Any good talk radio host understands that the show doesn’t belong to the host, it belongs to the listeners. And if this past weekend’s annual general meeting is any indication, talk radio host-turned-Premier Danielle Smith might be taking a similar approach as leader of the United Conservative Party.
Aside from a nod to protecting parental rights during her keynote speech, Smith largely stood out of the way as more than 3,700 delegates packed into Calgary’s BMO Centre to vote on party policy and elect a new executive board. It was an impressive crowd and probably the largest provincial political convention in Alberta’s history.
The UCP board is the governing body of the organization and is made up of seventeen elected directors, party leader Premier Danielle Smith, and two non-voting MLAs who serve as Caucus liaisons. The two MLA spots, which are chosen through a vote of UCP MLAs, are currently filled by Camrose MLA Jackie Lovely and Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland MLA Shane Getson.
Half of the UCP director positions are up for election this year and the sweeping success of the slate of candidates backed by the social conservative Take Back Alberta group at last year’s AGM has fuelled a lot of speculation about what might happen in this election.
A hot, dry, and windy spring has sparked dangerous wildfires across Alberta.
More than 25,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in communities including Brazeau County, Drayton Valley, Edson, Entwistle, Evansburg, and the County of Grande Prairie. In rural areas, this not only means that people need to get out quick but they also need to arrange the speedy transport of livestock caught in the paths of the fires.
Alberta’s provincial election is probably the last thing on the minds of most people impacted by these natural disasters, but the wildfires will certainly play a defining role in the second week of Alberta’s provincial election campaign.
One of the three candidates running for the United Conservative Party nomination in south west Alberta’s Livingstone-Macleod riding was at the Petroleum Club event.
Tanya Clemens posted a photo of herself posing with Anderson on her social media at the talk. The photo caption included the quote “If the government is afraid of the people, you have democracy. If the people are afraid of the government, you have tyranny.”
When asked for comment about her attendance at Anderson’s event, Clemens replied:
“Like our Members of Parliament, I was unaware of her views and political history.
She was one of a few individuals that used their international platforms to call out Justin Trudeau’s unacceptable and dictator like behaviour during COVID and that is why I went to the event in the first place.
I had no additional information on Anderson, but had I known about her unacceptable stances beforehand, I would not have attended the event.”
The Calgary events were attended by Freedom Convoy organizer Tamara Lich and lawyer Keith Wilson, and street pastor-turned-Independence Party of Alberta leader Artur Pawlowski, who has turned the party into a vehicle of right-wing conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the World Economic Forum.
Following the event, Anderson sat down for a one-on-one interview with Canadian Olympian and COVID-19 conspiracy theorist Jamie Salé.
Former Alberta Prosperity Project leader running for UCP nomination in Edmonton-Riverview
The APP has organized chapters around the province and promotes a range of conspiracy theories on its social media related to COVID-19, Digital ID, 15-minute cities and the World Economic Forum. The organization also recently promoted the debunked claim that commissioner of the Public Order Emergency Commission Paul Rouleau is the husband of Trudeau’s aunt (he’s not).
Until recently, the Alberta Prosperity Project’s chief executive officer was Dr. Dennis Modry.
Dr. Modry is a well-known Edmonton-based surgeon, having completed Alberta’s first heart transplant in 1985 and founding the heart & lung transplantation program at the University of Alberta. He was also a fundraiser for the Progressive Conservative Party in the 1980s and 1990s and was co-chair of Doug Main’s campaign for the PC Party leadership in 1992.
But Dr. Modry’s more recent political activities have moved further from the mainstream. He served as VP Policy and Governance of the Wildrose Independence Party before that party’s implosion and has since promoted Alberta sovereignty through the APP.
The APP has loudly advocated for the Alberta government to hold a referendum on independence from Canada, which the group says would give Alberta a strong position to negotiate with Ottawa.
The APP recently changed the by-laws posted on its website but a proposed party by-laws document posted in May 2022 outlined APP plans to create a separatist political party called the “Provincial Party” that would be renamed the “National Party” after a successful referendum on independence from Canada. The 2022 by-laws called for an independence referendum and included vague plans about establishing an Alberta “Constitution, Charter of Freedoms, Rights, & Responsibilities, and Declaration of Independence.”
The 2023 by-laws outline the creation of a new Alberta Republic, including the creation of a “Defense Force for the Republic” that would include an army, air force, cyber force, and navy (presumably the Alberta navy would have a home port at Cold Lake or Slave Lake).
The 2023 document also outlines APP plans to create a “Republic’s Reserve Bank” and create a “a mint for the Republic” that “will be evaluated in relation to three currency choices; Canadian, USA, or new currency minted in Alberta.”
The fundraising event was billed as an opportunity for the UCP leadership candidates to share their plans to protect Albertans from “the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 and World Economic Forum’s Great Reset.”
Only three of the seven UCP leadership candidates participated in the debate: Danielle Smith, Brian Jean and Todd Loewen.
“So part of when I decided I wanted to run [for Alberta premier], I knew how important it was to make sure that we addressed the issues of autonomy,” Smith said. “And I talked to Dr. Modry as one of my first steps. I said, ‘let’s try this together.’”
A UCP nomination meeting has not yet been scheduled in Edmonton-Riverview and I’m told that at least one or two other candidates might enter the contest.
A nomination vote in Livingstone-Macleod is scheduled for March 9, 10 and 11. The candidates in that race are Tanya Clemens, Town of Claresholm Mayor Chelsae Petrovic, and former pastor Don Whalen.
Today, I met with Premier Smith to inform her that I will not be seeking the nomination and re-election for Calgary-North East. I will continue to serve as the MLA for Calgary-North East until the end of this mandate.
Serving as the MLA for this constituency and as a Minister of several portfolios, under both the Honourable Jason Kenney and Honourable Premier Smith, has been a tremendous honour and a great privilege. I thank both of these great leaders for the opportunities they have afforded me to serve in their Cabinets. I continue to be a strong supporter of Premier Smith and her leadership and I look forward to the United Conservative Party forming government again after May of this year.
I would like to thank my colleagues, my team, my supporters and most of all, my family for their unconditional and unwavering support over the past many years.
Finally, I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to my constituents in Calgary-North East for placing their trust and faith in me as their MLA.
Sawhney was first elected to the Legislature in 2019 and has since served as Minister of Community & Social Services from 2019 to 2021 and Minister of Transportation from 2021 until 2022. She ran for the UCP leadership in 2022, finishing sixth on the first and second ballots. She was appointed Minister of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism in October 2022.
Despite Myshrall having endorsements from UCP Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, Highwood MLA R.J. Sigurdson and former Ponoka mayor Larry Henkelman, sources tell me that Johnson won with more than 70 per cent of the votes cast.
Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Funky Banjoko is running as an independent candidate in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. “Each of these parties all have their own good ideas. But right now, there’s so much division,” Banjoko told Fort McMurray Today. “I want to run as an independent for the benefit of residents of this region and not for ideologies or politics.”
Marketing company owner Nolan Dyckis running for UCP nomination in Grande Prairie. Dyck also serves as a the Connections Manager at the Peace River Bible Institute. Current UCP MLA Tracy Allard is not running for re-election.
Ali Haymour is running for the UCP nomination in Edmonton-North West. Haymour will be a familiar name to north Edmonton voters, having previously run for City Council in 2017 and 2021, and as the Alberta Party candidate in Edmonton-Decore in 2019 and the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Castle Downs in 2008 and 2012.
Also of note, Central Peace-Notley UCP MLA Todd Loewen is hosting a February 25 fundraiser for St. Albert UCP candidate Angela Wood at the Fox Creek Community Hall in his northern Alberta riding.
This kind of thing is not unheard of. Earlier this month, supporters in Edmonton hosted a fundraiser for Calgary-Glenmore NDP candidate Nagwan Al-Guneid.
Rutherford was elected in 2019 with 58.4 per cent of the vote. He announced his retirement from provincial politics shortly after he was appointed by Premier Danielle Smith as Government Caucus Whip and Minister without Portfolio.
The NDP have nominated paramedic Cam Heenan as their candidate. The riding was represented by NDP MLA Shaye Anderson from 2015 to 2019.
Taking Back Jason Nixon’s nomination
The Take Back Alberta-stacked board of the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre UCP association announced on Facebook that they have begun discussions to reopen the nomination in the riding. Incumbent MLA Jason Nixon‘s allies were recently voted off the board and replaced by a TBA-backed slate.
Nixon served as Minister of Finance in the waining days of Kenney’s government and was dropped from cabinet when Smith entered the Premier’s Office. His brother, Jeremy Nixon, is the UCP MLA for Calgary-Klein and is now the Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services.
Take Back Alberta also has its sights set on taking over the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake UCP board and reopening the candidate nomination in that riding.
Local UCP President and the junior Dreeshen’s uncle, Charlie Moore, is defiant.
“They’re storming the castle and we’re heating up the boiling oil, I guess,” Moore told the Western Standard. “I’ve sent my troops forward to try to talk to some of the more logical ones in that group. We have to convert some of them. Surely there’s some common sense in there somewhere. They can’t all be totally extremists.”
Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock: Landen Tischer is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in this sprawling rural riding north of Edmonton at a February 25 nomination meeting. Check out his TikTok’s.
Calgary-North East – Inderjit Grewal has joined the UCP nomination contest in this riding currently represented by cabinet minister Rajan Sawhney. Former Dashmesh Culture Centre chairman Harjit Singh Saroya is also running for the nomination.
Cypress-Medicine Hat: Independent MLA Drew Barnesannounced he will not seek the UCP nomination to run for re-election. The former UCP was kicked out of the governing caucus in 2021 after becoming one of Kenney’s biggest internal public critics. He and now-returned UCP MLA Todd Loewen formed an unofficial UCP-caucus-in-exile during their banishment but Barnes did not return into the UCP fold when Loewen ran for the party leadership in 2022. Barnes publicly mused in 2021 about starting a rural-based political party.
Edmonton-Ellerslie: Ranjit Bath was nominated as the UCP candidate in this southeast Edmonton riding.
Suvanto is President of the federal Conservative electoral district association in Edmonton-Manning and is a leader with the Fort Road Victory Church.
The riding has been represented by NDP MLA Deron Bilous since 2012. Bilous announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election after 3-terms as MLA. Teacher and past NDP president Peggy Wrightwon the nomination to succeed Bilous as the NDP candidate.
Robin Kurpjuweit enters UCP contest in Cypress-Medicine Hat
Cypress County Councillor Robin Kurpjuweit announced his plans to seek the UCP nomination in Cypress-Medicine Hat. Kurpjuweit was first elected to county council in 2017. He joins former Western Standard VP of Operations James Finkbeiner in the nomination contest.
The riding is currently represented by Independent MLA Drew Barnes, who was elected in 2012 and 2015 as a Wildrose Party candidate and in 2019 under the UCP banner. He was kicked out of the UCP Caucus in May 2021, but unlike his colleague Todd Loewen, he has not rejoined the governing conservative caucus. It is looking increasingly like Barnes won’t rejoin the UCP.
While there are no more scheduled nomination votes in the final days of 2022, there are still outstanding UCP nomination results in ridings where acclamations are expected (Edmonton-Rutherford and Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin) and the results of the recount of the UCP nomination in Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul has not been released. The vote was sent for a recount at the party’s provincial office after former MLA Scott Cyrfinished one vote ahead of incumbent MLA David Hanson.
Thank you to everyone who has followed my nomination updates and shared information about who is in the running. I expect it will be a busy few months of nominations ahead of the May 2023 election, so please keep on sharing your local nomination updates with me.
With thousands of submissions made to the sixth annual Best of Alberta Politics 2022 survey, your choices have been sorted and you can now vote for the top 3 choices in each category. Voting is open until Dec. 22, 2022 at 8:00 pm and the winners will be announced shortly after at daveberta.ca. Thank you to everyone who voted.
The United Conservative Party announced the nominations of incumbent MLAs Peter Guthrie in Airdrie-Cochrane, Angela Pitt in Airdrie-East, Jason Copping in Calgary-Varsity, and Todd Loewen in Central Peace-Notley.
Calgary-Elbow: Lawyer Chris Davis defeated past city council candidate Cornelia Weibe and lawyer Andrea James to win the UCP nomination. Recent UCP leadership candidate Jon Horsman had announced his candidacy in the race but did not appear on the ballot. The riding not been represented in the Legislature since former UCP MLA Doug Schweitzerresigned on August 31, 2022.
Calgary-Lougheed: Former premier Jason Kenney has resigned as MLA for the southwest Calgary riding. Kenney was first elected as MLA in a 2017 by-election and was re-elected in 2019.
Drayton Valley-Devon: Real estate agent Andrew Boitchenko defeated former constituency president Carol Vowk and Brazeau County Councillor Kara Westerlund to secure the UCP nomination. Boitchenko ran for the UCP nomination in 2018 but was defeated by UCP MLA Mark Smith. Smith is not running for re-election in 2023.
Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview: Felix Amenaghawon, Lana Palmer and Luke Suvanto are seeking the UCP nomination. A nomination vote is scheduled for December 20.
Edmonton-Mill Woods: Raman Athwal has been nominated as the UCP candidate.
Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo: MLA Tany Yao is facing Zulkifl Mujahid and construction association CEO Keith Plowman in the UCP nomination in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. Voting for the nomination closes at 9:00 p.m. tonight. UPDATE: Mujahid defeated Yao and Plowman to win the UCP nomination.
St. Albert: Past mayoral candidate Angela Wood defeated ministerial press secretary Melissa Crane to win the UCP nomination.
And as noted in the Alberta Today newsletter, Ontario political staffer Pierçon Knezic has been hired as the UCP’s Director of Election Readiness.
Livingstone-Macleod: Conservationist and author Kevin Van Tighem was nominated as the Alberta NDP candidate in Livingstone-Macleod. Van Tighem is the former Superintendent of Banff National Park and he has been an outspoken critic of the UCP government’s plans to allow open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains.
The Green Party has nominated Catriona Wright in Calgary-South East and Ernestina Malheiro in Edmonton-Gold Bar, Kristina Howard in Edmonton-West Henday, Taylor Lower in Lacombe-Ponoka, and Tegra-Lee Campbell in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright.
Upcoming nomination meetings
Here are the scheduled upcoming nominations:
December 4 – Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo UCP
December 8 – West Yellowhead NDP
December 9 & 10 – Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock UCP
December 10, 11, 12 – Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul UCP
Chris Brown and I discuss the last month in the United Conservative Party leadership race, Danielle Smith’s unexpected rise to the top, and how a Smith led UCP will do against Notley’s NDP in 2023 (or sooner) on the latest episode of the Cross Border Interviews Podcast.
Watch the interview here:
Subscribe and listen to Chris Brown’s Cross Border Podcast on Apple and Spotify.
With Danielle Smith‘s campaign for the United Conservative Party leadership appearing to pick up momentum, and recent endorsements from Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen, Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Nate Glubish, Edmonton-South West MLA Kaycee Madu, and Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn suggesting the mood in the UCP caucus is shifting in her favour, some people have been sharing links of a series of articles I wrote 13 years ago about Smith’s time on the disastrous 1998-1999 Calgary Board of Education.
Reading it now, I see it’s a little awkwardly formatted, so please forgive this young blogger from 2009.
It’s also important to recognize that the Calgary Board of Education in those years wasn’t a gong show just because of Danielle Smith. It was a real group effort.
The board of trustees was so dysfunctional that it was fired by the provincial government.
Smith’s current beliefs and past record on public education became more relevant after last week’s UCP leadership candidates forum at the Alberta Teachers’ Association summer conference in Banff, which you can watch here:
There ain’t no party like a fringe right-wing Alberta separatist party.
Less than two months after Paul Hinman was ousted as leader of the Wildrose Independence Party and replaced by interim leader Jeevan Mangat, it appears that a counter-kudatah (known outside Alberta as a “coup d’état”) has pushed out Hinman’s opponents.
An online statement and email to WIP members from former Wexit Alberta interim leader Kathy Flett, who identifies herself as the WIP VP Communications, says a false narrative is being put out by the former Provincial Board after a well-attended annual general meeting on July 23, 2022 in Red Deer.
“There have been repeated claims that a “Minority Group of 40 or so” members “Took Over” the AGM,” Flett writes. “The Facts tell a different story.”
“This weekend in Red Deer, history was made as Wildrose members stood steadfast for what they knew was right. Their tenacity and persistence forced those who thought they should remain on the board to finally walk out in shame.”
“What occurred yesterday is a sad example of what happens when a small group of individuals completely lose touch with the will of the majority.”
“The Wildrose Independence Party belongs to its members, not the Party Board of Governors, and, therefore, Rick Northey, Wes Caldwell, Bill Jones, et al, are no longer Governors of the Wildrose Independence Party.”
“As of this moment, they still control the party’s website and email system. As such, we advise you to disregard any communications originating from “Wildrosenation.com” until we’ve confirmed with you that it is, again, from us.”
According to Flett’s statement, the newly elected board includes President Angela Tabak (the party’s president in Cardston-Siksika), Chief Finance Officer Allan Wesley, and Secretary Gord Elliot (who until recently was President of the United Conservative Party constituency association in Calgary-North West).
The takeover appears to have pushed out President Rick Northey (the former President of the Wildrose Party association in Airdrie) and CFO Bill Jones.
As of this afternoon, the party’s website showed most of the party’s Board of Governors positions as vacant but still listed Northey and Jones, as well as former Conservative MP Rob Anders and separatist activist Bob Lefurgey as members of the party’s board.
It appears as though Hinman has been reinstated as party leader but Elections Alberta still lists Mangat as the party’s interim leader, so it’s not totally clear.
Hinman originally stepped into the role on an interim basis in 2020 but later became the party’s permanent leader when no one else ran for the leadership. He was leader of the Wildrose Alliance from 2005 to 2009 and was elected to the Legislature twice – as MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 and MLA for Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012. He briefly mounted a campaign for the UCP leadership in 2017 but withdrew before the nomination deadline and endorsed Jason Kenney.
The Wildrose Independence Party was created in 2020 as a merger of the Wexit Alberta group created after the federal Liberals were re-elected in 2019 and the Freedom Conservative Party, which was previously known as the Alberta First Party, Separation Party of Alberta, and the Western Freedom Party.
The WIP has suffered from poor fundraising returns in recent months, raising a measly $7,613 in the second quarter of 2022, and low support in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.
A recent push by UCP leadership candidates Danielle Smith, Brian Jean and Todd Loewen toward all out separatism or some form of provincial autonomy has given a second wind to Alberta separatists but sucked the wind out of the sails of the actual separatist parties.
Recent merger talks with the competing Independence Party of Alberta fell apart in June 2022. A statement on the IPA website lists Northey and Jones as key negotiators for the WIP in those talks.
The IPA, formerly known as the Alberta Independence Party, went through its own internal drama after the 2019 election and is now in the process of choosing its second new leader since that election. Former federal Liberal candidate and anti-COVID restrictions activist lawyer Katherine Kowalchuk is the only candidate in the race.
All this ongoing drama is almost par for the course for Alberta’s small cottage industry of right-wing separatist parties, but it raises the big question: How do they plan to fight Ottawa when they are so busy fighting themselves?