Provincial NDP President and teacher Peggy Wright defeated former public school board trustee Michelle Draper to secure to Alberta NDP nomination in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview.
“I have watched the thoughtful discourse Rachel Notley and the NDP have been having with Albertans to develop proposals for a better path forward,” said Wright. “Right now, Albertans are facing the biggest affordability crisis in decades, our healthcare and education systems are struggling, and we need a change.
Incumbent NDP MLA Deron Bilous, who was first elected in 2012, is not seeking re-election.
And there are more nomination updates:
Calgary Firefighter lieutenant Jason Curry joins past candidate Amanda Chapman in the race for the NDP nomination in Calgary-Beddington on October 17, 2022. Curry is the Director of Government Relations for the Calgary Firefighters Association.
Retired teacher Tim Gruber is seeking the NDP nomination in Cypress-Medicine Hat. Drew Barnes, the Independent MLA for the south east Alberta riding, has asked to be allowed to rejoin the United Conservative Party Caucus.
LaGrange has been the face of the government’s controversial education system reforms, including the introduction of a new curriculum for kindergarten to grade 12 that many education experts say includes outdated and retrograde terms and ideas.
LaGrange was first elected to the Legislature in 2019 when she unseated NDP MLA Kim Schreiner in a 60.6 percent to 23.1 per cent vote. She previously served as a trustee on the Red Deer Catholic School board from 2007 and 2018 and was president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association from 2015 to 2018.
Former city manager Craig Curtis and recent school board candidate Jaelene Tweedle are seeking the NDP nomination in Red Deer-North. The NDP have not announced a date for the meeting.
NDP candidates target Nate Glubish on rural broadband internet
Edmonton-Manning NDP MLA Heather Sweet joined Strathcona-Sherwood Park candidate Bill Tonita and Morinville-St. Albert candidate Karen Shaw at a press conference to criticize the UCP government for lack of progress on rural broadband internet expansion.
“Access to high-speed, affordable internet is essential for diversifying our economy and creating jobs, but the digital divide is growing under the UCP and hundreds of thousands of Albertans are at risk of being left behind,” said Tonita.
Strathcona-Sherwood Park is currently represented by UCP MLA and Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish, who responded in a tweet saying “…Alberta’s Broadband Strategy is a fully-funded plan to eliminate the digital divide in 5 years. We are making sure we invest tax dollars wisely to achieve the best possible result for rural Alberta.”
The NDP have set September 14 as the nomination date in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview. Four-term MLA Deron Bilousis retiring and, as of this morning, party president Peggy Wright is the only candidate in the race.
Alberta NDP provincial president Peggy Wright is the first candidate to declare plans to enter the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview. Her announcement on Facebook comes only days after third-term MLA Deron Bilous announced he will not seek re-election.
Wright has served as the party’s provincial president since 2016 and previously served as president of the NDP constituency association in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview, where she was involved in Bilous’ election campaigns. She previously served as president of the NDP’s youth wing.
And Wright has deep connections to the NDP.
Her father Keith Wright helped Grant Notley found the Youth Cooperative Commonwealth Federation Club at the U of A in the 1959, which was nicknamed “Notley’s Motley Crew,” according to Howard Leeson’s biography of Notley. Her father ran as the CCF candidate in Strathcona-Centre in the 1959 provincial election and was elected president of the national NDP youth wing in 1961.
Wright’s mother, Kathleen Wright, was a longtime NDP activist and stood as a provincial candidate in Edmonton-Gold Bar in 1979 and Edmonton-Avonmore in 1982.
They were both awarded lifetime memberships in the party in 2018.
The NDP had held Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview since 2012, when Bilous was first election, and past NDP MLAs for the riding include Ray Martin (2004-2008) and Ed Ewasiuk (1986-1993).
UPDATE: The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview on September 14.
Other nomination updates:
MLA Shannon Phillips will seek the NDP nomination to run for re-election in Lethbridge-West at a September 11 nomination meeting.
Lovely has served as MLA for the central Alberta riding since 2019 and was appointed parliamentary secretary to the Associate Minister of Status of Women in November 2021. She previously ran as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015.
Smook was first elected to council council in 2013 and was the Alberta Party candidate in Camrose in 2019.
Lovely admitted today that she was the only other person to join MLA Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk on an awards committee that selected a sexist and racist essay for a third place prize. In a written statement Lovely said she regretted the decision but was not available to answer any questions about why she chose the essay (or whether she actually read it before giving the $200 prize). There were only 5 essays submitted for the Her Vision Inspires essay contest.
Response to Lovely’s nomination on social media was largely muted, with the notable exception of Haydn Place, the acting chief of staff to Minister of Infrastructure Nicholas Milliken, who tweeted: “Glad the former Alberta Party candidate was defeated by a long-term UCP/Wildrose activist like Ms Lovely.”
Deron Bilous not running for re-election
After three-terms in the Legislature, NDP MLA Deron Bilous announced today that he will not run for re-election in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview. The former NDP economic development minister was first elected in 2012 by unseating Progressive Conservative MLA Tony Vandermeer.
“It has been an honour to serve as the member for Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview for the past 10 years, but after much consideration, I have decided not to seek re-election,” Bilous said in a statement.
“I am incredibly proud of everything the NDP has accomplished during our time in government and as an opposition caucus, but the time has come for me to pursue new adventures in the private sector.”
“I would like to thank my constituents, volunteers, and party members for their support over the last decade. Together, we have built a stronger community in Beverly-Clareview.”
The working-class north east Edmonton riding has a long-history of NDP representation, with former party leader Ray Martin representing the riding from 2004 to 2008 and former city councillor Ed Ewasiuk holding the riding from 1986 to 1993. Bilous was re-elected in 2019 with 50 per cent of the vote.
No candidates have declared their intentions to run for the NDP nomination but names that immediately began circulating in political circles include former school trustee Michelle Draper, city councillor Aaron Paquette, recent city council candidate Cori Longo, and past federal NDP candidate Charmaine St. Germain.
Kathleen Ganley running for re-election in Calgary-Mountain View NDP
MLA and former justice minister Kathleen Ganley is seeking her party’s nomination for re-election in Calgary-Mountain View.
Ganley was first elected in Calgary-Buffalo in 2015 and hopped across the river to run in Mountain View after the riding boundaries were redrawn for the 2019 election (allowing former Calgary-Fort MLA Joe Ceci to run for re-election in Buffalo). She was re-elected in 2019 with 47.3 per cent of the vote.
Applications to run for the UCP nomination in Highwood close at 5:00 pm on August 12.
Miyashiro served on Lethbridge City Council from 2013 until 2021 and is the executive director of the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization.
This will be Miyashiro’s second time running as a candidate in Lethbridge-East. He was the Alberta Liberal candidate in the district in the 2012 provincial election, placing third with 14.6 per cent of the vote behind Progressive Conservative candidate Bridget Pastoor, who crossed the floor from the Liberals in 2011.
As I’ve previously noted, Lethbridge-East has a unique voting history for a district in southern Alberta, with voters electing Liberal MLAs in every election from 1993 to 2008. Voters embraced the Orange Wave in 2015, electing Fitzpatrick as the riding’s first-ever NDP MLA.
Calgary-Buffalo: Two-term MLA Joe Ceci was acclaimed as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Buffalo, a riding he has represented since 2019. Ceci was first elected as the MLA for Calgary-Fort in 2015 and ran for re-election in the neighbouring Calgary-Buffalo in 2019 following the redrawing of electoral boundaries ahead of the last election.
Ceci served as a City Councillor in Calgary from 1995 to 2010 and was the Minister of Finance during the NDP’s four years as government.
Calgary-Glenmore: Communications professional Jennifer Burgess announced yesterday that she is seeking the Alberta NDP nomination in this southwest Calgary riding.
Burgess is the President of the Braeside Community Association and a long-time NDP activist. She was president of the Calgary-Buffalo constituency association in 2016 and in 2019 managed the campaign of Calgary-Glenmore candidate Jordan Stein.
Burgess previously ran for the NDP against then-Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice in the 2014 by-election in Calgary-Foothills. Her partner is former NDP MLA Graham Sucha, who represented Calgary-Shaw from 2015 to 2019.
The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Whitney Issik, who was appointed Associate Minister of Status of Women in July 2021. Before Issik’s election in 2019 the riding was represented by NDP MLA Anam Kazim. Kazim was elected in 2015 and was defeated by Stein in a nomination race ahead of the 2019 election.
Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche: The UCP hasn’t officially made the announcement it on its website, but the Elections Alberta website notes that the UCP will hold their nomination meeting in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche on December 11.
Membership sales closed over the weekend in the race to choose a candidate to run in the upcoming by-election, which has to be called by Feb. 15, 2022.
Former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, who represented much of the riding as an MLA from 2015 to 2018 and an MP from 2004 to 2013, is facing business consultant Joshua Gogo.
With a by-election call imminent, a steady stream of NDP MLAs have been travelling to Fort McMurray to raise the party banner and meet with locals.
Edmonton-City Centre NDP MLA and health critic David Shepherd was in Fort McMurray earlier this week, and party leader Rachel Notley, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous and Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan have recently visited Fort Mac.
There is still no word on who will run for the NDP in this by-election. The candidate who ran for the party in the 2018 by-election and 2019 election, Jane Stroud, was acclaimed to another term on the Wood Buffalo municipal council, a position she has held since 2010.
Former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean announced today that he plans to run for the job he quit three years ago.
Jean announced on Facebook that he plans to seek the United Conservative Party nomination in the upcoming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election. The by-election to replace Laila Goodridge, who was recently elected as a Member of Parliament, needs to be called by Feb. 15, 2022. He is the second candidate to announce after Joshua Gogo entered the race last month.
Jean represented the predecessor riding, Fort McMurray-Conklin, from 2015 until 2018, when he quit after losing the UCP leadership to Jason Kenney.
This is Jean’s second political comeback. His first happened when he was a last minute candidate for the Wildrose Party leadership in 2015 after stepping down as a MP in 2014. He saved the party from the brink of oblivion in that election and became leader of the Official Opposition.
Since leaving the Legislature in 2018, he has become a vocal critic of the government, flirted with western separatism in online columns, and called for Kenney to resign as leader of the UCP.
“Something must be done or Rachel Notley will win the next election with an overwhelming majority,” Jean wrote on Facebook of the popular NDP leader who’s party has been leading in the polls since last November, once again publicly signalling his lack of confidence in Kenney.
Jean has every reason to dislike Kenney after an alleged Kamakaze campaign was organized against him during the UCP leadership race, and since quitting he has appeared to take pleasure in poking at his rival from the sidelines.
Jean was even spotted at a Calgary Stampede BBQ hosted by ousted UCP MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen over the summer.
There is little doubt that he could win the nomination and the by-election. He is a well-known and popular figure in Fort McMurray, and he comes across as affable and down to earth to anyone who meets him. His lack of stick-to-it-iveness should probably raise some concerns, but at this point local conservatives might just be hopeful to find a candidate who can reliably hold on to the seat.
The question is whether the increasingly unpopular Kenney will allow a rival who has openly called for his resignation to run under his party’s banner?
And if Jean isn’t allowed to run for Kenney’s party, will he run as an Independent or for another party, like the struggling Wildrose Independence Party.
Of course, Jean isn’t alone in calling for Kenney’s resignation.
No emergency caucus meeting was held to kick them out, and perhaps more notably, no Kenney loyalists in the cabinet or caucus stepped up to rebuke them and defend their leader. The silence was deafening.
So, Jean now wants his seat back, and he probably wants his party back too.
It is not uncommon for party leaders and politicians to spend time in ridings where by-elections are expected,
Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview NDP MLA Deron Bilous, who served as Economic Development Minister in the first Notley government, is in Fort McMurray this week and has posted a series of videos about his visit on Instagram.
The UCP Caucus was scheduled to hold its annual retreat in Fort McMurray on Sept. 15 and 16, but the event that would have brought most UCP MLAs to the northeast Alberta city ahead of the by-election was abruptly canceled on Sept. 10 after rumours that Kenney was facing a caucus revolt. Kenney also cancelled his scheduled Sept. 15 keynote speech to the annual Oil Sands Conference and Trade Show, which the UCP Caucus retreat was planned around.
Alberta’s municipal election is only 14 days away.
When you think of municipal elections, you might immediately think about roads, libraries, sidewalks, pools, traffic, playgrounds, potholes, public transit, bike lanes and snow removal. And while these are some of the more high-profile responsibilities of municipal governments, the amount of information being thrown at voters in this year’s election has muddied the water about what the ballot issues on October 18 might be.
As if there weren’t already are a lot of challenges facing municipalities, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit Alberta hard and municipal governments are bearing the brunt of many of those health, social and economic challenges.
Municipalities also face a hostile provincial government that has not hesitated to interfere in local issues, in some cases leaving Albertans with a choice between candidates who agree with the provincial government interference, candidates who want to keep their heads down in hopes for a change of provincial government in 2023, or candidates who will stand up for their communities and challenge the United Conservative Party government.
Senate Nominee Election
When you vote on Oct. 18 or in the advance polls you will probably be handed a few different ballots. One of them will ask you to choose up to three candidates in this year’s Senate Nominee Election.
Senate Nominee elections are a uniquely Alberta activity dating back to 1989. The elections are held to choose a list of names for the Premier to recommend to the Prime Minister for appointment to the Senate if vacancies occur.
Unfortunately for the candidates running in this election, they are not going to be appointed unless the Prime Minister is a member of the Conservative Party, the only major party that recognizes the elections as legitimate. The Liberal Party has created a new application process for Senate appointments, dismantling the old partisan patronage machine, and the NDP believe the Upper Chamber should be abolished.
One of the major flaws of the Senate Nominee election is that winning candidates who might eventually be appointed to the Senate never ever have to face re-election, so there is no opportunity for voters to hold these “elected” Senators accountable for their decisions. In fact, they can stay in the Senate until they turn 75-years old if they decide to.
Another major flaw is that a province-wide election in a province of 4.3 million people makes it impossible for the Senate candidates to meaningfully reach many voters. I doubt most Albertans could name a candidate running in year’s Senate Nominee election, but here they are:
Physicians Dr. Sunil Sookram. and Dr. Karina Pillay (also the former Mayor of Slave Lake), Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett, former Western Barley Growers Association President Jeff Nielsen, and former deputy premier and finance minister Doug Horner are running as Independent candidates are are the more serious candidates with real public service experience.
Then there are the three People’s Party endorsed candidates who filed their papers to run in the Senate Nominee election only hours before they were defeated as candidates in the Sept. 20 federal election – Nadine Wellwood, Kelly Lorencz, and Ann McCormack.
And finally there are the three UCP loyalists endorsed by the Conservative Party of Canada – lobbyist and former UCP President Erika Barootes, right-wing activist and failed municipal candidate Pam Davidson, and Ukrainian-Canadian trade association president Mikhailio Martyniouk.
The three UCP/Conservative Party candidates, who appear to have less comparable actual public service experience than many of the Independent candidates on the ballot, are still probably going to win. But like previous Senate Nominee elections, the turnout will be low and number of spoiled ballots will be high.
Alberta’s Senate Nominee election should be a serious affair, but it will probably end up being a joke or an afterthought for most Albertans who will have no idea who to vote for.
Plebiscites and Referendums
Depending where you live in Alberta you could also be handed one, two or three additional ballots to cast your vote for referendums and plebiscites, though there is a good chance you haven’t heard much about them during this election.
Even if the Equalization formula was removed from the Constitution, Albertans wouldn’t actually notice any change. We would still pay federal taxes the same as we do now, but the federal government would not be obligated to distribute funds collected through federal taxes to the provinces through an Equalization formula as currently required by the Constitution.
The Equalization referendum is all about the politics of grievance and saving Jason Kenney’s leadership of the UCP. A yes vote won’t accomplish much and a no vote will probably hurt Kenney’s chance of remaining in the Premier’s Office for much longer (Kenney’s approval rating has dropped to 22 per cent according to a recent poll from ThinkHQ).
In this referendum, a no vote is a vote to continue the annual time change and a yes vote is a vote for darker mornings and lighter evenings in the winter. If I understand correctly, it could also mean that from March to November each year Alberta’s timezone will be two hours ahead of the times observed in much of British Columbia. The result of the vote on this question is binding on the provincial government.
At least in Edmonton, candidate endorsements have become a mini-story.
This year’s city council election has seen a string of high-profile endorsements of city council candidates from Mayor Don Iveson, mayoral candidate Mike Nickel and some individual NDP MLAs across the city. While it is not unheard of for incumbent City Councillors to endorse candidates in a municipal election, the number of endorsements in this year’s election is significantly higher than usual.
Just like City Councillor endorsements, it is not unheard of for MLAs to endorse candidates, but this year the number of MLAs endorsing municipal candidates is higher.
The decision by some NDP MLAs to endorse candidates has flustered some political watchers who for some reason believe municipal politics should exist in a vacuum outside of provincial and federal politics, the endorsements appear to be a choice made by individual MLAs rather than a decision made by the party.
And in at least one case, NDP MLAs have endorsed different candidates. In Ward tastawiyiniwak, for example, the NDP endorsements appear to be split, with Edmonton-City Centre MLA David Shepherd endorsing Ahmed Knowmadic Ali and Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview NDP MLA Deron Bilous endorsing Cody Bondarchuk.
While it has certainly made Edmonton’s political establishment uncomfortable, it is positive to see progressive groups organizing to support candidates. With traditional low turnout, low interest and high-incumbent re-election, municipal politics in Edmonton could use a bit of disruption.
The new rules make it legal for wealthy people to donate up to $5,000 each to as many candidates as they want in any municipal or school board election across the province, effectively removing the cap on individual donations. While municipal political donors do not receive the generous tax credits they get from provincial or federal donations, there are wealthy Albertans with the ability to financially influence candidates across the board.
The UCP also removed the requirement for candidates to disclose their list of donors ahead of Election Day, which would have allowed voters to see who is financially supporting candidates before they go to the ballot booth. Many candidates will already do this on their own but many won’t because they are not required to by law.
The new rules introduced by the UCP also allow Third Party Advertisers, colloquially known as political action committees, to spend up to $500,000 on advertising during the referendums, up from the previous $150,000 limit. Third Party Advertisers that spend less than $350,000 on advertising during a referendum are not required to file financial statements with Elections Alberta, which means those groups don’t have to publicly disclose their donor lists.
Section 34(2) of the EFCDA: Knowingly Accepted Funds, from 5 contributors, contrary to section 34(1)
Section 46 of the EFCDA: Knowingly Made a False Financial Statement with the CEO.
Also listed as having received administrative penalties from Elections Alberta was Walters’ chief financial officer, Karen Nolin, who was issued a $9,000 fine for violating three sections of the EFCDA.
Two individual political contributors, Reid Hogan and Wyatt Hogan, were fined $2,o00 each for violations of Section 34(1) of the EFCDA for “contributing funds to a registered nomination contestant that had been given or furnished to him by another person.”
Bar-N-Ranche was also issued a fine of $2,500 for violating section Section 16(2) of the EFCDA after making a prohibited contribution of $10,000 to Walters’ UCP nomination campaign, though the donation does not appear on the disclosures submitted by his campaign.
Corporations have been prohibited from making contributions to political candidates and parties in Alberta since 2015.
Walters’ finished third with 7.4 per cent of the vote as the Alberta Party behind NDP MLA Deron Bilous, who was re-elected to a third-term with 50.6 per cent of the vote, and UCP candidate David Egan, who finished second with 36.2 per cent.
With less than a year to go until the 2021 municipal elections, candidates are stepping up to run for Edmonton City Council.
The big unanswered question about the October 18, 2021 election is whether incumbent Mayor Don Iveson will seek re-election for a third-term. Iveson was first elected in 2013 and won re-election with 73.6 per cent of the vote in 2017. When I asked about his plans for the election on a recent episode of the Daveberta Podcast, Iveson said he wasn’t yet ready to announce his intentions for 2021.
Also rumoured to be considering a run is former Member of Parliament Amarjeet Sohi, who previously served on city council from 2007 to 2015.
Newly redrawn Ward boundaries will also come with new Indigenous names, a first for a large Canadian city. The new boundaries and new names will be initially confusing for many Edmontonians, but I am hopeful that the City of Edmonton will engage the public in an education campaign explaining the meaning of the new names and the role they play in reconciliation.
By my count, the candidates who have already announced their plans to run are:
Glynnis Lieb is running in Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi. Lieb is the Executive Director of iSMSS in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta.
Keren Tang and Shamair Turner have announced their plans to run in the new Karhiio ward. Tang was a candidate in Ward 11 in the 2017 election, where she placed second and earned 26.7 per cent of the vote. Turner is a first time candidate and former Vice President and Account Executive at Aon Risk Solutions.
Cori Longo and Caroline Matthews are running in the Metis ward. Longo is a former postal worker and Registered Nurse who has worked as the Alberta regional representative for the Canadian Labour Congress. Matthews is the former Director of Recruitment for the University of Alberta’s MBA program and appears to have been endorsed by Edmonton-Greisbach Conservative MP Kerry Diotte, who is pictured campaigning with her in photos on social media.
Community organizer Adrian Bruff is running in the O-day’min ward, which encompasses most of the central core neighbourhoods of the city.
Kirsten Goa has announced her plans to run in the papastew ward. Goa placed second in Ward 8 in the 2017 election, earning 23 per cent of the vote. Also rumoured to be considering running in this new ward is Edmonton Public School Trustee Michael Janz. Janz was first elected to the school board in 2010 and was re-elected in a landslide in 2017.
I am once again tracking candidates who have announced their plans to run for Mayor, City Council and School Board in Edmonton. If I am missing anyone on the list, please send me an email at email@example.com or post a comment and let me know. Thanks!
It has been a busy week in Alberta politics and here are a few of my thoughts on some recent developments:
Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances
Premier Jason Kenney and Finance Minister Travis Toews appointed a “Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances” with a mandate to recommend changes limited to Alberta government spending. As others have already pointed out, the narrow mandate is a missed opportunity to actually address the fiscal challenges facing Alberta, which includes issues with revenue ranging from low taxation and over-dependence on oil and gas royalty revenues.
That Kenney, who started his political career as spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, would want to focus purely on spending is not a shock. But it is only part of the challenge facing Alberta.
Appointing an arms-length panel to make these recommendations is politically smart and will give cover to a United Conservative Party government that is already inclined to make significant cuts to funding of public services. The NDP made similar political moves when they appointed arms-length panels to recommend changes to the natural resource royalty structure and to recommend action on climate change, which included the creation of the carbon tax, which Kenney has pledged to repeal.
Kenney’s appointment of history professor and former Saskatchewan New Democratic Party cabinet minister Janice MacKinnon and former Alberta Liberal MLA Mike Percy was a clever move that on the surface mildly disarms its critics. But despite their past political affiliations, both MacKinnon and Percy have in the decades since they left elected office been welcomed in conservative circles because of their fiscally conservative views. MacKinnon was even prominently quoted in the UCP election platform.
Albertans need leaders who will look at the big picture, not just a slice of the problem. Judging by its narrow mandate, it is hard to imagine the blue ribboned panelists recommending anything but cuts, cuts, and more cuts.
NDP critics to be named next week
The 24 Alberta NDP MLAs who will make up the Official Opposition will be sworn-in on May 13 at the Legislative Assembly. Unlike their UCP colleagues, who will be sworn-in before the Speech from the Throne on May 21, the two dozen NDP MLAs will have an 8-day jump start with access to their Legislative offices and time to prepare for their first week of Question Period. And with a caucus mostly hailing from Edmonton, NDP MLAs will have a hometown advantage of not having to regularly travel long-distances to work in the capital city.
The NDP critic line-up is expected to be announced shortly after NDP MLAs are sworn-in. With 9 cabinet minister in its ranks, the NDP opposition will be well-equipped to question the cabinet of mostly rookie UCP MLAs. There could be a natural temptation to appoint the former cabinet ministers as critics for the ministerial offices they previously held, but it could also compromise the credibility of those critics who in some cases would be watching much of their 4-years of work be dismantled by the UCP.
Look for Official Opposition leader Rachel Notley to place Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman, Lethbridge-East MLA Shannon Phillips, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous, Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen, and Calgary-Buffalo MLA Joe Ceci in key critic roles.
The NDP will be tempted to continue their relentless campaign against the UCP on social issues, but treating the post-election period as just an extension of the 2019 election could be a strategic mistake. The NDP need to prepare themselves for how to respond effectively to the aggressive legislative agenda Kenney is expected to implement in the “Summer of Repeal” and to a fall provincial budget that could include deep and short-sighted budget cuts.
auf Wiedersehen, Derek.
Former Wildrose Party and UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt resigned as leader of the Freedom Conservative Party last week after his party’s electoral poor showing and his failure to win re-election in Chestermere-Strathmore in the April 2019 election. Fildebrandt, also a former spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, is succeeded by interim leader David White, a former paramedic who ran for the party in Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin.
Say what you want about his political views and personalbehavior, but Fildebrandt has been one of the most consistently colourful characters in Alberta politics since he burst on to the provincial scene in 2012.
The Freedom Conservative Party is the latest name of a tiny right-wing populist and sometimes separatist party that has existed since 1999. It took its latest form in June 2018 when theWestern Freedom Party was renamed the Freedom Conservative Party. The party was originally formed as the Alberta First Party in 1999, renamed the Separation Party of Alberta in 2004 and again renamed the Alberta First Party in 2013 before it became the Western Freedom Party in April 2018.
Eleven days have passed since Alberta’s provincial election in which Albertans voted in droves and gave our province its first ever one-term government. That alone provides a lot of reflect on, but there is so much more.
Having taken a much-needed vacation after the election (I was on an early flight out of the country on the morning following election night), I now have some thoughts on the results and what they could mean for Alberta and the political parties.
First, the voter turnout was high. The official results of the election were released this week, showing that 64 per cent of eligible voters in Alberta participated in the election. This is down from the previous voter turnout numbers released by Elections Alberta before the count was official that showed a 71 per cent turnout. While the numbers are not as fantastic as 71 per cent, this election marks the highest turnout since the 1982 election, which was 66 per cent.
The high turnout in advance voting, in particular the “vote anywhere” ballots that allowed Albertans to vote at any advance polling station in the province, was remarkable. More than 700,000 votes were cast at the advance polls, with more than 260,000 of them being “vote anywhere” advance ballots. This was the first time this option was allowed in an Alberta election, and it appears that many Albertans liked the option of voting anywhere during the 5-days of advance voting.
The United Conservative Party elected 63 MLAs and earned a remarkable 1,040,004 votes, the highest of any political party in Alberta’s history. That party’s 54.9 per cent is the highest earned by a political party since the Progressive Conservatives in the 2001 election. It appears as though much of the UCP’s popular vote was boosted by significant landslide victories in rural districts across the province, making rural MLAs a powerful force in the UCP caucus.
While the internal politics of this relatively new party are still evolving, incoming-premier Jason Kenney has a strong mandate to implement his incoming government’s agenda. Kenney has said he will appoint a cabinet by the end of April and hold a session of the Legislative Assembly in May, kicking off what he previously described as a “Summer of Repeal.” Kenney has pledged to dismantle many of the NDP’s flagship programs, including the Climate Leadership Plan and Energy Efficiency Alberta.
The large UCP caucus only includes one MLA with previous provincial cabinet experience, Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver, so the learning curve will be steep for those appointed by Kenney next week. But like the NDP when it formed government in 2015, the UCP in 2019 will be bolstered by legions of career political staffers migrating to Alberta over the next few months.
Kenney is expected to continue to focus on his three key talking points from the election campaign – jobs, economy and pipelines – which is also expected to include a heavy does of political rhetoric aimed at Ottawa, Justin Trudeau, and anyone from outside Alberta who dares criticize the oil and gas sector (which will certainly keep Kenney busy).
The social conservative issues that dogged Kenney and many now elected UCP MLAs will not be his focus, but the social conservative groups who make up critical elements of his electoral coalition will expect to be rewarded for their loyalty. This could potentially create a difficult balancing act over the next four years.
The New Democratic Party was unable to get re-elected into government, but earned 619,147 votes, the party’s highest ever vote total. The larger voter turnout and consolidation of conservative votes around UCP candidates meant the NDP only earned 32.7 per cent of the vote and elected 24 MLAs, which is still one of the largest elected opposition caucuses in Alberta’s history. The NDP vote was heavily concentrated within Edmonton city limits, delivering the party all but one of the capital city’s electoral districts.
Outgoing-Premier Rachel Notley has pledged to stay on as party leader, which is a positive outcome for the NDP after its election defeat. Notley is the party’s strongest asset and is probably key to why the party formed government in 2015 and was not decimated in this election.
While the NDP sometimes tends to act like it is more inclined for life on the opposition benches, the new official opposition caucus will only have 3 MLAs who previously served in opposition (Notley, Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen and Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous). This is the first time the NDP will form official opposition since its previous tenure in the role from 1982 to 1993.
A struggle for the new NDP caucus and for the NDP internally will be to decide whether it wants to remain the centre-leftish liberal-like party it was in government or whether it should return to something closer to its social democratic roots.
While I have a hard time expecting the NDP’s advocacy for oil pipelines to waver, the party has the opportunity to present a strong alternative to the UCP on issues ranging from climate change to support for strong public services like health care and education. Support for pipelines might be the biggest challenge the NDP will have to reconcile with if it wants to be seen as a serious advocate for action against climate change.
The Alberta Party lost all 3 of its seats in the Assembly despite having high-profile former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel at its helm. The Alberta Party increased its popular vote to 9.1 per cent but none of its candidates came close to being elected. Even in Calgary-Elbow, popular opposition MLA and former party leader Greg Clark fell more than 3,000 votes short of being re-elected.
This result should prompt some serious internal discussions about what role the moderate conservative party plays in Alberta politics, especially as it now has no presence in the Assembly.
For the first time in 33 years the Liberal Party has no presence in the Assembly. Leader David Khan performed well in the televised leaders’ debate and was expected to have a shot at being elected in Calgary-Mountain View, the seat being vacated by retiring four-term Liberal MLA David Swann. But when the votes were counted Khan finished in fourth place with 5.6 per cent. The party only fielded 51 candidates and earned 18,546 votes, which translated into 1 per cent of the vote.
The Liberals will continue to exist on paper but for all intents and purposes the party that formed the official opposition from 1993 to 2012 has ceased to exist as a political force in Alberta.
Disgruntled former Wildrose and UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt’s Freedom Conservative Party barely registered on the electoral radar. Running candidates only 24 districts, the populist-UCP spinoff finished with 9,945 votes province-wide. Fildebrandt finished a distant third in Chestermere-Strathmore, 61 per cent behind UCP MLA Leela Aheer.
Despite the crushing loss, Fildebrandt carries no shortage of political ambition. My bet is that he will show on a ballot as a People’s Party of Canada candidate in the October 2019 federal election.
I am planning on taking a closer look at the district and regional level results over the next few weeks, so stay tuned for more analysis and commentary about the results of Alberta’s election.
Photo: MLA Cam Westhead at his nomination meeting in Banff-Kananaskis (photo source: Alberta NDP on Twitter)
MLA Cam Westhead was nominated as the New Democratic Party candidate in the newly redrawn Banff-Kananaskis district. Westhead is a Registered Nurse and former treasurer of United Nurses of Alberta Local 115 at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary. He was first elected 2015 in the current Banff-Cochrane district with 43 percent of the vote.
Westhead’s nomination was endorsed at a meeting this week by a number of prominent municipal elected officials from the district, including Canmore Mayor John Borrowman and former town councillor Sean Krausert and Banff town councillor Corrie DiManno. Borrowman is reported to have described Westhead as “a very strong representative of the Bow Valley to the legislature in Edmonton.”
“He’s an excellent listener, but he doesn’t stop there,” the Rocky Mountain Outlook reported Krausert as saying. “He goes back to Edmonton and talks to the person he needs to talk to and gets something done and he does that time and time again with integrity, with honesty and it’s just been a pleasure to see an MLA do what an MLA is suppose to do.”
Brenda Stanton was nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Banff-Kananskis this week. Stanton is the owner of Back to Basics Hospitality Training & Consulting and is the former president of the Canmore/Kananaskis Chamber of Commerce and former vice chair of Tourism Canmore/Kananaskis.
In Calgary-South East, Eva Kiryakos was nominated as the United Conservative Party candidate after Cameron Davies and Matt Jones withdrew from the contest. According to her online biography, Kiryakos has practiced law for 11 years and one of her main campaign promises is to modify or repeal the Protecting Choice for Women Accessing Health Care Act, which seeks to limits protest and harassment of health care workers and patients accessing facilities that offer abortion services in Alberta.
MLA Jon Carson has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-West Henday. Carson was first elected as MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark in the 2015 election while earning 57 percent of the vote.
Kristie Gomuwka has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in West Yellowhead. Gomuwka is a director of the Edson Friendship Centre and was a candidate for trustee with the Grande Yellowhead Public School District in October 2017. She is married to Town of Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara.
Martin Long defeated Whitecourt town councillors Paul Chauvet and Ray Hilts, and two-time Wildrose Party candidate and former Hinton town councillor Stuart Taylor to secure the UCP nomination in West Yellowhead today. Long works at the Alberta Newsprint Company paper mill in Whitecourt, is the chairperson of the Tennille’s Hope Soup Kitchen and is a former director of the Whitecourt-Ste. Anne Wildrose Party association.
NDP MLAs duel for nomination in St. Albert
Two NDP MLAs will challenge each other for their party’s nomination in the newly redrawn St. Albert district. In what will be the first contested NDP nomination contest of this cycle, current Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Trevor Horne and current St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud will seek the NDP candidacy at a December 12, 2018 nomination meeting.
Renaud had already announced her intentions to seek the nomination months ago, but Horne’s intentions had been unclear. Because of a significant change in the electoral boundaries, Horne’s Spruce Grove-St. Albert district is being split between the new Spruce Grove-Stony Plain, Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland and St. Albert districts, leaving this incumbent without a clear place to seek re-election without challenging fellow NDP MLAs Renaud, Oneil Carlier or Erin Babcock.
UPCOMING NOMINATION MEETINGS
November 17, 2018 – David Egan, Roger Fodjo, and Ruby Malik are seeking the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview. Jeffery Walters has withdrawn from the contest. The district is currently represented by NDP MLA Deron Bilous, who was elected with 73.8 percent of the vote.
November 18, 2018 – MLA Oneil Carlier is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in the new district of Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland. Carlier has represented Whitecourt-Ste. Anne and has served as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry since 2015.
Calgary-Bow – Frank Penkala is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.
Calgary-Falconridge – Gurjinder Dhillon and Raman Gill have withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest.
Sherwood Park – MLA Annie McKitrick has officially filed her intention to seek the NDP nomination for re-election in 2019. McKitrick was first elected in 2015 with 52 percent of the vote and has served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Education since 2017.
If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will add them to the list. Thank you!
Connolly, 24, was one of eight under-30 NDP MLAs elected in 2015. He was elected in Calgary-Hawkwood, unseating Progressive Conservative MLA Jason Luan (who is now the nominated United Conservative Party candidate in Calgary-Foothills) and had declared his plans to seek re-election in the newly redrawn Calgary-Varsity district. Due to boundary redistribution, the Hawkwood district is being split into the new Calgary-Edgemont, Calgary-Foothills and Calgary-Varsity districts.
Connolly is the eleventh MLA to announce plans not to seek re-election in 2019.
NDP MLA Deron Bilous was nominated as his party’s candidate for re-election in 2019. Bilious has represented Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview since 2012 and currently serves as Minister of Economic Development and Trade.
MLA Ron Orr defeated Lacombe City Councillor Thalia Hibbs to secure the UCP nomination in Lacombe-Ponoka. Orr was first elected in 2015 as a Wildrose Party candidate and currently serves as his party’s critic for Culture and Tourism.
Long-time conservative partisan activist Whitney Issik defeated Michael LaBerge, Christopher Grail, and Philip Schuman to win the UCP nomination in Calgary-Glenmore. As noted in a previous article, Issik worked as a campaign manager for Jim Prentice during his brief run for the federal PC Party nomination in Calgary-Southwest in 2002 and as policy co-chair of the federal PC Party during the 2000 federal election.
One of Issik’s opponents, Philip Schuman, was forced to apologize days before the nomination vote after it was revealed that he offered to introduce potential fundraisers to the administrators of an Instagram account that frequently posts anti-Semitic and racist memes.
Jeremy Nixon defeated Kathy Macdonald to secure the UCP nomination in Calgary-Klein. Nixon ran in this district under the Wildrose banner in 2012and 2015, when he placed third with 23 percent of the vote. He is the brother of Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon.
If elected, the Nixons might be the first brotherly-duo elected to Alberta’s Legislative Assembly at the same time. While there are cases of family members serving as MLAs during different periods of time (perhaps most notably, current Premier Rachel Notley and her father Grant Notley), I have not found a case of two siblings serving in the Legislature at the same time.
The closest case I could find was the Paproski brothers. Kenneth Paproski served as the PC MLA for Edmonton-Kingsway from 1971 to 1982 and was succeeded by his brother, Carl Paproski, who served as MLA of the same district from 1982 until 1986. Their other brother, Steve Paproski, served as MP for Edmonton-Centre and Edmonton-North from 1968 to 1993. (If any readers know of a period where two relatives served together in the Assembly, please let me know).
Calgary-Klein is currently represented by NDP MLA Craig Coolahan, who was elected with 44.3 percent of the vote in 2015. Coolahan is expected to be nominated as a meeting on October 3, 2018 and former Alberta Party leadership candidate Kara Levis is her party’s nominated candidate.
Upcoming nomination meetings
UCP members in Drumheller-Stettler will choose their candidate for the next election at meetings being held on September 27, 28 and 29, 2018 in communities across this sprawling rural central Alberta district. Incumbent UCP MLA Rick Strankman, who was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2012, is believed to be in a fight for his political life against challengers Nate Horner and Todd Pawsey.
The Alberta Party is expected to nominate Mount Royal University contract faculty member Lana Bentley as their candidate in Calgary-Acadia on September 24, 2018. Bentley teaches in the Faculty of Health, Community and Education. The Alberta Party is also expected to nominate a candidate in Edmonton-Glenora on September 25, 2018, but the party has yet to announce who is seeking the candidacy. Previously nominated candidate Carla Stolte withdrew her candidacy during the summer.
Principe is a dental hygienist who placed a strong third in the October 2017 city council race that saw incumbent councillor Dave Loken unseated by Jon Dzadyk. Her October 2017 bid was most notable because of the money spent by the three major candidate in that contest.
In that municipal contest, a campaign budget of $119,937.69 could not save two-term councillor Dave Loken from defeat in October 2017. Loken placed second to Jon Dziadyk, whose campaign only expensed $9,950.00, and he finished narrowly ahead of third place candidate Principe, whose campaign expensed $4,941.54.
Nielsen was first elected in 2015 with 67.9 percent of the vote and is seeking his party’s nomination for re-election. Former NDP candidate Ali Haymour has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.
Schmidt nominated in Edmonton-Gold Bar
NDP MLA Marlin Schmidt has been nominated as his party’s candidate in Edmonton-Gold Bar.
As noted in a previous article, Schmidt was first elected in 2015, earning 68 percent of the vote in the 2015 election. He now serves as Minister of Advanced Education and will face a rematch against UCP candidate David Dorward, who Schmidt defeated in 2015 and placed a strong second against in 2012.
Lacombe-Ponoka UCP vote today
UCP members in the Lacombe-Ponoka district are selecting their candidate today. Incumbent MLA Ron Orr is facing a challenge from Lacombe City Councillor Thalia Hibbs. The polls close at 5:00 p.m.
“I look for a government that has the same interest that I do, and my interest is Alberta first,” he said, according to a Postmedia report. “I see some really good moves in terms of listening to all of us — whether or not we supported the party. Politics aside, are we after the same thing? To me, it appears we are. We want Alberta to be better, to have good opportunities.”
Jason Kenney touted Alberta’s low taxes, educated work-force and efficient power prices to the Indian media during a trip to meet with government ministers and business leaders on the subcontinent this week, according to a report from the CBC.
Meanwhile, back in Alberta, political watchers are scratching their heads, wondering why Kenney, actually only the leader of the Official Opposition United Conservative Party, would contradict some of his main criticisms of the New Democratic Party government while he is overseas?
In the clip referred to the in CBC article, Kenney sounded more like actual Premier Rachel Notley or Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous, than the anti-NDP Kenney that Albertans have got to know over the past year and half.
Kenney has spent the past two years rallying against NDP ‘ideological’ and ‘risky’ high-taxes that he argues have destroyed our province’s mythical “Alberta Advantage.” He has also warned that electricity prices could soon spike because of the NDP’s shift toward renewable energy and away from dirty coal-fired power plants.
The truth is that the Kenney we heard from India is correct. Alberta’s taxes are low, (I have argued they are lower than they should be), our electricity prices are stable, and our excellent public education system has produced a highly-educated workforce. And Alberta’s economy is growing, albeit at a slower rate than the over-heated boom-times we all became accustomed to, according to recent projections.
Probably a little confused about what they were hearing from Kenney’s trip, the NDP raised questions about the ethics of the opposition leader’s trip abroad. I am a little skeptical about whether there are actually any ethical breaches, but there still remains unanswered questions about how the trip to the subcontinent actually began and who or what organization is paying for it.
Kenney says he was invited by the High Commission of India, which is probably true, but it seems unusual for a foreign government to extend an invitation like this to the leader of a provincial opposition party.
The trip was publicly announced mid-week last week and Kenney was on a plane by Friday with his United Conservative Party delegation of Calgary-Foothills MLA Prasad Panda and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen. It is not clear whether the UCP will publicly release the itinerary of Kenney’s visit, as would be released with any actual ministerial visit.
Despite his current role as a provincial opposition politician, Kenney very much remains a nationally-minded politician (with frequent trips to Ottawa in his schedule) and has strong connections to conservative politicians in other parts of the world. And he is no dummy. Putting aside the tongue and cheek opening sentence of this article, I doubt Kenney is misrepresenting himself to Indian Government officials by pretending to be a Minister of the Crown. But I think it is entirely possible that he is presenting himself in India as the next Premier of Alberta.
The UCP does not have a trade policy, at least not one they have released for Albertans to see, so it is also not clear what kind of promises or commitments he is making to Indian government officials and business people.
Perhaps the UCP leader is so confident that his party will win a solid majority in next year’s election that he already feels comfortable embarking on international trips on Alberta’s behalf. Kenney has room to be confident, but not to be complacent.
According to two polls, his party’s lead ahead of the NDP has shrunk from 24 percent in April 2018 to 14 percent in July 2018. This is obviously still a very healthy lead, but it’s only a stone’s throw away from becoming a competitive election.
Perhaps the reason for this narrowing of the polls is that Notley’s has largely outmaneuvered him on the pipeline issue, leaving him largely sitting on the sidelines. Despite the alternate universes that some media pundits exist in, Notley has become one of Canada’s strongest advocates for the oil industry and pipeline expansion (to the chagrin of some environmentally-minded NDP activists).
As I have written in the past, there is value in public officials making international trips to promote Alberta. But the value of overseas trips by government officials remain almost impossible to calculate, and a visit like this by a provincial opposition leader, even a former federal cabinet minister like Kenney, will likely have little impact on actual trade relations between India and Alberta.
As noted in some media coverage of Kenney’s overseas adventure, this is not the firs time an opposition leader from Alberta has made an international trip. NDP leader Brian Mason received approval from the Speaker of the Assembly to use public funds to visit Alaska in 2007 to study that State’s royalty structure.
Liberal leader Kevin Taft stayed closer to home when he travelled to Winnipeg in 2007 to promote his idea for turning western Canada into an oil refining super-hub. And in the 1993 election, it was reported that NDP leaderRay Martin brought reporters to a hospital in nearby Montana as a way of focusing attention on medicare.