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.