The UCP board is the governing body of the organization and is made up of seventeen elected directors, party leader Premier Danielle Smith, and two non-voting MLAs who serve as Caucus liaisons. The two MLA spots, which are chosen through a vote of UCP MLAs, are currently filled by Camrose MLA Jackie Lovely and Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland MLA Shane Getson.
Half of the UCP director positions are up for election this year and the sweeping success of the slate of candidates backed by the social conservative Take Back Alberta group at last year’s AGM has fuelled a lot of speculation about what might happen in this election.
Despite running for the United Conservative Party leadership in 2017, Schweitzer bowed out of this year’s race after endorsing Premier Jason Kenney in the June leadership review. He announced soon after that he would not seek re-election as MLA but his sudden resignation announcement at least eight months ahead of the next election comes as a surprise – and opens the possibility of a by-election in Calgary-Elbow before the next general election.
It would be the third by-election in Calgary-Elbow in the last 16 years – the others being held because of the resignations of former MLAs (and premiers) Ralph Klein in 2007 and Alison Redford in 2014.
The 2007 by-election shocked political watchers when Liberal Craig Cheffins won, and in 2014, Alberta Party leader Greg Clark narrowly lost to Calgary school trustee and former Saskatchewan MLA Gordon Dirks. Clark defeated Dirks in the election the following year but was defeated by Schweitzer in 2019.
Already seen as a possible pick-up in the next election, the Alberta NDP nominated energy analyst Samir Kayande and have poured resources and volunteers into the riding to support his bid.
The Alberta Party has chosen lawyer and former Liberal Party leadership candidate Kerry Cundal to carry their banner, and her candidacy will be a test of how much of the party’s support in 2015 was a credit to Greg Clark’s personal popularity.
Mark Calgary-Elbow down on your list of ridings to watch.
Former Mayor running for NDP nomination in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain
Former Parkland County Mayor Rod Shaigec is the second candidate to enter the NDP nomination contest in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain. Shaigec joins former Spruce Grove City Councillor and mayoral candidate Chantal Saramaga-McKenzie in the race.
“We need responsible and accountable government that puts Albertans and communities first. We need an honest, hard-working leader whose integrity is beyond reproach – that leader is @RachelNotley,” Shaigec wrote on Twitter.
Sonya Savage has been acclaimed as the UCP candidate in Calgary-North West. Savage was first elected in 2019, succeeding NDP MLA Sandra Jansen, who was elected as a Progressive Conservative in 2012 and 2015 but crossed the floor to the NDP in 2017 and became Minister of Infrastructure. Jansen did not run for re-election in 2019.
Savage has served as Minister of Energy since 2019 and is co-chair of Travis Toews’ leadership campaign.
Before her election, Savage was known as a lawyer and lobbyist for the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association but many years before that she was a PC Party activist.
“The philosophy we’re looking for is somebody who’s very conservative, less government, more individual responsibility, but also somebody who is progressive who’s backing the unity deal. We want to hear how they’re going to renew and urbanize the party,” said Savage, then known as Sonya Nerland, to Calgary Herald reporter Joan Crockatt on Sept. 19, 1992.
Savage ended up backing Energy Minister Rick Orman in the 1992 leadership race, along with future premier Jim Prentice, who was Orman’s campaign chair.
Orman placed third in the race and dropped out before the Dec. 2, 1992 second ballot to endorse Nancy Betkowski.
Savage would later co-chair Orman’s second campaign for the PC Party leadership in 2011. Orman dropped out after placing fifth on the first ballot and endorsed Gary Mar, who was then defeated by Alison Redford (who was the PC Party Youth President ten years before Savage).
(Am I the only one who’s starting to feel like Alberta politics is just a rotating cast of 20 characters?)
It might not be the strangest thing to happen in Alberta politics, but it’s up there.
Just over a year since he resigned as the MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin, former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean is said to be making a big announcement later this week – and the rumour mill is churning hard with news that Jean could jump back into Alberta politics as the Alberta Party candidate in the new Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district in the upcoming election.
And there are all the allegations that Kenney supported a “kamikaze mission“ by Jeff Callaway targeting Jean during the UCP leadership contest in 2017.
His recent proclamations that “Canada is broken” and “Albertans are furious” at the state of Confederation makes Jean sound like he might be more at home at Yellow Vest protest or in Derek Fildebrandt‘s Freedom Conservative Party than in the caucus of the centre-rightish Alberta Party, but the third-place party led by former Edmonton mayor and briefly Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Stephen Mandel has already recruited a few strange bedfellows.
While rumours of Jean joining the Alberta Party are not new, Mandel’s recent change in tone with the new slogan “fiercely Albertan” feels tailor-made to recruit the former Wildrose Party leader.
The Freedom Conservatives would seems like more natural home for Jean, if it were not for hisstormyrelationship with Fildebrandt, another former UCP MLA. But as I have already alluded, political can make strange bedfellows.
Running in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche would mean Jean would be challenging his successor in the legislature, UCP MLA Laila Goodridge, a former political staffer who worked as an organizer during his 2017 UCP leadership campaign.
While Goodridge’s party is riding high in the polls as she faces a rematch with New Democratic Party candidate Jane Stroud, a Wood Buffalo Municipal Councillor, it is not hard to imagine Jean turning what should have been a locked down district for the UCP into a competitive race. Jean represented the region in the House of Commons from 2006 to 2014 and in the Alberta Legislature from 2015 to 2018.
If Jean actually does make the jump, it would not be the first time a defeated conservative leadership candidate jumped to a new party in hopes of rebooting a political career. Many Albertans will remember when defeated 1992 PC Party leadership candidate Nancy Betkowski returned to the political stage to win the Liberal Party leadership in 1998 as Nancy MacBeth. (Spoiler: it didn’t turn out great).
With hours of the election being called yesterday, Premier Alison Redford kicked-off the Progressive Conservative campaign at the campaign office of Edmonton-Glenora MLA Heather Klimchuk.
First-term MLA Ms. Klimchuk is facing one of the most hotly contested races in the province, with strong challenges by former public school trustee and Alberta Party candidate Sue Huff, former Liberal MLA Bruce Miller, former NDP MLA Ray Martin, and past mayoral candidate and Wildrose candidate Don Koziak. The central Edmonton constituency has become a swing-riding in recent elections, but it was once held by Tory MLA’s Lou Hyndman and Nancy Betkowski.
After the campaign launch, Twitter reported her having visited a Tim Horton’s on the way to visit the campaign of new candidate Steve Christie in Lacombe-Ponoka. Last week, Mr. Christie replaced two-term MLA Ray Prins, who resigned after it was revealed he was being paid to chair a legislative committee that had not met in four years.
Eager to grab a scoop, two major television networks released the results of polls they commissioned in recent days. An Ipsos Reid online poll commissioned by Global News reports that the PC and Wildrose Party are tied at 38% support. The online poll surveyed 890 Albertans participating in Ipsos Reid’s online household panel (I am unclear how big the pool of Albertans in this online panel is). A CTV News commissioned ThinkHQ survey shows 44% of Albertans surveyed say the PCs don’t deserve to be reelected. No details of how these results were collected, sample size, or margin of error were included in the online news report. Poor reporting of these polls aside, these results could represent a shift in attitudes over the past month.
Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman will kickoff his party’s southern Alberta campaign at MLA Kent Hehr‘s Calgary-Buffalo campaign office this morning. Continuing to focus on health care and Premier Redford’s decision not to hold an independent judicial inquiry into health care issues, Dr. Sherman will be joined by a guest speaker who will talk about the issue of bullying and intimidation.
The Liberals are quickly filling their slate of nominations and I will update my list as I become aware of the new candidates.
Fresh from launching their election platform, the Alberta Party held campaign launches in Calgary and Edmonton. Leader Glenn Taylor, who is running in the West Yellowhead constituency, joined candidates at Ms. Huff’s campaign office in Edmonton-Glenora.
NDP leader Brian Mason is visiting the campaigns of Edmonton-Calder candidate David Eggen and Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview candidate Deron Bilous today, and will make an announcement about his party’s health care platform.
Perhaps a sign of things to come in this election campaign, the PC’s launched their first salvo against Ms. Smith yesterday afternoon on an issue that no one would have predicted. Following the Ontario Appeal Court’s decision saying that prostitutes’ rights are violated by some criminal law, the PC’s released quotes from a Calgary Herald column penned by Ms. Smith in 2003 where she advocated legalizing the sex trade.
Some of Ms. Smith’s libertarian views may pose a threat to the conservative coalition of like-minded libertarians and social conservatives that she has worked hard to build. I have little doubt the Tories will take every opportunity to expose these types of cleavages in Ms. Smith’s record, with the purpose of breaking her coalition, as well as pushing wavering moderate conservatives back into the Tory camp.
Opinions that politicians have put out into the public sphere are fair game for use by opponents and are a cautionary tale for columnists, bloggers, or even tweeters with electoral ambitions. Loose tweets sink fleets and columns supporting the legalization of prostitution will be used against you.
As recently reported by Mark Lisac‘s Insight newsletter, and now confirmed by a tweet from Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Doug Horner, former MLA Rick Orman has joined the PC leadership contest.
For anyone new to Alberta in the past 17 years or under the age of 30 who may not be familiar with Mr. Orman (myself included), he served as the MLA for Calgary-Montrose from 1986 to 1993. He was the Minister of Labour during the 1988 Nurses Strike and placed third in the 1992 PC leadership contest, behind Ralph Klein and Nancy Betkowski.
Eric Young is the former President of the PC Party and was also recently rumoured to be a potential candidate.