Calgary-North East – Nate Pike is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Pike is a paramedic who works for Alberta Health Services.
Calgary-North West: Lesley Doell is seeking the United Conservative Party nomination. Doell is a French Immersion facilitator and instructional coach with the Foothills School Division and the former executive director of the French Language Resource Centre in Grande Prairie. She had been considered a potential candidate for the federal Conservative nomination in Calgary-Centre in 2019.
Calgary-Shaw – Mark Mantei is seeking the UCP nomination. He is an executive with a computer software and consulting company and previously served as the President of the Wildrose Party constituency association in this district. This district is currently represented by New Democratic Party MLA Graham Sucha.
Edmonton-Glenora – Sarah Hoffman is seeking the NDP nomination in this west-central Edmonton district. Hoffman was first elected as MLA for this district in 2015 with 68 percent of the vote, She previously served two terms on Edmonton’s Public School Board including as chair from 2012 to 2015. She has served as Minster of Health and Deputy Premier since 2015.
Edmonton-West Henday – Two candidates are seeking the UCP nomination in this new west Edmonton district. Nicole Williams is a senior associate with Canadian Strategy Group and previously worked as an assistant to various MLAs and cabinet ministers in the old Progressive Conservative government. Lance Coulter is a former assistant to Edmonton-Griesbach Member of Parliament Kerry Diotte and previously served in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville – Conservative partisan activist Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk is seeking the UCP nomination. Armstrong-Homeniuk currently serves on the local UCP association and previously served as the Regional Director for Central Northeast Alberta on the PC Party board of directors. This district is currently represented by NDP MLA Jessica Littlewood.
Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland – Jerry Molnar is seeking the UCP nomination in this newly redrawn district northwest of Edmonton.
St. Albert – Jeff Wedman is seeking the UCP nomination. Wedman is an officer with the Edmonton Police Service and is a retired Canadian Armed Forces pilot. He ran for the PC Party nomination in St. Albert ahead of the 2012 election. This district is currently represented by NDP MLA Marie Renaud, who is running for re-election.
Spruce Grove-Stony Plain – Dan Corbett is seeking the UCP nomination. He was briefly a candidate for the City of Spruce Grove mayoral election in 2017 but withdrew from the race before the election.
West Yellowhead – Town of Whitecourt mayor Maryann Chichak is seeking the UCP nomination in the newly redrawn West Yellowhead district, which now includes Whitecourt. Chichak was first elected as mayor in 2013 and was re-elected in 2017. She was the Wildrose Party candidate in the Whitecourt-Ste. Anne district in 2012, where she finished only 370 votes short of unseating PC MLA George VanderBurg. The West Yellowhead district is currently represented by NDP MLA Eric Rosendahl.
If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will add them to the list.
While some staffers working for the Wildrose Official Opposition Caucus lost their jobs when leader Danielle Smith and 8 MLAs crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives before Christmas 2014, at least three former opposition staffers appear to have landed jobs working for the governing PC Caucus.
Appearing on the Government of Alberta staff directory with job titles “Caucus Staff – Office of the Whip” are former Wildrose policy and research analyst David Jackson, former assistant to the leader of the Official Opposition Barbara Currie, and former Wildrose legislative assistant Nicholas Burris.
It is unclear what their new roles and duties entail, as they appear to be new positions reporting to PC Caucus Whip George VanderBurg.
Former Wildrose Caucus Chief of Staff Steve Rennick is said to have been hired to work in the Office of the Premier, along with one or two other former Wildrose staffers.
It is suspected that Premier Jim Prentice will announce a cabinet shuffle within the first months of 2015 in order to appoint some of the former Wildrose MLAs to ministerial positions.
Double crossing mla to retire
Meanwhile, rumour that Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson could be appointed to cabinet following his floor crossing are sure to be put to rest after his recent announcement he will not be seeking re-election. Mr. Anderson was first elected in 2008 as a PC MLA, crossed the floor to the Wildrose Party in 2010 and then crossed the floor back to the PC Party in 2014. He was expected to face a serious challenge for the PC nomination if he sought re-election as that party’s candidate in the next election.
BANFF – Stepping onto the national stage for the first time since he was appointed as Alberta’s Minister of Health, Stephen Mandel met with his provincial and federal counterparts this week in Banff for the annual Health Ministers meeting. Mr. Mandel co-chaired the meeting, a role his predecessor, Fred Horne, had planned to fill.
The ministers are said to have discussed a wide-range of topics, perhaps most dramatically, a strategy for pharmacare, a plan that could decrease the cost of prescription drugs by billions of dollars each year. This sort of national plan would require the involvement of a federal Conservative Government that has, unfortunately for Canadians, taken a hands-off approach to health care.
Mr. Mandel began on the long road of rebuilding relationships with federal government by meeting with federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose. Despite being represented by federal Conservative MPs in Ottawa, relations between the City and federal government soured in recent years. In November 2010, an angry Mr. Mandel publicly blamed Ms.Ambrose for the failure of the City’s unarticulated plans to host Expo 2017.
CALGARY – The Wildrose Party announced two of its by-election candidates this week. Former Calgary police officer Kathy Macdonald is running against Jim Prentice in Calgary-Foothills and Calgary public school board trustee Sheila Taylor will run in Calgary-West.
A savvy move, Mr. Prentice announced the appointment of Emma May as the executive director of the Premier’s Southern Alberta Office at the McDougall Centre. A well-respected community advocate, Ms. May leads the Calgary River Communities Action Group, which represents residents whose homes were damaged by the 2013 floods.
Ms. May’s appointment may also have an impact on the by-election in Calgary-Elbow, a constituency which includes many flood impacted neighbourhoods. Running as the PC candidate, appointed Education Minister Gordon Dirksis facing strong challengers in Wildrose candidates John Fletcher, Alberta Party leader Greg Clark and Liberal Susan Wright.
The Green Party is expected to announce its candidate in Edmonton-Whitemud shortly. The Social Credit Party will not run candidates in any of the by-elections.
TROUBLED WATERS – CBC reports that the Auditor General Merwan Saher found that sole-source contracts of up to $274,000 were awarded to Navigtor Ltd. during the 2013 southern Alberta floods. The firm has close connections to Mr. Prentice and former Premier Alison Redford.
FLOOR CROSSING? – Rumours are stirring in political circles this week that Mr. Prentice and PC Caucus Whip George VanderBurg have reached out to a handful of Wildrose MLAs in an attempt to convince them to cross the floor. Any opposition floor crossings could be seen as a significant political win for the long-governing PC Party.
Premier Dave Hancock, who is serving as the PC Party’s interim leader, has said he will not endorse any candidate as a condition of his temporary position in the Premier’s Office. Former Premier Alison Redford, whose scandal-filled departure triggered the leadership race, is not expected to endorse a candidate (it is unlikely that any of the leadership candidates would accept her endorsement). Ms. Redford remains the MLA for Calgary-Elbow.
Assembly Speaker Gene Zwozdesky and PC Caucus Whip George VanderBurg are expected to stay neutral in the contest because of their positions in the Assembly. Although these are legitimate reasons, it is not a requirement. Former Speaker Ken Kowalski set a precedent by endorsing candidates in the 2006 and 2011 PC leadership races.
It is suspected that Mr. Fraser’s decision to not join his colleagues in endorsing the front-runner is a reflection of the support Mr. McIver has in south east Calgary. It is expected that Mr. McIver’s campaign has sold a significant amount of PC memberships in south east Calgary’s sprawling suburbs, the area he represented on City Council and dominated in the 2010 Mayoral election.
Coincidentally, the previous MLA for Mr. Fraser’s south east Calgary riding, Art Johnston, was the only candidate to endorse Ms. Redford in the PC Party’s 2011 leadership race.
Update: MLA Ms. Johnson has endorsed Mr. Prentice’s candidacy, raising his total MLA endorsements to 50 out of 59 PC MLAs.
Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to introduce legislation, like Manitoba’s and Ontario’s, requiring all school boards to develop policies to support students who want to lead and establish gay-straight alliance activities and organizations, using any name that is consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive, welcoming, and respectful for all students regardless of sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
It was a simple motion introduced on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly on April 7, 2014 that would help create safer environments for students in schools. Nineteen Liberal, New Democrat, and Progressive Conservative MLAs voted in favour of the motion, but it failed after 31 PC and Wildrose MLAs stood up and voted against it.
Motion 503, introduced by Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr, was not a piece of binding legislation, it was a symbolic message of that all students, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, can be welcomed and accepted in Alberta’s education system.
Creating safe and supportive environments for all students, including LGBTQ youth who may face discrimination in and outside of school, should be something that is encouraged by MLAs.
Mr. Hehr’s motion undoubtably would have made some social conservatives uncomfortable, but it would have ultimately helped drag some of Alberta’s more stodgy school boards into the 21st century. The motion would not have forced any school board to form student-led gay-straight alliances, but it would have compelled the elected boards to accept the existence of the groups if students in their schools chose to organize them.
Passage of this motion would have sent a strong message that tolerance and acceptance are priorities Alberta’s provincial legislators.
Missing from the vote were Premier Dave Hancock and NDP leader Brian Mason, who both later said they would have voted in favour had they been in the Assembly. Wildrose opposition leader Danielle Smith was not present for the vote and it is not clear if she would have voted differently than her party’s MLAs.
The divided PC government caucus also missed an opportunity to send a clear message that they embrace 21st century values by singling out the opposition Wildrose as the only party to unanimously vote against the motion – and remind Albertans of the infamous Lake of Fire. And for the Wildrose, a vote for the motion, even by one or two of that party’s MLAs, would have done a lot of demonstrate the party is more moderate on social issues than its opponents claim.
In total, 36 MLAs were absent from the vote (minus the Speaker, who abstains from votes of the Assembly).
Voted in Favour: 19
Deron Bilous (NDP)
Laurie Blakeman (LIB)
Neil Brown (PC)
Pearl Calahasen (PC)
Cal Dallas (PC)
Alana DeLong (PC)
David Eggen (NDP)
Kyle Fawcett (PC)
Kent Hehr (LIB)
Ken Hughes (PC)
Sandra Jansen (PC)
Heather Klimchuk (PC)
Jason Luan (PC)
Thomas Luksazuk (PC)
Rachel Notley (NDP)
Don Scott (PC)
Raj Sherman (LIB)
David Swann (LIB)
Teresa Woo-Paw (PC)
Voted against: 31
Moe Amery (PC)
Rob Anderson (WR)
Drew Barnes (WR)
Gary Bikman (WR)
Robin Campbell (PC)
Ron Casey (PC)
Christine Cusanelli (PC)
Ian Donovan (WR)
David Dorward (PC)
Wayne Drysdale (PC)
Jacquie Fenske (PC)
Rick Fraser (PC)
Yvonne Fritz (PC)
Hector Goudreau (PC)
Jeff Johnson (PC)
Linda Johnson (PC)
Maureen Kubinec (PC)
Genia Leskiw (PC)
Bruce McAllister (WR)
Everett McDonald (PC)
Diana McQueen (PC)
Frank Oberle (PC)
Bridget Pastoor (PC)
Dave Rodney (PC)
Bruce Rowe (WR)
Shayne Saskiw (WR)
Richard Starke (PC)
Rick Strankman (WR)
Kerry Towle (WR)
George VanderBurg (PC)
Greg Weadick (PC)
As reported yesterday on this blog, rumours that Ms. Redford would shuffle her cabinet before the Christmas break began to intensify this week. Today, those rumours proved to be true.
Built around the government’s “Building Alberta” slogan, today’s Government of Alberta press release boasts a new cabinet that will focus on “innovation and economic growth.” And it signals a growth in numbers of Ms. Redford’s cabinet as well. The size of the cabinet will now be 30 MLAs, up from 27 MLAs in the previous cabinet. There are a total of 59 MLAs in the Progressive Conservative caucus.
Here is a description of some major changes in Alberta’s provincial cabinet:
Dave Hancock: Appointed Deputy Premier and moved from Human Services to Innovation and Advanced Education. Moving Mr. Hancock back to the Advanced Education portfolio he filled from 2004 to 2006 likely signals that Ms. Redford recognizes the need to repair the damage done to Alberta’s colleges and universities under its previous minister. The deep budget cuts imposed by Ms. Redford’s government in 2012 damaged both the post-secondary education system and the government’s relationship the leaders in that system. A well-known policy wonk and party loyalist, Mr. Hancock will be tasked with smoothing over those hard feelings.
Thomas Lukaszuk: The bull-dog of the Progressive Conservative caucus lost his Deputy Premier title and is moved from Enterprise & Advanced Education to a new Jobs, Skills, Training, and Labour portfolio. As Ms. Redford’s ‘heavy-hand’ in cabinet, it is likely that Mr. Lukaszuk will be tasked with imposing controversial new laws on Alberta’s public sector unions.
Manmeet Bhullar: Moved from Service Alberta to Human Services. This is a big promotion, as Human Services is a large ministry that represents a multitude of components of government services. Mr. Bhullar performed well as Minister of Service Alberta, but this portfolio will present a significant challenge to the new minister.
Diana McQueen: Moved from Environment & Sustainable Resource Development to Energy. With an increased focus on the government’s agenda to support the Keystone XL, Enbridge Northern Gateway and Energy East pipelines, the capable Ms. McQueen is well-armed with arguments to use in advocating for these projects in Canada and the United States.
Robin Campbell: Moved from Aboriginal Relations to Environment & Sustainable Resource Development, a high-profile position which is closely linked with the Energy portfolio. He is also now the Government House leader, a role that has been filled by Mr. Hancock for quite some time.
Doug Griffiths: Demoted from Municipal Affairs to Service Alberta. As Municipal Affairs Minister, Mr. Griffiths stumbled through the high profile items in his portfolio, making his demotion almost inevitable. As minister of the tiny Service Alberta department, Mr. Griffiths will have less chance to embarrass the government and an opportunity to redeem himself in cabinet.
Ken Hughes: Moved from Energy to Municipal Affairs. While this move could easily be seen as a demotion, Mr. Hughes, a trusted confident of Ms. Redford’s, will have an important role in repairing the provincial government’s strained relationship with its municipal leaders – both in the large cities and rural municipalities.
Frank Oberle: Promoted from Associate Minister of Services for Persons with Disabilities to a full-cabinet position as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. Mr. Oberle previously served as Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security and Minister of Sustainable Resource Development.
Wayne Drysdale: Moved from Infrastructure to Transportation, replacing Ric McIver.
Ric McIver: Moved from Transportation to Infrastructure, replacing Wayne Drysdale.
Steve Young: Left his position as Government Whip to become Associate Minister of Public Safety, a new position.
Donna Kennedy-Glans: Departed the backbenchers to become Associate Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy, a new position.
George VanderBurg: Appointed the Government Whip. Lost his position as Associate Minister of Seniors. Mr. VanderBurg had previously served as Minister of Government Services, Minister of Seniors, and Acting Minister of Innovation and Science.
A curious addition to the list of cabinet positions in the press release included the Progressive Conservative Caucus Chair, Maureen Kubinec. This appears to be a new addition to the cabinet, though the release was unclear what role this MLA will have at the cabinet table, as there now only remain 29 PC MLAs not included in the list of cabinet positions.
July 21: All-Candidates Forum in Vermillion July 28: All-Candidates Forum in Grande Prairie August 11: All-Candidates Forum in Fort McMurray August 18: All-Candidates Forum in Medicine Hat August 25: All-Candidates Forum in Lethbridge September 1: All-Candidates Forum in Red Deer September 7: All-Candidates Forum in Calgary September 15: All-Candidates Forum in Edmonton
Advanced voting for the first-ballot will commence on September 13 and regular voting on September 17. If no candidate receives 50%+1 on the first-ballot, then the three candidates with the most votes will contest a preferential second-ballot vote October 1. If no candidate earns 50%+1 on the second-ballot, the second choice votes from the third place candidate will be redistributed among the final two candidates.
The list of MLA endorsements of PC leadership candidates is being continually updated. Recent changes include the addition of Rocky Mountain House MLA Ty Lund and Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Richard Marz, and Whitecourt-Ste. Anne MLA George VanderBurg, who have endorsed Mr. Mar. I have also removed Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Broyce Jacobs‘ endorsement of Dr. Morton, after receiving conflicting reports that he was also supporting Mr. Mar. It is also expected that Calgary-Shaw MLA Cindy Ady may soon endorse Mr. Mar.
Over the next few weeks, I will be taking a closer look at what MLA endorsements actually mean for the leadership candidates and how deep the PC Party membership has been in many of the constituencies these MLAs represent.
There are a number of interesting things about these disclosures, including the annual expenses of some constituency associations as recently mentioned by Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald.
Not surprisingly, the Progressive Conservatives have shown their political strength with functional organizations in nearly all 83 constituencies. PC constituency associations disclosed over $3.1 million in net assets in 2010, a jump from $2.5 million in 2009. The three wealthiest PC constituency associations with over $100,000 in net assets are Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock (MLA Ken Kowalski), Calgary-Elbow (MLA Alison Redford), and Whitecourt-Ste. Anne (MLA George VanderBurg).
The Wildrose Alliance showed substantial growth in 2010, as its constituency associations grew their total net assets to $455,595 from a low $78,298 in 2009. The constituency organizations of two of that party’s new MLAs, former Tories Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth, increased their net assets by an impressive $60,723 in Airdrie-Chestermere and $36,075 in Calgary-Fish Creek in 2010.
The Liberals showed marginal financial growth and still face substantial challenges in fundraising compared to the PCs and Wildrose Alliance. The Liberals fundraised well in constituencies their 8 MLAs currently represent and a few other constituencies which that party’s MLAs held until the last election (notably Edmonton-Rutherford, where former MLA RIck Miller is his party’s nominated candidate).
In five constituencies that the Liberals represented until 2008 or more recently, there were signs that none or very little local fundraising had taken place in 2010 (Calgary-Currie, Calgary-Elbow, Edmonton-Decore, Edmonton-Ellerslie, and Edmonton-Meadowlark).
Alberta NDP local organizations in the majority of the province’s constituencies appeared to be dormant or non-existant in 2010.
The NDP is strategically targeting its financial and organizational resources in a handful of constituencies in Edmonton where it hopes it can make gains in the next election. While the party’s local organizations have not wracked up large net assets, there is noticeable spending happening in a few constituencies (including more than $24,000 in expenses in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview where candidate Deron Bilous is campaigning).
Here are breakdowns of the party’s 2009 and 2010 financial disclosures:
The 2010 Spring session of the Alberta Legislature wrapped up yesterday with little fanfare. Ending a month and a half earlier than the increasingly pointless Legislative calendar had scheduled, Premier Ed Stelmach‘s PCs seemed happy to cut short one of their roughest sessions in decades. Here are some thoughts on how each of the parties fared during the 2010 Spring session:
Entering their 39th year in office, the Progressive Conservatives caucus appeared to list from left to right and back again during this session. The massive cuts expected in the 2010 budget never emerged (and the cuts that did take place were largely overshadowed by funding to health care and education). Their flagship bill, the Competitiveness Act, is already becoming largely forgotten in the minds of most political watchers and did not have the public splash impact that was likely intended.
Their political machinery is still well-financed, but the PC Party leadership appears disconnected from mainstream Albertans. Premier Stelmach’s weak public speaking skills were crutched by some of the cabinet ministers who were shuffled into new positions in February and have made an impact this Spring. Most notably, Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky, Labour Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, Finance Minister Ted Morton, Housing Minister Jonathan Denis, and Solicitor General Municipal Affairs Minister Hector Goudreau have performed fairly well in their new roles. In the Health Care file, Minister Zwozdesky appears to have spent much of the past three months travelling the province attempting to extinguish the fires set by his predecessor (now -Energy Minister Ron Liepert). While his style has brought a much friendlier tone to his position, there are still remains unanswered questions around issues ranging from seniors’ pharmacare to the future of Alberta Hospital Edmonton.
As criticisms have increased from outside the Legislature, it appears that a few PC backbenchers are increasingly unwilling to read the puff-ball questions that they regularly line up for. Whitecourt-Ste. Anne MLA George VanderBurg, Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pearl Calahasen, and Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Wayne Drysdale have asked some pretty tough questions and have noticeably got under the skin of some cabinet ministers during Question Period.
Premier Stelmach and his cabinet ministers will undertake a province-wide tour over the summer to talk with Albertans (and try to win back the hearts and minds of PC supporters who have flocked to the Wildrose Alliance). The optimist in me hopes that the tour will actually be effective in reconnecting our elected government officials with Albertans.
The very public departure of Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor and his verbal lashing of Dr. Swann in the media seemed to be the most memorable moment for the Liberals during this session, though internally, they are probably better off without Mr. Taylor. The Liberals won a reprieve from negative attention when a motion by backbench PC MLA Verlyn Olson temporarily removed the independence of Public Accounts Committee chairman Hugh MacDonald. While I believe Dr. Swann’s performance actually improved after Mr. Taylor’s departure, similar to their federal counterparts, the provincial Liberals biggest weakness is their focus on daily tactics, rather than long-term strategy to form government.
With the addition of former PC MLAs Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth, the WRA caucus was boosted to third-party status for the first time. Ms. Forsyth’s Mandatory Reporting of Child Pornography bill was passed on third reading (I cannot remember any time that an opposition MLAs private members bill was passed into legislation). The Wildrose Alliance was faced with the challenge of not becoming the NDP of the right and have been strategic in what issues they chose to focus on (ie: opposing the centralization of regional health authorities into Alberta Health Services).
With three MLAs in the Assembly, seatless leader Danielle Smith has spent the majority of her time during this session criss-crossing the province, speaking to town hall meetings, trade shows, chambers of commerce, and anyone interested in meeting with the newly anointed Dauphine of Alberta politics (a very smart decision in my mind).
Outside the Legislature, the NDP appear to be stalled in the polls and have not been able to capitalize on the destabilization inside the Liberal Party. At their 2009 convention, Nova Scotia NDP organizer Matt Hebbadvised his Alberta cousins to build a bigger tent of supporters and to act like a party of government by taking a pragmatic and constructive approach to politics. “Act like a party of government, don’t talk about it,” was Mr. Hebb’s message. Judging by the daily outrage and ankle bitting during Question Period, it does not appear that the two MLAs have heeded Mr. Hebb’s advice.
Independent MLAs Guy Boutilier and Dave Taylor now share the lonely northwest corner of the Assembly floor. It was suspected that Mr. Boutilier might join the Wildrose Alliance caucus (his 2008 campaign manager has joined the WRA), but he may be too much of a wildcard for a party that is riding high in the polls and posturing to form the next government. More recently, there have been rumors floating that Mr. Taylor would like to acquire the leadership of the newly reorganized Alberta Party and reshape it into his own image (knowing the people involved in the Alberta Party, this might not be a welcoming prospect).
Since the 2008 election, five of 83 MLAs have forced the changing of seating arrangements on the Assembly floor. There has not been this much movement across the Assembly floor between elections since the early 1990s, which saw some significant Liberal by-election victories, a New Democrat cross to the PCs, a PC leave to sit as an Independent, and a handful of right-leaning Liberals cross to the PCs. It is also the first time since 1989 that an opposition party other than the Liberals or NDP have had more than one MLA in the Assembly (the Representative Party elected two former Social Credit MLAs in 1986).
This was the final session for long-time Canadian Press reporter Jim MacDonald, who will be retiring from his role in May. After 27 years working for Canadian Press, Mr. MacDonald has become an institution in the Press Gallery. During my time as a spokesperson for the Council of Alberta University Students from 2006 to 2007, Mr. MacDonald was always the most nerve-racking reporter in a media scrum – always asking the toughest questions and not taking spin for an answer. He will be missed.
On a final note, I feel the need to recognize Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid, who is normally a very good columnist, but during this spring session has written some excellent columns about politics in Alberta.