Friday, February 29, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Your free ride is about to...continue!
"Ed Stelmach says the future is full of risks. I say the future is full of opportunity."
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Blast from the Past
The widow of former B.C. MP Chuck Cadman says two Conservative Party officials offered her husband a million-dollar life insurance policy in exchange for his vote to bring down the Liberal government in May of 2005.
Unlike Mr. Grewal, Chuck Cadman wasn't in the habit of taping his private conversations so there's no firm proof, but Harper's comments in the book are...to put it midly...interesting. It certainly sounds like he was fully aware of the gist of the meeting, if not the specifics:
"Of the offer to Chuck," [journalist Tom Zytaruk] quotes Mr. Harper as saying, "it was only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election, okay. That's my understanding of what they were talking about.
"I don't know the details," he said. "I can tell you that I had told the individuals — I mean, they wanted to do it — but I told them they were wasting their time. I said Chuck had made up his mind he was going to vote with the Liberals. I knew why, and I respected the decision, but they were just, they were convinced there was, there was financial issues and, there may or may not.
"They were legitimately representing the party," Mr. Harper confirmed. "I said 'Don't press him, I mean, you have this theory that it's, you know, financial insecurity, and you know, just, you know, if that's what you say make the case,' but I said 'Don't press it.'."
A million dollar bribe sure sounds sexy but even minor compensation for "financial insecurity" in exchange for a vote would be blatantly illegal. And is Harper going to be able to come out and say that one of his own candidates is a liar? I'm not sure this will go anywhere but you can be sure that Harper will be answering some uncomfortable questions in the coming days.
Labels: Chuck Cadman
PC MLAs call for a new NEP
You can see the full results from the Pembina institute survey of candidates here.
If you're still trying to figure out your vote, you can check out the party leaders on the eye opener:
Feb. 25th: Ed Stelmach of the Conservative Party (13:11)
Feb. 14th: Brian Mason of the NDP (13:38)
Feb. 12th: George Read of the Green Party (12:25)
Feb. 6th: Kevin Taft of the Liberal Party (12:24)
My favourite Stelmachism from his interview - "it's very easy now to predict the past".
In other news, it's come out that the Tories appointed MLA and candidate Thomas Lukaszuk's former EA as the returning officer in Edmonton-Castle Downs, a riding Lukaszuk won by 5 votes after a recount in 2004. It's almost at the point where all you can do is just laugh.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Truth be told, I was following NHL trade deadline closer than this today and won't be able to read budget reports until later tonight. Until then, it's an open thread.
-Dion calls it a "watered down Liberal budget" and "one mile wide and one inch deep". Hmm... Either way, I don't think there was anything in this budget that could easily have been turned into an election issue, even if the Liberals wanted to go to the polls.
-Andrew Coyne, surprise, surprise, thinks there's too much spending.
-1.2 billion in regional development, 2 billion for infrastructure, and 500 million for transit, is smart politics, since it will let Harper tour swing seats across the country announcing projects over the next year.
-Allowing all Canadians to, for all intents and purposes, put aside $5,000 from their annual income tax-free every year, could be incredibly expensive in the long run. It should also play well to middle class voters.
-I'm really not sure why the Tories don't try to cut off the opposition on the environment. If they could neutralize that issue, there would be little left for the Liberals to attack them on. And, as Gordon Campbell has shown, it's not hard to be environmentally conscious in a revenue neutral way.
-Paul Wells weighs in on his topic of choice.
-Hossa to the Pens, Richards to the Stars. Discuss.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Oil Companies Call for a New NEP
CALGARY - The Alberta Conservatives will not decide for months on a request from several major oilsands companies to halt development leases in three huge and environmentally sensitive swaths of the oilsands region, Conservative Leader Ed Stelmach said today.
The request threatens to pit Stelmach's commitment to environmental protection against his campaign mantra of not "touching the brake" on energy development, although he repeatedly dodged that question as the final week of campaigning towards next Monday's election began.
Industry giants including Petro-Canada, Imperial Oil, Husky Energy and Suncor Energy support the request for protected conservation areas in a January letter to the Alberta government by the Cumulative Environmental Management Association. The letter asks that the government not sell oilsands leases in the three areas until at least 2011.
How to Lose an Issue in 10 Days
This is probably a good example of how a minority government can work but it's probably a better example of how to skillfully make a hot button issue disappear. As for who the skillful one was in all of this, I tend to lean Harper's way, but I guess it all depends on who you thought would benefit from an election focused on Afghanistan.
The Tories will knock on Wood...
I have met a lot of politicians over the years including every Prime Minister going back to and including John Diefenbaker except Kim Campbell. My list includes a lot of Premiers as well, including Ernest Manning, Duff Roblin, John Robarts, Bob Stanfield, W.A.C. Bennett, Bill Bennett, Lougheed, Klein, Bernard Lord, Joey Smallwood, Robichaud of New Brunswick and several more. All of this just to establish that I can claim finely honed instincts when it comes to politicians and which ones I’d trust and those I wouldn’t. I met Kevin Taft for the first time yesterday in a political social setting and came away convinced that deciding to support and vote for the provincial Alberta Liberals was the right decision. Those finely honed instincts tell me that Kevin Taft is a straight shooter and will be a Premier in whose hands my beloved Alberta will be safe and thoughtfully managed.
It is my hope that in the waning days of the campaign, Albertans will wake up and see that it is time for political renewal and recognize that their only hope for that renewal is with Kevin Taft and his team. He is not a glad-handing, back-slapping politician of which we have abundance in Alberta . He is one of those rare types who can focus on the people he meets as individuals and not just one more voter he has to shake hands with quickly so he can move on to the next one. This is not a skill politicians develop, they’re either born with it or don’t have it. There are politicians who can work a room because there are votes in it. The more and valuable politicians are those who work a room because there people in it. I watched Kevin Taft closely at the Sunday event and I know he knows and appreciates the difference between a room full of votes and a room full of people.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
This Week in Alberta Politics - Week 1902 of Tory Reign
Health care was a big topic this week, with the Liberals promising Calgary a cancer centre and the Tories promising that Calgary health care workers will be paid.
Big Budget Films
Both the Alberta Liberals and PCs release platform costing with more plot holes than I Know Who Killed Me.
I Am Legend
The lifetime achievement award is presented this year to Pierre Trudeau. Apparently, he haunts Ed still:
"There is a fundamental difference in philosophy between Progressive
Conservatives and Liberals. The Liberals believe in taxing it, spending it, controlling it," Stelmach told the crowd. "Albertans don't want a government-planned economy. The (Pierre) Trudeau Liberals tried it, and we know how well that worked."
Pressed after the speech why he decided to go negative in his campaigning -- something he vowed not to do -- Stelmach said he's fed up with the opposition "getting away with policies that make no sense for all Albertans." Asked whether it's fair to compare Taft and the Alberta Liberals to Trudeau, Stelmach paused and said: "They carry the same label."
Stelmach certainly had the best coaching for Thursday's debate. He looked straight ahead and robotically stuck to his talking points, regardless of what was asked of him.
"Mr. Stelmach, what is your favourite colour?"
"We have a plan that provides change Albertans can trust in plan form. Jean Chretien wants to steal your oil money."
And, you know what, it worked. He may have been Knocked Up and it may have been Superbad, but expectations were so low that merely surviving was enough.
The "We'll find a way for Al Gore to win something" Award
The Alberta Liberals out-green the Greens and get top marks for their environmental platform.
Best Short Film
Youtube heats up this week - Daveberta has a good round up here. Albertans for Change and the PCs have launched dueling commercials:
The People's Choice Awards
Ipsos, Angus Reid, and Leger have released poll numbers, which average out:
While these results are similar to 2004, with the Liberals up in Calgary and the PCs up in Edmonton, there could be a few ridings switching hands on the third. And with Stelmach's leadership and momentum numbers still weak, and the "time for a change" sentiment sky high, things could shift. But the clock is ticking.
The Razzie Goes To...
Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach stood in front of 200 Tory supporters Monday and promised to limit annual tuition increases to the rate of inflation. But he got no applause from the partisan crowd.
The Bucket List: After being an MLA for 15 years and staring political death in the eye, Ed promises to do all the things he never did when he had the chance to.
Definitely, Maybe: Ed Stelmach's solution to the climate change problem.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age: A look back at a time before democracy when you could actually have a 45 year reign...
Transformers: After 37 years in power, the PCs try to run on a "change" platform.
UPDATE: Glad to see that rapid response is alive and well in Alberta. After taking a quick shot at ALP (and PC) costing above, the Liberal war room fired me off an early morning (especially in Alberta) detailed costing chart and some more examples of fund reallocation. I’m no economist, but it certainly looks like they did their homework on this one.
And, I certainly would expect them to spend less than the PCs, who boosted spending by 17% in last spring's budget...
Labels: Alberta Election
Tories keep Tory...
Friday, February 22, 2008
When life immitates The West Wing immitating life
what those West Wing fans stunned by the similarity between the fictitious Matthew Santos and the real-life Barack Obama have not known is that the resemblance is no coincidence. When the West Wing scriptwriters first devised their fictitious presidential candidate in the late summer of 2004, they modelled him in part on a young Illinois politician - not yet even a US senator - by the name of Barack Obama.
"I drew inspiration from him in drawing this character," West Wing writer and producer Eli Attie told the Guardian. "When I had to write, Obama was just appearing on the national scene. He had done a great speech at the convention [which nominated John Kerry] and people were beginning to talk about him."
Hat tip - IP
Reasons a Stelmach win wouldn't be all bad
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Wild West Shoot-Out
I'll be live blogging the Alberta debate tonight as it unfolds. Until then, we've got a real battle of the Reids forming, with Ipsos showing Ed sailing easy and Angus showing Ed in a ton of trouble. Either way, all eyes will be on the debate tonight - if the Alberta Liberals have any chance, tonight is when Taft will have to make his move.
Oh, and I've got 17 minutes in the "how long does it take Ed Stelmach to bring up Trudeau or the NEP" pool.
6:32 pm: Bill Mason takes a page from the Jack Layton playbook! "elect more NDP MPs...errr...MLAs"
6:33pm: Ed Stelmach opening: "plan...we have a clear plan... a very good plan...plan plan plan"
6:39 pm: Apparently there will be absolutely no moderation this debate...
6:41 pm: What the hell? Commercials? Are they serious?
6:36 pm: I'm watching the debate with James Bowie here and his first question of the evening about Paul Hinman - "is English not his first language?"
6:53 pm: Stelmach points out that he's built a "neo-navel" unit. For belly button piercings?
7:01 pm: Paul Hinman - "we are not getting any action". Well, no.
7:04 pm: Kevin sounds good, pulling from his "next Alberta" speech.
7:05 pm: Stelmach calls his royalty position "a decisive decision".
7:08 pm: Ha ha! Who had 38 minutes in the pool? Stelmach brings up Jean Chretien and Ottawa stealing Alberta's wealth.
7:16 pm: Ed gets asked where his figure of 300,000 lost jobs comes from...and...we're on to talking points...I'll give Ed credit - he's not showing any emotion or any sign of life, but he's sticking to the script. Still, he didn't answer the question!
7:23 pm: Kevin looks a bit weak on the environment in my opinion. As I've said before, he should just say he supports the Harper targets and ask Ed if he does as well.
7:24 pm: Ed holds up his
7:35 pm: No offense to the gents, but this is looking like a bin round...
7:41 pm: From Mr. Bowie, on Ed Stelmach: "Is this his first election?". Me: "Yup." Bowie: "You can tell..."
7:53 pm: Another f'ing commercial break???? I'm a little disappointed that we didn't get a single question on ethics or accountability tonight since that was the opening for a knock-out punch....
8:00 pm: Following the debate we go right into "Big Love". Resisting...urge...to make Paul Hinman joke...
Well, that's the debate. All in all, it certainly wasn't the greatest debate ever. I'm pretty bad at calling debates and I obviously have my biases, so take the following with a grain of salt:
I do think Taft was by far the best of the four - he was the only one who showed any form of emotion. Most importantly, I think he looked and sounded Premierial. But, that's only for those who watched. There was no...wait for the cliche..."knock out punch", so unless you watched, this debate likely won't change anyone's opinion.
Stelmach...well, they say debates reinforce your opinions, but I cannot imagine anyone watching this debate and thinking this guy is qualified to be Premier. I'm sorry, but he is by far the least inspiring politician ever elected to lead any party in Canada ever. On the plus side, he avoided saying anything overly dumb and no one really hit him hard enough to knock him down so Ed can likely breath easy that this one is over.
As for Hinman and Mason...meh. Neither did much for me, but they hit on their key themes so they should solidify their base, if nothing else. "I hate corporations"..."I hate government"...we get it!
I'm curious to hear other thoughts on the debate. Daveberta, Alberta Tory, the Edmonton Journal, ES, and Joel Kom were all live blogging.
FRIDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: First of all, I really do think we would have been better served with two commercial free 1 hour debates. Last night, there was nothing on education, nothing on ethics, hardly anything on royalties, and we were treated to the bizarre “auto insurance is a HUGE issue – you have 5 seconds each to explain your positions” question at the end.
As for the performances, the reviews are, as usual, mixed. I scanned a few less mainstream blogs and discussion boards and they were digging Hinman, although a few people thought he came across sounding too old fashioned with respect to child care. The media seems to be of the view that Stelmach won by virtue of not sucking as much as they expected him to, and I’d tend to agree with them. The “undecided voter” panel that Ipsos is running for the Herald had it as a four-way draw, which means Mason and Hinman were the big winners. The Journal’s “average Joe” panel seemed pretty positive towards Taft, and panned Mason by and large.
A few more quick run-down thoughts:
- Stelmach listened to his coaches well. He looked straight ahead and mechanically went into his talking points when instructed to. I’m not sure anyone really understood what he was saying but he tossed around enough examples and numbers that you could at least get the sense he was competent enough to run the province, even if he lacked in the “vision” department.
-Taft was playing more for the audience than the pundits, I think. He was trying to look like a Premier and show some passion, as supposed to just punching away at Stelmach all night. Was that a good strategy? Well, that depends on how far you think Stelmach has fallen. I think he gets good marks on content and delivery, although he had a few weird body language moments.
-My initial reaction was that Hinman and Mason played to their base well and I think that remains true. Hinman wasn’t afraid to put forward his “true conservative” policies and Mason was fighting for the little guy. I wasn’t overly impressed with Mason, truth be told (and I have called debates for Jack Layton before) but he managed to lure Taft into a few skirmishes which is what he had to do too.
-My favourite e-mail I got in response to the debate from a reader:
Taft last night: “Charisma doesn’t win elections. Charisma doesn’t get hospitals built. Charisma doesn’t get schools built.”
But she does put on a great show Tuesdays at the French Maid.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Let's Get Ready to Rummmmmmmmmbbbbbblllllleeeeee!
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
-Fresh off his quest to end ATM fees, Jack Layton has found a new cause du jour.
-Obama makes it 9 in a row with a win in Wisconsin...and I'm gonna assume Hawaii makes it 10 later tonight.
-Good policy and good politics out in BC. It's nice to see some small "c" conservative governments in this country doing something about the climate change crisis, rather than resorting to wild fear mongering.
-Kosovo declares independence and Castro retires. I won't add any links since I'm sure my readers have mastered google. But feel free to comment.
-The good people at RottenTories.ca have been busy. The Edbay ad above popped up this evening along with the following returning officer application form:
Monday, February 18, 2008
This Week in Alberta Politics - Week 1901 of Tory Reign
-from the makers of edspedia.ca come rottentories.ca
-Kevin Taft: The Next Alberta
-Straight Outta Edmonton counts down the top songs of 1971
-Taft responds to RO scandal on Youtube
-Daveberta Youtube round-up
-Four Strong Winds asks how to fix democracy in Alberta
I didn't think it was possible, but whoever is doing Ed Stelmach's campaign blog has managed to capture the mind numbing boringness of Ed in written form! My favourite entry is from February 12th - I'd say it's prime fodder for the cliche-o-meter.
On the other side, you have former journalist and Calgary Fish Creek candidate Laura Shutiak, who has managed to put together an entertaining blog that sheds some light on what life on the campaign trail is like. I'll also give Arthur Kent credit for putting together a walk and talk daily video blog.
The PCs keep rolling out the "Ed chats with bad actors" ads, while Imagine Alberta talks education.
The Continuing Saga of Perry Mason
"Say my name" is quickly becoming the NDP leader's campaign theme.
Quotes of the Week
"The opposition says, 'a 37-year-old government -- time to kick them out.' Marie has been with me for 34 years -- I don't plan to kick her out."
"[Stelmach was such a QP disaster that] it got to the point where you didn't ask him questions because you just felt bad for him."
Topics I'd Like to see Banned from the Campaign
Ed Stelmach's conception
Actual Quote from Ed Stelmach Podcast with Tom "Say no to Calgary" Olsen
TO: "Generally speaking, what is their response when you explain your plan on whatever the issue is?"
ES: "uhh, what's, when I have an opportunity to talk to individuals and talk about our plan, communicate to them what we have in our plan, a very bold plan to cover all of these issues, many have a much better understanding of what's in the plan and know that it's going to work for them and deal with many of the issues that they may be facing individually in many issues."
Reason why the PCs will probably still win this thing
In Drayton Valley, Frances Meston, 56, co-owns Big West Farm and Ranch with her husband. The store sells everything from cowboy hats to gates for drilling sites. "This royalty thing, it hasn't helped anybody," she said.
But for all the angst and anger it's created, Ms. Meston still supports the Tories. She always has. In fact, the mother of two grown daughters couldn't imagine an Alberta without the Conservatives in charge. "No, and definitely not the NDP," she said with a chuckle.
The Liberals came out with two policies which both make practical and political sense. $1,000 off tuition is something all students can relate to, while Taft's "cities charter" got this response in a Herald editorial this morning:
Liberal Leader Kevin Taft has skillfully positioned himself as king of the concrete jungle, with an election promise to give Edmonton and Calgary their own charters.
Raising the provocative idea of more municipal autonomy strategically shows Taft as a leader who gets the needs of Alberta's cities, where two-thirds of the population reside.
The Week Ahead
All eyes are on the leaders debate this Thursday. This is make it or break it time for the four party leaders and might very well decide the election. And, as luck would have it, I've figured out the chanel shifting on my cable box so I'll be able to watch and live blog it this Thursday!
I'd also expect the first public polls of the campaign to be released either Tuesday or Wednesday.
Labels: Alberta Election
Your Dalton Day Link Round-Up
-The Tories have unleashed a new line of attack on Dion, claiming that a Liberal government would plunge the country back into deficit. I think even Tories will agree this isn't likely, for the exact same reason I don't expect Harper to ever ban abortion or bring back the death penalty - it would be political suicide to run a deficit in this day and age. But it is interesting to get a sneak peak of some of the themes we'll see during the next election, expected to be called in...ummm....ahh....well...
-The Bloc are also advertising...they target the Tories on a wide range of policy positions.
-While I did miss all the fun of the Ontario elections in the fall, the OYL elections figure to be just as intense. Jacob Mksyartinian is running for re-election with OYL Beyond, while Mary Rose Brown is running for President with OYL Roots. Being new to the scene, I don't know all the players, but I would like to put in a good word on behalf of bloggers Justin Tetreault and Danielle Takacs, along with Elyse Banham and Chris Drew, who I hear is running for VP Policy on a "fund faith based schools" platform.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Since I'm not able to help on the ground this campaign, here’s my little bit of virtual door knocking.
For any members of the Albertan nation off at school or out of the province on March 3rd, you can still vote by mail in ballot. And, heck, unlike the poor suckers in Alberta, you don’t even need to leave your home to do it.
Step 1: Click here to find your riding if you don’t already know it.
Step 2: Find your local returning officer and kindly ask them to mail you a ballot (tip: to ensure speedy delivery mention that you too are also a huge fan of Ed Stelmach). If they tell you to send them a form in for a formal request, this is the one they’re talking about.
Step 3: Once you get your ballot, fill it out and mail it back. It needs to be received by March 3rd, so get on it today!
For those of you in Alberta who will be busy on March 3rd, the advanced polls are open February 28, 28, and March 1, from 9 am to 8 pm. To find out where you vote, click here.
With voter turn-out under 50% last election, I think it's important for everyone who can to vote.
Labels: Yay Democracy
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Equally disturbing has been Stelmach's handling of this. When the scandal broke, here's what Stelmach had to say:
"I didn't provide the names to the chief electoral officer," Stelmach said while in Calgary.
One quick call to Elections Alberta disputed that:
But here's the other half of the truth: the premier and his cabinet approved those officials, many of whom had been proposed by his party and MLAs, and have deep ties to the Conservative party.
On Dec. 19 last year, and again this Jan. 23, the government's executive council (the cabinet) voted to appoint returning officers for the province's 83 ridings.
As the premier's men have acknowledged, those people are nominated to Elections Alberta through Tory MLAs, riding associations and the main party.
Thus the Tories pick them and the Tories appoint them; and Stelmach is chairman of the almighty executive council that does the appointing.
Just so everyone understands what's going on. Returning officers are chosen by PC candidates and PC riding associations. Un-freaking-believable. At least a few Tory candidates have come around to admitting this needs changing but many still try to defend an indefensible policy. When you consider how hard Albertans have fought for transparency and openness at the federal level, I would hope they'd expect the same standards in their home province.
If you want an illustration of the dangers of one party rule for 37 years, I think this illustrates it better than anything. The PCs simply fail to grasp the difference between the Alberta government and the Progressive Conservative Party.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Great Moments in Spin
Alberta spent $3.8 million on its Smithsonian party in Washington in 2006, an event hailed as a huge success by the government and slammed as a waste of taxpayers' money by the opposition.
[A spokeswoman] said surveys conducted by the Smithsonian show that before the festival 77 per cent of people polled had very little knowledge about Alberta, while 95 per cent of those surveyed at the end said they had a good experience.
I wish I remembered all the proper latin names for logical falacies I learned in TOK because...well...this is certainly one of them. Here's an idea:
Give me 3.8 million dollars to throw a Dalton Day party on Monday. We'll have Dalton McGuinty costumes for everyone! Dalton themed food! Dalton themed prizes! Everyone will get wasted out of their minds! You know what? I'm willing to bet that around 77% of people at my party would have very little knowledge about Alberta. And, hell, I bet with 3.8 million dollars I could ensure at least 96% of people there have a good time!
Methinks the folks at Edspedia (now offering the "Cindy Ady Valentine's Day Special") will have fun with this one...
Labels: great moments in spin
Thursday, February 14, 2008
"It's that dream, that possibility, that should be more achievable here than anywhere else"
So, in that spirit, today's post will stress ALP positives, rather than PC negatives. To start things off, here's a fantastic video where Kevin Taft talks about Alberta's future. Watching the last minute made me wish I was back there fighting the good fight...
The Globe also had a very good profile of Kevin earlier this week, featuring my favourite all-time quote of his, which I unfortunately can't use because it's anti-Ed and I'm being nice to Ed in this post.
The Liberals made a few more big announcements this week. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that there aren't a lot of seniors reading this blog but, if there are, this one's for you.
On Wednesday, the Liberals proposed a "cities charter", which would give stable funding and more power to Calgary and Edmonton. This is something I've been hoping the ALP would roll out, both for political and public policy reasons. It should play well to their urban base - especially in Calgary after all Stelmach has put them through.
Oh, and this fundraising pitch landed in my inbox this evening - great idea. So, if you're still looking for a Valentine's gift for that special someone, nothing says "I love you" like a $37 donation in their name to the Alberta Liberal Party.
Albertans deserve a government that has the unmatched potential of this province clearly in sight, and an action plan for reaching that potential. The Alberta Liberals intend to form that government, but we need your help to make it happen.
If you make a donation of $37 or more today, you’ll help us bring 37 years of tired government to an end. Your donation – whatever you can manage – will help us win. Please visit our secure donations page at https://secure.whitematter.ca/alp/contribute.html to help us win.
Labels: Alberta Election
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Well, maybe not a strategic "genius"...but...
1. Make it look like Liberals and Tories have come together on Afghanistan, in a bid to take a very problematic issue for him off the table.
2. Lower expectations for the budget so that anything Flaherty gives out will be welcomed with open arms.
Clever guy, eh?
Now, as for our example of not so smart politics, I'd say this fits the bill. When you've been hit hard on the ethics issue in the past, blatantly breaking the fundraising laws right before on election strikes me as an odd tactic.
Monday, February 11, 2008
1. From the National Post, via ABCer:
Government officials beg to differ. Conservative House leader Peter Van Loan has said the fixed-election law doesn't prevent the prime minister from asking the Governor General to dissolve Parliament.
"There is nothing in the law that takes away the Crown's traditional and usual prerogatives on this matter," he told reporters at a news conference to announce the motion last week.
Say what? So, the law calls for fixed elections...except when the PM wants an early one? I know Steve hates the Senate but, after this, you have to wonder if his Senate reform plan calls for an elected Senate...except when the PM wants to appoint a Senator.
2. Meanwhile, back in Alberta:
It came after the Alberta Liberals noted that four returning officers appointed by the government have extremely strong Tory connections – including one officer who has openly criticized the Liberal candidate in her riding on a blog.
Now, it's no secret that these positions have a certain patronagy aspect to them but...you at least usually try to pretend that the individuals are unbiased. In Calgary North-Hill, the returning officer is a member of the Tory riding executive and in Calgary Currie the returning officer ran, and lost, for the Tory nomination. In one case, the returning officer trashed both the outgoing Liberal MLA and current Liberal candidate on her blog.
Then again, don't listen to me. I might just be angling for the Vegreville returning officer job under a Liberal government...
UPDATE: Oops - Vegreville's already been filled by an individual who donated money to Ed Stelmach's leadership campaign. Can't say I did that, although in retrospect, I probably should have...
"Separation Will Cost A Million Jobs"
The premier countered that adopting the Kyoto accord would cost Alberta 335,000 jobs and increase electrical and heating costs by "100 or 200 times."
Stelmach could not clearly explain where he got the numbers.
First of all, the Alberta Liberals aren't promising to meet Kyoto - their plan would probably get Alberta in line with that tree hugging environmentalist Stephen Harper's targets. I wish Ed the best of luck in trying to explain to Albertans how Stephen Harper wants to destroy their economy...
As for his numbers, I'm going to assume Stelmach meant "100 to 200 percent" because 100 to 200 times would mean yearly electricity bills of between $75,000 and $150,000. Then again, since Ed was asked to explain his numbers and didn't backtrack, maybe he's sticking to his guns on this one. And, if that's true, homeowners could just hire those 335,000 unemployed Albertans to pedal energy generating bicycles all day since that'd be cheaper than the six figure Enmax bill.
As for that job figure that promises a near 20% unemployment rate? Well, if Stelmach can't explain where he got them, I'm not going to try.
When a party in power starts frantic fear mongering, it's never a good sign. Sometimes it gets them re-elected (see the 2004 "gun ad" as an example), but I'm not sure I've ever seen such a ridiculous exaggeration that wasn't immediately retracted. Maybe "Paul Martin supports child pornography" but that didn't come out of the leader's mouth.
Either Stelmach is desperate or he simply isn't cut out for the job.
UPDATE: My favourite line from this article:
Edmonton MLA Thomas Lukaszuk said he thought Stelmach bested [the heckler] Baker in the debate.
"When confronted with factual information, he was silent," he said of Baker.
Yeah. It's hard to argue with the "factual information" that heating bills would rise 200 times...
Glad to see Ed isn't alone on this one.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
1. I've generally been in the "no election" camp over the past two years whenever the "THE GOVERNMENT IS ABOUT TO FALL!!!" speculation has started up time and time and time again.
But, it's really looking like the moment of truth has finally arrived. I think it's safe to say Harper's ridiculous crime threat is going nowhere but, listening to the leaders this weekend, I don't see any way for the Afghanistan extension to pass. I just get the sense that the stakes are too high - both politically and for Canada - for anyone to compromise. Now, this might very well mean the budget gets rushed to ensure the Tories fall on it first but, I would be surprised if this government lives to see April.
2. Looking back at the first week of the Alberta election, it's hard to deny it's been a rocky week for Stelmach - in the words of ES: "Memo to the Premier's Staff: Don't take him "on the road" to make announcements unless you're 100% sure that the people who are present in the room will think the announcements are a *good* thing. You look like amateurs right now, and you're making your boss look like a fool in front of the cameras." It's no wonder Ed went into hiding this weekend.
And while I do think Taft has looked Premierial (what's the provincial equivalent of "Prime Ministerial" anyways?) so far, I am a bit concerned about the number of promises he's making every day. The "(insert city here) agendas" are a good idea, but the risk is always that you'll get portrayed as "tax and spend Liberals". Talking about being fiscally conservative and tossing out a few democratic reform ideas would probably net more votes than the wide range of spending promises we've seen so far. The kind of changes Kevin talked about in Democracy Derailed wouldn't cost much and go to the argument that the Tories have been corrupted by power - hopefully the focus shifts over to those sorts of promises shortly.
So, I'll reluctantly give NDP leader George Mason props for his plan to ban corporate and union donations. Especially since the NDP would be hurt a lot by the loss of the union donations.
3. Congrats to Daveberta on the trio of Canadian Blog Awards he picked up. As the runner up for two awards, I certainly don't mind losing to Dave, if only because it likely pissed off half the Tory war room. And a big thanks to everyone who voted for Calgary Grit!
4. Voting is now open in the Liblogs video contest.
5. Obama swept all four primaries this weekend and is expected to win three more on Tuesday. While Hillary does currently lead due to super delegates, I suspect many of the undeclared super delegates will go Obama's way. Most of the "hypothetical" polls out there show Obama doing better versus McCain than Hillary and when your re-election is the on the line, you certainly take a look at things like that. Personally, I think those polls are worthless, a dumb way to make a decision, and are probably what got Kerry the nom last time. But people still read them and Obama is certainly no John Kerry.
And with the momentum he's got going for him, he's certainly the one I'd be betting on right now.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
This Week in Alberta Politics - Week 1900 of Tory Reign
-Visit www.edspedia.ca - travel deals for Tory insiders
-Meet Kevin Taft
-The Adventures of PatMan flash cartoon (soon to feature sidekick "Woodman"?)
-Top 10 reasons to vote for Laura Shutiak
-EddieTube has a wide range of videos...including some cures of insomnia in the form of Ed Stelmach in QP
The Tories release Ed talking healthcare with the only actors in Alberta who can sound more wooden than the Premier when talking about healthcare.
Favourite "News" Headline on PC Alberta Website:
News: Ed Stelmach Cares About Albertans
First Ed drops the NEP bomb to try and explain The Case of the Missing Doctors.
Then, later in the week, Ed gets NEP'd himself!
A Look Ahead to Week 2
I'd expect this will become an issue - the opposition needs to pounce. In my view, the ALP missed a chance to hammer Stelmach as hard as they could have on the conflict of interest switchero in week 1.
Ask Ed if he'll use the notwithstanding clause to override the Charter on this - I can guarantee the resulting press conference would lead to a lot of pain and suffering.
And now, from the home office in Vegreville, comes The Top Ten Steady Eddie Stumbles of week 1900. I intend this to be a weekly feature, although I may need top 12 or top 20 lists some weeks at the pace Ed is going...
10. Stelmach forgets NDP leader Brian Mason's name, calling him "Bill Mason" and "whatever his name is".
9. Stelmach uses the government news media room for a partisan press conference, showing a lack of understanding in the difference between the Alberta Government and the Conservative Party.
8. And the election date he chooses? The anniversary of the Mayerthorpe murders.
7. Stelmach gets blasted on royalties in Drayton Valley, a riding where they beat the second place Greens by a 5 to 1 margin last time: "I think the premier and (Energy Minister) Mel Knight are totally out of touch with conventional oil and gas."
6. A group of Grade 10 students all pan Stelmach's performance at their High School, including this gem: "What I just mainly took from it is we are the future. (But) what’s the point of coming here if you have no plans for the future".
And our top 5 show how Stelmach has fumbled his major announcement every single day so far this campaign:
5. Day 5: Ed announces tax breaks for seniors and, in fairness, the criticism is less than for his other announcements. The problem? He stands up the stud scud at a fundraiser, drawing front page criticism from his star candidate.
4. Day 4: Ed's "disastrous" daycare announcement. The moms on hand all critiqued his "plan", with one calling it "insulting".
3. Day 3: Ed's AISH announcement. And while the Premier did better than Ralph on this topic, staff who work with the disabled called it an "empty promise" and "frustrating".
2. Day 2: Ed's Health Care Plan which has been called "ridiculous", "the disappearing doctor act", "not possible", and "mythical".
1. From his very first day, Stelmach stole a page from the Turner '84 handbook and quietly brought in an order-in-council to exempt retiring Cabinet Ministers from his conflict of interest legislation, in a move Bill Mason called "change that works for Tory insiders".
Add it all up and you can see why the Red Deer Advocate observed: Stelmach appears to have Stockwell Day Disease.
Friday, February 08, 2008
Say My Name, Say My Name
A reporter asked Stelmach to react to NDP Leader Brian Mason's earlier release of an email his party received from the chair of the province's royalty review panel, Bill Hunter.
Here's what Stelmach said: "I'm not aware of Bill's comments uh and uh... and and even if he did talk to or if he did or didn't talk to Bill Mason... uh, or ... whatever his name is."
Off microphone, a Calgary PC candidate volunteered to the leader: "Brian." So Stelmach continued: "Brian. Yes." That then drew laughter from the Calgary candidates.
In Other News...
I wouldn't over emphasize this one too much because, in fairness, it's only one dude, but here's what Preston Manning's former press secretary and hard right Reformer Ron Wood had to say yesterday:
For 40 years Ron has supported right-wing parties. His dad's side of the family has been of the conservative stripe for a century. But, in this election, Ron is voting Liberal and telling people why.
"You go back to Getty and his solution to everything was smother it with money, every time there was a hiccup he threw money at it. Stelmach is doing the same thing," says Ron, who got this page his first interview with Manning.
But voting Liberal doesn't mean Ron is bending the knee leftward.
"I am still a fiscal conservative, But the funny thing is so is Dave Taylor, so is Pat Murray. From what I've read Kevin Taft is a cautious spender," says the Reform party insider.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
The Harper government will introduce an unusual confidence motion as early as Monday demanding that the Senate pass the Conservative's crime bill by March 1.
The motion, which puts the Opposition Liberals in an awkward and potentially embarrassing situation, could trigger an election if it fails in the House of Commons. The vote could come as early as next week.
Yeah, I'd say "unusual" is a good way to describe it. Cuz, the thing is, the House of Commons can't force the Senate to do anything. They can pass a bill demanding that the senators tap dance to SexyBack but it would have as much weight as a bill demanding that the Senators trade Ray Emery. Anyone who has taken Grade 10 Social Studies knows that.
The smart money has this government dying on the Afghanistan motion (unless the budget gets moved up) which means we might all be in for a very unpleasant campaign this spring.
Are You Smarter Than A 10th Grader?
A group of Grade 10 students interviewed after the premier’s appearance were unimpressed with their firsthand look at political stumping.
“Honestly, I didn’t think he answered that great,” said Patrick Sweiger. “He danced around it.
“There were a few things he said that I thought were OK. I wasn’t sold on it.”
Spencer Swinston said overall he enjoyed the premier’s appearance, but gave him poor marks on his response to student questions.
“Some of the stuff was on topic,” he said, but added, “Every time we asked him a question he would just completely change the subject.”
“I thought he was a little blown away by a couple of those questions,” said Danielle Dwyer. “He didn’t have a response.”
Kiley Helmer also gave a bad review to the premier’s message. “What I just mainly took from it is we are the future. (But) what’s the point of coming here if you have no plans for the future.”
Someone needs to hire this Kiley to write talking points for the ALP because that's got more bite than anything I've heard come out of Kevin's mouth so far this campaign!
Hat Tip: PTimHB
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
A Hail Mary on the Opening Drive
Yesterday, when Premier Ed, already stumbling through his performance, is faced with the pitch down the middle of the plate he swings wildly, hauling out the tried-and-true monster, the go-to ghoul, the federal National Energy Program of 28 years ago and Ed links this NEP to past Tory cuts, failing to mention massive Tory buffoonery.
"I lived through the 22% interest rates and part of that was the Liberal government that dumped the NEP on this province," he says. Whatever.
The rest is a ramble but the Coles Notes version is change, real change, change, change, change, change, change, plan, plan, change, change, change, change, change, change.
Good God, 100 years from now, Albertans are going to be telling their children to eat their vegetables or the NEP will come and kill them in their sleep. Or, at the very least, the PCs will be troting it out to try and win them a 36th consecutive term.
Oh, and for my Ontario readers, tired of Alberta news and looking for something closer to home, here's some local news for you ;-)
UPDATE: Joel Kom, at the Herald site, puts it better than I could:
If you asked your kid, “Did you steal a cookie from a cookie jar?” and the answer you got was “Jimmy took two before I did,” or, “That depends on what your definition of ‘cookie’ is,” you’d go crazy.
It only took until the second day of the campaign — really, the campaign’s first full day — to bring a similar answer.
You got a question on your health care track record and platform, and your answer was to blame a program by a federal government that is now almost three decades old.
The fact that government was Liberal is somehow supposed to reflect on Taft — even though it was almost 30 years ago and an entirely different level of government altogether.
It’s the equivalent of: “I was there when we didn’t have any cookies because the Saskatoon Cookie Monster brought in the great chocolate chip shortage of ‘73.”
Stelmach’s evasiveness, on the second day of the campaign no less, not only does a disservice to voters across Alberta but to himself. By the time you finish reading his response, you start to wonder why he doesn't want to simply answer the question head-on. Does he really understand the state of health care?
I'm sure voters aren’t sitting in the emergency room or the clinic for three hours (or more) and thinking: “That darn federal program from the 1980s is responsible for this.”
Any politician should expect to get questioned on his or her track record. Stelmach’s non-answer is, at the least, thoroughly disappointing to any voter wanting to hear him discuss the performances of his government and others he has served in.
Labels: Alberta Election
Super Tuesday...Wednesday Edition
On the Republican side, John McCain (whose french fries I adore) is sitting pretty. McCain was certainly their most electable candidate so it's not a huge surprise he's risen to the top. However, a bizarre "Republicans for Hillary" movement seems to have emerged - Ann Coulter (who shouldn't really be taken seriously) was talking about campaigning for Hillary against McCain last week. This morning on Newsworld, I caught Michael Reagan (Ronald's conservative son...not the Liberal one) calling her "Reaganesque" as he trashes McCain. You've got to think this means Huckabee will make the ticket as the VP but even then, McCain is going to have a tough time getting the staunch Conservatives out to vote, even if he soaks up a fair number of independents.
Updates and Other Links
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Highlights from Day 13,297 of the Tory Reign
If you missed my election preview, you can see it here - I think it's a nice summation for the non-Albertan readers who, I warn you, will be bored out of your minds by the rest of the election coverage you'll be subjected to over the next 27 days on this blog. That coverage begins...NOW:
1. The PCs illustrate how they view the Conservative Party and the government of Alberta as one and the same:
Then Stelmach kicked off the campaign in the news media room of the legislature, a room that is strictly for government or legislature business and is off-limits to partisan political events.
"I'm very, very proud of my team of candidates, who are energized by the challenge of building this great province on behalf of Albertans," said Stelmach as a team of government-paid workers recorded the event and made sure out-of-town reporters could listen in by a special phone connection.
"We're drawing candidates from different walks of life and cultural backgrounds and I'm happy to work with them in moving ahead and winning another solid majority for the government of Alberta."
When reporters asked Stelmach why he was using the taxpayer-funded media room at the legislature to hold a Conservative party event, he looked startled.
"This isn't the campaign launch," he insisted.
"This is a media conference following the reading of the speech from the throne and the drop of the writ."
So, for those of you at home trying to understand “stelmach speak”, a media conference following the drop of the writ where you talk about winning back a solid Conservative majority is not a campaign launch. Gotcha!
2. Alberta Tory talks about some Liberal stumbles out of the gate too and, on one point, I agree. Kevin Taft should be at places like Peter’s Drive In, not university lecture halls.
As for a mistake on the Liberal press release, it didn't take long for the PCs to screw up there as well.
3. Ed Stelmach keeps promising change which is either brilliant or mind numbingly stupid. I do invite my readers to submit your favourite example of a party in power that has won an election on the "change" theme - any time period, anywhere in the world. I may even give out a prize if someone comes up with a good example.
Part of this “change” was announced yesterday – a promise to finally do away with health care premiums. To put this into perspective, it would be akin to Paul Martin promising a GST cut in the 2004 election…then, as now, it’d probably be considered good politics, so I'll give Ed credit for this one.
4. OK, so he didn’t get his own domain name. But if anyone thinks Stelmach doesn’t understand the inter nets, spokeswoman Joan Forge explains their web strategy:
The Alberta Progressive Conservatives said web use is part of their strategy and they "won't reveal our str ategy before the election has started," said spokeswoman Joan Forge. "We'll be using that...oh, what's the term --I'm not very technical...."
"Yes, that's it."
5. The ALP has a “meet Kevin Taft” video up on that site…what’s it called – I’m not very internet savv...tube something?
6. On the policy front, Ed is talking health care, and Kevin was at the Tower, outlining his Calgary agenda.
Labels: Alberta Election
Monday, February 04, 2008
Alberta Votes 2008
Like most democracies Alberta does hold elections, but these are usually more for show than anything else. Yes, you do get a government change every generation or two, but there are senior citizens in this province who have only seen one in their lifetimes. Competitive elections are even rarer than government changes – Decore’s run in 1993 was the only genuine challenge which didn’t result in a new government, in the last 90 years.
The smart money, as always, is on a PC majority. They’ll outspend their opponents by a large margin and benefit from a Duplessis-esque electoral map. But I do think Alberta is in for a “real” election this time. And if you gave me good enough odds on Alberta’s first ever minority government, or even an Alberta Liberal win, I’d take that bet. There’s an indefinable restlessness in the air – even Stelmach is running on a “change” platform – whether we get a “Chinook of change” or not remains to be seen.
Here’s my election preview with some free advice for the four parties in the legislature:
The Progressive Conservative Party, led by Ed “I’m not Harry Strom” Stelmach
Hold: 62 seats
Reason for optimism: 37 years and counting…
Reason for concern: Alberta’s history of “Black Swan” elections
Unlikely ally: Pierre Trudeau, from beyond the grave
Official Slogan: “Change that works for Alberta”
Unofficial Slogan: “Who else are ya gonna vote for?”
Target Ridings: Just trying to limit the damage in Calgary, and maybe pick up Hinman’s seat or a few in the Edmonton region.
Minimize Ed’s media exposure and keep him scripted tightly as much as possible. If asked about why their leader is keeping quiet, answer, “I’m a man of action, not words”. Lower expectations for the debate as much as possible and spend a lot of time on debate prep.
Blanket the airwaves with positive messaging that make it seem like the PCs are responsible for Alberta’s wealth, but keep a few nasty “Liberals bogah bogah” ads in the can for the last week if things get dire.
The Alberta (Don’t Call Me) Liberal Party, led by Kevin Taft
Hold: 16 seats
Reason for optimism: Have you heard Ed Stelmach speak?
Reason for concern: The words “Alberta” and “Liberal” are antonyms
Unlikely ally: If Paul Hinman’s wild Alliance can crack 10% in the urban and semi-urban areas, a lot of seats are suddenly in play
Official Slogan: “It’s time”
Unofficial Slogan: “37 years? What the fuck is wrong with you people?”
Target Ridings: Calgary is ripe for the picking, but they’ll also need to win the seats outside of Edmonton, and the mid-sized cities like Red Deer, Lethbridge, and Fort Mac.
Game plan I’d run: Release a realistic platform early that stays away from too many flashy promises, and emphasize fiscal responsibility. This summer, the ALP got a quasi-endorsement from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Herald called them “Kevin Taft’s small c conservative Liberal Party” – things like that will get you elected; being the “tax and spend” Liberals who want to shut down the oilpatch will not.
Once the mandatory policy is out of the way, attack Stelmach 24/7 and promise change – not so much on the policy front, but in the way government is run. I think there’s some traction on the “no plan” angle too and I would try and paint Stelmach’s government as a bunch of farmers out of touch with the urban realities of the new Alberta (except, you know, do it more subtly than I just did).
Oh, and since it’s too late for a name change, I’d call the party the “ALP” whenever possible – the Liberal brand name is still toxic in Alberta. And if the ALP gets a chance to praise Stephen Harper or slam Stephane Dion at some point during the campaign, they should pounce on it.
The New Democratic Party, led by Brian “smarmier than Jack Layton” Mason
Hold: 4 seats
Reason for optimism: Taft has yet to capitalize on the protest vote
Reason for concern: Brutal by election results last spring
Unlikely ally: Ed Stelmach. If the PCs steal Liberal votes in Edmonton, Mason stands to benefit. If the election is actually close, expect NDP voters to jump to the Liberals en masse.
Official Slogan: "On your side"
Unofficial Slogan: “You’ll never get change…so at least get a louder opposition”
Target Ridings: They’re probably trying to hold the four they have, and hope to pick up one or two new Edmonton seats.
If the PCs are ahead, argue that the NDP are a better voice of opposition than the Liberals. If it’s looking close, start using the “m” word and argue that the NDP will have real power in a minority government.
The Wildrose (we’ll form an) Alliance (with anyone) Party, led by Paul Hinman
Hold: 1 seat
Reason for optimism: They’ve merged, ending months of vote splitting on the far right.
Reason for concern: Bringing two dysfunctional parties together does not necessarily equal one functional party.
Unlikely ally: If the Sun chain and the Rutherfords of the world start taking them seriously, people might catch on.
Official Slogan: (they don’t appear to have gotten around to that quite yet)
Unofficial Slogan: Right is Right.
Target Ridings: Hinman’s seat and Dunvegan-Central Peace were the only two ridings they were close in last time but a few other rural ones could potentially fall if they catch fire.
Labels: Alberta Election