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Alberta Politics

Controlling Everything Everywhere All At Once

NDP’s Oscar-winning film inspired catch phrase captures the UCP moment in Alberta politics

“Danielle Smith wants to control everything, everywhere, all at once…”

In the middle of the weekly chaos of Alberta politics, a catch phrase inspired by an Academy Award winning film has captured one of the driving themes of Alberta politics today.

Danielle Smith wants to control everything. Pensions, police, health care, schools, local councils. Any dollar spent anywhere in the province, and any decision made by anyone. Everything,” NDP MLA Kyle Kasawski first said in an April 29 press release.

Kasawski is the rookie MLA from Sherwood Park who became the opposition’s sole Municipal Affairs critic when co-critic Sarah Hoffman joined the NDP leadership race earlier this year.

While Municipal Affairs can sometimes be a sleepy file, on both the ministerial and critic side, it has been front and centre over the past month as Premier Danielle Smith and Minister Ric McIver rein in municipal and university funding agreements with the federal government and expand the provincial cabinet’s power to fire locally elected officials and overturn municipal bylaws.

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Alberta Politics

Danielle Smith hosts Alberta’s largest call-in talk show: the United Conservative Party

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.

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Alberta Politics

Look who’s running in the UCP AGM Board elections

What to make of Take Back Alberta, the Unity Slate, and everybody else on the ballot.

With the United Conservative Party’s November 3 and 4 Annual General Meetingfast approaching, the party’s Board of Director elections are a major focus of attention.

The UCP board is the governing body of the organization and is made up of seventeen elected directors, party leader Premier Danielle Smith, and two non-voting MLAs who serve as Caucus liaisons. The two MLA spots, which are chosen through a vote of UCP MLAs, are currently filled by Camrose MLA Jackie Lovely and Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland MLA Shane Getson.

Half of the UCP director positions are up for election this year and the sweeping success of the slate of candidates backed by the social conservative Take Back Alberta group at last year’s AGM has fuelled a lot of speculation about what might happen in this election.

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Daveberta Podcast

Ask Me Anything about Alberta politics episode

You shared your Alberta politics questions and we answered them in our annual Ask Me Anything episode of the Daveberta Podcast.

New and recent episodes of the Daveberta Podcast are available to paid subscribers of the Daveberta Substack. In case you missed them, you can catch up on recent Daveberta Podcast episodes with Edmonton Public School Board chairperson Trisha Estabrooksthewrit.ca publisher Éric Grenier, and strategist Chris Henderson.

The Daveberta Podcast is hosted by Dave Cournoyer and produced by Adam Rozenhart. This episode was recorded on July 12, 2023.

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Alberta Politics

Bringing Jason Nixon and Ric McIver back into cabinet was smart politics

It has been almost two weeks since Alberta Premier Danielle Smith named 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.

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Alberta Politics

19 Alberta ridings I’ll be watching closely on Election Day

There are four days left until Election Day in Alberta.

Readers of the Daveberta will know I’ve been watching this Alberta election pretty closely and, while I’ve actually been watching all 87 ridings throughout the campaign, there are a few handfuls I’ve been keeping a close eye on.

Some of them will be close races and some will be won with landslides.

Here’s my list of 19 ridings I’ll be watching closely on Election Day.

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Alberta Politics

NDP leader Rachel Notley nominated in Edmonton-Strathcona, Chelsae Petrovic wins UCP ‘do-over’ vote in Livingstone-Macleod

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

Chelsae Petrovic and Rebecca Schulz UCP nomination Livingstone Macleod
Claresholm Mayor Chelsae Petrovic and UCP leadership candidate Rebecca Schulz in 2022 (source: Chelsae Petrovic/Facebook)

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.

Former People’s Party candidate Nadine Wellwood was the only candidate in a previous nomination race held in November 2022 after MLA Roger Reid withdrew the day after the entry deadline. Wellwood was then disqualified by the UCP provincial board of directors.

Crowsnest Pass Municipal Councillor Lisa Sygutek wrote about the nomination vote and what she describes as Take Back Alberta’s takeover of the local UCP constituency association.

The NDP have nominated well-known conservationist and author Kevin Van Tighem and Nanton town councillor Kevin Todd is running for the Alberta Party.

Bouchard wins 5-way UCP race in Calgary-Lougheed

Restaurant manager Eric Bouchard defeated Sherrisa Celis, Max DeGroat, Mark Fiselier, and Michelle Mather to win the UCP nomination in Calgary-Lougheed.

Bouchard told the Western Standard that the opposition to the NDP government’s decision to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour in 2018 was a reason he ran for the nomination. A quick glance at his twitter feed suggests that opposition to COVID-19 public health restrictions is a more recent reflection of his politics.

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 Hoven will 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.

Upcoming nomination votes

With just over 80 days left until Election Day, the Alberta NDP have nominated candidates in 77 of Alberta’s 87 ridings. The United Conservative Party has candidates named in 76 ridings and the Green Party has 26 candidates. The Alberta Party has nominated 12 candidates and the Liberal Party has one.

Candidate nomination votes are currently scheduled for the following dates:

  • March 16 – Cypress-Medicine Hat UCP
  • March 18 – Leduc-Beaumont UCP
  • March 18, 19, 20 – Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre IP
  • April 1 – Calgary-North East UCP

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Alberta Politics

Claresholm mayor Chelsae Petrovic the 5th candidate in Livingstone-Macleod UCP nomination race

Three months ago after the party cancelled a previous nomination contest it looked like almost nobody wanted to run for the United Conservative Party in Livingstone-Macleod. Now there are five candidates in the race to replace retiring MLA Roger Reid.

Livingstone-Macleod MLA Roger Reid and Premier Danielle Smith United Conservative Party nomination
Roger Reid and Danielle Smith (source: Roger Reid/Instagram)

Town of Claresholm mayor Chelsae Petrovic is the fifth candidate to jump into the UCP nomination contest in the sprawling south west Alberta riding, joining Tanya Clemens, Christina Lee, Kevin Todd, and Don Whalen.

Petrovic was elected to her first 4-year term as mayor in October 2021 and appears to have already collected $1000 in online donations for her nomination run.

A date for the nomination vote hasn’t been set yet but this is actually the second time the UCP has had to hold a nomination race in Livingstone-Macleod.

With Reid announcing he would not run for re-election the day after the October 31, 2022 candidate entry deadline, former People’s Party candidate and Freedom Convoy-enthusiast Nadine Wellwood was left as the lone candidate in the race. Wellwood’s supporters claimed they sold more than 800 UCP memberships in the riding but her promotion of debunked COVID-19 treatments like ivermectin and comparisons of vaccine passports to policies enacted by the Nazi Germany led the UCP to reject her acclamation.

So the UCP was left without a candidate in what was a very safe riding in 2019.

Conservationist Kevin Van Tighem is running for the NDP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod.
Conservationist Kevin Van Tighem is the NDP candidate in Livingstone-Macleod. (Source: Kevin Van Tighem/Facebook)

Overshadowing all this is the Premier of Alberta, who actually lives in the riding but was elected in a by-election elsewhere.

Danielle Smith announced in March 2022 that she would challenge Reid for the UCP nomination but after she won the party leadership he gave no indication he was interested in resigning to let her run in a by-election. Instead, Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA Michaela Frey resigned to allow Smith to run in a by-election in that riding, which she won handily.

Smith has not been officially nominated to run in either riding in the next election but the crowded race in her home riding suggests she is sticking with Brooks-Medicine Hat.

The Alberta NDP have nominated well-known conservationist Kevin Van Tighem. The author and former superintendent of Banff National Park has been an outspoken opponent of open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains, an issue that drew widespread opposition from municipal leaders and ranchers in the region.

Other nomination updates

Here are some of the latest updates to the list of Alberta election nomination candidates:

Calgary-Fish Creek: The United Conservative Party will hold a nomination vote on February 23. Three candidates have entered the race: Dave Guenter, Myles McDougall, and Christina Steed. Steed has been endorsed by outgoing UCP MLA Richard Gotfried and Guenter has an endorsement from Grande Prairie-Mackenzie Conservative MP Chris Warkentin.

Calgary-Lougheed: Michelle Mather is the third candidate to enter the UCP nomination contest in this south west Calgary riding formerly represented by newly hired Bennett Jones employee Jason Kenney. Max DeGroat and Mark Fieslier are already in the race.

Calgary-Varsity: The Alberta Party will announce its candidate in this north west Calgary riding at an event on February 12.

Cypress-Medicine Hat: Cypress County Councillor Robin Kurpjuweit has dropped out of UCP nomination contest. James Finkbeiner and Justin Wright are the two candidates left in the race.

Edmonton-McClung: Past city council candidate Daniel Heikkinen and oral surgeon Terry Vankka are seeking the UCP nomination in this south west Edmonton riding. A nomination meeting is scheduled for February 10.

Edmonton-North West: Tyler Beaulac has been nominated as the Green Party candidate.

Edmonton-Whitemud: UCP Caucus staffer Varun Chandrasekar will challenge former Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman for the UCP nomination. Sherman attempted to run for the UCP leadership in 2022 but was not granted a waiver to join the race when he did not meeting the membership requirements.

Red Deer-North: Heather Morigeau is running for the Green Party. Morigeau was previously nominated as the party’s candidate in Calgary-Buffalo but withdrew from the nomination in that riding last month.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Carrie Tait has a report about the Take Back Alberta-backed revolt against embattled MLA and former finance minister Jason Nixon and the right-wing group’s effort to overturn his nomination as the UCP candidate in the riding.

Sherwood Park: Sue Timanson is the Alberta Party candidate in this suburban riding just east of Edmonton. Timanson was the party’s candidate in 2019, when she earned 13.1 per cent of the vote.

Upcoming nomination meetings

Candidate nomination votes are currently scheduled for the following dates:

  • February 6 – Innisfail-Sylvan Lake NDP
  • February 10 – Edmonton-McClung UCP
  • February 13 – Drumheller-Stettler NDP
  • February 15 – Calgary-Klein NDP
  • February 15 – Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre NDP
  • February 17 – Lacombe-Ponoka UCP
  • February 23 – Calgary-Fish Creek UCP
  • February 23 – Edmonton-Whitemud UCP
  • February 25 – Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock NDP
  • February 28 – Cypress-Medicine Hat NDP

(If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Daveberta Substack and listen to the latest episode of the Daveberta Podcast). 

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Alberta Politics

UCP race in Leduc-Beaumont draws 5 candidates, Take Back Alberta moves closer to taking back Jason Nixon’s nomination

There’s a crowded race for the United Conservative Party nomination just south of Edmonton.

Nam Kular and Al Luthra are the latest candidates to join Heather Feldbusch, Brandon Lunty, and Karen Richert in the race to replace retiring UCP MLA Brad Rutherford in Leduc-Beaumont.

Rutherford was elected in 2019 with 58.4 per cent of the vote. He announced his retirement from provincial politics shortly after he was appointed by Premier Danielle Smith as Government Caucus Whip and Minister without Portfolio.

The NDP have nominated paramedic Cam Heenan as their candidate. The riding was represented by NDP MLA Shaye Anderson from 2015 to 2019.

Taking Back Jason Nixon’s nomination

Jason Nixon and Jason Kenney
Jason Nixon and Jason Kenney celebrating Victoria Day in 2019.

The Take Back Alberta-stacked board of the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre UCP association announced on Facebook that they have begun discussions to reopen the nomination in the riding. Incumbent MLA Jason Nixon‘s allies were recently voted off the board and replaced by a TBA-backed slate.

Nixon was acclaimed in March 2022 after the UCP disqualified former county councillor Tim Hoven, who many TBA supporters believed would have won the vote. It was widely believed that Hoven’s disqualification was done to protect Nixon, who was then Premier Jason Kenney’s chief lieutenant.

Nixon served as Minister of Finance in the waining days of Kenney’s government and was dropped from cabinet when Smith entered the Premier’s Office. His brother, Jeremy Nixon, is the UCP MLA for Calgary-Klein and is now the Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services.

Take Back Alberta also has its sights set on taking over the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake UCP board and reopening the candidate nomination in that riding.

Incumbent UCP MLA Devin Dreeshen , who is also the son of local Conservative Member of Parliament Earl Dreeshen, won a July 2022 nomination contest by a narrow 8-votes.

Local UCP President and the junior Dreeshen’s uncle, Charlie Moore, is defiant.

“They’re storming the castle and we’re heating up the boiling oil, I guess,” Moore told the Western Standard. “I’ve sent my troops forward to try to talk to some of the more logical ones in that group. We have to convert some of them. Surely there’s some common sense in there somewhere. They can’t all be totally extremists.”

Candidate nomination updates

Here are the latest updates to the growing list of Alberta election nomination candidates:

Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock: Landen Tischer is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in this sprawling rural riding north of Edmonton at a February 25 nomination meeting. Check out his TikTok’s.

Calgary-Lougheed: Mark Fiselier is the second candidate to enter the UCP nomination contest in the riding formerly represented by Jason Kenney. Fiselier is a business development analyst and president of the UCP association in Calgary-Varsity. Max DeGroat is also running for the nomination.

Calgary-North EastInderjit Grewal has joined the UCP nomination contest in this riding currently represented by cabinet minister Rajan Sawhney. Former Dashmesh Culture Centre chairman Harjit Singh Saroya is also running for the nomination.

Cypress-Medicine Hat: Independent MLA Drew Barnes announced he will not seek the UCP nomination to run for re-election. The former UCP was kicked out of the governing caucus in 2021 after becoming one of Kenney’s biggest internal public critics. He and now-returned UCP MLA Todd Loewen formed an unofficial UCP-caucus-in-exile during their banishment but Barnes did not return into the UCP fold when Loewen ran for the party leadership in 2022. Barnes publicly mused in 2021 about starting a rural-based political party.

Edmonton-EllerslieRanjit Bath was nominated as the UCP candidate in this southeast Edmonton riding.

Livingstone-Macleod: Lawyer Christina Lee is the fourth candidate to enter the UCP nomination contest in this southwest Alberta riding. Also running are Tanya Clemens, Kevin Todd, and Don Whalen. This second nomination contest is happening after the sole candidate in the previous race, former People’s Party candidate Nadine Wellwood, was disqualified by the UCP for equating COVID-19 vaccine requirements to Germany’s Nazi regime.

Upcoming nomination meetings

Candidate nomination votes are scheduled for the following dates:

  • February 6 – Innisfail-Sylvan Lake NDP
  • February 13 – Drumheller-Stettler NDP
  • February 15 – Calgary-Klein NDP
  • February 15 – Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre NDP
  • February 17 – Lacombe-Ponoka UCP
  • February 25 – Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock NDP
  • February 28 – Cypress-Medicine Hat NDP

Daveberta Podcast now on Substack

Daveberta Dave CournoyerA big thank you to everyone who has listened, shared and sent feedback about the newly relaunched Daveberta Podcast, now exclusively found on the Daveberta Substack.

We are very excited to be back podcasting and look forward to sharing some exciting news about the Substack very soon.

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Alberta Politics

UCP acclaim Laine Larson in Edmonton-Rutherford, 4th candidate enters NDP nomination race in Calgary-Klein, the Rumble in Rocky continues

With just over four months until the next provincial election, the Alberta NDP have nominated candidates in 69 of Alberta’s 87 ridings. The United Conservative Party has candidates named in 53 ridings and the Green Party has 25 candidates. The Alberta Party has nominated 3 candidates and the Liberal Party has one.

Here are the most recent candidate nomination updates:

UCP nominate Laine Larson in Edmonton-Rutherford

Laine Larson has been acclaimed as the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Rutherford. Larson is an independent contractor and the step-son of former Reform Party Member of Parliament Deborah Grey.

Larson previously ran for the UCP nomination ahead of the 2019 election. It was reported by CBC at the time that Larson had questioned vaccination science and has suggested parents may be harming their children by vaccinating them against disease.

The riding has been represented by NDP MLA Richard Feehan since 2015. Feehan is not running for re-election and the NDP have nominated Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse as their candidate. Green Party leader Jordan Wilkie is also running in the riding.

4th candidate enters NDP race in Calgary-Klein

Laurie O’Neil is the fourth candidate to enter the NDP nomination race in Calgary-Klein. O’Neil joins Mattie McMillan, Angela McIntyre, and Lizette Tejada in running for the candidacy which will be determined at a vote on February 15.

Gill enters UCP nomination in Calgary-Bhullar-McCall

Amanpreet Singh Gill is seeking the UCP nomination in Calgary-Bhullar-McCall. The riding has been represented by NDP MLA Irfan Sabir since 2015. Sabir was re-elected in 2019 with 51.7 per cent of the vote.

The riding last elected a conservative MLA in 2004. Prior to Sabir’s elected in 2015, it had been represented by Liberal MLA Darshan Kang since 2008.

Previously known as Calgary-McCall, the riding was renamed Calgary-Bhullar-McCall after the last election to honour former northeast Calgary MLA Manmeet Bhullar, who represented the former Calgary-Montrose and Calgary-Greenway ridings from 2004 until his death in 2015.

Rumble in Rocky continues. Take Back Alberta aims for Jason Nixon’s job

Right-wing activists aligned with the right-wing Take Back Alberta group have taken over the UCP constituency board elections in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre. Take Back Alberta is vocally opposed to the government’s decision to impose public health restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of the hundreds of UCP members who showed up to vote at the local AGM last week are unhappy with incumbent MLA Jason Nixon being acclaimed as the party’s candidate after challenger Tim Hoven was disqualified last year. Nixon was former Premier Jason Kenney‘s chief lieutenant and Finance Minister. He was dismissed from cabinet when Danielle Smith became Premier last October.

Smith promised during the leadership campaign that she would reopen nominations in ridings where the local constituency association voted to do so.

Take Back Alberta activists have signalled in online discussion forums that the UCP constituency board in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake is their next target. An AGM is expected to be held in that riding in February.

The riding is currently represented by MLA Devin Dreeshen, who narrowly won the UCP nomination by 8 votes in July 2022. He is the son of local MP Earl Dreeshen and many of his extended family members are reported to be currently serving on the UCP board in the riding.

Upcoming nomination meetings

Candidate nomination votes are scheduled for the following dates:

  • February 6 – Innisfail-Sylvan Lake NDP
  • February 13 – Drumheller-Stettler NDP
  • February 15 – Calgary-Klein NDP
  • February 15 – Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre NDP
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Alberta Politics

The UCP field is set. Diving into the leadership race on the Cross Border Interviews Podcast.

The United Conservative Party leadership race is heating up!

I joined Chris Brown on the Cross Border Interviews Podcast this week to dive into the UCP leadership race and what the candidates and campaigns are up to.

Is Danielle Smith really the front-runner?

Does establishment-favourite Travis Toews need to catch up?

Why is Brian Jean running such a sleepy campaign?

Will Rajan Sawhney or Rebecca Schulz break through the noise?

What are Leela Aheer and Todd Loewen doing?

Did Raj Sherman really think they would let him on the ballot?

We break it all down.

Download and subscribe to the Cross Border Interviews Podcast on Apple and Spotify, or watch the interview on YouTube below.

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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.

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Alberta Politics

The race for UCP leader on the Cross Border Politics Podcast

As the United Conservative Party leadership race begins to take shape, I joined Chris Brown on his Cross Border Interviews Podcast to talk about the race, the declared and prospective candidates, and what impact it will have on Alberta politics.

Cross Border Interviews with Chris Brown · Episode 393 – The Race For The UCP Leadership

It appears that the UCP will allow Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner to enter the leadership race, if she chooses, even though she has not had a current party membership for the full past six months as required (there is no doubt she is a committed Conservative partisan).

A similar request for an exemption by former Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman was denied.

Kenney’s caretaker cabinet shuffle

Outgoing Premier Jason Kenney announced a cabinet shuffle to fill in the spots left by ministers leaving to run in the race to replace him.

Changes to the caretaker cabinet, which will be in place until a new Premier takes office after the October 6 UCP leadership vote, include:

  • Minister of Environment and Parks and Acting President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Jason Nixon becomes President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance.
  • Associate Minister of Status of Women Whitney Issik becomes Minister of Environment and Parks.
  • Calgary-South East MLA Matt Jones becomes Minister of Children’s Services.
  • Minister of Infrastructure Prasad Panda becomes Minister of Transportation.
  • Calgary-Currie MLA Nicholas Milliken becomes Minister of Infrastructure.
  • Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville MLA Jackie Armstrong Homeniuk becomes the Associate Minister of Status of Women.
  • Deputy Government Whip Brad Rutherford becomes Chief Government Whip and Minister without Portfolio.

Unsurprisingly, everyone on the list is considered a loyalist, and a few, notably Issik, Milliken, and Rutherford, are considered vulnerable to strong NDP challenges in the next election.

Issik, Jones and Armstrong Homeniuk have publicly endorsed former finance minister Travis Toews for the UCP leadership, who is widely considered the establishment favourite in the race.

Categories
Alberta Politics

The First Four: Travis Toews, Brian Jean, Danielle Smith and Todd Loewen enter the United Conservative Party leadership race

The race has started.

Four candidates have filed their intent with Elections Alberta to join the race to replace Jason Kenney as leader of the United Conservative Party:

Travis Toews: Finance Minister since 2019. MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti since 2019. Former president of the Canadian Cattleman’s Association. Looks comfortable in a business suit or Carhartts. Sounds like the adult in the room but is connected to a northern Alberta Bible college with some fairly backwards views about yoga and same-sex relationships. Probably one of the more hardline fiscal conservatives in the UCP cabinet. Grand champion of the 1976 4-H calf show in Hythe. Likely UCP establishment favourite.

Brian Jean United Conservative Party Leadership Wildrose
Brian Jean during his 2017 bid for the United Conservative Party leadership.

Brian Jean: Leader of the Wildrose Party from 2015 to 2017. Target of a kamikaze campaign during the 2017 UCP leadership race. MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche since 2022. MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin from 2015 to 2018. MP for Fort McMurray-Athabasca from 2004 to 2014. Toyed with COVID skepticism and Alberta separatism. Jason Kenney’s worst enemy. Lawyer, businessman and Golden Boy of Fort McMurray.

Jim Prentice Danielle Smith Alberta Wildrose Merger PC
Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Premier Jim Prentice on December 17, 2014.

Danielle Smith: Leader of the Wildrose Party from 2009 to 2014. MLA for Highwood from 2012 to 2015. Crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservative Party in 2014. Calgary public school trustee from 1998 to 1999. Alumna of the Fraser Institute, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Calgary Herald, Global TV, and Chorus Radio. Current President of the Alberta Enterprise Group. Running for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. Embraced COVID conspiracy theories.

Independent MLA Todd Loewen Free Alberta Strategy Separatist
Independent MLA Todd Loewen

Todd Loewen: MLA for Central Peace-Notley since 2019. MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky from 2015 to 2019 and Wildrose candidate in the riding in 2008 and 2012. Resigned as UCP Caucus chair in 2021 after calling on Kenney to resign and was kicked out of caucus the next day. Formed a UCP Caucus-in-exile with fellow ousted MLA Drew Barnes. Drove his motorhome in the Freedom Convoy to Ottawa. Renowned in the UCP Caucus for his pancake cooking skills.

These four have registered others are expected.

Rajan Sawhney

Transportation Minister and Calgary-North East MLA Rajan Sawhney has tapped longtime conservative strategist Ken Boessenkool to run her exploratory committee.

“[W]hat this race needs right now is just not more of the same,” Sawhney told reporters in a statement.

Children’s Services Minister and Calgary-Shaw MLA Rebecca Schultz isn’t in the race yet but already has an endorsement from former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall. Schultz worked for Wall’s government before she moved to Alberta in 2016.

Government House leader and chief Kenney lieutenant Jason Nixon is rumoured to be thinking about running.

So are former cabinet ministers Leela Aheer and Devin Dreeshen.

And Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner is rumoured to be testing the waters. She would be an interesting addition to the race, though recent history has not been kind to federal politicians jumping into provincial politics in Alberta.

The party has appointed a committee that is expected to release rules, entry requirements and timelines for the leadership race before the beginning of summer.

UDPATE! Village of Amisk mayor Bill Rock has registered with Elections Alberta to run in the UCP leadership race. Rock was the Wildrose Party candidate in the Wetaskiwin-Camrose riding in the 2015 election. He was parachuted into the riding after previously nominated candidate Gordon Hatch withdrew from the race and endorsed PC MLA Verlyn Olson following Danielle Smith‘s floor-crossing.

Note: Registering as a candidate with Elections Alberta does not mean automatic approval as a candidate by the UCP. Registering with Election Alberta allows the candidates to fundraise under Alberta’s current political finance rules.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Honourable Alberta cabinet ministers bestow upon themselves title and fancy letters to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee

God Save the Queen!

Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her 70th year on the Throne this year.

In honour of this most Royal occasion, Premier Jason Kenney introduced Bill 1: Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Recognition Act back on February 22.

Queen Elizabeth II

It was the United Conservative Party government’s flagship bill of the 2022.

The new law creates a scholarship for Alberta students, a medal to recognize the work of outstanding Albertans, and a for-life “Honourable” title and “ECA” post-nominal letters for all living current and former Alberta cabinet ministers.

Wait.

What?

Yes, you read that right.

To celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s seventy years as Queen of Canada and Sovereign of the British Commonwealth , Kenney introduced a bill that gives current and former cabinet ministers the ability to call themselves “Honourable” for the rest of their lives.

As far as I know Alberta might be only province to have done this.

As the head of government, Premiers have always been able to hold their “Honourable” title for life, but not regular cabinet ministers.

Until now.

Provincial cabinet ministers get to call themselves “Honourable” while they are in office as a sign of respect for the office they hold while they hold it, but that used to be it.

It’s an honour to be a cabinet minister but it’s not something they would take for life.

Not like those British Lords who pass on titles and positions to their children.

Back to Alberta.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1952.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1952.

The home of Honourable Jason Kenney, PC, ECA.

The ECA stands for Executive Council of Alberta by the way.

That’s the formal name of the cabinet.

The PC stands for Privy Council. 

That’s a real title that comes with responsibility.

The Privy Council Office is the central agency of the Government of Canada which acts as the secretariat to the Cabinet of Canada.

Kenney was sworn into the Privy Council when he was a federal cabinet minister.

The Alberta title is an automatic thing for people in cabinet now and anyone who used to be in cabinet.

“Who cares, Dave?” you say?

I guess it’s not really a big deal.

It’s just a monarchist vanity project.

It’s not like Kenney is wandering the halls of the Legislature crying “Hail Britannia!” while brandishing a broadsword to bestow knighthoods.

But it’s weird and it’s something that no normal Albertan was asking for.

I doubt many people on the streets of Rocky Mountain House or downtown Calgary were clamouring for a new law to let our politicians hold titles for life. 

I’m no monarchist.

I believe the monarchy is an outdated institution that should probably be abolished. 

But I also think Alberta politicians voting to give themselves titles for life is a strange way to honour a Queen who has spent seventy years serving honourably in a very difficult role.

It mostly flew under the radar but two NDP MLA did take notice.

They got sharp responses from the UCP, who never explained why they were even doing this.

“That’s certainly not something that anybody has raised to me as their top priority” said Edmonton-Whitemud NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi said in the Legislature.

“I certainly think it’s coming at an interesting time, considering that there are a number of members of the current cabinet who are having their qualifications and their expertise and their temperament questioned,” Pancholi continued.

“I think that’s at odds with what most Albertans believe in terms of what honorary means, and it’s an interesting timing on this government’s part,” she concluded.

When Edmonton-Castle Downs NDP MLA Nicole Goehring questioned it, UCP deputy government house leader and Kenney acolyte Joseph Schow was quick to jump on her with a Point of Order. 

“I guess this is a touchy subject when it comes to the title “honourable” for life,” Goehring replied. 

“This piece of legislation is doing just that. It’s providing a space to have the title for life alongside building up students and recognizing their contributions to the province,” she said. “It just seems ridiculous that the two of these things are going together.”

No kidding.

It’s the law now.

So, to all the students who receive the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee scholarships, congratulations.

To all the Albertans who are honoured with the awards, thank you for your service.

And to all the Honourable current and former cabinet ministers, ECA, who have now been bestowed with their new title, enjoy it, I guess.


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