Categories
Alberta Politics

VP Weissenberger, Agent-General Rodney and the ABCs of patronage

“This Alberta is a meritocracy” – Jason Kenney (April 30, 2019)

It was first reported this week by the CBC that John Weissenberger has been hired as the Alberta Energy Regulator’s new vice president of its science and innovation branch. Weissenberger is a former adjunct professor at the University of Alberta and manager of geological services with Husky, but it is his deep political connections that raised eyes this week. 

Weissenberger is a long-time conservative activist going back to the early days of the Reform Party and was Jason Kenney’s campaign manager during his successful bids for the the Progressive Conservative and United Conservative Party leadership campaigns in 2017. He was also director of the Alberta Victory Fund, the political action committee created to support Kenney’s campaign for the UCP leadership, and has been described as former prime minister Stephen Harper’s best friend.

It has also been reported that Weissenberger is a self-proclaimed ‘climate change skeptic,’ something that is unlikely to help the government’s bid to attract international investment and companies to move to Alberta.

Weissenberger’s wife, Angela Tu Weissenberger, was appointed by the UCP to the board of the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission in November 2019.

“Sherpa Dave” is Kenney’s Man in Texas

Dave Rodney MLA Calgary Lougheed
Dave Rodney

Congenial former Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Rodney has been appointed as Alberta’s Agent General in Houston, Texas. Rodney served as the PC MLA for Calgary-Lougheed from 2004 until 2017 when he resigned to allow Kenney to run in a by-election.

Rodney’s reward for stepping down, it would appear, is a pseudo-diplomatic post with a $250,000 annual salary. The former MLA served as a backbencher for all but two of his thirteen years in the Legislature. He served as Associate Minister of Wellness from 2012 to 2014.

And as anyone who has paid close attention to Alberta politics will know, Rodney is the first Canadian to have reached the summit of Mount Everest, twice.

Rodney’s appointment is reminiscent of former Stettler MLA Brian Downey‘s appointment as chairman of the Alberta Grain Commission when he resigned his seat in 1989 to allow Premier Don Getty to return to the Assembly (Getty had lost his Edmonton-Whitemud seat to Liberal Percy Wickman in the 1989 general election).

Rodney’s appointment marks the return of the Agent General title, a term that was widely used by Alberta’s out-of-country representatives until 1996, when the Agent-General Act was repealed and the Managing Director job title was adopted.

At the time the Agent General title was abolished, it had become associated with partisan patronage following a long string of appointments that included former PC MLA Mary LeMessurier to a post in London, former MLA Fred Peacock as the Asia-Pacific Agent General, a political aide in Getty’s office as Agent General in Hong Kong, and Getty’s wife’s cousin’s husband as Agent General in Tokyo.

Tory Patronage Machine Humming

Like the engine of a blue Dodge Ram, the UCP patronage machine has revved up since the party formed government in April 2019. counting donors, which would expand the list substantially, here is a quick list of individuals with connections to Kenney, the UCP and the conservative movement who have been appointed to various agency, board and commission positions:

  • Len Rhodes was appointed as Chair of the board of directors of the Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Commission. He was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Meadows in 2019.
  • Janice Sarich was appointed to the board of governors of MacEwan University. Sarich was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Decore in 2019 and represented the district as a PC MLA from 2008 to 2015.
  • Lily Le was appointed to board of governors of Norquest College. Le was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-City Centre in 2019.
  • Laurie Mozeson was appointed to the Municipal Government Board. Mozeson was the UCP candidate in Edmonton-McClung in 2019.
  • Karri Flatla was appointed to the Board of Governors of Lethbridge College. She was the UCP candidate in Lethbridge-West in 2019.
  • Tom Olsen was hired as CEO of the Canadian Energy Centre. He was the UCP candidate in Calgary-Buffalo in 2019.
  • Bettina Pierre-Gilles was appointed to board of Bow Valley College. Pierre-Gilles ran for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Currie ahead of the 2019 election.
  • Donna Kennedy-Glans appointed to board of governors of Banff Centre. Kennedy-Glans was the PC MLA for Calgary-Varsity from 2012 to 2015 and briefly ran for the party leadership in 2017. She was also appointed to the Fair Deal Panel.
  • Janice Harrington was appointed as Alberta’s Health Advocate and Mental Health Patient Advocate. Harrington was executive director of the PC Party and UCP from 2017 to 2019 and was previously involved in PC Party campaigns.
  • Shelley Beck was appointed to the board of governors of Medicine Hat College. Beck has worked as a constituency assistant to Cypress-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Drew Barnes.
  • Wayne Drysdale was appointed to the Municipal Government Board. Drysdale served as the PC and UCP MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti from 2008 to 2019. He was Minister of Transportation from 2014 to 2015.
  • Heather Forsyth was appointed to the Alberta Review Board. Forsyth served as the PC and Wildrose MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek from 1993 to 2015. She served as Solicitor General from 2001 to 2004 and Minister of Children’s Services from 2004 to 2006.
  • Lloyd Snelgrove was appointed to the Board of Governors of Lakeland College. Snelgrove served as the PC MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster from 2001 to 2012. He served as Minister of Finance and Enterprise from January 2011 to October 2011.
  • Bill Smith was appointed as member and vice-chair of the Public Health Appeal Board. Smith is the former president of the PC Party and was a candidate for Mayor of Calgary in 2017.
  • Andy Crooks was appointed to Municipal Government Board. Crooks was chairman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation during Jason Kenney‘s time as its spokesperson in the 1990s.
  • Richard Casson was appointed to the Board of Governors of the University of Lethbridge. Casson served as the Member of Parliament for Lethbridge from 1997 to 2011.
  • James Rajotte was appointed to the Board of Governors of the University of Alberta. Rajotte served as the MP for Edmonton-South West and Edmonton-Leduc from 2000 to 2015.
  • Diane Ablonczy was appointed as a member of the Council of the Alberta Order of Excellence. Ablonczy served as the MP for Calgary-North and Calgary-Nose Hill from 1993 to 2015.
  • Ted Menzies was appointed to the Board of Governors of Olds College. Menzies served as MP for Macleod from 2004 to 2015.
  • Janice MacKinnon was appointed to the Board of Governors of The University of Alberta. MacKinnon chaired the UCP government’s Panel on Alberta’s Finances in 2019.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Brent Wittmeier for the inspiration for the title of this post.

Categories
Alberta Politics

8 races I am watching on Election Night in Alberta

At this point in Alberta’s election campaign, I am frequently being asked “what races are you watching on election night?” The short answer is, I am watching all of them, but there are a few specific races that I will be keeping my eye on when the polls close at 8:00 p.m. on April 16:

Banff-Kananaskis: This has been a long-time conservative voting district, but New Democratic Party MLA Cam Westhead was elected in 2015 with 43 per cent of the vote, nabbing it away from PC MLA Ron Casey. This time Westhead is facing United Conservative Party candidate Miranda Rosin, who claims her party does not support the locally controversial Springbank Dam, despite her party saying the opposite. Westhead has the support of numerous local municipal politicians who describe him as a strong advocate for the area. And the redistribution of the electoral boundaries has removed conservative-voting Cochrane from the district, making this one to watch in my books.

Calgary-Bow: NDP candidate Deborah Drever’s win in the 2015 election was a surprise and even after a rough start to her first term, she appeared to have redeemed herself. She faces her main challenge from UCP candidate Demetrios Nicolaides in this election. This is one of the Calgary districts the NDP will need to hold on to if they have any hope of forming government on April 16.

Calgary-Elbow: Greg Clark was leader of the Alberta Party when he was elected as the party’s only MLA in 2015. He is no longer the leader and he is running for re-election in 2019 against for conservative lawyer Doug Schweitzer. Clark has been an effective opposition voice in the Legislature and deserves a second-term, but it’s yet to be seen whether he can survive the challenge from the UCP and NDP candidate Janet Eremenko.

Calgary-Mountain View: A dog’s breakfast. Four-term Liberal MLA David Swann is retiring and all the parties are now scrambling to contest this district. Liberal Party leader David Khan, NDP Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, last minute UCP nominee Jeremy Wong, Alberta Party candidate and former radio broadcaster Angela Kokott, and Green Party candidate Thana Boonlert are in the mix. My money is on Ganley winning, but it really could be anybody’s game.

Edmonton-McClung: NDP MLA Lorne Dach is facing two strong challengers in Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel and UCP candidate Laurie Mozeson. It is hard to tell who the front-runner is in this contest, but all three are contenders.

Edmonton-West Henday: NDP MLA Jon Carson is facing a strong challenge from lobbyist and former PC ministerial aide Nicole Williams in this newly redrawn northwest Edmonton district. Carson was elected in 2015 as the MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark, which has at various times switched hands from the NDP, Liberals and PCs going back to the 1980s.

Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville: East of Edmonton this district could produce some interesting results. NDP MLA Jessica Littlewood is running for re-election and her main challenger is UCP candidate Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk. Littlewood is locally renowned for her travel through the constituency, and despite hotly contested nomination races in other districts, Armstrong-Homeniuk was acclaimed for the UCP nod in this district.

Lethbridge-West: As Environment & Parks Minister, Shannon Phillips has been one of the Notley government’s most prominent voices. Phillips has a strong ground game and is as smart as a whip, but the UCP has poured a lot of resources into the campaign of her main challenger, real estate agent Karri Flatla. My money is on Phillips winning re-election, but it could be close.

And here are a few other things I am watching:

Are there any races you are watching that I have missed? Let me know!

Categories
Daveberta Podcast

Episode 33: Ballot Questions, the Leaders’ Debate, and your great Alberta Election questions

In this episode Dave and Ryan discuss the latest Alberta’s election developments, including the fallout from Mark Smith’s homophobic comments, Jason Kenney’s interview with Charles Adler and how it might impact voters on April 16, the televised leaders’ debate, and what Rachel Notley needs to do in the final week of Alberta’s 2019 election. We also dive into the giant mailbag of questions sent in by our listeners and we share our results from the CBC Vote Compass survey.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. You can listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online.

We always love to feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download. You can also comment on the blogFacebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

And we were thrilled to welcome back our producer, Adam Rozenhart! A big thanks to our excellent guest producer, Chris Chang-Yen Phillips, who kept us on track for the last two episodes.

Thank you for listening and to everyone who sent in questions this week!

Recommended reading/listening:


Remember to vote!

Alberta’s provincial general election is on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Voting stations on Election Day will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on April 16. Advance voting stations will be open on April 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13. Visit Elections Alberta to find the location of your voting station.

Voters who will be away from their electoral division on Election Day and during the advance voting days can request a Special Ballot from Elections Alberta.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Notley and Kenney visit Lethbridge on Day 2 of Alberta’s election, UCP appoints Jeremy Wong in Calgary-Mountain View

Photo: Lethbridge NDP candidates Maria Fitzpatrick and Shannon Phillips, and UCP candidates Nathan Neudorf and Karri Flatla.

Where the party leaders go during the first few days of the election campaign can sometimes give a good indication of where the parties are focusing their resources and what message they want to send to voters.

Alberta New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley announced the election call in central Calgary, where the NDP hope to create a battleground in this election. Today, Notley started the second day of the election in Edmonton and later travelled to Red Deer to campaign with MLAs Kim Schreiner and Barb Miller, She finished her day in Lethbridge to speak at the Canadian Union of Public Employees provincial convention and will be in the city tomorrow to support MLAs Shannon Phillips and Maria Fitzpatrick.

United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenny started the campaign in Leduc, south of Edmonton, and kicked off his party’s campaign at the office of Edmonton-City Centre candidate Lily Le. The UCP are hoping to make gains in Edmonton in this election. Today, Kenney also headed south to Lethbridge to support candidates Karri Flatla and Nathan Neudorf.

Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel spent the first two days of the election in Edmonton, where his party hopes to capitalize on his name-recognition as mayor of the city from 2004 to 2013. And Liberal Party leader David Khan was in Calgary, where he is expected to focus on his race in Calgary-Mountain View.

That both Notley and Kenney visited Lethbridge in the first few days of the election signifies how much both parties feel how important and competitive the city’s two districts could be in this election.

Lethbridge’s electoral history is more liberal-leaning than most of the surrounding region in southern Alberta, likely due to the influence of the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College and a large number of public sector workers in the city. Even during Ralph Klein’s time as premier, the Liberals either won a plurality of the votes or match the PC vote in the city’s, mostly due to the large margins of victory earned by Lethbridge-East MLAs Ken Nicol and Bridget Pastoor.

As the Liberal vote collapsed in 2012, Phillips came close to winning in Lethbridge-West in 2012,. The NDP swept both districts in 2015 with significant margins. As Minister of Environment and Parks, Shannon Phillips has been a key player in Notley’s cabinet and a strong advocate for the city in the Legislature. This makes Phillips a target for the UCP and the reason why Kenney travelled to Lethbridge to re-announce his plans to cancel climate change initiatives like the carbon tax.

Here is a look at the voting history of the two Lethbridge districts over the past 26 years.

Here is a list of the candidates running in the two Lethbridge districts, as of March 20, 2019:

Lethbridge-East
Alberta Independence: John McCanna
Liberal: Devon Hargreaves [Facebook, Twitter]
NDP: Maria Fitzpatrick [FacebookTwitter]
UCP: Nathan Neudorf [Facebook]

Lethbridge-West
Alberta Independence: Ben Maddison
Alberta Party: Zac Rhodenizer [Facebook, Twitter]
Liberal: Pat Chizek
NDP: Shannon Phillips [FacebookTwitter]
UCP: Karri Flatla [FacebookTwitter]


UCP appoints Jeremy Wong to replace Caylan Ford

The UCP announced that it has appointed Jeremy Wong as the UCP candidate in Calgary-Mountain View following the resignation of star candidate Caylan Ford earlier this week. Wong ran against Ford for the nomination in December 2018. He is a pastor with the Calgary Chinese Alliance Church and recently completed a Master of Public Administration at the University of Calgary.

The UCP now have three candidate vacancies remaining, with nominating meetings scheduled to take place in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood on March 21, Edmonton-Ellerslie on March 23, and Edmonton-Mill Woods on March 24.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Marie Renaud defeats Trevor Horne to secure NDP nomination in St. Albert, Karri Flatla wins UCP nomination in Lethbridge-West

Photo: Marie Renaud (centre) and Trevor Horne (right)

MLA Marie Renaud defeated MLA Trevor Horne to secure the New Democratic Party candidacy in St. Albert at a nomination meeting held tonight. This was the NDP’s first contested nomination race of the pre-election season.

Both MLAs, who were elected in 2015, saw their electoral districts significantly redrawn ahead of the next election. Horne’s district, Spruce Grove-St. Albert, was divided into the new Spruce Grove-Stony Plain, Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland, and St. Albert districts. 

Renaud is a well-known advocate for persons with developmental disabilities, and worked for almost 15 years as the executive director of Lo-Se-Ca Foundation before her election in 2015. She was elected in 2015 with 53 percent of the vote, unseating PC MLA Stephen Khan, who earned 28 percent.

This was the first time two NDP MLAs faced each other in a nomination contest in more than 25 years. Ahead of the 1993 election, Edmonton-Kingsway MLA Alex McEachern and Edmonton-Jasper Place MLA John McInnis both sought the NDP nomination in the newly redrawn Edmonton-Mayfield district. McEachern won the nomination contest and McInnis ended up running in another district across the city.

St. Albert is a bedroom community northwest of Edmonton and this district has a history as a competitive elections, with voters electing New Democrat MLAs in 1986 and 2015, PC MLAs in 1989, 1997, 2001, 2008 and 2012, and Liberal MLAs in 1993 and 2004.

Real Estate Agent wins UCP nomination in Lethbridge-West

Real Estate Agent Karri Flatla defeated Richard Dempsey and George Rigaux to secure the UCP nomination in Lethbridge-West. The district is currently represented by NDP MLA Shannon Phillips, who has served as Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Parks since 2015.

UCP delay Red Deer-South nomination for mystery “high profile individual” 

Despite four candidates already actively campaigning for the UCP nomination in Red Deer-South, the UCP announced last week that they are delaying the selection meeting until 2019 in order to give time for a “high profile individual” run join the contest.

This mystery individual has not yet revealed themselves, but it has been rumoured for months that the UCP has been trying to recruit Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer to run in the next election. 

Veer has served as mayor of Alberta’s third largest city since 2013.


Here are some more of the latest updates to this list of candidates nominated to run in Alberta’s next provincial election:

Edmonton-North West – Brandon Teixeira is seeking the Liberal Party nomination.

Edmonton-South West – Former CBC reporter and current ministerial press secretary John Archer is seeking the NDP nomination.

Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin – The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting in this district on January 8, 2019.

Spruce Grove-Stony Plain: MLA Erin Babcock is seeking the NDP nomination in this district west of Edmonton. Babcock was first elected as MLA for Stony Plain in 2015, earning 38 percent of the vote and unseating PC MLA Ken Lemke. Spruce Grove City Councillor Searle Turton won the UCP nomination contest in this district last week.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

Categories
Alberta Politics

Caylan Ford wins UCP nomination in Calgary-Mountain View. Calgary-East UCP nomination blows-up with allegations of fraud, forgery and bribery.

Photo: Caylan Ford, Peter Singh, Parmeet Singh, and Kaycee Madu

Former Global Affairs Canada senior policy advisor Caylan Ford defeated Becca Polak and Jeremy Wong to win the United Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Mountain View.

This nomination contest was contentious, with questions about the eligibility of Ford and former MLA Mark Hlady in the contest. Ford’s candidacy was ultimately accepted and Hlady, who represented his district as a Progressive Conservative MLA from 1993 to 2004 and as the PC Party candidate in 2015, was not approved by the UCP to run. 

Liberal Party MLA David Swann has represented this district since 2004 and announced he will not seek re-election when the next provincial election is called. With Swann out of the race, Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, who currently represents Calgary-Buffalo as a New Democratic Party MLA, is seeking re-election in this neighbouring district (where she lives). Also running is Swann’s successor in the Liberal Party leadership, David Khan, who ran against Ganley in Calgary-Buffalo in the 2015 election, and Green Party candidate Thana Boonlert

Trouble in Calgary-East

Defeated UCP nomination contestants in Calgary-East have levelled allegations of fraud, forgery, improper inducement and bribery in the race won by Peter Singh on November 3, 2018. A letter signed by Andre Chabot, Jamie Lall, Issa Moussa and Matthew Dirk sent to UCP Leader Jason Kenney and deputy leader Leela Aheer have asked for the results of the contest to be overturned.

According to Postmedia, one woman in Calgary-East “said she was solicited by Singh at his auto shop while getting her vehicle repaired last July, and soon after discovered her credit card number had been used to purchase a party membership.”

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

The district is currently represented by Independent MLA Robyn Luff, who was first elected in 2015 and was removed from the NDP caucus in November 2018.


Here are some more of the latest updates to this list of candidates nominated to run in Alberta’s next provincial election:

Calgary-Falconridge – Parmeet Singh was nominated as the NDP candidate in this northeast Calgary district.

Edmonton-South West – Kaycee Madu defeated Kevin Greco and former PC MLA Sohail Quadri to secure the UCP nomination on December 6, 2018.

Livingstone-MacleodRoger Reid defeated Nathan Neudorf and Thomas Schneider to win the UCP nomination on December 8, 2018. Reid is the owner of Tim Hortons franchises in Nanton and Claresholm. He is the second Tim Horton’s franchaise owner to win a UCP nomination, along with Grande Prairie UCP candidate Tracy Allard

Sherwood ParkJordan Walker defeated Maureen Gough, Sean Kenny, and Len Thom to secure the UCP nomination in Sherwood Park. Walker is a conservative party activist and an Assessment Consultant in the Alberta Department of Labour. 


Upcoming nomination meetings

With the end of the year approaching, Alberta’s political parties have begun winding down nomination meetings scheduled for this year. By the end of 2018, the UCP will have nominated candidates in 77 of Alberta’s 87 districts, the NDP will have nominated candidates in 33 districts, and the Alberta Party in around 50 districts. Here are the remaining nomination meetings being held in 2018:

December 12, 2018 – Richard Dempsey, Karri Flatla, and George Rigaux are seeking the UCP nomination in Lethbridge-West.

December 12, 2018 – Two NDP MLAs are challenging each other for their party’s nomination in the newly redrawn St. Albert district. Current Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Trevor Horne and current St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud are seeking the NDP candidacy. Both MLAs were first elected in 2015.

Renaud has been endorsed by eleven of her caucus colleagues, including Stony Plain MLA Erin Babcock, Calgary-Hawkwood MLA Michael Connolly, Calgary-Klein MLA Craig Coolahan, Calgary-Bow MLA Deborah Drever, Lethbridge-East MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, Edmonton-Castle Downs MLA Nicole Goehring, Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Rod Loyola, Sherwood Park MLA Annie McKitrick, Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater MLA Colin Piquette, Edmonton-Centre MLA David Shepherd, and Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Bob Turner. 

December 13, 2018 – NDP MLA Thomas Dang is expected to be nominated as his party’s candidate in Edmonton-South. Dang was first elected in 2015 in Edmonton-South West, where he earned 53 percent of the vote and unseated PC MLA Matt Jeneroux

December 15, 2018 – Manwar Khan and Keli Tamaklo are seeking the Alberta Party nomination in Edmonton-Manning. Tamaklo is a former member of Edmonton Police Commission, Vice-Chair of the Africa Centre, and former Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of High Prairie. Khan is a Business Coordinator in the provincial Department of Community and Social Services and founded Do Not Be a Bystander, after witnessing and attempting to intervene to prevent a murder on Edmonton’s LRT.

December 15, 2018 – “Mulligan!Shane Getson and Leah Wood are facing off in the second UCP nomination contest in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland. A previous nomination contest held in August 2018 resulted in a win for Onoway business owner Dale Johnson, who was later disqualified after the UCP discovered he was alleged to have paid $5,584.60 to an employee he fired with whom he was in a romantic relationship. A former member of the UCP interim board of directors, Wood was widely seen as the establishment favourite in the first contest and is in a similar position in this second nomination contest. 

December 16, 2018Gurbachan Brar and Roop Rai are seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-North East. Brar is the former President of the Punjabi Likhari Sabha and is a former Broadcaster at RED FM 106.7. Rai is a constituency assistant to Calgary-McCall NDP MLA Irfan Sabir and was her party’s candidate in the 2016 by-election in Calgary-Greenway. In that contest she earned 20.17 percent of the vote in a competitive four-way race that saw PC candidate Prab Gill win with 27.7 percent.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!