With Alberta’s provincial election fast approaching, and political circles whispering about a four-week campaign set between mid-March to mid-April, the governing New Democratic Party (NDP) have now lost ten Members of the Legislature (MLA) across the province to run as candidates, including five within Calgary.
Most prominent among the losses is current Calgary North West MLA and Infrastructure Minister Sandra Jansen, for whom no tears were shed when she crossed the floor from the Progressive Conservatives (PC) following their electoral defeat. The PC party had held a majority government in the province uninterrupted for over forty years since its leadership under Peter Lougheed in 1971, and Ms. Jansen bolted across the floor as the NDP formed government and PC caucus were reduced to less than a dozen.
Announcing she won’t run for re-election in a statement to the party, Ms. Jansen said, “Now, more than ever we need to help Rachel finish the job. And I will be doing everything in my power to ensure that happens. But after much discussion with my family, I’ve decided not to seek re-election. Let me say, this is not an easy decision. But after many years in public life, it is the right decision for me and my family.”
Ms. Jansen also said that abandoning the PCs for the NDP in November 2016 “was one of the best decisions of my career.” She was rewarded with a cabinet position, though she cited the reason for the betrayal of her constituents as her values being in better alignment with the far-left NDP than the center-right PCs.
Ms. Jansen’s ego is familiar within Alberta’s political caste, having left her career in mainstream media as a television news anchor behind to join Alison Redford’s PC leadership campaign in 2011, and as a communications manager in the Premier’s Southern Office afterward. Her nomination to run in the 2012 provincial election received assistance from campaign strategist Stephen Carter, whose own reputation includes a penchant for winning at any cost, and she frequently talked about her desire to become Energy Minister during that period.
Polls suggest the NDP trail far behind the official opposition United Conservative Party (UCP). Their election in 2015 was accidental; individual Albertans expressed their frustration by voting for the only opposition party that boasted a full slate of candidates aside from the far-right Wildrose Party, which Albertans didn’t want to risk after the 2012 campaign. No one expected everyone else would do the same at the ballot box, resulting in an accidental NDP majority government.
The new UCP is a merger of the former PC and Wildrose parties, and Ms. Jansen’s challenger would have been UCP candidate Sonya Savage, who – with a Masters of Law in Environment and Energy and decades of experience in the energy sector – is pegged as a strong contender for the Energy portfolio. There is unifying, collective disappointment among the political right at missing out on the chance to enjoy what would have been Ms. Jansen’s certain defeat in the upcoming election.
The two-term MLA has already deleted her Twitter account, which documented her entitled attitude over the years. Fond of complaining about women’s treatment in politics at every opportunity, Ms. Jansen is an example of her own ire. Dropping out of the race for the PC leadership in 2014 she claimed harassment saying, “I don’t believe that there has been anything moderate or pragmatic being offered or even discussed by the people intent on taking over the Progressive Conservative party. [Jim Prentice became leader and Premier] I was shocked by the bullying and the extreme views and intolerance that has characterized the PC leadership race.”
Other NDP MLAs who won’t be running for re-election include Calgary Varsity MLA Stephanie McLean, Calgary Acadia MLA Brandy Payne, Calgary Northern Hills MLA Jamie Kleinsteuber, and Calgary Hawkwood MLA Michael Connolly. All of these ridings are typically conservative strongholds. In the capital region, Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA and Government Whip Estefania Cortes-Vargas said she won’t seek re-election and will instead “pursue further professional development opportunities.”
Calgary-East MLA Robyn Luff was kicked out of the NDP last November after complaining of internal bullying. In October 2017, Calgary Mackay Nose Hill MLA Karen McPherson left the NDP for the Alberta Party after claiming she was frustrated with the direction the government was taking. Only three ridings represented by NDP MLAs remain to be contested in Calgary: Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley in Calgary Mountain View, Finance Minister Joe Ceci in Calgary Buffalo and Anne McGrath in Calgary Varsity.