Alberta Politics
Edmonton Mayor-elect Amarjeet Sohi (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Despite UCP efforts to tilt the playing field, progressive mayors are elected in both Edmonton and Calgary

Posted on October 19, 2021, 2:28 am
8 mins

Despite the best efforts of Alberta’s United Conservative Party Government to tilt the playing field steeply in favour right-wing candidates, voters in both Calgary and Edmonton elected progressive mayors yesterday. 

Amarjeet Sohi, a soft-spoken former bus driver and trade unionist who was once a political prisoner in India and served as a minister in Justin Trudeau’s cabinet from 2015 to 2019, has been elected mayor of Edmonton. He replaces Mayor Don Iveson, who did not seek re-election.

Calgary Mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek (Photo: jyotigondek.ca).

Jyoti Gondek, a champion of the controversial Green Line LRT was born in the United Kingdom, where her parents had immigrated from Punjab. She was elected in Calgary’s Ward 3 in 2017. She holds a PhD in urban sociology. She will be Calgary’s first woman mayor. 

Obviously, both were excellent candidates for the role of chief magistrate of Alberta’s two largest cities. Just as obviously, neither was the candidate Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party wanted to see as the elected leaders and spokespeople for roughly half of the population of Alberta.

It is widely understood that the UCP’s deceptively worded anti-equalization and daylight savings referenda, not to mention its constitutionally meaningless Senate elections, were organized to get the party’s red-meat conservative base out to vote against progressive candidates on Alberta’s province-wide municipal election day, which is usually a low-turnout affair. 

The government also passed municipal election funding legislation that makes it easier for right-wing Political Action Committees to throw money at municipal candidates. 

The UCP is widely reported to have loaned political strategists and issues managers to the campaigns of the leading conservative candidates for mayor, Mike Nickel in Edmonton and Jeromy Farkas in Calgary, both acrimonious grandstanders as city councillors very much in tune with the UCP’s divisive style of politics. 

The UCP effort may not all have been for naught – it will take a few days to figure out what happened in city and town council races throughout the province, not to mention the referenda and Senate votes – but it is obvious already from the Edmonton and Calgary results that it was hardly a resounding success. 

The outcome in Calgary must have been particularly bitter for Calgary’s former Manning Centre, the political activism hub founded by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, which has spent nearly a decade trying to implant a cadre of neoliberal politicians in Alberta’s municipal governments. 

Departing Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

As political blogger Dave Cournoyer pointed out back in 2013, the Manning Centre’s real target was outgoing Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who had “taken a proactive stance on urban development, alarming the cabal of developers who have greatly benefited from near unlimited urban sprawl along the city’s edges.”

Mr. Farkas himself was an apparatchik in the Manning Centre’s “council tracker” project from 2013 to 2017, when he quit to run for council.

The likes of Jack Mintz, the UCP’s favourite economist, and former Stephen Harper advisor Tom Flanagan are said to have been key advisors to Mr. Farkas’s campaign. Dr. Gondek’s campaign was managed by Stephen Carter, the fellow behind Mr. Nenshi’s and former premier Alison Redford’s come-from-behind wins in 2010 and 2011. 

Well, like rust, neoliberals never sleep, so we can assume that in addition to grinding their teeth at yesterday’s mayoral results in Edmonton and Calgary, deep-pocketed conservative PACs and think tanks will be back soon dreaming up schemes to take over Alberta city halls in the next municipal elections, four years hence. 

Elections Alberta Twitter meltdown remains unexplained

While political Alberta waited nervously for voters to mark their ballots at municipal polls throughout the province yesterday, a bizarre meltdown was under way at Elections Alberta, the supposedly independent and non-partisan elections office run by the provincial Legislature, where someone using its Twitter account started trolling the authors of critical comments.

University of Alberta Economist Andrew Leach, a target of the Elections Alberta mystery troll’s wrath (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

This began when former conservative MLA Derek Fildebrandt published a polling-booth photo of what he said was his filled-in anti-equalization ballot and called on others to vote Yes too. 

Folks who pointed out it’s illegal to publish an image of your ballot, and asked what Elections Alberta might do about it, began receiving snot-o-grams from the agency’s Twitter account.

“Apparently, the people running social media for @ElectionsAB have decided that election day is the day for sarcasm,” tweeted University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach, often a critic of the government. “It’s a provincial referendum, and our own provincial bureaucracy is mocking people for expecting that provincial election laws might apply?”

The tone of Elections Alberta’s tweets, many observed, sounded a lot like the kind of childish abuse associated with some UCP ministers’ press secretaries and “issues managers,” and was not a good election day look for a supposedly non-partisan body that should be trying to safeguard the democratic process. 

Eventually someone at Elections Alberta deleted one of the offending tweets, and sent another saying, “Unfortunately, one of our staff at Elections Alberta was unprofessional in responding on Twitter today. We sincerely apologize for that. Albertans have the right to expect Elections Alberta to always remain unbiased and respectful in the election process.”

One of Elections Alberta’s startling tweets (Photo: Screenshot).

The next tweet said: “We have spoken to this individual and can assure Albertans that this type of discourse is unacceptable, and will not continue. We take our responsibility as a non-partisan office seriously, providing unbiased and accurate information to Albertans.”

But some of the offending Elections Alberta Tweets remain. Says one, directed at Dr. Leach: “I’m sure you’re well aware of the federalist state, the three levels of government, and how extra veres and intra veres powers are assigned, just as much as an old tweet holds no value versus an up-to-date one. Move on, Andrew.” The author, it is presumed, intended to say ultra vires. 

Regardless, more than a few tweets will be required to reassure many Albertans that Elections Alberta is not now being run by trolls from Team Kenney. 

30 Comments to: Despite UCP efforts to tilt the playing field, progressive mayors are elected in both Edmonton and Calgary

  1. Dave

    October 19th, 2021

    Yes, it was not a good night for Alberta’s Conservatives. If it was a movie, perhaps it could be called Nightmare on Manning Centre Street. After all, their hand picked, in this case alumni, Calgary mayoral candidate again failed to meet expectations. At worst, it was supposed to be at least a very close race. In the end, it was not even that.

    I suspect the Conservative Cabal was secretly a bit more realistic about their chances in Edmonton, where despite Nickel’s last fiesty or brave demeanour, things ended up much as predicted with him as a fairly distant second. However, even worse for this cabal, three of the more conservative Council incumbents running again were defeated.

    At this point progressive or centrist municipal governments in Alberta’s two largest cities seem to have become an enduring feature, despite all the repeated efforts of the Alberta Conservative establishment to make it otherwise.

    Although, perhaps as a consolation prize the UCP might still get a tepid endorsement in one of their referendums and some Conservative alternate reality Senators, who may have to spend years of their lives waiting for something that quite possibly will never happen.

    Reply
  2. Scotty on Denman

    October 19th, 2021

    It will take a few days for the smoke to clear, rubble and bricks to find their angles of repose, perhaps a few days or weeks more to find out if the besieged premier has crossed the Rube-a-Con of his struggle.

    But telltale thuds are getting closer now, shivering the swaying lamps over the strategic table map of Alberta. A palpable pong of fear taints the oppressive stuffiness deep in the rumbling bowels of the War Room. Discretely, gemstones fill condoms, heirloom Socred shinplasters are sewn into hems of nurses and ambulance uniforms, “I’ve-Been-Vaccinated” and sundry trade union buttons are swapped for tin stars abruptly flung into wastebaskets labelled “shredder”, and rainbow scarves are distributed. At the dim exit, small groups quietly adjust each other’s disguises, exchange letters to loved ones and grimly wish luck as they leave, two or three at a time, a few minutes apart. Reaching the top of the long concrete flight, peering left and right at the bunker doors held ajar by buckled pavement, they quickly slip away even as victorious cheers get closer through the crackle of fireworks, praying they can get to the American Zone from behind enemy lines.

    Brooding below, the leader listens to pleading and recrimination form his remaining ministers and generals as they brainstorm desperate contingencies, some secretly plotting surrender, others a coup, still others calculating next manoeuvres while referendum results are delayed long enough for—for what? A deathbed confession feint or last minute betrothal? The deployment of decoys is getting very, very old. The powder is wetted.

    The remarkable election results in the capitals of commerce and government would be astounding if they weren’t so expectantly deserved. Outgoing Calgary Mayor Nenshi will join in the celebrations but surely remind that, on the morrow, much heavy lifting will require cooperative good will from everyone. As we should all know by now, in the second year and fourth wave of Covid, the most difficult breach is just ahead—but it’s already made, it needs only to be passed through; on the other side, sunshine, peace and love.

    For now a great morale boost has been achieved. Congratulations Alberta! Enjoy the moment. And thank you very much, Mayor Nenshi: you’ve been a guiding star in the night.

    All the very best, my Alberta friends!

    Reply
    • Shelly Duchesne

      October 19th, 2021

      BRAVO

      Reply
  3. B P

    October 19th, 2021

    I love how any “trolls” must come from Kenney’s UCP… stick to the facts, Dave.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      October 19th, 2021

      Of course the troll came from Kenney’s UCP. Who else is there? I predict the identity of the troll will be known soon, for all to see. DJC

      Reply
    • Phlogiston

      October 19th, 2021

      Well, Twitter is absolutely blowing up over the unprofessional and biased tweets of the Elections AB official who posted them. Elections AB’s tepid and useless apology is not going over well. People are calling for blood and wondering why the person behind the tweets was not fired or more strongly disciplined.

      BP, because we don’t know the identity of the person behind the tweets does not mean we cannot make reasonable inferences about the tweets and the motivations of the person behind them. The tweets are biased and partisan and at least one attacks a known UCP critic. You can glean all of this just from the sample of the tweets that DJC provided in his piece.

      Combine this with the UCP’s earlier firing of the independent Alberta Elections Commissioner and other changes, such as changes to the municipal election funding legislation, which look designed to make it easier for the UCP to interfere in or influence municipal elections (they clearly tried to influence these elections) and you have something resembling a smoking gun. The rot is so deep that many folks on Twitter mockingly state that Matt Wolf, the so-called Director of Issue Management for the UCP government, must be behind the tweets. And, really, is it that far-fetched that Matt Wolf would have influence within Elections AB, given the UCP’s past conduct? For more on Matt Wolf, please see https://www.change.org/p/alberta-premier-jason-kenney-remove-matt-wolf-from-the-government-s-payroll-and-make-the-ucp-pay-his-salary-instead/.

      We are in a bad place when Elections AB cannot be trusted to be nonpartisan and above the fray. I suspect that this story will get legs and become a much bigger issue in the days ahead.

      And, BP, in case you haven’t already guessed, Mr. Climenhaga is under no obligation to indulge in false equivalencies or just “stick to the facts.” He has a point of view, a refreshing and well considered one, that makes his blog posts enjoyable and insightful. If you don’t like his point of view, you do have the option of reading some of the truly appalling columns by Lorne Gunter, who often does not bother with facts at all and usually just indulges in name calling while mindlessly repeating right-wing tropes without any apparent serious thought.

      Reply
      • David A Wasserman

        October 19th, 2021

        You spelled “Lone Grunter” wrong.

        Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      October 19th, 2021

      Bob: Thanks for the link. Reading Mr. Gunter’s words, it is clear he hates Edmonton and Edmontonians. Rather sad, really. He really should move somewhere more congenial, like, maybe, Oklahoma City. DJC

      Reply
      • ema

        October 19th, 2021

        As someone who has a habit of never reading the yellow (Sun) rag, out of foolish curiosity I read Gunter’s column today at my local library. I felt I needed an immediate shower to cleanse myself, after reading his utter drivel on bobbleheads. UGH!

        Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      October 19th, 2021

      Goodness, Mr. Gunter is a gloomy one today. We can calibrate his outlook on Edmonton’s newly-elected council by his remarks on the new & improved garbage collection system. It’s modeled on the system used in Sherwood Park, that bastion of Conservative support, and has been running successfully in the Park for several years. There’s no reason to think that Gunter’s “it’ll all fall apart” attitude is any more correct for the rest of his Nostradamus act than this one.

      Reply
      • tom in ontario

        October 19th, 2021

        For spouting his cranky mewling, his Postmedia masters actually pay him.
        DJC volunteers his time.
        Hey Lorne, howdja like to make a donation?

        Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      October 20th, 2021

      For a group that purports to be about “democracy”, conservatives seem to have a lot of contempt for voters and the choices they make. Trashing the newly-elected Edmonton City Council the day after the voters cast their ballots is just a retread of their 2015 “accidental government” insult thrown at the Notley-led provincial NDP. Then there’s their constant and tiring rejection of any federal government that isn’t Conservative.

      Apparently, like the Hairpiece That Walks Like a Man south of the border, the only evidence needed to claim that an election is “rigged” is an outcome you dislike.

      Reply
  4. Abs

    October 19th, 2021

    It’s a relief that the mayors of Calgary and Edmonton are Gondek and Sohi, two competent, progressive mayors. I can’t imagine a worse outcome than Farkas and/or Nickel at the helm right now.

    However, there is still the matter of Sean Chu. For any voter who has a mother, aunt, sister, daughter, girlfriend or wife, what were you thinking? Nothing good will come of this. It’s impossible to separate the relentlessly unapologetic man from his actions. Michelle Rempel was out with him knocking on doors. ‘Nuf said.

    As for Saskatchewan time, voters have given Kenney something to chew on. I guess voters don’t want to be kept in the dark this winter, if ever.

    The meaningless equalization payment referendum changes nothing. However, Kenney will likely start using his “overwhelming majority” rhetoric and forge ahead anyways with his plans to destroy Albertans’ CPP, and install his own police force. Reality distortion is a feature, not a bug, with this provincial government.

    Steven Harper and Preston Manning will haunt us forever. They just can’t stop pulling levers behind the curtains.

    Reply
  5. Lars

    October 19th, 2021

    “…spent nearly a decade trying to implant a cadre neoliberal politicians…”
    Tyop, I think – shouldn’t this be “a cadre of neoliberal politicians”?

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      October 19th, 2021

      Many thanks. It’s been fixed. DJC

      Reply
  6. Bret Larson

    October 19th, 2021

    Looks like most people voted for an ideal rather than actuality. Pretty normal. As to what Sohi is competent at, the only thing I see is that hes competent at getting elected. He is that.

    Now the rubber hits the road.

    The property tax you pay will have big affect with whether you can stay in your own home.

    Over the last twenty years my property tax has tripled. And that is with no inflation.

    What is the high low on the increase in the property tax over the next ten years?

    I say the range is +100-150%.

    Maybe in 10 years time we will be paying in CANBITS as the Canadian dollar becomes worthless.

    Reply
    • Death and Gravity

      October 19th, 2021

      “Like a summer tempest came his tears”.

      And they are sweet and delicious.

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      October 19th, 2021

      BRET LARSON: Your property tax increases came from the Alberta PCs doing very pricey shenanigans, and thereby passing on the resulting costs, in many ways, including cuts to municipalities. The UCP has also done very pricey shenanigans, and has made costs go onto municipalities, through their cuts. When pretend conservatives and Reformers are in power, this is all you will expect. Peter Lougheed had nothing good to say about these pretend conservatives and Reformers.

      Reply
    • Chompy McGruff

      October 20th, 2021

      “And that is with no inflation.”

      I don’t know why I keep replying to someone (or something) that is so trollingly wrong that they’re not just wrong. The inflation rate in Alberta over the last twenty years has been 50.78% and the PC governments and the UCP fiasco have slashed funding for municipalities, thus necessitating an increase in property taxes that our fearless premier can blame on local governments. Odd that the UCP have no problems taxing the municipalities to subsidize the rural but rail against the richer provinces sharing with the less rich provinces… At least Bret Larson is okay with it when the UCP does it. It gives him something else to complain about and blame on the innocent while noting non-existent facts as though they were well known.

      Reply
      • Bret Larson

        October 21st, 2021

        The actual inflation rate is a funny number. With Walmart slashing prices all the time there may have been some deflationary pressure.

        Not now though:
        https://www.bbc.com/news/business-58986399

        The new federal contracts will have a large affect at where the rate goes to .

        Interesting times.

        Reply
  7. Gerald

    October 19th, 2021

    Good points, all of you.
    @Bob Raynard – I find Graham Thomson to be a good anti-venom to Lorne Gunter.
    @Scotty on Denman – I myself am waiting for the thud of the 3rd quarter UCP fundraising numbers.

    I particularly enjoyed Mr. Nenshi’s final interview wherein he gave his candid opinion on provincial politics – really, it was a quite brutal exit interview that flayed & salted the hides of deserving UCP politicians.

    Mr. Iveson’s differed only in being slightly more focused on details.

    Reply
  8. Just Me

    October 19th, 2021

    The elections in Calgary and Edmonton were pretty widespread rebukes of Kenney and the UCP. Okay, maybe he was handed a so-called win over the Equalization question, but that’s is an assured path to nowhere. If Kenney wants to call that a resounding victory, go ahead; considering the enormous damage he has done since becoming premier, it’s better to hand him this mild squeaky toy to occupy his time and keep him away from anything else that will hurt others.

    Reply
  9. Just Me

    October 19th, 2021

    It was interesting how the uncomfortable subject of Sean Chu made Kenney appear even more disheveled than he already was. I search of the daveberta blog revealed that Chu was among a cadre of Calgary CONs who gave Shandro their blessing prior to the 2019 election. Now that Chu has become a stinking albatross around the UCP’s neck, the gaslighting began again in earnest.

    Both Braid and Bell jumped in and asked about the uncomfortable situation involving Sean Chu. Mayor Gondek has tossed this matter (Doubtlessly with some glee) to the UCP government for action. Premier Crying & Screaming Midget pushed it back to Calgary’s council for a remedy, then balked by saying “we should wait until all the facts are in”. It seems that the facts have fallen like an avalanche and someone needs to solve this problem, like Chu friend and ally Ric McIver. Come on, Ric? Do the right thing and lead where Kenney fears to tread. One wonders how this matter stayed suppressed for so long, but remember that Calgary is a CON power-town, and CONs protect their own, no matter what.

    Ah, when CONs circle their wagons, they tend to shoot each other. More Popcorn.

    Reply
  10. Just Me

    October 19th, 2021

    It was interesting how the uncomfortable subject of Sean Chu made Kenney appear even more disheveled than he already was. A search of the daveberta blog revealed that Chu was among a cadre of Calgary CONs who gave Shandro their blessing prior to the 2019 election. Now that Chu has become a stinking albatross around the UCP’s neck, the gaslighting began again in earnest.

    Both Braid and Bell jumped in and asked about the uncomfortable situation involving Sean Chu. Mayor Gondek has tossed this matter (Doubtlessly with some glee) to the UCP government for action. Premier Crying & Screaming Midget pushed it back to Calgary’s council for a remedy, then balked by saying “we should wait until all the facts are in”. It seems that the facts have fallen like an avalanche and someone needs to solve this problem, like Chu friend and ally Ric McIver. Come on, Ric? Do the right thing and lead where Kenney fears to tread. One wonders how this matter stayed suppressed for so long, but remember that Calgary is a CON power-town, and CONs protect their own, no matter what.

    Ah, when CONs circle their wagons, they tend to shoot each other. More Popcorn.

    Reply
  11. Abs

    October 19th, 2021

    Just like that, Michelle Rempel Garner has withdrawn her support for Sean Chu and removed him from her constituency association. And just like that, the photos of her door-knocking with him have disappeared from his Twitter account.

    There is a 52-vote lead in Chu’s favor after two vote tabulation machines failed. DJ Kelly, presently in second place, has requested a Ward 4 recount.

    Sean Chu has issued a non-apology to his victim via the Western Standard: “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any harm.”

    Jason Kenney says nothing can be done to remove the recalcitrant Chu if the recount finds him to be the winner, and if Chu refuses to step down.

    Perhaps Mr. Chu should wipe that smirk off his face. It ain’t over ’til it’s over, and it’ll never be over, Mr. Chu.

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/sean-chu-election-race-calgary-allegations-1.6216146

    Reply
  12. Anonymous

    October 19th, 2021

    The UCP are disappointed, because people are seeing their foolish games and don’t like it. This is reflected in who they are voting for in the municipal elections, and in other elections. These pretend conservatives and Reformers only care about their rich corporate friends, and anyone else must suffer. Where is the sense in that?

    Reply
  13. brett

    October 20th, 2021

    Seems to me that Manning Centre and UCP support is the kiss of death for Calgary candidates for Mayor.

    Just ask Bill Smith and now, Jeromy Farcas. They both ran on ether, no substance whatsoever. Both were soundly rejected by the voters. Fortunately for Calgary voters.

    Reply
    • DM

      October 22nd, 2021

      I think you meant UNfortuately. Four more years of destructive progressive policies.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (not be published)