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Alberta Politics

alberta party annual general meeting & road to policy 2010.


I have travelled across a lot of Canada and while I have experienced some amazing scenery, in my mind little compares with a Fall drive down the Queen Elizabeth II Highway through central Alberta. The colours of the leaves are changing, the farmers are harvesting their crops, and a new season is just around the corner. This was the drive I took this weekend on my way to Red Deer to observe the Annual General Meeting of the Alberta Party.

Around fifty members of the Alberta Party crowded a meeting room at the Holiday Inn to participate in their party’s Annual General Meeting. It was a typical hotel conference room, but the crowd was different. Where most traditional partisans could easily be characterized by their greying hair or balding heads, this crowd was much more generationally diverse than I have seen at other political meetings.

I arrived at noon and was told that I had missed a series of small fireworks set off by some of the old guard of the Alberta Party. The Alberta Party was formed in the 1980s and existed as a Reform Party-esq fringe party until earlier this year when a new group of mainly rural Party members joined forces with the largely urban Renew Alberta group. I was told that some of these older party members felt that the influx of new members and new constitutional changes were changing the party too quickly. After a thorough debate, all the constitutional changes and motions were approved.

Not being able to piggyback on the resources of federal political cousins or traditional party establishments, members of the new Alberta Party have focused on building their party and policy infrastructure through hundreds of “Big Listen” meetings held across the province. The ideas and feedback generated through these living-room and coffee meetings were used in Saturday afternoon’s Road to Policy session to determine the general areas of discussion that will be proposed at the Alberta Party’s Policy Convention in November.

It was my observation that ideas generated from the Big Listens that were discussed this weekend were not extreme or ideological driven. The ideas were moderate and likely reflective of the views of most Albertans. It felt that one of the biggest differences between this party and the traditional establishment parties is not necessarily policy, but the tone of discussions that are shaping that party.

While some political leaders talk about doing politics differently, the Alberta Party is actually doing politics differently. What I witnessed this weekend did not feel like a political party event, it felt like a real collaborative process.

Some criticism levelled at the Alberta Party since they launched their Big Listen campaign has been that they do nothing but listen. A few months ago, I might have been more sympathetic to these criticisms, but I now understand the process that the party is following. Laying a strong foundation of organization and ideas is not something that can be created overnight and it is critical for the survival of a new political party.

One of the big news items of the day was the announcement by Leader Edwin Erickson that he will resign from his position at the November Policy Convention. At that convention an interim leader will be appointed and an open leadership contest will begin.

The thing that impresses me the most about the new Alberta Party is the group of credible and politically savvy people who have joined its ranks over the past ten months.

New Party President Chris Labossiere was previously involved with the Edmonton-Whitemud Progressive Conservatives and played a key role in Dave Hancock‘s re-election campaign in 2008. Vice-President Chima Nkemderim is the campaign director for Naheed Nenshi‘s Calgary Mayoral campaign and managed MLA Kent Hehr‘s 2008 campaign in Calgary-Buffalo. Their Board of Directors includes former Education Minister David King and Edmonton Public School Board Trustee Sue Huff. At the end of the day, the newly elected Alberta Party Board of Directors consisted of 11 women and 14 men from across the province.

Some people have asked me “why I bother writing about the Alberta Party” and why I do not focus on helping get the established opposition parties elected. The truth is I have a difficult time not getting frustrated when writing about the sorry state of Alberta’s traditional establishment opposition parties.

To me, the characteristics that differentiate what I experienced this weekend from what I have experienced at other political meetings is the optimism of the people in the room. The people I spoke with at the AGM are not driven with a singular desire to destroy the PCs or gain power, but are driven with an optimism to change the culture of politics in this province.

The Alberta Party has proven to me that they can attract competent people and actually understand the meaning of practicing politics differently. Their big challenge will be to translate this into support outside their already politically active communities and into the next provincial election.

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Alberta Politics

alberta politics notes 9/11/2010

– Residents of Sherwood Park are rightfully angry to discover that their long-promised hospital is not actually a hospital. Councillor Jason Gariepy had his computer access and blackberry service cut off after he sent an email criticizing a Strathcona County media release. The release quoted Strathcona County Mayor Cathy Olesen praising the County’s two PC MLAs Minister Iris Evans and Dave Quest. Councillor Linda Osinchuk, who is challenging Mayor Olesen, is less pleased.
– In a 2004 interview with the Edmonton Journal, Minister Evans listed bringing “a 24-hour emergency medical care facility to Sherwood Park” as the first of her top three priorities. Since that time, she has served as Minister of Health and Minister of Finance.
Alberta Health Services has re-announced the opening of 132 beds in Calgary this week. The beds were originally announced on June 25, 2010.
– Premier Ed Stelmach joined Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, Quebec Premier Jean Charest, and federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice for dinner with US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week. The Pembina Institute‘s Marlo Reynolds met with Speaker Pelosi the next day.
– It is official. The Fall Sitting of the Alberta Legislature will begin on October 25.
Canadian Rockies Public School Trustee Esmé Comfort has written an excellent letter in the Rocky Mountain Outlook about why school trustee work is important for community. The Public School Boards Association of Alberta has also published an excellent letter about the importance of trusteeship and the democratic process.
– NDP MLA Rachel Notley believes that public school fees would be less if the government stopped funding private schools.
– The Wildrose Alliance has released their Education policy.
– An MLA committee conference call caught some comments by Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA and Mayoral candidate Kent Hehr about fellow Mayoral candidate Barb Higgins.
– Earlier this week, Mr. Higgins’ campaign manager Donn Lovett shoved Naheed Nenshi supporter Stephen Carter at a campaign event. Mr. Lovett apologized after word of the altercation spread on Twitter.
– Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel launched his website, Twitter, and Facebook campaign.
Rod Love is now lobbying on License Plate Branding.
Elections Alberta is currently recruiting Returning Officers and Elections Clerks in seven constituencies for the next provincial election.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

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Alberta Politics

alberta politics notes 9/03/2010

– Dr. David Schindler‘s oilsands toxins report stirred the pot this week and United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is coming to Canada to talk oilsands.
– Remember the Gap boycott of the oilsands? It turns out it was all made up.
– The Calgary Herald has called for Speaker Ken Kowalski‘s resignation over politically-motivated attempts to censor the Wildrose Alliance.
– The Legislative Assembly is set to reconvene this fall. The official calendar has the sitting scheduled for October 25, but I have heard talk of the Assembly reconvening as early as the second or third week of September.
– The ongoing saga of the financially insolvent Health Resource Centre continues. David Climenhaga has written some excellent blog posts on this topic. The Calgary Chapter of the Friends of Medicare are organizing a rally at HRC on September 10 at 10am.
Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman has released a new video encouraging Albertans to get involved in the discussion about land use and conservation in the Athabasca region.
Ernie Isley is seeking a third-term as Mayor of Bonnyville. Mr. Isley was first elected Mayor in 2004 and previously served as a provincial Cabinet Minister and PC MLA for Bonnyville from 1979 until 1993 when he was unseated by Liberal Leo Vasseur.
Vulcan County Councillor Ian Donovan is seeking the Wildrose nomination in Little Bow to run against long-time PC MLA Barry McFarland. Mr. McFarland was first elected in a 1992 by-election.
Melissa Blake is standing for re-election as Mayor of Wood Buffalo.
– The Social Credit Party has lost their website.
– Former Premier’s Office staffer and current Assistant to the Energy Minister David Heyman is working on Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Kent Hehr‘s bid for Mayor of Calgary. Former Liberal strategist Donn Lovett is in candidate Barb Higgins‘ camp. Mr. Hehr’s 2008 campaign manager Chima Nkemdirim is the campaign director for Naheed Nenshi‘s Mayoral campaign (Mr. Nkemdirim is also the President of the new Alberta Party).
– The Alberta Party recently hired former Greater Edmonton Alliance lead organizer Michael Walters as their Provincial Organizer and released a video as part of their announcement:

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

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Alberta Politics

alberta politics notes 8/14/2010

– A sad so-long to the authors of the Edmonton Journal’s Capital Notebook blog. Legislature Press Gallery reporters Archie McLean and Trish Audette are moving on to bigger and better things. They will be missed. Good luck!
– After three-terms in the Legislative Assembly, former Liberal leader Kevin Taft has announced that he will not seek re-election in Edmonton-Riverview when the next election is held.
– The Pembina Institute says Imperial Oil is being allowed to break rules about tailings for its new Kearl oilsands plant.
– Landowner groups gathered in Red Deer on August 10 for the first ever conference on landowner rights. The United Power Transmission Area Groups hosted the conference which was attended by more than a dozen groups from across Alberta. The main topic of the conference were the legislative frameworks that have reduced or eliminated landowners’ rights in regards to transmission lines.
– The new Alberta Party will be holding its annual general meeting in October in Red Deer.
– The lobbyists behind the Envision Edmonton group are offering cash for signatures for a petition to stop the phased closure of the City Centre Airport. Chris Labossiere broke this news on his blog yesterday.
– Alberta Health Servcies CEO Dr. Stephen Duckett has published a bizarre post on his blog this week taking the Edmonton Journal to task for something they published over a year ago.
– Federal voting intentions in Alberta from the latest Angus-Reid poll: Conservative (61%), Liberal (13%), NDP (13%), Green (13%). Dan Arnold has a good overview of August poll results.
Michael Cormican has been nominated as the federal Liberal candidate in Lethbridge.
Naheed Nenshi has released a new video outlining his plan if elected as the next Mayor of Calgary. Mr. Nenshi has also provided some solid responses to Barb Higgins and Alderman Ric McIver‘s “policy framework” and “visions.”

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

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Alberta Politics

alberta politics notes 7/23/2010

– From the west coast, the mighty Tyee has published some interesting oilsands related articles this week: Oil Sands opponents will lose, Economist suggests and Lobby group vows to protect oil sands pipeline against new attack.
– Delegates from the PNWER conference toured the oilsands this week, including Alberta’s minister in Washington DC Gary Mar.
– Dan Arnold has some good photos of politicians playing cowboy at the Calgary Stampede.
– First came The Big Listen, now the Alberta Party brings us The Big Momentum.
– Health & Wellness Minister Gene Zwozdesky announced over $1 billion in infrastructure funding for facilities outside of Calgary and Edmonton. The NDP compared it to the the Dance of the Seven Veils (which I had to google).
Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald‘s latest target are staff bonuses at the Workers Compensation Board.
– Wildrose Alliance Communications Director Shawn Howard has moved on as his party announces the opening of candidate nomination processes in 11 constituencies across Alberta. The Liberals will be starting their own nomination process in earnest this fall. The NDP have already nominated their first candidate, Deron Bilous in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview.
– Former Liberal MLA Rick Miller is gearing up for the next election campaign. August 4 is the 15th annual Edmonton-Rutherford Salmon BBQ. Currently serving as the Official Opposition Chief of Staff, Mr. Miller narrowly lost his bid for re-election against PC candidate Fred Horne back in 2008.
– The crowded race for Calgary’s Mayorship may be getting more crowded. Rumours are strong that recently retired CTV news anchor Barb Higgins may be joining Naheed Nenshi, Kent Hehr, Ric McIver, Jon Lord, Bob Hawkeswoth, Joe Connelly, Craig Burrows, Paul Hughes, others in the race.
– The electoral battle in Edmonton-Glenora is heating up as former NDP MLA David Eggen is campaigning hard for the job:

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

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Alberta Politics

alberta politics notes 5/29/2010

Naheed Nenshi is in the race for Mayor of Calgary. Mr. Nenshi joins MLA Kent Hehr, Alderman Ric McIver, Alderman Joe Connelly, and former MLA Jon Lord. Read CalgaryPolitics.com for up to the minute updates on the Calgary Municipal election.
– Ward F candidate for Public School Board Michael Janz is kicking off his campaign with a free BBQ on May 30 (tomorrow) at the McKernan Community Hall.
– Minister Dave Hancock is expected to soon release the “Inspiring Education” report. Edmonton Trustee Sue Huff shared her thoughts on the process conference last October.
– One day he is filing a $2.8 million lawsuit against his former employer, the Edmonton Sun, and the next day columnist Kerry Diotte is seeking election to City Council. Mr. Diotte’s campaign team is said to include Gordon Stamp (Campaign Manager to Edmonton-East MP Peter Goldring) and former Councillor and perennial Mayoral candidate Mike Nickel (who was defeated by Don Iveson in 2007).
– Alberta’s Resource Royalty structure has once again been changed as the Provincial Government gives up $1.5 billion in revenue. The changes made in 2007 were the chief criticisms made by the Wildrose Alliance of the governing Progressive Conservatives. They reacted with luke warm support of the changes.
Todd Hirsh, a senior analyst with ATB Financial, raises the question: could Greece become Alberta’s nightmare?.
– “Maybe we need a good recession or a depression.” Former Premier Ralph Klein said he did not know how small business owners could address the province’s extremely high wage expectations.
– Former Edmonton-Mill Woods Liberal MLA Weslyn Mather wrote a letter about her party in yesterday’s Edmonton Journal.
– Some people are starting to notice the “election-like campaigns” that politicians are engaging in this summer (Energy Minister Ron Liepert described the recent Cabinet Tour as an “election tour“) Is it a sign of an early 2011 election?
– While her party may have shunned cooperation in the next provincial election, NDP Research Director and Public School Board candidate Sarah Hoffman engaged a friendly crowd at a fundraiser for Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald this week.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

Categories
Dave Bronconnier Don Koziak George Dadamo Jon Lord Naheed Nenshi Paul Hughes Peter Elzinga Ric McIver Stephen Mandel

207 days until mayoral vote 2010.

Following Mayor Stephen Mandel‘s recent announcement that he will be running for a third-term in office, I have a couple of quick thoughts on the October Municipal election:

1) A cake-walk through the park? It is really too early to tell whether Mayor Mandel will face an easy re-election in October. In the non-race for Mayor of 2007, second place challenger Don Koziak earned 25% while only running a semblance of a city-wide campaign. I would not underestimate the electoral potential of an even moderately organized & well-funded outsider/anti-Council candidate, especially if it looks like Mayor Mandel is going to cruise to another victory.

2) Opposition is split. Mayor Mandel enjoys wide-spread support and the opposition he does face appears to be fragmented around varying issues. The people who are furious about the closure of the Edmonton City Centre Airport or annoyed about the funding of the Art Gallery of Alberta are unlikely to vote for the same candidate as the people angry over the Capital Power-Epcor decision. At this point, no champion challenger apparent has emerged with the potential of galvanizing this dissent (watching Season 3 of The Wire has taught me that even two or three reasonable challengers could bleed a Mayor’s support and create some interesting results).

3) What issues? There are no shortage of issues that I hope will be the focus of debate in this election (urban sprawl, inner city schools, regional amalgamation, and others that I plan to write about over the next six months), but the one issue that may have the potential to create a major wave is the Katz Group‘s desire to have the City of Edmonton to fund $400,000,000 for a new downtown arena. The Katz Group has hired long-time PC-insider Peter Elzinga as a lobbyist and launched a political campaign to “Revitalize Downtown” in advance of the election. Mayor Mandel was an early supporter of the downtown arena, but remains publicly coy about his position on the actual Katz Group proposal.

Meanwhile in Calgary, the race to replace retiring Mayor Dave Bronconnier remains eerily quiet. Former PC MLA Jon Lord and food activist Paul Hughes are in the race. Former Ontario NDP MPP George Dadamo entered the race last Summer and has since dropped off the political map. Game show contestant and Alderman Ric McIver is widely expected to join the race and an online campaign to draft Mount Royal University professor Naheed Nenshi is growing.

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Brian Mason Dave Taylor David Swann Don Iveson Ed Stelmach Gary Mar Gene Zwozdesky Hugh MacDonald Kent Hehr Luke Ouellette Naheed Nenshi Ric McIver Stephen Duckett

alberta politics notes 3/09/2010

– Jokes about politicians ducking responsibility usually aren’t literal. Premier Ed Stelmach first denied seeing the widely covered photos of the now infamous oil-covered Syncrude ducks. His communications armada then changed the story, claiming that the Premier misunderstood the question and has seen the photos. Next question: How do you feel?
– Edmonton City Councillor Don Iveson shot back at Minister Luke Ouellette over the neutered Green Trip Fund. Premier Stelmach originally promised $2 billion for the fund in 2008, but it was later cut back to $520 million over three years. Since 2007, the City of Edmonton has made major investments into improving and expanding the capital city’s transportation infrastructure.
– The United Nurses of Alberta have opened negotiations with Alberta Health Services. UNA entered negotiations with a reasonable short list of proposals addressing key issues for nursing in Alberta. Alberta Health Services responded with a full proposal document that included an unprecedented number and scale of rollbacks (Transparency Alert! I am employed by UNA).
– AHS CEO Stephen Duckett versus Minister Gene Zwozdesky and Premier Stelmach on “pay for performance” and the Tom Baker Cancer Centre? Is Dr. Duckett trying to get fired? Who is steering the ship? It has certainly put Don Braid in a tizzy.
– With Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier on his way out of the Mayor’s Office, can Calgarians expect a Ric McIverNaheed Nenshi showdown? Will former Calgary-Nose Creek MLA Gary Mar return from Washington DC to take a run for the job?
 – Liberal MLA Kent Hehr running for Mayor might be an inside joke, but how about his counterpart Dave Taylor? Word on the street is that the Calgary-Currie MLA and former radio star is growing tired of playing second fiddle to Liberal leader David Swann. Taylor was thrown a bone when he was tapped to launch the new Liberal energy policy in January, but rumor has it that Taylor’s organization has been constantly challenging Swann and that the situations is tense inside the Liberal caucus. Confrontation may come to a head at the May 2010 Liberal Party convention.
– A battle is shaping up for the federal Conservative Party nomination in Lethbridge. Nomination candidates include Jim Hillyer and Mark Switzer are seeking their party’s nod. Conservative MP Rick Casson has represented the riding since 1997 and was re-elected in 2008 with 67% of the vote.
 – Former Edmonton-Strathcona MP Rahim Jaffer
pleaded guilty to careless driving in an Ontario court, but charges of cocaine possession magically disappeared. Mr. Jaffer was sentenced to a $500 fine.
 – I was interviewed by Edmonton Journal editor
Sheila Pratt for a feature article that was published this part weekend on Reboot Alberta. The article also features comments from Ken Chapman, Shannon Sortland, David Maclean, NDP MLA Brian Mason, and Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald – who accused to the group’s participants of being “elitist.” Andrew McIntyre rebutted Archie McLean‘s suggestions that Reboot Alberta could become a debate society. I ask: would a real debate society be a bad thing?