Alberta’s Progressive Future calls for Alberta NDP to distance itself from the Ottawa NDP
When I worked for the Alberta Liberal Party back in the 2000s, we had an inside joke that the Liberals could run Jesus Christ as a candidate in Wainwright and still lose. It was funny because it was probably true (the last time voters in Wainwright elected a Liberal MLA was in 1909) and was a reflection of how cynical we were that the party had any chance of actually winning any seats in rural Alberta.
I imagine more than a few Alberta NDP supporters felt the same when the results of the 2023 election started rolling in on May 29, 2023. Despite making big gains in Calgary and winning 38 seats province-wide, the party’s hopes of forming government were dashed at the city limits.
Any good talk radio host understands that the show doesn’t belong to the host, it belongs to the listeners. And if this past weekend’s annual general meeting is any indication, talk radio host-turned-Premier Danielle Smith might be taking a similar approach as leader of the United Conservative Party.
Aside from a nod to protecting parental rights during her keynote speech, Smith largely stood out of the way as more than 3,700 delegates packed into Calgary’s BMO Centre to vote on party policy and elect a new executive board. It was an impressive crowd and probably the largest provincial political convention in Alberta’s history.
The seasons are changing and it’s not just the weather – the political seasons are changing too.
The first snow has fallen and the cold north winds are blowing across Alberta. The seasons are changing and it’s not just limited to the weather – the political seasons are changing too.
Five months after the 2023 provincial election, Alberta’s politicians will be back in the provincial capital on October 30 to start the first substantial sitting of this Legislative Assembly. MLAs met shortly after the election to choose a Speaker for the new Assembly (Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper) but this fall’s session will see Premier Danielle Smith’s re-elected United Conservative Party government introduce its legislative agenda.
It’s been a quiet, but not boring, post-election summer in Alberta
Conventional wisdom tells us that the summer months are a quiet and boring time in politics, but not so in Alberta. It’s not often there is an actual quiet and boring political summer in this province.
And last summer, one of the most unexpected political comebacks happened right before our eyes. Former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, who had been written off by most political watchers after her disastrous decision to cross the floor in 2014, defined the summer of 2022 and the United Conservative Party leadership vote that followed.
But this year’s political summer was a fairly quiet, albeit incredibly smoky, affair.
Dust off your cowboy boots and hat. It’s that time of year again. It’s the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. It’s the Calgary Stampede.
The Stampede is a must attend event for politicians of all stripes. Aside from the actual rodeo (the Chuckwagon races are a must see), the free pancake breakfast and BBQ circuit is unparalleled and a huge opportunity for local, provincial and federal politicians to connect with Calgarians. Proper attire is key, as is the ability to wear it properly.
It has been almost two weeks since Alberta Premier Danielle Smithnamed her new 24-member cabinet and a lot of ink has been spilled dissecting what the appointments could mean for the start of the United Conservative Party’s second term as government and the next four years.
There are big challenges facing the new cabinet, especially for ministers appointed to high-profile positions. But what caught my attention among the appointments was the return of two former cabinet ministers who were pushed into the backbenches when Smith entered the Premier’s Office last October.
The United Conservative Party won big in Alberta’s 2019 election, taking 63 seats in the Alberta Legislature and earning 54.8 per cent of the province-wide vote. The party racked up huge margins of victory in rural ridings and swept Calgary.
It was a juggernaut.
It also wasn’t clear on that election night if the Alberta NDP would be able to recover from their defeat. It felt unlikely.
That the UCP is now neck-and-neck with the NDP in most polls with only 24 days left until the next election says a lot about the UCP’s four years as government and the NDP’s time in opposition.
As the first day of Alberta’s provincial election winds down, I have a few quick candidate nomination updates to share.
Barnes not running
He waited until almost the very last minute, but Independent MLA Drew Barnes announced through a video posted on social media that he will not seek re-election for a fourth term as the MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat.
Barnes was first elected in 2012 as a Wildrose Party MLA and was re-elected under the Wildrose banner in 2015. He won a third-term in 2019 as a United Conservative Party candidate but was removed from the UCP Caucus in 2021 after two years of being a general thorn in then-premier Jason Kenney‘s side.
Party on the right
The Wildrose Loyalty Coalition (not to be confused with the Wildrose Independence Party) is now an official registered political party recognized by Elections Alberta.
The new party is led by former Wildrose Independence and Wildrose Alliance Party leader Paul Hinman, who was pushed out of his role as leader of the WIP last year. Two-time Wildrose Party candidate and UCP nominee aspirant Danny Hozack is the party president.
And there is always room for one-more fringe party on the political right in Alberta.
Pastor Artur Pawlowski, known for his 11-minute phone call with Premier Danielle Smith and his ousting as leader of the Independence Party of Alberta, was joined by former Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders (who is still listed as a board member of the Wildrose Independence Party) to announce they are forming another new political party – The Solidarity Movement of Alberta.
Meanwhile, the Pro-Life Alberta Political Association (formerly known as the Social Credit Party) has nominated Lucas Hernandez as their candidate in Calgary-Mountain View. Hernandez carried the party banner in Calgary-Currie in 2019, where he earned 60 votes.
The CBC’s Jason Markusoff recently wrote an analysis of the Alberta Pro-Life Political Association, a political party that acts like a political action committee.
There are also a handful of people who have registered as candidates with no party affiliation who will run as Independents.
They include Andrew Lineker in Edmonton-McClung, Graham Lettner in Edmonton-Gold Bar, Jody Balanko in Strathcona-Sherwood Park, and Matthew Powell in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright.
I will continue to post candidate nomination updates on this website but subscribe to the Daveberta Substack to read my latest Alberta election coverage. My most recent piece covers how the UCP and NDP kicked-off the election, the role that Conservative Party MPs are playing in the election, and how the two main parties are spending money on digital advertising.
I am planning to share most of my writing for the upcoming Alberta election on Substack, so don’t miss out!
The United Conservative Party has filled their slate of 87 candidates with the nomination of Nick Kalynchuk as their candidate in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood.
Kalynchuk is a staffer in Premier Danielle Smith‘s office and was Vice-President of the United Conservative Club at the University of Alberta. He started working in the Premier’s office during Jason Kenney‘s time as Premier and previously worked for the UCP Caucus.
Kalynchuk will face Alberta NDP MLA Janis Irwin, Green Party candidate Kristine Kowalchuk and Communist Party leader Naomi Rankin.
Irwin was elected in 2019 with 63.4 per cent of the vote. The NDP have held the riding since it was created in 2004.
NDP slate to be filled by April 30
NDP leader Rachel Notley announced today that her party would have their full slate of 87 candidates nominated by April 30.
Also announced today: Harry Singh will be nominated as the party’s candidate in Drayton Valley-Devon on April 30.
Wright is the owner of the Fryer Tuck’s food truck and catering, which also runs a number of concessions around Medicine Hat. He ran for city council in 2021 and is the chairman of the Spectrum Festival committee.
‘Albertans are in a dysfunctional relationship with Ottawa and must take control of our future. We shall determine our path forward, NOT legacy political parties who divide the people, usurp freedoms, and enforce ruinous social, economic, and environmental policies,’ says a statement on the Wildrose Loyalty Coalition website that also lists Hinman as leader.
Hinman has a long history in Alberta politics and best-known for having served as Wildrose MLA in two separate ridings and as leader of that party before Danielle Smith became leader in 2009.
But more recently, he served as the founding leader of the separatist Wildrose Independence Party, which was a merger of the Freedom Conservative Party and the Wexit Alberta group, from 2020 until he was ousted in 2022. Hinman loyalists briefly retook control over the party before their takeover was overruled in courts.
Other nomination updates
The UCP has set April 3 as the date for its nomination vote in Grande Prairie. Gladys Blackmore, Nolan Dyck, Larry Gibson, and Tayyab Parvez are in the race to succeed retiring MLA Tracy Allard as the candidate in that northern Alberta riding.
Daniel Birrell has been nominated as the Green Party candidate in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain.
Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley was nominated as her party’s candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona this past weekend. Speaking to a crowd of more than 800 supporters gathered at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Notley delivered an energetic speech that felt like a campaign kick-off for the former premier’s party.
Notley was first elected as MLA for the central Edmonton riding in 2008 and was re-elected in 2019 with 72.2 per cent of the vote. The riding has elected NDP MLAs since 1997 and the party previously held the riding from 1986 to 1993.
UCP choose Claresholm Mayor in ‘do-over’ nomination vote in Livingstone-Macleod
Town of Claresholm Mayor Chelsae Petrovic won the United Conservative Party‘s ‘do-over’ nomination vote in Livingstone-Macleod. Petrovic defeated Tanya Clemens and Don Whalen in a decisive first ballot victory. Petrovic earned 759 votes with Clemens collecting 469 votes and Whalen finishing third with 118 votes.
This is the UCP’s second time holding a nomination vote in the southern Alberta riding.
The riding was represented by former premier Jason Kenney from 2017 until his resignation in November 2022.
NDP members in the riding voted to select Venkat Akkiraj over Kim Wagner in that party’s nomination vote this week. Akkiraj is a law student and former organizer with the Ontario NDP.
City Councillor jumps into Grande Prairie UCP race
City Councillor Gladys Blackmore is the fourth candidate to enter the UCP nomination contest in Grande Prairie. Blackmore served on City Council from 2001-2010 before making an unsuccessful bids for mayor in 2010 and 2013. She returned to city council in 2021.
She joins Nolan Dyck, Larry Gibson, and Tayyab Parvez in the race to choose a UCP successor to retiring MLA Tracy Allard.
The UCP MLA for the neighbouring Grande Prairie-Wapiti riding, Finance Minister Travis Toews, has still not announced whether he plans to run for re-election. Toews is now the only remaining MLA who has not announced their plans for the May election.
Hinshaw critic wins UCP nomination in Lethbridge-West
Torry Tanner defeated Rick Dempsey to win the UCP nomination vote in Lethbridge-West. Tanner was a participant in an unsuccessful lawsuit against former Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw challenging Alberta’s COVID-19 public health restrictions.
The riding is currently represented by NDP Shannon Phillips.
Other nomination updates
Calgary-Foothills: The Alberta Party disqualified Shaoli Wang as a candidate after a series of embarrassing social media posts were revealed. Wang will instead run as an Independent candidate.
Cypress-Medicine Hat: James Finkbeiner and Justin Wright are on the ballot when UCP members vote to nominate a candidate on March 16. The riding is currently represented by Independent MLA Drew Barnes.
Edmonton-City Centre: Richard Wong is the UCP candidate in this downtown Edmonton riding.
Leduc-Beaumont: Heather Feldbusch, Nam Kular, Brandon Lunty, Dawn Miller, Dave Quest, and Karen Richert are running for the UCP nomination. A vote is scheduled for March 18.
Peace River: Nancy O’Neill is running for the Independence Party of Alberta nomination.
Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Former Clearwater County Reeve Tim Hovenwill run as an Independent candidate. Hoven was disqualified from running for the UCP nomination against Jason Nixon last year. It was widely believed that Hoven could have defeated Nixon, who was then serving as former premier Kenney’s chief lieutenant.
“March 9th of 2020 was a pivotal day for our province. It marked the first presumptive case of Covid 19 in Alberta, commencing our province’s journey into the pandemic. It marked the worst oil price crash in Alberta’s history, leaving the provincial treasury in the unimaginable position of paying other jurisdictions to take our oil. On top of that, it was the day I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. It was an incredibly tough Monday – both for our province and for me personally.”
Allard was caught in the Aloha-gate scandal in December 2021 when she and her family travelled to Hawaii for a hot holiday, despite the provincial government’s COVID-19 public health recommendations against international travel. She resigned as Minister of Municipal Affairs shortly after her return from the tropical paradise.
In December 2022, Premier Danielle Smithquietly appointed Allard as Parliamentary Secretary for Civil Liberties, though it still remains unclear what her responsibilities in that role actually are.
Former MLA jumps into Leduc-Beaumont UCP race
Former Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Quest is running for the UCP nomination in Leduc-Beaumont.
Quest served as the PC MLA for Strathcona from 2008 to 2012 and Strathcona-Sherwood Park from 2012 to 2015 and he has had a bit of a roundabout political journey ever since.
Quest shunned the UCP in 2019, running instead as the Alberta Party candidate in Strathcona-Sherwood Park, placing third with 13.38 per cent of the vote. He then placed a distant second in the October 2021 Strathcona County mayoral election. And he later joined the UCP fold in April 2022 when he signed a public letter in support of Premier Jason Kenney‘s leadership (Kenney announced his resignation a month later after a poor showing in party’s leadership review).
Also joining the UCP race in Leduc-Beaumont is Dawn Miller, who has served as a trustee with the St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Schools since October 2021.
Calgary-Bow: Demetrios Nicolaides was acclaimed as the UCP candidate. Nicolaides was first elected in 2019 and currently serves as Minister of Advanced Education.
Calgary-Buffalo: Dr. Astrid Kuhn was acclaimed as the UCP candidate in this downtown Calgary riding. Kuhn is a business instructor and communications consultant and previously worked as a reporter and news anchor with Global TV and CBC Television in Calgary.
Calgary-Lougheed: Eric Bouchard is the fourth candidate to join the race.
Calgary-Varsity: Well-known education advocate Dr. Angela Grace has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate. Grace is the fifth candidate nominated by the Alberta Party in this election cycle.
Cypress-Medicine Hat – Damyan Davis is the third candidate to join the UCP nomination in this southeast Alberta riding.
Edmonton-Whitemud: David Masieyi is the third candidate to join the UCP race in this southwest Edmonton riding.
Innsifail-Sylvan Lake – Innisfail town councillor Jason Heistad was nominated as the NDP candidate in this central Alberta riding. Heistad also serves as Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.
Lesser Slave Lake: Silas Yellowknee, former chief of the Bigstone First Nation, is the third candidate to join the UCP nomination contest.
Livingstone-Macleod: Shauna Oseen is the sixth candidate to join the UCP nomination race in this southwest Alberta riding.