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.
Liabilities: 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.
Candidate: 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.
Liabilities: 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.