Take Back Alberta seeks to overthrow Cochrane town council
New leaked audio suggests TBA's involvement in municipal politics goes beyond supporting anti-2SLGBTQ+ school board trustees.
Take Back Alberta (TBA), the insurgent anti-vaccine and anti-2SLGBTQ+ group with close ties to Premier Danielle Smith, is involved in efforts to take down the Town of Cochrane’s elected municipal government as part of its broader effort to get likeminded ideologues elected in Alberta’s 2025 civic elections.
TBA’s plans for Cochrane are revealed in a recording of a local in-person event held in October with TBA founder David Parker, notorious Calgary right-wing operative Craig Chandler, local landscaping company owner Todd Simmer and members of the public, one of whom leaked audio of the event to The Orchard.
In an online meeting a month before the Cochrane town hall, a recording of which I first reported on for the Progress Report, Parker said his group’s attention is “focused 100% from now until the municipal elections on school boards,” where he seeks to overthrow the “tyranny of the rainbow guard” — meaning administrators who support 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion.
The recording of the Cochrane town hall suggests Parker’s municipal ambitions go beyond electing a slate anti-2SLGBTQ+ agitators to school boards across the province, although he maintained in an interview that school boards are still his focus.
“When people show up to vote for school board, they can vote for municipal as well, so obviously our organizing on the school board side will definitely have an impact on municipal,” Parker told The Orchard.
“Cochrane is Airdrie. Cochrane is Rimbey. Cochrane is every little town. And these guys come in, and they can get those people who will rally and mobilize. We're done if they get into the school boards.”
Cochranite musician Ali Morrison, who provided The Orchard with the recording, says TBA’s plans for Cochrane as a microcosm of what’s brewing across rural Alberta.
“Cochrane is Airdrie. Cochrane is Rimbey. Cochrane is every little town. And these guys come in, and they can get those people who will rally and mobilize,” she said. “We're done if they get into the school boards.”
The recording of the event is incomplete. Morrison said she stopped recording at times because she feared being identified as an outsider by attendees and accosted in a hostile environment.
Simmer has been locked in a zoning dispute with the town since 2022, which stems from his desire to have his Local Yokel Market, which shuttered in February, operate on the same property as his Big Sky Landscaping business.
He was unable to do so, because the Big Sky property is zoned under Business Industrial, which wouldn’t allow for a farmers market on its premises. But he refused to apply for rezoning and wouldn’t explain why, according to reporting in the Cochrane Eagle.
Simmer, who couldn’t be reached for comment, submitted a petition urging Alberta Municipal Affairs to launch an investigation into Cochrane town council on Dec. 9 after gathering the required 4,000 signatures, representing 20% of the voting age population, within two months.
In the piece, Simmer said he wants the “government to come in … just like what’s happening in Chestermere,” where the province dismissed the mayor, three councillors, the chief administrative officer and two other administrators just days earlier.
“It’s kind of serendipitous that all of this seems to be coming apart at the same time,” Simmer, who claims he’s on the verge of bankruptcy, added.
One of its signatories is town councillor Marni Fedeyko, who stormed out of a September council meeting while the mayor spoke against her notice of motion calling for a vote of confidence in the town’s chief administrative officer, which was then unanimously defeated.
Speaking to The Orchard, Parker dismissed her signature as an example of a local politician “trying to save their ass.”
In an interview with local broadcaster CochraneNow, Fedeyko, seemingly unprompted, said that her signature was “not in connection with a group [or] an individual.”
The recording of the Oct. 13 gathering, however, suggests Parker and Chandler — neither of whom resides in Cochrane — see the petition against the town council as a key stepping stone in their broader effort to take over municipal governments across Alberta.
“I don’t know anybody in Cochrane. I’ve got a list of like 300 TBA supporters, that’s it,” Parker confessed.
He had clearly done his homework, noting that in the 2021 election, Mayor Jeff Genung was elected by acclamation and that the most popular candidate — Coun. Morgan Nagel — received just 3,527 votes, almost 500 fewer supporters than the petition required.
"When there’s an investigation, it’s no doubt going to expose a lot of corruption. And when that corruption’s going to be exposed, nobody’s going to be left on that council,” Parker said.
He emphasized that this would include Nagel, who attempted to have Simmer’s zoning issues resolved, because he wasn’t in attendance that day.
Morrison said she doesn’t doubt that Cochrane town council has done “some dodgy things,” but she believes it’s being seized upon by TBA and Chandler to suit their political agenda. “It's just inciting, you know, gas on fire,” she said.
Parker maintained his role in the push to get rid of Cochrane’s local government almost two years away from the next election has been minimal, but that he fully supports it as a step towards “people rule.”
“It’s not my project. It’s Todd Simmer. I just went there to support him,” he told The Orchard.
“To be honest, I've been pretty busy. So I've given two speeches and like a couple phone calls, not very much.”
Chandler, who couldn’t be reached for comment, was more intimately involved. At the event, he invited attendees to “come out and get some signatures with us.”
“We’re going to flood the city with literature,” he exclaimed.
Morrison noted that the event was organized quietly, with the information circulated through sympathetic quarters of Facebook, which she considered secretive.
The gathering, which was first brought to light by the online Alberta politics video show The Breakdown, was promoted as the “launch … of a new province wide municipal political movement to get better government municipally.” Attendees were urged to sign Simmer’s petition, which was described as a call to “remove” Mayor Genung from power.
At the meeting, Chandler unveiled plans to create a slate of municipal council candidates province-wide called “Alberta United.”
“We won’t be under the UCP or the Conservatives, but they support us,” he explained in a conversation with Morrison and other attendees recorded before the formal event began.
He said this party would be modelled after the Vancouver ABC party of Mayor Ken Sim, ignoring the fact that the conservative municipal party doesn’t exist anywhere else in British Columbia.
In his formal remarks, Chandler identified the slate as the “next step,” encouraging attendees to get involved in the new year.
Parker told The Orchard that Alberta United is entirely Chandler’s idea, one which “doesn't seem to be taking off.”
“I know that he's very interested in getting the support of my group on it,” the TBA leader said, adding that his involvement will depend on “whether they actually get people involved in it or not.”
“All that matters to me is winning,” Parker emphasized.
Credit for consistency, the sort of rhetoric Parker deployed at the Sept. 27 meeting regarding school boards was on full display in Cochrane, where he attempted to weave Simmer’s zoning dispute into his conspiracist fantasies.
For Parker, everyone of his political opponents is essentially the second coming of Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin.
“Just read the history books,” said Parker. “This is how Communist revolution works. That’s simply it. They take over the institutions and then they destroy anyone who stands in their way.”
Discovery math, which teaches the subject through problem solving and experimentation, as opposed to memorization, Parker claimed, is part of this Commie plot “to separate the young from their parents.”
He labelled the 2SLGBTQ+ community as “alphabet people,” whose supporters he accused of “trying to radicalize your youth in order to destabilize your society.”
“You might ask yourself, ‘Well, why does everything seem so chaotic all the time now? Why can’t we just have a normal society? Why does everything seem like it’s falling apart?’” said Parker. “It’s intentional.”
Morrison said these sorts of remarks at the event reveal a local manifestation of a creeping authoritarianism occurring internationally.
“Their tactics are dirty. They’re doing it quietly and … there’s deception involved,” Morrison said in an interview. “For me, the big takeaway is that we have to be vigilant and make sure that everybody’s voice is heard.”
While they may have strategic disagreements, Parker and Chandler are ideological birds of a feather.
Chatting with attendees before the event formally commenced, Chandler decried “trans activity” happening in schools. He casually claimed the U.S. reproductive health organization Planned Parenthood is “bringing in the curriculum.”
“They’re showing the kids porno in Grade 5. It’s nuts,” Chandler said without evidence, clarifying, “it’s soft porn, not hardcore.”
Back when TBA was just a twinkle in Parker’s eye, Chandler established an organization called Take Back City Hall focused on getting hard right candidates, including himself, elected to Calgary city council.
Evan Spencer defeated Chandler for the Ward 12 council seat by more than 4,500 votes in the 2021 civic election. Danielle Smith, then still a humble podcaster, endorsed her “frenem[y]” Chandler in that race.
Calgary city councillor Dan McLean received training from Take Back City Hall in the lead up to the most recent municipal vote, in which he was elected for the first time, and is Chandler’s buddy.
Premier Smith raised the idea of allowing municipal candidates to form parties in a meeting last year with Alberta Municipalities president and St. Alberta mayor Cathy Heron, who isn’t fond of the idea.
Smith said partisan municipal politics would make fundraising easier for candidates, which sounds like code for making it easier for big money to influence local elections.
At the end of the Cochrane event, Parker boasted of his ties to the premier, who attended his wedding last year to a writer for a far-right news site.
Morrison didn’t manage to record these specific comments, but Parker didn’t deny saying them.
“Dani is a good friend of mine and we talk all the time,” he said. “I think she is doing a great job, but she's not hard enough or fast enough, but that’s going to change soon. I am going to talk to her very soon and things will start moving.”