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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

year in review 2009: alberta mla edition.

As is tradition here at, I have created an annual list of Alberta MLAs who have caught my eye over the past year (see the 2008 MLA review). Due to a large grouping of MLAs who through sheer numbers appear almost indistinguishable as they sit in the backbenches of the 72  70 MLA Progressive Conservative caucus, this list focuses on the handful of MLAs who caught my attention for various reasons:

Kyle Fawcett: (PC Calgary-North Hill) I am really puzzled by this one. In February 2009, backbench MLA Fawcett was one of Premier Ed Stelmach's proudest cheerleaders, evangelizing the Premier on the floor of the Legislature as:
…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.
Eight months later, Fawcett took a complete 180 degree turn and criticized Premier Stelmach for doing "very little, I believe, to instil confidence in at least people in Calgary that he has the leadership capabilities to lead this province." He soon after apologized and was quietly punished for his outspoken behaviour. It appears that Fawcett wants to be the class rebel and the teachers pet at the same time, but has ended up wearing the dunce cap instead.

Doug Griffiths: (PC Battle River-Wainwright) A year of lateral moves from being shuffled from parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General makes me wonder if the PCs are blind to talent. Griffiths knows how to use social media effectively by actually providing value and allowing citizens outside the Legislature to get a peek at what personal beliefs and driving motivations have led him to seek office. With alternatives to the near 40 year governing PCs gaining support, independent-minded Griffiths may be in a position to decide whether he wants to stay in the backbenches or join something new.

Ken Kowalski (PC Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock) As Speaker Kowalski celebrated 30 years as an MLA, he also demonstrated his political vintage by outright banning MLAs from using social media such as Twitter and Facebook during Question Period. While I agree that MLAs should respect the institution and proud traditions of the Legislature, rather than outright banning the medium, Kowalski had the opportunity to explore how new technologies could be used to reconnect citizens to their democratic institutions. I offered to help Speaker Kowalski better understand the uses of social media, but I did not receive a response.


Ron Liepert (PC Calgary-West) Minister Liepert is a blunt instrument. He and Premier Stelmach have continued to defer much of their public responsibility for health care restructuring to the unelected CEO of Alberta Health Services, Stephen Duckett, but it has not stopped the Minister from planting his foot firmly in his mouth. PC MLAs are growing weary of this political arrangement and the Calgary Herald called for Minister Liepert's resignation after he blamed Albertans for the administrative mishandling of the H1N1 vaccinations. Odds are favouring Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Fred Horne to replace Minister Liepert early in the new year.

Hugh MacDonald (Liberal Edmonton-Gold Bar) Last year, I characterized MacDonald as "obsessed with discovering scandal," and this year I say the same, but with a slightly more endearing tone. While he does come off as a little nuts, MacDonald is easily one of the hardest working MLAs in the Legislature - spending countless hours digging through files in the Legislature Library and as Chair of the Public Account CommitteeAIMco, AHS, and PC MLA extra pay and bonuses have been among MacDonald's targets in 2009, but I am still not sure if he would know what to do if he uncovered a scandal that stuck.

Len Mitzel (PC Cypress-Medicine Hat) Haven't heard of Len Mitzel? Not surprising. The backbench MLA has found his niche as the PC caucus' designated American conference attendee. Over the past year, Mitzel has attended conferences on behalf of the Government of Alberta in Montana (again and again), San AngeloLaredo, Denver, and Boise, meaning that he likely understands more than most MLAs the important economic relationship that our province has with the western United States.

Rachel Notley: (NDP Edmonton-Strathcona) Notley has proven to be a consistently good parliamentarian. She is intelligent, articulate, and has worked hard to provide a clear voice for her constituents on the floor of the Legislature (on a wide range of issues). Lord only knows why NDP members have not demanded that she become the leader of her party.

Kevin Taft (Liberal Edmonton-Riverview) Freed from the burden of leading Alberta's Liberal Party, Taft has returned to a more familiar role as Official Opposition Health Critic. Having written and researched extensively about public health care in Alberta in his pre-political life, Taft has proven to be a formidable opponent to Premier Stelmach and Minister Liepert over the past year.


David J. Climenhaga said...

Dave: As always, an excellent post. Very insightful. I particularly liked your assessments of Fawcett & Griffiths. However, as for your comment about Rachel Notley, I'm sure I demanded that the Knee-Dips make her the leader on or about July 6, 2009 - . I think I might have been an NDP member thereabouts, too.

Anonymous said...

I've heard (and it's anonymous rumor of course) that Notley doesn't want to be leader... yet. The story is that she wants to establish herself as a long term MLA first, help her party grow, and have her children get a fair bit older before she takes on that additional challenge.

It's a smart strategy except for the fact that their party seems to be shrinking, not growing. Their decision to refocus on organized labour while disenfranchising the grassroots members hasn't exactly yielded a vibrant party.

Pete said...

Actually, pretty much every member of the NDP wants Notley to be leader, including Mason.

Pretty much every member except Notley that is.

However, anon 9:18 only gets it part right. Notley's refusal to take over the reigns from Mason stems entirely from the fact her children are still young and that she doesn't want to miss their childhood.

Anonymous said...

There many more government and opposition members that use social media much better than Doug Griffiths.

Lee Harding said...

The best Alberta MLAs are the ones that agree to let the public choose their pay and not set it themselves. That's why the CTF is . <a href=">pushing for a citizens' assembly on MLA pay</a>.

Buddie Dharma said...

Re Mr. Hardin's comment above: The CTF doesn't represent anyone but its corporate sponsors, certainly not "taxpayers," who come in all stripes and support a variety of taxation and spending policies. Part of the CTF's mandate is to encourage public dissatisfaction with "the political level" of government, lest it ever get into its collection head the notion of doing something in the public interest. MLA pay and perks is a good issue in this regard, because it can be played in a way that increases public cynicism about MLAs of all parties. This also is effective in suppressing voter turnout - another key goal of organizations like the CTF because it tends to assist the reelection of "conservative" governments pushing "pro-taxpayer" policies (that in fact are not in the interests of ordinary taxpayers) by persuading cynical voters not to bother casting a ballot on election day. Almost be definition, ideas promoted by the CTF are not in the interests of taxpayers. Politicians should be paid a reasonable salary, not excessive, and their pay increases should be set by an independent and impartial tribunal.

Berry Farmer said...

Dave, is there any truth to the rumor that Doug Griffiths was asked to run for the leadership of the Wildrose Alliance.

I heard that from someone in Killam who is quite close to Doug. Just wondering if you'd heard anything.

workeradvocate said...

Just imagine 2010. Rachel Notley working with Kevin Taft based upon the concept of becoming a progressive alternative to the Stelmach failure. "Imagine a world without religion". John Lennon did.

Anonymous said...

To the person who said "a world without religion" - an individual has that right, absolutely. But not to impose their lack of spirituality on ohters.

workeradvocate said...

Now we know why Danielle Smith has targeted North Hill for her candidacy. The Alliance will target the weak links in the PC government.
As many commentators state- the disgruntled PC vote gravitated to the Alliance [Glenmore} and the key is the swing in rural constituencies.
With 4 new constituencies being redrawn in Calgary and Edmonton, how will the progressive spectrum influence the rural swing?

Anonymous said...

Dave, you should give us your picks for that "Cabinet Shuffle Pool" and your reasoning behind each move!

Anonymous said...

The Tiny Perfect Blog used to post a list of the MLA's who are active on social media like facebook and twitter. Why doesn't this blog pick that up?

Anonymous said...

How can 2 people form a party? Only in Alberta.