They say a week is a long time in politics, but last week must have felt like eternity to the United Conservative Party brain trust.

Deputy Premier Kaycee Madu (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Its efforts to make the revelations of that leaked phone call between Premier Danielle Smith and anti-vaxx, pro-Convoy street preacher Artur Pawlowski go away fell flat. 

Trying to get ahead of the issue with heavily spun press release before the CBC published its scoop last Wednesday only increased the attention the story got. 

Threatening to sue the CBC for accurately quoting the premier’s own words produced derision. The broadcaster was steadfast.

It didn’t help that even normally sympathetic media commentators felt the need to point out the criminal charges the premier told Mr. Pawlowski in their friendly chat were political in nature had been laid under the UCP government. 

Sending out Deputy Premier Kaycee Madu to make the weak argument that since Ms. Smith (as far as we know) didn’t actually talk to a prosecutor, the other weekly efforts she made to interfere with the criminal charges against the very political street preacher don’t matter flopped as well.

Former Edmonton-South UCP candidate Tunde Obasan (Photo: Tunde Obasan).

Meanwhile, there was the embarrassing departure of the UCP’s candidate in the Lethbridge-West riding the same day as the CBC scoop for her offensive and ridiculous claim in a campaign video that teachers are showing porno videos to kindergartners. 

This weekend, another UCP candidate, Tunde Obasan, the party’s standard-bearer in Edmonton-South, dropped out without explaining his reasons beyond saying they were personal. 

In a comment on Mr. Obasan’s sudden departure, Rhiannon Hoyle, NDP candidate for Edmonton-South, managed to get in a bonus dig at Trade Minister Rajan Sawhney, the former UCP leadership candidate who announced on Feb. 17 she would not be seeking renomination in her Calgary-North East riding. 

Turns out Ms. Sawhney was facing a strong challenge when she made the decision not to seek the nomination in her own riding. 

It probably wasn’t auspicious timing, but the UCP chose the morning of April 1 to announce it was using it’s leader’s prerogative to drop Ms. Sawhney into Calgary-North West, the riding currently held by Environment Minister Sonya Savage, who has decided to quit politics rather than serve in a government run by Premier Smith. 

Edmonton South NDP Candidate Rhiannon Hoyle (Photo: Twitter/Rhiannon Hoyle).

“The abrupt resignation of my opponent in Edmonton-South is yet more chaos from the UCP,” said the NDP’s Ms. Hoyle. “It follows another UCP resignation in Lethbridge-West, and the parachuting of Rajan Sawhney into Calgary-North West after she bailed out of a competitive nomination race in the riding she already represents.”

This week started with CTV promoting a story that so far has only been covered by political scientists, bloggers and the Twitterati – the influence of the shadowy Take Back Alberta group that helped skid former premier Jason Kenney and put Ms. Smith in power.

Torry Tanner, the now-departed and disgraced Lethbridge-West UCP candidate, is said to have had ties with TBA. 

The group – known for its opposition to COVID-19 mitigation measures, vaccines, public health care and public schools, and its support for Convoy blockaders and Alberta separatism – is making an effort to take over many UCP constituency associations.

Crowsnest Pass Herald Publisher and municipal councillor Lisa Sygutek (Photo: Linked-In).

CTV interviewed Crowsnest Pass Municipal Councillor and newspaper publisher Lisa Sygutek, whose views on TBA were reported here on March 16, describing the takeover of her UCP constituency association by the group’s cadres. 

The UCP, the lifelong Conservative wrote in the Crowsnest Pass Herald, “is fractured by an extreme right conservative group and people like me who are moderate are left bereft.”

“It actually felt like a coup,” she told CTV. 

At this rate, the UCP is going to be praying that the heavy snow forecast throughout Southern Alberta today keeps falling until June!

No one should be surprised by Jason Kenney’s board appointment

There was plenty of critical commentary over the weekend that former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has been nominated to a board position by Calgary-based energy conglomerate ATCO. 

The ATCO Board’s vote on his nomination on May 10, needless to say, is a mere formality. 

Former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Kenney was put out to pasture last year despite his success creating the United Conservative Frankenparty by stitching together the Wildrose Party and the Progressive Conservatives after the NDP election victory in 2015. 

No one should be surprised by this. Mr. Kenney is bound to be welcomed on as many corporate boards as he wishes, if not as a reward for his past work in the service of the corporate state, then for what future insights he can offer into how his former political colleagues think. 

Readers will recall that at the end of January Mr. Kenney was welcomed aboard Bennett Jones, the large Calgary law firm, as a “senior advisor.”

One suspects there will be many more of these announcements about Mr. Kenney. But that while his exertions may be financially rewarding, they are not likely to be particularly fulfilling for a veteran politician who by all accounts was utterly focused on his work. 

Perhaps worthy of more raised eyebrows was the appointment announced April 1 (but not in an attempt at humour) of former B.C. NDP premier John Horgan as a director of Elk Valley Resources, a coal mining outfit being spun off by Vancouver-based Teck Resources. 

Reaction to that appointment was not exactly positive either. 

Join the Conversation


  1. Yes, it was a not good, bad, bad week for the UCP for the most part. First and foremost for the Premier herself who is still having trouble getting her story straight as to whether she was calling prosecutors weekly or had never talked to them. The video that surfaced did not help her get past this issue.

    Secondly it was a mixed mostly bad week for UCP candidates, with two incumbents leaving, two new candidates dropping out and one parachute candidate who lest we forget in the UCP leadership race said some fairly damning things about Smith. If the election is going to be a close race, candidate quality may matter a lot.

    Lastly, I suppose it was a bit better week for former Premier Kenney with his new gig at ATCO, but probably at a time of high electricity rates, not a good time for the UCP to remind voters of such cozy corporate ties.

    I suppose the UCP can always hope that next week will be better, but I feel these recent problems are a result of more fundamental weaknesses that may not be easily resolved.

  2. The Livingston-Macleod UCP nomination polling was done in 6 different towns (Coleman, Pincher Creek, Nanton, High River, Fort Macleod, Claresholm) over three days ( Thurs, Fri, Sat) all at different times (4-6 PM, 7-9PM, 10-12AM , 1-5 ) and for only 2 hours each except the one in Claresholm, home of the winner where the poll was open 4 hours on a convenient Saturday afternoon.
    If I was trying to discourage some voters and encourage others it would pretty much look like this.
    TBA has found its’ Trojan horse here I reckon or CPs’ rhetoric as a landowner willing to protect “freedoms” and values under threat might indicate TBA membership.

  3. I don’t know about Bennett Jones law firm, but ATCO is owned by the Southern family of Calgary (better known for owning the world-class show-jumping facility, Spruce Meadows). Ron Southern, the patriarch of the family, once accidentally told the truth about his main job at Spruce Meadows: to “pay homage to the sponsors,” of which there are many. (The fans at the following year’s first show replied they were paying homage to “The horses!”)

    Ron’s daughters, Nancy and Linda, are still on the Atco board of directors, Nancy is the CEO of ATCO. Her only public statement I can recall, from the post-Klein days of the Old Tories, made clear her priorities. Business was Number One, and politicians better support her business.

    The Southerns enjoyed the very best of good standing in the Old Tory party. I wonder how they feel about Danielle Smith and the upstart Take Back Alberta gang?

  4. Are you remined of that old saying about rats and sinking ships? It’s not uncommon for some politicians to bow out just before an election; but how many is “normal”?

    I’m still hoping Danielle Smith will be stupid enough to actually sue the CBC. It ain’t gonna happen, though. She didn’t the first time, when CBC reported insider gossip but didn’t have copies of the emails. This time, with a publicized recording of her cozy chat with the angry street preacher—Lord, Lord, she’d be laughed out of court. Smarter and less scatterbrained heads will prevail.

  5. Who knew that when the CBC said it had a source verifying Danielle Smith’s attempts to interfere in the justice system that the source was Danielle Smith herself?

    I’m still waiting for the writ to drop, so we can see what else comes out of the earlier stories that led to the quickie weekend investigation of Danielle Smith and her staff by Danielle Smith and her staff? The language used then and the language last week from Kaycee Madu was very specific: prosecutors. What wasn’t said matters. Did the premier, her staff or some other UCP operative attempt to or succeed in influencing some other level of the justice system?

    I’m looking forward to seeing who else drops from the UCP ranks in the coming weeks, maybe after the election is called. This will not be a cake walk.

    Take Back Alberta needs more scrutiny. It seems to me that they want to take back democracy from the hands of the people, to give it to,..large corporations, their wealthy patrons, dark money sources from outside the country? The myth that they are funded by people donating pocket change is just not credible. What are they doing behind the curtains, and who is doing it? What was that shadowy group’s involvement in the disruptive convoy protests? Will the gullible allow this group to manipulate them into seeking the organization’s goal at the expense of their own well-being? This is bound to leave a bitter, lemony taste in their mouths when they realize they’ve been duped. It’s about power for whoever is pulling their strings. They are the clueless foot soldiers.

    1. Actually, Scotty, that was 2019. Remember how Jason was playing Whack-a-mole with all his candidates?

  6. re: ex Premier Horgan
    especially interesting since Elk Valley Resources is the company that the BC government :
    US senators to Horgan: clean up BC’s mining news—
    from the Narwhal / June 13-2019
    ” The United States is not a tailing pond for Teck Resources and the rest of Canada’s mining industry “.
    ……” most high profile attempt from the US to prod BC to clean up its mining act”

    I’m not sure what to make of it, I’ll have to wait and see if Scotty can put some clarity into this….along with an article in= May 9, 2017…Thermal coal could be BC’s trump card – resources and agriculture…..
    What goes on in politics that the general population is not aware of, until something unexpected brings it to media attention, is rather “intriguing “.
    And as far as Sunday tweets from PP”s forum:
    It is our God given right

    IMHO, whether it’s Jenni or Jeff that are putting out this c’ap , he is responsible in the end, and I think he’s beyond pushing the boundaries, if he honestly thinks that Canada wants GOP style politicking here, he’s wrong, and I’m disgusted that he thinks we’re ignorant enough to fall for the blather….Hey Skippy, Sunday question: If you’re so intent on getting rid of the” gatekeepers”, does that include St Peter ??
    just asking…

    1. Thnx for the question, Randi-lee.

      I had deja vu when I heard former BC Premier John Horgan accepted an executive position with an Elk River coal mine—only one day after resigning his seat in the Assembly. The resulting flame reminds me of his first decision as Premier in early 2017 (right after 3 Green MLAs joined 41 Dippers to topple the 16 year-old BC Liberal regime) to continue construction of the controversial Site-C Dam on the Peace River.

      The NDP (plus the Greens’ single MLA at the time) strongly campaigned against completing the Dam in 2017 while then-BC Liberal premier Christy Clark made it the centrepiece of her own campaign. Christy, typically a shrill, self-confident, single-note campaigner, spent most of the writ stumping on BC’s Great Plains in the remote northeast corner of the province where the mighty Peace flows, somewhat echoing her 2013 single-note paean (promising to build 15 natural gas liquification plants on the Mid-Coast and wipe out the province’s burgeoning BC Liberal debt—none of which happened after she won a majority in 2013) using the Dam to paint the NDP as the “Party of No,” —the well-worn canard that Dippers were so captured by ardent environmentalists that they’d shut down resource industries which generate a large part of BC’s wealth, and that only the “free enterprise” BC Liberals could stop them.

      Her party did win the most seats in 2017 but, in her absence from BC’s vote-rich southwest (in order to prance on the faraway Site-C Dam stage-prop), the NDP took several longtime BC Liberal seats in the Lower Mainland, significantly including voters opposed to expansion of the Transmountain pipeline terminal on suburban Burrard Inlet—a still-hot environmental issue which crosses party lines. Yet the partisan dichotomy was still apparently perceived as: NDP=environmental protection/ BC Liberals=expanding resource industries. Remember: the NDP didn’t win this election but instead became government after toppling the BC Liberal minority. As it happened, the dichotomy Christy fomented persisted only until Horgan decided to complete Site-C.

      Horgan got some pretty extreme flame for Site-C. I have to admit I was steamed pretty about it myself, but a least grown-up enough to accept that Christy did exactly what she boasted: get the Dam beyond the point of no-return before the election. And that, typical of the secretive BC Liberals, there were bound to be features of the project Horgan couldn’t have known about until he became Premier. (he found the BC Liberals had intentionally gotten BC Hydro so close to bankruptcy that it’s an unsung tribute to Horgan’s strong support of public enterprise: his government staved off this sabotage in spite of the incredible debt his predecessors “deferred” by putting it on the venerable Crown Corp’s books.)

      I took some flame myself because I’d spilled a ton of ink imploring Green supporters to stop splitting the environment-friendly vote in favour of unabashedly environmentally UNfriendly parties in swing ridings like mine. The 2017 numbers seem to suggest many Greens took the advice (whether exactly from me, I can’t very well say), NDP votes increasing about the same amount as Green votes decreased, in my riding and a few others of interest.

      Green supporters blamed Horgan for the Site-C decision, but I suspect the fact that the Green leader refused to use his party’s 3-seat balance-of-power to force Horgan’s minority into shutting the Dam down was a big part of their royal peeve. In fact, a huge amount of money had already been sunk into it, Weaver rationalized that Site-C power (both he and Horgan previously criticized as far in excess to BC’s needs) could fuel the EVs we need to meet GHG-reduction targets, and Horgan pledged that he would never snuff thousands of Site-C jobs in a region already hard-hit by low natural gas market-prices and layoffs. I became an apologist, reminding that, after all, the NDP is first and foremost “the workers’ party” and, only secondarily, a party of convenient for other interests opposed to the BC Liberal government to park their votes—traditionally environmentalists, First Nations, and small business owners. Unsurprisingly, criticism from these smaller Dipper factions formed part of tremendous expectations pent-up for at least a dozen of those 16 BC Liberal years. I can’t deny them their disappointment.

      But Horgan’s opening position wasn’t purely circumstantial: during his entire premiership he consistently stuck up for resource-sector jobs while making careful compromises on the environmental side: he didn’t immediately shut down fish-farms in BC’s inside waters like so many voters naively expected him to (rather, he allowed farms to renew five-year licenses —but for the last time, giving the companies and their workers time to cogently fix, decommission or relocate problem operations). Horgan also enthusiastically worked to get fracked gas piped to Kitimat for liquification and export offshore, sealing a federal-provincial deal for the largest single resource investment in Canadian history (bigger than the Mackenzie Pipeline). Most recently, Horgan took heat for not immediately shutting down old-growth logging, subject of persistent, heavy protesting, court injunctions, and police enforcement. Again he compromised by increasing the amount of OG preserved but, at the same time, refusing to put tens of thousands of forest-dependent citizens out of work and communities in existential jeopardy.

      Resource extraction in BC is geologically and environmentally difficult, but the lack of treaties with indigenous nations makes any development very tricky. A number of high-profile SCoC decisions revolving around unsettled sovereign claims between First Nations and the Crown had recently frustrated mining and pipeline proposals (which Christy naturally tried to pin on the BC NDP Opposition). It’s tricky in part because of critics’ hyperbolic demands and quasi-legal opinions. For example, after Horgan legislatively adopted the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), many FNs insisted that it was now Canadian law, specifically that resource development could not happen without the “consent“ of the relevant First Nation. Suffice to say: no, UNDRIP is not integrated into Canadian law; further, the 2014 SCoC William (“Tsihlqot’in”) decision requires that “meaningful consultation” between two sovereign claimants (the Crown and a FN) must be negotiated before resources in the subject area are developed—that is, not “consent.” And remind: Site-C was itself subject of legal action, but it has been covered by treaty for over a century and, therefore, is not covered by “Tsihlqot’in” and only peripherally by UNDRIP.

      Horgan was a fearless and capable premier, but it’s inevitable that BC’s peculiarities will trip-up any government —as happened with the Canadian Gas Link pipeline where it crossed non-treaty Wetsuwet’en traditional territory, sparking intense protests, arrests and lawsuits. Horgan was wrong in delegating the Crown’s obligation to negotiate —in the “meaningful consultation” sense, nation-to-nation—to the private contractor (CGL), and the federal Crown also as wrong for delegating the Wetsuwet’en Band Council in place of the nation’s preferred representatives (Band Council, although elected by Wetsuwet’en people, is employed by the federal Indian Act) —in effect, double conflicts of interests. To his credit, Horgan did stop, back up, and restart the process the proper way (it continues to move slowly because this is BC and it’s tricky here). All in all, it shows Horgan as pragmatic, compromising, and not doctrinaire or overly idealistic leader.

      Although that’s probably disappointing to the BC Liberals, the only way to respond to all the criticism of Horgan’s terms as Premier is to remind that, despite numerous, strenuously vocal protests over resource policies, Horgan went to the electorate in 2020 (an early election granted in light of Covid) and won a convincing majority—the first time the same BC NDP leader led two governments in a row. That agrees with polling that ranked Horgan the most popular Premier in Canada.

      I suspect much of today’s criticism has much of the same features as the previous ones—to which I would respond the same way: it simply reconfirms that Horgan is resource-industry friendly—and, more importantly, that the NDP is not innately the “Party of No.”

      Insofar as coal has one of the blackest environmental eyes (bitumen, the other one), nota bene that in was under the NDP that the industry was recently fined tens of millions of dollars for failing to stem riverine selenium pollution originating from mining operations in southeast BC. I should think Horgan will be instrumental in helping this enterprise in getting its shit together in this regard—as they’re highly motivated to avoid more fines. He’s certainly qualified in a number of ways—and especially with respect BC workers and jobs.

      I’ve always said John Horgan was a good leader of a good “workers’ party.” I don’t see any reason to change my mind today.

      1. Thanks Scotty, we always thought that Christy’s cite-c was mired in the same way that Stephen’s secret deal with China…the next government doesn’t know what is going down until they get hold of the books ,and then they have to try and work with that and still keep their voters happy …’s a case of ‘ol Mother Hubbard ‘
        I think that, that also applies to Rachel, she was left with a mess and her opponents now say well you had 4 yrs and didn’t fix it ….
        IMHO ,it’s the we want it ‘right now’ crowd, the ones PP likes getting into a blather , and as someone recently said, in the US they love using the word “misinformation ” , here in Canada we call it lies , call it what it is, don’t try to pretty it up to make it acceptable .
        It’s one of the things I liked about John, he made me burst out laughing on a number of occasions with his “straight talk “

  7. “For too long, Alberta’s ruling elite have taken advantage of everyday people, thriving on political apathy, censoring those with the courage to speak out, and exploiting the power of big government to restrict our freedoms.”—-Take Back Alberta

    Characteristically and conveniently the Alberta ‘ruling elite’ is neither named, nor is it subject to any rigorous, impartial analysis by TBA. It might be observed that, “The idea of a ruling elite, generally without the psychological assumptions made by Pareto, has been used by those who seek to complement or to avoid the Marxian emphasis on purely economic power.” That would apparently be the case in this instance given the dominance, preeminence, and reverence for economic power in the modern corporate state and the operation of its revolving doors. [As above, Jason Kenney, John Horgan]

    According to Wikipedia, “In political and sociological theory, the elite (French: élite, from Latin: eligere, to select or to sort out) are a small group of powerful people who hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, political power, or skill in a group.”

    According to that definition, Preston Manning for example, would qualify as an ‘Alberta ruling elite’. and where for example, “During a panel titled “Down with the elites?” Doug Ford credited his late brother, former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, with blazing a trail for the political pushback among “the common folk.”” More satire one assumes.

    Or in simpler terms, it is how the privileged and powerful in society use soft headed individuals [In the sense that, ” A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again.] ‘populist’ ideals and ideology to further concentrate their own social and economic power.

    Considering that, “the premier told Mr. Pawlowski in their friendly chat were political in nature had been laid under the UCP government.” , it is understood that the mental gymnastics required to overcome intellectual inconsistencies, inconveniences, and incongruities operate at an extremely high, graduate level of intellectual duplicity.

    Where it is also noted that, “A Lethbridge judge has refused to release controversial Calgary preacher Artur Pawlowski, who is accused of inciting violence during the blockade at the Coutts, Alta., border crossing. Pawlowski is charged with mischief over $5,000 and interrupting the operation of essential infrastructure under Alberta’s Critical Infrastructure Defence Act.”

    But, then again, operating on the public stage that is the political world all that is required is a figurehead, a mob of shills, stage craft [acting], and the ability to say or do whatever is expedient in the moment:

    ‘Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said all the Christian friends she has spoken with are horrified at the website comments and McIver needs to explain his association.”
    “It’s beyond the pale. It’s extreme,” she said in a conference call with reporters. “I think Albertans expect that political leaders will stand up against this intolerance.”

    1. Alkyll: I had just come across the article as well….and IMHO if there was any conviction to that statement, she would not have gone anywhere near Artur, what with his record, past and present.., my sister was horrified when I read her his “portfolio ” … which begs the question?? HOW could ,he have such easy access to her by phone?? Obvious answer would be “someone ” okayed the call, so back to square one, more imprecise language I guess.

  8. It would appear to me that a vote for the UCP is essentially a vote for Take Back Alberta.

    Make no mistake, TBA will be in the driver’s seat should the UCP win the election. Albeit in the background.

    They took out Jason Kenney. They can take out Danielle Smith if she does not comply with their policies.

  9. Danielle Smith made promises to gain the support of an influential group, didn’t live up to expectations and now is being pressured with “leaked phone conversations”. Welcome to a UCP/TBA alliance.

  10. That threatening letter from the lawyer (maybe dictated?) keeps talking about the Email Article of Jan 19 (the lawyer letter wrongly said Jan 9).
    Wouldn’t it be a shame if some public-spirited person came up with some of them? Maybe that is what Smith is afraid of, though she didn’t see Pawlowski’s treachery coming. Of course he records everything.

  11. Somebody needs to advise Danielle there are only so many times you can shoot your self in the foot. She has filed intent to file the defamation suit. This will keep the whole hot mess front and Centre between the newly self confessed pedo pastor and Danielle. Her advisors need to take control of her phone, just as Trump’s advisors tried to do for him. Her judgement is abysmal politically.

  12. The UCP are an unmitigated disaster, and their ship is definitely sinking, and their train is veering off course. It won’t be long before Danielle Smith says something stupid, and the entire UCP train goes of the rails and crashes.

  13. With Danielle Smith getting into a public shouting match during a media Q&A can’t be a good look on her. If anything, Smith may find that she may not have the brass to effectively double-down on any of the shenanigans she’s been involved in. Thinking to her tenure as leader of the Wildrose Party, Smith found that the more whack-doddle elements of the party were able to get under her skin more often than not. So, she went off to join Prentice and meet her first political oblivion. The question is, will TBA be able to insulate Smith from her own self-inflicted damage with their own mix of action and threats? Or will she be isolated into rural Alberta?

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