The Calgary-Lougheed by-election, the Alberta Party leadership race, a new ThinkHQ poll, Rachel Notley as Canada’s Pipeline Paladin, and changing electoral boundaries are just some of the topics covered in the latest episode of The Daveberta Podcast with Dave Cournoyer and Ryan Hastman (recorded on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017).
Photo: Alberta Party leader Greg Clark on the campaign trail in Calgary-Elbow in 2014. Source: Twitter.
In the latest shakeup in Alberta politics, Greg Clark announced last Friday that he would resign as leader of the Alberta Party at the party’s upcoming annual general meeting on November 18, 2017. Clark has served as party leader since 2013 and became the party’s first elected MLA in 2015 when he unseated Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Gordon Dirks in Calgary-Elbow.
With the floor-crossing of former New Democratic Party MLA Karen McPherson earlier this month, Clark had succeeded in helping double his party’s caucus. But despite generating an impressive share of media attention, Clark has been unable to raise the amounts of money the Alberta Party would need to be competitive in the next election. And even though there has been increased interest in the party’s membership since the PC Party became defunct under Jason Kenney’s leadership, the Alberta Party has not seen growth in the public opinion polls.
With the increasing influence of the Alberta Together political action committee, formed by former PC Party officials including Stephen Mandel, rumours had been circulating for months that Clark’s leadership could come to an end before the party’s annual meeting.
Now it appears the party is a new home for moderate Tories unhappy with the hard right-ward turn of the UCP under Kenney’s leadership.
As I wrote in June 2017, the Alberta Party is a blank slate with a great name, but whether or not this latest group to wander over will translate that name into electoral success is yet to be determined.
According to the Globe & Mail, the party could lean on the Alberta Together PAC for fundraising support to help offset the costs of the leadership race. This is concerning because PACs like Alberta Together fall outside of the province’s Election Finances and. Contributions Disclosure Act, which raises legitimate concerns about transparency and accountability of political fundraising and spending.
With less than 15 months until a potential election call, the urgency surrounding the leadership and the role of Alberta Together could be a reaction to signals from Premier Rachel Notley that the NDP government plans to tighten rules governing PACs before the next election.
Now that Clark has made his announcement, it is unclear if he or the Alberta Together group have a chosen candidate waiting in the wings to run for the party leadership.
McPherson has said she does not intend to run and neither does Alberta Together CEO Katherine O’Neill. It is also unclear whether Clark will re-contest the leadership he is about to resign from.
Had Clark resigned four months ago, it might not be surprising to see municipal politicians like Nenshi, Edmonton mayor Don Iveson and Grande Prairie mayor Bill Given consider throwing their name in the race. But with the municipal elections having only been held on October 16, it would be difficult politically for any current municipal mayor or councillor to justify running for the leadership.
Popular 630CHED radio host Ryan Jespersen is a compelling name on the list of rumoured leadership candidates named by Postmedia columnist Don Braid. Jespersen is well-known in Edmonton and northern Alberta, well-spoken on a wide-range of issues and is not a former PC MLA – which would be an asset if he did decide to run. (He would not be the first of his family to enter Alberta politics. His great-uncle, Ralph Jespersen, served as the Social Credit MLA for Stony Plain from 1967 to 1971).
As some conservatives will meet under Preston Manning’s banner at Red Deer College, former PC supporters and the Alberta Together group will meet across town at the Radisson Hotel to consolidate their position inside the Alberta Party. A dozen notable former PC officials are running to fill the 12 positions on the party’s board of directors:
Sumita Anand served as the PC Party’s west Calgary regional director until she resigned on May 24, 2017. She had served as president of the PC association in Calgary-Foothills during and immediately following Jim Prentice’s tenure as party leader.
Denise Brunner served as the PC Party’s vice president organization. She stepped down in January 2017 after being accused of bias by Kenney’s supporters during the PC leadership race. According to Elections Alberta financial disclosures, she was Chief Financial Officer for the Edmonton-Castle Downs PC association in 2006 and currently serves as the president of Alberta Party association in Edmonton-Castle Downs.
Cole Harbin served as Executive Vice President of the PC Youth of Alberta until 2016 and as a Vice President of the PC constituency association in Lethbridge-West until 2017. He previously worked as a constituency assistant for former MLAs Doug Griffiths and former Lethbridge-West PC MLA Greg Weadick.
Jackie Clayton was recently re-elected to serve a second term on Grande Prairie City Council and is the former Peace Country regional director for the PC Party.
Shawn Pickett served as president of the PC association in Red Deer-North and Central North regional director until resigning in July 2017, referring to Kenney’s leadership bid as a “hostile takeover” of the PC Party.
Stephanie Shostak is the former north Edmonton regional director for the PC Party. Shostak now serves as the president of the Alberta Party association in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview.
Patty Wickstrom served as the PC Party’s Board Secretary until she resigned in July 2017. According to Elections Alberta financial disclosures, she previously served as president of the PC association in Calgary-Currie from 2008 to 2010.
According to a report by the CBC, Alan Hallman claims his reputation suffered “irreparable harm” from a tweet posted by Stephen Carter. Hallman is being represented in the lawsuit by former justice minister Jonathan Denis, who is also supporting Kenney’s leadership bid.
The CBC reported that Carter will defend himself against the defamation claim and that the lawsuit is a “bullying tactic.”
The PC Party released an investigative report last week in response to Jansen’s allegations that she was targeted by Kenney’s supporters during the party’s policy convention in Red Deer. There is digital evidence that the online harassment is real and it is likely the in-person harassment against Jansen was real as well, but the PC Party had little incentive to deliver justice after she joined the NDP.
The PC Party had little to gain by further penalizing or condemning Kenney’s supporters, as he appears to be on his way to sweeping the party leadership in 2017. The report was a way to end the story, and the allegation, that could tarnish the PC Party and Kenney’s leadership.
Thanks to Hallman, Denis and their lawsuit, the story of how a talented and high-profile woman was pushed out of Alberta’s PC Party will live on into 2017.
It would have been hard to imagine only one year ago that we would witness a PC MLA join the NDP but nothing should surprise us in Alberta politics anymore. Ms. Jansen has spent the past 18 months as an unwelcome moderate in a largely conservative caucus of 9 PC MLAs and it is hard to see what other options she may have had.
“Most Albertans are reasonable, moderate, pragmatic people,” Ms. Jansen was quoted as saying in an NDP caucus press release. “And most Albertans want a reasonable, moderate, pragmatic government. I believe we are getting that kind of government from Premier Notley.”
“I also believe that is absolutely not what would be on offer from those who are taking over the Progressive Conservative Party,” Ms. Jansen said. “The best traditions of the Peter Lougheed legacy in Alberta politics are being pursued by Premier Notley. And that legacy is being kicked to the curb by the extremists who are taking over my former party.”
There could not be a more direct shot at her conservative opponents in the PC and Wildrose parties but mostly PC leadership front-runner Jason Kenney.
In the opposition benches, Ms. Jansen has been a voice for moderate conservatism in the Legislative Assembly, clashing with her conservative MLA colleagues, including interim party leader Ric McIver, on numerous occasions. She also faced a backlash from conservative activists when she decided to publicly endorse Liberal candidates Kent Hehr and Nirmala Naidoo during last year’s federal election.
Last month Ms. Jansen announced plans to run for the PC Party leadership, building a campaign team that included Ms. Naidoo and strategist Stephen Carter. But she dropped out of the race last week, claiming that Mr. Kenney’s social conservative supporters had bullied her at the party’s annual convention over her progressive views on abortion and gay rights. She has also been the target of fierce sexist harassment on social media.
With Mr. Kenney’s hostile takeover of the PC Party in full-swing, it has become increasingly clear that there is less room for the moderates and liberals who played a key role in the party’s broad governing coalition from 1971 until 2015. Ms. Jansen was the voice of the “progressive wing” in the PC Caucus and she will certainly sit in the “conservative wing” of the NDP, which is a fascinating development in the evolution of the Alberta NDP’s centre-ish political coalition two years ahead of the next election.
While I expect Ms. Jansen had an opportunity to consider joining MLA Greg Clark in the Alberta Party or run for the leadership of the Liberal Party, returning to a position where she can influence government policy would have certainly been more appealing than joining or leading a smaller opposition caucus.
Although she is a moderate, Ms. Jansen has clashed with the NDP on a few occasions. In November 2015, Ms. Jansen accused then-Status of Women Minister Shannon Phillips of having “lost the authority to govern” after a heated debate over budget estimates and the old PC government’s record.
Her strong connections to former premier Alison Redford’s government are also notable.
A broadcaster by trade, she traded in her journalist’s hat for a job working in Ms. Redford’s southern Alberta office at the McDougall Centre in 2011. Shortly after that she was elected as a PC MLA and served as associate minister of families and community safety from 2013 until after Ms. Redford’s departure in 2014.
With this floor crossing, the NDP Government Caucus is one MLA short of having an an equal number of women and men, what I expect is a first in Canadian history. As far as I can tell, she is the first MLA, from any party, to cross the floor to join the NDP in Alberta’s history.
Ms. Jansen will sit as a backbench government MLA but we should expect she will soon make her way into cabinet in the new year.
Political strategist Corey Hogan has been hired as the government’s new managing director of the Public Affairs Bureau. He replaces Mark Wells, who announced last week that he was leaving after a year in the job. Mr. Wells previously served as director of communications with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, the province’s largest public sector union.
Corey Hogan has more than a decade of experience in communications, advertising and engagement. Most recently he served as the Chief Strategy Officer at Northweather, a digital communications consultancy based in Calgary.
Not always a backroom strategist, Mr. Hogan aspired for public office in 2009 when he ran, unsuccessfully, for the Liberal Party nomination ahead of the Calgary-Glenmore by-election. That campaign saw former Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman eke out a narrow win over Liberal Avalon Roberts, providing a spark that helped propel the then-fledgeling fringe party to Official Opposition in 2012.
He was spotted earlier this year attending the NDP’s convention in Calgary and was jokingly referred to as “the Orange apologist” by podcast co-contributors Zain Veljiand Stephen Carter for his progressive views on The Strategists podcast.
I admit to being initially surprised when I heard that Mr. Hogan was hired for this role. This is not because I do not believe he is capable, I expect he is, but I half expected that the new managing director would be a former NDP staffer from Manitoba, Ontario or British Columbia, where many of this government’s top political talent hails from. Mr. Hogan is a smart political operator, comes from outside the traditional NDP establishment, and has experience in Alberta politics.
As a progressive Calgarian, he will bring a different perspective into the halls of government in Edmonton and a new focus on digital communications that past Public Affairs Bureau directors may not have had. He recently launched the Canada15 online campaign, which asked the question: why can’t the federal government bring in $15 national minimum wage in every province all across Canada?
Clear and strategic communications has been a source of weakness for Premier Rachel Notley‘s NDP since it formed government in 2015. Significant communications failures around issues such as changes to farm safety legislation and a court challenge to power purchase agreements have caused the government embarrassment and cost the NDP support in the polls.
Mr. Hogan is joining a government that must simultaneously climb a steep hill and fight an uphill battle if it wants to successfully convince Albertans to embrace and accept the long list of aggressive policy changes, including the NDP’s flagship Climate Leadership Plan.
The NDP have hired a smart and strategic political operator in Corey Hogan. Now they would do well to listen to his advice.
Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer announced in an email to his supporters today that he will not seek the leadership of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party. Mr. Schweitzer is the former CEO of the Manitoba PC Party and was involved in Jim Prentice‘s campaign for the Alberta PC Party leadership in 2014. He was widely seen as a potential flag bearer for centrist conservatives in the party and rumours of his candidacy had generated excitement among some party activists.
Here’s the text of the email, in which he also takes a swing at the PC Party and its leadership selection process:
This is a note that will disappoint some of my friends and supporters. I have made the decision not to pursue the Leadership of PC Alberta at this time.
My desire to be part of a significant political change in Alberta started a year ago in a coffee shop in Calgary – I just didn’t know it at the time.
At first, I was just meeting with friends to talk about how we could improve our province. Then I travelled across Alberta and met with people and listened to their concerns. People were frustrated and worried. Some had lost their jobs, others their homes and some had even lost hope. What was also very clear from these conversations was a deep sense of pride in the resilience of Albertans. Even in frustration, there was still a strong belief that Alberta could get back on its feet.
I gathered a group to talk about the future of Alberta. It led to some exciting meetings where we brought together hundreds of people to talk constructively about what our future could be. It was in these conversations that I was encouraged by many to seek the leadership of PC Alberta. I was humbled and flattered.
In exploring whether to run, the question that comes up across Alberta is, “How do we defeat the NDP?” The easy answer is to fuel anger and fear by spreading half-truths and representing them as facts for partisan benefit.
Our generation is tired of excessive partisanship. We want leaders that unite and empower us. We need to create the most competitive business environment in North America without sacrificing the environment. We want equality of opportunity, fairness and inclusion.
We need an Alberta for tomorrow, today.
The big question is can we do this through PC Alberta? I believe the Party needs to re-establish trust with voters, bring forward new ideas, a new plan and a new team. I was hopeful this could happen now.
In exploring this campaign, we have hosted hundreds of meetings across Alberta, attracted a talented team, and developed campaign infrastructure that is unrivalled. We are ready to launch what we believe is a winning campaign.
However, I am concerned about the Party’s commitment to a fair leadership process. In particular, the rules that have been established have raised some serious concerns that go to the legitimacy of the process.
This process has made me realize that if we stay focused on the past and established parties, we will lose the real opportunity that lies before us. That is the chance to define what it means to be a conservative for the next generation. We need a “New Blue”.
My team and I believe this opportunity cannot be realized while defending the status quo – we have to reach higher.
What I am interested in is participating in a larger debate that includes all Albertans who are seeking a strong alternative to the NDP. This is the inclusive debate Albertans deserve and one I will work to make happen.
To the volunteers that have been working with us, I’ll do my best to reach out to each of you over the coming weeks. It took me months to meet all of you, so please be patient. I truly appreciate everything you’ve done. I hope many of you choose to join us as we discuss next steps.
The PC Party will select a new leader in March 2017. Federal politician Jason Kenneyand former MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans have officially announced their plans to run. Political strategist Stephen Carter announced this week that he will be supporting Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen‘s bid for the leadership, which has yet to be officially announced.
One of the things that has changed over the past ten years is the proliferation of podcasts available on almost any topic. On Karen’s podcast, I recommended a handful of podcasts that I listen to on a weekly basis. Here is an expanded list of podcasts that I would give my seal of approval:
The Expats: This great podcast launched by local bon-vivant Adam Rozenhart features interviews with Canadians expatriates about their experiences living overseas. Their latest episode about the limitations on expat voting is particularity timely ahead of the October 19 federal election.
Radiolab: This podcast is a longtime favourite of mine. Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, Radiolab focuses on topics of a scientific and philosophical nature. This podcast is a pleasure to listen to.
He is the Premier of Alberta and he does not have a seat in the Legislature, but Jim Prentice skipped last night’s all-candidates forum in the Calgary-Foothills by-election. The event was organized by the Edgemont Community Association.
Noting the high-profile candidate’s absence, forum organizers placed a halloween pumpkin at Mr. Prentice’ empty spot at the table.
He has held almost daily media events since becoming Premier, but they have all taken place at planned and highly-controlled events. An all-candidates forum is an uncontrolled environment where Mr. Prentice would be forced to engage with his opponents, which could cause potential embarrassment to the new Premier.
In an press conference designed to keep Health Minister Stephen Mandel in the news, Mr. Prentice joined his party’s Edmonton-Whitemud by-election candidate to make a vague announcement about the opening of more “continuing care” spaces.
The announcement provided no detail about how the province plans to address the shortage of long-term care beds, which provide a higher level of care to Albertans in need of longer-term medical assistance.
Despite a growing population, the number of long-term care beds across the province has actually decreased over the past decade.
Mr. Prentice used the press conference as an opportunity to repeatedly explain to reporters that Mr. Mandel is a “hands-on minister” (a description he used at least three times during the press conference).
Although the former mayor is widely expected to win the Whitemud by-election, Mr. Mandel has faced pressure from Liberal Dr. Donna Wilson and New Democrat Dr.Bob Turner to address the province’s lack of long-term care beds and to replace the aging and overcrowded Misericordia Hospital.
“It’s not just about electing Dirks, it’s about beating Carter too,” a PC Party insider told me this week. Fighting to elect appointed Education Minister Gordon Dirks in the Calgary-Elbow by-election, the PCs are also gunning to defeat Alberta Party leader Greg Clark, whose campaign is being run by former Tory strategist Stephen Carter.
A sort of political mercenary, Mr. Carter was a key strategist in Alison Redford‘s 2011 leadership campaign and Naheed Nenshi‘s 2010 mayoral election.
While the Wildrose Party poses a threat to the Tories province-wide, recent moves suggest they recognize Mr. Clark as a threat in this by-election. For example, Mr. Dirks’ campaign trotted out an endorsement last week from former Alberta Party leadership candidate Randy Royer.
Drawing on the experience of Mr. Carter and a band of local political organizers, Mr. Clark’s supporters say his campaign is showing signs of momentum on the ground. Whether they can translate any momentum, real or perceived, into votes is an unanswered question.
Can the opposition parties win any of the four provincial by-elections being held on October 27, 2014?
The by-election votes will take place in four urban constituencies that were considered safe for the Progressive Conservatives in the 2012 election. With a change in provincial leadership and a volatile political environment, these by-elections do provide opportunities for the opposition parties to make gains.
In Calgary-Elbow, Wildrose candidate John Fletcherappears to be PC candidate and appointed Education Minister Gordon Dirks‘ main conservative challenger and challenges from two other liberal-leaning candidates could create an interesting result in Calgary-Elbow.
Liberal Susan Wright and Alberta Party leader Greg Clark are running strong campaigns competing for the same liberal and moderate voters that Mr. Dirks will need to win against his more conservative opponent. Mr. Clark has gained the support of 2012 PC Party campaign strategist Stephen Carter and 2012 Liberal Party campaign manager Corey Hogan, who are both heavily involved in his campaign.
Liberal MLA Craig Cheffins was able to win this constituency in a 2007 by-election at a time when the Liberals were Official Opposition and the Tories were led by new PC leader Ed Stelmach, who was unfamiliar to most Calgary voters at the time. In 2014, the field of candidates and parties is much more crowded and unpredictable.
Retired popular Edmonton Mayor and newly appointed Health Minister Stephen Mandel is widely expected to glide to victory in the Edmonton-Whitemud by-election (his predecessor, Dave Hancock was re-elected with 60% of the vote in 2012).
Mr. Mandel’s vocal opponents are trying to make health care and the provincial government’s lack of long-term infrastructure planning the big issues of the by-election campaign.
Both Dr. Turner and Liberal candidate Dr. Donna Wilson have made south west Edmonton’s aging and overcrowded Misericordia Hospital a focus of their campaigns. Dr. Wilson held a press conference outside the Misericordia Hospital yesterday and today the NDP will hold a lunch-hour rally outside the facility.
Statistician Eric Grenier predicts Wildrose candidate Sheila Taylorcould win the Calgary-West by-election. Ms. Taylor, a now former trustee on the Calgary Board of Education, is a star candidate for the Wildrose in Calgary. She is facing Calgary police officer Mike Ellis, who unsuccessfully ran for the PC nomination before the 2012 election.
Premier Jim Prentice‘s recent announcement to build an additional 55 new schools and renovate another 20 is certainly meant to boost Mr. Dirks’ and weaken Ms. Taylor’s candidacy. Quick to respond, Mr. Clark’s campaign set up a website detailing the schools Mr. Dirks voted to close during his time on the Calgary Board of Education.
Running as a candidate in the Calgary-Foothills by-election, Mr. Prentice faces his main challenge from Wildrose candidate Kathy Macdonald, a 20-year veteran of the Calgary Police Service. Foothills has voted solidly PC since 1967 and while it is easy to assume that Mr. Prentice’s job as Premier makes him a shoe-in, he should not take voters for granted. Mr. Grenier has classified Foothills are a “tossup” between the PCs and Wildrose.
There is nothing more the opposition parties would love than to see a sitting Premier defeated in his own constituency. A loss in Foothills might be unlikely, but a loss of even one of the four by-elections would be a sign that the PCs, even under “new management,” remain politically vulnerable. By-elections can be risky for incumbent governments, especially when voters are eager to use their votes to send a message.
Upcoming all-candidates forums
Calgary-Foothills all-candidates forum: October 15, 8:30pm at the Edgemont Community Association (33 Edgevalley Circle NW).
With provincial by-elections in Alberta’s two biggest cities expected to be called soon, opposition parties are gearing up to challenge two unelected cabinet ministers running under the Progressive Conservative banner.
Dates for the by-election votes have not been scheduled and a third by-election for Premier Jim Prentice is also expected to take place. Mr. Prentice is expected to run in the Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill constituency.
By-elections are risky for incumbent governments, as they give voters an opportunity to send a message without changing government. These votes will provide the first indications whether Albertans are satisfied with Mr. Prentice’s ability to rebrand the scandal-plagued 43-year old PC Party Government.
Trigged by the resignation of former Premier Alison Redford, this by-election has been described as “ground zero” by the opposition Wildrose Party. Many of the neighbourhoods in this constituency were devastated by last year’s floods and I am told that many locals remain disappointed with the provincial government’s response in repairing the damage. Not surprisingly, many residents also remain very disappointed with the performance of their former PC MLA.
Newly appointed Education Minister Gordon Dirks, 67, has been acclaimed as the Progressive Conservative candidate. Mr. Dirks is a former Calgary school trustee and Saskatchewan PC MLA. His appointment to cabinet was a surprise to most political watchers.
Conservative activist Pat Walsh had announced plans to seek the PC nomination, but stepped aside last week to clear the way for Mr. Dirks’ acclamation. But this week, in a strange move, Mr. Walsh has endorsed Wildrose candidate John Fletcher.
Mr. Fletcher is a retired Canadian Forces Colonel and is a candidate the Wildrose believes can defeat the unelected Education minister.
The Liberals are looking to candidate Susan Wright to regain some of their former support in Calgary-Elbow. The Liberals won the constituency in a 2007 by-election to replace Mr. Klein, but lost it Ms. Redford the following year. While the Liberals have had a strong base of support in the constituency in previous elections, the party’s support plummeted in 2012. This by-election will test whether Dr. Raj Sherman’s Liberals are a viable political force in Calgary.
This will be Alberta Party leader Greg Clark’s second time running as a candidate in Calgary-Elbow, but this time he will have the support of celebrity political strategist Stephen Carter (formerly of the PC Party) and former Liberal Party campaign manager Corey Hogan. The Alberta Party briefly held a seat in the Assembly before the 2012 election, when former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor, who represented the neighbouring Calgary-Currie, joined their ranks. Mr. Clark hopes that he can become his party’s second-ever MLA.
Sure to cause a stir among die-hard New Democrats is Ms. McLean’s endorsement of popular Liberal MLA Kent Hehr’s campaign to become the federal Liberal candidate in Calgary-Centre.
I am told that the Green Party of Alberta has decided not to run a candidate in this by-election. It is unclear why they are sitting it out.
Constituency Association Net Assets, Calgary-Elbow, 2013 Progressive Conservative: $207,972.97 Wildrose: $72,625.47 Liberals: $540.79 NDP – $0 Alberta Party: $2,465.16
The PC Party’s longest-held constituency in Edmonton, Edmonton-Whitemud was represented by former Premier Dave Hancock from 1997 until his resignation last week.
Newly appointed Health Minister Stephen Mandel, 69, has been acclaimed as the PC candidate. The former three-term Edmonton Mayor remains popular among many Edmontonians and it is unclear whether he will face any serious challengers.
So far, the only candidate to step up to challenge him is Alberta Party President Will Munsey. An amiable character, Mr. Munsey ran under his party’s banner in the Leduc-Beaumont constituency in the last provincial election and as a Green Party candidate in Vegreville-Wainwright in the 2011 federal election.
The Liberals have yet to announce a candidate, but I am told that the party is working hard to recruit a former Edmonton Liberal MLA to run in the by-election. Similar to Elbow, the Whitemud by-election will test whether Dr. Sherman’s Liberals can regain their former strength in Edmonton.
As far as I am aware, no candidates have publicly declared their intentions to seek the Wildrose or NDP nominations at the time this column was published.
UPDATE: In the comment section of this blog, Dr. Bob Turner announced that he will be the NDP candidate in the Edmonton-Whitemud by-election.
Constituency Association Net Assets, Edmonton-Whitemud, 2013 PC = $32,366.72
Liberal – $1,528.40
NDP – $286.77
Alberta Party: $1,171.76
Alberta politics fact: While located in two different cities, the constituencies of Calgary-Elbow and Edmonton-Whitemud both include some of Alberta’s wealthiest neighbourhoods. Both have also been represented by two Premiers (Elbow by Ralph Klein and Ms. Redford, and Whitemud by Don Getty and Mr. Hancock).
As the salary disclosure “sunshine list” of Alberta’s senior public servants who earn more than $100,000 annually was released late last week, opposition critics honed in on Ms. Redford’s senior staff. The Wildrose opposition targeted the salary of chief of staff Farouk Adatia, whose annual salary was $316,274.69 in 2013, according to the disclosure list.
Wildrose leader Danielle Smith trotted out numbers showing that Mr. Adatia is paid nearly double the salary of American President Barack Obama‘s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, who earned $172,200 in 2013. In Mr. McDonough’s defence, this is a pitifully low salary for someone in such a senior government role.
Also on the Wildrose hit list was Ms. Redford’s director of communications, Stefan Baranski, who earned $207,829 in 2013, compared to the $179,311 earned by his predecessor in 2012.
While Mr. Adatia and Mr. Baranski may have fairly negotiated their salaries and benefits, it adds to the growing public perception that Ms. Redford is woefully out of touch with the reality faced by ordinary Albertans.
These salary increases in Ms. Redford’s inner circle occurred at the same time as the government is negotiatingforcing pay freezes on many frontline public sector employees. The same frontline workers are facing government-imposed changes to their pension plans, which could drastically impact their retirement security.
A political response to a political problem
The government’s salary disclosure list is a political response to last year’s outcry over the more than $2,000,000 in severance packages that had been paid to former senior staff in Ms. Redford’s office, including $130,000 in severance paid to former chief of staff, Stephen Carter(Mr. Carter released the amount in a tweet after Ms. Redford refused to answer media question about his severance package).
The by-election in Calgary-Centre is in full-swing with accusations and high-profile visits becoming a distinguishing characteristic of the campaign in advance of the November 26 vote.
1CalgaryCentre, the group bidding to unite progressive voters behind a single candidate, is becoming the source of much online frustration by both conservative and non-conservatives involved in this by-election.
Mr. Carter is best known for the roles he played in Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Premier Alison Redford‘s successful election campaigns. Mr. Hawkes is a prominent Calgary lawyer, son of former Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament Jim Hawkes, and ex-husband of Premier Redford. According to 1CalgaryCentre, the two men have not been involved with the group.
A partisan rift between many provincial and federal Conservatives was perpetuated when many federal Tory supporters, including Ms. Crockatt, were seen by provincial Tories as tacitly supporting the right-wing Wildrose Party in their bid to unseat the long-governing PC Party. A prolific tweeter and political commentator until her recent candidacy, Ms. Crockatt has avoided the online fray created by her supporters.
Meanwhile, supporters of Liberal Party candidate Harvey Locke are claiming that the 1CalgaryCentre group will inevitably endorse author and urban sustainability advocate Chris Turner, the Green Party candidate. While a recent poll suggests Mr. Locke is the leading opposition candidate, Mr. Turner’s campaign is generating more online buzz and excitement than any of the the candidates.
Results of the Forum Research poll are based on the total sample of 343 voters had a margin of error of +/- 5% 19 times our of 10. As we all know, polls are a snapshot of voters opinion at a certain moment in time. There is still twenty days left until the by-election day.
Mr. Locke was joined on the campaign trail by Calgary-McCall Liberal MLA Darshan Kang last week and has been campaigning on the slogan “entrepreneurial progressive voice for Calgary-Centre.” Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau brought some star power to Mr. Locke’s campaign when he visited the riding last month and sources suggest that he may stop by again when he is in Alberta later this month (he will be holding a rally in Edmonton on November 20).
Green Party leader and British Columbia MP Elizabeth May paid her second visit to support Mr. Turner’s campaign and attended a “soapbox” event in Central Memorial Park. On November 17, Ms, May and famous environmentalist David Suzuki will be attending a “Turning Point” rally supporting Mr. Turner’s candidacy at Scarboro United Church.
Calgary Conservative MP Diane Ablonczy and provincial Justice Minister Jonathan Denis hit the campaign trail with Ms. Crockatt last week. While a few Conservative politicians have stopped by the campaign in Calgary-Centre, political watchers are beginning to quietly speculate about Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s absence from the campaign in the downtown Calgary riding.
Davenport NDP MP Andrew Cash was in Calgary last weekend to help out Mr. Meades’ campaign. The official opposition Heritage critic, Mr. Cash attended a town hall forum on internet privacy and pub night jam session at the Marda Loop Community Association Hall.
Can the online campaign 1 Calgary Centre succeed in its goal to unite (or crowd-surf) progressive voters behind one candidate in the impending Calgary-Centre by-election? It is not impossible, but it is improbable.
The existence of a Naheed Nenshi, Linda Duncan, or Chima Nkemdirim style of candidate who progressive voters could unite behind could make Conservative organizers lose some sleep, but that candidate has yet to emerge and the December 4 deadline for the by-election to be called is quickly approaching. Much like the failure of the Democratic Renewal Project to unite parties on the provincial level, the reality of deep-rooted partisan associations driven by personalities who are committed to both brand and ideological are large challenges facing any group wanting to unite non-Conservative voters in this country.
Some supporters of the online 1 Calgary Centre movement have looked past the large plurality of votes earned by Conservative candidates in recent elections and point to the unlikely election of Joe Clark in the 2000 federal election. Keep in mind that Mr. Clark was no ordinary candidate. Mr. Clark was a former Prime Minister, senior cabinet minister, leader of the national Progressive Conservative Party, and he benefited from national profile, a televised leaders’ debate, and broad and diverse team of organizers in Calgary-Centre. Even with all this, he still only barely unseated Canadian Alliance Member of Parliament Eric Lowther. Mr. Clark was also a Conservative.
So perhaps Mr. Clark is not the best example. Of course, the by-election campaign has yet to officially begin and the final decision remains in the hands of voters in Calgary-Centre.
As the Conservative candidate in a riding that has only elected Conservative MPs since 1965, Ms. Crockatt is the safe bet to win (former Mayor Harry Hays was elected as a Liberal in 1963 when this riding was part of the larger Calgary-South riding). But being the safe bet does not always ensure a smooth road to victory, especially when said candidate has a somewhat controversial political past.
A number of provincial PC supporters have voiced frustration with Mr. Crockatt’s politics and her tacit support of Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party in the recent provincial election. A number of prominent provincial PCs, including Tourism Minister Christine Cusanelli, campaigned for Ms. Crockatt’s challengers in the Conservative nomination contest.
On September 22, the Liberal Party will be holding its nomination meeting to select a by-election candidate. The three approved candidates seeking this nomination are educator and TEDxCalgary co-founder Rahim Sajan, lawyer and conservationist Harvey Locke, and businessman Drew Atkins. A fourth candidate, who I understand has yet to be approved by party central, is Steve Turner.
Chatter on Twitter last week suggested that political spin-master Stephen Carter was involved in the campaign of Mr. Atkins, which turned out to be a false rumours. Both Mr. Lovett and Mr. Carter were involved in Mr. Clark’s successful Calgary-Centre campaign in 2000.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May was in Calgary earlier this month to congratulate popular local author Chris Turner on his acclamation as the Green Party candidate. An award-winning author, Mr. Turner is the co-founder of CivicCamp and was a board member of Sustainable Calgary from 2008 to 2011. Oil City might not seem like prosperous territory for the Green Party, but I would not be surprised to see Mr. Turner do well when the ballots are counted.
Past provincial New Democrat candidate Brian Malkinson is the first candidate to publicly announce he is seeking the yet to be scheduled federal NDP nomination. Running as the NDP candidate in Calgary-North West in the 2012 provincial election, Mr. Malkinson earned 3.17% of the vote. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was expected to attend an NDP fundraiser in Calgary on September 21, but the event has been postponed. He will be in Edmonton this weekend for the annual conference of provincial New Democrats.
Rumours abound about who might end up in Premier Redford’s new cabinet, which is expected to be appointed next week. While Tory stalwarts such as Dave Hancock, Doug Horner, Thomas Lukaszuk, and Doug Griffiths are almost certainly in line to keep a spot at the cabinet table, the retirement and defeat of a number of Tory MLAs and cabinet minister may have opened spots for new faces at the table.
We ask (nay, demand) our public office holders to do their very best 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. A $134,000 base salary does not seem unreasonable to me.
Electing a new Speaker
The first order of business when the Assembly convenes this Spring will be the election of a new Speaker for the first time since 1997. Candidates in the running include Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman and Tory MLA’s Gene Zwozdesky, Wayne Cao, and Mary Anne Jablonski.
Premier’s new Chief of Staff
Premier Alison Redford appointed Calgary lawyer Farouk Adatia as her Chief of Staff. Mr. Adatia replaces Stephen Carter, who was temporarily replaced by Elan McDonald in March 2012 (Mr. Carter took a leave of absence to work on the PC Party campaign). Mr. Adatia was the unsuccessful PC candidate in Calgary-Shaw in the recent election and had previously attempted to win the PC nomination in Calgary-Hawkwood.
Mandel to Smith: Pick up the Phone
In the most bizarre story of the week, Ms. Smith told the media that she had asked Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi to “broker a peace summit” between herself and Mayor Stephen Mandel. Over the past three years, the Calgary-based Ms. Smith has publicly opposed some high-profile decisions made by Edmonton City Council.
Mayor Mandel quite correctly responded to Ms. Smith’s “peace summit” comment by saying if she wanted to talk with him she could pick up the phone. One can only imagine how this relationship would have started if Ms. Smith had actually been elected Premier last week.
Alberta’s political twitterati were atwitter yesterday after a Progressive Conservative radio advertisement was leaked to the Calgary Herald. The ad defend the new law passed by Premier Alison Redford‘s government that will lower a driver’s legal blood alcohol level from 0.08 to 0.05 and respond to the constant, and sometimes creative, criticism of the new law by Danielle Smith and her Wildrose Party.
Judging by the amountof earnedmedia the Tories have already received about the yet-to-be-aired ad, the ad may have already paid for itself.
Unlike the negativeadssaturating the airwaves in the Republican Party presidential nomination race south of the border, this Tory radio ad is very, very tame. The ads point out a clear difference between the two parties on a real policy issue that both parties believe they have something to gain from.
Albertans should expect high levels of sensationalism from mainstream political pundits in over the course of the next week. How many times can we expect the phrase “the gloves off” to be used in the next few days? Lots.
The Tory Party’s shift in tactics is important to note. Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid points out on his blog that the ad marks an attitude change in a PC Party that would typically dismiss the opposition (and romp to another election victory).
Normally invulnerable, the Tories may be worried that accusations and evidence of intimidation and bad governance may be starting to stick. The growing pile of Tory political miscalculations and mistakes are starting to pile up with an election call expected by the end of March.
Yesterday, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation released information showing that 21 MLAs, mostly Tories, are being paid $1000 per month for being members of a legislative committee that has not met in over three years. Lacombe-Ponoka PC MLA Ray Prins has been collecting $18,000 a year for being the chair of the committee.
Bonnyville-Cold Lake PC MLA Genia Leskiw pleaded ignorance when asked about the extra money she was collecting from the committee, telling the CBC that “I don’t even look at my paycheque.”