Alberta Politics

what happens after prime minister harper? prime minister redford? prime minister mulcair?

Premier Alison Redford, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Premier Alison Redford, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, Prime Minister Stephen Harper

With the start of Stampede season came the latest round of gossip and predictions about what the future might hold for Calgary MLA and Alberta’s Premier Alison Redford. Earlier this week in a column in the Edmonton Journal, Graham Thomson speculated that Premier Redford’s next political challenge could be the biggest in the land – Prime Minister of Canada.

I have no reason to doubt Premier Redford’s political acumen or capability. Having only become Premier of Alberta eight months ago, she has hardly had an opportunity to demonstrate leadership on the national stage.

The upcoming Premiers’ conference, hosted by Premier Darrell Dexter from July 25 to 27 in Halifax, might give Albertans, and Canadians, an opportunity to watch Premier Redford demonstrate her leadership skills on a national level.

The issue of oil exports and pipeline construction, which will certainly be a topic of conversation at the Premiers’ meeting, became more complicated this week as American National Transportation Safe Board investigators criticized Enbridge for its slow response to a major pipeline leak in Michigan in 2010. Supported by the Government of Alberta, Enbridge wants to begin construction of the Northern Gateway Pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia. Adding another roadblock to the pipeline’s construction is BC Premier Christy Clark, who called Enbridge’s response to the Michigan spill disgraceful.

Closer to home, more than 50 organizations are calling on the Alberta Government to review the safety standards of the province’s aging pipelines.

Premier Redford has an opportunity to lead, and distinguish herself from her federal counterparts, by taking a positive lead on the renewal of the Canada Health Accord. The Accord, which was signed 10 years ago and expires in 2014, gave the provinces a significant monetary transfer for health care funding. The previous incarnation had little strings attached and the success of a future accord would benefit Canadians if more accountability were attached to the federal transfer.

Premier Redford’s road to 24 Sussex Drive is also complicated by another major factor. Only six years in to the job and still a young 53 years old, there is no indication that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be retiring in the near future.

Relations with Premier Redford’s Progressive Conservatives is cool to cold in some, or perhaps even most most, federal Conservative circles. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney‘s recent reply-all email describing Deputy Premier Thomas Lukazsuk as a “complete and utter asshole” serves as a reminder of how strained the relations are between some federal and provincial Conservatives. In the recent election, a significant number of Conservative Members of Parliament supported Danielle Smith‘s upstart Wildrose Party.

Two years ago it would have seemed impossible, but current federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair may actually have a shot at 24 Sussex Drive after the next federal election. The NDP are tied or leading in the polls and while there is three years until the next election (aka an eternity in politics when anything could happen), Mr. Mulcair appears to be the first Leader of the Official Opposition to take an aggressive offensive position against Prime Minister Harper’s Conservatives.

Earlier this week, the NDP released an attack ad against Prime Minister Harper, giving the federal Conservatives a taste of their own medicine. If anything, the ads demonstrate that Mr. Mulcair’s NDP are not afraid to use the same tactics that Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative Party used to destroy the political careers of weak former Liberal leaders Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff.

Alberta Politics

ndp and liberals searching for a pulse on the prairies.

You can be forgiven if you missed it. Hundreds of Liberals from across Alberta gathered in Edmonton last weekend for the biennial meeting of the Liberal Party of Canada in Alberta.

Bob Rae
Bob Rae

Speakers and guests at the weekend conference included interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, Scarborough-Agincourt MP Jim Karygiannis, and Senators Grant Mitchell, Art Eggleton, and James Cowan. One of the main guest speakers was Donna Clare, the Edmonton-based architect who designed the new Royal Alberta Museum.

Electing only two MPs in the three prairie provinces, the west was a wasteland for the federal Liberal Party in the 2011 election. Only in Manitoba, where the party earned 16% of the vote did they place above 10% (they earned 9% in Alberta and 8% in Saskatchewan). While the west has not been a bastion of Liberal support for at least two generations, this level of support is far below the average support earned over the 1990s and 2000s.

The decline in support can also be seen at the provincial level.

With 5 MLAs and 10% support in this year’s provincial election, the Alberta Liberals are the strongest of any prairie Liberal Parties. In the November 2011 election, the Saskatchewan Liberals failed to elect any MLAs for the third election in a row and only earned 0.5% of the popular vote. In Manitoba’s election, held in October 2011, the Liberals fell from 2 MLAs to 1 MLA and earned only 7% of the province-wide vote.

Justin Trudeau
Justin Trudeau

Leadership was undoubtably a topic of discussion over the weekend conference. Next year, the federal Liberal Party will be choosing its seventh leader in ten years. Interim-leader Mr. Rae, who entered the role after Michael Ignatieff‘s resignation in 2011 election, recently announced that he decided to stand by his previous commitment not to seek the permanent leadership.

The rate at which Justin Trudeau is being touted as a leadership contender makes his candidacy feel almost inevitable. Long-shot candidate George Takach was in attendance at the weekend convention and constitutional expert Deborah Coyne entered the race today. Liberals activists I have spoken with over the past few days have named New Brunswick MP Dominic Leblanc, Quebec MP Marc Garneau, former Quebec MP Martin Cauchon, and past Ontario candidate David Bertschi all as possible candidates for the Liberal Party leadership.

Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan…

A little further to the east, supporters of the provincial NDP gathered in Saskatchewan for their annual conference and passed a resolution calling for a strategy to grow their party in the three prairie provinces. The conference included speeches from federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, who has not endeared himself to some Conservative leaders in the prairie provinces.

Brad Wall
Brad Wall

The popularity of conservative Saskatchewan Party Premier Brad Wall led to the provincial NDP being nearly wiped off the electoral map during last year’s Saskatchewan election. Currently without a permanent leader, the Saskachewan NDP have scheduled a leadership vote to be held in March 2013.

The decline of NDP support in Saskatchewan is not limited to the provincial level. Once a stronghold for prairie social democrats, federal NDP support in Saskatchewan took a sharp decline in the 1990s and the party no longer has any MPs from that province represented in Ottawa.

Over time, support for the NDP has shifted away from rural areas and to the cities. This concentrated urban support has not helped the NDP in Saskatchewan, where urban federal ridings were redrawn to include large rural areas outside the cities, where the Conservatives hold strong support. Despite leading his party to huge gains across the country, I am sure that former leader Jack Layton‘s address in central Toronto did not help grow his party’s support in rural Saskatchewan. It will be interesting to see whether the NDP under Mr. Mulcair, another big city politician, will be able to regain a toe-hold in Saskatchewan in the next election.

Across the prairies, the NDP remains strong only in Manitoba, where dominance over the northern regions and the city of Winnipeg ensures the continued election of NDP majority governments in that province. In Alberta, NDP support has long been limited to a handful of constituencies in Edmonton, where the party has 4 MLAs. Federally, the NDP placed well in a few Edmonton ridings, and Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncanwas re-elected in 2011.

A photo of Shannon Phillips Alberta NDP Candidate in Lethbridge-East.
Shannon Phillips

A creed known as the Lethbridge Declaration is gaining attention in some NDP circles by those who recognize the need to reconnect with voters in the prairie provinces. It is not completely clear how they will accomplish this, but looking to the declaration’s name-sake gives long-toiling social democrats a glimpse of hope in the Conservative Party’s prairie stronghold.

The NDP experienced significant growth in support in Lethbridge in the recent federal and provincial elections. It may seem like the most unlikeliest of places, but federal candidate Mark Sandilands earned 27% of the vote, nearly doubling his vote from the 2008 election (the Conservative vote dropped 10% from 2008).

In the recent provincial election, Shannon Phillips tripled her party’s support in Lethbridge-West, coming within 7% of defeating incumbent Progressive Conservative MLA Greg Weadick.

Alberta Politics

the definition of silly season. is this what “change” looks like?

Alberta Progressive Conservative election campaign 2012
The wheels came off the Progressive Conservative election campaign this week.

If you are looking for a definition of “silly season” the first week of Alberta’s 2012 provincial election fits the bill. Despite major policy announcements from each of the main political parties this week, the campaign is being reported as a two-party race and defined by personal attacks and silly distractions.

Campaign Bus[t]
On March 19, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith launched her party’s election campaign in front of the Legislative Assembly building. The unfortunate positioning of her photo on the bus’ wrap gave Ms. Smith her 15-minutes of international fame, with jokes about the bus being lobbed by American comedians Jay LenoJimmy Kimmel, and Ellen DeGeneres.

Push Polls
Led by Wildrose Party cheerleader Ezra Levant, the conservative-leaning SUN TV tackled the Tories for a push poll launched against Ms. Smith. Of course, most media failed to remember the fact that Ms. Smith’s Wildrose Party launched their own nasty push poll against Premier Alison Redford earlier this year.

Who’s more Albertan?
Reminiscent of the federal Conservative Party attacks against former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, Ms. Smith tried to plant the seed in Albertans’ minds this week that Premier Redford is not a real Albertan. At a campaign stop in Edmonton, Ms. Smith told the media she believes the Premier “doesn’t like Alberta all that much.” As has been already pointed out by others, this is a ridiculous statement coming from a party leader who wants to change the government.

Ms. Smith’s statement reminded me of an ad launched by the Republican Party against their Democratic opponent during the 2006 United States Senate election in Tennessee.

Battle Stations
To counter Ms. Smith’s attacks on their leader, the PC war room has set up @WhatSmithSaid, as an attempt to highlight some of the more radical statements made by the former Calgary Herald columnist. Late last year, the Wildrose Party launched The Redford Files, attacking the new Tory leader’s record.

So far, Tory attacks have fallen flat, but with polls showing a real race, I can imagine the Tory war machine is just warming up.

Stupid Tweets
And of course, the most ridiculous statement of the week goes to now former Progressive Conservative campaign staffer Amanda Wilkie. Against better judgement, Ms. Wilkie shot off a tweet at Ms. Smith, accusing her of being insincere about caring for young and growing families because she does not have any children. Ms. Smith’s response could not be more devastating for the PCs.

Is this what “change” looks like?
Despite the silliness of the first week of the campaign, it has been amazing to watch the contrast between the consistent and disciplined Wildrose Party campaign and the flailing and undisciplined PC campaign. Political spin aside, if this first week is a clue about what “change” looks like, Albertans might be feeling buyers remorse after April 23.

Alberta Politics

i missed the orange wave.

Around 1:30 am on May 2, 2011, I returned to Edmonton after spending a month travelling across the vast continent of Australia. That day also happened to be Election Day in Canada. On a social media detox while I was out of the country and suffering from severe jet lag from the moment I returned, I missed and was near oblivious of the phenomenon that had become known as “the Orange Wave.”

That night, as I watched election results come in from across Canada, I felt like I had returned to a different country. The Conservative Party won a majority government, the official opposition Liberal Party collapsed, the Bloc Quebecois almost vanished off the electoral map, the Green Party elected its first Member of Parliament, and candidates from Jack Layton‘s New Democratic Party were elected in more than one hundred constituencies and for the first time formed the Official Opposition in Ottawa.

To magnify the degree of how out of the loop I was at the time, I fall into a category with an incredibly small fraction of Canadians who voted for the NDP in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but cast their ballot for the Liberal candidate in 2011 (also known as the “Liberal Back Eddy of 2011“). This choice had little to do with Michael Ignatieff and nearly everything to do with the hard-working and very-likeable local Liberal candidate, Mary MacDonald.

Thomas Mulcair Edmonton Alberta January 2011
Thomas Mulcair

Yesterday, Thomas Mulcair was chosen to lead the NDP Official Opposition in Ottawa. Having had the opportunity to meet the three leading candidates – Mr. Mulcair, Brian Topp, and Nathan Cullen – I was impressed with the quality of leadership candidates that members of the NDP had to choose from. In January of this year, I met Mr. Mulcair while he was visiting Edmonton. At the time, I wrote that:

I was not sure what to expect from his talk, but I found myself pleasantly surprised with Mr. Mulcair’s ability to offer intelligent pragmatic social democratic answers to a crowd  consisting of committed leftists was both impressive and sometimes brave.

As a centre-leftish voter, I am looking for a party that will put forward a forward-looking progressive agenda for Canada, which should not be confused with the tired traditional partisan socialist dogma (referred to by some as the Church of the NDP). As an outsider to the NDP, I have found Mr. Mulcair’s ability to challenge those traditional positions encouraging and I recognize that it may be one of his largest challenges from inside his own party’s ranks.

Western Canada is becoming the country’s economic leader. As a Quebec MP, Mr. Mulcair should try to avoid being sucked into the traditional eastern Canadian “father knows best” attitude around economic development. Mr. Mulcair should also try to avoid being caught in the Conservative Party trap that would have any criticism or suggestion of deviation from our current resources extraction methods labelled as “anti-Albertan.” (Stephen Harper‘s Conservative Party has already released talking points to be used against Mr. Mulcair).

Mr. Mulcair and all of the NDP Members of Parliament from central and eastern Canada should consider travelling west and knocking on some doors during Alberta’s upcoming provincial election. Their provincial cousins will undoubtably appreciate the help and it may give those MP’s a better idea of what real Albertans, not just their Conservative politicians, are actually thinking.

Alberta Politics

pre-election games: progressive conservatives and wildrose spar with new ads.

As the Spring 2012 provincial election approaches, the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose Party have rolled out a series of television ads (on YouTube) delivering their political pitches to Albertans.

The Wildrose ads, as David Climenhaga and Graham Thomson have already written, are cast with two faces of leader Danielle Smith.

To quote Mr. Climenhaga, ‘Bad Danielle is going to slap you around a bit now for even thinking about voting for Alberta Premier Alison Redford… while she’s gone, Good Danielle may offer you a cup of coffee, apologize for her partner’s behaviour and try to sweet-talk you out of your troubles…”.

The first Wildrose ad, ‘Flip Flop’, takes a negative angle and could be confused with the Conservative Party ads from the last federal election. Accentuating the negative, these types of ads were deadly for federal Liberal leaders Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff.

The second Wildrose ad features leader Ms. Smith speaking about education, which I believe may be the best of the ads released by any party so far. Ms. Smith is clear, confident, and shockingly warm for a conservative politician (though I still would not trust the former Calgary School Trustee to run our education system).

The first of the two Progressive Conservative ads introduces Premier Redford and the second ad features the Premier talking about the promise of education. They are rather plain and fuzzy feeling, which is surprising considering Premier Redford’s interesting background (including her surprisingly extensive international experience).

The theme of the PC ads appears to be ‘look how good your quality of life is,’ which appears to be a reaction to the negative tone of Wildrose ads. Although they cry for excitement, these dull and numbing ads should not hurt the PCs so long as they do not linger too far into the Harry Strom-like “don’t even think about doing anything drastic like voting for another party’ because ‘we’ve renewed… really… we have… a new leader… look at our exciting new leader!’ territory.

Alberta Politics

pgib attack gary mar with ad channeling michael ignatieff.

The hyper-conservative Progressive Group for Independent Business is targeting Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Gary Mar with a low-quality online campaign ad. The ad compares Mr. Mar’s four years as Alberta’s representative in Washington DC to former Liberal Party of Canada leader Michael Ignatieff‘s decades living outside of Canada. I am nothing close to a supporter of Mr. Mar, but even I recognize that the comparison is silly.

Albertans will remember the PGIB from its Executive Director Craig Chandler, who was dropped as the PC candidate in Calgary-Egmont in 2008 after telling Albertans who did not agree with the governing PCs to leave the province.

Alberta Politics

the new canada: painted blue and orange.

2011 Federal Election Results: Conservative (Blue), NDP (Orange), Liberal (Red), Light Blue (BQ)

What started as a less than exciting federal election when the writ was dropped in April 2011 turned into a monumental political shift tonight.

The Conservative Party has formed a majority government under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Toronto-Danforth Member of Parliament Jack Layton led the NDP in dislodging Michael Ignatieff‘s Liberal Party and decimating the Bloc Quebecois to become the Official Opposition for the first time. In the British Columbia riding of Sanich-Gulf IslandGreen Party leader Elizabeth May has become her party’s first elected Member of Parliament.

Seat Count
Conservative 166 MPs
NDP: 103 MPs
Liberal: 34 MPs
BQ: 4 MPs
Green: 1 MP

Percentage of National Vote
Conservative: 39.6%
NDP: 30.7%
Liberal: 18.7%
BQ: 6.1%
Green: 3.8%

It certainly gives this blogger a lot to think about.

Alberta Politics

liberals bury climate change policy on page 46.

The Liberal Party released its full campaign platform today. The announcement was live-streamed online, and contrasting the closed-and-controlled Conservative Party campaign, the Liberals gave online viewers the opportunity to ask questions about their platform.

Andrew Leach, an Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta School of Business, asked some key questions about what the platform includes for climate change and Alberta in his recent Globe & Mail column:

The Liberal Party’s key climate change policy announcement, and by far the most important environmental position taken thus far in the campaign, was buried on page 46 of its policy platform.

You are forgiven if you missed it since Michael Ignatieff did not mention it once. In fact, when asked a direct question on the Liberal Party’s policies on climate change, he listed removal of oil sands tax credits and a re-vamped green tax credit program.

He did not mention that the Liberals have committed to an aggressive cap-and-trade program which would, “set a ceiling on the total amount of permissible greenhouse gas emissions by large industrial facilities.” By not discussing this policy at all, the Liberals have left many key questions unanswered. Read more…

During his campaign kick-off in Edmonton on March 26, NDP leader Jack Layton only briefly mentioned the oil sands, an issue that he elaborated on further in a visit to Montreal during the following week later.

Alberta Politics

alberta cabinet minister to michael ignatieff: clarify your position on sports arena funding.

Alberta’s Minister of Housing & Urban Affairs Jonathan Denis has penned this letter to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff asking him to clarify his position on federal government funding of professional sports arenas. On March 14, 2011, Mr. Ignatieff told reporters in Quebec City that a federal Liberal government would support funding a new hockey arena in Quebec City.

Edmonton City Council will receive a new package of reports today from City Administration on the proposed downtown arena project focusing on governance framework options, public engagement options, impacts of an arena in downtown, and the Community Revitalization Levy and boundary. The reports will be discussed by City Council on April 6, 2011.

Alberta Politics

election promises, arena subsidies, and political zealots.

With a federal election call potentially around the corner, election promises are being dealt out like playing cards. Promise this, promise that. Trying to win back regional support lost over the past decade, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said that he supports funding for a new arena in Quebec City.

Not surprisingly, Edmonton Journal columnist David Staples used a recent column to lead the Katz Group Arena cheer parade, praising Mr. Ignatieff as a saviour for his pre-election suggestion. Of course, no one should be surprised by Mr. Staples column given his  past columns on the topic, which have demonstrated his strident support for the proposed Katz Group Arena.

I have written before that if Canadians believe that professional sports clubs are a business sector in need of public financial support then this is a role that the three main levels of government – federal, provincial, and municipal – need to discuss. That said, raising the suggestion of public subsidies and committing to give a public subsidy are two different things, especially when the promise is packaged on the eve of an election.

The thing I find the most disappointing about Mr. Staples recent column is that he labels arena skeptics as zealots, which distracts from the legitimate concerns being raised about the public funding and construction of the Katz Group Arena. There are legitimate reasons to question about the presence of public funding and the decision to construct the Katz Group Arena in the downtown core. There are zealots on both extremes of this issue, but there are legitimate reasons to oppose and support this public policy issue.

I am not opposed to the construction of a new arena, I have not been convinced that the construction of a mega-project like a new NHL Arena will result in the kind of vitalization for the downtown core that its proponents suggest.

Even Edmonton Journal business columnist Gary Lamphier, who has described himself as a supporter of a new arena admits that many key questions remain unanswered about proposal. Proposals under negotiation would have the City of Edmonton fund around $400 million and take a large portion of the financial risk for the project, which would end up being privately owned by the Katz Group.

In the rush to push forward a City Council vote on the project, a frustrated Mayor Stephen Mandel:

“Either we build a new arena or we become a second-class city”

While Mayor Mandel soon after admitted that his “choice of words probably wasn’t right,” this comment epitomized how much boosterism has become a central part of the Katz Group Arena debate. The debate is not about whether it is smart public policy for a municipal government to finance the construction of a private arena or even whether the presence of the Katz Group Arena in the downtown core will actually lead to the “revitalization” that the company promises. It has been overshadowed by the driving desire to become a “world-class” city, though no one is quite clear about what exactly that means.

When I think of “world-class” cities like Paris, London, Vancouver, Montreal, or New York, it is not the sports arenas, tourist attractions, or expensive gimmicks that make me appreciate those cities. It is the people who live there that make those cities impressive.

This kind of boosterism is not limited to the arena debate. The decision by the federal government to not fund Edmonton’s bid to host the 2017 Expo bid also drew the ire of Edmonton’s “boosters”, who lashed out at the federal Conservatives and even made ridiculous statements about how it would lead to the Tories electoral demise in northern Alberta (a recent Angus Reid poll showed Conservative support in Alberta sitting at 69% province-wide, with the Green Party with 12% support, and the Liberals and NDP tied with 9%).

I expect some people to attempt to make federal funding for the Katz Group Arena or the denial of Expo funding an issue in the next federal election, I do not believe either of these issues has legs on the federal scene.

At a meeting last week, I joined a diverse group of eight Edmontonians to discuss local issues with a group of five of the city’s Conservative MPs. Over the course of the two hour meeting, we talked about a wide-range of issues from LRT, immigration, crime, digital economy, health care, and housing, but the words “arena” or “expo” were never mentioned.

Canadian Politics

conservative party scare campaign, australian liberal party style.

I was watching the Calgary Flames game against the Minnesota Wild the other night and got my first glimpse of the new Conservative Party scare campaign against Michael Ignatieff on television. While I understand why political parties would produce these kind of advertisement and why they work, I believe that in the long-run this kind of hard negativity only succeeds in pushing more Canadians away from participating in the democratic system.

Anyway, the Conservative Party advertisement immediately reminded me of a similar advertisement produced in Australia. Watch both of the videos below and let me know what you think.

Alberta Politics

federal opposition parties putting pressure on the tories in edmonton.

Opposition parties hope to turn the death of Edmonton’s Expo 2017 bid into a major campaign issue.

The Christian Heritage Party of Canada election campaign sign near Morinville, Alberta in the Westlock-St. Paul riding.

Federal opposition parties are preparing for the next federal election and nominating candidates in Alberta ridings where they think breakthroughs are possible.

The federal Liberals ended 2010 with a meeting in Edmonton-East selecting Shafik Ruda as their candidate of choice against five-term Member of Parliament Peter Goldring and former NDP MLA Ray Martin. Liberals in Calgary-East are expected to nominate Josipa Petrunic on January 18 to challenge Tory MP Deepak Obhrai. In late 2010, the Conservatives acclaimed party insider Michelle Rempel as their candidate in Calgary-Centre North, recently vacated by former Environment Minister Jim Prentice.

The federal Liberals slate in Alberta is expected to be bolstered when a high-profile candidate announces their intentions to stand against Labour Minister Rona Ambrose in Edmonton-Spruce Grove. Alberta political watchers have been abuzz with rumours that Ruth Kelly, publisher of Alberta Venture magazine and former President of Edmonton’s Chamber of Commerce, will carry the Liberal Party banner against Minister Ambrose. The rumours began after Ms. Kelly’s became an outspoken critics of the Government of Canada’s denial of funding for Edmonton’s bid for the 2017 Expo (and the large pile of federal infrastructure funding that was expected to come with a successful bid).

While I have remained largely indifferent to the 2017 Expo bid, it is easy to understand the frustration of the people who committed their time and energy towards the bid only to have political powers in Ottawa deny the funds needed to make it a reality. Minister Ambrose will be difficult to defeat, but I am glad that the Conservatives might actually have to pay some attention to and focus some of their campaign resources on a riding that they would likely take for granted.

A shift in financial and volunteer resources could also make a difference in the expected competitive races in Edmonton-Strathcona between NDP MP Linda Duncan and Tory candidate Ryan Hastman, and in Edmonton-Centre where Liberal Mary MacDonald and New Democrat Lewis Cardinal are challenging Tory MP Laurie Hawn.

A mail flyer sent out by Edmonton-Centre Conservative MP Laurie Hawn in Fall 2010.

Does Edmonton have a champion in Ottawa?

It is really hard to tell sometimes. Our Members of Parliament can be often seen at events around our city (some more than others), but none of them have distinguished themselves as Edmonton’s strong voice in the national capital.

Edmonton has its share of competent representatives in our local batch of current MPs, like Mike Lake, James Rajotte, Tim Uppal, and Mr. Hawn, but none of them have succeeded in carrying the kind of political clout that has defined Edmonton’s previous prominent champions in Ottawa.

In the recent past, our city has sent prominent voices like Jim EdwardsDeb Grey and Anne McLellan to the House of Commons and as one local columnist has suggested, we have not had a champion since. Edmonton’s lone opposition MP, Ms. Duncan, was elected with high expectations in October 2008, but has been somewhat of a ghost in our city ever since.

Are federal party leaders paying attention of Edmonton? Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, NDP leader Jack Layton, and Green Party leader Elizabeth May have visited Edmonton a number of times in the past year. Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Edmonton this year for the first time since 2008.

Alberta Politics

alberta politics notes 6/25/2010

– The Government of Alberta is only running a $1 billion deficit, according to yesterday’s fiscal update. It is no reason to start more spending, says Finance Minister Ted Morton.
– The Wildrose Alliance are holding their Annual General Meeting this weekend in Red Deer. Read the proposed policy document here. That party is expected to launch their new website soon after the convention.
– As expected former PC MLA Guy Boutilier has joined the Wildrose caucus.
Liberal leader David Swann and some of his party’s MLAs were also in Red Deer this week, meeting with City Council and Chamber of Commerce.
Spotlight Strategies, a consulting firm with very strong ties to the PC Party, has released a new poll showing PC support is holding steady among voters.
– It is a bad week for Edmonton-Rutherford PC MLA Fred Horne. The MLA is not impressing many Albertans as he travels the province holding consultation meetings about the proposed Alberta Health Act.
– Alberta is a key part of the Federal Liberal Party‘s future, according to Michael Ignatieff.
– The final report from Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission has been released. For more: commentary and the 2008 results transposed on the new maps.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.


alberta politics notes 6/17/2010

This descriptive photo of Finance Minister Ted Morton was taken from the Alberta Chamber of Commerce website.

– Premier-in-Waiting Ted Morton was joined by Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand this week while rallying against a National Securities registry. According to a recent Angus Reid survey, 48% of Albertans are open to a National Securities Regulator, 23% supported the current model (and I am betting that close to 100% did not know the difference between the two).
– Liberal leader David Swann has joined Minister Morton and Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith in opposing the National Securities Regulator.
– Former Premier-in-Waiting Jim Dinning is now the Chancellor of the University of Calgary.
– Alberta’s representative in Washington DC Gary Mar is spending his time promoting the oilsands in the wake of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
– Culture & Community Spirit Minister Lindsay Blackett has apologized for describing Canadian television as “shit” and “crap.” It was rude and condescending for Minister Blackett to say those things during a panel discussion at the Banff World Television Festival, but there was a certain refreshing quality to his honesty.
– I was saddened to hear of the passing of my former MLA Dave Broda. Mr. Broda served as the MLA for Redwater from 1997 to 2004.
– Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is in Edmonton on June 19. Dan Arnold has written a good article about why the federal Liberals should focus on the West.
Equal Voice Alberta is hosting a workshop on June 23 for women considering running for municipal council or school board trustee. Panelists include Councillor Janice Melnychuk, retiring Edmonton Public School Board Trustee Sue Huff, former Ward 4 campaign manager Sarah Crummy.
– Independent Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor is hosting a town hall forum with Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell and QR77 radio host Dave Rutherford on June 22. Topic: Do Alberta’s Political Parties represent you?
– The United Nurses of Alberta has recommended the ratification of a new provincial contract. The new three-year agreement would provide a commitment to hire at least 70% of new nursing graduates, no rollbacks from the previous agreement, and a six percent pay increase over three years (two percent productivity increase in the second year and a four percent increase in the third year).

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

Alberta Politics

alberta politics notes 6/03/2010

– The Inspiring Education report was released by Education Minister Dave Hancock yesterday. I wrote about it earlier and the Public School Board Association of Alberta has a list of links to related articles on their Legislature Watch Blog.
Calgary Herald editorialist Licia Corbella reflects on Finance Minister Ted Morton‘s new role as the default-Premier of Alberta.
– The Edmonton Journal’s Graham Thomson has written an interesting column on the synergizing happening at the Competitiveness Review.
– Sustainable Resource Development Minister Mel Knight has declared Grizzly Bears as a threatened species in Alberta. This decision follows a public campaign calling for increased protection for Grizzly Bears in Alberta.
– Armed guards will be removed from public hearings being held by the Energy Resources Conservation Board northeast of Edmonton.
– An abundance of witnesses may further delay the trial involving Greenpeace‘s oil sands protest at a Fort Saskatchewan upgraded last summer.
– The Friends of Medicare have begun their province-wide public consultations on the proposed Alberta Health Act, including recent meetings in Lethbridge and Medicine Hat.
– Trustee Sue Huff has blogged about her experience at a Big Listen hosted by the Alberta Party.
– Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff will in Edmonton on June 19 to hold a policy discussion meeting at the University of Alberta.
– Former Liberal MLA Mo Elsalhy is already gearing up for the next election and has launched a website promoting his nomination campaign. Mr. Elsalhy served as the MLA for Edmonton-McClung from 2004 to 2008 and ran for the Liberal Party leadership in 2008. I have been told that he is likely to seek the nomination in the new Edmonton-Collingwood pending the final report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission expected to be released this summer.
Elections Alberta has started the search for 87 Returning Officers and Election Clerks for the next provincial election expected in 2011 or 2012. This is a very early start compared to the 2008 election, where a last minute scramble to hire elections officials and organize riding offices put Elections Alberta in the embarrassing position of having hired an estimated over 50 staff who had direct connections to the PC Party (including candidate nominees and constituency organizers).
Today in Alberta Politics History on June 3, 1920 a by-election was held in Athabasca following the death of the Honourable Alexander Grant MacKay. Mr. MacKay served as Leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario from 1907 to 1911 and as an Alberta MLA from 1913 to 1920. Mr. MacKay died of pneumonia in the Edmonton General Hospital in 1920 while serving as the provincial Minister of Health. The by-election was contested by Liberal G. Mills and Independent J.K. Cornwall. Mr. Mills was elected 640 votes to Mr. Cornwall’s 286 votes.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.