Wednesday, October 31, 2007


First let me start with a notice to all you faithful readers out there:

I'm heading off to New York City this evening for an extended long weekend holiday. I'll be posting comments on Alberta news items of the day if I find them very important. What you're more likely to see here, however, is another of my travel photo-blogs. Newsworthy stuff? Not really... but its my blog ;)

The CanWest papers in Alberta (Edmonton Journal/Calgary Herald) comissioned a poll to find out what Albertans think about the new royalty regime. Not surprisingly, the headlines reporting the results were torqued.

The story suggests that the Premier may be facing a "lose-lose" situation with respect to the reaction to the new royalties. To demostrate this, they trot out the fact that 61% of poll respondents believe that "oil companies overinflated the negative consequences that higher royalties would have on the sector."

Yeah. I do too. That doesn't suggest that people are mad at the government over the actions they've taken. Dig further and you'll find that the poll indicates that 47% of respondents support the government's new royalty regime, while 33% oppose it and 20% either don't know or didn't answer the question.

Decisions are made by people who show up... especially at the ballot box. I see these numbers and I don't worry one bit. 47% believe that the Premier did the right thing, while another 20% are still making up their mind or just plain don't care (and, in which case, likely don't bother to vote).

I think these numbers are a good start and, as more and more Albertans come to understand the report (along with some of the other good things the Stelmach government is doing), they'll be moving firmly into our camp.

Back over in "fairytale land", certain Alberta Liberals (who also happen to be Federal Liberals... coincidence i'm sure) continue to farcically call for the resignation of Energy Minister Mel Knight. This is quite laughable for two reasons.

One, everything that they are trying to pin on Knight happened almost exclusively prior to his arrival as Minister. Since he has taken over we have seen great progress on the energy file, no doubt due to his exceptional competence and energy sector experience unmatched by anyone in the Legislature.

Second, take a look at who a Liberal government would have as Minister of Energy. Aside from the fact that putting Beaker here in charge would send shivers down the spine of any sane Albertan, this guy isn't fit for public office. Its a shame I can't link directly to it, but you can take a gander through the afternoon hansards of April 28th-30th, 2003 and read the debate on a question of priviledge that the supposedly honourable Member for Edmonton-Gold Bar raised. The whole episode was shameful and shows that little (if any) trust should be placed in this man.

Finally, another gift from the guy that those Alberta Liberals just can't seem to shake. Stephane Dion shows a Taft-esque streak of missing the boat completely with THIS.

Happy Hallowe'en everybody!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

On a roll

Its nice when a plan comes together, isn't it?

After a bit of a rough start, it appears as though Premier Ed Stelmach and his government are really on a roll.

Former Premier Peter Lougheed has come out with a ringing endorsement of the new royalty regime. If there is anyone who understands the difficulties of crafting a plan that takes into account the public good, the importance of a healthy economy, and the fluctuations of political instability, its Lougheed. A feather in the Premier's cap if ever there was one.

Speculation is running rampant that the Premier is going to call a snap election. I don't buy it for two reasons:

First, the party (although in a far better position than any of the others in Alberta) is still not yet in position for an election. There are still a number of ridings who have yet to nominate their top-notch candidates (more on that in a minute). Plus, the government is ready to go for the fall sitting of the Legislature which starts next week.

Second, even though Ed Stelmach has been Premier for less than a year, has he given anyone the impression that he's the kind of guy who makes decisions like this on the fly? I thought not.

Speaking of excellent candidates, internationally-renowed journalist Arthur Kent has announced that he will be seeking the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie. Should he win, he will be taking on a considerably less accomplished journalist in the form of one-term Liberal MLA Dave Taylor. The process of how Kent's candidacy came to be, along with some other interesting snippets, can be found in Don Braid's column. If I were Taylor, i'd have the QR77 HR department ready on speed dial.

Changing track for a moment, I spoke in a previous post of what seemed to be a deliberate effort to discredit the Federal Liberals on the part of the Alberta Liberals. We over on "team blue" aren't embarassed by our federal cousins. We, in fact, embrace them and are proud to share a great many volunteers and supporters. That's why it always nice to see our friends in Ottawa backing us up. I don't hear any Liberal MPs or "Shadow Ministers" coming to back up ole Tafty... maybe they should give this guy a call for support, sounds like he's got some time on his hands.

The Alberta-liberals?-no-liberals-here-Liberal presence in the blogosphere has become decidedly bitter over the last few days. Not surprisingly, since their policy and communications somehow managed to get outsmarted by the likes of Brian Mason. I wonder if we'll start to see them sink into their tired old lines about Albertans being just plain stupid if they vote for (insert PC Leader here)? The way things are going, i'd bank on it.

Speaking of bitter, how can we forget Graham Thomson? In his latest column, he takes his usual swipes at big oil (which, admittedly, they had coming this week). He then pieces together what he's pretty sure is a PC strategy to paint the Premier as dull-but-trustworthy. He paints a back-and-forth account of how Albertans might be reacting to the royalty report, but you can tell which side he's on...remember, this is the guy who once suggested that Kevin Taft was an excellent public speaker.

Graham closes by doing his buddy Taft's job for him, yakking on an on about the Premier's ad campaign in Alberta newspapers. A campaign which tells Albertans that he delivered on a promise he made and informs them of where to go for more information or to provide their feedback on the royalty decision. The thing that really gets me is that he suggests that its something that PC Alberta would have produced, "right down to the blue and yellow colour scheme". I realize that Thomson prefers red, but where has been been since he got off the bus from Ontario 20 years ago? The PC party colours are blue and bright orange, have been since 1971. The official colours of Alberta are blue and yellow, the ones in the aforementioned ad. Get with the program, buddy.

To close on a good note, three cheers to our cousins in Ottawa for another round of tax relief! Its nice to have people getting things done in Ottawa so we can focus on doing the same at home.

Monday, October 29, 2007


For the record, i'm having a LOT of fun being back in the blogosphere.

Kudos for my return can go to a couple of unnamed regular readers (you know who you are) and, in a way, to the Premier himself for opening up this great big policy discussion on royalties.

One of the aforementioned regular readers shared a surprisingly accurate column from Paula Simons this morning, available online HERE.

I'm not sure what Paula put in her coffee this morning, but it sure has cleared up her thinking. She talks about a sea-change in Alberta's political thinking, made evident by the refreshingly open and frank discussion that Albertans have been having with their government and amongst themselves for the past five weeks. I couldn't agree more.

On the subject of change (or lack thereof), my Alberta-we're-not-Liberals-Liberal counterpart Dave has a post this morning suggesting that its the same old crowd running the government.

Not surprising, of course, but not terribly accurate either.

Dave points out that, of 61 PC MLAs, 42 have been re-nominated and that 19 of those have been in the Legislature since 1997 or earlier. Accurate.

What that means, though, is that over half of the incumbent PC MLAs have only been in the Legislature since 2001 or later.

Looking more closely at the representation around that cabinet table, and you can hardly claim a plethora of "stodgy" old tories. (Sidebar: I think Dave is way too cool to be using words like "stodgy")

Of the 22 Cabinet members (including Stelmach), only 5 were elected in 1993 during the "Miracle on the Prairies"... and one of them was elected as *gasp* an Alberta Liberal.

Fully half of the current Cabinet were elected in 2001 or 2004 and all but two of those 11 are first-time Cabinet Ministers.

I suspect the Liberals will counter with the fact that they've got a caucus/rump with plenty of people elected for the first time in 2004. Fair enough, but its not hard to get that kind of statistic when you consider the results of the election previous.

But let's look to the future.

The quality and calibre of some of the people who have stepped forward to seek (or have won) PC nominations is truly remarkable.

I'm talking about people like Jonathan Denis in Calgary-Egmont, Jennifer Diakiw in Calgary-Varsity, Kyle Fawcett in Calgary-North Hill, Alison Redford in Calgary-Elbow, Dr. Raj Sherman in Edmonton-Meadowlark, Bill Donahue in Edmonton-Centre, Justin (JC) Penny in Lethbridge West, and Monty Bauer in Athabasca-Redwater to name a few.

The fact that people like this are enthusiastically throwing their hat in the ring gives me great hope for the future of PC Alberta. Candidates like these represent various shifts in demographic, in generation, and in outlook. I think that, once Albertans see options like these on the ballot, the choice will be clear.

Dave's post was, as I said, completely expected. The "same old tory" line is one of the few that Kevin Taft seems able to use so i'm not surprised to see his party's number one blogger trotting it out.

What I do wonder, though, is if we're not seeing another strategy emerge...

At the end of his post, Dave takes a blistering swipe at the leadership of Stephane Dion and refers to the federal party as "Dion's Federal Liberals".

I have made nearly-continous reference to Kevin Taft's laughable efforts to distance himself and his party from the Liberal Party of Canada. I say laughable because I think there is far too much duplicity in the volunteer and donor bases of the two parties for it to be believeable. Still, you can understand some of Taft's rationale given the horrendous reputation that Stephane Dion and the Federal Liberals have amongst average Alberta voters.

But I smell a whiff of something more than just distancing. This may have been the opening salvo in an outward attack on Stephane Dion and the Federal Liberals. If so, Kevin Taft is taking a HUGE risk.

Even if the average Alberta voter does not care for Stephane Dion, i'm betting that your average Alberta Liberal volunteer or donor does. Trying to make voters believe he's not on the Dion team won't do him any good if he pisses off most of the people who hit the hustings to deliver his message (whatever it is) in the first place.

Some columnists have said that, in raising royalties on oil-and-gas, the Alberta PCs have alienated a large chunk of its donor base. I disagree, but even if it does have an effect on fundraising, the party is already in the most secure financial position of any political party in the country. Moreover, we seem to have regenerated and revitalized a province-wide team of grassroots volunteers.

Kevin Taft and the Liberals aren't starting from nearly as secure a position on either front. If he starts biting the hand that has fed his party for so long, it'll only get worse.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

5 articles for the price of 1

After a morning spent getting out the message of Gordon Campbell's Vision for British Columbia (hey, when in Rome, right?) i'm hoping to take a few hours this afternoon to thoroughly read the Alberta government's new royalty document.

In the meantime, the reaction on all sides of this debate continues.

There was an interesting article HERE in today's Edmonton Journal online. The story actually seems to be about 4 of 5 stories rolled into one piece, but who am I to question a CanWest editor?

Anyway, the first point talks about a member of the original royalty review panel speaking out against the government's position calling it "blatant deceit". I'd love to be able to see if this opposition comes from his or her background. However, since this panel member has chosen to remain anonymous, I can't do that. Interesting how he or she is so rooted in their convictions that they chose to speak out, but can't bring themselves to attach their name to it. This one's for the recycle bin, if you ask me.

The article goes on to explain how the energy market crash that was predicted by some industry lobbyists failed to materialize. One financial analyst suggests that the industry's protests are "much ado about nothing". Agreed.

Tristone Capital, one of the leading contributors of the "end-is-near" spin, is backtracking on the suggestion that the winter drilling season is dead. Grande Prairie's Mayor isn't worried about what effect the new royalties will have on the drilling season and suggests that the season was already going to suffer given that the US market is down. Agreed.

The article then goes on to list a number of oilsands developments that are still happy to go ahead with their projects under the new regime (you hear that Syncrude? Suncor?).

Encana, one of the first to threaten an investment shift out of Alberta, has chosen the path of cautiousness and continues to study the new rules. Canadian Oil Sands Trust, one of the large partners in the Syncrude project, suggests the same.

Mel Knight, smart guy that he is, is off to our key U.S. markets next week to explain the new rules to them and assure them that we are still the #1 place to do business in the energy sector for a variety of reasons. Given that the Minister is a former small oil-and-gas man himself, I suspect his talks will be well-received.

And finally, the article ends with Brian Mason shifting his attacks to Kevin Taft and the Liberal Party for being complacent and helping the government by not coming out with a strong position from the beginning. I disagree with Mason's position on royalties entirely, of course, but he's got a point. Brian Mason and the NDP had their position well-defined shortly after the original report was released. Kevin Taft and the don't-call-us-Liberals dithered and delayed until just before the Premier released the final decision. Mason has been contending that his party is a more effective opposition. Agreed.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Alright, everybody can exhale now

One of the most anticipated moments in Alberta's political history finally arrived yesterday afternoon. In a crowded room in Calgary, Premier Ed Stelmach and Energy Minister Mel Knight outlined the changes to Alberta's royalty regime.

First off, I was very impressed with both of these men as they delivered their remarks and subsequently took questions. Neither are flashy speakers, but they damn sure know what they're talking about. Unlike the way Liberal "Shadow Minister" Hugh MacDonald (arguably the dumbest man ever elected to the Alberta Legislature) stumbles and bumbles his way through this file, the way the Premier and Minister Knight are able to cite figures, studies, etc. off the cuff tells me that they take their jobs seriously and understand the importance of "getting it right".

I think they did.

Of course, a lot of the talking heads in the oil industry had predictions of doom and gloom. This is no surprise since their job is to defend big oil at all costs and because they've been spouting the same negative spin for months. Don't get me wrong, I grew up in the oilsands and have a tremendous respect for the resource and those who help develop it. But i'm sure i'm not the only one who's getting a little tired of Pierre Alvarez's ongoing rendition of Chicken Little.

Thankfully, news items like THIS and THIS should keep the aforementioned talking heads quiet for a little while as they rework their talking points. Continued predictions of economic collapse while the media reports that things are fine and profits are still soaring could lose them the few friends they have in the public domain.

I haven't yet read the report in detail. There is so much analysis to pour through that it will certainly keep many of us busy for the next few days.

One of the things that did jump out at me, though, was THIS. Incentives for refining and upgrading OUR oil at home just make sense. We have the technology and the expertise to make it happen. It is also an excellent tool to help spread the "Alberta Advantage" out from Fort McMurray and the Highway 2 corridor into parts of rural Alberta that haven't prospered as equally as the larger centres. Its our resource and we should be doing what we can to extract maximum value from it before we ship it down the pipe.

I'm also glad that, while there will be some major adjustments (particularily for my hometown monoliths of Syncrude and Suncor), industry has a reasonable-but-not-excessive time frame to prepare. On top of that, continuing the deep-gas royalty holiday will help salvage what was an already-threatened drilling season. Smart, fair policies all around.

I, like most of you, will have more to say in the days ahead as we continue to dissect the new royalty regime and the public's reaction to it. In the meantime, normally hard-headed columnist Neil Waugh has an excellent piece that sums it up pretty well.

Someone should send it to Graham Thomson and Don Braid... it'll blow a little sunshine up a part of their anatomy that appears to be home to a couple of large sticks at the moment.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Kevin Taft and Stephane Dion... same person? You decide.

You know, for a guy who seems so adamant about distancing himself from Stephane Dion and the Federal Liberals, you'd think Kevin Taft would avoid taking pages right out of Dion's playbook.

Yet that is exactly the scene that played itself in Calgary today.

Taft's media people put out THIS release suggesting that he would be available for comment after Premier Stelmach's news conference in Calgary this afternoon. Makes sense, right? He's the Leader of the Official Opposition and seems to be far more convinced than the average Albertan that he can become Premier, so why not get your message out right after Eddie does.

I guess he obviously wasn't expecting what the Premier announced since he blew past the media and opted to issue THIS statement instead. All that was missing was Dave Taylor being sent around to do hastily-prepared interviews a la Ignatieff.

It doesn't really matter, though. Any party that has Hugh MacDonald as their "Shadow Minister of Energy" would do just as well to keep their mouth shut and save themselves the embarassment.

Kevin Taft: He's just not up to the job.


Ask a Liberal or New Democrat (and, in Alberta, there's hardly much difference) about Premier Ed Stelmach's address last night and they'll say he fell flat on his face. Graham Thomson says it too... but I usually lump him in with the Opposition anyway.

What I saw, though, was far from it.

Ed Stelmach isn't the world's most inspiring orator. Everyone knows it, no one should be surprised by it. People looking for flash and style in last night's televised address should have flipped some fashion show.

That said, the Premier wasn't as flat and boring as the left would have you believe. He came across as sincere... something that the snake oil salesmen in the opposition continually fail to do.

What I was looking for, and what I hope Albertans were also looking for, was substance. That I found in spades.

The text of the Premier's speech was inspiring and encouraging.

He spoke of his vision of a more open and transparent government and outlined the steps already taken.

He spoke of protecting the land we as Albertans have inherited from our ancestors.

He spoke of the importance of a sound and practical environmental vision that strikes the balance between development and conservation.

He spoke of the need to review government policies from time to time and reminded us that it was HE who commissioned the Royalty Review Report.

The line that I enjoyed the most, though, came towards the end. Maybe its because i've been in BC too long, but I almost broke out in goosebumps when the Premier described Alberta as "a province where government gets out of your way — and where you can keep the fruits of
your hard work."

I think the Premier has laid out his vision for Alberta. Its not fancy and its not flashy, much to the chagrin of some.

It is well-thought out, it is thorough, and it is sincere.

Most importantly, it is a vision that has the best interests of Albertans in mind. That's something that those who continue to build Alberta will appreciate more than anything.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Municipal Election Redux

I have posted a series of thoughts on the election results in Wood Buffalo (Fort McMurray), Edmonton and Calgary.

For ease of navigation, the links are here:




Municipal Election Redux: Wood Buffalo

This one would have been awfully tough for me. Two credible choices presented themselves on this ballot.

On one hand, incumbent Melissa Blake was seeking re-election to her second term. On the other, business owner Dave Kirschner made a late entry to make it a race. There were pros and cons to both candidates.

Melissa swept to victory on a platform of change in 2004, ousting incumbent Doug Faulkner. There is no doubt that things have changed since Melissa took office. The Wood Buffalo region is most certainly on the map. Our issues are well-known to both the provincial and federal governments and Melissa deserves much credit for this. The flipside is that i've often found her to be too focused on the negative aspects of Wood Buffalo. This is handy when asking for funding, but not great when trying to promote the region and attract new residents. She also has a tendency to micro-manage and to rely too heavily on advice from a very small group of friends.

Dave Kirschner is someone i've known for 15 years (I went to school with his son). He is a respected member of Fort McMurray's tight-knit small business community. His business experience is far more well-rounded (not just the perspective of the oilsands plants) and a definite asset. As a long-time resident who has raised a family in McMurray, he also has a good grasp of community life. My worry with Dave is his tendency to side with those who are uncomfortable with the pace of change in the region... those who remember what the place was like in the 60's and cling to that vision.

I'm still not sure who I would have voted for. Consider it a testament to the candidates in the race rather than my own indecision.

In the end, Melissa won handily with just over double the number of votes Dave received.

WARD 1 (City of Fort McMurray)
Fort McMurray has a chronic inability to change its incumbent councilors. In 2001, 30 year veteran Ron Morgan retired leaving one vacancy among the 6 seats in Ward 1. I was proud to manage to the campaign of Carolyn Slade, the winner of that open seat and the only new face from Ward 1 in that election. Now that Coun. Slade has retired, it again left only one non-incumbent vacancy on council.

One of the things that was so important about Carolyn's time on council was that she brought a perspective from a sector other than education. Of the 6 seats in Ward 1, 5 were held by those with ties to the education system (4 teachers, 1 former trustee). Educators have an important perspective, but do not make up 5 of every 6 McMurrayites. This gross imbalance was the source of many complaints, but it never seemed to change come election time. Still, Election 2007 presented another opportunity to correct the problem.

My favourite newcomers this time were community activist and radio-host-turned-safety-professional Ross Jacobs and Chamber of Commerce President Mike Allen. Both men are friends and, for those who would accuse me of wearing partisan blinders, it should be noted that Ross is also President of the local provincial Liberal association.

It turns out that Fort McMurray was ready to at least begin the process of change. When the dust settled, Ward 1 saw two new faces elected. Although Ross was unsuccessful, Mike Allen and lawyer Mila Byron were elected.

Long-time Coun. Jim Carbery was defeated, something that many thought was necessary but few believe would ever happen. Some sitting councillors should take this hint and consider retiring in 2010, lest the voters decide for them.

Either way, Couns. Allen and Byron will be a welcome breath of fresh, private sector air.

Municipal Election Redux: Calgary

I don't really like Dave Bronconnier. Sure he's a headstrong leader for the city, but I just can't help but think of him as a petulant child who runs council meetings like a dictator. I was excited when I heard he might have a credible challenger. Unfortunately, it was not to be a challenger that could beat him.

Alnoor Kassam's campaign said all the right things... extend the west LRT... hold the line on taxes... greater accountability at City Hall. The problem was the candidate. Questions about Mr. Kassam's past dogged him throughout the campaign, preventing his message from getting through to a lot of Calgarians.

Right message, wrong man. Hopefully someone is taking notes for 2010.

Dale Hodges is the reigning dinosaur on Calgary City Council. Before nomination day, it seemed an energetic challenger with a cheeky-but-accurate campaign message was emerging. Sadly, she fell victim to confusing rules surrounding signature requirements and didn't make the ballot. 24 years on council is too long... this term should be Ald. Hodges last.

Zzzzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzzzzz. Gord Lowe wins.

The only question in this race was who was going to beat lacklustre incumbent Ald. Helene Larocque. The choices were Jim Stevenson, a small business owner and federal tory riding President, or George Chahal, real estate man and prominent liberal.

It was a tight race that went to a recount, but Stevenson prevailed by 33 votes. Jim and George should both be congratulated for focusing on issues (whereas Larocque made excuses for her poor performance in office). George Chahal also deserves credit for accepting the recount and not dragging it out through the courts. Ward 3 obviously breeds some very worthy community activists.

I, of course, would have voted for my friend Jim and think he'll do an excellent job for the people of Ward 3.

Former NDP MLA Bob Hawkesworth easily won re-election here. He is popular in his ward and is an important voice to have around the table. Unfortunately, his mother lost her battle with cancer near the end of the campaign. Many condolences to the Alderman and his family.

Not much to say here. I've met Ray Jones and like him. He's a straight talking, no bull kinda guy. He's good for his constituents and good for Calgary City Hall. An easy win for Ray.

Incumbent Craig Burrows got himself into a whole heap of trouble when council started questioning his expensing of a $12000 course at the U of C. Rather than neutralize this thing (pay for it himself), he chose to dig his heels in... never smart when you're dealing with taxpayers money.

Craig was friendly to the conservative cause, so his potential loss worried me. Thankfully, Ward 6 chose to replace him with former Calgary Elbow PC President Joe Connelly.

I don't know much about Joe, but he strikes me as a level-headed man who will serve his constituents well.

No surprise here. Druh Farrell may be a lefty, but a few of those on council are ok (a FEW, Edmonton... a FEW). Besides, Hawkesworth needs some company on his side of the spectrum.


I used to live in Ward 8 and, as MLA constituency staff, had to deal with Ald. Madeline King on occaision. To say i'm happy to see the end of this Mount Royal Liberal's career is an understatement.

Three cheers for former cop and new Alderman John Mar. Moreover, congrats to his able campaign team headed by Tyler Shandro.

Of all my hopes for Calgary, seeing Joe Ceci defeated was probably the least likely. Calgary Police Association head Al Koenig would have been a formidable Alderman, but Liberal Ceci seems to have a stranglehold on the ward.

Ceci is touted as a possible replacement for Bronconnier as Mayor... perhaps the only good reason to keep Dave at City Hall.

See Ward 2, replace "Lowe" with "Chabot".

Barry Erskine's last minute decision not to run created quite a scramble for candidates to enter the race here. From all accounts, the field was quite impressive and Ward 11 had some excellent choices.

Brian Pincott's message of waking up City Hall resonated with voters and carried him to victory. I suspect he'll get along pretty well with the other new Aldermen in their quest to shake things up downtown.

I've got a lot of time for Ric McIver. He's driven, he works hard for his constituents, and he understands that city budgets come from other people's money.

The young man who challenged him in the election should be commended for his interest in democracy. The residents of Ward 12, though, should be commended for their interest in effective representation.

WARDS 13 and 14
The nice ladies with the hyphenated names were both returned by acclaimation.

As an advocate of the democratic process, i'm always iffy about acclaimations. However, if no one wants to step up and run, that sends a message of approval of the status quo.

Aldermen Colley-Urquhart and Fox-Mellway should be congratulated on what their constituents obviously believe is a job well done.

Municipal Election Redux: Edmonton

Whereas no one expected Stephen Mandel to win in 2004, no one expected him to lose in 2007. This race was to be a snoozer until Don Koziak's late entry. Still, no one was putting money on a Koziak upset... but at least there was now a credible alternative. Koziak had almost no campaign machine and still managed to garner a respectable percentage of the votes. I'd be interested to see what would have happened if a full-on campaign had been mounted.

Regardless, I don't think Mandel is a bad Mayor. He is well-liked by the Stelmach cabinet and now has an important ally on the regional cooperation file in new St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crause (no more Richard Plain, thank you!).

Mandel's second term will see him deal with a lot of important issues. Hopefully he has the ability and willingness to keep his big-spending council in check.

No surprises here, i'm afraid. While Andrew Knack seemed to have lots of energy, unseating Linda Sloan and Karen Leibovici would have been a nearly insurmountable task. Too bad, since I don't think either of them bring any real vision to council.

No real surprises here, either. I guess NW Edmonton was the sea of tranquility whereas the rest of the city opted for political maelstrom. Kim Krushell is a good voice on council both for her ward and her demographic (young women) and i'm glad to see her back. Ron Hayter has probably been around the table a little too long, but he must be doing something right if people keep sending him back.

Ward 3 residents had a distinct choice to make when filling the seat left vacant by retiring Coun. Janice Melnychuk. In choosing Harvey Voogd they could keep the seat in socialist hands with a former NDP candidate. Alternately, they could choose a conservative in Tony Caterina. The race was close, but they made the right (pun intended) choice in sending Mr. Caterina to straighten out City Hall.

He will join returning Coun. Ed Gibbons. Although Gibbons is a former Liberal MLA, I suspect he comes from the Laurence Decore line of thinking since he seems to have a lot of common sense. Both men will serve Ward 3 well.

As a former resident of Ward 4, I am well aware that this is an electoral wasteland for a conservative. Accountant Debbie Yeung again carried the banner of fiscal responsibility, but to no avail. The race for the seat vacated by retiring Coun. Michael Phair was to be a battle waged entirely on the left. 2004 candidate Ben Henderson (husband of blowhard MLA Laurie Blakeman) returned to the ballot and fought a close race with Lewis Cardinal.

If I had to pick between these two, I would have chosen Cardinal. I like the idea of having someone from the Aboriginal community on council, and I thought his sign wave message was excellent ("Will work for vote"). I also stand can't stand Laurie Blakeman and worry that electing her husband would give her more credibility (at least in her eyes, anyway).

Unfortunately, Henderson prevailed and will now represent Ward 4 along with incumbent Coun. Anne McLella... er... Jane Batty.

I shake my head at this entire gong show. During the last term, Edmonton City Hall had only one solidly conservative voice. This drove the left nuts, but isn't it fair that different views are held on council... particularily when its only one voice out of 13? Apparently not.

The prominent centre-left in Edmonton started lining up behind university lobbyist Don Iveson to knock off Mike Nickel. To his credit, Iveson, a driving force behind the socialist U-Pass, had a team of dedicated and energetic supporters who took their task of unseating Nickel very seriously. Concurrently, supporters of Mike Nickel didn't see this freight train coming. The conservative volunteer base in Edmonton seemed to take October off. Sadly, Nickel's defeat was the result.

The odd thing about it all is that the Iveson camp seem to deny that this was a concerted Liberal/left-wing effort. Given that Iveson was endorsed by the likes of Raj Pannu and Don Massey, and that Kevin Taft himself was at the victory party, I don't really buy it. Still, hats off to the Iveson crew. This was a left vs. right battle and the left won fair and square. Ward 5 chose to get change from a Nickel... they'll probably find themselves short a few pennies come tax time, though.

Oh yeah, some other guy won too.

This was a race to replace octogenarian Terry Cavanaugh and to see who would sit alongside socialist Dave Thiele. I was hoping for friend and fellow conservative Chuck McKenna. It seemed, though, that the name recognition game was going far better for Liberal Chinwe Okelu and New Democrat Amarjeet Sohi. This was another see-saw that lasted right until the final results came in and Sohi was declared elected. This race, out of all of them, seemed to be the cleanest, most issue-driven. Its a testament to the calibre of candidates that were on the ballot in Ward 6.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Royal Blood

The talk on everybody's lips in Alberta is centering around the royalty review. Doesn't matter where you go or who you talk to, its on people's minds.

Alberta's 4 sitting political parties have also had their share of deliberations.

Not surprisingly, the NDP has come out in favour of adopting the royalty review report as a "bare minimum" and suggests going much further. Its not really surprising that a party that doesn't understand how the economy works isn't very concerned about grinding it to a halt, though.

The Alberta Alliance, led by soon-to-be-former MLA Paul Hinman (nice guy, wrong party) has come out opposed to the report. In the world of the uber-right, we should be giving this stuff away and grateful for the opportunity, perhaps.

Kevin Taft and his Alberta-We're-Not-The-Feds-No-Connection-To-Dion-Here-Liberal caucus have come out with their position today. A wise friend of mine pointed out that Taft has painted himself into a bit of a corner by waiting this long.

The We're-Not-Liberal-Liberals made a big deal about coming out with their position. They even got some junior high student to take an afternoon off school and earn extra credit for his A/V class by shooting a crappy youtube video of Taft outlining his position. I suspect the idea was to get some attention before the Premier goes on TV tonight and rolls out the full response tomorrow. Makes sense, right?

Well yes... but only if you have something original to say. By coming out in favour of the full adoption of the report, all Kevin Taft has done is take what Brian Mason said and add the words "ditto".

Graham Thomson has a good piece on the big risk Taft took here. The fact that Stelmach insiders are happy that the Liberals have come out with their position early is very reassuring. Kevin Taft should be very worried about blowing his gains in Calgary, particularily with people like Alison Redford and Jennifer Diakiw gearing up to take on (and take out) Calgary Liberal MLAs.

I suspect that the Premier's final decision on royalties will be the right one, respecting all sides of this debate and ensuring we collect our fair share without sending investment fleeing from the province.

I also suspect that the upcoming session of the Alberta Legislature will be a rough one for the Alberta-anyone-got-a-suggestion-for-a-better-name-Liberals. They've gotten away with a number contradictory statements and positions for far too long. Methinks PC research has had an enjoyable summer digging these up and readying them for QP.

This fall session should show Albertans the divisions in the Liberal caucus, the continous leftward shift since the days of Decore, and, most importantly, why Kevin Taft and the Liberal caucus are not up to the job of governing Alberta.