess, including PC MLAs who were themselves twisted in knots over their own housing expense scandal before the 1993 election.

This is not the first time Kenney has faced controversy over his MP expenses. In 2001, he was criticized for spending $121,000 on taxpayer funded flights for MPs, in part, to allegedly campaign for Stockwell Day‘s bid to retain the leadership of the Canadian Alliance.

But like that controversy, I doubt this will damage Kenney’s electoral prospects to any significant extent.

Kenney’s UCP is sitting with a mighty comfortable lead over the NDP in every public poll that has been released in the past year and the party raised a whopping $3,922,950.21 in the final four months of 2018.

And it is possible that Kenney’s critics have jumped the shark.

The fairly wonkish details that surround Kenney’s unusual housing arrangements make it difficult to explain in easy and short soundbites and will likely be lost on most Alberta voters. Some political watchers have expressed the opinion that it could be seen as a witch-hunt gone too far and an issue that allows Kenney to highlight his relationship with his family, which is not a side we have seen since the career politician jumped back into provincial politics in 2017.

While this story did not originate from the New Democratic Party, it does fit with the hit-a-week the governing party has been launching at Kenney for more than the past year. And while there is hope among the NDP that the growing number of controversies will develop into a narrative around Kenney and the UCP, none of the individual controversies, even ones that are easier to explain, appear to be hitting the intended target.

Episode 22: Special guest Jamil Jivani, author of Why Young Men

Jamil Jivani joined Dave and Ryan on the podcast this week as we discussed his new book, Why Young Men: Rage, Race and the Crisis of Identity, and delved into how Political Action Committees are shaping politics in our province and how they might impact the next election, this weekend’s New Democratic Party convention, and the latest candidate nomination news.

Daveberta Podcast Alberta PoliticsWe had such a good conversation with Jamil that we didn’t get to our mailbag this week. Thank you to everyone who sent us questions, we will answer them in an extra long mailbag segment in our next episode.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. The networks includes more than 30 Alberta-made podcasts, including We Are Alberta.

You can listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. 

We would love to hear what you think of this episode, so feel free to leave a review where you download, comment on the blogFacebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

And a big thanks to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, who keeps us on track and makes each episode of the Daveberta Podcast sound so great.

Thank you for listening!

Recommended Reading/Watching:

Joe Anglin Freedom Conservative Party

Fightin’ Joe Anglin joins the Freedom Conservative Party, Brian Pincott to run for NDP in Calgary-Acadia, and the UCP-Soldiers of Odin Saga continues in Edmonton-West Henday

Photo: Joe Anglin, speaking on the steps of the Alberta Legislature in his heyday as the Wildrose Party MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre (Photo credit: David Climenhaga)

Former Wildrose Party MLA Joe Anglin announced plans to seek the Freedom Conservative Party nomination to run in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre in the next provincial election. Anglin represented the district from 2012 to 2015, first as a Wildrose Party MLA and then as an Independent MLA.

Derek Fildebrandt Alberta Wildrose MLA

Derek Fildebrandt

Known for his taste for a political fight, Anglin is one of the more fascinating and colourful characters to have entered Alberta politics over the past decade.

He burst on to the political stage in the mid-2000s by leading a landowners revolt against the construction of giant electrical transmission lines through rural central Alberta and soon after took over the leadership of the Alberta Greens. He earned the best result ever for a provincial Green Party candidate in Alberta in 2008, when he garnered 22 percent of the vote in Lacombe-Ponoka. He left the Greens soon after the election and the party dissolved. He was known to float in numerous political circles over the next few years before joining the Wildrose Party and being elected MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre in 2012. 

Anglin lost the Wildrose Party nomination in 2014 and left the Wildrose Caucus shortly afterward. He attempted to mount a campaign for the Progressive Conservative Party nomination in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre in early 2015 but was denied entry into the race. He then ran as an Independent and earned 11.3 percent of the vote in the 2015 election. 

Rick Strankman Alberta United Conservative Drumheller Stettler MLA

Rick Strankman

Since 2015, Anglin has been on a legal crusade as he pursues a civil lawsuit against Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer and others, alleging abuse of process. As reported on David Climenhaga’s AlbertaPolitics.ca, Anglin’s statement of claim alleges Elections Alberta “carried out unfounded investigations of Mr. Anglin’s activities in the election and prosecuted him improperly for violations of election laws, in the process damaging his reputation and destroying his chances of election, causing loss of future employment.”

A separate case that Anglin pursued against Elections Alberta over a $250 penalty imposed by the chief electoral officer related to the small font on his campaign signs during the 2015 election was dismissed by the Alberta Court of Appeal in September 2018.

When nominated, Anglin will face United Conservative Party MLA Jason Nixon, who defeated Anglin for the Wildrose Party nomination in 2014 and then again in the 2015 general election. 

Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt, who also is a former Wildrose MLA, is expected to be acclaimed as leader of the Freedom Conservative Party at a leadership vote event on October 20, 2018 at the Watchman’s Pub in Calgary. Fildebrandt became the FCP’s first MLA in July 2018 after he was not allowed to rejoin the UCP following a string of embarrassing scandals.

Meanwhile, speculation continues about whether Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman, who recently lost the UCP nomination to Nate Horner, will also join the Freedom Conservative Party.

Pincott jumps into provincial politics 

Brian Pincott NDP Calgary Acadia

Brian Pincott

Former City Councillor Brian Pincott announced last week that he is seeking the New Democratic Party nomination in Calgary-Acadia, which overlaps part of the Ward 11 he represented on City Council from 2007 to 2017.

Pincott had previously expressed interest in running for the NDP in Calgary-Mountain View, which is now represented by retiring Liberal Party MLA David Swann. but with the retirement of MLA Brandy Payne, Calgary-Acadia opened up.

Before entering municipal politics, Pincott ran as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Southeast in the 2004 federal election and the NDP candidate in Calgary-Centre in 2006 federal election.

A nomination meeting will be held on October 25, 2018.

Dach nominated in McClung: NDP MLA Lorne Dach has been nominated as his party’s candidate in the southwest district of Edmonton-McClung. Dach was elected in 2015 in his fourth time as the NDP candidate in this affluent southwest Edmonton district. He will face Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel and UCP candidate Laurie Mozeson in the next election.

Barb Miller MLA Red Deer South

Barb Miller

Miller goes for re-election in Red Deer: NDP MLA Barb Miller plans to seek her party’s nomination for re-election in Red Deer-South. Miller was elected in 2015 by earning 35.9 percent of the vote in a three-way split with PC Party candidate Darcy Mykytyshyn and Wildrose Party candidate Norman Wiebe. A nomination meeting has been scheduled for November 8, 2018.

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-Cross – Jesse Minhas has withdrawn from the UCP contest. Minas ran for the Progressive Conservative nomination in this district ahead of the 2015 election and was the Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-East in the 2012 election.

Calgary-Currie – Lindsay Luhnau is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Luhnau currently work as a business strategist with the City of Calgary and previously worked as a constituent assistant in the office of Ward 9 City Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra.

Calgary-North – Melanie Wen has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate. Wen is a member of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Board.  

Calgary-North West – Andrew Bradley has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.

Edmonton-City Centre – Lily Le was acclaimed as the UCP candidate in Edmonton-City Centre after three other candidates withdrew from the contest. Le is the Co-Chair of the Vietnam Pavilion for Edmonton Heritage Festival and President of the Edmonton Viets Association.

Edmonton-Glenora – Glen Tickner has been selected as the Alberta Party candidate. 

Edmonton-Riverview – Karamarie Barker is seeking the UCP nomination. Barker is a Crown Prosecutor with the Department of Justice and Solicitor General.

Lacombe-Ponoka – Myles Chykerda is seeking the Alberta Party nomination in this central Alberta district. Chykerda is a resident of the City of Lacombe and is completing his the final stages of a PhD in Classical Archaeology from the University of California in Los Angeles.

Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland – Following Dale Johnson’s removal as a candidate the UCP announced a second nomination vote would be held. Shane Getson is the first candidate to enter the contest. He is a manager of a pipeline construction and maintenance company.

Lesser Slave Lake – Pat Rehn is seeking the UCP nomination. Rehn is the owner of AAA Precision Industries and Precision Crane and Rentals. Meanwhile, Darryl Boisson has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest in this district. Boisson was the Wildrose Party candidate in Lesser Slave Lake in the 2012 and 2015 elections.

Red Deer-North – Reg Warkentin has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest. Warkentin is the policy and advocacy manager with the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce.

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!


UCP-Soldiers of Odin saga continues

Lance Coulter Edmonton West Henday United Conservative Party UCP

Lance Coulter

Edmonton-West Henday UCP nomination candidate Lance Coulter told Postmedia he thought he would give the Soldiers of Odinthe benefit of the doubt and have a conversation with them” before he took a photo with a member of the anti-immigration, white nationalist organization at a UCP event on October 5, 2018.

Nomination candidates Nicole Williams and Leila Houle, as well as the party leader have denounced the vigilante organization and its members.

Despite being vetted by the UCP’s supposedly “rigorous screening process,” Press Progress reported yesterday that Coulter has a history interacting with white nationalist and alt-right content on social media, including support for a Muslim ban in public schools. Press Progress reported that this activity took place while Coulter was employed as an assistant to Edmonton-Griesbach Member of Parliament Kerry Diotte.

When asked by The Star Edmonton about these allegations, Coulter replied that “I wish I knew I was a white-nationalist, otherwise I would have worn the 1930s Hugo Boss, but it’s utterly ridiculous. I mean, calling somebody a racist, a white-nationalist without any kind of substantial evidence in any way shape or form, it’s defamation of character.”

UCP members in Edmonton-West Henday vote to select their candidate on October 22, 2018. It is not clear whether UCP leader Jason Kenney will allow Coulter’s name to remain on the ballot.

UPDATE: Lance Coulter has been disqualifed as a UCP nomination candidate in Edmonton-West Henday. Here is the letter from UCP executive director Janice Harrington informing Coulter of his disqualification.

Lance Coulter Janice Harrington United Conservative Party Edmonton-West Henday RacismLance Coulter Janice Harrington United Conservative Party Edmonton-West Henday Racism

Soliders of Odin Nicole Williams UCP Edmonton West Henday

Soldiers of Odin photos most notable moment in Edmonton-West Henday UCP nomination race

Photo: UCP nomination candidate Nicole Williams (second from the left) with members of the Soliders of Odin at a UCP event on October 5, 2018 (source: Facebook).

United Conservative Party candidates in the new district of Edmonton-West Henday say they had no idea they were posing for photos with members of the anti-immigration group Soldiers of Odin at a party event on October 5, 2018. Members of the vigilante group, who have been described as white nationalists, attended the UCP event in their club uniforms and posed for photos with nomination candidates Nicole Williams, Leila House and Lance Coulter.

Soliders of Odin Leila Houle UCP Edmonton West Henday

Leila Houle (left) and the Soldiers of Odin

The party and two of the nomination candidates quickly denounced the photos, which were shared on social media first by the Soldiers of Odin and then by Progress Alberta. The candidates claimed they had no idea who the black clad group of vigilantes were, despite recent local news coverage and the fact that they appear to have been wearing their branded uniforms with big logos.

Those running for public office are regularly photographed with members of the public. It is part of the job. We were unfortunately not aware of what the abbreviation ‘S.O.O’ stood for when these individuals entered the public venue in which the Constituency Association was holding an event, nor were we aware of this group’s disgusting views,” wrote Houle and Williams in a joint statement posted on Facebook.

Soliders of Odin Lance Coulter UCP Edmonton West Henday

Lance Coulter (right) and a Soldier of Odin.

It would be unfair to claim these nomination candidates share sympathies with the Soldiers of Odin, but a string of recent examples of UCP nomination candidates voicing anti-Muslim views online might be one reason why the group felt comfortable attending the event in their full regalia.

The dramatic rise of right-wing extreme groups across Canada is something to be alarmed about and this incident is not something UCP members should just casually dismiss. As David Climenhaga wrote at AlbertaPolitics.ca, Alberta voters are within their rights to wonder why the UCP keeps attracting far-right fringe groups, some of them quite unsavoury.

UCP members in Edmonton-West Henday vote to choose their candidate on October 22, 2018.

UPDATE: Via Press Progress:

Lance Coulter, one of three United Conservative Party nomination candidates recently photographed partying with a white supremacist hate group, has a history interacting with white nationalist and alt-right content on social media.


Trouble brewing in Calgary-Mountain View

Caylan Ford UCP Calgary Mountain View

Caylan Ford

Nine members of the UCP board of directors in Calgary-Mountain View have filed a formal complaint with party executive director Janice Harrington requesting an investigation into the eligibility of Caylan Ford to seek the party’s nomination in the district.

A copy of the complaint shared with daveberta.ca showed the group of directors are requesting the party to investigate whether Ford meets the Alberta residency requirement to seek the nomination.

The complaint claims that Ford was until recently a resident of Ontario and that the party nomination rules require UCP candidates “to have physically lived on Albertan soil for one year before becoming a UCP candidate.”

One of the signatories to the complain and request for investigation is recently withdrawn nomination candidate Dean Brawn, who is the Chief Financial Officer for nomination candidate and former Progressive Conservative MLA Mark Hlady.

Reached by email, Ford responded to the complaint: “The board members who signed this letter were misinformed. They also appear to have misunderstood the UCP’s residency requirements. A good faith mistake, I am sure.

Ford is an international affairs specialist with a background in China and human rights. She has worked as a senior policy advisor with Global Affairs Canada. Ford was a panelist at a 2018 Manning Centre conference discussion about conservative culture in Canada.

Ford, Hlady, Becca Polak and Jeremy Wong are seeking the UCP nomination in this district. A date for the nomination vote has not yet been announced.

Michael Janz

Edmonton Public School Trustees doing their due diligence by asking about UCP education cuts

UCP doesn’t want Albertans to talk about cuts that could come if they form government in 2019

How are we going to get our province back on course? I’m sorry to tell you, but it’s going to hurt. Will it affect you? It absolutely will,” said United Conservative Party MLA Dave Hanson, echoing similar statements from UCP activists and supporters, about the public service funding cuts that could follow if that party wins next year’s provincial election. 

In response to these types of statements, the Edmonton Public School Board did its due diligence when Trustee Michael Janz asked the board administration to prepare estimates for four potential budget scenarios in 2019:

  • No funding for enrolment growth.
  • Hiring Freeze – not permitted to staff retirements.
  • The District is faced with a three per cent decrease to the budget for the next four years.
  • The District is faced with a five per cent decrease to the budget for the next four years.

With a growing population and a large cohort of new students expected to enter the public education system in the next few years, these are exactly the kind of scenarios that Alberta parents and students should be worried about, and our elected trustees should be preparing for.

The worst-case scenario projected 932 teachers’ jobs cut in Edmonton, packed classrooms with fewer resources, with similar outcomes in cities, towns, and rural areas across the province.

Not surprisingly, the UCP did not appreciate the attention on this issue. The conservative opposition party is ahead in the polls, but they desperately don’t want to talk about the deep funding cuts to public services that could result if they attempt to balance the provincial budget while also decreasing government revenue through tax cuts.

As David Climenhaga wrote at AlbertaPolitics.ca, the UCP “was in furious damage control mode” as the elected trustees debated the results of the various budget estimate scenarios. UCP leader Jason Kenney leapt to his smartphone to Tweet a denial of the cuts and an accusation that Janz was an “NDP member of the Edmonton school board.”

That any trustee of our public education system might be inclined to favour parties that believe in proper, or at least stable, funding for public education should be no surprise. Since the 2015 election, Rachel Notley‘s New Democratic Party government avoided calls for budget austerity and instead made significant investments in public services and public infrastructure. And this break from decisions made by past governments appears to be paying off.

“Over the last decade, we’ve barely recovered from the Klein cutbacks of the 1990s,” Janz wrote in an email to his Ward F constituents in southwest Edmonton. “If we want to actually make things better for our students, staff, and families, it is time for investment, not cutbacks.”

Kenney’s latter-day fondness for former premier Ralph Klein, whose personality was loved by many Albertans and whose devastating budget cuts to front-line services are still being felt, is likely the cause of some concern. And with so much at stake, our school trustees should be asking these kinds of questions.

Janz is a particularly enthusiastic and incredibly resourceful trustee. His energizer-bunny approach to canvassing during election campaigns earned him more votes in the October 2017 election than any other candidate in Edmonton except Mayor Don Iveson (I know this from personal experience, Janz is a friend and I door-knocked with him in 2017). In the same vein, he has not been afraid tackle politically controversial topics as a trustee.

During the 2015 provincial election, then-board chair Janz joined the chairs of 6 other school boards, representing 19 boards, stepping out of their traditional role on the sidelines to make a public plea that increased student enrolment must offset by increased funding from the government. More recently, he has asked the provincial government to prioritize the construction of public schools in new neighbourhoods, raising the ire of proponents of publicly-funded Roman Catholic education.

“As a Trustee, I would not be doing my job effectively if I didn’t highlight the investment in the future of our prosperity that is an excellent public education system,” Janz wrote. “Let’s stop talking about how to make it worse, let’s start talking about how to make it better.”

School board trustees are not neutral servants of any provincial politician in Edmonton. They are elected officials and when the future of public education for students is at stake, they should not shy away from asking the tough questions, regardless of how inconvenient it might be for anyone in the Alberta Legislature.

Michelle Rempel, Jason Kenney, Joe Ceci, Rachel Notley, Oneil Carlier and Andrew Scheer (sources: Facebook, Twitter, and Alberta Beef)

Episode 15: Politicians pretending to be Cowboys. It’s Stampede Week in Calgary!

It is Calgary Stampede season, which means politicians from across Canada are flocking to Alberta’s largest city to show off their recently purchased plaid shirts and cowboy hats.

In this episode of the Daveberta Podcast, Dave Cournoyer and Ryan Hastman discuss politicians pretending to be cowboys, the latest federal and provincial nomination news, including the retirement of long-time New Democratic Party MLA Brian Mason, the July 12 by-elections in Fort McMurray-Conklin and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, and the 18-year old groping allegations levelled against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

We also share some personal stories from the campaign trail in our regular ‘So you want to be a candidate’ segment.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. The network includes more than 30 podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, or wherever you find podcasts online. We’d love to hear what you think of this episode, so feel free to leave a comment on the blogFacebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

We are always thankful to our hard working producer, Adam Rozenhart, who helps make each episode of the Daveberta Podcast sound so great.

Thank you for listening!

Recommended reading/watching

Photo: Michelle Rempel, Jason Kenney, Joe Ceci, Rachel Notley, Oneil Carlier and Andrew Scheer (sources: Facebook, Twitter, and Alberta Beef)

Knickers in a twist over David Suzuki’s University of Alberta honorary degree

Photo: Environmentalist, scientist, author, and broadcaster David Suzuki (credit: David Climenhaga)

The decision by the University of Alberta‘s volunteer Senate to present an honorary degree to high profile environmentalist, scientist, author, broadcaster and Order of Canada recipient Dr. David Suzuki has aroused much outrage from conservative partisans, Postmedia columnists, donors and U of A staff. It even earned an embarassingly entitled response from the Dean of Engineering Fraser Forbes, who said he was “deeply sorry” and “ashamed” of the decision.

Good grief.

Whether or not you agree or disagree with Suzuki’s political positions (most notably his controversial comments about Canada’s oil sands) or have had poor personal experiences with him (which many people seem to have had), it is impossible to deny the huge contributions he has made to the popularization of sciences in Canadian culture.

As host of the Nature of Things and Quirks and Quarks, a generation of Canadians were introduced to the sciences through Suzuki’s broadcasts.

The U of A responded with it own statement in defence of Suzuki’s honourary degree, but it appears one statement may not have been enough to appease angry critics. Suzuki has been demonized by the political right for years, including a recent attack from United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney.

Politically manufactured outrage toward Suzuki, who already has an honorary degree from the University of Calgary and nearly 30 other universities, could also be pointed at previous honourary degree recipients.

Albertans outraged about Suzuki’s honorary degree might be surprised to discover that a U of A honorary degree was given to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1968. The U of A also bestowed an honorary degree to Maurice Strong in 1973, three years before Trudeau appointed him as head of Petro-Canada, the now privatized crown-corporation decried by Conservatives of the day. Unthinkable!

Only five short years after he was in charge of enforcing the much-derided National Energy Program as federal minister of energy, Jean Chretien was given a U of A honourary degree in Spring 1987. Blasphemy!

And Mel Hurtig, who later became the country’s loudest crusader against free trade with the United States in the early 1990s, was given an honorary degree in Fall 1986. Unbelievable!

As a U of A alumnus and former member of the U of A Senate, Suzuki’s honourary degree does not particularly bother me more than some previous choices.

Back in 2012, I was not pleased to learn that the U of A Senate had granted an honorary degree to Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, the Chair of Nestlé, the largest multinational food and water corporation in the world.

As Scott Harris wrote in back in 2012, Nestle had been the “target of international boycotts stretching back decades for its marketing of breast milk substitutes … in violation of international standards, widespread labour violations and links to slave labour in its chocolate production, and its environmental impact and strong-arm tactics with communities opposed to Nestlé’s exploitation of groundwater for its bottled water division.”

That is offensive.

At least the U of A administration cannot be accused of not being consistent in their defence of the Senate’s choices for honorary degree recipients.

It will be interesting to see what kind of reaction Suzuki’s opinions will generate from the audience of U of A Science graduates and their families. Will he insult them by criticizing the oil and gas industry and calling to stop climate change? Will he call for an end to or insult our oil pipelines? Should the U of A give a platform to someone who will likely voice opinions that those sitting in the Jubilee Auditorium might find offensive?

It would not be the first time.

I am told that some parents of graduates refused to applaud former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations Stephen Lewis when he delivered a call to action against climate change as he accepted his U of A honourary degree a few years ago.

Albertans are free to criticize the U of A Senate’s choices of honourary degree recipients, and we should probably even criticize the sometimes silly exercise of granting honorary degrees.

But the U of A should not shy away from controversial choices.

The University should resist pressure from external donors and internal voices like Forbes to withdraw Suzuki’s honorary degree. As my colleague David Climenhaga writes, doing so would “be a black mark on the intellectual reputation of the U of A, a great university, and it will be a great victory for those who would, “without fairness or justification,” turn all Albertans into climate-change pariahs.”


Luckily for U of A grads in 2018, along with Suzuki the honourary degree recipients speaking at their convocation ceremonies will include farmers’ union activist Nettie Wiebe, CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada Louise Bradley, historian, playwright and composer France Levasseur-Ouimet, particle physicist Brian Cox, human rights scholar David Matas, former Alberta MLA Raj Pannu, former premier of the North West Territories Stephen Kakfwi, former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark, and respected foreign correspondent Nahlah Ayed.

Suzuki will receive an honourary doctor of science degree from the university on June 7 at 10 a.m.

Premier Rachel Notley rallies her NDP Caucus MLAs before the start of the fall legislative sitting on Oct. 30, 2017. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta Flickr)

A wild first week back at Alberta’s Legislative Assembly

Photo: Premier Rachel Notley rallies her NDP Caucus MLAs before the start of the fall legislative sitting on Oct. 30, 2017. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta Flickr)

NDP focus their attacks on Kenney

Jason Kenney Calgary Stampede Alberta

Jason Kenney

A first-time visitor to the Assembly this week could have confused Premier Rachel Notley‘s New Democrats with the Official Opposition as backbencher after backbencher asked government ministers to explain the damage that new UCP leader Jason Kenney would do to Alberta. The NDP even released a handful of attack ads on Facebook, targeting Kenney’s comments about outing students who join Gay-Straight Alliances.

The NDP want to define Kenney and the UCP early in his mandate and are eager to respond to the vicious attacks targeted at them by the Wildrose Party, Kenney’s supporters, and now the UCP since the 2015 election. But this week’s opening shots were over-kill.

We cannot expect political parties to avoid playing politics, especially as we approach the next provincial election. The NDP have every right to challenge Kenney on his controversial statements but the government should carry itself with a little more dignity than it did this week with it’s staged criticisms of the new UCP leader in the Assembly.

New GSA and anti-age discrimination laws

Kathleen Ganley Alberta MLA

Kathleen Ganley

Education Minister David Eggen tabled Bill 24: An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances, which provides legal protections for students wanting to form anti-bullying clubs in Alberta schools and prevents administrators from outing students to their parents.

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley tabled Bill 23: Alberta Human Rights Amendment Act, which adds “age” as a prohibited ground of discrimination in cases of tenancy, goods, services and accommodation. The bill puts an end to adults-only apartment buildings as of Jan. 1, 2018 and gives condo owners a 15-year grace period to implement the new rules. Seniors-only housing is exempt.

UCP trying to tie Notley to Trudeau

United Conservative Party leader in the Legislature Jason Nixon started Question Period each day this week with a question to the Premier about oil pipelines and the relationship between Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. As I wrote earlier this week, the UCP clearly sees a political advantage in trying to tie the Notley government to the Trudeau Liberals in Ottawa.

The National Post’s Stuart Thomson has written an exceedingly good article that focuses on Kenney’s political views and the influence of the Calgary School on his version of Conservative ideology.

David Khan Alberta Liberal Party Leader

David Khan

Ottawa comes to the UCP Caucus

Following Kenney’s victory in last weekend’s UCP leadership race, more than 20 UCP Caucus staffers, mostly former Wildrose Caucus staff, lost their jobs at the Legislative Assembly.

According to AlbertaPolitics.ca writer David Climenhaga, Kenney has hired a handful of his close advisors, many from his years in Ottawa, to run the UCP Caucus: Chief of Staff Nick Koolsbergen, Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Wolf, Calgary Office Manager Blaise Boehmer, Communications Director Annie Dormuth, Director of Operations Jamie Mozeson, Daniel Williams, Peter Bissonnette and Andrew Griffin.

Liberals get traction on PAC Attack

Constant criticism from Liberal Party leader David Khan and David Swann, his party’s lone MLA, appears to be generating results in their crusade against Political Action Committees. Khan made PACs a big issue following his win in the party’s leadership race earlier this year. Notley has said new laws governing PACs will be introduced soon, most likely in the Spring of 2018.

Alberta Party should get Official Status

Greg Clark Alberta Party MLA

Greg Clark

Now with two MLAs in the Alberta Party Caucus, the third largest caucus in the Assembly wants to be granted official party status, which would give Greg Clark and Karen McPherson increased resources and a more prominent role in daily Question Period.

Section 42 of the Legislative Assembly Act states that “recognized party status” shall be granted to a caucus with at least 4 MLAs and a party that received at least 5 percent of the vote in the most recent election.

Clark has pointed out that the NDP were granted official party status when only two of the party’s MLAs were elected in 1997, 2001 and 2008. But in each of those elections, the NDP met the second criteria of earning more than 5 percent of the vote. The Alberta Party currently meets neither of these criteria, having only earned 2.8 percent of the province-wide vote in 2015.

New Democrats who might oppose granting the Alberta Party official status should be reminded of their own party’s situation 35 years ago, when first-term Edmonton-Norwood MLA Ray Martin introduced a private members bill that would have lowered the threshold of recognized party status to one MLA. At the time, huge Progressive Conservative majorities were the norm, and in the 1982 election the only elected opposition consisted of two New Democrats and two Independent MLAs (both former Social Credit MLAs who would later form the Representative Party of Alberta).

The four-MLA threshold is arbitrary and the vote results from the previous election should be irrelevant in recognizing the creation of new caucuses. The Alberta Party should be granted recognized party status, provided with additional resources and given a more prominent role in Question Period now that their caucus has doubled.

The big revenue problem facing Alberta that none of our politicians want to talk about

As the Alberta New Democratic Party passes the half way mark of their first four-year term in office and the United Conservative Party chooses its next leader, a big question that remains unanswered in Alberta politics today is how, in the long-term, the Alberta government plans to deal with the revenue shortfall created by the drop in the international price of oil.

Premier Ralph Klein

Ralph Klein

After decades of rich oil and gas royalties pouring into public coffers, the Alberta government became over-dependent on oil and natural gas royalties to pay for a large portion of the daily operations of government.

The old Progressive Conservative government led by Ralph Klein used those high royalty revenues to subsidize corporate and personal tax cuts, which proved politically popular in the short-term but fiscally irresponsible in the long-term. When the international price of oil dropped in 2014, so did about $10 billion worth of expected government revenue that the PCs were depending on.

After their election in 2015, Rachel Notley‘s NDP took steps to diversify government revenue with moderate increases to corporate and personal taxes. Even after those increases, Albertans still pay some of the lowest taxes in Canada and those increases were nowhere enough to fill the revenue shortfall.

Jason Kenney Calgary Stampede Alberta

Jason Kenney

The positive news is that Alberta’s economy is recovering, but unless the international price of oil recovers, the government will remain in a deficit situation for the foreseeable future.

While I support Notley’s smart choice to continue investing in public services and capital infrastructure projects during the course of the economic recession, it is not clear that the NDP have a real plan to deal with Alberta’s revenue challenges in the long-term.

It is unlikely that the government will revisit Alberta’s comparatively low royalty rates anytime soon, and the NDP appear unwilling to start a discussion about introducing a provincial sales tax, at least until after the next election. A sales tax could help alleviate the government revenue problems and would be smart move for the province in the long-term.

It is an odd sight to read Finance Department documents that both lament a large budget deficit and boast about low taxes. The NDP inherited one big bad habit from the old PC government and have been unable to break from it.

Brian Jean Calgary Stampede AlbertaBut if you think the candidates for the leadership of the new United Conservative Party are coming up with new, bright ideas for Alberta’s long-term future, think again. Political rhetoric about returning to the mythical “Alberta Advantage” and calls for drastic cuts to both government spending and revenue are mostly what Jason Kenney, Brian Jean and Doug Schweitzer have proposed.

It is meat for the party base, but not exactly inspiring plans for Alberta’s future.

I get the impression that while they are playing from different sides of the political spectrum, both the NDP and the UCP’s prospective leaders are praying that oil prices recover enough to avoid having to raise taxes or slash the budget to shreds.

Alberta has a revenue problem. And the sooner someone is willing to “take the tax bull by the horns,” as my colleague David Climenhaga wrote, and begin planning for a more sustainable government revenue stream, the better off future generations of Albertans will be.


Schweitzer wants to lower the minimum wage

Doug Schweitzer Calgary Alberta Conservative

Doug Schweitzer

Doug Schweitzer says he would cut Alberta’s minimum wage from $15 per hour to $12.20 per hour, because it is “right choice for Albertans whose livelihoods count on it the most.”

While he is likely referring to the livelihoods of business owners, it would be the wrong choice for the people impacted the most – the lowest wage working Albertans who would have their wages cut from $15 per hour to $12.20 per hour.

It is safe to say that Schweitzer has earned much, much more than $12.20 per hour at his downtown Calgary job as a partner at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm.

Not many surprises in Alberta’s stay the course budget

There were few surprises when Finance Minister Joe Ceci stood to table the New Democratic Party’s third budget since forming government in 2015.

What I expect were strategic leaks over the past week revealed some popular highlights included in the budget, giving the government some positive media in the days before the budget was released. The construction, revitalization and renovation of schools and funding for a new hospital in south Edmonton were two of the most notable tidbits to be released in advance of yesterday’s budget speech.

If the leaks were indeed intentional, it was not a bad communications strategy considering the government’s current financial situation. It created a positive distraction from two big numbers that the conservative opposition parties want to focus on – total budget spending and the budget deficit.

But when the budget was tabled yesterday, neither of these numbers were really a surprise. We knew the NDP was not planning to make deep cuts to provincial program spending in this budget. And we knew from Ceci’s third-quarter update from the last fiscal year that the deficit would likely remain over $10 billion – it is projected to be $10.3 billion, down around $500 million from $10.8 billion last year.

The conservative opposition attacked the budget, which was also something we knew would happen. A Wildrose opposition press released called the budget a “a debt-fueled disaster” and the Progressive Conservatives claimed it took Alberta over a “fiscal cliff.” A press release from Alberta Party leader Greg Clark claimed the budget was “uninspired, irresponsible and focused only on the short term.”

Also not surprising was the response from Liberal leader David Swann, who took a more reasoned approach by applauding the government on investing in public services and infrastructure, and then pointing out where the budget failed.

As AlbertaPolitics.ca author David Climenhaga writes in detail, Rachel Notley‘s NDP government rejected the kinds of conservative fiscal policies that created the infrastructure deficit Alberta has today.

The government continues to make significant investment in public infrastructure, which is long overdue in Alberta. Along with a new hospital in Edmonton, the budget includes funding for renovations at the Misericordia Hospital and new construction at the Royal Alexandra and Glenrose hospitals (which was not previously announced, so that was a surprise).

One question that remains unanswered is how, in the long-term, the government plans to deal with the revenue shortfall created by the drop in the international price of oil. For many years, the Alberta government became over-dependent on oil and natural gas royalties to pay for a large portion of the daily operations of government.

The old PC government used those high royalty revenues to subsidize corporate and personal tax cuts, which proved politically popular in the short-term but financial irresponsible in the long-term. When the international price of oil dropped in 2014, so did about $10 billion worth of expected government revenue.

The NDP took some steps to diversify revenue with moderate increases to corporate and personal taxes after they were first elected 2015 but it was nowhere enough to fill the revenue shortfall (Albertans still pay some of the lowest taxes in Canada). The positive news is that Alberta still has the advantage of having a low debt-to-GDP ratio, which means at least in the short-term our province should be able to deal with being in a deficit situation.

Overall, I am not surprised about what is and is not included in the 2017 provincial budget. I am encouraged that the NDP is not heeding the calls of the conservative opposition parties to make deep funding cuts to public services and infrastructure investments, which would be detrimental to Albertans’ quality of life during this economic downturn.