Tuesday, July 31, 2007

We've got Winners

With voting now closed in eight provinces, we're ready to crown a handful of winners in the Best Premier Contest.

Ontario featured the most exciting race. After leading for most of the contest, Harris fell behind in the three way duel, setting up John Robarts and Oliver Mowatt in the final. Alas, we were denied the opportunity to see a 19th century Premier in this contest and John Roberts eeked it out by a 2,745 to 2,700 vote.

In BC, Dave Barrett got a late last day surge, to overtake the man who probably should have won, WAC Bennet, 657-579 on the eight ballot.

While BC had vote stuffing from the left, in Saskatchewan, Grant Devine held off a late surge by Greatest Canadian Tommy Douglas, to take the crown. I'm not sure why the Tories felt Devine was their man to knock off Tommy but, to each his own.

Barrett will be joined by fellow Dipper Ed Schreyer, who emerged from a series of knock-out matches to take the Manitoba crown.

In Alberta, it's Peter Lougheed, famous for his fights with Trudeau and the creation of the Heritage fund, who will be representing Wild Rose country in the national competition.

Despite low voter turn-out, Alex Campbell emerged as the PEI champion.

Another Liberal Premier from the 60s will be representing New Brunswick after Louis Robichaud's win there.

In fact, Atlantic Canada has been painted red, with Angus Macdonald taking the Nova Scotia crown.

In Newfoundland, Clyde Wells leads, with voting set to close Wednesday.

That just leaves the Quebecois nation...I'm giving the host until tomorrow to set up the poll, or else I'll get someone else to host. This should leave us on track for the main event to begin early next week.

If anyone knows of a good site for free polls that's relatively secure, let me know (or if anyone with some internet skills would like to volunteer to create the polls themselves, that'd be even sweller!).


Monday, July 30, 2007

When Harry Met Cherie - Day 50

The story that refuses to die continues, with these gem quotes from Cherie Cymbalisty, the Cowboys waitress who flirted with Prince Harry back in early June:

"We thought that was the only way to make them go away and not make up stuff about me," Ms. Cymbalisty said.

Within four hours, the News had a Calgary writer interviewing her.

"They tried to make it sound dirty. I told them the story of how Harry and I just talked and they made it out like he's a pervert and he's not."

The News story referred to a drunken Prince Harry asking Ms. Cymbalisty if she was wearing underwear, and "totally distorted" the incident, the bartender said.

"He asked nervously that my skirt was very short and he shyly asked if I was wearing underwear. He was very polite. He was not disrespectful and was not leering."


"I know you can't believe anything that's in them. Look at how they changed my words. All I ever wanted was to put some pictures of that night in my album of celebrities who have come into the club over the years I have worked there."

Now, she's concerned about what Prince Harry might think of her.

"I think everyone's out to get him. I want him to know I'm no sellout. We had an amazing connection that night. I realize the one time he tries to have a normal night out, he now thinks they are going to sell him out. And that's not what I tried to do at all. I just wish I could tell him that, but I can't."

Exactly! How was Cherie supposed to know that selling the British Tabloids stories about Prince Harry's interest in her undergarments would get blown out of proportion. She's the innocent victim who never wanted to hurt him in all of this. How dare anyone suggest she did it for money, or to try and turn the whole thing into a playboy spread. Well, anyone besides her lawyer that is.


-Graham Thompson gets off a good zinger to start off today's Edmonton Journal column:

If we're ever in the situation where the world is about to be destroyed by a giant asteroid in 15 minutes, somebody should have Premier Ed Stelmach hold a news conference and broadcast it around the globe.

For anyone watching, that final quarter of an hour will seem like an eternity. At the 10-minute mark people will be cheering on the asteroid.

To sit through a Stelmachian news conference is to witness an end to the laws of relativity and syntax as we know them.

-You know it's a slow news week when The Hill Times starts speculating about Michael Fortier's leadership ambitions. One thing at a time guys. First the Senate Appointment. Then a Cabinet position. Then election as an MP. Then we can talk about leadership.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Dash to the Finish Line

Most of the first round Greatest Premier voting should be done by weekend's end, and a few interesting races have developed.

In the country's most heated race, Ontario has turned into a three way battle between Oliver Mowat, Mike Harris, and John Robarts. As things sit now, it's Robarts crowning Harris on the final ballot, but any of the three could win - be sure to get out and vote.

Contrary to the island tradition, voter turn-out in PEI has been incredibly low. So I encourage everyone to go, check out the bios, and cast your vote - one vote probably will make the difference in this one.

In Nova Scotia, it's Stanfield over Angus Maclean by one vote on the final ballot.

In Alberta, Peter Lougheed has moved from third to first while, despite the best efforts of the Stelmach Cabinet, Harry Strom has only mustered 9 votes so far.

WAC Bennett is currently the 7th ballot winner out in BC.

Newfoundland is also looking like a close race.

In Manitoba, it's an all-NDP final of Ed Schreyer vs Gary Doer.

Saskatchewan is a fait acomplit as Tories from coast to coast decided to remind everyone of Grant Devine on the eve of a Saskatchewan provincial election.

And the first winner has been crowned. Louis Robichaud has emerged as New Brunswick's Greatest Premier after a first ballot win.


Two Stories...

...both of which the Grant Devine Fan Club will love:

OTTAWA -- Special Liberal fundraising events have so far failed to put much of a dent in the almost $4 million in debts racked up by 11 former leadership contenders.

The first event in Halifax two weeks ago -- a cocktail reception featuring Leader Stephane Dion and six of his erstwhile rivals -- attracted about 60 people who paid $250 each. After expenses, however, party insiders say the event netted only about $5,400.

$250 * 60 = $15,000. So that means there was about $10,000 in costs for a 60 person event. How hard is it to cook up some rubber chicken and have Bob Rae play a few tunes on the piano? Whoever organized this thing should not be organizing fundraisers.

2. Ways not to kick off a re-election campaign.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Canada's Old New Government

From TE, comes this blast from the past. The original "new" government.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Greatest Premier Update

Things are in full swing in the search for Canada's best Premier...

-In Alberta, Manning and Klein are neck and neck with Lougheed nipping on their heels. My personal pick would have been John Brownlee, but without him in the poll, I'd have to reluctantly go with Lougheed.

-In the search for BC's least corrupt Premier, it's Bennett leading Barrett and Bennett, on the 6th ballot.

-Manitoba has their Final Four.

-PEI is on to the quarter-finals.

-It was Robichaud over McKenna in the preliminary round in New Brunswick...round two should be up today.

-Ontario is now voting for a champion.

-Taking a break from spoiling the Harry Potter book and telling kids there's no such thing as Santa Clause, the SDA crowd has decided to stack the Saskatchewan poll in favour of Grant Devine.

-Oh, and Nova Scotia is off and running.

-Also on the East Coast, the field has been announced in Newfoundland, with voting set to start tomorrow.

-That just leaves Quebec and I have it on good authority that the people at Fuddle-Duddle will have the bilingual ballot up and running shortly.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bart's Books - The Black Swan

After some prodding by Gauntlet, I decided to take a read through The Black Swan and, I must say, I’m glad I did. It’s simply one of the most thought provoking books I’ve read in a long time.

So what is The Black Swan about? Well, statistics. And history. And economics. And philosophy. And pretty much everything else under the sun. Nassim Nicholas Taleb doesn’t really touch on politics except for a few veiled shots at the stupidity of thinking liberating Iraq would be a walk in the park, but the black swan principle certainly has some very useful applications to politics - I’ll get to that in a second.

First, the book. The Black Swan is about randomness. Not controlled randomness like casinos, but about things that we just don’t see coming that change the world. 9/11 would be a black swan. The dominance of the internet and of Google would be a black swan, because no one would have even conceived of it a decade before it happened. In politics, the 1993 election, featuring the rise of the BQ and Reform Party, would be a major black swan since no one saw it coming. Kim Campbell certainly didn’t think the party of John A would be down to a pair of seats and, at most, the Bloc was just a temporary ad hoc rainbow coalition that no one believed would ever become her majesty’s loyal opposition.

NNT takes this somewhat basic concept of the black swan and explores it from several angles. He divides the world into mediocristan and extremistan. In mediocristan, you don’t get big outliers or deviations. So body weight would be in mediocristan because one person, no matter how many Tim Hortons triple chocolate donuts he eats, will never deviate dramatically from the average body weight. Something like wealth would be in extremistan since a guy like Bill Gates can really skew the average. Events in extremistan are susceptible to black swans which is why war casualties, stock market crashes, and disease outbreaks can come out of nowhere to dramatically change the world.

The part of the book probably most relevant to politics is NNT’s rant against “experts”. Most of his scorn is directed against economists whose speculation is hardly ever accurate, but it could just as easily be an attack on political pundits. “Expert” pundits are almost always wrong. Consider predictions for things like election timing, leadership races, or even politicians and elections (Prime Minister Bernard Lord anyone?). Rather than pick on the print media to illustrate this point, I’ll take a shot at myself (since I’m not paid to make predictions, I really don’t mind being wrong). In 2005, I got to musing about the next Liberal leadership race and concluded that the four main contenders for the crown were John Manley, Frank McKenna, Martin Cauchon, and Scott Brison. Three of those guys didn’t run and the other probably wishes he hadn’t. I mentioned the 1993 election before, but the rise of the ADQ, or any of the three government changes Alberta has enjoyed in its history could all be considered political black swans. I think the moral is that politics is rooted in extremistan and that making predictions, especially long term predictions, is an exercise in futility. It also means that things we could never even conceive of today are certainly possible. Maybe that’s why lifelong Dippers or Alberta Liberals stay around in politics.

Another beef of NNTs that is especially applicable to politics is his complaint against historians. After taking an undergrad degree in history, I have always felt there was a certain over eagerness to explain everything and make every historical event seem predictable. I think every person alive has had to do a “causes of World War 1” essay at some point in their lives. Maybe the rise of Hitler or the fall of communism were predictable, but when hardly anyone was predicting them you have to wonder if it wasn’t just a fluke that historians are trying to find a logical reason for post hoc. In politics, it seems that pundits (who were 100% wrong beforehand) will pontificate after the fact about how obvious event X should have been to everyone beforehand. Winners are deemed to be political geniuses who ran flawless campaigns and losers are deemed to be inept fools. I can guarantee you that had Martin fluked into a majority government in 2004, pundits would be praising the Mad as Hell tour as a stroke of genius. And by "pundits", I don’t mean just John Duffy.

NNT also talks about a lot of problems with statistics that I’m 100% in agreement with. I won’t get into a lengthy lecture on this since I doubt many of my regular readers are bell curve enthousiasts, but the cavalier disregard for outliers and need to normalize distributions has always stood out to me as a problem in statistics. Not so much among people who know what they’re talking about but more so among amateurs. NNT's passionate hate of the bell curve borders on the obsessive and that's probably a little unfair since it does serve it's purpose for normal data from mediocristan - you only run into problems when people toss the underlying assumptions out the door and misuse it.

As for the book itself, it’s certainly not an academic text by any means which makes it a fun read. NNT’s sarcasm and jokes (mostly about frenchmen) are sprinkled throughout the book and he can be scathingly critical of those he dislikes. Good for him – it makes it a more enjoyable read. NNT comes across like an arrogant know it all at times but his arguments are generally sound so it’s hard to get too worked up about it.

So if you’re looking for a book that will make you think a bit and explain society – something kind of like Tipping Point – I would certainly suggest you pick up a copy. If you’re using statistics for predicative purposes in a field other than statistics, I would insist you pick up a copy.

A copy of The Black Swan was provided free from Random House, for review


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Just when they got rid of Garth Turner...

...the Tories have a new "maverick", it appears. BC MP John Cummins decided to end whatever faint hopes he ever had of making it to Cabinet by ripping Jim Prentice a new one earlier this week:

OTTAWA–A Vancouver-area Conservative MP has caused a stir by accusing federal Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice and his provincial counterpart of bribing natives into accepting a controversial provincial treaty.

Tory MP John Cummins (Delta-Richmond East) says Prentice and B.C. Aboriginal Relations Minister Mike de Jong are knowingly manipulating the Tsawwassen treaty ratification vote by throwing money at the band.

"They are unfit for office," Cummins told the Toronto Star last

If it wasn't the summer and I had a bit more energy to devote to this thing, I'd probably try and find some of John Cummins quotes to show that he's "unfit for office", but I think the story is enjoyable enough by itself.

In Other News...

-While they didn't find a female candidate for Outremont, at least they found one with a feminine name. Jocelyn Coulon is the candidate who will be trying to fill Jean Lapierre's shoes and it looks like he's a very strong candidate. Expect a good race between the Liberals and NDP for this one.

-And...we're...all...tied...up. 31-31 in the latest Allan Gregg poll. More interesting is the low support for the Afghanistan mission which, one imagines, will be causing Harper some concern, especially in Quebec.

-Oh, and Adam Radwanski's tour around the blogosphere continues - this time he's landed at the Globe & Mail.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

And We're Off

Things are off and running in the search for Canada's Best Premier. Since Premiers hate a strong central government, we're going the asymmetrical federalism route for round one, and ten separate blogs are each using a technique of their own choosing to find our ten contenders. The first round should be done by Sunday, July 29th. I'll be providing periodic updates over the next dozen days. For now, these provinces have started things off:

-MMP advocate Mark Greenan is going the STV route for the PEI battle, selecting 12 Premiers (6 Liberals and 6 Tories)

-Voting is now open for BC's Best Premier (perhaps "BC's least worst Premier" would be a better title)

-Louis Robichaud, the beneficiary of a facebook campaign, has taken the early lead in the New Brunswick poll.

-Mike Harris has the early lead over favourites Oliver Mowat and Bill Davis in the preliminary round of Ontario voting.

I've got blogs lined up for the other six province - expect polls to be posted there within the next few days.

UPDATE: Manitoba is off and running, with a video and everything.

And Saskatchewan has a poll up.


And then we're going to Red Deer, and Prince George, and Moose Jaw...yeaaaaaaa!

I got the chance to listen to a good discussion on a potential "308 riding" strategy for the Liberals over the weekend at Western Caucus in Saskatchewan. This isn't a Liberal party policy - just a proposal from a member, but it's certainly worth taking a look at and discussing.

In Other News...

While his move to Europe has allowed me to learn a lot more about southwestern French municipal school board elections, it has meant less Canadian political blogging from Paul Wells. But, never fear, Hansard is still accessible from Blackberries around the globe and Paul digs up some old gems from the Alliance of days gone by in this post.

Also, I'm thinking of making up a list of reasons Ed Stelmach is my favourite Premier ever. When it's done, I'll be sure to include "muses about whatever is on his mind" to that. Back when he was Transport Minister, Ed thought it would be fun to float the idea of changing the fast lane on Alberta highways to the right lane. As you might imagine, he got a bit of flack for it. In Sunday's Rick Bell column, Ed starts musing about next year's budget (wow - even Paul Martin never leaked budget info this far in advance). While there is sometimes value to floating a trial balloon, when you do it with every thought that pops into your head, eventually you start to look like you're flip-flopping, eventually you start to look indecisive, and eventually you start to get criticized for trial balloons you rightfully realize are dumb ideas (see: highway fast lane example above).

Finally, the news is from last week, but probably worth reposting: Gary Merasty is quitting his northern Saskatchewan seat. Unlike a lot of the veteran Liberals who have announced they won't be running again, this one actually is a big loss since Merasty was more than simply the trivia answer to "who is Saskatchewan's other Liberal MP"; He was a young up-and-commer with deep connections in his riding. Expect the by election for his seat to be very hotly contested.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Last Call

Still need 1 or 2 volunteers to host a province in the search for Canada's Greatest Premier. I'm especially looking for some eager people willing to delve into a little Nova-Scotia and Newfoundland history. Drop me an e-mail (calgarygrit@gmail.com) if you're interested.



Oh, and I was out of town for the weekend so I didn't have time to post it on Friday, but it looks like Conrad Black is heading to jail.

Couldn't let that one go without posting a link.


As much as I'd like to hang Jack Layton...

The Sun's Peter Worthington says Jack Layton is treasonous.

These days when people such as the NDP's Jack Layton urge, in the normal course of their ideology, that Canada should quit Afghanistan, it is an acceptable political viewpoint.

But when they do so the moment Canadian troops suffer casualties, and insist their motivation is concern for the soldiers in harm's way, they are indulging in crass political opportunism. In another era, we would have called it treason.

My guess is Layton, for one, doesn't give all that much thought to the welfare of our soldiers and that he neither instinctively likes them, nor understands them. Concern for their individual welfare is mere political rhetoric. He'd send our army to Darfur, for God's sake!


Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Search for Canada's Best Premier

After much discussion, I’ve decided to go with a “Canada’s Best Premier” contest for my summer fun activity (some people travel, some take up volleyball…I blog about history…). I recognize there may not be a ton of name recognition for all of these guys (and I say “guys” because they’re pretty much all guys), but part of the purpose is to learn a little bit too.

As for format, the first round will select one Premier from each province to enter the knock-out bracket. As a twist this year, I’m going to outsource the first round. So if anyone would like to host the first round for their home province, please drop me an e-mail [calgarygrit@gmail.com]. My goal is to find bloggers from 10 provinces, to each run a poll for a couple of days on their blog, to crown a winner. I’ll co-ordinate and post links to all the individual battles.

Once 10 winners have been selected, the six longest serving Premiers will earn the top 6 seeds and the four shortest servers will duke it out for the final 2 spots. This will set us up for three rounds of knock-out matches until Canada’s Best Premier is crowned.

So, for now, I need to hear from bloggers coast to coast (Liberal, Tory, Dipper, you name it) interested in hosting a first round matchup. For simplicity’s sake, I want to limit the field for the first round to 5 or 6 Premiers per province so if there's a man out there who you're afraid will be left out, speak now or forever hold your peace (I'm looking at all you Harry Nixon fans out there).

Hopefully things can get rolling in a week or so.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Second Annual "Politicians in Cowboy Hats" Blog Post

Everyone seemed to enjoy last summer's Stampede fashion review so, after hitting all the major breakfasts on the first weekend, I'm pleased to present my recap of how the big names fared this year. For some historical perspective, the Globe & Mail offers up Stampede pictures throughout the ages.

Ever since the disaster of 2005, the nation's eyes turn to Stephen Harper every Stampede. Last year, Harper hoped in and out of the Hays breakfast in under 20 minutes, wanting to avoid human interaction at all costs. To his credit, this year the PM stayed and posed for pictures for double that time. As for the outfit, Harper looked about as good in western wear as it's possible for Stephen Harper to look in western wear. Clearly his psychic stylist is earning her money, although it might be time for a taxpayer funded nutritionist.

I caught Prentice at BBQs Saturday and Sunday, and he wore the same outfit on both occasions. It's also the same thing he's worn every single day of the Stampede since, one imagines, his 12th birthday. It's a good look but it might be time for Jim to mix it up a little bit.

I can't make fun of Carolyn Bennett for her wild pink outfit since the Stampede has been running a "tough enough to wear pink" promotion to raise awareness for breast cancer. It's a shame since it would have been really easy to poke fun at her pink shirt, bizarre sweater vest, and green Dion scarf.

Kevin Taft has been everywhere this week - the Stampede parade Friday, a series of breakfasts Saturday, and the Hays breakfast Sunday. The pink worked well on Friday, but Kevin's wife pulled off Western a lot better than him at the Hays breakfast Sunday. The jacket? Definitely a no-no. Still, at least Kevin is aware that it's the Calgary Stampede.

Actual conversation with Jason Kenney:

Me: Hey Jason, you're in MP - I was hoping to get a picture with you.
Jason: Are you Young Liberals or Young Conservatives?
Me: Young Liberals.
Jason: I won't hold it against you. I used to be a Young Liberal too.
Me: Yeah, in Goodale's office. Just wanted the picture because I've got a collection of pictures of myself with Tory MPs...I got one with me and Anders last year.
Jason: Ha Ha. Well I'm not as bad as Rob, eh?

And, with that, Jason Kennedy went up about 200% in my books. Admittedly, he was starting pretty low so a 200% increase isn't a lot, but he's climbing.

Speaking of which...

Craig Cheffins, new to elected politics, obviously has yet to learn the "never dance when there's a camera around" rule.

Stephane Dion looked almost the same as he did last year. For a French University professor, he always presents himself surprisingly well at Stampede.

Peter Miliken, a frequent visitor to the Hays breakfast flashes his sheriff badge. If only he could lay down the law in the House of Commons and keep the children in order...

Harry Chase is probably the only politician in Canada who can wear a coat like that and pull it off. The man looks like he's straight out of a Western and probably deserves "best dressed 2007" for that. That said, it's never a good sign when you need to identify yourself as an MLA on your apron.

There were also a bunch of other politicians at the Hays breakfast I wasn't able to track down. Lawrence Cannon was out and about espousing the values of Quebec nationhood to the Calgary faithful (which means he must have felt a bit like Jason Jones in those Molson Canadian commercials). Bill Casey was also shaking hands. Carol Skelton may have been around but since no one alive knows what she looks like, I don't have a picture (unless she accidentally wandered into one of the other shots).

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Monday, July 09, 2007

The Best Non-Indoors Entertainment Event in North America!

From Premier Ed's Stampede breakfast this morning:

Stelmach raised a few eyebrows when, during his opening remarks, he welcomed everyone to "the Alberta Stampede."


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Guest Blogging: John Scully

I'm putting the finishing touches on this year's "Politicians in Cowboy Hats" stampede fashion review...expect a post shortly on that. Until then, I turn things over to John Scully for a guest blog post on Canada's role in the world.

And just like all talk show hosts plug their guest's latest movies, I'll engage in a bit of that now. You can check out John's blog here. And, of course, his book "Am I Dead Yet" is available for sale at fine bookstores across this country. It makes for a great summer read!


The world exhaled last week when one BBC reporter, Alan Johnston, was released. Thugs had held him hostage in Gaza for 144 days. But few anywhere were paying attention to another extraordinary event in Bogotá, Colombia. Defiant protesters demanded the release of 3000 hostages being held by guerrillas. Three thousand. Some for as long as 11 years.
When Edmonton Liberal David Kilgour was Secretary for State for Latin America and Africa, he made four trips to Colombia. Kilgour was deeply concerned not only about the drug wars in Colombia, but also the human misery they created. He took active steps through various NGOs to try alleviate a desperate situation. Sadly, he failed.

An estimated four million peasants have been now forced off their land. Half a million have fled the country. And no wonder. The murder rate at about 20, 000 a year, is described as the second highest in the world (South Africa is apparently number one). Favourite targets are the usual do-gooders: reporters, union leaders, teachers, the Popular Women’s Organisation, missionaries and anyone who tries to step in the way of the mighty drug gangs. One of them, the AUC, the United Self Defence Force of Colombia, is allegedly a front for U.S.-financed government para-militaries who reportedly dispatch enemies of right wing U.S. supplicant, President Alvaro Uribe.

The demonstration last week seemed, if there can be such a thing, a final straw. It was a rare show of national unity for the 44 million people of Colombia. They have seen civil war and drug cartels dominate them for 50 years. The catalyst this time was the execution of eleven politicians held hostage for five years by several gangs and the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces For Colombia.

The BBC interpreted the protest as a chance by the Uribe government to channel the outrage at the killings into support for Uribe’s alleged stand against FARC. But Uribe and Colombians are dreaming if they think FARC, the AUC and other gangs holding the hostages will be influenced by banners and slogans. But unlike Alan Johnson, the question is: will these hostages ever be seen again, alive and free?

Earlier this year Uribe himself was accused of being involved in massacres in his home province of Antioquia. Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore took the unproven allegations so seriously he cancelled a meeting with Uribe about the environment.

There have been improvements in Colombia under Uribe who has received $3 billion worth of help from the U.S. but human rights groups say that, as usual, the rich continue to benefit and the poor continue to suffer.

And that brings us back to David Kilgour.He said in Bogotá in 1999:” Prospects for a solution to the civil conflict remain uncertain. The Colombian government (has) begun a formal peace dialogue with the major guerrilla groups. Canada has expressed a willingness to assist in the peacemaking efforts if all parties agree.”

That was eight years ago. Perhaps someone should ask Stephen Harper how willing Canada is now to assist in the peacemaking. Oh, wait a minute, aren’t we busy somewhere else?

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Free Advice

After the Calgary Elbow by-election win, there are obviously a lot of heightened expectations for provincial Liberals. But, even though headlines like “Stelmach PCs plunge” are nice to see, the reality is the Liberals still have a long way to go to have any hope of forming government. So I thought I’d toss a few suggestions out there – these aren’t all my ideas, just good ideas I’ve heard floated around that might be worth considering.

1. It’s all about Calgary: The Liberals will need at least 15 seats in Calgary to form even the shakiest of coalition governments and, if Stelmach maintains his rural and Edmonton base, they may need a near sweep of the city. That means a lot of work needs to be done from now until election day to make it acceptable for Calgarians to vote Liberal. Kevin Taft and his four horsemen need to be visible in the city and the ALP should ask themselves “How would Calgary vote?” when making virtually every decision. Calgary thinks it’s the new Toronto which means you need to stroke the city’s ego a little bit every now and then. It also wouldn’t hurt to hire an extra staffer for the city.

2. Target Seats: Someone should draft a list of 45 “winnable” seats and the party should focus their resources on ensuring that viable campaigns are run in those ridings. Long term, you don’t want to ignore the tough ridings, but Olds isn’t going Liberal next election and if the goal is to actually win, the party’s very limited resources need to be focused.

3. Slip of the tongue: It wouldn’t hurt, in my opinion, to get Kevin or an MLA to “accidently” refer to Ed Stelmach as Harry Strom during the campaign. An election is all about framing of your opponent and I think the easiest framing job on Special Ed would be to paint him as the hapless nice guy farmer who isn’t up to the job of Premier.

4. The Others: Get the Alberta Alliance into the leader’s debates. Try and marginalize the NDP (that should happen by itself if it looks like the Libs have an actual shot at forming government).

5. Rural vs. Urban: Back to the framing topic. You don’t want to say it publicly but this should be framed as an urban vs. rural election. The best policy the ALP could put in their platform would be “City of Calgary” and “City of Edmonton” acts, which would transfer more powers to the cities. Most major Canadian cities have them and it would be a good way for the party to paint itself as being in touch with urban issues.

6. A Change Would Do You Good: The most interesting quote I saw from Kevin Taft following the Elbow by election, hinted at something I’ve said for a long time: it’s not natural that many senior citizens who have lived their entire lives in Alberta have been through only one government change. You heard the “time for a change” and “13 long years” thing from Harper during the last federal election…I think the argument can be made that it’s a little odd to not change governments for 36 or 37 years. We’re getting into Communist Party territory here.

7. The Liberal-Conservative Party: The Taxpayers federation came out a few weeks ago and said the Liberals had a better platform than the Tories. The Herald referred to them as “Kevin Taft’s conservative Liberal Party” in an editorial a few weeks back. The ALP should be preaching fiscal responsibility as their number 1 priority. A few years back, I was a big proponent of the Liberals promising “sexy” policy like a bullet train but I think painting themselves as a small c conservative party that will save Alberta’s wealth might be the best course of action.

8. NOW! Remember point 3? Well, it’s not enough to say Stelmach is Harry Strom because even Kevin Taft wouldn't go so far as to call Kevin Taft the next Peter Lougheed. The ALP should dig up everything written on the 1971 election and steal it. Have Kevin run from door to door, show some youthful energy, use the same slogan if you want to. Also, as a plus, Lougheed has said some critical things about the PCs of late…wouldn’t hurt adding them to the stump speech.

9. Stand up for Alberta: As much as it pains me to say it, Kevin Taft is going to have to publicly slam Dion and the federal Liberals at some point during the campaign. The Alberta Liberals needs to distance themselves from the federal party. In an ideal world, they’d change their name, but that won’t happen so they’ll need to go out of their way to make it clear they aren’t the Pierre Trudeau NEP party.

10. Star Candidates: After the Elbow by election, it wouldn’t surprise me if a few star candidates might be willing to run for the ALP in Calgary. I’d hold off on nominations for a bit and try and recruit a few big names to run in cowtown.

11. New Blood: As much as I dislike the concept of people changing parties, it would be a big coup to publicly lure a Tory MLA or a few big name Dinning supporters over to the ALP.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Summer in the City

It's that time of the year again. Two summers ago, I ran the "Greatest Prime Minister" contest, with Laurier knocking off John A. in the final. Last summer, it was "The Greatest Prime Minister...we never had", with Preston benefiting from a strong get out the vote campaign to score a touchdown against Robert Stanfield.

So...let's hear some suggestions. Greatest Premier? Best political book? Biggest gaffe? Something election related? Greatest special advisor to South Caucasus and Middle East?

Entitled to his Entitlements

When the government announces something on the Friday before the Canada Day long weekend, it's usually a sign that they hope people won't pay a lot of attention to it:

OTTAWA -- The Harper government has given a longtime Ottawa Conservative a plum patronage spot at the Royal Canadian Mint -- once at the centre of Tory wrath over a prominent Liberal who had a patronage job there.

Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon quietly announced on Friday that Claude Bennett, a former provincial Conservative cabinet minister who led the controversial municipal amalgamation of the Ottawa region, will be a director on the mint's board.

Meet the new government...same as the old government...


Monday, July 02, 2007

Canada Day Observed Quiz

I didn't get around to posting it yesterday but here's a short Canadian Prime Ministerial quiz I drafted for political history buffs out there:

1. How many times has an individual named Paul Martin run for Liberal Party leadership?

2. Which Tory leader insisted they add "Progressive" to the Conservative name, in 1942?

3. How many 20th century Liberal leaders never led majority governments?

4. How many 19th century Tory leaders did (lead majority governments)?

5. Who was the shortest serving Prime Minister?

6. Which PM brought in the CBC?

7. Who finished second in the 1968 Liberal leadership race?

8. Who was the first Prime Minister born after Confederation?

9. Who is the only Prime Minister not buried in Canada?

10. Who played Pierre Trudeau in the 2002 CBC mini-series?