Friday, December 29, 2006

Hussein Executed

No matter what your view of capital punishment OR of foreign involvement in Iraq's internal affairs, the world became, in a small way, a better place at 10:05 pm Eastern Time.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Keep Those Comments Coming!

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, and just general warm salutations, ES Nation.

Well, I'm about a quarter of the way through my move into a smaller, albeit more convenient, apartment. This explains the lack of new postings recently.

I wanted to thank everyone for contributing their comments to the posts thus far, and want to encourage you all to keep it up! Your remarks, whether critical of my view or supportive of it, contribute to the "enlightened" tone of discussion we're trying to set up around here. I want to let everyone know that, so long as they're expressed in a civil way and at least grammatically recognizable as english (or close to it), I welcome ALL comments, not just those in support of my position.

In fact, that brings me to my next point: I'm soliciting opinions on a few items for upcoming entries to the blog... I'd like to know what you think about any (or all) of the following 3 topics:

1. Jean Chretien's involvement in the Stephane Dion leadership of the Federal Liberals
2. Stephen Harper's Senate reform proposals
3. The political polarization of North America, and the "Left-Right" labels - what do they mean?

If you'd like to share your insights with me, while I try to get mine into something legible and suitable for publication, contact me at my email (rather than posting as a "comment" on this post). The address is amishbuggyracing (at)

Obviously, use the "@" instead of (at), just trying to keep junk mail off my account.

Thanks again for reading, ES Nation... don't worry, I'm not ignoring you, just trying to build up a good, righteous, vitriolic rant to get everyone in the New Year's spirit. :)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Dead Minister Walking...

Rona Ambrose is toast... you know it, I know it, everyone in the media or even remotely involved in political happenings in this country knows it... the only people who won't cop to it are Rona herself, Stephen Harper, and her alleged and likely successor, Jim Prentice.

Rona is a good MP, a good politician, and a good Minister. Many of the problems she has had in the Environment portfolio aren't of her own making, and (to her credit!) she hasn't moaned about it at all, she's just stood up day after day to be crucified by the opposition, environmental groups, and the media. This mess isn't her fault, and getting a new face in the Minister's seat will give the Tories a chance to re-boot the message and try to spin it another way. Same (far from perfect) plan, different communications strategy.

The ironic part about all of this, is that she's doing a better job than the government that was in power BEFORE this one, and most of her criticism is coming on behalf of that same party.

Let's review: The Conservative have plans to set emission targets by a certain date. A date that is, admittedy, so far in the distance that even Rona herself will be nearing retirement age. But, there IS a plan, however flawed it may be.

The Liberals, during their stay in government, offered precious little other than platitudes and lip service to the issue of Greenhouse emissions. They talked about how bad they were, about how evil we all were for idling our cars in the winter, about how Greenhouse Gases kidnapped the Lindberg Baby... but they DID absolutely NOTHING, other than sign the Kyoto Accords, frame them in an office somewhere on Parliament Hill, and do absolutely JACK to meet the targets, other than pay Rick Mercer to scold us all.
Tell me to lose 10 pounds, and I'll at least know what I have to do. Reduce my emissions by 1 tonne? What's THAT going to take? So much for Chili night...

The Liberals were either so out-to-lunch on Greenhouse Gases, or thought so little of the average Canadian's grasp of environmental issues, that when they signed the Kyoto Accord, they had a group of children bring a big Santa-sack of asthma inhalers to Uncle Jean's throne, where (coincidentally) the media were all assembled, to give the inhalers to St. Jean for magically healing all of the juvenile asthma in Canada. By signing something that said Greenhouse Gases were bad. The ones that melt the ice caps. Global warming. Not smog. Not air pollutants. Not asthma. Greenhouse gases.
Of course, the media ate it up, as though children routinely walked across the nation collecting all of the asthma inhalers that are no longer needed because Botswana sold us emission credits and lugged them, in a big sack, to the Prime Minister's Office.
Happens all the time. Totally believable. Makes perfect sense. Except for one teeny, tiny little thing...

KYOTO has JACK ALL to do with AIR POLLUTION and ASTHMA. It's about Greenhouse gases and global warming, period. The Conservatives admit that global warming exists, and generally agree that it's probably, at least partially, the fault of man. So we're already doing better than American conservatives. They're introducing targets, however flawed, to reduce our greenhouse emissions, and also setting targets for air pollution. You know, the crap in the air that ACTUALLY causes Asthma?

The Conservative plan is not perfect, but it's a plan... the Liberals offered nothing but photo ops and platitudes while in power, so shame on them for pretending to be holier-than-Steve on this issue. Are the current Liberal policies on the Environment more "green" than the Tories? Perhaps... but where the Liberals offered only pretty words, the Tories actually offered us a PLAN, in less than one year. And however flawed that plan may be, it's better than nothing, which is exactly what Chretien and Martin gave us in 13 years.

- ES

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Introducing Ed Stelmach as "Fallout Boy"...

Alright... so the blogosphere and the monkeys in the print media are going crazy over the perceived lack of representation that the major centres are getting in the new cabinet.

Let's review...

Brian Mason, Alberta's own political masochist, believes it's not right that the 2 centres that provide 2/3rds of the province's population get less than a quarter of the cabinet seats.

I agree... IF that were true, it wouldn't be right. I'll even go so far as to suggest that the major centres, as they are defined legally, ARE under-represented. But to be an NDP member, let alone the LEADER, requires questionable math skills at the best of times, so let's break this down a bit...

The number of people living WITHIN CITY LIMITS of Edmonton and Calgary account for 52% of the province's population. 52% is NOT two-thirds. That 52% of Albertans is represented by 4 ministers whose constituencies are within the limits of those 2 cities, 1 in Edmonton and 3 in Calgary. Mason is right, though, that 4 ministers out of 19 is NOT representative of the populations of the cities. They're just not as badly slighted as he'd like all of us to believe.

Now, let's give Brian the benefit of the doubt, and suggest that he was talking about the Greater Calgary and Greater Edmonton Areas, and just because I'm in a giving mood, let's even grant him the questionable math that leads us to conclude that 2/3rds of all Albertans live in those areas in and around the 2 major cities. If this is the case, then there are cabinet seats for THIRTEEN MLA's who come from ridings an hour or less from one of the 2 major centres. So, if we accept at face value that 2/3rds (66%) of the population is in the GCA and GEA, we look and conclude that 13/19ths (68%) of the ministers come from either the cities or areas close enough to the cities to be counted in Mason's GCA and GEA. THAT, folks, is OVER-representation. The difference is, instead of MLA's representing high-rise condos, you've got MLA's representing the folks on the acreages near Cochrane and Strathmore. The folks who live less than an hour from the city, WORK in the city, and sleep (and vote) outside city limits. If you're going to count them in your 2/3rds, you have to count their MLA as a City-area MLA.

So, how could Ed have avoided this? What WAS he thinking?

The Alberta Alliance is making gains, and putting Ted Morton in SRD isn't going to slow them down any. They're not going to win city ridings any time soon, kids... the Alliance has their sights set on Rural Alberta. They've got one seat in the South already, and will likely pick up some more in the South... but not in any of the 4 "Calgary Area Rural" ridings that have ministers in them. They'll probably be severely slowed down in the North, just by virtue of Ed's win. So, by appointing the ministers he has, Ed has limited potential Alliance gains to 2 or 3 Southern Alberta Rural ridings.

That said, the cities (led by their pied pipers in the media) are upset over their "offensive" under-representation, despite my evidence above that they have, in fact, as much say as they should. Upset enough to vote Liberal? Maybe... Edmonton has 3 Tory seats, and one of those is a popular Red Tory and Minister (Dave Hancock), so he's not going anywhere... The other 2 Tories are going to be slaves to the war waging between Edmontonian discontent over the cabinet and the reality that a "Northern Guy" now leads the Tories. At worst, the PC's lose their 2 non-cabinet seats to the Liberals in Edmonton. At best, the maintain their 3-seat beach-head, or improve their fortunes slightly (1 or 2 seat gain) through Dave and Ed's force of will and Northern roots alone.

Calgary may lose a seat or 2 in the weaker North and downtown core to the Liberals over this perceived slight by the PC's and Ed, but the reality is that the Liberals would need to run the PERFECT campaign, and Ed would have to come out in a televised interview and say, point blank, "there aren't more Calgarians in Cabinet because we hate those bastards" for the Liberals to take more than half of Calgary.

So, in actuality, Ed may have cut off his opponents at the pass with this cabinet... although the cities are getting worked up into a self-righteous foaming rage over this, the reality is that the only things Ed needs to worry about are losing a few seats in the South to the Alliance, which may have happened no matter WHO got put into cabinet, losing a couple seats in the Liberal/NDP stronghold of Edmonton, and losing 5, at the VERY most, in Calgary.

Stelmach needs to lose over TWENTY seats to lose his majority. At most, he's going to lose 10 over this cabinet. That's a victory, however small and considering he needed to reward his supporters, which is just a fact of political life.

But some people are still going to feel under-represented in the Cabinet, not matter WHAT happens. Not enough women. Not enough minorities. How about THIS statistic? Only 9.71% of Albertans identified themselves as being of Ukrainian descent, yet ONE HUNDRED percent of the Premier is Ukrainian. SCANDAL!

Much ado abou nothing... geographically, this cabinet makes sense. Let's see if they can do their jobs, let's see what happens in the next election, THEN pass judgement on Ed's wisdom.

- ES

Friday, December 15, 2006

Cabinet Regional Break-down

Cabinet members come from constituencies in Yellow.

- ES

Cabinet Analysis

Alright, here we go... first impressions. Just for fun, everyone who is (or was) a farmer at some point is marked with an asterisk (*). (My mother being a farm girl herself, I've got nothing against farmers, they just seem to be pretty numerous in the cabinet).

* Ed Stelmach (Premier) - I don't know, pretty risky choice. :P In fairness, only time will tell with many of these selections, but there's already an undercurrent of dissatisfaction from the cities about the disproportionate rural representation at the cabinet table. The Liberals would be smart to capitalize on this, especially in Edmonton and central Calgary.

* Lloyd Snelgrove (President of the Treasury Board) - The man who controls the province's purse strings. Represents a rural, Eastern riding, 5 years experience as an MLA, plenty of committee work, will essentially be Ed's right-hand man.

* Doug Horner (Minister of Advanced Education and Technology) - Solid business and agricultural backround, from the Greater Edmonton Area. He's been a pretty solid minister in the past (Agriculture), but you can't get much more opposite from Agriculture than Advanced Ed & Technology. His varied background indicates he'll be able to adapt.

Iris Evans (Minister of Employment, Immigration and Industry) - The Greater Edmonton Area MLA has served as Minister of Health for the past 2 years, and managed not to attract many of the slings and arrows tossed towards Ralph over the Third Way debacle. She's a safe choice, although she doesn't seem to have any specific expertise in the area.

* Mel Knight (Minister of Energy) - Mel founded and ran an energy sector service company in 1970 - hopefully, he's kept up on the changes that have happened in the sector since then. He's got an extremely varied background, and previously served on the Standing Policy Committee on Energy and Sustainable Development. Safe pick.

Dave Hancock (Minister of Health and Wellness) - The highest profile of Ed's second-ballot supporters in this cabinet. Part of Dave's leadership platform was the elimination of health-care premiums, and to use tax incentives to promote healthy choices. As Minister of Health, he has a chance to champion those causes. Dave was a good candidate, and has been a good minister in the past, he should do extremely well here. The ONLY Minister from an actual Edmonton riding.

* Ray Danyluk (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing) - Ray has served for several years on the Standing Policy Committee on Agriculture and Municipal Affairs, so the Municipal Affairs portfolio should contain few surprises for him. That being said, although this riding is adjaccent to Fort McMurray, the drastic infrastructure deficits in the larger centres makes this choice questionable. No one would argue that rural municipalities are also in desperate need of roads and bridges, but this position needed to be filled by someone from a major centre. He may not screw up, but Ed could have made some political hay with this choice, and didn't.

Ron Liepert (Minister of Education) - Ron is one of 3 Calgary ministers, and his first big challenge is to come to some sort of agreement with the Calgary Catholic teachers, who are threatening to strike by March. He's a first-term MLA with a business background, and his ability (or inability) to make deals and come to compromise is going to be on display in this ministry.

Janis Tarchuk (Minister of Children's Services) - As always, this portfolio goes to a female MLA, as men are clearly unable to administer children's issues (the Y chromosome hates children, it's a scientific fact). Janis has served on basically every committee in Edmonton EXCEPT Children's Services, and would have been a better fit in Education, or TPRC (Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture). That said, she's been an MLA since 1997, and knows the game. This may be a "test-drive", for Ed to see if she can handle something relatively harmless before a promotion to something more high-profile.

Rob Renner (Minister of Environment) - an MLA with 13 years experience, Renner has been Minister of Municipal Affairs for the past 2 years. He will have to work closely with the freshly-minted Minister of Sustainable Resource Development (Ted Morton), so hopefully they get along. Rob's a veteran at the game, and should do fine in the Environment portfolio, provided he remembers that there are some folks in Ottawa, also elected by Albertans, who also have a thing or 2 to say about the Environment.

* George Groeneveld (Minister of Agriculture and Food) - A first-term MLA, George's rap sheet reads exactly as you'd hope the Minister of Agriculture's would. He's gotten his hands dirty, he's run the business end of things, and he's dealt with the Wheat Board. Safe pick for a ministry that much of Ed's grassroots support will be dealing with.

Lyle Oberg (Minister of Finance) - This position, by virtue of the creation of the position of President of the Treasury Board, has effectively been reduced back to "Provincial Treasurer", as has the status of its holder. Fitting, then, that this is where Ed has chosen to give Lyle his chance to earn his way back into the good graces of his caucus colleagues. Lyle will have a chance here to be a bean-counter and unofficial auditor, while ministers will not have to come to Lyle on bended knee for funding, but instead will go to Lloyd Snelgrove. I can't see Lyle doing much damage here, and it may prove to be a good place to start his political rehabilitation.

* Luke Ouellette (Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation) - Who better to be able to identify transportation needs than someone who represents a riding near Gasoline Alley? Luke did a fine job as Minister of Restructuring and Government Efficiency, and didn't make too many waves in that job. This is quite a higher profile job, though, especially considering the screaming from all corners of the province about the infrastructure deficit. He'd better get used to hearing from Mandel, Bronco, and Ray Danyluk's offices, because they're about to become his best friends, or his worst enemies.

Ron Stevens (Minister of Justice and Attorney General) - Ron keeps his portfolio, and Calgary keeps an effective minister at the cabinet table. Nothing risky whatsoever about this choice - Stevens has done the job, knows the people in the department, and knows the ins and outs of both the system and the ministry. In this case, the status quo is a good thing.

Greg Melchin (Minister of Seniors and Community Supports) - Poor Greg... Calgary's 3rd and final minister, this is the one portfolio that NOBODY wants. Nobody wants it, because Seniors complain. A lot. And loudly. They certainly have the right to do so, and some very good reasons. But Greg Melchin's new job title more accurately reads "Whipping Boy for the Seniors of Alberta". Some may view Greg's demotion a few steps down the totem pole as being based on his socially conservative views, but the more accurate reality is that he's just a victim of numbers - not every Calgary minister can be a top-10 guy. Should do well, provided he has (or quickly develops) a thick skin.

Guy Boutilier (Minister of International, Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Relations) - Sheesh, try fitting all of that on one business card. Guy's going to have a steep learning curve here, but I think he's up to it. He's going to have to get used to speaking not just as an MLA, but as minister, ESPECIALLY as relates to his Aboriginal Relations portfolio. I've met Guy, and liked him. He's taken a lot of heat lately over a completely ridiculous performance he gave, on the record, and rightly so. Hopefully, he's learned from that experience and will keep his cabinet portfolio in mind whenever he speaks in public. Would have been better back in Municipal Affairs, but we'll see if he can learn the ropes before the Liberals try to take Ottawa back from those evil Harper Tories.

Ted Morton (Minister of Sustainable Resource Development) - There were whispers that Ted would end up here due to his love of the outdoors, and sure enough, here he is. This could either be a good chance for Ted to cool his heels and prove he's an able administrator, or an environmental catastrophe in the making, given his close personal relationships with (and possible large monetary contributions to his leadership bid by) several people whose job it is to cut down as many trees as possible. If Ed knows of Ted's ties to the sawmills and keeps a leash on him, this may work out. But the conservation groups that have dealt with Ted, to absolutely no avail, since he became an MLA for an area with logging issues are going to be beside themselves over this appointment, and with good reason.

Fred Lindsay (Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security) - Oy... there are bad fits, and then there are bad fits. Fred Lindsay's entire, on-the-record, relationship with Law Enforcement and Security reads like this: "auxiliary constable with Parkland County from 1972 to 1974". Period. Harvey Cenaiko did a god job in this portfolio, and as a former cop was suited to the job. A victim of the "Urban vs. Rural" numbers game, though, this ministry loses Harvey and gets Fred Lindsay. If Fred realizes that the first step to wisdom is to admit that you know nothing, this COULD work out, in the long term. In the short-term, though, this office had better have a good Assistant Deputy Minister who's been there a while, or this could get messy.

* Hector Goudreau (Minister of Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture) - The re-named Community Devlopment portfolio finds itself with some castaways in the areas of film and tourism, which had been under other ministries previously. Hector looks like a close runner up fr the Agriculture ministry, so some of the haughty folks from the "Culture" portion of the portfolio are going to be somewhat miffed they're begging for dollars from a farmer. He'll have to work closely with the Minister of SRD (Ted Morton) and the Minister of Environment (Rob Renner), so hopefully the 3 get along, or can at least be professional. In my experience, rural folks can generally put hard feelings aside to get the job done, so hopefully Hector can do so for all 3 of them, as neither Rob nor Ted are exactly the farming type.

So, for the record: 8 current or former farmers in a 19-person cabinet. Not TOO bad, but of more concern is the fact that there are a total of 4 ministers from within the limits of the 2 cities that account for 52% of the provincial population. There is a real chance for the Liberals to attack the cities on this underrepresentation in the cabinet.

In the near future, I'll review Ed's campaign platform, and look at which ministers will be responsible for following up on which ideas.

As if THIS wasn't enough, there's word we may have a Federal Cabinet shuffle in the works, in advance of a possible NDP motion to cause the Federal Government to fall, and give us a spring election...

I have GOT to get me some sponsors, so I can quit my job and blog all day. These darn politicians won't give me a moment's peace. :P

- ES

We've Got A Cabinet!

Here's the official release from the Premier's Office.

Ed Stelmach (Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville)

Premier, President of Executive Council, Chair of Agenda and Priorities, Vice-Chair of Treasury Board

Lloyd Snelgrove (Vermilion-Lloydminster)

President of the Treasury Board, Minister of Service Alberta, (Minister Responsible for Personnel Administration Office)

Doug Horner (Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert)

Minister of Advanced Education and Technology

Iris Evans (Sherwood Park)

Minister of Employment, Immigration and Industry

Mel Knight (Grande Prairie-Smoky)

Minister of Energy

Dave Hancock (Edmonton-Whitemud)

Minister of Health and Wellness, Government House Leader

Ray Danyluk (Lac La Biche-St. Paul)

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing

Ron Liepert (Calgary-West)

Minister of Education

Janis Tarchuk (Banff-Cochrane)

Minister of Children's Services

Rob Renner (Medicine Hat)

Minister of Environment, Deputy Government House Leader

George Groeneveld (Highwood)

Minister of Agriculture and Food

Lyle Oberg (Strathmore-Brooks)

Minister of Finance

Luke Ouellette (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake)

Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation

Ron Stevens (Calgary-Glenmore )

Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Deputy Government House Leader

Greg Melchin (Calgary-North West)

Minister of Seniors and Community Supports

Guy Boutilier (Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo)

Minister of International, Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Relations

Ted Morton (Foothills-Rocky View)

Minister of Sustainable Resource Development

Fred Lindsay (Stony Plain)

Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security

Hector Goudreau (Dunvegan-Central Peace)

Minister of Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture

Analysis shortly.

- ES

Brace Yerself...

"Brace Yerself"... it's not just Australian foreplay anymore, it's also the advice being given both to the general public and to public sector staffers with only a few hours to go until a new cabinet is announced.

There have been some rather large changes to the structure of many of the ministries, with several being eliminated altogether and their various departments being passed around to the survivors like the credit cards from a dead man's wallet, or sponsorship contracts from a Liberal government. The department *I* work for, as an example, will continue to exist under its current administration, but there will be enough changes and shuffling that it's safe to say new business cards will be printed, en masse, very shortly around ES's office.

Yesterday, to aid in blogging efforts (AND because I'm a total techno-gheek) I picked up the newest handset from Fido, the Sony Ericsson Z710i. VERY slick, and it will allow me to update the blog remotely with more regularity, which will certainly come in handy. Also lots of cool toys and functions, but this isn't a phone blog, so if you want more info, email me at the address on my profile. :)

Now then, the podcast idea is still floating around out there, as is the potential for something more visual. As an iPod Nano owner myself, I'm curious how many people would prefer something on video as opposed to something purely audio. The hardware and logistical issues aside, it seems to me that audio podcasts are more universally consumable, but I await the verdict from the members of ES Nation. All I know for sure is, it will certainly be a LOT harder to stay anonymous on a video recording.

Another aside, it's nice to see the acceptance that I've been given from the rest of the blogosphere. I readily admit I'm new to the game (not even a MONTH yet, I don't think), but it's nice to see the props and links going up all over the web as people realize that there may, in fact, be some substance behind this oh-so-stylish Pseudo-Calgarian's political waxings. I look forward to meeting many of you in the coming months, and will be in contact if/when I'm passing through your respective necks of the woods.

As for cabinet, as I said above, only a few short hours until we get an announcement, and then I can promptly get drunk if I end up with either of my own personal "gruesome twosome" MLA's as minister - since both will no doubt be IN the cabinet, I've got better than a 1-in-10 chance. God help me.

Courtesy of the Alberta Government's Website, here is the new structure of Cabinet.


(Executive Council)

  • Maintains responsibility for policy coordination and the Public Affairs Bureau.
1. President of the Treasury Board

Minister of Service Alberta

Responsible for Personnel Administration Office

  • A Secretariat, separate from Finance, will support the Minister as Chair of Treasury Board who will be responsible for expenditure management. Includes the Office of the Controller (now in Finance), capital planning (now in Infrastructure and Transportation) and internal audit (now in Executive Council).
  • Service Alberta combines the functions of Government Services with Restructuring and Government Efficiency to better serve Albertans and provide more coordinated services within the government. The ministry will also be responsible for government vehicles and air transportation (now in Infrastructure and Transportation) and for the Personnel Administration Office.
2. Advanced Education and Technology
  • Merges the functions of the existing ministries of Advanced Education and Innovation and Science.
3. Municipal Affairs and Housing
  • Maintains functions of Municipal Affairs along with responsibility for affordable housing programs (now in Seniors and Community Supports).
  • Also responsible for libraries, community and voluntary sector services (now in Community Development).
4. Energy
  • In addition to current responsibilities, the ministry will take over responsibility for bio-fuels (now in Agriculture, Food and Rural Development).
5. Health and Wellness
  • Maintains current functions.
6. Employment, Immigration and Industry
  • The ministry will include the existing programs provided by Human Resources and Employment.
  • Takes over immigration programs (now in Human Resources and Employment; Economic Development and Advanced Education).
  • Also responsible for economic development programs (now in Economic Development), rural development (now in Agriculture Food and Rural Development) as well as the Northern Alberta Development Council.
7. Education
  • Maintains current functions.
8. Children's Services
  • Maintains current functions.
9. Environment
  • Maintains current functions.
10. Agriculture and Food
  • Maintains current functions with the exceptions of rural development which moves to Employment, Immigration and Industry, and the bio-fuels program which moves to Energy.
11. Finance
  • Maintains current functions of economic policy, revenue and development of the budget.
  • Treasury Board support and the Office of the Controller move to the newly-created Treasury Board Secretariat.
12. Infrastructure and Transportation
  • Maintains current functions with the exceptions of government vehicles and air transportation which move to Service Alberta. Responsibility for capital planning also moves to the Treasury Board Secretariat.
13. Justice and Attorney General
  • Maintains current functions.
14. Seniors and Community Supports
  • Maintains current functions, including seniors housing, with the exception of affordable housing programs which move to Municipal Affairs and Housing.
15. International, Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Relations
  • Maintains current functions of International and Intergovernmental Relations and absorbs responsibility for Alberta's international offices and trade (now in Economic Development) and Aboriginal Affairs (now in Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development).
16. Sustainable Resource Development
  • Maintains current functions.
17. Solicitor General and Public Security
  • Maintains current functions of Solicitor General and Public Security.
  • The Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission will report to the Minister.
18. Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture
  • Maintains functions of the current ministry of Community Development and takes on responsibility for lottery funding programs (now in Gaming) and tourism and film programs (now in Economic Development).

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rumours and Ideas

Hey, all... sorry for the unprecedented delay since the last post - real life has been interfering in my rigorous Blog regimen, and promises to do so for much of the next 4 to 5 days, as well. Never fear, ES Nation - you'll get your Cabinet reaction. :)

Been hearing some VERY disquieting rumours as to the identity of the next minister in charge of my own department - if, of course, that department REMAINS in its current ministry after the restructuring. I know that many Albertans view Ed Stelmach's governing style as "ho-hum", which is odd considering he's been in power for about NEGATIVE 32 hours at this point... but when you cut 4 to 6 ministries, you create a lot of chaos in the public sector as departments move, bucks begin stopping at different desks than they did before, and people get new job titles, letterhead, hours of work, and time sheets. Needless to say, a lot of people who pull paycheques from the Bank of Ralph are quite nervous about what they're due to hear on Friday morning.

Been toying with an idea in my head, and I'm looking for some feedback from you, the loyal public... what about a Podcast covering Alberta political happenings? The format, and this is VERY provisional, might involve a discussion with 3 people, neither journalists NOR politicians, but who follow politics very closely... lay people, or bloggers. You could have one dedicated right-wing nut-job, one dedicated left-wing bleeding-heart, and a centrist (read: ME) discussing the issues of the day. And I use that only as a figure of speech, because it'd likely be a once every 2 weeks or once per month kind of idea. Is this something people would actually be interested in? Or do we all get our differing viewpoints from waypoints in the Blogosphere?

I look forward to your comments... I'm not married to the idea, as it'd be a LOT of work, but if there's a demand for it, I'd be happy to do it...

- ES

Friday, December 8, 2006

Winning Ideas from the Losing Candidates

Edmonton, Alberta... home to the Premier of the Province, burial ground for the broken dreams and shattered hopes of 7 men who tried, and failed, to ascend to the throne of this Petro-Fuelled Paradise.

But, what light through yonder window breaks? It's a collection of policies from the defeated leadership contenders.

Now, I want to start off by saying this up-front: If all of these policies get introduced, it will be a NIGHTMARE for the Alberta economy. Not even WE can afford all of this. But these are the best policies that I saw come to light in the PC Leadership race. The best thing about this situation, is that UNlike a General Election, where you're accused by the Opposition of "Stealing our ideas!", all of the candidates were PC Party members, and all of these policies are PC Party policy ideas, though many of them have yet to be ratified by a policy convention. If even a FEW of these ideas get picked up and used by Premier Stelmach, Alberta will be a better place in which to live, both for our generation and the ones that follow.

Now, Ed can justifiably claim to have won a mandate from the party to move forward with his own ideas. I've purposely avoided listing them here, because this is the best of the LOSING candidates. But these are GOOD ideas, that will move Alberta forward and, as a bonus, make the PC Party quite electable in the future.

I've broken the policy ideas down into categories, and the ideas will be presented by category. I've also tried to give credit where credit is due, so the leadership contender who brought the idea forward is referenced after each point. I'm quite aware that several of these policies were brought forth by several candidates, and in those cases, I credited the first one I noticed who presented the policy.

If you've already forgotten who the candidates were, here's a quick legend:
JD - Jim Dinning
TM - Ted Morton
VD - Victor Doerksen
LO - Lyle Oberg
DH - Dave Hancock
MN - Mark Norris
GM - Gary McPherson


  • Make provisions in the current Alberta Health-Care system to include chiropractic care, physiotherapy and Traditional Chinese Medicine and other alternatives to promote and maintain good health. – GM
  • To help free up the backlog to see doctors, let minor cases and complaints be seen and treated by Nurse Practitioners. - GM
  • Eliminate health care premiums – VD
  • Create a Health innovation fund, with which to pursue new technologies to streamline the diagnosis of illness and injury, the treatments, and the promotion of good health. - VD
  • Offer tax incentives for healthy choices (gym memberships, etc.) – DH
  • Institute a province-wide smoking ban in all public places. - DH
  • Locate medi-centres near major emergency wards so that people can get the right service at the right place without long waits. This would better utilize the highly trained staff in the emergency wards to deal with genuine emergencies. – MN


  • Offer optional programs in areas such as money, credit, invention creation, investing, and entrepreneurism, to supplement the current embarrassingly slim amount of territory covered by the current mandatory “Career And Life Management” course at High School. - GM
  • Add 60,000 Post-Secondary spaces. – JD
  • Assume full control over Student Loans in Alberta. Lessen the Interest Rate (to Prime), and reduce the expected Parental Contribution. Loans will also take into account not just tuition, but the other costs associated with post-secondary, such as the real costs of books, living expenses in the major centres, etc. - JD
  • Use the Internet to provide further post-secondary learning, adding to the successes of on-line training available through Athabasca University, and the University of Phoenix (which has campuses everywhere in North America but Phoenix). – MN
  • Make the final year of post-secondary tuition free for high achievers. – MN


  • Alberta to become a GST Free Province, with the province paying the appropriate amount to Ottawa each year, but Alberta consumers not paying the tax on their purchases. – GM
  • Extend tax relief to those caring for older relatives. - VD
  • Create a $25 Billion Health Trust while we have the money to do so, to cover any unexpected costs that may come up relating to our Health system while the province is not nearly as well-off as we are currently. Protect that fund with legislation, making it illegal for any government to draw on the Trust so long as Alberta’s Budget Surplus remains over, say, $5 Million. – VD
  • Pass a "Fiscal Sustainability Act", to ensure that today’s wealth is not completely spent, leaving nothing for lean years ahead. – JD
  • Expand the Alberta Family Tax credit. – JD
  • Raise the so-called "sin taxes" (cigarettes, alcohol, and tobacco). – DH
  • Create an Alberta Pension Plan, supplementing the CPP - TM


  • Review pricing structure for water, to promote conservation – smaller users, like residences, should pay less per litre than large users, such as the oilpatch. – GM
  • Review current forestry practices, to ensure that large-scale, commercial logging is appropriate and sustainable in the areas in which it is currently being performed, without a negative impact to tourism (logging currently happens inside Kananaskis Country, for example). – GM
  • Prepare Integrated Watershed/Land Use policies. – VD
  • Institute a province-wide Blue Box recycling program. - VD
  • Follow the recommendations of the Water For Life strategy – JD


  • Regional policy conferences, to promote greater attendance and input from Party members – VD
  • Utilize computers & the internet for reviewing and voting on Party policy – VD
  • Leader of the Party and the Party president to do annual tours through the whole province, not only speaking but hopefully also LISTENING. – JD
  • Hold longer sessions of the Legislature. – JD
  • Fixed election dates - DH
  • Set term limits for Premiers – TM


  • Ensure that the "last mile" of the Alberta Supernet is finished. – JD
  • Double the funding for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. – JD
  • Stop STUDYING the High-speed rail link between Calgary and Edmonton (for the 30th time), and start BUILDING it – as a P3. – DH
  • Fast-track the ring roads in Edmonton and Calgary – the current backlog on the projects is a running joke, and nobody in Calgary has ANY realistic hope of seeing the ring-road completed in the next 50 years – LO


  • Invest $25 Million to allow children of lower-income families to participate in organized sports – VD

  • Increase penalties for drunk driving. - DH

Now, not to say that these are the only things that need to happen in Alberta in the near future - far from it. But, they're the best ideas that were brought forward during the PC Leadership Race. And by "the best", I mean the most likely to a) make Alberta a better place for all of its residents, present and future, and b) get the PC Party re-elected, to lead Alberta and implement these policies. The other parties can have their "best policies" list. THIS is the one for the PC's, and they'd be well-advised to consider some of them - they were conceived by some of the brightest strategists and advisors in the party.

- ES

Thursday, December 7, 2006

The "Nose-In-Everyone's-Business" Crowd is Mad at Stephen

Conservative and Family Values groups are mad at Stephen Harper for the wording of the long-awaited motion to seek House permission to re-open the Same-Sex Marriage debate.

House Leader Rob Nicholson introduced the motion, which asked the House: ''to call on government to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages.''

What are the upset activists mad about? The last half of the statement, of course: "without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages.'' They want that period right after the words "traditional definition of marriage". Which is fine for them... they're not trying to moderate their image for the public in an effort to get re-elected. They've got their noses stuck in everyone else's business, and don't care that the rest of the country knows it, because they're convinced they're right.

The wording of this motion is as politically saavy a move as the Tories could make without outright BREAKING their election pledge to revisit the issue. The Far Right still sees it as a betrayal, but I wonder who ELSE they think is going to champion their cause in the House if not the Tories?

A woman identified as Executive Director of a coalition against abortion, whose name escapes me right now, describes the motion as a "betrayal".


If you're AGAINST abortion, shouldn't you be FOR gay marriage? I mean, not only does it open up the pool of potential adoptive couples, but, when last I checked, not a lot of gay relationships were resulting in abortions... unless, of course, your issue isn't abortion at all, but simply an effort to make sure the world is crafted to fit your exact world-view and dogma, and anyone who does something you think is wrong should be fined or put in jail or otherwise punished... so much for "judge not, lest ye be judged".

This speaks to a larger trend in politics right now, which is the attempts of vocal minorities to impose their own values onto the legal code, to codify their own morals, values and beliefs for all of society to follow. Conversion by politics, in a sense. "If we think this is wrong, it should be against the law". But, WHY is it wrong? "Because God says so!" Damn... I'd hate to see THAT phone bill...

Values-based policy is antithetical to the whole concept of conservative political thought. We all want a government with Values - honesty, integrity, etc. But the idea of government dictating religious values to the people of Canada is and SHOULD BE as repugnant and insulting to true conservatives as the blatant attempts by previous Liberal governments to impose their secular values on the entire nation (Health Care is a Canadian Value, Day Care is a Canadian Value, Voting Liberal is a Canadian Value, Bilingualism is a Canadian Value, Bashing Americans is a Canadian Value) – conservatives, by definition, believe that constituents should elect governments who represent their values, not that government should impose or indoctrinate those values into the general population. Conservatives demand by their nature that government stay OUT of the day-to-day lives of the citizenry, not that it insinuate itself and its own values into the social fabric of public and private life.

In short, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have done the only thing they CAN do in this situation - they've kept their promise to revisit the issue, while still showing they have the flexibility to actually RESPECT the rights of the gay couples who have already been legally married, while disagreeing with the practice. They've shown they can disagree with something without making it illegal or outright nullifying contracts that have already been legally completed. This isn't just politically smart, it's the right thing to do - you can't come back 2 years after the fact and say to someone "bad news, the government just said that your wedding 2 years ago was a sham, you're not married, and you have no spousal rights".

And if the far-right, "Sticking Your Nose in Everyone Else's Business" crowd doesn't like it, they can form their own party, run in the next election, split the conservative vote, and give the country back to the Liberals, who I'm sure will be MUCH more willing to listen to disaffected right wingers about how the country should be run...

- ES

Monday, December 4, 2006

Anyone got any nails? Ed's gotta build a Cabinet...

Premier-Designate Stelmach announced today that he'll take the Oath as Premier of Alberta on Dec. 15th. He'll name a Cabinet at that time, or VERY slightly before.

So, what goes into Ed's Cabinet?

Well, first of all, it has to be said that he's gotten himself quite a bit of breathing room by taking the stance that "Cabinet is too large" during the leadership election. This gives him the ability to make whole-scale change without being accused of holding his own personal Kristallnacht against those Ministers who supported Dinning. I'd be surprised if half of the cabinet, at the end of the day, wasn't made up of Dinning supporters anyhow: There are just too many MLA's who supported Dinning to ignore them ALL.

Mark Norris WILL be in Stelmach cabinet, but he's got to win re-election as an MLA first. He certainly won't be likely to do it in the by-election in Calgary Elbow, to replace their outgoing MLA. Look for Mark to play a big role in the Cabinet after the next provincial election in a couple years.

Lyle... what to do with Lyle... you can't give him Health, because you're in favour of full, public funding, and he favours privitization of some services. The opposition would eat Lyle alive in the Legislature every day over the contradiction. Can Lyle serve in a major position? Unlikely... but WILL Lyle accept a minor Cabinet portfolio? I have my doubts... this one's hard to call.
I can tell you I sure as heck don't want him as the minister for MY particular sector of the government.

The Deputy Premier almost certainly has to come from Calgary, or the Tories risk losing more than a few votes to a Liberal party eager to capitalize on an attention-starved Calgary... Possibilities include Harvey Cenaiko, Ron Stevens, and Gary Mar. If you're betting, go with Stevens.

The Cabinet, as it is, is going to be almost completely blown up when Ed makes his announcements... he's not just shuffling deck chairs, he's going to be amalgamating ministries, moving departments from one ministry to another, creating new ministries... it all sounds simple, but take it from someone whose job it is to know who to call up the ladder - when they start moving the ladders, things get VERY complicated on the ground. Shirley McClellan has a shot at staying Minister of Finance. Everything else is up in the air. People who have proven to be capable ministers (who haven't already been mentioned) might be up for jobs, or Ed may have specific people in mind, due to their abilities, for ministries we don't even know yet will EXIST on Dec. 15th. Some of those whose past cabinet work has been notable include Iris Evans, Clint Dunford, and Heather Forsyth.

Past Cabinet experience will be helpful to Ed, but someone too associated with the "old guard" might prove a liability, so Stelmach will have to balance the 2 concerns carefully. Also needing balancing is the proportion of ministers from the North vs. the South, and also Urban vs. Rural. Any chinks in the armour that the Liberals can use to drive a wedge between Ed and voters, they will. Count on it.

And of course, the elephant in the room that nobody wants to deal with... what do you do with Ted Morton? He's got devoted followers who are party members (for now), but if you put him in too high-profile a position, you run the risk of having him embarass the province or the premier. Added to this is the fact that he's only been an MLA for 2 years. Offer something big, you risk offending long-time MLA's with more seniority (who are generally much better organized to help, or NOT help, your next leadership campaign). If you offer him something too small, you run the risk of offending him and his support, and then you may be facing him as the Leader of another party, along with his devoted followers, in 2 years time. MY guess is that we'll see Morton in the Cabinet, as something along the lines of "Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal and Reform". A 2-year gig, one of his pet projects, and if he does the job well, you can promote him down the line and the ministry will be self-destroying - the better it does its job, the sooner it can vanish.


- ES

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Premier Stelmach - First Impressions

Haven't heard any of the speeches or anything, if any have been made - just a few impressions that flew through my head as I got word, and a quick look at the numbers.

Ed Stelmach's victory is proof positive that the democratic system of "one member, one vote" can work.

Consider: Stelmach was NOT the first choice of 65% of those who voted on Saturday. And yet, 58% of the ballots counted in the "3rd ballot" had Ed Stelmach on them. In truth, the total was likely much closer to 80%, but we'll never know exactly how many Dinning voters had Stelmach ranked as number 2. The point is: We didn't have a clear cut winner, but we have a consensus, and now we can move forward as a party, with Ed doing his damnedest to heal the deep rifts that this race has caused within the party.

We have NOT heard the last of Ted Morton, not by a longshot. He'll re-surface - but perhaps not with the PC Party, which rejected his view of Alberta overwhelmingly tonight. He could still be a force, though - consider the fact that more Albertans voted for the federal Tories in the last Federal Election than voted in the ENTIRE provincial election, all parties, combined, in 2004. Those extra 500,000 Tories and their votes could sure affect a provincial election that was won by a party boasting less than a half million votes in total, province-wide. It was personally satisfying to me, though, to see Ted finish 3rd. After dismissing Dinning this week as unable to get any more votes than the 30,000 he tallied last Saturday, Morton only drew 14,000 new votes this time, to Dinning's 21,000 new votes and Stelmach's THIRTY-FIVE THOUSAND new votes.

Dinning is done... Jim's going to be offered a position within the party, but he's had the rug pulled out from under him - much of it the doing of himself and his campaign strategists - and is going to lick his wounds outside of the public sphere. This campaign was a shining example of how to lose a job after you've already measured the office for curtains, and will be cited in countless political science courses for generations.

As for Ed Stelmach, Alberta's 13th Premier - I hope he does well. His competition at this point is limited. The biggest liability the Liberals have is their name - under any other name, Kevin Taft might be a legitimate threat. The Alberta Alliance will have a hell of a time winning in either Rural Alberta OR Northern Alberta, with Stelmach as Premier. We'll see what Morton can do with them in a couple years.

I'll review Stelmach's platform later on in the week, along with an analysis of the "best of the losing platforms", and comments on the Stephane Dion victory for the Federal Liberals.

But it's 3:15, and I am going to bed, comfortable with the knowledge that the Gestapo won't be knocking on my door tomorrow morning, demanding to know if I'm harbouring a same-sex couple. :)

- ES

p.s. Best results I've found thus far on Larry Johnsrude's blog.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Busy Polls

Went by my own poll at around 3:00 pm to vote and must say it was quite a bit busier than I saw it last weekend. Whether that's just the time that a lot of people decided to come out this week, or a sign of things to come, I haven't the foggiest.

They were also much more thorough in checking ID this time around. Could be there were claims of fraud in the last round?

I'll be remotely posting results as I get them tonight - and as far into Sunday as I can stay conscious, if neccessary.

Also, can't help but think the election of Dion as Liberal Leader a few scant minutes ago could result in a swell of people who were undecided about whether to vote deciding to in fact come out and cast their ballots for Morton. The spectre of yet another Liberal P.M. from Quebec will no doubt be an irritating one, at best, for many Albertans who have felt, rightly or wrongly, that they've been financing the country and getting precious little say on anything for the past 20+ years. Ted's tough approach towards Ottawa plays well with those people anyway - Dion as Liberal Leader just reinforces the possibility for them a little more.

- ES

Friday, December 1, 2006

Nothing New Coming Today

Today and most of tomorrow are just a gong show for me, so don't expect anything new on the Blog today. Tomorrow, I will TRY (when not house-hunting) to post my "best policies of the defeated candidates" list. Failing that, expect it early next week.

I'll try to update tomorrow night to give running totals in as close to "real time" as I can, so check back tomorrow night (starting around 10 pm), and check back often. A little slack would be appreciated, as I'll be ducking out of a prior engagement every so often to dig for the results and get them posted. :)

- ES

Thursday, November 30, 2006


"3 Men… on Saturday, one of them will become Alberta’s next Premier." (insidious music) Will the losers be put to death? Listening to the music, you’d think so.

Format as follows:

  • 1 minute opening.
  • 6 Questions – put to each candidate, each of the other 2 will have 30 seconds to rebuttal. Then open to 60 seconds of free-for-all.

Ed Stelmach – "I have a common sense plan." (Ed looks MUCH more comfortable on-stage than at the first debate) We have to open this party, and government, to all Albertans. Ed is reaching out in a big-tent approach. "Look at me – I’m a uniter!" Will not disband the RCMP. Proposed Alberta Pension Plan would be a SUPPLEMENT, not a REPLACEMENT, for the CPP. "I’m the best candidate for New Albertans. I want to invite them into our party." Ed's grandparents came here in 1898. "I want everyone to feel comfortable. I’m the only candidate to make a firm commitment to municipalities. I want to give municipalities equality." $1.4 Billion on an equalized assessment, provide cities the opportunity to plan infrastructure with predictable transfer amounts. It’s been 5 years... Let’s get on with it. Seniors are in trouble with raising property taxes, cities should look into providing what relief they can (playing to the elderly vote - good politics... everyone knows that, when inspired, seniors vote in HUGE numbers compared to the general population). Ed wants to unite health professionals for the purpose of increasing productivity and efficiency. Wants value for tax dollars. "When I talk about being inclusive and thoughtful, we require courageous leadership to find a balance." Everyone in the party will be listened to. Wants to promote tolerance and respect – you can’t straight-arm anybody, and tell them “you’re not welcome here”. "I’ve been a leader. I make a decision and stick to it. Sometimes they’re not popular, but I make them. I’ll do what’s right for all Albertans." The caucus respects Ed. He says that caucus is diverse, and needs a bridge-builder. "I will always ensure that I will empower all our MLA’s to truly represent the best interests of their constituents."
"The emphasis for the past week has been on voting against something. Vote FOR something. Vote for electoral reform. I’m the best person to bridge the divide within our party, I can unite different viewpoints, I am the leader this party needs."

Ted Morton – He’s spending a lot of time telling us what Albertans want. Marriage and children are somehow related issues. Again mentions he wants to defend the rights of ALL Albertans (except the gays, right, Ted?) “Reform and Renewal” – repeated it several times. Should get some positive buzz for that theme. Ted is very proud of the Alberta Agenda letter. Much of the message has been carried to Ottawa by Stephen Harper. It was popular in Quebec. (Not NEARLY as popular as "shove equalization up your derrieres" will be) We’ll never catch up on infrastructure if we keep sending money East in equalization. By replacing the CPP with an Alberta Pension Plan, everyone born after 1971 will pay 15% less (might prove a popular option with some younger voters). "I want you to know, Jim, that even if me and my supporters aren’t welcome in your Alberta, your supporters and you are welcome in mine. I want to make everyone welcome." (sorry, did Jim say Ted and his people weren't welcome? Shuffling through papers on my desk, trying to find that quote...) A Ted Morton government will be open to all groups – the Alberta we all want. (Even the gays, Ted?) Current funding for cities sucks – I want to sit down with the mayors and negotiate a new deal for long term, stable funding. Handing over the school tax would be a bad idea. Nobody will have to pay out of pocket for health expenses. Ralph Klein himself said the Health system is unsustainable. Drops some names from the NDP who agree with his Health policies (nobody knows who those people are, Ted - this is Alberta, and they're NDP members). Let people who WANT to, buy some services. Doctors need to put in half their time in the public system. We need more doctors. 2/3rds of Albertans disagree with same sex marriage (I'd love to see that poll - notice that he's not talking about Albertans' views on forcing clergy to marry same-sex couples, he's talking about how we're 2/3rds opposed to the very concept of gay marriage. Wonder what bill comes next, in the name of the righteous majority?). "I’ll reflect the views and preferences of party members." Bill 208 brings in protection for freedom of speech, religion, and parents to control what their kids are taught. Tolerance is a 2-way street. These are mainstream views of Albertans (ARE THEY? Good strategy - a little late in the game to make the claim, though). Jim Dinning is like Chretien and Martin. We’ll listen to party members and Albertans. Ted says Ed is a good guy, then makes the worst televised move since Jonathan mutinied on Survivor, and all but threatens one of the interviewers. More on this below. "You should be proud of your defeated candidate. I respect the decisions of those who vote for others – vote for me 2nd. I respect these people. I want to reunite all conservatives in their party."
"I won’t apologize for Alberta’s success or its conservative values. Make me your number 1, and I’ll give this party and province back to you."

Jim Dinning – Wants to represent ALL of us... Urban and Rural, South and North. Jumping on a lot of priorities, spending a lot of time focused on the future (in keeping with his recent bent on future v. past). Important point on diversity, and positivity (he must keep on those points). We’ve got a chance to build alliances, and should be a model for the rest of the country. We have to make sure that everyone in the province should feel welcome to join the PC Party. "I’ve been pointing out differences in policy, not making personal attacks". (Oops… choose your words more carefully, Jim. “I’ve been avoiding making sure to avoid personal attacks”. Ummm… so, you’ve been giving tacit APPROVAL of personal attacks, then? I know it’s not what you mean, but that stutter might remind some folks of your “bosom buddy” Paul’s “I’ve been VERY clear on this [wafflewaffleditherdither]”). I want to contribute to Canada. I want new immigrants, and those who love the arts, ranchers, farmers, doctors, teachers, EVERYONE has to know they can feel comfortable in our party. Ed’s right, our cities absorb more growth than anyone. Those cities need reliable, predictable flow for the next 10, 20 years. It’ll be done by Christmas, in the banks by Budget 2007 (finally! A commitment!). We need to fund the Catholic School system. "I believe in a publicly funded health care system" (Repeated the term twice). "I ran the CHR, reduced waiting time in ER and surgery, took MRI wait-times from 203 to 60 days by reaching out to private sectors, we’ll contract competitively delivered services." (again, sounds suspiciously like a semi-detailed policy statement - where did that come from?) Seniors won’t have to pull out the VISA to pay for health care. Peace River has 40-50% vacancy rate for doctors. Ted’s plan to allow doctors to work in both systems will have those doctors running from Peace River to larger centres. "I worry when I hear the term “Family Values”. I raised 4 kids, and tried to teach tolerance and diversity. I want to lead that kind of party." While I was in government, I was education minister and treasurer, did the same thing in CHR, and in business - I can lead. I’m not a nice guy, I get the job done. "I want to be a Premier for all Albertans. There’s a voice in the government for you." "This has been an important week. Alberta’s on the verge of greatness, as a province and as a proud partner in Canada. We need safe communities and a clean environment."

"On Saturday, YOU will make a decision. What kind of Alberta do you want? I have a practical plan, and a track record for getting things done. Who do you want to speak for Alberta?"

No knock-out punches were thrown. Each participant said the right things to make their own voters more comfortable, and to ease some of the concerns other voters might have about them. I don't think anyone picked up any first place votes at anyone else's expense, but some 2nd place votes may have switched hands. Let's quickly review how each candidate did, as compared to what they NEEDED to do.

  • Ed Stelmach - came across as more comfortable, made sure to stake out a solid position on the middle ground. Did exactly what he needed to - he went the distance, and had an answer for every question. To win outright, he needed both opponents to seem like zealots in their own right, and make major blunders. Dinning really didn't, and Ted... well... Ted didn't do anything to cost himself his own voters. Let's put it that way.

  • Jim Dinning - actually gave us SOME policy, but we're still left wanting more. It's like when you're promised Prime Rib, and when the meal comes, it's Peking Duck. You're ticked because it's not what you were promised, and then you're frustrated because you know you're just going to be hungry again in an hour. Jim made the points he needed to make, about inclusion and tolerance. He didn't seem to be out to destroy Morton the Man, just the policies. At least he mentioned Ed's name without being prompted first. Seemed relatively at ease, considering he's in the political dogfight of his life.

  • Ted Morton - Teddy, Teddy... you ALMOST had us. You spent the first 35 minutes of the debate coming across as not an idealogue, not a zealot, not an angry reformer, but as someone with conservative ideas who wanted to make things better. You made us all feel much better about you, although the question begs to be asked: If, as you said on Monday, the leadership race is between you and Ed Stelmach, then why did you ignore Stelmach completely for most of the debate, and attack Dinning? Were you lying, or is Dinning actually in 3rd place in your mind, and you're just a bully, picking on the last-place guy? Ted was doing what he needed to win on Saturday - preaching a moderate message of inclusion (against all evidence to the contrary). Ted's own voters will be happy with his showing, and I think he may have been swaying some Stelmach supporters to vote for him on the 2nd ballot... and then... Fletcher Kent poses a question about Ed Stelmach's leadership qualities, citing Ted Morton as saying on Tuesday that "Premier Stelmach could be so ineffective that he'd lead the party to defeat". Ed answers. Jim answers. Ted, turning a bit red, starts dressing down the reporter, telling him he's going to "talk to him afterwards and wants a source, wants the comment withdrawn, and wants an apology". Oh, Ted... you almost had us believing you could be a moderate, level-headed administrator. But you pretty much threatened a reporter during the leadership debate, on live t.v. How is Peter Mansbridge going to react when you try to scold him like he's a 10 year-old? Probably not as calmly as Fletcher. If this is how you react when backed into a corner, how should we expect you to behave around a table at the Council of the Federation (still think that sounds like there should be seats for the Bolians, Vulcans and Andorians at the table) when confronted by Liberal and New Democrat Premiers?

    If Ted had just simply said "Fletcher, I don't believe I'm being accurately quoted, I have nothing but respect for Ed Stelmach and his leadership abilities", this would have been quickly forgotten. But by scolding a reporter on live television, Ted cemented the image of the hell-raising, quick-to-anger red-neck agitator in the minds of those who were already opposed to him. He seemed like Foghorn Leghorn with a doctoral degree in Political Science. Like I said, it likely didn't cost Ted any of his support. But it may have cost him some 2nd round votes, especially from Stelmach's camp, which is likely exactly what he was trying to avoid by denying the quote.

No knock-outs, no major swings in public opinions, and no great surprises, other than Jim Dinning apparently reads this blog, and realizes that Albertans, above all others, need to know "Where's The Beef?".

Wendy's, your cheque is in the mail.

- ES

Anne, Anne, Anne...

Review of the debate coming later tonight.

Okay, so Anne McLellan has endorsed Dinning AND Stelmach. Who is most helped by this? Ted Morton. Ted’s been claiming all along that Jim and, to a lesser degree, Ed were both members of the “old boys club”, and nothing would change under their leadership. (Ted’s supporters seem quite quick to complain about how awful things are in Alberta these days, but quite unable to give specific examples).

Having Anne, Jean Chretien's undying devotee and the perfect spokesperson for the status quo, come out in support of those 2 just reinforces what Ted has been saying this whole campaign.

Honestly, how many PC members stayed home last Saturday, wondering who Anne McLellan supported? We know that, had Ralph taken a public position, it likely would have been for Mark Norris. Norris is gone, and hitched his wagon to Stelmach. Nobody was waiting with baited breath for this endorsement.

Nobody, except possibly Ted Morton.

- ES

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dinning's supposed Menage-a-trois with Paul Martin and Rod Love

Okay, I’ve been reading a lot on the web about how Jim Dinning is evil because he donated money to Paul Martin’s Liberal leadership campaign, and he’s got a lot of Ralph’s infrastructure in place for his leadership bid. Clearly, most of these criticisms come from one particular camp, but I’ve yet to see a Dinning rebuttal, other than “you guys are jerks”. So, in the interest of fairness, here we go.

Jim Dinning’s name appears on a cheque made out to Paul Martin’s Liberal leadership campaign. True. The cheque’s image appears all over the web, so go look for it if you don’t believe me. A question, though: On whose account does the cheque draw? Not Jim Dinning’s. The cheque is from a corporation (TransAlta) that employed Dinning to, in part, control contributions to charities and politicians. Dinning himself is as responsible for that cheque as is Scott Brison for every single tax refund cheque mailed out in 2005, which had his signature scanned and printed on the bottom right. Some of those cheques went to people convicted of sex offenses at some point in their life, as an example. Does Scott Brison support sex offenders? Of course not. To suggest so would be ridiculous.

The corporation that Dinning worked for (not RAN – he was an employee, and did as he was told) contributed money to a politician. Not normally a big deal. Corporations do this all the time – it’s an investment. A wise one, even, considering the political landscape at the time: Martin was the runaway favourite to win leadership of the majority party in the House of Commons – he was the anointed next Prime Minister, and likely to hold office for several years, if not longer. So the corporation in question sent him $25,000 – a pittance for a corporation so large, really – and had Jim Dinning, who was “their man” for such projects, cut the cheque and enclose a note to the future P.M.

What did this awful, scandalous note say?

“I can only hope that Mr. Martin and others might be able to re-inject a sense of urgency, passion, and priority into the affairs of our nation. Soon."
– hardly scandalous, considering he was writing the man who was about to become Prime Minister. Dinning suggested that the current administration of the country - under Jean Chretien - was stuck in neutral. Shocking. Then, the BIG ONE, that Dinning detractors claim proves that Jim is a “close, personal friend” of Paul Martin, Dark Lord of the Sith. This statement? “Kind Personal Regards”. A meaningless platitude used to end hundreds of letters every day, often from ex-wives to ex-husbands, and vice versa. A $40 replacement for “From”. And the exactly correct phrase to use when kissing up, on behalf of your employer, to the man who in a few months will almost certainly be in control of a majority Parliament. A picture of Paul Martin and Jim Dinning French kissing? THAT would be proof of a personal relationship. “Kind Personal Regards”? That’s the closing that appears on half of the Microsoft Word letter templates, and proves nothing except that Dinning knows how to end a letter to a politician. Which he should, he’s received enough to have seen the phrase hundreds of times, from near-total strangers.

Watch this… everyone watching?

“Dear Satan – in the event that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are right, and I’m doomed to burn in eternal damnation, please keep a seat warm for me. Just our little joke.

Kind Personal Regards,

The Enlightened Savage.”

Wow… guess he must be really good friends with me, huh? I DID, after all, say “Kind Personal Regards”. OR, maybe that particular phrase is as meaningless as I propose, in which case, Mr. Morningstar and I are not, in fact, close friends at all, and I’m just kissing up to someone who may be a position to make my life as difficult or as easy as he’d like in a while. Just like Paul Martin was in a position to do the same for Dinning’s employer, as the imminent Prime Minister.

A cheque from his boss and a meaningless platitude on a vaguely-worded note of support for a leadership campaign that was all-but-guaranteed to succeed, all on behalf of a major corporation that also happened to be his chief source of income. If that’s the worst you can tie to Jim Dinning, then desperate times truly ARE calling for desperate measures.

So, unable to make the tenuous link between Dinning and Martin hold, detractors then set their sights on Rod Love. The same Rod Love, mind you, who was a "genius" in the eyes of these same detractors when he left provincial politics to work for the Harper Conservatives, but is now part of the "Calgary Mafia", since he's not working for Ted. The common complaint is that Dinning has surrounded himself with Klein-era advisors and politicos, and therefore Jim Dinning must therefore be the "status quo" candidate, and represent everything that's wrong with the current state of Alberta politics.


Jim Dinning is many things, but a political idiot isn't one of them. Likewise, this small army of advisors, some of whom also served Ralph, is in all likelihood politically saavy. Hard to be a political insider without political instincts. So, both Jim and these advisors know a little something about politics. Agreed?


These advisors know a winner when they see one. And they want to BACK the winner that they see, because that's how they stay employed. So they saw that Ralph was stepping down, looked around, saw who his most likely successor was, and jumped. So these resumes hit Jim's desk. He looks at them, and looks at the landslide victories that the PC's have enjoyed since 1992, and ponders... "Hmmm... some of these people contributed to the most unstoppable political machine in the country... I wonder if it would be wise to have them help ME get elected by landslide majorities for the next decade-and-a-half...". And they're hired. They have their own ideas, Dinning has his, and advisors who didn't work for Ralph have THEIR own ideas. These ideas get bandied about, and policy comes forth. (So does a plan, but we get to see that later. Apparently.) This isn't about someone being a member of the "Old Boys Club", or the "Calgary Mafia", of being representative of the "Status Quo". This is about smart people deciding to back the front-runner, and him wanting the smartest people with the best credentials available. Can you find me someone in this country MORE qualified to lead a landslide assault on the Alberta electorate than Rod Love?

So, Jim has connections to Paul Martin (on behalf of someone else), and to Rod Love (an employee of his).

Guilt by association? Let’s talk about one of Ted Morton’s big supporters and good, personal friends, Rob Anders. A list of Rob’s views and transgressions is readily available through a Google search. Ted’s admitted friends, like Mr. "Nelson Mandela is a terrorist" himself, are a bigger threat to modern civilization than Paul Martin or Rod Love have ever been.

Or, to put it in terms that many of those slagging Dinning on Morton’s behalf (because Jim's linked to "bad people") might better understand:

“Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone.”

We've Got A Debate

Not sure of the format, but here are the details.

Tomorrow night (Thursday), broadcast on t.v.'s "News Hour" on Global Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge and on the radio on CHQR AM770 (probably 630 CHED, also) from 6:15 to 6:55 PM.

Source is Ted Morton's official website.

- ES

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Final 3 in the Home Stretch

I can just SMELL the unity in this last few days before the vote... the blogosphere is practically overheating with the vitriol that's being bandied about between Dinning and Morton supporters. Stelmach supporters are conspicuous by their good behaviour.

Thought I'd look at the Final 3, profile their typical supporter, and then break down exactly what, in my view, they need to do in the next 4 days to become Alberta's next Premier. Last point on each candidate is what kind of Alberta you'll likely see a year from now, should they win.

Jim Dinning

Typical supporter: Lives in or near a big city. Either does well, or does EXTREMELY well, come pay-day. Is a moderate socially, believing that government shouldn’t be swayed by religious groups into wading into social and values issues. Is a fiscal conservative, believing that spending has gotten out of hand, and will support cuts in the name of efficiency.

In order to win – must go on the offensive against Morton’s past positions and policy, and not get personal - remember the lessons you learned from Nancy Betkowski's personal attacks against Ralph, Jimbo. Needs to paint himself as the last line of defence against “Morton’s Agenda”, and encourage Stelmach voters to make him their 2nd choice, so that Stelmach supporters “still have a chance at the Alberta that Ed Stelmach wants to see” if Ed finishes 3rd in the 2nd ballot.

In 1 year… we'll have had a budget come out that starts to form a picture for us of the actual policy of the Dinning administration. Premier Dinning will have just completed an exhaustive routine of advisory board meetings, and we'll nearly be done a full audit of the government books. We'll be a year or less from a general election, and still wondering EXACTLY where we stand as a Party. Ted Morton will be working for the PMO or will be leading a hungry-for-blood Alberta Alliance. Ed Stelmach will be a big-portfolio minister, and the head of the Northern Caucus.

Ted Morton

Typical supporter is a person of faith, living in the suburbs or on an acreage. Has significantly higher-than-average income, is near retirement or a parent in a young family. Is married, and heavily favours "traditional values", which they feel the rest of the province should share. Has voted Reform, Canadian Alliance, and Conservative as long as any of them has been an option. A gun lives at their home. Registry papers have never lived with it.

In order to win, Ted needs to continue selling memberships like he's trying to get into heaven. He also needs to hammer home his "big tent conservatism" message, and rely heavily on his supporters in the federal Tory caucus and their organization to recruit, sign up, and deliver votes come Saturday. He also needs to reach out to Stelmach supporters, and continue to paint Dinning's policies as liberal, without being quite so negative towards the man himself.

In 1 year… we'll be in a constitutional quagmire about Same-Sex Marriage, and fighting our idealogical cousins in Ottawa over the imminent, gigantic middle finger we're about to flip them over the Canada Health Act. Quebec will hate us, and by proxy hate the Federal Tories, which will likely leave Alberta on the outside after the smoke clears on the next Federal Election and the Liberals ride Quebec's disgust with Alberta back to power. The PC Party and caucus will split, with the Red Tories and Dinning faithful MLA's forming something like the "Alberta Progressive Party", and the resulting vote split may result in Alberta's first minority legislature in... well... ever, I think. We'll know exactly when the next provincial election will be. Jim Dinning will be working in the energy sector, and Ed Stelmach will be a big-name member of the Alberta Progressives.

Ed Stelmach

Typical supporter lives on a farm or in Edmonton (yes, Calgarians, there's a difference). Is happily married, older children or empty nesters. Makes an average wage, and works long hours to make it. Believes that government should collect taxes, supply neccesary services, and otherwise leave citizens the hell alone. Is generally happy with their life, but distrusts the power elite.

In order to win – must continue painting himself as the common man, and the underdog. Has to drive home the logic of his positions, rather than sounding like the ideologue that his opponents are painting each other as. Stay away from mud-slinging the other 2 camps are doing. Appeal to Edmonton and rural voters, without coming across as hostile to southern Alberta or Calgary (so as not to cost himself any previous votes from down South). Absolutely MUST have those who endorsed him get the vote out for him – it’s his only shot at covering the ground (11,000 voters PLUS) between himself and the leaders, who are both selling memberships, and extending that lead, like mad.

In 1 year… the oil patch will be slowing minutely, and with it Alberta's economy. Roads will be mid-construction, and the health care system will be reviewing operations to see how to streamline delivery of services. The agricultural sector will be ecstatic, with new production capacity on-line for cattle producers. Jim Dinning will be an executive working out of Calgary or, more likely, Toronto. Ted Morton will be leading the Alberta Alliance, screaming for democratic reform and organizing to prepare for the first outcome-unsure provincial election in almost 40 years.

Monday, November 27, 2006

What's in an Endorsement?

In short: Nothing.

In an actual general election, endorsements can mean a lot. The average citizen, who isn't all that interested with day-to-day politics, will read the newspaper or turn on the television, see an old politician who they liked and respected coming out in support of a candidate, and say "That's good enough for me... he knows best, never led us wrong before", and they'll go vote for the endorsed candidate.

In a PARTY Leadership race, though, there are 2 types of voters: Voters who follow the day-to-day stuff, and will make up their OWN minds, and voters who were courted by a specific candidate to join the party in the first place. If that candidate continues onto the next ballot, this voter MAY show up to support them again.
But if he's gone, then whatever he promised them (say, a Vietnamese Community Centre, off the top of my head) is also gone, and so is their impetus to go vote on Saturday.

So I don't put too much stock into the endorsements we're hearing in the past few days for Stelmach. It may be a useful weather vein, to show us which way the wind is blowing, but in the "one member, one vote" system the PC's have for selecting a leader, there is just miles and miles of real estate between "I endorse Ed" and "All the people who voted for me are going to come out again on Saturday and vote for Ed".

To my mind, the endorsements aren't NEARLY as important as new membership sales this week. Nobody's endorsing Morton (nor SHOULD they be), but his campaign is hitting every church group and dialing every number on the Alberta Alliance membership list, trying to sell those memberships and get the vote out on Saturday. I don't see that happening, at this point, in the Dinning or Stelmach camps, although an "Anybody But Morton" movement (also referred to as "In favour of modern civilization and aware that the 1940's are long over") could make some hay in this week - problem being, there are 2 candidates to choose from who aren't Morton, and telling people to vote strategically to keep Morton out just isn't going to work - Stelmach people might list Jim as their 2nd choice, but will NEVER jump ship and chose Dinning over Stelmach. Dinning people are somewhat less solid, but they've been hearing of Jim's impending victory for several years now, and it'll be hard in the next few days to convince them it's not going to happen,and park their votes with Stelmach.
So those new, "soft" members (like liberals concerned about Premier Morton) have to choose who to vote for between Ed and Jim, while Ted's supporters have no such choices to make.

A debate on Wednesday, if reports are true, could prove interesting, but again (barring anything explosive happening) I don't see current party members moving from their current positions. Everyone with a membership card either has already chosen which of the 3 to support, or has no intention of ever using their card again, now that the candidate who bribed ERRRRRR made the membership available is out of the race. Tomorrow, I'll try to break down what each campaign has to do to win this thing. If the promised debate goes forward, I'll break it down on Thursday and Friday.

- ES