Aheer was vague about whether she would run as an Independent or for another party, but it became increasingly clear that she would have a very difficult time winning the UCP nomination in her riding.
The second-term MLA placed last in the recent UCP leadership race and is facing a strong nomination challenge from Chantelle De Jonge. The former MP constituency assistant has stressed her conservative political credentials in contrast to Aheer’s more moderate conservative positions on social issues like abortion and public health restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
De Jonge’s recent endorsement from Bruce McAllister, who Aheer unseated as MLA in 2015 and now serves as Premier Danielle Smith‘s executive director at the McDougall Centre, sent a pretty clear message that there isn’t room for Aheer in the UCP.
McAllister is only one of the former Wildrose Party MLAs who crossed the floor with Smith to the Progressive Conservatives in 2014 to reemerge in the new Premier’s orbit.
Former Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson is Smith’s Transition Team Chair and Executive Director of the Premier’s Office, and former Strathmore-Brooks MLA Jason Hale was appointed last week as the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation.
New NDP candidates
The Alberta NDP have nominated Caitlyn Blake in Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul, lawyer Andrew Stewart in Calgary-Hays, and teacher Liana Paiva in Peace River. The NDP now have 63 candidates nominated to run in the next election.
UCP nominees emerge
Since Smith won the party leadership, the party has opened up nominations in a handful of ridings. The deadline to enter nominations in Drayton Valley-Devon, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, Livingstone-Macleod, St. Albert and Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright is October 31, and in Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock, Airdrie-Cochrane, Airdrie-East, Calgary-Varsity, Edmonton-South and Taber-Warner is November 7, and Calgary-Elbow is November 10.
A number of prospective UCP nominees have recently announced their plans to run:
Martine Carifelle is seeking the UCP nomination in Lesser Slave Lake. She is incumbent UCP MLA Pat Rehn‘s former constituency manager. Rehn has not publicly announced if he is running for re-election.
Tunde Obasan is running for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-South. He was the party’s candidate in the riding in 2019 and ran for the federal Conservatives in Edmonton-Strathcona in 2021. Saad Siddiq and Karen Stix are also seeking the nomination.
Angela Wood is seeking the UCP nomination in St. Albert. Wood placed second in the St. Albert mayoral election in 2021.
The other parties
The Green Party has nominated Zak Abdi in Edmonton-City Centre, Chitra Bakshi in Edmonton-Mill Woods and Carl McKay in Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock.
Interim party leader John Roggeveen announced in an email to Alberta Liberal Party supporters they has opened up applications for people to run under the party’s banner in the next election.
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.
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.”
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 Bellefontainethey 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.
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.
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. #abpoli
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.
“…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.
‘Three candidates are contesting the NDP nomination contest in Camrose’ are not a series of words I imagined writing even a year ago, yet here we are.
Business owner and former diplomat Richard Bruneau defeated Registered Psychiatric Nurse Tonya Ratushniak and educational assistant and recent city council candidate Wyatt Tanton to win the NDP nomination in Camrose.
“When attending Augustana their motto was ‘to lead and to serve,’ and this is my vision of how I would like to lead and lift people up in the community. A vision I believe Alberta’s NDP embodies,” Bruneau said in a press release announcing his win. “The UCP has not been serving the people of Alberta, and the pandemic highlighted the short-signed failures of UCP policy. Camrose deserves better than the UCP.”
Bruneau is a bookstore owner, farmer, former lecturer at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus and a former Canadian diplomat who served in Afghanistan, Jordan and Palestine. He lives with his family on a cattle farm.
Bruneau was joined by Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen at the nomination meeting and by Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin at a meet and greet in Camrose today.
The riding is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Jackie Lovely, who was first elected in 2019 with 65.2 per cent of the vote. This was Lovely’s third attempt at winning a seat in the Legislature, the first two being as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015.
Walker-McKitrick rematch being set up in Sherwood Park
First-term UCP MLA Jordan Walker is seeking his party’s nomination for re-election in Sherwood Park.
The UCP backbencher was first elected in one of the closer races in Edmonton’s surrounding suburbs in 2019 by narrowly unseating NDP MLA Annie McKitrick.
The stage is being set for a rematch in 2023, with McKitrick announcing last week that she plans to seek the NDP nomination to challenge Walker in the next election. This is a riding the NDP will need to win to form government.
Gurinder Singh Gill running for NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross
Gurinder Singh Gill is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross. Gill previously ran as the federal NDP candidate in Calgary-Skyview in the 2019 and 2021 elections. He placed third with 16.2 per cent of the vote behind victorious Liberal George Chahal and incumbent Conservative MP Jag Sahota in the last federal election.
The east Calgary riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Mickey Amery, who was elected in 2019 with 54.2 per cent by unseating NDP cabinet minister Ricardo Miranda, who finished second with 37.3 per cent.
Amery is the son of Moe Amery, who represented the neighbouring Calgary-East riding from 1993 until his defeat in the 2015 election.
MLA Guthrie endorses Danielle Smith’s challenging Roger Reid
Airdrie-Cochrane UCP MLA Peter Guthriehas endorsed former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith’s bid for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. Smith is challenging Guthrie’s caucus colleague Roger Reid for the nomination.
Smith is wasting no time making her mark in UCP circles as she eyes the nomination and the party leadership.
Tonight she will join Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan, a vocal Kenney critic, and former Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson to discuss the “Free Alberta Strategy.” And on April 23 she is joining Independent MLA Todd Loewen for a “Politics Uncensored” event in Three Hills.
Loewen is a former UCP Caucus chair who booted from the UCP Caucus in May 2021 after he publicly called on Premier Jason Kenney to resign.
Meanwhile, demonstrating how much bad blood remains between Smith and many UCP activists as a result of the 2014 Wildrose floor crossings, a Twitter account run by staff in Kenney’s office attacked Smith (and Brian Jean) by proclaiming that “I’ve always found it surprising that two people whose only track record is losing general elections, somehow feel they have all the answers.”
The “@UniteAlberta” twitter account is run by Deputy Director ofGovernment Communications and Speechwriter Harrison Fleming, who is currently on leave to work on Kenney’s leadership campaign.
Other senior staff on leave to work on their boss’s leadership review campaign are Chief of Staff Pam Livingston, Executive Director of Communications and Planning Brock Harrison, and Issues Manager Chad Hallman.
Meanwhile, the former Wildrose leader and Kenney-foe has been sworn-in as an MLA the Legislature. Newly elected Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean has rejoined UCP Caucus he left in 2018.
CBC reporter Michelle Bellefontaine tweeted today that Jean said Kenney has not spoken to him since he was elected as a UCP MLA in March.
NDP MLAs flock to Calgary
Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi will be nominated as her party’s candidate for re-election tonight.
“This community has shared with me their wisdom, their experiences, their hopes, and have trusted me to be their voice in the legislature,” said Pancholi. “I want to continue to work hard to help the families of this community – and across Alberta – seize the opportunities available for us to have a strong economic recovery.”
And with the next provincial election just over a year away, she, like most NDP MLAs, are spending a lot of time in Calgary – the expected battleground of the next election.
Pancholi was spotted door knocking in Calgary-Acadia with nomination candidate and Registered Nurse Diana Batten, and with NDP leader Rachel Notley and local candidate Janet Eremenko in Calgary-Currie.
Notley has been spending a lot of time in Calgary, including on the doors this week with Calgary-Edgemont candidate Julia Hayter. Notley will be headlining an April 9 nomination rally in Calgary-East where teacher Rosman Valencia is expected to be acclaimed.
Eggenwas spotted door-knocking with MLA Joe Ceci in Calgary-Buffalo and candidate Gurinder Brar in Calgary-North East
Irwin and Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman are planning to join NDP nomination candidate Marilyn North Peigan on the doors this weekend in the Tuxedo Park neighbourhood in Calgary-Klein. Irwin is also scheduled to spend time door-knocking with Eremenko in Calgary-Currie and Hayter in Calgary-Edgemont.
Alberta’s Intensive Care Units and hospitals are full of COVID-19 patients and the province now has more than half of the active cases of the deadly disease in Canada. School boards like the Edmonton Public School Board are reporting hundreds of young students have contracted the virus, forcing dozens of schools to shut down in-person classes and move to virtual classrooms. And 34 more Albertans died because of COVID-19 yesterday.
But what was the most important issue for a group of Alberta MLAs this week?
With help from the libertarian Alberta Institute, former Progressive Conservative-turned-Wildrose-turned Progressive Conservative MLA and online talk show host Rob Anderson launched the “Free Alberta Strategy,” announcing a manifesto that declares Alberta a “sovereign jurisdiction” and, among other things, would allow the province to just ignore federal laws it doesn’t like.
Anderson was joined at the online press conference by United Conservative Party MLAs Angela Pitt (who is also the Deputy Speaker of the Legislature) and Jason Stephan, and Independent MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen. The latter two MLAs were ejected from the UCP Caucus in May 2021 after losing confidence in Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership, a sentiment that Pitt echoed during this press conference.
The Alberta Institute is led by former New Zealand political activist and Manning Centre researcher Peter McCaffrey. He also happens to be married to the institute’s former director of operations and past UCP nomination candidate Megan McCaffrey, who is now working as the Chief of Staff in Barnes’ and Loewen’ UCP Caucus-in-exile.
Legislative Assembly Speaker Nathan Cooper was also in attendance but was described as being an observer rather than a participant in the press conference.
Calling for a type of sovereignty-association with the rest of Canada, Anderson brought up a number of perennial ideas like an Alberta police force and pension plan, but then connected them to a whole swath of bad ideas that would either create needless bureaucracy or just be plain unconstitutional.
The group pled with reporters not to describe their group as separatists, but it is hard not to think of it as anything else.
It is hard to think of a more tone deaf time to fly the separatist flag in Alberta.
The actual separatist party earned 1.3 per cent in Alberta in the federal election held last week and the UCP government last week sent out a desperate plea for health care support from Ottawa and other provinces to deal with the COVID-19 fourth wave.
Just as tone deaf is Kenney’s province-wide referendum on October 18 asking Albertans to vote yes if they want the equalization formula removed from Canada’s constitution – a referendum that no one is talking about because of the COVID-19 crisis.
The one person who wasn’t at the online press conference, but who might as well have been there in spirit (literally), was Premier William Aberhart, who himself pushed through unconstitutional laws in the 1930s that would nationalize banks and force newspapers to publish government propaganda.
When the Lieutenant Governor at the time refused to sign one of his unconstitutional laws, Aberhart chained the doors and evicted the vice-regal representative from of his official residence in Government House.
UCP MLA backs down on criticism of AHS, Kenney faces leadership review and offers no new plan to stop COVID
UCP vice-president Joel Mullan was fired by the board yesterday after calling for Kenney to face a leadership review, which has now been scheduled for April 2022.
Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland UCP MLA Shane Getson back pedalled on his attempts to shift blame for the overcapacity ICUs on Alberta Health Services President Dr. Verna Yiu, likely as a ploy to push more privatization of the public health care system.
Kenney joined Health Minister Jason Copping and Justice Minister Kaycee Madu yesterday not to announce further public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 but to announce the government will ban protests outside of hospitals in reaction to anti-vaccine and COVID-19 conspiracy theorist rallies that were held two weeks ago.With none of these rallies having been held in weeks, some political watchers are wondering if the protest ban is actually being aimed at health care workers who could take job action in the coming months.
Alberta’s oldest newly rebranded separatist party has a new interim leader, maybe.
A now deleted tweet from the newly renamed Wildrose Independence Party announced that former Wildrose Alliance leader Paul Hinman is the new interim leader of the party. Unless the party’s account was hacked, it would appear that Hinman is launching another attempt at a political comeback.
The press release included with the now deleted tweet said that Hinman would speak to his new role at this week’s Freedom Talk “Firewall Plus” conference, a pro-separatist event organized by former Wildrose candidate and right-wing online radio show host Danny Hozak that features speakers including former arch-Conservative MP Rob Anders, conservative lawyer John Carpay, Postmedia columnist John Robson, and federal Conservative leadership candidate Derek Sloan.
The name change does not appear to have been approved by Elections Alberta, which still lists the party under its most recent previous name on its official website. But it was reported last week that former Wildrose activist and FCP candidate Rick Northey was the party’s new president. Former Social Credit leader James Albers is also on the party’s executive.
The oldest newest separatist party on Alberta’s right-wing fringe should not be confused with the also recently renamed Independence Party of Alberta (formerly known as the Alberta Independence Party and now led by past UCP nomination candidate Dave Campbell), the Alberta Advantage Party (led by former Alberta Alliance Party president Marilyn Burns), and the unregistered Alberta Freedom Alliance (led by former Wildrose Party candidate Sharon Maclise).
The United Independence Party name was also recently reserved with Elections Alberta, presumably by another former Wildrose candidate trying to start another new separatist party.
But back to the new interim leader of the new separatist Wildrose party…
The grandson of former Social Credit MLA and cabinet minister Edgar Hinman, Paul Hinman’s first foray into provincial electoral politics saw him elected in Cardston-Taber-Warner as the lone Alberta Alliance MLA in the 2004 election. Hinman inherited the leadership of the tiny right-wing party when Randy Thorsteinson (who had previously helped found the Alberta First Party) failed to win his election in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. He endorsed Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Ted Morton in 2006 and led the party through an eventual split and re-merger with a faction branding itself as the Wildrose Party – and thus the Wildrose Alliance was formed.
Hinman lost his seat in the 2008 election in a rematch with former PC MLA Broyce Jacobs. He announced plans to step down as leader shortly afterward and then surprised political watchers when he won a 2009 by-election in posh Calgary-Glenmore, pumping some momentum behind Danielle Smith when she won the party’s leadership race a few months later.
In 2010, Hinman was joined by floor crossing PC MLAs Heather Forsyth, Guy Boutilier, and Rob Anderson (who four years later crossed the floor back to the PC Party and now hosts a Facebook video show where he promotes Alberta separatism), but, despite the party’s electoral breakthrough in 2012, Hinman was again unable to get re-elected.
More recently, Hinman launched a brief bid for the UCP leadership in 2017, announcing a campaign focused on parental rights and conscience rights, but when the Sept 2017 deadline to deposit the $57,500 candidate fee passed, he did not make the cut. Hinman later endorsed Jason Kenney‘s candidacy.
Now he might be taking over the interim leadership of the fledgeling fringe separatist party at a time when public opinion polls show that Albertans’ appetite for leaving Canada is cooling as memory of the 2019 federal election fades. If historic trends hold, then the desire for separatism will drop if it looks like the next federal Conservative Party leader can form a government in Ottawa.
Separatism is ever-present on the fringes of Alberta politics and is more of a situational tendency than a real political movement with legs but a half-organized separatist party could syphon votes away from the UCP in the next provincial election.
And with next October’s Senate nominee election likely to be a showdown between candidates aligned with the federal Conservative Party led by whoever wins this summer’s leadership race and the federal Wexit Party led by former Conservative MP Jay Hill, expect the UCP to be paying a lot of attention to these fringe separatist groups sniping at its right-flank.
If he actually does become the leader of the oldest newest separatist party, Hinman will provide some profile and credibility in political circles where conservatives are perpetually disgruntled with New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and newly disgruntled with Premier Kenney, presumably for not pushing hard enough for Alberta’s separation from Canada.
Photo: Calgary-East MLA Robyn Luff and Premier Rachel Notley at a roundtable on education affordability in 2017 (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Calgary-East MLA Robyn Luff has been removed from the New Democratic Party Caucus after releasing a public letter announcing she would not sit in the Legislative Assembly “in protest of a culture of fear and intimidation that leads to MLA’s being unable to properly represent their constituents in the legislature.”
Writing that she “felt bullied by the NDP leadership for over 3 and a half years” and faced “a culture of fear and intimidation,” Luff’s letter details the grievances she feels as a backbencher in the government caucus, which include whipped votes and reading scripted questions and private members statements in the Assembly.
Luff wrote in the letter that she would not return to the Assembly “until a resolution has been presented.” It is now likely that when she does return it will be as an Independent MLA.
Luff is correct that many of the prepared statements and questions that backbenchers are frequently required to read in the Assembly are scripted, and sometimes comically so. Many provinces do not provide time for government backbench MLAs to ask questions in Question Period, and anyone who has watched an episode of QP will likely see why. Known colloquially as “puffballs,” the scripted questions asked by backbench MLAs are rarely challenging and exist to provide cabinet ministers with an opportunity to read government talking points into Hansard.
“People are permitted to speak their minds, and they have an opportunity to do that,” said Government House leader Brian Mason in response to Luff’s letter. “Everybody in a caucus, especially large caucuses, is frustrated from time to time.”
A statement released by the NDP Caucus late on November 5, 2018, stated that “NDP MLAs have lost confidence in her ability to participate as a productive and trustworthy member of the government caucus.”
Despite her family roots in the Alberta NDP (her grandfather Alan Bush was an Anglican minister who stood in the federal NDP in northern Alberta in the 1965 and 1967 federal elections and ran against Grant Notley for the leadership of the NDP in 1968) a breach of caucus solidarity this large was not going be treated lightly.
There is no doubt Premier Rachel Notley runs a tight ship and because of it the NDP have imposed an impressive level of caucus discipline since forming government in 2015. Since their election victory, the NDP have largely avoided the types of bozo-eruptions and embarrassing scandals that have sometimes become weekly occurrences in the Wildrose-turned-United Conservative Party Caucus.
Caucus discipline is nothing new. It is a characteristic of most functional parliamentary democracies. But the level of control exerted on individual MLAs by party leaders and their staffers is something that could feel incredibly stifling for some backbench MLAs, especially those who might feel more naturally inclined to sit in the opposition benches.
Backbenchers who do not feel they are being valued or given an opportunity to speak up and advocate for the issues they or their constituents feel are important can create resentment towards the political leadership. Providing some sort of relief valve to deal with backbencher frustration is important.
Aside from being allowed to play minor theatrical roles as the internal opposition to government, most backbench MLAs were largely compliant during the PC Party’s 43-year reign. The caucus and party revolt that ended Alison Redford’s political career in 2014 was a notable exception, but the most significant actual rebellion by backbench MLAs in Alberta’s history was the Social Credit backbenchers revolt of 1937, which nearly toppled Premier William Aberhart’s nascent government.
It is not uncommon for disgruntled MLAs to leave their caucus to sit as Independent MLAs or join other parties, like Sandra Jansen did in 2016 and Rick Fraser and Karen McPherson did in 2017, but Luff’s decision to refuse to take her seat in the Assembly is not a tenable long-term strategy.
Without knowing more, it is not clear that anything Luff wrote she has experienced is new or unique to the NDP Caucus in Alberta, or if she is alone in feeling this way. It is also unclear what Luff’s political future outside the NDP Caucus will hold over the next five months until the 2019 election is called.
Whether publishing that letter was politically smart or political suicide, it took courage for Luff to speak up. And speaking truth to power is something that we should encourage our elected officials to do more regularly.
Photo: Alberta political party leaders – Rachel Notley, Jason Kenney, Stephen Mandel, David Khan, and Derek Fildebrandt.
We are now somewhere between seven and ten months away from the next provincial general election in Alberta. For the past seven provincial elections, leaders of the main political parties have participated in televised leaders debates, and while a lot of media and political attention is focused on these events, their impact on the outcome of the election varies.
Which party leaders are invited to participate in the debates, which are typically organized by private news media companies, can sometimes be contentious. Generally, only leaders whose parties have elected MLAs in the previous general election have been invited, but this has not always been the case. Unlike our neighbours to the south, there are no official rules or commission governing who is invited, which has led to inconsistencies since the televised leaders debates began in Alberta in 1993.
Assuming one is held, let’s take a look at who might and might not be invited to participate in a televised leaders debate held in Alberta’s next provincial election, which is expected to be called between March 1 and May 31, 2019.
Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney: Notley and United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney are shoe-ins to participate in the leaders debate. Notley is the current Premier of Alberta and Kenney leads the Official Opposition UCP. Although the UCP did not exist in the last election, the party has won three by-elections since it was formed in 2017.
David Khan: Liberal Party leader David Khan is not a sitting MLA and his party’s sole MLA, former leader David Swann, is not seeking re-election. This is the first election since 1986 that the Liberals will not have an incumbent MLA running for re-election. Khan is running for election in Swann’s Calgary-Mountain View district. While the party has had one elected MLA since 2015, the party’s lack of incumbent MLAs and declining relevance in Alberta politics could lead to the Liberals not being invited to join next year’s debate.
The Derek Fildebrandt Question:Derek Fildebrandt is a sitting MLA and most likely will be leader of the Freedom Conservative Party when the next election is called. He was first elected as the Wildrose Party MLA for Strathmore-Brooks in 2015 and joined the FCP in 2018. His party did not elect any MLAs in 2015, but neither did the UCP, which was formed in 2017 by MLAs who were previously members of the PC and Wildrose parties.
Fildebrandt has said his party will not run candidates in all districts, only focusing on districts where the NDP is not considered to be competitive. This means that most viewers tuning in to the televised debate will not have the option of voting for a Freedom Conservative Party candidate on Election Day, but a lack of a full-slate has not stopped leaders from being invited to the debates in the past.
Fildebrandt is a fiery quote-machine and his participation in the debates would undoubtably create some entertainment value for viewers. While I suspect Notley and Mandel would be supportive of Fildebrandt’s involvement in the debate, I expect that Kenney would not be eager to share a stage with Fildebrandt. As I predicted on a recent episode of the Daveberta Podcast, I suspect Kenney could threaten to withhold his participation in the debate if Fildebrandt is invited to join.
As for the format of a leaders debate, as I have written before, my preference would be to hold in front of a live audience, rather than a sterile and controlled television studio. This would allow the party leaders to demonstrate their debating skills and a live audience would add an atmosphere of unpredictability and would force the leaders to speak to both the voters in the room and those watching their television screens.
A History of Leaders Debates in Alberta Elections
Here is a quick history of leaders debates during general elections in Alberta:
1967 election – Four party leaders participated in this debate: Social Credit leader Ernest Manning, PC Party leader Peter Lougheed, NDP leader Neil Reimer and Liberal leader Michael Maccagno. Lougheed had initially challenged Manning to a televised debate, but a public debate was held instead. The meeting was sponsored by the City Centre Church Council and held in downtown Edmonton. The leaders fielded questions from the audience of the packed church.
The Calgary Herald reported that “…Manning was booed by a small contingent of hecklers while the new leader of the Conservatives reportedly “appeared to score heavily and draw the most applause.”
At the time of the debate, only Manning and Maccagno were MLAs. Reimer was not an MLA but there was one incumbent NDP MLA, Garth Turcott, who had been elected in a 1965 by-election in Pincher Creek-Crowsnest. Lougheed was not an MLA and his party had not elected an MLA since the 1959 election.
1971-1989 elections – No leaders debates were held during the 1971, 1975, 1979, 1982, 1986 and 1989 elections. Lougheed was challenged by opposition leaders, including NDP leader Grant Notley and Western Canada Concept leader Gordon Kesler, to participate in a televised debate but were turned down. Don Getty also refused to debate his opponents on television.
1993 election – Three party leaders participated in two televised debates: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, NDP leader Ray Martin, and Liberal Party leader Laurence Decore. The first debate was held in-front of a live studio audience and was broadcast on CFCN in Calgary and CFRN in Edmonton. The second debate was held without a live studio audience and broadcast on Channel 2&7 in Calgary and ITV in Edmonton.
1997 election – Four party leaders participated in this televised debate organized by the Alberta Chamber of Commerce and broadcast by CBC: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal Party leader Grant Mitchell, NDP leader Pam Barrett, and Social Credit Party leader Randy Thorsteinson.
Barrett and Thorsteinson were invited to participate despite not being MLAs at the time and neither of their parties having elected any MLAs in the previous election. The NDP and Social Credit Party did not nominate a full slate, with only 77 and 70 candidates running in 83 districts.
2001 election – Three leaders participated in this televised debate organized by Calgary Herald and Global News: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal leader Nancy MacBeth and NDP leader Raj Pannu. The three major parties nominated candidates in all 83 districts.
2004 election – Three leaders participated in this televised debate broadcast by Global Television: PC Party leader Ralph Klein, Liberal leader Kevin Taft and NDP leader Brian Mason.
Despite having been invited to join the televised debate in 1997, Alberta Alliance leader Randy Thorsteinson was not allowed to join in 2004 because he was not an MLA and his new party did not elect any members in the previous election. The party had one MLA, former Edmonton-Norwood PC MLA Gary Masyk, who crossed the floor in the months before the election was called.
The PCs, NDP and the Alberta Alliance nominated candidates in all 83 districts in this election. The Liberals nominated candidates in 82 of 83 districts.
The Wildrose Alliance nominated 61 candidates in 83 districts. Green Party leader George Read was not invited to participate in the debate, despite his party nominating candidates in 79 of 83 districts (the Greens would earn 4.5 percent of the total province-wide vote, only slightly behind the 6.7 percent earned by the Wildrose Alliance in this election).
2012 election – Four leaders participated in this debate broadcast by Global and streamed on the internet: PC Party leader Alison Redford, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman and NDP leader Brian Mason.
Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor was not invited to join the leaders debate, despite his party having one MLA in the Legislature. Former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor became the Alberta Party’s first MLA in 2011. The Alberta Party nominated 38 candidates in 87 districts.
2015 election – Four leaders participated in this debate broadcast by Global: PC leader Jim Prentice, NDP leader Rachel Notley, Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, and Liberal leader David Swann. Despite only narrowly losing a 2014 by-election in Calgary-Elbow, Alberta Party leader Greg Clark was not invited to join the debate. Clark would go on to be elected in Calgary-Elbow in this election.
The NDP and PCs nominated candidates in all 87 districts, while the Wildrose Party nominated 86 candidate and the Liberals nominated 56. The Alberta Party nominated 36 candidates in 87 districts.
Hinman’s blip on the political radar this week got me thinking about the bigger role he has played in shaking up Alberta’s political environment. Not as a major player but as a secondary character.
His time as leader and sole MLA representing the social conservative Alberta Alliance and Wildrose Alliance from 2004 to 2009 was fairly unremarkable, but it was the role he played after he resigned as leader that had a much bigger impact in our province’s political history.
After he was defeated in his bid for re-election in Cardston-Taber-Warner in 2008, Hinman was returned to the Legislature by a 278-vote narrow victory in a September 2009 by-election in Calgary-Glenmore. The seat was previously represented by deputy premier Ron Stevens and was believed to be a Progressive Conservative urban stronghold.
Even though he would again be unsuccessful in his bid to get re-elected in the following general election, Hinman’s win undoubtably added to the momentum of Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Alliance going into the 2012 election.
But what would have happened if Hinman had lost that by-election race in Calgary-Glenmore?
Hinman’s by-election win provided early credibility for the Wildrose Alliance by showing that the party could elect candidates in long-held PC Party constituencies. Without this by-election win, the Wildrose Alliance’s momentum could have stalled or slowed going into the 2012 election.
Liberal candidate Avalon Roberts finished only 278 votes behind Hinman. Had she won the by-election, David Swann might have stayed on as party leader instead of resigning in 2011. A win in Glenmore might have led the Liberals to experience a resurgence in support going into the 2012 election, building on the party’s 2008 gains in Calgary. Or maybe the PCs would have simply won back the constituency in the following general election, as they did in 2012.
And an even larger ‘what-if’ question is, if Hinman had not won the by-election and his party’s momentum had sputtered, would Stelmach have resisted pressure from his cabinet and party to resign in 2011? Would he still be premier today?
While Hinman’s narrow win in a 2009 by-election is now an obscure footnote in Alberta’s political history, its impact on our province’s political environment and the split it helped create in the conservative movement in Alberta was huge.
Thinking about these kinds of scenarios can be endless fun for politicos (or at least for me).
The bill introduced today includes a handful of the reform ideas that were debated by the now-defunct Special Select Committee for Ethics and Accountability, which was created during the euphoria that followed the election of the NDP. The political mood soured quickly after the election and the committee quickly succumbed to a year of partisan wrangling and procedural brinksmanship until the Legislature allowed the committee to disband in September 2016.
The new bill has already received the support of committee member and Liberal Party leader David Swann. Dr. Swann, who is believed to be quite sympathetic to the NDP on many issues, was quoted in a government press released praising the changes.
Bill 35 would lower the limit that individuals can contribute annually to political parties to $4,000, which is a positive move, and is a reform that NDP and Wildrose MLAs on the all-party committee found room to agree on. The current annual contribution limits are $15,000 outside election periods and $30,000 during election periods.
The bill imposes a spending limit of $50,000 for each individual candidate’s campaigns and a $2 million limit for political parties (the Progressive Conservatives were the only party to spend more than $2 million in the last election). I am in favour of spending limits but I do believe that a $50,000 limit for constituency campaigns could be too low. I expect this could lead to some candidate campaigns spending additional funds in advance of the election being called in order to circumvent the low limit.
There are currently no spending limits in Alberta and our province is currently the only province in Canada without spending limits. The lack of spending limits has led to some significant disparities in what is spent in elections campaigns. For example, Edmonton-Whitemud PC candidate Stephen Mandel‘s campaign spent $132,991 in 2015, while candidates like West Yellowhead New Democrat Eric Rosendahl spent $748. Generally, the rule is that the candidate who spends the most money is likely to win, but 2015 was an exception to that rule (Mr. Mandel was defeated and Mr. Rosendahl was elected).
The NDP have allowed a handful of costs to be exempted from the limit, including travel costs, parking and gas, childcare expenses, expenses related to a candidate living with a disability, and financial audits required by law. I suspect the exemption of travel and gas costs are meant to address some concerns that MLAs on the committee raised about additional expenses incurred when campaigning in geographically large rural constituencies. This issue was raised by Wildrose MLAs on the committee who represent some of these large rural areas.
The bill also proposes limiting spending by candidates running in party nomination contests, which currently does not exist in Alberta. Nomination candidates would now have to register their candidacy with Elections Alberta, which is similar to a system that already exists for federal political parties.
Perhaps most controversially, Bill 35 seeks to limit the total amount of money that third-party advertisers can spend during elections campaigns. The proposed limit of $150,000, of which no more than $3,000 could used in an individual constituency, is severely limiting. The high costs associated with advertising campaigns would mean that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for any third-party group to run an effective province-wide campaign during an election period in Alberta.
Perhaps somewhat ironically, considering the vastly different political environment in 2016, the third-party advertising laws passed by the PCs in 2009 were seen as a reaction to the Albertans for Change advertising campaign targeted then-premier Ed Stelmach. The ads, which became infamous for the spooky “Noooo Plaaan” tagline, were sponsored by a handful of Alberta labour unions.
It was during the 2009 debate in the Legislative Assembly over Mr. Anderson’s bill that the rookie MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona, Rachel Notley, foreshadowed what seven years later would become her government’s reforms to Alberta’s elections finance system:
“…in Alberta we should have a much more comprehensive set of rules around our own election financing as candidates, as members of political parties, we should have much more substantial limits on how much we can spend as political parties, and we should have much more substantial rules on the maximum donation that we can receive, all of that designed to ensure it is the individual voter whose activity and whose engagement ultimately makes the day one way or the other at the end of the process and that it’s not one person or a group of 20 people with $15,000 each who can decide a particular campaign in a particular riding.”
Where is Strankman’s bill?
Post media columnist Graham Thomson raises an important point in his latest column. Earlier this year Wlidrose MLA Rick Strankman introduced a Private Members’ Bill calling for a blackout of government announcements during election period in order to prevent a governing party from using public funds to influence the election.
The bill was introduced in the Assembly but then referred to the Special Select Committee for Ethics and Accountability, which never had the opportunity to debate it before it was disbanded. It is unclear whether Mr. Strankman’s bill will ever resurface in a future sitting.
One year after nearly the entire official opposition crossed the floor to join Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives, the 44 year long governing party is expected to sweep the province for a record thirteenth election victory. Premier Jim Prentice is said to be preparing his party and its candidates for an early spring 2016 election.
The Wildrose MLA floor crossings on December 17, 2014 hurt the PCs in the polls in the first half of 2015. But after the Tories began to recover in the polls a fall cabinet shuffle brought two former Wildrose MLAs, Danielle Smith and Rob Anderson, into Prentice’s cabinet as Finance Minister and Justice Minister.
Public opinion polls now suggest most Albertans have embraced the Prentice Tories once again. The PCs now have the support of 77 percent of Albertans, according to the most recent Western Insite poll.
“A few months ago it looked like the Tories had a real fight on their hands but today they are back on top,” said Jake Randall, vice-president of Western Insite Inc. “Prentice really didn’t start resonating with Albertans until after May 2015,” he said.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior official in the PC Party admitted they were glad the provincial election wasn’t called in early 2015, as some party insiders had pushed for.
“We simply weren’t prepared to go to the polls in spring 2015,” the source said.
“We would have got smoked, boy, it would have been the end of us,” they said.
The hopes of New Democratic Party supporters were boosted when David Climenhaga defied expectations with a 67 percent landslide win for the NDP in a May 5, 2015 by-election in the Spruce Grove-St. Albert constituency.
Liberal MLAs Laurie Blakeman and David Swann added to the orange momentum on May 6 when they joined the NDP caucus, creating speculation that Rachel Notley‘s NDP could pose a serious challenge to the Tories in the next election.
But with recent polls showing the NDP back in their traditional range of 10 percent support, Albertans may never know what an NDP government looks like.
The Wildrose Party has wilted, with most of its support relegated to a handful of rural southern Alberta constituencies.
Wildrose leader Derek Fildebrandt remains a harsh critic of the PCs and is in talks to create a ‘real conservative alternative’ by merging his party with the right-wing Social Credit and Alberta First parties.
“Most Albertans are moderates and are very suspicious and uncomfortable with the kind of social conservative politics inside the Wildrose Party,” said Darlene Sinclair, professor of political science at Vermilion River University in Lloydminster.
Sinclair predicted that the PCs had successfully built a coalition of moderate and progressive minded urbanites that could keep the Tories in government for many decades to come. But she warned that even with high polling numbers, the Prentice government faces serious challenges.
Tory supporters are quick to defend Prentice from criticisms about the job losses caused by a downturn in the economy, tax increases and his refusal to make deep funding cuts to public programs.
Former Conservative MP Brian Jean, who will be running for the Tories in the Fort McMurray-Conklin constituency, said that Prentice is not to blame for job losses in the oil patch.
“It would be silly to believe that any Premier of Alberta, even Jim Prentice, has the power to control the international price of oil,” Jean said.
“It just doesn’t work like that, ” he said.
(Note: This article is a satirical take on what might have happened if the PC Party had waited until Alberta’s 2016 fixed election date to call the most recent provincial election. In reality, the PCs called the election one year early and Albertans elected Notley’s NDP with a majority government on May 5, 2015).
Initially turned away by Wildrose Party officials, controversial Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Andershas asked the Wildrose Party for a “waiver” to run for the party’s leadership. Having lost bids for federal Conservative nominations in Calgary-Signal Hill and Bow River last year, the controversial Mr. Anders, 42, is scrambling to salvage his 18 year long political career.
Before crossing the floor to the PC Party, former leader Danielle Smith publicly told Mr. Anders that he was not welcome to run for the Wildrose Party. But now with the party weakened and without a leader, Mr. Anders may be in a position to mobilize his legions of social conservatives to win the leadership.
Also said to be considering a run for the Wildrose leadership are former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk (a nominated candidate in Sherwood Park), former lobbyist Derek Fildebrandt (running for a nomination in Strathmore-Brooks) and Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes.
Can the PC-Wildrose MLAs survive?
It appears that all or most former Wildrose MLAs who crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives in the final months of 2014 will face strong competitions to win their new party’s nominations to run in the next election.
Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Rod Fox is facing former Ponoka Mayor Larry Henkleman and businessman Peter Dewit, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle is facing Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood, Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Gary Bikman is being challenged by Taber Reeve Brian Brewin, and Calgary-Shaw MLA Jeff Wilson is being challenged by arch-conservative activist Craig Chandler.
If Olds-Disbury-Three Hills MLA Bruce Rowe decides to seek re-election, he will face a challenge from Olds Town Councillor Wade Bearchell, who is already campaigning for the PC nomination. Medicine Hat MLA Blake Pedersen is also expected to face a strong challenge and Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson has already announced he will not run for re-election.
Immediately following the floor-crossings, Mr. Pedersen told the Medicine Hat News be believed their PC nominations were guaranteed, but that appears to be a key bargaining position the 9 Wildrose MLAs asked for and were denied before they joined the PCs.
Now the question is how many of the Wildrose-turned-PC MLAs can survive to run in the next election? Could a potential cabinet shuffle save their political careers?
What are PC-Wildrose MLAs are saying about being in government?
“You know, it’s a shame to have to say this, but it’s amazing to me the doors that are open since I crossed the floor. I get into ministers’ office(s) and get things done. It’s just – it’s amazing. It’s really not the way it should be, but it is the way it is.”
What are PC MLAs saying about the PC-Wildrose MLAs?
“This shows that was all politics. That’s unfortunate, and we will have to let that go. But I think everybody should understand that when they make accusations like that and then (cross the floor), it’s obvious there was a lot of political motivation there and not a lot of fact,” Mr. Horner said.
“I’d like to see us stop with the unfounded character assassination — and I think that will stop from them.”
“It’s sort of like that neighbour that screams at you all the time and calls the cops on you once in a while now moves into your house,” Mr. Lukaszuk said. “You sort of work around it and make it work. At the end of the day you have to focus on the prize — and that’s representing your constituents and making good decisions as a government.”
I will be taking a short break from blogging for the next week. In my absence, take a look at David Climenhaga‘s excellent blog at AlbertaPolitics.ca.
From Lethbridge to Rimbey and Peace River to Cochrane, here is your Saturday morning candidate nomination update:
Airdrie: Mayor of Airdrie Peter Brownannounced this week that he will seek the Progressive Conservative nomination. Mr. Brown was first elected Mayor in 2010. The constituency is currently represented by PC-turned-Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Rob Anderson, who announced his retirement from politics this month.
Banff-Cochrane: Scott Wagner has been nominated as the Wildrose candidate. In 2014, Mr. Wagner made an unsuccessful bid for the federal Conservative Party nomination to run in the Macleod by-election. During that campaign he issued criticized now-MP John Barlow and calling for a judicial inquiry into allegations that RCMP seized privately owned firearms during the High River floods of 2013.
Calgary-Buffalo: Well-known arts community member Terry Rock will seek the PC nomination. The constituency is currently represented by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, who is the nominated federal Liberal candidate in Calgary-Centre and is not expected to seek re-election as MLA.
Calgary-Currie: First-term PC MLA Christine Cusanelli announced on Facebook that she will seek re-election. Ms. Cusanelli served as Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation for less than a year before an Olympic travel spending scandal led to her demotion to the backbencher. She is expected to face a challenge for the PC nomination.
Calgary-East: Ali Waissi is the Wildrose candidate in this constituency. In 2012, he was campaign manager for controversial Calgary-Greenway Wildrose candidate Ron Leech. The NDP are expected to choose Robyn Luff as their candidate at a Feb. 8, 2015 nomination meeting. Ms. Luff earned 8.73% of the vote as the NDP candidate in 2012 (her party’s second strongest showing in Calgary in that election).
Calgary-Glenmore: Chris Kemp-Jackson is the Wildrose candidate in this constituency. Mr. Kemp-Jackson is a business and immigration consultant.
Calgary-Hawkwood: The Wildrose have chosen lawyer and constituency association president Jae Shim as their candidate.
Calgary-Klein: Feb 8 Craig Coolahanis expected to be chosen as the NDP candidate at a Feb. 8, 2015 nomination meeting. Mr. Coolahan is a Business Representative with the United Utility Workers’ Association and was the 2012 NDP candidate in Calgary-Elbow.
Calgary-Lougheed: Two-time Mount Everest climber Dave Rodney will seek the PC nomination. Mr. Rodney has also served as the PC MLA for this constituency since 2004.
Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill: Retired police officer Kathy Macdonald has been nominated as the Wildrose candidate in this constituency. In 2014, Ms. Macdonald challenged Premier Jim Prentice as the Wildrose candidate in the Calgary-Foothills by-election.
Calgary-Mountain View: Three-term Liberal MLA David Swann is expected to announce his plans to seek re-election. The Liberals have scheduled a nomination meeting on February 20, 2015. Jean-Sebastien Rioux announced he will seek the PC nomination. Mr. Rioux is the Director, Master of Public Policy program, and Associate Director, International Policy at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy. He also served as Chief of Staff to Mr. Prentice when he was a cabinet minister in Ottawa.
Edmonton-Decore: Two-term PC MLA Janice Sarich announced she will seek her party’s nomination for re-election.
Edmonton-Whitemud: Health Minister Stephen Mandel is expected to seek the PC nomination for re-election. Mr. Mandel was first elected to the Assembly in a by-election in September 2014.
Grande Prairie-Wapiti: PC MLA Wayne Drysdale announced on Facebook that he plans to run for re-election. Mr. Drysdale was first elected in 2008.
Innisfail-Sylvan Lake: Mayor of Red Deer County Jim Woodannounced that he will challenge Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Kerry Towle for the PC nomination. During the 2012 election, Mr. Wood endorsed PC MLA Luke Ouellette, who was unseated by Ms. Towle in the Wildrose sweep of central and southern Alberta. Following that election, he raised concerns about how the PC Government would treat rural Alberta constituencies represented by opposition MLAs.
Peace River: Energy Minister Frank Oberle announced on Facebook that he plans to seek the PC nomination and re-election.
Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre: ATB employee Tammy Cote is seeking the PC nomination and may face a challenge from current Independent MLA Joe Anglin. Ms. Cote is the grand-niece of former PC MLA and lieutenant-governor Helen Hunley.
Spruce Grove-St. Albert: Jaye Walter has been nominated as the Wildrose candidate in Spruce Grove-St. Albert. Previous to this nomination he had been seeking to become the candidate in the St. Albert constituency.
I have added these updates to the list of nominees and nomination candidates planning to run in Alberta’s next general election. Please email david.cournoyer [at] gmail.com if there are additions to the list. Thank you.
The announcements this week by former Finance Minister Doug Horner and former Health Minister Fred Horne that they are leaving politics did not come as a surprise to anyone watching politics in Alberta.
Once powerful ministers in Premier Alison Redford’s cabinets, the two men were pushed into the backbenches when Jim Prentice ascended to the Premier’s Office in September 2014. They were also two members of the unofficial 4H Club who, along with former ministers Dave Hancock and Ken Hughes, epitomized the last generation of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party elite.
The scion of a genuine political family dynasty, Mr. Horner is the son of former deputy premier Hugh Horner and grandson of Senator Ralph Horner. He was first elected in 2001 and quickly rose in the cabinets of Premier Ed Stelmach and Ms. Redford.
When he ran for the leadership of the PC Party in 2011, many believed Mr. Horner to be the most competent choice for the job. But his close association with Mr. Stelmach made him an unpalatable choice. On the second ballot of the vote, of his supporters marked Ms. Redford as their second choice, leading to her victory over front-runner Gary Mar on the final ballot. His appointment as Finance Minister followed shortly after.
Their endorsements of Mr. Prentice’s bid were not enough to keep them in cabinet. After two years of arrogant, entitled and scandal-ridden Tory Government, their removal from cabinet was seen as necessary to distance the new premier from his unpopular predecessor.
The two departures follow the resignations of Mr. Hancock and Mr. Hughes in September 2014, which triggered by-elections in Edmonton-Whitemud and Calgary-West.
Eight MLAs have now announced their plans to not seek re-election in the expected Spring 2015 election: