Saturday, February 9, 2008

How much?

If you paid attention to only the mainstream media, you might think that the PCs were the only campaign with a rough start this week. Thankfully, it seems that the newsroom sensationalists are beginning to realize that we're taking this campaign seriously and, thus, maybe they should be covering it as such.

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.


  1. BR,

    Partisan though I may be, I still think it is important to note that Swann's $1 billion number is from the Pembina Institute... not exactly a bastion of conservative thinking. So methinks Pembina is downplaying the costs of the Alberta Liberal environmental plan (heavy on the irony here) and is providing $1 billion as the OPTIMISTIC scenario case. [Yes, I recognize the Fraser Institute would do the opposite, and probably call it $1 trillion. The truth is somewhere in between.

    And... is it just me, but everytime I hear a Liberal talk about job losses, the cavalier manner in which they do so makes me ill. Of course, it is not their jobs at stake.

  2. "if you substitute "environmental" for "economic" in the above sentence, that's what the PC government has been doing since the early 90's'"

    Oh. Are pray tell, what are Swann's hard caps? I have heard no estimate of what the caps are, so his $1 billion number - whether you believe it or no - is without a reference point.

    If he actually said what the hard caps would be, and what the penalties would be for missing them, one could set a value on it AND also get a sense of the "environmental" impact, for good or ill.

    With hards caps, there is necessarily give-and-take. You can set them so high as to be irrelevant or so low as to cause a total shutdown of the oilsands (not a Liberal policy platform, but Dr. Swann's personal position). So, just tell us where you are setting them, and give us a reference point (i.e. Kyoto-ish, Kyoto-lite, or free-for-all).

    If the Liberals want to be truly seen as the next government, they need to be held to the same standard in terms of pricing out their policies. Haven't seen that yet.

  3. Well I agree that it would be nice to see more specific info on the Libs' climate policy, I think it's completely unrealistic to expect an opposition party with such a minuscule budget to have completed intricate modeling of their GHG policy's potential impact. Moreover, the cap is vague because the Liberals would like to consult with industry on the best way to achieve such cap first (hardly a radical socialist decision). Knowing that the cap will cost 1 billion dollars is enough for the purposes of this election.

    I for one trust the research done by the internationally-regarded Pembina Institute and Simon Fraser University (most likely Marc Jaccard or his associates) over a quick Tory news release that provides no evidence of why job losses or economic devastation should occur.

    All this past week, the premier's policies have been called out by experts in their respective fields. I think the fact that BR could only find a PC news release as proof of his allegations of economic devastation is pretty telling.

    Finally, to put things in perspective, (and as other observers have noted) the 1 billion is less than 0.4 per cent of Ab's GDP, and Alberta is expected to be short 100 000 workers over the next seven years anyways. If this policy does reduce jobs (which is a pretty specious prediction to begin with), it might slightly slow the growth of new jobs in the oilsands, but it certainly won't impact any existing jobs.

  4. Blake:

    While I agree with your post, you snd I both know that the media thrives on peronalities and creating controversy.

    Although policy wonks like ourselves wish to see the media focus on the issues and assist in educating voters, the reality is that the media caters to the trivial because it sells with the public.

    The Premier has amassed a significant list of accomplishments over the past year. The fact that this list of accomplishments has been discounted by the media is due to the abysmal performance of the Premier's handlers in the areas of political strategy, message packaging and positioning and communicating through the media filter.

    Good examples of this inadequate performance by the Premier's handlers include holding the campaign kickoff in the legislature media room and a health care announcement at the Capital Health Region. Others include not having correct physician training numbers and not knowing how much savings would accrue to affected Albertans from the day care and Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit changes. This is Politics 101 and the Premier has been badly let down by his handlers. This is not acceptable.

    We will see how the Premier's handlers respond to the court decision today ruling that the soft tissue damage cap of $4,000 is unconstitutional.

    If these problems continue to occur next week, perhaps it is time to retool and replace some of the less than stellar handlers with old hands like Rod Love and Marv Moore.


  5. I thought Rod Love was backing a Liberal in Calgary?

  6. Brad,

    I'll agree that week one certainly didn't get off to the best of starts. That being said, I don't think it was a disaster either... especially considering that Taft's first week was even worse.

    David Taras, to his credit, got it right when he recently opined that its the last week of the campaign that'll make the difference. We've seen continous improvements over this first week and I think the starting glitches will soon be behind us.

    Moreover, I would be hesitant to bring back the likes of Rod Love and Marv Moore. Especially since Rod (and Ralph) seem to have a habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time of late.

    This is a much different campaign than the ones they were used to running in (i.e. there will actually be a debate on issues). Their style may have worked with Ralph, but its completely incompatible with Premier Stelmach.

    Finally, if we WERE to try and tap the resources of some of the most skilled campaigners in the province these days, we should be talking to our cousins in the CPC long before dragging the old provincial horses out of retirement.

  7. Putting policy aside for a moment, the opposition is certainly winning the sign wars. I drive around Edmonton every day and I don't think I've seen a PC sign anywhere.