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New MLA sworn in; expects to sit in UCP caucus despite his dislike of Alberta premier


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By Dean Bennett in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Premier Jason Kenney’s arch foe is now a member of the Alberta legislature and expects to sit at the United Conservative caucus table despite his public displeasure with the party’s leader.

“I won a (party) nomination fair and square, a competitive nomination, a pretty tough nomination,” Brian Jean said in the legislature’s rotunda Thursday after being sworn in as the member for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

“I ran in the election under the UCP banner and I won an overwhelming majority. And I believe the people of Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche want me to sit as a UCP MLA and work on the mandate that I gave (them).”

That mandate is to fight to have Kenney deposed as party leader based on Jean’s stated belief that Kenney’s policy failures, along with tone-deaf, top-down management, are alienating grassroots supporters and inviting an Opposition NDP win in the 2023 provincial election.

Jean said he has been given an office and put on the caucus mailing list.

Kenney’s spokesman and a representative for the UCP caucus did not return requests for comment on whether Jean will be allowed to remain a caucus member in good standing.

The pattern of who stays and who goes has been confusing and contradictory.

Almost a year ago, Todd Loewen was voted out of caucus after openly calling for Kenney to quit. He accused the premier of hollowing out the party by failing to listen to the grassroots. Another UCP member, Drew Barnes, criticized multiple Kenney policies and was also shown the door. Both now sit as Independents.

Others have openly challenged Kenney and his policies, including Leela Aheer and deputy speaker Angela Pitt.

Two weeks ago, Jason Stephan and Peter Guthrie publicly urged Kenney to resign to allow for a party leadership race. All have remained in caucus, although Kenney removed Aheer from cabinet last July.

Kenney and Jean have their own tangled and bruising history.

The two co-founded the UCP in 2017 by merging Jean’s Wildrose Party with Kenney’s Progressive Conservatives. Jean lost to Kenney in an inaugural leadership race bedevilled by accusations of collusion and underhanded activities. The race remains the focus of an RCMP investigation into possible voter fraud.

Kenney tweeted a congratulatory note to Jean after his byelection win three weeks ago but has otherwise remained silent.

The premier was absent from the house soon after when Jean was introduced as a guest of the legislature and received applause from all sides.

“I haven’t spoken to the premier directly in four years,” Jean said Thursday.

He said he will continue to try to round up party members to vote against Kenney in a leadership review. It begins Saturday with a virtual speech by Kenney to members followed by a distribution of mail-in ballots.

They are to be mailed back and results announced May 18. Kenney needs majority support or a leadership race must be called.

The vote itself has been fraught with controversy.

It was supposed to be in person in Red Deer on Saturday. Two weeks ago, the UCP board changed it to a provincewide mail-in vote. The board said widespread interest — with 15,000 party members expected to cast a ballot — made the one-day in-person option impossible.

Kenney opponents say they suspect the change came at the behest of his camp because Kenney didn’t have numbers on his side and needed to broaden the vote to more than those willing or able to travel to Red Deer.

The premier has been facing lagging popularity numbers and confrontations with party factions, constituency presidents and caucus members over his leadership and COVID-19 policies.

Kenney, in turn, has said the leadership review is a party proxy hijacking and his opponents are “lunatics” who espouse hate and racial and religious bigotry.

Jean, who said Kenney couldn’t win a fair vote, has concerns the voter registration rolls aren’t on the up and up.

“I’ve received a lot of lists for memberships over the years. I’ve never had them sorted by first name (along) with paper copies and the rest mixed up,” he said.

“This is not a list that can be used.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2022.

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Hot rental market makes search ‘stressful’ for many — and it won’t get better soon

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Marissa Giesinger is pictured in Calgary, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. On the hunt for a rental home in Calgary over the last six weeks, Giesinger and her boyfriend trawled through listings morning, noon and night, only to find most come along with dozens of applications and a steep price tag. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

By Tara Deschamps in Toronto

On the hunt for a rental home in Calgary over the last six weeks, Marissa Giesinger and her boyfriend trawled through listings morning, noon and night, only to find most come along with dozens of applications and a steep price tag. As an added difficulty, many landlords are unwelcoming to the couple’s brood — dogs Kado and Rosco and a cat named Jester.

“We made the tough decision recently to house our dogs with someone else until we can find a place that’s affordable and we can take both of them,” said Giesinger, a 23-year-old Mount Royal University student.

“It’s definitely been stressful.”

The competitive rental market Giesinger has encountered in Calgary is being seen across the country as multiple factors combine: high interest rates deter buyers and add to rental demand, still-high inflation is squeezing renter budgets, there’s an undersupply of purpose-built rental units and population growth is fuelling demand.

These conditions have left prospective renters feeling even more frustrated than usual by sky-high rents, the frenzy of interest that surrounds any affordable listing and the litany of demands landlords can make when so many people are interested in their home.

Giacomo Ladas, communications director for, calls it “almost a perfect storm” — and it isn’t likely to ease up any time soon.

“What this does is create such a burden on this rental housing market that even though we’re out of the (busy) summer rental season, there’s so much demand that (these conditions are) going to continue like this until the fall and into the winter,” he said.

Data crunched by his organization and research firm shows average asking rents for newly-listed units in Canada increased 1.8 per cent between July and August and 9.6 per cent from a year earlier to reach a record high of $2,117 last month.

Between May and August, asking rents in Canada increased by 5.1 per cent or an average of $103 per month.

When Giesinger rented a two-bedroom basement unit with a roommate a few years ago, the duo paid $1,000 per month, but now she routinely spots “super tiny,” one-bedroom places for $1,350 a month.

“If you want a basement suite or an apartment, you’re looking at minimum $1,200 and that doesn’t include any utilities or anything like that unless it’s a super rare listing,” Giesinger said. data show newly listed one-bedroom properties in Calgary priced at an average $1,728 per month in August, up 21.6 per cent from a year earlier. Two-bedroom homes have climbed 17.4 per cent to $2,150 over the same period.

The picture in Vancouver and Toronto is far bleaker. found the cities had the highest rents in the country.

Newly-listed one-bedroom properties in Vancouver averaged $2,988 in August, up 13.1 per cent from a year earlier, while two-bedroom units hit $3,879, an almost 10 per cent increase year-over-year.

Newly-listed Toronto one-bedroom homes averaged $2,620 in August, up almost 11 per cent from the year before, while two-bedroom properties had a 7.1 per cent rise over the same time frame to $3,413.

It’s numbers like these that have convinced Kanishka Punjabi to abandon her hopes of moving in the near term.

“Two days ago, I gave up on my search because the rental market is that bad,” she said.

The public relations worker has been living in Mississauga, Ont., but felt it was time to find a home in downtown or midtown Toronto, closer to where she works.

However, few of the two-bedroom homes she spotted in her two-month search were within her $2,800 budget.

For example, one apartment she liked at the intersection of Yonge and Eglinton streets had 25 offers in just over a week.

“Some people actually just sent in their offer without looking at the apartment too because there are so many people who are in desperate need of rental units,” said Punjabi. “There’s just not enough.”

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. has projected that the country needs to build 3.5 million additional homes beyond what’s planned before the market reaches some semblance of affordability.

It also calculated that the annual pace of housing starts — when construction begins on a home — edged down one per cent in August to 252,787 units compared with 255,232 in July.

Despite the nudge down, Rishi Sondhi, an economist with TD Bank Group, said it has been a strong year for starts because the industry is responding to elevated prices by building at a robust pace.

But between population growth and rising interest rates, he said, “supply is struggling to keep up with demand” and that’s bound to weigh on renters for quite some time.

“In the short term, it would be unrealistic to expect too much of a reprieve simply because population growth is likely to remain strong through the duration of this year — and that’s really one of the big fundamental drivers,” he said.

“In addition, it’s unlikely to expect affordability in the ownership market to improve too much either because we think the Bank of Canada (key rate) is going to be on hold for the remainder of the year, but there is some risk that they take rates even higher, especially if inflation doesn’t co-operate.”

For renters like Giesinger that message puts even more pressure on her to settle on a place soon.

“Now I’m scrambling to find the money for a deposit and we’re still never really sure like what kind of place we’re going to get,” she said.

“And when you’re battling dozens of other people for a rental it can be super stressful.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2023.

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UCP asks Albertans to consider an Alberta Pension Plan

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News release from the United Conservative party

The Government of Alberta is starting a public engagement to discuss the possibility of creating an Alberta Pension Plan.
You might be wondering, what’s in it for you? Learn more by watching the short video below:

The government is eager to hear your views. To find more information, and participate in a survey, tap the button below.


Albertans deserve a pension plan that reflects their hard work and earnings, and it is up to Albertans to decide which pension plan that is.
-Your UCP Team



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