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Alberta Politics

Independent MLA Drew Barnes not running for re-election, two new right-wing parties announced

As the first day of Alberta’s provincial election winds down, I have a few quick candidate nomination updates to share.

Barnes not running

He waited until almost the very last minute, but Independent MLA Drew Barnes announced through a video posted on social media that he will not seek re-election for a fourth term as the MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat.

Barnes was first elected in 2012 as a Wildrose Party MLA and was re-elected under the Wildrose banner in 2015. He won a third-term in 2019 as a United Conservative Party candidate but was removed from the UCP Caucus in 2021 after two years of being a general thorn in then-premier Jason Kenney‘s side.

Party on the right

The Wildrose Loyalty Coalition (not to be confused with the Wildrose Independence Party) is now an official registered political party recognized by Elections Alberta.

The new party is led by former Wildrose Independence and Wildrose Alliance Party leader Paul Hinman, who was pushed out of his role as leader of the WIP last year. Two-time Wildrose Party candidate and UCP nominee aspirant Danny Hozack is the party president.

And there is always room for one-more fringe party on the political right in Alberta.

Pastor Artur Pawlowski, known for his 11-minute phone call with Premier Danielle Smith and his ousting as leader of the Independence Party of Alberta, was joined by former Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders (who is still listed as a board member of the Wildrose Independence Party) to announce they are forming another new political party – The Solidarity Movement of Alberta.

Meanwhile, the Pro-Life Alberta Political Association (formerly known as the Social Credit Party) has nominated Lucas Hernandez as their candidate in Calgary-Mountain View. Hernandez carried the party banner in Calgary-Currie in 2019, where he earned 60 votes.

The CBC’s Jason Markusoff recently wrote an analysis of the Alberta Pro-Life Political Association, a political party that acts like a political action committee.

The Independents

There are also a handful of people who have registered as candidates with no party affiliation who will run as Independents.

They include Andrew Lineker in Edmonton-McClung, Graham Lettner in Edmonton-Gold Bar, Jody Balanko in Strathcona-Sherwood Park, and Matthew Powell in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright.

Powell sought the Freedom Conservative Party nomination in the riding in 2019 (FCP joined with Wexit Alberta to become the Wildrose Independence Party in 2021).

Total Nominated candidates

Here are the total nominated candidates running in Alberta’s provincial election:

  • United Conservative Party: 87/87
  • New Democratic Party 87/87
  • Green Party: 31/87
  • Alberta Party: 18/87
  • Liberal Party: 12/87
  • Independence Party of Alberta: 7/87
  • Advantage Party of Alberta: 3/87
  • Communist Party: 3/87
  • Wildrose Independence Party: 2/87
  • Buffalo Party 1/87
  • Pro-Life Political Association: 1/87
  • Wildrose Loyalty Coalition 1/87

Subscribe to the Daveberta Substack

Daveberta Substack Podcast Alberta Politics Election Dave CournoyerI will continue to post candidate nomination updates on this website but subscribe to the Daveberta Substack to read my latest Alberta election coverage. My most recent piece covers how the UCP and NDP kicked-off the election, the role that Conservative Party MPs are playing in the election, and how the two main parties are spending money on digital advertising.

I am planning to share most of my writing for the upcoming Alberta election on Substack, so don’t miss out!

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Alberta Politics

NDP and UCP trying to define each other on health care and crime

With 39 days left until Albertans elect a new government, we are getting a pretty good sense of how the two main political parties are trying to define their opponents in the minds of voters.

To no one’s surprise, both the United Conservative Party and the Alberta NDP are trying to play to their own strengths and their opponents weaknesses.

Read the rest of the column on the Daveberta Substack. Sign up for a paid subscription to get access to the Daveberta Podcast and special election extras.

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Alberta Politics

Justin Wright defeats James Finkbeiner in Cypress-Medicine Hat UCP vote, Paul Hinman starting another new Wildrose Party

Food truck owner Justin Wright defeated former Western Standard vice-president of operations James Finkbeiner to win the United Conservative Party nomination in Cypress-Medicine Hat.

Wright is the owner of the Fryer Tuck’s food truck and catering, which also runs a number of concessions around Medicine Hat. He ran for city council in 2021 and is the chairman of the Spectrum Festival committee.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat
Drew Barnes

Wright is expected to face MLA Drew Barnes, who has represented the riding since 2012 and is widely believed to be running for re-elected as an Independent candidate. Barnes was kicked out of the UCP Caucus in 2021 for being a general thorn in the side of former premier Jason Kenney.

But despite being elected as a Wildrose MLA at the same time as Danielle Smith in 2012, Barnes was not welcomed back into the UCP tent after the new premier was sworn-in to office last October.

The Alberta NDP have nominated Prairie Rose Public Schools chairperson Cathy Hogg. Hogg has served as a trustee on the school board since 2013.

Paul Hinman’s Wildrose Loyalty Coalition

A screenshot from Paul Hinman’s Facebook Page.

Months after he was removed as leader of the Wildrose Independence Party, it appears as though Paul Hinman is starting another new Wildrose Party.

The appearance of a new “Wildrose Loyalty Coalition” banner on Hinman’s Facebook page and the appearance of the group on the “Reserved Party Names” list maintained by Elections Alberta caught the attention of some political watchers. And a website for the new party now confirms it.

‘Albertans are in a dysfunctional relationship with Ottawa and must take control of our future. We shall determine our path forward, NOT legacy political parties who divide the people, usurp freedoms, and enforce ruinous social, economic, and environmental policies,’ says a statement on the Wildrose Loyalty Coalition website that also lists Hinman as leader.

Hinman has a long history in Alberta politics and best-known for having served as Wildrose MLA in two separate ridings and as leader of that party before Danielle Smith became leader in 2009.

But more recently, he served as the founding leader of the separatist Wildrose Independence Party, which was a merger of the Freedom Conservative Party and the Wexit Alberta group, from 2020 until he was ousted in 2022. Hinman loyalists briefly retook control over the party before their takeover was overruled in courts.

Other nomination updates

  • The UCP has set April 3 as the date for its nomination vote in Grande Prairie. Gladys Blackmore, Nolan Dyck, Larry Gibson, and Tayyab Parvez are in the race to succeed retiring MLA Tracy Allard as the candidate in that northern Alberta riding.
  • Daniel Birrell has been nominated as the Green Party candidate in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain.

Upcoming nomination votes

With around 70 days left until Election Day, the Alberta NDP and the UCP have both nominated candidates in 77 of Alberta’s 87 ridings. The Green Party has 27 candidates, the Alberta Party has nominated 12 candidates and the Liberal Party has one.

Candidate nomination votes are currently scheduled for the following dates:

  • March 18 – Leduc-Beaumont UCP
  • March 18, 19, 20 – Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre IP
  • April 1 – Calgary-North East UCP
  • April 3 – Grande Prairie UCP

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Alberta Politics

Five candidates vying for ‘do-over’ NDP nomination vote in Calgary-Klein

An Alberta NDP nomination in a competitive north central Calgary riding is drawing a crowd. There are now five candidates vying to become the next NDP candidate in Calgary-Klein.

Canadian Natural Resources Limited environmental coordinator Brady Adkins is the latest candidate to join the race. Adkins joins policy analyst Mattie McMillan, Calgary Climate Hub director and past city council candidate Angela McIntyre, retired nurse and infection control professional Laurie O’Neil, and Calgary-Mountain View constituency manager Lizette Tejada.

Jeremy Nixon MLA Calgary-Klein UCP
Jeremy Nixon

The NDP held the riding from 2015 to 2019, with Craig Coolahan as MLA, but a giant blue wave and boundary changes before the last election led to the NDP losing it in 2019 to United Conservative Party candidate Jeremy Nixon by 1,697 votes.

Nixon ran as the Wildrose Party candidate in 2012 and 2015, making 2023 his fourth time running in the riding, so he’s well known to voters in the area. He’s now Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services and he’s running for re-election.

It is one of two remaining ridings in Calgary without an NDP candidate (Calgary-Lougheed is the other) and the party sees this as a key riding to win in the May 2023 election. NDP MLAs from neighbouring ridings and from Edmonton have been frequently spotted helping out local volunteers during door-to-door canvasses, but this is the NDP’s second time holding a vote to choose a candidate.

Marilyn North Peigan Alberta NDP Calgary-Klein nomination
Marilyn North Peigan

NDP members in the riding selected past city council candidate Marilyn North Peigan as their candidate in a March 2022 nomination contest, which also attracted two other candidates, McMillan and former Suncor human resources director Heather Eddy. But North Peigan’s candidacy was revoked in November 2022 after she sent out a series of tweets about the Calgary Stampede board of directors that were described as defamatory.

North Peigan later apologized for her posts, saying they were ‘untrue, disrespectful and hurtful.’

The speed of North Peigan’s disqualification was a clear signal of how serious and sensitive Rachel Notley‘s NDP are about anything that could derail their chances of making gains in Calgary in the next election.

So now the NDP are holding a second vote in a more crowded nomination race on February 15 at the Winston Heights Community Association. Whoever wins that vote will have a lot of ground to make up in a short period of time. The election is in 118 days.

Calgary-Klein is on my list of ridings to watch in 2023.


Upcoming nomination meetings

Candidate nomination votes are currently scheduled for the following dates:

  • February 6 – Innisfail-Sylvan Lake NDP
  • February 13 – Drumheller-Stettler NDP
  • February 15 – Calgary-Klein NDP
  • February 15 – Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre NDP
  • February 17 – Lacombe-Ponoka UCP
  • February 23 – Calgary-Fish Creek UCP
  • February 25 – Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock NDP
  • February 28 – Cypress-Medicine Hat NDP

The Daveberta Podcast is back, now on Substack

Daveberta Dave CournoyerA big thank you to everyone who has listened, shared and sent feedback about the newly relaunched Daveberta Podcast, now exclusively found on the Daveberta Substack.

We are very excited to be back podcasting and look forward to sharing some exciting news about the Substack soon.

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Alberta Politics

By one vote! Recount confirms former MLA Scott Cyr beat MLA David Hanson in Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul UCP nomination

Happy New Year!

It’s a new year and I have a few candidate updates to share with you today.

With about five months until the next election, the Alberta NDP have nominated candidates in 69 of Alberta’s 87 ridings. The United Conservative Party have candidates nominated in 52 ridings and the Green Party has 23 candidates named. The Alberta Party has nominated 3 candidates and the Liberal Party has one.

Here are the latest updates to the list of candidates running in Alberta’s next provincial election:

  • A recount approved by the UCP executive board determined that former MLA Scott Cyr defeated incumbent MLA David Hanson in the Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul nomination vote. There were 8 disputed votes after the final recount but when all the votes were rectified, Cyr beat Hanson by 1 vote! Cyr was elected as the Wildrose Party MLA for Bonnyville-Cold Lake in 2015. He declined to challenge Hanson for the UCP nomination when the ridings they represented were amalgamated ahead of the 2019 election.
  • UCP MLA Rick Wilson was acclaimed as his party’s candidate in Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin. Wilson was first elected in 2019 and has served as Minister of Indigenous Relations since then.
  • Joel Hunt was nominated as the Green Party candidate in Taber-Warner.
  • Edmonton-North West NDP MLA David Eggen confirmed that he is running for re-election, despite what Postmedia columnist David Staples wrote over the weekend. Staples appears to have got Eggen confused with Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous, who is retiring when the next election is called. Postmedia issued a correction in the online version of the column.

With all indications pointing to a tight two-party race between the UCP and NDP in the next election, it’s a tough road ahead for the smaller political parties trying to breakthrough in 2023.

Alberta Party leader Barry Morishita recently announced that Troy Wason stepped down as Executive Director of the Alberta Party at the end of December 2022. Morishita reported that the party had no intention to replace him and was instead transitioning to an election readiness team and campaign manager. Wason will become the party’s Major Donor Fundraising Chair.

Liberal Party executive director Gwyneth Midgley announced in October 2022 that she was stepping down as Executive Director of that party after eight years in the role.

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Alberta Politics

Keith Plowman challenging UCP MLA Tany Yao in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, Hassan Bokhari joins Calgary-North NDP nomination race

Keith Plowman is challenging MLA Tany Yao for the United Conservative Party nomination in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. A nomination meeting has been scheduled for December 4.

“The last major announcement that we had with provincial money in Fort McMurray was Willow Square and that was with the NDP government,” Plowman told Fort McMurray Today. “I’m concerned that, with the amount of money and oil royalties that go out of Fort McMurray to the rest of the province, it’s a little disappointing that we don’t have more of that money coming back to Fort McMurray.”

Plowman is the President of the Fort McMurray Construction Association and was a candidate for Athabasca County Council in October 2021.

He is a director of the Athabasca Chamber of Commerce and his biography on that organization’s website says he “moved to Athabasca in 2010” and resides “on a small farm in the Forfar area.”

Yao was first elected as a Wildrose Party candidate in 2015 and was re-elected under the UCP banner in 2019 with 71 per cent of the vote.

Bokhari second candidate to enter Calgary-North NDP race

Hassan Bokhari NDP Calgary-North Nomination Candidate
Hassan Bokhari (source: Hassan Bokhari/Facebook)

Real estate agent Hassan Bokhari is the second candidate to enter the Alberta NDP nomination in Calgary-North.

Bokhari joins Moses Mariam in the nomination contest. A nomination meeting is scheduled for December 17.

The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Muhammad Yaseen.

The NDP also added two new members to their slate of candidates last week: Justin Huseby in Calgary-South East and Denis Ram in Calgary-Peigan.

Wellwood disqualification upheld

Danielle Smith and Nadine Wellwood United Conservative Party Take Back Alberta
Premier Danielle Smith and Nadine Wellwood at the Take Back Alberta hospitality suite at the UCP AGM (source: Nadine Wellwood/Twitter)

The UCP has upheld the disqualification of Nadine Wellwood as a nomination candidate in Livingstone-Macleod.

As reported by the CBC, Wellwood had advocated for debunked COVID-19 treatments like ivermectin and compared vaccine passports to policies enacted by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime.

Wellwood claimed to have sold 800 UCP memberships in the southwest Alberta riding and was the only candidate in the race after MLA Roger Reid withdrew the day after the entry deadline.

Third candidate joins Calgary-Elbow UCP race

Lawyer Chris Davis joins Jon Horsman and Andrea James in the UCP nomination contest in Calgary-Elbow.

Davis was a candidate for Calgary City Council in 2017 and ran for the party’s nomination in the riding in 2018 and was defeated by Doug Schweitzer.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Davis has worked as Senior Manager of Legal Services for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo since 2020.

Schweitzer resigned as MLA on August 31, 2022 and because Premier Danielle Smith refused to call a concurrent by-election when she ran in Brooks-Medicine Hat the riding’s seat in the Legislature will remain vacant until the May 2023 election.

A nomination vote is being held on December 3.

Other nomination updates

  • Joan Chand’oiseau is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-West at a nomination meeting on November 16.
  • The UCP have opened nominations in Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin. The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Rick Wilson.

Seen on the doors

Karen Shaw Rachel Notley Morinville-St. Albert NDP candidate
Karen Shaw with Rachel Notley and a campaign volunteer canvassing in Morinville on November 12 (source: Rachel Notley/Twitter)

NDP leader Rachel Notley and MLAs Marie Renaud and Lorne Dach joined local candidate Karen Shaw and volunteers for an afternoon of door-knocking in Morinville-St. Albert this past weekend.

Shaw is a former four-term Sturgeon County Councillor. The NDP see the riding north of Edmonton as a must-win in the next election. The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Dale Nally.

Total nominated candidates

The NDP have nominated candidates in 64 of Alberta’s 87 ridings. The UCP have candidates named in 36 ridings and the Green Party has 18 candidates. The Alberta Party has nominated 3 candidates and the Liberal Party has one.

Here are the scheduled upcoming nominations:

  • November 16 – Calgary-West NDP
  • November 20 – Airdrie-East NDP
  • November 23 – Livingstone-Macleod NDP
  • November 26 – St. Albert UCP
  • December 2 & 3 – Drayton Valley-Devon UCP
  • December 3 – Calgary-Elbow UCP
  • December 4 – Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo UCP
  • December 8 – West Yellowhead NDP
  • December 17 – Calgary-North NDP

I am building a list of candidates running for party nominations, so if you are seeking a nomination and would like you name added to the list please let me know. Thanks!

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Alberta Politics

UCP MLA Mark Smith not running for re-election, NDP nominates MLAs Kathleen Ganley and Marlin Schmidt

United Conservative Party MLA Mark Smith has publicly confirmed that he will not seek re-election in Drayton Valley-Devon. He made the announcement while speaking at an event for UCP leadership candidate Travis Toews in Devon on Sept. 9.

Smith was first elected as a Wildrose Party MLA in 2015 and was re-elected under the UCP banner in 2019. The former social studies teacher was the center of controversy during the 2019 election over comments he made about gay people.

Despite the controversy, Smith was re-elected with 71 per cent of the vote.

Carol Vowk and Andrew Boitchenko (Source: Mark Smith MLA Facebook PGe)

Carol Vowk and Andrew Boitchenko are already seeking the UCP nomination in Drayton Valley-Devon, located southwest of Edmonton, and rumours have been circulating in political circles for months that Enoch First Nations Chief Billy Morin could seek the nomination. Morin has endorsed Toews for the UCP leadership and previously endorsed Pierre Poilievre in the federal Conservative Party leadership race.

Kathleen Ganley at the Calgary-Mountain View nomination meeting (source: Joe Ceci on Twitter)

NDP members acclaimed Kathleen Ganley in Calgary-Mountain View and Marlin Schmidt in Edmonton-Gold Bar. Both MLAs were first elected in 2015 and served as cabinet ministers during the NDP’s time in government.

“This is sure to be a pivotal election for Alberta, and I am honoured that my community has put their trust in me to continue being their representative,” Ganley said in a statement. “I hear from folks every day about how they don’t trust the UCP, and how their families are struggling more now because of them.”

MLA David Shepherd is seeking the NDP nomination to run for re-election in Edmonton-City Centre at an October 11 nomination meeting. Shepherd was first elected in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019 with 66 per cent of the vote.

Also in Edmonton-City Centre, Zak Abdi announced on Twitter that he is no longer running for the Liberal Party nomination and will instead will seek to become the Green Party candidate in Edmonton-City Centre.

And in Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright, Dawn Flaata running for NDP nomination at an October 15 meeting. Flaata is a local author with a long history of involvement in the chamber of commerce in Vermilion. She is also a former Constituency Assistant to former Conservative MP Leon Benoit. Vermilion Public Library.

Upcoming nomination meetings:

  • September 20 – Edmonton-Castle Downs NDP
  • September 24 – Calgary-Shaw NDP
  • September 24 – Edmonton-South NDP
  • September 25 – Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood NDP
  • September 27 – Spruce Grove-Stony Plain NDP
  • September 28 – Sherwood Park NDP
  • September 29 – Chestermere-Strathmore NDP
  • October 1 – Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills NDP
  • October 2 – Calgary-Foothills NDP
  • October 5 – Red Deer-North NDP
  • October 11 – Edmonton-City Centre NDP
  • October 15 – Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright NDP
  • October 17 – Calgary-Beddington NDP

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!

(I am launching a Substack. Sign up at  Daveberta Substack).

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Alberta Politics

Danielle Smith’s time on the disastrous Calgary Board of Education

With Danielle Smith‘s campaign for the United Conservative Party leadership appearing to pick up momentum, and recent endorsements from Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen, Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Nate Glubish, Edmonton-South West MLA  Kaycee Madu, and Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn suggesting the mood in the UCP caucus is shifting in her favour, some people have been sharing links of a series of articles I wrote 13 years ago about Smith’s time on the disastrous 1998-1999 Calgary Board of Education.

The series was published in the weeks after Smith won the Wildrose Alliance Party leadership in 2009.

Here are the full set of links for anyone interested in reading the series:

Reading it now, I see it’s a little awkwardly formatted, so please forgive this young blogger from 2009.

It’s also important to recognize that the Calgary Board of Education in those years wasn’t a gong show just because of Danielle Smith. It was a real group effort.

The board of trustees was so dysfunctional that it was fired by the provincial government.

Smith’s current beliefs and past record on public education became more relevant after last week’s UCP leadership candidates forum at the Alberta Teachers’ Association summer conference in Banff, which you can watch here:

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Alberta Politics

Race to replace Jason Kenney takes shape – Rajan Sawhney and Rebecca Schulz join the fray. Will Michelle Rempel Garner and Raj Sherman be next?

Hey there politics fans!

The United Conservative Party released its leadership race rule book!

UCP members will choose a replacement for Premier Jason Kenney on October 6, 2022.

It will cost $150,000 to enter the race, plus an extra $25,000 good behaviour deposit.

Low rollers need not apply.

It’s not just a race to replace Kenney.

It’s a race to save the UCP from defeat against Rachel Notley‘s resurgent Alberta NDP.

And the race is starting to take shape.

The cowboy hat wearing former Finance Minister from Beaverlodge, Travis Toews, launched his campaign last week with endorsements from 23 UCP MLAs, including Energy Minister Sonya Savage and Justice Minister Tyler Shandro.

Savage and Grande Prairie-Mackenzie MP Chris Warkentin are co-chairing his campaign.

Toews is seen as the establishment favourite, which isn’t always a blessing.

Just ask Jim Dinning and Gary Mar.

Former Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney launched her campaign yesterday with a whistle-stop tour down the QEII, starting with media events in Edmonton, Penhold and Airdrie before ending at a +700-person rally in north east Calgary.

It was a strong kick-off.

Sawhney’s campaign is being run by well-known political strategist and conservative thinker Ken Boessenkool, who worked as an advisor to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former BC Premier Christy Clark.

Her former chief of staff (and former Daveberta Podcast co-host) Ryan Hastman is her deputy campaign manager.

Angela Pitt MLA Airdrie-East UCP
Angela Pitt (source: Facebook)

Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt is Sawhney’s campaign chair.

It’s an odd fit for a leadership candidate who appears to be trying to position herself as a political moderate (no word if South Tyrol-like autonomy for Alberta will be in her platform).

Pitt endorsed Brian Jean for the UCP leadership 2017, and even have him credit for her entry into politics.

This time she’s backing Sawhney.

Jean is launching his campaign at a hotel in west Edmonton tomorrow. 

Autonomy for Albertans is Jean’s slogan, not Anatomy for Albertans, as this writer first thought he read.

The former Wildrose Party leader launched his second political comeback in last year’s Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election with the singular purpose of defeating Kenney in the leadership review and run to replace him.

He’s met half his goal so far.

Another former Wildrose leader, Danielle Smith is also trying for her second political comeback after a short and disastrous stint on the Calgary Board of Education in the late 1990s and as Wildrose Party leader from 2009 until she infamously abandoned her party to join Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservatives in 2014.

For many conservatives, especially those of the Wildrose-variety, it is a betrayal that will live in infamy.

The leadership is only one-half of Smith’s comeback attempt. 

She’s also challenging MLA Roger Reid for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod, which appears far from a safe-bet.

Rebecca Schulz United Conservative Party leadership candidate
Rebecca Schulz (source: Facebook)

First-term south Calgary MLA Rebecca Schulz stepped down as Children’s Services Minister to jump into the race.

Schulz wants to take on what she describes as “the boys club.”

She has the backing of Calgary City Councillor Dan McLean, Health Minister Jason Copping, UCP MLAs Michaela Frey and Jeremy Nixon, MPs Laila Goodridge and Stephanie Kusie, former federal Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose and former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall. 

The Wall endorsement might seem odd, but he endorsed Schulz in her bid to win the hotly contested Calgary-Shaw UCP nomination race back in 2018.

The Saskatchewan native was a spokesperson in Wall’s government before moving to Alberta in the mid-2010s, and her husband, Cole Schulz, was a ministerial chief of staff in Regina (he’s now the Vice President, Communications for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in Calgary).

UCP MLA Leela Aheer, who was ousted from cabinet for calling on Kenney to resign, is in and wants to “defeat the machines.”

“I think Albertans will defeat the machines. They understand what the machine is. They’re frustrated with the machine,” she told reporters.

She’s also facing a strong nomination challenge in her Chestermere-Strathmore riding.

Northern Alberta UCP MLA-in-exile Todd Loewen also jumped into the race, as did Village of Amisk Mayor Bill Rock, another former Wildrose Party candidate.

But one of the big potential contenders, Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, is playing coy. 

Maybe she’ll run. Maybe she won’t.

Her text message reply to Press Gallery Dean Don Braid was “hahahaha!”

Raj Sherman MLA
Raj Sherman

And the hot gossip in political circles today is that erratic former Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman is thinking about joining the fray. 

Sherman was first elected as a PC MLA in 2008 but was driven out of that party and scooped up the Liberal leadership in 2011. He left politics in 2015 and returned to being full-time ER doctor. 

He also donated $4,000 to the Alberta Party last year.

So it’s a scramble. It’s a dog’s breakfast.

And there could be more.

We’ll know soon enough.

July 20 is the deadline for candidates to pay up if they want to stay in the race.

The high-entry fee will quickly weed out candidates who can’t raise enough money.

August 12 is the deadline to buy a membership.

No time for the two-minute Tories who wreaked havoc against the establishment candidates in the old PC Party leadership races.

The party is also organizing debates and attendance by all candidates is mandatory.

Stragglers will risk be fined or disqualified, or both.

It’s no Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, but it’s bound to be entertaining to watch.


Liberal Party seeks new leader

The Alberta Liberal Party also announced that it will be holding their own leadership vote and choosing a new leader on September 25, 2022.

Former party leader David Khan stepped down in November 2020 after failing to win a seat in the 2019 election, marking the first time since before 1986 that the provincial Liberals not represented in the Legislature.

Party stalwart John Roggeveen has filled the spot as interim leader since March 2021.

The race has no candidates as of yet. The second place finisher from the 2017 leadership race, Kerry Cundal, is running for the Alberta Party in Calgary-Elbow.


And don’t forget to sign up for my Substack at daveberta.substack.com.

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Alberta Politics

The First Four: Travis Toews, Brian Jean, Danielle Smith and Todd Loewen enter the United Conservative Party leadership race

The race has started.

Four candidates have filed their intent with Elections Alberta to join the race to replace Jason Kenney as leader of the United Conservative Party:

Travis Toews: Finance Minister since 2019. MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti since 2019. Former president of the Canadian Cattleman’s Association. Looks comfortable in a business suit or Carhartts. Sounds like the adult in the room but is connected to a northern Alberta Bible college with some fairly backwards views about yoga and same-sex relationships. Probably one of the more hardline fiscal conservatives in the UCP cabinet. Grand champion of the 1976 4-H calf show in Hythe. Likely UCP establishment favourite.

Brian Jean United Conservative Party Leadership Wildrose
Brian Jean during his 2017 bid for the United Conservative Party leadership.

Brian Jean: Leader of the Wildrose Party from 2015 to 2017. Target of a kamikaze campaign during the 2017 UCP leadership race. MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche since 2022. MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin from 2015 to 2018. MP for Fort McMurray-Athabasca from 2004 to 2014. Toyed with COVID skepticism and Alberta separatism. Jason Kenney’s worst enemy. Lawyer, businessman and Golden Boy of Fort McMurray.

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

Danielle Smith: Leader of the Wildrose Party from 2009 to 2014. MLA for Highwood from 2012 to 2015. Crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservative Party in 2014. Calgary public school trustee from 1998 to 1999. Alumna of the Fraser Institute, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Calgary Herald, Global TV, and Chorus Radio. Current President of the Alberta Enterprise Group. Running for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. Embraced COVID conspiracy theories.

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

Todd Loewen: MLA for Central Peace-Notley since 2019. MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky from 2015 to 2019 and Wildrose candidate in the riding in 2008 and 2012. Resigned as UCP Caucus chair in 2021 after calling on Kenney to resign and was kicked out of caucus the next day. Formed a UCP Caucus-in-exile with fellow ousted MLA Drew Barnes. Drove his motorhome in the Freedom Convoy to Ottawa. Renowned in the UCP Caucus for his pancake cooking skills.

These four have registered others are expected.

Rajan Sawhney

Transportation Minister and Calgary-North East MLA Rajan Sawhney has tapped longtime conservative strategist Ken Boessenkool to run her exploratory committee.

“[W]hat this race needs right now is just not more of the same,” Sawhney told reporters in a statement.

Children’s Services Minister and Calgary-Shaw MLA Rebecca Schultz isn’t in the race yet but already has an endorsement from former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall. Schultz worked for Wall’s government before she moved to Alberta in 2016.

Government House leader and chief Kenney lieutenant Jason Nixon is rumoured to be thinking about running.

So are former cabinet ministers Leela Aheer and Devin Dreeshen.

And Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner is rumoured to be testing the waters. She would be an interesting addition to the race, though recent history has not been kind to federal politicians jumping into provincial politics in Alberta.

The party has appointed a committee that is expected to release rules, entry requirements and timelines for the leadership race before the beginning of summer.

UDPATE! Village of Amisk mayor Bill Rock has registered with Elections Alberta to run in the UCP leadership race. Rock was the Wildrose Party candidate in the Wetaskiwin-Camrose riding in the 2015 election. He was parachuted into the riding after previously nominated candidate Gordon Hatch withdrew from the race and endorsed PC MLA Verlyn Olson following Danielle Smith‘s floor-crossing.

Note: Registering as a candidate with Elections Alberta does not mean automatic approval as a candidate by the UCP. Registering with Election Alberta allows the candidates to fundraise under Alberta’s current political finance rules.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney is a bad Premier.

There is no doubt that Jason Kenney changed the face of Alberta politics when he jumped into provincial politics in 2017.

He succeeded in leading the merger of the Wildrose opposition with the Progressive Conservatives remanent into the United Conservative Party.

And, for a period, he was able to convince the two warring factions to put aside their differences and focus on a higher goal: winning the 2019 election.

And it worked.

At least it did for a time.

The UCP won a big majority, but quickly discovered that all those things the PCs and Wildrosers didn’t like about each other still existed, but now they were in the same party.

Last night, Kenney announced his plans to step down as UCP leader after getting a weak 51.4 per cent endorsement an acrimonious, divisive and drawn-out leadership review.

How did we get here so fast?

The COVID-19 pandemic definitely derailed Kenney and his party, but that wasn’t his only mistake.

Let’s look back at the chaos of the past three years.

Kenney’s much promoted Open for Summer plan in 2021 alienated a large swath of Albertans who were uncomfortable with removing public health restrictions so quickly and haphazardly just for the Calgary Stampede.

Rachel Notley’s NDP were riding high in the polls and fundraising, and to a lot of Albertans it looked like Kenney was dropping the COVID-19 restrictions to fast to save his party’s fortunes and his own leadership.

But being forced to backtrack and reintroduce restrictions when COVID-19 cases and deaths predictably skyrocketed and hospitals and ICUs overflowed only served to alienate a growing group right-wing populists and Freedom Truckers who were then highly motivated to defeat Kenney in the leadership review.

Despite flirting with right-wing populism before the 2019 election and during his time as Premier, Kenney is not a populist.

Kenney is probably far more comfortable discussing the works of Ludwig von Mises in the salons of the Manhattan Institute than driving a big blue truck around rural Alberta.

He sold Albertans, and conservative activists, a bill of goods that he could not deliver on.

But again, it wasn’t just COVID-19 that sealed his fate in the leadership review

If Kenney had not been so deeply unpopular with Albertans and if the UCP hadn’t been trailing the NDP in almost every poll since late 2020, he would have had a stronger hand to play.

But he didn’t.

Let’s look at why.

Somewhere along the line Kenney and his ministers began to believe that the big electoral mandate they got in 2019 meant they could impose their platform with abandon and, perhaps fatally, not have to listen to Albertans who started pushing back.

While Kenney’s opponents were always going to oppose his plans to privatize health care and schools, it wasn’t just NDP partisans who pushed back.

It was normal Albertans.

And Kenney didn’t seem to realize this.

Kenney and Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon’s plans to close and sell more than 140 provincial parks sparked a province-wide lawn sign campaign that crossed the partisan divide.

After months of actively dismissing and attacking opponents of these plans, the UCP government was forced to back down.

The UCP’s eagerness to open the Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining produced a similar backlash.

Kenney and Energy Minister Sonya Savage pushed forward, again dismissing the opposition, which included dozens of southern Alberta municipal councils and country music artists like Corb Lund, Paul Brandt and Terri Clark, until they were forced to back down.

Kenney and Health Minster Tyler Shandro picked big fights with nurses and doctors during the pandemic, which almost certainly undermined public confidence in the government’s ability to handle the pandemic.

Kenney and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange were almost engaged in daily fights with teachers, even when the safety of children during the pandemic was the biggest concern for almost every Alberta parent.

Alberta can already be a notoriously difficult place to govern, but at times it looked like the UCP was actively trying to make it more difficult.

And then there were the scandals.

The kamikaze campaign.

The RCMP investigation.

Shandro yelling at a doctor in his driveway.

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu phoning the chief of police after getting a traffic ticket.

Lawsuits alleging of drinking and sexual harassment of political staff by cabinet ministers.

Alohagate.

The Sky Palace patio party.

Betting and losing $1.3 billion on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

And the theatrics.

The Energy War Room staffed by UCP-insiders.

The late and over budget Allan Inquiry into nefarious foreign interference that found nothing illegal.

A referendum about equalization that was always going to be ignored by Ottawa, and ironically, was ignored by most Albertans.

The never ending legal challenges against the federal government.

And then there’s the curriculum.

Pledging during the 2019 campaign to take ideology and politics out of the draft K-12 curriculum, Kenney’s government injected new levels of weird and outdated ideology.

Panned by teachers, reviled by curriculum experts, and mocked internationally as age-inappropriate, outdated, Eurocentric, jargon-riddled, inaccurate, unconcerned with developing critical thinking skills, and rife with plagiarism, is how columnist David Climenhaga described it.

And then there’s that thing about Kenney’s grandfather, Mart Kenney, showing up in the curriculum, which felt like weird pandering by the programme’s authors.

We never got a glimpse into who Kenney really is or anything about his life outside of politics really.

Aside from politics, we don’t really know what makes him tick.

We know he rented a room in mother’s basement, enjoys listening to Gregorian chants and is a devout Roman Catholic, but that’s almost all we were allowed to see.

Not that we are owed any more.

Politicians deserve their privacy but Kenney’s weird blank slate outside of politics probably contributed to him being not very relatable to most Albertans.

So it becomes a trust thing.

Kenney is popular with many white collar conservatives and former staffers in Ottawa who have fond memories of his two decades as a determined opposition critic and hard-working cabinet minister.

Many of them see him a kind of Philosopher King of Canadian Conservatism.

But whatever charm worked inside the Queensway didn’t translate in the Premier’s Office.

Maybe being a trusted lieutenant to Prime Minster Stephen Harper was a quite different job than being Premier of Alberta?

Someone who has known Kenney for a long time once told me that they believed one of his biggest weaknesses is that he still saw Alberta politics through a 1990s lens.

I’m not sure I totally believe that but I think there’s a hint of truth to it.

And it might be why he has misread Albertans so badly over the past three years.

Kenney got his start in Alberta politics in the early 1990s as the founding spokesperson of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

It was a heady time for deficit hawks and social conservatives, and Kenney frequently engaged in very public quarrels with then-Premier Ralph Klein over government expenses.

The young conservative activist with a trademark Nixonian five-o’clock shadow pioneered the CTF soundbite machine with great success.

It’s where he cut his teeth in politics.

Thirty-years later, Kenney will soon be ending the latest phase of his political career in the same building where he started.

But this time he might not be coming back.


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Categories
Alberta Politics

51.4% isn’t enough. Jason Kenney stepping down as UCP leader.

Premier Jason Kenney is done.

Kenney stunned political watchers by announcing he is stepping down as leader of the United Conservative Party after getting the support of only 51.4 per cent of members in the leadership review.

He had claimed last week that 50%+1 was enough for him to stay, but that obviously wasn’t enough.

It wouldn’t have worked.

It was the weakest of mandates.

UCP President Cynthia Moore speaking about the leadership review process.

Winning by such a narrow margin was probably the worst case scenario for Kenney.

With 51.4 per cent there is no way Kenney could have confidently walked into tomorrow morning’s UCP Caucus meeting and commanded the loyalty of the party’s MLAs.

There’s no way he could have demanded his opponents fall in line or leave the party. 

So, he’s resigning. 

The UCP is deeply divided and the leadership race was and acrimonious end to Kenney’s three years in the Premier’s Office.

But he might have been the biggest obstacle standing in the way of the party moving forward in any positive way with one year left before the provincial election.

The aggressive and in-your-face reactions from Kenney and his political staff to any criticism of his agenda has made him deeply unpopular with almost every single voting demographic in Alberta. 

And it dragged down his party.

UCP returning officer Rick Orman announcing the results of the leadership review.

Kenney leaving avoids the inevitably showdown between him and his opponents in caucus that would have likely divided the party even further.

He’ll leave that showdown to someone else.

Now the UCP will have to choose a new leader. 

It’s not clear whether Kenney will resign immediately and be replaced by an interim leader or whether he will stay on as Premier until a leadership race is held. 

We’ll find out soon. 

Names that immediately come to mind for potential interim leaders are Nate Horner, Sonya Savage, Nathan Neudorf, Ric McIver, Rajan Sawhney and Nate Glubish – all MLAs who probably won’t run for the permanent job.

And that’s where things get interesting, or troubling, depending on your point of view. 

While Kenney was unpopular across the board, his biggest critics inside his party come from the unruly political-right – and they are mostly unhappy with how he handled the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kenney called them “lunatics.”

Former Wildrose leaders Brian Jean and Danielle Smith and exiled UCP MLA Drew Barnes probably fall pretty neatly into this column. 

They both want the job. 

Then there’s the Kenney loyalists.

Doug Schweitzer endorsed Kenney last week. He’s expected to run.

Jason Nixon is Kenney’s chief lieutenant. He’s said to be eying the job.

Travis Toews is also in Kenney’s inner circle. He’s said to have supporters who have been quietly preparing a run for months.

And then there’s Members of Parliament Shannon Stubbs and Michelle Rempel Garner. They haven’t said they’d run, but their names get mentioned when you talk to UCP supporters.

There will be others.

Kenney didn’t specifically say he wouldn’t try to reclaim his job in a leadership race. But even if his political career isn’t over, it seems unlikely right now that he’d try to reclaim the UCP leadership.

It’s an unceremonious result for the popular former federal cabinet minister and darling of movement conservatives who jumped into provincial politics six years ago to build a new conservative party.

It is a big change from three years ago, when Kenney led the newly minted UCP to defeat Rachel Notley’s NDP and win a big majority government.

On that election night he looked unstoppable.

Long gone are the days when anyone in Alberta politics is unstoppable.


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Categories
Alberta Politics

Richard Bruneau wins NDP contest in Camrose, Walker-McKitrick rematch being set up in Sherwood Park, NDP MLAs flock to Battleground Calgary

‘Three candidates are contesting the NDP nomination contest in Camrose’ are not a series of words I imagined writing even a year ago, yet here we are.

Business owner and former diplomat Richard Bruneau defeated Registered Psychiatric Nurse Tonya Ratushniak and educational assistant and recent city council candidate Wyatt Tanton to win the NDP nomination in Camrose. 

“When attending Augustana their motto was ‘to lead and to serve,’ and this is my vision of how I would like to lead and lift people up in the community. A vision I believe Alberta’s NDP embodies,” Bruneau said in a press release announcing his win. “The UCP has not been serving the people of Alberta, and the pandemic highlighted the short-signed failures of UCP policy. Camrose deserves better than the UCP.”

Jackie Lovely MLA Camrose UCP
Jackie Lovely

Bruneau is a bookstore owner, farmer, former lecturer at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus and a former Canadian diplomat who served in Afghanistan, Jordan and Palestine. He lives with his family on a cattle farm.

Bruneau was joined by Edmonton-North West MLA David Eggen at the nomination meeting and by Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin at a meet and greet in Camrose today.

The riding is currently represented by United Conservative Party MLA Jackie Lovely, who was first elected in 2019 with 65.2 per cent of the vote. This was Lovely’s third attempt at winning a seat in the Legislature, the first two being as the Wildrose Party candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012 and 2015. 

Lovely is being challenged for the UCP nomination by Beaver County Reeve Kevin Smook, who earned 12.8 per cent of the vote as the Alberta Party candidate in the riding in 2019.

The previous Wetaskiwin-Camrose riding was represented by NDP MLA Bruce Hinkley from 2015 to 2019 before it was redistributed into the current riding. Hinkley ran for re-election in the neighbouring Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin riding and was defeated by UCP candidate Rick Wilson.

Walker-McKitrick rematch being set up in Sherwood Park

Jordan Walker MLA Sherwood Park UCP
Jordan Walker

First-term UCP MLA Jordan Walker is seeking his party’s nomination for re-election in Sherwood Park.

The UCP backbencher was first elected in one of the closer races in Edmonton’s surrounding suburbs in 2019 by narrowly unseating NDP MLA Annie McKitrick. 

The stage is being set for a rematch in 2023, with McKitrick announcing last week that she plans to seek the NDP nomination to challenge Walker in the next election. This is a riding the NDP will need to win to form government. 

Gurinder Singh Gill running for NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross

Gurinder Singh Gill is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Cross. Gill previously ran as the federal NDP candidate in Calgary-Skyview in the 2019 and 2021 elections. He placed third with 16.2 per cent of the vote behind victorious Liberal George Chahal and incumbent Conservative MP Jag Sahota in the last federal election.

The east Calgary riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Mickey Amery, who was elected in 2019 with 54.2 per cent by unseating NDP cabinet minister Ricardo Miranda, who finished second with 37.3 per cent.

Amery is the son of Moe Amery, who represented the neighbouring Calgary-East riding from 1993 until his defeat in the 2015 election.

MLA Guthrie endorses Danielle Smith’s challenging Roger Reid

Peter Guthrie MLA Airdrie-Cochrane UCP Communism
Peter Guthrie

Airdrie-Cochrane UCP MLA Peter Guthrie has endorsed former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith’s bid for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. Smith is challenging Guthrie’s caucus colleague Roger Reid for the nomination. 

Smith is wasting no time making her mark in UCP circles as she eyes the nomination and the party leadership.

Tonight she will join Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan, a vocal Kenney critic, and former Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson to discuss the “Free Alberta Strategy.” And on April 23 she is joining Independent MLA Todd Loewen for a “Politics Uncensored” event in Three Hills.

Loewen is a former UCP Caucus chair who booted from the UCP Caucus in May 2021 after he publicly called on Premier Jason Kenney to resign.

Meanwhile, demonstrating how much bad blood remains between Smith and many UCP activists as a result of the 2014 Wildrose floor crossings, a Twitter account run by staff in Kenney’s office attacked Smith (and Brian Jean) by proclaiming that “I’ve always found it surprising that two people whose only track record is losing general elections, somehow feel they have all the answers.”

The “@UniteAlberta” twitter account is run by Deputy Director of  Government Communications and Speechwriter Harrison Fleming, who is currently on leave to work on Kenney’s leadership campaign.

Other senior staff on leave to work on their boss’s leadership review campaign are Chief of Staff Pam Livingston, Executive Director of Communications and Planning Brock Harrison, and Issues Manager Chad Hallman. 

Meanwhile, the former Wildrose leader and Kenney-foe has been sworn-in as an MLA the Legislature. Newly elected Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean has rejoined UCP Caucus he left in 2018.

CBC reporter Michelle Bellefontaine tweeted today that Jean said Kenney has not spoken to him since he was elected as a UCP MLA in March.

NDP MLAs flock to Calgary

Rakhi Pancholi NDP Edmonton Whitemud
Rakhi Pancholi

Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi will be nominated as her party’s candidate for re-election tonight.

“This community has shared with me their wisdom, their experiences, their hopes, and have trusted me to be their voice in the legislature,” said Pancholi. “I want to continue to work hard to help the families of this community – and across Alberta – seize the opportunities available for us to have a strong economic recovery.”

And with the next provincial election just over a year away, she, like most NDP MLAs, are spending a lot of time in Calgary – the expected battleground of the next election.

Janet Eremenko, Rachel Notley, and Rakhi Pancholi.

Pancholi was spotted door knocking in Calgary-Acadia with nomination candidate and Registered Nurse Diana Batten, and with NDP leader Rachel Notley and local candidate Janet Eremenko in Calgary-Currie.

Notley has been spending a lot of time in Calgary, including on the doors this week with Calgary-Edgemont candidate Julia Hayter. Notley will be headlining an April 9 nomination rally in Calgary-East where teacher Rosman Valencia is expected to be acclaimed.

Eggen was spotted door-knocking with MLA Joe Ceci in Calgary-Buffalo and candidate Gurinder Brar in Calgary-North East

Irwin and Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman are planning to join NDP nomination candidate Marilyn North Peigan on the doors this weekend in the Tuxedo Park neighbourhood in Calgary-Klein. Irwin is also scheduled to spend time door-knocking with Eremenko in Calgary-Currie and Hayter in Calgary-Edgemont.


The following nomination meetings have been scheduled.

• Calgary-East NDP: April 9, 2022
• Edmonton-Mill Woods NDP: April 10, 2022
• Leduc-Beaumont NDP: April 13, 2022
• Morinville-St. Albert NDP: April 30, 2022
• Calgary-Glenmore: May 10, 2022

Categories
Alberta Politics

The Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election and the Alberta Politics Time Machine™

The calm before the storm. The deep breath before the plunge.

Tomorrow is the day.

Tomorrow is by-election day in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

They’ve been overshadowed by Jason Kenney’s leadership review, the occupation of Ottawa, a blockade at Coutts, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but tomorrow the people of northern Alberta’s famed boom town get their say.

They get to choose an MLA.

Brian Jean Wildrose Leader
Brian Jean

Brian Jean is the favourite to win.

He’s the former MLA, former MP, and former leader of the Wildrose Party.

He’s Fort Mac’s golden boy.

Now he’s the United Conservative Party candidate.

He’s also Jason Kenney’s worst enemy and if he wins he’ll become an even bigger thorn in the Premier’s side ahead of the April 9 leadership review.

Kenney beat Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership race and is now openly campaigning against him in the leadership review.

Jean isn’t the only anti-Kenney candidate in the race.

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

NDP candidate Ariana Mancini is campaigning hard.

The NDP are cautiously optimistic about their chances but it’s a real long shot and know they are the underdog.

Even with the NDP leading the UCP by 15 points in province-wide polls and Kenney’s approval ratings in free fall, there is still a big gap to close in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

The UCP won the riding with 66 per cent of the vote in 2019.

Competing with Jean for disaffected conservative voters is another former Wildrose Party leader, Paul Hinman.

Hinman now leads the separatist Wildrose Independence Party.

He’s another long-shot candidate.

He’s also living proof that by-elections can produce weird and unpredictable results.

What do I mean?

Hop in and join me in the Alberta Politics Time Machine™.

Paul Hinman Wildrose Independence Party MLA
Paul Hinman

One year after Hinman was lost his Cardston-Taber-Warner seat in the 2008 general election he shocked political watchers by winning a by-election in posh Calgary-Glenmore in the city’s southwest.

It was a real country-mouse-becomes-city-mouse situation.

But Hinman isn’t the only example of how by-elections can be sometimes have shocking results.

The Liberals stunned political watchers when Craig Cheffins won in the Calgary-Elbow by-election to replace retired Premier Ralph Klein in 2007.

Alberta Party leader Greg Clark very nearly repeated history in 2014 when he placed a painfully close second to PC cabinet minister Gord Dirks in another Calgary-Elbow by-election.

“But Dave,” you say, “aren’t those just fancy urban Calgary ridings?”

Hold on.

There’s more.

The Liberals won the 1992 by-election in Three Hills.

Yes. That’s right. Three. Hills.

Laurence Decore Alberta Liberal Leader
Laurence Decore

Deficit hawk Liberal leader Laurence Decore recruited farm realtor Don MacDonald in that by-election.

It was a sign of how well the Liberals were doing as much as how poorly the old Progressive Conservatives had tumbled under Don Getty’s beleaguered premiership.

“This is the heartland of Conservative Alberta,” Decore told a boisterous crowd of supporters in Three Hills on the night of MacDonald’s win.

He won with a stunning 2,476 lead over the second place Social Credit candidate.

The PC placed third.

“This is rural Alberta. This is where it’s not supposed to happen. This is where Liberals are supposed to be the anathema of everything that this area stands for,” Decore said. “Not only are we winning but we’re winning handsomely.”

The Liberals even came within a hair of winning a by-election in Little Bow a few months earlier.

Yes. Little. Bow.

That’s the deep south and it’s where conservatives usually win big.

The Reform Party of Canada was on the rise and, just like Three Hills a few months later, Reformers were split between the provincial Liberals and Tories in that by-election.

Reformer-turned-Liberal Donna Graham finished 262 votes behind Reformer-turned-Tory winner Barry MacFarland.

It was a close race.

Gordon Kesler
Gordon Kesler

And then there’s the big by-election win that people always talk about when Alberta separatism periodically peaks in the polls: Western Canada Concept’s Gordon Kesler winning the 1982 Olds-Didsbury by-election.

It was the only time a separatist party candidate has been elected to the Alberta Legislature.

People were mad.

Mad at Pierre Trudeau.

Mad at Peter Lougheed.

And boy did they show it.

But Kesler only had a few months as an MLA before Lougheed shifted gears and steamrolled the WCC into electoral oblivion in the November 1982 general election.

Ok. Buckle up.

Let’s take the time machine back even further.

Young PC candidate Bill Yurko stole the Strathcona East seat vacated by retired Premier Ernest Manning in 1969, foreshadowing the demise of Social Credit only a few years later.

Even the New Democrats have squeaked in a surprise by-election win, though you’ll have to go way back to find it.

Pincher Creek-Crowsnest. 1966.

Garth Turcott becomes the first Alberta NDP MLA in the province’s history.

It was a seat with a proud history of radical coal miner unionism, socialism and communism but like most of Alberta it had been held in the tight grip of the Socreds for over three decades.

Turcott’s team brought in a professional organizer and used new campaigning techniques like “doorknocking.”

Federal NDP leader Tommy Douglas even lent Turcott’s campaign a hand and drew hundreds of people to a by-election rally in the riding.

NDP leader Neil Reimer and first ever NDP MLA Garth Turcott shortly after his 1966 by-election win.

Douglas roasted Premier Ernest Manning for standing in the way of public health care.

“He has been the spearpoint of the attack on medicare,” Douglas said of the Alberta Premier.

It’s probably how Rachel Notley would describe Jason Kenney today. She’d be right.

But that’s for another column.

Slide back to the present. March 14, 2022.

What a wild ride.

I’d love to take the time machine to tomorrow night to see how the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election turns out but our tank is almost empty (and radioactive plutonium almost costs as much as a tank of gas these days!).

So we’ll have to take a big deep breath and wait to see if Brian Jean reclaims his old seat tomorrow night.

It might be a Jean slam dunk, but as we just saw on our little journey through Alberta history – sometimes by-elections can have unexpected results.

Voting stations are open from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election takes a backseat to Red Deer UCP Leadership Review

The people of Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche waited six whole months for Premier Jason Kenney to call a by-election to choose their next MLA.

That’s an eternity in politics.

But the by-election in the northern Alberta boom town isn’t really about the people who actually live there.

It’s about who leads the United Conservative Party.

Former Wildrose leader Brian Jean is running as an anti-Kenney UCP candidate.

Jean beat Kenney’s favourite in a December nomination vote and has made no secret his desire to replace him as leader.

In fact, every candidate in this by-election is running against Kenney. It’s the reason why the Premier won’t be seen anywhere near Fort McMurray before the March 15 vote.

But Jean’s focus isn’t really on Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

It’s on Red Deer.

The by-election is a proxy war ahead of the UCP’s April 9 leadership review.

Jean loyalist Vitor Marciano was in Bonnyville last month with local MLA Dave Hanson talking about why UCP members should dump Kenney.

“On April 9, we’re voting out a tyrant,” former Kenney organizer David Parker said at the meeting.

You can listen to it here.

Parker was Kenney’s Central Alberta organizer in the 2017 leadership race. 

Now, Parker is the executive director of Take Back Alberta, a political action committee created to defeat Kenney in the leadership review.

Until recently, Parker was Vice President of Business Development for Higher Ground Medica.

The President and CEO of the Oyen-based Cannabis company is Jeff Callaway.

Yep. That Jeff Callaway.

Alberta politics is a very small world.

Another front in the challenge to Kenney’s leadership is raging on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains in the sprawling Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding. 

Jean joined exiled former UCP MLA Drew Barnes in backing former county councillor Tim Hoven against MLA Jason Nixon in the UCP nomination race.

“Tim Hoven has stepped up to do a brave thing,” Jean said in his Facebook video endorsement of Hoven.

Nixon is a heavy hitter in Kenney’s inner circle.

He’s the Government House Leader and Minister of Environment & Parks. 

The Giant from Sundre backed Kenney over Jean in the UCP’s 2017 leadership race – an endorsement that was a critical moment in that contest.

His absence in the Legislature last week was conspicuous.

Rumour is that Nixon was busy driving around his riding campaigning for the nomination.

In the deep south, Jean has endorsed Vulcan County councillor Jodie Gateman in the Cardston-Siksika UCP nomination race.

Gateman is the long-time conservative activist challenging UCP Deputy Government House Leader Joseph Schow, another well-known Kenney loyalist.

“She stepped up because she sees the need to change things in the UCP, the need to bring renewal and take the party back to its original sense of purpose,” Jean said in his endorsement of Gateman.

Back up in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, where the by-election is actually happening, NDP candidate Ariana Mancini is busy hitting the doors.

The local elementary school teacher has been joined on the campaign trail by Edmonton NDP MLAs Rakhi Pancholi, Richard Feehan and David Eggen.

“Folks in Fort McMurray have had enough of the drama and the infighting in the UCP,” Mancini said at her February 15 campaign launch.

“We need a government that is focused on families and businesses here in our community,” Mancini said.

Rachel Notley’s NDP are putting in an effort but it’s a long-shot for them. The last time voters in this part of Alberta elected a New Democrat was 1986.

Jean is the favourite to win but by-elections are a funny thing.

Enter Paul Hinman on stage right.

Another former Wildrose Party leader, Hinman is now leading the separatist Wildrose Independence Party.

He’s also running in the by-election.

Hinman and Jean are competing for the love of the Freedom Convoy supporters by promoting conspiracy theories about COVID-19, the World Economic Forum and the Emergency Measures Act.

Hinman has a history of winning by-elections (well ok, one).

After losing his seat in Cardston-Taber-Warner in 2008 he shocked political watchers by winning a by-election one year later in posh Calgary-Glenmore.

A political comeback for Hinman up north would be an earthquake for Alberta politics.

A split on the increasingly unhinged political right could give the increasingly moderate NDP a chance to run up the middle to a win.

When the history books are written, the Fort McMuray-Lac La Biche by-election might just be a footnote in the chapter about the April 9 leadership review.

Or maybe, just maybe, the results on March 15 will grab the attention of Albertans. 


Candidates in the March 15 Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.

  • Marilyn Burns, Alberta Advantage Party
  • Brian Deheer, Independent
  • Abdulhakim Hussein, Liberal Party
  • Michelle Landsiedel, Alberta Party
  • Ariana Mancini, Alberta NDP
  • Steven Mellott, Independence Party
  • Brian Jean, United Conservative Party