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Alberta Politics

Rules for you but not for Madu: Justice Minister’s phone call to police chief ties the UCP in knots

It wouldn’t be a January in Alberta without freezing rain and a big political scandal.

As the province comes to grips with the rise and spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Alberta’s United Conservative Party government has tied itself in knots over a distracted driving ticket.

Dale McFee, Edmonton Police Chief
Dale McFee, Edmonton Police Chief

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.

Elise von Scheel
Elise von Scheel

Following the release of the story by the CBC, Madu issued his own statement saying he did mention his ticket to the Chief but he wanted to raise concerns about racial profiling and whether he was being spied on by the Edmonton Police Service, similar to how officers of the Lethbridge Police Service were caught spying on former cabinet minister Shannon Phillips.

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.

Shannon Phillips NDP MLA Lethbridge West
Shannon Phillips

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.

Don Braid Calgary Herald Postmedia
Don Braid

Postmedia columnist Don Braid wrote that “the ticket episode was widely known in cabinet circles and talked about in jocular tones.”

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.

Janet Brown Calgary Pollster
Janet Brown

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.

It was only one year ago that Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard resigned from cabinet and Kenney was forced to demote a handful of UCP MLAs who chose to flout the government’s public health travel advisories and fly off to hot holidays in Hawaii and Mexico.

And only three months ago, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen, a noted Kenney loyalist, resigned from cabinet after a former staffer filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, defamation, heavy drinking, and a toxic workplace culture in the Legislature Building.

As pollster Janet Brown tweeted this weekend, “elitism and entitlement are the kryptonite of the right!” And right now, Kenney is slipping and sliding on a skating rink made of kryptonite. 

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Alberta Politics

Cargill workers vote to strike just as Devin Dreeshen resigns and another Horner becomes Minister of Agriculture

Workers at the Cargill meat packing plant in High River have voted overwhelming in favour of taking strike action.

Workers at the meat packing plant represented by UFCW Local 401 voted 97 per cent in support of strike action if the Minnesota-based multi-billion dollar corporation does not make them a fair offer.

Richelle Stewart

“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.”

Devin Dreeshen

The Agriculture and Forestry Minister at the time was Devin Dreeshen.

The son of long-time Member of Parliament Earl Dreeshen resigned from cabinet last week after he was named as a key figure  in a sexual harassment and defamation scandal and a lawsuit that revealed a culture of heavy drinking in the Legislature by the minister and political staffers.

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.

Nate Horner United Conservative Party Drumheller-Stettler
Nate Horner

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.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro
Tyler Shandro

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.

An updated version of the well-known Alberta campaign.

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.

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Alberta Politics

NDP leads in fundraising, again, but UCP bounces back after weak returns in early 2021

The Alberta NDP raised more cash than the United Conservative Party in the third quarter of 2021, according to financial documents released today by Elections Alberta.

According to the returns, the NDP raised $1,367,080 and the UCP raised $1,235,482 between July 1 and Sept. 30, 2021.

While these results are better for the UCP than the previous quarters, this marks the fourth quarter in a row that Rachel Notley’s NDP have out-fundraised Jason Kenney‘s UCP. The NDP raised twice as much money as the UCP in the final quarter of 2020 and the first and second quarters of 2021.

Alberta NDP and United Conservative Party fundraising from 2019 Q4 to 2021 Q3.
Alberta NDP and United Conservative Party fundraising from 2019 Q4 to 2021 Q3.

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.

The Pro-Life Political Association, birthed from a hostile takeover of the moribund Social Credit Party in 2016, raised a surprising $92,560 in the third quarter. The party, which ran only one candidate in the 2019 election, is using the party as a vehicle for anti-abortion political activism that can legally issue tax-receipts for donations. It is unclear whether the party will move more aggressively into electoral politics in the 2023 election.

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

Parmeet Singh 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 Devinder Toor – 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.

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Alberta Politics

Kenney’s office hit with lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, defamation, and toxic workplace culture at the Legislature

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.”

Devin Dreeshen

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

Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer, UCP MLA Chestermere-Strathmore
Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer (source: YouTube)

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 Drew Barnes 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.

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Alberta Politics

Three more Conservative MPs nominated to run in next federal election

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.

I have added the three most recent candidates to be nominated to the list of federal nomination candidates:

  • 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.


I was thrilled to join the West of Centre Podcast this week with host Kathleen Petty and fellow guests Jen Gerson and Ryan  Jespersen to discuss Alberta politics and the state of independent media in Alberta.

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Alberta Politics

Ministerial staff changes follow UCP mini-cabinet shuffle

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.
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Alberta Politics

Public inquiry needs to investigate what is happening at Alberta’s meat-packing plants after COVID-19 outbreaks

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.

Devin Dreeshen

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.

An updated version of the well-known Alberta campaign.

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.

UFCW Local 401 President Tom Hesse wearing a facemask outside of the Cargill plant. (Source: Twitter)

UFCW 401 has taken legal action to try to stop the plant from reopening and is taking the issue to Alberta’s Labour Relations Board. The union also released a survey of the membership showing a large majority of workers do not feel safe working at the plant.

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.

According to a tweet from Alberta Senator Paula Simons today, 18 out of of the 37 Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors assigned to the Cargill plant have been infected by COVID-19.

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.”

Senator Paula Simons (source: Senate of Canada)

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.

Gil McGowan Alberta Federation of Labour
Gil McGowan

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.

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Alberta Politics

Vote for the Best of Alberta Politics in 2019 – The Top 3

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.

Here are the top three choices in every category:

Who was the best Alberta MLA of 2019? – Vote

  • Devin Dreeshan, MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona

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.

Who was the best opposition MLA of 2019? – Vote

  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
  • Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West

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

  • Budget cuts
  • 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?

Lorne Gibson Alberta Election Commissioner
Lorne Gibson

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.

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Alberta Politics

Working under the Dome: A look at some political staffers hired to work for Alberta’s new UCP government

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. 
  • Recent Daveberta Podcast guest co-host Lianne Bell is now Chief of Staff to Speaker Nathan Cooper. Bell previously worked for the Wildrose and UCP Caucus as director of stakeholder relations.
  • 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.
  • Author and one-time Daveberta Podcast guest Jamil Jivani is a Stakeholders Relations Manager for the UCP 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. 

Categories
Alberta Politics

Dale Nally secures UCP nomination in Morinville-St. Albert, Nicholas Milliken wins UCP race in Calgary-Currie, and the latest candidate updates

Dale Nally Morinville-St. Albert UCP candidate
Dale Nally

North of Edmonton in the new Morinville-St. Albert district, Dale Nally defeated past Wildrose Party candidate, Joe Gosselin, Legal town councillor Trina Jones, and former Sturgeon County mayor Don Rigney to win the United Conservative Party nomination.

Nally lives in St. Albert and works as a Senior Director of Learning and Development at Loblaw Companies Limited. He earned a Master of Distance Education from Athabasca University in the mid-2000s and was a spokesperson for Canada Post in the late 1990s.

This new district north of Edmonton was created from areas in the current Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater and Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock and the northeast corner of St. Albert. It is also is the area where I was raised and many of my family members still live.

Nicholas Milliken defeated past Wildrose Party candidate Terry Devries, Amoriza Gunnink, Dan Morrison, and Bettina Pierre-Gilles to secure the United Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Currie.

Nicholas Milliken UCP Calgary Currie
Nicholas Milliken

Milliken is a lawyer and CEO of Brolly Legal Recruitment. He is also the great grandson of Alberta MLA William Howson, who represented Edmonton in the Alberta Legislature from 1930 to 1936 and led the Alberta Liberal Party from 1932 to 1936.

New Democratic Party MLA Barb Miller is expected to be chosen as her party’s candidate in Red Deer-South at a meeting on November 8, 2018.

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

Banff-KananskisBrenda Stanton is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. 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.

Calgary-Falconridge – Paramjit Singh Mann is seeking the NDP nomination. Ricky Dhaliwal and Harwinder Kang are the latest candidates to enter the UCP nomination contest in this district. Kang is a real estate agent and President of the Taradale Community Association.

Edmonton-Mill Woods – Nazia Naqvi is seeking the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-South – Inderdeep Sandhu has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest.

Livingstone-Macleod – Allen MacLennan is seeking the UCP nomination. MacLennan was a candidate for the right-wing Confederation of Regions Party in the 1993 election in Calgary-McCall. He earned 129 votes in that race.

St. Albert – Cameron Jefferies is seeking the Green Party nomination. Jefferies is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law and the University of Alberta where he researches environmental law, natural resource law, ocean law and animal law and sustainability law.


Devin Dreeshen appointed in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake?

Devin Dreeshen UCP MLA Innisfail Sylvan Lake
Devin Dreeshen

The only electoral district in Alberta where the UCP does not have a nominated candidate or nomination activities is in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, where MLA Devin Dreeshen was elected in a July 2018 by-election.

There is speculation that the UCP board of directors could appoint Dreeshen as the party’s candidate in that district. The argument in favour of appointing Dreeshen is said to be that he already won a hotly contested nomination vote earlier this year and that his electoral district will not face any significant boundary changes when the election is called.

Dreeshen’s appointment would be a contrast to the situation faced by his fellow rookie UCP MLA Laila Goodridge, who was elected in a July 2018 by-election in Fort McMurray-Conklin and recently won a contested nomination in the redrawn Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district.

Dreeshen is a former political staffer and is the son of Red Deer-Mountain View Member of Parliament Earl Dreeshen.


If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

Categories
Alberta Politics

Goodridge challenged in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, last-PC MLA Starke could run again in 2019, Alberta Party AGM this weekend, and kd lang named to the Alberta Order of Excellence

Photo: Laila Goodridge was sworn-in as MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin on October 11, 2018 (source: Facebook)

Could an MLA first elected in a July 2018 by-election be at risk losing her nomination to run in the next election before the Legislature meets at the end of October? Fort McMurray-Conklin MLA Laila Goodridge is said to be facing a strong challenge from former Lac La Biche County councillor Gail Broadbent-Ludwig and former Wood Buffalo mayoral candidate Allan Grandson for the United Conservative Party nomination in the new Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district.

Voting for the UCP nomination will take place on October 25 and 26, 2018, only days before the fall session of the Legislative Assembly begins on October 29, 2018. This will mark first time Goodridge, and fellow rookie MLA Devin Dreeshen of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, will sit in the Assembly as MLAs.

The electoral boundary changes in northeast Alberta are significant. When the election is called, Fort McMurray-Conklin will be dissolved and Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche will be created, increasing the population of the district from around 26,000 to 44,166.

UCP MLAs Wayne Anderson and Rick Strankman, have recently faced defeat in their bids to seek their party’s nomination to run in the next election. We discussed this nomination contest on the latest episode of the Daveberta Podcast.

Starke could run for re-election, for who?

Richard Starke Vermilion Lloydminster Independent MLA Alberta
Richard Starke

Richard Starke is considering running for re-election, but it is not clear whether the Independent MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster would run as an Independent candidate or join a political party before the election was called. Starke was elected as a Progressive Conservative in the 2012 and 2015, and would be expected to run for re-election in the new Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright district.

I have not decided yet whether I will seek a third term as MLA,” Starke wrote when contacted. “If I run, it could be as an independent or I may seek a nomination for one of the partiesThat decision will be made in due course; I have no timeline for any announcement.”

Starke is recognized by Legislative Assembly Speaker Bob Wanner as a Progressive Conservative MLA, but that recognition does not mean much outside the Legislative Grounds in Edmonton. He declined to join the UCP Caucus when the remaining PC Party MLAs joined the Wildrose Official Opposition Caucus to form the new party in July 2017.

The remnant of the PC Party, which governed Alberta from 1971 to 2015, is now legally controlled by the UCP board of directors. This means, if he does decide to run for re-election, there is little to no chance Starke will be listed as a PC Party candidate on the ballot in the next election.

There has been speculation since 2017 that Starke would join the Alberta Party, which has become a refuge for many of his former PC Party colleagues, including many who endorsed him in that party’s March 2017 leadership contest.

Starke would face at least seven challengers for the UCP nomination in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright, including his Wildrose Party challenger from the previous two elections, the wife of a retiring UCP MLA, and another past PC Party candidate. It seems unlikely that he would cross to the NDP, but stranger things have happened

Independent MLAs are rarely re-elected in Alberta. The last time an Independent candidate was elected to Alberta’s Legislative Assembly was in 1982, when former Social Credit MLAs Raymond Speaker and Walt Buck were re-elected. They would form the Representative Party of Alberta in 1984 and were both re-elected under that party’s banner in 1986. 

Alberta Party AGM

Lynn Mandel, Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel, and MLA Karen McPherson.
Lynn Mandel, Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel, and MLA Karen McPherson.

One of Starke’s former colleagues, Doug Grittiths, will be delivering the keynote speech at the Alberta Party annual general meeting, being held on October 19 and 20, 2018 at the Edmonton Expo Centre.

Griffiths served as PC MLA for Wainwight from 2002 to 2004 and Battle River-Wainwright from 2004 to 2015, and served in cabinet with Starke as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Minister of Service Alberta. Griffiths endorsed Starke in the March 2017 PC Party leadership contest, as did former PC cabinet minister and current Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel.

The Alberta Party has seen its legislative caucus expand from 1 to 3 MLAs over the past year with the addition of former NDP MLA Karen McPherson and former UCP MLA Rick Fraser, but the party has struggled to generate excitement among voters. Four public opinion polls released since April 2018 show support for the Alberta Party ranging from 5.1 percent to 11 percent province-wide.

Mandel has had a bit of a rough few weeks ahead of this annual meeting, first scrambling to explain to his party’s membership why he agreed to meet with the right-wing Parents for Choice in Education group, disqualifying Yash Sharma as the party’s nominated candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie, and defending a poorly delivered and tone-deaf comment about women in politics.

kd lang named to the Alberta Order of Excellence

Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Notley's husband Lou Arab, and kd lang.
Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Notley’s husband Lou Arab, and kd lang. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Singer and song-writer kd lang has finally received the recognition she deserved this week as she was awarded to the Alberta Order of Excellence. The honour granted to to lang was praised by Premier Rachel Notley, who tweeted that she is “a trailblazer, opening doors and bravely championing many causes, including LGBTQ2S+ rights.” Notley’s congratulatory comments are a far cry from the backwards attitudes and actions of some Alberta MLAs twenty-five years ago.  

In January 1993, Alberta PC MLAs blocked a motion to congratulate lang on her musical awards and achievements. Some rural PC MLAs were said to be annoyed at anti-beef comments she had made a few years before, but that was not the only reason. The Globe & Mail reported in January 1993 that some backbench PC MLAs said they did not support sending a message of congratulations to the singer because she had openly declared she is a lesbian.

Frankly, it makes them look very bad,” said William Roberts, the Edmonton-Centre NDP MLA who introduced the motion to congratulate lang. “I think people would say there are a lot of narrow-minded people in Alberta.”

lang had only a short, cryptic message for her detractors at the time: “Free your mind and the rest will follow.”

Categories
Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney touts NDP record of low-taxes, efficient power prices during trip to India

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.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader
Rachel Notley

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.

Prasad Panda Calgary Foothills Wildrose
Prasad Panda

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.

Deron Bilous MLA Edmonton Beverly Clareview NDP
Deron Bilous

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 leader Ray Martin brought reporters to a hospital in nearby Montana as a way of focusing attention on medicare.

Categories
Alberta Politics

No surprises as UCP wins big in Fort McMurray-Conklin and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake by-elections

United Conservative Party candidates were elected in by-elections held in two traditionally strong conservative voting districts on July 12, 2018. Both districts were held by the UCP before the by-elections were called and voters in both districts elected Wildrose Party candidates in the 2015 election.

In Fort McMurray-Conklin, Laila Goodridge soundly defeated New Democratic Party candidate Jane Stroud, a three-term Wood Buffalo municipal councillor, with a 45 percent margin of victory. In Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, one of the strongest conservative voting districts in Alberta, Devin Dreeshen was elected with 81 percent of the vote.

The NDP was nowhere close to victory in either district. In Fort McMurray-Conklin, Stroud finished with 29 percent, only one-point lower her party’s share of the vote in the 2015 election. NDP candidate Nicole Mooney finished a distant second with 9 percent of the vote in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, but this still represented her party’s second best ever showing in this district since it was created in 1993.

With 7 percent of the vote in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, Alberta Party candidate Abigail Douglass finished only slightly higher than this district’s past Alberta Party candidate Danielle Klooster, who finished with 6.2 percent of the vote in the 2015 election. In Fort McMurray-Conklin, Alberta Party candidate Sid Fayad finished in a distant third with 2.7 percent.

The Liberals barely registered on the radar in these by-elections, with Fort McMurray-Conklin candidate Robin Le Fevre earning 1.1 percent and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake candidate Nick Jansen finishing with 0.9 percent.

Here are the results:

Fort McMurray-Conklin 
Laila Goodridge, UCP – 2,635 (65.8%)
Jane Stroud, NDP – 1,181 (29.5%)
Sid Fayad, AP – 110 (2.7%)
Robin La Fevre, Lib – 44 (1.1%)
Brian Deheer, Grn – 29 (0.7%)

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
Devin Dreeshen, UCP – 8,033 (81.7%)
Nicole Mooney, NDP – 907 (9.2%)
Abigail Douglass, AP – 729 (7.4%)
Nick Jansen, Lib – 93 (0.9%)
David Inscho, Ind – 63 (0.6%)

Here are the 2018 by-election results compared to previous results in these two districts from the time they were formed:

Fort McMurray-Conklin Election Results 2012-2018
Fort McMurray-Conklin Election Results 2012-2018 (click to enlarge)
Innisfail-Sylvan Lake Election Results 1993-2018
Innisfail-Sylvan Lake Election Results 1993-2018 (click to enlarge)
Categories
Alberta Politics

UCP candidate’s ties to Trump campaign caps off sleepy by-elections in Fort McMurray-Conklin and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake

Photo: Sid Fayad, Laila Goodridge, Jane Stroud, Nicole Mooney, Abigail Douglass, Devin Dreeshen.

Voters will head to the polls tomorrow to elect new MLAs in two relatively sleepy by-elections. The two districts, Fort McMurray-Conklin and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, were both held by United Conservative Party MLAs before they became vacant and voters are expected to have re-elected two UCP candidates after the polls close at 8:00 p.m. on July 12, 2018.

In the final day before voting day, an investigation by Vice.com revealed that Innisfail-Sylvan Lake UCP candidate Devin Dreeshen, son of local Conservative Member of Parliament Earl Dreeshen, was a campaign volunteer for Donald Trump during the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections.

As part of the investigation, Vice discovered a November 2016 photo of Dreeshen at an invite-only election night event in New York City sporting a red ‘Make America Great Again’ baseball cap and raising a drink to Trump’s victory.

According to Vice, “On and off between February and November of 2016, Dreeshen and his colleague Matthew McBain followed Trump around the United States training volunteers, knocking on doors and even shadowing Ivanka Trump for some reason.” The ‘my experience‘ section of Dreeshen’s website makes no mention of his time as a Trump volunteer south of the border.

When Vice writer Hadeel Abdel-Nabi questioned Dreeshen about his activities with the Trump campaign at a by-election event in Sylvan Lake, the UCP candidate is reported to have fled to the bathroom and was not seen again.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake New Democratic Party candidate Nicole Mooney faced criticism for pro-life views she held in in 2014 but says she no longer holds. Mooney, a Sylvan Lake-resident who teaches at a Catholic high school in Red Deer, was reported to have led a field trip with dozens of her students to the March for Life event in Edmonton.

While anti-abortion views on women’s reproductive rights are certainly a minority opinion in the NDP caucus these days, these views are likely fairly mainstream in this rural central Alberta district.

Postmedia columnist Rick Bell pounced on Mooney’s pro-life leanings as a sign of NDP hypocrisy. But Bell neglected to mention that while Mooney has not made her views part of her campaign, a pro-life activist group has launched an effort to nominate “52 pro-life candidates” to stand in the next election, presumably for the UCP. According to Press Progress, the RightNow initiative is led by Catherine Gallagher, who previously work for Jason Kenney as a staffer in Ottawa.

The NDP scored a solid candidate when they recruited three-term Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Jane Stroud to carry their banner in Fort McMurray-Conklin. Stroud is well-respected and has good name recognition in the district. She has also earned the endorsement of three of her Wood Buffalo council colleagues and First Nations leaders in the sprawling northeast Alberta district.

UCP candidate Laila Goodridge was the target of criticism at the beginning of the campaign when Stroud accused her of being a ‘fly-in, fly-out’ candidate. A Fort McMurray native, Goodridge spent much of her adult life working as a political staffer outside of region, including as the Wildrose Party candidate in Grande Prairie-Wapiti in the 2015 provincial election. Her ties to the community and her connection to former MLA Brian Jean, who she worked for as an organizer of his 2017 UCP leadership campaign, were obviously enough of an advantage to help her win a crowded contest for the UCP nomination.

While she is the favourite to win, Goodridge appeared to be managing expectations last week, warning UCP voters that a low-voter turnout and ‘special interest groups’ tied to the NDP could hurt the UCP on July 12. Goodridge’s ‘special interest group’ comment offended some voters who believed she may have been referring to First Nations leaders supporting Stroud. 

But the incident that appeared to get the most attention during these by-elections was  when CBC reported about a racial slur made by Alberta Party candidate Sid Fayad five years ago on Facebook. Fayad apologized for the comment.

Meanwhile, the decision by Greyhound to end passenger and freight transportation operations in Alberta, an issue that will actually have a big impact on a lot of rural communities in these two districts, emerged late in the campaign. Stroud issued a statement in response to Greyhound’s withdrawal, but it was likely too late to become a decisive issue in these by-elections.  

Voting stations are open on Thursday, July 12, 2018 from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.


Here are a list of the by-election candidates and their social media links:

Fort McMurray-Conklin
Alberta Party – Sid Fayad [Twitter]
Green Party – Brian Deheer
Liberal – Robin Le Fevre [Twitter]
New Democratic Party – Jane Stroud [FacebookTwitter]
United Conservative Party – Laila Goodridge [FacebookTwitter]

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
Alberta Party – Abigail Douglass [FacebookTwitter]
Liberal – Nick Jansen [Twitter]
Independent – David Inscho
New Democratic Party – Nicole Mooney [FacebookTwitter]
United Conservative Party – Devin Dreeshen [FacebookTwitter]

Categories
Alberta Politics

July by-elections called in two UCP-friendly districts.

Photo: Laila Goodridge, Jane Stroud, Nicole Mooney, and Abigail Douglass

By-elections were called today and will be held in the provincial districts of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake and Fort McMurray-Conklin on July 12, 2018.

The by-elections are needed to replace United Conservative Party MLAs Don MacIntyre and Brian Jean. MacIntyre resigned in February 2018 after he was charged with sexual assault and sexual interference, and Jean resigned in March 2018 after he was defeated in the UCP leadership contest.

In a different context in another part of the world, July 12 is known as Orangemen’s Day, but don’t expect any kind of NDP orange parade to march through these districts on July 12. Both districts are traditionally reliably conservative voting areas that elected Wildrose Party candidates in the 2015 election. And Innisfail-Sylvan Lake has been one of the strongest conservative voting districts in Alberta over the past two decades.

Judging by the voting history of the two districts, it is very likely the UCP should win both by-elections. Anything less than landslide victories in both districts will be bad news for the UCP.

While we can expect New Democratic Party cabinet ministers and MLAs to campaign alongside their party’s candidates in both districts, it appears likely that the governing party will focus most of its by-election resources in Fort McMurray-Conklin. The results will provide an indication if Premier Rachel Notley‘s championing the Trans Mountain Pipeline has had any impact on the electorate.

The strong showing by the Liberals in the 2014 by-election in the federal Fort McMurray district proves that the Conservative party’s electoral grip on the area has been loser than other rural areas of the province, but a lot has changed in Alberta politics in the past 4 years.

I almost feel sorry for the NDP that none of their MLAs have resigned since the 2015 election. All five by-election elections that have taken place during the NDP’s first term in government have been located in unfriendly districts that elected Progressive Conservative or Wildrose MLAs in 2015.

A respectable second place finish will look good for the NDP.

The Alberta Party sat out the previous two by-elections in Calgary-Greenway in 2016 and Calgary-Lougheed in 2017, but they now are fielding candidates in these races. This is the party’s first electoral test since former PC cabinet minster and Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel was selected as the party’s leader. How the Alberta Party fares in these by-elections could provide them with momentum ahead of next year’s expected provincial election.

A respectable second place finish will look great for the Alberta Party and help them position themselves as a viable conservative alternative to the UCP.

It is important to remember that by-elections can sometimes produce unpredictable results, and that those results that may or may not be an indicator of future general election results. But as these two districts have very long histories as conservative voting areas, it is difficult to see voters in these districts choosing any other candidate but the UCP in 2018.


Here are the candidates nominated as of June 14, 2018.

Fort McMurray-Conklin
Alberta Party – Sid Fayed [Twitter]
Green Party – Brian Deheer
Liberal – Robin Le Fevre
New Democratic Party – Jane Stroud [Facebook, Twitter]
United Conservative Party – Laila Goodridge [Facebook, Twitter]

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
Alberta Party – Abigail Douglass [Facebook, Twitter]
Green Party – Marco Reid [Facebook]
Liberal – Nicolaas Jansen
New Democratic Party – Nicole Mooney [Facebook, Twitter]
United Conservative Party – Devin Dreeshen [Facebook, Twitter]

Note: Reform Party of Alberta leader Randy Thorsteinson had initially announced plans to run in the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake by-election. He has since withdrawn his candidacy.