Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Last night on television and subsequently in this morning's major Alberta dailies Albertans came to learn of a new ad campaign launched by the Alberta Building Trades Council and the Alberta Federation of Labour.

The ads attack Premier Ed Stelmach and accuse him of not having a plan for a multitude of issues. Healthcare, Education, the Economy, and Housing are apparently all under threat with Stelmach in power. If you buy that, i've got some oceanfront property in Vulcan to sell you.

Albertans reaction has yet to be measured, but Graham Thomson has already chimed in with his thoughts. In a nutshell, Ole G.T. thinks these ads may backfire. For once he's right.

For my part, I don't think they MAY backfire. I think they WILL backfire... with the fury of a '78 Cadillac Eldorado.

There are three reasons why this poorly thought-out campaign will fail miserably:

1. Its too early for attack ads.

Attack ads are usually reserved for the tail end of a campaign, especially when they're used in Canada. Attack ads are designed to motivate people to vote against something. In order to cash in on maximum fury of the voters, they are released as close to the vote as possible so that voters stay angry/disgruntled as they go to the ballot box.

Whether this is just the opening salvo in a series of negative ads or its a one-shot deal to get people thinking, it won't work. If we're going to see 6 weeks of attacks on TV, Albertans will get tired of it and turn on those who are promoting them in the first place. If these are the only attacks we're going to see, the message will be long forgotten by the time the election rolls around.

2. They're wrong

These ads picked the WRONG attribute to attack. You may be able to get away with saying that the Premier isn't the most dynamic speaker. You may be able to get away with saying that the PC Party is a little slow in modernizing. But suggesting that the Premier doesn't have a plan is mighty easy to debunk. Shall we?

No plan for Healthcare?

We've seen swift action on reducing the barriers of labour mobility and improvements to recognition of foreign credentials, helping more qualified healthcare workers get their foot in the door in Alberta. We've seen a plethora of new health facilities either completed or under construction, not to mention increased promotion of clinical telehealth to cut down on the need for hospital visits that clog our emergency rooms. We've seen dramatic legislation on preventative measures, namely the province-wide smoking ban. And we're seeing ongoing work on a pharmaceutical program to address the needs of an aging population.

No plan for Education?

We've seen English as a Second Language programs offered to children as young as 3 1/2, increasing their chances of success later in their education. We've seen a number of new schools built to address growing communities and the baby boom that Alberta is currently experiencing. And, of course, we've seen a historic agreement to make sure that Alberta's teachers aren't living in fear of a pension plan that might not have been their for them when they retired.

No plan for the Economy?

Give me a break. We've seen action on the labour shortage through a new Alberta-Canada immigration agreement and increased duration of temporary foreign worker permits. We've seen the development and release of a comprehensive report dealing with rural development so that the Alberta Advantage exists for ALL Albertans. We've seen action on the issue of oil and gas royalties. And we've signed a historic agreement with British Columbia to remove a number of trade barriers so that we are better able to take advantage of the Pacific Gateway projects that are currently underway.

No plan for Housing?

We've seen $285 million to address immediate housing pressures. We've seen a long-term funding agreement to direct $11.3 billion to municipalities over the next 10 years. And we've seen a very capable MLA assigned the specific task of dealing with the affordable housing shortage.

3. They're misguided

These ads have been put together by the Alberta Building Trades Council and the Alberta Federation of Labour. These organizations claim to represent over 200,000 working Albertans.

Now, presumably, these ads are asking their members and other Albertans to vote against Ed Stelmach and the PC Party in the upcoming election. They don't come out and say it directly, but its clearly implied. Fostering a debate, as the group claims is their motivation, isn't well-served when the discussion is entirely one-sided.

So what if we were to do as these ads tell us and vote for AFL-friendly parties, presumably the NDP and, to a lesser extent, the Liberals?

There is very little difference between the Liberals and the NDP in Alberta anyway, so the outcome of electing either party is fairly uniform. What would undoubtedly occur is the most massive evacuation of economic prosperity this province has ever seen. Those who think that what THIS government did with respect to resource royalties should shudder to think what would happen if Kevin Taft or Brian Mason ever took hold of the economic reigns of Alberta.

The guarantee, though, is that we would see some pretty spectacular job losses. Ironically, many of those jobs would be those who are "represented" by the Building Trades Council and the Alberta Federation of Labour.

Ron Harry and Gil McGowan are essentially asking their members to vote themselves out of a job.

Thankfully, Alberta's skilled tradespeople are smarter than to listen to the words of their union bosses and their vested interests.


  1. They should look to Saskatchewan as an example of how these type of negative, no substance attack ads work. It got the NDP booted directly out of the government benches.

    Alberta's Tradespeople are not the complete robotic morons that the ABTC & AFL have undoubtedly mistaken them for.

  2. Actually "Ethos" is suspect. The real reason the trades are upset is due to a joint labour agreement they signed years and years ago, wherein if 17+ of 25 recognized trades agree on a contract, the minority cannot strike. The rationale was so that the minority could not hold the majority hostage on a labour dispute. And the unions readily signed on to the agreement at the time. Nowhere in the ads is this dispute mentioned... so Ethos is suspect.

    Logos, well, their "logic" would seem to be that Stelmach (personally, since they focus on him and not the party or his predecessor) was unable to wave his hand and overnight solve all of the problems associated with a booming economy. Blake has rather ably dis-assembled their arguments that Stelmach has done nothing, so no need to revisit. Frankly, Don Braid was the same columnist that said Stelmach was "frenetic" in his pace of decisions in the last six months of 2007. But I guess, different day, different column.

    Frankly, if AFL and ABTC leadership were so concerned over housing and healthcare, maybe donating the money they spent on the attack ads to a charitable foundation trying to assist Albertans in that regard would have been a better use of funds.

  3. "The outcome of electing [a party other than the PCs] is fairly uniform. What would undoubtedly occur is the most massive evacuation of economic prosperity this province has ever seen."

    Based on what?

  4. "The Anonymous One"January 15, 2008

    Based on the fact we don't want to be here when the economy is destroyed. I've lived in a province where the NDP and liberals wrecked the economy - don't want to do that again.

  5. Blake, you're arguments are usually pretty well-reasoned (even if I don't agree with them), but I second the questioning of your argument that Alberta would be economically devastated by a change in government.

    The Liberals' policies are painfully cautious and Kevin Taft does have a Ph.D in Business. If a high school drop-out/plagiarist like Klein can run Alberta for 14 years without economic devastation, than I'm pretty sure a monkey could..

    I would challenge you to end your reliance on rhetoric when engaging the Liberals and actually look at their policies and explain why you think they would lead to "the most massive evacuation of economic prosperity this province has ever seen."

  6. RE: Liberal policies. Talk is cheap... the Alberta Liberals say as much when criticizing the PC government. Take a look at the people manning the Opposition benches and read their comments in Hansard and see if you get a sense of a business mentality from the likes of Hugh MacDonald, Harry Chase, David Swann and others.

  7. Take a look at the people manning the Government benches and read their comments in Hansard and see if you get a sense of a business mentality from the likes of Ray Danyluk, Lyle Oberg, Luke Ouellette and others.

  8. Don't forget Tony Abbott. Or does he not count any more? I think anonymous at 12:55 pm, is vastly over-estimating the role played by most individual MLAs (Ministers) in policy development.

  9. I know the point has been raised above, but I have to chime in: on what could you possibly base the very outrageous "guarantee" that the election of a Liberal government would result in "some pretty spectacular job losses?"

    Statements like that seem to have a lot more to do with rhetoric and ideology than fact...

  10. You may also want to have a look at how union dollars are donated from the groups running the ads. The NDs and the Libs are in deep with those folks. That is fine I suppose, everybody has thier supporters but let's not be fooled thinking that these Union folks are doing this for a non-partisan reason as they have suggested in the past.

  11. Further to anon 1:15PM's comment, if the trade union leaders (let's not confuse them with members), have "millions of dollars" they are willing to spend to throw out the current government, then:

    (a) things are not all that bad for the trades these days, monetarily speaking, and

    (b) they should at least have the guts to speak about what is the burr in their saddle - i.e. labour laws relating to Ft. McMurray. If they want a system whereby one trade union (out of the 25 recognized groups) can hold an operator hostage, then come out and say it. The current system says if 17 or more of the 25 union groups are in agreement on a new contract, the minority cannot strike.

    One more thing. If they truly have "millions of dollars to spend" then we should be unsettled, as they would likely be spending more than ANY of the political parties on the election... and spending it with much less oversight.

  12. or accountabilty/credibility.