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Alberta Politics

Wildrose Recall Bill would let 20% of voters overturn a fair and democratic election

A private members bill proposed by Chestermere-Rockyview Wildrose Party MLA Leela Aheer would allow 20 percent of eligible voters – a significant minority of eligible voters – the ability to overturn the results of a previously held fair and democratic election.

Leela Aheer Wildrose MLA Chestermere Rockyview
Leela Aheer

Bill 206: Recall Act, which passed first reading on Nov. 26, 2015, would create an MLA recall mechanism that could force a by-election in a provincial constituency if 20 percent of eligible voters from the previous election sign a petition demanding so.

If we were to have recall laws in Alberta, the threshold for overturning the results of a general election should be much higher than the 20 percent of eligible voters proposed in Ms. Aheer’s private members bill. A small minority of eligible voters should not have the power to overturn the results of a fair and democratic election.

The 20 percent requirement proposed in Bill 206 is also much lower compared to any previous recall proposals in Alberta.

Private members bills proposing the creation of recall laws in Alberta’s recent history have all come from opposition MLAs and all called for a significantly higher percentage of voters to sign the recall petition. Three private members bills introduced by Liberal MLAs in the 1990s called for recall to be triggered with the signatures of 40 percent of voters. A private members bill introduced by a Wildrose MLA in 2010 lowered the bar to 33.3 percent.

The only province with recall laws, British Columbia, requires signatures from more than 40 percent of eligible voters. B.C. adopted recall laws after it was approved through a province-wide referendum in 1991.

Even when Alberta briefly had MLA recall laws, from 1936 to 1937, signatures were required from 66.6 percent of voters to trigger a by-election.

One reason behind the low percentage in this bill is that it could make it easier for the conservative opposition to target and trigger by-elections in rural constituencies represented by NDP MLAs. In rural ridings where NDP candidates were elected in tight races, the low 20 percent threshold in Ms. Aheer’s Bill 206 would equal almost the same amount of votes received by Wildrose candidates in the recent election.

  • In Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley, only 3,278 signatures would be needed to trigger a recall by-election under Bill 206. The Wildrose Party candidate earned 3,147 votes in that riding and NDP candidate Marg McCuaig-Boyd earned 3,692 votes.
  • In Lesser Slave Lake, NDP candidate Danielle Larivee was elected with 3,915 votes compared to the Wildrose candidate’s 3,198 votes. Twenty per cent of eligible voters would equal 3,812 votes.

Of course, Wildrose and Progressive Conservative MLAs could also become targets of the recall laws, though it is unlikely the NDP majority – like the previous Conservative majority – would ever support this bill.

In my opinion, Albertans had an opportunity to vote in a general election seven months ago and cast their ballots for candidates with the understanding they would serve as MLAs for the next four to five years. As the results of the 2015 election proved, when we are motivated by tired and arrogant governments, Albertans can be trusted to elect a new government. In 2019, Albertans will once again have an opportunity to cast their ballots and choose who will represent their individual constituencies.

A brief history of recall laws in Alberta

1936: Bill No. 76 of 1936: A Bill Providing for the Recall of Members of the Legislative Assembly was introduced by the Social Credit government and passed after their surprising win in the 1935 election. The bill required 66.6 percent of voters to sign a petition to trigger a recall by-election.

1937: The law was repealed by the Social Credit government after a group of disgruntled Albertans was thought to have collected enough signatures to recall Premier William Aberhart in his Okotoks-High River constituency.

1993: Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Gary Dickson introduced Bill 203: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. The bill was defeated in a 42-34 vote in the Legislature.

1995: Edmonton-Meadowlark Liberal MLA Karen Leibovici introduced Bill 224: Parliamentary Reform and Electoral Review Commission Act, which would have created a commission to study a handful of issues, including recall. The bill passed first reading but was never debated.

1996: Lethbridge-East Liberal MLA Ken Nicol introduced Bill 206: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. This bill was defeated in a 37-24 vote in the Legislature.

1997Bill 216, Recall Act was introduced by Edmonton-Manning Liberal MLA Ed Gibbons but was never debated in the Legislature. If passed into law, the bill would have trigged a recall by-election if 40 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one

2010Calgary-Glenmore Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman introduced Bill 208: Recall Act, which would have trigged a recall by-election if 33 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one. Reached second reading but was not debated further.

2015: Chestermere-Rockyview Wildrose MLA Leela Aheer introduces Bill 206: Recall Act, which would trigger a recall by-election if 20 percent of eligible voters signed a petition demanding one

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Alberta Politics

Alberta NDP should tap the brakes on Bill 6, its new Farm and Ranch Safety law

The Alberta government needs to rethink its approach to overhauling safety laws on family farms and ranches. Since it was introduced in the Legislature on Nov. 17, confusion about Bill 6: Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act has triggered a significant backlash from Albertans in rural communities across the province.

Bill 6 would expand sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Workers’ Compensation Act, Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code to apply to farm worksites. If Bill 6 is approved by the Legislature, WCB coverage will be mandatory and farms and ranches in Alberta will no longer be exempt from OHS laws. Alberta is currently the only province without employment standards coverage for farm and ranch workers.

Around 200 protesters gathered at the Alberta Legislature on Nov. 27, 2015.
Around 200 protesters gathered at the Alberta Legislature on Nov. 27, 2015.

Nearly 400 angry farmers showed up to voice their concerns about Bill 6 at a government-organized town hall meeting in Grande Prairie last week. The event was hosted by public servants and consultants with no MLAs in attendance. Western Producer reporter Mary MacArthur reported this week that MLAs will be present at future town hall meetings planned for Red Deer, Okotoks, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Leduc, Vegreville, Olds and Athabasca.

Close to 200 people, along with 2 ponies, 1 border collie and 1 turkey (see above), staged an afternoon protest against Bill 6 outside the Alberta Legislature on Nov. 27, 2015. To their credit, Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Minister Lori Sigurdson and Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee waded into the crowd of protesters at the Legislature to hear their concerns.

Lori Sigurdson waded into the crowd of protesters outside the Legislature.
Lori Sigurdson waded into the crowd of protesters outside the Legislature.

It is clear that there are some changes that do need to be made to farm safety laws in Alberta. As is the case in every other province in Canada, the government has a responsibility to ensure that safety standards exist for all worksites in Alberta, including agricultural work environments.

But this is where the New Democratic Party government may have put the cart before the horse. It is unfortunate that the government did not choose to hold these public consultation meetings before introducing the bill. It seems that the NDP could have saved themselves a lot of grief if Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier, Premier Rachel Notley, Ms. Sigurdson and other NDP MLAs had started this process by travelling to the rural areas of the province to ask farmers and ranchers how changes could impact them.

Danielle Larivee waded into the crowd of protesters outside the Legislature.
Danielle Larivee waded into the crowd of protesters outside the Legislature.

Under current safety laws, provincial officers are not allowed to conduct investigations when a workplace fatality takes place on a farm or ranch. The WCB is a shield to protect employers from lawsuits in case of workplace injury and should probably be extended to cover all actual employees of farms and ranches. And farm workers should not be exempt from being given the choice to bargain collectively, a right affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

But legal changes also need to reflect the uniqueness of family farms and ranches.

Unlike other worksites, farms rely heavily on incidental and seasonal help during spring and fall from family, friends and neighbours. And by definition, work on a family farm will include work done by family members, some who will not be paid a regular salary and some who will be under the age of 18. It has not been clearly communicated by the government how these changes would impact the day to day operations of these family farms or whether exceptions will be made for smaller farming operations.

While some of the criticism of Bill 6 is rooted in hyperbole and hysterics generated by opponents of the government, it is clear that there is much confusion around this bill, which is a communications failure on the part of the government.

Ms. Sigurdson released a statement following yesterday’s protest at the Legislature trying to clarify the government’s position. “A paid farmworker who is directed to do something dangerous can say no, just like other workers in Alberta and Canada. And if they are hurt or killed at work, they or their family can be compensated, just like other workers in Alberta and Canada,” Ms. Sigurdson said.

The debate around Bill 6 also highlights a political divide between rural and urban Alberta, neither of which are monolithic communities. It would be easy for us city dwellers to cast rural Albertans opposing these legislative changes as being backward or uncaring when we read media reports of workers or young children killed in farm accidents. And comments by MLAs like Liberal leader David Swann that the current legal framework would make “Charles Dickens blush” probably do not help foster a feeling of collaboration, even if there is a hint of truth to how far behind Alberta is in farm safety rules compared to other provinces.

Alberta is an increasingly urban province. According to Statistics Canada, in 1961, 53 percent of Albertans lived in rural areas. As of 2011, 83 percent of Albertans lived in urban centres with only 17 percent of our province’s population living in rural areas. This is a massive population shift.

The recent provincial election marked a rare moment in our province’s history where MLAs from rural Alberta do not have a large voice in the government caucus. Twelve of the 53 NDP MLAs elected in May 2015 represent rural or partially rural constituencies. Most areas of rural Alberta are represented by Wildrose Party MLAs, who have taken every opportunity to attack the new government and advance the narrative that the NDP do not understand rural Alberta.

As most of their NDP MLAs were elected in urban centres, they should heed the advice that MLA Hugh Horner gave Progressive Conservative Party leader Peter Lougheed more than forty years ago.

David Wood observed in his biography of Mr. Lougheed, the Lougheed Legacy, that “Horner made one point that Lougheed and his colleagues have never forgotten: when you start believing that the people in rural Alberta are somehow different than the people in the bigger centres, you’re making a mistake. Rural Albertans come into the cities, go to concerts, shop in the malls: they’re as sophisticated and as aware of the rest of the world as any of their city cousins.”

Ms. Notley grew up in the northern Alberta town of Fairview. Her father, Grant Notley, was elected and re-elected as the MLA for Spirit River-Fairview four times between 1971 and 1984. Coming from rural Alberta, Ms. Notley should have an understanding of these changes could impact farmers and ranchers.

The government has a responsibility to ensure that safety standards exist for all worksites in Alberta, including agricultural work environments. It also has a responsibility to clearly communicate to Albertans why these changes are needed and how they would be implemented. The NDP would demonstrate good will to rural Albertans by slightly tapping the breaks on Bill 6 and restarting this process with a thorough and meaningful consultation about improving farm and ranch safety in Alberta.

Update (Dec 1, 2015): The government announced it is proposing amendments to Bill 6 that would:

  • make clear WCB coverage would be required only for paid employees, with an option for farmers to extend coverage to unpaid workers like family members, neighbours and friends;
  • make clear that Occupational Health and Safety standards apply when a farm employs one or more paid employees at any time of the year.
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Alberta Politics

Pigs fly as oil industry and environmental groups endorse NDP’s ambitious Made-in-Alberta Climate Change Plan

Pigs continued to fly in Alberta politics today as energy industry leaders and environmental groups joined Premier Rachel Notley and Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips at a press conference to release Alberta’s much anticipated plan to take action against Climate Change. The Alberta government received the final report from the independent panel led by University of Alberta economics professor Andrew Leach and announced its plans to phase out coal burning electricity plants, phase in a price on carbon, introduce a limit on overall emissions from the oil sands and introduce an energy efficiency strategy.

Ms. Notley will now take the report and the made-in-Alberta plan to address climate change to a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other premiers tomorrow and to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris next week.

Here is what energy industry executives, environmental leaders and opposition politicians had to say about today’s climate change announcement:

Responding to climate change is about doing what’s right for future generations of Albertans – protecting our jobs, health and the environment. It will help us access new markets for our energy products, and diversify our economy with renewable energy and energy efficiency technology. Alberta is showing leadership on one of the world’s biggest problems, and doing our part.” – Rachel Notley, Premier of Alberta (full release)

I thank the panel members and the many Albertans, including Indigenous people, industry, environmental groups, municipalities and other partners and stakeholders for their contribution. This is the right plan for our province, and now is the right time to implement it.” – Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks (full release)

The announcement is a significant step forward for Alberta. We appreciate the strong leadership demonstrated by Premier Notley and her government. The framework announced will allow ongoing innovation and technology investment in the oil and natural gas sector. In this way, we will do our part to address climate change while protecting jobs and industry competitiveness in Alberta.” – Murray Edwards, Chair, Canadian Natural Resources Limited (full release)

Today we are making history, with Alberta taking its rightful place as a leader on the world stage. Premier Notley promised Albertans leadership on the issue of climate change and she and her government have delivered. This is the right thing to do for both for our environment and our economy. The world needs more of this kind of leadership from major energy producing jurisdictions if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.” – Ed Whittingham, Executive Director, Pembina Institute (full release)

We fully support the Government’s new climate policy direction. It enables Alberta to be a leader, not only in climate policy, but also in technology, innovation, collaborative solutions and energy development. I believe it will lead to Albertans and Canadians receiving full value for their oil and natural gas resources, while addressing climate change.” – Brian Ferguson, President & Chief Executive Officer of Cenovus Energy (full release)

After a string of pipeline victories and over a decade of campaigning on at least three different continents, the Alberta government has finally put a limit to the tarsands. Today they announced they will cap its expansion and limit the tarsands monster to 100 megatonnes a year.” – Mike Hudema, Greenpeace (full release)

This new carbon tax will make almost every single Alberta family poorer, while accelerated plans to shut down coal plants will lead to higher power prices and further jobs losses. Wildrose will be looking at every detail of this plan closely, and we will speak out against policies that hurt Albertans and the economy.” – Brian Jean, leader of the Wildrose Party (full release)

Canadians have high expectations of themselves when it comes to protecting the environment and managing economic growth, and the world expects much of Canada. Alberta’s new climate change policy sends a clear message that Alberta intends to live up to those expectations. Today’s announcement sets Canadian oil on the path to becoming the most environmentally and economically competitive in the world.” – Lorraine Mitchelmore, President and Country Chair Shell Canada and EVP Heavy Oil for Shell (full release)

Now it’s time for the government to unapologetically promote Alberta’s emissions reduction successes to date and clearly articulate support for the long-term growth of Alberta’s energy industry, including the oil sands, conventional production, natural gas power, cogeneration and renewable energy.” – Greg Clark, leader of the Alberta Party (full release)

Today we reach a milestone in ensuring Alberta’s valuable resource is accompanied by leading carbon policy. It’s time that Alberta is seen as a climate, energy and innovation leader. This plan will make one of the world’s largest oil-producing regions a leader in addressing the climate change challenge.” – Steve Williams, President and Chief Executive Officer, Suncor (full release)

“On a public policy Richter scale, Alberta’s new Climate Leadership Plan is an 11. It is enormously positive and forward-looking and will yield measurable benefits for the health and quality of life of Albertans. Significantly, the new plan is supported by oil industry leaders, environmental organizations and other important stakeholders.” – Rick Smith, executive director of the Broadbent Institute

Alberta’s decision to move away from coal-fired electricity generation and dramatically increase its use of renewable energy reflects a trend happening in countries all over the world. More renewable energy in Alberta will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, clean the air, and produce significant new investment and jobs – particularly in rural areas of the province.” – Robert Hornung, President of CanWEA (full release)

As Premier Notley said today, we expect today’s announcement to further enhance the reputation of our sector and improve our province’s environmental credibility as we seek to expand market access nationally and internationally. As well, the province’s climate strategy may allow our sector to invest more aggressively in technologies to further reduce per barrel emissions in our sector and do our part to tackle climate change. That’s what the public expects, and that’s’ what we expect of ourselves.” – said Tim McMillan, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (full release)

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Alberta Politics

PC Party financials reveal $1.5 million debt from 2015 election

Reports of the death of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta might only be slightly exaggerated. Financial disclosure reports submitted to Elections Alberta show the former governing party amassed a $1.5 million debt during the May 2015 election.

After reportedly nearly missing the deadline to submit its financial disclosures from the recent provincial election, the PCs posted the disclosure on its own website, which provides some detail into the overwhelming wealth of the former governing party during its failed attempt at re-election in May 2015. (The full report is now posted on the Elections Alberta website).

The disclosure report provides information about a $2,000,000 loan secured by the PC Party from the Canadian Western Bank with an outstanding balance of $1,544,866 as of July 5, 2015. Security on the loan includes a personal guarantee of $1,455,000 from a former director, who is unnamed in the document.

The report shows the PCs raised $2,802,500 in donations greater than $250 and $90,625 lower than $250 during the April 7 to July 15, 2015 campaign period. The PCs spent $4,303,969 and ran a deficit of $930,236 during the election campaign.

In response to its financial troubles, the party received significant financial transfers from some of its wealthier constituency associations, including $30,000 from Edmonton-Whitemud, $25,000 from Calgary-Elbow, $20,000 from each Calgary-Varsity and St. Albert, and $15,000 from Whitecourt-Ste. Anne.

Major donors listed on the PC Party’s financial disclosure include Richard Haskayne ($30,000), Ronald Joyce ($30,000), Ken King ($30,000), Calfrac Well Services Ltd ($30,000), MacLab Hotels & Resorts Ltd ($30,000), Matco Investments ($30,000), Christopher Potter ($30,000), Primrose Livestock Ltd ($30,000), Susan Rose Riddell ($30,000), Clayton Riddell ($30,000), Ronald P Mathison Private Banking Ltd ($30,000), Cathy Roozen ($30,000), Mike Rose ($30,000), Shane Homes Ltd ($30,000), Walton International Group Inc ($30,000), TIW Western ($25,000), CIBC ($23,750), Scotiabank ($23,750), BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc ($20,000), Matthew Brister ($20,000), Brian Michael Brix ($20,000), Grandview Cattle Feeders Ltd ($20,000), Kolf Farms Ltd ($20,000), Kelly Koss ($20,000), Mancal Corporation ($20,000), Kyle Ross ($20,000), Nancy Southern ($20,000), and Sunset Feeders Ltd ($20,000).

During its 44 years in government the PCs were able to depend on large corporate donors to help pay off campaign bills and debts, but the party has struggled after corporate donations to political parties were banned by the first law passed by the Alberta NDP Government in June 2015. Interim leader Ric McIver initially denounced the ban, but later stood with the entire nine member PC caucus in voting in favour of the bill.

The PCs will hold their annual general meeting in spring 2016 and have launched a 500-Day Plan to prepare the party for the 2019 provincial election. The PCs are expected to choose a permanent leader in early 2016.

New Unite the Right By Moving Further to the Right Group

According to a report from the Calgary Herald, a new group calling themselves “ The Alberta Prosperity Fund” has launched the latest bid to unite the two main conservative parties in Alberta. The private group is reported to have looked far to the political right for inspiration by inviting American anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist as guest speaker to a closed-door session in Calgary this week. Mr. Norquist is known for his role in pushing the Republican Party further to the political right, contributing to the deep political division in America.

The group is headed by Barry McNamar, a former vice-president of the right-wing Fraser Institute and director of the Calgary School of Public Policy. It is unclear who is providing financial support for the Fund.

Responding to the group’s formation, Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean told the Herald that “[w]e have had our lawyer send them a letter requesting that they stop telling people they have our endorsement or support.

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Alberta Politics

Wildrose demands transparency from NDP and PCs but holds its annual meeting in secret

Alberta’s conservative Wildrose Party is holding its annual general meeting this weekend in Calgary and, according to one media source, the event will be closed to the media with the exception of leader Brian Jean‘s speech ahead of the leadership review vote on the evening of Nov 13, 2015.

It feels like an eternity in Alberta politics since the Wildrose Party’s last annual meeting in Nov. 2014, which saw then-leader Danielle Smith clash with the party’s social conservative base over support for sexual minority rights. Wildrose members at the open door meeting voted down a definitive statement on equal rights for all Albertans, destroying the party’s attempt to appear more mainstream on social issues.

Now, the Wildrose Party led by Mr. Jean will spend its first annual meeting after its spectacular return from the dead debating policy and politics behind closed doors.

Wildrose members will debate motions ranging from equalization paymentspublic sector pensions, ending mandatory membership in students’ unions, increasing access to firearms, abolishing the Canadian Senate, and allowing private enterprise to receive government grants to compete against public essential services.

Members will also debate a series of motions aimed at banning MLAs from crossing the floor to another party, an issue that nearly destroyed the party when 13 of its MLAs crossed the floor to join the Progressive Conservatives in the final months of 2014.

This type of anti-floor crossing policy could prove difficult to enforce, as it is against the spirit of the Westminster parliamentary system and idea of responsible government. Wildrose members should also note that none of the floor-crossers were re-elected in this year’s general election, providing some evidence that elements of our system of democracy worked without unneeded tinkering.

The closed door meeting could help hide controversial comments or embarrassing eruptions that regularily happen when political party members line up to speak at the microphone.

Rumours have circulated for months about a group of party members who still harbour bad feelings from the party’s March 28, 2015 leadership race and could create trouble for Mr. Jean at this annual meeting. The leadership vote, which Mr. Jean won with 54 percent to Drew Barnes’ 40 percent, was held days before the provincial election was called.

An internal investigation was launched amid allegations of illegal robocalls and the party imposed a $15,000 fine against Mr. Barnes’ campaign. The message in the robocalls allegedly attacked Mr. Jean for his $10,000 donation to Jim Prentice‘s PC leadership campaign only months before he entered the Wildrose Party leadership race.

Mr. Jean is now carefully manufacturing his pitch to convince members of the former governing PC Party to join his party’s ranks. Later in November, the Wildrose Party is hosting a “conversation” fundraiser in Calgary where Mr. Jean will make his pitch to conservatives to unite behind his party against the NDP. Any embarrassing or divisive fights at this meeting could derails those attempts.

Wildrose MLAs have eclipsed the tiny PC opposition in media attention while relentlessly hammering almost every decision made by Rachel Notley‘s NDP since they won the May 2015 election. But recently Wildrose MLAs have found themselves tied up in an embarrassing missteps including fighting a new 9:00 a.m. start time for the Legislature and a very public dispute with a Globe & Mail reporter.

Partisan debates about policy can be divisive and messy, but it is hypocritical for Wildrose Party MLAs to lambast the NDP for failing to be transparent and the PCs for being secretive and entitled while holding their own policy meetings behind closed doors.

If Mr. Jean’s Wildrose Party truly wants to prove it is ready to govern and represent mainstream Alberta, they should demonstrate it by giving Albertans a view into how their grassroots members really believe our province should be governed.

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Alberta Politics

Putting protection of LGBTQ students and staff back on the agenda at Alberta school boards meeting

Amid allegations of financial misspending and a lack of transparency, representatives from sixty-one elected Public, Catholic, and Francophone school boards from across Alberta will gather at the fall general meeting of the Alberta School Boards Association on November 15, 16 and 17 in Edmonton.

Michael Janz Edmonton
Michael Janz

School board representatives could face another round of debate about protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students and staff. The Edmonton Public School Board will introduce a motion at the meeting for the ASBA to create a policy that protects all students, staff and families who identify as sexual or gender minorities.

I think tone at the top is very important, and it is important for the Alberta School Boards Association to take an active stance against the bullying and marginalization of lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning students. I think this will send a very important signal across school boards that we do support inclusion, we do want to support our students,” EPSB chairperson Michael Janz told the Edmonton Sun.

The motion has been proposed as emergent by EPSB and will be introduced on the first full day of the meeting. Delegates will be asked whether it should be added to agenda and debated at the meeting.

Debate at the ASBA’s general meeting in 2012 attracted national attention when 62 percent of the delegates voted down a proposal to protect gay students and staff from discrimination, similar to a policy passed by EPSB in 2011.

David Eggen
David Eggen

One trustee at the 2012 meeting from the Pembina Hills School Division suggested if “children with a gay tendency” could hide their gayness it would be “for their own benefit.” The trustee later apologized but not before his comment became national news.

The debate around legislating the creation of Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools became a major political issue in the final months of 2014 and created major rifts between social conservatives and moderate conservatives in the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties.

Recent debates at the Edmonton Catholic School District about creating safe environments for transgender students have degenerated into public scenes of crying and shouting. “I expect a higher standard from all elected officials here, generally in Alberta, and specifically with Edmonton Catholic,” Education Minister David Eggen said following the debates.

Mr. Eggen has directed all Alberta school boards to have a policy supporting LGBTQ students in place by March 31, 2016.  It has been reported that only 13 out of 61 school boards currently have stand alone policies protecting rights of LGBTQ students and staff.

The result of the debate about whether to adopt a policy protecting all students, staff and families who identify as sexual or gender minorities will likely set the tone for an important breakfast event being held for trustees and MLAs on the final day of the meeting. Twenty-eight NDP, Wildrose, Progressive Conservative and Liberal MLAs are scheduled to attend the breakfast, including cabinet ministers Brian Mason, Joe Ceci, and Oneil Carlier. Mr. Eggen scheduled to deliver an address at the breakfast.

What the Education Minister has to say in his address will likely depend on if Alberta’s elected school trustees choose to rise above the closed mindedness and ignorance that has dominated these debates in past years. Protecting students and staff is not optional.


Here is the motion that the EPSB plans to introduce:

That the Alberta School Boards Association support its members school boards in establishing and maintaining welcoming, inclusive, safe and healthy learning and working environments for all members of the school community, including sexual orientation and genders minority students, staff and families. This includes provision of support with policy development and related resources.

EPSB rationale for the motion:

  • Issues with regard to publicly funded education and supporting Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity students, staff and families have been in the news this year. The ASBA has been silent on these issues, both in policy and presence. It is proposed by the Committee that we take a second attempt at moving forward the 2012 Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Policy to the ASBA.
  • The Committee believes it is important for the ASBA to clearly take a policy position in support of students, staff, and families in alignment with provincial legislation and our Strategic Plan outcome to provide welcoming, inclusive, safe caring and healthy learning and work environments. Research has shown that sexual minority youth experience more bullying, harassment, alienation, and suicide ideation than do their heterosexual peers and; therefore, boards are encouraged to counter pervasive cultural biases against sexual minorities through proactive and specific policy and regulation to ensure that all sexual orientation and gender identity minority individuals are welcomed, respected, accepted and supported in all of their schools.

Previous ASBA fall general meetings have been webcast. I will post a link to the website once I have confirmed this meeting will be live streamed online.

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Alberta Politics

This Week in Alberta Politics

Here are a few items to watch out for in Alberta politics this week:

  • Which of the four Liberal Members of Parliament will be appointed to the federal cabinet on Nov. 4, 2015? Most speculation points toward newly elected Calgary-Centre MP Kent Hehr being given a cabinet spot. Mr. Hehr, along with Calgary-Skyview MP Darshan Kang, were the first federal Liberals to be elected in Calgary since 1968. But will one of the two Liberal MPs from Edmonton – Amarjeet Sohi and Randy Boissonnault – get a cabinet spot? If not, it would mark the first time since before Jim Edwards was appointed as President of the Treasury Board in 1993 that Edmonton has not had representation in the federal cabinet.
  • Two Conservative MPs from Alberta – Edmonton-Wetaskiwin MP Mike Lake and Sturgeon River-Parkland MP Rona Ambrose – have joined four other Conservative MPs with bids to become the interim leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. That party has only had one permanent leader, Calgary MP Stephen Harper, since the party was formed in 2003 and is expected to choose a new permanent leader next year.
  • Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Finance Minister Joe Ceci will continue their sales pitch for the Alberta NDP’s first provincial budget this week. The NDP budget received some sensible and encouraging reviews when it was released from Calgary Economic Development and the Alberta Chambers of Commerce.
  • Overshadowing debate about the Alberta NDP’s first provincial budget last week was the Wildrose Party Finance critic Derek Fildebrant‘s war with a Globe & Mail reporter and House leader Nathan Cooper‘s war against a 9:00 a.m. start time for the Legislative sitting. Will the Wildrose Official Opposition be able to move on to actual issues of substance in the second week of the fall session?
  • It was always expected that uniting the Wildrose and PC parties will be tough. Richard Starke, the PC MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster, had some choice words for his Wildrose counterparts in the Legislature last week: “…the Official Opposition rather reminds me of the chippy hockey player that hacks and slashes in the corner and then, as soon as something similar happens back to them, goes running to the referee.”

I will be taking a short break from blogging this week. In my absence, check out David Climenhaga‘s informative and entertaining AlbertaPolitics.ca blog.

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Alberta Politics

Tories invite Mike Allen back in, Wildrose show Joe Anglin the door

Mike Allen Jim Prentice Fort McMurray MLA
Alberta PC MLAs voted to invite Independent MLA Mike Allen back into the government caucus after a year in the opposition benches.

Progressive Conservative MLAs have voted to extend an invitation to Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Mike Allen to rejoin their caucus. A relatively popular first-term politician in his constituency who many watchers believe will still do well in the next election (as an PC or an Independent), Mr. Allen left the PC caucus after he was arrested while trying to hire two prostitutes in St. Paul, Minnesota. Unfortunately for the Mr. Allen, the prostitutes happened to be police officers.

Police said he answered an online ad placed by undercover police, agreeing to pay two women $200 for sex. He was arrested and charged with a gross misdemeanour but pleaded guilty in December to a lesser misdemeanour of trying to hire prostitutes. He was fined $500, ordered to pay another $500 in court fees and sentenced to one-year of probation. His probation expires Dec. 18. (Edmonton Journal)

From a jail cell in Minnesota in July 2013 Mr. Allen did not deny the allegations, he admitted to his mistakes and voluntarily resigned from the PC caucus. As for his readmission into government, perhaps the MLAs in the PC caucus believe that one-year banishment into the opposition benches was punishment enough for Mr. Allen’s indiscretions.

Joe Anglin MLA Wildrose Rocky Mountain House Rimbey Sundre
Joe Anglin

Joe Anglin Out
What is Joe Anglin to do? After losing the Wildrose Party nomination in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre last weekend, some political watchers have speculated that he might join the Alberta Party, others believe he could run as an Independent candidate in the next election. He has yet to let his intentions known.

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith cheekily suggested he should run in Edmonton, which would be akin to Stephen Harper saying Rob Anders should run for re-election in Toronto. A one man wolf pack, Mr. Anglin is a liability for any party in the rigid system of party discipline that exists in our political system. And the closer a party gets to power, like the Wildrose is, the more rigid they become with their MLAs and candidates.

Is it uncommon for incumbent politicians to lose party nomination races? In Alberta, yes. In fact, there are only a handful of examples I can remember from recent history in Alberta politics:

Carl Benito MLA Edmonton Mill Woods
Carl Benito

– First-term MLA Carl Benito was defeated by Sohail Quadri in the Progressive Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Mill Woods in 2012, Mr. Benito ran as an Independent in that year’s election. He placed fifth of six candidates with 480 votes (3.9%).

– PC MLA Art Johnston lost two nominations in advance of the 2012 election – to Rick Fraser in Calgary-South East and Ric McIver in Calgary-Hays. Mr. Johnston retired from politics after the election was held.

– Then-Leduc mayor George Rogers upset two-term MLA Albert Klapstein in the PC nomination in Leduc before the 2004 election. Mr. Klapstein retired from politics after the election was held.

– Two-term MLA Tony Abbott was defeated for the PC nomination in Drayton Valley-Calmar by then-Drayton Valley mayor Diana McQueen before the 2008 election. Mr. Abbott retired rather than run for another party or as an Independent.

New Licence Plates
Albertans are living with flooding hospitals, overcrowded schools and a cash-strapped legal aid system, but a new licence plate design is a government priority? Premier Dave Hancock announced changes to Alberta’s licence plates at a press conference today, including the removal of the long-time slogan ‘Wild Rose Country‘ from the plates. Recent polls suggest that the current slogan is accurate.

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Alberta Politics

The Redford legacy haunts Prentice Tories

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

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

Jim Prentice Alberta PC Party Premier Leader
Jim Prentice

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

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

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

Thomas Lukaszuk Alberta Edmonton MLA PC Leadership
Thomas Lukaszuk

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

Advance Cabinet Shuffle

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

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

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

Wayne Drysdale MLA Grande Prairie Wapiti
Wayne Drysdale

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

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

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

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

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Alberta Politics

Ric McIver tosses the PC Party’s ‘Lake of Fire’ trump card

Ric McIver Alberta PC leadership candidate Calgary MLA
Ric McIver

The day after it was revealed that Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Ric McIver attended and endorsed the March for Jesus, a group which has posted hateful homophobic rants on its website, Mr. McIver was nowhere to be found.

As a proud supporter of the March for Jesus and its organizers at the extreme religious Calgary Street Church, it was surprising that Mr. McIver was not defending his position yesterday. Street Church pastor Artur Pawlowski has publicly blamed last year’s southern Alberta floods on God’s unhappiness with homosexuality.

Instead of publicly defending his support, or denouncing the extreme elements in that organization, the former cabinet minister and Calgary MLA hid behind a Facebook comment, and an unclear one at that. It felt uncharacteristic for a leadership candidate who has painted himself as a populist conservative.

It seems that, once again, the PC Party has committed self-immolation by tossing away one of its strongest playing cards – the ability to paint the Wildrose Party as the province’s only ‘Lake of Fire‘ Party. While short-term Premier Dave Hancock is a moderate conservative, who participated in Edmonton’s Pride Parade last week, it is clear that the elements of the big-tent PC Party are not as supportive.

Even if, or perhaps more likely, when Mr. McIver is defeated by PC leadership frontrunner Jim Prentice, the damage could be hard to be undone.

As the last provincial election proved, these type of extreme views may have found a home in the mainstream views of Albertans 30 or 40 years ago, but do not represent the views of modern Albertans in 2014.

Meanwhile, Wildrose Party strategists are sitting back and watching as the PC Party help to make them look less scary in the minds of Albertans.

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Alberta Politics

Opposition hoping for a sequel to Air Redford… Air Prentice

Air-Alison-Redford-Jim-Prentice
Alberta’s Opposition Parties are giddy at the thought of a sequel to the Air Redford scandals… Air Prentice. Can they make it fly in the minds of Albertans?

The long-summer of 2014 has begun in Alberta politics. With little substantial policy ideas to dispute or debate, Alberta’s opposition parties have set their sights on Progressive Conservative leadership front-runner Jim Prentice (if this continues, Thomas Lukaszuk and Ric McIver are going to start feeling left out).

Deron Bilous MLA Edmonton Beverly Clareview NDP
Deron Bilous

Hoping to tie Mr. Prentice to frequent-flying former Premier Alison Redford and her controversial $45,000 flight to South Africa and flights to Palm Springs and Jasper, the NDP Opposition released detailed flight manifests outlining the former federal cabinet minister’s travel expenses during his time in Ottawa.

Describing Mr. Prentice as “a Bay Street lawyer and a millionaire,” Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview NDP MLA Deron Bilous said in a news release that the Tory leader-to-be “used them repeatedly as a cabinet minister, costing the federal government hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The NDP claim the manifests show Mr. Prentice’s flights cost the federal government in excess of $400,000. NDP researchers must have been giddy when they discovered flights in 2009 that cost $29,169 (Mr. Prentice had the government plane fly from Ottawa to Calgary to drop him and his constituency director off in Washington DC, and then the plane flew back to Ottawa empty) and in 2010 that cost $41,522 (Mr. Prentice flew to Norway from Ottawa with his Communications Director and Chief of Staff).

Jim Prentice Alberta PC Party Premier Leader
Jim Prentice

Following the NDP’s lead, the Wildrose Party quickly released an info graphic highlighting Mr. Prentice’s recent quote that politicians should not be riding on government airplanes, but should fly commercial with everybody else. Putting aside the $400,000 sticker-shock, it is not clear that Mr. Prentice did not frequently travel on commercial airlines. Members of Parliament are allowed a certain number of expensed commercial flights each year to between Ottawa and the riding they are elected to represent.

The question is whether Albertans will see this as more confirmation of Tory excess (which Mr. Prentice has pledged to crack-down on, even though short-term Premier Dave Hancock refuses to acknowledge it exists) or as the price of doing government business in a geographically large country like Canada. I imagine it will be a mix of both.

Recent polling from ThinkHQ shows the Wildrose Party far in the lead among decided Alberta voters, even after Mr. Prentice entered the PC leadership race. The polls also show the NDP leading in support in Edmonton. While this is one single poll, it is a snapshot that will surely contribute to the growing narrative that the PC Party remains in trouble even after jettisoning Ms. Redford.

With the smell of opportunity in the air, Alberta’s opposition parties are expected to continue taking every opportunity to remind Albertans of the out-of-touch attitudes of the previous premier and hope it sticks to Mr. Prentice and the 45 PC MLAs who eagerly endorsed his candidacy.

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Alberta Politics

And then there were three (white men)

2014 PC Leadership Race Alberta Thomas Lukaszuk Jim Prentice Ric McIver
Alberta PC Party leadership candidates Thomas Luksazuk, Ric McIver and Jim Prentice.

As the deadline for candidates to enter their names (and $50,000 fee) in the contest to become the next leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Association came to a close yesterday, three politicians have put forward their names – bank vice-president and former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice and former provincial cabinet ministers Ric McIver and Thomas Lukaszuk.

A quick glance at the names of the three candidates confirms that no women or visible minorities have entered the race to fill the position vacated by Alberta’s first woman premier, Alison Redford, who was pushed out of office only a few short months ago. A few woman candidates were rumoured to be interested, but the most high profile of those rumoured, Energy minister Diana McQueen, declined to run, choosing instead to endorse Mr. Prentice.

While Canada reached a high-water mark in recent years, with women occupying the premiers office in six provinces and territories, the number has plummeted after recent elections. Today, only British Columbia and Ontario have women premiers (and Ontario voters will decide the fate of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals on June 12, 2014).

Alberta could once again enter this category if Official Opposition leader Danielle Smith leads her Wildrose Party to win the next election. Edmonton MLA Rachel Notley is said to be considering a run for the Alberta NDP leadership and some say she would become an instant front-runner if she enters the race.

All three PC leadership candidates have cut their political teeth in Alberta’s largest cities. Mr. Prentice was the Member of Parliament for Calgary-Centre North from 2004 to 2010, Mr. McIver as a Calgary MLA, former Alderman and mayoral candidate, and Mr. Lukaszuk as the MLA for Edmonton-Castle Downs since 2001.

The presence of three urban candidates signals both the growing political importance of the province’s two largest cities (and the urban agenda’s put forward by popular mayors Don Iveson and Naheed Nenshi) and the PC Party’s weakness in rural Alberta.

Not having a candidate from rural Alberta is embarrassing for the 43-year governing party. Once almost universally dominated by PC MLAs, the Tories have seen their support plummet in rural and small-town Alberta over the past four years. In the last election, many PC MLAs, including a some senior cabinet ministers, were handily defeated by Wildrose candidates in rural constituencies that had voted enmasse for the PC Party for more than three decades.

This is also the smallest number of candidates to participate in a PC leadership race since the party chose Don Getty as leader in 1985. In 1992, there were 9 candidates; in 2006 there were 8 and the 2011 leadership race attracted 6 candidates.

The small-number of candidates is a testament of the internal turmoil in the PC Party following the coup d’etat that caused Ms. Redford’s departure and the strength of Mr. Prentice’s campaign. Whether it is perceived or real, the ‘Team Prentice’ brand quickly drew the support of more than twenty PC MLAs and an army of party insiders and political consultants.

Unlike the deflated front-runners in previous PC leadership campaigns – Jim Dinning and Gary Mar – Mr. Prentice has succeeded in scaring away most of his credible potential challengers. Whether he suffers the same fate as these former ‘front-runners’, who were later defeated by underdogs, is yet to be seen.

The challenge for the three candidates will be to generate interest in a campaign that already feels like it is a forgone conclusion (a victory by Mr. Prentice). A big question is whether the any of the candidates in this race will be compelling enough to convince those thousands of ‘two-minute Tories‘ to lend them their votes.

Categories
Alberta Politics

A federal by-election in Cowboy Country

Earlier this week, I wrote about the interesting by-election in Fort McMurray-Athabasca, today I look at the other federal by-election in Alberta that will take place on June 30, 2014.

Macleod Federal Election Results 2006 2008 2011 by-election 2014

Situated on the eastern slopes of of the Rocky Mountains, the Conservative machine appears strong in southern Alberta’s Macleod riding. Although growth in the communities of Okotoks and High River, which was devastated by flooding in the summer of 2013, have brought many new voters in the riding, Macleod is a much more traditionally Conservative riding than its northern by-election counter-part.

John Barlow Macleod Conservative
John Barlow

Respected local newspaper editor John Barlow won a hotly contested nomination race in which he faced loud criticism from the National Firearms Association for his support of RCMP gun-seizures during the High River floods. The gun lobby endorsed his nomination opponents but have remained silent since the nomination vote was held.

This is Mr. Barlow’s second attempt at political office, having recently run as the Highwood Progressive Conservative candidate against Wildrose leader Danielle Smith in the 2012 provincial election. Unlike the Calgary-Centre by-election of 2012, which saw a federal split among PC and Wildrose supporters, it appears that most Wildrosers are lining up behind Mr. Barlow’s campaign (or, at least, are not publicly opposing him).

One media report from the riding suggest that Prime Minister Stephen Harper may become a defining issue of this by-election campaign. Mr. Harper and his family are said to have recently purchased property near Bragg Creek in the northern portion of Macleod. The prime minister’s wife, Laureen Harper, was seen voting at the Conservative nomination meeting on March 8, 2014.

Dustin Fuller Liberal by-election macleod Justin Trudeau 2014
Liberal candidate Dustin Fuller and Justin Trudeau (from the Dustin Fuller for Macleod Facebook page).

Mr. Barlow so far faces only two challengers. Liberal Dustin Fuller, an oil and gas worker has been campaigning for months. Mr. Fuller works in the energy sector and is a former president of the University of Lethbridge Students’ Union.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has visited the riding numerous times, drawing curious crowds in Okotoks and High River. The last time a federal Liberal was elected in this region, was when his father, Pierre Trudeau, led his party to a majority victory in the 1968 election.

Larry Ashmore Green Party Macleod By-election Alberta
Larry Ashmore

The Green Party has chosen Larry Ashmore to carry their banner in the by-election. Mr. Ashmore is the former leader of the Evergreen Party (now renamed the Green Party of Alberta) and was a  candidate in the 2008 and 2012 provincial elections in Foothills-Rockyview and Livingstone-Macleod . In the 2006 federal election, he placed fourth with 3,075 votes (6.18% of the vote) as the Green candidate in Macleod.

Aileen Burke is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate. Mr. Burke is listed as the treasurer of the Lethbridge-East provincial NDP constituency association and was a trustee candidate for the Lethbridge School District No. 51 in the October 2013 municipal elections.

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Alberta Politics Satire

What a year 2014 has been in Alberta politics!

Alberta Legislature 2014

This year was a tumultuous time in Alberta politics. What does 2015 have in store for Albertans?

December 20, 2014

Story by: Dirk Pranter, Edmonton Journal-Sun

Building the next Alberta

With the new year just weeks away, speculation is rampant Albertans could go to the polls early next year, less than four years after the last provincial election.

Premier Alison Redford returned to Alberta this week between stops in Washington D.C. and Beijing, fuelling the rumours of the impending election. While in the province, she joined Deputy Premier Mike Allen in announcing the construction of new schools in Airdrie, Edmonton, Calgary, Grande Prairie, Grimshaw, and High River.

It is the sixth new school announced this month by Redford’s government as part of a promise to build 50 schools and modernize 70 more by 2016.

The schools announcement coincided with the launch of a new government advertising campaign titled “Building the Next Alberta.”

“Building the Next Alberta is different than Building Alberta,” a Redford spokesperson said, “it’s about Building the Next Alberta.”

When asked why the blue and orange colour patterns on the government billboards spell the words ‘re – elect,’ the spokesperson would only say that “a limited colour pallette” was responsible for the design.

Wildrose on the rise

Concluding another year of incredible fundraising returns, the Wildrose Party led by Danielle Smith is hoping for good tidings in the new year. Recent polls show the official opposition party in a dead heat with the PCs in Calgary and rural Alberta.

In anticipation of an early election the Wildrose campaign bus rolled into Edmonton this week without incident.

University of Red Deer professor of political science Rick Dunderland believes the early launch sends a message that the Wildrose war chest is overflowing with cash from this past year’s fundraising efforts.

“With such successful fundraising this year, the Wildrose has decided not to wait for the Redford Tories to call the election,” Dunderland said.

Shermanmania?

Interim leader Laurie Blakeman took up the reigns of the Liberal Party since Raj Sherman announced he will run for the federal Liberals in the Edmonton-West riding.

Hoping that Justin Trudeaumania with also translate into Raj Shermanmania, Sherman said his experience as an Emergency Room Doctor will make him a strong voice for Edmonton in Ottawa.

After a surprise surge in support in this year’s federal by-election in southern Alberta’s Macleod riding, the Liberals are hoping to make gains in Alberta.

Meanwhile, merger negotiations are underway between the provincial Liberals, the Alberta Party, and the Green Party to run a joint slate of candidates in the next election. Sources indicate the slate could be called “the Green Liberalbertans.”

NDP now pro-pipeline

Planning to spend more time in the Okanagan with his wife and family, NDP leader Brian Mason announced his retirement from politics after serving twenty-five years in provincial and municipal elected office. The NDP leadership vote, scheduled for early 2015 has attracted the interest of the party’s three other MLAs and a handful of outsiders. No candidates have officially entered the race.

Many Alberta New Democrats were shocked at their federal leader’s sudden change of heart on pipeline development this month. With Thomas Mulcair’s NDP poised to form government in next year’s federal election, the federal NDP released a new pro-pipeline policy book.

“The difference now is that, instead of just saying what we don’t like about the old pipelines, we’re also saying why we’re in favour of more pipelines,” Mulcair told reporters in a year end press conference.

As the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline moves forward at a brisk pace, energy industry experts are relieved that the project’s future is not likely to be threatened with a change of government in Ottawa.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s spokesperson called the ploy a cynical move. “No one supports pipelines more than strong, stable, majority Conservative governments in Ottawa,” she said.