Categories
Alberta Politics

Honourable Alberta cabinet ministers bestow upon themselves title and fancy letters to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee

God Save the Queen!

Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her 70th year on the Throne this year.

In honour of this most Royal occasion, Premier Jason Kenney introduced Bill 1: Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Recognition Act back on February 22.

Queen Elizabeth II

It was the United Conservative Party government’s flagship bill of the 2022.

The new law creates a scholarship for Alberta students, a medal to recognize the work of outstanding Albertans, and a for-life “Honourable” title and “ECA” post-nominal letters for all living current and former Alberta cabinet ministers.

Wait.

What?

Yes, you read that right.

To celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s seventy years as Queen of Canada and Sovereign of the British Commonwealth , Kenney introduced a bill that gives current and former cabinet ministers the ability to call themselves “Honourable” for the rest of their lives.

As far as I know Alberta might be only province to have done this.

As the head of government, Premiers have always been able to hold their “Honourable” title for life, but not regular cabinet ministers.

Until now.

Provincial cabinet ministers get to call themselves “Honourable” while they are in office as a sign of respect for the office they hold while they hold it, but that used to be it.

It’s an honour to be a cabinet minister but it’s not something they would take for life.

Not like those British Lords who pass on titles and positions to their children.

Back to Alberta.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1952.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1952.

The home of Honourable Jason Kenney, PC, ECA.

The ECA stands for Executive Council of Alberta by the way.

That’s the formal name of the cabinet.

The PC stands for Privy Council. 

That’s a real title that comes with responsibility.

The Privy Council Office is the central agency of the Government of Canada which acts as the secretariat to the Cabinet of Canada.

Kenney was sworn into the Privy Council when he was a federal cabinet minister.

The Alberta title is an automatic thing for people in cabinet now and anyone who used to be in cabinet.

“Who cares, Dave?” you say?

I guess it’s not really a big deal.

It’s just a monarchist vanity project.

It’s not like Kenney is wandering the halls of the Legislature crying “Hail Britannia!” while brandishing a broadsword to bestow knighthoods.

But it’s weird and it’s something that no normal Albertan was asking for.

I doubt many people on the streets of Rocky Mountain House or downtown Calgary were clamouring for a new law to let our politicians hold titles for life. 

I’m no monarchist.

I believe the monarchy is an outdated institution that should probably be abolished. 

But I also think Alberta politicians voting to give themselves titles for life is a strange way to honour a Queen who has spent seventy years serving honourably in a very difficult role.

It mostly flew under the radar but two NDP MLA did take notice.

They got sharp responses from the UCP, who never explained why they were even doing this.

“That’s certainly not something that anybody has raised to me as their top priority” said Edmonton-Whitemud NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi said in the Legislature.

“I certainly think it’s coming at an interesting time, considering that there are a number of members of the current cabinet who are having their qualifications and their expertise and their temperament questioned,” Pancholi continued.

“I think that’s at odds with what most Albertans believe in terms of what honorary means, and it’s an interesting timing on this government’s part,” she concluded.

When Edmonton-Castle Downs NDP MLA Nicole Goehring questioned it, UCP deputy government house leader and Kenney acolyte Joseph Schow was quick to jump on her with a Point of Order. 

“I guess this is a touchy subject when it comes to the title “honourable” for life,” Goehring replied. 

“This piece of legislation is doing just that. It’s providing a space to have the title for life alongside building up students and recognizing their contributions to the province,” she said. “It just seems ridiculous that the two of these things are going together.”

No kidding.

It’s the law now.

So, to all the students who receive the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee scholarships, congratulations.

To all the Albertans who are honoured with the awards, thank you for your service.

And to all the Honourable current and former cabinet ministers, ECA, who have now been bestowed with their new title, enjoy it, I guess.


I know I’ve mentioned this before, but please feel free to sign up for the Daveberta Substack.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Brooks Arcand-Paul running for NDP nomination in Edmonton-West Henday, UCP MLAs rally for Jeremy Nixon in Calgary-Klein

Brooks Arcand-Paul is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Edmonton-West Henday.

Arcand-Paul launched his candidacy in the west Edmonton riding the day after two-term MLA Jon Carson announced he would not run for re-election.

“Albertans deserve leaders who care about people, Arcand-Paul said in a statement.

“The NDP have a proven record that they really care about all people. The last few years have presented our communities with unprecedented challenges, and the UCP government has failed us at every turn. It’s time for government to work for all Albertans, rather than against them. From rising insurance and utility rates, cuts to education and healthcare, we cannot afford another UCP term. ”

Arcand-Paul is the in-house legal counsel for the Alexander First Nation, located about a 25-minute drive northwest of Edmonton, and Vice President of the Indigenous Bar Association.

His launch event included endorsements from Edmonton-Griesbach MP Blake Desjarlais, former Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan and Edmonton-Rutherford NDP nomination candidate Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse.

The date for a nomination meeting has not yet been announced.

The battle for Calgary heating up

The NDP need to sweep Alberta’s largest city if they want to win the next election, and vulnerable Calgary United Conservative Party MLAs know it. Rachel Notley has been spending a lot of time in Calgary and NDP MLAs have been spending nearly every spare minute knocking on doors in the city. 

Jeremy Nixon (centre with the lawn sign) and UCP MLAs and volunteers in Calgary-Klein.
Jeremy Nixon (centre with the lawn sign) and UCP MLAs and volunteers in Calgary-Klein. (source: Instagram)

A group of UCP MLAs were spotted door-knocking in Calgary-Klein to support first-term UCP MLA Jeremy Nixon, who is facing a strong challenge from NDP candidate Marilyn North Peigan.

Calgary-Currie MLA Nicholas Milliken, Calgary-Edgemont MLA Prasad Panda, Calgary-Beddington MLA Josephine Pon, and Calgary-East MLA Peter Singh were on the doors this weekend with Nixon and party volunteers. 

The NDP held a similar door-knocking blitz in the riding with MLAs and dozens of volunteers earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, Edmonton-Whitemud NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi was recently doorknocking with NDP candidate Julia Hayter in Calgary-Edgemont, and Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin was busy campaigning with Rosman Valencia in Calgary-East.

And Notley was in Calgary for Druh Farrell’s nomination meeting in Calgary-Bow and to join Calgary-Falconridge candidate Parmeet Singh Boparai and Calgary-Bhullar-McCall MLA Irfan Sabir at Nagar Kirtan celebrations.


Upcoming nomination meetings

  • Edmonton-North West NDP: May 18, 2022
  • Calgary-Acadia NDP: May 26, 2022
  • Edmonton-Meadows NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Edmonton-Rutherford NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Brooks-Medicine Hat AP: May 25, 2022
  • Calgary-Elbow AP: May 29, 2022
  • Airdrie-Cochrane NDP: May 30, 2022
  • Edmonton-Riverview NDP: June 7, 2022
  • Edmonton-McClung NDP: June 8, 2022
  • Strathcona-Sherwood Park NDP: June 9, 2022
  • Edmonton-South West NDP: June 18, 2022
  • Edmonton-Decore NDP: June 25, 2022

I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

(And, I know I’ve said this before but feel free to sign up for the Daveberta Substack.)

Categories
Alberta Politics

Richard Bruneau wins NDP contest in Camrose, Walker-McKitrick rematch being set up in Sherwood Park, NDP MLAs flock to Battleground Calgary

‘Three candidates are contesting the NDP nomination contest in Camrose’ are not a series of words I imagined writing even a year ago, yet here we are.

Business owner and former diplomat Richard Bruneau defeated Registered Psychiatric Nurse Tonya Ratushniak and educational assistant and recent city council candidate Wyatt Tanton to win the NDP nomination in Camrose. 

“When attending Augustana their motto was ‘to lead and to serve,’ and this is my vision of how I would like to lead and lift people up in the community. A vision I believe Alberta’s NDP embodies,” Bruneau said in a press release announcing his win. “The UCP has not been serving the people of Alberta, and the pandemic highlighted the short-signed failures of UCP policy. Camrose deserves better than the UCP.”

Jackie Lovely MLA Camrose UCP
Jackie Lovely

Bruneau is a bookstore owner, farmer, former lecturer at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus and a former Canadian diplomat who served in Afghanistan, Jordan and Palestine. He lives with his family on a cattle farm.

Bruneau was joined by Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen at the nomination meeting and by Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin at a meet and greet in Camrose today.

The riding is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Jackie Lovely, who was first elected in 2019 with 65.2 per cent of the vote. This was Lovely’s third attempt at winning a seat in the Legislature, the first two being as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015. 

Lovely is being challenged for the UCP nomination by Beaver County Reeve Kevin Smook, who earned 12.8 per cent of the vote as the Alberta Party candidate in the riding in 2019.

The previous Wetaskiwin-Camrose riding was represented by NDP MLA Bruce Hinkley from 2015 to 2019 before it was redistributed into the current riding. Hinkley ran for re-election in the neighbouring Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin riding and was defeated by UCP candidate Rick Wilson.

Walker-McKitrick rematch being set up in Sherwood Park

Jordan Walker MLA Sherwood Park UCP
Jordan Walker

First-term UCP MLA Jordan Walker is seeking his party’s nomination for re-election in Sherwood Park.

The UCP backbencher was first elected in one of the closer races in Edmonton’s surrounding suburbs in 2019 by narrowly unseating NDP MLA Annie McKitrick. 

The stage is being set for a rematch in 2023, with McKitrick announcing last week that she plans to seek the NDP nomination to challenge Walker in the next election. This is a riding the NDP will need to win to form government. 

Gurinder Singh Gill running for NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross

Gurinder Singh Gill is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross. Gill previously ran as the federal NDP candidate in Calgary-Skyview in the 2019 and 2021 elections. He placed third with 16.2 per cent of the vote behind victorious Liberal George Chahal and incumbent Conservative MP Jag Sahota in the last federal election.

The east Calgary riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Mickey Amery, who was elected in 2019 with 54.2 per cent by unseating NDP cabinet minister Ricardo Miranda, who finished second with 37.3 per cent.

Amery is the son of Moe Amery, who represented the neighbouring Calgary-East riding from 1993 until his defeat in the 2015 election.

MLA Guthrie endorses Danielle Smith’s challenging Roger Reid

Peter Guthrie MLA Airdrie-Cochrane UCP Communism
Peter Guthrie

Airdrie-Cochrane UCP MLA Peter Guthrie has endorsed former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith’s bid for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. Smith is challenging Guthrie’s caucus colleague Roger Reid for the nomination. 

Smith is wasting no time making her mark in UCP circles as she eyes the nomination and the party leadership.

Tonight she will join Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan, a vocal Kenney critic, and former Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson to discuss the “Free Alberta Strategy.” And on April 23 she is joining Independent MLA Todd Loewen for a “Politics Uncensored” event in Three Hills.

Loewen is a former UCP Caucus chair who booted from the UCP Caucus in May 2021 after he publicly called on Premier Jason Kenney to resign.

Meanwhile, demonstrating how much bad blood remains between Smith and many UCP activists as a result of the 2014 Wildrose floor crossings, a Twitter account run by staff in Kenney’s office attacked Smith (and Brian Jean) by proclaiming that “I’ve always found it surprising that two people whose only track record is losing general elections, somehow feel they have all the answers.”

The “@UniteAlberta” twitter account is run by Deputy Director of  Government Communications and Speechwriter Harrison Fleming, who is currently on leave to work on Kenney’s leadership campaign.

Other senior staff on leave to work on their boss’s leadership review campaign are Chief of Staff Pam Livingston, Executive Director of Communications and Planning Brock Harrison, and Issues Manager Chad Hallman. 

Meanwhile, the former Wildrose leader and Kenney-foe has been sworn-in as an MLA the Legislature. Newly elected Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean has rejoined UCP Caucus he left in 2018.

CBC reporter Michelle Bellefontaine tweeted today that Jean said Kenney has not spoken to him since he was elected as a UCP MLA in March.

NDP MLAs flock to Calgary

Rakhi Pancholi NDP Edmonton Whitemud
Rakhi Pancholi

Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi will be nominated as her party’s candidate for re-election tonight.

“This community has shared with me their wisdom, their experiences, their hopes, and have trusted me to be their voice in the legislature,” said Pancholi. “I want to continue to work hard to help the families of this community – and across Alberta – seize the opportunities available for us to have a strong economic recovery.”

And with the next provincial election just over a year away, she, like most NDP MLAs, are spending a lot of time in Calgary – the expected battleground of the next election.

Janet Eremenko, Rachel Notley, and Rakhi Pancholi.

Pancholi was spotted door knocking in Calgary-Acadia with nomination candidate and Registered Nurse Diana Batten, and with NDP leader Rachel Notley and local candidate Janet Eremenko in Calgary-Currie.

Notley has been spending a lot of time in Calgary, including on the doors this week with Calgary-Edgemont candidate Julia Hayter. Notley will be headlining an April 9 nomination rally in Calgary-East where teacher Rosman Valencia is expected to be acclaimed.

Eggen was spotted door-knocking with MLA Joe Ceci in Calgary-Buffalo and candidate Gurinder Brar in Calgary-North East

Irwin and Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman are planning to join NDP nomination candidate Marilyn North Peigan on the doors this weekend in the Tuxedo Park neighbourhood in Calgary-Klein. Irwin is also scheduled to spend time door-knocking with Eremenko in Calgary-Currie and Hayter in Calgary-Edgemont.


The following nomination meetings have been scheduled.

• Calgary-East NDP: April 9, 2022
• Edmonton-Mill Woods NDP: April 10, 2022
• Leduc-Beaumont NDP: April 13, 2022
• Morinville-St. Albert NDP: April 30, 2022
• Calgary-Glenmore: May 10, 2022

Categories
Alberta Politics

Nomination Updates: UCP cancels rumbles in Rocky and Cardston, disqualifies Tim Hoven and Jodie Gateman

I take a few days off and there’s a million new candidate nomination updates.

It sure feels like election season in Alberta. Or maybe it’s just Leadership Review season.

Ok. Let’s get on with the updates.

Tim Hoven and Jodie Gateman have been disqualified from the United Conservative Party nomination races in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre and Cardston-Siksika.

The right-wing municipal politicians were challenging two high-profile Jason Kenney loyalists – Government House Leader and Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon and Deputy Government House Leader Joseph Schow.

The party says they were disqualified because of controversial posts they shared and liked on social media.

People close to Gateman’s campaign say it was because she was accused of reposting conspiracy theories on her social media accounts.

They tell me that party staff even asked her if she was in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021. (The person I spoke with said she was visiting family in Las Vegas).

Disqualifying them avoids negative media attention from unwanted bozo-eruptions and has the added bonus of protecting two Kenney loyalists who were by most accounts considered vulnerable in the nomination.

They also both happened to be endorsed by Kenney rivals Brian Jean and Drew Barnes.

Without nomination races to keep them busy, there’s more time to focus on the April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.

Gateman is now shifting her attention to getting as many of her supporters to vote against Kenney at the April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.

They are renting buses.

Maybe someone will call in and ask Kenney about it on his debut radio show this weekend?

A new poll from ThinkHQ shows that 64 per cent of Albertans and 59 per cent of UCP voters want Kenney gone.

More on that later. Now back to the nomination updates.

For the UCP:

  • It hasn’t been announced yet, but is appears that Calgary-Shaw MLA Rebecca Schulz and Calgary-South East MLA Matt Jones will be acclaimed as the UCP candidates in their ridings.
  • MLA Josephine Pon is running for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Beddington. Pon was first elected in 2019.
  • MLA Mickey Amery is running for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Cross. Amery was first elected in 2019.
  • MLA Peter Singh is running for the UCP nomination in Calgary-East. Singh was first elected in 2019.
  • Legislative Assembly Speaker MLA Nathan Cooper is running for the UCP nomination in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills. Cooper was first elected in 2015.
  • MLA Dan Williams is running for the UCP nomination in Peace River. Williams was first elected in 2019.
  • Service Alberta Minister and MLA Nate Glubish is running for the UCP nomination in Strathcona-Sherwood Park. Glubish was first elected in 2019.

For the NDP:

  • Dave Cournoyer and Rakhi Pancholi the day before the 2019 election was called.
    Dave Cournoyer and Rakhi Pancholi the day before the 2019 election was called.

    MLA Irfan Sabir has been nominated to run for re-election in the recently renamed Calgary-Bhullar-McCall. Sabir was first elected in 2015.

  • MLA Rakhi Pancholi has announced her plans to run for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Whitemud. Pancholi was first elected in 2019.
  • MLA Christina Gray is running for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Mill Woods. Gray was first elected in 2015 and served as Minister of Labour from 2015 to 2019.
  • Respected energy analyst Samir Kayande is now the NDP candidate in Calgary-Elbow.
  • Canmore town councillor Tonya Foubert is the fourth candidate to join the NDP nomination contest in Banff-Kananaskis.
  • Director Business Renewables Centre Canada director Nagwan Al-Guneid is the second candidate to enter the NDP nomination race in Calgary-Glenmore. They join communications consultant Jennifer Burgess in the race.
  • Registered Nurse Diana Batten is running for the NDP nomination in Calgary-Acadia.
  • Rosman Valencia is now the only candidate seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-East after Alison Karim-McSwiney withdrew from the contest.
  • Registered Nurse Chantelle Hosseiny and paramedic Cameron Heenan are seeking the NDP nomination in Leduc-Beaumont.
  • Teacher James Grondin is the second candidate to enter the NDP nomination race in Morinville-St. Albert. Former Sturgeon County Councillor Karen Shaw joined the race in Dec. 2021.

Here are the upcoming nomination meetings that have been scheduled:

  • Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland NDP: March 12, 2022 
  • Lesser Slave Lake NDP: March 13, 2022
  • Calgary-Shaw UCP: March 21, 2022
  • Calgary-South East UCP: March 21, 2022
  • Cardston-Siksika UCP: March 21, 2022
  • Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre UCP: March 23, 2022
  • Calgary-Edgemont UCP: March 24, 2022
  • Calgary-Klein UCP: March 24, 2022
  • Drumheller-Stettler UCP: March 24, 2022
  • Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville UCP: March 24, 2022
  • Peace River UCP: March 24, 2022
  • St. Albert NDP: March 24, 2022
  • Calgary-Klein NDP: March 26, 2022
  • Banff-Kananaskis NDP: March 27, 2022
  • Calgary-Beddington UCP: March 29, 2022
  • Calgary-East UCP: March 29, 2022
  • Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills UCP: March 29, 2022
  • Strathcona-Sherwood Park UCP: March 29, 2022
  • Camrose NDP: April 3, 2022
  • Edmonton-Whitemud NDP: April 7, 2022
  • Calgary-East NDP: April 9,2022
  • Edmonton-Mill Woods NDP: April 10, 2022
Categories
Alberta Politics

The Ides of March by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche is a Wildrose blast-from-the-past

March 15 – the Ides of March – is the day voters in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche riding will go to the polls to choose their new MLA.

Premier Jason Kenney waited until the very last day possible to call a by-election to replace former MLA Laila Goodridge, who resigned six months ago to run in last year’s federal election. Waiting this late to call a normal by-election would be very unusual, but this is no normal by-election.

United Conservative Party members in the northern Alberta riding rejected Kenney’s favoured nomination candidate in favour of Brian Jean, the former leader of the Wildrose Party and former MLA and MP who is openly calling on Kenney to resign.

The animosity between Kenney and Jean is well-known in Alberta, with the former having launched a Kamikaze campaign against the latter in the 2017 UCP leadership race.

Jean dropped out of provincial politics in 2018, resigning as MLA for the former Fort McMurray-Conklin riding when he was not given a spot in Kenney’s shadow cabinet. But retirement didn’t suit him, and it wasn’t long before he was regularly chirping at Kenney on social media and in the newspaper editorial pages.

He now has the UCP nomination in a normally safe UCP riding and he is openly organizing and fundraising in an effort to dump Kenney at the April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.

With no pro-Kenney candidates on the March 15 ballot, don’t expect the Premier or any cabinet ministers to be visiting the riding in the next 28-days.

MLA Rakhi Pancholi and NDP candidate Ariana Mancini (source: Twitter)
MLA Rakhi Pancholi and NDP candidate Ariana Mancini (source: Twitter)

Rachel Notley‘s NDP have nominated Fort McMurray school teacher and past candidate Ariana Mancini as their choice in the by-election. And while Mancini remains an underdog in this race, she has been joined over the past few months by a steady stream of NDP MLAs travelling north to visit the riding.

Edmonton-Whitemud NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi was in Fort McMurray today for Mancini’s campaign launch.

While the NDP have been riding high in the poll and are flush with cash, this will be a tough riding for them to win. The UCP earned 66 per cent of the vote in 2019 and the last time voters in this area elected a New Democrat was in 1986, when Leo Piquette won in Athabasca-Lac La Biche.

But, never say never. By-elections can sometimes produce unpredictable results.

While the Kenney-Jean rivalry is the main theme going into the by-election, the candidacy of another former Wildrose Party leader makes this race even more unusual.

Separatist party leader Paul Hinman with supporters in Fort McMurray.
Separatist party leader Paul Hinman (centre) with supporters in Fort McMurray.

Former Wildrose Party leader Paul Hinman now leads and is running in the by-election for the Wildrose Independence Party – a party that not only promotes Alberta separatism from Canada, but, judging from its social media feeds, embraces a vast range of right-wing internet conspiracy theories.

The grandson of former provincial treasurer Edgar Hinman, the younger Hinman was the Alberta Alliance MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 before surprising political watchers by winning a 2009 by-election in posh Calgary-Glenmore. He led the Alliance and Wildrose Alliance from 2005 until resigning in 2009 to make way for Danielle Smith.

Hinman endorsed Jean for the Wildrose Party leadership in 2015 and Kenney for the UCP leadership in 2017 after cancelling his own bid to lead the new party.

Now he leads the separatist Wildrose Independence Party, which was created by a merger of the Freedom Conservative Party and the Wexit Alberta group in July 2020. 

But that’s not where the Wildrose blast-from-the-past ends in this by-election!

Marilyn Burns Alberta Advantage Party Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election
Marilyn Burns

Running under the banner of the right-wing Alberta Advantage Party is party leader Marilyn Burns.

Burns was a candidate for the Alberta Alliance Party in Stony Plain in 2004 and ran against Hinman for the Alliance leadership way back in 2005. She was later part of a small group of Wildrosers who campaigned against the merger with the Progressive Conservative Party before helping found the Alberta Advantage Party.

Burns led the Alberta Advantage Party into the 2019 election and resigned soon after amid a leadership challenge and announced plans to run for the position again. She now appears to once again be party leader.

The second separatist candidate in the by-election, the Independence Party of Alberta‘s Steven Mellott, has never led or tried to lead the Wildrose Party (as far as I am aware).

Alberta Party leader Barry Morishita told the Daveberta Podcast that was driving to Fort McMurray this week to meet with prospective candidates.

The other parties have yet to name their candidates.

I think this is going to be a wild ride, folks.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Janis Irwin voted Best Alberta MLA for the second year in a row. Results of the Best of Alberta Politics 2021 Survey revealed.

With more than 2,000 votes cast this past week, the winners of the fifth annual Best of Alberta Politics 2021 survey are:

Best Alberta MLA: Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highands-Norwood

Always a fan favourite, for the second year in a row Janis Irwin has been voted Best Alberta MLA. Irwin is a hard-working MLA in the Assembly and in her constituency, and her sense of humour (and her social media star cat, Oregano) has endeared her to politicos on both sides of the aisle.

Leela Aheer ALberta MLA
Leela Aheer (Source: Twitter)

Best Alberta Cabinet Minister: Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women

Nurturing a reputation as an affable politician, Leela Aheer proved herself to be on the right side of public opinion in Alberta when she spoke out against Premier Jason Kenney and called on him to resign. The MLA for Chestermere-Strathmore was booted from cabinet for speaking out against Kenney, but that probably only further endeared her to the growing majority of Albertans who disapprove of the Premier’s performance.

That Aheer remains a member of UCP Caucus after openly calling on Kenney to resign is also a testament to how well-liked she is by her UCP MLA colleagues.

Rachel Notley (source: Facebook)

Best Opposition MLA: Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona

For the third year in a row, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley has been voted Best Opposition MLA. Notley continues to be her party’s greatest asset and, if the polls and party fundraising returns are any indication, might stand a good chance at leading her party to form government when the next election is held in 2023.

If Notley’s party is successful in 2023, she would be the first former Premier to return to that office in Alberta’s history.

Rakhi Pancholi NDP Edmonton Whitemud
Rakhi Pancholi

Up and Coming MLA to Watch in 2022: Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud

A tireless advocate for childcare since she was first elected in 2019, Rakhi Pancholi has been voted Up and Coming MLA to Watch for a second year in a row.

Pancholi is smart and well-spoken, and has been tough and tenacious in her calls for affordable and accessible childcare for Alberta families.

Jyoti Gondek Mayor Calgary
Jyoti Gondek

Best Political Play of 2021: Jyoti Gondek‘s election as Mayor of Calgary

Jyoti Gondek defied public expectations and a motivated conservative establishment to win Calgary’s mayoral election in October 2021, becoming the first woman to be elected mayor of Alberta’s largest city.


The annual Best of Alberta Politics survey was started in 2017 as a way to give followers of Alberta politics a chance to recognize the best players in Alberta politics.

Listen to our year-end episode of the Daveberta Podcast where guests Adrienne King and Matt Solberg share their picks for the Best of Alberta Politics in 2021.

Thank you to the more than 2,000 people who voted in this year’s survey and for everyone who read this website and listened to the Daveberta Podcast this year.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Vote in the Best of Alberta Politics 2021 Survey

With hundreds of submissions made to the Best of Alberta Politics 2021 survey, your choices have been sorted and you can now vote in each category. Voting is open until Dec. 22, 2021 at 6:00 pm and the winners will be announced shortly after that.

Here are the top choices in each category:

1. Who was the best Alberta MLA of 2021? – VOTE

  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
  • Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud

2. Who was the best Alberta cabinet minister of 2021? – VOTE

  • Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
  • Ric McIver, Minister of Municipal Affairs
  • Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Transportation

Honourable mentions to runners-up Minister of Health Jason Copping and Minister of Finance Travis Toews. It is also worth noting that a large number of people chose to submit various versions of “none of the above.”

3. Who was the best opposition MLA of 2021? – VOTE

  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
  • Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West

Honourable mention to runners-up Edmonton-City Centre MLA David Shepherd and Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi..

4. Who is the up and coming MLA to watch in 2022? – VOTE

  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Brian Jean, (potentially future) MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche
  • Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud

Honourable mentions to runners-up Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner and Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang.

5. What was the biggest political play of 2021 in Alberta? – VOTE

  • Brian Jean’s political comeback
  • Jason Kenney’s “Open For Summer/Best Summer Ever” COVID-19 plan
  • Jyoti Gondek’s election as Mayor of Calgary

What was the biggest political issue of 2021 in Alberta?

In some past years this category has been a dog’s breakfast, but like last year, this year your choice was clear. COVID-19 was the clear choice of the overwhelming majority of people who submitted in this category. The global COVID-19 pandemic defined Alberta politics in 2021, with the failure of Premier Jason Kenney’s “Open For Summer” plan and the fourth wave that followed garnering the most submissions.

Categories
Alberta Politics

City Council candidates lining up ahead of campaign period start on Jan. 1, 2021

We are days away from January 1, 2021, which marks the start of the official municipal election campaign and nomination period and the lifting of early fundraising limits for candidates.

I spoke with CTV Edmonton about the bizarre development in Edmonton’s mayoral election between former City Councillor Michael Oshry and current Councillor Mike Nickel. Nickel tweeted a screenshot of a private message sent to him by Oshry saying he was “likely in” as a candidate for the mayoral race and asking Nickel if he would support him. Nickel’s tweet was sent to generate attention to his own campaign for mayor, but also serves as a warning to anyone planning to send him an email or private message – it might not stay private for long.

Diana Steele has announced her plans to run for mayor. Steele is the President of the Crestwood Community League and Coordinator, Volunteer Services and Communications for the Pilgrims Hospice Society.

There have also been a number of candidates who have announced their plans to run for Edmonton City Council in the newly redrawn and renamed Wards:

Edmonton City Council’s new Ward boundaries with new Indigenous names.

Dene: Youth, Child and Refugee Advocate Gerard Mutabazi Amani is running in this north east Edmonton ward.

Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi: Haruun J. Ali and Rhiannon Hoyle have launched their campaigns in this south Edmonton ward.

Ali is a political science student at the University of Victoria who, according to his website, volunteered on Edmonton-South NDP MLA Thomas Dang‘s re-election campaign in 2019.

Hoyle is the past president of the Alberta Party and the former president of the Heritage Point Community League, which includes the Rutherford and MacEwan neighbourhoods.

Glynnis Lieb announced her plans to run in this ward last month.

Metis: Steven Townsend and James Kosowan have announced their plans to run in this east Edmonton ward.

Townsend is the President of the Parkdale-Cromdale Community League and owner of The Briefing Room. He was the provincial Liberal Party candidate in Lesser Slave Lake in the 2012 election and in Edmonton-Whitemud in the 2015 election.

Kosowan is a high school Social Studies teacher and placed third in Ward 8 in the 2017 municipal election.

pihêsiwin: First-term councillor Tim Cartmell announced his plans to run for re-election in this newly redrawn ward. Cartmell made the announcement on his constituent email list.

sipiwiyiniwak: Giselle General announced on Facebook that she plans to run in this new south west ward. General is the Volunteer and Communications Coordinator with the Edmonton Community Legal Centre and the author of the FlipinaYEG blog.

Sspomitapi: Rashpal Sehmby is planning to run in this south east Edmonton ward. Sehmby is a postal worker and currently the Health & Safety officer for C.U.P.W. Edmonton Local 730.

I am once again tracking candidates who have announced their plans to run for Mayor, City Council and School Board in Edmonton. If I am missing anyone on the list, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com or post a comment and let me know. Thanks!

Categories
Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 65: The Best of Alberta Politics 2020

With the help of two special guests, Jessica Littlewood and Matt Solberg, we are thrilled to announce and discuss the results of the 2020 Best of Alberta Politics survey.

Dave Cournoyer, Jessica Littlewood and Matt Solberg on the Daveberta Podcast.
Dave Cournoyer, Jessica Littlewood and Matt Solberg on the Daveberta Podcast.

Jessica Littlewood was the Alberta NDP MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville from 2015 to 2019 and during that time served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade for Small Business. Matt Solberg is a Director at New West Public Affairs and previously served as director of Communications for the United Conservative Party

With more than 2,300 votes in total, the winners of the Best of Alberta Politics 2020 survey are:

Best Alberta MLA: Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highands-Norwood

Best Alberta Cabinet Minister: None of the Above

Best Opposition MLA: Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona

Up and Coming MLA to Watch in 2021: Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud

Biggest Political Play of 2020: UCP’s fight with Alberta’s Doctors

Albertan most likely to be a future Premier: Don Iveson and Naheed Nenshi (two frontrunner)

Thank you to everyone who voted!

The Daveberta Podcast is hosted by Dave Cournoyer and produced by Adam Rozenhart.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported. The Alberta Podcast Network includes dozens of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Vote for the Best of Alberta Politics in 2020 – The Top 3

With more than 750 submissions made to the Best of Alberta Politics 2020 survey, your choices have been sorted and you can now vote in each category. Voting is open until Dec. 20, 2020 at 10:00 am and the winners will be announced on the special year-end episode of the Daveberta Podcast on the same day.

Here are the top choices in every category:

1. Who was the best Alberta MLA of 2020? – VOTE

  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • David Shepherd, MLA for Edmonton-City Centre

2. Who was the best Alberta cabinet minister of 2020? – VOTE

  • Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
  • Nate Glubish, Minster of Service Alberta
  • Ric McIver, Minister of Transportation
  • None of the Above

A None of the Above option is added to this question because a near majority of submissions fell into that category.

3. Who was the best opposition MLA of 2020? – VOTE

  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • David Shepherd, MLA for Edmonton-City Centre

An honourable mention to Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes, who received a number of votes in this category despite being a member of the governing United Conservative Party caucus.

4. Who is the up and coming MLA to watch in 2021? – VOTE

  • Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud
  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Thomas Dang, MLA for Edmonton-South

5. What was the biggest political play of 2020 in Alberta? – VOTE

  • UCP privatizing provincial parks
  • The Strategists winning biggest political play of 2020
  • UCP fight with Alberta doctors during COVID-19 pandemic

We have added a bonus category where we ask you to name an Alberta who you believe is most likely to be a future Premier of Alberta. VOTE

What was the biggest political issue of 2020 in Alberta?

This category is usually a dog’s breakfast, but this year your choice was clear. COVID-19 was the clear choice of the overwhelming majority of people who submitted in this category. The global COVID-19 pandemic is not something that is unique to Alberta, but there is no doubt that it has defined 2020 in our province.

Categories
Alberta Politics

More Nots than Hots as Alberta MLAs wrap up heated summer session at the Legislature

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit Alberta five months ago, our Legislative Assembly was one of only a handful of provincial assemblies that continued with a mostly regular sitting schedule. Premier Jason Kenney and his ministers frequently quoted Winston Churchill and compared the current pandemic to the Nazi blitz of the United Kingdom during World War II. But the narrative of fighting on the beaches and uniting Albertans did not stick around for long.

United Conservative Party MLAs were eager to continue the regular business of the Legislature and Kenney barely skipped a beat in continuing to implement a political agenda aimed at dismantling government regulation and imposing swift changes to health care, education and labour laws.

While the UCP enjoys a big majority in the Legislature, and the continued support of enough Albertans to probably form another majority government (albeit likely smaller) if an election were held tomorrow, the government’s decision to move forward with a business as usual approach further entrenched some political divides that grew more conciliatory in other provinces. While other premiers were pulling their provinces together, and enjoying popularity bumps as a result, Alberta’s premier actively pushed people apart.

Politics as usual meant that unlike other provinces, where government and opposition parties generally worked together or at least put partisan politics on hold, in Alberta, politics remained heated and partisan.

Along with a flurry of attacks on provincial parks and public sector unions, and pushing for increased autonomy from Ottawa at the same time as the provincial government was increasingly relying on federal funding, the UCP, usually led by Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon used every opportunity to attack the New Democratic Party opposition. Rachel Notley and the NDP responded in kind.

If someone out there was keeping a political scorecard of Alberta’s MLAs, here is look at a few individuals who stood out during this session:

Tyler Shandro Alberta Health Minister Calgary Acadia
Tyler Shandro

Not: Health Minister Tyler Shandro (MLA Calgary-Acadia): Appointed to oversee a major overhaul and dismantling of Alberta’s public health care system, Shandro’s combative and confrontational approach has undermined much of the good will generated by the government’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shandro’s ongoing dispute with the Alberta Medical Association, including a temper-tantrum in the driveway outside a physician’s house, has poisoned the relationship between the government and doctors in the middle of a pandemic. The threat of doctors leaving rural Alberta practices has created an uncomfortable divide in the UCP Caucus between rural MLAs worried about the impact of losing doctors in their communities and Calgary MLAs not wanting to back down from a fight.

Pincher Creek Mayor Don Anderberg announced this week that the town’s council had to step in to convince doctors to not withdraw their services from that community’s hospital. Anderberg condemned Shandro and accused him of not being honest about the impact that doctors leaving the hospital could have on the community.

Adriana LaGrange Alberta MLA Red Deer North
Adriana LaGrange

Not: Education Minister Adriana LaGrange (MLA Red Deer-North): The soft-spoken former Catholic school trustee from central Alberta spent much of her first year in office battling with school boards and the Alberta Teachers’ Association, leaving her with few allies when schools were forced online at the beginning of the pandemic.

Now, with a return to school plan that appears woefully inadequate, LaGrange faces opposition and a lot of unanswered questions from parents, teachers and students who will be returning to school as normal in September.

Hot: Janis Irwin (MLA Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood), Rakhi Pancholi (MLA Edmonton-Whitemud), and David Shepherd (MLA Edmonton-City Centre): These three NDP MLAs stood out to me as some of the most effective voices and sharpest critics in the opposition benches during this session.

Rakhi Pancholi NDP Edmonton Whitemud
Rakhi Pancholi

Not: Finance Minister Travis Toews (MLA Grande Prairie-Wapiti): The provincial budget was barely tabled when the international price of oil plunged once again, putting the Alberta government’s optimistic projected natural resource royalty revenues in the realm of fantasy for the foreseeable future. The drop in oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic changed Alberta’s reality, but that did not stop Toews from shepherding an outdated budget through the legislative approval process.

With its revenues in the tank, the government continues to refuse to consider options to diversify its revenue streams, meaning Toews, who usually fills the roll of the adult in the room, will likely be announcing big cuts and layoffs when the Legislature returns for a one-day fiscal update debate on August 27.

To top it off, Calgary economist Trevor Tombe has declared Alberta is now a “have-not” province.

Hot: Mike Ellis (MLA Calgary-West): Ellis’ role as chair of the Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills will be unnoticed by most Albertans, but he has succeeded in fairly navigating some contentious issues that have arisen at committee hearings on private members’ bills this session. The expanded committee process for private members bills is new and is a very procedural and important part of how laws are made in Alberta.

Kaycee Madu Edmonton South West
Kaycee Madu (Source: Twitter)

Not: Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu (MLA Edmonton-South West): Carrying a definitively paternalistic approach to the provincial government’s relationship with municipalities, Madu introduced changes to local elections laws that led the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association to declare that their relationship with the minister was broken.

Many rural municipalities have spoken out about oil and gas companies that are either unable or refusing to pay their municipal taxes and now tax structure changes implemented by the province threaten to strip oil and gas tax revenue from those same rural municipalities.

According to a statement from Camrose County: “Council and administration are extremely concerned about the serious impacts of this decision because it will mean an increase in property tax, reduction of services, or combination of both to make up for this lost revenue.

While the stated intention of this decision is to increase the competitiveness of oil and gas companies in this hard time, these changes will disproportionately benefit large oil and gas companies and harm smaller local firms.”

Sonya Savage

Not: Energy Minister Sonya Savage (MLA Calgary-North West): It is a pretty grim time to be an Energy Minister in Alberta. Former pipeline lobbyist Sonya Savage had some success in negotiating funding from the federal government to clean up orphan and abandoned well sites, but her brave rhetoric has not matched the reality of the world’s energy market. Big oil companies like Total are pulling out of Alberta and barely a week goes by without a major investment house or bank divesting its funds from Alberta’s oil sands.

The much-lauded “Fightback” strategy touted by Savage and Kenney, which features a scandal-plagued Canadian Energy Centre and a $3.5 million secret public inquiry, seems to amount to the minister accusing companies like Total and financial institutions like Deutsche Bank of being “highly-hypocritical.” The world is moving away from Alberta’s oil sands and the government is either unable or unwilling to face that challenge.

Marlin Schimdt NDP MLA Edmonton Gold Bar Alberta Election 2019 politics
Marlin Schimdt

Not: Shane Getson (MLA Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland): Getson’s adolescent behavior – telling the NDP that they have a special VIP section reserved in Hell and allegedly making inappropriate gestures toward opposition MLAs – are unbecoming of an elected representative. Grow up, Shane.

Hot: Speaker Nathan Cooper (MLA Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills): An effort to demystify the Legislative Assembly, Cooper’s weekly videos highlighting different parts of the Legislature Building and functions of the Assembly has been entertaining and educating. Cooper and his staff should be commended for recognizing the opportunity to open the Legislature to Albertans through social media.

Not: Marlin Schmidt (MLA Edmonton-Gold Bar): Schmidt’s comments about former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were an unnecessary distraction at a point when it looked like the NDP were on a role. Smarten up, Marlin.

Categories
Alberta Politics

VP Weissenberger, Agent-General Rodney and the ABCs of patronage

“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

Dave Rodney MLA Calgary Lougheed
Dave Rodney

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.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Election bills give Albertans more democracy, less transparency and accountability.

Albertans could soon be given more opportunities to cast their ballots but with much less transparency about and accountability for who is spending money to influence their votes.

The United Conservative Party government continued to unwrap its electoral reform package this week with the introduction of:

Bill 26: Constitutional Referendum Amendment Act: introduced by Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer, the bill amends the Constitutional Referendum Act law to allow for province-wide referendums to be held on non-constitutional issues

Bill 27: Alberta Senate Election Amendment Act: also introduced by Schweitzer, this bill makes amendments to the Alberta Senate Election Act passed in June 2019. 

Bill 29: Local Authorities Election Amendment Act: introduced by Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu, this bill introduces major changes to the law that governs municipal elections in Alberta.

These bills are part of a series of election bills that are expected to also include future bills allowing for the recall of MLAs, municipal politicians and school trustees, citizen initiated referendums, and major changes to provincial election laws.

Doug Schweitzer Calgary Alberta Conservative
Doug Schweitzer

The three bills introduced this week provide more opportunities for Albertans to vote for candidates and on issues, but they also claw back important transparency and accountability rules implemented by the previous New Democratic Party government less than two years ago.

It has almost been 50 years since the last time a province-wide plebiscite was initiated by the Alberta government. Bill 26 would allow the provincial government to hold referendums on non-constitutional issues, like creating an Alberta Pension Plan or deciding if we should remain on Daylight Saving Time. Providing an opportunity for Albertans to cast ballots on important issues can be a powerful tool to engage voters, but the timing and wording of such votes can also be intentionally manipulative.

The bill allows third-party groups, colloquially known as political action committees, to spend up to $500,000 on advertising up from the current $150,000 limit. Third-party groups that spend less than $350,000 on advertising during a referendum would not be required to file financial statements with Elections Alberta.

Schweitzer did not hold a press conference to announce the bill, so it is unclear why he chose to include such a massive gap in transparency.

Changes to municipal election laws included in Bill 29 are being framed by Madu as helping “level the playing field” for new candidates running for municipal councils and school boards by not allowing incumbents to carry over campaign war chests between elections and increasing the amount candidates can spend ahead of the election period from $2,000 to $5,000.

Bill 29 raises the election period donation limit from $4,000 back up to $5,000 and allows candidates to self-finance their campaign up to $10,000, reversing a number of changes made by the NDP government in 2018 that have not had a chance to be tested in a municipal election campaign.

Madu’s bill would also make it legal for wealthy individuals to donate up to $5,000 each to as many candidates as they want in any municipal or school board election across the province, effectively removing the cap on individual donations.

Eliminating the ability of incumbents to store campaign surpluses in war chests for future elections might lower the amount of cash on hand at the beginning of an election campaign. But in Edmonton at least, only two city councillors – Sarah Hamilton and Ben Henderson – reported having surpluses of more than $10,000 at the end of the 2017 election, suggesting that war chests are not necessarily a significant issues in the capital city.

Raising the donation limit could strengthen the advantage of incumbents with name recognition and developed political networks running against challengers who may be seeking political office for the first time.

The advantage of name recognition that helps incumbents get re-elected in large numbers at the municipal level is a feature that predates any of the changes to municipal election finance laws introduced by the previous NDP and Progressive Conservative governments over the past decade. The incumbent advantage even existed when there were no donation limits.

Bill 29 removes the requirement that candidates disclose their donors ahead of election day, which allows voters to see who is financially supporting candidates before they head to the ballot box.

The bill also removes spending limits for third-party groups before the start of the election period, allowing groups like Calgary’s infamous Sprawl Cabal of land developers free reign to spend unlimited amounts of money on advertising before May 1, 2021.

Madu’s Bill 29 introduces big money back into municipal elections under the guise of fairness and without creating any of the structural changes required to design a real competitive electoral environment at the municipal level.

Bill 29 also removes all references to the Election Commissioner, a housekeeping item necessitated by the controversial firing of the Commissioner by the UCP government in November 2019. In its place, the bill creates a Registrar of Third Parties, though it is unclear if the person holding this title would have the legal investigative authority of the now defunct Election Commissioner.

In past elections many municipalities simply did not have the resources available to enforce municipal election finance rules, so in some cases complaints were simply left uninvestigated.

Some of these changes were expected and were included in the UCP’s 2019 election platform, others were necessitated by inconsistencies in the changes made by the NDP in 2018, and some have come completely out of left-field.

Alberta’s election laws should be dynamic and designed to encourage and facilitate participation by voters and candidates, not to hide the identities of those who would spend money influencing election campaigns.

Overall, these bills could probably be summed up as one step forward for democracy and two steps back for transparency and accountability.

Changes coming to provincial election laws

Joseph Schow Cardston-Siksika MLA UCP
Joseph Schow

These changes are likely a taste of what is to come from the recently appointed Select Special Democratic Accountability Committee. Chaired by Cardston-Siksika UCP MLA Joseph Schow, the committee will review Alberta’s Election Act and the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act within the next six months and has be tasked with answering a series of questions submitted by Schweitzer within four months.

Along with Schow, the committee membership includes Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner, Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard, Calgary-Buffalo MLA Joe Ceci, Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang, Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Laila Goodridge, Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon, Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi, Highwood MLA R.J. Sigurdson, Drayton Valley-Devon MLA Mark Smith and Edmonton-Manning MLA Heather Sweet.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Vote for the Best of Alberta Politics in 2019 – The Top 3

Photos: Leela Aheer, John Archer, Greg Clark, Devin Dreeshen, Sarah Hoffman, Danielle Larivee, Rachel Notley, Janis Irwin, Rakhi Pancholi, Shannon Phillips (source: Legislative Assembly of Alberta website)

With more than 500 submissions made to the Best of Alberta Politics 2019 survey, your choices have been sorted and you can now vote in each category. Voting is open until Dec. 14, 2019 at 11:59 pm and the winners will be announced on the special year-end episode of the Daveberta Podcast on Dec. 16, 2019.

Here are the top three choices in every category:

Who was the best Alberta MLA of 2019? – Vote

  • Devin Dreeshan, MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona

An honourable mention to Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West who placed a strong fourth in total submissions. Notley was last year’s winner in this category.

Who was the best Alberta cabinet minister of 2019? – Vote

  • Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
  • Sarah Hoffman, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health
  • Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks

Honourable mentions to Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen and Minister of Finance Travis Toews, who placed a close forth and fifth in this category. Former Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson was last year’s winner in this category.

Who was the best opposition MLA of 2019? – Vote

  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
  • Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West

Former Calgary-Elbow MLA Greg Clark was last year’s winner in this category.

Who is the up and coming MLA to watch in 2020? – Vote

  • Devin Dreeshen, MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
  • Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
  • Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud

An honourable mention to Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang, who placed a strong fourth in the first round of voting. Jessica Littlewood, former MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, was last year’s winner in this category..

Who was the best candidate who didn’t win in the 2019 Alberta election? – Vote

  • John Archer, NDP candidate in Edmonton-South West
  • Greg Clark, Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Elbow
  • Danielle Larivee, NDP candidate in Lesser Slave Lake

An honourable mention to Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville NDP candidate Jessica Littlewood, and Leduc-Beaumont NDP candidate Shaye Anderson, who tied for fourth place in this category..

What was the biggest political issue of 2019 in Alberta? – Vote

  • Budget cuts
  • Economy and jobs
  • Firing the Elections Commissioner
  • Turkey farm hostage taking

There were a lot of submissions in this category, so we decided to give you a chance to vote on the top four in this category.

What was the biggest political play of 2019 in Alberta?

Lorne Gibson Alberta Election Commissioner
Lorne Gibson

This category is usually a dog’s breakfast, but this year your choice was clear. So we have declared the biggest political play of 2019 in Alberta was the United Conservative Party government firing of Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson. The UCP government’s omnibus Bill 22 dissolved the Office of the Election Commissioner, who was in the midst of investigating and issuing fines for violations of Alberta’s elections laws during the UCP leadership race in 2017.

Government watch-dog Democracy Watch has called on the RCMP to investigate the firing of the Election Commissioner and wants a special prosecutor appointed to oversee the investigation to ensure there is no political interference.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Stephen Mandel’s time as Alberta Party leader ends as a footnote in Alberta’s history

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.

Jim Prentice Stephen Mandel Health Minister Alberta
Premier Jim Prentice and Health Minister Stephen Mandel in 2014.

This was Mandel’s second attempt at a political comeback.

He surprised many political watchers when he was appointed to Jim Prentice’s cabinet without a seat in the Legislature in 2014, just over a year after he retired as mayor.

The first comeback was short-lived.

Mandel won a by-election in Edmonton-Whitemud in late 2014 but was unseated by popular New Democratic Party candidate Bob Turner in the spring 2015 Orange Wave that swept the province.

Following Jason Kenney’s win in the 2017 PC Party leadership race, a number of moderate conservative partisans left the party over differences with the new leader’s style, history of social conservative activism and drive to merge the party with the Wildrose Party.

Greg Clark Alberta Party MLA
Greg Clark

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.

Mandel was able to attract a slate with credible candidates, including former PC MLA Dave Quest, former Liberal MLA Mo Elsalhy, former St. Paul mayor Glenn Andersen, former St. Albert city councillor Neil Korotash, anti-violence advocate Manwar Khan, actor Dakota House and well-known former radio host Angela Kokott.

Lorne Dach Edmonton-McClung NDP MLA
Lorne Dach

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.

The press release announcing Mandel’s departure states that he is pursuing his role as Chancellor of Concordia University of Edmonton, a role he was installed into on November 30, 2017, just over one month before he launched his campaign to win the Alberta Party leadership.

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.”