Friday, August 31, 2007

New Poll

Nation, there's a new poll, as you no doubt noticed, just below the banner.

Don't read TOO much into it... yet.

But I'm really interested to hear from people who visit here whether they're as outraged at the thought of Craig Chandler as an MLA as people elsewhere on the web seem to be.

People of all parties and affiliations (even though Craig thinks you should go home!) can vote at nomination meetings, provided they pay their $5 to become party members first. You KNOW that a well-oiled political machine like Team Chandler will have bus-loads of voters from church groups and seniors' homes at the nomination meeting... and unless his opponents can get similar support AT THAT MEETING, he'll win.

If, however, the people in Calgary Egmont of ALL political stripes who believe that Chandler will not represent their best interests can band together and ensure that he does not win that nomination, keeping him and his views off the ballot, then that would be what we call "democratic karma".

So, Nation... especially those of you in Egmont... what say you?

- E.S.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Do You Know Who Is Exercising Your Franchise?

Nation, file this one under "Yet More Proof The Party System Is Ruining Democracy".

Craig Chandler is running for the PC nomination in the provincial riding of Calgary-Egmont. Although Chandler just officially announced his intention to run, rightly waiting until Denis Herard announced he would not be seeking re-election, this has not been secret in any way, shape, or form.

For months now, Team Chandler has been making the connections, shaking the hands, kissing the babies, and meeting the people they need to meet in order to ensure that their man wins the nomination. Nothing wrong with that - it's politics as usual. Where's the problem?

Here's the problem:

David Crutcher is a former candidate in the riding for the Alberta Alliance. He is also a former leadership candidate for the Alliance. He ran previously with the backing of Craig Chandler and his Progressive Group for Independent Business. He then, in the "Introduction Letter" for Craig Chandler, throws his endorsement behind Team Chandler. He has since been elected President of the PC Association for Calgary-Egmont.

Now, let's ignore the far-right views of Crutcher for a moment (admittedly difficult, but let's try). The bottom line here, is that by hook or by crook, Team Chandler and their proxy, a former candidate for the leadership of a far-right party, have won control of the constituency of Calgary-Egmont and, therefore, its nomination process. Is this going to be another Calgary West debacle? KNOWING that the President of the Association backs a particular candidate, KNOWING that the President has family members working on that candidate's campaign for the nomination, who in their right mind is going to run against Chandler and think they have a snowball's chance in hell of winning?

Chandler WILL win the nomination - by acclamation or in a vote, he has the back-room of the constituency association lined up behind him, and he WILL carry the PC banner into the next election. This being part of the Federal riding of Calgary South-East, long held by Jason Kenney, Conservative nee Canadian Alliance nee Reform Party M.P., the riding will vote Tory. Chandler will take his seat in the Legislature, and cast his vote as he sees fit on behalf of the 39,531 souls who live there.

That's politics... what's the big deal?

The big deal is this... one of Chandler's biggest backers is the aforementioned Mr. Crutcher, former leadership candidate for the Alberta Alliance. Among Crutcher's ideas were the institution of an Alberta Sales Tax, banning same-sex marriage, and promoting Alberta Separatism if the Liberals win power in Ottawa. Other big backers include Link Byfield, of the fledgling Wild Rose Party, and Rob Anders (like we need a laundry-list of Rob's crimes against common sense).

The PC Party of Alberta is supposed to be a big tent... even in its name, the "Progressive Conservative" party suggests that there is room for people of different approaches, values, and beliefs. But it's not THAT big a tent... which party, exactly, is the PC Association of Alberta supposed to be? Looking at Team Chandler, it's part PC, part Wild Rose, part Alberta Alliance... everything to the right of centre, with enough dashes of "right wing ideologue" to make one wonder if the social far right has finally found a way to take power in Alberta.

Indeed, the Ford-ism of "you can have whatever colour of car you want, as long as it's black" seems to making a comeback, except in Chandler-land it has become "you can vote however you like, as long as it's for a Conservative - or you can get the hell out". Visit daveberta for more on this enlightened and inclusive attitude from the member-in-waiting from Calgary-Egmont.

So, to the members of the PC party in Calgary-Egmont: When Craig Chandler speaks for you, as your candidate, for whom will he truly be speaking? Those of you who have supported Denis Herard, the "Red Tory" for all these years? Or his backers from the Alberta Alliance and the Wild Rose Party and social conservative think-tanks?

And to all the people of Calgary-Egmont: When he stands to speak and vote on your behalf, using your franchise in the Legislature of Alberta, in whose interests will Craig Chandler be acting? Yours? Or those of his social conservative friends and supporters? Will he be paying back favours to groups that supported him, like Concerned Christians Canada, and the Canada Family Action Coalition? 39,531 people live in Calgary Egmont. Many are pro-choice. Many are homosexual. Thousands are not Christian. And thousands are not conservative in ANY way, social or otherwise. When he casts that vote on behalf of ALL of you, will you know for certain if it's YOUR best interests that he has in mind?

Ask him. At the nomination meeting, on the hustings, at the town hall meetings, at the debates. Show up, and ask Craig Chandler who he represents. If the answer isn't "YOU", he doesn't deserve to sit in that chair, and cast YOUR vote as he sees fit.

If Chandler's supporters are worried about the nation's soul, they should pray for it. If they're worried about our children, they should give them something to do. If they don't think their own political parties can win power, they should ask themselves WHY that is the case.

Or, they can just seize control of a constituency association for the party most likely to win, run their own hand-picked candidate, and take the power and influence they want, to pursue their own social conservative agenda - dissent-be-damned.

One riding at a time.

- E.S.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Three Amigos Meet, Protestors Go Loco

Well, Nation, the time has come and gone once again when the leaders of Mexico, the United States, and Canada get together, pow-wow, discuss issues of mutual interest, and go their seperate ways.

Predictably, the idiocy of the protestors who presented themselves was rivalled only by the disproportionate media coverage given same idiots.

Now, I want to go on the record as saying that protest is not only a vital and worthwhile element in a democratic society, it is an absolute necessity. Man's rebellious nature, and his inherant disinclination to be ruled, has lead to some of the greatest societal advances in our collective history. I truly believe the words of Oscar Wilde when he said:
Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original
virtue. It is through disobedience that progress had been made, through
disobedience and through rebellion.

That being said... these protestors are NOT the type who will be responsible for some of those great advances.

For starters, many of them aren't truly protesting anything in particular. The reality is, they're there because they hate George Bush. Or, at least, that's why they THINK they're there... in truth, they're brought there by one thing, and one thing only: Ego.

They WANT to be photographed, and interviewed by the media, and shown on televisions across the country being dragged away by police after a riot. In their sweat-soaked fantasies, it's what they dream about. They truly believe the police are there to stop them from proselytizing the "truth". Them. SPECIFICALLY them. They suffer from an inherant egocentrism... everything revolves around me, and my cause. The police have my picture, they're being sent on direct orders from Stephen Harper to silence ME, because I am a huge threat to his dictatorial rule.

Almost as humourous is their insistence that all violence during protests is the fault of the "draconian" right-wing rulers of the country in question... either George Bush ordered the police to open fire, or someone who wants desperately to BE George Bush did so. Liberal governments would never trample on my rights like this... it's just those bloody neo-con neanderthals. How quickly they forget that lefties from Jean Chretien to Fidel Castro have been in power during similar "squashes" of protestors. Hell, Chretien didn't just let the RCMP pepper-spray protestors, he eventually decided to start beating them up himself.

Let's be honest here, protestor: You're doing yourself, and your cause, more harm than good by acting like an idiot. Throwing a rock at a police officer while you call him "pig" isn't going to end well. For you, or for your cause. Normal citizens don't sit in their living room watching the 6 o'clock news and say "Gee, William, I hadn't really thought of it before... but that young man who just spat in the policeman's face really changed my mind about going carbon neutral".

Protest is good and natural and right. It is a fundamentally requisite force in our civilization. But your right to protest begins and ends with your right to free speech, and your right to assembly. You do NOT have the right to storm the hotel where the Prime Minister is staying, to make your point to him in person. You do NOT have the right to attack police. And when you do, you prove what many of us suspect: You're not ticked off about the environment, or free trade, or Bush's foreign policy. You're just angry, and desperate for attention. You'd be protesting if Stephane Dion was Prime Minister, and Hillary was President. You'd be protesting is CELINE Dion was Prime Minister. And I'd be right there with you.

But the second you raised your hand to strike a cop, I'd knock you on your self-important ass. Because the cops in that line are sworn to put their lives on the line to protect your right to PEACEFUL protest. Martin Luther King never slugged a cop in his blessed life. His cause was more just than yours can ever hope to be.

You're not being supressed because Steve Harper wants to be George Bush's friend. You're not being supressed by the U.S. Government any more than you're being supressed by the Illuminati. You're being supressed by your own inability to get your message across in a non-violent way. The only thing holding you down is your lack of imagination and creativity. Fund-raise, and buy advertising time. Get Al Gore on your side. Do a documentary on a rented video camera. Throw a toonie into the Speaker's Corner machine. E-mail a letter to the editor. Write David Suzuki. Do what you have to do to bring attention to your issue.

But remember: If you can't make your point without violence, it probably wasn't worth making in the first place. Trying to provoke police doesn't make you a hero, it makes you the father of a mob. Every person who gets hurt as a result isn't blood on the hands of police, or of Harper, or of Karl Rove or the Jewish Banking Conspiracy or the N.S.A. or the military-industrial complex: It's blood on YOUR hands. And what it says to the world is "my issue isn't what it says on my placard - I'm just angry because nobody thinks I'm important - pay attention to me".

That's adolescent petulance. And if you act like one, you'll be treated like one.

Now go to your room.

- E.S.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Federal Cabinet Shuffle - Analysis

Well, at first blush, it seems like the Harper Government has addressed its most pressing needs. Those needs, of course, are to a) appear to be moving forward, rather than stalled; and b) to move ministers in problem portfolios to new digs, and move in what they hope to be problem-solvers.

For the most part, this is a shuffle in the truest sense of the word: same cards in different places. But let's break down the moves:

Peter McKay - Minister of National Defence
McKay did a good job at Foreign Affairs, although he seemed to be at times conflicted about his role as a diplomat and how it contrasted with his image as a politician who gave straight answers. McKay should do fine in his new position, as long as he remembers that he speaks for Canada's civilians, who (for the most part) don't know what the hell they're talking about vis-a-vis the military.

Gordon O'Connor - Minister of Revenue
O'Connor needed out of Defence, about 4 months ago. He's still in cabinet, but in a vastly reduced role. So long as the government keeps collecting taxes, Gordon shouldn't be able to mess this up too badly. He was in over his head and had trouble communicating with the public about our mission in Afghanistan. Revenue has few such pot-holes - nobody expects to be able to understand the tax code anyhow.

Bev Oda - Minister of International Co-operation
Oda was a capable minister, but was absolutely hamstrung in Heritage by her lack of French. She should be able to shine in this new role.

Josee Verner - Minister of Canadian Heritage
As a Francophone, Verner has an advantage over Oda in the role. It will be interesting to see, given her staunch conservative views, how Minister Verner deals with the arts community given their general liberal bias.

Jim Prentice - Minister of Industry
Prentice will be the first Albertan to hold this post. Expect little benefit from this fact to come to Alberta, though, as Ontario and Quebec will be watching Prentice very closely in his role in a traditional "Old Canada" cabinet post. Prentice is an extremely capable minister and smart politician - the only thing that limits his mobility in a Harper cabinet is geography - there is little room for 2 high-ranking Calgarians in the top 5 government spots, and Harper's unlikely to move any time soon.

Maxime Bernier - Minister of Foreign Affairs
A rising star from the Quebec Caucus, Bernier will be given a chance to spread his wings in this very visible role. His ability to play with others will be the determining factor as to whether this is a stop on the way to greater things or, like with so many others, a one-way ticket to nowhere.

Gerry Ritz - Minister of Agriculture
The Saskatchewan MP inherits the Wheat Board mess from Chuck Strahl. Sitting in a minority situation, the Harper Tories have had to be very, VERY careful about being seen to be favouring the West and, as a result, have perhaps over-compensated, and ignored the West's needs in favour of the East. Westerners have grumbled, but, with no other option, most of that grumbling will result in Tories winning Western ridings by only 55%, instead of 60%. Knowing this, one would have to assume that Stephen Harper spoke at great length with Ritz about what was needed to do the job effectively, and Harper must have confidence in Ritz to deal with the issue. Whether this confidence is misplaced or not, only time will tell.

Chuck Strahl - Minister of Indian Affairs
Very popular on both sides of the floor, Strahl will find the Indian Affairs portfolio a welcome change. With the great work that Prentice did on this file, he will be a tough act to follow, but if Strahl can just keep the political heat on the bureaucrats to get the various deals done, he'll be fine here.

Diane Ablonczy - Sec. State for Tourism & Small Business
Ablonczy is the only new face in this cabinet, as a junior minister. A victim of geography until now, she will be given a chance to grow in this position. Unfortunately, she will have to distinguish herself as a shooting star to get ahead, as a Calgary MP in the same cabinet as Jim Prentice, Jason Kenney, and Stephen Harper.

Cabinet Musings...

Nation, stay tuned to The Enlightened Savage for updates and commentary on the new Federal Cabinet.

As leaks begin to trickle out ahead of today's expected announcement, notable musings include:
- Stockwell Day or Peter McKay to Defense
- Jason Kenny to Finance or Revenue
- Helena Guergis to Foreign Affairs (I doubt it, but we'll see)

As I said, stay tuned.

- E.S.

UPDATE 3:30 Eastern:

McKay to Defense
Bernier to Foreign Affairs
Strahl to Indian Affairs
Prentice to Industry
Ablonczy is getting a post as well, which doesn't bode well for Kenney - too many Calgarians in the cabinet to promote Kenney.

Baird, Cannon, Ambrose, Hearn, Flaherty and Hill stay put.

UPDATE - 3:45 Eastern

McKay - National Defense
O'Connor - Revenue
Oda - Int'l Co-operation
Verner - Heritage
Prentice - Industry
Bernier - Foreign Affairs
Ritz - Agriculture
Strahl - Indian Affairs
Ablonczy - Sec. State for Tourism

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Council of the Federation Meets - Not a Klingon in Sight...

Nation, tomorrow marks the beginning of the annual Council of the Federation meetings - this year, taking place in Moncton. This is going to be an interesting event for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it will be Albertans' first chance to see how their newly-minted Premier, Ed Stelmach, interacts with his fellow Premiers. Ed's been in the political game for a while, but he hasn't been the Chief Cook & Bottle Washer of Canada's economic engine for all that long. Other Premiers, notably Jean Charest and Dalton McGuinty, are saying that they aim to take action on pollution and carbon emissions, but will not "impose" anything on Alberta. Being politicians, we'll have to wait and see if they mean what they say.
Indeed, Ed's performance is going to be watched very closely at these meetings, not least of all by the wolves on the right fringes of punditry whom have been baying for Ed's head since about 10 minutes after the second ballot votes were tallied.

If Stelmach shows a total disinclination towards co-operation at any real cost to Alberta, it will show that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the salad days of inter-provincial co-operation are over, for better or for worse. Granted, Alberta faces its own unique challenges, as does Ed's government - let's remember that he has yet to win a general election, and a full mandate from Martha and Henry. Ed's job as our Premier is to help us meet and overcome those challenges. IF he can do that while still maintaining good relationships with the other provinces, it will be a bonus. But he needs to tread very carefully when considering what concessions he can afford to make to Dalton, Jean and the others: The voters in Mississauga and Sherbrooke don't pay Ed's wages, the voters in Drayton Valley and Athabasca do. He needs to remember that, because those same voters certainly will.
It begs the question, "what other option do Albertans have to protect the province from outside plundering?". Currently, the answer is "none", although those same howling pseudo-intellectuals would have you believe that the Wildrose Party is ready to seize power from the Tories as soon as this Winter.

Look, Nation, let's be clear on this: The Wildrose initiative is a good and healthy one for Albertans to consider. I encourage EVERYONE to visit their website, and come to your own conclusions. I agree with the group's founding principles. But this party is as ready to take the reins of power as I am (which is to say, not at all). It has no official platform, no leader, no policies, has yet to define itself on the political spectrum (although social conservatives are salivating at the chance to co-opt the movement), no capacity for fund-raising, and it doesn't even have official party status. By the time the party hits a ballot, it could look like anything from the UFA to the Alberta First Party to the Lougheed Tories. Wildrose may very well be a player in a handful of years. But it is NOT a factor in Alberta at present, and all the wishful thinking in the world by hardcore backers won't change that fact.
Stelmach needs to be wary of Henry and Martha's reaction to his performance, but to think he looks under the bed for the Wildrose Party at night is nothing short of preposterous.

The other interesting dynamic to watch in these meetings will be how the Premiers co-operate - or not - in their approach to the Federal Government of Stephen Harper. It's currently the prevailing opinion that the Harper Tories are "in like Flynn", and unlikely to head to the hustings any time soon, with a political dead heat in public opinion polls. The Liberals don't want an election, the NDP don't want an election, the Tories don't want an election, and (rightly so) nobody gives a damn what the Bloc wants. But one scandal, one slip of the tongue or one international mis-step could build enough momentum for one of the parties that we find ourselves with a new government in the next year, be it a Tory majority, or a change in governments altogether.

The Harper Tories have been good for the provinces in some ways, and bad for them in some others. It will be interesting to see if the Harper Haters (Danny Williams and Lorne Calvert, to start) will take the whole chance to just take a giant crap on the Feds at every step, or whether they'll moderate their tone somewhat in the face of political uncertainty. I'm betting on option A. Danny and Lorne would rather have Prime Minister Dion to try and push around. As for the others... as I said, the Tories have been good for them in some ways, and bad for them in others.
It could be that "neutrality" is a term we'll hear at this conference that isn't automatically preceded by the word "carbon".

For political junkies, this is going to be a fun 2 days in an otherwise bleak landscape (municipal election hype notwithstanding). Let the games begin!

- E.S.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Is Stelmach "sharking" Kevin Taft?

Nation, once again I apologize for the extended absence. Without giving too much away (my government job security, after all, relies on my continued anonymity), let's just say that notable events in the province have kept me very busy for the past few weeks.

Things have been relatively quiet as late, politically... and although several issues are coming to light in the past few days (Arctic sovereignty, Calgary's violent crime spree, Paris Hilton got a new dog) that will no doubt consume the public consciousness, one area lacking in any flashy sound bites or pulpit-pounding protests in the provincial political scene in Alberta. Things have calmed down for the summer - which gives us a chance to take a sober second look at the first half-year of the Stelmach regime in Alberta.

The thing about still waters, is that they tend to either run deepest, or to be stagnant ponds of scum - but enough about Paul Martin, we're talking Alberta politics. The problem with the old stand-by metaphors is that they aren't necessarily relevant to today's Henry or Martha Albertan. So, we'll go with the latest craze to sweep the nation's deep thinkers...


For the first few months of his leadership, Ed Stelmach wasn't playing a lot of hands. There was a lot going on - growth pressures, naming his cabinet, etc. - but he wasn't a daily presence on our television screens. You got the impression that nothing was happening. Ed seemed to be, in poker terms, bleeding chips. Whereas our former premier had a tendency to get right to the heart of things, raise "all in", and stare down any who opposed him (media, opposition politicians, AISH recipients, etc.), Ed seemed to be doing, well, NOTHING. Kevin Taft or one of his lieutenants seemed to be making the radio or television circuits every day, screaming about the lack of affordable housing. Those who were unhappy with his election to the party leadership over their own interests were upset at his moderate views, or his perceived rural bias, or the lack of Calgarians in cabinet. The raises and re-raises were fast and furious - who's maddest at Eddie? But when the betting came around to the Premier's turn, we got the last thing we expected after the past 15 years... we got silence.

"Is Ed even there?", we wondered. "Is he paying attention?". Clearly, some people believe that he's not. Mostly, they believe that Stelmach was the wrong choice for the PC Party, and is the wrong choice for Alberta. But, here's the rub: the guy who's sitting quietly at the table is often the guy with all the chips at the end.

Premier Stelmach hasn't allowed himself to be bullied by the groups and politicians clamouring for more impetuous actions on his part. He hasn't panicked when pressed. He hasn't found himself "pot committed", and had to follow good chips with bad. He's quietly, methodically, played the cards as they've come. He knows what he wants to do, and he's doing it on his timetable.

As anyone who plays poker can tell you, the person who wins the game isn't always the one who plays the best. And it is VERY rarely the person who gets dealt the best cards. Rather, it's the person who goes in with a game plan, and sticks to it. The PATIENT player wins, more often than not. It's called "playing tight", and Ed Stelmach is either asleep at the switch, or he has it down to a science. He's the player who stays in for 1 of every 10 hands. The player who gets mocked by the others - at least, early in the game. "Whoah, miracles never cease, Ed's actually PLAYING a hand". At the end of the night, Ed has all the chips. Try mocking that.

Nation, I don't know if the Stelmachs play poker. Maybe it's a "cribbage home", or they prefer bridge, or pinochle. For all I know, NONE of the Stelmachs play poker, let alone the Premier. But if he DOES, then Kevin Taft had better be careful how hard he pushes the stakes - because if Ed Stelmach really IS slow-playing his hand, then Kevin is going to need a barrel to wear for that long, lonely walk home.

Because the Tories don't play to make it to the final table... they play to win, they play for keeps, and the past 3 decades weren't a streak of lucky hands.