MLA Joe Ceci announced yesterday that he is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Buffalo and his third term in the Legislature in the expected 2023 provincial election.
A nomination meeting has been scheduled for Nov. 15, 2021.
Ceci was first elected as MLA for Calgary-Fort in 2015 and ran for re-election in Calgary-Buffalo on 2019 after a boundary change moved his neighbourhood into the downtown riding. Ceci served as Finance Minister during the NDP’s term in government and previously was elected to Calgary City Council from 1995 to 2010.
Calgary-Buffalo has a unique political history, having elected MLAs from non-conservative parties in 9 of the past 11 elections.
Liberal MLA Sheldon Chumir represented Calgary-Buffalo from 1986 until his death in 1992. Chumir was succeeded by Liberal Gary Dickson who won a 1992 by-election and served until 2001.
The riding was then represented by Progressive Conservative Harvey Cenaiko from 2001 until 2008, when Liberal MLA Kent Hehr defeated PC candidate and future City Councillor Sean Chu. Hehr served as MLA until 2015 when he jumped into federal politics and was elected as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Calgary-Centre.
NDP MLA Kathleen Ganley was elected in 2015 and ran for re-election in 2019 across the Bow River in Calgary-Mountain View, leaving the seat open for Ceci to run for re-election.
Ceci was re-elected with 48 per cent in 2019, defeating United Conservative Party challenger Tom Olsen, who placed second with39 per cent (Olsen was soon after appointed as CEO of the Canadian Energy Centre, a government-funded oil industry public relations company colloquially known as “The War Room”).
The NDP have also scheduled nomination meetings in Edmonton-Glenora on Oct. 27, Calgary-Falconridge on Oct. 29, and Calgary-Currie on Nov. 13.
Municipal politicians making the leap into provincial politics is a pretty common occurrence, but less common are former provincial politicians jumping into municipal politics.
This municipal election season, there are a handful of former Alberta MLAs who have decided to put their names on the ballot to run for their local municipal council. Here are a few that I’ve noticed on the lists of local candidates:
– Former NDP MLA Annie McKitrick and former Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Quest are both running for Mayor of Strathcona County. McKittrick served as the MLA for Sherwood Park from 2015 to 2019 and as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Education from 2017 to 2019. Quest served as the PC MLA for Strathcona-Sherwood Park from 2008 to 2015 and Associate Minister for Seniors from 2013 to 2014. He ran for the Alberta Party in the 2019 election.
– Former NDP MLA Eric Rosendahl running for Hinton Town Council. Rosendahl was the NDP MLA for West Yellowhead from 2015 to 2019.
– Former NDP MLA Colin Piquette is running to become a councillor in the Village of Boyle. Piquette served as the MLA for Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater from 2015 to 2019 and was the President of the Boyle Chamber of Commerce before he was elected to the Legislature. He is the son of Leo Piquette, who was the NDP MLA for Athabasca-Lac La Biche from 1986 to 1989.
– Victor Doerksen is running for Red Deer City Council. Doerksen was the Progressive Conservative MLA for Red Deer-South from 1993 to 2008 and Minister of Innovation and Science from 2001 to 2006. He finished seventh of eight candidates in the PC Party leadership in 2006.
– Mike Allen is running to become the next Mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Allen was the PC MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo from 2012 to 2015 with the exception of 2013 to 2014 when he sat as an Independent MLA after he was arrested in a prostitution sting operation while on a government trip to Minnesota (he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour and paid a $500 fine plus legal fees). If elected he would replace another former PC MLA, Don Scott, who was elected mayor in 2017 and is not seeking re-election.
– Former Wildrose MLA Wayne Anderson is running to become a councillor in Foothills County. Anderson was the Wildrose and United Conservative Party MLA for Highwood from 2015 to 2019.
– Former PC MLA Arno Doerksen has been acclaimed as a councillor in Newell County. Doerksen served as the PC MLA for Strathmore-Brooks from 2008 to 2012.
– Kent Hehrdropped out of Calgary mayoral election race only weeks after entering the race. Hehr served as the Liberal MLA for Calgary-Buffalo from 2008 to 2015 and as the Liberal MP for Calgary-Centre from 2015 to 2019.
– And filed under “blast from the past,” long-time municipal politician Bob Russell is running for Mayor in the City of St. Albert. Russell served on city council from 1989 to 1992, 1995 to 2001 and 2013 to 2017 and ran for mayor in 1992, but before his municipal career he was leader of the Alberta Liberal Party from 1971 to 1974.
Did I miss any former MLAs running in the municipal elections? Leave a comment below.
Alberta is a pretty boring place to spend a federal election. Even as the polls shift nationally, there is a good chance the seat total could be the same as the 2019 election: 33 Conservative and one NDP.
It’s a quiet campaign.
Unlike the 2019 election, when Albertans were still riled up from that year’s April provincial election and federal campaign issues like pipelines and the carbon tax, this year feels sleepy. The majority of Albertans will surely cast their ballots again on September for the Conservative Party, but it might not be with the same level of enthusiasm and gusto as the last election.
But, if there is a chance that any seats could switch parties, here are a few of the ridings where it might happen:
Probably one of the only centres of electoral excitement in Alberta is where Conservative candidate Kerry Diotte is seeking re-election for his third-term against New Democrat Blake Desjarlais.
The NDP are hoping they can elect a second MP from Alberta and are putting that hope into Desjarlais’ campaign. Party leader Jagmeet Singh has visited the riding twice in the past month, spending an entire day campaigning in the district during the first week of the election, and pouring volunteer, financial and online advertising resources into the local campaign.
If the NDP are going to pick up a second seat in Alberta in this election, this is it.
Even NDP MLAs, who shunned the federal party in 2019, have been campaigning with Desjarlais in his bid to unseat Diotte. Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin, Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman, Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan, Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang, Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen, and Edmonton-West Henday MLA Jon Carson have been spotted on the campaign trail in Edmonton-Griesbach.
Full list of candidates in Edmonton-Griesbach:
Communist: Alex Boykowich
Conservative: Kerry Diotte
Green: Heather Lau
Liberal: Habiba Mohamud
Libertarian: Morgan Watson
Marxist-Leninist: Mary Joyce
NDP: Blake Desjarlais
People’s Party: Thomas Matty
Conservative James Cumming and Liberal Randy Boissonnault are facing each other for the third time since 2015. Boissonnault won the first time they face each other in 2015 and Cumming unseated him in 2019.
NDP candidate Heather MacKenzie, a former public school board trustee and past municipal candidate, is hoping to dislodge the Liberals as the main alternative to the Conservatives.
NDP vote has held firm over the past three elections, suggesting that Boissonnault’s win in 2015 and defeat in 2019 was more about voters switching between the Conservatives and Liberals than a split between the Liberals and NDP.
Toronto Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland stopped in the district at the beginning of the campaign to support Boissonnault’s bid for re-election.
Full list of candidates in Edmonton-Centre:
Conservative: James Cumming
Liberal: Randy Boissonnault
Libertarian: Valerie Keefe
Marxist-Leninist: Merryn Edwards
NDP: Heather Mackenzie
People’s Party: Brock Crocker
Conservative Tim Uppal’s main challenger is city councillor Ben Henderson, who hopped south from his long-held municipal ward to run in his federal district.
While Uppal served as an MP for many terms, this is his first time running for re-election in Edmonton-Mill Woods. He was the MP for Edmonton-Sherwood Park from 2008 to 2015.
The district was represented by Liberal MP Amarjeet Sohi from 2015 to 2019. Sohi is running for Mayor of Edmonton.
Full list of candidates in Edmonton-Mill Woods:
Communist: Naomi Rankin
Conservative: Tim Uppal
Liberal: Ben Henderson
NDP: Nigel Logan
People’s Party: Paul McCormack
It’s a long-shot but if the Liberals are able to salvage their national campaign in the next two weeks they could be in a position to pick up this district that Liberal Kent Hehr won in 2015. In this election Liberal Sabrina Grover is challenging first-term Conservative Greg McLean.
Full list of candidates in Calgary-Centre:
Christian Heritage Party: David Pawlowski
Conservative: Greg McLean
Green: Austin Mullins
Liberal: Sabrina Grover
NDP: Juan Estevez Moreno
Conservative Jag Sahota is facing a challenge from city councillor George Chahal who is running for the Liberals in this northeast Calgary district. Chahal has been endorsed by Mayor Naheed Nenshi, and a handful of city councillors including mayoral election hopefuls Jyoti Gondek and Jeff Davison.
Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau’s plane touched down just long enough for him to appear at a rally in support of Chahal during the first week of the election.
Former MLA Darshan Kang was elected as the Liberal MP in 2015 but left the Liberal caucus after allegations of sexual harassment.
Full list of candidates in Calgary-Skyview:
Centrist Party: Nadeem Rana
Conservative: Jag Sahota
Green: Janna So
Independent: Lee Aquart
Liberal: George Chahal
Marxist-Leninist: Daniel Blanchard
NDP: Gurinder Singh Gill
People’s Party: Harry Dhillon
Conservative candidate Blake Richards will probably safely coast to re-election on September 20, but the cast of conservative characters in this district make it interesting. Richards faces former Ontario Conseravtive MP Derek Sloan, who has relocated to Alberta in order to hold rallies for anti-mask and COVID conspiracy theorists, Maverick Party candidate and rodeo competitor Tariq Elnaga, People’s Party candidate Nadine Wellwood, and Independent separatist candidate Ron Voss.
Full list of candidates in Banff-Airdire:
Conservative: Blake Richards
Green: Aidan Blum
Independent: Caroline O’Driscoll
Independent: Derek Sloan
Independent: Ron Voss
Liberal: David Gamble
Maverick: Tariq Elnaga
NDP: Sarah Zagoda
People’s Party: Nadine Wellwood
The smaller right-wing parties
It has yet to be seen what kind of impact two smaller right-wing parties will have in Alberta in this election.
People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier is in Alberta this week holding a series of rallies and it seems like the right-wing populist party is gaining support among disenchanted conservatives and anti-vaxxer crowds.
Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman has been spotted at People’s Party events and Bernier also met with Cypress-Medicine Hat Drew Barnes, who currently sits as an Independent MLA after being ejected from the United Conservative Party caucus earlier in the summer. It also appears as though outgoing Fort McMurray-Cold Lake Conservative MP David Yurdiga endorsed the local People’s Party candidate in a post on his personal Facebook account.
The separatist Maverick Party is only running candidates in districts they have determined are not likely to elect a Liberal or NDP MP, which is most of Alberta, but limiting themselves to running in Conservative strongholds has probably eliminated their chances of being relevant in this election.
Former talk radio host Dave Rutherford has been joining Maverick Party interim leader Jay Hill at candidate events across the province.
Sabrina Grover has been acclaimed as the federal Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Centre, according to a notice posted on the party website.
Grover is a Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer Nutrition International and Principal of Provoke Public Relations.
Grover was active in Alberta’a Progressive Conservative Party in the mid-2010s until Jason Kenney took over the leadership in 2017. She was also involved in Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver’s campaign for the party leadership in 2014.
Calgary-Centre was represented by Liberal MP Kent Hehr from 2015 to 2019. Hehr was defeated by Conservative Greg McLean in 2019. McLean is running for re-election.
The only exception to the wave of unchallenged nominations is in Edmonton Strathcona, where Tunde Obasan and Rick Peterson are seeking the Conservative nomination to challenge New Democratic Party MP Heather McPherson, who was also acclaimed, in the next federal election. This is the only district in Alberta not currently represented by a Conservative MP.
Meanwhile, there is a surprise east of Edmonton. Two candidates have announced their plans to seek the Liberal Party nomination in the Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan district east of Edmonton. Tanya Reeb Holm and Ron Thiering are seeking the nomination at a meeting scheduled for June 22, 2021. Thiering was acclaimed as the party’s candidate in this riding in 2019 and finished in third place with 9.9 per cent in that year’s federal election.
Incumbent Member of Parliament Garnett Genuis has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate.
John Kuhn has been nominated as the separatist Maverick Party candidate. Kuhn was elected as mayor of the southern Alberta town of Bassano in 2007 but resigned four months later.
Banff-Airdrie: MP Blake Richards has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Richards was first elected in 2008. Tariq Elnaga has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate. Elnaga is Vice President of the Cochrane Roping Club and the Chute Experience Director with the Airdrie Pro Rodeo.
Battle River-Crowfoot – Doug Karwandy has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate.
Calgary-Centre: Sabrina Grover is seeking the Liberal Party nomination in this central Calgary district. Grover is a Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer Nutrition International and Principal of Provoke Public Relations. She was active in the Progressive Conservative Party in the mid-2010s. The district was represented by Liberal MP Kent Hehr from 2015 to 2019. Michael Pewtress is running as an Independent candidate in this district.
Calgary Forest Lawn: MP Jasraj Singh Hallan has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Hallan was first elected in 2019.
Calgary Heritage – MP Bob Benzen has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Benzen was first elected in the 2017 by-election held to replace former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Calgary Nose Hill: Jessica Dale-Walker is seeking the Liberal Party nomination.
Calgary Rocky Ridge: Dave Robinson has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate.
Calgary Skyview: Harry Dhillon has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate.
Calgary Signal Hill: Ajay Coop has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate.
Edmonton Centre: MP James Cumming has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Cumming was first elected in 2019 when he defeated Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault.
Edmonton Griesbach: MP Kerry Diotte has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Diotte served one-term on city council before he was elected to the House of Commons in 2015.
Edmonton Riverbend: MP Matt Jeneroux has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Jeneroux was first elected as MP in 2015 and previously served as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton-South West from 2012 to 2015. Shawn Gray is seeking the NDP nomination, which is scheduled to take place on June 15.
Edmonton West: MP Kelly McCauley has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. McCauley was first elected in 2015.
Edmonton Wetaskiwin: Tyler Beauchamp has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate. Travis Calliou no longer running as a Veterans Coalition Party candidate.
Foothills: MP John Barlow has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Barlow was first elected in 2015.
Grande Prairie-Mackenzie: Benita Pedersen has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate.
The results across Canada were a mixed colour of red, orange, green, blue, and bleu as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is returning to Ottawa to form a new Liberal minority government. But the results in Alberta were anything but mixed.
The Conservative Party earned 69.2 percent of the total vote in Alberta in Monday’s federal election, which is 3 percent higher than the party’s previous high-water mark of 66.8 in Alberta in the 2011 federal election.
It is no surprise that the vast majority of Albertans voted Conservative and that nearly all of the province’s elected Members of Parliament are also Conservative. This has happened in virtually every election since I was born, and about 25 years before that too.
Conservative candidates were elected or re-elected in most ridings in ranges from 70 percent to over 80 percent. It appears that Battle River-Crowfoot remains the strongest Conservative voting riding in Canada, with 85 percent of voters in that riding supporting the Conservatives.
Conservatives also dominated in Alberta’s two largest cities, earning 69 percent in Calgary, and 63 percent of the vote in Edmonton, which voted overwhelmingly for the Alberta NDP in the recent provincial election.
The Conservative Party and its predecessor parties have dominated Alberta for decades, and the Conservative have represented the majority of Alberta’s federal ridings since 1958, and have held all of the province’s seats from 1972 to 1977, 1977 to 1988 and 2006 to 2008.
This election has once again reminded Canadians of the regional divides in our country but it should also not be a surprise. Regional division is a feature of Canadian politics and our First Past the Post electoral system exaggerates these divides.
While the NDP convincingly held off Conservative challenger Conservative Sam Lilly and Liberal Eleanor Olszewski, this election further exposed fractures between the provincial and federal NDP in Alberta.
McPherson’s opponents delighted in a decision by Rachel Notley to withhold her endorsement of McPherson until days before election day but it appears to have had no impact on the results in the riding. McPherson finished with 47 percent of the vote, four points ahead of now-former MP Linda Duncan‘s results from 2015.
The Liberals saw their province-wide vote total in Alberta cut to 13.7 percent, down from 24.6 percent in 2015. The personal unpopularity of Trudeau in Alberta, fuelled by angst and frustration with the current economic situation and the consistently low international price of oil, made it very unlikely that the Liberals would do well in Alberta in 2019.
Despite Sohi’s loss in Monday’s election, the congenial and personally popular politician is frequently named as a potential candidate for Edmonton’s 2021 mayoral election if Don Iveson decides not to seek re-election.
What could a Liberal minority government mean for Albertans?
The prospect of the Liberal minority government influenced by the NDP and Greens could lead to the introduction of new national programs that will benefit Albertans – including universal pharmacare and dental care, and expanded childcare coverage – and the prospect of real electoral reform that could ease some of the rigid political divides we saw in Monday’s election.
Trudeau announced today that his government plans to move ahead with the construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project, despite delays caused by court challenges from First Nations communities. Because the construction of the pipeline project does not require any votes of Parliament, the minority situation is not likely to impact the construction of the project.
Oil pipeline aside, the Liberals are expected to push forward on their climate change plans, including the introduction of a federal carbon tax in Alberta next year. In what could be a sign of changing times, New Brunswick’s Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs announced his plans to create a provincial carbon tax, dropping his opposition the federal carbon tax.
Kenney still campaigning…
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is showing no sign he plans to end his campaign against Trudeau, announcing this week that he has sent a letter to the prime minister outlining the Alberta government’s demands, including a plan for a resource corridor and changes to the equalization formula (none of which Trudeau campaigned for ahead of Monday’s election).
Kenney has announced plans to hold a series of town hall meetings to gauge voter frustration following the federal election. This could be similar to the MLA Committee on Alberta’s Role in Confederation created by Ralph Klein and chaired by Edmonton MLA Ian McClelland in 2004, which travelled the province to gauge support for the Firewall manifesto (the committee’s final report rejected most of the manifesto’s proposals).
The town halls are both a relief valve and a steering wheel that allows people to vent their frustrations while allowing Kenney, as Klein would say, to try to keep ahead of the crowd.
The results in Alberta and bot-driven promotion of the #wexit hashtag on Twitter have fuelled a surge of media interest of Alberta separatism, an idea that has no wide-spread support in this province.
Many Albertans are feeling a real sense of frustration with the federal government, as Monday’s election results demonstrate, but there is no evidence that Albertans are flocking en masse to separatism. None.
We are back from our summer break with a special Question and Answer edition of the Daveberta Podcast. Dave dives deep into our mailbag to answer some of the great Alberta politics and federal election questions our listeners have sent in over the past few weeks.
You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We always love to feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.
Note: In this episode we referred to the investigation into sexual harrassment allegations against MP Kent Hehr’s as being inconclusive. This is incorrect. The third-party report found the claims against Hehr were legitimate, but details of the independent investigation were not publicly released. We apologize for this mistake.
Edmonton-Strathcona is the only electoral district where the federal New Democratic Party has nominated candidate in Alberta, with Heather McPherson narrowly defeating Paige Gorsak in November 2018. The district has been represented by NDP MP Linda Duncan since 2008 and the party is expected to face a very tough challenge to hold the seat again in 2019.
The NDP have scheduled a nomination contest in Lethbridge, with Shandi Bleiken expected to be acclaimed.
Two former federal NDP candidates from the 2015 election were elected as MLAs in the recent provincial election. Newly elected Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin and Edmonton-Meadows MLA Jasvir Deol were both candidates for the federal NDP in the 2015 election.
It is believed that the federal NDP, as well as the federal Liberals, held off holding nomination contests in Alberta until after the election due to the divided loyalties of their supporters and activists on the provincial level. Many supporters of the federal Liberals in Alberta openly supported Rachel Notley‘s NDP, with others divided between the Alberta Party and the provincial Liberal Party.
At least one former provincial NDP candidate wants to be a federal Liberal candidate in October. Jordan Stein ran for the Alberta NDP in Calgary-Glenmore and is now seeking the federal Liberal nomination in Calgary-Confederation. Stein defeated incumbent MLA Anam Kazim to secure the NDP nomination in the district and earned 32 percent of the vote in the April 2019 election.
In a note on her Facebook page, Stein lists a number of reasons for her decision to seek the federal Liberal nomination, including climate change. “The climate is indifferent to our partisanship, it’s indifferent to our opinions but it’s effects can be mitigated by the action we take today,” Stein wrote.
The Liberals did not win Calgary-Confederation in the 2015 election, but their candidate in that year’s vote, Matt Grant, earned the most total votes of any Liberal candidate in Alberta. Stein will face Todd Kathol and Larry Ottewell for the nomination in this district.
The Liberals have nominated MP Kent Hehr in Calgary-Centre, MP Randy Boissonnault in Edmonton-Centre, MP Amarjeet Sohi in Edmonton-Mill Woods, and candidates Eleanor Olszewski in Edmonton-Strathcona, Kerrie Johnston in Edmonton-West, and Amy Bronson in Lethbridge.
The Green Party has nominated Austin Mullins in Banff-Airdrie, Grad Murray in Edmonton-Centre, Valerie Kennedy in Edmonton-Riverbend, Thana Boonlert in Calgary-Centre, Natalie Odd in Calgary-Confederation, and Catriona Wright in Calgary-Rocky Ridge.
Former Progressive Conservative MLA Moe Amery briefly launched a challenge against Deepak Obhrai for the federal Conservative nomination in Calgary-Forest Lawn but withdrew from the contest months later. Obhrai was then acclaimed.
Non-incumbent Conservatives acclaimed for their nominations include Jagdeep Sahota in Calgary-Skyview, James Cumming in Edmonton-Centre, and Tim Uppal in Edmonton-Mill Woods. Sam Lilly is seeking the Conservative Party nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona.
If Lilly is nominated in Edmonton-Strathcona, then all eleven Conservative Party candidates in Edmonton and the surrounding area will be men.
Liberal Party MP Randy Boissonnault was acclaimed as his party’s candidate in Edmonton-Centre, making him the governing party’s first nominated candidate in Alberta during this election cycle. Liberal MP Kent Hehr is expected to be nominated as his party’s candidate in Calgary-Centre on October 21, 2018 and Edmonton-Mill Woods Liberal MP Amarjeet Sohi has yet to be nominated. Sohi currently serves as Minister of Natural Resources with special responsibilities related to the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.
Yellowhead: With Conservative MP Jim Eglinski not seeking re-election, five candidates have stepped up to seek the party nomination in Yellowhead, including Christian private school principal Robert Duiker, former Drayton Valley mayor Glenn McLean, Yellowhead County Planning and Subdivision Officer Kelly Jensen, past Wildrose Party candidate Kathy Rondeau, and Yellohwead County Mayor Gerald Soroka. Two other candidates, Ryan Ouderkirk and Carolyne Mackellar, withdrew from the contest.
Conservative Party members in Yellowhead will be voting to select their candidate in Grande Cache, Hinton, Rocky Mountain House, Drayton Valley, Wabamum and Edson between October 11 and 13, 2018.
I expect to soon be tracking federal nominations in Alberta, so stay tuned. If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for federal party nomination, please send me an email at email@example.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!
Photo: Liberal Party leader Kevin Taft speaks to a rally of supporters on the weekend before the 2008 election. Taft, in my opinion, was one of the best premiers Alberta never had.
March 3, 2008 was an optimistic day to be a Liberal Party supporter, at least up until 8:22 p.m that night. The polls had only closed for 22 minutes when the news channels began declaring that the long in the tooth Progressive Conservatives would form another majority government in Alberta.
It was a heartbreaking loss for those of us who were involved in the Alberta Liberal Party campaign that year.
I had been involved with the Liberal Party since the early 2000s and played a behind the scenes role in that year’s election campaign.
While I spent a considerable amount of time knocking on doors for candidates in Edmonton, I was also working with a group of MLAs, lawyers and former PC cabinet ministers on what would have been the plan to transition the Liberals into government if the party had won that election ten years ago today.
The whole project felt like a silly effort at 8:22 p.m. that night, but there were moments in the campaign where it did feel like Albertans were looking for a change.
After a divisive PC leadership race and a surprise win in the Calgary-Elbow by-election, it looked as if the Liberals led by Edmonton MLA Kevin Taft were about to build significant gains after their Calgary breakthrough in the 2004 election.
The Liberals did make gains in Calgary that night, electing five MLAs including rookies Kent Hehr and Darshan Kang, but the party suffered huge losses in its traditional base of Edmonton. Liberal MLAs were defeated in seats the party had held since the 1980s and 1990s and gains they had made in the city in the previous election were competely erased. When the dust settled, there were only 3 Liberal MLAs left in the capital city.
It was also bittersweet night for our opponents in the New Democratic Party campaign. Star candidate Rachel Notley was elected in Edmonton-Strathcona, retaining the seat held by former party leader Raj Pannu. But the party’s caucus was reduced to two after MLAs David Eggen and Ray Martin were swept away in the PC’s Edmonton wave.
For those involved in the PC campaign, it was a remarkable landslide. And the last big landslide of the party’s more than four consecutive decades in office.
Stelmach ended up being a fairly decent premier, who I believe history will treat kindly, but landslide victories like these can be a doubled-edged sword. The large PC caucus of 72 MLAs, which included rookie MLAs Alison Redford and Raj Sherman, proved to be too unruly to manage. And the politics of a bitter conservative establishment festered as aspiring leadership contenders jockeyed for power. It was less than four years later that Stelmach resigned from the Premier’s Office.
The 2008 election was a real formative political period for me. Despite the disappointing and depressing outcome, I learned so much from my time working with the dedicated and passionate Albertans involved that campaign. It was a real honour.
To this day, I think Albertans were looking for change on March 3, 2008. It just took them another seven years to decide that the change they were looking for wouldn’t come from inside the PC Party.
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Kenney’s declaration of opposition to the bill came the morning after UCP Legislature leader Jason Nixon told reporters that UCP MLAs would be allowed a free-vote on the bill. It is not clear whether their unanimous opposition is the result of a free-vote, or whether the unanimity reached was directed by Kenney.
The bill would prohibit school administrators from informing parents when students join GSAs, which are student organized safe space clubs, or anti-bullying clubs. A study from the University of British Columbia found that Canadian schools with GSAs may reduce the odds of suicidal thoughts and attempts among both sexual minority and straight students.
Medicine Hat Public School Division board chair Rick Massini, told Medicine Hat News that “…GSAs are instrumental in providing students with a sense of security and safety. Certainly, for some kids, having that information shared with parents would be pretty devastating for them. I am glad to see there is something formal in place to protect them.”
The NDP see Bill 24 as an important law to protect students that also has the added benefit of being a wedge issue that has divided conservatives in the past. When private members motions and bills supporting GSAs were brought to the Legislature in 2014 by then-Liberal MLAs Kent Hehr and Laurie Blakeman, the debate led to a damaging public split between moderate and social conservatives in the Wildrose and PC caucuses.
The political message of Bill 24 is directly aimed at Kenney, who was widely criticized after commenting to Postmedia’s Calgary editorial board that parents should be informed when students join a GSA. The comments created imagery of state-sanctioned outing of gay kids who might be fearful of their family’s reaction.
The issue even caused the normally front-and-centre Kenney to go into hiding, reemerging one month later at a $500-a-plate federal Conservative fundraiser at a posh downtown Vancouver restaurant.
As a wedge issue I am not sure how many votes this bill alone will move from the UCP to the NDP column in the next election. I suspect it serves primarily to solidify support for the NDP on this already clearly defined issue, while drawing out the social conservative tendencies of Kenney and his UCP.
Creating safe school environments for students is critical, but reigniting the political debate on this overwrought issue risks creating a distraction from the NDP’s broader education agenda.
The UCP opposition to Bill 24 contradicts much speculation that Kenney would pivot toward more moderate stances on social issues. But as I wrote last month, I suspect Kenney and the UCP are betting that Albertans will forgive their social conservative stances when reminded of the NDP’s more unpopular economic policies. Notley and the NDP are betting that this bill to protect Alberta students will convince voters consider otherwise.
Today’s announcement by the TransCanada Corporation that it would no longer pursue the construction of the Energy East Pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta to Saint John, New Brunswick triggered a storm of statements, accusations and criticisms from politicians trying to drive their political narratives.
While the reasons for the TransCanada Corporation withdrawing its plans are likely influenced more by economics than by politics, there will certainly be political implications for the politicians – like Premier Rachel Notley – who have tethered their governing agenda to the approval of pipeline projects.
So, politics being politics, here is a quick look at who is blaming who for the demise of the Energy East Pipeline:
The TransCanada Corporation blames existing and likely future delays caused by the National Energy Board regulatory process, associated costs and challenging “issues and obstacles” facing the project.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley blames “a broad range of factors that any responsible business must consider.”
New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant doesn’t blame the TransCanada Corporation, but recognizes “recent changes to world market conditions and the price of oil have negatively impacted the viability of the project.”
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall blames Justin Trudeau, the federal government, and Montreal mayor Denis Coderre.
Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr blames the decision to cancel the pipeline project as a business decision.
Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer blames Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Alberta Liberal MPs Randy Boissonnault, Amarjeet Sohi and Kent Hehr blame “current market challenges related to world market conditions and lower commodity prices.
Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel blames “Liberal ideological opposition to the wealth and prosperity of western Canada, to the detriment of the nation as a whole.”
United Conservative Party interim leader Nathan Cooper blames the Alberta NDP.
UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean blames Rachel Notley, Justin Trudeau and Denis Coderre.
UCP leadership candidate Jason Kenney blames the Alberta NDP carbon-tax and social license, and the Trudeau Liberals. He later also blames Denis Coderre.
Photo: Kent Hehr with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Calgary Stampede in July 2017. (Photo from Kent Hehr’s Facebook Page)
It has been a busy week for me, so without the time to write a full column-type post, here is a quick summary of what I have been watching in Alberta politics over the past few days.
Calgary MP moved in Trudeau cabinet shuffle
Calgary-Centre Member of Parliament Kent Hehr was appointed Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities this week as part of a fairly significant shuffle in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet. Hehr had previously served as Minister of Veterans Affairs, a post he had held since his election in 2015. Though the move is viewed as a demotion at worst or a lateral move at best, there is no indication that the shuffle was a reflection on Hehr’s performance as minister, which appeared to fulfill competently.
As a former amateur athlete and leader in the Canadian Paraplegic Association, Hehr appears to be a good fit for this role.
Meanwhile, Calgary-Skyview Liberal MP Darshan Kang announced he would take a medical leave of absence due to stress caused by allegations of sexual harassment that have dogged the federal politician over the past few weeks.
Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous continues his town hall tour of Alberta’s coal communities this week. In the Town of Hanna, Bilous and mayor Chris Warwick announced $450,000 in funding create Community Action Teams led by the Cactus Corridor Economic Development Corporation to focus on initiatives identified in a report by the Hanna Climate Change Strategy Task Force.
The low participation rate may have a lot to do with the deep political divide between the Alberta NDP and its federal and provincial counterparts over the expansion and construction of oil pipelines, which is a priority for Rachel Notley’s government. To my knowledge, no Alberta NDP MLAs have released public endorsements for any of the federal NDP leadership candidates.
Cyr said Wildrose MLAs were stonewalled when they requested information about ballooning staff at the former official opposition caucus office.
Schweitzer said the new party will not be a credible voice for fiscal management if it cannot manage its own internal budget. Schweitzer has described Jean’s leadership platform as “big government” and is proposing deep cuts to the provincial budget if he becomes premier in 2019.
When Jason Kenney was asked why he was not attending any Calgary Pride Week events, he initially said it was because he did not get an invitation. When he received an invitation from Alberta-born internationally successful musician kd lang to meet in person to discuss LGBTQ issues, Kenney’s spokesperson said the UCP leadership candidate was too busy. It appears as though Kenney will go to far lengths not to do anything that would alienate the social conservative supporters he hopes will help make him leader of the UCP in October 2017.
Hehr on the move
Calgary-Centre Member of Parliament Kent Hehr is expected to be shuffled from his role as Minister of Veterans Affairs as Newfoundland MP Seamus O’Regan is moved into the role. When Hehr was appointed to cabinet in 2015, he became the first Liberal cabinet minister from Calgary since the early 1970s. It is not yet known what his new role will be.
Gerry Keller, the former chief of staff to Rona Ambrose, has decided not to enter the Conservative Party nomination to run in the upcoming Sturgeon River-Parkland by-election. Current candidates running for the nomination include local party organizer Jamie Mozeson, recently relocated BC-businessman Rick Peterson and political staffer Dane Lloyd.