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Alberta Politics

“Alberta Premier Danielle Smith?” Get used to it.

Chris Brown and I discuss the last month in the United Conservative Party leadership race, Danielle Smith’s unexpected rise to the top, and how a Smith led UCP will do against Notley’s NDP in 2023 (or sooner) on the latest episode of the Cross Border Interviews Podcast.

Watch the interview here:

Subscribe and listen to Chris Brown’s Cross Border Podcast on Apple and Spotify.

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Alberta Politics

A Reverse Kudatah! Hinman loyalists retake control of the Wildrose Independence Party

There ain’t no party like a fringe right-wing Alberta separatist party.

Less than two months after Paul Hinman was ousted as leader of the Wildrose Independence Party and replaced by interim leader Jeevan Mangat, it appears that a counter-kudatah (known outside Alberta as a “coup d’état”) has pushed out Hinman’s opponents.

An online statement and email to WIP members from former Wexit Alberta interim leader Kathy Flett, who identifies herself as the WIP VP Communications, says a false narrative is being put out by the former Provincial Board after a well-attended annual general meeting on July 23, 2022 in Red Deer.

“There have been repeated claims that a “Minority Group of 40 or so” members “Took Over” the AGM,” Flett writes. “The Facts tell a different story.”

“This weekend in Red Deer, history was made as Wildrose members stood steadfast for what they knew was right. Their tenacity and persistence forced those who thought they should remain on the board to finally walk out in shame.”

“What occurred yesterday is a sad example of what happens when a small group of individuals completely lose touch with the will of the majority.”

“The Wildrose Independence Party belongs to its members, not the Party Board of Governors, and, therefore, Rick Northey, Wes Caldwell, Bill Jones, et al, are no longer Governors of the Wildrose Independence Party.”

“As of this moment, they still control the party’s website and email system. As such, we advise you to disregard any communications originating from “Wildrosenation.com” until we’ve confirmed with you that it is, again, from us.”

According to Flett’s statement, the newly elected board includes President Angela Tabak (the party’s president in Cardston-Siksika), Chief Finance Officer Allan Wesley, and Secretary Gord Elliot (who until recently was President of the United Conservative Party constituency association in Calgary-North West).

The takeover appears to have pushed out President Rick Northey (the former President of the Wildrose Party association in Airdrie) and CFO Bill Jones.

As of this afternoon, the party’s website showed most of the party’s Board of Governors positions as vacant but still listed Northey and Jones, as well as former Conservative MP Rob Anders and separatist activist Bob Lefurgey as members of the party’s board.

It appears as though Hinman has been reinstated as party leader but Elections Alberta still lists Mangat as the party’s interim leader, so it’s not totally clear.

Hinman originally stepped into the role on an interim basis in 2020 but later became the party’s permanent leader when no one else ran for the leadership. He was leader of the Wildrose Alliance from 2005 to 2009 and was elected to the Legislature twice – as MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 and MLA for Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012. He briefly mounted a campaign for the UCP leadership in 2017 but withdrew before the nomination deadline and endorsed Jason Kenney.

The Wildrose Independence Party was created in 2020 as a merger of the Wexit Alberta group created after the federal Liberals were re-elected in 2019 and the Freedom Conservative Party, which was previously known as the Alberta First Party, Separation Party of Alberta, and the Western Freedom Party.

The WIP has suffered from poor fundraising returns in recent months, raising a measly $7,613 in the second quarter of 2022, and low support in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.

A recent push by UCP leadership candidates Danielle Smith, Brian Jean and Todd Loewen toward all out separatism or some form of provincial autonomy has given a second wind to Alberta separatists but sucked the wind out of the sails of the actual separatist parties.

Recent merger talks with the competing Independence Party of Alberta fell apart in June 2022. A statement on the IPA website lists Northey and Jones as key negotiators for the WIP in those talks.

The IPA, formerly known as the Alberta Independence Party, went through its own internal drama after the 2019 election and is now in the process of choosing its second new leader since that election. Former federal Liberal candidate and anti-COVID restrictions activist lawyer Katherine Kowalchuk is the only candidate in the race.

All this ongoing drama is almost par for the course for Alberta’s small cottage industry of right-wing separatist parties, but it raises the big question: How do they plan to fight Ottawa when they are so busy fighting themselves?

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Alberta Politics

Danielle Smith is making sure Alberta doesn’t have a boring political summer

Popular opinion would have that summer is a quiet and boring time in politics, but not so in Alberta.

I can’t remember there was a boring political summer in Alberta?

Last year was the Best Summer Ever disaster and the summer before that was the first COVID summer. Before that was the Summer of Repeal. And so on.

This summer, the most unexpected political comeback might be happening before our eyes.

In almost every aspect, former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith is defining what the United Conservative Party leadership race is about.

Following her “Alberta First” campaign slogan, Smith declared plans to introduce an Alberta Sovereignty Act to let Alberta MLAs vote on which federal laws they want the province to follow.

The other candidates responded.

Even Finance Minister Jason Nixon, a staunch Jason Kenney-loyalist, stepped in to pooh-pooh Smith’s idea (Nixon was nominated as Wildrose candidate back when Smith was still party leader).

Her campaign chair, Rob Anderson, is founder of the Free Alberta Strategy and was one of two Progressive Conservative MLAs to cross the floor to Smith’s Wildrose in 2010 (he later crossed the floor back to the PCs with Smith in 2014).

Smith declared Alberta will never ever have a lockdown again (we never *really* had a lockdown).

The other candidates responded.

She made wild statements about any cancer before Stage 4 is a result of poor personal choices.

Everyone responded.

Postmedia columnist Don Braid wrote that her “dabbles in quackery” are sometimes almost funny but “this one is dangerous.”

When Smith hosted a popular radio talk show she promoted hydroxychloroquine as a cure to COVID-19. She even touted ivermectin as a treatment. Now she wants to appoint chief medical officers of alternative medicine.

Quackery is putting it politely.

It’s the realm of internet pseudoscience.

As my friend David Climenhaga opined, it is the Donald Trump strategy of saying outrageous stuff that appeals to the base voters and damn the consequences.

And it might be working.

Smith has now nabbed 4 MLA endorsements.

Airdrie-Cochrane’s Peter Guthrie, Calgary-Falconridge’s Devinder Toor, Lethbridge-East’s Nathan Neudorf, and Lesser Slave Lake’s Pat Rehn, who dropped his endorsement of establishment favourite Travis Toews to support Smith.

But it’s not exactly the crème de la crème of the UCP Caucus.

Toor was fined $15,000 by Elections Alberta for breaking political finance laws in 2018 and 2019, and was allegedly part of group who bullied and harassed a food truck owner in northeast Calgary.

Rehn was briefly expelled from the UCP Caucus in 2021 after taking a hot holiday to Mexico while most Albertans respected the government’s own COVID-19 travel advice and stayed home, and local municipal leaders called on him to resign after spending more time in Texas than his own riding.

Kenney said Rehn would not be allowed to run for the UCP nomination in the next election but he was quietly allowed to rejoin the UCP Caucus last summer. But now Kenney is on his way out.

Some might say I’m playing into the Smith-comeback narrative by writing this article, but she’s the only candidate saying anything interesting – even if it’s quackery.

She’s drawing crowds and appears to be hitting the right notes with a motivated segment of the UCP base, which says a lot about who the membership of the UCP is today.

This isn’t your father’s Progressive Conservative Party, folks.

The other candidates in the UCP race better get their acts together, because the membership sales deadline is on August 12.

That’s just 16 days away.

The final 7

Smith might be getting the most attention but she’s not the only candidate in the race. Leela Aheer, Brian Jean, Todd Loewen, Rajan Sawhney, Rebecca Schulz and Travis Toews also made the cut. Bill Rock dropped out to endorse Jon Horsman, who dropped out, and, as expected, Raj Sherman was not allowed to run (his old job as Liberal Party leader is open though).

More separatist drama

Danielle Smith Paul Hinman Daveberta Wildrose United Conservative Party
Paul Hinman and Danielle Smith in 2010. (source: Dave Cournoyer)

If there’s one thing we can depend on Alberta’s cottage industry of fringe right-wing separatist parties to deliver, it’s drama.

It looks like Paul Hinman has been ousted as leader of the Wildrose Independence Party. The ouster comes shortly after the Independence Party of Alberta announced that merger talks with WIP broke off.

Hinman has been replaced by Jeevan Mangat, who ran for the Wildrose Party in Calgary-Fort in 2012 and 2015.

The WIP was created in 2020 through the merger of the Wexit group and the Freedom Conservative Party (which was previously known as the Alberta First Party, the Separation Party of Alberta and the Western Freedom Party). The party has struggled with fundraising and Hinman placed a distant third in the recent Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.

Before his time as WIP leader, Hinman served as a Wildrose MLA from 2004 to 2008 and 2009 to 2012, and as leader of the Wildrose Alliance Party immediately before Danielle Smith was chosen as leader in 2009.

Meanwhile, the IPA is still looking for a new leader. Past federal Liberal candidate Katherine Kowalchuk is the only candidate in the race, so far.

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Alberta Politics

Nathan Ip wins Edmonton-South West NDP nomination vote, Kjeryn Dakin challenging UCP MLA Devin Dreeshen in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake

Edmonton public school board trustee Nathan Ip defeated business instructor Ben Acquaye, behavioral specialist Chand Gul, and medical clinic executive director Ali Kamal to win the NDP nomination in Edmonton-South West.

“We are in dire need for new schools in the growing areas of Edmonton-South West,” said Ip. “Edmonton-South West is one of the fastest growing communities in Alberta with one of the youngest populations and they deserve a representative that will stand up for them.”

Ip was first elected to the school board in 2013 and currently serves as its vice-chair.

His candidacy was endorsed by former city councillor Michael Phair, former MLAs Bob Turner and Jim Gurnett, and former Alberta Party president Rhiannon Hoyle.

Edmonton-South West is the only riding in Edmonton city limits represented by a UCP MLA, current Labour Minister Kaycee Madu, who was removed from his position as Justice Minister after it became public that he personally phoned Edmonton’s police chief after getting a distracted driving ticket.

Madu faces a nomination challenge from Slava Cravcenco at a June 29 candidate selection meeting.

Sylvan Lake town councillor challenges Dreeshen for UCP nomination

Sylvan Lake town councillor Kjeryn Dakin is challenging MLA Devin Dreeshen for the UCP nomination in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. 

Dakin is owner of the Bukwildz restaurant in Sylvan Lake and was first elected to town council in 2021.

Dreeshen was first elected in a 2018 by-election and served as Minister of Agriculture & Forestry from 2019 until 2021 when he resigned after a lawsuit by a former political staffer alleged a culture of sexual harassment, defamation, and drinking at the Legislature.

He is son of Conservative MP Earl Dreeshen, who has represented the Red Deer-Mountain View riding since 2008.

The younger Dreeshan was re-elected in 2019 with 74.5 per cent of the vote.

City lawyer wins NDP nomination in Red Deer-South

Michelle Baer (source: Michelle Baer on Twitter)

City solicitor Michelle Baer defeated former MLA Barb Miller and labour council president Kyle Johnston to win the NDP nomination in Red Deer-South.

“Red Deer is the third largest city in the province, yet is often stuck between being considered a ‘big city’ or a rural area,” Baer said. “Red Deer deserves a strong voice in government to represent the distinctive issues this area faces. I’m excited for the chance to do the hard work Red Deer needs and deserves.”

Red Deer-South is currently represented by UCP MLA Jason Stephan, a vocal critic of outgoing Premier Jason Kenney, who was first elected in 2019 with 60.3 per cent of the vote. 

Thomas Dang wants back in

Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang (source: Facebook)
Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang (source: Facebook)

Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang wants to rejoin the NDP Caucus after being told that no criminal charges will be pressed against him after he breached an Alberta Health website. Dang left the NDP Caucus in December 2021 after the RCMP executed a search warrant of his house and he has been sitting as an Independent MLA ever since.

Dang was first elected in 2015 in Edmonton-South West and ran for re-election when the electoral boundaries changed as Edmonton-South was created. 

On the doors

Sayid Ahmed and Jordan Walker (source: Sayid Ahmed on Instagram)

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, NDP leader Rachel Notley was spotted at events with Calgary-Bow candidate Druh Farrell, Calgary-Glenmore candidate Nagwan Al-Guneid, and Calgary-North East candidate Gurinder Brar this past weekend. Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan was also spotted on the doors with Al-Guneid.

Sherwood Park UCP MLA Jordan Walker was on the doors with UCP nomination candidate Sayid Ahmed in Edmonton-Decore last weekend. The UCP have opened nominations in the north Edmonton riding. 

Former NDP volunteers speak out

Notley recently responded to criticism from former NDP volunteers that party staff have been heavy-handed with candidate nominations and have treated volunteers poorly. Notley has promised an investigation

There is no excuse for staff treating volunteers poorly, but in every party there is almost always some level of tension between the central party and local constituency associations when it comes to candidate recruitment and nominations.

Constituency associations will have their local favorites, including long-time volunteers, while the central party will be trying to build a province-wide slate of candidates who could potentially become cabinet ministers and ridings in which to place those high-profile candidates.

When there is a lot of interest in nominations, like there is now with the NDP, tension and conflicting plans of the local and provincial efforts can sometimes flare.

Parties generally find a way to balance this out, but from time to time conflict bubbles out into public, as we saw recently when 15 former constituency presidents signed a letter raising concerns about the nomination process.

The NDP need to deal with this issue quickly and decisively or risk it dogging them into the upcoming election.

The other parties

  • Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman has been touring the province, recently making stops at party events in Drumheller, Morningside, Drayton Valley, Leduc, Springbrook, Red Deer and Calgary.
  • The Green Party has formally opened applications for candidates for the next election. Green Party leader Jordan Wilkie has already announced his plans to run as a candidate in Banff-Kananaskis . Party holding an election readiness town hall on July 17 in Edmonton. 
  • Lawyer Katherine Kowalchuk is running for the leadership of the separatist Independence Party of Alberta. Kowalchuk was briefly nominated as the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Signal Hill ahead of the 2015 federal election.

I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

(And, I know I’ve said this before but feel free to sign up for the Daveberta Substack.)

Categories
Alberta Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(And, one more time, feel free to sign up for the Daveberta Substack.)

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Alberta Politics

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

Brian Jean is back.

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

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

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney United Conservative Party AGM
Jason Kenney

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

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

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

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

He’s not alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is going to be something to watch.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It feels like election season in Alberta.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the early election talk.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Alberta Politics

The Ides of March by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche is a Wildrose blast-from-the-past

March 15 – the Ides of March – is the day voters in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche riding will go to the polls to choose their new MLA.

Premier Jason Kenney waited until the very last day possible to call a by-election to replace former MLA Laila Goodridge, who resigned six months ago to run in last year’s federal election. Waiting this late to call a normal by-election would be very unusual, but this is no normal by-election.

United Conservative Party members in the northern Alberta riding rejected Kenney’s favoured nomination candidate in favour of Brian Jean, the former leader of the Wildrose Party and former MLA and MP who is openly calling on Kenney to resign.

The animosity between Kenney and Jean is well-known in Alberta, with the former having launched a Kamikaze campaign against the latter in the 2017 UCP leadership race.

Jean dropped out of provincial politics in 2018, resigning as MLA for the former Fort McMurray-Conklin riding when he was not given a spot in Kenney’s shadow cabinet. But retirement didn’t suit him, and it wasn’t long before he was regularly chirping at Kenney on social media and in the newspaper editorial pages.

He now has the UCP nomination in a normally safe UCP riding and he is openly organizing and fundraising in an effort to dump Kenney at the April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.

With no pro-Kenney candidates on the March 15 ballot, don’t expect the Premier or any cabinet ministers to be visiting the riding in the next 28-days.

MLA Rakhi Pancholi and NDP candidate Ariana Mancini (source: Twitter)
MLA Rakhi Pancholi and NDP candidate Ariana Mancini (source: Twitter)

Rachel Notley‘s NDP have nominated Fort McMurray school teacher and past candidate Ariana Mancini as their choice in the by-election. And while Mancini remains an underdog in this race, she has been joined over the past few months by a steady stream of NDP MLAs travelling north to visit the riding.

Edmonton-Whitemud NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi was in Fort McMurray today for Mancini’s campaign launch.

While the NDP have been riding high in the poll and are flush with cash, this will be a tough riding for them to win. The UCP earned 66 per cent of the vote in 2019 and the last time voters in this area elected a New Democrat was in 1986, when Leo Piquette won in Athabasca-Lac La Biche.

But, never say never. By-elections can sometimes produce unpredictable results.

While the Kenney-Jean rivalry is the main theme going into the by-election, the candidacy of another former Wildrose Party leader makes this race even more unusual.

Separatist party leader Paul Hinman with supporters in Fort McMurray.
Separatist party leader Paul Hinman (centre) with supporters in Fort McMurray.

Former Wildrose Party leader Paul Hinman now leads and is running in the by-election for the Wildrose Independence Party – a party that not only promotes Alberta separatism from Canada, but, judging from its social media feeds, embraces a vast range of right-wing internet conspiracy theories.

The grandson of former provincial treasurer Edgar Hinman, the younger Hinman was the Alberta Alliance MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 before surprising political watchers by winning a 2009 by-election in posh Calgary-Glenmore. He led the Alliance and Wildrose Alliance from 2005 until resigning in 2009 to make way for Danielle Smith.

Hinman endorsed Jean for the Wildrose Party leadership in 2015 and Kenney for the UCP leadership in 2017 after cancelling his own bid to lead the new party.

Now he leads the separatist Wildrose Independence Party, which was created by a merger of the Freedom Conservative Party and the Wexit Alberta group in July 2020. 

But that’s not where the Wildrose blast-from-the-past ends in this by-election!

Marilyn Burns Alberta Advantage Party Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election
Marilyn Burns

Running under the banner of the right-wing Alberta Advantage Party is party leader Marilyn Burns.

Burns was a candidate for the Alberta Alliance Party in Stony Plain in 2004 and ran against Hinman for the Alliance leadership way back in 2005. She was later part of a small group of Wildrosers who campaigned against the merger with the Progressive Conservative Party before helping found the Alberta Advantage Party.

Burns led the Alberta Advantage Party into the 2019 election and resigned soon after amid a leadership challenge and announced plans to run for the position again. She now appears to once again be party leader.

The second separatist candidate in the by-election, the Independence Party of Alberta‘s Steven Mellott, has never led or tried to lead the Wildrose Party (as far as I am aware).

Alberta Party leader Barry Morishita told the Daveberta Podcast that was driving to Fort McMurray this week to meet with prospective candidates.

The other parties have yet to name their candidates.

I think this is going to be a wild ride, folks.

Categories
Alberta Politics

MLAs Leela Aheer, Jeremy Nixon and Marie Renaud running for re-election, Kevin Smook seeks UCP nomination in Camrose

Two-term MLA and vocal Kenney-critic Leela Aheer has filed her intentions with Elections Alberta to run for the United Conservative Party nomination in Chestermere-Strathmore. Aheer was first elected in 2015 as a Wildrose Party candidate and was re-elected with 68.5 per cent of the vote in 2019 in the riding.

Aheer served as Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism & Status of Women and Deputy Leader of the UCP until she was dropped from cabinet in July 2021 after publicly criticizing Premier Jason Kenney‘s disastrous Open for Summer plan. She soon after called on Kenney to resign as Premier after a former staffer filed a lawsuit against the Premier’s Office alleging sexual harassment, defamation, and toxic workplace culture at the Legislature.

Aheer is being challenged for the nomination by Chantelle de Jonge, a former political staffer to former Calgary-Skyview Member of Parliament Jag Sahota and recent graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Philosophy from the University of Calgary.

Chestermere-Strathmore was the location of a political showdown last month when Kenney loyalists allegedly mounted a hostile takeover at the annual general meeting of the local UCP constituency association. The results of that AGM vote are still in dispute.

Jeremy Nixon running for re-election in Calgary-Klein

Jeremy Nixon MLA Calgary-Klein UCP
Jeremy Nixon

UCP MLA Jeremy Nixon has also signalled his intentions with Elections Alberta to run for his party’s nomination in Calgary-Klein, the riding he has represented since 2019.

Nixon currently serves as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Community and Social Services for Civil Society. He was removed from a previous role as parliamentary secretary for civil society in January 2021 after disregarding COVID-19 restrictions and traveling to Hawaii for a hot holiday in December 2020.

He is the brother of Environment & Parks Minister and Government House Leader Jason Nixon.

The riding was home to one of the closer races in Calgary in the 2019 election and is expected to be strongly contested by the NDP in the next election.

If nominated, Nixon will face one of three candidates running for the NDP nomination. NDP nominee candidates Heather Eddy, Mattie McMillan or Marilyn North Peigan will face off at a candidate selection meeting on March 26, 2022.

Marie Renaud running for re-election in St. Albert

Marie Renaud NDP MLA St Albert
Marie Renaud

St. Albert NDP MLA Marie Renaud announced her plans to seek her party’s nomination to run for re-election in when the provincial election is called.

“I will continue to champion public healthcare, public education and economic security for St. Albert and Albertans across the province,” Renaud wrote in a tweet announcing her candidacy. “We cannot build a prosperous future by continuing to pass on costs to municipalities like St. Albert and, in turn, to Albertan families.”

Renaud was first elected to represent the suburban city located just north of Edmonton in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019 with 46.2 per cent of the vote. She was the first NDP MLA elected in St. Albert since 1986.

She currently serves as the Official Opposition critic for Community & Social Services, and Francophone Issues.

A nomination meeting is scheduled for March 24, 2022.

Former Alberta Party candidate running for UCP nomination

Kevin Smook UCP nomination Camrose
Kevin Smook’s ad in the Camrose Booster.

Beaver County Reeve Kevin Smook announced on Twitter that he plans to seek the UCP nomination in the Camrose, the riding currently represented by UCP MLA Jackie Lovely.

“I’m not here for the photo ops — I intend to roll up my sleeves and work for you and for the people of the Camrose Constituency,” Smook tweeted, in an apparent shot at Lovely.

Smook was first elected to Beaver County Council in 2013 and served as Reeve from 2014 to 2017 before starting his current term in 2021. He was the Alberta Party candidate in Camrose in the 2019 election, where he placed third with 12.8 per cent of the vote.

“I ran for the Alberta Party in the 2019 provincial election,” Smook told the Camrose Booster. “And while there was a conservative connection with them, I know that the strongest conservative movement is the United Conservative Party and I feel much more aligned here.

Tik tok, tik tok, the countdown to Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche

The countdown continues as Jason Kenney now has 6 days left to call the by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche. The by-election needs to be called by February 15 to choose a successor to former MLA Laila Goodridge who resigned nearly six months ago on August 15, 2021.

UCP candidate Brian Jean, who led the Wildrose Party from 2015 to 2018, has called on Kenney to resign and is openly organizing and fundraising against his party’s leader ahead of the April 9 leadership review. There has been chatter in some political circles that Kenney may be delaying the by-election until the last possible moment in order to replace Jean and appoint a UCP candidate who will demonstrate more loyalty to the leader.

Outside the UCP drama that has enveloped this by-election are NDP candidate Ariana Mancini , who was joined by Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Richard Feehan on the campaign trail last week, and Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman, who has been spending a considerable amount of time campaigning in the northeast Alberta riding.

The Alberta Party has not yet named its candidate.


I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

Categories
Alberta Politics

Marilyn North Peigan third candidate in Calgary-Klein NDP nomination contest, former MLA Oneil Carlier seeks nomination in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

Marilyn North Peigan is the third candidate to enter the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-Klein. 

“As a long-time advocate for reconciliation, public health care in Alberta, Calgary’s downtown, and the arts sector, I am all-in on building Alberta’s future and will bring my experience to the Alberta NDP and Team Rachel Notley,” North Peigan said in a press release announcing her candidacy.

North Peigan is a member of the Blackfoot Confederacy and is a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, where she trained as a field medic with Toronto EMS and was stationed with Edmonton Field Ambulance. She holds an MA in Integrated Studies, with a focus on Work, Organization, and Leadership.

She is vice-chair of the Calgary Police Commission and an author of the White Goose Flying Report, Calgary’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action. She was also a candidate for city council in Calgary’s 2021 municipal elections.

North Peigan has been endorsed by former Calgary-Klein MLA Craig Coolahan, who served as MLA from 2015 to 2019.

“Marilyn will bring a much-needed perspective to the party and the legislature,” Coolahan said when reached for comment. 

Coolahan also released a video endorsement:

North Peigan joins Heather Eddy and Mattie McMillan in the nomination contest. A vote is scheduled to take place on March 26, 2022.

The riding is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Jeremy Nixon and is on the NDP’s target list for the next election. The local NDP constituency association organized a large group canvass last weekend, with Calgary-Buffalo MLA Joe Ceci and Calgary-Mountain View MLA Kathleen Ganley joining the volunteers. 

Oneil Carlier seeks nomination in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

Oneil Carlier NDP Lac Ste. Anne Parkland
Oneil Carlier

Former MLA Oneil Carlier announced today that he plans to seek the Alberta NDP nomination in the Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland riding.

“When I was an MLA and cabinet minister, I saw how government can work to get results for families,” Carlier said in a press release. “From his handling of the pandemic, to his attacks on health care workers, to sky-rocketing electricity rates, it’s clear Jason Kenney is not delivering for the families of our area.”

Carlier represented the Whitecourt-Ste. Anne riding from 2015 to 2019 and served as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in the NDP government. He was defeated in 2019 by United Conservative Party MLA Shane Getson in the redrawn Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland riding.

Getson has been an outspoken critic of the province’s COVID-19 protections and lost his position as Chair of the UCP’s Capital Region Caucus after he publicly suggested that people receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) were using the funds for Cheezies, cartoons and illegal drugs.

A nomination meeting is being scheduled for March 12, 2022.

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election call down to the wire

Premier Jason Kenney has only 9 days left to call the by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, which will see his leadership rival, UCP candidate Brian Jean, face off against NDP candidate Ariana Mancini and Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman.

The 28-day long by-election to choose a successor to Laila Goodridge must be called by February 15, 2022.

List of candidates running in 2023 election

I am tracking candidates and building a list of people running for nominations to run in Alberta’s next provincial election. If you know of someone running, please post a comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!

Categories
Alberta Politics

The Buffalo Party of Alberta becomes an official registered political party

The Buffalo Party of Alberta is officially registered with Elections Alberta.

The party leadership includes leader John Molberg (a past Wildrose Party donor), President Sharon Smith (who in Leduc-Beaumont as a Wildrose candidate in 2015 and a UCP nomination candidate in 2018), and Chief Financial Officer Jenny Walker (the former chairperson of the separatist Wexit Alberta group, which merged with the Freedom Conservative Party to become the Wildrose Independence Party in July 2020).

When reached for comment, the administrator of the Buffalo Party’s Facebook page responded that party organizers collected more than 13,000 signatures to achieve registered party status.

While bearing the same name as the openly separatist Buffalo Party of Saskatchewan (formerly known as Wexit Saskatchewan), the person said the party has “no legal connection with any other political organisation federal or in other provinces.”

The also denied being a separatist party:

“We are not a separatist party. For Albertans whose sole priority is separatism, there are several separatist options to choose from, however the Buffalo Party of Alberta is not it.”

“The Buffalo Party of Alberta, while sharing some similar principles such as increased Alberta autonomy and decentralised decision making, are distinctly Albertan, and will represent Albertan views. We have no legal connection with any other political organisation federal or in other provinces.”

Categories
Alberta Politics

Notley’s NDP crushes Kenney’s UCP in fundraising… again.

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

According to the returns, the NDP raised $2,090,873.53 and the UCP raised $1,200,823.71 between October 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021.

This marks the fifth consecutive quarter that Rachel Notley’s NDP have out-fundraised Jason Kenney‘s UCP.

The NDP also crushed the UCP in annual fundraising in 2021, with Notley’s party raising a whopping $6,151,163.93 compared to $3,796,905.23 for Kenney’s party. This is the largest total amount that the NDP has raised in a year in Alberta.

The lacklustre fundraising returns for the governing UCP will likely be something that Kenney’s opponents hone in on as the party’s approaches its April 9 leadership review meeting in Red Deer.

The Pro-Life Political Association, run by anti-abortion activists who took over and renamed the Social Credit Party in 2016, placed third in fundraising for the second quarter in a row. The party is being used as a vehicle for anti-abortion political activism which can legally issue tax-receipts for donations. It is unclear whether the party will actually run candidates in the next provincial election.

The Alberta Party, now led by former City of Brooks Mayor Barry Morishita, saw a significant increase in their fundraising compared to previous quarters last year.

Despite doing well in most polls over the past year and benefiting from a handful of member defections from the UCP, the separatist Wildrose Independence Party had an unimpressive fundraising year. The party placed fifth in fundraising in 2021. Party leader Paul Hinman, a former Wildrose MLA, is running in soon to be called by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

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

Alberta NDP: $2,090,873.53
United Conservative Party: $1,200,823.71
Pro-Life Political Association: $121,503.00
Alberta Party: $121,108.54
Wildrose Independence: $68,114.29
Alberta Liberal Party: $43,105.32
Green Party: $6,889.50
Independence Party of Alberta: $3,319.00
Communist Party: $100.00

The Alberta Advantage Party and the Reform Party did not report any funds raised in this quarter.

Here are the total annual fundraising totals for 2021:

Alberta NDP: $6,151,163.93
United Conservative Party: $3,796,905.23
Pro-Life Political Association: $338,342.92
Alberta Party: $239,260.46
Wildrose Independence: $184,190.74
Alberta Liberal Party: $114,398.00
Green Party: $15,232.50
Independence Party of Alberta: $7,633.25
Alberta Advantage Party: $1,190.00
Communist Party: $300.00
Reform Party: $0

More soon…

Categories
Alberta Politics

It’s a wild ride. Alberta politics and the road to the next election on the Cross Border Podcast

Cross Border Interviews with Chris Brown · Episode 316 – Road To 2023

Alberta politics can be a wild ride, and last week I had the pleasure of chatting with Chris Brown from the Cross Border Interviews Podcast about some of the big issues in our province ahead of the next provincial election.

We covered a lot of ground, including the recent scandal involving Edmonton-South West United Conservative Party MLA Kaycee Madu, the leadership challenges faced by Premier Jason Kenney, the role of Brian Jean in the upcoming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election, and the most likely paths to victory for Kenney and Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley in 2023.

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Alberta Politics

Steve Durrell running for NDP nomination in Airdrie-Cochrane, UCP rumble in Chestermere-Strathmore

Airdrie resident Steve Durrell has announced his plans to seek the Alberta NDP nomination to run in the Airdrie-Cochrane riding in the next provincial election. 

This coming election is one of high stakes. From education to our economy, from healthcare to respect for a person’s self-identity, Jason Kenney and the UCP have failed Albertans at every turn,” Durrell said in a statement posted on Facebook. “It’s time for change and to get Alberta back on track, and that is why I am seeking the nomination to run for the NDP, and support Rachel Notley on her road to once again being Premier of Alberta!”

Durrell is an organizer for United Steelworkers Local 1944. 

If nominated, this will be Durrell’s second time as a NDP candidate in the riding. He ran in 2019 and placed second with 25.2 per cent of the vote behind United Conservative Party candidate Peter Guthrie.

Durrell became a target of Premier Jason Kenney in the 2019 election, when the UCP leader mocked him for being a 19-year old. He was actually 29-year old father of three at the time. 

Rumble in Chestermere-Strathmore

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

Postmedia columnist Don Braid penned a column about a showdown in the Chestermere-Strathmore riding, where Kenney loyalists are alleged to have mounted a hostile takeover of the local UCP constituency association.

The previous, or current riding association (depending on who’s side of the story you believe), is loyal to two-term UCP MLA and former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer, who has called on Kenney to resign after a former political staffer filed a lawsuit against the Premier’s Office alleging sexual harassment, defamation, and toxic workplace culture at the Legislature.

Ahreer is popular among her UCP MLA colleagues so Kenney probably does not have the support to remove her from the UCP caucus like he did Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen last summer, so removing her local support (and access to the local UCP bank account) is a more indirect way of ensuring she does not seek re-election in 2023. If Aheer still has political ambitions, she will probably need to find a new party to run for.

As first noted on this website in May 2021, former federal Conservative staffer Chantelle de Jonge is already challenging Aheer for the UCP nomination to run in the next election. de Jonge worked in the constituency office of former Calgary-Skyview Member of Parliament Jag Sahota and recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Philosophy from the University of Calgary.

Chestermere-Strathmore was the scene of significant political drama ahead of the 2019 election, with MLA Derek Fildebrandt banned from the the nomination contest and a tense 2018 nomination race that included allegations of death threats and restraining orders when Aheer was challenged by David Campbell (who is now President of The Independence Party of Alberta).

Brian Jean still kicking around

Brian Jean and Jason Kenney
Brian Jean and Jason Kenney in happier times

Confirmed UCP candidate and future UCP leadership hopeful Brian Jean is continuing to fire shots across Kenney’s bow ahead of the leadership review and the impending by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

Jean called on the UCP executive board to commit to holding an in-person vote on April 9 rather than moving to an online vote in response to the fifth wave of COVID-19 that is sweeping across Alberta. It was largely assumed that the Kenney loyal executive board chose to hold an in-person meeting in Red Deer to give the Premier more control of the process, but the rise in COVID-19 cases would justify moving the vote online.

A Leger poll released in December 2021 showed that 73 per cent of Albertans believed the province would be better off with a new premier.

In the background of this, as Jean noted, the RCMP are continuing to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the online vote for the UCP leadership in 2017. Kenney defeated Jean in that vote.

Jean defeated Kenney-backed candidate Joshua Gogo in the UCP nomination contest held in Nov. 2021. He will face NDP candidate Ariana Mancini and Wildrose Independence Party leader Paul Hinman in a by-election that needs to be called by Feb. 15, 2022. The other parties have not yet announced their candidates.

The Alberta Party is expected to make an announcement soon.

The Independence Party of Alberta has not announced a candidate, but announced in Nov. 2021 that their local constituency association board had been formed.

Categories
Alberta Politics

He’s back! Brian Jean wins UCP nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election

Former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean won the United Conservative Party nomination in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, defeating engineer and economist Joshua Gogo.

Jean’s candidacy was criticized by Premier Jason Kenney and Gogo had the support of Justice Minister Kaycee Madu, who was reported to have been campaigning with him in Lac La Biche last week.

Reports say that Jean won with 68 per cent of the vote. He represented the area as an MP from 2004 to 2014 and MLA from 2015 to 2018.

Jean left elected office shortly after losing the UCP leadership to Kenney in 2017 (it was later revealed that Kenney’s inner circle backed a kamikaze campaign against Jean), but he never quite left politics. Instead, he opined about provincial politics online and in the pages of Postmedia newspapers, becoming a harsh critic of Kenney’s leadership.

In the summer of 2021 he called on Kenney to step down and warned that the NDP would win the next election if he did not resign.

Jean clearly believes he’s the person who can lead the UCP to win re-election in 2023, and he may have a willing following among the small but vocal group of UCP MLAs who have criticized or called on Kenney to resign.

Kenney said he would respect the wishes of UCP voters in the nomination contest, but failing to defeat Jean is a big blow to a Premier who has been lauded for his skills as a political organizer, and is facing a leadership review in April 2022.

While party leaders typically trumpet the nomination of their party’s candidates, both Kenney’s and the UCP’s normally prolific social media feeds were silent last night.

After announcing his win on social media, Jean said he would soon travel the province, presumably to rally opposition to Kenney ahead of the leadership review.

If he’s allowed to run under the UCP banner, Jean’s convincing win means the UCP candidate in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election will also be an openly anti-Kenney candidate.

Mancini congratulates Jean

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

Alberta NDP candidate Ariana Mancini released a statement congratulating Jean on his nomination.

“I want to congratulate Brian Jean on being nominated as the United Conservative Party candidate in the coming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.”

“Mr. Jean has made it clear, even this evening, that he is running because of his rivalry with Jason Kenney. I am running for the people of Fort McMurray and Lac La Biche. UCP MLAs haven’t delivered for our region. I am focused on job creation, improving public healthcare, protecting public education, protecting our community from flood and fire, and ensuring we have reliable EMS.”

Mancini was joined by NDP leader Rachel Notley at a nomination rally held last week in Fort McMurray.

Another former Wildrose Party leader, Paul Hinman, announced he is also running in the by-election, but this time as leader of the separatist Wildrose Independence Party.


I am building a list of candidates running for party nominations ahead of Alberta’s expected 2023 provincial election. If I have missed any candidates on my list, please post a comment below or send me an email at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you!