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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 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.

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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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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Buckle up, Alberta. The UCP leadership review results are coming.

Buckle up, Alberta. It’s going to get bumpy.

The results of the United Conservative Party leadership review will be released tomorrow.

The fate of Premier Jason Kenney hangs in the balance.

Kenney says he’s confident he will win. He says 50%+1 support is enough to stay on as leader.

His opponents are confident he will lose. They’ve already planted seeds of doubt in the results.

A recent survey shows the majority of Albertans think Kenney should lose the review.

Only a slim majority trust the leadership review process.

One UCP constituency president says he won’t accept a Kenney win.

“We will not believe that result. We will not accept it, but we won’t even believe it, because our own polling here within our constituency is 72 per cent against Premier Kenney,” Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills president Rob Smith told CTV.

There’s a whole cabal of UCP MLAs who probably share Smith’s cynicism.

If Kenney wins he’ll have to decide the fate of his biggest critics in his own party.

What happens to Brian Jean? Leela Aheer? Angela Pitt? Jason Stephan? Peter Guthrie?

Cast them out and they’ll form another conservative party.

And then the UCP might as well drop the U.

So there’s the problem. Even if Kenney wins he still loses.

It’s a win-lose or lose-lose scenario.

It’s going to be a wild ride.


The UCP leadership review is probably going to take up most of the political oxygen in Alberta over the next few days, so I just wanted to note a few candidate nomination developments:

  • Former federal Liberal candidate and provincial Liberal leadership candidate Kerry Cundal is running for the Alberta Party nomination in Calgary-Elbow. She ran for the Alberta Liberal Party leadership in 2017 and joined the Alberta Party shortly afterward. A nomination meeting is scheduled for May 28, 2022.
  • Former cabinet minister David Eggen will be acclaimed as the Alberta NDP candidate in Edmonton-North West on May 18. Eggen is the second longest serving MLA currently in the Legislature, having represented Edmonton-Calder from 2004 to 2008 and 2012 to 2019, and Edmonton-North West from 2019 to the present.

The NDP now have 23 candidates nominated in 87 ridings. The UCP have nominated 21 candidates.


 

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Alberta Politics

The biggest question in Alberta politics: Will Jason Kenney win the UCP leadership review?

“Hey Dave, is Jason Kenney going to win the leadership review?”

It’s a question I get asked a lot these days.

My answer?

I don’t know.

Anyone who tells you different probably has a personal or career stake in the game.

What was supposed to be a big in-person vote in Red Deer back in April turned into a province-wide mail in vote. And that loud swooshing sound you heard wasn’t the sound of a late winter Chinook but the sound of the goal posts moving.

And there’s strong feelings on both sides of this fight.

Kenney’s opponents are outspoken. Especially the ones inside his own United Conservative Party caucus.

MLAs Brian Jean, Leela Aheer, Angela Pitt, Peter Guthrie, Jason Stephan, and Dave Hanson.

Plus Drew Barnes, Todd Loewen and friends.

They all want Kenney gone. They think the UCP is going to lose the next election to Rachel Notley’s NDP if he stays on as leader.

His former central Alberta organizer David Parker is leading Take Back Alberta, a group dedicated to defeating Kenney in the leadership review.

His former spokesperson Blaise Boehmer has become one of his biggest critics.

One former staffer has even taken him to court.

But the loyalists working in the Premier’s Office in Edmonton think his critics are bunch of clowns.

It’s a gong show.

Kenney says of his recent interactions with normal Albertans: “100% of the people who came up to me unprompted say things like: We’re behind you Jason, keep up the good work.”

Yeah, ok there, Mr. 22-per cent Approval Rating.

He spins a lot of yarn.

Kenney once claimed that he didn’t impose stricter COVID-19 public health restrictions because of a crying Venezuelan refugee who claimed the fled socialism.

The Venezuelan woman who believed she was used as part of Kenney’s argument remembers her encounter with the premier as much less dramatic.

But Kenney’s staffers loudly trumpet his good deeds.

Three loyal cabinet ministers – Ric McIver, Jason Nixon and Doug Schweitzer – told Kenney’s critics that they have to fall in line if he wins.

That’s doubtful.

If Kenney had the ability to silence his critics and re-unite his “United” Conservative Party he would have done that two years ago.

That ship has sailed.

Scratch that. The ship is leaking.

But is it going to sink?

Even if Kenney is a hot mess of a premier, he’s a still skilled campaigner, and that’s basically what he’s been doing for the past few months – campaigning.

He can even be, dare I say, dangerously charming on the campaign trail.

Kenney does get public support from some conservatives outside Alberta.

They see him as a kind of Philosopher King of Canadian conservatism.

Conservative pundit Sean Speer wrote a long defence of the beleaguered Kenney in the National Post praising his policy agenda.

But commentary by out-of-Alberta conservatives, who probably have fond memories of Kenney’s two decades in Ottawa, almost always omit how intentionally and aggressively divisive he has been since stepping into the Premier’s Office.

Albertans who oppose, or even just dare to criticize, his government’s policies have been routinely derided and attacked by Kenney.

Are you an Albertan who opposed closing and selling provincial parks?

Then you’re a radical urban eco-marxist.

Did you oppose open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains?

Then you must be a radical urban eco-marxist who votes NDP (can you imagine telling that to a 5th generation cattle rancher from southern Alberta?).

You get the drift.

So, do Albertans see Kenney as the conservative philosopher king that his out-of-province admirers do?

Lol. No.

Do normal UCP members?

Definitely not.

Will Kenney win on May 18?

Will he get more than 50 per cent of the vote?

Your guess is probably as good as mine.

Will the deep divisions inside the UCP be healed?

Not a chance.

As veteran political columnist Graham Thomson signed off in a recent column, “No matter what happens that day, Alberta’s already wild politics will just get wilder.”


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UCP nominates 6 more incumbent MLAs, NDP challengers rack up endorsements in Calgary-Glenmore race

A few quick candidate nomination updates for this Saturday afternoon.

The Incumbents

It appears that the following United Conservative Party MLAs have been acclaimed for their party’s nominations: Mickey Amery in Calgary-Cross, Nicholas Miliken in Calgary-Currie, Jason Luan in Calgary-Foothills, Tanya Fir in Calgary-Peigan, Jordan Walker in Sherwood Park, and Searle Turton in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain.

While nomination meetings will likely still be held to to officially confirm their nominations, all 21 UCP MLAs who have been nominated so far have been acclaimed without facing a challenge (or have seen their challenges disqualified).

For the Alberta NDP, MLA Lori Sigurdson is running for her party’s nomination in Edmonton-Riveriew on June 7 and MLA Lorne Dach is running for his party’s nomination for re-election in Edmonton-McClung on June 8.

The Incumbent and Challenger

The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting in Edmonton-Decore for June 25, 2022. Two-term MLA Chris Nielsen is being challenged for the nomination by Africa Centre executive director Sharif Haji.

The Challengers

Michaelle Baer NDP Red Deer South candidate nomination Alberta
Michaelle Baer (source: LinkedIn)

City lawyer Michelle Baer announced this week that she is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Red Deer-South. Baer is the Legal and Legislative Services Manager for the City of Red Deer.

“We can’t have people getting care in the back of an ambulance. We can’t have surgeries being cancelled, and people being transferred to Edmonton and Calgary,” Baer told the Red Deer Advocate.

She was referring to a recent long lineup of ambulances at the Red Deer Regional Hospital to transfer patients to deal with a surge in demand, and the need to divert surgery patients.

“We need strong advocacy in Edmonton on the things that matter,” she said.

The riding is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Jason Stephan, who has been an outspoken critic of Premier Jason Kenney.

It is unclear whether Stephan will be allowed to run for re-election as a UCP candidate if Kenney wins the leadership review, which will be announced on May 18.

Stephan was first elected in 2019 with 60.3 per cent of the vote, a landslide win against then-incumbent NDP MLA Barb Miller, who finished second with 25.5 per cent.

Lesley MacKinnon is running for the NDP nomination in Calgary-North West.

MacKinnon is the Director of Investor and Indigenous Relations with Foresight Canada and the former CEO of the Fig Tree Foundation.

Calgary-North West is currently represented by UCP MLA and Energy Minister Sonya Savage, who was first elected in 2019 with 56.7 per cent of the vote. The riding was previously represented by MLA Sandra Jansen, who was elected as a Progressive Conservative in 2012 and 2015 and crossed the floor to the NDP in 2016.

NDP race in Calgary-Glenmore heats up

Nagwan Al-Guneid Jennifer Burgess Calgary-Glenmore NDP nomination candidates
Jennifer Burgess and supporters (left) and Nagwan Al-Guneid and supporters (right)

Three former NDP MLAs have made duelling endorsements in the Calgary-Glenmore NDP nomination race.

Former Calgary-Currie MLA Brian Malkinson and former Calgary-Acadia MLA Brandy Payne are endorsing Jennifer Burgess for the nomination and former Calgary-Glenmore MLA Anam Kazim is endorsing Nagwan Al-Guneid.

Burgess was the 2019 campaign manager for past candidate Jordan Stein, who defeated Kazim for the NDP nomination ahead of that year’s provincial election.

Both candidates have attracted some notable endorsements.

Al-Guneid’s endorsements include Calgary-Glenmore NDP association president Bryan Weismiller, Past federal NDP candidate Kathleen Johnson, past federal Liberal Party candidate Scott Forsyth, past Alberta Party candidate Kara Levis, former Jim Prentice staffer Emma May, lawyer Jeremy Barretto, and economist Lindsay Tedds.

Burgress’ endorsements include Calgary-Glenmore NDP association past president Chris Somoya, former NDP leader Brian Mason, past federal NDP candidate Dany Allard, past mayoral candidate Jan Damery, former school trustee Julie Hrdlicka, Building Trades of Alberta executive director Terry Parker, and IBEW Local 424 vice president Scott Crichton.

NDP members in the south west Calgary riding will vote to select a candidate on May 8 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., and May 10 from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Upcoming nomination meetings

  • Calgary-Glenmore NDP: May 10, 2022
  • Calgary-Bow NDP: May 12, 2022
  • Edmonton-North West NDP: May 18, 2022
  • Calgary-Acadia NDP: May 26, 2022
  • Edmonton-Meadows NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Edmonton-Rutherford NDP: May 28, 2022
  • Brooks-Medicine Hat AP: May 25, 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
  • 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!

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Alberta Politics

UCP probably, maybe narrowly back on top in political party fundraising in 2022 Q1. We’ll have to take their word for it.

The United Conservative Party is probably, maybe leading the pack in political party fundraising for the first time since 2020. But we’ll just have to take their word for it.

The political party fundraising results from the first financial quarter of 2022 were released today, but because of changes the UCP made to political finance laws in 2021, money raised by constituency associations are no longer included in the quarterly disclosures.

The UCP claims the totals (see below) don’t include more than $375,000 raised by constituency associations. This is probably true, but we won’t actually know until Elections Alberta releases its next annual report sometime in early 2023.

So instead of having the kind of transparency that showed Albertans what political parties AND constituency associations actually raised in each quarter, we are now stuck comparing apples and oranges.

The funny thing is that if the UCP hadn’t made the disclosure laws less transparent, they would probably be getting positive headlines instead of having to spin a days worth of “but wait!” tweets.

Unlike the UCP and most other parties, the Alberta NDP has long disclosed all its fund-raising centrally, so all of the NDP’s fundraising will still be reported quarterly.

Here are the political party fundraising results for the first quarter of 2022 released by Elections Alberta today:

NDP – $1,037,511.32
UCP – $887,974.49
Pro-Life Political Association – $67,564.93
Alberta Party – $29,006.45
Liberal – $19,667
Wildrose Independence – $14,205
Green Party – $1,920
Independence Party – $390
Alberta Advantage Party – $310

The Communist Party, Reform Party, and Buffalo Party reported no funds raised int he first three months of 2022.

The UCP fundraising has improved, but it is nowhere near as dominant it was in its heydays before 2020, when Rachel Notley‘s NDP began a near two-year streak of out-fundraising the governing conservative party.

It is something somewhat positive that Jason Kenney can point to as UCP members vote to decide his fate in the leadership review (but he might have to explain why he made political fundraising less transparent), but as we get closer to the next election it’s looking more like a competitive fundraising race between the NDP and UCP.

Meanwhile, Elections Alberta 2021 annual report showed the NDP with $5,598,136.01 and the UCP with $1,141,647.39 in the bank at the end of last year.

I’m sure I might have more thoughts to share about this as I pour through the disclosure reports this week, so stay tuned!

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Alberta Politics

Richard Bruneau wins NDP contest in Camrose, Walker-McKitrick rematch being set up in Sherwood Park, NDP MLAs flock to Battleground Calgary

‘Three candidates are contesting the NDP nomination contest in Camrose’ are not a series of words I imagined writing even a year ago, yet here we are.

Business owner and former diplomat Richard Bruneau defeated Registered Psychiatric Nurse Tonya Ratushniak and educational assistant and recent city council candidate Wyatt Tanton to win the NDP nomination in Camrose. 

“When attending Augustana their motto was ‘to lead and to serve,’ and this is my vision of how I would like to lead and lift people up in the community. A vision I believe Alberta’s NDP embodies,” Bruneau said in a press release announcing his win. “The UCP has not been serving the people of Alberta, and the pandemic highlighted the short-signed failures of UCP policy. Camrose deserves better than the UCP.”

Jackie Lovely MLA Camrose UCP
Jackie Lovely

Bruneau is a bookstore owner, farmer, former lecturer at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus and a former Canadian diplomat who served in Afghanistan, Jordan and Palestine. He lives with his family on a cattle farm.

Bruneau was joined by Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen at the nomination meeting and by Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin at a meet and greet in Camrose today.

The riding is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Jackie Lovely, who was first elected in 2019 with 65.2 per cent of the vote. This was Lovely’s third attempt at winning a seat in the Legislature, the first two being as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015. 

Lovely is being challenged for the UCP nomination by Beaver County Reeve Kevin Smook, who earned 12.8 per cent of the vote as the Alberta Party candidate in the riding in 2019.

The previous Wetaskiwin-Camrose riding was represented by NDP MLA Bruce Hinkley from 2015 to 2019 before it was redistributed into the current riding. Hinkley ran for re-election in the neighbouring Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin riding and was defeated by UCP candidate Rick Wilson.

Walker-McKitrick rematch being set up in Sherwood Park

Jordan Walker MLA Sherwood Park UCP
Jordan Walker

First-term UCP MLA Jordan Walker is seeking his party’s nomination for re-election in Sherwood Park.

The UCP backbencher was first elected in one of the closer races in Edmonton’s surrounding suburbs in 2019 by narrowly unseating NDP MLA Annie McKitrick. 

The stage is being set for a rematch in 2023, with McKitrick announcing last week that she plans to seek the NDP nomination to challenge Walker in the next election. This is a riding the NDP will need to win to form government. 

Gurinder Singh Gill running for NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross

Gurinder Singh Gill is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross. Gill previously ran as the federal NDP candidate in Calgary-Skyview in the 2019 and 2021 elections. He placed third with 16.2 per cent of the vote behind victorious Liberal George Chahal and incumbent Conservative MP Jag Sahota in the last federal election.

The east Calgary riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Mickey Amery, who was elected in 2019 with 54.2 per cent by unseating NDP cabinet minister Ricardo Miranda, who finished second with 37.3 per cent.

Amery is the son of Moe Amery, who represented the neighbouring Calgary-East riding from 1993 until his defeat in the 2015 election.

MLA Guthrie endorses Danielle Smith’s challenging Roger Reid

Peter Guthrie MLA Airdrie-Cochrane UCP Communism
Peter Guthrie

Airdrie-Cochrane UCP MLA Peter Guthrie has endorsed former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith’s bid for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. Smith is challenging Guthrie’s caucus colleague Roger Reid for the nomination. 

Smith is wasting no time making her mark in UCP circles as she eyes the nomination and the party leadership.

Tonight she will join Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan, a vocal Kenney critic, and former Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson to discuss the “Free Alberta Strategy.” And on April 23 she is joining Independent MLA Todd Loewen for a “Politics Uncensored” event in Three Hills.

Loewen is a former UCP Caucus chair who booted from the UCP Caucus in May 2021 after he publicly called on Premier Jason Kenney to resign.

Meanwhile, demonstrating how much bad blood remains between Smith and many UCP activists as a result of the 2014 Wildrose floor crossings, a Twitter account run by staff in Kenney’s office attacked Smith (and Brian Jean) by proclaiming that “I’ve always found it surprising that two people whose only track record is losing general elections, somehow feel they have all the answers.”

The “@UniteAlberta” twitter account is run by Deputy Director of  Government Communications and Speechwriter Harrison Fleming, who is currently on leave to work on Kenney’s leadership campaign.

Other senior staff on leave to work on their boss’s leadership review campaign are Chief of Staff Pam Livingston, Executive Director of Communications and Planning Brock Harrison, and Issues Manager Chad Hallman. 

Meanwhile, the former Wildrose leader and Kenney-foe has been sworn-in as an MLA the Legislature. Newly elected Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean has rejoined UCP Caucus he left in 2018.

CBC reporter Michelle Bellefontaine tweeted today that Jean said Kenney has not spoken to him since he was elected as a UCP MLA in March.

NDP MLAs flock to Calgary

Rakhi Pancholi NDP Edmonton Whitemud
Rakhi Pancholi

Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi will be nominated as her party’s candidate for re-election tonight.

“This community has shared with me their wisdom, their experiences, their hopes, and have trusted me to be their voice in the legislature,” said Pancholi. “I want to continue to work hard to help the families of this community – and across Alberta – seize the opportunities available for us to have a strong economic recovery.”

And with the next provincial election just over a year away, she, like most NDP MLAs, are spending a lot of time in Calgary – the expected battleground of the next election.

Janet Eremenko, Rachel Notley, and Rakhi Pancholi.

Pancholi was spotted door knocking in Calgary-Acadia with nomination candidate and Registered Nurse Diana Batten, and with NDP leader Rachel Notley and local candidate Janet Eremenko in Calgary-Currie.

Notley has been spending a lot of time in Calgary, including on the doors this week with Calgary-Edgemont candidate Julia Hayter. Notley will be headlining an April 9 nomination rally in Calgary-East where teacher Rosman Valencia is expected to be acclaimed.

Eggen was spotted door-knocking with MLA Joe Ceci in Calgary-Buffalo and candidate Gurinder Brar in Calgary-North East

Irwin and Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman are planning to join NDP nomination candidate Marilyn North Peigan on the doors this weekend in the Tuxedo Park neighbourhood in Calgary-Klein. Irwin is also scheduled to spend time door-knocking with Eremenko in Calgary-Currie and Hayter in Calgary-Edgemont.


The following nomination meetings have been scheduled.

• Calgary-East NDP: April 9, 2022
• Edmonton-Mill Woods NDP: April 10, 2022
• Leduc-Beaumont NDP: April 13, 2022
• Morinville-St. Albert NDP: April 30, 2022
• Calgary-Glenmore: May 10, 2022

Categories
Alberta Politics

Nothing new under the prairie sun – Danielle Smith running for UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod, and many more nomination updates

Alberta politics never takes a break, but sometimes I do. I was away last week having a great time facilitating a communications planning course at the Winter Labour School, an annual conference for working Albertans organized by the Alberta Federation of Labour and Canadian Labour Congress.

But now I’m back, and upon my return a growing mountain of candidate nomination news was awaiting me.

Here we go.

Probably the biggest news happened today: former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith is jumping back into provincial politics by taking a run at the United Conservative Party nomination in Livingstone-Macleod, a riding currently represented by UCP MLA Roger Reid. She even says she could run for the party leadership if Jason Kenney loses the upcoming leadership review.

Smith has been around Alberta politics for a while, working for lobby groups including the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, writing newspaper columns, hosting television and radio shows, briefly serving as a school trustee in Calgary, and most notably, serving as the leader of the Wildrose Party from 2009 until 2014.

After a heartbreaking defeat in the 2012 election, she led most of her caucus to join Jim Prentice‘s Progressive Conservatives in 2014 (which ended in disaster for conservatives but ended up being quite the boon for Rachel Notley‘s NDP in the next year’s election).

Crossing the floor secured Smith a spot in the governing PC Caucus but she was unable to secure the PC nomination in the Highwood riding she had represented since 2012, so she did not run for re-election in 2015.

Boundary changes ahead of the 2019 election moved her home town of High River into the Livingstone-Macleod riding.

Smith has been a frequent critic of the province’s COVID-19 public health measures and routinely promoted Hydroxychloroquine as a remedy for the coronavirus (a remedy that has been widely discredited).

I have no doubt I’ll have more to write about this later, but now let’s move on to where most of the nomination action has been happening – the Alberta NDP:

Danielle Larivee NDP Lesser Slave Lake
Danielle Larivee

– MLA Marie Renaud was nominated in St. Albert. Renaud was first elected in 2015 and serves as Official Opposition Community & Social Services, and Francophone Issues critic.
Danielle Larivee was nominated in Lesser Slave Lake. Larivee was the MLA for this riding from 2015 to 2019 and served as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Minister of Children’s Services. She is a Registered Nurse and currently serves as First Vice-President of United Nurses of Alberta.
Oneil Carlier was nominated in Parkland-Lac Ste. Anne. Carlier was MLA for this riding from 2015 to 2019 and served as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry from 2015 to 2019.

The NDP recently held contested nomination votes in two ridings.

Sarah Elmeligi is seeking the NDP nomination in Banff-Kananaskis
Sarah Elmeligi

Sarah Elmeligi defeated Canmore town councillor Tanya Foubert, bank manager Gavin McCaffrey, and condo manager Mark Tkacz to become the NDP candidate in Banff-Kananaskis. Elmeligi is a professional biologist and conservation and land-use planner. She currently runs her own consulting company but from 2016 to 2019 she worked as a Parks Facility Planner with the Kananaskis Region and from 2009 to 2013 was a Senior Conservation Planner with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Southern Alberta Chapter.

Marilyn North Peigan defeated Heather Eddy and Mattie McMillan to become the NDP candidate in Calgary-Klein. North Peigan is a member of the Blackfoot Confederacy and is a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, where she trained as a field medic with Toronto EMS and was stationed with Edmonton Field Ambulance. She is vice-chair of the Calgary Police Commission and was a candidate for city council in Calgary’s 2021 municipal elections.

Nathan Ip NDP Edmonton-South West
Nathan Ip

Three-term Edmonton Public School Board trustee Nathan Ip is the fourth candidate to enter the NDP nomination contest in Edmonton-South West.

Joining Ip at his campaign launch were former city councillor Michael Phair and former city council candidate and past Alberta Party president Rhiannon Hoyle. He is also endorsed by former NDP MLAs Bob Turner and Jim Gurnett, and Public School Boards Association of Alberta past president Patty Dittrick.

Also running for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-South West are Ben Acquaye, Chand Gul, and Mohammad Ali Masood Kamal. The riding is currently represented by UCP cabinet minister Kaycee Madu.

University of Calgary Associate Law Professor Shaun Fluker is the second candidate to join the NDP nomination contest in Airdrie-Cochrane.

“Albertans deserve a compassionate government that will exercise positive and responsible leadership on energy and environmental policy”, Fluker said in a press release announcing his candidacy. “The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly revealed that the UCP has no ability to lead when it matters.”

Union activist and past candidate Steve Durrell is also running for the nomination in Airdrie-Cochrane.

Manpreet Singh Tiwana and Psychologists’ Association of Alberta President Judi Malone are seeking the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Ellerslie. Two-term NDP MLA Rod Loyola has not yet announced whether he plans to run for re-election.

Former MLA Annie McKitrick is running of the NDP nomination in Sherwood Park. McKitrick represented the riding from 2015 to 2019 and ran for Mayor of Strathcona County in the 2021 elections.

Amanda Chapman is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Beddington. Chapman is a communications consultant and former communications coordinator with AIDS Awareness Calgary. She ran for the NDP in the riding in 2019, finishing second with 35.7 per cent off the vote.

Now back to the governing UCP, who are twisting themselves into pretzels ahead of Kenney’s fast approaching leadership review (more on that very soon).

UCP nominations have been a lot quieter since the party disqualified challengers Jodie Gateman in Cardston-Siksika and Tim Hoven in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre.

The following UCP MLAs have been acclaimed for their nominations: Josephine Pon in Calgary-Beddington, Peter Singh in Calgary-East, Prasad Panda in Calgary-Edgemont, Jeremy Nixon in Calgary-Klein, Rebecca Schulz in Calgary-Shaw, Matt Jones in Calgary-South East, Joseph Schow in Cardston-Siksika, Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, Nathan Neudorf in Lethbridge-East, Dale Nally in Morinville-St. Albert, Nathan Cooper in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, Jason Nixon in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, and Nate Glubish in Strathcona-Sherwood Park.

This is a big change from nominations ahead of the last election, which saw many competitive UCP nominations and many, many NDP acclamations. So far this time it’s been the opposite.

The following nomination meetings have been scheduled.

Camrose NDP: April 3, 2022
Edmonton-Whitemud NDP: April 7, 2022
Calgary-East NDP: April 9,2022
Edmonton-Mill Woods NDP: April 10, 2022
Leduc-Beaumont NDP: April 13, 2022
Morinville-St. Albert NDP: April 30, 2022
Calgary-Glenmore: May 10, 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!

 

Categories
Alberta Politics

Brian Jean is back. The thorn in Kenney’s side wins Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.

Brian Jean is back.

The former Wildrose Party leader will be returning to the Alberta Legislature after winning a landslide victory in today’s by-election in Fort McMuray-Lac La Biche.

He’s a UCP MLA-elect and he’s one of the biggest thorns in Premier Jason Kenney’s side.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney United Conservative Party AGM
Jason Kenney

Jean beat Kenney’s favoured candidate in the UCP nomination contest and the former MLA and MP used the by-election as a platform to campaign hard against Kenney.

He has been openly organizing against Kenney ahead of the April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.

Now he’s the newest member of Kenney’s UCP Caucus.

What I would do to be a fly on the wall when Jean’s strolls into the UCP Caucus Office in Edmonton tomorrow morning.

He’s not alone.

UCP MLAs Leela Aheer, Dave Hanson and Angela Pitt have openly spoken out against Kenney. So have Independent MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen.

It was a big win for Jean tonight. But that’s about it.

The by-election results are disappointing for the NDP, who have been polling ahead of the UCP province-wide, and whose candidate, Ariana Mancini, campaigned hard.

But in this by-election, Fort McMurray’s favourite son was both the UCP candidate and the most vocal anti-Kenney candidate, which is a bizarre situation for the opposition NDP to be in.

Paul Hinman and his separatist Wildrose Independence Party placed a distant third. The other five candidates had distant finishes.

Now with the by-election over, all the players are going to be focused on April 9 and Kenney’s leadership review.

This is going to be something to watch.


With 61/61 polls reporting, here are the unofficial results of the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election:

  • Brian Jean, UCP 3,714 (63.6%)
  • Ariana Mancini, NDP 1,801 (18.5%)
  • Paul Hinman, WRIP 628 (10.8%)
  • Abdulhakim Hussein, Liberal 211 (3.6%)
  • Michelle Landsiedel, Alberta Party 98 (1.7%)
  • Brian Deheer, Independent 56 (1.0%)
  • Marilyn Burns, Alberta Advantage 25 (0.4%)
  • Steven Mellott, Independence Party 24 (0.4%)
Categories
Alberta Politics

The Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election and the Alberta Politics Time Machine™

The calm before the storm. The deep breath before the plunge.

Tomorrow is the day.

Tomorrow is by-election day in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

They’ve been overshadowed by Jason Kenney’s leadership review, the occupation of Ottawa, a blockade at Coutts, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but tomorrow the people of northern Alberta’s famed boom town get their say.

They get to choose an MLA.

Brian Jean Wildrose Leader
Brian Jean

Brian Jean is the favourite to win.

He’s the former MLA, former MP, and former leader of the Wildrose Party.

He’s Fort Mac’s golden boy.

Now he’s the United Conservative Party candidate.

He’s also Jason Kenney’s worst enemy and if he wins he’ll become an even bigger thorn in the Premier’s side ahead of the April 9 leadership review.

Kenney beat Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership race and is now openly campaigning against him in the leadership review.

Jean isn’t the only anti-Kenney candidate in the race.

Alberta NDP candidate Ariana Mancini in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election
Ariana Mancini

NDP candidate Ariana Mancini is campaigning hard.

The NDP are cautiously optimistic about their chances but it’s a real long shot and know they are the underdog.

Even with the NDP leading the UCP by 15 points in province-wide polls and Kenney’s approval ratings in free fall, there is still a big gap to close in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

The UCP won the riding with 66 per cent of the vote in 2019.

Competing with Jean for disaffected conservative voters is another former Wildrose Party leader, Paul Hinman.

Hinman now leads the separatist Wildrose Independence Party.

He’s another long-shot candidate.

He’s also living proof that by-elections can produce weird and unpredictable results.

What do I mean?

Hop in and join me in the Alberta Politics Time Machine™.

Paul Hinman Wildrose Independence Party MLA
Paul Hinman

One year after Hinman was lost his Cardston-Taber-Warner seat in the 2008 general election he shocked political watchers by winning a by-election in posh Calgary-Glenmore in the city’s southwest.

It was a real country-mouse-becomes-city-mouse situation.

But Hinman isn’t the only example of how by-elections can be sometimes have shocking results.

The Liberals stunned political watchers when Craig Cheffins won in the Calgary-Elbow by-election to replace retired Premier Ralph Klein in 2007.

Alberta Party leader Greg Clark very nearly repeated history in 2014 when he placed a painfully close second to PC cabinet minister Gord Dirks in another Calgary-Elbow by-election.

“But Dave,” you say, “aren’t those just fancy urban Calgary ridings?”

Hold on.

There’s more.

The Liberals won the 1992 by-election in Three Hills.

Yes. That’s right. Three. Hills.

Laurence Decore Alberta Liberal Leader
Laurence Decore

Deficit hawk Liberal leader Laurence Decore recruited farm realtor Don MacDonald in that by-election.

It was a sign of how well the Liberals were doing as much as how poorly the old Progressive Conservatives had tumbled under Don Getty’s beleaguered premiership.

“This is the heartland of Conservative Alberta,” Decore told a boisterous crowd of supporters in Three Hills on the night of MacDonald’s win.

He won with a stunning 2,476 lead over the second place Social Credit candidate.

The PC placed third.

“This is rural Alberta. This is where it’s not supposed to happen. This is where Liberals are supposed to be the anathema of everything that this area stands for,” Decore said. “Not only are we winning but we’re winning handsomely.”

The Liberals even came within a hair of winning a by-election in Little Bow a few months earlier.

Yes. Little. Bow.

That’s the deep south and it’s where conservatives usually win big.

The Reform Party of Canada was on the rise and, just like Three Hills a few months later, Reformers were split between the provincial Liberals and Tories in that by-election.

Reformer-turned-Liberal Donna Graham finished 262 votes behind Reformer-turned-Tory winner Barry MacFarland.

It was a close race.

Gordon Kesler
Gordon Kesler

And then there’s the big by-election win that people always talk about when Alberta separatism periodically peaks in the polls: Western Canada Concept’s Gordon Kesler winning the 1982 Olds-Didsbury by-election.

It was the only time a separatist party candidate has been elected to the Alberta Legislature.

People were mad.

Mad at Pierre Trudeau.

Mad at Peter Lougheed.

And boy did they show it.

But Kesler only had a few months as an MLA before Lougheed shifted gears and steamrolled the WCC into electoral oblivion in the November 1982 general election.

Ok. Buckle up.

Let’s take the time machine back even further.

Young PC candidate Bill Yurko stole the Strathcona East seat vacated by retired Premier Ernest Manning in 1969, foreshadowing the demise of Social Credit only a few years later.

Even the New Democrats have squeaked in a surprise by-election win, though you’ll have to go way back to find it.

Pincher Creek-Crowsnest. 1966.

Garth Turcott becomes the first Alberta NDP MLA in the province’s history.

It was a seat with a proud history of radical coal miner unionism, socialism and communism but like most of Alberta it had been held in the tight grip of the Socreds for over three decades.

Turcott’s team brought in a professional organizer and used new campaigning techniques like “doorknocking.”

Federal NDP leader Tommy Douglas even lent Turcott’s campaign a hand and drew hundreds of people to a by-election rally in the riding.

NDP leader Neil Reimer and first ever NDP MLA Garth Turcott shortly after his 1966 by-election win.

Douglas roasted Premier Ernest Manning for standing in the way of public health care.

“He has been the spearpoint of the attack on medicare,” Douglas said of the Alberta Premier.

It’s probably how Rachel Notley would describe Jason Kenney today. She’d be right.

But that’s for another column.

Slide back to the present. March 14, 2022.

What a wild ride.

I’d love to take the time machine to tomorrow night to see how the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election turns out but our tank is almost empty (and radioactive plutonium almost costs as much as a tank of gas these days!).

So we’ll have to take a big deep breath and wait to see if Brian Jean reclaims his old seat tomorrow night.

It might be a Jean slam dunk, but as we just saw on our little journey through Alberta history – sometimes by-elections can have unexpected results.

Voting stations are open from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Nomination Updates: UCP cancels rumbles in Rocky and Cardston, disqualifies Tim Hoven and Jodie Gateman

I take a few days off and there’s a million new candidate nomination updates.

It sure feels like election season in Alberta. Or maybe it’s just Leadership Review season.

Ok. Let’s get on with the updates.

Tim Hoven and Jodie Gateman have been disqualified from the United Conservative Party nomination races in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre and Cardston-Siksika.

The right-wing municipal politicians were challenging two high-profile Jason Kenney loyalists – Government House Leader and Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon and Deputy Government House Leader Joseph Schow.

The party says they were disqualified because of controversial posts they shared and liked on social media.

People close to Gateman’s campaign say it was because she was accused of reposting conspiracy theories on her social media accounts.

They tell me that party staff even asked her if she was in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021. (The person I spoke with said she was visiting family in Las Vegas).

Disqualifying them avoids negative media attention from unwanted bozo-eruptions and has the added bonus of protecting two Kenney loyalists who were by most accounts considered vulnerable in the nomination.

They also both happened to be endorsed by Kenney rivals Brian Jean and Drew Barnes.

Without nomination races to keep them busy, there’s more time to focus on the April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.

Gateman is now shifting her attention to getting as many of her supporters to vote against Kenney at the April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.

They are renting buses.

Maybe someone will call in and ask Kenney about it on his debut radio show this weekend?

A new poll from ThinkHQ shows that 64 per cent of Albertans and 59 per cent of UCP voters want Kenney gone.

More on that later. Now back to the nomination updates.

For the UCP:

  • It hasn’t been announced yet, but is appears that Calgary-Shaw MLA Rebecca Schulz and Calgary-South East MLA Matt Jones will be acclaimed as the UCP candidates in their ridings.
  • MLA Josephine Pon is running for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Beddington. Pon was first elected in 2019.
  • MLA Mickey Amery is running for the UCP nomination in Calgary-Cross. Amery was first elected in 2019.
  • MLA Peter Singh is running for the UCP nomination in Calgary-East. Singh was first elected in 2019.
  • Legislative Assembly Speaker MLA Nathan Cooper is running for the UCP nomination in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills. Cooper was first elected in 2015.
  • MLA Dan Williams is running for the UCP nomination in Peace River. Williams was first elected in 2019.
  • Service Alberta Minister and MLA Nate Glubish is running for the UCP nomination in Strathcona-Sherwood Park. Glubish was first elected in 2019.

For the NDP:

  • Dave Cournoyer and Rakhi Pancholi the day before the 2019 election was called.
    Dave Cournoyer and Rakhi Pancholi the day before the 2019 election was called.

    MLA Irfan Sabir has been nominated to run for re-election in the recently renamed Calgary-Bhullar-McCall. Sabir was first elected in 2015.

  • MLA Rakhi Pancholi has announced her plans to run for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Whitemud. Pancholi was first elected in 2019.
  • MLA Christina Gray is running for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Mill Woods. Gray was first elected in 2015 and served as Minister of Labour from 2015 to 2019.
  • Respected energy analyst Samir Kayande is now the NDP candidate in Calgary-Elbow.
  • Canmore town councillor Tonya Foubert is the fourth candidate to join the NDP nomination contest in Banff-Kananaskis.
  • Director Business Renewables Centre Canada director Nagwan Al-Guneid is the second candidate to enter the NDP nomination race in Calgary-Glenmore. They join communications consultant Jennifer Burgess in the race.
  • Registered Nurse Diana Batten is running for the NDP nomination in Calgary-Acadia.
  • Rosman Valencia is now the only candidate seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-East after Alison Karim-McSwiney withdrew from the contest.
  • Registered Nurse Chantelle Hosseiny and paramedic Cameron Heenan are seeking the NDP nomination in Leduc-Beaumont.
  • Teacher James Grondin is the second candidate to enter the NDP nomination race in Morinville-St. Albert. Former Sturgeon County Councillor Karen Shaw joined the race in Dec. 2021.

Here are the upcoming nomination meetings that have been scheduled:

  • Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland NDP: March 12, 2022 
  • Lesser Slave Lake NDP: March 13, 2022
  • Calgary-Shaw UCP: March 21, 2022
  • Calgary-South East UCP: March 21, 2022
  • Cardston-Siksika UCP: March 21, 2022
  • Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre UCP: March 23, 2022
  • Calgary-Edgemont UCP: March 24, 2022
  • Calgary-Klein UCP: March 24, 2022
  • Drumheller-Stettler UCP: March 24, 2022
  • Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville UCP: March 24, 2022
  • Peace River UCP: March 24, 2022
  • St. Albert NDP: March 24, 2022
  • Calgary-Klein NDP: March 26, 2022
  • Banff-Kananaskis NDP: March 27, 2022
  • Calgary-Beddington UCP: March 29, 2022
  • Calgary-East UCP: March 29, 2022
  • Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills UCP: March 29, 2022
  • Strathcona-Sherwood Park UCP: March 29, 2022
  • Camrose NDP: April 3, 2022
  • Edmonton-Whitemud NDP: April 7, 2022
  • Calgary-East NDP: April 9,2022
  • Edmonton-Mill Woods NDP: April 10, 2022
Categories
Alberta Politics

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election takes a backseat to Red Deer UCP Leadership Review

The people of Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche waited six whole months for Premier Jason Kenney to call a by-election to choose their next MLA.

That’s an eternity in politics.

But the by-election in the northern Alberta boom town isn’t really about the people who actually live there.

It’s about who leads the United Conservative Party.

Former Wildrose leader Brian Jean is running as an anti-Kenney UCP candidate.

Jean beat Kenney’s favourite in a December nomination vote and has made no secret his desire to replace him as leader.

In fact, every candidate in this by-election is running against Kenney. It’s the reason why the Premier won’t be seen anywhere near Fort McMurray before the March 15 vote.

But Jean’s focus isn’t really on Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

It’s on Red Deer.

The by-election is a proxy war ahead of the UCP’s April 9 leadership review.

Jean loyalist Vitor Marciano was in Bonnyville last month with local MLA Dave Hanson talking about why UCP members should dump Kenney.

“On April 9, we’re voting out a tyrant,” former Kenney organizer David Parker said at the meeting.

You can listen to it here.

Parker was Kenney’s Central Alberta organizer in the 2017 leadership race. 

Now, Parker is the executive director of Take Back Alberta, a political action committee created to defeat Kenney in the leadership review.

Until recently, Parker was Vice President of Business Development for Higher Ground Medica.

The President and CEO of the Oyen-based Cannabis company is Jeff Callaway.

Yep. That Jeff Callaway.

Alberta politics is a very small world.

Another front in the challenge to Kenney’s leadership is raging on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains in the sprawling Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding. 

Jean joined exiled former UCP MLA Drew Barnes in backing former county councillor Tim Hoven against MLA Jason Nixon in the UCP nomination race.

“Tim Hoven has stepped up to do a brave thing,” Jean said in his Facebook video endorsement of Hoven.

Nixon is a heavy hitter in Kenney’s inner circle.

He’s the Government House Leader and Minister of Environment & Parks. 

The Giant from Sundre backed Kenney over Jean in the UCP’s 2017 leadership race – an endorsement that was a critical moment in that contest.

His absence in the Legislature last week was conspicuous.

Rumour is that Nixon was busy driving around his riding campaigning for the nomination.

In the deep south, Jean has endorsed Vulcan County councillor Jodie Gateman in the Cardston-Siksika UCP nomination race.

Gateman is the long-time conservative activist challenging UCP Deputy Government House Leader Joseph Schow, another well-known Kenney loyalist.

“She stepped up because she sees the need to change things in the UCP, the need to bring renewal and take the party back to its original sense of purpose,” Jean said in his endorsement of Gateman.

Back up in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, where the by-election is actually happening, NDP candidate Ariana Mancini is busy hitting the doors.

The local elementary school teacher has been joined on the campaign trail by Edmonton NDP MLAs Rakhi Pancholi, Richard Feehan and David Eggen.

“Folks in Fort McMurray have had enough of the drama and the infighting in the UCP,” Mancini said at her February 15 campaign launch.

“We need a government that is focused on families and businesses here in our community,” Mancini said.

Rachel Notley’s NDP are putting in an effort but it’s a long-shot for them. The last time voters in this part of Alberta elected a New Democrat was 1986.

Jean is the favourite to win but by-elections are a funny thing.

Enter Paul Hinman on stage right.

Another former Wildrose Party leader, Hinman is now leading the separatist Wildrose Independence Party.

He’s also running in the by-election.

Hinman and Jean are competing for the love of the Freedom Convoy supporters by promoting conspiracy theories about COVID-19, the World Economic Forum and the Emergency Measures Act.

Hinman has a history of winning by-elections (well ok, one).

After losing his seat in Cardston-Taber-Warner in 2008 he shocked political watchers by winning a by-election one year later in posh Calgary-Glenmore.

A political comeback for Hinman up north would be an earthquake for Alberta politics.

A split on the increasingly unhinged political right could give the increasingly moderate NDP a chance to run up the middle to a win.

When the history books are written, the Fort McMuray-Lac La Biche by-election might just be a footnote in the chapter about the April 9 leadership review.

Or maybe, just maybe, the results on March 15 will grab the attention of Albertans. 


Candidates in the March 15 Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.

  • Marilyn Burns, Alberta Advantage Party
  • Brian Deheer, Independent
  • Abdulhakim Hussein, Liberal Party
  • Michelle Landsiedel, Alberta Party
  • Ariana Mancini, Alberta NDP
  • Steven Mellott, Independence Party
  • Brian Jean, United Conservative Party
Categories
Alberta Politics

OIL IS BACK, ALBERTA IS OPEN FOR SPRING AND OPEN FOR ELECTION SEASON

The price of oil is way up and COVID-19 public health restrictions are gone in Alberta.

Premier Jason Kenney and United Conservative Party cabinet ministers have fled the big cities and are hopping across the province making big spending announcements.

Grande Prairie. Red Deer. Acme. Hospitals. Schools. Airports. Childcare centres.

There is almost money for everything again. Unemployment is still high but government coffers are flush with oil revenues.

It feels like election season in Alberta.

The next provincial election is supposed to be just over a year away.

Bill 81 passed last year sets the next election day for the third Monday in May. That’s May 29, 2023. The bill was signed by Lieutenant Governor Salma Lakhani in December but it hasn’t been proclaimed into law by the Kenney cabinet.

Kenney could call a Hail Mary early election this year but with Rachel Notley’s NDP leading in every poll since November 2020, it would be a big gamble. The UCP could lose big.

Notley’s NDP are recruiting good candidates and have a lot more money in the bank than Kenney’s UCP, which has struggled to fundraise over the past two years.

But an early election would take advantage of high oil prices, boosted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has given Kenney a chance to shift back to talking about oil and pipelines. Plus, Kenney is keen to project a sense of optimism that the COVID pandemic might actually be over (for now, at least).

And a really early election could be a way to avoid that pesky April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.

‘Give all Albertans a chance to vote in the leadership review!’, Kenney could say.

A super early election would let Kenney punt out the growing chorus of opponents in his own caucus and avoid the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election (so long, Brian Jean!).

Kenney would still have a lot to answer for. He’s still sitting on an unpopular coal mining report the government was forced to write after nearly all Albertans rose up against open-pit coal mining in the Eastern Slopes.

Plus the draft education curriculum, a big fight with doctors, abandoned plans to privatize and sell provincial parks, and that $1.3 billion gambled on Donald Trump’s re-election.

New Labour Minister Kaycee Madu is still in cabinet after trying (and failing) to ‘interfere in the administration of justice’ after getting distracted driving ticket. And new Justice Minister Tyler Shandro is facing a code-of-conduct hearing at the Law Society.

While Kenney has callously used the Ukraine crisis as a pitch for Canadian oil, one big country dependent on Russian oil and gas, Germany, is talking about abandoning fossil fuels all together.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner has referred to renewable electricity sources as “the energy of freedom.”

But Kenney’s audience isn’t Germany or investment funds in New York. His primary audience is UCP voters in Alberta.

Back to the early election talk.

Maybe that’s what Pam Livingston is already working on?

The Premier’s chief of staff is on a leave of absence to make sure he wins the leadership review, but with party nominations heating up – notably in ridings held by Kenney loyalists – shifting into election campaign mode might be a natural transition.

City UCP MLAs are worried about the NDP, and rightfully so, but rural MLAs are mostly worried about a challenge from the populist right.

An early election could catch challengers like the Wildrose Independence Party off-guard, robbing them of a full year to organize and recruit candidates.

“But Dave,” you say, an early election call didn’t go so well for Kenney’s conservative predecessor in the Premier’s office.

That’s true.

Premier Jim Prentice led a calcified Progressive Conservative dynasty to get trampled in the 2015 Orange Wave election that broke the mold of Alberta politics. It’s probably a warning Kenney should heed.

The NDP could win big and Notley could become the first Premier in Alberta’s history to return after being defeated. It would be a big deal.

Notice that Kenney’s language has shifted in the past month?

After years of using divide and conquer tactics on almost every issue, the most divisive and unpopular premier in Alberta’s recent history is making a desperate appeal for “unity.”

He needs a big shift – and a big shovel to dig himself out of the giant hole he has spent the past three years digging.

Whether he is actually campaigning for the April 9 leadership review or setting up Albertans for an early election, gambling might be Kenney’s only option if he wants to stay in the Premier’s office. Otherwise he might as well book the U-Haul.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Kenney declares Alberta open for spring and says we need to “Learn to Live with COVID”

If you really want to pressure the Alberta government into changing public health rules, blockade a border crossing. That appears to be one of the lessons learned this week as Premier Jason Kenney rushed to announce the immediate end of two major COVID-19 public health protections – the Restriction Exemption Program and mandatory face masking in schools, two of the key asks of protesters blockading the Canada-United States border crossing at Coutts.

The Restriction Exemption Program, aka the vaccine passport, provided proof for restaurant, bar and coffee shop workers that their customers were vaccinated against COVID-19. It has also provided a big incentive to get vaccinated. The rushed ending of that program at midnight tonight both removes that incentive and could throw many businesses and their workers for a loop tomorrow morning.

The sudden removal of face mask requirements without consulting parents, teachers or schools boards feels like the most cruel announcement today. We have gone from the government distributing free masks and rapid tests to students in schools to no masks allowed in schools in less than a month.

Low vaccination rates among kids 5 to 11 and the absence of a vaccine of any vaccine protection for kids under the age of 5 will mean a lot of parents with a sleepless night trying to decide how best to keep their young kids safe.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange released a statement during Kenney’s press conference declaring that locally elected school boards would not be allowed to implement their own face mask rules for students, despite the government being fine with local trustees having that authority until today.

Seeing his approval rating plummet over the past two years and facing a leadership review on April 9, it has been clear for months that Kenney was planning on removing the restrictions, but it appears as though the pressure from the Coutts blockaders and pressure from a growing number of rural United Conservative Party MLAs pushed the Premier to rush into removing the restrictions.

When Kenney announced that Alberta was Open for Summer and Open for Good back in June 2021, I tried to be cautiously optimistic that it would be okay. It wasn’t.

Today, I don’t really feel optimistic, I just hope for the sake of my family, friends, and neighbours that it works.

While there is no doubt that many Albertans are growing increasingly tired of the pandemic, it felt incredibly counterintuitive for the Premier to be announcing the removal of restrictions on a day when 1,623 Albertans are in hospital with COVID-19, including 129 in Intensive Care Units. The pandemic is not over.

But, this is being driven by politics not public health.

Kenney talked in his press conference about the need for Albertans to “learn to live with COVID” but learning to live with COVID doesn’t mean just going back to how life was in 2019 – it means we must have actually learned something, otherwise we’re just ignoring the lessons of the past two years.

Here are a few of the lessons we could learn from.

Do a big audit. If we are going to indeed need to learn to live with COVID-19, we first need to know what we learned, starting with the release of the six performance audits from the Auditor General into the government’s response to COVID-19 would be a good start. The release of the reports were blocked by UCP MLAs on the Public Accounts Committee in January 2022.

A real Public Inquiry. There should be a real Public Inquiry and investigation into the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive outbreaks at workplaces like the Cargill meat packing plan in High River, CNRL’s Horizon oilsands mine, and long term care centres across Alberta. At the very least an real public inquiry will help us prepare for the next pandemic (or the next wave of COVID-19).

Keep promoting vaccinations. Despite praising them a miracle, it really feels like the Alberta government gave up trying to boost vaccinations months ago. Even gone at today’s press conference was the big and bright “GET YOUR BOOSTER SHOT” podium sign that we have become accustomed to seeing at these events.

Alberta’s vaccination rates, especially for booster shots, are lower than other provinces, and much lower when it comes to kids between the ages of 5 and 11. We still need to do better.

People should stay home when they are sick. Instead of returning to a culture that rewards – or more commonly doesn’t give workers the choice of – showing up when you’re feeling ill, encourage people to stay home when they are sick. More paid work days will help people get well and workplaces to stay healthy.

Better ventilation. Improving building ventilation systems, from schools to apartment buildings to shopping centres – the bare minimum standard is not good enough. Our indoor public spaces need the kind of ventilation that does not aid and abet viruses like COVID-19.

Get a union. Working Albertans need stronger workplace health and safety protections. If it’s not something that their employers will volunteer to improve, it’s something that could be demanded through representation from strong labour unions.

Build a stronger public health care system. Health care capacity is something we have heard a lot about during the COVID-19 pandemic, and capacity applies to both hospital beds and health care staff needed to take care of the patients in the beds.

Because of decisions made by governments of past, Alberta’s public health care system has significantly less hospital beds per capita than our province did forty years ago. This was a choice and we can fix it. The government could also work with universities and colleges to educate more nurses, doctors and health care workers and then invest in the public health care system to hire and keep them working in Alberta – and provide them with the proper personal protective equipment!

COVID-19 has brought the health care system to the brink of collapse, but the dedicated and exhausted nurses, doctors and health workers continue to hold it together for Albertans. The public health care system has been there for Albertans. It’s time to build a stronger public health care system.

Rethink private long-term care. We need to rethink our private long-term care system. Not only do the growing number of privately owned long-term care facilities represent one of the biggest examples of theft of generational wealth, but the billion dollar international corporations that own them should be held to account for how COVID-19 was spread into the homes of some of our most vulnerable seniors. The UCP passed a law in 2021 that blocks lawsuits against long term care owners for the deaths of residents in their care during the pandemic. We owe it to our elders to find out what happened and do better.

Take on Facebook. Taking legal action to aggressively challenge the spread of disinformation on social media. YouTube, Twitter and Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, need to be held to account for the role their algorithms continue to play in spreading dangerous disinformation about COVID and vaccines that almost certainly cost people their lives and livelihoods. There is probably little that a provincial government can do, but the federal government can and should act.

Learn to show empathy. And maybe one of the most important lessons we need to learn coming out of the pandemic is the need for more empathy. How do we get out of this while showing better understanding of each other? How do we improve our ability to understand or feel what other people are experiencing? How do we learn to put ourselves in other people’s shoes? This is so important.

The pandemic is not over and we will still have more lessons to learn. But if we are going to move forward, for better or worse, we can’t forget the mistakes we’ve made and lessons we’ve learned since this thing started two years ago.