The Alberta Party hasn’t been making many headlines lately, but there will soon be a significant staff change in the ranks of the small moderate conservative party. The party announced today that former Progressive Conservative executive director Troy Wason is taking over as interim executive director of the Alberta Party, replacing outgoing interim executive director Mark Taylor.
A well-respected long-time PC Party activist, Wason took over as executive director of the PC Party following the long-time governing party’s defeat in the 2015 election and resigned on the dayJason Kenney became that party’s leader in 2017.
Wason’s joining the Alberta Party could provide some internal direction for the party, which lost all of 3 of its seats in the 2019 election. The party continues to struggle to define itself and remains without a bigger key player – a permanent leader.
The Alberta Party has been without a permanent leader since the resignation of former leader Stephen Mandel in June 2019. The role remained vacant until earlier this year when former Fort Sasktachewan-Vegreville PC MLA Jacquie Fenske was named as interim leader, solidifying the party’s image as a refuge for former PC supporters uncomfortable with the social conservative flavour of the United Conservative Party and unable to support the moderate New Democratic Party.
The party was expected to have held a leadership race in 2020 but, like most other things, it was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rhodes’ appointment would bump three local nomination candidates, Joel Mullan, Arundeep Sandhu, and Sant Sharma, who have been campaigning for the UCP candidacy in the southeast Edmonton district for nearly a year. In particular, Sandhu, a young Edmontonian of Sikh heritage who mounted an energetic bid for City Council in 2016, has been campaigning hard for the nomination since May 2018.
Rhodes recently completed a term a Chair of the Board of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and announced last week that he was stepping away from his senior executive role with the Canadian Football League team as of Feb. 20. It appears we will know soon if this is the reason why.
With seven years as the top corporate executive of the Eskimos on his resume, Rhodes will certainly be described as a “star candidate,” which is something that has so far been absent from the UCP slate in NDP-leaning Edmonton. But his personal connections to the district, his own political views and understanding of local issues remains unclear.
The area included in the Edmonton-Meadows district is currently represented by New Democratic Party MLA Denise Woollard, who was first elected in 2015 in Edmonton-Mill Creek. Woollard is being challenged for her party’s nomination by 2015 federal NDP candidate Jasvir Deol and Alberta Pashtoon Association president Chand Gul. A nomination meeting for the NDP has been scheduled for Feb. 24, 2019.
Firefighter Captain wins NDP nomination in Grande Prairie
Firefighter Captain Todd Russell defeated non-profit executive director Melissa Byers to secure the NDP nomination Grande Prairie on Feb. 19. The contested nomination meeting was attended by Premier Rachel Notley and Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd, who is running for re-election in the new neighbouring Central Peace-Notley district.
Russell placed second in the Grande Prairie-Smoky district in the 2015 election, placing 334 votes behind then-Wildrose candidate Todd Loewen. Loewen is seeking re-election in the neighbouring district against McCuaig-Boyd.
The Alberta Firefighters Association has endorsed Notley and been actively campaigning for NDP candidates across the province. AFA President Craig Macdonald gave a rousing speech at the NDP convention in October 2018 praising the Notley government for introducing new workplace health and safety rules to protect firefighters and first responders.
NDP select more 5 candidates and announce new nomination meetings
NDP MLA Chris Nielsen was nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Decore and MLA Kim Schreiner has been nominated in Red Deer-North.
Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Jane Stroud has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district and Fort McMurray Public Schools trustee Stephen Drover has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. Cesar Cala has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-East.
The NDP announced a series of upcoming nomination meetings, with Robyn O’Brien seeking the nomination in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake on February 27, Kate Andrews seeking the nomination in Calgary-Acadia on March 1, Julia Bietz seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Lougheed on March 2, Rebecca Bounsall seeking the nomination in Calgary-Fish Creek and Hafeez Chishti is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-North West on March 3.
The NDP have also scheduled nomination meetings in Calgary-South East, Drumheller-Stettler, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, and Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright on February 28, 2019, and in Brooks-Medicine Hat on March 2, 2019.
Colette Smithers has been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Cypress-Medicine Hat.
Another Alberta Party candidate banned
It appears as though Tim Meech, the Alberta Party candidate in Livingstone-Macleod, and his CFO Mark Taylor, who is the executive director of the Alberta Party, have been added to Elections Alberta’s now infamous list of people ineligible to serve as candidates or CFOs.
Taylor is also serving as CFO for Red Deer-North candidate Paul Hardy and 4 Alberta Party constituency associations.
If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will add them to the list. Thank you!
Wildrose Party candidate Prasad Panda became his party’s only MLA from Calgary with a fairly decisive win in yesterday’s by-election in Calgary-Foothills, stealing the constituency away from the Progressive Conservatives. PC candidate Blair Houston finished third in the constituency that elected former Premier Jim Prentice in another by-election ten months ago and in a general election only four months ago.
The New Democrats mounted what appeared to be a strong campaign with candidate Bob Hawkesworth, but the governing party was only able to finish with second place in the by-election.
The NDP lost some ground in this by-election, holding 25.7 percent of the vote compared to the 32.3 percent earned by candidate Anne Wilson in the May 5, 2015 general election but still significantly more than the 3.7 percent earned by the NDP candidate in the October 2014 by-election. The results suggest that the NDP “orange chinook” from May 2015 has not completely dissipated as some would have argued and that NDP have developed a base of support in the city that was non-existent only a few months ago.
An NDP loss in this by-election would not have been a notable outcome had that party not intentionally raised the stakes of the results by pouring significant resources into the campaign, including high-profile endorsements of Mr. Hawkesworth and at least three campaign visits by Premier Rachel Notley. The loss does not spell the end of the NDP in Calgary but it does demonstrate that the party faces strong conservative opposition in the city, which should come as a surprise to no one.
Media commentaries will likely frame the Wildrose win as a rebuke of NDP policies in Calgary-Foothills, which it was, but at a more interesting level the results of this by-election are reflective of the divide between the Wildrose and the PC Party.
While the electoral outcomes were different from the last election, the percentages of the combined PC and Wildrose votes were 59.8 percent, up slightly from their combined vote of 58 percent in May 2015. This is a major decline from the October 2014 by-election, when the two conservative parties dominated with a combined 88 percent of the vote.
Conservative voters were split in this by-election, but Mr. Panda’s win will give the Wildrose Party potent ammunition to argue that the old PC Party is not a viable conservative alternative to the NDP in the three and a half years leading up to the next general election. The by-election results do suggest that in Calgary, the mostly rural based Wildrosers could still have some hard work ahead of them, as the PC Party is at the very least “still standing.”
The Wildrose caucus will now grow from 21 to 22 MLAs, making it the largest official opposition since the Liberals had 31 MLAs in the early-1990s. The PCs have 9 MLAs in the Legislature.
Here are the unofficial results from the September 3, 2015 by-election (66/66 polls reporting):
Prasad Panda, Wildrose: 4,877 (38.3%) Bob Hawkesworth, NDP: 3,270 (25.7%) Blair Houston, PC: 2,7,46 (21.5%) Ali Bin Zahid, Liberal: 791 (6.2%) Mark Taylor, Alberta Party: 610 (4.8%) Janet Keeping, Green: 377 (2.9%) Antoni Grochowski, Independent: 46 (0.36%)
Taking place in the backdrop of a federal election, the September 3 provincial by-election in the Calgary-Foothills constituency could have a profound impact on the federal election in Alberta.
A win by the NDP would almost certainly boost momentum for the federal NDP in Alberta, a win by the Wildrose would solidify that party’s dominance over the third-place Progressive Conservatives, and a win by the PCs would be that party’s first sign of a pulse since its defeat in the May 2015 election.
This is the third time voters in this constituency have gone to the polls to select a new MLA since October 2014, when PC leader Jim Prentice entered the Legislature. When it became clear the PC Party has lost the election on May 5, Mr. Prentice resigned as MLA before the votes were even finished being counted.
New Democratic Party: Premier Rachel Notley was the guest of honour at NDP candidate Bob Hawkesworth campaign launch this weekend. Mr. Hawkesworth is a well-known figure in Calgary politics, having served on city council from 1980 to 1986 and 1993 to 2010 and as MLA for Calgary-Mountain View from 1986 to 1993. He received a surprise endorsement last week from Alderman Diane Colley-Urquhart, who is a former PC Party candidate.
Agreeing with calls from opposition parties, the NDP government committed to not making any government announcements in Calgary until after the by-election. This follows criticism levelled at the former PC government, which used its office for political gain to boost support for candidates in four 2014 by-elections.
Progressive Conservative: The PCs have chosen past city council candidate and bar owner Blair Houston as their candidate. Before the 2015 provincial election, Mr. Houston ran for the PC nomination in Calgary-North West against incumbent MLA Sandra Jansen.
Wildrose: The Wildrose Party nominated Prasad Panda as their candidate in a three-way contest with more than 700 Wildrose members voting in the nomination selection. Mr. Panda was the 2012 and 2015 Wildrose candidate in the neighbouring Calgary-Northern Hills constituency.
Alberta Party: Mark Taylor has been nominated to run as the Alberta Party candidate. Mr. Taylor was President of the Wildrose Party’s Highwood association from 2012 until 2013 (at the time, the constituency was represented by Wildrose leader Danielle Smith). His campaign released an interview with a local business owner criticizing the NDP government’s 3-year phased increases of the minimum wage.
Liberal: Candidate Ali Bin Zahid issued a press release urging the NDP government to delay their promised royalty review, which is being chaired by Alberta Treasury Branches CEO and President Dave Mowatt. “The last thing the people of Foothills want at this moment is another career politician who will contribute to the NDP’s stubborn determination to do this review now,” said Mr. Zahid.
Green: Green Party leader Janet Keeping criticized the NDP for a lack of basic amenities in the Calgary-Foothills constituency and for an end to the political polarization in the debate about oilsands development. “Sustainability is about more than the physical environment. It is also about maintaining a healthy employment climate. The rate of oilsands development should be reduced decisively but gradually,” said Ms. Keeping.