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Alberta Politics

could hugh macdonald save albertans from another snoozer senate election?

Alberta will be holding its fourth ever Senate election in 2012.

Last Friday, the Progressive Conservatives released the rules to guide the nomination of their candidates in next year’s Senate election (or more accurately, ‘Senator-in-Waiting‘ election). The PCs will open nominations on December 9, 2011.

Candidates must submit a non-refundable fee of $4000 and collects the signatures of 50 current PC Party members from Alberta’s five regions. Once they have gone through this process, they will be required to enter a special vote in February 2012, giving an indication about when then next provincial election may be called. Those participating in the vote will include constituency association presidents, nominated PC candidates, voting members of the party executive committee, and four elected delegates from each of the 87 constituency associations.

Calgary lawyer Doug Black and Calgary-area businessman Scott Tannas have already declared their interest in the PC Senate nomination. Mr. Black served as finance chairman for Jim Dinning during that party’s 2006 leadership contest.

Vitor Marciano Wildrose Senate Candidate Alberta
Vitor Marciano

Federal Conservative Party operative Vitor Marciano has already announced his intentions to run in the Senate election under the Wildrose Party banner. It is likely that all three of these candidates would sit with the federal Conservative caucus if elected to the Senate.

Alberta’s last Senate election, held in 2004, was boycotted by the Liberals and NDP. The lack of serious opposition candidates left Albertans to choose from a cast of right-wing characters ranging from the PC candidates to the Social Credit and Alberta Alliance. When the votes were counted, three PCs and one Independent candidate were elected, but many Albertans were disenfranchised by the lack of non-conservative candidates.

According to Elections Alberta, during the 2004 Senate elections 85,937 voters declined to cast a ballot in the election (equating to 4.2% of eligible voters, or 9.7% of the voters who received ballots) and 84,643 ballots were rejected (that equates to 9.5% of the total ballots cast).

Even though four of Alberta’s six Senate seats are currently held by appointed federal Liberal Party members (including former Liberal Party leader Grant Mitchell), sources say the party is unlikely to participate in next year’s Senate election. The Liberals have only participated in one Senate election in Alberta, which feels to me like a missed opportunity for much needed publicity.

Hugh MacDonald Alberta Liberal MLA
Senator-in-waiting Hugh MacDonald?

One long-time party insider suggested to me this weekend that choosing retiring Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald to carry the Liberal Party banner in next year’s Senate election could be a fitting tribute to the long-time party stalwart. Known for his hard work and (sometimes over the top) passionate criticisms of the PC government, the opposition MLA would almost surely spark more interest in the Senate race than the generic conservative party candidates will on their own.

It would be a long-shot, but if the federal Liberal Party is interested in building a base of support Western Canada, running an even half-serious campaign in a Senate election would be a good place as any to start. Even if it is a long-shot, and it is, I am sure that I am not the only person who would enjoy the irony of watching Prime Minister Stephen Harper being forced to appoint a fiercely partisan Liberal like Hugh MacDonald to the Senate of Canada.

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Alberta Politics

the cast of alberta politics: the motion picture.

Politics in Alberta is not always easy for outsiders to understand. Forty years of uninterrupted Progressive Conservative majority governments have given the province a reputation of being a politically homogenous monolith.

The myth of Alberta as a western frontier where tarsands-rich oilmen and rugged cowboys rule the plains, perpetrated by an endless stream of CBC television dramas, could not be further from the truth. Alberta is a dynamic province, where urban rules and politics is less conservative and more moderate than most outsiders might assume.

It occurred to me that rather than spending millions of dollars to replicate lame advertising campaigns promoting our Spirit to Create and Freedom to Achieve (wait… or is it our Freedom to Create and Spirit to Achieve, or Freedom to Spirit…??), the true story of Alberta (and its politics) might be told through a blockbuster motion picture. A blockbuster political drama cast with big name Hollywood stars could not only explain Alberta’s story, but it might win some Academy Awards (and get a good score on Rotten Tomatoes).

I just started writing the Aaron Sorkin-inspired screenplay and that has not stopped me from sending out a casting call to actors who I believe would be perfect playing in these roles.

Allison Janney as Alison Redford
Allison Janney as Premier Alison Redford
Antonio Banderas as Raj Sherman
Antonio Banderas as Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman
Selma Blair as Danielle Smith
Selma Blair as Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith
John C Reilly as Brian Mason
John C Reilly as NDP leader Brian Mason
Aaron Eckhart as Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk
Aaron Eckhart as Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk
Jon Lithgow as Finance Minister Ron Liepert
Jon Lithgow as Finance Minister Ron Liepert
William H. Macy as Hugh MacDonald
William H. Macy as Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald
Guy Richie as Chief of Staff Stephen Carter
Guy Richie as Chief of Staff Stephen Carter

Please feel free to share your feedback for other actors to cast or plot points in the comment section below.

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Alberta Politics

alberta candidate nomination update – november 2011 (part 3)

For the past year I have been maintaining a list of declared and nominated candidates planning to stand in Alberta’s next provincial general election. To give readers a better idea about where in the province the five main political parties are actually nominating candidates, I have created an easy spreadsheet with a regional breakdown.

Nominated Alberta Election candidates by Region November 27 2011
Nominated Alberta election candidates by region. November 27, 2011.

For the regional breakdown, I have used the same divisions used by Wikipedia. The Edmonton region consists of all constituencies within the city, and St. Albert, Spruce Grove-St. Albert, Sherwood Park, and Strathcona-Sherwood Park.

Here are some of the recent updates that I made to the list:

Battle River-Wainwright: Buffalo Trail Public Schools Trustee Dave Nelson was nominated as the Wildrose candidate in this east central constituency. Mr. Nelson defeated Rob JohnsonTom Jackson, and Heisler Mayor Sean Maciborski.

Calgary-Cross: Teacher Narita Sherman was acclaimed as the Liberal Party candidate in this north east Calgary constituency. Ms. Sherman is the niece of party leader Raj Sherman.

Calgary-Currie: St. Michael’s School Principal Christine Cusanelli is seeking the Progressive Conservative nomination in this south central Calgary constituency. The constituency is currently represented by Alberta Party MLA Dave Taylor, who will be retiring at the next election.

Calgary-KleinChris Tahn was nominated as the Liberal Party candidate.

Broyce Jacobs
Defeated: MLA Broyce Jacobs

Cardston-Taber-Warner: Pat Shimbashi defeated MLA Broyce Jacobs to win the PC nomination. Mr. Jacobs was first elected in 2001, was defeated by Alberta Alliance candidate Paul Hinman in 2004, and was re-elected in 2008.

Edmonton-Gold Bar: Recent Mayoral candidate David Dorward has announced that he will be seeking the PC nomination. Mr. Dorward placed second as the PC candidate in the 2008 election. The Wildrose have nominanted Linda Carlson as their candidate. The Liberals will be holding a nomination meeting to replace retiring MLA Hugh MacDonald on December 5. Josipa Petrunic and Christian Villeneuve are the two candidates who have announced their entry into the Liberal nomination contest.

Edmonton-Mill Creek: On December 7, the NDP are expected to nominate Evelinne Teichgrabber as their candidate.

Edmonton-Mill Woods: Sources say that a challenger by the name of Ron Randhawa will challenge PC MLA Carl Benito for their party’s nomination. First-term MLA Mr. Benito grabbed headlines when it was revealed that he broke a promise to donate his entire MLA salary to a youth scholarship and when he publicly blamed his wife for not paying his municipal taxes.

Premier Ed Stelmach and Tofield Mayor Nabil Chehayeb
Premier Ed Stelmach and Tofield Mayor Nabil Chehayeb

Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville: Tofield Mayor Nabil Chehayeb has entered the PC nomination race. Already in the race are Vegreville Mayor Richard Coleman, Strathcona County Councillor Jacquie Fenske, and former Fort Saskatchewan Mayor Jim Sheasgreen. The nomination meeting to replace local MLA and former Premier Ed Stelmach is scheduled to be held on January 23, 2012.

Lacombe-Ponoka: Doug Hart is seeking the NDP nomination in this central Alberta constituency. In the 1989 election, Mr. Hart was the NDP candidate in the now defunct Ponoka-Rimbey constituency. He is the President of the Federal NDP association in the Wetaskiwin riding.

Lethbridge-East: With MLA Bridget Pastoor crossing the floor to the PC caucus, the Liberals are left without a candidate in this long-held Grit constituency. Ms. Pastoor has indicated that she will seek the PC nomination to run in the next election.

MLA Little Bow Barry McFarland
Retiring: MLA Barry McFarland

Little Bow: Long-time MLA Barry McFarland has announced that he will be retiring at the next election. Mr. McFarland was first elected in a 1992 by-election. In February 2011, County of Lethbridge Deputy Reeve Henry Doeve publicly expressed his interest in the PC nomination.

Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills: Darcy Davis has won the PC nomination in this central Alberta constituency. Mr. Davis defeated candidate Al Kemmere and Will Stevenson. Mr. Davis is the past Chair of Alberta Beef Producers.

Stony Plain: Stony Plain Mayor Ken Lemke is the nominated PC candidate, having defeated four other candidates – Parkland County Councillor Dianne Allen, Vern Hardman, David Cymbaluk and second-place finisher Lorna Wolodko. The Wildrose Party will nominate their candidate on December 17. Hal Tagg is only candidate to declare his entry so far.

West Yellohead: Barry Madsen is expected to be acclaimed at a December 9 nomination meeting in Hinton. As the NDP candidate in the 2004 provincial election, Mr. Madsen placed second with 21% of the vote.

UPDATEAlberta School Boards Association President Jacquie Hansen announced today that she is taking a leave of absence to seek PC nomination in St. Albert. Ms. Hansen has been a trustee of the Greater St. Albert Catholic School Board since 2001.


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Alberta Politics

david dorward to seek progressive conservative nomination in edmonton-gold bar.

David Dorward Edmonton-Gold Bar Progressive Conservative
David Dorward

Accountant and recent Mayoral candidate David Dorward is expected to announce this morning that he will seek the Progressive Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Gold Bar, according to a reliable source.

As the PC candidate in the 2008 election, Mr. Dorward placed a strong second to MLA Hugh MacDonald in this long-held Liberal constituency (the Liberals have held Gold Bar since 1986). In the 2010 municipal election, Mr. Dorward was a strong advocate for the preservation of the City Centre Airport and placed second to Mayor Stephen Mandel in the vote.

With Mr. MacDonald announcing that he will not seek re-election, many political watchers are expecting that this constituency could be a tight contest in the next election expected in Spring 2012. Liberals Josipa Petrunic and Christian Villeneuve will face off at their party’s nomination meeting on December 5. Read more about Ms. Petrunic here.

The NDP have nominated Marlin Schmidt and the Wildrose Party recently nominated Linda Carlson.

UPDATE: Here is a link to the media release that Mr. Dorward’s campaign team sent out this morning officially announcing his candidacy.

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Alberta Politics

josipa petrunic – the liberal party’s next great hope in edmonton-gold bar?

If there was a Liberal Party heartland in Alberta, it would be located in the boundaries of Edmonton-Gold Bar. The east central Edmonton constituency is the longest Liberal held constituency in the province, having elected Liberal MLAs since the 1986 election.

Represented by popular Alderman Bettie Hewes from 1986 until 1997, Gold Bar’s current MLA Hugh MacDonald was first elected in 1997. Some call him salt of the earth, others may call him obsessed, but over his 14 years in office Mr. MacDonald has undoubtably been one of the hardest working MLAs in the opposition benches. Last month, Mr. MacDonald announced that he would be retiring from politics when the next election is called.

The big question is who will succeed Mr. MacDonald. While the chatting class has quietly chitted and chatted about big name long-shot candidates like Councillor Ben Henderson or former AUPE President Dan MacLennan, the chatterers had kept their voices low until an odd choice and potential star candidate recently declared her intentions to join the contest.

Josipa Petrunic

Currently residing in Cambridge, UK to complete a research fellowship, Josipa Petrunic is planning to seek the Liberal Party nomination in Gold Bar.

Incredibly articulate and well-spoken, Ms. Petrunic chaired the recent Liberal Party leadership contest that saw former PC MLA Raj Sherman defeat Mr. MacDonald. As moderator at the leadership candidate forums Ms. Petrunic was many times the most impressive person on the stage.

She may be new to electoral politics in Edmonton, but Ms. Petrunic is no pushover. A Liberal candidate in Calgary-East in last May’s federal election, Ms. Petrunic’s candidacy grabbed headlines after incumbent Member of Parliament Deepak Obhrai accused her of being “a visitor from Toronto.”

This rallying cry may become familiar to voters in Gold Bar if Ms. Petrunic wins her party’s nomination. The truth is that while she lived abroad, Calgary was her family’s home.

When contacted by email, Ms. Petrunic was quick to certify her connection to Edmonton, calling Gold Bar a community that she considers a home and an area that she will be moving to in December 2011.

She is planning to move to Edmonton to take up a fellowship at the University of Alberta that is in the process of being approved. At the University, she would conduct research that focuses on a comparative history of engineering techniques in bitumen extraction.

“Moving back to Edmonton is a homecoming for me,” Ms. Petrunic wrote. “In 2000, I moved to Gold Bar specifically, as I was a university student in the French immersion program at the Faculté Saint-Jean.”

“I then moved to the north side of the riding a year later, when I got a job as a journalist at the Edmonton Journal. That journalism job was crucial to my career because the Journal gave me the by-lines I needed to move on to the Globe and Mail a year later, where I won a national journalism award,” wrote Ms. Petrunic.

Reflecting on the upcoming contest in Gold Bar, NDP organizer Lou Arab said “MacDonald’s departure, along with the low poll numbers the Alberta Liberals are experiencing at the moment, creates a great opportunity for the NDP to take this seat. But it won’t be easy.”

Mr. Arab managed the campaign of the area’s Public School Trustee Sarah Hoffman in October 2010.

In the recent federal election, NDP MP Linda Duncan received 45% of the votes in the area compared to 50% for Conservative candidate Ryan Hastman. The fresh contacts, new donors, and sign locations gathered during the federal vote could help boost the campaign of already nominated NDP candidate Marlin Schmidt.

“The combination of Linda’s decisive win in the federal election, the Liberals’ flagging fortunes, and Hugh MacDonald stepping down have created an excellent opportunity for the NDP in this riding,” said Mr. Schmidt.

Other parties are also keeping their eye on Gold Bar.

“Judging by history I feel that Gold Bar voters, some of the most active in the province, will choose their next MLA based more on personal qualities than party affiliation,” said Leslie Bush, a member of the local Alberta Party constituency association.

The Progressive Conservatives have scheduled their local nomination meeting for Wednesday, January 25, 2012. Past candidate David Dorward has said he will take the next two weeks to decide whether he will seek the nomination. Mr. Dorward placed second to Mayor Stephen Mandel in the 2010 municipal election.

When asked about her chances in the campaign, Ms. Petrunic wrote “if the nomination goes my way, there’s a campaign storm on the horizon. And I plan to be at its epi-centre.”

Past Election Results in Edmonton-Gold Bar

2008
Hugh MacDonald, L – 6,279
David Dorward, PC – 5,261
Sherry McKibben, NDP – 1,923
David Zylstra, Grn – 525

2004
Hugh MacDonald, L – 8,798
Manjit Dhaliwal, PC – 2,572
Keith Turnbull, NDP – 1,967
Delmar Hunt, AA – 538
Dave Dowling, Ind – 167

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Alberta Politics

alison redford takes a break, hugh macdonald calls it quits.

Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Alison Redford, who placed second in her party’s first ballot leadership vote on September 17, announced yesterday that her campaign would be temporarily suspending its efforts so that she could spend time with her mother who had recently been admitted to the hospital in High River. 630 CHED has reported that Ms. Redford’s mother passed away last night.

My thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Redford and her family in this difficult time.

Candidates Doug Horner and Gary Mar are continuing to campaign for the second ballot vote to be held on October 1. Ms. Redford’s campaign manager, Stephen Carter, told 630 CHED that Ms. Redford would be participating in a television leadership debate scheduled for this evening.

Hugh MacDonald calls it quits

You read it here first – four-term Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald announced that he will not be seeking re-election when the next general election is called. Mr. MacDonald has represented the Edmonton-Gold Bar constituency since 1997, continuing the legacy of former Liberal MLA Bettie Hewes, who represented the constituency starting in 1986.

Mr. MacDonald is easily one of the hardest working MLAs sitting in the opposition benches, though his undying focus on uncovering scandal in the PC government can easily be confused with obsession. Placing second in the recent Liberal leadership contest, Mr. MacDonald made a very public spectacle about his concerns around the legitimacy of the voters list that helped elect former Tory MLA Raj Sherman.

The Liberals are losing a veteran MLA, but this could be a golden opportunity for them to bring new blood into their caucus in the closest thing that party has to a “safe riding” in Alberta.

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Alberta Politics

alberta candidate nomination update – september 2011 (part 3)

I have updated the list of nominated and declared candidates standing for parties in the next provincial general election:

Calgary-McCall: Liberal MLA Darshan Kang was nominated as his party’s candidate. Mr. Kang was first elected as MLA in 2008.

Calgary-Mountain View: Christopher McMillan announced over Twitter that he is seeking the NDP nomination in the inner city Calgary constituency currently represented by Liberal MLA David Swann.

Calgary-Northern Hills: Iqtidar Awan was nominated as the Liberal candidate in this north Calgary constituency.

Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley: Nathan Macklin willl seek the NDP nomination on September 30, 2011. Mr. Macklin was the NDP candidate in the 2008 election, earning 15% of the vote in that election.

Edmonton-Ellerslie: Recent Edmonton Public School Board Trustee Tina Jardine is seeking the NDP nomination in this south Edmonton constituency.

Edmonton-Gold Bar: MLA Hugh MacDonald has announced that he will not seek re-election (you read it first here).

Edmonton-Meadowlark: Newly elected Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman was nominated as his party’s candidate yesterday. Dr. Sherman was elected as leader of the Liberal Party on September 10, 2011 and was first elected as a PC MLA in the 2008 general election.

Grande Prairie Smoky: Mary Dahr is seeking the NDP nomination scheduled for September 29, 2011. Ms. Dahr is a Lab Tech at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Grande Prairie and is a Northern District Board member of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta.

Lethbridge-East: MLA Bridget Pastoor is seeking her party’s nomination on October 5. Ms. Pastoor was first elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2008. The NDP have nominated Tom Moffatt as their candidate. Mr. Moffatt ran in 2008 when he earned 5.7% of the vote.

Lethbridge-West: Independent Financial Adviser Bal Boora is seeking the Liberal nomination on October 5, 2011. This will be Mr. Boora’s third consecutive election as the Liberal candidate in this constituency. He finished second in both elections, with 32% in 2004 and 35% in 2008.

Peace River: Peace River teacher and environmentalist Wanda Laurin is seeking the NDP nominations scheduled for September 30, 2011.

Spruce Grove-St. Albert: Reverend Juliette Trudeau was nominated as the NDP candidate on September 22, 2011.

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Alberta Politics

liberal party tries to raid alberta party staff with promise of job and nomination.

The New Liberals: Raj Sherman leads the Liberal Party on a morning raid against the Alberta Party staff.
The New Liberals: Raj Sherman leads his Liberal Party on a morning raid, hoping to pillage the Alberta Party staff.

Outgoing Liberal Party executive director Corey Hogan and Liberal Caucus strategist Jonathan Huckabay offered Alberta Party provincial organizer Michael Walters a job as their party’s executive director, sources close to both parties have told this blogger.

The offer was made over the phone earlier this week. Sources say that Mr. Walters, the nominated Alberta Party candidate in Edmonton-Rutherford, was also offered a candidate nomination in the constituency of his choice if he would join the Liberals.

Sources say that the offer was sweetened when it was strongly implied that the Liberals would reopen the nomination process in Edmonton-Rutherford, to allow Mr. Walters to compete against already nominated candidate and former Liberal MLA Rick Miller.

When contacted by this blogger, Mr. Walters, the former lead organizer for the Greater Edmonton Alliance, said that he declined both offers and remains committed to the Alberta Party.

Kent Hehr is new deputy leader

New leader Raj Sherman is attempting to shake-up his eight MLA Liberal Caucus. One of his first moves was to appoint Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr as the party’s Deputy Leader, a position recently held by Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman. Mr. Hehr is a strong MLA and a rising star in the opposition benches, but the job of deputy leader is a minor-lead in a caucus of nine MLAs.

MacDonald retiring?

Also emerging from the Liberal ranks is speculation that long-time MLA Hugh MacDonald might not seek re-election when the writ is dropped for the next provincial general election. Mr. MacDonald has represented Edmonton-Gold Bar since 1997 and placed second to Dr. Sherman in his party’s recent leadership contest.

It is also being reported that two other Liberals may sit out the next election. In Edmonton-Ellerslie, former MLA and nominated candidate Bharat Agnihotri and in Calgary, past federal Liberal candidate Josipa Petrunic, may take a pass in the next campaign if it interferes with approaching commitments in their personal and professional lives.

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Alberta Politics

what’s next for raj sherman and the alberta liberals?

MLA Raj Sherman's victory speech at Alberta Liberal leadership event September 10, 2011.
Newly elected Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman gives his victory speech with his wife Sharon standing to the right. Leadership co-chair Josipa Petrunic and candidates Laurie Blakeman, Hugh MacDonald, and Bruce Payne stand to the left (Bill Harvey did not join the other candidates on stage).

What kind of leader will Raj Sherman be?
This is a tough question to answer. As Edmonton Journal columnist Graham Thomson somewhat dramatically described yesterday:

Sherman – energetic, intelligent, charismatic – could prove to be a political white knight riding to the Liberals’ rescue. Or Sherman – inexperienced, mercurial, impetuous – could yet prove to be one of the horsemen of the apocalypse.

Simply put, Dr. Sherman is a mixed-bag. (Don Braid, David Climenhaga, and Maurice Tougas have all penned opinions on what Dr. Sherman’s acendency to the leadership might mean for Alberta’s Official Opposition party).

The Caucus
Former Tory MLA Dr. Sherman will walk into his new office as the Leader of the Official Opposition this week surrounded by an eight MLA Liberal caucus, which has had a tense relationship with its leaders since the 2008 general election. The caucus includes two of his leadership competitors (Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman and Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald) and two of the party’s former leaders (Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann and Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft). Of the group of eight, two (Dr. Taft and Calgary-Varsity MLA Harry Chase) are planning to retire at the next election.

The Big Four
It is my experience that the Chief of Staff, Caucus Communications Director, Party President, and Party Executive Director are four key positions that a Liberal party leader needs support from in order to successfully command the leadership of the party. Two of these positions are about to be vacated.

As noted in a recently Globe & Mail article, Erick Ambtman has resigned as President. Corey Hogan, executive director since 2009, has announced his plans to move on to future challenges. Chief of Staff Rick Miller, a former MLA and nominated candidate in Edmonton-Rutherford, may want to focus his energies on his election campaign. In his short time in the job, Communications Director Brian Leadbetter has proven to be an effective communication manager in a position that has turned into a rotating door over the past few years.

The Liberals need a ground game
While only around a paltry 8,600 out of almost 27,000 eligible voters actually participated in the leadership vote, the party is still left with a vast list of almost 30,000 potential volunteers, sign locations, and voters to help them in the next provincial election. One of the areas that Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Payne stressed during the leadership campaign was the need for the Liberals to build their strength on the ground.

Currently, the Liberals do not have functional organizations in most constituencies across the province, including in constituencies that they held up until the 2008 election. The lack of local organization and funds will pose a challenge in finding credible candidates to run in an expected fall 2011 or spring 2012 general election.

Mending fences
A significant number of the party’s staunch loyalists supported Mr. MacDonald’s candidacy and his criticisms of the open voting leadership process. Many of these Liberals were furious at former leader Dr. Swann’s attempts to cooperate with other opposition parties in response to his party’s shrinking political fortunes. Dr. Sherman will need to mend fences with this sometimes unreasonable group of stalwarts while cementing his own activists into the party ranks.

It will also be interesting to see if right-wing leadership candidate Bill Harvey remains in the Liberal Party (it is suspected that he may join the Wildrose Party). The two-time candidate, who was supported by right-wing agitator Craig Chandler, earned 7% of the vote in this contest.

Of interesting note, party Vice-President (Policy) Debbie Cavaliere challenged Dr. Sherman for the PC nomination in 2007 and later ran as the Liberal candidate against him in the 2008 general election.

Other Parties
The Progressive Conservatives will be voting for the first ballot in their leadership contest on September 17. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, then a second ballot with the top three candidates will be held on October 1. The victor of that leadership contest will determine the tone and calendar of the next provincial election, which many political watchers are expecting to be held later this fall or early next spring.

Since 2010, the Wildrose Party led by Danielle Smith have moved into second place in the polls, with the NDP led by Brian Mason are competing with the Liberals for third place. The question is whether Dr. Sherman’s star power can write the Liberals back into the political narrative they have been largely absent from over the past two years.

There is also the question of what effect Dr. Sherman’s victory will have on the new Alberta Party, which continues to organize, but has dropped to a lower-profile since Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor was chosen as its leader earlier this year.

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Alberta Politics

photos: alberta liberals choose raj sherman as their new leader.

Alberta Liberals chose their new leader today in Edmonton. Former Tory MLA Raj Sherman was selected on their first ballot over veteran MLAs Hugh MacDonald and Laurie Blakeman, and Calgarians Bill Harvey and Bruce Payne. Here are some photos of today’s event:

Alberta Liberal leadership event 2011
About 150 people attended the Alberta Liberal leadership event today at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
Raj Sherman's victory speech
Former Tory MLA Raj Sherman delivering his victory speech. Liberal MLAs Laurie Blakeman and Hugh MacDonald, and candidate Bruce Payne standing to the left.
Second place candidate MLA Hugh MacDonald talks to reporters.
Second place candidate MLA Hugh MacDonald talks to reporters.
Outgoing Liberal leader David Swann talks to reporters.
Outgoing Liberal leader David Swann talks to reporters.
New Alberta Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman
New Alberta Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman.

Find more photos of the Alberta Liberal Party leadership event on Flickr.

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Alberta Politics

the doc is in. former tory mla raj sherman is the new alberta liberal leader.

Results of the first ballot voting in today’s Alberta Liberal leadership vote:

Raj Sherman 54% 4684 votes
Hugh MacDonald 26% 2239 votes
Laurie Blakeman 9% 854 votes
Bill Harvey 7% 626 votes
Bruce Payne 2% 197 votes
Total: 8640 votes out of 27,567 eligible voters

Dr. Raj Sherman was first elected as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark in 2008. In 2010, he sent an email to Premier Ed Stelmach, his caucus colleagues, and medical contacts that led to him being kicked out of the PC caucus. He sat as an Independent MLA while joining the Liberal Party leadership race earlier this year.

Dr. Sherman defeated four-term Liberal MLAs Hugh MacDonald and Laurie Blakeman.

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Alberta Politics

raj sherman sweeps alberta liberal leadership poll.

Alberta Liberal Party Leadership Vote Poll 2011 Raj Sherman Hugh MacDonald Laurie Blakeman Bill Harvey Bruce Payne
Readers voted in this poll between September 6 and 9.

When asked who will win the Alberta Liberal Party leadership vote on September 10, readers of this blog overwhelmingly chose former Tory MLA Raj Sherman.

Four-term Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald placed a distant second and Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman and conservative Calgarian Bill Harvey placed a close third and fourth in this online poll. Calgarian Bruce Payne barely registered on the online poll.

Although the contest has drawn the interest of 27,000 supporters, accusations of irregularities in the voters list by Mr. MacDonald have dominated the media coverage of the contest.  Yesterday, Mr. Harvey claimed that the party office had added dozens (and maybe hundreds) of last minute names to the voters list and had not yet provided his campaign with the full list. The names of these supporters were collected by former Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Bharat Agnihotri, who is supporting Dr. Sherman’s candidacy.

For more on the Liberal leadership contest, read Justin Archer‘s guest post, Decision Time for Alberta Liberals.

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Alberta Politics

guest post: decision time for the alberta liberals.

 

Alberta Liberal Party Leadership Candidates
Alberta Liberal Party leadership candidates (left to right) Bill Harvey, Bruce Payne, Raj Sherman, Laurie Blakeman, and Hugh MacDonald

By Justin Archer

On Saturday September 10, the Alberta Liberals will select their next leader following current leader David Swann’s resignation from the post, announced this past January.

An understanding of the dynamics that lead to the initiation of this leadership race is helpful in interpreting the parry and thrust that has played out among the candidates running to be Swann’s successor. It’s probably not quite accurate to say that Swann was forced out—he left of his own volition, but he certainly didn’t have an easy time of it throughout most of his tenure as leader. Job one for the new leader will be to unite the caucus and inspire the membership as Alberta moves ever closer to the next election.

Don Braid’s piece in the Calgary Herald last weekend was a bang-on analysis of the recent and not so recent dynamic within the Party.

I found this section particularly apropos:

“There was another flicker of losing mentality recently when MLAs and leadership candidates suddenly discovered the party has 25,000 members.

The reaction was not joy, or even a touch of pride, but claims of duplicity from candidates who thought Raj Sherman was pushing the rules.”

It has been written elsewhere that this election will be a defining moment in the history of the Party, and I don’t disagree. When Daveberta left the ALP a few years ago he explained to me how his decision was motivated by the Party’s culture that put fealty to the Liberal brand above all else. At the time I didn’t know what he meant. Perhaps I hadn’t spent enough time in the trenches to see it up close. Now, a few years later, I see that Dave was absolutely right: there are elements within the Liberal Party that would take “being a Liberal” over “being in a progressive government that shares my values and does things the way I think it ought to” ten times out of ten. It’s weird, and kind of hard to explain until you’ve seen it. But it’s there.

This leadership election is an opportunity for the Liberal Party to decide what it wants to be: a band of true believers who will always be safe in the knowledge that they remained loyal to the Liberal brand through thick and thin; or a pragmatic, progressive group of people who are willing to stretch their boundaries and open up the organization to new people, new thinking, and ultimately a shot at real relevance again.

The various potential paths for the Liberal Party have been foreshadowed during this leadership campaign. I’ve been to a few of the debates and watched the campaign closely. By my best estimation, the candidates have offered visions as such:

Laurie Blakeman: Solid traditional Liberal credentials as well as an eye towards pragmatism. A Laurie Blakeman Liberal Party would not close itself off to outsiders, and would likely make some attempt to establish consensus with the Alberta Party and the NDP.

Bill Harvey: Move the Party far to the right of its traditional space on the political spectrum, to the point where many members would no longer feel comfortable with policy positions. Harvey has a very small natural constituency within the Party. If he were to win it would be in large part due to his organizational skills.

Hugh MacDonald: A die-hard Liberal if ever there was one. MacDonald has staked out the traditional Liberal territory with a vengeance during this campaign. He is an unapologetic devotee of the brand, and has played up his Party renewal strategy of empowering constituency associations.

Bruce Payne: A kind and decent human being who doesn’t quite have the backstory that explains why he should be the Liberal Leader. If he can hold Calgary-Varsity when incumbent Harry Chase retires at the start of the next election he would make a strong Alberta Liberal MLA.

Raj Sherman: His policy strength is in health care, but he speaks frequently about the social determinants of health and the correlative relationship between government actions and social outcomes across many policy areas. Sherman’s participation is the story of this campaign. He brings strong name recognition and folk hero status to this race. However his history as a Conservative MLA makes him an unknown and perhaps unsettling quantity in some Liberal circles.

I could certainly be wrong, and in fact I usually am (just ask Premier Jim Dinning and LPC Leader Gerard Kennedy), but I think this race is essentially between Hugh MacDonald and Raj Sherman.

MacDonald represents the true believers; the ones with a Liberal tattoo. Those people who look at traditional Liberal policies like the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, multiculturalism, the right to marry who you love, environmentalism, non-violence, fiscal responsibility, and at a host of other Liberal policy positions and say “yes, I am a Liberal.” MacDonald’s supporters come from the noblest of places within the human spirit. They see a set of values that they call “Liberal”, and they won’t be pushed off that brand come hell or high water. However, the dedication to Liberalism exemplified by MacDonald supporters is myopic: though they have the best outcomes in mind, their inflexibility and inability to understand the bigger picture have trapped them in a perpetual state of being “right”, while being marginalized. And what’s the good in that?

On the other hand, Raj Sherman brings a whole new dynamic to the Liberal Party. He’s famous. He’s smart. He’s brash. He stood up to the government and lived to tell the tale. I’ve spent a fair amount of time with Raj this summer and I can attest to the fact that he is an incredibly hard worker and the most pure retail politician I’ve ever seen. He is totally comfortable in his own skin and loves being with people. During the leadership race Sherman has signed up a large number of new Party supporters, giving the ALP a big new list of people to build its constituency and campaign teams with for the next election.

Over the past several years the Liberal Party has been pulling in two different directions. On the one hand there are the traditional loyalists who think the Party must do the same things, but better. On the other hand there are the younger, more pragmatic activists who wish to reshape the Party in a way that will allow it to continue to be relevant in the 21st Century. MacDonald and Sherman are two nearly perfect proxy candidates for this debate.

When the Party selects a new Leader on September 10, a Raj Sherman victory will indicate a willingness to work outside the Party’s traditional comfort zone with the aim of greater electoral success, while maintaining its commitment to Liberal values and philosophy; a Hugh MacDonald victory will represent a decision to redouble efforts to build the traditional Liberal Party along the same lines that have failed for so long.

This is an important conversation for the Party to have, and I’m genuinely interested in seeing which way the Party decides to go. If nothing else, the Liberal Party leadership contest has been passionate, surprising and interesting. The Party feels exciting again, which is a step in the right direction.

—-
Justin Archer is an Edmonton-based public relations consultant and political watcher. www.archerstrategies.com.

Categories
Alberta Politics

by airing his party’s dirty laundry, is hugh macdonald hurting the liberal party?

Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald
MLA Hugh MacDonald

Is Alberta Liberal leadership candidate Hugh MacDonald‘s continuing criticism of the legitimacy of the new “registered supporters” voting system hurting the chances of his party’s next leader?

“This list, as it exists, is a mess,” said MacDonald, a longtime Edmonton MLA. “This is not democracy.” (Edmonton Journal, August 31, 2011)

Over the course of the Liberal Party’s leadership contest, which will come to an end on September 10, Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Mr. MacDonald has gone to great lengths to pull the media’s attention towards the party’s new leadership selection system. The new system allows anyone to register to vote in the leadership contest without having to purchase a membership, creating a whole new class of instant-Liberals, who’s numbers now greatly outnumber the party’s loyalist membership.

Mr. MacDonald criticized the initial party voting list on August 19, after it was discovered that a number of illegitimate names were added (people’s cats, dead people, and former Conservative Members of Parliament). This is a normal occurrence during most party leadership contests, and like other parties, the Liberals combed through the lists and eliminated the obvious forgeries.

A partisan stalwart, Mr. MacDonald’s obvious strategy is to unsaddle perceived front-runner in the contest, former Tory MLA Raj Sherman, but he may do well to remember how public criticisms of irregularities in the party’s leadership process in 1994 dogged then-Liberal leader Grant Mitchell in the 1997 election.

With the party tied in third place with the NDP according to the latest poll, will the next Liberal Party leader be handicapped by this  controversy before they even leave the starting gate?

Categories
Alberta Politics

alberta liberals register more than 27,000 eligible voters. no surprise that their leadeship contest is a largely urban affair.

2011 Map of Alberta Liberal Leadership Registered Supporters per constituency
Map of eligible voters in the September 10 Liberal leadership contest by constituency.

The Alberta Liberal Party announced yesterday that over 27,567 Albertans are eligible to vote in their party’s September 10 leadership contest. The eligible group of supporters include 3,690 paid members and 23,877 “registered supporters” who could participate by registering their name and contact information without a fee.

Following complaints from leadership candidate and Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald that the list was filled with fake names, including a cat, a dead woman, and former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, the Liberals have culled the list of obvious forgeries (which are to be expected in any leadership contest). Former Edmonton-Meadowlark Tory MLA Raj Sherman claims to have registered over 18,000 of the 27,000 eligible voters. Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman claims that her campaign submitted names for around 1,000. The two other candidates in the contest are Calgarians Bill Harvey and Bruce Payne.

Although the Liberal leadership contest has by far been overshadowed by the more glamorous Progressive Conservative leadership contest set for September 17 (in which over 150,000 Albertans are expected to participate), I am impressed that the Liberals have been able to collect the names of over 27,000 potential supporters. Regardless if these registered supporters actually vote in their leadership contest, their names are now entered into a database that will be useful for the Liberals in the next provincial election.

Not surprisingly, eligible voters in this contest are largely centered in the two main cities of Calgary and Edmonton, highlighting Liberal Party’s almost non-existent levels of support in rural Alberta. Even in a constituency like Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, with a population estimated to be more than 100,000, the Liberals only attracted 134 people to register to vote in their leadership contest.

Unlike traditional one-member-one-vote leadership selection structures, the Liberals have opted to use a weighted-preferential system in constituencies with large numbers of voters. The slightly confusing system is explained on the party’s leadership website:

Each constituency in Alberta is allocated up to 500 points, where each vote up to that number represents one point. Should more than 500 voters cast a ballot in a constituency, each vote in the constituency is applied a weighing formula.

As there are only 15 constituencies with more than 500 eligible voters, it is likely that this system may only be implemented in a handful of them. The only constituency to register more than 1,000 supporters was Edmonton-Whitemud.

Click here to view a breakdown of eligible voters by constituency (pdf)