Thursday, July 05, 2007

Free Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • try and marginalize the NDP

    Funny, I didn't even know the NDP were a legitimate party in this province. Aren't they sorta like the Rhinoceros party?

    I always thought voting NDP was something you did in order to make a good story to tell your friends. Like "Guess what I did today guys. I did three hits of LSD, stumbled to the polling station, and voted NDP. Crazy eh? I'm out of control."

    And I'm only half joking.

    By Blogger McLea, at 2:31 p.m.  

  • And if Calgary starts voting Liberal en masse, then I'm absolutely convinced that it is becoming a colony of Nova Scotia.

    I know I speak for the majority of born and raised Albertans when I say that I would never vote Liberal. If Ed Stelmach proves that he absolutely incapable of governing this province, then expect to see the lowest voter turnout in the history of Alberta. The only people who will show up are the Maritimers, who for the most part do not understand that voting Liberl is taboo in these parts.

    By Blogger McLea, at 2:38 p.m.  

  • Focus resources, paint the campaign as rural Ed vs. urban Kevin, convince people that Liberals are small-c conservatives (which most are), and get some good candidates. All good advice.

    Frankly, I hate hearing the suggestion that the liberals should change their name. "Liberal" is a word that actually means something, and the reasons it has become a bad word in Alberta have nothing to do with what it actually means. I cringe at the desire to first acquiesce to peoples' stupidity, and second, to implicitly confirm that "liberal" is bad, while everyone will remember what we used to be called.

    I don't think 4 will work because AA supporters can count just as well as NDP supporters, in my estimation. And I don't think 6 will work by itself because it hasn't in almost 40 years.

    As for 8... I don't know how relevant 1971 is. I'm also amazed at your ability to obsess about an election that happened 10 years or so before you were born. :)

    By Blogger Gauntlet, at 3:49 p.m.  

  • As a former Calgarian, and then seven year resident of Toronto, I object to your suggestion that Calgary (or any self respecting Calgarian) would ever refer to itself as the "new Toronto". Why we would debase ourselves like that. Actually, the same goes for any Alberta city or town. However, if I lived in Toronto, I'd focus on becoming the "New Calgary".

    Joking aside, I would also focus on redistricting after the election. The rural/urban riding distributions are getting a little silly.

    By Blogger Steve Myers, at 3:57 p.m.  

  • steve; If the ALP ever formed government, their first bill should be the "democracy equality act", that would redistribute seats based on population. The rural over-representation is a little ridiculous.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 4:54 p.m.  

  • I think painting themselves as a small c conservative party ... might be the best course of action.

    It happens to have the virtue of being true. I only wish the federal Liberal Party was as honest.

    By Blogger Greg, at 5:16 p.m.  

  • Mostly good ideas, but being the party to frame the debate is absolutely key. Harry Strom should be the guy everyone thinks about when they hear the name Ed Stelmach.

    I'd also urge caution about reading too much into the fact that Stelmach's freefall hasn't resulted in a Liberal swell. This is actually good news, especially in the mid-term period between elections, indicating that the PC erosion is likely to be deep and long-lasting. Sudden mirror-reflection flips in polling support indicates volatility, not growth, and that's waaaay harder to manage, as Laurence Decore found out.

    Search back to the polls from late 1992 and early 1993 (after the last PC leadersip race) and you'll find the Alta Libs well over 40%, as much as 10 points over the PCs.

    The summer and fall should be spent sealing the deal with voters, showing that the party is up for the job.

    According to the recent research, 25% of voters could be up for grabs. If the Liberals secure their traditional 25% core at election time, add another 10% of current undecideds and steal a couple of percentage points from soft NDP and PC supporters, they are in the ball game.

    Vote distribution is another question entirely, and that has the potential to be the fly in the ointment. Besides an allout drive for Calgary and Edmonton, the Liberals can be competitive in the semi-urban ridings of Red Deer, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Fort MacMurry.

    That's 51 seats total. If they can win 42 of them, it's goodbye Charlie Brown.

    Of course, this scenario also depends heavily on Stephen Harper remaining Prime Minister and shovelling billions of dollars into Quebec to fund tax cuts.

    By Blogger Raymaker, at 12:03 a.m.  

  • "It’s all about Calgary"

    Or, put more correctly, "It's NOT all about Edmonton."

    "The Others"

    That was the best advice you gave in the whole batch. For the Tories to lose, they have to lose their right-wing to third parties. Unfortunately, there is no "real" third party on the right, just a collection of 5 fringe parties that could fit their entire membership in a phone booth.

    "A Change Would Do You Good"

    I like it... I can see the campaign commercial now. You start with the federal Liberals, and how their virtual dictatorship made them more and more arrogant, corrupt and wasteful. Then slowly ease into the provincial Conservatives and show them acting the same way. Then close with the message: Time for a change! MUCH more effective than catering to the left (the usual ALP approach).

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 10:01 a.m.  

  • OT, but it is interesting that "The God That Wasn't There" is running a banner ad with you positioning it like it's a new movie?

    It was released in mid 2005 and has long since stopped being advertised on the stateside political blogs I frequent. Do they really think we are that far behind up here?

    Some good suggestions for the libs BTW. I agree with Raymaker that the lack of an instant liberal swell might actually be a good thing at this point.


    By Blogger Ian, at 1:02 a.m.  

  • 6. "...We’re getting into Communist Party territory here."

    Really? Which communist government held elections (real ones) and when?

    11. "it would be a big coup to publicly lure a Tory MLA or a few big name Dinning supporters over to the ALP."

    Yeah, 'cause Dinning was such a hit. You remember, I trust, that the 2nd votes for Morton were disporportionately for Stelmach and vice versa?

    Why would you want a bunch of has-beens that can't back a winner to join the ALP?

    Oh, wait. Nevermind. Carry on.

    By Blogger Candace, at 12:06 a.m.  

  • By Blogger flora marion, at 5:30 a.m.  

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