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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

the you're fired grab bag.

1) You're fired. At least that is what supporters of Calgary philanthropist Brett Wilson may want delegates to November's PC leadership review to tell Premier Ed Stelmach.

While Stelmach attempts to deal with his predecessor's solid track-record of short-sighted fiscal planning, Wilson was spotted in the company of American billionaire Donald Trump while participating in the Eastern Ontario Economic Showcase.

2) Duncan Wojtaszek and I were the two lucky guests on the 9th episode of the Unknown Studio, set to be released around the second week of October. The topic? Politics, post-partisanship, and changing the game! If you aren't familiar with Adam and Scott's podcast, take a listen to my two personal favorites (episode two and episode four) that include interviews with Don Iveson and Scott Lilwall.

3) Friend of Daveberta, the Enlightened Savage has launched a series of blog posts titled Perfecting Alberta. Take a read and contribute in his posts on Health Care, Primary & Secondary Education, and Economics & Industry.

4) Both Enmax and Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier have waded into the debate over Bill 50. I believe that this is a more complex issue than some proponents may have the public believe and I am working on an expanded blog post with some thoughts.

5) The Alberta NDP have begun hosting a series of meetings on the always hot topic of Health Care. Last week, nursing students from the University of Alberta rallied at the Legislature, expressing their frustrations about future job prospects in Alberta.

6) Premier Stelmach has recently denied rumours that 10 PC MLAs would cross to the Wildrose Alliance if Danielle Smith wins that party's leadership on October 17. Calgary Rants has some thoughts on the speculation.

Monday, September 28, 2009

changecamp edmonton.

I am really excited to be involved with a great group of Edmontonians who are organizing the first ChangeCamp Edmonton event on October 17th. For those of you not familiar with the successful ChangeCamps that have been held in Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver (as well as CivicCamp in Calgary), and are also being planned in Halifax and Montreal, take a minute to read Justin Archer's guest column on Connect2Edmonton.

The day-of events will take place from 8:30am to 5:00pm at the Lister Centre on the University of Alberta campus. You can register for free and follow the discussion on twitter at #yegchange.

Diane Begin and I will be co-presenting on the topic of ChangeCamp Edmonton at another great upcomign event: Pecha Kucha 5 at the Myer Horowitz Theatre on October 2nd.

(I would also like to thank the sponsors of ChangeCamp Edmonton for their generous support: Edmonton Journal, Alberta Business Awards, Yardstick Software, Cambridge Strategies, and fusedlogic)

alberta redrawing boundaries.

Alberta's Electoral Boundaries Commission is now into its third week of its first round of public hearings. My previous post on the Commission has generated some great discussion about the challenges of representing rural electoral districts and I am looking forward to an upcoming post by a guest contributor to this blog that will delve deeper into some of the issues raised in that discussion.

Thanks to the good people at Hansard, transcripts and audio are now available from the last two weeks of hearings in Fort McMurray: (afternoon, evening), St. Paul, Wainwright, Edmonton (September 22nd afternoon, evening). The transcripts and audio from the September 23rd public hearings in Edmonton and September 24th & 25th in Calgary are not available yet, but I would expect that they should be posted at some point this week. 

So far, it has been a relatively small number of Albertans who have presented to the commission, including MLAs Laurie Blakeman and Guy Boutilier, municipal officials including Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland, County of St. Paul Reeve Robert Bouchard, Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, and a number of representatives from Liberal and Progressive Conservatives constituency associations.

Due to legislative amendments introduced into the Legislative Assembly by Justice Minister Alison Redford during the Spring session, the Electoral Boundaries Commission will increase the amount of electoral districts from 83 to 87. While it's very questionable why Albertans would need more MLAs, the increase may help the case presented by Mandel, who urged the Commissioners to increase Edmonton's representation by two seats. The outcome of the 2002/2003 Boundaries Commission saw Edmonton's representation in the Legislative Assembly decrease by one MLA, a move that is widely believed to have contributed to the defeats of seven capital city PC MLAs in the 2004 provincial election (Commission member Bauni Mackay penned a spirited defence of Edmonton in her minority position).

These public hearings haven't been overflowing with presenters, but I expect that interest will rise after the interim report and interim map are released in the coming months. The submission deadline for the first round of public hearings is on October 13.

Brian Dell: My Submission to the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission
Trish Audette: Rural vs Urban tug of war

Friday, September 25, 2009

will danielle smith ignite a wildrose fire in the pc caucus?

Alex Abboud and Trish Audette have already written about this, but an anonymous source reported in this week's subscription-only issue* of Alberta Scan has suggested that 10 Progressive Conservative MLAs could cross the floor to the Wildrose Alliance if potential game changer Danielle Smith is selected in the October 17 leadership vote.

How likely is this?

With 70 MLAs in the 83 seat legislature, the PCs have a broad-range of political diversity in their caucus ranging from liberals/Red Tories to hard-core angry social conservatives, with a large group of simple pro-government pragmatists filling the gap in between. While Ed Stelmach's tenure as Premier began three years ago with a number of funding increases and semi-progressive moves (like the creation of the now almost existent lobbyist registry), a number of recent events seem to suggest that the right-wingers in the PC caucus have been taking advantage of the current leadership vacuum to drive their own agenda.

A number of right-wing champions appear to have solidly integrated themselves into the PCs institutional machinery: Ted Morton is widely seen as a competent Minister of Sustainable Resource Development, and following Kyle Fawcett's very public apology to Premier Stelmach, it appears that the Stelmach loyalist's appointment to an important government committee was cancelled in favour of Bill 44 advocate Airdrie-Chestermere MLA Rob Anderson. Right-wing Calgary-Egmont MLA Jonathan Denis has just been appointed as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Energy, and Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Broyce Jacobs is now the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Agriculture.

Many of these MLAs are driving the agenda behind legislation like Bill 44 and pushing Stelmach's public shift to the right following Alberta's record budget deficit and Paul Hinman's victory in the Calgary-Glenmore by-election. It's hard to disagree that there is disgruntlement with Stelmach's leadership inside the PC caucus, it is difficult to understand why the more right-wing conservatives would leave the governing caucus to occupy the opposition benches.

This said, any PC MLA crossing the floor to the Wildrose Alliance could change the political landscape in the Alberta Legislature, especially if they are a cabinet minister. If only a hand full of PC MLAs joined a Danielle Smith-led Wildrose Alliance, they could easily replace the two-MLA NDP caucus as the third party. With only 9 MLAs, the Liberal Official Opposition could become the third-place party if the rumoured 10 PC MLAs joined what would become an 11 MLA official opposition.

*Anyone can read Alberta Scan and many other publications for free at the Legislative Assembly Library.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

recap: citytv town hall on alberta politics.

I was pleased to join a panel of distinguished Edmontonians, including Avenue Magazine Editor Colin McGarrigle and University of Alberta Dean of Business Mike Percy, and elected officials this morning for a CityTV live-broadcast town hall meeting at Enterprise Square. The town hall was hosted by Ryan Jespersen and Bridget Ryan reported live from a classroom at Paul Kane High School in St. Albert.

Wildrose Alliance Leadership ForumWildrose Alliance Leadership Forum
Representing the Progressive Conservative Association, Aboriginal Relations Minister Gene Zwozdesky was a friendly ambassador. As the long-time MLA for Edmonton-Mill Creek (he sat as a Liberal from 1993 to 1998 and as a PC from 1998 to the present), these kind of town halls are old hat for the political veteran. Zwozdesky presented a largely scripted pro-government message in his response to questions from Jespersen and the Paul Kane students. His interactions with the other MLAs on the panel were similar.

Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MLA Rachel Notley is always well-spoken and at every opportunity she took control of the discussion with ease, including taking jabs at Zwozdesky over a recently leaked report from Alberta Health Services that the NDP claim include plans to close over 9,000 long-term care beds.

After the forum, I had a really good discussion with Notley about the challenges in reinvigorating politics and civic engagement in Alberta. While she thought I may have been a little hard with my criticisms of politicians, we both agreed that what exists now in terms of political infrastructure isn't resulting with a politically engaging population. From the perspective of an opposition MLA, I can understand how it quickly becomes a chicken and egg scenario. In our parliamentary democracy, can an already existing political movement invigorate citizens to engage in politics, or will citizens need to already be engaged before a political movement can begin to succeed? I believe that it comes down to values and the mechanisms that citizens feel they can join to express them.

Wildrose Alliance Leadership ForumWildrose Alliance Leadership Forum
Since becoming leader of the Alberta Liberals and the Official Opposition last December, I have noticed a marked improvement in David Swann's public speaking skills. One of the things I like about Swann is his sincerity, and while in a public speaking engagement one year ago it could have been mistaken as awkwardness, it's now starting shine through. As the MLA for Calgary-Mountain View, Swann is much lesser known in Edmonton than previous Liberal leaders (four of the six Liberal leaders over the past 25 years have been from the Edmonton area), so this forum provided a good opportunity for him to speak to Edmontonians.

Fresh from what he described as a "jet ride" victory in the Calgary-Glenmore by-election, Wildrose Alliance MLA-elect Paul Hinman relied heavily on memorized talking points, but was the second most articulate speaker after Notley. On-air, Hinman presented a reasonable message of conservatism that likely would not have scared away many voters, and he addressed the issue of the politics of scaremongering while on-air.

My more interesting reflections on Hinman are generated from our discussion afterward, when he spoke in the tone of a much harder version of anti-government conservatism. I believe that government can play a positive role in society, but it was clear that Hinman didn't as we conversed about the roles of individuals, community, and government in irradiating poverty and homelessness (it eventually culminated with Hinman very calmly accusing me of being a socialist).

During the sixth segment of the town hall, I made a point that had been similarly expressed after a recent Globe & Mail column blamed young people for the inspiration deficit in Canadian politics. I believe that it is naive of us to simply expect that young people will automatically buy-in to a political system that is dominated by a previous generation who held different priorities and values. There are young people who are passionate about any kind of issue you could imagine, but that doesn't mean that they will see value in participating in the currently existing political structure. Young people care about their future and they have valid opinions - and you can watch that passion in the final segment when Paul Kane students questioned the MLAs about Bill 44.

Overall, the town hall was a positive experience. I really believe that there is a lack of solid political discussion happening in Alberta and I hope that CityTV and other television stations host more live-discussions and debates in the future.

(Thanks to Kevin Kuchinski for the photos)

Video Segments:
Part 1: Introducing the BT Townhall
Part 2: Out Political History
Part 3: On Health Care
Part 4: The Real Questions
Part 5: The Wake-up Call
Part 6: Apathy & the Next Generation
Part 7: Bill 44 & Closing Remarks

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

libraries play a key role in creating healthy communities in alberta.

Edmonton Public Libraries may have to end Sunday service, cut hours at all branches or close a branch due to a $1 million budget shortfall caused by provincial government spending cuts, meaning that the library will not receive its annual per-capita funding increase to account for the additional 30,000 people living in Edmonton.

In April 2009, I congratulated the MLA Committee of Jeff Johnson, Fred Horne, and Teresa Woo-Paw for their recommendations to improve library service in Alberta, that included a long-awaited budget increase of 39%. I would hope that these three PC MLAs would stand behind their recommendations for increased funding and not remain silent if funding for libraries are cut.

A strong public library system can play an integral role in creating healthy communities in Alberta.

required reading: burying carbon dioxide in underground saline aquifers: political folly or climate change fix?

It has been a while since I've written about this topic, so I was delighted to see that the Munk Centre for International Studies has released a new report on the science of the Carbon Capture Scheme. The 63-page report was written by Edmonton Journal columnist Graham Thomson while he was on a Canadian Journalism Foundation fellowship at the University of Toronto in 2008-2009.


let's not lose another generation of nurses.

During the last round of major government cuts to health care in the 1990s, I've been told that Alberta lost entire cohorts of graduating nurses who moved to other provinces in search of stable jobs in the health care sector. With the current hostile environment in the health care sector, Alberta's future nurses are speaking out in a media conference tomorrow.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

talking politics on citytv.

On Thursday morning from 8:30am to 10:00am, I will be taking part in a political discussion hosted and televised on CityTV Edmonton. Students from St. Albert's Paul Kane High School will be spending their morning in the audience at the Enterprise Square Atrium discussion. This event is open to the public!

Panelists: University of Alberta Dean and former MLA Mike Percy, Ken Chapman, Dave Cournoyer, Colin McGarrigle (Editor, Avenue Edmonton)

Political Representatives: Minister Gene Zwozdesky, Official Opposition leader David Swann, NDP MLA Rachel Notley, and Calgary-Glenmore MLA-elect Paul Hinman.

Discussion topics:
- Have these decades long dynasties served the people of Alberta well?
- What's left of the left? Is Alberta so far to the right there's little chance for the left?
- Forget the left, is Calgary Glenmore a serious sign that the right is splitting? Or is it simply an isolated protest vote?
- Forget politics all together. Let's review the abysmal voter turn-out!
- How do we foster sense of community, duty and political interest in our youth?

smith speaks.

If you're looking to be blown away by impassioned speeches from Alberta politicians, you'll probably have to find a way to travel back to 1935, when the last fiery orator gripped his hands on Alberta's political helm: Bill Aberhart,

She didn't light the room on fire, but I was still impressed by the well-spoken and articulate Danielle Smith during her closing speech at the recent Wildrose Alliance leadership forum in Edmonton. Her campaign has posted the video:

Mind you, Aberhart's speeches also led to the election of a government that wanted to print its own provincial currency and tried to pass legislation that would have forced newspapers to print government rebuttals to stories the provincial cabinet objected to. Perhaps Aberhart isn't the ideal example?

Monday, September 21, 2009

your feedback: alberta's electoral boundaries commission.

Alberta's Electoral Boundaries Commission will be holding their first round of public hearings in Edmonton and Calgary this week. I am planning to submit recommendations to the Commission and I would like your feedback!

The basic overview of my submission include:

Basic Principles

- All Albertans deserve equal representation in the Alberta Legislature.

- Leave out the politics. Boundary redistribution isn't about urban versus rural, it’s about ensuring Albertans have equal representation in their Legislature.

Population Disparity

The Electoral Boundaries Commission Act allows for the population of a proposed electoral division to be 25 percent above or 25 percent below the average population of all the proposed electoral divisions.

I urge the Commission to recommend the population of each of the proposed electoral divisions be within plus or minus 5 percent of the average population of all the proposed electoral divisions.

Large Electoral Districts

Representing large rural electoral districts presents obvious challenges. Current legislation allows the Commission to recommend 4 large proposed electoral divisions to have a population that is as much as 50% below the average population of all the proposed electoral divisions. In 2009, the technology exists to aid MLAs to communicate, converse, and represent Albertans in large electoral districts.

I urge the Electoral Boundaries Commission to not designate any electoral district this special status. Instead of allow over representation in the Assembly, I urge the Commission to recommend an increase in funding for MLAs representing large electoral districts for the cost of multiple constituency offices and an increased travel budget.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I haven't read enough information to decide whether or not I support The Katz Group proposal for the construction of an arena in downtown Edmonton, but as I wait for more information, I am continually surprised at how much Edmonton's media has capitulated to awe of The Katz Group's concept.

Today's Edmonton Journal provides a perfect example of this. Without releasing any new information, The Katz Group secured a front page headline by tempting the media with vague "hints." The headline story was largely void of new information and it appears to have reprinted much of what has already been covered in the past month.

If that wasn't enough, the article also includes a quote from American academic Mark Rosentraub defining the buzzword "starchitecture."
"You're combining the word 'star' and 'architecture,' so we call it starchitecture," Rosentraub says.
As The Katz Group moves their downtown arena agenda forward, it is imperative that Edmontonians have a mature debate about how this will shape our downtown core. I hope that when pertinent information is actually released our mainstream media can then provide responsible, balanced, and critical analysis.

Friday, September 18, 2009

from the dragons' den to under the dome?

Insight into Government is reporting talk that Brett Wilson, co-founder of First Energy Capital and a panelist on the CBCs the Dragons' Den is getting ready to step forward as a leadership candidate if Premier Ed Stelmach fares poorly in the November 6-7 PC leadership review.

I originally heard this rumour in the spring, but with the PC leadership review fast approaching, the thought of a party leader like Wilson may influence the votes of some party delegates to November convention.

Wilson can be found on twitter at @WBrettWilson.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

mla apologizes for saying what 74% of calgary-glenmore voters were thinking.

And here I was thinking that the PCs had implemented a strategic communications plan to begin recovering their support after the Calgary-Glenmore by-election defeat.

Tory MLA apologizes to Stelmach

Calgary North Hill MLA Kyle Fawcett has apologized to Premier Ed Stelmach for being critical of his leadership abilities.

Fawcett suggested Stelmach had done little to give confidence to Calgarians that he has the ability to lead the province.

The rookie Conservative MLA made the comment after the party finished third in a byelection in Calgary on Monday.

Stelmach and Fawcett met for a conversation on Thursday and Fawcett offered an apology for his comment, the premier said.

"He was remorseful, and he said, look, you know, I just got caught in the heat of the loss and certainly dejected, and I know what it feels like," said Stelmach.

I guess I gave them too much credit.

(h/t Andrew McIntyre)

ndp convention puts kibosh on co-operation.

In this week's editions of Edmonton's SEE Magazine or Calgary's FFWD Weekly you can read my column on the recent Alberta NDP convention in Edmonton. The column looks at the familiar path taken after advice given by Nova Scotia NDP organizer Matt Hebb and the delegates overwhelming rejection of a motion aimed at election agreements with Alberta Liberals and others.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

woah, rahim.

Former Edmonton-Strathcona Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer is in some serious hot water:

Rahim Jaffer, husband of Simcoe-Grey MP Helena Guergis, has been charged with drunk driving and possession of cocaine.

Police stopped Jaffer, a 37-year-old Angus resident, on Sept. 11 on Regional Road 50 in Palgrave. Caledon OPP say he was speeding through the village.Jaffer will be in

Orangeville criminal court on Oct. 19 to answer the charges.

Jaffer was elected MP for the Edmonton-Strathcona riding in 1997, a seat he held up until last year's federal election, when he lost to the NDP candidate.

Audio: Rahim Jaffer's anti-drug radio ad from the 2008 election. (ht Archie McLean)

could have been a superstar.

Rich Vivone, former editor of Insight into Government, will be launching his new book RALPH COULD HAVE BEEN A SUPERSTAR: Tales of the Klein Era tonight in Edmonton.

Location: Audreys Books, 10702 Jasper Avenue (Map).
Time: 7:30pm

I've read the Vivone's book and plan to write a review in the next couple weeks. It may be tempting to judge this book by its cover, but it's a good read and definitely worth picking up. The Edmonton Journal recently published some exerts from the book.

not without permission.

Two backbench PC MLAs have spoken to the media about the results of the Calgary-Glenmore by-election and their concerns about a hostile political environment in Calgary. Calgary-North Hill MLA Kyle Fawcett told the Calgary Herald that he believes Premier Ed Stelmach has:

"done very little, I believe, to instil confidence in at least people in Calgary that he has the leadership capabilities to lead this province.
This is quite the stunning change of opinion by Fawcett, who has developed a reputation as a Stelmach-evangelist on the floor of the Legislative Assembly. Here is an exert of Fawcett's speech in the Assembly on February 12, 2009:
Our Premier is a man of extraordinary vision, someone who fails to fall into the trap of regressive thinking during challenging times. He is a steady hand at the wheel of the ship in turbulent times. When others retreat, he has the optimism to search for the light at the end of the tunnel, the beacon of hope that all Albertans aspire to. He has the dogged determination to push forward to establish this province’s place in the new world paradigm when the negativity of others is enough to stop progress dead in its tracks.
It seems very likely that both MLAs were either asked to or given permission to speak to the media to counter accusations that backbenchers speaking against the Premier will be 'Boutilierd' and to temper any anti-Stelmach sentiment that clearly wasn't understood in a recent media release. I have been told that a similar tactic of external criticism only after internal permission was adopted by the Deep-Six, of which Premier Stelmach was a member.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

a calgary-glenmore induced cabinet shuffle?

I briefly touched on this point in my previous post, but the potential for a cabinet shuffle before the fall session of the Legislative Assembly begins in October seems imminent after yesterday's results in the Calgary-Glenmore by-election. I started hearing serious rumours of a cabinet shuffle during the spring session of the Assembly. They mostly began following the announcement of the deficit in the 2009 provincial budget and intensified following the controversy over Bill 44.

A shuffle within Finance & Enterprise is the rumour I've heard most frequently. With Minister Iris Evans being in the most unfortunate position to have tabled Alberta's first deficit budget in 15 years, it wouldn't be completely shocking if Premier Ed Stelmach wanted this position shuffled. Sources close to a PC cabinet minister have told me that Advanced Education & Technology Minister Doug Horner is seen as the natural fit for this position. Horner is well-respected and has been a competent Minister in his current portfolio.

The resignation of Deputy Premier Ron Stevens left Stelmach without a recognized Calgary Lieutenant in his cabinet. Although she doesn't have the type of corporate Calgary credentials as Stevens, I could see the Deputy Premier role being filled by Justice Minister Alison Redford.

With Children's Services Minister Janis Tarchuk reaching the end of her political rope, Evans could easily be shuffled back into the Children's Services portfolio, an position that she passionately filled from 1999 to 2004.

For Advanced Education & Technology, I have heard a number of names floated including PC backbenchers Len Webber, Janice Sarich, Doug Griffiths, Jonathan Denis, Dave Rodney, and cabinet ministers Heather Klimchuk and Ted Morton. I have a difficult time believing that Morton would be moved from Sustainable Resource Development (a ministry where he is recognized as being competent), the results of the Calgary-Glenmore by-election make it likely that a Calgary MLA will be picked.

I'm told that many inside Stelmach's inner circle take great joy in comparing themselves to the government of Peter Lougheed. If this is a motivator, I could easily see both Horner and Webber, two second generation PC MLAs whose father's served in Lougheed's government, be appointed to elevated positions around the cabinet table.

UPDATE: Len Webber has been appointed Minister of Intergovernmental and International Affairs. This appears to be Premier Stelmach's only new appointment to the Cabinet.

Further UPDATE: From the GOA:

Premier Stelmach also named Calgary-Egmont MLA Jonathan Denis as the new Parliamentary Assistant for Energy. Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Broyce Jacobs becomes the Parliamentary Assistant for Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD). And Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths moves from his role as the Parliamentary Assistant in ARD to become the Parliamentary Assistant for the Department of Solicitor General and Public Security.

calgary-glenmore by-election results.

Paul Hinman, WAP: 4,052 (37%)
Avalon Roberts, Lib: 3,776 (34%)
Diane Colley-Urquhart, PC: 2,863 (26%)
Eric Carpendale, NDP: 148 (1%)
Len Skowronski, SC: 118 (1%)
Tony Gronchowski, Ind: 71 (1%)

There will undoubtedly be no shortage of analysis and punditry about the impact of these results during the political season this fall, so here are some thoughts to help start it off:

- Calgary-Glenmore represents only the fourth time since 1979 where a provincial by-election has resulted in a switch of party representation. This is the second since Ed Stelmach became Premier in 2006.

- Paul Hinman is returning to the Alberta Legislature. Hinman is the outgoing Wildrose Alliance leader and served as the MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner from 2004 to 2008. A 37% victory is far from a landslide, but it appears that Hinman's SEND ED A MESSAGE campaign resonated with a plurality of voters in Glenmore. It will be interesting to see if this by-election win increases public interest in that party's leadership race scheduled for October 17.

- The Alberta Liberals were hoping to build on their Calgary gains from the 2008 election, but candidate Avalon Roberts' strong second-place finish showed that the Liberals have been unable to grow their share of the vote from 2008. This is not great news for an Official Opposition party that has constantly struggled to define itself.

- How could Diane Colley-Urquhart not win? Some pundits may point out that the last time a PC candidate placed so poorly in a Calgary by-election was Calgary-Buffalo in 1992. While I'm not disputing that Rod Love's third place finish in the 1992 contest was embarrassing, the Calgary-Glenmore scenario is quite different. Unlike Calgary-Buffalo in 1992, which had been represented by popular Liberal MLA Sheldon Chumir, Calgary-Glenmore has been a PC stronghold since 1971. Also, unlike Love, Diane Colley-Urquhart was not a parachute candidate. Colley-Urquhart is a nine-year Alderman, a former President of the Glenmore PC Association, and the campaign manager for former MLA Ron Stevens. Colley-Urquhart knew Glenmore and the PCs still managed to lose over 3,500 votes in this election.

- When did it become an appropriate use of public resources for the Premier to issue a media release from the Government of Alberta thanking a candidate for running for his party? Rather than congratulating Hinman on his election, Premier Stelmach issued a Government of Alberta media release thanking Colley-Urquhart for her "strong and honourable campaign." There was no mention of the MLA-elect for Calgary-Glenmore in the media release.

- With an upcoming leadership review, expect Premier Stelmach to initiate some classic overcompensation. Since the end of the spring legislative session, there have been endless rumours about a fall cabinet shuffle and who it could include. Rumour has it that new Calgary faces in the cabinet that could include Dave Rodney and Len Webber.

- The Alberta NDP and Social Credit candidates battled throughout the evening for the fifth place finish, with Socred leader Len Skowronski finally besting NDP flag-bearer Eric Carpendale late in the evening.

Alex Abboud: Calgary Goes Wild(rose)
Ken Chapman: By-Election Results Show Premier Stelmach has some serious soul searching to do!
Chris Labossiere: Between a WRAP and a Hard Place
Trish Audette: Break out the welcome mat...
Calgary Grit: A Wild(rose) ride in Calgary Glenmore
Graham Thomson: Stelmach's nightmare now a reality

Monday, September 14, 2009

is something happening in the calgary-glenmore by-election?

Early poll-by-poll results from the by-election are showing some interesting results...

With 18 out of 66 polls reporting:

Paul Hinman, Wildrose Alliance: 816 votes
Avalon Roberts, Liberal: 698 votes
Diane Colley-Urquhart, PC: 649 votes
Eric Carpendale, NDP: 43 votes
Len Skowronski, SC: 21 votes
Tony Grochowski, Ind: 20 votes


With 56/66 polls reporting:

Paul Hinman, Wildrose Alliance: 3,261 votes
Avalon Roberts, Liberal: 2,986 votes
Diane Colley-Urquhart, PC: 2,219 votes
Eric Carpendale, NDP: 121 votes
Len Skowronski, SC: 95 votes
Tony Grochowski, Ind: 59 votes

The decision desk is calling it a victory for Paul Hinman.

by-election night in calgary-glenmore.

If you live in the riding of Calgary-Glenmore and haven't had a chance to vote, head down to your local polling station before 8:00pm tonight and cast your ballot.

It must have been a hot day to get the vote out in Calgary, but if you are settling for the evening to watch for the results, I hear that my friend from the ES Nation @oberhoffner will be attempting to live-tweet the results.

In the 18 provincial by-elections held in Alberta since 1979, only three have resulted in seats changing parties:

2007: Calgary-Elbow (PC to Liberal)
1992: Three Hills-Airdrie (PC to Liberal)
1982: Olds-Three Hills (PC to Western Canadian Concept)
Also, 7 of the 18 by-elections resulted in close races where the elected MLA was decided by less than 1,000 votes:
2007: Calgary-Elbow (Liberal gain by 784 votes)
2000: Red Deer-North (PC hold by 392 votes)
1996: Redwater (Liberal hold by 98 votes)
1995: Calgary-McCall (PC hold by 516 votes)
1990: Little Bow (PC hold by 262 votes)
1985: Spirit River-Fairview (NDP hold by 462 votes)
1979: Barrhead (PC hold by 355 votes)
You can also watch results come in on the Elections Alberta website

a message to calgary-glenmore voters.

Dear Calgary-Glenmore voters,

From 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM today, you have the opportunity to vote in the by-election that will choose your next MLA.

In the last general election only 41% of you voted.

You've probably heard a lot about how tens of thousands of Canadians have died to protect your democracy and your right to vote. I would reiterate this point, but because it didn't faze 59% of you during the last election, it probably won't faze you now.

So, to get to the point, please don't embarrass Alberta with a low voter turnout today. You don't have good excuse, so get out and vote.



Candidate Information
Eric Carpendale
Diane Colley-Urquhart
Antoni Grochowski
Paul Hinman
Avalon Roberts
Len Skowronski

no cooperation.

Delegates at this past weekend's Alberta NDP convention decided in a 120-40 (ish) vote to not adopt a motion put forward by the Edmonton-Rutherford & Edmonton-Whitemud NDP Associations and supported by members of the Democratic Renewal Project (DRP). The motion would have put the NDP in a position to negotiate an electoral cooperation strategy with the Alberta Liberals and Greens to prevent vote-splitting.

As I've written before, I don't necessarily agree with what the DRP is proposing (I don't believe that the solution is to remove choices on the ballot, but to offer a viable option for voters), but I do respect that they are willing to break from traditional party lines and publicly call for change. It it clear that none of the opposition parties in their current forms are meaningfully connecting with voters and simply increasing the decibel levels with which the parties preach their program likely isn't going to cut it.

You can follow the debate over the DRP motion at Accidental Deliberations and on twitter at #andp09.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

notes from the alberta ndp convention.

After spending one evening this week at the Wildrose Alliance leadership forum, I've spent a good part of this weekend at the other end of the political spectrum as a media observer at the 43rd annual Alberta NDP convention in Edmonton. I will post some more detailed thoughts soon, but until then, here are some notes from the convention:

- Nova Scotia NDP campaign manager Matt Hebb spoke on Friday evening about the electoral situation that led to the current NDP majority government led by Premier Darrell Dexter. I took some notes from Hebb's talk and will include my thoughts in a future post.

- The Democratic Renewal Project has made their presence known at the convention. A policy resolution directing the party leader to initiative public negotiations with the leaders of the Alberta Liberals and Green Party to conclude a tactical electoral alliance has proposed by the Edmonton-Rutherford and Edmonton-Whitemud NDP Associations. It will be debated on Sunday morning and will likely be defeated.

- Leader Brian Mason took a direct shot at the DRP in his Saturday afternoon speech to delegates by challenging the assumption that vote splitting is not the reason the NDP does not have more MLAs in the Legislature. Mason announced intentions for the NDP to run a full slate of candidates and a plan to target resources on 12 ridings between now and the next election.

- Mason also announced the NDPs plans to hold a number of health care forums across Alberta starting on September 29 in Calgary and September 30 in Lethbridge. Other forums are expected to be held in Edmonton, Grande Prairie, and Fort McMurray.

- Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan spoke about NGOs, the environment, and partisan politics at the Olga Blogheim luncheon this afternoon. Attendees included Mason, MLA Rachel Notley, former MLA David Eggen, federal candidate Lewis Cardinal, and provincial candidate Deron Bilous.

- According to delegates I've spoken to (and blogs I've read) there seems to be little movement behind a twitter account and blog supporting Notley to become NDP leader.

Friday, September 11, 2009

the hal walker email.

I'm sure that this now infamous email criticizing Premier Ed Stelmach by former PC bigwig Hal Walker was a long time coming, but the timing of its release probably had a lot to do with Monday's by-election in Calgary-Glenmore.

In a follow up email sent this morning, Walker wrote:

Brett, thanks for the support in the article. To the dozens of the rest of you who’ve sent me responses of support and agreement, Thank you. Interestingly, there was not one dissenting view.

it’s interesting to see that the Premier’s own communications guy delivers the same old party line.

Hal Walker
Read the original email [PDF].

(Thanks to the reader who forwarded me a copy of the email)

danielle smith could be a game changer in alberta politics.

Last night, I ventured into the world of right-wing partisan politics in Alberta and attended the Wildrose Alliance leadership forum. As someone who doesn't share this party's politics, and would have a very difficult time voting for its candidates in an election, I have found myself surprisingly curious about that party's potential.

Wildrose Alliance Leadership ForumWildrose Alliance Leadership Forum

Around 180 people were in attendance, and like most political party events, the majority of them appeared to be in the +60 grey-haired category. In the crowd, I noticed former Edmonton-Sherwood Park Conservative MP Ken Epp and former Alberta Greens leader Joe Anglin. I spoke with Anglin before he left the forum and he told me that while he wasn't going to join the Wildrose Alliance, as he felt they were too socially conservative for him, he continues to be open to work with all the parties. Anglin is gearing up for a fall fight against Bill 50, which is the sister of Bill 19 that passed earlier this year. Anglin's Lavesta Area Group of landowners are the most recent group to reach out to voters before the September 14 by-election in Calgary-Glenmore.

At some points during the forum I felt like I had walked into a Conservative Party of Canada rally. Mark Dyrholm took a stance that he would cut political party funding for the Bloc Quebecois, and both he and Jeff Willerton took regular shots at Pierre Trudeau, the NEP, Liberal Peter Lougheed, Liberal Don Getty, and the "Ed Stelmach Progressives."

Wildrose Alliance Leadership Forum - Mark DyrholmWildrose Alliance Leadership Forum

A strong pro-life social conservative and former PC organizer, Dyrholm strikes me as the kind of person who would excel as an organizer for the right-wing party, but as leader would not increase its appeal much beyond its already loyal base. He was well-spoken, but offered little beyond the expected Liberal-baiting and attacks on the Human Rights Commission and court challenges program. While it is difficult to tell how much support each of the candidates has among the party faithful, Dyrholm's preaching spoke directly to the base of the now defunct Reform Party.

Jeff Willerton was easily the most entertaining and off the map of the three candidates. Describing "the slimy Liberal tentacles" of "the rotten octopus of the Liberal Party of Canada," Willerton took the position that if elected Premier he would hold a province-wide referendum on separation within six months of each time the Liberals form government in Ottawa. He was adamant that he wasn't a separatist, but was convinced that this would send a message to the Liberals (I'm still unclear on what kind of message that would be).

Wildrose Alliance Leadership Forum - Danielle SmithWildrose Alliance Leadership Forum

Danielle Smith largely steered clear of the expected right-wing sophism, and offered a more nuanced and articulate vision of where she would lead the Wildrose Alliance. While she appears to have mastered the art of talking points, she spoke passionately of building a big tent conservative party, the need to look beyond out borders to fix the problems with health care and poverty, and her values as a libertarian and fiscal conservative. Not surprisingly, Smith was recently endorsed by her ideological companion Ezra Levant. She has received a lot of media attention since entering the contest, but I wonder if her message is connecting with the Wildrose Alliance base.

It will depend on the results of the leadership contest on October 17, but I believe that as the leader of the Wildrose Alliance, Danielle Smith could be a game changer in Alberta politics. For over 20 years, electoral politics in Alberta has been stuck in a rut where the Liberal and NDP opposition have focused their resources on 15 to 20 ridings and have left the PCs uncontested in 40 to 60 ridings, ensuring majority governments and mediocre governance. I find it highly unlikely that the Wildrose Alliance under any leader would form government in 2012, but if a young, savvy, articulate, and well-spoken leader like Smith can succeed in moderating the traditional social conservatism of that party's members, she could turn the electoral map on its head by dislodging the democratically unhealthy logjam with which Albertans have become apathetically accustomed.

party before people.

From Don Braid's Blog:

That was quite the question - and answer - Thursday night at the Calgary-Glenmore all-candidates forum.

A taxpayer actually succeeded in getting a one-word answer out of Tory candidate Diane Colley-Urquhart, the only one on record in her long career of meandering rhetoric. He asked her for a clear yes-or-no answer to the question: if the needs of her riding varied from the government’s agenda, would she break with the party?

The candidate thought about it. Then thought some more. Then said: “No.”
Here's video of Colley-Urquhart's response (I'm not sure about the dog part at the end...)

The by-election is on Monday, September 14.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

the reports of its death are greatly exaggerated.

As the national media and blogosphere let out a collective gasp at the prospect of a political party wanting to form a majority government, Graham Thomson points out that the much less attention grabbing world of Alberta politics is far from dead.

Next week marks the beginning of the first round of public hearings for the Electoral Boundaries Commission and the by-election in Calgary-Glenmore. This weekend also marks the Alberta NDPs 43rd annual convention, and while it's no surprise that the left faces some serious challenges in Alberta, so apparently does the right.

At their first leadership forum in Grande Prairie, the Wildrose Alliance is reported to have only attracted 30 people. While Grande Prairie has hardly been a hotbed of Wildrose Alliance support (that party only contested one of that city's ridings, Grande Prairie-Smoky, where the candidate placed third with 13% support), it raises questions if that party's leadership race is attracting more media attention than it is attracting new members.

Their leadership convention isn't until October 17, but much of that party's short-term prospects will be determined by how well outgoing leader Paul Hinman places in Monday's by-election. Even if voters in Calgary-Glenmore choose not to elect Hinman, but he is able to significantly increase his party's vote it could be seen a moral victory. Between the 2004 and 2008 elections, the Alliance increased its vote by 4% to 1,025 votes, which add up to a significant amount of votes in a by-election that may see a lower than normal voter turnout.

As Hinman's campaign pushes into the final days of the by-election, I'm sure that Liberal candidate Avalon Roberts will be hoping that the Wildrose Alliance cutting into the right-wing supporters of PC candidate Diane Colley-Urquhart will lead to a repeat of Craig Cheffins' 2007 Calgary-Elbow victory. Not a far fetched scenario.

I will be at tonight's Wildrose Alliance leadership forum and this weekend's NDP convention in Edmonton, and will be reporting back on this blog and on twitter with all the latest news.

from twitter on the harper tape.

Thoughts from twitter on the Harper tape.

phendrana: Query: Don't the Liberals want a majority? I've heard the tape a dozen times and see nothing there. #elxn41

ChromeSushi @phendrana This tape is the last piece of evidence I need to complete my thesis that political party leaders want to form a government.
It's Harper's outdated rhetoric about left-wing judges that bothers me.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

recap: ralph goodale visits edmonton-centre.

Around 100 Liberal supporters packed the Westmount Community League Hall last night to hear Saskatchewan MP Ralph Goodale speak. Goodale is in Edmonton this week helping shore up support for Edmonton-Centre Liberal candidate Mary MacDonald. He is a talented stump speaker, which makes it easy to understand how he has been able to win elections in Saskatchewan for seven terms, but even after his sales pitch I'm still unconvinced that Canadians need to rush to the polls anytime soon.

Edm Centre Candidate Mary MacDonaldRalph Goodale and Daveberta

I had a chance to speak with Goodale after his speech (see the picture of Goodale and the scruffy looking blogger above) and was generally impressed by what he had to say. I was dismayed by his support of the Carbon Capture Scheme, but he redeemed himself when we discussed the need for a national R& D and Innovation strategy for Canada (which he supports).
I also had a chance have a conversation about social media with Senator Grant Mitchell, who can now be found on twitter at @SenMitchell. Mitchell and former Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Debby Carlson are heading up Liberals' central campaign in Edmonton in preparation for an upcoming federal election.
(Thanks to Annet Swart for emailing me the picture that she snapped of Goodale and I last night)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

alberta red, green, and blue.

Green endorses Glenmore Liberal: Former Alberta Greens Vice-President & candidate Susan Stratton has endorsed Liberal candidate Avalon Roberts in the by-election in Calgary-Glenmore, which is being held on September 14.

“I’m not a Liberal; I'm a Green, but our first job as opposition voters is to stand together to defeat the Conservatives. Only Avalon Roberts can do that. She's a quality candidate who won nearly eight times more votes than either the Greens or New Democrats in last year's general election.”
The Greens aren't running a candidate in this by-election and are in the process of being de-registered by Elections Alberta. On another Calgary-Glenmore related note, Jeremy at PolitiCalgary has leveled some strong criticisms of PC candidate Diane Colley-Urquhart, suggesting that she 'needs to move away from the same political game.'

Wildrose Leadership Forums: The Wildrose Alliance will be holding leadership forums in Grande Prairie (September 8), Edmonton (September 10), Calgary (September 16), Lethbridge (September 17), and Red Deer (September 23). Candidates for the leadership of the right-wing party include Danielle Smith, Mark Dyrholm, and Jeff Willerton. I am planning to check out the September 10 forum in Edmonton.

Goodale in Edmonton: Wascana Liberal MP Ralph Goodale is in Alberta today and will be speaking at a Town Hall meeting in Edmonton-Centre, no doubt to help shore up support for candidate Mary MacDonald. The Town Hall will be held from 8:00pm to 9:00pm at the Westmount Community League.

alberta orange.

2009 Alberta NDP Convention: The Alberta NDP will be holding their annual convention in Edmonton from September 11 to 13 in Edmonton. Guest speakers include NDP leader Jack Layton and Nova Scotia NDP organizer Matt Hebb.

Elect Linda DuncanJack Layton in Edmonton I

Painting the City Orange: 37 NDP MPs will be descending on Alberta's capital city in the next few weeks for their annual caucus retreat. Two events being held include a meeting with Jack Layton, Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan, and Churchill MP Niki Ashton at the University of Alberta on September 18, and the September 21 Edmonton-Strathcona nomination meeting, where Duncan is expected to be renominated as the NDP candidate in that riding (Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie is the guest speaker).

From Edmonton-Centre with love: This morning, 2008 Edmonton-Centre NDP candidate Deron Bilous will announce his intentions to seek the NDP candidacy in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview. Bilous is following a road similiar to that taken by former MLA David Eggen, who ran unsuccessfully against Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman in 2001 before being elected as MLA for Edmonton-Calder in 2004. In 2008, former PC MLA Tony Vandermeer unseated NDP MLA Ray Martin in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview by 318 votes.

offset your government's fiscal responsibility.

September 2009: Education Minister and Edmonton-Whitemud PC MLA Dave Hancock announced more than $80 million worth of immediate cuts to the education budget, including $890,000 from changes to a socio-economic grant that school boards get for the number of students they have who live in poverty.

Meanwhile... back in May 2008: In a closed-door cabinet meeting, Ed Stelmach and his cabinet voted to give themselves over $890,000 worth of pay increases. Premier Stelmach gave himself a 34% boost, increasing his salary by $54,000, from $159,450 to $213,450, and cabinet ministers increased their salaries from $142,050 to $184,000.

If Premier Stelmach and Minister Hancock are looking for government savings, they could start by looking at the pay increases they voted themselves in 2008. According to the 2006 census, the median annual family income after taxes was $70,986 in Alberta, which is $113,014 less than the increased salary that individual cabinet ministers voted themselves.

When Premier Stelmach rolled back the liquor tax, he said:

"It was something that I had a hard time agreeing with; it's been bothering me all that time."
Let's hope that after five months, he feels the same way about young students living in poverty. In the meantime, feel free to make a donation to a local charity to offset your government's fiscal responsibility.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

dunn's done. now... more than ever.

Dunn's done. Auditor General Fred Dunn has announced that he will be stepping down in February 2010.

In 2007, Dunn singled out Energy Minister Mel Knight and the Department of Energy for failing to collect billions of dollars in resource revenues over the past 15 years. In 2009, Dunn's office announced the delay or cancellation of 27 out of 80 planned system and financial audits due to lack of financial resources. At the time, Calgary-Egmont MLA Jonathan Denis was quoted as justifing the lack of funding to the Auditor General by defending the one-year MLA pay freeze:

"Realistically everybody would like more money, I would like more money, but the reality is we froze our pay cheques this year. This is the first time in 15 years we froze our pay cheques. And similarly we don’t want to be giving extra money to departments where that’s not required.”
Now... more than ever. His ideas may now be marginalized within the party he led to office 38 years ago, but the now Stelmach-led PC Party is seeking to revive fond memories of Peter Lougheed's victory over Harry Strom's Social Credit Party. The slogan for the November 6-7, 2009 PC leadership review, 'Now... more than ever,' appears to be an attempt to remind older supporters of their party's exciting 1971 slogan: 'Now!' Or maybe I'm wrong and the PCs are actually trying to channel Richard Nixon....

Who's ready for a federal election? With the exception voters in a couple of ridings, Albertans are going to be far off the political radar in any upcoming federal election. While the Conservatives have already nominated candidates in all 28 ridings, the Liberals and NDP have only officially nominated a couple candidates each (Liberals: Jennifer Pollock in Calgary-West, Mary MacDonald in Edmonton-Centre, Rick Szostak in Edmonton-Sherwood Park. NDP: Lewis Cardinal in Edmonton-Centre and Ray Martin in Edmonton-East). With an election seemingly imminent, expect to hear a lot from the New Obama Party when they hold their caucus retreat in Edmonton in a couple of weeks.

in four months time...

Earlier this week, I drank coffee with Alberta Liberal Party President Tony Sansotta while discussing politics and the state of Alberta's official opposition party (and my former employer).

Sansotta was cagey enough not to reveal much about direction he's trying to take the Liberals and he was was insistent (but not necessarily convincing) that big changes are starting to happen within the Liberal Party. When I pried for specific examples, I was continually told that I would have to wait four months to see what the changes are. Coyness aside, Sansotta did provide a couple of bits of information to this blogger:

- The Liberals long-awaited Renewal Committee report, an initiative led by former Edmonton-McClung MLA Mo Elsalhy, was submitted to the Liberal Party executive committee but will not be made public. Sansotta ensured me that elements of it will be included in recommendations to delegates at their March 2010 policy conference (but delegates may not be informed which recommendations were taken from the renewal report). Although I understand why any political party would want to keep this sort of report private, it appears slightly insincere to solicit public/membership input and then to keep the recommendations secret from the same party membership (creating little room for an accountability mechanism).

- On September 26, the Liberal Party Board of Directors will be discussing plans for candidate nominations and if incumbency protections should be allowed for the nine incumbent MLAs.

- So far, eight submissions have been received in the Liberal logo redesign contest. The submissions will be judged by a panel whose membership includes VP Communications Jody MacPherson, the co-VP Fundraising, a member-at-large, and a representative from an anonymous PR firm.

- Calgary-based communications consultant Corey Hogan has been tapped to become the Liberals Executive Director, a position that has been vacant since long-time ED Kieran Leblanc resigned in 2008. Hogan's served as campaign manager for Dave Taylor's 2008 leadership bid and more recently as a candidate for the Liberal nod in Calgary-Glenmore. I wish Hogan good luck, because he has one heck of a job ahead of him.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

get used to the sound of mount royal university.

From the world of post-secondary education!

The Council of Alberta University Students have released their submission for Alberta's 2010 budget consultation process. While not the boldest recommendations that have ever come from CAUS (speaking as one of its former Chairpersons), it appears that the new reality for post-secondary education is to avoid becoming the target of massive budget cuts rather than advocating for bold increases (which is more or less a pretty savvy maneuver in a province that is running a record $6.9 billion deficit)

On Thursday, it is expected to be announced that after a long process, Mount Royal College will become a University. "MRU" will be Alberta's fifth University and the first established since Athabasca University was created in 1970. Alberta's other universites include the University of Alberta (est. 1908), University of Calgary (est. 1966), and University of Lethbridge (est. 1967). There have been some exciting changes happening within Alberta's post-secondary education system since Doug Horner became Minister of Advanced Education & Technology in 2007, but I am still unconvinced whether Alberta needs a fifth University-level institution.

On a final post-secondary education note, I'm glad that I am not the only person to point out how ridiculous it is to suggest that Mount Royal's transition to a University is a conspiracy to influence the September 14 by-election in Calgary-Glenmore, as Calgary-Varsity Liberal MLA Harry Chase suggested this morning. Please keep the coffee room conspiracy theories away from the media releases.