Chris Brown and I discuss the last month in the United Conservative Party leadership race, Danielle Smith’s unexpected rise to the top, and how a Smith led UCP will do against Notley’s NDP in 2023 (or sooner) on the latest episode of the Cross Border Interviews Podcast.
Watch the interview here:
Subscribe and listen to Chris Brown’s Cross Border Podcast on Apple and Spotify.
With Danielle Smith‘s campaign for the United Conservative Party leadership appearing to pick up momentum, and recent endorsements from Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen, Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Nate Glubish, Edmonton-South West MLA Kaycee Madu, and Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn suggesting the mood in the UCP caucus is shifting in her favour, some people have been sharing links of a series of articles I wrote 13 years ago about Smith’s time on the disastrous 1998-1999 Calgary Board of Education.
Reading it now, I see it’s a little awkwardly formatted, so please forgive this young blogger from 2009.
It’s also important to recognize that the Calgary Board of Education in those years wasn’t a gong show just because of Danielle Smith. It was a real group effort.
The board of trustees was so dysfunctional that it was fired by the provincial government.
Smith’s current beliefs and past record on public education became more relevant after last week’s UCP leadership candidates forum at the Alberta Teachers’ Association summer conference in Banff, which you can watch here:
Lovely has served as MLA for the central Alberta riding since 2019 and was appointed parliamentary secretary to the Associate Minister of Status of Women in November 2021. She previously ran as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015.
Smook was first elected to council council in 2013 and was the Alberta Party candidate in Camrose in 2019.
Lovely admitted today that she was the only other person to join MLA Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk on an awards committee that selected a sexist and racist essay for a third place prize. In a written statement Lovely said she regretted the decision but was not available to answer any questions about why she chose the essay (or whether she actually read it before giving the $200 prize). There were only 5 essays submitted for the Her Vision Inspires essay contest.
Response to Lovely’s nomination on social media was largely muted, with the notable exception of Haydn Place, the acting chief of staff to Minister of Infrastructure Nicholas Milliken, who tweeted: “Glad the former Alberta Party candidate was defeated by a long-term UCP/Wildrose activist like Ms Lovely.”
Deron Bilous not running for re-election
After three-terms in the Legislature, NDP MLA Deron Bilous announced today that he will not run for re-election in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview. The former NDP economic development minister was first elected in 2012 by unseating Progressive Conservative MLA Tony Vandermeer.
“It has been an honour to serve as the member for Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview for the past 10 years, but after much consideration, I have decided not to seek re-election,” Bilous said in a statement.
“I am incredibly proud of everything the NDP has accomplished during our time in government and as an opposition caucus, but the time has come for me to pursue new adventures in the private sector.”
“I would like to thank my constituents, volunteers, and party members for their support over the last decade. Together, we have built a stronger community in Beverly-Clareview.”
The working-class north east Edmonton riding has a long-history of NDP representation, with former party leader Ray Martin representing the riding from 2004 to 2008 and former city councillor Ed Ewasiuk holding the riding from 1986 to 1993. Bilous was re-elected in 2019 with 50 per cent of the vote.
No candidates have declared their intentions to run for the NDP nomination but names that immediately began circulating in political circles include former school trustee Michelle Draper, city councillor Aaron Paquette, recent city council candidate Cori Longo, and past federal NDP candidate Charmaine St. Germain.
Kathleen Ganley running for re-election in Calgary-Mountain View NDP
MLA and former justice minister Kathleen Ganley is seeking her party’s nomination for re-election in Calgary-Mountain View.
Ganley was first elected in Calgary-Buffalo in 2015 and hopped across the river to run in Mountain View after the riding boundaries were redrawn for the 2019 election (allowing former Calgary-Fort MLA Joe Ceci to run for re-election in Buffalo). She was re-elected in 2019 with 47.3 per cent of the vote.
Applications to run for the UCP nomination in Highwood close at 5:00 pm on August 12.
Her campaign chair, Rob Anderson, is founder of the Free Alberta Strategy and was one of two Progressive Conservative MLAs to cross the floor to Smith’s Wildrose in 2010 (he later crossed the floor back to the PCs with Smith in 2014).
Smith declared Alberta will never ever have a lockdown again (we never *really* had a lockdown).
The other candidates responded.
She made wild statements about any cancer before Stage 4 is a result of poor personal choices.
Postmedia columnist Don Braid wrote that her “dabbles in quackery” are sometimes almost funny but “this one is dangerous.”
When Smith hosted a popular radio talk show she promoted hydroxychloroquine as a cure to COVID-19. She even touted ivermectin as a treatment. Now she wants to appoint chief medical officers of alternative medicine.
Rehn was briefly expelled from the UCP Caucus in 2021 after taking a hot holiday to Mexico while most Albertans respected the government’s own COVID-19 travel advice and stayed home, and local municipal leaders called on him to resign after spending more time in Texas than his own riding.
Kenney said Rehn would not be allowed to run for the UCP nomination in the next election but he was quietly allowed to rejoin the UCP Caucus last summer. But now Kenney is on his way out.
Some might say I’m playing into the Smith-comeback narrative by writing this article, but she’s the only candidate saying anything interesting – even if it’s quackery.
She’s drawing crowds and appears to be hitting the right notes with a motivated segment of the UCP base, which says a lot about who the membership of the UCP is today.
This isn’t your father’s Progressive Conservative Party, folks.
The other candidates in the UCP race better get their acts together, because the membership sales deadline is on August 12.
Hinman has been replaced by Jeevan Mangat, who ran for the Wildrose Party in Calgary-Fort in 2012 and 2015.
The WIP was created in 2020 through the merger of the Wexit group and the Freedom Conservative Party (which was previously known as the Alberta First Party, the Separation Party of Alberta and the Western Freedom Party). The party has struggled with fundraising and Hinman placed a distant third in the recent Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.
Before his time as WIP leader, Hinman served as a Wildrose MLA from 2004 to 2008 and 2009 to 2012, and as leader of the Wildrose Alliance Party immediately before Danielle Smith was chosen as leader in 2009.
Meanwhile, the IPA is still looking for a new leader. Past federal Liberal candidate Katherine Kowalchuk is the only candidate in the race, so far.
There’s not much of anything that is constant in Alberta politics these days, maybe except for the Calgary Stampede.
At least in some non-pandemic years, it’s the Northern Star of Alberta politics. It’s the must attend event for political aspirants of all stripes, from Prime Ministers to aspiring future Premiers.
The Stampede is back in full force this year, with last year’s disastrous “Best Summer Ever” disaster unfortunately an almost distant memory, even though its a big reason why we are where we are today in Alberta politics.
And for anyone watching the Stampede, even this writer from his perch in Edmonton, the race to replace Jason Kenney as Premier and leader of the United Conservative Party was on display as urbanites of all stripes dusted off their cowboys hats and plaid shirts for the week of pancake breakfasts and beer tents.
The big talk of the town this week is Danielle Smith’s unexpectedly strong comeback in the UCP leadership race.
Most political watchers will remember her downfall after a treacherous floor-crossing nearly destroyed the Wildrose Party and helped created the conditions for Rachel Notley to lead her NDP to sweep the province in 2015. (Real political nerds will remember her time on the disastrous Calgary Board of Education from 1998 to 1999, but that’s for another column).
But what we politicos may have missed is that a lot of Albertans, including the thousands who have signed up to support her and are showing up to her campaign events in droves, remember her from her more recent role as the host of a popular talk radio show.
Smith has always been a talented political communicator, despite some high-profile flameouts.
She knows how to talk to conservatives, and it just happens there are a lot of those in Alberta.
It’s not clear how many UCP MLAs support her separatist-leaning “Alberta First” campaign or her dipping into COVID conspiracy theories, but she has nabbed at least one endorsement from the governing caucus – Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie.
Smith hasn’t held a seat in the Legislature sine 2015 but she’s challenging MLA Roger Reid for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. And recently she said she would reopen nomination contests some party activists believe were unfairly stacked in favour of Kenney loyalists, a move that is unlikely to endear her to most current UCP MLAs.
Her comeback would be the political story of the year, and while Premier Danielle Smith is far from a sure thing, she is certainly driving the narrative of the UCP leadership campaign. She’s tapped into a motivated group of Alberta conservatives unhappy with the status-quo.
Those are probably the people Kenney referred to as “lunatics.”
And they might just be the mainstream of the UCP right now.
Even the perceived frontrunner is responding to Smith.
Establishment favourite Travis Toews followed Smith’s lead with a milquetoast “Enough is Enough” social media meme opposing COVID-19 vaccinations. It’s not clear what message he was trying to telegraph.
It was the kind of vague response you would expect from a frontrunner campaign, wanting to respond and not offend but failing at both.
Toews also released a list of autonomist policies that read like they were copied and pasted from 2020’s Fair Deal Panel report.
Smith and Toews aren’t alone.
Brian Jean is hitting the same notes, though he’s running a sleepier than expected campaign. Still, Fort McMurray’s Golden Boy shouldn’t be underestimated.
Independent MLA Todd Loewenis also hitting the same notes on separatist and anti-COVID health measures but his chances of winning appear much less likely than the others in this pack.
Smith’s extreme positions are probably leaving Rachel Notley’s NDP salivating at the opportunity to run against an extremist right-wing UCP that would leave a lot of Albertans alienated.
Two months ago, Notley’s victory in Alberta’s next election looked like a sure bet, but Kenney’s resignation announcement gave his party a bump in the polls and now it’s a race.
Notley and her MLAs have basically decamped to Calgary for the summer, showing up at every event and taking every chance to door knock with their growing slate of local candidates that includes former city councillor Druh Farrell in Calgary-Bow, energy analyst Samir Kayande in Calgary-Elbow, sustainable energy expert Nagwan Al-Guneid in Calgary-Glenmore. Canadian Forces veteran Marilyn North Peigan in Calgary-Klein, and physician Luanne Metz in Calgary-Varsity.
It’s probably the closest thing Calgary has seen to a Progressive Conservative slate since 2015 but the NDP still have a lot of hard work ahead of them to convince Calgarians to vote for them en masse in 2023.
But the UCP leadership candidate the NDP might fear the most so far hasn’t been playing the same cards as Smith, Toews, Jean and Loewen.
The first-term MLA from Calgary-Shaw and former children’s service minister had already nabbed an endorsement from Rona Ambrose but the former interim Conservative Party leader is now chairing her campaign.
Schulz and her husband were political staffers in Wall’s government before moving to Calgary seven years ago and her husband worked for McMillan as VP Communications of CAPP.
It’s hard to tell where her politics are. Schulz seems more moderate than the rest of the pack, which isn’t saying much, but how much more moderate is not clear.
Along with her political establishment connections, Schulz might become a pretty appealing candidate if there are enough UCP members left who don’t want to fight the next election on COVID conspiracy theories and Alberta separatism.
At the very least, there might actually be enough Saskatchewan expats alone living in Alberta to win a leadership race.
And I would be remise if I failed to mention the other candidates who are also busy yahooing their way through the Stampede.
Rajan Sawhney is running an outsiders campaign, leaning on her years of business experience. She is also a candidate to watch.
It appears that the UCP will allow Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner to enter the leadership race, if she chooses, even though she has not had a current party membership for the full past six months as required (there is no doubt she is a committed Conservative partisan).
A similar request for an exemption by former Liberal Party leader Raj Shermanwas denied.
Kenney’s caretaker cabinet shuffle
Outgoing Premier Jason Kenney announced a cabinet shuffle to fill in the spots left by ministers leaving to run in the race to replace him.
Changes to the caretaker cabinet, which will be in place until a new Premier takes office after the October 6 UCP leadership vote, include:
Minister of Environment and Parks and Acting President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Jason Nixon becomes President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance.
Associate Minister of Status of Women Whitney Issik becomes Minister of Environment and Parks.
Calgary-South East MLA Matt Jones becomes Minister of Children’s Services.
Minister of Infrastructure Prasad Panda becomes Minister of Transportation.
Calgary-Currie MLA Nicholas Milliken becomes Minister of Infrastructure.
Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville MLA Jackie Armstrong Homeniuk becomes the Associate Minister of Status of Women.
Deputy Government Whip Brad Rutherford becomes Chief Government Whip and Minister without Portfolio.
Unsurprisingly, everyone on the list is considered a loyalist, and a few, notably Issik, Milliken, and Rutherford, are considered vulnerable to strong NDP challenges in the next election.
Issik, Jones and Armstrong Homeniuk have publicly endorsed former finance minister Travis Toews for the UCP leadership, who is widely considered the establishment favourite in the race.
The cowboy hat wearing former Finance Minister from Beaverlodge, Travis Toews, launched his campaign last week with endorsements from 23 UCP MLAs, including Energy Minister Sonya Savage and Justice Minister Tyler Shandro.
Savage and Grande Prairie-Mackenzie MP Chris Warkentin are co-chairing his campaign.
Toews is seen as the establishment favourite, which isn’t always a blessing.
Former Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney launched her campaign yesterday with a whistle-stop tour down the QEII, starting with media events in Edmonton, Penhold and Airdrie before ending at a +700-person rally in north east Calgary.
It was a strong kick-off.
Sawhney’s campaign is being run by well-known political strategist and conservative thinker Ken Boessenkool, who worked as an advisor to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former BC Premier Christy Clark.
Her former chief of staff (and former Daveberta Podcast co-host) Ryan Hastman is her deputy campaign manager.
Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt is Sawhney’s campaign chair.
It’s an odd fit for a leadership candidate who appears to be trying to position herself as a political moderate (no word if South Tyrol-like autonomy for Alberta will be in her platform).
Pitt endorsed Brian Jean for the UCP leadership 2017, and even have him credit for her entry into politics.
This time she’s backing Sawhney.
Jean is launching his campaign at a hotel in west Edmonton tomorrow.
Autonomy for Albertans is Jean’s slogan, not Anatomy for Albertans, as this writer first thought he read.
The former Wildrose Party leader launched his second political comeback in last year’s Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election with the singular purpose of defeating Kenney in the leadership review and run to replace him.
He’s met half his goal so far.
Another former Wildrose leader, Danielle Smith is also trying for her second political comeback after a short and disastrous stint on the Calgary Board of Education in the late 1990s and as Wildrose Party leader from 2009 until she infamously abandoned her party to join Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservatives in 2014.
For many conservatives, especially those of the Wildrose-variety, it is a betrayal that will live in infamy.
The leadership is only one-half of Smith’s comeback attempt.
She’s also challenging MLA Roger Reid for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod, which appears far from a safe-bet.
First-term south Calgary MLA Rebecca Schulz stepped down as Children’s Services Minister to jump into the race.
Schulz wants to take on what she describes as “the boys club.”
She has the backing of Calgary City Councillor Dan McLean, Health Minister Jason Copping, UCP MLAs Michaela Frey and Jeremy Nixon, MPs Laila Goodridge and Stephanie Kusie, former federal Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose and former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall.
The Wall endorsement might seem odd, but he endorsed Schulz in her bid to win the hotly contested Calgary-Shaw UCP nomination race back in 2018.
The Saskatchewan native was a spokesperson in Wall’s government before moving to Alberta in the mid-2010s, and her husband, Cole Schulz, was a ministerial chief of staff in Regina (he’s now the Vice President, Communications for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in Calgary).
Northern Alberta UCP MLA-in-exile Todd Loewen also jumped into the race, as did Village of Amisk Mayor Bill Rock, another former Wildrose Party candidate.
But one of the big potential contenders, Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, is playing coy.
Maybe she’ll run. Maybe she won’t.
Her text message reply to Press Gallery Dean Don Braid was “hahahaha!”
And the hot gossip in political circles today is that erratic former Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman is thinking about joining the fray.
Sherman was first elected as a PC MLA in 2008 but was driven out of that party and scooped up the Liberal leadership in 2011. He left politics in 2015 and returned to being full-time ER doctor.
He also donated $4,000 to the Alberta Party last year.
So it’s a scramble. It’s a dog’s breakfast.
And there could be more.
We’ll know soon enough.
July 20 is the deadline for candidates to pay up if they want to stay in the race.
The high-entry fee will quickly weed out candidates who can’t raise enough money.
August 12 is the deadline to buy a membership.
No time for the two-minute Tories who wreaked havoc against the establishment candidates in the old PC Party leadership races.
The party is also organizing debates and attendance by all candidates is mandatory.
Stragglers will risk be fined or disqualified, or both.
It’s no Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, but it’s bound to be entertaining to watch.
Liberal Party seeks new leader
The Alberta Liberal Party also announced that it will be holding their own leadership vote and choosing a new leader on September 25, 2022.
Former party leader David Khanstepped down in November 2020 after failing to win a seat in the 2019 election, marking the first time since before 1986 that the provincial Liberals not represented in the Legislature.
Travis Toews: Finance Minister since 2019. MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti since 2019. Former president of the Canadian Cattleman’s Association. Looks comfortable in a business suit or Carhartts. Sounds like the adult in the room but is connected to a northern Alberta Bible college with some fairly backwards views about yoga and same-sex relationships. Probably one of the more hardline fiscal conservatives in the UCP cabinet. Grand champion of the 1976 4-H calf show in Hythe. Likely UCP establishment favourite.
Brian Jean: Leader of the Wildrose Party from 2015 to 2017. Target of a kamikaze campaign during the 2017 UCP leadership race. MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche since 2022. MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin from 2015 to 2018. MP for Fort McMurray-Athabasca from 2004 to 2014. Toyed with COVID skepticism and Alberta separatism. Jason Kenney’s worst enemy. Lawyer, businessman and Golden Boy of Fort McMurray.
Danielle Smith: Leader of the Wildrose Party from 2009 to 2014. MLA for Highwood from 2012 to 2015. Crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservative Party in 2014. Calgary public school trustee from 1998 to 1999. Alumna of the Fraser Institute, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Calgary Herald, Global TV, and Chorus Radio. Current President of the Alberta Enterprise Group. Running for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. Embraced COVID conspiracy theories.
Todd Loewen: MLA for Central Peace-Notley since 2019. MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky from 2015 to 2019 and Wildrose candidate in the riding in 2008 and 2012. Resigned as UCP Caucus chair in 2021 after calling on Kenney to resign and was kicked out of caucus the next day. Formed a UCP Caucus-in-exile with fellow ousted MLA Drew Barnes. Drove his motorhome in the Freedom Convoy to Ottawa. Renowned in the UCP Caucus for his pancake cooking skills.
These four have registered others are expected.
Transportation Minister and Calgary-North East MLA Rajan Sawhney has tapped longtime conservative strategist Ken Boessenkool to run her exploratory committee.
“[W]hat this race needs right now is just not more of the same,” Sawhney told reporters in a statement.
Children’s Services Minister and Calgary-Shaw MLA Rebecca Schultz isn’t in the race yet but already has an endorsement from former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall. Schultz worked for Wall’s government before she moved to Alberta in 2016.
So are former cabinet ministers Leela Aheer and Devin Dreeshen.
And Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner is rumoured to be testing the waters. She would be an interesting addition to the race, though recent history has not been kind to federal politicians jumping into provincial politics in Alberta.
The party has appointed a committee that is expected to release rules, entry requirements and timelines for the leadership race before the beginning of summer.
UDPATE! Village of Amisk mayor Bill Rock has registered with Elections Alberta to run in the UCP leadership race. Rock was the Wildrose Party candidate in the Wetaskiwin-Camrose riding in the 2015 election. He was parachuted into the riding after previously nominated candidate Gordon Hatch withdrew from the race and endorsed PC MLA Verlyn Olson following Danielle Smith‘s floor-crossing.
Note: Registering as a candidate with Elections Alberta does not mean automatic approval as a candidate by the UCP. Registering with Election Alberta allows the candidates to fundraise under Alberta’s current political finance rules.
“We will not believe that result. We will not accept it, but we won’t even believe it, because our own polling here within our constituency is 72 per cent against Premier Kenney,” Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills president Rob Smith told CTV.
There’s a whole cabal of UCP MLAs who probably share Smith’s cynicism.
If Kenney wins he’ll have to decide the fate of his biggest critics in his own party.
What happens to Brian Jean? Leela Aheer? Angela Pitt? Jason Stephan? Peter Guthrie?
Cast them out and they’ll form another conservative party.
And then the UCP might as well drop the U.
So there’s the problem. Even if Kenney wins he still loses.
It’s a win-lose or lose-lose scenario.
It’s going to be a wild ride.
The UCP leadership review is probably going to take up most of the political oxygen in Alberta over the next few days, so I just wanted to note a few candidate nomination developments:
Former federal Liberal candidate and provincial Liberal leadership candidate Kerry Cundalis running for the Alberta Party nomination in Calgary-Elbow. She ran for the Alberta Liberal Party leadership in 2017 and joined the Alberta Party shortly afterward. A nomination meeting is scheduled for May 28, 2022.
Former cabinet minister David Eggen will be acclaimed as the Alberta NDP candidate in Edmonton-North West on May 18. Eggen is the second longest serving MLA currently in the Legislature, having represented Edmonton-Calder from 2004 to 2008 and 2012 to 2019, and Edmonton-North West from 2019 to the present.
“Hey Dave, is Jason Kenney going to win the leadership review?”
It’s a question I get asked a lot these days.
I don’t know.
Anyone who tells you different probably has a personal or career stake in the game.
What was supposed to be a big in-person vote in Red Deer back in April turned into a province-wide mail in vote. And that loud swooshing sound you heard wasn’t the sound of a late winter Chinook but the sound of the goal posts moving.
And there’s strong feelings on both sides of this fight.
But commentary by out-of-Alberta conservatives, who probably have fond memories of Kenney’s two decades in Ottawa, almost always omit how intentionally and aggressively divisive he has been since stepping into the Premier’s Office.
Albertans who oppose, or even just dare to criticize, his government’s policies have been routinely derided and attacked by Kenney.
Are you an Albertan who opposed closing and selling provincial parks?
Then you’re a radical urban eco-marxist.
Did you oppose open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains?
Then you must be a radical urban eco-marxist who votes NDP (can you imagine telling that to a 5th generation cattle rancher from southern Alberta?).
You get the drift.
So, do Albertans see Kenney as the conservative philosopher king that his out-of-province admirers do?
Do normal UCP members?
Will Kenney win on May 18?
Will he get more than 50 per cent of the vote?
Your guess is probably as good as mine.
Will the deep divisions inside the UCP be healed?
Not a chance.
As veteran political columnist Graham Thomson signed off in a recent column, “No matter what happens that day, Alberta’s already wild politics will just get wilder.”
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Two-term MLA and vocal Kenney-critic Leela Aheer has filed her intentions with Elections Alberta to run for the United Conservative Party nomination in Chestermere-Strathmore. Aheer was first elected in 2015 as a Wildrose Party candidate and was re-elected with 68.5 per cent of the vote in 2019 in the riding.
Aheer is being challenged for the nomination by Chantelle de Jonge, a former political staffer to former Calgary-Skyview Member of Parliament Jag Sahota and recent graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Philosophy from the University of Calgary.
Jeremy Nixon running for re-election in Calgary-Klein
UCP MLA Jeremy Nixon has also signalled his intentions with Elections Alberta to run for his party’s nomination in Calgary-Klein, the riding he has represented since 2019.
Nixon currently serves as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Community and Social Services for Civil Society. He was removed from a previous role as parliamentary secretary for civil society in January 2021 after disregarding COVID-19 restrictions and traveling to Hawaii for a hot holiday in December 2020.
He is the brother of Environment & Parks Minister and Government House Leader Jason Nixon.
The riding was home to one of the closer races in Calgary in the 2019 election and is expected to be strongly contested by the NDP in the next election.
Marie Renaud running for re-election in St. Albert
St. Albert NDP MLA Marie Renaud announced her plans to seek her party’s nomination to run for re-election in when the provincial election is called.
“I will continue to champion public healthcare, public education and economic security for St. Albert and Albertans across the province,” Renaud wrote in a tweet announcing her candidacy. “We cannot build a prosperous future by continuing to pass on costs to municipalities like St. Albert and, in turn, to Albertan families.”
Renaud was first elected to represent the suburban city located just north of Edmonton in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019 with 46.2 per cent of the vote. She was the first NDP MLA elected in St. Albert since 1986.
She currently serves as the Official Opposition critic for Community & Social Services, and Francophone Issues.
A nomination meeting is scheduled for March 24, 2022.
Former Alberta Party candidate running for UCP nomination
Beaver County Reeve Kevin Smook announced on Twitter that he plans to seek the UCP nomination in the Camrose, the riding currently represented by UCP MLA Jackie Lovely.
“I’m not here for the photo ops — I intend to roll up my sleeves and work for you and for the people of the Camrose Constituency,” Smook tweeted, in an apparent shot at Lovely.
Smook was first elected to Beaver County Council in 2013 and served as Reeve from 2014 to 2017 before starting his current term in 2021. He was the Alberta Party candidate in Camrose in the 2019 election, where he placed third with 12.8 per cent of the vote.
“I ran for the Alberta Party in the 2019 provincial election,” Smook told the Camrose Booster. “And while there was a conservative connection with them, I know that the strongest conservative movement is the United Conservative Party and I feel much more aligned here.
Tik tok, tik tok, the countdown to Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche
The countdown continues as Jason Kenney now has 6 days left to call the by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche. The by-election needs to be called by February 15 to choose a successor to former MLA Laila Goodridge who resigned nearly six months ago on August 15, 2021.
UCP candidate Brian Jean, who led the Wildrose Party from 2015 to 2018, has called on Kenney to resign and is openly organizing and fundraising against his party’s leader ahead of the April 9 leadership review. There has been chatter in some political circles that Kenney may be delaying the by-election until the last possible moment in order to replace Jean and appoint a UCP candidate who will demonstrate more loyalty to the leader.
Outside the UCP drama that has enveloped this by-election are NDP candidate Ariana Mancini , who was joined by Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan on the campaign trail last week, and Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman, who has been spending a considerable amount of time campaigning in the northeast Alberta riding.
The Alberta Party has not yet named its candidate.
Airdrie resident Steve Durrell has announced his plans to seek the Alberta NDP nomination to run in the Airdrie-Cochrane riding in the next provincial election.
“This coming election is one of high stakes. From education to our economy, from healthcare to respect for a person’s self-identity, Jason Kenney and the UCP have failed Albertans at every turn,” Durrell said in a statement posted on Facebook. “It’s time for change and to get Alberta back on track, and that is why I am seeking the nomination to run for the NDP, and support Rachel Notley on her road to once again being Premier of Alberta!”
Durrell is an organizer for United Steelworkers Local 1944.
If nominated, this will be Durrell’s second time as a NDP candidate in the riding. He ran in 2019 and placed second with 25.2 per cent of the vote behind United Conservative Party candidate Peter Guthrie.
Durrell became a target of Premier Jason Kenney in the 2019 election, when the UCP leader mocked him for being a 19-year old. He was actually 29-year old father of three at the time.
Rumble in Chestermere-Strathmore
Postmedia columnist Don Braidpenned a column about a showdown in the Chestermere-Strathmore riding, where Kenney loyalists are alleged to have mounted a hostile takeover of the local UCP constituency association.
The previous, or current riding association (depending on who’s side of the story you believe), is loyal to two-term UCP MLA and former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer, who has called on Kenney to resign after a former political staffer filed a lawsuit against the Premier’s Office alleging sexual harassment, defamation, and toxic workplace culture at the Legislature.
Ahreer is popular among her UCP MLA colleagues so Kenney probably does not have the support to remove her from the UCP caucus like he did Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen last summer, so removing her local support (and access to the local UCP bank account) is a more indirect way of ensuring she does not seek re-election in 2023. If Aheer still has political ambitions, she will probably need to find a new party to run for.
As first noted on this website in May 2021, former federal Conservative staffer Chantelle de Jonge is already challenging Aheer for the UCP nomination to run in the next election. de Jonge worked in the constituency office of former Calgary-Skyview Member of Parliament Jag Sahota and recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Philosophy from the University of Calgary.
Confirmed UCP candidate and future UCP leadership hopeful Brian Jean is continuing to fire shots across Kenney’s bow ahead of the leadership review and the impending by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.
Jean called on the UCP executive board to commit to holding an in-person vote on April 9 rather than moving to an online vote in response to the fifth wave of COVID-19 that is sweeping across Alberta. It was largely assumed that the Kenney loyal executive board chose to hold an in-person meeting in Red Deer to give the Premier more control of the process, but the rise in COVID-19 cases would justify moving the vote online.
A Leger poll released in December 2021 showed that 73 per cent of Albertans believed the province would be better off with a new premier.
In the background of this, as Jean noted, the RCMP are continuing to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the online vote for the UCP leadership in 2017. Kenney defeated Jean in that vote.
Jean defeated Kenney-backed candidate Joshua Gogo in the UCP nomination contest held in Nov. 2021. He will face NDP candidate Ariana Mancini and Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman in a by-election that needs to be called by Feb. 15, 2022. The other parties have not yet announced their candidates.
The Alberta Party is expected to make an announcement soon.
The Independence Party of Alberta has not announced a candidate, but announced in Nov. 2021 that their local constituency association board had been formed.
Best Alberta MLA: Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highands-Norwood
Always a fan favourite, for the second year in a row Janis Irwin has been voted Best Alberta MLA. Irwin is a hard-working MLA in the Assembly and in her constituency, and her sense of humour (and her social media star cat, Oregano) has endeared her to politicos on both sides of the aisle.
Best Alberta Cabinet Minister: Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
Nurturing a reputation as an affable politician, Leela Aheer proved herself to be on the right side of public opinion in Alberta when she spoke out against Premier Jason Kenney and called on him to resign. The MLA for Chestermere-Strathmore was booted from cabinet for speaking out against Kenney, but that probably only further endeared her to the growing majority of Albertans who disapprove of the Premier’s performance.
That Aheer remains a member of UCP Caucus after openly calling on Kenney to resign is also a testament to how well-liked she is by her UCP MLA colleagues.
Best Opposition MLA: Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
For the third year in a row, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley has been voted Best Opposition MLA. Notley continues to be her party’s greatest asset and, if the polls and party fundraising returns are any indication, might stand a good chance at leading her party to form government when the next election is held in 2023.
If Notley’s party is successful in 2023, she would be the first former Premier to return to that office in Alberta’s history.
Up and Coming MLA to Watch in 2022: Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud
A tireless advocate for childcare since she was first elected in 2019, Rakhi Pancholi has been voted Up and Coming MLA to Watch for a second year in a row.
Pancholi is smart and well-spoken, and has been tough and tenacious in her calls for affordable and accessible childcare for Alberta families.
Best Political Play of 2021: Jyoti Gondek‘s election as Mayor of Calgary
Jyoti Gondek defied public expectations and a motivated conservative establishment to win Calgary’s mayoral election in October 2021, becoming the first woman to be elected mayor of Alberta’s largest city.