As expected, yesterday morning Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths entered the contest to replace Premier Ed Stelmach as leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party. As I posted yesterday, I believe that Mr. Griffiths will be an interesting addition to a leadership contest that has so far been less than exciting.
At his campaign announcement, Mr. Griffiths highlighted five areas that his leadership campaign will focus on, including K-12 education, land stewardship and environmental issues, government reform, developing solutions for healthcare, and reinvigorating the PC Party.
His opponents will likely use his age (38) and lack of cabinet experience to downplay the seriousness of his candidacy, but his position as an underdog and outsider may be easily disputed by support from a big-name Tory insider.
A quick reverse address search on Whitepages.ca reveals that the mailing address listed for the “Doug Griffiths 2011 Campaign Fund“, 220 Wolf Willow Road, is also listed as a home address B. Heidecker.
Brian Heidecker is a big name in the PC Party establishment. As the current Chair of University of Alberta Board of Governors, a unapologetic former political appointee to the Alberta Treasury Branches Board and Alberta Securities Commission, and a former PC Party Vice-President, his support will establish credibility for Mr. Griffiths’ campaign among PC insiders. Not coincidentally, Mr. Heidecker is a retired rancher and owns a 16,000-acre ranch near Coronation, which is also Mr. Griffiths’ hometown.
The suggestion that Mr. Heidecker is a fundraiser on this leadership campaign might be a subtle signal to the PC establishment that Mr. Griffiths is a more credible candidate than his opponents may want that party’s members to believe.
Sources tell me that Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths is expected to announce his entry into the Progressive Conservative Party leadership contest at 10:30am tomorrow morning at Mackay Avenue School in Edmonton.
Mr. Griffiths, currently the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance, was first elected to the Assembly in 2002, and at the age of 38 will be the youngest candidate in the contest. In 2010, he released his first book based on a popular speech, 13 Ways to Kill Your Community.
An avid social media user, Mr. Griffiths placed very well among readers of this blog in the first PC leadership poll in January. Known for his open-minded approach and discussing policy areas that that are not the most popular among his party’s establishment, like the potential for a Provincial Sales Tax, Mr. Griffiths is well positioned to tell PC Party members things that they may not like to hear, but need to discuss in order to renew as they approach 40 years in government. After Premier Ed Stelmach announced his resignation, a group of anonymous PC Party members started an online campaign to recruit Mr. Griffiths to join the leadership race.
Mr. Griffiths would be the third candidate to enter the contest, following Foothills-Rockyview MLA Ted Morton and Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert MLA Doug Horner.
New Environics Poll A new Environics Poll shows the PCs with 38% support of decided voters province-wide, compared to 26% for the Wildrose party, 22% for the Liberals, and 10% for the NDP. In Edmonton, the PCs are at 36%, with the Liberals at 27%, Wildrose Alliance at 18%, and NDP at 15%. In Calgary, the PCs are at 34%, the Wildrose Alliance at 31%, the Liberals at 24%, and the NDP at 6%. The poll is also reported to show the PCs sitting at 43% outside of Edmonton and Calgary, compared to 29% for the Wildrose Alliance, 15% for the Liberals, and 9% for the NDP. While these are interesting numbers, I have a difficult time putting to much weight in this poll now that Premier Ed Stelmach and Liberal leader David Swann have announced their resignation.
Will Alison Redford run?
Probably, but not yet. Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson is calling on Justice Minister Alison Redford to meet the requirements set by Premier Stelmach and resign from cabinet if she is planning to seek the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party. Despite hiring campaign strategist Stephen Carter last week, a number of Tory sources have told me that Minister Redford continues to be indecisive about whether or not to run.
Mr. Mar leaving Washington? Former cabinet minister and Alberta’s current Washington D.C. representative Gary Mar is said to be preparing a run for his party’s leadership. Earlier this week I tweeted that GaryMar.ca was registered on January 27, 2011, the day that Premier Stelmach announced his resignation. The domain name was registered by Todd Herron, a former Chief Information Officer and Assistant Deputy Minister of Health. Mr. Mar faces the challenge of either returning to Alberta to enter the contest or potentially being replaced as Alberta’s representative when a new party leader is selected in eight months.
A candidate from Coronation?
The online campaign to lure Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths into his party’s leadership contest continues. With Housing Minister Jonathan Denis declaring today via Twitter that he will not enter the contest, the well-spoken and idea-focused Mr. Griffiths could be the only candidate under the age of 45 to enter the contest.
Other Alberta Party candidates? Lisa Fox, stepped down as the federal Green Party candidate in Wild Rose this week telling the Cochrane Eagle that she is considering a run for the Alberta Party leadership. Another candidate based out of Calgary is expected to enter the race in the next few weeks.
Friends of Medicare tour
Touring with the Friends of Medicare, Independent Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman has been drawing crowds across the province. At a recent town hall meeting in Red Deer, Dr. Sherman told a packed crowd that solutions to the current crisis in emergency rooms starts with enhancing home care and long-term care for seniors, particularly those in the low and middle income groups. The next town hall meeting will be held in Medicine Hat on February 19, 2011.
Liberals hire new Communications Director Brian Leadbetter has been hired as the new Communications Director for the Official Opposition Liberals. Mr. Leadbetter will fill a vacancy that was created when former Director Neil Mackie had his contract terminated in January. Mr. Leadbetter was the Director of Government & Community Relations for Northlands from 2007 to 2010 and a Senior Communications Director for the City of Edmonton previous to that.
Social Credit policy renewal Acknowledging that there is room for improvement, the Social Credit Party is inviting Albertans to participate in their policy development process. According to the party website, reasonable, innovative suggestions will be formulated into policy proposals to be presented at the Party Policy Convention on March 26, 2011 in Innisfail.
More candidates step up I have updated the list of nominated and declared candidates for the next provincial election (please note the new link) to include Marc Power, who is seeking the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-North Hill, which will be known as Calgary-Klein when the election is called. Mr. Power, a software trainer and former co-chair of the NDP LGBT committee, was that party’s 2008 candidate in Calgary-Currie. North Hill is currently represented by PC MLA Kyle Fawcett, who was first elected in 2008.
Federal Edmonton-StrathconaNDP PresidentMarlin Schmidt is seeking his party’s nomination in Edmonton-Gold Bar at a February 24 selection meeting. The constituency has been represented by Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald since 1997.
UPDATE via Insight into Government Leduc Alderman Dominic Mishio has declared his intentions to seek the PC nomination against two term MLA George Rogers in the new Leduc-Beaumont constituency.
In Edmonton-Riverview, Arif Khan is the first candidate to declare interest in seeking the Liberal nomination to replace retiring MLA Kevin Taft. Mr. Khan is the western Vice-President of the Condo Store Inc. As noted in last week’s Alberta Politics Notes, the NDP are expected to nominate Lori Sigurdson in Riverview.
A late evening tweet from Progressive Conservative Party President Bill Smith was the first official announcement that Premier Ed Stelmach would formally resign as leader of his party in September 2011. The Premier announced his intentions to resign last week, but did not specify an exact date.
September 2011 is a milestone year for the PCs. On September 10, 1971, Peter Lougheed was sworn in as his party’s first Premier in Alberta and the PC has kept that line partisan-pure ever since. I imagine that party members has mixed feelings about the date. On one hand, forty years of majority governments is an impressive achievement for any political party. On the other hand, it is also risky to draw too much attention to this kind of longevity when a thirst for political change is in the air.
I am sure that many PCs wish their fortieth anniversary as government to be an occasion to celebrate a fresh new face as the leader. Some PC members have started an online campaign to recruit the outspoken 30-something MLA Doug Griffiths, but so far the only candidate to officially announce he is running for that party’s leadership is 61-year old former Finance Minister Ted Morton. Current Deputy Premier Doug Horner, son of Premier Lougheed’s Deputy Premier Hugh Horner, is expected to enter the PC leadership contest in the next few days.
The Tories are not the only party seeking a new leader. With both the Alberta Party and Liberal Party also looking for new leaders in 2011, there is a lot of opportunity for the PCs fortieth anniversary to be much more interesting than anyone could have imagined.
Happier times in the PC Caucus when Ted Morton and Dave Hancock held hands and sang Kumbaya.
Former Finance Minister Ted Morton believes that he is the best person to bring conservatives back to the PC “mothership,” but that is not stopping the speculation of who will challenge him in the contest to fill his party’s top job.
Rarely in the spotlight, Premier Ed Stelmach‘s Chief of Staff Ron Glenspoke with the Calgary Herald about his boss’ resignation announcement and the politics of the past week.
Vote a vote for Jim in 2011? Completely ruling out returning to politics when asked last Tuesday, former Finance Minister and 2006 PC leadership contest front-runner Jim Dinning was less committal later in the week. Many Tories I have spoken with in the past week tell me that while they would love Mr. Dinning to return to politics, that they believe it is unlikely that the University of Calgary Chancellor will seek his party’s leadership.
First elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud in 1997, Minister Dave Hancock placed fifth out of eight candidates with 7,595 votes on the first ballot of his party’s 2006 leadership contest. He endorsed Premier Stelmach on the second ballot. Minister Hancock has served as Minister of Justice, Health, Advanced Education, and Education (among others) and has been a PC Party insider since serving as Youth President in the 1970s.
In his current role as Education Minister, Hancock encouraged Trustees, parents, administrators, and others to think big about the future of the education system. This process had encouraged good among education system participants until recently, when the government attempted to renegotiate an already agreed upon contract with Alberta’s teachers.
The right time for Griffiths?
A leadership bid by Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths is not only gaining support in internet polls. Metro Calgary columnist DJ Kelly wrote a column last week suggesting that the outspoken and insightful Mr. Griffiths might be the best candidate for the job.
Benitomania or Benitolution? Tongue in cheek campaign or the next big political shift? Paula Simonsexamines the political career of Edmonton-Mill Woods PC MLA Carl Benito and the recent online chatter about him.
After two days of voting, the results have been tallied in the first poll asking readers of this blog who they thought should replace Premier Ed Stelmach as leader of Alberta’s PC Party. Thank you to the 813 readers who voted in this online poll.
Some people might be surprised by the strength of Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths in this poll, but as the PC MLA with the highest personal online profile it is not surprising that online political watchers would support the idea of him as the next PC leader (or as a friend said this week, “he would be the first PC leader who actually understands 21st century communications”). As a moderate Tory, Justice Minister Alison Redford would have some natural appeal to readers of this blog. As for Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Carl Benito‘s support, I imagine that it was his unique position on tuition and property taxes that earned him those 76 votes.
Here is the breakdown of the results.
Who should PC Party members vote to replace Premier Ed Stelmach in their upcoming leadership contest?
It is not a secret that since entering the Office, Premier Stelmach struggled to define his leadership style. Under his Premiership, the general policy direction of his government sometimes appeared to be drifting towards numerous locations at the same time. The Progressive Conservatives have been in office for nearly 40 years and have become a natural governing party that in many ways creates and adopts policy as would a an amorphous blob.
With both his party’s popularity and personal approval rating having drastically dropped since the 2008 election, it would not be surprising to learn that more than a few PC MLAs and cabinet ministers were planning not to seek re-election if there was not a change in leadership. I have also heard that tension between the Premier and Finance Minister Ted Morton, and MLAs and the Premier’s Chief of Staff, Ron Glen, also heavily contributed to yesterday’s announcement.
I had a special relationship with the Premier that began in December 2007 when his lawyers threatened to sue me over my ownership of the URL edstelmach.ca. After forwarding the URL to the wikipedia entry of the last Social Credit Premier Harry Strom, I received a threatening letter from the Premier’s lawyer demanding that I cease and desist (and govern myself accordingly). The Premier may have been insistent that his name was his name, but when push came to shove they backed down (and helped me increase this blog’s readership by at least 500%). Without malice three years later, it turns out that I was closer than I thought with my Premier Strom comparison.
Likeness to Premier Strom aside, it would be unfair to say that Premier Stelmach has not achieved anything while occupying his current office. Always a class act, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshisaid it well in an interview with the Calgary Herald yesterday:
“Right now I think it’s not time to think about politics. It is time to think about Premier Stelmach’s legacy as a really decent human being and a really dedicated public servant.”
He promised and implemented the long-awaited Lobbyist Registry. His 2010 budget provided a five year commitment to stable funding for Health Care and Education, two departments that had felt the brunt of the budget cuts in the 1990s. His government established the Capital Regional Board, which started a long-overdue armistice that ended the regional turf wars between municipalities in the Edmonton region. His personal commitment to ending homelessness should also not be forgotten, as his government has supported the development and funding of municipal 10 year plans to end homelessness.
Many of these accomplishments have been overshadowed by the decision to raise and then again tinker with the natural resource royalties collected by the provincial government, which angered many in Calgary’s energy sector. The downturn in the economy and the return to deficit budgets also changed how many Albertans viewed the PC government, after years of being told that “deficit budgets were illegal” during Premier Klein’s tenure. The forced merger of the province’s nine regional health authorities into one mega-health authority known as Alberta Health Services also raised serious questions about proper planning and the value of centralization in Health Care. His government’s decision to challenge rural landowners over property rights and the construction of high powered electrical transmission lines also created conflict in areas of the province that had been PC strongholds for decades.
Premier Stelmach’s eventual departure does not automatically save the PC Party from their low support in the polls. The party now needs to select a new leader while facing an organized and well-funded opposition in the form of the Wildrose Alliance, who have leaned heavily on federal Conservative Party organizers to build their party machinery. The Liberals and New Democrats remain competitive in some Edmonton and Calgary ridings and the new Alberta Party announced this week that Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor had become their first MLA.
Although Premier Stelmach will remain leader of the government to oversee the next provincial budget, attention will now be turned toward his potential successors. Finance Minister Morton appears to be the early favourite and could even soon resign his cabinet post to focus on a leadership bid. An immediate Morton coronation could be postponed by the entrance of candidates such as former federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice, Advanced Education Minister Doug Horner, Justice Minister Alison Redford, or Treasury Board President Lloyd Snelgrove. It would also be interesting to see some younger talent, like Housing Minister Jonathan Denis or Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths throw their names in the race.
Regardless of Premier Stelmach’s departure and the leader the members of that Party chooses in the upcoming leadership contest, the big question is whether the PCs be able to redefine themselves as they approach 40 years as our province’s governing party? Will a new PC Party leader be able to satisfy Albertans’ new found appetite for political change?
Raj Sherman (Independent Edmonton-Meadowlark)
The Emergency Room Doctor turned MLA shook the Tory establishment when he went public with his concerns about how the PC government has handled health care. Dr. Sherman saved special criticism for former Health Minister Ron Liepert, who was responsible for the creation of Alberta Health Services. An over-night folk hero to many, Dr. Sherman was suspended from the PC caucus and became the target of a whisper campaign to undermine his credibility, which started with a phone call placed by MLA Fred Horne. Dr Sherman has said he may take legal action against those involved in the smear campaign. In three weeks, Dr. Sherman’s public criticisms of the PCs health care record made him the de-facto leader of the opposition in the last two months of 2010.
Dr. Sherman made this list in 2008, when I described him as “one of the brighter stars in the vast expanse of dim lights in the Alberta Legislature.”
Doug Griffiths (PC Battle River-Wainwright)
Thinking out of the box has kept this perennial Parliamentary Assistant away from the cabinet table, where he would likely excel. Doug Griffiths’ appointment as the Parliamentary Assistant for Finance and Enterprise is the latest in a series of lateral moves from his previous roles as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Solicitor General. After trying to start a public discussion about how a provincial sales tax could reduce government dependency on natural resource revenue, Mr. Griffiths became the target of his own colleagues who shot down his idea at the 2010 PC Party convention and by the Wildrose Alliance, who used Mr. Griffiths’ comments as a fundraising-focused attack campaign. He also hit the road this year as the author of a new book, 13 Ways to Kill your Community.
In last year’s list, I wrote of Mr. Griffiths: “With alternatives to the near 40 year governing PCs gaining support, independent-minded Griffiths may be in a position to decide whether he wants to stay in the backbenches or join something new.”
Rob Anderson (Wildrose Airdrie-Chestermere)
First-term PC MLA Rob Anderson‘s floor-crossing from the PCs to the Wildrose in January 2010, along with fellow PC MLA Heather Forsyth, set the tone for Alberta politics in 2010. He may have less political experience than his three fellow Wildrose MLAs (two of which are former PC cabinet ministers), but what he does not have in age or years of experience he makes up in political tenacity. If leader Danielle Smith is unable to win a seat in the next provincial election, Mr. Anderson is in a good position to take over the role.
Kent Hehr (Liberal Calgary-Buffalo)
What started as a tongue-in-cheek campaign by Liberal caucus staffers became reality when first-term Liberal MLA Kent Hehr launched his candidacy for Mayor of Calgary. Although he was a popular candidate in a crowded field, Mr. Hehr was unable to create the kind of momentum that launched Naheed Nenshi into contention. Mr. Hehr dropped out of the Mayoral contest when his poll numbers showed he was far behind, but that did not hurt his political credibility as he returned to the Assembly as the Official Opposition Justice Critic.
Dave Taylor (Independent Calgary-Currie)
After an unsuccessful run for the Liberal leadership in 2009, Dave Taylor was not satisfied with the leadership of his rival David Swann and left the Liberal Opposition to sit as an Independent in April 2010. As one of the more effective opposition critics in the Liberal caucus, losing Mr. Taylor likely cost the Official Opposition in media attention and also an MLA who held the support of many of his former talk radio hosts at the popular AM770 and 630CHED stations.
Cindy Ady (PC Calgary-Shaw)
Alberta’s Minister of Parks and Tourism rode the Alberta train as our province’s ambassador to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. While handing out White Cowboy hats and iPod Touches, Minister Ady made sure that Alberta was the topic of discussion for the international media and tourists traveling to the Olympic events in Whistler.
Gene Zwozdesky (PC Edmonton-Mill Creek)
Crowned as the “the Wizard of Zwoz” by the media, Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky was responsible for fixing the mess created and mend the fences destroyed by previous Minister Ron Liepert. Minister Zwozdesky has been more open and accessible than his predecessor, but the real challenge will be for him to actually deliver real improvements to a health care system that has been seen constant political interference and restructuring over the past twenty years.
Kyle Fawcett (PC Calgary-North Hill)
On the night of the October municipal election, the backbench Tory MLA who once described Premier Ed Stelmach as “a man of extraordinary vision,” also had a loose twitter finger. As the Purple Revolution swept his city, Mr. Fawcett tweeted that Calgarians had made a “Big Mistake” by electing Naheed Nenshi as Mayor.
Carl Benito (PC Edmonton-Mill Woods)
Where do I start? A broken promise to donate his entire salary to a scholarship fund for students in his constituency and blaming his wife for forgetting to pay his municipal property taxes. Mill Woods, your MLA is a real winner.
Maybe it is something about Battle River-Wainwright, because this is not the first time an idea coming from that constituency was shot down by the political establishment. At the 2008 PC policy convention, that constituency association brought forward a motion supporting fixed elections dates. The motion passed at the policy convention and was soon after introduced as a private members bill (Bill 203: Election Statutes (Fixed Election Dates)) in the Assembly by St. Albert PC MLA Ken Allred.
Mr. Allred’s private members bill was attacked by Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills PC MLA Richard Marz, who claimed that the creation of fixed election dates would allow public sector unions to schedule strikes near election dates (because as all Albertans know, it is those evil public sector Unions who have been standing in between the PC Party and majority governments for the past forty years… oh wait…). The fixed election dates bill was tabled to be discussed six months later. Two years later, the bill remains tabled and there is no sign that any debate will reassume.
On a similar note, Edmonton-McClung PC MLA David Xiao hopes to start a discussion on mandatory voting in Alberta. While the idea probably has enough merit to deserve the opportunity to be debated and fully discussed, it is likely doomed to reach the waste bin of ideas to combat electoral disinterest.
Liberal Environment Policy Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman released the Liberal Caucus environment policy yesterday, which includes a hard cap on greenhouse gas emissions by 2017 and a provincial groundwater inventory and water quality monitoring program.
As part of a country-wide speaking tour, Council of Canadian chairperson Maude Barlow was in Edmonton in October and warned against the creation of water markets that could open the sale fresh water from Alberta to corporations and overseas markets. Ms. Barlow believes that water should be held in a public trust and has outlined her beliefs in a new book, Blue Covenant: The Global The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water
As is tradition here at daveberta.ca, I have created an annual list of Alberta MLAs who have caught my eye over the past year (see the 2008 MLA review). Due to a large grouping of MLAs who through sheer numbers appear almost indistinguishable as they sit in the backbenches of the 72 70 MLA Progressive Conservative caucus, this list focuses on the handful of MLAs who caught my attention for various reasons:
Kyle Fawcett: (PC Calgary-North Hill) I am really puzzled by this one. In February 2009, backbench MLA Fawcett was one of Premier Ed Stelmach‘s proudest cheerleaders, evangelizing the Premier on the floor of the Legislature as:
…a man of extraordinary vision, someone who fails to fall into the trap of regressive thinking during challenging times. He is a steady hand at the wheel of the ship in turbulent times. When others retreat, he has the optimism to search for the light at the end of the tunnel, the beacon of hope that all Albertans aspire to. He has the dogged determination to push forward to establish this province’s place in the new world paradigm when the negativity of others is enough to stop progress dead in its tracks.
Eight months later, Fawcett took a complete 180 degree turn and criticized Premier Stelmach for doing “very little, I believe, to instil confidence in at least people in Calgary that he has the leadership capabilities to lead this province.” He soon after apologized and was quietly punished for his outspoken behaviour. It appears that Fawcett wants to be the class rebel and the teachers pet at the same time, but has ended up wearing the dunce cap instead.
Doug Griffiths: (PC Battle River-Wainwright) A year of lateral moves from being shuffled from parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General makes me wonder if the PCs are blind to talent. Griffiths knows how to use social media effectively by actually providing value and allowing citizens outside the Legislature to get a peek at what personal beliefs and driving motivations have led him to seek office. With alternatives to the near 40 year governing PCs gaining support, independent-minded Griffiths may be in a position to decide whether he wants to stay in the backbenches or join something new.
Ken Kowalski (PC Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock) As Speaker Kowalski celebrated 30 years as an MLA, he also demonstrated his political vintage by outright banning MLAs from using social media such as Twitter and Facebook during Question Period. While I agree that MLAs should respect the institution and proud traditions of the Legislature, rather than outright banning the medium, Kowalski had the opportunity to explore how new technologies could be used to reconnect citizens to their democratic institutions. I offered to help Speaker Kowalski better understand the uses of social media, but I did not receive a response. #fail
Hugh MacDonald (Liberal Edmonton-Gold Bar) Last year, I characterized MacDonald as “obsessed with discovering scandal,” and this year I say the same, but with a slightly more endearing tone. While he does come off as a little nuts, MacDonald is easily one of the hardest working MLAs in the Legislature – spending countless hours digging through files in the Legislature Library and as Chair of the Public Account Committee. AIMco, AHS, and PC MLA extra pay and bonuses have been among MacDonald’s targets in 2009, but I am still not sure if he would know what to do if he uncovered a scandal that stuck.
Len Mitzel (PC Cypress-Medicine Hat) Haven’t heard of Len Mitzel? Not surprising. The backbench MLA has found his niche as the PC caucus’ designated American conference attendee. Over the past year, Mitzel has attended conferences on behalf of the Government of Alberta in Montana (again and again), San Angelo, Laredo, Denver, and Boise, meaning that he likely understands more than most MLAs the important economic relationship that our province has with the western United States.
Rachel Notley: (NDP Edmonton-Strathcona) Notley has proven to be a consistently good parliamentarian. She is intelligent, articulate, and has worked hard to provide a clear voice for her constituents on the floor of the Legislature (on a wide range of issues). Lord only knows why NDP members have not demanded that she become the leader of her party.
Kevin Taft (Liberal Edmonton-Riverview) Freed from the burden of leading Alberta’s Liberal Party, Taft has returned to a more familiar role as Official Opposition Health Critic. Having written and researched extensively about public health care in Alberta in his pre-political life, Taft has proven to be a formidable opponent to Premier Stelmach and Minister Liepert over the past year.