A map of tonight’s federal election results in Alberta would show a sea of Conservative Party blue, but if you zoomed in on the two largest urban centres the results are more interesting.
It looks like 29 Conservative incumbents were re-elected, many with margins of victory that are large but narrower than the party’s results in the 2019 federal election.
With 71 per cent of the vote, it appears that Battle River-Crowfoot Conservative Damien Kurek was elected with the largest percentage of the vote. This is down from his 85.5 per cent of the vote in 2019.
The only new Conservative candidate elected in Alberta is Laila Goodridge, a former United Conservative Party MLA who was elected in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake.
As of 11:14pm it looks like Liberal Party candidate George Chahal has been elected in Calgary-Skyview, unseating Conservative Jag Sahota in the northeast Calgary riding.
In Edmonton-Centre, Liberal Randy Boissonnault sits with 33 per cent of the vote ahead of Conservative incumbent James Cumming with 31 per cent and NDP candidate Heather Mackenzie with 30 per cent.
If successful in his bid for election, Boissonnault will likely join Chahal in the federal Liberal cabinet as the two Liberals from Alberta.The race in Edmonton-Centre marks a breakthrough for the NDP with Mackenzie earning the party’s best ever result in the riding.
With NDP incumbent Heather McPherson re-elected with a commanding 59 per cent in Edmonton-Strathcona, it looks like the NDP may have picked up a second seat in Edmonton. As of 11:17pm, Edmonton-Griesbach NDP candidate Blake Desjarlais was leading Conservative incumbent Kerry Diotte by 557 votes with 194 of 232 polls reporting.
The NDP poured a lot of resources into Desjarlais’ campaign, with party leader Jagmeet Singh visiting the riding twice during the election and Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley and local MLAs including Janis Irwin lending their support.
The mail-in ballots could help determine the final results in Edmonton-Centre and Edmonton-Griesbach. Elections Canada starts counting those tomorrow.
The Conservative vote dropped to 55 per cent from 69 per cent in the 2019 election. The NDP vote was up to 19 per cent, a big increase from 11 per cent in 2019 and even more than the 16 per cent the NDP earned during Jack Layton‘s Orange Wave of 2011. The Liberal vote is at 15 per cent, up from 13 per cent in 2019.
The People’s Party earned 7 per cent, placing a distant second in most rural ridings but not coming anywhere close to winning a seat in the province. The separatist Maverick Party was a lot of talk but barely showed up on the radar.
Ontario MP Derek Sloan, who moved to Alberta in hopes to win a seat was defeated in Banff-Airdrie, placing fifth with 2 per cent of the vote.
But the biggest loser of the night in Alberta is Premier Jason Kenney, who’s refusal to act early and prevent the deadly fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic damaged Erin O’Toole and the federal Conservatives in the final week of the federal election.
There’s a chance that the federal election results in Alberta could end up being less than exciting, with the Conservatives winning most of the province’s seats, but there’s no doubt Alberta had an impact in this federal election: Premier Jason Kenney might have cost Erin O’Toole and the Conservatives their chance at forming government in Ottawa.
The former wonder kid of Canada’s conservative movement, Kenney spent a month in hiding to avoid embarrassing O’Toole only to emerge in the final few days of the campaign to drop a bomb in his federal cousin’s lap. Kenney’s Open for Summer plan that removed all public health restrictions in time for the Calgary Stampede in July led to a vicious fourth wave of COVID-19 that has seen a steep spike in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Intensive Care Units across Alberta are filling up and Kenney has had to plead with other provinces to take our sick patients if we run out of space.
All non-emergency surgeries in Alberta are cancelled and 75 per cent of the operating rooms at the Alberta Children’s Hospital are closing because doctors and nurses are being redeployed to take care of COVID patients.
Public sector health care unions are urging Kenney to ask the federal government for help from the military and the Red Cross.
O’Toole praised Kenney’s response to the pandemic and has refused to answer questions about it from reporters since Alberta once again declared a State of Public Health Emergency last week.
While the Conservatives are expected to sweep Alberta once again, O’Toole only visited the province once in this election campaign. He spent a morning in Edmonton during the first week of the campaign, making a policy announcement in Edmonton-Centre and stopping for a photo-op at a Jollibee’s before shuffling back to the airport for an afternoon flight to British Columbia.
But unlike recent federal elections, this time the right-wing of the political spectrum is pretty crowded in Alberta.
People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier has taken advantage of O’Toole and Kenney’s perceived political weaknesses by spending a considerable amount of time in Alberta during this election.
Appealing to groups ranging from the vaccine hesitant to indoctrinated COVID conspiracy theorists, Bernier has been attracting large crowds at his Alberta rallies. And his candidates have earned endorsements from former Conservative MP David Yurdiga and former Reform MP Cliff Breitkreuz.
Former Ontario MP Derek Sloan, who was kicked out of the Conservative Party for accepting a donation from a well-known white supremacist, has been embraced the COVID conspiracy theories as he campaigns as an Independent candidate in Banff-Airdrie with the full-support of former Conservative MP Rob Anders.
And then there’s the separatist Maverick Party led by former Conservative MP and oil industry lobbyist Jay Hill, which is still in the mix despite Alberta separatism not being the hot topic it was after the 2019 federal election.
Meanwhile, the silence coming from the United Conservative Party Caucus is deafening.
Aside from dissenting Tweets and Facebook comments from two already disgruntled backbenchers – former cabinet minister and Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer and Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried – the predicted caucus revolt has not yet spilled out into the public. But maybe that changes if Justin Trudeau’s Liberals form government on Monday.
Directors of the UCP association in Olds-Didsbury-Three-Hills, home of Speaker and former interim leader Nathan Cooper, near unanimously passed a motion calling for a leadership review and party vice-president Joel Mullen is reported to have called for a review.
Kenney’s supporters on the UCP provincial executive headed off previous calls by scheduling leadership review at the party’s Fall 2022 convention, only months ahead of the expected 2023 provincial election.
If O’Toole does not become Prime Minister after the federal ballots are counted, he might not be the only Conservative leader looking for a new job. Kenney’s already embattled leadership could become even more tenuous.
Kerry Diotte unites the NDP in Alberta
In what is likely his biggest single achievement of his political career, Conservative candidate Kerry Diotte has succeeded in bridging the political divide between the provincial and federal NDP in Alberta.
Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was back in Alberta yesterday for his second visit to the Edmonton-Griesbach, where the party believes candidate Blake Desjarlais can unseat Diotte to pick up a second seat for the NDP.
With NDP incumbent Heather McPherson believed to be secure for re-election in Edmonton-Strathcona, the party has been pouring its resources into Griesbach.
And Singh isn’t the only party leader on the campaign trail for Desjarlais.
Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley was on the doors last week helping Desjarlais get his vote out. While Notley tried her best to avoid being involved in the 2019 federal campaign, she and about a dozen NDP MLAs, including local MLAs Janis Irwin and David Eggen have been spotted door knocking with Desjarlais.
Pipelines and the carbon tax kept the NDP cousins apart in 2019, but the possibility of defeating Kerry Diotte has brought the provincial and federal NDP together in 2021.
Liberals have their sights set on Edmonton-Centre, Mill Woods and Calgary-Skyview
The Liberals hope to reestablish a beachhead in Alberta and if they are successful it will likely be in Edmonton-Centre, Edmonton-Mill Woods or Calgary-Skyview.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau only made one brief stop in Alberta during the first week of the election campaign to speak at a rally for Calgary-Skyview candidate George Chahal.
University—Rosedale Liberal candidate and former Edmonton native Chrystia Freeland visited Alberta twice to campaign with candidates in Calgary and Edmonton, including Randy Boissonnault in Edmonton-Centre and Ben Henderson in Edmonton-Mill Woods.
Also visiting Alberta during the campaign were Vancouver-South Liberal candidate Harjit Sajan, who campaigned in Calgary-Centre with Sabrina Grover, and Surrey-Newton Liberal candidate Sukh Dhaliwal, who campaigned with Henderson in Mill Woods.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson endorsed Henderson and campaigned with him in the final days of the election. The two men have served together on Edmonton City Council since 2007.
Voting stations are open from 7:30am to 7:30pm on Sept. 20, 2021.
Alberta is a pretty boring place to spend a federal election. Even as the polls shift nationally, there is a good chance the seat total could be the same as the 2019 election: 33 Conservative and one NDP.
It’s a quiet campaign.
Unlike the 2019 election, when Albertans were still riled up from that year’s April provincial election and federal campaign issues like pipelines and the carbon tax, this year feels sleepy. The majority of Albertans will surely cast their ballots again on September for the Conservative Party, but it might not be with the same level of enthusiasm and gusto as the last election.
But, if there is a chance that any seats could switch parties, here are a few of the ridings where it might happen:
Probably one of the only centres of electoral excitement in Alberta is where Conservative candidate Kerry Diotte is seeking re-election for his third-term against New Democrat Blake Desjarlais.
The NDP are hoping they can elect a second MP from Alberta and are putting that hope into Desjarlais’ campaign. Party leader Jagmeet Singh has visited the riding twice in the past month, spending an entire day campaigning in the district during the first week of the election, and pouring volunteer, financial and online advertising resources into the local campaign.
If the NDP are going to pick up a second seat in Alberta in this election, this is it.
Even NDP MLAs, who shunned the federal party in 2019, have been campaigning with Desjarlais in his bid to unseat Diotte. Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin, Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman, Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan, Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang, Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen, and Edmonton-West Henday MLA Jon Carson have been spotted on the campaign trail in Edmonton-Griesbach.
Full list of candidates in Edmonton-Griesbach:
Communist: Alex Boykowich
Conservative: Kerry Diotte
Green: Heather Lau
Liberal: Habiba Mohamud
Libertarian: Morgan Watson
Marxist-Leninist: Mary Joyce
NDP: Blake Desjarlais
People’s Party: Thomas Matty
Conservative James Cumming and Liberal Randy Boissonnault are facing each other for the third time since 2015. Boissonnault won the first time they face each other in 2015 and Cumming unseated him in 2019.
NDP candidate Heather MacKenzie, a former public school board trustee and past municipal candidate, is hoping to dislodge the Liberals as the main alternative to the Conservatives.
NDP vote has held firm over the past three elections, suggesting that Boissonnault’s win in 2015 and defeat in 2019 was more about voters switching between the Conservatives and Liberals than a split between the Liberals and NDP.
Toronto Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland stopped in the district at the beginning of the campaign to support Boissonnault’s bid for re-election.
Full list of candidates in Edmonton-Centre:
Conservative: James Cumming
Liberal: Randy Boissonnault
Libertarian: Valerie Keefe
Marxist-Leninist: Merryn Edwards
NDP: Heather Mackenzie
People’s Party: Brock Crocker
Conservative Tim Uppal’s main challenger is city councillor Ben Henderson, who hopped south from his long-held municipal ward to run in his federal district.
While Uppal served as an MP for many terms, this is his first time running for re-election in Edmonton-Mill Woods. He was the MP for Edmonton-Sherwood Park from 2008 to 2015.
The district was represented by Liberal MP Amarjeet Sohi from 2015 to 2019. Sohi is running for Mayor of Edmonton.
Full list of candidates in Edmonton-Mill Woods:
Communist: Naomi Rankin
Conservative: Tim Uppal
Liberal: Ben Henderson
NDP: Nigel Logan
People’s Party: Paul McCormack
It’s a long-shot but if the Liberals are able to salvage their national campaign in the next two weeks they could be in a position to pick up this district that Liberal Kent Hehr won in 2015. In this election Liberal Sabrina Grover is challenging first-term Conservative Greg McLean.
Full list of candidates in Calgary-Centre:
Christian Heritage Party: David Pawlowski
Conservative: Greg McLean
Green: Austin Mullins
Liberal: Sabrina Grover
NDP: Juan Estevez Moreno
Conservative Jag Sahota is facing a challenge from city councillor George Chahal who is running for the Liberals in this northeast Calgary district. Chahal has been endorsed by Mayor Naheed Nenshi, and a handful of city councillors including mayoral election hopefuls Jyoti Gondek and Jeff Davison.
Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau’s plane touched down just long enough for him to appear at a rally in support of Chahal during the first week of the election.
Former MLA Darshan Kang was elected as the Liberal MP in 2015 but left the Liberal caucus after allegations of sexual harassment.
Full list of candidates in Calgary-Skyview:
Centrist Party: Nadeem Rana
Conservative: Jag Sahota
Green: Janna So
Independent: Lee Aquart
Liberal: George Chahal
Marxist-Leninist: Daniel Blanchard
NDP: Gurinder Singh Gill
People’s Party: Harry Dhillon
Conservative candidate Blake Richards will probably safely coast to re-election on September 20, but the cast of conservative characters in this district make it interesting. Richards faces former Ontario Conseravtive MP Derek Sloan, who has relocated to Alberta in order to hold rallies for anti-mask and COVID conspiracy theorists, Maverick Party candidate and rodeo competitor Tariq Elnaga, People’s Party candidate Nadine Wellwood, and Independent separatist candidate Ron Voss.
Full list of candidates in Banff-Airdire:
Conservative: Blake Richards
Green: Aidan Blum
Independent: Caroline O’Driscoll
Independent: Derek Sloan
Independent: Ron Voss
Liberal: David Gamble
Maverick: Tariq Elnaga
NDP: Sarah Zagoda
People’s Party: Nadine Wellwood
The smaller right-wing parties
It has yet to be seen what kind of impact two smaller right-wing parties will have in Alberta in this election.
People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier is in Alberta this week holding a series of rallies and it seems like the right-wing populist party is gaining support among disenchanted conservatives and anti-vaxxer crowds.
Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman has been spotted at People’s Party events and Bernier also met with Cypress-Medicine Hat Drew Barnes, who currently sits as an Independent MLA after being ejected from the United Conservative Party caucus earlier in the summer. It also appears as though outgoing Fort McMurray-Cold Lake Conservative MP David Yurdiga endorsed the local People’s Party candidate in a post on his personal Facebook account.
The separatist Maverick Party is only running candidates in districts they have determined are not likely to elect a Liberal or NDP MP, which is most of Alberta, but limiting themselves to running in Conservative strongholds has probably eliminated their chances of being relevant in this election.
Former talk radio host Dave Rutherford has been joining Maverick Party interim leader Jay Hill at candidate events across the province.
Singh started the day with a health care announcement outside the East Edmonton Health Centre with Desjarlais, Edmonton-Strathcona MP Heather McPherson and a group of nurses and health care workers.
During his announcement Singh criticized the Liberals for not doing enough to improve affordability of long-term care and hold the corporations that run long-term care centres to account after outbreaks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He voted against getting rid of profit from long-term care, making it clear he would rather protect the interests of the for-profit, billion-dollar corporations that profit off the backs of seniors, rather than putting seniors first,” Singh said.
This puts Justin Trudeau, who made his own seniors care announcement in Victoria today, in a difficult position of not wanting to engage in an important but largely provincial issue that could sour relations with other provincial governments, like Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
As noted in my previous post, unlike the last federal election campaign, Alberta NDP MLAs are campaigning alongside some federal NDP candidates in this election.
Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin, Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman, and Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang were at an afternoon rally outside the Bellevue Community Hall where a crowd of NDP supporters gathered to cheer on Singh, Desjarlais and other areas candidates, including Edmonton-Centre candidate and former public school board trustee Heather Mackenzie.
This is a significant shift in federal-provincial NDP relations, which were much frostier during the 2019 federal election when the dominant issues were the carbon tax and pipelines.
In another sign of changing times, Singh used his visit to Alberta to leverage the declining popularity of Premier Jason Kenney, especially on his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his decision to attack frontline nurses, doctors, and health care workers.
Kenney has been conspicuously missing from the campaign trail, scheduling a vacation instead (when he returns he will be without a Principal Secretary, as Larry Kaumeyer is leaving the Premier’s Office to become the new head of Ducks Unlimited).
While Kenney will likely pop up campaigning for a candidate somewhere, it is a considerable difference from 2019 when the Alberta Premier spent an entire week campaigning for Conservative Party candidates in Ontario and Manitoba.
In 2019, Kenney was seen as an asset for Andrew Scheer. In 2021, he might be a liability for Erin O’Toole.
Trudeau touches down in Calgary-Skyview
Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau’s plane touched down in Calgary tonight to make a quick campaign stop in support of Calgary-Skyview candidate and City Councillor George Chahal.
“With the right representation, we can build prosperous communities. We need to diversify our economy, invest in infrastructure like we did with Airport Trail and the Green Line and we must continue to do so with public infrastructure such as the expansion of the Blue Line, Arts Common, and the development of the multi-sport fieldhouse at the Foothills Athletic Park,” said Chahal in a press release following the event.
Voters in the district, in which the Calgary International Airport is located, elected former Liberal MLA Darshan Kang in 2015 and Conservative Jag Sahota in 2019.
Banff gets a new kind of tourist
Supported by former Conservative MPs Rob Anders and Eric Lowther, Ontario MP Derek Sloan announced his plans to run as an Independent candidate in Banff-Airdrie.
The first-term former Conservative from southeast Ontario has been travelling around Alberta for the past month speaking at rallies of anti-vaxxer and COVID-19 conspiracy theorists.
The political tourist claims he wants to “Make Alberta Great Again.”
Sloan will challenge Conservative MP Blake Richards, who was re-elected in 2019 with 71.09 per cent of the vote.
Candidates say the dumbest things
We have not entered the “airing of dumb things candidates have said on social media” phase of the federal election campaign. The Conservative Party released a statement from Calgary-Nose Hill candidate Michelle Rempel Garner attacking Liberal candidate Jessica Dale-Walker for a March 2020 tweet that said “Fit in or fuck off. We Alberta need to start fitting in. Because quite frankly, we are not as superior as our government touts.”
Dale-Walker responded, in a tweet: My tweet last summer was thoughtless and wrong. Thats certainly not how i feel today. I want to be absolutely clear I am double vaccinated and I believe all Canadians, who can, should be. If my brash comments caused anyone to think otherwise, I apologize.”
Hugo Charles has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Wetaskiwin.
Kelly Green has been nominated as the Green Party candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona.
The Libertarian Party has nominated Morgan Watson in Edmonton-Griesbach and MalcolmStinson in Edmonton-Strathcona.
The People’s Party has nominated Jacob Cohen in Calgary-Centre, Dwayne Holub in Calgary-Forest Lawn, Ron Vaillant in Calgary-Shepard, Nicholas Debrey in Calgary-Signal Hill, Brock Crocker in Edmonton-Centre, Martin Halvorson in Edmonton-Manning, Jennifer Peace in Edmonton-Riverbend, Wesley Janke in Edmonton-Strathcona, Daniel Hunter in Foothills, Shawn McLean in Grande Prairie-Mackenzie, Ann McCormack in Lakeland, Mardon Day in Red Deer-Lacombe, Kelly Lorencz in Red Deer-MountainView, John Wetterstrand in Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan, and Michael Manchen in Yellowhead,
New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh will be the first party leader to visit Alberta in this election campaign when he stops in Edmonton on August 19.
Singh will be spending his whole day in Edmonton-Griesbach starting with a 9:30am health care announcement outside the East Edmonton Health Centre and a 1:15pm “whistle stop event” at the Bellevue Community Hall at in support of local candidate Blake Desjarlais and other candidates in the capital city.
Desjarlais is Director of Public Affairs & National Operations for the Metis Settlements General Council and the former Co-Chair of Alberta’s Indigenous Climate Leadership Summit. The NDP are pouring some resources into the riding, including support from Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Heather McPherson, in hopes that Desjarlais can unseat second-term Conservative MP Kerry Diotte.
Unlike the last election, a few Alberta NDP MLAs are campaigning alongside the federal NDP. Popular Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin has lent her support and her extensive social media reach to Desjarlais (she ran against Diotte in 2015), as has Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan, who served as Minister of Indigenous Relations from 2016 to 2019.
Meanwhile, as Graham Thomson writes in ipolitics today, unlike the last federal election campaign, Premier Jason Kenney is now seen as a liability for his federal Conservative brethren. The Premier’s Office has said that Kenney is currently on vacation.
Ontario MP Derek Sloan running in Banff-Airdrie?
Independent Ontario MP Derek Sloan has spent the past month travelling around Alberta speaking to increasingly large crowds of anti-vaxxer and COVID-19 conspiracy theorists. Videos on his social media accounts show he has recently spoken at evangelical-style events in Airdrie, Calgary, Camrose, Claresholm, Cochrane, Red Deer and St. Albert.
The first-term MP from Hastings-Lennox and Addington was kicked out of the Conservative caucus in January 2021 after making numerous controversial statements about abortion and LGBTQ issues, and accepting a donation from a neo-Nazi.
Sloan apparently sees Alberta as his new political home, because in an email to his supporters today he pledged to never leave and “Make Alberta Great Again!” as he plans to make an important announcement in the town of Cochrane tomorrow. Rumours has it that the life-long Ontarian plans to run as an Independent candidate in Banff-Airdrie, where incumbent Conservative MP Blake Richards is seeking re-election.
Federal Conservatives endorse Senate Nominee candidates
The federal Conservative Party has endorsed three candidates in the upcoming Senate Nominee election to select two nominees to submit to the Prime Minster of appointment tot he upper chamber.
Lobbyist and former United Conservative Party president Erika Barootes, right-wing activist and former municipal election candidate Pam Davidson and Canadian Ukrainian Free Trade Agreement Association president Mykhailo Martyniouk will have the endorsement of the federal party in the October elections.
Newly nominated federal election candidates
The Liberal Party has nominated Leah McLeod in Battle River-Crowfoot, Jessica Dale-Walker in Calgary-Nose Hill, Dan Campbell in Grande Prairie-Mackenzie, and Hannah Wilson in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner.
The Communist Party of Canada has nominated candidates Jonathan Trautman in Calgary-Forest Lawn,Alex Boykowich in Edmonton-Griesbach and Naomi Rankin in Edmonton-Mill Woods.
The Green Party has nominated Daniel Brisbin in Battle River-Crowfoot.
The Maverick Party has replaced Doug Karwandy with Jeff Golka in Battle River-Crowfoot.
The Christian Heritage Party has nominated former Wildrose candidate Jeff Willerton in Sturgeon River-Parkland and Derek Vanspronsen in Calgary-Heritage. Previously announced Calgary-Heritage candidate Larry Heather is now running in Calgary-Nose Hill.
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 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.
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.
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.
After a very eventful summer in Alberta politics, Dave and Adam tackle big questions about Alberta’s fiscal challenges (and revenue problems) and Premier Jason Kenney’s promised ” fiscal reckoning,” the mini-cabinet shuffle, Erin O’Toole’s win in the Conservative Party of Canada leadership race, what a return to school during a global pandemic looks like, and more. We also answer some great questions submitted by listeners.
Thank you to everyone who submitted recommendations for the Alberta Politics Summer Reading List. With summer coming to an end, now is time to start thinking about what Alberta politics books you want to read while cozying up next to a warm fire this fall.
The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported. The Alberta Podcast Network includes dozens of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.
You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.
Alberta’s oldest newly rebranded separatist party has a new interim leader, maybe.
A now deleted tweet from the newly renamed Wildrose Independence Party announced that former Wildrose Alliance leader Paul Hinman is the new interim leader of the party. Unless the party’s account was hacked, it would appear that Hinman is launching another attempt at a political comeback.
The press release included with the now deleted tweet said that Hinman would speak to his new role at this week’s Freedom Talk “Firewall Plus” conference, a pro-separatist event organized by former Wildrose candidate and right-wing online radio show host Danny Hozak that features speakers including former arch-Conservative MP Rob Anders, conservative lawyer John Carpay, Postmedia columnist John Robson, and federal Conservative leadership candidate Derek Sloan.
The name change does not appear to have been approved by Elections Alberta, which still lists the party under its most recent previous name on its official website. But it was reported last week that former Wildrose activist and FCP candidate Rick Northey was the party’s new president. Former Social Credit leader James Albers is also on the party’s executive.
The oldest newest separatist party on Alberta’s right-wing fringe should not be confused with the also recently renamed Independence Party of Alberta (formerly known as the Alberta Independence Party and now led by past UCP nomination candidate Dave Campbell), the Alberta Advantage Party (led by former Alberta Alliance Party president Marilyn Burns), and the unregistered Alberta Freedom Alliance (led by former Wildrose Party candidate Sharon Maclise).
The United Independence Party name was also recently reserved with Elections Alberta, presumably by another former Wildrose candidate trying to start another new separatist party.
But back to the new interim leader of the new separatist Wildrose party…
The grandson of former Social Credit MLA and cabinet minister Edgar Hinman, Paul Hinman’s first foray into provincial electoral politics saw him elected in Cardston-Taber-Warner as the lone Alberta Alliance MLA in the 2004 election. Hinman inherited the leadership of the tiny right-wing party when Randy Thorsteinson (who had previously helped found the Alberta First Party) failed to win his election in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. He endorsed Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Ted Morton in 2006 and led the party through an eventual split and re-merger with a faction branding itself as the Wildrose Party – and thus the Wildrose Alliance was formed.
Hinman lost his seat in the 2008 election in a rematch with former PC MLA Broyce Jacobs. He announced plans to step down as leader shortly afterward and then surprised political watchers when he won a 2009 by-election in posh Calgary-Glenmore, pumping some momentum behind Danielle Smith when she won the party’s leadership race a few months later.
In 2010, Hinman was joined by floor crossing PC MLAs Heather Forsyth, Guy Boutilier, and Rob Anderson (who four years later crossed the floor back to the PC Party and now hosts a Facebook video show where he promotes Alberta separatism), but, despite the party’s electoral breakthrough in 2012, Hinman was again unable to get re-elected.
More recently, Hinman launched a brief bid for the UCP leadership in 2017, announcing a campaign focused on parental rights and conscience rights, but when the Sept 2017 deadline to deposit the $57,500 candidate fee passed, he did not make the cut. Hinman later endorsed Jason Kenney‘s candidacy.
Now he might be taking over the interim leadership of the fledgeling fringe separatist party at a time when public opinion polls show that Albertans’ appetite for leaving Canada is cooling as memory of the 2019 federal election fades. If historic trends hold, then the desire for separatism will drop if it looks like the next federal Conservative Party leader can form a government in Ottawa.
Separatism is ever-present on the fringes of Alberta politics and is more of a situational tendency than a real political movement with legs but a half-organized separatist party could syphon votes away from the UCP in the next provincial election.
And with next October’s Senate nominee election likely to be a showdown between candidates aligned with the federal Conservative Party led by whoever wins this summer’s leadership race and the federal Wexit Party led by former Conservative MP Jay Hill, expect the UCP to be paying a lot of attention to these fringe separatist groups sniping at its right-flank.
If he actually does become the leader of the oldest newest separatist party, Hinman will provide some profile and credibility in political circles where conservatives are perpetually disgruntled with New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and newly disgruntled with Premier Kenney, presumably for not pushing hard enough for Alberta’s separation from Canada.
We dive into the mailbag in this episode of the Daveberta Podcast to answer questions about Alberta politics sent in by our listeners on topics ranging from the United Conservative Party’s influence on the Conservative Party of Canada leadership race to the details of the Alberta government’s Keystone XL Pipeline investment to Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s never-ending fight with Alberta’s doctors to how the 1918 Spanish influenza impacted Alberta politics and more great questions.
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