Two by-elections, three probes, and plenty more: All the Alberta political news that’s fit to print

Posted on April 04, 2017, 1:54 am
8 mins

PHOTO: The decision desk at calls it for Conservative candidates Bob Benzen and Stephanie Kusie in two Calgary by-elections yesterday. Actual Alberta political bloggers may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Mr. Benzen and Ms. Kusie, former Conservative premier Alison Redford, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Wildrose Opposition Leader Brian Jean.

Conservatives motor to easy by-election wins in Calgary

Federal by-elections in suburban Calgary are usually a disappointment but rarely a surprise – so no one should be shocked that two Conservative Party of Canada candidates appear to have won big majorities in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s and ex cabinet minister Jason Kenney’s old ridings yesterday.

Without final numbers to properly crunch, it’s still mildly interesting that Bob Benzen in Calgary-Heritage and Stephanie Kusie in Calgary Midnapore seemed late last night to be doing better than their predecessors did in the last general election in October 2015. The turnout is likely to have been quite low in both ridings.

Mr. Benzen runs a company that operates data storage and information management services for energy corporations, but you’ve got to love it that he’s best known for running the “decade of excellence” campaign lauding Mr. Harper’s years in Ottawa, which most Canadians don’t remember quite that way.

Ms. Kusie is a former member of the Canadian diplomatic service with strong ties to the Manning Centre, Preston Manning’s eponymous grow-op for conservative political careers. She was once chargé d’affaires in El Salvador.

Um, that’s it for tonight!

Third inquiry clears Alison Redford of ‘Tobaccogate’ conflict

Former Alberta premier Alison Redford has been cleared of wrongdoing in the “Tobaccogate” affair by the third inquiry into the matter. Enough, already!

This time it was British Columbia Ethics Commissioner Paul Fraser who ruled Ms. Redford was not in a conflict of interest when she chose a legal consortium that included her ex-husband’s law firm to handle the province’s $10-billion lawsuit against Big Tobacco in 2012.

Suspicions were raised by a news report that year indicating the consortium Ms. Redford chose, International Tobacco Recovery Lawyers, had been eliminated from the list of candidates by a review panel before being mysteriously put back on the list, whence it was selected by Ms. Redford.

The first probe, conducted by former Alberta ethics commissioner Neil Wilkinson in 2013, cleared her. Then a document surfaced that hadn’t been looked at in the first inquiry. A second inquiry, this time by Marguerite Trussler, who remains the province’s ethics commissioner followed. It concluded only there was the potential for conflict, and asked Mr. Fraser to look into it one more time.

He now has, issuing a 53-page report yesterday that said “I have found on the balance of probabilities that Ms. Redford did not improperly further another person’s private interest in making her decision and, therefore, did not breach the Conflicts of Interest Act.”

If that language sounds a bit squishy to you, it does to me too. But there’s nothing to be gained for Alberta taxpayers by continuing this. Expect the NDP Government, sensibly, to close this file.

Saskatchewan premier’s popularity hits the budget Wall

Who knew? Turns out running a resource-based provincial economy when resource prices are low is a tough job whether you’re a New Democrat or a conservative!

In the wake of an unpopular and mean-spirited austerity budget, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, the supposed Mr. Congeniality of Confederation, has seen his approval level among Saskatchewan voters slip a significant seven percentage points from last fall to 46 per cent last week, pollster Mainstreet Research reports.

About the same number of respondents, 45 per cent, disapproved of the Saskatchewan Party premier’s efforts in the robo-call poll conducted March 30 and 31.

“We’re seeing very different results for the Saskatchewan NDP than we saw in the last election,” said Mainstreet Executive Vice-President David Valentin in the commentary that accompanied the poll. “The NDP now leads in both Regina and Saskatoon where the Saskatchewan Party is running second. But outside those two urban centres the Saskatchewan Party holds a dominant lead.”

I only mention that because it didn’t seem to make it into the mainstream media reports for some reason.

Conservative politicians here in Alberta have frequently pointed to Mr. Wall’s much touted popularity as proof he was the “real leader” of Western Canada when he scoffed at Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley’s social-licence building approach to energy development policies.

Mr. Wall, clearly, preferred the shove-it-up-their-noses approach favoured by former prime minister Harper and his henchmen, among them Mr. Kenney, who now leads the Alberta Conservatives and promises to undo every single thing Ms. Notley has accomplished if he eventually gets elected.

Turns out that Mr. Wall talked tough, but his popularity depended heavily on paying for his low-tax polices with oil revenues that have stopped flowing into Saskatchewan, just like they did in Alberta.

In other words, support for Mr. Wall’s neoliberal austerity was a mile wide and an inch deep.

Just leave the kids alone, Wildrose leader says of Kenney scheme

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean has come out in opposition to the scheme advocated by newly elected Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney last week to require teachers to out kids who join gay-straight alliances at school.

This suggests just how badly the former social conservative PC leader’s wild-eyed suggestion that schools have to phone parents and tell them if their kid has joined a GSA is going over with severely normal Albertans.

It’s unlikely Mr. Jean would have ever advocated such a policy, but it’s possible fear of his own party’s extremists might have kept his lips zipped if Mr. Kenney had been gaining any traction with his Big Idea.

After all, the two are likely to be fighting it out soon for the united right-wing party Mr. Kenney proposes to create by rolling the PCs into the Wildrose Party – I’m calling this as yet unformed political entity Rose Again, which seems to hit all the appropriate notes, celestial and horticultural.

Mr. Jean’s position indicates that at least some former federal Conservative MPs may have noticed Alberta was a-changin’ while Mr. Kenney was enjoying life in Ottawa.

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21 Comments to: Two by-elections, three probes, and plenty more: All the Alberta political news that’s fit to print

  1. Sam Gunsch

    April 4th, 2017

    re: ‘at least some former federal Conservative MPs may have noticed Alberta was a-changin’ while Mr. Kenney was enjoying life in Ottawa.’

    Too little, too late for Kenney…? see Gordon Dirks:

    excerpt: ‘”Gordon Dirks has close ties to an organization that believes same-sex relationships are an offence to God,” Bilous said in a news release. “How can he be counted on to protect the rights of Alberta’s LGBTQ students?’

  2. Farmer B

    April 4th, 2017

    The Alberta NDP would be very happy to fight the next election on social issues and not economic issues. At present I think the majority of Albertans are far more concerned about jobs and taxes. My biggest concern is the electricity file. I look at Ontario where the cost of electricity is high but the other charges on the bill like the global adjustment fee is where it gets out of hand. In Alberta the NDP put in an allowance for up to 2.2 billion dollars to be loaned to the electricity balancing pool by 2019-2020 to cope with the money losing contracts that were returned to the pool. All but 2 of the existing coal fired power plants were to be closed by 2035 before the NDP came to power, the other the newest and most efficient would have run longer. Mandating early closure by 2030 has added a great deal of cost with little benefit imo. The NDP has put a cap of 6.8 cent a kwh on our electricity price but this constitutes about 40% of my bill, no cap exists on the other charges and this is where charges will be added to pay for the billions of new infrastructure proposed by the NDP. Practical middle of the road policies could benefit all Albertan’s but it appears to me that a rejection of what the NDP has done so far will result in a hard reversal that could have been avoided with a more realistic outlook.

    • Albert

      April 4th, 2017

      “In Alberta the NDP put in an allowance for up to 2.2 billion dollars to be loaned to the electricity balancing pool by 2019-2020 to cope with the money losing contracts that were returned to the pool.” It is a sorry state of affairs. I mean Ralph Klein sold these utility assets for pennies on the dollar after touting the positive how much good would come of exposing the captive utility consumer to the global market, because letting them take the risks was so much better. But sadly soon after during his term he had to spend billions of our dollars shielding his somnambulant supporters from the tender mercies of his chosen corporate beneficiaries so he could become King of Doofustan. King Ralph. Ralph’s world!
      Your man Jason is using a borrowed play-book. It relies on division, demonization, fear, uncertainty and doubt. What it doesn’t have is a detailed detailed economic policy. That’s likely because he doesn’t want to debate why we no longer own (but pay for) energy transmission, any more than he wants to debate climate change or power generation. Fiscal policy? Show me his budget. Cuts to social services? More cuts to education? The beatings will continue until morale improves? Prison privatization? He doesn’t want to debate those faint hopes, because he knows that we know. We’ve been to his rodeo and they shot horses! How many times to we have to see this sham?

      • Farmer B

        April 4th, 2017

        Albert you missed the point of my last sentence, I don’t believe cutting taxes and severe spending cuts are the answer just like I don’t agree with the NDP’s alternate approach. I think what the NDP is doing will make even Jason Kenney look good. In my opinion if a carbon tax is offset by equivalent personal and corporate tax cuts in conjunction with a PST the province would be farther ahead. Only the Alberta Party has suggested this but unfortunately they don’t have enough popular support.

        • albert

          April 5th, 2017

          The Alberta Party? All well and good. You imagine that the political fight is really between them and the NDP? Isn’t it your fondest hope that in return for the name and a cabinet post Jason Kenney will “Peter Mackay” Greg Clark? Don’t be coy now. We’re on to you. If you want to mend fences agree to:
          1. Climate change is real and caused by us
          2. Stimulus spending at low interest to combat recession is sensible
          3. Government and healthcare needs to be strengthened for the common good.
          4. Social issues are not fluff. Especially for the most vulnerable amongst us.
          If you do I’ll listen more carefully in future.

          • Farmer B

            April 6th, 2017

            Albert to answer all 4 of your points from my point of view would take a rather long essay.
            1. The would experienced a mini ice age over 400 years long that ended roughly in 1870. It would logically follow that our temperatures would be warmer compared to that. Now, this does not mean I do not believe human influence is affecting the climate. If you do the math, humans breathing accounts for 6% of daily C02 emissions into the atmosphere. I was listening to an analysis the other day of the electricity required to run the Internet worldwide and depending on the source of electricity this could contribute substantially to C02 emission, unfortunately I don’t remember the numbers. So do I think humans influence our climate, certainly. Do I think placing ever increasing carbon taxes on western nations will change the climate, no. How many impoverished 3rd world people still have no electricity, cook with wood or animal dung, are malnourished? In the hundreds of millions! Do I think climate change is the greatest threat to humanity? My answer would be no. The biggest threat to humanity is our failure to learn from the past.
            2. Alberta Gdp 326 billion. How much of what the government spends is considered stimulus spending? Over half the deficit is operational day to day spending so maybe 7 billion or 2% of GDP. Do I think this amount of spending will combat a recession? No. Does it help? Yes for those who recieve the money.

            I do like your last comment, essentially you are telling me, if I would just believe what you believe you will listen to me. Have a good day!

          • albert

            April 10th, 2017

            So Farmer B is too busy with his melting snow to elucidate his/her complete response. Sad! So Farmer B shorter?: “Let them eat cake!”.

        • albert

          April 7th, 2017

          You have confirmed my first impression.

          • Farmer B

            April 11th, 2017

            Actually Albert I wrote that while eating breakfast and ran out of time, had to go to work lol.

            3. Government, comes down to needs and wants. At present Alberta’s revenue dictates only supplying needs, Albertan’s need to decide if they are willing to be taxed more to supply wants. I have two personal pet peeves with today’s business world. First is corporate takeovers that result in bigger companies that employ less people. Second is companies like CIBC that make huge profits off Canadians and outsource jobs offshore. Not sure what can be done by government in these two areas as you can’t legislate against greed but open to ideas.
            Healthcare, my sister lives in Austrailia, one policy they have I like is full universal healthcare with a twist. You are allowed to buy additional health insurance which shortens wait times, not sure if the insurance is private or from government. Undoubtably I will be accused of advocating for multi-tiered healthcare, in my mind I am just being realistic. Our biggest problem is long wait times imo.

            4. Social issues. One thought I have is you can’t legislate or force people to change their beliefs. Having said that the importance of acceptance by our piers is part of what makes us human and supports for the weakest in our society is what separates us from animals. So do I think social issues are fluff, no, but I will admit the financial side of government interests me more than the social. Just the way I am wired.

            There Albert I addressed all 4, have a good day.

      • Val

        April 5th, 2017

        well, “king Ralph” is used so often, that has become a cliche with no mean to it.
        how was it bad or not, nevertheless it’s in past.
        what have changed today, in spite we do have governing party with absolutelly diferent set of policies and values, than previous one?

        • albert

          April 7th, 2017

          “well, “king Ralph” is used so often, that has become a cliche with no mean to it”
          So you’re saying history has no meaning? We Can’t learn because what we just witnessed is past and should be ignored because it’s gone? My good lord! We are doomed if there’s more like you!

          • Val

            April 8th, 2017

            may i ask you, how learning from the past have been reflected in positive way on the actions of present government?

    • Bob Raynard

      April 5th, 2017

      I definitely agree with your point about surcharges etc. If they let power companies only charge for the power used, a beneficial side effect would be reduced consumption. As it is, the surcharges take away the incentive to reduce consumption, since there is no corresponding reduction in the power bill.

      When Ed Stelmach was premier his government paid a subsidy to offset the high cost of natural gas. Unfortunately they did it by reducing the cost of a gigajoule of gas, so again there was no incentive to reduce consumption. I really wish they had used the same amount of money to pay the first x dollars of your gas bill, so the gas would be free if you kept your consumption down, but look out if your consumption goes up too much.

  3. Reynold

    April 4th, 2017

    Decade of excellence?? More like ten years of ideologically driven racing about in a vehicle that could only turn right. More like ten years of disdain for Parliament, democracy, and science. More like ten years of building a petrostate while obstinately refusing to act on climate change. (This last will one day be considered a crime against humanity.) Ten years of gutting legislated environmental protections and fighting attempts by native peoples to assert their rights. Ten years or racist refusal to act on missing and murdered indigenous women. Give your head a shake, Mr. Benzen.

  4. Reynold

    April 4th, 2017

    Oh, let’s not forget ten years of war mongering.

  5. ronmac

    April 4th, 2017

    You neglected to mention one other important development in Alberta’s political scene: a possible renewal of the “Battle of Alberta” in the coming weeks when warriors from the province’s two major centers strap on steel blades and battle each other to the death on a sheet of ice.

    What this means is that the respective populations in these two centers must learn to hate each other again, after years of indifference. I’ve always believed a nation’s most inspired politics develop when it is fighting itself, when one region is pitted against another whether it’s French vs English Canada or Calgary vs Edmonton.

    When passions rise great politicians emerge to diffuse these passions. The spirit of compromise is the building block of any great nation.

    • PJP

      April 4th, 2017

      Satire? Satire. Satire!
      …it’s a tire?
      ……sat on a tire!

      Perhaps we agree with Mr. Manning who said, “You can always tell a federal politician doesn’t get Alberta when he gives the same talk in Calgary and Edmonton.”

  6. Jim

    April 6th, 2017

    With numbers like that Wall is approaching Kenney’s favourable numbers.


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