I was thrilled to join pollster Janet Brown, columnist Catherine Ford and host Anna Maria Tremonti on The Current on CBC Radio this morning to discuss Alberta politics, Rachel Notley’s chances of re-election this spring, and recent developments in the Jason Kenney-Jeff Callaway collusion scandal.
“[Cameron] Davies said he received a transfer from a corporate entity of $60,000 into his personal bank account that, he alleges, was then re-distributed to Callaway’s campaign account to pay the candidate’s entry fee to the leadership contest. He said the origin of the money was then obfuscated, in part through fake donors whom he helped to obtain. Personal bank documents obtained by Maclean’s confirm the $60,000 payment to Davies.”
The candidates lining up to replace Premier Ed Stelmach as leader of the PC Party have been campaigning for months, yet what should be the hottest political leadership contest of the year has so far been a quiet affair. Will it take the summer months to heat up this contest, or will Albertans wait until the September 17 first ballot vote approaches before they begin to pay attention?
Here is a look at the candidates who are seeking the PC Party leadership:
Doug Griffiths Slogan: Better Alberta Elected experience: MLA for Wainwright from 2002-2004 and Battle River-Wainwright from 2004 to present. Released policies: Energy, Finance, Property Rights Background: An underdog in this contest, Mr. Griffiths’ public musings have made him a pariah among some fellow conservatives and his openness to go to these uncomfortable places makes him unique when contrasted with the large contingent of comfortably-silent MLAs in the PC caucus. These musings have likely cost him a spot in cabinet, but they have also built him a solid following of supporters online.
Despite support of some rural high-rolling Tories, word on the street is that Mr. Griffiths campaign has had a challenge keeping up with fundraising compared to the other candidates in this contest. Calgary-North Hill backbencher Kyle Fawcett is the only MLA to have endorsed Mr. Griffiths. He supported Jim Dinning in the 2006 PC leadership contest.
Doug Horner Slogan: Let’s get it done right. Elected experience: MLA for Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert since 2001. Background: Calgary Tories still bitter from Jim Dinning’s defeat in 2006 will try to paint Mr. Horner with the same brush as they did Premier Ed Stelmach. Mr. Horner is a more comfortable figure than the Premier and did a decent job filling various cabinet posts, including Agriculture and Advanced Education & Technology.
The heir to a three-generation political dynasty, Mr. Horner follows in the footsteps of his grand-father Senator Ralph Horner, his uncles former MPs Jack Horner and Norval Horner, and his father former MP, MLA and deputy Premier Hugh Horner. Big shoes to fill.
Under the auspices of the grassroots Albertan group, led by advisor Brad Ferguson, Mr. Horner is embarking on a province-wide “Think Big Alberta” speaking tour with retired Canadian Forces General Rick Hillier and Vancouver 2010 Olympic Committee CEO John Furlong. The tour kicks off in Edmonton on June 22 and has stops planned in Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and Calgary.
In 2006 he supported Mark Norris on the first ballot and Ed Stelmach on the second ballot.
Gary Mar Slogan: None evident, supporters on Twitter are using the hashtag #GOGARY Elected experience: MLA for Calgary-Nose Hill from 1993 to 2004 and Calgary-Mackay from 2004 to 2007. Released policies: Education, Municipal Funding Background: Smart and slick, Mr. Mar’s campaign has the feel of a candidate for the United States Senate, which is not surprising considering that he has spent the past five years dining and lobbying the Washington DC political establishment on behalf of the Alberta Government. An MLA and cabinet minister from 1993 until 2007, he has been out of the public eye long enough not to be directly tied to the current PC Party administration.
Mr. Mar’s campaign carries significant support from Establishment Tories like former Finance Minister Iris Evans and current Energy Minister Ron Liepert, who rumours say has been trying to strong-arm support from other Tory MLAs. Mr. Mar’s campaign public relations are being handled by long-time government spokesperson Mark Kastner, who is still listed as Alberta Health Services Executive Director of Media Relations.
He supported Jim Dinning in the 2006 PC leadership contest.
Rick Orman Slogan: The Right Choice Elected experience: MLA for Calgary-Montrose from 1986 to 1993 Background: This blast from the past could turn into the Ron Paul of the PC leadership contest. As the MLA for Calgary-Montrose from 1986 to 1993 and third place candidate in his party’s 1992 leadership contest, Mr. Orman faded into political obscurity until making a return as a candidate in this contest. Taking aggressive positions at candidate forms and typing with a sharp wit on Twitter, he does not owe much to the PC Party in its current incarnation and has little to lose by telling PC members what the other candidates are afraid to say. It has been suggested that Mr. Orman’s candidacy poses the biggest threat to Dr. Morton.
Mr. Orman’s campaign is moving into an office recently vacated by Calgary-Centre Conservative MP Lee Richardson‘s campaign team, opening speculation that Mr. Orman’s support may not be so thin.
Alison Redford Slogan: None. Elected experience: MLA for Calgary-Elbow since 2008 Released policies: Democratic Renewal, Education, Energy, Health Care Background: The only woman in this contest, Ms. Redford is not your typical Red Tory. While her campaign has so far focused on important issues like health care, education, democratic renewal, and energy policy, the safe communities initiative during her time as Justice Minister demonstrated that she is creative enough to look beyond the “tough on crime” agenda. She is also appears to be taking a page from popular Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton City Councillor Don Iveson by “campaigning in full sentences.” (This may have been influenced by her campaign strategist Stephen Carter, who was involved with Mayor Nenshi’s campaign).
Ms. Redford has only been an MLA since 2008, but her political experience is broad, ranging from serving as a Senior Policy Advisor to External Affairs Minister Joe Clark, being appointed as one of four International Election Commissioners to administer Afghanistan’s first parliamentary elections, and challenging Calgary-West MP Rob Anders for the Conservative Party nomination in 2004 (she was unsuccessful).
Ted Morton Slogan: Alberta Proud/Proud to be Albertan Elected experience: Senator-in-Waiting 1998 to 2004, MLA for Foothills-Rockyview from 2004 to present
Released policies: Democratic Renewal, Power Transmission Background: The former Finance Minister and third place leadership candidate from 2006 who’s actions forced Premier Ed Stelmach to resign and this contest to begin. Many of his key organizers from his previous leadership bid have joined the Wildrose Alliance and it is questionable whether they will return to the PC Party fold if they have embraced Dr. Morton’s ideological soul-mate Danielle Smith. His time as Finance Minister hurt his conservative credentials, especially among rural landowners furious at the government’s recently passed transmission line legislation – Bill 50.
Thomas Lukaszuk Elected experience: MLA for Edmonton-Castle Downs from 2001 to present Background: Yet to enter the contest, rumours have been swirling for months about Minister Lukaszuk’s potential entry into this contest. He would be the only MLA from Edmonton to enter the contest and while he would be a long-shot candidate, it could help solidify his position in cabinet under the next PC Premier.
He supported Jim Dinning in the 2006 leadership contest.
Gary Marresigned today from his position as Alberta’s Representative in Washington DC, fuelling the speculation that the former cabinet minister will soon join the Progressive Conservative leadership contest.
Some of the more recent rumours predicting Mr. Mar’s entry into the leadership contest were based around a late February meeting of supporters, including Klein-era political operator Rod Love.
More concrete proof of Mr. Mar’s candidacy landed in my email inbox this afternoon when a reader emailed me a screenshot of a Secret Group on Facebook, named “Gary Mar’s Peeps.” It appears as though this secret Facebook gathering place for Mr. Mar’s supporters has been up and running for the past month. Its content includes links to news stories, blog posts, and questions from group members ranging from where to send campaign donations to how to respond to chatter on Twitter.
The 87 members of the invite-only Facebook group are an interesting camp of PC Party members. Some of the notable names in the members list include Jim Dinning‘s 2006 campaign chairman Brent Shervey, Calgary-Nose Hill MLA Neil Brown, Drayton Valley-Calmar MLA Diana McQueen, Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Fred Horne, former PC Youth President Courtney Luimes (who is currently the Executive Assistant to Energy Minister Ron Liepert), Airdrie-Chestermere PC Association President Janice Harrington, co-chair of the PC Party’s 2008 election platform committee Brenda Barootes, and pollster Janet Brown.
A person’s membership in a Facebook may not necessary translate into an official endorsement, but the exclusivity of this invite-only secret group may suggest that its members have a higher level of commitment towards Mr. Mar than if it were a regular public Facebook Group.
Three years later.
What a change three years can make. On March 3, 2008, Premier Ed Stelmach led the PCs to a massive majority, winning 72 of 83 seats in the Assembly. The sweep saw the Kevin Taft led Liberals halved from 16 MLAs to 9 MLAs and that party’s stronghold in Edmonton wither to three seats, Brian Mason‘s NDP were reduced from 4 to 2 MLAs, and the Wildrose Alliance‘s leader and only MLA Paul Hinman was defeated in Cardston-Taber-Warner (he would later be elected in the 2009 Calgary-Glenmore by-election). The election also marked the lowest voter-turnout in Alberta’s history as almost 60% of Albertans did not exercise the vote.
The letter was discovered when it was accidentally delivered to Edmonton-StrathconaNDP MP Linda Duncan‘s Ottawa office. Unfortunately for Ms. Duncan, her office does not have much moral authority on this issue. In February 2010, a conservative blogger discovered that Ms. Duncan’s Constituency Assistant and Campaign Manager Erica Bullwinkle had used her Parliamentary email account for campaign purposes.
More Tories join Wildrose
Former Finance Minister Lyle Oberg is not the only former Tory member to join the Wildrose Alliance. Perennial Edmonton PC nomination candidate Ian Crawford has also signed up for a Wildrose membership. Mr. Crawford, who last ran unsuccessfully for the PC nomination in Edmonton-Meadowlark against Raj Sherman and (now-Liberal Party executive) Debbie Cavaliere in 2007, is the son of former PC cabinet minister Neil Crawford.
Liberals tackle health care
The Liberals are without a long-term leader, but that has not stopped them from focusingon healthcare – an issue I believe could be their ticket back to relevance before the next election, especially while the Wildrose continues to push for increased privatization inside the health care system.
AHS Chair joining PC contest?
Alberta Health Services Chairman Ken Hughes‘ name has been bandied around as a potential candidate for the PC leadership contest. The former PC MP and insurance industry executive has reportedly been testing the waters through phone polls over the past few weeks.
Deputy Pastoor Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget PastoorreplacedEdmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman as Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition this week. Ms. Blakeman, who is seeking the Liberal leadership, will continue in her other critic roles.
I have updated the list of nominated and declared election candidates to include two PC MLAs who were nominated this week, PC leadership candidate and former Justice Minister Allison Redford was chosen as her party’s candidate in Calgary-Elbow at a nomination meeting this week. Ms. Redford was first elected in 2008, unseating Liberal MLA Craig Cheffins in a close-fought campaign. Elbow was represented by Ralph Klein from 1989 until his resignation in 2007, when Mr. Cheffins was elected in a by-election.
Red Deer-South PC MLACal Dallas won his party’s nomination in the constituency he was first elected to represent in 2008.
The Calgary Herald has been posting a number of YouTube video interviews on their website. In this one, pollster Janet Brown offers some thoughts on the PC leadership contest: