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

Report: 3-Way Debate

I have heard reports of a 3-way televised debate between Stelmach, Dinning, and Morton to be held on Wednesday night. It had to be Wednesday, of course, because Tuesday we'll all be watching Chris Pronger get what he has coming to him.

Can anyone confirm this debate with a quoted source?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

From the Inbox: A Different Kind of Christmas Poem

For the record, I'm aware that there are probably a hundred or more versions of this poem, with every nationality possible represented. Completely besides the point.

Author unknown.

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.
The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps Canadian, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

“What are you doing?” I asked without fear,
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
Then he sighed and he said “Its really all right,
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night.”

“It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ‘Dieppe on a day in December,”
Then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
My dad stood his watch in that Korean Land’,
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
Something red and white... a Canadian flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a trench with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.”

“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”

Oberg endorses Stelmach?

Daveberta is reporting that Lyle Oberg just held a press conference endorsing Ed Stelmach.

Might be the right endorsement, but Lyle *could* have played a little harder to get. Strategic mistake by Oberg, if true.

Not that Lyle making a bone-headed strategic move should shock any of us, at this point.

If both Oberg and Hancock can turn 70% of their votes to Ed Stelmach, that would put Stelmach neck-and-neck with Dinning, pending new membership sales and further endorsements.

First Ballot Analysis

All right, this is going to be the first of what will no doubt be many breakdowns on ES this week of the vote and leadership race to this point. I'll try and keep this one related strictly to numbers. I'll break down each candidate's results, examine the reasons why things worked out that way, and, except for the 3 finalists, examine who the vanquished candidates might be supporting in the final ballot. Those "Most likely to support" tags are based on POLICY, not on back-room politics, so they could prove VERY wrong.

First, the party has to be pretty happy with the voter turn-out. Despite the frigid temperatures, almost 100,000 party members came out to vote. An interesting statistic, which of course we'll never know, would be this: How many of those 97,690 who voted were party members 12 months ago? I would suspect that many of the 41,615 party members who voted for candidates who will NOT be on the next ballot may stay home next week, regardless of whether or not their candidate throws his support behind one of the top 3. New membership sales from newly desperate campaigns, and expected temperatures near -5 Celcius will probably mean that we'll be close to 100,000 voters again, though.

Now, then, on to the candidates themselves.

Jim Dinning - 29,470 (30.2%)
This has to be a blow for the Dinning campaign... although spokespeople indicated that Jim would consider 30% of the vote a minor victory, it has to be a VERY minor victory considering the time and money that has gone into this campaign, to have a lead of less than 4%. Clearly, Team Dinning planned for this outcome, though, as Jim immediately (finally!) went on the offensive after the tally, in preparation for next Saturday's final ballot.

Ted Morton - 25,614 (26.2%)
Ted's push in the last week in the media certainly helped him, and he's within striking distance of first. Barring a Dinning endorsement from Lyle Oberg (never say never, but unlikely), Morton could benefit from the "Anyone But Dinning" sentiment and the "Anyone but Calgary" sentiment - despite the fact that he represents a riding adjacent to Calgary. Membership sales drives are to be expected from Morton's camp in the next few days, as some in his campaign feel they've got as much support from traditional PC members as they're likely to get.

Ed Stelmach - 14,967 (15.3%)
Ed's numbers, and the endorsement from Dave Hancock, are great achievements for this campaign. If Hancock can deliver even 6,000 votes to Stelmach, then Ed is closer to Ted Morton than Morton is to Dinning. With other endorsements up in the air (Oberg is possible, despite policy differences), anything can happen. But Stelmach is in a great position to benefit from voters who want to keep Morton out, but can't bring themselves to "Go to the Jim". The concern here is potential vote-splitting of the moderate, progressive party faithful - if Dinning and Stelmach split that vote, Morton and his membership sales might sail right up through the middle and all the way to the Premier's Office.

Lyle Oberg - 11,638 (11.9%)
Lyle took his best shot, and although he won't be the next Premier of Alberta, he MAY have stumbled into the position of Kingmaker. I'll be surprised to see Lyle come out to support any of the top 3 right away - he may wait as late as Wednesday or Thursday, to see what sort of commitments he can squeeze out of them. Lyle has major differences with all 3 contenders, though: He accused Dinning of impropriety earlier in the campaign; he supports some privatization of health care, unlike both Dinning and Stelmach; and he is a staunch defender of personal freedoms, which puts him in conflict with Ted Morton, especially on Same-Sex Marriage. Which of these 3 problems bothers Lyle the least remains to be seen, but expect him to be offered a notable seat at the cabinet table if he does crown the next Premier.
Most likely to support: Unknown

Dave Hancock - 7,595 (7.8%)
This has to be disappointing for the Hancock campaign. Dave isn't dwelling on it too much, though, deciding early on in the tallying that he was going to support Ed Stelmach's bid for Leader. Hancock had a great platform, and I can only hope that some of his policies get enshrined by the new Leader. Later this week, I'm going to post the "best policy ideas from the losers" of this leadership campaign, and I get a feeling there are going to be a lot of solid policy ideas from the Dave Hancock camp.
Most likely to support: Stelmach (declared)

Mark Norris - 6,789 (6.9%)
Mark's people are probably beside themselves at this poor showing. Even as the votes were being tallied, he had no doubt whatsoever he'd finish in the top 3. Norris' face was plastered all over billboards, I've been getting what seems like 2 or 3 emails a day from his campaign... not even Edmonton delivered the kind of numbers Mark was hoping for. I think, in the final analysis, what killed Mark was is lack of identifiable policies. If you asked the average party members who stood for what, most couldn't tell you what Norris stood for. In a lot of cases, Mark didn't tell us, either. As I observed earlier in the campaign, Norris is a great communicator. But you need actual policies to communicate to people, or it's all meaningless noise and platitudes.
Most likely to support: Morton

Victor Doerksen - 873 (0.9%)
The only surprise here is that Victor beat someone... his polices were too narrowly focused to appeal to a broad range of party membership, and although some of them should definitely find their way into the public sphere again, a leadership race for the Progressive Conservative Party just wasn't the time to bring those ideas forward, when more fundamental issues were being debated. Victor also suffered from a bit of an identity crisis, as he couldn't attract the social conservative vote with the Morton juggernaught drawing those votes to Team Ted.
Most likely to support: Morton

Gary McPherson - 744 (0.8%)
This is disappointing for me, personally. In a lot of ways, Gary brought some of the best ideas to this leadership race. Much of his policy, especially in the area of health, is fantastic and should be seriously considered. I hope that the eventual winner doesn't take Gary's poor showing here as indicative of the quality of his policy ideas, because that would be fool-hardy. In a race without the "boogy-man" factor driving people to support a major candidate to stop another one from winning (not mentioning any names), Gary might have done quite a bit better. Again, someone whose policy is going to play a prominent role in my mid-week "best policy ideas from the losers" post.
Most likely to support: Unknown

Rick Bell column in today's Calgary Sun

Normally don't agree much with Rick Bell, but he's got a lot of insight on the looming battle.

"Now that the dust has settled, only three are fighting for the premier's throne. Will the Tories choose the middle, or take a hard right?"

Final Tally - First Ballot

Jim Dinning - 29,470 (30.2%)
Ted Morton - 25,614 (26.2%)
Ed Stelmach - 14,967 (15.3%)
Lyle Oberg - 11,638 (11.9%)
Dave Hancock - 7,595 (7.8%)
Mark Norris - 6,789 (6.9%)
Victor Doerksen - 873 (0.9%)
Gary McPherson - 744 (0.8%)


Analysis to come.

- ES

Saturday, November 25, 2006

63 of 83 Constituencies Reporting

11:05 local time

Dinning 20,837
Morton 18,897
Stelmach 11,523
Oberg 8,646

Top 3 advance to 2nd ballot.

- ES

News 660 - Approximately 50% of Ridings Have Reported In

10:46 local time

Dinning 13,000
Morton 10,000
Stelmach 8,500

- ES

News 660 Reports preliminary numbers

9:46 local time.


Dinning 2,700
Morton 2,500
Stelmach 1,600
Oberg 1,500

These corrections will be coming all night, I fear. 2nd ballot will be next Saturday, or that's how it's looking at this point.

- ES

Leadership Vote - Update

3:47 local time. Just received a phone call from a highly placed source who indicated that the Dinning camp is making urgent calls trying to get the vote out - they're quite concerned about the mass of people coming in to vote for Morton.

- ES

The "Nation" Debate

The blogosphere is buzzing over the debate as to whether or not, as suggested by Stephen Harper, "Quebec is a nation".

First of all, that's not what he said, that wasn't the motion he put forward, and the careful wording of the motion as presented was completely intentional.

Secondly, and sadly predictably, the partisan daggers have already come out, in Blogger-land and in real life. Many "progressive" blogs dismiss the notion as another idiotic Conservative idea, and either gloss over, ignore, or explain away the fact that the Liberal party, and most of its leadership contenders, have come out in full support of the motion. Jack Layton, normally a font of good suggestions on how to BUILD bridges, takes advantage of his time in the House of Commons to side-step the issue completely, and implores the rest of the country to make Quebecers feel more valued and at home in the rest of Canada by voting for the NDP. Thanks for that, Jack. Way to be a leader among men and put partisanship aside for the sake of nation-building.

Let's get back to the real issue. The motion, as put forward, reads PRECISELY thus:

“That this House recognize that the Quebecois form a nation within a united Canada.”


Not to start speaking “Clintonese” or anything, but we’ve got two very important words that need defining before we can continue this debate. Those 2 words are the foundation of the whole argument, and based on the Bloc’s sudden about-face and stated intention to support the motion, I’ve got to believe that their lawyers have researched the definitions and found a court, somewhere, that has or will define the words the way they’re hoping for.

Those words?

Quebecois and nation.

Let’s start with nation most of us agree that common sense dictates that the word nation is meant in this context in the sociological term, and is not meant to imply independent statehood. Clearly, most clear-headed Canadians know that the Conservatives and Liberals are taking “nation” to mean the same thing that it means when referring to the “First Nations” of Canada, or the “Nation of Islam” in the U.S. BUT… the Bloc clearly intends to pursue a binding statement, likely from an international court, defining “nation” as an independent, self-determining political entity. Which definition stands could have dramatic impact on the legal importance of the statement.

Second term needing definition: Quebecois. Who ARE the Quebecois? Anyone living in Quebec? All Francophone Canadians? Or the cultural and linguistic descendants of the original New France settlers?

Clearly, Quebec itself, or all people living within it, can’t be a nation, in either sense of the word. It’s NOT a nation – it’s a group of people with vastly varying beliefs and values, many of whom speak French and many of whom do not, living within a common area that was determined by the arbitrary drawing of lines on a map. Much of the area WITHIN those lines, it has also been suggested, belongs to the First Nations as result of Treaty obligations by the Canadian Crown. So the land area is not a nation in the sense of statehood (it belongs to someone else), and the people within the area are so fundamentally varied so as to eliminate the validity of the argument that “all peoples within these boundaries are the same, and therefore constitute a sociological nation”.

All Francophone Canadians as a nation… well, again clearly they can’t be a legally distinct state independent from the Dominion of Canada – they have no land or territory to call their own. There are millions of francophones in this country, many living outside of the Province of Quebec’s borders. Since, as we established in the paragraph above, the provincial administrative area now called “Quebec” is not an option, owing both to its current legal status as land within the Dominion of Canada and Native land claims, then a legally separate and distinct state for francophones would need to be located somewhere else entirely, or would need to have borders around each francophone home currently in Canadian territory, which would be a negotiator’s worst nightmare and, I would suggest, completely out-of-the-question for the Canadian Government to even consider accepting. To pursue a homeland for Canada’s francophones, outside of Quebec’s borders, would be our own, polite-in-a-uniquely-Canadian-way, nightmarish West Bank odyssey. "All Francophone Canadians" as a legally seperate and distinct nation-state, then is out of the question. All Francophone Canadians as a sociological nation, then? Well, they certainly have a common language, and (in most cases) common heritage, although increasingly the francophone population of Canada is being bolstered by immigrants from former French colonies. So, if the term “Quebecois” in fact means “francophone Canadians”, one could make an argument that in fact the term “sociological nation” might apply.

Cultural and Linguistic descendants of the original New France settlers… this would HAVE to be sociological, since the only way to found a legally separate nation made up of this population would either entail finding, though genealogy, each descendant of those original settlers, or opening the option for citizenship up to all French-speakers who claim to have the “National values”. Again, the closest parallel I can come up with is Israel, which offers citizenship to anyone who is a Jew – despite the fact that to be Jewish isn’t an issue of race, but rather of the hard-to-scientifically-prove area of belief. Even IF those hurdles were overcome, the fact remains that this legally independent nation-state would have no actual territory. The territory currently within the borders of the Province of Quebec, as well as all other territory within Canada’s borders, belongs to the Dominion of Canada, or is in dispute with the First Nations of Canada. None of that land has been found, in a court of law, to be legitimately claimed by ANY francophone "nation", of either of our definitions, as the lands of New France, and any future claims to that land by its people, were ceded, legally and bindingly, to the British crown many generations ago.

So, clearly my argument is on the side of the Federalist camp, when I declare that in fact there is legal precedent to declare that, in more complete terms,
“That this House recognize that the peoples of Canada whom share a commonality of francophone descent, culture and language form a sociologically distinct group within a united Canada.”

Although, to frame the statement that way would not exactly give the Federalist cause the political boost it’s hoping for among those living in Quebec. It's like proposing to your girlfriend by explaining the response your autonomous system has when it detects her pheromones.

The Separatist element, on the other hand, is hoping that the statement is legally interpreted, likely by an international court, thusly:

“That this House recognize that the lands and people currently within the legislated boundaries of the Province of Quebec form a separate, self-determining political entity and independent state located within the current territorial borders of a united Canada that, by this definition, does not include Quebec.”

Is it a stretch to think that a court, ANYWHERE, would define the statement as above? Of course it is. But stranger things have happened in court… 10 years ago, O.J. Simpson was found “not guilty”

- ES

Review - Leadership Candidates

All right... currently sitting in my government office, on my break (so don't tell Dr. Oberg!), trying to rip through the 8 candidates for tonight's vote. Voting opened about 3 hours ago, and closes at 7 pm tonight - take my advice, don't wait until the last minute. Plan on being at your voting station no later than 6, as some stations will have nobody waiting, and some will have busloads from the more organized campaigns.

I'm going to break down each candidate's major platform highlights, assets and libilities, and then evaluate how his election would impact the PC Party of Alberta, and then the province as a whole.


Candidate: Enlightened Savage
Platform Highlights: More for Education, Streamline Health, Think Outside the Box, and a lot of other cliches.
Assets: Rapier-sharp wit, devastating good looks, 24" biceps, obvious talent at hyperbole.
Liabilities: His anonymity may hurt him at the ballot box - people tend to want to know the name of the Premier - they're funny like that. Might have a "Hidden agenda".
Impact on PC's: Keep them straddling the idealogical fence, making good ideas from both left AND right accessible. You know, LOGIC over ideology.
Impact on Province: Far right would be up in arms - Alberta Alliance would go batty, potentially splitting the traditional conservative vote and opening a gap for the Liberals to crawl through.

Everyone got it? Good, here we go!

Candidate: Ed Stelmach
Platform Highlights: Streamline Health system, and keep it public. Re-negotiate royalty rates. Address municipal infrastructure deficit immediately. Aid agricultural producers.
Assets: He's "Steady Eddie". Seems trustworthy, honest & methodical. Albertans like that.
Liabilities: Ideas regarding interprovincial relations seem a bit backwards.
Impact on PC's: Would give an open and honest face to a party that's picked up a bit of a scent of arrogance over the past few years. Would keep party on current track, ideologically.
Impact on Province: Might get eaten for breakfast by a charismatic leader on the right OR left, but his honest demeanor plays well in Alberta, especially rural ridings that might otherwise veer hard right.

Candidate: Lyle Oberg
Platform Highlights: Province will cover the last year of Undergraduate degrees. In favour of some privatization of Health Care. Address infrastructure needs, and more fully involve municipalities in the tax regime.
Assets: Seen as the "anti-establishment" candidate. Will get a lot of anti-Dinning protest votes.
Is all alone on Island Oberg within the Party... doesn't have the organizational support or undying devotion from his followers to resist internal leadership contenders down the line. Tends to lose control of his mouth, and as such isn't taken seriously by a lot of Albertans.
Impact on PC's: Would be ripe to have embarassed members flock either to the Alliance or to a new right-of-centre party. Many MLA's would likely not seek re-election the next time around, hurting party's fortunes in the next election.
Impact on Province: Has a great platform, but would only have 2 years, at most, in power before a coup from within his own party or a provincial election would likely force him to the sidelines. Lyle is one of the 2 candidates that the provincial Liberals are HOPING will win the leadership of the PC's, as he'll help them as much, if not more, than he'll help the Tories.

Mark Norris
Platform Highlights: Stay the course on most issues; give infrastructure dollars to the cities, open health clinics near ER's for non-emergent care.
Assets: Great communicator. Has the support of "Killer" Klein, and the rumoured support of his boy Ralph.
Liabilities: Platform is pretty vague. Doesn't seem to have a great team of advisors.
Impact on PC's: He's charming, and "the underdog" - helping to perpetuate the image of the PC Party as champion for the everyman. Would keep the party's right-of-centre core happy with his views towards Ottawa. Without good advisors or a more detailed plan, though, support within the Party might quickly wane if people don't see that they deposed King Ralph for someone with a Plan.
Impact on Province: If he develops a plan, he could easily win several terms in office just on good-will and comparisons to Klein. Without a solid plan, though, he'd be viewed as all talk and no action, and be open to attacks, mostly from the left and centre as he'll have the right sewn up no matter what.

Candidate: Ted Morton
Platform Highlights: Institute Alberta Pension Plan, fixed election dates, term limits for Premiers. Some privatization of Health System.
Assets: Is seen as the flag-bearer for social conservatives and those wanting democratic reform. Has deep ties to federal Conservatives. Articulate.
Liabilities: Viewed as a zealot and idealogue. VERY socially conservative, which won't play well in the urban areas (you know, where all the SEATS are).
Impact on PC's: Party will take a hard turn to the right. Rural support will increase, but that won't result in more seats. Centrists and Red Tories will abandon ship in droves, and either flock to the Liberals, or form a new party. If defeated, look for Ted to leave for federal politics, or take leadership of the Alberta Alliance.
Impact on Province: PC Party will stake out new ground on the far right of the spectrum. Alberta Alliance will essentially die. Liberals REALLY want Morton to win, as a Morton Government gives them a real chance to take back the cities with their "Fiscal Conservative, Social Progressive" platform. Makes room for the Liberals to shift slightly right of their current position, or for a new party to fill the centre-right progressive void. Either way, the PC's become a MUCH harder sell to women, minorities, and non-evangelicals.

Candidate: Dave Hancock
Platform Highlights: Increase post-secondary spaces, eliminate health care premiums, and make it easier for people to make healthy choices (higher sin taxes, tax incentives for sports, etc). Solid environmental policies, and fixed election dates.
Assets: GREAT platform, with a lot of detail. Comes across as a qualified person, if not overly exciting, but then Albertans tend to prefer substance over style. USUALLY.
Lack of visibility, seen by some as "yesterday's man".
Impact on PC's: Has a clear plan for the future, so can't be accused of being rudderless. Hancock's policies tend towards fiscal conservatism, long a hallmark of the Tories (until recently), and socially progressive. Party members, both right and centre, will find things to like about Dave's platform, and little to hate.
Impact on Province: Much like within the party, left-leaning voters and those on the right will both find things to love about Hancock's platform, and little to rail against. Will probably make inroads with Liberal voters, and won't take much damage on the right flank, championing electoral reform (long an Alberta Alliance issue). Province stays Tory Blue for the forseeable future.

Candidate: Jim Dinning
Platform Highlights: Fiscal Sustainability; predictable and stable funding for programs. Clean energy, more post-secondary spaces and easier access to loans. 100% public Health Care. Double Arts funding.
Assets: Retired well before his time, leaving Albertans wanting more. Did a great job slashing the deficit, seen as an able administrator, has a HUGE team working for him, and support of the vast majority of PC MLA's.
Liabilities: Inertia - has been the heir apparent for so long, he may have trouble adjusting to the idea of being IN power. Seen as a corporate puppet by some.
Impact on PC's: He'll stay the course, as far as the PC Party's ideaology, but bring his Plan for dealing with growth. If the Plan is as good as we hope it is, the progressive elements of the party will be happy. Dinning's election, at Morton's expense, will likely see the more socially conserative elements of the party leave in favour of the Alberta Alliance, posing a threat to rural seats.
Impact on Province: It's all about the Plan. If Jim shows us he's got a good, stable plan, right from the get-go, he'll likely get a chance from voters in 2 years time to run with the ball. His policies will eliminate the need for a Liberal party, provincially, but in the true spirit of McCarthy-ism, the right-wingers will be emboldened by Dinning's supposed Big-L Liberal leanings. ("Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Liberal Party of Canada?") If he pulls a Paul Martin and craps the bed once elected, though, expect him and the PC's to suffer Martin's and the Federal Liberals' same fate: punished by an electorate that saw a popular incumbent betrayed by his party for an heir with no real plan past "1. Take Power".

Candidate: Victor Doerksen
Platform Highlights: Party renewal, technology and innovation, eliminate health premiums, make sports accessible for all children regardless of income, more money for cities, create Health Trust fund of $25 Billion, just in case...
Assets: Former minister of innovation, seen as a champion of the "new way" of doing things.
Liabilities: Has been essentially invisible for much of the campaign. His ideas aren't bad, but they don't make up for his lack of visibility.
Impact on PC's: Party will certainly enter the 21st century. Unfortunately, many of the party's members are stuck in the 70's, (the decade OR the age), and don't see why anything needs to be changed at all. We're in power, why fix it if it ain't broken? Disillusioned social conservatives will likely head for the Alliance.
Impact on Province: Could do a total political bit-flip. With Doerksen's Tories investing in technology that may or may not pan out, the LIBERALS of all people might preach fiscal conservatism, and grab enough votes to take power. Doerksen's ideas and priorities aren't enough to win a provincial election as-is, he'd need to find more issues after taking power.

Candidate: Gary McPherson
Platform Highlights: Large-scale change in approach to Health care - focus on preventative medicine rather than therapeutic medicine. Alberta should be a GST-free province. Very strong environmental policies.
Assets: Extremely impressive resume, great platform with lots of fresh ideas and solutions that cut the Liberals off at the knees.
Liabilities: Seen as a one-issue candidate by some, despite his extremely well-thought out and varied platform.
Impact on PC's: Would bring fresh ideas and a new approach to the Party. Would definitely appeal to Red Tories and centrists. Right wing would be pacified with GST-free idea.
Impact on Province: The Liberals worst nightmare - his policies tackle their biggest issues, and propose ideas and solutions that they haven't been able to come close to matching. If his ideas can be afforded, McPherson could change the day-to-day life of every Albertan, for the better. IF the voters give him enough time to do so, and the PC's change their party ideology to fit the leader.

Get out there and VOTE!

- ES, voting at 6 pm when he gets off work.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Leadership Candidate Profile - Gary McPherson

There's an opinion out there - I don't know if it the prevailing one - that politics at a high level is best left to the professionals. Now, that may or may not be true in most cases... but Gary McPherson needs at least one professional politician on his team. If he had that one professional, then the aforementioned pro would have reminded him shortly before the campaign kicked off: "Gary, now remember: You're running for the leadership of the Alberta PC Party. They're good people, but not the most cosmopolitan group. No matter WHAT, avoid being seen as too intellectual."

But, alas, no such conversation took place. So on the opening day of the campaign, Gary announced his candidacy, made a good speech, and unveiled his campaign slogan: "Vive La Difference".

That's french, isn't it? Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted.

Gary's website isn't the easiest thing to navigate, but once to find what you're looking for, it's pretty clear where he stands. He has quite a few really good ideas, and (as I mentioned in the review of the debate), he can be a very strong force for the Party even if he DOESN'T win the leadership.

Gary thinks that we would be much better off if our Health system focused on promoting HEALTH, instead of repairing illness. He would make use of chiropractic and physiotherapy to these ends, as well as promoting physical activity, supporting community leisure centres, and educating the public about healthy choices. The example he gives is of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which is entirely preventable, and yet costs the province hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in surgeries. He wants to explore the benefits of the treatment that many Albertans currently get each year with tremendous result, but pay out of pocket for, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine. To help free up the backlog to see doctors, Gary's suggestion is shocking in its simplicity, and its effectiveness: Let people be seen by Nurse Practitioners. It works in many places around the world, and there are just a ridiculous number of nursing students out there. Truly serious cases would be diagnosed sooner, because the wait wouldn't be 8 hours, and then the patient would have more immediate access to a doctor, because he wouldn't be tied up with his 32nd consult of the day complaining of flu symptoms.

In the short term, Gary says we must address the infrastructure deficit in our schools. Down the line, he wants to institutionalize a way of measuring the advancement of students who don't respond to the traditional "test and mark" model of schooling, and wants to offer optional programs in areas such as money, credit, invention creation, investing, and entrepreneurism.
As far as Day-Care and Post-Secondary education go, McPherson's stance is pretty much the same: "We need more spaces".

One of Gary's more shocking ideas, and one that I am beyond surprised never came up in the debate, that he wants Alberta to become a GST Free Province. In effect (and I'm oversimplifying, here), he wants retailers to not charge the 6% GST, and Edmonton will send 6% of the previous year's applicable purchases to the Federal Government as part of the federal equalization payments. So, essentially, the province will pick up the tax tab on everything purchased in Alberta. I don't know if this is good or not, it's so revolutionary... it will certainly stimulate spending. The problem is, that when spending goes up, so does demand, and increased demand means increased prices, at least in the short term. In the long term? It'd be nice not to have to spend that extra 6% on the next house or car... and towns on the Alberta borders with BC and Saskatchewan would make a killing on cross-border shoppers. Time to open up a retail store in Lloydminster. :)

McPherson wants to establish an environmental think-tank, to come up with ideas on how to protect the environment. He wants to look at the pricing structure for water, so that low-volume users (Joe and Jane Six-Pack) are charged less per litre, while high-volume users (oil companies and wet t-shirt contest organizers) are charged more. He wants to review forestry practices - as he puts it,
"Are we really planning to cut our forests for almost no profit, and lose endangered species as a bonus?".
He proposes that tourism will bring almost as much money to provincial coffers as cutting in some areas, and will leave the trees where they are for future generations to enjoy.

Gary agrees with Jim Dinning in that, if you mine it here, you should process it here. He also wants to make sense of the current oil-sands mess, and make it possible to fast-track workers to Alberta from other countries.

All in all, Gary's platform is very well thought out. He thinks outside the box, sees problems, and tries to find REAL solutions, not just band-aids to cover up the bleeding. He's got a quick wit, and is a moderate. We could do MUCH worse that Gary McPherson as our leader. If his campaign was just a wee bit better known, and a little shinier, he'd probably find himself on the second ballot come Dec. 2nd. Heck, he still might. But that's not up to me... that's up to YOU. :)

Gary McPherson's website is

- ES

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Leadership Candidate Profile - Victor Doerksen

Sorry, all, been slacking today. The "Quebec as a Nation" topic should hit the blog on Saturday, and then Sunday we'll deal with fall-out from the first ballot results of the leadership vote.

Victor Doerksen is a firm believer in the business precept "know what you do well, and focus on that". Victor is focused on a few key areas, and they're areas that cover enough ground that every Albertan will likely be interested in at least one of them. Those areas are: Renewed Fiscal Discipline, Accountability in Health Care, Supporting Parental Roles, and Conservation. Not EVERY proposal in his platform is related to these areas, but they're by far the most "fleshed out" areas in the platform.

In the area of Party renewal, Victor makes a great suggestion: REGIONAL policy conferences. If the Party wants to hold its annual policy conference in Fort McMurray, so be it... but a regional conference in Cochrane is a lot more likely to involve me - I don't think I'm the only one that feels that way. It's a big province - let's make it easier to have our voices heard within the Party. He also wants to utilize computers (those funny looking tv's with typewriters underneath them) for reviewing and voting on party policy, staying in touch with other party members, etc.
Great idea. Would have been better 10 years ago, when this "Inter-web" thing came out, but no time like the present to embrace the state-of-the-art, 1990's technology.
At least SOMEONE'S bringing it up... the Party leadership seems stuck in the 1970's. For that matter, so do at least half the members. Trust me, I've been to the meetings.

Victor thinks we should have a few Nobel Prize Winners. Okay. We'll get right on that. I'm just trying to win a BLOGGING award, Vic - slow down. ;)

On Water, Victor wants to implement the Water for Life strategy sooner rather than later, and to introduce water conservation on a provincial level. He also wants integrated Watershed/Land Use policies (about bloody time - like the LAND USE doesn't affect the rivers and lakes the water passes over - anyone remember the flooding West of Calgary in 2005? A few more trees would have helped avoid that whole bloody mess). Environmentally, Victor wants higher fines and penalties for rule-breakers, and to begin a province-wide Blue Box recycling program.

Doerksen will eliminate health care premiums, and invest $25 Million to allow children of lower-income families to participate in organized sports. Like a hockey scholarship, for 7 year-olds. Excellent idea, especially with childhood obesity reaching critical mass. Further, he wants to add to the Federal Government's Child Care Allowance by providing another $100 per month, per child under 6, directly to parents. It's a good play, politically, but it'd be a much bigger deal if we hadn't had a nation-wide screaming match over the same issue less than a year ago during the federal election. We like it , we'll take it, we can use the money... but we're not going to hit the streets with placards over the issue. Victor also wants to extend tax relief to those caring for older relatives, which is just flat-out the RIGHT thing to do. Caring for an elderly relative is expensive, and we as a province SHOULD help the people who are doing it.

In Education (a pet issue of mine), Victor wants to regulate school fees (good luck!), and increase the focus on English-As-A-Second-Language (ESL) programs. The only problem with regulating school fees, is that each and every school has a completely unique set of circumstances determining its fees. There are public high schools in Calgary with a fee of about $200 per year, and that covers very, very basic needs. To actually take part in a specialized program, though, like Music, is at least another $250. This money doesn't go to pay for Escalades for the teachers - it goes to things like sheet music, when the school board's budget allows enough money for that school to buy each and every music student 1 single 12-page piece of music, to last the entire year. In a lot of cases, families never pay these fees, and their children are still allowed to participate - as they should. Nobody is saying that an inability to come up with $500 should keep a kid who wants to play football off of the field... but in a lot of cases, certain schools will have fees that 100% of the students pay in the first week, and other schools will have fees that are set higher, with the knowledge that half of the students at that school will never be able to pay, so they're subsidized by the other half. How are we going to be able to address each school's need from an office in Edmonton?

Doerksen wants to increase the municipal share of property taxes from the current 60% to 75%, and also wants to share some gaming and liquor revenue. On Health, he proposes the creation of a health innovation fund, to help us pursue new technologies. He also wants to take 25% of our "non renewable resource revenue" (can nobody just say "oil money"?) and create a $25 Billion Health Trust by 2016, for the express purpose of serving as a buffer in case of unexpected costs in health care. Victor is committed to a fully public health system.

Renewed Fiscal Discipline. It's what we all want to hear about. Victor's vision of it looks something like this: Legislate defined purposes for "oil money". Establish a $1 Billion Conservation Legacy Trust, to help fund environmental legacy projects. Review the current oil & gas royalties. Maintain 3-year business plans. Maintain current levels of taxation, minus the health care premiums.
I guess this will all save us a few bucks, but enough to cover the $1 Billion for conservation and the $25 Billion for the Health Trust? I dunno...

As the former minister of innovation, Victor has a lot of ideas on how to foster greater innovation and scientific discovery in our province going forward. It sounds expensive, and might be worth it... but, I don't think the average Tory party member is going to vote for the Leadership based on your scientific platform.
Give us health, education, roads and cops, and we're happy Tories.

A solid candidate, not too flashy (just the way we like 'em out here), with a few really good ideas. Those few ideas are right for the people of Alberta, but is Victor Doerksen the right man to lead the next wave of the Big Blue Machine in Alberta? Party members will decide on Saturday. He's added a lot to the discussion of the campaign, but he hasn't won many new converts to the cause, and when they count the votes, Victor's lack of... well... panache... is likely going to cost him a shot at the top job.

Victor Doerksen's website is

One profile left to go... phew...

- ES

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Leadership Candidate Profile - Jim Dinning

This one's going to be long... but, as the front-runner and expected winner, I'm going to analyze Dinning as closely as I can.

You can almost feel sorry for Jim Dinning... 5 years ago, it was a well-known fact that he'd be the next Premier of Alberta. Everyone knew it to be true. Even 2 years ago, it was the same thing. He was spending time in the private sector, doing good work, meeting the people he'd need to know to be an effective Premier. Then, Ralph announces he's stepping down, and all of a sudden... contenders started popping up. Not PREtenders, lambs to the slaughter, running just to get themselves some face time, but real people with real records, running to WIN, attacking poor little Jim, who's been out in the political hinterlands for the past decade. And now Jim looks at the polling numbers, and realizes that the job he's had "in the bag" for the past 5+ years may be slipping away... he's still the front-runner, but the votes haven't been counted yet, and ANYTHING can happen in politics.
Remember when that fat newspaper reporter got elected mayor of Calgary in the early 80's?

Plan. Jim has a plan. It's in the plan. Did we mention he has a plan? Jim Dinning's no idiot - he knows how Albertans perceive him. He's a bookish, stable, librarian-type. The accountant who lives down the block. He was a good Provincial Treasurer, cleaned up our books, got rid of the deficit. Albertans have had that image in the back of their minds the whole time we've been moaning and wailing about Ralph's lack of planning...
"If only we had a guy who was good with planning... hey, isn't Dinning on deck to be the next Premier? He'll know what to do with all this cash."
Jim's got a plan. It's on his website, and it's 48 pages. For a 48 page document, though, it's shockingly slim on details. Oberg and Hancocks' platforms put this one to shame. When it was written, I'm sure Dinning's team didn't think they'd have any real platforms to run AGAINST, so why commit to things in writing that you might not be able to do? Just be warm and fuzzy, use the word "plan" several thousand times, and be done with it.

In fact, you get the feeling that on the first day after Ralph handed in his resignation, someone walked into Dinning Headquarters, went up to the whiteboard, and wrote in big, bold letters, right across the top: "DON'T SCREW UP". The whole campaign for Team Dinning has been about counter-punching and pasting the word "plan" everywhere you can. Don't even TOUCH anything controversial, don't take a position in public, don't speak for Jim, don't commit him to ANYTHING, because he may not be able to deliver once he gets a look at the books. While other candidates have been running from town to town making promises (you know, like politicians are supposed to do), and committing themselves to positions, Jim's biggest commitment seems to be to not piss anyone off. And while that's a good, solid, stable way to govern, or to run unopposed, it's a rotten way to get elected when you're running against people who have positions, and either don't have anyone LEFT to piss off (Oberg) or don't particularly CARE about the people they piss off (Morton). Everyone's selling party memberships with one guy in their cross-hairs... "What do we need to do to beat Dinning?".

Here's where Jim Dinning stands on this issues...

Jim wants to have a council of constituency association presidents, to ensure that the Party leadership is getting the word straight from the horse's mouth on issues important to the constituencies. Good, grassroots policy. He also wants the leader of the party and the party president to do annual tours through the whole province, speaking to rank-and-file members and answering their questions/concerns. Good ideas, that should play well across the political spectrum. He wants lobbyist reforms, and a registry, publicly accessible, of ALL government contracts over $25,000. Transparency in government. He wants longer sessions of the Legislature (the current sessions are a joke of democracy), and fixed dates for Throne Speeches (FINALLY! What the public has been screaming for all these years - fixed dates for Throne Speeches! Not for ELECTIONS, mind you, just for the Throne Speech... that ought to get him another 2 or 3 votes).

Dinning will introduce the "Fiscal Sustainability Act", and institute a 10-year capital plan. Anywhere else, a 10-year plan would be seen as the height of arrogance, to assume you'll be in power for 10 years. In Alberta, if you're NOT in power for 10 years, then the guy AFTER you certainly will be - we don't elect governments, we elect dynasties. He also wants a "mini-plan" to address capital projects in the North, which will get priority. He wants to double Alberta's savings, to $50 Billion, in the next 10 years. 30% of resource revenues will go to this.

Jim wants to put an emphasis on the first 10 years of a child's life, so expect programs directed at child health, literacy, etc. He wants to create 50 new research chairs at universities and technical schools, and stimulate the migration of workers to Alberta by making it easier for them to get here (I propose carving a canal through Northern B.C., then we can bring 'em in by BOAT!) He also proposes more emphasis be placed on finding the "next big energy technology", and wants Alberta to be a leader in Clean Energy - although, he did mention that the Oilsands would need to be fuelled by nuclear energy, as opposed to natural gas, which they're currently using. He likened the current practice to "using gold to find platinum".

He'll expand the Alberta Family Tax credit (a winning idea for young families), and add 60,000 Post-Secondary spaces. He supports MacEwan College and Mount Royal College (GO COUGARS!) in their efforts to become fully accredited undergraduate Universities. He'll assume full control over Student Loans in Alberta, making it easier to get your loans administered and paid off. He will lessen the Interest Rate (to Prime), and reduce the expected Parental Contribution, as Post Secondary students are, in his words, "independent adults". He insists student 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.

Dinning will build more libraries, more affordable housing, take similar steps to the Hancock campaign re: volunteers and community groups, and send a message to the petroleum sector: "If you mine it here, you upgrade it here". A Dinning Government will offer training to disabled Albertans to allow them to fully function in our booming workforce, and establish an Alberta Aboriginal Education Council to deal with grade school and vocational training for First Nations. He also supports biofuels.

Folks, if it seems like these policies are all over the map, it's because they are. This is exactly the order they're being presented to me on the website, so I hope that someone has an Excel spreadsheet of these policies and can "Tool - Sort - By Ministry" this list, because I'm having a hard time keeping track, and I'm TYPING the bloody thing.

Dinning will "develop a permanent funding solution for municipalities". This is what I mean when I talk about low on details. Other candidates have dollar figures, or percentages of the education tax, or gas tax, and Frontrunner Jim has "develop a solution". Easier promise to keep, harder promise to sell to an electorate hungry for detailed plans - especially when you've sold them your candidate BASED on his ability to plan. He supports a fully public-funded health system. He thinks the system doesn't need more CASH as much as it needs more INNOVATION. I wonder who he thinks has time to sit down and come up with innovative ideas in the health system, while women are miscarrying in our E.R.'s?

Jim supports the Water For Life strategy, and will implement a province-wide Land Use strategy, including a comprehensive plan for the South Eastern Slopes - although, he doesn't say where those slopes ARE, so no idea if they're anywhere near Calgary, or if it's just Pincher Creek - south. He wants to make sure the "last mile" of the Alberta Supernet is finished... most of the cable is laid, and MOST Government buildings throughout the province are on high-speed internet. There are tens of thousands of homes, though, that have no access to this high-speed internet, even if the cable runs 15 feet off their front porch. This is because the government hasn't arranged for private companies to access the hubs that have been built, and offer customers all over rural Alberta high-speed internet. THIS is the "last mile", and it's long overdue. Dinning will also double the funding for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

Dinning isn't playing to win, he's playing NOT to lose. Oberg, Morton, Hancock, Norris and the others are going for the jugular, as well they should - they're behind, and they know it. Dinning's ahead, he's been ahead the whole time, and HE knows it. The object of the campaign has been to "Don't Screw Up", and he's done a good job of it. No major (or minor, now that I think of it) stumbles, unlike Dr. Oberg. No loose lips sinking ships. No flip-flops... but then, you need to take a position to flip-flop on it. Dinning's campaign has been water-proof, and a near-perfect example of how to run a campaign when you've all but won months before the vote. The others are catching up, but let's be honest, here... something BIG has to happen for Dinning to lose. Every Evangelical in the province will have to buy memberships and vote Morton, or Hancock and Oberg will have to throw their support behind Norris... otherwise, Jim's got this thing won, as he's had for the past 5 years.


For someone who has put so much focus on his plan, I am flabbergasted at the lack of specificity in his on-line documents. You've had TEN YEARS to write this plan, so I hope there's a really specific, point-by-point plan hidden somewhere in your desk, or you're in for a world of hurt when you take office and we realize that What We Saw is All We Got. The documents are full of statements about Alberta, followed by "problems that need fixing", and then commitments to fix them, usually in vague and reassuring terms including lots of meetings and co-operation. So, at the very least, we know that Jim is AWARE of a lot of the problems - he's been paying attention, and listening to our griping. That's something.
But to be the "Candidate with a plan", and then have a platform that is at BEST the 3rd most detailed of the 8 candidates, is damn near unforgivable.
It's not enough to cost him the vote, in all probability... but it IS enough to make you wonder how much of a plan there really is...

All in all, I'm not impressed with the documents, or the campaign, of Team Dinning. I think he did a great job as Treasurer - 10 years ago. I think he has the right stuff to lead this province today, if for no other reason than he readily acknowledges what's WRONG with our current situation, and that's more than most politicians not sitting in opposition can do. If I was a new transplant to Alberta, knew nothing of Dinning's past, and was a member of the PC Party, I'd watch this campaign and say "he's got no fresh ideas, and I've got no good reason to vote for him". There's also a fear that, much like Paul Martin, Jim's had so long to think about what'll happen when he gets to sit in the "big chair" that when he finally does, he'll find himself paralyzed, then try to do so much that nothing will get done, and a smart opposition will destroy him for it. But... all of that aside... Jim's done a good job for us before. He's a smart man. He says he has a plan, and even though we can't see it, he's never lead us wrong before. Over 30 current PC MLA's support him, Premier Lougheed supports him, and he's centrist enough to get this party elected for the forseeable future, provided he doesn't do anything to drastically screw up the party's electability as Premier. We need a bean-counter to keep us from blowing our energy bucks on shiny toys when there are more important things to spend it on, and Jim's the best we've had in a while. If you're a betting man, take Dinning to win, on the second ballot. And hope to god there's a better plan than the one available on-line.

Jim Dinning's website is