With hundreds of submissions made to the Best of Alberta Politics 2021 survey, your choices have been sorted and you can now vote in each category. Voting is open until Dec. 22, 2021 at 6:00 pm and the winners will be announced shortly after that.
2. Who was the best Alberta cabinet minister of 2021? – VOTE
Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
Ric McIver, Minister of Municipal Affairs
Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Transportation
Honourable mentions to runners-up Minister of Health Jason Copping and Minister of Finance Travis Toews. It is also worth noting that a large number of people chose to submit various versions of “none of the above.”
3. Who was the best opposition MLA of 2021? – VOTE
Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West
Honourable mention to runners-up Edmonton-City Centre MLA David Shepherd and Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi..
4. Who is the up and coming MLA to watch in 2022? – VOTE
Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
Brian Jean, (potentially future) MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche
Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud
Honourable mentions to runners-up Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner and Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang.
5. What was the biggest political play of 2021 in Alberta? – VOTE
Brian Jean’s political comeback
Jason Kenney’s “Open For Summer/Best Summer Ever” COVID-19 plan
Jyoti Gondek’s election as Mayor of Calgary
What was the biggest political issue of 2021 in Alberta?
In some past years this category has been a dog’s breakfast, but like last year, this year your choice was clear. COVID-19 was the clear choice of the overwhelming majority of people who submitted in this category. The global COVID-19 pandemic defined Alberta politics in 2021, with the failure of Premier Jason Kenney’s “Open For Summer” plan and the fourth wave that followed garnering the most submissions.
Premier Jason Kenney appeared to walk away mostly unscathed from last weekend’s United Conservative Party Annual General Meeting in Calgary.
Kenney delivered a much-watched keynote speech to more than a thousand UCP delegates that appears to have been generally well-received, though sounded like it might have been more appropriately aimed at a Chamber of Commerce or business crowd luncheon than a room of partisans hungry for more partisanship.
Kenney’s speech and it’s focus on the economy, and not his government’s fumbling response to the COVID-19 pandemic and failed “Open for Summer” plan, gives an indication of the direction the Premier and his inner circle believe they need to shift their message in order to salvage his embattled leadership and the party’s chances of winning re-election in 2023.
Regardless, Kenney tried hard to present an upbeat appearance, but as anyone who follows politics will know – party conventions are all production and all a show.
Kenney commanded the support of the convention, though he lost a critical vote on a special resolution that would have increased the number of constituency associations able to trigger a leadership vote from 1/4 of 87 to 1/3 of 87.
The motion received support from 57 per cent of delegates but fell short of the 75 per cent required to make the constitutional change.
The new UCP President, Cynthia Moore, has said the newly elected party board will review the motions, though conservatives I’ve spoken with suggest that Kenney’s supporters are energetically searching for a technicality to disqualify the motions for an earlier vote.
Recent public opinion polls have shown Kenney with a 22 per cent approval rating among Albertans and his party has trailed Rachel Notley‘s Alberta NDP in the polls since November 2020, which has led to a growing number of UCP MLAs, including former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer, willing to publicly criticize his leadership or call for his resignation.
Even MLAs who are reluctant to publicly criticize Kenney are reluctant to publicly defend him.
Maclean’s columnist Jason Markusoff tweeted from the convention that reporters “asked Fort McMurray MLA Tany Yao how many members here want Kenney as leader. Half, he said. Does he want Kenney as leader? Sighed, said “you’ve put me in a tough spot,” then a minister’s press secretary whisked him away.”
But perhaps the most interesting part of the convention was the vote by UCP delegates to pass a motion in support of conscience rights for health care professionals, which critics say could lead to the denial of access to women’s health and abortion services. A private members bill supporting conscience rights introduced into the Legislature by Peace River MLA and Kenney acolyte Dan Williams (now a parliamentary secretary – see below) failed at committee last year.
The passage of the policy at the UCP convention might provide an idea of how strong the different parts of the conservative coalition dominate the UCP right now, in this case – social conservatives.
Support for conscience rights for health care professionals stirred up quite a bit of controversy and backlash against the Wildrose Party during the 2012 provincial election.
“Are doctors being required to perform abortions against their will? If so, no public complaint has been made that we are aware of. Would doctors have the right to swear off treating patients of the opposite sex? Would family physicians be entitled to refuse to prescribe birth control pills, or could they insist, when faced with a teenage girl, on counselling abstinence only?”
Smith was quick to clarify to subscribers to her weekly email newsletter that she was merely musing and that she is not planning to run because the job is already filled. But that Smith could so casually make a comment like that to a reporter while standing in the same convention ball room as the current leader is embarrassing for Kenney.
And, continuing the blast from the past theme is another former Wildrose leader, Brian Jean, who is weeks away from potentially being selected as the UCP candidate in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election – that is, if he is not stopped by Joshua Gogo, a Fort McMurray economist.
Jean is probably Kenney’s main target now.
Trying to defeat him in the nomination vote, which is set for December 11 according to the Elections Alberta website, is likely one of the first steps the Premier will take in trying to reconsolidate his support in the UCP ahead of the next year’s leadership review – whether it be held in April or February.
Kenney has recently criticized Jean and questioned his political record after resigning before finishing his elected terms as a Member of Parliament and MLA for Fort McMurray, criticisms that were echoed by the Premier’s political staff on social media.
Also hanging out there is the Kamikaze campaign that Kenney’s closest advisors helped manufacture as part of the effort to defeat Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership race and the ongoing RCMP investigation into alleged voter fraud.
If he is not able to stop Jean from winning the nomination, Kenney will probably a harder time pretending he’s in an upbeat mood.
Kenney names five new parliamentary secretaries
Premier Kenney announced that five UCP MLAs have been appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries, roles that do not bring any additional salary but are a sign of which backbenchers could be on track for promotions to cabinet in the future – and which backbenchers a party leader in trouble is trying to solidify support from.
Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorfis Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Parks for Water Stewardship. He also serves as UCP Caucus Chair.
Peace River MLA Dan Williams is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Culture and for la Francophonie. Before returning to Alberta to seek the UCP nomination, Williams worked in Ottawa for Kenney while he served as a federal cabinet minister.
Both Neudorf and Williams also sit as the MLA representatives on the UCP Board of Directors.
Camrose MLA Jackie Lovelyis Parliamentary Secretary to the Associate Minister of Status of Women. Lovely was first elected as MLA for Camrose in 2019 and previously ran for the Wildrose Party in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015.
Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixonis Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Community and Social Services for Civil Society. Nixon was first elected as MLA in 2019 and previously ran as a Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-Klein in 2012 and 2015. Nixon was removed from his previous role as parliamentary secretary for civil society after disregarding COVID-19 restrictions and traveling to Hawaii for a hot holiday in December 2020. He is the brother of Environment & Parks Minister and Government House Leader Jason Nixon.
Spruce Grove-Stony Plain MLA Searle Turton is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Energy. A former Spruce Grove City Councillor, Turton was widely rumoured to have been a potential pick for Minister of Municipal Affairs following Tracy Allard’s demotion in Jan. 2021. Turton also serves as the private sector union liaison for the Ministry of Labour and Immigration.
Kenney swapped Health Minister Tyler Shandro with Labour and Immigration Minister Jason Copping in an apparent hope that this might salvage his leadership amid growing calls for his resignation.
Shandro has been a lightning rod as Health Minister, but that was by design. Every decision he made had Kenney’s stamp of approval. He was doing as he was told.
Swapping Shandro for Copping in the middle of the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is more about politics than good governance.
The blow to Kenney’s leadership after the failure of his Open for Summer plan that led to a deadlier fourth wave of COVID-19 in Alberta is not going to be fixed with a cabinet shuffle.
Kenney’s plummeting popularity probably helped cost Erin O’Toole his chance of becoming Prime Minister in 2021. And the Premier almost certainly contributed to a sharp decline in Conservative support in Alberta that cost his federal cousins four seats in the province.
A few months ago it was almost unimaginable that the Conservatives would actually lose seats in Alberta in this federal election. But the NDP picked up an additional seat and the Liberals might have won two.
Calls for a leadership review are growing from UCP constituency associations and party executives like vice-president Joel Mullen. Even former deputy leader Leela Aheer has publicly questioned why he hasn’t stepped down. And the right-wing Western Standard website has reported on a rumour that country music star and two time Conservative candidate George Canyon might run for the party presidency on the platform of forcing a vote on Kenney’s leadership.
The UCP Caucus is holding a mandatory in-person meeting tomorrow, where, I imagine the growing number of disgruntled MLAs will have a lot to say about their leader’s future.
UCP waited until after the election to ask for federal help
Transportation Minister Ric McIver, who is in charge of Alberta’s Emergency Management Office, waited until the day after the federal election to send a letter to federal minister Bill Blair requesting help from the Ottawa to deal with the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UCP government waited until after Sept. 20 to request help because they didn’t want to embarrass the federal Conservatives during the election. Let that sink in.
The government’s plea for help from the federal government and other provinces will almost certainly undermine Kenney’s argument that Alberta is being treated unfairly by the rest of Canada, a key part of the reason for a province-wide referendum in October to ask for the equalization formula to be removed from the Constitution.
New Senate Nominee candidates
The nomination deadline passed at 12:00 pm yesterday for candidates to enter the Senate Nominee Election, which is being held in conjunction with two province-wide referendums and municipal elections on October 18, 2021.
Recent People’s Party of Canada candidates Ann McCormack, Kelly Lorencz, and Nadine Wellwood filed their papers to run as Senate Nominee candidates before the polls closed in the federal election in which they were defeated.
Also recently joining the Senate Nominee Election are Town of Ponoka Mayor Richard Bonnett, who ran for the Liberal Party in the 2004 federal election, and former Slave Lake Mayor and physician Karina Pillay.
Brian Jean’s favourite hobby is trolling Jason Kenney on the internet
With a provincial by-election expected to be called in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche in the next five months, Kenney’s arch-enemy, former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, is musing online that he might run as a candidate. Jean asked for feedback from his followers on Facebook about whether he should run in the by-election in the area he represented as an MLA from 2015 to 2018.
Since leaving elected office in 2019, Jean has flirted with Alberta separatism and recently publicly mused about running for the leadership of the Alberta Party, which he did not. He has also called on Kenney to resign as leader of the UCP.
The by-election will be held to replace former UCP MLA Laila Goodridge, who was elected as the Conservative MP for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake in the Sept. 20 federal election.