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.