“At year’s end there is a saying, “Out with the old and in with the new”
“Unfortunately, this does not apply to your St. Albert Provincial Liberal Constituency Association. The reality of our situation is that “The old is not out and the new is the same old.”
A letter sent to current and past Alberta Liberal Party supporters in the St. Albert constituency gives a glimpse into how disorganized and far-behind the Liberal Party is in preparing for the next provincial election in some constituencies.
The letter, signed by local activist Wilf Borgstede and constituency association president and former MLA Jack Flaherty, outlines the trouble that the Liberals have had in recruiting a candidate to run in that constituency in the upcoming provincial election.
The letter makes reference to two prospective candidates who showed interest in running, but declined because of the lack of support the local organization would be able to provide them during the election campaign.
According to the letter, the last Annual General Meeting was held in 2008, the year which Mr. Flaherty was defeated. The letter suggests that despite a brief boost in interest in the party during the recent leadership contest and when former Tory MLA Raj Sherman was chosen as leader, that interest has since disbursed.
When contacted about this letter, Liberal Party campaign chairman Corey Hogan, always an optimist, wrote via email that “I suspect the launch of our platform on the 6th will further invigorate members and supporters in St. Albert and elsewhere as we get prepared for the coming contest.”
The letter may be symptomatic of broader problems facing the Liberal Party. Two staffers who recently left the Liberal Caucus Office have landed in the PC camp. Former Liberal Researcher Kyle Olsen recently left the Caucus for a job as a researcher at the PC Caucus and former public relations coordinator Andrew Fisher is now supporting Edmonton-Centre PC candidate Akash Kokhar‘s campaign.
Edmonton-Centre: Young lawyerAkash Khokhar defeated Nicole Martel to win the PC nomination. In the next election, Mr. Khokhar will face Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, who has represented the constituency since 1997.
Edmonton-Gold Bar: Past Mayoral candidate David Dorward defeated past City Council candidate Lori Jeffrey-Heany to become the PC candidate. This is Mr. Dorward’s second attempt at becoming MLA in Gold Bar. In 2008, he placed second to Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald, who will be retiring at the next election.
Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville: Strathcona County Councillor Jacquie Fenske defeated Tofield Mayor Nabil Chehayeb, former Fort Saskatchewan Mayor Jim Sheasgreen, Gene Hrabec, and Adam Kozakiewicz to become the PC candidate. Former Premier Ed Stelmach has represented this region since 1993.
UPCOMING NOMINATION MEETINGS
The PCs will be holding a packed week of nomination meetings that will see Alberta’s 40 year governing party nearly fill its entire slate of 87 candidates. Two final nomination meetings are scheduled to be held in February to replace MLAs who recently announced their retirements.
I will be away from my blog for the next week, so to earn forgiveness for my absence, here is a look at the PC nomination meetings that will be happening in the final week of January. I will provide updates when I return.
Lethbridge-East (January 26, 2012): Former Liberal MLA Bridget Pastoor is facing Lethbridge County Reeve Lorne Hickey for the PC nomination. Ms. Pastoor has represented the constituency since 2004 and cross the floor to join the PC caucus in late 2011. Lethbridge Alderman Jeff Carlson and Lethbridge Senior Citizens Origanization executive director Rob Miyashiro announced this week that they will seek the Liberal nomination (date not scheduled). The constituency has been represented by Liberal MLAs since 1993.
Edmonton-Riverview (January 27, 2012): Edmonton police office Steve Young and businessman Tom Choucair are seeking the PC nomination. The constituency has been represented by Liberal MLA Kevin Taft, who is not seeking re-election.
Edmonton-Strathcona (January 27, 2012): No candidate stepped forward to claim the nomination, though the date is still listed on the PC Party website.
Airdrie (January 28, 2012): Former Airdrie Mayor Linda Bruce, Councillor Kelly Hegg, and Michael Crawford are seeking the PC nomination. The constituency is represented by MLA Rob Anderson, who left the PC Party in 2010 to join the Wildrose Alliance.
Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock (January 28, 2012): The retirement of Speaker Ken Kowalski, who has represented this region since 1979, has attracted five candidates including Morinville Mayor Lloyd Bertschi, Westlock Town Councillor David Truckey, ministerial executive assistant Tim Schultz, and Westlock County Councillors Maureen Kubinec and Bert Seatter.
Calgary-Varsity (January 28, 2012): Former Nexen Vice-President Donna Kennedy-Glans is facing Ph.D. business student Rhiannon MacDonnell. The constituency has been represented by Liberal MLA Harry Chase since 2004. Mr. Chase is retiring at the next election.
Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo (January 28, 2012): Four candidates have lined up to earn the right to face PC-turned-Wildrose MLA Guy Boutiler as the PC candidate. Candidates include Councillor Mike Allen, teacher Andrew Highfield, Nick Sanders, and School Trustee Jeff Thompson.
Grande Prairie-Smoky (January 28, 2012): The retirement of former cabinet minister Mel Knight has sparked a three-way nomination contest that has drawn Grande Prairie County Reeve Everett McDonald,Tab Pollock, and Tom Burton.
Highwood (January 28, 2012): Associate publisher at the Okotoks Western Wheel John Barlow, John Hankins, and Okotoks Town Councillor Ed Sands are seeking the PC nomination. Wildrose leader Danielle Smith is also seeking election in this constituency.
Little Bow (January 28, 2012): Deputy Reeve of the County of Lethbridge Henry Doeve and former County Councillor John Kolk are seeking the PC nomination.
Medicine Hat (January 28, 2012): Former Alderman Darren Hirsch, retired school district superintendent Linda Rossler, and Investment Advisor Dan Hein are seeking the PC nomination to replace long-time MLA Rob Renner. Mr. Hein is the former campaign manager for Medicine Hat MP LaVar Payne
Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood (January 30, 2012): Past City Council candidate Cris Basualdo and Emerson Mayers are the two candidates I have heard are seeking the PC nomination. The constituency has been represented by NDP MLA Brian Mason since 2000.
Edmonton-South West (January 30, 2012): This new constituency has drawn the candidacy of four PC nominees Charles Balenga, Tofael Chowdhury, Matt Jeneroux, and Eva Mah-Borsato.
Calgary-Buffalo (January 30, 2012): Donna Haslam is the only candidate that I am aware of who is seeking the PC nomination. The constituency has been represented by popular Liberal MLA Kent Hehr since 2008.
With an election expected to be held in the next few months and a new Premier setting a new tone, many long-time and not-so-long-time Members of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly have decided that now is time to retire or look for greener pastures.
Some of the retiring politicians have spent a decade or more in office, so before the writ is dropped I thought it would be fun to take a look at what some of them looked like in their younger years in office.
Nominated Alberta election candidates by region. December 8, 2011
The sudden burst of retirement announcements by Stelmach-era cabinet ministers has prompted a flurry of nomination activity in constituencies that could be considered Tory strongholds (where winning the PC nomination is typically the toughest fight):
Banff-Cochrane: Mayor Truper McBride is expected to enter the PC nomination contest in this mountain/foothills constituency today. Current PC MLA and former cabinet minister Janis Tarchukannounced this week that she will seek re-election, though some political watchers expect the former cabinet minister to retire when the next election is called.
Grande Prairie-Smoky: Grande Prairie County Reeve Everett McDonaldis seeking the PC nomination. The constituency is currently represented by MLA and former cabinet minister Mel Knight, who is not seeking re-election.
Vermilion-Lloydminster: Dr. Richard Starke is seeking the PC nomination, which is being left vacant by retiring MLA and former cabinet minister Lloyd Snelgrove.
Aside from the constituencies represented by retiring former cabinet ministers, here are other updates to the list of declared and nominated election candidates:
Calgary-Buffalo: The NDP are expected to acclaim Rebecca Eras as their candidate on December 13
Calgary-Cross: The NDP are expected to acclaim Reinaldo Conterras on December 13. Mr. Conterras replaces previously nominated candidate Preet Sihota, who withdrew his candidacy for personal reasons.
Calgary-Currie: Five prospective nomination candidates were testing the waters at a recent Meet and Greet event organized by the Calgary-Currie PC association. Potential nominees noted to have attended the event include former MLA and Alderman Jon Lord, Stefan Spargo, Chair of the Calgary International Children’s Festival Charity Callahan, former Calgary-McCall constituency president Dale Galbraith, school principalChristine Cusanelli, and past-President of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association Brian Holtby.
Calgary-Glenmore: The PC nomination has been scheduled for January 28, 2012. Linda Johnson has declared her candidacy for the nomination.
Calgary-Hays: Former Alderman and recent Mayoral candidate Ric McIver defeated incumbent MLA Art Johnston to nab the PC nomination. This is the second time that Mr. Johnston, the parliamentary assistant to Premier Alison Redford, has lost a nomination contest this year. In May 2011, he was defeated by Rick Fraser in the Calgary-South East PC nomination.
Calgary-Mountain View: Lawyer Cecilia Low has announced her intention to seek the PC nomination, which has yet to be officially scheduled.
Calgary-North West: The NDP are expected to acclaim Brian Malkinson as their candidate on December 13.
Edmonton-Gold Bar: Liberal Party members nominated Josipa Petrunic as their candidate earlier this week (read more about Ms. Petrunic here). The PC nomination date has been scheduled for January 25, 2012. Past candidate David Dorward is the only candidate to have declared his candidacy.
Edmonton-Whitemud: The NDP are expected to acclaim Muriel Stanley Venne as their candidate on December 13.
Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo: After circulating a rumour about a secret nomination meeting, Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier has decided that he will seek his party’s nomination in the new Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo constituency.
Leduc-Beaumont: Perennial political candidate Hana Razga is seeking the NDP nomination. Ms. Razga recently ran for Edmonton City Council in Ward 8.
In May 2008, Marz introduced a motion that “Bill 203, the Election Statutes (Fixed Election Dates) Amendment Act, 2008, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.” Marz’s motion was passed when 36 PC MLAs (including Allred) out-voted 5 opposition MLAs.”
Now it is November 2011, the Progressive Conservatives are still in office, Premier Ed Stelmach is gone, Premier Redford is in, Mr. Marz is retiring, Mr. Allred is being challenged for the PC nomination (and may retire), and Alberta might get fixed-election dates.
A seasoned strategist, Mr. MacDonald is said to be the man behind Mr. Decore’s infamous ‘debt clock’ that helped launch the Liberals into Official Opposition status in the 1993 election (and their best showing since the 1917 election). While the addition of Mr. MacDonald may boost their roster, it eats into the narrative that Tory MLA-turned-Liberal leader Dr. Raj Sherman is promoting about the birth (or re-birth) of the “new Liberals.”
Also biting into Dr. Sherman’s “new Liberals” narrative is the nomination of five former one-term MLAs as his party’s candidates in five potentially winnable constituencies – Mo Elsalhy in Edmonton-McClung, Bharat Agnihotri in Edmonton-Ellerslie, Weslyn Mather in Edmonton-Mill Woods, Rick Miller in Edmonton-Rutherford, and Bruce Miller in Edmonton-Glenora. Some of these are good candidates, but certainly not new.
A new face in the next election, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith has floated in conservative political circles since the 1990s and two of her party’s four MLAs have been in the Assembly for more than a decade. The “nascent” or “rookie” Alberta Party has existed in various forms since the 1980s and their leader Glenn Taylor ran for the NDP in the 1997 election.
Refusing to believe that new will ever be old or old will ever be new, the New Democrats have put a fresh face on an veteran politician. NDP leader Brian Mason has a fresh face – at least for the short-term – as he has shaved his mustache for Movember to raise awareness about prostate cancer. Mr. Mason has told the media that his trademark cookie-duster will return, meaning that once again, old will be new again.
I have updated the list of candidates who have been nominated or declared their intentions to stand as candidates in Alberta’s next provincial election expected in 2012. Please email comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if there are additions to the list.
Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock: CUPE activist Trudy Grebenstein is seeking the NDP nomination scheduled for November 14, 2011. Ms. Grebenstein previously contested the NDP nomination in Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater on September 21 and was defeated by Mandy Melnyk.
Bonnyville-Cold Lake: Many-time NDP candidate Luanne Bannister is seeking the NDP nomination on November 16. Ms. Bannister has previously stood as an NDP candidate in the 2004 election in Cardston-Taber-Warner and in the 2008 election in Drayton Valley-Calmar.
Calgary-Fort: Jeevan Mangat has been nominated as the new Wildrose candidate in Calgary-Fort. Mr. Mangat replaces previously nominated candidate Bob McInnis, whostepped down for personal reasons earlier this year. Also contesting the nomination wasDalton Dalik.
Calgary-Hawkwood: Previously nominated in Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill,Collin Anderson is now seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Hawkwood. In the 2008 election, Mr. Anderson stood as the NDP candidate in Calgary-North West.
Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill: Replacing the previously nominated Mr. Anderson (see above) is Anne Wilson who is seeking the NDP nomination scheduled for November 10. Ms. Wilson was the NDP candidate in Banff-Cochrane in the 2008 election.
Cardston-Taber-Warner: The NDP have nominated Barbara Eng-Bonthoux as their long-shot candidate in this deep rural south constituency. In the 2008 election, NDP candidate Susan Sirias earned 190 votes out of the 9,505 votes cast.
Edmonton-Centre: The NDP nomination originally scheduled for last week has been postponed. The candidate expected to be nominated was Nadine Bailey, who had stood as the federal NDP candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont in the recent federal election.
Red Deer-South: On November 3, 2011, the Alberta Party is expected to nominate Serge Gingras as their candidate.
Rocky Mountain House:Jocelyn Stenger is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate at a meeting scheduled for November 17, 2011. Ms. Stenger is currently employed in the Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood constituency office of NDP MLA Brian Mason.
Vermilion-Lloydminster: Many-time NDP candidate Ray Stone is seeking his party’s nomination on November 16, 2011. Mr. Stone stood as his party’s candidate in Vermilion-Lloydminster in the 2004 election and as the federal NDP candidate in Vegreville-Wainwright in the 2008 and 2011 elections.
The three candidates eliminated on the first-ballot vote to choose the next leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives have all announced their support for front-runner Gary Mar. Carrying 40% of the vote on the first-ballot, it is understandable why the three would endorse the front-runner in terms of both personal political calculation and party unity.
Scattering a little differently, the group of MLAs who supported the three eliminated candidates have begun to throw their support among the remaining candidates.
Leadership candidate Doug Horner held a media conference yesterday to announce that Ted Morton supporter Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Carl Benito was joining his campaign.
Including Minister Denis, there remain five MLA supporters of Dr. Morton who have yet to throw their support behind any of the top three candidates (as far as I am aware). Those remaining MLAs are Livingstone-Macleod MLA Evan Berger, Highwood MLA George Groeneveld, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Tony Vandermeer, and Edmonton-Manning MLA Peter Sandhu.
Two more endorsements have been added to the map of MLA support in the 2011 Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership contest.
Three-term Calgary-Shaw MLA and Tourism Minister Cindy Ady has endorsed leadership candidate Gary Mar. Minister Ady is Mr. Mar’s third Calgary MLA endorsements, following support from Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber, Calgary-Nose Hill MLA Neil Brown, and Calgary-West MLA Ron Liepert.
Word on the street is that first-term St. Albert MLA Ken Allred has thrown his support behind former Finance Minister Ted Morton. This is Dr. Morton’s tenth MLA endorsement and sixth endorsement from an MLA in the Edmonton region.
Who would have thought that the choice of Edmonton’s PC MLAs would be Dr. Morton?
I sure picked an interesting time to leave the province for a few days. After a short absence, it has been exhausting catching up on all the political games and intrigue that happened over the weekend and earlier this week.
Leaked Private Health Care Agenda
The Liberals released an internal government document (pdf) showing a drive towards increased privatization of health care in Alberta through private insurance. The document was presented to the Minister’s Advisory Committee on Health and also reported that the months-long province-wide consultation spearheaded by Edmonton-Rutherford PC MLA Fred Horne encountered a “high level of skepticism.” This skepticism was widely reported in the media and was not reflected in the committee’s final report released in September 2010.
I was surprised to read Liberal leader David Swann‘s quote that this was the first time he had seen any evidence that the government was even considering a more private approach to health care, especially since he spoke at a rally in front of the now bankrupt private-for-profit Health Resource Centre only a few months ago (HRC sits across the street from his constituency office in Calgary-Mountain View).I am willing to believe that Dr. Swann may have been misquoted, but if not he should have a chat with his caucus colleague Kevin Taft, who co-authored the book “Clear Answers: The Economics and Politics of For-Profit Medicine” in 2000.
Earlier this year, former Premier Ralph Klein admitted that he had tried and failed to privatize Alberta’s health care system:
“I tried it twice — the Third Way and the Mazankowski report — and I failed.”
– Former Premier Ralph Klein (Source: “Klein urges two-tired health system,” Edmonton Journal, January 26, 2010)
Emergency Room wait-times amendment fails
Now Independent Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Dr. Raj Sherman‘s amendment to enshrine emergency room wait times in Bill 17: The Alberta Health Act has failed. After a long debate that started last Wednesday, continued overnight until Thursday, and resumed this week Dr. Sherman, members of the three opposition parties, Independent MLA Dave Taylor, and St. Albert PC MLA Ken Allred voted in favor of the amendment (it failed). I understand the intention of Dr. Sherman’s motion and his good intentions in general, but I have to agree with the Tories that enshrining wait-times may create more problems than solutions (or more lawsuits).
After the amendment failed, the Alberta Health Act quickly passed third reading by the PC MLA majority in the Assembly. This new law concentrates a concerning amount of authority over our health care system into the hands of the Minister of Health & Wellness, instead of the elected Assembly.
The plan sets out some goals for emergency room targets and continuing care spaces, but does not address some of the key capacity issues that are creating the problems in the health care system. With this government’s habit of constantly tinkering and re-announcing projects and plans, Albertans should not be blamed for being skeptical about politically convenient re-announcements and health care policy created on the fly.
Was Fred Horne just being “Fred friendly”?
Rumours began to emerge late last week questioning Dr. Sherman’s mental health. The whispering began after MLA Mr. Horne placed a phone call to the head of the Alberta Medical Association, Dr. Patrick White, concerning the state of Dr. Sherman’s mental health. A self-described friend of Dr. Sherman’s, Mr. Horne held a media conference last Friday clarifying that he did make the call, but it was not to discredit the Doctor.
It might just be me, but am pretty sure that calling up the head of your friend’s professional association to question the state of his mental health and then talking to the media about it does not make you a good friend (especially when this friend is an MLA and medical doctor who has just been suspended from your party’s caucus for being highly critical of their health care policies).
Maybe it is something about Battle River-Wainwright, because this is not the first time an idea coming from that constituency was shot down by the political establishment. At the 2008 PC policy convention, that constituency association brought forward a motion supporting fixed elections dates. The motion passed at the policy convention and was soon after introduced as a private members bill (Bill 203: Election Statutes (Fixed Election Dates)) in the Assembly by St. Albert PC MLA Ken Allred.
Mr. Allred’s private members bill was attacked by Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills PC MLA Richard Marz, who claimed that the creation of fixed election dates would allow public sector unions to schedule strikes near election dates (because as all Albertans know, it is those evil public sector Unions who have been standing in between the PC Party and majority governments for the past forty years… oh wait…). The fixed election dates bill was tabled to be discussed six months later. Two years later, the bill remains tabled and there is no sign that any debate will reassume.
On a similar note, Edmonton-McClung PC MLA David Xiao hopes to start a discussion on mandatory voting in Alberta. While the idea probably has enough merit to deserve the opportunity to be debated and fully discussed, it is likely doomed to reach the waste bin of ideas to combat electoral disinterest.
Liberal Environment Policy Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman released the Liberal Caucus environment policy yesterday, which includes a hard cap on greenhouse gas emissions by 2017 and a provincial groundwater inventory and water quality monitoring program.
As part of a country-wide speaking tour, Council of Canadian chairperson Maude Barlow was in Edmonton in October and warned against the creation of water markets that could open the sale fresh water from Alberta to corporations and overseas markets. Ms. Barlow believes that water should be held in a public trust and has outlined her beliefs in a new book, Blue Covenant: The Global The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water