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Alberta Politics

“Alberta Premier Danielle Smith?” Get used to it.

Chris Brown and I discuss the last month in the United Conservative Party leadership race, Danielle Smith’s unexpected rise to the top, and how a Smith led UCP will do against Notley’s NDP in 2023 (or sooner) on the latest episode of the Cross Border Interviews Podcast.

Watch the interview here:

Subscribe and listen to Chris Brown’s Cross Border Podcast on Apple and Spotify.

Categories
Alberta Politics

UCP MLA Mark Smith not running for re-election, NDP nominates MLAs Kathleen Ganley and Marlin Schmidt

United Conservative Party MLA Mark Smith has publicly confirmed that he will not seek re-election in Drayton Valley-Devon. He made the announcement while speaking at an event for UCP leadership candidate Travis Toews in Devon on Sept. 9.

Smith was first elected as a Wildrose Party MLA in 2015 and was re-elected under the UCP banner in 2019. The former social studies teacher was the center of controversy during the 2019 election over comments he made about gay people.

Despite the controversy, Smith was re-elected with 71 per cent of the vote.

Carol Vowk and Andrew Boitchenko (Source: Mark Smith MLA Facebook PGe)

Carol Vowk and Andrew Boitchenko are already seeking the UCP nomination in Drayton Valley-Devon, located southwest of Edmonton, and rumours have been circulating in political circles for months that Enoch First Nations Chief Billy Morin could seek the nomination. Morin has endorsed Toews for the UCP leadership and previously endorsed Pierre Poilievre in the federal Conservative Party leadership race.

Kathleen Ganley at the Calgary-Mountain View nomination meeting (source: Joe Ceci on Twitter)

NDP members acclaimed Kathleen Ganley in Calgary-Mountain View and Marlin Schmidt in Edmonton-Gold Bar. Both MLAs were first elected in 2015 and served as cabinet ministers during the NDP’s time in government.

“This is sure to be a pivotal election for Alberta, and I am honoured that my community has put their trust in me to continue being their representative,” Ganley said in a statement. “I hear from folks every day about how they don’t trust the UCP, and how their families are struggling more now because of them.”

MLA David Shepherd is seeking the NDP nomination to run for re-election in Edmonton-City Centre at an October 11 nomination meeting. Shepherd was first elected in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019 with 66 per cent of the vote.

Also in Edmonton-City Centre, Zak Abdi announced on Twitter that he is no longer running for the Liberal Party nomination and will instead will seek to become the Green Party candidate in Edmonton-City Centre.

And in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright, Dawn Flaata running for NDP nomination at an October 15 meeting. Flaata is a local author with a long history of involvement in the chamber of commerce in Vermilion. She is also a former Constituency Assistant to former Conservative MP Leon Benoit. Vermilion Public Library.

Upcoming nomination meetings:

  • September 20 – Edmonton-Castle Downs NDP
  • September 24 – Calgary-Shaw NDP
  • September 24 – Edmonton-South NDP
  • September 25 – Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood NDP
  • September 27 – Spruce Grove-Stony Plain NDP
  • September 28 – Sherwood Park NDP
  • September 29 – Chestermere-Strathmore NDP
  • October 1 – Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills NDP
  • October 2 – Calgary-Foothills NDP
  • October 5 – Red Deer-North NDP
  • October 11 – Edmonton-City Centre NDP
  • October 15 – Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright NDP
  • October 17 – Calgary-Beddington NDP

I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

(I am launching a Substack. Sign up at  Daveberta Substack).

Categories
Alberta Politics

A Mile a Minute: Michelle Rempel Garner out, Raj Sherman in (kind of), and UCP leadership candidates debate Alberta autonomy

Alberta politics moves at a mile a minute.

Days after getting a waiver from the United Conservative Party to join the leadership race because she didn’t meet the 6 month membership requirement, Calgary Member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner announced she will not join the UCP leadership race.

Rempel Garner’s announcement comes less than 24-hours after Patrick Brown‘s campaign manager quit to allegedly work on her campaign and a poll put her at the top of the pack among UCP supporters.

But it wasn’t to be.

In a long statement posted on her newly launched Substack, Rempel Garner says the UCP is too much of a hot mess for her to lead.

“…there have also been squabbles that have erupted in the pages of national media, public meltdowns, nearly missed physical fights, coups, smear jobs, leaked recordings and confidential emails, lack of consensus on critical issues, caucus turfings, people harassed to the point where they resign roles, and hours long meetings where members have been subjected to hours of public castigation,” Rempel wrote.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP Premier
Rachel Notley (source: Facebook)

It was a brutal critique of Alberta’s main conservative party.

She’s not wrong.

Affable Calgary-Fish Creek UCP MLA Richard Gotfried agrees.

But while her criticisms are stingingly on point Rempel Garner doesn’t offer solutions to how to fix the UCP.

In fact, she basically reaffirms what NDP leader Rachel Notley has been saying for months: the UCP is too caught up in their own internal fights to do what’s right for Albertans.

The UCP wanted Rempel Garner but the White Knight from Calgary-Oklahoma will not be riding into this breach.

And the candidate the party didn’t want is in, well, kind of.

Raj Sherman Liberal Party leader Election 2012
Raj Sherman (source: Dave Cournoyer)

Edmonton emergency room doctor Raj Sherman says he’s running for the leadership despite the party denying him the same waiver granted to Rempel Garner.

Sherman is one of the most eccentric people in Alberta politics.

He was elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2008, was pushed out in 2010, and won the leadership of the Liberal Party in 2011. Narrowly re-elected in his Edmonton-Meadowlark seat in 2012, he left the party before the 2015 election.

He’s mostly stayed out of politics since then but in 2020 he spoke out about COVID-19 and last year he gave $4,000 to the Alberta Party.

It’s no wonder the UCP doesn’t want him in the race.

Sherman is persistent if anything, so he says he’s going to keep campaigning anyway.

Back in 2012, Sherman’s Liberals lost Official Opposition status in 2012 to Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party.

Now Smith is making waves as a candidate in this leadership race.

She wants Alberta to ignore federal laws she doesn’t like. She calls it the Alberta Sovereignty Act.

She also promises to never again “lockdown” Alberta.

Never mind that we  never really had a lockdown during the pandemic, but her message plays well with an extremely motivated and well-organized group of conservative activists who oppose everything from face-masks to mandatory vaccinations.

Ten years ago it might have been described as a bozo-eruption.

But not today.

Anything goes in Alberta politics, or at least in the UCP, so it would seem.

Meanwhile, the perceived frontrunner and establishment favourite, former finance minister Travis Toews, is running a safe and low-energy campaign.

The most controversial issue he has tackled is opposing health safety labels on beef packaging.

Toews’ campaign held a rally just outside of Edmonton at the River Cree Casino on the Enoch First Nation a few days ago. Watching the live-stream it looked like a big crowd but there were still enough chairs for everyone.

It was nothing like the massive barnburner put on by Pierre Poilievre‘s campaign a few months ago to which all future political rallies at River Cree will be compared to.

Maybe safe and steady is the right strategy for Toews.

It didn’t work for Jim Dinning or Gary Mar but the old PC Party was a very different political beast than today’s UCP.

Not that Toews is immune from controversy.

His campaign co-chair Grande Prairie-Mackenzie MP Chris Warkentin was part of a group of Conservatives who welcomed anti-vaccine activists to Ottawa this week.

The same poll that had Rempel Garner in the lead showed the top two issues on Albertans minds are the cost of living and health care.

It’s not hard to see why.

The price of everything has been skyrocketing, hospitals across Alberta are temporarily closing or diverting patients because of a nursing shortage crisis, and EMS is stretched past its limits.

So what did UCP leadership candidates gather online tonight to discuss?

Alberta autonomy.

Yeah, that’s right.

Former PC-turned-Wildrose-turned PC MLA Rob Anderson’s Free Alberta Strategy group hosted the first online candidates panel of the UCP leadership race.

It’s too bad Rempel Garner wasn’t there tonight.

She was the champion of the manifesto known as The Buffalo Declaration, named after Frederick Haultain‘s never formed mega-Province of Buffalo – a century old bad idea that has recently reached mythical status in some conservative circles.

Rempel Garner and 3 other Alberta MPs described the Buffalo Manifesto as a final attempt to make Alberta an equal partner in Confederation. They said without it a referendum on Alberta’s independence is an inevitability.

[Insert eye-roll emoji here]

Sometimes it seems like the faster Alberta politics moves the more it stays the same.


Michelle Rempel Garner isn’t the only person starting a Substack – sign up for the Daveberta Substack.

Categories
Alberta Politics Canadian Politics

Fair Elections Act would introduce Alberta-style partisan elections officials

A proposed amendment to Canada’s Elections Act would introduce handpicked partisan elections officials into the current non-partisan election process.

The ‘Fair Elections Act,’ a sweeping act introduced by Conservative minister Pierre Poilievre, includes an amendment to Section 124 of the Elections Act which would give the incumbent candidate, riding association or political party the authority to submit a list of names from which that riding’s Central Polling Supervisor will be appointed.

Under the current Elections Act, the Central Polling Supervisors are appointed by the local returning officer, a non-partisan elections official.

It is unclear why this amendment is necessary, as it would give new powers to incumbent politicians and their political parties to hold over the election process.

In Alberta, a similar practice was stopped in 2010 by then-Justice minister Alison Redford after it was revealed that local returning officers had been appointed from a list submitted by the Progressive Conservative Party. Many of those appointed were PC constituency officers, past nomination candidates and supporters of the governing party. Nearly half of the returning officers appointed in the 2008 provincial election had ties to the PC Party.

This specific amendment to the Elections Act is particularly problematic for incumbent Members of Parliament who plan to seek re-election under a different party banner or as an independent candidate.

Reached via email, Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber explained that these amendments will create advantages for parties at the expense of fairness. “These are paid positions; it is blatant patronage for local volunteers,” Rathgeber wrote.

Elected as a Conservative in 2011, Mr. Rathgeber left the governing Conservative Party to sit as an Independent MP in 2013 because of what he described as a “lack of commitment to transparency and open government.”

If this law passes and Mr. Rathgeber seeks re-election as an independent candidate, his Conservative opponent will be allowed to submit a list of Central Polling Supervisors who will supervise the election.

The amendment to Section 124 of the Elections Act is unnecessary and would undermine and introduce doubt into a process that is currently fair and non-partisan.

CURRENT Section 124 of the Elections ActCentral poll supervisor

(2) When a returning officer establishes a central polling place that contains four or more polling stations, the returning officer may appoint a central poll supervisor to attend at the central polling place on polling day to supervise proceedings and keep the returning officer informed of any matter that adversely affects, or is likely to adversely affect, the proceedings.

Proposed by the ‘Fair Elections Act’44. Section 124 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (2):

(3) Each of the central poll supervisors for an electoral district shall be appointed from lists of names of suitable persons provided by the candidate of the registered party whose candidate finished first in the electoral district in the last election or by the registered association of that registered party or, if there is no registered association, by that registered party.

(4) A returning officer shall proceed to appoint central poll supervisors from other sources if, by the 24th day before polling day, none of the candidate, the registered association and the registered party has made a recommendation or all three have not, as a group, recommended a sufficient number of suitable persons.

(5) A returning officer may, on reasonable grounds, refuse to appoint a central poll supervisor that is recommended by a candidate, a registered association or a registered party and shall immediately advise the candidate, registered association or registered party of the refusal.

(6) If as a result of the refusal a position is not filled, the candidate, registered association or registered party may, within 24 hours after being advised of the refusal, recommend another person and, if no one is recommended, the returning officer shall proceed to appoint another person whose name is solicited from another source.

Categories
Alberta Politics

The ghosts of senate reform haunt the Harper Conservatives

Stephen Harper Senate Conservatives Reform
Howling “RREEEEFFFOOOORRRRMMMM,” the ghosts of the Reform Party stumble towards the Conservative Party Convention in Calgary (Yes, this is a photo of zombies, but ghosts don’t stumble).

The ghosts of Senate reform will haunt Prime Minister Stephen Harper as his party establishment gathers in Calgary on Halloween to discuss and debate party policy. After more than seven years in office, Mr. Harper’s Conservatives have accomplished little on the issue of reforming the Canadian Senate.

Who would have thought that a Senate scandal involving Conservative appointees could potentially be one of the defining stories of Mr. Harper’s third-term as Prime Minister? Was Mr. Harper not the Prime Minister who vowed to reform Canada’s archaic upper house of Parliament?

While the federal Conservatives had hoped to end this particular Senate scandal with the announcement of a new free trade agreement with the European Union and a consumer-first agenda, the wrath of Conservative Senators scorned has dominated the headlines.

After being ejected from Conservative Party ranks, Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau, all appointed by Mr. Harper, have proven to be incredibly dangerous liabilities. Accused of improper spending and expenses, the three former Conservatives have turned on their former party and are drawing national attention to alleged improper activities of Mr. Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright.

Senate reform was a defining policy for the now defunct Reform Party of Canada and a historical grievance that many western Conservatives hoped would finally be resolved when the Canadian Alliance (the Reform Party’s rebranded name) merged with the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 2003. While the crusade for a Triple-E Senate (equal, elected and effective) helped propel the Reform Party onto the national stage in the early 1990s, there does not appear to be much political appetite for this type of reform among Canada’s political leaders.

Since becoming Prime Minister in 2006, Mr. Harper has appointed at least 52 of the Senate’s 106 members, including many failed Conservative party candidates or close associates of the Prime Minister. Despite his claims that he would approach the Senate differently, Mr. Harper has proven by his actions that he is not much different than Prime Ministers Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, or Paul Martin.

In Alberta, the only province to have held elections for Senate nominees, the votes have attracted low levels of attention and there is no indication that the upper chamber is more effective with the three current elected nominees that have been appointed.

Popular Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, seen by many as a potential successor to Mr. Harper, announced today that his government will revoke its support for Senate nominee election in favour of supporting abolishment of the Senate. This positions Mr. Wall alongside Official Opposition NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, who has embraced NDP’s long-standing position that the Senate should be abolished.

The Reform Party’s first leader, Preston Manning, in his role as the godfather of Canada’s conservatives, will today be hosting an all-day Manning Foundation symposium on the future of the Senate. Speakers will include Member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre, former Alberta MLA Ted Morton,  retired Liberal Senator Dan Hays, Calgary School chieftains Tom Flanagan and Rainer Knopff, and former Senator-nominee turned Wildrose Party candidate Link Byfield. This and other Manning Foundation events will coincide with official Conservative Party events in Calgary this weekend.

Provincial NDP take Lethbridge

Meanwhile, in southern Alberta, provincial New Democrats will gather this weekend for their annual convention  in Lethbridge. Delegates will hear from NDP strategist Anne McGrath and Robyn Benson, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

At the annual meeting, NDP leader Brian Mason will not face a leadership review, but his party activists will debate some changes to party operations. One topic of debate will be whether the party holds annual conventions or moves to biennial conventions. Party members are also expected to debate whether the Labour movement should have two vice-presidents represented on the party’s executive council.

Most of the province outside of Edmonton is bleak for the social democratic party, but Lethbridge has provided a glimmer of hope that the NDP plan to build on. In the 2011 federal election, the NDP saw their support double to 27% and in the 2012 provincial election, Lethbridge-West candidate Shannon Phillips placed a strong second in a three-way race won by PC MLA Greg Weadick.