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.
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.
Banff-Kananskis – Brenda 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?
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 email@example.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!
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.
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 parties. That 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.
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.
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
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.”
Jason Kenney touted Alberta’s low taxes, educated work-force and efficient power prices to the Indian media during a trip to meet with government ministers and business leaders on the subcontinent this week, according to a report from the CBC.
Meanwhile, back in Alberta, political watchers are scratching their heads, wondering why Kenney, actually only the leader of the Official Opposition United Conservative Party, would contradict some of his main criticisms of the New Democratic Party government while he is overseas?
In the clip referred to the in CBC article, Kenney sounded more like actual Premier Rachel Notley or Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous, than the anti-NDP Kenney that Albertans have got to know over the past year and half.
Kenney has spent the past two years rallying against NDP ‘ideological’ and ‘risky’ high-taxes that he argues have destroyed our province’s mythical “Alberta Advantage.” He has also warned that electricity prices could soon spike because of the NDP’s shift toward renewable energy and away from dirty coal-fired power plants.
The truth is that the Kenney we heard from India is correct. Alberta’s taxes are low, (I have argued they are lower than they should be), our electricity prices are stable, and our excellent public education system has produced a highly-educated workforce. And Alberta’s economy is growing, albeit at a slower rate than the over-heated boom-times we all became accustomed to, according to recent projections.
Probably a little confused about what they were hearing from Kenney’s trip, the NDP raised questions about the ethics of the opposition leader’s trip abroad. I am a little skeptical about whether there are actually any ethical breaches, but there still remains unanswered questions about how the trip to the subcontinent actually began and who or what organization is paying for it.
Kenney says he was invited by the High Commission of India, which is probably true, but it seems unusual for a foreign government to extend an invitation like this to the leader of a provincial opposition party.
The trip was publicly announced mid-week last week and Kenney was on a plane by Friday with his United Conservative Party delegation of Calgary-Foothills MLA Prasad Panda and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen. It is not clear whether the UCP will publicly release the itinerary of Kenney’s visit, as would be released with any actual ministerial visit.
Despite his current role as a provincial opposition politician, Kenney very much remains a nationally-minded politician (with frequent trips to Ottawa in his schedule) and has strong connections to conservative politicians in other parts of the world. And he is no dummy. Putting aside the tongue and cheek opening sentence of this article, I doubt Kenney is misrepresenting himself to Indian Government officials by pretending to be a Minister of the Crown. But I think it is entirely possible that he is presenting himself in India as the next Premier of Alberta.
The UCP does not have a trade policy, at least not one they have released for Albertans to see, so it is also not clear what kind of promises or commitments he is making to Indian government officials and business people.
Perhaps the UCP leader is so confident that his party will win a solid majority in next year’s election that he already feels comfortable embarking on international trips on Alberta’s behalf. Kenney has room to be confident, but not to be complacent.
According to two polls, his party’s lead ahead of the NDP has shrunk from 24 percent in April 2018 to 14 percent in July 2018. This is obviously still a very healthy lead, but it’s only a stone’s throw away from becoming a competitive election.
Perhaps the reason for this narrowing of the polls is that Notley’s has largely outmaneuvered him on the pipeline issue, leaving him largely sitting on the sidelines. Despite the alternate universes that some media pundits exist in, Notley has become one of Canada’s strongest advocates for the oil industry and pipeline expansion (to the chagrin of some environmentally-minded NDP activists).
As I have written in the past, there is value in public officials making international trips to promote Alberta. But the value of overseas trips by government officials remain almost impossible to calculate, and a visit like this by a provincial opposition leader, even a former federal cabinet minister like Kenney, will likely have little impact on actual trade relations between India and Alberta.
As noted in some media coverage of Kenney’s overseas adventure, this is not the firs time an opposition leader from Alberta has made an international trip. NDP leader Brian Mason received approval from the Speaker of the Assembly to use public funds to visit Alaska in 2007 to study that State’s royalty structure.
Liberal leader Kevin Taft stayed closer to home when he travelled to Winnipeg in 2007 to promote his idea for turning western Canada into an oil refining super-hub. And in the 1993 election, it was reported that NDP leaderRay Martin brought reporters to a hospital in nearby Montana as a way of focusing attention on medicare.
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:
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%)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
New Democratic Party MLAs nominated: Three New Democratic Party MLAs were chosen as their party’s candidates for the next election at meetings held on May 6 and May 12, 2018. MLA Maria Fitzpatrick was nominated in Lethbridge-East and MLA Christina Gray was nominated in Edmonton-Mill Woods on May 6 and MLA Brian Malkinson was nominated in Calgary-Currie at a meeting on May 12, 2018. Gray currently serves as Minister of Labour and Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal.
The NDP have scheduled nomination meetings in Calgary-McCall on June 9, 2018 and June 11, 2018 in Lethbridge-West, where NDP MLA Shannon Phillips has already announced her plans to run for re-election.
Another UCP MLA retiring from politics: United Conservative Party MLA Wes Taylor announced in a note on his Facebook page that he would not seek re-election in 2019. Taylor is recovering from having recently undergone open heart surgery. The Battle River-Wainwright district he has represented since 2015 will be significantly redistributed in the next election into the redrawn Camrose, Drumheller-Stettler, and Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright districts.
It’s truly been and honor and a privilege to serve the constituents of Battle River-Wainwright over the past 3 years as…
The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting in that district on May 25, 2018 and are expected to select Nicole Mooney as their candidate. Mooney is an English teacher at St. Joseph’s High School in Red Deer and the Communications and Political Engagement Officer with Alberta Teachers’ Association Local 80.
A by-election will be called in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake by August 5, 2018 following the resignation of UCP MLA Don MacIntyre in February 2018 after he was charged with sexual assault and sexual interference.
Brooks-Medicine Hat – Jim Black is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Black ran for the Alberta Party in the Medicine Hat district in the 2015 election, earning 5.7 percent of the vote.
Calgary-McCall – Jasraj Singh Hallan is seeking the UCP nomination.
Calgary-North – Jun Lin is seeking the UCP nomination. He ran in the 2017 Calgary municipal election in Ward 3, placing third with 25 percent of the vote.
Calgary-Varsity – Michael Kim is seeking the UCP nomination. Kim is the president of MKMK Education and MKMK Insurance.
Camrose – Dawn Anderson is seeking the UCP nomination. Anderson is the general manager of the Camrose Resort Casino.
Drumheller-Stettler – Mark Nikota is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Nikota was Mayor of Hanna from 2010 to 2013 and currently works as the Chief Administrative Officer of the Village of Delia.
Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview – David Egan (not to be confused with David Eggen) is seeking the UCP nomination. He is listed as the Chief Financial Officer of the UCP association in the neighbouring Edmonton-Manning district.
Edmonton-Castle Downs – Gordon Reekie and Ed Ammar are seeking the UCP nomination. Both candidates are Real Estate agents. Ammar served as chair of the UCP interim board until the recent founding convention and was Liberal Party candidate in the neighbouring Edmonton-Decore district in the 2012 election.
Edmonton-Glenora – Immigration consultant Marjorie Newman is seeking the UCP nomination. Carla Stolte is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.
Edmonton-Manning – Jitender Sahni is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.
Edmonton-Meadows – Joel Mullan is seeking the UCP nomination.
Edmonton-North West – Ali Eltayeb is seeking the UCP nomination. He is the owner and manager of Liberty Tax franchises in Edmonton.
Edmonton-Rutherford – Aisha Rauf is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. She is an instructor and according to her website biography is waiting for her PhD Linguistics thesis defence. She was interviewed in a September 2017 episode of the Broadcast.
Edmonton-West Henday – Winston Leung is seeking the Alberta Party nomination.
Lesser Slave Lake – Garrett Tomlinson is seeking the UCP nomination. Tomlinson served as a councillor in Northern Sunrise County from 2013 to 2017 and country reeve from 2014 to 2017. He is listed online as a communications coordinator for the Lubicon Lake First Nation.
Livingstone-Macleod – Justin Murphy is seeking the UCP nomination. He was a candidate for High River town council in the 2017 municipal election.
Seven candidates have now entered the race to replace UCP MLA and UCP Rural Crime Task Force member Don MacIntyre in the central Alberta district of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. MacIntyre resigned in February 2018 after he was charged with sexual assault and sexual interference. He was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2015.
Christine Moore – Councillor in Red Deer County representing the area between Sylvan Lake and Red Deer city limits. She ran in the 2015 election as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Red Deer-North where she placed third with 22 percent of the vote behind New DemocratKim Schreiner and Wildroser Buck Buchanan.
Joel Loh is vice-president of Regulatory Affairs & public relations at Simba Industries Transload Ltd. and affiliated with something called the Committee for Proud Alberta Fair Trade Oil (editor comment: I’m not sure they understand the definition of Fair Trade). Loh served as the president of the Canadian Alliance association in Calgary-Southwest in the early 2000s. He was disqualified from running for the Alliance nomination in Calgary-Centre ahead of the 2004 election, according to a 2003 report from the Calgary Herald.
Victor Sloboda is a plumbing and gas inspector with the City of Red Deer.
The district was first created in the 2012 election from the southern and eastern half of the formerly larger Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo district. Jean was first elected in 2015 with 43 percent of the vote ahead of New Democrat Ariana Mancini with 30 percent and PC MLA Don Scott with 22 percent (Scott was elected Mayor of Wood Buffalo in October 2017).
Sources tell this blogger that Wood Buffalo Municipal Councillor Jane Stroud is planning to seek the NDP nomination to run in Fort McMurray-Conklin by-election. Since 2010, Stroud has represented Ward 4, which includes the communities of Gregorie Lakes Estates, Anzac, Janvier and Conklin. She was named a ‘Woman of Inspiration’ by Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta in 2017.
Three candidates have announced their plans to run for the UCP nomination contest in this district:
Unlike Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, which is largely untouched by the boundary redistribution, this district will be significantly redrawn when the next election is called, with most of the district’s population becoming part of a new Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district.
Here is a look at the vote share by party in Fort McMurray-Conklin in general elections in 2012 and 2015:
According to rdnewsNow.com, Dreeshen is being endorsed by former Progressive Conservative MLA and cabinet minister Luke Ouellette, who represented the district from 2001 to 2012.
The elder Dreeshen’s federal district includes most of the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake provincial district (excluding the town of Sylvan Lake, which is located in the Red Deer-Lacombe federal district). He has represented the district since 2008.
Penhold town councillor Mike Walsh was already planning to challenge MacIntyre for the UCP nomination ahead of the next provincial election. He is now running for UCP nomination to stand in the by-election.
Elsewhere in Alberta, three other candidates have put their names forward for UCP nominations in other districts:
Calgary-Fish Creek Cindy Ross is seeking the United Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Fish Creek. Ross is a math teacher with the Calgary Catholic School District. She will likely be challenging incumbent UCP MLA Richard Gotfried, who was first elected as a PC candidate in 2015.
John Volponi is seeking the UCP nomination. Volponi is the general manager of West Air CCM. The district is currently represented by cabinet minister and New Democratic Party MLA Stephanie McLean, who has announced her plans to seek re-election in 2019.
This district was represented by Liberal MLA Harry Chase from 2004 to 2012.
Former PC MLA Janice Sarich is seeking the UCP nomination in this north Edmonton district which she represented from 2008 until she was defeated by New Democrat Chris Neilsen in 2015. Sarich briefly considered running for the federal Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Griesbach until Jan. 2014.
This district is named after former Edmonton mayor and Liberal Party leader Laurence Decore. He represented the district under its former name, Edmonton-Glengarry, from 1989 to 1997.
If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will add them to the list.