I was up early this morning to join CBC Radio’s Matt Galloway on The Current to discuss Premier Jason Kenney‘s leadership challenges and the wild ride that is Alberta politics.
Take a listen to the segment where strategist Stephen Carter from The Strategists Podcast and I (separately) discuss Kennev’s leadership challenges and the wild ride that is Alberta politics.
Kenney lasts another day
He may have a plummeting approval rating, but Jason Kenney is still King of the United Conservative Party.
As I noted in the interview on The Current, Kenney is a political survivor. It appears as though he out maneuvered his growing but disorganized opposition in his party and caucus.
Kenney avoided an attempted caucus coup when a motion for a confidence vote put forward by a group of MLAs was withdrawn when they discovered it would not be a secret ballot. He has pushed off demands for a leadership review at the party’s November 2021 annual general meeting by agreeing to a leadership review in Spring 2022 instead. A review had already been scheduled for the party’s planned November 2022 annual meeting.
Moving the leadership review to next Spring gives Kenney time to organize against his opponents in the cabinet, caucus and party. If he can last that long and not turn his political fortunes around, it will be bad for his party and good for Rachel Notley‘s NDP, whose fundraisers had their prayers answered.
The NDP are hoping this financial quarter, which ends on September 30, will mark the fourth in a row that their party has raised more cash than the UCP.
Kenney swapped Health Minister Tyler Shandro with Labour and Immigration Minister Jason Copping in an apparent hope that this might salvage his leadership amid growing calls for his resignation.
Shandro has been a lightning rod as Health Minister, but that was by design. Every decision he made had Kenney’s stamp of approval. He was doing as he was told.
Swapping Shandro for Copping in the middle of the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is more about politics than good governance.
The blow to Kenney’s leadership after the failure of his Open for Summer plan that led to a deadlier fourth wave of COVID-19 in Alberta is not going to be fixed with a cabinet shuffle.
Kenney’s plummeting popularity probably helped cost Erin O’Toole his chance of becoming Prime Minister in 2021. And the Premier almost certainly contributed to a sharp decline in Conservative support in Alberta that cost his federal cousins four seats in the province.
A few months ago it was almost unimaginable that the Conservatives would actually lose seats in Alberta in this federal election. But the NDP picked up an additional seat and the Liberals might have won two.
Calls for a leadership review are growing from UCP constituency associations and party executives like vice-president Joel Mullen. Even former deputy leader Leela Aheer has publicly questioned why he hasn’t stepped down. And the right-wing Western Standard website has reported on a rumour that country music star and two time Conservative candidate George Canyon might run for the party presidency on the platform of forcing a vote on Kenney’s leadership.
The UCP Caucus is holding a mandatory in-person meeting tomorrow, where, I imagine the growing number of disgruntled MLAs will have a lot to say about their leader’s future.
UCP waited until after the election to ask for federal help
Transportation Minister Ric McIver, who is in charge of Alberta’s Emergency Management Office, waited until the day after the federal election to send a letter to federal minister Bill Blair requesting help from the Ottawa to deal with the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UCP government waited until after Sept. 20 to request help because they didn’t want to embarrass the federal Conservatives during the election. Let that sink in.
The government’s plea for help from the federal government and other provinces will almost certainly undermine Kenney’s argument that Alberta is being treated unfairly by the rest of Canada, a key part of the reason for a province-wide referendum in October to ask for the equalization formula to be removed from the Constitution.
New Senate Nominee candidates
The nomination deadline passed at 12:00 pm yesterday for candidates to enter the Senate Nominee Election, which is being held in conjunction with two province-wide referendums and municipal elections on October 18, 2021.
Recent People’s Party of Canada candidates Ann McCormack, Kelly Lorencz, and Nadine Wellwood filed their papers to run as Senate Nominee candidates before the polls closed in the federal election in which they were defeated.
Also recently joining the Senate Nominee Election are Town of Ponoka Mayor Richard Bonnett, who ran for the Liberal Party in the 2004 federal election, and former Slave Lake Mayor and physician Karina Pillay.
Brian Jean’s favourite hobby is trolling Jason Kenney on the internet
With a provincial by-election expected to be called in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche in the next five months, Kenney’s arch-enemy, former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, is musing online that he might run as a candidate. Jean asked for feedback from his followers on Facebook about whether he should run in the by-election in the area he represented as an MLA from 2015 to 2018.
Since leaving elected office in 2019, Jean has flirted with Alberta separatism and recently publicly mused about running for the leadership of the Alberta Party, which he did not. He has also called on Kenney to resign as leader of the UCP.
The by-election will be held to replace former UCP MLA Laila Goodridge, who was elected as the Conservative MP for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake in the Sept. 20 federal election.
There’s a chance that the federal election results in Alberta could end up being less than exciting, with the Conservatives winning most of the province’s seats, but there’s no doubt Alberta had an impact in this federal election: Premier Jason Kenney might have cost Erin O’Toole and the Conservatives their chance at forming government in Ottawa.
The former wonder kid of Canada’s conservative movement, Kenney spent a month in hiding to avoid embarrassing O’Toole only to emerge in the final few days of the campaign to drop a bomb in his federal cousin’s lap. Kenney’s Open for Summer plan that removed all public health restrictions in time for the Calgary Stampede in July led to a vicious fourth wave of COVID-19 that has seen a steep spike in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Intensive Care Units across Alberta are filling up and Kenney has had to plead with other provinces to take our sick patients if we run out of space.
All non-emergency surgeries in Alberta are cancelled and 75 per cent of the operating rooms at the Alberta Children’s Hospital are closing because doctors and nurses are being redeployed to take care of COVID patients.
Public sector health care unions are urging Kenney to ask the federal government for help from the military and the Red Cross.
O’Toole praised Kenney’s response to the pandemic and has refused to answer questions about it from reporters since Alberta once again declared a State of Public Health Emergency last week.
While the Conservatives are expected to sweep Alberta once again, O’Toole only visited the province once in this election campaign. He spent a morning in Edmonton during the first week of the campaign, making a policy announcement in Edmonton-Centre and stopping for a photo-op at a Jollibee’s before shuffling back to the airport for an afternoon flight to British Columbia.
But unlike recent federal elections, this time the right-wing of the political spectrum is pretty crowded in Alberta.
People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier has taken advantage of O’Toole and Kenney’s perceived political weaknesses by spending a considerable amount of time in Alberta during this election.
Appealing to groups ranging from the vaccine hesitant to indoctrinated COVID conspiracy theorists, Bernier has been attracting large crowds at his Alberta rallies. And his candidates have earned endorsements from former Conservative MP David Yurdiga and former Reform MP Cliff Breitkreuz.
Former Ontario MP Derek Sloan, who was kicked out of the Conservative Party for accepting a donation from a well-known white supremacist, has been embraced the COVID conspiracy theories as he campaigns as an Independent candidate in Banff-Airdrie with the full-support of former Conservative MP Rob Anders.
And then there’s the separatist Maverick Party led by former Conservative MP and oil industry lobbyist Jay Hill, which is still in the mix despite Alberta separatism not being the hot topic it was after the 2019 federal election.
Meanwhile, the silence coming from the United Conservative Party Caucus is deafening.
Aside from dissenting Tweets and Facebook comments from two already disgruntled backbenchers – former cabinet minister and Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer and Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried – the predicted caucus revolt has not yet spilled out into the public. But maybe that changes if Justin Trudeau’s Liberals form government on Monday.
Directors of the UCP association in Olds-Didsbury-Three-Hills, home of Speaker and former interim leader Nathan Cooper, near unanimously passed a motion calling for a leadership review and party vice-president Joel Mullen is reported to have called for a review.
Kenney’s supporters on the UCP provincial executive headed off previous calls by scheduling leadership review at the party’s Fall 2022 convention, only months ahead of the expected 2023 provincial election.
If O’Toole does not become Prime Minister after the federal ballots are counted, he might not be the only Conservative leader looking for a new job. Kenney’s already embattled leadership could become even more tenuous.
Kerry Diotte unites the NDP in Alberta
In what is likely his biggest single achievement of his political career, Conservative candidate Kerry Diotte has succeeded in bridging the political divide between the provincial and federal NDP in Alberta.
Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was back in Alberta yesterday for his second visit to the Edmonton-Griesbach, where the party believes candidate Blake Desjarlais can unseat Diotte to pick up a second seat for the NDP.
With NDP incumbent Heather McPherson believed to be secure for re-election in Edmonton-Strathcona, the party has been pouring its resources into Griesbach.
And Singh isn’t the only party leader on the campaign trail for Desjarlais.
Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley was on the doors last week helping Desjarlais get his vote out. While Notley tried her best to avoid being involved in the 2019 federal campaign, she and about a dozen NDP MLAs, including local MLAs Janis Irwin and David Eggen have been spotted door knocking with Desjarlais.
Pipelines and the carbon tax kept the NDP cousins apart in 2019, but the possibility of defeating Kerry Diotte has brought the provincial and federal NDP together in 2021.
Liberals have their sights set on Edmonton-Centre, Mill Woods and Calgary-Skyview
The Liberals hope to reestablish a beachhead in Alberta and if they are successful it will likely be in Edmonton-Centre, Edmonton-Mill Woods or Calgary-Skyview.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau only made one brief stop in Alberta during the first week of the election campaign to speak at a rally for Calgary-Skyview candidate George Chahal.
University—Rosedale Liberal candidate and former Edmonton native Chrystia Freeland visited Alberta twice to campaign with candidates in Calgary and Edmonton, including Randy Boissonnault in Edmonton-Centre and Ben Henderson in Edmonton-Mill Woods.
Also visiting Alberta during the campaign were Vancouver-South Liberal candidate Harjit Sajan, who campaigned in Calgary-Centre with Sabrina Grover, and Surrey-Newton Liberal candidate Sukh Dhaliwal, who campaigned with Henderson in Mill Woods.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson endorsed Henderson and campaigned with him in the final days of the election. The two men have served together on Edmonton City Council since 2007.
Voting stations are open from 7:30am to 7:30pm on Sept. 20, 2021.
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.