“Our Cargill union members came to bargaining with a genuine interest in improving working conditions at the Plant,” UFCW Local 401 Secretary Treasurer Richelle Stewart said in a press release. “Unfortunately, Cargill has focused on playing games that have slowed the process down and stopped real progress. That has been very disappointing.”
The union has given the employer notice that workers could go on strike on Dec. 6 if demands to improve workplace safety are not met.
The Cargill plant in High River was the site of one of the worst early workplace outbreaks of COVID-19 in Alberta and lead to the death of three workers. More than 1,500 COVID cases were linked to the outbreak at the site.
At the time, the corporation and the Alberta government were criticized for not acting quickly to shut down the plant when it was apparent that the outbreak was only getting worse.
“Local 401 fought and was successful in having Cargill’s High River Plant closed,” said Stewart. “The Government of Alberta did nothing to address the unfolding tragedy and was later revealed to be untruthful in its dealings with Cargill workers.”
Replacing Dreeshen as the newly renamed Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development is Nate Horner, who was only raised from the backbenches to become Associate Minister of Rural Economic Development on July 8, 2021. The rancher from Pollockville was elected as the UCP MLA for Drumheller-Stettler in 2019.
If the Horner name sounds familiar, it is because he comes from a legitimate Alberta political family. His cousin Doug Horner served as Agriculture Minister from 2004 to 2006 and his great-uncle Hugh Horner was Agriculture Minister from 1971 to 1975. His grandfather Jack Horner even served as Pierre Trudeau’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce after crossing the floor to the Liberals in 1977. The patriarch of the Horner family, his great-grandfather Ralph Horner, was a Senator from Saskatchewan and another one of his great-uncles, Norval Horner, was also an MP.
A strike by workers at one of the province’s largest meat packing plants could be the first big challenge faced by Horner and newly appointed Labour Minister Tyler Shandro, who was shuffled out of the Health Ministry after fumbling the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The strike notice issued by UFCW Local 401 notes that the job action could be accompanied by a variety of other actions, including asking Albertans to boycott the beef industry until Cargill workers are treated fairly, as well as picketing and leafleting in front of other workplaces that sell Cargill products, like McDonald’s drive-thrus.
The meat packing plants in southern Alberta were the sites of some great injustices during the COVID-19 pandemic and those workers – the people who slaughter the beef Albertans claim to love so much – deserve to have their demands for improved safety and workplace conditions not only met, but exceeded.
According to the poll, 60 per cent of Edmontonians said they are more likely to vote for a mayor who opposes the policies of the provincial government. Only 14 per cent said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports the government’s actions
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson spoke on CBC’s West of Centre Podcast and shared criticism of Kenney’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and a leadership style that soured the relationship with the two largest cities.
“I know that even the cabinet ministers who are just trying to do a good job are frustrated that they’re unable to make decisions or move files forward because petty partisan politics get in the way,” Nenshi said.
Alberta’s municipal election is only 14 days away.
When you think of municipal elections, you might immediately think about roads, libraries, sidewalks, pools, traffic, playgrounds, potholes, public transit, bike lanes and snow removal. And while these are some of the more high-profile responsibilities of municipal governments, the amount of information being thrown at voters in this year’s election has muddied the water about what the ballot issues on October 18 might be.
As if there weren’t already are a lot of challenges facing municipalities, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit Alberta hard and municipal governments are bearing the brunt of many of those health, social and economic challenges.
Municipalities also face a hostile provincial government that has not hesitated to interfere in local issues, in some cases leaving Albertans with a choice between candidates who agree with the provincial government interference, candidates who want to keep their heads down in hopes for a change of provincial government in 2023, or candidates who will stand up for their communities and challenge the United Conservative Party government.
Senate Nominee Election
When you vote on Oct. 18 or in the advance polls you will probably be handed a few different ballots. One of them will ask you to choose up to three candidates in this year’s Senate Nominee Election.
Senate Nominee elections are a uniquely Alberta activity dating back to 1989. The elections are held to choose a list of names for the Premier to recommend to the Prime Minister for appointment to the Senate if vacancies occur.
Unfortunately for the candidates running in this election, they are not going to be appointed unless the Prime Minister is a member of the Conservative Party, the only major party that recognizes the elections as legitimate. The Liberal Party has created a new application process for Senate appointments, dismantling the old partisan patronage machine, and the NDP believe the Upper Chamber should be abolished.
One of the major flaws of the Senate Nominee election is that winning candidates who might eventually be appointed to the Senate never ever have to face re-election, so there is no opportunity for voters to hold these “elected” Senators accountable for their decisions. In fact, they can stay in the Senate until they turn 75-years old if they decide to.
Another major flaw is that a province-wide election in a province of 4.3 million people makes it impossible for the Senate candidates to meaningfully reach many voters. I doubt most Albertans could name a candidate running in year’s Senate Nominee election, but here they are:
Physicians Dr. Sunil Sookram. and Dr. Karina Pillay (also the former Mayor of Slave Lake), Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett, former Western Barley Growers Association President Jeff Nielsen, and former deputy premier and finance minister Doug Horner are running as Independent candidates are are the more serious candidates with real public service experience.
Then there are the three People’s Party endorsed candidates who filed their papers to run in the Senate Nominee election only hours before they were defeated as candidates in the Sept. 20 federal election – Nadine Wellwood, Kelly Lorencz, and Ann McCormack.
And finally there are the three UCP loyalists endorsed by the Conservative Party of Canada – lobbyist and former UCP President Erika Barootes, right-wing activist and failed municipal candidate Pam Davidson, and Ukrainian-Canadian trade association president Mikhailio Martyniouk.
The three UCP/Conservative Party candidates, who appear to have less comparable actual public service experience than many of the Independent candidates on the ballot, are still probably going to win. But like previous Senate Nominee elections, the turnout will be low and number of spoiled ballots will be high.
Alberta’s Senate Nominee election should be a serious affair, but it will probably end up being a joke or an afterthought for most Albertans who will have no idea who to vote for.
Plebiscites and Referendums
Depending where you live in Alberta you could also be handed one, two or three additional ballots to cast your vote for referendums and plebiscites, though there is a good chance you haven’t heard much about them during this election.
Even if the Equalization formula was removed from the Constitution, Albertans wouldn’t actually notice any change. We would still pay federal taxes the same as we do now, but the federal government would not be obligated to distribute funds collected through federal taxes to the provinces through an Equalization formula as currently required by the Constitution.
The Equalization referendum is all about the politics of grievance and saving Jason Kenney’s leadership of the UCP. A yes vote won’t accomplish much and a no vote will probably hurt Kenney’s chance of remaining in the Premier’s Office for much longer (Kenney’s approval rating has dropped to 22 per cent according to a recent poll from ThinkHQ).
In this referendum, a no vote is a vote to continue the annual time change and a yes vote is a vote for darker mornings and lighter evenings in the winter. If I understand correctly, it could also mean that from March to November each year Alberta’s timezone will be two hours ahead of the times observed in much of British Columbia. The result of the vote on this question is binding on the provincial government.
At least in Edmonton, candidate endorsements have become a mini-story.
This year’s city council election has seen a string of high-profile endorsements of city council candidates from Mayor Don Iveson, mayoral candidate Mike Nickel and some individual NDP MLAs across the city. While it is not unheard of for incumbent City Councillors to endorse candidates in a municipal election, the number of endorsements in this year’s election is significantly higher than usual.
Just like City Councillor endorsements, it is not unheard of for MLAs to endorse candidates, but this year the number of MLAs endorsing municipal candidates is higher.
The decision by some NDP MLAs to endorse candidates has flustered some political watchers who for some reason believe municipal politics should exist in a vacuum outside of provincial and federal politics, the endorsements appear to be a choice made by individual MLAs rather than a decision made by the party.
And in at least one case, NDP MLAs have endorsed different candidates. In Ward tastawiyiniwak, for example, the NDP endorsements appear to be split, with Edmonton-City Centre MLA David Shepherd endorsing Ahmed Knowmadic Ali and Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview NDP MLA Deron Bilous endorsing Cody Bondarchuk.
While it has certainly made Edmonton’s political establishment uncomfortable, it is positive to see progressive groups organizing to support candidates. With traditional low turnout, low interest and high-incumbent re-election, municipal politics in Edmonton could use a bit of disruption.
The new rules make it legal for wealthy people to donate up to $5,000 each to as many candidates as they want in any municipal or school board election across the province, effectively removing the cap on individual donations. While municipal political donors do not receive the generous tax credits they get from provincial or federal donations, there are wealthy Albertans with the ability to financially influence candidates across the board.
The UCP also removed the requirement for candidates to disclose their list of donors ahead of Election Day, which would have allowed voters to see who is financially supporting candidates before they go to the ballot booth. Many candidates will already do this on their own but many won’t because they are not required to by law.
The new rules introduced by the UCP also allow Third Party Advertisers, colloquially known as political action committees, to spend up to $500,000 on advertising during the referendums, up from the previous $150,000 limit. Third Party Advertisers that spend less than $350,000 on advertising during a referendum are not required to file financial statements with Elections Alberta, which means those groups don’t have to publicly disclose their donor lists.
Former cabinet minister Doug Horner is planning to run in Alberta’s Senate Nominee elections happening on October 18, 2021. The former Deputy Premier and Finance Minister quietly announced on his LinkedIn page that he is collecting signatures to make his candidacy official.
“I have also thought long and hard about the idea of running as a candidate with the endorsement of a political party,” Horner wrote on LinkedIn. “I believe that the Senate should have a strong degree of independence as well as representing Albertans and not parties, as such I will be going as an independent.”
“In my view the Senate can serve a very important purpose to review, advise, and give input to the Federal Government on legislative initiatives from the perspective of their experience and representation of their regions,” wrote Horner.
Horner was first elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA after unseating two-term Liberal MLA Colleen Soetaert in Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert in 2001. He was re-elected in 2004 after facing a spirited challenge from Liberal Ray Boudreau and re-elected by large margins in 2008 and in 2012 in the redistributed Spruce Grove-St. Albert district.
Between 2004 and 2014 he served as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Minister of Advanced Education and Technology, Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance.
Horner is the scion of a genuine Western Canadian political family dynasty. He is the son of former Deputy Premier Hugh Horner, nephew of former MPs Jack Horner, Albert Horner and Norval Horner, and grandson of Saskatchewan Senator Ralph Horner. Drumheller-Stettler United Conservative Party MLA Nate Horner is his first cousin once removed.
The Conservative Party of Canada has already announced its endorsement of lobbyist and former United Conservative Party president Erika Barootes, UCP activist Pamela Davidson, and Canadian Ukrainian Free Trade Agreement Association president Mykhailo Martyniouk in the Senate Nominee elections. While he has not yet formally endorsed Barootes, Premier Jason Kenney was spotted at a Calgary Stampede event wearing one of her campaign buttons.
Also running are Progress Alberta executive Director Duncan Kinney, emergency medicine doctor Sunil Sookram, retired lawyer Randy Hogle, former Western Barley Growers Association president Jeff Nielsen, and Chad Jett Thunders Sauders.
Former NDP MLA running for Mayor
Former NDP MLA Annie McKitrick is running for mayor of Strathcona County. McKitrick served as MLA for Sherwood Park from 2015 to 2019.
“I am deeply committed to inclusion and planning for the future through more sustainable social, economic and environmental outcomes,” McKitrick wrote in a post on Facebook.
“As our community, Alberta, Canada and the rest of the world adjusts to what is often called the “new normal” we need a Mayor with the experience and knowledge to provide leadership in collaboration with other elected officials and with resident input.”
McKitrick will be challenging incumbent mayor and past Liberal candidate Rod Frank and former Strathcona-Sherwood Park PC MLA and past Alberta Party candidate Dave Quest.
UCP MLA Recall law is MIA
It has been 88 days since Bill 52: Recall Act received Royal Assent but it still hasn’t been proclaimed into law by the Kenney government. When proclaimed, the law would allow Albertans to collect signatures to hold a vote to recall their MLA from the Legislature and trigger a by-election to replace them.
Political scientist Duane Bratt recently speculated on Twitter that “One theory is that there is a red zone of six months before an election, so it will be proclaimed in another year. This will prevent recalls until 18 months after 2023 election.”
I am sure the UCP’s poor standing in the polls and Kenney’s plummeting approval ratings have nothing to do with this law not yet being enacted.
It will probably be no surprise to readers that I am not a fan of the United Conservative Party’s budget tabled this week in the Legislature by Finance Minister Travis Toews. It includes short-sighted cuts to public health care, public education and public services that will have a detrimental impact on Albertans and lead to thousands of job losses across the province.
But my key criticism of this budget is close to the same I have given to budgets presented by former finance ministers Joe Ceci, Robin Campbell, Doug Horner, Ted Morton and Iris Evans: Alberta needs to stop over-relying on revenues from oil and gas royalties to pay for the daily operations of government.
The budget does not deal with the big financial problems facing Alberta.
Premier Jason Kenney frequently claims that Alberta is “broke,” but the budget documents plainly explain that our provincial government collects the lowest levels of taxes in Canada. We are also the only province without a sales tax, a solution that could relieve some of our government’s over-dependence on oil and gas, a revenue source determined by international prices.
The UCP budget actually increases its projected dependence on oil and gas royalties, growing from 10 percent of revenues to 15 percent by the 2022-2023 budget. When the international price of oil plummeted in 2014, it left an estimated $7 billion hole in the Alberta government’s revenue stream.
Kenney, like premiers Rachel Notley, Jim Prentice, Alison Redford, and Ed Stelmach before him, is praying for the international price of oil to rise and return an economic boom to Alberta.
The international price of oil, and our government’s chronic over-reliance on the oil revenues generated by it, is the source of much of the economic and political malaise we now find ourselves in.
The UCP also cut corporate taxes for the province’s wealthiest corporations, to the tune of $4.7 billion, according to the opposition.
With a single-minded focus on reducing spending, regardless of the jobs lost and the cost to Albertans’ quality of life, it appears highly unlikely that Alberta’s revenue stream will be looked at as long as Kenney, a founding spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, occupies the Premier’s Office.
While responsible investment of public funds is a goal that should transcend party-lines, the UCP government’s hand-picked panel to study Alberta’s finances was expressly limited to recommend changes to spending, not revenue.
Supporters of conservative parties frequently compare government finances to a household budget as justification for cuts to public services. Comparing a government budget to a household budget is a flawed analogy for many reasons, but it is has become a familiar narrative in Canadian politics.
If the Government of Alberta was a household, it’s overdraft and line of credit would partially be the result of someone purposely taking a lower paid job (stable taxation revenue) and instead relying on lottery tickets or inheritance from dead relatives (unpredictable oil and gas revenues) to pay the bills and keep the family fed.
His loss makes former Wildrose Party MLAs of his era an almost extinct species in Alberta politics. The only remaining former Wildrose MLA from the party’s 2012 breakthrough who is nominated to run as a UCP candidate in 2019 is Drew Barnes, who will be running for re-election in Cypress-Medicine Hat.
As noted in a previous article, Horner is a rancher and the latest member of the Horner political family to recently jump into the provincial arena. The Nate Horner is a relative of former deputy premiers Hugh Horner and Doug Horner, and the grandson of Jack Horner, who served as Member of Parliament for central Alberta from 1958 to 1979. Jack Horner served as a Progressive Conservative until 1977, when he crossed the floor to the Liberals and served as Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce in Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau‘s government before he was soundly defeated in the 1979 election.
A third candidate in the UCP nomination race, Todd Pawsey, was disqualified by the party at the eleventh hour following the discovery of unsavoury Facebook posts. The social media posts included “jokes about transgender people, making extremely sexual/sexist comments and calling Premier Rachel Notely a queen beyotch,” according to a report by the Ponoka News.
He previously served on Onoway town council, as president of Whitecourt-Ste. Anne PC association and as an appointed board member of the Aspen Regional Health Authority and Credit Counselling Services of Alberta.
Johnson defeated three other candidates to secure the nomination in August 2018. There is speculation in some political circles that the UCP could choose to appoint Leah Wood as the candidate in this district. Wood was a member of the UCP interim board and was widely considered to be the favourite of the party establishment in the August nomination contest.
Upcoming Nomination Meetings
Edmonton-Mill Woods – Walter Espinoza and Anju Sharma will compete for the Alberta Party nomination at a meeting on October 2, 2018.
Edmonton-West Henday – MLA Jon Carson is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in this new west Edmonton district on October 3, 2018. Carson was first elected as MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark in the 2015 election while earning 57 percent of the vote. Carson was an apprentice electrician when he was elected to the Legislature.
Calgary-Currie – Tony Norman is expected to be nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Currie on October 4, 2018. Norman was the Alberta Party candidate in this district in the 2015 election.
Calgary-North East – Rocky View County Councillor Jerry Gautreau is seeking the UCP nomination in this northeast Calgary district. Gautreau earned 178 votes when he ran as a Social Credit Party candidate in the 2004 election in the now defunct Airdrie-Chestermere district.
Edmonton-City Centre – Stephen Hammerschimidt has withdrawn from UCP contest in this downtown Edmonton district.
Sherwood Park – Jason Lafond has withdrawn from UCP contest.
Spruce Grove-Stony Plain – Brendan Greene has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest in this district west of Edmonton. Greene was the Green Party candidate in Sturgeon River-Parkland in the 2015 federal election.
Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright – Benjamin Acquaye is seeking the UCP nomination. Acquaye is an instructor with the Department of Business at Lakeland College in Lloydminster.
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!
Connolly, 24, was one of eight under-30 NDP MLAs elected in 2015. He was elected in Calgary-Hawkwood, unseating Progressive Conservative MLA Jason Luan (who is now the nominated United Conservative Party candidate in Calgary-Foothills) and had declared his plans to seek re-election in the newly redrawn Calgary-Varsity district. Due to boundary redistribution, the Hawkwood district is being split into the new Calgary-Edgemont, Calgary-Foothills and Calgary-Varsity districts.
Connolly is the eleventh MLA to announce plans not to seek re-election in 2019.
NDP MLA Deron Bilous was nominated as his party’s candidate for re-election in 2019. Bilious has represented Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview since 2012 and currently serves as Minister of Economic Development and Trade.
MLA Ron Orr defeated Lacombe City Councillor Thalia Hibbs to secure the UCP nomination in Lacombe-Ponoka. Orr was first elected in 2015 as a Wildrose Party candidate and currently serves as his party’s critic for Culture and Tourism.
Long-time conservative partisan activist Whitney Issik defeated Michael LaBerge, Christopher Grail, and Philip Schuman to win the UCP nomination in Calgary-Glenmore. As noted in a previous article, Issik worked as a campaign manager for Jim Prentice during his brief run for the federal PC Party nomination in Calgary-Southwest in 2002 and as policy co-chair of the federal PC Party during the 2000 federal election.
One of Issik’s opponents, Philip Schuman, was forced to apologize days before the nomination vote after it was revealed that he offered to introduce potential fundraisers to the administrators of an Instagram account that frequently posts anti-Semitic and racist memes.
Jeremy Nixon defeated Kathy Macdonald to secure the UCP nomination in Calgary-Klein. Nixon ran in this district under the Wildrose banner in 2012and 2015, when he placed third with 23 percent of the vote. He is the brother of Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon.
If elected, the Nixons might be the first brotherly-duo elected to Alberta’s Legislative Assembly at the same time. While there are cases of family members serving as MLAs during different periods of time (perhaps most notably, current Premier Rachel Notley and her father Grant Notley), I have not found a case of two siblings serving in the Legislature at the same time.
The closest case I could find was the Paproski brothers. Kenneth Paproski served as the PC MLA for Edmonton-Kingsway from 1971 to 1982 and was succeeded by his brother, Carl Paproski, who served as MLA of the same district from 1982 until 1986. Their other brother, Steve Paproski, served as MP for Edmonton-Centre and Edmonton-North from 1968 to 1993. (If any readers know of a period where two relatives served together in the Assembly, please let me know).
Calgary-Klein is currently represented by NDP MLA Craig Coolahan, who was elected with 44.3 percent of the vote in 2015. Coolahan is expected to be nominated as a meeting on October 3, 2018 and former Alberta Party leadership candidate Kara Levis is her party’s nominated candidate.
Upcoming nomination meetings
UCP members in Drumheller-Stettler will choose their candidate for the next election at meetings being held on September 27, 28 and 29, 2018 in communities across this sprawling rural central Alberta district. Incumbent UCP MLA Rick Strankman, who was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2012, is believed to be in a fight for his political life against challengers Nate Horner and Todd Pawsey.
The Alberta Party is expected to nominate Mount Royal University contract faculty member Lana Bentley as their candidate in Calgary-Acadia on September 24, 2018. Bentley teaches in the Faculty of Health, Community and Education. The Alberta Party is also expected to nominate a candidate in Edmonton-Glenora on September 25, 2018, but the party has yet to announce who is seeking the candidacy. Previously nominated candidate Carla Stolte withdrew her candidacy during the summer.
Photo: David Shepherd accepts the NDP nomination in Edmonton-City Centre (source: David Shepherd on Twitter)
Edmonton-Centre MLA David Shepherd secured the New Democratic Party nomination in the newly redrawn and slightly renamed Edmonton-City Centre district at a packed nomination meeting last night in downtown Edmonton. Shepherd was first elected in 2015 after unseating five-term Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, and in 2017 he was voted “MLA to watch in 2018” in the Best of Alberta Politics survey.
A November 2012 report by the Hill Times noted Mozeson’s daughter, Marlee, had worked in Kenney’s office as an intern and special assistant, and later worked as assistant to Chungsen Leung, Kenney’s parliamentary secretary for multiculturalism. Her son, Jonah, had previously worked as communications director for Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose.
UCP members living in Calgary-Fish Creek will choose their next candidate today. Incumbent MLA Richard Gotfried is facing a challenge from Cindy Ross. Gotfried was first elected in 2015 as a Progressive Conservative, stealing the seat away from the Wildrose Party. This race has been contentious to say the least.
The NDP released a screenshot of a Facebook Post showing Ross making derogatory statements against Muslims in regards to the construction of a new Mosque in Fort McMurray. “What a better place to have a mosque. Right in the middle of our greatest asset,” the screenshot showed Ross saying in 2015. “This is a bit of like jailing the bank robber in the bank vault.”
Meanwhile, Gotfried is the kind of MLA who stands on the floor of the Alberta Legislature and attacks the NDP by comparing people leaving Alberta to refugees fleeing Bolshevik Russia and Moaist China. As I wrote in May 2017, it takes a special amount of partisan and ideological gymnastics to draw connections between brutal and tyrannical dictatorships and a freely elected democratic government in Alberta, but Gotfried did it.
So, good luck with this, Calgary-Fish Creek Conservatives.
Wilson wins UCP nod in Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin
Richard Wilson defeated business owner Sandra Kim and former Wetaskiwin City Councillor Donna Andres to secure the UCP nomination in the newly redrawn Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin district in central Alberta. Wilson served as a Wetaskiwin County Councillor from 1992 to 2007, a Trustee with the Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools from 1993 to 1998, and as chairman of Crossroads Regional Health Authority from 1996 to 2003.
UCP members in Leduc-Beaumont will choose from three candidates at a nomination vote being held on Saturday, September 8, 2018. Sharon Smith, Brad Rutherford and Scott Wickland. Smith ran for the Wildrose Party in this district in the 2015 election, placing second with 29 percent of the vote. Rutherford is a former Edmonton police officer and previously ran for the federal Conservative Party nomination in Edmonton-West ahead of the 2015 election. He was president of the Leduc-Beaumont UCP and the federal Edmonton-Wetaskiwin Conservative association.
If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will add them to the list. Thank you!
Former UCP Chief of Staff now working for the Alberta Party Caucus
It appears that Kevin Weidlich is now serving as Chief of Staff to the Alberta Party Caucus. From 2015 to 2017, Weidlich worked as Chief of Staff at the Progressive Conservative Caucus and then the consolidated UCP Caucus.
After forty-four years of Progressive Conservative government in Alberta, it still feels surreal to believe that another party has been elected into government. Two and a half months after the NDP victory, Premier Rachel Notley is putting her stamp on Alberta politics. But Alberta’s new government is left to deal with some of the more unhelpful legacies created by the previous government. Here is a look at a few of the Progressive Conservative scandals that continue to haunt Alberta politics.
CBC reports that it has obtained documents showing how the Alberta Funeral Service Association pressured former minister Jonathan Denisand the Department of Justice to reopen a contract and abandon earlier efforts to control spending. CBC reports the contract was reopened and revised against the advice of a government lawyer and chief medical examiner Dr. Anny Sauvageau.
The rushed sale of the government’s fleet of airplanes led to a $5 million loss for Albertans. This contradicts claims by former PC premier Jim Prentice that the sale of the planes netted $6.1 million for the government. The planes were sold after Ms. Redford and PC MLAs faced harsh criticism for alleged misuse of the government air fleet for personal and partisan activities.
Public Sector Pensions
Alberta public sector pension liabilities dropped by more than $400 million last year, suggesting evidence that changes planned to the funds by former premier Alison Redford and finance minister Doug Horner were not necessary. The attacks on public sector pensions alienated thousands of public sector workers in Alberta, many who voted for Ms. Redford’s PC Party in the 2012 election. The PC government’s planned changes to the pension plan were scrapped after Ms. Redford resigned as premier in early 2014.
The auditor general reported that the government has been forgoing an estimated $25 million in annual revenue by not limiting surface rights compensation paid by the energy companies to holders of provincial grazing leases. The report states the province does not track which leases have oil and gas activity on them or how much was paid to the leaseholders for access to the natural resources.
“Current legislation allows an unquantified amount of personal financial benefit to some leaseholders over and above the benefits of grazing livestock on public land,” the report says.
The government’s large investments in carbon capture and storage development has not paid off, according to a July 2014 report from the auditor general. Marketed as a key piece of the PC government’s climate change plan, the auditor general reported that “with only two carbon capture and storage projects planned, the total emissions reductions are expected to be less than 10% of what was originally anticipated.”
The NDP pledged to end the carbon capture contracts and instead reinvest hundreds of millions of dollars into public transit programs, but high cost of cancelling binding contracts with private sector corporations developing the projects could solidify this PC legacy.
When premier Peter Lougheed created the Heritage Savings Trust Fund in 1976, the government dedicated 30% of annual revenues into the rainy day fund “to save for the future, to strengthen or diversify the economy, and to improve the quality of life of Albertans.” The PC government halted non-renewable resource transfers to the fund in 1987, when it was worth $12.7 billion. Investments into the fund were only started again in 2004.
Despite Alberta’s immense natural wealth, the fund is now only worth an estimated $17.4 billion.
The Progressive Conservatives held their first “Super Saturday” on Feb. 21, 2015, during which contested nominations were held in seven constituencies. The handful of contested PC nominations have been overshadowed by the nearly forty acclamations by incumbent PC MLAs across the province.
The Liberal Party, still without a permanent leader after Raj Sherman‘s abrupt resignation in Jan. 2015, has opened candidate nominations in all 87 constituencies and have made notice on their website that all Liberal nominations must be complete by March 1, 2015. If the Liberals are actually able to nominate candidates in all 87 constituencies in the next seven days, it will be a busy week on this blog.
Bonnyville-Cold Lake: Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland defeated former Wildrose nomination candidate Dixie Dahlstedt in the PC nomination. Some local party members complained about the lack of multiple voting locations in the rural constituency and the police were called to the voting station after an allegedly intoxicated man caused a disturbance. A Municipal District of Bonnyville councillor told the Cold Lake Sun that alleged he was the man removed by the RCMP and he was not intoxicated. Current PC MLA Genia Leskiw is not seeking re-election.
Calgary-Buffalo: Lawyer David Khan will seek the Liberal nomination in this downtown Calgary constituency. Buffalo is currently represented by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, who is running for the federal Liberals in Calgary-Centre, and has elected Liberals in six of the eight elections held since 1986. Mr. Khan was his party’s candidate in the 2014 Calgary-West by-election where he earned 8.5% of the vote.
Calgary-Bow: David Gamble is seeking the Liberal nomination. According to his Facebook Page, Mr. Gamble is the President and CEO of Dandly Writing and Communications.
Calgary-Cross: Seven candidates are seeking the PC nomination in this northeast Calgary constituency – Dan Singh Sidhu, Mohamed El-Rafih, Jesse Minhas, Manjit Jaswal, Hardeep Rai, Hirde Paul, and Bill Kahlon. The constituency has been represented by PC MLA Yvonne Fritz since 1993. She is not seeking re-election.
Calgary-Currie: Pat Murray is seeking the Liberal nomination. Mr. Murray was the Liberal Party candidate in Calary-Currie in the 2001 election and Calgary-North Hill in 2004 and 2008 elections. He also ran as a federal PC candidate in Calgary-Nose Hill in the 1997 federal election.
Calgary-Foothills: Electrical engineer Ali Bin Zahid is seeking the Liberal nomination to run against Premier Jim Prentice in the next election.
Calgary-Glenmore: David Waddington is the nominated Liberal Party candidate.
Calgary-Hawkwood: Beth Barberee has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.
Calgary-McCall: Realtor Avinash Khangura is seeking the Liberal nomination. The constituency is currently represented by Liberal MLA Darshan Kang, who is now the federal Liberal candidate in the Calgary-Skyview constituency.
Calgary-Mountain View: Former MLA Mark Hlady defeated Mr. Prentice’s former Chief of Staff Jean-Sebastien Rioux and Lynn Moen in the PC nomination. Mr. Hlady was the MLA from 1993 until 2004, when he was unseated by the current Liberal MLA, David Swann.
Calgary-North West: First-term PC MLA and former cabinet minister Sandra Jansen defeated past city council candidate Blair Houston in the PC nomination.
Calgary-Varsity: Stephanie McLean was nominated as the NDP candidate in this northwest Calgary constituency. Ms. McLean was the NDP candidate in the recent Calgary-Elbow by-election and is also her party’s federally nominated candidate in Calgary-Confederation. Paramedic Pete Helfrich is the nominated Liberal Party candidate. Mr. Helfrich ran for the Liberals in Banff-Cochrane in the 2012 election.
Chestermere-Rockyview: Jamie Lall is challenging Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Bruce McAllister for the PC nomination. Mr. Lall was his party’s 2012 candidate in the Calgary-Buffalo constituency.
Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview: First-term NDP MLA Deron Bilous has been acclaimed as his party’s candidate in the next election.
Edmonton-Calder: Ministerial Chief of Staff Tom Bradley has been acclaimed as the PC candidate in this northeast Edmonton constituency current represented by NDP MLA David Eggen. Mr. Bradley is currently the Chief of Staff to Infrastructure Minister Manmeet Bhullar and also served as Base Commander for CFB Edmonton from 2009 to 2011 and Chief of Operations for Task Force Kandahar in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2008.
Edmonton-Meadowlark: Steve Benson is challenging former Globe & Mail reporter Katherine O’Neill for the PC nomination. Former Catholic School District Trustee Debbie Cavaliere is said to been collecting signatures to contest the Liberal nomination. In 2008, Ms. Cavaliere challenged Raj Sherman in the Meadowlark PC nomination contest before withdrawing, switching parties and unsuccessfully running against him in that year’s election as the Liberal candidate. Dr. Sherman, who joined the Liberals in 2011 after becoming leader, is not seeking re-election.
Edmonton-Strathcona: NDP leader Rachel Notley has been acclaimed as her party’s candidate in the next election. Former NDP MP Olivia Chow is scheduled to speak at Ms. Notley’s nomination meeting on March 1, 2015.
Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo: Tracy McKinnon, chairperson of the Fort McMurray Catholic School District, is challenging first-term PC MLA Mike Allen for that party’s nomination. Mr. Allen achieved national notoriety in 2013 when he was charged in a prostitution sting while on government-funded trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota. He pleaded guilty to the charge in December 2013 and paid a $500 fine and court costs. Following the incident, he sat as an Independent MLA until July 2014, when PC MLAs voted to allow him to rejoin the Government Caucus.
Medicine Hat: Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Blake Pedersen defeated former city councillor John Hamill and realtor Jeff Lanigan. Mr. Pedersen faced harsh criticism form his opponents in a recent nomination debate. “I will die on my sword before I cross the floor… people who cross the floor have no honour,” Mr. Hamill said of Mr. Pedersen.
Peace River: Debbie Jabbour is seeking the NDP nomination.
Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Tammy Cote defeated former Lacombe County Reeve Terry Engan in the PC nomination contest. Ms. Cote is the grand-niece of former PC MLA and lieutenant-governor Helen Hunley.
Spruce Grove-St. Albert: Rus Matichuk defeated former St. Albert city councillor Neil Kortash and government spokesperson Kathleen Range to become the PC candidate. The constituency was formerly represented by former Finance Minister Doug Horner, who resigned as MLA on Jan. 31, 2015.
Seven more PC MLAs have been acclaimed, bringing the total number of acclaimed PC candidates to 39: Moe Amery in Calgary-East, Dave Rodney in Calgary-Lougheed, David Dorward in Edmonton-Gold Bar, Steve Young in Edmonton-Riverview, Jacquie Fenske in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, Greg Weadick in Lethbridge-West and Richard Starke in Vermilion-Lloydminster.
I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.
Initially turned away by Wildrose Party officials, controversial Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Andershas asked the Wildrose Party for a “waiver” to run for the party’s leadership. Having lost bids for federal Conservative nominations in Calgary-Signal Hill and Bow River last year, the controversial Mr. Anders, 42, is scrambling to salvage his 18 year long political career.
Before crossing the floor to the PC Party, former leader Danielle Smith publicly told Mr. Anders that he was not welcome to run for the Wildrose Party. But now with the party weakened and without a leader, Mr. Anders may be in a position to mobilize his legions of social conservatives to win the leadership.
Also said to be considering a run for the Wildrose leadership are former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk (a nominated candidate in Sherwood Park), former lobbyist Derek Fildebrandt (running for a nomination in Strathmore-Brooks) and Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes.
Can the PC-Wildrose MLAs survive?
It appears that all or most former Wildrose MLAs who crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives in the final months of 2014 will face strong competitions to win their new party’s nominations to run in the next election.
Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Rod Fox is facing former Ponoka Mayor Larry Henkleman and businessman Peter Dewit, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle is facing Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood, Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Gary Bikman is being challenged by Taber Reeve Brian Brewin, and Calgary-Shaw MLA Jeff Wilson is being challenged by arch-conservative activist Craig Chandler.
If Olds-Disbury-Three Hills MLA Bruce Rowe decides to seek re-election, he will face a challenge from Olds Town Councillor Wade Bearchell, who is already campaigning for the PC nomination. Medicine Hat MLA Blake Pedersen is also expected to face a strong challenge and Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson has already announced he will not run for re-election.
Immediately following the floor-crossings, Mr. Pedersen told the Medicine Hat News be believed their PC nominations were guaranteed, but that appears to be a key bargaining position the 9 Wildrose MLAs asked for and were denied before they joined the PCs.
Now the question is how many of the Wildrose-turned-PC MLAs can survive to run in the next election? Could a potential cabinet shuffle save their political careers?
What are PC-Wildrose MLAs are saying about being in government?
“You know, it’s a shame to have to say this, but it’s amazing to me the doors that are open since I crossed the floor. I get into ministers’ office(s) and get things done. It’s just – it’s amazing. It’s really not the way it should be, but it is the way it is.”
What are PC MLAs saying about the PC-Wildrose MLAs?
“This shows that was all politics. That’s unfortunate, and we will have to let that go. But I think everybody should understand that when they make accusations like that and then (cross the floor), it’s obvious there was a lot of political motivation there and not a lot of fact,” Mr. Horner said.
“I’d like to see us stop with the unfounded character assassination — and I think that will stop from them.”
“It’s sort of like that neighbour that screams at you all the time and calls the cops on you once in a while now moves into your house,” Mr. Lukaszuk said. “You sort of work around it and make it work. At the end of the day you have to focus on the prize — and that’s representing your constituents and making good decisions as a government.”
I will be taking a short break from blogging for the next week. In my absence, take a look at David Climenhaga‘s excellent blog at AlbertaPolitics.ca.
The announcements this week by former Finance Minister Doug Horner and former Health Minister Fred Horne that they are leaving politics did not come as a surprise to anyone watching politics in Alberta.
Once powerful ministers in Premier Alison Redford’s cabinets, the two men were pushed into the backbenches when Jim Prentice ascended to the Premier’s Office in September 2014. They were also two members of the unofficial 4H Club who, along with former ministers Dave Hancock and Ken Hughes, epitomized the last generation of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party elite.
The scion of a genuine political family dynasty, Mr. Horner is the son of former deputy premier Hugh Horner and grandson of Senator Ralph Horner. He was first elected in 2001 and quickly rose in the cabinets of Premier Ed Stelmach and Ms. Redford.
When he ran for the leadership of the PC Party in 2011, many believed Mr. Horner to be the most competent choice for the job. But his close association with Mr. Stelmach made him an unpalatable choice. On the second ballot of the vote, of his supporters marked Ms. Redford as their second choice, leading to her victory over front-runner Gary Mar on the final ballot. His appointment as Finance Minister followed shortly after.
Their endorsements of Mr. Prentice’s bid were not enough to keep them in cabinet. After two years of arrogant, entitled and scandal-ridden Tory Government, their removal from cabinet was seen as necessary to distance the new premier from his unpopular predecessor.
The two departures follow the resignations of Mr. Hancock and Mr. Hughes in September 2014, which triggered by-elections in Edmonton-Whitemud and Calgary-West.
Eight MLAs have now announced their plans to not seek re-election in the expected Spring 2015 election:
Edmonton Public School Board Trustee Sarah Hoffman is expected to make an announcement on Monday, January 19 that could signal a jump into provincial politics. Speculation is rampant that Ms. Hoffman could be announcing plans to seek the New Democratic Party nomination in the Edmonton-Glenora constituency. The NDP have never elected a MLA in Glenora, but the party saw its support in the constituency increase from 15% in 2008 to 25% in 2012.
Ms. Hoffman was first elected as a trustee on the Edmonton Public School Board in 2010 and currently serves as chairperson. In 2014, she endorsed Rachel Notley for the leadership of the NDP.
With the Progressive Conservatives planning to complete candidate nominations in all 87 constituencies by March 15, 2015, there have been plenty of announcements since my previous update:
Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater: Athabasca 94.1 The River broadcasterVictor Mario Kaisar tweeted that Jeff Johnson has announced intentions to run for re-election. Mr. Johnson was first elected in 2008 and is currently serving as Minister of Seniors.
Bonnyville-Cold Lake: Dixie Dahlstedt posted an announcement on her Facebook page that she has withdrawn from the Wildrose nomination contest.
Calgary-Northern Hills: Mortgage broker Aryan Sadat has launched his campaign for the PC nomination in Calgary-Northern Hills. The constituency is currently represented by PC MLA Teresa Woo-Paw, who has yet to announce whether she will seek the nomination.
Calgary-Nose Hill-Mackay – Neil Brown announced on Twitter that he plans to seek the PC nomination. Mr. Brown was first elected in 2004.
Calgary-Shaw: Arch-conservative activist Craig Chandler continues his campaign to become the PC candidate in the next election. Mr. Chandler is expected to face Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Jeff Wilson for the PC nomination.
Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills: Local PC Party Association President Darrell Younghans and Jeff Dechaine have declared intentions to seek the PC nomination in this constituency. The area is currently represented by Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw.
Lacombe-Ponoka: Lacombe area resident Peter Dewit announced in December 2014 that he plans to seek the PC nomination. Mr. Dewit might face off against Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Rod Fox, who has yet to publicly announce whether he plans to seek re-election.
Sherwood Park: PC MLA Cathy Olesen announced on Twitter that she plans to seek her party’s nomination for the next election. Ms. Olesen tweeted that PC Party regional vice president Sue Timanson is challenging her for the nomination.
Spruce Grove-St. Albert: Incumbent PC Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Doug Horner told the St. Albert Gazette that he would make his intentions about running again known by this week. The former Finance Minister was first elected in 2001.
West Yellowhead: Finance Minister Robin Campbell announced on Twitter that he will seek the PC Party nomination for re-election. Mr. Campbell was first elected in 2008.
I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.
The Progressive Conservatives gave hints today that they could be preparing for a Spring 2015 provincial election.
Reported by the Calgary Herald and confirmed by sources close to this blogger, the PC Party has set a deadline for candidates to be nominated in all 87 provincial constituencies by March 15, 2015. The Herald also reports that the PC Party has scheduled a “large number” of nominations to take place on February 21, 2015. The early nominations would put the PCs in a position to call an election in Spring 2015, and demonstrates the folly of the province’s fixed election laws.
The news of an updated nomination schedule was preceded by news that the PC Party was extending the expiry dates of all party memberships purchased in 2014 to December 31, 2015. In an email from PC Party president Terri Beaupre, party supporters were told that Wildrose supporters can now exchange their memberships for PC Party memberships. The PC Party is said to have sold just more than 40,000 memberships during its lacklustre 2014 leadership contest.
The quick nomination deadline will showcase the PC Party’s impressive organizational capacity, especially in the wake of the mass defection of Wildrose MLAs on December 17, 2014. By extending the membership expiry dates by one year, Albertans who purchased memberships last year will not need to be convinced to renew in order to vote in the 2015 candidate nomination contests.
March 15 will come quickly for some PC MLAs, especially the Wildrose floor crossers, who have barely had time to introduce themselves to their new local party members. Some new PC MLAs, like Danielle Smith, who is currently on vacation in Mexico, are expected to face strong nomination challenges from annoyed PC Party supporters in their constituencies.
It is suspected that former cabinet ministers, such as Doug Horner, Doug Griffiths and Fred Horne, can expect to be nudged aside in order to make room for new candidates as Mr. Prentice attempts to rebrand the long-governing PC Party in his own image.
The early election call will put the opposition parties in a tough situation.
Fresh from their own leadership contest, Rachel Notley‘s New Democrats have only nominated ten candidates in 87 constituencies. The Liberals and Alberta Party have not yet started their candidate nomination process. The Liberals had originally planned to hold their first nomination meeting for January 24 in Edmonton-Mill Woods, but cancelled the event soon after it was scheduled.
Numerous Wildrose candidates have withdrawn their candidacies, leaving the party with 16 nominated candidates since the floor crossings.
The March 15 date is also perilously close to the earliest date the leaderless Wildrose Party has set to select its new leader, March 17. Rumours circulated on social media today that offensive conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders is considering running for the official opposition party’s leadership. Mr. Anders candidacy would be a blessing for the PCs and a deathblow for the Wildrose.
Financial disclosures submitted to Elections Alberta are expected to be released in the coming weeks and will reveal the financial situation of Alberta’s political parties. The Tories will report to have raised a considerable sum of money in 2014, as will the Wildrose Party, which is said to still have $300,000 in their election war chest.
With March 15 less than two months away, Mr. Prentice may seek to use the Spring provincial budget as an election platform, as the PC Party has in the past. Relying on a disorganized opposition and using hyperbole to fan fears of an economic downturn, Mr. Prentice is in a strong position to lead his party to win its 14th consecutive election.
This is a stunning turnaround from six months ago, when the PCs were rocked by an endless string of scandals and were trailing the Wildrose Party in the polls and in fundraising. The PC Party’s apparent recovery serves as an important reminder to political watchers not to underestimate the 43-year governing PC Party.
As 2014 reminded us, politics can be an extraordinarily unpredictable and forecasting the future can be a tricky business for political pundits. Aside from the obvious choice of Premier Jim Prentice, here is a list of a dozen Alberta MLAs worth watching in 2015.
Rob Anderson (Airdrie): The outspoken rookie MLA left the PC Caucus in 2010 to join the upstart Wildrose Party. And in 2014, after two years as a loud and enthusiastic critic of the government, he was one of 9 Wildrose MLAs who crossed to the PC Caucus in December 2014. It is speculated that Mr. Anderson could end up with a cabinet post in early 2015, to the ire of his new caucus colleagues. He thrived in the limelight of the opposition benches but can he survive in the government benches?
Joe Anglin (Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre): Mr. Anglin left the Wildrose Caucus in November 2014 before his colleagues could vote him out. On his way out, he declared that “an internal civil war” was being waged inside the Wildrose Party. It was recently revealed that Mr. Anglin has been in discussions with the Liberals about forming a legislative coalition that could steal Official Opposition status away from the downsized Wildrose Caucus.
Manmeet Bhullar (Calgary-Greenway): A rising star in the PC Party. Mr. Bhullar rose in the ranks under premiers Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford and became one of Mr. Prentice’s lieutenants during his party’s lacklustre 2014 PC leadership contest. In his current role as Infrastructure Minister, he has a big influence over which public projects get funding.
Robin Campbell(West Yellowhead): As the price of oil declines, the soft-spoken Mr. Campbell finds himself in a situation where he must deal with his party’s poor long-term financial planning. Unfortunately, the PC Caucus is reluctant to entertain the idea of more stable funding sources like sales taxes, a progressive taxation system or an increase in natural resource royalties. Look to Mr. Campbell to provide a more diplomatic approach to public sector pension changes, an issue that hastened the demise of his predecessor, Doug Horner.
Heather Forsyth (Calgary-Fish Creek): The interim leader of the Official Opposition is one of the longest serving MLAs in the Legislature. First elected as a PC MLA in 1993, Ms. Forsyth served in the cabinets of Ralph Klein before joining the Wildrose in 2010. Her big challenge is keep the Wildrose Remnant alive and relevant as her party chooses their next leader in early 2015.
Stephen Mandel (Edmonton-Whitemud): After nine years as Edmonton’s mayor, Mr. Mandel declared he was done with politics in 2013. One year later, he found himself riding to the rescue of Alberta’s 43 year old Progressive Conservative dynasty. As Mr. Prentice’s capital city commodore, Mr. Mandel is responsible for the most politically dangerous government department, Health. He has promised to increase local decision making in health care and is faced with a growing list of aging hospitals and health care centres that have faced decades of neglect by the provincial government.
Rachel Notley (Edmonton-Strathcona): Expectations are high that Ms. Notley will lead Alberta’s New Democratic Party to greatness. The second generation leader of Alberta’s social democratic party is smart, witty and well-positioned to boost her party’s standings in the opposition benches. Her challenge will be to present a viable alternative to the governing PCs while expanding her party’s support outside its traditional enclaves in Edmonton.