Friday, February 8, 2008

And They're Off! ... Aren't They?

Nation, with the drop of the writ for an Alberta General Election on this past Monday, political pundits of all mediums began salivating over the bloodbath that was sure to follow... mud-slinging, policy discussion (let a boy dream...), transparent photo ops extraordinaire - for the first time in recent memory, the outcome was a little less than 100% certain. This was going to be fun...

Still waiting.

Now almost 20% of the way through the race, what we've seen from the leaders of the major parties - and, in some cases, the media - has been nothing short of an underwhelming comedy of errors. Even the good policies are being overshadowed by blunders, on all sides of the aisle.

Be it Liberal press releases recapping events that have yet to occur, Tory promises to provide 250 ERR 100 ERR 50 new doctors, or NDP claims (since retracted) of discussions with Bill Hunter (of the Royalty Review), every party has seemingly done its very best to get down in the crouch... wait for the gun... on your marks... get set... take 2 steps forward, turn around, and trip over your own feet.

The Calgary Sun got in the act yesterday, reporting that Rod Love had endorsed a Liberal candidate (since retracted). Note to the Sun: Just because you THOUGHT you heard it on the radio, you can't report it as fact. That's lazy, even to a Blogger - and we don't even necessarily change out of our pj's before we write. But then, we're not credible, real journalists, right?

Even the leaders themselves seem unsure of the specifics of their plans... when a print-out of the policy book, or a calculator and a volunteer with Math 20 can help them out. Ed doesn't seem to know how much his policies will save the average taxpayer - a point that might interest the average taxpayer, and since there are cameras and reporters around, a point that someone might want to make sure is included in his speaking points. Kevin Taft doesn't know how long he'll put a freeze on school closures for. Brian Mason seems to think that raising oil & gas royalties by 60% would earn Alberta an additional $4 Billion per year - odd, since a sudden hike of that amount would, by most non-pharmaceutically induced estimates, result in oil & gas companies running out on Alberta like Diamond Joe Quimby on a beauty pageant winner after midnight.

Taft has gone against party orthodoxy, by suggesting that not all oil & gas companies are the same evil, monolithic Tory-lovers that Liberals speak of in scary stories around the campfire, and he's going to prove it - by gouging the OIL companies, but giving natural gas producers a break on royalties, possibly let them drill inside protected areas, and eliminate the rebate on home heating for natural gas. Right in the middle of a cold snap.

Brian Mason is still... well, Brian Mason. He wants to re-do the royalty review, all over again. But, since he's already announced he favours the Alaskan model, what's the point in the review? If you know you're going to change it, and you know what you want to change it TO, why spend money reviewing it? Probably something about working families.

Ed Stelmach is getting ROASTED in the media... kids at a high school thought he was dodgy on the issues. Moms at a daycare were singularly unimpressed with his child-care plan announcement. We're not sure when there's going to be even ONE debate, FORGET about 2 or more. Here's a little free advice, Mr. Premier: The voters don't want to hear about percentages off the tax roll, and raising of thresholds... they want to hear dollars. Those mothers yesterday wanted to hear "we're creating a thousand new day-care spaces, and here's how, and it'll cost us this. AND we're directly subsidizing $100 per month. AND we're opening up spaces to train more childcare workers. AND if you choose to raise your kid at home, we'll give you a tax break. $600 a year works out to $25 less tax per paycheque. That's $50 a month, when an average day care spot costs what, $600+ per month? No wonder those mothers were unimpressed...

Memo to the Premier's Staff: Don't take him "on the road" to make announcements unless you're 100% sure that the people who are present in the room will think the announcements are a *good* thing. You look like amateurs right now, and you're making your boss look like a fool in front of the cameras.
There's a real fear in Tory-dom that the PC's blew their wad BEFORE the election, with the pork-barrel announcements, and that with the release of the throne speech, there's nothing left to unveil. If we spend the next 23 days hearing the throne speech reiterated over and over, with nothing new, it's going to be a long, LONG 3 weeks for Tory supporters. What voters want now are the gory details... and if Ed can't provide them with details, they'll see if Kevin or Brian can.

daveberta - winner of 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Haircut on a Blogger - will be covering the race for Calgary Egmont on February 15th, as part of his coverage on races that are "up for grabs". I look forward to his insight for a couple of reasons - firstly, I'm sick of writing about Egmont, and want someone else's view. Secondly, I want to see if Dave concurs with the emails I keep receiving from the Regressive Group for Incessant Belly-achers (or whatever they're called) Kool-Aid drinkers who insist that their man is going to pull in 90% of the popular vote.

Tory insiders are suggesting that the loss of Ralph Klein is going to hurt them in Calgary, to the tune of 20% - and that's 20%, all things being equal. A stronger Liberal party, a poorly-run Tory campaign, the much-ballyhoo'd cabinet snub for Calgary (which wasn't much of a snub at all) and fall-out from the royalty changes could combine for an overall swing of 25-30% in Fortress Calgary. Seats that would be in danger if this is the case (Showing a Tory loss, or win by less than 1,000) would include (based on modified 2004 voting numbers):
  • Calgary Bow
  • Calgary Foothills
  • Calgary McCall
  • Calgary Montrose
  • Calgary North West
  • Calgary West
  • Calgary Buffalo
  • Calgary East
  • Calgary Glenmore
  • Calgary North Hill
  • Calgary Nose Hill
Calgary, is THIS your future?

Not all that likely... but not as impossible as it seemed say, 10 years ago, either...


Enlightened Savage said...

Whoops... forgot to colour in "Calgary Elbow", too... must still sting. :)

Kirk Schmidt said...

ES - you planning on doing a Calgary riding-by-riding breakout like you did for the municipal?

Enlightened Savage said...

If there's demand, yeah... if the MSM is going to do it, I might leave it to them. Otherwise, I'll have to start... well, NOW.

But, if no one else will do it... I guess that's what makes me "that guy".


Anonymous said...

You'll like this one...

A few nights ago, I got a call at my home (during dinner time) from a gal on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. Here's a recap of the conversation.

Her: "I'm calling to see if you will consider voting for Ed Stelmach in the upcoming provincial election."

Me: "I don't live in Ed's riding, so I don't have the luxury of voting for him in this election... However, can you tell me who's running in my riding?"

Her: (The sound of paper rustling) "Ummm, uhhhh, I don't seem to have that information with me."

Me: "So, you called me during diner to ask me if I'll vote for someone you don't know?"

Her: "Listen sir, I just need a yes or a no answer."

Me: "Well, truthfully, I must say I'm less likely to vote PC now, now that I'm paying witness to this little mess."

Her: (Louder) "Listen sir, I just need a yes or a no answer."

Me: "All right then, no." (chuckle)

Her: (Hangs up)

Enlightened Savage said...

Ouch... just... ouch.

Gus, if you're so inclined to name your riding, I'll pass that along to the PC candidate (WHOEVER they are), so they can draw-and-quarter their phone captain.


Anonymous said...

Point taken, but it appears that the governing party is the only one the media expects to have cold, hard numbers for each taxpayer's individual circumstances.

Taft keeps throwing out policy nuggets, with nary a number attached. Change to royalties rates? How much... what would be the impact? Silence. Housing directorate? How would that differ from the current government plan? Silence again. All of the numbers are apparently coming out later in the campaign. Like when? The night before the vote? The day after?

And Brian Mason. Well, I guess everyone realizes the NDP is numerically challenged and doesn't bother asking.

I never expected the Stelmach PCs to get an easy ride in the media (why start now?) but the way the stories are being framed is ridiculous. A couple of moms have reservations about a daycare plan, and that is the focus of an article? Maybe the press should have mentioned that the mom with the issues was from Quebec, where they have $7/day daycare (paid for via our transfer payments) AND huge income taxes.

Clearly, some of the meet-and-greet events are not choreographed to the n-th degree. But I though that was supposed to be a good thing.

Enlightened Savage said...

Anon: I'll get to Taft's bottomless wallet, believe me. :)

As for the daycare situation, I can see how her former address would have some relevance, and I'm disappointed (but not surprised) that the MSM overlooked that important tidbit.

I have noticed a more stand-offish attitude in the MSM towards the PC's as opposed to the Liberals this time around... could be that they sense a closer race than normal, and want desperately to be the ones reporting on the fall of a political dynasty - so they're deciding to help it along a little.
Again, disappointing, but not surprising (and yes, I'm quite aware that Ralph had most of the MSM wrapped around his little finger - my point is, they're supposed to be UNbiased, not CORRECTIVELY biased).

The bigger issue, to me, is the fact that these photo ops and campaign stops are being perceived as failures by the voting public. I won't pretend to know the answers, but regardless of how the 30 people in the room feel things went, if the word gets out that it was a "debacle", and people believe it, that may impact their own opinions. It's a very real problem that the Tories have to find a solution to - they simply HAVE to take control of their own image and brand. The MSM is KILLING them so far.

Kirk Schmidt said...


That's kind of like what happened to me... when they called me last Tuesday (before the writ was dropped), they asked if I would be voting for the PC candidate in Calgary-Varsity, which is where I used to live during the last provincial, but haven't lived for two years.. so they're obviously using old elections alberta data rather than phonebook data...

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't entirely discount the impact of negative MSM coverage on the election result. However, I do think that people are at least partially immunized from what they read every day... if they even bother to read it, frankly. I was absolutely stunned to watch a Global TV segment where they showed a picture of three men: Kevin Taft, John McCain, and Brian Mason, and they asked various passersby who these men were. Stunning because this was the day after the writ was dropped, and Taft's unsmiling face occupied nearly half of the front page of the paper.

There have been some early stumbles by all parties, and the coverage has been particularly intense on the PCs, as government. If they are wise, they will take this input into their next week.

But if you wait for positive coverage by the MSM, you will be waiting a long time. Just ask Stephen Harper.

Anonymous said...

ES, I'm in Calgary-Buffalo :-)