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Alberta Politics

NDP President Peggy Wright first out of the gate in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview nomination

Alberta NDP provincial president Peggy Wright is the first candidate to declare plans to enter the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview. Her announcement on Facebook comes only days after third-term MLA Deron Bilous announced he will not seek re-election.

Wright has served as the party’s provincial president since 2016 and previously served as president of the NDP constituency association in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview, where she was involved in Bilous’ election campaigns. She previously served as president of the NDP’s youth wing.

And Wright has deep connections to the NDP.

Her father Keith Wright helped Grant Notley found the Youth Cooperative Commonwealth Federation Club at the U of A in the 1959, which was nicknamed “Notley’s Motley Crew,” according to Howard Leeson’s biography of Notley. Her father ran as the CCF candidate in Strathcona-Centre in the 1959 provincial election and was elected president of the national NDP youth wing in 1961.

Wright’s mother, Kathleen Wright, was a longtime NDP activist and stood as a provincial candidate in Edmonton-Gold Bar in 1979 and Edmonton-Avonmore in 1982.

They were both awarded lifetime memberships in the party in 2018.

The NDP had held Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview since 2012, when Bilous was first election, and past NDP MLAs for the riding include Ray Martin (2004-2008) and Ed Ewasiuk (1986-1993).

UPDATE: The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview on September 14. 

Other nomination updates:

Upcoming nomination meetings

  • August 18 – Red Deer-North UCP
  • September 7 – Calgary-North West NDP
  • September 10 – Edmonton-Ellerslie NDP
  • September 11 – Lethbridge-West NDP
  • September 14 – Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview NDP
  • September 15 – Calgary-Mountain View NDP
  • September 17 – Edmonton-Gold Bar 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)

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Alberta Politics

Jackie Lovely wins close UCP nomination vote in Camrose, NDP MLA Deron Bilous not running for re-election in Edmonton-Beverly Clareview

MLA Jackie Lovely fended off a strong challenge from Beaver County Reeve Kevin Smook to narrowly secure the United Conservative Party nomination in Camrose.

Lovely has served as MLA for the central Alberta riding since 2019 and was appointed parliamentary secretary to the Associate Minister of Status of Women in November 2021. She previously ran as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015.

Smook was first elected to council council in 2013 and was the Alberta Party candidate in Camrose in 2019.

Lovely admitted today that she was the only other person to join MLA Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk on an awards committee that selected a sexist and racist essay for a third place prize. In a written statement Lovely said she regretted the decision but was not available to answer any questions about why she chose the essay (or whether she actually read it before giving the $200 prize). There were only 5 essays submitted for the Her Vision Inspires essay contest.

Response to Lovely’s nomination on social media was largely muted, with the notable exception of Haydn Place, the acting chief of staff to Minister of Infrastructure Nicholas Milliken, who tweeted: “Glad the former Alberta Party candidate was defeated by a long-term UCP/Wildrose activist like Ms Lovely.” 

Deron Bilous not running for re-election

Deron Bilous NDP MLA Edmonton Beverly Clareview
Deron Bilous with his original NDP MLA colleagues, David Eggen, Rachel Notley and Brian Mason, following the party’s then-breakthrough in 2012. (Source: Facebook)

After three-terms in the Legislature, NDP MLA Deron Bilous announced today that he will not run for re-election in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview. The former NDP economic development minister was first elected in 2012 by unseating Progressive Conservative MLA Tony Vandermeer. 

“It has been an honour to serve as the member for Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview for the past 10 years, but after much consideration, I have decided not to seek re-election,” Bilous said in a statement. 

“I am incredibly proud of everything the NDP has accomplished during our time in government and as an opposition caucus, but the time has come for me to pursue new adventures in the private sector.” 

“I would like to thank my constituents, volunteers, and party members for their support over the last decade. Together, we have built a stronger community in Beverly-Clareview.”

The working-class north east Edmonton riding has a long-history of NDP representation, with former party leader Ray Martin representing the riding from 2004 to 2008 and former city councillor Ed Ewasiuk holding the riding from 1986 to 1993. Bilous was re-elected in 2019 with 50 per cent of the vote.

No candidates have declared their intentions to run for the NDP nomination but names that immediately began circulating in political circles include former school trustee Michelle Draper, city councillor Aaron Paquette, recent city council candidate Cori Longo, and past federal NDP candidate Charmaine St. Germain.

Kathleen Ganley running for re-election in Calgary-Mountain View NDP

MLA and former justice minister Kathleen Ganley is seeking her party’s nomination for re-election in Calgary-Mountain View.

Ganley was first elected in Calgary-Buffalo in 2015 and hopped across the river to run in Mountain View after the riding boundaries were redrawn for the 2019 election (allowing former Calgary-Fort MLA Joe Ceci to run for re-election in Buffalo). She was re-elected in 2019 with 47.3 per cent of the vote.

  • Applications to run for the UCP nomination in Highwood close at 5:00 pm on August 12.
  • Three candidates – Michael Lisboa-SmithLesley MacKinnon, and Shiraz Mir – are running for NDP nomination in Calgary-North West scheduled for September 7.
  • David Cloutier is running for NDP nomination in Calgary-Shaw. The riding is currently represented by UCP leadership candidate Rebecca Schulz and was held by NDP MLA Graham Sucha from 2015 to 2019.
  • The showdown between UCP leadership candidate Leela Aheer and political opponents in her Chestermere-Strathmore continues on August 27 at the riding association’s next annual general meeting.

Upcoming nomination meetings

  • August 18 – Red Deer-North UCP
  • September 7 – Calgary-North West NDP
  • September 10 – Edmonton-Ellerslie NDP
  • September 15 – Calgary-Mountain View NDP
  • September 17 – Edmonton-Gold Bar 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

Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk’s essay fiasco and getting used to Premier Danielle Smith.

The problem with taking a break from writing about Alberta politics of a few days is that it becomes almost impossible to decide what to write about.

This week is no exception.

So here I go.

Let’s start with the essay contest.

Oh boy.

Someone named S. Silver won the third place prize in the “Her Vision Inspires” essay contest that was championed by Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville UCP MLA Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, now the Associate Minister for the Status of Women.

S. Silver’s award winning essay.

In her award-winning essay, which was given a $200 prize, Silver argued:

“…it is sadly popular to think Albertan children are unnecessary as we can import foreigners to replace us, this is a sickly mentality that amounts to a drive for cultural suicide…”

“to try to promote that women break into careers that men traditionally dominate is not only misguided, but it is harmful.”

“that the best approach would be to reward families for their reproductive service both with financial rewards to offset the financial burden they are taking on and with medals to symbolize their valuable achievement of having 2+ children.”

Whoa. Yeah.

Pretty gross stuff.

After facing a pretty strong public backlash for choosing a racist and sexist essay for the award, Armstrong-Homeniuk issued a written statement saying she disagrees with it and that it shouldn’t have been chosen.

She led the committee that chose it but we don’t know why it was chosen or who else was on the committee with her.

It’s a secret.

UCP MLAs Michaela Frey and Angela Pitt told intrepid CBC reporter Michelle Bellefontaine they had nothing to do with it, as did cabinet ministers Adriana LaGrange and Tanya Fir.

We also don’t know how many essays were submitted to the contest or who “S. Silver” even is.

It’s now been removed but we don’t know how the essay was able to be published on the Legislative Assembly of Alberta website without raising some giant red flags.

Speaker Nathan Cooper said he didn’t know anything about it.

The whole thing is a big exercise in passing the buck.

Moving on, for now.

Nate Glubish and Danielle Smith (source: Twitter)

“Premier Danielle Smith. Get used to it.”

Those seven words from longtime political writer Graham Thomson seem to sum up how a lot of people are thinking the UCP leadership will end.

It feels like the most unlikeliest of outcomes, but in Alberta politics, the unexpected is sometimes the most likely.

It’s almost as if the past ten years never happened, said one conservative friend of mine, in reference to Danielle Smith’s near-win in 2012, her spectacular fall in 2014, and the massive political realignments – Rachel Notley’s NDP winning in 2015 and the formation of the UCP in 2017 – that have shaped Alberta politics since.

But she’s back and people think she’s going to win.

She’s drawing big crowds to her events, she’s getting media attention and she just stole another MLA endorsement away from Travis Toews.

It’s possible that other candidates are selling more memberships or that the preferential ballots could tally in a way that helps other candidates but the biggest indicator that Smith is in the lead is that all the other candidates are attacking her.

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean, the UCP prince-in-exile, took aim at Smith’s idea to open the Port of Churchill in northern Manitoba to oil exports. It’s a perennially bad idea that never happens but never dies.

Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt announced on social media that she was quitting her volunteer role as Rajan Sawhney’s campaign chair, saying she needs to realign with her constituents. That feels like code for she’s worried Smith is going to win the leadership and her supporters – notably campaign chair and former MLA Rob Anderson – might be interested in challenging Pitt for the nomination in the riding.

Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, who is backing Toews, took a swipe at Smith on Twitter after the party’s Medicine Hat leadership debate.

“Non-lawyer cites Wikipedia to explain novel constitutional theory. Danielle Smith is the freeman-on-the-land of this #UCPdebate. And the other candidates’ responses to her clearly show that they understand what dire consequences her success would spell for our movement,” Genuis tweeted on July 27, 2022.

Not naming but clearly targeting Smith in an online video, Rebecca Schulz described the front-runner as “unhinged and unreasonable” and “lighting her hair on fire.”

Schulz’s video announced that Calgary-Midnapore MP Stephanie Kusie has joined Rona Ambrose as campaign co-chair.

Trying to out-co-chair her opponents is an odd strategy, and is a role that is usually left to the backrooms, but it’s pretty clear that Schulz is trying desperately to position herself as the ABD – Anybody but Danielle – candidate in the UCP race – especially for conservatives not enthralled by Toews beige and boring campaign.

Toews’ establishment-favourite campaign appears to be losing steam.

Having to fight back criticisms about Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s six-figure bonus undermined his claim of being fiscally responsible. And he lost the support of another UCP MLA this week when Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Nate Glubish, the Minister of Service Alberta, abandoned Toews and switched his endorsement to Smith.

In almost any other mainstream conservative leadership race, even in Alberta, Smith’s promotion of conspiracy theories and snake oil COVID cures, promises to impose unconstitutional laws, and more would probably disqualify her on the ballots of a lot of conservatives.

But this unruly UCP appears to be a very different beast than the old Progressive Conservative Party it absorbed six years ago. And Smith has used her decades of experience in politics and media to fine tune a message that appeals to a motivated chunk of today’s UCP base.

This most unexpected of outcomes is a surprise when you consider the rules of the leadership race were almost designed to quell an insurgent campaign.

The high entry fee ($175,000), signature requirements (1,000) and early membership cut off date (August 12) were designed for an establishment candidate.

Of course this is all about who sells the most memberships, and some candidates might be out there quietly selling a ton of memberships, but the early cutoff date means the days of the “two-minute Tories” who propelled Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford into the Premier’s Office are long gone.

Ideological conservatives hated it, but anybody being able to walk into the voting station on voting day and buy a membership ensured the PC Party constantly reinvented itself as a big tent party – arguably the biggest success of its 43 years of uninterrupted power.

But Smith isn’t campaigning to lead a big tent and a lot of people think she’s going to pull it off.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Friday Night Action in Alberta Politics – Doug Schweitzer’s out, Rod Shaigec and Sonya Savage are in.

There’s rarely a dull Friday night in Alberta politics!

Doug Schweitzer resigns from UCP cabinet and is leaving politics

Doug Schweitzer announced he is resigning as Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation and later this month will resign as MLA for Calgary-Elbow.

Despite running for the United Conservative Party leadership in 2017, Schweitzer bowed out of this year’s race after endorsing Premier Jason Kenney in the June leadership review. He announced soon after that he would not seek re-election as MLA but his sudden resignation announcement at least eight months ahead of the next election comes as a surprise – and opens the possibility of a by-election in Calgary-Elbow before the next general election.

It would be the third by-election in Calgary-Elbow in the last 16 years – the others being held because of the resignations of former MLAs (and premiers) Ralph Klein in 2007 and Alison Redford in 2014.

The 2007 by-election shocked political watchers when Liberal Craig Cheffins won, and in 2014, Alberta Party leader Greg Clark narrowly lost to Calgary school trustee and former Saskatchewan MLA Gordon Dirks. Clark defeated Dirks in the election the following year but was defeated by Schweitzer in 2019.

Already seen as a possible pick-up in the next election, the Alberta NDP nominated energy analyst Samir Kayande and have poured resources and volunteers into the riding to support his bid.

The Alberta Party has chosen lawyer and former Liberal Party leadership candidate Kerry Cundal to carry their banner, and her candidacy will be a test of how much of the party’s support in 2015 was a credit to Greg Clark’s personal popularity.

Lawyer Andrea James announced her plans to seek the UCP nomination back in June.

Mark Calgary-Elbow down on your list of ridings to watch.

Former Mayor running for NDP nomination in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain

Former Parkland County Mayor Rod Shaigec is the second candidate to enter the NDP nomination contest in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain. Shaigec joins former Spruce Grove City Councillor and mayoral candidate Chantal Saramaga-McKenzie in the race.

“We need responsible and accountable government that puts Albertans and communities first. We need an honest, hard-working leader whose integrity is beyond reproach – that leader is @RachelNotley,” Shaigec wrote on Twitter

Shaigec served three-terms as Mayor of Parkland County from 2010 to 2021, and chose not to run for re-election last year to give himself time to recover from a traumatic tractor accident in 2020.

The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Searle Turton, who is already nominated to run for his party in the next election.

Sonya Savage acclaimed in Calgary-North West

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage releases the final report of the Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns.
Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage releases the final report of the Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns.

Sonya Savage has been acclaimed as the UCP candidate in Calgary-North West. Savage was first elected in 2019, succeeding NDP MLA Sandra Jansen, who was elected as a Progressive Conservative in 2012 and 2015 but crossed the floor to the NDP in 2017 and became Minister of Infrastructure. Jansen did not run for re-election in 2019.

Savage has served as Minister of Energy since 2019 and is co-chair of Travis Toews’ leadership campaign. 

Before her election, Savage was known as a lawyer and lobbyist for the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association but many years before that she was a PC Party activist. 

“The philosophy we’re looking for is somebody who’s very conservative, less government, more individual responsibility, but also somebody who is progressive who’s backing the unity deal. We want to hear how they’re going to renew and urbanize the party,” said Savage, then known as Sonya Nerland, to Calgary Herald reporter Joan Crockatt on Sept. 19, 1992.

Savage ended up backing Energy Minister Rick Orman in the 1992 leadership race, along with future premier Jim Prentice, who was Orman’s campaign chair.

Orman placed third in the race and dropped out before the Dec. 2, 1992 second ballot to endorse Nancy Betkowski.

Savage would later co-chair Orman’s second campaign for the PC Party leadership in 2011. Orman dropped out after placing fifth on the first ballot and endorsed Gary Mar, who was then defeated by Alison Redford (who was the PC Party Youth President ten years before Savage).

(Am I the only one who’s starting to feel like Alberta politics is just a rotating cast of 20 characters?)

Three candidates – Michael Lisboa-Smith, Lesley MacKinnon, and Shiraz Mir – are running for the yet to be scheduled NDP nomination in Calgary-North West.

Categories
Alberta Politics

The UCP field is set. Diving into the leadership race on the Cross Border Interviews Podcast.

The United Conservative Party leadership race is heating up!

I joined Chris Brown on the Cross Border Interviews Podcast this week to dive into the UCP leadership race and what the candidates and campaigns are up to.

Is Danielle Smith really the front-runner?

Does establishment-favourite Travis Toews need to catch up?

Why is Brian Jean running such a sleepy campaign?

Will Rajan Sawhney or Rebecca Schulz break through the noise?

What are Leela Aheer and Todd Loewen doing?

Did Raj Sherman really think they would let him on the ballot?

We break it all down.

Download and subscribe to the Cross Border Interviews Podcast on Apple and Spotify, or watch the interview on YouTube below.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Calgary Stampeding: It looks like Danielle Smith is making a big comeback in the UCP leadership race

There’s not much of anything that is constant in Alberta politics these days, maybe except for the Calgary Stampede.

At least in some non-pandemic years, it’s the Northern Star of Alberta politics. It’s the must attend event for political aspirants of all stripes, from Prime Ministers to aspiring future Premiers.

The Stampede is back in full force this year, with last year’s disastrous “Best Summer Ever” disaster unfortunately an almost distant memory, even though its a big reason why we are where we are today in Alberta politics.

And for anyone watching the Stampede, even this writer from his perch in Edmonton, the race to replace Jason Kenney as Premier and leader of the United Conservative Party was on display as urbanites of all stripes dusted off their cowboys hats and plaid shirts for the week of pancake breakfasts and beer tents.

The big talk of the town this week is Danielle Smith’s unexpectedly strong comeback in the UCP leadership race.

Jim Prentice Danielle Smith Alberta Wildrose Merger PC
Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Premier Jim Prentice on December 17, 2014.

Most political watchers will remember her downfall after a treacherous floor-crossing nearly destroyed the Wildrose Party and helped created the conditions for Rachel Notley to lead her NDP to sweep the province in 2015. (Real political nerds will remember her time on the disastrous Calgary Board of Education from 1998 to 1999, but that’s for another column).

But what we politicos may have missed is that a lot of Albertans, including the thousands who have signed up to support her and are showing up to her campaign events in droves, remember her from her more recent role as the host of a popular talk radio show.

Smith has always been a talented political communicator, despite some high-profile flameouts.

She knows how to talk to conservatives, and it just happens there are a lot of those in Alberta.

Danielle Smith United Conservative Party leadership event Airdrie
Danielle Smith speaking to a crowd at a campaign event in Airdrie (source: Twitter)

It’s not clear how many UCP MLAs support her separatist-leaning “Alberta First” campaign or her dipping into COVID conspiracy theories, but she has nabbed at least one endorsement from the governing caucus – Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie.

Smith hasn’t held a seat in the Legislature sine 2015 but she’s challenging MLA Roger Reid for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. And recently she said she would reopen nomination contests some party activists believe were unfairly stacked in favour of Kenney loyalists, a move that is unlikely to endear her to most current UCP MLAs.

Her comeback would be the political story of the year, and while Premier Danielle Smith is far from a sure thing, she is certainly driving the narrative of the UCP leadership campaign. She’s tapped into a motivated group of Alberta conservatives unhappy with the status-quo.

Those are probably the people Kenney referred to as “lunatics.”

And they might just be the mainstream of the UCP right now.

Even the perceived frontrunner is responding to Smith.

Travis Toews (source: Twitter)
Travis Toews (source: Twitter)

Establishment favourite Travis Toews followed Smith’s lead with a milquetoast “Enough is Enough” social media meme opposing COVID-19 vaccinations. It’s not clear what message he was trying to telegraph.

It was the kind of vague response you would expect from a frontrunner campaign, wanting to respond and not offend but failing at both.

Toews also released a list of autonomist policies that read like they were copied and pasted from 2020’s Fair Deal Panel report.

Smith and Toews aren’t alone.

Brian Jean is hitting the same notes, though he’s running a sleepier than expected campaign. Still, Fort McMurray’s Golden Boy shouldn’t be underestimated.

Independent MLA Todd Loewen is also hitting the same notes on separatist and anti-COVID health measures but his chances of winning appear much less likely than the others in this pack.

Rachel Notley and St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud at the Calgary Stampede.
Rachel Notley and St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud at the Calgary Stampede. (source: Twitter)

Smith’s extreme positions are probably leaving Rachel Notley’s NDP salivating at the opportunity to run against an extremist right-wing UCP that would leave a lot of Albertans alienated.

Two months ago, Notley’s victory in Alberta’s next election looked like a sure bet, but Kenney’s resignation announcement gave his party a bump in the polls and now it’s a race.

Notley and her MLAs have basically decamped to Calgary for the summer, showing up at every event and taking every chance to door knock with their growing slate of local candidates that includes former city councillor Druh Farrell in Calgary-Bow, energy analyst Samir Kayande in Calgary-Elbow, sustainable energy expert Nagwan Al-Guneid in Calgary-Glenmore. Canadian Forces veteran Marilyn North Peigan in Calgary-Klein, and physician Luanne Metz in Calgary-Varsity.

It’s probably the closest thing Calgary has seen to a Progressive Conservative slate since 2015 but the NDP still have a lot of hard work ahead of them to convince Calgarians to vote for them en masse in 2023.

But the UCP leadership candidate the NDP might fear the most so far hasn’t been playing the same cards as Smith, Toews, Jean and Loewen.

Rebecca Schulz United Conservative Party leadership candidate
Rebecca Schulz (source: Twitter)

Rebecca Schulz is one candidate to watch.

The first-term MLA from Calgary-Shaw and former children’s service minister had already nabbed an endorsement from Rona Ambrose but the former interim Conservative Party leader is now chairing her campaign.

Schulz also released an endorsement from former Saskatchewan cabinet minister and Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers president Tim McMillan, who joined former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall in supporting her.

Schulz and her husband were political staffers in Wall’s government before moving to Calgary seven years ago and her husband worked for McMillan as VP Communications of CAPP.

It’s hard to tell where her politics are. Schulz seems more moderate than the rest of the pack, which isn’t saying much, but how much more moderate is not clear.

Along with her political establishment connections, Schulz might become a pretty appealing candidate if there are enough UCP members left who don’t want to fight the next election on COVID conspiracy theories and Alberta separatism.

At the very least, there might actually be enough Saskatchewan expats alone living in Alberta to win a leadership race.

And I would be remise if I failed to mention the other candidates who are also busy yahooing their way through the Stampede.

Rajan Sawhney is running an outsiders campaign, leaning on her years of business experience. She is also a candidate to watch.

Leela Aheer appears to be running for the leadership of a completely different party, but that hasn’t saved her from dirty tricks. Someone bought LeelaAheer.ca and is pointing it to an old Daveberta article about the nasty nomination contest she faced in 2018 (I don’t own the domain name, I swear).

Raj Sherman showed up at the Stampede with a decal-clad pickup truck and his campaign has been making robo-calls, despite being told he won’t be allowed to be on the ballot.

Former bank executive Jon Horsman is running.

And, to no one’s surprise, Village of Amisk Mayor Bill Rock dropped out, citing the high $175,000 candidate entry fee.

It’s a dog’s breakfast, and really could be anyone’s race to win.

There’s strategy at play, for sure, but as one experienced campaign strategist said to me last week, when it comes to leadership campaigns, a lot more depends on dumb luck than people think.

The UCP has announced it plans to hold Official Leadership debates in Medicine Hat on July 27 and Edmonton on August 30.

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

The race for UCP leader on the Cross Border Politics Podcast

As the United Conservative Party leadership race begins to take shape, I joined Chris Brown on his Cross Border Interviews Podcast to talk about the race, the declared and prospective candidates, and what impact it will have on Alberta politics.

Cross Border Interviews with Chris Brown · Episode 393 – The Race For The UCP Leadership

It appears that the UCP will allow Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner to enter the leadership race, if she chooses, even though she has not had a current party membership for the full past six months as required (there is no doubt she is a committed Conservative partisan).

A similar request for an exemption by former Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman was denied.

Kenney’s caretaker cabinet shuffle

Outgoing Premier Jason Kenney announced a cabinet shuffle to fill in the spots left by ministers leaving to run in the race to replace him.

Changes to the caretaker cabinet, which will be in place until a new Premier takes office after the October 6 UCP leadership vote, include:

  • Minister of Environment and Parks and Acting President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Jason Nixon becomes President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance.
  • Associate Minister of Status of Women Whitney Issik becomes Minister of Environment and Parks.
  • Calgary-South East MLA Matt Jones becomes Minister of Children’s Services.
  • Minister of Infrastructure Prasad Panda becomes Minister of Transportation.
  • Calgary-Currie MLA Nicholas Milliken becomes Minister of Infrastructure.
  • Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville MLA Jackie Armstrong Homeniuk becomes the Associate Minister of Status of Women.
  • Deputy Government Whip Brad Rutherford becomes Chief Government Whip and Minister without Portfolio.

Unsurprisingly, everyone on the list is considered a loyalist, and a few, notably Issik, Milliken, and Rutherford, are considered vulnerable to strong NDP challenges in the next election.

Issik, Jones and Armstrong Homeniuk have publicly endorsed former finance minister Travis Toews for the UCP leadership, who is widely considered the establishment favourite in the race.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Nathan Ip wins Edmonton-South West NDP nomination vote, Kjeryn Dakin challenging UCP MLA Devin Dreeshen in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake

Edmonton public school board trustee Nathan Ip defeated business instructor Ben Acquaye, behavioral specialist Chand Gul, and medical clinic executive director Ali Kamal to win the NDP nomination in Edmonton-South West.

“We are in dire need for new schools in the growing areas of Edmonton-South West,” said Ip. “Edmonton-South West is one of the fastest growing communities in Alberta with one of the youngest populations and they deserve a representative that will stand up for them.”

Ip was first elected to the school board in 2013 and currently serves as its vice-chair.

His candidacy was endorsed by former city councillor Michael Phair, former MLAs Bob Turner and Jim Gurnett, and former Alberta Party president Rhiannon Hoyle.

Edmonton-South West is the only riding in Edmonton city limits represented by a UCP MLA, current Labour Minister Kaycee Madu, who was removed from his position as Justice Minister after it became public that he personally phoned Edmonton’s police chief after getting a distracted driving ticket.

Madu faces a nomination challenge from Slava Cravcenco at a June 29 candidate selection meeting.

Sylvan Lake town councillor challenges Dreeshen for UCP nomination

Sylvan Lake town councillor Kjeryn Dakin is challenging MLA Devin Dreeshen for the UCP nomination in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. 

Dakin is owner of the Bukwildz restaurant in Sylvan Lake and was first elected to town council in 2021.

Dreeshen was first elected in a 2018 by-election and served as Minister of Agriculture & Forestry from 2019 until 2021 when he resigned after a lawsuit by a former political staffer alleged a culture of sexual harassment, defamation, and drinking at the Legislature.

He is son of Conservative MP Earl Dreeshen, who has represented the Red Deer-Mountain View riding since 2008.

The younger Dreeshan was re-elected in 2019 with 74.5 per cent of the vote.

City lawyer wins NDP nomination in Red Deer-South

Michelle Baer (source: Michelle Baer on Twitter)

City solicitor Michelle Baer defeated former MLA Barb Miller and labour council president Kyle Johnston to win the NDP nomination in Red Deer-South.

“Red Deer is the third largest city in the province, yet is often stuck between being considered a ‘big city’ or a rural area,” Baer said. “Red Deer deserves a strong voice in government to represent the distinctive issues this area faces. I’m excited for the chance to do the hard work Red Deer needs and deserves.”

Red Deer-South is currently represented by UCP MLA Jason Stephan, a vocal critic of outgoing Premier Jason Kenney, who was first elected in 2019 with 60.3 per cent of the vote. 

Thomas Dang wants back in

Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang (source: Facebook)
Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang (source: Facebook)

Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang wants to rejoin the NDP Caucus after being told that no criminal charges will be pressed against him after he breached an Alberta Health website. Dang left the NDP Caucus in December 2021 after the RCMP executed a search warrant of his house and he has been sitting as an Independent MLA ever since.

Dang was first elected in 2015 in Edmonton-South West and ran for re-election when the electoral boundaries changed as Edmonton-South was created. 

On the doors

Sayid Ahmed and Jordan Walker (source: Sayid Ahmed on Instagram)

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, NDP leader Rachel Notley was spotted at events with Calgary-Bow candidate Druh Farrell, Calgary-Glenmore candidate Nagwan Al-Guneid, and Calgary-North East candidate Gurinder Brar this past weekend. Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan was also spotted on the doors with Al-Guneid.

Sherwood Park UCP MLA Jordan Walker was on the doors with UCP nomination candidate Sayid Ahmed in Edmonton-Decore last weekend. The UCP have opened nominations in the north Edmonton riding. 

Former NDP volunteers speak out

Notley recently responded to criticism from former NDP volunteers that party staff have been heavy-handed with candidate nominations and have treated volunteers poorly. Notley has promised an investigation

There is no excuse for staff treating volunteers poorly, but in every party there is almost always some level of tension between the central party and local constituency associations when it comes to candidate recruitment and nominations.

Constituency associations will have their local favorites, including long-time volunteers, while the central party will be trying to build a province-wide slate of candidates who could potentially become cabinet ministers and ridings in which to place those high-profile candidates.

When there is a lot of interest in nominations, like there is now with the NDP, tension and conflicting plans of the local and provincial efforts can sometimes flare.

Parties generally find a way to balance this out, but from time to time conflict bubbles out into public, as we saw recently when 15 former constituency presidents signed a letter raising concerns about the nomination process.

The NDP need to deal with this issue quickly and decisively or risk it dogging them into the upcoming election.

The other parties

  • Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman has been touring the province, recently making stops at party events in Drumheller, Morningside, Drayton Valley, Leduc, Springbrook, Red Deer and Calgary.
  • The Green Party has formally opened applications for candidates for the next election. Green Party leader Jordan Wilkie has already announced his plans to run as a candidate in Banff-Kananaskis . Party holding an election readiness town hall on July 17 in Edmonton. 
  • Lawyer Katherine Kowalchuk is running for the leadership of the separatist Independence Party of Alberta. Kowalchuk was briefly nominated as the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Signal Hill ahead of the 2015 federal election.

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!

(And, I know I’ve said this before but feel free to sign up for the Daveberta Substack.)

Categories
Alberta Politics

Race to replace Jason Kenney takes shape – Rajan Sawhney and Rebecca Schulz join the fray. Will Michelle Rempel Garner and Raj Sherman be next?

Hey there politics fans!

The United Conservative Party released its leadership race rule book!

UCP members will choose a replacement for Premier Jason Kenney on October 6, 2022.

It will cost $150,000 to enter the race, plus an extra $25,000 good behaviour deposit.

Low rollers need not apply.

It’s not just a race to replace Kenney.

It’s a race to save the UCP from defeat against Rachel Notley‘s resurgent Alberta NDP.

And the race is starting to take shape.

The cowboy hat wearing former Finance Minister from Beaverlodge, Travis Toews, launched his campaign last week with endorsements from 23 UCP MLAs, including Energy Minister Sonya Savage and Justice Minister Tyler Shandro.

Savage and Grande Prairie-Mackenzie MP Chris Warkentin are co-chairing his campaign.

Toews is seen as the establishment favourite, which isn’t always a blessing.

Just ask Jim Dinning and Gary Mar.

Former Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney launched her campaign yesterday with a whistle-stop tour down the QEII, starting with media events in Edmonton, Penhold and Airdrie before ending at a +700-person rally in north east Calgary.

It was a strong kick-off.

Sawhney’s campaign is being run by well-known political strategist and conservative thinker Ken Boessenkool, who worked as an advisor to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former BC Premier Christy Clark.

Her former chief of staff (and former Daveberta Podcast co-host) Ryan Hastman is her deputy campaign manager.

Angela Pitt MLA Airdrie-East UCP
Angela Pitt (source: Facebook)

Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt is Sawhney’s campaign chair.

It’s an odd fit for a leadership candidate who appears to be trying to position herself as a political moderate (no word if South Tyrol-like autonomy for Alberta will be in her platform).

Pitt endorsed Brian Jean for the UCP leadership 2017, and even have him credit for her entry into politics.

This time she’s backing Sawhney.

Jean is launching his campaign at a hotel in west Edmonton tomorrow. 

Autonomy for Albertans is Jean’s slogan, not Anatomy for Albertans, as this writer first thought he read.

The former Wildrose Party leader launched his second political comeback in last year’s Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election with the singular purpose of defeating Kenney in the leadership review and run to replace him.

He’s met half his goal so far.

Another former Wildrose leader, Danielle Smith is also trying for her second political comeback after a short and disastrous stint on the Calgary Board of Education in the late 1990s and as Wildrose Party leader from 2009 until she infamously abandoned her party to join Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservatives in 2014.

For many conservatives, especially those of the Wildrose-variety, it is a betrayal that will live in infamy.

The leadership is only one-half of Smith’s comeback attempt. 

She’s also challenging MLA Roger Reid for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod, which appears far from a safe-bet.

Rebecca Schulz United Conservative Party leadership candidate
Rebecca Schulz (source: Facebook)

First-term south Calgary MLA Rebecca Schulz stepped down as Children’s Services Minister to jump into the race.

Schulz wants to take on what she describes as “the boys club.”

She has the backing of Calgary City Councillor Dan McLean, Health Minister Jason Copping, UCP MLAs Michaela Frey and Jeremy Nixon, MPs Laila Goodridge and Stephanie Kusie, former federal Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose and former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall. 

The Wall endorsement might seem odd, but he endorsed Schulz in her bid to win the hotly contested Calgary-Shaw UCP nomination race back in 2018.

The Saskatchewan native was a spokesperson in Wall’s government before moving to Alberta in the mid-2010s, and her husband, Cole Schulz, was a ministerial chief of staff in Regina (he’s now the Vice President, Communications for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in Calgary).

UCP MLA Leela Aheer, who was ousted from cabinet for calling on Kenney to resign, is in and wants to “defeat the machines.”

“I think Albertans will defeat the machines. They understand what the machine is. They’re frustrated with the machine,” she told reporters.

She’s also facing a strong nomination challenge in her Chestermere-Strathmore riding.

Northern Alberta UCP MLA-in-exile Todd Loewen also jumped into the race, as did Village of Amisk Mayor Bill Rock, another former Wildrose Party candidate.

But one of the big potential contenders, Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, is playing coy. 

Maybe she’ll run. Maybe she won’t.

Her text message reply to Press Gallery Dean Don Braid was “hahahaha!”

Raj Sherman MLA
Raj Sherman

And the hot gossip in political circles today is that erratic former Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman is thinking about joining the fray. 

Sherman was first elected as a PC MLA in 2008 but was driven out of that party and scooped up the Liberal leadership in 2011. He left politics in 2015 and returned to being full-time ER doctor. 

He also donated $4,000 to the Alberta Party last year.

So it’s a scramble. It’s a dog’s breakfast.

And there could be more.

We’ll know soon enough.

July 20 is the deadline for candidates to pay up if they want to stay in the race.

The high-entry fee will quickly weed out candidates who can’t raise enough money.

August 12 is the deadline to buy a membership.

No time for the two-minute Tories who wreaked havoc against the establishment candidates in the old PC Party leadership races.

The party is also organizing debates and attendance by all candidates is mandatory.

Stragglers will risk be fined or disqualified, or both.

It’s no Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, but it’s bound to be entertaining to watch.


Liberal Party seeks new leader

The Alberta Liberal Party also announced that it will be holding their own leadership vote and choosing a new leader on September 25, 2022.

Former party leader David Khan stepped down in November 2020 after failing to win a seat in the 2019 election, marking the first time since before 1986 that the provincial Liberals not represented in the Legislature.

Party stalwart John Roggeveen has filled the spot as interim leader since March 2021.

The race has no candidates as of yet. The second place finisher from the 2017 leadership race, Kerry Cundal, is running for the Alberta Party in Calgary-Elbow.


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Categories
Alberta Politics

UCP chaos good for Notley’s NDP today but they shouldn’t count on it in 2023

It must have been craft beer and pizza with extra vegan cheese night at Alberta NDP HQ last night.

Not only is Premier Jason Kenney stepping down as leader of the United Conservative Party but he’s staying on until the next leader is chosen, whenever that will be.

And that certainly gives the NDP a reason to celebrate, at least for one night.

If Rachel Notley is the Alberta NDP’s most valuable player then Kenney is the runner up.

Kenney’s plummeting popularity has been a key to the NDP’s success in fundraising, organizing and recruiting candidates.

The NDP had $5.5 million in the bank at the end of 2021.

That’s a campaign war chest.

They have 24 candidates nominated, including some who won actual contested nomination races.

It’s understandable why UCP MLAs decided to keep Kenney around rather than choosing an interim leader, but this will probably only help the NDP.

At least in the short-term.

As UCP MLAs were cloistered in the McDougall Centre, Notley was in Calgary showing off her party’s roster of nominated candidates

She billed them as ‘a united, capable team of Albertans who are focused on making life better for Alberta families and businesses.’

Notley and NDP MLAs have been spending every spare moment in Calgary.

It’s a full-court press.

They know they have to make big gains in the province’s largest city to form government.

And they have some impressive bench strength.

Former city councillor Druh Farrell in Calgary-Bow.

Energy analyst Samir Kayende in Calgary-Elbow.

Sustainable energy expert Nagwan Al-Guneid in Calgary-Glenmore. 

Canadian Forces veteran and police commission vice-chair Marilyn North Peigan in Calgary-Klein.

Physician Luanne Metz in Calgary-Varsity.

Calgarians with impressive resumes who could presumably become cabinet ministers on Day 1 of a new Notley government, which is what she will need if her party wins in 2023.

It feels more like a Progressive Conservative lineup than a traditional working-class NDP slate.

That’s Alberta politics today.

But even as they lead the province-wide polls, the path to victory is still steep for the NDP.

It’s not a slam dunk.

Their support is concentrated in Edmonton, where they already have almost every seat. 

They will need to make big gains Calgary, and Lethbridge and the ridings surrounding Edmonton.

But that might not be enough.

They also need to win seats in small cities and rural Alberta where the electoral math gets a lot harder, especially if the UCP remains “united” in the next election.

Red Deer? Medicine Hat? Grande Prairie? Fort McMurray?

Those are tough nuts to crack.

The UCP swept those cities with huge victories in 2019.

But there are a few opportunities for the NDP outside of the big cities. 

Former cabinet minster and Registered Nurse Danielle Larivee in Lesser Slave Lake.

Conservation scientist Sarah Elmeligi in Banff-Kananaskis.

Former city councillor Rob Miyashiro in Lethbridge-East.

Former county councillor Karen Shaw in Morinville-St Albert.

County Councillor Bill Tonita in Strathcona-Sherwood Park.

Maybe former cabinet minister Oneil Carlier in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland. 

It gets harder to name obvious potential NDP pickups after that.

My back of napkin math puts the NDP at probably around 44 or 45 seats if they hold their current support in the polls.

The barest of majorities in the 87 seat legislature.

But, as some of us have learned the hard way, campaigns matter.

And we still don’t know who the next UCP leader will be.

If Kenney somehow finds his way back into his party’s good graces then it’s probably good news for the NDP. 

But if another person is leading the UCP into 2023, it could be a different ballgame.

The old PC Party had an uncanny ability to reinvent itself under new leaders. 

It’s a big reason the PC Party was able to hold on to government for 43 straight years.

That magic charm totally evaporated in 2015.

We don’t know if the UCP has inherited this self-preservation trait.

It certainly doesn’t look like it right now.

But even in disarray the UCP shouldn’t be underestimated.

They are still a powerful force in Alberta politics.

And they could still win in 2023, or sooner if an early election is called.

It’s something for our friends at the NDP to keep in mind as they nurse their celebratory hangovers this morning.


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Categories
Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney is a bad Premier.

There is no doubt that Jason Kenney changed the face of Alberta politics when he jumped into provincial politics in 2017.

He succeeded in leading the merger of the Wildrose opposition with the Progressive Conservatives remanent into the United Conservative Party.

And, for a period, he was able to convince the two warring factions to put aside their differences and focus on a higher goal: winning the 2019 election.

And it worked.

At least it did for a time.

The UCP won a big majority, but quickly discovered that all those things the PCs and Wildrosers didn’t like about each other still existed, but now they were in the same party.

Last night, Kenney announced his plans to step down as UCP leader after getting a weak 51.4 per cent endorsement an acrimonious, divisive and drawn-out leadership review.

How did we get here so fast?

The COVID-19 pandemic definitely derailed Kenney and his party, but that wasn’t his only mistake.

Let’s look back at the chaos of the past three years.

Kenney’s much promoted Open for Summer plan in 2021 alienated a large swath of Albertans who were uncomfortable with removing public health restrictions so quickly and haphazardly just for the Calgary Stampede.

Rachel Notley’s NDP were riding high in the polls and fundraising, and to a lot of Albertans it looked like Kenney was dropping the COVID-19 restrictions to fast to save his party’s fortunes and his own leadership.

But being forced to backtrack and reintroduce restrictions when COVID-19 cases and deaths predictably skyrocketed and hospitals and ICUs overflowed only served to alienate a growing group right-wing populists and Freedom Truckers who were then highly motivated to defeat Kenney in the leadership review.

Despite flirting with right-wing populism before the 2019 election and during his time as Premier, Kenney is not a populist.

Kenney is probably far more comfortable discussing the works of Ludwig von Mises in the salons of the Manhattan Institute than driving a big blue truck around rural Alberta.

He sold Albertans, and conservative activists, a bill of goods that he could not deliver on.

But again, it wasn’t just COVID-19 that sealed his fate in the leadership review

If Kenney had not been so deeply unpopular with Albertans and if the UCP hadn’t been trailing the NDP in almost every poll since late 2020, he would have had a stronger hand to play.

But he didn’t.

Let’s look at why.

Somewhere along the line Kenney and his ministers began to believe that the big electoral mandate they got in 2019 meant they could impose their platform with abandon and, perhaps fatally, not have to listen to Albertans who started pushing back.

While Kenney’s opponents were always going to oppose his plans to privatize health care and schools, it wasn’t just NDP partisans who pushed back.

It was normal Albertans.

And Kenney didn’t seem to realize this.

Kenney and Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon’s plans to close and sell more than 140 provincial parks sparked a province-wide lawn sign campaign that crossed the partisan divide.

After months of actively dismissing and attacking opponents of these plans, the UCP government was forced to back down.

The UCP’s eagerness to open the Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining produced a similar backlash.

Kenney and Energy Minister Sonya Savage pushed forward, again dismissing the opposition, which included dozens of southern Alberta municipal councils and country music artists like Corb Lund, Paul Brandt and Terri Clark, until they were forced to back down.

Kenney and Health Minster Tyler Shandro picked big fights with nurses and doctors during the pandemic, which almost certainly undermined public confidence in the government’s ability to handle the pandemic.

Kenney and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange were almost engaged in daily fights with teachers, even when the safety of children during the pandemic was the biggest concern for almost every Alberta parent.

Alberta can already be a notoriously difficult place to govern, but at times it looked like the UCP was actively trying to make it more difficult.

And then there were the scandals.

The kamikaze campaign.

The RCMP investigation.

Shandro yelling at a doctor in his driveway.

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu phoning the chief of police after getting a traffic ticket.

Lawsuits alleging of drinking and sexual harassment of political staff by cabinet ministers.

Alohagate.

The Sky Palace patio party.

Betting and losing $1.3 billion on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

And the theatrics.

The Energy War Room staffed by UCP-insiders.

The late and over budget Allan Inquiry into nefarious foreign interference that found nothing illegal.

A referendum about equalization that was always going to be ignored by Ottawa, and ironically, was ignored by most Albertans.

The never ending legal challenges against the federal government.

And then there’s the curriculum.

Pledging during the 2019 campaign to take ideology and politics out of the draft K-12 curriculum, Kenney’s government injected new levels of weird and outdated ideology.

Panned by teachers, reviled by curriculum experts, and mocked internationally as age-inappropriate, outdated, Eurocentric, jargon-riddled, inaccurate, unconcerned with developing critical thinking skills, and rife with plagiarism, is how columnist David Climenhaga described it.

And then there’s that thing about Kenney’s grandfather, Mart Kenney, showing up in the curriculum, which felt like weird pandering by the programme’s authors.

We never got a glimpse into who Kenney really is or anything about his life outside of politics really.

Aside from politics, we don’t really know what makes him tick.

We know he rented a room in mother’s basement, enjoys listening to Gregorian chants and is a devout Roman Catholic, but that’s almost all we were allowed to see.

Not that we are owed any more.

Politicians deserve their privacy but Kenney’s weird blank slate outside of politics probably contributed to him being not very relatable to most Albertans.

So it becomes a trust thing.

Kenney is popular with many white collar conservatives and former staffers in Ottawa who have fond memories of his two decades as a determined opposition critic and hard-working cabinet minister.

Many of them see him a kind of Philosopher King of Canadian Conservatism.

But whatever charm worked inside the Queensway didn’t translate in the Premier’s Office.

Maybe being a trusted lieutenant to Prime Minster Stephen Harper was a quite different job than being Premier of Alberta?

Someone who has known Kenney for a long time once told me that they believed one of his biggest weaknesses is that he still saw Alberta politics through a 1990s lens.

I’m not sure I totally believe that but I think there’s a hint of truth to it.

And it might be why he has misread Albertans so badly over the past three years.

Kenney got his start in Alberta politics in the early 1990s as the founding spokesperson of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

It was a heady time for deficit hawks and social conservatives, and Kenney frequently engaged in very public quarrels with then-Premier Ralph Klein over government expenses.

The young conservative activist with a trademark Nixonian five-o’clock shadow pioneered the CTF soundbite machine with great success.

It’s where he cut his teeth in politics.

Thirty-years later, Kenney will soon be ending the latest phase of his political career in the same building where he started.

But this time he might not be coming back.


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Categories
Alberta Politics

51.4% isn’t enough. Jason Kenney stepping down as UCP leader.

Premier Jason Kenney is done.

Kenney stunned political watchers by announcing he is stepping down as leader of the United Conservative Party after getting the support of only 51.4 per cent of members in the leadership review.

He had claimed last week that 50%+1 was enough for him to stay, but that obviously wasn’t enough.

It wouldn’t have worked.

It was the weakest of mandates.

UCP President Cynthia Moore speaking about the leadership review process.

Winning by such a narrow margin was probably the worst case scenario for Kenney.

With 51.4 per cent there is no way Kenney could have confidently walked into tomorrow morning’s UCP Caucus meeting and commanded the loyalty of the party’s MLAs.

There’s no way he could have demanded his opponents fall in line or leave the party. 

So, he’s resigning. 

The UCP is deeply divided and the leadership race was and acrimonious end to Kenney’s three years in the Premier’s Office.

But he might have been the biggest obstacle standing in the way of the party moving forward in any positive way with one year left before the provincial election.

The aggressive and in-your-face reactions from Kenney and his political staff to any criticism of his agenda has made him deeply unpopular with almost every single voting demographic in Alberta. 

And it dragged down his party.

UCP returning officer Rick Orman announcing the results of the leadership review.

Kenney leaving avoids the inevitably showdown between him and his opponents in caucus that would have likely divided the party even further.

He’ll leave that showdown to someone else.

Now the UCP will have to choose a new leader. 

It’s not clear whether Kenney will resign immediately and be replaced by an interim leader or whether he will stay on as Premier until a leadership race is held. 

We’ll find out soon. 

Names that immediately come to mind for potential interim leaders are Nate Horner, Sonya Savage, Nathan Neudorf, Ric McIver, Rajan Sawhney and Nate Glubish – all MLAs who probably won’t run for the permanent job.

And that’s where things get interesting, or troubling, depending on your point of view. 

While Kenney was unpopular across the board, his biggest critics inside his party come from the unruly political-right – and they are mostly unhappy with how he handled the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kenney called them “lunatics.”

Former Wildrose leaders Brian Jean and Danielle Smith and exiled UCP MLA Drew Barnes probably fall pretty neatly into this column. 

They both want the job. 

Then there’s the Kenney loyalists.

Doug Schweitzer endorsed Kenney last week. He’s expected to run.

Jason Nixon is Kenney’s chief lieutenant. He’s said to be eying the job.

Travis Toews is also in Kenney’s inner circle. He’s said to have supporters who have been quietly preparing a run for months.

And then there’s Members of Parliament Shannon Stubbs and Michelle Rempel Garner. They haven’t said they’d run, but their names get mentioned when you talk to UCP supporters.

There will be others.

Kenney didn’t specifically say he wouldn’t try to reclaim his job in a leadership race. But even if his political career isn’t over, it seems unlikely right now that he’d try to reclaim the UCP leadership.

It’s an unceremonious result for the popular former federal cabinet minister and darling of movement conservatives who jumped into provincial politics six years ago to build a new conservative party.

It is a big change from three years ago, when Kenney led the newly minted UCP to defeat Rachel Notley’s NDP and win a big majority government.

On that election night he looked unstoppable.

Long gone are the days when anyone in Alberta politics is unstoppable.


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Categories
Alberta Politics

Brooks Arcand-Paul running for NDP nomination in Edmonton-West Henday, UCP MLAs rally for Jeremy Nixon in Calgary-Klein

Brooks Arcand-Paul is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Edmonton-West Henday.

Arcand-Paul launched his candidacy in the west Edmonton riding the day after two-term MLA Jon Carson announced he would not run for re-election.

“Albertans deserve leaders who care about people, Arcand-Paul said in a statement.

“The NDP have a proven record that they really care about all people. The last few years have presented our communities with unprecedented challenges, and the UCP government has failed us at every turn. It’s time for government to work for all Albertans, rather than against them. From rising insurance and utility rates, cuts to education and healthcare, we cannot afford another UCP term. ”

Arcand-Paul is the in-house legal counsel for the Alexander First Nation, located about a 25-minute drive northwest of Edmonton, and Vice President of the Indigenous Bar Association.

His launch event included endorsements from Edmonton-Griesbach MP Blake Desjarlais, former Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan and Edmonton-Rutherford NDP nomination candidate Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse.

The date for a nomination meeting has not yet been announced.

The battle for Calgary heating up

The NDP need to sweep Alberta’s largest city if they want to win the next election, and vulnerable Calgary United Conservative Party MLAs know it. Rachel Notley has been spending a lot of time in Calgary and NDP MLAs have been spending nearly every spare minute knocking on doors in the city. 

Jeremy Nixon (centre with the lawn sign) and UCP MLAs and volunteers in Calgary-Klein.
Jeremy Nixon (centre with the lawn sign) and UCP MLAs and volunteers in Calgary-Klein. (source: Instagram)

A group of UCP MLAs were spotted door-knocking in Calgary-Klein to support first-term UCP MLA Jeremy Nixon, who is facing a strong challenge from NDP candidate Marilyn North Peigan.

Calgary-Currie MLA Nicholas Milliken, Calgary-Edgemont MLA Prasad Panda, Calgary-Beddington MLA Josephine Pon, and Calgary-East MLA Peter Singh were on the doors this weekend with Nixon and party volunteers. 

The NDP held a similar door-knocking blitz in the riding with MLAs and dozens of volunteers earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, Edmonton-Whitemud NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi was recently doorknocking with NDP candidate Julia Hayter in Calgary-Edgemont, and Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin was busy campaigning with Rosman Valencia in Calgary-East.

And Notley was in Calgary for Druh Farrell’s nomination meeting in Calgary-Bow and to join Calgary-Falconridge candidate Parmeet Singh Boparai and Calgary-Bhullar-McCall MLA Irfan Sabir at Nagar Kirtan celebrations.


Upcoming nomination meetings

  • Edmonton-North West NDP: May 18, 2022
  • Calgary-Acadia NDP: May 26, 2022
  • Edmonton-Meadows NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Edmonton-Rutherford NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Brooks-Medicine Hat AP: May 25, 2022
  • Calgary-Elbow AP: May 29, 2022
  • Airdrie-Cochrane NDP: May 30, 2022
  • Edmonton-Riverview NDP: June 7, 2022
  • Edmonton-McClung NDP: June 8, 2022
  • Strathcona-Sherwood Park NDP: June 9, 2022
  • Edmonton-South West NDP: June 18, 2022
  • Edmonton-Decore NDP: June 25, 2022

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!

(And, I know I’ve said this before but feel free to sign up for the Daveberta Substack.)

Categories
Alberta Politics

MLA Jon Carson not running for re-election in Edmonton-West Henday, NDP nominate former city councillor Druh Farrell in Calgary-Bow

NDP MLA Jon Carson announced today that he will not be seeking re-election in Edmonton-West Henday in the next election.

“Serving the people of Edmonton-West Henday has no doubt been the privilege of a lifetime,” Carson said in a statement posted on social media. “From our small campaign team huddled around the kitchen table in 2015 to the 2019 that was too close to call on election night… I know that our success was never my own, but always because of our strong team dedicated to creating a better future for Alberta families.”

Dave Cournoyer and Jon Carson at the NDP Victory Party on election night in 2015.

Carson has represented west Edmonton since 2015 when he was elected as MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.

An Electrician by trade, he was one of 9 NDP MLAs under 30 years old elected in Notley Wave of 2015.

Carson was re-elected in 2019 in the newly redrawn Edmonton-West Henday riding in what was the closest race in Edmonton of that election. He finished 518 votes ahead of United Conservative Party candidate Nicole Williams, a former lobbyist who has spent the past 3 years as Chief of Staff to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.

Carson is the second NDP MLA to announce they are not running for re-election. Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan announced last month that he would not seek re-election.

The area, which includes parts of the former Edmonton-Calder and Edmonton-Meadowlark ridings, has swung between the NDP, Liberals and Progressive Conservatives over the past 40 years. Notable former MLAs include Liberals Grant Mitchell, Karen Leibovici, Progressive Conservative turned Liberal Raj Sherman, and NDP MLA David Eggen (who now represents Edmonton-North West).

Druh Farrell nominated in Calgary-Bow

Druh Farrell has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Bow. Farrell served on city council for 20 years before retiring from municipal politics last October.

She was a leading progressive voice in Calgary’s municipal debates during her time as Councillor, making her a frequent target of right-wing commentators and political action committees.

Farrell’s nomination has caused some tension with some local NDP organizers, including former president Krista Li, who have complained the party was too heavy handed in allowing the former city councilor to run.

The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA and Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides, who was elected in 2019 with 55 per cent of the vote, unseating NDP MLA Deborah Drever, who placed second with 34 per cent.

There’s an NDP race in Central Peace-Notley

There appears to be a contested NDP nomination in the northern rural Central Peace-Notley riding. Megan Ciurysek, a Research Officer at Northern Alberta Development Council, is challenging Fairview resident and Enviro Projects owner Lynn Lekisch.

The riding is currently represented by Independent MLA Todd Loewen, who was kicked out of the UCP Caucus for calling on Premier Jason Kenney to resign. He was elected in 2019 with 75 per cent of the vote.

The riding is not named after Rachel Notley, but after her father. Grant Notley represented Spirit River-Fairview, covering much of the region, in the Alberta Legislature from 1971 to 1984.

It is fairly quiet on the UCP nomination front, with the party largely focused on Kenney’s leadership review. There are a few updates though:

Former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith is busy campaigning for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod, including a recent meeting with the Citizens Supportive of Crowsnest Coal group. Smith is challenging first-term UCP MLA Roger Reid.

In his first piece for CBC, Jason Markusoff breakdowns which ridings current UCP members live in. Unsurprisingly, the three ridings with the most members eligible to vote in the leadership review are Cardston-Siksika and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, where nomination challengers Jodie Gateman and Tim Hoven were disqualified, and Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, where former Wildrose leader Brian Jean just won a by-election. All three are actively campaigning against Kenney in the review.

Upcoming nomination meetings

  • Edmonton-North West NDP: May 18, 2022
  • Calgary-Acadia NDP: May 26, 2022
  • Edmonton-Meadows NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Edmonton-Rutherford NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Brooks-Medicine Hat AP: May 25, 2022
  • Calgary-Elbow AP: May 29, 2022
  • Airdrie-Cochrane NDP: May 30, 2022
  • Edmonton-Riverview NDP: June 7, 2022
  • Edmonton-McClung NDP: June 8, 2022
  • Strathcona-Sherwood Park NDP: June 9, 2022
  • Edmonton-South West NDP: June 18, 2022
  • Edmonton-Decore NDP: June 25, 2022

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!

(And, once again, feel free to sign up for the Daveberta Substack.)