Thursday, July 31, 2008

Historical Context

Mr. Harper said the Conservatives did “more in three years” than the Liberals in their last 13 years in office, or than the Bloc could ever do in “113 years in opposition.”

Fair enough. After all, I think creating a deficit is at least as hard as eliminating one.

And while I expect politicians to tout their own record, I was slightly bemused by Ed Stelmach's response to the latest round of decentralization, claiming thatthis is, without a doubt, the most significant policy change in the federal government in at least 25 years”.

Certainly Ed wasn’t snubbing Brian Mulroney’s termination of the evil NEP, a move which single-handedly caused the world price of oil to rise, Alberta hockey teams to win a half dozen Stanley Cups, and Alberta’s economy to rebound a short 10 years later?

I mean, wouldn’t the single most important policy change in the history of the world get top billing over an announcement that (if you read the article) may or may not reflect an actual change in policy?

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Making Sun Readers Nostalgic for Paul Jackson's Moderation

The Greenpeace folk and their ilk are actually more frightening than a lot of the totalitarian movements -- and this is a totalitarian movement that wants to change every facet of your life, make no mistake -- that have come before them.

If you check out the aims of Greenpeace and then think them through, something becomes clear. Nothing that walks on two legs and talks is going to come out a winner.

At least Stalin wanted his people to be able to buy cheap bread.

And even Hitler thought ordinary Aryans should be able to own and operate a car.

Quote of the Day

"Quebeckers are overwhelmingly tired of the battle between those who say they are federalists and those who say they are sovereigntists. Quebeckers are nationalist, Quebeckers are autonomist, and our political formation is fully responsive to those desires."



Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Quick Hits

No new blog content today, but I'll direct you to a pair of older posts:

1. Everyone has until Wednesday at 10 pm to vote in the latest round of "Canada's Biggest Election". The 1957/58 vs. 1878 matchup may be en route to a recount, with 57/58 holding 1 vote lead so far.

2. Three by elections have been called for September 8th: Saint-Lambert and Westmount-Ville-Marie should be held with reduced leads by the Bloc and Liberals, despite NDP hype around Anne Lagacé Dowson in Westmount. The real test will be Guelph - for the riding background, here's what I had to say about it back in May.

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Monday, July 28, 2008


And people thought Christian Paradis wouldn't be able to handle Public Affairs - it seems he has taken the torch from Michael Fortier and...refused to make the torch public until a take out the trash day comes along:

OTTAWA — Ottawa's advertising budget doubled to more than $80-million in the first full year of the Harper government, the first rise in marketing spending since the start of the sponsorship scandal in 2002, according to an unreleased federal report.

The report on advertising spending in 2006-2007 has been ready for weeks, but Public Works had yet to make it public last night. A copy was provided to The Globe and Mail in answer to questions on its content.

The report shows Ottawa's advertising spending came in at $87-million in the 2006-2007 fiscal year. Only one year earlier, the government's total advertising purchases were just $41-million.

Fortier would be proud.

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On To The Quarters

The provincial races turned into Frank McKenna sized routs, with Duffy's four favourites all advancing.

'76 Quebec (1) over '35 Alberta (8): 81% to 19%
'44 Saskatchewan (2) over '52 British Columbia (7): 84% to 16%
'43 Ontario (3) over 1867 Ontario (6): 77% to 23%
'60 Quebec (4) over '89 Newfoundland (5): 78% to 22%

This sets us up for a very competitive provincial final 4 next week. But, before we get to that, it's time to take a look at this week's two quarter-final matchups. Voting will be open until Wednesday at 10 pm.

1935 (4) vs. 1988 (1)

The Case for 1935: The "King or Chaos" depression election turned into a Liberal rout - 171 seats for King to R.B. Bennett's 39. Despite this, it was still a memorable election, with a plethora of fringe parties and independents winning seats, including disgruntled Bennett Cabmin HH Stevens' Reconstructionts, Social Credit, and the CCF.
So why is this election important? Well, for starters, it set up a record 22 consecutive years of King/St. Laurent government and established the Liberals as the "big government" party at a time when CBC creator R.B. Bennett had shifted the Tories drastically to the left thanks to his deathbed conversion to government reform. It made King our war time Prime Minister, saving the country another conscription crisis. And breakthroughs by the CCF and SoCreds established these two as legitimate political players in the years to come. The election itself might have been a no-contest but it's impact was immense.

The Case for 1988: The 1988 election was undeniably one of Canada's most exciting ever. All three parties enjoyed leads in the polls in the year prior to the election and the campaign itself turned into a see-saw affair between Mulroney and Turner, once Turner picked opposition to free trade as his hill to die on. Vicious attack ads, a big issue, another thrilling debate, a mid-election putsch attempt - this campaign has it all and, in the end, it had Brian Mulroney winning the first back-to-back Tory majorities in over 70 years.
But beyond the excitement of the campaign and the economic impact of free trade, the '88 election profoundly changed Canadian politics. Mulroney may have kept the Tories in power, but the cost would be the explosion of his coalition into the Bloc and Reform parties 5 years later. Had Broadbent turned free trade into his issue, the NDP might have replaced the Liberals on the left of the political spectrum. Had Turner held his post-debate surge, we may have been in for a decade of John Turner and a Mulroney heir (Campbell? Charest? Clark?) running our country. Who's to say how the Meech/Referendum story would have played out with different actors? For good or bad, the '88 campaign set the stage for the modern era of Canadian politics we're living in today.
Which Election was Bigger?
(4) 1935 (King over Bennett)
(1) 1988 (Mulroney over Turner, Broadbent)
See Results

1957/58 (6) vs. 1878 (2)

The Case for 1957/58: While the 1935 election set up a Liberal dynasty, these back-to-back elections saw it crash down in spectacular fashion. A no-name with a long name from Saskatchewan managed to usurp the throne and, in the process, won one of the largest victories in Canadian history.
The Liberals had become more concerned with government than politics, treating elections like minor nuisances and growing more and more arrogant. This would prove their undoing, as St. Laurent/Howe rammed through closure on the pipeline debate and then, following Dief's '57 stunner, Pearson ordered the Tories to turn the government back to the Grits, setting up the '58 romp.
While the Diefenbaker years would prove to be short lived, the impact of '57/'58 was on how politics were run in Canada. It showed that TV matters. It showed that charisma and the cult of the leader matter. It showed that opposition parties had to present a vision. For the first time, it showed that campaigns matter.

The Case for 1878: The 1878 election marked John A's comeback from the Pacific Scandal, cementing his reputation in the history books and leaving Alexander MacKenzie as a footnote. As for it's impact, here's what a regular reader sent in, back when I was taking nominations for this contest:
This election returned the Tories to power after the Pacific scandal, and cemented the Tories as Canada's first "natural governing party". The real story though, is the National Policy, which cemented Conservatives as protectionist, economic nationalists for over a century. The policy was so popular that it extended Conservative governance for more than decade and engendered Laurier's defeat when he opposed it 1911. I think this policy helps to explain the emergence and staying power of 'red Tories' even after their disappearance in the US.

Which Election Was Bigger?
(6) 1957/58 (Diefenbaker over St. Laurent, Pearson)
(2) 1878 (Macdonald over Mackenzie)
See Results


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rumours to Rest

I never really understood the logic of the Tories proroguing parliament for a late return in the fall so this should hopefully end the speculation about it.

"We have no intention of proroguing"
-Peter Van Loan on Question Period today

Friday, July 25, 2008

One Word Posts



The Big Mo

The ALP leadership race has it's second candidate, former Edmonton McClung MLA Mo Elsalhy. From Mo's facebook page:

Hi all. Join me as I make it official. On Friday, July 25th, at 12:30 at the front steps of the Legislature, I will confirm my intention to challenge for the leadership of the Alberta Liberal Party.

Media will be there but we are planning the whole event to take no longer than 30-45 minutes at most. If you can come and would like to show your support, it would be great.



The 37 year old Elsalhy, while certainly a long-shot candidate, should bring a lot of energy to the campaign, and will hopefully be able to draw young people into the party.

Being the first Edmonton candidate to declare, I can understand why he's chosen the legislature for his launch but if I were running his campaign, I'd be playing up the youth angle and would paint him as a candidate who breaks the conventional political mould. With that in mind, I'm thinking something like a YouTube campaign launch would have worked better than the traditional one he'll deliver later today.

Mo's leadership webpage, abbreviated as M.E.L.L. for reasons I cannot begin to comprehend, can be found here.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

From the home office in Toronto-Danforth, the top 10 reasons...

So I trekked out to Jack’s neck of the woods last night for the Kinsella Young Liberal event. First off, full marks to the Lang Gang for another fun event, to follow up their wildly successful time raiser earlier this month. I always like underdog campaigns because you can have some fun with them and it certainly seems like that’s their strategy.

Jeff gives a great recap of the event and Warren’s zingers here, while Aaron takes issue with Warren’s “rah-rah go Liberals” attitude. Since, you know, if there’s one think Kinsella is known for, it’s his rose-coloured-Dion-is-great-and-can-do-no-wrong attitude. If only he could look at Dion more objectively, like other bloggers.

For those curious what the hubbub was all about, the presentation was a more in depth look at this top 10 list of reasons people shouldn’t count Dion out. I’d say I agree with all of the points on that list to a certain extent, although a lot of them work more to the “stop a Harper majority” than the “elect Dion” end game.

Here’s the quick 10 points without explanation (to do that, go here) – I’m curious to see what people think.

1. Dion is underestimated and female voters don’t trust Harper.

2. The LPC has great brand and organization strength. [ed note: brand, yes. Organizational? I think the Tories have us beat there]

3. Dion will turn the focus away from “leadership” by emphasizing the Liberal team.

4. The Tories can’t run an outsider or scandal-backlash campaign anymore.

5. Campaigns matter and the Liberals have a good campaign pitch.

6. “Mark my words: Jim Flaherty’s anti-Dalton McGuinty campaign will go down in the political history books as one of the dumbest, most self-destructive campaigns ever.”

7. Team McGuinty will get involved due to point 6.

8. Picking Dumont over Charest will hurt Harper in Quebec.

9. The media are out to get Harper.

10. “Stéphane Dion is a decent, hard-working guy. Canada is full of decent, hard-working guys and gals. The more they get to know him, the more they will like him. Just watch.”

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rerun Season

It's a slow July news day...Harper hasn't called the by elections how to fill the political section of newspapers?

Election Speculation!

I must say, the "Dion hints at election" story has been used so many times over the past year, there must be some template laying around where you just plug in a quote, insert the season, and voila! News!

UPDATE: OK, OK, the story has been updated to not only include election speculation...but also by election speculation. And, in the lead, an actually newsworthy bit about Dion pledging to impose tarrifs on countries who don't do enough to control emissions. An interesting idea and a good way to skate around some of the talking but I have a hard time seeing how this would actually work in practice.

And so it begins...

I'll begin ALP leadership profiles as soon as I can think of a catchy title for that post series...

MEDIA ADVISORY (2008/07/22)

MLA Dave Taylor to Announce Plans Regarding Liberal Leadership

On Wednesday MLA for Calgary-Currie and Deputy Leader of the Alberta Liberal Party Dave Taylor will announce plans regarding his future with the Alberta Liberals.
Wednesday, July 23rd - 10:30 AM

Outside the Bridgeland-Riverside
Community Hall
917 Centre Avenue NE, Calgary, Alberta

Dave Taylor will make a brief statement and then open to questions from the media.

Backdrops, view of downtown Calgary

UPDATE: Here's the news story. His blue and yellow leadership website has launched and I already got got an invite to his "Dave Taylor for leader" facebook group (it looks like he'll have a strong youth team judging from the names who have joined). For anyone wondering, I don't intend to get involved with any of the campaigns - none of the rumoured candidates really excite me and I think it will be nice to just observe from the sidelines for a change.

UPDATE DEUX: I got just got the press release from the launch. Among the interesting tid-bits:

1. The campaign slogan appears to be "A New Way Forward".

2. 26 year old Corey Hogan is the leadership campaign manager.

3. As for Dave's three pillars of the New ALP? “business friendly, fiscally responsible, and socially progressive.”

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Monday, July 21, 2008

"The change we must change to the change we hold dear"


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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Provincial Vote

With the first round of federal elections done, we move to the provincial side of the bracket for a series of intriguing match-ups. Once again, the seeds have been selected from the list of reader nominations by Fights of our Lives author John Duffy. Voting will close at 10 pm on Wednesday night.

1935 Alberta (8) vs. 1976 Quebec (1)
1935 Alberta (Aberhart over the UFA): Brownlee and the farmers knocked down to 0 seats after he's set up in a faux sex scandal. The crazy SoCreds take over going from zero seats to 36 years in power, tilting Alberta to the right for the next 70+ years.
1976 Quebec (Levesque over Bourassa): Rene Levesque surges to power, and puts the threat to Canada's unity on the cover of TIME magazine. The PQ threat in Quebec would define Canadian politics for the next 30 years.
Which Election Was Bigger?
(8) 1935 Alberta (Aberhart over the UFA)
(1) 1976 Quebec (Levesque over Bourassa)
See Results

1952 BC (7) vs. 1944 Saskatchewan (2)

1952 BC (SoCreds over Socialists): West Coast wildness - STV system used to keep CCF out of power, but it leads to a surprise SoCred win.
1944 Saskatchewan (Douglas over Patterson): Tommy Douglas creates North America's first socialist government, leading to new frontiers in social policy nationwide.
Which Election Was Bigger?
(7) 1952 BC (SoCreds over Socialists)
(2) 1944 Saskatchewan (Douglas over Patterson)
See Results

1867 Ontario (6) vs. 1943 Ontario (3)

1867 Ontario (Macdonald ties McKellar): Libs and Tories deadlocked at 41 seats, leading to a grand coalition government under John Stanfield Macdonald's leadership.
1943 Ontario (Drew over Nixon, CCF): Liberals implode, CCF on the march, and Conservatives come up winners to begin a 42-year dynasty.
Which Election Was Bigger?
(6) 1867 Ontario (Macdonald ties McKellar)
(3) 1943 Ontario (Drew over Nixon)
See Results

1989 Newfoundland (5) vs. 1960 Quebec (4)

1989 Newfoundland (Wells over Rideout): Clyde Wells loses the popular vote but wins the election, helping to kill Meech Lake.
1960 Quebec (Lesage over l'Union Nationale): The Quiet Revolution begins on election night and transforms Quebec society, Canadian politics, and public policy, forever
Which Election Was Bigger?
(5) 1989 Newfoundland (Wells over Rideout)
(4) 1960 Quebec (Lesage over Barrette)
See Results


A Green Alberta

Ed Stelmach and Brad Wall were on Question Period together today discussing the environment (note to political staffers: the best way to make your boss look like a dynamic leader is for him or her to appear on the same panel as Ed Stelmach). Nothing they said was particularly earth shattering, but two points raised by Ed deserve note:

1. Stelmach pointed to Alberta's $15 a ton levy on companies that exceed the province's intensity based targets as a positive step he's taken, 4 minutes before trashing the concept of using taxes to reduce emissions.

2. Stelmach boldly proclaimed "we're the only provinces seeing real reductions [in greenhouse gases]". Now, if I had a lot of time on my hands, I'd make up a bunch of nifty tables showing the province by province change in GHG rates over the past few years to point out what a load of shift this is. But I don't have a lot of time on my hands so instead I'll simply point out that Stelmach's own environmental plan doesn't call for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions for another 12 year. I know, I know, his "real reductions" are against what emissions might have risen otherwise but if homicides go up 5% no one goes around saying "we've seen a real reduction in the murder rate" just because it might have gone up 10% had more police officers not been hired.

To be fair, Ed's recent 4 billion dollar funding announcement for carbon sequestration and public transit is a step in the right direction from the guy who derisively said the ALP's environmental plan would cost the economy a billion dollars. But there's still a lot more that needs to be done.

On the same topic, Alberta Views (h/t) has a good article on the green movement in Alberta. The most interesting part is the section with Preston Manning. Firstly, someone in the media should track Preston down and ask him what he thinks of the green shift and carbon taxes (he has called Gordon Campbell "courageous" for doing it in BC) because this quote sure sounds like he'd be supportive, at least in an Andrew Coyne/Jack Mintz theoretical sort of way:

"Conservatives, philosophically, this ought to be their contribution to the environmental debate," [Manning] says. "Conservatives profess to believe in market mechanisms and they profess to understand them. Well, if that's the case, why don't they lead?"

Secondly, with all his talk about democratic reform, low voter turn-out rates, and the environment, this is definitely a guy anyone interested in renewing the ALP or creating a new party in Alberta should be talking to for advice. Manning's decision to skip the PC leadership race in 2006 was a real disservice to Albertans and I don't doubt for a second that he has a lot of good ideas that a centrist party hoping to form government would be wise to adopt.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Early Results

Round 1 voting for the federal elections has closed and our winners are:

1988 64%
1896 36%

1878 56%
1925/26 44%

1957/58 53%
1979/80 47%

1935 59%
1911 41%

So, the federal semi-finals will be:

(1) 1988
(4) 1935

(2) 1878
(6) 1957/58

Tomorrow, I'll be launching the first round of the provincial side of the bracket.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The British Invasion

It was supposed to be a chance to come together for a beautiful night on the plains of Abraham. But, it just wouldn’t be a Quebec 400th anniversary event without a bit of helter skelter and, sure enough, yesterday, the PQ culture critic told Sir. Paul McCartney to jet back to England because:
“I like Paul McCartney but, given the context, this is the straw that breaks the camel's back,” said Curzi, referring to what he called the “Canadianization” of Quebec City's 400th-birthday celebrations.

Jean Charest did help a bit by telling the press that Curzi to let it be, but you’ve got to figure it won’t be long until Gilles Duceppe starts to twist and shout over this junk.

Horrible puns aside, I'm changing my "At Issue" vote to this Quebec City anniversary as the most over-exploited issue of the year. These people seriously need to think before they speak.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The First Round Begins

The field of 16 has been set in the search for Canada’s Biggest Election. For simplicity’s sake, there will be 8 federal and 8 provincial elections (even though Ralph Klein’s first Calgary mayoral run was an inspired suggestion), and will only involve elections prior to 1990.

As a fun twist this year, I’ve brought in an expert to seed the teams – John Duffy. John’s Fights of our Lives is one of the best books on Canadian elections out there so he seemed like a natural choice and I’m very happy that he agreed to do it. I sent him a list of all the nominations and comments people submitted and, from that, he produced the seedings (and the little one line synopses you’ll see bellow).

Apologies if your election of choice was left out but I believe the final list John produced has a great mix of elections on it, which should make this a fun contest.

Voting begins today and closes at noon Saturday for the four federal first round match-ups. Next week, we’ll begin what should be a series of very intriguing provincial competitions (I’ll be announcing the provincial seeds this weekend…so you’ll need to live in suspense for a bit).

1896 (8) vs. 1988 (1)
1896 (Laurier over Tupper): With the new country shaking to bits over religious education in Manitoba, a great unifier emerges in Laurier.
1988 (Mulroney over Turner and Broadbent): Turner and Mulroney duke it out over free trade with the US and leadership in an epic personal duel.
Which Election was Bigger?
(8) 1898: Laurier over Tupper
(1) 1988: Mulroney over Turner
See Results

1925/26 (7) vs. 1878 (2)
1925/26 (King over Meighen…and Byng): In a wild and wooly hung parliament, a cornered Mackenzie King outfoxes Meighen, Byng, the Progressives, everyone -- and turns House of Commons trickery into ballot box gold.
1878 (MacDonald over Mackenzie): Macdonald storms back from the wildreness of scandal to re-ignite the National Policy and complete the CPR.
Which Election was Bigger?
(7) 1925/26: King over Meighen
(2) 1878: MacDonald over Mackenzie
See Results

1957/58 (6) vs. 1979/80 (3)
1957/58 (Dief over St. Laurent, Pearson): Prairie no-hoper Diefenbaker decks the Chairman of the Board, St.Laurent, then crushes his successor, Prince-of-Peace Pearson.
1979/80 (Clark over Trudeau, Trudeau over Clark): Trudeau falls, Clark rises, Clark falls, Trudeau rises, as constitutional and energy battles rage across the regional landscape.

Which Election was Bigger?
(6) 1957/58: Diefenbaker over St.Laurent, Pearson
(3) 1979/80: Trudeau vs. Clark
See Results

1911 (5) vs. 1935 (4)
1911 (Borden over Laurier): An aging Laurier deploys free trade with the US to revive his government, but challenger Borden turns the blade to defeat the champion.
1935 (King over Everyone): Arguing it's "King or Chaos", Liberals take on all comers and shatter the Conservative brand for two decades.
Which Election was Bigger?
(5) 1911: Borden over Laurier
(4) 1935: King over Bennett
See Results


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mid-Week July News

I'll be launching the "Biggest Election" contest later tomorrow (some good posts on the subject can be found here and here)

Until then, a mish-mash of news stories:

1. Kady O'Malley calls BS on Jennifer Wright's claim that Green Shift has received "numerous angry and threatening calls and emails" from people mistakenly thinking they were affiliated with the Liberal Party. I must say it seems odd a normal person would be enraged about a plan not mentioned on Green Shift's website to the point where they would call the contact number on the site to complain.

If this is happening, I feel kind of sorry for GRIT Calgary who must get hundreds of angry calls a year from irate conservatives upset about something they wrote on their damn blog.

2. Kady's most excellent blog recaps today's goings-on at the Ethics Committee In and Out hearings.

3. There's new news about the alleged grewalling of the Cadman tape but, at this point, I don't really care. The fact is, Harper said what he said - he hasn't denied that. So everything else, while perhaps relevant to the lawsuit (and I don't even see how it is), doesn't change that in the least. He said he was aware of "financial considerations" regardless of what may have happened to the tape- that's all that's really relevant here.

4. As someone who enjoys numbers and politics, I can't begin to describe just how much this site rocks! Simulations! Projections! And heaps and heaps of polling data! For what it's worth, their current model has Obama pegged at a 68.8% chance of victory.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Third Annual Politicians in Cowboy Hats

2006 Politicians in Cowboy Hats
2007 Politicians in Cowboy Hats

A big thanks to everyone who sent in pictures or posted them on their own blogs. Let's begin the photo round-up with the CP wire story's winner and loser:

And with good reviews from the Alberta media scarce during his time there, who can fault the LPC from pouncing on this and making it the top story on their weekly e-brief:

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion attended the Calgary Stampede last weekend, where he was named the best dressed political cowboy. Wearing boots, blue jeans, a fitted plaid shirt, topped off by a broad-brimmed cowboy hat, Mr. Dion looked like a true cowboy as he walked the grounds of the stampede, meeting with Albertans.

Dion also gets top tough guy Clint Eastwood points for walking into a wild west town, knowing that everyone was gunning for him. So I'll second the consensus and name him "best dressed" for Stampede 2008, taking the title from last year's winner, Harry Chase.

As for the green party leader? Mayday mayday! Call in the fashionistas! Since Liz has gotten a lot of flack for the above picture, I will post a slightly more flattering one of her from Sunday. May also gets Clint Eastwood points for wearing the Canada-USA pin, something no other party leader in Canada would ever be gutsy enough to do:
So what about the Village Person? Well, his psychic may have dropped the ball on giving him the Maxime Bernier heads up, but she's earning her paycheck in the fashion advisor role. Unlike the nerdy Quebec professor, who benefits from low cowboy expectations, Albertans expect a lot of their local PM and ever since leathervestgate, Harper has actually done a good job at looking presentable during the 15 minutes of public appearances he puts in every Stampede. In this picture, Steve gets into the spirit of things by giving a handshake so friendly to a little girl, you'd think she was his daughter.
Another Albertan on the hot-seat following his "Alberta Stampede" comments last year was Ed Stelmach. Now, after winning 72 seats in March, Stelmach could show up wearing nothing but a belt buckle and it probably wouldn't matter much. Come to think of it, wearing nothing but a belt buckle might have been better than this random mish-mash of clothing:
So what about those trying to replace Ed as Alberta's top cowboy? Well, politics are always at play during the stampede and with the ALP leadership race on, this year was no different. Saturday morning saw David Swann's breakfast go head-to-head against the federal Liberal one. For the first time in a while, Liberal MLAs visited the federal breakfast, with Dave Taylor, Darshan Kang, and Kent Hehr eating pancakes with Dion. Meanwhile, the Swann breakfast drew 2000 hungry Calgarians, among them Harry Chase. Still, in our fashion review, we must give Taylor the win over Swann:

Last year's winner of "worst dressed" for a bizarre animal sweater vest, Carolyn Bennett was much improved this year. I'll give her credit - she stampedes every year and appears to have an extensive western wear wardrobe, which isn't bad for a Toronto gal. She's pictured bellow with newly elected MLA Kent Hehr:
Finally, the Liberal candidate looking to replace Myron Thompson in Wild Rose, Jen Turcott, sports a stylish cowgirl outfit. A good try, but how could anyone look better than Myron in western wear?

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

An Election Election

First it was Greatest Prime Minister. Then Greatest Prime Minister We Never Had. Then Best Premier. And with the summer here, it's time yet again for my annual march-madness-history-political-poll-thingy.

Thanks for all the suggestions - I really liked the idea of “biggest scandal”, but felt it might descend into partisan poll stacking. I’m definitely going to run “Best election ad” one day but youtube is lacking when it comes to good old 80s Canadian political TV ads. This idea is so inspired, I only wish I'd thought of it. So the winner is…“Canada’s Biggest Election” .

I haven’t completely settled on a seeding system yet, but I’m inclined to have one side of the bracket filled with federal elections and one side filled with provincial/municipal ones, to try and highlight those a bit more. Any election of the past 10 years is exempt because my favourite University history proff always said you needed at least a decade before you could even begin to judge an event’s impact. And referendums are out, just because.

I’ll leave it up to everyone to decide what a “big” election means to them, but I’d suggest the following criteria:

1) Unpredictability: Either a surprise result or a close result are important, because this implies history could have easily gone a different way.

2) Impact: The result of the election must have significantly altered history - ideally for Canada as a whole, but also municipally or provincially.

Being a “memorable” election might also be a criterion for some, but I don’t think it’s essential since part of the purpose of this should be highlighting lesser-known elections.

With that in mind, I'm opening the floor up to nominations. I know the federal ones, but if there's an election you feel is deserving of more respect than it gets, speak up. Most of all, I'm looking for some good provincial (and municipal!) elections to include in the contest. So comb the annals of your home province's history and place a nomination in the comments section or over e-mail.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

(Name) Change That Works...for Alberta Liberals

Monday, I mulled over some of the arguments against changing the name of the Alberta Liberal Party. Today, I look at some of the arguments in favour of changing the name (or creating a new party), and toss in my two cents.

1. “After 87 years of losing, it’s time to try something new.”

When you’ve lost for as long as the ALP has, you might as well take risks. Kind of like mixing up the batting order in the midst of a losing streak. But trying something “just because” can often lead to cataclysmic results and there are a lot of other, less dramatic (and more dramatic for that matter) options still on the table that should be considered as well.

2. “The Liberal stigma haunts the ALP, even today. During the last campaign, Stelmach repeatedly referenced the NEP and the “tax and spend Liberals”.

True, but the man sounded absolutely pathetic doing that. I guess the root of the issue is whether or not Albertans associate the federal party with the provincial Liberals. I believe they do to a certain extent (“our name is our compass”), but I know a lot of people who would disagree.

3. “It worked for the Sask Party.”

And, to a lesser extent, the BC Liberals. But judging from the experiences of the Sask Party, even with a name change, it takes a few elections before the old brand associations die off. Then again, a 16-year plan to form government isn’t necessarily a slow timeline by Alberta standards. [And yes, I'm aware the Sask Party wasn't just a name change, which is why you'd really need a new party that brought in new people for it to be at all meaningful]

4. “A name change would help broaden the tent, and bring PCs into the fold.”

This is only true if it’s part of a major rebranding and refocusing. Politically active people are probably less influenced by things like a party name than the general population so, by itself, a name change would be unlikely to grow the party membership, increase donations, or attract star candidates.

5. “A name change would create excitement moving forward.”

Having left Alberta, I’m probably not qualified to weigh in on the mood of the rank and file. But I know I’d have a tough time getting energized without a sense that something has changed, and being part of a new party might just be the thing to end the election hangover and motivate people. At the same time, it could alienate a lot of long time Liberals and drive away some of the staunchest supporters of the party.

6. “A name change would be the ultimate symbolic gesture to Albertans than we recognize ‘we got it wrong’”

And this is probably why there is so much hostility to the name change in some circles. Although it’s a largely meaningless thing, changing the party’s name would be an admission that the Liberal brand is just not sellable in Alberta. And that’s a tough thing to admit. But if you truly want to convince Albertans that the party has changed – well, this would be the most direct way to do it. Of course if you don’t actually change, then the spin that Liberals are “ashamed of what they are” and “running away from their name” would be all-too-accurate.


I think I do have a bit of the “martyr complex” the “New Liberal” document talked about and, because of that, there’s a large part of me that would like to keep the Liberal name and keep fighting the good fight under it (or…err…watching the good fight from the comfy Liberal sidelines in Toronto!). But the time has come to change and I don’t view the Alberta Liberal name as sacrosanct – actually winning an election and giving Albertans a better government is the end game.

And to form government, the party needs to change. I think everyone recognizes that. My personal opinion is that a name change (or founding a new party) is a good way to highlight that change and really create the sense, both within the party and the general public, that this is the start of something new. That’s not to say that the Liberal Party could never form government without a name change – Decore almost did, after all. But to me, the words “Liberal government in Alberta” just sound funny and I think a lot of Albertans feel the same way.

Yes, it’s more important to change the party’s policies. It’s more important to explore its core philosophy. It’s more important to build up the organization. It’s more important to make sure the party has the right leader and the right message. But changing the name or even starting from scratch are certainly ideas worth exploring.


Monday, July 07, 2008

Lacking Clarity

Oh, Chantal Hebert.

Since he launched his plan, the Liberal leader has made no secret that the Clarity Act playbook is his main source of inspiration.

In an approach reminiscent of his debate with the sovereignist chattering class, Dion spent the past few days promoting his plan in Alberta, the province that is home to the audience most hostile to a carbon tax.

But if his past experience in Quebec is any indication, his weekend foray will earn him more admiration in Ontario than converts in Alberta.

That is certainly how the Clarity Act performance played out in Quebec.

While Dion is widely seen as a unity hero in the rest of Canada, many of his fellow Quebec federalists remain convinced that the Clarity Act on secession actually delayed the current return of the pendulum towards federalism.


But sovereignty still remained a dominant force in Quebec for the decade that followed, including during and after the Clarity Act debate. It is only recently that a sustained pro-federalist trend has emerged in the province's public opinion.

There is no doubt that it is easier for a Quebec federalist to stand up to sovereignists armed with Stephen Harper's nation resolution than with Dion's Clarity Act.


Like many Canadians, Dion sees the Clarity Act as his finest political hour.

But in trying to recreate it, he risks duplicating the very approach that turned him into a political writeoff in Quebec 10 years ago.

First of all, I would argue that being considered a “write-off” in Alberta would only cost Dion all of zero current Liberal seats. But that’s besides the point because I do think the Liberals should focus more on the West than they do presently. What I am interested in is Hebert’s recollection of how the Clarity Act delayed the federalist re-emergence in Quebec.

The Clarity Act was passed in early 2000. So let’s jump in our time machine and see the devastating results it had on the federalist forces that imposed this insidious act later that year:

2000 Federal Election Results
Liberals: 36 seats (+10), 44.2% (up 7.5%)

Now, in Hebert’s defense, the Bloc did gain an extra 2% of the vote, although they lost 6 seats in the process.

The next big test was provincially, in 2003:

Liberals 76 seats (+28), 46.0% (+2.5%)
PQ 45 seats (-21), 33.2% (-9.7%)

Now, I’m not saying that the Clarity Act killed the sovereignist movement but to argue that it hurt the federalists when every bit of quantitative evidence out there runs counter to that hypothesis? Well, that’s an argument that only Chantal Hebert could make.


H-Dog! Wassssssup?

RUSUTSU, Japan — First it was "Yo, Blair," and now it's "Yo, Harper."

U.S. President George W. Bush's penchant for street slang was again on display on the first day of the Group of Eight summit in Japan. A televised feed of the event showed Bush casually wrapping an arm around Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua and calling for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's attention.

"Yo, Harper. The president of Nigeria."

For the record, I don’t particularly care how Dubya addresses Stephen Harper. They can high five each other, hug, or do the secret neocon handshake, and it won't mean much to me. But, being in July, I guess this is what passes for political news.

I’ve been browsing a few wire reports on the story and I must say I did enjoy seeing the following descriptions applied to our PM by the international press:

“a rather stiff and shy figure”

“the somewhat wooden Canadian leader”

Sunday, July 06, 2008

What's in a Name?

The highest profile discussions about the future of the Alberta Liberal Party have focused on one word – “liberal”. In fairness, there are more important debates to be had on structure, organization, and ideology, and I fully intend to look at them as part of this yet-to-be-cleverly-named post series on the future of the ALP. But, talking about the name is so gosh darn fun that it’s worth a post (or two) of it’s own.

I figure the best way to approach this is to first look at the arguments against a name change, which I’ve lifted from the “New Liberal” document, as it makes the most compelling case against a name change I’ve read anywhere.

[Note: For the purposes of this post, I’m equating a name change to founding a new party which, of the two, I think is the better option.]

1. “For many Albertans [a name change] will likely seem overly simplistic and possibly even insulting. While trying to fix the problems with our party, we fall prey to one of our biggest: this elitist sense that voters somehow just aren’t getting it, and are shallow enough that if we change the name, we’ll fool them into giving us a second look.”

Agreed, but only in the sense that a name change must be part of something larger. Simply changing from “Reform” to “Canadian Alliance” didn’t do the right any favours in Canada because it was seen to be a hollow move. A name change can, however, be an effective vehicle for drawing voters’ attention to a shift in attitudes and focus.

2. “It is also a complete capitulation. We are giving credence to every Progressive Conservative attack against liberalism they’ve ever made. If our upheaval ends at a name change, we may come out the other side seen as a party of liberals so ashamed of what they are that they hide it – hardly a positive step forward.”

Maybe it would be admitting defeat but, then again, most people are willing to admit defeat after losing for 87 years (Hillary Clinton being the exception). Admittedly, it would somewhat reek of desperation and the media/PCs/NDP would certainly try to exploit it. So I guess it depends whether or not people believe it has reached the “desperation” stage yet.

3. Even if a philosophy shift was not the intended goal, it would be very difficult for the Liberal Party to stay philosophically liberal should its name be changed. Our name is our compass. People coming from any other jurisdiction in this country immediately know what our core philosophy is.

This debate is probably better reserved for another post on the topic of philosophical shifts but isn’t this argument the definition of an “elitist sense that voters somewhat just aren’t getting it”? If people aren’t buying what you’re selling and it’s not an image problem, then you better change what you’re selling. And “our name is our compass” might just be the most eloquent argument in favour of a name change I’ve heard as of yet.

4. Logistical problems: You need 75% approval to change the name. If you created a new party, an ALP rump would siphon off 10% of the vote. [paraphrased]

Logistically, it certainly would be difficult to orchestrate which is why I’m skeptical this will actually happen. Having been actively involved in the ALP for quite some time, there are a lot of people suffering from NDP syndrome – “I’ve lost as a Liberal for 40 years and I’d rather keep losing as a Liberal than compromise”. I do question the claim that the “old” Alberta Liberal Party would be a vote drain on the new party if it achieved a critical mass of support – that reminds me a lot of the “Progressive Canadians” movement started by disgruntled federal PCs after the merger. However, I do think that there would be some backlash from federal Liberals that would, at least initially, cut into the volunteer and donor base of the new party. So unless the new party drew a few disgruntled PCs in, it wouldn’t be worth the effort.

5. “The Alberta Liberal Party survived having no seats through the late 60s to the mid 80s. For a brand supposedly so toxic, it has amazing longevity, and an uncanny ability to bounce back where other parties have been forced to fold. Its resiliency is a strength and must be seriously considered in any proposition that asserts it can simply be willed out of existence.”

Umm…I’m not sure if “survived having no seats” should necessarily be the shinning achievement of any political party. Do we really want to be the Toronto Maple Leafs of the political world?

To that list, I’d add the following arguments against a name change:

6. “Decore nearly won in ’93 as a Liberal, with the NEP a lot fresher in the collective minds of Albertans.” This is probably proof enough that winning as a Liberal isn’t impossible – although the economy tanking certainly helps.

7. “Victory would be a lot sweeter, if it was a Liberal victory”. And the resulting book about that election would sell a lot more.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at some of the arguments in favour of a name change and offer my opinion. Although this post probably had a heavy pro-change tone to it, that’s more for the sake of debate than anything else; I’ll try and poke as some holes in the pro-change arguments tomorrow.


Friday, July 04, 2008

As Herb Gray Prepares a Multi-million Dollar Lawsuit

First Ed Stelmach blames a punk blogger for stealing his personality, and now Stephen Harper is accusing the Liberal party of stealing his. While Harper’s personality is clearly missing, I doubt the Liberals stole. If they did, they’d be using it themselves and they're definitely not, judging from Dion's own personality deficiencies.

No, the Liberals did not take Harper’s personality and Daveberta did not take Stelmach’s - the only logical conclusion is that there is a cereal personality thief on the loose, targeting Conservative politicians. If I were Danny Williams, I would be keeping a very close eye on my personality because, actually having one, I imagine this thief would be far more interested in Danny’s personality than either Steve’s or Ed’s.

Everybody Loves Ray?

Layton hoping for Alberta 'breakthrough' with Ray Martin as a candidate

CALGARY — Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton says he's thrilled that long-time Alberta New Democrat Ray Martin has agreed to seek the candidacy for the national party in the riding of Edmonton East.

Martin served as the Alberta NDP leader for eight years in the late 1980s to early 1990s. He then returned to provincial politics to represent an east-Edmonton riding for four years until he was defeated in March when the Conservatives roared back to power with 72 seats.

Layton says Martin is well respected and known as a man with a lot of integrity.

Federal New Democrats say they hope Martin will help launch "a breakthrough" for them in the province, where all federal seats are currently held by the Conservatives.

The NDP nomination meeting for Edmonton East is expected in September.

Ray Martin was one of the victims of the EDmonton tidal wave this spring, so he’s decided to give it a go federally with Jack’s team. I remember Edmonton East being one of the best Liberal/NDP ridings in Alberta from a demographic perspective, on a project I did for school last year. So I think 30% of the vote and a second place finish might be two achievable targets for Ray (even though he finished third with 17% in 2000 when he ran federally).

But an Alberta NDP breakthrough? Errr…no.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Leather Vest Watch

The Calgary Stampede - when Calgarians take a break from complaining that the rest of the country sees them as Wild West hicks and dress up as cowboys for a week - kicks off this weekend but, alas, I’ll be missing it. I don’t so much mind missing the rodeo, parade, or mini-donuts, but I am sad that I won’t be able to add to my collection of “politicians in cowboy hats” pictures.

So for anyone lucky enough to be taking at a Stampede breakfast this week, I’m putting out a bleg for you to send me any pictures of politicians in western wear you manage to snap. If I get enough, I’ll be sure to post them all here (either attributed or anonymous - your call), with the mandatory snarky captions. Bonus marks to anyone who gets a picture of Ed Stelmach or Ralph Klein.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

At Issue...the Thrilling Conclusion

As the parliamentary year ends, here's a recap of the second half of last Thursday's At Issue Panel.

Overlooked and Under Reported

Hebert: Smitherman and Couillard leave their health portfolios
Coyne: Shift of power to the west
Gregg: Can/US energy relations
Rex: Human rights commissions

Hebert suggests a worthy choice, but I tend to disagree with her claim that the health portfolio "defeated" Couillard and Smitherman. At the very least in Smitherman's case, he was highly regarded for his work on the file and left to a promotion.

I can't think of any obvious stories the media overlooked this spring but I will say that seriously under reported Conservative Party accomplishments - I assume there must have been some, although you'd never know it by reading their site. A rough eyeballing of their 2008 news stories shows over three quarters of them with shruggy Dion as the main graphic.

Shamelessly Exploited Issue
Coyne: Aboriginal Affairs
Gregg: Harper attacking green shift before its release
Rex: Global warming
Hebert: Couillard affair

The harder challenge might be to find an issue that hasn't been shamelessly exploited.

If you're looking for comical issue exploitation, nothing comes close to Dennis Coderre slamming the Tories for allowing CBC to ditch the HNIC theme. Except perhaps all the other hockey insanity we saw during the playoffs this year.

Ballot Question for Next Election
Gregg: If the Tories succeed: "is Dion up to the job?" If the Liberals do: "referendum on the environment".
Rex: The economy's relationship with global warming
Hebert: Ditto
Coyne: The carbon tax driving style differences between the leaders

To a certain extent, I think all four panelists are right, although I wonder if they might be over emphasizing the carbon tax's impact because it's top of mind right now. That said, right now both the Liberals and Conservatives think they can win an election on the carbon tax so they'll do their best to keep it front and centre. So in the end, I think Coyne may be closest to the mark - opinions of the carbon tax are going to shape opinions about Dion as a leader, so this one will probably come down to leadership.

Who will we be Talking about in One Year?
Coyne: Shawn Graham
Gregg: Elizabeth May
Rex: Danny Williams
Hebert: Jean Charest

Mansbridge gave Coyne the mandatory shout-out for picking Maxime Bernier for this question last year. And with Kevin Taft and Phillip Couillard out of politics, being picked by At Issue for this question might very well be the kiss of death.

With a federal election likely this fall, picking any of the party leaders or their possible successors would be a safe choice. If the carbon tax backlash in BC drives Gordon Campbell to defeat next May, we'll definitely be analyzing that election. And, depending on how long Judge Oliphant takes to run his inquiry, we might be talking a lot about Brian Mulroney at this time next year.

When will the Election be?
Gregg: First opportunity
Rex: Fall
Hebert: Fall
Coyne: October '09...if the grits want to go, the Bloc or NDP will back down

I'm putting my money on a November vote but Coyne does make a valid point - it wouldn't at all surprise me to see Duceppe propping up the Tories if Dion gets more hawkish about an election.