More than half of Albertans live in Calgary and Edmonton, so why does it feel like big city issues are an afterthought for the provincial government?
Mack Male joins Dave Cournoyer on this episode of the Daveberta Podcast to discuss the state of local media in Edmonton, Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu’s paternalistic approach to municipal relations, the review of the Local Authorities Election Act and how it might change the rules of the 2021 municipal elections, and whether there is hope for ever getting a real urban agenda for Alberta (plus free transit and gondolas).
A big thanks to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, for making this episode sound so good.
The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network, powered by ATB. The Alberta Podcast Network includes more than 30 great made-in-Alberta podcasts.
You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.
Ward 4: There are twelve candidates running in this northeast Edmonton Ward. Ed Gibbons has represented the area since 2001 but decided not to seek re-election. With so many candidates there is a chance that the successful candidate could be elected with a small percentage of the total vote. It is difficult to make a prediction about who will win, but one campaign that sticks out is that of well-known artist and past NDP candidate Aaron Paquette. I am also watching Alison Poste, Hassan Haymour, Rocco Caterina, Justin Draper, and Trisha Velthuizen in this race.
Ward 7: Tony Caterina is running for his fourth-term on city council and, unlike most incumbents, he has always faced strong challengers. In 2010 he was re-elected with 48 percent of the vote and in 2013 he was returned to office with 42 percent. This time around, he faces a strong challenge from Kris Andreychuk, who is running a solid campaign and has the support of the two previous second place challengers (including Caterina’s council colleague Scott McKeen, now representing Ward 6). I have also been impressed by Mimi Williams, who placed third in 2013 but is running a noticeably better organized campaign this time.
Ward 8: Councillor Ben Henderson was re-elected with 84 percent of the vote in 2013 but this year he faces a much more robust challenge from three main candidates – Kirsten Goa, Eli Schrader and James Kosowan. I have spoken to a number of voters in this ward who have been confused by Henderson’s low-profile campaign and my impression is that Kirsten Goa is the candidate to watch in this race.
Ward 11: Mike Nickel will be hard to beat, but challenger Keren Tang has been running a strong and well-organized campaign. Nickel was first elected in Ward 11 in 2013, but he ran for mayor in 1998 and 2001, and later served as Councillor for Ward 5 from 2004 until he was defeated by Don Iveson in 2007.
I am also watching a handful of Public School Board races, including Ward A, where incumbent Cheryl Johner is facing six challengers, Ward G, where incumbent Bridget Stiring is being challenged by conservative activist Tyler Duce, and Ward F, where my friend Michael Janz is being challenged by Yemi Philip.
Just outside of Edmonton city limits, here are some more races I will be watching:
St. Albert Mayoral Election: Councillors Cathy Heron, Cam Mackay and former councillor Malcolm Parker are running to succeed retiring Mayor Nolan Crouse. This bedroom community north of Edmonton is known for its nasty politics and divisive elections, and this year’s election was no exception. A slate of candidates, apparently friendly to Mackay, have been campaigning against the construction of a second library branch in the growing community.
Strathcona County Mayoral Election: Incumbent Roxanne Carr is facing a strong challenge from former Progressive Conservative MLA Jacquie Fenske, former mayor and past Wildrose candidate Linda Osinchuk, and past federal Liberal candidate Rod Frank.
Are there any other races I should be watching on October 16? Let me know!
It has been a rough seven months for the Wildrose Party of Alberta. After losing four by-elections in September 2014, the party was decimated when eleven Wildrose MLAs, including leader Danielle Smith, crossed the floor to the governing Progressive Conservatives.
Now, with an election call expected within weeks, the opposition conservative party is searching for new leader.
Three leadership candidates – Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes, former Member of Parliament Brian Jean, and former Strathcona County Mayor Linda Osinchuk – are running for the leadership. Party members are already voting and the results will be released on March 28.
The candidates joined us on the latest #ABVote Google Hangout to talk about their campaigns, the state of conservative politics and respond to Premier Jim Prentice‘s televised address to the province. [Following a death in Mr. Jean’s family, Strathmore-Brooks candidate Derek Fildebrandt is standing in for the candidate in the final week of the leadership campaign].
One year ago, the PC Party was on verge of meltdown as Alison Redford resigned as leader and Premier. Since then, the political landscape has shifted so dramatically that the only significant thing that remains the same is the PC Party is still in government and will almost certainly extend its 44 year reign in the upcoming spring election.
Jim Prentice is being praised as a saviour by conservatives for turning around his party’s electoral fortunes, but he is no magician. Like each of his predecessors over the past 44 years, Mr. Prentice’s goal is to ensure the PC Party remains in government. And also like these predecessors, he is succeeding.
Introduced into the Assembly by former minister Dave Hancock, the unnecessary and probably unconstitutional Bill 45 was part of Ms. Redford’s attack on public sector workers. The bill was passed with the support of 33 PC MLAs and one Wildrose MLA in December 2013 but was never proclaimed into law (five Wildrose MLAs, two New Democrats and one Liberal voted against it). If made into law, it would have significantly increased the fines for public sector strikes and made it illegal for any person to publicly suggest that government employees take job action.
The bill also appeared to give significant powers to the Minister of Human Services to issue fines to government employees if there has even been a hint of discussion about an illegal strike or strike threat.
Killing Bill 45 is only one step in repairing the government’s damaged relationship with its front-line workers. Five months ago, Mr. Prentice said he found low morale and high turnover in the public service “shocking.” But with Finance Minister Robin Campbell warning of 9 percent across the board funding cuts in next week’s provincial budget, it is difficult to see how Mr. Prentice plans to change this situation.
It remains embarrassing that so many of our elected officials supported this bill, but today Mr. Prentice deserves some kudos for committing to repeal Bill 45.
Wildrose Party leadership candidates Drew Barnes, Brian Jean and Linda Osinchuk will be guests on the next AbVote Google Hangout on Tuesday, March 24, 2015. Tune in to abvote.ca at 7:00 p.m. and ask questions to the candidates using the #abvote hashtag on Twitter.
Twice denied an opportunity to run for the leadership of the Wildrose Party, controversial Conservative Party Member of Parliament Rob Anders is still lurking in the shadows of the deflated Alberta conservative opposition party.
As reported by the Medicine Hat News, Mr. Anders has been making personal phone calls to conservatives in Medicine Hat in support of Wildrose nomination candidate Dustin Nau.
Here’s a recording of the phone message left by Mr. Anders:
In the recorded phone message, Mr. Anders described Mr. Nau as “a good guy” and a “good solid social conservative” who did two tours in Iraq with the United States military. Mr. Anders says he believes Mr. Nau will would be a real asset for the Wildrose Party going forward in the next election.
Speaking to the Medicine Hat News, Mr. Nau denied knowing Mr. Anders personally and denied ever serving in the U.S. military. He was not able to answer why Mr. Anders was making phone calls in support of his campaign.
After failing to secure federal Conservative nominations in Calgary-Signal Hill and Bow River, Mr. Anders unsuccessfully appealed to the Wildrose Party executive to allow him to run for the leadership. Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, before she crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives in December 2014, said Mr. Anders was not welcome to run for the party in the next election.
Late last year, Mr. Anders publicly mused about starting his own conservative think-tank once his 17-year career as an MP ends in 2015.
The 17-year Conservative MP was recently featured in a YouTube video, where controversial Calgary street preacher Art Pawlowski, flanked by Gospel Elvis, dedicates a prayer to Mr. Anders. (Cabinet minister Ric McIvertook heat for his support of Mr. Pawlowski’s activities, including the anti-gay March for Jesus, during the 2014 leadership contest).
New Wildrose leader on March 28
Anticipating a provincial election within weeks, the Wildrose Party executive decided to push forward the date of its leadership contest to March 28, 2015. A 12-day phone-in vote will take place from March 18 to 28, 2015.
Candidates for the leadership include former Fort McMurray-Athabasca Conservative MP Brian Jean, former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk and Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes.
Ms. Osinchuk is already nominated as the party’s candidate in Sherwood Park and Mr. Barnes has secured the nomination in Cypress-Medicine Hat.
Rumours have been circulating that Mr. Jean could run in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills if current Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw decides to leave provincial politics. The provincial constituency is located in the southern half of the federal riding Mr. Jean represented from 2004 to 2014 in the House of Commons.
Initially turned away by Wildrose Party officials, controversial Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Andershas asked the Wildrose Party for a “waiver” to run for the party’s leadership. Having lost bids for federal Conservative nominations in Calgary-Signal Hill and Bow River last year, the controversial Mr. Anders, 42, is scrambling to salvage his 18 year long political career.
Before crossing the floor to the PC Party, former leader Danielle Smith publicly told Mr. Anders that he was not welcome to run for the Wildrose Party. But now with the party weakened and without a leader, Mr. Anders may be in a position to mobilize his legions of social conservatives to win the leadership.
Also said to be considering a run for the Wildrose leadership are former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk (a nominated candidate in Sherwood Park), former lobbyist Derek Fildebrandt (running for a nomination in Strathmore-Brooks) and Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes.
Can the PC-Wildrose MLAs survive?
It appears that all or most former Wildrose MLAs who crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives in the final months of 2014 will face strong competitions to win their new party’s nominations to run in the next election.
Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Rod Fox is facing former Ponoka Mayor Larry Henkleman and businessman Peter Dewit, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle is facing Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood, Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Gary Bikman is being challenged by Taber Reeve Brian Brewin, and Calgary-Shaw MLA Jeff Wilson is being challenged by arch-conservative activist Craig Chandler.
If Olds-Disbury-Three Hills MLA Bruce Rowe decides to seek re-election, he will face a challenge from Olds Town Councillor Wade Bearchell, who is already campaigning for the PC nomination. Medicine Hat MLA Blake Pedersen is also expected to face a strong challenge and Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson has already announced he will not run for re-election.
Immediately following the floor-crossings, Mr. Pedersen told the Medicine Hat News be believed their PC nominations were guaranteed, but that appears to be a key bargaining position the 9 Wildrose MLAs asked for and were denied before they joined the PCs.
Now the question is how many of the Wildrose-turned-PC MLAs can survive to run in the next election? Could a potential cabinet shuffle save their political careers?
What are PC-Wildrose MLAs are saying about being in government?
“You know, it’s a shame to have to say this, but it’s amazing to me the doors that are open since I crossed the floor. I get into ministers’ office(s) and get things done. It’s just – it’s amazing. It’s really not the way it should be, but it is the way it is.”
What are PC MLAs saying about the PC-Wildrose MLAs?
“This shows that was all politics. That’s unfortunate, and we will have to let that go. But I think everybody should understand that when they make accusations like that and then (cross the floor), it’s obvious there was a lot of political motivation there and not a lot of fact,” Mr. Horner said.
“I’d like to see us stop with the unfounded character assassination — and I think that will stop from them.”
“It’s sort of like that neighbour that screams at you all the time and calls the cops on you once in a while now moves into your house,” Mr. Lukaszuk said. “You sort of work around it and make it work. At the end of the day you have to focus on the prize — and that’s representing your constituents and making good decisions as a government.”
I will be taking a short break from blogging for the next week. In my absence, take a look at David Climenhaga‘s excellent blog at AlbertaPolitics.ca.
After 11 of the party’s 16 MLAs crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives in November and December 2014, the conservative opposition Wildrose Party was thrown into chaos. Left without its most public faces, notably former leader Danielle Smith, the party will choose its next permanent leader sometime in the next year, likely between the months of March and September.
It is unclear whether the other remaining MLAs – Rick Strankman and Pat Stier – are interested in contesting the leadership.
Lawyer Richard Jones, the party’s nominated candidate in Calgary-Acadia, has been mentioned as a potential candidate, as has former lobby group spokesperson Derek Fildebrandt.
If the Wildrose Party waits too long to select a new leader, they could find themselves facing a provincial election without a permanent leader. On January 10, 2015, the PC Party Executive Board will meet and it is suspected they will discuss whether to keep the June 1st nomination timeline or whether to advance it in preparation for a Spring 2015 election.
Crossing the floor a last minute decision
The abruptness of the floor crossings shocked party supporters, political watchers and even some of the MLAs who crossed the floor.
“I too was shocked,” Chestermere-Rocky View MLA Bruce McAllister told the Rocky View Weekly. Mr. McAllister told the newspaper that he did not consult with his constituency prior to crossing the floor because the window of opportunity was quickly closing.
Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Rod Foxtold The Chautauqua that he “made an extremely difficult decision to join the governing PC Party of Alberta … a decision that was reached after many hours of agonizing and soul searching.”
“I finally made my decision moments before it was due,” Mr. Fox said.
In another bizarre addition to the floor crossing story, it appears that Medicine Hat MLA Blake Pedersen was on vacation in Australia when he crossed the floor to the PC Party. On the day of the floor crossings, Mr. Pedersen sent his statement to reporters in the form of a text message from Down Under.
Despite previously embracing a mantra that leaned heavily on “consulting constituents,” it does not appear any consultation actually occurred before the MLAs quit their party.
But as Maclean’s writer Colby Coshsuggests, Albertans angry with the floor crossings are likely to move on and forget the former Wildrose MLAs transgressions.
Another Wildrose candidate drops out
The nominated Wildrose candidate in Strathcona-Sherwood Park has announced he is dropping out of the race. Brian Tiessen was nominated in a contested race in October 2014 against County Councillor Vic Bidzinski. He is one of a handful of nominated Wildrose candidates to forfeit their candidacies following the mass floor crossing on Dec. 17, 2014.
In a neighbouring constituency, former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk tweeted that she will remain the nominated Wildrose candidate in Sherwood Park. Ms. Osinchuk will face PC MLA Cathy Olesen, a former mayor who Ms. Osinchuk defeated in the 2010 municipal elections.
FYI I am still planning to run to be the next MLA representing Sherwood Park. Bold leadership is still needed. #shpk
“Alleged death threats, implied bribes, constituency association ambushes and supposed Progressive Conservative Party skulduggery,” is how a Red Deer Advocate report described the unexpectedly interesting Wildrose Party nomination in the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre constituency.
First-term MLA Joe Anglin is being challenged for his nomination by former local Wildrose president Jason Nixon.
Mr. Anglin is long-time rabble-rouser who set the political landscape on fire by organizing mass opposition to the construction of electrical transmission lines through vast swaths of central Alberta. Briefly the leader of Alberta’s Greens, he grabbed the Wildrose nomination before the 2012 election and unseated six-term PC MLA Ty Lund, who was first elected to political office in the region in 1980.
The Wildrose nomination in the riding immediately south of Edmonton is shaping up to be a race. The contest already has attracted three candidates and more are expected to enter the race.
First to enter the race is Patrick Kobly, son of former Beaumont mayor Ken Kobly and fiancee of Nicky Walker, chief of staff to Independent MLAs Mike Allen and Len Webber.
Jackie Lovely, a former Wildrose Caucus staffer and past president of the Summerside Community League, is also seeking the nomination in Leduc-Beaumont. Ms. Lovely ran for the Wildrose Party in Edmonton-Ellerslie in the 2012 election, placing second behind PC MLA Naresh Bhardwaj, earning 3,249 votes (24% of the vote).
Ironworker Joel Hamilton is running for the Wildrose nomination in Leduc-Beaumont and has declared on his Facebook page that he “will fight Edmonton’s Annexation of Nisku, the Airport and of the Beaumont expansion area.”
Retired Colonel John Fletcher is seeking the Wildrose nomination in Calgary-Elbow. It is expected that current Progressive Conservative MLA and former Premier Alison Redford could resign to allow Jim Prenticeto run in a by-election shortly after he wins the PC leadership race in September.
Drayton Valley-Devon Daniel Walton, owner of the Easyford meat packing company, is seeking the Wildrose nomination. This was one of the few rural constituencies where the PC candidate earned a majority of the votes cast in the 2012 election. PC MLA Diana McQueen was elected for a second term with 51.6% of the vote.
Edmonton-Mill Woods Laura Thibert, Edmonton Catholic School District trustee announced on Twitter that she will seek the Wildrose nomination in Edmonton-Mill Woods. Ms. Thibert was first elected in 2010 and was re-elected in 2013 with 47% of the vote.
Edmonton-South West Tim Grover is seeking the Wildrose nomination. A business consultant, Mr. Grover was the Get Out The Vote chairman for Karen Leibovici’s mayoral campaign in 2013.
The NDP nominated researcher Shannon Phillips as their candidate in Lethbridge-West. The NDP hope that with some hard work Ms. Phillips can build on her 2012 results, when she boosted her party’s support to 29%, up from 10% in the 2008 election. Those 2012 results placed Ms. Phillips ahead of the Wildrose candidate and just over 1,000 votes behind PC MLA Greg Weadick.
Former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk was nominated as the Wildrose candidate in Sherwood Park. Ms. Osinchuk was first elected mayor in 2010, defeating incumbent mayor Cathy Oleson, who is now the PC MLA for Sherwood Park.
I am maintaining an updated list of candidates seeking party nominations to stand in Alberta’s next provincial election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list.
With the governing Progressive Conservatives selecting their new leader in September 2014, there is growing suspicion that Albertans could be going to polls sooner than expected. While Alberta’s next strange “three-month fixed election period” is not until 2016, a loosely written law may allow the next premier to trigger an early election.
According to Section 38.01(2) of the Elections Act, the next election should take place between March 1 and May 31, 2016, but under 38.01(1), the Lieutenant Governor retains the authority to dissolve the assembly and call an election when he sees fit. This would typically occur when a government loses confidence of the Assembly or when the leader of the government asks him to do so (it would be highly irregular for the Lieutenant Governor to deny this request).
By my reading, what the Elections Act really says is that the next election must be held by May 31, 2016, but it could easily be held before that date. And I bet it will be.
An election in 2015
An early election would allow the next PC Party leader to seek a new mandate from Albertans, highlight new candidates and purge his caucus of deadwood and troublesome MLAs. With expected growth in resource revenues next year, it will be very tempting for the PCs to call an election after tabling a cash-rich provincial budget in Spring 2015.
An early provincial election could also conveniently rid the PCs of three potentially embarrassing by-elections in constituencies soon-to-be vacated by MLAs seeking federal party nominations (these MLAs are Len Webber in Calgary-Foothills, David Xiao in Edmonton-McClung, and Darshan Kang in Calgary-McCall).
A Jim Prentice By-Election
If the next PC leader is Jim Prentice, who currently has endorsements from 45 of 58 PC MLAs, a by-election would need to be held to provide the new Premier with a seat in the Assembly. In the past, when a party leader does not have a seat in the Assembly, a sitting MLA has resigned in order to trigger a by-election.
When Premier Don Getty was chosen as PC leader in October 1985, Edmonton-Whitemud PC MLA Robert Alexander resigned so that the new premier would win a by-election in December 1985. Mr. Getty later won a May 1989 by-election after he was unseated in the March 1989 General Election.
Wild rumours suggest that Mr. Prentice could wait until the next election to win a seat, perhaps running against popular Liberal MLA David Swann in Calgary-Mountain View (where Mr. Prentice was defeated in the 1986 election). But it is unlikely that he would wait that long or risk challenging a popular incumbent.
It is more likely that Mr. Prentice would follow tradition and quickly seek to run in a by-election. It is plausible that former Premier Alison Redford would resign as MLA to trigger a by-election in Calgary-Elbow.
Opposition Parties gearing up
The Wildrose Party already has candidates preparing to contest nominations across the province. The party has attracted an early high profile candidate in Sherwood Park, where former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk has announced she will seek the Wildrose nomination. In anticipation of an upcoming by-election, retired Colonel John Fletcher is seeking the Wildrose nomination in Calgary-Elbow.
The NDP will nominate candidates Shannon Phillips in Lethbridge-West and Chris Nielsen in Edmonton-Decore on June 17, 2014. The NDP was the first party to nominate a candidate for the next election months ago when Lori Sigurdson was chosen in Edmonton-Riverview.
While no Liberal candidates have been officially nominated, MLAs Laurie Blakeman, Kent Hehr and Mr.Swann have all indicated they plan on running in the next election.
As an election approaches, Alberta’s political parties are busy nominating candidates across the province. Listed below are some of the most recent updates made the list of nominated candidates, including recent Progressive Conservative nominees in Calgary-Fish Creek, Calgary-McCall, Calgary-West, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, and Sherwood Park.
Calgary-Fish Creek: Mount Royal University’s former Dean of Business Wendelin Fraser defeated political blogger Joey Oberhoffner to win the PC nomination. Ms. Fraser will face off against Wildrose MLA Heather Forsyth, who crossed to the Wildrose in 2010 after serving as a PC MLA since 1993. The election contest in Fish Creek will be a gauge of both PC and Wildrose popularity in the next election.
Calgary-McCall: Engineer Mohammad Rasheed defeated a crowded field in the PC nomination contest that included candidates Khandaker Alam, Deepshikha Brar, Afzal Hanid, Amtul Khan, Jamie Lall, Aslam Malik, Ravi Prasad, Jagdeep Sahota, and Jangbahadur Sidhu. Mr. Rasheed will face Liberal Mr. Kang in the upcoming election.
Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Six-term PC MLA Ty Lund defeated challenger Jimmy Clark to win his party’s nomination. Mr. Lund was first elected in 1989 and served in a number of cabinet portfolios during Ralph Klein‘s Premiership. He began his occupation of the Tory backbenches when Ed Stelmach because Premier in 2006. His main competition in the upcoming election is expected to be landowners rights advocate and former Green Party leader Joe Anglin, who is now running for the Wildrose Party.
Sherwood Park: Former Strathcona County Mayor Cathy Olesen narrowly won the PC nomination against Matthew Bissett, Brian Botterill, Helen Calahasen, Murray Hutchinson, and Susan Timanson. Ms. Oleson served as Mayor from 2004 until 2010, when she was defeated by Councillor Linda Osinchuk. Ms. Olesen will be the second former municipal official to serve as this constituency’s MLA. Retiring MLA Iris Evans served as Reeve until she was elected as an MLA in 1997.
Calgary-Glenmore: Former MLA Craig Cheffins is expected to seek the Liberal nomination. Mr. Cheffins’ briefly served as the MLA for Calgary-Elbow after winning a by-election, which was triggered by Premier Klein’s resignation in 2007. Under the new electoral boundaries, his neighbourhood of Lakeview will now be located within the boundaries of Calgary-Glenmore. Mr. Cheffins’ entry into the election will add an interesting mix to a contest which will include Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman (himself elected in a 2009 by-election) and the eventual PC nominee. Lawyer Byron Nelson and Linda Johnson are seeking the PC nomination, scheduled for January 26, 2012.
Edmonton-Glenora: Perennial City Council candidate Don Koziak is the nominated Wildrose candidate. Mr. Koziak most recently ran in the 2010 Edmonton municipal election, placing second in a close race against Councillor Kim Krushell.
Edmonton-Mill Creek: Mike Butler has been confirmed as the Liberal candidate. This will be Mr. Butler’s fourth attempt at political office. In 2008 he was provincial NDP candidate in Edmonton-Rutherford and federal NDP candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont. In 2010, he was the federal Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont.
Edmonton-Strathcona: At the recent deadline for candidates to enter the PC nomination contest, no qualified candidates had entered the contest. The constituency is currently represented by NDP MLA Rachel Notley.
Peace River: High Level town councillor Al Forsyth has been nominated as the Wildrose candidate.
Alberta’s Legislative Assembly resumes for Fall Sitting in a constantly changing political environment.
As the leaves fall and winter approaches, so does the resumption of the venerable institution known as the Alberta Legislative Assembly. Much has changed since last year’s Fall Sitting in Edmonton.
When MLAs return to the Assembly next Monday, they will have a few unfinished business to continue. The summer months have been far from quiet on Alberta’s political landscape. Premier Ed Stelmach has focused on promoting the oilsands to both audiences internationally and at home, including a tour with Hollywood Film Director James Cameron.
The Alberta Health Act will likely be the most contentious piece of legislation introduced in this sitting of the Assembly. Originally framed as a replacement for already existing pieces of health care legislation, the PC Government has since backed off after receiving an earful from Albertans in province-wide consultation meetings. The previously expected Alberta Health Act may be a shell of what it was envisioned to be when it is introduced in the next few weeks, but it could leave the door open for further legislative reforms (after the next election?).
At a media conference yesterday, Minister Gene Zwozdesky accepted recommendations from the Minister’s Advisory Committee on Health, led by Edmonton-Rutherford PC MLA Fred Horne, but used his time to take a defensive stance against his critics. Minister Zwozdesky and Mr. Horne were also unable to fully explain the purpose of their proposed non-legally-binding Health Charter when questioned by reporters. The purpose of the new Alberta Health Act was challenged by Edmonton-Riverview MLA and Liberal Health Critic Kevin Taft, who labelled the Health Charter idea as “vacant” and predicted that the new Act “will be filled with platitudes that have no legal standing and have no recourse.”
I fully expect a continuation of the blood fued between the Wildrose Caucus and Assembly Speaker Ken Kowalski to continue over the next session. Since the Wildrose Caucus grew to three MLAs with the floor-crossing of Mr. Anderson and Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Heather Forsyth in January 2010, Speaker Kowalski has used his power on the Members’ Services Committee to block any further increases in funding to the now third party caucus (the two MLA NDP Caucus still receives more funding that the 3 MLA Wildrose Caucus) and even demand that Danielle Smith‘s name be removed from media releases. Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Guy Boutilier joined the Wildrose Alliance Party in June 2010, but has remained as an Independent MLA in order to secure more research and communications funding (when he officially joins the Wildrose Caucus next week, their combined funding will decrease).
Since last session, the Wildrose have declared war on Speaker Kowalski outside the Assembly by nominating Senator-in-Waiting Link Byfield as their candidate in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock. Speaker Kowalski has represented variations of that constituency since 1979. Mr. Byfield has been endorsed by former Conservative Members of Parliament John Williams and David Chatters.
Not to be outdone by the insurgent Wildrosers, the PC Party will be holding their Annual Convention in Calgary on October 29 and 30. I am told by a number of sources that the Convention will also serve as the kickoff for a series of “discussion sessions” with PC Party members billed as Speak Easies which will attempt to reconnect the party leadership with an increasingly disillusioned voter-base in the year before the party celebrates its fortieth year in government.
After a brutal Spring sitting that included the high-profile departure of Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor from the Official Opposition Caucus, Liberal Opposition leader David Swann is looking to improve his party’s position this Fall. Dr. Swann is attempting to hitch his horse close to the Reboot Alberta group, which has attracted many partisan and non-partisan activists to its ranks during its two previous gatherings. In an email sent out today from his Calgary-Mountain View constituency office email, Dr. Swann implored his supporters to join him in attending the next Reboot Alberta meeting in Edmonton on November 5 and 6.
The NDP Caucus is probably feeling rightfully jubilant for the election of their Director of Research, Sarah Hoffman, to the Edmonton Public School Board, but those feeling of excitement may be tempered as they enter the Fall Sitting short-staffed. In early October, Communications Director Brookes Merritt left the NDP Caucus to accept a job with the Government of Alberta’s Public Affairs Bureau. Until they find a replacement, Chief of Staff Jim Gurnett is covering the Communications portfolio.
Outside the dome of the Assembly Building, there are some very real political changes happening. The new Alberta Party held its Annual General Meeting in Red Deer at the beginning of October and after months of touring the province holding Big Listen events, that party will hold their first policy convention in the same city on November 13.
The new Alberta Party has also moved forward with the hiring of their provincial organizer Michael Walters. The party will also undoubtedly benefit from having many of its members involved in recent municipal election campaigns, including Alberta Party Vice-President Chima Nkemdirim, who was the Campaign Director for Naheed Nenshi’s successful Mayoral campaign in Calgary. Mr. Walters was also heavily involved in the Election Day get out the vote organization that helped get Mayor Stephen Mandel re-elected in Edmonton.
Also not to be ignored is the role that the Wildrose Alliance played in recent municipal elections in the province’s two largest cities. The party has already hired organizers and been nominating candidates for the next provincial election, but leader Danielle Smith’s foray into the City Centre Airport issue in Edmonton and the Airport Tunnel issue in Calgary should not be ignored. Many Wildrose organizers active in the campaigns of Calgary Mayor candidate Ric McIver and Edmonton Mayor candidate David Dorward. While they may not walk away with voters lists, it is clear that they are taking advantage of any opportunity to get an organizational edge over the Progressive Conservatives in the next provincial election.
A lot of attention has been paid to Mayor-elect Nenshi’s victory in the Calgary Mayoral contest (and rightfully so), but he was not the only new Mayor elected on October 18. Seven of Alberta’s medium sized municipalities also elected new Mayor’s this week. In the north west city of Grande Prairie, Bill Given unseated Mayor Dwight Logan. East of Edmonton, Linda Osinchuk unseated Mayor Cathy Olesen to become Mayor of Strathcona County, Rajko Dodic was elected as the new Mayor of Lethbridge. Along the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary, Jeff Mulligan defeated incumbent Mayor Ken Baker in the City of Lloydminster. In the City of Wetaskiwin, Bill Elliot defeated incumbent Mayor Don Montgomery. In Airdrie, Peter Brown defeated incumbent Mayor Linda Bruce. In Alberta’s newest City, Steve Christie was elected Mayor of Lacombe, replacing the retiring Mayor Judy Gordon (who also served as the PC MLA for Lacombe-Stettler from 1993 to 2004). There was a lot of political change happening across Alberta on October 18, 2010. Of course, it is too soon to tell whether this will foreshadow a provincial election expected in March 2012.
The Fall Sitting of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly will likely open with a low level of substantive legislation and legislative debate, but outside the Dome there will be no shortage of new characters and exciting politics.
Michael and his team have worked hard and effectively ran a City Council-like campaign for the Public School Board seat, so it was a rewarding experience to watch their hard work pay off when he was declared elected with 53% of the vote. It was also great to see so many people celebrate Michael’s victory last night, including Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taftand Ward D Public School Trustee Dave Colburn, who both stopped by to offer their congratulations.
At this point in the evening, word had begun to trickle in from our southern neighbours that Naheed Nenshi had taken the lead in Calgary’s Mayoral contest. Later that night, he would solidify his lead over Ric McIver and Barb Higgins and be elected Mayor of Calgary. Maybe it was the power of effectively using social media and word of mouth, but I did not talk with one person that night in Edmonton who had not heard about the Nenshi campaign over the previous 30 days.
Following some hearty celebratory drinks, we grabbed a cab over to the Ward 10Don Iveson election night party at the Parkallen Restaurant where celebrations were in full swing. Not only had Don just been re-elected to his second term on City Council, he also earned the highest percentage (76.3%) and highest vote total (12,945 votes) of any Councillor candidate running in this election.
Don has done an excellent job on City Council over the past three years as a voice for both new ideas and prudent planning. Along with fellow Councillors like Ben Henderson, Don has been a strong advocate for smart transit planning and family-oriented infill in his three years on Council.
After catching up with the crew at Team Iveson, we headed downtown to Mayor Stephen Mandel‘s election night party at the Sutton Place Hotel Ball Room. Mayor Mandel had been leading in the polls all night and by that point had settled into a 25% lead over second place challenger David Dorward.
In the end, Mayor Mandel was re-elected with 55% of the vote, a stunning rebuke to the Envision Edmonton lobby group that had essentially labeled the Mayor everything but a terrorist for not supporting their invalid plebiscite petition a month earlier.
The party at the Sutton Place was dying down by the time we arrived, but I still got the chance to chat with a few of the evenings successful candidates, including Councillor-elect Dave Loken who won a close race in the new Ward 3 and Councillor Henderson who was re-elected in the new Ward 8.
It was a late night and overall it was a fun evening for party hopping.
Overall thoughts on the election results…
I am thrilled that Naheed Nenshiwas elected Mayor of Calgary. His election victory has proved that you can win a Mayoral campaign by using full-sentences and presenting well-thought ideas. He will have a lot of challenges, including inheriting a dysfunctional City Council who do not owe him any allegiance, but not being an incumbent Councillor probably helped propel him into his election victory. I am sure that Premier Ed Stelmach is glad to be rid of his old rival, outgoing Mayor Dave Bronconnier, but Nenshi is no political slouch.
I am generally pleased with how Edmonton’s City Council contests resulted. The potential for ideologicalcontrarians like Kerry Diotte and Tony Caterina to cause havoc exists, but I believe that we may even have a stronger Council than the previous one, which could bode well in terms of cooperation and consensus building to move projects forward.