Alberta Politics
Heather McPherson, the NDP Candidate in Edmonton Strathcona (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It’s tough to be a federal Liberal or a New Democrat in Alberta … especially during elections

Posted on September 12, 2019, 1:18 am
7 mins

It’s always hard to be a federal Liberal in Alberta … especially during elections!

(Ba-boom!)

Retiring Edmonton Strathcona MP Linda Duncan (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

In the federal election Prime Minister Trudeau called yesterday, it’ll probably be just a little harder than usual.

Here in Wild Rose Country, it’s usually pretty difficult to be a New Democrat too, subject to many of the same conditions.

Which is to say, the NDP’s federal candidate normally has a chance in only one riding, Edmonton Strathcona, but since 2008 that’s been a pretty good chance.

That was when Linda Duncan, an environmental lawyer, knocked off Rahim Jaffer, the Reform-Alliance-Conservative placeholder who had been MP for the riding since 1997. (Later, Mr. Jaffer became a lobbyist for an outfit called Green Power. That was before there was a snitch line for un-Albertan activities, but, regardless, it doesn’t seem like that worked out all that well for him.)

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Depending on whom you listen to, there may or may not have been a little tension between Ms. Duncan and Alberta’s previous NDP government led by Rachel Notley, MLA for the provincial Edmonton-Strathcona riding and an enthusiastic backer of bitumen pipelines.

But like Ms. Notley’s government, those days now appear to be over. Ms. Duncan is about to retire, and NDP candidate Heather McPherson should be acceptable to all. Ms. McPherson is a former teacher and an executive for non-profit organizations.

So as long as neither the Greens nor the Liberals come up with a candidate strong enough to split the vote in a riding that features the University of Alberta at one end and slightly bluer suburbs at the other, there should still be a small patch of orange on the Alberta electoral map after Oct. 21.

Randy Boissonnault (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

As for the four ridings that went Liberal in the 2015 federal election, two in Calgary and two in Edmonton, that’s unlikely to happen this time.

Somehow, Mr. Trudeau went and made himself unpopular in these parts — in spite of spending more money here than his predecessor, Conservative Stephen Harper did, and buying an uneconomic pipeline to help keep the place afloat. But go figure, nothing satisfies Albertans if your name happens to be Trudeau.

Calgary’s quota of Liberals was reduced by 50 per cent in 2017, after Calgary Skyview MP Darshan Kang resigned from the party’s Caucus amid allegations of sexual harassment. Mr. Trudeau later made it clear he would never be welcomed back. Calgary Centre MP Kent Hehr, who had joined Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet in 2015, resigned from cabinet last year after allegations of sexual harassment, but remains in caucus.

Kent Hehr (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

These two were the first Liberals elected in Calgary since 1968, and it seems highly likely under the circumstances that thanks to their tawdry performances the Liberals will be done like dinner in Cowtown on Oct. 21.

There’s been nothing wrong with either the personal behaviour or political performances of Edmonton Liberal MPs Randy Boissonnault (Edmonton Centre), and Amarjeet Sohi (Edmonton Mill Woods). Mr. Boissonnault is a former Rhodes scholar and journalist, and is the first openly gay MP to be elected in this province. Mr. Sohi, a former Edmonton City Councillor, has proved to be an effective and hard-working member of Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet as minister of infrastructure and later minister of natural resources.

But so what? This is Alberta, and re-election for either man will be a challenge because of the current mood of the province, the PM’s popularity deficit hereabouts, polls that reflect both factors, and the history of the place.

Still, Edmonton’s a pretty progressive town and Mr. Sohi is like Brian Mason, the former leader of the provincial NDP – both got a start as bus drivers and union members and turned into able political campaigners. So maybe he has a chance. In your blogger’s opinion, he certainly deserves it.

Darshan Kang (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

As for non-Conservatives with a chance of going to Ottawa as MPs among the sea of Conservative non-entities we send east and then forget about, that’s pretty well it or I’ll eat my National Pundits Union card on Oct. 22.

As noted above, things are only a little harder than normal for federal Liberals around here. Blogger and inveterate chart-maker Dave Cournoyer illustrated in a graphic on social media earlier this week that the overwhelming level of support for the federal Conservatives looks much the same election after election in this province.

This may explain why Conservative governments in Ottawa take us for granted. It doesn’t explain why Liberal governments pay so much attention to us or, for that matter, why Alberta voters continue to encourage this situation.

I’m sorry, readers, I don’t have any more insights into this mystery.

16 Comments to: It’s tough to be a federal Liberal or a New Democrat in Alberta … especially during elections

  1. Dave

    September 12th, 2019

    I suppose if it is any consolation, the Liberals seem to have second place locked up in Alberta, according to the polls. Of course, about 40 points back from the Cons. In what is a neck and neck race nationally, Alberta as always seems to be an anomally.

    It does seem odd that the Cons take the voters here for granted and of course raise a lot of money here they will spend in other races across Canada, but I guess that is how it goes. Habits are sometimes slow and difficult to change. I recall when the Federal Liberals could count on over 70 seats in Quebec and more in Ontario, but over the years their voting patterns changed somewhat and so they may eventually here to. I think Quebecers figured out it was actually better for them that their votes are not completely taken for granted.

    I will not predict an exact seat count, but I think there will probably be a few Liberals and perhaps an NDP MP too, with the rest being Cons here. I think Alberta will remain out of step with the rest of the country and still wondering why the Federal parties don’t take us more seriously. Well with one party that can take a lot of support for granted and the other parties mostly frustrated and shut out, that is not a mystery.

    Reply
  2. Farmer Brian

    September 12th, 2019

    Personally I think it is tough for the NDP in most places in Canada right now. The latest polling averaged out on 338Canada put the NDP at 12.6% nationally, at 6% in Quebec, the province they elected the most seats in last time around.

    Why isn’t Justin Trudeau popular in Alberta? Hmm where would I start. As a farmer under his tenure I have lost markets in both India and China. In all fairness how much is the Canadian government’s fault could be debated. Justin Trudeau went on and on about the Conservatives nevertheless building a pipeline to tidewater, well neither has he yet and I am not convinced he ever will! Anyway back on task, Bill C-69, Bill C-48, imposing a carbon tax on Alberta Jan. 1,2020. Another important issue to me is his absolute lack of ethics! Interesting story in the Globe and Mail of the Liberal’s obstructing the obstruction of justice probe by the RCMP. Trudeau and by extension the federal Liberal’s are rotten to the core and it looks like Canadians are ready to vote him back in with the strongest backing coming from Quebec! So David I will never vote for the Liberal’s under Justin Trudeau and I am astounded and disappointed by how many Canadians that will! Enjoy your day.

    Reply
    • Janna

      September 12th, 2019

      re your comments here:

      1. Loss of markets. As you said, it isn’t necessarily the Canadian government’s fault. We’ll just leave it at that.
      2. Pipeline to tidewater: I don’t remember Trudeau going on and on about it, I do remember Kenney doing so for years now (since he left Federal office, and he didn’t manage to get it done the 10 years he was there). Trudeau has bought the pipeline and it is now, and has been for a number of years, in the hands of the courts. Unless you want the government to override the courts and I don’t think we want to set that precedent.
      3. Bill c-69 and C-48, not sure they are quite the disasters the Conservatives paint them to be.
      4. Carbon tax: this is a very useful way of reducing emissions. We had it here in Alberta, it didn’t cause the economy to crash. A lot of people, especially the lower income crowd, got rebates which helped them out. I don’t get the hatred.
      5. The Globe and Mail story is a lie, the RCMP is holding off on any investigation until after the election. Also, the SNC Lavalin story started back in the Harper days, or possibly even before that. JWR is being somewhat disingenuous in some of her comments and when you look at her spousal travel spending claims, looks like she’s not completely ethical herself. That’s also evidenced by her recording conversations without permission.

      Maybe the Liberals are rotten to the core but I think the Conservatives are even more so. I don’t know as yet who I will vote for but it will certainly not be the person who represents my riding now, a Conservative. There is no way I want Scheer representing my country. His campaign of lies and bullying is horrible. I can’t believe so many people, especially Albertans, will vote for him and his party.

      Reply
      • Farmer Brian

        September 13th, 2019

        Janna enjoyed your reply.

        Point #2. Read an old article from the Huffpost: ‘To Tidewater’: The 2 Key Words to Listen for as Liberals, Tories fight over pipelines.

        Point #4. Read a recent CBC article: B.C. Greenhouse gas emissions still near 2007 levels ministry say. Keep in mind one thing the article missed, in 2015 B.C.’s C02 emissions were 61.3 million tonnes, in 2016 B.C.’s C02 emissions were 62.3 million tonnes and as the article states in 2017 B.C.’s C02 emissions were 64.46 million tonnes. From 2015 to 2017 B.C.’s C02 emissions increased by over 5% while having the highest carbon tax in Canada. So I would disagree on the effectiveness of a carbon tax.

        Point #5. On the CBC again: SNC-Lavalin affair: 5 things we learned from the ethic’s commissioner’s report on Trudeau. Interesting to note that Conflict of interest and ethic’s commissioner Mario Dion was appointed by the Trudeau government.

        Thanks again Janna and enjoy your day.

        Reply
    • Death and Gravity

      September 12th, 2019

      Do they pay you by the post? Or by the talking point?

      Reply
      • Farmer Brian

        September 13th, 2019

        Unfortunately not D&G, I have been a full time farmer in Alberta for 37 years. It would be awesome to get some off farm income though as grain prices are down close to 20% from last year! Enjoy your day.

        Reply
      • Janna

        September 13th, 2019

        Death And Gravity, are you talking to me or Farmer Brian? Just curious. As I don’t know what point you are trying to make.

        Reply
  3. Simon Renouf

    September 12th, 2019

    David, I live in Edmonton Centre, and I for one was not impressed by Randy Boissonnault’s role in defending the PM in the Wilson-Raybould affair. In fairness, he wasn’t going to get my vote anyway. Kudos to the efficient Edmonton Centre NDP campaign team: my Katherine Swampy lawn sign arrived at about 7:00 PM yesterday, the day the writ dropped.

    Reply
  4. John T

    September 12th, 2019

    Methinks that us Albertans would be better served by Ottawa if we changed up the game in Ottawa from time to time rather that the same old same old. As you say, A CPC PM has no need to try and win over votes here so are off the radar most of the time. Funny how conservative supporters here don’t see that.

    Reply
  5. andrew struthers

    September 12th, 2019

    Michael Kalmanovitch is the Green Party candidate in Edm Strathcona. I don’t know what their local organization is like but he’s a recognizable name thereby making him a “credible” candidate in the parlance of horse race election coverage.

    Eleanor Olszewski is the Liberal candidate. And of course, a large chunk of the riding was represented provincially for many years by Liberal Hugh Macdonald.

    Edm Strathcona is a riding where votes matter. If you are a resident consider yourself lucky.

    Reply
  6. Andy Marshall

    September 12th, 2019

    Yes, and thanks to another Justin Trudeau failure — that is, not following up on promises to change our voting system, — plus the tsunami of mindless CPC tribalism elsewhere in Alberta, our “progressive” votes will, outside Edmonton Strathcona, count for squat. As an aside on the Lavalin affair, what always got up my nose more than the so-called obstruction issue, was the fact that the Deferred Prosecution Agreement idea that led to the scandal was buried in an omnibus bill — just like Steve’s old Tories liked to do.

    Reply
    • Michael

      September 14th, 2019

      The reversal by Trudeau on electoral reform is one reason I will find it very hard to hold my nose and vote Liberal in my Calgary riding in October, even though they have a reasonable candidate (who ran for the NDP in a different riding than mine in the provincial election and did OK). I went to town halls, talked to the Minister (she was useless – Monsef ? Kept diverting discussion from the real issue), wrote letters and so on but to no avail.

      But who to vote for ? The NDP does not even have a candidate yet, so maybe Green ? They have a veteran of many elections giving it another try.

      The problem of course is I look at the 2015 election, and see that if half of the NDP or Green vote had gone Liberal in our riding, the quite likeable young Liberal candidate would have won. Although I disapprove of strategic voting on principle, I do have some regrets about campaigning for and voting NDP. And this problem will remain for all of us until we get electoral reform — to vote strategically or not ? to vote for candidate, party or leader ?

      Strategic voting by Liberals and Greens would have given Edmonton Griesbach to the NDP las time, and by Greens and NDP would have given Calgary confederation to the Liberals. But I can’t see any other riding where reasonable levels of such voting would have stopped a Conservative (say about 25 % of each party voting for the non-Conservative most likely to win – which is not always discernable pre-vote).

      Reply
  7. September 14th, 2019

    Hi David,

    I hope you will pardon a tiny partisan intrusion in your comments section. I’m a long-time reader and the NDP candidate in Calgary Nose Hill. Here’s my read on Alberta today.

    The downturn from oil crash never really ended, people are suffering, the province turned to the politicians who shout loudest and longest about it. But the Premier’s office doesn’t come with a dial to crank up the price of oil. (Neither does the Prime Minister’s office, for that matter.)

    When the status quo fails ordinary folks, the centre hollows out, and we look further right and left for alternatives. Today the province is drifting rightward, and we know the cuts are coming, and that they’ll land on working people and their families.

    But this opens up an enormous opportunity on the left. Austerity and a prayer is not an economic plan, the global trends that pushed the price of oil so low are only going to continue, and we need to try something bolder. My job is to champion the future Albertans don’t know they need yet. A new deal, a just transition, a retraining strategy, a clean energy jobs program. We need Albertans to imagine a different future actually coming to pass. And we need to do it before an explosion in electric vehicle sales punishes the price of oil even more.

    Can Albertans lift their eyes from today’s problem of missing pipeline capacity to tomorrow’s problem: the decline of the oil age? That, I think, is our test. If the ballot question is pipeline capacity then it’s a blue sweep. If the question is the viability of our industry, then people will look to an optimistic alternative.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      September 14th, 2019

      Comments are always welcome. DJC

      Reply
  8. Jerrymacgp

    September 14th, 2019

    Re the paucity of Liberal & NDP candidates, I think the reasons for these are disparate. For the federal NDP, not only did the campaign machine volunteer base shoot its bolt in April-May, trying to see if the Notley NDP could defy the polls and the “National Pundits Union” (I liked that, & got a chuckle out of it, by the way), but there is a lot of policy distance between Alberta New Democrats and their federal cousins on pipelines, and maybe there aren’t all that many Alberta NDs willing to embrace that message on the federal hustings.

    As for the Liberals, I read this quote in a CBC story https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/19-ridings-federal-parties-1.5278635: “ … talented community leaders interested in becoming the Team Trudeau candidates…”. “Team Trudeau”? I guess what they really mean, is willing victims of ostracism, vandalism, and perhaps assault and even worse. If there’s a surname more hated in Oilbertastan than Mr Trudeau’s, I’d be interested in knowing what that is. The hatred for our PM here on Grande Prairie is palpable, even if irrational, as evidenced by the prevalence of “F*ck Trudeau” or similar memes on vehicles and signs of every kind up here, and hearing the depth of contempt for him and all his works spewing from the mouths of almost anybody you talk to.

    An NDP candidacy here would a recipe for disappointment, but a Liberal one is a poisoned chalice.

    Reply

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