I joined Éric Grenier of TheWrit.ca on his excellent podcast this week to discuss Alberta’s election and the candidates who will be on the ballot on May 29. Éric was generous enough to share the audio from that episode so I can share it with the lucky paid subscribers of the Daveberta Substack.
Thank you to Daveberta Podcast producer Adam Rozenhart for editing this so we can share it with you today.
It’s not what people usually call me when I meet them for the first time, but it’s what a longtime daveberta.ca reader said when I met them for the first time a few weeks ago.
But I guess it’s true.
I started tracking the names of people running for nominations to become party candidates in elections 16 years ago and have since done it for every provincial and federal election in Alberta and municipal election in Edmonton. By my count that’s 15 elections.
Rumours circulated over the weekend that the UCP could appoint Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Rajan Sawhney as the UCP candidate in Calgary-North West. Sawhney has served as MLA for Calgary-North East since 2019 but announced in February 2023 that she would not run for re-election.
There is also speculation in political circles that the UCP could name Nolan Dyck as the party’s candidate in Grande Prairie-Wapiti. Dyck is currently seeking the nomination in the neighbouring Grande Prairie riding but is President of the UCP association in Grande Prairie-Wapiti and is politically close to Toews.
Liberal Party names 6 new candidates
The Liberal Party has named six new candidates, bringing the party’s total slate of candidates up to seven.
The slate of new candidates includes Dr. Donna Wilson, a nursing professor at the University of Alberta who’s area of research focuses on health services and health policy.
Wilson will be carrying the party’s banner in Edmonton-Whitemud, where she previously ran for the Liberals in a 2014 by-election. Back then, the Liberals were led by now-UCP candidate Dr. Raj Sherman and the Wildrose Party was led by now UCP Premier Danielle Smith. The riding is currently represented by NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi.
Wilson also ran for the Liberals in Edmonton-Riverview in the 2015 election.
Other Liberal Party candidates include:
Charlie Heater in Calgary-Fish Creek
Prince Mugisha in Calgary-North East
Jean Kijuli in Edmonton-Manning
Abdi Bakal in Edmonton-Mill Woods
Patricia Chizek in Lethbridge-West
Bakal and Chizek were candidates in those ridings in the 2019 election. Liberal Party leader John Roggeveen has not announced where he plans to run.
Other nomination updates
The Independence Party of Alberta has nominated Bob Blayone in Camrose, Terry Wolsey in Cardston-Siksika, David Reid in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, Corrie Toone in Livigstone-Macleod, Katherine Kowalchuk in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, Fred Schwieger in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, Brent Ginther in Taber-Warner.
Ashley MacDonald is the Green Party candidate in Red Deer-South.
“I’m honoured and grateful for the opportunity to bring a positive conservative message to the community,” Sherman said in a statement released after his win. “Together, we will fight for the people of Edmonton-Whitemud and work towards a brighter future for all Albertans.”
Now he will face Alberta NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi in the upcoming provincial election. The riding is considered a safe seat for the NDP in this election but there is little doubt that Sherman will be a candidate to watch in the next few months.
Myles McDougall beats establishment backed nominees in Calgary-Fish Creek UCP vote
Economist Myles McDougall defeated Christina Steed and Dave Guenter to win the UCP nomination in Calgary-Fish Creek.
McDougall previously ran for the Progressive Conservative nomination in Calgary-Fish Creek in 2015 and the federal Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Midnapore in 2017. He had an endorsement in this race from Calgary-Glenmore MLA Whitney Issik and support from Take Back Alberta-connected organizers.
Steed was endorsed by retiring MLA Richard Gotfried and former south Calgary MLA Cindy Ady. Guenter had endorsements from Finance Minister Travis Toews and local Conservative MP Stephanie Kusie.
And from Wednesday night, Albert Mazzocca defeated Jaspreet Saggu to win the UCP nominaton in Edmonton-Manning.
And it’s in Edmonton-Whitemud that the Emergency Room doctor and former leader of the Alberta Liberal Party hopes to make his next political comeback.
Sherman first jumped onto the political scene back in 2008, when he was elected as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark. He briefly served as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health and Wellness but his time in the PC fold was short.
Sherman was removed from the PC Caucus in 2010 and briefly enjoyed an almost folk-hero status in Alberta politics before deciding to run for the Liberal Party leadership in 2011. He won on the first ballot in the party’s first (and only) open-membership vote.
Sherman was unable to mend the Liberal Party’s political wounds and only narrowly held on to his seat in the 2012 election. The moribund Liberals placed a distant third behind Alison Redford‘s PCs and Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party.
Four candidates are on the ballot in the Lesser Slave Lake UCP nomination vote on February 25 and 26. Former constituency assistant Martine Carifelle, oil field operator Jerrad Cunningham, auto glass repair shop owner Scott Sinclair, and former chief Silas Yellowknee of the Bigstone First Nation are seeking the nomination to succeed retiring UCP MLA Pat Rehn.
Tischer running for NDP in Athbasca-Barrhead-Westlock
Pastor-turned-horizontal directional driller Landen Tischer is expected to be acclaimed as the NDP candidate in this sprawling rural riding north of Edmonton. A nomination meeting is being held on February 25.
The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Glenn van Dijken, who fended off a nomination challenge from Westlock County Councillor Isaac Skuban late last year.
Newly nominated candidates
Edmonton-Manning: UCP voters in this north east Edmonton riding voted to select their candidate last night but the results have not yet been released. Alberto Mazzocca and Jaspreet Saggu were seeking the nomination.
Edmonton-North West: Ali Haymour was acclaimed as the UCP candidate. Haymour is a familiar name to north Edmonton voters, having previously run for City Council in 2017 and 2021, and as the Alberta Party candidate in Edmonton-Decore in 2019 and the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Castle Downs in 2008 and 2012.
Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland: UCP MLA Shane Getson has been acclaimed as his party candidate in this rural riding just north west of Edmonton. Town of Mayerthorpe Mayor Janet Jabush is now the Alberta Party candidate. Jabush has served as mayor since 2019.
Edmonton-Strathcona: NDP leader Rachel Notley is expected to be acclaimed as her party’s candidate at a nomination rally at NAIT on March 11. Notley was first elected in 2008 and was re-elected in 2019 with 72.27 per cent of the vote.
Cypress-Medicine Hat:Dustin Cartwright has withdrawn his candidacy for the Green Party in this south east Alberta riding.
The party has opened up nominations in Edmonton-Whitemud but has not signalled if they plan to let Sherman actually enter the race.
Sherman served as MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark as a Progressive Conservative from 2008 to 2010, as an Independent MLA from 2010 to 2011 and as a Liberal from 2011 to 2015. He led the Alberta Liberal Party from 2011 to 2015.
Edmonton-Whitemud has been represented by Alberta NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi since 2019, when she was elected with 49.18 per cent of the vote.
AUPE’s Heisted running for NDP nomination in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
Innisfail Town Councillor and AUPE Executive Secretary-Treasurer Jason Heistad is running for the NDP nomination in the central Alberta riding of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake.
Heistad was first elected to town council in 2010 and was re-elected in 2021 with the most votes of any councillor candidate. He was elected to his fifth term as AUPE’s Executive Secretary-Treasurer in 2021.
A nomination vote is scheduled for February 6.
The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA and cabinet minister Devin Dreeshen.
Martine Carifelle and Scott Sinclair are seeking the UCP nomination. The NDP have nominated registered nurse Danielle Larivee, who represented the riding from 2015 to 2019 and served as a cabinet minister in Rachel Notley‘s first government.
Drumheller-Stettler: Stettler pharmacist Juliet Franklin is running for the NDP nomination in this sprawling east central Alberta riding. A nomination meeting is scheduled for February 13, 2023.
Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: Fisheries biologist Vance Buchwald is running for the NDP nomination in this sprawling west central Alberta riding. A nomination meeting scheduled for February 15, 2023. In 2021, Buchwald urged Clearwater County Council to take a stand against coal mining development near Nordegg.
Green Party of Alberta
The Green Party has nominated Regan Boychuk in Banff-Kananaskis, Ahmad Hassan in Calgary-Falconridge, Kenneth Drysdale in Calgary-Klein, and Cheri Hawley in Edmonton-Whitemud.
Heather Morigeau has withdrawn her candidacy in Calgary-Buffalo, as has Jonathan Parks in Calgary-Currie.
The Alberta Party has opened up nominations in Calgary-Varsity. Nominations closed on January 15. If more than one candidate entered the race a nomination vote will be held on January 29, 2023.
“This Leadership Race is an exciting opportunity to build our party, debate ideas, discuss strategy and reach out to Albertans,” wrote Alberta Liberal Party president Helen Mcmenamin in a June 13 statement on the party website.
“They are looking for leadership they can trust to tackle the issues of today and the challenges of tomorrow.”
Albertans might be looking for leadership to tackle the issues of today and the challenges of tomorrow but they won’t find it from the Alberta Liberal Party, at least not right now.
Last Friday’s 5:00 p.m. deadline for candidates to enter the leadership race came and went without any announcement. Anyone who was watching assumed there were just no candidates in the race.
That proved to be the case.
Mcmenamin issued another statement yesterday.
“As no candidates have stepped forward the Leadership race has concluded with no permanent Leader being selected,” she wrote.
It’s a blow to an already much diminished political party.
It’s not something I take pleasure writing about. It’s actually kind of sad.
Some current and former Liberal activists I’ve reached out to over the past few days point to in-fighting and a party executive controlled by a small group of people. Some say the current group is too loyal to the former leader and not open to new ideas. Some say they will just appoint a new interim leader of their choice.
The smaller the stakes the bigger the fight, right?
The Liberals have no MLAs and got less than 1 per cent of the province-wide vote in 2019.
That’s the party’s worst result since 1940, and even then they managed to elect 1 MLA.
They have struggled raising money and have been without a permanent leader since David Khan resigned in 2020.
Being leader of the Alberta Liberal party right now is not even a thankless job, it’s whatever the next level is after thankless.
And the party has really been without a purpose for a while.
It wasn’t too long ago that the Liberal Party formed the Official Opposition in Alberta. This was the party of Nick Taylor, Laurence Decore, Grant Mitchell and Kevin Taft. And it’s MLAs included Bettie Hewes, Sheldon Chumir, Mike Percy, Gary Dickson, Frank Bruseker, Howard Sapers and Laurie Blakeman – people who’s impact on politics is still felt today.
The space occupied by the Liberals shifted quite a bit over the decades.
Decore’s Liberals witnessed the party’s greatest success in 75 years when it came within a whisker of forming government in 1993. A record 32 Liberal MLAs formed the largest official opposition in Alberta history.
But an informal alliance with socially conservative Reform Party activists and its deficit hawk policies made for an awkward transition to an opponent of some of those same policies when they were implemented by Klein in the mid-1990s.
The party recalibrated under Mitchell in 1997 and was able to hold on to its seats in Edmonton, but 2001 represented a major blow when the party then led by Klein rival Nancy MacBeth was reduced to 7 MLAs and saddled with a million dollar debt.
The party rebounded under Kevin Taft’s leadership in 2004 when they regained much of their support in Edmonton and made important breakthroughs in Calgary.
Albertans were tiring of Klein and shopping around.
Despite winning an important by-election in Calgary-Elbow in 2007, the Liberals lost a lot of ground when facing Ed Stelmach’s PCs in 2008. It turned out the PCs brilliant “Change that works for Albertans” message did a better job of capturing the Obama-theme than “It’s Time.”
It was all downhill for the Liberals after that election.
By this point the Alberta Liberal Party had become less of a cohesive political party and more a coalition of independent-minded and locally popular MLAs.
Former PC MLA turned Liberal leader Raj Sherman was squeezed out of 2012’s two way race between Alison Redford’s PCs and Danielle Smith’s Wildrose.
Liberal voters flocked to the PC Party.
Then they flocked to the NDP in Orange Wave of 2015.
Party leader David Swann survived on the strength of his personal popularity but the Liberals were washed out.
And today any political territory the Liberal Party once occupied is now held by Rachel Notley’s NDP and, to a much lesser extent, the Alberta Party.
It’s hard to point to any laws or policies passed by Notley’s NDP in government and now proposed in opposition that would be meaningfully different from what the Liberals (and in some cases from the old PCs) would do.
And most federal Liberals in Alberta are supporting Notley or have abandoned provincial politics entirely.
It’s difficult to see how the Liberals can dig themselves out of their current hole, at least in the foreseeable future.
Maybe they are waiting for the NDP to collapse?
They might have to wait a while and every day they wait they sink into further irrelevance.
The Liberals are in the wilderness now.
Note: I was a member of the Alberta Liberal Party from 1999 to 2009. I sat on constituency association boards, I organized fundraisers, I knocked on a lot of doors, and worked for the party in various roles, including as Communications Coordinator from 2006 to 2008. During the 2008 election I worked with a group of MLAs and former cabinet ministers who were preparing the Liberal Party’s transition plan to form government (we were nothing if not optimistic).
And other former leader David Swann appears comfortable with returning to his roots as an environmental activist. Swann was the party’s last MLA when he decided to retire from elected politics in 2019.
The Liberal Party formed official opposition from 1993 to 2012, but I’ll leave the story of its quick rise and fall for another day (I have a lot to say).
Now, I guess we wait to see what happens at 5:00 p.m. today.
UPDATE: It appears as though the Liberal Party did not accept any nominations for its leadership race by today’s 5:00 p.m. deadline. The party has removed the “Leadership” section from its website drop down menu and has not made any public statements about the leadership race yet.
Her campaign chair, Rob Anderson, is founder of the Free Alberta Strategy and was one of two Progressive Conservative MLAs to cross the floor to Smith’s Wildrose in 2010 (he later crossed the floor back to the PCs with Smith in 2014).
Smith declared Alberta will never ever have a lockdown again (we never *really* had a lockdown).
The other candidates responded.
She made wild statements about any cancer before Stage 4 is a result of poor personal choices.
Postmedia columnist Don Braid wrote that her “dabbles in quackery” are sometimes almost funny but “this one is dangerous.”
When Smith hosted a popular radio talk show she promoted hydroxychloroquine as a cure to COVID-19. She even touted ivermectin as a treatment. Now she wants to appoint chief medical officers of alternative medicine.
Rehn was briefly expelled from the UCP Caucus in 2021 after taking a hot holiday to Mexico while most Albertans respected the government’s own COVID-19 travel advice and stayed home, and local municipal leaders called on him to resign after spending more time in Texas than his own riding.
Kenney said Rehn would not be allowed to run for the UCP nomination in the next election but he was quietly allowed to rejoin the UCP Caucus last summer. But now Kenney is on his way out.
Some might say I’m playing into the Smith-comeback narrative by writing this article, but she’s the only candidate saying anything interesting – even if it’s quackery.
She’s drawing crowds and appears to be hitting the right notes with a motivated segment of the UCP base, which says a lot about who the membership of the UCP is today.
This isn’t your father’s Progressive Conservative Party, folks.
The other candidates in the UCP race better get their acts together, because the membership sales deadline is on August 12.
Hinman has been replaced by Jeevan Mangat, who ran for the Wildrose Party in Calgary-Fort in 2012 and 2015.
The WIP was created in 2020 through the merger of the Wexit group and the Freedom Conservative Party (which was previously known as the Alberta First Party, the Separation Party of Alberta and the Western Freedom Party). The party has struggled with fundraising and Hinman placed a distant third in the recent Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.
Before his time as WIP leader, Hinman served as a Wildrose MLA from 2004 to 2008 and 2009 to 2012, and as leader of the Wildrose Alliance Party immediately before Danielle Smith was chosen as leader in 2009.
Meanwhile, the IPA is still looking for a new leader. Past federal Liberal candidate Katherine Kowalchuk is the only candidate in the race, so far.
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.
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.
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.
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 Loewenis 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.
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.
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 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.
Lawyer Andrea James is running for the United Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Elbow.
James holds law degrees from the University of Calgary, the University of Houston, and a master’s degree in Tax Law from the Osgoode School of Law at York University. She is a founder and principal of Jamesco LLP, a boutique corporate and tax law firm.
Current UCP MLA Doug Schweitzer has announced he will not seek re-election. The NDP nominated energy analyst Samir Kayande and the Alberta Party named lawyer Kerry Cundal as its candidate. Before Schweitzer’s election in 2019, the riding was represented by Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark.
Former County Councillor challenging MLA Michaela Frey in Brooks-Medicine Hat
Nesbitt is a former County of Newell councillor, constituency assistant for a former MLA Lyle Oberg and is a member of the UCP board of directors in the southeast Alberta riding. Nesbitt was defeated by Arno Doerksen in a bid for the Progressive Conservative Party nomination in Strathmore-Brooks in 2008.
The NDP nominated retired teacher Gwendoline Dirk and the Alberta Party nominated its leader and former Brooks mayor Barry Morishita.
Prasad Panda nominated in Calgary-Egmont
Prasad Panda secured the UCP nomination in Calgary-Egmont. The newly appointed Transportation Minister first entered cabinet in 2019 and was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in the Calgary-Foothills by-election held after former premier Jim Prentice resigned on election night in 2015. He was re-elected in the redrawn Calgary-Egmont in 2019.
Panda previous ran as the Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-Northern Hills in 2012 and 2015.
The NDP nominated Julia Hayter as its candidate.
Horsman and Sherman jump into UCP leadership race
There are two more candidates declaring their plans to enter the UCP leadership race: former Alberta Treasury Branches Vice President Jon Horsman and former PC MLA and Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman.
“…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.
It was a brutal critique of Alberta’s main conservative party.
She’s not wrong.
Affable Calgary-Fish Creek UCP MLA Richard Gotfriedagrees.
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.
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 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.
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?
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.