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Alberta Politics

On The Current: Premier Kenney’s uncertain future and the wild ride of Alberta politics

I was up early this morning to join CBC Radio’s Matt Galloway on The Current to discuss Premier Jason Kenney‘s leadership challenges and the wild ride that is Alberta politics.

Take a listen to the segment where strategist Stephen Carter from The Strategists Podcast and I (separately) discuss Kennev’s leadership challenges and the wild ride that is Alberta politics.

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Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney is in big trouble and a minor cabinet swap isn’t going to solve his problems

Twenty-nine more Albertans died of COVID-19 yesterday and nearly 1,000 Albertans are in hospital because of the virus, including more than 220 people in intensive care units.

Premier Jason Kenney is in big trouble and a minor cabinet swap isn’t going to solve his problems.

Kenney swapped Health Minister Tyler Shandro with Labour and Immigration Minister Jason Copping in an apparent hope that this might salvage his leadership amid growing calls for his resignation.

Shandro has been a lightning rod as Health Minister, but that was by design. Every decision he made had Kenney’s stamp of approval. He was doing as he was told.

Swapping Shandro for Copping in the middle of the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is more about politics than good governance.

The blow to Kenney’s leadership after the failure of his Open for Summer plan that led to a deadlier fourth wave of COVID-19 in Alberta is not going to be fixed with a cabinet shuffle. 

Kenney’s plummeting popularity probably helped cost Erin O’Toole his chance of becoming Prime Minister in 2021. And the Premier almost certainly contributed to a sharp decline in Conservative support in Alberta that cost his federal cousins four seats in the province.

A few months ago it was almost unimaginable that the Conservatives would actually lose seats in Alberta in this federal election. But the NDP picked up an additional seat and the Liberals might have won two. 

But Kenney’s political woes are not all recent.

Since becoming Premier he has mastered the ability to anger the maximum number of Albertans possible at any given time.

His party’s financial health has also been hit hard. There have been three straight financial quarters in a row when Kenney’s UCP fell short of Rachel Notley’s NDP in fundraising. The Alberta NDP has been in the lead in every public poll since November 2020.

Calls for a leadership review are growing from UCP constituency associations and party executives like vice-president Joel Mullen. Even former deputy leader Leela Aheer has publicly questioned why he hasn’t stepped down. And it is rumoured that country music star and two time Conservative candidate George Canyon might run for the party presidency on the platform of forcing a vote on Kenney’s leadership.

The UCP Caucus is holding a mandatory in-person meeting tomorrow, where, I imagine the growing number of disgruntled MLAs will have a lot to say about their leader’s future.

UCP waited until after the election to ask for federal help

Transportation Minister Ric McIver, who is in charge of Alberta’s Emergency Management Office, waited until the day after the federal election to send a letter to federal minister Bill Blair requesting help from the Ottawa to deal with the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UCP government waited until after Sept. 20 to request help because they didn’t want to embarrass the federal Conservatives during the election. Let that sink in.

The government’s plea for help from the federal government and other provinces will almost certainly undermine Kenney’s argument that Alberta is being treated unfairly by the rest of Canada, a key part of the reason for a province-wide referendum in October to ask for the equalization formula to be removed from the Constitution.

New Senate Nominee candidates

The nomination deadline passed at 12:00 pm yesterday for candidates to enter the Senate Nominee Election, which is being held in conjunction with two province-wide referendums and municipal elections on October 18, 2021.

Recent People’s Party of Canada candidates Ann McCormack, Kelly Lorencz, and Nadine Wellwood filed their papers to run as Senate Nominee candidates before the polls closed in the federal election in which they were defeated.

Also recently joining the Senate Nominee Election are Town of Ponoka Mayor Richard Bonnett, who ran for the Liberal Party in the 2004 federal election, and former Slave Lake Mayor and physician Karina Pillay.

Brian Jean’s favourite hobby is trolling Jason Kenney on the internet

With a provincial by-election expected to be called in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche in the next five months, Kenney’s arch-enemy, former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, is musing online that he might run as a candidate. Jean asked for feedback from his followers on Facebook about whether he should run in the by-election in the area he represented as an MLA from 2015 to 2018.

Since leaving elected office in 2019, Jean has flirted with Alberta separatism and recently publicly mused about running for the leadership of the Alberta Party, which he did not. He has also called on Kenney to resign as leader of the UCP.

The by-election will be held to replace former UCP MLA Laila Goodridge, who was elected as the Conservative MP for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake in the Sept. 20 federal election.

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Alberta Politics

“I won’t apologize.” Jason Kenney fails to lead Alberta through the biggest crisis in a generation

Three years ago, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was the unquestioned leader of the Conservative movement in Canada. He was the national conservative standard bearer.

Now, Kenney is politically toxic.

And as the deadly fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit Alberta, he was in hiding.

His absence is mostly an attempt to avoid embarrassing his federal cousins in Ottawa, who until today have been grateful for his disappearance, and facing an unruly caucus of United Conservative Party MLAs already unhappy with his leadership, but it also means he has been out from public sight as new COVID cases skyrocketed, hospitals and intensive care units began to overflow, and more Albertans have died of the deadly disease.

From @CBCFletch on Twitter
From @CBCFletch on Twitter

Twenty-four more Albertans died yesterday. More than 90 Albertans have died over the past eight days.

Kenney reemerged for the second time in almost two months today to announce the end of his Best Summer Ever.

Joining Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, and Alberta Health Services CEO Dr. Verna Yiu, Kenney declared a public state of emergency and bumbled his way through a confusing new list of public health restrictions and a not a vaccine passport vaccine passport system that largely puts the burden on businesses to figure out (something his party was fundraising off its opposition to weeks ago and he described as illegal a few months ago).

Like the previous three waves of the pandemic, Kenney waited until the health care system was in crisis before acting. If Albertans comply with the new restrictions, we can hope that the number of COVID cases decrease. But not removing the restrictions too quickly, like he has before, will probably be key to its success.

Poking a big hole in Kenney’s decision to declare Alberta ‘reopened for good’ in time for the Calgary Stampede back in July, Hinshaw admitted the Premier’s much-promoted “Open for Summer” plan that removed nearly all public health restrictions led to the COVID-19 fourth wave that has hit Alberta.

When medical experts and media questioned how quickly Kenney removed the public health restrictions, he and his staff aggressively attacked and dismissed their warnings about a fourth wave.

Kenney eagerly pushed for 70 per cent of eligible Albertans over the age of 12 to get vaccinated in order to lift restrictions in time for the Stampede. The government offered lucrative lotteries and prizes, and even $100 cash cards, to convince Albertans to get vaccinated but it does not appear to have moved the needle to where we need it to be. Alberta still lags behind the rest of the country.

Kenney’s Open for Summer plan was all optimism that the COVID-19 pandemic was over with none of the vigilance required to make sure it actually was.

But don’t expect Kenney to volunteer to face the consequences for his actions.

Responding to his critics at today’s press conference, Kenney initially apologized for the results of his Open for Summer decision only to retract his apology minutes later when answering a question from Postmedia columnist Rick Bell, telling Bell that “I won’t apologize.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began 18 months ago, Kenney has failed to lead Albertans through the biggest health crisis in a generation.

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Alberta Politics

Former Deputy Premier Doug Horner running for Senate, former NDP MLA Annie McKitrick running for Mayor, UCP MLA Recall law MIA

Former cabinet minister Doug Horner is planning to run in Alberta’s Senate Nominee elections happening on October 18, 2021. The former Deputy Premier and Finance Minister quietly announced on his LinkedIn page that he is collecting signatures to make his candidacy official.

“I have also thought long and hard about the idea of running as a candidate with the endorsement of a political party,” Horner wrote on LinkedIn. “I believe that the Senate should have a strong degree of independence as well as representing Albertans and not parties, as such I will be going as an independent.”

“In my view the Senate can serve a very important purpose to review, advise, and give input to the Federal Government on legislative initiatives from the perspective of their experience and representation of their regions,” wrote Horner.  

Horner was first elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA after unseating two-term Liberal MLA Colleen Soetaert in Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert in 2001. He was re-elected in 2004 after facing a spirited challenge from Liberal Ray Boudreau and re-elected by large margins in 2008 and in 2012 in the redistributed Spruce Grove-St. Albert district.

Between 2004 and 2014 he served as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Minister of Advanced Education and Technology, Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance. 

He placed third in the 2011 PC Party leadership, with most of his votes shifting to help Alison Redford defeat frontrunner Gary Mar on the the third ballot. He resigned as an MLA in January 2015 after he was dropped from cabinet by Jim Prentice.

Horner is the scion of a genuine Western Canadian political family dynasty. He is the son of former Deputy Premier Hugh Horner, nephew of former MPs Jack HornerAlbert Horner and Norval Horner, and grandson of Saskatchewan Senator Ralph Horner. Drumheller-Stettler United Conservative Party MLA Nate Horner is his first cousin once removed.

The Conservative Party of Canada has already announced its endorsement of lobbyist and former United Conservative Party president Erika Barootes, UCP activist Pamela Davidson, and Canadian Ukrainian Free Trade Agreement Association president Mykhailo Martyniouk in the Senate Nominee elections. While he has not yet formally endorsed Barootes, Premier Jason Kenney was spotted at a Calgary Stampede event wearing one of her campaign buttons. 

Also running are Progress Alberta executive Director Duncan Kinney, emergency medicine doctor Sunil Sookram, retired lawyer Randy Hogle, former Western Barley Growers Association president Jeff Nielsen, and Chad Jett Thunders Sauders. 

Former NDP MLA running for Mayor

Annie McKitrick
Annie McKitrick

Former NDP MLA Annie McKitrick is running for mayor of Strathcona County. McKitrick served as MLA for Sherwood Park from 2015 to 2019.

“I am deeply committed to inclusion and planning for the future through more sustainable social, economic and environmental outcomes,” McKitrick wrote in a post on Facebook.

“As our community, Alberta, Canada and the rest of the world adjusts to what is often called the “new normal” we need a Mayor with the experience and knowledge to provide leadership in collaboration with other elected officials and with resident input.”

McKitrick will be challenging incumbent mayor and past Liberal candidate Rod Frank and former Strathcona-Sherwood Park PC MLA and past Alberta Party candidate Dave Quest. 

UCP MLA Recall law is MIA

It has been 88 days since Bill 52: Recall Act received Royal Assent but it still hasn’t been proclaimed into law by the Kenney government. When proclaimed, the law would allow Albertans to collect signatures to hold a vote to recall their MLA from the Legislature and trigger a by-election to replace them.

Political scientist Duane Bratt recently speculated on Twitter that “One theory is that there is a red zone of six months before an election, so it will be proclaimed in another year. This will prevent recalls until 18 months after 2023 election.”

I am sure the UCP’s poor standing in the polls and Kenney’s plummeting approval ratings have nothing to do with this law not yet being enacted.

Categories
Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 77: Back from the Best Summer Ever

We are back from the summer with the first episode of Season 4 of the Daveberta Podcast and we dive right into Alberta’s response to the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, speculation about how long Jason Kenney might last in the Premier’s Office, the federal election, municipal political parties and slates and much much more.

The Daveberta Podcast is hosted by Dave Cournoyer and produced by 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.

Thanks for listening. Have a safe and fun summer.

Recommended reading and listening:

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Alberta Politics

Shandro drags his feet on new COVID-19 measures, Kenney has disappeared… again.

The fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting Alberta hard. Forty-four Albertans are reported to have died of COVID-19 over the past six days. 1,522 new cases were announced yesterday. 679 Albertans are in hospital. 154 are in an Intensive Care Unit. Hundreds of surgeries are being cancelled because of the fourth wave.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro emerged yesterday at a press conference billed as an announcement to reduce pressure on hospitals, but he did not announce any further public health measures aimed at stopping the spread of the virus. In fact, Shandro’s bizarre press conference was really about nothing.

When asked repeatedly by reporters, Shandro once again danced around the question of vaccine passports, which have the support of nearly 80 per cent of Albertans according to some polls.

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley is calling on the province to implement a vaccine passport system instead of putting the burden on businesses to figure out their own patchwork system.

Like in the past waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, expect Alberta’s United Conservative Party government to drag its feet in response to the fourth wave before implementing measures after facing weeks of criticism.

And Premier Jason Kenney has disappeared again, likely to reappear on September 21, after the federal election is over.

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Alberta Politics

Making the Alberta Party relevant is Barry Morishita’s new job

Brooks Mayor Barry Morishita has been acclaimed as leader of the Alberta Party.

“As a compassionate leader and experienced community builder, I believe that a new, fresh approach to politics is what Albertans need right now and that the Alberta Party is the vehicle to drive that positive change,” Morishita said in a press statement released by the party.

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

Morishita was first elected to Brooks City Council in 1998 and became Mayor of Brooks in 2016 after previous mayor Martin Shields was elected as the Conservative Member of Parliament for Bow River.

He was elected President of the Alberta Urban Municipality Association in 2017 and was a vocal critic of the United Conservative Party government’s overhaul of municipal election laws, going so far as to describe relations between municipalities and then-Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu as “broken.”

This is not his first foray into provincial politics. Like other leaders of the Alberta Party, Morishita’s past political experience was as a member of another political party.

He ran for Nancy MacBeth‘s Alberta Liberals in Strathmore-Brooks in 2001, placing second with 15.5 per cent of the vote behind Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Lyle Oberg. He had previously been active with the Liberal Party as a delegate to the convention that chose Laurence Decore as party leader in 1988.

Lyle Oberg
Lyle Oberg

He also made a $300 donation to the PC Party in Strathmore-Brooks in 2014.

The small moderate conseravtive political party broke through into the Legislature in 2015 when leader Greg Clark, who worked as a Liberal Caucus staffer in his youth, was elected in Calgary-Elbow. Despite growing its popular vote, the party was shut out of the Legislature in 2019 under the leadership of former Edmonton mayor and PC cabinet minister Stephen Mandel.

The Alberta Party has languished in obscurity since the 2019 election, with interim leader Jacquie Fenske, a former PC MLA from Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, holding the reins until a permanent leader was named.

Doug Griffiths
Doug Griffiths

According to a report from the Morinville News, former Morinville Mayor and past AUMA President Lisa Holmes and former Battle River-Wainwright PC MLA Doug Griffiths are part of Morishita’s transition team.

The challenges facing Morishita and his party are steep:

  1. Make his party relevant. Rachel Notley‘s NDP have led in the polls since November 2020 and have a commanding lead in fundraising. It is going to be challenging for the Alberta Party to convince Albertans who want Jason Kenney out of the Premier’s Office that they are the credible alternative.
  2. Winning a seat in the next election and getting his party back into the Legislature. Brooks-Medicine Hat will be the natural place for Morishita to run but it will be an uphill climb to win in the lopsidedly conservative voting district currently represented by UCP MLA Michaela Glasgo.There will also be a by-election held in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche in the next six months following the resignation of Laila Goodridge, who is running in the federal election.
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Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney has mastered the ability to anger the maximum number of Albertans possible at any given time

I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed a government that has so successfully mastered the ability to make decisions that will almost immediately anger the maximum number of Albertans possible as Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party government has done over the past two years.

Open-pit coal mining, privatizing provincial parks, attacking doctors, attacking nurses, writing a draft school curriculum that would take the education system back to the 1950s are just a few of the almost universally unpopular policies this government has thrown itself into, and now – as the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hits Alberta – paying unvaccinated Albertans $100 to get their COVID-19 vaccinations.

The response to the spike in COVID cases and hospitalizations announced by Kenney was almost uuniversally panned by everyone – including the gaggle of conservative political pundits and columnists who can usually be depended upon to print defences and justifications for the government.

Political watchers who praised Kenney for throwing off public health restrictions at the beginning of the summer and declaring Alberta open for the summer are now openly questioning the UCP’s mind-boggling latest move.

One hundred dollars is much cheaper than paying for an unvaccinated Albertan who ends up in the now overflowing Intensive Care Units, the idea of paying people who did not get vaccinated when the majority of Albertans flocked to their clinics and pharmacies to get the jab is, well, pretty insulting – and tone deaf.

And the almost arbitrary move to impose a curfew on alcohol sales to 10:00 p.m., while granting immediate exemptions to a handful of rural rodeos, but not Calgary’s Pride events, suggests that this move could be more about what is politically palatable than what might work to stop the spread of COVID-19.

At the beginning of the summer, Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro stood on the banks high above Edmonton’s River Valley and declared that Alberta was open for summer. They even had vanity baseball hats made that said “Alberta Best Summer Ever.” Then cases started to rise, as did hospitalizations, and Kenney disappeared on a late summer vacation.

So, the question on the minds of many Albertans, and one that has been frequently asked since the pandemic began in early 2020: is this the best for Albertans or is this the best that Kenney could get his UCP cabinet and caucus to agree to?

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Alberta Politics

City Councillor Rob Miyashiro running for Alberta NDP nomination in Lethbridge-East

Rob Miyashiro Alberta NDP Lethbridge-East
Rob Miyashiro (source: City of Lethbridge website)

Lethbridge City Councillor Rob Miyashiro is running for Alberta NDP nomination in Lethbridge-East.

Miyashiro has served on Lethbridge City Council since 2013 and is the executive director of the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization. He has been a vocal supporter of harm-reduction programs like Lethbridge’s safe consumption site and in 2020 co-sponsored a by-law banning conversion therapy in Lethbridge.

“Not only has Jason Kenney downloaded costs onto cities like Lethbridge, but he has also failed to deliver on his promise of economic prosperity and jobs,” Miyashiro said in a press release.

Rachel [Notley] is a good leader, she was a great Premier, and an NDP government will work for a truly diversified economy with good paying jobs for our community for years to come,” Miyashiro said.

Nathan Neudorf Lethbridge East UCP MLA
Nathan Neudorf

This will be Miyashiro’s second time running 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, and Wildrose Party candidate Kent Prestage.

The district is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Nathan Neudorf, who was recently elected as Chair of the UCP Caucus following Todd Loewen’s resignation and expulsion from the UCP Caucus. Neudorf was first elected in 2019 after defeating one-term NDP MLA Maria Fitzpatrick.

Lethbridge-East has a unique voting history for a district in southern Alberta.

Ken Nicol MLA Lethbridge East Liberal
Ken Nicol

Lethbridge’s electoral history is more liberal-leaning than most of southern Alberta, likely due to the influence of the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College and a large number of public sector workers in the city.

Even during Ralph Klein’s time as Premier, the Liberals either won a plurality of the votes or matched the PC vote in the city, mostly due to the large margins of victory earned by popular Lethbridge-East MLAs Ken Nicol and Pastoor.

Nicol represented Lethbridge-East from 1993 until he jumped into federal politics in 2004.

The popular former U of L Agriculture professor with Kenny Loggins-looks first ran for the Liberal Party leadership in 1998 and later led the party and the Official Opposition from 2001 to 2004.

Bridget Pastoor Lethbridge-East MLA
Bridget Pastoor

The soft-spoken Nicol inherited a debt-ridden party and caucus of mostly Edmonton MLAs who survived a crushing defeat in the 2001 election. And, unlike most of his Liberal colleagues, Nicol’s personal popularity in Lethbridge helped him earn a wide margin of victory in that election.

Pastoor, a Registered Nurse and popular former city councillor, was elected as a Liberal in 2004 and 2008 and later as a PC candidate in 2012 after she crossed the floor. Pastoor was succeeded by Fitzpatrick in 2015 and served until she was defeated in 2019 by Neudorf.

NDP MLA Shannon Phillips represents the neighbouring Lethbridge-West district.

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

Erin O’Toole comes to Alberta amid Fort McMurray revolt against Laila Goodridge

Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole is making a campaign stop in Edmonton-Centre on August 21 as part of his Western Canada tour. O’Toole’s will hold an event at the Winnifred Stewart Foundation tomorrow morning, likely with local candidate James Cumming who is facing a challenge from former Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault and former public school board trustee Heather Mackenzie, who is running for the NDP.

Laila Goodridge Fort McMurray-Cold Lake
Laila Goodridge

O’Toole’s first stop in Alberta during the election campaign will come a day after the board of directors of the Fort McMurray-Cold Lake Conservative association released a public letter disagreeing with the party’s decision to appoint Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche United Conservative Party MLA Laila Goodridge as the district’s candidate following MP David Yurdiga’s writ day decision to not seek re-election. Yurdiga had already been nominated as the Conservative candidate earlier this year but decided to withdraw because of health reasons.

The unsigned letter titled as an “Official Board Press Statement” states that “The Fort McMurray-Cold Lake EDA does not support or recognize the undemocratic appointment of the current candidate. This appointment severely undermines the fundamental values of conservatives and everyone’s constitutional right to democracy. Our constituents were cheated of the opportunity to democratically select their candidate and were FORCED by the by the party on who will represent them. Many qualified candidates were not given the opportunity to apply not were their conservative views vetted by the local Board.”

The statement from the Fort McMurray-Cold Lake Conservative Electoral District Association.
The statement from the Fort McMurray-Cold Lake Conservative Electoral District Association.

Conservative sources say that the nomination rules permit the party to appoint a candidate after an election is called and that an expedited nomination meeting was not possible due the vacancy in the regional organizer position. It was expected that a nomination race in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, even a rushed one, would be highly competitive and attract many voting members, requiring significant logistics and organizational support from the party.

The sources say the party has reached out to the disgruntled local board but has not received a response.

Goodridge is currently only facing Maverick Party candidate Jonathan Meyers,  People’s Party candidate Shawn McDonald, and Green Party candidate Brian Deheer. The Liberals and NDP have not yet named candidates in the north east Alberta district.

Jason Kenney Andrew Scheer Alberta Election
Andrew Scheer and Jason Kenney at a campaign rally in Edmonton-Centre in 2019.

Meanwhile, back in Edmonton, it does not look like O’Toole will be joined tomorrow by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.

Kenney was one of O’Toole’s most enthusiastic supporters during the 2020 Conservative leadership race but has uncharacteristically gone “on vacation” during the first week of the federal election.

Kenney last appearance at a public event was a government announcement in La Crete on August 10 ahead of a UCP “town hall” fundraiser in support of Peace River UCP MLA Dan Williams that featured a the Premier and a handful of cabinet ministers.

The Alberta Premier’s plummeting popularity has made him a punching bag in this federal campaign, with both Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh criticizing Kenney during campaign stops in Alberta yesterday. Kenney’s absence also means he avoids any questions from reporters about the growing number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard speaking out against the province’s new draft K-12 curriculum, or former MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans being removed from the board of the Banff Centre.

This is a big contrast from the 2019 federal election, when Kenney spent a week campaigning for Conservative candidates in Ontario and Manitoba and appeared hand in hand with then-leader Andrew Scheer on stage at a rally outside of Cumming’s Jasper Avenue campaign office.

Brian Jean is still around too

Brian Jean Calgary Stampede Alberta
Brian Jean

The local revolt against Goodridge’s nomination comes the day after former Fort McMurray MP and MLA Brian Jean unleashed a 23 tweet thread calling for the creation of something resembling the Saskatchewan Party. It has been rumoured that Jean may be considering seeking the leadership of the Alberta Party.

City of Brooks Mayor and former AUMA President Barry Morishita announced his candidacy for the Alberta Party leadership last week.

New candidates

  • Donna Lynn Smith has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in Edmonton-Manning.
  • The Rhinoceros Party has nominated Travis Jones in Edmonton-Manning and Lucas Rhinocerotidae Anderson in Edmonton-Riverbend.
  • Kim Siever is running as an Independent candidate in Lethbridge.
  • Catriona Wright is running for the Green Party in Calgary-Rocky Ridge.

I am maintaining an updated list of nominated federal election candidates in Alberta. Please drop a comment below if I am missing anyone. Thank you.

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Alberta Politics

Jagmeet Singh is coming to Alberta. Derek Sloan is running in Alberta?

New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh will be the first party leader to visit Alberta in this election campaign when he stops in Edmonton on August 19.

Singh will be spending his whole day in Edmonton-Griesbach starting with a 9:30am health care announcement outside the East Edmonton Health Centre and a 1:15pm “whistle stop event” at the Bellevue Community Hall at in support of local candidate Blake Desjarlais and other candidates in the capital city.

Desjarlais is Director of Public Affairs & National Operations for the Metis Settlements General Council and the former Co-Chair of Alberta’s Indigenous Climate Leadership Summit. The NDP are pouring some resources into the riding, including support from Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Heather McPherson, in hopes that Desjarlais can unseat second-term Conservative MP Kerry Diotte.

Unlike the last election, a few Alberta NDP MLAs are campaigning alongside the federal NDP. Popular Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin has lent her support and her extensive social media reach to Desjarlais (she ran against Diotte in 2015), as has Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan, who served as Minister of Indigenous Relations from 2016 to 2019.

Meanwhile, as Graham Thomson writes in ipolitics today, unlike the last federal election campaign, Premier Jason Kenney is now seen as a liability for his federal Conservative brethren. The Premier’s Office has said that Kenney is currently on vacation.

Ontario MP Derek Sloan running in Banff-Airdrie?

Derek Sloan speaking to a crowd in Calgary.
Derek Sloan speaking to a crowd in Calgary. (source: Facebook)

Independent Ontario MP Derek Sloan has spent the past month travelling around Alberta speaking to increasingly large crowds of anti-vaxxer and COVID-19 conspiracy theorists. Videos on his social media accounts show he has recently spoken at evangelical-style events in Airdrie, Calgary, Camrose, Claresholm, Cochrane, Red Deer and St. Albert.

The first-term MP from Hastings-Lennox and Addington was kicked out of the Conservative caucus in January 2021 after making numerous controversial statements about abortion and LGBTQ issues, and accepting a donation from a neo-Nazi.

Sloan apparently sees Alberta as his new political home, because in an email to his supporters today he pledged to never leave and “Make Alberta Great Again!” as he plans to make an important announcement in the town of Cochrane tomorrow. Rumours has it that the life-long Ontarian plans to run as an Independent candidate in Banff-Airdrie, where incumbent Conservative MP Blake Richards is seeking re-election.

Federal Conservatives endorse Senate Nominee candidates

The federal Conservative Party has endorsed three candidates in the upcoming Senate Nominee election to select two nominees to submit to the Prime Minster of appointment tot he upper chamber.

Lobbyist and former United Conservative Party president Erika Barootes, right-wing activist and former municipal election candidate Pam Davidson and Canadian Ukrainian Free Trade Agreement Association president Mykhailo Martyniouk will have the endorsement of the federal party in the October elections.

Newly nominated federal election candidates

  • The Liberal Party has nominated Leah McLeod in Battle River-Crowfoot, Jessica Dale-Walker in Calgary-Nose Hill, Dan Campbell in Grande Prairie-Mackenzie, and Hannah Wilson in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner.
  • The Communist Party of Canada has nominated candidates Jonathan Trautman in Calgary-Forest Lawn,  Alex Boykowich in Edmonton-Griesbach and Naomi Rankin in Edmonton-Mill Woods.
  • The Green Party has nominated Daniel Brisbin in Battle River-Crowfoot.
  • The Maverick Party has replaced Doug Karwandy with Jeff Golka in Battle River-Crowfoot.
  • The Christian Heritage Party has nominated former Wildrose candidate Jeff Willerton in Sturgeon River-Parkland and Derek Vanspronsen in Calgary-Heritage. Previously announced Calgary-Heritage candidate Larry Heather is now running in Calgary-Nose Hill.

I am maintaining an updated list of nominated federal election candidates in Alberta. Please drop a comment below if I am missing anyone. Thank you.

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Alberta Politics

MLA Laila Goodridge jumps into federal politics, leaving an opening for Brian Jean to run in a Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche United Conservative Party MLA Laila Goodridge has been appointed as the federal Conservative Party candidate in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake following MP David Yurdiga’s decision to withdraw his candidacy on the day the election was called for September 20, 2021.

David Yurdiga MP Fort McMurray-Cold Lake
David Yurdiga

Yurdiga has represented the northern Alberta district since running in a 2014 by-election to replace former MP Brian Jean.

Goodridge has represented the northern Alberta district since running in a 2018 by-election to replace former MLA Brian Jean.

Goodridge was appointed parliamentary secretary responsible for Alberta’s francophonie in June 2019. Before her by-election win she worked as a political staffer in Fort McMurray and Ottawa and ran for the Wildrose Party in Grande Prairie-Wapiti in the 2015 election.

Her sudden entry into federal politics and almost certain election to parliament in this very safe Conservative seat (neither a Liberal or NDP candidate have been nominated yet – but the Maverick Party has a candidate) means that a provincial by-election will be triggered in the next six months.

Brian Jean Calgary Stampede Alberta
Brian Jean

This will be the first by-election since Premier Jason Kenney’s UCP formed government in April 2019. Amid Kenney’s plummeting approval ratings, his party’s drop in the public opinion polls and lacklustre fundraising, a by-election in what should be a safe UCP riding will be interesting litmus test for the Premier.

Rachel Notley’s NDP are likely eager to contest a by-election, but they probably hoped their first chance would be in Calgary or a friendlier locale. The NDP didn’t win this seat in the Orange Wave of 2015 and their candidate, Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Jane Stroud, placed a distant second in the 2018 by-election and 2019 general election.

Expectations of an NDP win in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche in 2021 would be low – though winning this by-election would be a big win for the NDP and a massive blow for the UCP – and Kenney.

A provincial by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche will also offer Brian Jean a chance to leave the sidelines after four years of sniping at Kenney on social media and the Postmedia opinion pages. Jean left elected politics after Kenney and a kamikaze campaign defeated him in the 2017 UCP leadership race but he has remained a harsh critic of Kenney’s leadership and has publicly flirted with Alberta separatism.

Todd Loewen, former MLA Wayne Anderson, Brian Jean, and Drew Barnes at the Calgary Stampede BBQ in July 2021. (Source: Facebook)
Todd Loewen, former MLA Wayne Anderson, Brian Jean, and Drew Barnes at the Calgary Stampede BBQ in July 2021. (Source: Facebook)

Jean is rumoured to be considering running for the Alberta Party leadership and was spotted at the Stampede BBQ hosted by UCP MLAs-in-exile Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen last month in Calgary. He called on Kenney to resign in June, but it did not spark the rebellion that he may have hoped his words would have inspired.

A Brian Jean win in a Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election could be the ultimate blow to Kenney that Jean is hoping to deliver.

A by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche will need to be called before February 16, 2022.


The federal Liberal Party continues to nominate candidates in Alberta following yesterday’s federal election call, including the following candidates who were nominated yesterday:

  • Scott Forsyth in Calgary-Heritage
  • Zarnab Zafar in Calgary-Midnapore
  • Olumide Adewumi in Red Deer-Mountain View
Categories
Alberta Politics

Janet Eremenko enters Alberta NDP nomination race in Calgary-Currie, challenging former MLA Brian Malkinson

Janet Eremenko is running for the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Currie, kicking off a contested nomination race in the south west Calgary district. Eremenko will face former MLA Brian Malkinson at a yet to be scheduled nomination vote.

“Jason Kenney was elected on a promise of delivering jobs and economic growth, and over half-way through his mandate, he has failed to deliver on any of his promises,” Eremenko said in a press release.

“Rachel Notley has a positive vision for Alberta’s future. One that diversifies our economy and creates jobs for Albertans while taking action on climate change and protecting the environment,” Eremenko said. “I want to make sure Calgary-Currie is a part of that vision, and a part of defeating Kenney in the next election.”

Eremenko was the NDP candidate in the neighboring Calgary-Elbow in the 2019 election, where she placed third with 23 per cent of the vote behind United Conservative Party candidate Doug Schweitzer and Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark.

She was also a candidate for Calgary City Council in Ward 11 in the October 2017 election.

Eremenko will face Malkinson, who represented Calgary-Currie from 2015 until his narrow defeat to UCP candidate Nicholas Milliken in 2019. Malkinson was Alberta’s Minister of Service Alberta from 2018 to 2019.

Before Malkinson’s election in 2015, the district was represented by Progressive Conservative MLA Christine Cussanelli from 2012 to 2015 and Dave Taylor from 2004 to 2010 as a Liberal MLA and 2011 to 2012 as an Alberta Party MLA.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Conservationist Sarah Elmeligi running for the NDP nomination in Banff-Kananaskis

Canmore resident Sarah Elmeligi announced today that she is seeking the Alberta NDP nomination in Banff-Kananaskis to run in the next provincial election. She is the first candidate to announce plans to seek the nomination.

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.

She earned a PhD from Central Queensland University in Australia and since 2013 has been conducting Grizzly Bear research in the Rocky Mountains.

“I value working collaboratively with multiple stakeholders to define solutions that are good for people and good for the landscape,” Elmeligi said in a press release. “The Banff-Kananaskis Constituency is a very special place, appreciated by locals, Albertans, and international visitors for its natural splendor and varied recreational opportunities.”

If nominated, Elmeligi would face United Conservative Party MLA Miranda Rosin, who was elected in 2019 in the closest race outside of the province’s urban centres.

Miranda Rosin Banff Kananaskis UCP MLA
Miranda Rosin

Former MLA Cam Westhead, who announced on Facebook today that he would not be seeking the nomination and would instead be running for re-election as Second Vice President of United Nurses of Alberta, was the only NDP incumbent in rural Alberta to increase his vote share from 2015.

Westhead finished 3 points higher than his 2015 results from the redistributed Banff-Cochrane district and Rosin finished 7 points lower than the combined Wildrose Party and Progressive Conservative results in the boundaries.

The 2019 race was geographically divided, with Banff, Canmore, and the First Nations communities in the western parts of the Bow River valley heavily voting NDP and the eastern polls, dominated by ranches, acreages and Calgary commuters, voting UCP.

As a backbench MLA, Rosin has stumbled into controversy numerous times over the past two years, from sending out a mailer declaring that the pandemic was over just as the third wave was just beginning to signing a letter calling on the provincial government to prematurely lift public health restrictions to allegedly improperly claiming more than $800 in meal per-diems.

Rosin has also defended the UCP’s plans to privatize and close provincial parks, a decision that Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon was forced to back down from after public backlash, and the UCP’s plans to open up the Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining – which the UCP has temporarily backed away from after another huge public backlash. Rosin also failed to stop the approval of the controversial Springbank Dam, an unpopular project in the eastern part of the district that she pledged to oppose.

A date for the NDP nomination meeting has not yet been set.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney’s rush to declare COVID-19 over leaves a lot of Albertans behind

It’s been more than one month since Premier Jason Kenney announced the end to public health measures meant to curb the spread of COVID and a week after he announced the province would stop tracking the virus, end contact tracing and remove the legal requirement for people with COVID symptoms to self-isolate. 

This rush to remove public health restrictions has left a lot of Albertans confused and uncomfortable with his sudden decisions as cases of the Delta Variant increase and hundreds of thousands of Albertans under the age of 12 remain ineligible for vaccines as the start of the school year rapidly approaches.

Kenney appears eager to claim victory over COVID and give him and his United Conservative Party a political win in the face of bottomed-out approval in the polls and a steady pattern of lacklustre party fundraising.

A Best Summer Ever 2021 hat posted by Ben Harper, a staffer working in Premier Kenney's office (source: Twitter)
A Best Summer Ever 2021 hat posted by Ben Harper, a staffer working in Kenney’s office (source: Twitter)

For months, Kenney boasted that Alberta would have the Best Summer Ever in 2021. Staff in the Premier’s Office even had special baseball hats made declaring it such.

The original announcement to remove public health measures, including mandatory face-masking in public indoor spaces, was made ahead of Canada Day (or the long-abolished “Dominion Day” as Kenney has often called our national holiday). But it was the Calgary Stampede that Kenney wielded and waved like a carnival balloon sword against any Albertan who dared criticize his government’s rush to claim the pandemic is over.

Canada has made big gains in vaccinating people against COVID-19, despite earlier predictions by some that we might not have access to vaccines for years. In fact, cases where federal vaccine supply could not match provincial distribution were rare, and completely non-existent in Alberta. Yet, Alberta remains below the national average for full vaccination rates – and some regions of the province are sitting at troublingly low levels of vaccinations. 

A vaccine lottery, dubbed lottovaxx, was launched to push Alberta above the artificial hurdle that Kenney placed to remove restrictions and allow the Stampede to open its gates. A hunting lottery and trips to hot destinations were added, but it appears to have barely moved the needle.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, has endorsed Kenney’s plan as the government’s chief spokesperson on the topic, but even she had to issue an op-ed today trying to counter the loud chorus of critics.

After more than a month out of the public spotlight, Hinshaw was once again thrust into a role that Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro had filled since the Stampede. All of a sudden, Kenney began insisting that Hinshaw was the person in charge.

Despite her endorsement, Hinshaw is in the lonely position of being the only, or one of the only, medical professionals in Alberta to publicly support Kenney’s rush to remove COVID testing, tracing and isolation requirements.

Whether or not it is intentional, Hinshaw is now doing political damage control for the Kenney government.

It is inevitable that we would have removed public health restrictions at some point. As vaccination rates increase, it is expected that COVID-19 cases will be mostly limited to the unvaccinated, which again still includes hundreds of thousands of Alberta kids who can’t choose to get vaccinated.

Parents and teachers are left with no plan and little reassurances about what will happen when their unvaccinated kids return to school and childcare in September.

Kenney’s and Hinshaw’s assurances to parents that they will need to figure it out on their own have not been confidence inspiring.

Albertans with legitimate concerns and questions about the pace of Kenney’s plan have been dismissed by Hinshaw as having “anxiety” or by the Premier’s staff as wanting a “permanent lockdown.” These dismissive and aggressive responses communicated by the government are insulting and patronizing a broad group of parents with legitimate concerns and fears, well earned a year and a half into a public health crisis.

That the government still isn’t able to effectively communicate with the public about these measures is an indication that they are either largely indifferent or completely inept.

If we have learned anything over the past 18 months, it is that the COVID-19 pandemic is probably best approached with a healthy mix of vigilance and optimism. But the UCP government’s approach is all optimism that the pandemic is over and no vigilance to ensure it actually is. We constantly heard from Kenney that we were headed to the Best Summer Ever, but his eagerness to put COVID behind him has left a lot of Albertans behind.

It has been a traumatic and tough 18 months for a lot of people.

Millions of Albertans found themselves working from home, not working at all, thrust into homeschooling and childcare, and in addition to that, many of us have mourned family, friends and colleagues who have died of COVID-19 or other ailments that we have not been able to properly grieve.

Kenney’s Best Summer Ever promise appears to apply largely to the Premier and his small group of insiders the Best Summer Ever hats were made for, who have been able to dine al fresco on a government patio, take in the private parties and open bars at the 2021 Stampede, fire automatic weapons with the Taber Police and many other perks they are indulging in while the Legislature is out. For many Albertans, that slogan and swag hats are a crass and insensitive response to what should be a summer of reflection, recuperation and preparation for the coming school year.