Categories
Alberta Politics

NDP choose RN Diana Batten in Calgary-Acadia, UCP push ahead with nominations in Calgary and Edmonton

The Alberta NDP nominated Registered Nurse Diana Batten in Calgary-Acadia.

“This community is especially tired of the lack of professionalism their MLA has shown in government. They’re tired of the constant shuffling, the infighting, and the war the UCP have taken on our healthcare system,” Batten said in a statement following the nomination meeting.

“I’m here to join Rachel Notley and Alberta’s NDP on their road to fix the mess the UCP has created, ensure my community has access to public healthcare, good paying jobs, and to make sure we can trust our government again,” she said.

United Conservative Party MLA Tyler Shandro has confirmed he plans to run for re-election in Calgary-Acadia.

Shandro is currently serving as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General and will face three days of hearings in October to determine if he broke the Law Society of Alberta’s Code of Conduct.

Shandro was first elected in 2019 with 54 per cent of the vote.

UCP open nominations in Calgary-Glenmore, Calgary-West, and Edmonton-South West

Jason Kenney and Kaycee Madu (source: YouTube)
Jason Kenney and Kaycee Madu (source: YouTube)

Despite not knowing who will lead the UCP into the next election, the governing conservative party is continuing to nominate candidates. 

The UCP announced this week that nominations are open in Calgary-Glenmore (currenty represented by UCP MLA Whitney Issik), Calgary-West (currenty represented by UCP MLA Mike Ellis) and Edmonton-South West (currenty represented by UCP MLA Kaycee Madu).

The deadline for prospective candidates to apply to run for the nomination is June 7. 

These three MLAs certainly fall in the Kenney camp of the UCP.

It remains unclear whether the party will allow two former UCP MLAs, and big Kenney critics, Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen, to rejoin and run under the UCP banner in the next election.

Loewen has publicly mused about running for the party leadership.

Longtime teacher running for NDP nomination in Brooks-Medicine Hat

Retired teacher Gwendoline Dirk is seeking the NDP nomination in Brooks-Medicine Hat.

Dirk spent 33 years teaching in different school systems, including the last 13 years of her career at Medicine Hat College. She is a member of the Medicine Hat Police Commission and ran for the Medicine Hat Public School Board in 2021.

Her spouse, Peter Mueller, ran for the NDP against Drew Barnes in the neighbouring Cypress-Medicine Hat riding in the 2019 election.

The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting for June 23.

The riding is currently represented by first-term United Conservative Party MLA Michaela Frey. Alberta Party leader and former Brooks mayor Barry Morishita was nominated as his party’s candidate last week.

Former MLA Barb Miller enters NDP race in Red Deer-South

Barb Miller MLA Red Deer South
Barb Miller

Former MLA Barb Miller will challenge city lawyer Michelle Baer for the NDP nomination contest in Red Deer-South on June 18, 2022.

Miller represented the riding from 2015 to 2019. Before her election in 2015 she worked as a cashier at Safeway and was President of the Red Deer and District Labour Council.

Miller was defeated by UCP MLA Jason Stephan in the 2019 election.

More nomination news

Edmonton-Meadows MLA Jasvir Deol and Edmonton-Rutherford nomination candidate Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse will be nominated as NDP candidates on May 28.

The Alberta Party will nominate lawyer and past provincial Liberal Party leadership candidate Kerry Cundal in Calgary-Elbow on May 29.

University of Calgary Associate Law Professor Shaun Fluker and union activist and past candidate Steve Durrell are seeking the NDP nomination in Airdrie-Cochrane. A nomination meeting is being held on May 30.

And in Livingstone-Macleod, where first-term MLA Roger Reid is being challenged by UCP leadership aspirant and former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, the town council of High River this week voted for a permanent ban on new coal exploration and development in the Rocky Mountains.

And here are the upcoming candidate nomination meetings:

  • Edmonton-Meadows NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Edmonton-Rutherford NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Calgary-Elbow AP: May 29, 2022
  • Airdrie-Cochrane NDP: May 30, 2022
  • Edmonton-Riverview NDP: June 7, 2022
  • Edmonton-McClung NDP: June 8, 2022
  • Strathcona-Sherwood Park NDP: June 9, 2022
  • Edmonton-South West NDP: June 18, 2022
  • Red Deer-South NDP: June 18, 2022
  • Brooks-Medicine Hat NDP: June 23, 2022
  • Edmonton-Decore NDP: June 25, 2022
Categories
Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney is a bad Premier.

There is no doubt that Jason Kenney changed the face of Alberta politics when he jumped into provincial politics in 2017.

He succeeded in leading the merger of the Wildrose opposition with the Progressive Conservatives remanent into the United Conservative Party.

And, for a period, he was able to convince the two warring factions to put aside their differences and focus on a higher goal: winning the 2019 election.

And it worked.

At least it did for a time.

The UCP won a big majority, but quickly discovered that all those things the PCs and Wildrosers didn’t like about each other still existed, but now they were in the same party.

Last night, Kenney announced his plans to step down as UCP leader after getting a weak 51.4 per cent endorsement an acrimonious, divisive and drawn-out leadership review.

How did we get here so fast?

The COVID-19 pandemic definitely derailed Kenney and his party, but that wasn’t his only mistake.

Let’s look back at the chaos of the past three years.

Kenney’s much promoted Open for Summer plan in 2021 alienated a large swath of Albertans who were uncomfortable with removing public health restrictions so quickly and haphazardly just for the Calgary Stampede.

Rachel Notley’s NDP were riding high in the polls and fundraising, and to a lot of Albertans it looked like Kenney was dropping the COVID-19 restrictions to fast to save his party’s fortunes and his own leadership.

But being forced to backtrack and reintroduce restrictions when COVID-19 cases and deaths predictably skyrocketed and hospitals and ICUs overflowed only served to alienate a growing group right-wing populists and Freedom Truckers who were then highly motivated to defeat Kenney in the leadership review.

Despite flirting with right-wing populism before the 2019 election and during his time as Premier, Kenney is not a populist.

Kenney is probably far more comfortable discussing the works of Ludwig von Mises in the salons of the Manhattan Institute than driving a big blue truck around rural Alberta.

He sold Albertans, and conservative activists, a bill of goods that he could not deliver on.

But again, it wasn’t just COVID-19 that sealed his fate in the leadership review

If Kenney had not been so deeply unpopular with Albertans and if the UCP hadn’t been trailing the NDP in almost every poll since late 2020, he would have had a stronger hand to play.

But he didn’t.

Let’s look at why.

Somewhere along the line Kenney and his ministers began to believe that the big electoral mandate they got in 2019 meant they could impose their platform with abandon and, perhaps fatally, not have to listen to Albertans who started pushing back.

While Kenney’s opponents were always going to oppose his plans to privatize health care and schools, it wasn’t just NDP partisans who pushed back.

It was normal Albertans.

And Kenney didn’t seem to realize this.

Kenney and Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon’s plans to close and sell more than 140 provincial parks sparked a province-wide lawn sign campaign that crossed the partisan divide.

After months of actively dismissing and attacking opponents of these plans, the UCP government was forced to back down.

The UCP’s eagerness to open the Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining produced a similar backlash.

Kenney and Energy Minister Sonya Savage pushed forward, again dismissing the opposition, which included dozens of southern Alberta municipal councils and country music artists like Corb Lund, Paul Brandt and Terri Clark, until they were forced to back down.

Kenney and Health Minster Tyler Shandro picked big fights with nurses and doctors during the pandemic, which almost certainly undermined public confidence in the government’s ability to handle the pandemic.

Kenney and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange were almost engaged in daily fights with teachers, even when the safety of children during the pandemic was the biggest concern for almost every Alberta parent.

Alberta can already be a notoriously difficult place to govern, but at times it looked like the UCP was actively trying to make it more difficult.

And then there were the scandals.

The kamikaze campaign.

The RCMP investigation.

Shandro yelling at a doctor in his driveway.

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu phoning the chief of police after getting a traffic ticket.

Lawsuits alleging of drinking and sexual harassment of political staff by cabinet ministers.

Alohagate.

The Sky Palace patio party.

Betting and losing $1.3 billion on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

And the theatrics.

The Energy War Room staffed by UCP-insiders.

The late and over budget Allan Inquiry into nefarious foreign interference that found nothing illegal.

A referendum about equalization that was always going to be ignored by Ottawa, and ironically, was ignored by most Albertans.

The never ending legal challenges against the federal government.

And then there’s the curriculum.

Pledging during the 2019 campaign to take ideology and politics out of the draft K-12 curriculum, Kenney’s government injected new levels of weird and outdated ideology.

Panned by teachers, reviled by curriculum experts, and mocked internationally as age-inappropriate, outdated, Eurocentric, jargon-riddled, inaccurate, unconcerned with developing critical thinking skills, and rife with plagiarism, is how columnist David Climenhaga described it.

And then there’s that thing about Kenney’s grandfather, Mart Kenney, showing up in the curriculum, which felt like weird pandering by the programme’s authors.

We never got a glimpse into who Kenney really is or anything about his life outside of politics really.

Aside from politics, we don’t really know what makes him tick.

We know he rented a room in mother’s basement, enjoys listening to Gregorian chants and is a devout Roman Catholic, but that’s almost all we were allowed to see.

Not that we are owed any more.

Politicians deserve their privacy but Kenney’s weird blank slate outside of politics probably contributed to him being not very relatable to most Albertans.

So it becomes a trust thing.

Kenney is popular with many white collar conservatives and former staffers in Ottawa who have fond memories of his two decades as a determined opposition critic and hard-working cabinet minister.

Many of them see him a kind of Philosopher King of Canadian Conservatism.

But whatever charm worked inside the Queensway didn’t translate in the Premier’s Office.

Maybe being a trusted lieutenant to Prime Minster Stephen Harper was a quite different job than being Premier of Alberta?

Someone who has known Kenney for a long time once told me that they believed one of his biggest weaknesses is that he still saw Alberta politics through a 1990s lens.

I’m not sure I totally believe that but I think there’s a hint of truth to it.

And it might be why he has misread Albertans so badly over the past three years.

Kenney got his start in Alberta politics in the early 1990s as the founding spokesperson of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

It was a heady time for deficit hawks and social conservatives, and Kenney frequently engaged in very public quarrels with then-Premier Ralph Klein over government expenses.

The young conservative activist with a trademark Nixonian five-o’clock shadow pioneered the CTF soundbite machine with great success.

It’s where he cut his teeth in politics.

Thirty-years later, Kenney will soon be ending the latest phase of his political career in the same building where he started.

But this time he might not be coming back.


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Categories
Alberta Politics

Nothing new under the prairie sun – Danielle Smith running for UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod, and many more nomination updates

Alberta politics never takes a break, but sometimes I do. I was away last week having a great time facilitating a communications planning course at the Winter Labour School, an annual conference for working Albertans organized by the Alberta Federation of Labour and Canadian Labour Congress.

But now I’m back, and upon my return a growing mountain of candidate nomination news was awaiting me.

Here we go.

Probably the biggest news happened today: former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith is jumping back into provincial politics by taking a run at the United Conservative Party nomination in Livingstone-Macleod, a riding currently represented by UCP MLA Roger Reid. She even says she could run for the party leadership if Jason Kenney loses the upcoming leadership review.

Smith has been around Alberta politics for a while, working for lobby groups including the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, writing newspaper columns, hosting television and radio shows, briefly serving as a school trustee in Calgary, and most notably, serving as the leader of the Wildrose Party from 2009 until 2014.

After a heartbreaking defeat in the 2012 election, she led most of her caucus to join Jim Prentice‘s Progressive Conservatives in 2014 (which ended in disaster for conservatives but ended up being quite the boon for Rachel Notley‘s NDP in the next year’s election).

Crossing the floor secured Smith a spot in the governing PC Caucus but she was unable to secure the PC nomination in the Highwood riding she had represented since 2012, so she did not run for re-election in 2015.

Boundary changes ahead of the 2019 election moved her home town of High River into the Livingstone-Macleod riding.

Smith has been a frequent critic of the province’s COVID-19 public health measures and routinely promoted Hydroxychloroquine as a remedy for the coronavirus (a remedy that has been widely discredited).

I have no doubt I’ll have more to write about this later, but now let’s move on to where most of the nomination action has been happening – the Alberta NDP:

Danielle Larivee NDP Lesser Slave Lake
Danielle Larivee

– MLA Marie Renaud was nominated in St. Albert. Renaud was first elected in 2015 and serves as Official Opposition Community & Social Services, and Francophone Issues critic.
Danielle Larivee was nominated in Lesser Slave Lake. Larivee was the MLA for this riding from 2015 to 2019 and served as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Minister of Children’s Services. She is a Registered Nurse and currently serves as First Vice-President of United Nurses of Alberta.
Oneil Carlier was nominated in Parkland-Lac Ste. Anne. Carlier was MLA for this riding from 2015 to 2019 and served as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry from 2015 to 2019.

The NDP recently held contested nomination votes in two ridings.

Sarah Elmeligi is seeking the NDP nomination in Banff-Kananaskis
Sarah Elmeligi

Sarah Elmeligi defeated Canmore town councillor Tanya Foubert, bank manager Gavin McCaffrey, and condo manager Mark Tkacz to become the NDP candidate in Banff-Kananaskis. Elmeligi is a professional biologist and conservation and land-use planner. She currently runs her own consulting company but from 2016 to 2019 she worked as a Parks Facility Planner with the Kananaskis Region and from 2009 to 2013 was a Senior Conservation Planner with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Southern Alberta Chapter.

Marilyn North Peigan defeated Heather Eddy and Mattie McMillan to become the NDP candidate in Calgary-Klein. 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 is vice-chair of the Calgary Police Commission and was a candidate for city council in Calgary’s 2021 municipal elections.

Nathan Ip NDP Edmonton-South West
Nathan Ip

Three-term Edmonton Public School Board trustee Nathan Ip is the fourth candidate to enter the NDP nomination contest in Edmonton-South West.

Joining Ip at his campaign launch were former city councillor Michael Phair and former city council candidate and past Alberta Party president Rhiannon Hoyle. He is also endorsed by former NDP MLAs Bob Turner and Jim Gurnett, and Public School Boards Association of Alberta past president Patty Dittrick.

Also running for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-South West are Ben Acquaye, Chand Gul, and Mohammad Ali Masood Kamal. The riding is currently represented by UCP cabinet minister Kaycee Madu.

University of Calgary Associate Law Professor Shaun Fluker is the second candidate to join the NDP nomination contest in Airdrie-Cochrane.

“Albertans deserve a compassionate government that will exercise positive and responsible leadership on energy and environmental policy”, Fluker said in a press release announcing his candidacy. “The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly revealed that the UCP has no ability to lead when it matters.”

Union activist and past candidate Steve Durrell is also running for the nomination in Airdrie-Cochrane.

Manpreet Singh Tiwana and Psychologists’ Association of Alberta President Judi Malone are seeking the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Ellerslie. Two-term NDP MLA Rod Loyola has not yet announced whether he plans to run for re-election.

Former MLA Annie McKitrick is running of the NDP nomination in Sherwood Park. McKitrick represented the riding from 2015 to 2019 and ran for Mayor of Strathcona County in the 2021 elections.

Amanda Chapman is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Beddington. Chapman is a communications consultant and former communications coordinator with AIDS Awareness Calgary. She ran for the NDP in the riding in 2019, finishing second with 35.7 per cent off the vote.

Now back to the governing UCP, who are twisting themselves into pretzels ahead of Kenney’s fast approaching leadership review (more on that very soon).

UCP nominations have been a lot quieter since the party disqualified challengers Jodie Gateman in Cardston-Siksika and Tim Hoven in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre.

The following UCP MLAs have been acclaimed for their nominations: Josephine Pon in Calgary-Beddington, Peter Singh in Calgary-East, Prasad Panda in Calgary-Edgemont, Jeremy Nixon in Calgary-Klein, Rebecca Schulz in Calgary-Shaw, Matt Jones in Calgary-South East, Joseph Schow in Cardston-Siksika, Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, Nathan Neudorf in Lethbridge-East, Dale Nally in Morinville-St. Albert, Nathan Cooper in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, Jason Nixon in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, and Nate Glubish in Strathcona-Sherwood Park.

This is a big change from nominations ahead of the last election, which saw many competitive UCP nominations and many, many NDP acclamations. So far this time it’s been the opposite.

The following nomination meetings have been scheduled.

Camrose NDP: April 3, 2022
Edmonton-Whitemud NDP: April 7, 2022
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


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

OIL IS BACK, ALBERTA IS OPEN FOR SPRING AND OPEN FOR ELECTION SEASON

The price of oil is way up and COVID-19 public health restrictions are gone in Alberta.

Premier Jason Kenney and United Conservative Party cabinet ministers have fled the big cities and are hopping across the province making big spending announcements.

Grande Prairie. Red Deer. Acme. Hospitals. Schools. Airports. Childcare centres.

There is almost money for everything again. Unemployment is still high but government coffers are flush with oil revenues.

It feels like election season in Alberta.

The next provincial election is supposed to be just over a year away.

Bill 81 passed last year sets the next election day for the third Monday in May. That’s May 29, 2023. The bill was signed by Lieutenant Governor Salma Lakhani in December but it hasn’t been proclaimed into law by the Kenney cabinet.

Kenney could call a Hail Mary early election this year but with Rachel Notley’s NDP leading in every poll since November 2020, it would be a big gamble. The UCP could lose big.

Notley’s NDP are recruiting good candidates and have a lot more money in the bank than Kenney’s UCP, which has struggled to fundraise over the past two years.

But an early election would take advantage of high oil prices, boosted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has given Kenney a chance to shift back to talking about oil and pipelines. Plus, Kenney is keen to project a sense of optimism that the COVID pandemic might actually be over (for now, at least).

And a really early election could be a way to avoid that pesky April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.

‘Give all Albertans a chance to vote in the leadership review!’, Kenney could say.

A super early election would let Kenney punt out the growing chorus of opponents in his own caucus and avoid the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election (so long, Brian Jean!).

Kenney would still have a lot to answer for. He’s still sitting on an unpopular coal mining report the government was forced to write after nearly all Albertans rose up against open-pit coal mining in the Eastern Slopes.

Plus the draft education curriculum, a big fight with doctors, abandoned plans to privatize and sell provincial parks, and that $1.3 billion gambled on Donald Trump’s re-election.

New Labour Minister Kaycee Madu is still in cabinet after trying (and failing) to ‘interfere in the administration of justice’ after getting distracted driving ticket. And new Justice Minister Tyler Shandro is facing a code-of-conduct hearing at the Law Society.

While Kenney has callously used the Ukraine crisis as a pitch for Canadian oil, one big country dependent on Russian oil and gas, Germany, is talking about abandoning fossil fuels all together.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner has referred to renewable electricity sources as “the energy of freedom.”

But Kenney’s audience isn’t Germany or investment funds in New York. His primary audience is UCP voters in Alberta.

Back to the early election talk.

Maybe that’s what Pam Livingston is already working on?

The Premier’s chief of staff is on a leave of absence to make sure he wins the leadership review, but with party nominations heating up – notably in ridings held by Kenney loyalists – shifting into election campaign mode might be a natural transition.

City UCP MLAs are worried about the NDP, and rightfully so, but rural MLAs are mostly worried about a challenge from the populist right.

An early election could catch challengers like the Wildrose Independence Party off-guard, robbing them of a full year to organize and recruit candidates.

“But Dave,” you say, an early election call didn’t go so well for Kenney’s conservative predecessor in the Premier’s office.

That’s true.

Premier Jim Prentice led a calcified Progressive Conservative dynasty to get trampled in the 2015 Orange Wave election that broke the mold of Alberta politics. It’s probably a warning Kenney should heed.

The NDP could win big and Notley could become the first Premier in Alberta’s history to return after being defeated. It would be a big deal.

Notice that Kenney’s language has shifted in the past month?

After years of using divide and conquer tactics on almost every issue, the most divisive and unpopular premier in Alberta’s recent history is making a desperate appeal for “unity.”

He needs a big shift – and a big shovel to dig himself out of the giant hole he has spent the past three years digging.

Whether he is actually campaigning for the April 9 leadership review or setting up Albertans for an early election, gambling might be Kenney’s only option if he wants to stay in the Premier’s office. Otherwise he might as well book the U-Haul.

Categories
Alberta Politics

UCP MLA Joseph Schow faces nomination challenge from Vulcan County Councillor Jodie Gateman in Cardston-Siksika. College business instructor Ben Acquaye joins Edmonton-South West NDP race

Vulcan County Councillor Jodie Gateman is challenging MLA Joseph Schow for the United Conservative Party nomination in Cardston-Siksika. Gateman appears to have the support of the Take Back Alberta group, which is organizing against Premier Jason Kenney ahead of the April 9 leadership review in Red Deer. 

Jodie Gateman

Gateman was elected to Vulcan County Council in 2021 and was the UCP’s first Vice President Communications from 2018 to 2019. Her previous political experience includes working as a campaign manager for Reform Party Member of Parliament Grant Hill in 1997 and 2000.  

A 2009 profile in the Calgary Herald described Gateman as a the then-principal and executive director of Green Learning Academy (a private school in Calgary that years later went bankrupt) and a graduate of the University of Dallas and American Intercontinental University.

Schow was first elected in 2019 and currently serves as the Deputy Government House Leader, a position that plants him firmly in the Kenney loyalist camp. Before his election as MLA he ran for the federal Conservative nomination in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner and before that worked for Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan Conservative MP Garnett Genuis.

A nomination meeting has been scheduled for March 21, 2022.

Like former Clearwater County Councillor Tim Hoven, who is challenging Government House Leader and Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon for the UCP nomination in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, Gateman’s social media feeds suggest her political views are solidly on the right-wing of the UCP.

Former UCP nomination candidate enters NDP contest in Edmonton-South West

Lakeland College business instructor Ben Acquaye is the third candidate to join the NDP nomination contest in Edmonton-South West.

Ben Acquaye Edmonton-South West NDP Nomination
Ben Acquaye

“Families, businesses and communities are under stress, and as a province we have a lot of challenges ahead of us,” Acquaye said in a statement announcing his candidacy. “I am convinced in the leadership of Rachel Notley to steer us through these times to a more diversified economy that allows working families and communities to thrive.”

In 2018, Acquaye ran for the UCP nomination in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright, a contest that was won by current MLA Garth Rowswell.

Acquaye joins Chand Gul and Mohammad Ali Kamal in the NDP nomination contest.

The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA and Minster of Justice and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu, who stepped back from his ministerial duties last month.

Two more UCP MLAs running for re-election

Jackie Homeniuk Armstrong UCP MLA Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville
Jackie Homeniuk-Armstrong

MLA Jackie Homeniuk-Armstrong is running the the UCP nomination in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville. Homeniuk-Armstrong was first elected in 2019 after unseating NDP MLA Jessica Littlewood. She is the chair for the Advisory Council on Alberta-Ukraine Relations, and chair of the UCP Skilled Trades Caucus. A nomination meeting has been scheduled for March 24, 2022.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Rural Economic Development Nate Horner is seeking the UCP nomination in Drumheller-Stettler. The rancher from Pollockville and scion of one of Alberta’s most prominent political families was first elected in 2019. A nomination meeting has been scheduled for March 24, 2022.

The UCP has also opened nominations in five more ridings: Calgary-Beddington (represented by Minister of Seniors and Housing Josephine Pon), Calgary-East (represented by MLA Peter Singh), Lethbridge-East (represented by UCP Caucus chair Nathan Neudorf), Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills (represented by Speaker and former UCP interim leader Nathan Cooper), and Sherwood Park (represented by MLA Jordan Walker) Strathcona-Sherwood Park (represented by Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish).

Here are the upcoming nomination meetings that have been scheduled:

  • Calgary-Elbow NDP: March 5, 2022
  • Calgary-Bhullar-McCall NDP: March 10, 2022
  • Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland NDP: March 12, 2022 
  • Lesser Slave Lake NDP: March 13, 2022
  • Calgary-Shaw UCP: March 21, 2022
  • Calgary-South East UCP: March 21, 2022
  • Cardston-Siksika UCP: March 21, 2022
  • Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre UCP: March 21, 2022
  • Calgary-Edgemont UCP: March 24, 2022
  • Calgary-Klein UCP: March 24, 2022
  • Drumheller-Stettler UCP: March 24, 2022
  • Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville UCP: March 24, 2022
  • St. Albert NDP: March 24, 2022
  • Calgary-Klein NDP: March 26, 2022
  • Camrose NDP: April 3, 2022
Categories
Alberta Politics

MLA Chris Nielsen plans to run for re-election in Edmonton-Decore, Mohammad Ali Kamal second candidate in Edmonton-South West NDP contest

When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But as Albertans bask in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche (which must be called by February 15 – in 4 days).

Until then, here are the latest candidate nomination updates:

MLA Chris Nielsen announced today that he plans to seek the Alberta NDP nomination in Edmonton-Decore and run for re-election in the next provincial election.

“The past 7 years have been an incredible time for me. The chance to represent the outstanding residents of Edmonton-Decore has been an honour, privilege and incredible learning experience,” Nielsen said in a statement posted on social media. “…the work is not finished yet … there is much more to do.”

Nielsen was first elected in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019 with 47.5 per cent of the vote, defeating United Conservative Party candidate Karen Principe (who was elected to Edmonton City Council in October 2021). He currently serves as the Official Opposition critic for Red Tape Reduction.

Before his election in 2015, Nielsen worked as a shipping receiver at the Lucerne Foods ice cream with UFCW Local 401.

Sayid Ahmed is seeking the UCP nomination in the north Edmonton riding.

Mohammad Ali Kamal seeks NDP nomination in Edmonton-South West

Mohammad Ali Kamal is seeking the NDP nomination in Edmonton-South West.

“SW Edmonton, the place for growing families, trails, and tranquility should be served by a community worker who can relate to the people of this riding, compared to the incumbent Kaycee Madu who would not follow the law that he is supposed to represent as the provinces law minster, and as a result is now a suspended justice minister,” Kamal said in a press release.

Kamal is the Executive Director of the Shifa Medical Clinic, Treasurer of the Alberta Association of Clinic Managers, Director of the Duggan Mother’s Day soccer Tournament, and a NCCP certified soccer coach.

Kamal joins Chand Gul as the second candidate seeking the NDP nomination in this riding.

The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Kaycee Madu, who is on leave from his role as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General following allegations that he phoned Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee receiving a traffic ticket for driving distracted in a school zone.

Second NDP nomination candidate in Calgary-East

Educator Rosman Valencia has filed papers with Elections Alberta to seek the NDP nomination in Calgary-East. International Avenue Business Revitalization Zone executive director Alison Karim-McSwiney is also seeking the NDP nomination.

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.

(Today’s intro with inspiration from Phil Connors)

Categories
Alberta Politics

It’s a wild ride. Alberta politics and the road to the next election on the Cross Border Podcast

Cross Border Interviews with Chris Brown · Episode 316 – Road To 2023

Alberta politics can be a wild ride, and last week I had the pleasure of chatting with Chris Brown from the Cross Border Interviews Podcast about some of the big issues in our province ahead of the next provincial election.

We covered a lot of ground, including the recent scandal involving Edmonton-South West United Conservative Party MLA Kaycee Madu, the leadership challenges faced by Premier Jason Kenney, the role of Brian Jean in the upcoming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election, and the most likely paths to victory for Kenney and Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley in 2023.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Rules for you but not for Madu: Justice Minister’s phone call to police chief ties the UCP in knots

It wouldn’t be a January in Alberta without freezing rain and a big political scandal.

As the province comes to grips with the rise and spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Alberta’s United Conservative Party government has tied itself in knots over a distracted driving ticket.

Dale McFee, Edmonton Police Chief
Dale McFee, Edmonton Police Chief

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced last Monday night that Edmonton-South West MLA Kaycee Madu would “step back” from his role as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General following reports that ten months ago the Justice Minister phoned Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee after he was issued a ticket for distracted driving in a school zone.

The decision to ask Madu to “step back” and be temporarily replaced by Energy Minister Sonya Savage until an independent investigator can look into the issue, is far from the firing that many Albertans were calling for after news of the scandal was broken by intrepid CBC reporters Elise von Scheel and Janice Johnston.

Madu’s decision to call McFee was inappropriate and showed a stunning lack of judgement. The Minister should have known better to bring up the specific personal matter. Even if he didn’t ask the chief to rescind the ticket and wanted to discuss other issues, as Madu claims, it is impossible to ignore the power dynamic of making this call.

Elise von Scheel
Elise von Scheel

Following the release of the story by the CBC, Madu issued his own statement saying he did mention his ticket to the Chief but he wanted to raise concerns about racial profiling and whether he was being spied on by the Edmonton Police Service, similar to how officers of the Lethbridge Police Service were caught spying on former cabinet minister Shannon Phillips.

Shortly after Madu’s office released his statement, Kenney issued his own separate statement on Twitter, which made it look like the Premier’s and Madu’s offices weren’t even closely coordinating their responses to the scandal.

Kenney announced in his stream of tweets that the government was hiring an independent investigator, but a week later it is still unclear who the independent investigator will be and what exactly that person will be investigating. 

Both Madu and McFee have agreed the phone call happened, and it should be clear that the government does not need to pay someone to point out that a pretty big line was crossed.

Shannon Phillips NDP MLA Lethbridge West
Shannon Phillips

Will the investigator investigate whether the distracted driving ticket was valid? Madu and McFee disagree about whether the ticket was just, though the Justice Minister chose not to challenge the ticket in traffic court (which is another big issue) and he paid the fine.

Or will Kenney’s investigator investigate whether Madu was a victim of racial profiling or a target of a political conspiracy by members of the Edmonton Police Service?

Institutional racism is definitely a problem in Alberta’s police forces, and the shocking revelations of abuse of power by police officers in Lethbridge are nothing to dismiss, but it definitely seems that Madu statement shocked a few months of life into an embarrassing political scandal that could have been put to rest in a week or two.

If the allegations levelled by Madu against the Edmonton Police Service are as serious as he claims, it is hard to imagine why the government would not have acted on this 10 months ago, rather than sitting idle until the CBC broke the story.

Don Braid Calgary Herald Postmedia
Don Braid

Postmedia columnist Don Braid wrote that “the ticket episode was widely known in cabinet circles and talked about in jocular tones.”

Braid also wrote that senior cabinet ministers including Ric McIver and Jason Nixon and senior staffers like Pam Livingston (now Kenney’s Chief of Staff), Larry Kaumeyer (then Kenney’s Principal Secretary and now CEO of Ducks Unlimited Canada), and Matt Wolf (Kenney’s former director of issues management) were aware of the incident. Kenney said he was aware of the ticket but avoided answering whether he knew about Madu’s phone call to Chief McFee.

The government’s failure to act in response to the scandal 10 months ago and its fumbling reaction when it was made public last week certainly does not inspire confidence in how Madu or the UCP government would oversee the provincial police force they are hoping to replace to RCMP with in much of Alberta.

Janet Brown Calgary Pollster
Janet Brown

This is only one of the latest scandals that reeks of the kind of entitlement that brought down the old Progressive Conservative regime in 2015.

It was only one year ago that Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard resigned from cabinet and Kenney was forced to demote a handful of UCP MLAs who chose to flout the government’s public health travel advisories and fly off to hot holidays in Hawaii and Mexico.

And only three months ago, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen, a noted Kenney loyalist, resigned from cabinet after a former staffer filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, defamation, heavy drinking, and a toxic workplace culture in the Legislature Building.

As pollster Janet Brown tweeted this weekend, “elitism and entitlement are the kryptonite of the right!” And right now, Kenney is slipping and sliding on a skating rink made of kryptonite. 

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Alberta Politics

He’s back! Brian Jean wins UCP nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election

Former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean won the United Conservative Party nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, defeating engineer and economist Joshua Gogo.

Jean’s candidacy was criticized by Premier Jason Kenney and Gogo had the support of Justice Minister Kaycee Madu, who was reported to have been campaigning with him in Lac La Biche last week.

Reports say that Jean won with 68 per cent of the vote. He represented the area as an MP from 2004 to 2014 and MLA from 2015 to 2018.

Jean left elected office shortly after losing the UCP leadership to Kenney in 2017 (it was later revealed that Kenney’s inner circle backed a kamikaze campaign against Jean), but he never quite left politics. Instead, he opined about provincial politics online and in the pages of Postmedia newspapers, becoming a harsh critic of Kenney’s leadership.

In the summer of 2021 he called on Kenney to step down and warned that the NDP would win the next election if he did not resign.

Jean clearly believes he’s the person who can lead the UCP to win re-election in 2023, and he may have a willing following among the small but vocal group of UCP MLAs who have criticized or called on Kenney to resign.

Kenney said he would respect the wishes of UCP voters in the nomination contest, but failing to defeat Jean is a big blow to a Premier who has been lauded for his skills as a political organizer, and is facing a leadership review in April 2022.

While party leaders typically trumpet the nomination of their party’s candidates, both Kenney’s and the UCP’s normally prolific social media feeds were silent last night.

After announcing his win on social media, Jean said he would soon travel the province, presumably to rally opposition to Kenney ahead of the leadership review.

If he’s allowed to run under the UCP banner, Jean’s convincing win means the UCP candidate in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election will also be an openly anti-Kenney candidate.

Mancini congratulates Jean

Alberta NDP candidate Ariana Mancini in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election
Ariana Mancini

Alberta NDP candidate Ariana Mancini released a statement congratulating Jean on his nomination.

“I want to congratulate Brian Jean on being nominated as the United Conservative Party candidate in the coming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.”

“Mr. Jean has made it clear, even this evening, that he is running because of his rivalry with Jason Kenney. I am running for the people of Fort McMurray and Lac La Biche. UCP MLAs haven’t delivered for our region. I am focused on job creation, improving public healthcare, protecting public education, protecting our community from flood and fire, and ensuring we have reliable EMS.”

Mancini was joined by NDP leader Rachel Notley at a nomination rally held last week in Fort McMurray.

Another former Wildrose Party leader, Paul Hinman, announced he is also running in the by-election, but this time as leader of the separatist Wildrose Independence Party.


I am building a list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of Alberta’s expected 2023 provincial election. If I have missed any candidates on my list, please post a comment below or send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

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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.

Categories
Alberta Politics

It’s a dog’s breakfast! A guide to Alberta’s municipal elections, Senate Nominee election and referenda on Equalization and Daylight Saving Time 

Alberta’s municipal election is only 14 days away.

When you think of municipal elections, you might immediately think about roads, libraries, sidewalks, pools, traffic, playgrounds, potholes, public transit, bike lanes and snow removal. And while these are some of the more high-profile responsibilities of municipal governments, the amount of information being thrown at voters in this year’s election has muddied the water about what the ballot issues on October 18 might be.

Electing Mayors, Councillors and School Trustees

The primary function of municipal elections is for voters to elect their local municipal officials in their city, county, municipal district, town, or village. Voters also cast ballots for trustees to govern their Public, Catholic or Francophone school boards. (Here is a list of candidates running in Edmonton’s municipal election).

This year there are open mayoral races with no incumbent running for re-election in the cities of Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Red Deer and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which will mark a big turnover in municipal leadership in Alberta.

As if there weren’t already are a lot of challenges facing municipalities, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit Alberta hard and municipal governments are bearing the brunt of many of those health, social and economic challenges.

Municipalities also face a hostile provincial government that has not hesitated to interfere in local issues, in some cases leaving Albertans with a choice between candidates who agree with the provincial government interference, candidates who want to keep their heads down in hopes for a change of provincial government in 2023, or candidates who will stand up for their communities and challenge the United Conservative Party government.

Senate Nominee Election

When you vote on Oct. 18 or in the advance polls you will probably be handed a few different ballots. One of them will ask you to choose up to three candidates in this year’s Senate Nominee Election.

Senate Nominee elections are a uniquely Alberta activity dating back to 1989. The elections are held to choose a list of names for the Premier to recommend to the Prime Minister for appointment to the Senate if vacancies occur.

There is currently one vacancy in Alberta’s 6-member Senate delegation and another vacancy is expected when Senator Doug Black retires on October 31, 2021.

Unfortunately for the candidates running in this election, they are not going to be appointed unless the Prime Minister is a member of the Conservative Party, the only major party that recognizes the elections as legitimate. The Liberal Party has created a new application process for Senate appointments, dismantling the old partisan patronage machine, and the NDP believe the Upper Chamber should be abolished.

One of the major flaws of the Senate Nominee election is that winning candidates who might eventually be appointed to the Senate never ever have to face re-election, so there is no opportunity for voters to hold these “elected” Senators accountable for their decisions. In fact, they can stay in the Senate until they turn 75-years old if they decide to.

Another major flaw is that a province-wide election in a province of 4.3 million people makes it impossible for the Senate candidates to meaningfully reach many voters. I doubt most Albertans could name a candidate running in year’s Senate Nominee election, but here they are:

Progress Alberta executive director Duncan Kinney is running on the “Fuck Kenney Vote Kinney” slogan and Chad Jett Thunders Saunders is running to turn the Senate into a “Thunderdome.”

Physicians Dr. Sunil Sookram. and Dr. Karina Pillay (also the former Mayor of Slave Lake), Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett, former Western Barley Growers Association President Jeff Nielsen, and former deputy premier and finance minister Doug Horner are running as Independent candidates are are the more serious candidates with real public service experience.

Then there are the three People’s Party endorsed candidates who filed their papers to run in the Senate Nominee election only hours before they were defeated as candidates in the Sept. 20 federal election – Nadine Wellwood, Kelly Lorencz, and Ann McCormack.

And finally there are the three UCP loyalists endorsed by the Conservative Party of Canada – lobbyist and former UCP President Erika Barootes, right-wing activist and failed municipal candidate Pam Davidson, and Ukrainian-Canadian trade association president Mikhailio Martyniouk.

The three UCP/Conservative Party candidates, who appear to have less comparable actual public service experience than many of the Independent candidates on the ballot, are still probably going to win. But like previous Senate Nominee elections, the turnout will be low and number of spoiled ballots will be high.

Alberta’s Senate Nominee election should be a serious affair, but it will probably end up being a joke or an afterthought for most Albertans who will have no idea who to vote for.

Plebiscites and Referendums

Depending where you live in Alberta you could also be handed one, two or three additional ballots to cast your vote for referendums and plebiscites, though there is a good chance you haven’t heard much about them during this election.

There are two province-wide referendums.

The first is Premier Jason Kenney’s referendum to remove the Equalization program from the Constitution. The results won’t actually remove Equalization from the Constitution, but Kenney has said it would put Alberta in a strong bargaining position to negotiate with the rest of Canada. This is unlikely.

Even if the Equalization formula was removed from the Constitution, Albertans wouldn’t actually notice any change. We would still pay federal taxes the same as we do now, but the federal government would not be obligated to distribute funds collected through federal taxes to the provinces through an Equalization formula as currently required by the Constitution.

The Equalization referendum is all about the politics of grievance and saving Jason Kenney’s leadership of the UCP. A yes vote won’t accomplish much and a no vote will probably hurt Kenney’s chance of remaining in the Premier’s Office for much longer (Kenney’s approval rating has dropped to 22 per cent according to a recent poll from ThinkHQ).

The other province-wide referendum will ask Albertans whether they want to permanently remain on Daylight Saving Time rather than having to switch between DST and Mountain Standard Time twice each year. While the annual time-change is widely unpopular, it is unclear why the UCP cabinet chose to ask Albertans if they want to make DST permanent rather being able to choose between DST and MST.

In this referendum, a no vote is a vote to continue the annual time change and a yes vote is a vote for darker mornings and lighter evenings in the winter. If I understand correctly, it could also mean that from March to November each year Alberta’s timezone will be two hours ahead of the times observed in much of British Columbia. The result of the vote on this question is binding on the provincial government.

And if you live in Calgary, you have a chance to vote to rejoin the 21st century and put fluoride back into your public water. Good luck with that, Calgary.

Endorsements

At least in Edmonton, candidate endorsements have become a mini-story.

This year’s city council election has seen a string of high-profile endorsements of city council candidates from Mayor Don Iveson, mayoral candidate Mike Nickel and some individual NDP MLAs across the city. While it is not unheard of for incumbent City Councillors to endorse candidates in a municipal election, the number of endorsements in this year’s election is significantly higher than usual.

List of candiayes incumbent City Councillors have endorsed in this municipal elections.
List of candidates incumbent Edmonton City Councillors have endorsed in this municipal elections.

Just like City Councillor endorsements, it is not unheard of for MLAs to endorse candidates, but this year the number of MLAs endorsing municipal candidates is higher.

The decision by some NDP MLAs to endorse candidates has flustered some political watchers who for some reason believe municipal politics should exist in a vacuum outside of provincial and federal politics, the endorsements appear to be a choice made by individual MLAs rather than a decision made by the party.

And in at least one case, NDP MLAs have endorsed different candidates. In Ward tastawiyiniwak, for example, the NDP endorsements appear to be split, with Edmonton-City Centre MLA David Shepherd endorsing Ahmed Knowmadic Ali and Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview NDP MLA Deron Bilous endorsing Cody Bondarchuk.

List of City Council candidates who Edmonton MLAs have endorsed in this election.
List of City Council candidates who Edmonton MLAs have endorsed in this election.

While there was an attempt a year ago to create a single-slate of progressive candidates in Edmonton’s city council election in response to expectations that the UCP would organize a slate, the organizing effort appears to have failed because there were too many progressive candidates wanting to run for city council to make a single-slate feasible.

While it has certainly made Edmonton’s political establishment uncomfortable, it is positive to see progressive groups organizing to support candidates. With traditional low turnout, low interest and high-incumbent re-election, municipal politics in Edmonton could use a bit of disruption.

Election Finance law changes are the real story

Changes to Alberta’s municipal election finance laws introduced by UCP cabinet Ministers Kaycee Madu and Doug Schweitzer in June 2020 allow for much less transparency and accountability showing who is spending money to influence candidates and votes.

The new rules make it legal for wealthy people 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. While municipal political donors do not receive the generous tax credits they get from provincial or federal donations, there are wealthy Albertans with the ability to financially influence candidates across the board.

The UCP also removed the requirement for candidates to disclose their list of donors ahead of Election Day, which would have allowed voters to see who is financially supporting candidates before they go to the ballot booth. Many candidates will already do this on their own but many won’t because they are not required to by law.

The new rules introduced by the UCP also allow Third Party Advertisers, colloquially known as political action committees, to spend up to $500,000 on advertising during the referendums, up from the previous $150,000 limit. Third Party Advertisers that spend less than $350,000 on advertising during a referendum are not required to file financial statements with Elections Alberta, which means those groups don’t have to publicly disclose their donor lists.

There are currently four registered Third Party Advertisers registered with Elections Alberta that are advertising during the Referendum. Alberta Proud (who’s contact person is former Wildrose Party press secretary Vitor Marciano), Equalization Fairness Alberta (run by former UCP ministerial chief of staff Dr. Bill Bewick), Society of Albertans Against Equalization (run by Canadian Taxpayers Federation director Franco Terrazzano), and Vote Yes To End Equalization Inc.

One Third Party Advertiser registered to participate in Calgary’s municipal election is being investigated by Elections Alberta for allegedly sending out campaign signs for Calgary mayoral candidate Jeff Davison.

And that is a quick guide to the dog’s breakfast that is Alberta’s 2021 municipal elections. Make sure to vote on Oct. 18 or in the advance polls starting today.

Good luck, Alberta.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Making the Alberta Party relevant is Barry Morishita’s new job

Brooks Mayor Barry Morishita has been acclaimed as leader of the Alberta Party.

“As a compassionate leader and experienced community builder, I believe that a new, fresh approach to politics is what Albertans need right now and that the Alberta Party is the vehicle to drive that positive change,” Morishita said in a press statement released by the party.

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

Morishita was first elected to Brooks City Council in 1998 and became Mayor of Brooks in 2016 after previous mayor Martin Shields was elected as the Conservative Member of Parliament for Bow River.

He was elected President of the Alberta Urban Municipality Association in 2017 and was a vocal critic of the United Conservative Party government’s overhaul of municipal election laws, going so far as to describe relations between municipalities and then-Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu as “broken.”

This is not his first foray into provincial politics. Like other leaders of the Alberta Party, Morishita’s past political experience was as a member of another political party.

He ran for Nancy MacBeth‘s Alberta Liberals in Strathmore-Brooks in 2001, placing second with 15.5 per cent of the vote behind Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Lyle Oberg. He had previously been active with the Liberal Party as a delegate to the convention that chose Laurence Decore as party leader in 1988.

Lyle Oberg
Lyle Oberg

He also made a $300 donation to the PC Party in Strathmore-Brooks in 2014.

The small moderate conseravtive political party broke through into the Legislature in 2015 when leader Greg Clark, who worked as a Liberal Caucus staffer in his youth, was elected in Calgary-Elbow. Despite growing its popular vote, the party was shut out of the Legislature in 2019 under the leadership of former Edmonton mayor and PC cabinet minister Stephen Mandel.

The Alberta Party has languished in obscurity since the 2019 election, with interim leader Jacquie Fenske, a former PC MLA from Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, holding the reins until a permanent leader was named.

Doug Griffiths
Doug Griffiths

According to a report from the Morinville News, former Morinville Mayor and past AUMA President Lisa Holmes and former Battle River-Wainwright PC MLA Doug Griffiths are part of Morishita’s transition team.

The challenges facing Morishita and his party are steep:

  1. Make his party relevant. Rachel Notley‘s NDP have led in the polls since November 2020 and have a commanding lead in fundraising. It is going to be challenging for the Alberta Party to convince Albertans who want Jason Kenney out of the Premier’s Office that they are the credible alternative.
  2. Winning a seat in the next election and getting his party back into the Legislature. Brooks-Medicine Hat will be the natural place for Morishita to run but it will be an uphill climb to win in the lopsidedly conservative voting district currently represented by UCP MLA Michaela Glasgo.There will also be a by-election held in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche in the next six months following the resignation of Laila Goodridge, who is running in the federal election.
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Alberta Politics

MLA Recall focuses on punishing politicians rather than making them better representatives

Another MLA Recall bill has been introduced into the Alberta Legislative Assembly, and this one looks like it will actually pass and become law.

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

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu introduced Bill 52: Recall Act in the Assembly for first reading today. If it becomes law, the bill would allow for a by-election to be called in a provincial electoral district where the signatures of at least 40 percent of the eligible voters are collected. Unlike previous Recall efforts, Madu’s bill expands recall to municipal councillors and school board trustees.

Forty percent is likely a high enough threshold to avoid frivolous, or maybe any, actual Recall by-elections. While there are certainly some circumstances where constituents are united in unhappiness with their elected officials, this bill seems to be more of a signal that the United Conservative Party has checked off a box on its to-do list than actually create a mechanism to improve democracy in Alberta.

Instead of being fearful of a revolt by their own voters, it is more likely that MLAs will be concerned that well-funded special interest groups, like the the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, could swoop into their district with a legion of paid volunteers to rabble-rouse and cause trouble for local representatives.

It might be more proactive to limit recall, like they have in the United Kingdom, to politicians who are convicted of criminal offenses or providing false or misleading expenses claims while in office.

Our democratic institutions do need to be tinkered with and improved, but so much of the focus of efforts like MLA Recall are focused on punishing elected officials rather than empowering them to do a better job. So rather than finding new ways to fire politicians, which Albertans have done a fairly consistent job in the past two elections, we should be creating ways they can do better jobs for us.

Being a backbench MLA in a government caucus is not a glamorous job. They are told where to be and how to vote on most issues. Most rarely have the opportunity to demonstrate meaningful independence without facing the wrath of the Caucus Whip or the Leader’s Chief of Staff. And, when time comes for re-election, their nomination papers require the ultimate endorsement of the party leader.

One way that individual MLAs could empower themselves would be to change the standing orders to allow MLAs who are not in cabinet an increased opportunity to introduce private members bills. Right now MLAs earn the ability to introduce private members bills through a lottery, meaning that some MLAs will never have the chance to introduce a law into the Legislature.

And private members’ bills are only debated on Monday’s, severely limiting their ability to get attention and get passed into law.

Accountability of democratic officials is important, and that is why we have elections every four years. And as Albertans have enthusiastically demonstrated over the past two elections, they will not hesitate to dramatically unseat MLAs and governments if they feel the need.

It would be better for democracy in Alberta if we focused on ways to empower MLAs to better represent Albertans inside and outside the Assembly, rather than creating new ways to punish them.

History of Recall Legislation in Alberta

Madu’s Bill 52 marks the eleventh MLA Recall bill to be tabled in the Assembly since 1936.

1936: Bill No. 76 of 1936: A Bill Providing for the Recall of Members of the Legislative Assembly was introduced by the Social Credit government and passed after their surprising win in the 1935 election. The bill required 66.6 percent of voters to sign a petition to trigger a recall by-election.

1937: The law was repealed by the Social Credit government after a group of disgruntled Albertans was thought to have collected enough signatures to recall Premier William Aberhart in his Okotoks-High River constituency.

1993Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Gary Dickson introduced Bill 203: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. The bill was defeated in a 42-34 vote in the Legislature.

1995: Edmonton-Meadowlark Liberal MLA Karen Leibovici introduced Bill 224: Parliamentary Reform and Electoral Review Commission Act, which would have created a commission to study a handful of issues, including recall. The bill passed first reading but was never debated.

1996: Lethbridge-East Liberal MLA Ken Nicol introduced Bill 206: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. This bill was defeated in a 37-24 vote in the Legislature.

1997: Bill 216, Recall Act was introduced by Edmonton-Manning Liberal MLA Ed Gibbons but was never debated in the Legislature. If passed into law, the bill would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one

2010Calgary-Glenmore Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman introduced Bill 208: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 33 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. Reached second reading but was not debated further.

2015Chestermere-Rockyview Wildrose MLA Leela Aheer introduces Bill 206: Recall Act, which would trigger a recall by-election if 20 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. The bill passed first reading and died on the order paper.

2016: Drayton Valley-Devon Wildrose MLA Mark Smith introduces Bill 201: Election Recall Act, which would trigger a recall by-election is 66 per cent of the electorate’s signatures from the previous general election was collected in 60 days on a sanctioned petition. The bill was defeated in second reading.

2019: Drayton Valley-Devon United Conservative Party MLA Mark Smith introduces Bill 204: Election Recall Act, which would allow Albertans to trigger a by-election in a riding where 40 per cent of registered voters have signed a petition recalling their MLA. The bill died on the order paper after it passed second reading.

Categories
Alberta Politics

UCP shuffle ministerial staff ahead of legislative session

With the Legislative Assembly returning to start the spring session at the end of the month, there was another big shuffle of ministerial chiefs of staff at the Legislature today.

In the Premier’s office, Pam Livingston is now Deputy Chief of Staff. Livingston recently served as Chief of Staff to Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon and was executive assistant to Justice Minister Verlyn Olson and Seniors and Community Supports Minister Greg Melchin.

There has been significant turnover in Premier Jason Kenney’s office over the past six months, with his three most senior advisors departing – Howard Anglin to Oxford, David Knight Legg to Invest Alberta, and Jamie Huckabay as a result of last month’s hot holiday scandal. The departure of these three is said to have created no shortage of chaos in Kenney’s office at a time when internal stability should be essential.

Livingston will be replaced in Nixon’s office by Megan Griffith, who previously served as Chief of Staff to Saskatchewan’s Minister of Rural & Remote Health.

Janet MacEachern, who has served as Chief of Staff to Minister of Labour & Immigration Jason Copping since 2019, is the new Director of Talent in the Premier’s Office, replacing Amber Griffiths who will be taking maternity leave.

Ariella Kimmel, Chief of Staff to Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer, is leaving and will be replaced by Jonah Mozeson, who currently works as Chief of Staff to Minister Justice and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu. 

Riley Braun, who currently serves as Senior Advisor to Madu, will replace Mozeson as Acting Chief of Staff.

Also leaving is Robyn Henwood, who has served as Chief of Staff to Minister Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney and previously served as Director of the United Conservative Party Caucus.

Henwood will be replaced by Kulshan Gill. Gill was acclaimed as the UCP candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona in the 2019 provincial election after an unsuccessful bid to win the party nomination in Edmonton-Manning. 

Veteran political communicator Jerry Bellikka is replacing Mat Steppan as Chief of Staff to Energy Minister Sonya Savage. Bellikka recently returned to the Legislature to work as Press Secretary for the Minister Community and Social Services.

Also apparently departing Savage’s office is Press Secretary Peter Brodsky, who only recently joined the Energy Minister’s office after previous Press Secretary Kavi Bal joined the Premier’s Office as Director of Strategic Planning.

Steppan is now Chief of Staff to acting Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver, who was appointed to the dual role following Tracy Allard’s return from a Hawaiian vacation last month.

Jonathan Koehli, McIver’s current Chief of Staff for the dual role, will now become Chief of Staff to Copping in Labour & Immigration.

Before he returned to work at the Legislature in January 2020, Koehli previously served as Chief of Staff to Finance Minister Robin Campbell before the Progressive Conservative Party’s defeat in the 2015 election.

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Alberta Politics

A spectre is haunting the UCP – the spectre of communism

From the columns of Postmedia newspapers to the halls of the United Conservative Party caucus, the the spectre of communism and socialism is striking fear in the minds of political elites who see Bolsheviks breeding in every corner of Alberta, from City Council chambers to voluntary blood donor clinics.

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

Using the same abrasive approach that got him promoted in cabinet, Justice Minister and Edmonton-South West UCP MLA Kaycee Madu warned against reforms to the Calgary police budget, describing City Councillors in the province’s largest city as “a bunch of socialists who would prefer to have a chaotic world. That is how they win elections and that is how they demonize people they disagree with.”

Last week, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo UCP MLA Tany Yao described labour unions and advocates opposed to his private members’ bill to legalize corporate for-profit blood donation clinics as socialists who want to harvest organs from people without consent.

This was not the first time Yao had warned against the perils of the Red Menace.

Tany Yao UCP MLA Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo
Tany Yao

In July 2020, Yao stood on the floor of the Assembly and claimed that Edmonton-Ellerslie NDP MLA Rod Loyola was the former leader of the Communist Party. Yao was later forced to withdraw his claim because it was not true.

Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland UCP MLA Shane Getson posted on Facebook that there was a “VIP section” in hell awaiting the “Socialist NDP.”

And in a video on Facebook, Getson described the federal Liberal Party as communists.”They think it’s the red they used to vote for twenty years ago. Well, the only red that’s happening there is so akin to that hammer and sickle right now, it’s not a centrist, it’s that slow dance to socialism,” Getson said.

In February 2020, Airdrie-Cochrane UCP MLA Peter Guthrie wrote an entire MLA column warning about the dangers of communism. Guthrie’s column was syndicated on the websites of weekly Postmedia newspapers across Canada.

Red Deer-South UPC MLA Jason Stephan referred to the NDP’s elected term in government as a “socialist occupation” and described other provinces as “hostile, parasitic partners” that depend on Alberta for welfare payments.

Former UCP cabinet minister Tanya Fir has referred to the former NDP government as a “socialist dumpster fire.”

Ron Orr UCP MLA Lacombe Ponoka
Ron Orr

And who could forget the time Lacombe-Ponoka UCP MLA Ron Orr warned that the legalization of marijuana could lead to a communist revolution.

Former Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis, who led the votes in Alberta, published an op-ed in the National Post that accused Trudeau of plotting a “Socialist coup” in Canada.

Even Premier Jason Kenney is known to toss around flamboyant warnings about the rise of ‘bohemian Marxism’ or radical European green-left eco-socialists who have undue influence over the international banking system. A fixture on the libertarian think tank symposium circuit, Kenney frequently indulges in attacks on socialism in his responses to the opposition in Question Period.

Peter Guthrie MLA Airdrie-Cochrane UCP Communism
Peter Guthrie

Of course, this kind of rhetoric is nothing new.

It appears that there could be a competition among UCP MLAs about who can sound the most like a paranoid Social Credit MLA from the 1950s.

In Alberta, history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

Of course, it has been a long time since any major political party in Alberta could have been described as socialist or communist.

UCP claims that Rachel Notley and the NDP are dangerous socialists are meant to marginalize and discredit the opposition or bait their opponents into a debate. But it is increasingly clear that in the minds of some government MLAs, the talking points have become reality.

The anti-communist terminology is from another era and, quite frankly, it is very weird.

As a government and now as official opposition, the Alberta NDP were only slightly to the political left of the Progressive Conservative Party it defeated in 2015.

In reality, the NDP government only moved Alberta to the mainstream of labour laws compared to other provinces and the only industries it ever seriously mused about nationalizing were driver’s road tests and hospital laundry services.

In most other provinces, the Alberta NDP would be considered closer to a centre-leftish Liberal Party than anything resembling anything Karl Marx wrote about.


Secret Public Inquiry delayed again

The final report of the McCarthy-esq Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns has been delayed again. The $3.5 million public inquiry, which was lauded by Kenney as part of his “Fight Back Strategy” against alleged enemies of Alberta’s oil industry, was granted a second extension to submit its final report to Energy Minister Sonya Savage.

The public inquiry that has operated in near-complete secrecy under the leadership of Commissioner Steve Allan will now submit its final report to Savage on Jan. 31, 2021, at least until the deadline is extended again.