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Alberta Politics

MLA Thomas Dang leaves the NDP Caucus, Carol Vowk running for UCP nomination in Drayton Valley-Devon 

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley announced today that Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang has temporarily left the NDP Official Opposition Caucus to sit as an Independent MLA after the RCMP executed a search warrant at his house this morning.

While none of the details are clear, Notley said she believed the search was related to a Department of Health data breach that Dang reported to the government in Sept. 2021.

MLA Thomas Dang’s statement on Dec. 21, 2021.
MLA Thomas Dang’s statement on Dec. 21, 2021.

Dang issued a statement in response in which he reiterated Notley’s comments, saying that he believed the warrant was executed in relation to vulnerabilities of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination records website.

“In September, a concern was raised to me as a Member of the Legislative Assembly about the security of the vaccination record system,” Dang wrote. “I tested these concerns and found a security flaw did exist.

“I immediately notified Alberta Health with the relevant information so that the vulnerability could be corrected. It was resolved shortly thereafter,” wrote Dang, who studied Computing Sciences at the University of Alberta before his election as MLA in 2015.

Notley said that Dang, who was in the mountains skiing, voluntarily left the NDP Caucus until the police investigation was complete. Dang is the Official Opposition critic for Democracy and Ethics.

Notley framed Dang’s departure from the caucus as a contrast from the United Conservative Party MLAs and cabinet ministers who remain in the government caucus after having been interviewed by the police, had search warrants executed at their businesses, or are connected to active police investigations.

First elected as the NDP MLA for Edmonton-South West in 2015 and ran for re-election in the redistributed Edmonton-South in 2019. 

Carol Vowk running for UCP nomination in Drayton Valley-Devon

Carol Vowk

Carol Vowk has filed papers with Elections Alberta signalling her intention to run for the UCP nomination in Drayton Valley-Devon. Vowk is Treasurer of the Drayton Valley Health Foundation and has volunteered with the Drayton Valley Air Cadets, Brazeau Snowmobile Club, and Drayton Valley Soccer.

But perhaps most notable under the current political circumstances, she is the President of the UCP Association in Drayton Valley-Devon and was a signatory of the letter from 22 UCP CA presidents requesting the party move Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership review before March 1, 2022. The party executive denied the request and will be holding the leadership review at a meeting in Red Deer on April 9, 2022 instead.

The central Alberta riding is currently represented by Mark Smith, who was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2015. Smith was the centre of controversy during the 2019 election with the release of an audio recording of a church sermon he delivered which included some gross comments about “homosexual love.”

Smith was re-elected in 2019 with 71.1 per cent of the vote. He has not publicly announced whether he plans to run for re-election in 2023.

Brian Jean *is* the UCP candidate in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche

Former Wildrose Party leader and Kenney-rival Brian Jean is officially the endorsed UCP candidate in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche. Both Kenney and the UCP have been completely silent on the results of the nomination meeting, in which Jean defeated Kenney-backed candidate Joshua Gogo. A by-election must be called in the riding by February 15, 2022.


Voting in the Best of Alberta Politics 2021 Survey is open until 6:00 p.m. on Dec. 22, so vote now before it’s too late.

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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!

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Alberta Politics

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

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

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

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

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

Don Scott MLA Fort McMurray Conklin
Don Scott

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

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

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

NDP are the underdog in this race

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

Leo Piquette NDP MLA Athabasca-Lac La Biche
Leo Piquette

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Alberta Politics

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

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

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney United Conservative Party AGM
Jason Kenney

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

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

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

Leela Aheer ALberta MLA
Leela Aheer (Source: Twitter)

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

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

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

Cynthia Moore United Conservative Party President
Cynthia Moore

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

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

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

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

Daniel Williams UCP Peace River
Daniel Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Jean Calgary Stampede Alberta
Brian Jean

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

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

Jean is probably Kenney’s main target now.

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

Joshua Gogo
Joshua Gogo

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

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

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


Kenney names five new parliamentary secretaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alberta Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Guthrie MLA Airdrie-Cochrane UCP Communism
Peter Guthrie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Alberta Politics

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

Here he goes, again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Jean and Jason Kenney
Brian Jean and Jason Kenney

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

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

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

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

Leela Aheer and Brian Jean
Leela Aheer and Brian Jean

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

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

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


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

Rachel Notley (source: Facebook)

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

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

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

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Alberta Politics

Former MLAs jump into Alberta’s municipal elections

Municipal politicians making the leap into provincial politics is a pretty common occurrence, but less common are former provincial politicians jumping into municipal politics. 

This municipal election season, there are a handful of former Alberta MLAs who have decided to put their names on the ballot to run for their local municipal council. Here are a few that I’ve noticed on the lists of local candidates: 

– Former NDP MLA Annie McKitrick and former Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Quest are both running for Mayor of Strathcona County. McKittrick served as the MLA for Sherwood Park from 2015 to 2019 and as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Education from 2017 to 2019. Quest served as the PC MLA for Strathcona-Sherwood Park from 2008 to 2015 and Associate Minister for Seniors from 2013 to 2014. He ran for the Alberta Party in the 2019 election.

– Former NDP MLA Eric Rosendahl running for Hinton Town Council. Rosendahl was the NDP MLA for West Yellowhead from 2015 to 2019.

– Former NDP MLA Colin Piquette is running to become a councillor in the Village of Boyle. Piquette served as the MLA for Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater from 2015 to 2019 and was the President of the Boyle Chamber of Commerce before he was elected to the Legislature. He is the son of Leo Piquette, who was the NDP MLA for Athabasca-Lac La Biche from 1986 to 1989.

Victor Doerksen is running for Red Deer City Council. Doerksen was the Progressive Conservative MLA for Red Deer-South from 1993 to 2008 and Minister of Innovation and Science from 2001 to 2006. He finished seventh of eight candidates in the PC Party leadership in 2006. 

Mike Allen is running to become the next Mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Allen was the PC MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo from 2012 to 2015 with the exception of 2013 to 2014 when he sat as an Independent MLA after he was arrested in a prostitution sting operation while on a government trip to Minnesota (he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour and paid a $500 fine plus legal fees). If elected he would replace another former PC MLA, Don Scott, who was elected mayor in 2017 and is not seeking re-election.

– Former Wildrose MLA Wayne Anderson is running to become a councillor in Foothills County. Anderson was the Wildrose and United Conservative Party MLA for Highwood from 2015 to 2019. 

– Former PC MLA Arno Doerksen has been acclaimed as a councillor in Newell County. Doerksen served as the PC MLA for Strathmore-Brooks from 2008 to 2012. 

Kent Hehr dropped out of Calgary mayoral election race only weeks after entering the race. Hehr served as the Liberal MLA for Calgary-Buffalo from 2008 to 2015 and as the Liberal MP for Calgary-Centre from 2015 to 2019.

– And filed under “blast from the past,” long-time municipal politician Bob Russell is running for Mayor in the City of St. Albert. Russell served on city council from 1989 to 1992, 1995 to 2001 and 2013 to 2017 and ran for mayor in 1992, but before his municipal career he was leader of the Alberta Liberal Party from 1971 to 1974. 

Did I miss any former MLAs running in the municipal elections? Leave a comment below.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Bozo Eruption! UCP MLAs back “Free Alberta Strategy” as ICUs fill up and separatists get trounced in federal election

Alberta’s Intensive Care Units and hospitals are full of COVID-19 patients and the province now has more than half of the active cases of the deadly disease in Canada. School boards like the Edmonton Public School Board are reporting hundreds of young students have contracted the virus, forcing dozens of schools to shut down in-person classes and move to virtual classrooms. And 34 more Albertans died because of COVID-19 yesterday.

But what was the most important issue for a group of Alberta MLAs this week?

Alberta separatism.

Yep. That’s right.

Rob Anderson former MLA Free Alberta Strategy Separatist
Former MLA Rob Anderson

With help from the libertarian Alberta Institute, former Progressive Conservative-turned-Wildrose-turned Progressive Conservative MLA and online talk show host Rob Anderson launched the “Free Alberta Strategy,” announcing a manifesto that declares Alberta a “sovereign jurisdiction” and, among other things, would allow the province to just ignore federal laws it doesn’t like.

Anderson was joined at the online press conference by United Conservative Party MLAs Angela Pitt (who is also the Deputy Speaker of the Legislature) and Jason Stephan, and Independent MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen. The latter two MLAs were ejected from the UCP Caucus in May 2021 after losing confidence in Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership, a sentiment that Pitt echoed during this press conference.

The Alberta Institute is led by former New Zealand political activist and Manning Centre researcher Peter McCaffrey. He also happens to be married to the institute’s former director of operations and past UCP nomination candidate Megan McCaffrey, who is now working as the Chief of Staff in Barnes’ and Loewen’ UCP Caucus-in-exile.

Red Deer-South UCP MLA Jason Stephan Free Alberta Strategy Separatist
Red Deer-South UCP MLA Jason Stephan

Legislative Assembly Speaker Nathan Cooper was also in attendance but was described as being an observer rather than a participant in the press conference.

Calling for a type of sovereignty-association with the rest of Canada, Anderson brought up a number of perennial ideas like an Alberta police force and pension plan, but then connected them to a whole swath of bad ideas that would either create needless bureaucracy or just be plain unconstitutional.

The group pled with reporters not to describe their group as separatists, but it is hard not to think of it as anything else. 

Independent MLA Todd Loewen Free Alberta Strategy Separatist
Independent MLA Todd Loewen

It is hard to think of a more tone deaf time to fly the separatist flag in Alberta.

The actual separatist party earned 1.3 per cent in Alberta in the federal election held last week and the UCP government last week sent out a desperate plea for health care support from Ottawa and other provinces to deal with the COVID-19 fourth wave.

Just as tone deaf is Kenney’s province-wide referendum on October 18 asking Albertans to vote yes if they want the equalization formula removed from Canada’s constitution – a referendum that no one is talking about because of the COVID-19 crisis.

William Aberhart University of Alberta Honourary Degree
William Aberhart

The one person who wasn’t at the online press conference, but who might as well have been there in spirit (literally), was Premier William Aberhart, who himself pushed through unconstitutional laws in the 1930s that would nationalize banks and force newspapers to publish government propaganda.

When the Lieutenant Governor at the time refused to sign one of his unconstitutional laws, Aberhart chained the doors and evicted the vice-regal representative from of his official residence in Government House.


UCP MLA backs down on criticism of AHS, Kenney faces leadership review and offers no new plan to stop COVID

  • UCP vice-president Joel Mullan was fired by the board yesterday after calling for Kenney to face a leadership review, which has now been scheduled for April 2022.
  • Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland UCP MLA Shane Getson back pedalled on his attempts to shift blame for the overcapacity ICUs on Alberta Health Services President Dr. Verna Yiu, likely as a ploy to push more privatization of the public health care system.
  • Kenney joined Health Minister Jason Copping and Justice Minister Kaycee Madu yesterday not to announce further public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 but to announce the government will ban protests outside of hospitals in reaction to anti-vaccine and COVID-19 conspiracy theorist rallies that were held two weeks ago.With none of these rallies having been held in weeks, some political watchers are wondering if the protest ban is actually being aimed at health care workers who could take job action in the coming months.

We are through the looking glass, Alberta.

Categories
Alberta Politics

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

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

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

Kenney lasts another day

He may have a plummeting approval rating, but Jason Kenney is still King of the United Conservative Party. 

As I noted in the interview on The Current, Kenney is a political survivor. It appears as though he out maneuvered his growing but disorganized opposition in his party and caucus.

Kenney avoided an attempted caucus coup when a motion for a confidence vote put forward by a group of MLAs was withdrawn when they discovered it would not be a secret ballot. He has pushed off demands for a leadership review at the party’s November 2021 annual general meeting by agreeing to a leadership review in Spring 2022 instead. A review had already been scheduled for the party’s planned November 2022 annual meeting. 

Moving the leadership review to next Spring gives Kenney time to organize against his opponents in the cabinet, caucus and party. If he can last that long and not turn his political fortunes around, it will be bad for his party and good for Rachel Notley‘s NDP, whose fundraisers had their prayers answered.

The NDP are hoping this financial quarter, which ends on September 30, will mark the fourth in a row that their party has raised more cash than the UCP.

Categories
Alberta Politics

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

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

David Yurdiga MP Fort McMurray-Cold Lake
David Yurdiga

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

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

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

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

Brian Jean Calgary Stampede Alberta
Brian Jean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Elmeligi is a professional biologist and conservation and land-use planner. She currently runs her own consulting company but from 2016 to 2019 she worked as a Parks Facility Planner with the Kananaskis Region and from 2009 to 2013 was a Senior Conservation Planner with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Southern Alberta Chapter.

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

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

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

Miranda Rosin Banff Kananaskis UCP MLA
Miranda Rosin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Alberta Politics

UCP MLA Devinder Toor hit with a $15,000 fine from Elections Alberta

Elections Alberta is reporting that it has issued $15,000 in fines against Calgary-Falconridge United Conservative Party MLA Devinder Toor for violations of five sections of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. The violations are reported to have taken place during Toor’s campaign for the UCP nomination in 2018 and his campaign for election as the UCP candidate in 2019.

According to the Elections Alberta website, Toor’s offences during his UCP nomination campaign included violations of:

  • Section 31 of the EFCDA: Person other than CFO, accepting contributions.
    Section 35(1)(a) of the EFCDA: Accepting a prohibited contribution from 2082146 Alberta Ltd. in the form of use of real property.
  • Section 41.4(1) of the EFCDA: Exceeding the Nomination Contest expense limit.
  • Section 46 of the EFCDA: Filed a false Nomination Contest Financial Statement with the Chief Electoral Officer.
  • Section 14(1) of the EFCDA: Fail to deposit contributions into the account on record with the Chief Electoral Officer.

Elections Alberta lists Toor’s offences during the 2019 election campaign as violations of:

  • Section 35(1)(a) of the EFCDA: Accepting a prohibited contribution from 2082146 Alberta Ltd. in the form of the use of real property.
  • Section 41.3(1)(a) of the EFCDA: Candidate exceeding expense limit.
  • Section 46 of the EFCDA: Filed a false Candidate Campaign Financial Statement with the Chief Electoral Officer.
  • Section 40(1)(a) of the EFCDA: Registered Candidate borrowing money from party other than a Financial Institution.
  • Section 14(1) of the EFCDA: Fail to deposit contributions into the account on record with the Chief Electoral Officer.

Also listed as having received administrative penalties from Elections Alberta was Toor’s’ chief financial officer, Sahib Bhakri, who was issued an $8,000 fine for violations of the EFCDA during the UCP nomination contest and $6,000 for violations during the 2019 election.

Calgary-Falconridge (source: Elections Alberta)
Calgary-Falconridge (source: Elections Alberta)

Also listed as Toor’s chief financial officer during the 2018 nomination race, Daljit (Sunny) Toor was issued a Letter of Reprimand from Elections Alberta for violating Section 30(1)(c.1) of the EFCDA by failing to vouch for expenses over $25.

2082146 Alberta Ltd. and current and former Directors (Abhi Toor, Balmeet Toor, Devinder Toor) was issued $4,500 in fines for violating Section 16(2) of the EFCDA by making prohibited contributions to Toor’s nomination and election campaigns.

The first law introduced by the NDP after they formed government in 2015 was to ban political donations from corporations and unions.

Toor defeated realtor Pete de Jong and past Wildrose Party candidate Jesse Minhas to secure the United Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Falconridge in December 2018. Toor had previously ran as the Wildrose Party candidate in the 2016 by-election and 2015 general election in Calgary-Greenway.

Parmeet Singh NDP Calgary Falconridge
Parmeet Singh

The UCP nomination campaign in Calgary-Falconridge was not without controversy. Another past Wildrose candidate, Happy Mann, had his candidacy rejected by the UCP after he was alleged to have been involved in an incident where a local reporter was assaulted.

Toor faced NDP candidate Parmeet Singh in what ended up being the closest race in the 2019 election.

After a recount, Toor defeated Singh by a narrow 96 votes.

In June 2020, CBC reported that the owners of two popular food trucks operating next to a northeast Calgary park claimed they were being bullied and harassed by residents who don’t want them there, including Toor.

Categories
Alberta Politics

George Chahal running for Liberals in Calgary-Skyview, Rick Peterson out of the race in Edmonton-Strathcona

Calgary City Councillor George Chahal announced this week that he is withdrawing his bid for re-election in the October municipal elections in order to run as the federal Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Skyview. Chahal, who was first elected to city council in 2017, will face Conservative Party Member of Parliament Jag Sahota, New Democratic Party candidate Gurinder Singh Gill, and People’s Party candidate Harry Dhillon.

The northeast Calgary district was represented by Liberal MP Darshan Kang from 2015 until he left the Liberal caucus in 2017 following allegations of sexual harassment. The former two-term Liberal MLA sat as an Independent until his term was complete and did not seek re-election in 2019.

Rick Peterson out of Conservative race in Edmonton-Strathcona

RIck Peterson Edmonton-Strathcona
RIck Peterson is no longer in the race for the Conservative Party of Canada nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona. (Photo source: Facebook)

It appears as though former Conservative Party leadership candidate Rick Peterson is no longer seeking his party’s nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona. While neither Peterson nor the party have made any official public statement, Conservative Party sources say that he was disqualified from the race by the central party.

It now appears likely that his opponent, Tunde Obsan, the only other candidate in the race, will be acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona. Obasan was the 2019 United Conservative Party candidate in Edmonton-South and is an audit manager with the provincial Department of Alberta Treasury Board and Finance.

Edmonton-Strathcona is currently represented by NDP MP Heather McPherson.

Don Iveson running in Edmonton-Centre?

Don Iveson
Don Iveson

Rumours continue to circulate that Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson could seek the federal Liberal nomination in Edmonton-Centre. Rumours about Iveson jumping into federal politics have been around for years, but his decision to not seek re-election as mayor and the proximity to an impending federal election has given new fuel to the speculation.

Iveson was first elected to City Council in 2007 and has served as Mayor since 2013. He is currently the chairperson of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Big City Mayors’ Caucus.

Former Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault, who represented the district from 2015 to 2019, has already announced his intentions to seek his party’s nomination.

Other nominations

The NDP have nominated Shawn Gray in Edmonton Riverbend.

Austin Mullins is now running for the Green Party nomination in Calgary-Centre. Mills had previously announced his intentions to seek the party’s nomination in Banff-Airdire, where he ran in 2019.

The right-wing People’s Party have nominated Dennis Trepanier in Battle River-Crowfoot, Edward Gao in Calgary-Confederation, Jonathan Hagel in Calgary-Midnapore, Kyle Scott in Calgary-Nose Hill, Michael Knoll in Calgary-Shepard, Brent Kinzel in Edmonton-West, Brigitte Yolande Maria Cecelia in St. Albert-Edmonton, and Murray MacKinnon in Sturgeon River-Parkland.

The party has also nominated two time Wildrose Party candidate Darryl Boisson in Peace River-Westlock and is expected to nominate Ben Whyte in Calgary-Rocky Ridge at a meeting on July 29.

The separatist Maverick Party has nominated Orrin Bliss in Bow River, Annelise Freeman in Calgary-Heritage, Josh Wylie in Foothills, and Physical Education and Social Studies teacher Todd Muir in Yellowhead.


I am building a list of candidates seeking party nominations to run as candidates in Alberta in the next federal election. If you have any additions to the list, please email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you.

Categories
Alberta Politics

When a Premier is in trouble, the cabinet gets growing

It isn’t really a saying in Alberta politics but maybe it should be: When a Premier is in trouble, the cabinet gets growing.

That’s what we saw today as embattled Premier Jason Kenney made a major expansion of the provincial cabinet.

It is being described as a post-pandemic reset but today’s cabinet shuffle and expansion probably has more to do with internal turmoil in the UCP Caucus than any actual reset in the government’s agenda. Problem-creating ministers like Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon remain firmly in place.

Kenney, who eagerly declared the COVID-19 pandemic over in Alberta on July 1, has seen his approval ratings and his party’s popularity plummet as it mismanaged its response to the pandemic and pushed forward with an unpopular political agenda that included opening the Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining, a backward draft curriculum for kids, and aggressive attacks against doctors and nurses.

Kenney’s unpopularity now appears to be spilling over into the federal scene and dragging down the federal Conservative Party’s support in Alberta, which a string of polls show at a historic low.

Kenney is so unpopular that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was able to openly mock him at a press conference in Calgary yesterday and there was no public backlash in defence of the provincial Conservative leader.

Facing dissent from inside and outside his caucus and party, Kenney has taken the predictable route of previous Alberta premiers who were in political trouble and expanded his cabinet. Appointments to cabinet posts come with the prestige of a ministerial title, office and staff, a hefty pay hike and are seen as a way to reward a premier’s supporters – and punish dissenters.

The past twenty years of turmoil in conservative politics in Alberta has given us a few clear examples of how cabinets grow when premier’s find themselves in political trouble.

Premier Ralph Klein’s cabinet grew from a slim 17 in 1992 to an expanded 24 by the time he resigned in 2006 after his party’s membership gave him a weak 55.4 per cent endorsement in a leadership review.

Klein’s successor, Premier Ed Stelmach, started with a cabinet of 19 ministers in 2006 only to expand it to 23 by the time he resigned in the face of a caucus revolt in 2011.

But perhaps most famously, Premier Alison Redford’s cabinet grew from 21 in 2011 to 29, including 10 associate ministers, in 2013, representing almost half of the Progressive Conservative Caucus. There was a running joke at the time that if a PC MLA wasn’t in cabinet they must have done something really wrong.

Yesterday Kenney’s cabinet had 22 cabinet ministers and associate ministers. Today, Kenney’s cabinet has 26.

I bet it grows again in a few months.


Premier Jason Kenney, Lieutenant Governor Salma Lakhani and the new cohort of cabinet ministers.
Premier Jason Kenney, Lieutenant Governor Salma Lakhani and the new cohort of cabinet ministers.

Shuffled around …

Jason Luan, MLA Calgary-Foothills, is moved from Associate Minister of Additions and Mental Health to become Minister of Community and Social Services. Luan served as MLA for Calgary-Hawkwood from 2012 until his defeat in the 2015 election to NDP candidate Michael Connolly. Luan returned to the Legislature in 2019.

Ric McIver, MLA Calgary-Hays, keeps his role as Minister of Municipal Affairs but loses his dual role of Minister of Transportation. McIver took over Municipal Affairs when former minister Tracy Allard was removed from cabinet following her COVID rule breaking hot holiday to Hawaii in December 2020. McIver was first elected as a PC MLA in 2012 and previously served as an alderman on Calgary City Council from 2001 to 2010.

Rajan Sawhney, MLA Calgary-North East, leaves her current role as Minister of Community and Social Services to become Minister of Transportation. Sawhney is seen by many political insiders as an up and comer in the UCP cabinet.

Muhammad Yaseen, MLA Calgary-North, leaves his role as Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration to become the Associate Minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism reporting to Minister of Labour and Immigration Jason Copping. Yasseen is a former president of the Pakistan Canada Association of Calgary and was first elected as an MLA in 2019.

New in cabinet…

Mike Ellis, MLA Calgary-West, leaves his role as UCP Caucus Whip to become Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. Ellis was first elected in a 2014 by-election and was only one of a handful of PC MLAs re-elected in 2015.

Nate Horner, MLA Drumheller-Stettler, becomes Associate Minister of Rural Economic Development reporting to Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer. Horner is the grandson of former Member of Parliament Jack Horner and the cousin of former deputy premier Doug Horner.

Whitney Issik, MLA for Calgary-Glenmore, becomes the Associate Minister of Status of Women reporting to newly appointed Minister of Culture and Status of Women Ron Orr. Issik will also serve as UCP Whip. She was first elected in 2019 and was a longtime PC Party volunteer, serving as campaign manager for Jim Prentice during his brief run for the federal PC Party nomination in Calgary-Southwest in 2002, as a constituency assistant to former Calgary-Mountain View MLA Mark Hlady, and as policy co-chair of the federal PC Party during the 2000 federal election.

Ron Orr, MLA Lacombe-Ponoka, becomes Minister of Culture. Orr once declared that legalizing cannabis would spark a communist revolution and he wrote on Facebook in May 2021 that Kenney was raised by God to be leader of Alberta and public health restrictions are just as bad as getting COVID. Before his election as a Wildrose MLA in 2015 he worked as a Baptist Minister in Alberta and British Columbia.

Back in cabinet is Tanya Fir, MLA Calgary-Peigan, as Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction. Fir was surprisingly dropped from her role as Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism in August 2020. Fir was one of the UCP MLAs caught travelling on a hot holiday in December 2020, breaking the government’s public health restrictions.

Out of cabinet…

Leela Aheer, MLA Chestermere-Strathmore and UCP Deputy Leader, has lost her cabinet role as Minister of Culture and Status of Women. Her departure from cabinet is probably retribution for her publicly calling on Kenney to apologize after he and other senior cabinet ministers were caught breaking the government’s COVID-19 restrictions by holding a boozy dinner party on the balcony of the Sky Palace. Aheer also criticized Kenney for his tone-deaf defence of Sir John A Macdonald following the discovery of unmarked graves of children at former Indian Residential School sites.

Grant Hunter, MLA Taber-Warner, loses his position as Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction. Hunter is currently on a province-wide ministerial tour of northeast Alberta with Justice Minister Kaycee Madu and Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. Hunter was the only cabinet minister from south of Calgary.

Other non-cabinet changes today included:

Joseph Schow, MLA Cardston-Siksika, the current the deputy government whip becomes deputy government house leader. Brad Rutherford, MLA Leduc-Beaumont, becomes deputy government whip.

After 6 months without a permanent Chief of Staff, Premier Kenney has named his Deputy Chief of Staff Pam Livingston to the role. Livingston started working in the Premier’s Office in January 2021 after the resignation of Jamie Huckabay, who was caught in the international holiday scandal.

Interim Chief of Staff Larry Kaumeyer returns to his previous role as Principal Secretary in the Premier’s Office.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Yeehaw! Alberta is lifting restrictions and opening for a one-dose summer

“Opening for summer” was Premier Jason Kenney’s new tagline as he announced that by July the provincial government will mount a quick retreat from the public health restrictions implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Jason Kenney

It is a bizarre whiplash from a week ago when Alberta was leading North America for active cases of COVID-19 and Intensive Care Units were starting to overflow (there are still 150 COVID patients in ICU beds in Alberta). But consistency has never been Kenney’s style during the pandemic and his decision to rush the removal of restrictions likely being driven by his need to score political points and save job as leader of the United Conservative Party.

The three stage plan appears to be planned around the start of the Ponoka Stampede and the Calgary Stampede, two of the largest public events in an Alberta summer.

It has been a long 15 months since the pandemic began, so it is hard not to be cautiously optimistic that the plan will work. But, like many of Kenney’s plans, it seems to be driven by political expediency rather than the vigilance our leaders probably should embrace to defeat this virus.

Alberta’s public health restrictions have been mild compared with most other provinces in Canada and jurisdictions abroad. Coffee shops and grocery stores have remained open, as have religious services (with lower attendance rates), and even the Legislative Assembly continued to meet in-person until last week. It even took a while for the government to be convinced that casinos should be closed.

Rachel Notley

Proactive measures have not been a distinguishing feature of Kenney’s response to COVID-19.

UCP staffers have been jubilantly tweeting that Albertans “crushed the spike,” referring to the third wave that peaked at more than 26,000 active cases, but it was only after weeks of delays and ignoring the pleas of medical professionals that the Kenney government implemented the measures that “crushed” the third wave of COVID-19 in Alberta.

Only a week before Kenney implemented the current public health measures, he was complaining to the media that restrictions don’t work because people don’t listen to them, despite the third wave that happened after the previous health measures were prematurely lifted in February 2021. 

The decline in active cases since the new public health measures were put in place suggests the restrictions did work.

A growing number of Albertans are getting injected with their first dose of COVID-19 vaccines and there are still questions about how many Albertans will have received a second dose of the vaccine by the time Kenney rips the bandaid off in July.

Despite conservative partisans criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for using the term “one-dose summer,” it would appear that a one-dose is enough for the UCP government to remove all public health restrictions.

There is also growing concern about how effective one dose of vaccine is in protecting people from the B.1.617.2 variant (the “India variant”), which is the source of a third wave in the United Kingdom.

New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley is urging caution and raising questions about the speed the restrictions will be lifted, which is a fair criticism. In typical fashion, Kenney responded with a partisan barb, accusing the NDP of being anti-vaxxers. All NDP MLAs have confirmed they have received their first vaccination, something not all UCP MLAs have confirmed doing.

A lot of Albertans, myself included, are hoping that the removal of restrictions will work and we can put COVID-19 behind us. It would be nice to have a summer not constrained by even mild public health restrictions. It would be nice for the pandemic to be over. We will find out by the fall whether the Kenney government jumped the gun in removing restrictions too soon.


Hinman only candidate in Wildrose Independence Party leadership vote

Paul Hinman Wildrose Independence Party MLA
Paul Hinman

Former Wildrose Party MLA Paul Hinman is the only candidate to enter the Wildrose Independence Party leadership race. A vote of the separatist party’s membership will be held on August 28, 2021 to confirm his leadership.

Hinman represented the Alberta Alliance and Wildrose Alliance parties as the MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008 and the Wildrose Party as the MLA for Calgary-Glenmore from 2009 to 2012. He led the Wildrose Alliance in the 2008 election.

Hinman is the grandson of Social Credit MLA and cabinet minister Edgar Hinman.


NDP to hold nomination meeting in Calgary-Varsity on June 26

Luanne Metz Calgary-Varsity NDP
Luanne Metz

The Alberta NDP will hold the first nomination meeting of the 2023 election cycle on June 26, 2021 in Calgary-Varisty. Prominent physician Dr. Luanne Metz is expected to be acclaimed as candidate.

The northwest Calgary district is a key target riding for the NDP in the next election and was narrowly won by UCP MLA Jason Copping in 2019.