Alberta’s Intensive Care Units and hospitals are full of COVID-19 patients and the province now has more than half of the active cases of the deadly disease in Canada. School boards like the Edmonton Public School Board are reporting hundreds of young students have contracted the virus, forcing dozens of schools to shut down in-person classes and move to virtual classrooms. And 34 more Albertans died because of COVID-19 yesterday.
But what was the most important issue for a group of Alberta MLAs this week?
With help from the libertarian Alberta Institute, former Progressive Conservative-turned-Wildrose-turned Progressive Conservative MLA and online talk show host Rob Anderson launched the “Free Alberta Strategy,” announcing a manifesto that declares Alberta a “sovereign jurisdiction” and, among other things, would allow the province to just ignore federal laws it doesn’t like.
Anderson was joined at the online press conference by United Conservative Party MLAs Angela Pitt (who is also the Deputy Speaker of the Legislature) and Jason Stephan, and Independent MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen. The latter two MLAs were ejected from the UCP Caucus in May 2021 after losing confidence in Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership, a sentiment that Pitt echoed during this press conference.
The Alberta Institute is led by former New Zealand political activist and Manning Centre researcher Peter McCaffrey. He also happens to be married to the institute’s former director of operations and past UCP nomination candidate Megan McCaffrey, who is now working as the Chief of Staff in Barnes’ and Loewen’ UCP Caucus-in-exile.
Legislative Assembly Speaker Nathan Cooper was also in attendance but was described as being an observer rather than a participant in the press conference.
Calling for a type of sovereignty-association with the rest of Canada, Anderson brought up a number of perennial ideas like an Alberta police force and pension plan, but then connected them to a whole swath of bad ideas that would either create needless bureaucracy or just be plain unconstitutional.
The group pled with reporters not to describe their group as separatists, but it is hard not to think of it as anything else.
It is hard to think of a more tone deaf time to fly the separatist flag in Alberta.
The actual separatist party earned 1.3 per cent in Alberta in the federal election held last week and the UCP government last week sent out a desperate plea for health care support from Ottawa and other provinces to deal with the COVID-19 fourth wave.
Just as tone deaf is Kenney’s province-wide referendum on October 18 asking Albertans to vote yes if they want the equalization formula removed from Canada’s constitution – a referendum that no one is talking about because of the COVID-19 crisis.
The one person who wasn’t at the online press conference, but who might as well have been there in spirit (literally), was Premier William Aberhart, who himself pushed through unconstitutional laws in the 1930s that would nationalize banks and force newspapers to publish government propaganda.
When the Lieutenant Governor at the time refused to sign one of his unconstitutional laws, Aberhart chained the doors and evicted the vice-regal representative from of his official residence in Government House.
UCP MLA backs down on criticism of AHS, Kenney faces leadership review and offers no new plan to stop COVID
UCP vice-president Joel Mullan was fired by the board yesterday after calling for Kenney to face a leadership review, which has now been scheduled for April 2022.
Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland UCP MLA Shane Getson back pedalled on his attempts to shift blame for the overcapacity ICUs on Alberta Health Services President Dr. Verna Yiu, likely as a ploy to push more privatization of the public health care system.
Kenney joined Health Minister Jason Copping and Justice Minister Kaycee Madu yesterday not to announce further public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 but to announce the government will ban protests outside of hospitals in reaction to anti-vaccine and COVID-19 conspiracy theorist rallies that were held two weeks ago.With none of these rallies having been held in weeks, some political watchers are wondering if the protest ban is actually being aimed at health care workers who could take job action in the coming months.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Alberta politics moves at a mile a minute and there’s no time to waste. On this episode of the Daveberta Podcast, we dive into the United Conservative Caucus rebellion against mild public health restrictions to fight COVID-19 and challenges to Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership, the controversial draft K-6 curriculum, and the government’s toxic relationship with Alberta doctors and public sector unions.
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 Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, 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.
New cases of COVID-19 are on the rise and the third wave of the global pandemic is hitting Alberta, but that did not deter a group of nearly 20 United Conservative Party MLAs from publicly speaking out against the provincial government’s implementation of mild public health restrictions in response.
Like the virus, the group of COVID critics inside the UCP Caucus has grown exponentially from the original six-pack of MLAs who publicly spoke out against public health measures at the beginning of March. The public letter signed by 15 UCP MLAs criticized Premier Jason Kenney for moving back to Step 1 of the province’s mild public health measures in response to the spike in new cases, which is largely a result of a vicious new variant of the deadly virus.
The letter signed by the 15 MLAs was soon after endorsed by Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright MLA Garth Rowswell and West Yellowhead MLA Martin Long, who also serves as the parliamentary secretary for small business. Also signalling support for the letter’s intentions was Calgary Member of Parliament Michelle Rempel-Garner, who serves as the Official Opposition Health Critic in Ottawa.
Peace River MLA Dan Williams, a long-time Kenney acolyte from Ottawa, did not endorse the letter but posted a video on social media criticizing the decision by Alberta Health Services to close down the rebel GraceLife Church, which had been holding in-person services in defiance of the government’s public health orders. He was joined in this call by Ontario MP Derek Sloan, who was kicked out of the federal Conservative caucus for his extreme social conservative views.
That the leaders of the UCP caucus mutiny appear to largely be from the former Wildrose caucus, or Wildrose-wing of the party, is not surprising. The former opposition party was notoriously raucous and unwilling to bow to the kind of centralized party leadership that Kenney would have become accustomed to during his many years in Ottawa.
It was also clear during Kenney’s press conference on Tuesday that he expected a negative reaction from his caucus. A significant portion of Kenney’s lecture was dedicated to managing MLAs expectations and acknowledging the differences of opinion in his caucus. Difference of opinion is one thing, but this is something entirely different.
The public health restrictions that Alberta fell back to earlier this week are nothing close to what restrictions have looked like in jurisdictions that have actually implemented lockdowns. Alberta schools are still open for in-person classes, and Albertans can still gather with up to 10 people outside, go shopping for non-essential items, get a haircut or a massage, dine or have drinks on a restaurant patio, and exercise at a gym with a personal trainer.
There is no doubt a lot of Albertans are frustrated about how the provincial government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Kenney government has not helped itself by releasing a string of confusing and inconsistent public health measures and messaging to Albertans about the government’s response.
While public opinion polling suggests many Albertans would like the government to impose stronger measures to stop the spread of the deadly virus, there is a loud minority who want to see the current restrictions lifted.
It is yet to be seen whether the revolt will extend beyond this strongly worded letter, but there is little doubt these MLAs are actively undermining the work being done by public health professionals and health care workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The caucus revolt is probably a reflection of deepening regional and partisan divides in Alberta, with most of the COVID Caucus MLAs representing largely rural and small town districts. It is notable that no UCP MLAs from Calgary, so far the hardest hit in the third wave, have publicly joined the revolt.
It also suggests that the United Conservative Party is not as united as its leader would like Albertans to believe.
Kenney’s personal approval ratings and support for his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic plummeted over the past 13 months, and his party has floundered in the polls, finishing behind Rachel Notley’s NDP in a handful of recent voter opinion polls. The rise of the separatist Wildrose Independence Party in rural Alberta has some backbench UCP MLAs nervously looking over their right shoulders.
In some ways, the revolt probably serves as a welcome distraction to some in the UCP from the never ending string of scandals and policy failures, most recently the failure to stop the Carbon Tax at the Supreme Court, the loss of $1.5 billion of public money when the Keystone XL Pipeline was cancelled, the failure to sign a new contract with Alberta doctors, the retreat on open-pit coal mining, and the open rebellion by parents against the draft K-6 curriculum.
Under normal circumstances it would be hard to believe that this kind of caucus revolt would happen on a day when more than 1,300 new cases of COVID were reported and doctors are calling for a circuit breaker response, but in today’s world of Alberta politics, it would be harder to believe this would happen if the UCP were not floundering so deeply in the polls.
It has come to the attention of this Author that a number of influential government officials and Members of the Legislative Assembly have brought scandal to the highest seat in the land.
Sir Jamie Huckabay, the loyal right hand of Lord Jason Thomas Kenney, the Premier of Alberta, left the province and sailed to Great Britain in contravention of government rules requesting the good people of Alberta to remain at home.
If he had only kept his seat firmly planted in Alberta his scandal could have been avoided!
But alas, Sir Jamie was not alone.
Whilst most of polite society cancelled their festive gatherings in light of the latest pandemic, a handful of government ministers and deputies absconded to the tropics!
Accompanied by a large host of valets carrying numerous valises, the deputies appeared eager to enjoy a reprieve from the frigid weather and dry atmosphere of the prairies in December.
And with the waterways yet to be frozen over, off they sailed!
Until today, Lady Tracy Allard of La Grande Prairie was the newest Minister of the Crown, debuting in great fashion last August. She was widely seen as an up and coming star in an overcast sky, but her decision to flee Alberta for the Hawaiian Islands has led to a quick end to her political career. She was summarily sacked amid large fanfare.
Lord Kenney and his associates are said to have been barraged with the sort of commentary from the public that cannot be printed in an honourable publication such as this.
It is said that even Lady Danbury, forced by circumstance to cancel her annual Solstice Ball, had penned a strongly worded letter to Lord Kenney’s principal secretary.
Lady Allard is back in town, along with Misters Jeremy Nixon, Pat Rehn, and Jason Stephan, and Lady Tanya Fir. Marquess Tany Yao remains unaccounted for.
The Marquess absconded from his seat at Fort McMurray-on-the-Clearwater and appears to be incommunicado with the outside world from his retreat on the Mexican coast, much to the chagrin of Lord Kenney in Edmonton.
But despite the cold’s tendency to turn one’s nose a rather unattractive shade of red, Lord Kenney’s colour was likened to a sheet of white as he defended the now former-Minister Allard on Friday last.
This Author cannot help but wonder whether Lord Kenney’s decision to sack the whole lot was too little and too late, or whether it will appease the masses clamoring for a sacrifice.
One can only wonder if this incident will compel Lord Kenney, who has suffered from a bout of unpopularity locally, to finally leave the provincial town and return to the comfort of the capital in Ottawa.
Or perhaps, he is content with the situation at hand? Not every politician desires popularity, after all.
To any readers who do not understand the references in this post, please watch Bridgerton on Netflix. Viewer discretion is advised.
In the midst of its biggest scandal since the United Conservative Party formed government in April 2019, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao is still vacationing in Mexico, but, according to reports, no one can get ahold of him.
Reports online say that neither the Premier Jason Kenney’s office nor the UCP caucus have been able to contact the MIA MLA. Maybe Yao turned off his cell phone to avoid any distractions and enjoy a hot holiday on the beach while the rest of us are stuck at home?
Yao is the sixth UCP MLA we know of who ignored his government’s recommendations to cancel all non-essential international travel and stay home to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus.
Yao was first elected in 2015 as a Wildrose MLA and was re-elected under the UCP banner in 2019. He was one of three MLAs appointed to the UCP government’s “Fair Deal Panel” on Alberta autonomy in 2019.
The other UCP MLAs who ignored the COVID-19 recommendations include Minister of Municipal Affairs and Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard, Calgary-Klein MLA and parliamentary secretary Jeremy Nixon, Calgary-Peigan MLA Tanya Fir, Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn, and Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan.
Even Kenney’s own Chief of Staff, Jamie Huckabay, ignored the recommendations and recently travelled to the United Kingdom with his family.
Closer to home, it was also revealed yesterday that Energy Minister Sonya Savage recently made a trip to British Columbia to check on some recent maintenance work in her vacation home in that province.
At a press conference last Friday, Kenney said he would not remove Allard from cabinet because she technically did not break any rules by flying to Hawaii for a Christmas vacation with her family.
Former Energy minister calls on Kenney to sack sun-seeking MLAs and staffers
Adding to the growing chorus of voices calling for consequences for MLAs and political staffers flouting the public health recommendations is former Energy Minister Mel Knight. The former Grande Prairie MLA took to Facebook to call on Kenney to sack all the UCP MLAs and staffers who ignored the government’s COVID-19 advisories and went on hot holidays last month. Knight wrote that Kenney would no longer have his support if he failed to act.
Knight served as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky from 2001 to 2012 and as Minister of Energy from 2006 to 2010.
Another former PC cabinet minister, Greg Stevens, told the Calgary Herald’s Don Braid that “I cannot believe how stupid and unbelievably ignorant he (Kenney) has shown himself to truly be, when the issues demand strong and principled decisions.”
You could almost feel the collective anger of Albertans building as news trickled out yesterday that more and more United Conservative Party MLAs had ignored their own government’s COVID-19 recommendations to stay home and cancel any non-essential international travel over the Christmas break.
Despite receiving the same recommendations against non-essential international holidays that every other Albertan has been told by the government since March 2020, at least five UCP MLAs, including one cabinet minister, decided the recommendations put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 did not apply to them and instead jetted off to hotter locales.
As of today, we know the following UCP cabinet ministers, MLAs and senior political staffers have travelled internationally in recent weeks, or are just now returning home from abroad:
Tracy Allard, MLA for Grande Prairie and Minister of Municipal Affairs, was in Hawaii.
Jeremy Nixon, MLA for Calgary-Klein and parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Community and Social Supports, is returning from Hawaii.
Pat Rehn, MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, is returning from Mexico.
Tanya Fir, MLA for Calgary-Peigan and Treasury Board member, has returned from Las Vegas.
Jason Stephan, MLA for Red Deer-South and Treasury Board member, is returning from Arizona.
Jamie Huckabay, Chief of Staff to Premier Jason Kenney, has returned from the United Kingdom.
Michael Forian, Press Secretary to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and 2019 Conservative Party candidate, was in Hawaii.
Eliza Snider, Press Secretary to Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides, was in Hawaii.
Premier Jason Kenney has publicly shrugged off the hot holidays, claiming international travel was good for the economy despite his own government’s pandemic recommendations that Albertans don’t do it.
He has refused to fire or publicly discipline the MLAs for ignoring the public health recommendations that millions of Albertans abided by when they cancelled their own winter vacations and Christmas family gatherings.
Kenney says he was unaware of the trips, but it seems unlikely that a politician known for being a intense micromanager and workaholic would not have some inkling that this was happening.
The Premier’s weak response to the jet-set MLAs could suggest a few things: 1) he’s fine with them ignoring the recommendations, 2) there are more MLAs or staffers who travelled overseas on non-essential trips, or 3) support for his leadership in UCP Caucus and Party is tenuous and he cannot afford to discipline so many backbenchers at once.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford fired Finance Minister Rod Philips for attempting to cover up his Christmas vacation to a Caribbean island.
In Alberta, the lack of consequences for making such poor and tone-deaf decisions has stripped back Kenney’s populist-veneer and exposed an arrogant and elitist culture of exceptionalism within the leadership of the UCP.
For her part, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley says all of her party’s 24 MLAs remained in Alberta during the Christmas break.
Perhaps the only good news for Kenney is that the MLA hot holiday scandal, or Alohagate and Hawaiigate as some are calling it, is a distraction from the provincial government’s disappointingly slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
While waiting in the departures lounges of various international airports, some of the UCP MLAs published likely pre-written statements on their social media accounts saying they will now comply with the recommendations and return to Alberta. How thoughftul of them.
With the handful of UCP MLAs now on their way home, there are signs of a growing rift in the party, as two UCP MLAs are now publicly speaking out against the vacationing colleagues.
Since the most recent COVID-19 measures were announced, a number of my constituents requested guidance related to their own potential holiday travels. I have always encouraged my constituents to follow the public health measures including the following:
“An official global travel advisory remains in effect. Avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice.”
“The Canada/U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel.”
Michaela Glasgo, the UCP MLA for Brooks-Medicine Hat, was much more direct, describing the trips as “a major lack of judgment.”
“The directive that we were given was the same as every Albertan, which was to remain responsible, and ultimately I think this was a major lack of judgment shown by some of my colleagues,” Glasgo told CHAT NEWS.
Former right-wing talk radio icon Dave Rutherford took to his Facebook page to unload on Kenney.
“Dammit, I’m pissed off that my premier, the guy in whom we had placed such high hopes for principled leadership, has ignored all of the sacrifices that we have all made to fight this virus because ‘we are all in this together,” wrote Rutherford. “Obviously not.”
Ralph Leriger, Mayor of Westlock, also had some strong words in response to the vacationing MLAs and called on Premier Kenney to resign.
It’s 9:30 p.m. I’m sitting down in my living room with the intention of writing a piece about what happened in Alberta politics this week. But where the heck do I even start?
I could write about Premier Jason Kenney‘s growing focus on not alienating anti-vaxxers following his recent announcement about the potential distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations in 2021. Or I could write about how Health Minister Tyler Shandro amplified Kenney’s comments that basically amount to protecting anti-vaxxers from a vaccine that could stop a pandemic that has almost ground many part of our society and economy to a halt this year.
I could also write about Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s announcement today that there were more than 1,800 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 new deaths in Alberta. Overworked doctors and nurses also remain concerned that understaffed hospitals could be overwhelmed by the growing number of new COVID-19 cases in Alberta. And Alberta remains the only province without a province-wide mandatory mask mandate.
I could write about how in a radio interview this week, Kenney singled out the South Asian community in northeast Calgary as spreaders of COVID-19. I could also write about City Councillor George Chahal‘s response, tweeting that Kenney “should focus on those knowingly putting our frontline workers and their families at risk by violating public health orders, not the people working the jobs we need to keep our city going during a global pandemic.”
I could try to figure out what in the world Red Deer-South UCP MLA Jason Stephan means when he raised red flags about “socialist decarbonization” during a private members statement in the Legislative Assembly this week. But that might take a series of think-pieces to even attempt to explain.
Now I’m getting tired, so I’ll leave you with these thoughts and a tweet from William Shatner, aka Captain James T. Kirk, about the Alberta government’s stubborn refusal to adopt the federal CovidAlert Tracing app.
From the columns of Postmedia newspapers to the halls of the United Conservative Party caucus, the the spectre of communism and socialism is striking fear in the minds of political elites who see Bolsheviks breeding in every corner of Alberta, from City Council chambers to voluntary blood donor clinics.
Last week, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo UCP MLA Tany Yao described labour unions and advocates opposed to his private members’ bill to legalize corporate for-profit blood donation clinics as socialists who want to harvest organs from people without consent.
This was not the first time Yao had warned against the perils of the Red Menace.
In July 2020, Yao stood on the floor of the Assembly and claimed that Edmonton-Ellerslie NDP MLA Rod Loyola was the former leader of the Communist Party. Yao was later forced to withdraw his claim because it was not true.
Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland UCP MLA Shane Getson posted on Facebook that there was a “VIP section” in hell awaiting the “Socialist NDP.”
Red Deer-South UPC MLA Jason Stephan referred to the NDP’s elected term in government as a “socialist occupation” and described other provinces as “hostile, parasitic partners” that depend on Alberta for welfare payments.
Former UCP cabinet minister Tanya Fir has referred to the former NDP government as a “socialist dumpster fire.”
Former Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis, who led the votes in Alberta, published an op-ed in the National Post that accused Trudeau of plotting a “Socialist coup” in Canada.
Even Premier Jason Kenney is known to toss around flamboyant warnings about the rise of ‘bohemian Marxism’ or radical European green-left eco-socialists who have undue influence over the international banking system. A fixture on the libertarian think tank symposium circuit, Kenney frequently indulges in attacks on socialism in his responses to the opposition in Question Period.
Of course, this kind of rhetoric is nothing new.
It appears that there could be a competition among UCP MLAs about who can sound the most like a paranoid Social Credit MLA from the 1950s.
In Alberta, history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
Of course, it has been a long time since any major political party in Alberta could have been described as socialist or communist.
UCP claims that Rachel Notley and the NDP are dangerous socialists are meant to marginalize and discredit the opposition or bait their opponents into a debate. But it is increasingly clear that in the minds of some government MLAs, the talking points have become reality.
The anti-communist terminology is from another era and, quite frankly, it is very weird.
As a government and now as official opposition, the Alberta NDP were only slightly to the political left of the Progressive Conservative Party it defeated in 2015.
In reality, the NDP government only moved Alberta to the mainstream of labour laws compared to other provinces and the only industries it ever seriously mused about nationalizing were driver’s road tests and hospital laundry services.
In most other provinces, the Alberta NDP would be considered closer to a centre-leftish Liberal Party than anything resembling anything Karl Marx wrote about.
While much of my undergraduate studies at the University of Alberta focused on Canadian politics, one of my favourite courses covered a topic far away from the prairies – the Habsburg Monarchy. It was a combination of an unfamiliar topic and a passionate professor that made this course memorable. So my interest was piqued when the words “South Tyrol” began circulating in Alberta political circles this week.
“Should Alberta be an autonomous Province? South Tyrol has” asked Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt in a Facebook post linking to a website showcasing facts about the autonomous province in northern Italy.
I expect many German-speaking South Tyroleans would probably prefer to re-join their linguistic cousins in Austria than remain in Italy.
I am not sure which other province or region Alberta would join if we adopt what might be Pitt’s version of an autonomous-province. Perhaps Frederick Haultain’s dream of a Province of Buffalo could be finally be realized if Alberta merged with its smaller cousin to the east, Saskatchewan? Or maybe British Columbia’s Peace Country will finally be released to unite with its northwestern Alberta cousins?
But Red Deer-South UCP MLA Jason Stephan is certainly whittling down the number of possible candidates.
Stephan apologized to the Legislative Assembly this week after describing other Canadian provinces as “hostile, parasitic partners” in a speech about federal fiscal policies and equalization program.
The rookie MLA and sole UCP backbencher appointed to the powerful Treasury Board committee also claimed that “Alberta must liberate itself from this mess.”
While Alberta is not going to separate from Canada, the final report from the government-appointed Fair Deal Panel will include recommendations to increase provincial autonomy from Ottawa.
The panel and its open-mic town hall meetings were both a relief valve and a steering wheel meant to allow Albertans to vent their frustrations while allowing Kenney to attempt to keep control of the latest burst of separatist fervour. The separatist fervour from Alberta’s right-wing fringe, despite the media attention it generated, now appears to have mostly died out.
The panelists included former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, former Progressive Conservative MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans, Peter Lougheed‘s son Stephen, and perennially disgruntled UCP backbencher MLA Drew Barnes of Cypress-Medicine Hat and fellow backbenchers Miranda Rosin of Banff-Kananaskis and Tany Yao of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. The panel was tasked with making recommendations on topics including withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan, replacing the Canada Revenue Agency by establishing a provincial revenue agency, opting out of federal programs like pharmacare, forming an office of a Chief Firearms Officer, and forming a provincial police force.
The NWMP had been created in 1873 and was part of the federal government’s suppression of the North West Rebellion in 1885, but, by 1917, Ottawa’s attention was focused on the First World War and there was little federal interest in enforcing provincial prohibition laws that had been enacted in 1916.
The APP merged into the RCMP in 1932 following negotiations between the provincial and federal governments during the Great Depression. The agreement to offload the costs associated with policing to the RCMP stipulated that former provincial police officers who transferred to the federal police would maintain their seniority and be eligible to receive pensions in accordance with their years of service.
When officers hung up their blue APP uniforms on April 15, 1932, it was reported in the Calgary Daily Herald that it took more than a month for the red RCMP uniforms to arrive in Alberta. So during the short period following the return of the federal police, RCMP officers worked in civilian clothes or, for those who worked as police in Alberta before 1917, wore the uniforms of the old NWMP.
While Alberta politicians have generally expressed pleasure with contracting policing responsibilities to the federal government, there have been several attempts to reinstate a provincial police force.
The next notable attempt to reinstate the APP came in 1937 from Edson MLA Joseph Unwin, the Whip of the Social Credit government caucus. Unwin introduced a motion to abolish the RCMP in Alberta and replace it with an Alberta Provincial Police Force.
Unwin argued that it was preferable that “the police force in the province should be indisputably at the exclusive orders of the attorney general.” Given this comment and the context of the time, it is fairly safe to speculate that Unwin was hoping to create a police force that would enforce the Social Credit ideological and political agenda in Alberta.
Unwin introduced the motion the same week he was arrested on charges of libel and counselling to murder in what would become known as the Bankers’ Toadies scandal.
Unwin and British Social Credit expert George Frederick Powell were arrested when police raided the party headquarters following the printing of a pamphlet advocating the “extermination” of nine prominent Edmontonians. The nine men, labelled as “Bankers’ Toadies,” included Conservative Party leader David Duggan and Senator and former mayor William Griesbach.
Unwin was sentenced to 3-months hard labour for the libel charge, which was later overturned on appeal. He did not resign as an MLA when he went to jail and his return to the Legislature was celebrated by Social Credit MLAs with a “snake dance” on the floor of the Assembly.
Various PC MLAs called for the creation of a provincial police force during the 1980s and early 1990s but most of those calls were quickly discredited because they were usually followed closely by racist comments about RCMP officers wearing turbans or speaking French.
Anti-oil patch activist Wiebo Ludwig called for the creation of a provincial police force during his brief run for the Social Credit Party leadership in 2000 before having withdraw from the race after a judge refused to waive the conditions of his bail.
Motions recommending the creation of a regional police force or to make public studies conducted to assess the creation of a provincial police force were introduced by Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths in 2003 and Lethbridge-East MLA Ken Nicol in 2004 were debated in the Legislature but gained no real traction.
Premier Ed Stelmach defeated Morton in the leadership race and signed a 20-year agreement with the federal Conservative government that would have the RCMP continue as Alberta’s police force until March 31, 2032.
“This is wonderful news for the province and for Albertans,” Stelmach said in an August 2011 press release. “This agreement makes good financial sense for Alberta and strengthens a valuable relationship with a partner who continues to play a key role after more than a century keeping Alberta communities safe.”
The Fair Deal report will have to be publicly released before we know for sure what it recommends, but a move to create a new provincial police force in 2020 would face two powerful political factors
First, systematic racism and police violence against people of colour in the Canada and the United States has led to mounting calls to “defund the police.” Massive protests calling out systematic racism have taken place across the country, including a 15,000-strong rally outside the Legislature in Edmonton and similar rallies in Calgary and around the province. City councils and police commissions are now facing increased public pressure to reign in budgets and address systematic racism in the civilian police forces.
Second, Kenney has said that a great reckoning is coming for Alberta’s finances, which will likely mean more massive job cuts in the public sector across Alberta. If the Kenney is laying-off teachers and nurses, it will be difficult for him to explain to Albertans that he needs to spend money on creating a brand new police force. A lack of finances was the main reason why the provincial police were disbanded in 1932.
Creating a new provincial police force in this context would be incredibly tone deaf and completely unnecessary. But like many political decisions being made in Alberta lately, the world appears to be moving in one direction and our government moving in another. It kind of reminds me of those Habsburgs just over a century ago.
With a provincial election, a change in government, a federal election, and much more in between, 2019 was a big year in Alberta politics. Tina Faiz and Natalie Pon join Dave Cournoyer on this episode of the Daveberta Podcast to discuss the year in Alberta politics and their hopes and wishes for 2020.
Tina Faiz is a communications consultant and served as a press secretary and acting chief of staff for the Alberta NDP government. Natalie Pon is a conservative activist and former member of the United Conservative Party interim joint board.
Thanks to everyone who voted and congratulations to the winners of the Best of Alberta Politics 2019 survey:
Best Alberta MLA: Rachel Notley, MLA Edmonton-Strathcona Best Cabinet Minister: Sarah Hoffman, Deputy Premier, Minister of Health & MLA for Edmonton-Glenora Best Opposition MLA: Rachel Notley, MLA Edmonton-Strathcona MLA to Watch in 2020: Janis Irwin, MLA Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood Best candidate who didn’t win in the 2019 election: Danielle Larivee, NDP candidate in Lesser Slave Lake Biggest political issue in 2019: Budget cuts
And a huge thanks to our talented producer, Adam Rozenhart, who always makes the podcast sound so good.
The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network, powered by ATB. The Alberta Podcast Network includes more than 30 great made-in-Alberta podcasts.
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Rounding up the slate of NDP candidates across the province are Roxie Baez Zamora in Airdrie-East, former Smoky Lake town councillor Theresa Taschuk in Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock, Heather Eddy in Calgary-South East, Kirby Smith in Cardston-Siksika, past city council candidate Shannon Dunfield in Grande Prairie-Wapiti, Acheson Business Association interim executive director Natalie Birnie in Morinville-St. Albert, Ryan Clarke in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright, and Paula Cackett in West Yellowhead.
Birnie replaces previously nominated NDP candidate Shawna Gawreluck, who announced on social media yesterday that she was withdrawing her candidacy for family reasons.
The UCP has three nomination contests still underway:
Sherry Adams, Rajesh Arora, Faton Bislimi, and Sanjay Patel are seeking the nomination in Edmonton-Ellerslie scheduled to take place on March 30, 2019.
Leila Houle and Atul Ranade are seeking the nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood scheduled to take place on March 21, 2019. Del Shupenia’s candidacy was not accepted by the party and George Lam and Michael Kalyn have withdrawn from the contest.
Sophia Kahn, Nazia Naqvi, Baljit Singh, and Heather Sworin are seeking the UCP nomination in Edmonton-Mill Woods scheduled to take place on March 30, 2019. Previously declared candidates Muhammad Afzal, Tariq Chaudhry and David Fletcher have withdrawn from the contest. Chaudhry withdrew from the contest in December 2018, claiming in an affidavit that Jason Kenney and the UCP cost him more than $25,000. Chaudhry claims Kenney encouraged him to run and asked him to sign up and pay for the $10-membership fee for 1,200 new members.
It is expected that candidates will be appointed for the three remaining UCP candidacies if an election is called this week.
The Alberta Party has nominated Robert Tremblay in Calgary-Fish Creek and Jason Avramenko in Chestermere-Strathmore.
Two former UCP nomination candidates have been nominated to run for other parties this week. Sandra Kim has been nominated as the Advantage Party candidate in Camrose, and Jerry Semen is the Freedom Conservative Party candidate in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain.
Yash Sharma, who was disqualified as a candidate for the Alberta Party, is now an Advantage Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie.
Faiza Ali Abdi has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-McCall.
If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will add them to the list. Thank you!
As mentioned in the latest episode of the Daveberta Podcast, some members of the local UCP board of directors are up in arms about Kenney’s claim that they were consulted with and asked for Rhodes to be appointed as the candidate. Some of the disgruntled board members are said to be collecting signatures for a letter disputing Kenney’s claims, and that more than a dozen local directors have signed the letter.
Rhodes’ surprise appointment last week eliminated three candidates – Arundeep Sandhu, Joel Mullen and Sant Sharma – who had been selling party memberships and door-knocking to compete for the UCP nomination for up to twelve months.
Arundeep Sandhu released a letter on social media today expressing his disappointment in the decision and thanking his supporters. It was a classy letter, but it certainly did not include the “let’s all get behind the appointed candidate” message that Kenney and Rhodes were likely looking for.
Meanwhile, more than 400 New Democratic Party members voted to choose Jasvir Deol as their candidate in Edmonton-Meadows. Deol defeated Chand Gul and MLA Denise Woollard, who had been elected to represent Edmonton-Mill Creek in 2015.
Former Taber town councillor and past president of the Alberta Library Trustees Association Laura Ross-Giroux has been nominated as the NDP candidate in the southern Alberta district of Taber-Warner.
Crown prosecutor Moira Vane is the NDP candidate in Strathcona-Sherwood Park.
An NDP nomination meeting in West Yellowhead that was originally scheduled for this past weekend appears to have been rescheduled to March 9, 2019.
Dr. Esther Tailfeathers is seeking the NDP nomination in Cardston-Siksika. Dr. Tailfeathers is a Physician at the Blood Tribe Clinic at Standoff and a Clinical Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta.
Melissa Langmaid has announced plans to seek the NDP nomination in Chestermere-Strathmore. Langmaid is an Environmental Advisor with AltaLink and a unit coordinator with the United Utility Workers’ Association.
Holly Heffernan is seeking the NDP nomination in Drumheller-Stettler. Heffernan is a retired Registered Nurse and long-time NDP activist, having run numerous times for the NDP in both provincial and federal elections in Calgary.
UCP set Red Deer-South nomination vote for March 16
Buruma is Director of Community Relations forRed Deer Public School District and Executive Director of the Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools. Davidson is Chief of Emergency Medicine for Alberta Health Services’ Central Zone. Poratto is a decorator and event planner, and ran for the PC Party nomination in the district ahead of the 2008 election. Stephan is a lawyer and president of the Red Deer Taxpayers’ Association. And Wiebe was the Wildrose Party candidate in this district in the 2015 election, earning 24 percent of the vote behind NDP candidate Barb Miller and PC candidate Darcy Mykytyshyn.
Davidson’s wife, Pamela Davidson, sought the UCP Central Alberta Director election at the party’s 2018 annual general meeting and previously ran against Christine Moore in the Red Deer County Division 6 election in 2017. Moore ran unsuccessfully for the UCP nomination in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake ahead of the 2018 by-election and as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Red Deer-North in the 2015 election.
The UCP has also opened nomination contests in Edmonton-Ellerslie, Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, and Edmonton-MIll Woods.
“After nearly seven years as an MLA shackled with Party-first priorities, it is clear that Alberta’s party system of government has stripped effective representation and across-the-board best interests from Alberta’s citizens,” wrote Strankman in a media release posted on this website. “Running for election and winning office as an Independent will enable me to restore the priorities of all Drumheller Stettler citizens to the front lines of the Legislature and advance their priorities for resurrecting Alberta’s prosperity.” he said.
With Schneider declining to seek re-election, Donovan supported past Christian Heritage candidate Marc Slingerland in the UCP nomination contest against eventual winner Joseph Schow. Donovan later announced he was quitting the UCP, citing a dictatorship-like control of the party by Kenney.
Mandel awaits fate as 2 Alberta Party candidates back on the ballot
The Court of Queen’s Bench has waived the 5-year ban on Alberta Party candidates Moe Rahall in Edmonton-Castle Downs and Diana Ly in Edmonton-Gold Bar, who will now be allowed to run in the 2019 election. Party leader Stephen Mandel and four other Alberta Party candidates still await their fate as the court has yet to remove their bans.
Swann staffer runs for the Green Party
Janice Fraser is running for the Green Party in Calgary-McCall. Fraser is currently the office manager for Calgary-Mountain View Liberal MLA David Swann, who is retiring after four-terms in the Legislature. Swann’s other constituency office staffer, Joshua Codd, is the nominated Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Currie.
Jane Drummond is running for the Green Party in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre. Drummond is the editor of the Nordegg Squeek and has served as an Alberta Hiking Association member representing Terra Firma Nordegg Hiking.
Photo: Calgary-West MLA Mike Ellis and Airdrie MLA Angela Pitt were greeting party members outside the nomination voting station in the Town and Country Centre in Airdrie on July 20, 2018. (Source: Dave Cournoyer)
Pitt won the nomination with 71 percent of the vote.
Calgary-Hawkwood MLA Michael Connolly has announced he will run for the New Democratic Party nomination in the newly redrawn Calgary-Varsity district. Connolly’s current district is will not exist when the next election is called as it is being redistributed into three other districts.
Banff-Kananaskis – It is a candidacy that might be short-lived, but conservative activist and provocateur Cory Morgan has filed his intentions to seek the NDP nomination with Elections Alberta. Also seeking the NDP nomination is the current MLA for Banff-Cochrane, Cameron Westhead. Reached by email, Morgan said he would release platform in the next few days.
Brooks-Medicine Hat – Dinah Hiebert is the third candidate to enter the UCP nomination contest in this newly redrawn district. She is an account executive with Newcap radio and former president of Brooks Women in Business. Bob Wanner, the current NDP MLA for Medicine Hat, told CHAT News that he not yet decided whether he will seek re-election in 2019. Wanner currently serves as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.
Calgary-Buffalo – Finance Minister Joe Ceci was nominated as the NDP candidate in this downtown Calgary district. Ceci currently represents the Calgary-Fort district, which will not exist when the next election is called.
Calgary-Klein – Kathy Macdonald is seeking the UCP nomination. She was the Wildrose Party candidate in the 2014 by-election in Calgary-Foothills and 2015 Wildrose candidate in Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill. She also ran for the Wildrose Party nomination ahead of the 2015 by-election in Calgary-Foothills.
Calgary-North East – Calgary-Greenway MLA Prab Gill is seeking the UCP nomination in the new Calgary-North East district, which does not include any of the areas currently included in Calgary-Greenway. Gill was first elected as a PC MLA in a 2016 by-election following the death of MLA Manmeet Bhullar.
Calgary-Shaw – Jack Redekop is seeking the UCP nomination. Redekop ran for the federal Conservative Party nomination ahead of the 2017 Calgary-Midnapore by-election. He briefly ran as a candidate in the 2012 Senator Nominee election but appeared to have dropped out of the race before the filing deadline.
Chestermere-Strathmore – Mark Giesbrecht is seeking the UCP nomination. He ran for Strathmore town council in 2013.
Edmonton-Castle Downs/Decore – Gordon Reekie has withdrawn from the UCP nomination contest in Edmonton-Castle Downs and will now contest the UCP nomination in the neighbouring Edmonton-Decore.
Edmonton-Gold Bar – David Dorward has been nominated as the UCP candidate. Dorward served as the Progressive Conservative MLA for this district from 2012 and 2015. He was the PC candidate in this district in the 2008 election and placed second in Edmonton’s mayoral campaign in 2010.
Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood – Del Shupenia is seeking the UCP nomination.
Edmonton-South – Dan “Can Man” Johnstone is no longer seeking the Alberta Party nomination and he is quitting the party. I am told that Johnstone’s decision was made following a discussion by the party to extend the nomination period in this district, and a source with knowledge of the process said that he had not paid the $500 entry fee to join the nomination contest. He posted a long message on Facebook yesterday announcing his departure from the party.
Effective immediately, I will no longer be associated with the Alberta Party and will be pulling out of the…
Edmonton-West Henday – Leila Houle is seeking the UCP nomination.
Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville – Conservative activist Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk has been acclaimed as the UCP candidate. She previously served as the PC Party’s regional director for Central Northeast Alberta. Darryl Kropielnicki’s nomination was rejected by the UCP.
Grande Prairie – John Lehners is seeking the UCP nomination in this new urban Grande Prairie district. Lehners serves as trustee and chair of the Grande Prairie Public School District.
St. Albert – Laine Matoga is seeking the UCP nomination.
Sherwood Park – Sue Timanson is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Timanson ran for the PC nomination in Sherwood Park in 2012 and 2015, and she is a former regional director of the PC Party. She endorsedRichard Starke in the 2017 PC Party leadership contest.
If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at email@example.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!