As the first day of Alberta’s provincial election winds down, I have a few quick candidate nomination updates to share.
Barnes not running
He waited until almost the very last minute, but Independent MLA Drew Barnes announced through a video posted on social media that he will not seek re-election for a fourth term as the MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat.
Barnes was first elected in 2012 as a Wildrose Party MLA and was re-elected under the Wildrose banner in 2015. He won a third-term in 2019 as a United Conservative Party candidate but was removed from the UCP Caucus in 2021 after two years of being a general thorn in then-premier Jason Kenney‘s side.
Party on the right
The Wildrose Loyalty Coalition (not to be confused with the Wildrose Independence Party) is now an official registered political party recognized by Elections Alberta.
The new party is led by former Wildrose Independence and Wildrose Alliance Party leader Paul Hinman, who was pushed out of his role as leader of the WIP last year. Two-time Wildrose Party candidate and UCP nominee aspirant Danny Hozack is the party president.
And there is always room for one-more fringe party on the political right in Alberta.
Pastor Artur Pawlowski, known for his 11-minute phone call with Premier Danielle Smith and his ousting as leader of the Independence Party of Alberta, was joined by former Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders (who is still listed as a board member of the Wildrose Independence Party) to announce they are forming another new political party – The Solidarity Movement of Alberta.
Meanwhile, the Pro-Life Alberta Political Association (formerly known as the Social Credit Party) has nominated Lucas Hernandez as their candidate in Calgary-Mountain View. Hernandez carried the party banner in Calgary-Currie in 2019, where he earned 60 votes.
The CBC’s Jason Markusoff recently wrote an analysis of the Alberta Pro-Life Political Association, a political party that acts like a political action committee.
There are also a handful of people who have registered as candidates with no party affiliation who will run as Independents.
They include Andrew Lineker in Edmonton-McClung, Graham Lettner in Edmonton-Gold Bar, Jody Balanko in Strathcona-Sherwood Park, and Matthew Powell in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright.
I will continue to post candidate nomination updates on this website but subscribe to the Daveberta Substack to read my latest Alberta election coverage. My most recent piece covers how the UCP and NDP kicked-off the election, the role that Conservative Party MPs are playing in the election, and how the two main parties are spending money on digital advertising.
I am planning to share most of my writing for the upcoming Alberta election on Substack, so don’t miss out!
After months of speculation, Finance Minister Travis Toews announced this morning he will not seek re-election as the United Conservative Party MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti. Toews was first elected in 2019 and placed second in the party’s 2022 leadership race.
It was widely believed that Toews would not run again, as a result of last year’s leadership race and the likely possibility that he would not be reappointed to the Finance Minister role if the UCP is re-elected in May.
The letter, posted below, conspicuously misses any mention of Premier Danielle Smith.
Dr. Vankka moved to Edmonton in 2000 when he was posted by Canadian Armed Forces as the Western Regional Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon. Following his military service, he worked in private practice at Kingsway Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery until retiring in 2018. He maintains a teaching position with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta.
Dr. Venkka previously ran for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-McClung in February 2023.
Former Alberta Prosperity Project CEO and surgeon Dr. Dennis Modry had previously announced his intentions to run.
The riding is currently represented by NDP MLA Lori Sigurdson, who is running for re-election for a third-term as MLA.
And, hot off the presses, Miles Berry has been nominated as the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Gold Bar.
More nomination updates
Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville: The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting for April 21, 2023 in this riding east of Edmonton.
Lesser Slave Lake: A recount in this northern rural riding found that Scott Sinclair defeated Martine Carifelle by 5 votes instead of the 3 votes counted at the nomination meeting on February 26.
Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills: Daniel Brisbin has withdrawn his candidacy for the Green Party in this central Alberta riding.
Toor’s first term as a UCP backbencher was not short of controversy.
In June 2020, CBC reported that the owners of two popular food trucks claimed they were being bullied and harassed by residents who didn’t want them there, including Toor.
He was hit with a $15,000 fine from Elections Alberta in July 2021 for violating five sections of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. And in September 2021, Alberta Health Services issued a closure order for a Gleichen hotel owned by Toor.
Toor was one of only a handful of UCP MLAs to support Danielle Smith in her bid to win the party’s leadership and he was rewarded in October 2022 with an appointment as Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism.
This is a riding the NDP believe they can flip. It is on my list to watch.
Four in Livingstone-Macleod UCP race, former candidate now running for Alberta Party
It looked like there might be six or seven candidates in the race but when the nomination papers were handed in, there were only four candidates contesting the ‘do-over‘ UCP nomination Livingstone-Macleod.
This was an extremely difficult decision to make, and I didn’t make it lightly. However, after being involved more closely with the party, I found that some of my values, morals and ethics were just not aligning as much as they used to.
Constituency office manager Lizette Tejada defeated four other candidates to win the NDP nomination in this hotly contested Calgary riding. This was the party’s second time holding a nomination contest in the riding. Brady Adkins, Angela McIntyre, Mattie McMillan and Laurie O’Neil were the other candidates in the race.
All quiet in Grande Prairie-Wapiti
What’s one of the big questions being asked in Alberta political circles this week?
The rancher-accountant and UCP leadership race runner-up has been silent on his plans for the next election and the party has not released any news about nominating a candidate in his Grande Prairie-Wapiti riding.
Will Toews bow out of provincial politics after tabling the spring budget? We’ll find out soon.
Calgary-Bhullar-McCall: Sonya Virk joins Amanpreet Singh Gill in the UCP nomination race in this north east Calgary riding. Virk is a former member of the Alberta Party provincial board. A vote is scheduled for March 5.
Edmonton-Glenora: Shannon Berry and Amit Batra are seeking the UCP nomination. Batra previously ran as a Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Calder in 2015, was active in Wexit Alberta and, until recently, served as a director of the Wildrose Independence Party.
Edmonton-McClung: Daniel Heikkinen defeated Terry Vankka to win the UCP nomination. Heikkinen was a candidate for Edmonton City Council in October 2021.
Edmonton-Manning: Alberto Mazzocca and Jaspreet Saggu are seeking the UCP nomination. A nomination vote is scheduled for February 22, 2023.
Lethbridge-West: Rick Dempsey and Torry Tanner are seeking the UCP nomination. Dempsey ran for the nomination in 2018. Tanner was named in an unsuccessful lawsuit against former Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw challenging Alberta’s COVID-19 public health restrictions. A nomination vote is scheduled for March 14.
Lesser Slave Lake: Martine Carifelle, Jerrad Cunningham, Scott Sinclair, and Silas Yellowknee are seeking the UCP nomination. A vote is being held on February 25 and 26.
Calgary-Lougheed: Venkat Ravulaparthi and Kim Wagner are seeking the NDP nomination. A nomination vote is scheduled for March 14.
Drumheller-Stettler: Pharmacist Juliet Franklin was nominated as the NDP candidate. This was the only riding where the NDP candidate placed 4th in the 2019 election.
Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Fisheries biologist Vance Buchwald was nominated as the NDP candidate.
Julian Schulz has been nominated as the Green Party candidate in Edmonton-Glenora. Two of the party’s nominated candidates have withdrawn their candidacies: Brandy Kinkead in Calgary-Edgemont and Lucas Bevan in Sherwood Park.
Three months ago after the party cancelled a previous nomination contest it looked like almost nobody wanted to run for the United Conservative Party in Livingstone-Macleod. Now there are five candidates in the race to replace retiring MLA Roger Reid.
Edmonton-McClung: Past city council candidate Daniel Heikkinen and oral surgeon Terry Vankka are seeking the UCP nomination in this south west Edmonton riding. A nomination meeting is scheduled for February 10.
Edmonton-North West: Tyler Beaulac has been nominated as the Green Party candidate.
Edmonton-Whitemud: UCP Caucus staffer Varun Chandrasekar will challenge former Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman for the UCP nomination. Sherman attempted to run for the UCP leadership in 2022 but was not granted a waiver to join the race when he did not meeting the membership requirements.
Red Deer-North: Heather Morigeau is running for the Green Party. Morigeau was previously nominated as the party’s candidate in Calgary-Buffalo but withdrew from the nomination in that riding last month.
Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Carrie Tait has a report about the Take Back Alberta-backed revolt against embattled MLA and former finance minister Jason Nixon and the right-wing group’s effort to overturn his nomination as the UCP candidate in the riding.
Sherwood Park: Sue Timanson is the Alberta Party candidate in this suburban riding just east of Edmonton. Timanson was the party’s candidate in 2019, when she earned 13.1 per cent of the vote.
The United Conservative Party leadership race is taking the spotlight but Alberta’s political parties are chugging along with candidate nominations ahead of a provincial election that is scheduled for next May but could happen anytime after the new UCP leader is chosen.
Second-term MLA Lorne Dach was nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-McClung, the riding he has represented since 2015. “I will make sure that my community continues to have a champion in the legislature,” Dach said in a statement. “Alberta’s NDP has spent our time as Official Opposition listening to Albertans and what they need to build their future’s here. I am so happy for the opportunity to keep working for Edmonton-McClung, to ensure they have access to quality public healthcare, good paying jobs, and can afford the roof over their head.”
Candidate nominations are now open in four UCP held ridings: Banff-Kananaskis (MLA Miranda Rosin), Calgary-Hays (MLA Ric McIver), Calgary-North (MLA Mohammad Yaseen), and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake (MLA Devin Dreeshen).
The incumbents and challengers
UCP MLA Kaycee Madu will face a nomination challenge from Slava Cravcenco in Edmonton-South West on June 29. This is the first time in this election cycle that the UCP have allowed an incumbent to be challenged in a nomination vote. Madu currently serves as Minister of Labour and was removed from his previous role as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General after it was made public that he phoned Edmonton police chief Dale McFee after getting a districted driving ticket. Madu was first elected in 2019 with 44 per cent of the vote.
MLA Chris Nielsen is facing a challenge for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Decore from Africa Centre executive director Sharif Haji. Nielsen was first elected in 2015. A nomination vote is being held on June 24 and 25.
The UCP has opened nominations in Edmonton-Decore. Sayid Ahmed is seeking the nomination. Ahmed is a manager in the provincial department of health and Vice President of Policy for the Alberta Advisory Board of the Conservative Black Congress of Canada. Nomination applications are due June 21, 2022.
NDP members in Edmonton-South West will choose from a pack of four candidates contesting the nomination on June 18. Business instructor and past UCP nomination candidate Ben Acquaye, behavioral specialist Chand Gul, medical clinic executive director Ali Kamal, and three-term public school trustee Nathan Ip are seeking the NDP nomination.
Brooks-Medicine Hat NDP members will nominate retired teacher and Medicine Hat Police Commission member Gwendoline Dirk at a meeting on June 23.
Edmonton-West Henday NDP members are expected to nominate lawyer Brooks Arcand-Paul at a meeting on June 29.
Edmonton-EllerslieNDP MLA Rod Loyolaannounced on Facebook that he is planning to run for his party’ nomination, and re-election. Loyola was first elected in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019 with 50.9 per cent of the vote. He placed third in the race for the NDP leadership in 2014.
Loyola is facing a challenge from Manpreet Singh Tiwana and psychologists association president Judi Malone.
Lovely re-election bid in Camrose
United Conservative Party MLA Jackie Lovely has announced her plans to seek her party’s nomination to run for re-election. Lovely was first elected in Camrose in 2019 and previously ran as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015.
She is facing a nomination challenge from Beaver County Reeve Kevin Smook, who ran in the last election as an Alberta Party candidate.
A date for the nomination meeting hasn’t been announced.
The NDP have nominated business owner and former diplomat Richard Bruneau in Camrose.
Madu faces challenger in Edmonton-South West
The deadline to enter the UCP nomination races in Calgary-Glenmore, Calgary-West and Edmonton-South West is today.
Acclamations are expected for Whitney Issik in Calgary-Glenmore and Mike Ellis in Calgary-West, but UCP MLA Kaycee Madu could face a challenge in Edmonton-South West.
Slava Cravcenco is challenging Madu for the nomination in Edmonton-South West.
Cravcenco is a former champion table tennis player who competed with the Moldavian Table Tennis National team and in 2013 became Canada’s champion as an Ontario Table Tennis Association team member.
He moved to Canada from Moldova in 2010 and now works as CEO of Window Mart Inc, a window and door renovation company.
The NDP are holding a nomination meeting in Edmonton-South West on June 18, 2022. College instructor Ben Acquaye, behavioral specialist Chand Gul, Shifa Medical Clinic executive director Mohammad Ali Kamal, and three-term public school trustee Nathan Ip are seeking the NDP nomination.
Lori Sigurdson secures NDP nomination in Edmonton-Riverview
Edmonton-Riverview NDP MLA Lori Sigurdson was nominated as the NDP candidate in her riding at a meeting tonight.
“I am so incredibly thankful that Edmonton-Riverview has put their faith in me to continue representing and advocating for a community that is so important to me,” Sigurdson said in a statement released after her nomination.
“Folks in my community, and across the province, have been struggling due to the policy choices of the UCP. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue working for my community, and for a brighter future that includes all Albertans.”
Sigurdson was first elected in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019 with 55.9 per cent of the vote. She served as Minister of Labour from 2015 to 2016 and Minister of Seniors and Housing from 2016 to 2019.
More candidate nomination news:
Edmonton-McClung NDP MLA Lorne Dach will be nominated on June 8.
Strathcona County Councillor and former school principal Bill Tonita is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in Strathcona-Sherwood Park at a June 9 meeting.
The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting in Edmonton-West Henday on June 29, 2022. Lawyer Brooks Arcand-Paul is running for the nomination to succeed two-term MLA Jon Carson, who announced last month that he will not run for re-election.
A few quick candidate nomination updates for this Saturday afternoon.
It appears that the following United Conservative Party MLAs have been acclaimed for their party’s nominations: Mickey Amery in Calgary-Cross, Nicholas Miliken in Calgary-Currie, Jason Luan in Calgary-Foothills, Tanya Fir in Calgary-Peigan, Jordan Walker in Sherwood Park, and Searle Turton in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain.
For the Alberta NDP, MLA Lori Sigurdson is running for her party’s nomination in Edmonton-Riveriew on June 7 and MLA Lorne Dach is running for his party’s nomination for re-election in Edmonton-McClung on June 8.
The Incumbent and Challenger
The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting in Edmonton-Decore for June 25, 2022. Two-term MLA Chris Nielsen is being challenged for the nomination by Africa Centre executive director Sharif Haji.
City lawyer Michelle Baer announced this week that she is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Red Deer-South. Baer is the Legal and Legislative Services Manager for the City of Red Deer.
“We can’t have people getting care in the back of an ambulance. We can’t have surgeries being cancelled, and people being transferred to Edmonton and Calgary,” Baer told the Red Deer Advocate.
She was referring to a recent long lineup of ambulances at the Red Deer Regional Hospital to transfer patients to deal with a surge in demand, and the need to divert surgery patients.
“We need strong advocacy in Edmonton on the things that matter,” she said.
It is unclear whether Stephan will be allowed to run for re-election as a UCP candidate if Kenney wins the leadership review, which will be announced on May 18.
Stephan was first elected in 2019 with 60.3 per cent of the vote, a landslide win against then-incumbent NDP MLA Barb Miller, who finished second with 25.5 per cent.
Lesley MacKinnon is running for the NDP nomination in Calgary-North West.
MacKinnon is the Director of Investor and Indigenous Relations with Foresight Canada and the former CEO of the Fig Tree Foundation.
Calgary-North West is currently represented by UCP MLA and Energy Minister Sonya Savage, who was first elected in 2019 with 56.7 per cent of the vote. The riding was previously represented by MLA Sandra Jansen, who was elected as a Progressive Conservative in 2012 and 2015 and crossed the floor to the NDP in 2016.
NDP race in Calgary-Glenmore heats up
Three former NDP MLAs have made duelling endorsements in the Calgary-Glenmore NDP nomination race.
Former Calgary-Currie MLA Brian Malkinson and former Calgary-Acadia MLA Brandy Payne are endorsing Jennifer Burgess for the nomination and former Calgary-Glenmore MLA Anam Kazim is endorsing Nagwan Al-Guneid.
Burgess was the 2019 campaign manager for past candidate Jordan Stein, who defeated Kazim for the NDP nomination ahead of that year’s provincial election.
Both candidates have attracted some notable endorsements.
Al-Guneid’s endorsements include Calgary-Glenmore NDP association president Bryan Weismiller, Past federal NDP candidate Kathleen Johnson, past federal Liberal Party candidate Scott Forsyth, past Alberta Party candidate Kara Levis, former Jim Prentice staffer Emma May, lawyer Jeremy Barretto, and economist Lindsay Tedds.
Burgress’ endorsements include Calgary-Glenmore NDP association past president Chris Somoya, former NDP leader Brian Mason, past federal NDP candidate Dany Allard, past mayoral candidate Jan Damery, former school trustee Julie Hrdlicka, Building Trades of Alberta executive director Terry Parker, and IBEW Local 424 vice president Scott Crichton.
NDP members in the south west Calgary riding will vote to select a candidate on May 8 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., and May 10 from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Morishita was Mayor of Brooks from 2016 to 2021 and was first elected as a city Councillor in 1998. He was President of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association from 2017 to 2021 and became leader of the Alberta Party in September 2021.
Then-party leader Stephen Mandel was defeated in his bid for election in Edmonton-McClung, as were incumbent Alberta Party MLAs Greg Clark in Calgary-Elbow and Rick Fraser in Calgary-South East.
This is Morishita’s second time running for provincial office.
In 2001, he finished second with 15 per cent of the vote in Strathmore-Brooks as the Liberal Party candidate behind then-Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Lyle Oberg.
Brooks-Medicine Hat is a natural place for Morishita to run in the next election, but it will be an uphill battle. Incumbent United Conservative Party MLA Michaela Frey was elected in 2019 with 60 per cent of the vote.
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Malkinson previously stood as the NDP candidate in Calgary-North West in the 2012 provincial election and in the 2014 by-election in Calgary-West.
Elections Alberta hits former UCP nomination candidate with $8000 fine
Elections Alberta has reported that it has issued a $8,000 fine against former UCP nomination candidate Steve Thompson for violations of three sections of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. The violations are reported to have taken place Thompson’s bid for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-McClung in 2018.
Section 34(1.1) of the EFCDA: Furnished Funds to 3 persons for the purpose of making a contribution,
Section 34(2) of the EFCDA: Knowingly Accepted Funds, from 3 contributors, contrary to section 34(1) E
FCDA Section 46 of the EFCDA: Knowingly Made a False Financial Statement with the CEO.
Also listed as having received administrative penalties from Elections Alberta were Thompson’s chief financial officer, Caroline Thompson, who was issued a $3,500 fine, and three political contributors, Jaimie-Lee Wicentowich, Avaleen Nycz, and Gennady Sergeev. The three contributors were fined $1,500 each for violations of Section 34(1) of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act for “contributing funds to a registered nomination contestant that had been given or furnished to him by another person.”
Former PC MLA running as Conservative candidate on Vancouver Island, again
Continuing the tradition of former Alberta politicians running for elected office in British Columbia, former PC MLA Alana DeLong has been nominated as the federal Conservative Party candidate in the Vancouver Island district of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.
The Battle of Alberta is a term usually reserved for competitions on the hockey rink or football field, but the rivalry between Calgary and Edmonton probably predates our professional sports clubs. While the animosity felt by some sports fans might not be felt the same way among voters, the politics and political divides between the two cities have helped defined Alberta politics since the province was created in 1905. From the decision of where to place Alberta’s capital city to where the province’s first university should be located, the roles played by the two major cities have been a periodic point of tension in provincial politics.
There are many reasons that explain the current political differences between the two cities, from the backgrounds of the settlers who founded the cities to the most recent round of economic convulsions.
As a friend of mine once put it, Calgary is where business decisions get made, Edmonton is where government decisions get made.
Calgary sees itself as the business capital, heavily influenced by connections to the American oil industry in Texas and the home of the braintrust of the federal Conservative movement. Edmonton is the government capital, heavily influenced by a combination of public servants and University employees as well as a base of blue-collar and trades workers with connections to Fort McMurray and northern Alberta.
These are obviously big generalizations that don’t reflect the diversity and complexity of the two cities but it does help explain some of the political differences between the two municipalities.
While I think the political differences between two two cities can sometimes be overstated, a troubling political narrative that has developed over the past six years has been that because Calgary is perceived to have felt the brunt of the economic fallout caused by the drop in the international price of oil, it is now Edmonton’s turn to feel the economic pain (translation: public sector wage rollbacks and job cuts).
There is an old saying in Alberta politics that a party has to win most of the seats in two of the three political regions of the province in order to form government – Calgary, Edmonton or rural Alberta. The “rural Alberta” in this calculation includes the small and medium size cities, which, with the exception of Lethbridge, have in the past four decades mostly voted in sync with the rest of rural Alberta – conservative.
But the calculation is generally correct. With a combined 46 seats in the Legislature, the two large cities represent the majority of Alberta voters (I hope to write more about voting patterns in “rural Alberta” in a future article).
This year marks one year since the United Conservative Party won the 2019 election and five years since the New Democratic Party won the 2015 election, undeniably two of the most important elections in Alberta’s recent political history. The two votes marked the first changes in government in Alberta since 1971, and both highlighted the political differences between Calgary and Edmonton.
The Progressive Conservatives had dominated Calgary since 1971 but in 2015 a combination of a surge of votes and the first-past-the-post electoral system allowed the NDP to elect 15 MLAs with 34 percent of the vote. The PCs earned 31 percent and the Wildrose placed third with 23 percent in Alberta’s largest city.
The 2015 election marked the first time since 1989 that the NDP had elected an MLA in Calgary and the first time since 1967 that a party other than the PCs won a majority of seats in the city.
While many prominent conservative pundits and politicians claimed the NDP breakthrough in Calgary, and much of the rest of Alberta, was a result of a vote-split on the political right, a closer look at that election would support the argument that the vote split was actually between the NDP and Wildrose among voters unhappy with the 43-year governing PC Party dynasty.
Edmonton has earned the nickname Redmonton for its reputation for electing more Liberals and NDP MLAs than anywhere else in the province. But despite the nickname, the capital city is historically more electorally competitive than it is an opposition bastion. Voters in the capital city have swung between parties more frequently than any other region in Alberta, making it one of the few consistently competitive areas of the province.
Led by Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley, the NDP swept the city in 2015, earning 65 percent of the total vote and winning every seat. The PCs earned 20 percent and the Wildrose finished with 8 percent in the capital city.
As one local PC Party campaign manager described to me after the 2015 election, their candidate faced “a giant impenetrable wall of orange.”
Four years later in 2019, the NDP maintained its vote share in Calgary but were only able to elect three MLAs as the UCP succeeded in consolidating the large base of PC and Wildrose voters, though a number of UCP candidates earned below the combined totals from the previous election. The NDP earned 34 percent of the vote and the UCP, led by Calgary-Lougheed MLA Jason Kenney, amassed 53 percent and elected 23 MLAs.
The seats won by Calgary NDP MLAs in the 2019 election have a tradition of electing non-conservative MLAs. Calgary-Buffalo and Calgary-Mountain View elected Liberals and NDP MLAs in the 1980s and 1990s, and Calgary-McCall swung to the Liberals in the 2000s.
Although the NDP lost all but one of the suburban surrounding the city, the party maintained its dominance in Edmonton in 2019, winning 53 percent of the vote and holding all but one seat. The UCP elected 1 MLA and earned 35 percent of the vote in the capital city.
The only viable third party in the 2019 election, the Alberta Party, earned 10 percent of the vote in both cities but failed to elect any MLAs. Party leader Stephen Mandel was unsuccessful in his bid for election in Edmonton-McClung and its two Calgary incumbents were defeated.
Past elections in the two cities
The results of these two elections, and how they have shaped Alberta politics in the most recent two election prompted me to take a broader look at voting results in Calgary and Edmonton over the past four decades.
1986: The departure of Peter Lougheed as Premier of Alberta in 1985 clearly had a big impact on Alberta politics, as the economic recession that followed allowed NDP led by Edmonton-Norwood MLA Ray Martin breakthrough in the capital city in the 1986 election.
Calgary remained a PC Party stronghold following Lougheed’s departure, with the NDP and Liberals electing a handful of MLAs between 1986 and 1997, and 2004 and 2012.
The election of Liberal Sheldon Chumir in Calgary-Buffalo in 1986 marked the beginning of a long-line of non-conservative MLAs representing that district. Non-conservative candidates would win in Calgary-Buffalo in nine of the next eleven elections (the district is currently represented by NDP MLA Joe Ceci).
Edmonton became the competitive hotbed of Alberta politics and a deep rivalry developed between Liberal Party and NDP partisans in the capital city.
The competition between the Liberals and NDP in Edmonton during this period generated much discussion around a “unite the left” movement to defeat the PCs, though this perennial debate largely became mute when the NDP formed government in 2015.
1993: In 1993, Premier Ralph Klein further consolidated his party’s electoral grip on Calgary while the Liberals led by former mayor Laurence Decore executed a clean sweep of the capital city. The Liberals were the beneficiaries of a collapsing NDP vote and also a burgeoning group of Reform Party voters wanting change on the provincial and federal levels.
The Liberals would again dominate Edmonton in the 1997 and 2004 elections, though the party began to resemble a group of independents more than the cohesive political organization created by Decore.
Competition between Decore’s Liberals and former Calgary mayor Klein’s PCs led to obvious descriptions of provincial politics as the battle of Alberta.
2001: The 2001 election marked a turn back toward the PC Party in Edmonton, which would then lose most of its seats when the Liberals and NDP rebounded in 2004 before regaining ground in the city in 2008 and 2012. This period marked the beginning of a decline of the Liberal Party in Edmonton after almost two decades as the official opposition party.
The 2001 election also marked the first time since 1982 that the PCs won every seat in Calgary.
2004: The 2004 election marked a breakthrough for the opposition Liberals in Calgary where the party elected three MLAs, the most since 1993. The Liberals would expand its voter base in Calgary and elect four MLAs in 2008 as the party’s fortunes in Edmonton sharply declined after it regained much of its seats in the 2004 election.
2012: The 2012 election marked a significant shift in the political environment in Alberta with the two large cities coalescing behind the PC Party. The opposition Wildrose Party swept much of rural Alberta, forming the first rural based official opposition party since the Social Credit Party in the 1970s. This trend would continue in the 2015 election as the Wildrose Party regained most of its seats following the 2014 floor-crossings.
(Note: Thank you to Shane Smith for sharing the poll level election maps. You can follow Shane on Twitter at @Smith80D).
“This Alberta is a meritocracy” – Jason Kenney (April 30, 2019)
It was first reported this week by the CBC that John Weissenberger has been hired as the Alberta Energy Regulator’s new vice president of its science and innovation branch. Weissenberger is a former adjunct professor at the University of Alberta and manager of geological services with Husky, but it is his deep political connections that raised eyes this week.
Weissenberger is a long-time conservative activist going back to the early days of the Reform Party and was Jason Kenney’s campaign manager during his successful bids for the the Progressive Conservative and United Conservative Party leadership campaigns in 2017. He was also director of the Alberta Victory Fund, the political action committee created to support Kenney’s campaign for the UCP leadership, and has been described as former prime minister Stephen Harper’s best friend.
It has also been reported that Weissenberger is a self-proclaimed ‘climate change skeptic,’ something that is unlikely to help the government’s bid to attract international investment and companies to move to Alberta.
Weissenberger’s wife, Angela Tu Weissenberger, was appointed by the UCP to the board of the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission in November 2019.
“Sherpa Dave” is Kenney’s Man in Texas
Congenial former Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Rodney has been appointed as Alberta’s Agent General in Houston, Texas. Rodney served as the PC MLA for Calgary-Lougheed from 2004 until 2017 when he resigned to allow Kenney to run in a by-election.
Rodney’s reward for stepping down, it would appear, is a pseudo-diplomatic post with a $250,000 annual salary. The former MLA served as a backbencher for all but two of his thirteen years in the Legislature. He served as Associate Minister of Wellness from 2012 to 2014.
And as anyone who has paid close attention to Alberta politics will know, Rodney is the first Canadian to have reached the summit of Mount Everest, twice.
Rodney’s appointment is reminiscent of former Stettler MLA Brian Downey‘s appointment as chairman of the Alberta Grain Commission when he resigned his seat in 1989 to allow Premier Don Getty to return to the Assembly (Getty had lost his Edmonton-Whitemud seat to Liberal Percy Wickman in the 1989 general election).
Rodney’s appointment marks the return of the Agent General title, a term that was widely used by Alberta’s out-of-country representatives until 1996, when the Agent-General Act was repealed and the Managing Director job title was adopted.
At the time the Agent General title was abolished, it had become associated with partisan patronage following a long string of appointments that included former PC MLA Mary LeMessurier to a post in London, former MLA Fred Peacock as the Asia-Pacific Agent General, a political aide in Getty’s office as Agent General in Hong Kong, and Getty’s wife’s cousin’s husband as Agent General in Tokyo.
Tory Patronage Machine Humming
Like the engine of a blue Dodge Ram, the UCP patronage machine has revved up since the party formed government in April 2019. counting donors, which would expand the list substantially, here is a quick list of individuals with connections to Kenney, the UCP and the conservative movement who have been appointed to various agency, board and commission positions:
Len Rhodes was appointed as Chair of the board of directors of the Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Commission. He was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Meadows in 2019.
Janice Sarich was appointed to the board of governors of MacEwan University. Sarich was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Decore in 2019 and represented the district as a PC MLA from 2008 to 2015.
Lily Le was appointed to board of governors of Norquest College. Le was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-City Centre in 2019.
Laurie Mozeson was appointed to the Municipal Government Board. Mozeson was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-McClung in 2019.
Karri Flatla was appointed to the Board of Governors of Lethbridge College. She was the UCP candidate in Lethbridge-West in 2019.
Tom Olsen was hired as CEO of the Canadian Energy Centre. He was the UCP candidate in Calgary-Buffalo in 2019.
Bettina Pierre-Gilles was appointed to board of Bow Valley College. Pierre-Gilles ran for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Currie ahead of the 2019 election.
Donna Kennedy-Glans appointed to board of governors of Banff Centre. Kennedy-Glans was the PC MLA for Calgary-Varsity from 2012 to 2015 and briefly ran for the party leadership in 2017. She was also appointed to the Fair Deal Panel.
Janice Harrington was appointed as Alberta’s Health Advocate and Mental Health Patient Advocate. Harrington was executive director of the PC Party and UCP from 2017 to 2019 and was previously involved in PC Party campaigns.
Shelley Beck was appointed to the board of governors of Medicine Hat College. Beck has worked as a constituency assistant to Cypress-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Drew Barnes.
Wayne Drysdale was appointed to the Municipal Government Board. Drysdale served as the PC and UCP MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti from 2008 to 2019. He was Minister of Transportation from 2014 to 2015.
Heather Forsyth was appointed to the Alberta Review Board. Forsyth served as the PC and Wildrose MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek from 1993 to 2015. She served as Solicitor General from 2001 to 2004 and Minister of Children’s Services from 2004 to 2006.
Lloyd Snelgrove was appointed to the Board of Governors of Lakeland College. Snelgrove served as the PC MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster from 2001 to 2012. He served as Minister of Finance and Enterprise from January 2011 to October 2011.
Bill Smith was appointed as member and vice-chair of the Public Health Appeal Board. Smith is the former president of the PC Party and was a candidate for Mayor of Calgary in 2017.
Andy Crooks was appointed to Municipal Government Board. Crooks was chairman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation during Jason Kenney‘s time as its spokesperson in the 1990s.
Richard Casson was appointed to the Board of Governors of the University of Lethbridge. Casson served as the Member of Parliament for Lethbridge from 1997 to 2011.
James Rajotte was appointed to the Board of Governors of the University of Alberta. Rajotte served as the MP for Edmonton-South West and Edmonton-Leduc from 2000 to 2015.
Diane Ablonczy was appointed as a member of the Council of the Alberta Order of Excellence. Ablonczy served as the MP for Calgary-North and Calgary-Nose Hill from 1993 to 2015.
Ted Menzies was appointed to the Board of Governors of Olds College. Menzies served as MP for Macleod from 2004 to 2015.
Janice MacKinnon was appointed to the Board of Governors of The University of Alberta. MacKinnon chaired the UCP government’s Panel on Alberta’s Finances in 2019.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Brent Wittmeier for the inspiration for the title of this post.
Elections Alberta has released the initial financial disclosures showing how much money Alberta’s political parties spent and raised during the 2019 provincial general election campaign period spanning from February 1, 2019 to June 16, 2019.
This was the first election under the new election finance rules implemented by the New Democratic Party during their term in government. The NDP made a number of significant changes to how Alberta’s elections were financed, including banning donations to political parties by corporations and unions, and introducing a spending limit of $2,000,000 for political parties and $50,000 for candidate campaigns, but at the financial returns show, what the spending limits apply to are limited.
The $2,000,000 and $50,000 spending limits only apply to the actual 28-day election period from the time the election is called until Election Day. So the limit does not apply to the broader campaign period, which according to Section 38.1(2) of the Election Act, begins on February 1 in the year of the fixed-election date and ends ends 2 months after Election Day.
The Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act also creates exceptions to the spending limit on expenses categorized as “election expenses.” The expense limit during the 28-day election period does not apply to a candidate’s travel expenses related to the election, including meals and accommodation, a candidate’s child care expenses, expenses related to the provision of care for a person with a physical or mental incapacity for who the candidate normally provides such care, etc.
What the parties spent
The United Conservative Party spent $4,561,362.10 while raising $3,889,582.70 during the campaign period, ending the campaign with a deficit of $671,779.40.
$1,909,116.43 of the UCP’s expenses were spent on items that fall under the provincial limit, including $1,202,965.43 spent on advertising, posters, pamphlets and promotional materials. $2,619,471.83 was spent on expenses that was exempt from the spending limit.
The NDP spent $5,363,029.30 and raised $3,706,785.66, ending the campaign with a deficit of $1,656,043.64.
Of the NDP’s campaign expenses, $1,977,367.65 were spent on items that fall under the provincial limit, including $1,363,029.74 for advertising, posters, pamphlets and promotional material. $2,200,131.09 was spent on expenses that was exempt from the spending limit.
The Alberta Party raised $206,597 and spent $199,935 during the campaign period. $118,960 of the Alberta Party’s expenses fell under the provincial limit rules, including $21,932 spent on advertising, posters, pamphlets and promotional. Of the party’s total expenses, $74,975 was exempt from the limit.
The Alberta Liberal Party raised $101,233 and spent $130,063, ending the campaign with a deficit of $28,830. The Green Party raised $14,894.40 and spent $41,702.22, earning a deficit of $26,807.82.
Some candidates spent a lot during the campaign period
The campaigns of a number of UCP candidates spent considerable amount during the course of the broader campaign period. Here is a snapshot of some of the higher candidate campaign expenses:
Doug Schweitzer, UCP candidate in Calgary-Elbow: spent $309,597.22, of which $268,166.23 did not fall under the spending limit.
Tyler Shandro, UCP candidate in Calgary-Acadia: spent $122,170.91, with $77,463.88 not falling under the spending limit.
Kaycee Madu, UCP candidate in Edmonton-South West: spent $101,098, with $55,527 exempt from the spending limit.
Dan Williams, UCP candidate in Peace River: spent $92,268, with $52,750 exempt from the spending limit.
Jason Luan, UCP candidate in Calgary-Foothills: spent $92,268, with $52,750 exempt from the spending limit.
No NDP candidate candidate campaign spent anywhere near the amount of the big spenders on the UCP slate, but a number of candidates did exceed the $50,000 limit:
Rachel Notley, running for re-election in Edmonton-Strathcona: spent $73,297, with $39,798 exempt from the spending limit.
Christina Gray, NDP candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods: spent $73,576, with $27,742 exempt from the spending limit.
Lorne Dach, NDP candidate in Edmonton-McClung: spent $64,282, with $27,396 exempt from the spending limit.
And the campaign of Caylan Ford, the UCP star candidate in Calgary-Mountain View who withdrew from the election before the nomination deadline, was recorded to have spent $83,100,50 during the campaign period that began on February 1, 2019, with $32,676.94 of these expenses being exempt from the spending limit.
Chief Elections Officer recommends changes
Chief Elections Officer Glen Resler recommended in his office’s recently released annual report that the spending limits be placed on the entire campaign period, rather than just the election period. He argued in the report that this change would “reduce the administrative burden and provide clarity for Chief Financial Officers of parties, constituency associations and candidates with respect to apportioning expenses between election and campaign periods.”
Resler recommended that Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act and the Election Act be “combined into one coherent statute to make the legislation more accessible to participants and electors and provide a much-needed opportunity to renumber the legislation.” Currently, eight other provinces and territories have one piece of legislation governing provincial elections.
The Alberta Party will soon be seeking applications for a new leader.
The party announced through a press release today that on June 30, 2019 Stephen Mandel will step down as leader 15-months after he was elected into the role. The former three-term Edmonton mayor and Progressive Conservative cabinet minister ran for the leadership in 2018 after MLA Greg Clark was ousted in a successful bid by former PC Party members to take over the Alberta Party.
This was Mandel’s second attempt at a political comeback.
Prominent Progressive Conservatives like Mandel, Katherine O’Neill, Dave Quest, Sue Timanson, and Stephen Khan hoped to turn the Alberta Party into a home for former PC supporters disenchanted by what became the United Conservative Party.
Policy direction under Mandel shifted further to the economic-right but the party steadfastly refused to describe itself as conservative, sticking instead to the ambiguous “centrist” label. In a province where many eligible voters self-identify as conservatives, it remains puzzling why a political party run by conservatives and presenting a moderate conservative program would actively distance itself from the description.
The Alberta Party under Mandel increased the party’s vote from 2.2% in 2015 to 9.1% in 2019, but failed to win any seats in the Legislative Assembly. Unlike 2015, when the party focused all of its resources to successfully elect Greg Clark in Calgary-Elbow, in 2019 the Alberta Party spread thin its resources by running a province-wide campaign and a full-slate of candidates.
But the Alberta Party campaign stumbled out of the starting gate early in the campaign, with Mandel and a handful of candidates and chief financial officers being banned from running in the election by Election Alberta after missing their financial disclosure deadlines. The bans were lifted after court challenges by Mandel and the other candidates but it damaged the party’s chances of being seen as a serious contender in an election dominated by the UCP and NDP.
The party earned significant media coverage but struggled to gain traction and hit a ceiling of 12 percent in polling during the campaign. Mandel’s significant of name recognition in Edmonton was not able to help the Alberta Party break the dominance of Rachel Notley’s NDP in the provincial capital city. The NDP won 19 of 20 seats in Edmonton.
Mandel finished third behind NDP MLA Lorne Dach and UCP challenger Laurie Mozeson in Edmonton-McClung, which includes parts of the area he represented on city council before his time as mayor. The party’s two incumbent MLAs, Clark and Calgary-South East MLA Rick Fraser, were both defeated in their bids for re-election. The party’s third MLA, former NDPer Karen McPherson, declined to run for re-election.
From the very beginning, Mandel’s second attempt at a political comeback was a strange endeavour. And despite Mandel’s nine-years as a popular big city mayor with a significant list of accomplishments, his final appearance on the political scene will largely be a footnote in Alberta’s history (unless, of course, this was not his final comeback…).
Alberta Party finances…
The Alberta Party’s financial disclosures from the 2019 election have not yet been released, but the 2018 annual financial disclosures paint a picture of a party in financial disarray. The Alberta Party raised $525,430 in 2018 while running a $137,964 deficit.
In a May 25, 2019 email sent to members explaining the financial situation, the party explained that it had cycled through three CFOs in 2018 and that larger than expected expenses related to the creation of the party’s proprietary Customer Relationship Management database and “too large of an AGM” put the party in a deficit position.
The email told members that “[t]he Party is not broke but will be operating on a tight budget for the foreseeable future.”
One of the results of a change in government is a mass turnover in the political staffers who occupy the offices of the premier, cabinet ministers and caucuses. As a new government enters office in Alberta, there are many dozens of political jobs that need to be filled. Here is a quick glance at some of the political staffers who have been hired to fill key roles since the United Conservative Party formed government in Alberta:
As has already been widely reported, former UCP Caucus Chief of Staff Jamie Huckabay is now Chief of Staff in Premier Jason Kenney’s office. Joining him in Kenney’s office are Howard Anglin as Principal Secretary, Katy Merrifield as executive director of communications and planning, and Christine Myatt as press secretary and deputy director of communications. Anglin previously served as executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, deputy chief of staff in the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Chief of Staff to Kenney while he was the federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Merrifield was communications director to former B.C. premier Christy Clark and senior advisor to the BC Liberal Party.
Paul Bunner has been hired as a Speechwriter in the Premier’s Office. Bunner served as a speechwriter and communications advisor in the office of Prime Minster Harper and as editor of the right-wing C2C Journal website, which is part of the Manning Foundation for Democratic Education.
Former UCP Caucus communications advisor Harrison Fleming is a special communications advisor in Executive Council.
Former Daveberta Podcast co-host Ryan Hastman is Chief of Staff to Minister of Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney. Natasha Kornak is Sawhney’s press secretary. She is the co-founder of the Story of a Tory blog with Brooks-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Michaela Glasgo.
Jamie Mozeson is Chief of Staff to Minister for Service Alberta Nate Glubish. Mozeson was the director of operations at the UCP Caucus and ran for the federal Conservative nomination in the Sturgeon River-Parkland district in 2016. Glubish’s press secretary is Tricia Velthuizen, a former Wildrose and UCP Caucus staffer and candidate for Edmonton City Council in 2017.
Jonah Mozeson, who is married to Jamie Mozeson, is the press secretary in the Office of the Minister Justice and Attorney General Doug Schweitzer. His mother, Laurie Mozeson, was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-McClung in the 2019 election.
Craig Bellfontaine is Schweitzer’s Chief of Staff. Until recently he was a Toronto-based lawyer at the firm Farken and is a former federal Conservative ministerial staffer. Schweitzer’s Ministerial Assistant Kalyna Kardash is a former Outreach Coordinator for the UCP Caucus and Party during the election campaign.
Andrea Smotra is Chief of Staff to Minister of Energy Sonya Savage. Smotra was the director of election readiness for the UCP and previously worked as Regional Affairs Advisor in the office of Prime Minister Harper and deputy director of issues management for Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.
Nicole Williams is Chief of Staff to Education Minster Adriana LaGrange. Williams is a former lobbyist and ministerial assistant who was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-West Henday in the recent election. Colin Aitchison is LaGrange’s press secretary. Until recently he was the Issues Manager for Ontario Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa McLeod.
Warren Singh is Chief of Staff to Health Minister Tyler Shandro. Singh previously served as director of government relations with NAIT and vice-president policy and outreach with the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. Before that he served in various chief of staff roles in the old PC government. Steve Buick is Shandro’s press secretary. Buick served as press secretary to former health minister Stephen Mandel and as a policy advisor to health minsters Gene Zwozdesky and Fred Horne. Previous to that he served as Director of Media Relations and Issues Management for Capital Health.
Kris Barker recently resigned from the UCP board of directors to start his new job as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism Tanya Fir. Barker was elected at the party’s annual general meeting as the Edmonton Regional Director. He is married to Kara Barker, who ran as the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Riverview. Fir’s press secretary Justin Brattinga is a former BC Liberal Caucus staffer.
Mark Jacka is Chief of Staff to Transportation Minister Ric McIver. Jacka previously served as UCP Constituency Development Coordinator, as an assistant to Edmonton-West MP Kelly McCauley and as Director of Political Operations for the Wildrose Party. Brooklyn Elhard is McIver’s press secretary. She previously served as Scheduling and Tour Coordinator for the UCP leader.
Tim Schultz is Chief of Staff to Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen. Schultz previously served as chief of staff to the Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education and the Minister of Finance in Progressive Conservative governments from 2008 to 2012.
Mandi Johnson is Chief of Staff to Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women Leela Aheer. She previously worked for the PC, Wildrose and UCP Caucus. She is married to James Johnson, the Director of Research at the UCP Caucus. Payman Parseyan is Aheer’s press secretary. He ran for Edmonton City Council in 2017 and was a candidate for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Whitemud.
TJ Keil is chief of staff to Minster of Red Tape Reduction Grant Hunter. Keil previously worked as a Senior Stakeholder Relations Consultant with Alberta Real Estate Association and ran for the PC Party in Edmonton-Strathcona against first-time NDP candidate Rachel Notley in 2008.
Steven Puhallo is chief of staff to Minister of Children’s Services Rebecca Schulz. He previously as chief of staff to various BC cabinet ministers from 2001 to 2008 and more recently was President and CEO of Cowboy Gaming (Canada), a country and western themed free online bingo and casino. Lauren Armstrong is Schulz’s press secretary. Armstrong worked as Kenney’s press secretary while he served as Minister of National Defence in Ottawa and until recently was chief of staff to Calgary city councillor Jeromy Farkas.
Former Wildrose Caucus staffer and Alberta Counsel communications lead Tim Gerwing is the press secretary for Minister of Municipal Affairs Kaycee Madu.
Former Hill & Knowlton senior consultant Jessica Goodwin is press secretary to Minister of Finance Travis Toews.
Ted Bauer is press secretary to Minister of Indigenous Relations Richard Wilson. Bauer is the former Communications and Media Coordinator for Homeward Trust Edmonton and editor for Global News and CityTV.
And looking at the legislative branch:
Robyn Henwood is executive director of the UCP Caucus. Henwood will be known by political watchers as the chair of the party’s leadership election committee and as campaign manager for Len Rhodes’ election campaign in Edmonton-Meadows.
Brianna Morris is deputy director of the UCP caucus. She previously served as Senior Advisor to the UCP House Leader and as a Legislative and Outreach Assistant in the Wildrose Caucus.
Tim Uppal is also a Stakeholders Relations Manager for the UCP Caucus. Uppal served as the Member of Parliament for Edmonton-Sherwood Park from 2008 to 2015 and is currently the nominated federal Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods.
As has already been noted in a previous post, former UCP campaign director Nick Koolsbergen is now the CEO of the Wellington Advocacy lobbyist company. Matt Wolf, who served as Kenney’s Deputy Chief of Staff and director of the UCP campaign war room, is now a vice-president with public affairs giant Hill & Knowlton. Also with new jobs outside of government are UCP President Erika Barootes and former UCP Caucus director of issues management Peter Csillag have been hired by the Toronto-based public affairs company Enterprise.
At this point in Alberta’s election campaign, I am frequently being asked “what races are you watching on election night?” The short answer is, I am watching all of them, but there are a few specific races that I will be keeping my eye on when the polls close at 8:00 p.m. on April 16:
Banff-Kananaskis: This has been a long-time conservative voting district, but New Democratic Party MLA Cam Westhead was elected in 2015 with 43 per cent of the vote, nabbing it away from PC MLA Ron Casey. This time Westhead is facing United Conservative Party candidate Miranda Rosin, who claims her party does not support the locally controversial Springbank Dam, despite her party saying the opposite. Westhead has the support of numerous local municipal politicians who describe him as a strong advocate for the area. And the redistribution of the electoral boundaries has removed conservative-voting Cochrane from the district, making this one to watch in my books.
Calgary-Bow: NDP candidate Deborah Drever’s win in the 2015 election was a surprise and even after a rough start to her first term, she appeared to have redeemed herself. She faces her main challenge from UCP candidate Demetrios Nicolaides in this election. This is one of the Calgary districts the NDP will need to hold on to if they have any hope of forming government on April 16.
Calgary-Elbow: Greg Clark was leader of the Alberta Party when he was elected as the party’s only MLA in 2015. He is no longer the leader and he is running for re-election in 2019 against for conservative lawyer Doug Schweitzer. Clark has been an effective opposition voice in the Legislature and deserves a second-term, but it’s yet to be seen whether he can survive the challenge from the UCP and NDP candidate Janet Eremenko.
Edmonton-McClung: NDP MLA Lorne Dach is facing two strong challengers in Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel and UCP candidate Laurie Mozeson. It is hard to tell who the front-runner is in this contest, but all three are contenders.
Edmonton-West Henday: NDP MLA Jon Carson is facing a strong challenge from lobbyist and former PC ministerial aide Nicole Williams in this newly redrawn northwest Edmonton district. Carson was elected in 2015 as the MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark, which has at various times switched hands from the NDP, Liberals and PCs going back to the 1980s.
Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville: East of Edmonton this district could produce some interesting results. NDP MLA Jessica Littlewood is running for re-election and her main challenger is UCP candidate Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk. Littlewood is locally renowned for her travel through the constituency, and despite hotly contested nomination races in other districts, Armstrong-Homeniuk was acclaimed for the UCP nod in this district.
Lethbridge-West: As Environment & Parks Minister, Shannon Phillips has been one of the Notley government’s most prominent voices. Phillips has a strong ground game and is as smart as a whip, but the UCP has poured a lot of resources into the campaign of her main challenger, real estate agent Karri Flatla. My money is on Phillips winning re-election, but it could be close.
And here are a few other things I am watching:
How does the Alberta Independence Party do? They have been off the provincial radar, but the upstart separatist party has fielded candidates in 63 districts across Alberta.