The old boys' club is back

On Friday, August 16th, the UCP dropped a gigantic announcement. They appointed 61 people to some of the province’s most important and powerful institutions. Almost 20 separate agencies, boards and commissions saw people fired and replaced with more conservative operatives, donors, and CEOs than Alberta’s few remaining politics journalists can count. 

Well, we counted. We at Progress Alberta have attempted to document the connections between these new appointees and the conservative political project. Here are the lowlights:

  • Over $185,000 in donations from 25 different donors to conservative political parties, leadership races and third party advertisers
  • Many, many CEOs and lawyers, mostly from the energy industry 
  • Three people who have donated more than $15,000 to conservative political causes - Sue Riddell-Rose (Mount Royal University Board of Governors) donated $41,000, Geeta Sankappanavar (board chair of the University of Calgary Board of Governors) donated $25,000, Andrew Melton (Municipal Government Board) donated $15,150, 
  • Three former conservative politicians, Janice Sarich (Macewan University Board of Governors) former PC MLA, Donna Kennedy-Glans (Banff Centre Board of Governors) former PC MLA, James Rajotte (SAIT Board of Governors) former CPC MP
  • Two Ezra Levant associates--Tom Ross (University of Alberta Board of Governors) was the other director of Ethical Oil alongside Levant, Samantha Kernahan (Macewan Board of Governors) acted as the lawyer for Ethical Oil when she wrote a complaint letter to the Canada Revenue Agency about Tides 
  • One sister-in law of Stephen Harper--Elan Harper (Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission). She’s also a donor and is the CFO of the UCP Calgary-Varsity constituency association
  • One senior fellow with the Fraser Institute--Moin Yahya (appointed to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, yikes)--who’s also a donor
  • One former president of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation--Andy Crooks (Municipal Government Board)--you guessed it, also a donor
  • And one failed former UCP candidate--Len Rhodes (chair of the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission)

More than 40 per cent of the 61 people appointed to an agency, board or commission on Friday have donated to a conservative political party, leadership race or third party advertiser--and that’s not counting folks who’ve donated to conservative PACs through their business (we haven’t pulled all the corporate records yet.) 

When Jason Kenney says he’s obsessed with job creation, it seems like he’s focused on jobs for a few specific people. 

The Alberta NDP and Rachel Notley on the other hand took this file extremely seriously. They let terms expire for Tory hacks (Kenney just unceremoniously dumped them) before filling appointments. They cut perks and harmonized pay at these bodies for their senior staff  – no more country club memberships. They encouraged diverse and working class folk to apply and they had a professional interview process.

Their approach contrasts in a big way with the Notley government’s fundamental respect for the institutions of power. Kenney doesn’t care about that. He’s got an unpopular austerity agenda he wants to force through as fast as possible so people forget about it by 2023 and he needs friendly, compliant allies, especially at the universities that are going to immediately eat it in the upcoming budget. To accomplish this political goal he quickly fired the NDP appointees and immediately installed his own cronies.  

The work isn’t done, We’re making our spreadsheet on the appointees public. Have a look and tell us if we’ve missed anything and we’ll update it. Please send your tips to [email protected].


  • Doris Bonora, appointed to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, is the wife of right-wing Edmonton Sun columnist Lorne Gunter
  • Heather Culbert, appointed chair of the Alberta Research and Innovation Advisory Committee, donated $2,500 to the UCP in 2018