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Alberta Politics

Teacher Ariana Mancini running for Alberta NDP nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election

Fort McMurray teacher Ariana Mancini is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche ahead of the upcoming by-election in the riding.

Mancini teaches Grade 4 at Ecole Dickinsfield School in Fort McMurray and is on the executive of Fort McMurray Local 48 of the Alberta Teachers Association.

“Conservatives have failed to deliver on the promises they made in the last election. Their corporate tax cuts haven’t created the jobs they promised,” Mancini said in a press release. “Under Jason Kenney, life is getting more expensive: income taxes are up, insurance rates are up, electricity rates are up, tuition is up.

“It’s time we had representation in our region that believed in making life more affordable for families,” Mancini said.

Don Scott MLA Fort McMurray Conklin
Don Scott

A nomination meeting is scheduled for Dec. 9 and Mancini is expected to be acclaimed. NDP leader Rachel Notley will be in Fort McMurray for what the party describes will be a nomination rally.

This will be Mancini’s second time running for the provincial NDP.

In 2015 she placed second behind Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean (who is also running for the United Conservative Party nomination to run this by-election) and ahead of incumbent Progressive Conservative MLA Don Scott (who would later serve as Mayor of Wood Buffalo from 2017 to 2021) in the former Fort McMurray-Conklin riding.

NDP are the underdog in this race

Despite Notley’s NDP leading in the province-wide polls since last November and Premier Jason Kenney reaching record low approval ratings, it will be an uphill battle for any party other than the UCP to win this by-election. Voters in this region of north east Alberta have reliably elected Conservative candidates for over three decades.

Leo Piquette NDP MLA Athabasca-Lac La Biche
Leo Piquette

Popular municipal councillor Jane Stroud was only able to earn 24 per cent as the NDP candidate in the 2019 election, and you have to look all the way back to 1986 to find the last time a New Democrat was elected in the area (NDP MLA Leo Piquette represented Athabasca-Lac La Biche from 1986 to 1989).

The last time a candidate from a non-Conservative party was elected in this area was in 1993, when Adam Germain was elected in Fort McMurray and Paul Langevin was elected in Lac La Biche-St. Paul under the Liberal Party banner (though, the Liberals in that election were arguably more conservative than they have ever been since).

All that said, by-elections can sometimes produce unexpected results.

The nasty feud between Jean and Kenney, unhappiness with the UCP’s response to COVID-19, persistent high unemployment, displeasure with the forced provincial centralization of ambulance dispatch, and skepticism about the UCP’s move to abandon the RCMP and form a provincial police force might just be a few of the issues that help voters decide who to cast their ballot.

The by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche must be called by Feb. 15, 2022.

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Alberta Politics

Nomination update: Rob Miyashiro wins 4-way race in Lethbridge-East, Jennifer Burgess running for NDP nomination in Calgary-Glenmore

Former Lethbridge City Councillor Rob Miyashiro defeated former MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, non-profit executive director Amanda Jensen, and teacher Kevin McBeath to win the Alberta NDP nomination in Lethbridge-East on Nov. 21.

Miyashiro served on Lethbridge City Council from 2013 until 2021 and is the executive director of the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization.

This will be Miyashiro’s second time running as a candidate in Lethbridge-East. He was the Alberta Liberal candidate in the district in the 2012 provincial election, placing third with 14.6 per cent of the vote behind Progressive Conservative candidate Bridget Pastoor, who crossed the floor from the Liberals in 2011.

Nathan Neudorf Lethbridge East UCP MLA
Nathan Neudorf

The district is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Nathan Neudorf, who was elected as Chair of the UCP Caucus following Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen’s resignation and expulsion from the UCP Caucus last summer. Neudorf was first elected in 2019 after defeating Fitzpatrick.

As I’ve previously noted, Lethbridge-East has a unique voting history for a district in southern Alberta, with voters electing Liberal MLAs in every election from 1993 to 2008. Voters embraced the Orange Wave in 2015, electing Fitzpatrick as the riding’s first-ever NDP MLA.


We are now roughly 15 months away from the next provincial election in Alberta, so the candidate nomination news is rolling in slowly, candidates are starting to step forward across the province:

Banff-Kananaskis: Condo property manager Mark Tkacz is the third person to enter the NDP nomination contest in Banff-Kananaskis, joining biologist Sarah Elmeligi and bank manager Gavin McCaffrey.

Joe Ceci

Calgary-Buffalo: Two-term MLA Joe Ceci was acclaimed as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Buffalo, a riding he has represented since 2019. Ceci was first elected as the MLA for Calgary-Fort in 2015 and ran for re-election in the neighbouring Calgary-Buffalo in 2019 following the redrawing of electoral boundaries ahead of the last election.

Ceci served as a City Councillor in Calgary from 1995 to 2010 and was the Minister of Finance during the NDP’s four years as government.

Jennifer Burgess Alberta NDP Calgary-Glenmore nomination election
Jennifer Burgess

Calgary-Glenmore: Communications professional Jennifer Burgess announced yesterday that she is seeking the Alberta NDP nomination in this southwest Calgary riding.

Burgess is the President of the Braeside Community Association and a long-time NDP activist. She was president of the Calgary-Buffalo constituency association in 2016 and in 2019 managed the campaign of Calgary-Glenmore candidate Jordan Stein. 

Burgess previously ran for the NDP against then-Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice in the 2014 by-election in Calgary-Foothills. Her partner is former NDP MLA Graham Sucha, who represented Calgary-Shaw from 2015 to 2019.

The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Whitney Issik, who was appointed Associate Minister of Status of Women in July 2021. Before Issik’s election in 2019 the riding was represented by NDP MLA Anam Kazim. Kazim was elected in 2015 and was defeated by Stein in a nomination race ahead of the 2019 election. 

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche: The UCP hasn’t officially made the announcement it on its website, but the Elections Alberta website notes that the UCP will hold their nomination meeting in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche on December 11.

Membership sales closed over the weekend in the race to choose a candidate to run in the upcoming by-election, which has to be called by Feb. 15, 2022.

Former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, who represented much of the riding as an MLA from 2015 to 2018 and an MP from 2004 to 2013, is facing business consultant Joshua Gogo.

With a by-election call imminent, a steady stream of NDP MLAs have been travelling to Fort McMurray to raise the party banner and meet with locals.

Edmonton-City Centre NDP MLA and health critic David Shepherd was in Fort McMurray earlier this week, and party leader Rachel Notley, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous and Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan have recently visited Fort Mac.

There is still no word on who will run for the NDP in this by-election. The candidate who ran for the party in the 2018 by-election and 2019 election, Jane Stroud, was acclaimed to another term on the Wood Buffalo municipal council, a position she has held since 2010.

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Alberta Politics

Kenney walks away from UCP AGM largely unscathed. Next up: defeating Brian Jean.

Premier Jason Kenney appeared to walk away mostly unscathed from last weekend’s United Conservative Party Annual General Meeting in Calgary.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney United Conservative Party AGM
Jason Kenney

Kenney delivered a much-watched keynote speech to more than a thousand UCP delegates that appears to have been generally well-received, though sounded like it might have been more appropriately aimed at a Chamber of Commerce or business crowd luncheon than a room of partisans hungry for more partisanship.

Kenney’s speech and it’s focus on the economy, and not his government’s fumbling response to the COVID-19 pandemic and failed “Open for Summer” plan, gives an indication of the direction the Premier and his inner circle believe they need to shift their message in order to salvage his embattled leadership and the party’s chances of winning re-election in 2023.

Regardless, Kenney tried hard to present an upbeat appearance, but as anyone who follows politics will know – party conventions are all production and all a show.

Leela Aheer ALberta MLA
Leela Aheer (Source: Twitter)

Kenney commanded the support of the convention, though he lost a critical vote on a special resolution that would have increased the number of constituency associations able to trigger a leadership vote from 1/4 of 87 to 1/3 of 87.

The motion received support from 57 per cent of delegates but fell short of the 75 per cent required to make the constitutional change.

This small defeat came less than a week after 22 UCP constituency associations announced they had passed an identical motion calling for an already scheduled April review of Kenney’s leadership to be moved to before March 1, 2022.

Cynthia Moore United Conservative Party President
Cynthia Moore

The new UCP President, Cynthia Moore, has said the newly elected party board will review the motions, though conservatives I’ve spoken with suggest that Kenney’s supporters are energetically searching for a technicality to disqualify the motions for an earlier vote.

Recent public opinion polls have shown Kenney with a 22 per cent approval rating among Albertans and his party has trailed Rachel Notley‘s Alberta NDP in the polls since November 2020, which has led to a growing number of UCP MLAs, including former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer, willing to publicly criticize his leadership or call for his resignation.

Even MLAs who are reluctant to publicly criticize Kenney are reluctant to publicly defend him.

Maclean’s columnist Jason Markusoff tweeted from the convention that reporters “asked Fort McMurray MLA Tany Yao how many members here want Kenney as leader. Half, he said. Does he want Kenney as leader? Sighed, said “you’ve put me in a tough spot,” then a minister’s press secretary whisked him away.”

Daniel Williams UCP Peace River
Daniel Williams

But perhaps the most interesting part of the convention was the vote by UCP delegates to pass a motion in support of conscience rights for health care professionals, which critics say could lead to the denial of access to women’s health and abortion services. A private members bill supporting conscience rights introduced into the Legislature by Peace River MLA and Kenney acolyte Dan Williams (now a parliamentary secretary – see below) failed at committee last year.

The passage of the policy at the UCP convention might provide an idea of how strong the different parts of the conservative coalition dominate the UCP right now, in this case – social conservatives.

Support for conscience rights for health care professionals stirred up quite a bit of controversy and backlash against the Wildrose Party during the 2012 provincial election.

It is unclear in what ways health professionals are being denied freedom of conscience at the moment,” penned the Globe & Mail editorial board on April 9, 2012.

Are doctors being required to perform abortions against their will? If so, no public complaint has been made that we are aware of. Would doctors have the right to swear off treating patients of the opposite sex? Would family physicians be entitled to refuse to prescribe birth control pills, or could they insist, when faced with a teenage girl, on counselling abstinence only?

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

And speaking of the Wildrose Party, former party leader Danielle Smith was at the AGM and publicly mused to a reporter from Derek Fildebrandt‘s Western Standard website that she would run for the leadership of the UCP if Kenney’s stepped down.

Smith was quick to clarify to subscribers to her weekly email newsletter that she was merely musing and that she is not planning to run because the job is already filled. But that Smith could so casually make a comment like that to a reporter while standing in the same convention ball room as the current leader is embarrassing for Kenney.

Brian Jean Calgary Stampede Alberta
Brian Jean

After leading the party from obscurity to the brink of forming government, Smith famously crossed the floor along with a dozen other Wildrose MLAs to join Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservative Party in 2014 – a move that ended up gutting both parties and helping pave the way for Notley’s NDP to win the 2015 election.

And, continuing the blast from the past theme is another former Wildrose leader, Brian Jean, who is weeks away from potentially being selected as the UCP candidate in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election – that is, if he is not stopped by Joshua Gogo, a Fort McMurray economist.

Jean is probably Kenney’s main target now.

Trying to defeat him in the nomination vote, which is set for December 11 according to the Elections Alberta website, is likely one of the first steps the Premier will take in trying to reconsolidate his support in the UCP ahead of the next year’s leadership review – whether it be held in April or February.

Joshua Gogo
Joshua Gogo

Kenney has recently criticized Jean and questioned his political record after resigning before finishing his elected terms as a Member of Parliament and MLA for Fort McMurray, criticisms that were echoed by the Premier’s political staff on social media.

Also hanging out there is the Kamikaze campaign that Kenney’s closest advisors helped manufacture as part of the effort to defeat Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership race and the ongoing RCMP investigation into alleged voter fraud.

If he is not able to stop Jean from winning the nomination, Kenney will probably a harder time pretending he’s in an upbeat mood.


Kenney names five new parliamentary secretaries

Premier Kenney announced that five UCP MLAs have been appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries, roles that do not bring any additional salary but are a sign of which backbenchers could be on track for promotions to cabinet in the future – and which backbenchers a party leader in trouble is trying to solidify support from.

Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Parks for Water Stewardship. He also serves as UCP Caucus Chair.

Peace River MLA Dan Williams is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Culture and for la Francophonie. Before returning to Alberta to seek the UCP nomination, Williams worked in Ottawa for Kenney while he served as a federal cabinet minister.

Both Neudorf and Williams also sit as the MLA representatives on the UCP Board of Directors.

Camrose MLA Jackie Lovely is Parliamentary Secretary to the Associate Minister of Status of Women. Lovely was first elected as MLA for Camrose in 2019 and previously ran for the Wildrose Party in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015.

Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Community and Social Services for Civil Society. Nixon was first elected as MLA in 2019 and previously ran as a Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-Klein in 2012 and 2015. Nixon was removed from his previous role as parliamentary secretary for civil society after disregarding COVID-19 restrictions and traveling to Hawaii for a hot holiday in December 2020. He is the brother of Environment & Parks Minister and Government House Leader Jason Nixon.

Spruce Grove-Stony Plain MLA Searle Turton is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Energy. A former Spruce Grove City Councillor, Turton was widely rumoured to have been a potential pick for Minister of Municipal Affairs following Tracy Allard’s demotion in Jan. 2021. Turton also serves as the private sector union liaison for the Ministry of Labour and Immigration.

Categories
Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 81: Taking ideas and turning them into action. An interview with City Councillor Michael Janz.

Edmonton City Councillor Michael Janz joins the Daveberta Podcast to talk about the recent municipal election, his experiences during his first month on City Council, what he hopes to accomplish in the years ahead, and how ordinary Edmontonians can have an impact on decisions at City Hall. We also dive into provincial politics and what might lie ahead in the future for Premier Jason Kenney and Alberta’s 2023 election.

The Daveberta Podcast is hosted by Dave Cournoyer and produced by the talented Adam Rozenhart.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Recommended reading/listening

Categories
Alberta Politics

A look at this weekend’s UCP AGM as the formerly One-Big-Happy-Conservative-Family gathers for its first in-person convention since 2019

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s good news week ahead of this weekend’s United Conservative Party annual general meeting was largely overshadowed by a slow motion rebellion in his party.

While the Premier wanted to talk about childcare and the economy, a disgruntled group of UCP constituency presidents announced Monday morning that they had convinced 22 constituency associations to pass identical motions calling for a review of Kenney’s leadership to be moved before March 1, 2022.

The leadership review had been pushed to April 2022 from fall 2022 after Kenney averted a caucus revolt over the summer.

a map of the United Conservative Party constituency associations that have passed motions calling for a review of Jason Kenney’s leadership before March 1, 2022.
a map of the United Conservative Party constituency associations that have passed motions calling for a review of Jason Kenney’s leadership before March 1, 2022.

According to recent polling, Kenney is the least popular Premier in Canada, sitting at 22 per cent approval among Albertans, and his party has floundered in the polls and fundraising for the past year.

Rachel Notley would be Premier once again if an election were held today, which will surely be a future on the minds of many UCP activists this weekend.

Kenney’s fumbling response to the COVID-19 pandemic is part of the problem, but so to is his cabinet’s decision to wage a multi-front war against everyone from Alberta’s parks, nurses and teachers while trying to open the Rocky Mountains up to open-pit coal mining.

A party that famously promised “Jobs, Economy and Pipelines” in the 2019 election has delivered everything but.

When the business of the meeting begins, special resolutions will only be able to be brought to the floor of the AGM by Kenney and one resolution being introduced by the Kenney-friendly UCP association in Edmonton-North West would increase the number of constituency associations needed to trigger an early leadership review from 1/4 of 87 to 1/3 of 87.

A list of of the 22 constituency associations who passed the motion calling for an early review shows that this is largely a rural revolt against Kenney’s leadership, likely from the unruly rural Wildrose-side of the party, which has never been satisfied to subjugate itself to to the kind of centralized leadership that the Premier would have been comfortable with in Ottawa.

The first signatory of the letter from the 22 was a name that would be quite familiar to Kenney – Jack Redekop – the current president of the Calgary-Fish Creek UCP and former president of Kenney’s won former federal electoral district association in Calgary-Midnapore.

One of the common criticisms of Kenney is that he has become detached from the party’s organization and local leadership since his election as Premier in 2019. Wildrosers who don’t like a centralized party leadership are unhappy, as are former Progressive Conservatives, who might be accustomed to more attention and access to their leadership.

The two groups have also discovered that all the things they disliked about each others politics when they were two parties are still there, except now they are in the same party.

The revolt hasn’t been limited to the party membership.

Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer, UCP MLA Chestermere-Strathmore
Jason Kenney and former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer in happier time (source: YouTube)

Four MLAs – Chestemere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer, Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie, Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt, and Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried – have either publicly called for Kenney to resign or have openly criticized his leadership. And while most of their colleagues have avoided making public comments about Kenney’s leadership, the unhappiness among UCP MLAs and their staff is palpable.

There has been a steady stream of high-profile political staffers leaving their positions in the UCP government for jobs in the private sector. This past month saw the departure of press secretary Blaise Boehmer, who levelled some pretty heavy criticisms against Kenney, and UCP Caucus executive director Brittany Baltimore, who both recently took jobs with government relations companies.

Guthrie levelled allegations to the UCP Caucus this week that Political Action Committees supporting Kenney were paying the delegate fees of supporters in order to stack the votes in favour of the Premier during the AGM.

Peter Guthrie MLA Airdrie-Cochrane UCP Communism
Peter Guthrie

Postmedia columnist Don Braid wrote in his most recent column that a private company was organizing to send delegates in order to curry favour with UCP cabinet ministers if Kenney survives his leadership challenges.

Independent MLA Todd Loewen , who was kicked out of the UCP Caucus earlier this year for calling on Kenney to resign, and Edmonton-South NDP MLA Thomas Dang wrote letters to the Chief Elections Officer asking his office to investigate the allegations.

Albertans, and UCP members, are angry at Kenney, but aside from former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean who is running for the UCP nomination in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election, there is no obvious heir apparent inside the UCP for his opponents to rally around.

Cynthia Moore has been acclaimed as President and Sonia Kont acclaimed as Vice President of Fundraising, but there are races for the Secretary and Vice President of Communications positions.

Central Peace-Notley UCP President Samantha Steinke, who has publicly called for an early leadership review, is challenging incumbent Ruven Rajoo for VP Communications. Red Deer-South constituency President Janis Nett and Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo President Vicki Kozmak-LeFrense are running for the Secretary position, which was made vacant when former Secretary Cathy Smith resigned earlier this year.

A number of candidates are contesting regional director positions, including Sundre-resident Heidi Overguard, who was appointed by the UCP government to the Board of Directors of Alberta Health Services in Nov. 2019.

Meanwhile, UCP members will be lining up at the microphone to debate policies about cancel culture, private health care, private schools, and hydrogen, among other issues. The CBC reported that Kenney’s office instructed staffers to vote down policies “introducing a provincial sales tax, relocalizing 911 dispatch, a moratorium on new coal exploration and development on the eastern slopes of the Rockies and creating a revenue-neutral Alberta carbon tax to replace the federal backstop.”

This weekend’s convention will be a much different affair from the party’s last in-person annual general meeting after it’s big win in the 2019 election.

Kenney will surely be focused on rallying the party to give him one more chance ahead of next spring’s review, but don’t expect to hear many of the celebratory rallying cries we heard two years ago. The party no longer feels like it is united and it is certainly not the one big conservative happy family that Kenney helped establish in 2017.

The UCP AGM starts at the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino in Calgary on Friday, Nov. 19 and will wrap up on Sunday, Nov. 21.

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Alberta Politics

Janet Eremenko wins NDP nomination in Calgary-Currie, Chand Gul running for NDP nomination in Edmonton-South West

Janet Eremenko defeated former MLA Brian Malkinson 155 votes to 120 votes to win the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Currie.

Eremenko was the party’s 2019 candidate in the neighboring Calgary-Elbow riding and ran for City Council in 2017. Her nomination candidacy was endorsed by former City Councillor Evan Woolley.

Calgary-Currie was the location of one of the closest races in the 2019 election, which saw Malkinson unseated by United Conservative Party candidate Nicholas Miliken by 191 votes.

The NDP have nomination meetings scheduled in Calgary-Buffalo on Nov. 15, where incumbent MLA Joe Ceci is expected to be acclaimed, and in Lethbridge-East on Nov. 21, where former MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, local non-profit executive director Amanda Jensen, teacher Kevin McBeath, and former City Councillor Rob Miyashiro will seek the nomination.


Chand Gul running for NDP nomination on Edmonton-South West

Behavioral specialist and trained clinical psychologist Chand Gul has announced plans to seek the Alberta NDP nomination in Edmonton-South West, the only riding in the capital city not currently represented by the NDP.

Chand Gul

“We want to move on from the negativity of Kacey Madu and Jason Kenney,” Gul said in a press release. “Rachel Notley has a positive vision for people; she shares my values of giving back to the community, defending human rights, and making sure government improves the lives of people. I want to be part of her team!”

Gul is the former president of the Alberta Pashtoon Association and previously worked for the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers through the organization’s Community Connector Immigrant Women’s Integration network.

She is also the former chair of the women’s wing of the Pakistan-Canada Association of Edmonton, and has also served as a Youth mentor to the Edmonton Immigrant Services Association and a board member for Canadians for a Civil Society.

Gul ran unsuccessfully for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Meadows ahead of the 2019 election, a race where she and incumbent MLA Denise Woollard were defeated by Jasvir Deol. Deol was elected as MLA in the 2019 election.

Before joining the Alberta NDP, she was the South Edmonton Regional director for the Alberta Liberal Party and a member of the federal Liberal Party’s board of directors in Edmonton-Mill Woods.

Kaycee Madu Edmonton South West
Kaycee Madu (Source: Twitter)

If nominated, she will likely face UCP MLA Kaycee Madu, who was first elected in 2019, and as I already mentioned, is the only UCP MLA from Edmonton. Madu defeated former journalist and political staffer John Archer by 715 votes in that election.

Madu was appointed as Minister of Municipal Affairs in 2019 and became Minister of Justice in a 2020 cabinet shuffle. Known for his abrasive-style of partisan politics, Madu has become a controversial figure in Jason Kenney’s UCP cabinet.

Edmonton-South West is almost certainly on every political watchers list of ridings to watch in the next provincial election.


Cringe

A screenshot from Brian Jean’s Facebook page.

Former Wildrose Party leader and Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche UCP nomination candidate Brian Jean has come out against mandatory vaccinations and the expansion of the province’s vaccine passport program for businesses.

Jean also faced criticism for a Facebook post in which he described his UCP nomination opponent, Joshua Gogo, as a “Nigerian economist who lives in Fort McMurray,” a description his opponents were quick to describe as a racist dog whistle.

Jean is running for the nomination to run in the upcoming by-election in the riding he mostly represented from 2015 to 2018, but he has also set his sights on challenging Kenney’s leadership of the UCP.

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Alberta Politics

Cargill workers vote to strike just as Devin Dreeshen resigns and another Horner becomes Minister of Agriculture

Workers at the Cargill meat packing plant in High River have voted overwhelming in favour of taking strike action.

Workers at the meat packing plant represented by UFCW Local 401 voted 97 per cent in support of strike action if the Minnesota-based multi-billion dollar corporation does not make them a fair offer.

Richelle Stewart

“Our Cargill union members came to bargaining with a genuine interest in improving working conditions at the Plant,” UFCW Local 401 Secretary Treasurer Richelle Stewart said in a press release. “Unfortunately, Cargill has focused on playing games that have slowed the process down and stopped real progress. That has been very disappointing.”

The union has given the employer notice that workers could go on strike on Dec. 6 if demands to improve workplace safety are not met.

The Cargill plant in High River was the site of one of the worst early workplace outbreaks of COVID-19 in Alberta and lead to the death of three workers. More than 1,500 COVID cases were linked to the outbreak at the site.

At the time, the corporation and the Alberta government were criticized for not acting quickly to shut down the plant when it was apparent that the outbreak was only getting worse.

“Local 401 fought and was successful in having Cargill’s High River Plant closed,” said Stewart. “The Government of Alberta did nothing to address the unfolding tragedy and was later revealed to be untruthful in its dealings with Cargill workers.”

Devin Dreeshen

The Agriculture and Forestry Minister at the time was Devin Dreeshen.

The son of long-time Member of Parliament Earl Dreeshen resigned from cabinet last week after he was named as a key figure  in a sexual harassment and defamation scandal and a lawsuit that revealed a culture of heavy drinking in the Legislature by the minister and political staffers.

Replacing Dreeshen as the newly renamed Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development is Nate Horner, who was only raised from the backbenches to become Associate Minister of Rural Economic Development on July 8, 2021. The rancher from Pollockville was elected as the UCP MLA for Drumheller-Stettler in 2019.

Nate Horner United Conservative Party Drumheller-Stettler
Nate Horner

If the Horner name sounds familiar, it is because he comes from a legitimate Alberta political family. His cousin Doug Horner served as Agriculture Minister from 2004 to 2006 and his great-uncle Hugh Horner was Agriculture Minister from 1971 to 1975. His grandfather Jack Horner even served as Pierre Trudeau’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce after crossing the floor to the Liberals in 1977. The patriarch of the Horner family, his great-grandfather Ralph Horner, was a Senator from Saskatchewan and another one of his great-uncles, Norval Horner, was also an MP.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro
Tyler Shandro

A strike by workers at one of the province’s largest meat packing plants could be the first big challenge faced by Horner and newly appointed Labour Minister Tyler Shandro, who was shuffled out of the Health Ministry after fumbling the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The strike notice issued by UFCW Local 401 notes that the job action could be accompanied by a variety of other actions, including asking Albertans to boycott the beef industry until Cargill workers are treated fairly, as well as picketing and leafleting in front of other workplaces that sell Cargill products, like McDonald’s drive-thrus.

An updated version of the well-known Alberta campaign.

The meat packing plants in southern Alberta were the sites of some great injustices during the COVID-19 pandemic and those workers – the people who slaughter the beef Albertans claim to love so much – deserve to have their demands for improved safety and workplace conditions not only met, but exceeded.

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Alberta Politics

Livingstone Landowners Group releases Running Dry, a documentary about the shrinking rivers of southwest Alberta

The Livingstone Landowners Group, a group that opposed the United Conservative Party government’s plans to allow open-pit coal mining in the Eastern Slopes of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, has released a short video documentary about the importance of the rivers in the area and the impact coal mining would have on the water that is critical for life in southwest Alberta.

The Livingstone Landowners Group represents landowners and supporters of the Livingstone-Porcupine Hills area in southwest Alberta, some of the most biodiverse and sensitive ecosystems in the province.

The video was produced for the Livingstone Landowners Group with primary funding support from a Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) Partnership Grant and premiered on Oct. 20, 2021.

The government announced this week that the Coal Policy Committee has been granted a second extension to submit its final report to Energy Minister Sonya Savage – now to Dec. 31, 2021. The committee was created in response to the widespread public backlash against the UCP’s unilateral decision to dissolve the province’s longstanding 1976 Coal Policy and open new areas of the Rockies to coal mining.

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Alberta Politics

Energy analyst Samir Kayande running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Elbow, the riding currently represented by UCP Minister Doug Schweitzer

Energy analyst and strategy consultant Samir Kayande has announced he is seeking the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Elbow.

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

“Enhancing our already-enviable quality of life in the face of worldwide commitments to reduce pollution requires foresight, creativity and vision,” Kayande said in a press release. “Albertans must protect what we have while preparing for the future.”

“Sadly, the UCP government has failed to deliver on their promise of economic prosperity,” Kayande said. “A strong, caring Alberta with an NDP government will attract and keep high-paying jobs, and my expertise can help build that future.”

Kayande has a Chemical Engineering degree from the University of Alberta and a Master of Business Administration from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. According to his press release, he has advised institutional money managers—pension funds, mutual funds, private equity—on their energy portfolios.

He is also a director on the board of the Pembina Institute and this year wrote a number of articles for CBC Calgary – We’ve mourned the Keystone XL pipeline, now it’s time to move on and Strategizing a way forward for a post-hydrocarbon Alberta.

Doug Schweitzer UCP MLA Calgary-Elbow
Doug Schweitzer

If successful in the nomination, Kayande would likely face United Conservative Party MLA Doug Schweitzer in the next provincial election. Currently serving as Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, Schweitzer ran for the UCP leadership in 2017 and is considered by many to be a potential leadership candidate if Premier Jason Kenney resigns before the next election.

Schweitzer was first elected in 2019 after unseating Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark. Clark had won the seat from Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Gordon Dirks in 2015 after narrowly losing the 2014 by-election held to replace former Premier Alison Redford, who had represented that seat since 2008.

Greg Clark Alberta Party MLA
Greg Clark

Redford was first elected after defeating Liberal MLA Craig Cheffins, who had won the seat in a 2007 by-election to replace former Premier Ralph Klein, who had represented the riding since 1989.

Klein’s first provincial election saw him win in a close race against Liberal candidate Gilbert Clark, the father of future MLA Greg Clark.

The NDP candidate from the 2019 election, Janet Eremenko, is currently challenging former MLA Brian Malkinson for the nomination in the neighbouring Calgary-Currie riding. Eremenko recently posted a photo on social media showing her campaigning for the nomination with the support of former City Councillor Evan Woolley

The NDP have not announced a date for the Calgary-Elbow nomination meeting.

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Alberta Politics

Alison Karim-McSwiney running for Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-East

Alison Karim-McSwiney announced today that she is seeking the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-East.

Karim-McSwiney has worked as the Executive Director of the International Avenue Business Revitalization Zone since 1998 and is a well-known community advocate in east Calgary.

Calgary-East poll results from the 2019 election (source: Election-Atlas.ca)
Calgary-East poll results from the 2019 election (source: Election-Atlas.ca)

“It is such an honour to serve the businesses and people in this community and east Calgary,” Karim-McSwiney said in a press release. “My goal is to continue to apply the same passion and energy to advocating and fighting for east Calgary that I’ve shown throughout my career.”

She was a founding member of Global Fest and the International Avenue Mural Society.

Back in 2016, Karim-McSwiney spoke in support of the previous NDP government’s Act to End Predatory Lending.

“This is ground-breaking legislation. It ensures vulnerable borrowers are protected, particularly now when budgets are tight,” Karim-McSwiney said in a 2016 government press release. “These changes will positively impact our community’s revitalization efforts, and help attract new businesses to our neighbourhood.”

Jason Kenney and Peter Singh Calgary-East United Conservative Party
Jason Kenney and Peter Singh

Calgary-East has been represented by United Conservative Party MLA Peter Singh since 2019. Singh was elected with 49.7 per cent of the vote over New Democrat Cesar Cala, who finished second with 32.1 per cent.

Singh is the past president of the Fiji Canada Association of Calgary and also ran for the Progressive Conservative nomination in Calgary-Fort ahead of the 2015 election.

Singh faced allegations of bribery and fraud from the four other candidates he defeated in the UCP nomination contest and, days before the 2019 election, his auto-repair shop was searched by the RCMP in connection with the investigation into allegations of voter fraud during the UCP’s 2017 leadership campaign.

Robyn Luff represented the riding as a New Democrat from 2015 until she was removed from the caucus in 2018 after speaking out about “culture of fear and intimidation.” She sat as an Independent MLA for the remainder of her term and did not run for re-election.

In 2015, Luff unseated six-term PC MLA Moe Amery, who had run in every election in the riding since 1986 (his son, Mickey Amery, was elected as the UCP MLA in the neighbouring Calgary-Cross riding in 2019).

A date for the nomination meeting in Calgary-East has not been set.


The NDP are also holding nomination meetings in:

The UCP have opened nominations in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election, with Joshua Gogo and former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean entering the contest.

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Alberta Politics

Here he goes, again. Brian Jean running for the UCP nomination in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election

Here he goes, again.

Former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean announced today that he plans to run for the job he quit three years ago.

Jean announced on Facebook that he plans to seek the United Conservative Party nomination in the upcoming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election. The by-election to replace Laila Goodridge, who was recently elected as a Member of Parliament, needs to be called by Feb. 15, 2022. He is the second candidate to announce after Joshua Gogo entered the race last month.

Jean represented the predecessor riding, Fort McMurray-Conklin, from 2015 until 2018, when he quit after losing the UCP leadership to Jason Kenney.

This is Jean’s second political comeback. His first happened when he was a last minute candidate for the Wildrose Party leadership in 2015 after stepping down as a MP in 2014. He saved the party from the brink of oblivion in that election and became leader of the Official Opposition.

Since leaving the Legislature in 2018, he has become a vocal critic of the government, flirted with western separatism in online columns, and called for Kenney to resign as leader of the UCP.

“Something must be done or Rachel Notley will win the next election with an overwhelming majority,” Jean wrote on Facebook of the popular NDP leader who’s party has been leading in the polls since last November, once again publicly signalling his lack of confidence in Kenney.

Jean has every reason to dislike Kenney after an alleged Kamakaze campaign was organized against him during the UCP leadership race, and since quitting he has appeared to take pleasure in poking at his rival from the sidelines.

Jean was even spotted at a Calgary Stampede BBQ hosted by ousted UCP MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen over the summer.

Brian Jean and Jason Kenney
Brian Jean and Jason Kenney

There is little doubt that he could win the nomination and the by-election. He is a well-known and popular figure in Fort McMurray, and he comes across as affable and down to earth to anyone who meets him. His lack of stick-to-it-iveness should probably raise some concerns, but at this point local conservatives might just be hopeful to find a candidate who can reliably hold on to the seat.

The question is whether the increasingly unpopular Kenney will allow a rival who has openly called for his resignation to run under his party’s banner?

And if Jean isn’t allowed to run for Kenney’s party, will he run as an Independent or for another party, like the struggling Wildrose Independence Party.

Of course, Jean isn’t alone in calling for Kenney’s resignation.

Leela Aheer and Brian Jean
Leela Aheer and Brian Jean

His former colleague, UCP MLA Leela Aheer, stood at a podium in the Legislature Rotunda last week to call for the Premier to step down and she does not appear to have faced any consequences. Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried has been openly agitating for an leadership review to be held before March 1.

No emergency caucus meeting was held to kick them out, and perhaps more notably, no Kenney loyalists in the cabinet or caucus stepped up to rebuke them and defend their leader. The silence was deafening.

So, Jean now wants his seat back, and he probably wants his party back too.


It is not uncommon for party leaders and politicians to spend time in ridings where by-elections are expected,

Rachel Notley (source: Facebook)

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley was in Fort McMurray in October meeting with community groups and highlighting the UCP government’s failure to stop the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which overwhelmed the staff at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre.

Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview NDP MLA Deron Bilous, who served as Economic Development Minister in the first Notley government, is in Fort McMurray this week and has posted a series of videos about his visit on Instagram.

The UCP Caucus was scheduled to hold its annual retreat in Fort McMurray on Sept. 15 and 16, but the event that would have brought most UCP MLAs to the northeast Alberta city ahead of the by-election was abruptly canceled on Sept. 10 after rumours that Kenney was facing a caucus revolt. Kenney also cancelled his scheduled Sept. 15 keynote speech to the annual Oil Sands Conference and Trade Show, which the UCP Caucus retreat was planned around.

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Alberta Politics

NDP leads in fundraising, again, but UCP bounces back after weak returns in early 2021

The Alberta NDP raised more cash than the United Conservative Party in the third quarter of 2021, according to financial documents released today by Elections Alberta.

According to the returns, the NDP raised $1,367,080 and the UCP raised $1,235,482 between July 1 and Sept. 30, 2021.

While these results are better for the UCP than the previous quarters, this marks the fourth quarter in a row that Rachel Notley’s NDP have out-fundraised Jason Kenney‘s UCP. The NDP raised twice as much money as the UCP in the final quarter of 2020 and the first and second quarters of 2021.

Alberta NDP and United Conservative Party fundraising from 2019 Q4 to 2021 Q3.
Alberta NDP and United Conservative Party fundraising from 2019 Q4 to 2021 Q3.

The NDP have raised a stunning $4,060,290 since Jan. 1, 2021, dominating the governing UCP, which is trailing with $2,596,202 raised since the beginning of the year. It is pretty clear that the weak overall fundraising returns from the UCP have a result of Kenney’s plummeting personal approval ratings and the party’s dropping support in the polls.

The UCP’s bump in donations over the summer are likely a result of the party’s fundraising efforts in between the day when Kenney declared “Alberta open for the summer and open for good” and the start of the deadly fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the disclosures, $183,700 of the UCP’s total cash raised in the third quarter was from Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen‘s Innisfail-Sylvan Lake constituency association, likely generated at the annual horse derby fundraising event (Dreeshen has found himself at the centre of a sexual harassment and intoxication scandal). And $110,947 of the UCP’s total fundraising for the past quarter was raised by MLA Dan Williams constituency association in Peace River, likely at an August “town hall” fundraiser that featured Kenney and a number of cabinet ministers.

The Pro-Life Political Association, birthed from a hostile takeover of the moribund Social Credit Party in 2016, raised a surprising $92,560 in the third quarter. The party, which ran only one candidate in the 2019 election, is using the party as a vehicle for anti-abortion political activism that can legally issue tax-receipts for donations. It is unclear whether the party will move more aggressively into electoral politics in the 2023 election.

Here is what all of Alberta’s registered political parties raised in the third quarter of 2021:

  • Alberta NDP: $1,367,080.50
  • United Conservative Party: $1,235,482.45
  • Pro-Life Political Association: $92,560.92
  • Wildrose Independence: $53,839.92
  • Alberta Party: $31,617.41
  • Alberta Liberal Party: $13,930.54
  • Independence Party of Alberta: $1,740.00 
  • Green Party: $1,314.00
  • Alberta Advantage Party: $300.00

The Communist Party and Reform Party did not report any funds raised in this quarter.

NDP nominate Hoffman and Boporai

Parmeet Singh Boporai

The NDP have nominated two more candidates ahead of the expected 2023 provincial election. Sarah Hoffman was nominated in Edmonton-Glenora on Oct. 27 and Parmeet Singh Boparai in Calgary-Falconridge on Oct. 29.

Hoffman is the NDP deputy leader and was first elected as an MLA in 2015 after serving two terms on the Edmonton Public School Board.

Boparai finished a close second to UCP candidate Devinder Toor – losing by 96 votes in 2019 in the closest race of the provincial election.

The NDP have scheduled nomination meetings in Calgary-Currie on Nov. 13, and Calgary-Buffalo on Nov. 15 and Lethbridge-East on Nov. 21.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Kenney’s office hit with lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, defamation, and toxic workplace culture at the Legislature

On Oct. 26, 2021, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was having a rare good day. He got the result he argued he was looking for from the province-wide Equalization Referendum and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave him the gift of appointing long-time environmental activist Steven Guilbeault as Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

Kenney’s good day lasted less than 24 hours.

In what can only be described as a bombshell story, the CBC first reported today that a former ministerial Chief of Staff is suing the Premier’s Office, “saying she suffered from a toxic workplace culture and was fired as retribution for speaking out about the problems she saw there.”

Devin Dreeshen

The allegations in Ariella Kimmel‘s lawsuit include sexual harassment and heavy drinking by ministers and staff in legislature offices, as well as claims that senior staff in the premier’s office fabricated rumours about her contributing to her termination, reported CBC journalist Elise von Scheel.

The CBC reported that Kimmel has filed a lawsuit against the Kenney’s office for alleged sexual harassment and defamation.

Kimmel was Chief of Staff to Minister Doug Schweitzer until February 2021 and before that worked as Director of Community Relations in the Premier’s Office and as the United Conservative Party’s Director of Outreach before the 2019 election.

Kimmel had previously worked for Kenney during his time in Ottawa as executive coordinator for multiculturalism when he was Minister of Employment and Social Development and as an assistant during his time as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

The statement of claim, which is reported in detail by CBC, makes serious allegations against numerous officials and staffers in the UCP government, including Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen.

Responding to a question in the Assembly today from Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood NDP MLA Janis Irwin, Kenney said that his office was appointing an independent review to make recommendations to revise human resource practices for political staff.

Calgary-Fish Creek UCP MLA Richard Gotfried called on the government to not wait for a review and instead immediately adopt the Respect in the Workplace program promoted by Respect Group Inc.

While none of the allegations have been proven in court, the conditions described are probably not uncommon in political offices across Canada. Kimmel’s lawsuit shines a big spotlight on a toxic workplace culture in the Legislature that needs to change immediately.

Aheer is having none of it

Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer, UCP MLA Chestermere-Strathmore
Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer (source: YouTube)

Chestermere-Strathmore UCP MLA Leela Aheer responded to the allegations by calling on Kenney to resign and drawing comparisons to disgraced Calgary City Councillor Sean Chu. A A former cabinet minister and UCP deputy leader, Aheer was dropped from cabinet after criticizing the UCP’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Standing at a podium in the Legislature Rotunda today, Aheer refused to stand down and appeared to be daring Kenney and her MLA colleagues to remove her from the UCP Caucus.

UCP MLAs voted to remove Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen from the caucus in June following Loewen’s call for Kenney to resign.

Kenney avoided a caucus revolt and non-confidence vote last month when he agreed to push up his leadership review from fall 2022 to April 2022. That move was successful in appeasing the disorganized opposition inside the UCP Caucus, but not the party, as numerous UCP constituency associations continue to push for Kenney’s review to be held before March 1, 2022.

Kenney’s approval rating dropped to an abysmal 22 per cent last month and leaked poll results showed that 75 per cent of Albertans disapprove of the UCP government, one of the strongest disapproval ratings for an Alberta government in recent memory.

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Alberta Politics

Bank manager Gavin McCaffrey is the second candidate to enter the Alberta NDP nomination race in Banff-Kananaskis

Gavin McCaffrey is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Banff-Kananaskis. McCaffrey first arrived in the area in 1997 and has worked as a general manager for a series of Banff-area hotels. He is currently lives in Canmore and is a Branch Manager for the BMO Financial Group.

“The opportunity to represent the Banff Kananaskis region, that is so socially, culturally, geographically and economically diverse, is both humbling and exciting” McCaffrey said in a press release sent out today.  “I look forward to engaging with community members from all parts of the constituency and to listen to their thoughts on the key topics impacting them the most.”

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

McCaffrey will challenge conservationist Sarah Elmeligi in a yet to be scheduled nomination meeting.

Banff-Kananaskis is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Miranda Rosin, who was elected in 2019 in the closest race outside of the province’s urban centres. In that race, former NDP MLA Cam Westhead was the only NDP incumbent in rural Alberta to increase his vote share from 2015. Westhead announced in August that he would not be seeking the nomination.

I had added McCaffrey to the list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of the expected 2023 provincial election.

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Alberta Politics

Four candidates enter NDP nomination race in Lethbridge-East, Joshua Gogo first to seek UCP nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election

High School social studies teacher Kevin McBeath has entered the Alberta NDP nomination race in Lethbridge-East, becoming the fourth candidate to join the contest.

“My family is my top priority, and I am seeking this nomination with their future province in mind,” McBeath said in a Oct. 23 press release. “I have been investing my time, talent and treasure in Lethbridge-East for nearly two decades as a teacher and basketball coach at Winston Churchill High School. It is my love of teaching and coaching young people that has motivated me to run.”

McBeath will face former MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, local non-profit executive director Amanda Jensen, and former City Councillor Rob Miyashiro at a nomination meeting scheduled to take place on Nov. 21, 2021.

This is the second time in recent memory that the NDP have had a contested nomination in Lethbridge-East. Fitzpatrick won a nomination race against Tom Moffatt and Kris Hodgson ahead of the 2015 election.

Election results in Lethbridge-East from 1986 to 2019.
Election results in Lethbridge-East from 1986 to 2019.

Lethbridge-East has been represented by United Conservative Party MLA Nathan Neudorf since 2019.

The riding has an unusual electoral history for Conservative-voting southern Alberta, having been represented by two locally popular Liberal MLAs from 1993 t0 2011, and then by Fitzpatrick during the NDP’s term in government from 2015 to 2019.

The NDP have also scheduled nomination meetings in Edmonton-Glenora on Oct. 27, Calgary-Falconridge on Oct. 29, Calgary-Currie on Nov. 13, and Calgary-Buffalo on Nov. 15.

First candidate steps up for UCP nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche

Joshua Gogo
Joshua Gogo

Joshua Gogo is the first potential candidate to file papers with Elections Alberta to seek the United Conservative Party nomination in the upcoming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.

A by-election will need to be called before Feb. 15, 2022 to elect a replacement for former MLA Laila Goodridge, who was elected as the Member of Parliament for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake in the Sept. 20, 2021 federal election

Gogo is the Chief Economist and President of Global Advisory & Transaction Support at Afcote Associates based in Fort McMurray. He earned his Masters and PhD in Economics from Carleton University in Ottawa and a Masters degree in Computer Information Systems from Florida Institute of Technology.

In 2020, Gogo was appointed by the UCP government to serve on the Automobile Insurance Rate Board.

The date of a nomination meeting has not yet been announced.