Surrounded by dozens of Tory MLAs at a late-afternoon press conference, Premier Alison Redford announced plans to make the expense claims of all cabinet ministers, MLAs, and government officials publicly available on the internet.
The new rules place limits on the purchase of business class airline tickets and a ban on expensing alcohol. What format the expense disclosures will be made available online is still unknown. As I wrote about last month, not all online transparency is created equally (or accessibly). As has also been pointed out by political reporters online, the new rules are unclear if there will be sanctions for employees who break the new expense rules. It is also unclear if the rationale behind any special exemptions, made by the Treasury Board, will be made public.
Earlier this year, Calgary-Centre Conservative Member of Parliament Lee Richardson left Ottawa to join Premier Redford’s staff as her Principal Secretary. I am told that long-time Tory and Volunteer Alberta executive director Karen Lynch recently joined Premier Redford’s staff as her director of tours and schedules.
Learning how to be an effective opposition MLA in Alberta includes a very steep learning curve and the constant challenge of facing a governing party that despises opposition. As any observer of Alberta politics can point out, the Progressive Conservatives have not sustained 41 uninterrupted years in government by being “nice.”
The cancellation of the yet to be opened Fort Macleod police training school, which was a perfect example of Tory rural pork barrelling, is being shut down (which is probably the right decision made for the wrong reasons). On the other hand, the closure of the Little Bow Continuing Care Centre has enraged community members in the small village of Carmangay, leaving many to publicly speculate that their votes for local Wildrose MLA Ian Donovan may have contributed to the closure.
Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle, a member of the Wildrose caucus, has become involved in a war ofwords with Sylvan Lake town council over town hall meetings the MLA held on the topic of the controversial intersection of Highway 11 and 781.
The main question of concern appears to be the issue of who is appropriate advocate for residents of Sylvan Lake on transportation issues? Ms. Towle is the first opposition MLA elected in this constituency in more than 35 years, which puts the town council in the situation of having to work with a local opposition MLA and advocate to the Transportation Minister, Ric McIver. While most urban political watchers will scoff, it is important to understand what an incredible shift this is central and southern Alberta, who are used to being represented by senior cabinet ministers and their drinking buddies. I am sure similar scenarios are being played out in counties, towns, and villages across central and southern Alberta.
Meanwhile, Tory MLAs have been touring central and southern Alberta constituencies holding health care consultations with local leaders, bypassing the locally elected opposition Wildrose MLAs. Edmonton-Riverview Tory MLA Steve Young joined Banff-Cochrane Tory MLA Ron Casey, and Lethbridge Tory MLAs Bridget Pastoor and Greg Weadick at meetings in the Livingstone-Macleod, Little Bow, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, Cardston-Taber-Warner constituencies – all areas where voters elected Wildrose MLAs.
Ready for the cameras, Premier Alison Redford was on hand with Education Minister Jeff Johnson at the opening of a new school in the town of Okotoks, south of Calgary. No word if local Wildrose MLA, Danielle Smith, was invited to participate in the opening event.
Note: The Wildrose Party official colours are green and pink.
As we observe the farce of a defeated former MLA & Agriculture Minister, Evan Berger, being hired by the Deputy Minister of his former department, we must take a long and serious look at the politicization of the Alberta public service caused by over 40 years of one-party rule, and how it poisons the well for any other party that might get elected in future.
It is a tradition of Westminster-style parliamentary government, which is the model in Canada both at the federal and the provincial level, that the professional public service can and does support policy developed by an government of any political stripe, from right-wing to centrist to left-wing, with equanimity and professionalism. The result of this is that a change of government in this country does not trigger the kind of wholesale purging of senior government posts that we see in Washington every time a new Administration takes office. There is a reason a new President needs two full months of “transition” before taking office, whereas in Canada a new Prime Minister or provincial Premier is usually in place a week or two after an election.
However, in Alberta, the Progressive Conservative Party and the public service are so intertwined, like mating octopi, that if the current government is ever defeated at the polls, we will need a US-style purge of the entire upper levels of the public services. Every Deputy Minister, Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) and direct report to ADMs will need to be fired & replaced, or the new government will inevitably be undermined by the public service’s senior management.
Jerry MacDonald has been a Registered Nurse for 25 years and was educated in Halifax. Moved to Fort Vermilion, Alberta in 1985, and to Grande Prairie in 1988. Former UNA activist and local president at QEII Hospital (2003-2006).NDP candidate in 2004 provincial election (Grande Prairie-Wapiti); also worked on several other campaigns at both provincial and federal levels. Married to Nancy; three adult children. BSc in Nursing, post-RN (U of A 2010).
When Alberta’s Legislative Assembly reconvenes in the next few months, for the first time since 1982 the title of Official Opposition will given to a caucus of MLA’s representing a party other than the New Democrats or the Liberals. Following the April 23 general election, seventeen Wildrose Party MLA’s were elected, creating the largest Official Opposition caucus since 1997 (when eighteen Liberal MLA’s were elected).
Aside from high-profile leader Danielle Smith, who was elected in Highwood, most Albertans would probably respond with blank stares if asked to name another Wildrose MLA. Over the past week, I have read biographies and scoured the internet for information about the MLA’s who, for at least the next four years, have been tasked with the responsibility of being Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in Alberta.
Only two of the four incumbent Wildrose Party MLA’s were re-elected last week. Paul Hinman, who was narrowly elected in a 2009 by-election was soundly defeated by PC candidate Linda Johnson in Calgary-Glenmore. In Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, four-term MLA Guy Boutilier, who crossed the floor to the Wildrose in 2010 after sitting for 12 years as a Progressive Conservative MLA, was unseated by municipal councillor Mike Allen. Both Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson and Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Heather Forsyth, who crossed the floor from the PCs to the Wildrose in January 2010, were re-elected.
Here is a look at the fourteen rookie MLA’s who will be joining Ms. Smith, Mr. Anderson, and Ms. Forsyth in the Wildrose Party caucus.
Drew Barnes (Cypress-Medicine Hat) Defeated two-term PC MLA Len Mitzel. Mr. Barnes is a real estate agent and co-owner of Belcore Homes, a construction company in Medicine Hat. He is the past-campaign chair and president of the Southeastern United Way. He completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Alberta in 1983.
Gary Bikman (Cardston-Taber-Warner)
Mr. Bikman is a business management consultant and co-founder of ChopStix International Franchising Inc, a fast food gourmet Chinese restaurant chain. He is the past-president of Speedy Heavy Hauling Ltd, an oilfield service company. Until recently he was a councillor and deputy mayor of the Village of Sterling. Mr. Bikman attended the first Reform Association of Canada (later the Reform Party of Canada) conference in Vancouver in 1987. His Facebook page lists him as having completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology (1968) and Master of Business Administration (1972) at Brigham Young University.
Ian Donovan (Little Bow)
Mr. Donovan farms near the hamlet of Mossleigh. He was elected to Vulcan County Council at the age of 19 and he has served for the past 16 years, including two years as Reeve. Perceived mishandling of the nomination process which selected him as the candidate led to the entire executive board of the Little Bow Wildrose Association to resign in January 2010.
Rod Fox (Lacombe-Ponoka) Mr. Fox is a sales manager for an insurance company. From 2006 to 2007 he served as a director on the Lacombe Economic Development Board and ran unsuccessfully for Lacombe municipal council in 2007. He served as President of the Conservative Party of CanadaWetaskiwin Electoral District Association from 2007 to 2010 and was Communications Director for MP Blaine Calkins during the 2011 federal election.
Jason Hale (Strathmore-Brooks)
Unseated first-term PC MLA Arno Doerksen. Mr. Hale operates a cattle farm with his family. He was a Professional Bullfighter for 10 years and is a member of the a member of the Bassano Rodeo committee and a Director on the Bassano Agricultural Society. He completed a diploma in Chemical Technology at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. He also coaches for hockey and baseball.
Bruce McAllister (Chestermere-Rockyview) Defeated senior cabinet minister and former PC leadership candidate Ted Morton. Originally from New Brunswick, Mr. McAllister is well-known for his time as the host of Global Television’s morning newscast in Calgary since 2004. Before moving to Calgary, Mr. McAllister was an anchor and reporter at CH Television in Victoria, BC. He also worked as a broadcaster in Winnipeg and Halifax.
Blake Pedersen (Medicine Hat) Mr. Pedersen has been a co-owner in an oilfield, industrial supply company since 1999.
Shayne Saskiw (Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills)
Unseated three-term MLA and cabinet minister Ray Danyluk. Mr. Saskiw studied Law at the University of Alberta with MLA Rob Anderson and practiced law in Vegreville. He was named one of “The Next 10” by Alberta Venture magazine in 2010. Mr. Saskiw served as Vice-President (Policy) of the PC Party from 2008 until January 2010, when he joined the Wildrose Party. He later served as executive director of the Wildrose Party.
Pat Stier (Livingstone-Macleod) Unseated first-term MLA and cabinet minister Evan Berger. Mr. Stier lives on his family’s ranch near DeWinton and is the President of River Canyon Enterprises Inc., which provides planning services for land use and development applications to rural land owners. He served one term on the municipal council of the M.D. of Foothills from 2004 to 2007. He was a member of the PC Party Board of Directors in Highwood from 2006 to 2009 and in 2010 became the President of the Wildrose Alliance association in that constituency. Between 1988 and 1999 he served as President of the Dunbow Road Area Residents Association.
Rick Strankman (Drumheller-Stettler) Unseated cabinet minister Jack Hayden. Mr. Strankman owns a cattle ranch and grain farm near Altario. He is the past Treasurer of the Western Barley Growers Association and is an anti-Canadian Wheat Board activist. In 1996, he was fined $1000 for taking his own wheat in his grain truck and driving it across the Canadian border into the United States. In 2000, Mr. Strankman was an unsuccessful candidate in the Canadian Wheat Board elections and in 2002 he was fined $7,500 and faced 180 days in jail after taking 756 bushels of wheat across the American border and sold it (he only served a week in jail with four other rebel farmers).
Kerry Towle (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake) Defeated three-term PC MLA and former cabinet minister Luke Ouellette. Ms. Towle is a real estate broker and was executive assistant with the now-dissolved David Thompson Health Region. She ran a turkey farming operation with her husband for five years. She attended Reeves Business College in 1992 and 1993.
What was expected to be the most exciting provincial election in history of our province turned out to be a continuation of the 41-year old Progressive Conservative dynasty. The pollsters, the media, and the pundits (including this blogger) appear to have completely misjudged the electoral climate in the final days of the election.
It appears that the PC Party call to moderate voters to vote strategically to block the Wildrose Party from forming government was successful in Calgary, Edmonton, and northern Alberta. While the Tories ran a completely lacklustre campaign, Albertans’ unease with the thorny social conservative views of Wildrose candidatesAllan Hunsperger and Ron Leech undoubtedly drew moderates to cast their ballots for the PCs yesterday.
At least for now, Premier Alison Redford is secure in her position as leader of the PC Party. The PCs have re-elected a number of veteran MLAs, including Dave Hancock in Edmonton-Whitemud, and a new cast of rookie MLAs who will amount to about 1/3 of the governing caucus.
The golden rule of Alberta elections remains truth: never bet against the incumbent.
The Tories have lost many of their former strongholds in rural Alberta and cabinet giants, including Ted Morton in Chestermere-Rockyview, Evan Berger in Livingstone-Macleod, Jack Hayden in Drumheller-Stettler, and Ray Danyluk in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills. Successful use of wedge issues like property rights likely played a significant role in the Wildrose winning these rural constituencies.
With 17 MLA’s, Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party will form the Official Opposition in the Assembly. Ms. Smith’s challenges are two-fold. First, she must manage the expectations of disappointed caucus members who expected to be sitting in the government benches. Second, she must form a cohesive opposition consisting of mostly rookie MLA’s (including herself). Two of the Wildrose Party’s four incumbent MLA’s were defeated last night. Only MLA Heather Forsyth in Calgary-Fish Creek and Rob Anderson in Airdrie were re-elected.
The Wildrose caucus is almost entirely made up of MLA’s from southern rural Alberta constituencies, which breaks from the almost three decade-long tradition of urban-based Liberal or NDP official oppositions. This will be the first time since the Social Credit Party formed official opposition in 1971 that a large caucus of rural MLAs are the official opposition. Despite signs of a wave early in the campaign, the Wildrose Party only elected two MLA’s in Calgary, including Ms. Forsyth and Jeff Wilson, who defeated PC appointee candidate Farouk Adatia in Calgary-Shaw.
“It was a miracle that we survived” was Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman‘s comment on CBC Radio this morning. The Liberal Party elected five MLA’s last night, losing official opposition status for the first time in nineteen years. The Liberal vote collapsed across the province to 10% and the party lost long-time Liberal voting constituencies Edmonton-Gold Bar, Edmonton-Riverview, and Calgary-Varsity to the Tories.
Former Liberal MLA Maurice Tougas may have said it best on his blog this morning, “Liberals will now have to ask themselves what their place is in Alberta politics, or indeed if there is any place for them at all.”
The NDP probably have mixed feelings this morning. NDP leader Brian Mason ran a smooth campaign and his party has gained official party status by adding former MLA David Eggen from Edmonton-Calder and Deron Bilous from Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview to their caucus, but they are still one MLA smaller than the Liberals, who many New Democrats had hoped to surpass.
There are some pretty disappointed people in the Alberta Party camp this morning. Their hopes for electing an MLA were dashed, but the party earned 17,144 across the province, which leaves them with something to build on for the next election.
Campaigning in the same constituency yesterday, it is interesting to wonder what Premier Alison Redford and Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith would have said to each other if their paths had intersected. Close polls, push polls, and sharp criticisms have defined the first two days of Alberta’s 2012 election campaign.
Premier Redford was in Highwood campaigning with Progressive Conservative candidate John Barlow, who faces the daunting task of keeping the high-profile Ms. Smith out of the Assembly.
Campaigning in southern Alberta yesterday, Ms. Smith released her party’s pledge to table balance budgets. Under the Wildrose platform, future government spending would be limited to population growth plus inflation. Despite Wildrose Party assurances that they would not launch into a round of drastic service cuts if they are elected, I cannot help believe that a government led by Ms. Smtih would do anything but.
Health care was the focus of the second day of the election campaign for the NDP and Liberals, as both parties leaders unveiled parts of their platforms.
In the north end constituency of Edmonton-Calder, NDP leader Brian Mason joined candidate and former MLA David Eggen to announce that his party would create 1,500 long-term care beds, cover dental costs for Albertans under the age of 18, and bring down the cost of prescription drugs through a new provincial pharmaceutical plan. Mr. Eggen was the MLA for this constituency from 2004 until 2008, and since then has served as the executive director of the Friends of Medicare.
On the day the election was called, Mr. Eggen’s campaign team flexed their organization muscle by placing more than 1,100 lawn signs on private property across the constituency, painting Edmonton-Calder orange.
In Calgary yesterday, Liberal Party leader Raj Shermanreaffirmed his party’s commitment to increase funding to build and operate more long-term care beds and facilities. Joined by a medical doctor and a retired health care worker, Dr. Sherman continued to call on Premier Redford to fulfil her promise to hold a judicial inquiry into doctor intimidation.
Today, the Dr. Sherman will travel to Red Deer to make another health care related announcement at the campaign office of Red Deer-North candidate Michael Dawe and Red Deer-South candidate Jeff Chilibeck.
Focusing on health care is a smart strategy for the Liberals, who are seen as strong on this issue, yet have slipped in the polls over the past four years. It gives the party an opportunity to contrast itself with the PC’s, whose poor management has created many of the staffing problems faced in the health care system, and the Wildrose Party, which would introduce a “hybrid” or “European” model of health care. It is suspected that the Wildrose model would include the introduction of private medical insurance.
Meanwhile, in Lethbridge, interesting contests are shaping up in both of that city’s constituencies.
Nominated Alberta election candidates by region. December 8, 2011
The sudden burst of retirement announcements by Stelmach-era cabinet ministers has prompted a flurry of nomination activity in constituencies that could be considered Tory strongholds (where winning the PC nomination is typically the toughest fight):
Banff-Cochrane: Mayor Truper McBride is expected to enter the PC nomination contest in this mountain/foothills constituency today. Current PC MLA and former cabinet minister Janis Tarchukannounced this week that she will seek re-election, though some political watchers expect the former cabinet minister to retire when the next election is called.
Grande Prairie-Smoky: Grande Prairie County Reeve Everett McDonaldis seeking the PC nomination. The constituency is currently represented by MLA and former cabinet minister Mel Knight, who is not seeking re-election.
Vermilion-Lloydminster: Dr. Richard Starke is seeking the PC nomination, which is being left vacant by retiring MLA and former cabinet minister Lloyd Snelgrove.
Aside from the constituencies represented by retiring former cabinet ministers, here are other updates to the list of declared and nominated election candidates:
Calgary-Buffalo: The NDP are expected to acclaim Rebecca Eras as their candidate on December 13
Calgary-Cross: The NDP are expected to acclaim Reinaldo Conterras on December 13. Mr. Conterras replaces previously nominated candidate Preet Sihota, who withdrew his candidacy for personal reasons.
Calgary-Currie: Five prospective nomination candidates were testing the waters at a recent Meet and Greet event organized by the Calgary-Currie PC association. Potential nominees noted to have attended the event include former MLA and Alderman Jon Lord, Stefan Spargo, Chair of the Calgary International Children’s Festival Charity Callahan, former Calgary-McCall constituency president Dale Galbraith, school principalChristine Cusanelli, and past-President of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association Brian Holtby.
Calgary-Glenmore: The PC nomination has been scheduled for January 28, 2012. Linda Johnson has declared her candidacy for the nomination.
Calgary-Hays: Former Alderman and recent Mayoral candidate Ric McIver defeated incumbent MLA Art Johnston to nab the PC nomination. This is the second time that Mr. Johnston, the parliamentary assistant to Premier Alison Redford, has lost a nomination contest this year. In May 2011, he was defeated by Rick Fraser in the Calgary-South East PC nomination.
Calgary-Mountain View: Lawyer Cecilia Low has announced her intention to seek the PC nomination, which has yet to be officially scheduled.
Calgary-North West: The NDP are expected to acclaim Brian Malkinson as their candidate on December 13.
Edmonton-Gold Bar: Liberal Party members nominated Josipa Petrunic as their candidate earlier this week (read more about Ms. Petrunic here). The PC nomination date has been scheduled for January 25, 2012. Past candidate David Dorward is the only candidate to have declared his candidacy.
Edmonton-Whitemud: The NDP are expected to acclaim Muriel Stanley Venne as their candidate on December 13.
Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo: After circulating a rumour about a secret nomination meeting, Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier has decided that he will seek his party’s nomination in the new Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo constituency.
Leduc-Beaumont: Perennial political candidate Hana Razga is seeking the NDP nomination. Ms. Razga recently ran for Edmonton City Council in Ward 8.
The three candidates eliminated on the first-ballot vote to choose the next leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives have all announced their support for front-runner Gary Mar. Carrying 40% of the vote on the first-ballot, it is understandable why the three would endorse the front-runner in terms of both personal political calculation and party unity.
Scattering a little differently, the group of MLAs who supported the three eliminated candidates have begun to throw their support among the remaining candidates.
Leadership candidate Doug Horner held a media conference yesterday to announce that Ted Morton supporter Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Carl Benito was joining his campaign.
Including Minister Denis, there remain five MLA supporters of Dr. Morton who have yet to throw their support behind any of the top three candidates (as far as I am aware). Those remaining MLAs are Livingstone-Macleod MLA Evan Berger, Highwood MLA George Groeneveld, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Tony Vandermeer, and Edmonton-Manning MLA Peter Sandhu.
Here is a preliminary list and map of MLAs who are supporting candidates in the 2011 Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership contest. Please comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if there are additions or subtractions to be made to this list.
Candidate: Doug Horner (12 MLAs) Ray Danyluk (Lac La Biche-St. Paul)
Wayne Drysdale (Grande Prairie-Wapiti)
Hector Goudreau (Dunvegan-Central Peace)
Jack Hayden (Drumheller-Stettler)
Jeff Johnson (Athabasca-Redwater)
Ken Kowalski (Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock)
Genia Leskiw (Bonnyville-Cold Lake)
Len Mitzel (Cypress-Medicine Hat)
Frank Oberle (Peace River)
Luke Ouellette (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake)
Dave Quest (Strathcona)
Greg Weadick (Lethbridge-West)
Candidate: Gary Mar (11 MLAs)
Naresh Bhardwaj (Edmonton-Ellerslie)
Iris Evans (Sherwood Park)
Heather Klimchuk (Edmonton-Glenora)
Mel Knight (Grande Prairie-Smoky)
Diana McQueen (Drayton Valley-Calmar)
Ron Liepert (Calgary-West)
Thomas Lukaszuk (Edmonton-Castle Downs)
Ray Prins (Lacombe-Ponoka)
Rob Renner (Medicine Hat)
George Rogers (Leduc-Beaumont-Devon)
Lloyd Snelgrove (Vermilion-Lloydminster)
Candidate: Ted Morton (10 MLAs)
Moe Amery (Calgary-East)
Carl Benito (Edmonton-Mill Woods)
Evan Berger (Livingstone-Macleod)
Jonathan Denis (Calgary-Egmont)
Doug Elniski (Edmonton-Calder)
George Groenveld (Highwood)
Broyce Jacobs (Cardston-Taber-Warner)
Dave Rodney (Calgary-Lougheed)
Tony Vandermeer (Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview)
David Xiao (Edmonton-McClung)
Albertans appointed to the Federal Cabinet Two Alberta Conservative MPs were included in a recent cabinet shuffle in Ottawa. Macleod MP Ted Menzies was appointed as the Minister of State (Finance) and Calgary-Nose Hill MP Diane Ablonczy was appointed as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Americas). These two minor appointments were meant to offset the loss of Environment Minister Jim Prentice from the federal cabinet in Ottawa.
Raj Against the Machine Tour
Independent Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman is hitting the road this spring on a province-wide town hall tour to hear Albertans’ views on health care. Dr. Sherman was kicked out of the PC caucus in November 2010 when he publicly criticized the PC government’s record on health care and singled out former Health Minister Ron Liepert as a problem. The good Doctor Sherman is also the newest MLA to join Twitter, where he can be found at @RajShermanMLA
NDP tackle the Tories on Long-term Care NDP MLA Brian Mason raised some fair criticisms of the PC Government’s handling of Long-term Care as the new Villa Caritas facility opened near the Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton. Many of the beds in the Covenant Health-operated Villa Caritas were originally slated as Long-term Care spaces, but were later changed to include geriatric mental health patients transferred from Alberta Hospital Edmonton. According to the NDP, there are more than 600 people on the waiting list for long-term care beds in Edmonton.
Also expected to join the contest is three-term Town of Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor, who is expected to launch his campaign for the new Alberta Party leadership in the next few weeks. Mayor Taylor was first elected to his current job in 2004. This would not be his first foray into provincial politics as he was the NDP candidate in West Yellowhead in the 1997 General Election when he placed a strong third with 20% of the vote.
Around the world in 21 days
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Iris Evans is gearing up for a trip around the globe that will land her in Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom from January 10 to 31, 2011. Cypress-Medicine Hat PC MLA Len Mitzel recently travelled to Texas for a three day trip to a meeting of the Ports-to-Plains Alliance meeting. I generally support sending representatives to promote Alberta internationally, but with the total amount of travel time being logged by cabinet ministers and PC MLAs, now might be the time to have a serious discussion about the value of these trips.
The Alberta-China Connection
The Calgary Herald has published the first of a four part series of articles written by Jason Fekete investigating the Province of Alberta’s relationship with the People’s Republic of China.