With all the votes counted, the winners of the sixth annual Best of Alberta Politics survey are:
Best Alberta MLA and Best Opposition MLA
Always a fan favourite, for the third year in a row Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin has been voted the Best Alberta MLA. For the first time, Irwin was voted Best Opposition MLA, knocking her leader Rachel Notley out of the spot for the first time since 2019.
Irwin is a passionate voice in the Legislature and one of the hardest working constituency MLAs in the province.
On any given day, she can be spotted around her north east Edmonton constituency out volunteering with a community group, attending a cultural event, or just meeting with constituents. Sure this is what a lot of MLAs do, but Irwin balances her community work and politics with level of humility and humour that you don’t always see in a politician – and she’s been able to successfully translate it into a huge social media following on Instagram and Twitter. (Oh, I can’t forget to mention Oregano).
Best Alberta Cabinet Minister
Well-liked and respected among her colleagues, Minister of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism Rajan Sawhney was new to politics when she was first elected in 2019 but quickly distinguished herself as a strong performer in a largely rookie cabinet.
The Calgary-North East MLA leaned on her years of business experience to launch an outsider campaign for the United Conservative Party leadership in 2022, but it wasn’t enough to break through in a campaign that was defined by the front-runner, Danielle Smith.
Up and Coming MLA to Watch
Edmonton-Whitemud NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi continues to distinguish herself as a smart and well-spoken member of the opposition.
This is Pancholi’s third year winning in this category, demonstrating that a lot of people are interested in watching her political trajectory and probably won’t stop until she either becomes a cabinet minister after next year’s election or goes on to lead her party at some point in the future.
Candidate to Watch in 2023
First Nations lawyer and Edmonton-West Henday NDP candidate Brooks Arcand-Paul was voted the Candidate to Watch in 2023. The University of Ottawa law graduate is the in-house legal counsel for the Alexander First Nation, located just north of Edmonton. As part of the NDP’s slate of new candidates, he’s running in the west Edmonton riding being vacated by retiring two-term NDP MLA Jon Carson.
Biggest issue of 2022
The crisis in the health care system was overwhelmingly voted the biggest political issue of 2022 in Alberta, and there shouldn’t be any confusion why.
The lingering effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the dramatic impact of respiratory illnesses on children’s hospitals in Calgary and Edmonton have made national headlines. Shortages of nurses and doctors have created a staffing crisis in hospitals and health centres in every corner of Alberta.
The current crisis guarantees that health care will be one of the top issues on the minds of Albertans heading into the 2023 election.
Biggest political play of 2022
It was almost Shakespearean. Jason Kenney losing the leadership of the UCP – the party he nurtured from its birth – was voted the biggest political play of 2022. Kenney pulled together the Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives parties (which won the 2017 award in this category) with the goal of defeating the NDP in 2019 but it wasn’t long after his big electoral success that his party started to turn on him.
The COVID-19 pandemic derailed Kenney’s premiership but his divisive rhetoric and decision to firmly plant himself on the unpopular side of some big issues left him with few allies when his party and a small army of anti-vaxx activists mobilized against him. In the end, even 51.4 per cent in the leadership review wasn’t enough to save his political career.
Congratulations to all the winners and thank you to everyone who voted in this year’s survey. There is a lot of negativity in politics, so I started the annual Best of Alberta Politics survey back in 2017 as a way to give followers of provincial politics a chance to recognize and reward some of the best people involved in Alberta politics.
Subscribe to the Daveberta Substack
Subscribe to the Daveberta Substack and get my regular Alberta politics column, like my recent columns about the Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, delivered straight into your email inbox.
I have some fun and exciting news to share about the Substack early in the new year, so don’t miss out.