Alberta Politics

nathan cullen aims to unite progressives in calgary-centre.

Nathan Cullen NDP MP
Nathan Cullen

Skeena-Bulkley Valley New Democrat Member of Parliament Nathan Cullen is jumping into Calgary’s Stampede celebrations next week to host a workshop on uniting progressives in advance of the inevitable by-election in Calgary-Centre.

On July 11, Mr. Cullen will co-host a workshop with Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MLA Rachel Notley with the goal of sending “Stephen Harper a stinging message in his own backyard that his divisive politics aren’t going to cut it anymore.”

In 2011, the NDP orange wave made more of a ripple than a splash in Calgary-Centre. Parachute candidate Donna Montgomery earned only 14% of the vote, up from 9% in 2008. It is difficult to imagine any candidate other than a Conservative will win the expected by-election, but it is interesting to see that the NDP are putting some energy into cultivating and engaging potential supporters in this downtown Calgary riding.

Representing the northern British Columbia federal riding through which the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline will travel, Mr. Cullen has been a vocal critic of the development that would export crude oil and bitumen from the Athabasca oil sands to a marine terminal in Kitimat, BC. The NDP launched a spoof website last week in response to claims by Conservative politicians that “radicals” are holding up the public hearing process.

Calgary-Centre Conservative MP Lee Richardson announced his resignation on May 30, 2012 after accepting a job offer to become Principal Secretary to Premier Alison Redford. Mr. Richardson was first elected in this riding in 2004 and was re-elected with 57% of the vote in May 2011.

Conservatives Joan Crockatt and Alderman John Mar have announced their bids to seek their party’s nomination. Beena Ashar is the lone candidate seeking the Liberal nomination and past candidate William Hamilton is seeking the Green Party nomination.

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

ndp leadership candidates attending edmonton kitchen table talks.

2012 NDP leadership candidates Nathan Cullen Paul Dewar and Brian Topp
Three federal NDP leadership candidates: Nathan Cullen, Paul Dewar, and Brian Topp

Home of Alberta’s only NDP Member of Parliament, Linda Duncan, the Edmonton-Strathcona NDP Association is hosting a series of “Kitchen Table Talks” with NDP leadership candidates (named in honour of Jack Layton and his penchant for addressing the kinds of problems that people talk about around the kitchen table).

The informal format of the “kitchen table talks” will give Edmontonians a chance to meet the candidates and give the candidates a chance to ask questions and engage with participants.

Talks have been scheduled with three of the leadership candidates, so far:

November 17: Nathan Cullen 18:30-20:30 at the McKernan Community League, 11341 78th Avenue

November 22: Paul Dewar 19:30-21:30 at the City Arts Centre, 10943 84th Avenue

December 12: Brian Topp 19:30-21:30 at the City Arts Centre, 10943 84th Avenue

The other candidates to enter the leadership contest are Niki Ashton, Robert ChisholmThomas Mulcair, Peggy Nash, Romeo Saganash, and Martin Singh. NDP members will be selecting their new leader on March 24, 2012.

Visit for more detailed information about the NDP leadership contest.

Alberta Politics

alberta’s ndp prepares for high tide. will an orange wave come?


The NDP fleet waits for the next Orange wave.
The NDP fleet waits for the next Orange wave.

A recent poll released by Citizen Society Research Lab at Lethbridge College shows Alberta’s governing Progressive Conservatives with a huge lead over the three main opposition parties. The same poll showed the New Democratic Party and Wildrose Party tied at 16%, which reinforces the results of a controversial Evironics survey released over the summer months. At the time, an online poll released by the new company ThinkHQ showing the Wildrose neck-to-neck with the PCs in support. Wildrosers rallied behind the ThinkHQ online poll results, while everyone else supported the Environics survey results.

Alberta NDP Breakthrough Conference
NDP waiting for high tide.

As the right-wingers continue to argue about the methodological strengths and weaknesses of online polls versus phone polls, the untold story appears to be the rise in support of Alberta’s NDP. The provincial NDP, which have been stuck in the 10% range since it lost Official Opposition status in 1993, appears to be benefiting from the Alberta ripple of the Orange Wave that hit Quebec in May 2011.

The good ship NDP is holding a “Breakthrough Conference” this weekend in Edmonton in hopes of capitalizing on their federal cousin’s recent successes. Keynote speakers incude Calgary Alderman Brian Pincott and recently elected Scarborough-Southwest MP Dan Harris. Expected to be in attendance are Federal NDP interim leader Nycole Turmell and leadership candidates Nathan Cullen, Paul Dewar, Romeo Saganash, and Martin Singh.

The NDP have attracted a surprising group of seaworthy candidates including former MLA David Eggen in Edmonton-Calder, Catholic School Trustee Cindy Olsen in Edmonton-ManningAUPE Vice-President Sandra Azocar in Edmonton-Mill Woods, former five-term City Councillor Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer in Red Deer-South, and Shannon Phillips in Lethbridge-West. The NDP have a crew of 30 nominated candidates in 87 constituencies across the province, and will have over 40 nominated by the end of next week. On the surface, the NDP looks ready to tap into the 17% of Albertans who supported their party in the last federal election.

The occupants of the two most thankless jobs in Alberta politics: NDP leader Brian Mason and Liberal leader Raj Sherman.
The occupants of the two most thankless jobs in Alberta politics: NDP leader Brian Mason and Liberal leader Raj Sherman.

As a centre-left leaning urban progressive-type that has voted NDP as many times as I have voted Liberal, I have a hard time getting excited about the provincial NDP and an even harder time imagining that some New Democrats are not thinking that it may be past time for their provincial-wing to get a fresh face sitting in the admiral’s chair.

Current leader Brian Mason has served his party faithfully through two stormy elections and holds the second most thankless job in the province (the first currently being held by Liberal leader Raj Sherman). Mr. Mason has years of experience in the Assembly, but after more than two decades as a municipal and provincial politician he is hardly the fresh face that NDP may need to make an Orange splash in the next provincial election.