Election outcome doesn’t appear any clearer today than it did on Day 1
We’re midway through the final week of Alberta’s election campaign and while the most recent poll from Abacus Data points to Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party having an edge over Rachel Notley’s Alberta NDP, it will probably come down to ground game – who can get their voters out to the polls.
It feels like the closest election we’ve had in a long time.
The NDP announced on Saturday that author and editor Dustin Archibald would be the party’s candidate in Grande Prairie-Wapiti.
“As a parent, I was very concerned when the UCP introduced their inappropriate curriculum. This backwards curriculum is not one that will give my son a strong start in life,” Archibald said in a statement released after his nomination “Education is one of our biggest economic drivers in the province, so we must invest in public education to ensure children have the best start to their lives.”
And at a party event on Sunday afternoon, Alberta Liberal Party leader John Roggeveen announced he is running in Calgary-Lougheed. The Liberals currently have 12 candidates nominated to run in Alberta’s election.
With three days left until Alberta’s provincial election begins, most parties are still filling their slates of candidates. The United Conservative Party is the only party currently with a full slate of 87 candidates. The Alberta NDP have named 84 candidates and are expected to complete their slate of 87 by Sunday, April 30.
The NDP have nominated Colleen Quintal in Cardston-Siksika. Quintal is President of the NDP constituency association in Lethbridge-East and works as a staff representative with CUPE in Lethbridge.
The NDP are expected to name candidates this weekend in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, Grande Prairie-Wapiti and Taber-Warner.
The Alberta Party has named Wayne Rufiange is as their candidate in Morinville-St. Albert. Rufiange sought the Alberta Party nomination in the riding in 2019, but was defeated by former St. Albert city councillor Neil Korotash. He instead ran in Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock in the last election.
Brad Friesen is running for the Alberta Party in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo.
The Independence Party has nominated Rodney Bowen as their candidate in Central Peace-Notley.
The Wildrose Independence Party has nominated interim party leader Jeevan Mangat in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake and Mike Lorusso in Highwood.
Although their nomination meetings are still scheduled on the NDP website, Elections Alberta’s website shows the NDP have endorsed Tanika Chaisson in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, Kevin McLean in Grande Prairie, Harry Singh in Drayton Valley-Devon and Jessica Hallam in Highwood.
The NDP is expected to have candidates nominated in Cardston-Siksika, Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, Grande Prairie-Wapiti and Taber-Warner by April 30. The four are all considered extremely safe UCP ridings, which is probably why the NDP is in no rush to fill those spots.
Meanwhile, some of the smaller parties are continuing to name candidates.
The Alberta Party now has a slate of 16 with the addition of three more candidates to its roster:
Jason Avramenko is running in Calgary-Currie. He ran for the Alberta Party in Chestermere-Strathmore in the 2019 election.
Glenn Andersen is running in Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul. Anderson was mayor of St. Paul from 2007 to 2017 and ran for the Alberta Party in the same riding in 2019. He also ran for the PC Party nomination in the former Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills riding in 2015.
Braham Luddu is running in Lethbridge-West. He ran for the Alberta Party in Calgary-Cross in the last election.
The Liberal Party is now up to 11 candidates after naming Zarnab Zafar in Calgary-Beddington, Leila Keith in Calgary-Currie, and Dylin Hauser in Livingstone-Macleod. Keith ran in Calgary-South East and Hauser ran in Livingstone-Macleod in 2019.
The Buffalo Party has nominated Andrew Jacobson in Edmonton-Strathcona. Jacobson is the first candidate nominated to run in an election under the Buffalo banner since the party’s creation in February 2022.
Brooklyn Biegel has been named as the Independence Party candidate in Grande Prairie-Wapiti.
Conrad Nunweiler is running as an Independent separatist candidate in Peace River.
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Rebuking a decision by the United Conservative Party to disqualify candidate Zulkifl Mujahid, the board of directors of the UCP constituency association in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo has voted to continue supporting him as their candidate. The motion was passed at a meeting on April 18.
Here’s the motion:
“Zulkifl Mujhid is the UCP Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo Constituency preferred candidate. He is democratically elected.”
The nomination vote followed another contentious annual general meeting that saw a slate of new candidates elected to the local constituency board of directors.
The UCP announced last week that it had disqualified Mujahid after court records revealed he is being sued for defamation by Sultan Zamman, the vice-president of fundraising for the riding’s constituency association. Zamman is seeking $250,000 in damages and a further $50,000 in special damages.
The UCP is expected to appoint a candidate to replace Mujahid before the election is officially called on May 1. But the board’s motion and the former UCP candidate’s continued posting on social media as if he is still a candidate could create some difficulty for whoever the is appointed candidate by the party.
There has been some speculation that the UCP could appoint Yao as the candidate. He is a long-time friend of the MLA from the neighbouring Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche riding, Brian Jean, and endorsed him in the 2022 UCP leadership race.
Yao appears to have spent most of the past week canvassing door-to-door with UCP MLAs running for re-election in Calgary ridings.
The election in this otherwise safe UCP riding in northern Alberta could also be made even more interesting by the entry of Wood Buffalo Municipal Councillor Funky Banjoko, who is running as an Independent candidate in the riding. Banjoko earned more votes than any other candidate running for municipal council in 2021.
Suncor laboratory technician and Unifor organizer Tanika Chaisson is expected to be nominated as the Alberta NDP candidate.
There are 37 days left until Alberta’s May 29 provincial election.
UPDATE: The UCP has appointed Tany Yao as the party’s candidate in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. With his appointment, the UCP once again have 87 candidates nominated to run in the next election (see the full list of candidates).
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Here are the candidates appointed by Premier Danielle Smith through her powers allowed by the UCP constitution:
Edmonton-South: Joseph Angeles is a lawyer who previously ran for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-West Henday. He replaces Tunde Obasan, who withdrew his candidacy last week.
Lethbridge-West: Cheryl Seaborn is a Registered Nurse and former president of the UCP association in the riding. She replaces Torry Tanner who won the UCP nomination last month butresigned shortly after when a video surfaced of her claiming young children were being to exposed pornography in schools and teachers were hiding their students’ gender reassignments from parents.
Grande Prairie-Wapiti: Endorsed by the local UCP constituency board of directors, Ron Wiebe will succeed Travis Toews as the UCP candidate in the riding.
And the acclamation:
Edmonton-Glenora: Melissa Crane is a ministerial press secretary and ran for the UCP nomination in St. Albert in December 2022.
That leaves the UCP one short of a full slate. The UCP nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood closes on April 13. Lieberson Pang is seeking the nomination.
NDP sets nomination dates
The Alberta NDP have candidates nominated in 78 of 87 ridings and plan to hold nomination meetings to nominate the remainder of the slate before the election is called.
Vegreville Town Councillor Taneen Rudyk is acclaimed in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville and the NDP have scheduled nomination meetings in Maskwacis-Wetaskwin on April 22 (Samson Cree Band Councillor Katherine Swampy is the only approved candidate at the moment) and Grande Prairie on April 30.
UPDATE: Former Grande Prairie city councillor Kevin McLean is running for the NDP nomination in that riding. McLean served on city council from 2010 to 2017 and placed second in the 2022 municipal by-election. He ran for the Liberal Party in the former Grande Prairie-Smoky riding in the 2012 and 2015 provincial elections and in St. Albert in the 2019 election.
The ridings without nominated NDP candidates or scheduled nomination meetings are Cardston-Siksika, Drayton Valley-Devon, Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, Grande Prairie-Wapiti, Highwood and Taber-Warner.
Other nomination news
Jason McKee is running for the Green Party in Calgary-West.
Alberta Party leader Barry Morishita confirmed today in an email to supporters that he will run in the Brooks-Medicine Hat riding in the next election.
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Happy Easter to all my readers. I will be taking some time to relax and enjoy the first real weekend of spring, so unless something big happens I’ll be back with more candidate nomination updates next week.
The Alberta NDP leads the pack with 75 candidates nominated across the province. NDP leader Rachel Notley will be nominated as her party’s candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona at a pre-election rally at the big NDP campaign training school in Edmonton on March 11. And two candidates – Venkat Akkiraj and Kim Wagner – are vying for the NDP nomination in Calgary-Lougheed on March 14.
The remaining NDP vacancies without scheduled nomination meetings are in the ridings of Cardston-Siksika, Drayton Valley-Devon, Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, Grande Prairie, Grande Prairie-Wapiti, Highwood, Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin, and Taber-Warner.
These are mostly ridings where the NDP is seen as having little chance of winning, though NDP MLAs did represent Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville and parts of Maskwacis-Wetaskwin from 2015 to 2019.
Nominations votes are scheduled for Livingstone-Macleod (March 9, 10, 11), Calgary-Lougheed (March 13), Lethbridge-West (March 14), Cypress-Medicine Hat (March 16), and Leduc-Beaumont (March 18).
That leaves unscheduled or unannounced UCP nominations in Grande Prairie and Grande Prairie-Wapiti (where Finance Minister Travis Toews has not announced his intentions to run for re-election), and the central Edmonton ridings of Edmonton-City Centre, Edmonton-Glenora, Edmonton-Gold Bar, Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, Edmonton-Riverview and Edmonton-Strathcona (which are all among the safest NDP ridings in Alberta).
Because Smith won in a by-election on November 8, 2022, the UCP provincial board decided to accept her candidacy in the south east Alberta riding without opening a new nomination process.
Smith won the by-election with 54.5 per cent of the vote shortly after winning the UCP leadership.
In the upcoming provincial election she will again face NDP candidate Gwendoline Dirk, who placed second with 26.7 per cent in the by-election, and Alberta Party leader Barry Morishita, who placed third in the by-election with 16.5 per cent.
Smith previously represented the Highwood riding in the Legislature from 2012 to 2015.
Brian Jean nominated in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche
Also having his nomination approved by the UCP board was Brian Jean, who will run for re-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.
While Jean has been a political figure in Fort McMurray for many years, he most recently won the March 2022 by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche with 63.6 per cent of the vote.
Jean previously represented Fort McMurray-Conklin in the Legislature from 2015 to 2018 and Athabasca-Fort McMurray in the House of Commons from 2004 to 2014. He currently serves as Minister of Jobs, Economy and Northern Development.
He is the only candidate nominated to run in the north east Alberta riding.
Someone named S. Silver won the third place prize in the “Her Vision Inspires” essay contest that was championed by Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville UCP MLA Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, now the Associate Minister for the Status of Women.
In her award-winning essay, which was given a $200 prize, Silver argued:
“…it is sadly popular to think Albertan children are unnecessary as we can import foreigners to replace us, this is a sickly mentality that amounts to a drive for cultural suicide…”
“to try to promote that women break into careers that men traditionally dominate is not only misguided, but it is harmful.”
“that the best approach would be to reward families for their reproductive service both with financial rewards to offset the financial burden they are taking on and with medals to symbolize their valuable achievement of having 2+ children.”
Pretty gross stuff.
After facing a pretty strong public backlash for choosing a racist and sexist essay for the award, Armstrong-Homeniuk issued a written statement saying she disagrees with it and that it shouldn’t have been chosen.
She led the committee that chose it but we don’t know why it was chosen or who else was on the committee with her.
It’s a secret.
UCP MLAs Michaela Frey and Angela Pitt told intrepid CBC reporter Michelle Bellefontainethey had nothing to do with it, as did cabinet ministers Adriana LaGrange and Tanya Fir.
We also don’t know how many essays were submitted to the contest or who “S. Silver” even is.
It’s now been removed but we don’t know how the essay was able to be published on the Legislative Assembly of Alberta website without raising some giant red flags.
Speaker Nathan Cooper said he didn’t know anything about it.
The whole thing is a big exercise in passing the buck.
It feels like the most unlikeliest of outcomes, but in Alberta politics, the unexpected is sometimes the most likely.
It’s almost as if the past ten years never happened, said one conservative friend of mine, in reference to Danielle Smith’s near-win in 2012, her spectacular fall in 2014, and the massive political realignments – Rachel Notley’s NDP winning in 2015 and the formation of the UCP in 2017 – that have shaped Alberta politics since.
But she’s back and people think she’s going to win.
She’s drawing big crowds to her events, she’s getting media attention and she just stole another MLA endorsement away from Travis Toews.
It’s possible that other candidates are selling more memberships or that the preferential ballots could tally in a way that helps other candidates but the biggest indicator that Smith is in the lead is that all the other candidates are attacking her.
Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean, the UCP prince-in-exile, took aim at Smith’s idea to open the Port of Churchill in northern Manitoba to oil exports. It’s a perennially bad idea that never happens but never dies.
Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt announced on social media that she was quitting her volunteer role as Rajan Sawhney’s campaign chair, saying she needs to realign with her constituents. That feels like code for she’s worried Smith is going to win the leadership and her supporters – notably campaign chair and former MLA Rob Anderson – might be interested in challenging Pitt for the nomination in the riding.
Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, who is backing Toews, took a swipe at Smith on Twitter after the party’s Medicine Hat leadership debate.
“Non-lawyer cites Wikipedia to explain novel constitutional theory. Danielle Smith is the freeman-on-the-land of this #UCPdebate. And the other candidates’ responses to her clearly show that they understand what dire consequences her success would spell for our movement,” Genuis tweeted on July 27, 2022.
Non-lawyer cites Wikipedia to explain novel constitutional theory. Danielle Smith is the freeman-on-the-land of this #UCPdebate. And the other candidates’ responses to her clearly show that they understand what dire consequences her success would spell for our movement. #abpoli
Not naming but clearly targeting Smith in an online video, Rebecca Schulz described the front-runner as “unhinged and unreasonable” and “lighting her hair on fire.”
Schulz’s video announced that Calgary-Midnapore MP Stephanie Kusie has joined Rona Ambrose as campaign co-chair.
Trying to out-co-chair her opponents is an odd strategy, and is a role that is usually left to the backrooms, but it’s pretty clear that Schulz is trying desperately to position herself as the ABD – Anybody but Danielle – candidate in the UCP race – especially for conservatives not enthralled by Toews beige and boring campaign.
Toews’ establishment-favourite campaign appears to be losing steam.
Having to fight back criticisms about Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s six-figure bonus undermined his claim of being fiscally responsible. And he lost the support of another UCP MLA this week when Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Nate Glubish, the Minister of Service Alberta, abandoned Toews and switched his endorsement to Smith.
In almost any other mainstream conservative leadership race, even in Alberta, Smith’s promotion of conspiracy theories and snake oil COVID cures, promises to impose unconstitutional laws, and more would probably disqualify her on the ballots of a lot of conservatives.
But this unruly UCP appears to be a very different beast than the old Progressive Conservative Party it absorbed six years ago. And Smith has used her decades of experience in politics and media to fine tune a message that appeals to a motivated chunk of today’s UCP base.
This most unexpected of outcomes is a surprise when you consider the rules of the leadership race were almost designed to quell an insurgent campaign.
The high entry fee ($175,000), signature requirements (1,000) and early membership cut off date (August 12) were designed for an establishment candidate.
Of course this is all about who sells the most memberships, and some candidates might be out there quietly selling a ton of memberships, but the early cutoff date means the days of the “two-minute Tories” who propelled Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford into the Premier’s Office are long gone.
Ideological conservatives hated it, but anybody being able to walk into the voting station on voting day and buy a membership ensured the PC Party constantly reinvented itself as a big tent party – arguably the biggest success of its 43 years of uninterrupted power.
But Smith isn’t campaigning to lead a big tent and a lot of people think she’s going to pull it off.
The cowboy hat wearing former Finance Minister from Beaverlodge, Travis Toews, launched his campaign last week with endorsements from 23 UCP MLAs, including Energy Minister Sonya Savage and Justice Minister Tyler Shandro.
Savage and Grande Prairie-Mackenzie MP Chris Warkentin are co-chairing his campaign.
Toews is seen as the establishment favourite, which isn’t always a blessing.
Former Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney launched her campaign yesterday with a whistle-stop tour down the QEII, starting with media events in Edmonton, Penhold and Airdrie before ending at a +700-person rally in north east Calgary.
It was a strong kick-off.
Sawhney’s campaign is being run by well-known political strategist and conservative thinker Ken Boessenkool, who worked as an advisor to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former BC Premier Christy Clark.
Her former chief of staff (and former Daveberta Podcast co-host) Ryan Hastman is her deputy campaign manager.
Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt is Sawhney’s campaign chair.
It’s an odd fit for a leadership candidate who appears to be trying to position herself as a political moderate (no word if South Tyrol-like autonomy for Alberta will be in her platform).
Pitt endorsed Brian Jean for the UCP leadership 2017, and even have him credit for her entry into politics.
This time she’s backing Sawhney.
Jean is launching his campaign at a hotel in west Edmonton tomorrow.
Autonomy for Albertans is Jean’s slogan, not Anatomy for Albertans, as this writer first thought he read.
The former Wildrose Party leader launched his second political comeback in last year’s Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election with the singular purpose of defeating Kenney in the leadership review and run to replace him.
He’s met half his goal so far.
Another former Wildrose leader, Danielle Smith is also trying for her second political comeback after a short and disastrous stint on the Calgary Board of Education in the late 1990s and as Wildrose Party leader from 2009 until she infamously abandoned her party to join Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservatives in 2014.
For many conservatives, especially those of the Wildrose-variety, it is a betrayal that will live in infamy.
The leadership is only one-half of Smith’s comeback attempt.
She’s also challenging MLA Roger Reid for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod, which appears far from a safe-bet.
First-term south Calgary MLA Rebecca Schulz stepped down as Children’s Services Minister to jump into the race.
Schulz wants to take on what she describes as “the boys club.”
She has the backing of Calgary City Councillor Dan McLean, Health Minister Jason Copping, UCP MLAs Michaela Frey and Jeremy Nixon, MPs Laila Goodridge and Stephanie Kusie, former federal Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose and former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall.
The Wall endorsement might seem odd, but he endorsed Schulz in her bid to win the hotly contested Calgary-Shaw UCP nomination race back in 2018.
The Saskatchewan native was a spokesperson in Wall’s government before moving to Alberta in the mid-2010s, and her husband, Cole Schulz, was a ministerial chief of staff in Regina (he’s now the Vice President, Communications for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in Calgary).
Northern Alberta UCP MLA-in-exile Todd Loewen also jumped into the race, as did Village of Amisk Mayor Bill Rock, another former Wildrose Party candidate.
But one of the big potential contenders, Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, is playing coy.
Maybe she’ll run. Maybe she won’t.
Her text message reply to Press Gallery Dean Don Braid was “hahahaha!”
And the hot gossip in political circles today is that erratic former Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman is thinking about joining the fray.
Sherman was first elected as a PC MLA in 2008 but was driven out of that party and scooped up the Liberal leadership in 2011. He left politics in 2015 and returned to being full-time ER doctor.
He also donated $4,000 to the Alberta Party last year.
So it’s a scramble. It’s a dog’s breakfast.
And there could be more.
We’ll know soon enough.
July 20 is the deadline for candidates to pay up if they want to stay in the race.
The high-entry fee will quickly weed out candidates who can’t raise enough money.
August 12 is the deadline to buy a membership.
No time for the two-minute Tories who wreaked havoc against the establishment candidates in the old PC Party leadership races.
The party is also organizing debates and attendance by all candidates is mandatory.
Stragglers will risk be fined or disqualified, or both.
It’s no Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, but it’s bound to be entertaining to watch.
Liberal Party seeks new leader
The Alberta Liberal Party also announced that it will be holding their own leadership vote and choosing a new leader on September 25, 2022.
Former party leader David Khanstepped down in November 2020 after failing to win a seat in the 2019 election, marking the first time since before 1986 that the provincial Liberals not represented in the Legislature.
Travis Toews: Finance Minister since 2019. MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti since 2019. Former president of the Canadian Cattleman’s Association. Looks comfortable in a business suit or Carhartts. Sounds like the adult in the room but is connected to a northern Alberta Bible college with some fairly backwards views about yoga and same-sex relationships. Probably one of the more hardline fiscal conservatives in the UCP cabinet. Grand champion of the 1976 4-H calf show in Hythe. Likely UCP establishment favourite.
Brian Jean: Leader of the Wildrose Party from 2015 to 2017. Target of a kamikaze campaign during the 2017 UCP leadership race. MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche since 2022. MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin from 2015 to 2018. MP for Fort McMurray-Athabasca from 2004 to 2014. Toyed with COVID skepticism and Alberta separatism. Jason Kenney’s worst enemy. Lawyer, businessman and Golden Boy of Fort McMurray.
Danielle Smith: Leader of the Wildrose Party from 2009 to 2014. MLA for Highwood from 2012 to 2015. Crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservative Party in 2014. Calgary public school trustee from 1998 to 1999. Alumna of the Fraser Institute, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Calgary Herald, Global TV, and Chorus Radio. Current President of the Alberta Enterprise Group. Running for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. Embraced COVID conspiracy theories.
Todd Loewen: MLA for Central Peace-Notley since 2019. MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky from 2015 to 2019 and Wildrose candidate in the riding in 2008 and 2012. Resigned as UCP Caucus chair in 2021 after calling on Kenney to resign and was kicked out of caucus the next day. Formed a UCP Caucus-in-exile with fellow ousted MLA Drew Barnes. Drove his motorhome in the Freedom Convoy to Ottawa. Renowned in the UCP Caucus for his pancake cooking skills.
These four have registered others are expected.
Transportation Minister and Calgary-North East MLA Rajan Sawhney has tapped longtime conservative strategist Ken Boessenkool to run her exploratory committee.
“[W]hat this race needs right now is just not more of the same,” Sawhney told reporters in a statement.
Children’s Services Minister and Calgary-Shaw MLA Rebecca Schultz isn’t in the race yet but already has an endorsement from former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall. Schultz worked for Wall’s government before she moved to Alberta in 2016.
So are former cabinet ministers Leela Aheer and Devin Dreeshen.
And Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner is rumoured to be testing the waters. She would be an interesting addition to the race, though recent history has not been kind to federal politicians jumping into provincial politics in Alberta.
The party has appointed a committee that is expected to release rules, entry requirements and timelines for the leadership race before the beginning of summer.
UDPATE! Village of Amisk mayor Bill Rock has registered with Elections Alberta to run in the UCP leadership race. Rock was the Wildrose Party candidate in the Wetaskiwin-Camrose riding in the 2015 election. He was parachuted into the riding after previously nominated candidate Gordon Hatch withdrew from the race and endorsed PC MLA Verlyn Olson following Danielle Smith‘s floor-crossing.
Note: Registering as a candidate with Elections Alberta does not mean automatic approval as a candidate by the UCP. Registering with Election Alberta allows the candidates to fundraise under Alberta’s current political finance rules.
NDP MLA Jon Carson announced today that he will not be seeking re-election in Edmonton-West Henday in the next election.
“Serving the people of Edmonton-West Henday has no doubt been the privilege of a lifetime,” Carson said in a statement posted on social media. “From our small campaign team huddled around the kitchen table in 2015 to the 2019 that was too close to call on election night… I know that our success was never my own, but always because of our strong team dedicated to creating a better future for Alberta families.”
Carson has represented west Edmonton since 2015 when he was elected as MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.
An Electrician by trade, he was one of 9 NDP MLAs under 30 years old elected in Notley Wave of 2015.
Carson was re-elected in 2019 in the newly redrawn Edmonton-West Henday riding in what was the closest race in Edmonton of that election. He finished 518 votes ahead of United Conservative Party candidate Nicole Williams, a former lobbyist who has spent the past 3 years as Chief of Staff to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.
Carson is the second NDP MLA to announce they are not running for re-election. Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehanannounced last month that he would not seek re-election.
The area, which includes parts of the former Edmonton-Calder and Edmonton-Meadowlark ridings, has swung between the NDP, Liberals and Progressive Conservatives over the past 40 years. Notable former MLAs include Liberals Grant Mitchell, Karen Leibovici, Progressive Conservative turned Liberal Raj Sherman, and NDP MLA David Eggen (who now represents Edmonton-North West).
Druh Farrell nominated in Calgary-Bow
Druh Farrell has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Bow. Farrell served on city council for 20 years before retiring from municipal politics last October.
She was a leading progressive voice in Calgary’s municipal debates during her time as Councillor, making her a frequent target of right-wing commentators and political action committees.
Farrell’s nomination has caused some tension with some local NDP organizers, including former president Krista Li, who have complained the party was too heavy handed in allowing the former city councilor to run.
The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA and Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides, who was elected in 2019 with 55 per cent of the vote, unseating NDP MLA Deborah Drever, who placed second with 34 per cent.
There’s an NDP race in Central Peace-Notley
There appears to be a contested NDP nomination in the northern rural Central Peace-Notley riding. Megan Ciurysek, a Research Officer at Northern Alberta Development Council, is challenging Fairview resident and Enviro Projects owner Lynn Lekisch.
The riding is currently represented by Independent MLA Todd Loewen, who was kicked out of the UCP Caucus for calling on Premier Jason Kenney to resign. He was elected in 2019 with 75 per cent of the vote.
The riding is not named after Rachel Notley, but after her father. Grant Notley represented Spirit River-Fairview, covering much of the region, in the Alberta Legislature from 1971 to 1984.
It is fairly quiet on the UCP nomination front, with the party largely focused on Kenney’s leadership review. There are a few updates though:
Former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith is busy campaigning for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod, including a recent meeting with the Citizens Supportive of Crowsnest Coal group. Smith is challenging first-term UCP MLA Roger Reid.
In his first piece for CBC, Jason Markusoff breakdowns which ridings current UCP members live in. Unsurprisingly, the three ridings with the most members eligible to vote in the leadership review are Cardston-Siksika and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, where nomination challengers Jodie Gateman and Tim Hoven were disqualified, and Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, where former Wildrose leader Brian Jean just won a by-election. All three are actively campaigning against Kenney in the review.
‘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.”
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.
Walker-McKitrick rematch being set up in Sherwood Park
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
Airdrie-Cochrane UCP MLA Peter Guthriehas 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 ofGovernment 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
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.
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.
Eggenwas 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.
He’s the former MLA, former MP, and former leader of the Wildrose Party.
He’s Fort Mac’s golden boy.
Now he’s the United Conservative Party candidate.
He’s also Jason Kenney’s worst enemy and if he wins he’ll become an even bigger thorn in the Premier’s side ahead of the April 9 leadership review.
Kenney beat Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership race and is now openly campaigning against him in the leadership review.
Jean isn’t the only anti-Kenney candidate in the race.
NDP candidate Ariana Mancini is campaigning hard.
The NDP are cautiously optimistic about their chances but it’s a real long shot and know they are the underdog.
Even with the NDP leading the UCP by 15 points in province-wide polls and Kenney’s approval ratings in free fall, there is still a big gap to close in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.
The UCP won the riding with 66 per cent of the vote in 2019.
Competing with Jean for disaffected conservative voters is another former Wildrose Party leader, Paul Hinman.
Hinman now leads the separatist Wildrose Independence Party.
He’s another long-shot candidate.
He’s also living proof that by-elections can produce weird and unpredictable results.
What do I mean?
Hop in and join me in the Alberta Politics Time Machine™.
One year after Hinman was lost his Cardston-Taber-Warner seat in the 2008 general election he shocked political watchers by winning a by-election in posh Calgary-Glenmore in the city’s southwest.
It was a real country-mouse-becomes-city-mouse situation.
But Hinman isn’t the only example of how by-elections can be sometimes have shocking results.
The Liberals stunned political watchers when Craig Cheffins won in the Calgary-Elbow by-election to replace retired Premier Ralph Klein in 2007.
Alberta Party leader Greg Clark very nearly repeated history in 2014 when he placed a painfully close second to PC cabinet minister Gord Dirks in another Calgary-Elbow by-election.
“But Dave,” you say, “aren’t those just fancy urban Calgary ridings?”
The Liberals won the 1992 by-election in Three Hills.
Yes. That’s right. Three. Hills.
Deficit hawk Liberal leader Laurence Decore recruited farm realtor Don MacDonald in that by-election.
It was a sign of how well the Liberals were doing as much as how poorly the old Progressive Conservatives had tumbled under Don Getty’s beleaguered premiership.
“This is the heartland of Conservative Alberta,” Decore told a boisterous crowd of supporters in Three Hills on the night of MacDonald’s win.
He won with a stunning 2,476 lead over the second place Social Credit candidate.
The PC placed third.
“This is rural Alberta. This is where it’s not supposed to happen. This is where Liberals are supposed to be the anathema of everything that this area stands for,” Decore said. “Not only are we winning but we’re winning handsomely.”
The Liberals even came within a hair of winning a by-election in Little Bow a few months earlier.
Yes. Little. Bow.
That’s the deep south and it’s where conservatives usually win big.
The Reform Party of Canada was on the rise and, just like Three Hills a few months later, Reformers were split between the provincial Liberals and Tories in that by-election.
Reformer-turned-Liberal Donna Graham finished 262 votes behind Reformer-turned-Tory winner Barry MacFarland.
It was a close race.
And then there’s the big by-election win that people always talk about when Alberta separatism periodically peaks in the polls: Western Canada Concept’s Gordon Kesler winning the 1982 Olds-Didsbury by-election.
It was the only time a separatist party candidate has been elected to the Alberta Legislature.
People were mad.
Mad at Pierre Trudeau.
Mad at Peter Lougheed.
And boy did they show it.
But Kesler only had a few months as an MLA before Lougheed shifted gears and steamrolled the WCC into electoral oblivion in the November 1982 general election.
Ok. Buckle up.
Let’s take the time machine back even further.
Young PC candidate Bill Yurko stole the Strathcona East seat vacated by retired Premier Ernest Manning in 1969, foreshadowing the demise of Social Credit only a few years later.
Even the New Democrats have squeaked in a surprise by-election win, though you’ll have to go way back to find it.
Pincher Creek-Crowsnest. 1966.
Garth Turcott becomes the first Alberta NDP MLA in the province’s history.
Turcott’s team brought in a professional organizer and used new campaigning techniques like “doorknocking.”
Federal NDP leader Tommy Douglas even lent Turcott’s campaign a hand and drew hundreds of people to a by-election rally in the riding.
Douglas roasted Premier Ernest Manning for standing in the way of public health care.
“He has been the spearpoint of the attack on medicare,” Douglas said of the Alberta Premier.
It’s probably how Rachel Notley would describe Jason Kenney today. She’d be right.
But that’s for another column.
Slide back to the present. March 14, 2022.
What a wild ride.
I’d love to take the time machine to tomorrow night to see how the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election turns out but our tank is almost empty (and radioactive plutonium almost costs as much as a tank of gas these days!).
So we’ll have to take a big deep breath and wait to see if Brian Jean reclaims his old seat tomorrow night.
It might be a Jean slam dunk, but as we just saw on our little journey through Alberta history – sometimes by-elections can have unexpected results.