Devin Dreeshen, whose real hat is a MAGA cap, in a blurry picture with Jason Kenney from Twitter that doesn’t require the payment of more than $500 US to Getty Images.

It’s Friday the 13th, and after two by-elections yesterday in central and northern Alberta, supporters of the province’s NDP government are awaking to a new reality that’s pretty much the same as the old reality.

That is, rural Central Alberta is deeply Conservative country pretty well no matter what, and no matter how bad the Tory candidate may seem to horrified observers elsewhere, and the northern oilsands region leans strongly Conservative too, despite progressive glimmerings from time to time in Fort McMurray and the naive hope the NDP’s energy policies can win friends there.

The youthful Mr. Dreeshen elected yesterday as United Conservative Party MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, as seen in his campaign material.

In other words, the 82-per-cent showing by Devin Dreeshen in yesterday’s by-election in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake should come as no surprise, despite the glaring flaws of the United Conservative Party candidate – reported by the day before the vote to have been seen campaigning enthusiastically for Donald Trump in the United States during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

Asked about it, Vice reported, Mr. Dreeshen fled to a toilet and was never seen by their reporter again.

This 11th hour revelation may have both small provincial and more significant federal implications, in the latter case because Mr. Dreeshen is the son of Conservative Red Deer-Mountain View MP Earl Dreeshen and Mr. Trump has turned out to be no friend of Canada. But as far as the region goes, the last-minute emergence of a photo of the younger Mr. Dreeshen in a red MAGA ball cap either was irrelevant or may actually have helped him, no matter what the American president has been saying and doing to Canadians lately.

Laila Goodridge, elected as UCP MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin, yesterday (Photo: Facebook).

The previous Wildrose MLA in the riding, Don MacIntyre, was not exactly stellar material, although no one on either side of the aisle expected the sexual assault charges that forced him from office in February. And the election of someone like the thirtysomething Mr. Dreeshen as MLA makes Kerry Towle, who won the riding for the Wildrose Party in 2012 and ran for the PCs in 2015, practically look like a liberal!

Meanwhile, in Fort McMurray-Conklin, the northern Alberta oilsands service depot, despite a friendly reception on local doorsteps and significant pockets of support for the local NDP candidate, conservative standard-bearer Laila Goodridge won by a 66-per-cent margin.

Ms. Goodridge, 30, a conservative activist well liked in Fort Mac, was running to replace former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, who left politics in disillusionment after the selection last year of Leader Jason Kenney to lead the right-wing Frankenparty created from the ashes of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties after the NDP victory in 2015.

While the by-election results do not change the balance of power in the House, since both seats were won by Wildrose members in the 2015 general election that brought the NDP to power, they make NDP talk of a good showing in Fort Mac sound like whistling past the graveyard and suggest the government’s hardline strategy on pipelines is not likely to be more effective than emphasizing traditional NDP strengths.

Fort Mac-Conklin is not Calgary, I guess, but given the familiar failings of our first-past-the-post electoral system, I wouldn’t advise betting the farm on some kind of NDP resurgence in the southern Alberta oilpatch administrative capital next year any more than in Fort Mac this week.

As irritating as UCP triumphalism is to people who generally support the Notley Government’s policies in the wake of yesterday’s easy victories, there is no evidence yet it’s not justified.

I expect as a result of the by-election results yesterday Mr. Kenney will double down on his strategy of appealing to the worst instincts of the UCP base without trying to woo middle-ground voters as the PCs of yore used to do, and that Ms. Notley’s government will double down on its strategy of taking a hard line on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion.

The combined impact of these two approaches may turn out to please hardline pipeline foes in British Columbia and the federal NDP, because they recognize Mr. Kenney makes a better boogeyman for their core constituencies than does Ms. Notley.


Join the Conversation


  1. First off, I happen to live in the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake riding. Probably the one mistake Devon made was not responding to the Vice reporter. I know looking back to 2016 if I had been asked if I supported Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton there is no doubt at the time it would be Trump. At the time I thought having a person who wasn’t a life time politician and had a strong business background would be a good thing. It certainly turns out I was wrong!

    NDP supporters like yourself David and perhaps the rest of the progressive left seem to have a hard time understanding why the UCP has some degree of popular support. For me it is very simple, it is the carbon tax. There is no doubt in my mind that in Ontario Doug Ford’s position on repealing cap and trade helped him win. In Alberta there is no doubt Jason Kenney’s position on the carbon tax contributes to his parties popularity. For me in the middle of winter when it is -30 and I open my natural gas bill and almost one quarter of it is carbon tax my blood pressure goes right through the roof! I read an article the other day that existing taxes on gasoline before any carbon tax is applied depending on the province amount to the equivelent of up to a $70 a tonne carbon tax. This hasn’t affected consumption. The price of gas has increased 40% in the last year, the highways are as busy as ever. In my opinion the carbon tax has nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with increasing government revenue.

    I used to think Prime Minister I disliked the most was Pierre Elliot Trudeau but I must admit I dislike his son more. I always disliked P.E.T but I at least thought he was smart, Justin not so much. In my opinion Premier Notley’s biggest mistakes are the carbon tax, inability to control spending, large accumulation of debt and appearing to support everything Justin Trudeau does. While Jason Kenney’s position on the carbon tax is the main reason I would vote for him, the possibility of him facing off against Trudeau and making his life uncomfortable would certainly be a bonus. Enjoy your day

    1. Interesting how the Right always seems to respond to environmental initiatives (or the science behind them) on a tribal basis, while the Left (I know that this isn’t universally true but it’s a lot more true than not) tends to weigh the evidence first.

    2. I would encourage you to follow U of A business professor Andrew Leach on twitter. He provides plenty of evidence that in B.C., carbon taxes have not only reduced emissions, but the economy is actually growing. Economy is also growing in Alberta, which puts the lie to UCP claims that it would destroy the economy. But don’t believe me…check it out yourself.

      1. Expat please read Vancouver sun article Jan. 12,2018:”Latest figures show B.C.’s carbon emissions continue to increase.”It discusses how BC’s emissions increased from 2014 to 2015. With a little searching you can find historical graphs tracking BC’s emissions. They actually started to decrease in 2006, 2 years before the introduction of the carbon tax. They bottomed out in 2010 I believe and have been rising ever since. Yes they are lower today than the peak back in 2002 or 2004 can’t remember which but if the carbon tax is so successful why are they rising today?

  2. Farmer Brian’s got it right. How mind-numbingly depressing, though. There’s a majority mindset in this province that hates paying taxes, hates the Trudeaus, and usually hates policies calling for co-operation, redistribution of resources, and mitigation of environmental devastation. We are FUBARed. To survive, I try to understand Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. I’m left with merely spluttering name-calling. Why is Alberta made up of so many selfish, smug, bullying and mean-spirited people? My rage is compounded by the failure of this NDP government to tackle first-past-the-post election flaws. They did do lots of good things in the past three years, though.

    1. Actually Andy if you have read any of my previous posts you would find that I am in favour of a sales tax which would give the government a more consistent source of revenue and hopefully allow us to return to balanced budgets. Once this was achieved we could start saving a good portion of our resource royalties for future generations. My objection to the carbon tax is multi faceted. Carbon leakage is one issue. Industries will simply move to jurisdictions without carbon taxes of which there are many. As a farmer I cannot simply move my operation as it is connected to the land. As well what my product sells for is dictated by world markets. I cannot raise the price of product sold to recover my costs. I constantly strive to increase efficiency but my costs continue to rise. If all the countries that I compete with for export markets were subject to the same tax I would have no problem with a carbon tax. I do agree with you that the majority of Albertan’s do dislike paying taxes.

  3. Has anyone interviewed Preston Manning lately about his descendants farming of carbon tax myths?

    excerpt: ‘Predictably, some Canadian hard-right wingers are calling Manning a Petro-Judas. A web site called “Reform Manning” urges visitors to “tell Preston Manning he’s just as wrong to support a carbon tax as Pierre Trudeau was to bring in the National Energy Program … A carbon tax, even if it’s disguised with tricky names … is counter to everything we [former Reform Party supporters] stand for.”

    But it’s interesting to note that the web site doesn’t really try to take on any of Manning’s intelligent arguments in favour of “carbon pricing” (his preferred term).’

    excerpt: ‘Preston Manning began making roughly this argument about five years ago in a series of op-eds, and through his participation in something called the Ecofiscal Commission. Yes, Preston Manning – the champion of Albertan prerogatives and godfather of the modern Canadian right.’

    excerpt: ‘If they work and they’re conservative – and they do and they are – what’s stopping Canadian Tories from going all in on carbon taxes? Some, it seems, are genuinely unconvinced by the evidence staring them in the face. Others don’t believe a small country like Canada has a role in fighting climate change – or don’t believe in climate change at all. And some are just using the word “tax” to scare people.

    It’s the sort of thing that makes you rub your eyes and wish they really were lying.’

    re EcoFiscal Commission support for carbon taxes… excerpt: One of the board members is Preston Manning, no less, and he’s behind a carbon tax.

    Since electing the NDP, AB has been subject to escalating
    constant far reaching flows of fact free foolish nonsense,
    of fantastical quantities of RW self-serving political bullshit,
    about climate change and carbon taxes,
    despite endorsement of carbon taxes by market fundamentalists,
    e.g. conservative godfather Preston Manning, who endorse carbon taxes
    as the most efficient, market-based, optimal means of reducing greenhouse gases,

    and lo’ these fact-free flows have now been shown to be excellent fertilizer,
    in the many vast fetid far right farmed forests of
    myth-making/climate denial/carbon-tax-sky-is-falling,
    in AB’s mainstream and hard-right political media,
    and in RW political parties and constituent farmlands,

    feeding a frenzy of growth in ignorance and myth,
    not seen since the epic Kyoto Protocol sky-is-falling,
    fact free frothing RW orgasmic conspiracy theory times.

    #KenneyTrumpUCP political leadership has flung it’s poo, and
    behold, today, all is right, very hard right, head-in-sand right,
    in AB’s UCP/Trumpland. The farmed opinion has truly fruited.


  4. I agree completely with your assessment that the by election results are no surprise – exactly. These were two former Wildrose seats (the more conservative partner to the UCP) and in the absence of any major contentious issue, I think they just voted the same way as they did before. I’m not sure how meaningful the by election results are, turnout is usually not that great and I think mostly the more partisan people go out to vote, so all other things being equal the party with the biggest existing base in the constituency wins.

    I don’t think these two constituencies are typical Alberta ridings, although I am not sure exactly what typical is. Innisfail-Sylvan Lake is certainly a quite conservative rural area – probably one of the more conservative areas of the province and Fort McMurray, well it is not like any other part of Alberta. Now I know media commentators sometimes talk about rural and urban ridings as a convenient short hand way to explain voting patterns, but I think it is more complex than that. Just as all urban ridings do not vote the same way, also there are differences between rural ridings and sometimes they are not that physically far apart. For example, Banff is quite different than Innisfail-Sylvan Lake.

    I think the recent focus of the UCP on rural crime probably went over well in Innisfail Sylvan Lake. While I think the NDP’s ideas and actions on this issue are good, they sure haven’t convinced a lot of rural voters of this so far, so I think they have a lot of work do on their messaging here. I suspect the UCP candidate’s connection to the Trump campaign was not helpful, although this came out very 11th hour so I think it had little effect on the results. However, it could still be a future problem for the UCP if their new MLA’s are seen to be too extreme right wing.

    The NDP had a very good candidate in Fort McMurray and took this race quite seriously, which I think is a good thing. However, I think anyone in the NDP who was expecting to win there in this by election was engaging in wishful thinking. I think one particularly interesting thing about the result there was where the Alberta Party and the Liberal Party ended up. It may indicate it is really shaping up to be a two party race in Alberta and that is not bad news for the NDP.

    While there are various things to learn from these by elections, I think a general election will be a much different situation. By elections tend to focus somewhat on local issues and candidates and often have low turnout. Also, ridings that have a strong history of only supporting a certain political party or philosophy are unlikely to change how they vote in a by election. In this case the surprise would have been if the results were different.

  5. So, Farmer Brian, how do you think Alberta and Canada should contribute to slowing and perhaps, eventually, stopping or even reversing climate change due to CO2 and other GHG emissions, if not with a market-based solution, i.e. a price on carbon?
    – Heavy, onerous, bureaucratic and expensive regulation? I though regulations were anathema to small-‘c’ conservatives like yourself.
    – Take no action until the rest of the world does?—wait, with a few exceptions, the rest of the world is taking action. This is a global problem that requires each and every country to do its share, and if countries like Canada were to stall on taking action until others took the lead, none would do anything and the problem would only get worse and more expensive to mitigate. And no country can allow a sub-national jurisdiction to torpedo its efforts to meet its global obligations, so if Alberta—or Ontario or Saskatchewan for that matter—fails to take effective measures in policy areas under its jurisdiction, the Government of Canada will be obligated to step in.
    – Do nothing because it’s all a hoax? Puhleeze.

    The whole rationale for putting a price on carbon, whether it be through a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade regime, is that on an aggregate, market-wide, gradual basis, it will incentivize decisions that will reduce GHG emissions by increasing efficiency. The concept is suppported by virtually every reputable economist as the best approach to reducing our emissions as a nation. For example, next time you are in the market for a new vehicle, or a new furnace, you might decide to look at one with greater energy efficiency than you might otherwise have. Hundreds, then thousands of small decisions like that should, over time, collectively slow the growth of emissions and then start to reduce them.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.