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Alberta Politics

Liberals nominate six more candidates in Alberta, Greens nominate parks defender Natalie Odd in Calgary-Confederation

With an election call expected in the coming weeks or months, the Liberal Party of Canada continues to nominate candidates in Alberta.

Randy Boissonnault has been acclaimed as the Liberal Party candidate in Edmonton-Centre. Boissonnault represented the central Edmonton district in Ottawa from 2015 to 2019.

Following weeks of rumours that he was being pressured by Prime Minster Justin Trudeau to run, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson declined the chance to run as the Liberal Party candidate in Edmonton-Centre, clearing the way for Boissonnault’s nomination.

The Liberals have also recently nominated the following candidates:

  • Getahun Shawile in Bow River.
  • Habiba Mohamud in Edmonton-Griesbach. Mohamud was the party’s candidate in the 2019 election, where she placed third with 17.2 per cent of the vote.
  • Tariq Chaudary in Edmonton-Riverbend. Chaudary was the party’s candidate in the 2015 and 2019 election. In 2019, he placed second with 22.9 per cent of the vote.
  • Adam Brown in Edmonton-West
  • Greg Springate in St. Albert-Edmonton. Springate was the party’s candidate in the 2019 election, where he placed second with 19.1 per cent of the vote.
Jason Kenney and Tunde Obasan in 2018.

The Conservative Party has not released any official statement but it appears as though Tunde Obasan has been acclaimed as the party’s candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona following Rick Peterson’s disqualification earlier this month.

Obasan defeated City Councillor Mike Nickel to win the United Conservative Party nomination in Edmonton-South in 2018. He was later defeated by NDP MLA Thomas Dang in the 2019 election.

The Green Party has nominated Natalie Odd in Calgary-Confederation and Evelyn Tanaka in Calgary-Shepard.

Odd is the Executive Director of the Alberta Environmental Network, one of the groups that spearheaded the incredibly successful “Defend Alberta Parks” campaign against the UCP government’s plans to close or privatize more than 170 provincial parks.  This is her third time running as the Green Party candidate in this district.

The right-wing People’s Party has nominated Bailey Bedard in Calgary-Heritage, Thomas Matty in Edmonton-Centre and Paul McCormack in Edmonton-Mill Woods. And the separatist Maverick Party has chosen Matt Magolan in Calgary-Midnapore.


Dr. Sunil Sookram running for Senate

A fourth candidate has put their name forward to run in Alberta’s Senate Nominee election, which will take place on the same day as the province’s municipal elections on October 18, 2021.

University of Alberta Hospital emergency medicine physician and former AHS EMS Medical Director Dr. Sunil Sookram has filed his papers to run as an Independent candidate.

Already running are Progress Alberta executive Director Duncan Kinney, lobbyist and former UCP President Erika Barootes, and conservative activist Pamela Davidson.


I am building a list of candidates seeking party nominations to run as candidates in Alberta in the next federal election. If you have any additions to the list, please email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you.

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Alberta Politics

When a Premier is in trouble, the cabinet gets growing

It isn’t really a saying in Alberta politics but maybe it should be: When a Premier is in trouble, the cabinet gets growing.

That’s what we saw today as embattled Premier Jason Kenney made a major expansion of the provincial cabinet.

It is being described as a post-pandemic reset but today’s cabinet shuffle and expansion probably has more to do with internal turmoil in the UCP Caucus than any actual reset in the government’s agenda. Problem-creating ministers like Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon remain firmly in place.

Kenney, who eagerly declared the COVID-19 pandemic over in Alberta on July 1, has seen his approval ratings and his party’s popularity plummet as it mismanaged its response to the pandemic and pushed forward with an unpopular political agenda that included opening the Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining, a backward draft curriculum for kids, and aggressive attacks against doctors and nurses.

Kenney’s unpopularity now appears to be spilling over into the federal scene and dragging down the federal Conservative Party’s support in Alberta, which a string of polls show at a historic low.

Kenney is so unpopular that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was able to openly mock him at a press conference in Calgary yesterday and there was no public backlash in defence of the provincial Conservative leader.

Facing dissent from inside and outside his caucus and party, Kenney has taken the predictable route of previous Alberta premiers who were in political trouble and expanded his cabinet. Appointments to cabinet posts come with the prestige of a ministerial title, office and staff, a hefty pay hike and are seen as a way to reward a premier’s supporters – and punish dissenters.

The past twenty years of turmoil in conservative politics in Alberta has given us a few clear examples of how cabinets grow when premier’s find themselves in political trouble.

Premier Ralph Klein’s cabinet grew from a slim 17 in 1992 to an expanded 24 by the time he resigned in 2006 after his party’s membership gave him a weak 55.4 per cent endorsement in a leadership review.

Klein’s successor, Premier Ed Stelmach, started with a cabinet of 19 ministers in 2006 only to expand it to 23 by the time he resigned in the face of a caucus revolt in 2011.

But perhaps most famously, Premier Alison Redford’s cabinet grew from 21 in 2011 to 29, including 10 associate ministers, in 2013, representing almost half of the Progressive Conservative Caucus. There was a running joke at the time that if a PC MLA wasn’t in cabinet they must have done something really wrong.

Yesterday Kenney’s cabinet had 22 cabinet ministers and associate ministers. Today, Kenney’s cabinet has 26.

I bet it grows again in a few months.


Premier Jason Kenney, Lieutenant Governor Salma Lakhani and the new cohort of cabinet ministers.
Premier Jason Kenney, Lieutenant Governor Salma Lakhani and the new cohort of cabinet ministers.

Shuffled around …

Jason Luan, MLA Calgary-Foothills, is moved from Associate Minister of Additions and Mental Health to become Minister of Community and Social Services. Luan served as MLA for Calgary-Hawkwood from 2012 until his defeat in the 2015 election to NDP candidate Michael Connolly. Luan returned to the Legislature in 2019.

Ric McIver, MLA Calgary-Hays, keeps his role as Minister of Municipal Affairs but loses his dual role of Minister of Transportation. McIver took over Municipal Affairs when former minister Tracy Allard was removed from cabinet following her COVID rule breaking hot holiday to Hawaii in December 2020. McIver was first elected as a PC MLA in 2012 and previously served as an alderman on Calgary City Council from 2001 to 2010.

Rajan Sawhney, MLA Calgary-North East, leaves her current role as Minister of Community and Social Services to become Minister of Transportation. Sawhney is seen by many political insiders as an up and comer in the UCP cabinet.

Muhammad Yaseen, MLA Calgary-North, leaves his role as Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration to become the Associate Minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism reporting to Minister of Labour and Immigration Jason Copping. Yasseen is a former president of the Pakistan Canada Association of Calgary and was first elected as an MLA in 2019.

New in cabinet…

Mike Ellis, MLA Calgary-West, leaves his role as UCP Caucus Whip to become Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. Ellis was first elected in a 2014 by-election and was only one of a handful of PC MLAs re-elected in 2015.

Nate Horner, MLA Drumheller-Stettler, becomes Associate Minister of Rural Economic Development reporting to Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer. Horner is the grandson of former Member of Parliament Jack Horner and the cousin of former deputy premier Doug Horner.

Whitney Issik, MLA for Calgary-Glenmore, becomes the Associate Minister of Status of Women reporting to newly appointed Minister of Culture and Status of Women Ron Orr. Issik will also serve as UCP Whip. She was first elected in 2019 and was a longtime PC Party volunteer, serving as campaign manager for Jim Prentice during his brief run for the federal PC Party nomination in Calgary-Southwest in 2002, as a constituency assistant to former Calgary-Mountain View MLA Mark Hlady, and as policy co-chair of the federal PC Party during the 2000 federal election.

Ron Orr, MLA Lacombe-Ponoka, becomes Minister of Culture. Orr once declared that legalizing cannabis would spark a communist revolution and he wrote on Facebook in May 2021 that Kenney was raised by God to be leader of Alberta and public health restrictions are just as bad as getting COVID. Before his election as a Wildrose MLA in 2015 he worked as a Baptist Minister in Alberta and British Columbia.

Back in cabinet is Tanya Fir, MLA Calgary-Peigan, as Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction. Fir was surprisingly dropped from her role as Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism in August 2020. Fir was one of the UCP MLAs caught travelling on a hot holiday in December 2020, breaking the government’s public health restrictions.

Out of cabinet…

Leela Aheer, MLA Chestermere-Strathmore and UCP Deputy Leader, has lost her cabinet role as Minister of Culture and Status of Women. Her departure from cabinet is probably retribution for her publicly calling on Kenney to apologize after he and other senior cabinet ministers were caught breaking the government’s COVID-19 restrictions by holding a boozy dinner party on the balcony of the Sky Palace. Aheer also criticized Kenney for his tone-deaf defence of Sir John A Macdonald following the discovery of unmarked graves of children at former Indian Residential School sites.

Grant Hunter, MLA Taber-Warner, loses his position as Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction. Hunter is currently on a province-wide ministerial tour of northeast Alberta with Justice Minister Kaycee Madu and Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. Hunter was the only cabinet minister from south of Calgary.

Other non-cabinet changes today included:

Joseph Schow, MLA Cardston-Siksika, the current the deputy government whip becomes deputy government house leader. Brad Rutherford, MLA Leduc-Beaumont, becomes deputy government whip.

After 6 months without a permanent Chief of Staff, Premier Kenney has named his Deputy Chief of Staff Pam Livingston to the role. Livingston started working in the Premier’s Office in January 2021 after the resignation of Jamie Huckabay, who was caught in the international holiday scandal.

Interim Chief of Staff Larry Kaumeyer returns to his previous role as Principal Secretary in the Premier’s Office.

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Alberta Politics

Conservative activist Pam Davidson running in Alberta’s Senate Nominee election

Conservative Party activist Pamela Davidson has announced her plans to run as a candidate in Alberta’s Senate Nominee elections on October 18, 2021.

On her website, Davidson describers herself as a staunch advocate for property rights and supporter of law-abiding firearms owners.

Davidson has made numerous attempts to run for political office locally and internally in the federal and provincial conservative parties.

Davidson was unsuccessfully in her bid to defeat Councillor Christine Moore in Division 6 in Red Deer County in 2017.

She was endorsed by the the anti-abortion lobby group Right Now and the National Firearms Council during her unsuccessful bid to win a seat on the Conservative Party of Canada’s National Council in 2021. She was one of the organizers of Premier Jason Kenney’s Christian prayer breakfast in Edmonton in November 2019.

In 2018, she was the chair of the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake UCP nomination committee ahead of that year’s by-election and ran as a “Team Grassroots” slate candidate for the Central Alberta director on the United Conservative Party’s board of directors.

Her husband, Gary, unsuccessfully sought the UCP nomination against Jason Stephan in Red Deer-South in 2019 (Pam Davidson ran against Stephan’s sister-in-law, Laura, in the 2017 municipal election in Red Deer County).

Davidson notes on her website that she is running for the Conservative Party nomination for the Senate Nominee election. It is unclear whether the Conservative Party of Canada has released any details or information about the nomination contest, but Davidson’s website says you must have a valid Conservative Party members by July 29, 2021 to vote in the nomination contest.

This is the first time since Senate Nominee elections were first held in 1989 that candidates can run under a federal party banner. In previous Senate Nominee elections candidates were only allowed to run as a provincial party candidate or an Independent candidate.

The new Senate Election Act introduced in 2019 allows candidates to list their federal party affiliation on the ballot, though it is unclear whether the federal party’s will actually have any control over who is listed as affiliated with them on the ballot.

The Conservative Party of Canada is currently the only federal party with representation in the Senate. All other Senators sit as Independent or members of a smaller caucus that are unaffiliated with a political party.

The uniquely-Albertan election is being held to select a list of nominees to be appointed to the Senate of Canada when there are vacancies in Alberta’s delegation. Only Progressive Conservative and Conservative Prime Ministers have recognized the election and recommended the appointment of nominees chosen in Alberta’s Senate Nominee elections.

Other already declared candidates are Progress Alberta executive director Duncan Kinney and lobbyist and former UCP President Erika Barootes.

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Alberta Politics

Randy Boissonnault planning a comeback in Edmonton-Centre, Erika Barootes launches Senate Nominee campaign

Randy Boissonnault announced plans to try to make a political comeback by seeking the federal Liberal Party nomination in Edmonton-Centre.

Boissonnault was elected as the Liberal MP for the district in 2015 and served Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and special advisor on LGBTQ2 issues to the Prime Minister. He was defeated by Conservative James Cumming in the 2019 election.

Rumours continue to circulate in Ottawa about the federal Liberals desire to recruit Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson to run as their candidate in Edmonton-Centre. Iveson told reporters yesterday that he has not made any decisions about his political future.

Cumming has been nominated as the Conservative candidate and former public school board trustee Heather Mackenzie is the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Centre.

Erika Barootes Senate Nominee Election Conservative
Erika Barootes

Meanwhile, lobbyist and former United Conservative Party president Erika Barootes has announced her plans to become a candidate in Alberta’s Senate Nominee election, which is scheduled to take place in conjunction with the municipal elections in October.

Barootes is the Western Vice-President of Enterprise Canada and also serves as the President of the Conservative Party association in Edmonton-Centre and the Chief Financial Officer of the UCP association in Edmonton-Glenora.

A close-ally of Premier Jason Kenney, she is endorsed by a swath of Conservative partisan luminaries, including Rona Ambrose, Heather Forsyth, Laurie Hawn and Betty Unger.

Staff Barootes
Staff Barootes

She is the granddaughter of Staff Barootes, who was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1984 and served until 1993.

The elder Barootes was the chief fundraiser for the Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan and, in 1984, he was one of the first three appointments made by Mulroney to the Senate.

The uniquely-Albertan election is being held to select a list of nominees to be appointed to the Senate of Canada when there are vacancies in Alberta’s delegation. Only Progressive Conservative and Conservative Prime Ministers have recognized the election and recommended the appointment of nominees chosen in Alberta’s Senate Nominee elections.

Barootes is the second candidate to announce plans to enter the Senate Nominee election after Duncan Kinney, executive director of Progress Alberta, announced in April 2021.

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Alberta Politics

All 33 Conservative MPs acclaimed in Alberta. Liberals have contested nomination in Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan

All 33 incumbent Members of Parliament representing the Conservative Party from Alberta have been acclaimed as candidates to run in the next federal election.

The only exception to the wave of unchallenged nominations is in Edmonton Strathcona, where Tunde Obasan and Rick Peterson are seeking the Conservative nomination to challenge New Democratic Party MP Heather McPherson, who was also acclaimed, in the next federal election. This is the only district in Alberta not currently represented by a Conservative MP.

Meanwhile, there is a surprise east of Edmonton. Two candidates have announced their plans to seek the Liberal Party nomination in the Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan district east of Edmonton. Tanya Reeb Holm and Ron Thiering are seeking the nomination at a meeting scheduled for June 22, 2021. Thiering was acclaimed as the party’s candidate in this riding in 2019 and finished in third place with 9.9 per cent in that year’s federal election.

Incumbent Member of Parliament Garnett Genuis has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate.

John Kuhn has been nominated as the separatist Maverick Party candidate. Kuhn was elected as mayor of the southern Alberta town of Bassano in 2007 but resigned four months later.

Here are the other candidates updates:

Banff-Airdrie: MP Blake Richards has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Richards was first elected in 2008. Tariq Elnaga has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate. Elnaga is Vice President of the Cochrane Roping Club and the Chute Experience Director with the Airdrie Pro Rodeo.

Battle River-Crowfoot – Doug Karwandy has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate.

Calgary-Centre: Sabrina Grover is seeking the Liberal Party nomination in this central Calgary district. Grover is a Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer Nutrition International and Principal of Provoke Public Relations. She was active in the Progressive Conservative Party in the mid-2010s. The district was represented by Liberal MP Kent Hehr from 2015 to 2019. Michael Pewtress is running as an Independent candidate in this district.

Calgary Forest Lawn: MP Jasraj Singh Hallan has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Hallan was first elected in 2019.

Calgary Heritage – MP Bob Benzen has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Benzen was first elected in the 2017 by-election held to replace former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Calgary Nose Hill: Jessica Dale-Walker is seeking the Liberal Party nomination.

Calgary Rocky Ridge: Dave Robinson has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate.

Calgary Skyview: Harry Dhillon has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate.

Calgary Signal Hill: Ajay Coop has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate.

Edmonton Centre: MP James Cumming has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Cumming was first elected in 2019 when he defeated Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault.

Edmonton Griesbach: MP Kerry Diotte has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Diotte served one-term on city council before he was elected to the House of Commons in 2015.

Edmonton Riverbend: MP Matt Jeneroux has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Jeneroux was first elected as MP in 2015 and previously served as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton-South West from 2012 to 2015. Shawn Gray is seeking the NDP nomination, which is scheduled to take place on June 15.

Edmonton West: MP Kelly McCauley has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. McCauley was first elected in 2015.

Edmonton Wetaskiwin: Tyler Beauchamp has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate. Travis Calliou no longer running as a Veterans Coalition Party candidate. 

Foothills: MP John Barlow has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Barlow was first elected in 2015.

Grande Prairie-Mackenzie: Benita Pedersen has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate.

Lakeland: MP Shannon Stubbs has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Stubbs was first elected in 2015 and has been rumoured to a potential candidate for the leadership of the United Conservative Party if Premier Jason Kenney does not survive his current leadership challenges.

Lethbridge: Kimberley Dawn Hovan has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate.

Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner: Brodie Heidinger has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate.

Peace River-Westlock: MP Arnold Viersen has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Gail Ungstad has been nominated as the NDP candidate. Colin Krieger is the Maverick Party candidate.

Red Deer-Lacombe: MP Blaine Calkins has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Calkins was first elected in 2006.

Red Deer-Mountain View: Jared Pilon no longer running as Independent. He’s a Libertarian candidate. Mark Wilcox has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate.

Sturgeon River-Parkland: Dane Lloyd has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Lloyd was first elected in a 2017 by-election to replace former Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose.

Yellowhead: MP Gerald Soroka has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. He was first elected in 2019.

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Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney is having another bad week

When a politician repeatedly tries to gaslight his opponents and the media, deny what is perfectly obvious in a photo, refuse to apologize and then after five days only offer a non-apology when faced with a cabinet and caucus revolt, their credibility becomes damaged when the next scandal breaks – even if that alleged scandal might be hard to believe.

It doesn’t help that politician that he lost $1.3 billion betting Donald Trump would be re-elected as President of the United States last November. Or that his party and personal popularity continues to drop in the public opinion polls.

Premier Jason Kenney is having another bad week.

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Alberta Politics

More turmoil in Kenney’s Caucus: UCP MLA Richard Gotfried resigns as chair of the Calgary Caucus and criticizes “hypocrisy” in government leadership

Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried is the latest member of the United Conservative Party Caucus to publicly criticize his party’s leadership.

According to a statement and comments on Facebook, Gotfried resigned as chair of the UCP’s Calgary Caucus last Thursday so that he can have “even more latitude to speak unreservedly on matters of principle, ethics and government/caucus operations…”

“I call upon all elected representatives at all levels of government across our province to show leadership, to act responsibly and to avoid the hypocrisy that makes a mockery of the tough decisions we have to make and the sacrifices/responsible behaviour we have been asking of each and every Albertan for the past 15 months,” Gotfried wrote in a post on his MLA Facebook page.

Gotfried’s statement was written in a very respectful tone and didn’t name Premier Jason Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Finance Minister Travis Toews or Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon, who were pictured in the photos of the boozy Sky Palace patio party that circulated on social media last week, but reading between the lines it was pretty clear who his message was directed to.

Richard Gotfried United Conservative Party MLA Calgary-Fish Creek
Richard Gotfried’s statement on Facebook

The timing of Gotfried’s statement follows the release of the final report of the Facility-based Continuing Care Review that Gotfried led, which was almost completely overshadowed by the boozy Sky Palace patio party and Kenney’s ill-timed lecture in defence of Sir John A Macdonald.

Boozy Sky Palace Patio Party Jason Kenney Tyler Shandro Travis Toews Jason Nixon
One of the now infamous boozy Sky Palace patio party photos.

Gotfried is the sponsor of Bill 70: COVID-19 Related Measures Act, a government bill designed to shield owners of long-term care centers from COVID-19 related lawsuits.

He was first elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019 under the UCP banner. He endorsed Kenney in the 2017 PC Party leadership race.

Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt and Bonnyville-Cold Lake-Two Hills MLA David Hanson, and cabinet ministers Leela Aheer and Rajan Sawhney have publicly called on Kenney to apologize for violating the government’s own COVID-19 public health rules by hosting the boozy patio party on the 11th floor balcony of the Federal Building in Edmonton.

Kenney and his staff continue to deny he broke any rules.

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen were ejected from the UCP Caucus three weeks ago after Loewen called on Kenney to resign as leader of the party.


Notley leads only united party left in AlbertaRachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

In a clear contrast to what is happening in the UCP Caucus, delegates to the Alberta NDP convention this past weekend gave Rachel Notley’s leadership a huge endorsement. When the ballots were counted, 98.2 per cent of NDP delegates endorsed Notley’s leadership in the mandatory leadership review vote held at every NDP convention.

The convention included the usual debate over policy positions and motions and a host of panels featuring Democratic strategists from Arizona and municipal politicians from rural Alberta.

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Alberta Politics

Kenney’s reaction to boozy Sky Palace patio party photos sparks another UCP Caucus rebellion

Any appearance that Premier Jason Kenney had regained control over his United Conservative Party caucus three weeks ago when rebel MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen were ejected was shattered this weekend.

A handful of UCP MLAs, including two cabinet ministers, are now publicly calling on the Kenney to apologize for breaking COVID-19 public health restrictions by hosting a boozy Sky Palace patio party that was caught on camera.

The photos of Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon and Finance Minister Travis Toews, and senior political staff dining at a booze filled table atop the penthouse patio of the notorious Sky Palace circulated on social media this week.

Boozy Sky Palace Patio Party Jason Kenney Tyler Shandro Travis Toews Jason Nixon
One of the now infamous boozy Sky Palace patio party photos.

Kenney and company were clearly breaking the government’s own public health restrictions. But, instead of admitting they made a mistake and moving on, the Premier’s political staff jumped on social media to aggressively attack anyone who criticized their leader, claiming they did not break any rules.

But some UCP MLAs remain pretty unconvinced.

Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt, a leader of the UCP’s COVID-18, posted on Facebook that it was clear that Kenney and the senior cabinet ministers were breaking public health restrictions.

“Looking at these photos it seems clear to me that several health restrictions were violated,” wrote Pitt.

Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills UCP MLA David Hanson posted on Facebook that he agreed with Pitt. “I’m with you Angela. Albertans are angry, again, and rightly so, disappointing,” Hanson wrote.

Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer, UCP MLA Chestermere-Strathmore
Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer (source: YouTube)

And today, Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer, who also serves as Deputy Leader of the UCP and Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism & Status of Women, called on Kenney to “sincerely apologize” for breaking public health rules.

Aheer also took Kenney to task over his long-winded lecture defending Sir John A. Macdonald and claims that critics of Canada’s first Prime Minister are engaging in “cancel culture.”

Kenney’s comments were incredibly insensitive in light of the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried at a former Residential School in Kamloops. Kenney’s comments prompted strong responses from the Confederation of Treaty Six First Nations and the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta.

Jason Kenney Rajan Sawhney Calgary North East
Jason Kenney and Rajan Sawhney (source: YouTube)

Minister of Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney, the UCP MLA for Calgary-North East, also called on Kenney to apologize for his boozy Sky Palace patio party.

“If they have committed a mistake, they must accept it openly. (The) photo clearly speaks,” Sawhney said on RED 106.7 FM in Calgary.

Meanwhile, Red Deer-South UCP MLA Jason Stephan is calling on the Kenney government to launch a public inquiry into the cost of its public health restrictions.

In this case, the attempted coverup was probably worse than the crime. Most Albertans would probably have accepted a quick apology from Kenney and his senior cabinet ministers for the rule breaking that so obviously occurred in the photos.

Kenney’s inability to admit that he made a mistake, and his staff’s overly aggressive attacks on anyone who pointed out what was clearly happening in the photos, has only given his opponents in the UCP caucus another reason to publicly criticize him.

This is certainly not the type of criticism that a Premier with a 16 per cent approval rating should be courting.

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Alberta Politics

Yeehaw! Alberta is lifting restrictions and opening for a one-dose summer

“Opening for summer” was Premier Jason Kenney’s new tagline as he announced that by July the provincial government will mount a quick retreat from the public health restrictions implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Jason Kenney

It is a bizarre whiplash from a week ago when Alberta was leading North America for active cases of COVID-19 and Intensive Care Units were starting to overflow (there are still 150 COVID patients in ICU beds in Alberta). But consistency has never been Kenney’s style during the pandemic and his decision to rush the removal of restrictions likely being driven by his need to score political points and save job as leader of the United Conservative Party.

The three stage plan appears to be planned around the start of the Ponoka Stampede and the Calgary Stampede, two of the largest public events in an Alberta summer.

It has been a long 15 months since the pandemic began, so it is hard not to be cautiously optimistic that the plan will work. But, like many of Kenney’s plans, it seems to be driven by political expediency rather than the vigilance our leaders probably should embrace to defeat this virus.

Alberta’s public health restrictions have been mild compared with most other provinces in Canada and jurisdictions abroad. Coffee shops and grocery stores have remained open, as have religious services (with lower attendance rates), and even the Legislative Assembly continued to meet in-person until last week. It even took a while for the government to be convinced that casinos should be closed.

Rachel Notley

Proactive measures have not been a distinguishing feature of Kenney’s response to COVID-19.

UCP staffers have been jubilantly tweeting that Albertans “crushed the spike,” referring to the third wave that peaked at more than 26,000 active cases, but it was only after weeks of delays and ignoring the pleas of medical professionals that the Kenney government implemented the measures that “crushed” the third wave of COVID-19 in Alberta.

Only a week before Kenney implemented the current public health measures, he was complaining to the media that restrictions don’t work because people don’t listen to them, despite the third wave that happened after the previous health measures were prematurely lifted in February 2021. 

The decline in active cases since the new public health measures were put in place suggests the restrictions did work.

A growing number of Albertans are getting injected with their first dose of COVID-19 vaccines and there are still questions about how many Albertans will have received a second dose of the vaccine by the time Kenney rips the bandaid off in July.

Despite conservative partisans criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for using the term “one-dose summer,” it would appear that a one-dose is enough for the UCP government to remove all public health restrictions.

There is also growing concern about how effective one dose of vaccine is in protecting people from the B.1.617.2 variant (the “India variant”), which is the source of a third wave in the United Kingdom.

New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley is urging caution and raising questions about the speed the restrictions will be lifted, which is a fair criticism. In typical fashion, Kenney responded with a partisan barb, accusing the NDP of being anti-vaxxers. All NDP MLAs have confirmed they have received their first vaccination, something not all UCP MLAs have confirmed doing.

A lot of Albertans, myself included, are hoping that the removal of restrictions will work and we can put COVID-19 behind us. It would be nice to have a summer not constrained by even mild public health restrictions. It would be nice for the pandemic to be over. We will find out by the fall whether the Kenney government jumped the gun in removing restrictions too soon.


Hinman only candidate in Wildrose Independence Party leadership vote

Paul Hinman Wildrose Independence Party MLA
Paul Hinman

Former Wildrose Party MLA Paul Hinman is the only candidate to enter the Wildrose Independence Party leadership race. A vote of the separatist party’s membership will be held on August 28, 2021 to confirm his leadership.

Hinman represented the Alberta Alliance and Wildrose Alliance parties as the MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 and the Wildrose Party as the MLA for Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012. He led the Wildrose Alliance in the 2008 election.

Hinman is the grandson of Social Credit MLA and cabinet minister Edgar Hinman.


NDP to hold nomination meeting in Calgary-Varsity on June 26

Luanne Metz Calgary-Varsity NDP
Luanne Metz

The Alberta NDP will hold the first nomination meeting of the 2023 election cycle on June 26, 2021 in Calgary-Varisty. Prominent physician Dr. Luanne Metz is expected to be acclaimed as candidate.

The northwest Calgary district is a key target riding for the NDP in the next election and was narrowly won by UCP MLA Jason Copping in 2019.

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Alberta Politics

Becoming Daveberta – an interview on the Forgotten Corner Podcast

I don’t usually talk about myself much so it was fun to join Scott Schmidt and Jeremy Appell on the Forgotten Corner Podcast to chat about my path through Alberta politics and how Daveberta.ca became a thing.

Give the episode a listen and show them some support.

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Alberta Politics

Leela Aheer faces early UCP nomination challenge 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

Prominent Calgary physician Dr. Luanne Metz seeking NDP nomination in Calgary-Varsity

Calgary physician and well-known public health care advocate Dr. Luanne Metz is filing her papers to seek the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Varsity.

Dr. Metz is a Professor and the Head of the Division of Neurology at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary. She is also a founder of Eyes Forward Alberta, an advocacy group created to support public health care and oppose the United Conservative Party government’s plans to privatize large swaths of the health care system.

“I want to contribute to fixing our health-care system,” Metz said in a media statement released last night.

“My way of dealing with the stress of recent policies that are the opposite of what evidence recommends is to do whatever I can to be part of the solution. UCP policies are hurting Albertans and will increase health care costs,” she said. “I want to continue championing the health and wellness of Albertans in the Legislature.”

According to the University of Calgary website, Metz is recognized globally as an expert in Multiple Sclerosis and, in 2015, was awarded the Alberta Medal of Distinguished Service – which recognizes physicians who have made an outstanding personal contribution to the medical profession and to the people of Alberta.

Jason Copping Calgary Varsity
Jason Copping

If nominated as the NDP candidate, Metz could challenge current UCP MLA Jason Copping, now the Minister of Labour and Immigration, in the next election. Copping defeated NDP candidate Anne McGrath (now the National Director of the New Democratic Party of Canada) by 638 votes in the 2019 election.

Calgary-Varsity has been a swing riding that has generally leaned away from the conservative parties since the mid-2000s, being represented by popular Liberal MLA Harry Chase from 2004 to 2012, Progressive Conservative and Independent MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans from 2012 to 2015, and NDP MLA Stephanie McLean from 2015 to 2019.

Election results in Calgary-Varsity from 2001 to 2019.
Election results in Calgary-Varsity from 2001 to 2019.

The next Alberta provincial election is expected to be held between March 1, 2023 and May 31, 2023.


“Anti-lockdown” café owner running for separatist party nomination

Chris Scott Wildrose Independence Party Lacombe Ponoka
Chris Scott

Chris Scott, the owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe in the central Alberta hamlet of Mirror is reported to be seeking the Wildrose Independence Party nomination in Lacombe-Ponoka.

Scott has become well-known for keeping his cafe open in defiance of public health restrictions put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.

He was arrested by RCMP at a rally to oppose the government’s public health restrictions held outside his cafe on May 8, 2021. He was released from police custody on May 12.

Lacombe-Ponoka is currently represented by UCP MLA Ron Orr, who, in a Facebook post defending Premier Jason Kenney last week, claimed that Kenney was raised by God to be the leader of his party.

The right-wing separatist party formerly known as the Freedom Conservative Party is currently in the process of selecting its first permanent leader.

Categories
Daveberta Podcast

Episode 74: UCP Mutiny (Barnes and Loewen Edition)

Dani Paradis and Chris Henderson are back on the Daveberta Podcast to discuss the recent blow-out in the United Conservative Party caucus, the expulsion of Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen and the ongoing challenges to Premier Jason Kenney’s flailing leadership.

We also discuss recent developments in Edmonton’s mayoral election, Michael Oshry launching into the race, and Amarjeet Sohi’s expected entry into the campaign.

Dani Paradis is a Contributing Editor at Canadaland and co-editor of Rage Against the Municipal. Chris Henderson is Chief Strategist and Partner at Y-Station Communications and Research and was campaign manager for Don Iveson‘s 2007 and 2010 city council campaigns and 2013 mayoral campaign.

The Daveberta Podcast is hosted by Dave Cournoyer and produced by Adam Rozenhart.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported. The Alberta Podcast Network includes dozens of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

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

It’s an open rebellion. UCP MLA Todd Loewen calls on Jason Kenney to resign

Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen has resigned as chair of the United Conservative Party Caucus and is calling on Premier Jason Kenney to resign as leader of the United Conservative Party.

Letter from Todd Loewen calling of Jason Kenney to resign
Letter from Todd Loewen calling of Jason Kenney to resign
Letter from Todd Loewen calling of Jason Kenney to resign
Letter from Todd Loewen calling of Jason Kenney to resign

In a letter posted on his Facebook page at  11:52 p.m. last night, Loewen, a former Wildrose Party MLA who was first elected in 2015 and supported Brian Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership race, announced his resignation as chair and explained the reasons for his calling on Kenney to step down.

Loewen was one of 18 UCP MLAs who openly criticized the government’s COVID-19 health restrictions, so it was surprising that the reasons listed in his letter were not related to the government’s response to COVID-19. Instead, Loewen criticized Kenney for his handling of negotiations with physicians, plans to expand open-pit coal mining in the Rockies and losing the trust of Albertans.

“We did not unite around one man,” Loewen wrote, taking a direct shot at Kenney’s leadership.

Kenney has always had lower approval and popularity ratings than his party, but over the last year his approval ratings have plummeted and he has begun to drag his party down with him. The UCP has polled behind Rachel Notley’s Alberta NDP in every public poll since November 2020 and the NDP raised twice as much money as the UCP in the first three months of 2021.

Challenges to Kenney’s leadership have been growing.

UCP constituency presidents and activists have signed a letter calling on Kenney to resign and for a leadership review to be held, and there have been rumblings of major unhappiness in the UCP caucus for months, but this is the first time a UCP MLA has called on the Premier to step down.

There is now an open rebellion against Kenney in the UCP caucus.

The Premier has no choice but to now remove Loewen from the government caucus. If he doesn’t, it will show that he has clearly lost control of his caucus and the loyalty of his MLAs.

As I have written before, the UCP Kenney helped create is an institutional mix of former Progressive Conservatives, who do not tolerate leaders who look like they are going to lose, and Wildrosers, who just don’t want to be led.

Now we wait to see how Kenney reacts.


Update: David Hanson, the UCP MLA for Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul, has posted on Facebook that he supports Loewen’s letter calling on Kenney to resign. Hanson was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2015 and was one of the 18 UCP MLAs who publicly criticized the government’s COVID-19 health restrictions. He also endorsed Brian Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership race.

MLA David Hanson's Facebook post supporting Todd Loewen's letter calling on Jason Kenney to resign as leader of the United Conservative Party.
MLA David Hanson’s Facebook post supporting Todd Loewen’s letter calling on Jason Kenney to resign as leader of the United Conservative Party.

Update: The UCP Caucus virtual meeting, which was scheduled to take place at 9:00 a.m. today has been cancelled.