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Alberta Politics

Sharif Haji defeats MLA Chris Nielsen in Edmonton-Decore NDP race, UCP choose Sayid Ahmed in same north Edmonton riding

Sharif Haji defeated MLA Chris Nielsen to win the Alberta NDP nomination in Edmonton-Decore.

“As a immigrant, as a black person, as a Muslim person, and as someone who has spent years working in community building, I hope to empower voices that have not always been heard in the halls of power,” said Haji. “I believe that we can all be uplifted through our collective efforts and that government has a responsibility to address the needs of all Albertans.”

Haji is the executive director of the Africa Centre and previously worked as for the provincial government’s departments of Health and Seniors and Housing. He has a master’s degree in public health from the University of Alberta.

Edmonton-Decore MLA Chris Nielsen (center) at a demonstration with members of United Nurses of Alberta
Edmonton-Decore MLA Chris Nielsen (center) at a demonstration with members of United Nurses of Alberta

Nielsen has represented the north Edmonton riding since 2015 and is the first incumbent MLA to lost their party’s nomination during this election cycle.

And also in Edmonton-Decore, Sayid Ahmed has been acclaimed as the United Conservative Party candidate. Ahmed is a manager in the provincial Department of Health and Vice President of Policy for the Alberta Advisory Board of the Conservative Black Congress of Canada.

Sayid Ahmed and UCP MLA Jordan Walker

The Edmonton-Decore riding is named after former Edmonton mayor and Liberal MLA Laurence Decore, who represented the north end riding of Edmonton-Glengarry from 1989 to 1997. The riding was renamed in his honour ahead of the 2004 election.

MLA Decore’s successors included Liberal MLAs Bill Bonner (1997-2004) and Bill Bonko (2004-2008), Progressive Conservative MLA Janice Sarich (2008-2015), and Nielsen (2015-present). 

NDP nominate retired teacher in Brooks-Medicine Hat

Gwendoline Dirk was nominated as the NDP candidate in Brooks-Medicine Hat. The retired school teacher currently serves on the Medicine Hat Police Commission.

“All of the communities in this area face unique challenges, and that can change from town to town and even from farm to farm,” Dirk said. “We need folks in the legislature that are listening and collaborating with these communities to address the challenges they face, and I am confident I can be that voice on Rachel Notley’s team.”

Camrose UCP open nominations

Jackie Lovely MLA Camrose UCP
Jackie Lovely

The UCP have opened nominations in Camrose, where first term MLA Jackie Lovely is facing a challenge from Beaver County Reeve Kevin Smook. Lovely was elected in Camrose in 2019 after running as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015. Smook ran as the Alberta Party candidate in Camrose in 2019.

The UCP have also set June 29 as the date of the nomination meeting in Edmonton-South West. Labour Minister Kaycee Madu is being challenged by window and door restoration company owner and former champion Moldovan table tennis Slava Cravcenco.

And in the neighbouring riding to the north, Edmonton-West Henday, the NDP are expected to acclaim lawyer Brooks Arcand-Paul as their candidate at a June 29 nomination meeting.

On the doors

NDP leader Rachel Notley and Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen were spotted doorknocking with candidate Diana Batten in Calgary-Acadia.

Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin and St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud joined Lethbridge-West Shannon Phillips at Lethbridge pride celebrations this weekend.

UCP leadership candidate Travis Toews was doorknocking with MLA Josephine Pon in Calgary-Beddington.

Toews campaign did not respond to questions from the media about his stance on womens’ access to abortion services following the repeal of Roe v. Wade in the United States.

Anti-abortion activist MP Arnold Viersen, celebrated the decision by the US Supreme Court last week. Viersen has reportedly endorsed Toews in the UCP leadership race.


I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

(And, I know I’ve said this before but feel free to sign up for the Daveberta Substack.)

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Alberta Politics

A Mile a Minute: Michelle Rempel Garner out, Raj Sherman in (kind of), and UCP leadership candidates debate Alberta autonomy

Alberta politics moves at a mile a minute.

Days after getting a waiver from the United Conservative Party to join the leadership race because she didn’t meet the 6 month membership requirement, Calgary Member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner announced she will not join the UCP leadership race.

Rempel Garner’s announcement comes less than 24-hours after Patrick Brown‘s campaign manager quit to allegedly work on her campaign and a poll put her at the top of the pack among UCP supporters.

But it wasn’t to be.

In a long statement posted on her newly launched Substack, Rempel Garner says the UCP is too much of a hot mess for her to lead.

“…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.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP Premier
Rachel Notley (source: Facebook)

It was a brutal critique of Alberta’s main conservative party.

She’s not wrong.

Affable Calgary-Fish Creek UCP MLA Richard Gotfried agrees.

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.

Raj Sherman Liberal Party leader Election 2012
Raj Sherman (source: Dave Cournoyer)

Edmonton emergency room doctor Raj Sherman says he’s running for the leadership despite the party denying him the same waiver granted to Rempel Garner.

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 wants Alberta to ignore federal laws she doesn’t like. She calls it the Alberta Sovereignty Act.

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.

Not that Toews is immune from controversy.

His campaign co-chair Grande Prairie-Mackenzie MP Chris Warkentin was part of a group of Conservatives who welcomed anti-vaccine activists to Ottawa this week.

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?

Alberta autonomy.

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.

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Alberta Politics

The race for UCP leader on the Cross Border Politics Podcast

As the United Conservative Party leadership race begins to take shape, I joined Chris Brown on his Cross Border Interviews Podcast to talk about the race, the declared and prospective candidates, and what impact it will have on Alberta politics.

Cross Border Interviews with Chris Brown · Episode 393 – The Race For The UCP Leadership

It appears that the UCP will allow Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner to enter the leadership race, if she chooses, even though she has not had a current party membership for the full past six months as required (there is no doubt she is a committed Conservative partisan).

A similar request for an exemption by former Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman was denied.

Kenney’s caretaker cabinet shuffle

Outgoing Premier Jason Kenney announced a cabinet shuffle to fill in the spots left by ministers leaving to run in the race to replace him.

Changes to the caretaker cabinet, which will be in place until a new Premier takes office after the October 6 UCP leadership vote, include:

  • Minister of Environment and Parks and Acting President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Jason Nixon becomes President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance.
  • Associate Minister of Status of Women Whitney Issik becomes Minister of Environment and Parks.
  • Calgary-South East MLA Matt Jones becomes Minister of Children’s Services.
  • Minister of Infrastructure Prasad Panda becomes Minister of Transportation.
  • Calgary-Currie MLA Nicholas Milliken becomes Minister of Infrastructure.
  • Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville MLA Jackie Armstrong Homeniuk becomes the Associate Minister of Status of Women.
  • Deputy Government Whip Brad Rutherford becomes Chief Government Whip and Minister without Portfolio.

Unsurprisingly, everyone on the list is considered a loyalist, and a few, notably Issik, Milliken, and Rutherford, are considered vulnerable to strong NDP challenges in the next election.

Issik, Jones and Armstrong Homeniuk have publicly endorsed former finance minister Travis Toews for the UCP leadership, who is widely considered the establishment favourite in the race.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Race to replace Jason Kenney takes shape – Rajan Sawhney and Rebecca Schulz join the fray. Will Michelle Rempel Garner and Raj Sherman be next?

Hey there politics fans!

The United Conservative Party released its leadership race rule book!

UCP members will choose a replacement for Premier Jason Kenney on October 6, 2022.

It will cost $150,000 to enter the race, plus an extra $25,000 good behaviour deposit.

Low rollers need not apply.

It’s not just a race to replace Kenney.

It’s a race to save the UCP from defeat against Rachel Notley‘s resurgent Alberta NDP.

And the race is starting to take shape.

The cowboy hat wearing former Finance Minister from Beaverlodge, Travis Toews, launched his campaign last week with endorsements from 23 UCP MLAs, including Energy Minister Sonya Savage and Justice Minister Tyler Shandro.

Savage and Grande Prairie-Mackenzie MP Chris Warkentin are co-chairing his campaign.

Toews is seen as the establishment favourite, which isn’t always a blessing.

Just ask Jim Dinning and Gary Mar.

Former Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney launched her campaign yesterday with a whistle-stop tour down the QEII, starting with media events in Edmonton, Penhold and Airdrie before ending at a +700-person rally in north east Calgary.

It was a strong kick-off.

Sawhney’s campaign is being run by well-known political strategist and conservative thinker Ken Boessenkool, who worked as an advisor to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former BC Premier Christy Clark.

Her former chief of staff (and former Daveberta Podcast co-host) Ryan Hastman is her deputy campaign manager.

Angela Pitt MLA Airdrie-East UCP
Angela Pitt (source: Facebook)

Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt is Sawhney’s campaign chair.

It’s an odd fit for a leadership candidate who appears to be trying to position herself as a political moderate (no word if South Tyrol-like autonomy for Alberta will be in her platform).

Pitt endorsed Brian Jean for the UCP leadership 2017, and even have him credit for her entry into politics.

This time she’s backing Sawhney.

Jean is launching his campaign at a hotel in west Edmonton tomorrow. 

Autonomy for Albertans is Jean’s slogan, not Anatomy for Albertans, as this writer first thought he read.

The former Wildrose Party leader launched his second political comeback in last year’s Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election with the singular purpose of defeating Kenney in the leadership review and run to replace him.

He’s met half his goal so far.

Another former Wildrose leader, Danielle Smith is also trying for her second political comeback after a short and disastrous stint on the Calgary Board of Education in the late 1990s and as Wildrose Party leader from 2009 until she infamously abandoned her party to join Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservatives in 2014.

For many conservatives, especially those of the Wildrose-variety, it is a betrayal that will live in infamy.

The leadership is only one-half of Smith’s comeback attempt. 

She’s also challenging MLA Roger Reid for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod, which appears far from a safe-bet.

Rebecca Schulz United Conservative Party leadership candidate
Rebecca Schulz (source: Facebook)

First-term south Calgary MLA Rebecca Schulz stepped down as Children’s Services Minister to jump into the race.

Schulz wants to take on what she describes as “the boys club.”

She has the backing of Calgary City Councillor Dan McLean, Health Minister Jason Copping, UCP MLAs Michaela Frey and Jeremy Nixon, MPs Laila Goodridge and Stephanie Kusie, former federal Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose and former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall. 

The Wall endorsement might seem odd, but he endorsed Schulz in her bid to win the hotly contested Calgary-Shaw UCP nomination race back in 2018.

The Saskatchewan native was a spokesperson in Wall’s government before moving to Alberta in the mid-2010s, and her husband, Cole Schulz, was a ministerial chief of staff in Regina (he’s now the Vice President, Communications for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in Calgary).

UCP MLA Leela Aheer, who was ousted from cabinet for calling on Kenney to resign, is in and wants to “defeat the machines.”

“I think Albertans will defeat the machines. They understand what the machine is. They’re frustrated with the machine,” she told reporters.

She’s also facing a strong nomination challenge in her Chestermere-Strathmore riding.

Northern Alberta UCP MLA-in-exile Todd Loewen also jumped into the race, as did Village of Amisk Mayor Bill Rock, another former Wildrose Party candidate.

But one of the big potential contenders, Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, is playing coy. 

Maybe she’ll run. Maybe she won’t.

Her text message reply to Press Gallery Dean Don Braid was “hahahaha!”

Raj Sherman MLA
Raj Sherman

And the hot gossip in political circles today is that erratic former Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman is thinking about joining the fray. 

Sherman was first elected as a PC MLA in 2008 but was driven out of that party and scooped up the Liberal leadership in 2011. He left politics in 2015 and returned to being full-time ER doctor. 

He also donated $4,000 to the Alberta Party last year.

So it’s a scramble. It’s a dog’s breakfast.

And there could be more.

We’ll know soon enough.

July 20 is the deadline for candidates to pay up if they want to stay in the race.

The high-entry fee will quickly weed out candidates who can’t raise enough money.

August 12 is the deadline to buy a membership.

No time for the two-minute Tories who wreaked havoc against the establishment candidates in the old PC Party leadership races.

The party is also organizing debates and attendance by all candidates is mandatory.

Stragglers will risk be fined or disqualified, or both.

It’s no Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, but it’s bound to be entertaining to watch.


Liberal Party seeks new leader

The Alberta Liberal Party also announced that it will be holding their own leadership vote and choosing a new leader on September 25, 2022.

Former party leader David Khan stepped down in November 2020 after failing to win a seat in the 2019 election, marking the first time since before 1986 that the provincial Liberals not represented in the Legislature.

Party stalwart John Roggeveen has filled the spot as interim leader since March 2021.

The race has no candidates as of yet. The second place finisher from the 2017 leadership race, Kerry Cundal, is running for the Alberta Party in Calgary-Elbow.


And don’t forget to sign up for my Substack at daveberta.substack.com.

Categories
Alberta Politics

The First Four: Travis Toews, Brian Jean, Danielle Smith and Todd Loewen enter the United Conservative Party leadership race

The race has started.

Four candidates have filed their intent with Elections Alberta to join the race to replace Jason Kenney as leader of the United Conservative Party:

Travis Toews: Finance Minister since 2019. MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti since 2019. Former president of the Canadian Cattleman’s Association. Looks comfortable in a business suit or Carhartts. Sounds like the adult in the room but is connected to a northern Alberta Bible college with some fairly backwards views about yoga and same-sex relationships. Probably one of the more hardline fiscal conservatives in the UCP cabinet. Grand champion of the 1976 4-H calf show in Hythe. Likely UCP establishment favourite.

Brian Jean United Conservative Party Leadership Wildrose
Brian Jean during his 2017 bid for the United Conservative Party leadership.

Brian Jean: Leader of the Wildrose Party from 2015 to 2017. Target of a kamikaze campaign during the 2017 UCP leadership race. MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche since 2022. MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin from 2015 to 2018. MP for Fort McMurray-Athabasca from 2004 to 2014. Toyed with COVID skepticism and Alberta separatism. Jason Kenney’s worst enemy. Lawyer, businessman and Golden Boy of Fort McMurray.

Jim Prentice Danielle Smith Alberta Wildrose Merger PC
Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Premier Jim Prentice on December 17, 2014.

Danielle Smith: Leader of the Wildrose Party from 2009 to 2014. MLA for Highwood from 2012 to 2015. Crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservative Party in 2014. Calgary public school trustee from 1998 to 1999. Alumna of the Fraser Institute, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Calgary Herald, Global TV, and Chorus Radio. Current President of the Alberta Enterprise Group. Running for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. Embraced COVID conspiracy theories.

Independent MLA Todd Loewen Free Alberta Strategy Separatist
Independent MLA Todd Loewen

Todd Loewen: MLA for Central Peace-Notley since 2019. MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky from 2015 to 2019 and Wildrose candidate in the riding in 2008 and 2012. Resigned as UCP Caucus chair in 2021 after calling on Kenney to resign and was kicked out of caucus the next day. Formed a UCP Caucus-in-exile with fellow ousted MLA Drew Barnes. Drove his motorhome in the Freedom Convoy to Ottawa. Renowned in the UCP Caucus for his pancake cooking skills.

These four have registered others are expected.

Rajan Sawhney

Transportation Minister and Calgary-North East MLA Rajan Sawhney has tapped longtime conservative strategist Ken Boessenkool to run her exploratory committee.

“[W]hat this race needs right now is just not more of the same,” Sawhney told reporters in a statement.

Children’s Services Minister and Calgary-Shaw MLA Rebecca Schultz isn’t in the race yet but already has an endorsement from former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall. Schultz worked for Wall’s government before she moved to Alberta in 2016.

Government House leader and chief Kenney lieutenant Jason Nixon is rumoured to be thinking about running.

So are former cabinet ministers Leela Aheer and Devin Dreeshen.

And Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner is rumoured to be testing the waters. She would be an interesting addition to the race, though recent history has not been kind to federal politicians jumping into provincial politics in Alberta.

The party has appointed a committee that is expected to release rules, entry requirements and timelines for the leadership race before the beginning of summer.

UDPATE! Village of Amisk mayor Bill Rock has registered with Elections Alberta to run in the UCP leadership race. Rock was the Wildrose Party candidate in the Wetaskiwin-Camrose riding in the 2015 election. He was parachuted into the riding after previously nominated candidate Gordon Hatch withdrew from the race and endorsed PC MLA Verlyn Olson following Danielle Smith‘s floor-crossing.

Note: Registering as a candidate with Elections Alberta does not mean automatic approval as a candidate by the UCP. Registering with Election Alberta allows the candidates to fundraise under Alberta’s current political finance rules.

Categories
Alberta Politics

NDP choose RN Diana Batten in Calgary-Acadia, UCP push ahead with nominations in Calgary and Edmonton

The Alberta NDP nominated Registered Nurse Diana Batten in Calgary-Acadia.

“This community is especially tired of the lack of professionalism their MLA has shown in government. They’re tired of the constant shuffling, the infighting, and the war the UCP have taken on our healthcare system,” Batten said in a statement following the nomination meeting.

“I’m here to join Rachel Notley and Alberta’s NDP on their road to fix the mess the UCP has created, ensure my community has access to public healthcare, good paying jobs, and to make sure we can trust our government again,” she said.

United Conservative Party MLA Tyler Shandro has confirmed he plans to run for re-election in Calgary-Acadia.

Shandro is currently serving as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General and will face three days of hearings in October to determine if he broke the Law Society of Alberta’s Code of Conduct.

Shandro was first elected in 2019 with 54 per cent of the vote.

UCP open nominations in Calgary-Glenmore, Calgary-West, and Edmonton-South West

Jason Kenney and Kaycee Madu (source: YouTube)
Jason Kenney and Kaycee Madu (source: YouTube)

Despite not knowing who will lead the UCP into the next election, the governing conservative party is continuing to nominate candidates. 

The UCP announced this week that nominations are open in Calgary-Glenmore (currenty represented by UCP MLA Whitney Issik), Calgary-West (currenty represented by UCP MLA Mike Ellis) and Edmonton-South West (currenty represented by UCP MLA Kaycee Madu).

The deadline for prospective candidates to apply to run for the nomination is June 7. 

These three MLAs certainly fall in the Kenney camp of the UCP.

It remains unclear whether the party will allow two former UCP MLAs, and big Kenney critics, Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen, to rejoin and run under the UCP banner in the next election.

Loewen has publicly mused about running for the party leadership.

Longtime teacher running for NDP nomination in Brooks-Medicine Hat

Retired teacher Gwendoline Dirk is seeking the NDP nomination in Brooks-Medicine Hat.

Dirk spent 33 years teaching in different school systems, including the last 13 years of her career at Medicine Hat College. She is a member of the Medicine Hat Police Commission and ran for the Medicine Hat Public School Board in 2021.

Her spouse, Peter Mueller, ran for the NDP against Drew Barnes in the neighbouring Cypress-Medicine Hat riding in the 2019 election.

The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting for June 23.

The riding is currently represented by first-term United Conservative Party MLA Michaela Frey. Alberta Party leader and former Brooks mayor Barry Morishita was nominated as his party’s candidate last week.

Former MLA Barb Miller enters NDP race in Red Deer-South

Barb Miller MLA Red Deer South
Barb Miller

Former MLA Barb Miller will challenge city lawyer Michelle Baer for the NDP nomination contest in Red Deer-South on June 18, 2022.

Miller represented the riding from 2015 to 2019. Before her election in 2015 she worked as a cashier at Safeway and was President of the Red Deer and District Labour Council.

Miller was defeated by UCP MLA Jason Stephan in the 2019 election.

More nomination news

Edmonton-Meadows MLA Jasvir Deol and Edmonton-Rutherford nomination candidate Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse will be nominated as NDP candidates on May 28.

The Alberta Party will nominate lawyer and past provincial Liberal Party leadership candidate Kerry Cundal in Calgary-Elbow on May 29.

University of Calgary Associate Law Professor Shaun Fluker and union activist and past candidate Steve Durrell are seeking the NDP nomination in Airdrie-Cochrane. A nomination meeting is being held on May 30.

And in Livingstone-Macleod, where first-term MLA Roger Reid is being challenged by UCP leadership aspirant and former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, the town council of High River this week voted for a permanent ban on new coal exploration and development in the Rocky Mountains.

And here are the upcoming candidate nomination meetings:

  • Edmonton-Meadows NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Edmonton-Rutherford NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Calgary-Elbow AP: May 29, 2022
  • Airdrie-Cochrane NDP: May 30, 2022
  • Edmonton-Riverview NDP: June 7, 2022
  • Edmonton-McClung NDP: June 8, 2022
  • Strathcona-Sherwood Park NDP: June 9, 2022
  • Edmonton-South West NDP: June 18, 2022
  • Red Deer-South NDP: June 18, 2022
  • Brooks-Medicine Hat NDP: June 23, 2022
  • Edmonton-Decore NDP: June 25, 2022
Categories
Alberta Politics

Doug Schweitzer’s out. Senior UCP Minister not running for leadership or re-election.

Doug Schweitzer is not running for the leadership of the United Conservative Party and not running for re-election as MLA for Calgary-Elbow.

The first-term MLA and former UCP leadership candidate issued a Victoria Day statement announcing that he will be stepping out of elected politics when the next election is called. He is the first UCP cabinet minister to announce plans to leave office in 2023.

Doug Schweitzer's statement announcing he will not run for re-election.
Doug Schweitzer’s statement announcing he will not run for re-election.

Largely shying away from social conservative issues embraced by some of his colleagues, he was widely named as someone who could take up the mantle of the business conservative-style candidate for the UCP leadership.

Schweitzer was first elected in 2019 by defeating Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark. He won with 44 per cent of the vote, compared to 30 per cent for Clark and 23 per cent for Alberta NDP candidate Janet Eremenko (who is now nominated as the NDP candidate in the neighbouring Calgary-Currie).

Samir Kayande Alberta NDP Nomination Calgary-Elbow
Samir Kayande (source: Pembina Instittute)

Premier Jason Kenney chose him as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General when the first UCP cabinet was sworn-in and shuffled him to Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation in 2020.

While he was involved in some UCP controversies, like the creation of the Energy War Room and the Allan Inquiry, I think it’s fair to say it appears he will walk away from politics largely untarnished by the political games that recently brought down Kenney.

The former downtown Calgary lawyer and past CEO of the Manitoba PC Party was Jim Prentice‘s campaign manager in 2014 and very nearly ran for Alberta Progressive Conservative Party leadership in 2017. He instead served as Kenney’s scrutineer in that race and soon after ran for the UCP leadership, finishing third in that contest with 7.3 per cent of the vote.

This leaves an open race for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Elbow, a riding that is considered competitive in the next election.

Kerry Cundal Liberal Calgary
Kerry Cundal

The NDP are putting their hopes in energy analyst Samir Kayande and lawyer and former federal Liberal Party candidate Kerry Cundal recently announced she will be running for the Alberta Party nomination on May 29.

The riding has been somewhat of a swing-riding for the past 15 years after Liberal Craig Cheffins won the 2007 by-election to replace former premier Ralph Klein, who had represented the south west Calgary riding since 1989.

Clark almost won a 2014 by-election to replace another former premier, Alison Redford, and went on to win in the 2015 election.

More nomination news

  • Alberta Party leader Barry Morishita was nominated as his party’s candidate in Brooks-Medicine Hat at a May 17 meeting, which was pushed up from a previously scheduled May 25 meeting.
  • Registered Nurse Diana Batten is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Acadia on May 26.
  • Edmonton-Meadows MLA Jasvir Deol will be nominated as his party’s candidate on May 28. He was first elected in 2019.
  • Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse will be nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Rutherford on May 28. She succeeds two-term MLA Richard Feehan, who is not seeking re-election.
  • Shiraz Mir is the second candidate to announce their candidacy for the NDP nomination in Calgary-North West.
  • Jeff Manchak is the third candidate to enter the NDP race in Sherwood Park. Already in the race are former MLA Annie McKitrick and solar energy expert Kyle Kasawski.

And here are the upcoming candidate nomination meetings:

  • Calgary-Acadia NDP: May 26, 2022
  • Edmonton-Meadows NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Edmonton-Rutherford NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Calgary-Elbow AP: May 29, 2022
  • Airdrie-Cochrane NDP: May 30, 2022
  • Edmonton-Riverview NDP: June 7, 2022
  • Edmonton-McClung NDP: June 8, 2022
  • Strathcona-Sherwood Park NDP: June 9, 2022
  • Edmonton-South West NDP: June 18, 2022
  • Red Deer-South NDP: June 18, 2022
  • Edmonton-Decore NDP: June 25, 2022

I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

(And, I know I’ve said this before but feel free to sign up for the Daveberta Substack.)

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Alberta Politics

UCP chaos good for Notley’s NDP today but they shouldn’t count on it in 2023

It must have been craft beer and pizza with extra vegan cheese night at Alberta NDP HQ last night.

Not only is Premier Jason Kenney stepping down as leader of the United Conservative Party but he’s staying on until the next leader is chosen, whenever that will be.

And that certainly gives the NDP a reason to celebrate, at least for one night.

If Rachel Notley is the Alberta NDP’s most valuable player then Kenney is the runner up.

Kenney’s plummeting popularity has been a key to the NDP’s success in fundraising, organizing and recruiting candidates.

The NDP had $5.5 million in the bank at the end of 2021.

That’s a campaign war chest.

They have 24 candidates nominated, including some who won actual contested nomination races.

It’s understandable why UCP MLAs decided to keep Kenney around rather than choosing an interim leader, but this will probably only help the NDP.

At least in the short-term.

As UCP MLAs were cloistered in the McDougall Centre, Notley was in Calgary showing off her party’s roster of nominated candidates

She billed them as ‘a united, capable team of Albertans who are focused on making life better for Alberta families and businesses.’

Notley and NDP MLAs have been spending every spare moment in Calgary.

It’s a full-court press.

They know they have to make big gains in the province’s largest city to form government.

And they have some impressive bench strength.

Former city councillor Druh Farrell in Calgary-Bow.

Energy analyst Samir Kayende in Calgary-Elbow.

Sustainable energy expert Nagwan Al-Guneid in Calgary-Glenmore. 

Canadian Forces veteran and police commission vice-chair Marilyn North Peigan in Calgary-Klein.

Physician Luanne Metz in Calgary-Varsity.

Calgarians with impressive resumes who could presumably become cabinet ministers on Day 1 of a new Notley government, which is what she will need if her party wins in 2023.

It feels more like a Progressive Conservative lineup than a traditional working-class NDP slate.

That’s Alberta politics today.

But even as they lead the province-wide polls, the path to victory is still steep for the NDP.

It’s not a slam dunk.

Their support is concentrated in Edmonton, where they already have almost every seat. 

They will need to make big gains Calgary, and Lethbridge and the ridings surrounding Edmonton.

But that might not be enough.

They also need to win seats in small cities and rural Alberta where the electoral math gets a lot harder, especially if the UCP remains “united” in the next election.

Red Deer? Medicine Hat? Grande Prairie? Fort McMurray?

Those are tough nuts to crack.

The UCP swept those cities with huge victories in 2019.

But there are a few opportunities for the NDP outside of the big cities. 

Former cabinet minster and Registered Nurse Danielle Larivee in Lesser Slave Lake.

Conservation scientist Sarah Elmeligi in Banff-Kananaskis.

Former city councillor Rob Miyashiro in Lethbridge-East.

Former county councillor Karen Shaw in Morinville-St Albert.

County Councillor Bill Tonita in Strathcona-Sherwood Park.

Maybe former cabinet minister Oneil Carlier in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland. 

It gets harder to name obvious potential NDP pickups after that.

My back of napkin math puts the NDP at probably around 44 or 45 seats if they hold their current support in the polls.

The barest of majorities in the 87 seat legislature.

But, as some of us have learned the hard way, campaigns matter.

And we still don’t know who the next UCP leader will be.

If Kenney somehow finds his way back into his party’s good graces then it’s probably good news for the NDP. 

But if another person is leading the UCP into 2023, it could be a different ballgame.

The old PC Party had an uncanny ability to reinvent itself under new leaders. 

It’s a big reason the PC Party was able to hold on to government for 43 straight years.

That magic charm totally evaporated in 2015.

We don’t know if the UCP has inherited this self-preservation trait.

It certainly doesn’t look like it right now.

But even in disarray the UCP shouldn’t be underestimated.

They are still a powerful force in Alberta politics.

And they could still win in 2023, or sooner if an early election is called.

It’s something for our friends at the NDP to keep in mind as they nurse their celebratory hangovers this morning.


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Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney is a bad Premier.

There is no doubt that Jason Kenney changed the face of Alberta politics when he jumped into provincial politics in 2017.

He succeeded in leading the merger of the Wildrose opposition with the Progressive Conservatives remanent into the United Conservative Party.

And, for a period, he was able to convince the two warring factions to put aside their differences and focus on a higher goal: winning the 2019 election.

And it worked.

At least it did for a time.

The UCP won a big majority, but quickly discovered that all those things the PCs and Wildrosers didn’t like about each other still existed, but now they were in the same party.

Last night, Kenney announced his plans to step down as UCP leader after getting a weak 51.4 per cent endorsement an acrimonious, divisive and drawn-out leadership review.

How did we get here so fast?

The COVID-19 pandemic definitely derailed Kenney and his party, but that wasn’t his only mistake.

Let’s look back at the chaos of the past three years.

Kenney’s much promoted Open for Summer plan in 2021 alienated a large swath of Albertans who were uncomfortable with removing public health restrictions so quickly and haphazardly just for the Calgary Stampede.

Rachel Notley’s NDP were riding high in the polls and fundraising, and to a lot of Albertans it looked like Kenney was dropping the COVID-19 restrictions to fast to save his party’s fortunes and his own leadership.

But being forced to backtrack and reintroduce restrictions when COVID-19 cases and deaths predictably skyrocketed and hospitals and ICUs overflowed only served to alienate a growing group right-wing populists and Freedom Truckers who were then highly motivated to defeat Kenney in the leadership review.

Despite flirting with right-wing populism before the 2019 election and during his time as Premier, Kenney is not a populist.

Kenney is probably far more comfortable discussing the works of Ludwig von Mises in the salons of the Manhattan Institute than driving a big blue truck around rural Alberta.

He sold Albertans, and conservative activists, a bill of goods that he could not deliver on.

But again, it wasn’t just COVID-19 that sealed his fate in the leadership review

If Kenney had not been so deeply unpopular with Albertans and if the UCP hadn’t been trailing the NDP in almost every poll since late 2020, he would have had a stronger hand to play.

But he didn’t.

Let’s look at why.

Somewhere along the line Kenney and his ministers began to believe that the big electoral mandate they got in 2019 meant they could impose their platform with abandon and, perhaps fatally, not have to listen to Albertans who started pushing back.

While Kenney’s opponents were always going to oppose his plans to privatize health care and schools, it wasn’t just NDP partisans who pushed back.

It was normal Albertans.

And Kenney didn’t seem to realize this.

Kenney and Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon’s plans to close and sell more than 140 provincial parks sparked a province-wide lawn sign campaign that crossed the partisan divide.

After months of actively dismissing and attacking opponents of these plans, the UCP government was forced to back down.

The UCP’s eagerness to open the Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining produced a similar backlash.

Kenney and Energy Minister Sonya Savage pushed forward, again dismissing the opposition, which included dozens of southern Alberta municipal councils and country music artists like Corb Lund, Paul Brandt and Terri Clark, until they were forced to back down.

Kenney and Health Minster Tyler Shandro picked big fights with nurses and doctors during the pandemic, which almost certainly undermined public confidence in the government’s ability to handle the pandemic.

Kenney and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange were almost engaged in daily fights with teachers, even when the safety of children during the pandemic was the biggest concern for almost every Alberta parent.

Alberta can already be a notoriously difficult place to govern, but at times it looked like the UCP was actively trying to make it more difficult.

And then there were the scandals.

The kamikaze campaign.

The RCMP investigation.

Shandro yelling at a doctor in his driveway.

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu phoning the chief of police after getting a traffic ticket.

Lawsuits alleging of drinking and sexual harassment of political staff by cabinet ministers.

Alohagate.

The Sky Palace patio party.

Betting and losing $1.3 billion on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

And the theatrics.

The Energy War Room staffed by UCP-insiders.

The late and over budget Allan Inquiry into nefarious foreign interference that found nothing illegal.

A referendum about equalization that was always going to be ignored by Ottawa, and ironically, was ignored by most Albertans.

The never ending legal challenges against the federal government.

And then there’s the curriculum.

Pledging during the 2019 campaign to take ideology and politics out of the draft K-12 curriculum, Kenney’s government injected new levels of weird and outdated ideology.

Panned by teachers, reviled by curriculum experts, and mocked internationally as age-inappropriate, outdated, Eurocentric, jargon-riddled, inaccurate, unconcerned with developing critical thinking skills, and rife with plagiarism, is how columnist David Climenhaga described it.

And then there’s that thing about Kenney’s grandfather, Mart Kenney, showing up in the curriculum, which felt like weird pandering by the programme’s authors.

We never got a glimpse into who Kenney really is or anything about his life outside of politics really.

Aside from politics, we don’t really know what makes him tick.

We know he rented a room in mother’s basement, enjoys listening to Gregorian chants and is a devout Roman Catholic, but that’s almost all we were allowed to see.

Not that we are owed any more.

Politicians deserve their privacy but Kenney’s weird blank slate outside of politics probably contributed to him being not very relatable to most Albertans.

So it becomes a trust thing.

Kenney is popular with many white collar conservatives and former staffers in Ottawa who have fond memories of his two decades as a determined opposition critic and hard-working cabinet minister.

Many of them see him a kind of Philosopher King of Canadian Conservatism.

But whatever charm worked inside the Queensway didn’t translate in the Premier’s Office.

Maybe being a trusted lieutenant to Prime Minster Stephen Harper was a quite different job than being Premier of Alberta?

Someone who has known Kenney for a long time once told me that they believed one of his biggest weaknesses is that he still saw Alberta politics through a 1990s lens.

I’m not sure I totally believe that but I think there’s a hint of truth to it.

And it might be why he has misread Albertans so badly over the past three years.

Kenney got his start in Alberta politics in the early 1990s as the founding spokesperson of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

It was a heady time for deficit hawks and social conservatives, and Kenney frequently engaged in very public quarrels with then-Premier Ralph Klein over government expenses.

The young conservative activist with a trademark Nixonian five-o’clock shadow pioneered the CTF soundbite machine with great success.

It’s where he cut his teeth in politics.

Thirty-years later, Kenney will soon be ending the latest phase of his political career in the same building where he started.

But this time he might not be coming back.


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Alberta Politics

51.4% isn’t enough. Jason Kenney stepping down as UCP leader.

Premier Jason Kenney is done.

Kenney stunned political watchers by announcing he is stepping down as leader of the United Conservative Party after getting the support of only 51.4 per cent of members in the leadership review.

He had claimed last week that 50%+1 was enough for him to stay, but that obviously wasn’t enough.

It wouldn’t have worked.

It was the weakest of mandates.

UCP President Cynthia Moore speaking about the leadership review process.

Winning by such a narrow margin was probably the worst case scenario for Kenney.

With 51.4 per cent there is no way Kenney could have confidently walked into tomorrow morning’s UCP Caucus meeting and commanded the loyalty of the party’s MLAs.

There’s no way he could have demanded his opponents fall in line or leave the party. 

So, he’s resigning. 

The UCP is deeply divided and the leadership race was and acrimonious end to Kenney’s three years in the Premier’s Office.

But he might have been the biggest obstacle standing in the way of the party moving forward in any positive way with one year left before the provincial election.

The aggressive and in-your-face reactions from Kenney and his political staff to any criticism of his agenda has made him deeply unpopular with almost every single voting demographic in Alberta. 

And it dragged down his party.

UCP returning officer Rick Orman announcing the results of the leadership review.

Kenney leaving avoids the inevitably showdown between him and his opponents in caucus that would have likely divided the party even further.

He’ll leave that showdown to someone else.

Now the UCP will have to choose a new leader. 

It’s not clear whether Kenney will resign immediately and be replaced by an interim leader or whether he will stay on as Premier until a leadership race is held. 

We’ll find out soon. 

Names that immediately come to mind for potential interim leaders are Nate Horner, Sonya Savage, Nathan Neudorf, Ric McIver, Rajan Sawhney and Nate Glubish – all MLAs who probably won’t run for the permanent job.

And that’s where things get interesting, or troubling, depending on your point of view. 

While Kenney was unpopular across the board, his biggest critics inside his party come from the unruly political-right – and they are mostly unhappy with how he handled the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kenney called them “lunatics.”

Former Wildrose leaders Brian Jean and Danielle Smith and exiled UCP MLA Drew Barnes probably fall pretty neatly into this column. 

They both want the job. 

Then there’s the Kenney loyalists.

Doug Schweitzer endorsed Kenney last week. He’s expected to run.

Jason Nixon is Kenney’s chief lieutenant. He’s said to be eying the job.

Travis Toews is also in Kenney’s inner circle. He’s said to have supporters who have been quietly preparing a run for months.

And then there’s Members of Parliament Shannon Stubbs and Michelle Rempel Garner. They haven’t said they’d run, but their names get mentioned when you talk to UCP supporters.

There will be others.

Kenney didn’t specifically say he wouldn’t try to reclaim his job in a leadership race. But even if his political career isn’t over, it seems unlikely right now that he’d try to reclaim the UCP leadership.

It’s an unceremonious result for the popular former federal cabinet minister and darling of movement conservatives who jumped into provincial politics six years ago to build a new conservative party.

It is a big change from three years ago, when Kenney led the newly minted UCP to defeat Rachel Notley’s NDP and win a big majority government.

On that election night he looked unstoppable.

Long gone are the days when anyone in Alberta politics is unstoppable.


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