Alberta Politics
Calgary-Hawkwood MLA Michael Connolly (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Another weekend in Alberta politics: A new chapter for an Orange politician, and a Green one too

Posted on September 24, 2018, 12:54 am
4 mins

A new chapter? Using those words as a headline, Michael Connolly, the youthful NDP representative for Calgary-Hawkwood and one of the few openly gay MLAs in the provincial Legislature, announced Saturday in a Facebook post he’ll be quietly stepping out of politics when a provincial election is called next year.

In his graceful farewell, Mr. Connolly, 24, thanked the voters of his northwest Calgary riding who gave him the job in the Orange Sweep of May 2015, family, friends, donors, volunteers, and “Alberta’s LGBTQ2S+ community, who allowed me and inspired me to be one of their first representatives in Alberta’s Legislature.”

Green Party of Alberta Leader Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes (Photo: Radio Canada).

A former University of Ottawa student in that institution’s bilingual immersion program, he also thanked Alberta’s francophone community for giving him a new community where he also feels at home. (J’ai trouvé une nouvelle communauté où je me sens chez moi.)

In other words, Mr. Connolly’s planned departure seems like a real loss to the NDP on the brink of an election that is bound to be an uphill fight in Calgary for the government of Premier Rachel Notley – perhaps especially in Mr. Connelly’s well-off and traditionally conservative suburban riding.

In a social media comment, Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan called Mr. Connolly “a smart, gracious, charismatic and effective leader” who will be missed.

Former Green Party of Canada Calgary Candidate Chris Turner (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“I got into politics because I believed we could create a more just Alberta,” Mr. Connolly concluded his message. “I believe in an Alberta where our youth are not afraid to be themselves, where the rights of LGBTQ2S+ people do not need to be fought for in the courts, where working people have the right and the ability to join a union, and where a strong economy and a clean environment go hand in hand.”

Meanwhile, after a tumultuous year in which a new leader resigned in after less than six months on the job, members of the Green Party of Alberta on Friday chose Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes of Calgary to lead them through the expected 2019 election.

Ms. Chagnon-Greyeyes, the first Indigenous woman to lead an Alberta political party, will have her work cut out for her. The party is small, marginalized, and has been divided by its own internal fights – which are thought to have contributed to the sudden departure of former leader Romy Tittel in March.

But perhaps that presents an opportunity for Ms. Chagnon-Greyeyes – an activist devoted to Indigenous, social justice, and environmental causes who is employed by the University of Calgary.

While the time seem to have passed when a Green candidate could be seriously considered a contender in this province – as the Green Party of Canada’s Chris Turner was in the 2012 Calgary Centre federal by-election – there might be an opening for some Green gains created by the Notley Government’s strong stance in favour of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

The days are long gone, at any rate, when Orange and Green appear to be compatible political colours in Alberta, as they were here once upon a time.

7 Comments to: Another weekend in Alberta politics: A new chapter for an Orange politician, and a Green one too

  1. Sam Gunsch

    September 24th, 2018

    The Green Party very likely would have started electing MLAs and MPs in Alberta starting in the 1990s if Alberta was using a proportional representation system. ( e.g. Turner received just over 25% of that federal bye-election vote in Calgary 2012). Federally right now Greens are polling at historic highs.

    Our votes should count equally. But alas we remain stuck with our current first-past-post system of elections, effectively disenfranchising many Albertans and Canadians.

    Leadership on this to the west though…BC is probably going to bring in PR.

    https://www.fairvote.ca/

    Reply
  2. Albertan

    September 24th, 2018

    I have seen other commentary from folks in the Calgary-Hawkwood riding about how they feel that the AB NDP’s Michael Connally was the best MLA they have, ever, had. We wish him the best!

    Reply
  3. Sam Gunsch

    September 24th, 2018

    FWIW The opposition to proportional representation in BC just now vs. the arguments for, contrasted in this useful opinion piece today at the National Observer.

    https://www.nationalobserver.com/2018/07/11/opinion/whos-afraid-proportional-representation-bc

    Great candid description by by Christy Clark.

    EXCERPT:

    “At the time, I liked [first past the post] because our current system served my personal interests as a politician very well … I was chosen by the first-past-the-post system…and I didn’t see the need to change a system that worked well for me.”

    But in the years between her first and second stints as a politician, she came to realize that voters — and her listeners — were “sick” of a system in which they felt “their vote doesn’t matter.” Clark expanded on this to her listeners, saying “you’re sick of the fact that, if you live in one of the two-thirds of the ridings that are considered ‘safe,’ and you don’t choose to vote for the incumbent party, your vote goes in the garbage can.”

    Christy Clark goes on to outline multiple reasons why she feels the current system is inadequate. I strongly encourage readers to listen to the entire six-and-a-half minute YouTube video.

    EXCERPT: The system warps politics

    When Christy Clark returned to politics six years later, however, she quickly fell back into the world of hyper-partisanship, tight party control and suppression of dissent. She changed tack once again and pragmatically embraced the winner-takes-all electoral system.

    Reply
    • Sam Gunsch

      September 24th, 2018

      Today’s news on the Quebec election signals that prop. rep. is likely coming there as well. With a minority government likely, the players had made this commitment:

      EXCERPT: ‘Last May at a Quebec National Assembly ceremony, Legault, PQ Leader Jean-François Lisée, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, representing Québec solidaire, and Green Party Leader Alex Tyrrell signed a commitment to bring in mixed proportional representation. In such a system, Quebecers would elect 78 members to the National Assembly directly, with the remaining 47 seats distributed to reflect the popular vote.

      Only the Quebec Liberals oppose ending first-past-the-post voting.’

      https://ipolitics.ca/2018/09/24/quebec-drifts-toward-minority-government/

      Reply
  4. Scotty on Denman

    September 24th, 2018

    The Alberta Green Party “has been divided by its own internal fights”. Fighting, being an extraordinary measure, must be justified by something extraordinary. If we consider, for a moment, that the Alberta Greens have been, ordinarily, “small and marginalized”, then what might be considered extra to that? What’s worth fighting for?

    Well, we know the Greens’ grand strategy is to advocate for environmental responsibility in the halls of power and their tactics remain dogged pursuit of elected seats in provincial legislatures. Ordinarily, the Greens have been perennial also-rans as the single-member-plurality electoral system affords small parties (which is why they advocate for proportional representation, the electoral system that gets small parties elected), meaning their influence has been largely in the court of public opinion instead of in the legislative assembly, or as perennial vote-splitters of non-right electoral support (which has often resulted in the party of the right—perceived, rightly or wrongly, as environmentally unfriendly—getting elected with riding-pluralities), or as the de facto “none-of-the-above” ballot choice for dithering parked votes, as well as the nucleus of a enviro-true-believer fringe. Extraordinary, then, would be electing even a single member to the assembly.

    Is the whiff of potential electoral success the reason for Green infighting? The first Green seat in Alberta would be, obviously, a high prize—and perhaps worth fighting for.

    As a longtime Dipper, I’ve decried Green vote-splitting on the simple, but hard to prove, rubric that Greens ‘steal’ NDP votes and, as ever, that they split the anti-right vote to the detriment of both their party and mine. We BC Dippers implored Green sympathizers to join us, just this one occasion, in ensuring the BC Liberals (the far-right polity which usurped a real Liberal party, turned it sharply rightward but kept the name) would be defeated in BC’s 2017 election and, seeming a contradiction, the Green share of most riding votes was cooperatively down—allowing the NDP to take these seats from the BC Liberals—but at the same time the Greens tripled their own seat count to three.

    The typical Green strategy has been to concentrate forces, win a beachhead and advance thence; in BC they succeeded—extraordinarily—and also won the balance of power in the hung BC assembly; The ‘extra’ really shows when, considering the party which was ‘nowhere’ only two elections ago, now influences national matters vis a vis its support of the minority NDP government which, like the Greens, opposes the TMX pipeline, fomenting, it’s been bullhorned by certain pro-pipeline factions, a “national constitutional crisis”. The Greens have definitely been trending upward in BC and been winning singletons in other provinces, too, most recently in Ontario’s bitterly contested election.

    How does this apply to the great province of Alberta? Aside from Green infighting there—which might be about anything, from terminating tar sand development, banning plastic drinking straws, to who’ll get the honour of being the first Green MLA in Alberta—there are some other parallels worth noting.

    Trend, as mentioned, is obviously beneficial for the Greens who continue to enjoy increasing legitimacy as hitherto very slow growth seems to have been accelerating to something at least a bit less slow. Certainly political frustration has been growing among the electorate, with environmental issues now vying for top issue of concern against the usual economic worries. Perhaps the synthesis is this: when one of the mainstream parties—usually the governing one—has inevitably become detested and support for the mainstream alternative remains tepid, nonetheless (the elements of political frustration), the Greens have successfully shoehorned their beachheads, accelerating their slow acquisition of legitimacy in the process. All, BTW, under the single-member-plurality system the Greens advocate so hard to eliminate.

    There once was a time, not so long ago, that the venerable Progressive Conservative of Alberta party seemed invulnerable; politcal frustrations (which certainly had enough time to fester during the PC’s 43-year reign) notwithstanding, the NDP didn’t seem the likely alternative. Now, however, the PC’s are gone, the NDP the presumed detested government and the UCP alternative not all that savory. Would this be an opportunity for the Greens to group up some dithering fence-sitters, citizens with growing environmental concerns, along with their usual nucleus of ardent environmentalists?

    I’ve spent years dismissing the Greens—strictly from a partisan Dipper perspective—but after the last two BC elections added significantly to the Greens’ legitimacy in something that looks like trendy ascent, I’ve learned not to discount them anymore. Every party in Canada dismisses the Greens at their peril (figuratively speaking).

    Is that one of the reasons Alberta Greens are fighting? There’s election in the wind, after all.

    Reply
    • Jerrymacgp

      September 26th, 2018

      Note also this week’s New Brunswick election, in which the Greens won three seats …

      Reply
  5. David

    September 25th, 2018

    A career in politics is not for everyone and perhaps it is to Mr. Connolly’s credit that he has served as an MLA and realized there are other things he as a 24 year old might want to do with this part of, or the rest of his life.

    It is good to have a youth perspective in government and politics and I think sometimes youth and their issues are overlooked because most people in politics are older, so in that regard in particular it is too bad he has decided not to continue. However, this should not stop other people from his age from getting involved in public life and fortunately there are still a few other MLA’s around his age. I didn’t get the sense at all from his remarks that Mr. Connolly regretted or felt bad at all about his experience in public life. On the contrary, I think it may give him some valuable experience and insight to make a meaningful contribution in some other ways in the future.

    It is a somewhat different situation to wish him all the best in the future, as opposed to saying this when typically much older MLA’s decide not to run again – he may have many, many more years ahead of him and hopefully a very bright and enjoyable future.

    Reply

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