Elections Alberta has released initial campaign finance disclosures from the March 22, 2016 by-election in the Calgary-Greenway constituency. The by-election was held following the death of PC MLA Manmeet Bhullar, who had represented the area in the Legislative Assembly since 2008.
Here is a brief description of what the initial submissions show us:
The campaign of Green Party candidate Thana Boonlert reported expenses of $6,749.52, which was the same as the campaign’s revenue.
Mr. Gill was elected on March 22 with 27 percent of the vote, holding the seat for the PCs in a close four way race. A mere 625 votes separated Mr. Gill from Mr. Toor (23 percent), Mr. Karbani (22 percent) and Ms. Rai (20 percent). Turnout by eligible voters was estimated to be at 29 percent.
When the initial expenses are broken down, each candidate’s campaign spent the following amount of money per vote received:
Recent polls show a three-way split in support between the Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic and Wildrose Parties have generated some interest in Alberta’s provincial election campaign but with 24 days left until voting day we can expect a lot to change. Here is a quick review of what the politicians were saying and political parties were spinning in the first week of this election campaign.
Mr. Prentice targeted his opponents as extremists while moderating his own tone around Alberta’s economy. Before the election was called, Mr. Prentice’s repeated doom-and-gloom messages led opposition critics to name him “Grim Jim.” The PCs are attempting to present Mr. Prentice as the balanced (a.k.a. safe) candidate, as opposed to the extremist (a.k.a. dangerous) leaders of the opposition.
The recent provincial budget included almost sixty tax and fee increases, including increases to personal taxes but no increases to corporate taxes, which appears to have been a political miscalculation on the part of the PCs. The government’s own budget survey results showed 69% of Albertans support a corporate tax increase, a point the NDP has stressed.
PC MLAs and candidates took to social media to post different variations of a message that 8,900 jobs would be lost if corporate taxes were increased by 1%. It is unclear what study the 8,900 jobs number originates from.
Creating more confusion around corporate tax increases, a PC press release from April 9 stated ‘Prentice pointed out that more than 95% in Alberta are small businesses, employing fewer than 50 people, and questioned those who would put those jobs at risk with a corporate tax increase.” This is a good talking point, if not for the issue that small businesses do not pay corporate tax rates.
According to the Department of Finance website, small businesses earning $500,000 of less profit each year pay a separate 3% small business tax, not the 10% corporate tax applied to companies earning more than $500,000 in profit annually. The PCs dropped the corporate tax rate in Alberta from 15% in 2001 to the current 10% in 2006.
NDP leader Rachel Notleylaunched her party’s election campaign in Edmonton and travelled to Calgary and Lethbridge to campaign with candidates in those cities. It is notable that the NDP are focusing resources on candidates outside of Edmonton, where the party has traditionally been weak. Calgary-Fort candidate Joe Ceci, Calgary-Varsity candidate Stephanie McLean and Lethbridge-West candidate Shannon Phillips were prominently placed at Ms. Notley’s side during photo-ops at these stops
NDP messaging in the first week of the campaign focused on the economy. Ms. Notley announced the creation of a Job Creation Tax Credit for businesses as the first NDP election promise, providing balance from their calls for corporate tax increases. The credit sounds reasonable, but much like the PC Party’s 8,900 job loss argument, I am skeptical about this credit creating 27,000 new jobs. The NDP also announced that in-province refining and upgrading is also a top priority. Before the election was called, Ms. Notley’s unveiled her party’s plans to create a Resource Owners’ Rights Commission.
The NDP responded to Mr. Prentice’s “extremist” claims with an “extremist of the week” press release quoting former Premier Peter Lougheed’s support of increased corporate taxes and former Deputy Premier (and current PC candidate) Thomas Lukaszuk support for in-province refining and upgrading.
Focusing on rural Alberta, Wildrose leader Brian Jean campaigned in southern Alberta and his Fort McMurray constituency this week. While the campaign trail in Strathmore-Brooks, Mr. Jean and candidate Derek Fildebrandt cleverly walked around town with a giant arrow in hand pointing out services and commodities, like alcohol and gas, which became more expensive due to tax increases in the recent provincial budget.
Mr. Jean released his party’s “Five Priorities” that include positions on taxes, health care, education, democracy and rural Alberta. Part of the Wildrose plan to balance the budget by 2017 without raising taxes includes cutting 3,200 management jobs, including 1,600 in Alberta Health Services and 1,600 in the Government public service.
The Wildrose announced they would sell the Kananaskis Golf Course, a publicly owned and privately-operated golf course that the provincial government had paid millions of dollars to repair after it was damaged by floods in 2013.
The Wildrose Party also nominated new candidates this week including City Councillor Buck Buchanan in Red Deer-North, past mayoral candidate Shelley Biermanski in St. Albert, Don Koziak in Edmonton-Glenora and Ian Crawford in Edmonton-Riverview.
The Green Party published a media release criticizing the PC Government’s record on environmental regulation, describing it as a “fake, not authentic, regulation and thus an insult to the intelligence, dignity and trusting nature of Albertans.” The release takes issue with the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan and calls on the government to create a regulator that understands the impact of proposed activity and puts rules in place to prevent any unacceptable impacts.
The Parkland Institute released a new report looking at political values of Albertans. Public Interest Alberta released its “Priorities for Change” report as a resource for political candidates in this election And Change Alberta has returned to rank the progressive candidates most likely to win in constituencies across Alberta.
Fresh from her big victory in Alberta’s Gay-Straight Alliances debate, Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman announced this morning that she has accepted the nominations to be a candidate for the Liberal Party, Alberta Party AND Green Party in the upcoming provincial election. With these three nominations, she hopes to unite the progressive vote in the downtown Edmonton constituency she has represented since 1997.
It is an unusual and out-of-the-box move, but what does it mean?
The goal is to prevent vote splitting between parties that agree on most issues and by uniting around one candidate there are not three candidates drawing votes away from each other in Edmonton-Centre.
Practically speaking, the triple-nomination will not bring many increased resources to Ms. Blakeman’s re-election campaign, because both the Alberta Party and Green Party have negligible organization and funds in the constituency. And while the three parties have nominated her as their candidate, it is expected that only one party will be allowed to appear beside her name on the voting ballot.
It is an important symbolic move.
When Raj Sherman resigned as Liberal leader in January 2015, Ms. Blakeman stood for interim leader and brought forward a plan to cooperate with the other opposition parties. She was rebuked by the Liberal Party executive, who chose former leader David Swann instead and rejected a cooperation proposal from the Alberta Party.
Ms. Blakeman is breaking from the current Liberal Party executive, who, despite their party being on the brink of complete electoral annihilation, appear to have done everything in their power to prevent cooperation between the smaller parties before the next election.
This is not the first time a Liberal MLA has broken with their party on this issue. In December 2012, Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr published a guest post on this blog arguing for the need for progressive opposition parties to cooperate. And former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor became the first Alberta Party MLA in 2011.
Some political watchers may ask why Ms. Blakeman, a centre-leftish Liberal, would not simply join the New Democratic Party, which appears to have momentum in Edmonton. In terms of uniting the centrist parties, the NDP have consistently made clear they are not interested in cooperation. But not recruiting Ms. Blakeman into their party may have been a big missed opportunity for the NDP in Edmonton.
As as one of only two Liberal MLAs running for re-election, she will now have to wait to see how her own party executive reacts. While there will certainly be those in the party who are irritate with her triple-nomination, there is little doubt that many progressive-minded Albertans would sympathize or agree with her decision.
The triple-nomination proves that, despite the protests of their more orthodox members, it is possible for Alberta’s tiny opposition parties to cooperate.
And as a popular and outspoken MLA, Ms. Blakeman is undoubtably looking past this year’s election with a mind of uniting the tiny parties into a viable centrist opposition.
We are pleased to announce that Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman will be our special guest on the next Alberta Election Google Hangout. Tune in to http://abvote.ca at 7pm on Monday, March 16 to watch the hangout. Tweet your questions and feedback using the #abvote hashtag.