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Alberta Politics

UCP backbenchers revolt against mild public health restrictions as COVID third wave hits Alberta

New cases of COVID-19 are on the rise and the third wave of the global pandemic is hitting Alberta, but that did not deter a group of nearly 20 United Conservative Party MLAs from publicly speaking out against the provincial government’s implementation of mild public health restrictions in response.

Like the virus, the group of COVID critics inside the UCP Caucus has grown exponentially from the original six-pack of MLAs who publicly spoke out against public health measures at the beginning of March. The public letter signed by 15 UCP MLAs criticized Premier Jason Kenney for moving back to Step 1 of the province’s mild public health measures in response to the spike in new cases, which is largely a result of a vicious new variant of the deadly virus.

The group of 15 includes Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper, who made an unusual move for a Speaker of the Assembly to publicly criticize the government, and already open COVID critics Drew Barnes and Angela Pitt, who recently split from the national End the Lockdown Caucus after Ontario MPP Randy Hillier posted a social media meme comparing public health restrictions to the Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. The UCP group also includes Tracy Allard, whose Christmas vacation to Hawaii cost her her job of Municipal Affairs Minister.

The letter signed by the 15 MLAs was soon after endorsed by Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright MLA Garth Rowswell and West Yellowhead MLA Martin Long, who also serves as the parliamentary secretary for small business. Also signalling support for the letter’s intentions was Calgary Member of Parliament Michelle Rempel-Garner, who serves as the Official Opposition Health Critic in Ottawa.

Peace River MLA Dan Williams, a long-time Kenney acolyte from Ottawa, did not endorse the letter but posted a video on social media criticizing the decision by Alberta Health Services to close down the rebel GraceLife Church, which had been holding in-person services in defiance of the government’s public health orders. He was joined in this call by Ontario MP Derek Sloan, who was kicked out of the federal Conservative caucus for his extreme social conservative views.

Active COVID-19 cases in Alberta (chart from @CBCFletch on Twitter)
Active COVID-19 cases in Alberta (chart from @CBCFletch on Twitter)

That the leaders of the UCP caucus mutiny appear to largely be from the former Wildrose caucus, or Wildrose-wing of the party, is not surprising. The former opposition party was notoriously raucous and unwilling to bow to the kind of centralized party leadership that Kenney would have become accustomed to during his many years in Ottawa.

It was also clear during Kenney’s press conference on Tuesday that he expected a negative reaction from his caucus. A significant portion of Kenney’s lecture was dedicated to managing MLAs expectations and acknowledging the differences of opinion in his caucus. Difference of opinion is one thing, but this is something entirely different.

The public health restrictions that Alberta fell back to earlier this week are nothing close to what restrictions have looked like in jurisdictions that have actually implemented lockdowns. Alberta schools are still open for in-person classes, and Albertans can still gather with up to 10 people outside, go shopping for non-essential items, get a haircut or a massage, dine or have drinks on a restaurant patio, and exercise at a gym with a personal trainer.

Jason Kenney
Premier Jason Kenney on April 6, 2021.

There is no doubt a lot of Albertans are frustrated about how the provincial government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Kenney government has not helped itself by releasing a string of confusing and inconsistent public health measures and messaging to Albertans about the government’s response.

While public opinion polling suggests many Albertans would like the government to impose stronger measures to stop the spread of the deadly virus, there is a loud minority who want to see the current restrictions lifted.

It is yet to be seen whether the revolt will extend beyond this strongly worded letter, but there is little doubt these MLAs are actively undermining the work being done by public health professionals and health care workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The caucus revolt is probably a reflection of deepening regional and partisan divides in Alberta, with most of the COVID Caucus MLAs representing largely rural and small town districts. It is notable that no UCP MLAs from Calgary, so far the hardest hit in the third wave, have publicly joined the revolt.

It also suggests that the United Conservative Party is not as united as its leader would like Albertans to believe.

Kenney’s personal approval ratings and support for his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic plummeted over the past 13 months, and his party has floundered in the polls, finishing behind Rachel Notley’s NDP in a handful of recent voter opinion polls. The rise of the separatist Wildrose Independence Party in rural Alberta has some backbench UCP MLAs nervously looking over their right shoulders.

In some ways, the revolt probably serves as a welcome distraction to some in the UCP from the never ending string of scandals and policy failures, most recently the failure to stop the Carbon Tax at the Supreme Court, the loss of $1.5 billion of public money when the Keystone XL Pipeline was cancelled, the failure to sign a new contract with Alberta doctors, the retreat on open-pit coal mining, and the open rebellion by parents against the draft K-6 curriculum.

Under normal circumstances it would be hard to believe that this kind of caucus revolt would happen on a day when more than 1,300 new cases of COVID were reported and doctors are calling for a circuit breaker response, but in today’s world of Alberta politics, it would be harder to believe this would happen if the UCP were not floundering so deeply in the polls.

The original 15 UCP MLAs who signed the letter

  • Tracy Allard, MLA Grande Prairie
  • Drew Barnes, MLA Cypress-Medicine Hat
  • Nathan Cooper, MLA Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills
  • Michaela Glasgo, MLA Brooks-Medicine Hat
  • Dave Hanson, MLA Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul
  • Nate Horner, MLA Drumheller-Stettler
  • Todd Loewen, MLA Central Peace-Notley
  • Ron Orr, MLA Lacombe-Ponoka
  • Angela Pitt, MLA Airdrie-East
  • Roger Reid, MLA Livingstone-Macleod
  • Miranda Rosin, MLA Banff-Kananaskis
  • RJ Sigurdson, MLA Highwood
  • Mark Smith, Drayton Valley-Devon
  • Jason Stephan, Red Deer-South
  • Glenn van Dijken, Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock
Categories
Alberta Politics

Garth Rowswell wins UCP nomination in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright, Spruce Grove-Stony Plain vote set for Friday

Garth Rowswell defeated Ben Acquaye, engineer Darrel Howell, past Battle River-Wainwright Progressive Conservative candidate Blake Prior, former mayor of Marwayne Jenelle Saskiw, and Eileen Taylor (who is married to the current MLA for Battle River-Wainwright) to secure the United Conservative Party candidacy in the new Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright district.

Garth Rowswell Vermilion Lloydminster Wainwright United Conservative Party Election Alberta
Garth Rowswell

Rowswell is a Lloydminster-based financial advisor with Edward Jones. He previously served as the secretary of the local UCP association and as campaign manager for Vermilion-Lloydminster Wildrose Party candidate Danny Hozack in the 2015 election.

Two-time Wildrose candidate Hozack was seeking the UCP nomination in this new district, but was deemed ineligible to run by the UCP. A letter to Hozack from UCP executive director Janice Harrington stated “a background review of your social media accounts and other online statements has been completed and upon review of this research, the Nominations Committee has deemed you ineligible.

“…there was a significant number of posts and statements that you have made or shared that would harm the reputation of the UCP and cause great offence to a large number of Albertans if they were made public by our opponents,” wrote Harrington, who then listed examples of the offending material, which she states included a post that shares a request to “Save Europe, the West, the World from Islam” and the republishing of statements and writings of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Incumbents from both districts, UCP MLA Wes Taylor and lone-Progressive Conservative Richard Starke, have announced their plans to not seek re-election in 2019.

Searle Turton Spruce Grove Stony Plain United Conservative Party Alberta Election
Searle Turton

UCP members in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain will select a candidate on November 30, 2018. CLAC representative Mathew Clark, Jerry Semen, and Spruce Grove City Councillor Searle Turton are seeking the UCP nomination in this district. Semen has been endorsed by UCP MLA Tany Yao, Conservative Member of Parliament Garnett Genuis and former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean.

Members of the New Democratic Party have nominated MLA David Eggen in Edmonton-North West and MLA Richard Feehan in Edmonton-Rutherford.


Here are a few of the latest updates to the list of candidates nominated and seeking nomination to run in Alberta’s next provincial election:

Airdrie-CochraneSteven Durrell is seeking the NDP nomination in this district north of Calgary. Durrell is a Telus dispatcher and trustee for the Telus Corporation pension plan. He has been a shop steward for the United Steel Workers. “My priorities lie in ensuring that our social services, like healthcare, education, or programs for people with disabilities, continue to receive the funding they require to be effective,” Durrell said in a press release from his campaign.

Airdrie-EastAlex Luterbach has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate. Luterbach has worked as a Retail Development Regional Analyst with Nestlé.

Calgary-Glenmore: Scott Appleby has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in this district. He is the owner of Appleby Painting and co-founder of GrayApple Inc.

Calgary-Peigan – Herjinder Seran is no longer seeking the Alberta Party candidate in this district.

Camrose – Former Edmonton-Ellerslie Wildrose candidate Jackie Lovely defeated former Strathcona-Sherwood Park Wildrose candidate Rob Johnson, former Calgary-South East Wildrose candidate Brandon Lunty, and former Wetaskiwin-Camrose Wildrose candidate Trevor Miller will face casino manager Dawn Anderson to secure the UCP nomination.

Edmonton-EllerslieSherry Adams is seeking the UCP nomination. Adams is currently serving her second term representing Ward I on the Edmonton Public School Board.

Edmonton-RiverviewKara Barker was acclaimed as the UCP candidate after her challenger, Shawn McLeod, withdrew from the contest. Barker is a crown prosecutor with Alberta’s Department of Justice.

Lac Ste. Anne-ParklandLeah Wood is once again is seeking the UCP nomination in this district. Wood ran in the UCP nomination contest held in August 2018 before Dale Johnson was removed as a candidateWood was a member of the UCP interim board and was widely considered to be the favourite of the party establishment in the first nomination contest. Shane Getson is also seeking the UCP nomination in this district.

Lesser Slave Lake: Pat Rehn defeated Brenda Derkoch, John Middelkoop, and Juliette Noskey to secure the UCP nomination in this rural northern Alberta district. Jim Sparks candidacy was not accepted by the UCP and Garrett Tomlinson withdrawn and endorsed Rehn. Rehn is the owner of AAA Precision Industries and Precision Crane and Rentals.

Lesser Slave Lake is one of two electoral districts that have been given special status under Section 15(2) of Electoral Boundaries Commission Act, which permits a geographic size that yields a population between 25% and 50% below the average electoral division.

Livingstone-Macleod – Allen Maclennan and Justin Murphy have withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest.

St. Albert – Cameron Jefferies has been nominated as the Green Party candidate. Jefferies is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law and the University of Alberta where he researches environmental law, natural resource law, ocean law and animal law and sustainability law.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

Categories
Alberta Politics

Alberta Candidate Nomination Updates: 2 NDP cabinet ministers announce re-election and 3 more UCP MLAs plan to retire.

Photo: Oneil Carlier, Shannon Phillips, Sonya Savage, and Tyler Shandro.

Nominations are picking up speed.

Three more United Conservative Party MLAs have announced their plans to retire when the next election is called. Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Wayne Drysdale, Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier and Little Bow MLA David Schneider will not seek re-election in 2019.

Schneider changed his minds after previously announcing plans to seek re-election in the new Cardston-Siksika district. His entry into that contest forced Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter to seek the UCP nomination in the neighbouring Taber-Warner district, even though he lives in Cardston. It is not yet known whether Hunter will now run for the UCP nomination in what will soon be his home district of Cardston-Siksika.

Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips has filed her intentions with Elections Alberta to run for the New Democratic Party nomination in Lethbridge-West. Phillips was first elected as MLA in 2015 with 59 percent of the vote.

Also running for re-election is Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier, who told XM105FM that he will seek the NDP nomination in the newly redrawn Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland district. Carlier currently represents the Whitecourt-Ste. Anne district, which will no longer exist when the next election is called.

Independent MLA Derek Fildebrandt is agitating in Chestermere-Strathmore. After being banned from rejoining the UCP caucus in February 2, 2018 after a string of embarrassing scandals, Fildebrandt has essentially accused his former party of being afraid of an open nomination contest in the new district. The theatrical former finance critic accused the UCP of “Trudeau-style affirmative action” for not allowing him to run against popular Chestermere-Rockyview UCP MLA Leela Aheer.

As first reported on this blog on April 7, 2018, Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Jane Stroud will seek the NDP nomination in the upcoming Fort McMurray-Conklin by-election. The UCP have set May 1, 2018 as the date for their candidate nomination vote.

In Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, candidate Joel Loh was not allowed to join the UCP nomination contest and has since endorsed Red Deer County councillor Christine Moore.  UCP members in that district will select a candidate in a vote at the end of the month.

Here are some of the other nomination updates from around the province:

Calgary-Acadia – Lawyer Tyler Shandro is seeking the UCP nomination. Astute followers of Alberta politics might recall Shandro’s role in the EdStelmach.ca incident. Good luck and govern yourself accordingly, Tyler.

Calgary-Currie – Amoriza Gunnink is seeking the UCP nomination. Gunnink is the founder of the Kinderhouse Preschool. Tony Norman is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Norman was his party’s candidate in this district in the 2015 election.

Calgary-East – Pradeep Singh is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-FalconridgeHappy Mann is seeking the UCP nomination. Mann was the Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-McCall in the 2015 election and the 2012 Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-Cross.

Calgary-Glenmore – Maureen Zelmer is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-Mountain ViewDean Brawn is seeking the UCP nomination. Brawn was a candidate for Calgary City Council in Ward 7 in the 2017 municipal election.

Calgary-North WestSonya Savage is seeking the UCP nomination. She is the Senior Director of Policy & Regulatory Affairs at Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. In 2011, she served as co-chair of Rick Orman’s campaign for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party.

Drumheller-Stettler – MLA Rick Strankman is seeking the UCP nomination. Strankman was first elected in 2012 as a Wildrose Party candidate.

Edmonton-EllerslieYash Sharma is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Sharma is the Publisher of the Asia Tribune and producer of Harmony TV and in 2016 he was one of 32 candidates to run in the Ward 12 by-election.

Edmonton-South WestKevin Greco is seeking the UCP nomination.

Lethbridge-East – Brian Litchfield is seeking the UCP nomination.

Morinville-St. Albert – Dale Nally and Trina Jones have entered the UCP nomination contest. Jones is currently serving as Deputy Mayor of the Town of Legal

Sherwood ParkJordan Walker is seeking the UCP nomination. Walker and Strathcona-Sherwood Park nomination candidate Nate Glubish are being endorsed by Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan Member of Parliament Garnett Genuis, who is hosting a meet and greet for the two candidates on April 27, 2018. Genius was the 2012 Wildrose Party candidate in Sherwood Park.

Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright – Two-time Wildrose Party candidate Danny Hozack is seeking the UCP nomination. Hozack earned 37 percent of the vote in 2012 and 33 percent of the vote in 2015. He is seeking the nomination against Garth Rowswell, his campaign manager from the 2015 election.

West Yellowhead – MLA Eric Rosendahl is seeking the NDP nomination. He was first elected in 2015 with 39 percent of the vote.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Alberta Election 2019: candidate nomination update

Photo: Alberta political party nomination candidates: Mike Walsh, Stephanie McLean, Leela Aheer and Craig Coolahan.

Here is the latest update to the list of candidates running for political party nominations ahead of Alberta’s expected 2019 provincial general election:

Calgary-Buffalo: Megan Brown is seeking the United Conservative Party nomination int his downtown Calgary district. Brown is the executive director of Common Sense Calgary, a conservative municipal political group with strong ties to Preston Manning’s Manning Centre. She ran as the Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-Elbow in the 2015 election.

Calgary-Currie: MLA Brian Malkinson is seeking the New Democratic Party nomination. Malkinson was first elected in 2015, unseating first-term Progressive Conservative MLA Christine Cusanelli by 2,810 votes.

Calgary-Klein: MLA Craig Coolahan is seeking the NDP nomination. Coolahan was first elected in 2015, defeating two-term PC MLA Kyle Fawcett by 3,220 votes.

Calgary-Falconridge: Calgary realtor Pete de Jong is seeking the UCP nomination.

Calgary-North: City of Calgary lawyer Paul Frank is seeking the UCP nomination. Frank previous ran for the federal Conservative Party nominations in Calgary-Rocky Ridge in 2014 and Calgary-Heritage in 2017. He also ran as an Independent candidate in Alberta’s 2012 Senator-in-Waiting election.

Calgary-South East: Cameron Davies is seeking the UCP nomination. Davies works as a Constituency Assistant in the office of Calgary-Midnapore Member of Parliament Stephanie Kusie. Davies was the president of the Wildrose Party association in this district, briefly ran for the Wildrose nomination ahead of the 2015 election, served as campaign manager for Prasad Panda’s by-election bid in 2015, and was campaign co-chair for Jeff Callaway’s brief anti-Brian Jean campaign for the UCP leadership.

Calgary-Varsity: MLA Stephanie McLean is seeking the NDP nomination. McLean was first elected in 2015 and currently serves as Minister of Status of Women and Minister of Service Alberta.

Chestermere-Strathmore: MLA Leela Aheer is seeking the UCP nomination in this newly redrawn metro Calgary district. Aheer was first elected as a Wlidrose MLA in the Chesteremere-Rockyview district in 2015.

Edmonton-City Centre: LGBTQ activist Dylan Chevalier is seeking the Liberal Party nomination in this downtown Edmonton district. The area was represented by Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman from 1997 until 2015, when she was unseated by New Democrat David Shepherd.

Edmonton-West Henday: MLA Jon Carson is seeking the NDP nomination in this newly redrawn west Edmonton district. Carson was first elected in 2015 in the Edmonton-Meadowlark district. In 2016, Carson introduced a private members bill intended to enhance consumer protection for automobile repairs.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake: Mike Walsh is seeking the UCP nomination in this central Alberta district. Walsh is the former president of the now-defunct Progressive Conservative association and is currently serving his second term on Penhold Town Council. The district is currently represented by former Wildrose and current UCP MLA Don MacIntyre (known for his climate-change denying views).

Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright: Lloydminster-based financial advisor Garth Rowswell is seeking the UCP nomination. Rowswell served as campaign manager for Wildrose candidate Danny Hozak in the 2015 election and he is currently the secretary of the local UCP association.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list.