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Alberta Politics

“Alberta Premier Danielle Smith?” Get used to it.

Chris Brown and I discuss the last month in the United Conservative Party leadership race, Danielle Smith’s unexpected rise to the top, and how a Smith led UCP will do against Notley’s NDP in 2023 (or sooner) on the latest episode of the Cross Border Interviews Podcast.

Watch the interview here:

Subscribe and listen to Chris Brown’s Cross Border Podcast on Apple and Spotify.

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Alberta Politics

A Reverse Kudatah! Hinman loyalists retake control of the Wildrose Independence Party

There ain’t no party like a fringe right-wing Alberta separatist party.

Less than two months after Paul Hinman was ousted as leader of the Wildrose Independence Party and replaced by interim leader Jeevan Mangat, it appears that a counter-kudatah (known outside Alberta as a “coup d’état”) has pushed out Hinman’s opponents.

An online statement and email to WIP members from former Wexit Alberta interim leader Kathy Flett, who identifies herself as the WIP VP Communications, says a false narrative is being put out by the former Provincial Board after a well-attended annual general meeting on July 23, 2022 in Red Deer.

“There have been repeated claims that a “Minority Group of 40 or so” members “Took Over” the AGM,” Flett writes. “The Facts tell a different story.”

“This weekend in Red Deer, history was made as Wildrose members stood steadfast for what they knew was right. Their tenacity and persistence forced those who thought they should remain on the board to finally walk out in shame.”

“What occurred yesterday is a sad example of what happens when a small group of individuals completely lose touch with the will of the majority.”

“The Wildrose Independence Party belongs to its members, not the Party Board of Governors, and, therefore, Rick Northey, Wes Caldwell, Bill Jones, et al, are no longer Governors of the Wildrose Independence Party.”

“As of this moment, they still control the party’s website and email system. As such, we advise you to disregard any communications originating from “Wildrosenation.com” until we’ve confirmed with you that it is, again, from us.”

According to Flett’s statement, the newly elected board includes President Angela Tabak (the party’s president in Cardston-Siksika), Chief Finance Officer Allan Wesley, and Secretary Gord Elliot (who until recently was President of the United Conservative Party constituency association in Calgary-North West).

The takeover appears to have pushed out President Rick Northey (the former President of the Wildrose Party association in Airdrie) and CFO Bill Jones.

As of this afternoon, the party’s website showed most of the party’s Board of Governors positions as vacant but still listed Northey and Jones, as well as former Conservative MP Rob Anders and separatist activist Bob Lefurgey as members of the party’s board.

It appears as though Hinman has been reinstated as party leader but Elections Alberta still lists Mangat as the party’s interim leader, so it’s not totally clear.

Hinman originally stepped into the role on an interim basis in 2020 but later became the party’s permanent leader when no one else ran for the leadership. He was leader of the Wildrose Alliance from 2005 to 2009 and was elected to the Legislature twice – as MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 and MLA for Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012. He briefly mounted a campaign for the UCP leadership in 2017 but withdrew before the nomination deadline and endorsed Jason Kenney.

The Wildrose Independence Party was created in 2020 as a merger of the Wexit Alberta group created after the federal Liberals were re-elected in 2019 and the Freedom Conservative Party, which was previously known as the Alberta First Party, Separation Party of Alberta, and the Western Freedom Party.

The WIP has suffered from poor fundraising returns in recent months, raising a measly $7,613 in the second quarter of 2022, and low support in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.

A recent push by UCP leadership candidates Danielle Smith, Brian Jean and Todd Loewen toward all out separatism or some form of provincial autonomy has given a second wind to Alberta separatists but sucked the wind out of the sails of the actual separatist parties.

Recent merger talks with the competing Independence Party of Alberta fell apart in June 2022. A statement on the IPA website lists Northey and Jones as key negotiators for the WIP in those talks.

The IPA, formerly known as the Alberta Independence Party, went through its own internal drama after the 2019 election and is now in the process of choosing its second new leader since that election. Former federal Liberal candidate and anti-COVID restrictions activist lawyer Katherine Kowalchuk is the only candidate in the race.

All this ongoing drama is almost par for the course for Alberta’s small cottage industry of right-wing separatist parties, but it raises the big question: How do they plan to fight Ottawa when they are so busy fighting themselves?

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Alberta Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other candidates responded.

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

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

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

The other candidates responded.

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

Everyone responded.

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

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

Quackery is putting it politely.

It’s the realm of internet pseudoscience.

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

And it might be working.

Smith has now nabbed 4 MLA endorsements.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s just 16 days away.

The final 7

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

More separatist drama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Alberta Politics

Nathan Ip wins Edmonton-South West NDP nomination vote, Kjeryn Dakin challenging UCP MLA Devin Dreeshen in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake

Edmonton public school board trustee Nathan Ip defeated business instructor Ben Acquaye, behavioral specialist Chand Gul, and medical clinic executive director Ali Kamal to win the NDP nomination in Edmonton-South West.

“We are in dire need for new schools in the growing areas of Edmonton-South West,” said Ip. “Edmonton-South West is one of the fastest growing communities in Alberta with one of the youngest populations and they deserve a representative that will stand up for them.”

Ip was first elected to the school board in 2013 and currently serves as its vice-chair.

His candidacy was endorsed by former city councillor Michael Phair, former MLAs Bob Turner and Jim Gurnett, and former Alberta Party president Rhiannon Hoyle.

Edmonton-South West is the only riding in Edmonton city limits represented by a UCP MLA, current Labour Minister Kaycee Madu, who was removed from his position as Justice Minister after it became public that he personally phoned Edmonton’s police chief after getting a distracted driving ticket.

Madu faces a nomination challenge from Slava Cravcenco at a June 29 candidate selection meeting.

Sylvan Lake town councillor challenges Dreeshen for UCP nomination

Sylvan Lake town councillor Kjeryn Dakin is challenging MLA Devin Dreeshen for the UCP nomination in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. 

Dakin is owner of the Bukwildz restaurant in Sylvan Lake and was first elected to town council in 2021.

Dreeshen was first elected in a 2018 by-election and served as Minister of Agriculture & Forestry from 2019 until 2021 when he resigned after a lawsuit by a former political staffer alleged a culture of sexual harassment, defamation, and drinking at the Legislature.

He is son of Conservative MP Earl Dreeshen, who has represented the Red Deer-Mountain View riding since 2008.

The younger Dreeshan was re-elected in 2019 with 74.5 per cent of the vote.

City lawyer wins NDP nomination in Red Deer-South

Michelle Baer (source: Michelle Baer on Twitter)

City solicitor Michelle Baer defeated former MLA Barb Miller and labour council president Kyle Johnston to win the NDP nomination in Red Deer-South.

“Red Deer is the third largest city in the province, yet is often stuck between being considered a ‘big city’ or a rural area,” Baer said. “Red Deer deserves a strong voice in government to represent the distinctive issues this area faces. I’m excited for the chance to do the hard work Red Deer needs and deserves.”

Red Deer-South is currently represented by UCP MLA Jason Stephan, a vocal critic of outgoing Premier Jason Kenney, who was first elected in 2019 with 60.3 per cent of the vote. 

Thomas Dang wants back in

Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang (source: Facebook)
Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang (source: Facebook)

Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang wants to rejoin the NDP Caucus after being told that no criminal charges will be pressed against him after he breached an Alberta Health website. Dang left the NDP Caucus in December 2021 after the RCMP executed a search warrant of his house and he has been sitting as an Independent MLA ever since.

Dang was first elected in 2015 in Edmonton-South West and ran for re-election when the electoral boundaries changed as Edmonton-South was created. 

On the doors

Sayid Ahmed and Jordan Walker (source: Sayid Ahmed on Instagram)

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, NDP leader Rachel Notley was spotted at events with Calgary-Bow candidate Druh Farrell, Calgary-Glenmore candidate Nagwan Al-Guneid, and Calgary-North East candidate Gurinder Brar this past weekend. Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan was also spotted on the doors with Al-Guneid.

Sherwood Park UCP MLA Jordan Walker was on the doors with UCP nomination candidate Sayid Ahmed in Edmonton-Decore last weekend. The UCP have opened nominations in the north Edmonton riding. 

Former NDP volunteers speak out

Notley recently responded to criticism from former NDP volunteers that party staff have been heavy-handed with candidate nominations and have treated volunteers poorly. Notley has promised an investigation

There is no excuse for staff treating volunteers poorly, but in every party there is almost always some level of tension between the central party and local constituency associations when it comes to candidate recruitment and nominations.

Constituency associations will have their local favorites, including long-time volunteers, while the central party will be trying to build a province-wide slate of candidates who could potentially become cabinet ministers and ridings in which to place those high-profile candidates.

When there is a lot of interest in nominations, like there is now with the NDP, tension and conflicting plans of the local and provincial efforts can sometimes flare.

Parties generally find a way to balance this out, but from time to time conflict bubbles out into public, as we saw recently when 15 former constituency presidents signed a letter raising concerns about the nomination process.

The NDP need to deal with this issue quickly and decisively or risk it dogging them into the upcoming election.

The other parties

  • Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman has been touring the province, recently making stops at party events in Drumheller, Morningside, Drayton Valley, Leduc, Springbrook, Red Deer and Calgary.
  • The Green Party has formally opened applications for candidates for the next election. Green Party leader Jordan Wilkie has already announced his plans to run as a candidate in Banff-Kananaskis . Party holding an election readiness town hall on July 17 in Edmonton. 
  • Lawyer Katherine Kowalchuk is running for the leadership of the separatist Independence Party of Alberta. Kowalchuk was briefly nominated as the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Signal Hill ahead of the 2015 federal election.

I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

(And, I know I’ve said this before but feel free to sign up for the Daveberta Substack.)

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Alberta Politics

UCP probably, maybe narrowly back on top in political party fundraising in 2022 Q1. We’ll have to take their word for it.

The United Conservative Party is probably, maybe leading the pack in political party fundraising for the first time since 2020. But we’ll just have to take their word for it.

The political party fundraising results from the first financial quarter of 2022 were released today, but because of changes the UCP made to political finance laws in 2021, money raised by constituency associations are no longer included in the quarterly disclosures.

The UCP claims the totals (see below) don’t include more than $375,000 raised by constituency associations. This is probably true, but we won’t actually know until Elections Alberta releases its next annual report sometime in early 2023.

So instead of having the kind of transparency that showed Albertans what political parties AND constituency associations actually raised in each quarter, we are now stuck comparing apples and oranges.

The funny thing is that if the UCP hadn’t made the disclosure laws less transparent, they would probably be getting positive headlines instead of having to spin a days worth of “but wait!” tweets.

Unlike the UCP and most other parties, the Alberta NDP has long disclosed all its fund-raising centrally, so all of the NDP’s fundraising will still be reported quarterly.

Here are the political party fundraising results for the first quarter of 2022 released by Elections Alberta today:

NDP – $1,037,511.32
UCP – $887,974.49
Pro-Life Political Association – $67,564.93
Alberta Party – $29,006.45
Liberal – $19,667
Wildrose Independence – $14,205
Green Party – $1,920
Independence Party – $390
Alberta Advantage Party – $310

The Communist Party, Reform Party, and Buffalo Party reported no funds raised int he first three months of 2022.

The UCP fundraising has improved, but it is nowhere near as dominant it was in its heydays before 2020, when Rachel Notley‘s NDP began a near two-year streak of out-fundraising the governing conservative party.

It is something somewhat positive that Jason Kenney can point to as UCP members vote to decide his fate in the leadership review (but he might have to explain why he made political fundraising less transparent), but as we get closer to the next election it’s looking more like a competitive fundraising race between the NDP and UCP.

Meanwhile, Elections Alberta 2021 annual report showed the NDP with $5,598,136.01 and the UCP with $1,141,647.39 in the bank at the end of last year.

I’m sure I might have more thoughts to share about this as I pour through the disclosure reports this week, so stay tuned!

(And, one more time, feel free to sign up for the Daveberta Substack.)

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Alberta Politics

Brian Jean is back. The thorn in Kenney’s side wins Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.

Brian Jean is back.

The former Wildrose Party leader will be returning to the Alberta Legislature after winning a landslide victory in today’s by-election in Fort McMuray-Lac La Biche.

He’s a UCP MLA-elect and he’s one of the biggest thorns in Premier Jason Kenney’s side.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney United Conservative Party AGM
Jason Kenney

Jean beat Kenney’s favoured candidate in the UCP nomination contest and the former MLA and MP used the by-election as a platform to campaign hard against Kenney.

He has been openly organizing against Kenney ahead of the April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.

Now he’s the newest member of Kenney’s UCP Caucus.

What I would do to be a fly on the wall when Jean’s strolls into the UCP Caucus Office in Edmonton tomorrow morning.

He’s not alone.

UCP MLAs Leela Aheer, Dave Hanson and Angela Pitt have openly spoken out against Kenney. So have Independent MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen.

It was a big win for Jean tonight. But that’s about it.

The by-election results are disappointing for the NDP, who have been polling ahead of the UCP province-wide, and whose candidate, Ariana Mancini, campaigned hard.

But in this by-election, Fort McMurray’s favourite son was both the UCP candidate and the most vocal anti-Kenney candidate, which is a bizarre situation for the opposition NDP to be in.

Paul Hinman and his separatist Wildrose Independence Party placed a distant third. The other five candidates had distant finishes.

Now with the by-election over, all the players are going to be focused on April 9 and Kenney’s leadership review.

This is going to be something to watch.


With 61/61 polls reporting, here are the unofficial results of the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election:

  • Brian Jean, UCP 3,714 (63.6%)
  • Ariana Mancini, NDP 1,801 (18.5%)
  • Paul Hinman, WRIP 628 (10.8%)
  • Abdulhakim Hussein, Liberal 211 (3.6%)
  • Michelle Landsiedel, Alberta Party 98 (1.7%)
  • Brian Deheer, Independent 56 (1.0%)
  • Marilyn Burns, Alberta Advantage 25 (0.4%)
  • Steven Mellott, Independence Party 24 (0.4%)
Categories
Alberta Politics

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election takes a backseat to Red Deer UCP Leadership Review

The people of Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche waited six whole months for Premier Jason Kenney to call a by-election to choose their next MLA.

That’s an eternity in politics.

But the by-election in the northern Alberta boom town isn’t really about the people who actually live there.

It’s about who leads the United Conservative Party.

Former Wildrose leader Brian Jean is running as an anti-Kenney UCP candidate.

Jean beat Kenney’s favourite in a December nomination vote and has made no secret his desire to replace him as leader.

In fact, every candidate in this by-election is running against Kenney. It’s the reason why the Premier won’t be seen anywhere near Fort McMurray before the March 15 vote.

But Jean’s focus isn’t really on Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

It’s on Red Deer.

The by-election is a proxy war ahead of the UCP’s April 9 leadership review.

Jean loyalist Vitor Marciano was in Bonnyville last month with local MLA Dave Hanson talking about why UCP members should dump Kenney.

“On April 9, we’re voting out a tyrant,” former Kenney organizer David Parker said at the meeting.

You can listen to it here.

Parker was Kenney’s Central Alberta organizer in the 2017 leadership race. 

Now, Parker is the executive director of Take Back Alberta, a political action committee created to defeat Kenney in the leadership review.

Until recently, Parker was Vice President of Business Development for Higher Ground Medica.

The President and CEO of the Oyen-based Cannabis company is Jeff Callaway.

Yep. That Jeff Callaway.

Alberta politics is a very small world.

Another front in the challenge to Kenney’s leadership is raging on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains in the sprawling Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding. 

Jean joined exiled former UCP MLA Drew Barnes in backing former county councillor Tim Hoven against MLA Jason Nixon in the UCP nomination race.

“Tim Hoven has stepped up to do a brave thing,” Jean said in his Facebook video endorsement of Hoven.

Nixon is a heavy hitter in Kenney’s inner circle.

He’s the Government House Leader and Minister of Environment & Parks. 

The Giant from Sundre backed Kenney over Jean in the UCP’s 2017 leadership race – an endorsement that was a critical moment in that contest.

His absence in the Legislature last week was conspicuous.

Rumour is that Nixon was busy driving around his riding campaigning for the nomination.

In the deep south, Jean has endorsed Vulcan County councillor Jodie Gateman in the Cardston-Siksika UCP nomination race.

Gateman is the long-time conservative activist challenging UCP Deputy Government House Leader Joseph Schow, another well-known Kenney loyalist.

“She stepped up because she sees the need to change things in the UCP, the need to bring renewal and take the party back to its original sense of purpose,” Jean said in his endorsement of Gateman.

Back up in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, where the by-election is actually happening, NDP candidate Ariana Mancini is busy hitting the doors.

The local elementary school teacher has been joined on the campaign trail by Edmonton NDP MLAs Rakhi Pancholi, Richard Feehan and David Eggen.

“Folks in Fort McMurray have had enough of the drama and the infighting in the UCP,” Mancini said at her February 15 campaign launch.

“We need a government that is focused on families and businesses here in our community,” Mancini said.

Rachel Notley’s NDP are putting in an effort but it’s a long-shot for them. The last time voters in this part of Alberta elected a New Democrat was 1986.

Jean is the favourite to win but by-elections are a funny thing.

Enter Paul Hinman on stage right.

Another former Wildrose Party leader, Hinman is now leading the separatist Wildrose Independence Party.

He’s also running in the by-election.

Hinman and Jean are competing for the love of the Freedom Convoy supporters by promoting conspiracy theories about COVID-19, the World Economic Forum and the Emergency Measures Act.

Hinman has a history of winning by-elections (well ok, one).

After losing his seat in Cardston-Taber-Warner in 2008 he shocked political watchers by winning a by-election one year later in posh Calgary-Glenmore.

A political comeback for Hinman up north would be an earthquake for Alberta politics.

A split on the increasingly unhinged political right could give the increasingly moderate NDP a chance to run up the middle to a win.

When the history books are written, the Fort McMuray-Lac La Biche by-election might just be a footnote in the chapter about the April 9 leadership review.

Or maybe, just maybe, the results on March 15 will grab the attention of Albertans. 


Candidates in the March 15 Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.

  • Marilyn Burns, Alberta Advantage Party
  • Brian Deheer, Independent
  • Abdulhakim Hussein, Liberal Party
  • Michelle Landsiedel, Alberta Party
  • Ariana Mancini, Alberta NDP
  • Steven Mellott, Independence Party
  • Brian Jean, United Conservative Party
Categories
Alberta Politics

The Ides of March by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche is a Wildrose blast-from-the-past

March 15 – the Ides of March – is the day voters in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche riding will go to the polls to choose their new MLA.

Premier Jason Kenney waited until the very last day possible to call a by-election to replace former MLA Laila Goodridge, who resigned six months ago to run in last year’s federal election. Waiting this late to call a normal by-election would be very unusual, but this is no normal by-election.

United Conservative Party members in the northern Alberta riding rejected Kenney’s favoured nomination candidate in favour of Brian Jean, the former leader of the Wildrose Party and former MLA and MP who is openly calling on Kenney to resign.

The animosity between Kenney and Jean is well-known in Alberta, with the former having launched a Kamikaze campaign against the latter in the 2017 UCP leadership race.

Jean dropped out of provincial politics in 2018, resigning as MLA for the former Fort McMurray-Conklin riding when he was not given a spot in Kenney’s shadow cabinet. But retirement didn’t suit him, and it wasn’t long before he was regularly chirping at Kenney on social media and in the newspaper editorial pages.

He now has the UCP nomination in a normally safe UCP riding and he is openly organizing and fundraising in an effort to dump Kenney at the April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.

With no pro-Kenney candidates on the March 15 ballot, don’t expect the Premier or any cabinet ministers to be visiting the riding in the next 28-days.

MLA Rakhi Pancholi and NDP candidate Ariana Mancini (source: Twitter)
MLA Rakhi Pancholi and NDP candidate Ariana Mancini (source: Twitter)

Rachel Notley‘s NDP have nominated Fort McMurray school teacher and past candidate Ariana Mancini as their choice in the by-election. And while Mancini remains an underdog in this race, she has been joined over the past few months by a steady stream of NDP MLAs travelling north to visit the riding.

Edmonton-Whitemud NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi was in Fort McMurray today for Mancini’s campaign launch.

While the NDP have been riding high in the poll and are flush with cash, this will be a tough riding for them to win. The UCP earned 66 per cent of the vote in 2019 and the last time voters in this area elected a New Democrat was in 1986, when Leo Piquette won in Athabasca-Lac La Biche.

But, never say never. By-elections can sometimes produce unpredictable results.

While the Kenney-Jean rivalry is the main theme going into the by-election, the candidacy of another former Wildrose Party leader makes this race even more unusual.

Separatist party leader Paul Hinman with supporters in Fort McMurray.
Separatist party leader Paul Hinman (centre) with supporters in Fort McMurray.

Former Wildrose Party leader Paul Hinman now leads and is running in the by-election for the Wildrose Independence Party – a party that not only promotes Alberta separatism from Canada, but, judging from its social media feeds, embraces a vast range of right-wing internet conspiracy theories.

The grandson of former provincial treasurer Edgar Hinman, the younger Hinman was the Alberta Alliance MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 before surprising political watchers by winning a 2009 by-election in posh Calgary-Glenmore. He led the Alliance and Wildrose Alliance from 2005 until resigning in 2009 to make way for Danielle Smith.

Hinman endorsed Jean for the Wildrose Party leadership in 2015 and Kenney for the UCP leadership in 2017 after cancelling his own bid to lead the new party.

Now he leads the separatist Wildrose Independence Party, which was created by a merger of the Freedom Conservative Party and the Wexit Alberta group in July 2020. 

But that’s not where the Wildrose blast-from-the-past ends in this by-election!

Marilyn Burns Alberta Advantage Party Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election
Marilyn Burns

Running under the banner of the right-wing Alberta Advantage Party is party leader Marilyn Burns.

Burns was a candidate for the Alberta Alliance Party in Stony Plain in 2004 and ran against Hinman for the Alliance leadership way back in 2005. She was later part of a small group of Wildrosers who campaigned against the merger with the Progressive Conservative Party before helping found the Alberta Advantage Party.

Burns led the Alberta Advantage Party into the 2019 election and resigned soon after amid a leadership challenge and announced plans to run for the position again. She now appears to once again be party leader.

The second separatist candidate in the by-election, the Independence Party of Alberta‘s Steven Mellott, has never led or tried to lead the Wildrose Party (as far as I am aware).

Alberta Party leader Barry Morishita told the Daveberta Podcast that was driving to Fort McMurray this week to meet with prospective candidates.

The other parties have yet to name their candidates.

I think this is going to be a wild ride, folks.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Notley’s NDP crushes Kenney’s UCP in fundraising… again.

The Alberta NDP raised more cash than the United Conservative Party in the final quarter of 2021, according to financial documents released today by Elections Alberta.

According to the returns, the NDP raised $2,090,873.53 and the UCP raised $1,200,823.71 between October 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021.

This marks the fifth consecutive quarter that Rachel Notley’s NDP have out-fundraised Jason Kenney‘s UCP.

The NDP also crushed the UCP in annual fundraising in 2021, with Notley’s party raising a whopping $6,151,163.93 compared to $3,796,905.23 for Kenney’s party. This is the largest total amount that the NDP has raised in a year in Alberta.

The lacklustre fundraising returns for the governing UCP will likely be something that Kenney’s opponents hone in on as the party’s approaches its April 9 leadership review meeting in Red Deer.

The Pro-Life Political Association, run by anti-abortion activists who took over and renamed the Social Credit Party in 2016, placed third in fundraising for the second quarter in a row. The party is being used as a vehicle for anti-abortion political activism which can legally issue tax-receipts for donations. It is unclear whether the party will actually run candidates in the next provincial election.

The Alberta Party, now led by former City of Brooks Mayor Barry Morishita, saw a significant increase in their fundraising compared to previous quarters last year.

Despite doing well in most polls over the past year and benefiting from a handful of member defections from the UCP, the separatist Wildrose Independence Party had an unimpressive fundraising year. The party placed fifth in fundraising in 2021. Party leader Paul Hinman, a former Wildrose MLA, is running in soon to be called by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

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

Alberta NDP: $2,090,873.53
United Conservative Party: $1,200,823.71
Pro-Life Political Association: $121,503.00
Alberta Party: $121,108.54
Wildrose Independence: $68,114.29
Alberta Liberal Party: $43,105.32
Green Party: $6,889.50
Independence Party of Alberta: $3,319.00
Communist Party: $100.00

The Alberta Advantage Party and the Reform Party did not report any funds raised in this quarter.

Here are the total annual fundraising totals for 2021:

Alberta NDP: $6,151,163.93
United Conservative Party: $3,796,905.23
Pro-Life Political Association: $338,342.92
Alberta Party: $239,260.46
Wildrose Independence: $184,190.74
Alberta Liberal Party: $114,398.00
Green Party: $15,232.50
Independence Party of Alberta: $7,633.25
Alberta Advantage Party: $1,190.00
Communist Party: $300.00
Reform Party: $0

More soon…

Categories
Alberta Politics

Steve Durrell running for NDP nomination in Airdrie-Cochrane, UCP rumble in Chestermere-Strathmore

Airdrie resident Steve Durrell has announced his plans to seek the Alberta NDP nomination to run in the Airdrie-Cochrane riding in the next provincial election. 

This coming election is one of high stakes. From education to our economy, from healthcare to respect for a person’s self-identity, Jason Kenney and the UCP have failed Albertans at every turn,” Durrell said in a statement posted on Facebook. “It’s time for change and to get Alberta back on track, and that is why I am seeking the nomination to run for the NDP, and support Rachel Notley on her road to once again being Premier of Alberta!”

Durrell is an organizer for United Steelworkers Local 1944. 

If nominated, this will be Durrell’s second time as a NDP candidate in the riding. He ran in 2019 and placed second with 25.2 per cent of the vote behind United Conservative Party candidate Peter Guthrie.

Durrell became a target of Premier Jason Kenney in the 2019 election, when the UCP leader mocked him for being a 19-year old. He was actually 29-year old father of three at the time. 

Rumble in Chestermere-Strathmore

Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer, UCP MLA Chestermere-Strathmore
Jason Kenney and former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer in happier time (source: YouTube)

Postmedia columnist Don Braid penned a column about a showdown in the Chestermere-Strathmore riding, where Kenney loyalists are alleged to have mounted a hostile takeover of the local UCP constituency association.

The previous, or current riding association (depending on who’s side of the story you believe), is loyal to two-term UCP MLA and former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer, who has called on Kenney to resign after a former political staffer filed a lawsuit against the Premier’s Office alleging sexual harassment, defamation, and toxic workplace culture at the Legislature.

Ahreer is popular among her UCP MLA colleagues so Kenney probably does not have the support to remove her from the UCP caucus like he did Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen last summer, so removing her local support (and access to the local UCP bank account) is a more indirect way of ensuring she does not seek re-election in 2023. If Aheer still has political ambitions, she will probably need to find a new party to run for.

As first noted on this website in May 2021, former federal Conservative staffer Chantelle de Jonge is already challenging Aheer for the UCP nomination to run in the next election. de Jonge worked in the constituency office of former Calgary-Skyview Member of Parliament Jag Sahota and recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Philosophy from the University of Calgary.

Chestermere-Strathmore was the scene of significant political drama ahead of the 2019 election, with MLA Derek Fildebrandt banned from the the nomination contest and a tense 2018 nomination race that included allegations of death threats and restraining orders when Aheer was challenged by David Campbell (who is now President of The Independence Party of Alberta).

Brian Jean still kicking around

Brian Jean and Jason Kenney
Brian Jean and Jason Kenney in happier times

Confirmed UCP candidate and future UCP leadership hopeful Brian Jean is continuing to fire shots across Kenney’s bow ahead of the leadership review and the impending by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

Jean called on the UCP executive board to commit to holding an in-person vote on April 9 rather than moving to an online vote in response to the fifth wave of COVID-19 that is sweeping across Alberta. It was largely assumed that the Kenney loyal executive board chose to hold an in-person meeting in Red Deer to give the Premier more control of the process, but the rise in COVID-19 cases would justify moving the vote online.

A Leger poll released in December 2021 showed that 73 per cent of Albertans believed the province would be better off with a new premier.

In the background of this, as Jean noted, the RCMP are continuing to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the online vote for the UCP leadership in 2017. Kenney defeated Jean in that vote.

Jean defeated Kenney-backed candidate Joshua Gogo in the UCP nomination contest held in Nov. 2021. He will face NDP candidate Ariana Mancini and Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman in a by-election that needs to be called by Feb. 15, 2022. The other parties have not yet announced their candidates.

The Alberta Party is expected to make an announcement soon.

The Independence Party of Alberta has not announced a candidate, but announced in Nov. 2021 that their local constituency association board had been formed.

Categories
Alberta Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Reform Party raised no funds in the second quarter.

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


Smaller parties search for leaders

Paul Hinman Wildrose Independence Party MLA
Paul Hinman

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

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

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

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

Categories
Alberta Politics

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

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

Chestermere-Strathmore
Chestermere-Strathmore

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former PC MLA running for Mayor of Strathcona County

Dave Quest
Dave Quest

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

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

Categories
Alberta Politics

MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen evicted from the UCP Caucus. What comes next?

United Conservative Party MLAs voted to expel Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen from the governing party’s caucus after an afternoon virtual caucus meeting that spilled into the evening.

The vote came less than 24-hours after Loewen released an open letter announcing his resignation as chair of the UCP Caucus and calling on Premier Jason Kenney to resign as party leader.

Todd Loewen, MLA Central Peace-Notley
Todd Loewen

The vote came more than two years after Barnes began his unofficial role as chief-caucus-thorn-in-Kenney’s-side. After being overlooked for a cabinet role when the UCP formed government in 2019, the third-term MLA representing the southeast corner of Alberta publicly toyed with separatism and climate change denial and became an open critic of the government’s response to COVID-19 (claiming the mild public health restrictions went too far).

Both were former Wildrose MLAs, with Barnes being the only original Wildroser from that party’s 2012 breakthrough still sitting in the Legislative Assembly.

Kenney had no choice but to appeal to his caucus to kick Loewen out after being directly challenged. Barnes was the icing on the cake for Kenney. (Noticeably missing from this list was Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA David Hanson, who posted his support for Loewen’s letter on Facebook).

Nicholas Milliken UCP Calgary Currie
Nicholas Milliken

The vote to expel the two, which was live-tweeted from leaks funnelled to Derek Fildebrandt‘s Western Standard website, was not cast by secret ballot but by MLAs texting their yes or no votes to new interim caucus chair, Calgary-Currie MLA Nicholas Milliken.

Now the question is whether any other UCP MLAs will join the two newly Independent MLAs in the opposition benches? Loewen and Barnes were two of 18 UCP MLAs who spoke out against the government’s COVID-19 response. And they are certainly not the only MLAs unhappy with Kenney’s leadership, which still remains on thin ice.

There is also the question of whether the two will remain as Independent MLAs for long. The Wildrose Independence Party is looking for a new leader, and the deadline to join that race is tomorrow. The Alberta Party is holding a leadership race soon, as are The Independence Party of Alberta and the Alberta Liberal Party.

Pat Rehn MLA Lesser Slave Lake
Pat Rehn

For these two outspoken MLAs – and their new desk-mate, Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn – there might be no shortage of options.

But this is a short-term solution to a bigger problem for the UCP.

One of the main problems is Kenney. He remains deeply unpopular with Albertans and conservatives, a reality reflected in dropping support in the polls and his party’s dismal fundraising returns over the last six months. His divisive style of politics has alienated many Albertans, including many influential people of communities who would otherwise be traditional supporters of the governing conservative party.

As Edmonton-based strategist Chris Henderson wrote of Kenney on Twitter, “[h]e is clearly a very exceptional political lieutenant, but doesn’t have the requisite skills/temperament to sustain leadership in a complex governing environment.”

“There’s no shame in that, some people are incredible college QBs and flame out in the NFL. It happens. Time to go.,” wrote Henderson, who managed many of Don Iveson‘s successful political campaigns in Edmonton.

Premier Jason Kenney
Premier Jason Kenney

Kenney may have been successful in imposing caucus discipline today, but he still faces critics within his own party who are calling for his resignation.

In more normal times, this could just be argued away as growing pains for a relatively new political party, but the UCP includes some unruly groups of conservative activists who spent most of the last decade at each others throats. These ideological and regional divides are easier to mend when the party is high in the polls and flush with cash (or the price of oil is high), but when the party’s fortunes began to nosedive more than a year ago the ideological cracks instantly started to appear.

In a statement released after the meeting,, UCP Caucus Whip and Calgary-West MLA Mike Ellis said “There is simply no room in our caucus for those who continually seek to divide our party and undermine government leadership.” But that the breakdown of the vote wasn’t released suggests that it wasn’t near unanimous and that opposition to Kenney still exists inside the UCP Caucus.

United Conservative Party statement Mike Ellis Drew Barnes Todd Loewen
Statement from the United Conservative Caucus (May 13, 2021)

The United Conservative Party already didn’t appear completely united, and now, with a growing number of former UCP MLAs sitting in the opposition benches, it appears even less united.

Kenney made an example of Barnes and Loewen by having them kicked out of the UCP Caucus, but when the other 59 UCP MLAs wake up tomorrow morning, the problems that led them to make this decision today will still remain.


Update: Drew Barnes issued a statement on social media following his eviction from the UCP Caucus.

Statement released by MLA Drew Barnes in response to his being removed from the UCP Caucus (May 13, 2021)
Statement released by MLA Drew Barnes in response to his being removed from the UCP Caucus (May 13, 2021)
Categories
Alberta Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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


Paul Hinman running for Wildrose Independence Party leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Alberta Politics

NDP clobbers UCP in first quarter fundraising. Notley’s party raised twice as much cash as Kenney’s UCP in the first three months of 2021

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

This marks the third quarter in the last year that Rachel Notley’s NDP have out-fundraised the governing UCP. Not only have Albertans been showing their unhappiness with Jason Kenney’s UCP in the polls, they are clearly showing it by voting with their pocketbooks and credit cards.

Here is what Alberta’s political parties raised during the first quarter of 2021:

  • NDP: $1,186,245
  • UCP: $591,597
  • Alberta Party: $48,194
  • Wildrose Independence Party: $36,883
  • Pro-Life Political Association: $33,261
  • Alberta Liberal Party: $31,798
  • Green Party: $5,010.00
  • Independence Party: $1,559.25

Notley’s NDP are on a roll, leading in the polls and continuing to dominate in fundraising. Despite losing government two years ago, the NDP appear to have solidified a larger base of donors who contribute donations in smaller amounts. Sixty-eight per cent of individual donations received by the NDP in the first quarter were in denominations of less than $250, compared to 39 per cent for the UCP.

At first glance, it would appear as though many of the UCP’s wealthier donors, who in previous years contributed a maximum annual donation in the first quarter, have not yet donated this year. This could be a big indication with a growing unhappiness in the direction of the UCP and Kenney’s leadership over the course of the past year.

The Pro-Life Political Association, which was known as the Social Credit Party before it was taken over by anti-abortion activists in 2016, went from raising nothing for the past few quarters to raising more than $33,261 in the last three months. It is unclear why the effectively dormant party that ran only one candidate in the last election and whose previous leader resigned to become a monk is now active.

The Alberta Advantage Party, Communist Party and the Reform Party raised no funds during this period.

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