Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Caught in a landslide

Your patience, faithful readers, is appreciated. I know I should have posted sooner than this morning, but real life had to resume on Tuesday and getting settled is no easy task. I'm back, though, and will have much to share in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

So, about that election...

... WOW.

I chose not to share my seat projections on the blog, instead keeping it between a few close friends who were also intimately involved with the campaign.

I had 68 seats. People said I was crazy. Apparently, I was ;)

Congratulations are first in order for Premier Stelmach and the entire PC team. This campaign marked a radical departure for our party and certainly found a number of critics. But in the end, Albertans found that our message best represented the Alberta THEY want to live in.

I want to take the opportunity to congratulate ALL of the new members of the PC caucus:
  • Ken Allred (St. Albert)
  • Rob Anderson (Airdrie-Chestermere)
  • Carl Benito (Edmonton Mill Woods)
  • Evan Berger (Livingstone-Macleod)
  • Naresh Bhardwaj (Edmonton Ellerslie)
  • Manmeet Bhullar (Calgary Montrose)
  • Lindsay Blackett (Calgary North West)
  • Robin Campbell (West Yellowhead)
  • Cal Dallas (Red Deer South)
  • Jonathan Denis (Calgary Egmont)
  • Arno Doerksen (Strathmore-Brooks)
  • Wayne Drysdale (Grande Prairie-Wapiti)
  • Doug Elniski (Edmonton Calder)
  • Kyle Fawcett (Calgary North Hill)
  • Fred Horne (Edmonton Rutherford)
  • Jeff Johnson (Athabasca-Redwater)
  • Heather Klimchuk (Edmonton Glenora)
  • Genia Leskiw (Bonnyville-Cold Lake)
  • Diana McQueen (Drayton Valley-Calmar)
  • Verlyn Olson (Wetaskiwin-Camrose)
  • Dave Quest (Strathcona)
  • Alison Redford (Calgary Elbow)
  • Peter Sandhu (Edmonton Manning)
  • Janice Sarich (Edmonton Decore)
  • Raj Sherman (Edmonton Meadowlark)
  • Greg Weadick (Lethbridge West)
  • Teresa Woo-Paw (Calgary Mackay... my new MLA)
  • David Xiao (Edmonton McClung)

For a party that our opponents called old and tired, I'd say we've got a great group of new and energized MLAs on the team!

I want, in particular, to say how pleased I am to see Jonathan Denis, Manmeet Bhullar, Kyle Fawcett, Dave Quest, Heather Klimchuk, and Naresh Bhardwaj as new MLAs.

I have known Jonathan, Manmeet, and Kyle for many years. They are all exceptional young conservatives who will do a supurb job for their constituents and add a very important dynamic around the caucus table.

Dave, Heather, and Naresh are all former colleagues of mine on the PC Alberta Executive Committee. It is great to see such top-notch people who have been so involved with the party internally moving over to represent us in the Legislature.

For my part, I was asked last weekend to come to Edmonton to run GOTV efforts in Edmonton Manning for Peter Sandhu.

Peter had a great team who managed to identify a LOT of supporters, we just needed the right strategy to make sure our machine got those supporters out. I was pleased to work with Peter's team, was exceptionally pleased with how well everybody came together to get the job done on E-Day, and was thrilled that we were able to deliver Edmonton Manning for PC Alberta.


So what of it all, then?

I think the two most embarassed groups after Monday should be the Alberta media and the Alberta Liberal Party, in that order.

For their part, the Liberals were saying what they had to say. No Official Opposition party runs on the messaging that the government is going to win anyway, but send more opposition MLAs to the Capital (that's reserved for the NDP). The Liberals, of course, ran on the public idea of forming government.

What is embarassing, though, is that it seems so many of them believed it privately.

I've worked on enough campaigns to have a pretty good idea of when we're going to win, and when we're going to lose. The ability to have even the most basic idea of how well or badly things will go is pretty important for political operatives. Its a skill that seems to have totally blown past the Liberal braintrust.

One theory I got from a Liberal friend of mine is that the Alberta Liberals spend too much time talking to their own supporters. Getting encouragement from people is great, but its not much of a litmus test if you're always talking to or going after the same people. Incidentally, this friend of mine is one of the few people who was NOT impressed with the Alberta Liberal campaign. Seems his radar is a little more in-tune, perhaps they should be paying more attention to members like him.

The big dunce cap, though, is reserved for members of Alberta's media. Sure, there were some that seemed to have their finger on the pulse of what turned out to be what Albertans were really thinking, namely the Edmonton Sun's Graham Hicks.

But it is absolutely stunning that so many people in the media, people who are trained and paid to research and accurately report current affairs, managed to let their own personal biases interfere with their work SO much that they blew this call in such a spectacular manner... I'm talking to you Graham Thomson, Kim Trynacity, and Don Braid.

If ever there was a lesson to take anything you read or hear from the media with a grain of salt, I'd say its the coverage of this election.


Post-election, people are wondering what the future holds. I still think there are a lot more questions than answers yet, but i've got a few theories:

-For Ed Stelmach and the PC caucus, some Chamber of Commerce folks had it right. The mandate given to the Premier and his team is one that will allow them to be bold and innovative when addressing the problems facing our province. I think it would be a shame if we squandered that opportunity. Are you listening PC Alberta members??? We've got a convention coming up, time to sharpen those policy pencils and get to work.

-When it comes to making a cabinet, the Premier has a big pool of talent to work with. His first cabinet, although it raised a lot of eyebrows, did the right thing by rewarding those who were closest to him. He had just taken over a caucus that overwhelmingly voted for the other guy. If you're going to try and take control of the ship, you need to make sure the crew is unwaveringly loyal. By and large, that was the case.

Post-election, however, the situation is different. Everyone who was running chose to run under his leadership and, given the mandate Albertans awarded him, they have absolutely no reason to call said leadership into question. Because of this, the Premier will need to move away from rewarding only the most loyal of foot soldiers and instead focus on picking the best and brightest for the tasks at hand. Geographic and demographic balance will also be important, but will be relatively easy to fulfill given the plethora of MLAs to choose from.

-For Kevin Taft, its game over. To raise such hopes of either forming government or come within striking distance and to then fail so completely is simply unacceptable. If Laurence Decore couldn't keep his job after the 1993 Liberal surge, there is absolutely no way that Kevin Taft has any legitimacy to keep his after this.

-For the Alberta Liberal Party, the situation is also pretty bleak. One way or another, Kevin Taft will be shown the door as Leader. The only person even remotely able to do this job is Calgary Currie MLA and Deputy Leader Dave Taylor. Given his standoffish and divisive personality, though, I don't suspect he would fare any better than Taft would in a general election.

Drafting somebody from outside of caucus, too, will prove almost impossible. With Monday's stunning defeat, I think we can expect the Liberal's dire financial straits to worsen. What little fundraising they receive is quite likely to dry up, and they'll have a large stack of bills to pay after this election. Very few people would be willing to step in and try and salvage this disaster, particularily since the party brand has proven toxic to most Alberta voters time and time again.

And the dream of getting Dave Bronconnier to take over the job? I think you can pretty well consider that one over. Bronco's no fool. To take over a party that only has a small rump of volunteers, is deep in the hole, and that has been rejected by Albertans everywhere (including most of Calgary) would be political suicide. Bronconnier is young and has a good thing going at City Hall. He may still decide to make the jump to provincial office one day, but it won't be under the Alberta Liberal banner.

-For the NDP, their boom-bust cycle begins anew. Losing two seats isn't great news, but at least they held on to their bedrock areas of support... the same can't be said for the Liberals. Brian Mason will likely step down as Leader, making way for Rachel Notley to take on the role her father so nobly filled before his untimely death. They may be a small caucus, but Pam Barrett sure did a damn fine job with only two MLAs in her day. They may not be Official Opposition, or even an official party in the Legislature, but I suspect they'll be the two most effective voices of opposition.

-For the Wildrose Alliance, thanks for playing. Until the very right-wing gets beyond petty internal squabbles, they will never be a remotely credible political force. I suspect there will be a lot of finger pointing at the next WRA AGM and wouldn't be at all surprised if this shotgun marriage ended in divorce.

-For the Greens, well done. They didn't elect an MLA, but they increased their support against a tide of Tory blue that swept away a lot of voters who chose other parties. They'll likely continue to be talked about only at election time, but have an opportunity to raise issues that are important to them if they work with their new supporters to keep their public profile up.


For as happy as I am about the election results, there were two things that disapointed me:

The apparent loss of Shiraz Shariff in Calgary McCall is a loss indeed (I say apparent because it may go to recount).

Shiraz is one of the first MLAs I met when I got involved with PC Alberta. He is cut very much from the same cloth as Premier Stelmach, one of the kindest, honest, and most hard-working people in public life anywhere in Alberta. The team of both family and friends that surround him share that same work ethic and are some of the most determined people I have ever worked with.

If the result stands, I know I will dearly miss having Shiraz Shariff as the voice of Calgary McCall in Edmonton.

The other disapointment is one that I think is shared across the political spectrum: voter turnout.

I disagree with the notion that the low turnout clouds the election results. People stay home for a variety of reasons. Some certainly were not enamoured or inspired by the platforms of any one party, but others may have simply believed that the PCs were going to be re-elected and didn't have any reason to vote to stop it. Decisions ARE made by those who show up, and those who did decided overwhelmingly to allow us to continue governing this province.

I agree, though, with the chorus of Leaders and pundits who believe that we must do more to engage Albertans in the democratic process. I'm against the idea of a move to proportional representation given the exceptional disadvantages it creates for rural MLAs trying to represent a huge geographic region. I do think, though, that the next Electoral Boundaries Commission has some serious work to do in addressing the exploding populations of Alberta's urban centers.

For my part as a Tory, I firmly believe that we cannot rest on our laurels. Our party needs to find new ways to engage Albertans, primarily through the bold and innovative ideas that we now have the opportunity to develop and implement as I mentioned earlier.


Before I get back to unpacking, I want to go over the 10 predictions I made on Sunday night:

1. The Liberals will win at least one seat that they don't currently hold in Calgary, but they will lose at least one of the four they currently do hold.

RESULT: CORRECT. The Liberals pick up two seats they didn't hold (Buffalo and McCall), but lose one they did hold (Elbow).

2. Craig Chandler will go down in a magnificent blaze in Calgary Egmont at the hands of my buddy Jonathan Denis.

RESULT: CORRECT. Third place. Hehehehehehehe.

3. There will be a grand total of ZERO Wildrose Alliance MLAs in the next Alberta Legislature.

RESULT: CORRECT (pending recount). Hinman loses in Cardston, no one else even comes close.

4. The Greens will have their best showing ever in the history of the province, courtesy of the voters of Lacombe-Ponoka.

RESULT: CORRECT. Joe Anglin walks away with over 3200 votes in Lacombe-Ponoka.

5. The Liberals and the NDP will both lose seats in Edmonton as the PCs win more than double the number of seats we currently hold in the Capital.

RESULT: CORRECT. Oh. Hell. Yeah.

6. Ed Stelmach will win upwards of 80% of the popular vote in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville.

RESULT: WRONG. I was close, but Ed's 11162 votes were only good enough for 78.1%. Close, but no cigar.

7. Kevin Taft will win considerably less than the 60%+ of the popular vote he enjoyed last time in Edmonton-Riverview.

RESULT: CORRECT. I suppose "considerably less" is arbitrary, but i'd say that 51.8% is a lot worse than the 66% or so he got in 2004.

8. Brian Mason's situation in Edmonton Highlands-Norwood will remain pretty much the same.

RESULT: WRONG. Mason wins handily, but drops from 62% to 52% of the popular vote in Highlands-Norwood. I'm not going to try to spin a 10% drop but winning nonetheless as me being right.

9. George Read will come in 2nd in Calgary North West.

RESULT: WRONG. I thought that the undecideds in Calgary North West might park their vote with the Green since he's the leader. He came in a distant third... I blew this call completely.

10. Paul Hinman will be out of a job.

RESULT: PENDING. Pending the recount, Hinman may no longer be the MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner. Whether he keeps his job as Wildrose Alliance Leader is also pending, but I wouldn't bet on it.


Finally, thanks to each and every one of you for reading. Keeping this blog running is very enjoyable and, while I was in BC, kept me connected to what was going on back home.

To those of you who are PCs, I hope I was able to keep you all motivated with a departure from the plethora of Liberal and left-wing propaganda coming out in both the mainstream media and here in the blogosphere.

To those of you who are either supporters or producers of said Liberal and left-wing propaganda, thanks for coming to see what some of us on the other side were thinking. I was doing the same thing when reading your stuff ;)

To those of you who were genuinely undecided, i'm glad you chose to include the blogosphere as an information source. I don't believe there is any news source that is truly unbiased anymore, so its encouraging to see people weighing all of the biases out there.

To my fellow bloggers, its been fun. I have enjoyed the banter back and forth over the past month. In particular, I must salute Daveberta, the CalgaryGrit, Ken Chapman and the Enlightened Savage. You are all a credit to our hobby of citizen journalism and were part of my sometimes-hourly blog consumption. I hope, post election, we'll all be able to keep this discussion going. Just because the election is over doesn't mean we're done dealing with the issues... if anything, our work is just beginning.

We now return you to your regularily scheduled lives.


  1. Blake: Thanks for the props. I was hoping you could get in touch with me at amishbuggyracing [at] gmail [dot] com

    Thanks Again!

    - ES

  2. Hinman is voluntarily leaving, he took a shellacking and even he is smart enough to see a nasty split coming with the Wildrose crew. So he's done for sure.

    Nice to see you at Fluid on Monday, nice work in Manning.

  3. Well, for the sake of the Tories, all I can say is thank God Jim Dinning wasn't elected. Clearly they showed this wisdom in electing Ed.

  4. Thanks for the good read. I was following this Blog the whole election.

  5. Wow, I begged for a post and we got a whopper!

    I've been following you blog for awhile now and I enjoy your comments. I pretty much agree with everything you say. Usually I go read something from Calgarygrit or AGRDT, get all pissed, and then come here for some relief.

  6. Actually, George Read came in a distant FOURTH.

    Not that that's a good thing.