Campaigning in the same constituency yesterday, it is interesting to wonder what Premier Alison Redford and Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith would have said to each other if their paths had intersected. Close polls, push polls, and sharp criticisms have defined the first two days of Alberta’s 2012 election campaign.
Premier Redford was in Highwood campaigning with Progressive Conservative candidate John Barlow, who faces the daunting task of keeping the high-profile Ms. Smith out of the Assembly.
Campaigning in southern Alberta yesterday, Ms. Smith released her party’s pledge to table balance budgets. Under the Wildrose platform, future government spending would be limited to population growth plus inflation. Despite Wildrose Party assurances that they would not launch into a round of drastic service cuts if they are elected, I cannot help believe that a government led by Ms. Smtih would do anything but.
Health care was the focus of the second day of the election campaign for the NDP and Liberals, as both parties leaders unveiled parts of their platforms.
In the north end constituency of Edmonton-Calder, NDP leader Brian Mason joined candidate and former MLA David Eggen to announce that his party would create 1,500 long-term care beds, cover dental costs for Albertans under the age of 18, and bring down the cost of prescription drugs through a new provincial pharmaceutical plan. Mr. Eggen was the MLA for this constituency from 2004 until 2008, and since then has served as the executive director of the Friends of Medicare.
On the day the election was called, Mr. Eggen’s campaign team flexed their organization muscle by placing more than 1,100 lawn signs on private property across the constituency, painting Edmonton-Calder orange.
In Calgary yesterday, Liberal Party leader Raj Shermanreaffirmed his party’s commitment to increase funding to build and operate more long-term care beds and facilities. Joined by a medical doctor and a retired health care worker, Dr. Sherman continued to call on Premier Redford to fulfil her promise to hold a judicial inquiry into doctor intimidation.
Today, the Dr. Sherman will travel to Red Deer to make another health care related announcement at the campaign office of Red Deer-North candidate Michael Dawe and Red Deer-South candidate Jeff Chilibeck.
Focusing on health care is a smart strategy for the Liberals, who are seen as strong on this issue, yet have slipped in the polls over the past four years. It gives the party an opportunity to contrast itself with the PC’s, whose poor management has created many of the staffing problems faced in the health care system, and the Wildrose Party, which would introduce a “hybrid” or “European” model of health care. It is suspected that the Wildrose model would include the introduction of private medical insurance.
Meanwhile, in Lethbridge, interesting contests are shaping up in both of that city’s constituencies.
This area has deep Liberal roots, having first elected MLA Grant Mitchell in 1986, but since 2001 it has become a swing-riding electing both Liberals and PCs. Currently held by former PC MLA and now Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman, the next vote will be a test of his personal popularity as he runs under his new party’s banner. He will face former PC MLA Bob Maskell, who served from 2001 until 2004.
Voters in this constituency are notorious swing-voters. No incumbent has been re-elected here since 1997. Current PC MLA Doug Elniski made a last minute announcement that he would not seek re-election, leaving former school trustee and newly nominated candidate Bev Esslinger not a lot of time to catch up. Former MLA David Eggen has been campaigning in Calder for the past three years and is expected to launch a well-organized campaign. Wildrose candidate Rich Neumann may play kingmaker if he is able to attract enough past PC voters.
In 2009, outgoing Wildrose leader Paul Hinman narrowly won a hotly contested by-election that was seen as a referendum on then-Premier Ed Stelmach‘s popularity in Calgary (which was low). With new Premier Alison Redford representing the neighboring constituency, PC candidate Linda Johnson may receive a warmer reception at the doors. Throw into the mix former Mount Royal College instructor Craig Cheffins, who served as the Liberal MLA for Calgary-Elbow from 2007 to 2008, and the outcome of this race could be difficult to predict.
Represented by both PC and Liberal MLAs over the past twenty years, this constituency could be a key battleground for five opposition parties in the next election. Former Liberal MLA Bruce Miller is challenging PC cabinet minister Heather Klimchuk, who unseated him by 136 votes in 2008. Rev. Miller is not the only challenger in this election. The Alberta Party is pinning their hopes on former school trustee Sue Huff, the NDP have nominated former MLA and leader Ray Martin, and the Wildrose have chosen past Mayoral candidateDon Koziak.
With the retirement of popular two-term Liberal MLA Harry Chase, the Liberals have nominated former carpenters’ union official Bruce Payne, who ran for that party’s leadership in 2011. The PCs have chosen former Nexen vice-president Donna Kennedy-Glans. The results of this race will be a critical indicator of whether the Liberals can hold on to, and build on, important gains made in Calgary during the past two elections.
Energy Minister Ted Morton will face off against former Global Calgary news anchor and Wildrose candidate Bruce McAllister. The Wildrose attacked Minister Morton’s credentials as a “fiscal mallard” while he was Finance Minister and by nominating Mr. McAllister they are showing that they will not give him a pass in the next election.
8 ) Airdrie
When first-term PC MLA Rob Anderson joined the Wildrose in 2010, he automatically became a target of his former party, who have nominated Alderman Kelly Hegg as their candidate. The Airdrie area has typically voted for the PCs, but voters in this region have been known to elect opposition candidates in the past (Western Canadian Concept MLA Gordon Kesler was elected in 1982 and Liberal MLA Don MacDonald was elected in 1992).
9) Cardston-Taber-Warner After being unseated by Wildorse MLA Mr. Hinman in 2004, PC MLA Broyce Jacobs won a narrow victory in 2008. Fast forward to 2012, Mr. Jacobs has lost his party’s nomination to Pat Shimbashi and the Wildrose has nominated Sterling Deputy Mayor Gary Bikman. If the Wildrose are to pick up seats in the election, this will likely be one.
10) Edmonton-Rutherford In a rematch of the closest race of the 2008 election, PC MLA Fred Horne will face former Liberal MLA Rick Miller. While 2008 a two-way contest, the 2012 contest is more interesting with the presence of community organizer and Alberta Party candidate Michael Walters and Wildrose candidate Kyle McLeod.
11) Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo After winning four elections as this constituency’s PC candidate, late-blooming Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier will face Wood Buffalo deputy mayor Mike Allen in the upcoming vote. After decades as a municipal and provincial politician, this election may be more a test of Mr. Boutilier’s personal support than that of his new party.
12) Edmonton-Gold Bar A Liberal Party stronghold since 1986, the retirement of MLA Hugh MacDonald and the redistribution of electoral boundaries south encompassing Tory-voting neighbourhoods may give second-time PC candidate David Dorward a boost. Liberal candidate Josipa Petrunic is a well-spoken and passionate partisan who hopes to hold the constituency for her party. The NDP have nominated Marlin Schmidt and hope to capitalize on local support for NDP MP Linda Duncan.
13) Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview A close contest in 2008 saw former PC MLA Tony Vandermeer defeat NDP MLA Ray Martin. In 2012, Mr. Vandermeer will face a strong challenge from NDP candidate Deron Bilous.
14) Lethbridge-West After twenty years of close races, voters in this constituency have proven themselves to be deeply divided between the PCs and Liberals. This election, first-term PC MLA Greg Weadick and second-time Liberal candidate Bal Boora will be joined by NDP candidate Shannon Phillips, who has launched a spirited campaign, and Wildrose candidate Kevin Kinahan. Even if Mr. Weadick is re-elected, the real story may be who places second in this politically moderate southern Alberta constituency.
After more than three decades in the Assembly, the departure of PC MLA Ken Kowalski has created a large void to fill in this constituency north of Edmonton. The PCs have nominated Westlock County Councillor Maureen Kubinec, who will face off against her main opponent Wildrose candidateLink Byfield. Mr. Byfield has been campaigning for more than a year and could make gains if he is able to tap into the base of social conservative voters in this constituency.
After a week away from the blogging world, I spent some time this weekend catching up with plenty of election nomination candidate updates. Alberta’s political parties are all in varying degrees of preparation for the upcoming election and for the next session of the Legislative Assembly. The Spring sitting of the Assembly begins this week and the provincial budget is expected to be tabled by Finance Minister Ron Liepert by the end of the week.
In Edmonton-Mill Woods, Sohail Qadri defeated controversy-prone one-term MLA Carl Benito to win the PC nomination. Mr. Benito is the third PC MLA to lose a nomination contest in the run up to the next provincial election. The PCs have been unable to find candidates to run in Calgary-Buffalo and Edmonton-Strathcona.
The NDP, with more than 70 nominated candidates, acclaimed University of Alberta student Aditya Rao as a candidate in Drumheller-Stettler last weekend.
The Liberal Party, with only 29 candidates nominated, recently chose Pete Helfrich in Banff-Cochrane, Wilson McCutchan in Calgary-West, Les Vidok in Innifail-Sylvan Lake and Jason Chilibeck in Red Deer-South. Liberal leader Raj Sherman is expected to release key parts of his party’s election platform in Calgary and Edmonton today.
The Alberta Party recently nominated Brandon Beasley in Calgary-Shaw and will soon nominate candidates Midge Lambert in Battle River-Wainwright. On March 4, Alberta Party members in Lacombe-Ponoka will choose either Tony Jeglum or Brent Chalmers as their candidate in a contested nomination.
In the electoral realm beyond political parties, Sherwood Park Independent owner James Ford announced that he will run as an Independent candidate in Sherwood Park. Mr. Ford is better known as the Independent candidate who placed a strong second to Conservative Tim Uppal in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections. Mr. Ford’s candidacy in the federal elections were in response to Mr. Uppal’s nomination win over Strathcona County Councillor Jacquie Fenske, which many in the local Conservative establishment believed to be unfair. Ms. Fenske is now the nominated PC candidate in the neighbouring Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville constituency.
Edmonton-Centre: Young lawyerAkash Khokhar defeated Nicole Martel to win the PC nomination. In the next election, Mr. Khokhar will face Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, who has represented the constituency since 1997.
Edmonton-Gold Bar: Past Mayoral candidate David Dorward defeated past City Council candidate Lori Jeffrey-Heany to become the PC candidate. This is Mr. Dorward’s second attempt at becoming MLA in Gold Bar. In 2008, he placed second to Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald, who will be retiring at the next election.
Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville: Strathcona County Councillor Jacquie Fenske defeated Tofield Mayor Nabil Chehayeb, former Fort Saskatchewan Mayor Jim Sheasgreen, Gene Hrabec, and Adam Kozakiewicz to become the PC candidate. Former Premier Ed Stelmach has represented this region since 1993.
UPCOMING NOMINATION MEETINGS
The PCs will be holding a packed week of nomination meetings that will see Alberta’s 40 year governing party nearly fill its entire slate of 87 candidates. Two final nomination meetings are scheduled to be held in February to replace MLAs who recently announced their retirements.
I will be away from my blog for the next week, so to earn forgiveness for my absence, here is a look at the PC nomination meetings that will be happening in the final week of January. I will provide updates when I return.
Lethbridge-East (January 26, 2012): Former Liberal MLA Bridget Pastoor is facing Lethbridge County Reeve Lorne Hickey for the PC nomination. Ms. Pastoor has represented the constituency since 2004 and cross the floor to join the PC caucus in late 2011. Lethbridge Alderman Jeff Carlson and Lethbridge Senior Citizens Origanization executive director Rob Miyashiro announced this week that they will seek the Liberal nomination (date not scheduled). The constituency has been represented by Liberal MLAs since 1993.
Edmonton-Riverview (January 27, 2012): Edmonton police office Steve Young and businessman Tom Choucair are seeking the PC nomination. The constituency has been represented by Liberal MLA Kevin Taft, who is not seeking re-election.
Edmonton-Strathcona (January 27, 2012): No candidate stepped forward to claim the nomination, though the date is still listed on the PC Party website.
Airdrie (January 28, 2012): Former Airdrie Mayor Linda Bruce, Councillor Kelly Hegg, and Michael Crawford are seeking the PC nomination. The constituency is represented by MLA Rob Anderson, who left the PC Party in 2010 to join the Wildrose Alliance.
Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock (January 28, 2012): The retirement of Speaker Ken Kowalski, who has represented this region since 1979, has attracted five candidates including Morinville Mayor Lloyd Bertschi, Westlock Town Councillor David Truckey, ministerial executive assistant Tim Schultz, and Westlock County Councillors Maureen Kubinec and Bert Seatter.
Calgary-Varsity (January 28, 2012): Former Nexen Vice-President Donna Kennedy-Glans is facing Ph.D. business student Rhiannon MacDonnell. The constituency has been represented by Liberal MLA Harry Chase since 2004. Mr. Chase is retiring at the next election.
Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo (January 28, 2012): Four candidates have lined up to earn the right to face PC-turned-Wildrose MLA Guy Boutiler as the PC candidate. Candidates include Councillor Mike Allen, teacher Andrew Highfield, Nick Sanders, and School Trustee Jeff Thompson.
Grande Prairie-Smoky (January 28, 2012): The retirement of former cabinet minister Mel Knight has sparked a three-way nomination contest that has drawn Grande Prairie County Reeve Everett McDonald,Tab Pollock, and Tom Burton.
Highwood (January 28, 2012): Associate publisher at the Okotoks Western Wheel John Barlow, John Hankins, and Okotoks Town Councillor Ed Sands are seeking the PC nomination. Wildrose leader Danielle Smith is also seeking election in this constituency.
Little Bow (January 28, 2012): Deputy Reeve of the County of Lethbridge Henry Doeve and former County Councillor John Kolk are seeking the PC nomination.
Medicine Hat (January 28, 2012): Former Alderman Darren Hirsch, retired school district superintendent Linda Rossler, and Investment Advisor Dan Hein are seeking the PC nomination to replace long-time MLA Rob Renner. Mr. Hein is the former campaign manager for Medicine Hat MP LaVar Payne
Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood (January 30, 2012): Past City Council candidate Cris Basualdo and Emerson Mayers are the two candidates I have heard are seeking the PC nomination. The constituency has been represented by NDP MLA Brian Mason since 2000.
Edmonton-South West (January 30, 2012): This new constituency has drawn the candidacy of four PC nominees Charles Balenga, Tofael Chowdhury, Matt Jeneroux, and Eva Mah-Borsato.
Calgary-Buffalo (January 30, 2012): Donna Haslam is the only candidate that I am aware of who is seeking the PC nomination. The constituency has been represented by popular Liberal MLA Kent Hehr since 2008.