Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried has announced he will not run for re-election. Gotfried was the only rookie Progressive Conservative MLA elected in 2015, stealing the south Calgary seat from the Wildrose Party after long-time MLA Heather Forsyth retired from elected politics.
Former Calgary Economic Development vice-president Court Ellingson was nominated as the Alberta NDP candidate in Calgary-Foothills.
Calgary Transit Operator Raj Jessel was nominated as the NDP candidate in Chestermere-Strathmore.
Lawyer Cheryl Hunter Loewen was nominated as the NDP candidate in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills.
Lawyer Andrew Stewarthas announced his plans to seek the NDP nomination in Calgary-Hays. A nomination meeting is scheduled for October 26. The riding has been represented by UCP MLA Ric McIver since 2012.
Upcoming nomination meetings
Former Red Deer City Manager Craig Curtis and past school board candidate Jaelene Tweedle are on the ballot as NDP members in Red Deer-North choose their next candidate on October 5.
MLA David Shepherd is expected to be nominated to run for re-election in Edmonton-City Centre on October 11.
More NDP nomination meetings are scheduled in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright (October 15), Calgary-Beddington (October 17), Lacombe-Ponoka (October 19), and Calgary-Hays (October 26).
The NDP have now nominated candidates in 54 of Alberta’s 87 electoral districts. As previously noted, it appears as though the UCP have paused the nomination process until after their new leader is selected on October 6. The Alberta Party has nominated three candidates.
United Conservative Party MLA Mark Smith has publicly confirmed that he will not seek re-election in Drayton Valley-Devon. He made the announcement while speaking at an event for UCP leadership candidate Travis Toews in Devon on Sept. 9.
Smith was first elected as a Wildrose Party MLA in 2015 and was re-elected under the UCP banner in 2019. The former social studies teacher was the center of controversy during the 2019 election over comments he made about gay people.
Despite the controversy, Smith was re-elected with 71 per cent of the vote.
Carol Vowk and Andrew Boitchenko are already seeking the UCP nomination in Drayton Valley-Devon, located southwest of Edmonton, and rumours have been circulating in political circles for months that Enoch First Nations Chief Billy Morin could seek the nomination. Morin has endorsed Toews for the UCP leadership and previously endorsed Pierre Poilievre in the federal Conservative Party leadership race.
NDP members acclaimed Kathleen Ganley in Calgary-Mountain View and Marlin Schmidt in Edmonton-Gold Bar. Both MLAs were first elected in 2015 and served as cabinet ministers during the NDP’s time in government.
“This is sure to be a pivotal election for Alberta, and I am honoured that my community has put their trust in me to continue being their representative,” Ganley said in a statement. “I hear from folks every day about how they don’t trust the UCP, and how their families are struggling more now because of them.”
MLADavid Shepherd is seeking the NDP nomination to run for re-election in Edmonton-City Centre at an October 11 nomination meeting. Shepherd was first elected in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019 with 66 per cent of the vote.
Also in Edmonton-City Centre, Zak Abdi announced on Twitter that he is no longer running for the Liberal Party nomination and will instead will seek to become the Green Party candidate in Edmonton-City Centre.
And in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright, Dawn Flaata running for NDP nomination at an October 15 meeting. Flaata is a local author with a long history of involvement in the chamber of commerce in Vermilion. She is also a former Constituency Assistant to former Conservative MP Leon Benoit. Vermilion Public Library.
Upcoming nomination meetings:
September 20 – Edmonton-Castle Downs NDP
September 24 – Calgary-Shaw NDP
September 24 – Edmonton-South NDP
September 25 – Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood NDP
September 27 – Spruce Grove-Stony Plain NDP
September 28 – Sherwood Park NDP
September 29 – Chestermere-Strathmore NDP
October 1 – Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills NDP
October 2 – Calgary-Foothills NDP
October 5 – Red Deer-North NDP
October 11 – Edmonton-City Centre NDP
October 15 – Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright NDP
University of Calgary law professor Shaun Fluker defeated union activist and past candidate Steven Durrell to win the Alberta NDP nomination in Airdrie-Cochrane.
“People want a government that funds public health care and actually encourages doctors to work in Alberta, so that the people of Airdrie-Cochrane do not have to rely on urgent care centres as walk-in clinics,” said Fluker in a statement released after his nomination won.
”We also want a government that will adequately fund K-12 education so that our kids aren’t forced into overcrowded classrooms in overcrowded schools,” he said.
Fluker practiced law starting in 1996 and began teaching at the U of C in 2007. He served as Executive Director of the U of C’s Public Interest Law Clinic until 2019.
The riding located north of Calgary is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Peter Guthrie, who was first elected in 2019 with 65 per cent of the vote. Guthrie has been a vocal critic of Premier Jason Kenney and openly called on him to resign as UCP leader.
Boitchenko enters Drayton Valley-Devon UCP race
Real estate agent Andrew Boitchenko is the second challenger to announce plans to join the UCP nomination contest in Drayton Valley-Devon.
Boitchenko joins Carol Vowk in the nomination contest.
Incumbent UCP MLA Mark Smith has not yet public declared his intentions but it is widely believed that the two-term MLA will not run for re-election.
Lawyer and past federal Liberal candidate Kerry Cundal was nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Elbow. The riding was represented by Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark from 2015 to 2019, and he was on hand to endorse Cundal at the meeting.
First-term NDP MLA Jasvir Deol was nominated in Edmonton-Meadows. He was elected in 2019 with 49 per cent of the vote.
Indigenous advocate and past Assembly of First Nations Chief candidate Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse was nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Rutherford.
While none of the details are clear, Notley said she believed the search was related to a Department of Health data breach that Dang reported to the government in Sept. 2021.
Dang issued a statement in response in which he reiterated Notley’s comments, saying that he believed the warrant was executed in relation to vulnerabilities of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination records website.
“In September, a concern was raised to me as a Member of the Legislative Assembly about the security of the vaccination record system,” Dang wrote. “I tested these concerns and found a security flaw did exist.
“I immediately notified Alberta Health with the relevant information so that the vulnerability could be corrected. It was resolved shortly thereafter,” wrote Dang, who studied Computing Sciences at the University of Alberta before his election as MLA in 2015.
Notley said that Dang, who was in the mountains skiing, voluntarily left the NDP Caucus until the police investigation was complete. Dang is the Official Opposition critic for Democracy and Ethics.
First elected as the NDP MLA for Edmonton-South West in 2015 and ran for re-election in the redistributed Edmonton-South in 2019.
Carol Vowk running for UCP nomination in Drayton Valley-Devon
Carol Vowk has filed papers with Elections Alberta signalling her intention to run for the UCP nomination in Drayton Valley-Devon. Vowk is Treasurer of the Drayton Valley Health Foundation and has volunteered with the Drayton Valley Air Cadets, Brazeau Snowmobile Club, and Drayton Valley Soccer.
The central Alberta riding is currently represented by Mark Smith, who was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2015. Smith was the centre of controversy during the 2019 election with the release of an audio recording of a church sermon he delivered which included some gross comments about “homosexual love.”
Smith was re-elected in 2019 with 71.1 per cent of the vote. He has not publicly announced whether he plans to run for re-election in 2023.
Brian Jean *is* the UCP candidate in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche
New cases of COVID-19 are on the rise and the third wave of the global pandemic is hitting Alberta, but that did not deter a group of nearly 20 United Conservative Party MLAs from publicly speaking out against the provincial government’s implementation of mild public health restrictions in response.
Like the virus, the group of COVID critics inside the UCP Caucus has grown exponentially from the original six-pack of MLAs who publicly spoke out against public health measures at the beginning of March. The public letter signed by 15 UCP MLAs criticized Premier Jason Kenney for moving back to Step 1 of the province’s mild public health measures in response to the spike in new cases, which is largely a result of a vicious new variant of the deadly virus.
The letter signed by the 15 MLAs was soon after endorsed by Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright MLA Garth Rowswell and West Yellowhead MLA Martin Long, who also serves as the parliamentary secretary for small business. Also signalling support for the letter’s intentions was Calgary Member of Parliament Michelle Rempel-Garner, who serves as the Official Opposition Health Critic in Ottawa.
Peace River MLA Dan Williams, a long-time Kenney acolyte from Ottawa, did not endorse the letter but posted a video on social media criticizing the decision by Alberta Health Services to close down the rebel GraceLife Church, which had been holding in-person services in defiance of the government’s public health orders. He was joined in this call by Ontario MP Derek Sloan, who was kicked out of the federal Conservative caucus for his extreme social conservative views.
That the leaders of the UCP caucus mutiny appear to largely be from the former Wildrose caucus, or Wildrose-wing of the party, is not surprising. The former opposition party was notoriously raucous and unwilling to bow to the kind of centralized party leadership that Kenney would have become accustomed to during his many years in Ottawa.
It was also clear during Kenney’s press conference on Tuesday that he expected a negative reaction from his caucus. A significant portion of Kenney’s lecture was dedicated to managing MLAs expectations and acknowledging the differences of opinion in his caucus. Difference of opinion is one thing, but this is something entirely different.
The public health restrictions that Alberta fell back to earlier this week are nothing close to what restrictions have looked like in jurisdictions that have actually implemented lockdowns. Alberta schools are still open for in-person classes, and Albertans can still gather with up to 10 people outside, go shopping for non-essential items, get a haircut or a massage, dine or have drinks on a restaurant patio, and exercise at a gym with a personal trainer.
There is no doubt a lot of Albertans are frustrated about how the provincial government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Kenney government has not helped itself by releasing a string of confusing and inconsistent public health measures and messaging to Albertans about the government’s response.
While public opinion polling suggests many Albertans would like the government to impose stronger measures to stop the spread of the deadly virus, there is a loud minority who want to see the current restrictions lifted.
It is yet to be seen whether the revolt will extend beyond this strongly worded letter, but there is little doubt these MLAs are actively undermining the work being done by public health professionals and health care workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The caucus revolt is probably a reflection of deepening regional and partisan divides in Alberta, with most of the COVID Caucus MLAs representing largely rural and small town districts. It is notable that no UCP MLAs from Calgary, so far the hardest hit in the third wave, have publicly joined the revolt.
It also suggests that the United Conservative Party is not as united as its leader would like Albertans to believe.
Kenney’s personal approval ratings and support for his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic plummeted over the past 13 months, and his party has floundered in the polls, finishing behind Rachel Notley’s NDP in a handful of recent voter opinion polls. The rise of the separatist Wildrose Independence Party in rural Alberta has some backbench UCP MLAs nervously looking over their right shoulders.
In some ways, the revolt probably serves as a welcome distraction to some in the UCP from the never ending string of scandals and policy failures, most recently the failure to stop the Carbon Tax at the Supreme Court, the loss of $1.5 billion of public money when the Keystone XL Pipeline was cancelled, the failure to sign a new contract with Alberta doctors, the retreat on open-pit coal mining, and the open rebellion by parents against the draft K-6 curriculum.
Under normal circumstances it would be hard to believe that this kind of caucus revolt would happen on a day when more than 1,300 new cases of COVID were reported and doctors are calling for a circuit breaker response, but in today’s world of Alberta politics, it would be harder to believe this would happen if the UCP were not floundering so deeply in the polls.
Another MLA Recall bill has been introduced into the Alberta Legislative Assembly, and this one looks like it will actually pass and become law.
Justice Minister Kaycee Madu introduced Bill 52: Recall Act in the Assembly for first reading today. If it becomes law, the bill would allow for a by-election to be called in a provincial electoral district where the signatures of at least 40 percent of the eligible voters are collected. Unlike previous Recall efforts, Madu’s bill expands recall to municipal councillors and school board trustees.
Forty percent is likely a high enough threshold to avoid frivolous, or maybe any, actual Recall by-elections. While there are certainly some circumstances where constituents are united in unhappiness with their elected officials, this bill seems to be more of a signal that the United Conservative Party has checked off a box on its to-do list than actually create a mechanism to improve democracy in Alberta.
Instead of being fearful of a revolt by their own voters, it is more likely that MLAs will be concerned that well-funded special interest groups, like the the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, could swoop into their district with a legion of paid volunteers to rabble-rouse and cause trouble for local representatives.
It might be more proactive to limit recall, like they have in the United Kingdom, to politicians who are convicted of criminal offenses or providing false or misleading expenses claims while in office.
Our democratic institutions do need to be tinkered with and improved, but so much of the focus of efforts like MLA Recall are focused on punishing elected officials rather than empowering them to do a better job. So rather than finding new ways to fire politicians, which Albertans have done a fairly consistent job in the past two elections, we should be creating ways they can do better jobs for us.
Being a backbench MLA in a government caucus is not a glamorous job. They are told where to be and how to vote on most issues. Most rarely have the opportunity to demonstrate meaningful independence without facing the wrath of the Caucus Whip or the Leader’s Chief of Staff. And, when time comes for re-election, their nomination papers require the ultimate endorsement of the party leader.
One way that individual MLAs could empower themselves would be to change the standing orders to allow MLAs who are not in cabinet an increased opportunity to introduce private members bills. Right now MLAs earn the ability to introduce private members bills through a lottery, meaning that some MLAs will never have the chance to introduce a law into the Legislature.
And private members’ bills are only debated on Monday’s, severely limiting their ability to get attention and get passed into law.
Accountability of democratic officials is important, and that is why we have elections every four years. And as Albertans have enthusiastically demonstrated over the past two elections, they will not hesitate to dramatically unseat MLAs and governments if they feel the need.
It would be better for democracy in Alberta if we focused on ways to empower MLAs to better represent Albertans inside and outside the Assembly, rather than creating new ways to punish them.
History of Recall Legislation in Alberta
Madu’s Bill 52 marks the eleventh MLA Recall bill to be tabled in the Assembly since 1936.
1936: Bill No. 76 of 1936: A Bill Providing for the Recall of Members of the Legislative Assembly was introduced by the Social Credit government and passed after their surprising win in the 1935 election. The bill required 66.6 percent of voters to sign a petition to trigger a recall by-election.
1937: The law was repealed by the Social Credit government after a group of disgruntled Albertans was thought to have collected enough signatures to recall Premier William Aberhart in his Okotoks-High River constituency.
1993: Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Gary Dickson introduced Bill 203: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. The bill was defeated in a 42-34 vote in the Legislature.
1995:Edmonton-Meadowlark Liberal MLA Karen Leibovici introduced Bill 224: Parliamentary Reform and Electoral Review Commission Act, which would have created a commission to study a handful of issues, including recall. The bill passed first reading but was never debated.
1996:Lethbridge-East Liberal MLA Ken Nicol introduced Bill 206: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. This bill was defeated in a 37-24 vote in the Legislature.
1997: Bill 216, Recall Act was introduced by Edmonton-Manning Liberal MLA Ed Gibbons but was never debated in the Legislature. If passed into law, the bill would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one
2010: Calgary-Glenmore Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman introduced Bill 208: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 33 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. Reached second reading but was not debated further.
2015: Chestermere-Rockyview Wildrose MLA Leela Aheer introduces Bill 206: Recall Act, which would trigger a recall by-election if 20 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. The bill passed first reading and died on the order paper.
2016: Drayton Valley-Devon Wildrose MLA Mark Smith introduces Bill 201: Election Recall Act, which would trigger a recall by-election is 66 per cent of the electorate’s signatures from the previous general election was collected in 60 days on a sanctioned petition. The bill was defeated in second reading.
2019: Drayton Valley-Devon United Conservative Party MLA Mark Smith introduces Bill 204: Election Recall Act, which would allow Albertans to trigger a by-election in a riding where 40 per cent of registered voters have signed a petition recalling their MLA. The bill died on the order paper after it passed second reading.
These bills are part of a series of election bills that are expected to also include future bills allowing for the recall of MLAs, municipal politicians and school trustees, citizen initiated referendums, and major changes to provincial election laws.
The three bills introduced this week provide more opportunities for Albertans to vote for candidates and on issues, but they also claw back important transparency and accountability rules implemented by the previous New Democratic Party government less than two years ago.
It has almost been 50 years since the last time a province-wide plebiscite was initiated by the Alberta government. Bill 26 would allow the provincial government to hold referendums on non-constitutional issues, like creating an Alberta Pension Plan or deciding if we should remain on Daylight Saving Time. Providing an opportunity for Albertans to cast ballots on important issues can be a powerful tool to engage voters, but the timing and wording of such votes can also be intentionally manipulative.
The bill allows third-party groups, colloquially known as political action committees, to spend up to $500,000 on advertising up from the current $150,000 limit. Third-party groups that spend less than $350,000 on advertising during a referendum would not be required to file financial statements with Elections Alberta.
Schweitzer did not hold a press conference to announce the bill, so it is unclear why he chose to include such a massive gap in transparency.
Changes to municipal election laws included in Bill 29 are being framed by Madu as helping “level the playing field” for new candidates running for municipal councils and school boards by not allowing incumbents to carry over campaign war chests between elections and increasing the amount candidates can spend ahead of the election period from $2,000 to $5,000.
Bill 29 raises the election period donation limit from $4,000 back up to $5,000 and allows candidates to self-finance their campaign up to $10,000, reversing a number of changes made by the NDP government in 2018 that have not had a chance to be tested in a municipal election campaign.
Madu’s bill would also make it legal for wealthy individuals 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.
Eliminating the ability of incumbents to store campaign surpluses in war chests for future elections might lower the amount of cash on hand at the beginning of an election campaign. But in Edmonton at least, only two city councillors – Sarah Hamilton and Ben Henderson – reported having surpluses of more than $10,000 at the end of the 2017 election, suggesting that war chests are not necessarily a significant issues in the capital city.
Raising the donation limit could strengthen the advantage of incumbents with name recognition and developed political networks running against challengers who may be seeking political office for the first time.
The advantage of name recognition that helps incumbents get re-elected in large numbers at the municipal level is a feature that predates any of the changes to municipal election finance laws introduced by the previous NDP and Progressive Conservative governments over the past decade. The incumbent advantage even existed when there were no donation limits.
Bill 29 removes the requirement that candidates disclose their donors ahead of election day, which allows voters to see who is financially supporting candidates before they head to the ballot box.
The bill also removes spending limits for third-party groups before the start of the election period, allowing groups like Calgary’s infamous Sprawl Cabal of land developers free reign to spend unlimited amounts of money on advertising before May 1, 2021.
Madu’s Bill 29 introduces big money back into municipal elections under the guise of fairness and without creating any of the structural changes required to design a real competitive electoral environment at the municipal level.
Bill 29 also removes all references to the Election Commissioner, a housekeeping item necessitated by the controversial firing of the Commissioner by the UCP government in November 2019. In its place, the bill creates a Registrar of Third Parties, though it is unclear if the person holding this title would have the legal investigative authority of the now defunct Election Commissioner.
In past elections many municipalities simply did not have the resources available to enforce municipal election finance rules, so in some cases complaints were simply left uninvestigated.
Some of these changes were expected and were included in the UCP’s 2019 election platform, others were necessitated by inconsistencies in the changes made by the NDP in 2018, and some have come completely out of left-field.
Alberta’s election laws should be dynamic and designed to encourage and facilitate participation by voters and candidates, not to hide the identities of those who would spend money influencing election campaigns.
Overall, these bills could probably be summed up as one step forward for democracy and two steps back for transparency and accountability.
Changes coming to provincial election laws
These changes are likely a taste of what is to come from the recently appointed Select Special Democratic Accountability Committee. Chaired by Cardston-Siksika UCP MLA Joseph Schow, the committee will review Alberta’s Election Act and the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act within the next six months and has be tasked with answering a series of questions submitted by Schweitzer within four months.
Along with Schow, the committee membership includes Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner, Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard, Calgary-Buffalo MLA Joe Ceci, Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang, Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Laila Goodridge, Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon, Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi, Highwood MLA R.J. Sigurdson, Drayton Valley-Devon MLA Mark Smith and Edmonton-Manning MLA Heather Sweet.
Public education advocate and school trustee Michael Janz joins Dave Cournoyer on this episode of the Daveberta Podcast to discuss the state of public education in Alberta and how cuts in the United Conservative Party‘s first provincial budget will impact the education system in our province. We also discuss what is behind the UCP’s drive to expand private and charter schools, and why the New Democratic Party did not cut the 70% subsidy for private schools in Alberta while they were in government.
We also opened the mailbag to answer some of the great Alberta politics questions sent in by our listeners, and announce the launch of the Best of Alberta Politics 2019 survey which starts later this week.
A huge thanks to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, who tried to keep us on track during this episode.
The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network, powered by ATB. The Alberta Podcast Network includes more than 30 great made-in-Alberta podcasts.
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Photo: Mark Smith, UCP MLA for Drayton Valley-Devon (source: Facebook)
A private members’ bill introduced by Drayton Valley-Devon MLA Mark Smith would, if passed, create a law to allow Albertans to trigger a by-election in a riding where 40 per cent of registered voters have signed a petition recalling their MLA.
This is the second time Smith has introduced a private members’ bill calling for what is known as MLA recall. The first recall bill introduced by Smith, then a Wildrose Party MLA, was defeated in second reading in April 2016. His latest attempt, Bill 204: Election Recall Act, passed second reading today and stands a strong chance of passing third reading and becoming law.
MLA Recall is nothing new in Alberta. Bill 204 marks the eighth time since 1993 that Alberta MLAs have debated recall in the Legislature, and Alberta even briefly had an MLA recall law in the 1930s.
An law passed in 1936 by the newly elected Social Credit government of Premier William Aberhart required 66.6 percent of voters to sign a petition to trigger a recall by-election. The law was repealed by the government in 1937 when a recall campaign in Aberhart’s Okotoks-High River was gaining momentum and expected to trigger a by-election.
Smith’s bill would create a threshold of 40 per cent of eligible voters needed to trigger a recall by-election, which is significantly higher than previous versions of the bill, including one introduced in 2015 by Chestermere-Rockyview Wildrose MLA Leela Aheer that set the bar at a low 20 per cent of eligible voters.
Mark Smith’s bill has a number of concerning weaknesses
Removing a democratically-elected MLA from office through recall is a very serious action, and one that should be done only in certain serious circumstances.
Bill 204 places limits on when recall can take place, starting 18 months following a provincial election, but it does not place limits why it can be triggered.
A custodial prison sentence of a year or less—longer sentences automatically disqualify MPs without need for a petition;
Suspension from the House of least 10 sitting days or 14 calendar days, following a report by the Committee on Standards;
A conviction for providing false or misleading expenses claims.
If there is going to be a recall law in Alberta, it should be fair and should only be allowed to be triggered under certain circumstances, otherwise it could be used to punish MLAs who make unpopular decisions or break from their party on high-profile political issues.
Because Bill 204 appears to be silent on how political parties and third-party political groups, widely known as political action committees, can engage in the recall process, it seems possible that they could play a role in collecting petition signatures through coordinated campaigns.
Bill 204 does not appear to address the role of political parties in funding, supporting, or organizing recall petitions, meaning that the UCP, New Democratic Party, or another political party might be able to actively support a recall campaign against its political opponents.
While political parties and third-party political groups would still be required to report their financial disclosures, it is not clear how their activities or interference during the recall process would be monitored.
It is not far-fetched to believe that third-party groups, of both conservative and progressive persuasions, could start collecting signatures to trigger recall elections in ridings where MLAs were elected by narrow margins in 2019, like NDP MLAs Shannon Phillips in Lethbridge-West and Jon Carson in Edmonton-West Henday or UCP MLAs Nicholas Milliken in Calgary-Currie and Kaycee Madu in Edmonton-South West.
Empower MLAs rather than punish them
Being a backbench MLA in a government caucus is not a glamorous job. They are told where to be and how to vote on most issues, and rarely have the opportunity to demonstrate meaningful independence without facing admonishment from the Caucus Whip.
In many ways, the Legislative Assembly has become subservient to the Premier’s Office, and serves as a body that exists to pass government legislation introduced by cabinet, rather than debate legislation introduced by individual MLAs. This is not unique to Alberta and it is a problem that plagues legislative bodies across Canada (and likely the world).
One way that individual MLAs could empower themselves would be to change the standing orders to allow MLAs who are not in cabinet an increased opportunity to introduce private members bills. Right now MLAs earn the ability to introduce private members bills through a lottery, meaning that some MLAs will never have the chance to introduce a law into the Legislature. And private members’ bills are only debated on Monday afternoons, severely limiting their ability to get attention and get passed into law.
Accountability of democratic officials is important, and that is why we have elections every four years. And as Albertans have demonstrated over the past two elections, they will not hesitate to dramatically unseat MLAs and governments.
It would be better for democracy in Alberta if we focused on ways to empower MLAs to better represent Albertans in the Legislative Assembly, rather than creating new ways to punish them.
UPDATE: Smith’s private members’ bill did not pass third reading and died on the Order Paper when the 2019/2020 session of the Alberta Legislature ended. It is expected a Government Bill on MLA Recall could be introduced in Spring 2021.
Photo: federal candidates Jasraj Singh Hallan, Nirmala Naidoo, Joe Pimlott, and Gurinder Singh Gill
With a federal election expected to begin sometime in the next nine days, some of Canada’s major political parties are scrambling to fill their slate of candidates in Alberta. At the time this update was published, the Liberal Party had 17 candidates nominated in Alberta’s 34 ridings, the NDP had nominated candidates in 9 ridings, and the Greens had candidates in 21 ridings. The Conservative Party and People’s Party had nominated full-slates of 34 candidates.
The regionally dominant Conservative Party is already expected to sweep most of the federal races in Alberta on October 21, 2019, but it is still a bit shocking that the other major political parties are still so far behind in their candidate selection process. It sends a pretty strong signal that those parties will be spending most of their resources in other provinces that are seen as more competitive, with the exception of a few Alberta ridings – Edmonton-Strathcona for the NDP and Calgary-Centre, Edmonton-Centre and Edmonton-Mill Woods for the Liberals.
Former UCP candidiate Hallan wins Conservative nomination in Calgary-Forest Lawn
Nirmala Naidoo has been acclaimed as the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Skyview. The former television broadcaster was the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Rocky Ridge in the 2015 election. She briefly served as co-chair of the Alberta Liberal Party’s leadership contest before stepping down to serve as the spokesperson for Sandra Jansen during her brief campaign for the Progressive Conservative Party leadership in 2016 (Jansen had endorsed Naidoo’s federal candidacy in 2015).
Naidoo’s candidacy was approved despite two other candidates having announced their intentions to run for the Liberal Party nomination in this riding.
The riding is currently represented by Independent MP Darshan Kang. Kang is a former two-term Liberal MLA who was elected as a federal Liberal in 2015 before leaving the Liberal caucus in 2018 following allegations of sexual harassment.
The Liberals have nominated Ghada Alatrash in Calgary-Signal Hill. She is a Syrian-Canadian writer and holds a PhD in Educational Research from the University of Calgary.
Leslie Penny is the nominated Liberal Party candidate in Peace River-Westlock. Penny ran for the provincial Liberal Party in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock in the 2008 and 2012 elections.
Ronald Brochu is the Liberal Party candidate in Sturgeon River-Parkland. Brochu has run for the provincial Liberal Party in Edmonton-Gold Bar in 2015 and Drayton Valley-Devon in 2019.
Del Arnold has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Shepard. Arnold is the former vice-president of the Alberta Society of Registered Cardiology Technologists.
Tariq Chaudary has been acclaimed as the Liberal Party candidate in Edmonton-Riverbend. Chaudary was the Liberal candidate in this riding in 2015, where he earned 30 per cent of the vote.
Audrey Redman is expected to seek the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Riverbend on September 16, 2019.
Gurmit Bhachu is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Midnapore. Bhachu is active with the provincial NDP in Calgary-Fish Creek and briefly considered seeking the nomination in that district before the 2019 provincial election. The nomination meeting is scheduled to take place on September 10, 2019.
The NDP will nominate candidates in Calgary-Heritage on September 10 and in Calgary-Nose Hill on September 11.
Elke Crosson has been nominated as the Green Party candidate in Lakeland.
And here are some of the latest updates to this list of candidates nominated and running for nominations ahead of the October 2019 federal election:
Battle River-Crowfoot: Damien Kurek defeated former Ontario MP Jeff Watson and teacher Jefferson McClung to win the Conservative Party nomination in the sprawling east central rural Alberta district of Battle River-Crowfoot. Kurek works as a constituency assistant in retiring MP Kevin Sorenson‘s office and previously worked as a researcher for the Saskatchewan Party Caucus in Regina. Previous to this bid, Watson served as the Conservative MP for Essex from 2004 to 2015 before moving to Alberta and running for the United Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Peigan in 2018.
Calgary-Confederation: Jordan Stein defeated Todd Kathol and Larry Ottewell to secure the Liberal Party nomination in Calgary-Confederation. Stein was the provincial NDP candidate in Calgary-Glenmore in the recent provincial election where she earned 32 percent of the vote and placed second behind UCP candidate Whitney Issik. Calgary-Confederation was the home of the Liberal Party’s highest vote total in the 2015 federal election, with then-candidate Matt Grant earning 29,083 votes to Conservative candidate Len Webber’s 30,669 votes.
Calgary-Forest Lawn: William Carnegie has been nominated as the Green Party candidate in this east Calgary district. Carnegie is the president of the Forest Lawn Community Association and ran for the provincial Green Party in 2019 in Calgary-East, earning 2.3 percent of the vote.
Edmonton-Centre: Katherine Swampy is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Centre on July 22, 2019. Swampy is a councillor with the Samson Cree Nation, member of the board of directors for Peace Hills Trust, and previously ran for the NDP in the 2015 provincial election in Drayton Valley-Devon and the 2015 federal election in Battle River-Crowfoot. She endorsed Niki Ashton in the federal NDP’s 2017 leadership race.
Edmonton-Greisbach: Well-known youth worker and social advocate Mark Cherrington and business-owner Victoria Stevens are seeking the NDP nomination in this east Edmonton district. The NDP had their second strongest showing in Alberta in this district in 2015, with Janis Irwin earning 34 percent to Conservative candidate Kerry Diotte‘s 39 percent. Irwin was elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood in the 2019 provincial election.
Brian Gold has announced his plan to seek the yet to be scheduled Liberal Party nomination in this district. Gold earned 21.6 percent of the vote as the Liberal Party candidate in Edmonton-Greisbach in 2015, and he later earned 12 percent of the vote in the 2017 Sturgeon River-Parkland by-election.
Edmonton-Mill Woods: Prime Minister Justin Trudeauwas in Edmonton last week to speak at the nomination meeting acclaiming MP Amarjeet Sohi as the Liberal Party candidate in the upcoming election. Sohi was first elected in 2015 and currently serves as Minister of Natural Resources. Before his jump into federal politics, Sohi served on Edmonton City Council from 2007 to 2015.
NDP organizer Nigel Logan seeking his party’s in Edmonton-Mill Woods at a meeting expected to be held on July 24, 2019. Logan was a candidate for Edmonton City Council in Ward 12 during the 2017 municipal election, where he earned 11.4 percent of the vote. Logan currently works as a constituency assistant to Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Linda Duncan.
The previous NDP candidate in this district, Jasvir Deol, was elected as the NDP MLA for Edmonton-Meadows in April 2015.
Edmonton-Strathcona: Sam Lilly defeated Julia Bareman to secure the Conservative Party nomination. Lilly was endorsed by Diotte and former Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA David Dorward. Activist and owner of the Earth’s General Store Michael Kalmanovitch has been nominated as the Green Party candidate.
This south central Edmonton district has been represented by NDP MP Linda Duncan since 2008. Duncan is not seeking re-election.
Lethbridge: Shandi Bleiken defeated Sheldon Krul to win the NDP nomination in this southern Alberta district. Bleiken is a community activist and former president of OUTreach Southern Alberta. The NDP candidate in the 2015 federal election placed second with 20.5 percent of the vote.
Banff-Airdrie: Jaro Giesbrecht has announced his intention to seek the Liberal Party nomination in Banff-Airdrie, which has not yet been scheduled. Giesbrecht recently ran for the provincial Liberal Party in Calgary-Peigan, earning 1.9 percent of the vote.
Asterisk works in communications and fund development with the Keepers of the Athabasca organization and was the program coordinator with the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre. She was the Green candidate in Fort McMurray-Athabasca in the 2011 election, where she earned 4.5 percent of the vote.
Nygaard is owner and operator of a plumbing and gas fitting business in Joussar. He and his wife, Shahla, wrote the book Decade of Discovery which chronicles their decade-long bike trip through Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America.
Please contact me at email@example.com for additions or updates related to candidate nominations in Alberta and I will add them to the list.
Daveberta on the CBC Pollcast
I was thrilled to join Eric Grenier on the CBC Pollcast podcast this week to discuss Alberta’s political landscape ahead of the October 2019 federal election, with a specific focus on Calgary-Centre, Calgary-Confederation, Calgary-Skyview, Edmonton-Centre, Edmonton-Greisbach, Edmonton-Mill Woods, and Edmonton-Strathcona.
The NDP campaign has revolved around Notley, who is the party’s strongest asset, with signs showing her name and smiling face appearing as frequently as local candidate’s in electoral districts across Alberta.
While the 20 to 30 per cent province-wide lead that the United Conservative Party held months ago appears to have evaporated into a 6 to 10 per cent lead, most polls show the NDP are still in second place in Calgary. With the NDP appearing to hold a healthy lead in Edmonton and the UCP dominating in rural Alberta, the narrative in the final week of the campaign has become all about Calgary.
But the regional divide is only one part of the picture. As Jason Markusoff noted in his Maclean’s election newsletter, some polls suggest there is a significant divide in party support among men and women, with one poll showing the UCP leading among men by 16 points and the NDP leading among women by 1 point. The prominence of nasty social conservative comments raised in this campaign, like the ones made by UCP candidate Mark Smith from Drayton Valley-Devon, has likely contributed to this gender divide.
Scheer’s appearance comes days after Kenney has threatened to enact legislation to shut off the flow of oil and gas to British Columbia if that province’s government opposes the construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Such a move would almost certainly be unconstitutional, which is why the NDP passed but never proclaimed the law, and would likely foster more opposition to Alberta’s efforts than create support.
But back to Scheer… it is somewhat unusual to see a federal Conservative party leader campaigning in a provincial election in Alberta.
It is important to recognize that the merger of the PC and Wildrose parties in 2017 was just as much about uniting those two parties as it was creating a dominant provincial conservative party that would march in step with the Conservative Party in Ottawa. With this in mind, Kenney remains very much a national politician with ambitions beyond the Premier’s Office in Edmonton.
Scheer’s appearance on the campaign trail will come the day after it was revealed that his campaign chair, Hamish Marshall, allegedly threatened to sue the UCP over voting security during the party’s 2017 leadership race. CBC reported that email addresses fraudulently attached to party memberships were used to cast ballots in the party’s leadership race and there were virtually no safeguards against the practice.
In 1972, PC cabinet minister Dave Russellpublicly suggested that Alberta should annex parts of the North West and Yukon territories: “It makes sense in view of transportation and pipelines,” Russell told the Calgary Herald on April 19, 1972.
The last comment was made by UCP education critic Mark Smith, who is running for re-election in Drayton Valley-Devon. Smith made the remarks in a sermon from November 2013 that was posted on the website of the Calvary Baptist Church in Drayton Valley.
“You don’t have to watch any TV for any length of time today where you don’t see on the TV program them trying to tell you that homosexuality and homosexual love is good love,” Smith said in the sermon. “Heck, there are people out there, I could take you to places on the website I’m sure, where you can find out, where pedophilia is love.”
Smith also questioned how any woman who has an abortion could say that it is done out of love. His comments were made public today by the CJSR radio program GayWire.
Postmedia reports that Smith was also the author of a 2015 document circulated to his fellow Wildrose Party MLAs arguing that Christian public schools had a constitutional right to fire teachers who are gay.
Edmonton-GlenoraNDP candidate Sarah Hoffman was quick to criticize Smith’s comments, stating in a press release that his comments were “offensive, homophobic and completely neglect women’s rights.” She called on Kenney to fire Smith as a candidate.
Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandeltweeted that “By endorsing this candidate, Jason Kenney has shown he doesn’t understand Alberta in 2019. Albertans care about jobs and the economy, absolutely. But we also expect a fair, tolerant, pluralistic society where EVERYONE is equal.”
Even popular conservative radio host Charles Adler weighed in, tweeting that “No mainstream political leader who I have known, federal or provincial, aspiring to be the head of gov’t would be endorsing this candidacy. I hope Jason Kenney changes his mind.”
The two UCP candidates who made the other comments I mentioned at the beginning of this article quickly resigned their candidacies after their comments became public.
With the deadline for being placed on the ballot having passed last Friday, Kenney cannot remove Smith from the ballot. Kenney can send a strong message that these comments are unacceptable in the UCP by telling Smith that he will not be welcome to sit in the UCP caucus if he re-elected on April 16.
But it appears that Kenney will continue to support him.
In a written statement released online this afternoon through Kenney’s @UniteAlberta twitter account, Smith said he did not recall making the comments and apologized if his words offended anyone. It was a classic non-apology apology.
In statements from Smith and Livingstone-Macleod candidate Roger Reid, who was also facing criticism for comments he made during a sermon in 2012, the UCP candidates said that “Albertans are tired of revisiting old, divisive debates from many years prior.” I think many Albertans are tired of UCP candidates revisiting these old, divisive debates.
While the UCP tries to focus on its economic message, the constant stream of bozo-eruptions shows that on social issues and human rights, some members of Team Kenney continue to be way out of step with mainstream 21st century Alberta.
Ryan Jespersen calls out Mark Smith, homophobia and hate in Jason Kenney’s UCP like only he can:
Conservative radio host Charles Adler interviews Jason Kenny about his views on gay rights and UCP candidate Mark Smith:
As mentioned in the latest episode of the Daveberta Podcast, some members of the local UCP board of directors are up in arms about Kenney’s claim that they were consulted with and asked for Rhodes to be appointed as the candidate. Some of the disgruntled board members are said to be collecting signatures for a letter disputing Kenney’s claims, and that more than a dozen local directors have signed the letter.
Rhodes’ surprise appointment last week eliminated three candidates – Arundeep Sandhu, Joel Mullen and Sant Sharma – who had been selling party memberships and door-knocking to compete for the UCP nomination for up to twelve months.
Arundeep Sandhu released a letter on social media today expressing his disappointment in the decision and thanking his supporters. It was a classy letter, but it certainly did not include the “let’s all get behind the appointed candidate” message that Kenney and Rhodes were likely looking for.
Meanwhile, more than 400 New Democratic Party members voted to choose Jasvir Deol as their candidate in Edmonton-Meadows. Deol defeated Chand Gul and MLA Denise Woollard, who had been elected to represent Edmonton-Mill Creek in 2015.
Former Taber town councillor and past president of the Alberta Library Trustees Association Laura Ross-Giroux has been nominated as the NDP candidate in the southern Alberta district of Taber-Warner.
Crown prosecutor Moira Vane is the NDP candidate in Strathcona-Sherwood Park.
An NDP nomination meeting in West Yellowhead that was originally scheduled for this past weekend appears to have been rescheduled to March 9, 2019.
Dr. Esther Tailfeathers is seeking the NDP nomination in Cardston-Siksika. Dr. Tailfeathers is a Physician at the Blood Tribe Clinic at Standoff and a Clinical Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta.
Melissa Langmaid has announced plans to seek the NDP nomination in Chestermere-Strathmore. Langmaid is an Environmental Advisor with AltaLink and a unit coordinator with the United Utility Workers’ Association.
Holly Heffernan is seeking the NDP nomination in Drumheller-Stettler. Heffernan is a retired Registered Nurse and long-time NDP activist, having run numerous times for the NDP in both provincial and federal elections in Calgary.
UCP set Red Deer-South nomination vote for March 16
Buruma is Director of Community Relations forRed Deer Public School District and Executive Director of the Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools. Davidson is Chief of Emergency Medicine for Alberta Health Services’ Central Zone. Poratto is a decorator and event planner, and ran for the PC Party nomination in the district ahead of the 2008 election. Stephan is a lawyer and president of the Red Deer Taxpayers’ Association. And Wiebe was the Wildrose Party candidate in this district in the 2015 election, earning 24 percent of the vote behind NDP candidate Barb Miller and PC candidate Darcy Mykytyshyn.
Davidson’s wife, Pamela Davidson, sought the UCP Central Alberta Director election at the party’s 2018 annual general meeting and previously ran against Christine Moore in the Red Deer County Division 6 election in 2017. Moore ran unsuccessfully for the UCP nomination in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake ahead of the 2018 by-election and as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Red Deer-North in the 2015 election.
The UCP has also opened nomination contests in Edmonton-Ellerslie, Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, and Edmonton-MIll Woods.
“After nearly seven years as an MLA shackled with Party-first priorities, it is clear that Alberta’s party system of government has stripped effective representation and across-the-board best interests from Alberta’s citizens,” wrote Strankman in a media release posted on this website. “Running for election and winning office as an Independent will enable me to restore the priorities of all Drumheller Stettler citizens to the front lines of the Legislature and advance their priorities for resurrecting Alberta’s prosperity.” he said.
With Schneider declining to seek re-election, Donovan supported past Christian Heritage candidate Marc Slingerland in the UCP nomination contest against eventual winner Joseph Schow. Donovan later announced he was quitting the UCP, citing a dictatorship-like control of the party by Kenney.
Mandel awaits fate as 2 Alberta Party candidates back on the ballot
The Court of Queen’s Bench has waived the 5-year ban on Alberta Party candidates Moe Rahall in Edmonton-Castle Downs and Diana Ly in Edmonton-Gold Bar, who will now be allowed to run in the 2019 election. Party leader Stephen Mandel and four other Alberta Party candidates still await their fate as the court has yet to remove their bans.
Swann staffer runs for the Green Party
Janice Fraser is running for the Green Party in Calgary-McCall. Fraser is currently the office manager for Calgary-Mountain View Liberal MLA David Swann, who is retiring after four-terms in the Legislature. Swann’s other constituency office staffer, Joshua Codd, is the nominated Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Currie.
Jane Drummond is running for the Green Party in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre. Drummond is the editor of the Nordegg Squeek and has served as an Alberta Hiking Association member representing Terra Firma Nordegg Hiking.
New Democratic Party MLA Nicole Goehring was nominated as her party’s candidate in Edmonton-Castle Downs, a district she has represented since 2015. Goehring won her first election with 64.5 percent of the vote, unseating four-term Progressive Conservative MLA and former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk. Since her election, Goehring has served as the Government of Alberta’s Liaison to the Canadian Armed Forces and as chairperson of the Standing Committee on Families and Communities.
Calgary-Bow – NDP MLA Deborah Drever is expected to be nominated as her party’s candidate at a selection meeting on January 26, 2019. Drever was first elected in 2015 and faced considerable backlash from her political opponents when it was discovered she had made controversial posts on social media. She redeemed herself as a well-spoken representative and shepherded her first private members’ bill – Bill 204 – to unanimous approval in the Legislature in 2015. She rejoined the NDP caucus shortly after that.
Calgary-Currie – Joshua Codd has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in this southwest Calgary district. Codd is currently a Constituency Assistant for Calgary-Mountain View Liberal MLA David Swann.
Calgary-Shaw – MLA Graham Sucha is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in this district on January 27, 2019. Sucha was elected as the MLA for this district in 2015, earning 31.3 percent of the vote ahead of PC MLA Jeff Wilsonwith 30.7 percent and Wildroser Brad Leishman with 30.4 percent.
Drayton Valley-Devon – Steve Goodman is seeking the Freedom Conservative Party nomination. Goodman is a Senior Community Peace Officer with Brazeau County.
Edmonton-Ellerslie – Richard Corbin and Todd Ross appear to have withdrawn from the Alberta Party nomination contest days after another candidate, Chuck McKenna, also withdrew. The Alberta Party briefly posted a tweet congratulating Corbin on becoming the party’s candidate in the district but that tweet appears to have been removed.
Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville – Rebecca Trotter is the Green Party candidate in this district east of Edmonton. Trotter is the President of RM Trotter Management Incorporated and a Sergeant at Arms for Rotary International
West Yellowhead – Zack Seizmagraff is the Liberal Party candidate in this district. Seizmagraff was the federal Liberal Party candidate in Yellowhead in the 2011 election, earning 2.87 percent of the vote.
Who is the mystery UCP star candidate in Red Deer-South?
To the chagrin of local members, the UCP announced in early December that the party was delaying the selection meeting in Red Deer-South until 2019 in order to give time for a “high profile individual” run join the contest. The local UCP association is organizing an all-candidates forum on January 31, 2019, and only the original four candidates contesting the nomination, the true identity of the unnamed star candidate remains a mystery.
The UCP has now scheduled nomination meetings in Lethbridge-East and Calgary-North to take place on February 9, 2019. I will post a preview of these contests next week.
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!