For many decades, Alberta’s old Progressive Conservative government benefited greatly from large corporate donors which would help keep the governing party’s campaign war-chest flush with cash. It was well-known in Alberta political circles that the PC Party had the goal of always having enough money in their bank account to run two back-to-back election campaigns at any time. And usually they did.
Here are three changes that have been debated by the committee recently:
Reimbursements: A motion introduced by Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Rod Loyola on August 10, 2016 recommended “that the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act be amended to provide for a rebate of 50 per cent of registered parties’ and registered candidates’ campaign expenditures provided that campaigns receive at least 10 per cent of the vote cast and file all required financial returns.” Similar subsidies exist in federal elections and in many other provinces.
I understand the arguments in favour of this policy, but unfortunately the NDP MLAs are not going into great lengths to explain them. I do not believe these types reimbursements actually “level the playing field,” as Mr. Loyola argued when he proposed the motion. These types of reimbursements reward candidates and parties that spend the most money, even if they lose the election. A very generous tax credit system already exists for individuals who donate to candidates and political parties, and in my opinion that should be sufficient.
If the MLAs truly want to level the playing field through a financial reimbursement program, they should study the funding system that existed federally between 2004 and 2015, which tied a financial reimbursement to political parties to the number of votes they earned in an election.
Spending Limits: Last week, I wrote about the committee’s recommendation to create campaign spending limits and I was pleased to see Calgary-Shaw MLA Graham Sucha have his original motion amended to raise to initial proposed limits (which I believed were too low). The new proposal would increase the limits per campaign to $70,000 for local campaigns and an $80,000 limit for four northern constituencies. Party province-wide campaign would be limited to spending $0.80 per eligible voter, which is similar to the limit that exists in Ontario.
I do believe it is arbitrary to simply name four constituencies as exemptions, as the province’s electoral boundaries will be redrawn before the next election and these four constituency may not exist in their current form when the next election is called. It might make more sense to create a formula based on population and geography to determine whether special exceptions are required for spending limits in northern and remote rural constituencies.
Donation Limits: Currently, any individual can donate a maximum of $15,000 annually to a political party outside of election periods and $30,000 to a political party during election periods. A motion introduced by Edmonton-Decore MLA Chris Nielsen and amended by Bonnyville-ColdLake MLA Scott Cyr would lower financial contribution limits to $4,000 during election periods and $2,300 outside election periods.
The committee continues to meet this week, so I am anticipating there will be more to write about in the days to come.
Thirty-two candidates will be listed on the ballot in the Feb. 22 by-election to fill Edmonton City Council’s Ward 12. With this many candidates on the ballot, it could be challenging for voters to choose who would best represent them on city council. It will also be challenging for those 32 candidates to break from the pack and distinguish themselves with less than a month until election day.
Here are some ways these 32 candidates might break from pack.
Having voters who already recognize your name will be an advantage for some candidates, as long as that recognition is positive. Because there are no formal political parties at the municipal level, all candidates will be running on their own names.
Laura Thibert has been the Catholic School Board Trustee from the area since 2010 and was briefly nominated as a Wildrose Party candidate before the 2015 election.
Balraj Manhas has been spokesperson for the United Cabbies during the recent city council debates about allowing Uber to operate in Edmonton. He was disqualified as a candidate in a Progressive Conservative nomination contest in early 2015.
Mohinder Banga was briefly a candidate for the federal Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Mill Woods in 2015 before being disqualified.
Don Koziak has run in at least eight municipal and provincial elections since 1995, including the mayoral race in 2007 and briefly in 2010, but he has never run as a candidate in this area of the city. He was the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Glenora in 2012 and 2015.
Mike Butler ran as a Liberal and New Democratic Party candidate in this area in various provincial and federal elections since 2008. In 2014, he wrote an open letter explaining why he was leaving the Liberals to join the Alberta Party.
Arundeep Singh Sandhu was until a few months ago the Vice-President of Organization of the Progressive Conservative Party.
Andrew Gorman ran for city council in Ward 9 in the 2013 election, as did Dan “Can Man” Johnstone in Ward 10.
There is no better way to identify your supporters and meet voters than showing up on their doorstep and ringing their doorbell. If you are a voter who lives in Ward 12, there is a very real possibility that you might have 32 different candidates knocking on your door before Feb. 22, 2016. Don’t be surprised to see candidates waving to traffic at busy intersections during rush hour, shaking hands at Tim Horton’s or showing up in droves at any community event before Election Day.
There are already numerous all-candidate forums being organized by different community groups and organizations in Ward 12. With 32 candidates in the race, there might be little value in holding traditional question and answer forums, which will be time consuming, lengthy and uninteresting. Other candidate meeting formats, like the speed dating-style events held in the 2013 election, might prove to be more valuable for candidates and voters.
The City of Edmonton is not hosting an official all-candidates forum during this by-election. The Women’s Advocacy Voice of Edmonton is hosting a forum on Feb. 5, 2016 at the Mill Woods Seniors and Multicultural Centre and the Mill Woods Presidents’ Council is hosting a forum on Feb. 17, 2016 at J. Percy Page High School.
Getting ahead of the issues
It is always difficult to determine what the defining issue of any election campaign will be, but that will not stop candidates from trying to get ahead of issues that are on the radar of voters in Ward 12.
A number of candidates, including Nav Kaur, Balraj Manhas, Mohinder Banga, Arundeep Sandhu and Danisha Bhaloo, called on council to delay the vote on the new bylaw to govern vehicle-for-hire businesses that would include Uber until after the by-election. Nav Kaur outlined her position on her campaign blog.
Sam Jhajj is hosting an open house at his campaign office to discuss and provide input into developing policies that can prevent domestic violence.
Three candidates are calling on the city to delay construction of LRT to southeast Edmonton. Don Koziaktold CBC that money going toward LRT would be better spent improving the city’s roads and intersections. Dan Johnston told basketofyegs.com that he would delay all future LRT construction. Kelly Kadla told the Edmonton Journal he wants a moratorium on the Valley LRT Line.
Gimmicks might not be the best word, but candidates should be expected to use different tactics to get attention for themselves and the issues they are focusing on during this campaign.
Nicole Szymanowka earned media attention for using the dating app Tinder as a campaign tool.
Irfan Chaudhry and his supporters are sporting flashy yellow toques with his campaign hashtag #irFANclub.
Nav Kaur tweeted her bus trip from her Mill Woods home to City Hall to demonstrate the need for improved public transit service to southeast Edmonton.
Nick Chamchuk is pledging not to use campaign signs and is encouraging his supporters to use the #YEGnoelectionsigns hashtag on Twitter and Facebook. He wrote on Facebook that this is part of this campaign “to give Mother nature a break, make driving safer and more enjoyable, save resources and my daughter’s education fund…”
Stephen Wutzke told the Edmonton Journal that if he is elected he will donate $20,000 of his annual salary to the Edmonton Food Bank.
Jason Bale announced on his website that he will only spend $100 on his campaign to make a point about money in politics. In lieu of lawn signs, he is asking supporters to write ‘100’ in the snow in front of their homes and businesses.
Endorsements from prominent community members will not win an election but they can lend credibility to candidates and their campaigns.
Nav Kaur has received the endorsements of Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Rod Loyola, outspoken Catholic School Trustee Patricia Grell, Public School Board Trustee Michael Janz, former city councillor Michael Phair and recent federal Liberal candidate Beatrice Ghettuba.
Danisha Bhaloo has received the endorsement of former Progressive Conservative MLA and former mayor Stephen Mandel, former Edmonton-Glenora PC MLA Heather Klimchuk and former Ward 5 city council candidate Dan St. Pierre, who is serving as her official agent.
Laura Thibert has an endorsement from fellow Catholic Trustee Debbie Engel.
Don Koziak has the support of former MP and MLA Brent Rathgeber, who is serving as his official agent.
The 32 candidates in Ward 12
Here is the list of candidates who have registered their intentions to run, along with links to their websites and social media accounts. I will be posting any updates to the Ward 12 by-election webpage.
When to vote? Voting stations will be open in Ward 12 on Feb. 22 from 9:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Advance polls are open at the Meadows Community Recreation Centre on Feb. 8, 9, 10 and 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Recent polls show a three-way split in support between the Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic and Wildrose Parties have generated some interest in Alberta’s provincial election campaign but with 24 days left until voting day we can expect a lot to change. Here is a quick review of what the politicians were saying and political parties were spinning in the first week of this election campaign.
Mr. Prentice targeted his opponents as extremists while moderating his own tone around Alberta’s economy. Before the election was called, Mr. Prentice’s repeated doom-and-gloom messages led opposition critics to name him “Grim Jim.” The PCs are attempting to present Mr. Prentice as the balanced (a.k.a. safe) candidate, as opposed to the extremist (a.k.a. dangerous) leaders of the opposition.
The recent provincial budget included almost sixty tax and fee increases, including increases to personal taxes but no increases to corporate taxes, which appears to have been a political miscalculation on the part of the PCs. The government’s own budget survey results showed 69% of Albertans support a corporate tax increase, a point the NDP has stressed.
PC MLAs and candidates took to social media to post different variations of a message that 8,900 jobs would be lost if corporate taxes were increased by 1%. It is unclear what study the 8,900 jobs number originates from.
Creating more confusion around corporate tax increases, a PC press release from April 9 stated ‘Prentice pointed out that more than 95% in Alberta are small businesses, employing fewer than 50 people, and questioned those who would put those jobs at risk with a corporate tax increase.” This is a good talking point, if not for the issue that small businesses do not pay corporate tax rates.
According to the Department of Finance website, small businesses earning $500,000 of less profit each year pay a separate 3% small business tax, not the 10% corporate tax applied to companies earning more than $500,000 in profit annually. The PCs dropped the corporate tax rate in Alberta from 15% in 2001 to the current 10% in 2006.
NDP leader Rachel Notleylaunched her party’s election campaign in Edmonton and travelled to Calgary and Lethbridge to campaign with candidates in those cities. It is notable that the NDP are focusing resources on candidates outside of Edmonton, where the party has traditionally been weak. Calgary-Fort candidate Joe Ceci, Calgary-Varsity candidate Stephanie McLean and Lethbridge-West candidate Shannon Phillips were prominently placed at Ms. Notley’s side during photo-ops at these stops
NDP messaging in the first week of the campaign focused on the economy. Ms. Notley announced the creation of a Job Creation Tax Credit for businesses as the first NDP election promise, providing balance from their calls for corporate tax increases. The credit sounds reasonable, but much like the PC Party’s 8,900 job loss argument, I am skeptical about this credit creating 27,000 new jobs. The NDP also announced that in-province refining and upgrading is also a top priority. Before the election was called, Ms. Notley’s unveiled her party’s plans to create a Resource Owners’ Rights Commission.
The NDP responded to Mr. Prentice’s “extremist” claims with an “extremist of the week” press release quoting former Premier Peter Lougheed’s support of increased corporate taxes and former Deputy Premier (and current PC candidate) Thomas Lukaszuk support for in-province refining and upgrading.
Focusing on rural Alberta, Wildrose leader Brian Jean campaigned in southern Alberta and his Fort McMurray constituency this week. While the campaign trail in Strathmore-Brooks, Mr. Jean and candidate Derek Fildebrandt cleverly walked around town with a giant arrow in hand pointing out services and commodities, like alcohol and gas, which became more expensive due to tax increases in the recent provincial budget.
Mr. Jean released his party’s “Five Priorities” that include positions on taxes, health care, education, democracy and rural Alberta. Part of the Wildrose plan to balance the budget by 2017 without raising taxes includes cutting 3,200 management jobs, including 1,600 in Alberta Health Services and 1,600 in the Government public service.
The Wildrose announced they would sell the Kananaskis Golf Course, a publicly owned and privately-operated golf course that the provincial government had paid millions of dollars to repair after it was damaged by floods in 2013.
The Wildrose Party also nominated new candidates this week including City Councillor Buck Buchanan in Red Deer-North, past mayoral candidate Shelley Biermanski in St. Albert, Don Koziak in Edmonton-Glenora and Ian Crawford in Edmonton-Riverview.
The Green Party published a media release criticizing the PC Government’s record on environmental regulation, describing it as a “fake, not authentic, regulation and thus an insult to the intelligence, dignity and trusting nature of Albertans.” The release takes issue with the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan and calls on the government to create a regulator that understands the impact of proposed activity and puts rules in place to prevent any unacceptable impacts.
The Parkland Institute released a new report looking at political values of Albertans. Public Interest Alberta released its “Priorities for Change” report as a resource for political candidates in this election And Change Alberta has returned to rank the progressive candidates most likely to win in constituencies across Alberta.
The final PC candidate nomination meetings being held today are in Calgary-McCall and Calgary-Fort. There are six candidates seeking the nomination in Calgary-McCall (Rajinder Harika, Issa Mosa, Muhammad Rasheed, Jagdeep Sahota, Jangbahadur Sidhu and Kuldeep Sidhu) and four in Calgary-Fort (Bev DeSantis, Andy Nguyen, Christopher Primeau and Peter Singh). Ms. DeSantis has received Mr. Prentice’s endorsement in the Fort nomination.
“It’s like we’ve become House of Cards,” is how one Progressive Conservative Party member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described their party’s candidate nomination process. With a rush of nomination contests being held in advance of a spring provincial election in Alberta, the member said “the entire process has gone straight to hell.”
A number of frustrated PC Party members have contacted me over the past few weeks to vent their frustration with interference by senior cabinet ministers and party officials in local nomination contests, especially in rural constituencies where long-standing PC Party loyalists are challenging former Wildrose MLAs who crossed the floor to the PC Party in December 2014.
Over the past few months, cabinet ministers have criss-crossed the province to campaign and be seen alongside their favoured candidate nominees. The interference is coming from “the boys on the third floor,” said another disaffected PC activist, referring to the Premier’s Office, which is located on the third floor of the Legislative Assembly Building.
While hurt feelings, drama and even the odd scandal are not uncommon in party nomination contests, the increased number of controversies arising from PC nomination contests this year could be a cause of concern for the 44-year long governing party. In many Alberta constituencies, winning the PC nomination is a more challenging campaign than winning the actual election.
When running for the PC leadership last year, Jim Prentice promised to restore trust in a PC Party badly damaged by former Premier Alison Redford, but the latest nomination controversies undermine his promise and will likely increase cynicism among Alberta voters.
Here is a quick run-down of some of the more contentious nomination races that have been reported in by the media:
– PC MLA Naresh Bhardwajresigned as Associate Minister for Persons with Disabilities last Friday pending an investigation by the PC Party into allegations of bribery in the recent Edmonton-Ellerslie nomination contest. Metro Edmonton first reported that a party member publicly accused Mr. Bhardwaj of offering him, through another person, a $10,000 bribe in return for recanting his support for candidate Balraj Manhas. Mr. Bhardwaj, who was acclaimed as the PC candidate, has stated that he plans to clear his name.
–As I suspected in February, former Calgary Police Chief Rick Hansonwas appointed by Mr. Prentice as the PC Party’s candidate in Calgary-Cross. Normally, the appointment of this type of star candidate is celebrated, but in this case, there were at least six other candidates already campaigning for the nomination. Although the party leader has the power to appoint the candidates of his choosing, it is a delicate balance not to offend or alienate local party organizers.
– One day before the Edmonton-Meadowlark PC nomination vote on March 14, 2015, candidate Tom Choucairwas disqualified after another candidate, Steve Benson, alleged someone from another candidate’s campaign offered him money to drop out of the race. Mr. Benson announced in an email sent to the local PC Association that he had filed an affidavit with the party. “Personally, the party wants a particular person to be the nominee,” Mr. Choucair told CBC. Former Globe & Mail reporter Katherine O’Neill won the nomination vote this weekend.
CBC reporter John Archer has written about the strange details behind the Meadowlark nomination controversy, including mistaken phone calls from senior staff in the Premier’s Office and a former Edmonton City Councillor.
– Don Martin, a 2012 Wildrose candidate and a 2015 nomination candidate in Edmonton-Decore, claims he was forced out of the nomination contest by a PC Party official. Mr. Martin posted his account of the situation on his Facebook page, claiming he was forced out of the race amid wrongful accusations of misconduct and threats of a mystery affidavit. His withdrawal from the nomination led to PC MLA Janice Sarich being acclaimed as the PC candidate.
– Defeated nomination candidate Dixie Dahlstedt submitted an official complaint to the PC Party about the conduct of the party’s nomination vote in the Bonnyville-Cold Lake constituency. Ms. Dahlstedt’s complaint lists a series of objections about the organization of the nomination, alleged conflicts of interest, and calls for the party to conduct an inquiry. The nomination vote was won by Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland.
Only two remaining constituencies – Chestermere-Rockyview and Calgary-McCall – have not yet scheduled nomination contests, leaving some PC Party members to speculate that Mr. Prentice is aiming to appoint candidates in those spots.
As the Progressive Conservative Party rushes towards an early election call, party officials are investigating nomination irregularities and allegations of bribery, reports Metro Edmonton. According to Metro, the PC Party is investigating the process that led to the acclamation of MLA Naresh Bhardwaj as the PC candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie. Allegations of nomination irregularities have been raised by PC members in Edmonton-Decore and Bonnyville-Cold Lake.
But, as controversy surrounds some nomination contests, all parties continue to rush through the nomination process. The following list are the latest updates to the growing list of Alberta Election 2015 candidates:
Airdrie: Chris Noble is seeking the NDP nomination.
Athabasca-Redwater-Sturgeon: Colin Piquette, son of former New Democratic Party MLA Leo Piquette, is acclaimed as the NDP candidate. Mr. Piquette was the 2001 NDP candidate in the former Athabasca-Wabasca constituency, where he placed third with 9.5% of the vote.
Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock: Tristin Turner is seeking the NDP nomination. In 2014, Mr. Turner was a recipient of a Top 30 Under 30 award through the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation.
Calgary-Bow: Lawyer Byron Nelson defeated past city council candidate Chris Harper in a 214 to 136 vote for the Progressive Conservative nomination. Recently graduated Law student Alyx Nanji was Mr. Nelson’s campaign manager.
Calgary-Cross: Some north east Calgary PCs are worried that former Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson will be appointed as their party’s candidate in Calgary-Cross, despite six other candidates being in the race. As I wrote on February 25, 2015, it is widely speculated that Premier Jim Prentice could appoint Mr. Hanson as the PC candidate in this constituency.
Calgary-Currie: Shelley Wark-Martyn resigned as President of the Liberal Party today and is rumoured to be preparing to run for her party in this constituency. I am told that an odd rule in the Liberal Party bylaws does not permit party office holders from also being candidates. Ms. Wark-Martyn served as an Ontario New Democratic MPP from 1990 to 1995, during which time she also served as a cabinet minister in Premier Bob Rae‘s government.
Calgary Elbow: Educator and storyteller Catherine Wellburn is seeking the NDP nomination, which is scheduled for March 19, 2015.
Calgary-Fort: Vic Goosen has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.
Calgary-Glenmore: Terry Lo is the Alberta Party candidate and Anam Kazim is seeking the NDP nomination, scheduled for March 19, 2015.
Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill: Incumbent MLA Neil Brown defeated two challengers to secure the PC nomination. Community Shuttle Operator and University of Calgary Political Science Graduate Student Ezra Voth is the nominated Alberta Party candidate.
Calgary-Shaw: Evert Smith has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate.
Calgary-Varsity: Jeremy Mroch is the nominated Alberta Party candidate. According to his website, he has “most recently been involved at the executive level in the development and commercialization of lower environmental impact energy and oilfield greening technologies.”
Cypress-Medicine Hat: Former Cypress County Reeve Bob Olson has announced he’s seeking the PC nomination for this southeast rural constituency. Also in the race is Danny Fieldberg. Former PC MLA Len Mitzel announced he will not seek the nomination.
Drayton Valley-Devon: Katherine Swampy is seeking the NDP nomination.
Edmonton-Gold Bar: University of Alberta lecturer Cristina Stasia is the nominated Alberta Party candidate. Dr. Stasia has won numerous teaching awards and is a founding board members of WAVE: Women’s Advocacy Voice of Edmonton.
Edmonton-Manning: Gurcharan Garcha is said to be running against MLA Peter Sandhu for the PC nomination in this northeast Edmonton constituency. Mr. Garcha runs the G Driving School. Adam Mounzar is seeking the Liberal Party nomination.
Edmonton Meadowlark: Registered Social Worker Jeanette de Vries will challenge Jon Carson for the NDP nomination.
Edmonton-Rutherford: Local businessman Chris Labossiere defeated Grant Mann in for the PC nomination. The constituency is currently represented by former Health Minister Fred Horne, who is not seeking re-election.
Edmonton-South West: Former Catholic School Trustee Rudy Arcilla is seeking the Liberal nomination. In 2012, Mr. Arcilla earned 15% of the vote as the Liberal candidate.
Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo: First-term MLA Mike Allen defeated Catholic School Trustee Tracy McKinnon for the PC nomination. Some PC Party members in Fort McMurray have expressed their unhappiness after they discovered local organizers scheduled candidate speeches after the voting had closed at the nomination meeting.
Medicine Hat: Teacher and past city council candidate Jim Black is the Alberta Party candidate. Mr. Black is also the Political Engagement Officer for Alberta Teachers’ Association Local 2 in the Prairie Rose School District.
Red Deer-North: Krystal Kromm is the Alberta Party candidate. Ms. Kromm is the Vice-President of Red Deer’s Downtown Business Association.
Strathcona-Sherwood Park: Educational Assistant and Taekwondo Coach Estefania Cortes-Vargas is the NDP candidate.
Strathmore-Brooks: Einar Davison is the nominated Alberta Party candidate. Mr. Davison ran for the Liberal Party in the 1997 election in the Drumheller-Chinook constituency, where he earned 15% of the vote.
Whitecourt-Ste Anne: Gunn-area cattle farmer John Bos is the nominated Wildrose Party candidate.
I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.
The Alberta Legislature returned for what is expected to be short sitting before an expected Spring election. With the provincial budget scheduled to be tabled on March 26 and the last major round of Progressive Conservative candidate nominations being held on March 28, many political observers are speculating that the writ of election could be called on March 30, 2015. If the writ is dropped on March 30, the 2015 election will be held on April 27, 2015.
Making amends for Bill 10 The backwards Gay-Straight Alliance law introduced by PC MLA Sandra Jansen in December 2014 was heavily amended and passed on the first day of this Assembly sitting. When Bill 10 was first introduced last year, it faced harsh public criticism from across the country as it would have allowed school boards to ban the student-led clubs and force students to appeal those decisions through the courts. The newly amended version will do the opposite.
This is a big win for Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, who’s private members’ bill – Bill 202 – forced PC MLAs into some very uncomfortably conversations about gender, sexuality and bullying in Alberta schools last year. At its core, this debate was really about whether the government should block students from setting up clubs, and the initial version of Bill 10 was largely considered to be Jim Prentice’s first big fumble as Premier. The amended law will likely defuse any backlash to the original controversial legislation during the upcoming election.
During the Bill 10 debates, opposition MLAs were joined by PC MLAs Thomas Lukaszuk, Doug Griffiths and Jason Luan, who spoke out against the government’s bill. Sources say PC Caucus staff were directed to keep a watchful eye over Mr. Lukaszuk after his outspoken criticism of the GSA bill.
The Wildrose Sideshow The Wildrose Party held its first leadership debate this week in Red Deer. The three candidates – Drew Barnes, Brian Jean and Linda Osinchuk – face the significant challenge of trying to generate public interest in a leadership vote only weeks before a general election is expected to be called. The party’s new leader will be announced on March 28, 2015.
PC nomination controversy Recent PC nomination candidate Dixie Dahlstedt submitted an official complaint to the PC Party about the conduct of the party’s recent nomination vote in the Bonnyville-Cold Lake constituency. Ms. Dahlstedt’s complaint lists a series of objections about the organization of the nomination and calls for the party to conduct an inquiry.
PC nomination hopefuls Don Martin and Balraj Manhas told Metro Edmonton they were unfairly pushed out of candidate nomination contests in Edmonton-Decore and Edmonton-Ellerslie. Both constituencies are currently represented by PC MLAs who were acclaimed as candidates in the next election.
That town from Footloose… The southern Alberta Town of Taber has become the source of national ridicule and confusion after town councillors voted to ban yelling, swearing and spiting. The new bylaw also allows police to break up assemblies of three or more people, which is likely unconstitutional. But the biggest surprise to this writer is that Taber has its own municipal police force, which is incredibly uncommon for a town of its size in Alberta.
This is the Alberta NDP’s first foray into a one-member, one-vote system preferential ballot system of selecting their leader, at least partially. While 75% of the total votes cast to choose the next leader are allocated to individual members, 25% of the total votes are allocated to organizations affiliated with the NDP.
This hybrid system was adopted after a vote by NDP members at a recent policy convention. The 25% affiliate organization vote is a recognition of the party’s historical ties to labour unions, who are suspected to make up most of the affiliates.
How the votes will actually be counted is also a source of confusion among NDP members I have spoken with. The Edmonton Journal’s Karen Kleiss did an admirable job trying to explain the system, but even after an explanation it remains needlessly complicated:
The affiliate status gives the eight unions a 25 per cent weighted vote in the leadership election.
This means that if each of the eight unions cast one ballot, each of those ballots would count for 3.12 per cent of the total votes. In a hypothetical race with 10,000 ballots cast, each union ballot would count for 312 votes.
Simply put, the votes of indivdiual organizations will be weighed heavier than votes of individual NDP members in this leadership vote. But even though NDP members may be told how those votes are weighed within the 25%, there is still no public listing of the affiliated organizations.
I am told there are at most ten organizations eligible to cast votes in the leadership contest, but privacy rules restrict the NDP from releasing the names of the organizations without their approval.
There are limited rules around how provincial political parties conduct leadership contests. Unlike the United States, where open primary votes feel like general elections and are highly structured, leadership votes in Alberta feel like the Wild West.
Leadership candidates and their Chief Financial Officers must register with Elections Alberta, but aside from that, party’s set their own rules around entry fees, spending limits, debates, and how the leader is selected. This has led to some odd voting schemes and irregularities during recent leadership contests.
In their 2011 leadership contest, the Liberal Party introduced a “supporter” category of voter, who could vote in their leadership contest by signing up for free. The “supporters” did little to boost the active membership of the party and the category was dissolved shortly after Raj Sherman was selected as leader.
Our political leaders should be encouraged to develop new and innovative ways of engaging voters in leadership races, but Albertans need to know the processes being used are fair and transparent.
“Alleged death threats, implied bribes, constituency association ambushes and supposed Progressive Conservative Party skulduggery,” is how a Red Deer Advocate report described the unexpectedly interesting Wildrose Party nomination in the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre constituency.
First-term MLA Joe Anglin is being challenged for his nomination by former local Wildrose president Jason Nixon.
Mr. Anglin is long-time rabble-rouser who set the political landscape on fire by organizing mass opposition to the construction of electrical transmission lines through vast swaths of central Alberta. Briefly the leader of Alberta’s Greens, he grabbed the Wildrose nomination before the 2012 election and unseated six-term PC MLA Ty Lund, who was first elected to political office in the region in 1980.
The Wildrose nomination in the riding immediately south of Edmonton is shaping up to be a race. The contest already has attracted three candidates and more are expected to enter the race.
First to enter the race is Patrick Kobly, son of former Beaumont mayor Ken Kobly and fiancee of Nicky Walker, chief of staff to Independent MLAs Mike Allen and Len Webber.
Jackie Lovely, a former Wildrose Caucus staffer and past president of the Summerside Community League, is also seeking the nomination in Leduc-Beaumont. Ms. Lovely ran for the Wildrose Party in Edmonton-Ellerslie in the 2012 election, placing second behind PC MLA Naresh Bhardwaj, earning 3,249 votes (24% of the vote).
Ironworker Joel Hamilton is running for the Wildrose nomination in Leduc-Beaumont and has declared on his Facebook page that he “will fight Edmonton’s Annexation of Nisku, the Airport and of the Beaumont expansion area.”
Retired Colonel John Fletcher is seeking the Wildrose nomination in Calgary-Elbow. It is expected that current Progressive Conservative MLA and former Premier Alison Redford could resign to allow Jim Prenticeto run in a by-election shortly after he wins the PC leadership race in September.
Drayton Valley-Devon Daniel Walton, owner of the Easyford meat packing company, is seeking the Wildrose nomination. This was one of the few rural constituencies where the PC candidate earned a majority of the votes cast in the 2012 election. PC MLA Diana McQueen was elected for a second term with 51.6% of the vote.
Edmonton-Mill Woods Laura Thibert, Edmonton Catholic School District trustee announced on Twitter that she will seek the Wildrose nomination in Edmonton-Mill Woods. Ms. Thibert was first elected in 2010 and was re-elected in 2013 with 47% of the vote.
Edmonton-South West Tim Grover is seeking the Wildrose nomination. A business consultant, Mr. Grover was the Get Out The Vote chairman for Karen Leibovici’s mayoral campaign in 2013.
The NDP nominated researcher Shannon Phillips as their candidate in Lethbridge-West. The NDP hope that with some hard work Ms. Phillips can build on her 2012 results, when she boosted her party’s support to 29%, up from 10% in the 2008 election. Those 2012 results placed Ms. Phillips ahead of the Wildrose candidate and just over 1,000 votes behind PC MLA Greg Weadick.
Former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk was nominated as the Wildrose candidate in Sherwood Park. Ms. Osinchuk was first elected mayor in 2010, defeating incumbent mayor Cathy Oleson, who is now the PC MLA for Sherwood Park.
I am maintaining an updated list of candidates seeking party nominations to stand in Alberta’s next provincial election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list.