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Alberta Politics

Making the Alberta Party relevant is Barry Morishita’s new job

Brooks Mayor Barry Morishita has been acclaimed as leader of the Alberta Party.

“As a compassionate leader and experienced community builder, I believe that a new, fresh approach to politics is what Albertans need right now and that the Alberta Party is the vehicle to drive that positive change,” Morishita said in a press statement released by the party.

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

Morishita was first elected to Brooks City Council in 1998 and became Mayor of Brooks in 2016 after previous mayor Martin Shields was elected as the Conservative Member of Parliament for Bow River.

He was elected President of the Alberta Urban Municipality Association in 2017 and was a vocal critic of the United Conservative Party government’s overhaul of municipal election laws, going so far as to describe relations between municipalities and then-Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu as “broken.”

This is not his first foray into provincial politics. Like other leaders of the Alberta Party, Morishita’s past political experience was as a member of another political party.

He ran for Nancy MacBeth‘s Alberta Liberals in Strathmore-Brooks in 2001, placing second with 15.5 per cent of the vote behind Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Lyle Oberg. He had previously been active with the Liberal Party as a delegate to the convention that chose Laurence Decore as party leader in 1988.

Lyle Oberg
Lyle Oberg

He also made a $300 donation to the PC Party in Strathmore-Brooks in 2014.

The small moderate conseravtive political party broke through into the Legislature in 2015 when leader Greg Clark, who worked as a Liberal Caucus staffer in his youth, was elected in Calgary-Elbow. Despite growing its popular vote, the party was shut out of the Legislature in 2019 under the leadership of former Edmonton mayor and PC cabinet minister Stephen Mandel.

The Alberta Party has languished in obscurity since the 2019 election, with interim leader Jacquie Fenske, a former PC MLA from Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, holding the reins until a permanent leader was named.

Doug Griffiths
Doug Griffiths

According to a report from the Morinville News, former Morinville Mayor and past AUMA President Lisa Holmes and former Battle River-Wainwright PC MLA Doug Griffiths are part of Morishita’s transition team.

The challenges facing Morishita and his party are steep:

  1. Make his party relevant. Rachel Notley‘s NDP have led in the polls since November 2020 and have a commanding lead in fundraising. It is going to be challenging for the Alberta Party to convince Albertans who want Jason Kenney out of the Premier’s Office that they are the credible alternative.
  2. Winning a seat in the next election and getting his party back into the Legislature. Brooks-Medicine Hat will be the natural place for Morishita to run but it will be an uphill climb to win in the lopsidedly conservative voting district currently represented by UCP MLA Michaela Glasgo.There will also be a by-election held in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche in the next six months following the resignation of Laila Goodridge, who is running in the federal election.
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Alberta Politics

MLA Laila Goodridge jumps into federal politics, leaving an opening for Brian Jean to run in a Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche United Conservative Party MLA Laila Goodridge has been appointed as the federal Conservative Party candidate in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake following MP David Yurdiga’s decision to withdraw his candidacy on the day the election was called for September 20, 2021.

David Yurdiga MP Fort McMurray-Cold Lake
David Yurdiga

Yurdiga has represented the northern Alberta district since running in a 2014 by-election to replace former MP Brian Jean.

Goodridge has represented the northern Alberta district since running in a 2018 by-election to replace former MLA Brian Jean.

Goodridge was appointed parliamentary secretary responsible for Alberta’s francophonie in June 2019. Before her by-election win she worked as a political staffer in Fort McMurray and Ottawa and ran for the Wildrose Party in Grande Prairie-Wapiti in the 2015 election.

Her sudden entry into federal politics and almost certain election to parliament in this very safe Conservative seat (neither a Liberal or NDP candidate have been nominated yet – but the Maverick Party has a candidate) means that a provincial by-election will be triggered in the next six months.

Brian Jean Calgary Stampede Alberta
Brian Jean

This will be the first by-election since Premier Jason Kenney’s UCP formed government in April 2019. Amid Kenney’s plummeting approval ratings, his party’s drop in the public opinion polls and lacklustre fundraising, a by-election in what should be a safe UCP riding will be interesting litmus test for the Premier.

Rachel Notley’s NDP are likely eager to contest a by-election, but they probably hoped their first chance would be in Calgary or a friendlier locale. The NDP didn’t win this seat in the Orange Wave of 2015 and their candidate, Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Jane Stroud, placed a distant second in the 2018 by-election and 2019 general election.

Expectations of an NDP win in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche in 2021 would be low – though winning this by-election would be a big win for the NDP and a massive blow for the UCP – and Kenney.

A provincial by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche will also offer Brian Jean a chance to leave the sidelines after four years of sniping at Kenney on social media and the Postmedia opinion pages. Jean left elected politics after Kenney and a kamikaze campaign defeated him in the 2017 UCP leadership race but he has remained a harsh critic of Kenney’s leadership and has publicly flirted with Alberta separatism.

Todd Loewen, former MLA Wayne Anderson, Brian Jean, and Drew Barnes at the Calgary Stampede BBQ in July 2021. (Source: Facebook)
Todd Loewen, former MLA Wayne Anderson, Brian Jean, and Drew Barnes at the Calgary Stampede BBQ in July 2021. (Source: Facebook)

Jean is rumoured to be considering running for the Alberta Party leadership and was spotted at the Stampede BBQ hosted by UCP MLAs-in-exile Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen last month in Calgary. He called on Kenney to resign in June, but it did not spark the rebellion that he may have hoped his words would have inspired.

A Brian Jean win in a Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election could be the ultimate blow to Kenney that Jean is hoping to deliver.

A by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche will need to be called before February 16, 2022.


The federal Liberal Party continues to nominate candidates in Alberta following yesterday’s federal election call, including the following candidates who were nominated yesterday:

  • Scott Forsyth in Calgary-Heritage
  • Zarnab Zafar in Calgary-Midnapore
  • Olumide Adewumi in Red Deer-Mountain View