Thursday, February 28, 2008
As part of his ongoing assertion that democracy doesn't really exist in Alberta (mainly because his party never wins), Taft suggests that a travelling roadshow of all 83 MLAs will help reconnect Albertans with their government.
The idea of bringing government closer to the people is a noble one, i'll admit. But we don't need to keep reaching into what the Liberals seem to believe is an endless pit of money to do it.
The Legislative Assembly of Alberta entails some pretty pricey operations. Moving 83 MLAs, their support staffs, all of the necessary parliamentary clerks, etc. will be a massive undertaking both logistically and financially.
What's even more puzzling is that, in the Journal story, Taft has a quote that explains why this is unnecessary when he talks about the "age of instant communications and conventions attended by hundreds".
The fact that the province is more connected than ever means we need to do a better job of making it easier for Albertans to plug in to what's happening in the Capital. Better and more user-friendly access to Legislative proceedings and a dedicated communications budget for MLAs to communicate with constituents (like Ottawa has) are just a few improvements that would be much cheaper and far more effective than a travelling legislature.
If we still want to get MLAs out from under the dome (again, a noble idea), why not have the newly-formed all-party committees take their meetings around the province? This again has far fewer budgetary concerns attached and would allow communities to hear more focused proceedings about issues that are more relevant to their area.
Personally, I think this proposal is entirely politically motivated. Taft made the announcement in Lethbridge and went to great lengths to assert that Lethbridge would be the first stop on the roadshow. This strikes me as nothing more than an attempt (and a weak one, at that) to try and shore up support to hang on to a Liberal seat that's in jeopardy.
In other news...
Brian Mason has brought in former BC Premier Dave Barrett to trumpet the idea of Public Auto Insurance. If having the most disastrous BC Premier in modern history as its spokesperson doesn't convince you that this is a bad policy move, I don't know what will.
Speaking of the NDP, the Liberals have finally taken their lead and spent some of their debt on TV ads. They miss the mark, though.
If hearing Kevin Taft speak hasn't motivated Albertans to Liberal yet, what makes them think that more of the same will change people's minds? They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
And finally (and most importantly), tomorrow is it.
After nearly two years of my life in British Columbia, I am finally returning home to my motherland, Alberta.
I said when I left that living in BC would mean my identity would be much less about where i'm from.
I was wrong.
I have been blessed with opportunities that took me to every corner of our great province. No matter where I was, be it in my hometown or a place I was visiting for the first time, I ALWAYS felt at home in Alberta. I have learned that those feelings, at least in my case, don't (and will never) change.
We live in a great country and i'm glad that i've had the opportunity to spend some time living in a different part of it. I will look back on my time on the coast with fondness for the people I have met and the things I have learned.
The most important thing I have learned, though, is about home.
My home is 661,848 square kilometers of mountains and prairies, of forests, rivers and lakes, of proud communities big and small, and of the kindest, hardest working people one could ever hope to meet. She is beautiful in every sense of the word.
And I can't wait to see her again tomorrow.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Take a pill.
The week started with this gem, written with all of the skillful prose of a smarmy 10 year old. All that was missing was a picture of Tougas sticking out his tongue in defiance. (Kudos to the Journal's Joel Kom for picking up on it)
Today we see another over-the-top piece from the Alberta Liberal Comm Shop and Trudeau Worship Centre on 124th Street.
After three and a half weeks of making absolutely zero impression on Albertans, the Liberals are coming back to the horse they tried to beat to death a few weeks ago... Returning Officers.
The object of their ire is Edmonton Castle Downs Returning Officer Linda Brown. Mrs. Brown formerly worked for Castle Downs incumbent MLA Thomas Lukaszuk, that's what seems to have their knickers in a knot. Her situation is no different than any of the others that the Liberals have complained about, yet they're giving it extra special attention. Partly because they lost Castle Downs by 3 votes (at the hands of a JUDGE, by the way, not a Returning Officer)... and partly because they're running out of ideas on how to fool people into voting for them.
What is truly incredible in all of this is the absolutely INSULTING letter they sent to Alberta's Chief Returning Officer, Lorne Gibson.
In their letter, they quote several pieces of legislation to remind him that he has a duty to ensure the fairness and impartiality of the 2008 Election.
Seriously... do they honestly believe that Alberta's CHIEF ELECTORAL OFFICER is unaware of his duties DURING AN ELECTION???
The letter is full of typical Liberal arrogance and completely incredulous that anybody wouldn't see things their way. Albertans are used to this from Kevin Taft and the Alberta Liberal Party, but when people like the Chief Electoral Officer are being talked down to in such a manner it really does show how low Liberals will sink.
Calling for outside assistance to Elections Alberta suggests that the Liberals honestly believe that democracy in Alberta is akin to a third world election that requires UN supervision. Albertans know better than that, which is why they've largely ignored the huffing and puffing from the Liberals on this issue (and pretty much everything else they've said).
The related item on the Liberal website mentions that it was a Sun Media story that brought to light Mrs. Brown's appointment. I'm not entirely certain how, over 3 weeks into the campaign, this is news. Nonetheless, I suppose it'll sell newspapers.
What I love, though, is that the Liberals seemed to overlook part of the story, namely:
"Kibermanis said the Liberals are training their scrutineers to be vigilant, but that he's also met Brown and believes she will do her best to remain impartial."
The weak powers that be in the Liberal war room/phone booth have also forgotten another thing. Chief Electoral Officer Lorne Gibson has also gone through thorough interviews with each and every one of these Returning Officers whose good names are now being dragged through the mud.
While he may not be a fan of the process that chooses those Returning Officers, NOT ONCE has he called into question their ability to perform their duties to the standards that the Liberals so arrogantly remind him are enshrined in law.
The saddest thing about this whole debacle, though, is the effect it may have on future elections. In that same Sun article, Paul Stanway explains that names familiar to the government were leaned on to take on the roles of Returning Officer because of a chronic shortage... nearly 20 vacancies left to be filled as the election was approaching.
After seeing the depths to which the Liberals will sink in dragging those who offer to fulfill these important roles, I think even more Albertans will think twice before offering in the next election.
That's the real disservice to democracy here.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Their union leaders, on the other hand, leave much to be desired.
Third parties can certainly have their place in an election. It is perfectly reasonable for a group with a special interest to highlight said interest before or even during a campaign. The ongoing ad campaign from organized labour, however, goes far beyond that.
The big union ad campaign mentions nothing about wanting to change Alberta's labour laws or improve workplace conditions. Instead, for the first time in Alberta, we are seeing organized labour actively trying to take down a government.
The Merit Contractors Association has been diligently pursuing this issue, and rightly so. Their most recent ad campaign (see below) brings to light the eerie similarities between this campaign and the campaign waged in Ontario against their PC Party and in favour of Dalton McGuinty's Liberals.
Mr. McGuinty thanked his union leader buddies for their support by re-writing Ontario labour laws to make them far more favourable to the big union bosses. As the Merit news release (also below) points out, among McGuinty's changes was the removal of the right to a secret ballot during unionization votes.
I can't help but wonder if Kevin Taft has the same deal cooked up with big labour's leaders here in Alberta? The pieces certainly fit together:
Ontario/U.S.-style attack campaign? CHECK.
Massive increase in union donations to the Liberal Party? CHECK.
Vague Liberal platform committments to update the labour code? CHECK.
So what's your agenda, Kevin? Are you and the Liberals, people who have been screaming from the rafters that democracy is being subverted in Alberta, planning to remove such a basic right as the secret ballot from Alberta workers?
I don't expect a straight answer from Professor Taft, lest he let the cat out of the bag. Nonetheless, Albertans should be very weary of this unholy alliance. Big union leaders and Kevin Taft have an agenda that suits them, rather than the rights of our workforce.
In the meantime, kudos to the crew at Merit for keeping this in the spotlight.
February 27, 2008 - For Immediate Release-
Contractors Group says Union Leaders' Secret Agenda will hurt Albertans
Edmonton- Edmonton-based Merit Contractors Association of Alberta launched a second ad campaign challenging union leaders fronting the “Albertans for Change” coalition to come clean about their secret agenda for Alberta.
Merit’s campaign responds to new attack ads against the Stelmach government from the labour coalition headed up by leaders of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) and the Alberta Building Trades Council (ABTC).
In Edmonton, Stephen Kushner, President of Merit Contractors Association, stated, “For the first time in Alberta’s history, union leaders are aggressively spending mandatory union dues to try to unseat a provincial government with expensive American style attack ads. These ads make no mention of Alberta’s labour laws or workplaces. Merit believes union leaders have a secret hidden agenda that if implemented will not be good for Albertans.”
The Merit ads charge “Albertans for Change” is nothing more than an Albertan version of the “Working Families” special interest organization set up by Ontario union leaders to help Ontario Liberals gain power in 2003 and get re-elected in 2007.
“The payback costs in Ontario were high – especially in the construction industry,” says Kushner. After being elected, Dalton McGuinty’s government rewrote Ontario’s labour laws that, among other things, took away the right of construction workers to have a secret ballot vote on unionization elections.
The Albertans for Change ads say nothing about changing Alberta’s labour laws. However, the legislative proposals of the organizations financing the ads call for similar changes to be made in Alberta. Kushner noted, “This election is similar in tone to recent Ontario elections when labour laws were not debated. Yet, after reading the platforms of both Opposition parties, it’s clear they have bought into the union leaders demands. Albertans should know this information when they cast their ballots on March 3 and not let union leaders tell them how to vote.”
For more information, contact:
Merit Contractors Association
Tel: (780) 455-5999
Merit Contractors Association
Tel: (780) 455-5999
Sunday, February 24, 2008
I find myself thinking a lot about Calgary lately since i'll finally be home in less than a week. I've also been thinking about the situation in Calgary this election.
It has been well-reported that Calgarians are not nearly as firmly in the PC camp as they have been in past elections. It should be noted that what has been under-reported is the big blue locomotive bearing down on Edmonton that the Liberals don't even see coming, but I digress.
Calgary is a special city and Calgarians are a special lot. Given the power that the city has wielded in provincial affairs over the past decade, its understandable that there is some anxiety surrounding the new regime. What isn't understandable, however, is the rationale behind a potential shift in the colour of Calgary's electoral map.
Here, then, is a 10-point list of things I think Calgarians should remember on March 3rd:
10. The Flames and the Stampeders are the only red we need.
9. The PC team in Calgary is far more reflective of our city than any other party. To address your local priorities, you can't ask for better than Shiraz Shariff, Yvonne Fritz, Moe Amery, Manmeet Bhullar, Wayne Cao, Art Johnston, Cindy Ady, Dave Rodney, Heather Forsyth, Jonathan Denis, Ron Stevens, Alison Redford, Sean Chu, Arthur Kent, Ron Liepert, Alana Delong, Lindsay Blackett, Jennifer Diakiw, Leah Lawrence, Kyle Fawcett, Neil Brown, Teresa Woo-Paw and Len Webber.
8. Even the man formerly known as the biggest Liberal in town is now keen on Stelmach.
7. Deny it as they may, the Alberta Liberals are pretty tight with these guys. Think he understands Calgary?
6. Kevin Taft cheers for the Oilers.
5. The PC committments to Calgary are comprehensive, realistic, and properly costed.
4. Don't support the Kyoto wealth transfer scheme? Well they do.
3. The people who write the PC platform can actually do math.
2. Pissed off about royalties? Fine. Think that electing (either intentionally or by default) a bunch of people who want to make it worse will help your cause? I didn't think so.
1. I've just spent 2 years of my life being represented by socialists. I'm not moving back to Calgary only to get the same kind of malarky from people in red suits.
One of the blogs i've been following is the Election Insiders on the Calgary Herald's webpage. They feature periodic (certainly not daily) musings from Tory Rod Love and Liberal Daryl Fridhandler.
I usually read Fridhandler more for entertainment than anything else since he's akin to the old Iraqi Information Minister... you know, "there is no PC lead in the polls, Kevin Taft connects with all Albertans, victory will soon be ours!"... that kinda thing.
Rod Love, on the other hand, I read regularily. Not because I agree with everything he says, either. Oddly enough, I seem to find myself disagreeing with him more than agreeing, particularily around the time when he and former PC campaign manager and MLA Marv Moore were complaining that this campaign lacked excitement... no one who had a hand in the planning and direction of the 2004 campaign can complain about boring, period.
Yesterday, though, Rod had a post that goes after the Edmonton Journal's Paula Simons (think Graham Thomson but with longer hair and glasses) for an absurd piece on the politics at play within the PC Party down in Calgary. And i'm talking ABSURD... like "people who get discounts for regular attendance at Star Trek conventions wouldn't come up with this" kind of absurd.
Anyway, Rod sets the record straight for Paula and any other conspiracy theorist out there in the media or the Liberal war room/phone booth:
Calgary Tories don't hate Ed Stelmach. Our guy lost the leadership race, Eddie won it, fair and square. We're Tories first and foremost, and we're not going to let any long-winded, red-faced, know-it-all, talk-down academic from the U of A roll down Highway 2 and tell everyone that his economic disaster is a better option for our city and our province.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Mason to close: Talks about his four priorities. Appeals for voters not to stay home, but choose his party... a bit Layton "lend me your vote" esque.
Stelmach to close: Talks about a clear choice about who Albertans trust to guide this province. Does an excellent job of outlining what being a Progressive Conservative means. Asks for support for our positive plan.
Hinman to close: Talks about Albertans knowing how to spend their money better than government does. Relying heavily on notes. Talks about the WRA being the common-sense alternative.
Taft to close: Talks about a government like its people. Shoots at the 37 year reign. Wants to make history and do the job right. Ends with cheezy line about wanting to me you if you see him in the streets. Sounds like he wants to sell you a KevCo 2-in-1 potato peeler and lint brush.
I'll be back with full reflection later this evening... dinner calls.
Thanks for reading!
Open forum on Auto Insurance.
Taft gets in and accuses the NDP and the PCs (and Alliance) of being ideological. This is the most duplicitous answer of the entire night. Kevin Taft is standing here and lying to Albertans when he says his party wants a review and is only interested in what the consumers want. They've been pimping it in the Legislature for years. I've blogged about this before.
I've also blogged about how free-market governments can't get rid of public auto insurance... a post that Brian Mason obviously missed.
I'll admit that I completely missed Stelmach and Hinman's answers on this. I was too busy yelling at the television.
Closing remarks (and dinner) up next!
Graham asks Ed a question on Day Care.
Ed rehashes the previously-announced plans to deal with the issue.
Taft also calls this a crisis. Suggests that day care workers are underpaid (agreed), wants to supplement wages (Janis Tarchuk has already started down this path).
Mason is back on the notes again, its odd. He's talking about a Quebec-esque model of cheap daycare. Not sure that'll work here.
Hinman sounds like he's using talking points from the federal Choice-in-Childcare program.
Open floor now, and Taft jumps in first.
Wants to bring more people into the profession through a combination of tax credits, loan forgiveness.
Mason says that's great, but we also need to address the affordability issue when it comes to daycare.
Stelmach makes a good point about the child care tax benefit, gives props to the Feds. Talks about the action taken to address the labour shortage and the aforementioned action to close the salary gap.
Hinman is big on the social conservative line about not talking children out of the home for daycare. Doesn't want to break up families, somehow brings seniors into this.
Commercial again. Its almost over. Good thing too, dinner's cooking upstairs and i'm starting to come across as a social recluse ;)
Barb's question for Brian Mason about those Albertans who are living "on the edge".
A taylor-made question for Mason that's allowing him to attack us on housing, utility deregulation... shoots at Taft on the Natural Gas rebate.
Hinman talks about some good ideas on tax policy (income splitting, raise the basic exemption).
Taft wants to eliminate health premiums immediately, cut property tax for Seniors, re-regulate utilities, loses his place towards the end.
Ed's back on the speaking points. Nothing sexy here, but it covers facts and the plan.
Mason goes after the 10 year plan to end homelessness. Apparently we should be able to do it in one year. Maybe he should talk to the group in Calgary who wrote the same kind of plan.
Ed shoots back against rent controls and affirms that rent control does nothing to build new affordable housing.
Hinman takes the ideological bend and calls the rent relief program a gift, prefers to reduce taxes on Albertans.
Taft talks about economic disparity in Calgary, a good point. Wants to improve wages... but how? Moves into the idea of education as an enabler... props for stealing a good Obama line.
Ed talking about inflation-proofing the basic tax exemption.
Again back on rent control between Ed and Brian to finish.
Nirmala asks a question about the infrastructure woes and how much they'll spend on it.
Hinman suggests a 10 year plan. Apparently he hasn't read the 20 year Capital Plan.
Ed trots out said plan a la Stockwell again. You can tell this is an area that he understands.
Mason was reading a bit more from his notes than usual at first, he's back off now. Talks about the need to address the infrastructure defecit.
Taft says this gov't isn't short of cash. Wants a long term plan and multi-year funding. Come on over, Kev ;)
Open floor. Hinman goes back to the royalty report, trying to capitalize on voters who think the hike was too much. Suggests that we need to keep the economy booming so we can fund infrastructure.
Ed says infrastructure is an economy enabler. Another line I like. Talks about the ring roads in Edmonton and Calgary (although Calgary needs to go faster). He keeps pulling facts out of his head in a way that Ralph would NEVER have been able to.
Taft continues to blame the oilsands for our woes. At least he gets the terminology right.
Mason takes the shot at P3s that i've been waiting for.
Ed shoots back about Mason's ability to predict the past.
Hinman attacks the province's debt-elimination, oddly.
Taft says we have the money and isn't afraid to open the chequebook.
Commercial break. Thank God.
Kim has a question for Ed about the job losses he claims will occur under other parties' environmental plans.
Starts off talking about the details of our plan and why hard caps are a bad idea. Doesn't directly answer the question, unfortunately.
Mason talks about wind power (good), California emissions standards (hard to do in Alberta), speaks longingly of the only NDP province left in Canada.
Taft talks about getting serious on the environment about hard caps and other legislation. Wants to work with industry to try and save jobs. I won't be holding my breath.
Hinman is against hard caps, but uses the term "tarsands". Shame.
Open floor, Hinman keeps going on about working with the feds with some of the money we send them in royalties in the first place.
Taft channels Al Gore and says climate change is bearing down on us like a locomotive, suggesting we may get mowed down.
Mason is gunning for Taft on his hard cap plan. Notes that the Liberals spoke against the NDP on hard caps in the Legislature.
Taft and Mason are now going at it full bore. So much for ignoring the NDP. I also enjoy Taft's defence of the Journal.
Ed talks about what we've been doing while the opposition argues. Ed's coming back to the initial question and attacks the Liberal plan. Taft thinks he's right, Ed disagrees and disputes his figures suggesting it won't be a big deal.
Thomson asks about slowing down the oilsands.
Taft is saying yes, he'd slow it down. Talks about managing the speed of growth before we derail the economy. Looking forward to Ed's reaction.
Mason calls it the tarsands. You know where he REALLY stands on it given that terminology.
Hinman talks about encouraging new technologies, reads from notes about some of them. Continue development in a responsible manner.
Ed is going after Chretien's line (which I blogged about a few weeks ago :) ) about sharing the wealth, says he'll make sure our resource rights aren't being intruded on.
Open floor now, Mason asks a pointed question to Ed on what his leadership will be. Ed continues to list the accomplishments.
Taft addresses issues that we're facing as a result of resource exploration, keeps relying on the "no plan" line.
Hinman calls this an early election and suggests the PCs have damaged the economy and our reputation... suggests he'd listen more to industry.
Ed talks about all the good news we've seen since the royalty regime, so much for panic.
Brian's back on about a lack of consideration for Albertans.
Ed says Alberta is a beacon of hope and a beacon of prosperity. Its a good line, I wish he'd have trotted it out earlier.
Barb Higgins wants to know why the Leaders aren't connecting with Albertans.
Hinman enjoys the chance to meet Albertans.
Taft is up, not sounding bad at all this time. The claws come out again, a la Joe Clark. Still, this has been his best answer thus far... although the same can be delivered by the Premier (Charisma doesn't solve problems).
Stelmach lists accomplishments, its in line with Taft's answer.
Mason says his wife finds him charismatic, i'd agree. Mason's got the best answer on this one thus far.
Open floor now.
Taft starts talking about his team of candidates (that would be 1 short of a full slate). His speaking style seems to be channeling some cut-rate televangelist.
Mason has a good soundbyte on leadership in energy.
Stelmach is talking about thoughtful, pragmatic leadership to build a plan. Brings up royalties again, talks about being decisive.
Hinman is on a bit of a rhetorical ramble here, not much substance on this one.
I notice a plug from Daveberta, suggest you head on over and check his out too. Somewhere between us you'll find balance ;)
And we're back.
Question from Kim for Taft on healthcare.
Is there a crisis?
Yes, apparently. Brings in personal story. Shots at horse racing (psst... Ralph's gone, Kev). Points his finger a bit.
Hinman talks about innovation and efficiency and the money following the patient, looking at healthcare consumers like customers.
Committed to public health system. Talks about building the system up, pulling all kinds of facts and committments out. He knows the plan.
Mason talks about training of Doctors and Nurses too, this is obviously something on everybody's minds. Good soundbytes from Mason.
Taft lists off all the places where he won't win seats. He's attacking Ed on Ralph's record again. Brian's on about bulk-buying of pharmaceuticals. Isn't big on this gov't being re-elected.
Hinman agrees with the "drug dealing", wants to encourage innovation as well. Talking about Lethbridge specifically... wonder if he's using this to campaign close to home.
Ed's on talking about the bulk-buying that's going on not just with Alberta, but BC and Saskatchewan.
Kevin hits the panic button and says that people are dying.
Apparently we stole the bulk-buying idea from the NDP. You're welcome, I guess.
Stelmach explains to Thomson that he can be an agent of change. Waves the 2o year plan around a la Stockwell Day, but makes his point.
Mason continues attacking both parties.
Taft needs to stop using his hands, he looks like a doofus. Tells us nothing about WHAT he'll change, just that we need it.
Hinman can teach Taft a lesson or two about hand usage, but is better than his opening statement.
70's socialist policies... EXACTLY. Ed nails it on the head and is ready to go. Brian keeps nagging on Liberals too.
Ed is now letting the opposition fight with each other. Socialists on both sides is the line, he's right.
Ed is looking great here, isn't letting the other guys faze him at all.
Brian back on the floor, going on royalties and supposed government secrecy. Ed's happy to answer.
Free debate one ends. Ed and Brian do well, Taft is weak.
Brian goes first, tries to paint the Liberals and Tories with the same brush.
Premier Stelmach on now. He's confident and not stumbling at all. Lists the basic priorities of the party. Good start.
Hinman starts off going after Stelmach. Is breathing kinda heavy. Sticking very heavily to the notes.
Taft is trying to be folksy. Apparently we deliver less than other provinces... that's a load of malarky. He's talking about grabbing something... maybe his shorts are wedged uncomfortably on his person.
The debate begins. Kevin Taft is on the far left, giving us a goofy grin. The Premier looks relaxed and confident, as does Brian Mason.
Thomson is also on the far left. How entertaining.
Format looks good.
Here we go.
PC Leader ED STELMACH
Pros: Wasn't knocked off message by opposition attacks. Stayed out of the way when Brian Mason and Kevin Taft went at each other. Was sound thoroughly competent by quoting a myriad of facts and figures.
Cons: Didn't come across as a lively or dynamic speaker. Failed to answer the question about specific figures surrounding job losses resulting from Liberal and NDP platform promises on the environment. Waved around a copy of the 20 year Capital Plan... Stock taught us that lesson already.
Liberal Leader KEVIN TAFT
Pros: Retained his composure almost through the entire debate. Stayed on message and avoided getting too specific, instead choosing to focus on broad generalities. Delivers an excellent answer on the question about charisma.
Cons: Looked awkward at times using wild hand gestures, deliberately slow speech, and the goofy grin... seemed like he was trying to overcompensate for the aforementioned lack of charisma. Caught sucked into debating Brian Mason toe-to-toe.
NDP Leader BRIAN MASON
Pros: Delivered the standard NDP soundbytes like FedEx on Christmas Eve. Remained aggressive, but never over the top. Managed to lure Kevin Taft into debating him.
Cons: Used notes a bit too often. Refers to oilsands as "tarsands". Took too long to attack P3s.
Wildrose Alliance Leader PAUL HINMAN
Pros: Understood that this was a chance to introduce himself to Albertans and treated it as such. Clearly placed his party to the right of the PCs in an attempt to woo conservative voters. Repeated the main message of lower taxes and less government.
Cons: Was the least confident public speaker of the 4 on stage. Referred to notes too often, failing to look up at the camera. Went on a couple of off-topic, ideological tangents.
Its hard to pick winners and losers, but there are some key elements that the 4 leaders can be measured against.
ED STELMACH needed to show that he has a clear plan moving forward, distance himself from Ralph Klein's style of leadership, and, if not charismatic, at least not come across as socially awkward. He SUCCEEDED on all fronts.
KEVIN TAFT needed to present Albertans with less rhetoric and more detail of his plan for the province, particularily after calls for a costing of his platform. He also needed to show himself to be more confident than Stelmach and avoid being dragged down into one-on-one debate with Brian Mason. Although not noticeably worse than Stelmach, he clearly FAILED on the other two fronts.
BRIAN MASON needed to elevate the NDP to the same level as the Liberals as an option for voters by getting Kevin Taft to debate him one-on-one. He also needed to talk about some specifics of the NDP plan and keep the pressure up on Stelmach. He managed to SUCCEED on all fronts.
PAUL HINMAN needed to give Albertans a good first impression of this new party by outlining the basic guiding principles of his party. He also needed to present himself in a very competent manner to put potential WRA voters at ease. On the first front, he SUCCEEDED. On the second front, though, he still has some work to do and, thus, FAILED.
Overall, I think Premier Stelmach and Brian Mason should be happy with their performance tonight. Paul Hinman, although rough around the edges, probably did as good as someone who leads a 1-month old party can be expected to do. Kevin Taft, however, missed the big chance he had to score a victory with Alberta voters.
... until I saw this.
The Premier describes the Liberal plan as "absurd". I couldn't agree more.
In a truly stunning display of ineptitude, Professor Taft and his crew have presented a supposed costing of their platform that accounts for LESS THAN A THIRD of their platform committments. Apparently, only telling Albertans how they're going to pay for SOME of their plans should be perfectly acceptable.
Equally absurd is the illusion that the Liberals will be able to squeeze $1.6 billion more out of government coffers by reallocating funds that are currently being spent. They contend that the Government of Alberta is rampant with waste and reallocating $1.6 billion should be a piece of cake. Of course they don't give us anywhere near $1.6 billion dollars in examples.
The Liberals still refuse to offer Albertans a fully-costed platform, instead choosing do a half-ass job of trying to paint themselves as a credible, fiscally responsible alternative. I look forward to the laughs that the words "Liberal" and "fiscally responsible" being used in the same sentence will ellicit across Alberta.
The half-ass job of painting themselves as credible and fiscally responsible, by the way, is again shown in a rambling pdf document from the Liberal website that seems to offer more in the way of excuses than an actual plan. I intend to debunk this in detail tomorrow, but one piece that did catch my eye was where they explain that their position on funding for public transit is to keep doing what Ed Stelmach and the PC Party have already started.
More on this, as I say, tomorrow.
For tonight, all I can do is shake my head and wonder if the Liberal campaign will get anymore absurd.
I'll be starting at about 6:15pm Mountain Time (that's 5:15pm here on Gordo's Carbon Tax Time) and updating regularily once the debate starts.
And, for the record, I'm not betting on anyone having a "you had an option" moment.
Monday, February 18, 2008
I'll be the first to admit that the PC campaign certainly hasn't lit many voters on fire yet, but nor has anyone else's. What we've seen coming from the Premier over the last two weeks is pretty well what I expected: a man who understands the importance of a plan talking about sensible and realistic goals for things like the environment, for improving quality of life, and for cracking down on crime.
Meanwhile, Kevin Taft gets little or no traction from the public when he talks about his party's plans to put thousands of Albertans out of work or to introduce irreversible socialist insurance.
And even though they claim to be setting the agenda, I think they know that what they propose is not what Albertans are looking for. Given this, we've seen them descend down the low road of sensationalist mud-slinging.
You'd think that it wouldn't matter much, though. If no one was paying attention when they were talking about actual issues, who'll listen as they wind down the path of irrelevance?
Enter the Alberta media.
Don't get me wrong, i'm not painting them all with the same brush... but a lot of them don't have much understanding of the Alberta electorate and mudslinging makes the job of selling "news" so much easier. When it comes to "news", facts don't sell.
Take the supposed controversy surrounding Alberta's local Returning Officers. Nevermind the fact that not a single one of them have been accused of any impropriety. Nevermind that, if fully quoted in the media, Albertans would know that Chief Electoral Officer Lorne Gibson has interviewed each and every one of those returning officers, was aware of their backgrounds, and is pleased with the work they're doing. Facts don't sell.
There's also the attack from the big labour bosses on Ed Stelmach and the PCs, a relatively new phenomenon in Alberta. Nevermind that most union members like being employed and, in Alberta, don't follow the traditional labour voting patterns. Nevermind that those same union members have no say in their dues being used to attack a party that many (if not most) of them support. Nevermind that Kevin Taft and the Liberals propose to enact legislation that will boost the power of the big union bosses but strip rights from average workers. And nevermind that, coincidentially, organized labour donated almost 3 times as much to the Alberta Liberals as they did to the NDP in the 2004 election. Facts don't sell.
We could also take a look at the media's visits to my hometown of Fort McMurray last week. The Global/Journal/Herald election bus rolled north last Monday (4 days before the Premier was visiting) and filed a series of largely irrelevant stories that drew the ire of some local residents. Later that week, the media van followed the Premier's bus north to the Oilsands City... well except the CBC, of course, who chose to spend our tax dollars flying up and then complained about the weather and their accomodations. Again, the stories filed from Fort McMurray were pretty irrelevant and didn't seem to put much effort into talking to the incumbent MLA or members of his rather sizeable campaign team. They did manage to come up with an anonymous quote supposedly coming from a bureaucrat in Guy's department, though. To be fair, the only candidate who got any face time in the media (Liberal Ross Jacobs) didn't exactly get exposure on the important things like his background or what his issues are. All in all it was the standard drive-by reportage that McMurrayites have come to expect from the out-of-town media. As usual, facts don't sell.
Even at the beginning of the campaign, we got a taste that this was probably coming. On the very day the writ was dropped, a couple of Liberal candidates told a reporter that their Tory opponents (both incumbents) had suggested to them that "This is not your time [in politics]. The men added that the women's time might be better spent at home with their school-aged children." I brought it up on this very blog and identified the semi-anonymous Liberals as Aman Gill and Nancy Cavanaugh (they're the only two Liberal women in Edmonton running against PC incumbents). No follow up on the story, of course. Perhaps a bit of friendly help in tarnishing the reputations of Messrs. Zwozdesky and Hancock, or Tories in general? I know its completely unrealistic to think that the Mother Corp. would be colluding with Liberals. And yet no pursuit of this supposed story. I suspect the facts were more likely to embarass the Liberal accusers, but facts don't sell.
In the absence of substantive debate (and even sometimes in spite of it), it is sensationalist drivel that the media will report and they're lapping up everything coming from the Liberals like thirsty dogs in front of a bowl of water.
So where am I going with all this?
I'm saying that, although the media complains that this election has been pretty boring, I think they probably know why.
They probably know that Albertans are looking for change, but not radical and irresponsible change.
They probably know that Albertans don't appreciate being talked to like idiots who should listen to what the President of the Faculty Club has to say.
They probably know that Albertans don't believe, nor do they appreciate the insinuation, that the democracy that they have participated in all their lives is akin to a third-world banana republic.
Those are facts. But, as we know, facts don't sell.
There is a fact that will sell, though:
Albertans know that the team of 83 people running for PC Alberta is the most diverse and most experienced group to lead this province forward.
From small business owners to municipal leaders, from young professionals to retired educators, from internationally renowned human rights advocates to labour leaders, from doctors to family farmers to environmental activists, PC candidates deliver the most broad and accurate reflection of everyday Alberta.
They aren't afraid to back out of a debate on short hours notice like Liberal Craig "Changed My Mind" Cheffins in Calgary Elbow.
And they damn sure aren't going to run in a constituency they've never even been to, unlike the recently withdrawn Liberal nominee for Peace River.
Sensationalist non-stories aside, most Albertans still believe the PCs present the best option to represent their local and provincial interests in the Legislature.
It may not be a fact that sells with the media or the Liberals, but its a fact that I think most Albertans will be sold on come March 3rd.
Rick is absolutely correct when he talks about the follies of the reforms introduced a few years back. They were poorly concocted half-measures that failed to deliver the changes necessary to the system.
Where he falls off the rails, though, is when he stands up for the alternative though his assertions that other jurisdictions with pro-business governments haven't scrapped their public auto insurance systems.
Saskatchewan recently came to their senses and turfed the NDP. Rick gave a quick call to Ian Hanna, a high ranking official in the office of Premier Brad Wall. Mr. Hanna explains to Rick that the SaskParty had promised not to privatize Saskatchewan's plethora of socialist-born Crown Corporations because Saskatchewan residents are overwhelmingly in favour of them. Why this comes as a surprise to Rick Bell is beyond me.
Saskatchewan is the cradle of Canadian socialism and their crown corporations are a sacred cow... not for any sound reason, but simply because they have always been there. Talking about privatizing crown corporations in Saskatchewan tends to breed the same kind of overheated rhetoric we see on the national stage whenever the talk of private medicine arises.
Brad Wall and the SaskParty aren't saying they don't want to get rid of the crown corporations (including Saskatchewan Government Insurance), they're saying that doing so would be akin to knocking down all the statues of Tommy Douglas.
In British Columbia, ICBC was brought in under NDP Premier Dave Barrett in 1973. When ICBC was introduced, the private insurace companies lost millions of dollars. Upon the Social Credit Party's return to power, it was expected that ICBC would be dismantled and BC would see a return to private auto insurance.
Fast forward to 1975 and consider this from the point of view of those private insurers. Your collosal financial losses caused by an NDP government legislating you out of business are still fresh in your mind. A new Social Credit government is hoping to return the system to the way it was and allow you back into business. The short-term prospects are good, but it has now been proven that BC is prepared to elect an NDP government... one that would undoubtedly shut you down and repeat those financial losses that you suffered through only a few years ago. Any sane businessperson in that situation would be saying "thanks, but no thanks".
The absolute best piece I have come across on the insurance issue thus far comes courtesy of a recent edition of the Edmonton Journal's Lej Out Loud podcast. Provincial affairs writer Archie McLean interviewed former MLA and soon-to-be MP Brent Rathgeber, a pivotal figure in the insurance debates from a few years back. I was on Brent's side of the debate then and am pleased that his arguments against the reforms were not in vain.
One more brief note on this subject.
I have been taken to task by a few Liberals who say that the Alberta Liberal position is to study public auto insurance, but not necessarily to adopt it. If there's anyone out there who buys that, I've got some oceanfront property in Oyen to sell them.
About a week ago, Kevin Taft and the Liberals changed their messaging to talk about "studying" public auto insurance. Before that, stretching all the way back to the initial debates on the issue back in 2003, the Liberal line was all about "introducing" public auto insurance. A quick search through Alberta Hansard or cached webpages on Google confirms this.
So the new Liberal position on "studying" as opposed to "introducing" public auto insurance indicates one of two things:
1. They've looked more closely at public insurance and are seeing that its not the golden solution they once thought it was.
2. They're lying.
Either way, they shouldn't be taken seriously.
The most telling indication that the tides are turning in Edmonton, though, landed in my inbox about 20 minutes ago when I was emailed the results of a poll done in Kevin Taft's own constituency of Edmonton Riverview.
The ever-diligent Ken Chapman also has these results posted on his blog, but they're worth repeating.
A simple, 3 question poll was conducted among 1037 residents of Edmonton Riverview between February 18th and 19th. The poll was conducted by Neil Mackie of Ivrnet Technology Services.
The questions and their responses are as follows:
Q1. Are you planning to vote in the next provincial election?
Q2. Which of the following issues will be most important in helping you decide your vote?
Affordable Housing 15%
Crime and Justice 18%
Health Care 41%
Q3. If you were to vote today, which of the following parties would you vote for?
Green Party 5%
Alberta Liberal 35%
Wild Rose Alliance Party 5%
Progressive Conservative 28%
These results are, frankly, stunning.
Kevin Taft won Edmonton Riverview in 2004 with 65% of the vote compared to 22% for his PC rival.
In the 3 1/2 years since, the residents of Edmonton Riverview have seen their MLA on TV, on the radio, and in the newspapers almost daily in his capacity as Leader of the Official Opposition. This has provided them an unusual ability to review the performance of their MLA. The results are not flattering.
Based on this poll, nearly HALF of those may have voted for Kevin Taft in 2004 are reconsidering that choice.
Of course, undecided isn't an option on the ballot and in order to capitalize on the voters who have yet to make a firm decision, candidates will have to work hard to address the issues that Riverview residents are most concerned with. It is clear, though, that Riverview residents are no longer solidly behind an MLA who has been more concerned with scandal fabrication and selling his books than with the real everyday concerns of his constituency.
So for those who are no longer sold on Kevin Taft's representation, where will they turn?
Enter Wendy Andrews.
I have known Wendy through PC Alberta for a number of years. She has been an active member of our party both in Edmonton Riverview and on a broader pan-provincial level. Whether it be at a policy conference, a chance meeting in an airport, or through her blog, I always enjoy hearing Wendy's perspectives on the issues of the day. She is, indeed, an exceptional mind within the PC Party.
What impresses me most about Wendy is her determination in what may otherwise be viewed as the face of adversity. Often in political parties, the local party associations in areas held by Leaders of other parties tend to be rather lethargic, inactive groups who exist more for a presence rather than to affect real change. Not pcRiverview.
Under Wendy's leadership, the PC Association in Edmonton Riverview has been a real player in developing policy within our party. They have also been steadfast in communicating with Riverview residents to find out what their issues are and how they can best be addressed. It would seem this work is paying off.
Like I say, there is a lot of work to be done. The poll still puts us 7 points behind Kevin with less than two weeks to go. Given that Wendy has already grown the PC brand by 6 points and has seen her opponent drop 30 points from the last election, this is very much within reach.
I, for one, would find it exceptionally amusing if Kevin Taft's overtures to Calgary end up costing him his own seat.
and another public location (unidentfied by the photographer)
Saturday, February 16, 2008
That's still the case, but I thought I would share something a friend sent to me that sums up my thoughts from the last few days perfectly:
Have a nice weekend everyone!
Thursday, February 14, 2008
-I know you all visit for provincial news, but it seems a federal election will soon be upon us and I just (literally as I was putting this post together) received some excellent news on that front from Central Alberta.
Many of you many know that Red Deer MP Bob Mills has chosen not to seek re-election. Given that Red Deer has a pretty solid history of conservatism, you know there will be some fine candidates stepping up to the plate.
With that in mind, meet Earl Dreeshen.
I first got to know the Dreeshen family during my time as President of the PC Youth of Alberta. Although I don't get to see them often (mainly conventions), I can tell you that this man is a solid example of everything we should be looking for in a Member of Parliament. He is a dedicated servant to his community and, together with his wonderful wife Judy, has raised two exceptional young Albertans.
If I lived in the Red Deer riding, I can tell you that I would be 100% devoted to seeing Earl succeed in his quest to secure the Conservative nomination. Since I don't, the best I can do is encourage any of you who may live in the federal riding of Red Deer to support Earl. Visit his website, become a supporter on Facebook, buy a Conservative membership and, most importantly, vote for Earl Dreeshen as your next MP. You won't regret it.
-Back on the provincial scene, the Premier came out and announced some important measures to tackle crime in our province. I think this is an underlying issue that may not be making headlines in this campaign, but is something that is definetly on people's minds. I expect reaction to be very positive.
-Don Braid has a piece in today's Herald about Kevin Taft's Big Cities Charter for Edmonton and Calgary falling on deaf ears. It seems that poor Kev can't get a break, doesn't it?
In Calgary, the one man that the Liberals thought they could count on is pretty firmly in the blue camp this election. Up in Edmonton, reaction has been relatively mute.
Perhaps its because their proposed charter doesn't really address the unique circumstances that Edmonton faces with its many surrounding municipalities. I think we'd all hate to see some of this important work made redundant by taking partners away from the table, rather than bringing them together.
-I like Todd Babiak. I find that I usually disagree with him on everything, but he comes across as less smug than his colleague Graham "this IS a smile" Thomson. Perhaps its because Todd DOES smile in his photo... who knows?
Poor Todd, though, isn't on much of a roll these days. He's on the CanWest Election Bus this week and the first stop was Fort McMurray. His piece from my hometown seemed a little disjointed and certainly raised the ire of at least one proud McMurrayite.
Today he blogs about his disbelief that, despite the concerns he's heard from Alberta voters, Albertans are still pretty solid behind the PC Party. This kind of simplistic view shows a lack of understanding of what compels Albertans to vote the way they do. It also shows the media's unwillingness to examine what it is about our opposition parties that is failing to attract the attention of voters.
The good news for journalists, though, is that there's still over half the campaign left. Time to check that disbelief at the door and start digging for some real answers.
-Speaking of people who don't seem to understand Albertans, I noticed a new video of Kevin Taft on the front page of the Liberal website.
Apparently the Liberal war room/phone booth have had their fill of Kool Aid and have bought wholeheartedly into the notion that the more Kevin talks, the more people will like him. I think that's ridiculous and look forward to being proven right on E-day, but I digress.
There's a line that Kevin says that I actually had to rewind and listen again to make sure I got it right.
He actually suggests that Alberta has been the "black sheep of confederation".
If he thinks that that kind of attitude, one that is clearly ashamed of our history and lectures us to smarten up, will win him any votes he'll be in for a mighty shock on March 3rd.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
1. MEDIA ACCOUNTABILITY
I said in my first election post that bloggers have a duty to hold the mainstream media to account as well our opponents. Talk about foreshadowing.
The overblown controversy about Returning Officers who have done NOTHING wrong is a prime example of the sensationalist bloodhounds in the media choosing to sell a story rather than take either facts or common decency into account.
Two media outlets specifically draw my ire.
The Edmonton Sun's Jeremy Loome wrote an article that attributes negative comments about outgoing Liberal MLA Maurice Tougas and current Liberal candidate Debbie Cavaliere to the riding's returning officer, Allie Wojtaszek. The comments referenced in the article were in fact made by me on this very blog at the tail end of a post entitled "Taylor crosses the line". The post was written on November 22nd, one day before the comments were quoted on Allie's blog.
The CBC's story in Alberta Votes 2008, though, is even more disturbing. To their credit, the text of their story is factually accurate. What bothers me, though, is that they don't hesitate to post a link to Allie's webpage. This is an invitation from the CBC to any and all to find all about this woman's family, where they live, what her children look like, etc. The photos relevant to the Liberals' character smear are already embedded in the story. A link to her personal website is entirely irrelevant and is an extremely irresponsible use of journalistic freedoms (not to mention our tax dollars).
Journalists aren't like bloggers. They are PAID to report facts and exercise their duties with great caution and responsibility. Sadly, some of them are failing on that front. What's worse is that apathetic viewers and readers may not even realize it.
2. AUTO INSURANCE
Specifically, public auto insurance.
I HATE public auto insurance.
To be fair and honest, I disagree with what the government did with insurance a few years back. I think that tinkering with the system was an overly reactionary measure that prevented what would have been a natural correction in the market.
That being said, I can tell you first hand that public auto insurance is much, MUCH worse than what we have now.
I've been living in BC and had the misfortune of being an ICBC customer for almost 2 years. Let me tell you, Kevin Taft, that people in BC do NOT love their auto insurance system.
Yes, ICBC is cheaper for those who choose to accept only minimum coverage and for young drivers. That is a result of the socialist principles that drive public auto insurance. (And, before I get jumped on for being a blind ideologue, allow me to point out that public auto insurance has been introduced by socialist governments in each province that has the system.)
ICBC, however, is of no benefit for those who have had a lifetime of good driving. ICBC's good driver discount pales in comparison to what private insurers offer to their low-risk customers. My father, whose insurance DOUBLED when he and my mother moved to British Columbia, is a prime example. His grossly inflated premiums are paying to subsidize inexperienced and high-risk drivers who do not have the higher premiums that, in the private system, act as a natural deterrent for bad driving habits.
ICBC is also of no benefit to those of us who understand the value of proper insurance coverage and choose to put more than just the bare minimum on our vehicles. I can again use my father as an example... there is a vehicle in his garage that ICBC refuses to cover for its full value. I cannot fathom the rationale for refusing to cover the full value for someone with a spotless driving record over 40 years. Perhaps the system can't afford too many payouts like that.
I can actually believe that public auto insurers refuse full coverage for expensive vehicles because of the cost of payouts. ICBC is notorious for the excessive bureaucracy and denial or reduction of claims. I have yet to meet anyone here who has had a positive experience with a claim at ICBC.
And yet, Kevin Taft and Brian Mason continue to pimp public auto insurance as the solution to all our insurance woes. They even get Ralph Nader-esque interest groups to back up their assertions. We expect this kind of talk from Brian Mason... after all, public everything is a staple of the NDP. But why is Kevin Taft a proponent of public auto insurance?
My bet is that this is the issue that finally exposes him and his party for the NDP-lite that they are. Although they've managed to convince themselves that they're a reasonable alternative to the PCs, policies like this prove otherwise.
The right thing to do is to follow the Judge's orders and remove the cap on soft-tissue injuries, then re-examine the private insurance system to bring it back in line with other jurisdictions that use the private system. I'm hoping that my party can be convinced to do this.
I also know from experience, though, that the ABSOLUTELY WRONG thing to do is to listen to Kevin Taft and Brian Mason and bring in public auto insurance. It would be a reactionary and, more importantly, an irreversible mistake.
3. CONSTITUENCY PROFILES
Now that the rants are out of the way, I thought I would give kudos to Daveberta and the Enlightened Savage for their ongoing series of constituency profiles.
Of particular interest to me have been Dave's profile on Edmonton Calder and E.S.'s profile on Calgary Currie... Calder because I ran GOTV for the PCs there in 2004 and Currie because I used to work for its former MLA.
The constituency with which I am most familiar, obviously, is Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. I consider myself to be a friend of both the incumbent PC MLA and his Liberal opponent and will be watching this race with great interest. Given the importance of Fort McMurray and the Wood Buffalo region to the provincial economy, i've decided to do a similar style of profile on Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo a little further along in the campaign. Stay tuned.
Monday, February 11, 2008
His latest bone of contention is that 4 of Alberta's 83 Returning Officers have PC activity in their past or are married to a PC volunteer. Freedom of association apparently doesn't apply to tories in Kevin's world.
The job of a Returning Officer is an important one. They require exceptional organizational, problem-solving, and decision-making skills. Moreover, they must remain calm in the face of the hectic campaigns going on around them.
Even though Kevin Taft admits he has absolutely no evidence to suggest that any of his accusees have performed their duties in anything but a highly competent manner, he is still calling for their resignations in his typically petulant, professorial fashion.
Returning Officers must do their duties in an entirely impartial manner, of that we can all be in complete agreement. But to suggest that those who may have a partisan past are unqualified for these positions is short sighted.
Look at Judges, for example. Their positions require total impartiality given the exceptional responsibilities entrusted to them. Yet if you look into a Judge's pre-judicial past, you'll likely find some kind of partisan activity. I think specifically of a good friend of my family, Mr. Justice Adam Germain.
Mr. Germain serves on the Court of Queen's Bench and has a plethora of important and impartial decisions to make every day. I know him to be an exceptional man who holds his responsibilities in the highest moral regard.
As fate would have it, he was also my Liberal MLA from 1993 to 1997. Given this, there is an entire 4 years of Hansard recording his interventions and opinions expressed on a variety of topics in the Alberta Legislature. He was also a candidate for the provincial Liberal leadership and, subsequently, a federal Liberal candidate in 1997. A partisan past indeed.
Surely Mr. Taft would hold Judges to the same standard as mere Returning Officers. Based on Kevin Taft's standards, Mr. Germain would not be fit to hold such a high position requiring impartiality (that is unless Liberals are exempt, but I doubt that).
And yet we see Mr. Justice Germain and countless other members of the bench with similar backgrounds serving our justice system every day. They're there because we recognize that, above their respective histories, they possess exceptional ability to make sound, rational, and impartial decisions in service to the people of Alberta.
It is this high standard upon which I believe our Returning Officers are chosen, rather than Kevin Taft's McCarthy-esque PC witchhunt.
The Premier is right to ignore the Liberal rambling and mud-slinging. It is beneath him and, moreover, a waste of Albertans' time.
Anyway, back to the issues at hand...
Many of us believe that, if they really wanted to be competitive in this election, the Liberals would totally ignore their fellow lefties in the NDP. And, while they claim to be doing so, it appears as though they're more worried about NDP competition than they let on. Kevin Taft is seen to be taking aim at Brian Mason in the media, and the Liberals #1 blogger dedicates an entire post to slamming their supposedly "irrelevant" opposition.
(As an aside while we're on the topic of irrelevant politicians, is anyone out there surprised by this?)
I can understand that the Liberals are worried about the effect the NDP may have on their voters, particularily in their red fortress of Edmonton. The way things are going, though, it may end up being a moot point given that there are serious cracks appearing in Liberal support in the Capital.
Meanwhile today, the Premier showed that he's not about to back down in the face of criticism as he was launching a common-sense green plan to help consumers reduce their energy consumption.
If the protester thought he was going to knock the Premier off message, he was sorely mistaken. Its a taste of Ed Stelmach's ability to stand up for what he believes in, and something I look forward to seeing showcased during the Leader's Debate in a few weeks time.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
Given this, I expect we'll be hearing a lot more about Kevin Taft's ongoing campaign of error.
The CBC's Scott Dippel has an excellent piece in Reporters Notebook (arguably my favourite MSM campaign feature) about the ongoing practice of recalling news releases by the Liberals. These recalls aren't just to deal with typos. In the latest one, they eliminated the immediacy of funding for a new hospital in Medicine Hat and completely removed mention of the police college in Fort McLeod.
My first thought was that maybe they're recalling these releases so that Taft can read them first. Apparently this isn't the case because, in Hinton today, he was completely blindsided at a news conference by a question about a policy on urban aboriginal health centres. This might not be so astounding if the blindside didn't come at a news conference DEDICATED TO ABORIGINAL ISSUES.
What's worse is that, when the Liberals do finally get their story straight, its pretty bad news for Albertans. Liberal Environment Critic and Kyoto champion David Swann has finally costed their proposal for a hard cap on emissions at 1 billion dollars a year. That's billion... with a "b". Naturally, some of us are wondering exactly what the Liberals propose to do for the hundreds of thousands of Albertans whose jobs are in jeopardy under the Liberal plan?
Its becoming painfully clear that, while the Premier and the PC Party are ready and able to campaign on the Stelmach government's record, the Liberals are running on nothing more than a campaign of "the big bad tories have been in power too long and you should all smarten up and vote for us". Even worse, they've clearly taken no consideration on the economic consequences of their shoddy platform.
It seems that, after a rough start by everybody, the media is now on notice that we're ready and willing to fight this election. I think that over the next few weeks this campaign will become a lot more focused on the policies of all the parties. If and when that happens, Kevin Taft and the Liberals should be mighty worried.
Friday, February 8, 2008
It has been correctly pointed out that, in my previous blog life, I listed the BC Liberals under "Teams I like". The BC Liberals, as with the Parti Liberal du Quebec, are slightly different characters. I probably should have made this caveat, but will plead that the omission of clarity was the result of the late hour and my rather stranded nature as highways all over the BC Interior remain closed.
Going into the details about the BC and Quebec Liberal Parties would hardly be of interest to most of you who are here to read my perspective on the Alberta election. Suffice to say, they are both unique coalitions fused out of a common purpose (in BC, to stop the socialists... in Quebec, to stop the separatists). I will point out, though, that these coalitions are beginning to break apart and are again starting to separate Liberals from Conservatives.
Either way, its a moot point because the Liberals in Alberta are hardly a coalition to stop the socialists... some of us argue that they ARE the socialists (or at least pretty close, anyway). This brings me to something else I wanted to address.
I was completely bewildered when I read that a former aide to Preston Manning is supporting his local Liberal candidate in this election. Ron Wood's justification is that the Stelmach crew are spending too much money. While i'll agree that the latest round of funding announcements are not a way for the PCs to endear themselves to hard fiscal hawks, I will challenge anybody who argues against the necessity of these investments.
He goes further, though, and suggests that he believes the Liberals share his fiscally conservative views. Two words:
I could buy that argument if it was coming from him in 1993 and he was speaking of the Decore edition of the Alberta Liberal Party. This, however, is definetly not the same party and Kevin Taft damn sure isn't Laurence Decore.
Taft has been making even wilder promises than the PCs have. What's worse is that he's been making them without any price tags attached. Perhaps Mr. Wood wasn't aware of this since the MSM has essentially chosen to give Taft a free ride when it comes to explaining how he'll pay for his fairy tales (an interesting topic that i'll probably get into later in the campaign, but that is being discussed over at the Enlightened Savage).
At any rate, I think the debate over the fiscal promises of the PCs is fair game. But to suggest that the Liberals are better on this file is absurd.
IN OTHER NEWS
A few quick things I want to mention:
-Congratulations to Daveberta on his impressive trio from the 2007 Canadian Blog Awards. I voted for Dave, particularily in the Best Blogosphere Citizen because of his foresight in buying edstelmach.ca. While I think that the matter should now be put to rest, he certainly raised everyone's awareness about the importance of being on top of the web game politically.
-I was pleased to see that, at today's good news announcement, Premier Stelmach was given some specific program benefits and costs to mention along with the general details. This will be an important practice to continue, especially as the Liberals continue to avoid attaching a price tag to their promises.
-His chest-thumping rhetoric aside, I think Brian Mason has proposed an interesting idea. I'm not adverse to the argument that, since organizations (corporations, unions, whatever) can't vote, they shouldn't be able to influence through political donations. It seems to work reasonably well at the federal level. An important part of the debate, though, would be whether or not public funds would be directed on a per-vote basis to parties as they are federally. Still, kudos to Brian (or is it Bill?) for raising a relevant issue.
-Anyone else wonder how this has gone largely unreported?
Thursday, February 7, 2008
This issue i'm being called out for comment on is the supposedly startling revelation that an order-in-council was passed before the election that would have the new lobbying rules come into effect on April 1st. The proposed changes would see the minimum cooling off period for potential lobbyists increase from 6 months to 1 year. The Liberals, naturally, have raised a holy stink about this.
You may all be surprised to think that this really isn't a big deal. Not because i'm a "tory insider" would stands to benefit, but because I really think that raising a battle cry over a 6 month difference is like splitting hairs.
I do find it interesting that some Liberals balk about former government folks lobbying for private auto insurance and the oil companies. We all know that the Liberals aren't too keen on either of these industries, but do they ever consider that other sectors lobby government? Education, the Arts, and a plethora of other causes find reason to lobby government... gonna go after them too? Of course not. Its more evidence of these Liberal double-standards that clearly identify the sectors that they're going after in this campaign.
Mind you, it may all have been an attempt at a clever diversion from Taft's latest campaign blunder. That's right folks... the Liberal redbook for Alberta is so bad that even the Leader didn't bother reading it.
Speaking of redbooks that aren't worth reading, Jean Chretien was in Edmonton today. He told a crowd at the U of A (including, i'm sure, quite a few friendly provincial Liberals) that Alberta should share more of its wealth with the rest of Canada.
Perhaps Chretien forgets that Alberta already sends more oil revenue to Ottawa than we keep in our own coffers. And perhaps Chretien also forgets that we might not need to be propping up so many other provinces if his government had actually done some proactive things to help supplement and eventually replace aging industries (Ontario, this means you).
When asked, Chretien also said he got along well with former Premier Ralph Klein until "we had a problem on Kyoto". I can only assume that the problem was that his government signed the treaty and then proceeded to do nothing on the file while simultaneously failing to address the ramifications that would have been thrust upon the nation's most successful economy.
Still, Chretien's visit serves as an important reminder for Albertans.
Liberals are Liberals.
They can dress themselves up differently, throw up prefixes on the party name, and ramble on about being separate from their federal counterparts, but they're the same. They share volunteers, donors, and ideas.
Liberals are Liberals, folks. And in recent history, that hasn't been very good for Alberta.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
This morning in Calgary, Taft and Dave Taylor found themselves once again harping on about rent controls. Comrades Taft and Taylor propose a two-year cap on rent hikes of 10% a year, then, as Taylor says, they'd get rid of the program.
So exactly what are they going to do when their program ends and landlords start raising rents again to make up for the 2-year cap?
My personal theory is that after 2 years of a Liberal government (shudder), the demand for housing in Alberta would be drastically lower than it is today. Perhaps the Liberals have started to realize this... but I doubt it.
Seriously though, there are plenty of tools to deal with skyrocketing rents without resorting to such drastic interventionism... particularily when, as the Liberals propose, the interventionist measures are repealed causing the market to undergo an adjustment even more drastic than the current increases.
Moving north, Taft rolled on up to Edmonton this afternoon to talk about items in his Capital City manifesto... er... agenda.
Among his proposals is an item that would bring 500 new faculty members and 2500 new Graduate students to the University of Alberta.
Not a bad idea, admittedly. But, given the Liberal harping about the Premier's proposals to graduate more students in the medical and health science fields, isn't it a bit hypocritical to then go and announce an even bigger boost?
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Shameless theft of federal campaign slogans aside, it was nice to see the Premier start the campaign off on the right track with a major announcement on Health Care.
This announcement builds on the recent announcement of major investments in health sciences research in Alberta. This is clearly a priority for the Premier and our party. Given that Albertans continue to rate health care as a top concern, I suspect they'll be pleased with the PC's committment and forward-thinking on this issue.
MEANWHILE IN "MAYBE WE SHOULD GET WORKING ON THAT" LAND
Liberal Leader Kevin Taft today announced that he would change the resource royalty formula to go easier on natural gas producers and harder on the oilsands. We all know that Kevin Taft and the Liberals want to re-increase royalties, but this new scheme seems confusing. So confusing, in fact, that even Kevin himself admits he doesn't really know how to tweak royalties to his satisfaction.
He also suggests that the lower rates for natural gas companies would only be "until the storm passes" and that "it means going a little harder on the oilsands". These would be the same oilsands that are already in the process of renegotiating their royalties.
And what of these temporary lower rates for gas producers? Who decides when the "storm" passes? What will their rates become when said storm passes? This seems to breed uncertainty and is particularily ironic given that he announced it as part of the Liberals' "Calgary Agenda"... a city that places some importance in stability and predictability in the oil and gas business.
JUST WHEN I THOUGHT HE HAD GONE AWAY...
... Graham Thomson comes storming back with his column for Team Red in the Edmonton Journal. In a column entitled "Tories stumble out of the starting gate", Graham starts off by remarking that the Tories inadvertently created controversy by calling the election on the 3rd anniversary of the tragedy at Mayerthorpe.
Controversy, that is, in the eyes of certain media types. Real people, including the Mayor of Mayerthorpe, don't think its an issue.
Conveniently, he forgets about the disastrous start that the Liberals had. Perhaps that wasn't in the memo from the Liberal war room/phone booth.
Either way, its awfully early to be grasping at straws.
AL GORE INVENTED IT... YOU'D THINK LIBERALS WOULD BE BETTER AT IT
Dan Arnold over at the Calgary Grit takes a shot at the PC's internet game because a spokesperson couldn't remember the term "social networking" off the top of her head.
If I were the Liberals, I would be less worried about a spokesperson's web-savvy and more concerned about their own lacklustre website.
The election has now been on for well over 24 hours and we've seen only a minor change in the layout of the Liberal's homepage.
They're still missing info on some of their candidates. Hard to make an informed choice with no information, don't ya think?
The pictures across the top change every time the page is refreshed and don't identify the caucus members' whose photos come up on the banner. Last time I checked, candidate photos aren't on the ballot.
They seem to rely heavily on youtube videos of Kevin Taft... as if hearing Kevin speak is going to inspire voters to mark a ballot for the Liberals.
And the scheme is generally uninspiring and particularily sad since Brian Mason and the NDP have managed to come up with something MUCH better.
I, of course, am very impressed with the PC Alberta campaign website. The clean, modern look, the plethora of easily-navigable information, and the connections to the aforementioned social networking are signs that this isn't your parents' PC campaign anymore.
Incidentally, i've also been impressed with a number of individual PC candidates' websites. Namely, the websites for Rob Anderson (Airdrie-Chestermere), Wendy Andrews (Edmonton Riverview), Kyle Fawcett (Calgary North Hill), Diana McQueen (Drayton Valley-Calmar), Raj Sherman (Edmonton Meadowlark), Greg Weadick (Lethbridge West) all caught my eye for one reason or another.