Categories
Alberta Politics

Richard Feehan retiring, Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse running for NDP nomination in Edmonton-Rutherford, Sharif Haji challenging Chris Neilsen in Edmonton-Decore

I’m back, again, with another candidate nomination update.

The United Conservative Party is still tied in knots over Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership review and a real-time caucus revolt, so most of the nomination news is coming from the Alberta NDP column today.

But while the next election is scheduled to take place in May 2023, there is increasing speculation that Kenney could call an early summer or fall 2022 election if he wins the leadership review in order to clear out his growing chorus of opponents in the UCP Caucus.

Back to nominations. Here we go.

Richard Feehan NDP Edmonton Rutherford MLA
Richard Feehan

Edmonton-Rutherford NDP MLA Richard Feehan announced last Friday that he will not run for re-election when the next provincial election is called. 

The second-term MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford was first elected in 2015 and served as the NDP’s Minister of Indigenous Relations from 2016 to 2019.

Before his election, Feehan worked as a social worker, social work instructor at the University of Calgary, Vice President of Catholic Social Services, and Program Director of the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

Feehan was re-elected in 2019 with 54.8 per cent of the vote, ahead of UCP candidate Hannah Presakarchuk, who finished second with 34.7

Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse is the first person to enter the NDP nomination contest in this southwest Edmonton riding. 

Calahoo Stonehouse is the Executive Director of the Yellowhead Indigenous Education Foundation and is a member of the Edmonton Police Commission. She is a former Band Councillor with the Michel First Nation and in 2021 she ran to become National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

Endorsing Calahoo Stonehouse at her camapign launch were Edmonton-Griesbach NDP Member of Parliament Blake Desjarlais and City Councillor Michael Janz. 

Sharif Haji NDP Nomination Edmonton-Decore
Sharif Haji

On the north side of the capital city, Sharif Haji has announced his plans to challenge two-term MLA Chris Nielsen for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Decore.

Haji is executive director of the Africa Centre and previously worked as for the provincial government’s departments of Seniors and Housing and Health.

Nielsen has represented the riding since 2015, when the NDP’s orange wave swept the province. He is also seeking the nomination.

The Challengers

Calgary-Bow: Former city councillor Druh Farrell is expected to be acclaimed at a May 12, 2022 nomination meeting in this south west Calgary riding. Farrell served on Calgary City Council from 2001 to 2021 and her candidacy created some controversy among local New Democratic activists in the riding.

Nagwan Al-Guneid Calgary-Glenmore NDP nomination
Nagwan Al-Guneid

Calgary-Glenmore: Sustainable energy development expert Nagwan Al-Guneid and communications professional Jennifer Burgess are seeking the NDP nomination scheduled for May 10, 2022.

Calgary-North: Moses Mariam is seeking the NDP nomination. Mariam is a Member Administrator at Calgary’s CommunityWise Resource Centre. 

Central Peace-Notley: Fairview resident Lynn Lekisch is seeking the NDP nomination in Central Peace-Notley. She is the owner of Enviro Projects and has previously worked as an environmental project manager for various energy companies.

Part of the riding was represented by NDP MLA Marg McCuaig-Boyd from 2015 until she was defeated by UCP MLA Todd Loewen after the riding was redistributed in the 2019 election. Loewen was ejected from the UCP Caucus in May 2021 after calling for Premier Jason Kenney to resign. 

Edmonton-South West: The NDP have set June 18, 2022 for a nomination meeting in the only Edmonton riding that did not elect an NDP MLA in 2019. Ben Acquaye, Chand Gul, Mohammad Ali Kamal, and Nathan Ip are seeking the nomination.

Leduc-Beaumont: Paramedic Cam Heenan was nominated as the NDP candidate in Leduc-Beaumont. Heenan defeated Registered Nurse Chantelle Hosseiny to win the nomination.

“I became a paramedic because I wanted to help people. I want to see a better future for our province, and that’s what led me to wanting to join Rachel Notley’s team,” Hennan said. “I know that with her leadership, Alberta’s NDP can expand our public healthcare, invest in education, and ensure all Alberta families can afford their bills at the end of the month.”

The riding has been represented by UCP MLA Brad Rutherford since 2019 and was held by NDP MLA Shaye Anderson from 2015 to 2019.

Morinville-St. Albert: Former Sturgeon County Councillor Karen Shaw and teacher James Grondin will face off for the NDP nomination at a meeting scheduled on April 30.  The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Dale Nally, who serves as Associate Minister of Natural Gas. 

Sherwood Park: Kyle Kasawski is the second candidate to enter the NDP nomination in Sherwood Park, a suburban hamlet of 71,000 people located directly east of Edmonton.

Kasawski is President of Solar People, a solar energy company, and previously worked as a Client Development Director with Alberta Municipalities and as an Instructor in the NAIT Alternative Energy Technology Program where he taught Advanced Energy System Design and Energy Economics.

“I want to help create an Alberta with an amazing, affordable, high quality of life – where our kids go to excellent public schools, access to healthcare is dependable, and we have a few bucks left over at the end of each month after paying all of the bills,” Kasawski said when reached for comment. “I want this to be a place for people to live and thrive.”

Kasawski will face former MLA Annie McKitrick in the nomination race.

The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Jordan Walker, who is seeking his party’s nomination for re-election.

The Incumbents

Edmonton-Meadows: MLA Jasvir Deol is running for the NDP nomination, which is scheduled to take place on May 28, 2022. Deol was first elected in 2019 after defeating former MLA Denise Woollard for the NDP nomination.

Edmonton-Mill Woods: Christina Gray was nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods. Gray has represented the riding since 2015 and served as Minister of Labour from 2016 to 2019. 

Edmonton-North West: MLA David Eggen has announced his plans to run for re-election. Eggen was first elected in 2004 and served as MLA for Edmonton-Calder from 2004 to 2008 and 2012 to 2019 before being re-elected in the redrawn Edmonton-North West riding in 2019. He served as Minister of Education from 2015 to 2019. A nomination meeting is scheduled for May 18, 2022.

Searle Turton Spruce Grove Stony Plain United Conservative Party Alberta Election
Searle Turton

The UCP has opened up nominations in a handful of ridings. Nominations are now open in Calgary-Cross, Calgary-Currie, Calgary-Foothills, Calgary-Peigan, Sherwood Park and Spruce Grove-Stony Plain. Unsurprisingly, these ridings are all represented by MLAs who would be described as Kenney-loyalists.

While most of the UCP MLAs representing these ridings are expected to seek re-election, only Calgary-Cross’ Mickey Amery, Sherwood Park’s Walker and Spruce Grove-Stony Plain MLA Searle Turton have confirmed their intentions.

Turton was first elected to the Legislature in 2019 after serving three-terms on Spruce Grove City Council. He currently serves as the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Labour and Immigration’s liaison to private sector unions, and he is the chairperson of the UCP’s Capital Region Caucus.

Meanwhile, newly elected UCP MLA, Kenney critic and leadership aspirant Brian Jean says he would reopen the UCP nomination in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre to allow disqualified candidate Tim Hoven to challenge cabinet minister Jason Nixon.

Nixon, Kenney’s chief lieutenant, was acclaimed for the UCP nomination after Hoven was disqualified by the party. Many political observers believe that Hoven was mounting a very strong challenge to Nixon in the nomination.

NDP fixated on Calgary

The NDP have been spending a lot of time in Calgary.

Rachel Notley and a group of MLAs and candidates were on hand for a nomination rally for Rosman Valencia in Calgary-East. The NDP believe significant gains in east and northeast Calgary are critical to their path to winning the next election.

MLA David Eggen was recently spotted on social media door-knocking with Calgary-North East candidate Gurinder Brar and Richard Feehan was door-knocking with supporters in Calgary-Beddington.

MLA David Eggen with Gurdiner Brar and supporters in Calgary-North East.
MLA David Eggen with Gurdiner Brar and supporters in Calgary-North East.

NDP MLAs were also spotted door knocking in Canmore and Banff with Banff-Kananaskis candidate Sarah Elmeligi. I’m told Elmeligi was joined on the doors by Notley and MLAs Joe Ceci, Sarah Hoffman, Janis Irwin, Marlin Schmidt, Irfan Sabir and Shannon Phillips. Notley and Irwin also posted a photo on social media with Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno.

NDP leader Rachel Notley, Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno, and NDP MLA Janis Irwin (source: Twitter)
NDP leader Rachel Notley, Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno, and NDP MLA Janis Irwin (source: Twitter)

Upcoming nomination meetings

  • Morinville-St. Albert NDP: April 30, 2022
  • Calgary-Glenmore NDP: May 10, 2022
  • Calgary-Bow NDP: May 12, 2022
  • Edmonton-North West NDP: May 18, 2022
  • Calgary-Acadia NDP: May 26, 2022
  • Edmonton-Meadows NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Airdrie-Cochrane NDP: May 30, 2022
  • Edmonton-South West NDP: June 18, 2022
Categories
Alberta Politics

Richard Bruneau wins NDP contest in Camrose, Walker-McKitrick rematch being set up in Sherwood Park, NDP MLAs flock to Battleground Calgary

‘Three candidates are contesting the NDP nomination contest in Camrose’ are not a series of words I imagined writing even a year ago, yet here we are.

Business owner and former diplomat Richard Bruneau defeated Registered Psychiatric Nurse Tonya Ratushniak and educational assistant and recent city council candidate Wyatt Tanton to win the NDP nomination in Camrose. 

“When attending Augustana their motto was ‘to lead and to serve,’ and this is my vision of how I would like to lead and lift people up in the community. A vision I believe Alberta’s NDP embodies,” Bruneau said in a press release announcing his win. “The UCP has not been serving the people of Alberta, and the pandemic highlighted the short-signed failures of UCP policy. Camrose deserves better than the UCP.”

Jackie Lovely MLA Camrose UCP
Jackie Lovely

Bruneau is a bookstore owner, farmer, former lecturer at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus and a former Canadian diplomat who served in Afghanistan, Jordan and Palestine. He lives with his family on a cattle farm.

Bruneau was joined by Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen at the nomination meeting and by Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin at a meet and greet in Camrose today.

The riding is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Jackie Lovely, who was first elected in 2019 with 65.2 per cent of the vote. This was Lovely’s third attempt at winning a seat in the Legislature, the first two being as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015. 

Lovely is being challenged for the UCP nomination by Beaver County Reeve Kevin Smook, who earned 12.8 per cent of the vote as the Alberta Party candidate in the riding in 2019.

The previous Wetaskiwin-Camrose riding was represented by NDP MLA Bruce Hinkley from 2015 to 2019 before it was redistributed into the current riding. Hinkley ran for re-election in the neighbouring Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin riding and was defeated by UCP candidate Rick Wilson.

Walker-McKitrick rematch being set up in Sherwood Park

Jordan Walker MLA Sherwood Park UCP
Jordan Walker

First-term UCP MLA Jordan Walker is seeking his party’s nomination for re-election in Sherwood Park.

The UCP backbencher was first elected in one of the closer races in Edmonton’s surrounding suburbs in 2019 by narrowly unseating NDP MLA Annie McKitrick. 

The stage is being set for a rematch in 2023, with McKitrick announcing last week that she plans to seek the NDP nomination to challenge Walker in the next election. This is a riding the NDP will need to win to form government. 

Gurinder Singh Gill running for NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross

Gurinder Singh Gill is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross. Gill previously ran as the federal NDP candidate in Calgary-Skyview in the 2019 and 2021 elections. He placed third with 16.2 per cent of the vote behind victorious Liberal George Chahal and incumbent Conservative MP Jag Sahota in the last federal election.

The east Calgary riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Mickey Amery, who was elected in 2019 with 54.2 per cent by unseating NDP cabinet minister Ricardo Miranda, who finished second with 37.3 per cent.

Amery is the son of Moe Amery, who represented the neighbouring Calgary-East riding from 1993 until his defeat in the 2015 election.

MLA Guthrie endorses Danielle Smith’s challenging Roger Reid

Peter Guthrie MLA Airdrie-Cochrane UCP Communism
Peter Guthrie

Airdrie-Cochrane UCP MLA Peter Guthrie has endorsed former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith’s bid for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. Smith is challenging Guthrie’s caucus colleague Roger Reid for the nomination. 

Smith is wasting no time making her mark in UCP circles as she eyes the nomination and the party leadership.

Tonight she will join Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan, a vocal Kenney critic, and former Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson to discuss the “Free Alberta Strategy.” And on April 23 she is joining Independent MLA Todd Loewen for a “Politics Uncensored” event in Three Hills.

Loewen is a former UCP Caucus chair who booted from the UCP Caucus in May 2021 after he publicly called on Premier Jason Kenney to resign.

Meanwhile, demonstrating how much bad blood remains between Smith and many UCP activists as a result of the 2014 Wildrose floor crossings, a Twitter account run by staff in Kenney’s office attacked Smith (and Brian Jean) by proclaiming that “I’ve always found it surprising that two people whose only track record is losing general elections, somehow feel they have all the answers.”

The “@UniteAlberta” twitter account is run by Deputy Director of  Government Communications and Speechwriter Harrison Fleming, who is currently on leave to work on Kenney’s leadership campaign.

Other senior staff on leave to work on their boss’s leadership review campaign are Chief of Staff Pam Livingston, Executive Director of Communications and Planning Brock Harrison, and Issues Manager Chad Hallman. 

Meanwhile, the former Wildrose leader and Kenney-foe has been sworn-in as an MLA the Legislature. Newly elected Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean has rejoined UCP Caucus he left in 2018.

CBC reporter Michelle Bellefontaine tweeted today that Jean said Kenney has not spoken to him since he was elected as a UCP MLA in March.

NDP MLAs flock to Calgary

Rakhi Pancholi NDP Edmonton Whitemud
Rakhi Pancholi

Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi will be nominated as her party’s candidate for re-election tonight.

“This community has shared with me their wisdom, their experiences, their hopes, and have trusted me to be their voice in the legislature,” said Pancholi. “I want to continue to work hard to help the families of this community – and across Alberta – seize the opportunities available for us to have a strong economic recovery.”

And with the next provincial election just over a year away, she, like most NDP MLAs, are spending a lot of time in Calgary – the expected battleground of the next election.

Janet Eremenko, Rachel Notley, and Rakhi Pancholi.

Pancholi was spotted door knocking in Calgary-Acadia with nomination candidate and Registered Nurse Diana Batten, and with NDP leader Rachel Notley and local candidate Janet Eremenko in Calgary-Currie.

Notley has been spending a lot of time in Calgary, including on the doors this week with Calgary-Edgemont candidate Julia Hayter. Notley will be headlining an April 9 nomination rally in Calgary-East where teacher Rosman Valencia is expected to be acclaimed.

Eggen was spotted door-knocking with MLA Joe Ceci in Calgary-Buffalo and candidate Gurinder Brar in Calgary-North East

Irwin and Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman are planning to join NDP nomination candidate Marilyn North Peigan on the doors this weekend in the Tuxedo Park neighbourhood in Calgary-Klein. Irwin is also scheduled to spend time door-knocking with Eremenko in Calgary-Currie and Hayter in Calgary-Edgemont.


The following nomination meetings have been scheduled.

• Calgary-East NDP: April 9, 2022
• Edmonton-Mill Woods NDP: April 10, 2022
• Leduc-Beaumont NDP: April 13, 2022
• Morinville-St. Albert NDP: April 30, 2022
• Calgary-Glenmore: May 10, 2022

Categories
Alberta Politics

Marilyn North Peigan third candidate in Calgary-Klein NDP nomination contest, former MLA Oneil Carlier seeks nomination in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

Marilyn North Peigan is the third candidate to enter the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Klein. 

“As a long-time advocate for reconciliation, public health care in Alberta, Calgary’s downtown, and the arts sector, I am all-in on building Alberta’s future and will bring my experience to the Alberta NDP and Team Rachel Notley,” North Peigan said in a press release announcing her candidacy.

North Peigan is a member of the Blackfoot Confederacy and is a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, where she trained as a field medic with Toronto EMS and was stationed with Edmonton Field Ambulance. She holds an MA in Integrated Studies, with a focus on Work, Organization, and Leadership.

She is vice-chair of the Calgary Police Commission and an author of the White Goose Flying Report, Calgary’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action. She was also a candidate for city council in Calgary’s 2021 municipal elections.

North Peigan has been endorsed by former Calgary-Klein MLA Craig Coolahan, who served as MLA from 2015 to 2019.

“Marilyn will bring a much-needed perspective to the party and the legislature,” Coolahan said when reached for comment. 

Coolahan also released a video endorsement:

North Peigan joins Heather Eddy and Mattie McMillan in the nomination contest. A vote is scheduled to take place on March 26, 2022.

The riding is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Jeremy Nixon and is on the NDP’s target list for the next election. The local NDP constituency association organized a large group canvass last weekend, with Calgary-Buffalo MLA Joe Ceci and Calgary-Mountain View MLA Kathleen Ganley joining the volunteers. 

Oneil Carlier seeks nomination in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

Oneil Carlier NDP Lac Ste. Anne Parkland
Oneil Carlier

Former MLA Oneil Carlier announced today that he plans to seek the Alberta NDP nomination in the Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland riding.

“When I was an MLA and cabinet minister, I saw how government can work to get results for families,” Carlier said in a press release. “From his handling of the pandemic, to his attacks on health care workers, to sky-rocketing electricity rates, it’s clear Jason Kenney is not delivering for the families of our area.”

Carlier represented the Whitecourt-Ste. Anne riding from 2015 to 2019 and served as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in the NDP government. He was defeated in 2019 by United Conservative Party MLA Shane Getson in the redrawn Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland riding.

Getson has been an outspoken critic of the province’s COVID-19 protections and lost his position as Chair of the UCP’s Capital Region Caucus after he publicly suggested that people receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) were using the funds for Cheezies, cartoons and illegal drugs.

A nomination meeting is being scheduled for March 12, 2022.

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election call down to the wire

Premier Jason Kenney has only 9 days left to call the by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, which will see his leadership rival, UCP candidate Brian Jean, face off against NDP candidate Ariana Mancini and Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman.

The 28-day long by-election to choose a successor to Laila Goodridge must be called by February 15, 2022.

List of candidates running in 2023 election

I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

Categories
Alberta Politics

Nomination update: Rob Miyashiro wins 4-way race in Lethbridge-East, Jennifer Burgess running for NDP nomination in Calgary-Glenmore

Former Lethbridge City Councillor Rob Miyashiro defeated former MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, non-profit executive director Amanda Jensen, and teacher Kevin McBeath to win the Alberta NDP nomination in Lethbridge-East on Nov. 21.

Miyashiro served on Lethbridge City Council from 2013 until 2021 and is the executive director of the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization.

This will be Miyashiro’s second time running as a candidate in Lethbridge-East. He was the Alberta Liberal candidate in the district in the 2012 provincial election, placing third with 14.6 per cent of the vote behind Progressive Conservative candidate Bridget Pastoor, who crossed the floor from the Liberals in 2011.

Nathan Neudorf Lethbridge East UCP MLA
Nathan Neudorf

The district is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Nathan Neudorf, who was elected as Chair of the UCP Caucus following Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen’s resignation and expulsion from the UCP Caucus last summer. Neudorf was first elected in 2019 after defeating Fitzpatrick.

As I’ve previously noted, Lethbridge-East has a unique voting history for a district in southern Alberta, with voters electing Liberal MLAs in every election from 1993 to 2008. Voters embraced the Orange Wave in 2015, electing Fitzpatrick as the riding’s first-ever NDP MLA.


We are now roughly 15 months away from the next provincial election in Alberta, so the candidate nomination news is rolling in slowly, candidates are starting to step forward across the province:

Banff-Kananaskis: Condo property manager Mark Tkacz is the third person to enter the NDP nomination contest in Banff-Kananaskis, joining biologist Sarah Elmeligi and bank manager Gavin McCaffrey.

Joe Ceci

Calgary-Buffalo: Two-term MLA Joe Ceci was acclaimed as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Buffalo, a riding he has represented since 2019. Ceci was first elected as the MLA for Calgary-Fort in 2015 and ran for re-election in the neighbouring Calgary-Buffalo in 2019 following the redrawing of electoral boundaries ahead of the last election.

Ceci served as a City Councillor in Calgary from 1995 to 2010 and was the Minister of Finance during the NDP’s four years as government.

Jennifer Burgess Alberta NDP Calgary-Glenmore nomination election
Jennifer Burgess

Calgary-Glenmore: Communications professional Jennifer Burgess announced yesterday that she is seeking the Alberta NDP nomination in this southwest Calgary riding.

Burgess is the President of the Braeside Community Association and a long-time NDP activist. She was president of the Calgary-Buffalo constituency association in 2016 and in 2019 managed the campaign of Calgary-Glenmore candidate Jordan Stein. 

Burgess previously ran for the NDP against then-Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice in the 2014 by-election in Calgary-Foothills. Her partner is former NDP MLA Graham Sucha, who represented Calgary-Shaw from 2015 to 2019.

The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Whitney Issik, who was appointed Associate Minister of Status of Women in July 2021. Before Issik’s election in 2019 the riding was represented by NDP MLA Anam Kazim. Kazim was elected in 2015 and was defeated by Stein in a nomination race ahead of the 2019 election. 

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche: The UCP hasn’t officially made the announcement it on its website, but the Elections Alberta website notes that the UCP will hold their nomination meeting in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche on December 11.

Membership sales closed over the weekend in the race to choose a candidate to run in the upcoming by-election, which has to be called by Feb. 15, 2022.

Former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, who represented much of the riding as an MLA from 2015 to 2018 and an MP from 2004 to 2013, is facing business consultant Joshua Gogo.

With a by-election call imminent, a steady stream of NDP MLAs have been travelling to Fort McMurray to raise the party banner and meet with locals.

Edmonton-City Centre NDP MLA and health critic David Shepherd was in Fort McMurray earlier this week, and party leader Rachel Notley, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous and Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan have recently visited Fort Mac.

There is still no word on who will run for the NDP in this by-election. The candidate who ran for the party in the 2018 by-election and 2019 election, Jane Stroud, was acclaimed to another term on the Wood Buffalo municipal council, a position she has held since 2010.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Janet Eremenko wins NDP nomination in Calgary-Currie, Chand Gul running for NDP nomination in Edmonton-South West

Janet Eremenko defeated former MLA Brian Malkinson 155 votes to 120 votes to win the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Currie.

Eremenko was the party’s 2019 candidate in the neighboring Calgary-Elbow riding and ran for City Council in 2017. Her nomination candidacy was endorsed by former City Councillor Evan Woolley.

Calgary-Currie was the location of one of the closest races in the 2019 election, which saw Malkinson unseated by United Conservative Party candidate Nicholas Miliken by 191 votes.

The NDP have nomination meetings scheduled in Calgary-Buffalo on Nov. 15, where incumbent MLA Joe Ceci is expected to be acclaimed, and in Lethbridge-East on Nov. 21, where former MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, local non-profit executive director Amanda Jensen, teacher Kevin McBeath, and former City Councillor Rob Miyashiro will seek the nomination.


Chand Gul running for NDP nomination on Edmonton-South West

Behavioral specialist and trained clinical psychologist Chand Gul has announced plans to seek the Alberta NDP nomination in Edmonton-South West, the only riding in the capital city not currently represented by the NDP.

Chand Gul

“We want to move on from the negativity of Kacey Madu and Jason Kenney,” Gul said in a press release. “Rachel Notley has a positive vision for people; she shares my values of giving back to the community, defending human rights, and making sure government improves the lives of people. I want to be part of her team!”

Gul is the former president of the Alberta Pashtoon Association and previously worked for the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers through the organization’s Community Connector Immigrant Women’s Integration network.

She is also the former chair of the women’s wing of the Pakistan-Canada Association of Edmonton, and has also served as a Youth mentor to the Edmonton Immigrant Services Association and a board member for Canadians for a Civil Society.

Gul ran unsuccessfully for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Meadows ahead of the 2019 election, a race where she and incumbent MLA Denise Woollard were defeated by Jasvir Deol. Deol was elected as MLA in the 2019 election.

Before joining the Alberta NDP, she was the South Edmonton Regional director for the Alberta Liberal Party and a member of the federal Liberal Party’s board of directors in Edmonton-Mill Woods.

Kaycee Madu Edmonton South West
Kaycee Madu (Source: Twitter)

If nominated, she will likely face UCP MLA Kaycee Madu, who was first elected in 2019, and as I already mentioned, is the only UCP MLA from Edmonton. Madu defeated former journalist and political staffer John Archer by 715 votes in that election.

Madu was appointed as Minister of Municipal Affairs in 2019 and became Minister of Justice in a 2020 cabinet shuffle. Known for his abrasive-style of partisan politics, Madu has become a controversial figure in Jason Kenney’s UCP cabinet.

Edmonton-South West is almost certainly on every political watchers list of ridings to watch in the next provincial election.


Cringe

A screenshot from Brian Jean’s Facebook page.

Former Wildrose Party leader and Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche UCP nomination candidate Brian Jean has come out against mandatory vaccinations and the expansion of the province’s vaccine passport program for businesses.

Jean also faced criticism for a Facebook post in which he described his UCP nomination opponent, Joshua Gogo, as a “Nigerian economist who lives in Fort McMurray,” a description his opponents were quick to describe as a racist dog whistle.

Jean is running for the nomination to run in the upcoming by-election in the riding he mostly represented from 2015 to 2018, but he has also set his sights on challenging Kenney’s leadership of the UCP.

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Alberta Politics

Alison Karim-McSwiney running for Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-East

Alison Karim-McSwiney announced today that she is seeking the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-East.

Karim-McSwiney has worked as the Executive Director of the International Avenue Business Revitalization Zone since 1998 and is a well-known community advocate in east Calgary.

Calgary-East poll results from the 2019 election (source: Election-Atlas.ca)
Calgary-East poll results from the 2019 election (source: Election-Atlas.ca)

“It is such an honour to serve the businesses and people in this community and east Calgary,” Karim-McSwiney said in a press release. “My goal is to continue to apply the same passion and energy to advocating and fighting for east Calgary that I’ve shown throughout my career.”

She was a founding member of Global Fest and the International Avenue Mural Society.

Back in 2016, Karim-McSwiney spoke in support of the previous NDP government’s Act to End Predatory Lending.

“This is ground-breaking legislation. It ensures vulnerable borrowers are protected, particularly now when budgets are tight,” Karim-McSwiney said in a 2016 government press release. “These changes will positively impact our community’s revitalization efforts, and help attract new businesses to our neighbourhood.”

Jason Kenney and Peter Singh Calgary-East United Conservative Party
Jason Kenney and Peter Singh

Calgary-East has been represented by United Conservative Party MLA Peter Singh since 2019. Singh was elected with 49.7 per cent of the vote over New Democrat Cesar Cala, who finished second with 32.1 per cent.

Singh is the past president of the Fiji Canada Association of Calgary and also ran for the Progressive Conservative nomination in Calgary-Fort ahead of the 2015 election.

Singh faced allegations of bribery and fraud from the four other candidates he defeated in the UCP nomination contest and, days before the 2019 election, his auto-repair shop was searched by the RCMP in connection with the investigation into allegations of voter fraud during the UCP’s 2017 leadership campaign.

Robyn Luff represented the riding as a New Democrat from 2015 until she was removed from the caucus in 2018 after speaking out about “culture of fear and intimidation.” She sat as an Independent MLA for the remainder of her term and did not run for re-election.

In 2015, Luff unseated six-term PC MLA Moe Amery, who had run in every election in the riding since 1986 (his son, Mickey Amery, was elected as the UCP MLA in the neighbouring Calgary-Cross riding in 2019).

A date for the nomination meeting in Calgary-East has not been set.


The NDP are also holding nomination meetings in:

The UCP have opened nominations in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election, with Joshua Gogo and former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean entering the contest.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Joe Ceci running for re-election in Calgary-Buffalo

MLA Joe Ceci announced yesterday that he is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Buffalo and his third term in the Legislature in the expected 2023 provincial election.

A nomination meeting has been scheduled for Nov. 15, 2021.

Ceci was first elected as MLA for Calgary-Fort in 2015 and ran for re-election in Calgary-Buffalo on 2019 after a boundary change moved his neighbourhood into the downtown riding. Ceci served as Finance Minister during the NDP’s term in government and previously was elected to Calgary City Council from 1995 to 2010.

Calgary-Buffalo has a unique political history, having elected MLAs from non-conservative parties in 9 of the past 11 elections.

Liberal MLA Sheldon Chumir represented Calgary-Buffalo from 1986 until his death in 1992. Chumir was succeeded by Liberal Gary Dickson who won a 1992 by-election and served until 2001.

The riding was then represented by Progressive Conservative Harvey Cenaiko from 2001 until 2008, when Liberal MLA Kent Hehr defeated PC candidate and future City Councillor Sean Chu. Hehr served as MLA until 2015 when he jumped into federal politics and was elected as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Calgary-Centre.

NDP MLA Kathleen Ganley was elected in 2015 and ran for re-election in 2019 across the Bow River in Calgary-Mountain View, leaving the seat open for Ceci to run for re-election.

Ceci was re-elected with 48 per cent in 2019, defeating United Conservative Party challenger Tom Olsen, who placed second with  39 per cent (Olsen was soon after appointed as CEO of the Canadian Energy Centre, a government-funded oil industry public relations company colloquially known as “The War Room”).

The NDP have also scheduled nomination meetings in Edmonton-Glenora on Oct. 27, Calgary-Falconridge on Oct. 29, and Calgary-Currie on Nov. 13.

 

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Daveberta Podcast

Episode 59: The Fiscal Reckoning and Alberta’s 70-year old Revenue Problems

After a very eventful summer in Alberta politics, Dave and Adam tackle big questions about Alberta’s fiscal challenges (and revenue problems) and Premier Jason Kenney’s promised ” fiscal reckoning,” the mini-cabinet shuffle, Erin O’Toole’s win in the Conservative Party of Canada leadership race, what a return to school during a global pandemic looks like, and more. We also answer some great questions submitted by listeners.

Thank you to everyone who submitted recommendations for the Alberta Politics Summer Reading List. With summer coming to an end, now is time to start thinking about what Alberta politics books you want to read while cozying up next to a warm fire this fall.

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

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

Find us on TwitterInstagram, Facebook, or you can email us at podcast@daveberta.ca. Thanks for listening.

Recommended Reading/Listening

 

Categories
Alberta Politics

The Battle of Alberta Politics: How voters in Calgary and Edmonton can sometimes be so different

The Battle of Alberta is a term usually reserved for competitions on the hockey rink or football field, but the rivalry between Calgary and Edmonton probably predates our professional sports clubs. While the animosity felt by some sports fans might not be felt the same way among voters, the politics and political divides between the two cities have helped defined Alberta politics since the province was created in 1905. From the decision of where to place Alberta’s capital city to where the province’s first university should be located, the roles played by the two major cities have been a periodic point of tension in provincial politics.

There are many reasons that explain the current political differences between the two cities, from the backgrounds of the settlers who founded the cities to the most recent round of economic convulsions.

As a friend of mine once put it, Calgary is where business decisions get made, Edmonton is where government decisions get made.

Calgary sees itself as the business capital, heavily influenced by connections to the American oil industry in Texas and the home of the braintrust of the federal Conservative movement. Edmonton is the government capital, heavily influenced by a combination of public servants and University employees as well as a base of blue-collar and trades workers with connections to Fort McMurray and northern Alberta.

Poll by poll results in Edmonton from the 2019 Alberta provincial general election. (Map by Shane Smith)
Poll by poll results in Edmonton from the 2019 Alberta provincial general election. (Map by Shane Smith)

These are obviously big generalizations that don’t reflect the diversity and complexity of the two cities but it does help explain some of the political differences between the two municipalities.

While I think the political differences between two two cities can sometimes be overstated, a troubling political narrative that has developed over the past six years has been that because Calgary is perceived to have felt the brunt of the economic fallout caused by the drop in the international price of oil, it is now Edmonton’s turn to feel the economic pain (translation: public sector wage rollbacks and job cuts).

There is an old saying in Alberta politics that a party has to win most of the seats in two of the three political regions of the province in order to form government – Calgary, Edmonton or rural Alberta. The “rural Alberta” in this calculation includes the small and medium size cities, which, with the exception of Lethbridge, have in the past four decades mostly voted in sync with the rest of rural Alberta – conservative.

But the calculation is generally correct. With a combined 46 seats in the Legislature, the two large cities represent the majority of Alberta voters (I hope to write more about voting patterns in “rural Alberta” in a future article).

This year marks one year since the United Conservative Party won the 2019 election and five years since the New Democratic Party won the 2015 election, undeniably two of the most important elections in Alberta’s recent political history. The two votes marked the first changes in government in Alberta since 1971, and both highlighted the political differences between Calgary and Edmonton.

The Progressive Conservatives had dominated Calgary since 1971 but in 2015 a combination of a surge of votes and the first-past-the-post electoral system allowed the NDP to elect 15 MLAs with 34 percent of the vote. The PCs earned 31 percent and the Wildrose placed third with 23 percent in Alberta’s largest city.

Poll by poll results in Calgary from the 2019 Alberta provincial general election. (Map by Shane Smith)
Poll by poll results in Calgary from the 2019 Alberta provincial general election. (Map by Shane Smith)

The 2015 election marked the first time since 1989 that the NDP had elected an MLA in Calgary and the first time since 1967 that a party other than the PCs won a majority of seats in the city.

While many prominent conservative pundits and politicians claimed the NDP breakthrough in Calgary, and much of the rest of Alberta, was a result of a vote-split on the political right, a closer look at that election would support the argument that the vote split was actually between the NDP and Wildrose among voters unhappy with the 43-year governing PC Party dynasty.

Edmonton has earned the nickname Redmonton for its reputation for electing more Liberals and NDP MLAs than anywhere else in the province. But despite the nickname, the capital city is historically more electorally competitive than it is an opposition bastion. Voters in the capital city have swung between parties more frequently than any other region in Alberta, making it one of the few consistently competitive areas of the province.

Led by Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley, the NDP swept the city in 2015, earning 65 percent of the total vote and winning every seat. The PCs earned 20 percent and the Wildrose finished with 8 percent in the capital city.

As one local PC Party campaign manager described to me after the 2015 election, their candidate faced “a giant impenetrable wall of orange.”

Provincial voting results in Edmonton from 1982 to 2019.
Provincial voting results in Edmonton from 1982 to 2019.

Four years later in 2019, the NDP maintained its vote share in Calgary but were only able to elect three MLAs as the UCP succeeded in consolidating the large base of PC and Wildrose voters, though a number of UCP candidates earned below the combined totals from the previous election. The NDP earned 34 percent of the vote and the UCP, led by Calgary-Lougheed MLA Jason Kenney, amassed 53 percent and elected 23 MLAs.

The seats won by Calgary NDP MLAs in the 2019 election have a tradition of electing non-conservative MLAs. Calgary-Buffalo and Calgary-Mountain View elected Liberals and NDP MLAs in the 1980s and 1990s, and Calgary-McCall swung to the Liberals in the 2000s.

Although the NDP lost all but one of the suburban surrounding the city, the party maintained its dominance in Edmonton in 2019, winning 53 percent of the vote and holding all but one seat. The UCP elected 1 MLA and earned 35 percent of the vote in the capital city.

Provincial voting results in Calgary from 1982 to 2019.
Provincial voting results in Calgary from 1982 to 2019.

The only viable third party in the 2019 election, the Alberta Party, earned 10 percent of the vote in both cities but failed to elect any MLAs. Party leader Stephen Mandel was unsuccessful in his bid for election in Edmonton-McClung and its two Calgary incumbents were defeated.

Past elections in the two cities

The results of these two elections, and how they have shaped Alberta politics in the most recent two election prompted me to take a broader look at voting results in Calgary and Edmonton over the past four decades.

Alberta MLAs elected in Edmonton from 1982 to 2019.
Alberta MLAs elected in Edmonton from 1982 to 2019.

1986: The departure of Peter Lougheed as Premier of Alberta in 1985 clearly had a big impact on Alberta politics, as the economic recession that followed allowed NDP led by Edmonton-Norwood MLA Ray Martin breakthrough in the capital city in the 1986 election.

Calgary remained a PC Party stronghold following Lougheed’s departure, with the NDP and Liberals electing a handful of MLAs between 1986 and 1997, and 2004 and 2012.

The election of Liberal Sheldon Chumir in Calgary-Buffalo in 1986 marked the beginning of a long-line of non-conservative MLAs representing that district. Non-conservative candidates would win in Calgary-Buffalo in nine of the next eleven elections (the district is currently represented by NDP MLA Joe Ceci).

Edmonton became the competitive hotbed of Alberta politics and a deep rivalry developed between Liberal Party and NDP partisans in the capital city.

The competition between the Liberals and NDP in Edmonton during this period generated much discussion around a “unite the left” movement to defeat the PCs, though this perennial debate largely became mute when the NDP formed government in 2015.

Alberta MLAs elected in Calgary from 1982 to 2019.
Alberta MLAs elected in Calgary from 1982 to 2019.

1993: In 1993, Premier Ralph Klein further consolidated his party’s electoral grip on Calgary while the Liberals led by former mayor Laurence Decore executed a clean sweep of the capital city. The Liberals were the beneficiaries of a collapsing NDP vote and also a burgeoning group of Reform Party voters wanting change on the provincial and federal levels.

The Liberals would again dominate Edmonton in the 1997 and 2004 elections, though the party began to resemble a group of independents more than the cohesive political organization created by Decore.

Competition between Decore’s Liberals and former Calgary mayor Klein’s PCs led to obvious descriptions of provincial politics as the battle of Alberta.

2001: The 2001 election marked a turn back toward the PC Party in Edmonton, which would then lose most of its seats when the Liberals and NDP rebounded in 2004 before regaining ground in the city in 2008 and 2012. This period marked the beginning of a decline of the Liberal Party in Edmonton after almost two decades as the official opposition party.

The 2001 election also marked the first time since 1982 that the PCs won every seat in Calgary.

2004: The 2004 election marked a breakthrough for the opposition Liberals in Calgary where the party elected three MLAs, the most since 1993. The Liberals would expand its voter base in Calgary and elect four MLAs in 2008 as the party’s fortunes in Edmonton sharply declined after it regained much of its seats in the 2004 election.

2012: The 2012 election marked a significant shift in the political environment in Alberta with the two large cities coalescing behind the PC Party. The opposition Wildrose Party swept much of rural Alberta, forming the first rural based official opposition party since the Social Credit Party in the 1970s. This trend would continue in the 2015 election as the Wildrose Party regained most of its seats following the 2014 floor-crossings.

(Note: Thank you to Shane Smith for sharing the poll level election maps. You can follow Shane on Twitter at @Smith80D).

Categories
Alberta Politics

Election bills give Albertans more democracy, less transparency and accountability.

Albertans could soon be given more opportunities to cast their ballots but with much less transparency about and accountability for who is spending money to influence their votes.

The United Conservative Party government continued to unwrap its electoral reform package this week with the introduction of:

Bill 26: Constitutional Referendum Amendment Act: introduced by Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer, the bill amends the Constitutional Referendum Act law to allow for province-wide referendums to be held on non-constitutional issues

Bill 27: Alberta Senate Election Amendment Act: also introduced by Schweitzer, this bill makes amendments to the Alberta Senate Election Act passed in June 2019. 

Bill 29: Local Authorities Election Amendment Act: introduced by Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu, this bill introduces major changes to the law that governs municipal elections in Alberta.

These bills are part of a series of election bills that are expected to also include future bills allowing for the recall of MLAs, municipal politicians and school trustees, citizen initiated referendums, and major changes to provincial election laws.

Doug Schweitzer Calgary Alberta Conservative
Doug Schweitzer

The three bills introduced this week provide more opportunities for Albertans to vote for candidates and on issues, but they also claw back important transparency and accountability rules implemented by the previous New Democratic Party government less than two years ago.

It has almost been 50 years since the last time a province-wide plebiscite was initiated by the Alberta government. Bill 26 would allow the provincial government to hold referendums on non-constitutional issues, like creating an Alberta Pension Plan or deciding if we should remain on Daylight Saving Time. Providing an opportunity for Albertans to cast ballots on important issues can be a powerful tool to engage voters, but the timing and wording of such votes can also be intentionally manipulative.

The bill allows third-party groups, colloquially known as political action committees, to spend up to $500,000 on advertising up from the current $150,000 limit. Third-party groups that spend less than $350,000 on advertising during a referendum would not be required to file financial statements with Elections Alberta.

Schweitzer did not hold a press conference to announce the bill, so it is unclear why he chose to include such a massive gap in transparency.

Changes to municipal election laws included in Bill 29 are being framed by Madu as helping “level the playing field” for new candidates running for municipal councils and school boards by not allowing incumbents to carry over campaign war chests between elections and increasing the amount candidates can spend ahead of the election period from $2,000 to $5,000.

Bill 29 raises the election period donation limit from $4,000 back up to $5,000 and allows candidates to self-finance their campaign up to $10,000, reversing a number of changes made by the NDP government in 2018 that have not had a chance to be tested in a municipal election campaign.

Madu’s bill would also make it legal for wealthy individuals to donate up to $5,000 each to as many candidates as they want in any municipal or school board election across the province, effectively removing the cap on individual donations.

Eliminating the ability of incumbents to store campaign surpluses in war chests for future elections might lower the amount of cash on hand at the beginning of an election campaign. But in Edmonton at least, only two city councillors – Sarah Hamilton and Ben Henderson – reported having surpluses of more than $10,000 at the end of the 2017 election, suggesting that war chests are not necessarily a significant issues in the capital city.

Raising the donation limit could strengthen the advantage of incumbents with name recognition and developed political networks running against challengers who may be seeking political office for the first time.

The advantage of name recognition that helps incumbents get re-elected in large numbers at the municipal level is a feature that predates any of the changes to municipal election finance laws introduced by the previous NDP and Progressive Conservative governments over the past decade. The incumbent advantage even existed when there were no donation limits.

Bill 29 removes the requirement that candidates disclose their donors ahead of election day, which allows voters to see who is financially supporting candidates before they head to the ballot box.

The bill also removes spending limits for third-party groups before the start of the election period, allowing groups like Calgary’s infamous Sprawl Cabal of land developers free reign to spend unlimited amounts of money on advertising before May 1, 2021.

Madu’s Bill 29 introduces big money back into municipal elections under the guise of fairness and without creating any of the structural changes required to design a real competitive electoral environment at the municipal level.

Bill 29 also removes all references to the Election Commissioner, a housekeeping item necessitated by the controversial firing of the Commissioner by the UCP government in November 2019. In its place, the bill creates a Registrar of Third Parties, though it is unclear if the person holding this title would have the legal investigative authority of the now defunct Election Commissioner.

In past elections many municipalities simply did not have the resources available to enforce municipal election finance rules, so in some cases complaints were simply left uninvestigated.

Some of these changes were expected and were included in the UCP’s 2019 election platform, others were necessitated by inconsistencies in the changes made by the NDP in 2018, and some have come completely out of left-field.

Alberta’s election laws should be dynamic and designed to encourage and facilitate participation by voters and candidates, not to hide the identities of those who would spend money influencing election campaigns.

Overall, these bills could probably be summed up as one step forward for democracy and two steps back for transparency and accountability.

Changes coming to provincial election laws

Joseph Schow Cardston-Siksika MLA UCP
Joseph Schow

These changes are likely a taste of what is to come from the recently appointed Select Special Democratic Accountability Committee. Chaired by Cardston-Siksika UCP MLA Joseph Schow, the committee will review Alberta’s Election Act and the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act within the next six months and has be tasked with answering a series of questions submitted by Schweitzer within four months.

Along with Schow, the committee membership includes Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner, Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard, Calgary-Buffalo MLA Joe Ceci, Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang, Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Laila Goodridge, Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon, Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi, Highwood MLA R.J. Sigurdson, Drayton Valley-Devon MLA Mark Smith and Edmonton-Manning MLA Heather Sweet.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Alberta Budget 2020: This is no way to run a household.

It will probably be no surprise to readers that I am not a fan of the United Conservative Party’s budget tabled this week in the Legislature by Finance Minister Travis Toews. It includes short-sighted cuts to public health care, public education and public services that will have a detrimental impact on Albertans and lead to thousands of job losses across the province.

But my key criticism of this budget is close to the same I have given to budgets presented by former finance ministers Joe Ceci, Robin Campbell, Doug Horner, Ted Morton and Iris Evans: Alberta needs to stop over-relying on revenues from oil and gas royalties to pay for the daily operations of government.

The budget does not deal with the big financial problems facing Alberta.

Premier Jason Kenney frequently claims that Alberta is “broke,” but the budget documents plainly explain that our provincial government collects the lowest levels of taxes in Canada. We are also the only province without a sales tax, a solution that could relieve some of our government’s over-dependence on oil and gas, a revenue source determined by international prices.

The UCP budget actually increases its projected dependence on oil and gas royalties, growing from 10 percent of revenues to 15 percent by the 2022-2023 budget. When the international price of oil plummeted in 2014, it left an estimated $7 billion hole in the Alberta government’s revenue stream.

Kenney, like premiers Rachel Notley, Jim Prentice, Alison Redford, and Ed Stelmach before him, is praying for the international price of oil to rise and return an economic boom to Alberta.

The international price of oil, and our government’s chronic over-reliance on the oil revenues generated by it, is the source of much of the economic and political malaise we now find ourselves in.

The UCP also cut corporate taxes for the province’s wealthiest corporations, to the tune of $4.7 billion, according to the opposition.

With a single-minded focus on reducing spending, regardless of the jobs lost and the cost to Albertans’ quality of life, it appears highly unlikely that Alberta’s revenue stream will be looked at as long as Kenney, a founding spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, occupies the Premier’s Office.

While responsible investment of public funds is a goal that should transcend party-lines, the UCP government’s hand-picked panel to study Alberta’s finances was expressly limited to recommend changes to spending, not revenue.

Supporters of conservative parties frequently compare government finances to a household budget as justification for cuts to public services. Comparing a government budget to a household budget is a flawed analogy for many reasons, but it is has become a familiar narrative in Canadian politics.

If the Government of Alberta was a household, it’s overdraft and line of credit would partially be the result of someone purposely taking a lower paid job (stable taxation revenue) and instead relying on lottery tickets or inheritance from dead relatives (unpredictable oil and gas revenues) to pay the bills and keep the family fed.

This is no way to run a household.

Categories
Alberta Politics

WAR ROOM ENGAGE! Kenney hires former UCP candidate Tom Olsen to run the Canadian Energy Centre

The Alberta government’s much talked about energy war room now has its General. Energy Minister Sonya Savage announced yesterday that Tom Olsen has been hired as the managing director of the newly incorporated Canadian Energy Centre. The $30-million publicly funded private corporation is part of the UCP’s “fight back strategy” to counter claims made by critics of the oil and gas industry that Premier Jason Kenney said will target politicians, media and other opinion leaders, and could include satellite offices overseas.

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP
Joe Ceci

Olsen was most recently the United Conservative Party candidate in the downtown Calgary-Buffalo riding in the 2019 provincial election, where he finished 9 per cent short of unseating former New Democratic Party finance minister Joe Ceci. But despite his recent electoral loss, Olsen has been a fixture of Conservative politics in Alberta for more than a decade.

After years as a columnist and reporter for the large daily newspapers in Calgary and Edmonton, Olsen jumped into politics when he was hired as Premier Ed Stelmach’s spokesperson in 2007. (Olsen’s brother, Gordon Olsen, worked in senior roles in the Premier’s Office while Ralph Klein occupied the office).

While some Albertans will remember Olsen for his role in the Northumberland beach photos fiasco, he also oversaw the launch of the first version of the war room.

In 2008, the Alberta government launched a website called “For the Record” that was dedicated to correcting what the government determined was incomplete or incorrect information in the media. “It’s not a forum to argue philosophy and spin. . . it’s not debating the rightness or wrongness of a particular issue. It’s about factual information,”Olsen told the Calgary Herald in December 2008. “I don’t see it as government policing journalists.”

The Alberta Government’s short-lived “For the Record” webpage.

It was the government policing journalists, and it did not last very long. The government website posted six corrections to news stories from various media outlets between November 2008 and December 2010. The website briefly became a source of controversy when Olsen insisted the Globe & Mail be referred to as the Toronto Globe & Mail. The website was later edited to drop Toronto from the newspaper’s name.

Following a wholesale purge of Stelmach’s senior communications staff, Olsen was whisked off to Vancouver to handle the Alberta government’s public relations during the 2010 Winter Olympics, which included the renting of the luxury Rocky Mountaineer train and the distribution of free iPads to journalists and VIPs.

Sonya Savage

Olsen later worked as a lobbyist for groups including the Calgary Residential Rental Association, Greyhound and the national group representing Pay Day Loan companies. He found himself back in the Progressive Conservative Party fold when he became Vice-President of Communications during Jim Prentice‘s brief time as party leader.

Savage, a former pipeline lobbyist and now a member of the war room board of directors along with Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer and Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon, said this week that the war room will include a rapid response centre, an energy literacy unit and a data research unit. Former Postmedia columnist Claudia Cattaneo was hired in August 2019 by the government to write the Energy War Room Strategic plan.

Earlier this year, Postmedia hired Kenney’s former chief of staff, Nick Koolsbergen, to lobby the UCP government on ways the Toronto-headquartered newspaper company could be involved with the war room. 

In an interview with the Postmedia-owned Financial Post, Postmedia President and CEO Andrew MacLeod said that the lobby effort was part the company’s effort to find new revenue streams and that it had no relationship to editorial decision-making (meanwhile, the front cover of the Postmedia-owned National Post today featured a paid political advertisement attacking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau).

Andrew MacLeod Postmedia CEO President
Andrew MacLeod

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, a lobby group that represents many of Canada’s oil and gas companies, is also registered to lobby Alberta MLAs, the Minister of Energy and the Premier’s Office to share and advise on best practices for the war room to counter misinformation. 

Postmedia’s past relationship with CAPP is no secret, but these group’s business relationships with the war room could be.

As CBC’s Michelle Bellefontaine reported today, as a private corporation the Canadian Energy Centre will be exempt from freedom of information requests, meaning that Albertans might not ever know how much of the $30 million is paid to Postmedia, CAPP or whichever UCP-connected PR firms are hired to work for the publicly-funded private war room.

Regardless of which PR companies or Toronto-based newspaper company gets hired, Olsen will have his job cut out for him. The first order of business for the new Canadian Energy Centre might be playing defence for the Alberta government’s $2.5 million public inquiry into anti-oil campaigns – an effort that has been criticized as a witch-hunt by groups like EcoJustice and the venerable Amnesty International.

While it may be easy for Kenney to dismiss NGOs and suggest that the 4,000 Albertans participating in the climate strike protest outside the Legislature were communist sympathizers, Olsen’s war room will have a harder time dismissing its greatest opponent – the free market.

Many major international oil and gas corporations have withdrawn their investments in Canada’s oilsands over the past five years, and the UCP’s decision to scale back the Alberta government’s climate change commitments certainly will not help how our province is perceived internationally.

Conservatives howled loudly this week as a major Norwegian pension fund withdrew investments in four Alberta-based oilsands companies. The move was described by UCP supporters online as hypocritical, as Norway continues to make investments in its own off-shore oil and gas platforms. The move may have been hypocritical, but those are the types of decisions that countries like Norway can make when they have $1.1 trillion saved in the bank (something for Albertans to think about when they consider how much past governments have squandered our wealth).

Olsen’s biggest challenge might be to prove that the war room is more than a $30-million public relations subsidy to Alberta’s oil and gas companies.

Public attitudes toward fossil fuels and climate change are shifting dramatically, and Alberta risks becoming increasingly isolated on energy and climate issues on the national and international stage. Judging from the Alberta government’s numerous high-profile efforts over the past two decades to correct what it saw as misinformation about the oilsands and fight environmental advocates outside the province, the war room might be an example of the UCP preparing to fight the last war.


A short history of Alberta government  advertising campaigns and initiatives aimed at critics of oil and gas companies (I am sure I have missed a few):

2002: the Alberta government announced and later scrapped plans for an anti-Kyoto Accord advertising campaign in Ontario after focus group testing proved the messaging was unpopular among Torontonians.

2008: the Alberta government launched a public relations campaign targeting critics of the oilsands outside of Alberta, which included a 20-page glossy brochure entitled Alberta’s Oil Sands: Balance. Opportunity. This campaign included a North America and European speaking tour by the Premier.

2010: the Alberta government rolled out a slick $25-million “Tell It Like It Is” oilsands promotional campaign that included advertisements in London’s Piccadilly Circus and New York City’s Times Square. The multimedia blitz includes CDs and DVDs about “Alberta’s Clean Energy Future” and “A conversation on oilsands and the environment” – which features commentary from provincial experts.

2012: the Alberta government announced it was spending $77,000 on a pro-Keystone XL Pipeline advertising campaign during the Premier’s visit to Washington DC and hired lobbyists to directly lobby US officials.

2012: the federal Conservative government assigned Canadian diplomats to lobby Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. in order to counter campaigns launched by an environmental advocacy groups targeting the oilsands.

2013: the federal Conservative government launched a advertising campaign directed at American politicians ahead of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s trip to the United States. The ad campaign described Canada as a “world environmental leader” on oil and gas development.

2018: the Alberta government spent more than $23 million promoting its KeepCanadaWorking advertising campaign in support of the expansion of the Trans Mountain PIpeline from Alberta to British Columbia.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances, NDP critics, and auf Wiedersehen, Derek

It has been a busy week in Alberta politics and here are a few of my thoughts on some recent developments:

Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances

Premier Jason Kenney and Finance Minister Travis Toews appointed a “Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances” with a mandate to recommend changes limited to Alberta government spending. As others have already pointed out, the narrow mandate is a missed opportunity to actually address the fiscal challenges facing Alberta, which includes issues with revenue ranging from low taxation and over-dependence on oil and gas royalty revenues.

That Kenney, who started his political career as spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, would want to focus purely on spending is not a shock. But it is only part of the challenge facing Alberta.

Appointing an arms-length panel to make these recommendations is politically smart and will give cover to a United Conservative Party government that is already inclined to make significant cuts to funding of public services. The NDP made similar political moves when they appointed arms-length panels to recommend changes to the natural resource royalty structure and to recommend action on climate change, which included the creation of the carbon tax, which Kenney has pledged to repeal.

Kenney’s appointment of history professor and former Saskatchewan New Democratic Party cabinet minister Janice MacKinnon and former Alberta Liberal MLA Mike Percy was a clever move that on the surface mildly disarms its critics. But despite their past political affiliations, both MacKinnon and Percy have in the decades since they left elected office been welcomed in conservative circles because of their fiscally conservative views. MacKinnon was even prominently quoted in the UCP election platform.

Albertans need leaders who will look at the big picture, not just a slice of the problem. Judging by its narrow mandate, it is hard to imagine the blue ribboned panelists recommending anything but cuts, cuts, and more cuts.

NDP critics to be named next week 

The 24 Alberta NDP MLAs who will make up the Official Opposition will be sworn-in on May 13 at the Legislative Assembly. Unlike their UCP colleagues, who will be sworn-in before the Speech from the Throne on May 21, the two dozen NDP MLAs will have an 8-day jump start with access to their Legislative offices and time to prepare for their first week of Question Period. And with a caucus mostly hailing from Edmonton, NDP MLAs will have a hometown advantage of not having to regularly travel long-distances to work in the capital city.

The NDP critic line-up is expected to be announced shortly after NDP MLAs are sworn-in. With 9 cabinet minister in its ranks, the NDP opposition will be well-equipped to question the cabinet of mostly rookie UCP MLAs. There could be a natural temptation to appoint the former cabinet ministers as critics for the ministerial offices they previously held, but it could also compromise the credibility of those critics who in some cases would be watching much of their 4-years of work be dismantled by the UCP.

Look for Official Opposition leader Rachel Notley to place Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman, Lethbridge-East MLA Shannon Phillips, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous, Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen, and Calgary-Buffalo MLA Joe Ceci in key critic roles.

The NDP will be tempted to continue their relentless campaign against the UCP on social issues, but treating the post-election period as just an extension of the 2019 election could be a strategic mistake. The NDP need to prepare themselves for how to respond effectively to the aggressive legislative agenda Kenney is expected to implement in the “Summer of Repeal” and to a fall provincial budget that could include deep and short-sighted budget cuts.

auf Wiedersehen, Derek.

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt faced a bizarre 72 hour suspension from the Official Opposition caucus this week.Former Wildrose Party and UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt resigned as leader of the Freedom Conservative Party last week after his party’s electoral poor showing and his failure to win re-election in Chestermere-Strathmore in the April 2019 election. Fildebrandt, also a former spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, is succeeded by interim leader David White, a former paramedic who ran for the party in Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin.

Say what you want about his political views and personal behavior, but Fildebrandt has been one of the most consistently colourful characters in Alberta politics since he burst on to the provincial scene in 2012.

The Freedom Conservative Party is the latest name of a tiny right-wing populist and sometimes separatist party that has existed since 1999. It took its latest form in June 2018 when the Western Freedom Party was renamed the Freedom Conservative Party. The party was originally formed as the Alberta First Party in 1999, renamed the Separation Party of Alberta in 2004 and again renamed the Alberta First Party in 2013 before it became the Western Freedom Party in April 2018.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Tax On, Tax Off: Kenney calls for tax cuts for corporations, Greens call for PST in Alberta

United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney says his party will cut Alberta’s corporate income tax down to 8 per cent from 12 per cent, which would give Alberta by far the lowest corporate taxes in Canada. Alberta’s current corporate income tax rate for corporations earning more than $500,000 in annual income was increased from 10 percent to 12 per cent by Rachel Notley‘s New Democratic Party government after the 2015 election.

Jason Kenney Alberta Politics
Jason Kenney

Kenney’s call to cut corporate income taxes is not surprising, as his party sees significant cuts to both taxes and government spending as a solution to the Alberta government’s fiscal woes.

Kenney’s ideological aversion to taxes and public spending in general is well known going back to his time as a spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation more than 20 years ago.

Next to the criminal law power that we wield in Parliament, the power to collect taxes is the most significant and potentially destructive power. Some have said that the power to tax is the power to destroy,” Kenney said as a Reform Party MP in Ottawa in December 1998. 

Lowering the corporate income tax this low is not an original idea, but it is unclear what advantage cutting corporate income taxes this low would really give Albertans.

The Alberta Corporate Tax Amendment Act introduced by Revenue Minister Greg Melchin in 2002 set a target of 8 per cent for the corporate income tax rate, but the Progressive Conservative government never let the rate dip below 10 per cent.

Kenney has also pledged to repeal the provincial government’s carbon tax, cut the minimum wage, and has mused about cutting personal income taxes for those paying into the highest tax brackets by reimposing the 10 per cent flat tax.

Joel French Alberta
Joel French

Notley’s promise to increase corporate income taxes in 2015 to fill the gap left by plummeting oil and gas royalties led to the most notable exchange in that election’s leaders’ debate, when PC Party leader Jim Prentice got in trouble for sharply responding to Notley’s that “I know math is difficult.” The “math” comment was received poorly, to say the least, and the reaction from Alberta’s corporate leaders helped the NDP soar in the polls until election day.

Albertans gave this government a strong mandate to act on its promises: That was to ask top-income earners to pay a little bit more for the betterment of all and to ask corporations who benefited the most during stronger economic times to contribute fairly to rebuilding our province,” Finance Minister Joe Ceci told the Globe & Mail shortly before the corporate income taxes were increased in 2015.

It is notable that even under Notley’s NDP government, Alberta’s corporate income taxes today are still lower than the 15.5 per cent they were when Ralph Klein became Premier in 1992 (which was then the third-lowest corporate income tax rate in Canada). Notley’s NDP also lowered the small business tax rate from 3 per cent to 2 per cent, which is also significantly lower than the 6 per cent rate when Klein became premier. But this is not necessarily something to brag about in a province that continues to struggle with its chronic over-reliance on royalty revenues.

As noted by Public Interest Alberta executive director Joel French in a May 2018 opinion-editorial in the Edmonton Journal, “Applying the tax system of any other province to Alberta would raise us a minimum of $11.2 billion in additional annual revenue, more than covering the projected $8.8-billion deficit in this year’s budget.

With a young and growing population, slashing the corporate income taxes that help fund the day to day operations of government, like the public education and public health care that Albertans depend on to preserve our high quality of life, sounds short-sighted.

With a lack of policy proposals and campaign promises coming from the NDP during this pre-election period, this is another example of Kenney and the UCP dominating the media coverage going into the provincial election.

Carl Svoboda Green Party Alberta Calgary Edgemont
Carl Svoboda

Meanwhile, the Green Party of Alberta has strapped itself to one of the third rails of Alberta politics by calling for the creation of a Provincial Sales Tax. Many political watchers and economists have called for the creation of a sales tax to help diversify the government’s revenue sources, but politicians of all stripes have been extremely reluctant to take a position in favour of a PST in Alberta.

The other parties are terrified to mention a sales tax other than to denounce it, but the Green Party is not. It is time for Alberta to start acting like a normal province and bring in a sales tax,” said Green Party public finance shadow critic Carl Svoboda, who is running in Calgary-Edgemont.

In another political universe, this might have been something championed by the NDP, but not in Alberta in 2019.

With no MLAs in the Legislature, the Alberta Greens may have little to lose by calling for the creation of a PST, but by taking this position they do open the door to a much-needed PST debate a little bit wider.

Child poverty in Alberta drops by half in two years

Alberta has the lowest child poverty rate in the country at 5 per cent, having managed to cut its rate in half in just two years, between 2015 and 2017. University of Calgary economist Ron Kneebone told The Star Calgary that the the national Canada Child Benefit and the Alberta Child Benefit were the biggest reasons for this improvement.

Elizabeth May comes to Alberta

Speaking of the Green Party, federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May will visit Alberta later this week with stops in Calgary on March 7 and Edmonton on March 8, 2019.

Categories
Alberta Politics

When is Alberta Election 2019? What We Know versus Speculation

What we know:

The last provincial General Election was held 3 years, 7 months, 2 days ago on May 5, 2015.

According to Section 38.1(2) of the Elections Act, a general election should be held between March 1 and May 31, and in the same three-month period in the fourth calendar year thereafter. This means that the next general election will likely be held between March 1 and May 31, 2019. This fixed election period was introduced in the Election Amendment Act passed on December 6, 2011.

Election campaign periods in Alberta last 28 days. Section 39 (d) of the Election Act states: “the 28th day after the date of the writ is the day on which voting is to take place, or if the 28th day is a holiday, the next following day not being a holiday.” There are a number of statutory and religious holidays that fall in this fixed election period when an election day would not be held: Good Friday is April 19, Easter Monday is April 22, and Victoria Day is May 20.

In accordance with our parliamentary system of government, the Elections Act also states that nothing in the law “affects the powers of the Lieutenant Governor, including the power to dissolve the Legislature, in Her Majesty’s name, when the Lieutenant Governor sees fit.” This means that Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell could issue a writ of election and dissolve the Legislative Assembly whenever she is asked to do so by Premier Rachel Notley. It would be highly irregular for a Lieutenant Governor to deny a Premier’s wish to issue a writ of election.

Speculation:

There are a number of factors that could impact when exactly the election is called.

One major indicator of a party’s readiness for an election is the number of candidates they have nominated. As of today, the New Democratic Party has nominated 31 candidates in 87 districts, meaning that party will need to nominate a majority of its candidates in the first few months of 2019 in order to be prepared for a spring election. The United Conservative Party currently has nominated 74 candidates in 87 districts and will have almost an entire slate of candidates nominated by the end of 2018.

Whether the NDP will recall the Legislative Assembly in the spring of 2019 to present a Throne Speech and introduce a budget before calling an election is unknown at this point. The recent session of the Assembly, which ended on Thursday, December 6, 2018, is widely considered to be the last session in which a serious legislative agenda would be implemented. But it is not uncommon for governments to call an election immediately after tabling or passing a budget, and then using that budget as a de-facto campaign platform. 

In 2015, Premier Jim Prentice called an election twelve days after a 16 days session which ended with the tabling of a provincial budget. And Premier Alison Redford called the election five days after the MLAs voted to approve that year’s provincial budget.

Tabling a provincial budget before calling an election could be a double-edge sword for the NDP in 2019.

Using a budget as its re-election platform would allow the Notley government to highlight its continued investments in health care, education, and public transportation like Calgary’s Green Line and Edmonton’s west LRT expansion, and contrast its plan with the expected slash and burn budgets that would be introduced under a UCP government led by Jason Kenney. But unless there is a big change in Alberta’s economic situation (and the international price of oil), any budget presented by the NDP in 2019 would likely have a significant deficit. While both the NDP and UCP have said they would plan to run budget deficits for the next few years, it would draw unwanted attention to an issue that is not seen as the NDP’s strength.

But whether or not a budget is tabled before the election, Finance Minister Joe Ceci is still required by the Fiscal Planning and Transparency Act to publicly release a Fiscal Update and Economic Statement on or before February 28, 2019.

Elections Alberta will release the first quarter financial disclosures of fundraising by Alberta’s political parties in mid-April 2019. And if the UCP continues dominating in the fundraising field, the NDP may want to avoid a round of news coverage about how they have been out-fundraised by its main conservative opponent.

A shrewd calculation related to when the election is held could be related to when voters of certain demographics are likely to be in Alberta and have easy access of voting stations. Calling an early election could limit the ability of vacationing snowbirds to cast their ballots in the election. Polls have suggested that the UCP has a considerable lead over the NDP among voters over the age of 65. 

On the other end of the demographic spectrum, calling an early election in 2019 would ensure that university and college campuses are in session when the election is held. Polls suggest that the NDP have stronger support among younger and university educated voters. Mobilizing the student vote could make a difference in a number of electoral districts currently represented by the NDP, including Calgary-Currie, Calgary-Mountain View, Calgary-Varsity, Edmonton-Centre, Edmonton-Riverview, and Lethbridge-West.

Delay the election to late 2019 or early 2020?

Notley said publicly in 2017 that she intends to follow both the spirit and letter of Alberta’s fixed-election-date legislation. But as we all know, circumstances sometimes change in politics. 

There might be a backlash of public opinion, like the Progressive Conservative government faced when it called an election one year early in 2015, but the NDP do have the ability to wait until Spring 2020 to call the next provincial election. Alberta’s Election Act fixes the period to every four years, but the Charter of Rights and Freedoms says otherwise. 

According to Section 4. (1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “No House of Commons and no legislative assembly shall continue for longer than five years from the date fixed for the return of the writs at a general election of its members.

The decision to delay the next general election beyond Spring 2019 could have drastic electoral consequences for the NDP, but if the party already sees its chances of re-election as slim, as most polls suggest, it might be convinced to take the gamble. Waiting until late 2019 or early 2020 could mean the election could be held after the start of construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion and as the economy continues to recover from the drop in the international price of oil in 2014.

Delaying until 2020 would also give Notley an opportunity to campaign against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the expected October 2019 federal election. This would give Notley an opportunity to create some distance between herself and Trudeau, who had allies on the climate change file before their political relationship broke down over the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion delays.

Delaying the election would have unclear consequences for Third Party Election Advertisers.

The Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act currently states these groups, commonly known as Political Action Committees, are limited to spending $150,000 province-wide on election-related advertising between December 1 in the year before an election and election day. This legislation was passed under the assumption that the fixed-election period would be honoured. If the election is delayed until past spring 2019 and the post-December 1 limits continue to be implemented, the ability of PACs to advertise during the election would be severely limited.


Today on 630CHED I joined Ryan Jespersen, Catherine Griwkowsky, and John Brennan to talk about the latest news in Alberta politics, including when the next election might be held.