The biggest threat to Mark Norris' leadership hopes is the fact that he's a communicator. Don't get me wrong... he's GOOD at it. VERY good. But to come across as a folksy, down-to-earth communicator coming in on the heels of the folksiest, most down-to-earth communicator we may have ever seen? It's a tough sell...
Norris will always be compared to the ghost of Ralph Klein, and that kind of constant comparison can have a negative impact. Ask Eric Lindros.
He wants to set a provincial capital plan for roadways and capital projects - which is in contrast to some candidates, who want to see the cities do that planning, as they're "on the ground", and then just present their lists to the province. I think I prefer the latter idea to the former. A Norris Government would turn over the education portion of property taxes to the cities. He wants to diversify the economy, but doesn't seem to have a concrete plan on HOW to do so, just stating that he "sees the need" and wants to do it.
This is actually a pretty common complaint I have with Norris' policy statements - he knows what he wants to do, but doesn't seem to have any idea how to go about doing it. This isn't to say that the next premier needs to be detail-oriented - he can be a big-picture guy if he wants, nothing wrong with that. But you should have at least SOME idea on how you want to effect change when you take office, ESPECIALLY if the biggest complaint about the guy you're replacing is that he "had no plan".
A smart opposition would lick their chops at the prospect of replacing Ralph with Mark Norris.
Norris supports the Water for Life strategy, which is good from an environmentalalist standpoint, but doesn't have much more to say about the environment. Has no one in his campaign noticed that the Greens have been pulling thousands of votes from the Tories these past few years? At least PRETEND you care about environmental issues, guys... Norris isn't the only one to pretend there's no environmental problems, either. But more on that when we get to those candidates. Norris wants an "offence is the best defence" approach in dealing with Ottawa and the other provinces, which I'm sure will make the rest of the country love us even more and think of us even MORE highly than they already do. He wants to use the Internet to provide some post-secondary learning (great idea, actually), and eliminate what he calls "unproductive competition among institutions"... government deciding which university gets to offer which degree programs? Eek...
Heath-care: Mark doesn't come right out (on his website, anyway) in support of a public or mixed-system, but he does have a VERY good idea on health: "Consider locating medi-centres near major emergency wards so that people can get the right service at the right place without long waits. This would better utilize the highly trained staff in the emergency wards to deal with genuine emergencies." EXCELLENT idea. Come to the ER, the triage nurse tells you you're not going to die of the flu and headache you're suffering at 2 a.m., go down the hall with this card and your triage exam is already in their computer, they'll be able to help you while we get this pre-natal bleeder the help she so desperately needs.
Whoever the next premier is, they should absolutely jump on this idea - it needs to get done yesterday.
As for Parks (and this is really symptomatic of his whole policy platform), his official policy statement esentially says "Parks are important. We should make sure they're clean." Not city parks, folks - PROVINCIAL capital-P Parks.
Mark Norris is a charming guy, and brings much-needed youthful vitality to this race (is it sad that the 44 year-old is the voice of youth?). He's a great communicator, and for all I know might be a great leader. But I'm not seeing any actual policies or ideas from his camp, save for the one on medi-centres, that make me sit up and take notice. If you're running to be the Premier, you don't need to be the smartest guy in the whole of Alberta. However, you should be able to attract people to your cause that "fill in your blanks". Norris is running for Premier without a whole lot of firm ideas on what he's going to do if elected. He knows what he thinks is important, but not what he's going to do. And with the next general election less than 2 years away, we can't have the government grind to a halt while Premier Norris figures out what he's going to do. I like Mark and think he's a good guy - but if we elect him Leader of the PC Party, we could be in for a rude awakening by the time the next election rolls around.
Mark Norris is Ralph Klein without a Rod Love - and we all saw how well THAT went.
Our next Premier may be from Southern Alberta - if he is, make Mark the head of the Northern Alberta caucus. Let him shake babies and kiss hands (oops, think I got that backwards - maybe that's why *I* didn't get elected) until the cows come home. He could really help our party fortunes in Edmonton - but not as Leader.
Mark Norris' website is http://www.marknorris.ca/index.cfm