Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and United Conservative Party leader Danielle Smith presented two very different approaches on Tuesday morning to address the challenges facing the capital city’s downtown core.
No one will deny that there are big social problems facing Edmonton’s downtown. You can take a walk down almost any street downtown and see people facing mental health or addictions challenges. It’s sad and troubling.
Alberta’s oldest newly rebranded separatist party has a new interim leader, maybe.
A now deleted tweet from the newly renamed Wildrose Independence Party announced that former Wildrose Alliance leader Paul Hinman is the new interim leader of the party. Unless the party’s account was hacked, it would appear that Hinman is launching another attempt at a political comeback.
The press release included with the now deleted tweet said that Hinman would speak to his new role at this week’s Freedom Talk “Firewall Plus” conference, a pro-separatist event organized by former Wildrose candidate and right-wing online radio show host Danny Hozak that features speakers including former arch-Conservative MP Rob Anders, conservative lawyer John Carpay, Postmedia columnist John Robson, and federal Conservative leadership candidate Derek Sloan.
The name change does not appear to have been approved by Elections Alberta, which still lists the party under its most recent previous name on its official website. But it was reported last week that former Wildrose activist and FCP candidate Rick Northey was the party’s new president. Former Social Credit leader James Albers is also on the party’s executive.
The oldest newest separatist party on Alberta’s right-wing fringe should not be confused with the also recently renamed Independence Party of Alberta (formerly known as the Alberta Independence Party and now led by past UCP nomination candidate Dave Campbell), the Alberta Advantage Party (led by former Alberta Alliance Party president Marilyn Burns), and the unregistered Alberta Freedom Alliance (led by former Wildrose Party candidate Sharon Maclise).
The United Independence Party name was also recently reserved with Elections Alberta, presumably by another former Wildrose candidate trying to start another new separatist party.
But back to the new interim leader of the new separatist Wildrose party…
The grandson of former Social Credit MLA and cabinet minister Edgar Hinman, Paul Hinman’s first foray into provincial electoral politics saw him elected in Cardston-Taber-Warner as the lone Alberta Alliance MLA in the 2004 election. Hinman inherited the leadership of the tiny right-wing party when Randy Thorsteinson (who had previously helped found the Alberta First Party) failed to win his election in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. He endorsed Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Ted Morton in 2006 and led the party through an eventual split and re-merger with a faction branding itself as the Wildrose Party – and thus the Wildrose Alliance was formed.
Hinman lost his seat in the 2008 election in a rematch with former PC MLA Broyce Jacobs. He announced plans to step down as leader shortly afterward and then surprised political watchers when he won a 2009 by-election in posh Calgary-Glenmore, pumping some momentum behind Danielle Smith when she won the party’s leadership race a few months later.
In 2010, Hinman was joined by floor crossing PC MLAs Heather Forsyth, Guy Boutilier, and Rob Anderson (who four years later crossed the floor back to the PC Party and now hosts a Facebook video show where he promotes Alberta separatism), but, despite the party’s electoral breakthrough in 2012, Hinman was again unable to get re-elected.
More recently, Hinman launched a brief bid for the UCP leadership in 2017, announcing a campaign focused on parental rights and conscience rights, but when the Sept 2017 deadline to deposit the $57,500 candidate fee passed, he did not make the cut. Hinman later endorsed Jason Kenney‘s candidacy.
Now he might be taking over the interim leadership of the fledgeling fringe separatist party at a time when public opinion polls show that Albertans’ appetite for leaving Canada is cooling as memory of the 2019 federal election fades. If historic trends hold, then the desire for separatism will drop if it looks like the next federal Conservative Party leader can form a government in Ottawa.
Separatism is ever-present on the fringes of Alberta politics and is more of a situational tendency than a real political movement with legs but a half-organized separatist party could syphon votes away from the UCP in the next provincial election.
And with next October’s Senate nominee election likely to be a showdown between candidates aligned with the federal Conservative Party led by whoever wins this summer’s leadership race and the federal Wexit Party led by former Conservative MP Jay Hill, expect the UCP to be paying a lot of attention to these fringe separatist groups sniping at its right-flank.
If he actually does become the leader of the oldest newest separatist party, Hinman will provide some profile and credibility in political circles where conservatives are perpetually disgruntled with New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and newly disgruntled with Premier Kenney, presumably for not pushing hard enough for Alberta’s separation from Canada.
Last weekend, Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms president John Carpay told a crowd at a gathering of conservative activists in Calgary:“How do we defeat today’s totalitarianism? Again, you’ve got to think about the common characteristics. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hammer and sickle for communism, or whether it’s the swastika for Nazi Germany or whether it’s a rainbow flag, the underlying thing is a hostility towards individual freedoms.”
Carpay quickly apologized for the comments, but drawing the connection between the rainbow pride flag, a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride and LGBTQ social movements, and the hammer and sickle and swastika flags, symbols of oppressive and totalitarian regimes, was a step too far.
Postmedia columnist Don Braid wrote in the Calgary Herald that Carpay’s comments were “disgusting, demeaning and dangerous.”
This is notthe first bozo-eruption to dog the UCP leader, but it appears to be the first made by someone with strong political ties to Kenney. The UCP leader spoke at a JCCF event in 2017 where he is reported to have compared Carpay’s work to that of civil-rights activist Rosa Parks.
Carpay and Kenney are social conservative activists from Calgary and have been in the same political circles for decades. Carpay is known for staking out controversial positions popular among social conservatives, whether it be in opposition to abortion or gay rights or, more recently, to student-led anti-bullying clubs known as Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools.
As a delegate at the UCP’s policy conference earlier this year he spoke in support of a policy that would allow teachers to inform parents when students participate in GSAs, a policy that would out some students to their parents. “This is about parental rights. The only societies and governments that trample on parental rights are totalitarian ones,” Carpay was reported to have said at the May 2018 UCP policy meeting.
Kenney was quick to pounce on Strashok, declaring that he had ordered party officials to cancel his membership. But Kenney appears to be less eager to dish out a similar fate to Carpay.
The UCP leader’s soft-peddling in response to Carpay is puzzling to many UCP supporters, including some who attended today’s sold-out Edmonton Chamber of Commerce luncheon, where Kenney spoke to a packed ballroom. Speaking to attendees before and after Kenney’s speech, I have the impression that while the UCP’s economic message resonated with the crowd there was an unease and discomfort with Kenney’s social conservative baggage.
Attendees to today’s luncheon may not be alone in their unease. A recent survey released by Abacus Data shows Kenney’s approval ratings are far below support for the party he leads, suggesting that many Albertans like the idea of a UCP government much more than they like the idea of Premier Jason Kenney.
Kenney’s slow response to the most recent bozo-eruption is likely because social conservative activists, like those who support anti-abortion groups Right Now and the Wilberforce Project, anti-GSA Parents for Choice in Education, and Carpay’s JCCF, are key players in the political coalition that Kenney has built during his almost three decades in politics.
Kenney has never hesitated to take hard-line stances against opponents like Premier Rachel Notley, Prime Minster Justin Trudeau, environmentalists Tzeporah Berman and David Suzuki, and even actor Jane Fonda. It is now time for Kenney to prove to Albertans that he can also take an equally hard-line against the social conservative forces that are embarrassing his own party.
During the campaign, Mr. Barlow faced severe opposition from Canada’s gun lobby for his defence of RCMP actions during last year’s flood in High River. The National Firearms Association waded into the debate and urged Conservatives to support Ms. Mathieson and Mr. Rowland.
Mr. Barlow was the Progressive Conservative candidate in Highwood in the 2012 election, where he faced off against Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith. In that race, he earned 8,159 votes to Ms. Smith’s 10,094 votes.
Dustin Fuller is the first person to declare a candidacy for the Liberal nomination in Macleod. Wascana Liberal MP Ralph Goodale is expected to visit the Macleod next week for a meet and greet in Okotoks. Mr. Goodale will also attend an event in Calgary-Centre.
A nomination date has not yet been announced, but the cutoff to purchase a Liberal membership to vote in the contest is March 13, 2014.
Hoping to gain support in the by-election, the Liberals have focused resources on the diverse and energy rich northern Alberta riding. Liberal MPs Rodger Cuzner and Marc Garneauwill headline a $250 a plate fundraising dinner in Fort McMurray on March 18. Last month, Labrador Liberal MP Yvonne Jones visited Fort McMurray to meet with local members.
Meanwhile, rumours continue to circulate about whether former PC turned Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier will jump into federal politics as the Conservative candidate. Tim Moenannounced last week that he plans to run for the Libertarian Party nomination.
Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan Conservative activist Garnett Genuis is the first candidate to enter the Conservative nomination in the new Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan riding.
Mr. Genuis was the 2012 Wildrose Party candidate in Sherwood Park, and is a vice-president of a polling company and the executive director for Parents for Choice in Education, a pro-Charter school lobby group whose board of directors includes former Wildrose candidates John Carpay and Andrew Constantinidis. Mr. Genuis has been endorsed by former MPs Ken Epp and Stockwell Day.
Canada’s next federal election is scheduled to be held on October 19, 2015. I have been maintaining a list of candidates who have announced their intentions to seek nominations and run in the next federal election in Alberta ridings. Please contact me at david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com for additions or updates related to candidate nominations in Alberta.
But looking beyond the high-profile face of the Wildrose Party, which polls from the first week of the campaign suggest could be poised to form government, Albertans should be asking important questions about who would serve as cabinet ministers in a Wildrose Party government? The Premier is only one person at the table. Which Wildrose candidate would serve as Minister of Justice, Minister of Education, Minister of Finance, and Minister of Health?
Ask most Albertans to name a Wildrose candidate outside their own riding, and they will probably respond with a puzzled face. The lack of “star-candidates” is likely a product of timing. The Wildrose Party began to hold its candidate nominations in 2010 during a time when the party was seen to have peaked and was sitting in the mid-teens in the polls. What the party ended up with were plenty of well meaning candidates, but not many who would be defined as “star candidates.”
The recent success of the federal NDP in Quebec provides a textbook example of why any party should take seriously the candidates it nominates to run under its banner, even if it does not look like they might form government at the time.
If the Wildrose Party are to form the next government in Alberta, an important question needs to be asked about whether their candidates are the kind of politicians that Albertans want running the show. Here is a look at some of the Wildrose candidates who could end up serving as a cabinet minister under Premier Danielle Smith:
– Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock candidate Link Byfield is the former publisher of the right-wing Alberta Report magazine. As has been noted elsewhere, Mr. Byfield was the president of the Society to Explore and Record Christian History and the founder of the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy, which stands, among other things, “against expanding influence of the Charter of Rights.”
– Edmonton-South West candidate Allan Hunsperger is the self-described pioneer in the establishment of Alberta’s private schools in the late seventies and founder of Heritage Christian Schools.
– Edmonton-Glenora candidate Don Koziak‘s short-lived mayoral bid in 2010 was kicked off by a promise to halt LRT expansion, calling the public transit “enormously environmentally unfriendly.” When asked what he would do differently, Mr. Koziak trumpeted the construction of more “interchanges and wider roads.” Toronto Mayor Rob Ford would be proud.
– A number of Wildrose candidates running in Edmonton constituencies have indicated over the past year that they would re-open the acrimonious City Centre Airport debate, even though elected City Councillors have already made the decision to phase out operations of the tiny downtown airport.
These are the highest profile stories around these candidates, the truth is that outside of Ms. Smith and the four established Wildrose MLA’s running for re-election, surprisingly little is known about the party’s candidates. And the Wildrose Party has done a superb job of focusing the media’s and voters attention on what they want, namely Ms. Smith and ensuring that she, rather than their candidates are the ones making headlines.
This email landed in my email inbox today. The Wildrose Alliance has nominated eight candidates for the next election (only 79 candidates away from a full-slate). As far as I am aware, the only other party to have nominated a candidate for the next election is the NDP, who have nominated Deron Bilous in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview.
The Wildrose Alliance Party is pleased to announce the following candidates:
• MLA Rob Anderson in Airdrie
• MLA Heather Forsyth in Calgary – Fish Creek
• MLA Paul Hinman in Calgary – Glenmore
• John Carpay in Calgary – Lougheed.
John practices law in Calgary. He is the former Executive Director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation and the former Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
• Harpreet Nijjar in Calgary – Northern Hills.
Harpreet, a graduate of the University of Calgary, is an award winning young entrepreneur who runs an insurance brokerage.
• Shayne Saskiw in Lac La Biche – St. Paul – Two Hills.
Shayne, a graduate of the U of A, practices law in north eastern Alberta and was a former VP Policy for the Alberta PCs.
• Milvia Bauman in Medicine Hat.
Milvia is an entrepreneur and community leader in Medicine Hat. She is currently the Chair of the Medicine Hat Chamber of Commerce and Medicine Hat Safe Community Association.
• Danny Hozack in Vermillion – Lloydminster.
Danny farms in Streamstown Alberta. He is a long time conservative activist and has served on the boards of the Alberta Beef Producers, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, and Marwayne Minor Hockey.
Yesterday in Edmonton, NDP leader Brian Mason joined retired health care aid Loretta Raiter as she described how funding cuts to long-term care have affected the quality of living for seniors at Salem Manor in Leduc. According to Mrs. Raiter, the funding crunch was so bad that People were sometimes given powdered meal replacements instead of real food and some patients ended up sitting for hours in soiled diapers. It is shameful and embarrassing when short-sighted financial decisions are put ahead of human dignity and quality of care.
An hour earlier in Calgary, Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith stood with the operators of a bankrupt private health clinic and accused Alberta Health Services of reneging on a dealwith the facility. Ms. Smith then called on Health & Wellness Minister Gene Zwozdesky to intervene by using taxpayers dollars to prop up the private clinic which is stuck in a $65 million financial hole. In May 2010, Alberta Health Services stepped in to stop the bankruptcy proceedings and pay for the costs of a receiver to keep the centre operating in the interim. Alberta Health Services has many faults, but in this case they made the responsible decision by seeking to bring the staff and services of the private health clinic back into the public system.
I was glad to see Liberal MLA Kevin Taft jump into the fray and insert some common sense into this issue:
“I’m struck with how Danielle Smith jumps to the defence of a corporation instead of a defence of the taxpayer and patients who need quality care.”
Mr. Carpay finds himself squarely on the opposite side of public opinion according to a recent Ipsos-Reid poll which showed that less that 10% of Albertans would support more opportunities to pay for health services out of their own pockets. I understand that Mr. Carpay does not speak for his party, but as a candidate (and potentially a future MLA or cabinet minister) he will help shape his party’s position on health care.
The Wildrose Alliance has shown Albertans that they are not only prepared to stand with private health care operators, but that they are also prepared to use taxpayer dollars to bail them out when faulty business plans go awry.
In the capital city, the Liberal Party is targeting Edmonton-Mill Woods PC MLA Carl Benito in a weekend pamphlet drop. Mr. Benito’s actions (or lack thereof) have quite possibly made him the lowest-hanging fruit in the PC caucus and the Liberals hope to capitalize on that. Former MLA Weslyn Mather intends to seek the Liberal nomination in that riding and many Liberals are hoping that this call to action could spark a fire that will help the Liberals win back a few of the eight Edmonton-area constituencies they lost in the 2008 election. While the Liberals are facing a lot of serious internal challenges of their own, there is little evidence to suggest that Edmonton will be less electorally competitive as it traditionally has been.
Word on the street is that long-time Calgary federal Liberal organizer Pat Raymaker will be appointed campaign co-chair as her party prepares for the next election. I am told that the Liberals are having a more challenging time finding an Edmonton co-chair and that David Swann‘s Calgary-heavy brain-trust is having a difficult time tapping into the traditional base of loyal Edmonton lawyers and business people which their party have depended on for such roles in the past.
With Kevin Taft‘s retirement, the Liberals could be entering the next election with only two incumbent MLAs in Edmonton (assuming that Laurie Blakeman and Hugh MacDonaldseek re-election). The presence of three to five former Liberal MLAs seeking a comeback could buoy their chances in the city, but the absence of an Edmonton-area leader for the first time since the 1970s could have an effect on that party’s support in the capital city.
Even if Mr. Benito’s promise contributes to the defeat of Edmonton PC MLAs in the next election, the political environment is too fluid to assume that the Liberals will be the main benefactor as they were in the 2004 election.