Dr. Jared Wesley joins Dave Cournoyer on the Daveberta Podcast to discuss Jason Kenney’s leadership of the United Conservative Party, Rachel Notley’s focus on health care during the pandemic, the Alberta Party and Wildrose Independence Party leadership races, and the equalization referendum and Senate nominee elections that will coincide with the October municipal elections.
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With 2020 on its way out here is quick look at what might await Alberta’s political parties in 2021:
United Conservative Party: The UCP will continue pushing through a legislative agenda and ideological project that includes mass privatization of public services and public land, and big job losses for public sector workers.
The UCP’s inability to pivot off its agenda has been demonstrated clearly during the COVID-19 pandemic as Health Minister Tyler Shandro continued his fight against Alberta doctors, planned layoffs of thousands of nurses and health care workers, and schemed to privatize large swaths of the public health care system.
Kenney’s inconsistent approach to the pandemic has likely alienated him from both Albertans who would like to see more serious public health measures taken and those who think being required to wear a face-mask in public spaces is too far.
A federal election in 2021 might distract Albertans from the UCP’s mismanaging of the COVID-19 pandemic, so expect the UCP to ramp up attacks on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals. Increasing attacks of the federal government and next year’s promised referendum on equalization and Senate nominee election could also serve as a distraction from poor economic growth and the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline permit by incoming United States President Joe Biden.
Kenney’s approval ratings took a big hit in 2020 and the UCP has dropped considerably in the polls since 2019. If their leader looks like he has become a liability for re-election in 2023 then expect a change at the top. Conservative parties in Alberta are ruthless with leaders who stop looking like winners, just ask Don Getty, Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford.
The good news for Kenney is that he is only two years into his government’s four year term in office which leaves him with some time to turn around his political fortunes. But the clock is ticking and the tire-kickers could soon be kicking.
Alberta NDP: It is not often that political leaders in Canada are given a second chance, but despite losing the 2019 election Rachel Notley remains in firm control of her New Democratic Party.
Notley’s moderate NDP is leading or tied with the UCP is three of the four recent voter intention polls released during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and has maintained competitive fundraising levels, but the next election is still more than two years away.
The potential for strikes by public sector workers in 2021 could test the NDP’s political coalition. The NDP’s opponents will inevitably try to use any major labour disputes as a wedge between the party’s union activist wing and its more moderate and centrist supporters.
The key to an NDP victory in 2023 will be a breakthrough in Calgary, smaller urban centres like Lethbridge and Red Deer, and a small handful of suburban and rural ridings scattered across Alberta. The NDP swept those regions in 2015 and Notley has already signalled through her constant visits and social media posts that her focus in 2021 will be Calgary, Calgary, and more Calgary.
Alberta Party: Finding a new permanent leader should be the top focus of this tiny moderate conservative party. The Alberta Party has become home to a small group of disenchanted former Progressive Conservatives unhappy the combative tone and social conservative politics of the UCP. The party lost all its seats in 2019 but continues to poll around 10 per cent support in most surveys. In a two-party political environment, the Alberta Party needs to give Albertans a reason to vote for it that is beyond just not being the UCP or NDP.
Alberta Liberal Party: The Liberals not only need to find a new leader, they need to find a reason to exist. After forming Official Opposition for 19 years, the Liberal vote collapsed in 2012, saw almost all of its supporters migrate to Notley’s NDP in 2015 and lost its only seat in the Assembly in 2019. With the NDP now comfortably occupying the space held by the Liberals in the 1990s and 2000s, the Liberals need a raison d’être in Alberta.
Green Party: Yes, Alberta has a Green Party. The Greens have been issuing a steady stream of press statements that plant the party firmly to the left of the moderate NDP on climate change, the environment and pipelines. It seems unlikely that the party will make any electoral breakthroughs in the near future, but they could put pressure on the NDP to remember that it still has a progressive wing.
Wildrose Independence Party: Also looking for a new leader in 2021, the child of a merger between the Freedom Conservative Party and the Wexit group in 2020 is now led by former Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman.
While separatist sentiment appears to be waining the further time passes from the last federal election, Hinman has clamped on to the anti-mask and anti-COVID restrictions groups as his focus, appearing at demonstrations in the two cities.
A number of UCP MLAs have expressed similar views, leading some political watchers to believe that one UCP MLA in particular – Drew Barnes – could be auditioning for Hinman’s job if his public comments become too much for the UCP.
The other fringe separatist parties: The Alberta Advantage Party and Independence Party of Alberta are also looking for new leaders. Advantage Party leader Marilyn Burns, a former Wildrose supporter, resigned in the fall amid a leadership challenge and has announced plans to run for the position again. Former Wildrose constituency president Lenard Biscope is now interim leader.
Alberta’s oldest newly rebranded separatist party has a new interim leader, maybe.
A now deleted tweet from the newly renamed Wildrose Independence Party announced that former Wildrose Alliance leader Paul Hinman is the new interim leader of the party. Unless the party’s account was hacked, it would appear that Hinman is launching another attempt at a political comeback.
The press release included with the now deleted tweet said that Hinman would speak to his new role at this week’s Freedom Talk “Firewall Plus” conference, a pro-separatist event organized by former Wildrose candidate and right-wing online radio show host Danny Hozak that features speakers including former arch-Conservative MP Rob Anders, conservative lawyer John Carpay, Postmedia columnist John Robson, and federal Conservative leadership candidate Derek Sloan.
The name change does not appear to have been approved by Elections Alberta, which still lists the party under its most recent previous name on its official website. But it was reported last week that former Wildrose activist and FCP candidate Rick Northey was the party’s new president. Former Social Credit leader James Albers is also on the party’s executive.
The oldest newest separatist party on Alberta’s right-wing fringe should not be confused with the also recently renamed Independence Party of Alberta (formerly known as the Alberta Independence Party and now led by past UCP nomination candidate Dave Campbell), the Alberta Advantage Party (led by former Alberta Alliance Party president Marilyn Burns), and the unregistered Alberta Freedom Alliance (led by former Wildrose Party candidate Sharon Maclise).
The United Independence Party name was also recently reserved with Elections Alberta, presumably by another former Wildrose candidate trying to start another new separatist party.
But back to the new interim leader of the new separatist Wildrose party…
The grandson of former Social Credit MLA and cabinet minister Edgar Hinman, Paul Hinman’s first foray into provincial electoral politics saw him elected in Cardston-Taber-Warner as the lone Alberta Alliance MLA in the 2004 election. Hinman inherited the leadership of the tiny right-wing party when Randy Thorsteinson (who had previously helped found the Alberta First Party) failed to win his election in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. He endorsed Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Ted Morton in 2006 and led the party through an eventual split and re-merger with a faction branding itself as the Wildrose Party – and thus the Wildrose Alliance was formed.
Hinman lost his seat in the 2008 election in a rematch with former PC MLA Broyce Jacobs. He announced plans to step down as leader shortly afterward and then surprised political watchers when he won a 2009 by-election in posh Calgary-Glenmore, pumping some momentum behind Danielle Smith when she won the party’s leadership race a few months later.
In 2010, Hinman was joined by floor crossing PC MLAs Heather Forsyth, Guy Boutilier, and Rob Anderson (who four years later crossed the floor back to the PC Party and now hosts a Facebook video show where he promotes Alberta separatism), but, despite the party’s electoral breakthrough in 2012, Hinman was again unable to get re-elected.
More recently, Hinman launched a brief bid for the UCP leadership in 2017, announcing a campaign focused on parental rights and conscience rights, but when the Sept 2017 deadline to deposit the $57,500 candidate fee passed, he did not make the cut. Hinman later endorsed Jason Kenney‘s candidacy.
Now he might be taking over the interim leadership of the fledgeling fringe separatist party at a time when public opinion polls show that Albertans’ appetite for leaving Canada is cooling as memory of the 2019 federal election fades. If historic trends hold, then the desire for separatism will drop if it looks like the next federal Conservative Party leader can form a government in Ottawa.
Separatism is ever-present on the fringes of Alberta politics and is more of a situational tendency than a real political movement with legs but a half-organized separatist party could syphon votes away from the UCP in the next provincial election.
And with next October’s Senate nominee election likely to be a showdown between candidates aligned with the federal Conservative Party led by whoever wins this summer’s leadership race and the federal Wexit Party led by former Conservative MP Jay Hill, expect the UCP to be paying a lot of attention to these fringe separatist groups sniping at its right-flank.
If he actually does become the leader of the oldest newest separatist party, Hinman will provide some profile and credibility in political circles where conservatives are perpetually disgruntled with New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and newly disgruntled with Premier Kenney, presumably for not pushing hard enough for Alberta’s separation from Canada.
Photo: Alberta political party leaders – Rachel Notley, Jason Kenney, Stephen Mandel, David Khan, and Derek Fildebrandt.
We are now somewhere between seven and ten months away from the next provincial general election in Alberta. For the past seven provincial elections, leaders of the main political parties have participated in televised leaders debates, and while a lot of media and political attention is focused on these events, their impact on the outcome of the election varies.
Which party leaders are invited to participate in the debates, which are typically organized by private news media companies, can sometimes be contentious. Generally, only leaders whose parties have elected MLAs in the previous general election have been invited, but this has not always been the case. Unlike our neighbours to the south, there are no official rules or commission governing who is invited, which has led to inconsistencies since the televised leaders debates began in Alberta in 1993.
Assuming one is held, let’s take a look at who might and might not be invited to participate in a televised leaders debate held in Alberta’s next provincial election, which is expected to be called between March 1 and May 31, 2019.
Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney: Notley and United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney are shoe-ins to participate in the leaders debate. Notley is the current Premier of Alberta and Kenney leads the Official Opposition UCP. Although the UCP did not exist in the last election, the party has won three by-elections since it was formed in 2017.
David Khan: Liberal Party leader David Khan is not a sitting MLA and his party’s sole MLA, former leader David Swann, is not seeking re-election. This is the first election since 1986 that the Liberals will not have an incumbent MLA running for re-election. Khan is running for election in Swann’s Calgary-Mountain View district. While the party has had one elected MLA since 2015, the party’s lack of incumbent MLAs and declining relevance in Alberta politics could lead to the Liberals not being invited to join next year’s debate.
The Derek Fildebrandt Question:Derek Fildebrandt is a sitting MLA and most likely will be leader of the Freedom Conservative Party when the next election is called. He was first elected as the Wildrose Party MLA for Strathmore-Brooks in 2015 and joined the FCP in 2018. His party did not elect any MLAs in 2015, but neither did the UCP, which was formed in 2017 by MLAs who were previously members of the PC and Wildrose parties.
Fildebrandt has said his party will not run candidates in all districts, only focusing on districts where the NDP is not considered to be competitive. This means that most viewers tuning in to the televised debate will not have the option of voting for a Freedom Conservative Party candidate on Election Day, but a lack of a full-slate has not stopped leaders from being invited to the debates in the past.
Fildebrandt is a fiery quote-machine and his participation in the debates would undoubtably create some entertainment value for viewers. While I suspect Notley and Mandel would be supportive of Fildebrandt’s involvement in the debate, I expect that Kenney would not be eager to share a stage with Fildebrandt. As I predicted on a recent episode of the Daveberta Podcast, I suspect Kenney could threaten to withhold his participation in the debate if Fildebrandt is invited to join.
As for the format of a leaders debate, as I have written before, my preference would be to hold in front of a live audience, rather than a sterile and controlled television studio. This would allow the party leaders to demonstrate their debating skills and a live audience would add an atmosphere of unpredictability and would force the leaders to speak to both the voters in the room and those watching their television screens.
A History of Leaders Debates in Alberta Elections
Here is a quick history of leaders debates during general elections in Alberta:
1967 election – Four party leaders participated in this debate: Social Credit leader Ernest Manning, PC Party leader Peter Lougheed, NDP leader Neil Reimer and Liberal leader Michael Maccagno. Lougheed had initially challenged Manning to a televised debate, but a public debate was held instead. The meeting was sponsored by the City Centre Church Council and held in downtown Edmonton. The leaders fielded questions from the audience of the packed church.
The Calgary Herald reported that “…Manning was booed by a small contingent of hecklers while the new leader of the Conservatives reportedly “appeared to score heavily and draw the most applause.”
At the time of the debate, only Manning and Maccagno were MLAs. Reimer was not an MLA but there was one incumbent NDP MLA, Garth Turcott, who had been elected in a 1965 by-election in Pincher Creek-Crowsnest. Lougheed was not an MLA and his party had not elected an MLA since the 1959 election.
1971-1989 elections – No leaders debates were held during the 1971, 1975, 1979, 1982, 1986 and 1989 elections. Lougheed was challenged by opposition leaders, including NDP leader Grant Notley and Western Canada Concept leader Gordon Kesler, to participate in a televised debate but were turned down. Don Getty also refused to debate his opponents on television.
1993 election – Three party leaders participated in two televised debates: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, NDP leader Ray Martin, and Liberal Party leader Laurence Decore. The first debate was held in-front of a live studio audience and was broadcast on CFCN in Calgary and CFRN in Edmonton. The second debate was held without a live studio audience and broadcast on Channel 2&7 in Calgary and ITV in Edmonton.
1997 election – Four party leaders participated in this televised debate organized by the Alberta Chamber of Commerce and broadcast by CBC: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal Party leader Grant Mitchell, NDP leader Pam Barrett, and Social Credit Party leader Randy Thorsteinson.
Barrett and Thorsteinson were invited to participate despite not being MLAs at the time and neither of their parties having elected any MLAs in the previous election. The NDP and Social Credit Party did not nominate a full slate, with only 77 and 70 candidates running in 83 districts.
2001 election – Three leaders participated in this televised debate organized by Calgary Herald and Global News: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal leader Nancy MacBeth and NDP leader Raj Pannu. The three major parties nominated candidates in all 83 districts.
2004 election – Three leaders participated in this televised debate broadcast by Global Television: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal leader Kevin Taft and NDP leader Brian Mason.
Despite having been invited to join the televised debate in 1997, Alberta Alliance leader Randy Thorsteinson was not allowed to join in 2004 because he was not an MLA and his new party did not elect any members in the previous election. The party had one MLA, former Edmonton-Norwood PC MLA Gary Masyk, who crossed the floor in the months before the election was called.
The PCs, NDP and the Alberta Alliance nominated candidates in all 83 districts in this election. The Liberals nominated candidates in 82 of 83 districts.
The Wildrose Alliance nominated 61 candidates in 83 districts. Green Party leader George Read was not invited to participate in the debate, despite his party nominating candidates in 79 of 83 districts (the Greens would earn 4.5 percent of the total province-wide vote, only slightly behind the 6.7 percent earned by the Wildrose Alliance in this election).
2012 election – Four leaders participated in this debate broadcast by Global and streamed on the internet: PC Party leader Alison Redford, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman and NDP leader Brian Mason.
Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor was not invited to join the leaders debate, despite his party having one MLA in the Legislature. Former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor became the Alberta Party’s first MLA in 2011. The Alberta Party nominated 38 candidates in 87 districts.
2015 election – Four leaders participated in this debate broadcast by Global: PC leader Jim Prentice, NDP leader Rachel Notley, Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, and Liberal leader David Swann. Despite only narrowly losing a 2014 by-election in Calgary-Elbow, Alberta Party leader Greg Clark was not invited to join the debate. Clark would go on to be elected in Calgary-Elbow in this election.
The NDP and PCs nominated candidates in all 87 districts, while the Wildrose Party nominated 86 candidate and the Liberals nominated 56. The Alberta Party nominated 36 candidates in 87 districts.
“My understanding was she still wants to be Mayor of Okotoks, so I’m not clear on what her political intentions are. Whether it’s for name brand recognition or not. And then Mr. Sigurdson was the President of the PC Party here in Highwood. But, was a very inactive board. Didn’t raise any funds. They weren’t really meeting on a formal or regular basis.”
Calgary-Klein – Julie Huston is seeking the UCP nomination. She previously worked as a constituency assistant to former Wildrose MLAs Paul Hinman and Jeff Wilson.
Calgary-North West – Lawyer Cyndy Morin is seeking the UCP nomination.
Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview – Jeffery Walters is seeking the UCP nomination.
Edmonton-City Centre – Stephanie Shostak is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. Shostak is the former north Edmonton regional director for the PC Party. Shostak.
Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo – MLA Tany Yao is seeking the UCP nomination. He was first elected as MLA for this district in 2015 as the Wildrose Party candidate.
A number of candidate nomination meetings will be held in the next week:
June 23, 2018 – Kieran Quirke is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in Drayton Valley-Devon.
June 24, 2018 – Gul Khan is expected to be nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-North East.
June 25, 2018 – Todd Loewen is expected to be nominated as the UCP candidate in Central Peace-Notley. The Alberta Party is expected to officially nominate Yash Sharma in Edmonton-Ellerslie, Carla Stolte in Edmonton-Glenora, and Mark Nikota in Drumheller-Stettler.
June 26, 2018 – Jonathan Dai is expected to be nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Edmonton-Whitemud. Dai was the PC Party candidate in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood in the 2015 election and the Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona in the 2000 federal election.
June 27, 2018 – UCP members will select Joseph Schow or Marc Slingerland as their candidate in the new Cardston-Siksika district. Kara Levis is expected to be nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Klein.
June 28, 2018 – Marg McCuaig-Boyd is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in Central Peace-Notley.
June 29, 2018 – Nate Pike is expected to be nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-North East.
If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will add them to the list. Thank you!
Hinman’s blip on the political radar this week got me thinking about the bigger role he has played in shaking up Alberta’s political environment. Not as a major player but as a secondary character.
His time as leader and sole MLA representing the social conservative Alberta Alliance and Wildrose Alliance from 2004 to 2009 was fairly unremarkable, but it was the role he played after he resigned as leader that had a much bigger impact in our province’s political history.
After he was defeated in his bid for re-election in Cardston-Taber-Warner in 2008, Hinman was returned to the Legislature by a 278-vote narrow victory in a September 2009 by-election in Calgary-Glenmore. The seat was previously represented by deputy premier Ron Stevens and was believed to be a Progressive Conservative urban stronghold.
Even though he would again be unsuccessful in his bid to get re-elected in the following general election, Hinman’s win undoubtably added to the momentum of Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Alliance going into the 2012 election.
But what would have happened if Hinman had lost that by-election race in Calgary-Glenmore?
Hinman’s by-election win provided early credibility for the Wildrose Alliance by showing that the party could elect candidates in long-held PC Party constituencies. Without this by-election win, the Wildrose Alliance’s momentum could have stalled or slowed going into the 2012 election.
Liberal candidate Avalon Roberts finished only 278 votes behind Hinman. Had she won the by-election, David Swann might have stayed on as party leader instead of resigning in 2011. A win in Glenmore might have led the Liberals to experience a resurgence in support going into the 2012 election, building on the party’s 2008 gains in Calgary. Or maybe the PCs would have simply won back the constituency in the following general election, as they did in 2012.
And an even larger ‘what-if’ question is, if Hinman had not won the by-election and his party’s momentum had sputtered, would Stelmach have resisted pressure from his cabinet and party to resign in 2011? Would he still be premier today?
While Hinman’s narrow win in a 2009 by-election is now an obscure footnote in Alberta’s political history, its impact on our province’s political environment and the split it helped create in the conservative movement in Alberta was huge.
Thinking about these kinds of scenarios can be endless fun for politicos (or at least for me).
Political strategist Corey Hogan has been hired as the government’s new managing director of the Public Affairs Bureau. He replaces Mark Wells, who announced last week that he was leaving after a year in the job. Mr. Wells previously served as director of communications with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, the province’s largest public sector union.
Corey Hogan has more than a decade of experience in communications, advertising and engagement. Most recently he served as the Chief Strategy Officer at Northweather, a digital communications consultancy based in Calgary.
Not always a backroom strategist, Mr. Hogan aspired for public office in 2009 when he ran, unsuccessfully, for the Liberal Party nomination ahead of the Calgary-Glenmore by-election. That campaign saw former Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman eke out a narrow win over Liberal Avalon Roberts, providing a spark that helped propel the then-fledgeling fringe party to Official Opposition in 2012.
He was spotted earlier this year attending the NDP’s convention in Calgary and was jokingly referred to as “the Orange apologist” by podcast co-contributors Zain Veljiand Stephen Carter for his progressive views on The Strategists podcast.
I admit to being initially surprised when I heard that Mr. Hogan was hired for this role. This is not because I do not believe he is capable, I expect he is, but I half expected that the new managing director would be a former NDP staffer from Manitoba, Ontario or British Columbia, where many of this government’s top political talent hails from. Mr. Hogan is a smart political operator, comes from outside the traditional NDP establishment, and has experience in Alberta politics.
As a progressive Calgarian, he will bring a different perspective into the halls of government in Edmonton and a new focus on digital communications that past Public Affairs Bureau directors may not have had. He recently launched the Canada15 online campaign, which asked the question: why can’t the federal government bring in $15 national minimum wage in every province all across Canada?
Clear and strategic communications has been a source of weakness for Premier Rachel Notley‘s NDP since it formed government in 2015. Significant communications failures around issues such as changes to farm safety legislation and a court challenge to power purchase agreements have caused the government embarrassment and cost the NDP support in the polls.
Mr. Hogan is joining a government that must simultaneously climb a steep hill and fight an uphill battle if it wants to successfully convince Albertans to embrace and accept the long list of aggressive policy changes, including the NDP’s flagship Climate Leadership Plan.
The NDP have hired a smart and strategic political operator in Corey Hogan. Now they would do well to listen to his advice.
Glen Motz will be the Conservative Party of Canada candidate in the upcoming federal by-election in the riding of Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner. Mr. Motz defeated five other men, including former Wildrose Party leader and Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Paul Hinman, in a contest that drew more than 3,100 party members to vote. The candidate was chosen on a fourth round of voting using a preferential ballot system.
He also has some social conservative views that are probably closer to the mainstream in this sprawling rural south east Alberta riding than they are in most of Canada.
“I’m pro-life, there’s no question. Unfortunately it’s the law of the land in this country,” Mr. Motz is reported to have told a crowd of supporters at a candidate’s forum in June 2016. “I will continue to fight that the rights of the unborn are not eroded further. I believe in the sanctity of life.”
Women’s reproductive rights and gay rights were some of the top issues debated by a field of white male candidates in the last nomination contest held in this riding in 2014.
This is one of the most reliably Conservative voting ridings in Canada, so it is almost a certainty that Mr. Motz will be the next Member of Parliament. Mr. Hillyer earned 68.8 percent of the vote when he was re-elected in October 2015.
Another federal by-election is expected to be held in the Calgary-Heritage riding if former Prime Minister Stephen Harperresigns as an MP later this summer as predicted. The names of a handful of potential nominees for the Conservative nomination have been rumoured, including Calgary-HaysProgressive Conservative MLA Ric McIver.
While it is expected that the Conservatives will easily hold on to this riding, the Liberals did see their share of the vote skyrocket from 7 percent in the 2011 election to 26 percent in the 2015 election (the Conservative vote in this riding dropped from 74.3 percent in 2011 to 63.7 percent in 2015).
The Liberals also saw their vote share increase significantly in four federal by-elections held in Alberta before the 2015 election, including in Calgary-Centre in 2012. Without the appeal of an incumbent Conservative MP or a sitting Prime Minister, the Liberals could see their vote increase in this by-election as well.
He does not appear to have officially declared his intentions to run for the Liberal Party nomination, but past candidate Brendan Miles has been knocking on doors in the riding for months and the local Liberal association is holding a pancake breakfast during the Calgary Stampede.
A private members bill proposed by Chestermere-Rockyview Wildrose Party MLA Leela Aheer would allow 20 percent of eligible voters – a significant minority of eligible voters – the ability to overturn the results of a previously held fair and democratic election.
Bill 206: Recall Act, which passed first reading on Nov. 26, 2015, would create an MLA recall mechanism that could force a by-election in a provincial constituency if 20 percent of eligible voters from the previous election sign a petition demanding so.
If we were to have recall laws in Alberta, the threshold for overturning the results of a general election should be much higher than the 20 percent of eligible voters proposed in Ms. Aheer’s private members bill. A small minority of eligible voters should not have the power to overturn the results of a fair and democratic election.
The 20 percent requirement proposed in Bill 206 is also much lower compared to any previous recall proposals in Alberta.
Private members bills proposing the creation of recall laws in Alberta’s recent history have all come from opposition MLAs and all called for a significantly higher percentage of voters to sign the recall petition. Three private members bills introduced by Liberal MLAs in the 1990s called for recall to be triggered with the signatures of 40 percent of voters. A private members bill introduced by a Wildrose MLA in 2010 lowered the bar to 33.3 percent.
Even when Alberta briefly had MLA recall laws, from 1936 to 1937, signatures were required from 66.6 percent of voters to trigger a by-election.
One reason behind the low percentage in this bill is that it could make it easier for the conservative opposition to target and trigger by-elections in rural constituencies represented by NDP MLAs. In rural ridings where NDP candidates were elected in tight races, the low 20 percent threshold in Ms. Aheer’s Bill 206 would equal almost the same amount of votes received by Wildrose candidates in the recent election.
In Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley, only 3,278 signatures would be needed to trigger a recall by-election under Bill 206. The Wildrose Party candidate earned 3,147 votes in that riding and NDP candidate Marg McCuaig-Boydearned 3,692 votes.
In Lesser Slave Lake, NDP candidate Danielle Larivee was elected with 3,915 votes compared to the Wildrose candidate’s 3,198 votes. Twenty per cent of eligible voters would equal 3,812 votes.
Of course, Wildrose and Progressive Conservative MLAs could also become targets of the recall laws, though it is unlikely the NDP majority – like the previous Conservative majority – would ever support this bill.
In my opinion, Albertans had an opportunity to vote in a general election seven months ago and cast their ballots for candidates with the understanding they would serve as MLAs for the next four to five years. As the results of the 2015 election proved, when we are motivated by tired and arrogant governments, Albertans can be trusted to elect a new government. In 2019, Albertans will once again have an opportunity to cast their ballots and choose who will represent their individual constituencies.
1993: Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Gary Dickson introduced Bill 203: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. The bill was defeated in a 42-34 vote in the Legislature.
1996:Lethbridge-East Liberal MLA Ken Nicol introduced Bill 206: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. This bill was defeated in a 37-24 vote in the Legislature.
1997: Bill 216, Recall Act was introduced by Edmonton-Manning Liberal MLA Ed Gibbons but was never debated in the Legislature. If passed into law, the bill would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one
2010: Calgary-Glenmore Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman introduced Bill 208: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 33 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. Reached second reading but was not debated further.
2015: Chestermere-Rockyview Wildrose MLA Leela Aheer introduces Bill 206: Recall Act, which would trigger a recall by-election if 20 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one
I have made the following updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if you have additions to the list. Thank you.
Calgary-Bow: Troy Millingtonannounced on Twitter that he will seek the Alberta Party nomination. Mr. Millington was the Alberta Party candidate in the 2014 Calgary-West by-election.
Calgary-Cross: Alyx Nanji has now declared his intentions to seek the PC nomination in this east Calgary constituency (he initially announced he would seek the PC nomination in Calgary-Bow). Mr. Nanji is a former staffer to PC MLA Ted Morton and recently completed a degree at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law. Also in Calgary-Cross, Ricardo Miranda will seek the New Democratic Party nomination scheduled for Feb. 21, 2015.
Calgary-Lougheed: Mihai Ion is seeking the NDP nomination scheduled for Feb 21, 2015.
Calgary-Shaw: Graham Sucha is seeking the NDP nomination scheduled for Feb 21, 2015.
Cardston-Taber-Warner: Municipal District of Taber Reeve Brian Brewinis challenging Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Gary Bikman for the PC nomination. Mr. Brewin was first elected to Taber municipal council in 1998 and has been endorsed by Brooks Mayor Martin Shields (nominated federal Conservative candidate in Bow River) and former PC MLA Bob Bogle.
Former MLA Paul Hinman is said to be considering a run for the Wildrose nomination. Mr. Hinman was the MLA for this constituency from 2004 to 2008 and Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012.
Strathmore-Brooks: Former Canadian Taxpayers Federation lobbyist Derek Fildebrandt announced this week that he will run for the Wildrose Party in this southern rural constituency. Last year, Mr. Fildebrandt was rumoured to be eyeing the Wildrose nomination in Calgary-Bow. The constituency is currently represented by MLA Jason Hale, a former Wildrose MLA who crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives in December 2014. Update: Update: The Brooks Bulletin reports that County of Newell Reeve Molly Douglass will challenge Mr. Hale for the PC nomination.
Whitecourt-Ste. Anne: Oniel Carlier is seeking the NDP nomination scheduled for Feb 27, 2015. Carlier is a Regional Representative at Public Service Alliance of Canada.
In advance of the impending by-election (or by-elections), I have taken a look at the nine provincial by-elections that have been held over the past twenty-years in Alberta.
Only two of the nine by-elections have resulted in constituencies changing hands between different political parties. Those two by-elections, Calgary-Elbow in 2007 (won by Liberal Craig Cheffins) and Calgary-Glenmore in 2009 (won by the Wildroser Paul Hinman), were followed by general elections which resulted in PC candidates recapturing the seats for their party.
With the exception of Edmonton-Highlands, which elected current NDP leader Brian Mason in a 2000 by-election, PC candidates were elected in each of the other eight constituencies in the following general election.
In the six by-elections where there had previously been a PC MLA, the governing party saw its percentage of the vote decline. This occurred most drastically in the 2009 Calgary-Glenmore by-election, where the PC candidate support dropped by 24.7% compared to the previous general election (the Wildrose saw its share of support increase by 28.8% in that by-election).
Voter turnout ranged from a low of 20.4% in the 2000 Red Deer-North by-election, held to replace PC MLA Stockwell Day who resigned to run for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance, to 45.5% in the 1996 Redwater by-election, held to replace Liberal MLA Nick Taylorwho had been appointed to the Canadian Senate.
Mr. Prentice has publicly said that he plans to run in a by-election in his home city of Calgary, but not in former Premier Alison Redford‘s now unrepresented Calgary-Elbow constituency. Third-term PC MLA Neil Brown has said that he would resign to allow the new premier to run in a by-election in the Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill constituency.
There has also been some speculation that Calgary-Klein MLA Kyle Fawcett could resign to allow Mr. Prentice to run in a constituency overlapped by his former federal riding of Calgary-Centre North.
Spending a few days in another province can sometimes give you a different perspective on important national issues. Spending the last week in British Columbia served as a good reminder to this political watcher about how emotional the debate around pipelines and the Oilsands are in Alberta’s neighbouring province.
While I am sure opinion is divided in B.C., I lost count of how many times I spotted “Stop the Pipelines” spray painted across concrete walls or embankments in Vancouver. And it was not just graffiti, the neighbours in the respectable neighbourhood I called home for the weekend even had anti-pipeline signs planted on their front lawns.
Back to Alberta politics, Mr. Prentice announced that his leadership campaign raised $1.8 million, which should not be too surprising. As favourite son of downtown Calgary and the front-runner in this contest, Mr. Prentice was expected to bring in the corporate dollars.
Earlier this year, Mr. Prentice warmed up his campaign as the committee chair for the PC Party’s Calgary fundraising dinner in May 2014. The PC Party has never really had trouble raising money, their biggest challenge is that the opposition Wildrose Party is raising just as much (and mostly in small donations from individuals, rather than large corporate donations).
Former deputy premier and PC leadership candidate Thomas Lukaszuk has had a rough week. First, he changed his tune on a $20,000 cell phone bill racked up while he was on vacation in Poland and Israel, now saying that he was taking an emergency call from a cabinet minister, who was in the midst of family dispute. Then, it was revealed that Mr. Lukaszuk had quietly reimbursed the government for $1,400 worth of flights on the government planes in which he brought his daughter.
Mr. Lukaszuk was a harsh critic of former Premier Alison Redford when it was revealed she had misused government planes, including taking her daughter on flights.
Human Services minister Manmeet Bhullardenied allegations that he offered “dirt” on Mr. Lukaszuk to the opposition parties and that he was the source of the leak. Mr. Bhullar is co-chairing Mr. Prentice’s leadership campaign and is expected to earn a big cabinet promotion if his candidate wins the leadership race on September 6.
Meanwhile, Edmonton mayor Don Iveson says that time is long overdue for the big cities and the provincial government to have a “grown-up conversation” about funding how we build our cities. In Calgary, popular mayor Naheed Nenshihas given Mr. Prentice, Mr. Lukaszuk and Ric McIver low grades on municipal issues, saying that none of the PC leadership candidate have outlined any significant vision for Alberta’s cities.
The Wildrose Party is trying to distance itself from offensive Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders. The party is denying it issued an endorsement after a robocall broadcast to Conservative supporters in the Bow River riding included an endorsement from former Wildrose leader and MLA Paul Hinman.
Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Strathmore-Brooks Wildrose MLA Jason Hale issued statements late last week denying any connections to Mr. Anders’ campaign. Here is Ms. Smith’s statement:
“While individual Wildrose members may choose to support individual nomination contestants for federal Conservative nominations, Wildrose as a party is neither endorsing nor assisting any nomination contestant in the Bow River electoral district.
No nomination contestant in Bow River can claim the official or unofficial endorsement of the Wildrose Party.
We encourage Albertans who are interested in politics to inform themselves about party nominations and participate in democracy and we wish all the nomination contestants the best of luck.”
To describe it as a long-shot is polite, but two Edmonton MLAs running for the leadership of Alberta’s New Democratic Party say that growing support in Calgary is critical. Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley launched her campaign for her party’s leadership at Niko’s Bistro in Kensington this week. And Edmonton-Calder MLA David Eggen described Alberta’s largest city as ‘unploughed ground’ for the NDP.
At her Calgary launch, Ms. Notley was introduced by former alderman Bob Hawkesworth, one of the last New Democrats to be elected under that party’s banner in Calgary. Mr.Hawkesworth was elected along with fellow New Democrat Barry Pashak in the 1986 and 1989 elections. Both men were defeated in the 1993 election, along with every other NDP candidate in the province.
The NDP has regained support in Edmonton, earning 21% in the last provincial election, but it has never recovered in Calgary. In the past two provincial elections the NDP earned less than 5% of the total vote in Calgary.
Although the provincial NDP earned 19,942 votes (4%) in Calgary in the 2012 provincial election, the Orange Wave in the 2011 federal election helped that party collect an impressive 51,652 votes in cowtown.
A handful of popular Liberal MLAs – like David Swann, Kent Hehr, and formerly Harry Chase – have successfully held the progressive (non-PC Party) banner in that city for the past three elections. But a decline in Liberal Party support may open an opportunity for a resurgent NDP looking for gains in Calgary, if the NDP actually work for it.
Back in 2009, I was a freelance writer covering the annual NDP convention. While most delegates were caught up debating constitutional resolutions in a dingy and windowless conference room in downtown Edmonton, the Calgary-Glenmore by-election was heating up.
When I asked an NDP organizer why they hadn’t hired a bus to shuttle the 150 delegates down south for a day to help their candidate (a move that would have been a strong show of support), the individual replied that they were sure the party had it under control. Come election day, Wildrose candidate Paul Hinman narrowly defeated Liberal Avalon Roberts, with Tory Diane Colley-Urquhart placing third and the NDP candidate placed a distant fourth with an insignificant 1.3% of the vote.
Any viable opposition party in Alberta needs to be competitive in the province’s largest city. Even if they are only competitive in a few constituencies, the NDP need to have a presence in Calgary before they can claim to be a true provincial opposition.
NDP could make gains in Lethbridge
This week the NDP nominated researcher Shannon Phillips as their candidate in Lethbridge-West. The NDP hope that with some hard work Ms. Phillips can build on her 2012 results, when she boosted her party’s support to 29%, up from 10% in the 2008 election. Those 2012 results placed Ms. Phillips ahead of the Wildrose candidate and just over 1,000 votes behind PC MLA Greg Weadick.
ARural Target? Last month, the NDP sought to hire a field organizer based in the Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater riding, which is currently represented by controversial Education minister Jeff Johnson.
While the area northeast of Edmonton has not been a hotbed of traditional support, NDP candidate and potential leadership candidate Mandy Melnyk earned 13.7% of the vote in the last election, the NDP’s best result in rural Alberta.
With one week left until voting day, a new survey released by Forum Research continues to show a three-way race in the Calgary-Centre by-election between Conservative Joan Crockatt, Liberal Harvey Locke, and Green Chris Turner.
As reported by the Globe & Mail, the survey of randomly selected Calgary-Centre voters released on November 17 showed Ms. Crockatt with 35% to 30% for Mr. Locke and 25% for Mr. Turner. New Democrat Dan Meades was in fourth place with 8%.
Another survey from Forum Research released last weekshowed Ms. Crockatt with 32% to 30% for Mr. Locke and 23% for Mr. Turner. New Democrat Dan Meades was in fourth place with 12%. Margins of error for these types of surveys typically range around five percentage points.
As I wrote last week, it appears that within a matter of months, the 40% margin of victory earned by former Conservative MP Lee Richardson in the 2011 federal election and 23% margin for the Conservatives found in a September survey of Calgary-Centre voters may have completely evaporated.
It is always important to approach surveys, like this interactive voice response (IVR) survey, with a healthy dose of skepticism. Survey results are a snapshot of the opinions of a surveyed group of individuals at a given moment in time. This said, surveys like this one can be an important indicator of trends.
The drop in Conservative Party support has led political watchers to wonder if this by-election could result in the election of the first non-Conservative Member of Parliament in Calgary since 1968. The potential for an upset has certainly bolstered the resolve of Ms. Crockatt’s two main opponents, Mr. Locke and Mr. Turner.
Ms. Crockatt earnedmixedreviews after participating in her first all-candidates forum at the East Village Neighbourhood Association on Saturday afternoon. This was expected to be the only time the Conservative candidate will publicly engage with her opponents at an organized forum.
On Saturday night, Mr. Turner’s campaign hosted what might have been the biggest actual political party of this by-election. More than 500 tickets were sold to the “Turning Point” event at Scarboro United Church. The event included a performance from Jay Ingram and the Scrutineers and speeches from Green Party leader Elizabeth May and environmentalist David Suzuki. Mr. Turner also received the endorsement of local author Fred Stenson, who ran as a Liberal candidate in the recent provincial election.
Steady in second place according to two recent polls, Mr. Locke is getting some pan-Canadian support from Liberal politicians. By my count, nine of the thirty-five Liberal Members of Parliament have visited the riding, including Bob Rae, Justin Trudeau, Ralph Goodale and Senators Terry Mercer and Grant Mitchell, and leadership candidate Martha Hall Findlay. Vancouver-Quadra MP Joyce Murray made her second visit to Calgary-Centre this weekend and Mr. Trudeau is expected to return to the riding this week before attending a rally in Edmonton. Liberal MLAs Kent Hehr, Darshan Kang, and Raj Sherman have also campaigned with Mr. Locke.
A fun fact and perhaps the closest comparison we have to this federal by-election in Calgary-Centre are by-elections that have taken place on the provincial level. In the four provincial by-elections held since 1992, opposition candidates were elected in three. In 1992, Calgary-Buffalo was held by Liberal Gary Dickson after the death of two-term Liberal MLA Sheldon Chumir. In 1995, the Progressive Conservative Shiraz Shariff narrowly held on to the Calgary-McCall constituency following the death of the former PC MLA.
The two most recent provincial by-elections saw opposition candidates elected in constituencies formerly held by the governing PCs. Liberal Craig Cheffins narrowly defeated the PC candidate to win a 2007 by-election in Calgary-Elbow, the constituency formerly represented by Premier Ralph Klein (Alison Redford would narrowly defeat Mr. Cheffins in the 2008 general election). In 2009, former Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman won a hotly contested three-way race in Calgary-Glenmore, defeating high-profile Tory Alderman Diane Colley-Urquhart and Liberal Avalon Roberts.
What does this mean for Calgary-Centre? At least when it comes to provincial by-elections, Calgarians have a track-record of sending the government a message.
An amendment proposed to the constitution of the Progressive Conservative Party by party supporters in Calgary-Glenmore would remove the automatic invitation and voting privileges of federal Conservative Party Members of Parliament at PC Party annual general meetings.
The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta should be a distinct entity form the Conservative Party of Canada. During the last election we saw several federal cabinet ministers and their staffs actively support ‘other party’ candidates. This does not bode well for the future of Alberta.
Members of the federal Conservative party, specifically MP’s should not be allowed by tradition to be invited to our party’s annual general meeting and have any voting privileges. They can only vote if they have a valid PCAA membership.
The PC Party constitution as it is currently written invites federal Conservative MPs as voting delegates to PC Party annual meetings, which is likely a holdover from a time when the federal PC Party dominated Alberta’s representation in the House of Commons and Senate. The federal PC Party dissolved in 2003 and merged with the Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada.
Perhaps it is not surprising that this proposal comes from PC supporters in Calgary-Glenmore. The recent election saw a pitch battle in Calgary-Glenmore between Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman, who narrowly won a 2009 by-election, and PC candidate Linda Johnson. When the votes were counted, Ms. Johnson defeated Mr. Hinman by 1,936 votes. The provincial constituency borders Premier Alison Redford‘s Calgary-Elbow constituency and is within the boundaries of Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s riding of Calgary-Southwest.
Other proposed changes to the PC Party constitution that will be debated at that party’s annual general meeting on November 9 and 10 in Calgary include overhauling the executive structure and the process in which party members select a new leader.