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Sunday, May 31, 2009

more on bill 44.

Blogger and PC Party member John Winslow (aka @sirthinks) is also opposing Bill 44 and has posted to his blog a letter in opposition to sections of the Bill which he sent to his MLA, Thomas Lukaszuk.

bill 44 goes to third reading tomorrow.

After a wonderful weekend 'stay-cation' in Banff, I was surprised to see the Students Against Bill 44 Facebook group that I linked to (and tweeted about) on Friday has exploded from 140 members to over 1,200 in 3 days. Bill 44 is scheduled for third reading in the Legislature tomorrow evening.

The organizers of 'Students Against Bill 44' have asked Albertans opposed to Bill 44 to email letters voicing their opposition to be tabled in Legislature tomorrow before the vote. Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman ( ) has volunteered to table the letters in the Assembly. Here is a copy of the form letter posted on the facebook group:

Dear Ms. Laurie Blakeman:

As students in a multicultural society, we have learnt to tolerate and embrace different identities, and as a result have expanded our overall cultural horizons. This bill will hinder our learning about diversified groups in our country; thus, attempting to restrict the adults of tomorrow by cutting us off from the issues of today. We cannot let the government take away our emerging global perspectives and ideas about our world. If the Alberta Government is so concerned about human rights, they should not be facilitating hatred and bigotry by censoring the Alberta curriculum. Students have rights too. We have the right to learn in an open-minded, compassionate and tolerant environment. Not one that allows for intolerance and ignorance. Bill 44 has the power to deplete student’s rights to learn and their ability to become well suited to meet the adversities and diversities that occur in everyday life.

In conclusion, I request that this letter be tabled, in order to preserve my thoughts about this bill.
In order for your letters to be tabled before the final vote on Bill 44, they will need to be emailed before 12 noon tomorrow. You should also cc your MLA (find your MLA here).

Friday, May 29, 2009

alberta gothic.

Third Reading of Bill 44 is currently scheduled for this Monday evening (sometime after 7:30pm).

Also, I like these kids.

(photo credit to Corey Hogan)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

edmonton transitcamp.

A great event is happening this weekend in Edmonton. On the afternoon of Saturday May 30, a group of engaged Edmontonians will meet to talk about new ideas and the future of public transit in Edmonton at TransitCamp.

Edmonton TransitCamp
30 May 2009
12:00 - 16:30
World Trade Centre
9990 Jasper Avenue
TransitCamp is independent from the City of Edmonton and Edmonton Transit Services, and will use a pseudo-format similar to BarCamp and DemoCamp which means that the afternoon's discussion will be shaped by those who show up, rather than a pre-decided discussion schedule. Don't worry if you're not a transit expert, this event is geared towards citizen engagement and participation through discussion that includes a diverse group of Edmontonians.

Mastermaq and Councillor Don Iveson have posted about the event on their blogs and Brendan Van Alstine wrote about it in his Metro Edmonton column earlier this month. You will also be able to follow Edmonton TransitCamp on twitter at #yegtransit.

8 seconds.

I don't suppose that $25 million rebranding campaign happened to come with a talking points memo?

(via Trish Audette)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

bill 44 debate an all-nighter.

The debate over Bill 44 is going late into the night at the Alberta Legislature. You can follow the debate online through video or by following the Twitter hashtags #ableg and #bill44.

So far, Opposition Liberal and NDP MLAs Laurie Blakeman, Kevin Taft, Brian Mason, Bridget Pastoor, Kent Hehr, David Swann, and Rachel Notley have spoken against Section 9 of Bill 44 (the controversial education opt-out), and Calgary-North Hill PC MLA Kyle Fawcett has spoken in support of the Bill as it is.

I have pledged to buy lunch for and write nice things about the first PC MLA to rise and speak against Bill 44 as it currently stands. Earlier today, Premier Ed Stelmach pledged to allow the PC caucus a free vote on tonight's/tomorrow morning's vote.

UPDATE: It's now 8:01am on Wednesday May 27 and after having been whipped in line for a month, no PC MLA took advantage of the last minute 'free vote' they were awarded on Bill 44 amendments. I keep my lunch money.

While they didn't succeed in getting their amendments to Bill 44 passed, congrats to opposition MLAs Laurie Blakeman, Kent Hehr, Rachel Notley, and Kevin Taft for their particularly well-spoken and colourful contributions to last night's/this morning's debates.

On another point, I wonder if any other provincial legislature watchers in Canada have a Twitter hashtag as active as #ableg?

who will run for mayor of edmonton in 2010?

With Edmonton's next municipal election less than a year and a half away (and new Ward Boundaries up for debate) one of the big questions looming is whether Stephen Mandel will seek a third term as Mayor. Mandel has hinted in the past that he would only serve two terms in the Mayor's office, but if his two immediate predecessors are any indication, it is likely that he might seek a third term. Although I’m not sure if Mandel would face a serious challenger if he does run for re-election, his absence from the 2010 race could draw some interesting candidates into the contest. While no one has yet to declare their candidacy, here are some of the names that I’ve heard mentioned:

Karen Leibovici: A seasoned political veteran after serving three-terms on as a Councillor for Ward 1 (2001-present) and two-terms as the MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark (1993-2001), Leibovici is well positioned to compete for the Mayor's chair. While her background in social work and time as a Liberal MLA solidified her centre-left credentials, Leibovici has played the role of Council fiscal hawk on more than one occasion (including joining with former right-wing Councillor Mike Nickel to vote against the Universal Bus Pass in 2007). Her credentials in Edmonton's established political community also put her in a strong position to gain the support of many of Mandel's organizers, which means her candidacy many depend on whether the current Mayor decides to seek a third term.

Linda Sloan: Also a Councillor for Ward 1 and former Edmonton-Riverview MLA (1997-2001), Sloan could be a strong candidate for Mayor. Her background as a nurse and former President of the Staff Nurses Association would likely ensure her campaign strong support from the City's public sector unions. While her passion for seniors and emergency services issues has gained her notoriety, Sloan’s passion can sometimes be the source of tension between herself and fellow Councillors. During last year’s budget debates, Ward 5 Councillor Bryan Anderson infamously muttered the words "Jesus, Linda. Shut up, please" during one of those tense moments. Her seat at the head table with Michael Ignatieff at his recent Edmonton fundraising dinner have fueled rumours of a potential candidacy for the Federal Liberals in Edmonton-Centre.

Kim Krushell: After working as Executive Assistant to Councillor Larry Langley, Krushell was elected to her first term on Council in 2004. Since then she has been closely identified with Edmonton's Next Gen committee and was Council's point-person on the Universal Bus Pass (media-savvy Krushell could also be counted as the Councillor most likely to get media exposure on a weekly basis). While it may be easy to dismiss Krushell’s chances, it would be a mistake to confuse her enthusiasm for a lack of political savvy. A long-time PC Party member, Krushell endorsed Jim Dinning for the PC leadership in 2006 and could potentially call on her partisan connections to help her campaign in a potential contest against two former Liberal MLAs.

Wild Cards:

The ‘Airport’ candidate: As I wrote in an earlier blog post, with the City Centre Airport (ECCA) issue coming to a head around the time of the next municipal election, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Alberta Enterprise Group (AEG) use this as a springboard to front a candidate for Mayor. Who would take this mantle? The AEG originated from the organization created to provide financial backing to Mark Norris’ unsuccessful campaign for the PC leadership in 2006, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see this group support an attempted political comeback by the former Edmonton-McClung PC MLA. Another potential ‘Airport’ candidate could be current Ward 3 Councillor and staunch defender of the ECCA, Tony Caterina.

Robert Noce: After trying twice for Mayor in 2001 and 2004, a vacancy in the Mayor's chair could convince Noce that third time's a charm. While the former Ward 3 Councillor (1995-2001) has stayed away from official politics, Noce has represented local developers in a number of cases, including the controversial high rise condo development in Glenora in 2008. Noce was rumoured to be interested in the Edmonton-East Liberal candidacy before the 2004 federal election, and more recently I have heard (questionable) chatter that he is interested in seeking the Conservative nomination when five-term Conservative MP Peter Goldring retires.

Don Koziak: After placing a distant second with 25% of the vote in 2007s thoroughly uncompetitive Mayoral race, I would imagine that the Team Koziak will be unlikely to re-start their engines if the contest attracts a stronger field of candidates in 2010. Koziak, the owner of the Chateau Louis Hotel was an unsuccessful Ward 2 candidate in 1995, 1998, and 2004. In 2000, Koziak was the PC candidate in Edmonton-Calder before withdrawing his candidacy for personal reasons.

Mike Nickel: Where in the world is former Councillor Mike Nickel? Gone into self-imposed political exile after being unseated by Don Iveson in 2007, the former Stickman, one-term Councillor, and two-time Mayoral candidate (1998 and 2001) has dropped off the political radar. Three years may be too soon for Nickel to mount a political comeback, but the new proposed Ward boundary changes could make a City Hall comeback much easier for Nickel.

Brian Mason: Ok, I’ll admit that this is an unlikely scenario. Though the leader of Alberta's NDP probably won't run for Mayor, with the name recognition earned after two decades as a Councillor (1989-2000) and MLA (2000-present), Mason would make an interesting entry into the race. His victory would be long-shot, but his departure from the Legislature would open a door in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood for some new blood for Alberta's third-place party (Deron Bilous or Janice Melnychuk could make convincing candidates) and would allow for heir-apparent and well-spoken co-caucus mate Rachel Notely to take the helm of the tiny Alberta NDP caucus.

Monday, May 25, 2009

another bill 44 compromise leads pcs to another no-win political situation.

The ongoing Bill 44 saga has been amazing to watch.

As a party with the legislative numbers to have easily rammed through this Bill while the Opposition parties and the media were distracted by the outbreak of the Swine Flu/H1N1 virus, it seems that Alberta's Progressive Conservatives have emerged with a no-win political situation.

Even if the controversial amendments are amended, the essence of the original amendment -- a compromise to the social conservatives MLAs in the PC caucus -- is now being compromised because of opposition from outside the Legislature and notably by one of the groups most loathed by the hard-core conservatives: the Alberta Teachers' Association.

While the sheer number of PC MLAs in the Assembly will ensure that a version of Bill 44 will become law, this Legislative roller coaster of the past month has raised questions about the cohesiveness of the PC caucus, and has saddled its two arguably most progressive Cabinet Ministers -- Dave Hancock and Lindsay Blackett -- with some controversial and undesirable political baggage.

edmonton universiade 2015: denied.

After putting on the appearance of tough campaigning by the City of Edmonton and Province of Alberta officials, the University of Alberta was denied its opportunity to host the Universiade Games in 2015.

'Appearances,' included sending a delegation of officials to Europe, including spending +$6,000 to send Tourism Minister Cindy Ady and her Executive Assistant to Belgium before sources close to Edmonton's bid committee admitted this weekend that they knew their chances were slim (perhaps University President Indira Samerasekra used up her political capital at the Bilderberg Conference earlier this month).

According to University of Alberta Students' Union President Kory Mathewson, a successful bid could have seen the University invest in kind of infrastructure and capital improvements that it saw when it played host to the 1983 Universiade:

"The (Games) offered the potential to address critical issues facing our university, such as a severe lack of student residences and a general space shortage on campus, so this is a setback for students."
While the City can't expect to win every event it bids to host, competing for these types of international events can do a lot to help raise the profile of Edmonton (and help debunk our newfound Albertan image as Northumberland-on-the-Energy-Beach).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

green debate continues.

Some interesting debate continues to rage on about the state of Alberta's Green Party in the comment section of this blog's May 7 post 'Green Insider Lays it All Out.' 

Friday, May 22, 2009

things that make me hopeful about democracy on a friday afternoon.

- The City of Vancouver's new and exciting 'open source' policy (more at CBC).

- UK Cabinet Office has published and adopted some of the recommendations listed in the Digital Engagement: Update on Power of Information (pdf).

Now let's see what kind of dialogue and change ChangeCamp Edmonton can create in our City, Province, and Country.

(thanks to @jdarrah and @mikesoron for the links)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

don iveson makes the best of edmonton [again].

For the second year in a row, Ward 5 City Councillor Don Iveson has made the list in SEE Magazine's Best of Edmonton.

Best Local Politician
(1) Stephen Mandel
(2) Linda Duncan
(3) Don Iveson
I also enjoyed the results in these two categories...
Best New Trends
(1) Going green
(2) Twitter
(3) Coffeehouses

Worst Trends
(1) Twitter
(2) Skinny jeans
(3) Big sunglasses

new schools, bill 203, ndp conference, & preston manning.

- A new school in the Pilot Sound neighbourhood of North East Edmonton will be named after former School Trustee and Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Don Massey. Massey was elected to Edmonton's Public School Board from 1977 to 1989, and to the Alberta Legislature from 1993 to 2004. Massey served as Interim Leader of the Liberal Official Opposition between the resignation of Lethbridge-East MLA Ken Nicol and election of Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft.

- Naheed Nenshi has some great commentary on Athabasca-Redwater PC MLA Jeff Johnson's Bill 203 (including special content on Calgary-Glenmore PC heir-apparent Diane Colley-Urquhart).

- The Alberta NDP will be hosting a revitalization conference in Edmonton on June 6. Speakers include Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan, Edmonton NDP MLAs Brian Mason & Rachel Notley. Child-care critic Notley scored a big win this week after releasing leaked emails showing that 'front-line workers were being told not to let potential subsidy recipients know about changes to the application process unless asked.'

- Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning has some strong words for Albertans.

- University of Alberta student Matthew Sztym has joined Ryan Hastman and Linda Blade in race to become the Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

three questions about calgary-glenmore and cabinet shuffles.

With the resignation of Deputy Premier and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Ron Stevens last week causing an imminent by-election in Calgary-Glenmore, Edmonton Journal Political Writer Trish Audette posed the following three questions which I have responded with my thoughts:

1. How will Premier Ed Stelmach shuffle cabinet?

Premier Ed Stelmach may avert a shuffle by taking personal responsibility of the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister portfolio (as former Premier Ralph Klein did from 1993 to 1994). If the Premier decides to shuffle the cabinet, this could mean a rearranging the current cabinet or promoting a backbencher. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the capable Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber appointed to a cabinet spot, as this would keep Calgary’s cabinet representation at the same level.

From a (by-)electoral standpoint, it would be smart for Stelmach to increase the number of Calgary cabinet ministers before the by-election in Calgary-Glenmore. If this is the route the Premier takes, Webber could be joined by newer Calgary region MLAs like Manmeet Bhullar, Kyle Fawcett, Dr. Neil Brown, Dave Rodney, Rob Anderson, or even Klein-era Cabinet Minister turned Stelmach-era backbencher Heather Forsyth.

While Stevens' resignation gives Stelmach the opportunity to shuffle the less talented elements out of the cabinet, the Premier has a track record of being incredibly loyal to his supporters, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a near status quo cabinet shuffle.

2. Will the resulting by-election in Calgary-Glenmore be an opening for the Wildrose Alliance?

The Wildrose Alliance (and its predecessor) increased its support in Calgary-Glenmore from 571 votes (5%) in 2004 to 1,025 (8%) in 2008. By-elections traditionally attract a lower voter turnout than General Elections, so a high profile candidate could potentially do well while taking advantage of the lower turnout. Rumoured Wildrose Alliance leadership candidate Danielle Smith could mount a strong challenge for the right-wing party in this by-election.

3. How hard are the Conservatives and Liberals going to fight for this riding?

PC MLAs have represented this riding since 1969 and the PC Party will fight hard to avoid the embarrassment of a Calgary-Elbow style defeat. As predicted, Alderman Diane Colley-Urquhart is the first candidate to publicly enter the PC nomination contest.

This is the first electoral test that Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann will face since becoming Leader of the Alberta Liberal Party in December 2008. Swann is the first Calgary-based Liberal leader since the 1970s, so this by-election will be an important indicator of his party's appeal in Alberta's largest city, and it will be an uphill battle. In 2008, Calgary-Glenmore Liberal candidate Avalon Roberts earned 33%, while Liberal MLA Craig Cheffins was narrowly defeated in neighbouring Calgary-Elbow. Former Ontario MPP George Dadamo is the first candidate to publicly express interest in the Liberal nomination.

Monday, May 18, 2009

george dadamo enters liberal contest in calgary-glenmore.

With a website and Twitter account up and running, it appears that George Dadamo is in the race to represent the Alberta Liberal Party in the imminent Calgary-Glenmore by-election.

A radio broadcaster and media writer, Dadamo represented Windsor-Sandwich in the Ontario Legislature from 1990 to 1995, where he served as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Transportation in Premier Bob Rae's NDP government.

While running a candidate with government experience would be a big catch for David Swann's Liberal Official Opposition (and a vote of no-confidence in Brian Mason's NDP), I can imagine that his opponents in the nomination race and the by-election won't hesitate to highlight any Rae Days connections of Dadamo's past.

UPDATE: Soon after this was posted, Mr. Dadamo's campaign provided me with a campaign biography.

albertans need to exercise citizenship against bill 44.

Does the education opt-out clause in Bill 44 make you proud to be an Albertan?

If you're among the growing number of Albertans concerned about the negative impact that Bill 44 could have on our education system, please contact your MLA and let them know (if you don't know who your MLA is, you can check here). I would also encourage Albertans to contact the Premier, and the two cabinet ministers who have been the strongest public defenders of Bill 44:

Premier Ed Stelmach
MLA Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville
Phone: 780-632-6840
Fax: 780-632-6888

Lindsay Blackett, Minister of Culture & Community Spirit
MLA Calgary-North West
Phone: 403-216-5444
Fax: 403-216-5442

Dave Hancock, Minister of Education
MLA Edmonton-Whitemud
Phone: 780-413-5970
Fax: 780-413-5971
The Legislative Assembly is not sitting this week and MLAs from across Alberta will be in their hometowns meeting with constituents. Don't miss this opportunity to make your voice heard.

Friday, May 15, 2009

ron stevens departs. calgary-glenmore by-election imminent.

Alberta's Deputy Premier and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Ron Stevens resigned from Cabinet and the Legislature this afternoon.

First elected in 1997, Stevens replaced Dianne Mirosh as the MLA for Calgary-Glenmore. Stevens served in the cabinets of both Premiers Ralph Klein and Ed Stelmach. Since Stelmach became Premier in 2006, Stevens has served as the PCs designated heavy hitter in Calgary. Taxpayer's Federation Director Scott Hennig reports that Stevens is eligible to collect an estimated $451,000 in transition allowance.

Stevens' departure leaves a big hole to be filled in the PC cabinet as Calgary's senior Cabinet Minister position now falls to Health Minister Ron Liepert. While I wouldn’t be surprised to see Parliamentary Assistant and Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber invited to join Cabinet, it may take Stelmach some time to find a Calgary Lieutenant as well-connected to Calgary's corporate elites as Stevens. A former PC insider has informed me that Treasury Board President Lloyd Snelgrove will take over Stevens now former role as acting-Premier in Stelmach's absence.

A by-election has yet to be called in Calgary-Glenmore, but I’ve already heard rumours that Alderman Diane Colley-Urquhart may seek the PC nomination. This by-election could also serve as a springboard for Danielle Smith’s potential campaign for the Wild Rose Alliance leadership.

In 2008, five Liberal MLAs were elected in Calgary, including their new leader, David Swann. Will their March 2008 electoral gains help the Liberals attract a viable local candidate? In 1963, Bill Dickie was elected as the Liberal MLA for Calgary-Glenmore and was re-elected as a Liberal in 1967 before joining Peter Lougheed's PCs in 1969 (the Liberals would not elect another MLA in Calgary until Sheldon Chumir was elected in Calgary-Buffalo in 1986).

Calgary-Glenmore Past-Election Results

Ron Stevens, PC 6,436 (51%)
Avalon Roberts, Lib 4,213 (33%)
Ryan Sadler, WRA 1,025 (8%)
Arden Bonokoski, G 550 (4%)
Holly Heffernan, NDP 477 (4%)
Total: 12,701

Ron Stevens, PC 6,263 (50%)
Avalon Roberts, Lib 4,364 (35%)
Ernest McCutchon, AA 571 (5%)
Holly Heffernan, NDP 553 (4%)
Evan Sklarski, Grn 532 (4%)
Larry Heather, SC 127 (1%)
Total: 12,410

Ron Stevens, PC 9,678 (68%)
Michael Broadhurst, Lib 3,708 (26%)
James Kohut, Grn 467 (3%)
Jennifer Stewart, NDP 441 (3%)
Total: 14,294

Ron Stevens, PC 8,247 (58%)
Wayne Stewart, Lib 4,919 (35%)
Vernan Cook, SC 583 (4%)
Grace Johner, NDP 435 (3%)
Total: 14,184

SEE ALSO: Ken Chapman: Deputy Premier Stevens throws in the Towel and Calgary Grit: This Week in Alberta: Aloha Ron

Thursday, May 14, 2009

edmonton city centre airport debate.

Anyone who has paid attention to the recent debate about whether to close or continue operations at Edmonton’s City Centre Airport (ECCA) likely will have noticed how much the debate has been based on anecdotal arguments and testimonials.

Supporting the ECCAs continued operation, the Alberta Enterprise Group (AEG) has proven effective at collecting stories from local business people in support of the ECCA. While the buzz AEG has been able to generate is impressive (with the exception of a cheesy media stunt), their arguments have yet to contribute objective figures or solid facts supporting the continued operation of the ECCA.

On the other side of the debate, many of the members of a facebook group supporting the closure of the ECCA have provided the same style of anecdotal evidence, and weighing in with some needlessly adversarial responses to AEG and ECCA supporters.

While it's hard to have sympathy for the company President or CEO who would be inconvenienced by an extra fifteen to twenty minute drive to his or her private company jet, I am still waiting for the City of Edmonton’s ECCA assessment report (which will hopefully include actual facts and numbers) before I decide whether to take a side in this debate. The report is due to be released in June 2009.

Last week, in his State of the City address, Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel challenged supporters of the ECCA to come up with better arguments.

“Please understand that environmental costs will have to be paid either way. Don’t tell us that your business status entitles you to special consideration, and that treating you like every other Edmontonian is somehow an affront.”
I agree with Mayor Mandel's point, but it's hard not to notice that he doesn't appear to apply the same argument to other controversial development proposals (including the proposed construction and public financing of a new downtown arena for the Edmonton Oilers).

I recently attended a presentation by hosted by the City-Region Studies Centre at the University of Alberta where two American city planners talked about the creative regional transportation planning used by planners in Portland, Oregon. While learning about Portland’s approach to planning, including the heavy role placed on the balance of quality of life and economic development (never one at the expense of the other), it occurred to me that, if closed, the 217-hectare land sitting below the ECCA could present Edmonton a unique opportunity.

While I haven't decided whether or not I support the continued operation of the airport, new development that included mixed-income walkable communities could provide a smart counterbalance with distinctive character to the endless cookie cutter suburban neighbourhoods that have become an increasingly normal sight on the now sprawling edges of Edmonton’s city limits.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

#bcelection #fail.

The BC Liberals led by Premier Gordon Campbell claimed a third majority government in yesterday's provincial election, but British Columbians joined the national trend of claiming new record low voter turnouts. Voter turnout dropped from 58% in the 2005 election to 50% yesterday.

While the STV referendum was decisively defeated, two of the hand full of ridings where the STV earned majority support were Premier Campbell's Vancouver-Point Grey riding and BC NDP leader Carole James' Victoria-Beacon Hill riding.


Great ad.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

bc votes (on tuesday).

British Columbians will be going to the polls on Tuesday May 12 to vote in their second fixed-date provincial election and second Single Transferable Vote referendum. While I haven't written much about the BC election on this blog, I have been following this election with interest (check out the mighty Tyee's Hook Blog, Public Eye Online, and the Gazetteer for some of the best info).

While many Albertans may not fully understand the quirky politics of our neighbours to the west, there are number of reasons why the electoral battle between the BC Liberals, led by Premier Gordon Campbell, and the BC NDP, led by leader Carole James, should be of interest to Albertans.

Since they were elected eight years ago, Campbell's BC Liberals have forged a close relationship with Alberta's governing Progressive Conservatives. Starting with meetings earlier in the decade, British Columbia and Alberta are now partners in the controversial TILMA (Trade, Investment, & Labour Mobility Agreement). The two governing parties have also hosted a series of joint-cabinet meetings to highlight their close relationship (and during this campaign, Campbell wore a pair of cowboy boots gifted to him by former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein).

In their platform, the BC NDP have pledged to renegotiate TILMA, which leads me to imagine what an entertaining time the first meeting between Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach and a Premier-elect Carole James would sound like...

Stelmach: So, you're a socialist? In Alberta, we call Liberals socialists.

James: In British Columbia, you'd probably be a Liberal.
My friends in Alberta's PC party who thought Klein was around for too long should take note of Gordon Campbell's political longevity. Campbell has been leader of the BC Liberal Party since 1993, and in a quick estimation, this makes Campbell the second longest serving current major provincial party leader in Canada (the current longest being Manitoba Premier Gary Doer, who has led the Manitoba NDP since 1988). During his time as leader of the BC Liberals, Campbell has outlasted five BC NDP leaders.


British Columbians will also vote in their second STV referendum on May 12. Albertans including former Reform Party leader and Calgary-Southwest MP Preston Manning, former Edmonton-North Reform MP Deb Grey, and former Edmontonian Mel Hurtig have joined the broad list of prominent Canadians endorsing the change to STV in this referendum. Here's a quick video explaining what the proposed electoral changes would mean:

Thursday, May 07, 2009

jaffer out of edmonton-strathcona race.

After having declared his intention to seek a rematch against NDP MP Linda Duncan in Edmonton-Strathcona, former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer has bowed out of his party's nomination race.

Tory nominations drive Jaffer from politics
Former MP gives up on his ambitions after being shut out of Edmonton riding in favour of PMO staffer

The Canadian Press
May 7, 2009 at 6:53 PM EDT

OTTAWA — Former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer is giving up on his political ambitions for now, after Tory sources say he was effectively shut out of the nomination process in his Edmonton riding.

A staffer in the Prime Minister's Office is one of the contestants in that race.

“My understanding is that the party does not want him to run,” said a Conservative source. “The party is doing what the party does.”

Mr. Jaffer, a former caucus chair, told the party in a letter last month that he intended to run in Edmonton-Strathcona to win back the riding he narrowly lost last fall to the NDP. [Read more]
Candidates for the Conservative nomination include Ryan Hastman, Linda Blade, and Cathay Wagantall.

(h/t @MrBWH)

green insider lays it all out.

It has been a rough year for the Alberta Greens. After a months-long legal battle between Joe Anglin and George Read for the right to lead the party, the Greens were reported to be in financial ruin.

Long-time Green activist David Crowe has now published his extensive outline chronicling the downfall of Alberta's Green Party.

guest post: 'i've never felt more inspired to start a political movement in alberta.'

This past weekend, I had the privilege in taking part in the Liberal Party of Canada's Convention in Vancouver. It was a fantastic new experience for me, one which I will never forget, and it was my first foray into real politics. And I wasn’t disappointed.

There were the highs and lows expected from politics. Surprisingly, most of the lows I witnessed were within the Young Liberals of Canada. There’s nothing like extremely ambitious young Canadians vying for coveted positions to put politics in perspective. Everyone is striving to make themselves a name strong enough to grab the attention of party insiders and political superstars like Bob Rae, Alfred Apps, and Michael Ignatieff. Of the three contested races, I followed the race for VP Policy the closest. Timothy Smith and Pierre-Luc Lacoste both ran admirable campaigns, but Lacoste’s French connection won out in the end.

Besides some shameful and money wasting efforts on behalf of youth candidates to get elected, it was the lack of young women involved that caught my attention. Of the 10 positions filled, only two are held by women, and neither of them ran in contested races. The party is trying to focus on re-growth and renewal with an emphasis on gender parity and with youth often being the most progressive members of a party, parity should be high on the list of things to-do for the Young Liberals of Canada.

After this weekend thought, I’m feeling more positive about being a Liberal in Alberta. I’ve often felt ostracized and many have attempted to make me feel ashamed of my membership, but I’ve never backed down, and now, I have a reason not to. The Liberal Party is starting to focus on Alberta instead of ignoring it and chalking it up as a lost cause. The new election strategy is shaping up to be a “308 riding strategy” in which each riding, no matter how hopeless, should receive help from the central party to win an election. It will be an uphill battle in rural Alberta, regardless of how much money and how many "big name Liberals" the party throws at it. Even Alberta Liberals know this. I didn't meet one Albertan who felt that their rural riding could be won easily, let alone at all.

However, I've never felt more inspired to start a political movement in Alberta. If the convention did nothing else, it certainly inspired some questioning Liberals to believe in the party again. Ignatieff seems to be the inspiration and the kick-start the party needs regain power. Earlier today I heard that the Liberals are up in the polls, ahead of the Conservatives, but that does not mean we are ready for an election. Major fundraising needs to be done before the party is ready to run a successful campaign. For the “308 riding strategy” to be effective, the party needs some disposable income, which it does not have.

All in all, it was an exciting weekend, and regardless of your party, everyone should get involved. The convention inspired me to get actively involved, and hopefully others will follow suit.


Caitlin Schulz was the only youth delegate from the Wetaskiwin riding south of Edmonton for the 2009 Liberal Convention in Vancouver. She is in her fourth year of studies at the University of Alberta, majoring in Political Science.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

severely normal nova scotians.

Meet Linda and Tom Risk. The maritime couple are the key characters of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party's attack website against the NDP and come with their very own Facebook profiles (Linda and Tom). The couple appears to represent severely normal Nova Scotians and are very likely related to Rimbey, Alberta residents Martha and Henry.

The Nova Scotia General Election has been called for June 9, 2009 and is becoming a face-off between the PCs - led by Premier Rodney MacDonald - and the Nova Scotia NDP - led by Darrell Dexter. The Liberals are being led in this election by Stephen McNeil.

(h/t to @glenkruger)

bill 44 to end with charter private schools?

With Premier Ed Stelmach spending the week in Switzerland, it appears that Education Minister Dave Hancock and Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett have been left in charge of defending the controversial recent amendments to Bill 44: Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act, 2009.

Someone much smarter than I recent suggested a scenario that could end the current controversy over Bill 44. This scenario would see the PC caucus pull the evolution clause from the Bill and implement either education tax opt-outs for parents sending their kids to Charter Private Schools or provide government funding for Charter Private Schools as a 'compromise.'


Monday, May 04, 2009

setting the stage for an electoral boundary battle.

"Representation is not all about equal representation, it's about equitable representation. - Minister Ray Danyluk
This afternoon, Justice Minister Alison Redford announced the introduction of amendments to the Alberta's elections laws in Bill 45: Electoral Boundaries Commission Amendment Act, 2009 that will allow a commission to begin the process of redrawing Alberta's electoral boundaries earlier than scheduled. The amendments include increasing the number of electoral districts from 83 to 87. While my immediate reaction is to oppose an increase in the number of politicians in Alberta (I actually believe that we should decrease the number of MLAs in the Legislature), I am more concerned with equal representation in the Legislative Assembly.

One of the largest flaws in last Electoral Boundary Commission Review is that from the beginning, a process that should have been impartial and non-partisan quickly became politically-charged. The process inevitably became framed in rural versus urban or Conservative versus Liberal contexts due to the composition of the Commission. The membership of the 2002/2003 Electoral Boundary Commission included five political appointees - two appointed by the Premier (former MLA Glen Clegg and PC Party President-to-be Doug Graham), two nominated by the Leader of the Official Opposition (former Claresholm Mayor Ernie Patterson and former ATA President Bauni Mackay – both former Liberal candidates), and a chairperson appointed by the Cabinet* (former Social Credit MLA Bob Clark).

I have more thoughts on this topic, so you can be sure I will write more in the near future.

*The Cabinet is chaired by the Premier.

UPDATE: Duncan at has written a great post on this topic.

fifteen-minutes extended.

The wikipedia entry for Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach (not to be confused with Harry Strom) occupies the featured article spot on the main English Wikipedia page.

Thanks to the good folks at Wikipedia, it looks like my fifteen-minutes of fame may have been narrowly extended a couple seconds (milliseconds?).

Saturday, May 02, 2009

bill 44, evolution, & hyper-partisanship in alberta.

When the controversy over Bill 44 and evolution erupted earlier this week, I wasn’t sure whether it was just a continuation of NDP leader Brian Mason’s weekly outrage, the result of a clumsy communications strategy, or actually a real issue. Turns out, it's all of the above.

Although I have a hard time believing that Education Minister Dave Hancock has an agenda to undermine Alberta's science curriculum, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that certain MLAs in the governing caucus do. In March 2008, Albertans re-elected the Progressive Conservatives with a large 72-MLA caucus, with a number of socially conservative ideologues in their ranks.

While it's likely that the outrage over Bill 44 is largely the result of a poor communications strategy (including Premier Ed Stelmach bringing up the evolution example himself), the genesis of the controversial amendments are politically suspect. Are the controversial sections of Bill 44 simply concessions that Hancock needed to make in order to appease his social conservative caucus-mates? The governing PC caucus consists of nearly all the MLAs in the Legislature, and because of this many legislative concessions and debates occur in closed-door Caucus meetings, rather than in public debate on the floor elected Assembly. This isn't the first time in recent memory that social conservative politics made headlines by influencing government policy (earlier this month, the PC caucus decided to de-list transgendered medical operations).

Three years ago, now-Sustainable Resource Development Minister Ted Morton introduced a Private Member's Bill that would have banned any mention of homosexuality from Alberta's educational curriculum. The longest-serving PC MLA, Speaker Ken Kowalski proudly placed "While human beings can create laws, the laws of God must take precedence” as the first bullet point in a campaign advertisement during the March 2008 election.

When an apology isn’t enough.

Liberal MLA Dave Taylor used some pretty tasteless language in the Legislature this week. While it was only a matter of time before a heckler like Taylor said something that he would regret, he accepted responsibility for his comments and publicly apologized on the Assembly floor the next day. However, it appears that Taylor’s public apology wasn’t enough for some members of the Legislature.

Seconds after Taylor's public apology, Premier Stelmach presented a letter to the Legislature shaming the opposition MLA and Liberal leader David Swann. The letter was posted on the Premier's official website shortly after that. It appears that Stelmach saw Taylor's screw-up as an opportunity to make an example of the vocal critic, but no MLA, including Stelmach, has a track record to boast moral superiority in the Legislature. While it may have been posted during a fit of hyper-partisanship, there is no reason that this letter needed to be posted on the Premier’s official website after Taylor apologized.

Once again, we see more of the same old politics, and more of the same old games.

A couple weeks ago, a Calgary journalist suggested to me that 'at some point, we're going to have to start treating political ideologues like religious nutcases.' Maybe we have reached that point.

linda blade enters edmonton-strathcona conservative contest.

Ryan Hastman, Cathay Wagantall, and former MP Rahim Jaffer have been joined by another candidate in the race for the Conservative Party of Canada nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona.

Ottewell resident Linda Blade is the newest contender to enter the contest. Blade is currently the Sports Performance Manager at the Royal Glenora Club, has a PhD in Kinesiology, and was the Conditioning Coach to 2002 Canadian Olympic Gold Medalists Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. Her nomination campaign manager is Brad Fournier, who also managed Rona Ambrose's 2008 re-election campaign in Edmonton-Spruce Grove.

NDP MP Linda Duncan has represented Edmonton-Strathcona since defeating Jaffer in October 2008.