Thursday, November 16, 2006

Alberta PC Leadership Debate – Nov 15, 2006

Here’s my breakdown of the Alberta PC Party Leadership Debate, held in Calgary last night and broadcast on Global TV. First, a couple notes about the debate itself, then a review of my impression of each candidate. In the days leading up to the vote itself, I’ll profile more fully each candidate and their stand on the issues.

First off, it’s a DEBATE, audience, not a RALLY – shut your mouths. Even if you feel the need to chant your candidate’s name when they come back from commercial, stop trying to get your half-drunk scream heard as the applause dies down. No one thinks you’re funny or clever. Secondly, I found it REALLY weird that the panel broke down the debate, post-mortem, with the live audience and candidates still in the room, listening… Surely they could have allowed a bit more time to discuss issues amongst the candidates, and then held a 30-minute in-studio wrap-up show afterwards?

Now, on to the candidates themselves…

  • Lyle Oberg – Looks uncomfortable in his introduction. Taking solid positions. Clear ideas on education. Elimination of health-care premiums will be a big winner with low-income earners. CHOICE in healthcare? Oh, god, here we go… more year after bloody year of Raging Grannies and Friends of Medicare protests. Health incentives are promising. Scored big points against health premiums. Suggests a co-operative approach to the Federal Government, which makes sense – they’re idealogical cousins at the moment, nd even if the Liberals get back in, you attract a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar. Got more comfortable as debate went on. Clear answer on greenhouse gases. Good recovery, nice job painting himself as “outsider”.

  • Gary McPherson – Seems to have a lot of good ideas – would likely be an extremely valuable asset behind-the-scenes. Did he just suggest that the government force young people to save for post-secondary education through payroll deductions? Diversification of the economy is a MUST, as he says. Good plan for a real department of Northern Alberta Development – long overdue. Ignore the Clean Air Act? We have to have a provincial government that works WITHIN confederation, not that thumbs its nose at it. GREAT shot at Morton! “If you want the status quo, you’ve got 6 choices. You’ve also got 1 choice that’ll take this party so far to the right, you can remove the word ‘progressive’”. Beautiful shot, and didn’t mention him by name, so it was within the rules of fair play.

  • Ted Morton – His stage presence just oozes arrogance. Clear on government keeping the education property tax, but not on how he intends to FIX the infrastructure deficit in the school system. Did you bring a CULT with you? Tell them to ease up on the chanting – it sounds like night of the living dead. Cheap shot on Dinning re: Health. The moderator cut him off, presumably because the attack was clearly personal. Another candidate who seems married to the Third Way, and only THEN will he remove the health care premiums? Since the Third Way will never fly, I suppose that means that health care premiums will be around forever under Morton. Blames Paul Martin for surplus problems? Sure, we’d have more money if the rest of the country didn’t need our equalization dollars, Ted – but where would we get our workers from, then? Takes advantage of almost every opportunity to pat himself on the back – many of his constituents, who voted for him in the last provincial election, would suggest he stick that hand somewhere else, as he’s done nothing for them since his election but prepare for this leadership race. His proposed Land-Use Framework for the Eastern Slopes includes continued logging in Kananaskis – how is THAT good for the watershed? The “Alberta-first” approach could further polarize the province’s voters, which an effective opposition could jump on.

  • Ed Stelmach – Seems to be honest, if not a great communicator. He has clear plans for education, I just don’t know if they’ll be good enough to get us out of the infrastructure deficit we’re in currently. Seems to want to stay the current course on health, which is fine with most Albertans, but could run us into some trouble as costs increase. His plan re: Reminding the rest of the country they rely on us may backfire. Everyone hates a braggart. Scored points with farmers re: water use. Ed engenders a lot of trust – you don’t get the impression that he could run the government single-handedly, but he wouldn’t HAVE to.

  • Jim Dinning – A lot of platitudes, but where’s the beef? Seems very comfortable on stage. I’d think the front-runner would have a more completely developed and detailed platform. Seems to be very focused on a “government-knows-best” approach to fixing problems – “We’ll study it, we’ll set priorities, we’ll make a plan, we’ll fix the problem”. Clearly wants to keep health 100% public, which should get him centrist support. Dodged the question about health premiums. Wants clarity in budgeting – if any one of these candidates would know budgeting, I suppose he would. Very clear on the need to defend Alberta’s economy by improving the economies of other jurisdictions in Canada. Good support for “Water for Life” re: regular funding. Many of his points relate to stable, predictable funding, which is in stark contrast to the current administration. It’s not sexy or exciting, but government isn’t supposed to be either of those things. Looks comfortable in front of an audience, made a very good point regarding the support he has among current PC MLA’s.

  • Mark Norris – Looks pretty comfortable on-stage. Good cheap plug for his website, early on in the proceedings. Web-savvy, most of his campaign has taken place on the Internet. Good answer regarding Education. His stance on Health makes sense: cut out the inefficiencies. May remind folks of the slash-and-burn in the Health system of the 90’s, though, and without impending economic doom to blame. “We are spending enough to make it work”. Very true. Scored points on “no such thing as a surplus – a surplus means the government taxed the people too much”. Right out of the old Reform party playbook, still plays great in Alberta. GREAT answer on increasing wealth in the rest of the country. We may have good systems and checks in place, but if Norris thinks we can’t vastly improve our forestry practices, he’s out to lunch. The upcoming Mountain Pine Beetle problem is a perfect example of the risks of trying to manage an ecosystem you only half-understand. Could be the dark-horse in this race, has a style of speaking and delivery similar to Ralph in the early 90’s. Good speaker.

  • Victor Doerksen – Has good environmental ideas as part of a well-thought-out platform. Will appeal to a lot of centrists and people who might vote (or normally find themselves feeling guilty about NOT voting) for the Greens. Loosen your tie – seems inflexible and cold on-stage. Not a great speaker. A little too proud that Alberta Supernet came in “ON BUDGET” – did you lay the cable yourself, Vic? Albertans do their jobs, on budget, thousands of times a day – that’s not a reason to elect US as leader of the PC Party. On Budget means you’re not incompetent – is that the main requirement for the Premier’s job? “Make me the Premier – I’m not completely incompetent”. Health system plans are solid, if not sexy. Good point about standing up for Alberta, but moot at this time. Scored good point regarding the Kyoto protocols. Sending money to Ethiopia to buy “emission credits” from them is NOT going to stop global warming. Safe candidate, Mr. Steady. Won’t rock the boat, won’t tick people off, but would be ripe pickings against a charismatic opposition leader.

  • Dave Hancock – Talk TO me, not AT me – it feels like I’m in Grade 5 math class. Seems angry – stop rushing, and stop shouting. Light on details in many of his plans. Good idea to eliminate health care premiums and replace with a tax – if I don’t have to go to ATB and pay the bill, it won’t bother me nearly as much. Won’t hold much sway versus the plans of several contenders to eliminate the premium altogether, though. Good ideas on how to deal with energy surplus dollars. GREAT plans to protect the watershed. Could wrap-up the environmental vote. Doesn’t seem like he LISTENS as much as he TALKS. “If you haven’t heard of me, it’s because I haven’t screwed up” – good line. I think if he relaxed a little more, he could be a compelling figure. He knows he’s fighting an uphill battle, but there’s still a likeable side that poked its nose out of the rhetoric a few times.

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