Any good talk radio host understands that the show doesn’t belong to the host, it belongs to the listeners. And if this past weekend’s annual general meeting is any indication, talk radio host-turned-Premier Danielle Smith might be taking a similar approach as leader of the United Conservative Party.
Aside from a nod to protecting parental rights during her keynote speech, Smith largely stood out of the way as more than 3,700 delegates packed into Calgary’s BMO Centre to vote on party policy and elect a new executive board. It was an impressive crowd and probably the largest provincial political convention in Alberta’s history.
There are four days left until Election Day in Alberta.
Readers of the Daveberta will know I’ve been watching this Alberta election pretty closely and, while I’ve actually been watching all 87 ridings throughout the campaign, there are a few handfuls I’ve been keeping a close eye on.
Some of them will be close races and some will be won with landslides.
Here’s my list of 19 ridings I’ll be watching closely on Election Day.
Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and United Conservative Party leader Danielle Smith presented two very different approaches on Tuesday morning to address the challenges facing the capital city’s downtown core.
No one will deny that there are big social problems facing Edmonton’s downtown. You can take a walk down almost any street downtown and see people facing mental health or addictions challenges. It’s sad and troubling.
The first-term MLA from north east Calgary was first elected in 2019 and served in cabinet since, currently as Minister of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism.
Sawhney placed sixth out of seven candidates in the 2022 UCP leadership race and was a sharp critic of Danielle Smith during that campaign. She was facing a strong nomination challenge when she announced her plans not to run for re-election in Calgary-North East.
On the same day Sawhney was appointed in Calgary-North West, UCP members in her Calgary-North East riding voted to choose her successor. Inderjit Grewal defeated Harjit Soroya in a vote by more than 1,800 members in the north east Calgary riding.
Grewal will face NDP candidate Gurinder Brar. The Liberal Party has nominated Prince Mugisha.
Both ridings are expected to be competitive in the next election.
Candidates are expected to be appointed in Lethbridge-West to replace Torry Tanner and Grande Prairie-Wapiti to succeed Travis Toews. The UCP board of directors in Grande Prairie-Wapiti unanimously passed a motion last week to support Ron Wiebe’s appointment as the candidate.
Tunde Obasan drops out of Edmonton-South race
The UCP is also expected to appoint a candidate to replace Tunde Obasan, who withdrew his name as the UCP candidate in Edmonton-South over the weekend.
Obasan previously ran in the riding in 2019 and was the federal Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Stratchona in the 2021 election. Obasan’s campaign was one of few in Edmonton that the UCP appeared to be focusing local resources in ahead of the election campaign.
“The abrupt resignation of my opponent in Edmonton-South is yet more chaos from the UCP. It follows another UCP resignation in Lethbridge-West, and the parachuting of Rajan Sawhney into Calgary-North West after she bailed out of a competitive nomination race in the riding she already represents,” Hoyle said in a statement released by the NDP.
“I’m focused on offering the people of Edmonton-South a stable, competent and caring government led by Rachel Notley,” Hoyle said.
The former Brooks mayor became leader of the seatless party in 2021 and had his electoral prospects tested early when his own MLA, Michaela Frey, resigned in late 2022 to allow Premier Smith to run in a by-election. Morishita placed a disappointing third place in that by-election, earning only 16.5 per cent of the vote.
It’s unclear what riding Morishita could pick that would be friendlier than Brooks-Medicine Hat, where he is already well-known and respected. Smith deciding to make the riding her own certainly created a tough situation for the aspiring MLA.
Pawlowski loyalists retake control of Independence Party
Pawlowski’s opponents on the previous party board claimed the street preacher was spending too much time preaching religious teachings and opposition to already lifted COVID-19 mitigation measures and not focusing enough time promoting the party’s separatists policy positions.
The party has nominated at least seven candidates to run in the next election, though it remains unclear at the moment which candidates are loyal to Pawlowski and which are opposed.
“In addition to province-wide issues such as healthcare and jobs, I remain a champion for the expansion of internet access for all rural Alberta. As an essential service, Albertans need broadband access for agriculture, industry, education, as well as everyday life,” Rudyk said in a statement announcing her run for the nomination.
“I will fight for sustainable long term strategic infrastructure investments for municipalities and not just the current inconsistencies of the boom and bust approach,” said Rudyk. “Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville deserves better and I sincerely believe that Rachel Notley is the leader to make our future better.”
Rudyk is currently serving her fourth term as a Councillor in the town east of Edmonton and has served on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities board of directors since 2017. The FCM is a national advocacy group that represents more than 2,000 Canadian municipalities.
Rudyk operates a pipeline welding business with her husband, Andrew, and is a board member of the Vegreville Association For Living In Dignity (VALID), a fundraising volunteer for Refugee Sponsorship Vegreville, and the former vice-chair of the Alberta Health Services Yellowhead East Health Advisory Council Alberta.
She is the daughter of former Vegreville NDP MLA Derek Fox, who represented the riding in the Alberta Legislature from 1986 to 1993.
The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting for April 21, 2023.
Rudyk is the latest addition to the group of current and former municipal elected officials running for the NDP in the rural and suburban ridings surrounding Edmonton.
Other municipal leaders on the NDP slate in the donut of ridings surrounding the capital city include Strathcona County Councillor Bill Tonita running in Strathcona-SherwoodPark, former Sturgeon County Councillor Karen Shaw running in Morinville-St. Albert, and former Spruce Grove City Councillor Chantal Saramaga-McKenzie running in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain.
Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, who was first elected in 2019 with 53 per cent of the vote. Armstrong-Homeniuk was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Ukrainian Refugee Settlement in October 2022.
Inderjit Grewal and Harjit Singh Saroya are running for the UCP nomination in Calgary-North East. The nomination vote is tomorrow, April 1.
Calgary-North East is currently represented by UCP MLA and cabinet minister Rajan Sawhney, who announced in February that she would not seek re-election. There has been recent political speculation that she could be appointed as the UCP candidate in Calgary-North West to replace retiring UCP MLA and cabinet minister Sonya Savage.
Gladys Blackmore, Nolan Dyck, Larry Gibson, and Tayyab Parvez are seeking the UCP nomination in Grande Prairie on April 3. The vote is being held to replace retiring UCP MLA Tracy Allard, who was first elected in 2019.
Other nomination news:
Chestermere-Strathmore: UCP MLA Leela Aheer is considering a run for the federal Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Signal Hill, a seat being vacated by retiring Conservative MP Ron Liepert. Aheer has served as an MLA since 2015 and withdrew from the recent UCP nomination race in her riding after finishing last in the 2022 UCP leadership race and facing a strong nomination challenge from Chantelle De Jonge.
Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood: Lieberson Pang is seeking the UCP nomination.
Edmonton-West Henday: Dan Bildhauer is running for the Liberal Party. He previously ran for the Liberals in Edmonton-Meadowlark in the 2015 election.
Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin: Marie Rittenhouse has been nominated as the Independence Party of Alberta candidate.
Subscribe to the Daveberta Substack
Thank you to everyone who has subscribed to the Daveberta Substack since I launched it a few months ago. We now have more than 2,000 regular subscribers and almost 100 paid subscribers!
One of the three candidates running for the United Conservative Party nomination in south west Alberta’s Livingstone-Macleod riding was at the Petroleum Club event.
Tanya Clemens posted a photo of herself posing with Anderson on her social media at the talk. The photo caption included the quote “If the government is afraid of the people, you have democracy. If the people are afraid of the government, you have tyranny.”
When asked for comment about her attendance at Anderson’s event, Clemens replied:
“Like our Members of Parliament, I was unaware of her views and political history.
She was one of a few individuals that used their international platforms to call out Justin Trudeau’s unacceptable and dictator like behaviour during COVID and that is why I went to the event in the first place.
I had no additional information on Anderson, but had I known about her unacceptable stances beforehand, I would not have attended the event.”
The Calgary events were attended by Freedom Convoy organizer Tamara Lich and lawyer Keith Wilson, and street pastor-turned-Independence Party of Alberta leader Artur Pawlowski, who has turned the party into a vehicle of right-wing conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the World Economic Forum.
Following the event, Anderson sat down for a one-on-one interview with Canadian Olympian and COVID-19 conspiracy theorist Jamie Salé.
Former Alberta Prosperity Project leader running for UCP nomination in Edmonton-Riverview
The APP has organized chapters around the province and promotes a range of conspiracy theories on its social media related to COVID-19, Digital ID, 15-minute cities and the World Economic Forum. The organization also recently promoted the debunked claim that commissioner of the Public Order Emergency Commission Paul Rouleau is the husband of Trudeau’s aunt (he’s not).
Until recently, the Alberta Prosperity Project’s chief executive officer was Dr. Dennis Modry.
Dr. Modry is a well-known Edmonton-based surgeon, having completed Alberta’s first heart transplant in 1985 and founding the heart & lung transplantation program at the University of Alberta. He was also a fundraiser for the Progressive Conservative Party in the 1980s and 1990s and was co-chair of Doug Main’s campaign for the PC Party leadership in 1992.
But Dr. Modry’s more recent political activities have moved further from the mainstream. He served as VP Policy and Governance of the Wildrose Independence Party before that party’s implosion and has since promoted Alberta sovereignty through the APP.
The APP has loudly advocated for the Alberta government to hold a referendum on independence from Canada, which the group says would give Alberta a strong position to negotiate with Ottawa.
The APP recently changed the by-laws posted on its website but a proposed party by-laws document posted in May 2022 outlined APP plans to create a separatist political party called the “Provincial Party” that would be renamed the “National Party” after a successful referendum on independence from Canada. The 2022 by-laws called for an independence referendum and included vague plans about establishing an Alberta “Constitution, Charter of Freedoms, Rights, & Responsibilities, and Declaration of Independence.”
The 2023 by-laws outline the creation of a new Alberta Republic, including the creation of a “Defense Force for the Republic” that would include an army, air force, cyber force, and navy (presumably the Alberta navy would have a home port at Cold Lake or Slave Lake).
The 2023 document also outlines APP plans to create a “Republic’s Reserve Bank” and create a “a mint for the Republic” that “will be evaluated in relation to three currency choices; Canadian, USA, or new currency minted in Alberta.”
The fundraising event was billed as an opportunity for the UCP leadership candidates to share their plans to protect Albertans from “the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 and World Economic Forum’s Great Reset.”
Only three of the seven UCP leadership candidates participated in the debate: Danielle Smith, Brian Jean and Todd Loewen.
“So part of when I decided I wanted to run [for Alberta premier], I knew how important it was to make sure that we addressed the issues of autonomy,” Smith said. “And I talked to Dr. Modry as one of my first steps. I said, ‘let’s try this together.’”
A UCP nomination meeting has not yet been scheduled in Edmonton-Riverview and I’m told that at least one or two other candidates might enter the contest.
A nomination vote in Livingstone-Macleod is scheduled for March 9, 10 and 11. The candidates in that race are Tanya Clemens, Town of Claresholm Mayor Chelsae Petrovic, and former pastor Don Whalen.
Today, I met with Premier Smith to inform her that I will not be seeking the nomination and re-election for Calgary-North East. I will continue to serve as the MLA for Calgary-North East until the end of this mandate.
Serving as the MLA for this constituency and as a Minister of several portfolios, under both the Honourable Jason Kenney and Honourable Premier Smith, has been a tremendous honour and a great privilege. I thank both of these great leaders for the opportunities they have afforded me to serve in their Cabinets. I continue to be a strong supporter of Premier Smith and her leadership and I look forward to the United Conservative Party forming government again after May of this year.
I would like to thank my colleagues, my team, my supporters and most of all, my family for their unconditional and unwavering support over the past many years.
Finally, I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to my constituents in Calgary-North East for placing their trust and faith in me as their MLA.
Sawhney was first elected to the Legislature in 2019 and has since served as Minister of Community & Social Services from 2019 to 2021 and Minister of Transportation from 2021 until 2022. She ran for the UCP leadership in 2022, finishing sixth on the first and second ballots. She was appointed Minister of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism in October 2022.
Despite Myshrall having endorsements from UCP Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, Highwood MLA R.J. Sigurdson and former Ponoka mayor Larry Henkelman, sources tell me that Johnson won with more than 70 per cent of the votes cast.
Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Funky Banjoko is running as an independent candidate in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. “Each of these parties all have their own good ideas. But right now, there’s so much division,” Banjoko told Fort McMurray Today. “I want to run as an independent for the benefit of residents of this region and not for ideologies or politics.”
Marketing company owner Nolan Dyckis running for UCP nomination in Grande Prairie. Dyck also serves as a the Connections Manager at the Peace River Bible Institute. Current UCP MLA Tracy Allard is not running for re-election.
Ali Haymour is running for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-North West. Haymour will be 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.
Also of note, Central Peace-Notley UCP MLA Todd Loewen is hosting a February 25 fundraiser for St. Albert UCP candidate Angela Wood at the Fox Creek Community Hall in his northern Alberta riding.
This kind of thing is not unheard of. Earlier this month, supporters in Edmonton hosted a fundraiser for Calgary-Glenmore NDP candidate Nagwan Al-Guneid.
Rutherford was elected in 2019 with 58.4 per cent of the vote. He announced his retirement from provincial politics shortly after he was appointed by Premier Danielle Smith as Government Caucus Whip and Minister without Portfolio.
The NDP have nominated paramedic Cam Heenan as their candidate. The riding was represented by NDP MLA Shaye Anderson from 2015 to 2019.
Taking Back Jason Nixon’s nomination
The Take Back Alberta-stacked board of the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre UCP association announced on Facebook that they have begun discussions to reopen the nomination in the riding. Incumbent MLA Jason Nixon‘s allies were recently voted off the board and replaced by a TBA-backed slate.
Nixon served as Minister of Finance in the waining days of Kenney’s government and was dropped from cabinet when Smith entered the Premier’s Office. His brother, Jeremy Nixon, is the UCP MLA for Calgary-Klein and is now the Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services.
Take Back Alberta also has its sights set on taking over the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake UCP board and reopening the candidate nomination in that riding.
Local UCP President and the junior Dreeshen’s uncle, Charlie Moore, is defiant.
“They’re storming the castle and we’re heating up the boiling oil, I guess,” Moore told the Western Standard. “I’ve sent my troops forward to try to talk to some of the more logical ones in that group. We have to convert some of them. Surely there’s some common sense in there somewhere. They can’t all be totally extremists.”
Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock: Landen Tischer is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in this sprawling rural riding north of Edmonton at a February 25 nomination meeting. Check out his TikTok’s.
Calgary-North East – Inderjit Grewal has joined the UCP nomination contest in this riding currently represented by cabinet minister Rajan Sawhney. Former Dashmesh Culture Centre chairman Harjit Singh Saroya is also running for the nomination.
Cypress-Medicine Hat: Independent MLA Drew Barnesannounced he will not seek the UCP nomination to run for re-election. The former UCP was kicked out of the governing caucus in 2021 after becoming one of Kenney’s biggest internal public critics. He and now-returned UCP MLA Todd Loewen formed an unofficial UCP-caucus-in-exile during their banishment but Barnes did not return into the UCP fold when Loewen ran for the party leadership in 2022. Barnes publicly mused in 2021 about starting a rural-based political party.
Edmonton-Ellerslie: Ranjit Bath was nominated as the UCP candidate in this southeast Edmonton riding.
Always a fan favourite, for the third year in a row Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin has been voted the Best Alberta MLA. For the first time, Irwin was voted Best Opposition MLA, knocking her leader Rachel Notley out of the spot for the first time since 2019.
Irwin is a passionate voice in the Legislature and one of the hardest working constituency MLAs in the province.
On any given day, she can be spotted around her north east Edmonton constituency out volunteering with a community group, attending a cultural event, or just meeting with constituents. Sure this is what a lot of MLAs do, but Irwin balances her community work and politics with level of humility and humour that you don’t always see in a politician – and she’s been able to successfully translate it into a huge social media following on Instagram and Twitter. (Oh, I can’t forget to mention Oregano).
Best Alberta Cabinet Minister
Well-liked and respected among her colleagues, Minister of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism Rajan Sawhney was new to politics when she was first elected in 2019 but quickly distinguished herself as a strong performer in a largely rookie cabinet.
The Calgary-North East MLA leaned on her years of business experience to launch an outsider campaign for the United Conservative Party leadership in 2022, but it wasn’t enough to break through in a campaign that was defined by the front-runner, Danielle Smith.
Up and Coming MLA to Watch
Edmonton-Whitemud NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi continues to distinguish herself as a smart and well-spoken member of the opposition.
This is Pancholi’s third year winning in this category, demonstrating that a lot of people are interested in watching her political trajectory and probably won’t stop until she either becomes a cabinet minister after next year’s election or goes on to lead her party at some point in the future.
Candidate to Watch in 2023
First Nations lawyer and Edmonton-West Henday NDP candidate Brooks Arcand-Paul was voted the Candidate to Watch in 2023. The University of Ottawa law graduate is the in-house legal counsel for the Alexander First Nation, located just north of Edmonton. As part of the NDP’s slate of new candidates, he’s running in the west Edmonton riding being vacated by retiring two-term NDP MLA Jon Carson.
Biggest issue of 2022
The crisis in the health care system was overwhelmingly voted the biggest political issue of 2022 in Alberta, and there shouldn’t be any confusion why.
The lingering effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the dramatic impact of respiratory illnesses on children’s hospitals in Calgary and Edmonton have made national headlines. Shortages of nurses and doctors have created a staffing crisis in hospitals and health centres in every corner of Alberta.
The current crisis guarantees that health care will be one of the top issues on the minds of Albertans heading into the 2023 election.
Biggest political play of 2022
It was almost Shakespearean. Jason Kenney losing the leadership of the UCP – the party he nurtured from its birth – was voted the biggest political play of 2022. Kenney pulled together the Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives parties (which won the 2017 award in this category) with the goal of defeating the NDP in 2019 but it wasn’t long after his big electoral success that his party started to turn on him.
Congratulations to all the winners and thank you to everyone who voted in this year’s survey. There is a lot of negativity in politics, so I started the annual Best of Alberta Politics survey back in 2017 as a way to give followers of provincial politics a chance to recognize and reward some of the best people involved in Alberta politics.
With thousands of submissions made to the sixth annual Best of Alberta Politics 2022 survey, your choices have been sorted and you can now vote for the top 3 choices in each category. Voting is open until Dec. 22, 2022 at 8:00 pm and the winners will be announced shortly after at daveberta.ca. Thank you to everyone who voted.
Chris Brown and I discuss the last month in the United Conservative Party leadership race, Danielle Smith’s unexpected rise to the top, and how a Smith led UCP will do against Notley’s NDP in 2023 (or sooner) on the latest episode of the Cross Border Interviews Podcast.
Watch the interview here:
Subscribe and listen to Chris Brown’s Cross Border Podcast on Apple and Spotify.
With Danielle Smith‘s campaign for the United Conservative Party leadership appearing to pick up momentum, and recent endorsements from Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen, Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Nate Glubish, Edmonton-South West MLA Kaycee Madu, and Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn suggesting the mood in the UCP caucus is shifting in her favour, some people have been sharing links of a series of articles I wrote 13 years ago about Smith’s time on the disastrous 1998-1999 Calgary Board of Education.
Reading it now, I see it’s a little awkwardly formatted, so please forgive this young blogger from 2009.
It’s also important to recognize that the Calgary Board of Education in those years wasn’t a gong show just because of Danielle Smith. It was a real group effort.
The board of trustees was so dysfunctional that it was fired by the provincial government.
Smith’s current beliefs and past record on public education became more relevant after last week’s UCP leadership candidates forum at the Alberta Teachers’ Association summer conference in Banff, which you can watch here: