Tag Archives: Wayne Cao

Kenney’s Alberta Autonomy Panel given questions answered 15 years ago by Klein’s Strengthening Alberta’s Role in Confederation Committee

Things are getting pretty weird in Alberta.

Deep cuts to the provincial budget are resulting in the cancellation of public services and job layoffs across the province, and the fallout from the federal election continues to dominate the political discussion. And crisis – organized crisis – reigns, as Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party government dramatically shifts the political narrative on an almost daily basis.

Preston Manning

Preston Manning

But things got really weird last week when elected councillors of the County of Wheatland, a 8,700 person rural municipality east of Calgary, voted for a resolution calling for a possible Alberta independence vote. The councillor who introduced the motion is Jason Wilson, who according to his online biography also sits on the board of the local UCP association.

Yesterday, Kenney stood at the podium at the now one-day Manning Networking Conference in Red Deer to announce the creation of a “Fair Deal” panel that will look at ways to give the province more autonomy.

Kenney’s panel is both a continuation of his personal political campaign against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who’s Liberal Party was re-elected with a large minority government, and a reaction to the frustration felt by many of the 70 per cent of Albertans who voted for Andrew Scheer’s Conservative Party.

While some of the frustration felt by Albertans is legitimate, regional and partisan grievances are deeply intertwined in this province. With the UCP essentially operating as a provincial-wing of the federal Conservative Party, it is hard to believe that this panel would exist if Scheer had not snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on October 21.

Panel members include former Reform Party leader Preston Manning (who has openly warned about separatism), former one-term Progressive Conservative MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans (who recently wrote a blog post asking if Trudeau has committed treason), current UCP MLAs Drew Barnes, Miranda Rosin, and Tany Yao, Fraser Institute senior fellow and University of Alberta academic Moin Yahya, Canada West Foundation board chair Oryssia Lennie, former Alberta Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations Jason Goodstriker, and Peter Lougheed’s son Stephen Lougheed.

Donna Kennedy Glans MLA Calgary Varsity

Donna Kennedy-Glans

The panel will be given a $650,000 budget to hold seven town hall meetings to consult with Albertans on a prescribed series of issues that have been bees in Conservative partisans’ bonnets for decades, including:

  • withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan and creating an Alberta Pension Plan (something that was hinted last week and could have a big impact on the migration of interprovincial labour to Alberta),
  • replacing the Canada Revenue Agency by establishing a provincial revenue agency,
  • ending contracts with the RCMP and creating a provincial police force (the RCMP are currently investigating allegations of fraud in the UCP’s 2017 leadership contest),
  • opting out of federal programs like pharmacare,
  • forming an office of a Chief Firearms Officer (a Wildrose Party policy), and
  • creating an Alberta Constitution.

The panel’s mandate letter talks a lot about emulating Quebec, including implementing a rule that municipalities and school boards require the approval of the provincial government before they can enter into agreements with the federal government. This could be used by the Kenney government to cut off potential cooperation between municipalities and the federal government on projects like affordable housing, public infrastructure and climate change initiatives.

The panel and its town hall meetings are both a relief valve and a steering wheel meant to allow Albertans to vent their frustrations while allowing Kenney to attempt to keep ahead of the crowd. Or at least that’s probably the plan.

Premier Ralph Klein

Ralph Klein

Kenney frequently boasts about the size of his electoral mandate, so it is notable that none of the autonomy polices to be considered by the panel were included in the UCP’s incredibly thorough election platform just six months ago.

The panel’s mandate and the questions it is being tasked with asking are remarkably similar to the questions asked by the MLA Committee on Strengthening Alberta’s Role in Confederation created by premier Ralph Klein in November 2003.

Chaired by Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Ian McClelland (a former Reform Party Member of Parliament) and co-chaired by Red Deer-North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski, members of the committee included Calgary-Fort MLA Wayne Cao, Lac La Biche-St. Paul MLA Ray Danyluk, Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths, Calgary-Currie MLA Jon Lord, Calgary-North Hill MLA Richard Magnus, St. Albert MLA Mary O’Neill, and Banff-Cochrane MLA Janis Tarchuk.

The MLA committee was created in the wake of the infamous 2001 Firewall Letter, signed by right-wing luminaries Ted Morton, Tom Flanagan, Rainer Knopff, Andy Crooks, Ken Boessenkool, and future prime minster Stephen Harper, and in response to small but loud fringe groups like the Alberta Independence Party and the Separation Party of Alberta.

And, like many of the initiatives started in the final few years of Klein’s tenure as premier, it was a meant to create a distraction from what had largely become a rudderless government. 

Ian McClelland

The mandate letter of the MLA committee was filled with much more flowery and hopeful language than the doom-and-gloom fear of separatism included in the mandate letter of Kenney’s panel. But the real mandate of the MLA committee was to travel the province to gauge support for the Firewall manifesto – a similar mandate of Kenney’s panel.

The MLA Committee on Strengthening Alberta’s Role in Confederation held 12 public hearings between January and March 2004 and here is what they recommended:

Pension Plan: “The Committee believes that withdrawing from the CPP and creating a separate Alberta pension plan is not in the best interests of Albertans. That is not to say that the CPP should not be improved for Albertans and all Canadians. The Committee further recommends that Alberta develop and advocate further CPP reforms that will end the intergenerational inequity, and move the CPP to a fully-funded foundation.” (Page 19)

Tax Collection: “Collecting our own personal income taxes would be a costly venture. One analysis suggests that set-up costs would be $30-40 million and that annual administrative costs could be between $70 and $160 million (including the costs of an additional 1,000-2,000 full time positions that might be required). By comparison, the administrative fee paid by Alberta under the TCA is less than $5 million annually. The Committee is also concerned that individual Albertans and businesses in the province would incur higher out-of-pocket costs in complying with two separate tax systems. This consideration alone makes the idea impractical. The Committee recommends that the Government of Alberta reach a new Tax Collection Agreement with the federal government that addresses Alberta’s concerns and provides increased tax policy flexibility.” (Page 21)

Mary Anne Jablonski

Police Force: The Committee recommends that the Government of Alberta commission a detailed study of policing alternatives to the RCMP in advance of the 2007 cost review. This analysis should include a careful examination of costs, efficiencies, and levels of service. … The Committee further recommends that appropriate municipal stakeholders be consulted in the cost review negotiations in 2007, and that consideration be given to inclusion of such stakeholders on the Alberta negotiating team.” (Page 25)

Senate: “The Committee recommends that the Government of Alberta, through the Council of the Federation, encourage the Premiers to consider a process that would see the Prime Minister fill Senate vacancies from lists of provincial nominees. In Alberta’s case, the list should be generated by a Senatorial election.” (Page 29)

Intergovernmental Relations: “The Committee further recommends that the Government of Alberta re-establish an office in Ottawa. Close proximity to, and face-to-face contact with, federal decision-makers would improve relations between our governments and would help ensure Alberta interests are accurately and efficiently conveyed and addressed.” (Page 58)

Our Future:The Committee also recommends that the Government of Alberta work towards fixing the underlying structural problems of our Canadian institutions that feed the flames of western alienation. The Committee further recommends that the Government of Alberta establish a fund for use in pursuing those legal challenges deemed to be necessary and desirable for safeguarding Alberta’s Constitutional jurisdiction.” (Page 59)

The MLA committee and its final report rejected the Firewall manifesto and was quickly forgotten after Paul Martin’s Liberals lost their majority in June 2004 and Klein’s PCs had their knuckles rapped in November 2004. But unlike Klein’s committee, which resulted in some fairly moderate and milquetoast recommendations, many of the panel members appointed by Kenney yesterday and the political environment they exist in are much more ideologically driven and politically divided.

This weird ride doesn’t look like it’s going to end anytime soon. There’s more crisis ahead.


Alberta to reopen office in Ottawa, again

In his speech to the Manning Centre, Kenney announced that the Alberta government will open offices in Ottawa, Quebec, and British Columbia. It is unusual and unclear why the Alberta government would need offices in other provincial capitals or in Ottawa, where Albertans just elected 34 Members of Parliament to represent their interests. But an office in the federal capital is not unprecedented.

The Alberta government opened an office in Ottawa in 1939. The Ottawa office was closed in 1996 and its last executive director, Gordon Olsen (brother of War Room CEO Tom Olsen), relocated to Calgary. A government review conducted in 2000 concluded that technology allows people to research information just as easily without a full-time office in Ottawa.

In 2004, Klein publicly mused about opening an Alberta government-funded office in Ottawa for the province’s elected Senate nominees, but the unpopular idea died quickly.

Premier Alison Redford reopened the office in 2013 and Calgary energy lawyer Alan Ross was hired as Alberta’s representative. Premier Jim Prentice closed the office again in 2015.

(Photo source: Facebook)

Calgary-North UCP candidates: Devin Green, Tanis Fiss, Paul Frank, Jun Lin, and Muhammad Yaseen.

United Conservatives selecting candidates in Calgary-North and Lethbridge-East on Feb. 9

Photo: Calgary-North UCP candidates Devin Green, Tanis Fiss, Paul Frank, Jun Lin, and Muhammad Yaseen.

United Conservative Party members will choose their party’s candidates in Calgary-North and Lethbridge-East on February 9, 2019.

In Calgary-North, Devin Green, Tanis FissPaul FrankJun Lin, and Muhammad Yaseen are seeking the UCP nomination. Tommy Low and Manpreet Sidhu have withdrawn from the contest. 

Yaseen is the former president of the Calgary-Northern Hills Progressive ConservativesFiss works in the oil and gas industry and moved to Alberta from BC in 2003 to establish a Calgary-based office for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. And Frank previous ran for the federal Conservative Party nominations in Calgary-Rocky Ridge in 2014 and Calgary-Heritage in 2017 and ran as an Independent candidate in Alberta’s 2012 Senator-in-Waiting election

Fiss is endorsed by former federal Conservative Party interim leader Rona Ambrose and Frank is endorsed by city councillor Joe Magliocca, Conservative MPs Len Webber, Michelle Rempel, Pat Kelly, and former Calgary-Fort PC MLA Wayne Cao

Lethbridge East UCP nomination candidates: Nathan Neudorf, Kimberly Lyall, Bryan Litchfield, Robin James and Angela Zuba

Lethbridge East UCP nomination candidates: Nathan Neudorf, Kimberly Lyall, Bryan Litchfield, Robin James and Angela Zuba

In Lethbridge-EastRobin JamesBryan LitchfieldKimberly LyallNathan Neudorf and Angela Zuba are seeking the UCP nomination.

James is the Chief Administrative Officer of the Lethbridge Housing Authority. Litchfield is a Facility Services project manager with the City of Lethbridge and director of the Alberta Off-Highway Vehicle Association. Lyall is a motivational speaker and consultant and was founding president of the local UCP association and previously served as president of the local Wildrose Party association. Neudorf re-entered the UCP nomination contest in this district in December 2018 after dropping out to run for the UCP nomination in the Livingstone-Macleod district located west of Lethbridge, but was unsuccessful in that contest. Zuba is a Development Manager for Lethbridge College and prior to that was the CEO for the Canadian Home Builders Association

Lyall is endorsed by UCP MLA Nathan Cooper, Leela Aheer, and Pat StierNeudorf is endorsed by Roger Reid, UCP Candidate for Livingstone Macleod and former Lethbridge city councillor Tom Wickersham, and Conservative MP Rachael Harder. 

Following these two nomination contests, the UCP will have six districts remaining where the party has not selected a candidate ahead of the next election. The remaining districts are Edmonton-Ellerslie, Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, Edmonton-Meadows, Edmonton-Mill Woods, Edmonton-Strathcona, and Red Deer-South.


Liberals nominate two candidates in Calgary

The Alberta Liberal Party has nominated Jaroslav Giesbrecht in Calgary-Peigan and Vesna Samardzija in Calgary-Shaw, bringing the party to a slate of 17 candidates in 87 districts.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!

Note: The original version of this article did not include Angela Zuba as a nomination candidate in Lethbridge-East. This has been corrected.

Judy Kim-Meneen, Searle Turton, Kevin Smook and Devin Dreeshen

Searle Turton nominated in Spruce Grove – Stony Plain, Judy Kim-Meneen leaves Lesser Slave Lake to run in Edmonton-North West

Photo: Judy Kim-Meneen, Searle Turton, Kevin Smook and Devin Dreeshen

Here are a few of the latest updates to the list of candidates nominated and seeking nomination to run in Alberta’s next provincial election:

Calgary-Falconridge – Devinder Toor defeated Pete de Jong and Jesse Minhas to secure the United Conservative Party nomination in this district. Toor was the Wildrose Party candidate in the 2016 by-election and 2015 general election in Calgary-Greenway. He was defeated by then-Progressive Conservative candidate Prab Gill in the 2016 by-election to choose a successor to Manmeet Bhullar, who Toor was defeated by in 2015.

Happy Mann’s candidacy in this contest was rejected by the UCP after he was alleged to have been involved in a incident where a local reporter was assaulted. Mann was the Wildrose Party candidate in Calgary-McCall in the 2015 election and Calgary-Cross in the 2012 election.

Camrose – Kevin Smook defeated Steven Hansen to secure the Alberta Party nomination in this district. Smook is councillor for Division 1 on Beaver County council, where he was first elected in 2013. He served as Reeve of Beaver County from 2014 to 2017.

Edmonton-Manning – Harjinder Grewal defeated Dakota Drouillard, Gurcharan Garcha, and Kulshan Gill to secure the UCP nomination in this northeast Edmonton district. Grewal is a former Edmonton Police Service officer and was the recipient of the Kiwanis 2013 ‘Top Cop’ award.

Edmonton-West HendayLeah McRorie is seeking the Liberal Party nomination in this Edmonton district. McRorie is a certified facilitator with the Alberta Caregivers Association  and prolific tweeter. According to her LinkedIn profile, she provided social media support for Jeanne Lehman in her campaign for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Manning ahead of the 2015 federal election. 

Innisfail-Sylvan LakeDevin Dreeshen has been acclaimed as the UCP candidate in this district. There had been speculation that Dreeshen would be appointed by the UCP board and there does not appear to be any evidence that an open nomination contest was held before he was acclaimed.

Leduc-BeaumontRobb Connelly is seeking the Alberta Party nomination. His application to run for the Alberta Party nomination in the neighbouring Strathcona-Sherwood Park district was denied by the Party.

Lesser Slave Lake – Judy Kim-Meneen is no longer the nominated Alberta Party candidate in this sprawling northern Alberta district. Kim-Meneen instead now appears to have been nominated as the Alberta Party candidate in Edmonton-North West. It also appears that former PC Party candidate Emerson Mayers withdrew from the contest in Edmonton-North West and that former Liberal Party candidate Todd Ross is now seeking the Alberta Party nomination in Edmonton-Ellerslie.

Spruce Grove-Stony Plain – Spruce Grove City Councillor Searle Turton defeated Mathew Clarke and Jerry W. Semen to secure the UCP nomination in this urban district west of Edmonton. Turton was first elected to Spruce Grove City Council in 2010.

If you know any candidates who have announced their intentions to stand for party nominations, please send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. I will add them to the list. Thank you!


Here is a preview of the nomination contests being held in the coming days:

December 6, 2018Becca Polak, Caylan Ford and Jeremy Wong are seeking the UCP nomination in Calgary-Mountain View.

Polak is the former Vice-President of Communications for the Wildrose Party and served as a member of the UCP interim board from 2017 to 2018. Ford is an international affairs specialist with a background in China and human rights. She has worked as a senior policy advisor with Global Affairs Canada. Wong is a pastor with the Calgary Chinese Alliance Church and recently completed a Master of Public Administration at the University of Calgary.

Polak has been endorsed by former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean. Ford has been endorsed by Edmonton-area MP Garnett Genuis, former PC MLA Kyle Fawcett, UCP candidates Doug Schweitzer and Tyler Shandro, and past mayoral candidate Bill Smith. Wong has been endorsed by UCP candidate Jeremy Nixon, former PC MLAs Wayne Cao and Gordon Dirks, and University of Calgary economist Jack Mintz.

Former Progressive Conservative MLA Mark Hlady was seeking the nomination but was disqualified last month.

December 6, 2018Kevin Greco, Kaycee Madu and Sohail Quadri are seeking the UCP nomination in Edmonton-South West.

Greco is a certified home inspector, Madu is a lawyer with Tisel Law Office, and Quadri previously served as the PC MLA for Edmonton-Mill Woods from 2008 to 2015. Quadri served as Legislative Secretary to premier Jim Prentice from 2014 to 2015.

Greco is endorsed by former MP and MLA Ian McClelland.

December 8, 2018Nathan Neudorf, Roger Reid, and Thomas Schneider are seeking the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod.

Reid is the owner of Tim Hortons franchises in Nanton and Clareshold and is chair of the Claresholm and District Health Foundation. Schnieder previously worked as an Area Sales Representative with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Reid is endorsed by Foothills MP John Barlow.

December 8, 2018Maureen Gough, Sean Kenny, Len Thom and Jordan Walker are seeking the UCP nomination in Sherwood Park.

Gough was a researcher with the Wildrose and UCP caucuses. Thom is the former president of the PC Party and was the federal Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona in the 2015 election. And Walker is an Assessment Consultant in the Department of Labour.

Gough is endorsed by UCP MLAs Leela Aheer, Scott Cyr, Grant Hunter, Mark Smith, Rick Strankman, and Wes Taylor. Thom has been endorsed by Brian Jean. Walker has been endorsed by MP Garnett Genuis, former MP Ken Epp, and former UCP constituency president Stephen Burry (who is now Acting Chief of Staff with the Freedom Conservative Party Caucus).

December 9, 2018Parmeet Singh Boparai and Paramjit Singh Mann are seeking the New Democratic Party nomination in Calgary-FalconridgeBoparai is the former president of the Dashmesh Culture Centre. Update: Paramjit Singh Mann’s candidacy has not been accepted by the NDP.

Jim Prentice is dwarfed by a giant photo of himself on the PC campaign bus at a stop in Edmonton this week.

Will 2015 be an lucky or unlucky #13 for Alberta’s PC Party?

CALGARY, ALBERTA

On May 5, 2015, the Progressive Conservatives will face Alberta voters for the thirteenth time since they first formed government in 1971. Since that election 44 years ago, the PCs have dominated over their opposition.

Rachel Notley NDP Alberta

Rachel Notley

It remains difficult to believe that the PC will not form another majority government, but there are indications that the opposition parties could do much better than initially expected. Some political watchers have even suggested that the PCs could form their first minority government.

With the most money and resources at their disposal, the PCs are the only party running a true “province-wide” campaign, but recent polls indicate the two main opposition parties have an opportunity to make gains.

NDP leader Rachel Notley appears to be enjoying an unprecedented bump in support in Alberta. Ms. Notley’s campaign has focused on job creation and health care, contrasting her party’s plan with Jim Prentice‘s party’s 44 year record. Clear signs, and many lawn signs, are indicating that an NDP surge in Edmonton, Lethbridge, and pockets of Calgary, could boost the NDP into Official Opposition status (the NDP previously formed official opposition from 1982 to 1993).

Brian Jean Wildrose Leader

Brian Jean

The current Official Opposition Wildrose Party, now focused on rural Alberta and cities like Red Deer and Grande Prairie, have made opposition to government spending and tax increases a central theme of their campaign. Wildrose leader Brian Jean was chosen little more than one month ago, so it is difficult to believe he alone is the inspiration for the bump in Wildrose support. More likely, there are many voters who still feel comfortable parking their votes with the Wildrose, which is why Mr. Prentice’s party has begun increasing their attacks on their conservative opposition.

Unless the PCs have given up their chances in Edmonton, we should expect PC cabinet ministers to soon start lining up to denounce Ms. Notley as well.

Because of the two opposition party’s different regional support, there might be only two or three constituencies across Alberta where both the NDP and Wildrose in a real competition with the PC candidate.

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP

Joe Ceci

One of those constituencies appears to be Calgary-Fort. Popular five-term PC MLA Wayne Cao has decided to retire from politics, leaving the PCs with rookie candidate Andy Nguyen. The NDP have nominated former Alderman Joe Ceci, the party’s most high-profile Calgary candidate in decades. The Wildrose have nominated Jeevan Mangat, who came within 200 votes of defeating Mr. Cao in the 2012 election.

Four months ago, there appeared to be a growing consensus that Mr. Prentice would lead the PCs to win nearly all the seats in the Legislative Assembly. And while it is never safe to bet against the PCs, with twelve consecutive election wins in their belt, with seventeen days left before election day, it appears that Albertans could send a very strong contingent of opposition MLAs to the legislature.


I have updated the unofficial list of Alberta Election candidates with information released by Elections Alberta after today’s nomination deadline.

Will Rick Hanson run for the PCs in Calgary-Cross?

Rick Hanson Calgary PC Cross Candidate

Rick Hanson

Will Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson run for the Progressive Conservatives in the upcoming spring provincial election? His surprise resignation announcement today timed with the PCs abrupt delay of their nomination in the northeast Calgary-Cross constituency until March 14 has led some political watchers to speculate Mr. Hanson could be appointed as a candidate.

With the retirement of six-term PC MLA Yvonne Fritzseven candidates are seeking the PC nomination in Calgary-Cross. Deep political divisions between the various ethnic groups backing those candidates led one political observer described the race as “a gong-show.” Appointing a high-profile outsider like Mr. Hanson might be a more palatable alternative for the PC establishment to holding a highly divisive nomination meeting that would be difficult to control.

Joe Ceci NDP Calgary Fort

Joe Ceci

But Cross is not the only available spot. There are six other constituencies in Calgary that do not yet have PC candidates, including Calgary-McCall and Calgary-Fort, in which nomination meetings have not yet be scheduled.

Calgary-McCall is currently represented by Liberal Darshan Kang, who is jumping into federal politics as the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Skyview. In Calgary-Fort, long-time PC MLA Wayne Cao is retiring and the New Democrats have recruited former five-term city councillor Joe Ceci.

Mr. Hanson is already seen as close to Mr. Prentice, having invited him to ride alongside the Calgary Police Foundation during the 2014 Calgary Stampede Parade. Mr. Prentice was the Chair of the Calgary Police Foundation Fundraising Committee.

Manmeet Bhullar

Manmeet Bhullar

This would not be the first time the PC Party appointed a candidate in north east Calgary. In 2008, two days after the election was called, 27-year old university student Manmeet Bhullar was appointed by Ed Stelmach as the PC candidate in Calgary-Montrose. Mr. Bhullar is now Minister of Infrastructure and is considered one of Mr. Prentice’s chief political lieutenants.

Mr. Hanson would be one of the latest in a string of police chiefs to jump into electoral politics. In Ontario, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives salivated when Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino was able to steal a long-time Liberal riding in a by-election. In British Columbia, Kash Heed, the chief constable of the West Vancouver Police Department, briefly served as Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

While he would be a political unknown to most Albertans outside of Calgary city limits, Mr. Hanson would be one of the PCs first “star candidates” to be nominated for this election. And with most PC MLAs winning their nominations by acclamation and only a handful of low-key nomination contests underway, a high-profile name like Mr. Hanson’s could bring some much needed heft to a PC slate still heavily loaded with Redford-era MLAs.

Alberta Politics Round-Up: Redford and the Opposition

Premier Alison Redford Alberta

Premier Alison Redford

An investigation into former Premier Alison Redford‘s use of government airplanes has been closed and no charges will be laid, the RCMP announced yesterday. In 2014, Premier Dave Hancock and Justice Minister Jonathan Denis asked the RCMP to investigate findings made by the Auditor General that Ms. Redford and her staff had misused government aircraft.

Ms. Redford resigned as Premier and leader of the Progressive Conservatives in March 2014 after facing a caucus and party revolt against her scandal-plagued administration.

Alberta Liberals and Alberta Party
Greg Clark Calgary-Elbow Alberta Party

Greg Clark

The never-ending dance between the Alberta Liberals and the Alberta Party continued last week as party leader Greg Clark presented another “cooperation” offer to the Liberal Party. Not surprisingly the offer was declined by interim Liberal leader David Swann, who was chosen by his party’s executive because he did not share MLA Laurie Blakeman‘s pro-cooperation stance.

The Alberta Party is hosting its Annual General Meeting this weekend, an event that will feature guest speakers Stephen Carter and Dave Taylor (former Liberal and Alberta Party MLA for Calgary-Currie from 2004 to 2012).

Meanwhile, a poll commissioned by former Liberal Party executive director Corey Hogan shows that both parties could be shut out of Calgary’s inner-city constituencies in the next election. If defeat is not a powerful motivator to cooperate, I do not know what else would be.

NDP nab a big candidate in Calgary
Joe Ceci NDP Calgary Fort

Joe Ceci

Rachel Notley‘s NDP have grabbed their biggest name candidate in decades – former five-term Alderman and Homeless advocate Joe Ceci announced this week that he will seek the NDP nomination in Calgary-Fort. Mr. Ceci supported the Liberal Party when it was led by Kevin Taft and endorsed Mr. Swann when he ran for the party’s leadership in 2008.

Calgary-Fort has been represented by PC MLA Wayne Cao since 1997. Mr. Cao is not seeking re-election.

Three candidates have stepped up to run for the PC nomination: Christopher PrimeauBeverly DeSantis and David Aftergood.

Mr. Aftergood recently appealed to the CBC Ombudsman for the removal of an article reporting his jail sentencing in 2007 for improper handling of ballots in the 2004 Calgary municipal election. According to the CBC, Mr. Aftergood was sentenced to 14 days in jail in May 2007 but never served out the sentence, because upon appeal, he was granted a new trial and the charge against him was stayed in January 2010.

Much of the area was represented by NDP MLA Barry Pashak from 1986 to 1993. The NDP have not elected an MLA in Calgary since 1989, but Ms. Notley has said she hopes her party can increase its support in the next election.

Former Tory MP eyes Wildrose leadership
Brian Jean

Brian Jean

Former Fort McMurray-Athabasca Conservative MP Brian Jean is considering a run for the leadership of the Wildrose Party. The crossword loving former Ottawa politician served as MP from 2006 to 2014. He retired in 2014 to return to private life.

Although Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier was unseated in the 2012 election, he and former Mayor Doug Faulkner were only narrowly defeated in Fort McMurray’s two provincial constituencies.

Former Strathcona County Mayor Linda Osinchuk confirmed on Facebook yesterday that she plans to run for the Wildrose Party leadership.

Seven PC nominations today

The Progressive Conservatives will be holding candidate nomination contests today in Bonnyville-Cold Lake, Calgary-Fish Creek, Calgary-Mountain View, Calgary-North West, Medicine Hat, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre and Spruce Grove-St. Albert.

#ABvote Google Hangout

With a provincial election expected in the coming month, we kicked off the first #AbVote Google Hangout last night. Watch the archived version online at abvote.ca.

The Redford legacy haunts Prentice Tories

Celebrating one-year since the 2012 Tory victory is Moe Amery, Premier Alison Redford, Wayne Cao, and Peter Sandhu.

Celebrating the anniversary of the 2012 Tory victory: then-Premier Alison Redford and PC MLAs Moe Amery, Wayne Cao, and Peter Sandhu. (photo from May 2013).

Most people rely on TripAdvisor or call a travel agent to book hotels for overseas trips, but it is alleged by intrepid CBC investigative journalists that former Premier Alison Redford dispatched a staffer to visit hotels and restaurants in advance of her trips to India, China, Switzerland, Washington, and Toronto for a cost of nearly $330,000.

Jim Prentice Alberta PC Party Premier Leader

Jim Prentice

It is not uncommon for government leaders to have advance staff, but in this case, like so many of the decisions that led to Ms. Redford’s downfall, it appears to have been done in secret (the cost of the staffer and their travel was not included in the publicly available travel expenses disclosures).

If advance work was indeed required, and there are reasons why this could be the case, it is hard to understand why the Premier’s Office would not simply hire the services of a consultant in the country or city Ms. Redford was planning to visit. Was it really necessary to hire a dedicated employee for this task?

In response to the allegations, former top Redford loyalist Thomas Luksazuk has called on the former premier to resign as the MLA for Calgary-Elbow, a move that is likely to occur after Jim Prentice wins the party leadership. Mr. Prentice is without a seat in the Assembly and the cash-flush Calgary-Elbow PC association could steer the new Premier through a potentially treacherous by-election.

Thomas Lukaszuk Alberta Edmonton MLA PC Leadership

Thomas Lukaszuk

In a fundraising email sent to supporters today, Wildrose Party president David Yager wrote that his party “will fight the by-election with every ounce of firepower we have.”

Advance Cabinet Shuffle

Signalling that Jeff Johnson‘s troubling reign as Education Minister could come to an end in September, Mr. Prentice pledged to work “in a respectful way” with the powerful Alberta Teachers’ Association.

Similar comments were made by Ms. Redford during her run for the PC Party leadership and during the 2012 election. Soon after, the PC government turned on public sector workers, threatening to legislate the contracts of teachers and public service employees and attacking their pensions. Mr. Prentice will need to follow his words with actions.

Mr. Prentice also said he will accelerate the construction of new school buildings, a promise that was originally made by Ms. Redford, but recently downplayed by Infrastructure Minister Wayne Drysdale last week. In a stunning admission, Mr. Drysdale told the media that the P3 (Public-Private Partnership) option for building the new schools was too expensive.

Wayne Drysdale MLA Grande Prairie Wapiti

Wayne Drysdale

But when it comes to governance of the education system, it is not clear what role Mr. Prentice believes locally elected school boards and municipalities should play in this decision making process, as they face intense growth pressures to raise new schools and shutter others.

Another prime target for a demotion in Mr. Prentice’s cabinet is Finance Minister Doug Horner, whose budget reporting structure was today the target of an open-letter from a group of retired Tory politicians.

Klein-era finance and revenue ministers Stockwell Day, Steve West, Greg Melchin, Lloyd Snelgrove, Lyle Oberg, and Ted Morton penned a letter to the PC leadership candidates urging them to return to the pre-Horner consolidated annual budget. Mr. Horner adopted a confusing new structure shortly after he was appointed to the post by Ms. Redford in 2012.

Notably missing from the list of former finance ministers was Jim Dinning, who spoke out against Mr. Horner’s budget reporting in April 2014.

Fort McMurray MLA Mike Allen arrested in U.S. prostitution sting

Mike Allen MLA

Mike Allen MLA

Mike Allen is the second MLA to resign from the Progressive Conservative caucus since last year’s election. The Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA resigned today from the Tory caucus after he was arrested in a prostitution sting in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The first-term MLA and former Wood Buffalo municipal councillor was in St. Paul to represent the Government of Alberta at the Council of State Governments Midwestern Legislative Conference. According to a Government press release, Calgary-Fort MLA Wayne Cao was also attending the conference.

This was Mr. Allen’s fourth trip to the United States as an official representative of the Alberta Government since he was elected. In 2012, he attended conferences in Cleveland, Ohio and Madison, Wisconsin and in 2013 he attended a conference in Washington state as a representative of the Premier’s Standing Committee on Resource Stewardship.

Mr. Allen’s resignation letter was published on the Edmonton Journal website:

“Today, I informed the Chief Government Whip of a legal incident that I have been involved in. Pending resolution of this incident, I have resigned from the government caucus and all legislative committee effective immediately. I apologize to my family, my friends, my constituents, my colleagues, my staff, and to all Albertans for the embarrassment I have caused in failing to live up to the standards expected of me and the standards I expect of myself. I made this mistake as a result of a profound lapse in my personal judgment. It is a mistake for which there are no excuses and for which I accept full responsibility. This is deeply embarrassing moment and all I can say is that I am sorry and I humbly ask for forgiveness. I will work long and hard to regain the trust of the many I have let down.”

Mr. Allen was first elected in 2012, defeating former Tory cabinet minister-tuned-Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier. In 2012, he was appointed by Premier Alison Redford as the special advisor to the Minister of Transportation for highway 63.

Mr. Allen is the second MLA to resign from the governing Tory caucus since the 2012 election. In May 2013, Edmonton-Manning MLA Peter Sandhu resigned from the PC caucus after a CBC investigation revealed that a company owned by the politician had accumulated a trail of unpaid debt and that he made a false statement in a sworn affidavit.

calgary stampede: the greatest political show on earth.

Naheed Nenshi Horse Calgary Stampede

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi (via @nenshi)

The Greatest Show on Earth, also known as the Calgary Stampede, kicked-off celebrating its 100th anniversary this weekend. Between the chuck wagons and rodeo clowns, politicians off all stripes will drop into Calgary over the next week to kiss babies and grill pancakes.

Twitter was, well, atwitter with chatter comparing the level of applause received by Premier Alison Redford and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith at Prime Minster Stephen Harper‘s annual Stampede BBQ. It sounds silly, because it is, and it signals how deep the divide between Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose partisans are in this province.

No word about whether Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk and federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney took an opportunity to put aside their differences.

Liberal Member of Parliament Justin Trudeau was the talk of the political town at a fundraiser for the yet to be called Calgary-Centre by-election. Along with Beena Ashar, who already announced her candidacy, conservationist and former President of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Harvey Locke and TEDxCalgary organizer Rahim Sajan entered the Liberal Party nomination contest this weekend. As the provincial Liberal candidate in Calgary-Foothills during the 1989 election, Mr. Locke came within 500 votes of unseating Pat Black, who would later become Finance Minister Pat Nelson.

Here are some photos that were floating around social media networks this weekend. Check out Calgary Grit this week for his annual collection of political photos from the Stampede.

Wayne Cao Christine Cusanelli Sandra Jensen Alison Redford Calgary Stampede

Calgary-Fort PC MLA Wayne Cao, Tourism Minister Christine Cusanelli, Calgary-North West PC MLA Sandra Jensen, and Premier Alison Redford. (via Wayne Cao on Facebook)

Deron Bilous Pierre Nantel NDP Calgary Stampede

Edmonton-Beverly Clareview NDP MLA Deron Bilous and Longueuil–Pierre- Boucher NDP MP Pierre Nantel. (via Deron Bilous on Facebook)

Jonathan Denis Calgary Stampede

Justice Minister Jonathan Denis. (via Jonathan Denis on Facebook)

Raj Sherman Calgary Stampede

Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman. (via Raj Sherman on Facebook)

Danielle Smith Elizabeth May Calgary Stampede

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May (via via @katyanderson)

assembly housekeeping: new staff, new speaker, & new public accounts committee chair.

As the Opposition Caucuses and Parties reorganize following electoral changes caused as a results of the April 23 election, there will be a number of staff and role changes in Assembly. The new Assembly will convene for the first time to elect a new Speaker on May 23, 2012 and listen to the Speech from the Throne on May 24, 2012.

New Speaker

Gene Zwozdesky

Gene Zwozdesky

As the result of the retirement of long-time Progressive Conservative MLA Ken Kowalski, the Speaker’s Office is vacant for the first time since 1997. Vying to become the new Assembly Speaker are former cabinet minister and Edmonton-Mill Creek PC MLA Gene Zwozdesky, Deputy Speaker and Calgary-Fort PC MLA Wayne Cao, former cabinet minister and Red Deer-North PC MLA Mary Anne Jablonski, and long-time Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman. (Both Mr. Cao and Ms. Jablonski have exited the race).

Before his appointed as Minister of Aboriginal Relations last week, West Yellowhead PC MLA Robin Campbell was seen by some political insiders as a front-runner in this race.

This new Speaker will be selected by sitting MLA’s through a secret ballot and because this election is traditionally not a whipped vote, it can sometimes lead to interesting and unexpected results. When Mr. Kowalski was selected as Speaker in 1997, many political observers believed it was the Liberal and NDP MLA’s who helped him defeat Premier Ralph Klein‘s preferred choice, then-Dunvegan MLA Glen Clegg.

Opposition Staff Housekeeping

For the first time in 19 years, the Liberal Opposition Caucus will not be the Official Opposition in the Assembly. The Liberal Caucus, led by Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman, will undergo staff and research budget downsizing due to the number of Liberal MLAs shrinking from 8 to 5. The Liberal Caucus recently released its MLA critic and committee assignments.

Jonathan Huckabay Liberal candidate Edmonton-Manning

Jonathan Huckabay

A recent listing on the Government of Alberta website shows that Dr. Sherman’s long-time adviser Jonathan Huckabay will return to his role as Chief of Staff of the Liberal Caucus Office. Mr. Huckabay entered that role earlier this year when former MLA Rick Miller resigned to focus on his election campaign in Edmonton-Rutherford. When the election was called, Mr. Huckabay stood as a Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Manning, where he placed fourth with just over 1,000 votes.

Recently the party’s candidate in Cypress-Medicine Hat, Jon Mastel is Dr. Sherman’s new Executive Assistant.

Senior Communications Advisor Earl J Woods announced in a blog post last week that he would be leaving the Liberal Caucus, where he has worked for six and a half years (if you are looking to hire a great writer, contact Mr. Woods).

In the NDP Opposition Caucus, which doubled in size from 2 to 4 MLAs, Communications Officer Richard Liebrecht announced on Twitter last week that he was moving on from his role in the Legislature Annex. A former Reporter for Sun Media and the Hinton Parklander, Mr. Liebrecht started his job with the NDP in November 2010. He also previously worked for the Liberal Party of Canada.

The NDP are also hiring a number of constituency staff positions.

While the Wildrose Party‘s new role as Official Opposition will mean additional staff and research funding, a party position was made vacant following the election of Shayne Saskiw in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, the Wildrose Party is hiring a new Executive Director.

New Public Accounts Committee Chairperson

Hugh MacDonald MLA

Former MLA Hugh MacDonald

For the first time since 2001, someone other than Hugh MacDonald will serve as chair of the important Public Accounts Committee, which has ability to scrutinize government spending. Mr. MacDonald served as the MLA for Edmonton-Gold Bar from 1997 until the recent election when he chose to retire from the Assembly. While he sometimes appeared to be relentlessly focused on discovering scandal in the Tory government, Mr. MacDonald was easily one of the hardest working MLA’s under the Dome.

The role of Public Accounts Committee Chair traditionally falls to a MLA representing the Official Opposition Caucus, meaning that one of the 17 Wildrose Party MLA’s will fill this role when the new Assembly convenes next week. Second-term Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson, who will also serve as Official Opposition Finance Critic, could be a powerful force in this important role. Calgary-Fish Creek Wildrose MLA Heather Forsyth served as the Wildrose representative on the committee before the election.

Previous to Mr. MacDonald, former Liberal MLAs Lance White and Muriel Abdurahman filled the role as Chair.

return to the dome and inside baseball politics.

Alberta Legislative Assembly Building

Alberta's Legislative Assembly Building

With election withdrawal setting in like a bad hangover, much of the media attention this week focused on the 38 rookie MLA’s attending outgoing Speaker Ken Kowalski‘s Legislature 101 course and the resumption of inside baseball politics under the Dome.

Bridget Pastoor Alison Redford

Bridget Pastoor and Premier Alison Redford (photo from PremierofAlberta Flickr account)

Cabinet Speculation
Rumours abound about who might end up in Premier Redford’s new cabinet, which is expected to be appointed next week. While Tory stalwarts such as Dave Hancock, Doug Horner, Thomas Lukaszuk, and Doug Griffiths are almost certainly in line to keep a spot at the cabinet table, the retirement and defeat of a number of Tory MLAs and cabinet minister may have opened spots for new faces at the table.

I will be watching to see if newly elected MLA’s Donna Kennedy-Glans, Ken Hughes, Ron Casey, Don Scott, and Maureen Kubinec, and former Liberal MLA Bridget Pastoor (who crossed the floor to the Tories in 2011) are appointed to the new cabinet.

MLA Pay Recommendations
Retired Supreme Court Justice John Major released his recommendations to reform how MLA’s are paid. Regardless of which recommendations are adopted, this is the type of issue that will never really go away (someone will always be displeased with how much or how little our elected officials are paid).

We ask (nay, demand) our public office holders to do their very best 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. A $134,000 base salary does not seem unreasonable to me.

Gene Zwozdesky

Gene Zwozdesky

Electing a new Speaker
The first order of business when the Assembly convenes this Spring will be the election of a new Speaker for the first time since 1997. Candidates in the running include Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman and Tory MLA’s Gene ZwozdeskyWayne Cao, and Mary Anne Jablonski.

Premier’s new Chief of Staff
Premier Alison Redford appointed Calgary lawyer Farouk Adatia as her Chief of Staff. Mr. Adatia replaces Stephen Carter, who was temporarily replaced by Elan McDonald in March 2012 (Mr. Carter took a leave of absence to work on the PC Party campaign). Mr. Adatia was the unsuccessful PC candidate in Calgary-Shaw in the recent election and had previously attempted to win the PC nomination in Calgary-Hawkwood.

Wildrose Critics
The new Wildrose Official Opposition Caucus captured some earned media this week by releasing their list of critic positions. Leader Danielle Smith will take personal responsibility for “Cities” (i.e.: Calgary and Edmonton), where her party faired poorly during the recent election.

Mandel to Smith: Pick up the Phone
In the most bizarre story of the week, Ms. Smith told the media that she had asked Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi to “broker a peace summit” between herself and Mayor Stephen Mandel. Over the past three years, the Calgary-based Ms. Smith has publicly opposed some high-profile decisions made by Edmonton City Council.

Mayor Mandel quite correctly responded to Ms. Smith’s “peace summit” comment by saying if she wanted to talk with him she could pick up the phone. One can only imagine how this relationship would have started if Ms. Smith had actually been elected Premier last week.

wildrose alliance loses its third candidate in six months.

Former Calgary-Fort Wildrose Alliance candidate Bob McInnis

Now former Calgary-Fort Wildrose Alliance candidate Bob McInnis

The conservative Wildrose Alliance has lost its third candidate since it began its nomination process late last year.

Calgary-Fort candidate Bob McInnis will no longer carry his party’s banner against PC MLA Wayne Cao in the next election. When contacted by this blogger, Mr. McInnis said: “I withdrew for personal and career reasons. I still support policies, principles, and leader but couldn’t be in two places at same time.”

Mr. McInnis is the Executive Director of Brown Bagging it for Calgary Kids an organization that provides lunches to homeless children and youth in Calgary. Mr. McInnis’ initiative was frequently mentioned in speeches by party leader Danielle Smith as an example of how charities, rather than publicly-funded programs, are the solution to social problems.

Mr. McInnis’ exit is much quieter than the departure of nominated Medicine Hat candidate Milvia Bauman, who resigned in December 2010 after a very public disagreement with board members of her constituency association. Another candidate, Harpreet Nijjar, nominated in Calgary-Northern Hills in October 2010 quietly dropped off the party’s list in December 2010.

With Mr. McInnis’ departure, the Wildrose Alliance now has at least 29 out of 87 candidates nominated to stand in the next provincial election.

premier’s capital ex pancake breakfast 2010

This morning I enjoyed free pancakes and coffee with around 1000 other Edmontonians at Premier Ed Stelmach‘s 2010 Capital Ex Pancake Breakfast on the south lawn of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly Building. Below are some of the photos I snapped in between my first and second servings of pancakes at 7am this morning. You can see more photos from this morning on the Flickr set Premier’s Capital Ex Pancake Breakfast 2010.

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach welcomes guests to the 2010 Capital Ex Pancake Breakfast on the Legislative Assembly grounds in Edmonton.

The Edmonton Eskimos mascot goofs off during Premier Stelmach's welcome speech.

Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette gestures wildly. I can only imagine that he is talking about the delicious pancakes.

Treasury Board President Lloyd Snelgrove and his goatee enjoy a beautiful morning to grill pancakes outside.

Sustainable Resource Development Minister Mel Knight supervises as Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman grills pancakes.

Calgary-Fort MLA Wayne Cao knows how to grill pancakes with style.

alberta politics notes 7/09/2010

– The Government of Alberta has purchased +$50,000 newspaper advertisements in Washington DC and written a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defending the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas. The pipeline is facing opposition from Democratic Representative Henry Waxman, who currently Chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The provincial government also employs former cabinet minister Gary Mar as a permanent envoy in the American capital and frequently sends cabinet ministers and MLAs to conferences and trade meetings in the United States.
– Members of the United Nurses of Alberta have voted to ratify a new collective agreement that includes a 6%-pay increase over three years. Both the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald editorial boards have praised the agreement.
– At the age of 40-years, two-term Wood Buffalo Mayor Melissa Blake is a hot political commodity.
– The Alberta PC Party has hired Brent Harding as their Director of Communications.
– The Liberals purchased newspaper ads calling for cooperation with other parties and received cool responses from the NDP and Alberta Party.
– Former MLA Dan Backs is gearing up to run for City Council against Councillor Ed Gibbons. Both men are former MLAs for Edmonton-Manning. Mr. Gibbons sat as a Liberal MLA from 1997 to 2001, and Mr. Backs sat as a Liberal from 2004 until he was ejected from the Opposition caucus in 2006. After being defeated by Peter Sandhu when seeking the PC nomination in 2007, he placed third in his bid for re-election as an Independent in 2008.
Jim Hillyer has been nominated as the Conservative candidate in Lethbridge for the next federal election. The federal Liberals held their candidate nomination in Edmonton-St. Albert last night.
Jim Silye has been appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as chair of the board of the Museum of Science and Nature in Ottawa. Mr. Silye served as the Reform Party MP for Calgary-Centre from 1993 until 1997. Mr. Silye was defeated by Wayne Cao in the Calgary-Fort Progressive Conservative candidate nomination in 1997. In 2000, he ran as the PC candidate in Calgary-West against Canadian Alliance MP Rob Anders and Liberal candidate Frank Bruseker.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.