With Danielle Smith‘s campaign for the United Conservative Party leadership appearing to pick up momentum, and recent endorsements from Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen, Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Nate Glubish, Edmonton-South West MLA Kaycee Madu, and Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn suggesting the mood in the UCP caucus is shifting in her favour, some people have been sharing links of a series of articles I wrote 13 years ago about Smith’s time on the disastrous 1998-1999 Calgary Board of Education.
Reading it now, I see it’s a little awkwardly formatted, so please forgive this young blogger from 2009.
It’s also important to recognize that the Calgary Board of Education in those years wasn’t a gong show just because of Danielle Smith. It was a real group effort.
The board of trustees was so dysfunctional that it was fired by the provincial government.
Smith’s current beliefs and past record on public education became more relevant after last week’s UCP leadership candidates forum at the Alberta Teachers’ Association summer conference in Banff, which you can watch here:
Grimshaw-resident Megan Ciurysek defeated Lynn Lekisch to secure the Alberta NDP nomination in Central Peace-Notley. Ciurysek is an analyst with the Government of Alberta. Ciurysek was raised on a grain farm near Berwyn, and earned a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Political Science and a Minor in Fine Arts from the University of Alberta, and a Master of Arts in Political Science from York University.
The United Conservative Party has not yet released the results of the July 19 and 20 nomination vote in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, where MLA Devin Dreeshen faced a nomination challenge from pharmacy owner Onsy Tawadrous.
Rhiannon Hoyle is running for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-South. Hoyle is the past president of the Alberta Party and the former president of the Heritage Point Community League, which includes the Rutherford and MacEwan neighbourhoods. She ran for city council in Ward Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi in 2021, narrowly losing to Jennifer Rice. The riding is currently represented by Independent MLA Thomas Dang, who’s involvement in a hacking scandal is making it look increasingly unlikely he will be allowed to run under the NDP banner in the next election.
As first reported on this website, former city councillor Jon Dziadyk was acclaimed as the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Castle Downs. The urban planner served on city council from 2017 to 2021, when he was unseated by Karen Principe (who was the 2019 UCP candidate in the neighbouring Edmonton-Decore). The riding is currently represented by NDP MLA Nicole Goehring.
The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting in Edmonton-Gold Bar for September 17. Two-term MLA Marlin Schmidt is seeking re-election. Schmidt served as Minister of Advanced Education from 2016 to 2019.
The UCP have set an August 2 deadline for candidates to run for the nomination in West Yellowhead. UCP MLA Martin Long has represented the sprawling west central rural riding since 2019.
Tawadrous ran for town council in the 2021 Sylvan Lake municipal elections. UCP leadership candidate Danielle Smiththanked Tawadrous on Twitter for organizing a 300-person event for her campaign in Sylvan Lake on June 28.
Dreeshen was first elected in a 2018 by-election to replace Don MacIntyre, who resigned after he was charged with sexual assault and sexual interference.
Sylvan Lake town councillor Kjeryn Dakinannounced her candidacy in June but was disqualified by the party when it was revealed she also held memberships in the NDP and Alberta Party.
First NDP race in Central Peace-Notley since 1984
Environmental scientist, registered agrologist Lynn Lekisch and Northern Alberta Development Council analyst Megan Ciurysek are seeking the Alberta NDP nomination in Central Peace-Notley. A vote is scheduled for July 20, 2022.
December 8, 1984 was the last time the NDP held a contested nomination in this riding, well technically in its predecessor riding of Spirit River-Fairview.
At a 400-person meeting, School principal Jim Gurnett defeated Fairview school board chairperson Betty MacArthur, farmer Dave Ross and college instructor Bill Stephenson to win the nomination to replace the current riding’s namesake, Grant Notley, who died in a plane crash in 1984.
According to a Canadian Press report from Dec. 10, 1984, many delegates at the nomination meeting credited a rousing speech Gurnett delivered for his victory in which he attacked the Tories as “Robin Hoods in reverse.”
“We don’t need a government that increases taxes for ordinary people and then gives it back to the oil companies,” Gurnett said.
The Tories would dominate the riding for the next 29 years, with the exception of near-wins for the Liberals in 1993 and the Alberta Alliance in 2004, until New Democrat Marg McCuaig Boyd won in the 2015 Orange Wave.
Current UCP leadership candidate Todd Loewen unseated McCuaig Boyd in 2019 after the Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley riding was merged with the Grande Prairie-Smoky riding to form the current Central Peace-Notley riding.
NDP race in Calgary-Cross
Gurinder Gill and Denis Ram are seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross at a July 25 candidate selection meeting.
Gill is a two-time federal NDP candidate in Calgary-Skyview, improving the party’s standing in the north east Calgary riding from 8 per cent in 2015 to 16 per cent in 2021.
Ram is a student-at-law and founder and executive director of the Complete Complaints Foundation. He is also a former intern editorial writer for The Hill Times in Ottawa.
UCP MLA Jackie Lovely will face Beaver County Reeve Kevin Smook in a nomination vote in the Camrose riding on August 4, 5 and 6, 2022.
Lovely was first elected in 2019 after defeating four other candidates to secure the UCP nomination in 2018 and went on to win the 2019 election with 65 per cent of the vote. She previously ran as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015.
Smook was the Alberta Party candidate in the riding in 2019.
And here is some more nomination news:
First-term MLA Miranda Rosin has been acclaimed as the UCP candidate in Banff-Kananaskis.
Edmonton public school board trustee Nathan Ip defeated business instructor Ben Acquaye, behavioral specialist Chand Gul, andmedical clinic executive director Ali Kamal to win the NDP nomination in Edmonton-South West.
“We are in dire need for new schools in the growing areas of Edmonton-South West,” said Ip. “Edmonton-South West is one of the fastest growing communities in Alberta with one of the youngest populations and they deserve a representative that will stand up for them.”
Ip was first elected to the school board in 2013 and currently serves as its vice-chair.
His candidacy was endorsed by former city councillor Michael Phair, former MLAs Bob Turner and Jim Gurnett, and former Alberta Party president Rhiannon Hoyle.
Edmonton-South West is the only riding in Edmonton city limits represented by a UCP MLA, current Labour Minister Kaycee Madu, who was removed from his position as Justice Minister after it became public that he personally phoned Edmonton’s police chief after getting a distracted driving ticket.
Madu faces a nomination challenge from Slava Cravcenco at a June 29 candidate selection meeting.
Sylvan Lake town councillor challenges Dreeshen for UCP nomination
Sylvan Lake town councillor Kjeryn Dakin is challenging MLA Devin Dreeshen for the UCP nomination in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake.
Dakin is owner of the Bukwildz restaurant in Sylvan Lake and was first elected to town council in 2021.
Dreeshen was first elected in a 2018 by-election and served as Minister of Agriculture & Forestry from 2019 until 2021 when he resigned after a lawsuit by a former political staffer alleged a culture of sexual harassment, defamation, and drinking at the Legislature.
He is son of Conservative MP Earl Dreeshen, who has represented the Red Deer-Mountain View riding since 2008.
The younger Dreeshan was re-elected in 2019 with 74.5 per cent of the vote.
City lawyer wins NDP nomination in Red Deer-South
City solicitor Michelle Baer defeated former MLA Barb Miller and labour council president Kyle Johnston to win the NDP nomination in Red Deer-South.
“Red Deer is the third largest city in the province, yet is often stuck between being considered a ‘big city’ or a rural area,” Baer said. “Red Deer deserves a strong voice in government to represent the distinctive issues this area faces. I’m excited for the chance to do the hard work Red Deer needs and deserves.”
Red Deer-South is currently represented by UCP MLA Jason Stephan, a vocal critic of outgoing Premier Jason Kenney, who was first elected in 2019 with 60.3 per cent of the vote.
Dang was first elected in 2015 in Edmonton-South West and ran for re-election when the electoral boundaries changed as Edmonton-South was created.
On the doors
Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, NDP leader Rachel Notley was spotted at events with Calgary-Bow candidate Druh Farrell, Calgary-Glenmore candidate Nagwan Al-Guneid, and Calgary-North East candidate Gurinder Brar this past weekend. Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan was also spotted on the doors with Al-Guneid.
Sherwood Park UCP MLA Jordan Walker was on the doors with UCP nomination candidate Sayid Ahmed in Edmonton-Decore last weekend. The UCP have opened nominations in the north Edmonton riding.
There is no excuse for staff treating volunteers poorly, but in every party there is almost always some level of tension between the central party and local constituency associations when it comes to candidate recruitment and nominations.
Constituency associations will have their local favorites, including long-time volunteers, while the central party will be trying to build a province-wide slate of candidates who could potentially become cabinet ministers and ridings in which to place those high-profile candidates.
When there is a lot of interest in nominations, like there is now with the NDP, tension and conflicting plans of the local and provincial efforts can sometimes flare.
The NDP need to deal with this issue quickly and decisively or risk it dogging them into the upcoming election.
The other parties
Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman has been touring the province, recently making stops at party events in Drumheller, Morningside, Drayton Valley, Leduc, Springbrook, Red Deer and Calgary.
The Green Party has formally opened applications for candidates for the next election. Green Party leader Jordan Wilkie has already announced his plans to run as a candidate in Banff-Kananaskis . Party holding an election readiness town hall on July 17 in Edmonton.
Lawyer Katherine Kowalchuk is running for the leadership of the separatist Independence Party of Alberta. Kowalchuk was briefly nominated as the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Signal Hill ahead of the 2015 federal election.
The United Conservative Party leadership race is taking the spotlight but Alberta’s political parties are chugging along with candidate nominations ahead of a provincial election that is scheduled for next May but could happen anytime after the new UCP leader is chosen.
Second-term MLA Lorne Dach was nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-McClung, the riding he has represented since 2015. “I will make sure that my community continues to have a champion in the legislature,” Dach said in a statement. “Alberta’s NDP has spent our time as Official Opposition listening to Albertans and what they need to build their future’s here. I am so happy for the opportunity to keep working for Edmonton-McClung, to ensure they have access to quality public healthcare, good paying jobs, and can afford the roof over their head.”
Candidate nominations are now open in four UCP held ridings: Banff-Kananaskis (MLA Miranda Rosin), Calgary-Hays (MLA Ric McIver), Calgary-North (MLA Mohammad Yaseen), and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake (MLA Devin Dreeshen).
The incumbents and challengers
UCP MLA Kaycee Madu will face a nomination challenge from Slava Cravcenco in Edmonton-South West on June 29. This is the first time in this election cycle that the UCP have allowed an incumbent to be challenged in a nomination vote. Madu currently serves as Minister of Labour and was removed from his previous role as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General after it was made public that he phoned Edmonton police chief Dale McFee after getting a districted driving ticket. Madu was first elected in 2019 with 44 per cent of the vote.
MLA Chris Nielsen is facing a challenge for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Decore from Africa Centre executive director Sharif Haji. Nielsen was first elected in 2015. A nomination vote is being held on June 24 and 25.
The UCP has opened nominations in Edmonton-Decore. Sayid Ahmed is seeking the nomination. Ahmed is a manager in the provincial department of health and Vice President of Policy for the Alberta Advisory Board of the Conservative Black Congress of Canada. Nomination applications are due June 21, 2022.
NDP members in Edmonton-South West will choose from a pack of four candidates contesting the nomination on June 18. Business instructor and past UCP nomination candidate Ben Acquaye, behavioral specialist Chand Gul, medical clinic executive director Ali Kamal, and three-term public school trustee Nathan Ip are seeking the NDP nomination.
Brooks-Medicine Hat NDP members will nominate retired teacher and Medicine Hat Police Commission member Gwendoline Dirk at a meeting on June 23.
Edmonton-West Henday NDP members are expected to nominate lawyer Brooks Arcand-Paul at a meeting on June 29.
Travis Toews: Finance Minister since 2019. MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti since 2019. Former president of the Canadian Cattleman’s Association. Looks comfortable in a business suit or Carhartts. Sounds like the adult in the room but is connected to a northern Alberta Bible college with some fairly backwards views about yoga and same-sex relationships. Probably one of the more hardline fiscal conservatives in the UCP cabinet. Grand champion of the 1976 4-H calf show in Hythe. Likely UCP establishment favourite.
Brian Jean: Leader of the Wildrose Party from 2015 to 2017. Target of a kamikaze campaign during the 2017 UCP leadership race. MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche since 2022. MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin from 2015 to 2018. MP for Fort McMurray-Athabasca from 2004 to 2014. Toyed with COVID skepticism and Alberta separatism. Jason Kenney’s worst enemy. Lawyer, businessman and Golden Boy of Fort McMurray.
Danielle Smith: Leader of the Wildrose Party from 2009 to 2014. MLA for Highwood from 2012 to 2015. Crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservative Party in 2014. Calgary public school trustee from 1998 to 1999. Alumna of the Fraser Institute, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Calgary Herald, Global TV, and Chorus Radio. Current President of the Alberta Enterprise Group. Running for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. Embraced COVID conspiracy theories.
Todd Loewen: MLA for Central Peace-Notley since 2019. MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky from 2015 to 2019 and Wildrose candidate in the riding in 2008 and 2012. Resigned as UCP Caucus chair in 2021 after calling on Kenney to resign and was kicked out of caucus the next day. Formed a UCP Caucus-in-exile with fellow ousted MLA Drew Barnes. Drove his motorhome in the Freedom Convoy to Ottawa. Renowned in the UCP Caucus for his pancake cooking skills.
These four have registered others are expected.
Transportation Minister and Calgary-North East MLA Rajan Sawhney has tapped longtime conservative strategist Ken Boessenkool to run her exploratory committee.
“[W]hat this race needs right now is just not more of the same,” Sawhney told reporters in a statement.
Children’s Services Minister and Calgary-Shaw MLA Rebecca Schultz isn’t in the race yet but already has an endorsement from former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall. Schultz worked for Wall’s government before she moved to Alberta in 2016.
So are former cabinet ministers Leela Aheer and Devin Dreeshen.
And Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner is rumoured to be testing the waters. She would be an interesting addition to the race, though recent history has not been kind to federal politicians jumping into provincial politics in Alberta.
The party has appointed a committee that is expected to release rules, entry requirements and timelines for the leadership race before the beginning of summer.
UDPATE! Village of Amisk mayor Bill Rock has registered with Elections Alberta to run in the UCP leadership race. Rock was the Wildrose Party candidate in the Wetaskiwin-Camrose riding in the 2015 election. He was parachuted into the riding after previously nominated candidate Gordon Hatch withdrew from the race and endorsed PC MLA Verlyn Olson following Danielle Smith‘s floor-crossing.
Note: Registering as a candidate with Elections Alberta does not mean automatic approval as a candidate by the UCP. Registering with Election Alberta allows the candidates to fundraise under Alberta’s current political finance rules.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced last Monday night that Edmonton-South West MLA Kaycee Madu would “step back” from his role as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General following reports that ten months ago the Justice Minister phoned Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee after he was issued a ticket for distracted driving in a school zone.
The decision to ask Madu to “step back” and be temporarily replaced by Energy Minister Sonya Savage until an independent investigator can look into the issue, is far from the firing that many Albertans were calling for after news of the scandal was broken by intrepid CBC reporters Elise von Scheel and Janice Johnston.
Madu’s decision to call McFee was inappropriate and showed a stunning lack of judgement. The Minister should have known better to bring up the specific personal matter. Even if he didn’t ask the chief to rescind the ticket and wanted to discuss other issues, as Madu claims, it is impossible to ignore the power dynamic of making this call.
Shortly after Madu’s office released his statement, Kenney issued his own separate statement on Twitter, which made it look like the Premier’s and Madu’s offices weren’t even closely coordinating their responses to the scandal.
Kenney announced in his stream of tweets that the government was hiring an independent investigator, but a week later it is still unclear who the independent investigator will be and what exactly that person will be investigating.
Both Madu and McFee have agreed the phone call happened, and it should be clear that the government does not need to pay someone to point out that a pretty big line was crossed.
Will the investigator investigate whether the distracted driving ticket was valid? Madu and McFee disagree about whether the ticket was just, though the Justice Minister chose not to challenge the ticket in traffic court (which is another big issue) and he paid the fine.
Or will Kenney’s investigator investigate whether Madu was a victim of racial profiling or a target of a political conspiracy by members of the Edmonton Police Service?
Institutional racism is definitely a problem in Alberta’s police forces, and the shocking revelations of abuse of power by police officers in Lethbridge are nothing to dismiss, but it definitely seems that Madu statement shocked a few months of life into an embarrassing political scandal that could have been put to rest in a week or two.
If the allegations levelled by Madu against the Edmonton Police Service are as serious as he claims, it is hard to imagine why the government would not have acted on this 10 months ago, rather than sitting idle until the CBC broke the story.
Braid also wrote that senior cabinet ministers including Ric McIver and Jason Nixon and senior staffers like Pam Livingston (now Kenney’s Chief of Staff), Larry Kaumeyer (then Kenney’s Principal Secretary and now CEO of Ducks Unlimited Canada), and Matt Wolf (Kenney’s former director of issues management) were aware of the incident. Kenney said he was aware of the ticket but avoided answering whether he knew about Madu’s phone call to Chief McFee.
The government’s failure to act in response to the scandal 10 months ago and its fumbling reaction when it was made public last week certainly does not inspire confidence in how Madu or the UCP government would oversee the provincial police force they are hoping to replace to RCMP with in much of Alberta.
This is only one of the latest scandals that reeks of the kind of entitlement that brought down the old Progressive Conservative regime in 2015.
“Our Cargill union members came to bargaining with a genuine interest in improving working conditions at the Plant,” UFCW Local 401 Secretary Treasurer Richelle Stewart said in a press release. “Unfortunately, Cargill has focused on playing games that have slowed the process down and stopped real progress. That has been very disappointing.”
The union has given the employer notice that workers could go on strike on Dec. 6 if demands to improve workplace safety are not met.
The Cargill plant in High River was the site of one of the worst early workplace outbreaks of COVID-19 in Alberta and lead to the death of three workers. More than 1,500 COVID cases were linked to the outbreak at the site.
At the time, the corporation and the Alberta government were criticized for not acting quickly to shut down the plant when it was apparent that the outbreak was only getting worse.
“Local 401 fought and was successful in having Cargill’s High River Plant closed,” said Stewart. “The Government of Alberta did nothing to address the unfolding tragedy and was later revealed to be untruthful in its dealings with Cargill workers.”
Replacing Dreeshen as the newly renamed Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development is Nate Horner, who was only raised from the backbenches to become Associate Minister of Rural Economic Development on July 8, 2021. The rancher from Pollockville was elected as the UCP MLA for Drumheller-Stettler in 2019.
If the Horner name sounds familiar, it is because he comes from a legitimate Alberta political family. His cousin Doug Horner served as Agriculture Minister from 2004 to 2006 and his great-uncle Hugh Horner was Agriculture Minister from 1971 to 1975. His grandfather Jack Horner even served as Pierre Trudeau’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce after crossing the floor to the Liberals in 1977. The patriarch of the Horner family, his great-grandfather Ralph Horner, was a Senator from Saskatchewan and another one of his great-uncles, Norval Horner, was also an MP.
A strike by workers at one of the province’s largest meat packing plants could be the first big challenge faced by Horner and newly appointed Labour Minister Tyler Shandro, who was shuffled out of the Health Ministry after fumbling the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The strike notice issued by UFCW Local 401 notes that the job action could be accompanied by a variety of other actions, including asking Albertans to boycott the beef industry until Cargill workers are treated fairly, as well as picketing and leafleting in front of other workplaces that sell Cargill products, like McDonald’s drive-thrus.
The meat packing plants in southern Alberta were the sites of some great injustices during the COVID-19 pandemic and those workers – the people who slaughter the beef Albertans claim to love so much – deserve to have their demands for improved safety and workplace conditions not only met, but exceeded.
The NDP have raised a stunning $4,060,290 since Jan. 1, 2021, dominating the governing UCP, which is trailing with $2,596,202 raised since the beginning of the year. It is pretty clear that the weak overall fundraising returns from the UCP have a result of Kenney’s plummeting personal approval ratings and the party’s dropping support in the polls.
The UCP’s bump in donations over the summer are likely a result of the party’s fundraising efforts in between the day when Kenney declared “Alberta open for the summer and open for good” and the start of the deadly fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the disclosures, $183,700 of the UCP’s total cash raised in the third quarter was from Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen‘s Innisfail-Sylvan Lake constituency association, likely generated at the annual horse derby fundraising event (Dreeshen has found himself at the centre of a sexual harassment and intoxication scandal). And $110,947 of the UCP’s total fundraising for the past quarter was raised by MLA Dan Williams constituency association in Peace River, likely at an August “town hall” fundraiser that featured Kenney and a number of cabinet ministers.
Here is what all of Alberta’s registered political parties raised in the third quarter of 2021:
Alberta NDP: $1,367,080.50
United Conservative Party: $1,235,482.45
Pro-Life Political Association: $92,560.92
Wildrose Independence: $53,839.92
Alberta Party: $31,617.41
Alberta Liberal Party: $13,930.54
Independence Party of Alberta: $1,740.00
Green Party: $1,314.00
Alberta Advantage Party: $300.00
The Communist Party and Reform Party did not report any funds raised in this quarter.
NDP nominate Hoffman and Boporai
The NDP have nominated two more candidates ahead of the expected 2023 provincial election. Sarah Hoffman was nominated in Edmonton-Glenora on Oct. 27 and Parmeet Singh Boparai in Calgary-Falconridge on Oct. 29.
Hoffman is the NDP deputy leader and was first elected as an MLA in 2015 after serving two terms on the Edmonton Public School Board.
Boparai finished a close second to UCP candidate DevinderToor – losing by 96 votes in 2019 in the closest race of the provincial election.
The NDP have scheduled nomination meetings in Calgary-Currie on Nov. 13, and Calgary-Buffalo on Nov. 15 and Lethbridge-East on Nov. 21.
On Oct. 26, 2021, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was having a rare good day. He got the result he argued he was looking for from the province-wide Equalization Referendum and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave him the gift of appointing long-time environmental activist Steven Guilbeault as Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
Kenney’s good day lasted less than 24 hours.
In what can only be described as a bombshell story, the CBC first reported today that a former ministerial Chief of Staff is suing the Premier’s Office, “saying she suffered from a toxic workplace culture and was fired as retribution for speaking out about the problems she saw there.”
The allegations in Ariella Kimmel‘s lawsuit include sexual harassment and heavy drinking by ministers and staff in legislature offices, as well as claims that senior staff in the premier’s office fabricated rumours about her contributing to her termination, reported CBC journalist Elise von Scheel.
The CBC reported that Kimmel has filed a lawsuit against the Kenney’s office for alleged sexual harassment and defamation.
Kimmel was Chief of Staff to Minister Doug Schweitzer until February 2021 and before that worked as Director of Community Relations in the Premier’s Office and as the United Conservative Party’s Director of Outreach before the 2019 election.
Kimmel had previously worked for Kenney during his time in Ottawa as executive coordinator for multiculturalism when he was Minister of Employment and Social Development and as an assistant during his time as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
The statement of claim, which is reported in detail by CBC, makes serious allegations against numerous officials and staffers in the UCP government, including Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen.
Responding to a question in the Assembly today from Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood NDP MLA Janis Irwin, Kenney said that his office was appointing an independent review to make recommendations to revise human resource practices for political staff.
Calgary-Fish Creek UCP MLA Richard Gotfried called on the government to not wait for a review and instead immediately adopt the Respect in the Workplace program promoted by Respect Group Inc.
While none of the allegations have been proven in court, the conditions described are probably not uncommon in political offices across Canada. Kimmel’s lawsuit shines a big spotlight on a toxic workplace culture in the Legislature that needs to change immediately.
Aheer is having none of it
Chestermere-Strathmore UCP MLA Leela Aheer responded to the allegations by calling on Kenney to resign and drawing comparisons to disgraced Calgary City Councillor Sean Chu. A A former cabinet minister and UCP deputy leader, Aheer was dropped from cabinet after criticizing the UCP’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Standing at a podium in the Legislature Rotunda today, Aheer refused to stand down and appeared to be daring Kenney and her MLA colleagues to remove her from the UCP Caucus.
UCP MLAs voted to remove Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA DrewBarnes and Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen from the caucus in June following Loewen’s call for Kenney to resign.
Kenney avoided a caucus revolt and non-confidence vote last month when he agreed to push up his leadership review from fall 2022 to April 2022. That move was successful in appeasing the disorganized opposition inside the UCP Caucus, but not the party, as numerous UCP constituency associations continue to push for Kenney’s review to be held before March 1, 2022.
Kenney’s approval rating dropped to an abysmal 22 per cent last month and leaked poll results showed that 75 per cent of Albertans disapprove of the UCP government, one of the strongest disapproval ratings for an Alberta government in recent memory.
With it becoming increasingly likely that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could call a federal election in the next few months, the federal Conservative Party has been quietly nominating candidates in Alberta. The party holds all but one seat in Alberta and has nominated six of its incumbent Members of Parliament to seek re-election when the writs of election are drawn.
Earl Dreeshen in Red Deer-Mountain View. Dreeshen has represented Red Deer in the House of Commons since 2008 and is the father of Devin Dreeshen, the United Conservative Party MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake and Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.
Michelle Rempel Garner in Calgary-Nose Hill. Rempel Garner has served as a Calgary MP since 2011.
Damien Kurek in Battle River-Crowfoot. Kurek was first elected in 2019, succeeding longtime area MP Kevin Sorensen.
I am told that the Liberal Party opened its candidate nomination process in early November 2020 but no candidates have been officially nominated in Alberta as of today.
Jaro Giesbrecht has announced his plans to seek the Liberal Party nomination in Banff-Aidrie. Giesbrecht briefly sought the Liberal nomination ahead of the 2019 federal election but withdrew from the contest. He was the Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Peigan in the 2019 provincial election.
The recent mini-cabinet shuffle is being followed by a series of staffing changes among the senior ministerial ranks of the United Conservative Party government.
Announced during last week’s shuffle that saw Kaycee Madu appointed Justice Minister, Doug Schweitzer put in charge of a newly rebranded economic ministry and Tracy Allard promoted to Municipal Affairs, was the departure of Premier Jason Kenney’s Principal Secretary Howard Anglin, who is being replaced by Larry Kaumeyer.
Other changes announced today include the departure of the Premier’s Director of Community Relations Ariella Kimmel, who will now take the role of Chief of Staff to Schweitzer. Kimmel replaces current Chief of Staff Kris Barker, who will now become a Senior Policy Advisor in the office of Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda.
More changes in Room 307 include, Julia Bareman leaving Finance Minister Travis Toews office to join the Premier’s office as a Policy Advisor and Manager of Stakeholder Relations Siobain Quinton and Executive Assistant Clancy Bouwman moving to part-time roles as they pursue post-secondary studies.
Staffing changes in ministerial offices include:
Brock Harrison has been appointed as Executive Director of the UCP Caucus, moving on from his role as Chief of Staff to the Minster of Children’s Services. Harrison is a long-time political staffer, having served as Communication Director of the Wildrose Caucus and in the Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition in Ottawa.
Current press secretary to the Minister of Children’s Services Lauren Armstrong will become the new Chief of Staff. Alberta Proud spokesperson Becca Polak will take over as Press Secretary in this office. Polak was a candidate for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Mountain View ahead of the 2019 election.
At the UCP Caucus, Harrison replaces Robyn Henwood, who will take over as Chief of Staff to Community and Social Services Miniser Rajan Sawhney. Current Chief of Staff Ryan Hastman will move into a new role which has yet to be announced.
Current Indigenous Relations Press Secretary Ted Bauer has been promoted to Chief of Staff in Minster Rick Wilson’s office and UCP Caucus Director of Communications Joseph Dow will take over as Press Secretary in this office.
Riley Braun, the current Chief of Staff in Indigenous Affairs, will become a senior advisor in the office of the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General.
Jonah Mozeson has been promoted from Press Secretary to Chief of Staff in the office of the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General. Mozeson is married to Jamie Mozeson, who is currently the Chief of Staff to Minister of Service Alberta Nate Glubish.
Long-time Kenney ally, Blaise Boehmer has been appointed as Senior Press Secretary in the Office of the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, moving over from his role as Special Advisor to Agriculture & Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen. Bohemer was director of communications for Kenney’s UCP leadership campaign and the manager of communications and engagement for the UCP caucus from 2017 to 2018. He previously worked as director of research and operations for the Saskatchewan Party Caucus in Regina.
Kalee Kent has been appointed a Legislative Assistant in the office of Minster of Environment & Parks Jason Nixon, moving from her current role as Ministerial Assistant in the Office of the Municipal Affairs Minister. Kent was Constituency Development Director for the UCP from 2016 to 2019 and previously worked for the Saskatchewan Party and Regina-Coronation Park MLA Mark Docherty.
Before there were “I love Canadian Oil and Gas” posters in the window of the Premier’s Communications Office at the Alberta Legislature there were “I love Alberta beef” stickers on the bumpers of trucks and cars across Alberta.
Albertans rallied behind the wildly popular ‘I love Alberta Beef’ campaign during the Mad Cow disease outbreak that devastated the industry in the mid-2000s. Albertans flocked to grocery stores and butch shops to buy Alberta beef in support of the ranchers and cattlemen who raise the cattle.
I was reminded of the pro-Alberta beef campaign last week when the Cargill meat-packing plant reopened after weeks of closure after a COVID-19 outbreak. While Alberta’s Conservative politicians can be counted on to jump at the chance to demonstrate their love for Alberta beef, they have done little to show their support for the workers who work in Alberta’s largest meat-packing plants.
The Cargill plant has the dubious distinction of having the largest workplace COVID-19 outbreak in North America, with more than 900 workers infected and more than 500 community infections connected to the factory. Two workers – Hiep Bui and Benito Quesada and one family member of a worker – Armando Sallegue – have died from COVID-19.
Days before the plant was shut down, we are told that workers were reassured by Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw that the factory was safe, despite warnings from the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, which represents workers at the Cargill factory.
It was revealed last week that Cargill was not complying with Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety laws when the privately-owned American corporation failed to consult with workers at the plant. It was also revealed last month that the government OHS inspections were not conducted in person but over video chat.
The safety and health of workers at Cargill, and the JBS meat packing plant in Brooks, remains an ongoing concern. And workplace safety is especially important as restrictions are set to be lifted and business are expected to open tomorrow as part of the government’s “relaunch.”
Citing concerns about infection rates, compliance with public health orders, and vague guidance provided by the government, the Alberta Federation of Labour is urging the government to delay the staged re-opening of the Alberta economy by at least one month.
“We need to use that time to develop and implement enforceable measures that will keep working Albertans safe as they return to their jobs,” said AFL President Gil McGowan in a press release today.
“If we don’t do more to address the government’s blind spot on workplace health and safety, more people will get infected, more people will die and we’ll increase the likelihood of a second wave of infection that will necessitate a return to economically damaging and social demanding lock-down measures,” McGowan said.
The safety of Albertans returning to work should be paramount. Whether they are nurses, physicians, healthcare workers, grocery store employees or truck drivers who have stayed on the job, or workers returning to their jobs at childcare centres, restaurants and hair salons, they should not only be provided with proper personal protective equipment but should be guaranteed paid sick leave and job protection.
Premier Jason Kenney recently travelled to Fort McMurray to survey damage caused by spring flooding in northern Alberta’s oil capital, but he does not appear to have been spotted anywhere near the COVID-19 infected southern Albertan meat packing plants.
A centrepiece of Kenney’s first year in the Premier’s Officer has been his enthusiastic and aggressive support oil and gas workers, though his deference to Imperial Oil after a similar COVID-19 outbreak at its Kearl Lake work camp puts that into question. Another outbreak was declared today at the Horizon Oil Sands work camp operated by Canadian Natural Resources Limited.
Dreeshen announced financial support for cattle farmers impacted by meat processing delays caused by the COVID-19 outbreak at then plants, but the government has been unwilling to criticize the large meat-packing corporations or workplace conditions that contributed to so many dying and ill workers.
At the very least, the Alberta government should launch a public inquiry chaired by a retired judge who can conduct a fulsome public investigation into what is going on at Alberta’s meat packing plants. Anything less than a full public inquiry could let the corporations and politicians involved off the hook for the decisions they made that impacted workplace safety at Alberta’s meat-packing plants during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Albertans have shown their love for and take pride in Alberta beef. Now it’s time to demand our political leaders show their support for the workers who actually package it before we eat it.
Photos: Leela Aheer, John Archer, Greg Clark, Devin Dreeshen, Sarah Hoffman, Danielle Larivee, Rachel Notley, Janis Irwin, Rakhi Pancholi, Shannon Phillips (source: Legislative Assembly of Alberta website)
With more than 500 submissions made to the Best of Alberta Politics 2019 survey, your choices have been sorted and you can now vote in each category. Voting is open until Dec. 14, 2019 at 11:59 pm and the winners will be announced on the special year-end episode of the Daveberta Podcast on Dec. 16, 2019.
An honourable mention to Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West who placed a strong fourth in total submissions. Notley was last year’s winner in this category.
Who was the best Alberta cabinet minister of 2019? – Vote
Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
Sarah Hoffman, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health
Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks
Honourable mentions to Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen and Minister of Finance Travis Toews, who placed a close forth and fifth in this category. Former Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson was last year’s winner in this category.
Former Calgary-Elbow MLA Greg Clark was last year’s winner in this category.
Who is the up and coming MLA to watch in 2020? – Vote
Devin Dreeshen, MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud
An honourable mention to Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang, who placed a strong fourth in the first round of voting. Jessica Littlewood, former MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, was last year’s winner in this category..
Who was the best candidate who didn’t win in the 2019 Alberta election? – Vote
John Archer, NDP candidate in Edmonton-South West
Greg Clark, Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Elbow
Danielle Larivee, NDP candidate in Lesser Slave Lake
An honourable mention to Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville NDP candidate Jessica Littlewood, and Leduc-Beaumont NDP candidate Shaye Anderson, who tied for fourth place in this category..
What was the biggest political issue of 2019 in Alberta? – Vote
Economy and jobs
Firing the Elections Commissioner
Turkey farm hostage taking
There were a lot of submissions in this category, so we decided to give you a chance to vote on the top four in this category.
What was the biggest political play of 2019 in Alberta?
This category is usually a dog’s breakfast, but this year your choice was clear. So we have declared the biggest political play of 2019 in Alberta was the United Conservative Party government firing of Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson. The UCP government’s omnibus Bill 22 dissolved the Office of the Election Commissioner, who was in the midst of investigating and issuing fines for violations of Alberta’s elections laws during the UCP leadership race in 2017.
Government watch-dog Democracy Watch has called on the RCMP to investigate the firing of the Election Commissioner and wants a special prosecutor appointed to oversee the investigation to ensure there is no political interference.
One of the results of a change in government is a mass turnover in the political staffers who occupy the offices of the premier, cabinet ministers and caucuses. As a new government enters office in Alberta, there are many dozens of political jobs that need to be filled. Here is a quick glance at some of the political staffers who have been hired to fill key roles since the United Conservative Party formed government in Alberta:
As has already been widely reported, former UCP Caucus Chief of Staff Jamie Huckabay is now Chief of Staff in Premier Jason Kenney’s office. Joining him in Kenney’s office are Howard Anglin as Principal Secretary, Katy Merrifield as executive director of communications and planning, and Christine Myatt as press secretary and deputy director of communications. Anglin previously served as executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, deputy chief of staff in the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Chief of Staff to Kenney while he was the federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Merrifield was communications director to former B.C. premier Christy Clark and senior advisor to the BC Liberal Party.
Paul Bunner has been hired as a Speechwriter in the Premier’s Office. Bunner served as a speechwriter and communications advisor in the office of Prime Minster Harper and as editor of the right-wing C2C Journal website, which is part of the Manning Foundation for Democratic Education.
Former UCP Caucus communications advisor Harrison Fleming is a special communications advisor in Executive Council.
Former Daveberta Podcast co-host Ryan Hastman is Chief of Staff to Minister of Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney. Natasha Kornak is Sawhney’s press secretary. She is the co-founder of the Story of a Tory blog with Brooks-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Michaela Glasgo.
Jamie Mozeson is Chief of Staff to Minister for Service Alberta Nate Glubish. Mozeson was the director of operations at the UCP Caucus and ran for the federal Conservative nomination in the Sturgeon River-Parkland district in 2016. Glubish’s press secretary is Tricia Velthuizen, a former Wildrose and UCP Caucus staffer and candidate for Edmonton City Council in 2017.
Jonah Mozeson, who is married to Jamie Mozeson, is the press secretary in the Office of the Minister Justice and Attorney General Doug Schweitzer. His mother, Laurie Mozeson, was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-McClung in the 2019 election.
Craig Bellfontaine is Schweitzer’s Chief of Staff. Until recently he was a Toronto-based lawyer at the firm Farken and is a former federal Conservative ministerial staffer. Schweitzer’s Ministerial Assistant Kalyna Kardash is a former Outreach Coordinator for the UCP Caucus and Party during the election campaign.
Andrea Smotra is Chief of Staff to Minister of Energy Sonya Savage. Smotra was the director of election readiness for the UCP and previously worked as Regional Affairs Advisor in the office of Prime Minister Harper and deputy director of issues management for Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.
Nicole Williams is Chief of Staff to Education Minster Adriana LaGrange. Williams is a former lobbyist and ministerial assistant who was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-West Henday in the recent election. Colin Aitchison is LaGrange’s press secretary. Until recently he was the Issues Manager for Ontario Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa McLeod.
Warren Singh is Chief of Staff to Health Minister Tyler Shandro. Singh previously served as director of government relations with NAIT and vice-president policy and outreach with the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. Before that he served in various chief of staff roles in the old PC government. Steve Buick is Shandro’s press secretary. Buick served as press secretary to former health minister Stephen Mandel and as a policy advisor to health minsters Gene Zwozdesky and Fred Horne. Previous to that he served as Director of Media Relations and Issues Management for Capital Health.
Kris Barker recently resigned from the UCP board of directors to start his new job as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism Tanya Fir. Barker was elected at the party’s annual general meeting as the Edmonton Regional Director. He is married to Kara Barker, who ran as the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Riverview. Fir’s press secretary Justin Brattinga is a former BC Liberal Caucus staffer.
Mark Jacka is Chief of Staff to Transportation Minister Ric McIver. Jacka previously served as UCP Constituency Development Coordinator, as an assistant to Edmonton-West MP Kelly McCauley and as Director of Political Operations for the Wildrose Party. Brooklyn Elhard is McIver’s press secretary. She previously served as Scheduling and Tour Coordinator for the UCP leader.
Tim Schultz is Chief of Staff to Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen. Schultz previously served as chief of staff to the Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education and the Minister of Finance in Progressive Conservative governments from 2008 to 2012.
Mandi Johnson is Chief of Staff to Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women Leela Aheer. She previously worked for the PC, Wildrose and UCP Caucus. She is married to James Johnson, the Director of Research at the UCP Caucus. Payman Parseyan is Aheer’s press secretary. He ran for Edmonton City Council in 2017 and was a candidate for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Whitemud.
TJ Keil is chief of staff to Minster of Red Tape Reduction Grant Hunter. Keil previously worked as a Senior Stakeholder Relations Consultant with Alberta Real Estate Association and ran for the PC Party in Edmonton-Strathcona against first-time NDP candidate Rachel Notley in 2008.
Steven Puhallo is chief of staff to Minister of Children’s Services Rebecca Schulz. He previously as chief of staff to various BC cabinet ministers from 2001 to 2008 and more recently was President and CEO of Cowboy Gaming (Canada), a country and western themed free online bingo and casino. Lauren Armstrong is Schulz’s press secretary. Armstrong worked as Kenney’s press secretary while he served as Minister of National Defence in Ottawa and until recently was chief of staff to Calgary city councillor Jeromy Farkas.
Former Wildrose Caucus staffer and Alberta Counsel communications lead Tim Gerwing is the press secretary for Minister of Municipal Affairs Kaycee Madu.
Former Hill & Knowlton senior consultant Jessica Goodwin is press secretary to Minister of Finance Travis Toews.
Ted Bauer is press secretary to Minister of Indigenous Relations Richard Wilson. Bauer is the former Communications and Media Coordinator for Homeward Trust Edmonton and editor for Global News and CityTV.
And looking at the legislative branch:
Robyn Henwood is executive director of the UCP Caucus. Henwood will be known by political watchers as the chair of the party’s leadership election committee and as campaign manager for Len Rhodes’ election campaign in Edmonton-Meadows.
Brianna Morris is deputy director of the UCP caucus. She previously served as Senior Advisor to the UCP House Leader and as a Legislative and Outreach Assistant in the Wildrose Caucus.
Tim Uppal is also a Stakeholders Relations Manager for the UCP Caucus. Uppal served as the Member of Parliament for Edmonton-Sherwood Park from 2008 to 2015 and is currently the nominated federal Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods.
As has already been noted in a previous post, former UCP campaign director Nick Koolsbergen is now the CEO of the Wellington Advocacy lobbyist company. Matt Wolf, who served as Kenney’s Deputy Chief of Staff and director of the UCP campaign war room, is now a vice-president with public affairs giant Hill & Knowlton. Also with new jobs outside of government are UCP President Erika Barootes and former UCP Caucus director of issues management Peter Csillag have been hired by the Toronto-based public affairs company Enterprise.