Unpredictable election sends 11 new politicos to Edmonton

Despite all the predictions Calgary voters rejected the Wildrose party in all but two ridings largely erring on the side of the Progressive Conservatives — even turning two Liberal ridings Tory blue largely due to incumbents that declined to run for re-election.

Naturally pundits are scrambling to account for their terrible predictions right-wing mouthpieces are in full-on mea culpa mode and the pollsters are desperately trying to assure everyone that they still know what’s happening in an era of caller ID rapidly shifting intentions and oversaturation of phone calls ads texts and emails.

But ours is not to wonder why. It doesn’t really matter whether voters avoided the Wildrose because of their stance on abortion climate change rights for gays and lesbians lack of an arts policy or any number of other socially suspect positions or whether the pollsters simply got it wrong. What does matter is that Calgary now boasts 11 new MLAs who will soon be heading up the Queen Elizabeth Highway to represent their constituents.

Here’s a quick guide to the new faces.

KEN HUGHES PC — CALGARY-WEST

Ken Hughes a longtime friend of Premier Alison Redford was a controversial candidate from the beginning. He arrived for the nomination battle dragging significant baggage from his time as the chairman of the much-maligned Alberta Health Services. Originally the nomination went to former PC MLA Shiraz Shariff but that decision was overturned by the Conservative brass due to “irregularities.” Hughes won on a second round of voting but was considered a liability to the party because of widespread antagonism toward AHS. Those concerns proved to be unfounded with Hughes sailing to victory over his closest rival Andrew Constantinidis a Wildrose candidate with close ties to area MP Rob Anders.

CHRISTINE CUSANELLI PC — CALGARY-CURRIE

When Dave Taylor decided not to seek re-election as the sole Alberta Party MLA it opened the restructured riding of Calgary-Currie to newcomers. Christine Cusanelli bested four other candidates in a tightly contested nomination battle to run under the PC banner and easily took the riding from Wildrose challenger Corrie Adolph. Cusanelli is a bilingual educator who became a school principal at the age of 32. Prior to entering the provincial political fray Cusanelli was principal at St. Michael school part of the Catholic School District in the city’s southwest.

DONNA KENNEDY-GLANS PC — CALGARY-VARSITY

Varsity was another riding opened up when the incumbent decided he’d had enough of public glad handing. Veteran Liberal Harry Chase chose not to seek re-election paving the way for Donna Kennedy-Glans to snap up the seat garnering almost double the votes of the second-place Wildrose candidate. Kennedy-Glans is probably best known for challenging MP Rob Anders in a nomination race in the federal riding of Calgary-West in 2009. It was a challenge that earned her the title of “liberal saboteur” from right-wing barker Ezra Levant. Kennedy-Glans is a former oilpatch executive lawyer and founder of a social development NGO.

SANDRA JANSEN PC — CALGARY-NORTH WEST

Another in a long line of newscasters to enter the political fray Sandra Jansen was an anchor on Calgary 2 & 7 (now Global) before heading east and settling as a host on CTV Newsnet. She returned to Calgary to work with Citytv. Prior to securing the PC nomination she was a spokesperson for the premier’s office. Calgary-North West opened up after former minister of culture and community spirit Lindsay Blackett decided not to run. The riding has gone to the PCs for the past 15 years.

JASON LUAN PC — CALGARY-HAWKWOOD

One of two entirely new ridings in this provincial election Calgary-Hawkwood was a hard-fought contest featuring eight candidates — including one independent and the leader of the once-mighty Social Credit party Len Skowronski. Despite a solid field of candidates including former president of the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership Janet Keeping who ran under the Evergreen banner the contest was ultimately between the PCs and Wildrose. Jason Luan worked for the City of Calgary prior to the election making recommendations to council on non-profit funding. It’s been a while since he last sought office vying for the Ward 2 council seat in 2001.

RICK FRASER PC — CALGARY-SOUTH EAST

Calgary-South East is the second newly formed riding in this election. It hosted a tight battle between Rick Fraser and Wildrose’s Bill Jarvis with the Liberals and the NDP barely registering. Fraser is an advance care paramedic and has worked with EMS since 2000 when he first earned his degree. The large riding on the city’s southeast edge is as one would expect comprised of some of the newest communities in Calgary. As such Fraser is focusing on the creation of new schools in the area.

RIC MCIVER PC — CALGARY-HAYS

After licking his wounds from his mayoral battle with Naheed Nenshi Ric McIver the longtime former Alderman for Ward 12 is back at work after taking the riding of Calgary-Hays for the PCs. McIver won handily over Wildrose competitor Wayne Anderson. McIver is a staunch conservative who was often referred to as “Dr. No” while sitting on city council thanks to his apparent belief that most government spending is simply wasteful and his subsequent rejection of most proposals. Read our in-depth profile of McIver from 2010.

JEFF WILSON WILDROSE — CALGARY-SHAW

One of only two Wildrose candidates elected in Calgary (the other was Heather Forsythe who crossed the floor to join the party in 2010 after being elected as a PC) Jeff Wilson squeaked out a victory over PC rival Farouk Adatia. Not surprisingly Wilson bills himself as a fiscal conservative. Prior to the election he worked as an account executive for an audio/visual company.

LINDA JOHNSON PC — CALGARY-GLENMORE

This is the most surprising upset of the night. Glenmore was held by Paul Hinman the original Wildrose MLA who was first elected under the Wildrose Alliance moniker in Taber-Cardston in 2004. He lost in 2008 and parachuted into Glenmore to win in 2009. Linda Johnson ran against Wildrose’s vision for Alberta. Although she worked with former MPs Harvie Andre and Jim Hawkes in a recent Calgary Herald interview she said her 12-year experience as a Tupperware salesperson helped her seal the deal.

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