The price for mailing it in. Highwood is ready for change.

Highwood is one of the safest conservative seats in all of Alberta. The constituency resides just South of Calgary. It was formed in 1971 and the combined Social Credit/ Progressive Conservative vote was 93% in its first election.

Conservative support has softened in Highwood over the decades to the point where the combined Progressive Conservative/Wildrose Party vote in the 2015 election was a mere 74% (it was over 95% in 2012).

The real democratic race in Highwood will be for the UCP nomination rather than in the general election and this coming nomination race is ramping up to be a hot one.

Most parties will snap the nominations open and shut quickly in constituencies where they already have strong incumbent MLAs. The UCP is no exception.

Prasad Panda, Ric McIver and of course Jason Kenney have already had their nominations opened and closed.

Highwood is a different story. Not one but three strong candidates are contesting the UCP nomination right now.

Wayne Anderson is the incumbent MLA in Highwood. He was in the right place at the right time and was acclaimed for his initial nomination. The 2015 election was hard fought but the Wildrose still won Highwood constituency with narrow 8% margin. It should be noted that the combined conservative vote dropped in Highwood by 20% in that campaign. The winner got a grudging endorsement from the voters.

The relatively narrow win coupled with a drop in general conservative vote would have served as a warning to a canny incumbent. It is clear that the electorate in Highwood want to see an active MLA and want to feel that they are strongly represented. Alas, Mr. Anderson instead chose to mail it in with a lackluster backbench presence which is now catching up to him as electors organize to have him replaced. There will be no comfortable acclamation here.

One of the most pressing issues for residents of Highwood has been the ongoing and growing epidemic of rural crime. The issue came to a head when Highwood resident Eddie Maurice was charged and faces jail time for wounding a criminal as he defended his home and baby.

Highwood citizens along with Albertans in general were outraged at the charges being laid against Mr. Maurice. Hundreds rallied in support of Eddie Maurice at his first court appearance in Okotoks on a cold Friday morning. 

Notably absent from the rally was the local MLA Wayne Anderson. The legislature was not sitting and while Wayne never misses a mid-week fundraiser he somehow couldn’t find time to join hundreds of his constituents to express concern on an issue that impacts us all. Perhaps it was a little too chilly outside for him. That can have an effect on urban types such as Mr. Anderson.

On the following Monday Wayne Anderson had a chance to speak to this issue at the legislature.

As reported by Rick Bell:       “Then, lo and behold, Wayne Anderson, who represents Eddie Maurice in the legislature, stands up. This should be good, I’m thinking. Sadly, nothing on the criminals creating havoc in the countryside.”

Apparently Wayne didn’t think the issue was important enough to use his question on. Perhaps Wayne just didn’t want to wade into an issue as complex and potentially sticky as rural crime. Backbench warmers do have a tendency to vanish from any possibility of a controversial issue.

Eddie Maurice made five more court appearances since that first one. His issue is still ongoing. Sadly, his provincial representative has hidden from each and every one of those hearings.

While Wayne Anderson may be oblivious to the issues that are most important to his constituents, it is clear that residents of Highwood aren’t.

Daniel Smith learned the hard way what happens when you incur the wrath of the membership in Highwood. As an incumbent she lost her nomination to Carrie Fisher. That same Carrie Fisher is now running against Wayne Anderson for the nomination.

Along with Fisher, R.J. Sigurdson is running for the nod in Highwood. Sigurdson is a former constituency president of Highwood and is familiar with the members out there.

Local businessman Dean Leask was the first out of the gate in challenging Anderson for the nomination. Dean has some very strong credibility with his past involvement in both the PC party and the Wildrose Party at the provincial executive level. He knows how grassroots organizing works and isn’t hiding from the issues. 

Rather than perhaps looking inward to understand why he is being so strongly challenged for his nomination, Wayne Anderson has come out indignant and spitting. His first response was to attack Fisher and Sigurdson in an interview with the High River times. 

Wayne would be better served to consult with his constituents rather than attack the people who have put their names forward to better serve them.

Its in Anderson’s reaction to the challenge where we see the entrenchment of entitlement. One of the worst possible ailments of elected officials.

Will Anderson learn how to hit the ground to meet with constituents and sell memberships fast enough to head off these challengers in the coming weeks? Time will tell. He really should have started on this years ago.

Nominations are often overlooked by the public but they are a critical aspect of our system. When run properly, they keep our elected officials on our toes and they teach up and coming candidates how to consult and connect with their constituents.

The nomination process appears to be doing its job in Highwood.

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Conservative unity has Rachel Notley terrified, & it should.

For the first time since the late 1990s conservative minded Albertans are unified under one political banner. Jason Kenney was the prime orchestrator of the unity movement from its inception to its conclusion with 95% merger support from the memberships of both the Progressive Conservative Party & the Wildrose Party.  Kenney demonstrated the same drive and organizational strength as he solidly took the leadership of the nascent United Conservative Party. With such a solid and proven record as a formidable campaigner and strategist, the prospect of facing off against Jason Kenney in a general election is a discomforting one for any NDP strategist who maintains any basis in political reality.

All the above being said, it is not simply Jason Kenney’s leadership alone that has the NDP and their supporters in abject terror for their political lives today. Those who follow political movements recognize that a massive, well organized movement has developed that will be difficult to stop whether Jason Kenney leads it or not. Conservatives have truly united and will now be able to focus on forming the next government with pragmatic common sense goals and policies.

The leadership race for the UCP was hard fought and with no holds barred. While it is painful to endure such races, they are indeed prequels for what the general election will look like. Whoever was going to lead us against the Notley Regime in the next election had to prove themselves to be tough and exceedingly well organized in what will be a terribly rough campaign.

Due to the nature of these races they can be very dangerous for parties. Leadership races can turn into civil wars that create rifts that never heal within the party. Opponents and detractors of united conservatives poked as hard as they could from the sidelines in hopes of fostering division within the party.

To the disappointment of Notley and her supporters, the UCP came out of the race more unified than ever.

In this picture we see three very dedicated supporters for three different leadership candidates. Dean Leask on the left passionately supported Brian Jean’s leadership bid. In the middle and wearing my best wrinkled shirt, I supported Jason Kenney. On the right and looking much more presentable is my wife Jane Morgan who stepped down from the UCP leadership committee as she strongly felt she wanted to get involved and help Doug Schweitzer on his campaign. All of us serious and committed conservative supporters and all firmly in different camps.

Now that the race is over, we are unified in our support of the UCP under Jason Kenney. Dean will still drop by my pub, Jane still lets me come to bed with her (except after times when I have indulged in taco Tuesday) and we all will be working hard together to replace the NDP government with a UCP one.

The picture is indicative of the rest of the room that night. There are some sour grapes out there. There are some folks who need a little time to embrace the party under the new leadership. All in all though, the vast majority of the membership is united and looking ahead today. Hopes for an internal implosion by some have been dashed.

The picture above is even more striking and indicative of how and why the UCP is striking fear into the left.

Along with my wife and I we see Piotr and Christina Pilarski. Both very politically active and driven couples who have worked on a number of campaigns. Until recently though, we were always on different teams. As Wildrosers and PCs we all fought tooth and nail with each other for years. That was the kind of division that led to our accidental NDP government and that division is utterly gone today. We all will be working together to defeat the NDP now.

I have attended countless Wildrose gatherings over the last ten years. Last summer I attended my very first Progressive Conservative function when I went to the PC leadership gathering. Last Sunday I went to the UCP leadership race and was thrilled to see all the political movers and shakers from both parties all in one spot. It was not a tense gathering. It was not a forced marriage. We are all pumped and excited about being on the same team. The NDP has given us cause to unite in a way that no conservative leader ever could.

Think of the resources duplicated and wasted in the last few general elections as the Wildrose and PC parties battled with all they had. Strategists, campaign managers, donors and thousands of volunteers at every level all divided and working against each other. While a tiny minority of those have chosen not to join the UCP, clearly the vast majority have stayed on.

Now imagine the campaign machine that is in the works here. All of these people, the experience and the funds united with a common cause and under the leadership of a masterful campaigner.

That is what has the NDP in a true panic. Its not just Jason Kenney’s leadership. Its the huge and dedicated organization of people now focused together on ridding Alberta of its accidental, socialist government.

Rachel Notley usually shows composure. In a tweet this morning though, she clearly lost control and her petty and belligerent tweet this morning showed the abject terror that has infected her.

Yes, the tired old fear and smear drum is being beaten and it will be in an ever more shrill way until the NDP are finally tossed soundly from the legislature of Alberta in a general election.

I guess we can’t exactly expect the NDP to campaign on their sound fiscal management or on the “social license” that they never managed to buy us with the wretched carbon tax. Fear & smear is all they have.

Thank’s to Dave Rodney stepping aside, we will get to see a micro-preview of the next campaign as a by-election will be held in Calgary Lougheed. I sort of feel sorry for the residents of that constituency as they are about to be barraged by what will be one of the largest single constituency campaign teams that the province has ever seen. Volunteers from the new UCP are chomping at the bit to work on a campaign together against the NDP and they will be coming out in the hundreds if not the thousands as the by-election is fought. No door will go without being knocked multiple times nor phones without multiple calls. Hopefully Notley calls the election before Christmas so voters can get an assured non-political break right after the campaign.

As I said in a posting yesterday, David Khan finds himself rather hooped here. He is a brand new party leader as well and he needs a seat. His hopes are slim to none in Lougheed but he will look terribly weak if he doesn’t contest it.

One possible out for Khan would be in Calgary Mountainview if David Swann steps aside. Swann has no plans to run again and leaving a year or so early won’t harm his ambitions much This would be a terrible gamble for the Alberta Liberals though as they very possibly could find themselves going from one seat in the legislature down to none if Khan can’t win in Mountainview.

If David Khan can’t win in Calgary Mountainview in a by-election though, I think it is safe to say that he can’t win anywhere. Mountainview is the closest thing that the Liberal Party has to a provincial stronghold in Alberta.

Personally, I think that Doug Schweitzer would be an ideal UCP candidate to run in Mountainview as well. What better place to send out a dynamic, young and moderate urban Calgarian UCP candidate? I am just spitballing here of course but I think it would be a great race and if he won he would be a great addition to caucus.

We are in for some exciting political times in the next few months no matter how you look at it. As a conservative I have never felt so optimistic as I am now with this new united movement. There is a mountain of work to be done before the next general election but with this giant and experienced group, I am confident that it will be well polished by the spring of 2019. Yes, Rachel has good reason to fear for her job.

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