Alberta Politics

doing second-ballot math: ted morton and rick orman endorse gary mar.

Ted Morton Gary Mar Alberta Conservatives
Ted Morton has endorsed Gary Mar

Ted Morton and Rick Orman have endorsed Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership front-runner Gary Mar.

It is unclear how many of Dr. Morton’s supporters may show up to support Mr. Mar on the second-ballot vote on October 1, but it may have saved his political career, which appeared to be close to an end when the former Finance Minister placed a distant fourth with 11% of the vote on September 17.

Mr. Orman placed fifth with 10% of the vote. One Tory insider emailed me this morning suggesting that Mr. Orman’s endorsement could lead to his appointment as Alberta’s envoy in Washington D.C., a job Mr. Mar held until earlier this year.

Two days ago it was difficult to see anyone defeating Mr. Mar on the second ballot. It feels even less likely now.

Conservative versus Progressive?

Since the first-ballot vote eliminated Dr. Morton and Mr. Orman, the hard-edged conservatives of the group, the Wildrose and their friends at the Toronto National Post have been spinning the narrative that the progressives (or “soft-centrists”) have defeated the conservatives in this contest. While the endorsement of the two more “conservative” candidates will aid Mr. Mar in dispelling this attack, I am not sure that I would put a “progressive” label or Mr. Mar, or either of the other two remaining candidates.

Like Dr. Morton, front-runner Mr. Mar has expressed solid support for privatized health care. Mr. Mar’s comments put him in the unfortunate position of appearing more supportive of the Americanization than even Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, who supports the introduction of private facilities, but sticks to finely-tuned talking points when talking about full-privatization. Of course, spin alley is in a near traffic jam trying to explain away Mr. Mar’s feelings towards having Albertans pay out of pocket for health care.

While the remaining three candidates may not espouse hard edged conservatism like Dr. Morton or Mr. Orman, the three candidates have received financial support from not-so-progressive groups, like the Merit Contractors Association, which is an anti-union lobby group in the construction industry.

All three candidates have received support from across the center and right of the political spectrum. Like Mr. Mar, Ms. Redford has received the support of Liberals and Red Tories alike, including former federal candidate Kevin Taron, former provincial candidate Beth Gignac, and former Prime Minister Joe Clark. Mr. Horner is certainly a moderate conservative and has received the support of longtime MLA and Assembly Speaker Ken Kowalski, who’s campaign once published an election ad stating that “While human beings can create laws, the laws of God must take precedence.”

Alberta Politics

mapping alberta’s progressive conservative leadership first-ballot vote results.

Members of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party will be voting for their next leader in a second (or third) ballot on October 1. Gary Mar, Alison Redford, and Doug Horner will contest the vote in two weeks, and until then will be selling memberships across the province.

Last Saturday’s first-ballot vote gave Mr. Mar a wide-lead with 40% of the of vote. Ms. Redford at 18% and Mr. Horner at 14% have a big challenge to catch up with the front-runner. Not moving on to the next ballot are former Finance Minister Ted Morton, former cabinet minister Rick Orman, and backbench MLA Doug Griffiths.

While the right-wing Mr. Orman placed a respectful fifth place, Dr. Morton’s support from his previous run in the 2006 leadership campaign appears to have evaporated last weekend, leaving many political watchers to suspect that his base has migrated to the Wildrose on a more permenant basis. It appears that Mr. Griffiths’ outsider message was not enough to resonate with PC Party members across the province.

Here is a breakdown of the September 17 first-ballot results:

Maps: Number of total votes cast in the first-ballot, MLA endorsements of leadership candidates, poll-by-poll results in the first-ballot vote. (Click to enlarge)
Maps: Number of total votes cast in the first-ballot, MLA endorsements of leadership candidates, poll-by-poll results in the first-ballot vote. (Click to enlarge)
Gary Mar Alison Redford Doug Horner PC leadership Vote Alberta
Maps: Percentage of PC voter support for Gary Mar, Alison Redford, and Doug Horner. (Click to enlarge)


Ted Morton-Rick Orman-Doug Griffiths Alberta PC leadership vote
Maps: Percentage of PC voter support for Ted Morton, Rick Orman, and Doug Griffiths. (Click to enlarge)


Alberta Politics

results: alberta progressive conservative leadership first ballot.

First ballot results of today’s Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership vote:

Gary Mar: 24195
Alison Redford: 11129
Doug Horner: 8635
Ted Morton: 6962
Rick Orman: 6005
Doug Griffiths: 2435

As no candidate received more than 50% of the vote, the top three candidates will contest a second ballot on October 1. More detailed poll by poll analysis coming soon.

Alberta Politics

living in the one party state of alberta: “vote today. today is election day.”

Alberta PC Leadership
"Vote today. Today is election day."

Today is election day in Alberta, but not the kind of election day that would dominate the airwaves and twitter streams in most other provinces in a modern liberal democratic state like Canada. Today, Alberta’s forty-year governing Progressive Conservatives are casting their vote in the first ballot for their new leader, which has become in the minds of many long-time Conservative stalwarts and hoards of two-minute Tories, an event as important as a general election.

Does this sound scary? It is probably a confusing political environment for most Canadians, and while most Albertans will not participate in this internal party leadership contest, it will have a large effect on the direction that Alberta’s governing party will take in the months before (and most likely after) the next general election. Despite the lack of defining issues or real narrative during this campaign (aside from candidates reassuring party members that they are not Premier Ed Stelmach), it has been a fairly dull affair.

If you do decide to track down the location of your local PC Party voting station and pay the $5 to purchase a membership, who do you vote for? Over the past few months, and increasingly over the past few days, I have heard more plans for strategic voting than I had ever hoped to.

Vote for Gary Mar to stop Ted Morton from winning.
Vote for Alison Redford to stop Ted Morton from winning.
Vote Gary Mar to stop Frederick Lee from winning.
Vote for Ted Morton to stop Gary Mar from winning.
Vote for Alison Redford to stop Gary Mar from winning.
Vote for Doug Horner to stop Gary Mar from winning.
Vote for Doug Griffiths to stop Gary Mar from winning.
Vote for Rick Orman to stop Gary Mar from winning.
Vote for a Calgarian to stop Doug Horner from winning.
Vote for Doug Horner to stop a Calgarian from winning.
Vote for Rick Orman to split the right-wing Ted Morton vote.

What ever combination of results is achieved today, it could be an interesting next two weeks. If no candidate receives more than 50% tonight, then a second vote will be held on October 1. The results of the first ballot vote are expected to be announced at an event in Calgary at 7:30pm tonight. You will find the results posted on this blog around that time.

I will also have the pleasure of joining the Calgary Herald political commentary crew starting around 7:00pm on their Cover it Live feed. Feel free to stop by there and join the conversation.

Alberta Politics

alberta progressive conservative leadership blog poll results.

Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership poll blog daveberta September 2011
Readers voted in this poll between September 12 and 16.

Over the past four days, readers of this blog have voted for their top three Progressive Conservative leadership candidates of their choice.

The results show Gary Mar placing first and Alison Redford in second with Doug Horner and Ted Morton competing for third place.

A recent poll of PC Party members also placed Mr. Mar and Ms. Redford as first and second in the contest. The source of the lists used to conduct the poll are now under question.

Progressive Conservative members will be voting on the first ballot of their leadership selection process on September 17. If no candidate receives more than 50%, the top three candidates contest a second ballot on October 1.

Alberta Politics

when you really want to win. alberta progressive conservative first ballot vote on september 17.

With three days left until the results of the first ballot voting in Alberta’s Progressive Conservative leadership contest are tallied, some candidates are being accused of breaking campaign rules.

Perceived front-runner Gary Mar is facing accusations that his campaign was selling memberships outside an advanced polling station set up in Edmonton, something that is no allowed under PC Party rules. Mr. Mar’s campaign is also being criticized for their use of buses to transport PC Party members from seniors centres to advanced voting stations.

Continuing a trend in the campaign, Mr. Mar was universally criticized by his rival candidates, leading me to question how a recent poll could have reached the conclusion that he is considered “consensus candidate” in this contest.

Meanwhile, questions are being raised about a recent Environics poll gauging support among PC Party members. The poll found that Mr. Mar and fellow Calgarian Alison Redford as the leading competitors in the contest. The main question being asked by some political watchers is who provided Environics the list of 22,000 PC Party members and was the list accurate?

UPDATE: PC Party President Bill Smith says which ever campaign leaked the membership list to Environics broke a confidentiality agreement.

As voting day approaches, the PC leadership candidates are pressing the flesh and doing their best to get their message out to eleventh hour supporters. Ms. Redford released ideas about Family Care Clinics. Rick Orman proposed a development strategy for Northern Alberta. Doug Horner has held a series of question and answer times on Twitter using the hashtag #askdoughorner. And Doug Griffiths released another high production quality video, this one about reforming government:

Alberta Politics

new environics poll shows gary mar in the lead, alison redford in close second.

The Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald have published the results of a joint-Environics poll gauging support for Progressive Conservative leadership candidates among 800 card-carrying party members:

Gary Mar: 31%
Alison Redford: 20%
Doug Horner: 12%
Ted Morton: 10%
Rick Orman: 5%
Doug Griffiths: 4%
Undecided/Won’t vote: 17%

Gary Mar: 43%
Doug Horner: 14%
Alison Redford: 10%
Ted Morotn: 7%

Alison Redford: 36%
Gary Mar: 22%
Ted Morton 11%
Doug Horner: 1%

It is not a big surprise to see Mr. Mar in the lead, but Ms. Redford’s support is likely to surprise a few political watchers who thought that she would be fighting for third place in this contest.

Advanced voting for the first-ballot of the leadership selection process begins today. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote on the first-ballot on September 17, the top three candidates will compete in a second-ballot vote on October 1.

Alberta Politics

ted morton aka frederick lee and the shredder.

 Ted Morton, Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate
Ted Morton aka Frederick Lee

After a week of dodging questions from intrepid CBC reporter Charles Rusnell about a covert email alias and shredded ministerial documents, former Finance Minister Ted Morton‘s campaign for Alberta’s Progressive Conservative leadership has taken its first big hit with just more than a week before the first ballot vote.

After making ‘government transparency’ a key theme of his campaign, squeaky clean conservative Dr. Morton’s commitment to the pledge is being questioned when it was revealed that he used a covert email address under his little known full first- and middle-names “Frederick Lee” to conduct government business. It is being suggested that Dr. Morton’s covert email alias could have foiled Freedom of Information requests.

CBC discovered that correspondence and documents, including those connected to the covert email alias, were shredded or destroyed when Dr. Morton left his ministry to seek the PC leadership earlier this year.

A spokesperson for Alberta’s Information and Privacy Commissioner told the media that the Office would be launching an immediate investigation into the shredding allegations.

Dr. Morton downplayed the criticisms yesterday, but that did not stop his right-wing competitors Rick Orman and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith from tackling him in the media. Ms. Smith claimed that because the documents belonged to the people of Alberta, Dr. Morton’s staff had no right to feed them to the paper shredder on a whim.

Will these revelations hurt Dr. Morton’s chances in next week’s leadership vote? It is difficult to say. Dr. Morton has run a stealth campaign during this contest, which has focused on low-profile events and selling memberships. This is very different from his run in 2006, which publicly stressed his social conservative values on issues like same-sex marriage.

Watch for the other PC candidates to train their guns on Dr. Morton’s last minute weakness in the final week.

Alberta Politics

pc leadership candidates wade into education politics.

A photo of Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidates at an Alberta Teachers' Association forum in Banff August 2011
Alberta PC leadership candidates at the ATA conference in Banff.

Earlier this week I had the privilege of sharing some of my thoughts about the Progressive Conservative leadership contest with delegates at the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) summer conference in Banff.

On Wednesday morning, all six candidates for the PC leadership (Doug Griffiths, Doug Horner, Gary Mar, Ted Morton, Rick Orman, and Alison Redford) attended a forum organized by the ATA which gave delegates at the conference an opportunity to submit questions to the candidates on a wide variety of education issues. It said a lot about the strength and importance of the teaching profession in Alberta that all six of the candidates traveled to Banff for the day to participate in this forum.

The six candidates answered a variety of questions focusing on transformation, funding, and the future of education in Alberta. Some candidates did better than others.

Mr. Griffiths was clearly the crowd favourite. A teacher himself, he was able to speak from experience and connected well with the audience of politically active educators. This was Mr. Griffiths coming out party in the leadership contest.

Ms. Redford and Mr. Horner did well, though the general focus around “outcomes” and other buzz words used by all the candidates left an uncomfortable amount of ambiguity in the discussion. The more conservative Professor Morton and Mr. Orman were clearly sailing in unfriendly waters.

In typical front-runner fashion, Mr. Mar said a lot without saying much. He also did not let the facts stand in the way of telling a folksy story. During the forum, Mr. Mar told the audience a story about his time as Education Minister in 1999 when his office wrote a memo to the Minister of Health. Only weeks later, he said, he was shuffled into the Health portfolio and then had to respond to his own memo (cue the laugh track). It was a folksy story, only Mr. Mar forgot to mention that he was actually shuffled from Education to become the Environment Minister in 1999. He was appointed as Health Minister over a year after he was appointed Environment Minister.

Being in the auditorium at the time, there was a few points during the forum when it felt like the candidates were on the verge of having a real discussion about the future of education. Unfortunately, most of the candidates fell back into safe and inoffensive “education is good” language.

Following the leadership candidates forum, I participated in a panel discussion with the ATA’s Dennis Theobald and Mount Royal University Professor Keith Brownsey where we engaged in a good discussion about the leadership candidates and what the political winds of change mean for the education system in Alberta. Although I had hoped that we could have had a broader conversation about the future of Alberta politics, time only allowed us to have a good discussion about what the leadership candidates had said that morning and what they might do as Premier.

Thank you to the ATA and to the teachers who participated in the discussion for a great day.

Alberta Politics

alberta [rocky mountains] bound.

Maybe it’s my down-home redneck roots, Or these dusty ‘ol Alberta boots, But like a Chinook wind keeps coming back again

I will be away from this blog for the next few days enjoying a summer sojourn in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.

Later this week I will be attending the Alberta Teachers’ Association Summer conference in the beautiful mountain town of Banff, where I will have the privilege of sharing some of my thoughts on the state of Alberta politics and the ongoing Progressive Conservative leadership contest. I am told that all the PC leadership candidates, Doug Griffiths, Doug Horner, Gary Mar, Ted Morton, Rick Orman, and Alison Redford will also be in Banff this week to participate in a forum for the teachers at the conference.

Alberta Politics

peter sandhu endorses ted morton, lindsay blackett endorses doug horner.

I have updated the list and map of MLAs endorsing candidates in Alberta’s Progressive Conservative leadership contest. Edmonton-Manning MLA Peter Sandhu has endorsed Ted Morton‘s candidacy and Calgary-North West MLA and Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett has endorsed Doug Horner.

Gary Mar still has the most MLA endorsements with the support of 17 MLAs, Mr. Horner has the support of 13 MLAs and Mr. Morton has the support of 10 MLAs. Alison Redford and Doug Griffiths remain having the support of of their fellow MLAs each. Rick Orman has no MLA support.

Alberta Politics

alberta tories video on demand.

All the candidates for Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party, save Alison Redford and Rick Orman, have used online videos to promote their campaign. What do their videos say about how their campaigns are going so far?

Doug Griffiths: “I’m standing out in the rain” (an unfortunate metaphor for his campaign) or “My name is Doug Griffiths and I’m built Ford tough.”

Ted Morton: “My program to remove the word “Wildrose” from Alberta’s licence plates.”

Doug Horner: “Don’t I look cool when I hold this iPad2?”

Gary Mar: “If I don’t get this job, I’m a shoe in for a gig on the Food Network!”

Rick Orman: “I retired from politics 18 years ago and in my day we bought old fashioned newspaper ads. People still read newspapers, …right?”

Rick Orman Stelmach sinking ship Calgary Herald Ad
This ad appeared in the Calgary Herald
Alberta Politics

recap of the alberta progressive conservative leadership forum in vermilion.

Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership forum July 21, 2011 in Vermilion.
Alberta PC leadership candidates at the July 21, 2011 forum in Vermilion.

More than 350 Progressive Conservative supporters packed into the main hall at Vermilion’s Lakeland College Campus to hear and ask questions to the six candidates seeking the leadership of Alberta’s governing party.

Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Alison Redford in Vermilion on July 21, 2011.
Alison Redford

The format of the debate only allowed each candidate a short 30 seconds to respond to questions. Instead of encouraging direct answers, it limited the candidates responses to quick soundbites, leaving many of the questions to be simply unanswered. This visibly frustrated some of the candidates, most notably Alison Redford who attempted numerous times to delve into details only to have her mic cut off at the 30 second mark.

The only candidate this seemed to help was Gary Mar, who rattled out 15 second soundbites with ease. Unfortunately, this also meant that he said very little of substance during the entire evening. “Alberta is a beautiful garden of flowers”, “forged in the fire of fiscal fury”, and “opportunities in agriculture are sensational” are not exactly policy positions. His soundbite-style responses were an unfortunate distraction and, in my opinion, downplayed his intelligence.

Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Gary Mar on July 21, 2011 in Vermilion
Gary Mar

The limiting format aside, it was interesting to watch how the candidates are positioning themselves in the group. As this was the first of seven all-candidates forums planned to be held across Alberta, the candidates were fairly collegial to each other. It will be interesting to see if this changes as the September 17 first ballot vote approaches.

Each of the candidates spoke against the lay-off of over 1,000 teachers province-wide. Rick Orman accused the government of breaking its word, saying that “a deal is a deal.” Doug Griffiths compared the lay-offs to “selling the topsoil off the farm.”

When asked if any of the candidate would support provincial funding for billionaire Daryl Katz‘s planned downtown Edmonton arena, each of the candidates answered with a definitive “no.” Ted Morton led the group consensus, saying that schools and hospitals, not expensive sports facilities, should be the provincial government’s funding priorities.

Peddling another non-starter issue at the forum was a group of sad looking volunteers representing Envision Edmonton. The lobby group failed to stop the phased closure and re-development of the City Centre Airport lands during the 2010 municipal elections and has been living in a self-imposed exile in Vermilion ever since. They also failed to ask the leadership candidates any questions about their issue at the forum.

Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Doug Horner at the July 21, 2011 forum in Vermilion.
Doug Horner

Dr. Morton was the only candidate to take a more than veiled shot at the outgoing Premier Ed Stelmach, saying that the 2007 Royal Review was his party’s biggest mistake and that under his leadership the government would return to Ralph Klein-style fiscal planning. Considering that Dr. Morton was a key player in forcing Premier Stelmach to resign, it is not surprising that he took the most aggressive stance against the Premier’s agenda.

Doug Horner told the audience that he believed his party’s biggest problem has been the failure to engage their grassroots in a meaningful way. In his closing speech, he reminded the crowd about his family’s connection to the PC dynasty and the role his father, Dr. Hugh Horner, played in building the PC Party with Peter Lougheed.

This weekend, I will write a post that compares and contrasts the two leadership forums I attended this week (the other being the Liberal Party forum).

View more photos of last night’s PC leadership forum in Vermilion on Flickr.

Alberta Politics

liberal leadership candidates woo edmonton supporters.


Liberal leadership candidates (L-R) Bruce Payne, Raj Sherman, Laurie Blakeman, and Hugh MacDonald.
Liberal leadership candidates (L-R) Bruce Payne, Raj Sherman, Laurie Blakeman, and Hugh MacDonald.

More than 200 dedicated Liberal Party supporters piled into Edmonton’s Santa Maria Centre yesterday evening to hear candidates for their party’s leadership speak and answer questions. I attended and was surprised to discover a fairly lively evening for a traditional style all-candidates forum.

All the candidates spoke well, but I believe that the real star of the evening was the moderator, Josipa Petrunic. Ms. Petrunic was well-spoken, articulate, and did not seem to take herself too seriously. I had to ask myself a few times through the course of the evening why she was not on stage as a candidate (she did announce that she plans to stand as a candidate in the next provincial election).

The perceived front-runner, former Tory MLA Raj Sherman, was well-received by the crowd of Liberals, many who see him (rightfully or wrongfully) as a an anti-Tory folk hero. Dr. Sherman spoke well, but will need to expand his responses beyond “health care” in order to prove that he is not a one-trick policy pony.

Despite my being distracted by his uncanny resemblance to James Brolin‘s Governor Robert Ritchie, Bruce Payne spoke well. I am not convinced that he should lead the Liberals, but this experience is sure to help him as his party’s next candidate in Calgary-Varsity (replacing the retiring Harry Chase)

Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald showed his experience with a commanding performance, abandoning his usual conspiracy theory-driven Question Period style for a more dignified pose. His knowledge of detail and experience as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee helped him throughout the evening.

Calgarian Bill Harvey took a strong conservative-angle on fiscal and social policy, made contradictory statements about government involvement in business, and never missed an opportunity to mention a certain former political leader. After hearing the policy positions espoused by this candidate, I would not be surprised to see Mr. Harvey’s name on a Wildrose lawn sign in the near future.

In my opinion, Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman was the only candidate who left the impression that she would define the Liberal Party as more than just a softer version of the Progressive Conservatives. I believe this may be the biggest challenge that will face the next Liberal leader. What place does their party have in a field that has become increasingly dominated by the PCs and Wildrose?

Switching gears, this evening I will be hitting the road eastward to attend the PC leadership forum in Vermilion to watch candidates Doug Griffiths, Doug Horner, Gary Mar, Ted Morton, Rick Orman, and Alison Redford square off in the first of many open-forums.

Visit my Flickr page to see more photos of last night’s Liberal Party forum.

Alberta Politics

after months of campaigning, the pc leadership race officially begins.

All six candidates expected to enter the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership contest successfully filed their nomination papers, meeting yesterday’s deadline. With less than 70 days left before Alberta’s four-decade long governing party chooses its next leader, and Premier-designate, Doug Griffith, Doug Horner, Gary Mar, Ted Morton, Rick Orman, and Alison Redford will participate in a number of officially hosted open forums.

July 21: All-Candidates Forum in Vermillion
July 28: All-Candidates Forum in Grande Prairie
August 11: All-Candidates Forum in Fort McMurray
August 18: All-Candidates Forum in Medicine Hat
August 25: All-Candidates Forum in Lethbridge
September 1: All-Candidates Forum in Red Deer
September 7: All-Candidates Forum in Calgary
September 15: All-Candidates Forum in Edmonton

Advanced voting for the first-ballot will commence on September 13 and regular voting on September 17. If no candidate receives 50%+1 on the first-ballot, then the three candidates with the most votes will contest a preferential second-ballot vote October 1. If no candidate earns 50%+1 on the second-ballot, the second choice votes from the third place candidate will be redistributed among the final two candidates.

The list of MLA endorsements of PC leadership candidates is being continually updated. Recent changes include the addition of Rocky Mountain House MLA Ty Lund and Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Richard Marz, and Whitecourt-Ste. Anne MLA George VanderBurg, who have endorsed Mr. Mar. I have also removed Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Broyce Jacobs‘ endorsement of Dr. Morton, after receiving conflicting reports that he was also supporting Mr. Mar. It is also expected that Calgary-Shaw MLA Cindy Ady may soon endorse Mr. Mar.

Over the next few weeks, I will be taking a closer look at what MLA endorsements actually mean for the leadership candidates and how deep the PC Party membership has been in many of the constituencies these MLAs represent.