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Alberta Politics

rick orman joins alberta pc leadership contest.

As recently reported by Mark Lisac‘s Insight newsletter, and now confirmed by a tweet from Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Doug Horner, former MLA Rick Orman has joined the PC leadership contest.

For anyone new to Alberta in the past 17 years or under the age of 30 who may not be familiar with Mr. Orman (myself included), he served as the MLA for Calgary-Montrose from 1986 to 1993. He was the Minister of Labour during the 1988 Nurses Strike and placed third in the 1992 PC leadership contest, behind Ralph Klein and Nancy Betkowski.

Eric Young is the former President of the PC Party and was also recently rumoured to be a potential candidate.

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Alberta Politics

gary mar enters pc leadership contest.

Via Calgary Herald:

EDMONTON – Former provincial cabinet minister Gary Mar has scheduled a news conference for noon today in Edmonton, when he will officially announce he’s joining the Tory leadership race to replace Premier Ed Stelmach.

Mar, 48, resigned earlier this week as Alberta’s point man in Washington and has been rumoured for weeks to be on the verge of launching his leadership bid. He previously said he would announce his intentions sometime in March.

A news conference has been planned for noon today at the Meterra Hotel on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton, with Mar scheduled to speak at 12:35 p.m.

Mr. Mar joins candidates Alison Redford, Doug Griffiths, Ted Morton, and Doug Horner who have already entered the contest.

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Alberta Politics

legislative agenda a side-show. leadership contests the only show in town.

Amid all the regal pomp and ceremony we could spare ahead of Wills & Kate’s expected visit this Summer, Lieutenant Governor Donald Ethell delivered his first Speech from the Throne today.

PC leadership candidate Alison Redford

An annual event, politicos patiently lined up to listen to the Queen’s representative sit on a throne and read a speech (and then afterward network at a giant cocktail party under the Rotunda’s giant marble dome).

Typically, these speeches are used to present vague feel-good messages about the government’s legislative agenda during that session of the Assembly. With Premier Ed Stelmach having announced that he will resign in September 2011, there is little doubt that most of the real political action overt the next eight months will take place outside the Assembly. As the experience in the provincial cabinet was parred down with the departure of leadership candidates Ted Morton, Doug Horner, and Alison Redford, this government’s Legislative Agenda is appears to be as decisive as a lame-duck. Its only saving grace may be the Provincial Budget, to be presented by Finance Minister Lloyd Snelgrove on Thursday, February 24.

PC leadership candidate Ted Morton.

The government legislation prepared for the Spring Session (announced via media release last week) presents a mostly light agenda, including house-keeping amendments in the Livestock Industry Diversification Amendment Act, Alberta Investment Management Corporation Amendment Act, Securities Amendment Act, Rules of Court Statutes Amendment Act, Corrections Amendment Act, and the Victims of Crime Amendment Act.

Justice Minister Verlyn Olson

Bill 1: The Asia Advisory Council Act,, tabled immediately following today’s Throne Speech, proposes to create what its title suggests, a council to advise on Asian trade. A watered down Education Act is expected to be tabled during the spring sitting and debate on the Bill is not expected to be concluded until the Fall sitting, when a new PC leader/Premier will decide its fate.

Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky

The most interesting piece of legislation presented by the government in this session may be the Alberta Land Stewardship Amendment Act, which the government hopes will quell dissent by rural landowners concerned that government is encroaching on their property rights. The property rights issue, spurned by the development of transmission line corridors and the passage of Bills 19, 23, 30, and 50, has drawn thousands of rural Albertans to town hall meetings over the past four years. The Liberals and NDP have tried to hone in on the issue, but the Wildrose Alliance appears to have shown some short-term success in making it one of their key political wedge issues.

PC leadership candidate Doug Griffiths (right) and his wife Sue (left) with a supporter.

Health care was the issue that defined the 2010 fall sitting of the Assembly which ended last November. Emergency debates, the ejection from the PC caucus of outspoken Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Dr. Raj Sherman, the allegations of a smear campaign started by Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Fred Horne, and the forced resignation of Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett made for some of the most exciting political Albertans had seen until Premier Ed Stelmach’s resignation announcement in February 2011.

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith.

Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky will do his best to keep the health care file under control during this political season. He has started off fairly well with the announcement that the provincial budget, to be tabled on February 24, will include the promised 6% increase in health care funding. He has also deflected some criticism of the AHS Board of Directors by appointing five new members, including former Capital Health CEO Sheila Weatherill, who all seem like appropriate choices. His biggest challenge will to actually prove that patient care can be improved under his guidance.

On the surface, the governing PCs will be talking about a Legislative agenda, but in reality their attention will be focused on choosing a new leader. It may be the hottest leadership contest in the province, but they are not the only party having to face the reality of a fairly fluid political environment.

Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman.

The Liberal Party and Alberta Party are also in the midst of their own leadership contests. Independent Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman has non-chalantly mused that he may seek the leadership of a political party, but that he is not yet sure which one (Watch the video of Dr. Sherman’s interview with CHAT TV) and Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman defused rumours that she was crossing the floor to the Alberta Party by announcing that she will seek the leadership of the Liberal Party.

With leadership contests in full-swing until Fall 2011 in three of the province’s five main political parties, Albertans may have to wait until 2012 to see another solid Legislative hit the floor of their Assembly.

See more photos from today’s Speech from the Throne.

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Alberta Politics

alberta politics notes 2/18/2011

Robbing Peter to pay Paul…
…or robbing the Liberals and NDP to pay the Wildrose Alliance. The PC MLA-dominated Legislative committee responsible for allocating funds to Assembly caucuses voted to give in to Wildrose Alliance demands for increased caucus funding, but it came at the expense of the other three parties caucuses. While the 67 MLA PC caucus will barely notice the decrease, the slightest decrease in funding is the difference between a one more staff member or not for the opposition caucuses. Chalk this one up to another round of institutional micro-management and political games by Speaker Ken Kowalski.

New Justice Minister Verlyn Olson.

Cabinet Shuffle
A cabinet shuffle led to two first term backbench MLAs replacing two Cabinet Ministers seeking the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party. Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Verlyn Olson replaces Alison Redford as Justice Minister and Lethbridge-West MLA Greg Weadick replaces Doug Horner as Minister of Advanced Education & Technology. Red Deer-South MLA Cal Dallas replaces Doug Griffiths as the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance, who is now Minister Lloyd Snelgrove.

Readers may remember Mr. Olson from his controversial motion on the Public Accounts Committee in 2010, which tried to strip the autonomy of the committee’s chairman, Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald. Fun fact: Mr. Weadick is a decedent of Guy Weadick, the founder of the Calgary Stampede.

Calgary’s new Political Minister
Filling Ms. Redford’s former position as political minister for Calgary is long-time Calgary-Cross MLA and Minister of Children & Youth Services Yvonne Fritz.

Bitumen!
The Provincial Government and North West Upgrading announced that a deal had been reached to begin the construction of the first phase of a new upgrader near Fort Saskatchewan. Premier Ed Stelmach called it “a bold step”, but that was not good enough for NDP MLA Brian Mason. Mr. Mason made the point of attacking Premier Stelmach, saying that despite past promises to keep upgrading jobs in Alberta, more jobs have moved to the United States.

Blakeman aims for Liberal leadership
Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman announced yesterday that she is seeking the Liberal leadership. The four-term opposition MLA is the first candidate to enter the contest to replace outgoing leader David Swann. In her speech yesterday, Ms. Blakeman, the party’s Deputy Leader, explained that she had toyed with the idea of joining the new Alberta Party, but later decided to stay with her current party.

Ms. Blakeman is one half of an Edmonton political power couple with her husband Ben Henderson, who is the City Councillor for Ward 8.


Ms. Blakeman’s second V-log takes a creative angle at explaining the political spectrum.

Lukaszuk weighing his options
A well-placed source has informed this blogger that Employment & Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk has been weighing his options about joining the PC leadership contest.

Second Alberta Party leadership candidate
Calgarian Tammy Maloney has announced that she is seeking the Alberta Party leadership. Ms. Maloney is an entrepreneur, a former Oil & Gas business analyst and IESE MBA. She also worked for the Clinton Foundation in Nigeria. Ms. Maloney’s only other challenger so far is Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor, who entered the contest two weeks ago.

Unions call for fair revenue
At a joint media conference yesterday morning, the Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan, United Nurses of Alberta Vice-President Bev Dick, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees President Guy Smith, and Health Sciences Association of Alberta President Elisabeth Ballermann called for the Auditor General to investigate the amount of natural resource royalties collected by the provincial government. In advance of next week’s provincial budget, the Union leaders want an open debate about Alberta’s revenue challenges.

Carter: smooth political operator
Edmonton Journal columnist Graham Thomson focused his latest column on the strategies of paid political operative Stephen Carter. Mr.Carter, who is known for his work for the Wildrose Alliance and Naheed Nenshi‘s campaign, is a high-profile hire on Ms. Redford’s PC leadership campaign. Watch out Rod Love, at this rate Mr. Carter is becoming Alberta’s next biggest celebrity political operative.

PC leadership candidate Ted Morton hunting for conservative votes.

Morton country no more?
An editorial in the Rocky View Weekly questions whether former Finance Minister Ted Morton will receive the kind of support from Airdrie-Chestermere Tories in the current PC leadership contest that he did in 2006. Five years ago Mr. Morton earned the support of 57% of PC members in that constituency, with 26% supporting Jim Dinning and 17% supporting Premier Stelmach. With the constituency now represented by Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson, it will be interesting to see if conservative voters in that area are still comfortable with Mr. Morton or whether they have found a new political home.

Nomination updates: Calgary Varsity and Edmonton-Centre
The list of declared and nominated candidates for the next provincial election has been updated. The nomination contest to replace two-term Calgary-Varisty Liberal MLA Harry Chase looks to be an acclamation. The only candidate to step forward appears to be Bruce Payne, a Business Representative with Carpenters’ Union, Local 2103 in Calgary. Mr. Chase surprised many political watchers when he grabbed the seat from the PCs in a close election in 2004 and was re-elected in 2008 defeating PC Jennifer Diakiw.

The Wildrose Alliance nomination contest in Varsity has drawn three candidates, Justin Anderson, Kevin Dick, and Brian Sembo.

Meanwhile, 26-year old Drew Adamick is seeking the yet to be scheduled NDP nomination in Edmonton-Centre. Mr. Adamick was the 2008 federal Liberal candidate in Cariboo-Prince George, where he placed third behind Conservative MP Dick Harris.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

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Alberta Politics

alison redford tweets that she’s in.

Justice Minister Alison Redford made an early morning debut on Twitter today, using her first tweet to announce that she is running for her party’s leadership. Minister Redford was first elected to represent Calgary-Elbow in 2008, unseating Liberal MLA Craig Cheffins. She has an impressive resume of international experience, helping set up legal structures in countries like Vietnam.

Since being elected to the Assembly, it is my observation that Ms. Redford sometimes becomes one of the most partisan PC Cabinet Ministers in Question Period, especially when sparing with former Liberal Justice Critic and Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr.

Alison Redford's first tweet. February 16, 2011.

Ms. Redford is not the only social media newcomer to enter the PC contest. Former Deputy Premier Doug Horner joined Twitter soon after launching his leadership bid in February 4. Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths, who joined the leadership contest yesterday, is a long-time Twitter user.

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Alberta Politics

alberta politics notes 2/04/2011

A reality check from the Cosh.
Colby Cosh has delivered a cynical and un-sensationalist reality check for Albertans getting starry eyed or swept up in a whirlwind of political change. While Alberta’s political landscape may be more unstable than it has been in years, and it is exciting to be part of new emerging parties and movements, it is important to step back and keeping some perspective is key.

Cabinet resignations.
With cabinet ministers expected to resign in order to seek the PC Party leadership, Albertans could witness a series of cabinet shuffles over the coming months. The resignation of Finance Minister Ted Morton and potential resignations of Deputy Premier Doug Horner, Justice Minister Allison Redford, and Housing Minister Jonathan Denis could put a number of Parliamentary Assistants and backbench MLAs in cabinet positions. I would not be surprised if Greg Weadick, Janice Sarich, Diana McQueen, or Manmeet Bhullar had cabinet experience by the end of 2011.

American scientist resigns from Alberta Water panel.
Only days after the new panel to create a new provincial environmental monitoring system was appointed, prominent University of California-Irvine professor Helen Ingram has quit the panel.

According to the Edmonton Journal, Dr. Ingram resigned ‘citing concerns about a lack of scientific and First Nations representation on the panel, and what she saw as an overzealous draft confidentially agreement.’ The panel includes a number of credible scientists and is co-chaired by former TransCanada CEO Hal Kvisle, who has leveled strong criticism against environmental groups.

Budget on February 24.
Premier Ed Stelmach told an audience during speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce yesterday that the 2011 provincial budget will be tabled on February 24. The Assembly is scheduled to begin spring session on January 22 with the Speech from the Throne.

Redford getting some Carter power.
Wildrose Alliance Vice-President Membership Blaine Maller tweeted last night that Calgary political operative Stephen Carter has been hired to manage Allison Redford‘s campaign for the PC leadership. Mr. Carter had been staff to Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith and was a key player in Naheed Nenshi‘s successful Mayoral campaign in Calgary.

PC campaign manager exits.
Not surprisingly, the departure of Premier Ed Stelmach has also led to the departure of PC campaign manager Randy Dawson, who managed the party’s 2008 campaign and had been reappointed to manage their next election campaign.

Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor expected to run for the Alberta Party leadership.

Taylor versus Taylor?
Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor is expected to launch his campaign for the Alberta Party leadership on February 8 in Edmonton. Mr. Taylor was elected to his third-term as Mayor of Hinton in October 2010. It will be a battle of the Taylor’s if Alberta Party MLA Dave Taylor enters the leadership contest, as some political watchers expect him to.

An awkward place.
What an awkward place the Official Opposition caucus must be this week. Laurie Blakeman is reportedly weighing her options to seeking the leadership of the Alberta Party or the Liberal Party. This news comes the same week as leader David Swann announced his resignation. Ms. Blakeman’s colleague Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald is said to have ambitions for his party’s leadership.

Paramedic Rick Fraser wants to inject himself into the next election as the PC candidate in Calgary-Hays.

More candidates step up.
The list of nominated and declared candidates for the next provincial election has been updated to include Lori Sigurdson, who is seeking the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Riverview.

Ms. Sigurdson is the Professional Affairs Coordinator for the Alberta College of Social Workers and previously worked for former NDP leader Ray Martin when he was the MLA for Edmonton-Norwood. That constituency has been represented by Liberal MLA Kevin Taft since 2001, who was re-elected in 2008 with 50% of the vote. Dr. Taft is not be seeking re-election. The Wildrose Alliance has nominated John Corie as their candidate.

Calgary Paramedic Rick Fraser is seeking the PC nomination in Calgary-Hays. The constituency is currently represented by PC MLA Art Johnston, who was first elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2008 with 54% of the vote. Former Libertarian Party of Canada leader Dennis Young is seeking the Wildrose Alliance nomination in that constituency.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

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Alberta Politics

tories to celebrate 40 years as government with new leader.

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.

UPDATE: The Edmonton Journal’s Paula Simons is reporting that Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman is weighing her options at running for either the Alberta Party or Liberal Party leadership.

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Alberta Politics

pc leadership poll results: doug griffiths takes an early lead.

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?

Doug Griffiths (25%, 205 Votes)
Alison Redford (21%, 170 Votes)
Ted Morton (15%, 119 Votes)
Jonathan Denis (10%, 79 Votes)
Carl Benito (9%, 76 Votes)
Jim Prentice (5%, 44 Votes)
Doug Horner (5%, 40 Votes)
Dave Hancock (3%, 28 Votes)
Cindy Ady (3%, 26 Votes)
Gary Mar (2%, 13 Votes)
Thomas Lukaszuk (1%, 7 Votes)
Lloyd Snelgrove (1%, 6 Votes)
Total Voters: 813

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Alberta Politics

quotes in response to ed stelmach’s resignation.

On his decision to not run in the next election:

Premier Ed Stelmach told the Fort Saskatchewan Record: “I got to thinking when I was interviewing the MLAs coming in and asking them for a five year commitment,” he said. “Another five years would put me close to 65 and I know there’s many politicians older than that and doing well, but that would have been 30 years of public service.

“Having served the constituency for many years. I feel good in terms of what we’ve been able to accomplish, in terms of improved infrastructure, whether it be Fort Saskatchewan, Vegreville or the communities in between.

“I know it’s time for a change and politics is demanding, and will be increasingly demanding, and that’s why I made the decision.”

Party insiders on the next leadership contest:

PC Party Executive Director Pat Godkin told Sun Media that “there is no timeline whatsoever” in place for a leadership contest.

PC Party President Bill Smith told iNews880 that “I think more along the lines we’re looking at spring and summer.”

Ralph Klein’s former Chief of Staff Rod Love told Global News: “You know there’s 68 members in the caucus, a lot of the names are well known about who might be in, who might be out.”

Potential candidates::

Deputy Premier Doug Horner told the St. Albert Gazette: “I was asked the question whether or not I would consider it and my response honestly is, well yeah, you’re going to consider it but it doesn’t mean I’m going to do it just yet.”

Former Finance Minister and current University of Calgary Chancellor Jim Dinning on CKNW Radio in Vancouver: “While I still have the passion and the interest, I do not want to run for that job.”

Finance Minister Ted Morton told the Calgary Herald: I have not made that decision. It is still, as I said (Tuesday), inappropriate for you guys to ask those questions and inappropriate for me to answer.”

Justice Minister Alison Redford told the Calgary Herald: “It might be something in the future that I’ll consider. Whether that is imminent or not I just don’t know at this time. That’s my honest answer.”

Culture and Community Spirit Minister Lindsay Blackett told the Calgary Herald: You always have to consider it,” he said shortly after hearing of Stelmach’s decision, “and see what level of support there is for you to try to do something like that. But I’m also mindful I’ve only been on the game for three years.”

Alberta Mayors:

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel told CTV Edmonton: “I was a huge fan of the premier. He was a fine, fine man who was I think a great representative of the Province of Alberta. I wish him and his wife the best.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi told the Calgary Herald: “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.”

Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling told the Red Deer Advocate: “This government and Mr. Stelmach have done a good job of recognizing that municipalities are the engines of the economy. Stelmach came from municipal politics so he understood the revenue sharing and imbalance of revenue for municipalities.”

Opposition Parties comment:

Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith told the Edmonton Journal: “Make no mistake, the reason I ran for leadership of the Wildrose party was to replace Ed Stelmach as premier of this province… “I think it’s too late at this point for the PCs to recover any of their former glory. … We think the next election will be a time for Albertans to turn the page on this Tory dynasty. It’s been in power for 40 years and it’s a new chapter.”

Liberal leader David Swann told the Edmonton Journal: “Everything will be on a holding pattern in the ministries to wait until direction comes from the party leader. Without clear leadership — in fact, division at the top — for what really needs to happen in terms of fixing health care, there will be a polarizing from those who want to see more private services provided to pick up the gap and those who feel that the primary problem is in leadership and management.”

Alberta Party acting leader Sue Huff told the Edmonton Journal: “I think it’s time for Albertans to really decide what it is they want for the future, for their children, for their grandchildren, and decide if we really want extreme right-wing politics to decide the day.”

NDP leader Brian Mason told the Edmonton Journal: “The Alberta Tories can’t be trusted to protect public health care. They have repeatedly sought to bring in more private care under various leaders, and leaked documents show they are planning it again. They run the least competent government in Canada. That’s the real problem.”

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Alberta Politics

albertan gothic: ed stelmach’s resignation: the morning after.

Albertan Gothic: Premier Ed Stelmach and his wife, Marie, at yesterday's media conference.

It has been fascinating to watch Premier Ed Stelmach‘s career as Premier culminate towards yesterday’s announcement that he will not lead his party into the next provincial general election. As someone who was too young to remember Don Getty‘s resignation and Ralph Klein‘s accession to the throne, it was certainly an interesting political experience for me to see the entire political life of a Premier for the first time.

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.

Malcolm Mayes' Edmonton Journal political cartoon in January 2008 (I'm the Mac).

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 Nenshi said 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?

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Uncategorized

tory backbenchers sat silently, then voted to gag the public accounts committee.

Don Braid has published an excellent column in today’s Calgary Herald on the decision by Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Verlyn Olson and six other PC MLAs to vote in favor of weakening the power of the Public Accounts Committee to be a financial watchdog.

As I wrote last week, the powers of the committee were curtailed when PC MLAs voted to create a new rule forcing Committee Chairman MLA Hugh MacDonald to have all future committee correspondence approved by Deputy Chair PC MLA Dave Rodney. When the issue was raised by opposition MLAs in Question Period, Premier Ed Stelmach, Education Minister Dave Hancock, and Deputy Premier Doug Horner have scoffed at the complaints, citing how powerless they are when it comes to influencing their backbench MLAs.

As shown in Hansard transcripts of the April 14 Public Accounts Committee meeting, Only Mr. Olson and Mr. Rodney  spoke in favor of the motion. Both Liberal Harry Chase and New Democrat Brian Mason spoke and voted against the motion. Not one of the five other PC MLAs at the meeting spoke to the motion. Edmonton PC MLAs David Xiao, Tony Vandermeer, Peter Sandhu, Doug Elniski, and Red Deer MLA Cal Dallas all sat silently until it was time to vote on Mr. Olson’s motion and they all voted in favor of it.

UPDATE: After significant public pressure, it appears that Mr. Olson might introduce a new motion to withdraw his original motion at tomorrow’s meeting of the Public Accounts Committee.

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Uncategorized

who wrote the government of alberta electoral boundaries report?

Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission is holding public hearings in Edmonton today and tomorrow to gather recommendations on their Interim Report.

One of the recommendations collected was a monstrous 100 page submission that is expected to be presented by Deputy Premier Doug Horner today. The submission is filled with individual recommendations around proposed boundaries, but it is the sources of this information that is the most interesting (and confusing).

The submission document opens with an introductory letter from the Office of the Minister of Advanced Education & Technology and describes the document as “a collection of the recommendations made by Government caucus” Following Minister Horner’s letter, the document then clarifies that “the Government of Alberta is presenting its recommendations” in this submission. In an even more confusing twist, the document bases many of its recommendations directly from Progressive Conservative Party constituency associations submissions to the Commission.

The lines are very blurry when trying to figure out who the recommendations in this document represent. Was this submission prepared by taxpayer funded staff inside the Office of the Minister of Advanced Education & Technology, the Government Caucus, or the Government of Alberta, or the political staff inside the Progressive Conservative Party? Why would a Government of Alberta report include direct recommendations from Progressive Conservative Party constituency associations?

UPDATE: The Wildrose Alliance will be holding a media conference on this issue tomorrow at the Legislature (see comments for more information).

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Danielle Smith David Akin Doug Horner Link Byfield Stephen Duckett Tommy Banks

alberta politics notes 4/07/2010

David Akin recently sat down with Liberal Senator Tommy Banks for a chat on Senate reform.
– Alberta has held Senate elections in 1989, 1998, and 2004, and is expected to hold a Senate election in the next two years to fill upcoming vacancies. Senator-in-Waiting Link Byfield has declared his intentions to seek the Wildrose Alliance nomination.
– Alberta will be getting five new federal ridings if new legislation is passed in Ottawa.
– The provincial Electoral Boundaries Commission will be starting their second round of public hearings on April 12 in Calgary.
– After originally being lukewarm to the idea of an urban riding for Grande Prairie as proposed in the Boundaries Commission’s interim report, City Councillors have decided to support the two existing ‘rurban’ ridings of Grande Prairie-Smoky and Grande Prairie-Wapiti.
– Alberta Health Services CEO Dr. Stephen Duckett was given failing grades from employees and physicians this week. Friends of Medicare executive director David Eggen told the Edmonton Journal that the survey points to the need for new leadership: “To make a fresh start, I think it’s important to make significant changes in senior leadership. This is a back-to-Australia kind of performance indicator.”
– Advanced Education Minister Doug Horner caved to the wishes of the University Administrations by allowing them to increase their base tuition rates beyond what is currently allowed under Alberta’s tuition policy for six programs. I wrote some background on the Universities quest for tuition hikes in November 2009.
– Premier Ed Stelmach will be speaking at the University of Alberta tomorrow at an event hosted by the campus Conservative club. The same club hosted an event with Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith last month.
– From Capital Notebook, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development paid $33,963 to a company called Borat High Five Consulting Ltd. between April 2008 and October 2009. This gives me a good excuse to post my favourite Borat clip…

Categories
Alberta Cabinet Shuffle Dave Hancock Diana McQueen Doug Horner Ed Stelmach Fred Horne George Groenveld Iris Evans Jack Hayden Mel Knight Rob Renner Ron Liepert Ted Morton

alberta cabinet shuffle.

With a cabinet shuffled expected in the near future (possibly as early as tomorrow), there is no shortage of speculation about who will be shuffled in, out, and around. A cabinet shuffle will put a new face on the tiring PC cabinet that has weathered a brutal public beating on issues ranging from unpopular health care restructuring, Bill 44, resource royalty tinkering, international attention on the oilsands, a by-election defeat, a seismic drop in the polls, and MLA defections.

As I wrote in December 2009, It is going to take something much more meaningful than a cabinet shuffle to change PC Party fortunes. One of Premier Ed Stelmach‘s greatest challenges is that his government doesn’t have a defining purpose beyond governing for governing sake, and it shows.

Iris EvansRon Liepert

Finance Minister Iris Evans may keep her job, but there are strong rumors about a comfy patronage appointment as Alberta’s Representative in London, UK. With a strong political pedigree, Doug Horner is a key candidate for promotion – to Finance, or more likely, Health & Wellness. His father, Hugh Horner, served as an MP, MLA, and cabinet minister between 1958 and 1979, including as Deputy Premier and Minister of Agriculture of Alberta.

The rumor mill appears to have come to an unlikely consensus that Minister Ron Liepert will relieve Minister Mel Knight of his position in Energy. Delicate as a wrecking ball, Minister Liepert oversaw the haphazard dissolution of Alberta’s regional health authorities and centralization under the Alberta Health Services ‘Superboard.’ I am sure that the energy sector will love him.

Iris EvansLindsay Blackett

As the Godfather of Edmonton PC MLAs, Dave Hancock is expected to remain Education Minister, not interrupting the ongoing School Act review. Also expected to remain in their job is Environment Minister Rob Renner, who has proved his ability to deliver a respectful media performance on dirty files like climate change and the oilsands. 

First-term MLA Diana McQueen wooed PC delegates in her introduction of Premier Stelmach at their 2009 leadership review convention. McQueen could be a strong addition to a weak cabinet. After playing interference for Premier Stelmach on the Alberta Hospital Edmonton bed closures, another rookie MLA, Fred Horne, has been rumored to be a candidate for Minister of Health, but more recently has been rumoured to replace Minister Horner in Advanced Education. Horne served as Executive Assistant to Minister Hancock, who also he served in the portfolio.

Long-time Stelmach confidants Jack Hayden, Ray Danyluk, and Lloyd Snelgrove will likely stay rewarded for their loyalty, but may be shuffled. Ted Morton is clearly enjoying his current role as Sustainable Resource Development Minister, but columnist Don Braid has suggested that he may be moved to the Treasury Board position. Weak Ministerial performers Lindsay BlackettJanis Tarchuk, Heather Klimchuk, and George Groenveld are also prime targets for being shuffled.

After taking another look at the rumoured shuffle, it does not appear to be much of a change after all. We shall wait and see.

Categories
Danielle Smith Dave Hancock David Swann Doug Horner Ed Stelmach Janis Tarchuk Laurence Decore Lindsay Blackett Mel Knight Preston Manning Ron Liepert

premier stelmach’s problems are bigger than a cabinet shuffle.

There has been a lot of chatter about what Premier Ed Stelmach can do to reverse the Progressive Conservatives downward spiral in recent polls. According to these recent polls, the PCs now sit at 25% province-wide and in third place behind Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Alliance and David Swann‘s Liberals in Edmonton and Calgary. Another recent poll framed Premier Stelmach as the least popular Premier in Canada with a 14% approval rating.

Sheila Pratt has written an interesting article in today’s Edmonton Journal about the PCs current misfortune and the new groups of Albertans like Reboot Alberta and Renew Alberta that have emerged. Even Preston Manning is interested in starting something new. Luckily for Premier Stelmach, he still has two years before he has to face the electorate for a second time, but what does the Premier need to do to turn his fortunes around?

Will finally ending the disastrous reigns of Children & Youth Services Minister Janis Tarchuk and Health & Wellness Minister Ron Liepert change Premier Stelmach’s position in the polls? Will moving Education Minister Dave Hancock in the midst of the School Act Review boost their numbers? Will moving Energy Minister Mel Knight to another portfolio halt the Calgary energy sector support that is flowing towards the Wildrose Alliance? Will promoting Advanced Education Minister Doug Horner to Finance Minister improve their image? Will relocating Culture & Community Spirit Minister Lindsay Blackett bring back the PC supporters who were offended over the embarrassment of Bill 44?

Will rearranging the deck chairs change the course of the ship? It is going to take something much more meaningful than a cabinet shuffle to change PC Party fortunes. As I said during an interview with Calgary Today’s Mike Blanchard this week, one of Premier Stelmach’s greatest challenges is that his government doesn’t have a defining purpose beyond governing for governing sake, and it shows.

In his recent book, Rich Vivone accurately pointed out that when Premier Ralph Klein declared Alberta to be debt free in 2004, the PCs began to drift. Aiming to defeat the deficit and debt saved the PCs from being unseated by Laurence Decore‘s Liberals in the 1993 election and it was the defining theme in Alberta politics in the 1990s and early 2000s. In many ways, Premier Klein’s 55.4% approval in 2006 reflected the drift.

Premier Stelmach is far from an amazing orator or political strategist, but one of his greatest strengths is that he is constantly underestimated by his opponents and the media. No one expected him to defeat Jim Dinning and Ted Morton in the PC leadership race or lead his party to win a 72-seat majority in the March 2008 election. The recent polls may spell demise for the near 40-year governing PCs, but with at least another two years to create a defining purpose for governing, their political and electoral opponents would be foolish to write them off just yet.