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Alberta Politics

Danielle Smith is making sure Alberta doesn’t have a boring political summer

Popular opinion would have that summer is a quiet and boring time in politics, but not so in Alberta.

I can’t remember there was a boring political summer in Alberta?

Last year was the Best Summer Ever disaster and the summer before that was the first COVID summer. Before that was the Summer of Repeal. And so on.

This summer, the most unexpected political comeback might be happening before our eyes.

In almost every aspect, former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith is defining what the United Conservative Party leadership race is about.

Following her “Alberta First” campaign slogan, Smith declared plans to introduce an Alberta Sovereignty Act to let Alberta MLAs vote on which federal laws they want the province to follow.

The other candidates responded.

Even Finance Minister Jason Nixon, a staunch Jason Kenney-loyalist, stepped in to pooh-pooh Smith’s idea (Nixon was nominated as Wildrose candidate back when Smith was still party leader).

Her campaign chair, Rob Anderson, is founder of the Free Alberta Strategy and was one of two Progressive Conservative MLAs to cross the floor to Smith’s Wildrose in 2010 (he later crossed the floor back to the PCs with Smith in 2014).

Smith declared Alberta will never ever have a lockdown again (we never *really* had a lockdown).

The other candidates responded.

She made wild statements about any cancer before Stage 4 is a result of poor personal choices.

Everyone responded.

Postmedia columnist Don Braid wrote that her “dabbles in quackery” are sometimes almost funny but “this one is dangerous.”

When Smith hosted a popular radio talk show she promoted hydroxychloroquine as a cure to COVID-19. She even touted ivermectin as a treatment. Now she wants to appoint chief medical officers of alternative medicine.

Quackery is putting it politely.

It’s the realm of internet pseudoscience.

As my friend David Climenhaga opined, it is the Donald Trump strategy of saying outrageous stuff that appeals to the base voters and damn the consequences.

And it might be working.

Smith has now nabbed 4 MLA endorsements.

Airdrie-Cochrane’s Peter Guthrie, Calgary-Falconridge’s Devinder Toor, Lethbridge-East’s Nathan Neudorf, and Lesser Slave Lake’s Pat Rehn, who dropped his endorsement of establishment favourite Travis Toews to support Smith.

But it’s not exactly the crème de la crème of the UCP Caucus.

Toor was fined $15,000 by Elections Alberta for breaking political finance laws in 2018 and 2019, and was allegedly part of group who bullied and harassed a food truck owner in northeast Calgary.

Rehn was briefly expelled from the UCP Caucus in 2021 after taking a hot holiday to Mexico while most Albertans respected the government’s own COVID-19 travel advice and stayed home, and local municipal leaders called on him to resign after spending more time in Texas than his own riding.

Kenney said Rehn would not be allowed to run for the UCP nomination in the next election but he was quietly allowed to rejoin the UCP Caucus last summer. But now Kenney is on his way out.

Some might say I’m playing into the Smith-comeback narrative by writing this article, but she’s the only candidate saying anything interesting – even if it’s quackery.

She’s drawing crowds and appears to be hitting the right notes with a motivated segment of the UCP base, which says a lot about who the membership of the UCP is today.

This isn’t your father’s Progressive Conservative Party, folks.

The other candidates in the UCP race better get their acts together, because the membership sales deadline is on August 12.

That’s just 16 days away.

The final 7

Smith might be getting the most attention but she’s not the only candidate in the race. Leela Aheer, Brian Jean, Todd Loewen, Rajan Sawhney, Rebecca Schulz and Travis Toews also made the cut. Bill Rock dropped out to endorse Jon Horsman, who dropped out, and, as expected, Raj Sherman was not allowed to run (his old job as Liberal Party leader is open though).

More separatist drama

Danielle Smith Paul Hinman Daveberta Wildrose United Conservative Party
Paul Hinman and Danielle Smith in 2010. (source: Dave Cournoyer)

If there’s one thing we can depend on Alberta’s cottage industry of fringe right-wing separatist parties to deliver, it’s drama.

It looks like Paul Hinman has been ousted as leader of the Wildrose Independence Party. The ouster comes shortly after the Independence Party of Alberta announced that merger talks with WIP broke off.

Hinman has been replaced by Jeevan Mangat, who ran for the Wildrose Party in Calgary-Fort in 2012 and 2015.

The WIP was created in 2020 through the merger of the Wexit group and the Freedom Conservative Party (which was previously known as the Alberta First Party, the Separation Party of Alberta and the Western Freedom Party). The party has struggled with fundraising and Hinman placed a distant third in the recent Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.

Before his time as WIP leader, Hinman served as a Wildrose MLA from 2004 to 2008 and 2009 to 2012, and as leader of the Wildrose Alliance Party immediately before Danielle Smith was chosen as leader in 2009.

Meanwhile, the IPA is still looking for a new leader. Past federal Liberal candidate Katherine Kowalchuk is the only candidate in the race, so far.

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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.

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Alberta Politics

The Buffalo Party of Alberta becomes an official registered political party

The Buffalo Party of Alberta is officially registered with Elections Alberta.

The party leadership includes leader John Molberg (a past Wildrose Party donor), President Sharon Smith (who in Leduc-Beaumont as a Wildrose candidate in 2015 and a UCP nomination candidate in 2018), and Chief Financial Officer Jenny Walker (the former chairperson of the separatist Wexit Alberta group, which merged with the Freedom Conservative Party to become the Wildrose Independence Party in July 2020).

When reached for comment, the administrator of the Buffalo Party’s Facebook page responded that party organizers collected more than 13,000 signatures to achieve registered party status.

While bearing the same name as the openly separatist Buffalo Party of Saskatchewan (formerly known as Wexit Saskatchewan), the person said the party has “no legal connection with any other political organisation federal or in other provinces.”

The also denied being a separatist party:

“We are not a separatist party. For Albertans whose sole priority is separatism, there are several separatist options to choose from, however the Buffalo Party of Alberta is not it.”

“The Buffalo Party of Alberta, while sharing some similar principles such as increased Alberta autonomy and decentralised decision making, are distinctly Albertan, and will represent Albertan views. We have no legal connection with any other political organisation federal or in other provinces.”

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Alberta Politics

Showdown in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche. Can Jason Kenney block Brian Jean from becoming the UCP candidate?

The much awaited United Conservative Party nomination vote in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche is being held on Dec. 11 and 12. The contest between former MLA and former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean and economist Joshua Gogo has attracted a lot of political attention.

Nursing a grudge from the 2017 leadership race and tapping into the current UCP leader’s unpopularity, Jean has openly predicted that Rachel Notley’s NDP would win the next election if Premier Jason Kenney doesn’t resign (a recent poll commissioned by CBC showed only 3 in 10 Albertans respect Kenney).

In response, Kenney and his staff have openly criticized Jean for a lack of sticktoitiveness after failing resigning mid-term as Member of Parliament and MLA for the area, causing two by-elections including the one that elected the former MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, Laila Goodridge.

Kenney’s supporters jumped at the opportunity to slam Jean’s description of Gogo as a “Nigerian economist living in Fort McMurray.” Despite a plummeting approval ratings from the public, Kenney has benefited from not having a challenger inside the party that his opponents could rally around. Jean wants to be that challenger.

This by-election will mark the first time the UCP government has had to face voters since it was elected in 2019, and also the first time since then that the question of Kenney’s leadership will be on a provincial ballot.

Under most circumstances, winning this by-election would be a slam dunk for the UCP, but Jean’s candidacy definitely complicates matters for Kenney’s party.

Here is a look at two scenarios that could play out as ballots are cast and counted in this weekend’s UCP nomination contest:

  1. Brian Jean loses the nomination. Losing the nomination would be a big blow to Jean, who has never lost an election in Fort McMurray before. And it would be a win for Kenney. Jean would definitely be a diminished political force within the UCP after losing, and might decide to remain on the sidelines or retreat to private life. But he could decide to run as an Independent candidate. He has significant name recognition and enough personal funds and financial supporters in the riding that he would be a contender even without the blessing of local UCP members.
  2. Brian Jean wins the nomination. Winning the nomination would be a big blow to Kenney, who has used his position as leader to speak out against Jean’s nomination bid. Unless Kenney refused to sign his nomination papers or found a way to disqualify him from winning the nomination, Jean would immediately become the central figure in effort to defeat Kenney at the April 9, 2022 leadership review. Jean has pledged to continue campaigning against Kenney’s leadership.

Mancini nominated as NDP candidate

Rachel Notley and Ariana Mancini (source: Twitter)

Local teacher Ariana Mancini was acclaimed as the Alberta NDP candidate at a nomination rally featuring party leader Rachel Notley this week.

“This campaign is an opportunity for our region to send a message to Jason Kenney,” Mancini is reported to have told the crowd in Fort McMurray. “The message is that we don’t have to choose between bad and worse. We can choose better. Even the conservatives don’t like the conservatives. That’s saying something,” she said.

This is Mancini’s second time running as an NDP candidate. She placed second to Jean in the 2015 election in the former Fort McMurray-Conklin riding.

Another former Wildrose leader running for separatist party

Paul Hinman (source: Twitter)

Another former Wildrose Party leader has announced his plans to run in the by-election.

Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman, who led the Alberta Alliance-turned-Wildrose Alliance from 2005 to 2009, announced on social media today that he will run for the recently rebranded separatist party in the by-election (the Wildrose Independence Party was named the Freedom Conservative Party in the 2019 election and was previously known as the Western Freedom Party, the Alberta First Party and the Separation Party of Alberta).

Describing it on social media as the most important by-election in history, Hinman described Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche as “ground zero for Trudeau’s carbon net-zero attack against Alberta.”

Hinman appears to be relying on support from federal People’s Party of Canada supporters and has been loudly promoting COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media.

He served as the MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 and Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012.


I am building a list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of Alberta’s expected 2023 provincial election. If I have missed any candidates on my list, please post a comment below or send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

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Alberta Politics

NDP clobbers UCP in fundraising, again. Notley’s party raised twice as much cash as Kenney’s UCP in the second quarter of 2021

The Alberta NDP raised twice as much money as the United Conservative Party in the second quarter of 2021, according to financial documents released today by Elections Alberta.

According to the returns, the NDP raised $1,515,419 and the UCP raised $769,847 between April 1 and June 30, 2021.

This marks the second quarter in a row that Rachel Notley’s NDP have out-fundraised the governing UCP. The NDP raised twice as much money as the UCP in the first three months of 2021.

Here is what all of Alberta’s registered political parties raised in the second quarter of 2021:

  • Alberta NDP: $1,515,419.87
  • United Conservative Party: $769,847.15
  • Pro-Life Political Association: $90,870.00
  • Alberta Party: $38,270.19
  • Wildrose Independence: $25,791.06
  • Alberta Liberal Party: $25,563.61
  • Green Party: $2,019.00
  • Independence Party of Alberta: $1,015.00
  • Alberta Advantage Party: $890.00
  • Communist Party: $200.00

Once again, Notley’s NDP are on a roll, leading in the polls and continuing to dominate in fundraising. The NDP have solidified a larger base of donors, many whom appear to be contributing larger amounts to the official opposition party. In this quarter, 49 per cent of individual donations received by the NDP in the first quarter were in denominations of less than $250, compared to 64 per cent in the previous quarter.

The governing UCP’s continued drop in fundraising continues to mirror plummeting political support for the party and its leader, Premier Jason Kenney. The UCP raised in total only slightly more than the NDP raised in small donations in the second quarter.

The Pro-Life Political Association, birthed from a hostile takeover of the moribund Social Credit Party in 2016, raised a surprising $90,870.00 in the second quarter. The party, which ran only one candidate in the 2019 election, is using the party as a vehicle for anti-abortion political activism that can legally issue tax-receipts for donations. It is unclear whether the party will move more aggressively into electoral politics in the 2023 election.

The Reform Party raised no funds in the second quarter.

The maximum annual donation to political parties was increased to $4,243 from $4.000 as of January 1, 2020.


Smaller parties search for leaders

Paul Hinman Wildrose Independence Party MLA
Paul Hinman

Former Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman was recently acclaimed as the leader of the separatist Wildrose Independence Party. Hinman served as interim leader of the party before declaring himself a candidate for the permanent job.

The Wildrose Independence Party is a product of a name-change that happened after the Freedom Conservative Party and the Wexit Alberta group united. The party itself has existed under various names since it was founded in 1999 as the Alberta First Party.

The Independence Party of Alberta is also searching for a new leader following Dave Bjorkman’s resignation after the 2019 election. Former Wexit leader Peter Downing, who left the Wexit group following its merger with the Freedom Conservative Party had registered to be a leadership candidate but withdrew his candidacy this week. The party’s director of communications, Vicky Bayford, is the only candidate remaining in the race.

Also searching for new permanent leaders are the Alberta Advantage Party, the Alberta Party, and the Alberta Liberal Party.

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Alberta Politics

Leela Aheer faces early UCP nomination challenge from Chantelle de Jonge in Chestermere-Strathmore

Chantelle de Jonge has filed papers with Elections Alberta to run for the United Conservative Party nomination in Chestermere-Strathmore. The district is currently represented by UCP MLA Leela Aheer, who has served as Alberta’s Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women since her party formed government in 2019.

Chestermere-Strathmore
Chestermere-Strathmore

It is not clear whether the UCP has actually opened the candidate nomination process in this district, or any others at this point, but Alberta’s election laws require people who are interested in actively campaigning for party nominations to file their expression of interest with Elections Alberta. 

As far as I can tell, de Jonge has not made any public statements about her candidacy, but I was able to find someone by that name on LinkedIn who is a former Constituency Assistant in the office of Calgary-Skyview Conservative MP Jag Sahota and a student of economics and philosophy at the University of Calgary. 

A new district created for the 2019 election, Chestermere-Strathmore saw Aheer face off against former UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt, who was first barred by Jason Kenney from running for the party nomination in that district and later ran in the election as leader of the Freedom Conservative Party (now the separatist Wildrose Independence Party).

After Fildebrandt was banned from the the UCP contest, a tense 2018 nomination race took place that included allegations of death threats and restraining orders when Aheer was challenged by David Campbell, who is now President of The Independence Party of Alberta.

Aheer was successful in her 2019 bid for re-election, earning 68 per cent of the vote. NDP candidate Melissa Langmaid placed second with 15.4 per cent and Fildebrant finished third with 7.4 per cent.

The NDP opened its candidate nomination process this months, with a number of nominees, including former MLA Brian Malkinson in Calgary-Currie and Dr. Luanne Metz in Calgary-Varsity, announcing their candidacies.

Former PC MLA running for Mayor of Strathcona County

Dave Quest
Dave Quest

Former Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Quest is running to become the next Mayor of Strathcona County

Quest represented Strathcona-Sherwood Park from 2008 until 2015, when he was unseated by NDP candidate Estefan Cortes-Vargas. He ran for the Alberta Party in that district in the 2019 election, placing third with 13.3 per cent of the vote.

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Alberta Politics

Prominent Calgary physician Dr. Luanne Metz seeking NDP nomination in Calgary-Varsity

Calgary physician and well-known public health care advocate Dr. Luanne Metz is filing her papers to seek the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Varsity.

Dr. Metz is a Professor and the Head of the Division of Neurology at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary. She is also a founder of Eyes Forward Alberta, an advocacy group created to support public health care and oppose the United Conservative Party government’s plans to privatize large swaths of the health care system.

“I want to contribute to fixing our health-care system,” Metz said in a media statement released last night.

“My way of dealing with the stress of recent policies that are the opposite of what evidence recommends is to do whatever I can to be part of the solution. UCP policies are hurting Albertans and will increase health care costs,” she said. “I want to continue championing the health and wellness of Albertans in the Legislature.”

According to the University of Calgary website, Metz is recognized globally as an expert in Multiple Sclerosis and, in 2015, was awarded the Alberta Medal of Distinguished Service – which recognizes physicians who have made an outstanding personal contribution to the medical profession and to the people of Alberta.

Jason Copping Calgary Varsity
Jason Copping

If nominated as the NDP candidate, Metz could challenge current UCP MLA Jason Copping, now the Minister of Labour and Immigration, in the next election. Copping defeated NDP candidate Anne McGrath (now the National Director of the New Democratic Party of Canada) by 638 votes in the 2019 election.

Calgary-Varsity has been a swing riding that has generally leaned away from the conservative parties since the mid-2000s, being represented by popular Liberal MLA Harry Chase from 2004 to 2012, Progressive Conservative and Independent MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans from 2012 to 2015, and NDP MLA Stephanie McLean from 2015 to 2019.

Election results in Calgary-Varsity from 2001 to 2019.
Election results in Calgary-Varsity from 2001 to 2019.

The next Alberta provincial election is expected to be held between March 1, 2023 and May 31, 2023.


“Anti-lockdown” café owner running for separatist party nomination

Chris Scott Wildrose Independence Party Lacombe Ponoka
Chris Scott

Chris Scott, the owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe in the central Alberta hamlet of Mirror is reported to be seeking the Wildrose Independence Party nomination in Lacombe-Ponoka.

Scott has become well-known for keeping his cafe open in defiance of public health restrictions put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.

He was arrested by RCMP at a rally to oppose the government’s public health restrictions held outside his cafe on May 8, 2021. He was released from police custody on May 12.

Lacombe-Ponoka is currently represented by UCP MLA Ron Orr, who, in a Facebook post defending Premier Jason Kenney last week, claimed that Kenney was raised by God to be the leader of his party.

The right-wing separatist party formerly known as the Freedom Conservative Party is currently in the process of selecting its first permanent leader.

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Alberta Politics

Duncan Kinney running for Senate, Paul Hinman running for Wildrose Independence Party leadership

Progress Alberta executive director Duncan Kinney is the first candidate to file his papers with Elections Alberta to run in Alberta’s Senate Nominee Election, which is taking place on the same day as the municipal elections on October 18, 2021.

A well-known online provocateur and progressive activist, Kinney is listed as an Independent candidate in a contest where candidates can choose to have their federal party affiliations listed next to their name on the ballot.

Reached for comment, Kinney said he plans to be the only Senate candidate that wants to abolish the Senate.

“I’ll be working with my team to actually build a campaign website and a platform for this incredibly important and serious election very soon,” Kinney said, who also hosts the Progress Report Podcast.

Alberta is the only province to have held Senate Nominee elections and this will be Alberta’s fifth such election since 1989.


Paul Hinman running for Wildrose Independence Party leadership

Drew Barnes stands at Paul Hinman's side as he announced his bid to once again run for the Wildrose nomination in Cardston-Taber-Warner in 2015.
Paul Hinman announces his bid to once again run for the Wildrose nomination in Cardston-Taber-Warner in 2015.

Paul Hinman has launched his campaign for the leadership of the Wildrose Independence Party.

The former leader of the Alberta Alliance Party and Wildrose Alliance Party has presumably resigned as interim leader of the newly renamed party, a position to which he was appointed in July 2020 after the Freedom Conservative Party and the Wexit Alberta group merged in June 2020.

As well as supporting Alberta’s separation from Canada, Hinman’s campaign focuses on opposing the mild public health restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic. His social media posts frequently promote right-wing online conspiracy theories about the pandemic.

Hinman is a standard bearer in right-wing politics in Alberta, having served as the Alberta Alliance MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2005 to 2008 and the Wildrose Alliance MLA for Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012. He was leader of the Alberta Alliance and Wildrose Alliance from 2005 to 2009 and briefly ran for the United Conservative Party leadership in 2017 before dropping out and endorsing Jason Kenney.

He also made unsuccessful bids for the Wildrose nomination in Cardston-Taber-Warner in 2015 and the federal Conservative nomination in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner in 2016.

Nominations for the Wildrose Independence Party leadership will close on May 14, 2021 and the date of the leadership vote is scheduled for Aug. 28, 2021.

Another right-wing separatist party, the Independence Party of Alberta has also opened up its leadership race, with a leadership vote scheduled for Sept. 28, 2021.

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Alberta Politics

On the outside looking in: smaller parties seeking new leaders

Going into the last election there were five parties represented in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly, but on election night in April 2019 the two main political parties dominated and the smaller parties failed to elect any candidates. Since then Alberta’s smaller parties have been struggling for attention as they search for new people to lead them into the 2023 election.

The Green Party of Alberta was the first to choose a new leader, with Jordan Wilkie being selected in a March 2020 leadership vote. And it now looks like there will be at least two smaller parties holding leadership races and competing for attention in this very busy political year.

Alberta Party seeks new leader

The Alberta Party has announced its plans to kick off a leadership race on May 25, 2021. Candidate nominations will close August 31 and the Leadership will be held on October 23, 2021, one week after the municipal elections.

Interim leader Jacquie Fenske, a former Progressive Conservative MLA, has served in the role since Feb. 2020, filling the position vacated by former leader Stephen Mandel, also a former PC MLA, in June 2019. No candidates have yet to declare their plans to run for the party leadership.

The Alberta Party elected one MLA, Greg Clark in Calgary-Elbow, in 2015 and grew its caucus to 3 MLAs by 2019 after floor crossings from the Alberta NDP and United Conservative Party. The Alberta Party tripped its popular vote to 9 per cent in 2019 but failed to elect any candidates to the Legislative Assembly.

Liberal Party names interim leader

Lawyer and longtime party loyalist John Roggeveen has stepped up to fill the role of interim leader of the Alberta Liberal Party until the party can select a permanent leader at a future date.

John Roggeveen has served on the party’s executive and was a candidate in Calgary-Shaw in 2004, 2008 and 2012, Calgary-Elbow in 2015 and Calgary-Fish Creek in 2019.

Roggeveen fills the role made vacant after David Khan’s resignation in November 2020. Khan is now the Senior Staff Lawyer at EcoJustice.

The party has not yet announced the dates for a leadership race.

The Liberal Party formed Official Opposition in Alberta between 1993 and 2012. The 2019 election marked the first time since the 1982 election that the Liberals failed to elect an MLA to the Legislative Assembly.

Separatist parties seek new leaders

The separatist Wildrose Independent Party will open nominations for its leadership race on April 2 and kick off its leadership race on June 5. Voting for the party’s new leader will take place on Aug. 28, 2021.

Former Alberta Alliance leader and Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman has served as interim leader since last summer. Hinman served as MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 and Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012.

No candidates have declared their plans to run as of yet, but at the party’s recent annual general meeting former Wildrose Party organizer Rick Northey was elected president, former PC Party candidate Gurcharan Garcha was selected as Edmonton Director, and former Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders was selected as a Director-at-Large.

Meanwhile, former Wexit spokesperson Peter Downing, who stepped down when that organization folded into the Freedom Conservative Party to form the Wildrose Independence Party in June 2020, now appears to have joined another separatist party. According to the Independence Party of Alberta website, Downing is now serving as its Public Safety Critic.

The Independence Party of Alberta is also currently without a permanent leader, as is the separatist Alberta Advantage Party.

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Alberta Politics

What lies ahead for Alberta’s political parties in 2021

With 2020 on its way out here is quick look at what might await Alberta’s political parties in 2021:

United Conservative Party: The UCP will continue pushing through a legislative agenda and ideological project that includes mass privatization of public services and public land, and big job losses for public sector workers.

Jason Kenney (source: Flickr)
Jason Kenney (source: Flickr)

The UCP’s inability to pivot off its agenda has been demonstrated clearly during the COVID-19 pandemic as Health Minister Tyler Shandro continued his fight against Alberta doctors, planned layoffs of thousands of nurses and health care workers, and schemed to privatize large swaths of the public health care system.

Kenney’s inconsistent approach to the pandemic has likely alienated him from both Albertans who would like to see more serious public health measures taken and those who think being required to wear a face-mask in public spaces is too far.

A federal election in 2021 might distract Albertans from the UCP’s mismanaging of the COVID-19 pandemic, so expect the UCP to ramp up attacks on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals. Increasing attacks of the federal government and next year’s promised referendum on equalization and Senate nominee election could also serve as a distraction from poor economic growth and the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline permit by incoming United States President Joe Biden.

Kenney’s approval ratings took a big hit in 2020 and the UCP has dropped considerably in the polls since 2019. If their leader looks like he has become a liability for re-election in 2023 then expect a change at the top. Conservative parties in Alberta are ruthless with leaders who stop looking like winners, just ask Don Getty, Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford.

The good news for Kenney is that he is only two years into his government’s four year term in office which leaves him with some time to turn around his political fortunes. But the clock is ticking and the tire-kickers could soon be kicking.

Alberta NDP: It is not often that political leaders in Canada are given a second chance, but despite losing the 2019 election Rachel Notley remains in firm control of her New Democratic Party.

Rachel Notley (source: Facebook)

Notley’s moderate NDP is leading or tied with the UCP is three of the four recent voter intention polls released during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and has maintained competitive fundraising levels, but the next election is still more than two years away.

The potential for strikes by public sector workers in 2021 could test the NDP’s political coalition. The NDP’s opponents will inevitably try to use any major labour disputes as a wedge between the party’s union activist wing and its more moderate and centrist supporters.

The key to an NDP victory in 2023 will be a breakthrough in Calgary, smaller urban centres like Lethbridge and Red Deer, and a small handful of suburban and rural ridings scattered across Alberta. The NDP swept those regions in 2015 and Notley has already signalled through her constant visits and social media posts that her focus in 2021 will be Calgary, Calgary, and more Calgary.

Alberta Party: Finding a new permanent leader should be the top focus of this tiny moderate conservative party. The Alberta Party has become home to a small group of disenchanted former Progressive Conservatives unhappy the combative tone and social conservative politics of the UCP. The party lost all its seats in 2019 but continues to poll around 10 per cent support in most surveys. In a two-party political environment, the Alberta Party needs to give Albertans a reason to vote for it that is beyond just not being the UCP or NDP.

Alberta Liberal Party: The Liberals not only need to find a new leader, they need to find a reason to exist. After forming Official Opposition for 19 years, the Liberal vote collapsed in 2012, saw almost all of its supporters migrate to Notley’s NDP in 2015 and lost its only seat in the Assembly in 2019. With the NDP now comfortably occupying the space held by the Liberals in the 1990s and 2000s, the Liberals need a raison d’être in Alberta.

Green Party: Yes, Alberta has a Green Party. The Greens have been issuing a steady stream of press statements that plant the party firmly to the left of the moderate NDP on climate change, the environment and pipelines. It seems unlikely that the party will make any electoral breakthroughs in the near future, but they could put pressure on the NDP to remember that it still has a progressive wing.

Wildrose Independence Party: Also looking for a new leader in 2021, the child of a merger between the Freedom Conservative Party and the Wexit group in 2020 is now led by former Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat
Drew Barnes

While separatist sentiment appears to be waining the further time passes from the last federal election, Hinman has clamped on to the anti-mask and anti-COVID restrictions groups as his focus, appearing at demonstrations in the two cities.

A number of UCP MLAs have expressed similar views, leading some political watchers to believe that one UCP MLA in particular – Drew Barnes – could be auditioning for Hinman’s job if his public comments become too much for the UCP.

The other fringe separatist parties: The Alberta Advantage Party and Independence Party of Alberta are also looking for new leaders. Advantage Party leader Marilyn Burns, a former Wildrose supporter, resigned in the fall amid a leadership challenge and has announced plans to run for the position again. Former Wildrose constituency president Lenard Biscope is now interim leader.

Communist Party of Alberta: Carry on, Comrades.

Thoughts? What do you think awaits Alberta’s political parties in 2021?

Categories
Alberta Politics

NDP ride high as UCP fundraising plummets in second quarter of 2020

The opposition New Democratic Party has out-fundraised the United Conservative Party for the first time since 2017, according to political party financial disclosures released by Elections Alberta.

The NDP raised $1,032,796.85 between April and June 2020, almost twice as much as the governing UCP, which raised $642,677 in the second quarter of 2020.

This is almost the opposite of the first quarter of 2020, in which the UCP raised $1.2 million and the NDP trailed with $582,130.

The UCP raised $7.37 million in 2019 but has has been feeling financial strain after the conservative party racked up a $2.3 million deficit and was forced to apply for the federal wage subsidy program in order to keep its staff on payroll. The party also saw significant turnover in its staff leadership as it hired its third executive director in three years when Dustin van Vugt was hired to replaced Brad Tennant, who left earlier this year to join Nick Koolsbergen’s lobbyist company.

Alberta’s political parties largely stopped in-person fundraising events since the COVID-19 pandemic began but they all continued with their traditional aggressive email and social media appeals.

The NDP held a number of Zoom fundraisers featuring musical acts and guest speakers during the pandemic but it is the actions of the UCP that likely helped boost the NDP’s cash flow.

While the UCP would still likely be re-elected if an election were held tomorrow, public opinion polls show that Albertans do not approve of the government’s handling of health care, education and post-secondary education issues.

I haven’t had a chance to thoroughly look through the list of individual donors, but I would not be surprised if the very public fight between Health Minister Tyler Shandro and the Alberta Medical Association means there are less doctors showing up on the UCP’s list in this quarter.

The size of the donations received by the parties is also worth noting. More than half of the donations to the NDP were in amounts of $250 or less, while almost two-thirds of donations to the UCP were in denominations over $250.

One of the big successes of the UCP’s predecessor party, the Wildrose Party, was its ability to cultivate a large base of small donors, something that the UCP appears to have trended away from (the UCP received nearly 90 individual donations of $4,000 in the first quarter of 2020).

I am told that the NDP raised around $10,000 in small donations during an impromptu social media campaign encouraging supporters to donate to the NDP to celebrate Premier Jason Kenney‘s birthday on May 30.

While the UCP will likely recover their fundraising advantage or at least become more competitive with the NDP in future quarters, it does show that Kenney’s party faces some significant internal financial problems. And for the NDP, it shows that despite losing last year’s election the party under Rachel Notley‘s leadership has continued to maintain a strong base of donors during its first year as official opposition, and, presumably, as government-in-waiting.

Here is what the political parties raised during the second quarter of 2020:

The Pro-Life Alberta Political Association and Reform Party of Alberta reported no donations during this period.

The maximum annual donation to political parties was increased to $4,243 from $4,000 as of January 1, 2020.

Parties move to virtual conventions

The UCP and the Alberta Party have both announced plans to forgo their annual in-person conventions, opting to hold the meetings online this year.

The UCP’s virtual AGM will be held on October 16, 17 and 24 and will feature policy debates, board and executive elections and the traditional MLA bear-pit session.

The Alberta Party’s virtual annual general meeting is scheduled to be held on August 29 and will include board elections and likely discussion around the process to select a new leader.

Jacquie Fenske
Jacquie Fenske

Former Progressive Conservative MLA Jacquie Fenske stepped up to become interim leader of the Alberta Party in February 2020, replacing former PC MLA Stephen Mandel who resigned after failing to win a seat in the 2019 election. Fenske previously served as MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville from 2012 to 2015 and as a Councillor in Strathcona Country from 1995 to 1998 and 2004 to 2012.

Meanwhile, the UCP has scheduled its first major COVID-era in-person fundraiser on August 14, which will take the form of a horse race derby at a race track outside Lacombe.

Tickets to watch Kenney and UCP MLAs compete in a horse race, including a T-Rex race that will feature MLAs racing in “their t-rex dinosaur costumes,” start at $100 for the “MLA Cheer Team” and go as high as $3000 for the “Ralph Klein VIP Suite.”

Categories
Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 54: That’s a great Alberta politics question.

We dive into the mailbag in this episode of the Daveberta Podcast to answer questions about Alberta politics sent in by our listeners on topics ranging from the United Conservative Party’s influence on the Conservative Party of Canada leadership race to the details of the Alberta government’s Keystone XL Pipeline investment to Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s never-ending fight with Alberta’s doctors to how the 1918 Spanish influenza impacted Alberta politics and more great questions.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network, powered by ATB. The Alberta Podcast Network includes more than 30 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.

Find us on TwitterInstagram, Facebook, or you can email us at podcast@daveberta.ca. Thanks for listening.

Recommended reading:

Categories
Alberta Politics

UCP raises $1.2 million in first quarter of 2020, UCP executive director joins Wellington Advocacy

The results of political party fundraising for the first four months of 2020 have been released by Elections Alberta.

The United Conservative Party started off 2020 with a strong fundraising result of $1.2 million in the first quarter. The party’s admission that it was feeling some financial strain following last year’s election, including a $2.3 million deficit, likely helped create a sense of urgency among its already vibrant donor base.

The New Democratic Party raised $582,130 in the first quarter of 2020, which is roughly half of what the party raised in the final quarter of 2019.

Here is what the political parties raised during the first four months of 2020:

The Communist Party, Freedom Conservative Party, Pro-Life Alberta Political Association, and Reform Party of Alberta reported no donations during this period.

The maximum annual donation to political parties was increased to $4,243 from $4.000 as of January 1, 2020.

UCP executive director joins lobbyist company

Brad Tennant UCP Alberta Wellington Advocacy
Brad Tennant (source: LinkedIn)

It appears as though the UCP will be searching for a new Executive Director. Brad Tennant recently left the position to become a vice-president with Wellington Advocacy, a government relations company co-founded by former UCP campaign manager and UCP caucus chief of staff Nick Koolsbergen shortly after the 2019 election.

Tennant replaced former UCP executive director Janice Harrington in May 2019. Harrington was later appointed as Alberta’s health advocate and mental health patient advocate by Health Minister Tyler Shandro in November 2019.

Political operations director Jeff Henwood is now acting executive director of the party.

Greens choose new leader

Jordan Wilkie was elected as leader of Alberta’s Green Party in an online vote on March 28, 2020. Wilkie earned 71.9 percent,  defeating his only challenger, Brian Deheer. Wilkie is a professional firefighter and holds a Masters degree in Disaster Emergency Management. He is the party’s sixth leader in three years and succeeds interim leader Will Carnegie, who stepped into the role following Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes resignation after the 2019 election.

Evelyn Tanaka, who ran in the 2019 federal election in Calgary-Sheperd, has been appointed deputy leader.

The Green Party nominated 32 candidates and earned 0.41 percent of the vote in the 2019 election.

News from Alberta’s separatist fringe

The tiny far-right Wexit group and the Freedom Conservative Party will be asking their membership to support a merger and rebrand as the Wildrose Independence Party, according to media reports. As the Wexit group is not a registered political party in Alberta, it is likely the arrangement would result in the FCP applying to Elections Alberta for a name change.

While the Chief Elections Officer has some legal discretion to approve political party names, the Wildrose moniker became available last year when the UCP amended the province’s election laws to allow the formal dissolution of both the Wildrose and the Progressive Conservative parties. Before the change, election laws in Alberta forbid the dissolution of political parties with outstanding debt, which the PC Party still held following the 2015 election.

This would mark the latest name change for the fringe separatist party, which was founded and known as the Alberta First Party from 1999 to 2004 and 2013 to 2018, the Separation Party of Alberta from 2004 to 2013, and the Western Freedom Party from April 2018 until it was renamed the Freedom Conservative Party in July 2018 when former UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt became its leader.

The province’s other fringe separatist parties, the Independence Party of Alberta, the Alberta Advantage Party and the unregistered Alberta Freedom Alliance, do not appear to have been invited to the merger.

The FCP nominated 24 candidates and earned 0.52 percent of the vote in the 2019 election.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Let the fall session begin – MLAs return to Edmonton on Oct 8

The fall session of the Alberta Legislative Assembly reconvenes on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, with Government House Leader Jason Nixon promising up to 17 new pieces of government legislation to be introduced before MLAs break for the year in December. The Legislature was initially scheduled to return on October 22, the day after the federal election, but MLAs were called back to the capital earlier than expected. As well as new bills, UCP Finance Minister Travis Toews is expected to present an austerity budget on October 24, 2019.

Richard Gotfried MLA UCP Calgary Fish Creek Alberta Election 2019
Richard Gotfried

The tone of the session is already expected to be confrontational, but the results of the October 21 federal election will determine whether the UCP caucus be celebratory (in the case of Conservative Party victory) or antagonized (in the case of a Liberal Party victory) as Toews tables his first budget.

There will also be some changes at the Legislative committee level. According to the Legislative Order Paper, Calgary-Fish Creek United Conservative Party MLA Richard Gotfried appears to have been removed as chairperson of the Standing Committee on the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund, replaced as chairperson by Lacombe-Ponoka UCP MLA Ron Orr and as a committee member by Calgary-East UCP MLA Peter Singh. Gotfried also appears to have been removed from the Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills, where he will be replaced by Brooks-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Michaela Glasgo. Gotfried was first elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2015 and was re-elected as a UCP MLA in 2019.

It is not clear what sparked the shuffle, but there has been speculation that Premier Jason Kenney might make some minor adjustments to his cabinet this fall.

NDP wrap up town hall tour, Notley staying put.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP
Rachel Notley (photo from Facebook)

The official opposition New Democratic Party wrapped up a multi-city town hall tour of Alberta focused on the upcoming provincial budget. The NDP likely used these town hall meetings to collect contact information and expand their outreach network while adjusting to their role as opposition after four years as government. The uncertainty created by the expected budget cuts will almost certainly be a central narrative of this legislative session.

Despite rumours of an ambassadorial appointment, NDP leader Rachel Notley told David Climenhaga of AlbertaPolitics.ca that she has no plans on stepping down as leader anytime soon. “I’ve been very clear. I’m staying on until the next election,” Notley said.

Notley’s declaration puts aside rumours of her departure, at least for now, that fuelled speculation about an NDP leadership contest that could include former cabinet ministers and now prominent opposition critics Sarah Hoffman and Shannon Phillips.

Alberta Liberals to report on their future.

The Alberta Liberal Party is holding its annual convention on November 16 in Edmonton. The one-day meeting will include the presentation of a report by the party’s Review Committee,  which was tasked determining potential options for the future of the party. The 2019 provincial election marked the first time since 1982 that the Liberals failed to elect any candidates to the Assembly. The convention will feature a keynote presentation from John Santos, a respected public opinion and political science researcher based in Calgary.

Disqualified UCP nomination candidate now separatist party president.

Todd Beasley is now president of the Alberta Independence Party. Beasley was considered the front-runner in the July 2018 UCP nomination contest in Brooks-Medicine Hat before he was removed from the race for publishing horrible comments about muslims on the internet. He ran as an Independent candidate instead and earned 12.4 per cent of the vote. The party is without a leader since Dave Bjorkman resigned following the 2019 provincial election.

More names added to Elections Alberta’s list of banned candidates

Elections Alberta has added a number of new names to its public list of Individuals Ineligible to Run as a Candidate or Act as a Chief Financial Officer. Names on this list can include election candidates, nomination candidates, and CFOs who have missed deadlines or improperly submitted financial disclosure forms to Elections Alberta.

New additions to the list include Former MLA Ian Donovan, who ran as an Independent candidate in Cardston-Siksika, Jovita Mendita, who was a candidate for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona, and a number of Alberta Independence Party and Freedom Conservative Party candidates.

Categories
Alberta Politics

UCP and NDP close in 2019 post-election fundraising reports

Political party fundraising data for the second quarter of 2019 has been released by Elections Alberta and shows the United Conservative Party and New Democratic Party fairly close in their total fundraising during the reported period.

Here’s the breakdown of the combined funds raised by the parties and their constituency associations during the second quarter of 2019:

  • United Conservative Party: $1,593,698
  • Alberta NDP: $1,427,710
  • Alberta Party: $101,382
  • Liberal Party: $38,270
  • Freedom Conservative Party: $5,205
  • Green Party: $3,184

This quarterly disclosure that would normally include all information from April to June does not include funds raised by the political parties or candidates during the election period from March 20 to April 16, 2019. The fundraising results from the 28-day election period will be included in a separate report not yet released by Elections Alberta. It is expected that all the parties, especially the UCP, raised significantly more during the election period.

The second quarter report provides us with a snapshot of the period immediately following the 2019 election. The UCP and NDP raised a fairly similar amount during the immediate post-election period, and despite losing government the NDP donor base continues for the moment to draw in cash for the new official opposition party.

Update: The candidate campaign financial statements from the 2019 provincial general election have now been released


Notley to speak at Sask NDP gala

Alberta NDP leader and former premier Rachel Notley is the speaker and special guest at an upcoming event hosted by the Saskatchewan NDP in Regina on September 14, 2019. The “Tommy’s Big Win” gala is being held to mark the 75th anniversary of the election of Tommy Douglas and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation in Saskatchewan – the first time a socialist government was elected anywhere in Canada.

Notley’s trip to Saskatchewan comes just over a month after former NDP caucus chief of staff and government staffer Adrienne King started her new job as Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili‘s chief of staff.

Also in NDP news, it is being reported that former ministerial staffer Brandon Stevens has been hired as that party’s new Provincial Secretary. Stevens replaces Roari Richardson, who filled that role during the party’s time as government.

Shortly after the election, UCP executive director Janice Harrington stepped down and was replaced by long-time conservative operative Brad Tennant.